Our Peanut Scare

Our Eliana, age five, has a severe (as in fatal) allergy to peanuts. We’ve known about this since she was one and only have had once problem with it. Once Mikayla ate a peanut-butter sandwich somewhere, brushed her teeth, washed her face and kissed Elli on the cheek, which immediately blossomed and swelled.

But yesterday she was playing at a neighbor’s house and the neighbor girl’s bird-seed covered pine cone rolled into the street. Elli went out to get it and carried it back into the yard. It was then that the neighbor girl told her that it was covered with peanut butter. Elli dropped it and ran home. Marjorie and I were inside, and we heard Elli run into the bathroom, turn on the water and start crying. We scrubbed her hands, brushed under her fingernails and gave her benadryl. We had her Epipen handy, but thankfully didn’t need to use it. Apart from some red blotches on her wrists and arms, she was okay.

I tucked her in at bedtime, and Marjorie went in a few minutes later to check on her. She was still awake and wanted to pray one more prayer. She prayed, “Dear God, please help me be okay, and not die. I don’t want to die. I don’t want my fingers to be dead either. Not any of me. And…if I die before I wake…” There was a long pause, while Marjorie thought she would finish the “Now I lay me” prayer. Instead she continued, “If I die before I wake….I guess I’ll just be in the grave or something. Amen.”

Marjorie had a long talk with her about the Kingdom of God and the promise of the resurrection, and she felt much better after that. But it was pretty funny in an Eliana sort-of-way.

She is fine this morning, thank God.

Feasts, Sundays and Commemorations: What I Do

There is a long-standing problem within Lutheranism in how to celebrate festivals. Lutheran Service Book added a number of feast days, divided between “Feasts and Festivals” and “Commemorations.” And while this is a good thing, it made a difficult decision worse: there is the note that only certain “Feasts” are observed when they fall on a Sunday–these are Eve of the Circumcision of Jesus; Circumcision of Jesus; Purification of Mary and Presentation of Our Lord; the Annunciation of Jesus; the Visitation; Nativity of St. John the Baptist; St. Michael and All Angels; and All Saint’s Day. These are all privileged, then, over every other Sunday. In all other circumstances, the Proper Sunday is privileged. Right?

What this leaves the liturgically-minded pastor with is a number of feasts and commemorations that will never be celebrated or commemorated on a Sunday, which means never, since it’s next to impossible to get anyone to show up for a week-day service unless it’s Advent or Lent.

So Sunday was the First Sunday of Christmas (privileged) and also the Feast of the Holy Innocents, Martyrs. What to do? We must celebrate the feast of Christmas.

Here’s what I have taken to doing: Sunday was Christmas 1, with the propers for Christmas 1 throughout. However, at the end of the prayers, I said, “Let us now commemorate the Holy Innocents, Martyrs” then read the Gradual, Verse and Collect for that day.

This is somewhat akin to how feasts are commemorated during Lauds, with the commemoration of lesser class festivals coming at the end of the propers for the day. Of course, the Divine Service is not Lauds, and I commemorated them during the Prayers, not after the final Benedictions, but I think that the post-communion prayers and benedictions should be the final ones of the service, anyhow.

Regardless, I think this is superior to ignoring it, transferring it, or elevating it over Christmas, or in the case of St. Thomas (Dec. 21), Advent (which are also privileged).

Kids and Cabin Fever

This morning the family went to the YMCA. Mik ran while I did a short work-out, then both of us joined the rest of the family at the indoor pool. We let them play on the indoor playset for a while after swimming, and then we all came home. It was a good morning.

I’ve learned something about my kids these past few days. They need to get out of the house. Too long spent in these walls drives them bananas–they fight, they rough-house, they whine. Of course, too much time here and I whine and fight and growl too, so it shouldn’t surprise me.
But my wife tells me this every summer, which is why she has them go to tennis and swimming lessons in the mornings and takes them swimming again in the afternoons. I get it now, after spending a few days here on vacation.

A Strange Scent

So my wife gave me a bottle of Axe Body Spray–a nice gift. The flavor is called “Phoenix.” I spray it on this morning and am hit with the smell of roasted birds. Kidding. But it was strange: incense. Frankincense, actually.

I know nothing about perfuming. I have no idea how perfumers make something smell good, but I am confident there is incense in this stuff.

It actually smells pretty good, though smelling it makes me feel like I haven’t been going to Lutheran churches. 🙂

A Good Decision–No Offense

So I hadn’t sat down with Bloglines since…Monday? and my total unread posts topped 300. I marked them all as read. Yep. I knew I was deleting some good things. I knew I was choosing to stay uninformed of some of your posts. I apologize. But it was too much, and I didn’t feel like spending a whole night catching up on posts. I promise not to be offended if you’ve done the same for mine.

Merry Christmas, and Happy St. Stephen’s Day!

Mechanical Turk?

In the 18th Century, Wolfgang von Kempelen invented a chess-playing robot or automaton. It was a man-sized machine made to look Turkish–and appropriately called “The Turk.” It was very, very good at playing chess, and von Kempelen won much fame for his invention. It supposedly bested Napolean and Benjamin Franklin. After some time it was revealed that The Turk was not an automaton at all. A chess master hid inside the contraption and controlled the device. Everyone was very dissapointed, except for Big Blue which breathed a sigh of relief, and William Gates who loved the smoke and mirrors of the idea.

Apparently in 2005, Amazon.com developed a program called Mechanical Turk. It is a clearinghouse for web searches and information. Users can post questions, research ideas, and data gathering requests on a board, and after some time, answers come pouring back in (all for a small fee). What’s happening, though is that users sign up and take the jobs, do the research and get paid. Humans looking like computers. Hence the name. It reminds me of that “box display” at the Opening Ceremonies of the Olympics this Summer, the one where the boxes were moving up and down, making incredible displays and designs and, at the end, it was revealed that the whole thing was done by people inside them.

I’m posting about this for several reasons. First, if you’re interested in making some coin, consider signing up. You’d have to take gobs of jobs to make even a little money, but if you’re surfing the web anyway, it beats doing it for free.

Second, I’m amazed that I just now discovered this. I shop at Amazon a lot. Mechanical Turk is a compelling, quirky idea. It’s been around for three years. It testifies to how huge the web is (as if you doubted it before).

Third, it’s just a cool idea. Very old-school, yet web 2.0-kind-of-thing.

Have fun.

Almost Ready…

Whew! Finished with the sermons through January 4. Or at least the draft of them I’ll practice, to put a better point on it. I have to see a few shut-ins and I can begin my Christmas “vacation.” As it were. Still doing Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, the Sundays and New Year’s Eve, and whatever emergencies come up, but the rest of the time will be at home.

I want to do some reading. I need to do some more writing, having taken the month of December off, except for a non-fiction submission that was accepted–whoo-hoo! I want to spend some time with the home computer, fixing some organizing issues, organizing photos, tweaking Ubuntu a little, playing my new game. I look forward to board games and card games with the girls, playing “Dragons or Kitties” with Jack, and hanging out with Margie. If the weather is nice, maybe some time in the garage making sawdust (I have a tool storage cabinet I’m working on), though right now it’s only 18°–that doesn’t look promising.

Maybe even a few theological blog posts. It’s why most of you are reading this, after all. Sorry about that for now 🙂

Peace out.

Busy Weekend

Fought through sermons last week, some hospital visits, shut-in visits, nursing home devotions and then capped it off with a stomach bug the morning of our Open House. I fought through the nausea and the other bad stuff and cleaned, ran errands and cleaned some more.

By that evening I was feeling better and we had a nice group. Small, but nice. Saturday was great. I took the kids shopping for mommy, got ready for Sunday, spent a nice evening at home. Sunday was crazy again. After church I ran by the hospital to see someone, ran back and picked up Jack while M and the girls toured the nursing homes caroling with choirs and handbells. Then we had our Choir Christmas Party and played Dirty Santa. I got a lovely Starbucks gift pack and M got a hand-crank LED lantern.

We got home past the young’un’s bed times, but Jack wouldn’t go to sleep. And M got the stomach thing. And Mikki woke in the middle of the night having puked in her bed. And then J and O and E all woke at the crack of dawn.

Good air in, bad air out.

Stir up your power and come, O Lord…

Three to Go: An Excursus on Writing Sermons

I finished up three sermons yesterday. Granted–I used some heavy borrowing from myself. Hate having to do that, but as Christopher Orr suggested below (in the comments) it’s all borrowing and copying one way or another.

When I was at the Seminary, the homiletics professors squirmed a lot on this point. Being academics–and ethical types, anyway–they were loathe to admit that sermons should borrow anything–at least unattributed. It’s the ethical way to be. On the other hand, they admitted that the Gospel is not copyrighted and if the pastor is inventing new ways of looking at it, understanding it or interpreting it, he is wrong. The pastor’s–the theologian’s–job is not to invent new things, but to be faithful to the Gospel as it has been handed down to us.

How do I handle this? When I borrow, I quote or attribute. Last Sunday I mentioned Eugene Petersen’s idea that no congregation wants a pastor who is a “yes-man.” They may still kick him out, but on a fundamental level they want someone who will speak the truth to them, even if they don’t like it. This is Petersen’s idea. Not mine. I gave him credit. I’ve never read this idea anywhere else, at least phrased like that. To my knowledge this is one of his unique insights.

On the other hand, I’ve made reference to things Fr. Stephen Freeman wrote concerning the human heart without giving him an attribution, at least not directly. Why? Because he was passing on what the Fathers and Elders have said through the centuries. Additionally, those observations have become mine through prayer and meditation about them–albeit in a puny, half-confused way.

Look, plagiarism is what we’re talking about, and it’s not an easy thing to put your finger on. You can’t copyright the Gospel, nor the Apostolic teaching. You can’t copyright facts, either, making the biographer in a worse position than a preacher. And sermons are not presented or intended to be creative, original texts. Not mine. It’s part of why I don’t publish them here. I don’t write for publication, I write to proclaim–once.

Preaching is kind of like writing music: you have a chord progression– a chordal pattern, a key, a time signature, a rhythm. And it cannot be copyrighted. It’s not copyright-able. Fact. But the melody you sing is a creative, original element. Likewise the words. The chords for “Twinkle Twinkle” are the same chords used for 33.3% of all pop songs written in 1956-1966. Three chords and the truth. Ok, the statistics I made up, but they sounded good. And most blues songs feature the same I-IV-V progression with a half-dozen variations and turn-arounds, but no one is stealing from anyone else unless they take the words and melody. Or their band name begins with “Led” and ends with “Zeppelin.” (see here, Zep-heads)

Likewise in preparing a sermon you have the structure, the key signature, the rhythm given to you. Sometimes you even have the melody provided–or maybe just a refrain. The preacher’s task is to make the words fit the melody and the feel of the song. It is possible to sing “Amazing Grace” to the tune and chords of “House of the Rising Sun,” but it may not be a good idea to do it. It could be a bad sermon.

Of course, this is all a big digression from my main point–I copied from myself. All my members who read this will now be bracing themselves to see if they recognize what I say. I doubt it. I wrote new introductions, and some new concluding paragraphs, copied in a few body paragraphs, but will probably even phrase them differently when I beging practicing them out loud. By the time it is proclaimed it may not even be familiar to me.

It’s more like Jazz improv, maybe.

Ok, on to the next three!