Thursday, August 21, 2008

Answering the Big Question

St. Ted posted a comment that was a question. "Can I take you off my prayer list now?" In brief, "Yes."

I knocked out better than a couple of miles in less than 30 minutes today while the kids were pre-occupied with Latin. I couldn't have done that pre-cardiac stent, and would have blamed it on the back (scoliosis) and who-knows-what. I didn't know what was keeping me so tired, and it was quite puzzling. I didn't like it, either. Now I know. Now it's fixed. Now I can keep up.

And no, I didn't nearly collapse afterward, either. I was still rarin' to go for it.

It is bedtime now, though. Morning comes early for me.

Thanks for askin'. Night, night.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Jumping Ship and Joining In

All this talk of late regarding which societies and organizations I might belong to has gotten me thinking I might as well come clean.

I belong to as few of them as I can get away with. I don’t care for them. They add extra Rules & Time to my life—specifically time required keeping up with the Rules for each organization.

I was a member of the Wittenberg Trail for a while. It’s a good place to meet and talk. But I found I had to leave for the same reason I couldn’t comply with my daughter’s and granddaughter’s wishes to be on Facebook or put up a MySpace. It takes time away from other things I need to be doing. There are still some great books I want to read, and it takes me a long time to read. I still have teaching to do, and I can’t be spending a great deal of my home time on the computer instead of with my husband. There is a good reason why I’ve been able to blog to freely this week, the first week of school. So, I’m no longer a member of the WT.

My father taught me early not to join in with cliques. Looking back now that my son’s in the Army I can see how right he was. Army life is filled with cliques, from the Masons to any tiny sub-social group you can imagine. Johnny was in the Navy before he joined the Army. While on the now-decommissioned Belleau Wood, an LHA-3 “Gator Freighter”, he counted no less than five gangs. He’s not a joiner, either, and it’s done him well.

Of course, cliques and gangs are not organizations and associations. I do belong to a select few. I’m a member of the Concordia Deaconess Conference. The women of the CDC are very precious to me. I haven’t been able to attend the annual meetings in quite a long while, so they probably don’t realize that. Their schedule and mine scarcely seem to coincide. While they do have a set of Rules, it is in the form of a Code of Ethics. It’s still Law, but Law in which every Deaconess should be abiding anyway. It simply covers things like being faithful to the altar of Christ, remaining faithful to one's consecration vows, and wearing the Deaconess garb.

I’m also a rostered member of the LCMS because I am a deaconess commissioned in the LCMS. Ma MO considers me to be a Commissioned Minister. She can think what she wants of me, but I’m just a plain old deaconess/teacher. I’m no minister at all. I certainly wish my own Ma would think better of me than that!

The AAA is another membership I hold—don’t leave home without it. I don’t. They came out to the house to fix a tire last month after my granddaughter clipped a storm drain just around the corner and tore a tire. Nice folks.

The Libraries at CTSFW and CSL were both kind enough to give me cards. I’m hold one of CSL’s books hostage until I finish reading it. It’s a doozy!

I’m a member of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Brandon, Mississippi. The Rev. J. Richard Sawyer admits me to the altar there.

When the Augustana Ministerium opened up to laity, I became a member there. Their rules were easy.

I am listed as neither Republican nor Democrat, nor even Independent. I vote whichever way I chose. That may sound ridiculous, but these days even Independents are a block unto themselves.

This week I became a card-carrying member of a new group. After being implanted with this doohickey I’ll need to carry the card for it forever, and ever, and ever, amen.

I'm a member of the Body of Christ. Have been since August 3, 1950. That's why all other memberships are just plain skubalon compared to that (Phil 3:8).

Friday, August 15, 2008

Tree Hugging, Money Loving

A friend of mine passed on an e-News letter from the LCMS. It had a special “Focus on Workers in the Church.”

It was so special. It included a Bible verse, of course. “Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.” Matthew 13:8 (ESV)

Too bad the rest of the letter didn’t stay in context with Christ’s parable. Instead we were treated to a piece from Psyche and Spirit titled “The Thing About Trees.”

The short essay invited us to commune with trees and receive the benefits of being in their presence.

Summer is a great time to be outdoors and commune with nature. In the past few years, Japanese researchers have verified what most of us know with certainty - that there are significant psychological benefits to being in the woods. Bless them. But rather than sit at my computer and read their research, I'll try to get outside and find some trees to hang out with so I can experience it myself. Whether being in the forest feels creepy and strange or majestic and inspiring, it is the community of trees, the composite, which helps us feel that we are in the midst of what is greater than ourselves. A community of living things so thick and vast that we fear we could even get lost in it, entering farther and farther into our own and the collective unconscious - the thing of fairytales and great adventures. In our part of the country, many men and women, find greatest peace sitting for hours in tree stands, ostensibly waiting for animals to pass.

Now, this Miss’ippi (Colorado born, Germany raised, Arkansas/Texas livin’, Utah toted, Memphis hailin’) gal don’t need any Japanese researcher to tell her that being outdoors is the best cure for whatever ails her. That’s what God created gardening for—especially azaleas.

And there isn’t anything like a vast Rocky Mountain forest— or a German one like pictured above—to make one aware of what C. S. Lewis called the Numinous Other. He’s the one who is Greater Than Ourselves, who makes the forest feel creepy and strange. We know He’s watching. We can feel Him. But when you get right down to the bare bones of it, the Numinous Other is just more Law. Feeling Him doesn’t bring comfort. He causes the hairs on our neck to rise. We are in awe of Him. We know we don’t want to see Him face-to-face, at least not without a mediator. He isn’t the Savior.

The rest of the LCMS eNews letter had info about financial matters, managing debt and so forth. I can’t fathom that verse Mt 13:8 has anything to do with taking a walk in the woods and financial management, unless it is this way: “Take a walk in the woods, clear your head, and then go clear up your financial management.” Now that's just plain eisegetical silliness.

Jesus' parable and its context and its use in this letter have lost any relationship to each other entirely. Perhaps it’s that 2,000 year gap we’ve got to span. I reckon nowadays that parable refers to sowing money wisely? Maybe this is the new LCMS parable for financial investment:

A church worker took a walk in the woods and examined the beauty of her surroundings. She marveled at how the roots tangled over rocks and broke up the soil before the lofty trees finally took flight to the heavens above. Sitting among the glories of the trees, and the beauties of the flowers, she could feel the soft breeze of the wind. It was almost creepy. Besides, break time was over, so she beat it back to her desk before she got fired.

Duly refreshed, she took another look at her finances. She invested some of her finances in savings accounts where it earned less than prime rate. She invested other money in poorly held stock accounts where they soon failed. Other money she invested in a rising artist who ran off with his homosexual lover and all her investments. Other moneys she invested wisely in secure bonds, some producing at 6.2 over prime, others at 7.9 over prime, and still others at 8.5 over prime. (Gimme a break if I get this wrong. I don’t know financial terminology.)

OK, so is that how we are to read this verse in context with this letter? Otherwise I don’t know how it even fits!

A walk in the forest is a tremendous way to find temporal respite for the body and mind, but it does nothing for the eternal soul. For that, take along a small Bible, too. Meditate on God’s Word while among those things He created. The earth can inform you that there is a Creator; only God’s Word can inform you of your status before Him, and of His intentions toward you in Christ. Then do not separate yourself from the community of saints in worship gathered around the altar of Christ receiving His Gifts in Holy Absolution, Baptism, His Body and Blood through the bread and wine, and in the Word spoken in your ears by the pastor.

Financial matters are managed after one has been first fed from the Tree that gives eternal Life, forgiveness and salvation. Just as our First Parents ate from the fruit of a Tree and died, so now we eat of the Fruit another Tree and live, that of the Cross. Those who are first in Christ make better decisions as Christians. I think this is what the LCMS wanted to say. They just somehow couldn’t find the words for it. They got tangled up in Japanese researchers instead of going to the Source Himself. Whenever Jesus went off by Himself for refreshment by communing with (praying to) Someome, He communed with His Father, not trees. His prayers always began with His Father's Word. There's the lesson to learn from.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Reading Wisely

We’re going to do this one more time. Folks, it’s been a week which God has called me to repentance in more ways than one, and I’m a bit tired tonight. And it is also a week in which it takes me much time to sift things through. Bear with me. So let’s get this straight finally.

Does it matter at all whether the New American is the voice of JBS as long as it publishes the facts correctly and without bias? As for the friend I mentioned who reads the New American, she did know it was from the JBS, contrary to what I presumed. But did it really matter whether the story came from a JBS source or the AP as long as the facts were reported correctly?

I don’t think so. In fact, while that’s important to this particular issue, it’s not so important in all issues. Another dear friend of mine cautioned me years ago, “Learn to argue their case as well as your own.” That simple Aristotelian logic. That can’t be accomplished without reading widely, and from the other person’s own perspective. But beware! It might get you called out as something you aren’t. Don’t take offence, though. It’s simply a misunderstanding on the other person’s part.

I have a whole section on my bookshelves dedicated to feminist literature. When my husband is looking for something to read he knows not to search there. He questions why I purchase “that stuff.” He knows it often makes me angry when I read it. Still, it constantly leads me back to the Gospel because the errors are so glaring. To read those femmies doesn’t make me one, even though folks coming into the house would certainly have cause to suspect it of me by looking at the bookshelves.

I have Gnostic literature, and I’ve read Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials. I have another section of my library filled with Eastern Orthodox materials. I read the Ancient Fathers, preferring them over more recent offerings. Still, I’m not turning East (despite my icons!), nor am I an atheist.

I found agreement in my position on temporary restraining orders from a feminist author. She had a different presupposition, of course.

Why should we limit ourselves by what we read? Rather, should we not remain “un-parochial” in our minds by reading as wide a variety of materials as we can? I say this within certain limits, of course. I don’t mean to fill my mind with overtly pornographic or vile materials. But what I do mean to say is that just because a magazine is associated with a certain (politically objectionable) organization does not mean it should not be read. And reading the materials doesn’t mean one will necessarily be tainted with the philosophy of that organization. The ministerial use of one’s reason says that the Holy Spirit first informs what is received according to God’s Word. Therefore, what is read even from secular sources is filtered through the lens of Christ.

So I plan to read widely, and read wisely. And I’ll reference whomever I doggone well want to as long as they have something worthwhile to say, something ridiculous to comment on, or. . . well, you get the point.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Mea Maxima culpa!

Mea Maxima culpa! That’s Latin for “My GREATEST fault.”

In my last post I referenced an article from the New American without researching any further into the background of the New American or any further developments of the case being discussed. On the first point, it turns out that the New American is the voice of the John Birch Society. That’s not an organization I consider to be either reliable or to which I’d have my name attached. I received the article via email from a valued friend and considered it trustworthy on that basis alone. I doubt she even realized the connection with JBS. My failure was in looking any further beyond that.

On the second point, Colleen Nestler’s restraining order against David Letterman was eventually vacated as frivolous. That, too, should have been reported.

However much I failed in these two points, though, they do not detract from the overall message of what I had to convey. Consider these statements:

From ifeminists .com, written by Wendy McElroy,

In Oregon, DivorceNet provides advice on TROs. As in most states, an applicant need only assert a “fear” of violence even if none has occurred. Some applications can be made by telephone.

Wikipedia notes:

Volokh's colleague, David Kopel, used the case as an opportunity to condemn the restrictions Federal Temporary Restraining Orders place on their targets in terms of self-defense, and the “feminist community” that supports such restrictions and encourages “the authorities always to ‘believe the victim’ who complains of intimate partner abuse.’ Kopel believes that the case shows that such restraining orders are issued too readily and are too restrictive.

McElroy strikes at the issue with clarity and acute insight:

The seeming ease with which TROs are issued constitutes a problem for those who wish all restraining orders to be taken seriously. Any court order that can be obtained over the phone by stating a fear, or picked up at Window 3 in a little over an hour, trivializes the process.

But a TRO is not trivial. It is a legal constraint upon another human being’s freedom. It should be issued only in the presence of a real threat. False or frivolous applications should be viewed in the same manner as are false police reports.

False police reports—much like Potiphar’s wife’s report to the palace guards against Joseph—still result in the restraint of a person’s freedoms when they are received as though they are the truth. This is why this issue is one of the Eighth Commandment.

It is sad that we Lutherans no longer read the Apocrypha as often or as eagerly as we once did in Luther’s day. The books serve well as devotional material, to teach the soul and train it well for spiritual warfare. Luther found the story of Susanna a good illustration of the Eighth Commandment, and used it as such in his Catechism.

So while I do not stand by my previous source, I do stand by what I wrote. The facts of Colleen Nestler’s TRO against David Letterman can be verified through several resources. The New American need not be one. I should have also included the conclusion to the story. My apologies for not doing so. But unless convinced I’m wrong on other points, I’ll not apologize for anything else I wrote. There are two sides to every story, no matter who’s telling the tale.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Restraining Original Sin

An article from the New American barely gave me pause. It should have, but it didn’t. In various and sundry ways I was prepared for it.

Along the pathway here and there I was told, “If a woman comes to you and says she has been abused, take it as the truth.” The first time I heard it I took a deep breath, pondered it for a moment, considered my station in life, and let the situation stew for the while. (Don’t let the floor hurt some of you on the way down in your laughter.)

It would be twice more that the same phrase would hit my ears before I was in a position I could respond. “Excuse me. Are we saying that original sin has been suspended in women?”

Ah, the fury that was unleashed by that! Women receive abuse, and that’s the truth. Th-th-th-that’s all folks!

Now, it is a fact that when a woman is abused and finally cries out for help she is in a dire predicament. If she is not believed, more abuse is heaped upon her. Those who would be her helpers now join her abuser as being an offender against her. This is especially painful for women who have suffered familial sexual abuse. Family members who do not believe her instead become her accusers—of tearing apart the family needlessly.

It is also a fact that when a wife has suffered the abuses of her husband she too often requires much courage to escape from him. The circumstances may not be dramatic. They may not always involve children. Yet they always require the courage to confront one’s abuser and demand to be treated better.

So when a woman come forward and says she has been abused, she must be treated as if she is telling the truth. All care and caution must be exercised for her safety, and that of her children. Listen to her, counsel her, provide for her. However, the ear must be an open one, not a closed one.

There is always another person involved, the one she has accused. According to the Eighth Commandment, he deserves a hearing also. I didn’t ask if original sin had been suspended in women just to be a thorn in some folks’ side. The answer I received didn’t settle me. There was an insistence on listening to the women, because “In this case [abuse] no, women never lie.”

I beg to differ, and did. I cited precedence, and the discussion ended. Potiphar’s wife made use of the same deceit (Gen 39:7-15) the New American article warns us against. One of the lies of liberalism is that those who have been abused cannot themselves be abusers. It is also one of the great lies of feminism: Women cannot be abusers, or sexual harassers; they’ve suffered too much of the same from men. In fact, they are the arbiters of the abuse and sexual harassment through its definition, "whenever you feel threatened by another person's authority." I reckon a TV signal is enough of a threat to effect a restraining order.

So the question is still asked: Has original sin been suspended? If so, then Jesus is not needed, for He only came for sinners (Mt 9:13).

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Mama Mia!

Yesterday we went out to see Mama Mia! and have dinner out. We’d already seen the latest Batman release—if you’ve not seen it, it’s a good one!

In a word, Mama Mia! was fun. A friend of mine had warned that it was “estrogen-based” and “overflowing with feminist sensibilities.” That wasn’t a surprise. The commercials pretty much gave that one away.

What was a surprise is, given that estrogen-feminist foundation, that Mama Mia! is a classic fairy tale with a bit of a twist. The Grimm Brothers liked to convey truth in their stories. So be cautious when the sisterhood spins a tale for you. It has the classic elements:

Girl is oppressed by evils

Girl is rescued by rich prince who returns to her side

Then a twist:

When the springs poke through the mattress, anything goes.

So let me get this straight… (Oops, gotta watch the use of dot, dot, dot. No double entendres intended here.) The message of feminism now this: The Autonomous Wonder Woman icon (career, babies, big house, husband and all the candy that supports this lifestyle) of feminism is by and large a failure. Does it break apart by middle age, or is it not achieved at all? Sophie rejects not only her mother’s choice of single motherhood, but also reveals the emptiness of one of her “father’s” own marriage because he didn’t enter into it with one to whom he was whole-heartedly committed. Sophie’s (Amanda Seyfried) own capitulation to feminist ideology is revealed later, of course, but that was increasingly expected.

Granted there is an ironic inconsistency in the title “Autonomous Wonder Woman” for someone who has both a husband and children. But if we grant that even among those who consider marriage to be a 50%-50% proposition rather than a 100%-100% vocation, then from the get-go neither is either giving nor receiving the best from the other. Something is always held back, much like Cain with his sacrifice rather than Abel’s with his. Feminism advocates the former, Christianity teaches the latter.

The point that nearly slid by in Mama Mia! was the undercurrent running like a riptide. Donna (Meryl Streep) wants rescue. A proper one is suggested by her friends—from a wealthy male which would put Donna back into the position of every classic attribute of male dominance that traditional feminism openly abhorred (although insidously appreciated). The fact that Donna’s rescuer shares her dream, and has from its beginning, enhances his willingness to rescue her. But that doesn’t answer the essential feminist dilemma. Is autonomy worth sacrificing for the sake of security? Is autonomy only for the young woman?

Apparently when her back is against a mattress with springs poking through it, feminism has two answers. What’s up with that? Same old, same old.