Wednesday, September 04, 2013

Potato Salad

“I REALLY don’t like potato salad.”  I interjected into the conversation.

“You don’t?  Oh, but you should try the potato salad from Brent’s,” Jeff shared.  “You’d like Brent’s.”

I sighed and rolled my eyes.  “You see, that’s the thing.  EVERYONE always says ‘you should try THIS potato salad.  You’d like THIS potato salad.  I never do.  I just really don’t like potato salad.”

The same thing goes with snorkeling.  I tried snorkeling in Hawaii.  I hated it and there are a myriad of reasons.  I don’t like the way the mask feels.  I really don’t like breathing through my mouth through a tube.  I REALLY don’t like when water gets in that tube, or up my nose because I didn’t breathe right.  And more than anything, I really don’t like contemplating the existence of things like jellyfish, sea urchins, sea anemones, or water snakes.  I REALLY don’t like water snakes.  And I don’t like the idea that if I want to put my feet down underneath me to get my bearings, I can’t because of any of the things I mentioned before.

Coral makes a popping sound.  Did you know that?  When I was a kid swimming in Lake Mead, I’d hear something similar, but I believe it was motor boats in the distance.  But I attributed it to water snakes that conveniently any time soon would come out of any of the numerous holes down on the lake bottom that occasionally would release air bubbles.  When I hear coral, I remember that.  So I find myself avoiding coral, no matter how cool it might look…I don’t want to be where it is too shallow, so when I snorkel, I actually avoid the places where I might see something good, which is the whole point of snorkeling.

I do admit, it would be kind of peaceful if I didn’t constantly feel like I was partially suffocating in my mask that is sticking to my face and (for good reason) blocking my nose from breathing and consciously reminding myself to breathe through the tube….unless of course water gets in my mask and I happen to breathe it in or get some in my tube.  There are ten second increments where I can think “this is almost cool.”

But I probably will keep going out, at least while we are here in Madang…because the truth is, somewhere along the line, I learned to REALLY like potato salad (but not really Brent's potato salad).

Friday, July 26, 2013


Howdy there!

I thought it was about time for an update.  A LOT has happened since I last blogged.

Here's a few things:

Maggie was confirmed.

I finished my internship, and am graduating with a Masters in Mental Health Counseling.

Chris got his drivers license AND his braces off.

The movers came and our stuff is ready to be shipped off to Papua New Guinea.

Jeff and Maggie drove the car and the cats across country because all of them will be living at Jeff's parents when we go to Papua New Guinea.  Jeff dropped off the stuff and came and picked me up at the airport in Burbank.

Chris had a great time at Higher Things Purdue and then also came out to L.A.

We are having some downtime at Jeff's aunt's beach condo near Santa Barbara.

We leave for Papua New Guinea on August 12th.

You are basically updated! 

Thursday, May 16, 2013

To My Friends

On April 30th, we were truly blessed and amazed that God called Pete Haugen and his wonderful family to serve with us in Papua New Guinea. I've known Beth for four years now.  We've been choir friends, shared some of the same beliefs about food, our daughters have become friends, and this year, God put us only two blocks from each other and put us in the same congregations.  Our husbands became friends, and discussions happened...looking back, I can see the Holy Spirit has been working a long time to make this happen, and I couldn't be more thrilled.  God is good.

What got my attention was that apparently one of the dearest people in my life teared up when she found out and said "Now Lora won't be alone."   I was deeply touched, and didn't know that was a concern for her...because honestly, that thought had barely crossed my mind.  In a physical sense, aside from Jeff, my very best friend, I'm used to being alone.  You want to talk not having a niche -- try being a confessional Lutheran, conservative Republican, homeschooling, organic food-lovin', low-carbing, "kids can't have milk so this potluck is going to be difficult" woman in Los Angeles.  EVERYONE thought we were weird, most especially our own families and congregation.  And then take that same person and put her in a small town in Indiana.  Yep,no niche there, either.  :) 
 I can do alone.

But the main reason I can do alone is that I really haven't been alone.  Some people criticize internet friendships, but the women (and their husbands) on my Lutheran homeschool email list have been my community.  They have been dear friends.  They have been sisters, and God has used them mightily to shape who I am today.

I remember a friend telling me about Martin Loopers because she had a relative on it.  I signed up and the first set messages that came across my screen, these nutcases were talking about tanning deer hides with brains (apparently I had just missed the huge blowup about how to properly make your own vanilla).  Surprisingly, this had been a relief-- we had just gotten back from a park where there was a statue of John C. Fremont, and I heard a homeschool mom tell her kid about how he was a bad man because he had a gun. 
So seeing this first thread, I was grossed out and knew I was closer to being among kindred spirits more than I had probably ever been.  At least, it gave me hope. And that hope blossomed into joy.

A few years ago, I took a full-time job and I was listening to a coworker who was hurting.  She was talking about how painful the Christian life was "trying to do this and trying to do that."  I remember it being so easy to tell her that wasn't the Christian life.  The Christian life is that we never can be good enough, and God already knows that.  He loves us.  He sent Jesus to die on the cross for us because we couldn't be good enough.  I explained the difference between law and gospel, and she had tears in her eyes when she realized the burden wasn't all on her, because there were so many burdens all on her.

Getting in the car that night, I remember wondering "where did that come from?"  Yes, I know - the Holy Spirit put me in a place where she could hear the gospel from a friend when she needed it.  But how did I learn to do that?  I was always so reticent about discussing faith with others....except my friends on this email list.  We had more theological discussions than I could ever begin to between the talks about curriculum, homeschooling styles, whether or not to keep chickens, cloth diapering, birth control, our kids' accomplishments, our husband's job struggles, our kids getting married, the economy, etc.  Some of those posts, I remember editing for hours on end before I hit send, because if something was phrased wrong, they would jump on it and I'd have to clarify or defend what I'd said.  At times, it seemed petty, but it made me learn to express myself on these issues carefully, concisely, and lovingly.

This year, my practicum in Mental Health Counseling has been just as much the same thing.  Thanks to these women, I know my Bible and my Catechism, and I am not afraid to pull them out to bring comfort, to teach, to use as a help a fellow Christian when they are hurting, through the mutual consolation of believers.  My college degrees didn't shape me into this kind of counselor.  My friends did.

My friends also are the ones who shaped me into a missionary.  Jeff wanted to do this right out of seminary, and there honestly is no way that I could have.  Over the last ten years, these women have taught me alternative ways to keep house, new ideas in nutrition like Nourishing Traditions, ways of being self-sufficient in my thoughts and my practices, good brands of support shoes, lacto-fermentation, what reverse culture shock looks like, how to question the way things are generally done....and they have also made me feel very comfortable in not being perfect.  

They also, above all, gave me respect and love.  They gave me so much, but then let me know that I have given them so much, too.  We've shared our joys and pains (and insecurities), patiently listened to each other's ventings, and sometimes put each other in line. At times, they've shared the other precious people from their lives into mine. I could go on and on.

Living near Fort Wayne these ten years, I have been tremendously blessed to not only know these women online, but to get together with them in person, either on retreats, or with the wonderful friends that actually live close by.  This year, I even have the ability of seeing a couple of them at least once a week, and they keep an eye on my kids if we are not there, and our kids have been friends to each other.  Some Loopers have partnered with us in our missionwork and their congregations have been an amazing encouragement to us.

I'm not alone.  There is no way I am giving up these good friends, or the good friends I have made through these good friends.  And God has let me know that I am not.  When we were in Papua New Guinea, the very plastic plates that we ate on were designed by Looper kids that I knew.  That was an amazing encouragement on a very scary day.

Even if I have to wait hours to get the list to download, just like I did when I first got on the list, I will still be there and a part of it (probably better than I am now with this practicum), I will need them, I am sure. 

Thank you, ladies (and your wonderful husbands).  You are indeed my best friends and my sisters.  You are amazing.  I love you dearly.

(and a few more pics will be added soon)

Friday, April 12, 2013

What Now?

Today has been an exciting day on the Internet.  Thanks in huge part to Lutheran journalist Mollie Hemingway, the media is starting to approach the story of the Kermit Gosnell mass murder trial.  Gosnell is an abortionist in Philadelphia.  His clinic was raided when there was suspicion about prescription fraud.  What the authorities found instead was blood, urine, fetal body parts everywhere. Unqualified workers tell of multitudes of babies aborted after the age of 24 weeks, often born alive, crying, screaming, including a 30 week, and then the doctor or other workers would cut the spinal cord, causing the death of these babies.  He would save feet and heads in jars.  He didn't sterilize his instruments, spreading STDs to other patients.  He would drug minority patients, but for his own protection, give white women informed consent.

So, since the media has not covered this, my friends and I have tried to help in our own little way by posting the stories that do come out over and over again.  We've also been praying.  Kermit Gosnell is a monster of epic proportions, but the difference between him and other abortionists is really a difference in degree, not kind.  Gosnell was messy.  So many babies have been aborted and survived, only to be left to die or killed in order to protect the ones who wanted the procedure and to protect those who performed it, and failed.

But truly, what now?  One pastor says not to be surprised, "but weep and pray that the Lord will come soon, and repent lest we likewise perish."

But there is more.  Luther insists that God does not want us only huddled in prayer, hidden from the world.  God put us in the world to show the world the love that He has for it.  There are so many who have devoted their lives to serving those who would be targets of abortion -- the poor, single women, the developmentally disabled, the lonely, the young, the neglected and abused, those in 3rd World nations and our own; but so much more are needed.  Persecuted Christians in ancient Rome still had the compassion to rescue babies who had been left on hills to die and raise them as their own.  This kind of compassion and devotion, in many ways is still needed. 

There are many ways to show God's love to those who are considered worthless in this world and who would be targeted by those who think abortion is a big part of the answer.  Standing outside a clinic with signs or volunteering at a crisis pregnancy clinic are not the only ways.  We serve God through our vocations, but sometimes we define vocation too narrowly -- because as Christians, we are called to love.  As citizens, we are called to serve our neighbor and to use our rights to speak out against evil.  Some vocations also can be chosen.

I have worked in social work/human services in one way or another since I was in college.  It is shocking how many men have chosen not to serve in this field.  Social work, counseling, and many other helping fields are noticably absent, both in the private sphere and in the public, Christians men and women can serve in these fields to keep the focus on love and humanity, rather than turning it over to those who do believe that in some way, the very people that they serve, should never have existed and the existence of more should be prevented.

Other gifts and talents that God has given us can be channeled into ways that help the unfortunate, rather than be focused primarily on prosperity.  I'm not accusing here.  I'm just saying that maybe we need to be more creative into turning our gifts into a way to serve others (not for the sake of our own salvation, but to serve our neighbor), even as Mollie did today, using her position as a journalist, to call other journalists to accountability regarding this case, as she has done in some other situations as well.

These are an accounting of the thoughts that are going through my head.  I certainly am not passing judgement.  I can't without looking in the mirror and seeing where I hide from showing love to my neighbor completely openly. 

Christians saw the atrocity that was slavery and the atrocity that was Nazism and we hid people in our houses, we showed mercy to the victims, we fought in the legislatres, we debated in the streets, and eventually, we gave our blood and the blood of those we loved to fight evil and bring justice and mercy.   And we prayed.  We definitely prayed.

So what should we do now?

Thursday, April 11, 2013

How Becoming a Middle-Aged Missionary Is Different

In previous times, it was common in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, to send out missionaries fresh from college or seminary, lives not started yet, kids not present or still very young.  In general, that is not the norm now.  (and it is not that there weren't families that went later in life, it wasn't the focus in recruiting).

In our orientation class last year, this was not the case.  A few were short-term missionaries that received career calls, but of the rest, we all had lives that we believed were fairly established.  We didn't come from the already transient lifestyle of the student.  All of us had kids.  Three out of the five clergy families had kids that were school-age (all of us homeschooled), and two of these families even had high school aged kids who are being asked to leave behind their friends, their activities, and everything familiar a couple of years earlier than they planned for something completely different and entirely unasked for.  While older kids in many ways are less labor-intensive than younger ones, moving and changing a life is much easier with little ones than with school-aged kids because of these things.  Little ones have to be loved through the adjustment, but they still have most of what is important to them with them.

In my case, as well, I had my nine month internship left to complete on my Masters degree.  We had a house full of stuff to sort through, cars to sell, pets to find homes for, and in general, a full life to disassemble.

The newly-called missionary doesn't get to leave right away for places far off.  We work to raise the funds needed to support a year of our mission work.  This takes about a year.  But when we have kids, school, work, pets, and other such things to sort through, it is not like we can just embrace the traveling lifestyle and abandon all.  A year of that kind of life isn't good for kids, and they want that time to be with their friends, enjoy their church, and feel normal for just a little longer, so unlike the missionaries that can start out from college or seminary, or ones that are coming back on furlough, the congregations that we are visiting don't often get to see all of us.  A lot of times, they get Jeff, or Jeff and me.

In the end, I think the focus is different.  It is about dismantling a life, rather than waiting to begin one.  I WANT my attention to be on what is ahead.  I want to be excited about it, and deep inside, I am....but in the end, my attention is much more focused on how we are going to get my son's Eagle project done and his braces off before we go, or whether we should use this time for Maggie to start piano lessons, and whether or not I am going to get enough counseling hours in this term so I can graduate on time, and all the mom-guilt that goes along with too much to do and way too much fast food. 

And our focus getting there is probably different, too.  While we know that we will be devoted to serving the people in Papua New Guinea.  We are comfortable with that part, since we have been serving God's people for fifteen years.  That part is not new to us.  So what we end up expressing, talking about, focusing on is making a home for our already very established family.  Our concerns go to thinking about how our kids will adjust.  

I'm not trying to toot our own horn (no pun intended) or call attention to what we are sacrificing.  Our sacrifice is not really any bigger than those who start off at the beginning of everything to possibly spend the rest of their lives in the mission field.  The emotional and logistical factors involved look different, though. 

Sunday, April 07, 2013

Life Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer - A Few Quotes

At my work, we are reading Life Together, by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a study on Christian community.  As one preparing to leave our community, I found the first section of the first chapter very striking.

Chapter 1:

It is not simply to be taken for granted that the Christian has the privilege of living among other Christians.  Jesus Christ lived in the midst of his enemies.  At the end, all his disciples deserted him.  On the Cross he was utterly alone, surrounded by evildoers and mockers.  For this cause he had come, to bring peace to the enemies of God.  So the Christian, too, belongs not in the seclusion of a cloistered life but in the thick of foes.  There is his commission, his work.  "The Kingdom is to be in the midst of your enemies.  And he who will not suffer this does not want to be in the Kingdom of Christ;  he wants to be among friends, to sit among roses and lilies, not with the bad people but the devout people.  Oh you blasphemers and betrayers of Christ! If Christ had done what you are doing, who would ever be spared?" (Luther)  -- p. 17
 "I will so them among the people: and they shall remember me in far countries" (Zech. 10:9).  According to God's will Christendom is a scatered people, scattered like the seed "into all the kingdoms of the earth" (Deut. 28:25).  That its curse and its promise.  God's people must dwell in far countries among the unbelievers, but it will be the seed of the Kingdom of God in all the world.  -- p. 18
...Until then, God's people remain scattered, held together solely in Jesus Christ, having become one in the fact that, dispersed among unbelievers, they remember Him in the far countries.  -- p. 18
 So between the death of Christ and the Last Day it is only by a gracious anticipation of the last things that Christians are privileged to live in visible fellowship with other Christians. It is by the grace of God that a congregation is permitted to gather visible in the world to share God's word and sacrament.  Not all Christians receive this blessing.  The imprisoned, the scattered lonely, the proclaimers of the Gospel in heathen lands stand alone.  They know that visible fellowship is a blessing.  They remember, as the Psalmist did, how they went "with the the house of God, with the voice of joy and praise, with a multitude that kept holy day" (Psalm 42:4).  But they remain alone in far countries, a scattered seed according to God's will. -- p. 18-19

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Response to Anonymous on Baptism

My apologies, I could not respond easily to Anonymous in the comments section regarding whether or not baptism is a symbol.  I am wordy, as always, so I went over on my character allotment.  So I am posting my response here, because to start over, means that I would have to re-write, and I have a little girl to spend time with and bills to pay, so here is my response.  Go to the last post to see her comments that I am responding to. 
Circumcision was also a sign that meant that the boy is part of the Covenant God made with the Jewish people.  It is a person that circumcises, but it is God who makes that Covenant.  Without that Covenant, the cutting off of the foreskin has no more significance than it does when it is done in a hospital to any other boy.  The work of making that child a Jew, a receiver of the promises made to the Jewish people, is God.  And God thought it so important that He was going to kill Moses for not circumcising his sons before he returned to Egypt on God's errand.

The Jewish faith was not about works. That is what Christ condemned the Pharisees for.  As Hebrews says "Abraham had faith, and that was reckoned to him as righteousness."  The Law given to the Jews was not for their salvation, it was a set of commands that emphasized that they were set apart because they were God's chosen people.  It didn't make them God's chosen people.

Christianity has taught since early times that the chief work of the Law is not our salvation.  We can't be saved by anything we do.  We are sinful.  The chief work of the Law is to show us this.  The Jews, in trying to keep the Law were reminded constantly that they were sinners, and that they needed a Savior.  The rituals that God commanded them to perform, sacrifice, Passover, etc. also pointed to Christ.  Jews knew that the scapegoat released into the Wilderness was not the one that would save them in the end, but it reminded them that a Messiah was coming.  The sacrifices and being sprinkled with blood reminded them that the Messiah would be coming to die for their sins.  The Law could not be kept perfectly, so they knew they needed the mercy of God, and that mercy was the promise of the Messiah.  It was hypocrites who believed they weren't sinning if they forgot the necessity of the Messiah and believed they were keeping the Law if they managed to perform the outward acts (or even add to them) while forgetting that it was God that saves, not themselves.

The texts that you used regarding circumcision of the heart never said that circumcision should not be done, but that if faith is not there, and if there is no fear and love of God so that they follow His teachings and trust in Him to care for them, then there is no point.  Indeed  "He who believes and is baptized will be saved, but He who does not believe will be condemned."  So that is very much the same. 

But Colossians 2 is very clear, and does not contradict any of the other verses that I pointed out.  In fact, it says that we were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands because we were made one with the body of Christ, in the death and resurrection of Christ through our baptisms. 

"In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead."  Colossians 2:11-12

So we don't need circumcision, we need baptism where we are made one in the death and resurrection of Christ.

It can hardly be said that it was a work that I did to be brought into the faith at two weeks of age through baptism, much the same as Jewish baby boys were brought into the Covenant with God through no act of obedience on their part.  It is God's work in both acts that gives it significance, because any boy (or girl)can be circumcised for reasons of cleanliness or tradition (not wanting to debate the merits of these reasons right now), and anyone can dump water on a baby's head or dunk them in a vessel for really any reason.  It is the Word of God which imparts the very real gifts received through both acts.

And you are saying that Colossians 2 and Romans 6 are saying something other than they are saying. Look at Paul's words:  he is not saying that it signifies or refers to something that has already happened.  He says we were buried with Him and raised with Him through our baptisms.  It REALLY happens in baptism.  And circumcision of the heart cannot signify circumcision of the flesh when in most cases, circumcision of the flesh came first.  In fact, even when adult slaves were purchased or servants were hired, in order to serve in a Jewish household, they had to be circumcised in the flesh, and the hope was that their hearts would follow as they were taught the faith.  And when Peter and Paul proclaimed the Word to people, whole households were baptized, and in the days before birth control and small families, whole households often included young children and infants, and nowhere does it say that they were excluded.  There is no command in Scripture to not baptize infants and young children (and the Greek uses Paedo -- meaning infant), or that tells us what age would be appropriate.  The main example we have is the comparison with the Covenant of Circumcision, which happens on the 8th day.  Without God specifically saying "children should not be baptized," I would continue to trust in God's clear promise that baptism makes us one with His death and resurrection, and then raise my children in the faith and teach them God's Word so that they grow and mature in the faith and hopefully, live in it until they die in the faith.  I would rather trust His word too much than too little. God did not demand an act of obedience from infants in the Old Covenant.  God has clearly compared the Old Covenant with the New, and since He very obviously did not exclude infants from the Old (in fact, He actually made them the focus of it to show that it was not their obedience that saved them), then if He planned on excluding infants from the New Covenant, He would specify.

There is nothing in the verses that you have given me which contradicts what I am saying, in fact, you used many of the same ones.  But you are reading them as metaphor, and instead I am trusting what it actually says...God's Word that baptism does what it says.  I am relying multiple verses which correspond with each other to come to this view (a good hermeneutic approach).  Is means is, and unless someone can show me differently, the best view is to trust Him that baptism really does save (1 Peter 3:21, Mark 16:16)

Because in all of this, I am not trusting in an act that I am doing or that a man is doing to me, I am trusting God's promise that He is doing what He says it does;  The Holy Spirit uses means to draw people to faith and to strengthen that faith.  The means He uses are Scripture, as well as Scripture combined with water, and Scripture combined with bread and wine.  The Holy Spirit is truly working through all three of these, because of Scripture -  Lutherans call them "means of grace" and the only thing we do to receive these gifts is just that...we are present to receive them from God himself.

The Holy Spirit accomplishes real things through Holy Scripture and through Holy Baptism.  Often, an adult comes to faith through the hearing of the Word.  But given that infants were circumcised into the old covenant, and whole households were baptized when the head of the household came to faith, it doesn't mean that the Holy Spirit doesn't work through baptism in infants to create faith that is taught by the parents and the Church and continues to grow as they do.  In someone who has come to faith before baptism, baptism strengthens that faith and binds the believer to Christ even more strongly.  In an infant, it brings them into the faith.  It is where God adopts that child as His own, It is where we are born again.

Baptism without faith does not save, but if the Holy Spirit is present, then faith is there.  "By the washing of regeneration and renewing of His Holy Spirit."  After all, as Peter points out, God created the whole world through water and the Word, He also recreates it, one by one. (2 Peter 3:5).  What happens in baptism is an even more amazing miracle.

Even if I believed that baptism is merely a symbol, which I don't, the Bible gives it too much power, I cannot merely say that it is a "lowly" symbol, because Scripture emphasizes over and over how important it is.

God points to this in the Old Testament all the time.  When He cleansed the world, he didn't do it through a metaphorical flood, He did it through a real one.  (And 1 Peter 3:20-21 explains that God saved 8 people by bringing them through the water, and now baptism, which corresponds to this now saves us.)  He didn't bring the Children of Israel out of Egypt through a metaphorical Red Sea, but through a real one (have you ever noticed that they didn't have to go through the Red Sea to get to Canaan?  But God led them there).  They crossed into the Promised Land through the parting of the Jordan River, Naaman was made clean through being cleansed in the Jordan River.  The Ancient Christian Church used all of these as images to teach what baptism REALLY does.  Yet the modern metho-bapto-costal churches (including non-denominational) is almost gnostic in how it emphasizes what happens in the heart to the point of teaching "the real stuff -- water, wine, bread, the stuff God tells us to use, aren't really that important. 

I have a couple of questions for you.  You said we must all come to faith on our own.  How exactly do we do that?  And, if baptism is a lowly symbol of what has already happened, could/should a believer skip on baptism?

Sunday, March 17, 2013

The Goal of Christian Parenthood

Pastor Petersen had some beautiful insight today regarding baptism and raising children in the faith.  I can only paraphrase.

He was catechizing from the Book of Concord - Augsburg Confession, Article IX, where it is stated "Our churches teach that Baptism is necessary for salvation" (Mark 16:16, "Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved;"  I Peter 3:21 "Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you.").  We tend to fudge on this.   Can faith exist before baptism?  Yes, definitely.   Are there those who have been saved without it?  We have the example of the thief on the cross.  But these are exceptions, and they rely on God's mercy, and God is a merciful God.  I've had many friends who came to faith who put off baptism, because they already have faith.  That's not Biblical.  The Biblical example is the Ethiopian eunoch who after coming to faith says to Philip, "Here is water, why should I not be baptized?"

But God confers faith and blessing through baptism, so why would we not baptize when we are able?  Baptism is important.  The Holy Spirit is truly present and gives faith and forgiveness of sins through baptism.  The Bible talks about how we are made one with Christ's death in baptism.  If we die with Him, we will surely rise with Him. (Romans 6, Colossians 2).  It's critical.  It's important.  Do it. Scripture treats it like it is urgent, so why shouldn't we?

But also, baptism doesn't mean we are done.  As Pastor Petersen so concisely stated, "The goal isn't a baptized baby.  The goal is an old man who is saved and who has lived a life of good works."  So the next step is to have a child who is catechized and able to come to the Lord's Supper, because forgiveness of sins and strengthening of faith are there also.  God wants to bless us through Baptism, through the preaching of the Word, and through Holy Communion...always and often.  Do we say "No thanks Holy Spirit, I've had enough forgiveness and strengthening of faith.  I'm good."  No, we receive God's blessings where they are given and rejoice that they are plentiful, because we are constantly being attacked by Satan, the world, and our sinful flesh.  That's why they are called the Means of Grace.

In the end, we want a mature Christian --a person who knows their Scripture, who treasures Worship and the Sacraments, who fears and loves God and serves Him because has been saved by His love.

I love that.  "The goal is an old man who is saved and who has lived a life of good works."  Having come from a family that treated baptism and confirmation like items on the list to check off, it clarifies things.  And if the faith is taught this way to us, and emphasized to parents, doesn't that make those Sunday baseball games and all of those things that take children away from the Church clear?  Doesn't it put the responsiblities of parenthood into perspective?

It isn't to raise a good athlete or someone who will go to college and be successful in their career, or who will make lots of money (not that these things are bad, in and of themselves.  They are just not the ultimate end, and we often treat them like they are.  They decorate the Christian life, they are not what is in the end the most important).  For a Christian, to raise a child is to raise someone who will die in Christ.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

A Thought on Simon of Cyrene

I have been doing a lot of pondering about "taking up your cross" lately, and there is a blog post coming on it.  But one of my random thoughts was that Jesus tells us to take up our cross, and yet, Simon of Cyrene carried his.

I always wondered why this was the case.  Jesus clearly had been beaten, up all night, and had probably lost a lot of blood.  But was His physical state the only reason that He didn't carry his own cross?

I wonder if a sinful man didn't carry the cross because in truth, sinful man is the one who was supposed to be on it.

Monday, February 11, 2013


Friday, as I was flying home, friends sent me links to six different articles regarding the cruel, public murder of a woman, Kepari Leniata, in the street of Mount Hagen, Papua New Guinea, near where we will be living.  A boy from her village had died in the hospital, and the family accused her of sorcery, of causing his death.

In PNG, it is often believed that things do not happen for no reason.  Even if an older person dies, it is believed that it does not happen on accident:  sorcery.  Someone made it happen for some reason, and that person must be found out and punished in order for things to be made right.

Kepari Leniata was tortured publicly and then was doused with gasoline and burned alive in the street.  People watched as it happened and recorded it with their cell phones.  The world has cried out at the barbarism.

Mount Hagen is a town that I will probably be in often.  It is one of our closest airports, it is where the larger markets are.  It is the biggest town in the highlands, but it is certainly not big.

Just a few days before I came home, I was sitting in the chapel of Concordia University Irvine, listening to my husband preach at their chapel.  Part of his message was to bring comfort, because two of their alumni  -- Monica Quan and Keith Lawrence, who were engaged to be married and on the verge of their lives together,  had been brutally murdered for no apparent reason.  It became clear soon after, that they were shot by a former LAPD officer who had been fired, and who had decided that the way to redeem himself was to punish all those who had ruined his life.  Her father had been the man who was responsible for his firing.  When it had happened, they were college students, probably oblivious to the world.  They were innocent of any wrong-doing, but their lives were taken in order to punish her father. And Christopher Dorner, the murderer, has a whole list of people he wants to punish.

This hit home to me.  My father had been a high-ranking police officer, and had certainly disciplined and fired subordinates.  As the facts unfolded, there was an eerie "but for the grace of God, there go I" feeling.  My family had always had an unlisted number (back when that mattered and seemed vaguely antisocial) in the off chance that a former criminal that my father arrested or someone else might be tempted to look him up.  It's not outside of the imagination.  My brother had a moped when he was sixteen -- one of the first kinds that you didn't have to pedal.  A cop who didn't like my dad pulled him over 50+ times when he was on his way to work and made him release the pedals every time to prove it was street legal.  When cops broke up parties, they would often just send everyone home, but would make my mom come and get my brother.  I'd gotten the message that I could never really know who was on my side, because of who my dad was.  I walked the straight and narrow in high school.

Dorner had also served with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, like my father, before joining the LAPD.  Dorner had gone to my college, Southern Utah University, and he killed alumni from my husband's school.  Being small schools, one predominantly Mormon and one predominantly Lutheran, I doubt there is another couple in the history of the two schools who can say that.

Right now, the LAPD is scared.  So scared that they have fired on people who were clearly innocent if they had their wits about them.  Motorcycle cops have been pulled off their assignments and put in cars to serve as partners so they can't be fired at on the streets.  Some of them have no idea if they are targets, or if their families are.

So yes...the Mount Hagen murder is shocking and barbaric, but this kind of barbarism is seen all over.  Human rights and modern justice need to be found in the Highlands.  But as a woman's life was taken from her cruelly without any fault of her own, I was also experiencing more closely a murder of two people equally innocent, and a murder that is equally barbaric.  Both of these are situations where the love of Christ is needed; not to absolve the sinners, but to instill a love and respect for God's creation so that these situations do not happen, and also to give comfort to the grieving who are left behind.

In Papua New Guinea, women are frequently bought with a bride price and can be viewed as property.  But there are many women there who have joy in Christ, whose husbands have learned to love them as Christ loved the Church.  A missionary priest wrote a few years ago:  "Catechesis is creating the family in Papua New Guinea."  Today, we often expect civilizing to occur at the hands of the United Nations or the Peace Corp.  But it is the Holy Spirit who has been civilizing people for 2000 years, by claiming them for Christ and then teaching them to live as God wants them to live because they are a light in the darkness, a city on a hill...because they are loved and redeemed.

Women have few rights in Papua New Guinea, but Monica Quan's rights didn't help her escape the force of evil.  Evil doesn't care about your rights.  The only humanizing force that we have is Christ.  If Christopher Dorner trusted that if he was wronged, God would avenge him and provide for him, if he had respected Monica and Keith as people whom God created and Christ died for, this never would've happened.  If the family of that little boy had trusted that God had their son, and that things happen in His time, they would not have felt the need for an arbitrary vengeance against Kepari, whom God created and Christ died for.  But Satan, the world, and our sinful self tell us that when we are wrong, we should be vindicated, and others should suffer because we have.  And this happens all the time, everywhere in this world.

In fact, little girls and boys are being torn apart and burned with chemicals in just about every town in the United States right now, not to mention in so many other countries, and their only crime is the same crime that Monica, Keith, and Kepari committed -- they exist.  The world is indeed barbarous.

Kyrie Eleison.    

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Chesterton's Heretics I

If there is anything that shows that things are going well for me right now, it is that I am reading more books at the moment than I have fingers on my right hand....which by the way is the same number that I have no my left hand, just to be clear.

One book that I am reading is Heretics, by G.K. Chesterton.  I love Chesterton.  Chesterton is the lesser known buddy of the C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien threesome (apparently one rule of the group is you have to go by your initials).  Chesterton is a devout Catholic and an excellent apologist and social commentator.  He calls a spade a spade in such a way that a spade would be wholeheartedly impressed with his spade-dom before he realized he was just called a shovel with a little handle.  And oh, does old Gilbert Keith see things clearly.

 In Heretics, Chesterton starts out with bemoaning that we are now a society where ideas are regarded as unimportant.  Opinions on some things are okay.  But ideas -- principles which guide a life, are not to be tolerated.  He states that it used to be somewhat shameful to be an avowed atheist, but now it is just as bad to be an avowed Christian.  I think in our society we've progressed to the point where in many circles, it is more acceptable to be an avowed Atheist.  Yet in most circles, it is probably more virtuous to never really have thought too much about either.  God might be someone who is remote, but when I need Him, he cares about me...and most of all He agrees with me.

For instance, look at the trend that has been going on since 9-11.  Major tragedies must be commemorated by a joint worship service.  But the fact that we are coming together is much more important than what God we are acknowledging in the service (not going any farther with the fact that Lutherans are not supposed to participate in the leading of these..that is a different tangent...actually, maybe it's not, but I'm not going to get into how it has been handled, because honestly, I was offline most of this past week and am completely ignorant of how things went).  But to have a pastor participate and declare that there is one God who is true, and the rest are not would be a great offense.

The way we approach the spiritual in our society is very much like the way it has been done in soap operas for decades.  Even back in college when I would rush back to the dorm commons to see what was happening on General Hospital or Days of Our Lives, I used to be amazed at how people could kidnap, murder, destroy, insult, and/or sleep with each other, but then, when a wedding, a death, or a tragedy happens, bring in the extra who plays the priest and let's have a worship service.  No one at all minds that this is the only time God enters the picture...only to bring blessing and comfort-- least of all the priest.  Now it's not just on the soap, it's real life, and real life clergy and Christians are expected to act just like the ones on t.v.  They are not supposed to care when God's children are destroying themselves and others, they are only supposed to bless them.

Chesterton discusses how now when someone expresses an idea, they now have no qualms about adding "but I guess that makes me somewhat of a heretic."  Not too long ago, to be a heretic would've been worse than to be crazy.  Heretics didn't think they were heretics, they thought they were orthodox and that they held to truth and were often ready to die for it.  Knowing what a person believes would be the key to knowing that person and whether they were worthwhile to keep company with.

Now, we only are about opinions, not idea(l)s.

"A man's opinion on tramcars matters; his opinions on Botticelli matters; his opinion on all things does not matter.  He may turn over and explore a million objects, but he must not find that strange object, the universe; for if he does he will have a religion, and be lost.  Everything matters--except everything."  G.K. Chesterton

You Knew I Couldn't Stay Away

It might simply be your RSS feeds and search engine bots, but I am STILL getting way more hits on this blog than on my other.  It seems like no matter what I do, this is my home.

So here we are...