Thee Angel Project

A year of writing a little bit of everything. Writers Write, Right?


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anonymous

Near the end of our son’s time in the hospital just one short week ago, (We had a little burst appendix incident here. He is now recovering nicely.) when his stay there was reaching 7, 8, 9, 10 days, one of the things Seth and I enjoyed with him was worship together in that tiny space. It was during that time that we heard and thought about why we were in fact still there. God’s ways are not my ways. I know that well. If I had my say in the matter, we wouldn’t have been there at all. I have no doubt however that the God of intricacies and foundations had many reasons for our time in that place.

Perhaps it had to do with a staff member there, or the man across the hall who sat with his ailing wife, our current congregation, or our first.
Perhaps it was all of the above…from the God of intricacies and foundations, I would expect nothing else.

Perhaps too it was an opportunity for people to care for us. Just the writing of that strikes me as odd, uncomfortable. That’s not usually what I think of when I consider what my husband does. I think it should be the other way around. And it is. Except for when it isn’t. Except for when it’s both.

We got an anonymous gift today. One of those gifts that make me ask, why. One of those gifts that confuse me because I honestly don’t get it. I don’t get how He could love us through you so well, in spite of our sinfulness and selfishness and mess. One of those gifts that remind me of all the other days and of all the other gifts.

Thoughtfulness too great to measure.

Gifts that have helped me to know His people better and because of that know Him just a little bit better.

I could scan back through the cards and letters we’ve saved looking for a handwriting match (totally something I would do… :)) or I could just let it be anonymous. A gift from Him. One that shows love for His children that is truly beyond comprehension.

To God be the glory.

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of failure and forgiveness and fight

I love living in this place. Not this house, not this town, but this country. I do. I love it. I am beyond thankful for all my mind and body do not have to endure thanks to the country into which I was born. I am beyond thankful for the families that came before mine that fought selflessly, sacrificially, valiantly. I am living the good life. Truly.

But while this country does many things very well, there is one area in particular where we fail miserably. More than that. So much so that no word could adequately describe our…failure.

I was reminded of this yesterday as we walked downtown to meet others like us. To stand quietly by the side of the road. To have a hushed conversation with my eight year old. One that no two people should ever have to have with one another. Ever. To explain the inexplicable. To mourn.

I was surprised by the effect it had on me. I went in knowing exactly what this meeting meant, but was completely undone when my eyes met hers. This little one. The eyes of my four year old standing there holding the sign she chose, all smiley and completely unaware of what those words said or meant, and I knew.

Life Chain
I knew that the words she held, though I shared some with her sister, (notice, I said some, certainly not all, not even close) were beyond what I could bear to share with her. I was so thankful she didn’t ask, because I knew.

I knew that I could never adequately explain some expectant mothers’ fear or despair.

I knew that I could never give a reason she could accept as to why some we know and love think that it would have been good and right, if I had chosen for her to not be here.

I knew that I could not convey how much I want her to never even come close to feeling that there is any choice to be made.

I was thankful she didn’t ask, because I knew.

I knew that if she did, and if I did, she would understand. She would. My four year old. And it would forever change her. Knowing what we do. Knowing how we fail.

Failure. It has a synonym that you will no doubt recognize. Look it up. Do you see it? It’s there. Abortion.

It can be different.

It can change. I think so anyway. I’ll admit, I do have doubts. We’re in pretty deep.

It starts here though. With the message our ten year old got to share. It was one of hope and promise. It is one that reminds us that the One who created us, also restores.

It reminds us that although what we have done is atrocious, forgiveness is ours. God does heal, and we can live in a world where life is honored and precious.

Yesterday it began in my house, well, continued really, but began in a new way. Prayerfully, someday the same will be true in my town and in my country.

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I love this country…and at the same time I hate it. Because even with all of the technology and information we possess, we still don’t get it.

They’re worth it. You’re worth it.

Fight.

Selflessly. Sacrificially. Valiantly.


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Intricacies and Foundations: Home

It had been over 17 years since I last sat in that place for that specific purpose. Back then I was a student. Today I took my students. Today it looks more like a chapel space than it did back then. Beautiful stained glass and an altar to match. A pulpit now where a podium once stood. A place for baptismal remembrance as you enter. The atmosphere itself was just as I remembered it. Busy. Joyous. Reverent. Peaceful. Home.

They start each service with the common doxology. They’re uninhibited and they make a joyful noise. Today my husband got to lead them. That was a little strange. The last time he sat in that place for that purpose he was a student too. This time he got to share God’s word and a few of his own.

Children of God from various times in our lives share this space. Students from my very first years of teaching, younger siblings of his students from his first years, friends’ sons and daughters, adopted siblings, members of our current congregation, former bosses and professors. It feels like an odd sampling of every time period of our lives. Intricacies and foundations. God brought us each to this place and it is good. Very good.

I’ll be there again. Often. Even if someone else is leading. It won’t take 17 years, maybe not even 17 days. I’ve said before that I love my church body. This is one of the reasons why. Even when it’s been 17 years, it still feels completely, comfortingly, like home.


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that time when…

…you are fairly certain your husband-pastor spent much of last night rewriting his sermon just to say all of the things about forgiveness and relationship and the value in one another that you needed to hear. Only, you know he didn’t actually do it, well, because you asked him, and you know that the words spoken were probably ones meant for more than just you… however, you wish that from now on he would tell you how the Holy Spirit is moving him to preach so that you would know what stumbling blocks you need to be on the lookout for that week and also so you wouldn’t get whiplash nodding in agreement about what an idiot you have been, are, will be again.

Did you listen to the readings this weekend?

The one about Joseph who was a bit of a cocky young man, but never deserved a slew of brothers who despised him enough to sell him as a slave. Who didn’t deserve to be thrown in jail, falsely accused by Potipher’s wife. And the brothers who didn’t deserve to be forgiven, but that were, and then given the finest of all that Egypt had to offer them.

The one from Matthew (Have I said how much I love this book? It’s enchanting really.) reminding us that forgiveness is not just a gift that we receive, it’s also one that we can give, that we’re invited and encouraged and expected to give…especially to those who in our eyes don’t deserve it because, uh, hello, that’s us too. Every. Single. Day.

Excuse me while I look up this Sunday’s verses…(You can find them here.)


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why i love my church

I very much appreciate your answers from yesterday’s question. They were both thoughtful and thought provoking.

I have two answers. The first is a little bit longer. It’s the, I have a blog without a limit on word count, answer. The second is my garage sale answer.

The first.

When I bring my sinful self along with my little sinners into the worship space on Sunday morning and we place our sinful bottoms in the pew, there are some things that I can count on every single time.

My empty vessel, tattered and torn, weary and worn from all the world took from me throughout the previous week, is about to be filled. I know without a doubt, I’m going to hear the word of God. From the welcome to the sharing of the peace to the invocation and at every single moment up and through the benediction, I am going to hear the word of God. Worship is rooted in scripture, every word, and by the time I leave, I am filled. (Even on those days when I don’t feel it.)

Side note: A very nice couple came into our home last night. They are from the organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses. We had spoken with them before, and now had the opportunity to make an appointment and invite them in. Before they arrived, I was a little apprehensive. My husband was there and I knew he had the reins, but still I was uncertain about how the evening would go. Until these words came as melody in my head, “Jesus said, take heart, it is I. Do not be afraid, do not be afraid.” (Thank you VBS musicians.) And then, soon after, these words sung by my husband, “These things are written that you may believe, that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. Alleluia.” Those words specifically are just a small part of our liturgy for Sunday morning worship. The rest of the verse from John 20 says this, “and that by believing you may have life in His name.” Life. That’s what I know I will hear.

Back to worship. Soon, very soon after I enter, I get the opportunity to ask for forgiveness. I don’t have to sit brewing in the ugliness of my sin in the presence of my Heavenly Father for very long before He says, “Bring it,” and I do and He says, “You’re forgiven of all of it. All. of. it.” It’s balm for the soul.

The pastor preaches Jesus. I’ve heard of more than one pastor, my husband included, being asked in exasperation, “Why do you have to talk about Jesus every week?” He better. Remember, I’m sitting in the pew and I need desperately to hear about Jesus. So do my children.

Our larger church body is quite incredible. Not only are God’s good gifts offered in my home congregation, but when I’m traveling, I know that I can be treated to the same feast in a congregation just like mine. I know that even though our friends and family across the world are thousands of miles apart, we’re all singing the same words and hearing the same promises. I know that we’re praying earnestly for one another. I’ve seen our church body work in times of trial and tribulation and while we mess it up more often than any of us would like, there are traces of brilliance in how we care for one another, because Jesus is always, always there.

Being new members in a new congregation has been difficult. For me. I cannot speak for my husband. He has a different relationship with the congregation and a different opportunity to know them than I do. But, I know under all the unfamiliarity of the people, is our God, the one true God whom I know and who better still, knows me. So while I fumble around in my new environment, I know that I can walk into worship and hear words like, “I know that my Redeemer lives,” and I am home.

The second.

I love my church because I’m reminded that my sinful self has been drowned in the waters of baptism. I’m offered forgiveness, life, and salvation through His body and blood and through His word preached in truth in purity. We hear Christ crucified and raised for us every single week. We hear how He is coming back. I cannot wait.


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a little bit of everything…i told you so

We have VBS at our church this week and I have a class of very active preschoolers that are all about motion and will not sit and wait for the story to be told in the manner in which our materials suggest. Yesterday I found a puppet skit that went along with our story. It was from the new One In Christ Lutheran day school curriculum. Have you heard about this stuff? It’s really quite marvelous and some tremendous writers spent a good many months working on it. (Insert little smiley winking icon that I have no idea how to add, here.)

Anyway, my puppet masters did such an awesome job, (my son and one of my favorite college students…thank you!) that I wanted to make sure I got to use them again today.

Internet search, “puppet skit Jesus walks on the water.”

Nothing.

Guess I’ll have to write my own.

I do my best thinking in the shower…I’ll be right back.

And, now, may I present, Jack and Maya and something about trust and Jesus saving us…

Jack: (mumbling under his breath and pacing back and forth)

Maya: Hi Jack. (pauses) Oh, you look worried. What’s wrong?

Jack: I, um, I have to do something today that really scares me!

Maya: What is it? What could possibly be that scary?

Jack: (looks around, then shouts at Maya) SWIMMING LESSONS!

Maya: Swimming lessons? That’s nothing to be afraid of! I took swimming lessons just last week and I loved it. My teacher was silly. She called me a fish!

Jack: But…I’m afraid. What if I can’t swim? What if I sink right to the bottom?

Maya: Oh, Jack, I was a little afraid when I had my first lesson too. That’s why your teachers are there. They keep watch over you and help you to do things you never thought you could do. Be brave Jack. Your teachers will keep you safe!

Teacher: Maya’s right, Jack! You should at least give it a try. Learning to swim means you get to have all kinds of fun in the water. Jesus has given you teachers that will keep you safe. That’s their job. Trust them. They will be right by your side the whole time. Jesus will too.

Jack: (exiting) I will try. But I’m not gonna like it.

Teacher: I think you might be surprised. Hey, come back after class and let us know how your lesson went.

*Story*

Jack: (runs into the room) Wahoo! Wahoo! Wahoo! I had a great time swimming today!

Maya: I knew it!

Teacher: Jack, I’m so glad to hear that! What did you get to do with your teacher?

Jack: Well first we jumped into the water and I was really scared, but you know what? My feet could actually touch the bottom of the pool! Then we blew bubbles and did these things called bobs and then guess what, guess what, guess what!!!

Maya and Teacher: What Jack?

Jack: (slowly and with anticipation) I…floated. I did it! And my teacher kept her hand on my back for a little bit, but then she said she was gonna let me try it on my own, and she took her hand away and…I did it! (singsong voice) I floated and I didn’t even sink!

Maya: I love floating! It’s my favorite thing to do in the pool…besides flutter kicks and glides and just wait until you get to dive for rings!

Jack: I. Cannot. Wait!

Teacher: Jack, I’m so glad you learned so much at the pool today and that you trusted the teacher that God gave you enough that you had a really good time too.

I think it’ll do, and hey, now I have today’s post done.

Here you’ll find a little bit of everything. You were warned. It’s in the tag line. I bet you didn’t expect a puppet show though.

You’re welcome! 🙂

 


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the mission field

The mission field is vast and wide and spans every inch of the globe, from your front porch to the exact same spot on the opposite side of the world. The idea of missions in my own neighborhood can be overwhelming, let alone the thought of reaching out to people that need to hear the word of God way over there.

Last night we got to talk with a family coming right out of the mission field. They are back in the U.S. after a year in Ethiopia and a year and a half in South Africa. We praise God for this family and families like them. The ones that go where I dare not. We ask God too for more of them. With Lutheran Christianity in Africa growing at lightning speed, there is currently one pastor for every 2,000 people.

If that sounds manageable, consider that there are 3,000 men serving 9,000 congregations and that a congregation isn’t what you and I think it to be. One congregation is made up of several groups that worship in various satellite sites within the same general geographic area. One man can only serve one congregation. That leaves 6,000 churches without pastors. We ask God too for men that can train pastors to meet the needs of their people while battling civil unrest and religious extremism.

These men are up against it and still, God’s word remains. God’s people are hearing the news of salvation and the church is growing.

Fascinating stuff.

Listen. Is anyone in your church saying softly, “Here am I. Send me?”

We need them. We need you.


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God answers prayers

If you scroll the realms of social media, somewhere along the way, on any given day you’ll see these words.

Most of the time, realistically about 99.9 percent of the time they will be followed by a joy-filled proclamation of healing and happiness. I hardly ever, never really, see a post about a newly diagnosed illness, or an accident, or any type of disappointment where these words are shared. No one ever writes, “Uncle Lester was hit by a truck. Our prayers have been answered!”

While I can’t imagine a scenario where Uncle Lester’s family would pray that he would get hit by a truck, be assured, even in crazy instances such as these God does answer prayer.

When we pray and we somehow bring ourselves to pray, “Thy will be done,” we admit an understanding that God’s will is sometimes painfully not even close to being in line with our own. But, when we pray and we can’t bring ourselves to say those words (believe me, this is me way too often!) God’s will is still done and our prayers are still answered. Understanding why He would choose for sin to have its way with us is tough, if not impossible, so we fill our human need for comprehension by just ignoring the thought that God might actually be saying, no, quite often really.

Oh be careful little mouths what you say. The happy, all is right with the world announcement that God answers prayers might make you feel better, but it leaves those who don’t get the answer they were looking for, lost. If he didn’t get the job, or their sister died anyway, or her car was totaled, maybe He hears everyone else’s prayers but just doesn’t care enough to listen to their own. It reaffirms for them the lies that the world is all too eager to shout down at them while they swim in the pit of despair. Your faith is weak! Our God is distant! You just don’t matter!

Baloney.

God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit answers prayer. His answers come in a variety of different forms, including “wait” and the just plain old emphatic, “NO!” And though those answers can be nothing short of devastating, they are answers just the same. And He is eager to give you strength and peace and hope even when the answer hits you like a punch in the gut.

He does love you.
He does hear you.
He does answer prayers.

Every. Single. One.


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what are you afraid of?

When I was younger it was the dark…and grasshoppers…and death.

Growing up, I lived in a home with an unfinished basement and whenever my mom would need me to get something from downstairs, I would accomplish the goal as quickly as humanly possible by running through the basement and then skipping steps back up to the safe zone of my home.

One summer we had a serious number of grasshoppers in our overgrown grass and I wasn’t that tall, and when those things jump up and look you in the eye, that’s enough to creep any small one out.

I’m no longer afraid of grasshoppers, and most of the time I’m pretty brave in the dark, but death still scares the you know what out of me. Most of the time I’m fairly calm and collected about it, but when I’m reminded about that farming accident that called that man of God home much too soon, or the heart attack that claimed that beloved teacher or that principal with a seemingly constant presence that unexpectedly came to an end, when I think of how close my children have been to being seriously injured on occasion, or my youngest and her knotted and wrapped around cord, when the “what if’s” get the better of me, death is nothing less than terrifying.

I wonder if you feel that way too. Even though your faith is strong, and your hope secure, I wonder if just the thought of death sometimes brings you to tears. Realistically, it probably should. Death is in no way our friend, even when it brings and end to suffering.

We saw a miracle yesterday morning in our church. My husband described it to the children in our congregation as the ultimate act of freedom. We were witnesses of the baptism of a child, another heir of the kingdom, getting her name written in the book of life, being freed from any eternal effects of sin and death. As part of the baptismal rite, these words are spoken, “So shall you stand without fear before the judgment seat of Christ to receive the inheritance prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” LSB pg. 271

There is no part of me that looks forward to the next inevitable call that someone we love has died. There is no part of me that has conquered that occasional fear for the future of their family, of my own. But there is a huge part, all of me really, that loves these words of comfort, that holds onto them with a white knuckle grasp, that rejoices with their loud and triumphant truth. Because this I know, when those I love who know Jesus stand before the judgement seat, when I stand there too, I do so without fear because of Christ the crucified and His victory that is now mine and yours and that little baby’s too.

Stand without fear.

I think I can do that.

Join me.

Lord, let it be so.


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can’t we all just get along?

I was sitting outside in my garden a week or so ago taking on Weed-fest 2014, when I saw it, a car filled with two couples, dressed to the nines. They got out, separated, and headed toward two homes directly across the street from my own. From the moment they stepped out of their car, I was fairly certain I knew why they had come, and I remembered this section from Peter.

“But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.” 1 Peter 3:14-16

Always be prepared to give an answer, to make a defense.

But, wait a minute. I don’t actually have to be prepared to give my answer. American religion says any answer will do. We are each welcome and encouraged to worship a god in whatever form we feel him/her/it/them to be. It makes no difference whatsoever what my neighbor believes to be true. It makes no difference what I believe to be true. We are both right.

Can’t we all just get along?

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The answer is yes…and no.

I’ve seen the stickers and I understand the meaning of the movement. It speaks out for peace in the midst of a chaotic society. It speaks tolerance in the midst of hatred. I do get it. It cheers for religious freedom, and I do love religious freedom. Without it, the likelihood that I would have even heard the name of Jesus is next to non-existent. I love the diversity with which God has masterfully created each one of us, body, mind, and soul. We are remarkable. I just think, no, I know, that if I truly believe, TRULY BELIEVE that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God, I should daily grieve that you do not. If I know that by believing this we all might have life in His name, I should talk till I’m proverbially blue in the face, till I know that you know it too. I should lose sleep over the thought that my neighbor may not be with me in eternity. I should hate whatever has kept you from the truth. I don’t want to just coexist. I want to love you and I want you to know of a greater love from a God, THE God, the one and only Father, Son, and Holy Spirit who doesn’t screw that love up, ever, even though His people often do.

I want to coexist, but I want to do it with you in eternity, through the blood of Christ which was shed for all humanity. Believe it. There is no other way.