Thursday, February 26, 2009

Teenaged Ears, Apparently

Train Horn

Created by Train Horn

My Pirate Name

My pirate name is:

Captain Roger Vane

Even though there's no legal rank on a pirate ship, everyone recognizes you're the one in charge. You tend to blend into the background occaisionally, but that's okay, because it's much easier to sneak up on people and disembowel them that way. Arr!

Get your own pirate name from
part of the network

Book Review:The House of Dark Shadows

When I was a kid, I loved the book The House With a Clock In Its Walls. I must have read it ten times. Once I was home sick and read the entire book during in one day.

What kid could resist a mystery house, full of secret passages and hidden doorways? Robert Liparulo's The House of Dark Shadows couldn't help but succeed then, telling the story of the King family's move to a house with plenty of secrets. Xander King and his brother David find a mysterious hallway which lead to side rooms, which are in turn antechambers to other worlds. The boys have a few misadventures there but soon realize that they are not the only ones who are using them. Something akin to Big Foot appears to be using the doors as well. The book ends with a shocking twist, which I will not reveal here.

It was an enjoyable read, a solid thriller geared for the young adult market--for the younger end, not yet ready for Twilight. Liparulo rarely misses a step and presents the King family in a compelling way, drawing the reader into their lives and wanting to know them better. I would have preferred more time spent on the mysterious rooms, but perhaps more of these are featured in the other books in the series.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Repenting Is Life Itself

Happy Ash Wednesday to all of you....Er, can you say "happy" Ash Wednesday? Per an earlier post, can you speak of a "good" Lent? Isn't it all about sadness and mourning and denial and repentance and ashes?

Well, no. We should (should, should, should) repent of our sins daily. Hourly, really. Shedding tears over our condition is appropriate even. And we in the Western Church do put ashes on our foreheads this day. We no longer sing "Alleluia," saving that praise for Easter. And fasting can be hard. Giving up vices and pleasures even harder (at least for a skinny guy like me).

But man, it's not all bad. Jesus says, "And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, 18 that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. " (Matt. 6:16-18)

But more than that. Repenting is a blessing. A real boon. Having a God who is merciful and is the lover of all mankind--that is good news. The best news. That Christ our Lord has overcome death and sin for us and gives us Himself--not just abstract forgiveness, not just his kind thoughts and warm fuzzies, but Himself to us--that is the best news. Repenting and fasting is not sadness; it is life. It is freedom.

Happy Ash Wednesday!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Stray Thoughts

  • I used to watch the Oscars. For some reason I thought I cared.... I don't anymore
  • It's funny how people respond to a sermon that references both Foreigner and Boston songs ("I Want to Know What Love Is" and "More than a Feeling"). Even funnier: I didn't write those two references in the manuscript, and they came out ad lib.

  • As a member reminded me yesterday, theology goes astray when it all hangs on one word. Sic et non. Tao, if you will. Tradition even?

  • I've been having dreams in German lately. I haven't spoken it regularly since 1998. The German in my dreams is lousy.

  • Good writing is clear writing. Write what you want it to mean. Humans naturally bob and weave. It goes back to the Garden. Be direct.

  • I have to check the weather for the next non-windy day before Wednesday. It's hard to burn ashes in 30 mph sustained winds. Welcome to Oklahoma.

  • My wife chuckled when I said in Bible study, "If you want to have a good Lent..." It does sound funny.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Quinquagesima Sermon in Wordle

1 Corinthians 13:1-13

We 'Go All Trembly'

Religious fear, or awe, is an essential ingredient of all true religion, yet it has been systematically exiled from modern, "psychologically correct" religion. What irony! - the thing the Bible calls the "beginning of wisdom" is the experience modern religious educators and liturgists deliberately remove or try to remove from our souls: fear and trembling, adoration and worship, the bent knee and the prone heart. The modern God is "something I can feel comfortable with". The God of the Bible, in contrast, is a "consuming fire". (See Psalm 103[104]:4 and Hebrews 12:29....

Of course God and his angels are good. But "good" does not mean "comfortable". "Aslan is not a tame lion." When you meet him, you "go all trembly".

And of course "fear" does not mean "craven fear" or "fear of an evil tyrant". It means awe. But this is much more than "respect", which is how the biblical term fearis usually interpreted today. No. You don't just "respect" God. You "respect" the value of money, or the power of an internal combustion engine, or the conventions of politeness, or a handicap. You smile politely and take account of it. Only a fool does that to God. Refusal to fall flat on your face proves that the God you have met is simply not the real God.

Peter Kreeft, Angels (and Demons). pp.62-3

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Lent, Fasting, Sloth

I can't believe Lent begins next week. I was gung-ho for it at the beginning of the month, but the past two weeks have slipped by, and now it's almost here. And like every year, I don't feel ready in the least.

Ready? Sure, I have sermons to prepare, bulletins to get out and so forth, but that's not why I feel unprepared. It's the fast. It is Fastenzeit, after all.

Of the fast, it is not the prospect of eating less that bothers me. It is the realization that I will be constantly aware of what I'm eating and how much. It's the awareness, the watchfulness, the nepsis of it all that has me feeling like it should wait a while.

Of course, that is one of the reasons for the fast: to pass auf, to wake up, to rise from our slumber, from watching the wheels turn round and round, to doing. To acting. To hearing. To being.

The Seven Deadly Sins are not often named in Lutheran circles, but should be. Lust, Gluttony, Sloth, Avarice, Wrath, Envy, Pride. In that order, from kitchen knife to guillotine in degree of danger. Sloth is the sin at hand. Sloth (or acedia...ennui) is not defined primarily by the lazing about on Summer's day, or the settling in for a long winter's nap. It is the sloth of unthinking, mindless busy-ness, of going through the motions-or not. It is sloth in pro forma recitations of the prayers, of having the mind shattered by ten thousand upon ten thousand things and giving nothing its due.

If one does the Lenten fast, you can be slothful no longer, and once awake, you will begin to see and do.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Present and Accounted For...

This is just a post letting you know I am still alive--simply distracted, busy, and unfocused on blogging. It may change by tomorrow--who knows? Or maybe next week.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Your Mission Money at Work! TM

Remember back when the LCMS canceled the radio show "Issues, Etc." for budgetary reasons? You know, the radio show that promoted a very strong, traditional Lutheran theology that exposed the quackery of much modern evangelicalism and latest fads?

Well, "Issues" didn't die. The LCMS had let the trademark name lapse in 1999, so the men behind the show were allowed to use it's name and begin broadcasting again on "Pirate Christian Radio."

But the story is not quite over.

As it has been reported all over the internet, the LCMS is now threatening to sue the host and producer for using the lapsed trademark. They have hired attorneys to fight the permanent legal aquistion to the trademark--that is no longer properly theirs, mind you. They have offered the host and producer a settlement that includes a gag order--not to disparage the LCMS on their show.

It's funny how the LCMS canceled the show to save money, but is now spending God only knows how much in order to fight the use of its lapsed trademark. It's as if money weren't the real issue after all.

As usual, much more information can be garned from, including actual scans of the legal documents already filed.

Remember: your congregation's mission dollars are being spent on this.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Who was the Father of Tamar's Child?

A member asked me for help on a "Biblical Trivia Quiz" for a Valentine's Dinner. She wanted questions in particular about husbands, wives and family. It was pretty fun to do. I can't post it yet, as there will be prizes for answers on the Sunday dinner...but after then, I'll provide a link or something.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Wish Dreams and Lutheranism: Part V

This post will conclude the Wish Dream series. Feel free to comment all you wish on the series.

Option #3: Splitsville

Quit your church and announce you are starting the True Lutheran Orthodox Church of Pine Valley--either independent or seeking affiliation with ELDoNA or whomever.

The advantage to this is you get the clean break blank slate, and no worries about Synod hijinks and meddling as a mission congregation.

The cons, though, are pretty rough.

First, it is schismatic. The world does not need your new church body. Though Scripture teaches us to flee temptation, to avoid fools and sinners, to shun those who teach contrary to the truth, Scripture likewise tells us that we are to avoid schism, to attain unity in the faith and so forth.

Second, it is completely divisive. You will cause untold grief in your former congregation. You will injure people and families. You will cause confusion.

Third, it is expensive. It may take years and years to build the congregation up enough for full-time ministry. That could be slowed or hampered by having a full-to-part-time job to make ends meet--you only have so much energy in a day, and building a mission congregation is a full-time job, in theory.

Fourth, it is really un-Lutheran, if you think about it. The Lutherans teach that the ministry is not self-appointed. It is a call issued by the Church (whatever that meant and whatever it means now). You can call it a Lutheran church--a pure Lutheran church--but how pure can it be if by setting it up yourself you violate AC XIV? Sure, as soon as you get a few folks they can "call you," but for some reason, I don't think this is what the Reformers had in mind.

I began this series gently criticizing the notion of desiring a mission congregation in order to do things right. I criticized it because dreams and what-ifs are fantasies. If ifs and ands were pots and pans there'd be no work for tinkers.It does us no good physically and spiritually to dream about ideal conditions. We should stop dreaming, or start working, in other words. I preach this to myself daily.

And so the options. I can imagine no others within the context of our Missouri reading of the Lutheran Confessions.

Can you?

Sermon Draft for Sexigesima in Wordle

Wordle: Sexigesima Sermon

Love Casts out Fear

I keep coming back to themes of courage versus fear. A book I just finished turned on this theme in the last several pages--The Darkest Evening of the Year by Dean Koontz. The main characters were on a collision course against the antagonists, and one of the characters suggested fleeing. It would have been wise, and certainly the author wouldn't have had much of a book if the protagonists had done just that, but it was cast in spiritual terms. God was opening doors for them, leading and dragging them through, and the female lead said they had to act.

For Koontz, it was more than just a clever way to make sure there was a climax. He converted to Catholicism some time ago. He means it. The courage to act is a virtue. St. John the Apostle writes, "By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love," (1 Joh. 4:17-18 ESV). Failing to do, to act, to speak, to defend the defenseless, to do what is right is often--usually--sin.

It is the rancid fruit of unbelief. It is the rancid fruit of believing that God is not good, that bad things will happen, that your life will be worse if you do such and such. That the good, the true, the necessary is not worth it.

Of course following your conscience, doing the right thing, going through that open door, can bring suffering. God does not promise to spare us from that. He promises it: "If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life? Or what shall a man give in return for his life?" (Matt. 16:24-26).

But how do you know if you are stalling from fear and distrust, rather than avoiding something that is bad? How do you know if God has opened the door and not our enemy?

First, we can be absolutely clear if the revealed Scriptures speak to it. In other words, if the choice is to lie or not lie at work, we know that liars do not inherit the kingdom (Rev. 21:8) so it is clear.

Second, we should be praying about it.

Third, if it is very unclear, we should involve our Pastors.

Fourth, we should remember to be wise as serpents and innocent as doves (Matt. 10:16). The fool tears down his barn before he builds another. The fool listens to himself, the wise consults advice (Pro. 12:15). Make plans, be prepared, but always trust in the Lord's guidance.

Friday, February 6, 2009

The Combox

I hate it when I post a comment on a blog and then forget about it, so I can't go back and wonder if it garnered anything or not.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Septuagesima Sermon in Wordle

Wordle: Septuagesima Sermon

Wish Dreams and Lutheranism: Part IV

So you want to be a rock and roll star
Then listen now to what I say
Just get an electric guitar
Then take some time and learn how to play...

And in a week or two
If you make the charts
The girls'll tear you apart

(The Byrds)
Option #2: Get yourself a Mission Church

The Wish Dream for Lutheranism proposed this for the simple reason that sometimes it is easier to start with a clean slate. Renovations can only go so far. When you take the house down to studs, or even the foundation, it's not a remodel anymore.

The mission church option allows the enterprising pastor to get it right from the start. When transfers or life-long Lutherans come in, it is simply a matter of explaining to their raised eyebrows, "We're a mission church, we do things differently here."

The problem with this option is District Mission officials produce these mission churches...and they don't want this kind. They want "The Alley" or "Jefferson Hills," not "Holy Virgin Mary the Mother of God Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod." Or not even "St. Paul Lutheran Church (LCMS). I write this at the risk of putting a bad construction on them. I wish I were wrong. If I am, we can at least conclude that those who establish mission plants have a poor success rate of establishing even passably recognizable Lutheran congregations.

What about planting one yourself? Getting your congregation to start her own mission plant, going outside of the power structures? It has been done, and is certainly a more organic way for the Lutherans to spread. A church starts a sister church plant and a pastor serves there part-time until the plant grows enough to petition for membership in the synod and a chance to call a pastor.

But it would not be your church. Your call is with the mother ship, not the daughter congregation. It is hard to spend enough time and energy on a daughter to get it large enough anyway.

I suppose it could happen if your calling congregation were large enough that they could call another pastor and free you for full-time sister congregation work, but this would be a long-shot.

P.S for Chemistry types:

Here is my spoof on the song above:

So you want to be an X-ray crystallographer
Listen now to what I say
Just get an X-ray machine
Some crystallized stuff and x-ray all day:

And in a week or two
You'll be analyzing
What composes you.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009


It is much easier to create work than enact real change. It is much easier to create committees, task forces, boards, programs, outreaches, "ministries," visions, missions and ad campaigns that it is to solve the underlying problems.

Monday, February 2, 2009

My Own Hospital Visit

Jack had his adenoids removed and tubes put in his ears this morning. Before they took him to the OR I said a prayer for him. It was a strange feeling praying for him in that room, where so many times I had prayed for other people's loved ones going into surgery. I wasn't too emotional about the whole thing until then.

Everything went pretty well, and Marjorie and I were home with him by 9:30 or 10:00. We both babied him for a while, and he I took a brief nap before lunch. He rested again for a half-hour or so this afternoon, and Marjorie went to children's choir practice.

He's a pretty sweet boy and we're all thanking God for the smooth surgery. God willing, ear infections will be a thing of the past now.