". . . 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)

Friday, February 26, 2010

"You Don't Know What They Mean, Either?"

A few days ago I went to the neighborhood pharmacy to fill some prescriptions for my mom, who has recently been sent home from rehab after a fall. This store is a pharmacy and nothing else. The only thing they sell is medicine and medical supplies. I appreciate that when I go there they recognize me and know who my mom is and ask about her. If needed, they deliver her medication to her.

On this day there was a problem. When the pharmacist tried to get insurance approval online for my mom's prescriptions, he was met with several rejection codes. Unable to figure out what they meant, he got on the phone to seek assistance from the insurance company. Keep in mind that my mom is a senior citizen whose coverage is provided by the federal government. As I stood eavesdropping (what else was there for me to do?) I overheard something like this:

" . . . got these rejection codes . . . there's no key to tell me what they mean . . . 14 . . . 8 . . . 12 . . . if you provided some sort of key I wouldn't have to call you about this . . . you're telling me you don't know what they mean either? . . . . [to his assistant] See, this is why we don't want the government taking over the whole thing . . . . [to me] This will probably take a while. Why don't I call you or you can check back with us later?"

The initial cost quoted for the presciptions was over $300. It took until the next day for things to get sorted out and my mom to get properly charged for her prescriptions (her portion ended up being only around $25). Since my mom fell early in January, this was the first time she had tried to get prescriptions filled this calendar year. I am thinking that is probably why she had so much trouble and am anticipating that this won't happen again, at least not until next year. But that may be wishful thinking.

Just think. If the government takes over the entire health care system, all of us will be able to enjoy the same streamlined, efficient medical care that my mom now receives. I can't wait . . . .

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Funeral Arrangements for Louise Bolt

Visitation from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Thursday, February 25, 2010 at

Friedrich Jones Funeral Home
44 South Mill Street
Naperville, Illinois 60540
(In Downtown Naperville)
Phone: 630-355-0213


From I-88 take the Winfield Rd. exit and go south to Diehl Rd.
Left on Diehl Rd. to Mill St. Right on Mill St. for 2 miles to Funeral Home on left.
(Abundant on-site parking & street parking is available)

From Washington and 75th Street take Washington north
Turn left on Aurora Rd
Turn right on Main
Turn left on Jackson
Turn right on Mill (funeral home is on right)

Additional Visitation from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. on Friday, February 26, 2010 at
Bethany Lutheran Church & School
1550 Modaff Road
Naperville, IL 60565
630 355-2198

Funeral at Bethany Lutheran Church at 1 p.m. on Friday, February 26, 2010

Monday, February 22, 2010

"We're Just Losing Everyone"

I had no idea yesterday morning's post would be so prophetic. Shortly after I wrote it I received word that one of our preschool teachers had died in the hospital after a long battle with cancer. Although we homeschool, all of our children have attended Lutheran preschool, and this lady was both Caitlin's and Evan's teacher. She and her husband, who is our day school's third grade teacher, have long been involved with parish music, directing school ensembles and singing in our adult choir. My friend's death has come as quite a shock to our congregation. She is a cancer survivor who was again fighting the disease, but the crisis that led to her passing Sunday morning was not at all expected. We all thought she--and we--had more time.

Louise will be missed by many. She was in the classroom until quite recently and this year was named Teacher of the Year by the Northern Illinois District.

"Lord, now lettest Thou thy servant depart in peace according to Thy Word." Rest in peace, Louise. We'll see you in heaven.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

It Sure Seems That Way, Evan

Friday night in the hotel while catching up with some online communications I noticed that composer/musician Dr. Richard Hillert had died. I called to my husband, who was in the other room, to let him know, but he couldn't make out my words. "What?" he called back. Evan, who of course has no idea who Richard Hillert is, stepped in to help, yelling loudly, "RICHARD HILLERT DIED!" and then turning around and announcing sadly, "We're just losing everyone!"

Funeral Thoughts

Home from the funeral. What a testament to a life well-lived. Friday night at the visitation it seemed as though the people would never stop coming. Because there was such a long wait to go through the receiving line, people were ushered to a pew to sit until it was almost their turn. One of the ushers told me the sanctuary was filled and emptied about 2-1/2 times. The visitation was scheduled from 4:00 until 7:00 but went until almost 9:00. I felt sorry for the family, who must have been exhausted, but I appreciated their willingness to do what they did for the sake of all who loved Pastor Freudenburg and needed this opportunity to say goodbye.

The funeral itself was magnificent. I think there must be few things as grand as an historic old church filled with the sound of God's children singing. For my readers who may be curious, the hymns were "A Mighty Fortress is Our God," "Chief of Sinners, Though I Be" (sung by a men's chorus that included my husband and older son), "Thy Strong Word," and "For All the Saints."

Evan, my youngest, did not have the opportunity to get to know Pastor Freudenburg well. When I told him we would be going to a funeral this weekend he reacted quite negatively: "I don't want to go to a funeral!" He has been to two already this year, those of his paternal grandparents. But as we waited our turn at the visitation he became impatient not because he was tired or bored but because he wanted to see Pastor. I'm glad we waited until the end because he stood for quite a while looking at Pastor's body and resisted when I tried to move him on: "I'm not done looking at him yet." The next day at the funeral he was quite bothered that the casket was closed and he couldn't see Pastor again: "I can't remember what he looks like." I assured him I had lots of pictures.

Evan is still trying to figure out this death thing. Aren't we all.

The sermon, delivered by Rev. Dr. David Peter of Concordia Seminary-St. Louis, was Christ-centered and cross-focused. Rev. Freudenburg was Rev. Peter's pastor when he was a little boy, and after he grew up and attended seminary Pastor Peter joined Pastor Freudenburg on Trinity's staff. Pastor Peter began his sermon by reviewing some of his history with Pastor Freudenburg, but then he stopped and said that he could hear Pastor Freudenburg whispering in his ear saying, "What are you doing? Why are you talking about me? Tell them about Jesus and what HE has done!" And that's what Pastor Peter did.

It was a whirlwind day, but a good one. We were unable to go to the committal or stay for the funeral luncheon because of duties at home. But we had the opportunity to see many old friends from our time at Trinity. In spite of not being all that far away, we have not been back many times over the last 10 years. I found great comfort in seeing many familiar faces and realizing that for the last 10 years they have been there, receiving the blessings of Word and Sacrament and loving one another through the trials and heartaches of this life. That's what being a church family is all about.

I know that Pastor Freudenburg's salvation has nothing to do with the way he lived his earthly life. But truly, this was a fine man, and his family can celebrate and take comfort in the knowledge of all the souls that he shepherded in his time on earth. God used him to point many to Christ. May he rest in peace.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Farewell to a Friend

Today we will be traveling to Peoria to say goodbye to our dear friend Rev. Gerald Freudenburg, who was called to be with His Lord this past Sunday, February 14, 2010. Words are insufficient to express the scope of this dear man's life and legacy. We are just a tiny fraction of the many who loved him. As the senior pastor at my husband's first full time cantorate, he went from being boss to being friend and surrogate father and grandfather. I think the thing that I will most remember about him is his serenity. He truly radiated the joy and peace of Christ, taking each day as it came and giving thanks at all times for both blessings and trials.

Here is a brief photo journey through the years that we knew Pastor Freudenburg.

Husker Fever (pictured with Pastor are Phillip and
Rev. Dr. David Peter)

At Caitlin's baptism (with Pastor's wife Jo--"Grandma Jo" to our kids)

Holding Caitlin (there's that Nebraska shirt again)

Giving the keynote speech at Phillip's 40th birthday party
Another shot from Phillip's birthday party. That's Caitlin on the receiving end of Pastor's smile (and that's Evan in my tummy).

Phillip, Jo, Pastor, and dear friends Vicki and Kay.

Phillip and Pastor. I love this photo and wish it weren't so light. It was taken outside at night. But the posture and expression of the two men speaks volumes about their relationship.

Goodbye, Pastor. We will miss you so very much.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Your Tax Dollars at Work

I spent much of the day accompanying young musicians in Solo & Ensemble competition. The event took place at a local high school. Many of the students I accompanied were assigned to classrooms that are normally home to social science instruction (history, government, and economics). In one room the chalkboard had some writing that had not been erased. It was a comparison/contrast chart of the major political parties' stands on certain issues, one of which was censorship. According to the chart, on the question of free speech the Democrat party is "pro-freedom" and the Republican party is "pro-censorship."

This is the sort of thing with which students in our public schools are regularly indoctrinated. And we are told that this is education, and that the government needs more money to do more of it.

I could be wrong, but I think if more parents took the time to go into classrooms and see and hear what their children are being taught rather than blindly accepting that the schools are doing their jobs, they might decide it's time to not only starve the public education beast but to send him back to school himself.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Looking on the Bright Side

So, it's a good thing that my 2-year-old Concise OED is falling apart because it is never, ever sitting on the bookshelf but instead sees more action in our house than a Harry Potter novel, right?


What Would You Have Said?

Today at church we celebrated Jesus' Transfiguration (recounted in Matthew 17:1-9, Mark 9:2-8, and Luke 9:28-36). I think all the emphasis on Jesus' physical appearance must have gotten my 6-year-old thinking, because during the sermon he asked me, "Mommy, why do we worship a God we can't see?"

Wow. I know what I told him, but I would be curious to hear your thoughts. I'm wondering if there is more I could have said, or if I could have said it better.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

A Chess Milestone

I am in Milwaukee this weekend, serving as chauffeur/chaperone/moneybags/head cheerleader for my son, who is participating in the U.S. Amateur Team-North. Trevor is playing top board and serving as captain of his team, which settled on the team name "U-Knighted." There are four Amateur Team events this weekend, one each in the North, South, East and West. The winning team from each of the regional events will advance to the final round to play in the National Amateur Team Championship.

The Amateur Team tournament rules require that the average rating of the team not exceed 2200. What this means is that the ratings of individual players on a team can vary widely, since all that matters is the team average. Each team consists of four players whose position on the team is determined by their relative ratings (the highest rated player plays Board 1, the second-rated player plays Board 2, etc.). When two teams are paired, the players of the same team position are paired. Because the make-up different teams can be very different, this makes for some fascinating pairings. Several of the teams playing this weekend have Grandmasters sitting at the top board, and last night Trevor got to play one of them, GM Alex Yermolinsky, rated 2583 (Trevor is rated 2183). Here is a short biography of Yermolinsky, borrowed from a listing on Amazon for one of his books:

"Grandmaster Alex Yermolinsky is one of the strongest players in the United States. He was US Champion in 1996, and won the US Open Championship in 1995 and 1997. He has represented the USA in four Olympiads, and played board two for the team that won the World Team Championship in 1993. His credentials as a teacher are no less impressive. He assisted Irina Levitina in her bid for the Women's World Championship in 1982-4, while his former pupils include top-class grandmasters such as Alexander Khalifman and Vladimir Epishin. After his arrival in the United States in 1989, he continued coaching, with one of his pupils, Boris Kreiman, winning the US Junior Championship in 1993."

And here is a 30-second video of Trevor's round against Yermolinsky, a round that he went on to win!

If I were a betting woman (I'm not), my money would have been on Yermolinsky (sorry, Trevor). But I can't say I'm surprised to see my son beat a Grandmaster (his first time to do so in tournament play). It was only a matter of time (and hard work and study and determination, all of which Trevor demonstrates better than anyone I know). Trevor's victory has already garnered quite a bit of attention from those attending the tournament, and deservedly so. And what I have also noticed is what I have seen repeatedly in the past: people love rooting for Trevor because he is just such a gentleman. The mother of one of Trevor's teammates, also a young high school player, told me, "It couldn't have happened to a nicer person."

Sometimes it seems in fact that others are happier for Trevor than he is for himself. I suggested to him this morning that he should email his teacher (GM Yury Shulman) to let him know about last night's round. He informed me that he would do so after the tournament is over. Typically, he is already focusing on the next round and doesn't want to be distracted. He also, in his characteristically humble way, eschews any sign of gloating or celebration. In fact, he confided to me that if there is any game that he has mixed feelings about winning, it is one against a Grandmaster. I think he is probably empathizing with his opponent, thinking about how he himself hates losing, but particularly hates losing to a significantly lower-rated player. It's hard on both the ego and the rating.

But that doesn't mean he doesn't do his utmost to defeat whoever is sitting across the board from him, Grandmaster or not! It's the way of the chess world, and I daresay GM Yermolinsky understands.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Who needs Dick and Jane . . .

. . . when you have Calvin and Hobbes?

I love homeschooling!

(I don't know why the video is showing up with bars. If you click play, it will play.)

Update: it appears the bars are gone. Just a glitch, I guess.

Reading from Cheryl on Vimeo.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

How To Melt Your Wife's Heart (For Men Only)

Watch her in the mirror as she's getting ready for work in the morning, then announce softly, "You are so beautiful."

You'll have to pick her up off the floor.

Just thought a few of my male readers might appreciate a Valentine's Day tip. And you're welcome. :-)

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Finding the Balance

Woke up at 5:00 a.m. Out the door before 7:00. Had to shovel the driveway before leaving. Spent over an hour driving in the snow to get to and from two choir rehearsals at two different schools followed by a string of invidividual rehearsals with students participating in Solo & Ensemble. Home a little after 1:00. Talked to children for a few minutes, talked on the phone with husband, had lunch. I have been working all day and I am sitting here feeling guilty for escaping into the computer for a few minutes. I should be doing laundry, or cleaning house, or practicing piano, or giving my 6-year-old a piano lesson, or reading to him or playing with him instead of being glad he's watching Tom & Jerry right now, or reading my older children's written work, or calling my mom, or making some progress on the taxes, or . . . or . . . or . . . .

Now don't get me wrong. I'm taking the break (I'm writing this blog post, aren't I?). And I don't think anyone thinks less of me for doing so. But I myself am feeling lazy for not being more materially productive right this moment. There is so much to do! Not only that, tonight I'm going to (ring-a-ding-ding) watch Lost on television. That's a whole hour set aside to sit and do nothing--and here I am wallowing in laziness instead of using every spare moment to accomplish something! My internal guilt alarm is is about to blow its circuits.

Sometimes I congratulate myself on my work ethic. I have a lot to do and I do a lot. There are people who depend on me and by and large I am there for them. There is much on my plate and by the grace of God most days I manage to keep all but a few crumbs from falling off.

Other times, though, I curse my overdeveloped work ethic. I think God wants us to be able to relax and enjoy life. He rested, and He wants us to also. There is nothing wrong with taking time to do so. Not only that, but we need to rest so as to be able to return to duty refreshed and energized.

Yet it still remains that at any given moment there is a tension between service to others and service to oneself, between productivity and relaxation. And to find a guiltless balance between the two is something I have not so far figured out.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Lamb of God, Pure and Holy

A lovely arrangement, beautifully performed by our high school youth ensemble during communion at church yesterday. My daughter is the first singer in the second row (in black skirt); my son can be heard but not seen, as his position at the far end of the second row places him squarely behind the young man in the first row. Several of these singers double as instrumentalists for the group, at various times playing keyboards, guitar, bass, clarinet and flute as needed. On this piece everyone sang, accompanied by my husband at the piano.

Towards the end of the video the camera pans to the altar and then to my younger son and his godmother (a.k.a. pastor's wife, who was sitting with Evan in church this day so I could attend to the sound system).


Lamb of God, Pure and Holy from Cheryl on Vimeo.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

A Tableau

A tableau is a kind of freeze-frame--a still picture that strikingly embodies much more than just a single moment in time. An example of a literary tableau is seen here in William Faulkner's short story, "A Rose for Emily." The author even uses the word tableau in his description:

The Griersons held themselves a little too high for what they really were. None of the young men were quite good enough to Miss Emily and such. We had long thought of them as a tableau: Miss Emily a slender figure in white in the background, her father a spraddled silhouette in the foreground, his back to her and clutching a horsewhip, the two of them framed by the backflung front door.

The literary tableau is a unifying device in the story, as the changing tableaux of Emily and her father are used to frame the story and reflect the passage of time.

I had a tableau moment last night. It was 7:00 p.m. I was in the middle of washing dishes, enumerating in my head the things I still needed to do before the day was over: 1) go to my mom's place (in the snow) to check her mail and feed the bird; 2) go see my mom herself at the rehab center where she is currently recovering from a fall; 3) put sheets on the 6-year-old's bed; 4) oversee 6-year-old getting ready for bed; and 5) work on an editing project that is way overdue (not because of me!) and must get done this weekend.

Of course, also flying around in my head were all the other things that also need to be done but that I was reconciling myself to not checking off the list on this particular day. So the last thing I needed was for the aforementioned 6-year-old to sidle into the kitchen, smile winsomely, and ask, "Would you play hide-and-seek with me, Mommy?"

Talk about a big heart-sinking moment. He didn't have much mommy time yesterday. But it couldn't be helped. I told him No. Mommy doesn't have enough time for you. Visiting hours at the rehab center are over at 8:00. Maybe your brother can play hide-and-seek with you.

There's another tableau for you, one that is representative not of my days but of Evan's.

Oh, that I could take an editing pen to my life!

Monday, February 1, 2010

One Little Word

We sang one of my favorite hymns in church yesterday: "How Firm a Foundation" (Lutheran Service Book #728). Here's the first stanza:

"How firm a foundation, O saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in His excellent Word
What more can He say than to you He has said
Who unto the Savior for refuge have fled?"

The image of God speaking reminds me of the third stanza of "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God" (LSB 656):

"Though devils all the world should fill,
All eager to devour us,
We tremble not, we fear no ill,
They shall not overpower us.
This world's prince may still
Scowl fierce as he will.
He can harm us none.
He's judged, the deed is done.
One little word can fell him."

That "one little word" should really be written as "One Little Word." Because the One Little Word that sends the Devil packing is the same One Little Word that is the cornerstone of the faith. It is the Word that was with God in the beginning, the Word that became flesh only to be nailed to a cross for the sin of all mankind. What more, indeed, can God say? In the name Jesus He has said it all, to all, for all time. The "excellent Word" to which the hymnist refers is in fact the One who is the "most excellent of men," whose "lips have been anointed with grace" (Psalm 45:2). As the Creator spoke his creation into being, the Son speaks salvation to the fallen. And His redeemed in turn speak the One Little Word of His name back to Him, confessing that saving faith before all the world so that others may hear it and likewise be saved.

I am a word person. I love to read and write, to play with words and to study them. Every sentence is a sort of puzzle for me, and I greatly enjoy the process of fitting all the pieces of the puzzle together in just the right way. It can be a challenge to achieve the desired rhythm and cadence, to make the words flow together so that they not only communicates clearly but are pleasing to the ear. I think I have a knack for it, but at the same time, I have to work at it. It doesn't just happen.

In contrast to my many and labored human words, words which rattle on too long, try too hard, and are prone to being misunderstood, there stands the One Little Word of Jesus, indivisible and all-encompassing in its simplicity. I speak, and it is all resounding gongs and clanging cymbals (1 Cor. 13); He speaks, and His Word is love. How glad I am that the One Little Word my God chose to speak was to name His Son, Jesus, rather than to name me, for all time, Sinner! Little it may seem, yet it is big enough to chase away my sin and that of all the world. Thanks be to God for His One Little Word!