Jun 8, 2018

Fugue

By Rebekah Curtis


"A Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra" has been a regular in my car for years. Our recording is of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra under the direction of Leonard Bernstein. I don't pay close attention to the variations after this many hundreds of grocery trip concerts, but I always find myself listening again at the end. Benjamin Britten's Fugue is almost more than I can handle.

The piccolo starts, pipey and frantic, desperate to get in her say while she can.

The other woodwinds follow, just as panicked, trampling their little sister. Her fears were the same, and are now realized.

The violins swoop in, snooty and self-important as always. They are so sure of their superiority as to barely allow a fair entrance to the steadfast, modest, and (let's be honest) more personable cellos.

Basses . . . um, yes, I can hear somebody down there now . . . oh, no--the violas! Well, I guess they made it on their own again. Next time I am for sure going to cue the violas!

HARP. You are so weird, harp. Say your piece.

And, OK, the whole brass family is terrible. But surely the French horns ought to know better than to blast their way in like this!

Of course the squirrelly trumpets are even worse,

and the trombones are as close as they can get to outright honking without Leonard having to stop the whole thing . . . 

the tuba's probably doing it too but it's become such a blaring jumble we can't even tell if we should be scowling at him. Seriously, is there a score here or is everybody playing whatever fool thing comes into their heads? 

And now, just what we need: percussion. I might have to stop the car.

Jun 1, 2018

Meditations on the Vocation of Motherhood (Review)

Review by Alison Andreasen

Marie MacPherson’s recent devotional book for mothers, Meditations on the Vocation of Motherhood, provides readers with approximately 140 devotions based on Old Testament texts, each of which is accompanied by a familiar hymn verse. The devotions are short, easy to read, and filled with Law and Gospel. Many connect the liturgy we hear on Sunday to our lives during the other days of the week. Marie also includes several appendices. Among them are Luther’s Small Catechism, a hymnal conversion chart, recommended resources, and several personal writings by the author on topics she has experienced (including the death of a young friend with small children, watching her own mother battle dementia, and suffering miscarriage).

I appreciate this devotional book for several reasons. First, difficult texts and topics are not avoided. Marie deals with very real, messy, dirty truths of life in a broken world. Yet she also embraces the truth that we live in the midst of a world being redeemed--a world in which beauty, joy, and the promises of God are real. Several pages of my own copy are dog-eared so that I may return often to Marie’s words regarding specific battles I face in my vocation as mother.  Her devotions featuring several psalms were especially good.

I also enjoyed the depth of content, both Law and Gospel, that the author was able to achieve. Each devotion is only a page long, yet there is much packed into that space! It is truly satisfying to read one devotion in the morning and spend the day contemplating and meditating on God’s Word. She wastes no time in long stories or illustrations. For a person likes me who appreciates substance without too much fluff, it was just right!  

The book does assume that mothers want to provide for their families by cooking for them, shopping, possibly but not necessarily homeschooling, etc. Marie is not trying to convince women to live out traditional gender roles, but her writing is most applicable to those who find their days filled with “traditional” tasks.

Confessional Christian mothers know the difficulty of finding devotions that provide the balm of Christ’s healing to us battle-weary mothers. We long for the Law and the Gospel and this devotional reminds us that Christ lived and died for us. The reminder is good for our entire families. When we feel the rest God’s grace provides, we can better share it with our children and husbands. Meditations on the Vocation of Motherhood serves to remind us of that grace and point us to our Lord’s words: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavily laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matt. 11:28) I will be pointing many friends to this great resource and I encourage you to check it out, too.  



***

Alison lives in rural South Dakota where she enjoys life on the prairie as a dual parish pastor’s wife and mother of four. She loves locally grown food, foraging with her family, reading classic literature she's never read before, and day dreaming. Her passions for theology and children have led her to create resources for families that can be seen at Good News for Olive Shoots


May 22, 2018

A Lutheran Ladies' Summer Reading Challenge

By Deac. Mary J. Moerbe


Summer reading challenges first caught my eye once my children started to read. Suddenly a challenge for them could mean an easier time for me. But now I’ve grown very fond of the summer reading challenge precisely because it is something I can do for myself.

As a young mother, I hear the phrase “take care of yourself” frequently. Frankly, it reminds me of a joke: “Out of all my body parts I feel like my eyes are in the best shape. I do at least a thousand eye-rolls a day.” If I always knew how to take care of myself, I wouldn’t be in such need for self-care. And if I had time to pursue what I wanted to, I wouldn’t need to be reminded to do so.

Reading, however, is both outlet and inlet. Out flow the noise and frustrations of the moment. Out flow the multitasking, decision-making, and multi-relational aspects of the day. In flows a renewed awareness of detail, relationship, character development, and the passage of time.

A reading challenge need not hinge on the prescription of others that one ought to read such-and-so-many books. It can be both extremely personal and entirely open, tailorable to one’s own needs and situations.

Here’s a set of summer reading challenges that I made up for you to consider this year. There are neither prizes nor pressure, just the promise that the house will be ok if you read a while today. The people in your house may seem a little less demanding if you can find a little space in a book and a little time for yourself. And you may really benefit from just having your feet up and your eyes off a screen.

Ultimately, the challenge in a summer reading challenge isn’t finding and reading books. The challenge is choosing to seek personal time, personal  development, and emotional catharsis. It’s a reason to get out of the house to go to the library or to pursue a little literary retail therapy.

Reading friends, I can’t raise a glass to you all. That would have disastrous consequences! I can, however, raise a page, a paragraph, and the footrest of our recliner, wishing you all the very best this summer and always. May all the blessings of Christ be yours, as well as a girls’ summer reading challenge, if you are up for it.


***

Mary J. Moerbe is an LCMS deaconess and writer. She blogs to encourage Lutherans to write at “Meet, Write, and Salutary,” and her books can be found on the website of Concordia Publishing House.

Apr 6, 2018

A Little Update

Dear Readers,

The blog has been quiet lately, but things are busy at my house. Mussmann Baby #3 is charming us all with his cuteness. He's not exactly sold yet on the idea of sleeping at predictable times or letting mom write much, but I have hope for the future. This post is a start!


The cutest writers' block ever (in his baptismal gown).

Meanwhile, I am learning how to parent three kids at once. It helps that the older two love their baby brother.

Mar 30, 2018

The Impossible Existence of Good Men


By Rebekah Theilen



Love, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. When I was a growing up, being raised in a family with Baptist roots, Billy Graham was Billy Graham. There were no others. But if you watched his funeral, held beneath a tent in humble North Carolina, you saw that there were many others. He was the trusted confidant of American presidents. He was friend to Cliff Barrows, Grady Wilson, and George Beverly Shea. He was grandfather to 19, great-grandfather to 44, and on and on he goes into the coming generations. He was “Daddy” to five—Gigi, Anne, Ruth, Franklin, and Ned. He was husband to wife, Ruth, for over sixty years.

In death and in life, we delight in true stories of family and friends. In these weeks since Billy Graham has met his Lord, I’ve found myself watching his old crusade videos, and listening to interviews with people from his life. Interview after interview, one begins to notice a commonly-asked question: “What was it like?” People want to know what it was like to be the friend, the child, or the wife of Billy Graham. Not only was this man deeply loved, but he was highly revered throughout the world, and—though it feels cheapening to mention his name in relation to such minor statistics—was even named on Gallup’s Most Admired Man list more times than any other man since the 1940’s when the listing began.

In an age where heroes have gone extinct, we as a people are hungry for goodness. Billy Graham’s life, changed by the Gospel, was focused on showing us the only place to look. Investigating skeptics might examine Graham’s life, hoping to uncover a secret or scandal. But I think they’re looking for something more. When it comes to the people of pulpits and pedestals, the ones who would seem to us larger than life, we are wanting to know that we aren't alone. We are watching to see if these people are human. And while we’re comforted knowing these humans have faults, we don’t want our leaders to ever let us down. We want to believe in not only the unlikely, but even the impossible—that good men still exist in the world.

Feb 23, 2018

Why Lutherans Are Like Two-year-olds

By Heather Smith

Why is truly the basic human question. Only beings with reason can ask it. Animals don’t care. In fact, we might say the curiosity to know why is the defining characteristic between animals and humans. Animals act upon instinct. Humans act upon reason. Thus, when we as humans do not care to understand the whys of life, we make ourselves, in a way, more like animals than proper human beings. The person who ceases to wonder why limits life to the shallow pleasures and pains of the moment, lapping up the fun when times are good and whining with discontent when things get unpleasant.

We needn’t look far to see such painfully limited lives. The world is full of them. So is the Church. Individualism has taught us to follow our desires rather than our reason. Secularism has instructed us that there is no meaning beyond this life. Pragmatism has indoctrinated us to do whatever works—never mind why. The innate human impulse to ask why (which we all possessed in abundance as two-year-olds) has been trained out of us by the idols of our age. We no longer trust that the world is a rational place worth trying to understand. Our culture is in a crisis of apathy and ignorance, and we must not imagine that we are completely immune to this epidemic.

The good news is that the cure is quite simple: Ask why. Look at the world and wonder about anything and everything, as many times a day as possible. Why is this potluck dish made of marshmallows, pudding, and fruit considered a salad? Why does the word salad look so much like salary? Why do my children study social studies but not history in school? Why do I want my children to be educated, anyway? Why is this television show so popular? Why does it not bother anyone that it contains so many openly immoral characters? Why is the sunset especially vibrant this evening? Why have I not noticed the sunset in so long? Why is the world filled with so much fury and so little contentment? Why do I believe my life can be different?

Keep asking enough whys and you are certain to discover that all questions ultimately lead to God. It could not be any other way. Since why is a quest for meaning, it must lead us to God, who is the source of all meaning. Hence the quintessential Lutheran question: “What does this mean?”

Feb 16, 2018

A Note to Our Lovely Readers

Hi Everyone,

As you may have noticed, things are a bit quiet on SDMW this month. Life may stay that way for little while. One of the reasons involves the imminent arrival of a new Mussmann baby.

I look forward to doing more blogging once I am able! Feel free to send submissions as usual--I look forward to reading them and responding as I have time.

Blessings,

Anna

Why You Should Marry Someone Who Laughs at the Right Things (from our archives)

By Anna Mussmann

Last Valentine’s Day, one of my Facebook friends shared this quote from Timothy J. Keller’s The Meaning of Marriage: “To be loved but not known is comforting but superficial. To be known and not loved is our greatest fear. But to be fully known and truly loved is, well, a lot like being loved by God.”

Mr. Keller is right. I am married myself, and it is an amazing thing to live with someone who knows more about my flaws than anyone else does, yet continually lives out his marriage vows by loving me anyway. I am deeply grateful that I am able to experience the blessed estate of marriage. It is truly awesome.

Yet finding a spouse isn’t always easy. In fact, in a world filled with marital strife and divorce, it is downright scary. Many young people have reacted to this by delaying marriage and waiting for someone who is perfect enough to sweep away all of their fears. Unfortunately, like unicorns, perfect spouses are extraordinarily elusive.

I have heard many debates about the qualities that Christian young people should really be looking for in a prospective spouse. I would suggest that the list be kept short. The items at the top are (or ought to be) pretty obvious. Find someone who recognizes his or her own sin and who rejoices in Christ’s forgiveness. Find someone who treats others kindly and whom you would trust to raise your children. Find someone whom you are willing to try to love, no matter what, even though he or she is flawed (note that this is really about you more than it is about the other person). In addition, I would like to point out one more trait that I think makes married life more pleasant for everyone.

Find someone who laughs at the right things.

Feb 13, 2018

The Law We Don't Like Hearing

By Ruth Meyer

You’ve shown them, all these moments, that the phone is more important than they are. They see you looking at it at while waiting to pick up brother from school, during playtime, at the dinner table, at bedtime . . . .

Those words are from the article “Dear Mom on the iPhone,” which made quite a splash in 2013 when it was first published. Judging from the number of shares I saw on Facebook, it struck a nerve in a lot of people, reminding parents that they’re sending a powerful message when they continually choose their phones over their children. I was certainly convicted, because there are times when I get caught up in my own phone, ignoring my children when they’re right in front of me.

Ah, but then came the rebuttal, “Dear Mom on the iPhone, You’re Doing Fine.” For good measure, more than one response came out, all defending moms on iPhones, and it seemed that the more rebuttals there were, the easier it was to dismiss the first article and the twinge of conscience it produced. Moms everywhere breathed a collective sigh of relief. See? I’m justified in checking my phone while my kids play! Don’t judge me! The conscience-pricking article was replaced by the more palatable message of the second. Of course some women use their phones too much, but I probably don’t. Whew!

Humans have an innate need to feel good about ourselves. We want desperately to believe that other people make mistakes; other people need to change, but not us.

This phenomenon has infested the Christian mindset as well. The Law seems very antiquated indeed. Focus on God and His love instead. Sermons that speak of sin in a generic way are okay, but let’s not get too specific. We squirm in the hard pews if the pastor starts talking too strongly against homosexuality or cohabitation. After all, we don’t want to offend anyone or be seen as unloving and intolerant.

And what if the pastor gets even more personal, aiming at sins that infect our own hearts and minds, such as gossip, coveting, lust, hatred, bitterness, etc? How do we respond? Do we flee to God in repentance, asking him daily for the strength to battle against our sinful flesh? Or do we remind ourselves that we’ve been forgiven and carry on with life as usual? Paul addresses this in Romans 6:1-2: “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?” Indeed. Just because Jesus has forgiven us doesn’t mean we don’t struggle with sin. And sometimes we need to hear the Law in all its severity to realize how many of our own sins we have learned to ignore. We dare not dismiss the Law or gloss over it by thinking, Well, God knows I’m not perfect. I’ll always sin, no matter how hard I try. The main thing is that I’m forgiven.

Feb 6, 2018

Yes, We Should Ask Each Other More Questions

By Alison Andreasen

I live in a small, rural community where many of us are related by blood or marriage. Every now and then you hear that someone is sick or dying. I could make a fortune if I charged a dollar for every time someone says, “Well, I never knew!” or “No one would have guessed!”  

How is this even possible? In a small town where we know each other’s names, you’d think everyone would know about each other’s struggles, too. But we don’t. Maybe our independence is a remnant of the pioneer mentality that proved useful many generations ago. Some people like to be private--both when times are good and also in times of difficulty. But, perhaps there is another reason we aren’t aware of what is going on in the lives of those around us: We have stopped asking each other questions. And why have we stopped asking questions? I think there are several reasons.

First, we forget that people aren’t stagnant, never-changing creatures. For example, we think that happy-go-lucky neighbor who helped us move into our house is still the happy-go-lucky neighbor, just several years older. That grouch living on the corner has always been that way and will always be that way.

We all know this not to be true of ourselves. We are always changing: happy one day, sad at the loss of a loved one the next. The same is true of others. Our neighbors near and far are humans in flux. We do a great disservice to their humanity when we expect them to be more like machines that never change.  

Second, we tend to be narcissistic, and when we see others acting differently toward us, we assume it has something to do with us. We think that they may not like us anymore, or that they don’t want us to bother them. Yet, deep down, we know that this might not be the case. It is more likely that the new attitude has nothing to do with us, but rather is an outward reflection of their own internal struggles.
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