Tuesday, February 28, 2006


Cyberstones mentions "oddest things in the office," one of those being a certain certificate, a TGTU- Tactical Grade Theological Grade Undies sent to him by yours truly a few years back. It should look quite a bit like the one below.

Credit is due where credit belongs. TGTUs are the braintrust of one terrific fella, The Rev. Fr. Eric “Big Dawg” Christiansen, as noted in the lower left-hand corner. He researched and developed these fireproof/bulletproof/asbestos/Kevlar accoutrement for the Confessional Lutheran, then named a select few as distributors. Directly under the title it reads, "Hermeneutically sealed in 1580." Of course, that does not preclude all that preceded, or that which is faithfully confessed since then. The Church speaks with one voice.

A bit of a warning: One pastor hung his undies discreetly behind his office door. He knew they were powerful enough to provide the necessary protection through the strongest steel. But alas!, they were discovered by the head elder, and he was considered to be unfit for pastoral duty. “Not pious enough!” “Lacking in ‘pastorly’ character.”

Just prior to the First Gerry Convention the Grandfather of Comtemporary Worship wrote a book. It was a sort of expose on Confessionals. CAT41 was singled out in particular. TGTUs were targeted, though not by name- only the 'shamefuleness' of pastors talking about their "undies," even some in "hot pink." None were ever made like that, the guys jested a lot. The author, despite our explanations, never grokked the undies were paper certificates.

TGTUs are just too dawg-on irreverent for some folks. Or maybe it’s impolite to think a pastor needs undies at all, let alone the kind that protect his rear from all those ablazing moments that come his way.

Or maybe some folks just don't have a sense of humor.

BTW... I got a sideways personal mention in that book... didja'all catch it? He mentions the "Mother Hen" who puts folks through a welcoming ritual, asking them if they are "Momma's Boys." Would that we all recognize that we are such according to our Baptism and cling to the teats of Mother Church (the Mother who begets and bears all Christians in the world)! Perhaps then TGTUs would become obsolete! Silly thought for the Church Militant.

My TGTUs are signed by Big Dawg himself and hang eye-level in my study near my deaconess certificate and above a piece of my granddaughter's artwork. (She was 14 months when she did it. See her hand and foot?) There were many times going to school I needed them. As a deaconess I am well placed. Ri'chere is a little slice of Neuendettelsau down here in Mi'zzippi- an' we like it that way. That has nothing to do with the temperament of the pastor, but with the fact that this deac is fed six-seven days a week on her pastor's sermons and can find him whenever she needs for Confession and Absolution. Now there's some real TGTUs for ya!

Oddest things in my study?

1. A framed cartoon Uncle Mikesie (Rev. Micheal Strong) sent me. Lady's standing on a bridge, dumping something over. Something
bounces, PING.... PING.... PING...., down the road below. Caption: "As she scattered Leon's ashes off the Oakmont Bridge, Tina realized she had completely forgotten about his glass eye." (Let the reader understand why this is so dear to me.)

2. Two copies of Der Struwwelpeter. One is in German, the other in Hebrew.

3. Two volumes of Luther's House Postils, both published 1884 by JA Schulze. My son gave these to me before his second tour in Iraq.

4. A feminist library.

5. My husband says my icon collection is odd.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Jacob and the Ballerina

Each week Jacob has a packet of Daily Work to complete. He is not alone. Each member of the class has his own set of work to finish. As the oldest student, Jacob’s is the most complicated.

One of Jacob's tasks is to proofread and correct a set of paragraphs for four days, then on Friday write a fifth to complement the set. This past week’s set was about a gifted young girl, Maria Tallchief, the famous ballerina. After reading and correcting the four paragraphs Jacob wrote a response to that particular connotation of what it means to be gifted.

Lots of people are gifted by baptism. Jesus gave forgiveness of sins by dying on the cross. That is what people are gifted with.

Jacob clearly recognizes that while no gift is to be taken lightly and the unique ability of a dancer such as Maria Tallchief should be celebrated, there are gifts such as those of vocation, and then there are the Gifts which deliver Christ, which are His Word and Sacraments. God gives us our vocations and, because they come from Him, can be received as the gifts they are. However, that is not the same as saying that it is our vocations which save us, when in fact it is Baptism that now saves. There is a distinction to be made. Jacob re-located the source of the "Giftedness." When he did, he clarified a distinction: Maria Tallchief is gifted, but without Baptism, no one is truly Gifted.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Wise Words - Book Report & Commentary

Lutherans often shy away from morality stories, dripping as they are with the prodding of the Law even as it is too frequently disguised as the Gospel. However, Canon Press publishes a book of eighteen stories by Peter Leithart that might change a few minds in that regard, Wise Words: Family Stories That Bring the Proverbs to Life.

Each of Leithart’s stories is written after the fashion of a fairy tale in the tradition of the Grimm Brother’s. Each ends with a moral as an Aesop’s Fable might; however, Leithart’s morals are taken from the book of Proverbs. Now, that alone might be enough to send shivers down most rightly-dividing-Law-and-Gospel Lutheran’s back, and nix the decision for this book. However, the stories are well-written with rich details. For the careful catechist in the home or school, each story can be placed in Christ so that the Greater Reality is revealed. Consider "Ivy and the Prince," which was read to a group of First, Third and Fourth graders.

Ivy is a young girl who lives near a forest, in the midst of which is a thicket. He father has told her never to cross through the thicket and go to the other side. Only danger awaits there. She will die. One day a rabbit convinces Ivy she can go around the thicket without actually disobeying her father. She does, and the rabbit becomes a dragon. As soon as he sets to devour her, a handsome Prince from a castle in the air rescues Ivy. He places a golden chain in her hair. She is to use the chain to call for him at anytime. Ivy faints as the Prince gives the instructions, so the chain sits in her hair unnoticed. Ivy goes back to her father, repents of her sin. Her father forgives her. Ivy, however, wastes away desiring to have the Prince return, but not knowing how to have him do so. Just as she is about to die, her father finds the chain in her hair. In an instant the Prince in there and the story ends as all good fairy tales do, happily ever after.

Leithart chose Prov. 13:12 as the moral: Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but desire fulfilled is a tree of life. This falls flat as a moral applied to a simple fairy tale, but Leithart does not intend it to be so. He writes, “[T]he First Last Adams are always lurking just beneath the surface.” Therefore, regard how the students applied elements of the tale to the Catechism.

“Where did Ivy go wrong?”
“She disobeyed her father.”
“That’s the Fourth Commandment.”

“What did her father do when she confessed her sin?
“He forgave her.”

“Who do you think the rabbit represents?”
“That’s easy! He’s Satan!”
“Yeah- and the Prince is Jesus.”
“And the castle is heaven.”

“OK, Smarties, what is the golden chain all about?” Now they had to think. “What does Jesus give us to hold onto so we know He is with us always?”
“Oh! I get it, Baptism!”
“And His Word, His Absolution.”
“And His Body and Blood.”

Leithart is an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church in America. What a blessedly iconic sacramental tale from a Presbyterian author- whether he intended it to be so or not! This is when Leithart’s book shines. Each of his stories can be run through Christ. This is the value of such reading done by parents and teachers with children. Analogies fail at some point, and “Ivy and the Prince” is no exception. It is not the call of the church that causes Christ to come down; rather, Christ comes to His church according to His appointed Means of Grace. Therefore, a caution: read it to your children and discuss it with them. This book will provide many meaningful discussions.

Wise Words: Family Stories That Bring the Proverbs to Life
Peter J. Leithart
ISBN: 1591280141

Additional Comments:

Ivy lies dying because she did not hear her Prince’s instructions about the chain. So she is starving. How ironic that a modern tale written by a PCA minister highlights what Wilhelm Löhe wrote a century ago: the Means of Grace is where it’s at not only for Lutherans, but by their absence, also for non-Lutherans. Löhe wrote:

If the Lutheran Church has the pure Word and sacrament in a pure confession, it obviously has the highest treasures of the church unperverted. It thus has Gods fullness and the living source from which all deficiencies may be supplied, and it can claim for itself all the advantages of which other denominations justly boast.What is the reason for so many attacks on this church when men must admit that it has the greatest treasures and marks of the church? Why is it that other denominations boast about so many real or imaginary advantages when they lack the greatest treasures and when it cannot be denied that the Lutheran Church, if it is only conscious of itself, can supply all deficiencies from its abundance and can excel the other churches in every virtue? He who can honor Word and sacrament properly will not be blinded by any ray of light which falls on other churches, for that ray comes only from the source of our perfect truth. Much less will he be blinded by the mere glow of human works and thoughts. When a man possesses the higher things, he can easily do without the lesser things until he can obtain them without danger.Because it has Word and sacrament in a pure confession, the Lutheran Church is the fountain of truth, and from its waters all thirsty souls in other churches have their thirst quenched. With cheerful faces and sharp swords the members of this church stand in serene peace around the fountain which saves all those who are saved. Wilhelm Löhe, Three Books About the Church, p. 113, 115.

A plethora of thoughts arise in conjunction with the LCMS and her long-term dalliance with evangelical style. She is distinctly different than Ivy in this: Ivy wasted away in her grief for her Prince, while the LCMS is spending hers partying to the slappy-sappy-clappy tunes of the feather-swallowers, hoping to grow fat and go down in a blaze of glory. They are alike because they both need to be returned to the Rock from whence they were hewn (Is 51:1)- that is, the very word from which their hope was given.

Ivy had her Parousia. Perhaps that is all that will rescue the LCMS.

Monday, February 06, 2006

The F-Word

For my students, the f-word is allowed only during a scripted lesson. Shurley Grammar uses it in it paragraph writing examples. It’s not that the word “feel” is a bad word; it is that I desire my students to learn to write substantively from the start. So I simply remove it from them for a while until they learn to use the English language more competently.

Shurley Grammar teaches paragraph writing according to form. The Two-Point Expository paragraph is taught in the First and Second Grade, and then expanded upon in the Third and Fourth Grades with the Three- Point Expository and the Persuasive paragraphs. The First and Second Grade examples both include lines that read something like this: “In conclusion, I like yellow because it makes me feel cheerful.” Not a bad line, I suppose, but it’s still rather squishy.

My older students have already been “broken” of using the f-word. The first year I taught paragraphs I used the two-point expository as the format for book reports. My First and Second Graders had one due a week during the second semester. That’s a lot of reading and writing, but doable. After two reports in which students wrote “This book made me feel happy/sad/goofy,” the current “no f-word” policy was established. I instructed them to find something in particular that was the reason for why the book made them feel that way, then write a sentence without the f-word. Sentences began changing. “This is a happy/sad/goofy book/part because…” Now they rarely use the f-word in speech, and not at all in writing unless for descriptive purposes.

Now I am again teaching paragraphs to a set of students who have not written them before. They will encounter the example from Shurley Grammar, and want to copy it. Imitation is the best route to an A, is it not? However, as I told the students today, the example is the last time they are permitted to use the f-word in my classroom or on a writing assignment.

They may describe

  • how it is to feel ill and what makes them feel that way

  • how it is to feel well and what makes them feel that way

  • how something feels to the senses

Tucker sat in rapt attention, said position being a relative term. He’s a wiggly kid. He looks like it from the get-go. He’s all arms and legs, ears sticking out at angles. He can’t ever seem to sit still. He even falls out of his chair. Today he lost his chair because he was just too squiggly to sit in it, so it was just best to remove it completely.

Sometimes I play with the kids with quick come-backs. One in particular stuck with them. Now and again they are amazed that I’ll just happen to know something they don’t know (imagine that!) “Hey! How’d you know that?” they asked.

“Awww… that’s cuz you happen to be merely smart and I happen to be brilliant,” I said.

They rolled in laughter.

On one particular morning they amazed me. So much so that I quipped, “Well, lookie here… some one just about kissed the foot of brilliance with that answer.”

After the laughter settled down Tucker said, “I want to do that- kiss the foot of brilliance.”

The “kiss the foot of brilliance” line stayed with the students so well they asked me to hang feet and kisses from the ceiling. So I did. Walking down the hallway to my classroom it looks like some bizarre message is being displayed: Stomping the Rolling Stones.

Today Tucker did kiss the foot of brilliance.

After explaining the f-word and why it wasn’t to be used, Tucker said, “Oh, I get it. You want us to be specific.”

I had to shake that Firstie’s hand!