Saturday, July 23, 2011

In the Bathroom

Karin writes about things moms know. It shouldn't be funny. It's too real. But that's why it's funny!


Janelle and Susan

Maggie and Leah

Some dear friends are moving away. We'll miss them but are looking forward to seeing them next summer!

The Parable of the Leaven

In Matthew 13, Jesus says, "The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal till it was all leavened."

Does anybody else find it very sweet that, in this parable, we have Jesus making bread?

Friday, July 22, 2011


If you've been around the Lutheran cyberworld, you have run into the Quote Wars. Somebody quotes the Bible or the Confessions to support his point, and then says, "So, what do you say to that?" Or there will be quotes from Luther, from Walther and Pieper, from Cyprian and Augustine, even from Sasse and Marquart: "Take that! And that! So how do you answer that, huh? See, Luther said it. You'd best not disagree with Luther!"

Once upon a time, my children were active on the Higher Things email list. Oftentimes, theological discussions would arise onlist, and those topics would invariably spill over to the dinner table. At one point, there was a discussion of the image of God, what it is, what it's not, what it means, etc. The teenagers onlist were debating; pastors got involved too and gave input. As the kids and I talked about the right and wrong points of various participants, I was reminding them of what Pastor says in Didache (and other venues) about the image of God being interwoven with a plurality of persons in one union, giving and receiving love.

The surprise came when one of the pastors (who was disagreeing with what my kids were saying as they echoed Pastor B) quoted Pastor B to prove his point.


When questioned, the pastor was adamant that this quote from Pastor B's book proved that my kids were wrong. It's right there in print; this is what Pastor B says; so thus-and-such is what he means, and he agrees with what I'm saying. Wondering if we might be misunderstanding Pastor, I asked him about the topic. Nope, I'd understood correctly from the start. Nope, that quote was taken out of context and did not mean at all what the other guy took it to mean.


It made me wonder about other quotes. What happens when someone says, "This is what Luther says! Don't you agree with Luther?" What happens when someone pulls out a Bible verse and asks, "You aren't going to tell me you disagree with God's word, are you?" (Interestingly, the devil kind of said the same thing to Jesus during the temptations immediately following His baptism.) I've seen quotes that I had a hard time believing were quotes from the person cited; when I looked into the matter further and saw the context of the quote, everything fell into place. No, that writer/speaker was not saying what the quoter suggested he was saying ... even though those are the words that came from his pen or from his mouth.

I've become very skeptical of Quote Wars, especially when agreement-with-quotes is used as a litmus test. Wouldn't it work better to communicate in your own words with the individual person?

Is the Collect Advocating Works-Righteousness?

This week's collect (in the three-year series ... a similar one is in the one-year series for the next-to-last Sunday of Trinity season) asks that "ever mindful of Your final judgment, we may be stirred up to holiness of living here and dwell with You in perfect joy hereafter." Those words initially jarred me. After some pondering and then some explanation from Pastor, they didn't sound so bad.

The flesh hears those words and thinks, "Yup, in the final judgment, God is going to go around zotting bad guys, so I better keep my attention on the wrath to come, and that will motivate me to be a good girl now."

But we know that God's judgment was poured out on Jesus at the cross. In the absolution, we hear His judgment of us: "You are righteous. You are holy. You are pure. I have made you My own." When our hearts and minds are captured by that judgment ["so rule and govern our hearts and minds by Your Holy Spirit..."] it brings about a repentance, a faith, a "change of mind," that cannot help but live in the holiness of Christ: doing good, begging forgiveness when we don't do good, and living in prayer and mercy, always with confidence in what He did to save me and not what I do in response.

So here's my plan. If it sounds to me like the collect is teaching works-righteousness, it's high time to figure out what it's really saying. Because it ain't teaching salvation by good works!

Frequency of Sheet-Washing

I can't remember much of anything; there's just too much to keep track of. If I wanted to wash sheets every single Tuesday, probably I could remember, but not everyone in the house needs sheets laundered weekly. And then, what if you have people who wet the bed? (It might be little ones who "wet the bed" the usual way, or it might be middle-aged ones who sweat buckets from the hot flashes.) What if somebody is at a friend's house for half a week, and it would be silly to wash sheets that have been slept in for only three nights, just because you have a sheets-on-Tuesday routine?

I have a pencil and a sheet of paper on top of my clothes dryer, held fast by a magnet. There is one column for each bed. Whenever I wash sheets I scratch down the date under the appropriate bed's column. That way I know how long it's been. When the kids were little, I generally washed sheets only when they wet the bed -- that was plenty frequent enough. But as they got to be 4 or so, and seldom wet the bed anymore, sometimes I'd forget for a long long time that I could wash sheets that hadn't been peed-up. (Who knew?!!??!?) The chart helped me keep track. During spring and summer, when I'm aiming for using the clothesline instead of the dryer, if we have very wet or very dusty days that make line-drying a poor choice, I am not bound to my routine. I can put off sheet-washing for a couple of days without fretting over my failing memory. Really, now, who wants to do the job of sheet-washing and then turn around and do it again in a couple of days just because you're so forgetful??

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Speedy Errands

Hitting the grocery store or the hardware store at 8:00 is awesome! This week I left for my errands early, at breakfast time, instead of mid-morning. There were plenty of parking spots right near the doors of the stores. The aisles were not crowded. The check-out lines were short. It was so great that I'm actually thinking about doing this regularly in the future. Wow! Talk about easy shopping!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Today's Laugh

Teachers give us the three R's:
Reading, Writing, 'Rithmetic.

But one starts with a W.
Another starts with an A.
Only one starts with an R.

And these are the people we trust to teach spelling???

We watched Apostles of Comedy last night. This joke is from one of the stand-up comedians. Although there were theological points (particularly during interviews with the comedians) that I didn't always agree with, for the most part the show was good, clean humor: stand-up comedy with no profanity, no dirty jokes, nothing off-color. And amazement of amazement (!) -- it was FUNNY.

Vacation Time

People ask, "So, do you work today?" If I'm scheduled the next day at the bank, I might respond, "I'm off today. I go to work tomorrow."

After the last two days, I'm pondering that phrase.

Today I go to the rest-home. Today I go to the place where there's no lawn to mow, no garden to weed, no dishes to wash, no bread to knead, no driveway-asphalt to repair, no rugs to vacuum and shampoo, no laundry to fold. There's air-conditioning there. There's a mandatory one-hour lunch-time where you can sit and rest and are strictly prohibited from working. I've spent the last two days doing a lot of manual labor outdoors under a heat-advisory.

Today I go to my place of paid employment. And we call this place "work"?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Measuring Time by the Dirty Dishes

It's that season of the year when I can't ever find a clean glass.

We're not often using plates right now. Lunch might be a piece of fruit. Or maybe a sandwich that we pick up and eat, or maybe even get a paper towel for. But we're drinking and drinking and drinking. Lemonade, water, sweet tea, water, Sustain (Melaleuca's much-better version of Gatorade). When I wash dishes, it's all butter knives (for making sandwiches) and drinking glasses.

There are certain times of winter when the dirty dishes are all bowls and spoons and mugs. Oatmeal and soup and chili. Coffee and tea and cocoa.

How about that? Gauging the season of the year by my stack of dirty dishes.

Where's My Focus?

Kids pick at their owies and tattle on other kids.

Grown-ups aren't that different.
Pastor Stuckwisch has written a most excellent little piece about this.

Giving My Heart to Jesus

If you've read Bo Giertz's Hammer of God, you were probably impressed by the scene in the second story where Fridfeldt decides to let the senior pastor know that he is a "believer."*

For the last several weeks, every time we get to the proper preface during the church service, I think of that scene in the book.

"The Lord be with you."
"And with your spirit."

"Lift up your hearts."
"We lift them up unto the Lord."
Rusty old can on a junk heap?
What would He want with that?

"Let us give thanks to the Lord our God."
"It is right to give Him thanks and praise."
Well, if He's delighted
to rescue the rusty old can
from the junk heap
and take it home with Him,
that is indeed reason
to give Him thanks and praise!

*Footnote --
"I have given him my heart."

The older man's face became suddenly as solemn as the grave. "Do you consider that something to give him?"

By this time, Fridfeldt was almost in tears. "But sir, if you do not give your heart to Jesus, you cannnot be saved."

"You are right, my boy. And it is just as true that, if you think you are saved because you give Jesus your heart, you will not be saved. You see, my boy," he continued reassuringly, as he continued to look at the young pastor's face, in which uncertainty and resentment were shown in a struggle for the upper hand, "it is one thing to choose Jesus as one's Lord and Savior, to give him one's heart and commit oneself to him, and that he now accepts one into his little flock; it is a very different thing to believe in him as a Redeemer of sinners, of whom one is chief. One does not choose a Redeemer for oneself, you understand, nor give one's heart to him. The heart is a rusty old can on a junk heap. A fine birthday gift, indeed! But a wonderful Lord passes by, and has mercy on the wretched tin can, sticks his walking cane through it, and rescues it from the junk pile and takes it home with him. That is how it is."

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Where There's Smoke, There's Fire

John, your older brother and best friend, is hosting a bonfire at his house. He's asked you to come over a little early to help him set up the party. Pulling into the driveway of his house you can see the sun about an hour away from the horizon. John comes out to greet you with a big hug and tells you to come on out back where he's already got a huge bonfire magnifying this summer heat. As you start walking around his garage, you glance up over the top of his house and notice there is no smoke. There is so little wind that the tall aspen in his front yard doesn't turn over a single leaf. The smoke from the fire should be going straight up, but there isn't a sign of it. Where there's smoke there SHOULD be fire.

Wouldn't you be a little suspicious in this situation?

There is a difference between saying, "You need good works to be saved," and saying, "You are saved by good works." It's the same difference as saying, "You need smoke to roast a marshmallow," and saying, "Your marshmallow is roasted BY smoke." The first one is technically true, but the second one is just plain stupid.

Please take note of the phrase "technically true" right there. I use the word "technically" there because saying, "You need smoke to roast a marshmallow," is not the easiest or simplest way to get your point across. Truly your marshmallow is roasted by fire. However, like I mentioned above, where there is smoke, there is fire. It is common knowledge that anytime there is fire, smoke will be there too.

If someone does not have this knowledge about smoke and fire, they will not correctly understand the statement, "You need smoke to roast a marshmallow." Likewise, if someone does not correctly understand how faith effects (that is, brings about) good works, then they will not be able to understand the statement, "You need good works to be saved."

So why would we even say that you need good works to be saved? Why can"t we just cut to the chase and say that your marshmallow is roasted by fire, or say that you are saved by faith?

Well, to put it simply: we can say that, we do say that, and we SHOULD say that. We should be saying that continuously. The point of this essay is not to say that we should say, "You need works to be saved," but to say that we CAN say it.

We will all agree that smoke is generally more visible than fire -- especially during the day. (God led the children of Israel by a pillar of fire only by night, not all the time.) Smoke rises and fills the sky; it is visible from miles around; a fire can be hidden by hills or trees. Who ever heard of the saying, "Where there is fire, there is smoke"? No one. That’s because it is a hundred times more common for people to identify the presence of fire by smoke, and not the other way around. Likewise, it is easier for us to identify the presence of faith by looking at good works, rather than identifying good works by noticing faith.

Can there be a place for saying, "You need works in order to be saved"? Yes. Should we use it often or even at all? No.

What we should say often is that marshmallows are roasted by fire. Let people infer the smoke on their own.

It is also well worth noting that God is omnipotent. "With God all things are possible," and all that. God can certainly create a fire without smoke if He so deems. But does He? I don't know, but I doubt the thief on the cross had many good works to his name.

This was written recently by my son Paul,
posted on his Facebook page,
and stolen re-posted here
for those who aren't FB friends with him.