". . . little shall I grace my cause

In speaking for myself. Yet, by your gracious patience,

I will a round unvarnish'd tale deliver . . ."

(William Shakespeare's Othello, I.iii.88-90)

Sunday, July 17, 2016

A Slice of Heaven

The Divine Service is often referred to as a slice of heaven, and rightly so. When we go to church to have our ears filled with God's Word and our stomachs filled with Christ's Body and Blood, we truly experience a foretaste of the feast to come.

Recently, working as a reporter at the 66th Regular Convention of the Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod, I feel as though I had a week-long slice of heaven. My husband told me it was the happiest he's seen me in a long time. No offense to my kids, who weren't there. :-) But I agree--this past week was the most relaxed I have felt in ages.

Thinking about why that might be, I can't help reflecting on the past 3/5/7 years. It's been a rather long slog. For the first time in a very long time I find myself in a place in life where there isn't a huge life change, crisis, or ordeal either in the very recent past or near future. It seems like many things are finally falling into place. I give thanks for that blessing while telling myself that the current sense of settled-ness could change at any time.

But I think there are also some very concrete reasons that I found this past week so relaxing. I was working, yes. But there was so much that I didn't have to give thought to. I didn't have to figure out what to make for supper. I didn't have to clean. I didn't have to do laundry! I didn't have to make decisions about what needed to be done any given hour of the day because it was all laid out for me: go to this meeting, report on that committee, write that article. With all the walking I also got a good deal of exercise. And then there was the worship three times per day--one day it was even four! Not to mention being surrounded by people, over a thousand of them, who know whence their help and salvation come, and the joy of seeing and spending time with many good friends and several dear ones. 

Sometimes I have thought of heaven as a place where we have ultimate freedom, not only from sin, but to do the things that make us happy. Right now I'm thinking heaven might be kind of like the convention--freedom from having to think about what to do because God has it planned out for all eternity and it's all good! 

Here are a few pictures from the week.

Totally staged first day pic, pretending like I know what I'm doing. 
Thank you to my friend Katie for taking this. 

A few of the contract writers. These ladies rock! 

A few old friends. Lovely young lady and babysitter extraordinaire from a former congregation, and 

homeschooling Lutheran moms!

 Post-convention date with hubby.

Hubby with The Prez.

Friday, July 15, 2016

I blinked.

I just returned from a 9-day trip out of town with my husband. During that time---

My 20-year-old daughter ran the house, played chauffeur to her 12-year-old brother, and today picked me up at the airport.

The aforementioned 12-year-old calmly rode out a tornado warning while he was home alone and his sister was having lunch with a friend.

My 23-year-old logged another week in Schlern, Italy, playing the first of two performances he will give there, and visiting Seiser Alm and Cremona.

Who are these competent, self-sufficient people and what have they done with my babies???

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Donald Trump, the Supreme Court, and Our Children

Last week the United States Supreme Court struck down a Texas law calling for more regulation of abortion providers in the Lone Star state. The regulations had been aimed at protecting the health and safety of women by "by requiring abortion clinics to meet the kinds of medical and safety standards that legitimate medical centers meet."

Also last week that same Supreme Court refused to hear a Washington state ruling forcing pro-life pharmacists to sell drugs that, by causing abortion, violate the pharmacists' religious convictions.

These two cases are perfect examples of why I remain unconvinced by the argument that conservatives who have rejected Donald Trump need to disregard all their reasons for not supporting him and do so because, if nothing else, he will at least put conservative justices on the court. In the first place, I don’t have great faith in Donald Trump to stand by his word. In the second place, the conservative cause has not fared too well with the Supreme Court of late, Republican appointees notwithstanding. Anthony Kennedy, who voted with the majority on both decisions, was appointed by Reagan. Reagan was arguably the most pro-life President we ever had. Yet here we are.

By way of reminder, here are a few more examples from recent and not-so-recent history of Republican-appointed justices not assisting the cause of conservatives:

1) Anthony Kennedy (again, a Reagan appointee) joining with the liberals on the court on gay marriage.

2) George W. Bush appointee John Roberts' repeated bailing out of Obamacare.

3) The votes of Nixon appointees Blackmun, Burger and Powell with the pro-choice side of the Roe v. Wade decision.

4) George H. W. Bush appointee David Souter's turning out to be one of the best friends the causes of Planned Parenthod, the ACLU, and eminent domain ever had.

Time and time again this election season I have been told by some of my fellow conservatives that we are not electing a pastor but a President and that it is necessary for me to compromise my principles because Supreme Court. The events of recent days have only strengthened my conviction that doing so would be a devil’s bargain, a selling of my soul that would gain little in return.

As a parent trying to teach my child right from wrong, what has become clear to me over the last almost 25 years is that human behavior is much more influenced by example than it is by external rules. The old poem "Children Learn What They Live" got it right. Parents can talk unceasingly about telling the truth. If they are repeatedly dishonest in their own personal and professional dealings, that is what a child will learn. If they readily toss their convictions for reasons of pragmatism, children will learn that, too.

That doesn't mean we shouldn't have rules or teach principles of right and wrong. Of course we should. But rules don't change hearts. And in the heart/mind battle over decisions of conscience, it is usually the heart that wins. Why do you think we term something that has been truly learned as being "taken to heart" or "learned by heart"? The heart is where the rubber of our principles meets the road of our life--where gut checks happen and all that we believe is put to the test.

I am not saying that conservatives should give up. To the contrary, we need to work harder than ever before. But we deceive ourselves if we think the battle is ultimately going to be won in the public arena. The Supreme Court has demonstrated that it cannot be counted on to do its job. Conservatives’ best hope, then, is our children, for theirs are the minds and hearts we have the greatest capacity to change. We cannot hope to do so by voting for someone whose life and behavior make a mockery of everything we have tried to teach them.

Friday, June 24, 2016

How to Survive the Homeschool Expo: Introvert Edition

1. Check in at registration desk and get packet of goodies.

2. Head over to vendor hall.

3. Quickly circle vendor hall, avoiding all eye contact.

4. Exit vendor hall.

5. Decide you really need to get some groceries for the folks back home. What were you even thinking, leaving them all alone for an entire hour? Poor souls are probably starving by now!

6. Drive to grocery store, buy groceries, and drive home.

7. Verify everyone at home is still alive. Put away groceries, make cup of coffee, and settle down in comfy chair with bag of goodies and conference brochure.

8. Eat a healthy lunch so as to build up strength for the afternoon.

9. Head out to try again. You can do this! You're a mighty homeschool mom!

Don't mind me--I'm just gonna hang out here in my shell a while. 

Photo from David DeHetre/Creative Commons. 

Friday, June 17, 2016

I Threw Out the Cheerios Today

They were my mom's Cheerios, the Cheerios that have been in my pantry for about 6 months now. They were in my pantry on January 12 of this year, and Mom probably had some for breakfast. But at lunch that day she fainted and fell. I called 911, and an ambulance came and took her to the hospital. She did not get better, and on February 19 she came home so she could die in her own room. She went to be with Jesus on February 22.

I have tried on more than one occasion to throw out those Cheerios. No one else in the house eats them. They're getting stale. They're just taking up room. But each time, I couldn't bring myself to do it.

Until today. As I was putting groceries away I suddenly grabbed them off the shelf and in one motion, before I could think too much, put them in the trash.

I'm not sure how I feel about that.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Just Putting This Here

Not too long ago I wrote a #neverTrump article that has yet to find a home. At this point I don't think it ever will unless that home is here. Apparently the market for such articles is saturated and the articles that are getting published seem not to be having any effect on the people for whom they are intended anyway. Sigh. I thought with the second election of President Obama I knew what it was to be discouraged about our country's future. I am now experiencing that on a whole new level.

Anyway, I don't think I can move on unless I go ahead and post this somewhere. But I totally I understand if you skip it.

A Bully Too Far

One of the most puzzling aspects of the Donald Trump phenomenon, at least to me, is the extent to which my opinion has diverged from that of people with whom I typically have a great deal in common. There are many in my friend and family circles who see him as I do, as a dangerously volatile individual lacking in the personal characteristics I seek in a President. But there are also those who take a different view, seeing in Trump someone who offers the hope they so desperately seek. These are smart, conservative, patriotic and God-fearing people who largely share my values and world view. How did we end up so far apart?

It's a question that many have tried to address, and certainly there is no single answer. A few months ago in The Federalist A.D.P. Efferson took a stab at it with an analysis based on crisis theory. Efferson likens Trump supporters to those who have reached such a profound level of desperation that they experience a kind of breakdown, acting in ways they might otherwise not. Yet I think I have reached that same point of desperation, and Trump makes me feel more, not less, desperate.

Another theory focuses on Trump’s supposed appeal to the “authoritarian personality.” But the definition of authoritarian as someone who values order, the upholding of tradition, good manners and respect for authority fits me, and I am frightened by, not attracted to, “authoritarian” candidate Trump. I think the definition of authoritarian utilized by these pieces is faulty, too closely equating it with conservative Christianity, and I agree with this piece in the Washington Post that suggests it is less authoritarianism than populism driving Trump.

Instead, the psychological explanation to which I find myself repeatedly returning (because it’s gotta be psychological, since it is most assuredly not logical for conservatives to be supporting Trump) is Laura Ingraham's identification of Trump as the anti-bully. Here is the gist of Ingraham's argument:

"But the truth is that most, if not all, of the folks supporting Trump don’t care who he offends, as long as he’s standing up for them. They feel like they’ve been bullied for years. For them, Trump is like the savior kid in the schoolyard who takes on the bully by popping him right in the eye. The kids who have been ridiculed or roughed up suddenly have a champion."

Ingraham goes on to enumerate some of the ways Americans have been bullied in recent years. She is spot on that Americans, especially those of my ilk, are increasingly frightened of and angry at the reach of big government and deeply troubled by our seeming inability to combat it via the system that is in place. Why, then, do some of my like-minded friends look at Trump with hope while others such as myself recoil in fear? I think one determiner of how people react to Trump could be the bully factor: an individual's past experience, or relative lack thereof, with bullies.

There was a time in my adolescence when I was regularly bullied by schoolmates. It wasn't just a few scattered instances of teasing. It was day in, day out systematic targeting for several years. That sort of thing does a number on a person, affecting the way he looks at others, and the world, for the rest of his life. Among other things, it can result in making one 1) more skeptical and less trusting of others, 2) more sensitized to the marks of a bullying personality, and, ironically, 3) more vulnerable to falling under the spell of a bully in a misguided effort to align oneself with the axis of power.

In addition to my childhood experience of being bullied, I have several times gotten tangled up with an adult bully. The bullying done by an adult is much more covert than that done by a child. Whereas a child will bully another child in a very obvious way via physical abuse or overt verbal attacks, adult bullies are sneaky, utilizing psychological games and passive-aggressive behaviors. Sometimes the one who is bullied may not even realize what is going on until the pattern is well established. Adult bullying goes hand-in-hand with narcissism, since adult bullies are those whose arrested development leads them to never get beyond looking at others as objects to be used for their purposes. We all essentially begin life as narcissists, seeing ourselves as the center of the universe and others as extensions of ourselves, but the healthy person grows beyond that, developing empathy and an awareness of the inherent worth and otherness of those around him. The narcissist never makes that leap.

Interestingly, in Megyn Kelly’s recent make-nice interview with Trump, The Donald himself brought up the topic of adult bullying but then dismissed it as something people just need to get over. It might seem surprising that the one at whom so many have leveled charges of bullying would raise the topic, but it is actually characteristic of narcissists to criticize others for the very behavior in which they are engaging. It’s an element of the technique known as gaslighting, by which an abuser keeps a victim constantly off-balance by employing a number of strategies to make the victim doubt his own perceptions and thinking process. (Trump’s facility with gaslighting has been highlighted by more than one observer.)

Today as I find myself faced with the choice of whether to once again put my trust in someone who has so many of the marks of a bully, I have sometimes wished I could ignore all the alarm bells ringing in my ears and join my friends who have already jumped on the Trump train. His paternal, “trust me and I’ll take care of it” approach is admittedly tempting. Yeah, he’s a bully, but he’s on my side. It would be so easy to just give in and quit worrying about everything and leave it all up to Papa Trump to fix. But I am always caught up short by the little voice inside me screaming with all of its might, “No. Stop. You have been there, done that, and you have gotten burned. You can’t count on the bigger bully to take care of it for you, because some day the bigger bully will take the power you gave him and use it against you.”

It is for this reason that as much as my present self might be attracted to the defender-hero Trump says he will be, my past self is not falling for it this time around. I have seen too many Trumps in my day. I have, I am ashamed to say, sometimes stood by silently while they have wreaked their havoc on others. As a result I have learned a few things. When it comes to bullies, there is no such thing as an innocent bystander. A bully is not in it for anyone but himself. His promises all come with an expiration date. You are either for him or against him, and if you question him in any way or give any indication that you are not 100 percent loyal to the “cause,” whatever it is, you are punished or summarily banished. Having been there, done that one time too many, I refuse to willingly open myself up to it again, and I refuse to be a party to the bullying of anyone else, in this case, the country I love. In the words of Huck Finn: "I can't stand it. I been there before."

Saturday, May 14, 2016

End of the Innocence

When you're 51 years old, both your parents are dead, your children are growing up too fast, you don't know what happened to your country, but you find that the sea of your life is calm for the moment after having come through a string of storms, this song will flatten you. Ask me how I know.


Remember when the days were long
And rolled beneath a deep blue sky
Didn't have a care in the world
With mommy and daddy standin' by
But "happily ever after" fails
And we've been poisoned by these fairy tales
The lawyers dwell on small details
Since daddy had to fly

But I know a place where we can go
That's still untouched by men
We'll sit and watch the clouds roll by
And the tall grass wave in the wind
You can lay your head back on the ground
And let your hair fall all around me
Offer up your best defense
But this is the end
This is the end of the innocence

O' beautiful, for spacious skies
But now those skies are threatening
They're beating plowshares into swords
For this tired old man that we elected king
Armchair warriors often fail
And we've been poisoned by these fairy tales
The lawyers clean up all details
Since daddy had to lie

But I know a place where we can go
And wash away this sin
We'll sit and watch the clouds roll by
And the tall grass wave in the wind
Just lay your head back on the ground
And let your hair spill all around me
Offer up your best defense
But this is the end
This is the end of the innocence

Who knows how long this will last
Now we've come so far, so fast
But, somewhere back there in the dust
That same small town in each of us
I need to remember this
So baby give me just one kiss
And let me take a long last look
Before we say goodbye

Just lay your head back on the ground
And let your hair fall all around me
Offer up your best defense
But this is the end
This is the end of the innocence

by Bruce Hornsby & Don Henley