Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Washing Waddles Away

Ravioli was on the menu today. That meant that at the end of the meal Byrne still had, even after copious wiping with his napkin, a spot of sauce remaining on his nose.

“Byrne, you need to go to the restroom, use it, and be sure to wash your face.” I pointed to my nose, trying to indicate where in particular he needed to clean.

“Oh, yes, Ma’am,” he replied. Troublemint Twins are at the very least polite.

He headed off to the Boys’ restroom in a walk that signaled this was the first of a long routine. It was a combination robot lock-step, arms-waving, Home Alone-faced (“Ahhhh!”), waddle. It was unique to him: The Byrne Waddle.

Two minutes latter her returned, sauce still in place. “Byrne, did you remember to wash your face?”

“Ahhhhh! No, Ma’am! I forgot. I mean, you didn’t tell me to. I mean… I forgot… I mean… I didn’t do it. Ahhhhh! I’ll go do it.” He took off with the Byrne Waddle.

Three minutes later he returned, sauce adhered firmly to his nose.

“Byrne, I’ve asked you twice to wash your face. If you can’t do it, I reckon I’ll have to do it for you.”

“No, Ma’am! I can do it myself. I don’t want you to do it for me. No way!” Once more we were treated to the Byrne Waddle. As with the smirk, nothing much gets accomplished as long as the waddle is foremost on Byrne's agenda.

When he rejoined us, we were in the classroom. I let him settle into his seat before I spoke to him again. By now the other students were quite interested in the proceedings, especially Jacob, who noticed the evidence immediately as Byrne waddled into the room.

“Byrne, did you remember to wash your face?”

The slap on his head told me what I needed to know.

I took him by the wrist and headed for the door.

“C’n I come, too?” Jacob called out gleefully.

I didn’t need any voyeurs. “Nope. You sit still.”

Between my classroom and the K-4/5s is one used for the after school program. As we grow larger it will be used as a regular classroom. Conveniently, it has a sink and is stocked with paper towels. It is much closer than the Boys’ restroom. It was all I needed for the intended purpose. I soaked a paper towel and went to work.

A bit later Byrne walked back into the classroom, where the other students were waiting with bated breath.

He was grinning from ear-to-ear.

“Don’t ever let Deaconess wash your face. It’s funny, but don’t ever let Deaconess wash your face.”

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Fishes and Crosses

My students were excited. The orders for the new school shirts had arrived and were stuffed into their lockers, waiting for them to take home. The logos weren’t anything new, just the shirt style. These were long-sleeved shirts whereas the ones they received at the beginning of the school term were short sleeved. Also, some parents had ordered prized sweatshirts. What had my students ecstatic was that I had ordered a sweatshirt for myself.

“Now you don’t have to wear a uniform!” they shouted. “Yeah! Are uniforms all you have at your house?” Deaconess Pam Nielsen should have been a fly on the classroom wall that day. It was she who years ago patiently explained to me the value of wearing “deaconess garb,” and I daily appreciate it. I had flippantly wanted to remain encased in denim. During her student days, another friend of mine had embroidered “deaconess blues” across the seat of her jeans. That was more my style. When a pastor friend volunteered to have a denim chasuble manufactured to co-ordinate with a denim deaconess uniform, I thought I had it “made in the shade!” That was pure me. But the deaconess uniform reminds me that I am not my own. Rather, I am bound to Another in Baptism, and according to the vows of the diaconate. It is that office which is to be brought forward, and not I. The garb serves to hide “Em,” and to bring Christ who serves His people through me to the forefront (Jn 10:30).

The most distinctive feature about the deaconess uniform is the insignia of the Concordia Deaconess Conference to which I belong. It is worn in the left shoulder; gold budded cross on a field of navy blue. During my field work I served in a Roman Catholic hospital in Chicago. There the nuns were a bit perturbed trying to ascertain which order I belonged to. I’d point out the evident irony: They wore no habit and had no husbands; I wore a habit and was allowed to keep my husband. My internship was served at a large hospital in Cook County. The hospital administrator was a secularist who “didn’t need to see or be reminded about no stinkin’ Jesus,” and my supervisor was one who constantly advised me to “Stop talking Baptism to patients. You Lutherans are just plain silly about how you go on about Baptism- as if it really does anything!” I made certain to wear my uniform every day I worked in both of those hospitals for two reasons: 1. The insignia is large enough to make sure every patient could easily see it. In an age when the average spiritual care department pushes Oprah, Dr. Phil, and the Ministry of Silence, my uniform immediately announced that I wasn’t making merely a social call when I entered a room; 2. Visible reminders point to heavenly realities. This is true for the design of the Deaconess Cross.

The Deaconess Cross reaches outward in budded branches. While the French fleur-d-lis has long been a symbol of the Trinity because of its triangular shape, the lily itself has been an icon of the resurrection. Paul reminds us in 1Cor. 15 that if it were not for Christ’s resurrection, the church would have nothing about which to boast or preach. Christ’s resurrection is the Good News all mankind is waiting to hear. Thus, the petal ends of the Deaconess Cross, reaching outward as they do, remind us also that Deaconesses serve all people, in every place.

Four fish are joined in the center to form the four arms of the Deaconess Cross. The fish is an ancient Christian symbol. During the early period of Christianity, signs were used to identify another Christian. Thus, one person meeting another would draw the first arc of the fish. It was up to the second person to draw the other. By this means two people would recognize each other as Christians. In his work, De Baptismo, Tertullian writes, “But we, little fishes, after the example of our Icqus (Icthus, fish) Jesus Christ, are born in water, nor have we safety in any other way than by permanently abiding in water.” Thus the Deaconess Cross is also a reminder of Baptism. For it is by Baptism Christ joins us to Himself, making of us His “little fishes” who are meant by “daily contrition and repentance… emerge and arise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever.” We are meant to remain in Christ, grafted to Him (Jn 15.5). He says it clearly in Jn 8:31, “If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed.”

So, I told my little fishes that I didn’t have only navy blue uniforms at my house. Sometimes I even wear denim around the place. And sometimes when I go shopping I even look at red dresses.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Snaring Trouble

Returning to school after Spring Break is not kind to a Troublemint Twin. Jeremiah (T-1) went to Florida and zoned out on the attractions. Byrne (T-2) stayed home and zonked out on his brand new Willy Wonka DVD. When they returned to school Jeremiah was still zooming down some spiraling ride or patting the tail of a Clydesdale in his mind somewhere, while Byrne was constantly singing Wonka tunes. It played out in their classroom behavior- big time.

By Wednesday Byrne found himself overloaded with homework. He played around during the daily recitation of the Catechism, even after being warned that he needed to settle down. His father had set the ground rules: “Son, you don’t participate in the Catechism or play around, and you’ll write it out at home that evening.” Gotta love parents like that! During Grammar he just couldn’t help himself. Willie’s song escaped once more, so I sent him to the hallway to “get it out of your system.” After eight minutes he popped his head into the room and declared, “Deaconess, it’s all gone now. I’m tired of singing.” He was smirking. I told him to go back and sing some more. A smirking Twin is still full of trouble. I had him sing ‘til the smirk fell off his face.

Thursday morning he complained his hand ached. Singing in the hallway cost him time to write his paragraph in class. The Fourth Chief Part plus a paragraph is a load of work for a First Grader!

Jeremiah’s mind-shuttle landed sometime Tuesday afternoon. Perhaps it was just returning to the routine of school, perhaps he finally came “down” from the heady experience of his trip to Disneyworld. His family had tried to go last year, but his grandfather had suddenly required open heart surgery. Jeremiah was such a good sport about his disappointment then. Now he had finally gotten to go. It was hard to let go of the last remnants of excitement and Jeremiah did all he could to prolong it, even instigating his own brand of prankish humor and juvenile hilarity in the classroom.

It was not a smooth landing. Jeremiah had already written sentences for disrupting the class and had had Mrs. Sawyer speak to him about his behavior. “You are a First Grader, remember? You not in my kindergarten class anymore, but you sure are acting like it.” Still, it wasn’t until he caught me looking at the sticky note with the phone number to the Alternative School that he remembered where poor behavior could eventually lead. “Ooopsie daisy,” he said.

Thursday morning we were reciting the Fifth Chief Part of the Catechism, Confession. It was a good time for a short catechetical, especially regarding the matter of excluding openly unrepentant sinners. First I explained that it is God’s desire that all people come to Him and be forgiven. Still, not everybody will come to Christ through His pastors to hear they are forgiven, and not everyone should hear they are forgiven even if they do go. I asked the class who these people might be.

Jeremiah responded, “Those are the goats who keep the Commandments. God wants to release their feet from the snare, but they won’t let Him.”

The rest of the class stared at him and said in unison, “HUH?”

“Yeah, you know… the ones who say… ‘We love God. We k
eep the Commandments. We don’t have sins.’ Those are the goats. Remember? If you say you love God, you really don’t because that’s the First Commandment. So you are still in the trap of sin. You are not a sheep.”

Jeremiah had synthesized nearly a school year’s worth of chapel sermons. There’s trouble, and then there’s a Troublemint Twin. Joy comes in knowing how to distinguish the former from the latter, who is constantly being rescued from the snare and put
back in Christ.

Jeremiah got an A+ on his Catechism for the week. The memory verse was Psalm 25:15.


Uncle Aardvark and I share more'n a little bit in common!

How grammatically correct are you? (Revised with answer key)

You are a GRAMMAR GOD!

Congratulations! If your mission in life is not already to preserve the English tongue, it should be. You can smell a grammatical inaccuracy from fifty yards. Your speech is revered by the underlings, though some may blaspheme and call you a snob. They're just jealous. Go out there and change the world.
Take this quiz!

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Thursday, March 23, 2006

Vacuums & Beads

I was somewhat amused by the flutter of posts regarding Ebenezer Lutheran Church (ELCA) and Pr. Stacy’s goddess beads (not so mch so to prevent my own.) Were any of us surprised, after all?

If it is true that nature abhors a vacuum, then the truth from which that image derives lies in an even Greater Reality: the First Commandment. Man cannot live without a god. If his God is not the one, true God, then he will have another as his god. Nature mimics this truth whenever a vacuum is filled.

By the way… this was in large measure what my essay “Stoles of Suspension” was based on. Particularly, that Feminist Theology is based on a suspension of belief- that is, a denial of Christ in order to achieve its own goals. In His stead, feminism erects a god of her own making and in her own image.

For amusement I purchased a set of goddess beads from Pr. Stacy while I was writing that essay for the AELLP Forum. I thought they’d make for a good object lesson at some point. They now sit in my desk drawer under a pile of rubber bands, some stamps, a few address labels, a box of staples, and a roll of 3M tape. They arrived not long after Katrina hit, while I was still recovering from the burns I received from our clean-up efforts in the back yard. Pr. Stacy included a kind note when she sent them, “We are praying for you…” The prayers of a gentle human avail nothing outside of Christ.

The way of the Gospel is always more…

And the way of apostolicity is never innovation.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

MS Ablaze!

This yearly contribution causes rejoicing in First Article gifts down here.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Michael's Tag...

Poor Michael has a tag of his own sort. He asks my take on this article.

Friedan’s feminism was based on victimhood. Housewives were compared to many things, among them animals and Jews in concentration camps. Reaction is a stage, not an identity. (Cloud & Townsend) It can’t last forever and ever, amen.

Today’s feminism is based on the foundation laid by Eliz. Cady Stanton, who viewed the condition of women in society as a result of religious dictates. Her goal was to separate women from their god. It is theologically naïve to claim Stanton was a feminist who was also a friend of women and children, for it does no real service to the heart of what women and children need. Stanton’s goal was to free women and children from the oppression of all religion and to launch them into the freedom of self-determined lives based on choice. Was this not the same goal of another?

The reaction stage is over. The stage of feminism we now endure is more insidious, more pervasive. The stage we are now in could be described as one of accommodated indifference. That is, most people are so indoctrinated with feminism they have become accommodated to it and are indifferent to its influences. Feminism comes to them as easily as breathing. They are not feminist by choice. If asked, they would laugh and deny being feminist, thinking such a thing ludicrous. No way are they “bra burners!”

Yet, when considered in light of scripture, vocation, and the Table of Duties:

  1. Name one t.v. show in which the husband is the “Head of the Household.”

  2. Name one t.v. show in which the children honor parents and other authorities.

For many households, parenting pertains to the hours involving bedtime prayer, the rush to school, and weekend care. Meals are pick-up affairs, often not eaten by the whole family together. Both parents work, the state is raising the kids by way of education in public schools. For all intents and purposes, by combining the influences of the media and the practices of the dual-income family, Americans are living what Rousseau and deBeauvoir envisioned as ideal: Pop out kids, but let the state raise them.

Feminism complains that it is failing. However, it required 100% co-operation in order to succeed in the first place. Moreover, it was from its inception a wealthy woman’s program. Feminism required a large base of lower-educated, lower-income workers to support the upper-income women in their feminist life style. Childbearing must continue in order for the race to survive, yet who was to provide care for those children? Who would clean houses, cook meals? It was all to be outsourced. Who was being victimized in this little scenario? Where was the liberation for the lower-class women?

Feminism is not so much failing as it is revealing its own logical inconsistencies. There is no such thing as heterosexual sex that does not require the submission of the female to the male, yet radical feminism calls even marital sex rape. Therefore, the new feminist recognizes she must “give up” feminism in order to be heterosexual, or be lesbian. Now who is making a victim of whom?

Feminism is a separator, a divider. It asks questions in such a way that causes the division rather than fosters integrity of thought and life. That is the nature of feminism. Secularism- which is a sister to feminism- convinces us that religion has its place only one hour a week in our lives. With secularism, there is no integration of the sacred beyond the doors of the church. What we see now is not so much feminism among us as secularism. Feminism is to strong a word. It is the “older sister” that cried too many tears over spilt milk. Secularism is kinder, gentler in her ways. She wears crosses for jewelry, has her out-of-wedlock child baptized for the sake of her grandparents, but refuses to attend church. After all, Baptism now saves, doesn’t it? So who needs to attend church after a good wetting? She and her live-in boyfriend aren’t bad people. They’ll get married some day.

Here is real victimhood for you: God invaded our world two-thousand years ago for the sake of His creation. Feminism has difficulties with How God presents Himself, and makes demands on God. She wants God on her own terms. She wants a god in her own image, a dance at the base of the mountain. Baptism is not only the Great Reversal, it is the Great Equalizer. In Baptism Jesus takes all our sins and exchanges them for His righteousness. Yet in Baptism all are one in Him- that is, One Person. He is that One Person. That does not mean, however, that each loses his own unique God-created vocational identity of male and female. Feminism is now realizing its own internal logical fallacy. Male and female are the binary distinctions of being human. They are ways, or modes of being human, and to be either does not negate the equality or existence of the other. For feminism, however, it is the female that must be celebrated over and against the male. Moreover, the victimhood status of feminism is non-redemptive, for is sustains itself on the sacrifice of those lower in the human (so-called, cf. the abortion debate) or economic food chain. This is not the way of Christ, who sacrificed Himself, and only Himself, once for the sake of the redemption of all.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Juxtaposition on Absolution

This is the month of juxtapositions. March’s lion/lamb image lends itself to that, I suppose.

It seemed good to read St. Patrick’s hymn on the first day, so we did. After all, a print of his icon and the words of his hymn were hung near the classroom calendar, so we read the words together.

I bind unto myself today
The strong Name of the Trinity,
By invocation of the same,
The Three in One, and One in Three.

This hymn is often called St. Patrick’s breastplate, a term that required interpretation for the students. He received his Trinitarian breastplate at Baptism, and reminded himself of it “by invocation of the same.” For this reason he could also joyously proclaim

I bind this day to me for ever,
By power of faith, Christ's Incarnation;
His baptism in Jordan river;
His death on cross for my salvation;
His bursting from the spicèd tomb;
His riding up the heavenly way;
His coming at the day of doom:
I bind unto myself today.

I bind unto myself today
The virtues of the starlit heaven
The glorious sun's life-giving ray,
The whiteness of the moon at even,
The flashing of the lightning free,
The whirling wind's tempestuous shocks,
The stable earth, the deep salt sea,
Around the old eternal rocks.

I bind unto myself today
The power of God to hold and lead,
His eye to watch, his might to stay,
His ear to hearken, to my need;
The wisdom of my God to teach,
His hand to guide, his shield to ward;
The word of God to give me speech,
His heavenly host to be my guard.

I bind unto myself today
The strong Name of the Trinity,
By invocation of the same,
The Three in One, and One in Three.
Of whom all nature hath creation,
Eternal Father, Spirit, Word:
Praise to the Lord of my salvation,
Salvation is of Christ the Lord.

It all worked well. The students enjoyed hearing of Patrick the Saint who taught of the Trinity by using shamrocks because they had three leaflets. They immediately drew the connection between a breastplate and making the sign of the cross.

On the wall opposite where our calendar hangs is a poster of Roman soldiers rushing into battle. On their shields a “chi-rho” is emblazoned. The day following our talk of St. Patrick Jeremiah asked, “Are those men like St. Patrick?” Sean perceived where he was going. “Yeah. That sign is the same one that’s in church.”

Interesting question, for it asks to compare St. Patrick to Constantine. So we did. First I explained what a chi-rho is. Then I explained that Constantine had a dream in which he saw the chi-rho, and was told that he would conquer by that sign. So he put it on his soldiers gear, even the un-baptized ones. Then they went off to war, and Constantine expected to win every battle because he had crafted a chi-rho on his weaponry as a victory sign.

Jeremiah thought for a few minutes. Something wasn’t working out right. As one of the Troublemint Twins, Jeremiah is good at manipulating data- organic or otherwise. One of his favorite pastimes is history. He’ll trade an hour of the Cartoon Network for two of the History Channel. He’s being raised by his grandparents, who have adopted him. His grandfather is a veteran of WW II. A fun day for Jeremiah is to visit Vicksburg and learn more about the war between the “Americans and the Yankees,” as he puts it. Sometimes he gets his facts mixed. He still insists "tiber sharks" come out of the Tiber River near Rome. Other things he has straight. Say “word and water” and Jeremiah immediately shouts "Baptism!"; “bread and wine” will get him to “Body and Blood!” just as quickly.

Right now Jeremiah was perplexed. I could see the wheels spinning and locking into place just looking at him. “If this, then that… then that, then this… then no way can this be that.” We had studied Homer and the fall of Troy in The Children's Homer. The students knew that honor could be found on both sides of the battlefield. They also knew that under the Fourth Commandmentthe state had the right to bear arms against attackers, and that when their parents spanked children it wasn't a transgression of the Fifth Commandment like when they got into a fight with each other. We had just read St. Patrick's hymn, and discussed breastplates as the invocation of Baptism. Therefore, when Jeremiah considered the chi-rho as a shield and defense in battle, he had a lot to think about. I didn't know where his young mind would lead, but eventually...

“That’s not right!” he finally burst out.

“What’s not right?” I asked.

“Baptism is for sins. Not for wars,” he said. “People still die. Not everybody wins wars. But everybody wins in Baptism because Jesus says so.”

The point was simple: Constantine had misapplied how the sign would conquer, and over what. Victory over sin, death, and the devil does not always mean success in battle.

The theme of the movie Titanic comes near the end. After the character Rose has finished her tale of the sinking she says,

Fifteen hundred people went into the sea. When Titanic went under us, there were twenty boats floating nearby and only one came back- one. Six people were saved from the water, myself included- six out of fifteen hundred. Afterward the seven hundred people in the boats had nothing to do but wait... wait to live, wait to die, wait for an absolution that would never come.

Jeremiah knows of no such condition, and neither did Patrick. Constantine, though he eventually issued the Edict of Milan which benefited all of Christendom, did not appreciate- at least not until just before his death- the Gift of Baptism. The mere fact of Christ’s death will not save anyone and does not make anyone Christian any more than slapping a cross on a coffee mug makes the brew inside the cup a sacred drink. The Gifts of Christ (His preaching and His Sacraments) must be delivered so that faith can be created by the Holy Spirit. For those who live as Jeremiah and Patrick, forgiveness from all that this world has to throw their way has already come in Christ, delivered to them in Baptism and recalled anew in each invocation. Absolution continues through a life lived in Baptism, constantly bound by the invocation of the Trinity and receiving the Gifts Gifts of Christ. Christ is our righteousnous, our breastplate (Eph 6:14; 1Thessalonians 5:8). It is His sign we bear in this life, and which carries us into the next. In this sign we conquer, because He first conquered death for us. We are baptized! This is our victory sign!

Thursday, March 02, 2006



I didn’t realize “Oddest things in the Office” was a part of one of those “tagging” games.

Oh, well... grace abounds, so I'll and step into it again with one I forgot!

I can prove I have all my marbles… can you? They're about... well, when my students asked how old I am I told them polite children never ask and a lady never tells. They aren't polite and I'm not... Well, I finally told them two years ago I was 96. They believed me. So my marbles are quite ancient, as these things go.

Now for some faerie dust...