". . . 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, December 31, 2017

Happy New Year!

Have you made any New Year's resolutions?

I wasn't planning to, but something my husband said today has changed my mind. He was reading an old post here and noted that one of the things that he appreciates about my blog is the ability to look back and remember what we were doing in years past. The thing is, that is getting harder to do, as the frequency of my blogging has steadily declined over the last five years. I started this blog in mid-2007. In 2008, my first full year of blogging, I posted 431 times. That was by far my most prolific year. The years 2009, 2010, and 2011 each went down. 2012 went back up a little, but since then my posting has gone down every year. So far this year I have only posted 20 times.

I think there are probably several reasons I am posting less. One, when I first started blogging, I had many friends who were also blogging. I read their blogs, they read mine, and there was motivation in that. When fewer people are reading, there is less incentive to write.

Two, I started this blog as an outlet for my writing. Now that I have found some other ways to channel that passion, I feel less driven to do it here.

Three, some of the things I have historically blogged the most about, such as homeschooling and child-rearing, are becoming less of a factor in my life.

But I don't want this blog to die. I have no idea who is still out there reading, but I hope that some day when I am gone (a long time from now!) this will at least be a place my children and grandchildren can go to revisit stories of their parents and grandparents and great-grandparents. Maybe when I'm an old lady in the rest home it will be a place I can do the same.

And hey, I may not have as much to say about homeschooling and child-rearing as I used to, but I do still have thoughts, and maybe even a bit of wisdom to share.

So I'm going to try to blog more in 2018. How much is "more"? If you want to know the answer to that, you're going to have to keep reading. :-)

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Minor Adjustment

For years now our family tradition has been to listen to Lessons and Carols live from King's College on Christmas Eve morning. We wake up and have our breakfast and coffee in pajamas while also enjoying a feast for the ears. It's our one opportunity as a family to sit all together during the Christmas season, hear God's Word, listen to beautiful music, and sing Christmas carols with no responsibility for leading any of it. 

We didn't get to follow our usual custom this morning as not only is it Christmas Eve, it is the Fourth Sunday in Advent (making for the shortest possible Advent season on the calendar). Instead of listening to Lessons and Carols, we attended church, and rightly so. We were blessed to join our church family in Scripture and song and to receive the Sacrament of the Lord's Supper. But I wouldn't be completely honest if I didn't admit that a little part of me was missing our Christmas Eve tradition.

But no matter! If you are also a Lessons and Carols fan and you missed today's broadcast, be advised that you can stream it any time over the next 30 days! We have decided that we will be transferring our Christmas Eve Lessons and Carols listening to the morning of December 26, otherwise known as The Feast of St. Stephen. We'll wake up, make cinnamon rolls and coffee, and listen just as though it were Christmas Eve morning. Problem solved!

There is something magical about listening live, knowing that you are joining with millions of listeners around the world who understand the special and mysterious beauty of this nearly 100-year-old festival. But the most important thing is the opportunity to reflect in peace and quiet with the people I love best. Will I take that two days late? You better believe it. 

Here is a link for streaming the service.

Saturday, December 23, 2017


Between a full-time job, the shortness of Advent, and being sick for the last two weeks, it has been a little tricky to get ready for Christmas this year. But somehow the tree is up, the cards are mailed, and the shopping is done. (Don't ask me if the house is clean.)

Today is wrapping and cookie baking. Phew. By the grace of God, we did it! Of course, the only readiness that truly matters is the kind we have no part in--the readiness that is all gift, placed upon us in our baptism so that we might no longer be called an enemy of the Creator, but His precious child.

As I think of the gifts I wanted to buy but couldn't find because I ran out of time; the cleaning that didn't get done; the cough that lingers, making me wonder if I will be able to sing at all this Christmas; I remember that none of it matters, because whatever is not in place on Christmas morning, the one thing needful will be right where He promises to be, coming to us in Word and Sacrament, caring not whether I am ready because His readiness is all.

Come, baby Jesus! We are waiting for you!

"O holy Child of Bethlehem, Descend to us, we pray;
Cast out our sin, and enter in, Be forn in us today.
We hear the Christmas angels The great glad tidings tell;
O come to us, abide with us, Our Lord Immanuel!"
(Lutheran Service Book 361)

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Monday, December 4, 2017

Blessed Advent

For the season of Advent, I will be posting daily meditations from Dietrich Bonhoeffer on my Facebook page. The page is public, so if interested, you can read even if you're not on Facebook.

Click here.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017


Yesterday I saw a picture on Facebook. It was of a young woman who, judging from her attire and the sign she was holding, probably took part in the Women's March earlier this year. Her clothing and hair were extremely flamboyant, designed to shock, and she was topless except for a couple of small, strategically-placed tassels. She was on the heavy side.

The picture was posted for no other reason than to mock her. And mock her people did, in comment after comment after comment.

I don't care what that woman looks like, what bad choices she has made, or how misled, confused and angry she is. She is somebody's daughter, sister, friend. She is loved by her Creator. She may some day regret the picture of herself that will never be erased from the internet. Perhaps she already does.

Which is why it's even more discouraging that the person who posted the picture is a pastor, one who in my mind is called to model Christ's love and compassion for His creation, not send the message that parts of that creation are there so that the rest of us can have a grand, old time tearing them down while we build ourselves up.

There was nothing to be gained by posting that picture, and so much to be lost.

And it's this sort of thing that makes it hard for people who have been hurt by pastors to learn to trust them again.

Friday, September 8, 2017


Long time no see! Not here, anyway!

I started my new job. It's been 3-1/2 weeks! I love it. Oh, how I love it. Last summer, when I got to do for a week what I am now doing all the time, my husband told me it was the happiest he had seen me in a long time. I think part of that may have been the result of coming out of probably the most difficult 7 years of our lives. But I think part of it was also the work.

I am so very thankful for this opportunity. Who gets their dream job at 53? Not many people. May I never stop being thankful for this gift.

I have been thinking about why I enjoy it so much. A big part of it is the work itself. I am a writer, and I somehow got a full-time writing job. Wow. Not only do I get to write and edit, but I get to do so in the service of my church. I can't imagine much better.

But I think there is something else at play. I have realized, finally in my fifties, that I have a very strong need to belong. I think it may come in part out of a lifetime of not really feeling like I belong. In a blended family, I grew up as "half" sibling to 10 others. My father had 4 children; my mom had 6; they had me. In a family with two "sides," it is hard to know exactly where you fit.

When I was in junior high, we moved. I was bullied and ostracized in my new school. That experience exacerbated my shyness/introversion to the point that I worried way too much in high school about being liked and fitting in. I had friends, but I think I could have had more if I had just relaxed and enjoyed people more.

As the wife of a church worker, I have found it difficult to know where I fit in at church. As nice as people are, when you're on staff, there's a bit of a wall, a feeling that you need to be on guard. It's just the way it is. So you turn to the staff for friendship. When that doesn't pan out as you hope, it can be discouraging.

Some years ago I found a group that I thought were my "tribe": confessional Lutheran homeschooling moms like myself. And in truth, they are my tribe more than about anyone else I've ever known. Which is why they became so important to me, resulting in my not handling it well a few years ago when I suddenly didn't feel like I fit there either.

Back to the job. To be surrounded by not just a few but an entire department full of people that seem to care about so many of the same things I care about has been a joy. To spend my days working with those people on shared goals, and to see those goals come to fruition, is indescribable. I know many people never get to experience that sort of reward in their work. I am still pinching myself that I am getting to do so.

I'm sure there are going to be stressors, disagreements and problems along the way. When those things come, I need to not let them make me feel like I don't belong. And if I do end up feeling that way, I need to remember that it's probably due more to something inside me than anything else. Most of all, I need to remember that in the eyes of my Savior, I do belong, and that's really all that matters.

(Sorry for the "me me me" post. This is for my friends who might be interested in how things are going. They're going great!)

Thursday, June 29, 2017


Have you ever had that dream where you are back in school and realize you forgot to go to a class, not just once, but all semester long? And now it's time for the final exam and you aren't prepared?

Or maybe you've had the one where you have to give a speech and have no idea what it's supposed to be about or what you're going to say. Perhaps you aren't properly dressed or aren't dressed at all.

Or if you're a musician, maybe you, like I, have dreamed you forgot to practice for your upcoming recital. Recently when I woke up from that one it was so vivid I could recall the title of the piece I was supposed to play but didn't know. It was "Phases." Having no knowledge of such a piece I assumed I fabricated it. Imagine my surprise when my son, a concert pianist, told me there is an actual 20th-century work of similar title that requires the pianist to play two pianos at one time:

After learning about the composition "Piano Phase" I couldn't help wondering if maybe I heard about it somewhere along the way and it stuck in my brain because it turns out to be a fitting symbol for my life at the moment. In a development I would not have predicted a year ago I have been offered a full-time position as managing editor of a national online reporting site. It is the official news publication of my church body, The Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod. The job requires relocation to St. Louis, so in August, I will be taking up residence in an apartment there while my husband continues working at our church in Oklahoma. It is only about a 5-hour commute or short flight between the two locations, and while we know it won't be easy being apart at times, we are convinced that this is the right decision, one that will allow me to best use my abilities in the service of God, my neighbor, and my family.

After listening to a bit of "Piano Phase" I'm not sure what I think about it musically, but I can definitely relate to the image of playing two instruments at one time. In a few weeks I will have two homes. Right now I am getting ready to start a brand new phase of life, moving from many years of squeezing in part-time work around my full-time vocations of wife and homeschool mom to now making room for a full-time job as my empty nest years draw ever closer. I know that there will be many challenges in this transition, but I also anticipate much blessing. In my freelance work I have already gotten to know many of the people I will now be seeing on a daily basis, and it has been a joy. I am looking forward to making both the work and people a regular part of my life.

Sometimes in life it can seem like whatever you're doing today is going to be what you do forever. When you're a child, adulthood seems so far away it's hard to imagine. When you're in high school, facing all the difficulties of adolescence and school and peer pressure, it can feel like you'll never get beyond them. When you're single, you might wonder if you'll ever get married. When there are dirty diapers every time you turn around, it can be hard to envision life without them. When you're nursing a dying parent, you can't think beyond the next dose of food or medicine. When your life consists of a certain job, house, church or group of friends, it can seem impossible that it will ever be anything else.

I'm sure you don't need me to tell you this, but I'm going to anyway. Wherever you are and whatever you're doing today, it's not always going to be that way. Maybe that is good news and maybe it's not. Maybe it's a little of both. Whatever the case, try to embrace what God has given you to do today, knowing that He is by your side, using all of it to bless and draw you closer to Him while He prepares your tomorrow. Whatever phase of life you're in, know that it's not forever. Take it as a gift, trust the Giver to sustain you through the bad parts, and expect blessing.

"Stay With Us" - Lutheran Service Book 879 from Cheryl on Vimeo.
"Stay With Us" - LSB 879

"Stay with us, till night has come:
Our praise to You this day be sung.
Bless our bread, Open our eyes:
Jesus, be our great surprise.

Walk with us, our spirits sigh:
Hear when our weary spirits cry,
Feel again Our loss, our pain:
Jesus, take us to Your side.

Walk with us, the road will bend:
Make all our weeping, wailing end.
Wipe our tears, Forgive our fears:
Jesus, lift the heavy cross.

Talk with us, till we behold
A joyful life You will unfold:
Heal our eyes To see the prize:
Jesus, take us to the light.

Stay with us, till day is done:
No tears nor dark shall dim the sun.
Cheer the heart, Your grace impart:
Jesus, bring eternal life."

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Golden Moments

Often we are told to "cherish" time, particularly at pivotal moments such as a wedding, the birth of a child, or the waning of a dear one's days. But what does that mean? How do we "cherish" time? Do we say over and over in our head, "Cherish, cherish, cherish, cherish"? Do we consciously try to pay more attention to what is going on than we normally would? Do we tell those around us to stop talking to us, needing us, and giving us things to do so that we can just bask in the moment at hand?

St. Luke wrote that Mary "treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart" (Luke 2:19). I want to be like Mary, but I struggle with understanding what it means to "treasure" and "ponder." There seems to be little time for such luxuries. Life spins itself out, the moments come and go, and suddenly 20 years have passed.

Last weekend we visited the first parish my husband ever served as a full-time church musician, from 1993 to 2000. When we first moved there we had a 10-month-old baby (he's 24 now). A few years later we had our second child (now 21). During the seven years we were there we made many friends with whom we keep in touch to this day. The last time we visited was in 2009, yet when we returned last week it felt in a way as if we had never left. So many of the same faces remained, theirs, like ours, a little more lined, with eyes reflecting years of trial, pain and joy. I found myself wanting to cherish the moments. Who knows when we will see these people again? Several dear friends are now well into their nineties. If we don't make it back for another eight years, will they still be around?

I don't know how to cherish the moments. I only know how to live them. Yes, there are special times, golden moments we find ourselves wanting to hang on to. But we can't. And that's okay. Every moment we have is given to us by God, sanctified by Him for a sacred purpose. Whether it's a baptism, a wedding, or a dirty diaper, it's still a gift of time, a moment to be lived. The baby days are wonderful, but so are the years of parenting teenagers and young adults. Courtship is magical and young married life full of anticipation, but there's also something equally profound about being able to look back as a couple from the 30-year mark. Sometimes I look around and wish I could freeze time. Life is precious, and I don't want it to be over. I don't want to get old and leave this earth while my loved ones are still here doing awesome things. I want to be around for all of it.

And yet I know there is a golden moment ahead, one that will outshine all the others. When that one comes there won't be anything distracting me. I won't have to try to cherish it. It will be the brightest, most golden moment I could ever imagine, and it will go on forever.

"Now if all my golden moments could be rolled into one
They would shine just like the sun for a summer day
And after it was over, we could have it back again
With credit to the editor for striking out the rain, very clean
And all it really needed was the proper point of view."
(James Taylor, "Golden Moments")

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Dreams and Memories

Weird dreams last night. First I dreamed that my mom was still alive and in a nursing facility. But when I called to talk to her on the phone they couldn't find her. Then I dreamed I was walking through the house and stepped on a child's toy. It was a little plastic figurine of the Pumbaa character from The Lion King. (We used to have one like it.) It went deep into my foot and got stuck. When I pulled it out skin and tendons came out with it and it left a hole big enough that I could see the bones in my foot. Strangely enough, it didn't bleed or hurt. I wasn't going to do anything about it until my husband suggested I might want to go to the doctor to get the hole stitched up. When I woke up we had just called the doctor but were having trouble getting an appointment.

Are the two dreams related? I don't know. I do know that I don't have a mother anymore, nor do I have children of the age to leave plastic toys lying around where I might step on them. Sigh.

I spent part of today going through some more of my mom's boxes. Odds and ends, collectibles, keepsakes. When my siblings came for my mom's funeral last year I was able to give them some things, but there was still more to be gone through. I have removed all the pictures from my mom's photo albums and sorted them the best I could. (It's hard sometimes to tell which baby it is in the pictures!) I have everyone's Christmas stocking from when we were growing up. These things will all be mailed as soon as I can finish packing the boxes.

I had another memory of my mom's last few days. When we brought her home, hospice care set up a hospital bed in her room. I slept in her bed in the same room so I could be with her if she needed anything, although by this point she was bedridden and mostly non-communicative. I remember waking up in the night and looking at her and finding her wide awake, watching me sleep. I suppose that's what I would do, too, if I knew death was imminent: stay awake and watch my daughter sleep in the bed next to me.

One of the hardest things about that last week was not ever knowing what she was thinking because she couldn't tell me.

I didn't mean for this to be a sad post. I am not sad. Or maybe I should say I am mostly happy. :-) My college kids are home. We have some great trips planned. Everyone is in good health, doing neat things, and the summer is stretched out before us. 

But I still miss my mom.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Palm Sunday

Time for an odds and ends post.

Today was Evan's last official day to sing in the children's choir. His voice is changing. He still has soprano notes, although not as high as in the past, but he is developing his lower range and struggling with his mid-range. He will continue attending Schola Cantorum rehearsals through the end of the year, helping out our novice program (welcoming new young singers), but we have told him he doesn't have to sing with the choir any more after today. Seeing as how I don't have anyone waiting in the wings to take his place, it would seem my choir mom days are over (sigh).

Here are a couple of pics, serious and silly, of our group today. We sure do love them.

We were hoping one of the above pictured choristers would agree to sing the solo stanza of "A Lamb Goes Uncomplaining Forth" at the Good Friday service, but there have been no takers. Today when I told Evan that it is looking like his dad or I might have to do it, he was quite alarmed. But it's supposed to be a child's voice! Yes, son, I know. Evan is thinking he might just have to step up to the plate one more time.

In other news, we had some hail the other day.

The storm chasers were around the very next day leaving flyers on doorknobs.

College kids will not be home for Easter. Silly academic calendars. But four weeks from today I will drive to Missouri to pick up Caitlin, and a few days after that we'll all go to Fort Worth to see Trevor receive his Master's degree in music! Speaking of Trevor, he has accepted an invitation to pursue his Doctor of Musical Arts at the University of Iowa. He is receiving a full tuition scholarship plus a teaching and accompanying stipend. We are very, very happy!

This past week I wrote an article on the Benedict Option which got a little traction. Then yesterday I posted something seemingly unrelated on Facebook. And yet as I think more about the previous link, which is about the shortage of organists in the Church, I am starting to connect it to the Benedict Option. The basic idea of the Benedict Option is that many who would claim the name "Christian" are losing touch with what that actually means. In other words, we call ourselves Christian, but we aren't living and worshiping so as to preserve and pass on the faith to future generations. While the Church in other parts of the world is growing, here in America (and other parts of the Western world) it is shrinking. The Benedict Option calls for Christians to see the gravity of this situation and take steps to turn it around. Author Rod Dreher argues that before we can share our Christian faith with others, we need to reclaim it for ourselves.

So how does that connect to an article about the shortage of organists? As I think about my own church body, which is often called the singing church because of the emphasis it puts on music, it seems to me that we are in many quarters losing touch with that part of our identity. After I posted the above article on Facebook there was much discussion about the difficulty of finding musicians, paying for musicians, and supporting congregational song. Many churches are giving up and going to recorded tracks. This is a terrible, terrible development. The more we rely on such measures the more likely it is that there will be even fewer church musicians in the future.

I am starting to think that, while it's great that we send missionaries to foreign lands (and my husband is one who goes), we might need to give some thought to what we can do to shore up our own churches and our own worship. It doesn't appear to me that we are doing what needs to be done to preserve our musical and liturgical heritage. It's not something that is just magically going to survive because we want it to. In the same way we need to be intentional about living out our Christian faith, we need to be intentional about passing on the gift of music and liturgy. There is so much more we could be doing, and it deeply frustrates me how as a church body we give lip service to it but don't really do anything about it.

Enough of that for now. The hour has come. A blessed Holy Week to you and yours.

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

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Hillbilly Elegy

For Christmas I got my husband Hillbilly Elegy by J. D. Vance. He read it in a matter of days and loved it. I finally read it myself. The term "hillbilly" calls to mind a poor, uneducated person living in the hills or mountains, particularly the Appalachians. It is often used pejoratively. But Vance uses the term not as an insult, but matter-of-fact-ly. Hillbillies are his people, and he describes them with both love and brutal honesty. Hillbillies are my people, too, and my husband's. I see so much in this book that I know because I have experienced it. I am not from Appalachia, and my upbringing was not as violent as Vance's, but like him, I come from country folk of Scots-Irish descent. And there is so much in this book that rings true and reminds me of my childhood. Here are a few of the things that Vance writes about to which I can easily relate:

Not knowing whether a parent is going to be sober or drunk. Scoping out the situation and then getting out of the way if it is the latter.

Lots of domestic disturbances, foul language, and yelling and throwing things. (To this day I have no tolerance for foul language or raised voices.)

Being embarrassed to have friends over.

When asked about your family, not being able to give a simple answer because between the steps and halves, it's complicated.

Being one of the first in your family to get a college degree.

Not applying to private colleges because you figure you can't afford it and you don't realize that private schools give lots of money to candidates they deem worthy. So you go into debt for the public institution when you might actually have fared better with the private one.

Having difficulties handling conflict because your history with conflict is so very negative. Early in Vance's relationship with his future wife, she told him, "Whenever something bad happens--even a hint of disagreement--you withdraw completely. It's like you have a shell that you hide in."

Having older siblings and extended family that sometimes provided the normalcy and emotional support that my parents didn't.

Having a high ACE (adverse childhood experience) score. I was not familiar with the concept of adverse childhood experiences as a field of mental health study. If you're interested in learning about it, here's a helpful link. I have an ACE score of 6 (out of 10). My husband also has a high ACE score. Vance writes, in his book, about how difficult it is to break the mold of one's upbringing. If you come from an environment of substance abuse, domestic conflict, broken marriage, unwed pregnancy, etc., you are statistically more likely to continue the pattern than to break it. I am not sure how my husband and I were able to do it. We had so many strikes against us. We still struggle with some of the effects of our upbringing. All I know is that God had mercy on us. I am sure life would have turned out completely different for both of us if the Church had not been a constant presence in our marriage the last 30 years.

Vance writes about the miracle of his being able to break out of the path that so many in his shoes are destined to remain in, crediting a perfect storm of people and circumstances that afforded him the hope and opportunity necessary to chart a different path. He concludes Hillbilly Elegy by considering the ways in which the "system" that is supposed to "help" so often doesn't, but at the same time laying ultimate responsibility at the feet of the individual:

"I believe we hillbillies are the toughest . . . people on this earth. We take an electric saw to the hide of those who insult our mother. We make young men consume cotton underwear to protect a sister's honor. But are we tough enough . . . . to look ourselves in the mirror and admit that our conduct harms our children?"

As much as Vance's book resonated with me, I had so much more going for me than he did. Yes, I had a father with alcoholism and a mother with depression. I grew up in a combined family with a lot of anger and dysfunction. My parents' personal problems led to their not giving their children and step-children the attention they needed. Yet unlike Vance, I did have two parents who stayed married. We weren't rich, but we weren't poor, and I never had any worries about having my physical needs met. In spite of his alcoholism, my dad always held down a job and paid the bills. Another parallel I share with Vance is the experience of being the child who benefits from parents seeming to figure out, later in life, how to be better parents. (In Vance's case it wasn't his parents, but his grandparents, who did so.) Perhaps it was because as the youngest, for the second half of my childhood I was the only one left at home. I got benefits my older siblings didn't. I was the one who was driven to piano lessons. I was the one, after my mom became Catholic, who got taken to church. As the only "ours" of a "his, hers, and ours" family, I was the one who grew up with both my biological parents.

I won't tell you how Hillbilly Elegy ends other than to say it made me cry, tears of both sadness and hope. J. D. Vance (who is only 32) recently announced he is returning to his roots to try to make a difference. God bless him.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Why It's Good to Have Older Siblings Visit from College

They remind you it's not all about you. Case in point below.

Scenario 1
13-year-old to his mother:

"Wanna know something crazy?"


Scenario 2
13-year-old to his 21-year-old sister:

"Wanna know something crazy?"

"Do I have to?" 

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Really, CNN?

I just read this article from CNN on the unveiling of the Republican Obamacare replacement plan. On first reading, I counted nine--NINE!--errors in usage and mechanics. For fun, I'll reproduce below the sentences that contain errors. Can you find the mistakes? Pull out your red pen and have at it. If you find all of them, maybe you can get a job proofreading for CNN. They obviously need the help!

1. It also largely would keep Obamacare's protections of those with pre-existing conditions, but allows insurers to charge higher premiums to those who let their coverage lapse.

2. "President Trump looks forward to working with both Chambers of Congress to repeal and replace Obamacare."

3. The House plan would also retain the so-called Cadillac tax -- which has never gone into affect -- in order to hit the budget targets required under the maneuver used to pass the bill, called budget reconciliation.

4. Still, Republican leaders are committed to moving forward with major tenants of the legislation . . . .

5. The GOP bill also includes a provision to strip all federal funding for Planned Parenthood, which is something Republicans has vowed to do for years citing concerns over the use of taxpayer money for abortion services. (This one has two!)

6. Planned Parenthood has warned that cutting off their funding will have major impact on Medicaid recipients, millions of whom obtain health care services in their clinics. (Okay, I guess I'm being a little picky here. But still.)

7. Rep. Kevin Brady, a Republican from Texas and the House Ways and Means chairman, said in a written statement, "our legislation transfers power from Washington back to the American people. . . ." (Again, picky.)

8. Republican leaders have worked aggressively to forge consensus with their members in listening sessions and meetings behind closed doors in recent weeks, but the divides between conservatives and moderates, and those between moderates and lawmakers from states that expanded Medicaid under Obamacare are not going away.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Monday, February 20, 2017

Thus It Is Written

Sebastian Bourdon, Burning Bush, Wikimedia Commons

Have you ever wondered why God doesn't talk to us today the way He talked to Noah, Abraham, and Moses? Sometimes it can seem like He's ignoring us. Why is He being silent when we need Him so much? In our family devotion today we imagined what it would be like if we had a burning bush in the back yard that we could consult whenever we needed guidance or encouragement.

But could it be that in not continuing to reveal Himself to us as He did to our forebears in the Bible, and in not revealing Himself to us in new and different ways after revealing Himself to us through His Son, He is protecting us? Can you imagine if God were running around the world today, talking to this person and that person, appearing on top of a skyscraper here and a mountain there? How confusing it would be as we tried to sort it all out. Who really talked to God? Who is just saying he did? Whom should we trust? Whom should we ignore? There are enough false teachers as it is. Can you imagine how many more there would be claiming direct revelation if God had the habit of dropping in on people today?

I have sometimes felt like maybe the Deists had the right idea--that God the watchmaker designed and wound up the world but is just now watching and waiting while it runs itself down. Why is He so silent? Doesn't He care?

Yes. He cares. And certainly God can do what He wants and at any moment He could decide to show up in your living room or mine and engage us in conversation. But what more can He say than He's already said? What more do we need Him to say? In today's Treasury of Daily Prayer, there is this comfort from Martin Chemnitz:

"At one time God revealed His Word by various ways and means. For sometimes, appearing Himself to the holy fathers, He spoke in their presence, sometimes through prophets inspired and moved by His Spirit; finally He spoke to mankind through His Son and the apostles. . . . But He gave us neither command nor promise to expect that kind of inspirations or revelations. Yet for the sake of posterity He saw to it that this Word of His, first revealed by preaching and confirmed by subsequent miracles, was later put into writing by faithful witnesses. And to that very same Word, comprehended in the prophetic and apostolic writings, He bound His church, so that whenever we want to know or show that a teaching is God's Word, this should be our axiom: Thus it is written; thus Scripture speaks and testifies."

We don't need our own personal burning bush. We already have one in a God who has fully revealed Himself to us through His Son, and who continues to do so today. In His Word and Sacrament we need not wonder if it's really God coming to us or someone just pretending to speak for God. We need not try to sift through all the noise to locate the truth. Instead, we can rest in the security of what God has already promised and not worry that He's ever going to change, add to, or subtract from that promise. In a world in which information is the new currency and there are many and varied voices continually coming at us from all directions, our God is "silent" not because He doesn't care about us, but because He does.

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Full Circle

A little over two weeks from now, February 22, will be the one-year anniversary of my mom's death. A few weeks ago her burial marker was finally placed.

The schedule is very full right now, and my plan was to go see the marker on February 22, as my mom is buried over a half hour away from our house. But Monday of this week was lovely weather-wise as well as being my husband's day off, and he offered to drive me to the cemetery. As soon as we got there I smacked my head. Should have brought flowers for the vase! We drove to a nearby grocery store to buy a bunch.

Having been recently laid, the marker was dirty with disturbed earth. We rubbed it off as best we could. Mom was buried in a section of the cemetery where only flat markers of a certain size are allowed, so between that and available funds I was somewhat limited in my options. But I am pleased with how it came out. I have previously written about the background of the verse. I decided to use the translation from my mom's Bible (the Saint Joseph edition of the New American Bible).

Another item that may be approaching closure is a small decorative chalkboard in our kitchen. On the night my mom died, Evan wrote this message on it:

The message is still there. We decided to leave it for Evan to erase, and he has not done so yet. But it feels like we need to close this chapter, too, and we are thinking February 22 is a logical date to do it. The thing is, while Evan may be ready, I wonder if I am?

Friday, January 20, 2017

Our Strange Western Sun

A few days ago I was reading to Evan from our current readaloud Johnny Tremain. Johnny Tremain is a boy growing up in Boston at the time of the American Revolution, witnessing events and people firsthand that we today only encounter in history books and movies. At the point we are in our reading, the British army is occupying Boston but no shots have yet been fired. They are about to be, and the chapter we just finished ends with a reference to "a strange new sun rising in the west . . . that was to illumine a world to come."

I wanted to make sure Evan understood the comparison of America to a sun--one whose rise would shine a beacon of freedom over the entire world. I started questioning him, trying to pull the answer out rather than just give it to him, but it took some doing, which surprised me. Then he said, "America isn't as free as it used to be" and I realized that the equating of my country with freedom which is in my mind a given, something I grew up with and feel at a gut level, was not as natural an association for him. Wow. It drove home for me that at the age of 13 the only president he has any memory of is Barack Obama, and what he has heard from his parents for much of his life is talk about how our freedoms in this country are being eroded and how the federal government continues to extend its reach and control beyond what it is Constitutionally given to do. It made me sad.

I told Evan that the peaceful transition of power that we are seeing today, Inauguration Day, is a testament to the freedom that we still have in the United States of America. I am thankful beyond words to have been born an American. I would not want to have been born anywhere else. God bless our country, its outgoing President, and the President-Elect. May we never take for granted the amazing gift we have been given to live under this strange western sun known as America.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Will the Lord take you in?

One year ago yesterday, my mom took a fall from which she never recovered. She didn't break any bones, but the weakened state that she was in at the time, combined with the infection that caused her to faint, was more than she could overcome. After about six weeks, first in the hospital and then in nursing care, we brought her home to die. She left this life on February 22, 2016, at the age of 85.

I was thinking about all this yesterday, and about her, and I reshared this blog post from February 13. I think at the time I wrote it I knew deep down that she wasn't going to get better, but I wasn't quite ready to face it. I was still hoping and praying for a turnaround. It never came.

My mom died with saving faith in Jesus Christ. I had thought she was baptized as a child but in going through her things I found a certificate of both adult baptism and confirmation in the Episcopal church. She also had me baptized in the Episcopal church, but for the first 10 years of my life we didn't attend regularly. Then when I was in sixth grade we moved, and a friend of mine invited us to her church. I asked if we could go, and we did, whereby my mom discovered Roman Catholicism. It was a turning point for her. She became Catholic and so did I. From that time on we were in worship every week. I give thanks for that friend and that church, which changed the course of my mom's life as well as mine.

As I reflect on it, I think that one reason Catholicism spoke to my mom so strongly was that it offered a sense of stability that had always been missing for her. She was an only child whose parents left her to be cared for by relatives. In a life marked by abandonment and insecurity, the ancient Church presented her the opportunity to feel connected to something unchanging and bigger than herself. The liturgy, ritual, majesty and history afforded her a kind of security she had never known. Finally, she felt like she had a family. 

At the same time, though, she heard from the Catholic church that if she just tried a little harder and did a little more she could "work out" her salvation. She looked at the suffering of this life as something that got her a step closer to God, proving her worth. On more than one occasion I talked to her about the gospel as I had come to understand it as a Lutheran--something completely free and unearned, total gift. But it seemed almost impossible for her to conceive of. I wish that before she died she could have somehow found the comfort of knowing that although there was no way she could ever be good enough, she was nevertheless saved by grace through faith because Christ did it all for her.

I spent a good deal of time during my mom's last days singing, praying and reading the Bible to her, particularly the psalms. A recurrent one was Psalm 27, linked above. In her Bible it was one she had marked, bracketing off verse 10: "For my father and my mother have forsaken me, but the Lord will take me in." I decided to have Psalm 27 sung at her funeral and to include verse 10 on her burial marker. The marker was ordered in August but still has not arrived. Hopefully, soon.

My mom did not fully understand the gift of grace, but neither do any of us. Thanks be to God we don't need perfect understanding to get into heaven. We just need faith in Christ, however imperfect and weak that faith is. I know my mom had that and that when she departed this life she was immediately welcomed into the presence of her Savior. What a joy to know she doesn't have to try, doubt or wonder anymore! She is "in"--not because of how much she loved God, but because of how much He loved her. May all of us as God's children cling to that certain hope.