Monday, August 25, 2014

The Best Laid Plans . . .

We're back from vacation and back from dropping my son off at college. He is attending Western New England University in Springfield, MA.

We had everything planned out. Since I would be in Florida for my Board of Trustees meetings, my wife would drive him up to Hartford, CT on Thursday and stay over for the night there. I would fly up from FL first thing Friday morning. They would then pick me up at the airport and we would drive up to the school and settle my son in - maybe even returning on Friday night. Easy, right?

Well . . . except that our van broke down. About 30 minutes south of the Hartford airport. So around dinner time on Thursday, I am on the phone with my wife trying to figure out what to do. But here's the good news: they broke down in Southington, CT which is where the parents of one of my members lives! So AAA towed the van and my family was able to stay with my member's parents for the night. Good so far.

In the morning (while I was in the air) my wife found out that the water pump had failed. (Which it shouldn't have, since it was not all that old, but that's another story.) That's a big, labor-intensive repair, so my wife rented a van, loaded my son's stuff from our van, then drove to the airport to pick me up. That delayed us a bit, but we made it to the University around noon - just enough time to move my son into his room and then for my wife and I to dash off to a parents' meeting.

My son's dorm, Windham Hall.

After our meeting, my son had a meeting and a bunch of other things to attend to, so we went off to get him a cell phone. (Yes, he still didn't have one of his own!) I had found one with a very customizable plan at WalMart, so we went there. Got back to campus after purchasing the phone but it wouldn't activate. Spent a bunch of time on my phone with their less-than-helpful customer service, who then finally told me I should take the phone back and get another. Sigh. So back off to WalMart, return, get an exchange, but this phone wouldn't activate either! Different reason, but same problem. So back on the phone with their less-than-helpful customer service, who after a bunch of time told me to take the phone back and get another! Really? Okay, I've learned. So back to WalMart, return, but NO exchange this time for this piece of junk! Found another phone, a little more expensive plan, but they activated it for me so at least I got a phone for my son!

Now it getting close to 9 pm. Say our good-byes and head back to CT so we return the rental van in the morning and get our car. Not cheap. But now the van is running well with a new water pump and timing belt (since you always replace them together, there's so much labor involved). Got home about 6 pm Saturday.

Youngest Peasant child, with the Golden Bear, mascot of WNE.

All-in-all, a very tiring and frustrating few days! But our son is there and settled in. I really think this school was a good fit for him, so I look forward to hearing from him how things work out.

Oh, and by the way, do NOT purchase the LG Pulse Virgin Mobile Custom phone from WalMart. They are junk. You will just wind up returning them.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Friday, July 25, 2014

Some VBS Pictures

My daughter Sarah is our official VBS photog, and she took some pretty goods pictures! Here are a few . . .

Singing together.

I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him CRUCIFIED.

A little outdoor fun.

A little indoor fun.

Pastor and his "brother" Creed the Awesome!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Life and Death

This is VBS week for us. I don't have any pictures to post yet, but the week has been going well. A couple of hiccups - I won't get into them here. But while it is always a busy and tiring week for me, it is also always a good week. I enjoy teaching the kids and they soak it up and are always disappointed when the week ends. We are using the Higher Things VBS curriculum "Crucified." I highly recommend it to you. It isn't filled with lots of flashy stuff - just the Word. Jesus' death to give us life. Nothing better than that.

Last night I was on my way out to Bible Study and our street was filled with police cars. Not sure what was going on, but they were at our neighbor's house across the street and diagonal from us. I stood a watched for a moment and heard my neighbor cry out a few things. My guess from what he said: I think his wife committed suicide yesterday. I hadn't met this neighbor yet, but my heart went out to him, he was in such agony. If I am right, his wife died and he felt like he had died. His wife died, I don't know why. Maybe this life was too painful or hopeless for her. The police were still there when I got home from the study, still taking pictures and investigating. Procedure, I guess. But today in VBS I get to teach the kids about the resurrection of Jesus and the promise of life. I get to teach our hope and victory over death. Boy do we need it.

Finally, my vacation is coming up! About a week and a half away now. We are going up to Michigan for my in-laws 50th wedding anniversary. It will be a little shorter than usual, but it will still be good to get away and leave the computer and internet and schedule behind, and just relax a bit.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

A Calvinistic View of Prayer?

Have you ever heard someone say: "Why pray? God doesn't change, so we can't change His mind, so why pray for things? God already knows what He's going to do."

Bummer. Wonder why people don't pray more?

But it seems to me this is kind of a "calvinistic" way of looking at prayer in that it is quite like the doctrine of double predestination: God elected some to salvation and some to damnation. There's nothing you can do about it.

The problem with both of these things is that they begin with God in eternity. They start with the hidden God that we do not know and can only speculate about. And that's always going to lead us down the wrong path and into wrong and destructive teaching, as shown above.

The Lutheran way of things is to start with God as He has revealed Himself to us. We do not start by trying to figure out God in eternity, but with God in His Word, God as He has given Himself to us, God in Christ Jesus. And with that starting point, we find quite a different picture of God! For example, Moses prays for the people of Israel. A LOT. They're constantly grumbling and complaining against Moses and against God. But Moses prays for them and we read: "And the Lord relented from the disaster that he had spoken of bringing on his people" (Exodus 32:14).

How do we understand this? If we start with the calvinistic precondition, we will say: Well, God knew He wouldn't do it - He just wanted Moses to pray. Really? How about instead: Moses' prayer made a difference! But, how can an unchangeable God change His mind? I don't know. He hasn't told us that. But how He has revealed Himself to us is as a God who listens to and answers our prayers, and that our prayers make a difference. So I will pray!

Jesus prays, too. If it is pointless to pray, why does Jesus do so? Or how about the story in Mark 9 when Jesus comes down from His transfiguration and there is a demon the disciples could not drive out. What does Jesus say? When the disciples ask Him afterward: "Why could we not cast it out?" He said to them, "This kind cannot be driven out by anything but prayer" (Mark 9:28-29). Or how about the passage in James (5:16-18) which reads:
The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit.
So let's stop the "crypto-calvinistic" view of prayer that has crept in among us, and stick to the Lutheran view. This is how God has revealed Himself to us. I will not try to figure out how it can be so, but will trust and believe . . . and pray.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

A Very Cool Story

File this in the "Don't underestimate what you can do" department.  :-)

This story is confirmed in Elmer Bendiner’s book, The Fall of Fortresses.
Sometimes, it’s not really just luck.
Elmer Bendiner was a navigator in a B-17 during WW II. He tells this story of a World War II bombing run over Kassel, Germany , and the unexpected result of a direct hit on their gas tanks. “Our B-17, the Tondelayo, was barraged by flak from Nazi antiaircraft guns. That was not unusual, but on this particular occasion our gas tanks were hit.
Later, as I reflected on the miracle of a 20 millimeter shell piercing the fuel tank without touching off an explosion, our pilot, Bohn Fawkes, told me it was not quite that simple. “On the morning following the raid, Bohn had gone down to ask our crew chief for that shell as a souvenir of unbelievable luck.
The crew chief told Bohn that not just one shell but 11 had been found in the gas tanks. 11 unexploded shells where only one was sufficient to blast us out of the sky. It was as if the sea had been parted for us. A near-miracle, I thought.
Even after 35 years, so awesome an event leaves me shaken, especially after I heard the rest of the story from Bohn.
“He was told that the shells had been sent to the armorers to be defused. The armorers told him that Intelligence had picked them up. They could not say why at the time, but Bohn eventually sought out the answer. “Apparently when the armorers opened each of those shells, they found no explosive charge. They were as clean as a whistle and just as harmless.
Empty? Not all of them!
One contained a carefully rolled piece of paper. On it was a scrawl in Czech. The Intelligence people scoured our base for a man who could read Czech. Eventually they found one to decipher the note. It set us marveling.
Translated, the note read: “This is all we can do for you now…”
HT: Fr. Z

Monday, July 14, 2014

Seminary Ad

Above is the new ad that Concordia Seminary, St. Louis is placing in magazines now. I've seen it in several publications. Young, buff, millennial guy. Got it. That's fine. Cool little pictures in the margins - he reads his Bible. Check. Even categorizes what he reads by the pictures! Pastor material!

BUT . . .

Here's my question: Look at the Scriptures in the background (click on the picture to enlarge it). Look at all the passages that are underlined. What do they all have in common? All are Law. None of the Gospel passages (of which there are plenty) are underlined. Why not? It seems like a small thing, but small things are significant. We are training pastors to proclaim the Gospel. Yes, we need the Law, we're not antinomians. But all Law and no Gospel? Really?

Well, maybe the ad is trying to convey this fact: Like all of us, this young, buff, seminarian is drawn to the Law, but the Seminary is going to teach Him how to proclaim the Gospel and so in the future, it will be the Gospel passages that will be underlined! Not us, but Christ! But, it says he's a vicar already . . . so . . . uh . . .