Wednesday, February 27, 2013

What about Herod...

"Jesus wept."  The shortest verse of the bible.  One of the first, surely, to be spoken in a memory verse competition ... not that I think anyone has those any more.  John 11:35.  I know the verse.  But do I know what it means?

Of the many Lutheran shockers along the way, one of the earliest, I think, was hearing that Jesus died for Herod.  A sermon, if I recall.  For me, it was such a difficult concept around which to wrap my head.  After all, he was THE ENEMY.  Of course, I should admit that, at the time, and most of the time now, Herod the massacrer of the innocents is also Herod the murderer of John the Baptist.  Only Herod the Great was the former, Herod Antipas the latter.  However, I suppose it matters not that I failed to ask at the time, "Which Herod?" Jesus died for both.


I am not sure if the sermon was based on a lectionary reading from 1 Timothy or if merely that bit of Gospel was woven into another reading.  However, that was the answer I was given when asked how that could possibly be.

"First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity. This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Chris
t Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony given at the proper time. For this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying) as a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.

Therefore I want the men in every place to pray, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and dissension.
(1-8)." [emphasis mine]

But, I protested, Herod was THE ENEMY! 

The one who stood against God. Do I not hate those who hate Thee, O LORD? And do I not loathe those who rise up against Thee? I hate them with the utmost hatred; they have become my enemies. This God taught me to pray in Psalm 139: 21-22.  In a way, after I got over my shock of the whole concept of the papacy being the anti-christ, the doctrine made perfect sense to me.  Anti = against.  Against Christ.  An office that sets itself up as an intermediary between God and man and claims authority to speak of God is nothing short of being against Christ.  Therefore, do I not hate the papacy as God hates those who stand against Him?


Jesus wept upon hearing the news of the death of His friend.  But when we are told that Jesus wept, was He weeping only for Lazarus?  What that the only time Christ wept?  Did He weep for Herod?  For both Herods?  The one who tried to kill Him as a child and the one who ultimately allowed His death as a man?  If God desires that all man come to Him, if He cherishes His creation, did He weep for Herod?  Does He weep for him still?  For the Herods of today?  For those who dare hold the office of the papacy, for those who promulgate its heresy, for those who condone it, even if merely by their silence on the matter? For those who reject Christ crucified, for those to mock or persecute the ones who believe?

In Psalm 56, we pray:

Be gracious, O God, for man has trampled upon me;
Fighting all day long he oppresses me.
My foes have trampled upon me all day long,
For they are many who fight proudly against me.
When I am afraid,
I will put my trust in Thee.
In God, whose word I praise,
In God I have put my trust;
I shall not be afraid.
What can mere man do to me?
All day long they distort my words;
All their thoughts are against me for evil
They attach, they lurk,
They watch my steps,
As they have waiting to take my life.
Because of wickedness, cast them forth,
In anger put down the peoples, O God!

Thou hast taken account of my wanderings;
Put my tears in Thy bottle;
Are they not in Thy book?

Then my enemies will turn back in the day when I call;
This I know, that God is for me.
In God, whose word I praise,
In the Lord, whose word I praise,
In God I have put my trust, I shall not be afraid.
What can man to do me?
Thy vows are binding upon me, O God;
I will render thank offerings to Thee.
For Thou hast delivered my soul from death,
Indeed my feet from stumbling,
So that I may walk before God
In the light of the living.
 [emphasis mine]

This prayer was true for John the Baptist.  It was true for him before his death.  It is still true for him after.  Even though John called upon God to be save and yet was still beheaded, God was still for John and God delivered his soul from death.  Eternal death.  Easy to forget that.  Being saved from death and harm does not always mean earthly death and harm.  These are spiritual matters even as they are bodily ones.  We are sheltered and hidden from the wrath and assaults of our enemies, but sometimes that shelter is beneath the wings of Christ, by and with and through the cross in our lives.

God put John's tears in a bottle.  Christ also prays this prayer.  Did His Father capture His tears as well?

Yet there is also the promise of Revelation 21:

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea.And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” (1-4) [emphasis mine]

A comfort I have been given about things that distress me so deeply, that bind me in ways I fear I shall never escape, is that once I am raised in glory, they shall fall away. The fear and shame will not matter to me anymore, will not fetter me.  So, whilst certainly distressing in this world, they are ultimately moot.  To be blunt, I shall not longer loathe my body for what has been done to it, shall no longer desire with my whole being to be shed of it, shall not longer fear being trapped in it for all eternity.  Because all of that will pass away ... even if I cannot fathom such now, it will be.  Such is promised.

But what about Herod?  For Revelation 21 continues, does not stop merely with the promise of eternal life, the sweet, sweet Gospel, but we also are given the reality of the Law placed upon those who do not die in Christ.

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.”Then 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. “He who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son. “But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their partwill be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death (5-8)." [emphasis mine]

There is such a thing as Hell.  Now, as I was told, it is not mine to judge who ends up where.  And in so understanding, I can hope in the promise of Isaiah 55, that God's Word will not return void or fail to accomplish its purpose and in I Timothy that God desires all men to be saved.  I also have the promise of Luke 23: 33-43,

When they came to the place called The Skull, there they crucified Him and the criminals, one on the right and the other on the left. But Jesus was saying, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” And they cast lots, dividing up His garments among themselves.  And the people stood by, looking on. And even the rulers were sneering at Him, saying, “He saved others; let Him save Himself if this is the Christ of God, His Chosen One.” The soldiers also mocked Him, coming up to Him, offering Him sour wine, and saying, “If You are the King of the Jews, save Yourself!” Now there was also an inscription above Him, “THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.”

One of the criminals who were hanged there was hurling abuse at Him, saying, “Are You not the Christ? Save Yourself and us!” But the other answered, and rebuking him said, “Do you not even fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? “And we indeed are suffering justly, for we are receiving what we deserve for our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” And he was saying, “Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom!” And He said to him, “Truly I say to you, today you shall be with Me in Paradise.” [emphasis mine]

The hour of belief matters not.  The Living Word and the Sacraments are as effective the first moment of life as they are the last.  The Holy Spirit is not restricted to a set length of time in order to bestow, build, and sustain faith in us.  So, for all I know, Herod, one or both, might  be rejoicing in the glory of our Savior right this very minute.  

But both, also, might be suffering the eternal agony of fire and brimstone.  There is a hell.  People do actually die eternal deaths.

What comfort is there for those, whose have been raised in Christ and, thus, whose  own "death" is actually eternal life, but who grieve and mourn those who whose death is fire and brimstone, whose tears shall have no end?

Could you wish such even on your enemy?  I could not. I do not.  I wish for him justice, the justice of Christ.  For in wishing for him I am wishing for mine.  I, my flesh, is the enemy of Christ.  The old Adam in me stands against God.  So, I will for all the justice of Christ crucified because if it is not for all, then it is not for me.  I know what I deserve.  I cannot, by my own, stand before God and expect eternal life.

That wishing and hoping, sadly, can go unfulfilled.  Not all men will come to God.  Not all men believe.  Some reject Him, His Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Some reject the Triune God, replacing Him with a monotheistic or duetheistic god of their making.  Some live lives given over to the pursuits of godliness and yet never know Christ crucified.  Never believe in the cross.  The Pharasisees were/are real too.  And they still exist today.

That sort of makes the whole "white-washed tombs" declaration even more harrowing.  Folk, seemingly the epitome of righteousness, walking around with fire and brimstone simmering in their bodies, instead of the body and blood of Christ.  But there are also Juduses walking around as well.  And all manner of unbelievers in between.

Did Christ weep for them?  Does God capture their tears?

What comfort is there for those mourning the eternally lost?  For, to me, there is no comfort in speaking of their own salvation when that is not what is being mourned.  Again, to me, such talk only serves to deepen the grief. 

It is good, right, and salutary to hate the enemies of God.  But is it also good, right, and salutary to weep for their eternal deaths, to sorrow for what they have rejected and lost?  If so, what comfort is there for that sorrow, for that grief?

I have noticed the other side of the coin of the sacrament of Baptism celebrated in a church body.  The dearth of comfort, of instruction, of spiritual care for those facing the death of the unbaptized, the un-saved.  By this I mean, every sermon I hear, every blog I read, nearly every where I look are Words and words for believers.  Yet we are surrounded on all sides by unbelievers.  And many of us love them, are fearful for them, and mourn not merely their passing but the reality of what that passing means.

I am Yours, Lord.  Save me!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Seriously, somebody shoot me...

I actually had this great culinary victory yesterday.  I made my first quiche.  Not only that, the result was rather fluffy and tasty.

I found this recipe for crustless broccoli-cheddar quiche.  Since a commenter on the recipe mentioned she changed it to a bacon version, I thought I would follow her lead.  I baked some thick sliced Applewood smoked bacon and then followed the recipe, deciding that a proper proportion of bacon would be one slice per egg.  I halved the recipe, since I have only two ramekins and am only one person.  In putting it all together, I was very careful to mix in the grated cheese because I might, possibly, have added more than halved amount.  Once I was certain there were no lumps, just eggy bits of cheese, I snipped the bacon with the kitchen shears into small pieces.

Seriously, I was stunned at how well they turned out.

Later, for dinner, I had a bit of oatmeal to bring back up my dropping blood sugar, not realizing that my stomach had not emptied the quiche at all.  Within an hour, my discomfort was building.  By midnight, I knew ... knew ... it was going to be a bad night.

It was.

Somehow, I had forgotten just how bad it can be.  I am not sure which is worse: my stomach stalled or my small intestines.  In any case, pain and writhing and a hugely swollen abdomen is the result.  By 2:00, I was voiceless in my pleas to God for rescue, for grace, for endurance.    By 4:00, I hoped that the very next second would bring my death.  Only, I knew it would not.  At least, I am fairly certain that my stomach will not explode from gas and bacteria in a single day.  Since I have endured four days, I am fairly sure it would take longer.  But I longed for it to happen.  You know ... thinking of those scenes from the Alien movie franchise.  Just burst already!

Other than pain medication, I cannot really take anything to stimulate my nerves into getting back into the business of making my stomach work.  I can take gas medication, but it is like using a squirt bottle on a three-alarm fire.  And, if I do take pain medication, my entire digestive system slows, particularly my lower intestines.  Not really wanting to add to the problem, I simply endure.

In the early hours of this morning, when I knew the tide would be turning, and eventually I would be spotting that light at the end of the tunnel, all I could really think about was:  How?  How in the world could I forget just how bad my innards writhing can get? 

While on the funeral trip, I had one early morning of a particular innards issue, but I have had a fairly endurable few weeks.  Until last night.  It made me think about someone I was seeing weekly for a while.  Each time I arrived, she would ask me why I was not home in bed.  Some weeks, even I was surprised that I made it.  However, even on my best days, she would tell me how wretched I looked.  Granted, I mask all the time, even with my beloved Bettina, just how bad I feel, but not with this woman.

I suppose this is my way of saying that I have been accustomed, after a fashion, of the daily aches and pain and dizziness and weakness and blood pressure/heart rate swings, the sugar crashes, the arthritis, the confusion, the forgetting ... the sum of my daily existence that she found rather intolerable to witness.

In my exhaustion and pain and grief, I had forgotten just how bad it can be.  I had forgotten innards writhing so great that even the slightest movement makes me feel as if my organs are being stabbed, where waves of nausea drown me again and again, where even the covering of a sheet is brutal agony, where I become an insensible, inconsolable child begging for her Creator to somehow, in some way, rescue her.

To me, it is no wonder, statistically speaking, that of the first 35 psalms in the Psalter, the petitioner cites our triune God as His refuge 14 times, either by claim or by plea.  Were I more of an analyst at this point, I would be curious, out of the total number of different words in those psalms, what is the percentage of one that ask God for help or acknowledge His help in some fashion:  rescue me, deliver me, contend for me, fight for me, protect me, hear me, save me, hide me, preserve me, restore me, defend me, keep me, be my refuge/shelter/shield/safety, etc. 

Truly, I understand that sort of plea and longing and praise and thankfulness.

I will admit, though, that some of my more sensible thoughts were just how unfair it was to have such misery follow the culinary joy.  Eggs, cheese, bacon, cream ... those are all safe foods for me.  I know that the problem is my nerves. I know that the problem is my stomach and/or small intestines holding on to food far, far, far longer than they should.  However, I also feel like my foe simply will not allow me a single day in which even the small measures of joy I find in this life I lead are not tempered with larger measures of pain and/or anguish.  SIGH.

I am Yours, Lord.  Save me!

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Come again...

Baleful means threatening harm, menacing.  Come again??

Recently, on a Facebook friend's post about wondering if he should use a word in a sermon some might not know, I wrote about how people are essentially contextual readers.  By that I mean that we do not read each and every word of the texts we read.  In fact, our eye movement, as we read, is vertical as well as horizontal.  That is why, by the way, when reading aloud, one can find himself inserting a word in a sentence that is a line or two below where he is actually reading.

But back to context.  We are contextual readers.  We glean meaning from the whole, so it matters not if there are words here or there that we do not know.

Here, I know--even if I remember not--that I have written in the past about my word journal, just as I did on the Facebook post.  Whilst studying for my Ph.D. in literacy studies, I started to realize just how many words I skipped in my own personal reading.  I bought a blank journal and started writing down the words I did not know, looking up each definition and recording it.  I numbered each entry and keep an index so that I can look back up words whose meaning I knew I looked up but could not remember.

Whilst reading a book, I would keep a sticky note on the inside cover and a pen handy.  Sometimes I would stop reading to look up a particular word, but mostly I would wait until I was finished my reading before determining the meaning of the words I did not know.  Once learned, I tried to insert the new words in my speech and in my writing.  It tickles me that, on more than one occasion, I used to have folk tell me that they needed a dictionary to read my blog entries.

I fear my diction has shrunk considerably over the past few years.  I doubt anyone would say such to me now.  SIGH.

A few days after that post, I found a new word in a book I was re-reading for the tenth time.  I posted the sentence to that FB friend's wall:  "Tapping his pipe out on the heel of his palm, Rand ground the dottle underfoot in the dust."  I was sure he would know which word was new.  Do you?

Well, just the other day, I was using a feature on Kindle in which you click on a word and the meaning pops up.  I was randomly clicking on words, because I was in too much pain to concentrate on reading and yet I did not want my mind to still long enough to remember my father's death.  I am not sure how long I played with the feature, passing time, when up popped the word baleful.  And I was stunned to learn the meaning.

You see, I was certain the word was positive, not negative.  I had it in my mind as sort of a combination of rueful and chagrin and wry.  So, you would shoot such a look at someone who was telling you something that you did not exactly wish to hear about but could not argue the truth of ... something usually about you, about something you had wrong or missed or otherwise forced you to admit that the other person was in the right.


And, now, I know that the word was/is something different.  All those times reading it, all those stories, were/are now different.  I wonder just how often it is that I am reading something one way when it is actually another.

I mean, such has been much the case since I first picked up the Christian Book of Concord with regard to the Gospel, to faith.  And surely I have written of many such Come again? moments.  They popped up in the bible studies I attended in Virginia, in sermons, in pastor visits, in blogs, and even on Facebook.  In fact, one of the more incredulous moments was a blithe response on Facebook that a pastor made about how the beatitudes were not a set of instructions for Christian living.  I think I have written of that, too, but surely it bears repeating.  The beatitudes are not an instructions for proper Christian living, but rather who we already are in Christ.  

Blew my mind that blithe comment. I posted several comments asking the one who made the comment what he meant, even after he told me what he meant.  I just couldn't wrap my mind around it ... or how much his blithe comment revealed that I did/do not know about the sweet, sweet Gospel.

In a way, that's how I feel about the word baleful. How in the world could I be so utterly wrong about what that word means?  How!

At times, I feel so lost.  So much is slipping away.  So much I learned wrong.  Words, at least, I had right.  Words are my center, the true north of me.  From the time I was a little girl, books and writing, were what was true and right and me. 

Of late, I have been learning many things I did not know.  Revelations.  Rememberings.  Blows to the head.  Punches to the stomach.  Being pulled down to the ground again and again.  But words?  Must it be words, too?

I am Yours, Lord.  Save me!

Friday, February 22, 2013

Off with her hands...

I could wish for both my hands amputated, but I fear that such would just be replacing one kind of pain for another.

My hands have been hurting more and more and more.  They have become weaker and weaker, making all those improvement projects harder.  The last painting job I actually duct-taped the paint brush to my hand because I could not hold onto it.  The last flooring job, my hands ached for days and days and days. But even before I have been struggling with pain in my hands.

Some days worse than others.  Some wanting to scream at the though of just trying to bend my fingers. I find myself staring at them, wondering why they are not ten times the size.  Mostly, I see no difference.  I just feel it.

To me, it seems as if I used my hands in the five days of the funeral trip more than I have in the previous five months ... maybe even five years.  Well, the latter is an exaggeration, but surely not the former.

There are many things that I have found myself doing without realizing that I had been doing it.  Just as I mentioned that I have become accustomed to do things upon high surfaces, most particularly the top of the built-in china cabinets and my burled maple chest.  Either that or lounging in the GREEN chair and working with my body in the least painful position possible.

But it occurred to me today that when I am lounging and writing, my wrists and forearms are supported and my hands are resting primarily on the computer.  The thank you notes, condolences, and note cards that I sent were excruciating for the labor in writing them.  I realized that is so because writing is far more use of my hands than typing.  Holding a pen, holding still the paper, both actions without unsupported hands.

In any case, I have spent nearly three weeks waiting for my hands to stop hurting.  They have not.

The first four or five days home, all of me hurt and was so tired I mostly just dozed.  My exhaustion is less and my legs and back are much, much better.  But not so my hands.  They hurt.  They hurt so much I spend a lot of time just weeping and wondering when they will stop.

I have been primarily in bed, and even there I struggle to find a way to place my hands in which they will hurt less.  Sometimes, I wrap them up in the heating pad, but I cannot hold them there for long, though the heat helps mute the pain, because it is a labor to hold on to the two edges of the heating pad in order to keep my hands tucked within the coiled pad.  Sometimes, I slide them beneath the heating pad, but it hurts to have them flat, it hurts to have them curled into fists, it hurts to have them with my wrists at all sorts of different angles.  Mostly, I search for a way to have my wrists aligned with my hands on sort of a sloped fashion with my hands ever so slightly cupped upon something.  I find easier on my hands if I have them palms up, but that sort of twisting hurts my upper arms.  Well, mostly my upper right arm, which has never been well from an injury I got while serving as a missionary.

My wrists have long hurt.  I think somewhere amongst the entries of this blog are moanings about my wrists hurting.  That is one of the reasons driving first became hard.  I would stick my arms through the holes in the steering wheel and drive with my arms because holding the wheel hurt my wrists.  I would also stuff pillows between myself and the steering wheel to try and make it so that my wrists were supported.

This could be faulty remembering, but I believe this is why Bettina first started fetching me for a visit or at least driving part way.  The trip between Virginia and Pennsylvania being too long.  In fact, I think, there was a moment when I was visiting her, about a half hour or so from her house and I broke down in tears, certain that I could not stand the pain a second longer and would not make it to the haven of her home.

Compression helped my wrist pain,  so I would sometimes hold one to ease the pain.  At least I did before my grip started growing weaker.  Until typing this, I had not realized that was another change in the past two years.  I simply do not drive.  And much of my lounging time is with my wrists supported.  So, I have stopped paying attention to them except at night, which has always been a battle to find the right position for them.

In any case, it is so, so, so hard to lie in such a way that all bits of me are at least somewhat comfortable.  And these days ... days I despair will never end ... my hands never stop hurting.  Sometimes worse, sometimes less worse.  Always in pain.

I want to shout, to scream until my voice is gone.  Only it will not help.  And it is just pain in my hands.  It could always be worse, right?

Worse, yes.  Wildly painfully worse, yes.  But, now, I would proffer the constant, unceasing strain of bearable pain is actually unbearable.  Or so it feels ... in every sense of the word ... to me.

Of course, should anyone come willingly near me waving a machete or something, be sure to cut above the wrist.  Might as well kill two birds with one stone.

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

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Death by a thousand cuts...

To me, that is the distorted Gospel being taught today, the Gospel where things are added to and/or detracted from being saved by grace alone by faith alone in Christ alone.

I found it interesting that if you Google death by a thousand cuts and then click on the Wikipedia link, it is associated with creeping normalcy, defined "the way a major negative change, which happens slowly in many unnoticed increments, is not perceived as objectionable."

A major negative change is not perceived as objectionable. 
A major negative change is not perceived as objectionable. 
A major negative change is not perceived as objectionable

Thus, even more so, upon trying to get a bit of history on death by a thousand cuts, am I convinced such is an apt metaphor for what is happening to the pure Gospel.

In my years in the mainline evangelical church, there were so many concepts taught from pulpit to classroom to bible study that still fill my mind and frame my understanding of faith and yet are not of the true Gospel.  They are a specious collection of concepts based on verses, coupled with the guiding principles of personal development, relationship building, and self-actualization, all gilded in relevant language.  Arrogant of me to say?  Perhaps, but everything that I read in the Christian Book of Concord (BOC) cuts across everything that I have ever been taught about the giving, building, and sustaining of faith.  

In a way, I believe this happened somewhere along the lines when the Old Testament was riven from the New Testament with regard to faith, whenever that shift began in the Church.  By this I mean, the Old Testament became a source of examples of faith and God's character and the promise of a Messiah.  But not salvation by grace alone by faith alone in Christ alone.

Again and again, I heard that the Old Testament, aside from being sort of a history for Christians, was about Jews and for Jews. Those verses are not for you, Myrtle. "Those" verses were all the non-Jesus ones. Funny, though, because that collection of verses I mentioned the other day would most certainly  included 2 Timothy 3:16, "All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness," which, in turn, would include the Old Testament as a whole!

Separate and apart. Isolated. Separate even from another verse from that "collection," the very next verse and conclusion of the sentence: "so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work."

What is all Scripture good for? For making us better Christians, better examples of faith, better witnesses for Christ. That is what is taught, whether blatantly or subtlety. The self-actualization of faith is the end game, the finish line to cross.

But, again, I wondered what that verse was in context. So, here is all of chapter 3:

But realize this, that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these. For among them are those who enter into households and captivate weak women weighed down with sins, led on by various impulses, always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth. Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so these men also oppose the truth, men of depraved mind, rejected in regard to the faith. But they will not make further progress; for their folly will be obvious to all, just as Jannes’s and Jambres’s folly was also.

Now you followed my teaching, conduct, purpose, faith, patience, love, perseverance, persecutions, and sufferings, such as happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium and at Lystra; what persecutions I endured, and out of them all the Lord rescued me! Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted. But evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.

A part of me smiles. Is not God seemingly always telling us that hard times are coming? From the garden, before the flood, through the dessert, across the kingdoms, before Calgary, and until Jesus Christ comes again. 

He is.  Our Triune God is telling us this very thing.  He is because we are sinners, and sin is our self-actualization.  Sin! It is all we are, all we can be, in our hearts and minds and bodies.  There is nothing redeemable about us, in us, by us.  Nothing.  Apart from the grace of God, we cannot fear and love and trust Him.  Apart from the gift of faith, we cannot repent and believe.  Apart from the Living Word worked in our lives by the Holy Spirit, we are not and never will be sanctified.  

Original sin (in human nature) is not just this entire absence of all good in spiritual, divine things. Original sin is more than the lost image of God in mankind; it is at the same time also a deep, wicked, horrible, fathomless, mysterious, and unspeakable corruption of the entire human nature and all its powers. It is especially a corruption of the soul's highest, chief powers in the understanding, heart, and will. So now, since the fall, a person inherits an inborn wicked disposition and inward impurity of heart, an evil lust and tendency. We all by disposition and nature inherit from Adam a heart, feeling, and thought that are, according to their highest powers and the light of reasons, naturally inclined and disposed directly against God and His chief commandments. Yes, they are hostile toward God, especially in divine and spiritual things. For in other respects, regarding natural, outward things that are subject to reason, a person still has power, ability, and to a certain degree understanding--although very much weakened. All of this, however, has been so infected and contaminated by original sin that it is of no use toward God. ~BOC, FSD, I, 11-12

Ah, but I digressed a bit.  Back to the faith of the Old Testament.

In all seriousness, while I have been thinking about the metaphor of death by a thousand cuts for a long time, I will freely admit that it was only today (now yesterday) that I learned salvation in the Old Testament was/is the same as in the New Testament.  I learned this through a quote from the BOC that I posted to the Snippets blog:

Throughout the Prophets and the Psalms this worship (this latreia) is highly praised, even though the Law does not teach the free forgiveness of sins. The Old Testament Fathers knew the promise about Christ, that God for Christ's sake wanted to forgive sins. They understood that Christ would be the price for our sins. They knew that our works are not a price for so great a matter. So they received free mercy and forgiveness of sins by faith, just as the saints in the New Testament. To this point belong those frequent repetitions about free mercy and forgiveness of sins by faith that appear in the Psalms and the Prophets. For example, Psalm 130:3 says, "If You, O LORD, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand?" Here David confesses his sins and does not list his merits. He adds, "But with You there is forgiveness" (v.4). Here he comforts himself by his trust in God's mercy, and he refers to the promise, "I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in His word I hope" (v. 5). This means, "Because You have promised the forgiveness of sins, I am sustained by Your promise." Therefore, the Fathers also were justified, not by the Law, but by the promise and faith. It is amazing that the adversaries diminish faith to such a degree, even though they see that it is everywhere praised as a great service. For example, Psalm 50:15 says, "Call upon Me in the day of troubles; I will deliver you." God wants Himself to be known. He wants Himself to be worshipped, so that we receive benefits from Him and receive them because of His mercy, not because of our merits. This is the richest consolation in all afflictions. The adversaries band such consolation when they diminish and disparage faith and teach only that by means of works and merits people interact with God. ~BOC, AP, IV (II), 57-60

[Yes, the wicked part of me reveled in the fact that my beloved Psalter was used as the example of how faith came through the Promise even in the Old Testament.]

Now, I have already posted how our triune God has chosen to only speak to us, work in us, through the Living Word:

Therefore we constantly maintain this point: God does not want to deal with us in any other way that through the spoken Word and through the Sacraments Whatever is praised as from the Spirit--without the Word and Sacraments--is the devil himself. God wanted to appear even to Moses through the bush and spoken Word. No prophet, neither Elijah nor Elisha, received the Spirit without the Ten Commandments or the spoken Word. John the Baptist was not conceived without the word of Gabriel coming first, nor did he leap in his mother's womb without Mary's voice. Peter says, "For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit" (2 Peter 1:21). Without the outward Word, however, they were not holy. Much less would the Holy Spirit have moved them to speak when they were still unholy. They were holy, says he, since the Holy Spirit spoke through them. ~BOC, SA, III, IX, 10-13

But I had not yet made the connection, I had not yet fully understood or grasped what the Apology teaches so clearly: that salvation has come to mankind in the same manner throughout all time in the free mercy and forgiveness of sins by faith in Christ.  I suppose the easiest way to say is that some were given faith before the Promise was fulfilled in the coming of Jesus and some were given faith after the Promise was fulfilled in the coming of Jesus.  But, then again, is not the Promise fulfilled each and every time the Holy Spirit bestows faith?  Is not Jesus still coming to us each and every time we hear the Living Word, each and every time someone is baptized, each and every time the Lord's Supper is rightly celebrated?

[A small part of me has been reveling and exulting in learning this all day (now night).]

Anyway, I wanted to post a few quotes to show that the doctrine of the Living Word emphasizing where the source and will and strength for faith, for sanctification, and for good works lie:

Flesh is Always Against God
The flesh distrusts God, trusts in present things, seeks human aid in trouble, even contrary to God's will.  It flees from suffering, which it ought to bear because of God's commands. It doubts God's mercy and so on. The Holy Spirit in our hearts fights against such tendencies in order to suppress and kill them and to produce new spiritual motives. ~BOC, AP, V (III), 49-50

Faith is Brought By the Holy Spirit
We unanimously believe, teach, and confess the following about the righteousness of faith before God, in accordance with the comprehensive summary of our faith and confession presented above. A poor sinful person is justified before God, that is, absolved and declared free and exempt from all his sins and from the sentence of well-deserved condemnation, and is adopted into sonship and inheritance of eternal life, without any preceding, present, or subsequent works, out of pure grace, because of the sole merit, complete obedience, bitter suffering, death, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ alone. His obedience is credited to us for righteousness.

These treasures are brought to us by the Holy Spirit in the promise of the Holy Gospel. Faith alone is the only means through which we lay hold on, accept, apply, and take them for ourselves. This faith is God's gift, by which we truly learn to know Christ, our Redeemer, in the Word of the Gospel and trust in Him. We trust that for the sake of His obedience alone we have the forgiveness of sins by grace, are regarded as godly and righteousness by God the Father, and are eternally saved.
 ~BOC, FSD, III, 9-11

Conversion is Passive
Dr. Luther has written that a person's will in his conversion is purely passive, that is, that it does nothing at all. This is to be understood with respect to divine grace in the kindling of the new movements, that is, when God's Spirit, through the heard Word or the use of the holy Sacraments, lays hold of a person's will and works in him the new birth and conversion. When the Holy Spirit has worked and accomplish this, and a person's will has been changed and renewed by His divine power and working alone, then the new will of that person is an instrument and organ of God the Holy Spirit. So that person not only accepts grace, but he cooperates with the Holy Spirit in the works that follow. ~BOC, FE, II, 18

The Law Has No Power to Help Us Begin and Continue It
The Law indeed says it is God's will and command that we should walk in a new life. But it does not give the power and ability to begin and to do it. The Holy Spirit renews the heart. He is given and received, not through the Law, but through the preaching of the Gospel. Thereafter, the Holy Spirit uses the Law in order to teach the regenerate from it and to point out and show them in the Ten Commandments what is the "will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect" (Romans 12:2) in what "good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk" (Ephesians 2:10). He encourages them to this. When they are idle, negligent and rebellious in this mater because of the flesh, He rebukes them through the Law. So the Spirit carries out both offices together: He slays and makes alive. He leads into hell and brings up again. For His office is not only to comfort, but also to rebuke. For it is written, "when [the Holy Spirit] comes, He will convict the world [which includes also the old Adam] concerning sin and righteousness and judgment" (John 16:8). Sin is everything that is contrary to God's Law. St. Paul says, "All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof" (2 Timothy 3:16), and to rebuke is the Law's special office. Therefore, as often as believers stumble, they are rebuked by the Holy Spirit from the Law. By the same Spirit they are raised up and comforted again with the preaching of the Holy Gospel. ~BOC, FSD, VI, 11-14

Apart from Christ We Can Do Nothing
Also Romans 10:17 says, "Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ." It is God's will that His Word should be heard and that a person's ears should not be closed. With this Word the Holy Spirit is present and opens hearts, so that people pay attention to it and are converted only through the Holy Spirit's grace and power, who alone does the work of converting a person. For without His grace, and if He does not grant the increase, all our willing and running, our planting, sowing, and watering--are all nothing. As Christ says, in John 15:5 "Apart from me you can do nothing." With these brief words the Spirit denies free will its powers and ascribes everything to God's grace, in order that no one may boast before God. ~BOC, FE, II, 5-6

Thus Faith Enables Good Works
Therefore, it is easy to see that this doctrine is not to be accused of banning good works. Instead, it is to be commended all the more because it shows how we are enabled to do good works. For without faith, human nature cannot, in any way, do the works of the First or Second Commandment. Without faith, human nature cannot call upon God, nor expect anything from Him, nor bear the cross. Instead human nature seeks and trusts in human help. So when there is no faith and trust in God, all kinds of lusts and human intentions rule in the heart. This is why Christ says, "Apart from me you can do nothing" (John 15:5). That is why the Church sings: "Lacking Your divine favor, there is nothing in man. Nothing in him is harmless." ~BOC, AC, XX, 35-40

The Holy Spirit Sanctifies, Not Good Works
For there are many kinds of spirits mentioned in the Holy Scriptures, such as the spirit of man, heavenly spirits, and evil spirits. But God's Spirit alone is called the Holy Spirit, that is He who has sanctified and still sanctifies us. For just as the Father is called "Creator" and the Son is called "Redeemer," so the Holy Spirit, from His work, must be called "Sanctifier," or "One who makes holy." ~BOC, LC, II, 36

We are Sanctified Through the Living Word
Whenever God's Word is taught, preached, heard, read, or mediated upon, then the person, day, and work are sanctified. This is not because of the outward work, but because of the Word, which makes saints of us all. ~BOC, LC, I, 92

The Holy Spirit Carries on His Work to the Last Day
But the Holy Spirit carries on His work without ceasing to the Last Day. For that purpose He has appointed a congregation upon earth by which He speaks and does everything. For He has not yet brought together all His Christian Church or granted all forgiveness. Therefore, we believe in Him who daily brings us into the fellowship of this Christian Church through the Word. Through the same Word and the forgiveness of sins He bestows, increases, and strengthens faith. So when He has done it all, and we abide in this and die to the world and to all evil, He may finally make us perfectly and forever holy. Even now we expect this in faith through the Word. ~BOC, LC, II, 61-62

I could quote more ... about how the Living Word makes the Sacraments, how the Sacraments are the work of God, how Christ is the best teacher of the Living Word, etc.  But the main point I wanted to show here is this unbroken line in the sand that circles the world round, that bars all creation: Original Sin.  We cannot cross the line to God, to salvation, to faith, to sanctification.  Only the Holy Spirit can and does and will continue to do so.

God created us.  Jesus Saved us.  The Holy Spirit bestows, builds, and sustains faith, sanctifying us through the Living Word.  Faith is the author and doer of all good works.  Not us.

In the pure doctrine, there simply is no place for humanity, for human nature or wisdom or strength, in spiritual matters.  It is all about the Promise, about Christ crucified for us.

Yet that pure Gospel is dying in our churches today.  It is being felled through death by a thousand cuts.  Those cuts all begin, continue, and end with man.  They are every teaching, every concept, every principle, every trend, every teaching approach, every outreach effort, every relevant change, every modernizing, every supposition, every story, every analogy that steals the honor and glory from Jesus Christ to focus on our worship, our working out of faith, our piety, our outreach, our devotion, our worship, our serving, our relationships with God.

It is a death we notice not.  An inimical and egregious perfidy committed against Christ and against His beloved that we welcome, fund, research, publish, celebrate, and fawn over.  We have become so enamored with our own words that we have lost sight of the power and the sufficiency of God's Words.
  • Asking what would Jesus do.
  • Sharing your testimony.
  • Identifying and pursuing components of godly living.
  • Developing and executing principles of a growing church.
  • Tips and tools to effective presentations while preaching.
  • Foundational approaches to saving our society. 
  • Capturing our culture for Christ.
  • How to speak to the lost in today's world.
  • Inclusive services, curriculums, and fellowship opportunities.
  • Reading the latest books.
  • Posting the latest captioned photo.
  • Proving your devotion by _________.
But you know that "favorite" quote of mine I am wont to return to again and again and again, the bit of doctrine teaching us that the Living Word has and is able to do all that God is and can do (LC, IV, 17). The promise of Isaiah 55 and all of Holy Scripture wrapped up in a single, concise, concrete truth.

Every step we take away from the Living Word being our first source, from the pure doctrine being our first research reference, and from the Word and the Sacraments being our sole focus in our services is a cutting away of the flesh of the pure Gospel.

In the churches I grew up in, the Gospel was nearly picked clean, a bare-boned cadaver used best as a starting point from which we were to go out and strive to become all that God means for us to be, strengthen our relationship to Christ, to further His work in this world, to lead others to a saving knowledge of Jesus, to share our faith.

We cannot be who God means us to be until we are raised in glory.  Our foe saw to that.  In the garden and now, today, in his wily, unceasing assaults, in the ways of the world, and in our own flesh. We do not build relationships with Christ, for it is He who draws us to Himself and holds us in His hands.  We do not further God's work in this world because it is the Holy Spirit who guides, empowers, and accomplishes the good works prepared for us by God who cares for and tends to all creation.  We do not lead others to a saving knowledge of Christ, for only the Holy Spirit opens hearts and eyes and ears and minds, giving faith where and when it pleases God.  We have no testimony to share that is about  our saving faith.  We receive and live by and with and through the faith of Jesus Christ, so it is ours only in the sense that it is a gift bestowed to individuals--not nations or races or cultures--but the actor (the doer) of that faith is Jesus, not us.

In my opinion, the most effective tool in the wielding of death by a thousand cuts are the specious foundations of Christian living theologies abounding today.  We claim that this is all mere semantics.  That meaning is made in the individual and is idiosyncratic in nature.  Thus, we search for personal meaning, personal application, and yet, oddly, we do so in a standardized fashion that we may proscribe for others.  That standardization is built upon concepts we pluck from the Bible and from our notions of reverence or worship or working out of faith.  So, one group grabs ahold of the notion of  the order of creation and makes it Law for the godly Christian.  Another focuses on the best way to equip ourselves to do God's work.  Still another details the minutia of proper movements during worship to in order to be truly devout.  Here a group focuses on what living out the Law should look like in daily every life.  There a group focuses on modeling Jesus in outreach to others, from climbing trees to standing in public squares.  And we have the group holding the pursuit of a godly government and a pious culture as the proper course of action for all Christians.

Merely preaching the Law, without Christ, either makes proud people, who imagine that they can fulfill the Law by outward works, or forces them utterly to despair. Therefore, Christ takes the Law into His hands and explains it spiritually. He reveals His wrath from heaven on all sinners and show how great it is. In this teaching sinners are directed to the Law, and from it they first learn to know their sins correctly--a confession that Moses could never wrestle out of them. For as the apostle testified, even though Moses is read, the veil he put over his face is never lifted. So they cannot understand the Law spiritually, and what great things it requires of us, and how severely it curses and condemns us because we cannot keep or fulfill it. "But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed." (2 Corinthians 3:16). ~BOC, FSD, V, 10

Jesus.  The teacher of the Law.  Jesus.  The One who lifts the veil.  Jesus.  The One who frees us from Moses.  Jesus.  The One in whom we have no condemnation and the freedom to live bound not by law.

Centuries ago the Church fathers warned of the dangers of the Law without Christ.  All throughout the BOC lies the delineation of what the Gospel is not, what the Law is not, what flesh is not, what repentance is not, what faith is not, what works are not, what our doctrine is not, even as we are taught what those are.  Fierce, ferocious, uncompromising defense and confession of the true Gospel.

Decades ago, throughout the lectures that comprise The Proper Distinction Between Law and Gospel, Walther also emphasized the not.  In fact, the very first words of his series were:

"It is not my intention to give a systematic treatment of the doctrine of the Law and the Gospel in these lectures.  My aim is rather to show you how easy it is to work a great damage upon your hearers by confounding Law and Gospel spite of their fundamental difference and thus to frustrate the aim of both doctrines" (p. 6).

I believe it is no accident, no clever, crafty presentation technique that Walther begins with teaching what the proper distinction between Law and Gospel is not.  Six points Walther makes about what that distinction is not.  And a common thread woven throughout his lectures is that Jesus is not the new Moses.

And so I would proffer that the dismissal or disregard of the not is the edge of the blade of every tool used for every cut that is killing the true Gospel.

And yet this
despite the sin of man,
despite the hunger we have for the teaching of enthusiasts,
despite the goal of spiritual self-actualization,
the pure Gospel will remain.

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

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Caught on all sides...

Right now, my neighbors to either side are in the midst of their own battles with anger.  I know this because I can hear their rage through the windows I keep open upstairs and sitting on the back steps waiting upon Amos to battle his fear of the grass long enough to tend to his business.  I grieve for each family, knowing something of their pain and wishing I did not.  For me.  For them.

Their anger frightens me.

I learned a while ago to recognize ... to begin to recognize ... that I respond to anger in unconscious, intrinsic ways.  And that those responses are born of fear.  The reason I have begun to recognize this, however, is that the neurological disease magnifies so very many of my responses.  That coupled with PTSD means that, as I have written before, in a way I have little, if any, control of my body.

Something I struggled with, moving from the world of academia into the corporate world, was the anger that I witnessed within the workplace.  As a college professor, I never had colleagues yell at each other ... or at me.  In the corporate world, I encountered anger in the work place.  Anger unfettered by civility and directed at co-wokers.  More and more, from the time I left off being a professor until my last job.

It was at my last job, though, where the anger floored me.
Appalled me.
Terrified me.

Two senior staff regularly vented their ire upon their employees.  Everyone knew it.  Their departments were revolving doors.  Both were bullies, who spent much of their time at work making life rather difficult for everyone around them.  One also bullied those outside the organization.  To this day, I do not understand why it is that either has a job.

I can write of this objectively because the pro-bono financial advisor helping me, who is a Christian and a very, very gentle and gentile woman, had contact with one of those two senior staff.  I tried to prepare the financial advisor for how she would be treated, but there was no way for her to help me and avoid interacting with the staff person.  The financial advisor, who is a VP of a very well-known, national company, said that in her entire career she had never encountered such an angry person who treated others in such a horrible fashion.

But her encounter with the senior staff person was but a small, small glimpse of the tirades and verbal floggings we experienced on a daily basis.

Both women hated each other, as well, and so they often sent staff as emissaries, as a way to raise the other's ire and avoid her at the same time.  I loathed being a pawn and eventually girded my loins enough to tell the CEO that being caught between the two women was untenable and that I, personally, did not want to be in such a position again.  That conversation went nowhere.

And then the organization hired someone I knew and admired.  I thought, perhaps, the hostility might be curtailed a bit because she was such a strong, gracious person.  At least, that is how I knew her while working for and with her before.

In the months before I lost my job, when admittedly I was fracturing into pieces too small for me to hold together anymore, one of the senior staff and the new vice president got into a raging fight just feet from where I was.  Before I knew it, I was hiding beneath my desk.  I couldn't move.  I could barely breathe.  Fear overwhelmed my heart and mind and body.  With my whole being I wanted to flee the office, the day was not yet done.

I gave not a thought to finding myself under my desk.  Not then.

In the linked posted above, I wrote about discovering that I had avoided drunk people my entire adult life without realizing that that was what I was doing.  I discovered that because I encountered someone who was drunk and found myself paralyzed with fear, wanting to flee but unable to do so.  It was reflecting upon that moment, the reaction I had, many times that eventually brought my mind back to the day I hid beneath my desk ... a terrified child in a forty-three-year-old's body.

When I hear the arguing, the raised voices, and the sound of things being thrown and broken, I find myself wanting to hide. Though, thanks wholly to the sweet, sweet Gospel and the power of the Living Word, I ... mostly ... do not hide.  The pull of the response, though, is still there.

When I see a large dog, even on a leash, I become paralyzed with fear, often insensible.  I am some better from the pit bull attack, but I am also not ... better.  Yesterday, I discovered that two large, hulking, barking, jumping dogs moved in two houses down.  Amos and I were already outdoors when they were let outside.  I was appalled to see them jump higher than the half fence in their yard.  Amos was atop my shoulders really before I could comprehend what was happening.  We both had the same idea:  flee!

The thought of having to face another source of fear wearies me, fells me once again.  In a way, it is as if I am being pulled to the ground again and again and again, knowing that soon I will not be able to rise again.  I am caught in the moment of the pit bull attack, but it is my enemy, not a dog, pulling me down again and again and again.

I work and I work and I work to tell myself that things are otherwise than what I am feeling, but when my response is physical, I fail at convincing myself that I will eventually be safe.

For the longest time, I thought that the first symptom of Dysautonomia was the fainting.  Three years of pursuing that before I was diagnosed.  Granted, I gave up after the first year, and took up the request for help again in year three.  But, looking back, I decided that anxiety was more likely my first symptom.

Anxiety is one of those things I find myself despairing of trying to explain.  For the most part, the response I get from others is that anxiety is all psychological.  I understand that is a truth.  Anxiety can and is often caused by psychological factors.  But anxiety can also be neurological in nature.  It is that kind of anxiety that I believe was my first symptom.

Perhaps Bettina could say, but I honestly know not when it started.  However, I do know the first anxious-Myrtle I noticed was trying to pack to visit my best friend.  I would fret and would find myself unable to make decisions.  Eventually, Bettina would coach me through packing.  And the few times she did not I was ... at the time ... inexplicably frustrated with her.  There was no trauma associated in visiting her.  In fact, visiting with Bettina fill the highlight reel of my life.

Bettina knew me before.  Bettina knows/knew what I call the sane Myrtle.  Not, really, that I am insane, but she knew the real me ... or the other me.  Truth be told, I oft wonder if that is why she is still my friend even when being so is difficult, even when I make no sense to her.  But, in any case, I did not understand what was happening then, nor did she.  I did not know how to voice what was happening or how to ask for the help that I needed. Now, she understands and she helps even before I ask.

But the reason I have become rather firmly convinced anxiety was my first symptom is that my first physical response to fear that I noticed was a searing flash of nerve pain radiating from the center of my chest out to the ends of my limbs.  The first time, I was driving in the car ... a tiny bit fast ... and passed a police car.  I was sure that I had earned myself a ticket.  And I felt the pain race along beneath my skin for the first time.

[Need I mention that I hate when it happens?]

The dogs.  Sounds outside.  The voices.  A particularly bad session of innards writhing.  A new high heart rate.  A new low blood pressure.  A knock on the door.

Over the past two years, that searing flash has grown stronger, deeper, more intense.
And more frequent.
Despite now understanding the why of it.

These days, I feel as if I am caught on all sides. If not one thing, it is another.  I have to talk to myself constantly, trying to calm one part of me or another, trying to endure one moment from the next, trying to face one battle after another.  Caught and being destroyed.

...we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; ~2 Corinthians 4:8-9

Oh, the times have these verses been taught to me as instruction for Christian Living and felled me in the knowledge that I failed living them!  SIGH.

[I know, I wrote that just recently.  Perhaps I should try to compile a list of popular verses given in the mainline evangelical church as instructions for godly living?  Of course, my rememberer would have to work properly to do so.]

On a friend's blog today, I wrote about how I have come the believe that there is this terrible habit of taking verses and chew and chew and chew on them, making them all about Christian living, until the concept becomes the message, instead of the actual Living Word.

So, when I consider the verses above, my response is what a poor job I am doing at being a Christian! This is because I struggle with despair and such.  But thinking about what I wondered the other day, about whether the character proving hope was not mine but Christ's, I dared to look up those verses in a larger context:

For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus' sake.  For God, who said, "Light shall shine out of darkness," is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.

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. ~2 Corinthians 4: 5-10

Well, then, at least this seems less and less about my "working out my faith or my relationship with God" and about Jesus.  But I still feel the failure thinking about how the reality is that I am caught on all sides.

Of course, the confessional Lutheran in me wondered if that "whole carrying about in the body" business was somehow a reference to the Lord's Supper.  I also noted, with pleasure, another reference where the light shining is being done by Jesus, not man, so there is no landing back in the trap of thinking I need to make the light of my faith shine bright enough to be a good witness for Jesus.

Still, as I noted, where is faith in the thoughts and feelings I have about battling through nearly every moment of every day?

For example, having spent two weeks now, languishing in bed, trying to recover from the physical exhaustion and pain of the trip to my father's funeral, yesterday I resolved to watch the finale to Downton Abbey "live," meaning to get out of bed and watch it from the GREEN chair. Of course, I had already been up and on my feet making basil burgers (and discovering the joy that is using fresh basil paste in the recipe). And I decided to take a shower before the show started so that my hair could dry whilst not lying atop the ice packs I use when lying down. Stepping out of the shower, my heart rate was at 206 with my blood pressure at 76/39.  In that moment, I was terrified of the response of my body and worried what the next moments would hold.

My heart rate slowed (given that I was no longer straining my body by both standing and by using my arms above my heart) and my blood pressure rose (given that I was supine once more) and the fear passed.  But the lingering of that moment is with me still, thinking how that was a new high for one whose heart rate is usually in the 60s and the 50s.

I loathe that I am so aware of the beating of my heart.
I loathe how I feel when it slows.
I loathe how I feel when it races.

And I struggle ... deeply ... with the fact that facing my errant heart is not all that is before me, even in the moments after showers.  I have to think about eating after a shower, so as not to have a blood sugar crash. I have to think about not fainting from the warmth of the shower.

And, as is often of late, I had to face my physiological response to the sounds of anger coming through the open window, in addition to hoping that none of that would trigger another migraine or fuel another night terror or night mare.

I do hide in the Psalter.
But, I fear, I am also beginning to slip back into hiding even from myself.
Because of fear.

Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

The wheels keep turning...

My father died.

There is an entire set of encyclopedias within that statement.  And yet that is all I can really say or write.  Too much is too confusing and too complicated.

A month ago, I suffered a loss that still has me curled in a ball in the corner of my closet.  Figuratively if not so much literally anymore.  Two weeks following that, a text that I knew meant the end.  A day later, another text confirming my fear.

I personally believe that God moved heaven and earth so that I could go to my father's funeral service.  I am still not sure if going was right.  While there, my sister noted that this was probably the last time the three of us would ever be together, my brother, sister, and I.  I happen to believe that she is right.  For that reason alone, the physical and financial cost should be worth it.  I almost did not recognize her.  It has been so many years since I have seen her.

My father died and the wheels keep turning.  The sun rises and sets.  Buses carry children to and from school.  Roads are clogged with commuters.  My father died and nothing changed for the rest of the world. Nor, seemingly, has it been marked by his passing.

Fathers die every day.  With a world as full of human beings such as this one, fathers probably die hourly.  Fathers.  Mothers.  Sisters.  Brothers.  Aunts and uncles.  Husbands and wives.  Children.  Neighbors. Colleagues.  Classmates.  And the wheels keep turning.

I have not posted on the Snippets from the Christian Book of Concord blog in a while.  I did yesterday. It was the 200th one.

I have not posted there in a while because I am at the point where in this collection of excerpts some portions of our Confessions are tapped out.  The others, such as the Apology or the Formula Solid Declaration, have thoughts that need longer quotations to contain them.  So, I am unsure if I should continue.  After all, it is not as if the blog has many readers.  I think, in fact, I might be the only one using the labels to search for topics.  I regret not, though, the labor in creating it.

Just as I regret not the labor in creating the Praying the Psalter blog.  That I know is not much visited, nor useful as a tool for anyone, given the stats I see.  I did discover that Blogger only allows for 20 labels per blog entry.  Some of the psalms in the Psalter are so rich and so complex that choosing just 20 labels is brutal.  In fact, I wonder if I am committing an egregious perfidy against the Psalter in so doing.  Truly, I do.

In any case, other than my sweet and kind Facebook friend who "likes" nearly everything I post as a way of saying, "I see you, Myrtle." I am not sure many of my few friends are even reading the psalms I post there.  That's okay, though, too.  I enjoy typing them out.  And in so doing I have discovered things I have forgotten, already, about my beloved Psalter, such as what I posted the other day about Psalm 15.

In any case,  I am in caught in this maelstrom of doubt and certitude, of revelation and secrets, that has me wondering what is true, what is real.  I have grave and serious concerns about my being at my father's service because of where it was held, because of the theology preached, proclaimed, sung.  Those worries and fears are knotted up in great tangles with other worries and fears and thoughts and feelings.

Yesterday, I think, a pastor on Facebook posted the following:

You know them ... they have never been robbed of the Gospel, or seen others robbed of the Gospel. They have never gone to church Sunday after Sunday and not heard that their sins are forgiven, not heard the forgiveness denied amidst the Supper ... they look at those who have been bludgeoned to death with the law as mere enemies of the Gospel, not souls for whom Christ died. They express it in a flippant manner. And, in an odd way, this does not allow them to know the seriousness of the law, which they ignorantly try to apply to others. Theology, for them, is a zero sum game.

For a guy who gets many "likes" for his posts, this was largely ignored.  And yet it was rather timely for me.  So, as I am wont to do, I stood rather naked on Facebook in my responses to his post.  First I wrote:

I sort of thought this might have dozens of "likes" by now. Part of what you write here is why my father's funeral service was so difficult, a difficulty that caught me off guard. It was not so much the female minister, but all the things that were being proclaimed and all the nodding of heads.

Sometimes, I am criticized as not wanting the Law, which is not true. To me, to the ex-evangelical me, the most beautiful part of the pure doctrine is the second article of the Augsburg Confession. It freed me from trying to establish/enlarge/deepen/secure my relationship with Jesus, to be responsible for my saving faith. So, starting from that understanding, from knowing that I cannot fear or love or trust God without the gift of faith, I think the Christian Book of Concord has helped me understand the Law better. But I am weary of being bludgeoned by it (awesome word there), so even the tiniest whiff of Law woven into Gospel makes me recoil and want to run and hide. Yet I also want to scream and shout that Christ crucified is NOT about what we do with our lives and in our worship.

I admit that I do not understand the phrase "zero sum game," but I do think that I understand the whole of it. I mean, I stand back and watch, over and over and over again, people with the pure doctrine cast it aside and chase after myriad theologies that are basically all veneers over the same error: works righteousness. In a way, I have come to think that some Lutherans are rather masterful at veneering works righteousness, giving specious teaching that can be compelling in its logic and use of doctrinal phrasing.

Each day that passes I realize more and more how little Gospel I heard in 31 years in the mainline evangelical church. I grieve for those brothers and sisters in Christ. But I grieve, too, for those who have it and yet hold it in in such disregard ... or who had it and walked away.

I admit, confess rather, that when I see so many chasing after relevancy and harmony and personal holiness and ways to sanctified living ... so many ... I begin to doubt what I read in the Christian Book of Concord and even in the Bible. I doubt because I cannot understand how one could read the pure doctrine and then fiercely defend such blatant false teaching. I don't understand how the Christian faith has become a means to correct, to fix, to save society or culture. I really don't.

So I wonder what I am missing.

Thanks for the post. 

His response, among other things, was that perhaps we are the only two on Facebook who have lived without the Gospel.

I bared myself further:

You know, I find such solace in the Confessions (as I have written probably too much), each and every time they speak of anguished souls and those needing comfort and consolation, those burdened, even terrified, when they consider their sin. The authors write as if such are the norm or at least not unusual at all and the authors write that they (that I) are the very reason for the Gospel. So, it is sweet, very sweet. I understand fully why the psalmist writes that the Word of God is sweeter than honey. If you put a dollop in your mouth and taste that explosion of exquisite sweetness and then think that Gospel message is even sweeter, even more, well, then you can become overwhelmed.

I want never to go back, never to be embattled on all sides with the constant and cruel condemnation of the Law. Only, when I read those who still hold it out as being a part of the living of the Gospel somehow, I think that the Gospel is so sweet, so overwhelming in grace and mercy because I wanted it to be. I think that what I read in the Psalter, the compassion and intimate knowledge of my heart and soul, of my mind and body, of my failings and desires, is only there because somehow I am putting it there.

I think, surely, our Triune God could not be
this good. It shames me, but I do.

But I also know, wholly and fully and deeply, that I cannot fulfill the Law or please God or earn merit. I know, like I know the sky is blue and the grass is green, that nothing in me is good, that the kind or merciful things I do are not of me or from me but from the Holy Spirit. I know this because I cannot hide from my heart and my mind, I cannot deny the less-than-kind or less-than-merciful thoughts to flit through me even as I am serving my neighbor.

Even so, I hear and read such passioned calls to live
this way, worship that way, where the freedom of the Gospel is limited not by mercy or compassion, but by rules for living in every facet of life. I see such fierce fighting for those strictures and not for the sole and completeness of Christ crucified, not for the sole and completeness of the work of the Holy Spirit. I see how I am to help the Holy Spirit along in His work and despair creeps in, doubt begins to take root.

For, as I said before, how could God be
this good?

Okay, so the weak and weary co-opted your post. But just as the Confessions help me to feel less lonely and more likely to possibly be a part of the Body of Christ, so also do your words. I see not the sharpness of the pen; I see the grief driving it across the page (or the fingertips across the keyboard).

Grief of the losing of the Gospel ... on all sides.

Then I went to the BOC and flipped it open.  Where I landed, after skimming a bit, was the post I made to the Snippets blog:

They also cite the daily sacrifice. Just as there was a daily sacrifice in the Law, so the Mass should be a daily sacrifice of the New Testament. The adversaries have made out well if we allow ourselves to be overcome by allegories. Clearly allegories do not produce firm proof. We readily allow the Mass to be understood as a daily sacrifice, as long as that includes the entire Mass: the ceremony with the preaching of the Gospel, faith, invocation, and thanksgiving. Joined together, these are a daily sacrifice of the New Testament because the ceremony of the Mass, or the Lord's Supper, was set up because of these things. The Mass is not to be separated from them. So Paul says, "For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until He comes" (I Corinthians 11:26). But it cannot be shown from this Levitical type that a ceremony justifying by the outward work (ex opere operato) is necessary, or should be applied on behalf of others, that it may merit the forgiveness of sins for them.

The type represents appropriately not only the ceremony, but also the preaching of the Gospel. In Numbers 28:4-8, three parts of that daily sacrifice are represented: the burning of the lamb, the drink offering, and the offering of wheat flour. The Law had pictures or shadows of future things. So Christ and the entire worship of the New Testament are shown in this picture. The burning of the lamb illustrates Christ's death. The drink offering illustrates that everywhere in the entire world, by the preaching of the Gospel, believers are sprinkled with the blood of that Lamb, that is, sanctified. Peter says, "In the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with His blood" (I Peter 1:2). The offering of wheat flour means faith, prayer, and thanksgiving in hearts. Therefore, in the Old Testament, the shadow is discerned. In the New, the thing illustrated should be sought, and not another type, as sufficient for a sacrifice.

Although a ceremony is a memorial of Christ's death, it alone is not the daily sacrifice. The memory itself is the daily sacrifice, that is, preaching and faith. Faith truly believes that, by Christ's death, God has been reconciled. A drink offering is required, that is, the effect of preaching, in order that, being sprinkled by the Gospel with the blood of Christ, we may be sanctified, as those put to death and made alive. Offerings are also required, that is, thanksgiving, confession, and troubles.

~BOC, AP, XXIV (XII), 35-38

I could write for hours, days really, even if my brain were not compromised in the least, about hearing the Gospel as like being sprinkled with Christ's blood that the Holy Spirit might sanctify me.  Such hope there ... and such peace.  But it was the last sentence that has caught and held me, wrapped itself around me to dampen the effects of being buffeted about:  Offerings are also required, that is, thanksgiving, confession, and troubles.

Thank you, God, for sending your Son to save me and the Holy Spirit to sanctify me and give me faith.
Thank you, God, for doing this, for daily and richly forgiving this wretched, despairing, doubtful, sinner.
Thank you, God, for tending to my brokenness even when my wounds keep me from crying out for help.

Perhaps you might take a different stance on the latter.  Perhaps you read it not as I did: "Offerings are also required, that is, thanksgiving, confession, and (the) troubles (you bring to Me to carry)."  Maybe you read it not as John 16:33, but perhaps as Romans 5:3-4.  Oh, how the latter passage has troubled me!

I read the former as a promise.  Christ tells his disciples that they will be scattered each to his home and that they will leave Jesus alone, but that He would not actually be alone because God the Father was always with Him.  Then Christ added:  "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."

Not, in the world you might have tribulation but that you have it.  Period.  End of story.  No doubt there.  To live in Christ is not to live in the world; oh, how the world doesn't like it if you disagree with it.  But really He is merely reminding them, I believe, that the world is fallen.  The world is filled with sin.  Including its occupants.  So tribulation is part and parcel to life in this world.

I read John 16:33 as a promise and an offer of hope, of blinding light flashing across a darkened world, reminding it that it cannot overcome because it has already been overcome.  And I think about all the dozens and dozens and dozens of times in the Psalter where we are given the words to pray:  Call upon Me ... I will hear you ... I will answer you ... and all variations thereof.  All with the same certitude and lack of qualification.  Not I might answer, but I will.  Not call upon me if you are righteous or if you have been following the Law or if you been a good little girl.  Just call.  I will hear you.  I will answer.  Call because I know you have troubles in your life.

Is there any Gospel sweeter than all that is contained in John 16:33?

I read the latter passage as condemnation.  I read Romans 5:3-4 and I tremble and shake; I become filled with failure and shame.

And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation bring about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because of the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

Oh, the weight of that passage!  It fells me each and every time I hear it read, hearkening back to all the teaching I have heard about how I am to work out my faith by following the instructions of this passage.  All the ways in which I am to rejoice as I suffer and work on my character and such and be able to demonstrate the great hope I have.  You know, the suffering saint.  The suffering saint who is such a good witness for Christ that others might come to know Him.  The suffering saint whose light shines so brightly that all know that Jesus is God.

But, as I think on that bit from the Apology, and how all the pure doctrine boils down to Christ crucified, I wonder ... dare I type it??? ... I wonder if the character that is proved, resulting in hope, is not my character, but Christ's.  Could it be?

Oh, Lord, let it be!

My father died.  And the wheels keep turning.  The world moved on while I am still there, in that moment.  In the moment I heard of my first loss. In the moment I read the text.  In the moment I realized I knew nothing about my father.  In the moment I heard a Gospel foreign to that which I have been clinging these past three and half years, surrounded by all of those nodding heads and believing hearts.

I am no suffering saint.  In fact, it seems to me the more I try to be the less I am.  And the more I suffer the more I am but a huddled mass of human misery too weak and weary even to voice the cry of her soul to God.

I have no great character.  In fact, the more of I learn of me, the more I realize how flawed and sinful I am, how nothing I do is free from some sort of pride or greed or self-pity or doubt or frustration or any number of the facets sin takes in my life.

I have no hope in me, of me.  Any time I hear the slightest bit of what I should be doing, how I should be living my life, I recoil in terror and shame so great I become paralyzed.  All I really want to hear is ... as I have written ... it is okay.

It is okay that you are a sinner.
It is okay that your character is dross.
It is okay that you have no hope.

All you are required to offer is thanksgiving for Christ crucified, for His faith given to you, His character proved into hope great enough, pure enough, strong enough for all of creation.

It is okay that you have troubles.  They ... they are your offerings, which I gladly receive, for that is what I am given to do as your Father, your Creator, the One who loves you.  Even now.  Even this day.

Even when you cannot believe the wheels are turning for everyone else ... and you are hurt and angry that they are.

Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Two things...

During the trip to my father's funeral, two things about my current condition came to light for me ... at least are now ever present on my mind: Accessibility and Auditory Processing.

The more that I need accessibility measures, the more I have noticed: 1) "accessible" places are few and far between and 2)  even "accessible" places are not all that accessible.

I have written of this before, my first thoughts along these lines being handicapped parking places.  For one, I have found that few retail places have more than the minimum requirement for handicapped places.  At my last job, we did not even have the minimum.  And the staff from the Secret Service training center, who shared our building for most of my tenure there, regularly used the single handicapped spot as a place to set up tables for their outdoor training activities.  I finally advocated for the landlord to address the latter activity and then researched the required spaces for the building and asked that they be marked off.  My advocacy did not go over well with either my bosses or the landlord.

I did find it interesting that the landlord came to speak to me, told me that he was happy to comply, and announced that he was pleased to announce that he would be offering more than the minimum spaces.  In the end, though, in my tenure there, the parking lot was never more than approximately half full, he actually did not even meet the minimum requirements.  Instead, he tried to minimize loss of regular parking by coupling access for two spaces into one slot, but then did not allow for the required access width in adjacent spots.  He also reassigned the original handicapped spot as normal parking, making the closest spot to the door fair game for anyone.

But what I first noticed about handicapped parking spaces was the fact that, in the DC metropolitan area at least, most of the snow plows used the handicapped spaces as a convenient spot in which to pile up the snow.  Not only were the handicapped parking spaces then not available during the snow, but they were the last spots of the parking lot to become available as the snow melted.

Because of my mother's interior design business, I first learned of universal design before I needed any accessible measures.  Within universal design is the concept that a space is available for use for all ages and myriad physical capabilities.  Universal design is a growing business at the moment with more and more of our population wishing to age-in-place rather than move to residential homes.  With remodeling and new construction projects, my mother would talk with her clients about leaving open the possibility to age-in-place by having features such as seamless transitions in flooring, levered handles, touch plate switches, varied counter heights, pull-out storage, walk-in showers/tubs, and multi-stage lighting in task areas.

In the hotel accessible rooms, there were touch plate switches, but the outlets and switches were not at a height accessible by wheelchairs.  The layouts were not ones that would accommodate much maneuvering in a wheelchair.  While there were grab bars in the showers, there were not ones adjacent to the toilets, nor were the toilets appropriate height.  In the newly renovated room, there was no slip proof surface immediately upon entering (which made for tenuous walking coming in from the snow) the laminate-floored room and there were rugs next to the bed that were trip hazards.  Also in that room, the hot and cold water in the tub/shower were mislabeled.

But what stood out to me was the surface heights.

In rooms designed to sleep four people, there was only one luggage rack.  While luggage could be put on top of the room safe, its top was less than two feet off the floor.  There were dresser drawers, but they, too, were rather low.  I also am fairly sure there was not a single surface beneath which a wheelchair could fit so that someone might work.  In fact, there were few surfaces in all three rooms that were of a height that did not make the arthritis in my lower back scream with agony trying to bend over them for any length of time.  Until this trip, I did not realize just how much I have taken to doing tasks at spaces/tops where I do not have to bend over at all.

I found myself sitting on the bed to tend to things, but sitting unaided is also an agony for me.  I have to have something supporting me from behind, as one has in a chair.  I can ... and do ... find myself sitting down unaided to work.  And I will do so for long periods of time, caught up in whatever it is that I am doing.  But the moment I move it is highly difficult to stifle a scream and the pain in my lower and upper most portions of my spine lingers for far, far too long.  I only sit these days because I forget that I should not do so.  Ever.

In any case, until this visit, I did not realize how much I have restricted activity in my own home to places I find high enough to tackle tasks without pain.  In many ways, I think this is one of the reasons why I do so much lounging in the GREEN chair.  I even fold laundry there!

The second enlightenment actually came through my best friend.

While we were driving and driving and driving and driving in the car, I pulled out my iPhone and played one of my playlists for her.  I wanted to sing the silly songs to avoid the things that I was thinking and feeling.  I rather happily sang my way through a set not understanding how much my distraction was hurting my friend.

You see, I listen to music with the treble turned all the way up, the bass turned all the way down, and a bit loudly.  That is the way I can hear the songs.  Until she gently told me she could not bear another song at those settings, I never considered that my adjustments might be hurtful to another person.  But it was her disbelief in my not understanding there was anything amiss with my music settings that hit me ... like the proverbial punch in the stomach.

Bettina lightly mentioned how one of her friends is learning about auditory processing problems.  Her child is currently seeing an audiologist.  Bettina noted that she did not think my seeing one would be helpful, given the nature of why my hearing is off, but she suggested ... in an utterly unspoken fashion ... that I might want to consider just how off my hearing could be.

[Oh, has Bettina honed her speaking-gently-to-Myrtle skill!]

I have written recently (I think) about how, with all the online television and movie watching I have been doing, I look up a synopsis of what I am to watch and read through it both before and during the watching.  I need the guidance to comprehend the stories to which I am listening.  I also have begun to watch something a second time before moving on to something else.

During Advent, one of the evening prayer services had a homily by a guest pastor.  I heard not a single word he said.  To me, it was as if I was listening to an episode of Charlie Brown and that unintelligible person was speaking.  I was with Sandra, and she said there was a problem with the microphone, but it did not seem as if she heard nothing, as I did.  It seemed that she had a problem hearing, too.  I wonder if she understood that I heard nothing.  

I know I have written how I cannot hear the melody line in organ music and thus have not learned any of the hymns sung during service ... even for the ones with six or more verses.  In fact, aside from when I am listening to things at home or on my iPhone, I discern few words in most music even if I might hear a bit of the melody.  And I know that I have noted that I learn music best now if it is sung a cappella by a male voice ... mostly only if I hear it that way.  This is such a vast change for one who used to learn music completely by ear and who could harmonize with most of what she heard, at least in part.  A Grand Canyon kind of change, if you will.

Thinking on Bettina's unvoiced suggestion, the pieces of my hearing problems started fitting into a new picture for me.  I mean, I know that my last auditory evoked potential was abnormal and that my last hearing test showed a loss.  At the time, I simply did not want to think about what that meant.  I mean, if it is wonky nerves, what could anyone do?  Nothing helps the blurred or double vision spells I have.  But not understanding how distorted my music can sound to another was a shock.  And it made me wonder if my hearing problems are a larger a part of the comprehension problems I have than I understood (pun intended).

I have noticed in the past few months, but not written about, that I now find it rather difficult to follow sermons.  I like, very much, that one of my pastors writes out his sermons and will send them to me if I remember to ask.  [I wish I remembered more.]  I can then take the written version and re-listen to the sermon because they are now being posted to the church's website.

Note-taking used to be a highly honed skill of mine. In fact, I would give seminars to high-school seniors on college prep that included teaching my own method of taking notes.  It involves using symbols instead of letter or numbers to create notes that have a hierarchal nature.  This enhances listening comprehension as the note-taker makes decisions about what he/she is recording.  However, if I try to take notes, I miss anything that is spoken whilst I am writing.  In fact, if I actually find myself thinking about what I am hearing, I miss whole chunks.  Oh, has my brain changed!

While parts of me can still talk in an erudite fashion, most of me needs to have discussions filled with repetition and peppered with simple statements.  And I need for the other person to write things down or send me follow-up notes if I am to remember what is said.  I speak of remembering as a problem more often than understanding, but the latter is equally a problem as the former.  I just mask it more.  I pretend more.  I deny more.

Even here, where a blog entry might have taken a half an hour or perhaps a whole one in the past, I now find myself spending a half a day or more (sometimes much more) trying to write what I want to say. This one has been four days in the writing.  In a way, it is one of the reasons why I have grown more and more reticent to respond to things on Facebook even though I ache ... deeply ... to be engaged in any sort of thinking discussions.

For me, the work of crafting a message has become so darned laborious.  I struggle to write, which exhausts me and discourages me.  I become distracted, which confuses me and makes me feels as if I should abandon the attempt.  I note these things and despair.  Perhaps a good comparison might be asking an ice skater to perform her routine on ice without skates.  It can be done ... but not as quickly or easily as with them.  What skater would even want to do so?

And the truth is that I have really only just begun to grieve the changes in my brain, to absorb all that I have lost and am losing.  To be able to face that ever-widening chasm.

The funeral trip was difficult in so very many ways, most of which I am not sure I can write about and really have no where to speak them.  But these two things, these two observations, have remained uppermost on my mind. The former because of its representation of how much physical freedom I have lost and the latter because I wonder if auditory processing problems are affecting far, far more of my life than I have acknowledged ... even to myself.

I am yours, Lord.  Save me!