Saturday, February 04, 2012

Eventful Day

On the way home from work, I wanted so badly to open the sun roof ... which doesn't exist on the car I was driving.  And this afternoon we sold the car with the sunroof.  I will miss it.  But one of those old cars needed to go.

Andrew and Bryce are all spiffed up, on their way to fetch the girls for the dance tonight.  Aren't they a couple of handsome fellows?!

Peter Walks on the Water

So after reading the story to us from Matthew 14, Pastor asks the school-children, "Could Peter walk on the water?"

Hannah answered, "No."

"Why not, Hannah?"

"He was a sinner.  He sunk."

But Joey's hand was still raised.  He answered, "Yes, Peter could walk on the water."

"Why do you say that?"

"Because Jesus told him to.  And whatever Jesus says, happens."

They're both right!
In our own strength, we can't do nuthin'.
But whatever Jesus says, happens! 
If He says "walk on the water," Peter could do it.
If He says "I declare you holy and righteous," then we be holy and righteous, no matter what it looks like to us.

Friday, February 03, 2012

My Apparent Need for a Hair Product That Will Tame the Unruliness

A man I know is sweet, gentle, kind, and patient.  He has some mental illness, but he is no more ashamed of coping with his health than if he had cancer or heart disease.  So, yesterday when I saw him, we exchanged superficial pleasantries, and then took care of the business we needed to exchange.

Then he says, in such a kind and affirming voice, "Susan, you have on that long, flowing, beautiful skirt.  I just had a vision of you as a Greek goddess."

Oh.  Okay.  How do you respond to someone who's not your husband who says something like that?  I really don't think he was hitting on me.  He just saw it as a simple fact that he might mention.  With an uneasy and questioning voice, I respond, "Oh?  Really?"

"Oh, yes.  You know ... the one that has snakes for her hair."


"Yes!  That's the one," he says with an encouraging smile.

Okay then.

Y'know, most people aren't that honest.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

The Demon-Possessed Man in the Synagogue

The story this past Sunday (in the three-year series) was about Jesus' preaching in the synagogue in Capernaum.  They were all astonished because He taught with authority, not as the scribes and the pharisees.  And there was this guy in their synagogue who started making a scene: "Hey, I know who You are.  You're the Holy One of God.  Did You come here to destroy us?"  And Jesus cast out the unclean spirit.  (It's Mark 1, if you're hunting for it.)

Pastor pointed out a small detail from the story that is easily missed.  This guy was a member of the synagogue.  Think about it.  You know what your church is like.  Visitors are noticed.  Somebody who is "in our church" is a member, not just somebody who happened to stop by for the day.  (And yes, I realize that the Bible doesn't unequivocally state this as an indisputable fact.  But still, it makes loads more sense than the alternative: "in their synagogue" would have more to do with being "in the congregation" than "in the building.")

So why did the demon throw his tantrum in response to Jesus' preaching?

Because He taught a different message than did the scribes and pharisees.

The demons are content to keep quiet when the churches are telling people how to be nice, how to be good citizens, how to improve themselves and their spirituality.  But when Jesus comes along with a weird and different message --forgiving people who don't deserve it-- the demons get hacked off.

The same thing happens today.  The devil is just hunky-dory with pastors who preach self-help messages, eco-loving messages, penance, etc.  But when the pastor calls people to repentance and extends God's mercy and peace to them, well, that's something the demons and the self-righteous just ain't gonna put up with.


Wednesday, February 01, 2012


Superficiality makes the world go round.

I've never been keen on that.  I like real.  I like genuine.  I like honest.  But that requires trust and love and commitment. 

Customers come into the bank.  "Hi, how are you today?"  "Just fine.  And you?"  "Pretty good, thanks."  There are certain conversations that are acceptable: the weather, the Packers, gardens, the Brewers, the Badgers, and plans for upcoming holidays (if there's one around the corner).  If you really want to push the envelope and go a step closer to real conversation, you might say, "You been keeping busy?" 

People say they're "fine" when they're not; they know this is all superficial.  Sometimes you bump into someone who's very alone, and you learn not to ask about holiday plans because the loneliness is overwhelming and they can't respond according to the rules of The Superficial Game.

And yet, I'm beginning to see that this is necessary.  "Have a great afternoon."  "Thanks.  You too."  "Well, thank you."    It's what we do.  It keeps things pleasant.  It may be shallow.  We may not be connecting with those hundreds of neighbors that cross our path.  But the other option is grumpiness and incivility. 

This pervasive superficiality leaves a person yearning for a real relationship.  But so many times, in so many places, that's not an option.  So I guess the superficial pleasantries are better than complete aloofness or general crabbiness.

The Will of the Christian

If anyone desires to come after Me,
let him deny himself,
and take up his cross daily,
and follow Me. (Luke 9:23)

This is our verse for the week.  Notice the verb "desires."  Paul tells us more in Romans.  In chapter 7, Paul uses the word repeatedly as he describes how he wills to follow Christ but is stymied by his sinful flesh. The desire to belong to Jesus and to live the holy life sure ain't gonna show as it ought.  But still, Jesus invites us to hold fast to Him.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Take Up Your Cross Daily

If anyone desire to come after Me,
let him deny himself,
and take up his cross daily,
and follow Me.   (Luke 9:23)

If we have to take up our cross daily, that would mean we are not going to become free of the cross any time in this life.  Every. single. day. we're going to be back at it, living with that sinful nature, bearing the burden of not being as pure and holy as we'd like, and finding our only hope and rest in what Jesus has done to forgive that icky sinfulness.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Luxury or Freedom?

Cedric the Saxon, to Athelstane (only remaining descendent of the royal Saxon line), remembering the days when their prison was the Great Hall still in Saxon control, before the Normans conquered the land --
Far better was our homely diet, eaten in peace and liberty, than the luxurious dainties, the love of which has delivered us as bondsmen to the conqueror!
From Ivanhoe, chapter 21.

Will Americans come to the same conclusion some day soon?  Or is it already too late?

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Pr Bender's Sermons

Revamped website -- audio of sermons is now available.  (Top of my listening list is January 1 and January 8.  Oh, and probably today's again.)

Being a Grandma

Church is ending.  Time to leave.  Little Miss Punky holds up her finger, says "Here, Nanna, you hold my booger," wipes the booger on her finger off onto my finger, and goes on her merry way.


Gee, thanks, kid.