Saturday, July 17, 2010


As soon as I finally decided I was recommitted enough to exercise that I could safely come out of the closet and reveal I was jogging near-daily, the next day I started coughing. I plugged away two more days with the jogging, but then flopped.

Three weeks later I am still coughing, but not as much, and not as violently, and it's quasi-controllable, and I'm no longer fatigued from whatever-it-was that started the coughing. (Still not sure if it was weather, allergies, virus, poor air quality, or what.) Gathered my oomph and kicked myself out the door today, wearing my jogging shoes. Even after three weeks of not exercising, today I easily jogged a mile and a half, and it didn't feel like a fat man was sitting on my chest squashing all the air out of me! Hooray!

All or Nothing?

Clean needles for drug addicts? Or does that condone the ill behavior?

Condoms for sexually active teens? Or does that condone their sin?

We childproof our homes so that the climbing toddler doesn't play with knives or drink ammonia or break the computer.

Sometimes contingency plans are good. Sometimes we don't expect compliance with the rules. Other times we demand that the standards remain and that people suffer the consequences of non-compliance.

What if the Church develops music and videos and other resources for congregations who engage in "contemporary worship"? Is that enabling congregations who are "going to do it anyway"? Or is it doing the best you can to help under less-than-ideal circumstances?

Today's Laugh

A family of three tomatoes were walking downtown one day when the little baby tomato started lagging behind. The big father tomato walks back to the baby tomato, stomps on her, squashing her into a red paste, and says, "Ketchup!"

Friday, July 16, 2010

Crucifix in the Chancel

My friend Dustin was ordained three years ago. It was at his ordination that, for the first time, I was very aware of the lack of a crucifix in the chancel. Over the years I had become accustomed to having a crucifix around during prayer and had begun, I suppose, to take it for granted. That day it was surprisingly unsettling to be worshiping in a place without a crucifix.

When your eyes are on the crucifix, the image helps to anchor your thoughts on the central message of Scripture.

One example is the Venite. "Oh, come, let us sing unto the Lord. Let us make a joyful noise to the Rock of our salvation." Without the crucifix, I always thought of the "rock" as, well, y'know, a symbol of something sturdy. But with the crucifix there to teach me and to guide me, I remember the passage from Corinthians where we are told that the rock with the Israelites in the wilderness was Christ Himself, and that He was struck in the side so that water poured out. Or you might think about "the strength of the hills is His also" being connected to the hill where Jesus was crucified.

Another example is Isaiah 60 which we read for Epiphany. We usually think of "Arise, shine, for your light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon you" as being about the star and the wise men who came to see Baby Jesus. But we can also see it in connection to the cross, and how Jesus was lifted up on the cross and how His light shone to all nations through His sacrificial death.

There are gazillions of examples of what a person might learn from the Bible simply by keeping his/her eyes fixed upon the crucifix while listening to the scripture readings and while praying.

The synodical convention is being broadcast this week via the Internet. During hymn singing, pictures are put on the screen with the words to the hymns. I don't know if this is being shown to the delegates during devotions too, or if it's just what we at home see on our computer monitors. Regardless, I was once again especially aware of what it's like to behold images other than the crucifix. The pictures illustrating the hymns may have trees or clouds or mountains or water. And that says something very different than seeing a crucifix when you sing "Our God, our Help, in ages past; our Hope for years to come" or "My faith looks up to Thee" or "A mighty fortress is our God" or the Kyrie.

Back When I Was Young

People carry phones around in their pockets -- phones that are smaller than a deck of playing cards. Before cell phones were "car phones," essentially cell phones except they were the size of a shoebox. Before that were phones that were actually attached to the wall by a cord. [Gasp!] When you called someone, you knew they were at home. It still confuses me when I call the kids only to find out that they're in a different state, or at the store, or on their way to work.

When Gary was in the seminary (about 25 years ago) the government decided that Bell Telephone was a monopoly and had to be split up. Before that day, the phone company owned the phones. People didn't own phones. You had one in your house that you were just renting from the phone company. It stayed in your house or apartment when you moved, just like your kitchen sink does. Because you had to pay an extra dollar or two a month for touchtone, we had opted to rent the rotary dial. When Bell was broken apart, the company offered to sell you whatever phone was already in your house. We bought ours simply because it was a fairly cheap deal, and I didn't want to go to some store and start hunting up a phone. (After all, the idea of buying a phone??? Who ever heard of such a cockamamie idea??) Besides, I figured the Bell phones were a solid & reliable product: when they owned the phones, they sure didn't want to be running out to people's homes making repairs.

Fast-forward 15 years. We were still using the Bell phones. (In fact, we were still using those phones until we moved into this house two years ago and chose a phone service that depends on digital signals -- thus, touchtone was required.) Philip had a friend over, and he was due home at 4:15. The guys were in the midst of a game, and Paul needed to call his mom and ask permission to stay later. "Where's the phone?" he asks. We point it out to him. He picks up the handset. His hand moves toward the wall-phone, and he pauses. And stares. He thinks a while. Finally he asks how to dial a phone. The poor fellow had never seen a rotary-dial phone in his life.

I felt like a dinosaur.

Today's Laugh

A student comes to a young professor's office hours. She glances down the hall, closes his door, kneels pleadingly.

"I would do anything to pass this exam." She leans closer to him, flips back her hair, gazes meaningfully into his eyes. "I mean ..." she whispers, "... I would do ... anything."

He returns her gaze. "Anything?"


His voice softens. "Anything??"

"Absolutely anything."

His voice turns to a whisper. "Would you ... study?"

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Back When I Was Young

"Back in the day," we used to watch live television. You turned on the tv, tuned in a channel, and watched whatever was coming over the airways. The show started at a particular time, and ended at a particular time, and it had commercials. If you got there five minutes late, you missed the first five minutes of the show. If you had to go to the bathroom or grab a drink from the kitchen, you missed whatever was on tv while you were out of the room.

We seldom watch tv anymore. We watch you-tube videos. We watch DVDs, both for movies and sit-coms. We watch Netflix shows.

This is very hard for Maggie to understand. Live television has been explained to her, but she has so little experience with it that it's hard for her to truly comprehend. If we're watching live tv (such as the Superbowl) she may tell us to "put it on pause" while she leaves the room to fetch her colored pencils.

It happened again yesterday. I was listening to the live-streaming of the synodical convention. Katie called to ask mommy-advice about split chins on children. Maggie was having a booger of a time finding the "pause" button on the live-streaming. I told her she could just turn down the volume, but she didn't want to do that. She knew I'd miss something, see?, if she didn't stop the "show" while I was gone. She was trying to be helpful.

It always shocks me when I realize how little she understands about the difference between broadcasts and recordings. But then, why should she??

Today's Laugh

Have you ever imagined a world with no hypothetical situations?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Trust Not in Princes

Sometimes it's an election for governor, senator, or President. Sometimes it's synodical politics. Whether in the church or in the world, we console ourselves after the loss of an election by singing Psalm 146: "Trust not in princes: they are but mortal. Earthborn they are and soon decay" (TLH 26).

What happens when your guy wins?

In amidst the rejoicing and the thanksgiving, we still ought to be singing, "Trust not in princes.... Trust ye in Christ, our God and Lord. Alleluia!"

I'm sure plenty of my girlfriends are reading this and shaking their heads and thinking, "There goes Susan again. Why does she have to keep saying this?"

I like Matt Harrison. I hope he will win the election for synodical president. But I don't expect him to save the synod. I don't expect him to "clean house." He is not the panacea for the LCMS. (Or, if you're from a different viewpoint, neither is he a threat to the LCMS.)

There is a reason some of us love Matt Harrison. When he talks, he talks about Jesus. He is a man who has been desperately in need of grace and who finds his joy and his life in the mercy of his Savior. It shows! This is a man who trusts in the Gospel with all his heart.

Thing is, by nature we trust in the law. Some are hoping for the balance of "power" to shift in the Missouri Synod. Some folks want things fixed. And the sooner the better.

But Matt Harrison is a man who knows his only authority --his only "power"-- as a pastor or as a synodical executive, is in the Word of God.

Sometimes we sinners don't like God's way of doing things. He hung out with tax collectors like Matthew. And demon-possessed prostitutes like Mary Magdalene. And lepers like Simon. And even pharisees like Nicodemus. And He loved that rich young man (John Mark) who came to Him pompous about his good works.

Sometimes we sinners don't like God's way of doing things. We want the law preached ... to THEM. To those guys who botched things up. To those guys who hurt us. To those folks out there. But God wants to preach the law to us. To me. He wants me to see my sin. He wants you to grieve over your sin. He wants to kill us so that He might restore us to life.

If Matt Harrison speaks with God's authority, he will speak the law to kill, not to "instruct" or "improve," and not just to "the other guy." And he will continue to bubble over with the good news of the forgiveness of sins. That's why we love him so much. But he may bring forgiveness and mercy to those that we think are unworthy of it, to those we think should not receive it.

This synod has not been "walking together" for decades. The divisions began before I was born. The first split happened when I was a kid. But the tensions continued to grow. The paths continued to diverge. The election of a president, or the saving of a college or seminary or a radio show, or the ouster of certain pastors --regardless of which Side you're on-- cannot be a quick fix. A year of marriage counseling cannot solve all the problems that have developed over twenty or thirty or forty years of marital difficulty. Things take time. Hearts seldom change overnight.

Do we want reconciliation? Or do we want control of synod's institutions, and punishment for those who disagree with us? The law (and the by-laws, and punishment, and threats) can "change things" much faster than can the gospel; anybody who's parented a two-year-old knows that. But that's Left-Hand Kingdom stuff. In the Church, the only kind of change that matters is the change that comes from the Gospel. We love Matt Harrison because he loves the gospel. If he is elected president, let us pray that we have patience as he slowly and mercifully does the work he has been given to do. Let us pray that our zeal for the law is trumped by our zeal for the gospel. Regardless of who wins the election, let us pray that we trust not in politics for our synod's help, but
penitent sinners for mercy crying,
pardon and peace from Him obtain.
Ever the wants of the poor supplying,
their faithful God He doth remain.

Today's Laugh

Introductory Chemistry was taught at Duke University for many years by Professor Bonk. One year, two guys took the class and did pretty well on all the quizzes and mid-terms -- so much so that going into the final, they each had a solid A. These two friends were so confident going into the final that the weekend before finals week, despite the Chemistry final being on Monday, they decided to go to the University of Virginia to party with some friends.

They did this and had a great time. However, with their hangovers and tiredness, they overslept all day Sunday and didn't make it back to Duke until early Monday morning. Rather than taking the final then, they found Professor Bonk after the final and explained to him how they missed the final. They told him they went up to the University of Virgina for the weekend and had planned to come back in time to study, but they had a flat tire on the way back and didn't have a spare. They couldn't fix it for a long time and were late getting back to campus.

Bonk thought this over and agreed that they could take the final the following day. The two guys, elated and relieved, studied that night and went in the next day at the time that Bonk had told them. He placed them in separate rooms and handed each of them a test booklet. He told them to begin.

They looked at the first problem which was something simple about molarity and solutions; it was worth 5 points. "Cool," they thought, "this is going to be an easy final". They then turned the page. They were unprepared, however, for what they saw on it. The question contained only two words: (95 points) Which tire?

Monday, July 12, 2010

Today's Laugh

The boss was trying to be inspirational and motivational. He posted a sign which read, "Today is the tomorrow you worried about yesterday." I couldn't resist adding a note: "And now you know why too."

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Today's Laugh

An elderly couple were killed in an accident and found themselves being given a tour of heaven by Saint Peter. "Here is your ocean-side condo. Over there are the tennis courts, swimming pool, and two golf courses. If you need any refreshments, just stop by any of the many bars located throughout the area."

"Heck, Gloria," the old man hissed when Saint Peter walked off, "we could have been here ten years ago if you hadn't heard about all that stupid oat bran, wheat germ, and low-fat diets!"