". . . 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, December 31, 2018

I am baptized!

"Should the Christian stand all day long at the grave of all joys which he enjoyed in past years? Through Holy Baptism a great stream of joy has been conducted in his heart, which does not drain away, but streams forward with his life until its waves carry him into the sea of a blessed eternity. Should the Christian be reminded all day long that the flowers of his youth fall more and more? He stands planted by God in the water of his Baptism as a palm tree which becomes greener and greener and whose leaves never wither. Yes, his Baptism makes death for him like a short winter's nap, out of which an eternal spring--an eternal youth--follows. . . .
"Now then, all of you who believe in God's Word, let your watchword for entering the new year be this: 'I am baptized!' Although the world may laugh at this comfort, the enthusiasts vex its confidence . . . nevertheless, abandon any other dearly held pledges and speak only throughout the entire year to come, in all terrors of conscience and necessity through sin and death: 'I am baptized! I am baptized! Hallelujah!' And you shall prevail! In every time of need, you will find comfort in your Baptism; on account of it Satan will flee from your faith and confession; and in death you will see heaven opened and will finally come into the joy of your Lord to celebrate a great year of jubilee, a year of praise, with all the angels forever and ever. Amen!" - C. F. W. Walther

Sunday, December 30, 2018

In the Blink of an Eye

I couldn't sleep Friday night. It was my first bad bout with insomnia in some time--the kind where your brain goes in circles and just won't turn off. I am never sure what brings it on, but in this case I think a contributing factor was news of the death of a young woman of my knowledge. I didn't know her personally, but I knew of her, as she was on staff at a news outlet for which I have written. Her death was a huge shock, as she was not only young but seemingly strong and healthy. According to what I have read, friends saw her a couple of days before she died, and she seemed fine. Early reports attributed her death to complications from H1N1 influenza. She was found, unresponsive, by a friend, who called 911. She later died in the hospital.

I am once again reminded of how tenuous is our grasp on life. It's a cliche, but it's true: at any given moment, we are only a few heartbeats/inhalations away from death. The young woman who died is the same age as my firstborn. At the age of 26, she had already achieved a remarkable degree of success, fame and respect, at a level most of us will never attain. And now, in the blink of an eye, she's gone. I think of my own children, and how well they're all doing in their respective pursuits, and how healthy and (mostly) happy they are. Could something like this happen to one of them? Could they go from peak productivity and well-being to death in a matter of two days? Could my husband or I?

The answer is terrifying to ponder. It's so easy, when things are going well, to take life and its blessings for granted. Our family has had its rough patches, but compared to what some people have had to contend with--are contending with--we have had it pretty good. As I reflect on how good--and for how long--I find myself thinking that it's just a matter of time before Something Bad happens. Why should we be free of trouble? There's no reason we should. We are no more deserving of smooth sailing than the next wretched sinner. We live in a fallen world. Death, the devil, and our own sinful natures are always lurking, plotting to snatch the joy and beauty that are to be had this side of heaven.

What is to be done? Does it help to stay awake analyzing and planning and worrying all night long? Does it make it less likely that Something Bad will happen?

Of course not. Then why do I do it? Why do you?

Because we are faithless. We don't trust that God our heavenly Father is really and truly holding us in His hands. If we did, why would we worry or fear for anything?

Thank God that when we are faithless, He remains faithful. Thank God that He forgives me for too often allowing pointless worrying and obsessing to drown out the peace and comfort that are to be found in His Word. Thank God that even when we can't seem to see, hear, feel, or find Him, He is nonetheless at work, turning all things for good for those who trust in Him.

Please say a prayer today for a family that is facing a kind of pain and loss many of us blessedly can't even begin to imagine. Lord, let them know your love, and grant them your hope and comfort.