". . . 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)

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Good Friday

A sampling of last night's musical selections for those who would like to listen. Thank you to all the musicians who gave of their time and talents in the service of the Word last night. Many were blessed by your efforts.

Psalm 2 led by a specially recruited Good Friday youth choir. The congregation joins in on the refrain and the adult choir assists with the descant. After the organ prelude, this was the first musical selection of the service.

Psalm 2 from Cheryl on Vimeo.

A dramatic and powerful meditation on Jesus' anguish in the Garden of Gethsemane. "“Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” (Luke 22:42)

"Thy Will Be Done" from Cheryl on Vimeo.

The treble choir again, singing the Isaiah text: "Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted." (Isaiah 53:4)

"Surely He Has Borne Our Griefs" from Cheryl on Vimeo.

 A quiet moment in the darkness, shortly before all the lights are extinguished and the strepitus is heard. "Sorrow and love flow mingled down." This is the essence of Good Friday: so awful, and yet so very good.

"When I Survey the Wondrous Cross" from Cheryl on Vimeo.

Friday, March 29, 2013

The Reproaches for Good Friday

Another one, from last year. Phillip was commissioned by St. Paul's Lutheran Church in Denton, Texas, to compose this piece in memory of Rev. Al Donsbach, who officiated at our wedding at St. Paul's in 1987. It is a setting of The Reproaches for Good Friday (Improperia) and runs for over twelve minutes. It's worth the twelve minutes.

The Reproaches for Good Friday from Cheryl on Vimeo.

Remembering a Time Past

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

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Health Care Idiocy

The week after Christmas my youngest child developed an eye infection. When it worsened after a few days we called the doctor and followed the recommendations for home care. When after a few more days there was no improvement but rather a worrisome acceleration of redness and swelling, we called the doctor again. The answer came back: we are booked and can't see you today; you should go to urgent care.

So that's what we did. The urgent care physician diagnosed cellulitis and sent us home with antibiotics. There was no lab work and no other in-office treatment. Just a prescription and an instruction to call if there wasn't rapid improvement. In a few days there was great improvement. We went on with our lives.

Last month we got the bill. Since our health insurance benefits summary lists a $25 copay for either a physician office or urgent care visit with everything else being paid at 100%, we were surprised to see a balance due of $169. I called the insurance company and was initially encouraged that maybe there had been a mistake since the representative on the phone noted that there were two charges for the visit and speculated that maybe one was a duplicate. A follow-up call several days later, however, provided a different explanation. There were in fact two charges: one for $325 for "immediate care" and one for $247 for "professional fees." Per our coverage we are responsible for a $25 copay on the immediate care charge. But after allowing for the preferred provider adjustment on the "professional fees" charge, there is a balance due of $144. That has been applied to our deductible, so the facility is now billing us for it. I argued with the insurance representative to no avail. "But our plan says urgent care is paid at '100% except $25 copay per visit.'" The answer came back: "We can't control how the facility decides to bill. They submitted two charges, a care charge and a facility charge. You will have to take it up with them."

When I go to the doctor I pay a $25 copay. That covers the care and the building in which the care occurs. Why is urgent care different? And why does "100% except $25 copay per visit" not mean "100% except $25 copay per visit"?

Here's what really burns. We thought that by going to urgent care we were doing the responsible thing, saving the health care system unnecessary cost. But guess what? If we had gone to the Emergency Room instead we would have had only a $100 copay. I guess next time we'll just skip urgent care and go straight to the ER.

Something is seriously broken.

More Begging

Since writing my blog post of a couple of days ago, I have seen the same point made several more times (in much more learned fashion than I made it). Here is one example.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

"No Tramp" Past and Present

I find it interesting to compare last year's Palm Sunday singing of this hymn with this year's. There are things I appreciate about both. Last year's version includes Phillip singing the verse (John 12:23) as a lead-in. I love that, not just because of my husband's beautiful singing, but because of the chill-inducing drama of moving from the quiet observance that "The hour has come" to the ominous opening notes of the hymn. Those notes text-paint the marching not of soldiers in a celebratory parade, announcing the arrival of the king, but instead that of guards escorting a condemned prisoner to his death.

Palm Sunday Verse/Hymn of the Day from Cheryl on Vimeo.

This year's version includes not just Phillip's organ setting (sounding even more powerful than before) but a new choir stanza he recently composed. Listen halfway through the stanza as the choir represents the cacophonous mocking and jeering of the crowd.

"No Tramp of Soldiers' Marching Feet" (Lutheran Service Book 444) from Cheryl on Vimeo.

This is a new hymn for Trinity. The choir sang the first stanza in unison to model the melody. You may notice that our new church has projection screens mounted in the front of the church (as well as at the rear). This post is not about that topic, but I would like to note that while I can at times appreciate certain benefits of the screens, overall I think they are a detriment to robust congregational singing, as well as to the learning of new songs. Phillip has a rule for his younger choirs: unless they know the hymn tune so well that they can sing it perfectly while looking only at the words, they must sing out of their hymnals. Unfortunately he can't make a similar rule for the congregation. ;-) But even people who don't read music can benefit from seeing the layout of the notes on a page and observing which notes are long, which are short, which ones go up, and which ones go down!

I was very proud of our choir Sunday. There is always a lot for both musicians and director to learn in the first year of working together, but I think this choir and their cantor are making some beautiful music together. I can't wait for the rest of this week!

Monday, March 25, 2013

Begging the Question

The misuse of this phrase is one of my pet peeves. I wrote about it almost six years ago and obviously the people who should have read my post didn't because the situation has only gotten worse.

I was talking to my adult son the other day, and he pointed out an example of begging the question (the real thing, not the thing that people incorrectly call begging the question) that is cropping up quite a bit of late. It is happening in the debate over same sex marriage, which is coming to the fore as the Supreme Court hears several cases on the issue.  We keep hearing from those who favor same sex "marriage" that marriage is a civil right that should be equally available to all citizens. But this begs the question because it builds the desired conclusion into the premise. The point of contention is not whether anyone who wants to get married should be able to. The point of contention has to do with how we as a society define marriage. Is marriage by its definition something that a same sex couple can participate in? Those who subscribe to the Judeo-Christian view of marriage would say no. So the very use of the phrase "same sex marriage" assumes an agreement regarding terms that in fact does not exist. Question, meet unsupported premise, begging for validity.

If you, like I, are annoyed by the misuse of this phrase, maybe this example will come in handy. On the other hand, maybe it will just heighten your frustration since most of the offenders are television talking heads whom we will never have the opportunity to instruct!

Wednesday, March 20, 2013


This morning on The Huckabee Report, to which I subscribe via Facebook, Mike Huckabee shared the story of some Girl Scouts in Portland, Oregon, who were the victims of a cruel trick. They took a bulk order for 6,000 boxes of cookies, only to discover when the cookies came in that the order was phony. As word has gotten out, however, people have been lining up to take the cookies off their hands. A spokesman for the  two troops involved stated that the girls have learned that "for every one person that has bad intentions, there are hundreds more with good intentions and good hearts that are here to help you."

Indeed. I would add that it really only takes one kind word or action to drown out a passel of meanies. Today my husband informed me that one of his students at school is celebrating a birthday. She brought in cookies not only for her classmates but also for Cantor to take to "the homeschool kids." (That would be my children.) Such a seemingly small thing, and yet its power to uplift and encourage is huge. Thank you, dear people. You don't know what you did today.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

I Like It

Caitlin's proposed new title for Paradise Lost, Book 6:

"Angels Trash-Talking Each Other." 

She has a knack for cutting to the chase, doesn't she?

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Chalk Up Another Win for the Small Catechism

Evan to me, last night while brushing his teeth before bed:

"Dad told me about sex today!" (Spoken amidst copious toothpaste and smiles.)

Well, okay!

"And about leading a sexually pure and decent life!"

Go, Dad!

"A little bit more about the pure than about the decent."

Don't worry, honey. Dad is obviously all over this. I'm sure the rest will come in time.

It is so nice to be married to a man who totally gets this fathering gig.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Second Rachmaninoff Video

This is a full video of last week's concert with all the pieces performed by the UNL Symphony and the student soloists for the night. Trevor starts at about the 50-minute mark. There are many more angles and close-ups here than in the video I took. You can even see a few of Trevor's biggest fans in some of the audience shots! We were sitting about nine or ten rows back, slightly to Trevor's right looking out from the stage. Look for the tall guy with glasses. I"m next to him, and Evan is next to me. Sorry, Caitlin, you didn't make this edit. :-)