Saturday, April 11, 2009

Today's Laugh

I expected that my son, now age 7, would begin having doubts about Santa Claus. Sure enough, one day he informed me, "Mom, I know something about Santa and the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy."

Taking a deep breath, I asked, "What is it?"

He replied, "They're all nocturnal."

Friday, April 10, 2009


Just some random thoughts and observations:

O Sacred Head (stanza 4 of LSB 450)
Thy lips have often fed me
with words of truth and love.
Thy Spirit oft hath led me
to heavenly joys above.

Compare that to what Gerhardt wrote in another hymn three years earlier (TLH 228):
Thy gift is joy, O Spirit.
Thou wouldst not have us pine.
In darkest hours Thy comfort
doth ever brightly shine.
And, oh, how oft Thy voice
hath shed its sweetness o'er me
and opened heaven before me
and bid my heart rejoice!

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Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani.
My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?

The onlookers thought He was calling on Elijah for help. They didn't know their liturgy. They didn't know their psalter. They didn't recognize the words that they should've known. We see something similar today when we use a line from the liturgy or from the catechism, and it's got all that background & depth & meaning, and somebody else thinks we're just saying our own little made-up sentence.

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Tis the long-expected prophet,
David's Son, yet David's Lord.
Proofs I see sufficient of it --
tis the true and faithful Word.

The long-expected prophet. That'd be the prophet greater than Moses (Deut 18). I always thought "David's Son, yet David's Lord" was an appositive for the "prophet." I don't think so today. The gospel writers make a point of showing us how Jesus is like Moses, but greater. "David's Son" is the promised Messiah, and Jesus proved that He was the Messiah when He made the lame to walk, the deaf to hear, raised the dead, and preached the Gospel to poor, miserable sinners. But He's also the one greater than Moses, the One who shepherded His people, out of bondage, into the promised land. (This is the night when You brought our fathers, the children of Israel, out of bondage in Egypt and led them through the Red Sea on dry ground...)

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The soldiers put a robe of purple on Him. Purple. That was valuable. They put it on a beaten and bloody body. It had to have been ruined. I mean, would you want to put a very valuable piece of clothing on a person who was going to get it all bloody? (Maybe if you had to do it to make bandages or a tourniquet save somebody's life, but not just to mock somebody.) They had to be really really full of hate to waste a purple robe on making fun of this Jewish criminal.

Contrast that with Mary. There were complaints that she wasted the spikenard.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Confessing Anonymously

The only thing most of us know about going to confession is what we see in the movies. Lutherans aren't real used to it. One of the things we see in the movies is the confessional booth. The person is supposedly anonymous; the priest cannot see who is confessing. (Of course, he may recognize the voice, but we're supposed to not notice that.)

Lutherans don't have confessional booths. Lutherans confess to the pastor who is sitting right there next to them, who can see who comes and goes, who can hear their voices. There is no anonymity.

Sometimes private confession is offered at conferences. At Higher Things conferences in the past, private confession was offered. I talked to some kids who really love that, and look forward to it. They love hearing the absolution spoken in the face of their out-loud confession of the sin that troubles them. Interestingly, though, some of those kids told me that they'd never confess to their own pastor -- he knows them. They want to confess at the conference, to a stranger, to someone they don't have to face next week, every Sunday, at every youth-group event for the rest of the year. They said things like, "Oh, what would Pastor think of me if he knew what I confessed??!!"

Something is missed when we confess anonymously. It is truly a blessed thing when we go to the pastor, exposing to him our most troublesome sins and our deepest regrets, and he forgives. He has heard the specifics of the pollution of our souls, and yet he continues to treat us just as nicely and warmly as he treats everyone else. He doesn't remember the sin we have confessed. He doesn't remind us. He doesn't change his attitude toward us. Everything is as if he never knew the sin. That's because it is forgiven; it is put away, as far as the east is from the west.

Sometimes a person continues to struggle with the same sin, and continues to go to the pastor, confessing how he cannot free himself from his sin, regretting his sin, wanting help and rescue, but still caught in that struggle of which Paul speaks in Romans 7. There is a lovely comfort that is found in NOT being anonymous. When the pastor hears the same sin confessed repeatedly, and still forgives, it is a sweet and lovely picture of the Savior who KNOWS our sin better than we do ourselves, and still yearns for us, still saves, still forgives unceasingly, still pours out Himself.

Why would anybody want anonymity in the confessional when instead they could have the comfort of forgiveness from one who knows them (really knows them with all their warts and blemishes) and still accepts them and loves them in spite of the sin?

Defending Myself

When I was little, I always wondered how come Jesus didn't come down off the cross, and then go back up there. Y'know, just to show them that He could. Just to show them that they couldn't sass God and say that He was incapable. Just to show them that He was choosing to lay down His life and that this wasn't impotence.

Same for the mockings and the accusations. Why didn't He answer? He could've. Our response to any insults or accusations is to defend ourselves. Sometimes we might even be willing to sacrifice ourselves for someone else's good, as long as people know that we're doing it, as long as people appreciate our sacrifice. But to sacrifice for those who hate us, while they're mocking us for our kindness? That's unheard of.

Today's Laugh

The other day I went downtown to run a few errands. I went into the local coffee shop for a snack. I was only there for about 5 minutes. When I came out, there was this cop writing out a parking ticket.

I said to him, "Come on, man, how about giving a retired person a break?" He ignored me and continued writing the ticket. His insensitivity annoyed me, so I called him a "Nazi." He glared at me and then wrote out another ticket for having worn tires. So I proceeded to call him a "doughnut-eating Gestapo." He finished the second ticket and put it on the windshield with the first. Then he wrote a third ticket when I called him a "moron in blue." This went on for about 20 minutes. The more I talked back to him, the more tickets he wrote.

Personally, I didn't really care. I came downtown on the bus, and the car that he was putting the tickets on had one of those bumper stickers that read,

Obama in '08.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Who Me? It's Not My Fault!

There's a scene in Passion where Simon is told by the Roman soldiers to carry Jesus' cross. Simon says it's none of his business and he doesn't want to get involved. The soldiers found this to be an unsatisfactory answer and made him do it. So Simon makes a statement to all around him, assuring them that he had done no wrong. He wasn't guilty of anything. He could carry the criminal's cross, but don't anybody get the idea that he had done anything deserving of this punishment.

It's almost comical.

Tonight's sermon was on Philippians 2. He emptied Himself. He poured Himself out, making Himself a slave. He --who really truly was not guilty of anything-- didn't make the kind of statements that Simon the Cyrene made. He took the guilt. We can't bear for anyone to make an unjust accusation of us. But that's exactly what Jesus embraced. Because it was a necessary part of saving us.

I Am David

A couple of weeks ago we watched a movie that I needed to watch again. So last night we saw I Am David the second time. There was a little confusion for us as we saw the movie the first time, but at the end of the story something was revealed which made me want to see it again with that information enlightening what was occurring earlier.

I really liked this movie. Without being an overtly religious movie (like Luther or Passion) it had a spiritual element to it. The basic plot is that a boy escapes from a prison camp in Bulgaria and is on his way to Denmark.

What's interesting, though, is how he knew no beauty, no good, and spent his whole life afraid. Then he escaped. Could he trust anyone? Could he smile? I think that resonated with me as I'm still recuperating from certain events of recent years.

I'm not sure what I think of the theology. On the one hand, it is true that the heart of man is continually evil. And yet, God gives good gifts. Can we trust people? Well, they're sinners. And yet, there are helpful and kind people in the world. There's definitely Roman Catholic theology in the movie, not Lutheran theology, so I guess the places where I think the message is spot-on is where the movie grows out of catholic doctrine, and the places I'm squeamish about are the parts that emanate from Catholic doctrine.

Two of the main actors in the movie were in Passion the next year: Pilate and Jesus. Interesting to see the interplay in this movie as compared to Passion.

If you don't know Latin, you may want to look at the translation of the Ave Verum Corpus before or after watching the movie. The first time we saw the movie, I was trying to decipher what little Latin I could while trying to figure out why that piece of music was being played for those images in that scene at the end of the movie. Last night, I put the movie on pause at that point, found an online translation of the piece, and then went back to the movie. Ahh! That helped.

What I want now is a book club or a book discussion. Where's Pastor Wiest when you need him for things like this?

Today's Laugh

There's a little fellow named Junior who hangs out at Tim Alley's Grocery Store. The owner Tim doesn't know what Junior's problem is, but the bigger boys like to tease him. They say he is two bricks shy of a load. To prove it, sometimes they offer Junior his choice between a nickel and a dime. He always takes the nickel, they say, because it's bigger.

One day after Junior grabbed the nickel, Tim got him off to one side and said, "Junior, those boys are making fun of you. They think you don't know the dime is worth more than the nickel. Are you grabbing the nickel because it's bigger, or what?"

Junior said, "Well, if I took the dime, they'd quit doing it!"

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Line versus Dryer

I put the clothes in the dryer today. Wasted electricity. Helped destroy the ozone layer. Contributed to global warming.

I would have preferred to hang the clothes on the clothesline. It would be greener for the earth. It would be cheaper on my electric bill. The clothes would smell nicer. But when it's too COLD outside for the clothes to dry before sundown (when the dew falls and they get wet again) it's hard to prevent global WARMING by using solar power.

Homeschool Retreat

A homeschool retreat for Lutheran families will be held in August in Fort Wayne.

Bait and Switch?

I've been trying to avoid Pick-n-Save. (Sorry, Cassie.) Every time I go into the store to pick up their loss leaders, the good deals are already sold out. The last time I was in the store to buy one of their sale items, I couldn't find it. When I asked the meat manager, he told me that it was too late in the week and they were sold out. No, I couldn't get rainchecks. No, they wouldn't be getting more product delivered until after the sale was over.

So this week I showed up early in the week -- early morning on day 3 of an 8-day sale. Nearly everything on my list was sold out already. Are all Pick-n-Saves like this? It's almost like they're bribing me into the store with a few items priced affordably. But then those items aren't available. I figured the sale price on ham this week was worth the frustration of entering the doors of the dreaded Pick-n-Save. But as I wandered the aisles, looking for non-wasteful items to rack up my $25-purchase requirement (to earn the right to buy the ham at sale price) I was getting pretty perturbed with how all their loss leaders had sold out in only two days. And since Pick-n-Save's SALE prices are the same or higher than Aldi and Woodmans, I sure ain't gonna pay full price for groceries there!

Today's Laugh

Why do cowboys always die with their boots on?

So they won't stub their toes when they kick the bucket.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Should've Gone Without Saying

North Carolina is creamin' Michigan State. At half time, one of the announcers tells us that North Carolina owns the biggest half-time lead ever seen in the championship game. AND Michigan State is behind by the largest amount ever in a final game of the NCAA tournament.

He said it like it was a freak coincidence....

Knowing When You're Done

For most of our homeschooling lives, we didn't have a certain amount to do per day. We "did school" most of all day, every day. Learning is so integral to life that it was something we couldn't NOT do. The idea of a school calendar, or school hours, just didn't fit.

But now I have kids who aren't self-compelled to read the encyclopedia, write, or do other auto-didactish things. If I am in charge of deciding what they will learn, and how much they will do, and which resources to use, then homeschooling can no longer be a 14-hr per day, every day of the week, sorta thing. I've never before had to come up with a list of how much is reasonable to accomplish, how much I will require, and be satisfied that nothing may get done beyond what's on the list.

Cleaning the living room today, I looked at those piles of books for the kids, some of which are not being used. Too much is too much. I removed the piles, picked out some schoolbooks to remain on the shelf in the living room, and placed the remaining materials on the appropriate shelves in the basement. I feel like a heel for setting aside the Lyrical Life Science, and the Country Magz book of Depression-era memories, and the drawing lessons, and so many other things that I "should" be doing with the kids. I'm hoping that if we can actually accomplish what we set out to do, there will be some motivation to add a little here or a little there, over time.

But for right now, carrying those books downstairs and shelving them
feels like I'm admitting defeat.

Today's Laugh

Two mathematicians, Joe and Richard, were having dinner in a restaurant in Portland, Oregon, and arguing about the average mathematical knowledge of the American public. Richard claimed that this average was woefully inadequate, while Joe maintained that it was surprisingly high.

"I'll tell you what," said Richard, "when I get back from the bathroom we'll ask our waitress a simple calculus question. If she gets it right, I'll pick up dinner. If not, you do. Okay?"

They agreed, but once he'd left, Joe called the waitress over. "When my friend comes back," he told her, "he's going to ask you a question. You should respond 'one-third x cubed' no matter what the question is. Got that? There's five bucks in it for you." She happily agreed to the gag.

Richard returned from the men's room and called the waitress over. "The food was wonderful," he started. "Incidentally, do you know what the integral of x-squared is?"

The waitress looked startled, then pensive, almost pained. She looked around the room, at her feet, and made gurgling noises. (Joe was starting to sweat.) Finally she said, "Ummm, one-third x cubed?"

Joe beamed in relief as an astonished Richard paid the check and an irritated waitress muttered under her breath, " ... plus a constant."

Sunday, April 05, 2009


It's snowing.
It's Palm Sunday.

There's work that needs to be done outdoors, and it's just not easy to get out there when it's so chilly. Or when you need to shovel away snow first.

We were thinking that we'd go to the homeschool conference this year. It's been an annual event for our family since Rachel was 5, and then the last two years we had unavoidable circumstances that prevented our participation. So this year we figured we'd get back to it. Besides, there's a sale at the conference of used homeschooling materials, and I need to sell some books that are now taking up space in the garage. But right now, knowing that next weekend we won't accomplish outdoor work because of being in church, and then attending Karen and Robert's wedding on the "perfect day," it's hard to think of being away from yardwork and housework for yet another weekend. (When Gary's work didn't keep him chained to a desk, indoors, at certain hours required by a boss, it was easier to shuffle the schedule around to be able to do outdoor work when the weather allowed for it, instead of hoping for the weather to coincide with his weekend off work.)

Running Around

Gary and I were discussing grocery shopping and schedules and run-around errand-days. I was commenting how much I like not having a regular shopping day in the weekly schedule. So much more free time for exciting activities like mopping and laundry! And yet, there's that pesky little problem of running out of groceries and then trying to fit in time (allotted to some other activity) to a grocery run.

He reminded me that my Mondays at the old house, though long and tiring as I did all the errands in Janesville, were also a chance to get away from the house. And then I remembered. I had forgotten. Yes, as tiring as Mondays were, there was that aspect of being away from the house. Away from the mildew. A break from the air that made my nose perpetually stuffy and my head perpetually achy. At the old house, a trip to visit family or friends out of town had the added attraction of being a break from my house, not just the joy of seeing loved ones.

Maybe that's why I'm finding it harder to do all the visiting that I used to do, why I'm more of a homebody in the last year. I still want to see friends. But I feel fine at home now, and that makes me all the more comfortable here, all the more "hunkered down" and less willing to go gallavanting.

Today's Laugh

What's the difference between roast beef and pea soup?

Anybody can roast beef.

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What's the difference between boogers and spinach?

You can't get your kids to eat spinach.