Saturday, December 31, 2011

Private Music

While piano-hunting, the salesmen repeatedly pointed out the benefits of the earphones that can be plugged into a digital piano. They told us how great it is to be able to practice without disturbing the people around you. I can see benefits there. If you live in an apartment, you can play without annoying the people upstairs. If you work odd hours --or if you awaken in the night and want to play hymns for comfort-- the earphones make it possible for you to make your music while the rest of the household slumbers away. If you're learning a piece and embarrassed to be heard, you've got privacy because of the earphones.

And yet ...

Is that good?

Isn't there something good about all of you hearing the same music? Isn't there something good about learning to take turns -- someone playing piano for a while and then someone else listening to the tv or radio -- sharing the airwaves? Isn't there something instructive about listening to a person learn to play, whether it's the primer book, simple scales, or more complicated pieces? Isn't there something good about the whole family hearing Jill's piece for the recital 287 times in one week?

When we use the earphones, we disassociate with each other. But that's not all. We also take away our exposure to someone's fumbling about while in the learning-stages. And that's not a good thing. Especially in our day of recorded music (where there might have been over 100 attempts at getting the recording Right before the entertainer finds a "keeper") it's important that we experience the process of learning. Children especially need to see that mistakes are made, and that we all do a cruddy job in the beginning phases of gaining a skill, and that it takes work and practice before a piece is smoothed and polished and refined.

I'm not going to toss my piano's earphones into the trash. We will keep them. Sometimes we will use them. But for the most part, earphones seem like another wedge to family togetherness, as well as another way to portray excellence while hiding the path of hard work and the plethora of errors that led to that excellence.

Today's Laugh

George was having a grand time at the local bar, jigging around to the music. Suddenly he felt the call of nature and had to pass gas. He held it back for a while. But eventually he decided that the loud music would drown out the noise, so he let it fly. He looked around and noticed that everyone was staring at him with an accusing eye. That's when he remembered: he was listening to the dance music on his iPod.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Another Follow-up to "Nothing to Do"

Played some piano. Reviewed Hilde's descant for "O Savior of Our Fallen Race."

Made bread.

Cleaned the oven and the stove's grates.

Goofed off on Facebook and wrote some blog posts.

Went to the post office and library.

Flushed the water heater.

Paid bills, did the December budget, and set up the files for the new year's budget-stuff.

Talked briefly to Paul about his vaccination record.

Listened to my pastor on Issues, Etc. (I wish I'd known earlier this week that he had a week-long stint on the show. He's doing a whole series on the Table of Duties, and if it turns out to be anything at all like what he wrote in Catechist edition, it'll superb.)

Cleaned two bedrooms.

Mopped those bedrooms and the bathrooms.

Shrimp stirfry for supper.

Watch Pizza My Heart with Gary. It's a cute, simple, clean, predictable, lightly funny movie that's kind of a chipper take-off on Romeo and Juliet.

Vacuumed the basement furniture with my new Dirt Devil. #1 -- It's shocking and disgusting how much cat hair was on those chairs. #2 -- Why don't women like tools (like Dirt Devils) for Christmas gifts? It makes a task quicker and easier, which means it's essentially a gift of time. And everybody seems to want more time. I certainly treasure gifts-of-time more than gifts-of-jewels or gifts-of-perfume or other supposedly romantic things. After all, if I have more time to read a book to a kid or cuddle with my sweetie, what thing could be better than that?

Early to bed so that I can be out of the house extra-early for opening at work tomorrow.

Back to RegularLife tomorrow. And on my vacation I didn't even start on the Christmas cards, the Epiphany introits, or the school records. But no! I ought not look at what I didn't accomplish, but at the things I did. Right? Right? Yes, I can brainwash myself into this.....!

Paul's Trip to Haiti

My son is headed off to Haiti in January, three weeks hence. His godfather's congregation serves as the Lutheran University Student Center for the Milwaukee area, and a group of college-aged folks are going to help with the ongoing reconstruction after the devastating earthquake two years ago.

If you might be inclined to help defray the cost of the trip for those who will be smashing their thumbs with hammers and getting splinters in their feet, you could send $5 (or $20*) to

Luther Memorial Chapel and
University Student Center
Attention: Rachel Ploetz
3833 N. Maryland Avenue
Shorewood WI 53211

with your gift earmarked for Paul G. (Shoot, I was about to write my last name. I do not want to do that on this blog. Um, well, most of you who will send a check already know Paul's last name. If you don't, I'm sure Rachel will have no problem figuring it out.)


By the way, Mom, as long as we're on the topic of Wietings, Ben announced his engagement today. And I don't think I mentioned that Hannah had another little boy last winter.


*Or $100, if you wish.

Driving Stick

I never understood why my mom and others would say, "You're DRIVING in those FLIPFLOPS? How can you drive like that?" Why? What's the big deal?

I think I've figured it out now. I've driven my stickshift Corolla with my flipflops and my Birkenstocks, and I've driven it with my workshoes and my tennies. It's so much easier with shoes that hang onto your feet! Especially on days like today, where your flipflops are wet.

The First Commandment

Many of you will laugh at my cluelessness, but nevertheless, here goes.

Until yesterday, I didn't know the difference between Richard Dawkins and Stephen Hawking. In my self-defense, I point out that both are scientists known as scientists, both atheists, both professors at those distinguished British universities, and (most importantly) both have A-W-K-I-N in their names. (Hey, I'm more of a big-picture person. That little detail of the name starting with an H or a D ... yeah, well, sometimes I fail to take note of those things.)

So yesterday I figured out the differences between the men. Dawkins is from Oxford; Hawking is from Cambridge. (Yeah, like that's gonna stick in my brain??) They have different first names! Hawking is the physicist whose books Rachel read in high school; Dawkins studies animal behavior. And Dawkins is the militant "missionary" for atheism. I was prodded to figure this out when a friend linked to an article about Dawkins's fervor to spread the message of atheism.

This one clip from the article intrigued me.
Dawkins once told me that he found the first of the Ten Commandments — "You shall have no other gods before Me" — to be the most personally offensive. At the time, I was not sure what he meant. Since then, however, it has become clear that Dawkins, having aspirations of his own, did not like this exclusivity clause. Something of an object of worship himself, ...
He found the First Commandment most offensive. You know what? That man has a better bead on Christianity than a lot of Christians. How often do Christians think their religion is a set of rules on how to behave, how to love, how to be nice, etc? And yet, every single command in Scripture (whether in the Ten Commandments or elsewhere) is subsumed under the First Commandment. If we fear, love, and trust in God above all things, we will not steal or commit adultery, because we trust that the goods and the spouse God has provided us are the very best, and that we lack nothing. If we fear, love, and trust in God above all things, we will not insist on having our own way, asserting our rights, but will be willing to sacrifice in love for others.

The main message of the Christian faith is that all my righteousness is filth before God, utterly useless to make Him like me or to earn me anything good, and that Jesus is my righteousness and that He has done everything to save me, paying for my sins and giving me all His holiness. That means He's God, and I'm not.

Apparently Richard Dawkins understands that. He rejects it. But he understands it. And he's right about its exclusivity and its offensiveness.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Follow-up to "Nothing to Do"

Because I knew I would come to the end of the day, take a look at all the unfinished tasks on my to-do list, and bemoan having "done nothing all day," I kept track of what I did do:

Cleaned behind and under the refrigerator. Dusted the coils. Pulled out the stove and cleaned behind it too.

Laundered the boys' sheets. Bathroom towels too. And three loads of clothes.

Remembered to take my vitamins (no small feat, unfortunately). Hit the neti pot repeatedly to fight back at the problem instigated by a tooth having been whacked by a popcorn kernel. (This week I'm understanding Gary's reticence with regard to eating popcorn.)

Several little jobs, like sweeping the stairwell, scrubbing the kitchen sink, sharpening knives, cleaning out my purse, and dusting the bathrooms.

Smoothie for breakfast.

Mopped and triple-waxed the kitchen floor.

Two-mile walk, in the sunshine!, fast enough to get sweaty, followed by a hot soak in the tub with my magazine. (Hey, I had to do something while the wax was drying on the floor that's smack-dab in the middle of the house's traffic.)

Watched a cooking show while I ate my lunch and wrote some thank-you notes.

Ran three quickie errands in town.

Soaked feet and treated split heels.

With Gary's help, took the piano out to the garage, awaiting either the garbage men or someone who wants a near-free piano.

Broke down the large and sturdy box the snow-blower arrived in [wow -- what a gift!] and cut-and-tied it into a size acceptable to the garbage haulers.

Scrubbed the shower walls and the bathtub instead of doing the regular 2-minute swiping/cleaning. Tried it with baking soda today instead of SoftScrub. I think it worked okay.

Bottled kombucha and started two new batches.

Fried chicken for supper.

Watched a sitcom with Gary.

Cleaned the rest of the kitchen (that is, whatever wasn't cleaned when I mopped & waxed this morning).


Now, when I read that, it doesn't look like quite so nothing. And I've got another day of this "nothing to do."

Nothing to Do

The kids are with some friends for the week. Gary's at work. I'm not scheduled to work. Nothing's on the calendar at church. No doctor appointments or other things penciled onto the calendar. Two whole days stretched out before me. I have nothing to do.

Except cooking and baking and laundry. And long-overdue straightening and cleaning. And Christmas cards and a desktop-publishing project for church. And errands and a list of phone calls. And catching up on school record-keeping. And school plans for the next semester. And maybe a little self-indulgence: writing, going for a walk in this beautiful sunshine, playing piano, wasting time watching a movie or maybe even reading?

What shall it be? So many options for "doing nothing"!

I started the day with a sudoku.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Sweet Flowerets

Holy Innocents. The children murdered by Herod the Great in his attempt to snuff out the life of this newborn king he'd heard rumor of.

The imagery in the hymn is something that struck me tonight like it never did before:
Sweet flowerets of the martyr band,
plucked by the tyrant's ruthless hand
upon the threshold of the morn,
like rosebuds by a tempest torn, ...

I remember my friend Jenny writing about her peonies. A few years in a row after she planted them, a driving rain came and took out the flowers just as they were blooming. No flowers. No perfume. They were lost.

There have been times a wicked storm tore through the area. The ground is littered with twigs and ripped-up leaves and flowers torn off the trees and shrubs and flower-stems. It's so sad to see flowers scattered across the lawn or the road, just part of the debris left by the winds and the hail.

But in addition to the beauty-turned-mess, there's the loss. Rosebuds held a promise of loveliness of shape, loveliness of color, loveliness of aroma. And with those buds gone, gone also is what you were anticipating. Like Jenny's peonies.

Death stinks.




But I believe in the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Christmas on a Sunday

The problem with Christmas being on a Sunday is that we get cheated out of a Sunday. Isn't Christmas supposed to be an extra day of going to church? So we still have our Christmas service, but we lose our Sunday this week and next week. (I'm currently being envious of the folks in South Bend where they have church every day through Christmastide.)

Friday, December 23, 2011

Ashamed of the Presents?

Why is it that I can go to a nice resale shop and find all sorts of very nice things that I'm thrilled to buy for Christmas presents ... and then later start having misgivings about making a present out of something used?

When the kids were little, it didn't faze me in the least. At least, not for the toys or clothes or books that were going to stay in our house. But now that there are family members to whom I did not give birth, I wonder what they'll think. I can give myself the speech that it's okay; I can give myself the speech that this is simply how we live and what we can afford; I can give myself the speech that Christmas is over-commercialized. And yet, there is a smidge of shame that lurks in my heart over the resale-shop presents.

For All People

We spent a lot of time in Bible class yesterday looking at the canticles of Luke 1-2. We also saw how these songs lifted from the word given before. Mary's Magnificat is similar to Hannah's song and the song of Habakkuk. Zechariah's Benedictus begins with the words which end Book Four of the psalter, and the rest of the song is drawn from other psalms and prophets.

Pastor pointed out how Simeon's song borrows from what the angel told the shepherds. (Remember: the shepherds made all those events widely known.) There were plenty of messiah-figures showing up in Palestine over the years, exciting the Jews' passion to kick Roman butt. But would this messiah be for everyone? Heck no -- he'd restore the Jews to their place of supremacy.

But that messiah wasn't the one God had in store.

God had promised Abraham that all the nations of the world would be blessed in his Seed. When the angels proclaimed the glad tidings to the shepherds, they too said the news was "a great joy which shall be for all people." Ah ha! That lines up with what God had said 2000 years earlier. And then Simeon shows up in the temple on the right day, singing about the "salvation which Thou hast prepared before the face of all people." Simeon knew the veracity of the shepherds' story because it was in sync with God's promises handed down through the centuries.

The word of the Lord never fails.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Solstice

Usually --but not always-- the winter solstice (the "Official First Day of Winter") lands on December 21. My 2011 calendar says that winter begins on Wednesday the 21st. This morning in chapel, the headmaster pointed out that today (Thursday the 22nd) was the first day of winter.

Hmmm.

So I did a little checking. Turns out that solstice was last night at 11:30 pm our time, but 12:30 am Eastern time. Thus is explained the discrepancy in dates; those who control the media in the country are mostly in the Eastern time zone.

Either way, we've turned the corner in the solar system and are on our way to more sunlight!

What the Women Told

In the resurrection accounts, the women are told to go tell the disciples ... what?

In two Gospel accounts, they were to tell that Jesus would go before them into Galilee and that they would see him. In another story, the women were reminded that they ought not to be surprised about the empty tomb; after all, Jesus had told them this was all going to happen. And in John's account, Jesus gave Magdalena a message for the guys about His ascension, including that He was calling them His brothers.

Pastor pointed out recently that the "go tell them" was not just the bald facts of the resurrection, not just the location of the meet-up point in Galilee. It also included telling the apostles that they need not fear, that their Lord was not holding their betrayals against them, and that His death and resurrection had to take place.

"Do not be afraid."

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Prayer

In prayer, we don't give God information He doesn't already know. In prayer, we're not trying to get God to change His mind and do things our way because, well, we honestly think He's botching it up and needs to amend His plans to suit us.

In prayer, we want to align our will with His. We know that "What God Ordains Is Always Good," but we need to come to believe that. In prayer, we meditate on the catechism and the psalms and His promises, and speak back to God what He has first spoken to us.

I'm trying to figure out how prayer chains work into that. If someone I know is worried about an ill relative, I will pray for faith for my friend and that God would preserve the ill person in the Faith. I will also pray for temporal healing if it is God's will. But the main thing is always that God's will to draw people to Himself is accomplished.

So is that what prayer requests and prayer chains are concerned with?

Monday, December 19, 2011

Signing the Recall Petition ... or Not

If you are suspicious that wrong names might show up on the petition to Recall Governor Walker, there are two things to look into.

First, if you have some time to help, you can volunteer to input data from the petitions. The Government Accountability Board has said they have no intention of verifying signatures. So somebody has to do it. We can join in that effort.

Second (and much easier) is to check to ensure your own name hasn't been signed by someone else. Go to the "no-sign registration" page. Sign up. If your name shows up on a petition that you didn't sign, you will be notified. It also says that you'll be notified if your address shows up. That will be important lest Harry Jones and Bob Smith and Julie Andrews and Betty Rubble are listed as signers from my address.

We need a statewide effort to stop the fraud. Please take a couple of minutes to do your part. You might want to consider this even if you no longer live in Wisconsin but did recently, just to make sure no one signs on your behalf at your former address or by using your maiden name.

Signing someone else's name. Inventing non-existent people to sign a petition. Non-residents lying about an in-state address. The lack of ethics is mind-boggling.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Facing It Again

In theory, if you've already been through something bad once, you should know that you managed to survive it. Then why is it that the prospect of enduring the same thing again (such as the death of a loved one, or a toothache) is so daunting? Why does the fear of having to face those pains again seem even worse than having faced them the first time?

It's dumb. It's just dumb.
But that doesn't mean it's not real.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Closing the Chip Bag

We have several of those clips for the chip bags. Why? Don't wooden clothes-pins do the job? They're cheaper. They don't hog up as much space in the kitchen drawers. And if you need extras or you lose one, you just run to the laundry room and grab a spare.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Double for Her Sins

Speak comfort to Jerusalem, and cry out to her,
that her warfare is ended,
that her iniquity is pardoned;
for she has received from the Lord's hand
double for all her sins. (Isaiah 40)


As the class was considering this verse, Nancy brought up the connection to Elijah and Elisha. Elisha wanted a double-portion of Elijah's spirit (2 Kings 2). But that's not a quantitative "double" because you can't have more of something you already have in all its fullness. She suggested that both of these "doubles" refer to the double portion of inheritance that is due by right to the firstborn (Deuteronomy 21:17).

After all, we are "in Christ." And He is the firstborn of the Father. And He will share the spoils with us (Isaiah 53). The double portion is ours!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Removing the Sandal

John the Baptist said he was not worthy to loosen the strap of the Messiah's sandal. Most of us heard that all our lives as "I'm nothing and He's everything, and I'm not worthy to even serve Him." But it's more than that.

Pastor likes to remind us of the story of Ruth, and how Boaz was the kinsman-redeemer. He exercised his right of redemption by removing his sandal. This also ties in with Genesis 3 where God tells Satan that the Seed-of-the-Woman will crush his head with His heel.

Last week when we were discussing these things in class, someone brought up the burning bush and how Moses was told to remove his sandals "for the place you are standing is holy ground." I'd always thought that was just a reference to God's holiness and purity, and the dirtiness of us sinners as signified by our dirty shoes. But then Pastor pointed out that Moses was a redeemer figure. He rescued the people. He brought them back from slavery in Egypt. And as a redeemer, he (like Boaz) had the bare feet.

"How beautiful upon the mountain are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace."

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Graduation

Paul being "hooded."

During the ceremony.

videoBeing dismissed.

His medallion is for graduating magna cum laude.

Monday, December 12, 2011

New Car

Corolla. Five years old and 110,000 miles. Stickshift. It came from the village just north of here. Now we have to sell the van; we're not experienced in this -- we usually sell our cars to the junk dealer.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Amen

In chapel at Paul's college recently, Gary and I did something outlandish. When the pastor started the service by saying, "In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit," we said, "Amen."

It seemed to me like a normal thing to do. Nobody else thought it was a normal thing to do.

At the end of the service, we should have realized that we weren't supposed to say "Amen" when the pastor said, "The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the communion of the Holy Ghost be with you all." But y'know, it just kinda pops out of your mouth. And then you're the only ones saying it.

It's weird. After all, what does "amen" mean?

Looking at their hymnal, there are places where the congregation sings "amen" after the invocation or benediction. But the rubrics for most of the prayers and blessings put the "amen" in the mouth of the pastor. I thought "amen" was my agreement with the prayer, that this prayer is true and in accordance with God's will ("yes, yes, it shall be so"), that I want here what God wants and promises to give. If the pastor already spoke the prayer, he's saying it, so it's obviously his prayer. But my "amen" says that it's my prayer too.

Bed-Sharing

Milwaukee is on a campaign to stamp out bed-sharing. Several babies have died when sleeping in bed with Mom, Grandma, or Mom's boyfriend. The city officials want to convince people that they ought never ever ever ever ever sleep with a baby. Some people are talking about passing laws to make it illegal, charging parents with murder if a baby should die in the parents' bed.

Now, I don't think a baby should be sleeping with Grandma or Mom's boyfriend. I even wonder a little about Baby sleeping with Daddy alone. Under no circumstances should a drunk or high mom be sleeping with her baby. But those scenarios are quite different from a sober breastfeeding mom sleeping with her baby.

Cassie tipped me off to a news report on bed-sharing. And the findings certainly ring true. Although alcohol has been implicated in many of the recent deaths, although there have been a disproportionate amount of deaths in the poverty-stricken areas of the city, there is only ONE 100%-consistent factor in these deaths. The babies were formula-fed. None of the babies were sleeping with a nursing mother.

That's critical.

And it's why bed-sharing must not be made illegal.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Today's Laugh

A set of jokes about grammar and punctuation. A sample is:

A comma splice walks into a bar,
it has a drink and then leaves.



Okay, so maybe they're hilarious to me only because of how I wield my red pen to proofread and edit. Nevertheless, check 'em out.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Apologetics

Always be ready to give a defense
to anyone who asks you for a reason
for the hope that is in you
(1 Peter 3:15).

Some people say that this verse commands us to have scientific or historical evidence that we can trot out, proving the "reason" for our faith.

But science and historical evidence do not create faith. The reason for our faith is not "reason" (although neither is it unreasonable).

Isn't the Apostles Creed a primary example of the reason for our hope? "Why do you do a good job at work even though you don't get credit for it?" Or "Why do you forgive your neighbor when he's not even sorry for cheating on the property line?" Or "Why do you pray for the country's leaders?" Or even just "Why do you keep getting up on Sunday morning when you could sleep in and rest up?"

Because I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord, ....

That's why Christians do those weird things.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Double for Her Sins

She has received from the Lord's hand
double for all her sins. (Isaiah 40)


From Sunday's sermon,
"Double for her sins" means
twice as much mercy and grace
and salvation as you need.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Every Valley

Every valley shall be exalted,
and every mountain and hill made low (Isaiah 40).


"By the preaching of Law and Gospel, John the Forerunner leveled the high mountains of pride and self-righteousness and filled up the valleys of contrite humility and unworthiness with God's mercy."
(Stolen from Sunday's church bulletin)

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

That Calendar

Maggie connived me into watching an episode of Psych with her. (Bad Maggie! Naughty Maggie! Bad girl!) (Boy, it seems I have no power to resist that show.) To quasi-redeem the time, I hauled out the 2012 planning calendar and began to pencil in birthdays and tax payments and symposia and other reminders. Of course, to do this necessitated consultation with the 2011 planning calendar.

That was when we saw the eye doctor? But I thought it was just a couple of weeks ago.

The calendar says Nat & Sarah's wedding was back in July, but they just got married.

Look at all those doctor appointments for Maggie in January. How could that have been nearly a year ago? It was so recent.

The last time I went downtown for training at work was in March? It couldn't have been that long ago!





I'm getting old.


Will time keep going faster?
Or when we get old enough and feeble enough and frail enough, unable to fill our days with too-much-to-do, does the time slow down again, like when we were little kids and the days dragged?

Monday, December 05, 2011

Feast of St Nicholas

A few years ago I wrote about my favorite Santa story, where Santa punched out Arius.

Wonderful Shoes

Too many people had been asking me, "Aren't your feet cold?" Yes, wearing flip-flops in November did indeed make my feet cold. But I answered that I'd change to real shoes when the pain of the cold outweighed the pain of the different shoes, and that might be a while yet. I kept wishing for fat wool socks like I had with my Birkenstocks, but you can't do that with thongs.

Or can you? I decided to try googling "men's wool toe-socks" and was utterly shocked to find hits. Turns out that the popularity of Vibrams has resulted in the manufacture of Bigfoot toe socks, and not only toe socks, but wool ones! So I'm still bopping around in my flipflops, but without the bareness.

When it was time to leave for work on Saturday, I realized that I didn't have my car. Sure, there was another car to drive. But my work-shoes live in the car; I normally put them on in the parking lot at work, and I take them off before I drive home. I had to abide by dress code. So I went to Gary's closet and nabbed the Skechers I'd bought earlier this year but then handed-down to him. I got through the morning okay. But after 3 hours, I started noticing pain. It worsened all day Saturday, even after I'd slipped my feet back into my lovely, wonderful, beautiful, comfortable, pain-free Orthaheels. Gary reminded me that, when I'd worn the Skechers before, I used my inserts. But on Saturday I never thought of that.

Mom, I knew what you were talking about when you were in the hospital without your inserts and without your Birkenstocks. But boy, now I really know! I don't always wear my orthotics; sometimes I'm [gasp] barefoot when I let the cat outdoors in the middle of the night. Sometimes I'll even go as far as the laundry room with bare feet. But several hours in normal shoes ... it makes me immensely grateful for the doctors and technicians who make such wonderful shoes and inserts!

And Rachel and Katie (and Alia), wear supportive shoes now. Because it's gonna get you eventually. Better later than earlier.

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Youth Group

So the kids and Pastor are reading & discussing A Little Book of Joy. They meet twice a month on Friday afternoons. This week, they finished their book discussion earlier than normal. So what to do then? They sang Advent hymns; everybody picked a favorite. This is youth group.

I love my church.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Outdated

We're refinancing the house. Y'know, lower interest rates these days, and all. So yesterday I'm talking to the mortgage officer. When he called, he inquired about the back side of a document, of which I'd forwarded only the front side. My very long phone cord, attached to the landline telephone which is attached to the kitchen wall, allows me to reach most of the rooms in the house, albeit only into the doorways of the furthest rooms. So I'm stretching the cord, stretching my arm, but I still can't quite reach the desk with the pertinent sheet of paper. "Excuse me, I'll need to put down the phone a minute. It doesn't reach far enough. I'll be right back."

(Moving to a new subject, but --hang on-- it's not irrelevant...)
Yesterday's mail brought another pile of paperwork for the refinancing, including the appraisal on the house. (Good news: the house has lost only 13% of its value over the last four years. Given what some people have experienced in this economy, that's not bad at all.) Looking over the appraiser's notes, I noticed this: "Dated kitchen and bathrooms. General lack of interior cosmetic updating."

I laughed! How often I complain that our society isn't comfortable with nice, normal, functional rooms, but we must always be remodeling and updating and trying to keep up with whatever the interior decorators tell us is stylish. "Dated kitchen." Heck, yeah! And what would we do to cosmetically update the interior anyhow? Raising the roof 4-10' isn't feasible. Restructuring the interior walls isn't either. Is it that terrible that my house built in the 60s looks like a 40-yr-old house?

Just about at that moment, I remembered the phone call in the afternoon. "Excuse me. I'll need to put down the phone. It doesn't reach far enough." Whoa! That comment revealed something definitely "outdated."

There are some young people who might not even understand what my sentence meant.

Muddy, Black Water

Do normal people shampoo the floor mats in their cars?

Maybe I've been perpetually neglecting a basic task. I've been getting the van ready to sell: finding the loose change, removing the myriads of maps, cleaning out the glove compartment, vacuuming. While vacuuming, I noticed some doozy stains on the floor mats. I'd really like to advertise this old van as "clean." So it crossed my mind to use some Resolve stain remover and then to wash them. Scrub brush. Bath tub. Lots of water. Black black black water running down the drain. (I hope I didn't plug up the septic system with mud!) Lather; rinse; repeat. Squeegee the water off the mats. Sore muscles and tired arms.

How many years will it take for these things to dry?

And the $64,000 question -- Ought I do the same thing for the middle-aged cars before they get old, before the mats become even dirtier than they are now? And if I ought, ... will I?

Friday, December 02, 2011

Santa and Jesus

Later than all retail stores, and later even than the other branches of our bank, our branch's Christmas music finally hit the airwaves this week. I've been finding it harder to work when there's really good music playing. Paying attention to my transactions and other duties interrupts [gasp] the preaching of the Gospel which flows forth in "Hark, the Herald Angels Sing" and "Angels We Have Heard on High" and "Oh, Come, All Ye Faithful." Yes, there's some "Rocking Around the Christmas Tree" and I even had to endure "Santa Baby" a couple of times. But the majority of our Christmas music is Julie Andrews and Bing Crosby and friends singing hymns. At one point, I heard "pleased as Man with man to dwell" four times in one hour this week -- and I am certainly okay with that.

But eventually something crossed my mind. The Santa songs are there too. Do my customers and my co-workers think that the Santa songs and the Jesus songs are same thing: songs about those mythical Christmas-story-dudes which we sing just because we like the sentimentality of it all?

I hope they're listening.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Extreme Domesticity

Lora linked to an article about the younger generation discovering do-it-yourself domestic pursuits. Katie and Rachel fit in the age-range for these women who are cooking, baking bread, mending, knitting, gardening, healing with herbs, etc. But they're not blundering about, trying to figure out these domestic matters, almost as if they're spiting the feminism that was foisted upon them by my generation. Because I taught them a lot of these skills, and I sure didn't foist feminism upon them!

After reading the article, I still can't figure out if I'm avant garde or if I'm hopelessly old-fashioned. Not that it matters much, especially if those two are merging into the same thing these days.

I find it terribly amusing.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Parable of the Talents

Remember the story in Matthew where the lord gives treasure to some of his servants to manage while he's gone? One receives five talents and has doubled it before the master returns. Another receives two and doubles it before the master returns. The third received one talent and hid it, so there wasn't even interest earned when the master came back.

It confused me. On the one hand, the first two were invited to "enter into the joy of your lord." But the third said, "I knew you to be a hard man," and the master seemed to agree with that assessment. What's up with that? Is this lord a guy who is hard and unyielding? Or is he a guy who rewards generously and ensures that joy come to his servants?

When I finally asked Pastor, his answer was quick: "He is a hard man. There is only one way, and He is unyielding with regard to one who insists on saving himself, meriting his own heaven." But that kind of hardness by no means precludes His generosity in bestowing joy.

Joy

How can a person not smile in response to such a happy picture?

(Zoe is nearly 8 months old now.)

Friday, November 25, 2011

These Days

Rachel and Matt arrived Wednesday evening. Although Matt had to go home to go to work today, we kept Rachel. We've enjoyed having them around.

We missed Paul and Philip who were not able to be here.

Andrew, Matt, and Nathan helped Gary do the raking. The leaves are done, the deck is picked up, and the hatches are battened down for the winter. Oops -- there are still gutters to clean, but the big jobs are done.

We drove way down to the south side of the metro area today to check out a used car. The odometer was off, and the driver's seat would be a little too cozy for Andrew to drive. Scratch that one off the list. I'm seeing another car on Sunday; this one is about 7 minutes away. I detest car shopping. It's such a big decision, fraught with po$$ible problem$ waiting in the wing$.

Gary's preaching every weekend this month. Extra income -- hooray! Extra tiredness -- sigh. But when the men need a substitute, it's so good that Gary's available for them!

I saw the doctor this morning. Good news: my cough is not contagious. Bad news: he suspects it will last another six weeks before I'm completely over it. Good news (kinda sorta): it's a complication of allergies, which means if I gather all my gumption and do another cleanse, I should be able to rid myself of this nonsense for 3-5 years before it creeps up on me again. My last cleanse was over six years ago, and it helped in so many ways. But it takes loads of thought to remember the supplements, to fast from many kinds of food, to prepare all the right kinds of "non-polluting" foods, to exercise the self-control to avoid sugars and chocolate and liquor and cheese. I just plain feel short of the brainwaves required to pull this off. On the other hand ... two months of coughing every winter, and dealing with snotty-headed allergies? Maybe the cleanse would be easier...

When we have down-time at work, we've been cutting out paper snowflakes to decorate the windows for the next couple of months. Mine are the prettiest, six-pointed and all delicate and lacy and intricate. That sounds arrogant. But they are. I'm amazed at how pretty they are. People have actually gasped in astonishment over how pretty they are. Hee hee hee -- that's fun.

I probably should put some of the turkey into the freezer. But right now, when it's only Friday evening, it's hard to imagine that we could possibly grow tired of this turkey-deliciousness before we gobble it all up. (Ha ha ... pun intended ... you're amused, right?) The turkey stock has been well-boiled and strained and is cooling. Oh, the yumminess! Turkey soup. Turkey sandwiches. Turkey tetrazini. Turkey turkey turkey -- mmmm. It's hard to believe that this is the first turkey we've had since I started my job. Really, dear turkey, my love, my sweetness, we must steal away more often for these rendezvous.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Thanksgiving -- After-Dinner Activities

Zoe loves to have somebody help her stand and walk!

Alia wants to play Pandemic too.

Tired of the board game; let's read stories.

Crawling all over the place!




It's a shame that there aren't walkers any more for babies at this stage. Good thing Katie has strong tummy muscles!

Thanksgiving -- Yard "work"



Thanksgiving -- Dinner



Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Way Back When I Was Young

Our math textbook is from the early 80's. Maggie was doing a lesson on graphing. So there's a graph of TV-watching habits of the kids in this hypothetical classroom. A question started with "53% of the students watched the special on Monday night."

And the modern child asks me, "Mom, what's a 'special?'"

I find that question astounding. But just in case I have other young readers who don't know what a 'special' is, they'd need to understand that once-upon-a-time there were THREE television channels and no VCRs or DVDs or TIVO or Netflix or Hulu. Everybody watched what everybody else watched, and at the same time too. And sometimes, instead of the usual Monday night line-up, there might be something different and "special" on. Hence, a math question that starts with "53% of the students watch the special."

It's almost bizarre to consider in today's world of 100's of television channels and on-demand movies.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

"While Slumber Binds Our Breasts"

Our hymn this week is "The Bridegroom Soon Will Call Us." I am, naturally, stumbling over the LSB translation. Normally, I sing the words I can, and hush up in chapel for the lines that have changed, hoping that listening to the kids sing all week will somehow get into my head so that my mouth becomes capable (in time) of shaping the words that live in the new hymnal.

This hymn has an interesting adjustment.

TLH: The Bridegroom soon will call us,
"Come all ye wedding guests!"
May not His voice appall us
while slumber binds our breasts!

LSB: The Bridegroom soon will call us,
"Come to the wedding feast."
May slumber not befall us
nor watchfulness decrease.

Now, I'm not saying there's anything wrong with the LSB words: there are many places in the Scriptures where we are called to "watch and pray" and not to sleep.

But in the story of the five wise and five foolish virgins (Matthew 25) upon which this hymn is based, all ten virgins fell asleep waiting for the bridegroom. It seems like the TLH version is a more accurate picture of the parable. And I like that, because it's a good reminder that it is the Lord --not my watchfulness-- that preserves me in the faith. But I will get used to the new words eventually.

The Rapture

Back when I read Hal Lindsey's "The Late Great Planet Earth," I didn't know why his predictions were wrong. And honestly, some of it was a little scary. "What if he's right?" I wondered. A lot of it seemed outlandish. "But what if he's right?"

Eventually I learned why those sort of predictions are wrong and why we know that the so-called Rapture will not happen. But what blew me away recently was something from our study of 1 Thessalonians this month. The verse upon which some people base their whole scheme of a "rapture" starts with the word "then": "then we will be caught up to meet the Lord in the air."

And what came before the "then"? Uh... that would be the resurrection of the dead on the Last Day.

Seriously! That's what it says. All the thinking and discussing and preaching about the Rapture is so focused on what "logic" invents that people don't even see the preceding sentence.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Cranberry Jelly

We've tried a variety of off-brand cranberry jellies and have always been disappointed. We go back to Ocean Spray and vow to stick with the name brand. Last week I bought one can of Aldi cranberry jelly, just to taste-test it. It's good! It passes the test with flying colors.

Just thought some of y'all might like to know.

Gideon's Army

Our story today is about Gideon going against the Midianite army with his 300 soldiers and their "fearsome" weapons of trumpets and torches.

Look at verse 2. The Lord told Gideon that he had too many soldiers. With 32,000 soldiers, if God gave Midian into the hands of the Israelites, Israel would think they (not the Lord) had won the battle: "lest Israel claim glory for itself against Me...."

"Against Me"?

Who are the combatants here anyway? I always thought it was Israel and Midian. But God said, "against Me." And when you think about it, isn't that what the Book of Judges is all about? The Israelites are fighting against God. So He calls them to repentance. The Midianites aren't so much the main enemy here as they are the tool of God to chastise His dear people who have despised Him and considered Him to be the enemy. And yet in love, He still draws His people back to Himself and fights for them and preserves them and gives them the victory.

Philip's Travels

Philip flew out of Chicago Sunday morning. He has two weeks of vacation in Japan. Because Japanese cell-phone towers do not mesh with American cell phones, he set up a website to stay in contact. (As the kids joke, yes, his mother wants to know every few days that he's still alive!) For those interested in seeing pictures and hearing reports, check out philinjapan at tumblr.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Christmas Cards

If you're looking for beautiful Christmas cards, Emmanuel Press has full-color artwork and sound messages inside. The quality of the cards is excellent, and they even come in a handy resealable package.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Faith-Motivated Works

All works --everything we do-- is motivated by faith. It's not just that good works emanate from the faith of a heart that trusts in Jesus. Even our sinful works flow from the self-centered faith (or unfaith, as it were) of the Old Adam. Everything we do --good or bad-- exposes what we believe.

Birthday Pictures

How did I manage to come up with only one decent picture of the birthday girl?
Zoe:
Zoe and her godmother Cassie:
Nathan and his mom Lu:
Gary:
Alia:

Friday, November 18, 2011

Comparing Pianos

We bought our used piano 23 years ago, and at that point it was about 30 years old. Our tuner told us that it can't be tuned anymore. He can't quite get it tuned all the way, and the pins are loose. We either live with the piano we've got, or we buy something else.

Having no clue whatsoever as to the cost of pianos, Maggie and I hit a couple of music stores today. I was shocked that the first one sells only digital pianos; they haven't sold real pianos for 15 years. After a sales pitch on why digital is far-&-away superior, the salesman did direct me to a store which still sells acoustic pianos.

Here's what I gathered from the salesmen:

Digital has certain benefits:
~ No tuning is necessary. That saves an annual fee.
~ It stays in perfect pitch.
~ Settings for "strings" or "trumpet," etc.
~ Adjustable volume, including headsets for private listening.
~ Lighter weight and thus easier to move.

Acoustic has certain benefits:
~ You don't lose the piano in an electrical outage.
~ You don't have to pay WE Energies to operate it.
~ Easier on Gary's tinnitus. Any electrically-powered instrument bothers his ears.

A good, refurbished, used piano from the piano store is in the same price range as a nice beginner-level digital (in other words, lower quality but not el cheapo). For new instruments, a real piano goes for at least twice what the digital sells for. I was amazed at the wonderful sound and feel of the digital instruments; it was more like a real piano than I imagined it could be.

Any comments on pros and cons I haven't considered? Do we know what the life span is on a digital, and what the repair costs would be when/if the computer inside goes wonky? Should a person with carpal tunnel problems be admitting that it's time to give up on the piano, and let go [gasp!], and just buy the cheapest keyboard available? What have y'all decided about electrical versus "real"?

Where Did THAT Come From?

In the gravelly dirt, just outside the garage door, next to the driveway:
It's the middle of November. We didn't try to plant this. It's not even in tilled soil. I just happened to notice these pretty little leaves yesterday while carrying in groceries. Surely they couldn't be ....? Could they? I tasted one. Sure enough, it's delectable baby spinach. All I can figure is that we unwittingly knocked some spinach seed off a dried plant when cleaning up the garden.


Bible class on Monday night was about creation. Pastor was making the point that God's creative word spoken so many millenia ago still has the power to create. Yeah, I know, I know. At least, I thought I knew. Why then is it so striking to see spinach growing --seemingly of its own accord-- in such a stupid spot for anything other than weeds to grow?

Thursday, November 17, 2011

For My Daughters

People who loved the picture book A Very Young Dancer may be interested to read the news article about the girl featured in the book.


Hat tip: Barbara

Joshua's Farewell Message

Joshua is nearing the end of his life. He reminds the children of Israel of all that the Lord had done to rescue them from slavery in Egypt, to sustain them on their journey, and to defeat their enemies and give them the Promised Land. Joshua told them to choose whom they would serve. The people responded that the Lord was the true God, reciting what He had done for them, and professed, "We will serve the Lord, for He is our God."

Good plan.

But look how Joshua responded. "You can't." (See Joshua 24:19.)

Ack! You almost want to throw something at Joshua. He says, "Choose." They choose. Then he says, "You can't do it."

But isn't this what the Third Article tells us? "I believe that I cannot ..." And yet, the Holy Spirit calls us and gives us the Sacraments and sanctifies us.

Even though we cannot, He can, for with God, all things are possible.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Ball Game

So I didn't get around to posting these two months ago when they were new. No surprise there! One of the outings we took for our wedding anniversary was to the Cardinals game. Of course, everybody else in the stadium thought it was a Brewers game. I was worried that the dude sitting next to me would get beaten up by rabid fans. But the only "attacks" were people shushing Gary's cheering.


Because the traffic is so bad, and because we had so much fun tailgating the previous year with Michael and Krissy, we figured it would be a good plan to go early. But we don't have a portable grill. And I'm just not adventuresome enough to figure out a Proper Tailgate Picnic. So I did what any normal nutrition-weirdo would do. I took regular food. Well, regular for us. So here's the picture of me sitting in the parking lot of Miller Park, eating my African peanut soup out of a thermos. Bratwurst? Not that night. Sub sandwiches? Not then. Potato chips? No. Beer? One, plus a kombucha.

And what's weirder? My husband liked his African peanut soup in the parking lot, even when he was surrounded by smoke wafting off of grills full of brats and burgers.

Horcrux

Don't bother reading this unless you've read Harry Potter and know what a horcrux is.

My son mentioned recently that it's almost like we are horcruxes. We have this sinful nature. Jesus said (in John 8) to the Pharisees, "You are of your father the devil." The devil and sin won't be done until all our sinful natures are dead and buried at the end of the world, when all the "horcruxes" are finally destroyed.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Bearing Fruit for Jesus

EC has an excellent description. Things that seem obvious in the garden don't seem so obvious when Jesus goes and uses the example to describe faith. But it really shouldn't be as tricky as we make it; we DO understand how fruit works in the garden.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Thought Paralysis

You know how you're at a loss of "What next??" after you finish a big project? I've noticed that, since I started my part-time job, I've lost a lot of ability to keep myself going with the homemaking. Some jobs (like being a mom) allow for lots of self-determination with regard to priorities and schedules and methods. But other jobs (like being a bank teller) are quite set, and there's very little to decide for yourself about how the job will be done; you do the work the way the boss tells you to do it.

I'm finding, though, that this affects how I think. Being told what to do and how to do it at the bank makes it much harder to arrange my work at home and have the motivation to dive in and do it. On my days off, I struggle to figure out which pressing task is the most important. Sometimes it's easier to bail and not do anything. (Not a good solution!)

This makes me wonder about kids. Does this have something to do with the motivation of homeschooled kids, particularly unschooled ones? Is this why people who are accustomed to conventional schools --with teachers calling all the shots-- simply cannot comprehend how homeschooled kids could arrange their own study lives and dive in to learn all sorts of things, even when nobody is cracking the whip over their heads?

So I had a couple of days in a row without being scheduled at my job. Saturday afternoon we babysat the grandkids. Sunday morning was church, and Sunday afternoon was talking to Philip. Monday was ... well ... what would Monday be? Cleaning? Cooking? Errands? Baking bread? Laundry? Yard work? Or attacking multitudes of little tasks on the to-do list? How would I ever decide? It all is important and needs to be done soon.

And the paralysis sets in.

Luckily though (??? did I just say "luckily"???) when I arrived home from chapel and some brief errands, the cat had made the decision for me. Rosie went in search of water, jumping up on the kitchen counter (a major no-no), tipping over a pitcher of water, and knocking stuff around while lapping up the water. A big splash of sweet-tea concentrate hit the floor (and under the stove and the vent above the stove and the counters).

Guess what? I spent a much of today cleaning the kitchen.

I think it would be good if I chose for myself how to spend my next day at home instead of depending upon the cat's prompting.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Alia

Because it's too funny to let some of my friends miss, I need to post a couple of stories that Katie's told about my granddaughter recently.


Alia's ballerina dog just said (by way of Alia's mouth) the whole close of the commandments with one "minor" alteration. "I the lord your dog am a jealous dog...

- - - - - - - - - -

The joys of Alia are innumerable. Today's bit of awesome: crooning a love song... to a piece of cold pizza.

- - - - - - - - - -

And the serious one, as she was pretending church and communion -- "Drink the blood of peace; now you are part of Jesus. Eat the bread that is Jesus for your peace. Forever and ever. Amen."

One of the Best Articles I've Seen on Raising Kids

Don't let the website address for this article put you off. It's a very long article, but it addresses a common struggle -- especially among homeschoolers. How do parents balance their training of a child with their unconditional love for the child? And does the message of that unconditional love of the parents actually get through to the kid?

The same problem pops up frequently in information put out for parents of special needs kids. The social workers and nurses keep telling the parents to love their child, not to treat them according to their disability. And yet, everything you run into from doctors and therapists and teachers is that the child is a project. A project to be conquered, to be tweaked, to be perfected insofar as can be done. But the child isn't a project. The child is a person. A person made in the image of God. A person who has strengths and weaknesses, joys and sorrows, just like all the rest of us.

The article isn't perfect. But the author is at least heading in the right direction.

Friday, November 11, 2011

They Couldn't Do It

This week and next we are praying the Third Article of the Creed:
I believe that I cannot
by my own reason or strength
believe in Jesus Christ my Lord
or come to Him.
But the Holy Ghost has called me by the Gospel...


One of our Bible stories this week was about the end of Joshua's life (chapter 24). Joshua preaches to the people all that God has done to save them, to rescue them, to defeat their enemies. Joshua asks them to choose whether they'll serve the Lord or all those other gods of the Egyptians and/or the Canaanites. The Israelites respond, "We're gonna serve Him." But Joshua tells them, "You cannot serve the Lord."

What?

Pastor pointed out in chapel how this dovetails with the Creed this week: "I believe that I cannot."

We cannot. We have no ability to trust. We have no strength to serve. But nevertheless, the Holy Spirit calls us, enlightens us, sanctifies us. He does in us and for us what we cannot do ourselves.

Pumpkin Pie

I've been disappointed in the pumpkin pies I've been making. They're good. But they're not awesome. Some were made with pumpkin I baked; some were made with canned pumpkin. I think I've decided that butternut squash is where it's at. When I use butternut squash for the "pumpkin" pie, then we're talking exquisite yumminess!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Witnessing

There was a discussion recently about how people out there in the post-modern Real World (TM) respond to Christians. One of the pastors said something quite wise:

People will react more honestly to "Christianity displayed as important to you than promoted as important for them."

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Sanctification

We run into it all the time: people telling us what we need to do to make ourselves holier. But look what it says in the Small Catechism.

(Luther's little expositions are so rich and full that sometimes we are overwhelmed by all that he's saying and don't catch the simplest things. So I'm going to leave out some of the verbs and subordinate clauses and prepositional phrases.)

I believe that I cannot ... but the Holy Ghost has ... sanctified ... me .... In the same way He ... sanctifies the whole Christian Church.


Who sanctifies? Not me. I cannot. But He does.

Naming Nature

Could you possibly be as clueless as I was back a few years ago? I could identify cardinals and robins. I knew what dandelions were. But naming a tree? Not likely. Wildflowers? Ha!

Mary Blocksma was clueless too. She wanted to start learning about the nature around her. This book is her diary. It not only documents the birds and trees and grasses and flowers she learns about, but her journey demonstrates to the reader how to learn more about nature. It's perfect for those of us in Michigan, Wisconsin, and northern Indiana, because the climate and geographical location is perfect for what we're experiencing along with the author.

Reading this book was one of my favorite homeschool projects. The book begins on January 1, so now is the time to buy yourself an el-cheapo copy of the book. Then you'll be all ready to spend a whoppin' 5-10 minutes a day with a tiny dose of nature study. It's so encouraging and empowering to read a nature book by someone who's not an expert, but who is a plain old normal dummy but is undumbifying teaching herself. I caught the bug that year and spent the summer ID-ing a lot of wildflowers (aka, weeds). After getting our feet wet, we turned around the next year and re-read the book. We've read it periodically. I think this January would be a great time to reprise it.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

The Distant Triumph Song

I've been dawdling on blogging about a line in "For All the Saints." And now I don't have to. I'll just link to my call-in comment to Issues Etc. Hee hee hee -- Todd liked what I echoed from Pastor, and so I won the prize for best comment. Woo hoo!

I suppose I really ought to share my prize with Pastor. We'll see.



(I'm just a smidge past the halfway mark on the recording.)

Monday, November 07, 2011

The Trouble with Angels

Gary found the movie The Trouble with Angels available on Netflix instant-play. I was working in the kitchen and overhearing bits and pieces of this story from the mid-60s. Pretty soon, I was drawn to sit down with him and watch. The basic story is a couple of somewhat troublesome girls attending a Catholic boarding school. What a great movie! Funny. Sweet. Not offensive in any way, shape, or form. It even included a theme about giving oneself to others. But primarily it was just plain funny! Definitely worth watching!

This one is something my mom would freely enjoy if it showed up at the library or a video store. And if you're a person with munchkins, don't let the PG rating throw you off. All we could figure was that a scene with the girls hiding and smoking cigars bumped the movie from a G to a PG.

If you liked Beverly Cleary's Ramona, you'll like this.

Starting the Morning ...

... with another flat tire. Last month we picked up a nail in one tire of the van. Today Gary noticed another flat on the van. This time the culprit was a screw. Hey, at least it was a different tire. There's also a slow leak on another tire of the van. Thankfully we could pump up the flat and drive it to town for a new tire. So much for the errands I'd planned to do today.

But on the up-side ... I found socks. The most expensive socks I ever bought! But they're wool. And they're men's toe-socks. Who would've thought that toe-socks would be sold in Bigfoot's men's size? Now I'll have something to keep my feet warm while still allowing me to wear the orthotic flipflops which keep the shoe-pain at bay. Woo hoo! (I'm telling myself that this is a medical expense and not an outrageous clothing purchase. That makes it easier to endure the price on these things.)

Now off to make bread.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

We Just Want to Thank You ...

A friend mentioned something this morning that he'd heard on Issues Etc recently. When we begin our prayers with "I just wanna" ask God something, it indicates a belief that God is miserly. We don't want to ask anything big. We're just going to trouble Him with a small, not-too-inconvenient request.

"Honey, on our way home, can we stop at Piggly Wiggly? I just wanna grab a bunch of bananas." I wouldn't begin my request to Gary with "I just wanna" if I were planning to be in there for 55 minutes loading up on the sales and making sure we have the entire week's groceries purchased.

Look at the collect for the 11th Sunday after Trinity (also used recently in the three-year series): Almighty and everlasting God, always more ready to hear than we to pray, and to give more than we either desire or deserve, pour down upon us the abundance of Your mercy, forgiving us those things of which our conscience is afraid, and giving us those good things which we are not worthy to ask but through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Stuff

We need to take in one of the cars under a recall notice. The dealers are far enough away that it's been too inconvenient to bother with yet.

I did a lot more tree trimming today, getting those branches away from the phone & electric wires. There are still branches out there, near enough the lines that I'm not touching them. But the more clutter I can get out of the way now, the shorter the time we'll have to disconnect the power when we finally get rid of those branches. Right now, my hair is full of sawdust and every now and then I taste a piece of wood.

Some of us have been fighting colds. Sometimes a person is just tireder than seems reasonable. When the people around me are snotty and coughing, and I'm tired, I figure I shouldn't doggedly plow ahead on my to-do list, but just be a lazy-daisy.

We're looking into refinancing the house. Paperwork -- ugh! Prospect of a shorter mortgage -- hooray!

I spent way too much time on the computer this week. Can I at least give myself brownie-points for having less addiction to Facebook now?

I luv-luv-luv that there is a new Aldi, and it's kitty-corner from work. So handy!!

I've been working extra days recently because we lost an employee to a promotion at another branch and because several co-workers are getting in their last vacation days before the end of the year. Being gone more makes it harder to be diligent with keeping up at home when I am home.

Maggie is joining the girls at church (most of whom graduated from the parochial school) for a book club with the headmistress. They're reading Ivanhoe. Ivanhoe?! Yikes. We're not going for easy here, are we? So my plan is to read it with her. First we read the Wiki-synopsis. Then we read a kiddie-version of a picture book. We could (?) step up to an abridged version, but instead we decided to dive in. Boy, did I procrastinate on that: it scared me. But we got through chapter 1 yesterday. Right now I am procrastinating on starting chapter 2. Somebody recommended a miniseries that's supposed to be very good. We'll throw that into the hopper too.

Funerals are such lovely opportunities for a pastor to preach the sweet Gospel to people who seldom care to cross the doorstep of a church.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

A Sign from God

from class last night:

It is wrong to pray for a sign from God when He has spoken to the issue clearly in His Word. "Give me a sign if I should leave my wife who hates me and hang out with my secretary who is understanding and kind." "Give me a sign if I should have an abortion or keep this baby conceived in my sinful lusts." "Give me a sign if it's okay to take that money from my neighbor who doesn't need it as badly as I do."

After all, the devil can provide a sign too.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Meal Plans

~ roast chicken, lettuce salad, pumpkin pie
~ baked beans, fresh pineapple
~ enchilada soup, cranberry muffins
~ lasagna, lettuce salad
~ beef stew
~ crab & rotini (with California blend, parmesan, and garlic)
~ chicken, corn, black beans, over Mexican-seasoned rice
~ teriyaki chicken & rice
~ hamburgers
~ lentil soup
~ stir fry veggies and pork


Hmm. Gary's going to think there's too much rice in this line-up.

Reformation

Salvation free by faith in Thee,
that is Thy Gospel's preaching,
the heart and core of Bible-lore
in all its sacred teaching.
In Christ we must put all our trust,
not in our deeds or labor;
with conscience pure and heart secure
love Thee, Lord, and our neighbor. (TLH 266:2)

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Holiness

Is holiness seen in God's sinlessness, His purity, His perfection?

Or is holiness seen in His willingness to be made the sinner, taking our sin as His own?

Maybe holiness is not in the purity but in the dirtiness ... because it's not His own dirtiness but ours that has been imputed to Him.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Trick-or-Treat

Our favorite blues girl:

Our attempt at the Deathly Hallows:

Friday, October 28, 2011

Stuff

I hate pulling one of those plastic forks out of the box when I eat lunch at work. It sounds fakey green environmentalist-whacko, but I seriously am having a hard time with those plastic forks. You use it and toss it in the trash can. A waste of money. A waste of energy. More garbage than needs to be created. I think I need to find a real fork to leave in the drawer, along with the real spoon that's already there.

We left the pumpkin sitting next to the stoop instead of on the concrete where it might have been accidentally bumped off. Well, leaving it sit on the garden was not a good plan. It started to compost on the bottom, and it's all buggy. Ick -- don't want to make that into our jack-o-lantern! We need to buy a new pumpkin before trick-or-treat tomorrow evening.

What a lazy day yesterday! I didn't wake up until 9:20 and didn't get out of bed until 10:00. I ached and had a headache, but I kept trying to force myself to Get To Work. When Gary called and said he was coming home from work early, and his symptoms sounded just like mine, I suddenly realized that maybe it was germies and not mere laziness. Maggie and I watched a long movie about Lady Jane Gray. And we ate canned chicken-noodle soup for supper. Today is better, but still slow.

My annual evaluation at work was this week. I need to get better about remembering customers' names and about making decisions in the "gray areas." The bosses actually scored me better in some areas than I anticipated. (They keep telling me I'm too hard on myself.) They told me the next task I'd be learning. We've lost several great employees to other branches, and we have several newbies, so it's necessary that some of us start learning how to do jobs besides just the teller transactions. The manager told me that she was quite pleased with how things have gone since they hired me, seeing as how I hadn't been an employee before. She was trying to say that I hadn't had a "real job" before, but that sounded so negative and belittling of how I've spent my life, and she sure didn't mean that. But somehow she wanted to get across that I've done the work, learned oodles of new things, kept improving, and have been an asset to the team. Y'know, that's kind of nice to know! Whew....

All sorts of things rattling around in my mind to blog about, but maybe it's time for another nap or some more tv-viewing.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

What Makes America Great

There's a marvelous old-fashioned series of books that homeschoolers might want to put on their reading list. The Twins series by Lucy Fitch Perkins is mighty rare in Wisconsin libraries. [You've gotta love interlibrary loan!] If you can get your hands on some, they're just right for kids who have started reading chapter books. They were written about 100 years ago. Each book is set in a different country and contains a simple story about a pair of twins (about age 7). The stories introduce kids to certain aspects of the culture of that country. And the stories are gentle -- none of the mouthiness and immorality and political correctness that fills so many kids' books today.

So now that I've given my commercial, I took notice of one paragraph near the end of The Irish Twins which Maggie and I were reading last week. A neighbor's son had tired of the landlord's games, with the landlord always taking any profit earned. This man had gone to America and become successful. He was back in Ireland to fetch his mom, singing the praises of this wonderful country of America. One of the neighbors suggested that surely not everything was perfect in America. And this is the response:
There do be faults with her, and I'll never be the man to say otherwise. There's plenty of things to be said about America that would leave you thinking tis a long way this side of heaven. But whatever it is that's wrong, tis the people themselves that make it so. And by the same token it is themselves that can cure the trouble when they're so minded. It's not like having your troubles put down on you by the people that's above you, and that you can't reach at all for to be correcting them!"

Fast-forward 100 years.
Progressive tax rates?
Regulation of small businesses?
Quotas on hiring?
Allowing people to sue each other for no reason at all?

Can we cure the troubles if we have a mind to do so? Or are many of America's troubles brought down on us by the people above?

Extra-Terrestrial Life

Does life exist elsewhere in the universe? One of Philip's friends once asked us to add our computers to a nation-wide project that searches for patterns or messages that may be coming to earth as other life-forms attempt to communicate with us. At first I thought he was joking. As much as we may have fun with Star Trek and Babylon 5 and other science fiction, there is no complex life anywhere but on Earth.

But how do I know? What if I'm wrong? Maybe there is, and I'm just close-minded.

Last month, we had a movie night at church, watching a documentary, The Privileged Planet. It wasn't from a Christian perspective, or even a religious perspective. It was simply the science of Earth's unique characteristics: the iron core which gives us the magnetic field we have; a location in a particular belt around our sun, not too hot and not too cold; our location in the Milky Way; the chemical make-up of our atmosphere; the abundance of liquid water to moderate the climate; gas-giant planets to help protect our solar system from cosmic junk; etc. These things (and many more) are necessary to sustaining life.

But how do we know whether --in the vastness of the universe-- there might be other places with intelligent life? Or if life there might look very different from life here, and not need the same support system?

Does theology tell us what science can only guess at? I think so.

1. Either there is life elsewhere or there is not.

2. If there is life elsewhere, it is similar to human life, or it is not.
2a. If it is not similar to human life, then it is not made in the image of God. Seriously, do I care if there's life elsewhere in the universe if it's an amoeba or a speck of fungus?

3. If there is life that we'd recognize as "like us," then they are sinners or they are not.
3a. Is it possible for there to be life without having them be sinners? Romans 8 tells us that the whole creation has come under the curse and is waiting to be released. Luke 15 tells us that there is more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over 99 just persons who need no repentance. Is it theologically conceivable that there could be life out there that has continued since creation without sinning on their own, and without being sunk into sin by Adam's fall?

4. If there is life out there, and if they are sinners, then they were saved or they were not.
4a. God left them to be damned? Um. No.


5. If God saved them, how could this happen?
5a. God saved them through Jesus' work on our earth. But how would they hear? As Luke 24 shows, it's not enough that Jesus die for sin. It must also be preached.
5b. God saved them through another Savior. Impossible. There is only one Son of God.
5c. God saved them through Jesus' work on their earth. But Scripture tells us His sacrifice was once and for all. This would mean He had to be in two places at once, with His life, suffering, death, and resurrection happening there in those other worlds exactly at the same time as He dwelt among us.

It's looking to me like a little logic, in combination with what the Bible says, rules out every option except "There is no intelligent life-form elsewhere in the universe."

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Cooking While You're Otherwise Occupied

The food I'm cooking these days doesn't taste as good as it used to. It's because I'm not home as much.

I used to keep an eye on the food. If it was cooking too fast, I'd turn down the heat. If it needed to speed up, you turn up the heat. You use a lid on the pot (or not) depending on how brown the food is or how wet the food is. You snitch a taste here and there to see if the dish needs more garlic or more salt or a splash of wine or a dose of hot peppers. Fabulous food requires attention and tweaking. But what happens when you have to throw it all in a crockpot in the morning and can't adjust and tweak throughout the day? What happens when you have to make hurry-up food? What happens when you have to leave dinner half-done and let the kids try their hand at the tweaking? The food still has nutrition; the food still tastes decent. But where's the deliciosity??



It crossed my mind as I was writing this that the same holds true for raising kids. You need to be there. You need to pay attention. You need to tweak and adjust what you're up to.

A Sign for Ahaz

Pastor pointed out last week in Bible class (studying Isaiah 7) that God told Ahaz to ask for a sign. God said He'd defeat the Assyrians for the country of Judah, but He wanted to offer King Ahaz something to see that would assure him God was for-real about this rescue. Ahaz pretended to be too pious to request a sign. Pastor asked what an obvious answer might have been -- it probably would have something to do with soldiers or the outcome of the first battle or something else to do with war.

So God says, "Fine, you won't ask even after I told you to ask. I'll give you a sign anyway." And then He says that the virgin will conceive and bear a Son, and He will be named Emmanuel. That always seemed pretty darn non sequitur to me. But Pastor explained that it's not. Ahaz was told that God would fight off the Assyrians. Ahaz couldn't do it on his own. He couldn't do it with the help of neighboring countries. All Ahaz could do was to be still and see the salvation which the Lord his God would accomplish for him. No man could fight the enemies and rescue him.

And isn't that the same thing that God's sign would demonstrate? No man would cause the conception of Emmanuel; He would be born of a virgin.




Seek whom ye may to be your stay,
none can redeem his brother.
All helpers failed. This Man prevailed --
the God-man and none other.

Our Servant-Lord did help afford.
We're justified for He hath died,
the Guiltless for the guilty.