Thursday, September 29, 2005

Iraq Baptized

My son is serving his second tour in Iraq. I’m often asked, “What’s that like?”- meaning, “What’s it like to have a son there?” The answer is, “You don’t want to know from experience.”

The first time he was in country was during Iraqi Freedom. His unit survived a fragging before the original push, and then was “lost” in a sandstorm for several days as they found their way along an alternate route. They suffered the “ignominy” of a maverick newsman who had to be escorted back to Kuwait (actually a relief in the long run). My son was two blocks away when Saddam’s sons were captured. On the northern borders of Iraq my son has seen revealed what Saddam wishes had been left covered forever.

Two nephews were also along for the ride. It was, at times, excruciating to bear. It couldn’t be described. Each news report of soldier deaths cut like a knife, and yet I was addicted to the news. It was one of those, “You don’t know unless you’ve done it” periods of time. I prayed Psalm 91 and parsed John 16:33 daily. It was a time when the Hebrew imperfects and Greek perfects were of special beauty, and still are!

This time it’s different. Guns aren’t pointed so readily, and bullets aren’t firing to often this time. The adrenalin isn’t at top-flow, and every car that sounds in the street, and every ring of the phone doesn’t threaten to be “that one.” News of soldier deaths are easier to take this time. It is as if the hide has become number, thickened with the scars from the previous experience.

That is… until news of deaths that hit close. First a soldier my son knew well was killed, and then a brother of one with whom I was acquainted. It doesn’t matter if I knew the men. These deaths hit too close to “home.” They couldn’t be ignored. So, like it was previously. These deaths bit hard, and once again Iraq came with excruciating pain.

Freedom isn’t free. It’s easy to say, hard to live through. Still, there is a freedom that is free, which makes this all bearable. My son says he keeps his “butt down” and his “head lower.” There is comfort in knowing that. He was baptized on August 14, 1973. There is greater comfort in that. There is comfort in knowing those other men were, too.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Ste. Em and the Mutiny

Two of my students pulled a mutiny. They had tried this once before, and received a short speech that was probably over their heads until they applied it.

“This classroom is not run according to a democracy, so get over this business of thinking you have a vote. You don’t. When it comes to lessons and other important matters, there can only be one teacher. In that way this classroom is more of a kingdom or a dictatorship. If you don’t understand those words, think of it this way: God place me here as your teacher. The best answer when you hear me tell you it’s time to do something is, ‘Yes ma’am’ and do it quickly.”

The Grammar curriculum asks that we classify sentences prior to each test. Two decided they were ready to take the test without this extra teaching. “Aw! Do we have to? We already know that stuff. Can’t we just take the test?”

Being gracious and willing to allow even that, I said, “Sure,” and handed over the workbooks. With my other hand I reached for a marker. Students who had been with me last year knew what was coming next, and rolled their eyes in amusement. As soon as the workbooks were handed over, I wrote two names on the board, indicating these two had disciplinary sentences to write.

“What for?” One demanded.

“You tell me,” I replied.

He thought for a moment. “Oh, for being the teacher.”

That is precisely what the sentences read: “I will not be the teacher. I will listen to lessons.” Both recited the First and Fourth Commandments, too.

First Commandment rolling down to the Fourth… childrearing by cartoons and McBurgerKing eventually will have its way out. Not all things are given to up to our choice, and yet we are responsible for the consequences of our choices in this life. Such a paradox for young ones to learn! Harder still for those who have learned that if they can argue their way into something by whining at a young age, they now think they can try to argue their way out of a tough situation later.

No wonder that the Lord of Life and Salvation finds His Gifts so difficult to be received, yet so easily chosen. Franchise uber alles, after all. That is the character of the First Sin. “Yes, Jesus, I’ll take one of this, and two of that because, You see, I’ve been this and that, and I think, and I believe…” How will it be on the Last Day? Will there be arguments made before the Throne of Grace, each one a lawyer?

There is but one Accuser, one Defender. In the former all are spoken of plainly as were are: sinners who ought to be damned. This cannot be refuted. Yet the Defender reminds His Father, “This one is Mine. His sins are on Me. He confessed Me before others, now I confess Him before you and all the hosts of heaven (Lk 12:8). Let him be released.”

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Ste. Em and the Leaped Conclusion

Howie finally fixed the squirrels last Wednesday before Vespers. He ran a row of screws around the top of the pvc, forming a gridwork too tight for one of the critters to fit through. The next day it was safe to hang out once more a block of seed for woodpeckers.

Next morning a large section of one corner was gone, and the cage holding the block was hanging catawampus. Pretty large squirrel to do that business… but… no such creature could climb up to get at the feeder!

There are more than squirrels living in those woods, and more than squirrels are getting hungry. The only animal that could reach that far is a deer. I have since then taken to tossing out two ears of dry corn a few feet from the feeder each day. We have been sitting in class and have seen deer wander past the windows.

The easiest conclusion to come to is the leaped one. Saves all sorts of effort thinking, too. Spares compassion, reserving it for when we “really” need it- like our neighbor we don’t see. Sometimes it’s easier to have an outpouring of neighborly love for victims of a cataclysmic event “over there” than it is to keep the Eighth Commandment for the neighbor who is standing right in from of us, of me.

Noah’s son, Ham, found his father drunk, asleep, and naked inside his tent (Gen 9). He told the tale to others. Shem and Japheth covered their father’s nakedness, but did not look upon him. They entered Noah’s tent backwards, covering themselves with his cloak until it could be placed on Noah to cover him. Luther’s explanation of the Eight Commandment tells us that we are to not betray our neighbor, but “explain everything in the kindest way.” This is to cover his sin with his own cloak, just as Noah’s sons did.

This is but a picture of how the Eighth Commandment is kept first of all in Christ. In Baptism He wraps us in Himself. That is, He tosses His cloak around our nakedness, making us His own. What was once shameful is now clean. In Christ, there is nothing left to gossip about regarding the Children of God. In Christ, we are the sinner, but the Father calls us “Saint.” In Christ, we are spoken of better than we deserve- shall we argue about that?

Friday, September 16, 2005

Yeehaw and St. Jerome

If ever this little old lady south of the Magnolia curtain was jumpin’ for joy, this is the day!

I had been searching for some time for objective and empirical proof that tied Krister Stendahl to another nasty aspect of Feminist Theology, abortion. I finally did! The ladies of the Dark Side are quite vocal (save those within our midst who still play the coy we-is-but-we-ain’t game even with regard to women’s ordination!) concerning the necessity of abortion for women. Why? It is a mark of her humanity to be able to have procreative choice.

Stendahl fought for women’s ordination in
Sweden. He served as Bishop of Stockholm there. He contended the issue was not one of exegesis, but of interpretation. His monograph, The Bible and the Role of Women: A Case Study in Hermeneutics, was published in English and reprinted in the United States. Eventually he, too, emigrated. He lived out the logical conclusions to his own premise to women’s ordination on April 28, 2001, when he served as a celebrant at the ordination of Anita Hill. His premise cannot but lead not only to the ordination of gays and lesbians, but also to their marriage, and he wrote this clearly even as early as 1957 in Sweden.

It is Beverly Wildung Harrison who defines patriarchy as deriving “from the need of control women’s power to procreate the species.” (Harrison, B. W. (1985b). Theology and Morality of Procreative Choices. In C. S. Robb (Ed.), Making the Connections: Essays in Feminist Social Ethics.
Boston: Beacon Press.)

Mary Hunt contends, “Patriarchy spawns heterosexism, the normative claim of heterosexuality to the exclusion of the moral possibility of healthy same-sex (especially among women) relationships.” (Hunt, M. (1996). Transforming Moral Theology. In E. S. Fiorenza (Ed.), The Power of Naming: A Concilium Reader in Feminist Liberation Theology (pp. 300-306).
New York: Orbis Books.)

Both are wrong! One cannot have Christ as Savior without also receiving His Father as Creator (John
10:30). The object of Christ’s redemption is the restoration of His Father’s creation (John 3:16; Col 1:15); and His purpose is His Father’s will, (John 4:34; Phil 2:5-11). When the Scriptures are allowed to speak for themselves, patriarchy is revealed differently. There patriarchy is grounded in the authority and providential hand of God the Father who loves His Creation and provided for its salvation through His only-begotten Son before its creation (Eph 1:4). It is, therefore, God the Father Himself with whom feminism takes umbrage. That is why the words “Thus says the Lord...” are of a particular irritation to those who promote alternative viewpoints and lifestyles to what God has already revealed in His Word.

Now check out this link: The Religious Consultation. Especially check out the participating scholars list.

St. Jerome: Ignorance of Scriptures is ignorance of Christ.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Of Icons and Prodigals

Discipline in our little school is consistent. We expect the children to behave according to the Fourth Commandment in order that at least when they are with us respect for “other authorities” might become the “habitus” of a student. Understanding why a teacher asks a student do something is not always important; doing it is. E.g., when the fire alarm sounds, there is no need to understand why we walk, not run. We simply do as we are instructed for the sake of the greater good. If a student disobeys, the disciplinary measures are swift, certain, and age-appropriate. Always, however, the final statement is an apology from the student followed by the announcement, “You are forgiven,” from the teacher. Hugs are the frequent optional.

The icon of the Prodigal Son hangs in my classroom. There have been times for its use. It graphically depicts Christ as the image of God the Father outside the church door, waiting to forgive all those who repent of their sin. Kenneth Korby once said, “Absolution is such a ‘wet’ word.” It is just that. It is a verbal Baptism, washing away all the filth of the pigsty we have wallowed in so willingly. Jesus’ feet seem to be stepping out of the frame of the icon toward the viewer. It is a sermon in picture.

Children especially resonate to visual images. This icon is especially useful when a recalcitrant one is sent to pastor. They are frightened. They don’t want to confess their sin to pastor, but sometimes it is necessary to take that step. The icon serves as a reminder that because he is ordained into Christ’s Office, pastor stands in Jesus’ place and speaks at His command. He will say words very much the same as Jesus said to that young man, “For this my son was dead and is alive again, he was lost and is found.” It still doesn’t make confessing sin any easier, but knowing that the Doorkeeper has open arms makes all the difference in the long walk to his study.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Katrina and the Squirrels

Howie likes to remind me, “When squirrels wake up every morning, they have only one thing on their minds: Go to work. They’ve just gotta get themselves somethin’ to eat, and they get it wherever they can.” He usually tells me this after I’ve called them “thieving little varmints.” Howie also reminds me that food sources for squirrels are becoming scarcer as wooded areas are cut down for development. “They’re just near starvin’, Miz Em.”

The multifarious ways in which those rodents have discovered the means to their end convinces me this is true. Nothing seems to stop them. Today two were digging so deeply around the pole I wondered if they finally meant to carry the whole thing away. The same Father’s hand that sustains and feeds the birds of the air and the lilies of the field attends the beasts of the trees. These furry fellas just don’t want to share with the feathered ones, though.

One of our students traveled to the coast following Katrina; a new student is his cousin from there. Another distant cousin from the coast has now become our after-school care provider. Their loss and the decimation they have seen to family homes have left them shaken. We don’t teach our children to try to understand such things. Instead, we teach them to be squirrels. Do they feel a raging emptiness inside because sin has revealed itself so starkly? Then claw, slash, dig, and grab at God’s Word. Listen to what it says. Then simply confess and believe it. The experience of devastation is not the reality of God’s providence.

Job 10:12 You have granted me life and favor, and Your care has preserved my spirit.

“I believe in God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.”

What does this mean? … “He richly and daily provides me with all that I need to support this body and life… He defends me against all danger… All this He does out of fatherly divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me. For all this it is my duty to thank and praise, serve and obey him. Amen!” (SC, 2,2)

We would all do well to be as squirrels – even to be considered varmints and thieves in our hungering and clamoring for Christ’s Gifts, rather than allow anything to stand the way of receiving what the Father would give us in His Son’s Name.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Katrina and Absolution

Katrina has a few more “gifts” to deliver over the coming months. A few strong, sharp, blasts of wind and the oaks will drop what her tail failed to swipe completely. Perhaps they will miss my azaleas completely. If not, then I will prune some more, and they will bloom some more.

We live on the western edge of where she passed by. Our county suffered some damage, mostly scattered. Mostly it was inconvenient, like being in a green blizzard. In pastor’s neighborhood some trees fell on houses. Not in mine. A large pine did fall in Katrina’s final slashings, a 60 footer. It lay across three yards behind us, none of which was ours.

Glen chides/teases me about being a “lucifer” because of my Katrina clean up capers with a brush fire. Incendiary devices have been banned from my hands until further notice (county burn ban notwithstanding). All but my forearm is quite healed and evidence of my folly is non-existent- an epidermal absolution. One of the reasons John took me away from here so quickly after Katrina (we went to Little Rock) was the local hospitals were still on emergency electricity or had none at all. Had I needed more care he didn’t want another nine hours in the ER.

Physical healing relates to Absolution in that Christ’s resurrection is for the Baptized the Greater Reality than what is known in this world. We may not always experience physical healing in this life, but a certainty for the Baptized in Christ is their resurrection in Christ which has already occurred (Ro. 6:3-4), but is not yet fully experienced. The Absolution is the Gospel spoken and received; the Gospel is the restoration to that which was created in, through, and for Christ. Of the Absolution the Apology states,

“If the heart doubts, it maintains that Gods promises are uncertain and inane. So it is written in 1 John 5:10 , He who does not believe God has made him a liar because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne to his Son.” Ap XII (V) 62.

Monday, September 12, 2005

The Marian Moment De-Frocked

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Ste. Em and the Tree Rats

Here is how it is with the squirrels and me. Right now it stands about Squirrels 15, Ste. Em 0.

Last year I needed to come up with a couple Science projects. In Classical Education we don’t teach Science as a separate unit. Students learn Science through History and catechesis. “God created the world. Who created the world?” “God created the world.” This is First Article of the Creed business.

Most of our parents are raised with traditional education, so they sometimes don't “get it” with regard to Classical Education. No matter how often we tell them “history teaches science,” the Creed teaches Science, they get antsy and want to see Science Books and a separately taught subject called “Science.” However, conventional education teaches science backwards, not forwards. Too, at the Grammar stage is it not enough to confess the fact that God not only is the Originator of, but still provides us with all our daily needs? Science Books provide a nice “bridge” across this gap of understanding in what we are doing and accomplishing and the experience and expectations of the parents. So, every now and again we’d drag out the books, take a gander at the lovely pictures, read what applies- some of which was actually excellent for explaining how God makes things work- and then put them away. What I did do in the classroom is have the students open their eyes and look around themselves to observe what God has given.

The school sits in a heavily wooded area near a reservoir. I had a member of the church, Howie, erect a 4x4 pole and set up two squirrel-proof bird feeders. One is for thistle and has a cage around it so the varmints can’t get their beady heads inside. The other rolls them off and onto the ground, a Roller Feeder.

The assignment for the students was to watch birds. They recorded what they saw, the varieties when and where. It was quite a success. They were very good, and learned a lot.

They learned more about tree rats and their cunning ways. Easter weekend either they or ‘coons stole the Roller Feeder, dragged it to the creek, and ate the spilled contents. A torrential rain nearly buried it completely in sandy mud. I saw the green base, rescued and cleaned it. This time I chained that sucker to the pole.

That didn’t stop those thieves. They learned to climb up, shake the feeder until it spilled seed on the ground, then had a feast. Sometimes they’d try the thistle feeder. Early in the mornings I’ll know they’ve had a seed party by the way the feeders are hanging. If it’s a particularly rough crowd, there will be bits of fur lodged under the hanger and against the hook where a varmint has gotten himself wedged in. The Roller Feeder will most likely be empty, and the hanging loop in the thistle feeder will be bent in all sorts of shapes where they’ve tried to take it loose.

Finally Howie suggested I get myself some pvc to go around the pole. “They can’t climb up that stuff. Too slick.” Well, alright. So I did it.

The tree leapers found a new way to get to the top: They just swung to the top of the pole, missing the pvc entirely. I cut down the closest tree. Small thing, anyway. The feeders were still too close to a pine tree, so Howie moved the feeder.

Then the scum scuttlers dug right under the pvc, and scurried up the pole. I dropped river rock down alongside and inside the pvc. Those pests have now removed every stone, paw-by-paw, set each one to the side, and are scurrying up the pole just to shake the Roller Feeder. Howie’s next move is going to be to set a row of screws a few inches above the bottom of the pvc, thus making a sort of cage they can’t get past.

I don’t mind feeding squirrels, but in their proper place. Corn cobs in winter will do them just fine. Right now, though, climbing up on the birdfeeder pole to get at the woodpecker and cardinal food gets a bit expensive!

Vocation in the University

Gene Veith reports on the state of "Christian" education in the Sept. 10 issue of WORLD Magazine. He writes, "As John Mark Reynolds, a professor and director of the honors program at Biola University, observes, 'Many profs view their mission as helping poor, right-wing Christian children outgrow their parents' faith.'"

What a travesty this makes of vocation, not only of one's own as teacher, but also of that of parent.

While the vocation of teacher properly flows out of the Fourth Commandment, a teacher does not replace the parent in a child's life-- not even at the college level. Yet here is an ideology that arrogates to itself a "right" to do just that. Thus not only is one not righly attending the duties of his own vocation, he is also meddling into the affairs of another's. It is one thing to speak to the hope that is within us, confessing rightly the Christian Fatih; it is another to seek to destroy that faith because of academia's own intolerance for those who adhere to such outdated notions as absolute truth and scripture's inerrancy and infallibility.

One of the hallmarks of feminism is its totalitarian nature. It always knows what's best for you. This goes hand-in-hand with it's vocation-destroying tactics in order to commit Patricide. Feminism blurs the distinctions between vocations, but that is not its ultimate goal. As with the first sin, Satan enticed the woman in order to bring down the male. However, Satan's target was The Male in whose image Adam was created in order that he might eventually overcome the one in whose name all was created, redeemed and sanctified: God the Father.

Although Gregory J. Lockwood (Lockwood, G. J. (2000). 1 Corinthians.
St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House.) does not discuss Satan’s attack on creation in his 1Corinthians Commentary, one can extrapolate the same when he writes, “One important consequence of man being created in God’s image is his commission to represent his Maker in ruling the creation (Gen 1:26-28); 2:15-24).” (Lockwood, 2000) 366. That is to say, if that ruling is overthrown by another, then the one in whose image that one has been made has also been overthrown. Satan’s target in the deception of Eve was not man, but the Creator of man, God the Father, the one in whose image man was made and of whom equality was promised by Satan.

F. Carolyn Graglia (Graglia, F. C. (1998). Domestic Tranquility: A Brief Against Feminism.
Dallas: Spence Publishing Company.) describes a trait common to women: “single-minded narcissism.” This is not a negative criticism. Women alone are endowed with the propensity of the species to bear children and sustain them. Thus, they given over to the knowledge “the woman nursing her baby knows- in a way a man can never know- that she is the center of the universe.” This is the ideal of what is feminine, and is very different from feminist ideology which rejects such notions. In the 1960s the Feminist Movement widened the gap between men and women by closing the distance between them in what is feminine. “Women in revolt fostered what came to be called the generation gap of the youth rebellion.” Males adopted narcissism in the form of feminine pacifism. The political failure of Vietnam was a feminist triumph. “Feminist revolutionaries illustrated [Amaury] de Reincourt’s observation that the woman who becomes sufficiently ‘frustrated by her unsatisfactory relationship with the other sex’ ‘will invariably attempt to rouse her children against their father.’” Denouncing what she called an ‘obscene, immoral, war like the one in Vietnam,’ Betty Friedan accurately characterized the actions of war protestors (including her own son) at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago as ‘defying the masculine mystique as we had defied the feminine one.’” (Graglia, 1998) 58-59. This single-mindedness that was meant for the good of the family has been turned by Satan into a weapon against the very one who was meant to protect her, the father, who is icon of the Father. In her single-minded narcissism, a woman is the nurturing mother, a precious one bearing the next generation. She, too is an icon, that of the church who begets and bears every Christian through the Word of God” (LC 2, 41). It is the man who is to be the protecting father. Feminism rebels against the notion of female “preciousness.” Feminism considers this relationship as one in which all who are in such positions to be perpetually infantile. It is a relationship of patriarchy, hierarchy, and, according to feminism, clericalism. Therefore, it must be corrected. From this sort of interpretation, all manner of abuses flow, demonstrating themselves not only in the family, but also in congregational life and society. The plethora of tv shows in which the man of the household is depicted as the idiot and is the butt of the jokes (Raymond; Simpsons) demonstrates that ours is a man-eating society. Ultimately, the target is God the Father, and His Son.