". . . 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)

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

That moment . . .

. . . when you find yourself feeling blue because

--almost the whole left side of your body hurts due to a foot that probably needs surgery

--you are afraid of having surgery

--your refurbished laptop is broken and the place you bought it from is not coming through with warranty service

--you want to write but your laptop is broken

--you want to write but you can't seem to find the time or focus

--you have this blog that you don't know what to do with anymore

--your mom who lives with you does not like the new house, or much of anything at all

--you realize the college kids are leaving in about a week

--you're feeling and looking old

--you realize that the normal routine is about to return and you didn't get done nearly what you wanted over break

--your 4-year-old car that is taking in water when it rains just passed the 100,000 mark

--you feel utterly guilty and stupid about feeling blue because not only is it Christmas, but you have a great new house, a great husband, great kids, a great church, and overall good health, so what business do you have feeling sad, you big dumb ungrateful ninny?

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Good Morning!

Three minutes of beauty for your day. I hope you enjoy. 

Photo taken December 10, 2015

Will there really be a "Morning"?
Is there such a thing as "Day"?
Could I see it from the mountains
If I were as tall as they?

Has it feet like Water lilies?
Has it feathers like a Bird?
Is it brought from famous countries
Of which I have never heard?

Oh some Scholar! Oh some Sailor!
Oh some Wise Men from the skies!
Please to tell a little Pilgrim
Where the place called "Morning" lies! 

Emily Dickinson

Saturday, December 5, 2015

We are in!

Hello! Long time, no blog! We have been just a tad busy the last month with buying and moving into a new home. Have you ever been so happy that you think it can't possibly last--that certainly something is just around the corner waiting to mess it all up? That is kind of where I am right now. I'm a little afraid to just let myself be happy. But I'm working at it. And it turns out that it doesn't take all that much effort. :-) 

If we are Facebook friends you have probably seen many of these pictures. For you who eschew that particular corner of the internet, here is a pictorial walk through the last few weeks.

First items in (the book was a housewarming gift from a dear friend)

Boy and dog explore new surroundings

The Nordiska approves.

Our means of refrigeration for about 5 days while waiting for more modern replacement.

 Much better! 

If he ever gets fired from this cantor gig (stranger things have happened) he can get a job on "The Price is Right" or "Wheel of Fortune." 

View out my bedroom window. :-)

New washer/dryer!

I have my work cut out for me.

Homeowners again! (Glad to have a home warranty to go along with the keys and garage door openers.)

Monday, November 9, 2015

I tried.

Evan: My life ends in four weeks.

Me: What? What do you mean?

Evan: That's when I have to play organ for church. 

Me: Oh, Evan. You're going to do fine. But if you make a mistake, it's okay. Everyone makes mistakes. That's actually one of the wonderful things about live music--that it's living and breathing and imperfect. Recorded music sometimes has all the life erased and dubbed out of it. Live music is human, and humans make mistakes. We aren't machines.

Evan: Well, technically we are. Don't you remember Schoolhouse Rock?

Wednesday, October 21, 2015


It is sometimes pointed out that a synod, or church body, is a human institution and that as such, it can err. This is most certainly true. But the reason it is true is that human beings can err. When it comes to the question, then, of where to place my trust on matters of doctrine, I have more confidence in the wisdom of a group of theologians than I do in one theologian. To grant one person the final word on anything is dangerous. To assume that you are the person who possesses that final word is equally dangerous.  

In the words of Huckleberry Finn: "I can't stand it. I been there before." And I have no intention of ever going back.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

J. Alfred, Rebutted

About 3-1/2 years ago our world fell apart. I won't rehash the details here. The point of this post is not to look back, but to look forward.

When everything around which you have built a life comes crashing down, it can be a little difficult to find your balance again. It is hard to trust, and I don't mean only others, although that is part of it. It is also hard to trust yourself. How could you have been so stupid, so blind, as to not see what was coming? How could you have gotten everything so wrong? In an effort to not go through that again you start second, third, and fourth guessing every decision. You hand-wring and agonize and ask yourself, Prufrock-style, "Do I dare?" You look for some celestial sign that now, finally, you have got it right.

Problem is, that's what got you into trouble in the first place: putting your faith in men, and their plans and promises, instead of in God, and looking for that shiny, new idol to replace the one that was shattered. For human beings, it's a daily challenge and struggle, one we will always face this side of heaven.

Still, though the challenge remains, there is such a thing as growing in wisdom and learning from one's mistakes. There is such a thing as waking up one day to realize that the answer you have been seeking is not in Oz but right in front of you, in the good people who have been loving you while you were skipping down the yellow brick road trying to find your heart's desire. There is such a thing as realizing that the struggle itself is a gift, reminding you as it does of the danger of idols and the need to fix your eyes on Jesus rather than on your own silly human efforts.

Oh, and there is also such a thing as new beginnings.  

Monday, October 5, 2015

Pleasing Mr. Bisbee

"My play time was cut short because Mr. Bisbee, one of the boarders, took a notion to teach me to sing and I had to waste some time every day practicing the scales up and down and mixed. I would rather play but Mr. Bisbee was one of the richest men in Burr Oak and our best paying, steady boarder. He must be pleased if possible and so I patiently learned to sing 'do ra me fa sol la see do.'"

Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography, p. 102, Laura Ingalls Wilder, ed. Pamela Smith Hill

Monday, September 14, 2015

A Regular Guy? (From the Archives) - 1 Timothy 3

Facebook reminded me that I wrote and posted this article three years ago today. My opinion hasn't changed. I give thanks for all the pastors I have known, including my current ones, who understand and take to heart Paul's charge to the overseer.  

I have been pondering this for a while. In my life I have known quite a few men "of the cloth" (pastors, priests, preachers, etc.). With many of them I have observed a certain quality that I find it difficult to put my finger on.  I have seen it in both priests (I used to be Roman Catholic) and Lutheran pastors as well as ministers from other denominations. For lack of a better word, they are "pastoral." There is something that is just a little different about them, something that sets them apart from the rest of us. Again, it is hard to define and describe, but some of the qualities that come to mind are thoughtfulness, quietness, dignity, caring, kindness, peacefulness, gentleness, serenity, self-control and calm. In short, they are Christ-like. I am probably going to get raked over the coals for saying this, but I also appreciate pastors/priests who in their own demonstration of propriety and decorum make  "regular" people want to behave better than they otherwise might. In the same way that I as a parent try not to let my children see me sin (even though I do sin) because I don't want my sin to lead them astray, I appreciate pastors who set a good example with regard to their use of language and their choices in entertainment, dress, behavior, etc. I think men who are charged with standing in for Christ in the worship service often carry some of that aura of holiness into their everyday lives, and I think that is a good thing.

At the same time, I understand that pastors are sinners like the rest of us. Believe me, I understand. But it seems that there are some pastors who, in their effort to warn us about the worthlessness of our own good deeds, go out of their way to put the baser aspects of their humanity on display. Similarly, there are some lay people who go out of their way to encourage pastors in this anti-pietism crusade. This doesn't make sense to me. Does not Paul himself call the overseer to a higher standard of behavior than those he oversees?

The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable,able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. He must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God's church? He must not be a recent convert, or he may become puffed up with conceit and fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover, he must be well thought of by outsiders, so that he may not fall into disgrace, into a snare of the devil. (1 Timothy 3:1-7)

I take the statements that the overseer should be "respectable" and "well thought of by outsiders" to be a call for him to adhere to a high enough standard of speech and behavior that he will not confuse, offend, or lead astray one of his sheep or miss the opportunity to minister to someone in need. In my opinion, then, a pastor should not use foul language. He should not tell dirty jokes or use racial slurs. He should use good manners and exhibit modesty in his behavior and moderation in his lifestyle. He should be humble and act like a gentleman, not drawing excessive attention to himself. These are all things I try to do in my own life so as to set a good example for my children; I think my pastor, and pastors in general, should make the same effort for us their sheep. I realize that pastors fail as we all do. But we will all fail less often if we make the effort to begin with.

One final thought. I find it puzzling that sometimes the same people who promote the "Pastors are sinners like the rest of us so don't expect them to behave any better or differently" mantra are the very same people who will blindly follow a pastor simply because he is the pastor and he cannot possibly be at fault. This seems to me a disconnect. If the pastor is a sinner like the next guy, isn't it possible that he has actually somewhere along the way made a mistake or committed a sin? And if so, shouldn't he have that sin pointed out so that he can be brought to repentance and forgiveness like anyone else? And isn't doing so actually a good and positive thing for him (and his sheep) if it leads to a recognition of sin and a change in behavior going forward?

I guess what I am trying to say is that while I realize the man in the clerical suit is a sinful human being, I also look to him as a father figure and teacher, one who has been called to high and holy purpose, and as a result I hope and expect of him certain attributes and behaviors that I don't necessarily expect of the person sitting next to me in the pew. I also hope and expect that when he sins, which he surely does, he does not hide behind his office but readily acknowledges his failings and in so doing models the humility with which we should each approach the cross of our crucified Christ.

Sunday, September 6, 2015


This is my brother. His name is Jerry. He died yesterday at the age of 66.

Quick background: my father was a widower with four children. My mother was divorced with six. They married when Jerry, my father's youngest, was 14. I was born when he was 15. I don't have memories of living in the same house with him, but I do have memories of spending time with him. He loved to go fishing and would take me with him sometimes. I would hand him worms to bait the hook. When he got married he would let me come to the apartment complex where he and his wife lived and stay the night and swim in his pool. When I got a little older I babysat his daughter, my niece, sometimes.

I have several vivid memories of Jerry helping me when I was little. Once when I was swimming in his pool I panicked in the deep water. Before I even started to go under, he was there, pulling me out. Another time something started biting me inside my pants leg. Jerry was the first to hear my screams and come and help me get the pants off so as not to get more stings from the scorpion that had apparently crawled inside.

I remember Jerry's smile and his hearty laugh. He was mischievous and playful and loved to play horseshoes.

Like my dad, Jerry was a smoker and drinker. He contracted lung cancer a few years ago and underwent treatment and surgery that stemmed the cancer's progress. Last month his daughter let me know that he was going to see the doctor due to a return of symptoms. Last week he went in for a biopsy but a few days later had to be admitted to the hospital due to fluid on his bad lung. In rapid succession he was put on a ventilator and went into sepsis before dying yesterday.

My family is a patchwork. I am the only "ours" of a "his, mine and ours" family. To some extent my dad's children seemed more like aunts and uncles to me than siblings. On my mom's "side" the youngest was 7 when I was born, so I spent a good chunk of my childhood living like an only child. Once I grew up, got married and moved to another state, and my dad died, it became harder to maintain a connection with all the pieces of my family, and there have been long stretches where we haven't kept in close contact. I haven't been a very good thread to try to hold this family quilt together.

My brother Jerry is the second of my siblings to die. My father's oldest son died three years ago. I wish I had called Jerry when I first got word that he was not feeling well. I thought there was more time. There wasn't.

I have been looking through old pictures to try to find a picture of me and Jerry together. I haven't found one yet. I will keep looking.

Jerry wasn't a churchgoer but I take comfort in the knowledge that he was baptized into Jesus Christ when he was a child. I pray he was able to cling to that faith at the last. I love you, Jerry. Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.

Monday, August 31, 2015

News to Me

I have a new article at The Federalist today, my second expressing reservations about Donald Trump's presidential run. In the mind of one commenter, that can only mean that I am a member of the Republican establishment out to get Trump. So I started wondering, what exactly does it mean to be a part of the Republican establishment? Well, according to  this article, it means I must be one of the following:

1) A "top GOP lawmaker"

2) A "retired GOP bigshot"

3) A member of the media based in Washington, D.C. or New York City 

4) A "deep pocket" contributor

5) A foreign policy hawk

Hmmm. Since I'm not a lawmaker, I'm not retired, I don't live in D.C. or NYC, and I don't write on foreign policy, that must mean I'm #4: a deep pocket contributor. Now if only someone would tell my pocket! :-)

*Photo credit Steven Depolo

Friday, August 28, 2015

Go Read Another Harper Lee Novel

I finished reading Harper Lee's Go Set a Watchman last night. I know some people have reservations about reading it. There is speculation about whether its publication was her will or that of unscrupulous people out to profit from her work, and there is concern about the effect the book will have on the reputation of Lee's masterpiece, To Kill a Mockingbird. All I can say is that I thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated the book. I would urge reading it on its own merits, for what it has to offer apart from To Kill a Mockingbird. For it certainly has much to recommend it. It was unexpectedly funny. But more important, it is a vividly drawn portrait of a character, Jean Louise "Scout" Finch, who is just as compelling as a grown woman as she was as a young girl. And the theme of initiation, of the realization that the world and its inhabitants are a lot more complicated than they seemed when we were children, is universal. If you as a devotee of To Kill a Mockingbird are worried that your image of Atticus is going to be compromised by reading this book, you are in good company because that is exactly the crisis facing Scout as she visits her hometown in Go Set a Watchman. It is something that we all go through as we become adults and realize our parents are--surprise!--mere human beings. My advice: take Scout's hand, walk alongside her, and see where the journey leads. I think you'll be glad you did.

And if you aren't, I apologize in advance. :-)

Monday, August 24, 2015

For the Insult File

This one could come in handy.

"You are fascinated with yourself. You will say anything that occurs to you, but what I can't understand are the things that occur to you. I should like to take your head apart, put a fact in it, and watch it go its way through the runnels of your brain until it comes out of your mouth."

From Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee

Image: US cover of Go Set a Watchman. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia.

Friday, August 21, 2015

It's That Time of Year

What time? Back to school time! Here's our plan for sixth grade.

Bible study - Confirmation class at church and Treasury of Daily Prayer at home.

Language Arts - Language Lessons for the Secondary Child, Volume 1 (a Charlotte Mason approach from Sandi Queen)

Handwriting (yes, we still do it in our school) - 44 U. S. Presidents, Zaner-Bloser - Learning about the presidents while continuing to develop cursive writing. We probably won't get all the way to the end, and that's okay. :-)

History - Story of the World, Book 4 (Modern Age)

Vocabulary/Foreign Language - Roots of English, Memoria Press - Latin and Greek roots

Math - Teaching Textbooks 6

Science - I have not purchased a science curriculum this year and don't plan to. Instead we are going to draw on books already on the shelf, including some science biographies and encyclopedias and the creation-based It Couldn't Just Happen. The one new book I did order is this fun looking one about the periodic table. 

Art - I am not artistic so as a homeschool parent have always struggled with this. When my adult children were younger we addressed the need with outside classes. That has not really happened with Evan. But I do want him to have some hands-on art, so rather than try to find (and pay for) a class that will work with our schedule, I am going to teach him myself this year (don't laugh). Again, we have plenty of resources already on the shelf, including Let's Meet Famous Artists, 20 Art Lessons, The Big Yellow Drawing Book, Drawing with Children, and several books in the 1-2-3 Draw seriesI'll probably pull some lessons from all of them. Hey, I said not to laugh.

Applied music - Seismic change here this year. Evan will transition from piano lessons with Mom to piano lessons with Dad. Gulp. Things are getting serious! The fact of the matter is that Mom is not as demanding as Dad (surprise, surprise). Mom does make a pretty good practice coach, though, and that will continue. Organ lessons, which began with Dad this year, will also continue. And of course, choir. Always choir.

Music listening - Another neglected area (sigh). We are going to do some listening to both folk music (I Hear America Singing and Reader's Digest Children's Songbook) and classical music (Meet the Great Composers and Lives of the Musicians). I think I will also draw on the excellent list my friend Susan developed not too long ago.

Physical education - Swimming class once per week at the local swim school, and youth bowling league on Saturday mornings at the local bowling alley. Since I work most Saturday mornings, Dad will be overseeing the latter, starting tomorrow. Evan can't wait.

Coding - Evan loves video games. I mean, he really loves video games. He has also shown some interest in coding and game design. Last year we tried Khan Academy's programming course but ran into some frustrations that led to waning interest. But I would like to encourage what seems to be Evan's natural aptitude in this area. So we are going to try a CD-based course called KidCoder that was developed by some fellow homeschoolers. Here's a review from another blogger.

Last but not least, of course, will be assorted readalouds throughout the year. We'll figure those out as we go, but one will definitely be a biography of Martin Luther during the month of October. :-)

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Mid-August Report

A cool front blew in last night and brought rain with it. We won't make it out of the 60's today. How fitting, considering that I just dropped off the second of my two college students at school yesterday. Fall is coming. In a week or two our home school will kick off its last round of junior high as Evan starts sixth grade. Church activities, choir practices, and a busier work schedule will begin in earnest. Another summer, and the memories it generated, will be boxed up, tied with twine, and placed on the shelf next to all the rest. It was a good one.

Speaking of college kids, here's number two. This is how I left her yesterday, boxes still sealed, bed unmade. She is quite capable of fixing her room up the way she wants it, and I wanted to get back home at a reasonable hour.

Here she is with her new roommate, who is also a writer.

I think it's going to be a great year. She is taking more classes in the humanities and fewer in the sciences. Math is done. Hurray!

Oh, and before she left she wrote this. She is a smart one, that girl.

In other news, Phillip is preparing for another trip to Africa in November. He'll get a day-long layover in Paris, poor dear. This, his fourth trip, will be to the Lutheran seminary CLET (Centre Luthérien d’Études Théologiques), in Dapaong, Togo. 

I have a few more articles in the queue over at The Federalist. They're on homeschooling and education. Imagine that. :-)

Our tomatoes are almost ready.

Sunday, August 16, 2015


A few days ago I wrote this. It is about the blessings that come as we go from one season of life to another. I meant every word. 

But sometimes . . . sometimes . . .

I wish I could go back and do it all again.

Me and my son in his new apartment

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Raisin' 'em Right

At dinner tonight someone said the word "margarine." The following exchange ensued.

Evan (11 years old): "What's margarine?"

Me: "Fake butter."

Evan: "Oh, gro-o-o-ss!"

I guess we did pretty well, protecting him from this knowledge for almost 12 years. :-)

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

A Troubling Viewpoint

There is a sentiment that I often see expressed these days among some of my fellow Lutherans. It is that those who have fallen into very serious, life-shattering sin have a better understanding of sin, and therefore grace, than those who just plug along contending with a particular temptation without acting it out. An extension of this mindset is the idea that spiritual leaders who have committed one of these serious sins and have in the ensuing fallout "hit bottom" are better equipped to teach and preach about sin, repentance, grace, and forgiveness. (Side note: by serious, I mean serious in repercussions, not serious in substance, since before God all sin is the same in the effect of its separating us from Him. Sometimes the word that is used, especially in reference to ministers, is scandalous, representing the effect of the sin on the faith of others. See 1 Timothy 3.)

I think this is a dangerous way of thinking. In the first place, it minimizes the struggle of those who contend with inner sin without acting on it in an outer manner. Sin is sin, whether it's hidden or visible. We can sin in thought as well as in deed. The person who does the former, struggling day in and day out with temptation and sinful thoughts, can be just as well acquainted with the need for repentance and forgiveness as one who outwardly sins. So I think it is misguided to generalize about who better understands sin based on what we see on the outside.

Second, this way of thinking risks an odd sort of celebrating of one who has publicly sinned and publicly repented. Yes, we need to love the sinner. Yes, we need to embrace and care for one who has fallen, and repented, and is in desperate need of God's love and grace. Very often that love and grace are provided through the words and deeds of the Christian community who are called to put it into action. But I think we need to guard against turning such people, especially ministers, into examples, and assigning them special standing. It is especially risky to do so when young people, who are typically turned off by supposed hypocrisy, are involved. Our example should not be the one who has sinned. Our example should be the One who was sinless.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Texas Trip

We took a road trip! Upon reflection, we think it's the first time we have gone on the road with the whole family since 2010, possibly since 2009 (the year we drove from Illinois to Texas and back two times, first for my father-in-law's burial and second for my mother-in-law's).

It's not that we haven't done a lot of driving the last few years. We have. But it's all been to transport college kids back and forth, earn income, or move. This trip was purely for pleasure, and although it was short, it was very, very sweet.

Our destination was the Texas bay area (Houston & Galveston). We packed up the car and drove away Wednesday after lunch, arriving at about 10:30 p.m. Along the way we saw some of the flooding that has beset Texas this spring and summer.

While in Texas we stayed with my sister-in-law, who has a very nice 2 BR/2 BA guest cottage. We spent the first day taking it pretty easy.

Relaxing on the porch

Squeezing and picking

Relaxing in the yard

Playing in the yard and the pond

Playing with the pups

And just generally being silly.

The second day of our visit, we spent the day at Galveston. We started with the Ropes Course at Moody Gardens. It proved a formidable challenge for me and Evan, and we did not last long. The advantage to that was it freed me up to take pictures of the others.

After the ropes course, Trevor, Caitlin and Phillip rode the Moody Gardens zip line. I stayed on the ground with Evan. I like the ground. :-) (But in retrospect, I wish I had spent the money to do the zip line rather than the ropes course. The ropes course was way more scary than I expected, even safely harnessed in, and according to those who did it the zip line was less scary.)

From Moody Gardens we went to the Rainforest Cafe for lunch. (Yes, it is a restaurant with a gimmick. But the food is also very, very good! Check out the picture of my lunch--a portabello wrap with sides of steamed vegies and cole slaw. It was delicious! )

After lunch we hit the beach, of course.

On the seawall we snapped a picture of a cross carrier.

We came home Saturday. But before leaving the area we took a short roots tour. After years and years of making annual trips to Texas, we don't go as often these days. With a 22-year-old and a 19-year-old,  who knows when we'll go again with the whole family. So we made time for a few bonus stops. This is the first house Phillip and I ever rented, in League City, Texas. (It's also the first house in which I experienced a hurricane!)

This is the second house we rented, in Dickinson, Texas. Trevor came home from the hospital to this house (baby's room was the one sticking out in front, on the right.)

We also stopped at Hope Lutheran in Friendswood, where we attended for several years, where Phillip got his start as a church musician, and where Trevor was baptized. The original sanctuary is no longer there. The new sanctuary is in the distance. Trevor is standing under the old church bell on the site of the old church.

For a whirlwind trip, it was most excellent. Goodbye, Galveston Bay.

Hello, Oklahoma!