Monday, May 31, 2010

Death is horrible.  It is vile.  It is wretched.

There was no peaceful end for my beloved buttercup.  He cried and struggled with the sedative.  I had thought that would have been the last of his suffering, but something about the actual cocktail made him scream and struggle anew despite how deeply he was drugged.  It was no comfort to hear that this happens sometime.

The man I found to come never called back, but the office administrator I reached at my vet's office did.  Calling from her vacation home in South Carolina, she finally managed to find someone to come, to attend to my puppydog.  I only had her number because her brother has MS and she gave me her cell phone number two years ago in case I ever needed something.  I only remembered it after sitting for a few hours waiting for someone to come kill my darling daffodil.

It is the smallest comfort that the vet who came agreed that it was time, that my vet was right in that I would know.  I know what I did was needful. I know that Kashi was suffering, more than I realized according to the vet who came.  She pointed out the signs of his pain that I had missed...his arched back as he walked, the panting that was new, the pacing that had been driving me crazy.  The last three nights where he would sit in front of me, place his chin in my lap, and whine was probably more begging for help than the mental confusion I supposed it to be.

This was needful.  This was a mercy to my precious petunia.

But his death was vile.  It was wretched.  And it was not peaceful in the least.  Not at all.

Pastor F told me to call me and he stayed on the phone with me as I sobbed my way through Kashi's death.  The two women took him away quickly for me, telling me that I had been brave in making this decision.  But having the signs of his suffering pointed out to me has made me realize how selfish  I have been in hanging on to him.  I should have called last week.  I knew last week.  I knew.  I just couldn't face it.  I made my sweet snapdragon suffer more than he had to because I was selfish, because I was too weak, because I just didn't want to do this alone.

I have not slept.  This is my third night without such.  Two where he was anxious and kept me awake and now one where I cannot stop hearing his final scream.

Pastor F admonishes me Christ's love.
Brother Goose rejoices me Christ's love.
The new pastor preaches me Christ's love.

Consider his good Word from yesterday morning on John 3:1-17:

Ears of law see a demand in these words: “You must be born again” (or, as I have said many times, born “from above”). It is true that those words set forth something impossible, at least impossible for us to accomplish. But what is impossible for us is possible for God. These words, “You must,” after we say not only “How can I accomplish them?” but then, “Lord, I cannot accomplish it; I am Yours; save me!” – at that point where we despair of being good, of being holy, of being normal, of being healthy, of accomplishing anything or surviving another moment – at that point when we are killed by the Law and completely empty and hopeless, then He declares, “I Myself give what I demand.”

You could say that I now have an embarrassment of riches where the Gospel is concerned.  But I realized something last night and it has haunted me hour after bitter hour.

For all that I love the Living Word, for all that I have reveled in and cherished the proper division of its Law and Gospel that God has gifted me, for all that I have been humbled by the mercy I have received, I see not a Shepherd who is carrying me across His shoulders, I see not a Father who loves me enough to send His only Son to a vile, wretched, horrible death, and I see not a Holy Spirit who is sustaining me, nourishing me.  I still see a Father who is bitterly disappointed in His child.  I still see a Son who is rebuking me for not being a better witness for Him, and I still see a Holy Spirit who is shaking me by the shoulders because I am so stupid in grasping the good things of Christ.  I only see my failure to shed the wrong teaching that has filled my heart and mind and soul for all these years and grasp the sweet, sweet Gospel I have been given.

The new pastor told me I should take my eyes off of my faith and look upon the object of that faith, for He is not a failure.  The pastor is right.  But what I see when I do that is not what I should, what I hear when I do that is not what I should. I know that, but I see wrong anyway.  I know that, but I hear wrong anyway.  Why?

The Living Word is not ringing in my ears, Kashi's final scream is.

I have been crying so hard that I have thrown up until there is nothing left and then wretched still more.  My eyes are swollen and hurt terribly.  My throat is raw and stiff and painful from trying to stifle my sobs.  I cried out, screamed my anguish so loud that the man who lives next door kept banging on the wall between us.

I wanted a good death, but there is no good death.  There is only that final struggle and the gaping hole in my heart that is his absence.

And there is the unbelievable weight of my failure to see and to hear as I ought, despite all the truth before me.  I do not understand this.  I am appalled to realize the actual view I have of my Savior...harsh, critical, judgmental.

I want Kashi's final scream and his final struggle to leave my ears and my eyes.

I want someone to hold me or at least hold my hand. I want someone to kiss my forehead or at least trace the cross upon it.  I want someone to forgive me and tell me that my failure to see and to hear will not condemn me.  I want Christ body placed in my mouth and His blood poured down my throat. I want to not be alone, physically, right now.

I want to believe rather than to doubt. I want to trust rather than to sit in terror.  I want to rest rather than to fight a foe who is winning a battle he has already lost.

I want these things with my whole being, but I do not understand how to grasp them.

I do not.
I do not.

I do not.

Lord, I believe.  Please, oh, please, help my unbelief!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

My beloved buttercup, my precious petunia, my sweet snapdragon, my darling daffodil...

He was awake most of last night and started having plumbing issues this afternoon.  My heart is breaking.  I cannot see trying to get him well just for another week or so or however long.  I begged my puppydog to just make it through the festival or at least to my birthday on Thursday.  But he cannot.  He cannot.

Right now, we are waiting for a vet to come put him to sleep.  He's driving back from Baltimore, so some time tonight or early tomorrow.  I have been sobbing ever since I made the call.  Sobbing and throwing up.  I have already used my nebulizer and epipen.  Crying does not help asthma.  Anguish doesn't help multiple sclerosis.

I am not sure how to survive this.  I mean, Christ is bigger.  I know that.  I just don't feel that.  All I feel is despair at the thought of having to come home from that wretched job and no longer have my puppydog to greet me, wagging his tail and carrying one of his babies in his mouth.

Oh, Kashi, how foolishly I love you!

  • Fifteen years.
  • Four chronic diseases.
  • Five moves.
  • Walking away from being a professor.
  • Enduring joblessness.
  • Facing the vileness of humanity.
  • Battling the confusion born from finding pure teaching and losing my parish.

Not a single solitary day did you fail to greet me with such love and utter enthusiasm.  You forgave me when I forgot to feed you and when I was too tired to take you on the walks you crave. 

Your favorite word is "mine!"  You were as persnickety as I.  Managing your disease helped me face mine.  I never grew tired of watching you sleep, all curled in a ball with your nose tucked between your paws.  Your puppy dreams made me chuckle and the way you would try to sneak past me when you had something you weren't supposed to made me burst into laughter.  We were afraid together, you of storms and sirens and lightening, me of...

It wasn't supposed to be this way.  I wasn't supposed to be alone.  He was supposed to be held by a vet who has loved him and sat on the floor to play with him for years.  Not a stranger.  Not alone.

But...I have always been alone.  I shouldn't have expected anything else.

Watching him sleep right now...waiting...oh, how can I do this?  How can I survive yet another

I am Yours.  Save me!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

I have been struggling to breathe, but not from asthma, not from asthma.

I shared a secret, spoke some words, and the words I received back were a mirror I could not stand. I heard the condemnation I carry around in my heart.  I thought I could not survive such a thing, with everything being so very difficult.

  • Bearing my boss' enmity
  • Working 50 or more hours a week, working fast and furious all day long
  • Facing the secrets I long to share, but wish to remain hidden
  • Enduring night after night filled with nightmares and night terrors
  • Having a new problem with my heart
  • Being afraid all the blooming time
  • Battling doubts born of confusion with why I had to leave my old parish
  • Miscommunication with the new pastor
  • Longing for absolution
  • Longing for the Lord's Supper
  • Being so weak, so very weak

Looking into that mirror, I did not believe I could ever be a daughter or parishioner or even a Book of Concord study mate.  I feel battered, pressed down on all sides.  

And yet...Pastor F reached out and caught my hand when I turned to flee and Papa Dore dug his heels most firmly into the ground.  I am not sure that I will ever be able to understand either man.  Never could I have imagined such faith and such mercy and such love.

I have written before of the ways that Bettina says "I love you" to me.  I have discovered one way Pastor F does:  he sends me psalms.  He searches the psalter, the prayers of Christ, for the words of my heart and the words I should speak to my Lord and Savior, during such anguish, such despair, such confusion.  He types them up and gives them to me as a most heavenly gift...the mercy of Christ poured over me.

He sent me the following Psalms midday yesterday.  Even drowning in anguish, I could not deny the work of the Holy Spirit as this undershepherd's fingers turned the pages of the Living Word and then danced across the keyboard:

I said, “I will guard my ways,
that I may not sin with my tongue;
I will guard my mouth with a muzzle,
so long as the wicked are in my presence.”
I was mute and silent;
I held my peace to no avail,
and my distress grew worse.
My heart became hot within me.

As I mused, the fire burned;
then I spoke with my tongue:
“O Lord, make me know my end
and what is the measure of my days;
let me know how fleeting I am!
Behold, you have made my days a few handbreadths,
and my lifetime is as nothing before you.
Surely all mankind stands as a mere breath!  


Surely a man goes about as a shadow!
Surely for nothing [1] they are in turmoil;
man heaps up wealth and does not know who will gather!

“And now, O Lord, for what do I wait?
My hope is in you.
Deliver me from all my transgressions.
Do not make me the scorn of the fool!
I am mute; I do not open my mouth,
for it is you who have done it.
Remove your stroke from me;
I am spent by the hostility of your hand.
When you discipline a man
with rebukes for sin,
you consume like a moth what is dear to him;
surely all mankind is a mere breath!  


“Hear my prayer, O Lord,
and give ear to my cry;
hold not your peace at my tears!
For I am a sojourner with you,
a guest, like all my fathers.
Look away from me, that I may smile again,
before I depart and am no more!”
                                             ~Psalm 39

I waited patiently for the Lord;
he inclined to me and heard my cry.
He drew me up from the pit of destruction,
out of the miry bog,
and set my feet upon a rock,
making my steps secure.
He put a new song in my mouth,
a song of praise to our God.

Many will see and fear,
and put their trust in the Lord.
Blessed is the man who makes
the Lord his trust,
who does not turn to the proud,
to those who go astray after a lie!

You have multiplied, O Lord my God,
your wondrous deeds and your thoughts toward us;
none can compare with you!
I will proclaim and tell of them,
yet they are more than can be told.

In sacrifice and offering you have not delighted,
but you have given me an open ear. [1]
Burnt offering and sin offering
you have not required.

Then I said, “Behold, I have come;
in the scroll of the book it is written of me:
I delight to do your will, O my God;
your law is within my heart.”

I have told the glad news of deliverance [2]
in the great congregation;
behold, I have not restrained my lips,
as you know, O Lord.
I have not hidden your deliverance within my heart;
I have spoken of your faithfulness and your salvation;
I have not concealed your steadfast love and your faithfulness
from the great congregation.

As for you, O Lord, you will not restrain
your mercy from me;
your steadfast love and your faithfulness will
ever preserve me!

For evils have encompassed me
beyond number;
my iniquities have overtaken me,
and I cannot see;
they are more than the hairs of my head;
my heart fails me.

Be pleased, O Lord, to deliver me!
O Lord, make haste to help me!

Let those be put to shame and disappointed altogether
who seek to snatch away my life;
let those be turned back and brought to dishonor
who delight in my hurt!
Let those be appalled because of their shame
who say to me, “Aha, Aha!”
But may all who seek you
rejoice and be glad in you;
may those who love your salvation
say continually, “Great is the Lord!”

As for me, I am poor and needy,
but the Lord takes thought for me.
You are my help and my deliverer;
do not delay, O my God!
                               ~Psalm 40

I asked Pastor F recently if he believed in miracles.  He replied, "I do believe in miracles, and the greatest of all is the regeneration the Spirit has worked in our hearts which shows us mercy for others and the great gift of forgiveness."

That is who he is, an undershepherd who always, always, always points me to Christ.  Even when he is busy, even when he is fighting his own battles, the miracle of Christ crucified is what he believes, teaches, and confesses.

Of course, maybe it is because he believes in miracles that he and his Lovely Bride can offer one to someone like me.  I do not understand either one of them.  Not at all.

Papa Dore actually speaks the words "I love you" to me all the blooming time, so much so others might think he does so too much; I believe he could speak them more.  But he also tells me that he loves me in many other ways.  He tells me he loves me by praying Compline with me every night and by waking me most days with an email filled with the Living Word.  He tells me he loves me by calling me while driving to or from appointments when he has a spare moment to talk or to listen.  He tells me he loves me by pouring Gospel over me so very many ways, so very gently, and doing so again and again and again so very patiently.  And he tells me he loves me by chasing after me when I run away in fear.  I am humbled by the mercy of Christ showering down upon me through his entire family.  Truly, I am.

The latest way that Papa Dore tells me that he loves me is a most favorite of mine:  he writes me verses to Jesus Came, The Heavens Adoring:

Jesus comes with rescue for us
     from the foe who haunts our soul
Grants to us His perfect healing,
     binds our wounds and makes us whole
Alleluia, Alleluia
     Balm of Gilead in full

Jesus comes, the Royal Bridegroom,
     comes to call His holy Bride,
Dresses her in festal garments,
     washed in water from His side.
Alleluia, Alleluia
     Faithful, hers He shall abide.

Jesus comes delighting o'er us
   by His mercy, grace and peace
Jesus comes to bear our weakness
   so that we might share His strength
Alleluia, Alleluia
   Comes to give us His own place

Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief!

Friday, May 28, 2010

I did it again.  I spoke when I should have remained silent.  I will never, ever, ever learn.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

It is strange to me that a day can be filled with such grief and such beauty, that the two can exist even at the same time, the same moment.

Yesterday, was a day harder than any I have faced, I think.  My beloved buttercup, my precious petunia, my darling daffodil is needing me to make a decision I cannot make. That sooner rather than later is upon me, yet there is no clear line in the sand which we have crossed.  I can continue to support him with medication and to hang on to him; we have not reached the point where my vet believes to do so would be cruel.  But he is not well.

Funny, much of his distress is mental!  He whines miserably when making a bed and he will do so for 5, 10, 15 minutes.  It is excruciating to watch.  It is painful for him because in making a bed, he is resting his body weight on his back legs.  It is painful yet he persists.  My vet says this is because his mind is trapped in the action, not understanding, not connecting his own actions are causing him harm.  He is frantic, frenetic about it.

Now, he has become the same about playing with me in the evenings.  Whining, panting, begging to play again and again and again.  No matter how much time I spend on the floor with him, he comes back to me again.  He is trapped in a need to play.

And when he does play he falls all the time.  All the time. His back legs are not strong enough to leap about this way and that, yet he believes himself to still be that puppydog.  He does not hurt himself when he falls, but you can see the distress of the fall in his eyes.  He stops, looks befuddled, even frightened, and then gets back to nosing one of his babies into my lap, into my hands until we play once more.

So, I have to make this decision, I have to pick the day of his death. 

My sister actually called to ask how Kashi was doing.  Of course I started weeping as I told her the choice I faced and she suggested that I ask Bettina to tell me when she could come, essentially having my best friend make that choice for me.  But Bettina is busy up until August.   I am not sure my buttercup can wait that long.

And then my boss spent the day punishing me for being absent.  It was horrible, a new high (or low) in her cruelty.  I wept the entire way to church and through the entire service.  Huddled there in the pew, hot tears streamed down my face as sobs wracked my body.  I did not think I could take even one more day with my boss; I cannot kill my dog.

Even though I was this mass of human misery, the new pastor brought me the Lord's Supper in the pew with such care as I could never have believed.  He prayed before he gave me Christ's body, then again before offering Christ's blood, then afterward he prayed, traced the cross upon my forehead, and blessed me.  Christ was shouting at me, "I love you, Myrtle!"

Even as I was telling Him I cannot take another step down the path in front of me, even in my great anguish I could hear Him.  It was the new pastor's kindness, but it was Christ's mercy.  Beauty in the midst of great sorrow.

Tonight, I girded my loins and bearded the lion's den.  That is to say, I was able to have confession/absolution with the new pastor.  Although the evening was too long, I was able to speak with him on my own and to say the things I wished to say, the things I wished him to know so this whole being a part of another parish could actually happen. It was horribly late, and I feel already great guilt about the evening lost with his Lovely Bride.  Yet I savored all parts of the difficult conversation and even as I struggled through speaking my sins in absolution. 

You know I believe confession/absolution to be this great exchange.  I pour before God my hurt and sin and shame and He hands back to me, through His undershepherd, the good things of Christ, the Living Word, the sweet, sweet Gospel.

Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. ~Hebrews 10:19-22

He told me that the writer of Hebrews was speaking to Jews who were horrified at the thought of entering the holy place, as it was not for them.  But Jesus made them holy by tearing apart that veil, just as His flesh was torn apart by the spear in His side, so that the very place the could never enter was made their home.

When he got to the "let us draw near" part, I blurted out "Law," which stopped him short.  Then he gave me a wonderful example of the imperative (command) of Gospel.  If he held out his watch and said, "Take this," he would be giving me a command, but it would be a command to receive a gift.  So, not something that we would do, but something that we would receive. That is what Gospel imperatives are like.  We can draw near with confidence precisely because of Christ, not because we are good or faithful or godly in our lives.  The Word is not telling we have to draw near, but rather that Christ is standing there, arms held wide, inviting us close so that He can take us into His body, heal us, strengthen us, sustain us.

Did you spot the Lord's Supper and Holy Baptism in that passage?  I did not.  I did not at all.  And that, my friends, is precisely why God gives us undersheperds to instruct us!

Our hearts are inside us. They are inside us, but they are being sprinkled clean by the blood of Christ.  The blood of Christ.  The very blood of Christ I took into my body last night!  And the washing is the washing clean Christ does as His name is placed upon us in Holy Baptism!

He gave me this passage because of the bit about our hearts being sprinkled clean from an evil conscience.  He was not saying that I am evil, though I am a sinner, but that my conscience carries the evil born against me and as such is a great and terrible that is taken away on the Cross and taken away in the waters of my baptism and taken away in the Lord's Supper and taken away, tonight, in Holy Absolution.

Such a beautiful evening after a punishing day.  Beauty in the midst of heartache.

Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Lately, Pastor F has been singing of the Yes and Amen of Christ:

For as many as may be the promises of God, in Him they are yes; wherefore also by Him is our Amen to the glory of God through us. ~2 Corinthians 1:20

Because of this, Pastor F read the psalmody in the confession/absolution liturgy in the following way to me:

Create in me a clean heart, O God.  Yes and Amen.
and renew a right spirit within me.  Yes and Amen.
Cast me not away from your presence.  Yes and Amen.
and take not Thy Holy Spirit from me.  Yes and Amen.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation.  Yes and Amen.
and uphold me with your free Spirit.  Yes and Amen.
~Psalm 51:10-12

Tonight, I have been sitting here pondering on the hard things of this day...and the good things of Christ given to me.  For as many as be the promises of God...even for Myrtle...they are a resounding Yes...and Amen!

Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief!

Monday, May 24, 2010

I went to see if Pastor L had noticed my comment and found a lovely reply and I learned something from today's post.  You see, he is the one who you may have noted on the list of blogs who focuses on the Treasury of Daily Prayer.  I find his entries most intriguing much of the time, even if I am a bit discouraged that he sees all these things that I miss.  The best Treasury days are the ones on which he has posted an assist for me in tacking the readings.

Last Friday's post, a comment on Thursday's readings, is a most perfect example of the sorts of connections he is wont to make:

The authority of Aaron is challenged (Numbers 16) as he is treated shamefully (Luke 20:11).  The Son is killed by being nailed to wood that is as dead as Aaron's staff.  But when what is dead comes to life, budding and bearing fruit, it shows the chosen One of God.

SIGH.  Just beautiful, eh?  That's the Living Word God has given us, to teach us, to guide us, to sustain us!

Yesterday, while reading the Book of Concord in Part IV of the LC, I found buried in all the glorious teaching about Baptismsome of the best parts of the Large Catechismis this lovely bit on the Living Word:

"This is all because of the Word, which is a heavenly, holy Word, which no one can praise enough. For it has, and is able to do, all that God is and can do." [LC, IV, 17-18]

I just savor this and not because it is a perfect double entendre!

Is it not truly amazing that God gives us such a treasure?  I mean, the Psalter alone shouts such love, such care, such intimate concern spilled out in the words of those prayers God gives to us, Christ prays for us, the Spirit reveals to us. 

Apparently, that most blessed of gifts is teeming with promise:

We do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve, as do the rest who have no hope.  For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus.  For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, and remain until the coming of the Lord, shall not precede those who have fallen asleep.  For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first.  Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and thus we shall always be with the Lord.  Therefore comfort one another with these words. (1Thess 4:13-18; NASB77)

"My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they shall never perish; and no one shall snatch them out of My hand." (John 10:27-28; NASB77)

"Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." (Matt 28:20; NASB77)

YOU." (Heb 13:5; NASB77)

"Can a woman forget her nursing child, and have no compassion on the son of her womb?  Even these may forget, but I will not forget you.  Behold, I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands." (Isaiah 49:15-16; NASB77)

My father and my mother have forsaken me, but the LORD will take me up. (Psalms 27:10; NASB77)

"I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.  After a little while the world will behold Me no more; but you will behold Me; because I live, you shall live also." (John 14:18-19; NASB77)

Now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep.  For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead.  For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all shall be made alive.  But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ's at His coming, then comes the end, when He delivers up the kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power.  For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet.  The last enemy that will be abolished is death. (1 Cor 15:20-26; NASB77)

"Are you deliberating together about this, that I said, 'A little while, and you will not behold Me, and again a little while, and you will see Me'?  Truly, truly, I say to you, that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will be turned to joy.  Whenever a woman is in travail she has sorrow, because her hour has come; but when she gives birth to the child, she remembers the anguish no more, for joy that a child has been born into the world.  Therefore you too now have sorrow; but I will see you again, and your heart will rejoice, and no one takes your joy away from you." John 16:19-22; NASB77)
But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing greatness of the power may be of God and not from ourselves; we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.  For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus' sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.  So death works in us, but life in you.  But having the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, "I BELIEVED, THEREFORE I SPOKE," we also believe, therefore also we speak; knowing that He who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and will present us with you.  For all things are for your sakes, that the grace which is spreading to more and more people may cause the giving of thanks to abound to the glory of God.  Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day.  For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal. (2 Cor 4:7-18; NASB77)

What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us?  He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things?  Who will bring a charge against God's elect? God is the one who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us.  Who shall separate us from the love of Christ ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?  Just as it is written, "FOR THY SAKE WE ARE BEING PUT TO DEATH ALL DAY LONG; WE WERE CONSIDERED AS SHEEP TO BE SLAUGHTERED."  But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.  For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:31-39; NASB77)

Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we shall be. We know that, when He appears, we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him just as He is. (1 John 3:2; NASB77)

The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him in order that we may also be glorified with Him.  For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.  For the anxious longing of the creation waits eagerly for the revealing of the sons of God.  For the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God.  For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now.  And not only this, but also we ourselves, having the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our body.  For in hope we have been saved, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one also hope for what he sees?  But if we hope for what we do not see, with perseverance we wait eagerly for it. (Romans 8:16-25; NASB77)

And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, "Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He shall dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be among them, and He shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there shall no longer be any death; there shall no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away." And He who sits on the throne said, "Behold, I am making all things new."  And He said, "Write, for these words are faithful and true."  And He said to me, "It is done.  I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end.  I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost." (Rev 21:3-6; NASB77)

"Let not your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me.  In My Father's house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also." (John 14:1-3; NASB77)

"Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go to the Father.  And whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.  If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it." (John 14:12-14; NASB77)

In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.  And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.  For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the first-born among many brethren; and whom He predestined, these He also called; and whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified. (Romans 8:26-30; NASB77)

"These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace.  In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world."  (John 16:33; NASB77)

"THE WORD IS NEAR YOU, in your mouth and in your heart" — that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved; for with the heart man believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.  For the Scripture says, "WHOEVER BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED."  For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call upon Him; for "WHOEVER WILL CALL UPON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED." (Romans 10:8-13; NASB77)

Therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God.  And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.  For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.  For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. 8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.  Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.  For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. (Romans 5:1-10; NASB77)

Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Did you know that it is possible to fall up a set of stairs instead of down? I did not. I do now.

I awoke trembling, shaky, and weak, even though the house is a chilly 65 degrees. I have never awoken this way before. I called Bettina to ask if she should wish to play Scrabble with me. That depends upon the children napping and the Phillies game.

So, I thought I might take care of the final load of laundry that has been in my basement since last Sunday, waiting for me to lug it upstairs and fold it. Upstairs are the other four loads piled on the end of my bed (I have been sleeping with them) and the entire (formerly folded) contents of my closet and dresser are still on the floor. Surely it is time to address such clothing chaos. But when I went to walk up the stairs, I fell.

Discouraged, I thought I might post a bit of something from one of Pastor S' sermon, from Monday, April 26th, the Feast of St. Mark:

Your baptism does not rest upon your faith.
The Lord Jesus does not stand upon your love.
And the Kingdom does not depend upon your repentance.

But rather faith stands upon Christ. And faith springs forth out of the waters of baptism, And it is as the kingdom of God comes to you that you are called to repent, not only to sorrow over your sins and to turn away from them, but to find your shelter in this One who has come in the name of the Lord, to hide yourself in Him, who does not come to condemn but to save, who even in His rebuke and reproach is acting in love and mercy, who desires only your salvation, only good things for you: comfort and peace and rest.

The Lord Jesus has believed.
The Lord Jesus has been baptized.
And the Lord Jesus has been saved.

Do not ever look for your salvation in yourself. If you reduce the works that you must do only to faith, you have reduced your work to that which is most difficult, to that which is impossible.

You cannot choose to believe. You cannot will it. You cannot decide to do such a thing. Sin and death reign in your heart until God lays Christ upon it through the forgiveness of your sins. It is again a work of Christ that is credited as righteousness [rather than your own work].

Simple words, I know, but needful to me.  His sermons are mostly not typed on his blog, just recorded.  He actually writes them out by hand!  I cannot imagine writing that way, for my muse only comes once my fingers begin to dance upon the keyboard.  It is there I have the only rhythm in my life.

Simple words, but needful.

It is so very difficult to shed the works-righteousness deeply ingrained in my bones, filling all my protestations of my unworthiness, and therefore all the reasons why the good things of Christ cannot be for me.

I am unworthy, yes. I have that part correct.  But I also can never be worthy.  I can never complete the work of the Law.

This reminds me of another beautiful Word Pastor F gave me Friday night.  When he was speaking to me and reading the Scripture to me, the word "fulfill" leapt off the page at me.  When I thought of Christ fulfilling the Law, I sort of thought of equated it in my mind to His fulfilling prophecy, being born here, doing this there.  I did not ponder, did not see, that he was not fulfilling some prophecy but actually working the Law, working it on my behalf since the entire purpose of His birth was to come to complete the work of the Law perfectly so that I, so that you, so that we all might be saved.  Suddenly, Christ fulfilling the Law was not a thing that was done because it was prophesied, but a thing that He is doing still, this day, for me.

It is fulfilled.  Today, this day, His righteousness is credited to me, instead of my failure to keep the Law.  His just reward, eternal life, is pronounced over me, instead of the fruit of my labor, which is eternal death.

The Law still applies to me, as that curb, guide, and mirror.  The Law, as Pastor F so earnestly taught me, is good.  It is good to love, care, and protect your neighbor.  It is good to honor your father and mother.  It is good not to steal, kill, or lie.  And it is good to have no other gods, but to honor God in our fear and love and trust and by calling upon His name in praise, prayer, and thanksgiving and in our every trouble.

I know my work fails. I know it is impossible.  That is why I have clung so fiercely to the Gospel I have found in the Book of Concord even when it is most elusive to me...even when I doubt it is actually for one like me.

I love the symmetry of Pastor S's Gospel here:

Your baptism does not rest upon your faith.
The Lord Jesus does not stand upon your love.
And the Kingdom does not depend upon your repentance.

The Lord Jesus has believed.
The Lord Jesus has been baptized.
And the Lord Jesus has been saved.

Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Funny how life can turn on a dime, back and forth again.

I look ahead to the festival and I am still bowed with anguish, knowing there will be no good outcome for that day. My knee going loosy goosy is a sign I am dangerously tired and should be sleeping round the clock.  But there are too many tasks left undone and merely two weeks before this festival.

And then there is my longing for a parish...

A long week, a week when I know not the words to write even for myself.  Days I will not remember and cannot come back here to find since I failed to capture them.  Days I wish never to know again.  Days I want to keep close until the day I die and I am taken into the arms of my Savior.

There was a moment of pure joy followed shortly by a moment of true anguish.  So deep was my despair, all the greater because I believed that is how it always is, joy snatched away.  But Pastor F bluntly admonished me, in all manner of compassion, that I am wrong. The joy has not been taken away.  It still happened.  No matter what followed, I did have that moment as a precious gift from God who loves me.

Last night, while we did not get far in the Smalcald Articles, even as excited as I am since he finally parsed the difference between the use of the word "mass" in the Augsburg Confession and in the Smalcald Articles.  But while we moved just a smidge further, we leapt ahead with regard to the least for me!

We were reading about the evil practice of selling the Lord's Supper, when Luther said there were better ways of saving the people.  It struck me in that moment...does the Lord's Supper save?  Pastor F kindly refrained from calling me stupid even as he sort of laughed as he said of course.  It's the body and blood of Jesus Christ who saves us from our sin, Myrtle!  Silly me.  I thought of the Lord's Supper as taking in His forgiveness, as receiving His Medicine, but not as salvation.  It seems logical, but there are those problems with definitions.

In the Protestant church, you get asked:  when were you saved?  Past tense.  A moment in time.  A moment in time when you prayed the "Jesus Come Into My Heart" prayer.  You are saved once.  But I face the assaults and accusations of satan and his dominion every day, not just one day in time.  He is defeated for all eternity, but just because he is defeated it does not mean that he stops his attacks...he's ferocious and relentless that way...and wily in how he goes about it.  His lies...specious...wrapped in the appearance of truth...

I need saving every day.

So, in that moment, the utter longing I have for the Lord's Supper was made clear.  I am not weird for longing so.  And my desire is all the greater.  His gift to me more magnificent than even I understood.

In teaching me this, Pastor F took the opportunity to read from John 6, where Christ speaks of His body and blood.  Even now, even a year into this, I am still surprised and thrilled each time someone reads to me whole chunks of the Living Word.  Pastor F did not stop after a few verses, but kept reading and reading and reading...with great passion and obviously savoring the Living Word as much as I and his Lovely Bride were in that moment.  I simply cannot describe the joy of such for me, the fellowship and the grace and the mercy wrapped up into one sweet ineffable moment.

But that was not the only good Word that he taught me last night.  Pastor F also gave me the beauty of Deuteronomy 32 as my Words of comfort during absolution.  And in doing so pointed out Gospel to me.  He was explaining how when he read the word "judgment" or "judge," his heart would leap toward Law and feel the weight and burden of such.  But the Holy Spirit has taught him that reading of judgement is actually reading of Gospel for those who are Christ's lambs!  Gospel!  How could this be so?

When Christ comes, He will come to judge both the quick and the dead, the living and the dead.  That is true; He will judge.  But we have the promise that He will judge us righteous!  In other words, every time we read that word it is a reminder of the good news brought to us, given to us on the Cross! 

The world shifted a bit then.  And I wanted to immediately read through the Psalter and look upon each time I find the word judge or judgment and see if I could see the Gospel there.

Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Bettina's brilliance knows no bounds!

Now, I will say that I called her to find my knee brace...either one of them!  But, alas, she could not ferret out where they were for me.

The exhaustion is catching up with me, which is a deep concern given that we have 17 days to go until our event.  A real tipping point for me is my knee.  When I am overly fatigued, my muscles fail to always hold my joints in place, as I have written before.  This makes for excruciating pain when one moves the wrong direction.  Usually, I will rotate in one direction, but not all of me.  By this, I mean that I will turn my upper body and thigh one direction, and my foot will drag on the floor, keeping my lower leg in place.  My knee will just sort of separate.  I usually scream colorful metaphors at that point.

It has always been my right knee up until today.  Now, my left knee is crying foul and doing so when I bend it.  So, for example, when I go to sit down and try to tuck my left leg beneath me, my kneecap moves out of place.  It is bloody awful.  And I keep forgetting not to do it!

When I arrived home from work, I went straight to my basket of braces to put on my knee brace.  I found my arm sling, my finger splint, my back brace, and three ankle braces (my left ankle has never forgiven me for spraining it some four years ago), but neither one of my knee braces was in the basket.  I took everything out of my closet (clothing is still piled about the floor of my bedroom) and still no braces.  So, I called Bettina.

For once, her infernally steel-trap mind failed her and she could not tell me where to find the braces.  However, she did promptly figure out a quick solution to a task I had offered to pay her to do for me.

For me.  That was your hint.

I have oft blogged about the givens there are in Lutheran doctrine that are assumed in me, in my faith, but do not exist in Protestantism, despite both denominations being of Christianity.  Lately, I have desired to put them all together into one piece, to try and make sense of it.  However, I have not wanted to plow back through my blog since last May.

I write for me, as I have oft said, to work out the things in my life and to record them, since all too soon the days are coming when I shall no longer remember the things of my life, perhaps even the good things of Christ.  But this journey into confessional Lutheranism has been hard, terribly hard.  Yes, I have discovered the ineffable joy and peace of the sweet, sweet Gospel, but I have also been confronted with the depths of my sin.  It is no secret I see Law most everywhere, hear Law before anything else.

Right now, I care not to walk back through that journey, even if doing so might illuminate just how much I have learned rather than how little I have lived of that truth.  I fear would find the latter more often than the former.

So, I offered to pay Bettina to read back through all those entries and cut and paste all the givens for me into Word.  She is so stinking brilliant.  Seriously.  Not but a few minutes after we hung up the phone was she calling me back with an idea.  Simply add a search engine widget to my blog and...presto...all the times I have used the word "given" would be at my fingertips.  Thirty seconds later, after mere clicks of the mouse, I had the information I sought.

That means, dear reader, should you wish to review, say, all my entries on my beloved Walther, all you have to do is type "Walther" into the search engine to the left side of the screen beneath my links and you shall be able to feast again on his good teaching!

Imagine the joy!

While I would normally say this astounding display of her brilliance would be the high point of my day, I will say that two others topped it.

One, I was able to talk with Papa Dore during lunch.  Our conversation was not the easiest, for some of his words were a bit of constructive criticism he needed to give me, to teach me.  But the good part came in being able to talk through my being hurt and that being okay with him...not that I was hurt, but being honest about it since he was not meaning to be hurtful, but I am just too darned sensitive to criticism just now.  The merest breath of a syllable of a less than positive word and I am reduced to weeping and despair.  SIGH.

The second best part of my day was pure joy.  Pure joy!  Tonight, I was able to Skype with many of my new sibling!  Oh, how I am loving technology this day!

Do you wish to know how great my new sisters and brothers are?  The first greedy suggestion out of my mouth was that they should sing me a song.  Mere moments later, the hymnals were out, one of my brothers was playing the flute, and the rest of my siblings were singing Gospel to me.  Oh, how blessed was I....

The last hymn was my choosing and, therefore, one I knew.  My disappointment was that for some reason Skype suddenly started dropping in and out, so I was singing primarily to myself; I did not get to hear my family sing the most glorious of hymns with me.  Which one?  Oh, you know!  We Praise You and Acknowledge You O God!  While I was greatly disappointed to not being able to sing it with them, I still savored the knowledge that states away, they were singing the hymn as well.

After the hymn sing, I read them three stories!  Yep, Myrtle had a stack of books just waiting for my first Skype call ever since the camera arrived in Indiana last Wednesday.  Tonight, we read three of my favorites:  Frannie and Pickles; The Dragon Take a Wife; and Frog and Toad: A Swim.  It doesn't get any better than stories of friends Frog and Toad!  When Bettina reads them to her children (translate to mean reads them to me), I imagine her to be Frog and I Toad.

That hour on Skype was hands down the best hour of my life in the past year.  Period.  At one point, one of my brothers turned to his mother and asked, "Can Myrtle come over?"

Oh, how I long to do that very thing!

Monday, May 17, 2010

I should first say that this morning started with two blessings:  a phone call with Papa Dore with much Gospel despite my many protestations and a creative and more economical approach to replacing my air-conditioning by the plumbing company that resulted in a bill that is $1,100 less than the previous estimate given (I suspect it was also discounted because I need air-conditioning because of having MS).

Until writing to Papa Dore afterward to give him the news, I had not really thought of how God has shown me mercy over the past five years through the care this company has given me:  Marty in air-conditioning and Bill in heat.  They are the only two men who come to my house, so I am familiar with them, comfortable with them, and trust them.  They are always honest, always seek to not spend my money, and, when it comes to air-conditioning problems, will ask other customers to let me cut in line for service.  Every time they have asked, permission has always been given.  I suspect it is because those customers, too, know what a blessing it is to have a plumbing company such as this one.

They usually come first call, so that I do not have to miss work.  Since mornings are difficult for me, on service call days, I usually sleep on the couch and get up to answer the door in my sweatshirt and lounge pants, blinders pushed up on my forehead and Breathright strip still on my nose.  [They don't care how I look.]  I then make my way back to the couch and sleep until they are finished, unless my alarm clock sounds before then.  One time, I was so tired that Bill merely covered me back up with the blanket that had fallen off and quietly let himself out the door.  He told me later after trying to wake me three times, he realized that I needed to sleep more than he needed to tell me the service was completed.

Truly I have been utterly remiss in praising God for His good care of me!

I wish I could say starting my day with Papa Dore made for a great day, but alas this day was a trial.  I had to fetch my boss to and from work.  I did so with the promise we would have a short day.  We left the office at 8:30 PM.  We left the office having literally argued since 4:15 PM.  I loathe who I have become lately with her.  When she becomes unkind, I find myself pushing back at her, snapping at her, losing my patience.  I am struggling so much, so very much, with this.

And then the whole day was racing from one task to another.  We simply are not ready for this festival.  And I cannot stop worrying about the fallout that will come when I cannot work that day due to the heat and length of time we are slated to be at the farm.

I must admit part of my frustration was that I broached the subject of taking three weeks vacation at the end of June to go see Papa Dore and his family.  She immediately said no, maybe two weeks, but not three.  People in our company regularly take leave three and four weeks at a time.  Traveling will be hard, painfully so.  I want time to recover on that end and yet still have time to visit and then time to be completely rested before making the journey back home.  Plus, I should admit that would give me four Lord's Suppers!

Still, I tried to set aside how I felt to concentrate on the 1,001 things that still need to be done.  I honestly do not know how I can keep up this pace, but I also am not sure my heart can survive all the arguing.

I thought I would remind myself what I read this morning from Giertz...

Romans 8:18-27.

We have the firstfruits of the Spirit.  Romans 8:23

We live in a fallen world.  The power that fights against God has broken into God's creation and gotten a foothold there.  Therefore, creation has been corrupted.  It's scared with suffering, cruelty, ruin, and disintegration.

But in the midst of this world marked by death is the beginning of a new world where nothing more will be destroyed or broken; where nothing will perish.  Christ is the firstfruits, the beginning of this new world.  He gives the life and immortality of this new world to those who belong to Him through faith, and we receive the Holy Spirit as a gift from the firstfruits.

By firstfruits and the gift of firstfruits, the Jews mean the first of the year's harvest, the first fruits or grain that were usually brought as an offering to God.  This offering was the very first harvest of the crop, a small, insignificant beginning, but it was proof that the new harvest was on the way.  It was the symbol, the pledge, the proof of something that would come later.

We have received the Holy Spirit in this way.  God's Spirit, who opened out eyes to see Christ, who led us into a relationship with Him, caused us to be born again and gave us a part in the life of the Resurrected One.  he is the beginning of our new lives and someday He will completely transform us on the day of the resurrection.  This life, salvation's new life, is still a secret.  In hope we are saved, Paul says.  We live in faith and not in a point of view.  The Spirit is really there, but it goes wherever it wants to.  No one can capture it, grasp it, or prove that it's there.  It can rule over us, but we can never rule over it.  It's not something we own or have at our disposal.  But we can open ourselves to it and let it work in us.  We can experience the Spirit's work and learn from it, but only to a certain degree.  We want so badly to feel filled with the Spirit.  We want the Spirit to help us in all our prayers so we can pray eloquently, inspiringly, and with a prophetic glow and avoid feeling the inferiority from which we so often suffer.  But Paul says the Spirit come to help our weakness in a completely different manner.  It's very possible that we can't find the words and don't know what we ought to pray about, "but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words" (Romans 8:26).

There is great comfort in this.  This new life is something that can exist inside us even when our intellect and understanding can't fathom it. Christ's life in us is not dependent on our logic, comprehension, or rational thinking.  It's like the trust a child has for his mother.  It's there without having to be formulated into words.  It is reality, not a point of view or an idea. (359-361)

Ah, the comfort of that last bit!  Papa Dore has said this to me from time to time of late...that the things he is telling me are true for me even when I cannot yet grasp them.  Praise be to God my faith does not depend on me...even when I fail again to shed that works-righteousness do deeply ingrained in my heart.  Oh, would this were not so!  Would that my eyes saw Gospel as easily as they do Law!

Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Mowed.  Puked.  Fainted.  SIGH.

To add insult to injury, my air-conditioner died.  I had hoped that I could have gotten another year out of the compressor (the offender), but I got three weeks from the $95 of freon that was added.  The hard part to swallow, to accept, is that this will be the THIRD air-conditioner I will have installed in the mere eight years I have owned the house.  That sickens me.

The first one was bad because a CROOK of a plumber installed a recalled unit.  When it broke 3 years later, the manufacturer would not honor the recall replacement because it had been installed AFTER the recall.  The second one has worked well, but the compressor has had to work harder because the unit is oversized for the house.  The second one had to be oversized because it had to match the new compressor.  At the time, I could have replaced both, but spending another $1,600 just three years after I spent $3,000 was a bit overwhelming.  Even the mechanics genuinely thought I had a few more years to go.  But since the whole anti-freon movement in HVAC world, I cannot replace just the broken compressor.  I have to replace the whole bloody system.  I had been warned about the ball-park price ($3,200) and hoped for that cost later.  Much later.  So, by the time my trusty HVAC guys take care of me, I will have spent nearly $8,000 for air-conditioning in the world's smallest home.  ARGH!

So, I am sweltering in my home, shaking and weak, and wondering just how long it will take them to order a new system and get it installed in my abode.  I am hoping that perhaps one could be delivered by Wednesday.

The only "good" news is that the mechanics told me once the new, properly-sized unit is installed, my summer electrical bills should be cut in half.  A small comfort.  A teeny, tiny comfort.

When you are weak and nauseous from mowing when you should not be mowing and weak and shaky from heat in your home, it is hard to concentrate, but my wonder at finding Jesus in Exodus 15 has not worn off, not one bit.

Pastor F ended up talking with me for a long while Friday night, giving me both some wise pastoral care and some Word from Exodus.   As he was reading to me, all I could think about was Jesus.

  • the Lord is my strength and song, He has become my salvation
  • the enemy being drowned in the water
  • the Lord's right hand is majestic
  • the Lord's right hand shatters the enemy
  • the Lord stretched out His right hand
  • the Lord redeemed His people
  • the Lord guided them to His holy habitation
  • The Lord purchased His people
  • The Lord will bring them to the mountain of His inheritance
  • The Lord will bring them to the place He has prepared for them
  • The Lord will bring them to His sanctuary

Oh, my...the world shifted for me!

When I told Pastor F that I saw Jesus in that passage of Exodus, he laughed and told me gently the whole book of Exodus is about Jesus!  I was in disbelief.  He also told me that in Luke (I think that was the Gospel he mentioned), in the passage about the transfiguration when Moses and Elijah were with Jesus the Greek word in that passage actually means exodus.  Now, which word?  I cannot tell you!  I wasn't taking notes.  SIGH.  Still, just the thought is amazing to me.

I told him that I cannot pray through the Psalter these days without seeing all these references to Jesus, to baptism, to the Lord's boggles me the scales I have had upon my eyes.  Such mercy God has shown me in sending His Spirit to help me understand that which has been taught wrongly to me in order to know that He loves me so dearly as to provide this entire book of prayers that are the Living Word, the prayers of Christ, and the prayers of my heart.

I know that I still have such poor vision, eyes that see Law everywhere, Law that crushes me, weighs me down with the unendurable burden of my sin.  I wish for eyes that see more Gospel, for a heart that looks past the Law, thankful for its purpose, but mindful that it does not hold me captive, nor is it the final word, the last Word for me.


Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief!

Friday, May 14, 2010

My heart is full to brimming...mostly with the good things of Christ!

While I long to write of such, it is late, late, late.  So, I shall make my list for the morrow:

  • A burden lifted
  • The same Gospel heard in two different ways
  • Jesus in Exodus 15
  • Jesus in Psalm 19

To keep you pondering, below is Psalm 19, so that you might consider this question:  how many times do you see Jesus in this psalm?

    The heavens are telling of the glory of God;
         And their expanse is declaring the work of His hands.
    Day to day pours forth speech,
         And night to night reveals knowledge.
    There is no speech, nor are there words;
         Their voice is not heard.
    Their line has gone out through all the earth,
         And their utterances to the end of the world
         In them He has placed a tent for the sun,
    Which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber;
         It rejoices as a strong man to run his course.
    Its rising is from one end of the heavens,
         And its circuit to the other end of them;
         And there is nothing hidden from its heat.
    The law of the LORD is perfect, restoring the soul;
         The testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple.
    The precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart;
         The commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes.
    The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever;
         The judgments of the LORD are true; they are righteous altogether.
    They are more desirable than gold, yes, than much fine gold;
         Sweeter also than honey and the drippings of the honeycomb.
    Moreover, by them Your servant is warned;
         In keeping them there is great reward.
    Who can discern his errors? Acquit me of hidden faults.
    Also keep back Your servant from presumptuous sins;
         Let them not rule over me;
         Then I will be blameless,
         And I shall be acquitted of great transgression.
    Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
         Be acceptable in Your sight,
         O LORD, my rock and my Redeemer

I am Yours.  Save me!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

I have long neglected telling of Bettina's asparagus brilliance.  To be fair, I believe it is her mother Bonnie's brilliance.  But for me it is Bettina's.

Back just following the Great Snow, she came to visit me, to sit with me, to let me not be alone for a while.  Given that all the grocery stores in the area were bare of shelf, she packed her vehicle full to brimming with tasty things for me to eat, including sating my strange, sudden addiction to asparagus.

No, her brilliance was not in merely bringing me many bundles of that vegetable that makes me tremble with anticipation of the first bite and sorrow at the last.  Truly her brilliance lay in how she brought it:  standing it up in containers with water in the bottom!  What a marvelous idea!  Did you know that asparagus stays fresher much, much, much longer when treated like fresh cut flowers?  I didn't!

Two nights ago, I had the last of my just-off-the-farm baby asparagus (did I mention some of it was blue?) and it was genuinely just as tasty that night as it was two weeks before when I brought it home.  Tasty because of Bettina's brilliance!

She is that way...thoughtful and creative in the most fundamental manner...working out solutions to life's bothersome little issues.  Would that it were I had her brain!  Alas, that is not possible, but she is ever merciful enough to put it to work helping me...solving those things in my life that make hard days harder...or merely bringing simple joys such as fresh asparagus for days on end!

This day, as each one lately has been, was terribly long.  We are completely not ready for this festival that is now a mere 22 days away.  The very thought overwhelms me.  But the not being ready does not bring the despair over the thought of what will happen that day.

I cannot be outside in the heat.  Period.

Even if it were to be a balmy 40 degrees outside, I cannot be out and about for more than about 90 minutes...two hours if I grit my teeth and bear it.  Not on my feet.  Not walking about.  Not moving this way and that.  I cannot.

I cannot.

Yet I must.

Back and forth I consider two scenarios:  1) I simply do not go.  2) I go, faint, disrupt the entire festival, and get hauled off to some country hospital that knows little of MS-related heat exhaustion.

I know that God is the Creator of the universe.  I know that my life is held in His hands.  I know this.  But I also know there will be no good outcomes that day.  And the only thing worse than the thought of June 5th is June 6th...and the 7th...and the 8th...and every day after that.

Perceived "disloyalty" from two years ago, moments when I didn't do things correctly, are flung in my face even now by my boss.  Oh...I cannot imagine how I will be punished for the failure I will certainly become June 5th.  Such a thought terrifies me for I know how weak I am just now.

I am not sure I can understand and not understand at the same time, but that it how it seems.  Some fleeting bit of Gospel that is ever just outside my reach.

When sin awakens, when an old guilt preys upon the conscience and simply will not be dislodged from the mind, when constant sinning, which is ever a part of us, when our wicked, corrupt heart causes us to be fearful and to potter about, at that very moment one needs the consolation: Christ has also redeemed me by His precious blood; His blood and merit cover up my sins. Jesus, my Savior! But we cannot seize this comfort out of our own breast. Our own heart and conscience bear witness only to our sin and guilt, to nothing else. Nor are we able of ourselves to put this comfort into our heart and conscience. Heart and conscience resist, saying: I have sinned too grievously, too long. I am incorrigible; I am not worthy of any mercy. But then comes the Holy Spirit from heaven, the Spirit of the Father and the Son, and bears witness to Christ and testifies loudly and clearly: Your sins are forgiven! Christ has purchased and won you too! You are God's dear child! And this voice of the Holy Spirit, this voice of God, drowns out and silences the voice of one's own conscience.

The Holy Spirit inscribes and engraves this testimony of God's grace in Christ into our heart so that we give assent to this testimony and rely totally on this Lord. The Holy Spirit illuminates Christ in our soul and paints the comforting picture of the crucified Christ so distinctly, so brightly and clearly before our eyes that the gloomy thoughts of one's heart disappear and vanish, as night and mist before the rising sun.

To be sure, we often do not perceive, feel, experience this light of knowledge. It is a work of the Holy Spirit that lies hidden. Amid the pressure of carnal thoughts and lusts, in the hustle and bustle of temporal affairs, amid the burden of the cross and anxiety comes this treasure which the Holy Spirit lays into the heart. We search within ourselves for this new light and life, for this new creation, look into, search our own heart and mind and do not find what we are looking for, find nothing good. We think that faith has died. But, dear Christian, you ought to know this: God has set up eternal, visible, tangible means through which He gives His Spirit and strengthens your faith. It is true, the Holy Spirit has His workshop within the depths of our heart. But you should never seek the Spirit within you and draw Him out of yourself and your heart, but you have been pointed to the Word, to the outward Word that you can see with your eyes and hear with your ears. The Holy Spirit testifies through the Word, through the Gospel. Simply listen to the preaching of the Gospel, with or without feeling and emotion. Listen to what is being said about Christ the Savior, and do not look and search and rummage within yourself but within Scriptures, within the Bible, which on every page testifies of Christ.

Through the hearing, reading, learning the Holy Spirit comes to you and seizes and moves your heart even though you don't feel it. Just at the time you are bemoaning your poverty, sterility, impotence, and weakness, He is making you rich and strong. When you are unable to find any counsel and know not where to turn, He enlightens your soul. While you are lying prostrate, despondent and dejected, quietly and unnoticed the Spirit strengthens your faith through the Word. Only one thing is asked and required of you and that is that you diligently hear and learn God's Word, the Gospel of Christ. All else the Holy Spirit has reserved for Himself. Through the Word He leads you to Christ, through the Word He fastens your soul to Christ's easy yoke [
George Stoeckhardt, Unending Grace (Gnade um Gnade), p. 221-222].

Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Long, long, long day.

Last night during a phone call, one guffaw too many left me coughing and wheezing again.  I battled asthma until after 4:00 AM, got up a few hours later, and headed to work.  I coughed and wheezed all day, even during this marathon meeting we had.  While five people were in the meeting, somehow I was the only one "capable" of taking notes on the computer, so even though I started seeing stars and had to use my nebulizer...I had to juggle holding the machine to my mouth and typing.


    O LORD, rebuke me not in Your wrath,
         And chasten me not in Your burning anger.
    For Your arrows have sunk deep into me,
         And Your hand has pressed down on me.
    There is no soundness in my flesh because of Your indignation;
         There is no health in my bones because of my sin.
    For my iniquities are gone over my head;
         As a heavy burden they weigh too much for me.
    My wounds grow foul and fester
         Because of my folly.
    I am bent over and greatly bowed down;
         I go mourning all day long.
    For my loins are filled with burning,
         And there is no soundness in my flesh.
    I am benumbed and badly crushed;
         I groan because of the agitation of my heart.
    Lord, all my desire is before You;
         And my sighing is not hidden from You.
    My heart throbs, my strength fails me;
         And the light of my eyes, even that has gone from me.
    My loved ones and my friends stand aloof from my plague;
         And my kinsmen stand afar off.
    Those who seek my life lay snares for me;
         And those who seek to injure me have threatened destruction,
         And they devise treachery all day long.
    But I, like a deaf man, do not hear;
         And I am like a mute man who does not open his mouth.
    Yes, I am like a man who does not hear,
         And in whose mouth are no arguments.
    For I hope in You, O LORD;
         You will answer, O Lord my God.
    For I said, "May they not rejoice over me,
         Who, when my foot slips, would magnify themselves against me."
    For I am ready to fall,
         And my sorrow is continually before me.
    For I confess my iniquity;
         I am full of anxiety because of my sin.
    But my enemies are vigorous and strong,
         And many are those who hate me wrongfully.
    And those who repay evil for good,
         They oppose me, because I follow what is good.
    Do not forsake me, O LORD;
         O my God, do not be far from me!
    Make haste to help me,
         O Lord, my salvation!

Even though my last dose of meds was five and a half hours ago, I am still trembling.  I tremble inside as well.  Strange.  Frightening.  It hurts when I breath and I am still coughing from time to time so I should nebulize again, but I do not want to...I want to just sleep for a few days...the epipen does that to me.

No rest for the weary, though.  Not until after the festival June 5th.  I honestly am not sure how I can keep up the pace until then.  SIGH.

I am Yours.  Save me!

Monday, May 10, 2010

I will say that I have not laughed as hard had I have this evening in a long, long while.  I had not one, but two asthma attacks...both of which I lay at the feet of Pastor W!  If you would like a superlative chuckle, follow this link to the comments on one of his posts.  Seriously, he has some witty brothers in office!  Oh, my, so grateful am I for this post and their humor even though I had to use my epipen!  Then, after I had regained control, I received a reply to my email to him.  [I sent him photos of my new crucifix for I just knew he would understand my joy.]  I twitted him a bit and his quick wit came to play once more.  I guffawed...and started coughing and wheezing and crying...but for once they were good tears!  SIGH.
So, here I am nebulizing again.  I probably ought to head on over to the ER for my sats are low and have been low for a while.  I just hate that place; I hate being alone in my fear that swells with each labored breath.

I would like to note one more mercy.  A pastor who pens such wonderful things about the Treasury of Daily Prayer asked for comments from those who read his blog now that a year has passed.  Given how much I have savored his teaching, I posted my two cents.  He somehow found my blog, came here, read my struggles, and encouraged me in his reply.  Is not God merciful to this wounded sheep?

I thought Walther might be the perfect balm to a troubled heart and a spasmodic pulmonary system.  So, shall we continue my beloved The Proper Distinction of Law and Gospel?

If you remember, we were discussing the giving of Law and the giving of Gospel in the 15th Evening Lecture:

We also learned that it is a false method to prescribe to an alarmed sinner all manner of rules for his conduct, telling him what he has to do, how earnestly and how long he must pray, and wrestle, and struggle until he hears a mysterious voice whispering in his heart: "Your sins are forgiven; you are a child of God; you are converted," or until he feels that the grace of God has been poured out in his heart.  That is the method adopted for conversion by all the Reformed sects and their adherents. (140)

He continues by telling first of a popular book written by a Lutheran that rather erroneously mixed Law and Gospel and admits that he himself fell beneath its weight.

After graduating from college, I entered the university. I was no outspoken unbeliever, for my parents were believers.  But I had left my parent's home already when I was eight years old, and all my associates were unbelievers; so were all my professors, with the exceptions of one in whom there seemed to be a faint trace of faith.  When I entered the university I did not know the Ten Commandments by heart and could not recite the list of the books in the Bible.  My knowledge of the Bible was pitiful, and I had not an inkling of Faith.

However, I had an older brother, who had entered the university before me.  Not long before my arrival he had joined a society of converted people.  Upon my arrival he introduced me to this circle of Christian students.  I had no premonition of the fate I was approaching, but I had great respect for my brother, who invited me to come with him.  At first, I was attracted merely by the friendly and kind manner in which these students treated me.  I was not used to such treatment, for at our college the intercourse of students had been a rather rough affair.  I like the manner of these students exceedingly well.  At first, then it was not the Word of God that attracted me.  But I began to like the company of these Christian students so much that I gladly attended even their prayer-meetingsfor they conducted such meetings.

Lo and behold!  it was there that God began to work on my soul by means of His Word.  In a short time I had really become a child of God, a believer, who trusted in His grace.  Of course, I was not deeply grounded in Christian knowledge.  

This state of affairs was continued for nearly half a year.  Then an old candidate of theology, a genuine Pietist, entered our circle.  He could not expect ever to obtain a pastorate in the state church, as at that time rationalism held  sway everywhere.  The other students thought we were crazy and shunned us as one does people who are afflicted with a contagious disease.  That was the sad state of affairs in Germany at the beginning of the nineteenth century.

Now, this candidate who came to us said:  "You imagine you are converted Christians, don't you?  But you are not.  You have not yet passed through any real penitential agony."  I found this view day and night, thinking at first that he meant to take us from under the sway of the Gospel and put us back under the Law.  But he kept repeating his assertion until I finally began to ask myself whether I was really a Christian.  At first I had felt so happy, believing in my Lord Jesus Christ; now there began for me a period of the severest spiritual afflictions.

I went to the candidate and asked him, "What must I do to be saved?"  he prescribed a number of things that I was to do and gave me several books to read, among them Fresenius's Book on Confession and Communion.  The farther I got in reading the book, the more uncertain I became whether I was a Christian.  An inner voice kept saying to me:  "The evidence that you have the requirements of a Christian is insufficient."  To make matters worse, the aforementioned candidate was more pietistic than Fresenius himself.  At that time, when opening any religious book treating of the order of grace and salvation, I would read only the chapter on repentance.  When I would  come to the chapters on the Gospel and Faith, I would close the book, saying: "That is not for me."  An increasing darkness settled on my soul as I tasted less and less of the sweetness of the Gospel.  God knows I did not mean to work a delusion on myself; I wanted to be saved.  In those days I regarded those as the best books which spoke a stern language to sinners and left them nothing of the grace of God.

Finally I heard of a man who was reported to be a real spiritual physician.  I wrote to him with the though in my mind that, if he were to say something to me about the grace of God and the Gospel, I would throw his letter into the stove.  However, his letter was so full of comfort that I could not resist its arguments.  That is how I was brought out of my miserable condition into which I had been led chiefly by Fresenius. (141-142)

Some parts of this sound uncomfortably familiar!  Have I not been struggling with the very same thing?  Allowing the Law to have the final word with me?  And have I not wanted a seelsorge (a curer of souls), who will pour out upon me such Gospel as even I can hear?

Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief!