Saturday, November 21, 2009

Postage Costs

Last month I mailed boxes of birthday-cookies to Alia and to Paul. I was floored by how much it cost. Normally, the only packages I mail are at book-rate -- usually because I sold school supplies or old textbooks on ebay. And those rates are plenty pricey enough.

Because of the cost of checking baggage on a plane, and because of the restrictions on carry-ons, I decided we'd mail a package of kombucha to Sacramento so that Maggie and I would have some while there. We hadn't been able to locate a store that sells kombucha that we'd have access to. $19.75 to mail three bottles of kombucha. $19.75. Good grief. I think I may have to locate a UPS drop-spot. Or give up on the dream of sending care packages to Paul. And never choose a gift for Alia unless it can be shipped via Media Mail.

Today's Laugh

One day during cooking class, our home-ec teacher, Mrs. Moore, was extolling her secrets for preparing perfect sauces. When she ordered us to the stoves to prepare our assignments, she said, "Don't forget to use wooden spoons."

As I stirred my sauce, I contemplated the physics behind the mystery of the wooden spoon and decided it must have something to do with heat conduction. I approached Mrs. Moore about my theory. "Why wooden spoons?" I asked.

"Because," she replied, "if I have to sit here listening to all your metal spoons banging against metal pots, I'll go nuts!"

Friday, November 20, 2009

Toward Forgiveness of Sins

In the Large Catechism, Luther writes:
In this Christian church we have the forgiveness of sin, which is granted through the holy sacraments and absolution as well as through all the comforting words of the entire Gospel. Toward forgiveness is directed everything that is to be preached concerning the sacraments and, in short, the entire Gospel and all the duties of Christianity.

The Smalcald Articles start with a summation of the Apostles' and Athanasian Creeds. Then the first issue Luther discusses is Christ's work of redemption:
The first and chief article is this, that Jesus Christ, our God and Lord, "was put to death for our trespasses and raised again for our justification." He alone is "the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world." "God has laid upon Him the iniquities of us all." Moreover,"all have sinned," and "they are justified by His grace as a gift, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, by His blood."
Nothing in this article can be given up or compromised, even if heaven and earth and things temporal should be destroyed.

There are some who think that justification is only one of many metaphors for discussing salvation (as was seen in Just's paper at the 2006 symposium, and which I cannot find online anymore). There are some dear friends who say things like "redemption is a step toward renewing fellowship with God."

What happens if we focus on the atonement? What happens if pastors are just totally hung up on preaching the Law to kill and preaching the forgiveness of sins to restore life? Will good works dry up? Will we fail to find full communion with God? If our hearts are captured by the absolution, is there anything we will lack in our spirituality and piety?

I don't think so. "For where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation." Forgiveness of sins cannot help but result in new life and salvation and communion with God and loving service to the neighbor.

What happens if we focus on some of those other [very good] things? Look at what has happened throughout history. If our heart desires the new life, we can get sidetracked, and try to find that new life apart from the forgiveness of sins. If we want deeper and richer communion with God (theosis) we can try to find other ways to get it besides the forgiveness of sins. People who want to increase in good works (which is a noble and holy desire) will go wrong when they try to make it their goal, rather than having the good works flow naturally from having their eyes on the crucifix and its meaning.

This morning during chapel, Pastor spoke about the third article of the Creed. "I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Holy Christian church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting." The forgiveness of sins is what creates the Church. The forgiveness of sins is what makes us holy. The forgiveness of sins is given in Holy Communion. The forgiveness of sins is what brings about the fellowship amongst the faithful. The forgiveness of sins causes the resurrection of the body unto life everlasting.

Toward forgiveness of sins
is directed everything that is to be preached.

And if that is what is preached, we lose none of the other blessed treasures of the kingdom of the heavens.


Mom, I thought you'd like to see these pictures of Paul (from Facebook) as he is working with the video and audio equipment. In one, he's operating the camera for the hockey games.

Today's Laugh

Rules of Chocolate

If you've got melted chocolate all over your hands, you're eating it too slowly.

If calories are an issue, store your chocolate on top of the fridge. Calories are afraid of heights, and they will jump out of the chocolate to protect themselves.

Chocolate has many preservatives. Preservatives make you look younger.

If you can't eat all your chocolate, it will keep in the freezer. But if you can't eat all your chocolate, what's wrong with you?

Thursday, November 19, 2009


He was oppressed and He was afflicted,
yet He opened not His mouth.

And He bore the sin of many,
and made intercession for the transgressors. (Isaiah 53)

In a discussion of the whole creation eagerly awaiting the Last Day and the undoing of the curse of the fall (Romans 8) Paul talks about how we too yearn for this same freedom from the effects of sin. In our weakness (that is, while we remain on earth in our sinful flesh) the Spirit helps us:

The Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.

Jesus was stricken, smitten, and afflicted, and yet He opened not His mouth. His blood and His death intercede for the transgressors.

When the Spirit makes intercession for us, is He simply providing us with the crib-sheet of petitions that we can't figure out on our own, petitions that we are too weak or confused to know to pray? Is He speaking for us, as in the story of Cyrano de Bergerac?

Or is focus more on His making intercession for us with the sufferings of Christ and with the groanings of His Passion?

Today's Laugh

Why did the chewing gum cross the road?
Because it was stuck to the chicken's foot.

Why did the man cross the road?
To eat the chicken.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


Gary and I never had an attic until we moved here. First we lived in apartments. Then the best parsonage in the whole district -- so roomy that we didn't need to store anything in an attic. (I don't even know whether there was one there.) The next parsonage had an attic that was entirely unusable for storage. But this house has nice, simple access to the attic, as well as part of the attic having a floor so that we can put baby toys and the artificial tree and Christmas decorations up there.

Today I was digging through boxes in the attic, looking for the Jesse tree.

Guess what?
Advent candles, stored with the Christmas decorations, do not survive summer well in an attic. And that's even with a cool summer this year.

Yuck! What a mess!

Today's Laugh

A blonde, a brunette, and a redhead are swimming breast stroke in a race. The blonde comes in last and says, "I don't mean to be a a sore loser, but I think the other girls were using their hands."

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Today's Laugh

Henry is seated next to Bob on an airplane. Bob leans over to Henry and asks if he wants to play a fun game. Henry just wants to sleep, so he politely declines, turns away, and tries to sleep.

Bob persists and explains that it is a really easy game. He says, "I ask a question and if you don't know the answer, you pay me $5. Then you ask me a question, and if I don't know the answer, I'll pay you $5."

Again, Henry politely declines and tried to sleep.

Bob, now somewhat agitated, says, "Okay, if you don't know the answer, you pay me $5, and if I don't know the answer, I pay you $50!"

Now, that got Henry's attention, so he agrees to the game.

Bob asks the first question. "What's the distance from the earth to the moon?" Henry doesn't say a word but reaches for his wallet instead and hands Bob $5.

Now it is Henry's turn. He asks Bob, "What goes up a hill with three legs and comes down on four?"

Bob looks at him with a puzzled expression, takes out his notebook computer, and looks through all his references. After about half an hour, he wakes Henry and hands him $50. Henry politely takes the $50, turns away, and tries to return to sleep.

Bob is a little miffed. He asks, "Well, what's the answer to the question?"

Without a word, Henry reaches into his wallet, hands $5 to Bob, turns away and returns to sleep.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Put the Best Construction on It

There are times when my intuition screams something that is not "putting the best construction on things." Maybe you suspect that harm is intended by somebody. Maybe you are sure that someone is lying to you.

But you tell yourself that you shouldn't be so negative. You tell yourself to give the person a chance. You tell yourself that you've been watching too many detective shows or listening to too many horrific news stories. You try to put yourself in another person's shoes and see what kind of obstacles they're facing or what kind of extenuating circumstances resulted in what appears to you to be cruddy behavior. And you be nice.

And then later, you find out your instincts were right all along.

And then there are all the times your instincts tell you happy things or neutral things that, likewise, turn out to be right. That makes it awfully hard to silence the worries when your intuition kicks in with warning bells.

Today's Laugh

Three legionnaires were walking through the desert under a baking sun. They were fully equipped with enough dehydrated water tablets for days, and food aplenty. On the shimmering horizon mirages came and went and came again: visions of swimming pools attended by lovely maidens, stalls full of ice-cream, sorbets, freshly-whipped smoothies of every conceivable flavor. But no matter what, the legionnaires did not crack; they kept marching solidly on.

Suddenly one of them froze, "Psssst" said he. His companions halted and strained their eyes to where the first legionnaire was pointing. "Le voila", said he, "Regardez, mes amis, isn't that a bacon tree on the horizon?" And sure enough, there it stood, proudly defiant in the middle of the desert, a true bacon tree. Slowly they crept forward towards the mystery object afar off. Inch by inch, centimeter by centimeter, until they were within a stone's throw of the bacon tree.

Ever nearer they crept, and suddenly a shot rang out, dropping one of the legionnaires in his tracks. The other two returned fire, and gave first aid to their wounded companion.

Even as they bandaged him and poured water over his face, they could hear his faint voice: "That was no bacon tree," he gasped, "that was a ham bush."

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Created Equal

Andrew and I are reading Whatever Happened to Justice. The book starts with the assertion from the Declaration of Independence that "All men are created equal."

In recent years, we have heard that equality means that poor people who can't afford a mortgage should not be prevented from home ownership. We've heard that equality means that it's not fair that some kids attend schools with just the basics while others go to super-duper schools with all the amenities. We've heard that equality means that everyone has a right to health care and food and electricity/fuel.

And yet, the original "All men are created equal" meant that everyone is treated equally with regard to the law's demands. It's not about equal possessions or equal opportunity or equal results. Rich or powerful people are not exempted from the law just because of their privileged position. Likewise, poor people are not exempted from the law because of their need. "All men are created equal" simply means that
-- a thief is not excused because of an impoverished upbringing, and
-- a legislator is not given a "pass" on his drunk-driving.

Amazing how a simple little phrase can be turned inside out and upside down. You'd almost think it was 1984.

Today's Laugh

Two lions broke loose in the zoo and were eating a clown.
One lion said to the other, "Does this taste funny to you?"