". . . 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 21, 2022

Nos Lamentum

Photo by Mary Sill on Unsplash

Tonight for our midweek Advent service at my congregation in St. Louis, we had a service of lament, otherwise known as "Nos Lamentum." It was a fitting way to observe the fourth Wednesday of Advent, which also happened to fall on the winter solstice, the shortest (and darkest) day of the year. As we look toward the Nativity of Our Lord in just a few days, tonight's service was an opportunity, in song and prayer, to hear God's Word as we laid our laments before Him. We know that, in His love and compassion, He hears them all, and we can trust that He is working in our trials and directing them all for our good. 

Tonight's litany was particularly well-suited to the present time, so I thought I would share it here. I pray it blesses you as it did me.

O Lord,

how long?

O Christ,

how long?

O Lord,

how long?

O Christ,

hear us.

God the Father, in heaven,

have mercy.

God the Son, Redeemer of the world,

have mercy.

God the Holy Spirit,

have mercy.

Be gracious to us.

Spare us, good Lord.

Be gracious to us.

Help us, good Lord.

By the mystery of Your holy incarnation;

by Your holy nativity;

by Your baptism, fasting, and temptation;

by Your agony and bloody sweat;

by Your cross and Passion;

by Your precious death and burial;

by Your glorious resurrection and ascension;

and by the coming of the Holy Spirit, the Comforter:

Help us, good Lord.

In all time of our tribulation;

in all time of our prosperity;

in the hour of death;

and in the day of judgment:

Help us, good Lord.

We poor sinners implore You

to hear us, O Lord.

We lament the global pandemic

Its death

Its despair

Its division

Its fear

Its isolation

Its alienation

Its confusion

How long, O Lord?

We lament those things the pandemic has taken

Lost loved ones

Lost opportunities to mourn

Lost joys

Lost celebrations

Lost time together

Lost friendships

Lost trust

Lost faith

How long, O Lord?

We lament divided communities and peoples

Divisions by politics

Divisions by race

Divisions by class

Divisions by wealth

Divisions by sex

Divisions by ability

Divisions by belief

How long, O Lord?

We lament evil in our community and nation





Wantonness with life



Attempts at self-definition

How long, O Lord?

We lament the persecution of our brothers and sisters

The violence done against them because they bear your name

The intimidation of their families

The restrictions on their practice of faith

The political pressure on their communities

How long, O Lord?

We lament that there are those who don’t believe in your Name








Others near

And those far off

How long, O Lord?

We lament failings in Your Church

Abuses of power

Abuses of people

Division and disunity

Compromise with the world

False and impure doctrine

Unwillingness to forgive

Deafness to suffering

Indifference to injustice





How long, O Lord?

We lament failings of body and mind

For chronic pain and illness

For cancer

For incurable disease

For depression

For anxiety

For addiction

For eating disorders

For thoughts of suicide

How long, O Lord?

We lament abuse

Of children

Of women

Of our elders

Of the poor

Of the weak

Of those with no voice

By those in positions of power

By those in positions of trust

By those who should do better

How long, O Lord?

We lament broken families

Broken by death

Broken by selfishness

Broken by anger

Broken by violence

Broken by distance

How long, O Lord?

We lament death

By abortion

By miscarriage

By stillbirth

By accident

By malnourishment

By natural disasters

By disease

By murder

By war

By suicide

How long, O Lord?

We lament loneliness

from infertility

from isolation

from the death of friends or family

from singleness

from exclusion

from disillusionment

How long, O Lord?

We lament doubt and despair of your promises

Because of sin from within

Because of sins of others

Because of abuse and trauma

Because of the cares of the world

Because suffering

Because of loss

How long, O Lord?

We lament our sin

The sin we welcome

The sin that chases after us

The sins we commit again and again

The sins by which we hurt and harm our neighbor

The sins by which we hurt and harm ourselves

The lack of faith we often show

How long, O Lord?

We lament the persistent work of Satan in our midst

His works

His ways

His exploitation of our weakness

His stoking of division

His attacking of our insecurities

His attacking of joy in ministry

How long, O Lord?

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God,

we implore You to hear us.

Christ, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world,

have mercy.

Christ, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world,

have mercy.

Christ, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world,

grant us Your peace.

O Christ,

hear us.

O Lord,

how long?

O Christ,

how long?

O Lord,

how long?

Into Your hands, O Lord, we place our laments, trusting You to answer them according to Your mercy, and awaiting Your final deliverance in the day of our Lord, Jesus Christ.


Collect for Peace

O God, from whom come all holy desires, all good counsels, and all just works, give to us, Your servants, that peace which the world cannot give, that our hearts may be set to obey Your commandments and also that we, being defended from the fear of our enemies, may live in peace and quietness; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.


Sunday, July 5, 2020

This is great literature

By Grandmother's Sickbed, Michael Ancher, 1879, Wikimedia Commons
I'm currently reading Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier. It's my first time to read it. I am not finished with it, so no spoilers, please. I'm enjoying having a fairly easy, accessible but engaging Gothic-style mystery to take my mind off our vexing national and world events. I relate to the narrator. She's highly introverted, to the point of getting lost in the twisting, turning hallways of her own home because her new husband is not around to greet some unexpected guests and she is afraid to do it herself. That's one way to discover that your new house may have some secrets. 

Last night in my reading of Rebecca I came across a passage of the sort that, for me, takes a work of literature from the level of "good" to "great." It's a passage that can stand on its own in capturing something that rings universally true about the human condition. It's possible to read this passage out of the context of the entire story and still appreciate it. The language, setting and characters come together in a way that makes the reader say, "Yes, that's just how it is."

See if you agree.

I felt rather exhausted, and wondered, rather shocked at my callous thought, why old people were sometimes such a strain. Worse than young children or puppies because one had to be polite. I sat with my hands in my lap ready to agree with what anybody said. The nurse was thumping the pillows and arranging the shawls.

Maxim's grandmother suffered her in patience. She closed her eyes as though she too were tired. She looked more like Maxim than ever. 

I knew how she must have looked when she was young, tall and handsome, going round to the stables at Manderley with sugar in her pockets, holding her trailing skirt out of the mud. I pictured the  nipped-in- waist, the high collar, I heard her ordering the carriage for two o'clock. That was all finished now for her, all gone. Her husband had been dead for forty years, her son for fifteen. She had to live here in this bright, red-gabled house with the nurse until it was time for her to die. 

I thought how little we know about the feelings of old people. Children we understand, their fears and hopes and make-believe. I was a child yesterday. I had not forgotten. But Maxim's grandmother, sitting there in her shawl with her poor blind eyes, what did she feel, what was she thinking? Did she guess that we had come to visit her because we felt it right, it was a duty, so that when she got home afterwards Beatrice would be able to say, "Well, that clears my conscience for three months."

Did she ever think about Manderley? Did she remember sitting at the dining-room table, where I sat? Did she too have tea under the chestnut tree? Or was it all forgotten and laid aside, and was there nothing left behind that calm, pale face of her but little aches and little strange discomforts, a blurred thankfulness when the sun shone, a tremor when the wind blew cold?

I wished that I could lay my hands upon her face and take the years away. I wished I could see her young, as she was once, with colour in her cheeks and chestnut hair, alert and active as Beatrice by her side, talking as she did about hunting, hounds, and horses. Not sitting there with her eyes closed while the nurse thumped the pillows behind her head. 

"We've got a treat to-day, you know," said the nurse, "water-cress sandwiches for tea. We love water-cress, don't we?"

"Is it water-cress day?" said Maxim's grandmother, raising her head from the pillows, and looking towards the door. "You did not tell me that. Why does not Norah bring in the tea?"

"I wouldn't have your job, Sister, for a thousand a day," said Beatrice sotto voce to the nurse.

"Oh, I'm used to it, Mrs. Lacy," smiled the nurse, "it's very comfortable here, you know. Of course we have our bad days but they might be a great deal worse. She's very easy, not like some patients. The staff are obliging, too, that's really the main thing. Here comes Norah."

The parlour-maid brought out a little gate-legged table and a snowy cloth.

"What a time you've been, Norah," grumbled the old lady.

"It's only just turned the half-hour, Madam," said Norah in a special voice, bright and cheerful like the nurse. I wondered if Maxim's grandmother realized that people spoke to her in this way. I wondered when they had done so for the first time, and if she had noticed then. Perhaps she had said to herself, "They think I'm getting old, how very ridiculous," and then little by little she had become accustomed to it, and now it was as though they had always done so, it was part of her background. But the young woman with the chestnut hair and the narrow waist who gave sugar to the horses, where was she?

From Rebecca, by Daphne du Maurier, Chapter 15

Edited to add: I didn't like the way this book ended. But I still appreciate the writing in many parts of it. 

Monday, September 9, 2019

An Ode

Back in March, my son wrote a poem for his freshman English class. It was a summary, in verse, of Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird. You can read it here.

Last week, he wrote another poem for English class. The assignment this time was to write an ode. I would have predicted an ode to dogs, or video games, or ice cream, but instead, he wrote an ode to odes. His English teacher thought he did a very good job. I think so, too.

An Ode to Odes

Oh, how I love the odes!
Blessings you bring to all you speak of.
Oh, how you tickle the senses!
In your words I hear glorification
To that of which you speak.

An ode to popsicles, a sweet
Taste to my tongue.

An ode to the viola, a
Lullaby to my ears.

An ode to red hair, long, flowing
And beautiful to my eyes.

An ode to water, washing past
My fingers.

An ode to spices, a wonderful
Aroma from the Caribbean.

Odes, odes, never ending odes,
Thousands, millions, infinite words
Brought to life by the writer's quill.

Wonders you bring, eternal words, like
Eagles that soar full of that wonder.

An ode to odes.

By Evan Magness

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Memory Lane

I'm doing some unpacking & organizing today--almost 18 months after moving into this house we still have so many boxes to sort through--and came across some boxes of pictures, which is not good because it slows down the unpacking as I pause to look at pictures. :-)

But it got me thinking about how it's been years since I have had any pictures printed--photos are almost all digital now. My two oldest regularly used to look through family photo albums; my youngest has experienced that less, because I don't put pictures in albums anymore. Looking through photo albums leads to telling stories about the people in the pictures and fosters one's ability to remember family events. I'm sorry my youngest hasn't experienced that as much as his siblings. One of my favorite things to do as a kid was to go through the family photo albums. I'm convinced that there are memories I have of my childhood that I have held on to because I had pictures of them.

Then there's the cultural impact of the digitization of photography--20, 50 or 100 years from now, it is much less likely that people will stumble on old boxes of pictures sitting in their grandparents' attics. That's kind of sad.

On the other hand, I guess digital photos are forever, impervious to damage from light or spills and more accessible/less likely to get forgotten in a box somewhere. And they're probably more likely to be tagged with dates and names and places, so I guess that's a good thing. I have so many photos from my parents that have no names or dates, and I have no idea who the people are. Even among my own photos, I sometimes have trouble remembering exactly when the picture was taken or who all the people in the photo are.

As usual, change and progress are a mixed bag, with good points and bad. Photos are so much easier to take and share and preserve these days, but if, like my 15-year-old, you don't have a smartphone and aren't on social media, you may not see many pictures at all, including of your own family.

(Photo by Roman Kraft on Unsplash)

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Note to readers

This morning I happened to look at my comments in the blog settings, and I found more than 10 comments over the last couple of years that I don't ever remember reading or getting notifications for. I just assumed people weren't reading and commenting on blogs anymore, but apparently I need to pay more attention! For some reason, Blogger has not been notifying me of comments. I apologize if you felt ignored!

Hmmm, I wonder if I should take comments out of moderation since probably the only people reading these days are my husband and a few friends and family.


Sunday, March 17, 2019

So Sing the Mockingbirds

Northern Mockingbird/Wikimedia Commons

My son wrote this poem for his English class. The assignment was to write a summary, in verse, of To Kill a Mockingbird. He also set it to music. The English teacher liked it so much he put it on the test.

So Sing the Mockingbirds
by Evan Magness
In Maycomb's nest live many flocks;
Hawks, Blue Jays, Robins, Finches too;
And many more, make here their nest;
So sing the Mockingbirds this morn.

Finches, they say, fly from their ways;
Hatchlings, they say, migrate today;
'Tis not to be a Finch they say;
So sing the Mockingbirds this morn.

The Mockingbird, He do they mock;
But leave them gifts by tree he does;
And lure him from his nest they try;
So sing the Mockingbirds this morn.

The chick they say, must learn this night;
Just how to live her life just right;
Or fall the pit of shame tonight;
So sing the Mockingbirds this morn.

The Robin calls to Finch for aid;
Fly to his aid, the Father does;
Oppressed by Hawks are they this day;
So sing the Mockingbirds this morn.

Opposed by Hawks, Blue Jays and Wrens;
And Family calls, "Shame us you do!"
"His debt must pay, but still you stand."
So sing the Mockingbirds this morn.

The father weak, the children think;
His only skills, in pen and ink;
He cannot save the Robin, he;
For weak is he, and frail is he.

Yet from the hound he saves his nest;
His gunmanship, by this he's blessed;
Weak be he not, hound dog he's caught;
So sing the Mockingbirds this morn.

Against these winds, the birds still fly;
Against the Hawks, their heads held high;
The Robin save from death, they try;
So sing the Mockingbirds this morn.
So sing the Mockingbirds this morn.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say

Today in church we sang, "I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say," Lutheran Service Book 699.

I heard the voice of Jesus say,
  “Come unto Me, and rest;
Lay down, thou weary one, lay down
  Thy head upon My breast.”
I came to Jesus as I was,
  So weary, worn, and sad;
I found in Him a resting place,
  And He has made me glad.

I heard the voice of Jesus say,
  “Behold, I freely give
The living water: thirsty one,
  Stoop down, and drink, and live.”
I came to Jesus, and I drank
  Of that life-giving stream;
My thirst was quenched, my soul revived,
  And now I live in Him.

I heard the voice of Jesus say,
  “I am this dark world’s Light;
Look unto Me, thy morn shall rise,
  And all thy day be bright.”
I looked to Jesus, and I found
  In Him my Star, my Sun;
And in that light of life I’ll walk
  Till trav’ling days are done. (Horatius Bonar, 1808-89)

I think it was the first time for this congregation to sing this hymn. I heard a gentleman behind me say that he didn't know it but that he thought it was really nice. It has been one of my favorites for a while now. Three years ago yesterday, I sang it to my mom (Barbara) in the nursing home. It was just a few days before she came home for hospice care. Today I went back and found an old email that I had written to a friend at the time who was offering a virtual shoulder and ear.  It reminded me of a few things I had forgotten.

It is a rollercoaster. This morning I woke up at 4:30, couldn't go back to sleep, so went on over to the nursing home. When I saw her I thought it could be today. She just looked so drawn. :( I prayed Morning Prayer, read Romans 8, sang Jesus Loves Me and I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say, and cried all over her. And then the nurse came in to give her her pills and I told the nurse she wouldn't be able to swallow those and then she did, the stinker. :-) I was there much of the day and siblings were calling (yay) but she isn't able to talk much. She will say hello and say "I love you" when told "I love you" so we do a lot of that. :-) She did ask me repeatedly today to take her to California. I didn't know what to make of that but one of my brothers said that maybe she's remembering a time when she was still married to her first husband with her six babies and they lived in a pretty nice place in a very pretty part of California (I am not sure where). Tonight after choir I took Evan over with me to tell her goodnight and pray with her and she seemed so much more herself. She asked me, "What's this all about?" meaning, I guess, why am I in this place with all these people around. And I tried to explain why she was where she was. There are these little flashes of clarity and I think maybe we're gonna get her back. The problem is that she only weighs 74 pounds. She is too thin for an IV. So she is only getting what she can get in through her mouth. :-( :-( :-( I hated leaving tonight because I'm afraid there's going to be less of her in the morning when I go back. 

They were such hard days, but also beautiful in the way they distilled each moment, bringing into focus what was important and what was not. Less than a week after I wrote the above, my mom died in her room in our house. My husband, youngest son, and I were with her. The next day I wrote the same friend again. She had asked about sending me something to read since I was in vigil mode.

I was going to write back this morning and say yes, please send it, but last night my mama went home to Jesus and my eyes are not good for much right now. Thank you for being on call for me. It was a blessed end and I will be forever grateful for the gift of these three days with her at home and that I was able to tell what was going on to the extent that I called Phillip and Evan to her bedside and we were able to sing and pray over her in her final minutes. Well, they sang. I held her hands and felt their last squeezes this side of heaven. The strife is o'er, the battle done.   

Our former pastor's wife sang "I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say" as it is in LSB, to the tune SARAH-ELIZABETH, as the Prelude at my mom's funeral. When we got home from church today I went looking for a video I thought I had of her singing it when we were first teaching it to the congregation in Oklahoma, but I can't find it. She sang it so beautifully. It's still her voice I hear in my head when I try to sing this hymn today. 

Bianca, if you're reading, maybe the next time we see each other (this summer???) you can sing it, Phil can play, and I can record it so I can have it for listening in the future because I don't know if I'll ever be able to sing it again myself. Well, maybe in heaven, when my mom is there to help.