Sunday, January 31, 2010

Have you ever thought about the fact that ultimate peace was wrought by utter violence?

There was nothing peaceful about the cross.  From beginning to end, from abduction to trial to being nailed to two pieces of wood--piercing hand, feet, and side--it was a time of anger, hatred, pain, and anguish...on the part of man, at least.

Certainly Christ knew pain and anguish, but He also knew peace.  He had to have known peace to endure...knowing why He was enduring such.  But, as I wrote before, I have come to believe peace is not merely a feeling, but a state, a condition.

The peace of the cross means that I am no longer the enemy of God.  We are at peace.

Is it not ironic that that peace, a state of mutual harmony between Creator and created, was wrought by the most egregious act of violence the world has ever known? 


I recorded the Seventh Commandment from the Large Catechism tonight, along with my Myrtle Commentary.  Some folks are using the recordings to help them read through the Book of Concord.  So, although I do not care for the way my voice sounds on the audio clips and sometimes feel rather foolish for daring to offer my commentary, I am happily plowing through these recordings in order to share the joy that is the Book of Concord.

This evening, I reveled in doing this commandment, reading through Luther's instruction again and talking about what I highlighted, what I learned, and what I thought about such.  It is a teaching that resonates rather strongly with me, but not in a way you might imagine.  It is also a teaching that clearly shows Luther's humor, his passion, and his commitment to the truth.

I do believe that I came up with a good metaphor for how Luther spins out the spirit of the law from the letter of the Law in his instruction.  He spins it out in such a way that you are forced to realize that in no way, shape, or form can you possibly keep the commandment.

My metaphor?  A balloon!  First, as you read, you think he had blown the balloon to a diameter of 6 inches.  Then, you realize he is blowing still and find the balloon at 60 inches.  Amazed, you realize he is not yet done.  Now the balloon is at 600 inches!  No one can blow up a balloon to 600 inches in one breath or by himself.

  • Do not steal, not by theft or damage or even neglect.
  • Do not allow someone else to steal, but protect and preserve.
  • Help your neighbor secure and promote his property, helping him to increase that which your are protecting.

We need Christ.  We need forgiveness.  For we are all the basest of thieves....

Choice quotes:

So if all thieves who did not want to be known as thieves were to be hanged on the gallows, the world would soon be devastated.  There would be a lack both of executioners and gallows. (224)

If we consider the world through all conditions of life, it is nothing but a vast, wide sales booth, full of great thieves. (228)

In short, if you steal much, you can expect that much shall be stolen from you.  He who robs and gets by violence and wrong will submit to one who shall act the same way toward him.  For God is master of this art.  Since everyone robs and steals from one another, God punishes one thief by means of another.  Or else where would we find enough gallows and ropes? (245)

So, uhm, is is strange that I had such a glorious time doing tonight's recordings?

Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief!

Pastor's sermon:

Jesu Juva

“The Hope of the Afflicted”
Text: Luke 4:31:44; Psalm 10:12, 17;
1 Corinthians 12:31b-13:13; Jeremiah 1:4-10, 17-19

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

Arise, O Lord; O God, lift up your hand;
     forget not the afflicted.
O Lord, you hear the desire of the afflicted;
     you will strengthen their heart.

We sang those verses from Psalm 10 in the Introit this morning.
The prayer of the afflicted.

We heard about some of the afflicted in the Holy Gospel today. The man who had the spirit of an unclean demon. Simon’s mother-in-law, who had a high fever. And then when the Sabbath was over and the restriction on traveling and carrying was lifted, all those who had any who were sick with various diseases brought them to Jesus.

And there is certainly no shortage of the afflicted here and in our world today. Those who are sick and diseased, those who are haunted by demons of the present or of the past, those who are afflicted by disasters both natural and man-made, those whom satan has in his crosshairs and will not leave alone. And for those people, and sometimes for ourselves, we pray this prayer.
Lord, forget not the afflicted. Help them. Help me.

And our Lord did, and still does. Although we attribute most help and healing today to medicine, doctors, technology, and science, there is no healing that is not from His hand. Now, that is not to deny the importance of medicine, doctors, technology, and science - but what we often fail to see today is our Lord’s hand
behind these things and working through these vocations. That our Lord is still with us - He has not left. And He is still working.

But then the question arises:
Why am I not healed? Why, then, am I still afflicted? That is the question many ask - maybe also you. And any lack of healing or help is often seen as God’s punishment or condemnation. That He does not see and does not care. But is that true? Is that the case?

The Holy Gospel we heard can help us answer that, for there’s one more part that we haven’t gotten to yet - and that is when Jesus left. When the next morning, even though many more were coming to Him for help and healing, He continues on His way. Which doesn’t seem quite fair, does it? And His answer seems kind of cold and calloused. He simply says:
I have others I have to preach to. For I was sent for this purpose. So, healing for some but not all?

No. That’s not what this means. Rather, it means that Jesus is looking at things a bit differently than we do. For when we look at ourselves and look at the world, we see the afflictions, the problems, the troubles. Jesus sees them too, but more. He sees the cause, the root of it all, which is sin. The sin that attacks us in body and soul. The sin that beats us down and beats us up. The sin that attacks from without, and the sin that attacks from within. The sin that causes pain, and also disappointment. The sin which ultimately leads to death.

That is our real problem. And so that is what Jesus has come to save us from. The healings and the exorcisms are signs, or pointers, to this greater work that Jesus has come to do. The work of forgiveness. The work of the cross. For the cross was not just an appendix on the end of all His other work and miracles - the cross is His work. His work that is not just for a time, but for eternity.

And this is what Jesus means in the last part of the Gospel when He leaves to do that for which He was sent. He must continue preaching - in word and deed - not just healing and release, but the cross. That is why He will not let the demons speak - they know who He is, yes, but they do not know of the cross. And so they preach a false Gospel. For what they say is true, but not the whole truth. And a partial truth can obscure the whole truth. Just look today at those who preach a Jesus of health and wealth and happiness and healing, but speak nothing of cross and forgiveness. In the end, what good will that do? Health will give way again eventually, wealth will be left and passed onto others, and we will be shown for what we have really been all along - beggars. Men and women burdened and afflicted by sin.

But the Lord has not forgotten us. He has heard our cry. And so He has come. To stay not in Galilee and provide healing and release just for some, but to go to the cross and provide healing and release for all. For by the cross, Jesus crushes satan’s head. By the cross, Jesus releases us who are afflicted and captive to sin. By the cross, Jesus gives life to the dead. What we see happen in Galilee that day was just the beginning. And Jesus left so that He could bring true healing to
all - both to those He healed that day, and those He did not. For He was sent for this purpose.

And so He continues on, so great His love.
His love of which St. Paul spoke today. We hear those words and look for such love in the world today. Couples hear those words read often at their weddings. But such love is not in this world - or in us - apart from Christ. Only His is a love which never ends. Only His is a love which bears all things. Only His is the love of the cross, the most excellent way. And so in love He came for us, to be afflicted with our affliction, with our sin, and to lay down His life for us. That joining us in our death, we may join Him in His life. His life that no sickness, disease, poverty, or death can take away.

And He has left Galilee and has come here - to this time and place - to preach this Good News to you as well. Saying “I love you” when He baptized you. Saying “I love you” every time He says to you
I forgive you all your sins. Saying “I love you” when He gives you His body to eat and his blood to drink. For truly in those ways He is giving you His love. Giving you the fruits of His cross. Giving you His life. That whether or not the afflictions of this world and life go away or are increased, you have what is greater and cannot be taken away.

And so we today confess Jesus. Like with Jeremiah, our Lord has put His words into our mouths, and so we confess: I
believe. Not in Christ the miracle worker, but in Christ the crucified. The Son of God who traded His life for mine. The Holy One of God who made you His own. And His own you are, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, in a union that death cannot part.

So what of now? Now, perhaps you are among those who were healed in Galilee. Or perhaps you are among those who were not healed. Does that reflect whether Jesus loves you or not? Whether Jesus has come for you or not? No - that is shown us by the cross. For
there He is for you. There He forgets you not. There He hears you cry. As we prayed in the Collect earlier, He knows we live in the midst of so many dangers. Yes, He knows. He knows better than we do. And He knows our weakness better than we do. And so like Jeremiah, He is our strength. We say with Paul that He is our love. And we say with Luke that He is our life. And we need look no where else. For whatever comes in this world and life, we have all we need in Him.

And if we have all we need in Him, then His strength, love, and life we can now give to others in their need. And show them a love, forgiveness, and life not of this world. The love, forgiveness, and life of the cross.

So come now and receive Him who laid down His life for you, and then go and give. You are not alone. Never alone. For Epiphany shows us that Jesus the Christ is your God, your Saviour. The helper of the afflicted. The hope of all. Your help and your hope. Not just for now, but forever.

In the Name of the Father and of the (+) Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Now the peace of God which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, our Lord.  Amen.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

I started the 10th Evening Lecture tonight, but I found myself returning to Walther's words at the end of the 9th:

The moment a person through genuine repentance attains to a living faith, he has become a blessed man:  he has arrived at the very gate of heaven.  When death comes, the doors are opened, and he enters.  But since it is dangerous for a Christian to pass his days in ease in this present life, the Savior has taken the precaution of putting the cross upon him.  Whenever a Christian professes his faith by word and deed, people becomes hostile to him.  Even where this enmity is not manifested publicly, it is still noticeable and vexes him not a little.  How many have had to lay down their lives for Christ!  But how light is the burden of Christ compared with that of the Law!  Feeling the burden of the Law, a person will groan:  "Oh, I am the most miserable of men!"  It makes him despondent and fills him with despair. (76)

The first word that struck me was "living" as an adjective to faith.  For months have I have marveling at understanding more deeply just exactly what it means for the bible to be the Living Word.  Breathed by the Spirit--spoken then, now, and always--it is not mere words on a page but alive, powerful, and a measure of grace and mercy for each man, each woman, each child.  However, I do not believe, until this evening, I had truly pondered "living" as applied to faith.

Now, I have heard always that the difference between Christianity and every other faith is the fact that Christians have a relationship with a living god, not a dead one.  So, there that word could be applied to faith.  However, I believe that living faith does not mean a faith in a living god but a faith that is alive, active, and growing.  We are made alive in Christ upon our salvation, being given faith in our triune God.  But that faith is not a one-time gift, a static act.  That is at the heart of the Sacraments, gifts God is giving us to sustain and strengthen our faith.  He gives these gifts because our faith is alive, growing and in need of nourishment.

Strange faith.

The second thought that passed through my heart was his position on why we have crosses to bear.  A sharp intake of breath and my life shifted.  Still, I cannot quite put into words how I felt at reading this.

The third thought is that I am not sure I ever thought of myself standing at the gate of heaven now, this very moment.  I must turn this over in my mind and consider what this might mean.

But the final thought came more from lessoning than from this lecture, per se, though this breadth and depth of this book drives my question:  What is Gospel?

I know the answer, rather intimately, to the question:  What is Law?  Here I am, delving into this book, reveling in each page, savoring Walther's teaching bit by bit, yet listening to Pastor saying that his goal was to give them Gospel, I suddenly began to wonder:  Do I really know, truly understand what is Gospel?

Go back to the first two lovely lectures in which Walther first explains what the distinction between Law and Gospel is not before he puts forth what it is.  The distinction I have thought I understood, thankful he set down so clearly what it is not before moving to what it is.  I know those distinctions and rejoiced in my first reading through his theses, thrilled by another coming-home-moment almost as strong as the first read through of the Augsburg Confession.  But what do I know of Law and Gospel themselves, rather than the distinction between them?

The Law accuses.  The Law condemns and judges and kills.  The Law shows our need for a savior.  The Gospel saves.  The Gospel gives life.  But...what exactly is the Gospel?  Christ?  His parables?  The cross?  His resurrection?  His promises?  Some of this?  All of this?  Or merely objective grace and all that encompasses?  What is the Gospel?

Alas, truly I understand nothing!

Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief!

Friday, January 29, 2010

This day was marked by great numerical stress and deep contemplation.

We had this outcomes report that unexpectedly required much data that we did not have readily at hand.  Six days of crunching number and a few frantic calls for Excel help, I finally finished the report.  Hitting the SEND button was very difficult for me.  I had no one to read through the 15 page report to see if a) I filled in all the blanks and b) if I transferred the numbers correctly.

Lately, several people have criticized me for talking to myself as I work.  They do not understand that this is one of my coping mechanisms for dealing with the ever-increasing cognitive dysfunction.  Have I mentioned that I can no longer dial a phone without much trial and error? 

Holding the number in my mind from the time I look at it on a piece of paper to the time my eyes travel to the phone is frankly near impossible.  Then, I struggle with actually hitting the numbers correctly the first or second or third time I attempt to do so.  Often, I start to cry when I try to call someone...unless...I am using my cell phone.  Then, all I have to do is type two letters, scroll, and hit one button.  Normally, I can make it through that process.  It is very, very difficult for me to dial a phone cold turkey and I grow very, very defeated in the process. Oh, how I wish I could be more sanguine about the matter.

So, when I am working, I talk to myself, telling me what to do, chanting what I am doing, trying to keep myself focused in the moment.

One problem I have already found with lessoning on Skype is that Pastor is not aware when I am taking notes.  When we are in person, he stops talking so that I might write.  I do not know if he does so for everyone, but he does for me, which is an immense help.  Without notes, I cannot remember most of our lessoning.  Without silence, I cannot remember the few words he just spoke that I am trying to record.  So, I missed quite a bit from our Skype lessoning because he kept on talking when I was trying to save what he was teaching me.  SIGH.

Do you not think that talking to myself is a great way of trying to cope?

Apparently, it is a great bother to some people at work, even if I am standing at the copy machine or in the supply closet.  I do not believe they care if it takes six or eight trips to the supply closet for me to remember what I need if only I do not speak beneath my breath.  Given that I am not a loud, raucous person at these times, wanting merely to remember not to have my failing noticed, I truly do not understand why it is that my talking to myself is so disruptive.

Needless to say, 15 pages of transferring numerical data from one document to the next was extraordinary stressful, almost more so than entering all that data and crunching the numbers in the first place!

And then there was the second trip to a grocery store with my boss.  She was still not well and wanting more food for the weekend.  So, after work, I drove to her house, ferried her to a less-than-economical grocery store, returned her to her home, and then drove back to my house.  I did not step foot in the door until 9:00. 

I am quite fatigued.

What is mercy?

  • A dear friend calling Thursday morning because she finally understands how difficult a battle it has been to face the night of the concert alone
  • A woman who finds spontaneous prayer quite foreign and rather awkward offering to pray with me
  • A waiter who hands me a Rumikub tile I had left in the restaurant earlier in the week
  • Two cherub nephews taking turns reading to me on Skype, filling my ears with much Frog and Toad
  • A pastor who continues to send me hymn audio clips despite my weaknesses and failings
  • Listening to 91 hymns back to back to back
  • The Living Word...this evening...the book of Ephesians

Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

This day was so strange, oh so strange!

Today, I spent nearly the whole day taking my boss to and from the hospital for outpatient surgery.  Yesterday, I helped her move furniture so that she could get about in her home and took her condo payment to the off-site rental office.  Today, I was chauffeur, companion, personal assistant, grocer, and pharmacist.  We were in the car for three hours in the trips back and forth, with stops for food and pain medication. 

Because I had some data entry to do, I worked in the hospital cafeteria for a while at a table.  However, while I was there,  I had to nebulize.  When I cough now, I am expelling stuff that is building up in my lungs due to all the labored breathing, swelling, and irritation.  At one point, I was walking to get a drink and coughed and then started choking because of how much stuff came forth.  Funny, I was the best help she could find?

My boss is not a kind person and regularly is quite cruel to me.  She disparages me to my colleagues and to my superiors.  I do her work.  I do her chores.  I do her errands, and still, to my face and behind my back, I am her whipping boy.

Why, why in the world did I serve her this day?  In truth, a part of me does not understand myself.

Much of what I do for her, abasing myself, is because I fear losing my job.  Plain and simple.  And a horrible reality.

Yet some of what I do for her is not out of fear, but a compassion I simply do not understand, a compassion that makes no sense apart from Christ.  For I know my sin and I know how much I struggle to turn the other cheek to her.  I certainly did not want to ferry her and attend to her.  There will certainly be no thanks for today.  But she was in need and had no one here in town to help her.  No one who was willing that is.  I did not enjoy this day; I worked very, very hard to keep my mind on what God has done for me as I worked to "do" for her.  But she was in need and had no one here in town to help her.  No one willing that is.  I know what that is like.  Even her...even one such as she...should not suffer when another can help.  That is what I know, what I have learned in church of years past.

Still, it was a very strange day for me. 

For one, I am so very fatigued from a combination of a lack of sleep and hours spent with my heart racing from the nebulizer drugs.  For another, I have started to have this very strange problem where I start swaying like I am going to lose my balance even though I am sitting, not standing.  The academic in me, the researcher, has stepped back and tried to analyze what is happening at that time.  Could it be from my ears still hurting and still being stopped up, an equilibrium of sorts?  It is a new type of dizziness from MS?  Is it sheer fatigue?  Is it because I have not been eating well?  The chicken part of me is just plain scared.  I want to things to go back to how they were before the flu virus!

The only good part of this day was that when I was getting her bags of frozen peas to serve as ice packs, I loaded up on Trader Joe's corn--12 bags in fact!  I also bought some milk, sweet potato fries, fresh pasta, and (not nearly like the real stuff), and what I thought was two containers of meat because my cupboard is rather bare.  However, after biting into a strip of beef, I discovered I had purchased faux meat.  UGH!  While I really need protein, I cannot stomach the stuff.

Well, that is not true...perhaps the good part of the day was spending the evening--after narrowly winning a fierce game of Scrabble with Bettina and reading books to her children via Skype--in the Living Word, trying to understand this day.

In the Book of Concord, in the Augsburg Confession and Apology, the fathers taught, with regard to the Sacraments, that they were still valid even if performed by wicked men, even if the man standing in the pulpit was mired in sin.  They were still valid, despite what the papists were claiming, because the work was of God, not man.  God brings forgiveness in His body and Blood, not the man serving as undershepherd. 

It was not my work today.  How could it be?  I was a most reluctant participant!  I dragged my feet more than once and it was not because I am so tired!  Yet I attended her because she had no one to help her. 

"But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne.  All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; and He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left. 

"Then the King will say to those on His right, 'Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.  For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.'

"Then the righteous will answer Him, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink?  And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?' 

"The King will answer and say to them, 'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.' 

"Then He will also say to those on His left, 'Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.' 

"Then they themselves also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?' 

"Then He will answer them, 'Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.' 

"These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life." ~Matthew 25:31-46

I know that this passage is not about justification, that clothing and feeding and visiting is not about achieving righteousness.  But I also know that it is a passage revealing those who truly believed as evidenced by the choices they made...I think.  What does this mean?  Really mean?  I get the Law interpretation; I have heard it ad nauseum.  But what is the Gospel in here?  Am I a goat or a sheep?  If I am at once saint and sinner, am I not also at once sheep and goat?

Pastor said, in a heated moment, that we live under grace.  I am still wondering what he meant by that.

Did I honor God this day by caring for one of his errant children?  Or did I dishonor Him because I did so very reluctantly?

Time to nebulize.  Time to try and stifle once more the fear I have been battling since the first attack a week ago early Tuesday morning.  Time to try and find a way to be still and know that He is God....

Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Another violent attack.  Exhausted.  Nebulizing.  SIGH.

Why I love the Living Word, why I love praying the Psalter in the words of another:

...Scripture is not where God has hidden His Word, His Truth or Himself. Scripture is where God has disclosed Himself, revealed Himself, and made Himself known to us. It is not a book of words but the living voice of God speaking within the limited parameters of human language and culture to disclose to us Him who is the Lord of heaven and the God of the cross.  ~Pastor P


Tuesday, January 26, 2010

I want to finish writing about Walther's Ninth Evening Lecture...

The part that I have not addressed is one of the hardest parts of the Book of Concord for me to wrap my mind around...not for complexity but for harshness.

I have always, always believed the bible is full of black and white, not the grays spoken of so often these days.  I have also always, always found the New Testament to be hard, not a book of wishy, washy love and prosperity.

Funny, I think I had that totally and completely right and absolutely wrong.

Part of Walther's 9th addresses the Council of Trent.  This is, as Pastor pointed out, a matter of fact, a part of the Catholic church record, and a confession within that denominations that still stands today.  You can read about the different sessions here.

Walther had very strong words on the matter.  Pastor also pointed out that both sides had strong words in that time; people spoke without walking on politically correct eggshells.  He begins:

This preamble does not sound so awful.  We hear this vermin of antichristian iniquity speaking of the Gospel as containing the doctrines of salvation.  However, they add immediately that the Gospel also proscribes morals.  That is the interpretation they put on the intention of Christ when He said:  "Go ye into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature."  Mark 16,15.  They evidently do not intend to accept the Gospel in the true sense of the word.  In the meaning in which they understand it, it is, at best, a law such as Moses proclaimed.  Nor do they urge upon people only the commandments of God, but much more the commandments of the Church. (69-70)

Stop and think for a moment.  Just how many times have you heard about morals in church, things you should be doing?  Some denominations, even today, have raised human traditions to the elevation of preserving your faith.  No drinking.  No dancing.  No dating.  No work on the sabbath.  No technology.  None of these have anything to do with the Gospel, with the message of Jesus Christ.  Drinking does not affect your faith because faith is a Spirit driven work.  Drinking may very well affect your health and well-being if imbibed in excess.  Drinking will not, under any circumstances, affect the work of salvation.  Dancing will not either.

In its sixth session the Council of Trent passed this decree:  "If any one says that men are made righteous solely through the imputation of the righteousness of Christ or solely through the forgiveness of sin, to the exclusion of the grace and love which by the Holy Spirit is poured out in their hearts and is inherent in them; or that the grace by which we are made righteous is nothing else than the favor of God, --let him be accursed.  If any one says that the faith which makes men righteous is nothing else than trust in the divine mercy, which remits sins for Christ's sake, or that it is only this trust that makes us righteous, --let him be accursed....  If any one says that a justified person does not, by reason of the good works which are done by him through the grace of God and the merit of Jesus Christ, whose living member he is, truly merit an increase of grace, eternal life, and the actual obtainment of eternal life, provided he dies in grace, --let him be accursed."  Unless you are utterly blind and know nothing of the Christian religion, I believe that a plainer proof that the Pope is the Antichrist cannot be offered you. (74)

Alas, that final sentence is so hard, so difficult.

But before that comes the blatant statement that I should be accursed because I believe that I am saved through no work of my own, solely through the work of the Cross!  What fallacy!  What blasphemy! 

The Book of Concord is comprised of ten documents, one of which being a treatise on the Power and the Primacy of the Pope.  It very plainly and very unequivocally states that the Pope is the antichrist.  Understanding so little of the end times save for the convoluted teachings in the Left Behind books, I found this difficult to "hear," to understand.

Pastor gave me a mini-lesson on the matter during my lessoning on Saturday:

  • It is the office of the pope which is the antichrist, not the person; though the person is in error for remaining in and propagating that office.
  • This is because of (at least??) three claims:  that of divine authority; the title of vicar of Christ; and upholding the decrees of the Council of Trent.
  • It is not that the Church cannot have any governmental structure, but when that structure sets itself above and apart from the truth of the Gospel, then it is distorting that very Gospel.
  • The bible does not teach that there is or will only be one antichrist (see I John 2:18 and II John 1:7). 
  • The primary antichrist is satan and the many are all his followers and their works in this world...often completed through acts of man.

What did I learn?  A rebuke of sorts:  Anything against the Gospel, anything that distorts it, anything that sets itself up in place of His work on the cross is antichrist Shouldn't I already know that?  Is that not what I believe? 

Walther did not mince words when standing against the teaching that works have any place in Justification.  He learned this boldness from Luther.  I, too, take that stand.  I take it not merely because the Augsburg Confession resonates so strongly within me.  I take it because I spent 31 years trying to justify myself, trying to make myself holy, trying to trust Jesus enough to shed my sin.  I failed miserably.  I failed because it is not possible.

I stand with the Lutheran confession, even with the words are harsh, impolitic, uncomfortable.

Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Been thinking a lot about help lately...being of need of it and it not really being practical for Bettina to come running.  Being in need of it and not really having a place to turn.

She had the most glorious idea yesterday.  She gave me the choice of telling me or surprising me.  I, of course, gave permission for her to spill the beans.

For her birthday, she has requested the digital recorder that I have that is like what Pastor has and what I have been using to make my recordings of the Book of Concord for others to use.  I, of course, was fully on board with that idea immediately.  She sings all the time, so I quickly envisioned a whole library of Bettina songs.

When she was here, during that altogether too brief moment, she showed me a gizmo that, apparently, the whole world knows about but I:  the iPod touch.  There, in this small wonder, were all Pastor's hymns, and she could log onto the Internet with it through wi-fi.  I read one of my blog entries aloud to her in bed so we could talk about it.  Amazing.  In that moment, all my future trips to ER shifted into something much more bearable.  If I got one of those gizmos, then I could listen to hymns and sermons whilst getting treatment.  If there was a hot spot, I could also log-on and check email.

Bettina had, as I said, the most wonderous idea given that I have not stopped talking with her about all the possible ways I might gain such a technological marvel.  Believe me, I have spent many a minute thinking about acquiring one.  For one, there is a "check in the mail" that would cover the entire cost, but it has been in the mail for well over a week now even though it is coming from just 20 miles away.  For another, I received an unexpected credit from Amazon for a less-than-speedy delivery on a purchase I hadn't even known was late.  Still, the check has not arrived and part of me is feeling quite impulsive.  Never purchase on impulse.

Back to her idea, though:  Bettina thought that a great thing to do would be to start recording the bible for me, so that she could be with me when she couldn't be with me!  That way, I would have hymns, sermons, and the Living Word at my fingertips.  SIGH.  Such mercy!

Needless to say, I have been fervently hoping one of the birthday gifts she opens will be the Olympus WS210-S.

But back to my thoughts about help.  What to do?

Even if I could afford to do so, how can I find someone to hire who would do what family or friends would do? I mean, tomorrow is trash day.  I missed recycling the past two weeks and my bin is overflowing.  Carrying it to the curb, however, is not something I should be doing right now.  Carrying the bin on a good day makes my chest tight.  Right now, it would be a less than wise choice.

Today, at work, a woman who volunteers at one of our properties stopped by to see me.  Not knowing what the past week has been like for me, she made one of her pithy comments and I laughed.  I laughed and then coughed so hard that I saw stars and dropped immediately to the floor, barely able to keep from fainting.  I am standing on a high wire and have so little balance.  This happened even though I have been nebulizing every 4-6 hours quite faithfully.  I suspect this is going to be so for a while.

And then there is the whole virus thing, lingering still.  Two other women in the office are struggling almost as much as I to regain vigor.  So, at least I my lack of accomplishments at work of late are not isolated.  Still, I am tired and weak and very dull-witted.  And my ears hurt!  You're not supposed to notice your ears are there at all.

Hmm...a notice for employment:

  • do a load of underclothing
  • pick up a few groceries
  • prepare a meal
  • take out the recycling
  • walk my beloved buttercup around the block
  • stand on a ladder to put something in the attic
  • sit with me while I wait for my heart rate to recover

I'd spend more on the person coming and going than the time it took to take out the trash.  Not that hiring someone is really an option even if I could figure out how, where, who.

Part of me has wondered if it is a Southern thing or a Protestant thing.  In the South, people help other people all the time.  In church, that was all we did.  Works aplenty.  In high school and college, my youth group was constantly doing helping projects.  The youth minister would call out a need and a group would always respond, finishing the task or work day at McDonald's or Chili's or this rather amazing ice cream shop that was a precursor to Cold Stone Creamery.

There was this one time, when a couple had gotten into trouble trying to become dairy farmers.  A host of us schlepped out to the farm and sickled grass, mucked out the barn, repaired the porch, painted the house inside and out, sewed curtains, and a slew of other chores.  Such hard work.  Such joy.

So was it a works thing or a Southern thing?

But thinking about needing help has had me thinking about the calendar I made for myself.  A dweeby thing to be sure, but I created it after a woman from church mentioned that this is the first year that I will be a Lutheran from beginning to end.  It is my Lutheran calendar.

The "artwork" I used are images of stained glass windows.  I miss them.  Silly.  Strange.  Childish.  I have always enjoyed gazing upon stained glass windows in church, thinking about the artisan who crafted them and the subject which inspired them.  I also added quotes from some of my favorite writers, Martin Luther, Johann Gerherd, and two pastors I found online.  The quotes are not merely pithy statements, but deep, dense explorations of truth.  Things I can chew on all month long.

On the calendar, I added all the Sundays of the church year so that I can better learn the seasons.  I think it is special that Pastor always knows what Sunday it is, where we are in the rhythm of the Church year.  I believe this is so because of the purpose of the Church year, to teach us about the Gospel.  Would you not agree I need to know more of the Gospel?

Besides, already I have been able to use the calendar hanging on my wall to talk about my faith, such as it is.  The pile of books on my desk--the bible, the Book of Concord, the Treasury of Daily Prayer--serve the same:  an opportunity to both share what I have learned of objective grace and the proper distinction between Law and Gospel and to rehearse what I know to be true, rather than what I have learned from experience, which is not based on truth.

One of the quotes I found but did not use was on how we have nothing to fear since Christ conquered death, He conquered all the wiles and assaults of the devil.  And yet...and yet...I have been walking in terror for nearly a weak.  It is so very difficult for me to stand beside and watch the frailty I face and the battle to breathe...and I hate, very much hate, when my heart it racing and my whole body is vibrating like a plucked guitar string.  No melodious sound streams forth from I at times such as this.  I am not praising God. I am not rejoicing in my suffering.  No, I am struggling with despair.

Funny, I've been thinking so mightily about my faith, about my struggles, about needing help, about being alone, and about this wee little bit from Pastor W's blog:

"You shall be my witnesses." It's not a command. It's a promise.

SIGH.  Ever I think of works, even as I strive to lay such folly aside.  What about my witness?  I despair.  What light is there in tears, in hurt, in utter weakness?

In order to retain the Gospel among people, He openly sets the confession of saints against the kingdom of the devil and, in our weakness, declares His power. (Apology, Article V, 68)

It's not a command. It's a promise.

Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Keeled over in the shower.

Please help me, Lord.  Please!
I have been lying on the floor of the basement for hours.

There is really no one to ask for help. Had I a functioning braincell in my head, I would have asked Bettina while she was here, but, really that was such a short time. I needed to do laundry, having run out of essentials. That means hauling dirty clothes down two flights of stairs and lots of bending over and lifting as I sorted the massive pile-up from being ill so long.

While I managed to work Thursday and Friday, I did so only because I felt keeping my job depended upon it. Sometimes, it seems as if I have a death grip on keeping the pieces of myself together...both physically and emotionally. Lately, it has been both. Never, that I can remember, was I as tired and ill from that virus. Then, just as I was thinking I had turned a corner, such a violent asthma attack knocks me to my knees, along with a frightening experience at that time.

I am still coughing from time to time. The smallest act can set it off. Last night, I was vehemently protesting something to someone and raised my voice in the process. Big mistake. I had to nebulize three times, bringing my heart rate back to terror-pounding-level. I did not fall asleep until around 10:00 Saturday morning, sleeping for just a few hours before trying to engage in my lessoning.

My ears are still hurting and I am still tired and, having just checked, I still still have a low-grade fever. So, trying to do laundry meant taking a rather nasty spill down the second set of stairs.

I was unconscious for longer than I can ever remember being. Kashi was curled by my side and both birds were hopping up and down my side. I cannot believe he did not chow down on them.

When I tried to get up, the room spun and I threw up. So, I lay on the floor for hours thinking about the fact that I really do not have anyone to ask for help. I mean, I did have some folks from church who were willing to take me to the doctor, but after many appointments, that sort of dried up. And despite knowing what happened the night of the concert, no help or concern was forthcoming. Despite knowing how ill I've been, no help or concern was forthcoming. It hurts to ask and get declined. So, I didn't try asking even when just getting downstairs with Kashi this afternoon when I finally awoke was difficult.

As soon as Pastor hung up from Skype, I slept on the couch for many hours. Then, after answering a few emails and thinking perhaps I could make it, I trudged upstairs and piled the laundry in my basket and tried to make it to the basement.

Lying on the floor, I tried very hard to remember that even then it was a time of grace. I admit that I had difficulty doing so. I also tried to review the answers Pastor gave me today, but could not really do so save for his comment on my observation that I believe there is a difference between how Lutherans and Protestants view the bible and what that meant. While he did not disagree that there was a difference, I did not understand that it was more than just valuing the Word.

If I am retelling this correctly, the main difference is that Protestants focus on a bible written for then, for the people then. So, we would need to interpret it according to their experience and then re-interpret it for our times. Lutherans believe that the bible is written for all men, for all times. There is nothing to re-interpret. It is the grand for me.

This fits in with, therefore, the teaching that the Holy Spirit comes through means, the Word and Sacraments. Zwingli used to taunt that the Holy Spirit knew now bounds. Luther and fellow reformers agreed with the truth of that statement, yet they understood that He bound himself to visible means not because He needed to but because we needed Him to do so.

This is also tied to why it is that Baptists do not believe in Sacraments. Sacraments are what God does for us; Baptists do not see God doing anything for us in baptism or in the Lord's Supper. Ordinances can be viewed as what man does for God. Thus, they believe baptism and the Lord's Supper are what man can do for God, is doing for God, must do for God.

I did nothing in my baptism, barely stood in fact. I did nothing, yet received everything. I do nothing in the Lord's Supper. I do nothing, yet receive everything. Pastor places the bread in my mouth, the cup upon my lips even.  I receive and God works within.

I know I have stumbled my way through that, but it seems intertwined in my mind....

Of course, Pastor's main caution was in understanding that I am generalizing Protestants, when many of them would not quite fit into my mold. I agree with him. But I do know that in five states and four denominations all I found was works.

I crave the proper distinction between Law and Gospel, even after spending hours lying on the floor confronted with the fact that I am truly alone.  I crave original sin, justification, and objective grace.  I crave the promises of God being hurled at me, poured out over me, wrapped around me.  I crave being fed and nurtured in the gifts of Sacrament.  I crave forgiveness that is at once perfect and present tense.

Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Today was a hymn day!  Pastor emailed them early this morning.  I admit that I feared he would not do so, given the words that were spoken yesterday.  I must weary him so.

One of the hymns intrigued me: God of the Prophets, Bless the Prophets' Sons (LSB, 682)...yes, another prayer hymn!

Do you remember Behold a Host Arrayed in White? I really like this hymn because the tune sounds like being in a rocking chair...or how I imagine that might feel.  Whenever I told a friend I thought it would be a great one to memorize to sing her boys to sleep.

Not to the same degree, but in part, I think God of the Prophets, Bless the Prophets' Sons is another great bedtime one. Both tunes have a soothing quality that lend themselves to being sung to children.  Both hymns teach.  Both are comforting in that they speak of God moving through those who do His work.  One past, one future.

God of the prophets, bless the prophets' sons
Elijah's mantle o'er Elisha cast.
Each age its solemn task may claim but once;
Make each one nobler, stronger than the last.

Anoint them prophets, men who are intent
To be Your witnesses in word and deed,
Their hearts aflame, their lips made eloquent,
Their eyes awake to ev'ry human need.

Anoint them priests, strong intercessors they,
For pardon and for love and hope and peace,
That, through their pleading, guilty sinners may
Find Jesus' mercy and from sin release.

Anoint them priests, strong intercessors they,
Anoint them with the Spirit of Your Son.
Theirs not a jeweled crown, a bloodstained sword;
Theirs, by sweet love, for Christ a kingdom won.

Make them apostles, heralds of Your cross;
Forth let them go to tell the world of grace.
Inspired by You, may they count all but loss
And stand at last with joy before Your face.

Speaking of future and past, during my last lessoning, I asked Pastor if he had to assign a verb tense to forgiveness, which one would he pick.  You could say he cheated, choosing two.  But...given that God is outside of time...there really is no tense that could fit forgiveness.

Perfect Tense:  A completed action in the past that has enduring results in the present
Present Tense:  An unchanging, repeated, or reoccurring action or situation that exists only now

The first is why, so Veith explains in The Spirituality of the Cross, Lutherans, when asked when they were saved, will not give the date God first granted them faith in their life, be it through baptism or through the Living Word, but will name a date some 2,000 years ago.

The second is why Pastor teaches "I am baptized" instead of "I was baptized."  I believe, too, the second is the why of the seal of confession.  What is spoken in confession is forgiven and never spoken of again.  It is forgiven so it is no more.  You cannot speak of what does not exist.

I shall leave you with a snippet from the most perfect argument for Liturgy that I have read to date, which I found this day on Pastor W's blog:

Divine worship is a battle to strengthen faith for holding onto the promises. We know faith comes from hearing, and hearing from the Word of God. Faith comes from the promises - they are what the Holy Spirit uses to give and to strengthen faith! So we hurl the promises at each other, drench each other in them, wrap each other up in them to help one another in the struggle as we live in this very broken and damaged world, stumbling on, crawling toward the joys of the Age that is to come - where everything that is not Love will at last and blessedly be history

Lord, I believe!  Help my unbelief!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

This day was not what I envisioned, upon the second hearing that Bettina was arriving.  For I immediately calculated just how much time with her I could stuff within those few hours when we would not be sleeping.  We could do this and that and perhaps this.

No, this day was not what I envisioned.

Bettina, oh what mercy she showed me.  More than just coming when my terror was great.  Now, alone again, nebulizing and feeling the wild beating of my heart pound within me, I am clinging to the gifts she gave me, the love Christ showed me.

For one, she let me ask a question that meant a lot to me and give her an answer few would want to know.  She let me weep and wail and gnash my teeth.  But the sweetest gift?  My dear friend crawled in bed with me and kept me company even in my sleep.  She talked and then allowed me to flip on my CD of Pastor's hymns and scripture readings so that the room was filled with the Living Word.  My head hurt so horribly by that time, the wee hours of the morning, I shifted again and again and again trying to find a way of laying it upon the pillow that was bearable.  She neither complained nor left.

This morning, during parking lot confession time, she allowed Pastor to come so that I might talk with him.  I truly and honestly and earnestly thought he would be gone quickly.  But I was very wrong.  I let go more distress than I intended, which he caught and held with the hands of Christ, despite the fury with which I spoke at times, despite the weight of my anguish.  Something I found interesting was his response when I could not complete the liturgy.  I could not speak the words.  He offered first to jump to the words I longed for most.  When I could not give my accent, he spoke them anyway.

In the middle of my confusion (yes, that was a purposeful mistake), the gas man arrived and I just about nearly lost it.  I do not care that Bettina and Pastor was there.  I did not want another strange man in my home, without warning, without preparation.  Pastor chided me rather strongly as to the fact that his unexpected arrival was the mercy of our loving God because he came at a time when two people were there to be with me and to help me dismantle the closet to get at, once again, the gas meter.  It mattered not that I said the battery had already been replaced.  The gas man insisted on seeing it.  I saw a crooked path.  Pastor saw one made straight.

He is right.  I am wrong.  But it was not wrong for me to feel so utterly overwhelmed.  Pastor set about not only getting the dismantling done, but he also effected some change to the door so as to avoid this problem in the future.  I honestly did not understand his plan and do not know what he did.  Becky understood it, so I can ask her later.  I was concentrating on not screaming in fear and frustration at the top of my lungs.  Another strange man in my home.

By the time the whole gas man interlude was resolved and Pastor was able to talk me round to receiving forgiveness, his afternoon classes were blown and it was nearly time for Bettina to leave.  He prayed for my dear friend's travel home and I threw a pizza into the oven.  We watched some Dr. Who, and I sat at her feet, leaning against her leg, savoring the last moments of company in my distress.

I cried as she arrived.  I cried whilst she was here.  I cried as she left.  I absolutely cannot believe she would drive so far for so little sleep and so little time with me.  She gave me everything.  I offered her nothing.  Blogging from my couch, she showed me that God had already shifted many things in her life so that at that moment she could drop everything and race to my side. 

She came armed with the Living Word:

Then I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, "Now the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, he who accuses them before our God day and night. And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death. For this reason, rejoice, O heavens and you who dwell in them. Woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, knowing that he has only a short time." ~Revelation 12:10-12

I know! You are most puzzled by a word of comfort for someone who is terrified from the book of Revelation.  When she first announced from when her word of comfort came, I about near protested rather vehemently that I was in no position to take on Revelation and surely she had something for me from my beloved Psalter.  But, no, His word is perfect and meet and salutary in all times and in all places and for all men.  Even a terrified, hurt, ill, weak, struggling sinner such as I.

Bettina's word of comfort was that satan is overcome by the blood of the Christ, in which I have already been washed, and by the testimony He is writing upon my life.  She spoke specifically about a testimony I had written, at Pastor's suggestion, for pastors to consider in their pastoral care for women who have abused...and for the women themselves to show they are not alone in their hurt and confusion and weakness and struggles.  To show the message of Objective Grace I found within Luther's teaching:  that is possible to be completely broken yet whole in Christ. Bettina's word of comfort was for a testimony that I had decided was completely useless because of the social contract I see being upheld all about me and the hurt I have felt at daring to violate its terms and conditions and being met with such wretched failure.  Her comfort was that the words I long to speak, to share, are actually good words because they are the testimony Christ has given me, a testimony that defeats all satan's wiles and assaults...even when I do not see how this can possibly be so...even when I feel as if I am lying bloody and broken in the road watching the world pass me by.

How so does the mercy of Christ, does the grace of God unfold?

My godmother spoke a word of comfort that clarifies, in one fell swoop, the primary difference between Lutheranism and Protestantism. She spoke to me of sanctification.

Being sanctified does not mean being a good Christian, a good person.  Sanctification is not you becoming more godly.  Sanctification is, and only is, having your eyes opened, by God, to your sin so that you may know how utterly desperate you are in your need for Him as your Savior.

What an utter blow against works!  But my godmother was not done with me yet!

Oh, she rather wickedly added, you should actually be thanking God for being horrified at the ugliness of your sin, for crumbling beneath its weight, so that you might know the depth of His mercy and grace in His forgiveness of you. 

Forgiveness then, now, and always.

But, wait, God was not yet done.

I texted Pastor (I know, you are horrified I did so after such a disastrous last message...but, to be fair to Pastor, I must admit that did not type the word pray in the message I sent as a prayer request during the morning prayer service.), asking that he call me to check in after evening bible study.  While he always maintains our discussions that are not quite the most calm, courteous, and soft-toned exchange as should be between a pastor and his parishioner are actually good ones, I was/am bothered that once again we were, ahem, raising our voices with each other this morning.  For I did not believe he was hearing me.  He found me utterly deaf.  I thought his answers did not apply for his failing to listen.  He grew frustrated that I made him repeat his words for the twelfth time not believing they could be the words God would have me to hear when they are His Word, not those of the man before me.  And I became frightened by his frustration, even knowing that I am safe, because I know what frustrated men can do to women.  I asked him to call me because I wanted to see if he would do something needful before I lost the courage gained in forgiveness given when I could not speak the words.

Forgiveness and a blessing.

He called.  We talked.  Words less than mellifluous, at times still, but a soothing balm after this morning...words to know that the undershepherd remained.  He agreed to my request.  And he prayed for me.

Yet God's work this day was not complete by far.

My writing student read my distressing blog from yesterday and texted me to ask if she could do something for me (see good can come from technology).  I asked her to stay the night because my heart rate is still high and every four hours, when I nebulize, it skyrockets once more, taking several hours to at least drop back down to bearable.  I am still terrified in the quiet moments of the day.

She is leaving the country in just three days until June.  She has not packed because she has been working all hours of the day for the funds to support her study abroad.  [Praise be to God that He provided so unexpectedly and generously those hours of work for her!]  She had not the time to stay the night, but she gave what she could.

What she gave was the opportunity for me to serve her, even as she bestowed mercy upon me by keeping me company for a while.  She had two scholarship essays that needed finishing.  She prepared me some Bettina-style tomato soup and herself some whole wheat asparagus and cheese ravioli with a lemon, garlic, cayenne pepper Alfredo sauce.  And then she allowed me the joy of helping her rework her drafts into beautiful works of art.  It is an altogether most satisfying experience of writing, rewriting, and editing an essay answer until you get it perfect and then distilling it further into a work of art by making it fit into those blasted restrictions of 500 words!

She also prayed both Luther's blessing and the thanksgiving with me, listened to me as I read aloud a psalm, and sang a hymn with me...without telling me someone as fragile as I had no business straining my lungs with song.

And now the conclusion of His mercy and grace to me on this day that was not as how I had envisioned:

I found words of utter beauty and absolute comfort in a pastoral report that is from a pastor I do not know for a parish to which I do not belong and yet has everything to do with me, for me

Baptized. Such a short, blunt word for such an incredibly powerful, precious gift.  I am baptized. I am (not was) baptized.  I am baptized.  Pastor D taught me such joy.

This evening, Pastor W gave me the words to savor this joy more fully.  Words I gleaned and rearranged for you below:

I am baptized.

I am in streams overflowing.
I am given new birth in these waters.

I am embraced in this font of living water.
I am united to my Lord forever.
I am named as Christ's own.
I am washed clean in the baptismal flood.
I am marked with the cross of the crucified forever.
I am harvested by the Lord as one of His own children.
I am made His holy temple.

All of this in just a tiny bit of water and the holy name of God.

Water and the Word doing the job and bringing me into Christ’s kingdom. 

I am baptized.

It does not matter that, despite my great longing to change that day this past summer, I am not be able to remember my baptism, to remember being washed clean and named God's own, I am baptized.  Because I am baptized, each time Pastor speaks the words of forgiveness, tracing the cross upon my forehead, I am washed anew. Because I am baptized, each time he blesses me, tracing the cross upon my forehead, I am named His own once more.

That should be enough...but there was one last loving gift God had for me.

Pastor W framed his report in a passage that is most familiar to me, but the Holy Spirit made clear for the first time this evening:

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill and a time to heal; a time to break down and a time to build up; a time to weep and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance; a time to cast away stones and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing; a time to seek and a time to lose; a time to keep and a time to cast away; a time to tear and a time to sew; a time to keep silence and a time to speak; a time to love and a time to hate; a time for war and a time for peace.
~Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

The wretched, terrifying time from when I awoke struggling to breathe until now is a time of grace. The discouraging, confusing time from when Pastor plunked down the Book of Concord before me until now is a time of grace. The dark, sorrowful time from when my parents first chose not to protect me until now is a time of grace.

All of my time, then, now, and always is a time of grace no matter how it may look or feel to me. It is a time of grace because, in the words of Pastor W, I live in and with and through my Crucified, Risen, Ascended, Reigning and Returning Lord--to whom be glory forever with His all-holy Father and the life-giving Spirit!

Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

I am waiting for Bettina to arrive. 

In the middle of the night, I awoke coughing and have been terrified ever since.  I spent several hours getting the attack under control.  I should have gone to the hospital, but I was too scared and too embarrassed to also explain what the coughing was doing elsewhere.  I texted Pastor during morning prayer service, thinking he would pray because when I tell him about my attacks, he never really does anything but say he is sorry and sometimes prays for/with me--he does not come to the hospital, he rarely checks on me later, and he certainly hardly ever texts me back.  I had just used my epipen and had two rounds of nebs trying to stop it, so I crawled upstairs to turn on my hymns CD and try to get control.  I fell asleep finally only to wake what seemed mere moments later to pounding and yelling.

Pastor was downstairs with police in my house.  Armed men.  Again.  And he knows my fear.

My very tenuous control slipped and I started coughing again, though not so violently...for a while.  I was terrified and hid in the bathroom, using my nebulizer and trying to get them to just give me time for the drugs to work again...and the cough pills.  I wasn't dressed.  I wasn't ready.  When I do go to the hospital, I layer my clothing very specifically so that even if I have to have x-rays, I can still have the bottom most layer on beneath the hospital gown.

I do not like hospitals. They are not always safe places.  And my increasingly violent reaction to the asthma drugs I take now makes hospital staff want to give me something to "relax" me.  I might be agitated being there, but my wild shaking is a side effect.  Even when I am in my beloved Dr. G's office having a nebulizer treatment I shake.  My reaction bothers her tremendously, but she knows it is the drugs and just lets them wear off.  Giving adavant on top of the very wearying asthma treatment knocks me out.  I cannot control my limbs or keep my eyes open, which frightens me when I am around strangers.  I'd have to stay longer and I couldn't keep myself safe.

If I had someone to go with me, I would have gone today.  But I do not.  As I have said before, three different women have said they would meet me in the ER should I need to go;  none of them ever came when I called.  And I tried several times with each of them.

I got control enough to send the paramedics away and Pastor left as well.  But he told me something just before he left that made me cry, which made me lose that tenuous control again and my coughing was as violent as when it began.  For a brief while when he was there, things went gray and I couldn't stay in the moment.  I honestly do not remember him leaving; I was coughing so hard and had just used another epipen and was writhing in pain.

The violent coughing shoots up my blood pressure (the alarms always go off in the hospital), so each paroxysm made my head explode with pain and my lower back feel like it was tearing apart.  I wanted to go to the hospital then. I wanted him to say he would go with me when he asked me if he should call the paramedics back.  He didn't offer.  So, I said no.  He left because he had class to get to.  I had to concentrate on getting enough oxygen.

Before he left, I asked Pastor to take Kashi out for me since he likes dogs and Kashi likes him, but he insisted Kashi was fine and I was too terrified of the violent paroxysms and too weary to try and explain that Kashi had not been outside since the night before and would need to go outside shortly and I wouldn't be able to take him any time soon.

An hour or so later, Kashi couldn't wait and I couldn't stand the smell from the resulting mess being so nauseated myself.  Getting up to clean it caused another violent attack.  I couldn't use the epipen again, so even though my heart had been hammering for hours, I used the nebulizers again and took another coughing pill.

When Kashi asked to go out later, whining desperately, I tried to get him down the stairs.  Pastor said that Kashi walked down the stairs himself while he was there.  Kashi has not done so in about three years; I guess his worry over me overrode the weakness in his hind legs and his own fears of the stairs since he has fallen down them several times.  He is even afraid of the deck steps at night, usually only going down them if I stand near him, sometimes making me carry him.

I fell down the stairs with him and started coughing.  Another treatment and another pill.

I asked two women for help, if they could come for a while.  I was miserable and frightened and needed some help with the household.  This evening, the birds were still covered with no food and dirty water (I have to change it about four times a day).  My blood sugar skyrocketed during the morning and mid-day and I was puking, which also made my head and back hurt.  It then plummeted late afternoon since I hadn't eaten.  I asked two women and they both couldn't come.  Too busy.  I said I really needed help.  I would have thought if either couldn't come, one of them would find someone else.  But I am not worth that, I suppose.  At least that is how I feel, how it seems to me.  So I called a man, who always makes me pay a steep price for his help, to come and get me food and take care of the birds.

Several times, I called Bettina because I am so terrified.

At a hospital, I would be getting continuous nebs with some blessed oxygen and probably have solumedrol pushed even if I said I didn't want it.  I have never been given anything for the tachycardia, but perhaps the fact that my heart rate has been so high for so long would be a different story.  I know they would not let me take the pain medicine I take for cramps knowing the arthritis medicine I have been swallowing all day.  But the cramps are severe and are hard to handle even when I am not miserable and terrified.

I called Bettina crying again and again.

She emailed me a movie clip of a picture of Jesus while she sang that Love hymn in the background.  She then emailed me a new verse she wrote for me for the hymn about how Jesus comes to us:

Jesus comes through those who love us,
Showing sacrifice and grace.
Jesus comes amidst our failings,
Never will He leave our place.
Alleluia, Alleluia,
Takes our shame without a trace.

She also found a fifth verse that looks like it was supposed to go with the hymn and, I guess, would go at the end of all my new verses:

Jesus comes on clouds triumphant
When the heavens shall pass away;
Jesus comes again in glory.
Let us, then, our homage pay,
Alleluia! ever singing
Till the dawn of endless day.

I called Bettina crying again and again and again.

Because I have no one to stay with me tonight or no house where I can go to stay so I am not alone, she is driving down from Pennsylvania, even though she has a meeting tomorrow evening that she cannot miss.  She is driving down, knowing she will only be able to be here for a little over twelve hours because I am terrified and do not want to be alone.

I am nebulizing again, which has boldly crossed the no-more-than-six times a day limit.  She said she would take me to the hospital and stay there with me, but I do not know if I could talk my way out by tomorrow afternoon and I would not want her to miss her meeting because I know how very important it is to her.  She would take me to the hospital and stay with me and help me feel safe and help me only get the medicine I want (asthma drugs) and not the ones I do not (nerves drugs). She would make them listen to me, not just treat me like an hysterical, frightened woman because I cannot control my responses to the powerful drugs coursing through my system and am nervous about hospitals and being unclothed with male staff.  Yes, I would still be scared with her there, but I would go.  I would welcome the medical intervention after hours and hours and hours of trying to stop this.

But even just her coming here I will be better.  I will be less frightened and not alone.  I will have someone to pray with me and read me scripture and sing hymns to me.  Or just watch Stargate SG1 with me while I huddle in the green chair or curl up on the couch.  Or sit in the chair in my room while I try to sleep. Or even read a book or something....just present but not engaged.

I fainted twice today.
I threw up more times than I can remember.
I have nebulized 8 times.
I have used two epipens.
I have great burning pain in my leg so I think I hit a nerve or was too tense when I did so.
I have fallen down the stairs.
Every cough, sneeze, and anything that touches my head makes it throb all the more.
My back screams protest whenever I move.
My chest hurts when I breath.
My throat is raw.
I am having horrible menstrual cramps.
My heart rate has been in the 170's after the third through eighth nebulizer.
My sats are too low.
Kashi is agitated.
And I am terrified.

I am terrified of the still rather tenuous control I have over my breathing and my pounding heart and my trembling limbs...and am ashamed of my hospital fears...and am ashamed/discouraged/disheartened that I want so desperately not to be alone right now but am...meaning both that I am not really friend material to folk in this area after nearly 12 years--the sort of person you want to make an effort to help out even though she has, uhm, struggles--and that I am not allowing God to be hating myself for asking those two women to not be alone and being disappointed when I knew their answer would be no in the first place no matter how clearly I asked for help...and am ashamed/struggling with selfishness in that I said yes when Bettina offered to drive all this way for such a short time when she has two young children and a husband.

What does that say about what kind of person I am?  What does that say about my faith? 

I am so very terrified.  Oh, how I am waiting for Bettina to arrive.  Lord, please bring her here safely and quickly!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Global giving to Haiti reached $575 million earlier today, not including the individual giving that would probably push that total well over $600 Million, and the telethon has not even taken place yet!  That is a lot of funding for a small island nation of 9 million people.

Please do not misunderstand me.  I know the nation has been devastated and is in dire need.


It bothers me that we are so willing to give to others after natural disasters or great events, but we are so blind to such an equally devastating situation right here in our own back yard.


Hunger in America was already a dire problem.  The recession has magnified it beyond imagining.  Data based a year ago, children in food insecure homes were 1 in 10.  Recent calculations escalate that number to 1 in 4. 

1 in 4. 

Food insecure means that family members do not have access to food three meals a day, seven days a week.  In some cases, it means that little if any food is available.  In others, it means that meals are skipped daily or weekly.  In all, it means hunger and suffering.

At our sister school in DC, all of the children are on free breakfast and lunch.  For many of these children, this is the only food they eat.  What is worse is that just 11% of the 18.5 million children in free food programs received free food over the summer during 2008.  Can you imagine waiting for school to start so that you could have food on a regular basis?

Children who are hungry have poorer health and have less chance of success in school, often dooming them to a lifetime of struggle.

This is taking place in America.

As of 2008, eight states and the District of Columbia have more than 20% of their children in food insecure homes.  What are those numbers now?

In America.

And now…seniors are joining those children at alarming rates.  More and more food pantries and kitchens are being filled with seniors on fixed incomes who can no longer afford to feed themselves.

In America.

These children will never march on Washington.  Their parents will never fill the National Mall in outrage over this disaster plaguing our nation.  No telethons will be held on their behalf.  Celebrities will not come out in droves to assail their plight.  They are faceless.  They are voiceless.  Yet they surround you.  They are your neighbors, your co-workers, your congregation.

A while ago, I tried to talk with Pastor about this, about the fact that I believe our church should be doing something.  So easy is it to bring a can or box of food to church for distribution to local food pantries.  I read about a 2-fer program, where people are encouraged to purchase brands that are buy-one-get-one-free and donate the free goods.  When you go to the store to purchase food for your own family, you could add a few items to your cart.  Those who have businesses could have collection boxes and signs for patrons who might not understand this blight we are facing.  Little bit by little bit we could make a difference. 

Jesus taught us that when we do unto the least of these, we are doing unto Him.  For no other reason we should be moved to act.

With regard to evangelism, feeding the hungry would be a great witness of the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ.  Feeding the hungry would speak volumes.

1 in 4. 

While that unbelievable, what grieves me more is that no one really wants to know, no one really wants to see.  Few in our government, few in our society really seem to care.  Oh, we are quick to raise the cry to help those across the world in war zones or disaster areas.  We will pound the pavement on their behalf.  What truly puzzles me is that American children seem not to really matter.  Their hunger, their suffering holds no value.

1 in 4.

We are blind.  We are deaf.  We are dumb.

Suggested items to donate:

  • Canned meats – ham, turkey, chicken, tuna, and beef
  • Peanut butter and jelly/jam 
  • Canned soup, stew, and chili 
  • Cereal 
  • Vegetables – fresh (in season) or canned 
  • Fruit - fresh (in season) or canned 
  • Beans – dried or canned 
  • Macaroni and Cheese 
  • Boxed Meals 
  • Pasta 
  • Pasta Sauce 
  • Rice 
  • Fruit Juice 
  • Coffee and tea

Sunday, January 17, 2010

If it were possible to cut off my ears, temporarily, I would.  This whole sinus thing is driving me crazy.  I spent more time awake than asleep for only the second time in 11 days, the only time other than my marathon work day on Thursday.  I am less tired, less congested.  Still fevered.  Still bleeding from my sinuses.  Pain in my ears has increased.  Opened my fourth box of Kleenex today.  Heartily sick (pun intended) of feeling crappy.

Oh, my 'Boys....

I never received the sermon today, so I spent some time with Walther.  Before moving on, I confess, I read through the first eight lectures again, savoring the words, repeating those Law and Gospel distinction pieces that I need ever so much to burn within my heart.  Work quickly Lord Jesus!  Then I turned to the Ninth Evening Lecture, which begins with Walther's 5th Thesis:

The first manner of confounding Law and Gospel is the one most easily recognized--and the grossest.  It is adopted, for instance, by Papists, Socinians, and Rationalists and consists in this, that Christ is represented as a new Moses, or Lawgiver, and the Gospel turned into a doctrine of meritorious works, while at the same time those who teach that the Gospel is the message of the free grace of God in Christ are condemned and anathematized, as done by the papists.  (The Proper Distinction Between Law and Gospel, 69)

Oh, my, did I find this lecture fascinating!

Just yesterday, Pastor plucked the no end runs around Christ graphic from his bible and emphatically waved it in my face, for I was lamenting the wrath I know I invoke in God.  Walther begins this lecture examining what the Gospel is:  both good news and the only work needed.  Where did he start?  Genesis 3:15!

It [the Woman's Seed] shall bruise thy head."  

What is the import of these words?  It is this:  The Messiah, the Redeemer, the Savior is not come for the purpose of telling us what we are to do, what works we are to perform in order to escape from the terrible dominion of darkness, sin, and death.  These feats the Messiah is not going to leave for us to accomplish, but He will do all that himself.  "He shall bruise the serpent's head," that means nothing else than this, that He shall destroy the kingdom of the devil.  All that man has to do is know that he has been redeemed, that he has been set free from his prison, that he has no more to do that to believe and accept this message and rejoice over it with all his heart ...."Now that the rule of the devil has been destroyed, anything that I must do cannot come into consideration"  ...This is what Scripture means when it says, "Believe."  That means, Claim as your own what Christ has acquired. (70-71)

My goodness, I could spend a year just thinking about the jewels in this passage:  These feats the Messiah is not going to leave for us to accomplish...all that man has to do is know that he has been redeemed...Claim as your own what Christ has acquired.  And then the glorious idea that the Gospel began in Genesis 3:15, not John 1:1.  Good stuff there!

Walther further extends the meaning of the Gospel by using a passage from Jeremiah to emphasize how it is that Jesus is not merely the new Moses.

Many additional prophecies might be cited to prove the correctness of this interpretation.  Let me call your attention only to one, which shows clearly what the doctrine of the Gospel really is.  Jer, 31-34 we read:  Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah; not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, which My covenant they brake, although I was an Husband unto them, saith the Lord.  But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel, After those days, saith the Lord, I will put My Law in their inwards parts and write it in their hearts and will be their God, and they shall be My people.  And they shall teach no more every man his neighbor and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord; for they shall all know Me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.  

A new covenant, then, God is going to make.  Note this well.  This covenant is not to be a legal covenant like the one which He established with Israel on Mount Sinai.  The Messiah will not say:  "You must be people of such and such character; your manner of living must be after this or that fashion; you must do such and such works."  No such doctrine will be introduced by the Messiah.  He writes His Law directly into the heart, so that a person living under Him is a law unto himself.  He is not coerced by a force from without, but is urged from within.  "For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more," --these words state the reason for the preceding statement.  They are a summary of Gospel of Christ: forgiveness of sin by the free grace of God, for the sake of Jesus Christ.  

Any one, therefore, imagining that Christ is a new Lawgiver and has brought us new laws cancels the entire Christian religion.  For he removes that by which the Christian religion differs from all other religions in the world.  All other religions say to man:  "You must become just so and so and do such and such works if you wish to go to heaven."  Over against this the Christian religion says: "You are a lost and condemned sinner; you cannot be your own Savior.  But do not despair on that account.  There is One who has acquired salvation for you.  Christ has opened the portals of heaven to you and says to you:  Come, for all things are ready.  Come to the marriage of the Lamb."  

That is the reason, too, why Christ says, "I heal the sick, not them that are whole.  I am come to seek and save that which was lost.  I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance." (71,72) [paragraph breaks and emphasis mine]

Some things you should note in the passage above:

  • a new covenant, not legal, not a new law
  • a new covenant, something completely different than that which God had established
  • no character...even the harlot!
  • no manner of specific food or dress or religious activity!
  • no work...nothing, nada, zilch!
  • come for the sick
  • come for the lost
  • come for the sinners

That last bit reminds me of something Pastor told me a while ago in my lessoning that I spent some time reflecting upon Friday.  I had received a new journal and decided to combine the notes in two small spiral notebooks (remember I lost one for a while) from his bible studies and lessonings into the new journal.  Basically, I reviewed all the notes I have had from his teaching over nearly five years.

The opposite of not sinning is not not sinning, because we cannot not sin. The opposite of not sinning is repentance.

We were in the 1st petition of the Lord's Prayer, hallowed be Thy name, which we pray that we might use His name rightly, as commanded in the 2nd Commandment, by which we can honor Him.  We use His name rightly by calling upon Him in every need; we use His name well when we pray, praise, and give thanks.  The honor we gain is not gained by our work but by the work He is doing in us.

We repent because we know our sin--we are grieved by it.  We grieve because we fear and love and trust God.  Yet we only fear and love and trust because of the faith given to us, by a work not done by us but by Christ.  Thus, again, the Gospel, the new covenant is no law; it is a free gift.

I heal the sick, not them that are whole.  I am come to seek and save that which was lost.  I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance

Christ is not asking us to not sin because that is simply impossible.  We strive to honor him with our lives, our words, our actions.  We strive to be loving, kind, gentle, peaceful...  We strive because He lives in us, working His will.  Not us.  Never us.  Us is flesh soiled by sin we can never escape this side of the veil.

John says in his gospel, chapter 1,17:  The Law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.  He places the Law over against grace and truth.  I need not explain what grace is.  When John speaks of the "truth" that has come, he views Jesus as saying:  "I teach the essence of the things which were foreshadowed in the Old Testament.  The Old Testament presented emblems; I bring realities."  The entire Temple-service of the Levites was figurative.  Christ actually brought what was typified in the Old Testament. (72-73)

I really like this because it helps me, again, think about the lessoning I have had in the nooner bible study.  At one point, Pastor talked about how the life of the Old Testament is a life that revolved around blood, around sacrifices.  Until he talked about how the priests would literally kill the lamb that figuratively had had sin placed upon it, I had not really grasped, taken in, the wholeness of Christ as  the Lamb of God.  Strange I know.  It was Hebrew to me, something that I spoke without understanding the meaning.

Christ the Lamb of God that takest away the sin of the world have mercy upon us. 
Christ the Lamb of God that takest away the sin of the world have mercy upon us. 
Christ the Lamb of God that grant us thy peace. 

Oh, how I love having Pastor sing the Agnus Dei as a prayer over me!

I like Walther's word choice: emblems.  Emblems are only and merely representative.  The temple-service was emblematic because it could fulfill the law, not wholly.  Satisfaction could never be rendered completely.  Always, always another sacrifice was needed. Each day, sin needed to be covered again.  Sin permeates our lives, clings to all that we are and all that we do.  Sort of changes being washed in the blood, eh?  All of us, every part of our life, needs to be cleansed, not just those less-than-perfect times we admit to others or to ourselves.

In chap. 3,17 the same apostle says:  God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that that the world through Him might be saved.  Quite plainly the thought that Christ came into the world to proclaim a new law is barred here.  Had that been His object, He would have come to judge the world.  For the Law passes judgment on sinners.  However, God did not send his Son to pass judgment on the world, but to save the world through Him.  By the term world the Lord refers to mankind in its apostate and lost condition, to the lost, accursed, and condemned sinners that make up the world.  To these the Savior brings this blessed doctrine:  "Though you have broken every commandment of God, do not despair; I am bringing you forgiveness and salvation here and hereafter." (73)

Walther's emphasis here on judgment verses forgiveness is the base drum beating the idea that there is no Law in Gospel.  If there were, it could not be Gospel!

A friend's sister keeps the Sabbath, from Friday evening to Saturday evening, she lives essentially as a Jew, though she is a Christian.  She is living the Law, believing it is a work that is pleasing to God.  But by living it she is calling Christ a liar; she is denouncing His Gospel and claiming His passion and death insufficient.

Now, lest you think I am harsh in saying that about her sister, I admit that I do the same most every day, placing myself beneath the Law once more, falling back into the idea of works, despairing of my sin, sure that I have drawn His wrath, that He finds me a stiff-necked wretch, a stench in His nostrils.  You have read such falseness here in the emotions and fears and struggles I've poured out here.  Regularly, I forget the Cross is not set in time, does not rest 2,000 years ago.  No, the cross is today, tomorrow, and always.

I am baptized!  I am forgiven!

Lord I believe. Help my unbelief!

In sundry other places of their confessions [papists] [and Protestants] they explain their meaning more fully thus:  Many laws were uttered by Christ of which Moses knows nothing; for instance, the law to love our enemies, the law not to seek private revenge, the law not to demand back what has been taken from us, etc.  All these matters the papists [and Protestants] declare to be "new laws."  This is wrong; for even Moses has said:  "Thou shalt love the Lord, thy God, with all thine heart and with all thy soul and with all thy might," Deut. 6,5; and:  "Thou shall love thy neighbor as thyself," Lev. 19,18.  Now, Christ did not abrogate this law of Moses, but neighbor did He publish any new laws.  He only opened up the spiritual meaning of the Law.  Accordingly, He says in Matt. 5, 17:  "Think not that I am come to destroy the Law or the prophets; I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.That means that He did not come to issue new laws, but to fulfill the Law for us, so that we may share His fulfillment. (73-74)

Christ did not come, did not live imprisoned in our flesh, did not endure devil's temptation, did not walk about teaching, did not offer Himself as a lamb, did not suffer His passion, did not die, did not descend into Hell, did not rise again for us to live a purpose driven life or to be a promise keeper or whatever rubric any man has or will come up with for us to achieve sanctification.  Christ came because we cannot.  Christ came so that we might receive what He could. 

Claim as your own what Christ has required.
Share His fulfillment.
Receive His forgiveness.

Quit Sinai, Myrtle.  Go to Golgotha!  True, the world labels you one way, which you cannot escape, but Jesus does not.  Live with the former, but remember the latter, too!