". . . little shall I grace my cause

In speaking for myself. Yet, by your gracious patience,

I will a round unvarnish'd tale deliver . . ."

(William Shakespeare's Othello, I.iii.88-90)

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Christmas Wish

Some children dream of sugar plums. My child dreams a little bigger.

"Mom, I had a wonderful dream last night!"

"Oh, really, Evan? What?"

"I dreamed that Barack Obama was no longer President and that Mitt Romney had taken the throne!"

 Sigh.Two more years, honey. Two more years.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

How to Succeed in Advent Without Really Trying

Yesterday as I was driving through Missouri after dropping my daughter back at college I listened to Christian broadcast radio for a while. (We got rid of satellite radio a few months ago when they cancelled all but one of their classical stations. I am even gladder about that decision now since discovering that their sacred/classical Christmas station has been cut down to a three-day period: December 24-26.)

Anyway, the program I listened to yesterday was a talk show about "faith and family" and featured a host interviewing a female guest about holiday stress. I don't remember the guest's name, but she was talking about how much women tend to burden themselves during the holiday season as they try to do whatever it takes to ensure a picture perfect celebration for their families. She said she was interested in encouraging women to keep things simple, focus on what is most important, and not try to do so much that we lose sight of the "reason for the season." It's a message I can appreciate and find myself taking to heart more and more. Last year as we were in the midst of an interstate move, I "punted" on sending out Christmas cards (gasp!). We are going to send them this year. But I am planning to keep the decorating very minimal. We are currently renting a smaller house than we are accustomed to and it is cluttered enough as it is without trying to squeeze in a lot of Christmas decor and knick-knacks. We usually chop down a real tree, but this year I am going to put up a small, (pre-lit?), artificial tree, open a box of bulbs, and call it a day. We plan to cut back the spending this year as well as we are trying to save a little more money to put toward a down payment on a forever home in the not too distant future.

But back to the radio broadcast. I was tracking with the guest very well until, towards the end of the program, she started trying to sell her line of products designed to help one attain just the right frame of mind and spiritual focus for the Advent/Christmas season. And here I was thinking I could do that by merely going to church. Silly me. :-)

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Happy Thanksgiving!

Today I am thankful . . .

. . . that my children and I are living in the same town as my husband. (Last year we weren't.)

. . . for my husband.

. . . for our new church.

. . . that my mom is doing fairly well.

. . . for faithful, healthy, and kind children.

. . . that Phillip and I are in good health.

. . . for our dog, Willard.

. . . for employment.

. . . for those who defend us at home and abroad.

. . . for the rule of law.

. . . for the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod.

. . . for Word and Sacrament.

. . . for music.

. . . for language.

. . . for vocation.

. . . for friends.

. . . for the saving work of Christ on the Cross.

Blessed Thanksgiving to you and yours!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Did you go to church today?

If so, did you sing?

If you answered yes, thank you. Because if you answered yes, you blessed your brothers and sisters in Christ, and you blessed me. If, on the other hand, you didn't sing, but only sat while those around you did so, you missed a God-given opportunity to encourage and build up, and be built up by, the Body of Christ.

Faithful church folk often give thought to how they might serve their neighbors in the congregation. Typically, they think of things like providing meals to those in need; getting involved in church governance; volunteering in the church office; serving as ushers, greeters and Altar Guild members; teaching Sunday School or VBS; or setting up for coffee hour. The list could go on. Maybe you do some of these things, or maybe you do something else. But if you aren't singing during church, you are overlooking one of the most basic callings you have as a member of a Christian congregation.

It is also one of the easiest ways you can serve, requiring no extra time on your part. You're in church anyway, right? And you have a functioning larynx? That's all you need. Contrary to what you might think, singing in church doesn't require any special training. God doesn't care whether you have a beautiful singing voice or whether you can read music and sing the right notes and rhythms, and neither do I. All that is required for this most important work is faith, the faith that was given to you in Baptism and the faith that is nourished each week as you hear the Word and receive the Sacraments. It is that faith which sings. It is that faith which cannot help but sing.

Please, dear friends. Sing. I need to hear you. My child needs to hear you. When his mind and his eyes wander, and he starts looking around the sanctuary, he needs to see not only his parents singing, but the people around him singing, with gusto. He needs for the Word of God to dwell in those around him so richly that he hears it coming at him from every corner of the room. I try my best to sing every stanza of every hymn and every line of liturgy, but sometimes I falter. Sometimes my voice cracks, or I run out of breath, or something in the hymn causes my throat to tighten and tears to well up so that I am unable to make it through to the end. That's when I need to hear you--behind me, beside me, in front of me--carrying on. That's when my family needs to hear you. And when you can't keep going, then it will be my turn to carry on for you. Together, only together, are we able to sing through to the very end.

I am a trained musician. But when I am in church what discourages me is not wrong notes or off-key singing. What discourages me is lack of singing. When you don't sing, not only do I miss out on what your voice has to contribute to the song of the assembled saints, but you miss out, too. When you passively sit while others sing, you are not experiencing the words as richly as you otherwise could. That is not to say that the Word is not having its way with you. But you are denying yourself the opportunity to have those words enter and take up residence in your being in yet another, God-given manner. And that is a grievous thing.

As the wife of a church musician, and as a church musician myself, I have heard lots of singing in church. And the truth is that some who might be tagged as the "worst" singers have over the years most beautifully sung faith into my heart. Why? Because they don't hold back. They don't worry about how they sound. They sing, from the depth of their being, because they can do no other. And in doing so, they testify to the faith they have been given and thereby build up those around them.

Along with the prophet Jeremiah, let us not just gaze upon and smell the great banquet of Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs that our dear Father has provided for our nourishment. Let us swallow them down ravenously and come back for more. Let us serve them up in abundance for those who join us at the table, passing the plate around, one to the next, sending it back to the Chef to get reloaded, and passing it around again. It's a feast meant to be shared, and there's a place for you, no matter how messy an eater (or singer) you may be.

 Your words were found, and I ate them,
    and your words became to me a joy
    and the delight of my heart,
for I am called by your name,
    Lord, God of hosts. (Jeremiah 15:16)

Here are few more Bible verses that speak of the singing nature of the Christian faith.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Last Lasts

Yesterday on Facebook I saw this.

It reminded me of a blog post I wrote a few years ago along the same lines. As parents we experience countless "lasts" with our children. Sometimes we know going in that it's the last time; sometimes we don't. Sometimes the "last" is a momentous event (graduation, confirmation); other times it's trivial (tying shoes or applying a bandage). Sometimes, while it's the last time for one child, we know there are others waiting in the wings to do the same thing. But if we're on our last child, there are all sorts of lasts that are specific not only to him but that are the last time we'll do that thing with any of our children, ever.

Yesterday something that came up in a conversation with Evan, my 10-year-old, prompted me to start reciting from the book One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish by Dr. Seuss. How many times I have read that book over the years, starting with Trevor (now 22), then with Caitlin (now 19), and finally with Evan. It has to have been hundreds! No wonder I can still recite large portions of it from memory. Sometimes when I do I can hear in my head the exact way it sounded on my children's lips. So it was a sweet and serendipitous surprise last night when Evan asked not only if we could read the book at bedtime, but if he could read it to me. (I am really glad my 10-year-old still likes Dr. Seuss.) We sat together, and he read, and we laughed, and I remembered. . . . and wondered whether this was another last last.