Saturday, July 18, 2009

The Oxymoron of Meriting a Blessing

One of the passages I chose for the boys as they're dipping their toe into the waters of studying Greek was the Beatitudes. I figured the repetition of the same words and the repeated pattern would teach them something as they puzzled through. (And besides, I get that thrill that I used to get so often when they were little, the thrill that comes to the teacher when they start to discover and piece together things that were previously a jumble. "Hey, didn't we have that word before??" Yes, we did! Woo hoo!)

So one of the words Paul asked about was oti. I told him it means because. Well, I guess in our translations it says for. "Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God." Y'know, blessed are the pure in heart because they shall see God. But that's not how we usually think of it, is it?

We think it's the other way around. BECAUSE you are merciful, therefore you will be shown mercy. BECAUSE you are meek, God will let you inherit the earth. That's what our sinful flesh hears. That's what we so often hear the Beatitudes twisted into: "You better be a peacemaker so that you can be called a son of God."

But that's not what it says!

It says the peacemakers are blessed because they are called sons of God. In other words, the blessing is being called a son of God. The way that the meek are blessed is that they inherit the earth.

Blessings aren't earned. Blessings aren't merited. If they were, they wouldn't be blessings! (This really should be a no-brainer. Dang that sinful flesh which tricks us into thinking that blessings are what we deserve for following the rules.)

I wonder if translating the oti as for instead of because contributes to the misunderstanding, or it is just that our unfaith causes us to see it wrongly, no matter how it's translated?

Wonder Mop

In need of a new mop about 3 years ago, I finally decided on a Wonder Mop and bought a replacement head when I purchased the mop. Yesterday, I splurged and installed the replacement head. Oops. When I took the new mophead out of the package, I saw the suggestion that the mop should have a new head after about every 50 uses. My old one was used about 200-250 times -- double oops.

I was shocked not only by how much better the new mop cleaned, but also by how quickly the floor dried. I could squeeze a lot more wetness out of the fatter fibers in the mophead. It was so much easier to clean the floor, as well as being more effective at the cleaning.

Okay, sometimes I can be way too penny-pinchy....

Today's Laugh

Father: "Why don't you get a job?"
Son: "Why?"
Father: "So you could earn some money."
Son: "Why?"
Father: "So you could put the money in the bank and earn interest."
Son: "Why?"
Father: "So that when you're old, you'll be able to use the money in your bank account and never have to work again."
Son: "I'm not working now."

Friday, July 17, 2009


Back in June, one of the Sunday Gospel readings was about the mustard seed. As we talked about it in Bible class, Ed mentioned that some of the older pastors would refer to funerals/burials as "planting" someone.

When Dad died, I was right in the midst of planting most of the garden. My chart to show what's planted where, and when I planted it, records most everything having been planted the day or two before I left to go to my folks'. Gary planted the asparagus while I was gone. I planted more when I came home after the funeral.

Ed also mentioned in Bible class that we plant the seed and go away and know it will come up. Boy, after my spring, I'm not so sure. None of my first planting of corn came up. Only one vine of my first planting of cucumbers came up, and none of the second planting. None of my first planting of cantaloupe came up. It was all looking pretty hopeless out in my garden.

So when we bought some fresh corn seed (the first planting had been 10-yr-old seed) and soaked some more old cantaloupe seed in water before replanting, I was surprised to see anything come up. Look! It works! Seeds in dirt actually DO something! How 'bout that!

When you're in the midst of planting your seeds in your garden, it makes you think about "planting" the bodies of your loved ones in the dirt too. If my raised beds today can look like nuthin' but a naked stretch of dirt, there is nothing to prove that in a week or so there will be tiny little lines of green poking through the soil. And nothing to make me understand that in a month I'll be wishing I had spread out the plants a little further apart because they got so big all of a sudden. (That's assuming, of course, that our coldest-summer-on-record releases its chilly grip for a few days here and there. Oh wait, I'm tending toward a rant on global warming again, aren't I? Okay, back to the analogy.) Not much to see when the loved one's body is planted. No proof of a resurrection. And not even the experience of what happened before, as in having seen last year's garden seeds grow. All we have is God's word on it. But the seed will come out of the ground and will bear fruit, and it will be far more exciting than when we see the little row of green in the garden (even though it's pretty thrilling when another plant pops up!).

Today's Laugh

A couple just started their Lamaze class and they were given an activity requiring the husband to wear a bag of sand -- to give him an idea of what it feels like to be pregnant. The husband stood up and shrugged, saying, "This doesn't feel so bad."

The instructor then dropped a pen and asked the husband to pick it up.

"You want me to pick up the pen as if I were pregnant, the way my wife would do it?" the husband asked.

"Exactly," replied the instructor.

To the delight of the other husbands, he turned to his wife and said, "Honey, pick up that pen for me."

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Cruciferous Veggies

I knew that cabbage and broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables were prone to fungus and caterpillars and viruses. I knew that you weren't supposed to plant them year after year in the same place. So today I am [finally!!!!!] out there getting the seeds off the kitchen counter and into the raised beds the guys built for me. I am trying to convince myself that this is a "fall planting" that will work just dandy, like as if I actually planned it this way instead of procrastinating my way into this mid-July planting.

I thought the cruciferous veggies I was planting were kohlrabi and cabbage. I planted one 3-ft row of cabbage across one end of one raised bed, and one 3-ft row of kohlrabi at the other end. But as I'm pouring the little seeds out of the little packets, I'm thinkin' that rutabaga and turnip seeds look a whole lot like as if they're cruciferous. Sure enough, after it was all planted, I came indoors and checked, and my raised bed is full of different varieties of plants in the cabbage family, which supposedly is just beggin' for infestations and diseases. It even says not to compost the waste matter from cruciferous veggies unless you know your compost pile is hot, and mine's not. The book also says to allow 3-4 years before planting cruciferous veggies in the same place. How does that work in a home garden? Every decade you could plant cabbage once and broccoli once and turnips once? That doesn't sound right.

Well, looks like I screwed it up. Now what?

Today's Laugh

A man, his dress-shirt open at the collar, stops for dinner at a nice restaurant. He asks for a table, but the hostess informs him that he must wear a necktie to get in.

So the guy goes out to his car, expecting that he'll find one of his ties there. But he just doesn't have one that day. He does find a pair of jumper cables in his trunk. In desperation, he ties these around his neck. He manages to fashion a fairly acceptable looking knot, and lets the ends dangle free.

He heads back into the restaurant. The hostess eyes him suspiciously. But she finally tells him, "All right. I guess you can come in. But just don't start anything."

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Iocaine Powder

Remember how Frodo would feel his shoulder injury from the Ringwraiths every year on the anniversary of Weathertop?

Well, our cat does that.

Two years ago, on the anniversary of Nanna's death, I ran over the kitten. Somehow she surprised us all and survived. Last year on July 17, she got sick. I didn't think she'd live.

So this year, she disappears. Gone for two days. When she came home, she was listless and weak. She hadn't been grooming herself. Again, I kept waiting for her death. We forced water into her. We couldn't get her to eat. But after a full day of expecting to find a burial spot in the backyard, she began to show a wee bit of a sign of improvement. She asked to go out this morning, and Gary opened the door for her. She was gone all day again. Oh great, she must've left to die in private. But this evening she returned and seemed a little better. She ate something.

Our best guess at this point is poison. I don't know if she found a mouse that was poisoned enough to be so pokey as to be catchable. Or if she got into something somewhere. Or maybe she was drinking water that came from a neighbor's basement, and they'd been using bleach in the laundry water or washing paint brushes in turpentine in the basement sink. Who knows? But it makes me think she's trying to slowly build up an immunity to poison.

Maybe I ought to make a note of it on the calendar for next July, and not worry too much when she seems to have one paw in the grave. Let's see.... nine lives... that ought to mean she'll die in July 2015. Except there were those other near-death experiences when she fell of the piano and hit everything she could possibly hit on the way down, and when she had her head caught in the cord for the blinds. I honestly don't know how many of her nine lives she's used up so far.

Today's Laugh

On Friday afternoon, the little boy was watching his daddy, the pastor, write Sunday's sermon. Finally he asked, "How do you know what to say?"

His father answered, "God tells me."

"Then why do you keep crossing things out?"

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

More Than a Person Can Handle

The garden spot for tomatoes and beans isn't very large. Maybe 12x20'. The strawberry patch and asparagus plot is a bigger space, and then there's the section for the berries too (which currently has potatoes tucked in between the tiny canes and shrubs just starting out). I don't have the raised beds planted with anything yet. Even with this little bit, there's always something to do in the garden.

When the topic of family size comes up in Lutheran circles, it sometimes gets controversial. There are those who say (somewhat accusingly), "God blesses us with children! Why wouldn't you WANT as many blessings as you can get???" The suggestion is that those who don't try to maximize the size of their family are thereby rejecting God's blessings and thus also rejecting His will for their lives. (Pastor Petersen has a post today about speaking the Law and then pretending that it's Gospel. It kinda sorta adds something to this paragraph.)

So as I'm pulling up purslane roots and sorrel and grass and clover and lamb's quarter, as I'm yanking fistfuls of creeping Charlie from creeping into the garden, as I'm pondering all this nutrient-rich LIFE I have been given to tend in the backyard, I begin to wonder about the people who say we "should" want as many blessings as we can get ...

Do these folks all have huge gardens?

Do their gardens increase in size most years?

Is it okay to say to God that "we have enough garden now; we don't need more" when you could always use more blessings from God, if not for yourself, then for the benefit of the neighbor?

After all, God blesses us with food. Sure, it takes work to manage a garden. But aren't we spurning God's blessings when we hold the size of our gardens to something we can manage properly?

I bet, if our gardens were bigger than we could manage, God would still bless them. We'd still obtain food from them. But maybe at a cost to the productivity of the plants. Some people are okay with a garden being full of weeds, or not getting watered enough, or not making sure all the food is harvested and then canned, frozen, dried, or otherwise preserved. Other people want to pay closer attention to providing diligent care for a garden small enough to handle.

Would it be right for either gardener to suggest that the other's way is wrong?

Somebody is going to go ballistic now, and think that I'm comparing children and carrots. Not so. All I'm doing here is saying that there ARE instances when some people [validly] say to God that they have all the blessings they can handle. And nobody thinks the worse of the Christian who has a small garden; nobody says, "Well, he's rejecting a blessing God would've given him. Only an unbeliever or immature Christian would reject a blessing that God wanted to provide."

Today's Laugh

Three contractors happened to be visiting a tourist attraction on the same day. One was from New York, another from Texas, and the third from Florida. At the end of the tour, the guard was asking the men what they did for a living. When they all replied that they were contractors, the guard pointed out the back door. "We need one of the rear fences repaired. As long as you're here, why don't you guys take a look at the problem and give me a bid?" So they all headed out to the back fence.

The Florida contractor took out his tape measure and pencil, did a little measuring and some figuring, and announced, "I can do the job for $900. $400 for materials, $400 for my crew, and $100 profit for myself."

Next was the Texas contractor. He too took out his tape measure and a pencil, did some quick calculations, and said, "I'm putting in a bid for $700. That's $300 for materials, $300 for my employees, and $100 profit for me."

Without so much as moving, the New York contractor said, "I'll do the job for $2700."

"TWENTY-SEVEN HUNDRED???" the guard asked. "You didn't even measure like the other guys. How did you come up with such a high figure?"

"Oh, that's easy," said the New Yorker. "$1000 for me, $1000 for you, and we hire the guy from Texas."

Of course, it would be funnier if it didn't happen so often in real life just that way....

Monday, July 13, 2009

LCMS Homeschoolers in Wisconsin

Erin has initiated a blog for events for the regional homeschool group that started years ago when Feed My Lambs was encouraging local and/or state groups to become active together. Please let other LCMS homeschoolers in the Milwaukee and Sheboygan areas know about the site so they can join us. Lutherans in the southeast section of Wisconsin gather for potlucks, worship, fieldtrips, play-days, as well as discussions about curriculum, books, doctrine, parenting, and whatever offbeat topics happen to amuse us.

Tedious Phonics

I'm going to be tutoring a little beginner Greek for the next school year. Hey, as long as I'm doing that, I might as well teach a little to my own munchkins. Paul is taking Greek in college in fall. Andrew has recently been working on learning to write the Greek alphabet and what the names of the letters are (which pretty much includes the phonetic sound of the letter, as in English).

So today we went over the diphthongs and just started reading. Just sounding out words. It's really really hard work when you have to rack your brain for "What letter is this? Oh. Yeah, I remember" and then what sound it makes, and then string all those sounds together and get the accent on the correct syllable. It's tedious work.

I kept thinking it was so much easier to teach them to read English. In fact, for most of the kids, I didn't teach them to read. They just somehow learned.

Think how much a kid brings to his first reading lessons in his native language. He already knows how to speak the language. So it's kind of like Suzuki music lessons -- your ear guides you into what's right and wrong, so you notice when you stumble. Kids know how to "group" the prepositional phrases. They know what the word means and the cadence of the sentence. And most kids know the letters and the sounds they make (at least in part) well before starting their reading lessons.

It's a whole lot different to come to a beginner's phonics lessons when you're still trying to remember what letter it is (the "nu" and "rho" and "chi" are especially tricksy, looking so similar to v and p and x) and then you don't have a clue what it is you're reading while you're sounding it out.

But we gotta start somewhere. And any help a kid can get before his first couple of weeks of Greek in college is gonna lighten the load when the prof starts laying it on. So we're starting with the Lord's Prayer, the Beatitudes, and John 1 (a la Nat Bowditch).

Today's Laugh

What do you call a boomerang that doesn't work?

A stick.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - -

What do you call cheese that isn't yours?

Nacho cheese.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Arranged Marriage

Americans recoil at the idea of arranged marriage.

Yesterday Gary and I used some freebie passes to see a romantic comedy with Sandra Bullock -- Proposal. We enjoyed the movie. It crossed my mind that it was much like While You Were Sleeping. And as I pondered the similarities and differences between the two movies, I began to realize something.

It's a common theme. Two people who either don't know each other or don't like each other have to pretend for a short while to be married or engaged or simply just a couple. And then they end up loving each other. It's in Wedding Date and Ten Things I Hate About You. It's in Dear Frankie and Love Comes Softly. If I remember correctly (and I may be mistaken here) it's in Bella and How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days.

Thing is, it's not just some silly romantic idea for the movies. Even C S Lewis in The Four Loves talks about how time spent together establishes a relationship and creates affection. What's odd, though, is that people who would normally be repulsed at the idea of an arranged marriage can find pleasure in movie after movie about a man and a woman finding love in exactly the same context as an arranged marriage -- two people thrown together in a relationship that has to be made to work, even if in the movie it was intended to be only temporarily.

Today's Laugh

Be sure to lock your doors and windows. A local man was found murdered in his home last weekend. Detectives found him face down in the bathtub.

The tub was filled with milk and cornflakes and banana slices.

Police suspect a cereal killer.