Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Love Your Enemies

At times, as a pastor's wife, it can seem like the congregation is against you. Often, this is not the case, but it can seem it. It can seem like people are unfairly criticizing your kids, assaulting your husband, judging your life...the list goes on and on.

Sometimes it is the case. So what do you do? Often, you can't fight back. It only makes it worse, makes your husband look bad, and is often sinning.

In either case, you love them.

It's hard to do. It really is hard to do, and I know there are times that my soul fights against it. So I the end, that is the final solution. I pray. I pray that God changes my heart so that I can love my husband's flock, and those with whom I am part of the Body of Christ. I pray that he makes the situation better and that He brings peace when there is a situation. I pray for strength.

But most of all, I pray for them. Each and every one of them as many as I can. I've found that in both congregations that my husband has served, my heart and the situations have changed drastically when I remember to do this.

One thing I love about how we do Communion, is that everyone goes up to the Communion rail, it fills up, and then everyone kneels and takes Communion. Then, the next table goes up. We don't do it "assembly line style" or pass the elements down the pews. So as everyone goes up and kneels before the altar, I pray for them. If I know something about their life situation, I pray for that, if I don't, I pray that God blesses them. If they are one of the ones whom I find difficult, I pray about that and pray that God heals the situation and eases their pain. If I don't remember their names, I pray for them anyway. If I see them kneel as if they ache, I pray for their health. If they are widowed, I pray that they are not lonely. etc.

In my own heart, my anxiety softens. Over time, and really not too long a time, I've seen things become better, or at very least, easier. Even if it doesn't seem like the other person's relationship toward me improves (and often it does), my heart has more peace.

It helps, it really does.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Via con Dios...Year of the Sock

When I arrived in Indiana, my housewarming present from my yarn pusher, er my good friend Cynthia was a battered Yankee trash can that sent my blood running cold....and a beautiful little basket with some needles and a ball of brightly (and I mean brightly) colored sock yarn inside. She meant to turn me into a knitter.

For the first two years, she asked me "How are those socks coming?" and I'd answer "How in the world do you expect me to knit when I constantly have kids in my lap??!!"

She'd patiently respond "Ya know, pointy sticks can solve that."

But, in the Autumn of 2005, it all of a sudden seemed like my lap wasn't quite as busy, or that my daughter's destructive tendencies mellowed and her meanderings seemed to be guided less by impulse, and I could actually sit and occasionally even do something, so once I got rid of that nervous twitch I'd developed when she learned to walk....I took up those 5 little needles with about 3 rows on them and started to knit. It was peaceful. And like any good knitter, about 20 rows into a project, I saw another pattern which would make a great Christmas present.....dress socks for my husband! He'd never been happy with store-bought and had even had the gall curiosity to ask Cynthia if she'd be open to knitting him some. So I bought more wool, smaller needles (???) and sat aside the pair I was doing for myself and began knitting a wonderful, delightful Christmas present for him.

I swear that I checked the gauge! But the first sock seemed a little big...but that is what he got for Christmas. One sock....with a promise to have the other done by Epiphany.

"Do you have enough wool?" he asked.
"Yes, definitely. More than enough." I replied.
"Because this sock is really cozy, but it seems a little big." he tentatively stated.

I'm sure there was a flash of fury in my eyes, before my heart sank. "Ungrateful wretch" I thought. "I can correct that" I stated, and cast on the next sock... but in the process, I saw some really nice cotton yarn that would make beautiful socks for my baby goddaughter....and her sister...can't leave her out. And they were cute socks...but I was making it up as I went along, and neither pair fit....maybe someday I'll actually measure their feet and try again....

So sock #1, attempt #2 was finished on Valentines Day, and boy I needed a break from that pattern. It is NOT fair!!!! It is hard enough to finish a 2nd sock because you feel finished after the first. Now I have to do sock #3??????

So I went back to my patiently waiting multicolored yarn for me. I'd finished sock #1, and so now I started sock #2. Oh, LIFE IS CRUEL. My knitting ability had improved so much on all these dysfunctional socks that the stitches were so different the 2nd sock made sock #1 look like it was done by a nearsighted four year old. My sock pusher did not say a thing, bless her cursed soul, but then she affirmed that it was exactly what she would've done, when I ripped all the stitches from sock #1 in order to start over.

Oh but they were warm and cozy. Amazing. That is them on the right. The yarn is called "Vegas Lights" and it does remind me of the neon lights of home, and the dreaded gaudy carpet color-scheme in every casino on the Strip. Not usually my style, but you'll have to rip them off my cold, dead feet.

But, with the victory of a real PAIR of socks behind me, I rushed to cast on the 2nd sock (lets be was the 3rd) of Jeff's and finished by his birthday....a final journey of 8 months. And everyone wants wool socks in July, right?

I breathed a sigh of relief and was ready to give the pattern back to my friend, when my beautiful angel of a son piped up "I would love to have a pair of socks just like Dad's." Sadistic brat, how could you hate your mother so???? "What a beautiful want to be just like Dad" I thought, and with the seemingly endless supply of Blackberry Ridge charcoal DK (which while it is supposed to match black, also has a troubling brownish tinge to it), I cast on 46 stitches (by our computations, completely correct, since his dad needed 64), and then I started on the ribbing.

My son's sleep is more akin to a coma or a deeply vegetative once he was asleep, I pulled his foot over the side of his bunk and tried to get the 2 inches of sock on his wouldn't get past his toes. I stretched, I shoved, I no avail. But I did break one of the size one needles that the sock was on...."drat, the kid broke my needle! Now I'm down to 3. I'll have to buy some more." So I gave up on the idea of trying to knit something in my house as a secret, and had him try on the one where I cast on 56 stitches. "It's a bit tight" the little infidel stated. 60. Here we go.

The only problem I encountered after this point was that the infinite ball of charcoal yarn did eventually run out, but happily, I had hubby sock monstrosity #1 to rip and then there once again was plenty. Both father and son have matching pairs of socks (with the exception of a different color toe on Chris's, so they end up in the right drawer). Now I'm just waiting for someone to thoughtlessly throw them in the dryer and rip out my heart.

I also knit three washcloths, three scarves, and started a couple of projects for me during this first year of knitting, and I am happily, addicted. But I doubt there will be another year so completely and tortuously dominated by socks.....Thank God. I blame that danged Yankee trash can.

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Saturday, January 20, 2007

Wow...How Did They Know????

My Fortune Cookie told me:
Your doctor is looking unsteady because he has been hitting the gin.
Get a cookie from Miss Fortune

Alas, Tis True.....

My Peculiar Aristocratic Title is:
Her Most Serene Highness Lady Lora the Perplexed of Helions Bumpstead
Get your Peculiar Aristocratic Title

Thursday, January 18, 2007

One Story of a Post-Confirmation Missing Person

Many pastors find that when they come to a new congregation and start looking through "the books" (you know, the ones that list whose been baptized, confirmed, transferred in and out) that there is often a long list of names under "confirmed" that he hasn't met. This list gets longer and longer as he looks back class by class, generation by generation. No "transferred," no "withdrawn," nada. If he feels a little "Sherlock Holmes-ish" he could take a look at the communion records and realize that most of these kids disappeared shortly after they were confirmed. Their parents may still be in the pews, their grandparents most probably are.....but these kids, who could be in their teens, twenties, or thirties, are just gone.

The people in the pews are not oblivious to this either, whether they say so or not. The few remaining people who grew up in the church in the last 30-40 years know that their childhood friends are not there. No one generally knows why.

All I can offer is my experience, because I am one of those people whose names sat empty in the church roster for quite a while. I ended up coming back to the LCMS (by the most effective evangelism technique, I fell in love), most don't.

My parents were probably very typical LCMS members when I was little. They went to church, they bowled in the league, my sister was active in the youth group. When I came along, I was quickly brought to baptism, and though I don't remember if it was from my confirmation-age siblings, my parents, or simple absorption; there really wasn't a time where I didn't know the Lord's Prayer or the Apostles Creed. I have stories told of how my mom fretted about my attending a Jewish preschool, but it was never a question that I would be going to the Lutheran grade school my brother and sister had attended.

Other than in church, I don't remember ever praying with my parents. I do know I knew my Bible stories pretty early, but I don't remember from whom. My brother and sister were likely sources as well. At about the time I entered school, we moved onto the outskirts of town and started building a house, and church attendance went by the wayside. My brother, having complete confirmation, already was exempted from church attendance. He'd met his obligation. Just about the only time I was in church from that time forward was when my class was singing a song on Sunday. I didn't read Bible stories on my parents' laps, I didn't pray with them, God's word was not brought in to teach or discipline. The school had that responsibility now.

Every once in a while, my mom would get it in her head that I needed to go to Sunday School, and so for a period of a month or so she would force me out of bed, drive me across town, drop me off, pick me up when it was over, get lunch, and drive me home. The Sunday School curriculum was levels below what we were learning in school, so I was bored stiff. My mom said "I agreed when I signed you up for school that you would go to church and Sunday School, so you're going." She never saw that this agreement wasn't meant to be legalistic, but was meant to foster the unity of the entire family in worship of Christ. My parents never saw that the intention was that the parents needed to be fed too and that the family needed to worship together. They'd been there, done that. I supposedly would get more out of out of Sunday School than church(and for the life of me, I don't know why she thought this was the most important, other than it required less of her), but she didn't see what I did....that it was unfair to expect me to go to Sunday School while maintaining that she didn't need to go to Bible Study. She also didn't seethat it was embarassing to show up after not being made to go for so long, to have a book that was half empty 3/4 of the way through the year, and how isolating it was that when all my friends were being met by their parents to go to church, I was walking to the car where my mom sat in her Sunday sweats.) Maybe this part seems a little dramatic or uncommon. But I see kids in our congregation today waiting after Sunday School for their rides while the rest of us are shuffling into church.

Despite the fact that it wasn't happening at home, my faith was being fed at school, and if there is anything good I can say about the school I grew up in...they were VERY good at teaching the Sacraments. I understood from an early age what happened at baptism, and I truly believed by 2nd or 3rd grade that the very body and blood of Christ were there in with and under the bread and the wine. I knew it was for the forgiveness of sins, and I knew I could not have it until I'd completed confirmation class, many years from that point.

By the time it came time for me to take confirmation, though, I'd learned a great many things. For instance, that while I would be required to go through two more years of classes on Tuesday after school in order that I learn what I had already known for years.....the adults who had never been exposed to the faith would only have to go through six weeks of classes and would not have even close to the depth of knowledge that I had. And for the life of me, I didn't see why something that was supposedly so important for my spiritual well being, namely the blessings received through receiving Holy Communion, only magically became important to my soul when I finished the 8th grade. I didn't buy that. In the end, the process itself destroyed my faith. I didn't want it. I resented it. I told the pastor that, too. I told my parents. In the end, while the pastor told me I shouldn't take vow before God if I didn't believe it, he didn't take it upon himself to address this with my parents. He already had experienced that my parents view was that if I didn't pass the class, I could go through it again. In my heart, I questioned his integrity, my parents' integrity, and because I did acquiesce, my own integrity. For good reason, too. I don't even believe I went to church once, other than when I acolyted, during that whole two years of confirmation. Even the pastor treated it like an assembly-line operation.

Before you say "you're being a little harsh on your parents" I don't think my parents were abnormal in this area. Ask your Lutheran school teacher how many parents rely on the school or the Sunday School as the main place where their children learn their faith. How many of the families are regular church goers? I'd bet not many. The fact of the matter is children learn their faith from their parents and whether the parents hand this off to the school or the sunday school, in the end, the children are still looking to the parents to gauge "how important is this, really?"

I have a friend who was a Sunday School Superintendent at a big confessional congregation. After many years, she just gave up because most of the kids came from their day school and she recognized the Sunday School materials were at best completely redundant and at worst, years below them....and when she got the contact cards back from the know "where can we reach you in case of an emergency?" the answer wasn't generally "Bible Study" it was "Denny's." No wonder the kids resented being there. I'd rather have pancakes, too!

I do lay the responsibility of this on my parents, because the Bible clearly does. I also forgive them and love them. Today, they still struggle with the place God should have in their lives, and they come to our church when they visit, and we argue about whether closed communion is a good thing, and they have no clue that the very issues we argue about, I learned at the feet of the very teachers they trusted to teach me what they supposedly thought was important. I learned about closed communion at a Lutheran school (and in that confirmation class) because it is a strongly held Lutheran belief. They don't know this, because their learning ended pretty much after their 6 week class. But it was on the pew cards that they filled out every week for several years. They just don't remember.

Pastoral care and guidance did not happen for them, or for me. After noticing that they had not communed or attended in years, the pastor or elders did not check up on them. After constantly hearing me answer "no" to Sunday school/church attendance every Monday, my teachers didn't contact my parents and emphasize how important this was to our family...if they did, the true importance was never specified. I don't think my parents will ever realize how much of a difference it might have made had it been clear that their faith was important to them, and that is why they wanted me to grow in my faith also.

However, I do lay this at the church, too. We have a first communion policy that is in no way Biblical. It is based on a belief that is not Lutheran --that the faith that is required to receive Holy Communion involves a strong, intellectual understanding of what is happening at the altar, and in every major doctrine of the LCMS.

The Bible and the Confessions do not teach that there is something special about the end of 8th grade. Luther himself encouraged us to get children to the table as early as possible. He suggested that all believers should know their Ten Commandments, Lord's Prayer, Apostle's Creed, and the Words of know that we receive the Body and Blood of Christ for the forgiveness of sins when we eat of it. Most children can have all of these known before they are grade school age if they are going to church and if their parents take five minutes a day to go over the Catechism with them. The rest, the understanding of the nuances, we grow into, and children have faith in the real presence with less hindrance than we as adults do. The senseless waiting frustrated my faith and led me to trivialize its importance and come to despise it.

Waiting essentially until puberty was not how it was done in Reformation times. The focus on intellectual knowledge started in the pietism and rationalism eras of the Great Enlightenment. For some reason, we confessionals reject most ideas of theology that came out of that era, but we still cling to this. Children should be coming to the table when they've been examined by the pastor and are determined to be ready. Teachers and most especially parents should be on the look-out for when this might be in each individual. Parents should be taking on their God-given responsibility to teach their children the faith from infancy to their own grave. The responsibility to teach our children, to pray for them, and to take them to church, does not end when they are confirmed. They need to teach them God's forgiveness and God's will from Scripture and the Catechism. They need to pray for them and with them. They need to show on a daily basis through discussion and correction how God's will guides us in daily life. If they are only getting this once a week in Sunday School and church, they very well might miss it. In most children's lives, it is completely absent the other six days of the week.

It is not all a waste. I came back to the Lutheran church because, as I mentioned, my school did a good job teaching the Sacraments. I spent years wandering though, experimenting with various sins, embracing the world's values. Then the Holy Spirit succeeded in bringing me back, but I refused to go back to the church where I grew up. I went to non-denominationals and Baptists instead. I got a firm grounding in the daily routine of the Christian life. I was taught to set time to read my Bible each day and to pray, to look at my daily life through the eyes of faith --something I didn't get when I was raised Lutheran (though Luther highly valued such training). I only returned because I was in love with a Lutheran seminarian and I realized that I should not continue in that unless I could come to peace with that my history.

In the end, though, I could never have married him if I really hadn't been Lutheran at heart. I'd never allowed myself to take communion at a non-Lutheran church because I knew every other church I attended denied the real presence. I had struggled with rebaptism because, while I resented that my parents took that step of faith for me (as if they didn't have the right!), I still believed my baptism was real, even if I wasn't immersed...even though I was 3 weeks old. I found that because of this, there really was only one place I could be.

If the parents are not showing through their own lives that their faith is important, the children, especially jr, high-aged children are going to see the whole confirmation process as a series of hoops to jump through, and they are going to be frustrated. When fathers and mothers raise their children in the faith throughout the week as well as in how they treat Sundays, they learn that it truly is important and precious. The church needs to support and encourage the parents in this and also hold them accountable to the vows they took at their child's baptism. What the church does not need to do is supplant the parents by taking over their responsibility to teach their children the essentials of the faith. This it has done, and it has not worked.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

My Apologies to the blog rolls

You might notice that the blog rolls are gone. I was toying with my template, and accidentally erased them. I am working on getting them back. I miss them terribly!!! I thought that what I was doing only jeopardized the template itself, and not the content of the side bar....silly, me! I will once again be a productive member of said societies very soon.

Of Faith and Mortal Sins

This week has been an interesting journey for me, theologically. Last week, I made a statement in a post on a Lutheran email list about how we are in an age where many people can and do get up out of the beds on Sunday mornings that they share with someone that they are not married to, go to church, and not even be aware that God does not hear their prayers.

This set off quite a controversy, as occasionally can happen on this list, though not a hostile one (fortunately, we are blessed in that hostile discussions rarely happen. There are lists where I wouldn't dare to type a word for fear of attack). It really surprised me that this is what jumped out and caught people's attention, because it was only a sentence or two in a discussion about the third use of the law. What really surprised me was how strong the response was of "How can we say God doesn't hear their prayers? I sin constantly, even repeated sins. If this is the case, how do I know that God hears my prayers?"

As Lutherans, we are diligently taught that one sin is not worse than another. This is true. All sins are a result of our sinful state and all merit death without Christ as our Savior. Yet we can fall away, and we can be in a state of impenitence. I knew I'd read that God doesn't hear the prayers of the impenitent. So I went to the Bible and found these verses:

John 9:31 -"We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does His will, God listens to Him.

Psalm 34:15-16"The face of the Lord is against those who do evil, to cut off the memory of them from the earth. When the righteous cry for help, the Lord hears and delivers them out of all their troubles.

"Psalm 66:18"If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.

"Proverbs 15:29"The Lord is far from the wicked, but He hears the prayer of the righteous."

and there are others.

I also found this in the Smalcald Articles from Luther:

It is therefore necessary to know and to teach when holy people, aside from the fact that they still possess and feel original sin and daily repent and strive against it, fall into open sin (as when David fell into adultery, murder, and blasphemy), faith and the Spirit have departed from them. This is so because the Holy Spirit does not permit sin to rule and gain the upper hand in such a way that sin is committed, but the Holy Spirit represses and restrains it so that it does not do what it wishes. If sin does what it wishes, the Holy Spirit and faith are not present, for St. John said "No one born of sin does commits sin." Yet it is also true, as the same St. John writes, "If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us."

Open sin. It still did not make a difference, in fact, some continued saying "we cannot say that they have no faith" and others seemed to be more panicky about "how do I know that I am not in that state over some other sins of mine?" Someone pointed out someone who habitually says "God damn" not meaning to damn anyone, but a regular part of their vernacular. While I could clearly understand myself while all sin is rebellion against God, that there were some sinful states, such as choosing a career as a thief, that refused to put any trust in God to provide for our needs, that utterly reject God's law and guidance in their lives....being able to find the words that express it clearly seemed to be outside of the vocabulary I was given as a Lutheran. Even the last part of Luther's statement didn't help to clarify what protection our faith gives within the context of these verses. Does God consider us to be the sinners that are mentioned in in these verses, or even though we sin, are we covered by our baptism into Christ's death and resurrection, and where would that place people who believe but are living in open sin? How is this sin different from the ones that I commit and struggle with every day? I didn't want to continue any further, because I didn't want to say anything that would cause more distress until I was on a surer footing.

I went to the "Apology of the Augsburg Confession" in The Book of Concord and swam around in Article IV, Justification (wow..I highly recommend reading this...really reading it. It's beautiful. I've perused it before, but not like this). Several times, I found a phrases like this:

"But we are talking about a faith that is not an idle thought, but frees us from death, brings forth a new life in our hearts, and is the work of the Holy Spirit. Therefore this cannot exist with mortal sin, but whenever it appears, it brings forth good fruits...."

First of all, one thing is clear from the start it all out, we need to define the word "faith." Because it is clear that are people who are engaged in living together, who get abortions, who steal or worse for a living (lest you think I am focusing on sexual sins), who think they have faith. We think they have faith. But the Apology is very clear that there is a difference between knowledge of God or even of Christ and His death and resurrection, and true faith. As the Bible and the Confessions so aptly point out, even Satan himself believes that Christ rose from the dead.

"Paul clearly shows that faith does not simply mean historical knowledge, but is a firm acceptance of the promise," Melancthon writes. Faith is active, grasping, reaching, clinging to Christ. Faith is brought about through the Holy Spirit and after the terror that results from being condemned by the Law, it clings to Christ in penitence. After that, the Holy Spirit creates us anew; He regenerates us, and new impulses toward good arise. Good works must follow, as Scripture tells us and the Augsburg Confession states. If they do not, and if a person continues to unite themselves willfully to open sin, or enters into that state, their faith is dead. But as Christians, we believe that dead does not mean without hope, as in the case of the Prodigal Son, and so continue to hope for their repentance and return as long as their heart is pumping blood through their bodies.

But back to that quote I mentioned above. If I had only seen it once in the Apology, it might have escaped my notice. But repeatedly I saw the phrase that faith cannot exist with mortal sin. "Wait a minute," I thought. "All sins are rebellion against God. He can't mean the Catholic tendency to divide sins up into trivial sins, serious sins, etc. Eating the fruit off the tree which God commanded Adam and Eve not to touch as warranted the condemation of mankind as surely as mass murder does! " But he said it over and over again, and since he was talking to Catholics (and since, while written solely by Phillip Melancthon, it was signed by many theologians who affirmed it, and our church body holds it up as a true reflection of Biblical beliefs), and there is no refutation of our belief in this classification at the same time, I decided to look it up, so I Googled it.

St. gave a clear definition here, along with a list of what the Catholics consider to be mortal sins (note: these seem to vary depending on who says):

Mortal sins destroy the grace of God in the heart of the sinner. By their very grave nature, a mortal sin cuts our relationship off from God and turns man away from his creator. St. Paul’s letter to the Hebrews tell us that "if we sin willfully after having the knowledge of the truth, there is now left no sacrifice for sins" (Hebrews 10:26)

It also said:

In order for a sin to be mortal sin, it must meet three conditions:

  1. Mortal sin is a sin of grave matter
  2. Mortal sin is committed with full knowledge of the sinner
  3. Mortal sin is committed with deliberate consent of the sinner

Now that's what I was getting at. Too bad we don't believe in it......but yet, its right there in the Apology, repeatedly. So my husband suggested that I look up sin in A Summary of Christian Doctrine by Edward W.A. Koehler, which is a standard text on systematics that is used in Lutheran colleges - its kind of a summary of Pieper's Dogmatics, written for the common man to understand, and is considered a reliable classic in LCMS circles. Bam! Pages 71-72 "Classifications of Sin."

(f) Venial sins are sins of weakness; they are limited to believers, and do not kill faith, because they are not done intentionally. In themselves they are real sins and are worthy of death, but through faith Christians have forgiveness for them. Mortal sins are such as kill faith, and drive the Holy Spirit from the heart, because no man can sin wilfully and intentionally and at the same time believe in Christ for the forgiveness of sins.

So, really, there are two issues here. Defining faith as something that is active, not just an acknowledgement of Christ, and an awareness that there are (and we confess) willful sins that we can enter into that kill faith and drive the Holy Spirit from the heart causing God to depart from us until we come to repentance.

I like what Koehler says about faith:

"Merely to accept facts and statements as true is not faith. But if
these facts and statements mean something to us personally, if we feel sure that they will help and benefit us, and if we trust in them for such help, then we believe in them; then we have faith....Faith therefore is an emotional attitude of the heart plus an act of the will (emphases mine)."

So with this example, a person who is living with someone else is not trusting in God to provide for her guidance in what a godly relationship should be, to provide for her wellbeing, even to provide for her physical welfare. She is taking the guidance for action in her own hands, and wilfully not loving God, not loving her neighbor (her parents - even if they don't God's commands is what honors our parents; those that she attests to that she is a Christian, those that she worships with, and definitely, she is not showing love to the person that she is uniting herself with by not loving them enough to insist upon a Godly union, leading him down the path of eventual damnation with her. The kind of love that she feels toward him is not true love, a love that wants what is only good and right for the beloved, but in previous days would still be called what it is, lust.) Obviously, you can switch the gender of the pronouns here.

Now I want this to be understood, just because the Holy Spirit leaves our heart doesn't mean He gives up on us. If we were to enter into such a sinful state, He would still work on us and call us to repentance, and I don't think any of us can deny the existence of those who have committed many a mortal sin who return to the fold. The Parable of the Prodigal Son itself shows us this, as well as the entire Old Testament history of the children of Israel. the Death of Faith has a strong sense of finality, but as Christians, we don't believe that death has to be final, though it is certainly woefully serious and grievous.

And I am not trying to be legalistic either, going around classifying sins. To the contrary, I was wondering why, as Lutherans, we don't talk about this more in these terms? I only have heard them in regard to discussing the Catholic view of making penance for different degrees of sin, and that, we clearly reject.

The panic and alarm that was shown in this discussion on the email list was very real. The questions regarding our own sinfulness caused palatable distress. Reading this, having words for it, brought comfort to me to have an answer to all my questions, "Why don't my own sins put me in a state of separation from God? Have I done enough to warrant this? Doesn't this seem rather arbitrary? How is it different to be sleeping with someone, or to have bad thoughts or to have sworn when someone cut me off, or to struggle with the feelings that I sometimes have toward being a pastor's wife, or to flake off on days that I know that I should be diligently working with my kids on their lessons (and far worse)??" Hopefully, it will help some of the others that had these questions, too.

I know that there was a time in my life where I can now clearly say "I had no faith." I knew God, I believed in the resurrection of Christ, yet it made no difference to me in my life and in my choices, and I found God to be an angry God, and I was angry with Him. In fact, I can see two periods where I was clearly separated from God, even for my first few years as the wife of a pastor. Yet the Holy Spirit kept working on me and He brought me back to repentance and a life of faith.

And on the flip side, what is also comforting is that for the majority of us, as Christians, the majority of sins that we deal with are not sins that put us in this position, which is where this discussion went. We also take comfort in the fact that when we are faced with such temptation we are given the strength by the Holy Spirit to handle it. We have His protection. Sure, there are some venial sins (wow, that doesn't feel right) that can become mortal sins if we let them take control (i.e. yelling at our kids, rather than being an occasional situation, becomes an attitude and habit of abuse), but again, we live a life of repentance that is the life of the Christian, continually receiving God's forgiveness and His strengthening and protection. He will work to convict us of our sin, call us to repentance, and will give us the strength to endure and conquer...and He has died for all sin so that it does not separate us from God...our faith reaches out and grasps that assurance.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Quote of the Day

Apparently, you can take the girl out of California, but you cannot take the California out of the girl...

Maggie was just playing with a toy xylophone with wheels. She made it go pretty fast and skid sideways....then I heard her exclaim:
"That's cool! Dude!"

Sunday, January 07, 2007

And May the Frozen Foods Be With You

Just started watching this on YouTube.....Such a hoot

"Chad Vader, Day Shift Manager" (oh yeah, language warning)

League of Pastor's Wives

It took me a long time to post (because it hit me during my period of unblogging)....but check out the "League of Pastor's Wives", a fairly new blogroll that is listed on the sidebar!

Jesus Loves Me This I Know...For This Quiz Tells Me So

Interesting quiz that I got from Pastor Hansen's blog....though it is mostly historical, political, and information based. It's not terribly theological.

You are 93% Lutheran! This is most certainly true.

Nicely done! Martin would be proud of you! You may or may not have room for growth in understanding Lutheran terminology and culture. Good thing Salvation is by Grace and not by merit. We can add nothing to what God has done for us in Christ Jesus. But it never hurts to learn a little more about the church on earth. Thanks for taking the quiz!

How Lutheran Are You?
Create a Quiz

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Art as Imitation

When I was in college, I minored in Child Development. Repeatedly, it was emphasized how important it was not to "model" art for a child, i.e. make an example for them to follow when teaching an art project. It was stated over and over again that a stick figure person did not occur in the natural artistic development of a preschooler....they learned it from a grown-up. Instead, a child would naturally go from an egg shaped face with arms and legs, to a head developing on top of that, into finally drawing a body. Coloring books, too, supposedly taught children what characters were supposed to look like, and gives them unrealistic expectations and makes them feel bad about their abilities. Children were supposed to be naturally inspired, not "taught" what creativity is supposed to be.

I have to admit, I completely bought into it. I definitely have enough memories of my school art projects not being 'up to snuff" according to the teachers and myself. And I seemed vindicated in that when I one time whispered in church to my bored two-year-old, "Why don't you draw a picture of Daddy?" And Daddy indeed appeared on paper as an egg with arms and legs. Since my husband is decidedly not egg-shaped, things seemed on target. This was Chris's first recognizable person ever. I was pretty excited.

From that point forward though, I rarely saw a person, animal, or anything animate reflected in my children's artwork. Both Chris and Maggie seem to enjoy putting color to paper, making swirls and patterns, but not really imitating life. It has gotten me thinking.

On the one hand, why is it drawing is something that naturally develops, but no other art does? Music, for instance, requires learning to read notes, understanding how they come together, and how to play an instrument to really be able to effectively use it to express any sort of creativity. Sure, early exposure to music, and even music play is wonderful, but that is only part of instilling appreciation. Chris learned to play the melody of any number of songs on the piano by ear, but even he could tell you there was a complete difference in learning to play "Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring" with his right hand by ear, and when he actually learned to interpret those notes on the paper and make the piano do his bidding, both with melody and harmony. It is like the difference between seeing in one dimension and seeing in three.

Poetry or composition, likewise require learning to make letters, learning to read, understanding nuances of words, and a growing development in English language and familiarity with the writing of others' before a person is really able to write something that conveys something to the reader.

Drawing is so many things...some of it is developmental, as in developing fine motor skills. Some of it is talent, there obviously are those better than others. But most of it is skill. Learning to manipulate lines and colors into imitation of life; learning how to develop shadows and depth. It isn't necessarily a pat and dry checklist of how a person's artistic ability develops.

It was just yesterday that I mused with my husband that maybe the reason why I don't have children who draw things is exactly because I never did draw with them. Maybe this is something they are supposed to learn by example. After all, really it is a bit of arrogance on preschool researcher's part to think that this all happens in a vacuum. Just because they monitor what seems to be natural artistic development in the classroom doesn't mean that mom isn't drawing at home, that preschoolers aren't following their siblings example of what's on the fridge, or that kids aren't looking at each other's papers and getting ideas from them on good ideas to shade in someone's shirt of a great way to make the whiskers on a kitty cat. In particular, I remember that my godsister colored with me when I was little, and I particularly liked how she would color the outline of the image on the coloring book darker, then shade in the whole space more lightly. It was striking, and I imitated it. My kids never have been in a classroom. They don't have that environment of constant comparison. Maybe for kids who are not exposed to examples of other kids drawings, there is nothing to push them to develop.

After all, isn't music imitation also? The musician learns to imitate what the composer reflects on the paper and does it over and over again until they become skilled at it, and some of their own self becomes reflected in their playing. Then, when they are well-versed in that and come to understand the theory behind it, they learn to create also. Writing really is based on the same premise. Kids learn by imitation and sharing of ideas. We all learn by imitation and sharing of ideas. That's the very definition of learning.

Since I had this discussion with my husband experessing these concerns, right on cue, my son who almost never draws, and who of course, never draws "things" whipped out his new pack of Christmas markers that his cousins got him, and began drawing today, drawing THINGS....rainbows, ducks, dogs, and the scenic landscape you see above. You'd almost think it was intentional. But I don't think it came out of nowhere. He's spent the last two years in Miss Christine's Sunday School class experimenting with these things and watching his peers, because free-art time came after lesson time, and they were almost always done early. But all of those stages that were supposed to come in between didn't come. Instead, he is creating based on things that he saw his peers create....uniquely and originally Chris, but very typical 8-10 year old....and beyond. And today, four year-old Maggie was right beside him, imitating his efforts all the way.

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Monday, January 01, 2007

"A Woman's Worst Nightmare????"

Here is a great commercial that Dr. Matthew Harrison showed during his presentation at the Love and Marriage Conference a while back.....

I love how it is titled a woman's worst nightmare. Doesn't work for me. That shirt really does it for me.....meowrrr

In fact, the Rebellious Pastor and I had our first date on the beach. Must have been where they got the idea.