Monday, December 17, 2012

This is Why Nothing is Going to Change

You must indulge me in a fit of despairing cynicism that despite the grief and hand wringing and vows that "We can do better!", nothing is going to change.

I had some hope.  At first I thought maybe we could begin to look a little at how easy it is to get guns in this country.  But with talk of laws, I realize that no law is going to change this country's odd love affair with fire arms.  In fact I am beginning to fear that banning guns would no more make people give up their guns than Prohibition made people give up their booze.  And I shudder to think of an even bigger gun black market business.

Well maybe we can do something about the abysmal access in this country to mental health services.  I know something about this but I have NO INTENTION of talking about my experience because of what I see happening to Liza Long who wrote the much shared I am Adam Lanz's Mother .  She wrote a heart wrenching, painfully honest post on what it was like to have a violent mentally ill son.  Everyone I knew was sharing it all over the place.

Then the backlash.  You can read the gory details here.  Okay she's not a nominee for Mother of the Year.   She says some disturbing things in a blog she thought was anonymous.  Seriously - YOU  never felt like throttling your kid?  Disfunction, divorce, abuse, mental illness.  It's messy.  What - are we only supposed to have compassion for perfect families that struggle? 

I also think people are piling on her because she is messing with their agenda.  The gun control people don't want her issues diverting people from their agenda.  Advocates for the mentally ill don't want people to think they are potential mass murderers.  But here's the deal.  Sorry but sometimes mentally ill people ARE violent.  Especially if they aren't treated.  That truth makes people squeamish about the mentally ill, but the answer is not to pretend it's not true.

Anyway the lesson seems to be, unless your life is spotless and blameless, don't write about your struggles and expect any compassion.  Oh wait.  Perfect people don't have struggles.  Or need compassion.

When Jesus heard this, he said to them, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.’ 

Mark 2:17

Anyway it sounds like business as usual.  Everyone has an agenda.  If your experience doesn't fit my agenda, then just shut up.   I feel like all those babies died in vain and it will happen again only next time it won't be quite as traumatic

Kyrie, eleison

Friday, December 7, 2012

Ambrose was a Lutheran

I will glory not because I am righteous but because I am redeemed; I will glory not because I am free from sins but because my sins are forgiven me. I will not glory because I have done good nor because someone has done good to me but because Christ is my advocate with the Father and because the blood of Christ has been shed for me.

 (De Jacob et vita beata, ch. 6, as quoted in Examination of the Council of Trent, Part I, p. 507)

Thursday, December 6, 2012

A Disturbing Contrast

St. Nicholas and the Schoolboys" by Gerard David (c. 1460 - 1523)

Once I figured out what pinterest was all about I became a very enthusiastic pinner.  I pin everything from food to fashion to saints to bible stories to cute kitties. 

 So of course I have a St. Nicolas' board. And while looking for artwork illustrating the various legends and tales about the saint I came across this painting by Gerard David.  I found it very disturbing.

Well the story it illustrates is pretty disturbing.  A wicked butcher who had no meat to sell lures three school boys into his shop, murders them, chops them up and pickles them.  Fortunately Nicolas is on the case and brings them back to life.  Your typical fairytale horror tale that is supposed to help children deal with the dark side of life.

But what I saw in this painting was not a kindly man protecting children.  I saw three naked boys with a bishop.  I think you can guess what images THAT brought up.  The boys are naked in all the art connected with this story but there is something about the innocence David captures in this, and the way the bishop towers over them.  Creepy creepy creepy.

To me this painting brings out the stark contrast of what the church is supposed to do, protect children.  And what it often has not done.  Kind of a sour note for a fun day but there it is. 


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

No this is not about Law/Gospel

My apologies to Mark who left this comment on the post below and instead of approving it I deleted it.  Which is too bad because I want to address it.

I think you are both teetering on the edge here. Gospel and law. Law and gospel. Like the song about love & marriage: "can't have one . . ."

Me:  No you can't get away with just saying "Law and Gospel"   Someone else tried to pull this out on this same topic.  That somehow Law/Gospel applies here.  This is what I say:  Yes Law and Gospel  - NO NO  NO to turning Gospel into Law which what this Cheap Grace stuff does.  

NO NO NO to trying to pull Law into salvation talk to make people behave.  Doesn't work. "The Law says 'do this' and it is never done.  Grace says 'Believe this' and everything is done"  
 In the Law/Gospel dynamic the Law has one purpose and one purpose only - to drive us to the grace of God.

And no, I do not believe in the third use. So don't even go there with me.  

Anybody else wanna try?

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Apologies to Bonhoeffer but There is NO SUCH THING as Cheap Grace

Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession.... Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.”   
                                      The Cost of Discipleship

There's the quote.  I hate it.  

I hate it because it is used to try to drag out law to make people behave. 

I used to think I hated the quote because it was used out of context, and believe me it is.  But now I think the problem isn't just that this has been misused.  

I believe the problem is that Dietrich Bonhoeffer was wrong. 

There I said it.  Nobody is supposed to say that.  His writing has taken on the status of scripture in some places.  Bonhoeffer said it, that settles it.  

Every time anybody gets nervous about someone getting something from God they don't deserve, this quote gets trotted out.  "CHEAP GRACE!  CHEAP GRACE!"

And so I ask "and who, pray tell, is paying too cheap a price for grace?  Who is selling grace for too cheap a price?"

And then I am patronizingly told that I should read the "Cost of Discipleship"  As though I haven't read it several times.  Because, you know, nobody ever read Bonhoeffer and actually said "I don't agree with that" 

I have been wanting to take another look at Cost of Discipleship and dispute it in a more scholarly fashion.  Well maybe when I retire I'll write a book.  For now, these are my thoughts shooting from the hip.

Right off the bat this part of the quote rubs me the wrong way "Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance" 

Forgiveness does NOT depend upon repentance. 

Because that would make it about me and my repentance and then it would not be grace.  Cheap or costly, it would not grace.  Grace does not depend upon me.  I do not have the power to cheapen it.   

Either grace is free and undeserved and unearned or it is something else.  

Grace without the Cross?  That's not cheap grace.  That's not grace.  It's excusing, it's enabling, it's looking the other way, but it's not grace and it is not freeing.  

Grace is not cheap.  

It's free.  It cost God a lot, but it costs us nothing.  It is free but it ain't easy.  We fight it like crazy and I think Bonhoeffer was having his own struggles with it.  And if he had lived through the struggle, I think he'd say it differently. 

This is where some more scholarly work needs to be done but I suspect that Bonhoeffer was influenced by the Baptists in Harlem he hung out with.  

And let me just come out and say it - Baptists are semi-pelagians. Pelagianism can be very compelling.  Especially when people are behaving badly.  Especially when Christians are behaving badly.  

Bonhoeffer was dealing with some very badly behaving Christians and he just overstated the case trying to get them back in line.  That's what I think anyway.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

So the way I see it...

The latest scandal all started because some FBI guy couldn't impress an army groupy with a picture of his chest, so he tried to prove he was a big shot in the FBI.

And I feel the press needs a little vocabulary education:

1)  A "mistress" is a woman who is woman who is financially supported by a married lover.  Paula Broadwell is nobody's mistress.  It's an outdated concept and no self-respecting journalist should be using the term.

2)  Losing your home in Hurricane Sandy is  tragedy.  Losing your job because you had an affair while in a job that you knew such behavior would cost you your job (not to mention your FAMILY) is not a tragedy.

That's all.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Presidential Election Memories

My father was a union organizer.  I feel like that's all I have to say to explain why I have always voted a straight Democratic Party ticket.   He was crazy liberal.  Hated Nixon.  Broke my heart that he died before he could see him have to resign. 

I voted in my first election when I was 19 and I voted for Jimmy Carter in 1976.  Yea go ahead and do the math to figure out how old I am.  I don't care.  Pretty sure I voted for Teddy Kennedy in the primary.  I rarely vote for the winner in a primary.  In fact, I don't think I ever have.  

Four years later everyone was pretty disappointed in Carter, including me, but really REAGAN???  I do not understand all this love and remembrance of him as this great president.  I think he was a disaster for the country and those of us who lived in California remembered him as such as a governor.  Much of the problems with the homeless mentally ill can be credited with his dumping of them on the streets when he was governor.  So I registered as a Republican in order vote for John Anderson.  I don't remember much about him other than he was not Carter or Reagan.  Then he went independent and to me, a vote for him would be just as good as a vote for Reagan.

So a cool evening in San Francisco, those of us waiting outside in line after work to vote got the word that Carter had already conceded.  I was so pissed off.  We all knew he was going to lose and we were still going to vote for him and the least he freaking could have done was waited until the polls closed.

I am pretty sure that the outcry from that (many people on the west coast just decided not to vote and that was very bad for local elections) is the reason why news outlets cannot call races at least until polls close.

For some reason, I remember being even more devastated when Reagan one again in 1984.  I really thought people would realize how horrible he was for the country.  But that was really the last time I was crushed at not having an election go my way.  Life goes on.

I did not vote for Bill Clinton in the primary.  Too conservative for my taste.  Seems like I was always voting for Jerry Brown or Jesse Jackson in those days.  And he was a dog.  But he's grown on me.  Like Carter, like him a lot more as an ex-president.

I went to see Bill Clinton in Waterloo Iowa last week.  Sharp as a tack.  Knew exactly what the issues are in Iowa.  Considering how many states he's been to stumping for Obama and how he is probably just on point there, he's really amazing.  If he could run again, I'd vote for him.

I remember going to bed thinking Al Gore had wrapped it up and waking up thinking "Oh crap".  I went to a rally for John Kerry but geesh! he was boring and I knew he never had a chance.

And then there was Hillary.  I'm sorry but I still think Hillary should have been president.  I never was seduced by the great speeches of Obama.  Too inexperienced, and I did not think he would be able to forge the necessary relationships with the congress to accomplish all he was promising.  I believe I was right about that and I still believe Hillary would have done a better job.  But she's a damn good secretary of state.  And Obama surrounded himself with good people to advise him.  And he got a lot of people not usually excited about politics involved and that is always a good thing.  And its nice to have a young couple and children in the White House. 

So here we wait.  I'd like Obama to win because I'm a straight party girl, and it would be sad to have the first African-American president only be one term.  And Romney is well, who knows what he would do.  Does he even know?

The country survives.  It will never be as liberal as I'd like so I've learned not to cry in my beer.   History ebbs and flows.  Things get better, things get worse.  People love, live, get married, have children.  And the God is here. 

PLEASE Do not preach a Stewardship Sermon Next Sunday

"Widow's Mite", James Tissot

The story of the "widow's mite" in Mark 12 is NOT a stewardship text.  It is not about how wonderful it was that she was willing to give everything she had and so therefore, no matter how poor you are, you have no excuse not to give.  

Pay attention to what Jesus says in Mark 12:38

"Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces,  and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets!  They devour widows' houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation."

Jesus is not pointing to the widow as an example of giving.  He's pointing to the religious leaders as an example NOT to follow.  Don’t be like these people who go around acting holy, and saying all the right things and making a show of being generous when in fact they are ignoring the real needs of people and are even taking advantage of the vulnerable.  Instead of taking this woman's money, they should be taking care of HER.

Now you pastor types who have been hearing and giving widow's mites sermons for all of your career are going to resist this and try to argue with me.  You maybe already have your stewardship drive planned based on this precious theme.  Too bad.  It's wrong.  And it misses the real challenge Jesus is giving.

Jesus is not saying it is a good thing this poor women is giving her last dime to support the temple.  Jesus has already condemned the system by driving out the money changers out of the temple and predicted its destruction.   If the religious leaders had been doing their job, she never would have been destitute to begin with.  Preach THAT if you want a stewardship sermon. 

Just Vote

Lord God, you call your people to honor those in authority. Help us elect trustworthy leaders, participate in wise decisions for our common life, and serve our neighbors in local communities. Bless the leaders of our land, that we may be at peace among ourselves and a blessing to other nations of the earth; through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

“I met those of our society who had votes in the ensuing election, and advised them, 1. To vote, without fee or reward, for the person they judged most worthy: 2. To speak no evil of the person they voted against: And, 3. To take care their spirits were not sharpened against those that voted on the other side.”                             –John Wesley, October  6, 1774

Sure I'd like you to vote for my guy.  But just vote.  And know that it won't be the end of the world if your guy doesn't win.  We are a country of checks and balances.  And ultimately, God is in charge.  In the words of Julian of Norwich

All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well"

So just go vote and get on with your life.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

There is a Difference Between calling someone a "BullShitter" and a "Retard"

Normally hearing that Ann Coulter would be on Pierce Morgan would send me running wildly down the stairs to change the channel on the downstairs TV (which is hooked up to the Dish and then my bedroom TV only has a device that lets me watch whatever is on and forces me to run downstairs whenever I want to change the channel but I digress).  But I thought, silly me, that she would have the humanity to back down a little when confronted with the pleas of the disabled and parents of the disabled and the gentle rebuke of John Franklin Stephens in his open letter to her.  Surely she would show some shame, some semblance of apology, for using the word "retard" as an insult. 

I was wrong.  She was just as belligerent and even played herself as a victim of the word police.

I was so appalled, I did what any savvy social media person would do - I expressed by dismay on Facebook.  I usually avoid politics on my pastor Facebook (yes I have two Facebooks) but this is so outrageous I again, in my naivety, assumed even Republicans would have to be repulsed by this woman.

Surprise.  A Republican friend responded with basically this argument --Obama called Romney a bullshitter and I have blinders because I only point out her insults.  

My my my.  Where to begin.  Well first of all, I don't have blinders.  I do call out my own side when I think they are wrong.  I angered some of my Democrat friends when I said Harry Reid needed to shut up about Romney not paying his taxes if he didn't have any proof to show.  I posted my concern when it looked like the White House was going to throw Hillary Clinton under the bus over Benghazi.  She, classy and smart team player that she is made a preemptive move and gracefully climbed under it herself.  But I digress...

Okay number one.  Mitt Romney IS a bullshitter.  That's not an insult, that's the truth.  And while I would not want to hear that language in say, the State of the Union address, it just does not bother me in the context the President used it in Rolling Stone, for crying out loud.  If Mitt called Obama a bullshitter my only response would be "is not!'   I would not whine about the insult or the language.  Or suggest that was equal to calling someone a "retard"

But here is the big difference.  You never hear bullies surrounding a child chanting "You are a bullshitter!  You are a bullshitter"

And if you can't get that, well there's just nothing more to be said.

Friday, October 26, 2012

On Taming Feral Cats & Grace

So Mama kitty is in the house.  

She let me pet her and rubbed up against me this morning.  Now normally I like to take this more slowly but she is BIG and the weather has been terrible and it could snow any day.  And I need to have access to those kittens to tame them if there's any chance of them finding another home.  I'm not going to stay here and can't be raising dozens of barn cats.  So I picked up by the scruff of the neck and put her in her own room.  She's not happy and there won't be any petting for awhile.

But she will get used to it.  She'll be warm and fed and realize soon just how safe she really is.  I think she will turn out to be a friendly cat.

I've never had any trouble taming feral cats.  But this is the secret.  Patience and letting them be.  I've had cats live in my house for months and even years who never wanted much to do with me.   Eventually, they came around.  I still have one who will run away if I approach her but every time I sit down she jumps up in my lap. 

There's a show on Animal Planet called "My Cat from Hell" where this guy with tattoos and a goatee and a guitar case full of cat toys goes around solving the cat problems of  stupid cat owners who have no business having cats.  

I could do his job but I'm not nearly as interesting looking as he is.  

The most common problem is these idiots chase the cat and pick them up when the cat obviously does not want to be held and then are surprised that the cat has tried to rip their face off. The secret to cats is letting them decide the parameters of the relationship.   

You want to control an animal, get a dog. 

 Most shelters will euthanize feral cats because nobody wants a cat that just lives there and doesn't give you anything back.   But to me, letting a feral cat share your home is a way to express grace.  You take care of the cat, love it, take care of its needs and demand nothing back from it.   When it is ready to reciprocate, you appreciate and accept, however, it does that.  I believe that is what God does with us. 

 I wish we could be free enough to love others this way.

So now Mama Kitty is hiding and fearful and I wish I could make her understand that all I want to do is care for her and she is better off with me.  Is that  not like Adam and Eve hiding from God in fear when all God wants to do is enjoy a cool walk in the garden with them?  I will be patient with her as God is patient with us.  And pray to have the same patience with people.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Vocation, Creation and Yes, a Pregnant Stray Cat IS My Neighbor

 First it was the orange tom cat that showed up stalking my bird feeders.  I had no problem chasing him away.  He never got any birds but he always came back.  He looked skinny but I was strong.  No feeding him.

Then the pretty orange and white showed up.  She was eating the peanuts for the birds.  So I put the peanuts on the roof of the shed and she jumped up on the roof to eat the peanuts.  Well I figured if she was eating the bird seed I was feeding her anyway, so I started feeding her.

  And of course the orange Tom showed up for his share.

At first I thought "She's  not that skinny, she's eating somewhere else"  Then it became clear that she's not that skinny because she is pregnant.  And the orange Tom is no doubt the Baby Daddy. Just what I need.  One of my life's challenges is NOT to become one of those crazy women you see on Animal Hoarders.  This is not helping.

After awhile I decided to just give in to my secret piety which tells me God sends me these creatures to take care of.  Just go with it.  Buy her the special food for kittens and pregnant cats.

So here I am in Dubuque for our Theological Conference and the theme is Vocations.  Stanley Olson from Wartburg Seminary is our presenter.  He starts out asking us who is the neighbor God is calling us to serve.  Everyone shouts out - the sick, the lonely, the outcast, the immigrant,  you know the drill.  When it was my turn I answered "A pregnant stray cat"  Everyone laughed but I was not joking.  Is not creation our neighbor?  St. Francis, whose day was not so long ago, would certainly agree.  Is it not just a holy a calling to care for animals, plants and even the earth as it is to care for people?

"God is milking the cows through the vocation of the milkmaid", Luther said.  God is taking care of this pregnant queen through me.  

Monday, September 24, 2012

More Stuff to Do with Green Tomatoes

Pineapple Green Tomato Salsa 

12-14 Green Roma Tomatoes
1 small Yellow Onion
16 oz chopped fresh pineapple

Handful of Cilantro
1 Jalapeno Pepper

1/2 C White wine
1/4 C Sugar

Chop veggies or throw them in the Food Processor. Add wine and sugar. Bring to a boil, then simmer 10 minutes.

Fills 3 8 oz jars plus a little left over to put in the fridge. This is really really good.  Goes good with Sam Adams.
Most of the tomatoes I chopped up in the processor, added about a cup of white wine,  a quarter cup of sugar, some salt, and cumin and cooked it down for a half hour and put it in a ziplock and threw it in the freezer.   Next time my daughter comes home I'm gonna mix that with some cream, and pour it over my chicken enchiladas with some Jack cheese.  

That is some good stuff.

And finally, I save about 10 green romas, one jalapeno, a handful of cilantro, a squeeze of lime, about a cup of sugar, maybe more. Brought it to a boil, then simmered for 10 minutes. Put that over some cream cheese on a cracker.  More good stuff.

Chow Chow

Most of you have probably given up on this blog.  I haven't given up yet.  Just haven't been inspired to rant for a while.  But there is always food.

It was an odd summer.  Early drought that on the one hand really slowed the growth of my tomatoes but also put off that damned Blight I always get where ever I try to garden.  So toward the end of the summer we got a lot of rain and at the end of the season I had a respectable harvest.  And a lot of green tomatoes I snagged before the first frost.

I remember making this green tomato relish from the Ball Canning Book many years ago.  I really liked it.  I think it's funny their recipe calls bell peppers "hot peppers"  Anyway, this is my version:

  •  16 Green Roma Tomatoes
  • 1 Red Bell Pepper
  • 1 Yellow Bell Pepper
  • 1Yellow onion 
  • 1 Head Purple Cabbage
  • 2 Jalapeno peppers

Chop vegetables fine. Or if you are lucky like me, throw em all in the food processor .  When I made it many years ago I did not have a food processor.  I got this one from my Mom after she died.  I think this is one of the greatest inventions ever.  Two things in the kitchen I do not enjoy, chopping vegetables and grating cheese.

So mix that all up, dump about 1/2 Cup course salt on it and leave it overnight.  The salt will draw the extra liquid out of it.  

The next morning, drain the liquid, rinse with cold water and then drain again and get as much of the liquid out of it as you can.  Squeezing it with your hands works really well.  Yes, use your hands.  I don't understand people that don't want to get their hands in their food.  

 Mix 2 1/2 Cups Cider Vinegar
1 cup loosely packed brown sugar
1 clove garlic, minced
1 t Ginger
1 T Mustard Seeds

1 T Turmeric
2 t Celery seed
1 t Whole Cloves


Bring to a boil, then simmer for 5 minutes. Do not let that steam get in your face, it is not pleasant.

Add the vegetables, bring to a boil and cook for 10 minutes. The Ball recipe says cook for an hour. Are you kidding? You don't want to overcook this. I think Ball is just afraid you are going to get botulism and sue them. 10 minutes is fine.
Process in a waterbath for 10 minutes.  Now I need to go buy some brats or Italian sausage or something to eat it with.