Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Walgreens to Help the Poor

NEW YORK – Drugstore operator Walgreens will offer free clinic visits to the unemployed and uninsured for the rest of the year, providing tests and routine treatment for minor ailments through its walk-in clinics — though patients will still pay for precriptions. (read more here)
Much of the time that I hear about health care reform, I get nervous. This is a fantastic example of how it should be done--corporations actually working to help people, instead of only looking at the bottom line.

Bravo, Walgreens!

Awake, O Sleeper. Or, Doing the Stuff We Need to Do

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I was looking through some old memos on the Centro and found a record of exercises recording in October. What I lifted, how much, how many reps and so forth. I was depressed. It was about the same, maybe even a little more than I did last week.

A couple of years ago I was diagnosed with high cholesterol during a routine check-up. Since then I've been exercising at the Y a couple of times a week...for a while, then life or illness or Summertime gets in the way and I stop. Since October I took a few weeks off during Advent/Christmas. Then another three weeks off when I got costochronditis (inflammation of the cartilage in the sternum). Sometimes I just don't feel like going. When the kids don't have to get up early for school, I don't get up in time to workout.

Now I know I need to exercise. It helped the cholesterol level. I also enjoy it. I feel good doing it and feel better all day having hit the gym. But I don't do it as often as I need to, and obviously I'm not making much progress in building strength. Was gibt?

Last November I wrote a novel--well, a novella. It wasn't very good, but I enjoyed writing it. It was something that I have wanted to do since I was a boy. I remember working on an epic fantasy novel when I was in sixth grade, scribbling in a spiral notebook in the darkened classroom while we were supposed to be watching Gandhi. (Why were we watching that movie in 6th grade??) I wrote about 300 words back then.

The next step for my "completed" novel was supposed to be revising. Or starting a second one. Immediately. I've written about 3 or 4000 words since December 1. That's it.

Why don't we do what we want to do? Why don't we do what we're supposed to do? Why do we shrug off that which is good and beneficial? In part, we're undisciplined. We have those wish-dreams of accomplishments they never quite get to. We struggle through to achieve, to make it where we are and grow tired.

In part, we live lives asleep at the wheel. We do what we have to, what we've programmed ourselves to do, what we've always done and then retreat and do the same tomorrow. We think in the past and in the future but never in the now, the moment. Our prayers are halting and irregular, our fasting time is nearly over, our love follows the lay of the land, taking the path of least resistance. If life is comfortable, we cuddle up and settle in.

It's for our salvation when we realize it. Like a lucid dream we see our true condition and our need for salvation in the midst of our need. If I cannot even do the small things like I want, how can I do what is truly good? How can I love the unlovable when I have not the strength to do the smallest things?

There are tips and tricks to awaken ourselves in this life, to meet our goals: the Life Plan; Personal and Family Goals; GTD and Lifehacking; Covey. The "secular" tips and tricks can work, and work well for those who can muster the discipline to keep them going.

But it is a spiritual problem. Everything is when you get down to it. And spiritual problems--acedie, sloth, ennui, whatever you want to call it, demand spiritual solutions: the Sacraments and using the weapons of the spirit: prayer, fasting, almsgiving.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Satellites and Gadgets

So we found a good deal on Dish Network and switched from our cable company. The deal came with a DVR. We had still been taping some shows on the VCR, but this year it finally gave up the ghost. Now, the only show we had bothered to tape was Lost. So this season M and I have huddled around the computer monitor to watch it online on Thursday evenings.

I already love the DVR. I recorded Kings last night--the modern re-telling of the story of King Saul and David, and I can watch it whenever I please. I've also been recording The Simpsons, which was required daily viewing before we had kids. Haven't really seen it since...until now.

But part of me wishes we hadn't taken this latest plunge into the 21st Century Mass Entertainment technolatry. Cable, cell phone, computer/high-speed internet, newer gadgets to make all this stuff work; it seems never-ending, and for what purpose?

Distractions, mostly.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Robert Graf, Requiscat in Pace

Robert Graf passed away this evening at 6:30 pm.

Bob was a dear friend and mentor.

May he rest in peace.

Winter Weather

We got about 6" of snow and some drifts. Not to bad, and not nearly as much as they anticipated...of course. But we needed the moisture very badly.

Today it got to 69.9 deg. Crazy Oklahoma.

We received a few new members today, one family from Arizona. They said they liked having seasons again. I said, "Little did you know that we have winter, then spring, then summer, then spring, back to winter, spring, then winter again, then summer." Marjorie said, "Yes, and all that in January!"

Crazy Oklahoma weather.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Sobering Coincidence?

Family Planning Associates asks for $395 to kill your baby in the first trimester. It's only $45 to get a pill to do the same thing.

FPA is owned by Irving "Bud" Feldkamp III.

Mr. Feldkamp's two daughters and their husbands and five grandchildren died when their private plane crashed in Butte, MT earlier this week.

The plane crashed into Holy Cross Cemetery.

Holy Cross cemetery includes a "Tomb of the Unborn"--a memorial to all infants killed by abortions.

Lord have mercy upon us all!

HT: Weedon

One-Year Lectionary Question

For those of you using the One-year Lectionary, do you have any good sources for clip art for bulletin covers? I'm having a hard time finding anything online that is not geared toward the Three-year lectionary.


Tuesday, March 24, 2009

45,000 People is Still a Small Town

We went to Mikayla's 7th grad band concert tonight. When we started down a row in the auditorium, we realize the nurse who gives Elli her allergy shots was sitting in front of us. Then Jack noticed a little girl behind us. The mom recognized us from the doctor's office--when getting Elli an allergy shot. A family sat next to Marjorie--they were friends of a friend. Two rows back, one of the students Marjorie accompanies for music contests sat down. After the concert, we said hello to the band director who is a member of our parish. One of my confirmands said hello as he walked by--a 6th grade drummer.

That is community. It was good.

So What Was the About?

Someone asked yesterday--"What occasioned this last post??" What didn't?

--some long, bitter discussions at other blogs;

--friends acting contrary;

--controversy in our denomination and other church bodies;


--temptations (tenatio) all around.

This means it is a good Lent. Satan is testing, prayer increasing, mercy unfolding.

Monday, March 23, 2009

It's Lent, Afterall...

It seems that in this Lent, no sleeping dogs lie, no pot goes unstirred, no status quo is over-turned, no temptation withdrawn, no church unaffected, no matters left to peace, no accusation left unsaid, no defense left open, no scandal un-blogged.

It's more repenting I need. Kyrie Eleison!

They're Back!

The family arrived home safely Saturday evening. It is really good to have them back. While they were gone someone asked how lonely it was in an empty home. Lunch and dinner time were the worst. It was so quiet, I'd have to turn the TV on to have a little noise. The irony, of course, is that when the house is full, M and I are always telling the kids to be quiet and eat.

The time away was good for the kids, though. I've noticed that Elli seems a bit more mature and considerate than she had been. She also stopped taking Zyrtec. What's the connection? Marjorie took some a week or two ago and felt very angry and irritated, and realized that Elli acted like that all the time. It is a rarely reported side-effect. Makes us wonder.

Saturday, March 21, 2009


Heard on "A Prairie Home Companion":

"Bach was revolutionary. He was revolutionary because he was old-fashioned. That's how we know he was a Lutheran."

In other matters: I had posted something on political correctness, then thought better of it and removed it. But it made it through to several feed burners before I removed it. It turned out a little too insensitive.

I guess this means I am more politically correct than I thought I was.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Let's Focus on Things that Matter

I am no fan of President Obama. I cannot support his deathworks policies.

But let's go easy on his sense of humor.

Here's where people said he was making fun of Jessica Simpson:

The girl is on the cover of a national magazine publicizing how she used to be fatter. What Obama said is pretty mild...and amusing.

Now some rail against him for making fun of the Special Olympics. Here's what happened on the Tonight Show:

Give the man a break, please. He was making fun of himself and everyone who was buttering him for bowling a 129.

Until he does something like this, he's not making fun of anyone (it begins in a familiar fashion, then goes off the tracks at 0:13)

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


One of my dear members died Monday afternoon--Dorothy Spillman. She made the good confession. May our Lord receive her in His Kingdom and give peace to all who mourn her.

The other member who is near death is still with us. Continue to pray for Robert, servant of God.

UPDATED with correct day. I'm loosing it. :(

Missing Hymn!

I just realized the hymn "Be Thou My Vision" is not in the newest LCMS hymnal. Nor does it seem to be in the previous hymnal.

How do I know this song so well?

Why is it not in them?

Here is the text:

Be Thou my vision, O Lord of my heart,
Be all else but naught to me, save that Thou art;
Be Thou my best thought in the day and the night,
Both waking and sleeping, Thy presence my light.

Be Thou my wisdom, be Thou my true Word,
Be Thou ever with me, and I with Thee Lord;
Be Thou my great Father, and I Thy true son;
Be Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one.

Be Thou my breastplate, my sword for the fight;
Be Thou my whole armor, be Thou my true might;
Be Thou my soul's shelter, be Thou my strong tower:
O raise Thou me heavenward, great Power of my power.

Riches I heed not, nor man's empty praise:
Be Thou mine inheritance now and always;
Be Thou and Thou only the first in my heart;
O Sovereign of Heaven, my treasure Thou art.

High King of Heaven, Thou Heaven's bright sun,
O grant me its joys after victory is won;
Great Heart of my own heart, whatever befall,
Still be Thou my vision, O Ruler of all.

Parenting According to Monster Movies by Matthew Archbold

I should just link to this, but I'm afraid you won't follow it. Matthew Archbold should do stand-up. Here's his theory and reprint of his post: Parenting According to Monster Movies, from Creative Minority Report.

I’ve developed a theory on parenting informed by monster movies and based on my own life. In the beginning I was King Kong. The King of all Monsters. Nobody messed with Kong. Nobody. Until…I fell in love. That’s the downfall.

I’m sure you can relate. First comes love, then comes marriage, then comes the baby daughter in the baby carriage. I’m sure this path happened similarly for you. Let’s walk along the Monster Movie timeline of parenting.

Birth of baby. You are The Fly.

You are an unsuspecting victim who dabbled with powers far beyond your comprehension and changes come upon you unbidden. You’re not yourself anymore. You don’t know what you are. But it’s not pretty.

1-3 mos. –You are a Vampire

– You’ve been cursed to walk the night seemingly for eternity. As a nocturnal creature with red bloodshot eyes you frighten all who come in contact with you. As the sun rises, you curse it and only wish for sleep, peaceful sleep.

3-6 mos. - Frankenstein

– Mornings see you as a near brainless groaning grumpy creature with a mean streak. You plod around your castle like the living dead. You yourself don't know if you're more dead than alive. Your visage is offensive to all.

6 mos. to 1 yr. - You are a Ghost.

To everyone who knew you pre-baby you have disappeared. Nobody ever sees the ghost you and they even start suspecting you don’t exist at all. And when you show up among old friends they scream, gasp, and question you. And you begin to feel unconnected to them and slowly beging fading away...forever.

1 -2 yrs. You are Quasimodo

– You walk around the house hunched over trying to protect your newly walking child from every corner in the house until you’re permanently deformed. (This is especially bad for the first child and almost non-existent by the fifth when you say things like, “Hey, how else will she learn not to walk into walls?)

2-4 yrs. You are Jekyll and Hyde

– You have a split personality. You are the authoritarian figure of a lunatic asylum at home and somehow you’re supposed to not instinctively tell people to finish their drink all gone at business lunches.

5-12 yrs. – You are the Wicked Witch of the West

–The scourge of your young girl who seeks only to escape your clutches. You pester her and come after her but all she wants to do is hang out with her friends who she calls weird names like Scarecrow and Tin Man. You are surrounded by monkeys who fly around crazily and no matter how many times you give them jobs to do they just mess it up.

12 -15 yrs. - You are Hal 9000 from A Space Oddysey 2001

–You're trying to patiently and logically explain everything you do to uncooperative little humans. The little humans who once thought you were great now can’t stand the sound of your voice, think you’re crazy and are trying to shut you off.

15-18 yrs. – You are the Invisible Man.

–Nobody sees you. You can do and say whatever you want, it doesn’t matter. Nobody can see you.

18 yrs. – You are Annie Wilkes.

–The person you love is trying to leave you. Oh no, Mr. Man. We won’t be having any of that. You’re staying right here. Don’t even think about getting in that Cockadoodie car and leaving. I go out of my way for you! I do everything to try and make you happy. I feed you, I clean you, I dress you, and what thanks do I get? You think you can just leave now?!

25 yrs.- You are the Mummy.

You wander around slowly causing mayhem until you are placed back in your tomb.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Evangelicalism Will Die: Others Receive Inheritance

As referenced last week, a certain essay has hit a nerve among our Evangelical friends.

What is Evangelicalism, you ask? You ask because it's a good question. It's like obscenity: I know it when I see it. Seriously, it is hard to define, but the easiest way to recognize it is by going in your nearest "Christian Bookstore." Make sure it's not Catholic or Orthodox, and take a look around. Browse the gizmos and framed prints, t-shirts and music. Look at the titles of books. Find the most prominently displayed books and read their back covers. Look at the people who are shopping there. Eavesdrop on their conversations.

That is Evangelicalism.

And a lot of different people with different prejudices and backgrounds are worried that it is going away.

Where are the people who used to be Evangelical going to go? The author of that most-talked-about essay, Michael Spencer, writes, "Two of the beneficiaries will be the Roman Catholic and Orthodox communions. Evangelicals have been entering these churches in recent decades and that trend will continue, with more efforts aimed at the "conversion" of Evangelicals to the Catholic and Orthodox traditions."

Why not Lutherans? We've been whining this for years. Why not the Lutherans?

I'll be blunt. It's because the LCMS has been trying for a decade or three to become just like our shallow evangelical friends. The Evangelicals have vast amounts of people and influence and the LCMS is missing it. We've sold our birthright for a pot of porridge and now that's grown cold and solidified. Goldilocks is off to something else.

To keep things simple, what your mother told you is true. "Be yourself. Don't give into what other people want you to be. Don't change who you are to be accepted. Do what is right and don't apologize for it." Our mothers were always right.

Can it be fixed? I'm not so sure. There are plenty of brave souls that are trying. The problem we have now is different parties trying to remake our denomination into their vision, each attempting to convince the people that theirs is the true Lutheranism, or at least the true way to be faithful to God and survive.

When you have competing claims of legitimacy, one will be silenced eventually.

Have mercy on us, dearest Jesus.

What I've Been Doing

Sorry for the silence here. Tuesday I arranged my schedule to take a trip to see my in-laws and Marjorie's uncle, who has suffered a heart attack, but due to his MS is unable to have surgery to repair the blockages. Then a member landed in the ICU with a DNR in place. She defied expectations by re-starting her heart herself at least a dozen times since then. I was torn between staying and going. Then another member--the patriarch of the congregation--was placed on hospice care on Friday. Staying here seemed to be the right choice.

The best part of being a pastor is standing at the bedside of one who is dying. Everything is stripped away and that remains is the Gospel. It is a privilege telling others about the merciful God they are about to meet, who is waiting for them with open arms. Laying on hands, giving absolution, commending them to the care of the holy angels, sharing with them the hope that casts out fear--this is the best part of the job.

I will be doing that more this week. Pray for God's servants Dorothy and Robert.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


UPDATE--Link to Alan Keyes video fixed.

At the beginning of the week I wrote something about sensing an increasing amount of doom-saying. It's official.

Christianity is on the wane in America (read here)

Evangelicalism is on the wane. (read here)

Catholicism is being persecuted. (the last post)

People are worried about civil unrest. Alan Keyes actually uses the phrase "civil war." (watch this)

Let's be honest: of course we all would much prefer peaceful days and status quo. And frankly, all this doomsday talk bugs me.

...and in a moment of writer's block, my friends at Creative Minority Report (you are friends, aren't you?), just posted another doom and gloom post....

And in my comment there, I was not joking about speaking German. I'm resisting with all my effort to refrain right now. But I don't think this has much to do with this topic.

It's okay to think in terms of End Times (or, Eschatology, if you want to sound snobby). Christ talked that way. St. Paul talked that way. It is Christian. We confess that the Last Days will come in both Creeds confessed in worship. In fact, we believe we are already here--there are just more of them than it sounded like.

I don't want to be that dramatic, but I truly think that there will be a "Come to Jesus" moment in America when the last things we will worry about is the 3G network coming to Enid. Crass materialism is going to destroy us.

But in all these things there is the important thing to remember: it is our duty to love God and love our neighbors as ourselves. We are to pray and fight temptation. This is our calling, whether we have one month to live or the world ends this afternoon or next century. We are in a fight, a war, against the spiritual powers in heavenly places, and it is a war fought and won in thoughts, words, and deeds, in the little moments and choices of life.

And remember, "And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell." (Matthew 10:28)

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Welcome, our Conquering Liberal Overlords!

The Connecticut Legislature is debating a bill that would madate Roman Catholic Churches be administered by an elected lay board, upon which the pastor and his bishop would have no vote. Obviously, many Catholics are up-in-arms, as it would redefine Catholicism. An editorial in The Advocate notes,

"Free exercise" of religion includes the way a Church chooses to organize. Strip the bishops and priests of their role in financial matters and their message becomes subject to the approval of those holding the purse.

Historically, "under trustee control, not only was pastoral authority practically eliminated, but the Church's message was utterly dependent upon the congregation's cultural and political condition."

The writer grants that many protestant churches have chosen such an arrangement. Nevertheless, the First Amendment grants churches the right to choose.

There are a multitude of directions this can go. I may pursue some of them in the days to come. Here is one:

Patrick Archbold at Creative Minority Report writes,

Some have written, what is the big deal? It is not likely to pass. It is a big deal, passage or not. This is how fictional rights are created and real rights eliminated. First is always the trial balloon. It is destined for failure, but passage is not the intent. The intent is to bring it into the conversation. The intent is to start a trend in other states with lawmakers proposing similar statutes, all under the guise of protecting regular folks. Then, after you have heard about it several times, it doesn't seem like a big deal anymore. Then maybe, just maybe, it passes somewhere. Then the gates will be opened and religious liberty in this country is over.
It reminds me of the proverb that error first demands toleration, then equality, lastly superiority. The slippery slope. How to boil a frog.

We see the same in every arena: politics, church, home. The trial balloon, the testing of boundaries, followed by further discussion and deliberations, and finally new laws or rights to protect us. The ELCA has been at this approach regarding homosexual unions for a decade or more. It looks like they will finally get their prize in allowing ministers to shack up with whatever they wish, as long as it's not serial or unseemly.

Beware the exploratory committee. Make sure you know what and where they are exploring. And remember, they will be back.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Have You Seen this Painting?

OSLO – A 450-year-old painting by Renaissance artist Lucas Cranach the Elder has been stolen from a Lutheran church in the southern Norway town of Larvik, police said Sunday.

Art expert Gunnar Krogh-Hansen estimated "Suffer the Little Children to Come Unto Me" could be worth 15-20 million kroner ($2.1-$2.8 million). It was probably painted around 1540.

The theft was discovered when firefighters responded to an alarm at the church around 1:30 am (0030 GMT) Sunday, and found a broken window and a ladder outside.

Petter Aronsen, a Larvik police official, was quoted by the Norwegian news agency NTB as saying the thief or thieves probably had a car waiting nearby.

"We don't have any suspects and are very interested in talking to anyone who might have seen something," he said. He said the national crime police and the national economic crime unit were being called in, and that a worldwide alert would be issued.

The roughly three-foot- (one-meter-) wide work, painted on a wooden panel, had hung in the church about 330 years.

Cranach lived from 1472 until 1553, and is considered one of Germany's important Renaissance painters.

(Yahoo News)

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Book Confessions Meme

Book Confessions

1. To mark your page you: use a bookmark, bend the page corner, leave the book open face down?
Bookmark sometimes, upside down if it won't immediately break the spine. Sometimes I don't mark it all, but just sort of remember.

2. Do you lend your books?

3. You find an interesting passage: you write in your book or NO WRITING IN BOOKS!
Writing in books? Of course! That's why the margins are, er, used to be so big.

4. Dust jackets - leave it on or take it off.
Dust covers make good bookmarks too, if you take the flap and hold the page with it. But often take it off.

5. Hard cover, paperback, skip it and get the audio book?
Hard covers are nice, but so durn expensive.

6. Do you shelve your books by subject, author, or size and color of the book spines?
Subject or genre first, size and color within the first.

7. Buy it or borrow it from the library later?
I prefer to buy, but that was before I had four kids.

8. Do you put your name on your books - scribble your name in the cover, fancy bookplate, or stamp?
Write my name on the inside cover or title page, the date--and for church books the liturgical date.

9. Most of the books you own are rare and out of print books or recent publications?
See the comment about four kids above.

10. Page edges - deckled or straight?
Straight, unless it's literary fiction, and then I kind of like deckled. Shrug.

11. How many books do you read at one time?
One book at a time, two at the most.

12. Be honest, ever tear a page from a book?
What??? Not on purpose!!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

The Devil's Billable Hours

"In Lent, the Devil works overtime."

Non-liturgical people would want to say, "No, no! The devil always works overtime!" He does work to destroy our faith and souls. He constantly seeks chinks in our armor where his fiery darts may land. He constantly probes for weaknesses, old standards and new ones alike.

But Lent is different. At least for those who keep it.

And that is the key. When you make commitments to pray, fast, and give more, the devil delights in attack. For fasting, prayer and giving alms are acts of charity, they are deeds pleasing to God. They are deeds of your sanctification--and this the devil cannot abide. If you want more "proof" just reread Matthew 4. Christ in the desert, and we following Him. The devil will be there as well.

He is not without a sense of irony, either. I've seen this when I prepare a sermon which addresses a specific sin like impatience. I prepare it on Tuesday or Wednesday, and by Friday realize that I have been snapping at everyone and everything that dares intrude upon me. Our enemy loves the irony, if we can say that he loves anything.

His hours have increased and there is no end to his toil. He will fight against the chains in aeternum. When we come to ourselves and make the trip home to beg our Father's mercy, the devil walks along, and every moment is the Crossroads, every day the trial.

"Wachet auf," ruft uns die Stimme
Der Wächter sehr hoch auf der Zinne,
"Wach auf du Stadt Jerusalem!
Mitternacht heißt diese Stunde!"
Sie rufen uns mit hellem Munde:
"Wo seid ihr klugen Jungfrauen?
Wohlauf, der Bräutigam kommt,
Steht auf, die Lampen nehmt!
Macht euch bereit zur Hochzeitsfreud;
Ihr müsset ihm entgegengehen!"

'Wake up!' calls us the Voice
The Watchers high upon the battlements,
Awake, you City Jerusalem!
It is the Midnight Hour!
They call with clarion voice
Where are you, virgins wise?
Make haste--the Bridegroom comes,
Stand up, take the lamps!
Get yourselves straight to the Wedding Feast;
You must enter in with him!

--translation mine

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Bullet Points Are All I Have Right Now

I haven't really decided to abstain from blogging during Lent; it only appears that way due to overall busyness, distraction, writer's block and the other usual suspects.

Some tidbits:

The LCMS has dropped opposition in the "Issues Etc." trademark issue. It was the right thing to do, since they had allowed the trademark to expire.

The Oklahoma District of the LCMS will most likely have an entirely new Board of Directors and District staff after our Convention in April. Most of this is due to retirements and incumbents declining nominations.

The Twilight Saga has gotten better over time--I'm reading the final book now and it is a page-turner, though a little too predictable at times. I can see the author's conservative morality poking through on occasion (she's Mormon), but in no way could this be construed as a "Christian-esque" vampire novel.

Lost seems to get better every season, with every episode. That, and Scrubs are the only two shows I watch, though everybody seems to be recommending Battlestar Galactica these days. I may have to rent the first season and see what I'm missing.

The fast is difficult. I've slipped more than I care to admit. Slipping is not defeat, however. When you slip up in your fast it is the best reminder possible of our need for repentance and God's strength. Without Him we can do nothing, not even control ourselves just a little.

Thank you for sticking with me here. I'll try to post more regularly.