Monday, March 31, 2014

Sheep and goats...

Tonight, I tried to pretend that Spring had actually arrived.

Amos?  Well, he was not so keen on having to face his fear of the Great Outdoors.  Have you ever seen a more tortured plea to go back inside?

Once I came to my senses, I promptly took both of us back inside and built a fire.  With this photo, I took nary a moment to truly think about it, but I really like how it turned out.  The kindling is still burning, the flames are all blurry, and that lovely bark is in focus.  My one true wish of fire-photo-taking is that I could capture how the smoke swirls around the green wood.  I have come to savor watching the movement of the smoke as much as I do that of the flames.

Saturday, I called the weekend pharmacist and asked if, instead of having the generic option that I was switched to this last cycle,  I could go back to what I had the past two cycles, when I switched.  Junelle is apparently the mosts popular choice, but I am wondering if the change has anything to do with how poorly I have handled the strain of the past two weeks.

When I think of all that I have had to swallow, I think my fear of the change in generic is silly.  Is of no consequence.  Mostly, because the very, very, very little girl in me is downright terrified of going back to life without erythromycin.  Even if, somehow, it is possible for me to take one of the other classes of drug (all have far greater interactions and cardiac concern), I will be embarking on the rather unpleasant roller coaster of trial and error.  Celia very kindly reminded me to stock up on activated charcoal.  SIGH.

I just don't see how I can go back to spending hours and hours each day writhing in agony with innards misery.

In any case, I have been drowning in fear and shame and just couldn't see myself going back to catechesis today, even though I have been waiting for instruction for so long.  I did not think I could go.  But I tried the whole asking for help thing again, this time just speaking my fear and shame to my pastor.  Frankly, his response sounded like something Mary would write me.  Very gentle.  And some sweet, sweet Gospel thrown in to boot.

Still, I very much doubted that there would be any chance of me making it to the car, much less out of the parking lot.  I had to do some serious loin girding.  On went my leather boots, a flowy skirt, and my GREEN sweater.  And then, despite the horror of realizing I rushed out of the house last week to talk to my pastor in lounge pants, a hoodie, and my stubby braids ... the braids I am just now managing to mostly weave after that dreadful hair-cut-that-was-essentially-a-mullet at the beginning of last August (or end of July ... I forget which).  Today, though, I purposely wove my stubby braids.  Stubby braids, although awfully inappropriate for a middle aged woman, are rather courage engendering to me.

I did remember to bring my notebook, but I forgot to write it in.  SIGH.  Being all nervous and distraught, I was relieved when my pastor broke off from telling me where to turn in the Bible and asked me if there was something I wanted to hear.  Immediately I mumbled 27.  A shaking, pine-cone clutching Myrtle told him that, for this time, I did not want to pray it with him; I wanted to hear it prayed for me.  He did.  I didn't even have to ask.

The LORD is my light and my salvation;
Whom shall I fear?
The LORD is the defense of my life;
Whom shall I dread?
When evildoers came upon me to devour my flesh,
My adversaries and my enemies, they stumbled and fell.
Though a host encamp against me,
My heart will not fear;
Though war arise against me,
In spite of this I shall be confident.

One thing I have asked from the LORD, that I shall seek:
That I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life,
To behold the beauty of the LORD
And to meditate in His temple.
For in the day of trouble He will conceal me in His tabernacle;
In the secret place of His tent He will hide me;
He will lift me up on a rock.
And now my head will be lifted up above my enemies around me,
And I will offer in His tent sacrifices with shouts of joy;
I will sing, yes, I will sing praises to the LORD.
Hear, O LORD, when I cry with my voice,
And be gracious to me and answer me.
When Thou didst say, "Seek My face," my heart said to Thee,
"Your face, O LORD, I shall seek."
Do not hide Thy face from me,
Do not turn Thy servant away in anger;
Thou hast been my help;
Do not abandon me nor forsake me,
O God of my salvation!
For my father and my mother have forsaken me,
But the LORD will take me up.

Teach me Your way, O LORD,
And lead me in a level path
Because of my foes.
Do not deliver me over to the desire of my adversaries,
For false witnesses have risen against me,
And such as breathe out violence.
I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD
In the land of the living.
Wait for the LORD;
Be strong and let your heart take courage;
Yes, wait for the LORD.

I found it ... interesting ... that this was the Introit for church tonight.  Or parts of it are.  I would have picked a different antiphon.  Psalm 27 has a plethora of good take-way thoughts, as I would call the antiphon.

For in the day of trouble He will conceal me in His tabernacle;
In the secret place of His tent He will hide me;

One thing I have asked from the LORD, that I shall seek: 
That I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life, 

The LORD is my light and my salvation;
Whom shall I fear? 

Hear, O LORD, when I cry with my voice, 
And be gracious to me and answer me. 

All good thoughts to have cling to you, eh?

I had wanted to read through a section of Part V in the Large Catechism and then compare it to what we read in 1 Corinthians 11.  My pastor asked me if I wanted him to read, but I didn't. I wanted to read the words to myself.  For the thousandth time, to me, they are a love letter from Jesus penned through the hand of Luther.

I want to write them all again here.  Only it has been communicated to me that when I quote whole swaths of the Christian Book of Concord, those who read this blog skim ... or skip ... them.  But everything that an anguished, burdened soul would want to hear.

I struggled with 1 Corinthians last time, thinking about the specificity of the situation.  Thinking of what was going on in Corinth and yet somehow getting to the harm in receiving the Lord's Super.  I think, for me, this is the very first time that I could see how clearly the Confessions explained something from Scripture.  Luther took the specificity out and showed, much in the same way as he does with the Commandments, how it isn't just about eating meals (the haves not helping the have nots; the have nots treating Christ body and blood as common food), but about disregarding the Sacrament and sin ... being indifferent or even arrogant.

We talked some about forgiveness, but I do not wish to try and capture that now, since it was just a precursor to getting there.  My pastor also dangled the most attractive carrot in front of me.  He has in mind a chart looking at both the Small Catechism and the Large Catechism, because he understands now that, for example, the SC tells me (the way I read it) that I am not worthy of the Lord's Supper, whereas the LC (the way that I read it) woos me to the altar.

And we talked about Africa.
I am still ... burdened and confused.

Something that I found oddly comforting was my pastor talking about sheep and goats.

“But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats; 33 and He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left.

“Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father,inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.’ Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, and feed You, or thirsty, and give You something to drink? And when did we see You a stranger, and invite You in, or naked, and clothe You? When did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ 40 The King will answer and say to them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did it to one of these brothers of Mine, even the least of them, you did it to Me.’

“Then He will also say to those on His left, ‘Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry, and you gave Me nothing to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me nothing to drink; I was a stranger, and you did not invite Me in; naked, and you did not clothe Me; sick, and in prison, and you did not visit Me.’ Then they themselves also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not take care of You?’ Then He will answer them, ‘Truly I say to you, to the extent that you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’ These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.” 
(Matthew 25:31-46)

Truth time:  I've never really been taught about the sheep and the goats.  Just the part about how we are to feed and clothe and visit Jesus, to feed and clothe and visit Jesus in all those God brings to us.  Law.  Lots of Law about what you should be doing.  Only my pastor pointed out something else.

He was talking to me about how when I walk up to the figurative pearly gates, when I enter eternal life, God isn't going to be standing there punishing me over all the wrong teaching in Africa ... and all the rest.  I asked him how he knows this and he brought up the sheep and the goats.  I was not all that willing to admit that I have never understand all the sheep and goat talk I hear Lutherans speak.  Not being a dense person, my pastor figured that out and explained.  

His comfort was, first, that any judgement to be had over Africa was already meted out and born.  Meted out on the cross and born by Jesus.  But he directed me to look at what was actually said about the sheep.  It's all good things.  Even if the sheep are left scratching their wooly heads trying to figure out when all those good works were done, what is mentioned are good works.  Good.  Not good and bad.  Not only bad.

My next lesson is April 28th.  Oh so long into the future, but needful with all this Lent and Easter stuff, all that I do not really understand.  Like the four services of Easter.  My pastor already started reading through all the BOC quotes I gave him on repentance.  Tonight, I started thinking that I should figure out what Bible verses there are about repentance.  

I wonder if I could find them.  I wonder if I could managed to not mis-read them.

I'm a sheep.  
Today, I realize that I do not even know what that means.  
But I am a sheep of Jesus Christ.
Not a goat.

Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief!

Sunday, March 30, 2014

What did I do to them...

I have been thinking a lot about when I was a missionary in Africa.  Today, I saw that the outbreak of the new ebola virus has spread into Liberia.  Liberia.  I lived an entire lifetime in the year I was there.  More and more I wish I could talk about it.  Talk about it the ways I have.  Talk about it in the ways I never have.

Africa is beautiful.  Even in all its horror and all its brutal history, Africa is beautiful.  Or at least it was to me.  Then.

But its beauty is not what lingers in my mind.

I think a lot about what I taught whilst I was there.  Literacy wise, I have no worries.  But I also taught Bible Class to 7th and 8th graders, with 21 nationalities amongst my students.  And, along with a missionary couple, I taught at a small congregation in the heart of the slums of the only true city in Liberia.

The crick that ran through the quarter was literally florescent yellow green.  And that was the water used for cooking and cleaning.  Whole families lived in a single room cinderblock shack.  Generations together even.  Clothing was often rags and sparse.  Folk ate out of large communal pots, primarily palm butter and rice.  Poor does not even being to describe the place.

In the midst of it is/was this tiny congregation in the only large building so very hungry to hear the Word of God.  Very hungry.

The mission compound where I worked was incredibly insular.  Very.  Few left and most enjoyed creature comforts foreign to most of Liberia.  I called it a little America.  On the compound was a school and a hospital.  Both were well-respected and rather popular.  Then, at least, Liberia was most known for banking, so a lot of officials sent their children to our "American" school.  And anyone who cared about surviving accident or illness insisted on coming to our hospital.

There was also a hostel where children of missionaries who were in-country somewhere, some country.  I did not like that.  I did not like the thought behind that.  The reasoning is that one is called to be a missionary before all else.  Only I thought, then, that one was a spouse and a parent before being a missionary.  But those were not seen as callings.  Or vocations.

At the hostel was a 5-year-old Chinese boy who had terrible problems with his stomach. I was convince then and remain so now that his problem was being separated from his parents.  It was wrong to leave him behind.  At least to me, it was.

Somewhere along the line, a missionary ventured off campus and found the congregation in Buzzi Quarter.  That congregation was passed along from missionary to missionary and the couple who was told about it brought me along when they went to teach.  And so I taught.

One of the things I found ironic, in truth, was the fact that the mission church did not have a pastor when I arrived.  The pastor who came to serve there arrived in January, I think.  Maybe he came before the civil war started.  But before he came, one thing that was true, was that most of my students did not attend church.

I've written before that I had no idea what I was doing.  Not knowing before I arrived that I would be teaching a Bible class, I thought I would start by teaching the Trinity.  After all, that would be so easy.  I was so utterly naive.  After muddling my way through the Trinity, I started plowing through the Old Testament.  The thing is, what I thought, then, through my teaching I led several of my students to Christ.  What arrogance.  What false teaching.

There was this 8th grader, this tough boy whom everyone knew was a scoundrel and whom everyone knew would not amount to anything, especially since he had already failed one grade.  One day he came to me and said, "Miss _________" I want what you have."

Being dense, it took me a long while to understand what he meant. Then I prayed with him.  The Jesus prayer.  And he changed.  He did.  Did he create faith?  Did I?  No, I know that now.  But he became faithful ... full of faith.  In the blink of an eye, seemingly, he went from the loser everyone joked about to being the next generation of missionaries.

Another of my students had a harder story.  She was Muslim, her father some sort of high cleric.  Her conversion, if her family ever found out, meant certain and swift death.  And yet she prayed with me.  Afterwards, I was terrified for her and I went to the leadership of the school and the compound wanting sanctuary for her.  But there was none to be had.  I was told that she was not "our problem."

Something I have struggled with, since becoming a Lutheran, is this idea that pastors will not baptize a child unless a parent is willing to raise him or her in the faith.  My best friend, learning that Baptism saves, wanted her children baptized.  I knew all these pastors and none of them would.  Being a Baptist, however, her church is against baptism of young children because its confession is that baptism doesn't save, but is rather a confession of faith.  I think one of the things I admire most about Becky is how long and how hard she fought to get her children baptized.  The way it was explained to me was that to baptize a child is to make that child a target of the devil.  It would be cruel to do so if the child had no one to guard and shepherd the gift of faith he or she received.  When I argued that Becky would be there to shepherd her children, I was told no pastor would baptize a child and leave him or her without pastoral care.

I hated being taught that.  With every fiber of my being I hated it.  Lately, I have wondered if I hated it so much because of all the guilt I carry about my time as a missionary.  All the time I taught false doctrine and all the time I was ... what ... encouraging the creation of defenseless children of Christ???

I joke a lot, lately, about all the clich├ęs of my evangelical past.  One of my greatest shames is that I came back from Africa ... proud ... of the notches in my belt.  I had led a lot of youth to Christ because I so enthusiastically blundered my way through teaching them.  Of course, the truth is, what I did was give them massive doses of the Living Word, over and over and over again.  Heck, I even snuck into the bathrooms (boys and girls) to write Bible verse on the mirrors for them, pretending all the while I had no knowledge of how they appeared.  By the time the pastor arrived, an Old Testament scholar, my students were starving for teaching about the Word of God.  And they filled the pews.

One of my greatest fears is being held accountable for all of that false teaching, for teaching and training youth down this path of futility and despair when it comes to all things spiritual.  Works righteousness is essentially Law masquerading as Gospel.  It is death.  It brings no death.  The Law only condemns and kills.  What did I do to those children???

I absolutely and utterly do not get the fascination with evangelical methodology and teaching that is running amuck in the LCMS. I do not.  And those who go on and on and on about the Third Use of the Law and about sanctification spend little, if any, of their rants focused on the fact that the ONLY ONE who sanctifies is God. The Word, be it Law or Gospel, is worked in us by the Holy Spirit.  Not by pastors and certainly not by ourselves.  Frankly, I don't think that many of those advocating for pious living, personal sanctification, and all those other euphemisms have actually really and truly studied the Christian Book of Concord.  For it is very, very, very clear about the Law and about sanctification.  And man has no part in it.  Yes, discipline is good, but discipline does not save and does not create or sustain faith.  Not at all.

I feel like ... and fear that ... I condemned not just the Muslim covert, but all my students to death.  I have prayed for them ever since I left the war zone that Liberia had become.  But over the years my prayers have changed ... especially in the past four years.  Now, mostly, I merely groan for them.  I have no words to speak to God.  I have fear and I have shame and I dare not speak my fervent hope that somehow, in some way, those youth were taught rightly after they left my spiritual care.  For that's what is was for many of them, and for those I taught in Buzzi Quarter. I was their teacher, their pastor, their minister.

The other day, I looked up the websites of my churches from high school and college.  One of them highlights specifically that if you are a Christian, then you are a minister of the Word.  That is what I taught.  That is what I believed.  I know now that that is false teaching.  However, in reality, I was ... because I was the only one teaching the Word of God to many of the ears listening.

Lord, have mercy upon them.
Christ, have mercy upon them.
Lord, have mercy upon them.

The only good that I see in my time as a missionary is that that is when I first fell in love with bits of the Psalter ... only I didn't know it was the Psalter.  You see, youth from Buzzi Quarter would travel out to the compound to visit me.  They wanted me to read to them more, to pray with them more, to teach them more.  We would sit in the edges of the water on the beach, letting the waves cool our bodies against the oppressive heat, and I would read, I would pray, and I would teach. In return, they taught me their praise songs.  All but one were from Psalms.  The odd one out is from Zephaniah ... which I never knew, until recently, is actually about Jesus.

I gave them the Law, and they gave me Jesus.
I gave them false teaching, and they gave me the Word that I could understand.
I burdened their consciouses with all the does and don'ts required to have a relationship with Jesus, and they gave me a lifeboat of the Living Word that has sustained me over the past 24 years.

Come visit me and, with what's left of my voice, I will sing to you the praise songs, the Scripture verses, I learned.  I have been singing them since the soldiers came and destroyed Liberia.  I have been singing them as my foe—the devil, the world, and my own flesh—has sought to destroy me ever since.

The Lord your God is in your midst,
A victorious warrior.
He will exult over you with joy,
He will be quiet in His love,
He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy.

Shout for joy, O daughter of Zion!
Shout in triumph, O Israel!
Rejoice and exult with all your heart,
O daughter of Jerusalem!
The Lord has taken away His judgments against you,
He has cleared away your enemies.
The King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst;
You will fear disaster no more.
In that day it will be said to Jerusalem:
Do not be afraid, O Zion;
Do not let your hands fall limp.
The Lord your God He is in your midst.

The Lord your God is in your midst,
A victorious warrior.
He will exult over you with joy,
He will be quiet in His love,
He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy.

The Living Word is like a siren's call to my broken and anguished soul, even when I doubt that it is for me.  It is also my balm, even when I doubt that I can be healed.

I sang these Words not knowing that they were the promise of Jesus.  For all I knew, they were simply the hope given to the children of God then, a hope I longed for now.  Even after someone explained that I was singing about Jesus, I thought they were Words for someone else.

Mostly, now, I still think that.  Fear that.  For I fear and dread that were I to come face to face with God He would ask me, "Why did you hurt my children in Africa?"  Somehow, the answer in my head, that I didn't know any better, seems a feeble and useless excuse.

After returning from Africa, those were the bedtime songs I sang whilst babysitting.  Those and Michael Card's acapella version of Psalm 121: 1-4.  Whenever I had a chance to lead worship or was involved in a choir, I taught the African praise songs.  I wanted others to sing them with me.  I wanted others to sing them to me.

The Lord your God is in your midst,
A victorious warrior.
He will exult over you with joy,
He will be quiet in His love,
He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy.

Shout for joy, O daughter of Zion!
Shout in triumph, O Israel!
Rejoice and exult with all your heart,
O daughter of Jerusalem!
The Lord has taken away His judgments against you,
He has cleared away your enemies.
The King of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst;
You will fear disaster no more.
In that day it will be said to Jerusalem:
Do not be afraid, O Zion;
Do not let your hands fall limp.
The Lord your God He is in your midst.

The Lord your God is in your midst,
A victorious warrior.
He will exult over you with joy,
He will be quiet in His love,
He will rejoice over you with shouts of joy.

I wanted a refuge.
I wanted forgiveness.
I wanted Jesus.

I still do.

Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief!

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Longing for the Light...

If you have any lingering trauma from reading Lord of the Flies,  I would highly recommend that you do not watch the new CW show "The 100."

Humans are really, really, really good at being cruel to each other.

I built a fire this afternoon, ever so discouraged by the blanket of snow that fell today.  No matter that no shoveling was involved and the ensuing rain melted away that blanket by the late afternoon.  Managing snow, or rather failing to manage snow, this winter is another reminder of how much help I truly need to remain independent, to remain in my home.  Christ be praised that Firewood Man is willing to plow, blow, and shove for a measly $10, but this winter had lots and lots and lots of $10 days that were not in my budget.

I used my beloved Zorb to refresh the kitchen rug once it was finally dry.

It smells heavenly.  Anyway, you sprinkle it on (shown above), work it into the carpet (I forgot to take that photo), let it sit for 30 minutes (or several hours if you happen to forget that you are actually working on your carpet), and then vacuum it all up.

So, the rather beautiful kitchen rug that my mother bought to finish off the renovation is back in place, safe and sound.  I was actually surprised how much less pleasant it is to wash dishes whilst standing on the bare tile floor.  This rug is really, really, really cushy.

My friend Celia took my mother's idea of a mechanical timer and turned it into a Myrtle-friendly reality.

Celia found this timer-on-a-rope option.  They come in several colors and have a magnet (as you may have surmised) on the back. Because it would be more comfortable hanging lower, I took it off the rope and put it on a lanyard.  I specifically chose this GREEN WWJD lanyard as a reminder of how silly works righteousness teaching is.  Sort of an inside-Myrtle's-head joke.  Although, I wonder if Lutherans are allowed to have such silliness even as a joke.

Anyway, Celia's thinking that, if I had a timer around my neck, I would not inadvertently forget it in the kitchen.  If that happened, remembering to set it when I temporarily leave the kitchen whenever I am working in there would do no good if I could not hear the timer when it rings.  I thought her idea was brilliant, and I bought this one at 12:01 AM on the 27th, when my next budget cycle began.

Putting the two long-term bills I had on the refrigerator using the Dallas Cowboy magnets that my friend Wynne bought me for my desk at work many years ago turned out to be a good idea.  You see, when I took this photo, I realized the payment date for my registration was now around the corner.  Since I am now in April's money, I went online to pay the bill, even though I still had more than a week to remember again.  By downloading the BMV app and using that to pay, I got a 5% discount on the bill.

The other star holds the payment coupons for the four tax installments that I need to send this year.  Those dates are in my calendar.  However, whilst I put up the registration bill last month, I forgot to put a reminder in my calendar.

In case you were wondering, I use the GREEN dry erase board to remind me of the fresh things I have in my refrigerator (when I buy them), so that I can eat them before they are wasted.

The fact that I flooded my own home is still weighing rather heavily upon my mind.  It is an overwhelming statement on the status of my mind, of my short-term memory.

Yesterday, Marie came to do her freezer cooking.  I asked her if she could carry the box fan up the two flights of stairs to put it back where I've been keeping it.  Thursday morning was the first day I no  longer smelled water in the utility closet, but I kept it running for another day.  For the final two days, I had it positioned so that the flow of air wrapped around the back of the freezer and came out the other side, working on making sure the corner was as dry as possible.

I found a set a stair treads that will fit my needs at a fair price.  So, eventually, I need to gird my loins, rip up the old treads, paint the stairs, and tack down the new treads.  I am greatly dreading what the utility bills will be, especially the water and the electricity (for all those loads of laundry).  I might need someone to just pay the water bill without me looking at it, so as to avoid that blow for as long as possible.

Tonight, I tried to soothe my fearful and anxious mind by cooking Beef Stew with Beer.  I actually do not need to cook.  Seriously, I might could manage not to cook for all of April, so slow going is the single person eating up all of the things I have been cooking.  I could argue, though, that there is only a single jar of stew left in the freezer.  Yes, but you would counter, Myrtle, you have chipotle chicken chili, spicy Dr Pepper pulled pork, Vietnamese chicken curry with sweet potatoes, Israeli chicken sofrito, and your black eyed pea medley in there.  That, I do.  But I needed to make some stew.

Too much has happened.
Too much fear.
Too much anxiety.
Too much failure.
Too much of new/old memories.
Too much physical maladies.
Too much.

Becky, my beloved friend, called tonight and read to me from the first chapter of John.  Whilst reading, she observed that the name of Jesus is not actually used until verse 17. I had never noticed that before.  I am too lost in the first five verses.

Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Tell me again...

Amos had a terrible time tending to his business tonight because of his fears. The wind is blowing and all sorts of scary noises kept startling him. My heart breaks to watch him struggle in that way, especially when he becomes so frightened that he leaps from wherever he is in the yard to my shoulders in the blink of an eye. He buries his head in my neck and clings to me as he trembles in fear. I know fear. I understand its burden. Even in a puppy dog it is a terrible thing to watch. Life in a fallen world can be brutal. Is brutal.

Now, that not make sense with what I want to say, but it fits.  I cannot tell Amos again and again and again that he is forgiven.  He is a puppy.  I can hold him. I can gently shove him back out toward the grass to do that which he must do.  I can control my ire at his taking ever so long in the frigid air to find a place and a moment that is safe enough for him to be vulnerable enough to tend to his business.  I can give him praise when he conquers his fear and accomplishes his task.  I can whisper sweet nothings in his ears and twine his curls around my fingertips once we reach the haven of the GREEN chair.  But I cannot give him what he really needs to face fear:  the Word of God.

I have written before that I find it fascinating just how many times the Christian Book of Concord speaks of terrified consciousness and anxious souls.  They are the norm amongst believers, one could think, as opposed to the outliers.  And, as oft repeated in the pure doctrine, they are the very reason for the Gospel, for the comfort of the Gospel.

Real comfort.
Powerful and efficacious comfort.
Not some emotion or illusion.

The other day I posted to the BOC Snippets blog something that I still have yet to really take in:

Christ, in the last chapter of Luke, commands "that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name" (24:27). The Gospel convicts all people that they are under sin, that they are subject to eternal wrath and death. It offers, for Christ's sake, forgiveness of sin and justification, which is received through faith. The preaching of repentance (which accuses us) terrifies consciences with true and grave terrors. In these matters, hearts ought to receive consolation again. This happens if they believe Christ's promise, that for His sake we have forgiveness of sins. This faith, encouraging and consoling in these fears, receives forgiveness of sins, justifies, and gives life. For this consolation is a new birth and spiritual life. These things are plain and clear and can be understood by the pious. They also have testimonies of the Church. The adversaries cannot say how the Holy Spirit is given. They imagine that the Sacraments give the Holy Spirit by the outward act (ex opere operato), without a good emotion in the one receiving them, as though, indeed, the gift of the Holy Spirit were a useless manner.

We speak of the kind of faith that is not an idle thought, but that liberates from death and produces a new life in hearts. This is the work of the Holy Spirit. This does not coexist with mortal sin. As long as faith is present, it produces good fruits, as we will explain later. About the conversion of the wicked, or about the way of regeneration, what can be said that is simpler or clearer? Let the Scholastics, from so great a host of writers, produce a single commentary upon the Sentences that speaks about the way of regeneration. When they speak of the habit of love, they imagine that people merit it through works. They do not teach that it is received through the Word. They teach just like the Anabaptists teach at this time. But God cannot be interacted with, God cannot be grasped, except through the Word. So justification happens through the Word, just as Paul says in Romans 1:16. "[The Gospel] is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes." Likewise, he says in 10:17, "Faith comes from hearing." Proof can be derived even from this: faith justifies because, if justification happens only through the Word, and the Word is understood only by faith, it follows that faith justifies.
~BOC, AP, IV (II), 61-68

  • The preaching of repentance (which accuses us) terrifies consciences with true and grave terrors. 
  • In these matters, hearts ought to receive consolation again.

I really am curious what it is/was that my pastor will be teaching me about how Jesus and John were always saying "Repent and believe."  I think because, from what I have read about repentance in the Confessions, repentance is a gift we receive as much as anything else that we receive.  By that I mean repentance is a work of our triune God, not man.  Specifically, I believe it is the Holy Spirit working the Word in us.

But, in my experience, repentance has not been taught as something that God does for us in faith, nor is it something that is taught will result in terrified consciences.  Maybe that terror is what my pastor is going to talk about with the repent-and-believe bit, with those things being joined together.

I don't know.

What I do know is that the bit about terrified consciences makes sense to me.  "Grave and true terrors" is most apt.

I have been afraid of something.  Okay, obviously I am afraid of lots of things.  But I have a new fear associated with knowing someone close to me is in trouble.  I don't understand the vocation of a neighbor. I want to be a neighbor.  I do.  But I also know my weakness.  I do find it odd that as much as I try to speak of it, write of it, it does not seem as if anyone really takes me seriously.  A friend said that speaking of such can engender a response of thinking the person is strong for doing so. 

I am not.
I am not strong.
I am weak.

Twice, since coming here, I have met people in trouble.  People in trouble who seemed to want my help. I fled from them. I cannot really do that, this time.  I don't really want to do that this time.  But I am afraid of what that means for me.  So, after being up all night being overcome by fear I could no longer control, I emailed my pastor to try out that thing ... that thing of saying bluntly: I am in trouble and I need help.  Why?  Why is that so hard??

I learned today two things:  1) asking for help is survivable and 2) asking for help for someone else can actually end up helping you.

I needed to understand what being a neighbor is and I needed a plan.  My pastor taught me (added to what Mary has tried to teach me) about being a neighbor and he helped me form the words for a plan, as in I took notes again.  But he added to it something that I had not thought about before coming.  He said that I needed to tell the person in trouble that she/he needs a pastor.  By that, he explained, he/she needs a pastor to whom she/he can confess the sin of the trouble and thus hear forgiveness.

So, there I was, admitting my fear, struggling with thoughts of being a failure as a neighbor, trying to take notes, struggling to understand, battling all the bloody lies my foe still has running about my head, when something ... amazing ... happened.

There my pastor was explaining that the person in trouble needed spiritual care so that she/he could hear that he/she is forgiven for what she/he has done to himself/herself, when he stopped.  My pastor stopped.  My pastor stopped speaking about the need of forgiveness for the other person and said, "Myrtle, you are forgiven for what you have done to yourself."

Yes, I collapsed in tears.
Those words are what I long to hear.
Those words are too much for me to bear.

How?  How could Jesus forgive me that?  I mean, all the sudden it hit me that, with the exception of recent past, I have spent my whole life hurting myself in the times when others were not hurting me.   I except the recent past because I am not being hurt anymore (for the most part) ... but I still hurt myself.

Being hurt is what I know, is what is most familiar to me.  There is so much shame in that.  Too much shame for a soul to bear.  A counselor would say that I didn't let others hurt me, but I cannot accept that. If nothing else, I think of all the things my last boss made me do ... all of the things I did to placate her ... all of the things I have never even admitted to my best friend ... and shame consumes me. I berate and castigate myself, judge and persecute.  And that is just about three years of the 43 I had lived up until the moment I left there.

A counselor would say that I was too young to protect myself or that, when I was older, I did not know how to protect myself.  But I think of how the mark of my life is to shut up, be still, and wait until it is over and shame consumes me.  I berate and castigate myself, judge and persecute. 

Heck, a lot of punishing has been going on in this house ever since I flooded the kitchen and basement.

So, for my pastor to suddenly stop talking about someone else, and start talking to me ... well, that is why I believe in the Holy Spirit.  I do.  Even as I doubt that I can, actually, be forgiven for the hurt I have piled upon myself.  Captain Ahab has nothing on me.

In his speaking those words, I found the courage to admit something else that plagues me.  Last night, whilst I was struggling with fear and longing for sleep, I Googled when Easter is.  It is not until April 20th!  That's like a whole month away.  I cannot take another month of Lent, another month of staying away from church because of my overwhelming fear of heavy doses of soul-crushing Law.  It's already been two weeks.  And I'm not having the Lord's Supper.

When I saw that date, I had to race to the bathroom so that I did not spew vomit over my bed or the floor or the hallway.  

No, I did not admit to my pastor that fear of such long time of waiting made me vomit.  But I was sort of frantic in telling him that Easter is not until April 20th (as if he didn't already know that).  He asked me if the sermons at my church ever scared me.  They haven't.  So he asked me why I thought Lent ones would.  Because the ones I've heard in the past did.  Only I haven't heard Lent sermons at my church.  Two years of terror as a Lutheran was enough to teach me to avoid Lent.  To avoid hearing about being better at praying and giving and discipline and such, better at being faithful, better at being a child of Christ.  I. Cannot. Make. Myself. Better.

Since he was basically getting nowhere with that very reasonable line of logic (pointing out my knowing that the sermons I've heard at church are all properly divided and rich in Gospel), my pastor searched the recesses of his mind to pull up the lectionary in there and told me what the next two passages were (this Sunday and the one after).  One I knew, the other I didn't, until he told me the story again.  The first, about the question of the blind man's sin, is, indeed, very Gospelly.  No confusion in that one.  The other my pastor assured me is just as rich.  Two weeks, at least, he said it would be okay for me to come.

Then he reminded me that I have catechesis again this coming Monday.  I had forgotten.  The 31st seemed years away.  Now, it is nearly here.  In the lesson, I will surely hear the Word of God.  So, Easter might be a long time coming, but I can take a break in waiting out my fear.

And he read me a psalm:

As the deer pants for the water brooks,
So my soul pants for Thee, O God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God;
When shall I come and appear before God?
My tears have been my food day and night,
While they say to me all day long, “Where is your God?”
These things I remember, and I pour out my soul within me.
For I used to go along with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God,
With the voice of joy and thanksgiving, a multitude keeping festival.

Why are you in despair, O my soul?
And why have you become disturbed within me?
Hope in God, for I shall again praise Him
For the help of His presence.
O my God, my soul is in despair within me,
Therefore I remember Thee from the land of the Jordan,
And the peaks of Hermon, from Mount Mizar.
Deep calls to deep at he sound of Thy waterfalls;
All Thy breakers and Thy waves have rolled over me.
The Lord will command His lovingkindess in the day time;
And His song will be with me in the night,
A prayer to the God of my life.

I will say to God my rock, “Why hast Thou forgotten me?
Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?”
As a shattering of my bones, my adversaries revile me,
While they say to me all day long, “Where is your God?”
And why have you become disturbed within me?
Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him,
The help of my countenance, and my God.

~Psalm 42 (NASB 1977)

The Living Word is perfect.  It is absolutely, utterly, completely perfect.  The Psalter is perfect.  Psalm 42 is perfect.  Penned thousands of years ago for all of mankind and yet, given here, now, for me.

Tell me again that I am forgiven.

In facing the brokenness and illness of another, in battling all my fear, I find myself, again, being consumed with longing to hear that I am forgiven over and over and over again.  But, in listening to the other person, I am beginning to think that I am not the only person who needs to actually hear the words of forgiveness over and over and over again.  Maybe the truth is—whether others will admit it or not—that living life in this vale of tears necessitates the hearing of the Gospel repeatedly, unceasingly.  Even if you shout at the top of your lungs that you already know it.  For you might know it, but you also need to hear it.

There is a book I read long ago: Tell Me That You Love Me, Junie Moon.  Today, it popped into my head.  A story rather dear to me long, long, long forgotten.  It is a story of fearful, broken people who come together to create a haven against the world that had hurt them so terribly.

Is that not what the church really is?  No matter how much pretending there might be going on about being pious and godly and strong in faith?  Is the church really just a gathering of fearful, broken folk who have come together to seek refuge in a haven against against the devil, the world, and their very flesh that have hurt them so terribly?

Tell me that You love me, Jesus Christ.
Tell me that I am forgiven.
Tell me again.

Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Nothing but the moan...

Today, mostly, I just moaned.  And waited for the stair treads and my kitchen rug to dry.  And tried (but failed) to not castigate myself for flooding my home.

Amos?  Well, he did some more begging.

Whilst I was addressing my catastrophe, I had made another batch of Spicy Dr Pepper Pulled Pork.  I will admit that, in my mopping up frenzy, I overcooked it a tad. However, since I've been eating it in tacos, the cheese and sour cream will help mask my tiny error.

Anyway, I thought I would explain what I do to make it not so terribly spicy and yet still flavorful.  I really, really, really like the smokiness of the adobo sauce, but I cannot handle an entire can of chipotle chili peppers.

In the recipe, I wrote about using the Dr Pepper to wash the adobo sauce off the peppers and into the pot.  Well, I dump the peppers and sauce atop the seasoned pork.  Then, I use part of the Dr Pepper to wash out the inside of the pepper can.  After that, I use most of the rest of the Dr Pepper to wash off as much sauce into the pot.  What is left is a mess of peppers and bits of stuff that includes onions.  I put two of the peppers, all of the bits, the onions from the sauce, and the last of the Dr Pepper in my mini-food processor.  That's the paste you see on top.  The light bits are some of the brown sugar.

You can weep for them.
I pretend they are not waste.
I consider them sacrificial lambs for the greater good of my belly.

And yours if you visit me.
I am trying very hard to learn to share.

I am Yours, Lord.  Save me!

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Lord, have mercy...

My friend Caryl wrote about Spring on her blog.  An artist, that means another spring, summer, and fall of beautiful photographs.  Also it means many tales from her garden.  Spring means getting another chapter in her book ... or a sequel to a really great story.

So, in honor of her, I went looking for signs of Spring in my yard.

The rock river is "running" again.  In fact, I might actually have all of my yard back before the beginning of April.  Maybe.  Possibly.

The weeping cherry tree, despite being buried in the snow pack has budded.

The daffodils are peeking up through the mulch.

The tulips have a head start.  And, surprisingly to me, the thyme thrived being buried under snow for months on end.  The grass ... well ... no photos of that yet.  It is rather stressed.

The ornamental magnolia tree is also preparing to bloom.  Perhaps ... for once ... the Indiana Spring rains will not prematurely rip the blossoms from the branches.

But chasing down photos for Caryl was not really enough to distract me from the lingering thoughts and feelings from the sonogram.  So, given that the back door wouldn't close on Thursday night, I decided to tackle the problem.

I sanded down the edge of the door back to the original wood.  Tackling the top third of the door took three times as long as the other two thirds.  It had layers and layers and layers of paint.  But, when I was finished, the door closed easily.

That top little deadbolt is the one I like to use ... the one Becky figured out for me:  left-to-lock.  Next, I primed it.

And I painted it.

I know, the primed version and the painted version do not really look different.  I only painted a single coat because I wanted to see how the door closes during the wet weather coming our way.  Eventually.  If you look at the door today, you will see one small spot of rubbing.  I might sand that down more, if it becomes bothersome.  For now, I no longer need to slam the door to get it to close.  This is a task I have put off since I bought the house.

So, last evening, I was bloody exhausted.
Only the thoughts and feelings still plagued me.
I decided to cook.

The problem was that my meat for the two dishes (curry and pulled pork) that I wanted to make was frozen.  First, I had the brilliant idea built a fire to thaw the meat.  Whilst I have clearly mastered building a green wood fire, the outer part of the chicken started cooking, even though most of it was still frozen rock hard.  I fail at trying to defrost meat in the microwave or using hot water.  But my friend Celia said that cold water could work.  Desperate to have something to distract myself, I put the chicken in the sink and turned on the cold water.  Since the ground water is extremely cold, I turned on some hot water, thinking to create a tepid mixture.

Only running water engenders the urge to tend to my own personal business.
I did.
Then I went to rest in the GREEN chair for a while, watching an episode of a BBC show.

I forgot.  I forgot that I had turned on the water.  I forgot that I was letting the sink fill.  When the episode was over, though I was still chatting online with Celia, I went to get a drink.  And found a river cascading across the counter, filling the lower cabinet, running across the floor, and falling down into the basement, via both the steps and the wall.  Yes, I flooded my own house.  SIGH.

I remain truly despondent over the flood.  I have tried to talk to all three doctors about how little short term memory I have, how much blankness there is in my mind.  I literally had no recollection of turning on the water in the sink.  Actually, even after finding the flood, I still could not remember the moment of starting to fill the sink.

I broke down.
I called Marie, wanting her to race over but refusing to ask.
I practically died of embarrassment when Michelle walked back into the house as I was frantically trying to stop the spread of the water.

Showing great mercy, even though it was late and she had an early service in the morning, Michelle helped me sop up water and she washed all the things on her counter that had gotten soaked with cool soot water.  Yes, the history of this house made the clean-up harder.

I stayed awake all night, working to save the lower cabinet, once a frenetic call to my mother, an interior designer, since both the drawers and the interior base of the cabinet were filled with water.  Everything in them also needed to be cleaned.  And since nearly every towel and a few sheets in the house were sopping with soot water, I had loads and loads and loads of laundry.  Eight of them, if you include my sheets and a few things I threw in to make up the final load.

It's amazing how much fits into those four drawers.  Everything in a box, or rather, every box was ruined, including the boxes beneath the sink itself.  Try figuring out how to store the contents of three sizes of ziploc baggies without a box to hold them.

I was so very worried, in removing the drawers, I would ruin the automatic closure feature, but they still work.  I cannot imagine the mess standing water on the melamine base would have made had I (or rather Michelle) been able to wipe it out and then let the box fan dry out the grout and all the water I couldn't quite see.

You can see that I was, before flooding my own home, in the middle of making naan, which finished rising in the middle of my frenetic mitigation of the flood damage.  Yes, I managed to save the double batch of naan, too.

The old carpet treads on the basement steps are still wet.  I need to replace them (and paint the steps in the process since the steps were painted around the make-shift treads).  One of my biggest fears was that water poured down and around and beneath the new standing freezer.  However, it seems to be fine.  The utility closet is still the wettest, so, after spending the day with the box fan in the laundry area, I have it set up in there.

I was up all night, working on cleaning up.
I should not be on my feet for more than a short while.
I should definitely not be up all night.

After getting a few hours sleep, I had the first meal in 24 hours and set about groaning ... and moaning.  Never—in all my home improvement projects—have I been in as much physical agony as I am in now.  I have been up and down a bit, helping Michelle with her cooking projects, making a fire, and folding the final load of laundry.  My inclination is to not move for weeks on end, but I think moving a bit helped.  Besides, I have to go fetch another bottle of erythromycin on the morrow.

The hardest part, other than toting up the costs for this fiasco (including all the extra utilities expended in the past 24 hours), is knowing this is yet another example of how my brain is changing.  And it is utterly discouraging.

My mother actually had a good suggestion, even though I did not take it very well.  She said that I should get a mechanical egg timer and set it for a short amount of time any time that I am doing something in the kitchen and plan on leaving it, such as to go to the bathroom.  That way, if I forget that I was working in the kitchen, I would be reminded when the timer went off.

But I don't want to need a mechanical timer.
I want to be able to remember.
I cannot.

The good thing is that, if I cannot get the dividing wall between the utility closet and the laundry room dry, I believe Firewood Man can replace it rather easily.  After all, it is a faux wall, a wall of old, thin, plywood.  Thankfully, Michelle's coffee maker seems to have survived.  So, I was rather fortunate, blessed even.  Yes, I am in a great amount of pain, but I did not manage to ruin my home.  I pray that I do not.  I worry that I will.  Eventually.

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

I am Yours, Lord.  Save me!

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Just this once...

Just this once, I am okay with having my beloved GREEN grass torn up.

Is this not such a beautiful hole?

Firewood Man awoke me yesterday mid-way through the task of replacing my rather ineffective gutter pipe extensions from the house all the way to the front sidewalk.  It is my most fervent hope that, having been extended properly, when the heavy mid-west rains come, I shall no longer have to depend wholly on the channels in my basement.

True to his word, Firewood Man also installed a catch basin to deal with the strong run-off from my neighbor's broken gutters.  Looking at the house, the left side is the one most apt to have water seep down.  So, Firewood man created a steep pitch in the turn from the house to beneath the sidewalk so as to ensure a strong water flow on that side.  The catch basin and french drain pans went in on the right side.

It is such a blessing to have someone who is willing to tend to the things about your house that need doing, cheerfully and for such a modest fee.  And, really, I have Becky to thank for that.

When I first moved here, I chose a firewood person off of Craigslist.  The man was not kind to me.  In fact, he was rude, if not outright abusive.  After the first delivery, he would ignore my calls when I asked for more wood.  He would set a time for delivery and then not show up.  He would show up and yell at me about the bother of bringing wood and would simply pile it in the middle of the garage, leaving me to stack it along the wall.  I felt worse and worse and worse with each delivery.

After the first year, Becky suggested I just use someone else.
I didn't have those thoughts.
My thoughts are to just shut, be still, and wait until it is over.

Well, I was afraid to pick another person.  So, she did.  She picked Tim (Firewood Man).  She picked this young man who has, really, made being a disabled homeowner possible.  In addition to very economical firewood (and free stacking), Tim has:

  • Given me an essentially weed-free, lush, GREEN yard
  • Dug up the shrine in the back yard that was giving me the heebee jeebies
  • Topped the leaning evergreen in the back yard to take off some of the weight, but preserve the shaded spot I savor
  • Built a closet (and properly supported the landing) beneath the steps in the basement living space
  • Power-washed the front porch and back steps so I could stain them and keep them in better shape
  • Set the brick border along all the beds in the back yard
  • Removed the grossly overgrown bushes blocking the front porch
  • Planted the weeping cherry tree
  • Removed the fallen lilac tree and planted the crabapple tree
  • Picked up, delivered, and set up the basement refrigerator
  • Picked up, delivered, and set up my upright freezer
  • Changed the door on the basement refrigerator (since I picked the wrong direction to open)
  • Extended the gutter drain pipes
  • Taken over weekly mowing, edging, and blowing
  • Taken over shoveling the large snowfalls

All for $20 (snow shoveling and plowing is just $10) or ridiculously small increments of $20, plus supplies.  I'm sure there's more he's done.  I do forget things, after all.  Next up is to put a cap on the chimney (to block the rain that sometimes gets in) and to put up a railing on the airing porch off the solarium so as to satisfy my antsy home insurance company.  His fear of heights probably means the railing will get done first.  I also long for the missing quarterround on the first floor to be replaced (why did the Flipper not put it back down??), but that isn't a necessary or a needful task.

The point is that Tim is ever-willing to tackle the odd jobs that pop up with homeownership that single (and disabled) women might find difficult to do and find difficult to get someone else to do for a reasonable price.  He is also very, very, very gentle and affable ... safe.  He is a very good neighbor to me.  A blessing.  Mercy.

I am Yours, Lord.  Save me.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Longing for a Word...

Would that it were I heard a Word of God for me as a child.
Would that it were I heard a Word of God for me today.
The longing never eases.

I find it ... confusing ... to be at my surgeon's office.  Three things she's treating.  Two now and one with an eventual plan.  Today, I had to have a sonogram.  I am, in truth, surprised I came out the other side.  But it is not yet over for me.

The confusing part is that whilst I am sobbing, violent tremors wracking my body, and vomit spewed on the floor, the tech tells me that I am doing a good job.  Before and afterwards, both nurses and the surgeon tell me how brave I am, no matter that I am weeping and trembling ... before and after.  The surgeon was almost gleeful, looking at my images, because her plan with the never-ending bleeding has worked perfectly so as to avoid a hysterectomy.  Rolling the images through her fingers, she paused, backed up three, and rested her fingertip atop one image, calling it beautiful.

I saw four specialists before her.  She was the only one who saw me as a physical patient, not a mental one.  She actually stopped the bleeding in one visit, as well as a host of other problems.  I now have everything right sized and perfect.

It has been more than two years since I have bled through clothing and onto furniture ... at home, at work, out with others.  It has been more than two years since my life revolved around dealing with something I found so very shameful.  And yet I still marvel that that is over.  I do.  Not a visit to her office goes by without my thanking her for that.  She smiles and she also grimaces.  She does not think that I should have had to make my way through four other surgeons to get help.  I agree.

She manages the hormones, obviously, and also manages my thyroid.  My latest thyroid blood work showed that whilst I dipped a bit low after starting the new dosage last year, I am now in a most optimum place and she is willing for me to try switching to a generic to save money.  I will be repeating blood work in 8 weeks after the switch.

The rest ... well it has to do with internal damage and scar tissue that causes pain and problems.  Repair is possible, but not guaranteed.  And repair has its own potential problems.  What we both wonder is at what point does repair become the better course of action.  Frankly, whilst I do not enjoy my life, my body, as it is, I am hoping that I will be with Jesus before we both agree enduring is no longer the better option.

But the point is that I find it truly inconceivable how it is that she and her staff see me as so very brave and courageous and always tell me that they are glad I have come.

Today, I started weeping in the waiting room.  Today, I delayed the sonogram by asking for one of the surgeon's nurses so she could speak to the technician for me.  Today, the weakness in my mind and body made everything harder, messier, and take longer.  And, yet, today, one of her nurses told me, afterwards, that she has been blessed to be able to see how much stronger I have become over the years I have come to see the doctor.

Blessed by weeping.
Blessed by tremors.
Blessed by vomiting.


I have vomited three times since arriving home, just thinking about it.  It feels like a failure of mine, even though I told myself over and over and over again that this was a good thing and that the technician was not trying to hurt me.  Knowing those things did not help.  I have been trying to concentrate on how the nurse said it was brave of me to tell her how I was feeling, why I was trembling and weeping, because I had never talked specifically about how I was feeling.

But saying I felt dirty and that I hating myself for feeling that way was brave?

I am so very weary of myself.
I am so very weary of my body.
I am so very weary of my mind.

Being unable to separate myself from what happened this day, I continue to think about what I wish I could have heard when I was younger:

  • That I am still fearfully and wonderfully made
  • That Christ understands me, understands my struggles, because He knew violence and shame in His own body
  • That the negative thoughts and feelings which stem from abuse are okay to have, are normal in fact, but those thoughts and feelings are not who I am
  • That the work of man against us can never undo the work God has done for us
  • That sometimes the sins of others affect us greatly, but it is still the other person’s sin, not mine
  • That our minds and bodies can respond in ways we do not understand or desire, as Paul speaks of in Roman’s 7
  • That adults can be wrong
  • That there is nothing in the vocation of a child that calls for accepting abuse from a parent or others
  • That the visual effects of abuse might fade or heal in our bodies, but they can still linger in our lives
  • That the devil uses words and actions of others to pull us away from the promises of God, however God's promises to us remain true despite what what those who hurt us say
  • That Jesus came for the sick, for the broken, for the weak, for the fearful, for the suffering ... that He came for the abused, too
  • That to desire to hear the reassurance of forgiveness and the promise of being washed clean repeatedly is okay and is good

Would that it were I heard a Word of God for me as a child.
Would that it were I heard a Word of God for me today.
The longing never eases.

I am Yours, Lord.  Save me!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Two things...

Wave upon wave of nausea and dizziness upon standing has kept me supine most of the day.  Even knowing that, whilst waiting on Amos and observing what the receding snow pack was revealing, I thought to remedy the situation.  Bending over ... repeatedly ... to pick up "deposits" resulted in fainting and awaking faced planted in a pile of them.  SIGH.  This has not been a good day.

However, I have been thinking about two things:

  • Marie gave me the best explanation of why giving up something for Lent could be good.  It is not about discipline, as so often I have heard.  Nor is it about doing something for God, serving him.  It is also not about demonstrating the level of your commitment to a relationship with God.  Giving up something for Lent is about our constant struggle with sin, about our need for Jesus, about forgiveness given to us ... freely and without merit.  The battle to refrain from drinking coffee, eating chocolate, watching television, etc. is the point.  We battle sin each and every day.  And we fail.  But Jesus did not.  He is our victory.  So, there is no glorious, godly discipline being built by giving up something for Lent.  There is only a sobering reminder of our need for Jesus and what He has done for us.  Then.  Today.  Tomorrow.
  • The definition of sin that I learned as an evangelical being separation from God has been bothering me because, whilst saved,  I still sin.  So, I worry that I am separating myself from God ... or at least the knowledge of my utter inability to refrain from sinning combined with my utter inability to make myself more godly, more holy, more faithful terrifies me.  That severing is ever present.  So Becky came up with another way to look at sin.  The relationship between us and God is like a knitted blanket, protecting us from the raging wind, rain, sleet, hail, and snow that sin hurls agaisnt us.  At the fall, Adam and Eve damaged the blanket, rendering it an ineffective cover.  With His birth, life, death, and resurrection, Jesus knit the blanket back together again.  So, no matter how much we damage the blanket with the sin in our life, Jesus knits it back together, to cover us, to protect us, to save us.  Whilst the metaphor might have holes in it, it does call to mind that sweet, sweet promise about our High Priest: Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them. (Hebrews 7:25)  Christ's re-knitting is unceasing. And, when He comes again, there will be a new blanket, a whole blanket, one whole and without rips and tears.

Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014


I thought all birds fly south for south for the winter. Apparently they don't.

All winter, I've had the pair of robins that nested at the corner of the back porch, where the roof gutter curves back toward the side wall, as my company.  Each time I sit on the back steps, awaiting Amos to conduct his business, one or both of the pair chirp at me.  Sitting on a power line or branch of one of my trees, the two of them watch over us.  Whether they long for company or they are worried about their nest, I have savored the sight of them, with their broad, round, red chests.  Something about their generous girth comforts me in the dead of winter.

Of course, I like the chirping, too.

But how in the world did they survive all the bloody snow that we've had, along with so many days of sub-zero temperatures????

The wood that Firewood Man brought me is actually a tree.  He heard of someone who had a tree that needed taking down and took care of it early, so I could have wood.  Yes, that means I am burning green wood.  No, it is not GREEN.

The first three fires were rather frustrating for me, because I have my fire-making skills down to a fine art.  I can set up the fire, light it, and have the wood engulfed in flames within two minutes.  I had to change my tactics with green wood.  In fact, I didn't even know it was possible to burn green wood,  And for three nights, I was certain that it wasn't.  I had to light and relight and relight and relight the fire for well over an hour each time.

Then, through trial and error, I learned that I had to lay the fire with increased kindling, smaller logs in the crossed stack, and two fire starters.  Once again, I can lay a fire, light it, and fetch fresh ice packs whilst it starts.

In my opinion, green ash burns better than a lot of wood.  I have to tend the fire less, use less logs, and have a greater amount of heat output.  Oddly enough, I also do not have to worry about buried coals the next night.  I mean, I do know how to bank coals, but usually do not, since I gave up nightly fires to save money.  With the weather warming and a fair amount of the tree left on my back porch, I have been a bit more liberal in frequency of my fire.  Primarily this is because I am wanting to strip and stain the back porch this summer and care not to have to relocate all the leftover wood to the garage for the duration of the project.

Just how long will it take, do you think, to strip the back porch using my heat gun???

Once back to bare wood, it is either repaint or stain.  The current paint is far too chipped to simply paint over it.  I am hoping the heat gun does its magic whilst the weather is still cool this spring (IF spring ever comes) and then Firewood Man will power wash the wood for me.  The staining part will be a breeze.  The stripping???  Well, I have high hopes in that little heat gun.  High hopes.

Hope.  What is that?  Really?  I do not think it is a feeling.  But, then again, I know little of feelings.  Mostly, I would say it is a knowing, a certitude of sorts.

I am supposed to send a re-cap of my catechesis lesson to my pastor, so that he can see what I learned and plan for the next lesson.  It took me 10 days to write it.  Ten days, much shaking, and three emptying-of-my-stomach moments.

I really don't know to do with hope.  And I think that I am afraid that, in sending the re-cap, I will learn that what I think I learned which granted me ease in crossing the threshold of the sanctuary is not actually true ... or right ... or correct.

There, how's that for standing naked in public.

A while ago, I was watching a show and wrote down two things I heard in it.  However, I forgot to write down which show I was watching.

Without fear there would be no courage.  A simple thought, but one I had not considered.   I mean, for one so burdened with fear, I had not thought of fear's possible companion.

When people hurt children, they plant monsters inside of them.  Whilst certainly not true, surely this is a thought that is specious.  It seems true. It feels true.  And it is the source of so much fear.  And doubt.  You think you are the monster.  You know you are the monster.  Then you are shown you are actually the monster.  Great, but what then?

In Battlestar Galactica's "Sometimes a Great Notion," there is this scene where Kara Thrace (Starbuck) finds her charred body on a planet.  She asks, "If that's me lying there, then what am I?  She screams over and over, "If that is me, then what am I?  What am I?  What am I?"  In a way, I think I scream inside, If I am not the monster, then what am I?

Odd to think of Battlestar Galactica just now.  For surely that is a most complicated mix of hope and despair, of bitterness/anger/blame and forgiveness.  The struggle to forgive is probably the most fascinating part of the series, especially between father and son.  Lee Adama does not really want to forgive his father, and yet he finds himself doing so, again and again and again.  Even the despicable Gaius Baltar is forgiven, is redeemable.  The man who caused the death of almost all of humanity.  Just thinking about it makes me want to watch the story all over again.

I cannot think of another show where hope plays such a pivotal role in the storyline.  There is one where forgiveness does:  Doctor Who.  In that, I find it utterly fascinating how the Doctor always offers forgiveness if the aggressor is willing to cease, to cease striving, to set aside the evil work and be willing to turn away from it.  I cannot think of a single episode where the choice was made to be forgiven.  And the execution of justice, of judgment, takes such a terrible toll on the Doctor.

How must it be for our Creator to watch His creation turn away from Him and chose death?  Forgiveness won for us was done so with a suffering, an agony of which we can never conceive.  And yet some still deny.

I wonder if that is so because hope is hard.
Seeing, tasting, believing in hope in a fallen world is hard.
Holding onto hope in a fallen world is hard.

I knew I was the monster.  Now, I know that I am not.  So what am I?

I am Yours, Lord.  Save me!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

An electronic world...

I find it odd that, legally, you cannot get a mortgage without having original documents and signatures, but when you pay off a mortgage, suddenly everything is only electronic and document copies.  I have absolutely no legally binding proof, yet, that my mortgage has been paid and the lien has been released.  And talking with anyone at Wells Fargo is enough to send one to the loony bin ... or jail for egregious retaliatory behavior.  I do have the escrow check.  But an escrow check is not even a final statement with big, fat zeros the the balance box.  Seriously, I cannot even get a final statement for the mortgage because a statement cannot be generated without a payment coupon ... and there is no payment to be made.

I want my ducks in a row.  I want, when Becky tends to my estate, to have a nice collection of legal documents for all that she needs.  And I want something that will stand up in a court of law should there be any confusion when she goes to sell the house.  You know ... there are so very many news reports of homeowners finding their fully-owned home mortgaged off or foreclosed on by a bank with which they never had any business.

Funny.  Becky was just here and some of the ducks she needs are still residing in the deacon's bench.  She really should have the originals of the paperwork that gives her the right to direct my life in all areas.  Although I have told folk in my life here that that is where to look.  No filing cabinet searching.  Just one of my beloved binders filled with my beloved top-loading sheet protectors.  [I still have many of those on hand should anyone need some.]

Today, I went trolling for something ... anything ... to organize.  I decided to do the filing in the tray atop my filing cabinet.  Some of the stuff in there was warranty information that I have been avoiding putting into my warranty binder, being so bloody exhausted all the time.  However, I decided to go through both filing cabinet drawers, looking for old documents, and to empty the entire tray.  Mission accomplished.  I even went through the non-house warranty binder and culled out the instruction manuals and warranty information for things that I sold, such as the shop vac.  I ended up with an entire shopping bag full of papers to recycle.  And some old brochures on multiple sclerosis that my neurologist in Ohio gave me along with the diagnosis letter.  A sad sort of missive that.

The set of documents I still have, although am thinking of pitching, are all my employment contracts.  I cannot see a reason for keeping them, especially since I no longer have a need of proving my salary.  With them are all the publisher contracts I have, from back in the dark ages when I actually sold writing.  Those, I think, would be good to keep.  But ... perhaps not.  One set guarantees me payment for use of my writing in other forms.  I have found it here and there, but to actually try to enforce the contract would cost more with a lawyer than would most likely net me.  I suppose it is really pride that makes me want to keep them ... and shame that makes me want to ditch the former.  Shame that I am no longer a contributing member of society.  Shame that I failed to achieve any of my dreams, really, save for a Ph.D. that means little, if anything.

I also have every commendation and letter of thanks/praise I have ever received related to work.  Seriously, I have the commendations I received from Sanger Harris when I was but a teenager working in the Juniors Department so that I could buy and maintain a car.  And I have all my graduate papers, my dissertation work, and a collection of school work dating from Kindergarten.  Silly Myrtle.  I have no children (and thus no grand children) who ever care to dig through my past.  All of that really could go ... or at least serve as kindling for one of my beloved fires.

When I was working on letters last, I got up in the middle of the night and finished off the ones lingering.  The next day, all thirteen personal missives went out the door.  Tonight, I worked on five more.  And I procrastinated, yet again, on writing the 2nd appeal letter for the tier exception, the letter to my last job with the notice from Blue Cross about the insurance premium refund for 2011 that was sent to work and not to me (yep, my old job did not bother to send the refund back to me), and a letter to someone who owes me money, has owed me money for a long, long time now.  Asking for things, even for things due me, is so very difficult.  I utterly fail in that department.

So, I called Wells Fargo, yet again. This time, I got a supervisor who did not tell me to call back in a few weeks, but who said that they have no paperwork that I can have regarding the payoff of the mortgage.  No final statement.  No promissory note marked canceled.  No release of lien request or documentation.  I think I am going to have to figure out where the county recorder's office is, go down there, and pay to get copies of documents that, technically, I paid for when I paid off my mortgage.  If I am understanding the county website correctly, I can pay for a copy of the release of mortgage that was returned to Wells Fargo.

Then, I did it.
I wrote my three darned letters.

Now, I'm off to take a jar of Dr Pepper Pulled Pork out of the freezer for tomorrow and a jar of Chipotle Chicken Chili for Thursday.  After all, I've got lots of loin girding to do for Friday's appointment.

I am Yours, Lord.  Save me!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Nauseous and quivery and weak...

Yesterday, I did something that was very frightening to me.  In so doing, the full body tremors started.  I have not a smidgeon of courage.

Thankfully, the tremors did not last long.  But, at times, I look as if I have N stage Parkinson's.  I know it is a combination of how my brain is reacting to the stress of the extreme level of anxiety that I have ... so easily now ... due to the wretched existence that is dysautonomia.  However, that does not help me bear such times any better.

It seems to me that I split into a few people in those times.  There is the Myrtle who is anxious and afraid.  There is the Myrtle who is terrified at how out of control her body is.  There is the Myrtle who is actually fascinated by how is body is being affected.  And there is the Myrtle who is ashamed of her weakness.

Last week, when I was being instructed by my pastor, the questions that I was asking were fearful to me, and the tremors started.  Oh, how I wish they didn't.

It would be easier if I had Parkinson's.  I mean, I do not want yet another chronic, incurable disease.  However, others would understand something like Parkinson's.  No one really understands dysautonomia.  Well, Celia, being a nurse and having seen some folk like me, has inklings.  And she is so utterly gracious for me to send her my I'm-feeling-wretched-and/or-terrified-about-what-is-happennig-to-my-mind-and-body texts, even responding in the wee hours of the morning if she is up feeding her new baby.  But, even so, I feel so alone.

And I really, really, really hate the tremors.

Today, all day, I have been feeling as if I am a guitar string that has been plucked.  Inside.  Not the tremors.  Just nauseous and quivery and weak.  But quivery and weak deep inside.

A while ago, Marie passed on her father's sermon from last week about sin.  Well, about Genesis.  And sin.  And our foe.  I found his voice as a writer rather fascinating, for he speaks with casual style that is very disarming.  Now, that might sound strange, but there is this simplicity in diction and syntax, along with a wonderful cadence, that cuts straight to the heart of what he is trying to communicate.  Since becoming a Lutheran, folk have said that hearing a sermon is always better than reading one, but even the way the words were arranged on the page made for effective communication.  Yet, in her father's sermon, even via electronic mail, I was blessed with hearing the Word of God and having the Holy Spirit work His truth in me.

Anyway, two points have stayed with me:

  • When you look at the fall, when you look at how sin entered the world, it was from a lack of faith in the Word of God.  That's what satan does, twists what we know to be true by sowing seeds of doubt and distracting us with the fallacy of human reasoning ... Did God really say that you would die if you ate from the tree?  What does His word really mean?  How should it be interpreted to fit you here, now, in this time?  Cunning all aimed at destroying faith in God's Word.  It's not so much about the fruit as the lack of faith.  I have never really thought about sin and the fall that way.
  • What was the very, very, very first result of sin?  It was not the pain and broken relationships and toilsome labor and thorn and thistles and even death that comes from sin.  It was that Adam and Eve noticed they were naked.  Pastor Holowach talks about how there is probably little else that would make you feel more humiliated or disturbed (distraught would be the word I would use) than being naked in public. At work. At a football game. At church. There is no place that would be a good thing. And the feelings that arise from being naked in public are really what we ought to feel when we recognize our sin before God: "Sin leaves you naked, vulnerable, and ashamed before God.  It leaves you exposed and humiliated in His Holy presence."     

The sermon was fascinating to me.  Of course, Pastor Holowach didn't leave his congregation with nakedness.  He talked about how God approached His children, had them acknowledge their sin, and then provided them the comfort of clothing.  He provided the immediate comfort of being covered and the promise of the enteral comfort that we would have in being clothed with Christ.

I suppose that has remained with me because I really do savor the song Welcome to Our World, especially the verse:

So wrap our injured flesh around You
Breathe our air and walk our sod
Rob our sin and make us holy

Perfect Son of God
Perfect Son of God
Welcome to our world

I savored the sermon Marie shared because the focus of sin during Lent has, before this year, been rather soul-crushing for me.  The delivery of Lenten messages that is.  Here is a message of sin that begins and ends with faith, begins and ends with Christ, begins and ends with God forgiving and restoring.

Why remember that on the same day I am remember how nauseous and quivery and weak I am in my body?  I am the same in my mind.  And in my faith.

My next catechesis lesson is March 31st.  I hunger for the Lord's Supper.  In truth, I long for the protection I believe it to be.  But I also know that to wait is—while not perfect for me—good for me. I came across something last night that ... evidenced ... just how long I have been asking to be instructed, to be taught rather than just told something ... or have someone try to "fix" what is broken in me, focusing on the physical or psychological and skipping right past the care of the soul.  I was distressed looking at what I found, but I was also comforted, reflecting on how much I have learned in just two catechesis lessons.

Yes, I gulped down the Christian Book of Concord from the first moment I was gifted a copy.  Yes, I spent over three decades in church prior to that time.  Yes, I read the Bible every day, memorizing much as every good evangelical girl is supposed to do.  But the utter dearth of true doctrine in the mainline evangelical churches I had attended is sobering and soul-crushing in and of itself.  And the dissonance between both my experiences and the false teaching I absorbed so fully all those years and what I read in the BOC has been tearing me apart inside.

My soul has been nauseous and quivery and weak.  That is worse ... much worse ... than all my bodily and mental distress combined.

Yes, I forgot the Zofran all day.
I just took some now.
And next I shall dose myself with psalms.

Lord, I believe.  Help my unbelief!