Friday, October 28, 2011

a bunch of quick takes

A week ago I discovered that for Halloween, Elphine didn't want to be Lucy from Narnia in a school uniform (stupid idiot me, she is Lucy in a school uniform every day) she wanted to be Lucy in Narnia with the red cape and the white dress. So, a la the EU Bailout, I redirected some of my funds from one envelope into another and also hit her up for her birthday money thereby managing to procure (may the Almighty be blessed for inspiring Al Gore to invent the internets) a pinkish dress and a blue cape--not the right color, I realize, but satisfying none the less--both of which arrived today.
Everyone else is now complaining about what they're planning to be (Bat Man, Peter, a princess, an angry bee, a chili pepper) because it didn't arrive in two separate boxes this afternoon. Some of them carefully took note so I expect next October to be three times more complicated than this October was.
Halloween was never that difficult (how hard is it to walk around your own street hitting up people you barely know for candy) but even that tiny hurdle is lately removed. The church now does a 'trunk or treat' in the parking lot. We all fill our car trunks with candy and the neighborhood is invited to come and partake. AND we have games and hot drinks and other sweets. Last year was bitterly cold and we were over-sugared and weepy by the end. This year I hope it will be balmy and lovely, although, not being pregnant myself my tradition of going as Michelle Duggar is probably ruined.

So Wednesday I didn't even get out of bed. I lay there with 'blogger' open trying to download pictures and feeling so deeply unwell that I never actually got any picture of anything up. I instructed the children to "do school" and so it appears that they did, both legalistically and cheerfully. I heard them squabbling with each other about the order of everything and whether or not there should be a leader for the day and if Romulus and Gladys should be forced to read and do math (they didn't think so but Elphine authoritatively won the day). 
Funny thing is, I wasn't feeling top form on Tuesday but figured it was just too much sin in my life.  Never the less I "felt led" to bake two large trays of cinnamon rolls and a batch of regular buns. Now, you might question the Lord's leading in this manner, but this happens to me. And to other people. Thirty years ago, when I was a small filthy child pouring sand in my own hair and that of my friend in the wilds of Africa, my mother woke up very early one morning and "felt led" to make donuts. This she did for an entire day, kneading the dough, frying them in a large pan, thinking all the time, "Why on earth am I making donuts today?" At which point, as the haze of the afternoon was giving way to the cool of the evening, a whole car of strangers drove up in a cloud of dust and there she was, Ready with donuts! In my case the whole family has eaten of the providence of the Almighty while I lay back and pondered all these things in my heart.
Let's be honest, any day that I and Matt and the children don't throw up is a precious day, a day to be remembered in thanksgiving and joy.
Did anyone else notice the evil white snow yesterday?  SO UPSETTING! Honestly, where is this global climate change of which we hear so much? Isn't this place supposed to be drying up while the deserts turn into pools of water? Isn't that in the Bible somewhere? It can't already be winter. Our little calendar clearly says 'Fall' and Gladys is just this moment putting on a pretty pair of yellow sandals and a sun dress. We are not ready for this.
I need to arise and think about breakfast. All the cinnamon buns are gone and there's some talk circulating about fried eggs and sausage. I think my stomach might handle it. Also, Romulus says that his trousers are "completely gone". What a mystery. Elphine is blow drying her own hair wearing her Lucy school uniform and the blue cape and the fake dagger. Her fake English accent is already driving me up the wall. Alouicious is both whistling and whining, a bizarre carefree careworn approach to reality. The baby is looking into the eyes of my soul and opening her mouth wide. Gladys is wearing a large backpack filled with dollhouse furniture. I'm pretty sure she slept with it on. And Marigold is wearing a pair of Matt's shoes and trying to take a bottle out of the dishwasher. But its Friday!

go check out Jen!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

my sermon from this morning: matthew 22

We'll be in Matthew 22 again today if you'd like to have it open.
We’re going to go in kind of a circle this morning.
If you like straight lines,
I hope you’ll be patient with me.
Jesus, you might remember,
is mid way through the last week of his life.
He entered Jerusalem in Triumph on Monday.
On Tuesday he went into the Temple as if he owned the place purging and clearing out the money changers and sellers.
He went back out of the city that night to stay with
Mary, Martha and Lazarus
and came back Wednesday morning.
And now here we find him locked in combat
with not only the Jewish rulers of the day--the Pharisees,
but also the Sadducees,
and, by this time
the support of the crowds is beginning to be tenuous.
In each story he tells in chapters 21-22,
he makes the extraordinary claim of being the Messiah,
someone who knows the will of God (21:24),
who does the perfect will of God (21:27),
who will suffer for this obedience (21:38),
and who ultimately will judge those who reject him (21:39).
In the two sections we missed he places himself
above all earthly powers (22:15-22),
and gives intimate knowledge of heaven (22:23-33).
And now, in these two sections, he ties it all together.
And, we'll find, that no one dares to ask him anymore questions.

So let’s look at our text.
A lawyer of the Pharisees comes
and let's clarify, quickly,
that this isn't the kind of lawyer we're used to,
but rather, an expert in the law of God,
and, in this case,
a spokesman for the pharisees.
He’s not just a random lawyer walking up,
this is a loaded question intended to entrap Jesus.
He asks, 'which is the greatest law?'
This particular question was kind of a hot topic of the day.
There are documented to be 613 laws in the Torah,
and many many teachers of the day
spent much much time categorizing them
and giving some more weight than others.
Which laws are the weightiest, the heaviest,
which are lighter.
The ordinary person would encourage such a debate, surely. Because the weight of the whole law was very great.
To keep every law would be very difficult,
indeed impossible.
Part of what happened in this over all debating
and clarifying
and arguing
is that Pharisees
in particular
began putting hedges around the law.
The law to keep the Sabbath,
for instance,
is so weighty,
so important,
that to help you not violate that law,
they added helps--
don't walk this far, don't kindle a fire, etc.--
which then became subsumed in the law itself.
So, even by the time of Jesus,
the law had grown beyond the 613.
The purpose of the Law from God’s perspective,
was to get at the heart of the person following it.
The Law starts with the persons relationship with God
and moves on to action and right living.
But over time,
as all the helps and hedges were added,
the focus and purpose of the Law shifted
to be mainly that of action, of doing all the right things.
As you read through the Old Testament,
you’ll see God increasingly angry about this shift--
You bring sacrifices, he says,
but your hearts are far from me.
You’re going through the motions.
I don’t want your sacrifices.
I want your hearts.
Jesus, from the beginning of his ministry,
went straight to the center of this problem.
He calls the Pharisees whitewashed tombs--
all the right action,
but with a heart of death.
In order not to hear this message,
the Pharisees accused Jesus of actually trying
to overturn the law,
or get rid of it,
or supersede it.
Pharisees, Sadducees, Chief Priests,
everybody held the Law of Moses,
even if they disagreed about how to interpret it or live it out,
in a place of supreme honor and authority.
If they could all get Jesus to put himself over the law of Moses they would be the winners--
he would loose the support of everybody
up and down the whole length of Israel.
But you'll notice here that Jesus very very much just does not supersede the Law.
In fact, he cuts right to the heart of the law
they all say they follow.
Let's look at what he says.
'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart a with all your soul and with all your mind. And the second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend,
or hang,
all the Law--that's the first five books of the Old Testament--
and the Prophets--that's the rest.
If you know anything about the Old Testament,
and the Law of Moses in particular,
this is the center point of the Law.
This--Love the Lord your God bit is called the sh’ma.
You say it when you rise up and when you lie down.
You write it on the door posts of your house.
A really devout person would write it and put it in a little box and strap it to the forehead,
binding and strapping it to the arms.
Sometimes Christians try memorizing a Bible verse,
usually John 3:16.
But its not the first thing we say when we rise up,
we don’t breath it in and out all day long,
we don’t have it as the frame
around which we view all other things.
And having, maybe, learned John 3:16,
how many of us can name all ten commandments
or any other portion of Holy Scripture?

The Shema really starts out
Hear, O Israel, the Lord your God the Lord is One, and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your mind and with all your strength.
The heart, in the bible,
is the essence of a person, the true self.
The heart encompasses everything.
In this culture we also place the heart very high,
but our hearts are usually always talked about
in terms of emotions.
How we feel is what our heart tells us.
In the Bible, the heart encompasses emotions,
but it is really a matter of the intellect,
of the will,
of the whole person.
When Jeremiah says,
'The heart is deceitful above all else who can understand it?,
that includes the emotions,
but he really means the whole person.
The essence of who we are is deceitful above all else.
The mind and soul are gathered up in the heart.
With your mind you exercise your will,
you can choose and act in a certain direction.
The soul is eternal, we each of us has a soul,
the part of us that will go on forever.
In other words,
love the Lord your God with every fiber of your being.
No single part of you should be held back from him.
This catches us into a great pit of inadequacy.
On the one hand, we may feel very great love for God,
upon which we do not act.
We may sing and worship and raise our hands and pray,
and then in no way exercise the will towards obedient action.
In this way we feel love but do not have or exercise love,
and we fall short of the law.
On the other hand,
we may exercise great works of obedience,
we may work our fingers to the bone,
we may strive and strive to work
and in striving we aim to gain recognition or something
the actions are obedient,
but the heart may still be far from love.
And then we might both feel love for God
and do good works out of obedience,
but the All your Heart, All your Soul, All your mind
will land you in the pit.
Every fiber of your being?
That is impossible.

And you'll notice that no one says anything.
So Jesus goes on to ask them a question.
"What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?"
They say to him, "The son of David."
Its the obvious answer.
They wouldn't have had to think about it.
What's one plus one? Two.
Whose son is the Messiah? David's.
David was promised that from his descendants
would come the Messiah,
the savior of Israel.
You can't fault, entirely,
the average Jewish person for expecting a person, a son.
And yet, you can, a little bit.
Because David himself wrote a psalm, Psalm 110.
In psalm 110 David says,
"The Lord said to my Lord, '
Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet.’"
Jesus stops the quote there
but his audience would have known the rest,
"The LORD sends forth from Zion your mighty scepter."
Rule in the midst of your enemies! Your people will offer themselves freely on the day of your power, in holy garments; from the womb of the morning, the dew of your youth will be yours. The LORD has sworn and will not change his mind, You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.The Lord is at your right hand;
he will shatter kings on the day of his wrath.
He will execute judgment among the nations,
filling them with corpses;
he will shatter chiefs
over the wide earth.
7 He will drink from the brook by the way;
therefore he will lift up his head."

I was wasting time this week and googled this psalm.
For a long time after Jesus nobody wanted to admit that
1. David wrote it,
even though for centuries everybody knew that he had,
and 2. that David was talking about the coming Messiah.
And, let’s just look carefully at it for a minute,
the claim that’s being made
is that the Lord said to someone greater than David,
‘sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet.’
David, in other words,
wasn’t waiting for a human Messiah,
a really great guy who would just come
over throw some one or another earthly power
and just really be wonderful.
No, he was waiting for God.
God who will judge,
who will shatter chiefs over the wide earth.

Two days after Jesus quoted this psalm
he was horrifically and brutally murdered.
The whole crowd,
all the pharisees,
all the Romans,
just about everybody,
it seemed,
shouting for his blood,
not wanting to admit what was staring them in the face--
that God,
from the time of Moses,
through David,
through all the prophets,
had been preparing for this person--
a man, yes, but really God himself.
So every morning when they rose up and said,
Hear O Israel the Lord your God the Lord the Lord is One
and you shall Love the Lord your God with every fiber
of your being,
with your whole self,
not holding anything back,
the person they were looking at now
was that God whom they claimed they loved.

And they didn’t want it to be him,
so they killed him.
What are you going to do?
God so loved you,
did you know,
that God so loved you that he gave his whole self.
He didn’t hold anything back from you.
He gave his body, mind, heart, soul to the agony of death,
to the agony of separation from the Father,
for you, because he loved you.
Do you know,
when you fall in love,
how its ok to be a little crazy?
To do what might technically be considered stupid
because you’re so caught up in the other person.
When you’re in love all the junk of life falls away
and the clear vision
with which you can see the other person takes over.
God loved you,
Jesus loved you enough to do the most outrageous thing--
to put aside his glory,
to become one of us.
And we,
we like our power,
our self worth,
our cozy little lives,
so much.
Hear, Good Shepherd,
you shall love the Lord your God with everything in you.
You shall let his love and his name be written
on the doorposts of your heart.
You shall let his love be the frame
around everything that you think, or say, or do.
You shall let his love guide your soul
into the way of everlasting peace.
Are you afraid?
Are you wishing there is another way?
Do not be afraid.
The love of God is broader and wider
and more sustaining than any small love you have now.
He will not let you fall.
He will not loose you or forget you.
Give your heart, your soul, your mind, your body to him.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

We're very very busy and we've got a lot to do

Today is the Harvest Dinner, by gum, and already Matt has been over to church twice to let people in (its 6:45am as I write this). We're not going to be doing anything to help except our duty, which is school and then going and eating the food.  And probably I'll stay and sweep floors after, or something.

Anyway, I haven't been intending to not blog every day but Matt is on a rampage of painting every room in the house as fast as he can. He's done all three bedrooms upstairs, one bathroom and the school room. There are two small bathrooms, our bedroom and one hallway remaining. Its kind of crazy and I keep thinking we're going to die of too much painting, but so far life is only getting better.

Since we moved in the children's rooms have sort of reminded me of prison cells (particularly Marigold's who has a small table, an empty bookshelf and a mattress on the floor). But NOW! We have pink, blue and Mediterranean Mustard (that's what I'm calling it) upstairs. AND, the true and most amazing mercy of all time, my kitchen cabinets are beautiful clean white making my no-natural-light-kitchen bright, cheerful and dream lovely.

My camera is full of pictures but I've been busy.
Check you later!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Another Birthday

Gladys turns four today. She and her father are on their way to the pancake barn for an amazing and wonderful time. She put on her pink dress, pink and green stripey tights and blue shoes with pink flowers and then gazed at herself in the mirror. "I'm so beautiful," she said, as indeed she says almost every day, "Don't you think I'm beautiful?"

Honestly, what is the correct response day after day?
Some days we say, "Yes you are. You are beautiful."
Other days we say, "You are very beautiful inside and outside but inside is better."
Some days we're just tired and grunt. I probably need to memorize some kind of Bible verse I can fling at her.

Anyway, later we're going to have strawberry cake and then maybe go run around in the cold autumn wind. It is finally autumn today. Happy Birthday Gladys!

Thursday, October 13, 2011

those who stay up too late, will have to wait for their joy

I'm going to really really regret being up this late in a few short hours.
But its so quiet.

And I know that when I wake up, the authoritative sound of John McArthur preaching through Acts will mingle with the frantic sound of Romulus' piercing cry "Daddy, can I please have milk with a top" and the baby patting my face and pulling my hair. And then Gladys, who turns four on Saturday, will come in and begin the long argument about who gets to be on which side. Alouicious will descend anxiously with a shouting Marigold, looking soulfully into my eyes to inquire, "What's for breakfast?" Only Elphine will clatter on in her own way--getting dressed, brushing her own hair (how AMAZING is it to have a child who can brush her own hair), unloading the dishwasher, arranging chairs.

I will regret it so much as a stumble around the kitchen trying to decide between shouting or not speaking. Lately I've been going with not speaking.
But will eventually begin to thaw after pouring half milk, half tea, one sugar into everybody's little mug and dishing out cream of wheat (because, Alouicious, that is what we are having for breakfast tomorrow) and beginning to pray

"Let us humbly confess our sins unto Almighty God.
Romulus and Gladys this is the time for you to say and feel sorry to Jesus for hitting each other just now, Almighty and Most Merciful God, we have erred and strayed from thy ways like lost sheep. We have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts.
Yes we'll look up what 'devices' means in the dictionary in a minute.
We have offended against thy holy laws.
We'll look up 'offended' on Friday. Please pray with me as I say the words.
We have done those things which we ought not to have done.
Can anyone think of anything they ought not to have done this morning?
We have not done those things that we ought to have done.
You may have more cereal in a minute.
But Thou O Lord have mercy upon us. Spare thou those who confess their faults. Restore thou those who are penitent.
I'm sorry I forgot to give you a spoon."

And so we will say the Daily Office of Morning Prayer together, substituting a song of some kind for the Venite, and one short reading for all the readings and psalm. And then I won't notice all the noise again until about 4pm, when it will wash over me like a wave and I will think, 'Why ON EARTH did you stay up till 11:32 blogging when you could have been sleeping!?'