". . . 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)

Monday, September 27, 2010

We're talking hours, now

I removed the "MY HUSBAND'S HOME!" countdown widget from the sidebar. Even though it showed hours, minutes and seconds, it was only actually counting down days because it only allowed the countdown event to be identified by date, not time. Today I went looking for a new widget, one that would let me count down to Thursday at 12:35 p.m., which is when the Cantor's plane is scheduled to land. But after spending the ten or so minutes I was willing to give to that venture, I still came up empty. I am surprised it turned out to be so difficult. But everything I found that was in the customizable, all-purpose countdown widget variety was only capable of showing date, not time. Fine. Widget or no widget. HE'S GETTING HOME IN LESS THAN THREE DAYS! For those of you that are math-challenged, that's less than 72 hours! I talked to him briefly on the phone today. He warned me in advance that the time on his calling card was low and we could be cut off at any moment. So we said our "I love you's" and exchanged a few pieces of news and wouldn't you know it, just as we were settling into a comfortable chat, I lost him to a busy signal. Ah, well. I'll get the real thing soon enough. Well, actually not soon enough, but soon. Word to the wise: don't go looking for me Thursday afternoon. I've got a date. :-)

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Update on the Cantor

Il est arrivé!

Phillip arrived in Brazzaville Monday night at around 6:00 p.m. Congo time. We are six hours earlier here, so that amounted to almost 24 hours of travel from the time I dropped him at the airport. He was greeted by President Mavoungou, the head of the Congolese Lutheran Church. The day after his arrival Pastor James May of Lutherans in Africa joined him and from what I understand they are now off and running, working daily with the local pastors and musicians. I have received several emails from Phillip, but in order for him to use President Mavoungou's computer the generator must be turned on, so emails are short. He is also typing on a French keyboard, which makes it hard to type very quickly. The first time he emailed he took time to try to make it accurate, but the last few have looked kind of like this:

OK internet is sloz qnd iùve got to run: ils ,ùqttendent1

zill prqy for q good qnd sqfe move!

are you getting ,y phone ,essqges


The "good and safe move" part is a reference to the fact that we are in a few days moving my mom to our home. As you can see, the z on the French keyboard is where our w is, and the q is where our a is and the comma is where our m is! After a few rounds of this I think I'm starting to get the hang of it. By the time he comes home I will no doubt be fluent in French keyboard!
I couldn't help noticing that he did make sure those last two words were spelled right.☺

In addition to several emails, we have received several voicemails as well. He cannot be reached on his cell phone but did purchase an international calling card and has found a phone there to use. Unfortunately we have missed both of his calls. But it was wonderful to hear his voice, and from the messages it sounds like he is staying healthy so far, which is great news. One of my biggest concerns was that he would experience gastrointestinal distress, but that hasn't happened. He was well instructed in all the things that he needed to avoid, and he also took along a Steripen for water sterilization. He is, however, experiencing some vocal distress, which is not good considering that he is spending his days leading people in song, so if you think about it please pray not only for his general well-being and his and Pastor May's work but also for Phillip's vocal condition. We don't need him getting laryngitis while he is there.

One of the challenges he faced immediately upon arriving was his cash situation. He took plenty of cash along to pay for things like his own room and board and the feeding of the pastors and musicians that are coming to learn, but when he went to exchange U.S. dollars for local currency he was told that they wouldn't exchange any pre-2001 bills, period. Not only that, but the bills marked 2001-2003 are exchanged at a lower rate. What's up with that? If anything, considering the U.S. economy these days, I would have expected the opposite!

One interesting thing is that he found out that the local musicians are in possession of an electric guitar and a piano. This is a surprise! We anticipated percussion only. He has not reported back yet on the condition of those instruments. My guess is that he will only utilize the piano if it is in decent condition. A bad piano is more of a hindrance than a help. Phillip does not play guitar (not much, anyway) so if they want guitar music one of them will have to provide it!

Thank you for your continued prayers. Seven days to go!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Suggested Reading

Edie at Life in Grace has written a post that I heartily recommend. It appears to be about homeschooling, but in actuality it is about sin, repentance, forgiveness, vocation and life under the Cross. It is worth your time, whether you are preparing to spend another day at home with the kids or heading out into the work force. I promise it will be worth your time.

Friday, September 17, 2010

The Countdown Begins

You may have noticed a new gadget in my sidebar. We're going to be doing a lot of counting down in our house over the next few days and weeks. Phillip leaves for Congo Sunday after a full morning directing musicians and choirs at church. Right now we are counting down the hours until I have to take him to the airport. There is still so much to be done. Today we'll be spraying all his clothes with insect repellent and weighing hymnals to figure out the best way to pack them so as to avoid as much transportation cost as possible.

He has never gone this far from us before. I'm not sure how I'm going to handle it when I drop him off at the airport on Sunday. Up to now I think my strategy has been to do or think about something else and block it out of my mind as much as possible. But the man is going to Congo. It will take him a good 24 hours or more to get there. He will likely have no phone or internet access during his trip, so I will have no clue about what he's doing, where he is, whether he's sick, or whether he's safe. I think I'm getting the very tiniest hint of what military families experience when their loved ones are deployed. For us it will only be ten days. But what a long ten days it will be.

I would appreciate your prayers for the well-being of my husband and his traveling partner, Pastor James May; for the success of their efforts to facilitate the singing of God's Word among our fellow Lutherans in Africa; and for the well-being of our family here at home while he is away.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Back from St. Louis

What a grand and glorious day. I think I may have already mentioned ☺ how thrilled I was yesterday to be able to attend the Service of Installation for the new President of the Lutheran Church, Missouri-Synod, Rev. Matt Harrison. I didn't take many pictures. There was just too much going on. But here are a few for my readers who are interested.

Here I am sandwiched between two of the coolest, smartest Lutheran ladies I know. That's Mollie Ziegler Hemingway on the left and Elephant's Child on the right.

I couldn't decide which of these to post. We just looked so great in both of them, don't you think?

Phillip and I managed to grab President Harrison for a quick shot after his already immortalized banjo solo. The photographer, our friend Pastor Fritz Baue (who sat in with the band on fiddle), didn't quite wait for the "ready" sign, but I'm not complaining. I'll take it!

Sitting in with the bluegrass band: Pastor Baue is second in the line-up and Pastor Harrison is fourth. They just needed an accordion player!

Here are a few pictures from rehearsal the night before the installation. My husband, who was also installed yesterday on the Board for International Mission (and elected as Secretary to that Board), was asked to play for one of the musical offerings during the installation service. He provided piano accompaniment for Mrs. Monique Nunes, wife of Rev. John Nunes, who along with a small choir of friends and family, sang Richard Smallwood's "Total Praise," a musical setting of Psalm 121. The song was performed full-out in a no-holds-barred Gospel style, and there were no doubt those who didn't care for it. Phillip anticipated that there would be criticism, and it has already come, from our own dear pastor. But when the President of Synod comes knocking on your door, you don't turn him down. And in this case why would one want to? It was an absolute joy to meet Monique and the choir and watch the interplay between them and my husband as they put the song together, and I personally think their contribution to the service was magnificent. I would encourage those who found the piece to be out of their stylistic comfort zone to consider that it was a Biblical, liturgical, authentic expression of the piety of many within our synod. And there was no screen, no impassioned songleaders imploring the assembly to join in on a song they didn't know, no drumset, and no complicated production elements. There was just a song and some great singers and a piano and a guy playing it. I personally thought it was appropriate, given the catholic and international character of yesterday's service, to have one piece that wasn't led from on high by organ and 4-part white-robed choir (as much as I love both of those things).

To Mrs. Nunes and the choir, it was a pleasure to meet you and watch you prepare this piece with my husband. I'm glad Pastor Harrison invited you to sing for his installation, and I appreciate your willingness to serve. I hope our paths cross again someday. It was fun to see my husband having this much fun!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Meet Me in St. Louis

Things may continue to be slow around here (meaning around the blog, not my life) for a few more days. Tomorrow I will be traveling to St. Louis to attend the Service of Installation for the newly elected President of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, Rev. Matthew Harrison. I'm so excited! I am looking forward not only to seeing and worshiping with many in my extended church family, but also to personally witnessing an historic moment in the history of our denomination. My husband is already in St. Louis, attending meetings and providing music for devotions while preparing for his own installation as a member of the LCMS Board for International Mission. He will also be serving in the liturgy on Saturday as pianist for one of the musical selections. It's going to be an amazing day! Hope to see you there, if not in person, at least in spirit!

UPDATE: Here's a blog post with pictures on the first day's proceedings.

Monday, September 6, 2010

How I spent part of my Labor Day weekend, or What did we do before smart phones?

A few days ago I found myself alone in a van with a certain 6-year-old. We had a little time to wait; I had a camera phone in my purse; need I say more?

In our family it seems to be the men who get blessed with gorgeous eyelashes. These came from Evan's paternal grandfather (may he rest in peace), to whom Evan bears some resemblance and with whom he shares the same initials.

Is that a great face, or is that a great face?

And now for a little silliness.

And a little more.

And a little more.

Who needs photo booths?

Evan wanted to take one of me.

And then there was this one. Can you believe I took it myself with a cell phone in the back of a van while waiting in a church parking lot? I would challenge the best photographer in the world to capture what got captured in this shot.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Something Interesting I Heard

Yesterday Mark Steyn was filling in for Rush Limbaugh. I only heard a few minutes of the program, but he was talking about the shameful inability of the United States thus far to rebuild on the site of the World Trade Center in New York City. In the course of his commentary, he bemoaned the tendency of modern memorials to emphasize things like understanding and healing rather than the strength, indefatigability and exceptionality of the American people, and he talked about the characteristics that set Americans and their country apart from every other. (For those who may not know, Mark Steyn is Canadian.) It sounds like a cliché, but it's true: the story of this country reveals it to historically have been peopled by the most industrious, creative, progressive, tenacious, and able people in the world.

At one point in his disussion of the "wimpification" of our country (my word, not his), Steyn referred to the song "America the Beautiful." He pointed out that most of us, when we think of the song, think only of the memorable descriptions of America's natural landscapes. But then he reminded his listeners that the poet Katharine Lee Bates, who wrote the words to the song, celebrated not just the natural beauty of this country but also its impressive technological and man-made wonders. Consider the fourth stanza:

O beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam
Undimmed by human tears!
America! America!
God shed his grace on thee
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

This stanza is not about America's sublime countryside, but about her shiny, modern cities and about the men who saw "beyond the years" to imagine them! Did you ever notice that? I don't think I ever did. But the next time someone turns "America the Beautiful" into nothing more than an environmental anthem, I know what I'm going to say.

Here's a link that provides a little more detail about Bates' inspiration for this stanza: a stop at the Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893.