Where’d the Morning Go?

I met with Pr. Eric Brown for a few minutes this morning…or at least what felt like a few minutes. We discussed an article I was working on, circuit stuff, some theology, upcoming events. Then I met with a man from the phone book an ad for the church. I had to email him our logo, answer another few emails and here it is almost 11 am.

Tempus fugit.

Blessed Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul!

Sts. Peter and Paul

Sts. Peter and Paul

Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”  And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”  He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”  Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”  And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.  And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.  I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Matthew 16:13-19)

“As I was on my way and drew near to Damascus, about noon a great light from heaven suddenly shone around me.  And I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’  And I answered, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And he said to me, ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom you are persecuting.’  Now those who were with me saw the light but did not understand the voice of the one who was speaking to me.  And I said, ‘What shall I do, Lord?’ And the Lord said to me, ‘Rise, and go into Damascus, and there you will be told all that is appointed for you to do.’ (Acts 22:6-10)

All Time-Low

I knew Sunday was a rough day. It started out well-enough: a good seven hours of rest and made it to church a little earlier than usual. The sermon run-through went fine, and the rest of the preparations went well. But then the pre-service announcements came. I bumbled through them, tried to thank some VBS volunteers and forgot four people’s names. Totally blank. Thankfully, they are all good-humored people, and apart from some teasing about senior-moments after the service, no harm was done.

The rest of the day went well-enough, but I was still flustered by forgetting people’s names earlier. Bible study was interesting. We got sidetracked with a discussion of depression and mental illness. I gave them some good theology, but also gave some personal, weird-o opinions. I made sure they knew which was which. Late service went better. I avoided naming names and forgetting them, keeping the thank-you’s in the announcements general. We received three members via transfer at that service.

The rough morning turned into a beautiful afternoon and evening. Got some writing done on my current WIP.

This morning I checked my blog stats. Yesterday I received the least number of hits this blog has ever had. Sigh. Apparently not from lack of posting, either; I met my posting goal last week.

My new tech blog got no visits. Sigh.

I’m reading a book by Anne Lamott on writing called Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life. It’s quite funny and inspiring, though her neuroticism gets old toward the end. She harps on the need to write for its own sake, litteratura gratia litteratuae. Writing with a view toward publication is hopeless, as publication doesn’t mean as much as you the new writer wants it to mean. She says it hardly ever leads to fame and money, and never solves any problems you had before.

So it is with the blog(s). I write them because I enjoy it. Hope you do too.

…And the Violent Bear it Away

It’s a strange verse in the Bible. The rest of it reads, “”And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force.” (Matt. 11:12 NKJV)

The Fathers understood this in a positive sense: the man finding a treasure in a field sells all to possess it. The Kingdom of God is the pearl of great price. Or as Steve Winwood sang, “While you see a chance, take it.”

Lutherans do not do much with this verse or this idea. Lutherans emphasize that the saving power of Christ–salvation is outside of us. That is true. Christ has saved us from the power of sin, death and the devil.

But at the same time we have been given the invitation, placed on the narrow path that leads to the Kingdom. St. Paul who affirmed that we are not saved by our own works, still wrote, ”

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.  Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead,  I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Phil. 3:12-14)

And the author of Hebrews writes, “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.” (Heb. 12:1).

I spend much of my time desiring things to be different. I think most people do; it explains why they buy lottery tickets. After a bad night of some lower GI distress, Marjorie reminded me I had more caffeine yesterday than normal. There could a be correspondence. I told Marjorie that I had been wanting a life renovation for a while: rising earlier to do some writing, hit the gym before the rest of the world wakes. Drinking tea instead of coffee. She agreed that it would be good and went downstairs. I finished getting ready. When I walked into the kitchen I noticed the green tea bags sitting out and the kettle pinging on the stove.

The violent bear it away. Those who take action meet their goals. Sieze it. Grab hold of it.

“Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not yet come. We have only today. Let us begin.” — Mother Teresa

“And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by

VBS Fun

We’re neck-deep in our annual Vacation Bible School. Our group this year is smaller than last year, but we have fewer volunteers as well, so we are well-equipped.

This is the lesson that God pounds home every year. God always gives us what we can handle. In years of larger attendance, we have more people step forward. In years when the enrollment is slim up until the week before, the kids come in droves the first day. Every year all of us feel some apprehension about having enough kids, having too many, being well-enough prepared…or not, and every year it turns out well. Every year God gives us the resources we need, and it all comes together.

The Family Altar Revisited

Some time ago I wrote a brief introduction to making a family altar and having family devotions. It was a popular post. But posting and doing are different animals.

Personally, our family altar and devotion time has been lacking–for a little longer than I’d care to think about. It’s not an unusual problem for families. It’s hard to make new habits and easy to fall into old routines.

As St. Gregory the Great (“A man with a lot of  g’s,” as Olivia said) wrote, “While we do not possess [spiritual delights] we regard them with dislike and aversion; but once we partake of them we begin to desire them, and the more we partake of them, the more do we hunger for them.” (PL 76, Sermon 36)  Having personal devotions if you’re single, or family devotions with your household is a rich fare that we do not have a taste for at first. And even after we experience the richness of home worship, our crude natures seek rebellion.

In my family we meet resistance with ourselves and from one another. Establishing new habits and actions is hard enough for grown-ups, giving children a new habit that they naturally despise (see St. G the G above) is worse.

My friend Emily wrote about this on her blog recently, and I was delighted with her and Ben’s wisdom. Here is a lengthy quote:

My husband and I pray Morning Prayer every morning. We wanted Dominic, our four year old, to come in and pray with us but he would consistently refuse. He would rather play with his toys or interrupt our prayers to ask us to do something for him. We finally got him to wait patiently while we prayed so that he played by himself quietly in another room. Before we prayed we always called him and invited him to pray with us. But no, he was not interested. So it went on in this way for a while.

I began to notice that he would play with his toys closer and closer to the doorway to the room wherein we prayed…. We are still awaiting his vocal participation but I’m sure that will come in time also.

…We had to be a sort of “Prayer Whisperer” and it took a lot of time and consistency to show Dominic that praying in the morning was something hehimself would want to participate in. It was hard for us adults but seeing the good results, even in mere inches, made it easier to be patient and wait for them to come on their own. It’s so much more pleasing to see your children pray because they want to rather than pray because you demand it. (read it all here)

The same “Prayer Whispering” is what St. Paul has in mind when he writes about mixed-faith marriage.

If any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband is made holy because of his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy because of her husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy.” (1 Cor. 7:13-14)

Or as St. John says, “Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” (1 John 3:18). The most powerful witness we can give is not debate and argument, not knocking on doors, haranguing and exhorting, but living–witnessing by our deeds, living by example, and exampling by living.

Childcare experts sometimes tell us that a way to engage children in good behavior is to model it. If we want children to clean up toys, a good way is to get down on the floor and start doing it, and make it look good and fun. Sing the “clean up song.” It’s attractive behavior. My wife uses this technique with me. Once the kids are in bed, I tend to want to collapse on the couch, pick up my book, or get to work on the computer. She walks around, picking up toys, or unloads the dishwasher, or folds laundry. Normally I would never choose to engage in such behavior at that time of the day. But seeing her do it makes me want to help. It’s attractive behavior.

And as Emily reminds us, so is prayer.

The Busyness Boast

The thing about busyness is that it’s a back-handed boast. Being busy means having much to do, implying that you work hard, that you’re important, that you’re active and engaged and productive. This is in contrast to those who don’t have much to contribute, do not have much to do, do not work, or work hard enough–useless people. Busy people are useful.

But it’s a boast and a defensive move, sometimes used by people who do not feel important, who feel that they are disrespected. It’s a defensive move. It’s also an iron-clad defense against doing more projects or making more commitments.

When I hear people say that they have a busy week ahead I feel dread. I dread because it means they will be stressed, perhaps even scattered. I dread because if I have to do business with them or otherwise engage with them, they might be mentally on to the next item already. They may not listen. A busy person may not take the time necessary to do something right, not with everything else pressing on them.

I wonder why people advertise this, frankly.

Blog Expansion is Here!

I’ve implemented the expansion I wrote about earlier. Now posts on Ubuntu, Linux, computers, gadgets and stuff may be found by clicking on the page above called Techno-Noob. A “noob” is slang for “newbie” which is slang for “new user,” usually meaning somehow who barely knows how to find the “on” switch. That’s me.

This will keep the theology focused here–and not annoy my Mac-using readers. 🙂

Thanks for reading!

“I Ain’t Wasting Time No More”

If therefore it is already the hour of the Supper when we are called, the more we see that the end of the world has already drawn near, the less should we excuse ourselves form the Supper of God. For the more we realize that the time left is as nothing, the more fearful should we be of wasting the time of grace that remains.

St. Gregory the Great, PL 76, Sermon 36