Friday, February 27, 2015

One at a time...

I have been battling waves of nausea since early this morning.  Again and again and again.  Plus, I've been having a chill.  I think that I should only have one dysautonomia symptom at a time.  Doesn't that seem fair to you?

Zofran.  Ginger Ale. Saltines.

Blue feet.

I built a fire and have been roasting myself for hours and hours and hours to no avail.  Three blankets, one electric blanket, one heating pad, wool socks, gloves, hat, scarves, and sweater.


I did, however, savor the sunset through my window.

I still cannot believe that I have stained glass window in my house.  When the winter sun sets, the colors in the glass glows and cast such a beautiful light across the deacon's bench and wall.

For a brief while, I was distracted from my pukey and freezing self.

Poor Amos.  He just wants to drape himself across my person for comfort.  I'm in dire need of comfort, but I cannot bear for him to be atop me at the moment.

And pukey still.

Becky and I ran errand this morning together, thanks to Sprint.  Despite the nausea, I was able to fetch three prescriptions at two pharmacies and a few groceries.  Sadly, I forgot to get more Ginger Ale.

Given this day, I'm going to need more than the two cans I have left.  It's a good thing that Firewood Man is bringing over another load of wood on the morrow.  SIGH.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

When kids care...

My nephew is doing a fundraiser at his school and it is the BEST one I've heard of yet.  By that I mean he is NOT selling chocolate or popcorn or wrapping paper or any such thing.  He is raising money to combat heart disease!

This is his fundraising page, if you would like to make a donation, even a teeny tiny one.  I wish I had figured out how to do it in honor of someone, like my step-mother did for my father.  Our family has a poor history when it comes to heart health, with both my grandfather's dying at a relatively young age from heart attacks.

I like that my nephew is excited about what he is doing. I like that he is not selling over-priced, guilt-inducing products.  I like that he cares about helping others with heart disease once he learned about it.  And I really, really, really respect his school for taking this route in doing a fund-raiser.

Plus, well, when I mentioned that he could personalize his fundraising page with his own photo, Michael picked the coolest one EVER.

Just look at the guy!  He is so free with his self at times.  I admire the kid so much.

I think it is important to teach children about the concerns of this world, this country, and their fellow human beings.  I think it is important to teach them that even a small amount of fundraising can be pooled with that of others to help combat cardiac disease.  And I think it is important to encourage them when they are willing to make an effort to help others.

Plus, being female, given that heart disease is the leading cause of death among women, more than all cancers combined, I am glad his school chose this particular fundraising target.

I do a lot of reading of news articles online to get through some of the worst of the bad times of my days.  I tend to read more non-American news sources than American, because the different perspective intrigues me.  That was how I discovered Martha Payne and her Never Seconds blog.  I remain astounded at what she is doing for hungry kids in Africa and how she is raising awareness of the issue, how to advocate for something, and how every kind of help matters.  I know that not every child's attempt to help others will result in such a profound difference in the life of others, but when kids care about others, for me, life in this world becomes a bit brighter.

Consider Leah Wiener.  She decided that she didn't need any more toys and used her 8th birthday party to help other children.  Having worked at a foster care agency, I know how important creating life books can be.  So, I think it is really cool that she chose that as her giving opportunity for her birthday.  It wasn't about giving other kids presents, but giving them a sense of history and continuity when their lives can be so chaotic in the foster care system.  Such caring at eight-years-old!!

Sometimes ... sometimes I think the world forgets just how incredible kids can be when they open their eyes and ears, when they see and hear the world around them, when they are encouraged to help others.  I just love reading about what can happen when kids care.

So, It is sweet and wonderful to me that my nephew is becoming one of those kids.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Abject relief...

A while ago, Pastor Eric Brown posted the best explanation of Lent that I have ever read/heard.  Why do I think that?  Well, most of what I know about Lent is what we do and why it is helpful to us.  The post?  Well, it's all about Jesus:

What's the Real Focus of Lent?

So, now we are coming to Lent - so what is it's point, what is its purpose? Is it about suffering? Is it about self-denial? Is it about making sure we hear the Word more often (yea midweek services!)?

I hear a lot of things about Lent, and most of the time I think they hit on tangential issues. Here is what I would submit - our seasons in the Church have themes. Advent is about Christ's coming. Christmas is about the incarnation, that God becomes Man for us. Epiphany is about Christ revealing that He is True God.

And Lent - Lent is about Jesus. Lent is the season where we focus most clearly on Jesus taking the battle to Satan - Jesus fighting against sin and death and the Devil.

Think on the upcoming readings - His temptation, He heals, He casts out demons, He takes on false doctrine, He fights against hunger and hardship... and He dies. This is all saying, "Look at Jesus take the battle to Satan." This is, as Luther would have us sing, "But for us fights the valiant one."

Lent is the battle season - it is the Son of God going forth to war for you. That's the real focus of Lent.  ~Rev. Eric Brown

It is no secret that when I read/hear about how I am supposed to be as a good or faithful Christian ... these days ... I fall to pieces and tremble in great fear.  And it is no secret that I have struggled with understanding Lent ever since learning about the church year calendar.  Most Lent sermons distress me, hearing about all the "doing" that is good to "do" during this time.  Lots and lots and lots of talk about discipline.  SIGH.

But I then think about back when I was teaching second grade.  We had these periodic school-wide health themes that would run for a week.  One of them was the importance of brushing your teeth after lunch.  The students were given tooth brushes and toothpaste.  After the week was over, I was the only teacher who continued to have/allow her students to brush their teeth after lunch.  Many of my colleagues said that I was wasting academic time, however it made no sense to me to teach a child that dental hygiene is important and then not allow that child to continue good dental hygiene practices.

For me, that's what most of what I've heard during Lent sounds like.  I want to ask ... loudly ... "Isn't prayer and almsgiving and mercy work important the rest of the year, too?"  

In reading Pastor Brown's post, it struck me that what bothered me most was that Lent didn't really seem to be about Jesus before and now I had something very clear and very simple showing how it is actually about Jesus.

Reading Michael Card's commentaries on the Gospels has fundamentally changed how I read them and how I think about them.  They have also fundamentally changed how I think about Jesus, but not in a way that I can manage to explain.  Mostly, though, reading them, although from a man in a different denomination, I see and hear and feel the same resonance, the same rightness, as I do reading the Christian Book of Concord (BOC).  I know that denominational differences matter.  But the commentaries are not, for the most part, denominational.  They are about Jesus.  They are about the testimonies given about Jesus.  And they are about celebrating the perfection of the Word of God given in those testimonies.

To put it another way—aside from the scary-words-of-Jesus sections with which I need help putting into perspective—I find the same rest in reading the Gospels sections and their commentaries as I do reading the BOC.  Mostly, this is because even though Michael Card is challenging the readers to imaginatively engage with the text considering history and politics and audience the purpose of the Gospels and that engagement is to see and taste and smell and touch and experience Christ crucified for you.  The commentaries are all about Jesus and His ministry and His purpose for coming, not about the believer's walk of faith.

Pastor Brown's post brought such abject relief to my being ... reading that Lent is not about the believer's walk of faith, but about Christ crucified for you.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

The clean and unclean...

I fainted/fell early this morning and hurt one of my toes.  I keep thinking I am going to hurt my head, but I do have that horrid shag carpet in my bedroom.  Lots of cushioning.  Somehow I hurt my toe as I fell against the antique trunk at the end of my bed.  Since I cannot see well, I couldn't figure out why it hurt so much, but I worked myself back to sleep so that I could get up to watch the Daytona 500.

Even in the light and more or less awake, I couldn't see my foot.  After many attempts to try and get my inordinately near-sighted eyes nearer my foot, I discovered that, in my great talent for awkward falling injuries, I somehow managed to rip off my toenail.  In case you are wondering, my toe really hurts.

I only have ten toes.  One of them I have broken so many times that it is sort of a squished, non-functioning always-sore mess.  That's my left small toe. I break it because I whack my feet and hips and shoulders and thighs into things that I think I have cleared with my person, but have not.

Then, in my getting-a-pocket-Book of Concord joy a few years ago, I turned to leave my room and smashed two of my toes on my left foot.  The middle and the one next to the small toe.  They took well over a year to heal, they still hurt, and they are actually numb, too.

Last night, I destroyed my right small toe.  If you are keeping track, that's four of my ten toes that I have managed to significantly damage.  I actually think the toe might be broken, too, but any fracture or break pales in comparison to have a gaping wound where a toenail once was.

All that and Dale flubbed a restarted and only finished third.  SIGH.

I napped and then read a book whilst the Oscars were on in the background.  Movies are not in my budget; they have not been since I moved here.  But I was slightly curious.  I really did not pay much attention, although I did find myself wondering why there were all these closings and delays for the morrow.  Apparently, we are having super dangerous wind chill temperatures.

After finally satisfying my curiosity by checking my weather app, I scooped up my beloved fluff ball and told him that he could not wait any longer to tend to his business because the temperature had dropped 20 degrees since the last time we ventured outside.  After much anguish and accusatory looks thrown my way and rather pointed hobbling on the cold ground, Amos took care of his need.  He then came back inside, climbed up on the couch, nosed his way beneath the quilt and atop the electric blanket, and has not come up for air since.

It is cold here.

I have been thinking about how Luke is a great way to break some of your misconceptions about the life and times of Jesus.  Michael Card points out in his commentary, regarding chapter 14, that Jesus' encounter with the Pharisees was not always negative.  In fact, there are three instances where the adversarial we're-out-to-get-Jesus M.O. does not take place.  In fact, the gentle, pointed advice he gives to his Pharisee host is not recorded as ill-received.  There is no mention of ire and desire to plot against Jesus.  In fact, one of the guests responds to Jesus with a berakah about the Kingdom of God.

Jesus follows his advice on seating and being first and last with a parable about a master who gives a banquet.  His original guests all give rather flimsy if not downright insulting excuses for not coming.  So, the master has his servants go out and find the poor, the maimed, the blind, and the lame.  With space to spare, the master also has his servants go out strangers and foreigners.  I really like the closing commentary on this passage (Luke 14:14-25).

The final image is a reflection of the heart of the master of the banquet.  Above all, he is determined that his feast be full, no matter what the social station or class or pedigree of the person who come.  He wants his house to be full, like his heart.

For me, this makes 1 Timothy 2: 1-6, particularly verse 4, in which Paul writes that God desires that all shall be saved, more clear.  More pointed.  More filled with longing and with compassion.  Or maybe it is the other way round, 1 Timothy 2:4 is a reminder to remember Luke 14:14-25 and the imagery painted for us in the parable Jesus tells.

I really liked Michael Card's commentary on Luke 15.  Once again, his "titles" are different.  It is that difference that causes me to step out of the rut of what I have heard about the third parable to be able to see how it fits with the first two.

Chapter 15 is about lostness and about God's response.  As Michael Card points out, in each of the three parables Luke presents at this point in his collection of eyewitness testimonies, there is a pattern.  It is a four-fold pattern: 1)  something/someone is lost; 2) it is sought after; 3) it is found; and 4) there is great rejoicing as a result.

If you read Luke 15, you see that Luke positions the parable of the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the lost son together.  It is the latter that most know of as the Prodigal Son.  I actually, now, prefer the title the Parable of the Lost Son.  For one, it helps you concentrate on the pattern within the three parables.  For another, it helps you to see the progression of the pattern, to have it go from a mere sketch to a lengthy description.

He also points out that, as what often happens, when you have hesed, you have a hater of hesed.  The younger son, who was foolish and squandered his life away, who left the family and was lost to his father, is sought (or longed for) and celebrated with great rejoicing when he is found.  From the person he had no right to expect anything, the younger son is given everything.

This made me think of the psalter and how often the psalmist essentially complains about the hesed God shows to his enemies.  I think it would have made a tad bit stronger bit of commentary to blatantly make the connection that jealousy can lead to the hatred of mercy.

I mean, after all, the older brother had lost his brother.  His flesh and blood returned safely to the home.  Yet all the older brother could think about what how utterly unfair he found the entire situation to be.  Hesed, however, is not about fairness ... or who is more deserving.

I think that's something about mercy folk can forget.

One interesting note Michael Card had was to suggest that you stop and think about Jesus' audience for a moment.  Who, in the first two parables, would they, could they, identify with?  A sheep?  A coin?  I mean, in both parables, the angels are rejoicing over the one who repents.  How does a sheep repent?  More so, how does a coin?  The idea is confusing and maddening.  Then, you have this final parable of lostness, and the one with whom it would make sense that the Scribes and the Pharisees identified is the one who misses the point of God's love and forgiveness, of His desire that all be saved.

One cool note that I forgot to mention about Luke's testimony of the transfiguration—aside from the fact of wondering just who gave it to him—is the added detail he includes:  Moses and Elijah are talking with Jesus about his upcoming exodus.


Finally, even before Michael Card points it out for me, I am noticing all of the additional details of afflictions that Luke includes.  As a doctor, he is exacting in describing the bodily condition of those who come for healing.  Was it pure habit for Luke to include such details, such as the man suffering from edema?  Or was it a reflection of how he viewed people, as those in need of help, rather than the label of sinner oft flung upon them.

For all the talk, today, in the Lutheran church about how we are sinners, about how the church is full of sinners, when you see those suffering, those in need of healing and hesed and forgiveness, folk around Jesus, both disciples and the religious leadership, view those people as sinners and thus not worthy of time or attention or ... the risk of becoming unclean.  Then, to label someone as a sinner was to judge them unworthy of time and attention and of the gifts Christ came to bring.

I keep thinking about the pointed reminders of how Jesus, in dealing with those who are suffering, risks becoming unclean.  Of course, the radical reversal of His new orthodoxy is that the issue of cleanliness now flows in reverse.  The unclean do not make the clean unclean.  The clean make the unclean clean.

Being unclean was quite a burden then.  It was messy, both socially and spiritually ... and perhaps physically, depending on the situation.  Consider the Samaritan.  In tending to the wounds of the beaten man, surely he got his hands and perhaps his own clothing dirty.

Sometimes I wonder if lurking behind the lack of hesed shown to those who are suffering today—those in our families and churches and workplaces and neighborhoods and in the larger community that is this world—is the desire to remain clean, the desire to avoid the messiness of chronic illness, abuse, addiction, besetting sins, mental illness, etc.

I have seen people comment on online thoughts similar to something a pastor told me after I had moved here.  It is not the work of the church to help the poor, because Jesus, Himself, said that the poor will always be with you.  He told me that means the poor and suffering will always be a problem in this fallen world and thus is wrong to think the church can make a genuine difference to the problem.  Having read that bit in the Gospels now, the bit where the woman ministers to Jesus with the expensive stuff, I do not actually think that was the point Jesus was making.  I don't think He was saying that since the poor will always be with you, trying to help them if futile.

I mean, Jesus, himself, tended to the poor and the suffering, even as He brought the Good News to this world.  When the crowds were hungry and Jesus' disciples were all ready to pass the buck on addressing the problem, Jesus instructed His disciples to help them, to feed them.  When He sent out his disciples and the Seventy to share the Good News, Jesus sent them out also with the power to heal and to forgive, to help the poor and the suffering.

Yes, Jesus came to die, to give Himself as a ransom for many, and established a ministry to rightly teach the Gospel.  However, He did comfort and heal and forgive and drive out demons and even raise the dead.  Jesus, as one person of the triune God, who defines Himself in the Old Testament as hesed, both practiced and encouraged mercy.

How, then, can it not be the outreach of the church to also practice and encourage true mercy?

My friend Mary ... one of the things that I admire about her and am also admonished by seeing the practice in her life ... is the acute awareness of the need to not place additional burdens upon people, most particularly in areas of personal piety.  I thought of her when I was re-reading Luke 11:37-53 on my way to reading Luke 15.  In that passage, Jesus is speaking woes to the Scribes and the Pharisees.  Verse 46 reads, "Then He said:  "Who also to you experts in the law!  You load people with burdens that are hard to care, yet you yourselves don't touch these burdens with one of your fingers."  With all the extra laws created to explain and fulfill the 10 Commandments, they were making exacting legal demands on folk and not lifting a finger to help.

[The word "finger" comes up previously in verse 20:  "the finger of God."  It's an interesting contrasts of finger action/inaction.]

Personally, the reason I fled Facebook and most of the online Lutheran world was the additional burdens I saw being places and those I struggled with myself.  I fled because, in all the ... passionate discussion (arguing) ... I rarely saw mercy given to or called for or even desired for sinners.  And, here and there, I saw flashes of what appeared less about walking with the wise (Psalm 1) or a concern for the danger of blasphemy and more about not risking cleanliness.

I was not exactly accurate above.  Michael Card entitled the third parable of Chapter 15 as the "The Father with the Lost Son(s)."  Both sons were lost ... just in different ways.  And the father shows hesed to both, for he tells the older son that what's mine is already yours.

I wonder if it is shocking to others to rename parables, but I think that both renaming—this one and calling the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10) a "Parable of Unexpected Mercy"—helps place the emphasis of both on God's work, rather than the actions/choices of man.  At least it does so for me.

At the risk of being even more shocking ... or perhaps disrespectful to Scripture ... read Psalm 28 as if it included the voices of both sons and the father:

The Younger Son's Perspective:
To Thee, O Lord, I call;
My rock, do not be deaf to me,
Lest, if Thou be silent to me,
I become like those who go down to the pit.
Hear the voice of my supplications when I cry to Thee for help,
When I lift up my hands toward Thy holy sanctuary.
Do not drag me away with the wicked
And with those who work iniquity;
Who speak peace with their neighbors,
While evil is in their hearts.

Older Son's Perspective:
Requite them according to their work and according to the evil of their practices;
Requite them according to their deeds of their hands;
Repay them their recompense.
Because they do not regard the works of the Lord
Nor the deeds of His hands,
He will tear them down and not build them up.

The Father's Perspective:
Blessed be the Lord,
Because He has heard the voice of my supplication.
The Lord is my strength and my shield;
My heart trusts in Him, and I am helped;
Therefore my heart exults,
And with my son I shall thank Him.
The Lord is their strength,
And He is a saving defense to His anointed.
Save Thy people, and bless Thine inheritance;
Be their shepherd also, and carry them forever.

I mean not to be disrespectful, but Psalm 28 is a great example of the complexities of the human heart, one that includes the desire for help and forgiveness even whilst wishing the same be withheld from others.  Can you not just see those three men, standing on a stage, far apart from each other, speaking their soliloquies, together and yet separate:  
  • I messed up; please help me. 
  • Those who mess up should be recompensed commiserate with what they've done; punish them!
  • Those who mess up are always welcome to return; the return/the finding of the lost is always a time for rejoicing 
Of course, you also have the whole Shepherd carrying his people in that last verse of Psalm 28.  Shepherd carrying the lost sheep.  Shepherd who tends to his flock in Old and New Testament.  Continuity.  Common threads in the tapestry God weaves in Scripture.

Did I digress there????

Saturday, February 21, 2015

The why of the whistle...

Breaking News:  My friend Mary had her twins.  If you are a praying person, please pray for her and her babies.  Right now, they are in separate hospitals, because her preemies needed to be in a NICU.  One is having surgery on the morrow, so it would be nice if the family can be reunited as soon as possible.  Living in small town America came make the logistics of troublesome pregnancies hard on families.  I am wishing for all of the family to have those angels God can send surround them and for much health to Mary and her two new little girls.

Selfishly, I am happy to note that I actually got to talk with Mary, since the babysitter watching the other children when I called to have a chat gave me her hospital number.  I didn't even know she was in the hospital!  I got to chat with Mary, talk about sci-fi shows, and even laugh.  I don't laugh much these days.  What a blessing she is, even so soon after an emergency C-section.  Mercy!

Last night night I gathered my non-existent energy and made a double batch of the chicken part of the Lemon Chicken Gyros with Tzatziki and Feta and a double batch of the Gyro Flatbread, for I was out of both.  I made the lemon chicken with my alternative finishing so that it works with freezing.

Amos kept asking me to give up on the cooking stuff and join him back in the GREEN chair.  He really does not like for me to be off doing things for very long.  I guess he think's I'm the best thing since sliced bread!  That's nice.

Last night was also a first for me.  I had a dream so bad that, when I awoke screaming, I bit my tongue.  Having a swollen, painful tongue is rather bothersome.  It did not, however, keep me from enjoying a gyro.

It is cold.  Very, very, very cold.  Lots of windchill cold.  And, last night and on into today, we had snow.  When Firewood Man came by to clear my sidewalks and behind my garage, he noted that I had not made much of a dent in my woodpile.  I told him I was trying to be economical and stretch out my fires.  He asked why, when they comfort me so.  I have no good answer.  And he said he still has my own personal pile covered with a tarp (snow free) just waiting for me.

I started an account with Firewood Man, because I wanted to spread out the costs of mowing (and now mulching) over 12 months, instead of during only the growing season. And I wanted to do the same for firewood and snow removal.  I could have started a savings account to put in weekly contributions to cover the costs of Firewood Man's labors on my behalf, but I thought it better to forgo the small interest I might gave to allow him a better cash flow.

Right now, I have $110 left from what I last gave him for the winter (I funded my account with a cushion to start off).  The wood is $30 a firewood rack, but another load would bring me down below $100.  If we have just one more snow, I would still have $100.  Why do I want to come out of the winter with that much money?  $100 is what he thinks the mulching will be.  Now, I have mulch in my regular budget, but I was trying to scrimp and save and not use that regular budget money.  However, I do love fires.  And it really makes no sense for me to be so very miserly that I am punishing myself when I have funds on account with Tim for just this very reason.

So, I had me a mighty soothing fire all afternoon and all evening.  I also spent quite a bit of time with my feet parked right in front of it, practically burning them, because I had such a cold spell this morning.  Nothing I did warmed up my icy skin, blue feet and hands, and tremors.  For hours.  

I hate dysautonomia.

My sister called when I was outside waiting on Amos to brave the arctic tundra and complete his major business.  A train whistle rang out whilst we were talked and she interrupted to ask if she was hearing a train.  I told she was and that I had blogged recently on not knowing why it is that I find the train whistle so very comforting.

My sister told me that when we were little, visiting my grandparents, we would share the spare room and would fall asleep listening to the train whistles.  I do not think she truly understands why, but I did.  You see, if we were in that room, that meant that my uncle was not there and I was not on the couch pull out bed where he visited his attentions on me.  In that room, I was safe.

I had my answer:  the train whistle is reminding me of a time in my childhood when I felt safe.  Feeling safe as a child was a rare thing to me.

How merciful is it, then, that God would provide this magnificent old house, already such a balm to my spirit, in a place where train whistles blow throughout the evening and night?  I did not know that this place, this location, would bring reminders of a safe time.  Surely God did.


Thursday, February 19, 2015

Potatoes, pensiveness, and peace...

I really, really, really dislike food waste, especially since I am in the throes of trying to follow my own personal austerity program.

However, I am not really willing to eat this potato that got "lost" in my "root cellar."  I did, with some good baby red potatoes, make Crash Hot Potatoes tonight.  I just love that the rosemary bushes are wintering nicely in the solarium.

I do not think that I posted a photo of the "sale" sneakers that I bought.  After the Cartwheel discount and with sales tax, these beauties cost a whopping $6.83.  In my younger years, vanity would have led me to purchase actual attractive shoes.  However, although I find them to be quite ugly, they fit and are better for walking and were really, really, really cheap.

[Should I mention that I ate the potatoes after I had walked?]

Becky has been texting me to remind me about the times to take the Erythromycin, so that has been helpful.  I have, however, had a few bouts of violent nausea and one day where the beached whale syndrome (writhing with swollen innards) nearly felled me.  I really, really, really dislike dysautonomia.

I have been thinking a lot about Luke as I have been re-watching "Battlestar Galactica."  In particular, I was thinking about how Jesus warns His disciples of what lies ahead for him, but they don't hear Him.  They hear what they want to hear and do not hear what they do not want to be true.  They are human.  That is, after all, what humans do.

I am in season three and it astounds me to think about how the humans in the fleet vote out Laura Roslin and vote in Gaius Baltar as president because he sells them on the idea of giving up trying to find earth and settling on a planet that's murky atmosphere will provide some sort of protection from being detected by the Cylons who pursue them, intent on wiping out the last of humanity.

They elect Gaius.  They settle on the planet.  They start to eek out a pretty tough existence.  The Cylons come.  Thousands die.  Commander Adama eventually rescues the people from the planet.  Not all that long later, the people are complaining once more about the journey they are taking.

They complain about being left on the planet, even though it is what they demanded.  They complain about the continued journey, even though it was what they dreamed of whilst in captivity.

I was also thinking about how very human Gaius is.  Sooooooo unlikeable to me, I sometimes want to mute the television during his scenes.  But, this time through, I noticed how often tears streak down his face, tears from an entire gamut of emotions:  fear, joy, compassion, greed, horror.  Gaius is a sinful man who knows his weaknesses and spends all of his energy fleeing from them, wanting them not to be his.  And he was so very desperate to be one of the final five Cylons.

Were he a Cylon, then he did not betray his people, leading to the death of almost all of humanity.  Were he a Cylon, on the planet playing the puppet president, he did not, again, betray his people.  Gaius Baltar wants so very much to not be the sinful man that he is.  He wants both forgiveness and for there to be no need of forgiveness.  If ever there was a person wrestling with the Old Adam (I'm not saying he has a New Adam in him), it is Gaius Baltar.  I think that it is this unflinching presentation of the sinfulness and weakness of flesh that makes one want to mute his scenes ... or fast forward through them.

There is no triune God on "Battlestar Galactica."  It is not a story of Christianity, but it is a story of faith and of forgiveness and of suffering beyond imagination.  I really am fascinated at watching people struggle to cling to their righteous anger and humiliation rather than forgive those who deserve no forgiveness.  And, yet, survival is ultimately dependent upon forgiveness, upon being willing to forgive and to be forgiven.  It also is a story, ultimately, of hesed.

A while ago, I watched the single season of "Caprica." I wish the prequel series had not been canceled, though I found some discrepancies in it.  What fascinated me about "Caprica" was that it is the machines who have faith in the one true God, who reject the false gods of man.  And, in the series, you see how very offensive the idea of a God with laws to curb the sinful flesh of man.  How can a God who claims to love me not want me to be free to follow whatever desires I have?

I am a bit ... pensive ... watching the series once again whilst reading Michael Card's commentary on Luke and thinking about what I already learned in his commentaries on Mark and on Matthew.

Tonight, I thought I would note a few things that stood out as I re-read my way to Chapter 12:

John the Baptist's question really would be a great ... lessoning ... on faith, if presented at the comfort it really is.  John's experience of being jailed and surely mistreated in there speaks doubt into what he knows to be true.  Experience will aways lead us astray, even someone as great as John the Baptist.  Even John struggles with his old Adam.  Even John longs for his life to be something other than it was.  Even John wondered if Jesus was really true.


In chapter 9, Herod is perplexed about Jesus.  Some say John was risen from the dead.  Some say he was Elijah come again.  Some say another ancient prophet who had risen again. Herod says that He beheaded John and wants to see Jesus.  Michael Card points out that it is almost as if Herod was reassuring himself that John was dead and yet wondering what it would mean for him if John really came back.  I do not remember if I missed it in the other commentary, but here Michael Card notes that in the future Jesus will be sent to Herod as a peace offering by Pilate before His crucifixion.

The question of who Jesus is begins with Herod's wonderings, but ends with Jesus asking the disciples themselves.  In Luke, the praying Gospel, Jesus was praying in private with His disciples when He asks first who other say that He is and then who the disciples believe Him to be.  Peter's answer, though is not phrased as "we say you are ..." but a pronouncement of "God's Messiah!"

Now that the crucial question has been answered, Jesus must undeceive his followers.  Fro them, the Messiah is the victorious conquerer of Romans who will set up his earthly kingdom.  Never could any of them have believed that the Messiah had in fact come to die for them and for the Romans as well.  So before the echo of Peter's answer has died away, Jesus tells them that being the Messiah means he must "suffer many things ... be killed, and be raised the third day."  It is a statement they only selectively seem to hear. T hat is, they only hear parts of it—the pieces they want to hear.  When the times come, no one will seem to remember that Jesus had said he would rise on the third day.  Not a single one of them is expecting it.

Isn't that a bit mind boggling to think about:  none of the disciples expect Jesus to rise from the dead.


In the commentary on Luke 9:51-62, Michael Card gives a glimpse into the enmity between the Jews and the Samaritans:

Jesus adopted the strategy of sending out heralds in advance of his coming to a town.  This strategy will become more formalized in the next chapter with the choosing of the Seventy.  As they travel from Galilee toward Jerusalem, they must pass through Samaria, the region of the hated Samaritans.  Some commentators mention that by even going through Samaria Jesus exhibits an extraordinary openness.  Josephus, however, tells us that it was customary for Galileans to go through Samaria.

Whatever openness Jesus might be showing, it is not reciprocated by the Samaritans, who do not welcome the group because they are on their way to Jerusalem for Passover.  Passover was a particular time of tension between the Jews and the Samaritans.  They took turns desecrating each other's temples.  One Passover, the Samaritans dug up some graves and threw the bones into the temple court to keep the Jews from celebrating their most holy feast.  The next year the Jews responded by burning the Samaritan temple on Mount Gerizim to the ground.

Well, then.  My.  That does make the parable of the Good Samaritan all the more strange.  Powerful.  Pointed.


At the end of Chapter 9's commentary on this same passage, after going through all the reasons folk have for delaying following Jesus, there is this one last line that has had me ... pondering:  The road to Jerusalem lies before us all, in one way or another, and so does the call to not look back.

I really don't have words, yet, for the thoughts in my head, but I think you could write an entire book on the "looking back" that can fell a person.

Throughout the Gospel, Luke starts so often with a statement about traveling ... while, before, after, setting out ... and I wondered if all that traveling is what started the trend to talk about your "Journey of Faith," to examine it and give witness to it.  Personal Journeys with Christ.  UGH.

Once again, that would totally miss the point.  Luke is being very Markish in filling his text with reminders that Jesus and his disciples were on their way to Jerusalem.  After all, Mark shows us that Jesus did not come to simply teach or to heal, but rather He came to give the gifts of Himself and to establish the ministry that would continue past His death and resurrection.  So, all that traveling talk is not to say that faith is a journey you spend with Jesus Christ, but a pointed reminder that Jesus came to die ... the very thing He tells his selectively-hearing disciples.


Again, I thought of my friend Mary, who just might be called Mary the Musician in addition to Mary the Gospel Giver and Mary the Myrtle Speaker.  For in Michael Card's commentary on Luke 10:21-24, he draws a parallel between Mary singing the Magnificat and the praise Jesus (might be singing) gives for the success of the Seventy's journey.

The successful return of the Seventy brings about a moment in the life of Jesus that is unlike any other recorded in the Gospels.  If ever Jesus' joy could be said to overflow, this is the moment.  If behooves those who long to being him more joy to look more closely at it.

The successful return of the Seventy is a high point in the ministry.  We are not told if the first mission of the Twelve was successful or not, but the failures that surround them before and after their first mission are not cause for hope.  Also, they have begun their final journey to Jerusalem, a trip that will have precious few moments of joy.  Given the flow of the ministry, this seems to be a moment when success outweighs failure.  It seems to be a time when the disciples are getting it.  Jesus grabs the moment while he can and returns the Joy he is feeling to the Father as an act of worship.

This moment also explains the central theme of Luke: radical reversal.  It helps us to see why those who should don't, while those who shouldn't do.  It is because God wants it this way.  Jesus is almost singing, "You have hidden these things from the wise and learned and have revealed them to infants ... because this was Your good pleasure."  This is an appropriate song coming from a man whose mother once sang, "He has satisfied the hungry with good things and sent the rich away empty" (Lk 1:53).  The world is being turned upside down because the Father wants it that way, and Jesus could not be more joyful at the prospect.  It is a rare moment of light on an otherwise dark journey to Jerusalem. [emphasis mine]


Luke 10:25-37 Michael Card titles A Parable of Unexpected Mercy.  I like that!  It takes the emphasis off the Samaritan and places it squarely on the ultimate point:  hesed.  Skipping most of the commentary, I wanted to capture this final bit, though learning about why a priest might pass the beaten man by was fascinating to me.  Okay, really, the whole blooming commentary series is fascinating to me.  But I digress

Next comes someone who, to the Jewish way of thinking, is the last person in the world who would do the right thing.  The schism began when the Jews who returned from the exile refused the help of the "half-breeds": those who were the mixed descendants of the Jew who had been left behind and the pagans who had settled in the region.  The animosity only grew with time.  The point is that the person who shouldn't have gotten it did.  When the Samaritan saw the suffering man, he "had compassion."  If our working definition of the Hebrew word hesed is "when the person from whom I have a right to expect nothing gives me everything," then the Samaritan clearly exhibits hesed.  His care for the injured man is over the top:  he bandages, pours on oil to sooth the wounds and wine to disinfect them, puts him on his own donkey, takes him to the inn, cares for him there, and leaves moeny to cover any further care that might be needed.  To top it off, he promised to come back later and check on the recovery of the nameless, wounded man.

I can see the scribe, wide-eyed, wondering where this distasteful story is going to lead, when Jesus responds to his original question with another question.  It is a simple question, with an inevitable answer.  "Which of these ... proved to be a neighbor?"

Swallowing hard, the scribe cannot even bring himself to say the word "Samaritan," so he uses the circumlocution, "the one who showed mercy."

Hesed is always something that you do, and so Jesus closes down the interaction with the simple command, "Go and do the same."

If Emeril Lagasse were telling the parable, I am most certain he would shout "BAM!" after the scribe's response.


I really like that Luke is the praying Gospel and Michael Card's commentary on Luke 11:1-13 is a soothing balm to me.  I reveled in connecting the text and the commentary to what I know from the Christian Book of Concord, most particularly the Large Catechism.  Frankly, I want to type out the whole glorious pondering on Jesus' prayer.  But it is four pages.  SIGH.

In the passage (please go read it in full), I highlighted verses 9-10: So, I say to you, keep asking, and it will be given to you.  Keep searching, and you will find.  Keep knocking, and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who searches finds, and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. [emphasis mine]

I literally fell off the couch reading this.  I jumped up and got out all my many translations and read Luke 11 in all of them. I Googled the whole knocking thing and looked at how it is treated elsewhere in the Gospels and the Bible and then I set all my bibles aside and had a bit of a ... hissy fit.

Sometimes, I get really, really, really frustrated when I discover YET ANOTHER place where, in my years in the mainline evangelical church, I was most clearly taught only a portion of Scripture, which, in the slivering out, changes the passage.

Man, all the Knock and Seek and Find studies I've had!  Plus, there is the whole praise song.  ARGH.  Never before have I encountered teaching on the whole of the passage, most particularly the parable in verses 5 to 8 that come before verse 9 (bolded above), a verse also left off.

A lot of the commentary is about the persistence in the parables and in the teaching of them.  As is, not just once.  Many times.  Over and over again.  If you only teach verse 10, then you can leave the believer with the thought that you just have to ask once for something and God will answer.  In doing so, you open up a world of burden and doubt—an entire universe really—for the believer if his prayers do not seem to be answered and you also can lead one down the murky, errant path of "Name It and Claim It" praying.  SIGH.

I want to capture just the commentary on the parable, even though I am still itching to type out all the commentary on the prayer itself.

Jesus follows the example of prayer with the first of two parables he will tell on the topic of prayer.  (The other is found in Lk 18:1-8).  It is a delightfully rustic story of two men, one who needs bread in the middle of the night and the other who is sound asleep in the family bed amid a pile of slumbering little children.  It is a story based on the obligations of Jewish hospitality—the kind of hospitality Jesus and the disciples have just received from Martha and on which they depended for their lives when they were on the road.

The first man has had a surprise visitor in the middle of the night, and his cupboard is empty.  After he knocks at his friend's door, he hears a sleepy voice from the inside telling him to go away:  everyone is asleep.  Anyone with children, especially more than one, understands his reluctance to wake them up.  Without painting a detailed picture of the first man persistently knocking at the door until the sleeper gets up to help, Jesus implies that his persistence does the trick and that he finally gets what he wants.  That is by far the most popular interpretation of this parable.  But there is another.

In Luke 11:8, the "his" in the phrase "because of his persistence" is normally thought to refer to the first man—the one who is knocking.  But the Greek is ambiguous.  It could refer to the sleeper.  And the word translated "persistence" can also means "shameless."  In this version, the sleeper gets up and provides for his friend because he wants to avoid the shame of violating the law of hospitality.

I lean toward this second view. I like the idea that our confidence in prayer should come not from us "getting it right"—that is knocking long enough for the door to open—but rather from the knowledge that the One who sometimes seems to be sleeping will answer because of his commitment to doing what he has promised.  When Jesus uses the rabbinic "how much more" (qal vahomer) at the conclusion of this block of teaching, he places the parable within that interpretative context. That is, if the lazy, good-for-nothing neighbor will get up to avoid being shamed, then how much more will the Lord answer the door of prayer when we knock?

In verse 9 Jesus sums it up like this:  ask, seek, knock.  Be confident in prayer, not because you have gotten the words just right (hence the bald-faced simplicity of the prayer Jesus has just taught them) but because of the goodness of the One to whom you are praying.

Of course, were this my commentary, I would the continue by quoting the BOC and the psalter to emphasize that last bit!


One of the wildest thoughts I have had came in reading the text of Luke 12:49-58.  It is not the commentary so much as a change in wording that I noticed.

When the angels herald Jesus' birth, they announce "Peace on earth" amongst other things.  Yet, in verse 51, Jesus asks, "Do you think that I come here to give peace to the earth?  No, I tell you, but rather division!"

I am mindboggled.

I am so caddywhompus I just know I will bungle this wild thought.  But, here it is:  When people wish for peace on earth, do they know they are actually wishing for Jesus' return?

Jesus IS the peace.  Well, that's how I read the wording change.  Jesus IS peace, so when the angels proclaim "Peace on earth" they are saying that Jesus is now bodily on earth.  But Jesus says that he did not come to bring peace to the earth.  He came to bring peace between God and Man, not between father and son, daughter and mother.  Yes, of course, peace in the family is a good thing, but that is not what Jesus being peace is.

A long while ago (I cannot find the link), I wrote a post musing about the word peace, thinking about the definition of it being a cessation of hostilities.   Jesus, being our peace, ceases the hostility between sinless God and sinful man.  That thought came back round to me reading Jesus proclamation here.

Isn't that where a lot of Christians start to go wrong?  Don't they start down the slippery slope of trying to make peace with others of faith, trying to find common ground.  It is not our job to make peace.  Christ is peace, not us.

In a way, this points back to the beginning of Chapter 12 in which Jesus teaches what is right to fear:  not man, but blasphemy.  Man?  Piffle.  Man cannot kill your soul.  Blasphemy?  The thought of blasphemy should strike terror in your heart, for even the smallest blasphemy will act like yeast in dough, spreading until it acts on all the ingredients.

All of chapter 12 could be tossed into my category of "Scary Words of Jesus" that felled me so whilst reading Matthew.  I need help with this chapter.  However, I was not so felled as to yearn to set aside the commentary as I travailed through Matthew.  I read a couple of verses of Chapter 13 just to pique my interest for the next time of study.

It helps, too, holding in my mind the thought that Luke is collecting eye-witness accounts and framing them for his audience.  Being mindful of his concern for the poor and discarded, for the Gentile, for the hated Samaritans, helps to hold at bay the fear that started welling within me over Jesus' teaching in chapter 12 and tell myself to wait and listen to the rest of Luke's testimony.  After all, I do not yet know all of his Jesus.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Two stories...

A man walks miles to work once his vehicle stops working.  He takes the bus when he can, but he walks when he cannot.  His story is told and he ends up with a free new truck and thousands of dollars donated to him.

A woman is raped and walks miles to the courthouse so that her rapists is convicted.  Homeless, she begs bus money when she can but walks when she must.  Her story is told and nothing happens.  No outrage that a survivor of sexual abuse is not assisted in pursuing justice.  No outrage that the onus of that pursuit is on her, rather than the police and prosecutors.

This ... this is why I could not bear to watch the rape storyline of Downton Abbey.  In many and various ways, little has changed in the last hundred years.  Both the victims (those who died) and the survivors of rape are not afforded much care, much respect, or much assistance.

Not much at all.
Not really.

Monday, February 16, 2015

That's just silly...

A while ago, someone wanted to have a chat about Downton Abbey.  As soon as I could get a word in edgewise, I simply stated that I stopped watching the show.  The other person was shocked and asked why.  I said that I simply could not watch the storyline of Anna's rape and her denial of it. I know that it is historically accurate, but denying rape, denying the horror of sexual abuse is too close to home and not something I can watch ... safely.

"Well, that's just silly!" was the response.

No, actually, it's not silly at all. It's healthy."  I replied and ended the conversation.

I call myself silly at times, mostly when I am feeling childish and confused, not particularly liking either of those feelings.  But setting a boundary on what you are willing to expose yourself to is not silly.  It is not silly at all.

I am extremely grateful to Becky for calling me to warn me of Anna's rape.  She also warned me of the plot line of her pretending it didn't happen.  I am not sure what I would have done had I watched that.  Becky's call was quite merciful.

One of Becky's favorite shows is Law and Order: Special Victims Unit.  I used to watch it ... before my world came crashing down.  Every now and then, I try to watch it so that I can share the viewing with Becky, let her talk about a favorite show.  But I just can't.  Just recently, probably because the main star is working on the problem in real life, a storyline was about the hundreds of thousands of untested rape kits across the country.  I was glad for the awareness, but I could not even watch that.  Society's response to sexual abuse, from Hollywood to the Church is distressing, despairing, and too much to face most of the time.

It is not silly that I stopped watching Downton Abbey.

It is also not silly that I asked my (now former) pastor to keep safe my father's bible.

He dropped it off today.  The first thing I did was weep.  Then I opened the zippered leather cover to pull out the photo I had not seen until his funeral.  I think the older person is a neighbor, but that is me in my father's arms.  I am so very grateful that this photo is not lost.  I have so very, very few of them with me.

I put the photo back, trying not to look at the service bulletin or the speech notes, and zipped the bible closed.  For now, I tucked it away in the deacon's bench.  But it is difficult for me to have it near. There are too many thoughts and feelings tied to my father and his death and that bible.  It is not silly that, for me, it is safer if someone else kept it for me.  I just don't have someone else here.

I have watched what could be termed "dark" television shows.  Sometimes, I watch because I know full well the world is a sinful place and I like to see others navigate this wretched life.  Some of the shows I watch to think.  For example, I am re-watching "Battlestar Galactica" for the umpteenth time at the moment.  It is such a fascinating study of forgiveness, amongst other things ... despair ... hope ... faith ... trust ... hate.  But I cannot watch the rape storyline of "Downton Abbey."

And that is not silly.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Wild, wicked, and fierce...

We had such a wild, wicked, and fierce windstorm yesterday that my beloved old grill was knocked over.  I was so surprised to see it blocking the back door when I left to fetch the migraine medication.  I am wondering if this was a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence or if I need to somehow anchor the grill to the new railing.

I did wonder, seeing the grill on the porch floor and the back porch recycling bin blown over to the side fence, if I had not repaired the porch this fall if it would have been the thing blown over in the storm.  Interestingly enough, the steamer lounger and the wine crate that are up against the house on the airing porch had moved not an inch.

In the wee hours of the morning, I finally felt that post-migraine weakness/tremulous/fragility leave.  I was able to fall asleep and, through many dreams and wakes to fetch fresh ice packs, I slept until 5:45 this evening.  I've eaten.  Amos has eaten.  I am really ready to go back to sleep.


Only I am trying very hard to stop weeping for my pastor managed to find my bible!  I have been lecturing myself about trying to remain calm, because even good stress can cause migraines.  I am not ... succeeding.  SIGH.

On the upside, that wild, wicked, and fierce windstorm meant that I had a lengthy, rich large pipe wind chime concert all day and all night.  It was truly magnificent.  And comforting.

Whilst I was trying to remain calm and relaxed and heated (neck and shoulders) yesterday to prevent a bounce back migraine, I read more of Michael Card's commentary on Luke.  Starting at the beginning each time I sit down to read further certainly has its benefits, for I keep catching things I've missed.  Often, those are bits that remind me of the commentaries on Mark and on Matthew.  And it has made me appreciate all three more and more.

Two thoughts came to mind:

First, as I have written Mark is the testimony that dives right in and races toward the crucifixion.  Mark's Jesus is focused on the gifts He has come to bring and to the preparation of His disciples for the ministry they will continue.  Mark's Jesus is truly Christ crucified for you.  Luke's Jesus, what I know of Him through 10 chapters, now, is Jesus Hesed for you.  The very detail that is so perfectly lacking in Mark, the detail that you do not need in that testimony, is so perfectly present in Luke, the detail that illuminates the intimate and gentle care and mercy Christ has for God's created.

Second, in Luke chapter 7, John the Baptist, sitting in prison, sends his disciples to Jesus to ask an interesting question:  "Are You the One who is to come, or should we look for someone else?"  Now, I've read the commentary on this before (at the moment not remembering if it is in Mark or Matthew) and, thus, remembered that Jesus does not answer "Yes!" with words but with the Word, with Scripture.  He essentially tells John's disciples to report back what they have seen:  prophesy fulfilled.

Now, Matthew, being the Jewish Gospel and the one most themed with fulfillment, is probably where the other commentary is.  However, it is not that theme (fulfillment) that is on my mind.  Nor, really, is it one of the prevalent themes in Luke:  Those who should, don't and those you wouldn't expect, do.  I mean, John's question fits that.  He, of all people, should believe.  And yet, what hit me, was the doubt that laced that question.  Seriously, John baptized Jesus and HEARD God declare Him to be His Son and SAW the Holy Spirit descend upon Jesus.

If you think about what John saw and heard and experienced, his question of doubt is near mind-boggling.  But ... but there he was.  John the Baptist.  The forerunner to the Messiah.  The baptizer of the Messiah.  The one who leapt in his mother's womb before the Messiah, who was not Himself yet born.  That John was sitting in prison, sitting in the prison of a truly evil and depraved man.  If you think about about (and your name is Myrtle), you begin to realize that it was not just the Jews and the Pharisees who found Jesus to be a Messiah who did not meet their expectations.  It seems that John was thinking—at least when he voiced that question—Maybe what I heard and saw wasn't real, for certainly the Messiah wouldn't leave me to suffer and rot in jail, right?  Not me.  Not the one who prepared the way for His coming.  Surely not me.

And, it struck me, was not John's doubt just as great as Thomas'?  Why was John not nicknamed Doubting John?

It was that thought that I re-read the commentary for Luke 7:18-35:

We have been traveling through the part of Luke's narrative that highlights the unorthodoxy of Jesus' ministry.  The story of doubting John reinforces the truth that Jesus failed to meet everyone's expectations, even those of the man who knew him from the womb.

So unorthodox is this kingdom that John himself almost misses it!  He has landed in prison, hardly where he expected to be as herald of the Messiah.  While he sits in Herod's prison, he hears of all the wonderful things Jesus is doing.  In verses 18-23 of Luke 7, John sends two of his disciples with an amazing question, considering its source.  John, who has heard the voice of God, who first proclaimed Jesus as the Lamb of God (Jn 1:29-35), asks, "Are you the Messiah, or should we look for someone else?"  It is the most remarkable question in the Gospels.

From his cell, John is unable to see the precious glimpses of the radical, unorthodox kingdom that is entering history with the presence of Jesus.  In his mind this kingdom is about the Messiah overcoming the Romans, and fighting fire with fire.  Never could he have dreamed of a kingdom in which the King dies for the enemies he loves.  Not in his wildest dreams could John, the dreamer, have imagined a kingdom where the fire of hate would be conquered by the living water of love.

Jesus, who has been in some sense slighted by his cousin John, does not respond in kind.  He sounds very straightforward.  He tells John's messengers to go back and report to John that every prophetic sign connected to the coming of the Messiah is finding fulfillment.  The blind see and the deaf hear. The lame are leaping like deer (Is 35:5-6)/

When I imagine it, the messengers have already turned to report back to John when Jesus calls out to them, essentially, "Tell John, blessed is he who is not offended by me."  How remarkable that Jesus responds with a berakah to John's doubt.  But is that not what we are coming to expect from the One who commanded us to love our enemies?

After John's people leave, Jesus displays more of his graciousness.  He tells the crowd what a remarkable person John is.  In the words of Malachi, Jesus affirms that he is indeed God's unique messenger.  In fact, says Jesus, there is no one alive who is greater than John!  The second half of Jesus' final statement on John is an introduction to the next scene in chapter 7: "but the least in the kingdom of God is greater than he."

The next image is a small window into the "least" Jesus just spoke of.  It is a holy parenthesis.  All the people, including the lowest of the low (i.e., the tax collectors), acknowledged God's way of righteousness and acknowledged the wisdom of the sermon they had heard not so long ago that spoke of loving their enemies and of a God who was kind to the ungrateful and the wicked.  They were in a position to acknowledge this precisely because John the Baptist had faithfully performed in their lives the miracle of waking their consciences.  John had baptized all of them, at least all of the whose who were able to understand what Jesus was talking about.  But the Pharisees and experts in the law could not understand that God's way was right because repentance had no place in their lives.

Glancing in their direction, Jesus tries to put them in perspective for his disciples.  "They are just like children," he says with a sad twinkle in his eye.  "They wanted us to dance to their tune.  They thought we would weep to their sad songs.  But John and I don't dance."

If you read through the commentary, you will see just how much stuck with me, even with my forgetting, in that the thought I had about the wildness of John's question of doubt was exactly what Michael Card points out.

I liked the ending of this section, for it called to mind a song from my evangelical past:  Glancing in their direction, Jesus tries to put them in perspective for his disciples.  "They are just like children," he says with a sad twinkle in his eye.  "They wanted us to dance to their tune.  They thought we would weep to their sad songs.  But John and I don't dance."

Have you ever heard ... ever sung ... "Lord of the Dance"?

I danced in the morning when the world was young 
I danced in the moon and the stars and the sun 
I came down from heaven and I danced on the earth 
At Bethlehem I had my birth 

Dance, dance, wherever you may be 
I am the lord of the dance, said he 
And I lead you all, wherever you may be 
And I lead you all in the dance, said he 

I danced for the scribes and the Pharisees 
They wouldn't dance, they wouldn't follow me 
I danced for the fishermen James and John 
They came with me so the dance went on 

Dance, dance, wherever you may be 
I am the lord of the dance, said he 
And I lead you all, wherever you may be 
And I lead you all in the dance, said he 

I danced on the Sabbath and I cured the lame 
The holy people said it was a shame 
They ripped, they stripped, they hung me high 
Left me there on the cross to die 

Dance, dance, wherever you may be 
I am the lord of the dance, said he 
And I lead you all, wherever you may be 
And I lead you all in the dance, said he 

I danced on a Friday when the world turned black 
It's hard to dance with the devil on your back 
They buried my body, they thought I was gone 
But I am the dance, and the dance goes on 

Dance, dance, wherever you may be 
I am the lord of the dance, said he 
And I lead you all, wherever you may be 
And I lead you all in the dance, said he 

They cut me down and I leapt up high 
I am the life that will never, never die 
I'll live in you if you'll live in me 
I am the Lord of the dance, said he 

Dance, dance, wherever you may be 
I am the lord of the dance, said he 
And I lead you all, wherever you may be 
And I lead you all in the dance, said he

I thought of that paraphrase of Michael Card's, of Jesus saying that He and John did not dance to what the Pharisees and Scribes were playing.  And I thought of this song.  Then, being Myrtle, I looked up the definition of dance.  What struck me what that, originally, to dance was to follow a prescribed set of steps, to music of course.

Jesus was not the prescribed Messiah others wanted Him to be.  The steps He took in His ministry were not the steps laid out for Him through tradition and through the hundreds of laws created from the Law of God.  Jesus never said He was the Lord of the dance.  But dancing was not/is not outlawed or denigrated in the bible.  It actually denotes celebration and praise (Psalm 30:11, 149:3, 150:4; Ecclesiastes 3:4; Jeremiah 31:13).  If you think about it as steps to follow, the words of the hymn change.  They change even further if you consider the inspiration for its author.

"Lord of the Dance" was written in 1963 by Sydney Carter.  An English songwriter, he modeled it after the English Carol, "Tomorrow Shall Be My Dancing Day," which has Jesus speaking in the first person.  First recorded in 1833, the origins of the older hymn are not entirely clear, as there are several original arrangements of it.

Tomorrow shall be my dancing day;
I would my true love did so chance
To see the legend of my play,
To call my true love to my dance;

Sing, oh! my love, oh! my love, my love, my love,
This have I done for my true love.

Then was I born of a virgin pure,
Of her I took fleshly substance
Thus was I knit to man's nature
To call my true love to my dance.

Sing, oh! my love, oh! my love, my love, my love,
This have I done for my true love.

In a manger laid, and wrapped I was
So very poor, this was my chance
Between an ox and a silly poor ass
To call my true love to my dance.

Sing, oh! my love, oh! my love, my love, my love,
This have I done for my true love.

Then afterwards baptized I was;
The Holy Ghost on me did glance,
My Father’s voice heard I from above,
To call my true love to my dance.

Sing, oh! my love, oh! my love, my love, my love,
This have I done for my true love.

Into the desert I was led,
Where I fasted without substance;
The Devil bade me make stones my bread,
To have me break my true love's dance.

Sing, oh! my love, oh! my love, my love, my love,
This have I done for my true love.

The Jews on me they made great suit,
And with me made great variance,
Because they loved darkness rather than light,
To call my true love to my dance.

Sing, oh! my love, oh! my love, my love, my love,
This have I done for my true love.

For thirty pence Judas me sold,
His covetousness for to advance:
Mark whom I kiss, the same do hold!
The same is he shall lead the dance.

Sing, oh! my love, oh! my love, my love, my love,
This have I done for my true love.

Before Pilate the Jews me brought,
Where Barabbas had deliverance;
They scourged me and set me at nought,
Judged me to die to lead the dance.

Sing, oh! my love, oh! my love, my love, my love,
This have I done for my true love.

Then on the cross hanged I was,
Where a spear my heart did glance;
There issued forth both water and blood,
To call my true love to my dance.

Sing, oh! my love, oh! my love, my love, my love,
This have I done for my true love.

Then down to hell I took my way
For my true love's deliverance,
And rose again on the third day,
Up to my true love and the dance.

Sing, oh! my love, oh! my love, my love, my love,
This have I done for my true love.

Then up to heaven I did ascend,
Where now I dwell in sure substance
On the right hand of God, that man
May come unto the general dance.

Sing, oh! my love, oh! my love, my love, my love,
This have I done for my true love.

Carter has stated that Jesus was not his only inspiration.  He idea of Lord (of God) is a bit expansive or inclusive, such as Budda.  I think some folk I know who used to sing "Lord of the Dance" rather often in church might be a bit horrified to know that.  But, thinking about the Gospels, about the commentary, I think that those who read "dance" as skipping about the aisles of church have totally missed the point.

Missed the point of Jesus' coming to us.
Missed the point of receiving the gifts of Christ.
Missed the point of sharing the hesed, the mercy of God, with those in our lives.

Here is the original hymn in a church choir, with an organ.

Here it is again with a piano.

This is John McDermott's recording of Lord of the Dance.  I like it best, far more than how it was played (and how I sang it) in church for me.

You know, my "vision" of John the Baptist was this GREAT MAN who never doubted and who was always, always, always the proverbial suffering saint.  But he did doubt.  He doubted in such a large way as to send his disciples to Jesus to assuage his doubt.

And his fear.

I wonder ... what do you think a first person song of John the Baptist would be?  There are dozens of psalms that would speak his lament.  In fact, one of my very favorite, Psalm 77, might fit the bill.  But I wonder what a composer of songs might create to capture the mixture of John the Baptist's faith, the certitude and the doubt.

Really, we need to come up with a new nickname for Thomas.

Finally, in thinking about all this, could you not also say that Jesus' ministry was seen as wild, wicked, and fierce?

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Pound foolish...

I was most certainly penny wise, but pound foolish.

Late last night on into today, I battled a migraine.  I battled a migraine without my meds.  At least I did until this afternoon.  I battled without them because, having gained such good control of my migraines, I was not paying attention to the expiration date on the meds.  And I have opted not to pick up the two prescriptions for a while.

At my last GP appointment, I did have refills sent over, but I chose not to pick them up this month.  I have been so very excited at just how miserly I've been this month and even last.  I have needed $509 to make up the missed estimate of my state taxes, and, before today's trip to the pharmacy, I had just over $300 of that.

For a while, I just didn't realize that I was getting a migraine.  Then, I admit, I tried to will it away.  After that, after full misery had set in, I gave myself a stern lecture and went to get my meds and turn off all light and sound.  When I realized that the expiration date had come and long gone on my meds, I started kicking myself.

All I could do was huddle in misery with icepacks all over my head.  I was, frankly, too afraid to call Target to get the refills, certain that the meds would need to be ordered.  Kaitlyn, the wonder pharmacist, had actually already ordered one month's worth for me.

I called around, futilely, to find someone pick up my prescriptions or drive me. Then I started calling to find someone to be on the phone with me.  Mary showed mercy that way and vicariously rode to and fro with me.  I vomited in the parking lot and fainted in the store, but I got home safely.

Most thankfully, the meds worked on the first dose, instead of the second.
I love Toradol and Summatriptan.
I love pain relief.

I had forgotten just how rotten I am dealing with the migraine pain.  How very infantile I am in my thoughts and emotions, just wanting the pain to go away.  More so than when innards writhing.  Much, much, much more so.

Tonight, I am in the still-shocked-and-physically-fragile after state, where the migraine is over and the fear of a bounce back lingers.  But I took a second shower and have heat on my neck and shoulders. I finally ate something.  And I am sitting on the couch with Amos.  Resting.

Poor little guy.

Just a while ago, he was whimpering and climbing all over the couch.  I couldn't figure out what he wanted.  Finally, he managed to climb beneath the blankets and curled up in my lap.  Amos needed to make up for all the alone time he's had not being able to be draped atop me for almost 24 hours.

I just love that that is what Amos wanted, what he needed.  I am sitting up on the couch, even though I want to be in the GREEN chair, I am not taking the risk of irritating the nerves in my head and making things worse.  Amos didn't want to be next to or draped atop the back of the couch leaning against me.  He wanted to be in my lap, holding on to my leg with his paws, and snoring against my belly.

After battling the migraine and yet another one of my stupid choices, I was most happy to have his frenetic whimpers and pawing be to show me that he needed some Myrtle time.  Even in my most miserable, pathetic, self-loathing state, Amos needs me.

And still likes me.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Another loss...

Upsettedness clearly is the greatest productivity in my life.  SIGH.

My step-mother unexpectedly sent me a bible that was my father's when he was young.  Not being in my father's will, being cut out of the family fortune, was really hard to take.  More so for the lack of mention of being his daughter than the money.  But knowing where the money came from, I do miss the help it could have been to me.

My brother and sister have actually received things of value from my stepmother, but I received this bible.  I found it ... upsetting.  Looking at it and seeing that he was once baptized was surprising and brought back all the confusing feelings from his funeral.  It was a day where, even being his daughter, I was largely ignored.  It was a day where I unknowingly participated in a church service that had false doctrine.  It was a day where I heard my father's best friend describe a man whom I never knew.

When the bible came, I was upset.  I had been keeping the notes from his friend's speech during the service, a photo nicked from a display that was of my father holding me that I had never seen before, and the bulletin from the service in the glove compartment of my car.  Thinking about those things upsets me.  Seeing them upsets me.

The bible was old and leather and had this zipper on the edges that made the bible closeable.  I put the photo, the speech, and the bulletin inside and gave it to my pastor, asking him if he would keep it until we could talk about the service, about the guilt and spiritual fear I battled over it.

Maybe you are thinking that is an odd thing to do.  Maybe you are thinking doing so was an error in judgement or selfish by putting passing the burden of keeping the bible onto him.  I am thinking that I was rather stupid to trust that anyone else would value the bible enough to keep it safe for me.

It is lost.
Maybe one day it will be found.
Now, it is lost.

I have been wailing again, as I did following my father's death.  Confused wailing.  Painful wailing.  Swallowed up and drowning in an agony I neither expected nor understand.

I asked for the bible's return after learning of my pastor's departure.  Each week that has passed has worried me.  The recent emails noting difficulty finding it have worried me more.  The last telling me that the only unaccountable bible in his office is not my father's felled me.

I wailed.
I smothered Amos.
I curled in a ball feeling stupid for asking for help, stupid for trusting, and stupid for thinking that the bible would be kept safe.

I wailed and wailed and wailed and wailed.  Then, as I continued wailing:

  • I filed all the paperwork that has been sitting around since early fall.  I created 2015 file folders and put this year's documents away.  I also added two warranty packets and receipts to my warranties binder.
  • I opened my electronic checking and savings register program and set up all the monthly savings transfers to my two new accounts: one for Amos repairs and one for house repairs.  I also updated my Over/Under spreadsheet for all my accounts.
  • I updated my medical expenses spreadsheet for the year.
  • I finished and electronically filed my federal tax return.  I set up an electronic transfer payment.  I set up the transfer from savings to checking for that payment.  I printed the return and created a 2015 tax file for my filing cabinet.  
  • I finished and printed and signed my state tax return. I signed, dated, and created the mailing envelope.  I wrote out the check.  I set up the transfer from savings to checking for that payment.  I printed a copy of the return and added to the 2015 tax file.
  • I backed up my entire computer.
  • I did laundry.
  • I cut Amos' hair and nails and pulled the curls from inside his ears.
  • I swept the garage floor.
  • I unpacked the shipment of granola bars I received last month, cut off and put in an envelope the school savings coupon, and flattened all the boxes.
  • I collected all the trash about the house, took it out to the trash bin, and replaced the bag in the kitchen trash.
  • I took all the recycling out to the recycling bin.
  • And I packaged up the literacy books that I am sending to my nephew's tutor to help him with his studies.

It was a long, long, long night.

The wailing eventually ended as I worked through those tasks.  But the pain of the loss hurts.  Even now, I am overwhelmed writing this, tears falling and such pain.  It is like losing my father again.  I had wanted his brownie camera. I have a collection of old cameras and would have liked to have his in there.  I even asked for the last DVD we watched together ("The Gauntlet").  I didn't even know about the bible, nor would I have wanted it.  But it was the only thing that I have that was his ... well, I've had his baby shoes ever since my grandmother died.  But those were hers, if that makes sense.  I have nothing of his.

I honestly have no hope that the bible will be eventually found.  Were it given to me for safe keeping, I would have put it in a filing cabinet under my name or in a drawer with a note on top explaining what it was.  I cannot understand how it was lost.  But my church is rather large and who knows when it went missing or where it could be.  My dire self is most certain it was donated in some clear out or other organizing/reducing activities.

I could have maybe shoved the bible in the glove compartment.  Or perhaps found an obscure corner of the deacon's bench.  I'm sure I could have done a half dozen things better than asking someone to keep it for me until looking at it didn't distress me so much.

Mostly, right now, I am loathing just how weak I am and how that weakness led to the loss of those things of my father, of his life, for which there is no recreation or replacement.