Tuesday, March 21, 2006

The World Baseball Classic

The WBC is over, and I must admit, I am one of the supposed "pitiful few" that were really interested in it (big surprise!). (40,000 tickets per game once it was past the 1st round is truly uninterested....note the sarcastic tone) Though I think ESPN grossly underexaggerated the number of Americans interested in it....and apparently couldn't get themselves out of their offices and realize that the rest of the baseball-playing world was REALLY excited.

I was rather disappointed in the American team. Not that they lost.....but that they were a reflection of what baseball has become in the U.S. of A. Most were homerun hitters, not terribly known for clever baserunning or superb defense. They were sluggers. Just like the players on our Olympic basketball team were simply dunkers....loners out to do it all for themselves.

Korea on the other hand was loaded with players who had all won Gold Glove titles (awards given to players for superb defense in their position), and every player was a capable hitter as well. Korea was the only team that went undefeated until the semi-finals, where there were beaten by Japan...the 3rd time they played each other (and they royally skunked us, I might add). Korea had NO errors the entire Classic. They stole bases, they hit doubles, they got the bases loaded and moved runners over. They hit a few homers, but it did not dominate their game. The United States, on the other hand, left players on base repeatedly because every player that came to the plate seemed to be swinging for the fences. When we did win (and we lost three times), we won usually by 1-2 runs (South Africa being the exception...poor South Africa). Korea was an example of just about every other team that made it into the semi-finals besides us. We made it because even though we were one dimensional, we were also very good at that one dimension, when it counted....at least until the semi-finals.

All the same, I am excited by what it showed. The United States didn't have to win to inspire pride in my American heart. Last night I saw a reference that at the start of the WBC, there were 178 Major Leaguers. At the end, there were 2, both on Japan's team. That to me shows even more greatly how baseball is America's game. It is a reflection of American culture. When Jackie Robinson was signed by the Dodgers (my team!), it sparked a discussion and a change in American society...it also reflected the change that was already occurring. Now, when you look at your typical Major League team, you will see players from the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Mexico, Korea, Japan, Chinese Tai Pei, Canada, Australia, Curacao (Dutch colony), even Italy....and other places too, as well as those born here in the United States of every race and creed. It reflects what is beautiful about the United States...that the melting pot is still here....and that at the end of that baseball season, the term "World Series" is not a misnomer....because the world comes here to play, thrive, work, and win.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

We Knew Thee Only Briefly.....

Most people looked at her and said "what is that?" "She's a short haired collie." we would reply. "Never seen one of them before." was the general response. No...two years ago, neither had we. But thanks to our good friends Christie and Pat, who breed collies, we were blessed with Arwen for a wonderful year and 1/2.

When we were first introduced, I thought she was the most beautiful one in her huge litter. I couldn't believe how gorgeous she was. Christy complained that she was also a budding escape artist. . She grew up slender, wiry, and clever- almost looking more like a greyhound than a collie (I had actually been wanting a greyhound...but fell in love with Arwen). By the time she was eight weeks, her ears were almost the same size as her head and gracefully, alertly pointy. Despite the fact that we were already going to name her Hazel, after my adopted grandma who loved collies, those ears emphatically exclaimed that she could only be named after an elfen princess.
Yesterday, that clever girl was too smart for her own good. She figured out how to open the gate and she ran down the busy street in front of
our house with greyhound-like speed, undoubtedly, and was hit by a car about a 1/2 mile away. Today the kids are teary. Today our old border collie, Sophie, lays by Arwen's bed, looking at me sadly. Today, a part of our life is emptier. Goodbye dear, sweet girl.

Monday, March 13, 2006

The Lutheran Carnival is up over at Be Strong in the Grace! Check it out!

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

The Confessional Consumer (The Consumer Confessional?)
(wow...I got an Aardie !!!)
My husband's first call was to a very small congregation in the middle of Pasadena, CA. It was a beautiful, mission-style church with a real bell that had been used as a means of summoning in the hands from the orange groves that Pasadena used to be....before it was put in our church tower 75 years before. There were 30 people in the congregation, entirely over the age of 50. Most of them older.

The people were wonderful, only possessing most of the same sins that most congregations possess. They told my husband when he was called that they figured they had five years to give it a go before they would have to close the doors. They had been a very liberal congregation. They also had a reputation even beyond the immediate area as being "the congregation that always fought." They were beyond that now. There had been a split, and then four years of refused calls, a colloquy vicar, and a worker priest....the poor people that were left were the ones who didn't want to fight. They were the ones who loved that congregation, who'd seen their kids grow up there, were disappointed that their children chose not to remain, and would do just about anything to make anyone happy in order to keep the peace. They also liked being together. The only area they were truly organized in was making sure that there were greeters at the door, coffee and snacks after church, and potlucks or sandwich luncheons all the time!

My husband came in and lovingly taught them, immediately got rid of lay-readers, brought order to their worship, and began the practice of closed communion. Not yet strong in any confessional identity, it was not even worth the battle to try to replace the green hymnals with the blue they'd already rejected, so my husband replaced any theologically improper parts of the liturgy with the wording from LW and printed it in the bulletin, making it in essence, LW with a slightly different musical arrangement.

We also hoped, prayed, held parties, did door-to-door evangelism, structured a Sunday School, etc. in order to be ready for families who might come.

And they did come. And they left. Confessional families came, looking for God's Word preached in its truth, and for the right use of the Sacraments.....and they walked away because there "were no kids," "no people my age," "ew, LBW."

Too often, Lutherans would come through the door, and we could tell "we are being auditioned." They didn't want just a confessional congregation. They wanted all the bells and whistles, too. There were often months where if one of these families had chosen to attend for a month, one or two other families would come the next week, and another family the next....and the concerns that they had regarding "proper social interaction" would've been fortuitously resolved. The very same people that were criticizing their own congregations for starting "small groups" or "contemporary worship" looked down on our congregation, not because Christ wasn't there, not because they wouldn't hear the Law and Gospel preached properly, not because they wouldn't be fed through the Word and Sacraments......we just didn't have the right social atmosphere. What's more, they wanted exactly what they wanted...and they wanted it now. If they didn't get it, they were going somewhere else. And they could find it, if they were willing to drive 25, 40, or 50 miles further. Forgetting Christ's admonition that "where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am also", they could still gripe about how you just couldn't easily find a good confessional church in L.A. without a long drive.

Some would stay longer...maybe even a few months before some aspect of our church that had absolutely nothing to do with our theology or practice got in their craw and they started their search again. There was a small population of "confessional nomads" that wandered from church to church, never being able to find "the perfect one."

In the privacy of our living room, we called them the "confessional consumers." They were looking for just the right thing, expecting to find it, and ready to "buy into it" when they did...but they rarely did. Confessional pastors would compare notes with each other when they had to process the membership transfers. You can't even say it was because we weren't friendly enough. We were (and we did try not to appear desperate, really). In fact, often these very people were the ones who dashed off after the service, didn't have time for the potlucks, and complained about how much work being the coffee host was. There was no understanding of the "Communion of the Saints" as Luther described it - not only are we communing with the saints in Heaven, but also we are communing with our brethren beside us. Their problems become our problems...their joys become our joys. No, these people were completely isolated in their pews.

They had no idea the hope they brought to the others when they arrived, and no idea how many hearts they broke when they left.

Often the concern was for their children. They weren't getting much social interaction (as if they didn't get that every day, and as if the only valuable social interaction were from people exactly the same age.). They would be willing to subject their children to long drives to find the right church (or even figure it was better to not go at all), but they were not willing to teach them how important it was to stay when one is found where they could find the Means of Grace....and to work to develop all the things that strengthen the Body...the things that laymen are needed for: raising funds for better hymnals, teaching Sunday School, leading youth groups, bringing a new dish to the potluck, serving on a board so that the guy who is serving in three positions can relax just a little, backing up the pastor in the voters meetings, and being a body in the pew so that when others come, they don't go through the same dilemma they faced and being there to lift up other brothers in Christ who have been working so hard.

Now of course, God is the one who cares for His church, and some of the faces in that congregation are different than the ones that were there 9 years ago. Knowing the precious gift we had, and the fact that so many people were looking for just that, we'd hoped to thrive and fill the pews, knowing even then that numbers themselves weren't important. My husband kept focused on feeding his flock, and some incredibly special people came in and served with all their heart. God has blessed them. Numbers aren't important, but they have grown, in quantity and quality. The five year deadline came and went, and God provided for the continued survival of that congregation (never, never underestimate the importance of the endowment fund!). After seven years, my husband received another call, and they were surprised and blessed with the means to call another pastor....and they continue to be blessed in ways that we never could've anticipated. Thank God that it doesn't all rest on the "confessional consumers." Thank God that in reality, it rests only on the shoulders of Jesus Christ...and not on you or me either.

Friday, March 03, 2006

"The Derby Track's One Foundation"

Wow....sometimes its hard to believe that it is Chris's fourth year in Scouts. It still seems like yesterday that he so small and cute in his little orange Tiger Scout shirt. Now he's a Webelo.

Just so you know, we're not a rabid Scout family. My husband has had enough experience running into ill-equipped Scouts in the Sierra Nevadas to completely trust them implicitly with our children, but we've managed to find really good, small packs where the parents are welcome and everyone is pretty laid back.

Last year, we joined a pack that was forming in Auburn, since the one that Chris was in here in Garrett started meeting on Wednesdays (this would completely rule out any involvement for my husband, since confirmation classes are that night, and with midweek Advent and Lent services, it would rule out any involvement for Chris for 3 months of the year.) It has grown from just a few kids to about 20, though there are only 2 kids in his Webelos den....and I think Chris really loves it that way.
This year, the pack got their own Pinewood Derby track. It was built by our Scoutmaster's husband. I doubt that it was the first one he's built, but there were a few kinks to work out, as can be expected on a virgin trac
k. The main one was we needed a little more support....... so my darling husband scouted around the church for a solution. Lest any of you be shocked,the other option was Bibles, and he just couldn't bring himself to do that.

We are also very proud of Chris....he took first place. He worked very hard. And even though that means that we have to rush over from church to get to the district competition (I thought Scouts were supposed to be Christian...what in the heck are they thinking having sign in at 11 a.m. on SUNDAY????)

what I am currently doing: Watching a Dodger game!!!!

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

What Muppet Am I?

Okay, this one was a hard one, because I did start out as Statler/Waldorf, and then I got Dr. Bunson Honeydew...Puhleeze!!! But third time is a charm, and I think they got it right this time!

rowlf jpeg

You are Rowlf.You are a loner, and love classical music, You can
play the piano without opposable thumbs.
Then again, you are just a Muppet.
ALSO KNOWN AS:Ol' Brown EarsHOBBIES:Piano playing, punning, fetching.
QUOTE:"My bark is worse than my bite, and my piano
playing beats 'em both."
FAVORITE MOVIE:"The Dogfather"
FAVORITE SONG:"I've Never Harmed An Onion, So Why Should
They Make Me Cry?"

What Muppet are you?
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I tag Cynthia, Polly, and Jane.....and my beloved husband

P.S. Does anyone know how to get the sheet music for "I've Never Harmed an Onion?" I really do love that song.