Thursday, March 31, 2011

Let sleeping dogs lie...

I am too tired to look up the etymology of that idiom, but I do know that when my precious puppydog is draped about me snoozing away, I certainly do not wish to wake him.  But sometimes I find myself doing that very thing.  Why?  Amos snores.

It is a bit disconcerting to awake with snuffling, gargling, and sputtering in your ear.  He is a rather noisy snorer.  Still, it is a small price to pay for the ineffable comfort Amos has been to me--potty training failures aside.

Speaking of sleeping, tonight I am sure to sleep well.  Why?  Well, I was doing laundry and the most brilliant of ideas came upon me.  You see, I long to sleep before the fireplace, but that would not be very comfortable and were I to actually sleep, I would not be awake to tend the fire to keep up that bit of comfort.

When I sleep, I wear blinders.  Thinking about the way I savor the smokey aroma about my hands when I have been tending the fire, I kept back one of my blinders from the drying rack down in the basement while doing laundry earlier and hung it on one of the handles of the fireplace screen.  In no time at all, it was dry...and smokey!

My hope is that the comfort of the fires might follow me in my dreams this evening.

O LORD, do not rebuke me in Thine anger,

Nor chasten me in Thy wrath.
Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am pining away;
Heal me, O LORD, for my bones are dismayed.
And my soul is greatly dismayed;
But Thou, O LORD--how long?

Return, O LORD, rescue my soul;

Save me because of Thy lovingkindness.
For there is no mention of Thee in death;
In Sheol who will give Thee thanks?

I am weary with my sighing;

Every night I make my bed swim,
I dissolve my couch with my tears.
My eye has wasted away with grief;
It has become old because of all my adversaries.

Depart from me, all you who do iniquity,
For the LORD has heard the voice of my weeping.
The LORD has heard my supplication,
The LORD receives my prayer.
All my enemies will be ashamed and greatly dismayed;
They shall turn back, they will suddenly be ashamed.

~Psalm 6
(NASB 1977)

I am Yours, Lord.  Save me!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Our confessions...

[Jesus] came from heaven to help us. So those tyrants and jailers are all expelled now. In their place has come Jesus Christ, Lord of life, righteousness, every blessing, and salvation. He has delivered us poor, lost people from hell's jaws, has won us, has made us free, and has brought us again into the Father's favor and grace. [BOC, LC, II, 29-30]

A little at a time can turn out to be a lot...

I decided to take a photo of the second load of wood to remind myself that if you do something a little at a time, anything is possible.

Can you believe that I moved this wood from where it was dumped in the garage and stacked it on the porch?  Doing so saved me $10!

How much fire therapy do you think is in this pile?

Something that I need to learn:  Stop scheduling early morning contractor visits when there is no need to do so, when I am not working and thus would have to meet people before or after work.

Awaking at 8:00 AM is simply exhausting.  More and more and more I am amazed that my Good Shepherd brought to me a puppy dog who has no problem sleeping 10 hours or longer at night and then is more interested in snuggling in the morning than getting out of bed.  I can take my own sweet time rolling out of bed and putting my feet upon the floor (a rather painful experience).

Today, I had my first air-conditioning contractor visit.  I have another recommendation to schedule.  Perhaps I will managed to remember to set up an afternoon visit.

The contractor was quite kind and did not mind my 1,001 questions.  The sum of his visit is primarily what I expected.  Even a slightly oversized AC unit will have trouble cooling the second floor as cold as I would need it to be.

One option is to do two smaller units, with one in the attic controlling the second floor.  In that case, I would need to have holes cut in all the bedroom ceilings and in the hallway (return) and would have ducting sprawled about that lovely attic space.

A second option is to put in a ductless AC in my bedroom as supplemental cold air.  This might be a good fit, though more expensive, but I have qualms about doing something that would take away from the historic charm of the home.  He suggested over the window, but after he left I wondered if perhaps I could do it below the window.  I believe that would be less obtrusive and less disruptive to aesthetic appeal.  The upshot is that he would only need to bore a 3 inch hole to the outside and so the room could be restored quite easily.

Both the construction company owner who came to evaluate the hole in the wall from the pipe repair and the HVAC contractor told me that my home was not breathing properly.  This is because the attic vents were blocked with foam.  The first man plucked out the round pieces in three vents and the second contractor noticed a fourth vent that had been missed.  Part of the AC installation will be an attic vent to help draw out warm air.  Right now, with the vents open, the second floor is a bit nippier...a state conducive to my better health achieved not by freezing the birdies living on the first floor!

The nervous Nelly part of me is already worried the AC installation is going to be more expensive than I budgeted.  However, there simply is no real option to avoid this expense.  I did think that if I go with the small unit for my bedroom, this summer I could just sleep on the couch and purchase the second unit next Spring. 

Decisions.  Every day turns up another decision that needs making when I wish for time to just be, to just exist.  However, like the wood pile, if I try to tackle things a little bit at a time, even a mountain can be moved.

Speaking of mountains, I've been thinking a lot about mustard seeds.  I have always been taught that I only have to have a small amount of faith and I can move a mountain.  My faith.  However, I wonder if the proper explanation is not over the size comparison so much as it is whose faith comprises the mustard seed.  That small smidgen of my faith would never, ever move a mountain.  But a mustard seed of Christ's faith could move mountains, drain oceans, shift a river.

Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Another skill...

Sunshine labored long on my behalf to hem up the curtains in the living room, dining room, and kitchen, creating copious amounts of visual rest for me.  I am truly thankful to no longer have lace hanging down far past the window sill.  In my opinion, properly sized curtains also helped to make the kitchen seem larger.

However, I spent far too long on my feet helping her measure, cut, and pin since this was actually the first time she ventured into the mysteries of curtains amongst her sewing endeavors.  This morning, I could barely stand the pain of coming down the stairs.  I am in agony.  Plain and simple.

I set the alarm for 9:30 PM instead of AM, so I missed church. As much as I long for the Lord's Supper, I doubt that I could have endured sitting in the pews for even a few minutes.  I am better, though, when I have the Lord's Supper.  Oh, how I ache when I miss the opportunity to take in His gift of forgiveness and healing!

Last night, I was able to start a fire with just paper for the first time.  Usually, I have these fire starters that I learned to make from my realtor's husband.  You put sawdust into paper egg carton cups and then top it off with melted wax.  They are fierce fire making treasures.  However, last night, I used mail and the box from the lamp I got to help lighten up the living room since there is no overhead light and made a rather impressive fire.  Of course, I happen to think that the photo of this accomplishment is not that bad either!

I have been calling myself rather foolish for fretting about whether or not to purchase another load of wood.  The amount of money is a mere pittance compared to the massive amount of peace I gain from the soothing crackling, popping, hissing and absolute warmth from the fires.  Somehow, I need to figure out how to have fires all year long!

In case you cannot get to a fire, I thought I would post a short video of today's effort for your viewing pleasure.  Now, this is a result of yet another skill gained:  banking coals.

Yep...just like in old-fashioned books...I actually banked coals!  Last night, I heaped the pile of ashes upon the remaining embers and piled it high.  Today, I spread out the ashes until I turned up some glowing coals and started feeding them some more pieces of mail.  Once those caught fire, I added pieces of the latest Dr Pepper box and then pieces of wood.

Voila!  Another fire!  From banked coals!!!!

So, even though I am definitely utterly miserable from doing too much after doing too much, I am basking in the warmth and peace of a fire.

Would you not agree how loving our Creator is to give us something as precious as fire?  Do you ever stop to consider all the ways this element sustains and shapes our lives?  Heat.  Food.  Refining.

Give us this day, our daily bread....

Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief!

Saturday, March 26, 2011


Fires might work exceedingly well as therapy, but in order to help offset the heating bill, one must remember to close the back door after schlepping in the wood.

[Any helpful suggestions as to how I might do this?  I shall not admit exactly how many times this has been a problem.  No asking Amos either!]

Our confessions...

God's Son truly suffered for us.  However, He did so according to the attributes of the human nature, which He received into the unity of His divine person and made His own.  He did this so that He might be able to suffer and be our High Priest for our reconciliation with God.... [BOC, EP, VII, 14]

Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief!

All kinds of stupid...

I have no business painting.  None.  Zilch.  Nada.  If I mention it again...if I begin to waiver about all the paint sitting on the basement steps for the two stairwells, the foyer, the hallway, and the solarium...feel free to bop me upside the head or lambast me any way you wish.

On a scale of 1 to 10, my pain level is at least an 8.  I cannot sleep because I hurt so much.  I know that if I could sleep some, I would feel better, but the catch-22 has me trapped.  My hands feel like stuffed sausages.  My forearms are so tight it is hard to use them at all.  My shoulders hurt so much I cannot raise my arms.  My back is screaming.  My feet are swollen and feel as if knives are sticking in the bottom of them.  My legs are stiff and sore as if I ran a marathon.  And my neck has shooting pains if I am not holding it perfectly still.  I am in agony.  I thought yesterday was bad.  I was wrong.  It actually is possible to hurt more.

Oh, yeah, the parlor is finished.  And the bed in the basement.

  • Amos has oil-based paint on his ears from where he tried to crawl beneath the bed frame.
  • The parlor got another set of puppy paw prints across the floor.
  • Amos' training got set back weeks on end since his momma was to distracted painting to properly watch the clock.
  • And Amos is so exhausted from completely destroying the paint roller that he has already gone back to sleep.

My painting cost me $29, when the painter quoted $100 for the room.  Somehow, that doesn't really seem like such a savings anymore.

Sunshine might be able to trim and hem curtains for me, so I shall wait to post the finished product photos for now.  I will, though, if nothing else to remind me of my folly and to help me remember to never, ever do this again.

It is going to be at least a four Dr Pepper day!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Painting with a puppy... a recipe for disaster!  Try as I might to keep him OUT of the parlor, Amos was most determined to be at my side through thick and thin.  At one point, there was a trail of puppydog paw prints across the wooden floor on the narrow strip that did NOT have a drop cloth covering it.  SIGH.

He also--the wretched dog--chewed up a brand new roller.  You know how when children are being quiet they are usually at their most destructive?  Well, there I was, moving along, thinking that I had found a good rhythm and he had found peace with my being on the ladder.  Nope.  He was happily engaged in some chewing therapy!

I am, however, happy to announce that the walls are all primed.  I would like to paint them tomorrow--both coats--but I do believe that will be too much effort.  I will say that I shall NOT be starting the solarium any time soon...or the hallway...or the foyer.  I am almost thinking that one space a month is enough painting for me.

Only you know me...I do not like leaving things undone...all that paint will be crying out to me with a intense siren call.

Now...if I only had peeps in my life instead of a just a puppydog.  Then, I could do like you see on TV.  I could have a painting party!  Pizza.  Beer. [UGH!]  A true BYOB party (bring your own brush)!

As to my skill, I do believe that absolutely no one will be able to spot the floor to ceiling crack or even most if not all of the cracks.  However, once I started priming, I noticed some rather deep trowel marks that I had missed.  [Those plaster guys in 1920 were a bit lazy if you ask me].  The two worst spots are both behind doors, so mostly no one will see them.  I will note that for every trowel divot I did fill another six were missed.  Oh well.

I am looking forward to seeing the paint upon the wall.  Because I am in a place where the less decisions I make the better, I simply bought a color two people told me would be good upon the walls.  Brave of me?  For the record, although it is called Mellowed Ivory, it is supposed to have a tiny bit of a green cast to it!

I wanted to leave the puppy paw prints on the floor for posterity's sake.  However, I rather dutifully cleaned them up.  Amos is sleeping on my arm right now (making typing a bit difficult), but before we go to bed I shall have to search his hair for paint.

Is it too unrealistic of me to hope there isn't any?

A bit of progress...

All the corners are caulked (five of them) and most of the gazillion trowel marks are filled and sanded.  I have twice worked on the six cracks in the walls.  I would like to do one more layer before starting priming.  I also sanded each wall from top to bottom to make them as smooth as possible.  I, however, am not much interested in perfection or even close to perfection.  If they look okay without my glasses, I shall be content! 

I am not sure how long the caulk will take to dry/cure.  I had hoped to prime the walls tonight, but I believe I shall not be able to do so until the morrow.  I am a bit unsettled with all the parlor furniture in the kitchen.

I was given a suggestion for my nightmares and night terrors:  when I awake, I am to write down a simple sketch of the dream and then re-write the ending to one that is positive.  When I first heard the idea, I thought it sounded a bit hokey, but I committed to trying it out.  Tuesday night, I had a humdinger of a dream and awoke screaming.  I scrawled the dream down and then rewrote the ending.  I did manage to fall asleep afterward and did not have any more bad dreams.  Last night I had several, but while I had the thought to write them down after the last one, I fell back asleep holding the pen before doing so.  Perhaps this method might actually help....

Someone had wanted the last of the moving boxes, but though she made arrangements to come by five different times, she never showed up.  So, this afternoon, I broken them all down and put them into my new large multi-stream recycling bin.  This brought a bit of closure for more reminders of the move...why I had to do so.

With the sewage pipe repaired, it has been three weeks now that I have accomplished something significant each week.  It has been three weeks that I have eaten at least twice each day.  It has been three weeks that I have been awake more than I have been asleep.

If only...if only...I could make more progress with training my puppydog.  He has learned:  outside, inside, and time for bed.  He allows me to bath him and cut his nails--the latter was a battle of wills but his nails grow so much I have had to cut them each week.  I only have to pick up the squirt bottle to get him to cease and desist an unwanted activity.  If I leave him in the kitchen when I need to go out, he does not freak out in the manner as he did being in the crate and he does not make a mess on the floor, even when I have been gone as long as six hours.  And he has learned that if I put him on the bed while I take a bath or get ready for bed, he need not fret for I will more howling as I shower. 

However, I am still primarily a failure when it comes to potty training.  If...and only if...I am faithful to remember to take him outside each hour and a half or so, he will not winkle in the house.  But he is still terrified of the back yard and does not care to do his main business outside at all.  In the mornings he does and a few times after dinner, but mostly though we will hang out there for a half-hour or more, he will not act until we are back inside.  SIGH.

Perhaps it is no longer one step forward and ten steps backward.  Perhaps it is more like three steps forward and two backward.  I cannot be sure....

I am Yours, Lord.  Save me!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Old and new...

When the electrician was putting in the new plug in the living room, he pulled out the French door on one side to peer in the wall to see what other things were in the wall before making his hole.

"Myrtle, can you come here a moment?"


His eagle eye spotted water on the sewage pipe.  Why the home inspector did not do the same is beyond me, but there it was.  I needed a 10-foot hole cut in my wall so that my cast iron pipe could be replaced.


The plumber came today to make the repair and was very surprised at the size of the crack.  Originally, it looked like the pipe had micro fractures from age and was merely seeping.  However, you can tell from my boring photos that the crack was significant.  Christ be praised that this was caught before a complete failure and I ended up with extensive water damage!

I am also very, very thankful that the plumber was quite careful to ensure that he did not cut into the ceiling.  This is because the ceiling has one of those swooping curved patterns in it.  I couldn't imagine getting that redone.  He laughed at the dozens of times I asked him if he could do the repair without disturbing the ceiling and called out a very large "Oops!" when I was in the other room just to see if I would come running.  Shame on him!  He did promise to avoid the ceiling if I gave him a Dr Pepper.  Having a steady supply of those has made my home his favorite stop. 

The upside of this is that I will have to paint the living room once the wall is repaired.  I could try to get someone to match the paint by a section of the wall that was removed, but I truly dislike the color blue on walls and am looking forward to no longer having to spend my days on the couch in a blue room.  Hmmm...can you guess which color I might choose?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Skills possesed and not...

Amos had his first haircut today.  I have done a fair job with children's hair, Bettina's, and my writing student's in years past.  Alas, I have absolutely no skill with a dog's.  No matter that Amos squirmed the entire bloody time.  I am the Alpha Dog; I should have established my dominance with the shears.  Instead, Amos' preference prevailed, and thus, he looks very much like the Shaggy DA.

I will say that I found one result of the process to be quite interesting.  You see, I had been thinking that Amos was growing by leaps and bounds.  I was thinking that he was getting to be such a big boy.  That, however, is not the case.  With 1.5 inches of hair removed, he is still, indeed, a tiny puppy dog with a skinny body!

This photo is of my two buddies prior to the chopping session.  Are they not both lovely?

[NOTE:  I am not brave enough to post a photo of my hatchet job on Amos.  At least it will grow out soon.  SIGH.]

The skill I do possess I had forgotten.  I, Myrtle, am a rather fine hand with a spackling blade!

The stripping of the wallpaper went much faster than I had thought.  Actually, there was quite a bit of therapy in scraping paint and then peeling wallpaper.  The former was done with much vim and vigor; the latter was performed with great gentleness and patience.  Wednesday, I had finished the project I had thought would take a week.  Well, I did spend an hour last night cleaning up the edges next to the molding along the ceiling since someone suggested I used a utility knife to trim it away.

In any case, the painter who was supposed to come yesterday did not arrive today either.  In his not arriving, I received 16 voice mails and 4 texts in less than three hours, each one more aggressive than the last.  The first set, I did not hear because I was moving all of the furniture out of the parlor in preparation for him.  I called him back once I learned he was not coming and was going to be putting me off until next Monday because he has other work the rest of this week.  The next set of voice mails occurred whilst I was napping since this was the second day I was awake before 8:00 AM, which is very hard on me.  In the last voice mail, he threatened to not come at all if I didn't call him back immediately...that set was 4 calls in 11 minutes.

Then the texts followed.

His actions made me exceedingly uncomfortable.  But my learned response is to just ignore how I feel and endure the actions of others even if I do not wish to be around them or interact with them...even if it harms me.  I did not respond to the texts because of the last voice mail.  The final text declared he would not be painting my house.  There was great relief in reading that.

Although he is inordinately economical, unfathomable really, even before his texts, I no longer wanted him in my home.  I did not want to spend two days with him.  A boundary I was thinking about setting because I not longer thought that he would be safe to be around.

However, a part of me thinks, probably erroneously, that this was my fault and forgiveness means I apologize for engendering such behavior in him and have him come to paint whenever he can.  I was told recently that I am not responsible for the poor impulse control of others, that even if I were, somehow, vexing or provoking in my presence, demeanor, words or appearance, angry words and inappropriate behavior by another is not my fault.

So, perhaps recognizing boundaries I want/need to feel/be safe and believing I have the right to set them is a skill I am in the process of possessing...the very beginning of the process.

In any case, I ferried myself over to Lowe's and fetched some painting supplies, since I have gallons and gallons of paint sitting in my car.  [Too bad I no longer have someone to carry it all into the house!]  I purchased fresh rollers and pan liners and an edger that I had used at my last job and found quite handy.  I also bought an extension pole, for I am not sure how I will paint the stairwell, but I suspect Bettina would forbid me to try and use a ladder on the stairs.

I also purchased some mud and began tackling the spackling of the divots, holes, and cracks in the plaster walls.  Whilst setting about rendering the walls smooth, I noted that I had completely forgotten that I have a talent in this area.  I shall have little sanding to do tomorrow before setting on the next layer with the next size up blade.  Rediscovering this bit of skill sort of buoyed my spirits, which were flagging over the words flung at me by the painter.

Texting is not a great part of my life.  In fact, most of the ones I receive are from my beloved Bettina, who sends me photos and notes about her of the little ways she lets me know that she is thinking of me and loves me that does not take much time away from her busy vocations of wife and mother of two young children.

When my boss sent me ugly texts, I tried to set a boundary with her since I did not want those words on my personal cell phone.  She ignored my request, my boundary.  The buzzing sound of a new text would sicken my stomach and set me to trembling before I even checked to see if it was one of her zingers or an I-love-you from Bettina.  My dear friend was the one who taught me how to block someone's phone number.  As a result, for months now I have not had ugly texts.  Today, that nausea and fear and such came flooding back.  So, seeing I could still do at least one thing well was a tad encouraging.

I am hoping that I can just paint a little bit by little bit...even though the extended mess will be distressing...and save some money in the process.  I am a bit weary of trying to vet contractors and, for the most part, striking out.

Aside from the rediscovery of my talent, this day ended far, far better than it started because Brother Goose prayed the Psalter with me!

There is a Snippets reader who has shown me truly unbelievable mercy in filling my inbox with a Psalm most days of the week since I grew ill.  While the physical part has gotten at least manageable, the spiritual anguish has not abated.  He has, simply put, been the voice of Christ to me.  He also wrote what I believe to be one of the nicest things anyone has ever said to/about me:  Despite the past, here’s something that seems exceptional about you: For the most part, you seek your own answers and path forward, not someone else’s.

A part of me would reject such out of hand, knowing the struggles that have brought me low.  Yet I can admit that, while I have been conditioned falsely in many ways, I do not blindly follow in all things.  To receive his words truly warmed the cockles of my heart and just about every other part of me.  
This followed on the heels of encouragement by new friends I have made here.  

This couple from the church I am attending genuinely seem to be kindred spirits who are clothed in Christ's mercy.  The wife told me that it was okay for me to be who I am right now, where I am right now.  They just wanted to be a safe harbor.  On Sunday, both of them fetched paint with me and then sat in Panera's talking with me for hours.  After I got home, I felt badly about how much I talked and that I did not always contain my emotions.  Yet I received an e-card from them telling me that they enjoyed the time we spent together.  I think they get how unsettled and unsure I am. What meant the most to me was that they let me know that even if I look for a church home elsewhere, they still want to be friends.
So, to the Psalter.  Another mercy following the two other gifts of my Good Shepherd.  Experiencing Brother Goose's joy at praying the Psalter is one of the greatest privileges I have known in this life.  Even more so than the little lessons he drops in from time to time is the wonder of basking in the Spirit's passion and joy that exudes from this undershepherd who is always mindful of his own sheepiness.  

Tonight, my ears and mind and heart were filled with a dozen glorious psalms:  56, 65, 86, 87, 88, 104, 116, 146, 147, 148, 149, 150 (the latter five I learned being the lauds commonly prayed at the end of offices of prayer, such as matins or vespers or compline as a way of closing out the time of prayer).  A dozen!  What wonder.  What a magnificent gift.  What joy.

Yes, we were not yet to 104 before I took note of the joy settling upon me.  

What I love about Gooster is that he can be as giddy about the Psalter as I...more so actually.  After 88, there was a tiny lull as we were both waiting for the other to suggest one.  I had wanted to suggest 104, but we have prayed it twice already and I was thinking we ought to mine other riches, even though I absolutely cherish being able to pray that with another brother or sister in Christ.  I wanted to burst out in song on a bloody harp when he said, "How about 104 again?"  My, how my Good Shepherd loves me!  He does not tire of the psalms I pray again and again and again.

In the Large Catechism, one of my 187 favorite bits is the fourth petition of the Lord's Prayer.  I have blogged about how I have marveled every time I hear the Lord's Prayer the depth of that plea:  Give us this day our daily bread.  I never imagined what I was asking the Lord and Creator of the Universe to bestow upon me.  Ever since that bit of revelation via Luther, I have found myself drawn to psalms, such as 65 and 104, that point out the wonders of His power and majesty and reign over creation.

For a while now, I have been managing the Facebook page for the mission I am helping.  I reluctantly agreed to do so since I abandoned Facebook myself, having found myself ridiculously hurt by some things and by criticism that I didn't update it enough when I was first ill.  Basically, I told the Director that I would only do so if he would allow me to post quotes from the Book of Concord, like I was doing for the majority of my own status updates.  Of course, I did not put it in those words, but that was really what was in my heart.  Please let me put the good stuff out there again.

When it came time to do the calendar for him, I, again, was a bit mulish in my opinion that it shouldn't be a bible verse a month calendar, but one that focused on our confessions, since the mission is about training African men to be Lutheran pastors.  So, I drafted quotes and prayer requests focusing on the pillars of our doctrine.  

The calendar was late, so it started in February.  The Holy Trinity being the focus of the first three months, March is on Jesus Christ.  I put the prayer request at the beginning of the month on the mission's page and have kept the Book of Concord quotes to those which talk about Jesus Christ, primarily the person of Christ since Justification comes as a later topic.  I, myself, have found this dwelling upon Christ all month and savoring the bits of doctrine posted to be beneficial...fruitful.

This may sound sacrilegious, but I found it a bit fantastic (double entendre intended) that the quote I found today turned out to be how Christ is our mediator...He is the one who gave us the Holy Spirit who intercedes for us to bring our prayers to Christ and He is the one who is ever praying for us, even this very moment, before the Father.  He is the one who is the Living Word, who inhabits my beloved Psalter, who gave me the very words of my heart as prayers for me to speak when I have none of my own.

I shall post the quote here, but I am also wondering if I should just start also posting my Book of Concord quotes here....

...Christ does not stop being our Mediator after we have been renewed. They err who image that He has merited only a first grace, and that, afterward, we please God and merit eternal life by our fulfilling of the Law. Christ remains Mediator, and we should always be confident that for His sake we have a reconciled God, even though we are unworthy. [BOC, AP, V (III), 41-42]

Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

What lies beneath...

I had a painter come by to look at the wall in the parlor where the vanity was.  The damage is more than I can address and I wanted to learn about dealing with plaster walls.  He was very kind--yet another example of how much my realtor helps me--and quite patient with all my questions.  He did, however, point out that the paint in the parlor was over layers of wall paper and the stripes from the overlaps would only get worse with additional layers of paint.  In his professional opinion, I should strip the walls back to the plaster.  "It should be no problem since you don't have a job!"

No problem.

No problem has meant two full days of scrapping paint and stripping wallpaper.  And I am only half-way through the job!  SIGH.

It has been good, I will admit, to have something on which to focus other than the thoughts swirling through my head.

Today's effort was only scraping paint.  This one wall had but a single layer of wallpaper, so strangely enough scraping the paint was harder.  I am not sure the why of that, but on my right hand I have five bloody knuckles and two on my left.  I also have a gazillion other nicks and cuts from banging my hands against the wall as I scour down through the layers of paint.  Tomorrow, I will spray the layer of wallpaper with hot water and watch it peel away with ease, thankful once more that it was put up before the practice of using glue came into fashion.

I finished scraping while still on the ladder (yes, I know, I shouldn't be on a ladder) and reached over to wall No. 4 to just do the bit above the door to the kitchen and was surprised to find a third style of wallpaper.  In my opinion, for my tastes, I find it rather beautiful.  The photograph does not do it justice.  The flowers appear hand painted and have such vibrant colors.  I wish there were a way to preserve it, though this is the only wall on which I have discovered it.

You never know what lies beneath.

I have come across three thoughts of late that have given me pause, and, I think, are part of what lies beneath for me.  First was this bit on Calvinists and Lutheran doctrine that covered the problem the emphasis on God's sovereignty has on understanding the sweet, sweet Gospel.  An emphasis on sovereignty focuses on the mighty God who works through strength, destroying whole nations, down to the last chicken, not the God who works through weakness, allows Himself to be spit upon, beaten, humiliated, and murdered.

Second was a bit on how Protestants' errant teaching on faith makes the Gospel worse than Law.  For a Protestant, your salvation depends on your faith, and your faith is measured by your faith, how much you are trusting, believing, deepening your relationship with God.  So, you hear about the means of Grace for those who believe and you doubt and despair because you do not have confidence that you are one of the elect who does believe, who does get to receive those gifts in faith.  Yet how can you be certain?  How can you know?

Third was a bit from the book Just Words.  The beginning looks at the power of words.  Preus points out the fallacy of the saying: "Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me." Words do hurt, wound, even destroy.  Words have power.  None more than the Living Word.  Part of the discussion is how God is the Creator, the only One who can create something out of nothing, a true creation, not a recreation or fresh interpretation of something using things already created.  We can be "creative" in our thoughts or our efforts, but they are descriptive and evocative, not performative.  God said, "Let there be light." and there was.  In the sinner, in Baptism, God says, "Let there be faith." and there is.

That gave me the briefest glimpse of why Brother Goose keeps telling me to stop looking at my faith.  My faith doesn't matter.  What I do doesn't matter.  Contrary to what I have been taught for 31 years.  Oh, how this is hard to take in, to understand.

Let there be faith.

Also mixed in my swirling thoughts is the Word given me during confession today.  The pastor read to me from Luke, including the parable of the Good Samaritan.  I thought for sure there would be some "doing" in what he was trying to tell me.  Instead, he told me that what the lawyer could not understand was that the point of the story was that what he needed to do to be saved was lie in a ditch somewhere, bloody and beaten, and receive mercy.


Funny, until that moment, I never really thought about how the very word "saved" with any form of the be verb implies that someone else is doing the work.

I am not ashamed to admit that I have lost count of how many times I prayed the "Jesus Prayer" in those 31 years.  How could I be sure, be absolutely certain, that I was saved?  Especially great in my doubt was the fact that I could never quite achieve that relationship with Christ deep enough to keep myself from struggling with sin.  I prayed it with great soberness.  I prayed it with great sorrow.  I prayed it with great joy.  I prayed it with great fear.  Again and again and again.

I will also admit that something I read in my beloved Book of Concord has struck terror in my heart over my baptism, yet I do understand that in the water and the Word, faith is created as was promised by God, who desires all men to be saved...and who understands we cannot save matter how hard we matter how sorrowful we matter the strength of our desire or depth of our faith.  It is His Word that saves.  His work.  His faith.

The whole emphasis on doing something, on being something, in order to be saved is so deeply ingrained in me that I do not even see what lies beneath so much of my thoughts, my actions.

I had never really heard the passage taught as the pastor did today.  The lawyer asked what he needed to do.  The answer was the Law.  [I never thought the answer was about keeping the Law; I always thought that meant we were to love God and this was telling us how.]  Then the lawyer asks, self-justification on his mind, who is his neighbor.  The answer was everyone.  Then Jesus tells a parable that shows it is not the neighbor who does the saving in the end.  A stranger.  Undeserved, unwarranted, unexpected mercy.  Wow. 

What lies beneath is the question for most every problem...what is behind it.  Listening to my pastor was humbling and frustrating.  The Gospel was so clear, once parsed, yet not until he showed me two plus two is four did I even spot the Gospel.  Receiving it, I wept for the love and mercy of my Good Shepherd in that moment.  Why can I not see that myself?  Why is it that the Law fills my eyes?  Why is it that the need to "do" something crowds all else?

Consider Luther's teaching on the Lord's Supper:

Who is worthy? In the Small Catechism, Luther writes, But a person is truly worthy and well prepared who has faith in these words, “Given...and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.” But anyone who does not believe these words, or doubts, is unworthy and unfit.  For the words, ‘for you’ require hearts that truly believe.
I see a whole passel of Law in that, know full well my doubts and my struggle to believe the “for you” apart from actually hearing those words.  The in between times are total and complete battles.  There at the altar, the first note or word... “Our Lord Jesus Christ on the night He was betrayed took bread...” and the doubts seem less large.  When an undershepherd stands before me, even if I am too ashamed to raise my eyes to him, I still open my mouth for it is not me who is claiming worthiness but another, one who is in the office and stead of Christ, one whom before I do not hide for I know he has heard my confession of sins to God...or knows, far more deeply than I, that I am a sinner and that I am worthy precisely because, as a sinner, I cannot make myself worthy.
Yet I know this then, there, but struggle during the in between times.
I read the Small Catechism and despair, thinking I have not enough "true belief" in my heart.
In the Large Catechism, it seems that Luther knows my heart, for he writes, Then nature and reason begin to add up our unworthiness in comparison with the great and precious good.  Then our good looks like a dark lantern in contrast with the bright sun, or like filth in comparison with precious stones.  Because nature and reason see this, they refuse to approach and wait until they are prepared.  They wait so long that one week trails into another, and half the year into the other.  If you consider how good and pure you are and labor to have no hesitations, you would never approach. 
“Therefore, we must make a distinction here between people.  Those who are lewd and morally loose must be told to stay away.  They are not prepared to receive forgiveness of sin, since they do not desire it and do not wish to be godly.  But the others, who are not such callous and wicked people, and who desire to be godly, must not absent themselves.  This is true even though otherwise they are feeble and full of infirmities.  For St. Hilary also has said, “If anyone has not committed sin for which he can rightly be put out of the congregation and be considered no Christian, he ought not to stay away from the Sacrament, let he deprive himself of life.”  No one will live so well that he will not have many daily weaknesses in flesh and blood. 
Such people must learn that it is the highest art to know that our Sacrament does not depend on our worthiness.  We are not baptized because we are worthy and holy.  Nor do we go to Confession because we are pure and without sin.  On the contrary, we go because we are poor, miserable people.  We go exactly because we are unworthy.  This is true unless we are talking about someone who desires no grace and Absolution nor intends to change.
I read the Small Catechism and think it depends upon the strength of my belief. I read the Large Catechism and I think it matters not how feeble my belief is.  Luther wrote both. There is Gospel in why do I see Law in the Small Catechism? 
What lies beneath this?

Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Flesh of His flesh...

But Christ promised that He--He, the man who has spoken with them, who has experienced all tribulations in His received human nature, and who can therefore have sympathy with us, as with men and His brethren--He will be with us in all our troubles also according to the nature by which He is our brother and we are flesh of His flesh. [BOC, FSD, VII, 87]

I find it very interesting...humorous...astounding...that I go searching for a Book of Concord quote on Jesus for some volunteer communications work and end up with this one...given the outpouring of my heart last night.

What does it mean that we are flesh of His flesh?  What does it mean that my body is redeemed?  What does it mean that He is my brother?  How is it that, though I am not quite sure what this means, I can find such utter comfort in these words?

After my appointment today, I wept on the phone with Bettina and built a fire that is still roaring merrily now, four hours later...and will be so until I retire this evening.  What will I do when it is too warm for a fire?  I will need more wood soon.

After feeling rather flummoxed from discovering that particular bit of the Book of Concord, I am wondering if I should just set aside all the things swirling about my head and heart and pick up Walther again.  I miss him.  His clarity.  His encouragement.  His solace.  Perhaps exactly what I am longing for is in the next evening lecture or the one after it?

Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief!

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Lessons, one learned and one lingering...

Amos has discovered how to make his plush toy squeak.  That is what he is doing in the blurred photo.  If you look hard, you get a peak of his bumblebee.  For over half an hour, he kept at it, wagging his tail quite vigorously each time the squeaker sounded.  I couldn't get him to hold still long enough to snap a decent photo.  He was more interested in his new skill than in my capturing evidence of it.

I have been thinking deeply about another is a half lesson at best.

As a Protestant, you pray for your soul to be saved.  There is much emphasis on the soul in salvation.  Your body is something you have to whip into spiritual shape once you are saved, keep up the new temple of the Holy Spirit and all.  In response to something I said in confession, the pastor said that my sin had to do with that my body had been redeemed.  Of course, I could not ask him what he meant at all since he was finishing the liturgy and the service was about to start soon.

I mean, if a confessional Lutheran pastor says that this is what the pure doctrine teaches, then of course it does.  And I am sure there is good support for that.  What flitted through my mind at the time was if emphasis is on the soul and not the body, that might explain why much of the Protestant Church considers the Sacraments as mere ordinances done by man for God, as a way of expressing their love and devotion to Him rather than as a mean of grace in which He comes to us. is it that my body is redeemed as well as my soul?

For reasons better left unspoken, I have longed for the day when I die and can shed this body.  All that being raised from the dead in my head was my soul, that we would be this sort of non-corporeal shining light sort of thing, a bunch of saved souls mixed in with the angels.

I asked someone about this and could not quite follow all he said.  Some of the points he made were that Christ was raised bodily and took humanity to heaven with Him.  Humanity raised perfect...only He still bears His wounds.  That we, though perishable, will be imperishable.  That we will be like Him and He was raised with His body.  Confusing.

Pastor Esget has been on this campaign of sprinkling the term God-man in his parish, in sermons and bibles studies and even Greek class.  He practically chortled with glee when one of his parishioners used the term in one of the church's business meetings, telling us all about it during his next sermon.  Fully God and fully man.

Perhaps the skepticism, the disbelief, about Christ's true body and blood come to us upon corporate confession makes the emphasis on soul or the emphasis on soul makes the skepticism.  Is this the chicken or the egg? 

Someone once said that he believes the reason I hunger so much for the Lord's Supper, why it means more than even I understand or can put into words for you, is because I have been so wounded in body.  There is this strange sort of comfort in that to me, even if I merely glimpse what he truly means.  I do know that I cling to the bits in the Large Catechism where Luther writes so resolutely, yet so passionately about those who are struggling should be almost first at the rail, should not feel badly at all if they ended up dragging themselves to the Lord's Table.

For Christ Himself says, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick." ...He means those who are weary and heavy-laden with their sins, with the fear of death, temptations of the flesh, and of the devil. If, therefore, you are heavy laden and feel your weakness, then go joyfully to this Sacrament [Lord's Supper] and receive refreshment, comfort, and strength. [BOC, LC, V, 71-73]

When given to me I readily take His very body and blood into my own, all my fears and despair and sorrow muted by the gift, by an undershepherd, knowing who I am, serving me such a wonder.  I am different...better...on days in which I have the Lord's Supper.  A solace and strength steal over me, sustain me, even if fleetingly so.  I believe that Christ does come to us, in body, to heal us, forgive us, strengthen us. I believe He is raised from the dead.

But this whole my-body-not-just-my-soul is redeemed is a puzzle.  31 years taught one way, nearly two years still not hearing this truth though so much else has been turned upside down, mere days of trying to absorb what it means, with a lifetime of feelings swirling around complicating the matter.

What sourced the emphasis on your soul being saved for Protestants, the body being just a shell, what makes you you is your heart and mind and soul, not the covering?  Why do Lutherans believe the body is redeemed?  What does the really mean?

Someone told me that it wasn't important that I understand, that you can make a god out of understanding.  That I should not be so distressed over my confusion.  As an educator, I simply do not agree that it is not important.  I mean, belief is in things that are not seen.  I do get that.  But if it is not important to understand why did Luther create the Small and Large Catechisms?  If parts of my confession are wrong, ought I not understand why they are wrong?  Ought I not understand the differences in doctrine?

This is a big, big thing to me. Our bodies are redeemed. What in the world does that mean?

A pastor whom I have been helping with communications work and sometimes exchange emails recently wrote:  There are many false teachings that you express in your writing that lead to a misunderstanding of faith.  That is a tough thing to read, yet I have been trying and trying and trying to say the same thing to my pastors.  A misunderstanding of faith seems so small for something that is so large in my heart and in my mind and in my life.  That misunderstanding is making it hard for me to hear and to receive the Gospel in the sermons I listen to all the time (or at least did until recently).

But where do I go for straightening out that misunderstanding?  Do you think I could shrink myself down small enough to pass for a child in a catechism class?  Silly me.  The law of physics cannot be broken.  I have tried very hard to teach myself, but the educator in me has stood outside those efforts and has come to the rather disturbing conclusion that my foundation is flawed, so all that good doctrine I have piled upon it is not properly supported.  There are things that I do know well, primarily because they were untaught before.  There are things I understand in part, knowing what is right and what is wrong, even if I find myself slipping back into the wrong in my thought patterns, in my behavioral choices.  There are things I have learned by rote, can parrot well, but do not understand them.  But there is much that is false that I do not even see, much less understand yet I know is there.

I have been encouraged to bring questions to adult bible study class, which being early morning is very hard for me to get to in the first place and I usually do not attend.  But, for a wall-flower, interrupting a set lesson with extraneous questions, many of which touch on the personal, try as I might to frame them objectively, is overwhelming and near impossible.  For an educator, interrupting a set lesson with extraneous questions is out of the question. At my last parish, there is no option for evening or weekend bible study like there are at my first parish.  I may be wrong, but there does not seem to be one here in my new home.  You may not remember those failed attempts at using "Ask the Pastor" as a means to get some questions answered, but there is not that sort of option either.

Just go to church; you'll learn. I have gone, when I have been well enough.  I have gone and the more I hear the more confused I have gotten, the more fearful I have become, the more despair has filled my life.  There just has to be something wrong with that.

I guess the bottom line is that I feel as if I have missed my chance to learn the basics, establish the foundation I need so that I can receive the Gospel rather than somehow, someway find an offense in it I do not even know I have.  Just as I have missed out on so very many other things that I cannot go back and experience now, I feel as I also missed out on the chance to understand the Gospel.  Sort moves on and there's no catching up.

Way back in the dark ages, I had Pre-Algebra, Geometry, Algebra I, and then Algebra II before I took Elementary Analysis and Trigonometry.  The systematic teaching I had in the previous four classes made the last two classes possible.  In fact, that foundation made it possible for me to pass placement tests for all the math requirements for college, when I do not even care for mathematics.  What do you do when you find yourself in EA and Trig of the Gospel without the previous courses?

I could be mistaken in my understanding about this, but it is my understanding that a Lutheran pastor will not just baptize a child because someone wants it.  There has to be parents or caregivers who will commit to raising the child in the pure doctrine, committed to catechizing them.  Even in the churches that admit young children to the altar (something I believe is a very, very good thing), the children remain in instruction, both by their parents and by the pastor.

I do not wish that I had not been baptized or had not been given the freedom of the altar, but I do wish that I had not missed the opportunity to have the false teaching, the misunderstandings, straightened out.  A couple at my first parish told me their catechesis, done together as adults, was two years before they were admitted to the altar.  Having tasted the true body and blood of my savior, I couldn't fathom waiting.  I wish I had. Oh, how I wish I had.

But I am on the other side now.  It doesn't seem like there is any going back.  It seems all I am left with is to just sit and listen and try to somehow ignore the confusion and the despair, knowing...fearing...that the pastor's small statement is, in actuality, the proverbial tip of the iceberg that will be my undoing. 

Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief!

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

A longing for safety...

I have been struggling because all I really want is to feel safe in my own home.  I left, hastily, and moved here in pursuit of that.  Yet things have happened here that barred such peace.  Now another one, different, yet still overwhelming.

It had to do with Amos. 

I have felt unsafe inside and I have felt unsafe in the garage due to the actions of others.  Yesterday, I became afraid of my own backyard.  I have been weeping ever since.

Saturday, I stepped outside to allow Amos to do his business and found the neighbor's dog on my back steps.  I have a fenced yard and simply do not know how he got in other than to leap over the fence since it is a half-sized chain link fence.  My heart racing, I stuck Amos in the kitchen and went next door to ask them to remove their dog.  I have been bitten by a dog twice and had my beloved Kashi bit three (or was it four?) times during his fifteen years.  I never take being around a dog for granted.

No one was home.

With tears of frustration running down my cheeks, I finally garnered the courage to grab the collar of the dog and got him back to his own yard.  Actually, I put him in a small space next to the garage, since the gate to the actual yard was locked.  I did not go over to the neighbors' house after they returned home because they have not once returned my greeting when I have seen them out and I simply struggle to interact with anyone these days with all the confusion filling my mind.

Then, yesterday, I was out with Amos and heard the tea kettle go off.  I also heard the jingle of dog tags, but I did not register what that meant and dared to dart inside to remove the kettle from the stove.  Just as I reached for the kettle, I heard a terrified howl from the back yard.  Racing back outside I saw Amos dangling from the neighbor's dog's mouth.  I charged him and scooped up Amos when he dropped him.  I dumped Amos inside and raced over to the neighbor's house and knocked on the front door.  An older woman answered it and I asked that she remove her dog from my back yard.  She said she was just the grandmother and I needed to talk to her son when he got home from work.

I stood there shaking, with tears streaming down my face, and told her that their dog had had my new puppy in his mouth just moments before, that I needed him out of my yard and to never come back. I said that he had been in my yard this weekend and that the dog shouldn't be left in the back yard unless he was secure inside it.  Over and over I repeated I just needed to be safe in my own back yard.

Tears still falling, I left and went to comfort my terrified puppy dog.  The back of his neck was wet and dirty, so I went ahead and gave him a warm bath, searching every inch of him to ensure that no skin was broken.  It is a very good thing that Amos is 50 percent hair! 

I do not yet know if Amos minds a bath, but he just stood there this time.  When he was clean, I swaddled him in a towel and held him, trembling, in my arms until he fell asleep.  Once he was truly asleep, I took myself off to the shower and stood for a long time in the steaming hot water, still crying.  Afterward, I crawled into bed with him for a while, soaking my pillow with my tears.

There have been so many times I have sat outside with Amos, even in the middle of the night.  I have this replica of a Victorian stone bench that I placed beneath an evergreen in the back corner of the yard.  Even though it is next to the alley, the overhanging branches make
for a peaceful spot. 

I need my back yard to be safe.

Amos has not been able to do his business outside.  Each time we try, he trembles, keeping one eye on the yard to the right, waiting until I will let him pass and go back up the steps.  I carry him to different spots in the yard and he races back to the door.  Unfortunately, he has not yet figured out that it is okay to do his business on the leash, so trying the front yard has not worked either.  It is hard to be firm with him about his accidents inside when I don't feel safe outside either.

The first time we ventured out, there was another dog outside, one I have not seen since I moved here, some sort of large husky.  I tried to show Amos it was still okay to be outside, but he took one look at that dog and scooted back up the steps.  When I picked him up and took him back out to the grass, he whimpered and trembled and scurried back to the door.

This morning was no better.  This afternoon was no better.  This evening was no better.  For either of us.

I am Yours, Lord.  Save me!

Monday, March 07, 2011

From the other side...

Back in my Protestant days, many of the high school and college Sunday School classes addressed clothing, primarily talking with females about making proper clothing choices.  What we wore and how our choices were affected by movement of our bodies was a constant refrain. There was this one summer retreat where some college boys were brought in to tell us how males look at females, boys that we didn't know so everyone would feel free to have a frank conversation.  There was a basket passed around where people could write anonymous questions for the panel on slips of paper.

Set aside the fact that the bible was not being taught during Sunday School and that this was another part of teaching how your faith was strengthened and evidenced by what you do.  The admonition was important given what was becoming acceptable fashion.  Of course, by today's standards, our clothing was still remarkably modest, if not downright prudish.

Maybe I am just old-fashioned--yet another way I do not fit in this world--but, in my opinion, clothing should leave things to the imagination.  Much things.  I honestly do not know how mothers dress their daughters these days because the clothing I see in the stores for young girls is oft so provocative it turns my stomach.  Maybe that is simply because I know how many predators are out there.

However, I cannot recall a single clothing conversation where the males were also admonished about their clothing.  That was a grievous error in my opinion...that the topic was never addressed from the other side of the coin.

Men should wear belts.  If, for some reason, a belt is not worn, pants/shorts should be snug to the waist--the waist...most definitely not below the hips.  And always...always...underclothing should be worn.

There are millions...millions...of females out there who have been sexually abused.  For some of them, it is quite hurtful to witness the exposure of parts that should be otherwise covered due to slippage of pants/shorts.  Even by genuine accident.  Even when someone does not mean or intend for such exposure to happen, it can be profoundly hurtful.

I do not understand why men do not seem to be bothered by this.  Why it seems to be merely par for the course.  Twice in a few weeks it has happened in my presence.   Neither man apologized or gave any indication that they were bothered by the exposure.  Not even the one who serves as an elder in his church.

I simply do not understand.

Friday, March 04, 2011

Two lessons learned...

Lesson One:  After just three sessions, Amos has learned how to play fetch.  Mostly.  Somehow, I inadvertently taught him that after bringing the ball back he should flop on his back so I can rub his belly!  I cracked up when he flopped down over and over again.  I just wish we were making such stellar progress with his potty training.

Lesson Two:  After just twelve fires, I learned not to leave the butane fire starter tucked in among the wood.  Somehow, I inadvertently tossed it in with a set of logs!  All four of us (Amos, Sam, Madeleine, and I) were terribly frightened when it exploded.  Fortunately, the screen that goes with the antique andirons is heavy enough that the flying debris was contained within the fireplace. I just wish I didn't have to keep learning things the hard way.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

His first treat bone...

My beloved puppy dog just earned his first treat bone!  His momma finally was able to catch him before he made a mistake inside and was able to scoop him up and plop him down outside.  What made the moment more spectacular was that she tried to herd him back inside (it is quite cold outside tonight) and he insisted on running back across the yard to winkle.  I was almost dumbfounded!

My poor puppydog did not even know what a treat bone was.  However, my Oscar worthy performance of jubilant praise over his dual accomplishment was enough to get him to follow me to the deacon's bench, leaping and wagging his tail and falling down in his excitement without even knowing what he was about to discover, where I have been keeping the bag for this very moment.

This whole "gentle" way of potty training a puppy is not my cup of tea.  I am a fan of rubbing their noses in mistakes.  After all, that worked really well last time around.  I have not been diligent enough to catch his mistakes.  When I take him outside and he is productive, I heap copious amounts of praise on him.  But when I am...uhm...slightly less attentive to his wanderings due to fatigue he has no compunction about pooping before the front door and winkling on the kitchen floor.  While he does make clean-up easy, I am weary of doing so.

Thus, I am rather estatic that, just now, I was able to halt his pooping and relocate him to the appropriate location.  On top of that, I am hoping I was enthusiastic enough in my praise and reward technique that he might begin to be slightly more inclined to conduct his affairs out of doors.

Lest you think that I am putting too much hope in his intelligence, especially given that it took a few moments for him to recognize the bone treat as something to consume and then further time to actually figure out how to do so, I will note the following:  Before today, Amos had approached the house from the front only two times.  First, the morning he was ripped away from his family, shoved in a car, and abandoned in a strange new place.  Second, yesterday he managed to walk (and I do use the term loosely) on the leash for the first time.  So, today, when we went out to try the leash again, my stinking brilliant puppy dog turned in at our walk ahead of me and trotted up the steps!

Lest you think I have fully embraced the "gentle" training mentality, last night I drew a rather firm line in the sand with Amos.  When he is tired, he runs around like a wild, crazy toddler who is too tired to go to sleep.  He bites anything and everything in his path, getting more and more aggressive, no matter how many times I firmly tell him, "No!" or hold his mouth shut.  After yet another night of him driving me to the loony bin, I thought very long and hard as to where I put the squirt bottle when I unpacked.  For once, I prevailed against my MS riddled braincells and managed to pinpoint the location.

Amos does not like being squirted in the face.

Tonight, all I had to do was merely lift the squirt bottle up into his line of sight and all biting ceased.  With one eye on the bottle, Amos wisely decided to reconsider the chew bone I had put in front of him.  He made the right choice.  Now, I am sure we will have set backs, but I should not have any more Amos-mouth-sized bruises about my body!

The photo I chose for this entry is one of my favorites.  You can see that he is still a fan of draping himself about.  In fact, this evening, he fell asleep on my chest.  After a while, he rolled over and resettled himself with his head hanging off to the side.  That head of his has to be squeezed into a small space, perched up atop of something, or hanging off below the rest of him.

What else have I learned about Amos?  He snores!  I, of course, only snore when Bettina is trying to sleep.  He snores quite frequently.  He also grunts when he is waking up.  In fact, he is rather horrible about waking up, preferring to snuggle against me when I pick him up and grunts and whimpers in a pitiful breathy manner.  All that doesn't matter, though...for Amos allows me to sleep longer than 8 hours without waking me up.  In fact, only one morning has he actually be desirous of getting out of bed before I dragged myself to my feet.

He does still fret rather frenetically whenever I shower, spending the entire span of my ablutions trying to join me in the tub.  What do you think would happen if I just let him shower with me?

We are a good fit, I dare say.  Over the next few weeks, I need to work on having him adjust to my being gone so that when God provides a job, he will not become melancholy in his separation anxiety.  For now, though, I have been utterly comforted with his companionship.

In so very many ways, he is absolutely, utterly, totally, completely different from Kashi, my beloved buttercup, my darling daffodil, my precious petunia.  What mercy!

The Luther teaches in the Large Catechism that God created all things for the uses and necessities of life.  Do you imagine that includes puppydogs for those of His children in need of comfort?  In many, many ways, I know that my Good Shepherd has provided this house for me, meeting needs in ways I am still discovering, like the hepa air filtration system.  Is is wrong to think that He also provided Amos, with the perfect temperament for me in this very difficult time of my life, ways in which he is a comfort that I am still discovering? 

Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief!