Friday, April 25, 2008

Garden Time at GSLS

This time of year my students are more rowdy than ever. They have Spring fever; they have test (ITBS) fever; and they have end-of-year fishing trip fever. This year I found a project to keep them occupied after the ITBS in the April 2008 issue of Mississippi Gardener (I know all of you get that one!) Hopefully the pictures here will demonstrate enough of what we did so if you want to do it, too, you can.

Here's my happy crew. You will need one of those with what they have in their hands. Also, you will need supplies. We had:

8 curved scalloped-topped cement garden edgers (red)
2 straight scalloped-topped cement garden edgers (red)
3 bags garden and bedding soil
weed fabric
1 flat bedding flowers (we had 36 begonias and one amaryllis)
root stimulator

First we set up our design, which was a fish, an ICHTHUS. The boys knew that we are all little fishes attached to our One Fish, Christ--or, as my oldest student said, "branches living from the larger Branch." After that I scribed the soil with a knife. You don't have to use a knife. Just use something to mark the outside of the dimensions. Then we dug into the soil.

This was so we could set the landscapers into the soil, not merely upon it. That way they'd be solid.

After that, we lined the area with weed fabric.

Here you can clearly see the outline of the ICHTHUS shape. We used the soil dug out from the middle to backfill around the pavers. That way they were stable from the outside. The garden soil we added kept them stable from the inside. We used only three bags of garden and bedding soil to fill our planter. It was even a bit too full!

Here is the final "product" and the proud crew. The amaryllis planted at the center was a gift one of the boys gave me two Christmases ago. It finally bloomed this year. It needed a larger space to grow properly, so we moved it to a new home. They did a great job, and not one dirt fight in all of it!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Office, Baby, Office

Get Office straight, and everything else falls into place: from Office follows all other offices or vocations, and from that station. Office is, first of all, located in Christ. It is the keeping and living in the First Commandment, the First Article, and the First Petition. What do these have to do with Christ? No one comes to the Father except through Christ (Jn 14:6). When Christ is one’s Head, then living as one in the Body of Christ means that love toward neighbor is the habitus of daily living in one’s Baptism (1Co 11:4; Eph 5:23;). This is the lesson Jesus taught the young lawyer with the parable of the Good Samaritan when He turned his question around. It is not “Who is my neighbor?” but rather, “To whom am I a neighbor?” (Luke 10: 25-36).

Last night John and I watched Gone Baby Gone. Ben Affleck both co-wrote the screenplay and directed this film. His younger brother, Casey, was cast in the starring role. Ed Harris, Michelle Monaghan, Amy Madigan, and Morgan Freeman also star in this film of a little girl who was reported missing, and the young man who was hired to search for her. I will try not to reveal too much of the movie’s details for the sake of those who have not yet seen it.

The movie is a fascinating study of office and vocation. There are those who have God-given vocations, yet abandon them. Some take up vocations that are not properly theirs to have. Others are given offices into which they have been place with trust, yet through which they have been abusive. Another is like the last of the Old Testament faithful women, Anna, praying and fasting, faithful in her vocation. She lashes out in righteous anger, “You are an abomination!” Her pain stings the greatest, for she sacrifices all she has, and loses all in the end.

There is, too, a Christ-figure—one who sacrifices his own life so that another might live. Fascinatingly, there is also a hireling. The twist-ending allowing for “What would you have done?” questioning reveals who the hireling is, who the Christ-figure is. Christ said, “Feed My sheep” (Jn 21:17). Certainly the primary meaning of this is directed to the Office and the administration of the Mysteries, the Sacraments. Still, in Gone Baby Gone, we have the distinction between doing right because it feels right, and doing right because it is right.

“If you do this thing, I will hate you forever,” said the tempter in the movie. How many prayers have ascended to God in this way? And yet Joseph declared, “You meant it for evil against me, but God meant it for good” (Ge 50:20). A religion centered in the heart; a religion that does not rely solely on what God has done and gives for us; a religion that cannot be satisfied with Christ’s declaration, “It is finished!”; is a religion that can lead one to hating God when He does not give one the desires of one’s own heart. This is why we pray, “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” When we pray these words, we literally ask God that He carry us away, even if it means into an early death rather than into even greater evil than we currently face.

Gone Baby Gone is not merely a fascinating movie; it is also a genuinely Lutheran movie. It gets Office straight, even if by demonstrating by way of the negative, and through instances of the positive through vocation. It’s a movie worth watching for the sake of its theme. This must be said with a great caveat: the language is very strong. Some might find that offensive due to the volume.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Are We There Yet?

With Missouri's pragmatism and idolatrous self-assured congregational autonomy, we are nearly so, if not there already.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Infant Baptism in Baptist Country

We live in Baptist Country. That's rightly capitalized in these parts. Then again, with the way things are going with regard to the general protestanization of the Lutheran Church, Baptist Country is in every pew in every local congregation--despite the efforts of faithful pastors.

Rev. Rick Sawyer of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, Brandon, MS, has written an excellent website responding to the favorite retort of the Baptist Country's refutation for Infant Baptism. You can access it here.

In fact, while you're there, take a look at his piece on Historic Faith. and then at his one titled He is Risen.

Monday, April 07, 2008

What Grows Up, Must Blow Down

Before the storm.... April, 2004

After the storm finished its destruction in Little Rock on last Thursday, it headed on over to Jackson, Mississippi, where it unleashed five more tornadoes on Friday afternoon. In fifteen minutes, Jackson and its environs endured more damage than Katrina did to it in a day and a half.

I was at school. The sirens had gone off, and the weather radio alerts were advising a severe storm. We had the students hunkered down in the hallway. They weren't frightened until the electricity went down. That hallway gets mighty dark! So we sang our chapel songs and the Matins liturgy. That puts eyes and minds on Jesus and off fear.

I learned later that John was on the back porch having a cigar. Typical. On the way to the hospital to have bypass he had one more cigarette. I do love that man! In his favor, he'd watched the tv channels and they'd been saying the storm was well away from us. Rankin County is very large. When the order to sound the alert comes down, it doesn't matter what corner is being pinpointed, the whole county sounds alarm. The actual tornado might well be several miles away and never come near us.

John said he knew we were in for it when it suddenly began to hail. Then he saw one of our trees begin to lean. He thought, "Awwww, now don't do that." But it did, taking the one beside it with it. We lost two oaks, both 65-70 ft. tall. At least they fell East, not South. Falling South would have been through the middle of the house. Neighbors weren't so fortunate. They had trees severely damage their house.

Wind noise was so strong no sound was heard of falling treed or breaking fence. Immediately after the wind left our place it began to twist. Neighbors across the street received the twister effect. Their trees were broken from the middle, as were trees on the golf course. A large dead tree was stripped of its bark, bit it's still standing. Probably a red oak, not a white. Reds dig deep roots. Whites, like the two of ours that fell, have shallow roots like pines. We have a large red, about 80 ft tall, that didn't even shudder in this wind. Of course, if it had received the twisting wind, it might have been another story.

We now have the start of two fish ponds in the azalea bed. They quickly filled with water, which hasn't yet drained. This is Mississippi, of course! The root balls on these fells are enormous. Some of my azaleas are now growing horizontally. Squirrels are running across their favorite nesting places instead of up them. We don't know if they had any babies up in the branches. There is nothing that can be done about them now.

So now we are looking to replacing the fence and planting some crepe myrtle. Natchez whites. They'll grow the tallest. Large elegant and shapely. The kind that won't fall on a house. Oh, they get blown over, but they don't crush anything.

And by the way, the trees missed the bluebird's house by a few feet. They had just finished laying their first nest of the season, too.

Sarah Comes of Age

The tornado ripped through about 1/4 mile from her home near Little Rock, Arkansas, last Thursday night. The most memorable damage was to her high school, Sylvan Hills. So on Saturday Sarah went over to a friend's house to commiserate their mutual loss. 

Eventually he told her he had to dress for the prom that evening, and "Oh, aren't you going, too?" No, she wasn't. A string of boys had asked her, but she'd declined. She wasn't much interested in them and where things generally headed with them. 

Now, Kit's a nice young man, but a bit on the shy side. He didn't have a date for the prom, either. His mom and dad began to meddle. "Sarah, you really ought to go. Why not go with Kit?"Well, that was impossible. She had no gown, no shoes. 

Pshaw! Kit's mom put all that aside. She'd been a bride's maid at more than a half-dozen weddings. Still had the dresses and shoes. She and Sarah were the same size. Sarah could go into her closet and pick out something to wear. As for flowers, she could quickly arrange that, too. With a florist in the family, an orchid for Sarah's hair and a matching boutonniere and wrist corsage appeared in no time. A silver ribbon wrapped her hair, matching Kit's tuxedo vest. 

Sarah called her mom and dad, said, "I'm going to the prom with Kit. Is that OK?" It was all arranged in two hours. She had a grand time. Kit was so proud.

The picture says it all. 


Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Feminism That Leads to Christ

Mary writes a beautiful post at the Concordian Sisters of Perpetual Parturition titled Why pregnancy is good for me. It is a gripping confession of a young Christian woman rejoicing in her pregnancy.


Æons ago when my own babies were very young, I picked up C. S. Lewis’ Space Trilogy. Apart from whatever else it is, it is the finest treatise on feminism that I’ve read—especially That Hideous Strength. I’d not suggest reading this last volume without having read the first two, but it is in this final work that the previous two come together.


In That Hideous Strength, Jane considers herself locked in the opposite of what she regards marriage to be. Marriage ought to be a source of mutual comfort, but she finds hers to Mark to be a source of solitude. They have mutually consented not to have children. They are a mutual source of small unspoken irritations to each other. The silence between them is the greatest of solitudes.


Jane is confronted, at last, by her decision not to have children. The Director, a sort of Father-figure, reminds her that she is not a Christian wife. And since she chooses not to have children from this married union, she is living as though she were a virgin. She is a neither-nor.


“You mean,” said Jane slowly, “I’ve been repressing something?”


The Director laughed; just that loud assured bachelor laughter which had infuriated her on other lips.


“Yes,” but don’t think I’m talking of Freudian repressions. He knew only half the facts. It isn’t a question of inhibitions—inculcated shame—against natural desire. I’m afraid there’s no place in the world for people who won’t be either Pagan or Christian. Just imagine a man who was too dainty to eat with his fingers and yet wouldn’t use forks!”


Reading this Trilogy was when I began to really understand the insidious grip of feminism on myself. Ask me truly and I will tell you sincerely: the greatest feminist alive today is me. I do not say that for bragging rights. I tell you this because in all my years of trying to combat the feminism within me, I am unable to do so.


There is a simple reason for this that is not so very simple. Although feminism and original sin are not the same, because feminism mocks original sin, it is nearly impossible for anyone now living today to escape the influences of this all-pervasive worldview. First, feminism is a deception. It deceives the hearer to thinking that is an authoritative voice for woman and her needs, as well as society in general.  Second, because feminism considers itself to be authoritative, it presents itself as a movement for empowerment. The individual is her own authority. This is the key to the wrongful use of individualism. This is the same thing that the serpent promised our First Mother when he said she would be “like God.”


Eve was deceived into thinking she had to do something in order to be like God, when she was already made in His image. We spend much energy trying to do anything but our vocation—that which God has placed in our hands to do—and trying to take credit for it as if that is what will grant us salvation. This is the core of feminism, and its root is original sin. Mary speaks eloquently of how God has reclaimed her through the repentance of pregnancy.  


I can no more free myself of my feminism than I can free myself of my sin. Still my pastor frees me of it, often and much with his word of Absolution in my ear and his hand upon my head. And daily and much my Baptism keeps me free of it, daily and much. In this there is much to rejoice about feminism, as Mary has found—for it brings women back to Christ.