Sunday, December 19, 2010

Looking for the light...

The agony of 10 days of packing is growing near unbearable.  I cannot fathom unpacking everything on the other end, but I do believe this move is a good decision.  I do believe that I am walking forward instead of stepping backward or remaining entrenched in a place full of nettles and bracken.  Still, I am near desperate for the barest glimpse of the light at the end of the tunnel.

How I will drive myself to Fort Wayne is a mystery to me.  Especially since I now have constant pain in my wrists, fingers, back, and neck and my right knee works only part time.  I am so weary that I think I could sleep for two or three days and hardly notice and then sleep at least two or three more.  Perhaps that is the why of the closing delay...God knows my need for rest between finishing the packing and setting out on the road.  Or perhaps this is another lesson in patience...lessons of which I surely need in great quantity.

Still, the pain is so very hard to bear.  More so, I think, because other trials have come of late.  Pain in and of itself is exhausting and darkens even the brightest of days.  Having other battle crop up has increased the burden.  I am not sure of my theology in this, but I do believe that God gave me a higher threshold of pain because He knew the measure of my days and the life that would unfold for me. 

Much of my time packing has been spent thinking on crosses and on hiding in the wounds of Christ.  Neither of these I understand, yet both engender a longing within me that drives nearly all other thought. 

I do not believe I should have been able to bear the past 10 days or the pain of the days that will come until I am there and unpacked and able to rest for a while without the Psalter.  The prayerbook of the bible has become even more precious to me, the Word that lingers in my heart and in my mind.  So very much I do not understand and long know the meaning thereof, yet I pray these words, this Word still.  I do, from time to time, wonder if I am neglecting other riches God has given me in the Living Word.  But I believe I could hunker down in the Psalter for the rest of my life and barely scratch the surface of the wealth and wisdom and forgiveness and freedom and healing and hope contained therein.

I am Yours, Lord.  Save me!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

New Words of the Word...

Speak, O Lord, Your Servant Listens
                       By: Anna Sophia

Speak, O Lord, your servant listens,
Let your Word to me come near;
Newborn life and spirit give me,
Let each promise still my fear.
Death’s dread power, its inward strife,
Wars against your Word of life;
Fill me, Lord, with love’s strong fervor
That I cling to your forever!

Oh, what blessing to be near you
And to listen to Your voice;
Let me ever love and hear You,
Let Your Word be now my choice!
Many hardened sinners, Lord,
Flee in terror at Your Word,
But to me, who know my burden,
Show me now our Word of pardon!

Lord, Your words are waters living,
When my thirsting spirit pleads;
Lord, Your words are bread life giving,
On Your words my spirit feeds.
Lord, Your words will be my light
Through death’s vale, its dreary night;
Yes, they are my sword prevailing,
And my cup of joy unfailing!

Precious Jesus, I entreat You,
Let Your words in me take root;
Let this gift of heaven enrich me
So that I bring generous fruit:
Never take them from my heart
Till I see You as You are,
When in heavenly bliss and glory
I will meet You and adore You!

Hymn # 330 from Lutheran Worship
Author: Johann Schop
Tune: Werde Munter
1st Published in: 1658

Friday, December 10, 2010

Prayers God gave us...

Incline Thy ear, O Lord, and answer me;
For I am afflicted and needy.
Do preserve my soul, for I am a godly man;
O Thou my God, save Thy servant who trusts in Thee.
Be gracious to me, O Lord,
For to Thee I cry all day long.
Make glad the soul of Thy servant,
For to Thee, O Lord, I lift up my soul.
For Thou, Lord, art good, and ready to forgive,
And abundant in lovingkindness to all who call upon Thee.
Give ear, O Lord, to my prayer;
And give heed to the voice of my supplications!
In the day of my trouble I shall call upon Thee,
For Thou wilt answer me.
There is no one like Thee among the gods, O Lord;
Nor are there are any works like Thine.
All nations whom Thou hast made shall come and worship before Thee, O Lord;
And they shall glorify Thy name.
For Thou art great and doest wondrous deeds;
Thou alone art God.

Teach me Thy way, O Lord;
I will walk in Thy truth;
Unite my heart to fear Thy name.
I will give thanks to Thee, O Lord my God, with all my heart,
And will give thanks to Thee, O Lord my God, with all my heart,
And will glorify Thy name forever.
For Thy lovingkindness toward me is great,
And Thou hast delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol.

O God, arrogant men have risen up against me,
And a band of violent men have sought my life,
And they have not set Thee before them.
But Thou, O Lord, art a God merciful and gracious,
Slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness and truth.
Turn to me, and be gracious to me;
Oh grant Thy strength to Thy servant,
And save the son of Thy handmaid.
Show me a sign for good,
That those who hate me may see it, and be ashamed,
Because Thou, O Lord, hast helped me and comforted me.

~Psalm 86
(NASB 1977)

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Lord, have mercy...

Lord, have mercy.  Christ, have mercy.  Lord, have mercy.

I am not rising to the occaision.  I am falling flat on my face, longing to remember the sweetness of the Gospel, wishing I were better at hiding in Christ's wounds.

Thank you, Bettina, for holding my heart this afternoon.  I could not have endured such without you singing hymns to me and praying the Psalter over me.  Thank you, for being Christ's mercy to me.

God raised Jesus from the dead; He is my yes and amen.
Even the darkness is not dark to Thee, and the night is as bright as the day.

God raised Jesus from the dead; He is my yes and amen.
Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief!

God raised Jesus from the dead; He is my yes and amen.
I am Yours, Lord.  Save me!

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

what will tomorrow bring...

I wonder what tomorrow will bring.  Perhaps not the morrow that is coming, but the tomorrow that is just around the corner...hopefully.  I wonder.

Today, a hard day following a hard day, brought less than good news with another hard day on the morrow.  I faltered, coming home and downing Dr Pepper when I am restricted from them, from caffeine for another week and a half.  I know my blood work has been good.  I know it was stupid.  I know I need some sort of Dr Pepper anonymous group or something.

Tonight was Evening Prayer.  I have turned into a liturgy glutton.  Here I am missing Compline greatly and yet I was all ready to start over again when Pastor sang the benediction.  The Phos Hilaron is so very beautiful and the Litany stills my heart and mind before the One who shows such mercy.  Of course, we have not sung Vespers in a while and I long for the versicles that begin both Matins and Vespers.  But back to Compline...I  long for the Absolution, Responsory, and Prayer lines from that office...and the Nunc Dimittis carries me into the night with such comfort.

Of course...we are no longer using Divine Service Three on the Lord's Day. I miss singing the Agnus Dei on page 198 of the Lutheran Service Book!

I wish it were tomorrow evening already.  So weak am I.  So much do I long to be past the next hard thing.

I am Yours, Lord.  Save me!

Monday, December 06, 2010

the riches of the Book of Concord...

As much as I oft feel the weight of trying to help others delve into the Book of Concord, I cannot deny what an utter blessing writing the Snippets has been for me.  Well, the dual blessing of studying our Confessions, crafting intros for each segment, and typing out the snippets from our Confessions coupled with typing out the Psalter, psalm by psalm.

The Living Word is being worked in me. 

Really...without my knowing it at seems.  Oh, I am as lost as ever sometimes, yet I know that I am also found.  Sound strange?  Makes no sense to me, either.

Yet God's ways are not our ways.  I prefer His.  Mine stink.

Want to hear something stranger?  When the psalm for the day is short, I find myself regretting not having chosen a longer one once my fingers reach the final verse.  It is an ineffable experience to be reading, speaking (I sub-vocalize as I work), hearing, and typing the Living Word all at once.

Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief! 

Sunday, December 05, 2010

hymn washing...

In my online sermon hunting, I have come across a fair amount of blog entries on hymns.  Now, I do not need any convincing as to the wonders of confessional Lutheran hymnody.  But I will say that I sometimes read those entries with a wee bit of fear and trepidation, since a common theme is questioning why don't the folk in the pew sing more.  A common pastoral lament if you will.

I am one of those folk in the pew who would most likely disappoint all those pastors; chief lamentee I would be.

The whys vary; they must.  They vary with me.  It would be easy to say that I oft do not sing because I do not know the tune, which would be true.  Although, some hymns have enough verses that after six or seven, I could at least join in on the last one.  It would also be easy to say that with all the liturgy singing that I do manage to warble, by the fourth or fifth hymn my asthma is bothering me and I wish not to trigger an attack during a Divine Service, which would be true.

When Sunshine comes on Sundays, we sometimes sing hymns together.  Not as often as she would like, nor I for that matter.  Although, if I were to ask her to sing a dozen to me, rather than with me, she would.  Manna will sing to me if I ask, and she will sing in German to boot.  Brother Goose has sung to me, though I need to get better at managing the brief time of our calls in order to squeeze in a couple more hymns.  This last call was glorious for all the Psalms we prayed together—oh the wonder of praying the Psalter with one who loves it as dearly as do I!  How about this one?  Sure, but then let's do that one!  Only all those psalms did mean just one hymn.  Bettina will; she sang Friday night when I was lost and scared and she couldn't yet get to a computer to Google Map where I was and guide me home.  I Am Jesus' Little Lamb.  All of them, not really questioning why.  The new pastor has really only sung once.  But, when I did dare to ask, he did not question either.  He just did.  Lord Jesus Think on Me.

You could think it makes no sense for someone who cherishes Lutheran hymnody to remain silent while others are singing hymns around her, especially after existing in the Sahara Desert of praise songs for far too long, praise songs lacking any depth of musical construction and chock full of personal pronouns and works righteousness thinly veiled with lots of "I love you, Lord!" or variations if that is what matters most in faith...the depth of our love, the breadth of our commitment.  [Balderdash!]  Maybe it doesn't.

The truth is that most of the time, when I am silent, I am basking in the washing of the hymn, the washing of my wounds, my hurts, my fatigue, my doubts, my illness with the sweet, sweet Gospel.  I suppose you could say that is selfish of me.  Maybe it is.

There are no good words for me to use to describe how it feels to be washed in the Gospel that way, at least how it feels to me.  I sit and revel as the Gospel is poured over me, soaking it in, finding comfort and peace and rest and refreshment and healing...and strength.

The strength is because, in addition to being washing in the sweet, sweet Gospel, I am joining in the confession swirling around me.  Much of the time, it is a confession I long to make boldly, but would stutter and stammer if left to my own, so acutely aware of my sin and my failure am I.  Yes, I am baptized!  I am baptized and forgiven!  But remembering that day to day is still a struggle, such knowledge is too wonderful for me, too high to attain. Oh, how the psalmist wrote the words of my heart in 139!

So, even when I am weak, I am still able to make the confession I long to speak because it is being spoken on all sides.  Before and behind and beside the Word is being proclaimed and me, for me.   Gospel for me.  Faith for me.  Love for me.  Peace for me.  Mercy for me.  Given for me.  Shed for me.  For me.  For me.  For me.

I will pray the Psalter at the drop of a hat.  Many weeks ago, I found myself in a place with a bunch of hurting people.  I found an empty room and opened my bible and started praying the Psalter because I was hurt and confused myself.  First one came.  Then another.  And a third.  I ended with five listeners.  Three Catholics, one Protestant, and one curious unbeliever.  None had ever heard the words of their heart being spoken for them.  None of them had ever been taught the sweet, sweet Gospel that permeates the Psalter.  It was heady stuff for them as I prayed for each of them in turn, putting their name in the psalm, changing pronouns and verb tenses appropriately.  Every single one of them asked me to do it again and again.  I prayed with their names, because it is easier to pray for another than for myself.  I prayed with their names, but I longed to pray mine.

I also sang hymns to them.  I will sing the 27 Lutheran hymns I know at the drop of a hat...that is, I will sing them for someone with alacrity.  Often, when it comes to singing for me, I am silent.  I feel the fraud, not worthy enough to voice one word of the confession found in the wondrous treasury that is our heritage of hymns. 

So, why am I silent in church much of the time?  Well, it is probably a given that I do not know the tune.  But that really is the specious answer.  I am silent because I am savoring being washed by the hymns.  I am silent because I am basking in the sweet, sweet Gospel.  I am silent because I long to believe, but my ex-Protestant heart still finds itself ensnared in the crushing failure of works righteousness.

The Divine Service, I have been taught, has two parts: the Service of the Word and the Service of the Sacrament.  For me, it has three parts:  the Service of the Word, the Service of Hymnody, and the Service of the Sacrament.  All three are laced with the sweet, sweet Gospel.  All three are laced with forgiveness.  All three are laced with healing.

Is it wrong of me to think that one of the ways God is coming to me in the Divine Service is having my brothers and sisters wash me with hymns?

Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief!

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

a simple thing from bible study this morning...

We were reading in the gospel of Luke, chapter 18, and a simple comment by the pastor astounded me.  He pointed out verse 27:

But He said, "The things impossible with men are possible with God."

So often has this previously taught to me as admonishment, that when I think I cannot do something, I should remember that with Christ on my side I can accomplish anything.

Yet...the pastor pointed us back to the context, the parable of the rich young ruler, especially the three verses just above:

And Jesus looked at him and said, "How hard it is for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God!  For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."

And they who heard it said, "Then who can be saved?"

Verse 27 is not about what I can do, but what Christ does for me:  save me!  Again, it is not about me doing, but Christ!

Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

stumbling about...

I have been trying to write about something, but I cannot quite find the words.  The other day, I started and ended up merely talking about Bettina, Sunshine, and Manna.  I shall try again.

For well past two and a half years, day in and day out, I have lived with great criticism.  It is a devastating thing to always have the worst assumed about you, to be judged and found wanting on every level, to have a mirror held up to you that is so distorted nothing you see is real.  What you knew as real is lost as the sight you thought you recognized ripples into the lie, words that fill your mind drown out the Word you knew.  When boundaries are crossed and the work environment fills nights and weekends, you can find yourself spinning around in all directions.  I did.

In the midst of that, I found the pure doctrine.  That should have been the perfect anchor.  It was. I just couldn't see it.

What called to me in the Book of Concord, its siren song, is Christ crucified.  There is no sweeter thing on earth than objective grace.  Someone once called the Gospel elusive to me.  I liked that, for it had the promise of a day when it wouldn't be.  That day finally came, has been sweet on my tongue for a while now, that I have been savoring, storing up the memory for the times—I know will surely come again—when I lose sight of that which the Holy Spirit has shown me.

A perfect example, I think, is the freedom I found in the answer to a recent desperate email to Brother Goose about feeling like a fraud in writing out the Snippets intro:

When you make confession of your sins, you say:

"O almighty God, merciful Father, I, a poor, miserable sinner..."

You are only fraudulent if that's a lie. If it's not, then you are indeed a poor, miserable sinner who has found a source of comfort in the Book of Concord. A lifeline, of sorts, thrown out to a person who is drowning and who clings to its message for dear life.

So the Snippets are tossed out in the hopes that some other poor, miserable sinner might find in their Gospel message the same lifeline you've found.

You don't toss them out as a person who is anything other than a sinner involved in divine worship - in the exercises of faith as it struggles with despair (Tractatus 51).

Now, the key is to STOP LOOKING AT YOURSELF! You ARE a sinner and will remain one so long as you live in this flesh; the key is to let the Lutheran Confessions guide your attention away from yourself and to rest your eyes solely on Christ. In many ways this is the struggle that constitutes the Christian faith: looking to self vs. looking to the Savior. The one way leads only to despair (when we're honest) or to pride (when we're blinded); the other leads to tears of joy and songs of praise. For all us sinners, God has set forth His Son as the Propitiation, the wiping out of our sin, and of the whole world's! In Christ, your sins are forgiven, hidden beneath the saving blood. So the struggle goes on about where to focus attention. And you write the Snippets as a bit of an exercise for yourself and for others in allowing the attention to stay focused on the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

Goose, you have no other righteousness than Him. And He is enough. And more than enough. It is not your hold on Him that saves; it is His hold on you. And in Baptism He has said to you that He's got you and will not let you go until He finishes the good work He has begun.

[He sometimes has to get a little loud with me!]

Anyway, Christ eased the overwhelming burden I felt over the Snippets between Brother Goose's words and another's advice to think of myself as merely a placeholder until God brings someone else along who is trained in the doctrine of our confessions.  But for all his admonition about looking to the cross—and all my own gazing upon my beloved crucifixes—these words still eluded me.  How ever do I do that?

Tonight, while praying the Psalter with Brother Goose (he used the Coverdale Psalter) and singing hymns (he showed me a new Gerhardt one), I told him about a confession of the Gospel I made last night.  In telling him, it hit me.  I really have begun to learn (I am sure the process will take the rest of the my life) to crawl into the wounds of Christ and hide there. The words I wrote last night were not mere words, were not the confession I wanted it to be, but the confession I made by the faith that Christ gave me.

The problem I have battled is that I let my eyes slip from the home I found in that first pass through the Book of Concord because I wanted something as much as I wanted the Gospel.  Maybe you could say I wanted what I thought would be the greatest mercy Christ could show me.  Surely I would find it hanging out with a bunch of Lutherans, eh?  Ah, but Myrtle, you say, you really are stupid!  Hanging out with a bunch of Lutherans also means hanging out with a bunch of sinners.  Looking to them for mercy will always disappoint you even as Christ will serve you through them.

If you spend your time looking at the people in the churches, you will never really see the Church.  Maybe I am not quite saying that right.  But our Confession is our Church.  It is what binds us together and to Him.  We believe, teach, and confess that there is hope, healing, and forgiveness in the gifts of Christ, in the Sacraments, the Living Word, and the Word of Absolution.  And our true home is in Him.  In Him and nowhere else.  In Him is salvation and nowhere else.  In Him is life and nowhere else.

The greatest mercy, then, that Christ could show me is the cross.  It is how He is saving me.  Now, this day. And how He will tomorrow.  I don't even understand the half of it, but I know that it is true.

There is a sister out there who was not helped through troubling "life events" and has walked away from the Lutheran Church in her hurt. Part of what I wrote is:

It may seem that Protestant churches are more...welcoming...of wounded people, struggling people...but what they offer is cruel, for it is a confession that puts all the burden of your faith on yourself; it is specious teaching that is truly egregious. I weep so often for my brothers and sisters in Christ in all those churches where Christ is made the new Moses, where the Gospel is distorted beyond recognition, and where forgiveness is not offered in Word and Sacrament. I know not what life event fell her. I do not really need to. I shall be praying for her that she might find the peace of Christ, taste His forgiveness, and remember her baptism.

Pray for her this day, that she might remember her baptism. Pray for me, that I might remember mine. I pray you remember yours.

Typing out the Psalter and our Confessions day after day has helped me to think about all the things Pastor F, Brother Goose, my pastors, my Internet pastors, Walther, Krauth, and Forde have taught me, all the things the Holy Spirit has been revealing to me in bits and pieces despite the maelstrom swirling through the past year and a half. You could say that I have taken in my first promise: the Living Word will never return void and will always accomplish its purpose, as as Luther put it: [the Living Word] has, and is able to do, all that God is and can do. [LC, IV, 17-18]

A while back, in great anguish, I cried out that everything had changed and yet nothing had. Tonight, I cry out the same in great joy. Nothing has changed and yet everything has.

Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief!

Monday, November 29, 2010


a day of rest...a day of waiting...

The pain is overwhelming.  My hands are stiff and sore, as are all parts of me, making it feel as if I have not taken the Celebrex at all.  When I am without the knee brace, that joint simply does not function at all. 

A woman stopped by with boxes and sort of looked askance at me for not rising from the couch, but I cared not.  No masking for least for this day and the rest of the week.  At least that is my intention.  I need to recover for the Saturday;s cleaning push before Sunday's open house.

A short while ago, Bettina sent me info on an app that helps you remember birthdays. I have missed four in the past six weeks.  Then, I saw a commercial about a Blackberry ap that was a personal assistant of sorts.  I tried to find something similar on iTunes because I missed seven bills last month, including my mortgage, despite the system of checks and balances I have in place.  I did not find one, but I did find a medical assistant app that seems most helpful to me.

I put it on the first screen in the first slot.  If you tap on it, you will see a red button marked "emergency information."  If you press on it, you will see my name, date of birth, blood type, emergency contact, allergies, medications, primary care physician, insurance, and a note field.

In the app itself, I have entered all my medical appointments, contacts, and history (conditions, allergies, surgeries, and vaccinations).  This way, at least, when I go to a new doctor and have to fill out all those forms, I will not have to battle to remember the information. I also made a note file for my asthma attacks. 

Does this not sound perfect for me?

I also worked on another Snippet, sweating bullets the whole time since it was on Christ's return.  That means they are done through Thursday.  I am trying to work ahead to make the review process easier for the editor.

Productivity helped make this day more bearable.  This, too, shall pass.  In time...

I am Yours, Lord.  Save me!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

an awakening...

Oh, am I in trouble!

My left ring finger started hurting yesterday.  How I wish my rememberer worked better.  Were that the case, I would have spent today in bed, not moving an inch.  But, alas, I did not remember that when a finger on my left hand pains me it is because I am growing too tired. 

I have been working and working and working on the house since I lost my job.  And then started out this past week sleep deprived for those neurological tests.  I should have spent Thursday sleeping, but alas it was more selling-the-house work. 

Today was extraordinary in that my brother came for a second all-day yard fest: mowing, edging, raking, sweeping, pruning, cleaning, re-setting the rocks that border the flowerbeds, and re-arranging both decks.  The difference in the yard last week was truly amazing to me.  This week, I am astounded.  It is the same and yet is so neat and clean and well...balanced and larger somehow.  Truly the "curb" appeal, fore and aft, has greatly improved.

I do believe that all the work on the closets was worth it, for they are all no longer crammed in appearance.  Inside, the entire house is much, much cleaner, though it could still use help.  It is also neat and balanced and larger somehow.  Hopefully, it will all be worth it.

The problem is, I have reached the point of no return.  My right knee has begun to fail, causing me to cry out even as I try to endure the pain in silence.  That great barometer of my fatigue has gone from mere warning to breaking in protest.  Out came the knee brace, but truly I probably need to sleep at least until the open house slated for next Sunday.

I suppose it is a good thing that I lost my job, eh?

To be honest, I am disappointed in myself.  I should remember these things. I should be able to take better care of myself. I should be better at pacing and setting boundaries...except...except...there really isn't anyone else to ready the house and readying the house is what is needed to sell it.  And my rememberer is clearly broken. 

With my brother willing to help both days, I had to leverage that assistance.  Without his help, and that of Sunshine, I never would have regained control of my yard, which most certainly has been ignored for the past three seasons, if not the past two years.  Being ill all last summer did not bode well for mowing and such.  With all that happened this summer and fall, tending the yard merely fell by the wayside.  As did keeping the house clean.

I do not know when to stop.  I push and push and push myself...mostly because there does not seem to be another choice.  Yet...often when I do make good decisions, when I set boundaries and say I shall not do something or I need to sleep longer I am criticized, oft told I could if I wanted to or something similar.  If I wanted...what I want is to be able to function like a normal person, to not have pain in my legs when I stand for any amount of time or walk about for more than an hour or so, to remember simple things, to be able to write by hand, to always know when and where I am, to see clearly, to not shake, to not faint, to not grow so blooming not...the list is long.

There are, I believe, only two Sugarland songs for which I do not care:  Mean Girls and Take Me As I Am.  Both have melodies I find irritating and the lyrics have no real pull.  Except the title of the latter one.  Oh, how I wish people would take me as I am and most certainly not as they perceive me to be.  I wish, with my whole being, I did not feel the pressure to mask my symptoms and struggles as much as I do.

That is what I love best about Bettina.  Well, second best.  I mean, I love that she loves me.  I marvel that she loves me.  I am, actually, in disbelief that she loves me.  She loves me as I am.  She also takes me as I am.  She is as mindful of my struggles as I could want a person to be, watching out for things that are a problem for me, such as bending over, turning around in the car, and walking up stairs too often.  She helps me in so very many tiny ways and she is always, always, always willing to do something for me, to save the step, to save the energy.  And yet, all the while, she never makes me feel as if I am a bother or am being lazy or am actually anything other than normal.  My life is our normal.

I can tell her that I am too hot and she will leap into action. She does not question me or doubt me or tell me that she doesn't feel hot.  None of those things, if they cross her mind, cross her lips.  She just helps me get cool or find a place where wet noodle status will not be a danger to me.  She has seen me wilt like a plucked flower in the August sun.  She knows my fears and frustrations when wet noodletude arises.  So, she is there, helping me if she can or waiting for things to pass if she cannot.

The best thing is that she does so sort of folding me into her life.  When I am at her home, if I am ensconced on the couch, she goes about her duties and hollers at me or sets up a DVD or something for me.  She trusts that I do not expect her to interact with me (though I am quite greedy about playing games with her even though she oft humiliates me with her brilliant play).  So, when she can, she will bring the chore to where I am, such as folding laundry or peeling apples.  Again, I am not a bother, just part of the ebb and flow of her existence.  I love that.  I truly do.

It is that quality, in at least some measure, that I recognize in Sunshine.  Oh, did she bear such grief her first few Sundays.  Yet she never crumpled beneath the burden.  God has blessed her with this amazing ability to simply take in what she hears and then lay it at the foot of the cross.  The Holy Spirit has guided her, on any number of occasions, to care for me in very small ways that are not necessarily time consuming but have great mileage on my heart.  A favorite is that she heard me talk about bread pretzel bites that I had just once at a movie theatre and still dream about since they were served with nacho cheese.  The next time she was at her volunteer place and was actually coming back to my house rather than going on home, she spotted a pretzel place and picked up one for me.  Oh, how my heart sang and wept at such thought.

Like, well, Manna's quickie emails.  Little snippets of her day that she shares.  Little snippets she sends to let me know that she is thinking of me.  Such a heady thing, a wondrous thing to be thought of and loved and cared for and to have people let you know in small ways because they understand that knowing is important and needed and...healing.

Something, too, that I know about Bettina and Sunshine is that, with me at least, they look more toward the future rather than the past.  They do not assume one thing based on what I have done, but rather expect for good rather than bad, rather than the mistake.  They see where change has come and celebrate that, help me see that, rather than where failures still run hip deep.

I had a secret that I kept, out of great fear, from Bettina.  Events in August brought that into the light.  She responded with more mercy than I ever thought possible.  I do not believe that I have ever felt more loved, more safe, than in that moment when she first responded to the fear I voiced as to why I did not tell her.  It was as if Christ Himself, not my dear friend, was giving voice to those words.  It was the beginning of freedom that has worked itself into the darkness and despair unbeknownst to me at first.  A washing away that only comes from absolute forgiveness. 

When I despaired over the condition of the fifth petition of the Lord's Prayer because it certainly sounded like law to me, Brother Goose went round and round to help me understand.  I could finally make sense of his words, but I did not really believe them, take them into my heart.  They were still a mystery to me.  The sign of our being forgiven is that we can forgive others.  Yet I know that she could not have given me that forgiveness for the lie of omission and the distrust in her love and the gift of her friendship that was my silence unless she had been forgiven herself.  Oh, do I understand that now!

At her words, too, began the process of finally trusting in her friendship, in her love.  Less than two months later came a time of such trial born of a lie from someone else that tested that trust in a horrible way.  Yet she did not, at least with me, flinch at my fear and doubts and the wall I threw up in haste.  She waited and then came running when I cried out for help.  And sat and talked and listened to hard things and took me out to do that which few others would even understand.  She wrapped me up in as much love as possible and then walked away to get back to her family, trusting that the future would be as God would have it.

I sometimes wish I could ask her things as if I were another person, not me, not Myrtle.  First and foremost, I would ask her what is the hardest part about loving me, for I would do most anything to make that cross easier for her to bear.  It is a cross.  I know it.  I would think that the hardest part of our fifteen year friendship is that I doubt that she will continue to love, will continue to want me in her life.  To be fair, that is the kind of relationship outcome I learned as a child.  And, to be fair, I cannot actually remember the bulk of those fifteen years because of my blasted brain cells.  Yet I know those 15 years have passed as a fact even if not as a memory that I can re-live.  I should trust that. 

I have changed.  The wailing has ceased.  The weeping, for loss and grief, will ease when it eases.  Doubts and fears and terrors and worries still exist.  Yet I also understand that which I hoped would be possible is not  and most likely will never be and I have laid that hope down.  In the laying down has come balance.  And in all those Psalms have come peace.

In no small part, I have also changed because I am more at ease with her friendship than I have ever been...more joyful, actually.  What an amazing gift God has given me born from a terrible, terrible cross!  Such is faith.  Such is the life He has for us.

So, this night, is in part peaceful because of Sunshine's companionship and her selfless collating and folding of the 100 copies of the Dare to Read:  The Book of Concord booklets that have been sitting in a box for a couple of months, is an easier night to bear. 

It is also an easier night because I know, when Bettina and I talk next, I can bewail and bemoan the absolute misery I am in due to pain and the bone deep fatigue.  She will listen, love me, and pray for me.  She will, as she is wont to do, search for some little way I can do something easier, some bit of organization or some process, or some remembering help, and she will tell me to take better care of her best friend.  But she will also accept me as I am.  She will let me voice my pain and not take it as complaint.  She will let me voice my fears and not take it as criticism.  She will let me voice my heart and merely take it as wanting not to be alone in those things.

She will love me in such a way as I can understand--juggling the needs of her family with our friendship as best she can--patiently and selflessly, reflecting the love and mercy of Christ to me, because she is forgiven and she is loved by the Good Shepherd who is also the Lamb who takes away the sins of the world.

As silly as it sounds, my prayer would be that everyone have a Bettina in their lives.  I pray that everyone would have a Sunshine to shower mercy and a Manna to reach out and touch and a Brother Goose to ask questions that they might learn that which is missing in their life, in their heart.

We have entered Advent today, that ineffably joyous time of reflecting on the many ways Christ comes to us.  Today, He came to me in a dear woman who traced the cross on my forehead after I was served the Eucharist so that I might have the tangible reminder I need.  Today, He came to me in a brother who labored long and hard in my yard.  Yesterday, He came to me in a writing student who took from her college holiday break to help me in my yard.  This week, He came to me in an adoptive brother who carved out a smidge of time to pray the Psalter with me for courage to walk through a door.  This month, He came to me in a realtor who has poured out her life in finding me a home to buy, sight unseen, so that I can start a new life.  This summer, He came to me in a woman who offered to scrub my tub and another woman who offered to read the Living Word to me and sing hymns to me.  This spring, He came to me in a man who offered to be my brother, both men who have more on their plates than any three men should have.  Last year, He came to me in the pure doctrine of the Lutheran Confession and in the holy waters of Baptism and in the Eucharist and in the Word of Absolution.  Fifteen years ago, He came to me in a woman who sat in one of my classes, who would end up loving me as He does so that I might taste and see that I am loved.  Thirty-two years ago, He came to me in a single verse of the Living Word that has deepened into an ardent passion and hunger for the Gospel and the promises of God.  Two thousand years ago, He came to me in a broken and bruised body, put to death in abject shame, that I might know forgiveness.

And He is coming, still, in the many crosses in my life. 

Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief!

Saturday, November 27, 2010


I spent this day trying to make progress on reducing the things in my house.  While I did not gain as much ground as I would have wished, I did complete a long desired task: creating a spreadsheet of the Book of Concord quotes on my Facebook page!

The next one I post shall be the 50th.  The Book of Concord Snippet email on Monday will mark the same milestone!

This past week, I created a spreadsheet of the psalms used in the Snippets emails because it is difficult for me to remember whether or not I have already used a particular Psalm.  I would rather laboriously open up the past files or log onto the interface and pick through them.  And then the next day I couldn't remember any of them that I reviewed the day before.  Now, I just glance down my chart and can quickly determine if I have used it or not.  The same was true for my Book of Concord status posts. 

Now, repeats are not bad at all, but there are so many riches contained in both the Psalter and the Book of Concord that I do not wish to repeat until repeats are necessary.  With the Psalter, that will be in 100 more emails.  With the Book of Concord...well...probably many years!

I just so love organization!

This day, I would also like to note the power of the Living Word, once more.  Truly, I believe typing out nearly 1/3 of the Psalter to date has helped heal some of the hurt and confusion that I have borne of late.  Night after night, the Word has fallen from my lips and my fingertips and then back into my ears as I read and re-read to ensure I have not made a mistake.  These prayers have filled my days and sometimes my nights.

And then there is Sunshine, who has consistently prayed the Psalter over me, putting my name into the Word, the Word that is the words of my heart spoken aloud, spoken by Christ, spoken and brought into the light, rather than the darkness that can be so terrifying, such despair.

I am walking in a measure of peace that is actually rather foreign to me.  I have hope that I have never experienced before.  And  I am reminded of my baptism at every turn.  Yes, some things are still so difficult that I do not see a way around them.  I have suffered such losses of late they seem unbearable.  I have been without the consolation and comfort of the Word of Absolution for months.  And I have so many questions about the Gospel, about doctrine, that the hunger drives me crazy half the time.  But I do see the cross.  Christ be praised, I do!

Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

the love of our Friend...

Sunshine helped me go to Divine Service last night so that I might have the Lord's Supper. 

As much as I longed to take in the body and blood of Christ, I was tired.  Very tired.  Brother Goose called to pray some psalms with me before I went in and she sat with me in the pew.  Well, she sat and I lay down.

She asked if I wanted her to stay with me, a query to which I nodded emphatically.  I did not want to commune.  However, it turned out that I did.  By mistake, she was not served.  I tried to get the server's attention, but I failed.  My utter joy at what I received with mixed with great sorrow at what she lost in staying by my side.

Sunshine, so aptly nicknamed, took joy in the forgiveness wrapped in healing and sustenance that I received, rather than focused on what she missed.  She was truly happy for me.

We are taught that there is no greater love than a friend who lays down his life; Sunshine gave up life.  Could there be greater love than that?  I am truly humbled by her care of me, primarily because so often I clearly see the Holy Spirit at work, giving her Words to pray, hymns to sing, when she could not truly know how much that particular Psalm, that particular hymn would mean to me in that moment.  She is quick to always say she is no great person.  In that respect, she, too, is a miserable, wretched sinner.  But she is baptized, given the name of Christ, and filled with the Holy Spirit who works through her that He might love me, care for me, with her hands and her voice.

In the same way, my beloved Bettina lets me know that I am loved, playing iPod games with me, miles apart but together nonetheless.  She sent me a doodle drawing.  She makes quick calls.  She sings and prays.  She tells me about her day.  She records the silly songs her son sings.  She includes me in her life.  Her husband sends his love and affection via offers of stuffing--how well he knows my gluttonous desire for such good food!

In the same way, Manna reaches out from the great white north and sends those wonderful quickie update emails on the moments of her day, with encouragement and messages from her husband as well.  He's been painting up a storm and I get to tease him about having a new painting job waiting for him in Fort Wayne if I close on the house, Lord willing.  It is good to joke and laugh and tease a bit, to step outside the job loss and uncertainty and pain and fatigue and just have those newsy, breezy, cheery exchanges.

In the same way, the editor takes time out of his crammed life to regularly preview the Snippets emails for me--full well he knows how important it is to me to be sharing the Book of Concord in a good, right, and salutary manner. 

Oh how the Creator loves His creatures!

Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

long day...

Sometimes my lack of intelligence astounds me. 

I scheduled three days of testing, orginally during vacation days, thinking that it would be the best way to knock out some of the neurological tests that, hopefully, will shed light on how stupid I have gotten over the past couple of years.

By day three, I was exhausted.

I was truly not prepared for the pain.  And I did not rise to the occaision, embrace it as a cross to bear.  Instead, every minute all I could do was hang on just one minute more.

The tech started out by running a comb through my hair to find her reference points.  My hair was somewhat wet since I was instructed to wash it, so the comb pulled and tore out significant chuncks on more than one occaision.  Now, I had electrodes attached to my head on Monday.  Trust me, this was totally different.

She also scrubbed my skin until it was abraded in several places.  On the side of my neck, it was raw and the paste stung so much that tears leaked down my cheeks despite trying to be brave.  I ended up having her move that electrode over enough to avoid the abrasion.

What puzzles me most about the day was that staring at a red dot on a screen actually hurt my right eye to the point it was watering profusely during the second round.

I should have realized, truly, that it was not going to be a good day when I got lost four times walking through the hospital trying to find the lab.

If you ask me, running electrical current through ankles and wrists is not the best way to gather data.  I mean, I was supposed to remain calm, eyes closes, silent, with no other brain waves than the response to the current.  It is very, very difficult to remain that way when in significant amount of pain.  I would also proffer the tech shouldn't have repeatedly told me just how hard it would be and that most of her patients did not complete the test.  She gave me every opportunity to quit, to not even start, instead of encouraging me through the process.

After the first pass on my left wrist, with one more pass to go on that side and double passes on my other three limbs, I asked her to count down the time, to provide periodic updates so that I knew how much longer it would last.  With each update, I prayed the prayer my pastor wrote out for me when he was sharing how he managed to get through hard things:  Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

During my pain breaks, I also listened to that album he recommended, Lighten our Darkness.

I am so tired, so very tired.  My limbs still hurt.  My neck still feels as if it is on fire.  And I am glad that the mercy of Christ carried me through the past three days.

Lord, have mercy.  Christ, have mercy.  Lord, have mercy.

What was the most managable test, you ask?  The one measuring my auditory pathways.  In the ear not being tested, white noise was broadcast.  I concentrated on that sound, instead of the clicking, and was able to remain relaxed, probably getting the best data of the day.

Will this day, this week, bring me closer to an answer?  I do not know.  The neuropsych exam in December should at least fill in a greater part of the picture.  The neurologist just does not know if enough will be painted for him to determine what I need. 

I will admit, the best part of the past three days is that I did not have to mask for a single second.  It was actually important that all my weaknesses, all my confusion, all my disorientation be transparent to the technicians running the tests.

The wicked part of MS is that many times the tests fail to pinpoint the whys and wherefores of symptoms.  I am ready to receive such news.  However, I am hoping that will not be the case.  Oh, how I long for at least some data that will pinpoint the type of cognitive dysfuction so that I might develop better coping strategies, that I might remain independent longer.

I am Yours, Lord.  Save me!

Monday, November 22, 2010

psalms and a bit more...

I have wanted to at least get one day ahead on the Snippets of the Book of Concord emails so that I can be sure to have feedback.  This morning, the editor gave me some strong edits, most excellent stuff, but I received them after it had gone out.  This was my fault since I wrote it in the middle of the night.

So, I spent this evening doing the next three Snippets.  That guessed right...typing up three psalms in one evening.  Whilst my fingers did grow a bit clumsy from all that labor, my heart sang. 

It sang more brightly, too, for Sunshine called with a psalm ready for me this evening, knowing a day of tests and an offer on the house (a disappointing low-ball one it turns out) would be a trial for me.  Given that the MRI scheduled for tomorrow was canceled since, apparently, four weeks is not long enough for authorization, it was an even crappier day.  Sunshine did not know this, but the Holy Spirit did. 

He gave her Psalm 62 for me.  SIGH.  BLISS.  Oh how I savor having the Living Word poured over me, but I will say I am rather partial to psalms being prayed for me with my name in them the way I have done for others.

Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief!

answered prayer...

I just this moment realized that God has answered one of my prayers, one of my desperate pleas. 

I have asked God for just one thing, one small thing, to be easy.  So much, so very much has been hard for a long while. I am fatigued, yes, but I am also weary.  Feeling embattled on all fronts, I asked God for just one thing in my life to be easy.  Just now, I realized that God has done this; He has made one thing easy for me!


For a few months now, I have been able to step foot into my shower without fear, without the fear of falling.  I have been able to do this because Sunshine scrubs my tub for me every other week.  Laboring selflessly on my behalf, she scours it smooth so that I stand on sure foot.  Not only does she do this, but she remembers each time and offers to do so freely, never making me ask her for help.  In all ways, this is an easy thing. 

Last month, when I was not at home and longed for a shower, my pastor's wife retrieved what I needed to wash my hair from my bathroom (its length requires some serious detangling conditioner), my pastor brought it to me, and a stranger stood watch over me.  Even there I was safe.

How could I not have noticed this answered prayer?  Truly Christ's mercy to me is great!

Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

help in time of need...

Sunshine and my brother spent the entire afternoon working on the yard for me.  The greatest task was to prune the crepe myrtle by the front door.  The before and after is simply stunning; before was a tree taking over practically the whole after of a beautifully shaped decorative tree enhancing an entrance with a freshly painted door (compliments of my Saturday's elbow grease) and the faceted light I installed when I moved in all those years ago now in full view.

I did prune some myself, since cutting branches off the crepe myrtle is as painful to me as working on my bonsais.  There was much "negotiation" on nearly every cut.  No tears were shed, however.

The yard was mowed, edged, and raked as well.  The rose of sharon bushes lining the fence all have fresh mulch beneath them and the varigated euonymus bushes out front are finally no longer unruly messes.  My brother even when so far are to clean out the shed, which I had gone through and "reduced" gardening pots and supplies to the essentials in preparation for the move. 

Poor Sunshine, she had not spare shoes with her, so there she was raking, sweeping, dragging branches, and bagging leaves in her Sunday finest. What a servant's heart God has placed within her as He knit her in her mother's womb.

The yard has not been this neat in years. And I did not faint once, though I am bushwhacked!

This is a bit of a problem since I am not to have more than four hours sleep before one of tomorrow's medical tests.  I shall have to occupy myself for a few hours yet before seeking the comfort of my pillows.

The house was listed Thursday night. In three days, I had three prospective buyers. The first made an offer this evening, though since it is sitting in a sealed envelope at the realtor's office, I know not yet if it is a good one.  Never would I have considered actually having to wonder that.

While I am still falling off that cliff, wondering when, where, and how I will land, it seems to me God has been busy making the path to Fort Wayne quite smooth for me.

Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Another undershepherd moment and genuine grief...

There are many things I have lost, cognitively, that are very, very hard for me to bear. A week ago, Sunshine tried to put things in perspective for me regarding why others are oft dismissive when I have tried to talk about it. Oh, but Myrtle, you’re still so smart!  I could easily punch the next person who says that. She said that I was up in the clouds and while I am no longer there, I am still on the mountain tops of the folks around me. Something like that, though without the metaphor. Reduced significantly but not noticeably for those who’ve never been in the clouds.

My pastor came and brought me the Lord's Supper last Sunday.  A blessed day all around!  We talked at length about several of the hard things of late and my leap off the cliff in moving to Fort Wayne.  He always says that he does not know what to say, but he does, because the Holy Spirit does and that is how Christ tends to His sheep, through His undershepherds.

How do I know my pastor is an undershepherd?  He mentioned an album for me to buy to listen to as I lie down to sleep and when I awake from night terrors.  Now, he really doesn't know me.  He knows absolutely nothing of my musical tastes, save for knowing that Lord Jesus Think on Me is a hymn I would dearly love have sung over me as much as possible.  I am fairly certain he does not know of my love of Fernando Ortega, my enjoyment of a few Chris Rice songs, and my adoration for all things Sugarland.  He knows nothing about what types of music sing to my heart, soothing and moving me when it falls upon my ears. 

The Holy Spirit does.

The album he advised me to purchase is Lighten Our Darkness, an a capella compilation that is so beautiful my heart aches.  Oh, how I miss singing.  I miss the pure music made by just voices blending oh so perfectly after much practice.  Truly, I bought the album because he told me to do so, trusting his advice because he is an undershepherd and because he knows something of night terrors.

The first night, I listened to it over and over again, for hours.  Now, each night, I fall asleep to it.  Each time I awake, I push the start button again.  My heart soars at its beauty, taking comfort and strength that our Creator would give His creation such a gift as is music.

The first night, I listened to it over and over again, for hours.  And I wept.  I cannot hear the words.  I cannot understand them.  The truth, the Gospel, that is being poured over me is completely lost to me.

I used to sing. Not all that well since my break is in an awful place. But I did. The asthma changed that. But really the scrambled brains did so more. I never read music; I learned everything by ear. In the groups I sang with, I could give people my note and they’d find theirs. I was also a fair hand at working out harmony.

Sunshine and I sing hymns together. Sometimes we find one I can sing harmony, but rarely...not as much as either of us likes. And I have not been able to learn any of the melodies she has sung for me, even If God Himself Be For Me—a Gerhardt hymn that I long so much to be able to sing.

I struggle to learn hymns because I cannot hear the melody. One thing good, great gift actually, the pastor of my last parish did for me was to make those audio files of hymns so all I heard was a single voice singing the melody. I learned 27 hymns that way.

The ex-professor part of me oft wonders why it is that I can no longer distinguish notes of music. Why I cannot work out harmonies any longer. And why I cannot hear the words in so very many recordings.

The music on the album my pastor recommended is so very, very beautiful. Utterly. I am truly thankful that the Holy Spirit prompted this undershepherd to speak of that which would help me battle the terrors of the night. But I also sorrow because I cannot understand the words.
How can such a cross glorify Him, help me? 
Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Wanted, lessons on dressing for winter...

Last winter, I went Christmas caroling and got in some real trouble with the cold.  Then, I had dressed warmly and had a coat, scarf, and gloves.  My godmother gave me her baby to warm my chest; the pastor fetched blankets and draped them about me.  I should have been toasty.  But I wasn't.  I couldn't really walk...whole body shivering and cramps in my leg muscles.  I didn't think about it much beyond that day. 

After all, anyone who really knows me knows that I embrace cold like a dear friend!  I am not really comfortable until the temperature drops to the 60's.  I find the 40s balmy.  The 20s a bit brisk.  I rarely wear a coat.  My turtlenecks have gone unworn for years.  My concession to the cold is a scarf and gloves, maybe another undershirt.

However, the dysautonomia has vastly affected my thermoregulation and I fear this winter, wherever I may be, is going to be a series of hard lessons for me.

Today, I went to Lowe's to fetch some sand and pea gravel to put out front (yes, I have continued to tackle projects needing done about the house even after placing it on the market).  I had on my track suit, with bike shorts, thick socks, and three tank tops.  I was fine when I got out of the car.  I sort of felt the cool air walking across store, but thought nothing of it.  Laboriously hefting the bags into the cart should have left me sweating, but it did not.  Pushing the heavy cart to the checkout stand, I started to shiver.  By the time it was my turn, I resembled an aspen leaf in the fall winds.  The cashier actually picked up his heater and placed it on the counter for me.  I really was surprised at how cold I was, given the temperature was only about 55 degrees.  I keep the house at 67.

Then, I tried to get to my car.

I didn't make it.

Part way across the parking lot, I fell to the ground and curled in a ball trying to warm up. I didn't care about my cart or where I was.  All I could think was that I was in trouble.

Christ be praised, an older man came along with his wife and daughter.  Through chattering teeth, I managed to tell him the problem.  His wife took my keys and ran to the car to start the engine and turn the heat on full blast.  He then basically picked me up and carried me to the car, his daughter following with the cart.  After getting me settled in my seat, he unloaded my purchases in the back of the car and put the cart away for me.

When I arrived home, I took my temperature. It was 95.2.

It was a rather sobering moment, soaking in the heat, trying to recover enough to drive myself home.  I think the randomness of it all is so difficult to handle.

I mean, this summer, there were several times that I ended up blasting the heat in my home, more than once punching the button until it reached 80 degrees.  Normally, I start getting uncomfortable above 70, really noticing the temperature and its effects beginning to creep over me at 72.  I never really know what might trigger the plummet in temperature.  Logically, winter will be a problem.  But later this evening, when I had to go out again and it was colder, I was okay.  I had changed my clothing, but I still forgot to take a coat.

I really do not have much by way of winter clothing. 

I wonder what it will be like in Fort Wayne.

I will proffer that I do not believe it is a coincidence that during the inspection for the house I chose it was determined the heating system is the largest possible for the house, i.e., I shall have no problems keeping it toasty should that be necessary.

I am Yours, Lord.  Save me!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

the last day...

I have felt so alone, trying to make the right decisions in haste, trying to figure out what to do next, the house here, the house in Fort Wayne, the neurological testing, work, everything....

Sunshine, knowing how incredibly shell-shocked I have been over the past two days, called to pray a Psalm over me this evening as a way to end the day.  Oh, how I am thankful the Holy Spirit promoted that dear woman to speak the Living Word to me!

Lord, have mercy.  Christ, have mercy.  Lord, have mercy.

I am Yours, Lord.  Save me!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Prayers for the next two days...

From Brother Goose:

Strengthen us by Your Spirit, according to Your will, both in life and in death, in the midst of both good and evil things, that our wills may be crucified daily and sacrificed to Your good and gracious will. Into Your merciful hands we commend Myrtle and all who face uncertainty regarding the future in these difficult days, praying for them at all times, Thy will be done!

And the psalm he gave me:

God is our refuge and strength,
A very present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change,
And though the mountains slip into the heat of the sea
Though its waters roar and foam,
Though the mountains quake at its swelling pride. 

There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,
The holy dwelling places of the Most High.
God is in the midst of her, she will not be moved;
God will help her when morning dawns.
The nations made an uproar, the kingdoms tottered;
He raised His voice, the earth melted.
The Lord of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our stronghold.

Come, behold the works of the Lord,
Who has wrought desolations in the earth.
He makes wars to cease to the end of the earth;
He breaks the bow and cuts the spear in two;
He burns the chariots with fire.
"Cease striving and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth."
The Lord of hosts is with us;
The God of Jacob is our stronghold.

                                       ~Psalm 46

Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

this day...

Today I was told that Thursday is my last day.

I am Yours, Lord.  Save me!

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

the power of the Living Word...

Sunshine called to tell me some news she knew would be important to me, and I faltered upon hearing something else behind her words.  Perhaps I heard wrongly, but anguish still filled my heart and tears flowed.  Sunshine, so aptly nicknamed, quickly spoke of Jesus and the hope she is certain I have in the Gospel, despite how often I stumble these days.  The hope that encourages her to see in me.  The hope she remembers for me when I have lost sight of the cross.  Oh, how well she understands my longing for it!

How do I know this? 

Without prompting, Sunshine offered to pray a Psalm for me.  When she asked me to pick one, I gave her the choice, a departure for me since I usually have one in mind I am longing to hear...or two or three or four!  Which one did she choose?  Or, rather, which one did the Holy Spirit choose to pour over me?  That dear woman prayed all of Psalm 119 for me, putting my name into the words of this prayer of longing for the strength, solace, comfort, and instruction of the Living Word. 

A prayer she spoke aloud, a prayer my heart joined, a prayer Christ raised first...for me. 

Nothing, absolutely nothing, means more to me and speaks more to me than the Living Word.  Over and over and over again, I am humbled and awed by its power to still my heart, to bring peace in the midst of a great storm...despite even the obstacles of my own flesh.  Would that it were I had it poured over me every day.  Surely I would grow stronger.  Surely I would know peace.  Surely I would be able to bear this cross.

I read it aloud to myself all the blooming time, savoring the taste on my lips and the sound in my ears.  Yet it is not the same as having it poured over me.  Such riches.  Such wonder.

What an utter, precious, merciful gift Christ gave to me through Sunshine this day.  His timing, as always, was perfect.  For in that prayer, He clung to me in a way I could understand, in a way I could take in, literally, saving me from drowning in the anguish and the confusion and the failure and the sin that has overwhelmed me this day.

Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

hunger and homelessness and a bit of Luther...

Yesterday, I spent a chunk of the day teaching about hunger and homelessness at the inner-city school where I worked to establish the weekend food program.  The Washington Post just ran an article about how DCPS is adding a third free meal to the day, an early dinner.  All of the children know hunger.  Some of them know homelessness.  That was a delicate dance, and I am one who with two left feet.  However...not when teaching.  Never with teaching.  The politics of being a teacher...well...not so much success there.  Teaching itself...pure joy and always a beautiful thing!

Young minds seeking.  Wooing reluctant learners with my voice and expressions as I read.  Querying them so as to lead them to an answer.  Delighting in their discovery of something new.  Oh, how I savor any small opportunity to be a teacher once more!

The children walked for hunger and homelessness afterward, chanting, garbed in their Help the Homeless t-shirts.  The tiniest ones had shirts to their ankles.  Many were holding hands as they milled about afterward.  My other joy that day was getting to take photos, trying to capture the moment for others to understand.  Out of dozens, a few are usable.  I am out of the habit of looking at the world through the eye of a camera lens.  I miss that, too.

"Manna" gave me some beautiful Luther the other day:

People don't earn God's approval or receive life and salvation because of anything they've done.  Rather, the only reason they receive life and salvation is because of God's kindness through Christ.  There is no other way.

Many Christians are tired of hearing this teaching over and over.  They think they learned it all long ago.  However, they barely understand how important it really is.  If it continues to be taught as truth, the Christian church will remain united and pure--free from decay.  This truth alone makes and sustains Christianity.  You might hear an immature Christian brag about how well he knows that we receive God's approval through God's kindness and not because of anything we do to earn it.  But if he goes on to say that this is easy to put into practice, then have no doubt he doesn't know what he's talking about, and he probably never will.  We can never learn this truth completely or brag that we understand it fully.  Learning this truth is an art.  We will always remain students of it, and it will always be our teacher.

The people who truly understand that they receive God's approval by faith and put this into practice don't brag that they have fully mastered it.  Rather, they think of it as a pleasant taste or aroma that they are always pursuing.  These people are astonished that they can't comprehend it as fully as they would like.  They hunger and thirst for it.  They yearn for it more and more.  They never get tired of hearing about this truth.  Similarly, Paul admits in Philippians 3:12 that he has not yet reached this goal.  In Matthew 5:6, Christ says that those who hunger and thirst for God's approval are blessed.  [AE 14:26]

Definitely a Myrtle selection.  I certainly want to hear the Gospel again and again.  I certainly need to hear it again and again.  As much as I know it to be true, I oft do not understand the whole of it, recognize the shape of it, but oh how I long for the sweet, sweet taste of it.

Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

on the morrow...

I sat outside Church today, too ashamed to walk inside, tears dripping down on my Greek homework as I struggled to concentrate on working out the First Declension of nouns.  I want to learn those words so that I might learn the Word better.

"Manna" was inside.

Sunshine came after church for her Sunday night Bed & Breakfast stay and the result was so beautiful!

I took them to the Lutheran pizza place, my name for Pizza Man's restaurant and they had their fill of his oh, so tasty creations.  Manna treated us!  Whilst there, someone called me to help me work through the decision to return to work tomorrow.  I am not ready.  Going when I weep so easily, become overwhelmed by all that has happened and is in my heart, is a great risk.  Remaining away any longer, having earned my boss' ire enough as it is, is also a great risk.  Weighing both options, he came down on the side of returning. 

Never have I struggled as now.  Pieces of me lie all about. I gather them up, thinking I can hold onto them.  But I cannot.

Friday, I got a call from a man with whom I cried at the first question of his greeting.  As has been happening, I open my mouth to say one thing and out pours my grief and confusion and fear.  I keep very little in check.  He, a Christian, might just have a wee bit of help to offer.  If nothing else, as a proper Protestant, he promptly began praying for me right then and there.  I confuse him when I talk about Lutheran doctrine; though he is a professional contact, I cannot help myself knowing he is a Christian.  But I will admit I very much welcomed that personal lifting up of the mess that is Myrtle...although...I found myself wishing he prayed the Creed, the Kyrie, and the Lord's Prayer as that Lutheran pastor does.

I wept at the bank. I wept at Target.  I wept at the gun store.  I wept talking with the cardiologist's nurse.  I am a bloody sieve with both my eyes and my heart. Oh, how I hate this.

Manna and Sunshine played Rummikub with me and were so very kind and gracious about me walking away from meal and game to talk on the phone.  However, Manna and Sunshine had no problem talking and sharing with one another in my absence. 

How my heart sings to know that Bettina has met Sunshine and Sunshine and Manna have met each other.  These wonderful women God has brought to me are getting to know each other.  This afternoon, Sunshine had a spectacular idea for sharing the Book of Concord, but I shall wait to reveal it yet, hoping it might come to fruition soon!

We talked for hours after lunch. 

Then, Sunshine helped me review the Greek I had done on my own, having missed class by being too ashamed to walk in even there.  My noun declensions were far better than I thought, but my two verb tenses were only half correct.  I need further review and am behind on my vocabulary.  Once again, however, class is canceled for this coming week, so I still have a wee bit of hope for keeping my head above water.  My plan of attack has been to write out every form/case/ending, both singular and plural, for every verb and every noun.  It is quite time consuming and rather tedious, but I believe is effective. I am learning the declensions in a different order than the Pastor is teaching them by rote in class, so I shall have to plug my ears once I dare to cross the threshold again when that recitation is being chanted. 

I have learned the pattern of my chart and try to visualize where on the chart the word would fall to determine case and number.  That is something I have noticed most about my cognitive decline, I hang onto information far better if I make some sort of association with it.  Sheer memorization simply does not work anymore.

Then, I worked on Sunshine's older laptop for awhile, trying to beef it up for her. I had victory with clearing out caches, giving her new antivirus software, and cleaning up her desktop/arranging her quick launch bar.  I was less successful with getting a wireless network card to work.  Hopefully I can do so tomorrow evening, for that dear woman is going to come wait for me after her volunteering so that we might have a few more hours together after my first day back to work.

Afterwards, I rather greedily asked her to sing hymns to my as I typed in Psalm 104 for the daily Book of Concord Snippets email that the new group is now sending out.  Once I finished, I asked to keep singing so that we could sing together.  Of course, I had her finish with two hymns I consider lullabies, ones quite comforting in tune and lyrics.

So, it is late and I shall be tired starting off my first day back.  But it is my prayer that the Truth contained in the doctrine and Scripture I typed, as well as the hymnody poured over me, might remain in my heart and my mind as I pass through the waters of tomorrow.

Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

a long 24-hours or so...

I had an asthma attack a while ago.  "Manna" was wonderful about it.  She remained calm and just helped me open things and get my nebulizer set up.  The epi-pen was a new kind, which threw me for a loop.  Yet the drugs worked and the attack was stopped.  I am just left with the racing heart and tremulous body until the medication wears off.

I have learned such hard things in the past 24 hours or so.  I admit that I am weary of learning hard things, especially since they are mostly about where I am wrong, where I have sinned, where I am not understanding things.  Late last night, a pastor rather patiently questioned me until he led me to a conclusion that is more sobering than anything else I have learned of late.

To be sure, I shall be wrong in thinking that the spiritual matters more than anything else, physical or mental well-being.  But I do.  From the moment I opened the Book of Concord, all I have really cared about, oft to the exclusion of all else, was grasping what I could see but yet still is so elusive.  Sadly elusive.

Today I learned a big, huge, rather devastating why of me.  That why was extrapolated to my spiritual life, which sort of sent me into a tailspin until God provided reassurance that He is, indeed, greater than even those whys of me.

Monday is my return to work, after a month away.  After receiving a less-than-pleasant email from my boss, I am truly worried, though I have two more days to rest and am trying to focus on that. 

I had a set-back the Tuesday of last week that in many ways has me at the beginning of how I was in taking the time off, if not the beginning of how I was when I opened my mouth all those years ago.  The doctor told me today that it was like having a major earthquake.  Sometimes the aftershocks are as bad or worse as the original earthquate, and they will linger long past the date of the quake.  Although he had not seen Firefly, he did tell me that this will eventually pass.  Step aside and let it pass.

The cardiologist is upping the medication to help with fainting, since it has been determined the previous vomiting was another problem.  I have become accustomed to the faint nausea and constant tremulouness from the drug and am hopeful the increased dosage shall be okay.  On the medication, standing from a sitting position is much, much better.  I still faint when I get up in the mornings if I am not careful, but I am hopeful the increased dosage will help even more.  Plus, I believe I breathed better on the higher dosage.  Too bad it does not a thing for the thermoregulation.

Two asthma attacks in eight days I blame on missing my medication last week.  But, perhaps, it is just a bad time for me.  It used to be October was my worst month.  That, too, ought to be a consideration in my mind. 

While coughing, I was joking with "Manna" that now I could go to the ER with someone.  Bad humor, I know.  Still, I very much would like to know what it is like to not be alone at such times.  However, you haven't really had a visit with me until you've been through a full blown asthma attack.

Here, in the quiet of the night, I can hardly bear the image that lingers from the mirror held up last night and the one from this day.  Would that I could grasp more fully the freedom of my baptism.

Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

"Manna" is here. 

She humbled me by coming all the way from the great white North to sit with me.  I am poor company.  I am sleeping only in spurts, so I have slept most of the past two afternoons as well.  I do not wish to talk. I wish to hide in mindless TV, not thinking about what I think and feel.

I opened my mouth again, damn it, when I had done well not doing so, and wounded deeply the person whom I was trying to tell how scared and frightened and lost I feel.

I would, at the very moment, give away every blooming thing I have if someone would teach me how to talk without wounding that person.  Everything.  Everything and count it the greatest bargain in the universe.

Lord, I am Yours.  Save me.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

of many things...

I learned many things of late, most of them unpalatable at best.  I have learned more of lies and more of betrayal and more of just where it is that trust lands you...or rather me.  And I have learned that it is actually possible for a near unbearable burden of shame to grow immeasurably heavier.

One of the hardest lessons is that I have learned why it is that silence bothers me, what it is that I yearn for in speaking that which society deems unspeakable.  The why of it makes sense, but the fact that silence still reigns, for the most part, hurts all the more.

Bettina, oh that blessed gift from God, came down to be with me this past weekend.  She came to sit with me, to let me cry without telling me doing so was manipulative or any similar thing, and to listen to the depths of my hurt.  She actually helped me refine a plan for that which is the desire of my heart, willing to let me be who I am, willing to let me go if that is my choice.  I can be honest with her in my thoughts and feelings and she will still pray and sing with me, still read the Living Word to and with and for me. 

Sunshine came, too, for her regular Sunday night Bed & Breakfast stay before heading off to her volunteer job in the city.  Funny, she and Bettina, though completely different, share the same willingness to let me stand before them as I am and yet allow me fellowship still.  We sang harmony on a hymn, which reminded me how very much I have lost cognitively since doing so used to be a breeze for me and yet what I stand to gain if ever I can grasp the words that flowed from those notes.

I have known many hard things in my life, but I have never known the abject terror that binds me now.  Not the nightmares, not the things about myself that scare me, but an utter, complete inability to even open my front door for fear of what happened last week may come once more.

Here has been the evidence that ever since I started speaking of that which should not be spoken, I have become a bloody sieve, pretty much ruining nearly all the relationships I tried to start during that same time, since mostly I wanted them to help me stop the leaks that were developing one after another in the container that held my past.  No one wants to help do such a thing.  Wanting, desiring, asking was wrong.  I have been taught quite thoroughly just how terribly selfish and wrong it was. 

So, today, as the second day wore on in the silence I knew would ensue, even though I foolishly hoped would not, I resolved to remember the words I once heard on "Firefly" in regard to great pain...This is only a moment in time.  Step aside and let it pass.

Two days now, I have managed to keep my mouth closed, save with Bettina.  But even there the leakage of things hurtful has been brief.  My goal is to put it all back in the drawer and let this pass by.  Be a grown-up for once and take my medicine, endure what I deserve, for opening my mouth in the first place.

The person who is supposed to help me has told me that healing lies in opening my heart to God.  Growing, deepening my faith in Him.  And, for good measure, consider what Buddhism offers since religion as a whole is good no matter the source.  Every fiber of my being is screaming at me that such direction is just the same damn futile path I experienced in the Protestant Church trying to escape the burden and failure of my shame.  But I do not have anyone other than this person to really help me lock up the past once more.  It is my fervent hope I can do so without thinking about faith at all.  To me, that seems the best course of action.  After all, are we not supposed to forget what lies behind us?

I will admit I dared ask a question of an Internet pastor today, fairly sure I will not garner a response, but asked nonetheless:  What does it mean to fear God?  I am pretty sure it does not mean what I think, what I feel. 

Funny, in my terror, I keep running across the admonition to fear God.

I am yours, Lord.  Save me.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Women United for the Christian Book of Concord

So, "Manna" has taught me to think big and suggested that we ought to start a group to fostor reading and studying the Book of Concord, especially amongst women.  The result is:

She has certiainly done her part, talking with the women she meets, sharing with them this amazing resource, and personally reading it to others!  Her social circle outreach is so much greater than mine, and that raises such hope for me to know she is out there doing this, for the Word never returns void and will always accomplish its purpose.  The Book of Concord is is full of the Word and helps believers understand the grace and mercy, peace and forgiveness of Christ crucified. 

As you know, I have given away many copies, as well as talked about it, quoted it, and created the booklet to help others start reading it.  So, here's hoping this might be another small effort to help others know the joy that is the Book of Concord.

If you believe the Christian Book of Concord is full of pure doctrine for all, pass this link along.  Better yet, start reading it regularly yourself (if you do not already do so), read it aloud for others, and give away a copy or two or as many as possible!

Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief!

Thursday, September 30, 2010

back to Walther...

To continue the 18th Evening Lecture based on the ninth thesis:

In the fifth place, the Word of God is not rightly divided when sinners who have been struck down and terrified by the Law are directed, not to the Word and the Sacraments, but to their own prayers and wrestlings with God in order that they may win their way into a state of grace; in other words, when they are told to keep on praying and struggling untile they feel God has received them into grace.

I shall repeat the last bit I quoted before moving on:

In view of this, are we not blessed, highly favored men?  Our bliss beggars description.  Heaven and earth are full of the goodness and grace of the Lord, our God.  Anyway and everywhere all things cry to us:  "You are redeemed; your sins are forgiven; heaven is thrown open to you.  Oh, believe it, do believe it, and you have this bliss." (180)

Walther moves from here to note that his previous three evening lectures have shown how false doctrine has vitiated this bliss.  In this evening lecture, he focuses on the rejection of absolution.  He uses the text from the 19th Sunday after Trinity (the story of the paralytic whose sins Christ forgave and Luther's House Postil for this day, this reading, Matthew 9:1-8:

Getting into a boat, Jesus crossed over the sea and came to His own city.  And they brought to Him a paralytic lying on a bed Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralytic, "Take courage, son; your sins are forgiven."
And some of the scribes said to themselves, "This fellow blasphemes."
And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, "Why are you thinking evil in your hearts?  Which is easier, to say, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Get up, and walk'?  But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins"--then He said to the paralytic, "Get up, pick up your bed and go home."
And he got up and went home. But when the crowds saw this, they were awestruck, and glorified God, who had given such authority to men.

It is the whole "given to men" part that become a stickler.  When I first read about the Office of the Keys in the Book of Concord, I admit it gave me pause.  All I knew about confession was snippets heard about Catholic confession that requires penances and such.  It was a relief, almost, to read how the Fathers delineated the differences between what confession should be and how it was perverted by placing such a terrible burden on penitents by making their forgiveness conditional on their own words and works.  The paralytic was forgiven requiring neither.

Alas...I am too tired to continue...can you figure out where I was going????????

Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

alas, I was not done...

Come to find out this morning, as I am trying to walk out the door for an appointment, that I was actually not done with Verizon.

They had canceled my phone when I called last week, even though I specifically gave a date for the disconnect for the following Saturday, since the switch was happening on Friday.  Cox, it turns out, cannot take a disconnected phone number.

So, my alarm has had no service for the past week.  Given that I live off my cell phone, I hadn't even noticed.  Cox did.

After much brouhaha, I was given a new phone number and gave up the one I have had for 12 years that is on all my accounts and such.  SIGH.

I was warned by four different people, also, that I should expect to have unexpected, unpleasant items on my final bill from Verizon.  Such the battle.  I am ready to be done with battles.

Tell me, how in the world does one keep one's voice laced with kindness whilst conversing with people in customer service clearly intent on not serving you?

All the while, I kept thinking about the fact that I am baptized.  If Christ can love me, daily and richly forgive my sins, of which there are so many I can barely stand the thought of them, then surely I can muster up at least kindness for Verizon folk?

Will I ever truly understand Pastor F's favorite parting observation:  Christ is with you in your baptism?

Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Am I truly done?

The cable guy got the Internet hooked up, but my ancient router has to be configured at a price of more than half of what it would cost for a new router.  So, no Internet for my laptop outside cafes until tomorrow (hopefully).

When I called Verizon to cancel, the representative had the gall to tell me that there would be a $700 early termination fee because one of the myriad technicians who worked on my service actually changed the service.  Two hours and fifty-five minutes and four supervisors later, I got a confirmation code for cancelation of service without a fee.  I also was given the direct phone number of a supervisor to call back if my final bill is not correct. 

So embattled has this become, I went ahead and changed phone service too.  As of Friday, I hope never to have to speak to another Verizon person again. 

Seven months of arguing, calling, begging, pleading, and alternating between being patient, constrained, irritated, and overwhelmed by frustration.  The cable guy was in disbelief that I waited so long to make the switch.  Later on, he called me back to say he worked on my "deal" a bit more and got it down to having crazy fast Internet, phone, and the same cable for just $17 a month more and locked that rate in for two years, with the understanding that if I move out of their service area before the end of that period, I will not be penalized. 

I asked several people for help.  Four times I had another person call for me.  Nothing really mattered.  It was always something in the "Central Office."  Supervisor after supervisor on the "Escalation Team" promised to resolve it, but no one ever did.

So, I am sitting here, exhausted, after the battle to get the $700 fee waived.  I am sitting here thinking that so very much of my life over the past seven months has been this battle with Verizon.  So much of my energy and time.  So much of the limitations on being productive from home and staying in touch via Skype.  So much frustration.  Shouldn't a person be able to have service that worked fine for over six years restored in a seven month period in the year 2010?

I apologized and asked forgiveness from all of the supervisors as they passed me on to the next person because it was near impossible to remain calm.  I just couldn't believe that anyone would think it logical for a person calling tech support since the third week of February to be making a long-term committment to such poor service.  Each one repeated the same "script" about his/her hands being tied until the last one. 

He was patient, listened carefully, and offered his home phone number just to let me give him an opportunity to restore my service.  Feeling rather broken, I told him I just needed to be done with Verizon.  I need less battles, not more.  I need for service, while not perfect, to be reliable.  I need not to have to think about or worry about that service.  And I need to know that if I am given leave to work from home I have the service that will afford me to do so with integrity and a solid connection to my work server.

For months, I have not liked who I am with Verizon.  Each call, I start out patient, even when it drags on into a second hour.  But some time around the tenth "I'm sorry for your inconvenience, but we are going to have to have antoher person look into this and troubleshoot with you," I start to lose it.  Yes, I have turned off and then back on the modem and the router and the computer.  Yes, I have plugged and unplugged all the cables.  Yes, the filters are on all the jacks in the house.  No, the speed test only shows about .55 mb of the 3 mb of service.  No, I cannot open websites with graphics.  No, I cannot watch You Tube without a hour or more of buffering.  No, I cannot download attachments.  No, I cannot Skype.   Tech person to tech person, no matter the escalation level, has the same script, asks the same bloody questions (name, phone number, address, operating system, model model number, call back number, power cycle, plug and unplug, reboot, etc.).  My patience wans with each successive tech person and well into the second hour, I just want to hang up and give up.  But I kept trying, even when I end up crying and terse, biting my tongue to keep from saying the ugly things running through my head.

Three times, I ended up yelling.  I was ashamed and apologized, but if you know me, you know that I do not yell.  Not since I was a little girl and fighting was the only language in our family.  Lately, I when I get very, very frustrated, my throat tightens up, tears flow, and I end up raising my voice.  I am not angry.  I am actually near despair.  And I am very, very weary.

So, am I done?  Am I really and truly done? 

Hopefullly, tomorrow the new router will arrive and tech support shall walk me through its configuration.
Hopefully, Friday another service man will come to connect the new phone service to the alarm system. 
Hopefully, next week a final bill will arrive. 

When we ask God to save us, I always think that is from the devil and his machinations.  However, these days, I also want Him to save me from myself.  From my weaknesses and frailties and foibles.  From the things that have changed in my brain that make it difficult for me to process information, problem solve, and contain my emotions. 

But...maybe...saving me doesn't mean changing any of that.  Maybe...saving me means giving me the strength to endure all that.  And...maybe...saving me means giving me the peace of knowing, fully and completely knowing, that...somehow...I am actually forgiven, daily and richly, for not merely the sin of Adam's choice in that garden of long ago, but also the sins of my flesh that bind me from and blind me to the breadth and depth of the riches gained and remembered in "I am baptized."

Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief!