Friday, September 30, 2011

7 Quick Takes

It really has been raining almost every day since the flood and every time I chance to drive by the river I'm appalled by how high it is. Enough with the rain! Although my worry about the river has caused me to forget, sort of, about the leaves not changing into glory. Most them are just falling off in a soggy mass. Its just too warm and too wet.
FEMA checks have started to arrive and people are getting work done or moving into new places. One of the families sheltering at church will be able to move into a real place this weekend. Its been a month! Can you imagine living in a fellowship hall for a month? And they're all so nice and unintrusive and friendly. Given my overall complaining level when tiny things don't go as planned, I so doubt I would be as gracious and happy looking as our shelterees.
Marigold's screaming, shouting and grunting is getting really old. She finally learned to say 'please' this weekend, sort of. It's more like 'sssss' and she will say 'yes ma'am' which is more like 'yeah maaa'. And she says 'Daddy' no problem. Oh, and 'NO', of course. But that's it. Shouldn't she have like fifty words by now? She'll be two in a month.
On nights when Matt is late at church we all get in my bed and watch Mr. Bean. Besides it just being really funny, its so interesting in terms of moral formation (a la Catechesis of the Good Shepherd). He's such a bad bad man, so selfish, so inconsiderate, so spiteful. My real enjoyment is watching the children watch with horror at each new sickening act of destruction (the library episode comes to mind in particular). Can cluelessness be a sin?
Elphine cried out when we turned it on last week, "Not the Christmas episode! I'll get nightmares!"
"Nightmares? Why on earth?"
"He just gives her a picture and a nail, instead of a ring! Its so horrible!!!" she screamed.
To which I replied, "Heh heh heh."
So I cook actual breakfast every morning now. Eggs and toast, pancakes, french toast, oatmeal, cream of wheat, muffins. Its crazy. And then the children read quietly until school starts. After cleaning it all up and doing their chores. And then we memorize Bible verses and stuff. And then do like an hour and a half of math. I blame it entirely on God. There's no way, if I was really handling everything, that our days would look like this. I'd still be in bed at ten. They'd be smeared in paste and rooting for food in the back yard and hitting each other.
I have family coming to visit next week. SO Excited. SO much to do to get the house ship shape. We're going to get to meet a new new baby. Training will start today: DON'T SIT ON THE BABY!! MARIGOLD. STOP STOP STOP. DON'T PICK UP THE BABY MARIGOLD!!! STOP!!!!! If you have a minute, pray the new lovely baby survives our homicidal maniac toddler.
Elphine is finally growing into her adult front teeth. I must say I'm relieved. I'm constantly startled by how big her teeth are compared to her face. Alouicious is on his way to enormous teeth. Every day I see them growing and his face appearing to get smaller. So weird, the way God has organized the whole teeth thing--all the pain, from infancy to death. For those of you who don't believe in the Fall, try to explain that one to me.

Have a Great Weekend! Go check out Jen!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

nearly a month in

I would love to write more but we've fallen into such a very quiet, orderly uneventfully satisfying routine that I can't think of very much to write about. All my off time reading is political (SO Exciting! I just LOVE a good election cycle!) but there's no way I'm going to blog about it.

Mostly I gaze out the windows or stare at the cats and think, "hmmm, there's got to be something interesting to gum up the internet with" and then go cook another meal or pick up crayons or something.

I guess I expected the days to be a lot crazier and to have strange and ridiculous things to write about. But the babies sleep through the morning, and Romulus and Gladys color devotedly, build huge towers, review the alphabet, count and write numbers and letters, read little primers and pretend they're other people while they do all those things (Gladys: Ok, pretend I'm the princess and I told you to go to bed. Romulus: Ok, and then I got up and killed the bad guys. etc. etc.) During which Elphine and Alouicious read, write, do math, draw parts of the world, learn grammar, add to Latin and English vocabulary, practice piano and so on and so forth with a creepy amount of cheer and good humor.

We all even make our beds every day. And I only yell now when it starts to feel too stuffy and happy. But nobody listens because they can tell my heart's not in it. I guess I should read more, or something. I mean, a blog needs angst and hysteria to really make it interesting, I always think.

Monday, September 26, 2011

monday morning haze

I've caught a cold and am stumbling around dimly and wretchedly, trying to remember my own name and stuff like that. So, here's some other stuff from the internets and webs.

A really lovely article about Good Shepherd and how lovely we are by a really lovely person.

The competition is closed and the thread sort of got weird at the end, but over the weekend Matt hosted a little competition at SF. This was my favorite entry (comment #40 as you read down the thread).
Pondue, pondue, pondue, por-de-bra, jete, jete, jete, pirouette. Grand batement, arabesque, changement changement changement. *
*My offering is the final thought in a sermon presented entirely in liturgical dance. 
And this on the subject of the Episcopal Church. CRAZY!!! Wow. (Totally off topic, but MCJ calls people "Big Smacker" so much that its gotten stuck in my head and it is now my preferred method of speaking to my children. "Come here, Big Smacker," I crooned to my infant in the nursery at church yesterday, to the horror of another mother trying to drop off a child. Maybe That should be the baby's blog name!?)

Not being Catholic, I don't agree with everything, but this at Live Mother Like Daughter is really helpful and lovely on the subject of prayer and children. Also, I didn't find the link, but you should search and find her post on how to take a shower.

And while we're on the subject of prayer, Jessica is always good.

Simcha on why its a bad idea to have your children help you. I, by the way, agree with EVERYTHING she says on this subject, and that's why I'm such a screamer.

Doug Wilson takes on Easter Orthodoxy. All I have to say is, hee hee hee.

Alright, I'm going to take my cloudy mind and my Big Smacker and go work on the laundry. Have a Lovely Day.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Now in the Fading Light of Day

I've just manipulated my husband into making me a cup of warm milk.
But I feel rather as though I deserve it (in so far as a Calvanistically bent Anglican can deserve anything), so flush am I with the extraordinary number of tasks I have accomplished in the course of the day.

Amongst them was the taking of a long walk.
I've taken a total of three real walks, not including this one, since we moved into this house and neighborhood. Of course, we moved in the dead of winter, torn from the comfort and security of a house we'd finally learned to like (what high praise) and a neighborhood that was perfect for walking, even sometimes in the snow, so walking in this new place didn't immediately occur to me.

Behind our old house there was a good solid hill, if you felt up to it, and just over from our very nice neighborhood was a super fancy neighborhood with big beautiful houses. If you were really motivated you could loop up over the hill to see all the richness, or, if you were fat and pregnant, you could go the longer flatter way. Then also, in the opposite direction, our street was lined with comfortable interesting looking houses with fairly nice gardens, and if you pushed just a little farther on you could make it all the way to now defunct La Tazza for coffee.

I walked a great deal on my own, sometimes pushing a baby, sometimes not. Matt walked every day. Many times we would walk together--three babies worth we managed to walk together, pushing massive and heavy strollers and talking talking talking to each other. Its was so restful before the children could talk to us. Many evenings I walked up and down trying to kick myself into labor. One, two, three, four times. We walked the dog. We walked alone. We walked.

As soon as the weather was better after the move, by this time feeling sick with early baby number five (I mean, because what better way to inaugurate a house than to have another baby) I took one walk. But it was disorienting and unpleasant. I blamed it on the baby, but I think, though the weather was warm, I was still very numb. The houses were ramshackle. I judged the gardens unfairly. All the various paint combinations made my head ache. I tripped once on the pavement. I discovered I was too busy to ever do it again.

So then we had another baby and I had so many babies I didn't know what to do, certainly not take a walk. But finally I did earlier in the summer. I walked right up to the top of this new other hill. And then, a few days later, I did it again with a friend. At the top was an immense view of the whole city, blazingly baptized in golden purifying light. From up there it looks like a real city.

Today, RC Sproul buzzing in my ear about the atoning work of Jesus on the cross (Matt is always generous with his ipod if it will help make me thinner), I nodded to various neighbors. I discovered three houses with lovely tucked away gardens. I was friendly to a dog. I said hello to a young boy swinging on the metal railing of his steps. I thought the sun might be setting on old grief, shedding its pink and golden array of glory on new walks. As Jesus and RC have said, "It is finished."

Monday, September 19, 2011

monday morning haze: while you drive to work, think of me

The fog has burnt off and it looks to be a bright chilly day (don't you just depend on these little Monday weather updates? Its like I'm stuck in a rut.)--not so much a day for actually tackling the basement but for apple picking or something. However, I will feel so bad about myself if I neglect the basement even one day more, I am going to blunt my ear to the siren song of good weather and do my duty. But also because I really need a sweater and a pair of socks.

Its getting hard to find a warm spot to have a nap.

 This baby has ruined my weekly bath routine. All the other children have a bath on Saturday whether they need it or not, but she gets in the shower with whoever is having one because she's always covered in face cream, or syrup, or handfuls of jam, or dirt, or marker.
 This is her grandfather's hat. I'm unclear about how it ever fit on his head, since it just perfectly fits on hers.
Boy am I deeply and abidingly grateful not to be standing outside in my bathrobe and slippers clutching a tepid cup of tea waiting for a school bus. In fact, the last child only just woke up, and they've gotten their own breakfast and cleaned it up, and here I am blogging. I think I'll just take a short mid morning nap before doing any actual work. It is our day off, after all, and we have a busy week ahead of us--a Sunday School year to plan, attending the Garden Gala, Chinese Ink and Brush Drawing, a Turkey leg to roast, teaching Romulus and Gladys what a calendar looks like, math and spelling, and most of all, continuing to be amazed that our to battling cats have taken to sitting rather close together (though facing opposite directions) on our bed and gazing around as if nothing weird and unnatural is occurring at all. If you need me, just call Matt and he'll solve all your problems. Have a lovely day!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

7 Quick Takes--a room of one's own

Its been too long since I've posted this.

The stinker Marigold the Menace slept, Two Nights In A Row, in a room by herself. Maybe the girls were waking her up. Practically liked her today, with all the sleep I got.
Finished our lit book two weeks early because I wanted to see how it ended and just read it all myself out loud. Pretty good, the Boxcar Children. As usual, however, its disconcerting with these young children's books, how the parents die without any particular grief caused to anyone. And the grandfather is there as the mere dispenser of treats.
Anyway, I don't intend to cash in early. In fact, have been dropping small nuggets into the minds of all my children like, "Well, Daddy and I will come live with you when we're very old, but we'll only live with you if you don't boss us around and if you have a nice clean house." So Alouicious has been giving it some thought. He's decided to buy land and have several houses so his siblings can live near him, and he's going to build into his own BIG house an extra kitchen, bedroom and sitting room all wheelchair accessible.

"So that" he said, "you can get away and make your own food or sit by yourself if you don't want to be around us all the time."

What a wise and sensible boy. They all (or rather just he and Elphine) were shocked to hear that they probably wouldn't only be able to live off a large garden but would need extra money to pay for heat, other kinds of food, a cool phone, taxes and stuff like that. Stupid Boxcar children, making everything look so simple with the free dishes and sleeping on pine needles and being given buckets of cherries.
Didn't even go in the basement today, so much do I not want to face it. Going to Really try and be brave first thing tomorrow and dig out the Christmas and Camping bins which I know are wet. Also, the carpet has dried, on its own, without any fans or anything, but it smells abundantly niffy. You can smell it just by walking in the front door. But I'm NOT complaining, because its just water and not sewage--praying as I type for all of Owego.
Sunday School is starting on Sunday! Boy am I not ready. But don't be afraid to send your kid because I WILL be ready by Sunday. It will be lovely. We have lovely teachers and lovely materials and lovely lovely lovely everything. Lovely because Gladys prays three or four times a day for everything to be "lovellllyyyyyy".
And maybe by then we will have had our first frost. Going to be really sad to have all my garden freeze. Not ready for this growing time to be over.

Always feel irritated and sad that the liturgical color continues being green while the world is turning gold and brown. I mean, it is good and right to remain in Ordinary Time through to Advent, but sometimes it would be nice for the ordinary to burnish into the dusky twilight of a dying year, I always think to myself. Still, the altar flowers change to be more autumy, usually. But even then, oughtn't we to have big baskets of leaves instead of flowers, as the year grows old and dies?

And so begins my annual anxiety over the changing colors of the trees. Will they be wonderful? Will they not be beautiful? What of all the water and rain? Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear.

If you have a moment, go check out Jen.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

to sleep, perchance to dream

Actually neither to sleep, nor to dream.

Lovely little Marigold is officially being renamed Marigold the Menace. She no longer sleeps. Well, she does take a good long nap in the morning while the rest of us study, but at night she is up constantly climbing into Elphine and Gladys' bed and pulling their hair, biting them and, on occasion, pushing Gladys out. We have never hat this happen before and are stumped. So, after Matt wakes up from his turn having a nap, we're going to go rearrange the upstairs bedrooms yet again. This time, I guess, we'll put Elphine and Gladys and the baby (who now sleeps) together and leave Marigold in a blank room by herself with nothing to destroy.

"She'll be lonely" said Matt whistfully.
"That's not what you said in the middle of the night. You weren't worried about her being lonely."
"I know," he said and then fell completely asleep, mouth open, as if he was going to say something else.

I really miss sleep. I was beginning to like it, to think it was something I could do practically every night. Anyway, I think maybe we'll pray over her as well. And if the room arrangements don't work, I don't know what we'll do. Maybe sleep in shifts so that someone can always keep an eye on her. Boy, that sounds like a super terrible idea.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Roast Chicken, Candy, other stuff

Various teams of Good Shepherdians are out mucking out peoples houses this afternoon. Actually, they've been at it all day. It seemed bad to me to lollygag around so we've done a fair bit of school (even though generally Monday we don't do Anything) and I've spent a while ineffectually moving piles of laundry around. Outside the bright sun is, a la PG Wodehouse, ominously and meanly cheerful while so many suffer.

Yesterday! though, we suspended all the human and community suffering to have lunch with still a long way off which, as Gladys would say, was "Awthum!!". He came to worship with us and then unloaded a large apportionment of cool Japanese candy and other beautiful and amazing gifts over a nice afternoon of roast chicken (see below) and potatoes (see below). So dear to all our hearts, he has been referred to all day as "Father Awthum Candy". Thank you for coming!

So, here's how to roast a chicken during church.
Have your husband buy and prep the chicken the night before (Crushed garlic, salt, pepper, thyme, olive oil rubbed under the skin and all over the outside. The inside stuffed with fresh thyme, a whole onion and whatever bits of lemon you find in the back of your fridge.) cover it with cling film (or whatever you call it) and leave it the fridge.
In the morning, after you've run over to start the 8am service without drying your hair, leaving a gaggle of hysterical and anxious and hungry children at the mercy of their father whom you've irreparably wounded by not finding his collar for him and whose sermon won't print and then come back after the readings because his sermon finally did print and he slipped in and poked you in the back so you knew it was ok to leave, vacuum the house, dry your hair and put the bird in at 275 for three hours.
Go back to church and make a poster for Adult Ed, gather up handfuls of preschoolers and teach them Sunday School, run upstairs late for church and remind your husband of two announcements he needs to make as he's processing down the aisle. Concentrate on listening hard to the sermon and music and everything and not be distracted by counting people who aren't there and worrying about them. After the creed, run home and take the chicken out and throw a dish of whole scrubbed potatoes covered in olive oil and salt covered with tinfoil. Sprint back to church so as not to miss communion and have a lovely friend pray over you at the back because you look maniacal. Run around after church trying to talk to everybody on the list scribbled on your hand about all the things on your list at home. Drag yourself away to a really perfectly moist chicken.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

as the waters rose

9. Bitter Water
   His thoughts said, As I journey, sometimes the water is bitter.
   His Father said, Let My loving Spirit lead thee forth into the land of righteousness. Do not ask Him whether He will lead thee to Marah or to Elim. Do not ask for the Elims of life. If thou must pass through Marah, fear not, for He will show thee a Tree, which, when thou shalt cast it into the waters, shall make the bitter waters sweet. One thought of Calvary will make any water sweet.

15. When Thou Passest. When Thou Walkest
     As the son went on he had to cross rough waters, but before he stepped into the swirl his Father said to him, When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee. Later, when fiery trials came, When thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee, was the word on which he lived.
     And in grateful wonder the son said, O Father of spirits, Thou dost wonderfully shine forth from the everlasting mountains. The inward thought of man shall give thanks to Thee; and the memorial of his inward thought shall keep a feast to thee.

Amy Carmichael
His thoughts said....His Father said...

Friday, September 09, 2011

7 Quick Takes--Flood Edition

It looks like over 20,000 have been evacuated as a result of the flood. The pictures are just amazing.
Pray for people who have lost everything again after loosing everything a mere five years ago. Pray for people's pets and chickens. In usual American fashion, I spent my midnight hours worrying about the animals, which is fine, but so western.
I do really need to go face my own basement today. It looks like I have piles and piles of wet clothes to wash, and four or five boxes that I thought were water proof but which actually had cracks in them, blast it.
We read a little bit from Jonah last night and I pointed out that one way the disciples should have known Jesus was God was because even the weather obeyed him, just like here, in Jonah, the storm was brought about by God. Alouicious asked that primordial and interesting question--then why didn't God stop this flood, if he's so big and powerful? (Only he asked without the sarcasm.) We had an interesting and helpful discussion about sin and Jonah being a picture of Jesus going into the depths of the sea to be with us. A providential text to land on in a moment like this.
In 2006 I was massively pregnant with Romulus, it was a VBS week and we lived on the other side of the southside and so were able to walk down and see the rushing river from a safe distance. But basically the river walls held and it was only Conklin that took a big big hit. This looks so much huger, to my untrained eye.
The boil water advisory is causing angst amongst my cohort. What do you mean we can't just drink water!??? they cry out in desperation.
Which brings me to the end of this little activity because everybody is freaking out and I need to feed them all and provide them with drinks.

Go check out Jen and pray for the people devastated by fire! With all this flood, fire and other devastation, maybe Jesus will come back. That would be a big improvement on what I have planned now.

Thursday, September 08, 2011

The Rain was Raining all Around

And now the river is rising and rising. Two families came about 1am to spend the night in the church, having been told to evacuate to higher ground. I didn't even hear Matt get up to let them in. Two days of school have wiped me out. (Rolling on the floor laughing hysterically.)

Anyway, we have to dry out our own basement, and I need to step up my pace because my big enormous five year old turns out to be a touch brighter and more motivated than I bargained for. I won't lie, because he is so so so very lazy--as in lying-on-the-floor-weeping-about-being-tired-when-you-ask-him-to-do-anything lazy--I didn't think we would get much kindergarten kinds of stuff done and therefore set my sights fairly low. But he, and his little sister, decided not to take any break yesterday morning, working through page after wretched page of letters and numbers. So I am going to spend some time this week planning more stuff so that everything flows more smoothly.

And I'm also going to drop everything, when the moment arises, to pet the poor wretched miracle cat who has finally been forced to come up to escape the water.

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

A Spot of Learning

 To celebrate the first day of school, we're all sleeping past 7. And then we're going to eat bacon and toast and fried eggs and put on fancy new school clothes. Well, Elphine is, because, would you believe it, when she discovered she could wear anything she wanted for this whole year of school, she made a beeline for the uniform department and picked out a blue scooter, a white blouse with a rounded collar (what are those called) and a blue sweater, announcing, authoritatively, that this is what Lucy wore in the Voyage of the Dawn Treader and that she, therefore, would be wearing it every day.
 And then, after we've done our morning chores, we'll do some memory work together. Elphine, blast her, insisted we call it "Rug Time" and that we will all have to sit on the rug. Bleh.
 And then the rest of the day we'll spend decorating notebooks, finding out what we'll be doing in every subject, what our various work boxes look like and when and how we're allowed to use them (as in YOU MAY NOT LEAVE THIS ON THE FLOOR SO THAT MARIGOLD TAKES EVERYTHING OUT AND DESTROYS IT DO I MAKE MYSELF PERFECTLY CLEAR).

 And we'll definitely do reading and math and a little tiny bit of piano.

And at the end of the day, the room will not look like this but will probably be a disaster area and I'll be freaking out about two babies on a mission to seek and destroy. Nevertheless, I'm practically euphoric about this year and all the interesting things we'll be learning and doing together. And, by the grace of God, I broke my phone, so there's no way you can get a hold of me unless you leave a message at the church :).

Sunday, September 04, 2011

My Sermon from this morning: Matthew 18

Matthew 18 is one of those scripture references that Christians can easily toss at each other to reference something most all of us believe with our minds, but don’t necessarily rightly and truly practice with our hearts and actions—like Ephesians 5 or Exodus 20 or the whole book of Proverbs.

In fact,even though we’re only going to look at verses 15 to 17, Matthew 18 holds some of the most difficult images, parables and pictures of what life really and truly looks like in the Kingdom of God.

In verses 1 through 9 we’re told we need to become like little children in order to enter the Kingdom of Heaven—in other words, helpless, unable and no longer trying to do something that we cannot do, get to God on our own steam and own power.

Then we’re told that if we hinder someone who is trying to get in to see Jesus, it would be better for us to fling ourselves into the sea with our feet in a block of cement. In other words,
Don’t Prevent Anyone from getting to Jesus!

Then we’re told that the sins of the flesh are so bad, so death dealing to the whole body, that’s its better to deal death to our own bodies, our own members, than to face the judgment of God with that sin festering and flourishing.

Then, in verses 11 to 14 we’re compared to sheep. Not much of a step up because sheep are largely foolish, blind, stubborn, willing to follow anything that looks like a good mouthful.

On the other side of our text, in verses 21 to 35 we get a very stark, a very black and white
unnuanced picture of what God thinks about forgiveness. If you don’t forgive, Jesus winds it up, you won’t be forgiven.
Because forgiveness is the outward mark that you have internalized God’s forgiveness of you
and that you are in the kingdom of heaven.

So as we approach verses 15 to 19 there are some basic observations we can glean from this larger context.
One, the Christian person is to be as humble as a child, relying completely and totally on Jesus for every good thing. Two, the Christian person is to cut sin off in his or her own life First. Third, we are like sheep. We err and stray off in the wrong direction and get lost. It is Jesus who comes and finds us and brings us home to himself. Fourth, if you have been forgiven by Jesus, you have no business whatsoever being unforgiving to those around you.
You are not invited to continue in bitterness and unforgiveness because Jesus gave his life to pay the debt you owe. You can never pay him back, you therefore cannot require others to pay you back.

Ok, so let’s look at our text.
Verse 15, “Moreover, if your brother trespass or sin or offend against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone, if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.

So there’s been an actual offense. Someone actually sinned against you. It happens some times. We sin against each other. But sometimes, and I think this is more common, we aren’t offended against, we take offense. We take something that someone else does, and, as if it was a great prize, we consider it in many and myriad different lights, decide that it makes us feel bad, and that therefore the other person has sinned. In fact, they have not sinned, but I,
when I do this, have taken offense. 
An example of real sin would be someone coming up to you in coffee hour to tell you you’re a jerk, or that the way you did some thing or other in the church was bad and that you’re a bad person. If that happens, Matthew 18 rolls into motion. 
But if someone just blinks at you funny, or doesn’t offer you a cup of coffee, or innocently wishes that the government did its work differently, or that the new traffic circle is being built badly, or that they wish the youth of today would be more respectful and they look cross wise at you while they say it, or their eye lid gets stuck and their face turns into a leer,
and you think to yourself, ‘Who are you to treat me this way!’ then, you have not been sinned against, you have taken offense and Matthew 18 does not roll into motion. 
You can try to get it started but there’s not really been an offense so you’re probably more likely to sidle up to someone else at coffee hour and whisper, ‘You will not believe what ___ said to me just now. He is so off track and I just can’t have that kind of thing around me.’
There’s a special word for what just occurred, can anyone tell me what it is?
That’s right,
Its called Gossip.
And its such an awesome way to connect with people, isn’t it? It allows you and me, while we mush someone else into the ground, to feel really special and happy about ourselves. And then we might include one or two other people. Meanwhile, the person we’ve taken offense from doesn’t even know there’s a problem until we’ve worked ourselves into a froth
and told so many people that they finally hear it, and then they feel utterly wretched and there’s a huge huge problem to sort through.

You might be able to see why gossip over real sin is also very very damaging not just to the person being gossiped about, but to the whole body. They aren’t given a chance to repent and be restored. They are increasingly marginalized and alienated. And those gossiping fall into increasing sin and hardness. People might then feel bad for the person in sin who is being sinned against and line up against the gossipers. Pretty soon you have a church wide fight.

None of us are immune to this. We all like a little bit of news, don’t we, just for prayer, of course. And many many, if not all of us, are a little bit insecure about ourselves and so we might relish and feel better about ourselves to hear about the failings of others. 
Today is the day to corporately arrest this and cut it off. If your eye offends, pluck it out, if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off, if your ear hears something juicy, read an improving book, like the Bible,and put it out of your mind,if your tongue is the vehicle of offense, bite down on it hard and remember that Jesus died that you might live.

Ok, so let’s narrow it down to a real offense. Someone really and truly hurt you. You could still be wrong, you could still have misunderstood, so you go to the person privately—not loudly in the narthex or parking lot, not ambushing them, not in front of anyone else—privately. And you say, “I could so so be wrong and have misunderstood, but when you told me in front of all those people that you think I’m doing a really rotten job organizing Sunday School and that I ought to have my head examined, it really hurt my feelings. Do you really feel that way?” 
Now, you can see, it is possible that the person, while really hurting me, has given me something to look at in me. So I could still be wrong. We need to sit and work at it and talk
until we can understand and be at peace with each other. Here’s where 90% of Matthew 18 cases should be resolved and die. You hug, go up to communion together, completely move on and forget about the whole thing. But sometimes the matter just can’t be untangled. “No,” the person might say back to me. “You are killing the education of this church. You’re just a rotten rotten person. I’m not going to work it out with you.” Well, then, you go to your pastor, Matt, and you say, “I have a problem with someone and we’ve tried to work it out
and its just not going anywhere. Can you or someone else who knows and loves us both
but is impartial come and hear and help us discern what is going on?”
And Matt will say, “Absolutely.”
And then he or someone else that you trust and knows scripture and at least one other person who also knows scripture, will meet together to figure it out. Hopefully, in the course of meeting, the Education Program will be fixed, or whatever. But it may not happen. The two witnesses will be able to tell you if you need to just let it go and forgive on your own,
or that it needs to go to the larger body—probably the vestry, and that some kind of action be taken.

Now, you might think that my example is ridiculous. Why would I want to take someone’s criticism of me all the way up through all these steps, especially if sometimes I do a bad job.
I can forgive. The sin, you might think, needs to be a big deal, a real dispute—someone cheating someone of money or their wife or abusing their children or just being maliciously unkind. The offense needs to be big, so big that you need to hold that person truly accountable for their good and the good of the whole body. 
Well, yes, a person in a big sin needs to be held accountable. But guess what, little sin becomes big sin when you don’t repent of it. A refusal to work it out with someone you have offended is called unrepentance. A refusal to work it out with someone who is trying to apologize when they’ve offended you is called unforgiveness.
Look at the story of the unforgiving servant. His offense was huge, the offense of his brother was very small. The size of the sin isn’t what matters, it’s the attitude of your heart to repent and forgive.

We’re on the cusp of a new church year. Over the next few months the leaves are going to change, the colors on the altar will change, routines will settle in and relationships will pick up again and we will carry on as the visible Body of Jesus to this city. And we will sin against each other, sometimes. Sunday by Sunday we will hear the Word of God preached, we will come to the table together, we will, every single one of us, have the chance to repent of our sins against God, and repent of our sins against each other. Every Sunday this year, after the sermon and the prayer of confession, we will all shake hands with each other (or, in flu season, nod in a meaningful and intensely friendly way) and say, ‘The peace of the Lord be always with you.’ This is not a vague wish. ‘I really hope you have God’s peace because you sure don’t have mine.’ This is a time to make a beeline to the person who you have a problem with and say, ‘I want you and I to have God’s peace between us. Can we talk later about something because I really want to have a good relationship with you.’ And if someone comes to you and says this, after your blood pressure falls back down to normal and you remind yourself that you’re not an antelope running away from the attacking lion but rather two people who have the love and power of Jesus between them to bring them to peace,
you say, ‘Oh absolutely. Let’s go downstairs after the service and talk.’ And, if you’re having trouble working up the guts to talk to the person you know you need to, you can come to the side altar for actual prayer, not gossip. You don’t need to give any details, the person standing there will pray for you to be able to do what God commands—forgive and love selflessly and work out the problems that you have.

Let’s pray.

Friday, September 02, 2011

7 Quick Takes: Home Again Home Again....

So I thought I would be really selfless and hold the baby all night to keep her from crying since I'm not feeding her at 3 am any more and she's really mad about it and Matt really Needed to sleep because of having to teach Bible study this morning (right now as I'm writing this in fact). So I held her all night but she cried all night anyway and so I got up at 4am and started reading the internet and here I still am...........
Which probably means I won't be spending a solid day unpacking and getting everything in order to start school on Tuesday but instead will wander around the house in a big sweater without brushing my teeth or being able to focus on anything except the potato chip crumbs that are slowly being ground into the carpet which will cause me to despair and think that I'm a bad person. You're welcome sweetie!
But I am REALLY happy to be home even though its so chilly up here I already miss the hot dry air of Texas. The kids fell in with hysterical relief to playing with their toys. After three hours of playing with his knights yesterday, when I told him it was time to go to bed, Romulus wailed, "But I didn't get to play at all!!!"
And I'm really grateful that the day of travel home went so smoothly. So far away from being hassled at check in and security, everyone was unfailingly cheerful and kind. As the kids went through the metal detector a TSA agent handed them special TSA badge stickers and asked them how old they were and stuff. And later, as I walked onto the last plane, bringing up the line, as it were, holding the baby and several large bags, the flight attendant, who had been audibly counting "one, two, three, wow, four, five, woow, six" said, "You look amazing!" instead of "You have your hands full!" I almost gave her a hug but I'm not really that kind of person so I just send 'Thank You' in an intensely meaningful sort of way.
But I still hold to my original thought that a week camping without electricity or running water is easier than one day of flying. No contest. I don't even like electricity that much, except for its provision to me of the internet.
The wretched black miracle cat spooked again while we were gone and has taken up residence in the basement. I know I'm really tired, but the strong anger I feel towards him right now has nothing to do with that. He's just stupid. He should come up here and let me pet him instead of sitting in a hole being impoverished. Honestly, the spiritual applications with this cat just write themselves.
And now, I'm going to lie down on the floor and pretend to go to sleep until the children come downstairs and hurt my feelings by actually waking me up.