Sunday, November 30, 2008

What I Learned when I Wrote a Novel in One Month

One of my earliest memories is of dictating a story to my mother. This was before I could read or write. She remembers many of these stories.

I tried to write a fantasy novel in sixth grade. When the class was watching Ghandi I was writing a pathetic rip-off of Lord of the Rings. I knew it was bad at that time. But I still don't know why a bunch of sixth graders were watching Ghandi in class or what we were supposed to get out of it.

I wrote short stories in high school, shamefully passing for high school versions of Stephen King short stories.

Then I stopped writing stories. I wrote disjointed philosophy papers instead. Later I wrote slightly more jointed theology papers, then half-jointed sermons for a long time.

But the desire to write never quite died, and lately it's been burning something fierce. So I did woodworking for a while. When it was too cold and dark to make sawdust I read. Or played computer games. But the itch became somewhat severe. Two novels stalled around chapter three, and all I had to show for it was some serious gaming skills at Call of Duty and Knights of the Old Republic.

Then I discovered National Novel Writing Month. So I followed the rules and wrote a 50214 word novel. It needs serious help, but I learned a lot doing it.

First, it's possible. Probably not for everybody, but if for those who harbor a desire and a modicum of experience writing anything fictive, it is possible.

Second, it's work. My hands hurt every night (but I have bad typing style). It took a lot of energy all those nights when I didn't have much left from long days and rowdy kids. It wasn't always fun, but there were bursts and briefs of something akin to joy here and there.

Third, think of the pros, the big name authors, the best-sellers. Think of 90% of all the novels you've ever read. Those guys are serious craftsmen. They do not exist in the same world as you do. Even the trashiest romance novelist, the mass-market paper back fantasy author, the woman that did the adaption of a screenplay. George Lucas, even. Pros. Not in your league. Not in my league. Not yet, anyway. Now think of the most hackneyed, god-awful novel you've ever attempted to read. Still a pro. Still in another league, though he may be swinging in AA or even Short-Season A. But he can still out-pitch, out bat, and out run you.

Fourth, I have a seriously good wife. She drove me through this, making sure that once I sat down to write, laundry got folded, dishes washed, house straightened, and the kids told to "be quiet and go to sleep and this time I mean it." Every night. I wouldn't have done it without her encouragement. OK...I knew she was a good wife even before this, but her support was wonderful.

Fifth, first novels are good experience, not always good stories. In other words, while I appreciate your interest and encouragement, you most likely will not be seeing the words I wrote anytime soon. Believe you me, that is to spare your eyes as much as it is to spare my dwindling self-respect.

It was a great experience, but not for the faint-hearted. Like hiking the Grand Canyon. But unlike hiking the Grand Canyon, which I want to do again someday but not too soon, now that I've had two nights off of writing, I'm almost ready to start in again.


I promised in the comments on the last post that I would restore my link list. But when I went over to "Blogrolling" to get the code, the site is missing. Apparently they were providing the feeds for it, but the site itself is done.

Have no fear, though, for I still have (most) of those links saved...somewhere. I'll do my best.

UPDATE: What I thought should be very simple, very easy--as Chef Tell used to say, is not. A similar list of blogs that I currently read is being assembled.

If, in a few days, if your blog was listed and now is not, or should be, or you'd like it to be, just let me know.

Saturday, November 29, 2008


Man, changing blog templates is no small thing. Hope you like it. I probably won't change it again for a while!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

New Template under construction. Sorry for the appearance!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

And Now For Something Completely Different...

Thanksgiving For Everything

An excerpt from a sermon for tomorrow

Our thanksgiving as Christians is much deeper than simply thanking God for all the good things. Christians give thanks for the bad too. Christians thank thank God for disease, for cancer, for the droughts, for the rain that comes to late, for the injuries.

It sounds masochistic. Perverse. The delusions of a fanatic. Nonsense. Think what you will.

I know that God is good.

I know that “all things work together for good, for those who love God.”

I know that St. Paul says, “in everything give thanks.”

I know that God disciplines those He loves.

I know that God works all things for my salvation.

I know that God is good.

I know that suffering with Christ is a blessing.

I know that Christ suffered for me.

I know that God is good, even when it looks like hell to me.

I know that God is patient, long-suffering, even when I am not.

I know that at the times this is hard. When the job goes badly, when people turn against you, when the fever rages, when the diagnoses comes, when all seems dark--that kind of thanksgiving is far, far, from my lips and has fled my heart.

But God is good. What He does is good. What He allows is good.

If not, we should all go home and never come back.

If not, our faith is empty.

If not, there is no hope.

If not, even Christ cannot save you.

God is good and loves his whole creation.

In everything give thanks, knowing that God works all things for the good for those who love him, who are called according to his purpose.

See "How Can We Give Thanks" by Fr. Stephen Freeman

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Prayer Request

Lucille Choat died this morning at 5:20 am after a long illness. She suffered numerous strokes over the years, leaving her unable to speak, and near the end, move at all.

On Tuesday of last week I prayed with her, and she actually nodded her head when I prayed the Lord's Prayer with her. When I assured her of the God's love for her, and of her faith in Christ that I had seen, she nodded again. That was the greatest response I'd seen her give in weeks.

Pray for all.

Saying of the Day

[Bishop Epiphanius] said, "God remits the debts of sinners who are penitent, for example, the sinful woman and the publican, but of the righteous man he even asks interest. This is what he says to his apostles, 'Except your righteousness exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.'"

Sayings. Epiphanius. 15

Monday, November 24, 2008

Speaking of No Time

My apologies in advance for a quiet blog the past week, and probably the week ahead. It bugs me when people mention how much they have to do, so I won't. But there's much in the hopper.

Meanwhile, please feel free to go read a novel :)

"No Time to Read Novels"

That is the nonsense I saw a pastor write somewhere. That's like saying "I have no time to eat a cookie. I have no time to have a good conversation with someone. I have no time to dream. I have no time to smell my wife's perfume. I have no time to take a long deep breath of autumn air."

I wonder if he somehow finds time to watch the Game. Or the Shows. Or read the Newspaper. Or blog...which is where I read the comment.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Book of Concord-itis Part II

But it can readily be judged that nothing would serve better to maintain the dignity of ceremonies, and to nourish reverence and pious devotion among the people than if the ceremonies were observed rightly in the churches.
Thus says the Augsburg Confession under the heading ARTICLES IN WHICH ARE REVIEWED THE ABUSES WHICH HAVE BEEN CORRECTED, paragraph 4. But do we subscribe to this? Should we say that this statement is what we believe, teach and practice?

I think the clear answer is "no," though it would be nice if we could say with one voice, "Reverence and pious devotion are no better nourished and maintained than by worship that retains the ceremonies. Likewise our worship ought to be dignified by our retaining as many ceremonies as possible." It's like a classic paper written some time ago which asked, "Why do people complain that our worship is 'too catholic?' Why don't members complain 'It's not catholic enough!'"

But we don't subscribe to this statement. It is a rhetorical device, possibly a description. And it is a rhetorical device or a description that many in the LCMS would vehemently argue with today. In fact, many (most?) pastors and many lay people assume the opposite, that dignity in worship is not important. Most of society, most of life is now completely undignified anyway. Reverence is outmoded. Being irreverant is a compliment in society, and in most churches, too, I fear. Most people would argue that retaining the ceremonies (this means all that Catholic stuff big time) actually hurts piety and faith. We need not rites and cermonies and rigor and bows and crossing and smells but direct, unvarnished, simple worship from the heart. Something to grab us, something to engage us, something that expresses our emotions and so forth. That's what they say, anyway.

This is not to say taht faith isn't from the heart. What I am saying is that the reformers believed and argued that retaining as many ceremonies of the Roman Catholic Church as possible would maintain dignity and nourish faith and reverence like nothing else.

And we don't have to agree with this statement.

And it's convenient, because we certainly disagree with it in the LCMS.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Death and Capitalism

From Second Terrace:

...the Christian Right complains about abortion, the destruction of embryos, hyper-socialism, termination of the aged and disabled, and the chic redefinition of aberrant sexual proclivity as conferring "minority" status – these are all issues about which I wholeheartedly agree with my right-wing heterodox friends.

But they are not-so-strangely silent, in their insouciance, about encroaching totalitarianism, consumerism, war-as-aggrandizement, environmental rapine, and hyper-capitalism: these concerns are just as Biblical, and should be just as salient -- even in such a restricted view thatsola scripturaallows.

You would be hard pressed to find a fundamentalist Christian who will say a critical word about capitalism, given their multi-generational catechism that defines the Beast as a red communist for sure. If you turn the radio dial enough, late at night (or the url-bar), you can still hear the static of cheap polyester declaiming Gog and Magog at the Kremlin.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Book of Concord-itis

A friend asked me this weekend what new was going on the LCMS, at least what was new in the last six months or so. I didn't have much to report. There was a Walther Conference last week or so, and some have blogged about that. Matthew Harrison released a paper calling for a movement to address our problems within the LCMS via a "Formula of Concord" procedure, and there was much debating about if it would work and if it did, should it be an addendum to the Book of Concord. Consensus on that issue was a pretty solid "no," as it would be parochial and even further fragment Lutheranism.

It begs a question, however, as to why Lutheranism is so badly fragmented anyway. What are out beefs with the ELCA? Higher criticism: not addressed explicitly in the confessions. Womyn Pastors: not addressed explicitly in the confessions. Their stance and acceptance of other issues such as homosexuality and abortion have further distanced us from them, as well as their unions with the Reformed and the Episcopalians. Similar differences would describe our relations with the other churches of the Lutheran World Federation.

What are our differences with WELS? Prayer fellowship: not addressed in the confessions. Church and Ministry: addressed, but not in a way to mandate certain arrangements, and what it does recommend neither of us do anyway (such as retaining Bishops and the other orders). What else?

Now we can argue all we wish about how faithful these other groups are to the Confessions, and they can certainly argue back, but we must admit that the Book of Concord has not ensured unity among the Lutherans as its intent was. There are controverted issues that the confessors did not anticipate or wish to address.

Members of the LWF might argue that where the Confessions are silent, then we are free to teach and practice what we wish.

Members of the LCMS might argue that we apply not only the doctrinal statements of the Confessions, but also their spirit and implications to our teaching and practice.

Both groups hedge and fudge and "nuance" their understandings of the Confessions. Recently I heard someone arguing the obtuse issue that we subscribe only to the doctrine of the confessions, and not every word or the exegesis of certain texts. That lets us off the hook for having to confess the ever-virginity of Mary. The other bit of back-peddaling we do is to say that "descriptive statements" applied to Lutherans then but not to us; therefore we are justified in "abandoning the mass" and inventing new ways of worship even though the Augustana describes that the early Reformers hadn't.

Men and women smarter than I may find fault with these brief statements. Perhaps this assement is unrefined, plodding. Regardless, it seems clear that all Lutheran Church bodies are in crisis. We have this strange relationship with Confessional statements written 500 years ago, statements which we all neglect in various ways, and to which we have added confessions and doctrinal statements, officially or not.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Saying of the Day

[Abba Cassian] also said, "There was a distinguished official who had renounced everything and distributed his goods to the poor/ He kept a little bit for his persona; use beacuse he did not want to accept the humiliation that comes from total renunciation, nor did he sincerely want to submit to the rule of the monastery. Saint Basil said to him, 'You have lost your senatorial rank without becoming a monk.'"

Sayings. Cassian 7

Note: This saying applies to us when we commit half-heartedly to our vocation or any other holy calling. But it also applies to the sinner who might "cut back" on certain sins, but not repent whole-heartedly. The effect of this is all loss and no gain, so to speak.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

A Rerun

Two half-written posts, unpublished. Today is not my day to blog here. So instead, a blast from the past. Originally published on August 23, 2007

Last week my wife started reading The Swiss Family Robinson (in adapted form) to the kiddos. I love it when she does this. A year or so ago she read a children’s redaction of The Pilgrim’s Progress and even the littlest ones loved it (and the illustrations).

The story has been on my mind a lot lately, and the stupidest question I had was, “What kind of Swiss name is ‘Robinson?’” It’s not, obviously, and the title should be emphasized as The Swiss Family Robinson, not The Swiss Family Robinson. In other words, the Swiss author (a pastor) is telling the story of a Swiss Family like Robinson (Caruso). The first few chapters tell of the shipwreck and the initial scavenging of supplies from the ship. Unlike modern versions of the castaway genre, however, there seems to be little hope, indeed, no expectation of rescue, at least in the first five or six chapters. The Family wrecked, apparently alone on the island, and they just go about making the best of it.

All of this raises an important question about our identity and purpose as Christians. If you strip away any consideration of worldly comfort, i.e., hardwood floors and granite counter tops; vacations and leather seats in your automobile; if you strip away considerations of worldly recognition, i.e., making an impact on this world, a contribution to society; if you even take away the children and grandchildren and enjoying future generations, what do you have left? What is the purpose of living?

This is the situation of the Swiss Family. On a desert island with the means for survival but nothing else: no hope of rescue, no possibility of marriage and children for their sons, only growing old and dying on this island with the animals to bury the last survivor. How then would you live? What is the purpose of such existence?

Some cultures (and subcultures) would find nothing and commit suicide. What’s the point, after all? Why struggle to survive day to day when death will still come at the end? The modern castaway stories are not so bleak: Gilligan and Co. always had a scheme of rescue. Even the Tom Hanks movie ended with his rolling of the die and leaving the island, his leap of faith upon the waters on a makeshift raft. I’m not sure we can existentially handle the possibility of a life without the world. Suicide or the hope of rescue would be the only options. More can be said about this.

However, the biblical witness does not see a difference in castaways with no hope of rescue and citizens living in this world with family and community all around. The Psalmist writes,

You turn man to destruction, And say, ‘Return, O children of men.’ For a thousand years in Your sight Are like yesterday when it is past, And like a watch in the night. You carry them away like a flood; They are like a sleep. In the morning they are like grass which grows up: In the morning it flourishes and grows up; In the evening it is cut down and withers” (Psalm 90:3-6 NKJV).

“As a father pities his children, So the LORD pities those who fear Him. For He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust. As for man, his days are like grass; As a flower of the field, so he flourishes. For the wind passes over it, and it is gone, And its place remembers it no more. But the mercy of the LORD is from everlasting to everlasting On those who fear Him, And His righteousness to children’s children” (Psalm 103:13-17 NKJV).

‘Vanity of vanities,’ says the Preacher; ‘Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.’ What profit has a man from all his labor In which he toils under the sun? One generation passes away, and another generation comes; But the earth abides forever. The sun also rises, and the sun goes down, And hastens to the place where it arose. The wind goes toward the south, And turns around to the north; The wind whirls about continually, And comes again on its circuit” (Eccl. 1:2-6 NKJV).

The biblical witness tells us that despite the number of toys, the power and influence we may achieve–even the good that we may do–all is temporary and, well, meaningless. Despite the company and comforts we have all around us, we ought to think of ourselves as citizens on the Island. As the Septuagint of Psalm 103 reads, “Remember, man, that we are dust” (LXX Psa. 102.:14).

So again, what is the purpose of the few years we have in this life? If you were to find yourself separated from all humans with no hope of ever returning, like the Swiss Family who will die within their generation, what would you do?

How would you keep on living?

What would be the point of it all?

The way you answer that question is the most important thing in your life.

Now Here's a Saying from a True Weird-o

Sometimes paranoia's just having all the facts. (William S. Burroughs)

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

123 Book Meme

Christopher tagged me. Here's the instructions:

The rules state that I must pick up the book closest to me and:

  1. turn to page 123
  2. count the first five sentences
  3. post the following three sentences
Here it is, fudging a little due to a fragment, a quote and the end of a chapter:
But he said no Sons, but the Son of the Living God. He recognised the oneness of the Person.

This Father therefore do we pray, that He prepare for us His wonted banquet, His precious and varied dishes, and that He place in the centre the bowl of His holy teaching; and that He may give us to drink of that strong drink which is the mother of sobriety. Let us then cry out to Him:Arise, O My Father, arise O my Glory, arise psaltery and the harp of the Holy Spirit, and the harp of glory and empire for ever. Amen.

(The Sunday Sermons of the Great Fathers:A Manual of Preaching, Spiritual Reading and Meditation. M.F. Tofal, ed. Vol. 1: From the First Sunday of Advent to Quinquagesima. Preservation Press:New Jersey, 1996)

I tag: Fr. Milovan; Dixie; Scott; Hollywood; and Mason.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Saying of the Day

Abba Copres said, "Blessed is he who bears affliction with thankfulness."

Sayings. Copres, 1

Monday, November 10, 2008

A Free Lunch?

UPDATED & CORRECTED: changes to the last sentence of the first paragraph

Scott Diekmann blogged about a District President who claimed that The Book of Concord is no longer relevant. For those who don't know, the Book of Concord is the compendium of what Lutherans believe, teach and practice; our doctrinal standard. It's composed of various confessions of faith, some by Luther, others by his peers, and one by the "next generation" Lutherans. However, Scott didn't name names, so it's hearsay and gossip for me to be reporting it, I suppose.

But did a DP really say it's irrelevant? It wouldn't surprise me. It doesn't surprise me when pastors say it (I've heard it). And in the LCMS we live like it's irrelevant, even if we don't say it out loud.

What do I mean by this? We ignore a good bit of its teaching. See Pr. Weedon's infamous Lutheran Eye for the Quia Guy, a list of many statements in the BoC that most of us ignore these days.

I think I would be a much happier, well-liked pastor if I ignored our Confessions. You see, as long as I try to be a Lutheran pastor, I cannot give many people what they want. But if Iignored our confession and practice, a few would be turned-off and alienated, but most would go right along.

I'd have to figure out a good marketing plan, though. What kind of niche would we fill here? There are plenty of other churches around, and we would have to distinguish ourselves from them in some way. Right now, it's Confessional teaching and practice. But if I was going to ditch the irrelevant relics of our Lutheran past, man, the thing is wide open.

It appeals to my latent hipness.

It appeals to the American Dream, of creating something new and making a success.

It appeals to people-pleasing. Who doesn't want to be liked? It's giving the people God without a whole lot of extra stuff.

And you know, the emergent church stuff includes some "ancient" stuff like candles, so I could tie-in there, and like, still keep my interest in history, you know?

But there's that vow I took and everything. And then there's the fact that I believe in my core that what passes for American Christianity has but the barest resemblance of what Christ and the Apostles taught, that they are barely hanging onto whatever shreds of Christianity remain. There's my conviction that the Church does not belong to me, that I am a man under compulsion, under orders to do what may not be popular, what may not seem best to me, stuff I normally wouldn't even like. We in the LCMS supposedly bound ourselves to this. We are free not to, but then we wouldn't be in the LCMS anymore.

Treasury of Daily Prayer Review

Having already taken a first look, I was excited to sit down with my copy Saturday evening, and it was a good experience.

It is a big book not designed for portability, but considering it contains the entire daily lectionary, it's not too bad. The smell is nice, but not remarkable. I do not know much about bindings, so I can't comment on that, though it does stay open well and does not appear to be prone to coming apart with use.

As for content, it is very similar to the two-volume Daily Prayer, edited by Robert Sauer (CPH, 1986), though the Treasury is clearly marketed to more than just pastors, unlike Sauer's volumes. Sauer's does have the advantage of size. However, one major difference with the Treasury is the inclusion of the Feasts and Commemorations in the "Propers for Daily Prayer" section. And this is its chief strength.

How does this work? Take December 4 for example. Under the date the commemoration for John of Damascus (note: no honorific before his name) is included in italics. Next is the Psalmody for the day, conveniently pointed for chanting and a suggestion for an additional psalm. Following this is the Old Testament reading (Isa. 10:12-27a, 33-34) printed in its entirety, then the New Testament reading, 2 Pet. 1:1-21 likewise printed. A writing follows that, and for December 4 it is from the Formula of Concord (XI 13-14), a hymn stanza, and a "Prayer of the Day" which joyously commemorates St. John of Damascus, saying, "O Lord through Your servant John of Damascus, You proclaimed with power the mysteries of the true faith. Confirm our faith so that we may confess Jesus to be true God and true man, singing the praises of the risen Lord, and so that by the power of the resurrection we may also attain the joys of eternal life..." Finally, a brief biography of St. John of Damascus follows and a suggested further reading from the Book of Concord.

When LSB was produced, I was excited to see a fuller list of feasts and commemorations, but until now, there were no rubrics nor resources to use in the actual commemoration of the saints. Now we have appropriate collects and martrologies to read so we can know whom we are thanking God for. It's too bad such materials were not included in the Altar Book, or even the lectionaries.

A resource like this has long been needed in Lutheranism. As others have noted, the book is flexible enough to be used in a number of ways. One who does not wish to flip pages, for instance, could refer only to the "Propers for Daily Prayer" and have a fuller devotional life. Or one could use the propers while using the form Daily Prayer:For Individuals and Families, or Matins and Vespers. If one is feeling maximal, he could even refer to the chart which gives the Psalms for the liturgy of the hours and pray seven times a day. Good stuff, and very flexible for Lutherans is various situations and vocations. It would bring a sea change in our synod if even one third of our laypeople began using this daily. Lex orandi, lex credendi.

Now for the criticism. The biggest problem I see is that in the "Time for Easter" the commemorations are not included in the Propers as they are in the second half of the book. The book begins with labeling the days "Ash Wednesday", "Monday-Lent 1" and so forth. Obviously, it's impossible to include a specific commemoration when that Monday could be in February or March. So the editors placed those commemorations and propers in an appendix. Well enough. But they did not include any collects! Only a reading and biography. Why were collects commemorating the saints included in the second half of the year, and not during the time of Lent and Easter? There is some precedent of course, in allowing days to be privileged, and commemorations to be unsaid. However, I didn't read that this was intentionally done in any of the forwards and introductions. And there is no hint of privileged days in the second half of the book. It appears that collects were forgotten to be included.

Furthermore, it would have been nice if the days of commemorations would have included a reading from the one being commemorated. In other words, why is there a reading from the Formula of Concord on and not John of Damascus on December 4? The editor noted in the introduction that a Lutheran bias was intentional, but there are many, many days where no one is commemorated that could have served for readings from Lutheran sources. Likewise, there are commemorations of saints who wrote nothing that has survived, such as Joseph of Arimathea on July 31. Those dates likewise could have included other writings of the editor's choosing.

Finally, the Orders of Matins, Vespers, Morning Prayer, Evening Prayer, and the shorter "Daily Prayer: for Individuals and Families" all require this order: Versicles/Invocation, Ordinaries or Psalm, then :psalm/hymn, readings, then collects. For example, say I'm using Matins. I pray the Opening Versicles, the Common antiphon, Seasonal Antiphon (which the editors also call the Invitatory), the Venite, and then the rubrics say, "Additional Psalms, Office Hymn, Readings." But I turn to November 9, and I see Psalmody, then Readings, then Hymnody. Why wasn't the hymn placed before the Readings, so that this section could have been read straight through? Again, every prayer service included follows the same pattern as Matins, yet the Propers are given in a different order. This makes it just a little harder to keep up with, especially for beginners.

These problems are not deal-killers by any means, but they are more than just peeves. Perhaps a second edition may make these corrections. However, for those Lutherans who do not have a devotional life, or one that is lacking, call CPH and get this book. If you go to church here, you'll be hearing about it soon. And when you get it, use it.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Do Not be Swayed by Plastic Hopes

From my friend Emily's blog:

It's almost Dominic's birthday but for a couple months already he has been wanting to get a Batman Hideout. It's the gift he hopes most to get and it's all he talks about. He hopes so much in getting it that it's almost like he has it already. He plans on how he'll play with it and when and with what other toys, ect. Recently he's been trying to convince us to buy it for him when he's with us at the store. On those days he wants a toy so much (finally being convinced that we're not going to get him the big toy) that he even settles into asking for smaller, cheaper toys. Of course we never give in to his pleas for a cheaper toy because we have already bought the big gift he's been hoping for. He doesn't know that, so there's much disappointment and broken-heartedness on his part. If he could only wait...

I find that Dominic's story is much like my prayer life has been. I hope and pray for whatever is on my heart but when I don't find it soon enough, I begin to wonder whether I ought to hope for something smaller or different. I'm only now beginning to mature enough to realize I should not let myself be swayed by plastic hopes but instead keep my hope in the biggest gift, which is really the gift of Christ Himself. When you focus your heart on Christ in prayer, nothing seems to matter as much - not the hopes of this world and not even the hope of good things from God - they don't matter as much as being found secure in the love of Christ, being in Christ Himself. For if you are in Christ then His good things are as sure as yours, even if they are not yet placed in your hand.

Oh, but what an infant I am in prayer! And even worse than an infant! It's the waiting that I kill myself with every time. If I could only wait...

What To Do When Worst Comes to Worst

From From Where I Sit by Michael Hyatt, Presdient & CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers.

He writes that in whatever situation you find yourself, you must do two things:

  1. Confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they may be.

  2. Retain faith that you will prevail in the end, regardless of the difficulties.

This is what author Jim Collins refers to as “The Stockdale Paradox.” In his book, Good to Great, he tells the story of Admiral James Stockdale, who was a prisoner of war for eight years during the Vietnam War.

After his release, a reporter asked Admiral Stockdale, “How in the world did you survive eight years in a prisoner of war camp?”

He replied,

I never lost faith in the end of the story. I never doubted not only that we would get out, but also that I would prevail in the end and turn the experience into the defining event in my life, which, in retrospect, I would not trade.

The reporter then asked, “Who didn’t make it out?” Admiral Stockdale replied,

Oh, that’s easy, the optimists. They were the ones who said, “We’re going to be out by Christmas.” And Christmas would come and go. Then they’d say, “We’re going to be out by Easter.” And Easter would come, and Easter would go. And then Thanksgiving, and then it would be Christmas again. And they died of a broken heart.”

This sounds a lot like repentance and faith in Christ.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Preaching Tip

On Sunday the One-Year lectionary has us proclaim, "Therefore when you see the 'abomination of desolation,' spoken of by Daniel..." (Matt. 24:15)

Please note, Jesus did not say "the Obama-nation of desolation."

I write this on Tuesday afternoon and it will appear at midnight CST on November 5. I do not know what had happened since. I do not know what will happen today. There is hope right now. There are also riot police mobilizing in our major cities, but nobody is talking much about that. Hopefully this will not be necessary.

Regardless of the next eight hours and the next eight weeks, and the next eight years, the following is for us who call on the name of Christ. The Anonymous "Disciple" wrote this to Diogenes within decades of Jesus' Ascension:

[Christians] dwell in their own countries, but simply as sojourners. As citizens, they share in all things with others, and yet endure all things as if foreigners. Every foreign land is to them as their native country, and every land of their birth as a land of strangers. They marry, as do all [others]; they beget children; but they do not destroy their offspring. They have a common table, but not a common bed. They are in the flesh, but they do not live after the flesh. They pass their days on earth, but they are citizens of heaven. They obey the prescribed laws, and at the same time surpass the laws by their lives. They love all men, and are persecuted by all. They are unknown and condemned; they are put to death, and restored to life.

They are poor, yet make many rich; they are in lack of all things, and yet abound in all; they are dishonoured, and yet in their very dishonour are glorified. They are evil spoken of, and yet are justified; they are reviled, and bless; they are insulted, and repay the insult with honour; they do good, yet are punished as evil-doers. When punished, they rejoice as if quickened into life; they are assailed by the Jews as foreigners, and are persecuted by the Greeks; yet those who hate them are unable to assign any reason for their hatred.
Glory to God for all things!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

More Thoughts On Devotions

Praying the Psalter, or using a resource that helps you do this, like The Treasury of Daily Prayer or one of the other mentioned, is great for you mature adults. I pray one or two of the daily offices while I am at Church (I'm not boasting; I could pray them all, or even one more attentively).

But what about home when the two-year-old begins to sing "Backyardigans" and the fifteen-year-old rolls her eyes, and your spouse looks at you like she is about to throttle the seven-year-old if this doesn't end soon?

First, the kids need to pray, not only hear a story. A story may keep their interest, and even teach them a lesson, but the disciples asked, "Lord, teach us to pray." A foundation needs to be set right now for them. But we are dealing with children, and so we should pray as children.

Here's the order we use for Vespers (from LSB):

Opening Versicles ("O Lord, open..." "Make haste...")
Gloria Patri
Seasonal "Praise to you..."
Two or three verses from a Psalm
Lord's Prayer
Prayers said by all
Benedicamus & Benediction

What you have to remember is that we're dealing with PK's here. Looking at it written down, it even seems a bit long for the younger of my brood. And I've been considering adding a "story" to the mix, because they don't get that too much.

Here's some tips to also help the kids:

Use Props. In other words, have a Family Altar. Use some candles. Make sure you have a crucifix and avoid the "religious art" in favor of icons or nothing. Yes, it will look "religious" or even "church-y" but that's what we are, aren't we?

Pray at the same time and same place everyday. Children (and adults) need consistency and stability.

If what you're doing isn't working, ask your pastor and do what he says. He might tell you to shorten your devotion. Or to buckle down and do it. Do not exasperate your children (Col. 3:21). Do not overindulge them either.

Rhetorics in the Second Grade

On the way to school several days ago, my daughter asked me who I was voting for. I told her McCain. She asked why I was not voting for Obama. I tried to tell her, in 2nd grade terms, that despite good qualities in Obama, and despite some of the positions of his party, that I cannot in good conscience vote for someone who is in favor of abortion. I don't like it, but I am a single-issue voter for now.

I had to explain abortion to her.

The next day she told my wife and I, "Grace at school wanted to vote for Obama, but I asked her, 'Grace, don't you love babies?' She said she did. Then I said, 'Well, Obama thinks killing babies is good. You don't want to vote for a baby killer, do you?' And guess what? She's not voting for Obama anymore!"

That killed me, in her Seven-year-old earnestness: "Don't you love babies?"

I had to re-explain to her that Obama himself is not a murderer. That Obama doesn't actually do this himself, and that "baby killer" is not the most helpful way of describing him.

But what a rhetorician!

Pray for America. Vote your conscience. God Bless America.

Saying of the Day

Abba Gerontius of Petra said that many, tempted by the pleasures of the body, commit fornication, not in their body but in their spirit, and while preserving their bodily virginity, commit prostitution in their soul. "Thus it is good, my well-beloved, to do that which is written, and for each one to guard his own heart with all possible care." (Prov. 4:23)

Sayings. Gerontius, 1.

Treasury of Daily Prayer: A First Look

Prs. Eric Brown and Mark Bersche were gracious enough to bring the Treasury to our Circuit Conference today, so I was able to look through it during the meeting. I justified myself that I was attending sacred matters, though I ignored the brethren at times. Shame on me.

By and large, it seems that this is something long lacking in American Lutheranism, and I praise the editors and CPH for publishing it. Even after my cursory examination, I plan on promoting this heavily among the congregation and praying that many will use it. I do have some issues with it that I will address when I receive my copy and am able to spend some more time with it.

Thank you to all who have here, and in other places encouraged me to check it out. I hope to receive my copy soon and will do a full review of it ASAP.

Monday, November 3, 2008

The Secret Eucharistic Prayer

Lutherans do not pray the sacrificial language of the Eucharistic Prayer, and never really have. The Reformers rejected the inclusion of the Verba within prayer for the fact that they understood the Eucharist as God's gift to us, rather than the priest's or the people's offering. In other words, they understood that the Verba (the "words of institution") are proclamation to us, not prayer to God.

This is the simple version, admittedly. But consider any Lutheran liturgy (save some from the ELCA of late), and you will find that the verba are not included within prayer. The LCMS, seeking to be faithful to the Lutheran Confessions, have always rejected this.

For example, Lutheran Service Book Setting One has an expanded "Prayer of Thanksgiving" following the Sanctus which immediately precedes the Verba. However, it makes pains to make clear that the prayer is completely over before the Verba are proclaimed: "To You alone, O Father, be all glory, honor, and worship, with the Son and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen." The Verba are included under the bolded heading "The Words of our Lord." Clearly the LCMS wanted to keep the Verba outside and separate from any Eucharistic Prayer.

Until The Pastoral Care Companion.

See this on p.36 under the rite for "Visiting the Sick and Distressed."

Rubric: If the Lord's Supper is not to be received, the service concludes with the Blessing on page 38.

It is truly good, right, and salutary that we should at all times and in all places.... Above all, we give thanks for Your boundless love shown to us when You sent Your only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ, into our flesh and laid on Him our sin, giving Him into death that we might not die eternally. Because He is now risen from the dead and lives and reigns to all eternity, all who believe in Him will overcome sin and death and will rise again to new life.

Our Lord Jesus Christ, on the night when He was betrayed...

While there is a page turn involved, there is no conclusion to the prayer, nor an amen, nor any distinguishing between the prayer addressed to the Father and the Verba.

What Does This Mean?
Apart from doctrinal review dropping the ball, I'll ask you this question. Leave a comment.