Sunday, December 29, 2013

Recent Days

Germs running rampant round about these parts.  Illness hasn't knocked out those who live at my house, but Christmas plans were a bit up-in-the-air for a while, not knowing who might succumb next.  Turned out all the kids were here except the MinnesOtans. 

Although the December symphony was canceled because of a snow inundation, Lessons and Carols went on as planned.  It was a lovely service.

Church services for Christmas Eve and Day continued with the saints days for the rest of the week.  So thankful that Pastor is willing to have services these "extra" times!

We have spent a LOT of time this December moving snow.  Our back muscles hail the wondrous snow-blower.  And even though the sky seems to toss snow at us perpetually, it hasn't been as bad as December 2008's snow dump.  With a nice warm day (in the 40's!) yesterday, I worked on removing snow from the roof.  (As if my shoulders and neck weren't already sore -- LOL.)

In the space of a month, we are losing three of our four full-time tellers at work, with people moving to other positions.  That means part-timers are going to be working many extra hours.  Oh, I hope they find replacements soon!

Bethany and Evan and Helen came to church here today, and then they joined us for lunch.  We also had Katie and girls and Olivia to join in the party.  I was a wretched host, not having the food prepared before they arrived (because I spent yesterday roof-raking).  But they all pitched in and helped finish what I hadn't prepped last night.  And it was lovely visiting with them.  And we enjoyed dinner with Olivia's parents and some friends last night.  And the previous night we were invited out by friends.  I feel like I've barely been home since Thursday afternoon.  But it has been so enjoyable to sit and visit and laugh day-after-day!

Monday, December 23, 2013

"I Never Knew You"

Once upon a time, a bunch of sem-wives were gathered for a class with a sem professor.  One of the women took it upon herself to tell the rest of us that we weren't really Christians, that we hadn't asked the Lord into our hearts, that we hadn't truly made Him lord of our lives.  She insisted we would come to the end of our lives and  
When once the Master of the house has risen up and shut the door, and you begin to stand outside and knock at the door, saying, "Lord, Lord, open for us," He will answer and say to you, "I do not know you." ...  There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, and yourselves thrust out.  (Luke 13:25-28)
The professor did not contradict this woman.  He agreed that this verse made him uneasy.  Would he be one to whom the Lord says, "I never knew you"?

After a period of deep distress (anfechtung) for me, a pastor preached the gospel to me and assured me of Jesus' promises and that His death atoned for my sins and that in baptism He claimed me as His own.  Thanks be to God for Tom Baker!

So anyway,
this section of Luke came up recently in Bible class.  I know too many people who quote verse 24 ("strive to enter through the narrow gate") as if it were preaching salvation-by-works.  C'mon!  You have to strive!  You have to do what's right!  The entryway to heaven is narrow, so you better get it right, and do all the right things!

So I had questions.

Pastor talked about how our "striving" is not so much striving to do all the right things, dot the i's and cross the t's, and pile up our goodness.  It is striving against the Old Adam -- the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh (Galatians 5).  Our "striving" is when our sinful nature is drowned daily and dies with all sins and evil desires.  Our striving is putting to death that inherent pride which thinks God will look on us in kindness because we've been such good Christians.

He "knows you" by lavishing forgiveness upon you.  And if you can't be sure that Jesus knows you, it's because you are relying (at least to some extent) on your works. 

I love it when Pastor goes on a rant-of-sweetness about certainty, about the promises Jesus has made to us, and how He is the one who holds onto us. 

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Upcoming Wedding

Two weeks ago, Andrew picked up the ring from the jeweler.  He came home and opened the mail to find that he had been accepted into the clinical portion of the nursing program.  That evening he proposed to Olivia, and she said YES. 

Ain't that grand?!

Wedding date is as yet undetermined, but Andrew says they're leaning toward this August.

Photos courtesy of our friend (who shall remain unnamed because I'm not seeing her name on her new blog and don't want to out her without permission).

Monday, December 16, 2013

Christmas Decorations

Over and over I'm hearing women bemoan that they don't have their Christmas decorations up yet.

Maybe they're feeling pressed to get-it-done-already.
Maybe they've decided to go easy on decorating, but still feel guilty over it.
Maybe they worry what their kids will say about fewer decorations.
Maybe they feel wasteful to have decorations that will sit unused this year.
Maybe they're convinced they're letting someone down, or somehow betraying the Christmas spirit to not decorate All The Things.

And this is joyous?

Why do so many women have to make excuses to themselves when they back off just a smidgeon from the hype?

I want so badly to yell from the rooftops, "Just forget it all.  Go to church.  If all you do for Christmas is go to church, it's still a good Christmas."

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Led by the Spirit

After Jesus was baptized, the gospels tell us that He was "led by the Spirit into the wilderness" (Matt 4, Mark 1, Luke 4).  

Did Jesus have this magical feeling that He should go to the wilderness instead of into town?  What is it to be "led by the Spirit"?  How did He know to go to the wilderness?  How was He led?

It's not unlike how Simeon knew when to show up in the temple to see the baby Messiah.  The Scriptures told him/Him.

When Jesus was baptized, He was declared to be "the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world."  The Scriptures tell us about the scapegoat (Leviticus 16).  When the sin of the people was imputed to that lamb, it was driven into the wilderness to "take away sin."  When the sin of the world was imputed to Jesus, that made Him the true scapegoat.  That meant He had to go into the wilderness. 

He knew this.  He knew God's word. 
The Spirit led Him through what the Scriptures said.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Blessed Are You Among Women

Our story today was the Visitation.  Newly-pregnant Mary goes to visit pregnant Elizabeth. 

Question:  Who was it that Elizabeth said was "blessed"?
Kid's answer: Mary.


But ...

You know how kids are so often prone to answer "Jesus"? 

That wouldn't have been a wrong answer, now would it?  "Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb."  In other words, "Blessed are you, Mary, and blessed is Jesus" (Luke 1:42).

We always hear this verse used to tell us why we should indeed extol Mary.  And that's not untrue.  But I don't think I've ever heard someone point out that Elizabeth was saying "Blessed is Jesus."

Thursday, December 12, 2013


Yesterday began with

Home for showers and getting dressed. 
Then round two:
Goodwill (where we found a flute and a clarinet!)
Salvation Army (which was closed)
Fleet Farm
a neighbor's house.

Home to bake the cinnamon rolls, wash the used stroller we were giving as a gift, and wrap presents for the child our branch adopted for Christmas-giving.  (For me , it's so much happier to give a child things he needs -- like diapers or a snowsuit or a stroller -- than it is to give frivolous mind-rotting gifts that are requested by so many, things that I refused to give my own children.)
to work to drop off gifts
another grocery store
the home of a neighbor who sells honey

Home to make and eat supper.
Church for Advent service
and choir practice.

Today I have to pick up the messies I left all over the house yesterday.

The Unruliness!

I made cinnamon rolls yesterday. 

When I ate them, I bit them. 

I did not unroll them.  I just chomped a hunk out of the side.

I do believe there's been some sort of cosmic shift in my reality....

Monday, December 09, 2013

Favorite Insta-Supper

Gary's favorite insta-suppers are
~ Aldi bake-at-home pizza (almost as good as Tony's)
~ spaghetti with a side of green beans.

My favorite?  When there's no time to cook, and you didn't thaw hamburger, and you need real food, this is what I love:
~ boneless center-cut pork chops
(skillet-fried with a rub of basil, brown sugar, chili powder)
~ buttered, parsleyed pasta
(maybe with pesto or parmesan too)
~ a side dish or two of frozen veggies

Seriously, it's about 20-25 minutes from the time I arrive home until we sit down to eat.  And it's real food.  And it's deLIcious.  Not the cheapest, so I don't plan it as part of the meal rotation.  But my tastebuds wish I would ....

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Snow Storm Wins over the Symphony

Big dump of snow today.
Loads of accidents.
Thankfully, Philip made it home from church safely, and Andrew made it safely to work.

Symphony was canceled. 
It was a wise decision.
But I'm still disappointed.
I'm trying not to think about it.

Reading Challenge

The conclusion of my reading-year.   I seriously doubt anything more books will be finished in the next three weeks.

My primary list:
Anne of Green Gables   by L. M. Montgomery  Jan 24
Anne of Avonlea   (these two with Maggie) Feb 24
Christ Have Mercy   by Matt Harrison April 7
Mara, Daughter of the Nile   June 7

Love Divine   by Alan Kornacki July 30
A Great and Mighty Wonder July 31
One Thing's Needful Aug 5

Mitford's These High, Green Hills Aug 16
Out to Canaan    by Jan Karon Aug 27
A Common Life Sept 2
A New Song   Sept 20
In This Mountain   Oct 4
Shepherds Abiding  Oct 12

The list that someone else made for me:
Lutheran Catechesis   by Bender Dec 27, 2012
Old Testament Catechesis   by Bender March 1
New Testament Catechesis    by Bender  began in October
Bible Stories for Daily Prayer    by Fabrizius   still waiting

Kristin Lavransdatter  by Sigrid Undset  going on 2014's list
To Kill a Mockingbird   by  Harper Lee May 8
Luther, the Reformer   by James Kittelson  unread
The Right to Be Wrong   by Seamus Hasson unread
On Being a Theologian of the Cross   by Forde unread
Luther on Vocation   by Wingren July 15

Books not on the original list:
A Long Way from Chicago by R Peck audio book April 16
A Year Down Yonder by Peck audio book April 18
And She Was a Christian: Why Do Believers Commit
by Peter Preus May 7
Heaven Is for Real June 27
How to Treat Your Own Hand & Thumb Osteoarthritis  Sept 28

Eighteen books read.
Two audio books "read."
Two proofreading projects completed.
And for the last two months I've been knitting and watching movies instead of reading.

Now it's time to figure out which books will go on my 2014 list. 

Friday, December 06, 2013

The Trinity in the Second Petition

God's kingdom comes when our heavenly FATHER gives us His HOLY SPIRIT, so that by His grace we believe His holy WORD and lead godly lives, here in time, and there in eternity.

The Word became flesh
and dwelt among us ...
John 1:14

Those Blasted Cell Phones

Once upon a time, we had no answering machines.
Once upon a time, we would go on vacation, away from the telephone for an entire week.

Today people get itchy if they leave the cell phone at home for an hour or two of errands.  What if they miss something?  People!  People!  It's good to be away from the phone sometimes!

An online article recently pointed out what happens when teens have constant contact with their friends via texting.  They end up with nothing to talk about in-real-life.  And they have no incentive to spend time together in-real-life. 

Try it.  Fight the addiction.  Turn off the phone for a couple of hours a day.  Say no to the stress of always being available to dozens of friends.

Thursday, December 05, 2013

Symphony This Sunday

Our church choirs have a reputation.

(That's kind of cool....)

This Sunday we're singing at the concert for the local symphony

At work the other day, I heard a commercial for us.  On a 50,000-watt radio station.  On one of their most-listened-to talk-shows.  A commercial for us.  I was excited!  Oh my goodness -- you can buy tickets for the concert on Ticketmaster.  To me, that's where you get tickets for Toby Keith or Kenny Chesney or Michael Buble.  One of my co-workers said, "I have NEVER seen you nearly so pumped about ANYthing."  No foolin'!

This is going to be fun.

If you're local and want to attend, it's 3:00 on Sunday at Hamilton Fine Arts Center (at the high school).  Information is available at the symphony's website.  The children's choirs are singing a couple of songs without the adults, and I don't know what those pieces are.  The adults (or adults with the kids) are singing:
Once in Royal David's City (Mann/Willcocks/Vierrege)
Up, Good Christen Folk
Praise God the Lord, Ye Sons of Men (Hugo Distler)
Jesus Christ, the Apple Tree
Your Little Ones, Dear Lord, Are We  (David Cherwien) 
Silent Night (Hal Hopson)
See, in Yonder Manger Low (Keith Veirrege)


"The Mission."
A movie with amazing music and cinematography and casting.
Docudrama set in the 1750s in South America: Jesuit missionaries going to the native peoples, and what happened when the Treaty of Madrid rearranged European "ownership" of the South American lands.

The movie has a bunch of different aspects:

Enslavement of the Guarani people even when slavery was officially illegal.

Corrupt leadership, in both political government and church government.

The shock to authorities when they find native people (so unlike themselves) trusting in the same Lord, worshiping Him with the same liturgy, and receiving the same sacraments.

The place of priests in fighting injustice: fighting militarily or not.

Persecution of the Church.

Self-defense and "just war."

The affect of the Gospel.

Whoa, that last one!  (Okay.  Warning.  Spoilers ahead.)

In the story, a slave trader ends up killing his brother in a duel.  He is devastated.  There is no hope for him.  The person who finally gets through to him partially is the priest who is ministering to the Indians who had been this slave trader's prey.  Of course, being Roman Catholics, there had to be penance.  They came up with a task, and the slave trader kept at it.  No matter how long he doggedly worked at his penance, he wasn't finding peace.  There was no relief. 

There was no comfort for him until he arrived at the home of those Indians he had hunted ... and they forgave him.  They did not take vengeance on him.  They physically removed the burden he'd been lugging along as penance.  And they accepted him into their midst. 

Penance did not save him.
Penance did not help make up for his evils.
Penance showed him that he could not atone for what he'd done.
It was mercy and forgiveness that freed him.
That mercy, in conjunction with God's word, was what changed the slave trader into a priest.

The Mission is one of those movies that is both sickening and beautiful.  The violence & gore, the bigotry, the evils -- it's enough to turn your stomach.  And yet, there's the beauty of defending the innocent, and the glory of seeing hearts and lives changed by the Gospel.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

"Bless You!"

Gesundheit.  That is, "good health."

One lovely day when I was sitting at the feet of John Kleinig, the good doctor mentioned that people chafe if we preach to them.  People don't want us to speak the Gospel to them.  They really don't want to hear the Law.  Some won't mind too much if you say that you pray for them.

But he said nobody gets upset if you bless them.

You know what?

I think he's right.

God bless you.

And then, when you say out loud
"God bless you,"
in your heart you can also
beg the Lord to bless this person.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013


We have been at the Curves gym two-and-a-half months now.  It takes time.  We progressed past the point of not wanting to bother going.  (C'mon, really?  Audible verbal arguments with myself?  "I don't WANT to go today."  "You need to."  "No, I don't.  What difference does one day make?"  "For exercise, probably not much.  But making a habit?  Skipping just one day makes a huge difference in your mental commitment."  "Commitment schmamittment.  Bah humbug."  "Fetch your gym shoes and get moving, you lazy bum.")

Maggie finds Curves to be more fun than going for walks or using the Goodwill-purchased exercise equipment in our basement.  We were doggedly pushing each other to build this into a habit, a routine, a natural part of life.  And it was working ... until we skipped a week due to illness and another half-week due to holiday closures.  Now it's time to rebuild that habit.

Some critics say Curves is for old women.  Or for people out of shape.  Yeah?  So what's the problem?  I'm old.  And Maggie is out of shape.  We're doing something.

Maggie lost 3 pounds in the first three weeks.  Unfortunately, she gained back most of them with Halloween chocolate.  But she gained back "most."  Not all! And this morning we did our first weigh-and-measure since we joined, and she's down nearly 8#.  That's excellent news!

Monday, December 02, 2013

The Difference Between East and West

In 1951 Herman Sasse wrote to pastors about the place of the cross in the Eastern Church and the Ancient Church. 
As soon as the great question is put: Cur Deus homo? [Why did God become man?] it is understood [in the Eastern church] as a question for the rationale of the incarnation rather than of the death of Christ.

Sure enough, an EO writer says --
The Incarnation did not take place for the Crucifixion; the Crucifixion took place so the Incarnation and the eternal communion of God and man could be fulfilled despite Satan, sin, and death. Explaining that there was no necessity in God the Father that required the death of His Son, St. Gregory is telling us that, from before the ages, it was the divine will for mankind to be sanctified and made immortal by communion with the humanity of the Incarnate God, but corruptibility and death came and stood in the way. 

Sasse continues:
Thus for the Ancient Church, as even today for the Eastern Church, the cross is hidden in the miracle of Christmas and in the miracle of Easter.

How is that limitation of Ancient Christianity and its theology to be explained? Certainly it must not be forgotten that the divine revelation given in Holy Scriptures is so rich that whole centuries are necessary to understand its content fully. It cannot be expected that the Church of the First Ecumenical Councils should already have solved the problems of the medieval Western World.

As to the meaning of redemption, the Greek Fathers could not get away from the idealistic conception of man.

The lack of full understanding of the greatness of sin is the reason why the Ancient Church and the Church of the East never reached a theologia crucis.

So if you wonder what's the difference between Lutherans and the Eastern church, this is it.  In EO, sin is not quite as bad, not quite as deep, not quite as corrupting, as what the Bible teaches. 

"The Law shows us our sin
and how much we need a Savior."

Not so much sin?
Then you don't need so much of a Savior, do you?
And some of the glory goes to you instead of all the glory being His.

Sunday, December 01, 2013

Andrew's Schooling

He's still waiting to hear the verdict as to whether he was accepted to the RN program at our local tech school.  Fantastic program with shockingly low tuition.  (Hey, shockingly high property taxes ... and thus the thing about "every dark cloud has a silver lining.")  I thought Andrew was a shoo-in.  Great entrance-test scores and perfect GPA. 

But then he told me that those factors cannot be considered in the decision-making process for who's admitted to the program.

Really?  I'm dumbfounded.  What DO they use as criteria to make the decision then?  Or maybe they don't make decisions, but just draw names out of a hat?

Well, he's got a good job as a CNA. 
And hopefully, in another week or two, we'll hear good news that invites him to sign up for classes for spring semester.

(Wow.  You can't use performance in pre-nursing classes to determine who's admitted to the nursing program.  Just wow.)

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Thanksgiving Plans

As much as I hate to say it, I'm glad Paul and Mandy aren't coming for the holiday.  They're going to visit her mom's family. 

And I just keep wanting naps.  Those germies from last week haven't entirely dispersed yet.

Maggie made bread yesterday.  Andrew made cheesecake; Rachel is making pies.  Katie said she'd be in charge of sweet potatoes and mashed potatoes.  I'm going to cook the turkey and slice it on Wednesday.  If I can muster the strength, I'll mix together a cranberry salad and a broccoli salad.

So if I'm full of snot and crashed on the couch on Thursday, they all can still eat something and enjoy each other's company.  Thanks be to God.

(You know what?  Having a paid-job really interferes with a person's ability to rest and recuperate from illness.)

Sunday, November 24, 2013

"Blessed Are the Barren"

Luke 23: The days are coming in which they will say, "Blessed are the barren, wombs which never bore, and breasts which never nursed." 

I had always thought that was, well, you know, something the Bible said.  But it's not.  It's just something Jesus reports that "they" say.  Duh -- how come I never saw it until Pastor pointed it out today?  That's something the unbelievers say.  Not Christians.  And certainly not something God says. 

"Better to not have babies" is the response of the hopeless and the despairing.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Happy Things

The same edition of the Bible. 

People were laughing at me during Bible class this week.  I had a question, but I needed to refer to another passage -- a passage whose location I could not pin down.  Poor Pastor -- how can he answer a question comparing passages when I can't even tell him what they are?  "I can't find it.  I don't have the right Bible."  (That's why they poked fun at me.)

Is it my brain being weird?  Or do other people do this too?  I can find things easier in the Bible that I use frequently.  I might know that a verse in the psalms is about 1/3 of the way down the left-hand page, in the right column.  Or I might know that it's a verse in the 30's of one of the major prophets, and it's in the bottom right corner of the page. 

Hey, that makes it loads easier to find a passage I'm hunting!

The right Bible. 
The words are no different.
But because of its layout,
its fit with my brain is different.
And that makes me happy.

Saturday, November 16, 2013


"The mystery of lawlessness" was in the reading recently from 2 Thessalonians 2. 

It seemed an odd phrase.

So how does it compare with "the mystery of godliness" (1 Timothy 3)

Wait a cotton-pickin' minute.
Paul says the mystery of GODLINESS is what Jesus did? 

We tend to think godliness is what I think and what I say and what I do and how I feel.  And Paul has this notion that godliness is Jesus' incarnation, suffering, death, resurrection, ascension, and that these events in the Creed are preached.

Happy Things

Wooden knitting needles.

The sound and feel is just luscious in comparison to metal ones.


Friday, November 15, 2013

Hold the Traditions

After Paul talks about the falling away of many in the church, he says, "God from the beginning chose you for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth, to which He called you by our gospel, for the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle" (2 Thessalonian 2).

Through the Church, the Holy Spirit gave the catechism.  And the divine service with the liturgy.  And solid, Christ-centered hymns preaching the forgiveness of sins.  And the sacraments.  And ministers to speak on behalf of Jesus to us.

Do we fiercely hang onto it, as if our lives depended on it?  (For of course, they do.)  Or do we hold cheap the traditions we were taught?

When the Israelites were leaving Egypt, Moses said, "Stand still and see the salvation which the Lord shall accomplish for you this day....  The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace."

Happy Things

Good brakes.

I did NOT hit the deer tonight.  And the guy behind me reacted quickly enough that he didn't hit me.

I'm sure I left some doozy black tire-marks on the road, though.

A safe car.  With good brakes.  And an honest mechanic I trust. 

It makes me happy that I can rely on Chuck!

And on the subject of deer:
I need to use my brights more often.
And tell the kids to use theirs.
And at this time of year I need to follow people further back than usual.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Happy Things

This is the weirdest picture, ...
but how do you show a picture of somebody not using a hymnal??

It makes me happy to see people singing in church without needing a hymnal. 

My brother-in-law during the processional at his wedding.

The acolytes while they're extinguishing candles.

The elders who are carrying the pall to the coffin during the opening hymn of a funeral.

The 4-year-old who can't read yet.

The 20-something young lady from Indiana who transferred to our church, and several people asked me when they saw her singing on the way back from the communion rail, "Where did she learn all those hymns?"

I suspect the saints and angels in heaven do not use hymnbooks.  The books are necessary on earth.  But it's sweet when the words are so deep within us that we can freely sing from the heart.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Happy Things

A letter.

A real letter!

A few days before Jane started her blogging of HappyThings, Elva wrote me a letter.  I can't even describe how delightful it was to find a letter in the mail!

And yesterday, I came home from work to find a letter from my goddaughter.  Joy, oh joy!

(Idea:  I could write more letters, and pass along the joy!  Wouldn't that be fun?)

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Happy Things

How can a simple fried egg be SO good?!

Egg.  From a happy chicken.  Cooked in a cast-iron skillet.  With a touch of sea salt and black pepper. 

Mmmm.  Hot, runny-yolked egg!

Friday, November 08, 2013


Thesis: No one can be happy and contented in his life's work unless he is doing it to serve someone else (and not himself).

No matter how much we chase after making ourselves happy, we can never have enough.  It is only in sacrificing and giving that true happiness comes.  That's part of what it is to be made in the image of God.  And it's true whether you're a Christian or an atheist or a follower of some other religion.  It is simply a fact of life, like gravity.

Thursday, November 07, 2013

Your Neighbor

"Your neighbor is the man who needs you."

That's a quote from Elbert Green Hubbard, a man who differed from me philosophically and religiously on a gazillion things.

And yet, that quote fits beautifully with the Christian perspective of sacrifice for one's neighbor.  It's very much like what Jesus said to the lawyer when He told the parable of the good Samaritan.

When the whole society was familiar with the Bible and steeped in decency  -- even apart from Christ, there was a civil understanding of what is true and moral.

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Babies Are Nice

Conversation recently among a group of [unchurched] 20-somethings:
"I don't think I'd ever want a family.  It would be fun to come home once a week and make dinner and spend time with my family.  But every day?!"
"Maybe it would be okay to have kids.  If they'd arrive at age 4 or 5, already ready for school, and able to feed themselves and dress themselves and use the toilet."
"Babies look like little aliens."

A few days later, Bible class was on the topic of marriage, and how the world views marriage, and society's changing definitions of marriage, and how the Church has pretty much taken-for-granted the joys and the normalness of married life and faithfulness, instead of extolling it. 

Some of the ideas "out there" about marriage, relationships, children, are so so unbiblical (and new-fangled) that it boggles my mind.  I don't even know how to begin addressing the complete mess of someone's life when they value self-indulgence, pride themselves in hanging onto grudges, and have no experience with the simple joys and stability that come with plain old everyday family life.  They know they're unhappy.  But the idea of living a life of sacrifice for others?  Not on the radar.

So I asked during Bible class.  "How do we respond?  How do we talk to people about these things when we're not even speaking the same language, when we're coming from vastly different perspectives?"

And Pastor said, "Just live your life.  Just be who you are as a wife and mother."


That's all?

But the more I think about it,
the more I hear conversations out there in the big wide world,
the more I realize that "just being who I am" IS pretty different.

His Exodus

Isn't it cool? 

In Luke's version of the Transfiguration (chapter 9), Jesus is talking with Moses and Elijah about "His decease" -- literally His "exodus."  His way out or path out.   

And what's the story immediately before this one?  Jesus is talking about taking up the cross to follow Him.

Follow Him. 
The way out.

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Abraham's Name-Change

I knew God changed Abram's name to Abraham.

I knew God instituted the sacrament of circumcision for His people.  (In the new testament, baptism corresponds to this -- the way sinners are brought into God's people and marked as His own.)

But it never crossed my mind until this week that those two things happened at the same time.  Little boys got their names at the time of their circumcision (Luke 2:21).  Today, in the baptism rite, children are named.  But looking at Genesis 17, even Abraham received his name at his circumcision ... old age notwithstanding. 

I think that's kind of cool.

Luke 14

It takes so much energy to tend to an illness or a wound.  When I burned my arm recently, it took longer to get dressed in the morning because I had to deal with bandages and wound care.  My mom gets frustrated with the time it takes to sort her medicines and tend to her dialysis and keep up with simple day-to-day care when her body doesn't instantaneously do what her brain tells her body to do.

So when we read in Luke 14 that Jesus healed the man with dropsy, it's lovely to see that He "let him go" or set him free.  The man finally had rest [sabbath] from his wearying illness. 

And when an illness has weighed you down, it seems an even lovelier prospect to have that rest, that freedom.

Also, that bit about where people sit at the dinner table when they've been invited to a party?  This is not a Miss Manners section of the Bible.  True, it's nice to be nice.  But what's more important here is that Jesus, being found in appearance as a man, humbled himself to death, even the death of the cross (Philippians 2).  And then He was "invited up higher" where He would have glory.

Monday, November 04, 2013

Mercy Seat

... Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation by His blood ...  (Romans 3)

So, that "propitiation" is another word for "mercy seat."

In the Holy of Holies, behind the veil in the tabernacle and the temple, the ark of the covenant was covered by the mercy seat.  The place of the Lord's presence.  The place where He particularly was with His people to forgive.  Tucked away.  Nobody went there.  Except the high priest once a year.  With blood and with cleansing.

And now, in the fulness of time, God set forth the propitiation.  Not tucked away.  Right out there where the whole world can see.

Sunday, November 03, 2013

The Parable of the Lost Coin

Luke 15: a lost sheep, a lost coin, a lost son.

Did you ever wonder why the middle story is about a woman who lost something?  (Well, besides the obvious: women can get frantic looking for a precious item that was lost.)

Well, the story of the lost sheep shows us how Jesus goes to extreme lengths to bring back the one that was lost.  The story of the lost coin shows us the same thing.  Except the main character is a woman -- a wife -- a bride. 

Doesn't that show us how the Church (Jesus' bride) is like Him?  She too goes all-out to find what was lost.  And she rejoices when the lost one is found.

(When Pastor said this recently,
it made so much sense!)

Saturday, November 02, 2013

Why Didn't Anybody TELL Us?

On NPR today, the reporter was interviewing someone who does fact-checking.  The topic?  Obamacare.  The distress?  People's health plans are being canceled.  They're losing their health insurance.  But the President said that wouldn't happen!  "If you like your plan, you can keep your plan."  That's what he promised us. 

The reporter has discovered this week that the President's promise isn't coming true.  Not only that, but the reporter discovered that the sad fallout was included in the bill all along: about half the people who buy their own health insurance (as opposed to plans through their employer) would be losing their coverage.  The reporter wanted to know: "Why didn't we know this before?  Shouldn't someone have discovered this earlier?  Why did we have to wait five years, until it was time to actually sign up in The Marketplace, before we learned what would happen?  Why didn't anyone figure this out and tell us?"

No one told you, Mr Reporter?

I seem to recall a lot of people saying exactly what you did not know.

Talk-show hosts and their callers.
Gobs of citizens who called or wrote to Washington.
Political leaders.

Regardless of where people stand on the pros/cons of socialized medicine, this reporter's reaction demonstrates something about dialogue.

There has been no dialogue. 
It's all been a monologue.

For years people have been saying, "This is what will happen."  And the Left did not hear.  They could not hear.  They refused to hear.  Their ideology deafened them. 

And now they're surprised.


PS:  Here's a thought.  Maybe those people who disagree with the administration's proposals aren't as clueless as y'all thought.  Those fuddy-duddy conservatives had the facts right about socialized medicine.  Any chance they might have the facts right on, oh, say, climate change?  Or what constitutes a marriage?  Or some of that other stuff they keep harping on?

Happy Things

Pictures taken by our friend Rachel.  (By the way, if anybody around here needs high school graduation pictures, Rachel is superb!)

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Things

Our reverse-osmosis filter had not been working.  For eight weeks, I was buying jugs of water every time I had reason to be in town.  The counter was constantly cluttered with water jugs, hogging space.

  See this guy?  He's smart figurer-outer.  Yup!
See this knobby thing that's part of our plumbing?  It's where the reverse-osmosis pipe exits the water pipes.  Something in there was plugged up.

Gary and I undid it.  We flushed the opening.  (In other words, we gave ourselves an unsolicited shower as water spurted out.)  We put it all back together.  It only took two or three tries before we made it work without leaking.

And now we have nice drinking water from the tap again.  Without repeatedly running into the grocery store to refill jugs!

Now, that's happy!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Happy Things

Turning into this driveway.

Sometimes after work, I head to church instead of heading home.  Maybe there's class.  Maybe there's choir practice.  Maybe some other activity.   It never feels like I've got One More Thing To Do before I go home. 

Turning into that driveway IS "going home." 

O Lord, I love habitation of Your house,
and the place where Your glory dwells. (Psalm 26)


Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Infant Communion

While doing kitchen work today, I was listening to Issues Etc on the topic of infant communion.  The guest said some good stuff.  But one big thing confused me.

Much of his argument [against infant communion] was based on the fact that Jesus instituted baptism in a different way than He instituted the Lord's Supper.  He said that one was directed to the recipients and one was directed to the ministers.  He said that Jesus did not institute baptism by baptizing people, but by telling the ministers what to do, what to say, and why.  He said that Jesus instituted the Lord's Supper by speaking directly to the recipients (through their mental faculties).

But ...

Jesus was baptizing people.  Jesus and His apostles baptized more than John and his disciples (John 3 and 4:1-2)

First, Jesus baptized.  And He catechized on baptism (to Nicodemus, for example).  Then later, Matthew shows us the specifics of how He told His apostles to administer baptism.  On Maundy Thursday, Jesus communed His disciples.  Then later, we see what Paul wrote about specific instructions regarding how to administer the Lord's Supper that Jesus had instituted earlier. 

Why are those different from each other?

Monday, October 28, 2013


How do you know if you're too old?

If you're old enough to buy your own candy (that is, if you could be babysitting, shoveling snow, mowing lawns, delivering papers, etc) then you don't need to be out trick-or-treating.

Can you go with your friends -- and no adult along to keep watch?  That's okay for a couple of years, but it also signals that pretty soon you should be handing out candy instead of asking for candy.

I know most of the rest of American society disagrees with me.  But me?  I think the cute little beggars should be accompanied by parents. 

Happy Things

Reading to children.

Picture books. Chapter books. Old books.  Sometimes new books too.

There's something marvelous about reading aloud and enjoying a book together -- something far different from reading a story to yourself.

Hmmm. I should have a picture of me and Maggie reading together too.

Boy, if there were a way to earn a living reading books aloud to kids, I'd be all over it!


Sunday, October 27, 2013

Happy Things

My mother-in-law's measuring cups.

Reason #1: For 30+ years, I only had one set.  Boy, it's nice to have a spare so that cups don't have to be washed and dried and washed and dried repeatedly.

Reason #2:  They were the ones Gary had, growing up.

Sometimes Pastor uses the analogy of treasuring things that belonged to our forefathers, such as eating holiday dinners off Grandma's china.  He talks about how that can show we loved and honored the person who gave these things to us.  I always feel guilty when he says that ... and miss the point of the analogy while my mind is wandering.  We (like so many others in America) are overloaded with stuff.  And sometimes, material goods (no matter how pretty, no matter how many wonderful memories, no matter how old) can become a burden.  If the treasures don't fit into my house and my life, I cannot treasure them.  And that makes me feel terribly unappreciative.

So, anyway, it's funny to me how much these measuring cups make me happy.  I love their shape.  I love their feel.  I love how nicely they scoop.  I love their history.


Saturday, October 26, 2013

Pat the Chicken

I keep running across these recipes that say, "Pat the chicken dry with paper towels," and then the instructions go on to tell about spices or frying or whatever.  I never quite saw the necessity of that.  I often soak my chicken parts in water for hours before cooking, so yes, then I will [usually] pat it dry.  But not always.

Last week, in a rush for lunch, I bought chicken tenderloins -- little strips of skinless, boneless breast meat.  Mushrooms were on sale at Aldi super-cheap, and I had my heart set on some delectable Chicken Marsala.  I dredged the chicken strips in seasoned flour.  When I set them into the thin layer of hot oil, ... uh ... the oil ... uh ... exploded.  Most of the burns are decently healing over, but my left wrist is still a mess of raw skin.

My guess is that the moisture in the chicken was the problem.  From now on, I'll pat the chicken dry! That's lesson #1.

Lesson #2?  I must remember that a burn should be patted dry before the aloe application.  I pulled my arm out from under the cold faucet and started rubbing on aloe.  But it was diluted by the water all over my arm, and thus not as effective as usual.

By the way, that Chicken Marsala was amaAAAzing.

Happy Things

Pretty dishes.

Not only are they cheery, but they drip-dry super-fast in the dish-drainer.  I can let them air-dry and put them away 30-60 minutes later.

And they're relatively light-weight and easy to carry and lift into the cupboard.


Thursday, October 24, 2013

With the Critters Too

After the Flood, God promised that He would never again destroy the earth with water (Genesis 9).  Interestingly, the promise was not made merely to Noah, or to Noah's family, or to all people forever.  The promise was made to every living creature. 

Did the animals understand this?  Did their brains intellectually comprehend this?  Of course not.  But the promise is valid nonetheless.

This is comforting to know.  Sometimes I think of how little I understand of God's Word.  But His promises are good and true and will most certainly come to pass regardless of my understanding.  And His promises are efficacious for infants who are too little to understand.  And for elderly people who are afflicted with senility.  And for the mentally ill who have lost touch with reality.  And for the comatose.  It is good to understand God's Word, to meditate upon it, to cherish it.  But when we can't, when we don't, He is faithful for He cannot deny Himself.

Happy Things

Going out for a beer after choir. 

Now and then, several of us go to a nearby bar/restaurant and talk and laugh.  Last night, instead of beer, I got a Captain Morgan and Coke.  It was the Wednesday special and was cheap.  Mmmm.

Happy time.  Happy tastebuds.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Happy Things


I love these books.  This woman is a fabulous author.  Nothing hard and ugly.  But neither is it unrealistic.  Just nice stories.  I'm glad there are so many in the series.

I hadn't stayed up reading past midnight in years.  And she pulled me right in.


To the Mall

This weekend a fantastic idea came to me about a few Christmas gifts.  So yesterday Maggie and I went to the mall to buy them. 

It felt weird.
I realized that I haven't been in a mall since we moved nearly six years ago.  (At least, I don't think so.)

In other matters, I began a craft project which will be a Christmas project.  I really want to do this.  It will be FUN.  And comforting.  But I'm also leery about what this will do to my time available for other projects.  You know -- "projects."  Like making supper.  Or reading schoolwork with Maggie.  Or doing house repairs.  Or doing laundry.  Or vacuuming.  "Projects."

One of those projects --cooking-- has been receiving more attention recently.  For so many months I've relegated cooking to the bare necessities: get some calories into us and wash the dishes.  I'm ready for some tasty food.  And man, oh man, the food here has been delicious the past week.  The refrigerator is full of awesome leftovers.  And I have a day ahead of cooking Soft Foods for someone who's having oral surgery tomorrow.  Tonight is chicken and dumplings.  And hotfresh bread.  Mmmm.

Also in other matters, we attended APT's Antony and Cleopatra this past weekend.  I wasn't impressed.  When we saw the play several years ago, it seemed more of a history.  This time it seemed to celebrate the immoral relationship between the title characters.  I wish we hadn't gone.  And I don't know that I've ever thought that before. 

Last week was the week-of-crazy.  All sorts of wonderful things to do.  Now it's catch-up time.  Back to my stove....

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Happy Things

A visit from a friend I see, oh, about once a year or less since we moved.

I squealed and bounced up and down when her email arrived, asking about a visit.

(Oh, and then Pastor went and talked during Bible class --which she attended-- about how the love of Jesus unites us, and makes those friendships-in-the-Lord so dear and special, like there's never a disruption, even when years pass between visits.)

And I love it that she always suggests playing a hymn and singing together before she leaves.


Saturday, October 19, 2013

Happy Things

This is the bestest crucifix in the whole wide world.

It used to be by the pulpit.  I wish it were still there.  But it remains in the room that's used for Bible class. 

Happy memories.
Happy saints.
Happy angels.
Lovely doctrine.


I've had one massage in my life, and I left more stressed and tense from it than I went in.  (I won't ever go back to that place -- that's for sure!)  The chatty masseuse, however, did expound upon something I agreed with: the need for people to be touched.  Physical contact is necessary to both physical and mental health.  The masseuse desired for people to believe in the importance of touch -- of course, she wants them to pay for her services

I thought it was sad sad sad that people have to pay a stranger to be touched.

Some friends linked to an article today about how everything is so over-sexed in our society that there can be no comfortable (and normal and healthy) platonic touch.  Innocent touching is assumed to have sexual overtones.  For example, occasionally at work my boss would like my dress and couldn't quite tell from looks alone what the fabric was made of.  So she asked permission to touch the sleeve, and apologized for even wanting to do that.  But of course it was okay for her to touch the fabric -- oftentimes that's the only way you can know what a fabric is.  It says something about society that she must ask, instead of just giving me a pat on the arm.

Not long ago, Gary and I watched The Major and the Minor.  Excellent movie from 1942!  Funny.  Sweet.  A young woman is short of cash and needs a train ticket.  She passes herself off as a 12-yr-old so that she can buy a half-price ticket.  A man on the train ends up watching out for this "child" and taking care of her.  She spends the night in his compartment.  When his fiancee finds out there is a girl with him, she's livid.  But then (and here's where the expectations and moral changes of the last 70 years are exposed) the fiancee learns that the "girl" is a 12-yr-old.  And of course everybody knows there would no hanky-panky with a child, nothing whatsoever indecent, and that the fiance was being gentlemanly to take care of a child and protect her. 

Oh, and it's not just touch.  Words are over-sexualized too.  It surprises me how a simple comment can be twisted into some sort of sleazy innuendo.   I hear it on tv shows and in real life.  Sometimes I say something and am met with eyebrow waggles & giggles in response.  I know that they've mixed in some innuendo.  Sometimes I can figure it out.  But sometimes I am clueless as to what they're insinuating.  In the name of "freedom" (sexual freedom, that is), we have actually become isolated, in what we say, in physical contact, and in the people we can hang out with.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Happy Things

Tomatoes on a sandwich.
GARDEN tomatoes, not store ones.
A specialty usually confined to August and September.

Only three small tomatoes remain on my window sill.  And they were picked green and have ripened indoors.  Still, they are GARDEN tomatoes.

Happy sandwiches!

Happy Things

As I've been thinking about "things that make me happy," I'm pondering the distinction between happy/contentment, or happy/thankful, or happy/joyful.  Maybe it's just a silly little hang-up in my own mind, but "happy" seems more, uh...., giddy than other kinds of joy.  And I can see where some of the things that are most important to me, the things that bring the most contentment, the things are the most valuable, might not necessarily be the things that make me "happy" ... because I take them for granted. 

That doesn't mean I don't appreciate them!  It just means that I am accustomed to having them in my life, and they don't necessarily excite because I am comfortable with them. 

I don't know if that is good or bad.

Harry Potter

Is it really that hard to understand that reading a story where the setting includes magic and witches is not the same thing as practicing witchcraft?

Is it really that hard to understand that dressing up as a robot, a crayon, or a dragon, and distributing (or receiving) candy, is not the same thing as Satan worship?

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Happy Things


I wish there were more!  But hooray for the ones God's allowed me to have.

Happy curls.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Happy Things

Singing descants.

Oh, as part of "happy things," why not toss in all of choir?

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Happy Things

My friend Jane started a blog-plan this week:
Right now I feel a little bit of a need to focus, specifically, on all of the large and small things in my life that add to my happiness. So, each day for at least a month, I am going to post a picture and blog about one of these things. Some will be totally frivolous and some will be big and obvious. I'm doing this for me, but I hope that you will enjoy it too. 

I don't have a cell phone that takes pictures, so I'm not likely to come up with photos to accompany my posts.  I'll try, but I ain't promisin' nothin'.  For instance, yesterday I could've posted the most lovely sunset... if I'd had a camera.  It sure did put a joy in my heart to see all those lovely colors swirled in the evening sky!

Today is likewise photoless.  (Even if I'd had a camera, it's a security problem to take pictures of a bank.) 

Today at work I was in drive-ups.  Alone.  Introvert heaven!!  Sure, I had customers.  And now and then I had to interact with coworkers.  But overall, I had a day of working in my own little drive-up room, by myself (an unusual occurrence).  And between customers there was no radio.  And there was an awesome book to read.  And nobody to make small-talk with.  I could even sing hymns when I wanted to.  And (of course) no floors to sweep, no socks to fold, no onions to chop, no lawn begging "mow me!"  Even with a humongous number of transactions (almost double my normal load), today was a rest, a vacation, a rejuvenation-day.

Drive-ups by myself.  Happy.


Some of us are too young to remember redeeming Green Stamps.

Pastors try to find ways to explain what it is to redeem something.  You buy it back.  It was yours.  But now you have to pay to get it back.  Kind of like a pawn shop, eh?

So it was just a mite mind-blowing what Pastor explained the other day.

The Lord gave to Adam and Eve dominion over creation.  And with that authority, they sold all of creation into bondage.  If everything everything everything was given over to death and sin and Satan, what did God have left with which to pay?  With what could He buy back the creation that had been His?  Everything He made had been corrupted.  It's not like He could trade mountains to buy back the roses.  It's not as if He could relinquish fish to redeem ducks.

But His life and His love were not corrupted.

His life was the only thing that could buy back everything everything everything. 

Monday, October 14, 2013

Getting a Driver's License

Oh, the logic of a 4-yr-old!

As my daughter and granddaughters are out walking, they see Auntie Maggie and Olivia (Andrew's girlfriend) drive past.  Olivia is driving.

Alia (age 4) is shocked.  "Olivia is driving?!"

Her mommy says, "Yes, she's a grown-up."

The wheels turn in Alia's head.  "But Maggie is the same age as Olivia, and she doesn't drive."

"Well, Alia, people are different.  Some grown-ups don't drive."

Alia thinks.

And thinks.

And thinks some more.

Then she concludes, "So, Olivia can drive because she's in love."

Now, stop laughing.
Virtually every driver that Alia knows is part of a couple.  So her logic is fabulous.
Even if it is wrong.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Two Sunsets

SO cool the other night --
Leaving work, I saw a big, bright fireball of a sun slipping below the horizon.  A gorgeous sunset!  I turned my back to that sliver of light as I stepped into my car and pulled out of the parking lot. 

I climbed the sideroad and turned onto the main thoroughfare, headed east.  When I glanced into the rearview mirror, that huge sun was up again and just barely touching the horizon. 

Really?  That little of a height difference meant a second view of the dipping down below the horizon?  The timing was perfect.  The sun was beautiful.   And this is what can mean to live in kettle-moraine area.  Wow!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

House Painting

Check out that color.

Our house was orange. Yes, yes, a brownish orange, indeed. But oranger than I liked. So when it was time to paint, we were looking for darker and browner. But when the paint was mixed and the first strokes applied to the siding, it was obvious that my paint was brighter and more orange than what we had before.

But with my work schedule and the weather forecasts and how late it is in the fall, this is the color we've got for at least the next half-year. I keep telling myself that the point of paint is to protect the wood from the elements. And orange paint will do that just as well as brown.

Three afternoons. That was all it took. Of course, my body aches from the work. But the job is done. (Well, it's done until we decide to change to a better color.)

Maggie helped with toting and fetching. She helped with getting supper on the table. She even tried her hand at a bit of the painting.

Note to self for next time: A four-inch paint brush is too big.  It's ridiculous that holding a paintbrush full of paint wears out my hands and wrists so fast.  In that vein, I need to allow more days for the task next time.  I realized this week that all the painters I know are men under 40, thin men, men with muscular physiques.  Painting is more physically draining than I recognized.

Second note to self:  A neighbor suggested using drop cloths on the driveway, concrete stoop, and the ledge that sits atop the brick. Boy, I'm glad he said that! I was thinking that being outside meant I didn't have a floor to protect. But as messy as I think the paint job turned out, it's still neater and spiffier than the previous two paint jobs. I could correct only a few of the errors that were tucked under the earlier paint jobs. But even that helped erase part of the old Sloppies.  Gary commented that it all looked so clean and tidy when he drove in tonight.  I'll count that as a Success!

Friday, October 11, 2013

Does the Bible Have Errors?

"Not everything in the Bible actually happened."

Some people think that. 

Some people think that God didn't really say what's in the Bible, but some humans made it up.  Or at least, people added stuff to jazz it up.

A)  If the Bible isn't entirely true, then how do we know which parts are and aren't true?  If the part about miracles were iffy, then how would I know whether the Bible is right when it says "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners"?

B)  Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life."  How could the One who is truth give us His en-scripturated word with errors?  That would mean He wasn't the truth.

C)  Who was it that suggested in the Garden of Eden, "Did God really say ...?" 

Thursday, October 10, 2013

A Pharmacy Without the Abortion Pill

About a month ago I was horrified to see the abortion pill on sale at Walgreens, big and bold, obvious and in-your-face, on the shelf next to the Claritin and Zyrtec.  I was wishing for a pharmacy that didn't carry the abortion pill.  Or at least didn't push it quite the way Walgreens does.

Well, guess what?  A new pharmacy has opened in the Pick-&-Save strip mall at 164 and VV.  It's next to George Webb.  I went in today and asked if they carried the abortion pill.  The pharmacist apologized that she didn't have any.  She said she'd planned to order it but hadn't yet.  I explained that I had been shocked and offended over the situation at Walgreens, and I was stopping by to determine if I might want to change pharmacies. 

I also told her that, when I asked friends about a pharmacy that didn't push abortion, I heard from several people that they'd want to patronize such a pharmacy if there were one available.  She said she wanted to fit in with the community and serve the community, and she was open to not-carrying the drug.  She said that, if she did decide to carry the pill, it would be more appropriate for it to be behind the counter instead of out on the shelf.  She said that, if Walgreens has it, it wouldn't be like she was preventing access to the pill for someone who really needed it.  So if you're interested in encouraging this pharmacy to not-carry, now would be a good time to stop by and kindly ask if they might make a decision to win your business.

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

The Unjust Steward -- Shrewdness

Shrewd.  It sounds sneaky.  And slick.  And cheaty.  And bad.

So in Psalm 18, it seems weird to pray,
With the merciful, You will show Yourself merciful.
With the blameless man, You will show Yourself blameless.
With the pure, You will show Yourself pure.
And with the devious, You will show Yourself shrewd.

God is shrewd?  IF I were merciful and blameless and pure (in and of myself) I could look at this psalm and say, "Whew!  God needs to ante up.  He owes me.  He's going to be merciful and blameless and pure to me because I am SO good."

There's just one small problem with that ....

So with the devious, He shows Himself shrewd.
I've never been keen on that verse.  It seems damning.

But ...
if it's true that Jesus is "unjust,"
if it's true that Jesus is "shrewd,"
if it's true that the Father commends Him for
"shrewdness" and for "wastefulness,"
(Luke 16)

maybe ...
I can comfort myself in thinking that His shrewdness includes mercy to us who don't deserve it, thus changing our devious hearts.  Maybe He "brings down haughty looks" not by smashing people, but by bringing them to repentance so that they are no longer haughty but can humbly receive His wasteful forgiveness.

Shrewd indeed.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

The Unjust Steward -- Wastefulness

Pastor has been having fun recently pointing out connections between stories.  He keeps reminding us that the chapter/verse divisions weren't in the original manuscript of the Bible.  We tend to isolate the stories into the chunks we read as a unit.  But Pastor keeps pointing out how a story in one chapter is connected to a story in the preceding or following chapters.

For example, the parable of the unjust steward is in chapter 16 of Luke's gospel.  Well, if we have a hard time understanding it, what can we learn from the parable's location in the gospel? 

The stories immediately preceding the parable are the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son (also known as "the prodigal son," and occasionally known as "the prodigal father").  We've got this wasteful shepherd, leaving his flock in danger to go search for one naughty lambkin.  We've got this wasteful son, frittering away his father's money.  We've got this wasteful father, loving the wayward son, and then throwing a wasteful party for the boy when he returns.  Wasteful wasteful wasteful!

And what instigated those parables in chapter 15?  The Pharisees were all crabby because Jesus was being wasteful, hanging out with scumbums, and frittering away forgiveness on people who obviously didn't deserve it!  Oh, such wastefulness!

And then we come to chapter 16.  "There was a certain rich man who had a steward, and an accusation was brought to him that this man was wasting his goods."

Yup.  That was the accusation against Jesus.  That was what got Him killed.  They said He was wasting God's goods, wasting God's forgiveness.

And the Master commended Him.

Monday, October 07, 2013

The Unjust Steward

Remember the parable of the unjust steward (Luke 16)?  It's one of those confusing stories -- the master commends the guy who did something unfair.  At first blush, it sounds like God is saying, "Good for you, Mr Cheater." 

Jesus did something very unfair: He doesn't require us to pay what we owe.  That is, what is due to God [perfection, and punishment for imperfection] is something we can't pay.  And we don't have to.

But there was one thing that kept leaving me unsettled about the parable.  The dude in the story says that he's going to cook the books so that, when he's fired, the folks he helped will receive him into their homes.  Well, that's self-serving manipulation.  That's not like Jesus!  And I kept getting stuck on that point.  Of course, I realize that parables aren't exact in their correspondence.  But still....

Pastor explained that the motivation of the steward-in-the-story was irrelevant to how much help the people received.  They benefited, regardless of whether the steward was trying to benefit them or trying to benefit himself. 

Okay.  That helped.
Now I can get back to paying attention to the rest of the story.

Sunday, October 06, 2013

The Law Within the Heart

Sixteen hymns in our new hymnal by Timothy Dudley-Smith, several mentioning God's sovereignty.  Overall there's not really anything wrong with them, but there are so many richer options.  And I tend to get cranky over the line that says Christ's sacrifice for sin begins "the covenant of grace, the law within the heart."  When the line flies past during a church service, it always strikes me as equating grace and law.

Now, if we understand "the law within the heart" not to be a new law, new rules, new demands, maybe this turn-of-phrase could be okay.  Between Hebrews (10 and 8) and Jeremiah (31), the "law within the heart" appears to be freedom from the written code of the law, the mercy of God poured out on you so that you are made new, and so that you joyfully and freely do what is good and right and of service to the neighbor.

Is that what the hymn indicates?  I don't know.  But this is what I'm trying to convince myself it's saying.

Saturday, October 05, 2013

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

God's Word Is All-Sufficient

Luke 9:13 --
"You give them something to eat."  "We ain't got nuthin'."

But earlier in the chapter, Jesus had sent out the twelve apostles, without money or food or backpack or anything.  The only thing they possessed was His word to preach.  And it was sufficient!  Amazingly, it "worked" to have nothing but God's word.

Not long afterward, they're in the wilderness, faced with people in need, and they told Jesus, "We have nothing to give."

Guys!  Guys!  Of course you have something to give!  You have the Bread of Life.  You have the message of the kingdom of God.  You have forgiveness for sinners.  You have life.  You have God's word. 

We just don't get it.  We believe God's word is sufficient.  Except we don't.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Two Tables

Quick review, in case you don't remember what you learned in confirmation class:  The first three commandments are the First Table of the Law ("you shall love the Lord your God ...") and the rest are the Second Table of the Law ("... and your neighbor as yourself").

You know what?

The Lord's Prayer is kind of like that too.  A "first table" and a "second table."

We pray that God's name is hallowed,
that His kingdom come, and
that His will be done.

That is about doctrine.  And who God is.  And what He does for us.

The rest of the prayer is more about what happens to us here on earth, that He would provide for our temporal needs, and that we be forgiven and rescued from our sinfulness, and that this world and our sinful nature not overwhelm us and destroy faith.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Molly Sweeney

A modern play.  Not the kind we usually go see at APT.  But boy, I'm glad we went. 

Molly Sweeney isn't just a story.  The words were carefully crafted so that's it's almost like poetry in its prose.  It's a story of a blind woman who is given sight at the age of 41, and what it means for her to learn to see.  Because, after all, seeing isn't something our eyes do -- it's something our eyes and brain do together.  And it's the story of how her new sight affects her world.

It's a story that will resonate with homeschoolers and others who watch learning take place.

If you love someone with Asperger's, this story will make you laugh with warm recognition.

It's a story that shows the immense ability of the "disabled."

And it's a story that teaches us about contentment and joy ... and how coveting robs us of joy.

I would love to sit down and read the text of the play again, 
to catch more of what slipped past so quickly during the play.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Using the Same Old Liturgy All the Time

Novelty, simply as such, can have only entertainment value. And [Christians] don’t go to church to be entertained. They go to use the service, or, if you prefer, to enact it. Every service is a structure of acts and words through which we receive a sacrament or repent or supplicate or adore. And it enables us to do these things best (if you like, it "works" best) when, through long familiarity, we don’t have to think about it. As long as you notice, and have to count the steps, you are not yet dancing but only learning to dance. A good shoe is a shoe you don't notice.  Good reading becomes possible when you need not consciously think about eyes, or light, or print, or spelling.  The perfect church service would be one we were almost unaware of; our attention would have been on God.  But every novelty prevents this.   It fixes our attention on the service itself, and thinking about worship is a different thing from worshiping. 

C. S. Lewis
in Letters to Malcolm
(partially quoted in Jan Karon's
A New Song, page 254)

And this would be the explanation for something I find in my own life.  Once I say "we beseech Thee to hear us, good Lord" while the rest are praying "we implore you to hear us, good Lord," ...

or I say "conceived by the Holy Ghost" when y'all say "conceived by the Holy Spirit," ...

or I sing "go before the face of the Lord to prepare His way" while the others sing "go before the Lord to prepare His way," ...

that clash in wording
(or even focusing on the words
so that I am able to say what y'all say)
means I stop praying
and "think about praying."

Today's Laugh

I told a chemistry joke....

There was no reaction.

stolen from Melody

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Computer Fix

I think I fixed it!

Loads of old programs were wiped out and not re-installed.  I even figured out how to delete the back-up file that was space-hogging after I'd re-installed everything.  (Okay, so some of you are shaking your head at the simplicity of this.  Shhh!  I am proud of myself.)  The computer moved a whole lot faster after I ditched everything and put it all back.  But when I got rid of the back-up file (which the computer self-generated) everything moved much faster yet.  Hot diggity dog!

Now I suppose it's time to get back to housecleaning and yard work and homeschooling and all that other Regular-Life stuff.

In other news, the girls are back from a visit to Texas.
Nathan quit his job at Xerox to start a new job editing.
We've been singing unusually good hymns the last few weeks.
Maggie started volunteering at school again, a fabulous experience.

Philip took a brief trip to Canada just for fun.
Brewers game and tailgating with some friends this week.
The strawberry bed has been undone and planted to grass.
Two APT plays so far this year, and two still on the docket.
Olivia went to college (nearby) so Andrew is gone more.
Maggie and I joined Curves so that she can get in shape.
Now that the computer is fixed, maybe we can turn our attention to the water situation next.  It's getting funny how the gals at the grocery store expect to see us every day for water refills.
It's been nice to hear several other adults in the last week or so say that at 9:00 they're getting ready for bed.

Don't Look Back

So this fellow wants to follow Jesus.  But first he wants to say bye to his family.  Jesus says that no one who looks back is fit for the kingdom of God (Luke 9:57-62)

But when Elijah told Elisha to follow him, Elisha wanted to hold off long enough to say bye to his family (1 Kings 19).  And Elijah said, "Go ahead."

That always seemed oddly inconsistent to me.

But recently someone suggested something.  "No one is fit for the kingdom of God."  No one

What if I can be committed enough?

No one.

What if I can be pious enough?

No one.

What if I can love the Lord my God with ALL my heart and all my soul and all my strength and all my mind?

Oh, really?  What if you can? 
Let's see how that goes for you....
(In other words, no one ....)

What we see in Elisha is that God (through Elijah) is patient and giving.  God understands our weakness.  And He forgives it and bears it.  And He chooses us even though we --in ourselves-- are not "fit for the kingdom of God."

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Today's Laugh

Can you tell the difference between a piano, a tuna fish, and a bucket of glue?

you can tune-a piano,
but you can't piano a tuna.

wait, ...

what about the bucket of glue???

I knew you'd get hung up on that!

stolen from a co-worker

Not Willingly

Jeremiah talks about suffering and mercy and the Lord's compassion (Lamentations 3)
Though He causes grief, yet He will show compassion according to the multitude of His mercies.  For He does not afflict willingly.

Paul talks about how we are sons of God, joined to Christ, suffering now but awaiting redemption and glory (Romans 8).  Again we hear about God's unwillingness.
The creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope.

That must be why we call it God's "alien work." He doesn't want to punish, but He will do it if necessary to rescue us.

It's like Paul and Jeremiah are saying and believing the same thing.

Friday, September 20, 2013


Boy, the things you learn in choir....

"Doth" does not rhyme with "moth." It says like "duth," like as if it rhymed with "us" said-by-a-kid-with-a-lisp.

I guess it makes sense: it should sound like "does" except for the zzz.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Being in Love

Elad Nehorai writes that he didn't love his wife when they were married.  It is a most-excellent article about what love IS, and how selfish it is to "be in love," and even touches on Disney movies. 

A couple of quotes:

Marriage started sucking away that emotion.  I tried so hard to keep that fire going, to keep that emotion alight, but it got harder and harder.  I mean, how you can feel that burning love when you're sitting at the table discussing how to use the last $20 in your bank account?

Through giving, through doing things for my wife, the emotion that I had been so desperately seeking naturally came about.  It wasn't something I could force, just something that would come about as a result of my giving.

Megan, thanks for pointing out the article.
Other people, go read it.

Saturday, September 14, 2013


Earlier this summer, we had to change filters on the Culligan water filters.  But after the maintenance, something went wrong.  The line keeps clogging.  We fix it.  The water works for a couple of days.  Then it clogs again.  Right now, we're buying water in town about 5 times a week.

Earlier this summer, I fixed the dryer.  Since then, the machine runs fine, but the exhaust vent keeps detaching from the exhaust hole through the window.  I keep fixing it. 

Last year, after I fixed the old [smaller] refrigerator, the temperature problem returned.  We struggled with puddles of water in the refrigerator for months until I finally fixed it a few weeks ago.  Well, at least, I think I fixed it.  Problems seem to recur around here recently.  I still hold out hope that the fridge is fixed-fixed.

Over the last couple of weeks, my computer has been misbehaving.  So my job-of-the-week has been to carefully transfer files and back up everything, with the plan of wiping the computer clean and reinstalling everything.  That scares me.  But it needs to be fixed.

At my doctor's appointment this week, he diagnosed what's wrong with my wrists.  It's not carpal tunnel after all.  It's arthritis, especially at the base of my thumbs.  That explains the brokenness in my hands.  There's really no good solution for it.  But at least I know what it is and what some of the options are.

All the neighbors have lawn tractors.  We have two push mowers.  The older one died (beyond resuscitation) today.

I'm beginning to think it's time to give up on gardening.  I love the fresh produce.  But the work required doesn't seem to mesh with that whole arthritis-thing.  Or maybe I'm just a wuss.

If you will excuse me, I'm headed back to my Project List Of Repairs.