Sunday, August 8, 2010

Czech Top 10

I've been doing a lot of brainstorming about my favorite things from the Czech Republic, and here's the Top 10 list with explanation.

10. Alfons Mucha
This man was a Czech painter who studied in Paris and painted all these wonderful, though washed-out, posters of beautiful women, such as the turn-of-the-20th-century famous actress Sarah Bernhardt.

9. Olynth
I'm not sure if this is only a Czech thing, but I've never seen it in the US. It's this incredible nasal spray that clears up nasal congestion within about 3 minutes of use and keeps your airways clear for about 24 hours. It was excellent when I was suffering with a head cold and couldn't breathe.

8. Water cookersIn Czech they're called "rychlovarná konvice" and they're electrical water pitchers. It's a much faster way to boil water for tea or for instant coffee than using a tea kettle on the stove. I used mine every day with my delicious instant Jacob's coffee. Yum.

7. Rohliky and Housky
These are the breadsticks and rolls that everyone buys fresh and eats every day. I'm REALLY going to miss them.

6. KrtekKrtek is Czech for "mole" and Krtek is like the Czech Mickey Mouse. He's the start of an animated cartoon for children. Mole's friends are a mouse, a rabbit, a hedgehog, and a frog, all named for what they are. The cartoon has no dialog, and the only sound is music and a toddler giggling.

5. Vepřo-knedlo-zelo
This is the Czech national dish. It's pork, bread dumplings, and Czech-style sour cabbage. It's delicious!

4. Kofola
Kofola is the Czech cola. During communism, the government didn't allow Coca-cola into the country, so this was the cola that everyone drank. When communism ended in 1989, Coke came in and overwhelmed Kofola, but in recent years, it's been increasing in popularity again. It's main flavor ingredient is anis, which is also the main flavor in black licorice.

3. Přání
Přání is Czech for "wishing," and it's tradition to shake hands, wish beautiful things and give blessings to a person on their birthday or name day, or saying good-bye to a person who's moving away. This is such a lovely tradition and a great way of honoring people and letting them know how important they are to you. The person wishing shakes and holds the hand of the one to whom he or she is wishing, looks them in the eye, and tells them everything they need to say. I had many wishes before I moved home.

2. Prague
The most beautiful, romantic city in all of Europe. I love it, but can't spend more than a couple of days there, because it's full of tourists. :)

The Silesian Evangelical Church of the Augsburg Confession (pictured is the current Bishop, Stanislav Pietak): This is the church with which I worked during my 27 months of field work as an LCMS missionary. It is by far my favorite thing about the Czech Republic: the church body itself, as well as the people which comprise it.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Stuff I Love, I'm Gonna Miss...

This is it: Mom and Dad will be rolling into Trinec tomorrow afternoon, and the fact of leaving here will become a reality. I'm kind of a zombie this afternoon thinking about it (and because we just finished our 3rd day of a children's English day camp which wipes me out). I've been thinking for a while that it'd be a good idea to do a series of blog posts about the things which I love most and will miss most about the Czech Republic in general, SCEAV and Trinec in particular.

Some of the things I'll really miss are kind of silly and small. There are some delicious cookies and crackers, amazing chocolates, and even a soft drink that I'm gonna miss. For some reason I was thinking recently about Christmas, and realized how much I'm even going to miss Christmas traditions that I've only known for two years. I'll miss Skoda cars and winding, single-lane, paved backroads. I'll miss seeing Javorovy peak every time I go jogging. I'll miss the big windows at school, gazing out over Trinec and the Beskyd mountains. I'll miss my kids, all my students.

I'll continue this train of thought and include more links, and even some of my own photos later. Tomorrow will be here before I know it. Oh my...

Monday, July 26, 2010


Last week was XcamP, my last overnight camp in the Czech Republic before I return to the US. XcamP is a week-long tent-camping evangelism event, organized by the SCEAV, which has been going on for 21 years now. It was my third time participating in the camp. Every year I've been the leader of an English language small group at the camp, and this year was the best year of the three.

Everyday, adults from the surrounding communities, many from SCEAV congregations, come to the camp to hear the main evangelism message during the afternoon program. This year I was asked to give a testimony on Thursday before the afternoon evangelism. What follows is the text which I read before the whole group of about 500 people on Thursday night.

Nearly three years ago I began planning to come to the Czech Republic as a missionary English teacher. I originally intended to be here for only 7 months. At the time, 7 months seemed a long time. Now, after the 27 months I've been here, it seems too short a time.

I came asking the Lord to make me a faithful missionary, that I would proclaim His cross to everyone I met, and to-- at all times-- speak and think and live according to His Word with no compromises. I came hoping and praying to be a blessing to the Church here and to be an encouragement in the faith to all of you. I can honestly say that I've tried, and honestly say that I've failed in these goals many more times than I have succeeded.

However, our Lord Jesus Christ has failed at no point. When I've been unfaithful, He's been faithful. When I've compromised, He's stood firm and unchanging. When I've been a discouragement, when I've despaired, when I've given up, He's always encouraging, hoping, and persevering.

My hope and prayer is still that my time here has been, and will continue to be, a blessing to you. I am sure that I have been the one who received the greatest blessings in the last two years. I continue to be overwhelmed by the gifts Christ has showered me with in your church. Through you, He has given me more encouragement, fellowship, friendship, and overwhelming love that I ever knew before. Through you, Christ has shown me the beauty of a church powered by prayer. He has given me a deeper understanding and appreciation of fellowship with other believers. It has been such a joy to be surrounded by so many Christians who constantly have nothing on their lips but Christ's praises and admonitions to trust in Him, because He is sovereign over everything in our lives.

In your church, the Lord Jesus has given me some of the most incredible friendships of my life, has blessed me with an entire home away from home and a second family.Thank you to all of you for welcoming me with open arms and making me feel at home, rather than a stranger in a strange land. I wish to tell you that I love you and your church very much.

With deep sadness I am returning to the United States in less than two weeks. However, it is my earnest desire and prayer that this not be the end of my relationship with you. The Lord willing, I will be back and continue our partnership in the Gospel.

My goal is the same today as it was at the beginning: to glorify and honor Christ in faithfulness to His Word and to encourage you.

I'd like to close by sharing the great love that I have for you in the words of the Apostle Paul to the Philippians:
I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace... For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.
Thank you very much.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Ready or not, here it comes...

June starts tomorrow, and what does that mean?

Allergy season! Woot, woo!

The itching and sneezing started two days ago. Only 6 weeks of this left. Praise God for the vocation of pharmacists and His providence in creating antihistamines. I don't know how I'd make it through the next month or two without my Zycam.

This looks nice, but really it's a nightmare.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Praying for Rainbows

While it's been overcast and intermittently rainy for two and a half weeks, and the rain started in earnest on Saturday night or Sunday. Flooding began in Trinec on Monday to the point that the roads and foot-bridges over the Olsa River are impassible and school has been canceled now for two days. At this point, it doesn't feel like it'll ever stop raining, and the forecast has rain all the way till Saturday. There are rivers in every ditch and lakes in every little low spot.
I walk across this bridge almost every day on my way home from school. The water is now higher, probably up 15 or 20 feet from normal.

This flood on the road under the train bridge is the reason school was closed for us. The city buses can't get through, the children can't get to school.

This is a pedestrian walkway under the train tracks in a nearby village.

This is a view of the Olsa River between the Polish and Czech halves of the city Tesin. Normally, the water is REALLY far below the bridge and you could probably walk across on flat rocks without getting your shoes wet...

This is the pedestrian underpass at the Cesky Tesin train station. There's not really another (legal) way to get from one side of the train tracks (and therefore the city) to the other if you can't walk through here...

Yesterday I was feeling a little exiled in my flat, and it reminded me of competing in Serious Prose as a high school freshman (Thanks Mrs. G!) with a Ray Bradbury piece, "All Summer in a Day", about a little girl who lived on Venus where it always rained, and the waters only stopped for one afternoon, once every seven years. Well, when the day came, and though she'd been waiting to see the sun for nearly her whole life, her antagonistic classmates had locked her in the closet and she missed the one opportunity to see the sun in 7 years. Just feeling SO separated from the joy of pleasant, enjoyable weather reminded me of the poor dear.

On a more scriptural note, I've been wondering what must have been going through the minds of the people outside Noah's Ark when the rain started to come down and didn't stop. Some people claim that before The Flood that it had never rained, that the Earth had always been watered by springs from below rather than rains from above. They must have been VERY distressed when the wet sky started falling down on them. That flooding came on them as a judgment for their massive wickedness. The difference between us and them, is not that we are so righteous that God shouldn't wipe us off the face of the earth as He did with them. The difference is that we live in the time after the Flood and after the Cross.

After the Flood, the Lord gave the rainbow as a sign and seal of His promise that He'd never execute judgment on the whole earth with a flood again. We know, unlike Noah's contemporaries, that this flood will not end all life on earth (though, sadly, there have been several confirmed deaths in all the flooding throughout central Europe) and we eagerly await the time when the sun will break through the clouds. Then a rainbow may appear in the heavens and remind us of God's faithfulness. I'm keeping my eyes on the skies, waiting for the clouds to break and the sun's rays to shine, refracting through the drops and giving the sign of the promise.
After the Cross, we have the further assurance that the Lord is benevolently disposed to us, in spite of our wickedness and rebellion against Him. All of the wrath which He might have poured out on us, He instead directed at His precious Son. And after His death and resurrection, as Christ was ascending to heaven again, the angels told the disciples of another sign for which they could look in the heavens, the promise of God's faithful keeping of promises: Christ returning on the clouds of glory to begin eternity without such things as floods, or tears, or sinning.

For this reason, I turn my eyes ever more eagerly to the skies. I'd dearly love to see a rainbow break through the clouds tomorrow (it's too late for today, the sun has set), I'd love to welcome the return of the sun. But my deeper heart's desire is to see my Lord breaking through the clouds, to welcome the return of the Son.
Come quickly, Lord Jesus!

Thursday, May 13, 2010

God has gone up with a shout (Ps 47:5)

Happy Ascension Day, everyone!

Up through endless ranks of angels,
Cries of triumph in His ears,
To His heav'nly throne ascending,
Having vanquished all their fears,
Christ looks down upon His faithful,
Leaving them in happy tears.

Death-destroying, life-restoring,
Proven equal to our need,
Now for us before the Father
As our brother interceded;
Flesh that for our world was wounded,
Living, for the wounded plead!

To our lives of wanton wand'ring
Send Your Spirit, promised guide;
Through our lives of fear and failure
With Your pow'r and love abide;
Welcome us, as You were welcomed,
To an endless Eastertide.

Alleluia, alleluia!
Oh, to breathe the Spirit's grace!
Alleluia, alleluia!
Oh, to see the Father's face!
Alleluia, alleluia!
Oh, to feel the Son's embrace! (LSB 491)

"So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, 11 and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” Acts 1:6-10

Lord Jesus, speed your return! Come on the clouds of glory to take your faithful home to you, to live forever in your presence and unending joy!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

On the death of a child

In the past number of months, I've become aware that a number of women I know (and their husbands) have experienced recent, or not-so-recent, miscarriages. My heart has been hurting to know what to say to them and how to say it. Then yesterday I stumbled across a post on Mercy Journeys with Pastor Harrison, the blog of the director of LCMS World Relief and Human Care. His is one of the blogs I love to read, and the post, which is mostly the text of a short item written by Luther, is a real gem. I'm only including the Luther text, but please head over to Pr. Harrison's blog to check out the full post. I hope you enjoy it, and if you have experienced this heart ache of losing an unborn or born-but-not-yet-baptized little one, I hope you are comforted by it.


A final word1—it often happens that devout parents, particularly the wives, have sought consolation from us because they have suffered such agony and heartbreak in child-bearing when, despite their best intentions and against their will, there was a premature birth or miscarriage and their child died at birth or was born dead.

One ought not to frighten or sadden such mothers by harsh words because it was not due to their carelessness or neglect that the birth of the child went off badly. One must make a distinction between them and those females who resent being pregnant, deliberately neglect their child, or go so far as to strangle or destroy it. This is how one ought to comfort them.

First, inasmuch as one cannot and ought not know the hidden judgment of God in such a case—why, after every possible care had been taken, God did not allow the child to be born alive and be baptized—these mothers should calm themselves and have faith that God’s will is always better than ours, though it may seem otherwise to us from our human point of view. They should be confident that God is not angry with them or with others who are involved. Rather is this a test to develop patience. We well know that these cases have never been rare since the beginning and that Scripture also cites them as examples, as in Psalm 58 [:8], and St. Paul calls himself an abortivum, a misbirth or one untimely born [I Cor. 15:8].

Second, because the mother is a believing Christian it is to be hoped that her heartfelt … and deep longing to bring her child to be baptized will be accepted by God as an effective prayer. It is true that a Christian in deepest despair does not dare to name, wish, or hope for the help (as it seems to him) which he would wholeheartedly and gladly purchase with his own life were that possible, and in doing so thus find comfort. However, the words of Paul, Romans 8 [:26–27], properly apply here: “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought (that is, as was said above, we dare not express our wishes), rather the Spirit himself intercedes for us mightily with sighs too deep for words. And he who searches the heart knows what is the mind of the Spirit,” etc. Also Ephesians 3 [:20], “Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think.”

One should not despise a Christian person as if he were a Turk, a pagan, or a godless person. He is precious in God’s sight and his prayer is powerful and great, for he has been sanctified by Christ’s blood and anointed with the Spirit of God. Whatever he sincerely prays for, especially in the unexpressed yearning of his heart, becomes a great, unbearable cry in God’s ears. God must listen, as he did to Moses, Exodus 14 [:15], “Why do you cry to me?” even though Moses couldn’t whisper, so great was his anxiety and trembling in the terrible troubles that beset him. His sighs and the deep cry of his heart divided the Red Sea and dried it up, led the children of Israel across, and drowned Pharaoh with all his army, etc. This and even more can be accomplished by a true, spiritual longing. Even Moses did not know how or for what he should pray—not knowing how the deliverance would be accomplished—but his cry came from his heart.

Isaiah did the same against King Sennacherib and so did many other kings and prophets who accomplished inconceivable and impossible things by prayer, to their astonishment afterward. But before that they would not have dared to expect or wish so much of God. This means to receive things far higher and greater than we can understand or pray for, as St. Paul says, Ephesians 3 [:20], etc. Again, St. Augustine declared that his mother was praying, sighing, and weeping for him, but did not desire anything more than that he might be converted from the errors of the Manicheans and become a Christian. Thereupon God gave her not only what she desired but, as St. Augustine puts it, her “chiefest desire” (cardinem desideriieius), that is, what she longed for with unutterable sighs—that Augustine become not only a Christian but also a teacher above all others in Christendom. Next to the apostles Christendom has none that is his equal.

Who can doubt that those Israelite children who died before they could be circumcised on the eighth day were yet saved by the prayers of their parents in view of the promise that God willed to be their God. God (they say) has not limited his power to the sacraments, but has made a covenant with us through his word. Therefore we ought to speak differently and in a more consoling way with Christians than with pagans or wicked people (the two are the same), even in such cases where we do not know God’s hidden judgment. For he says and is not lying, “All things are possible to him who believes” [Mark 9:28], even though they have not prayed, or expected, or hoped for what they would have wanted to see happen. Enough has been said about this. Therefore one must leave such situations to God and take comfort in the thought that he surely has heard our unspoken yearning and done all things better than we could have asked.

In summary, see to it that above all else you are a true Christian and that you teach a heartfelt yearning and praying to God in true faith, be it in this or any other trouble. Then do not be dismayed or grieved about your child or yourself, and know that your prayer is pleasing to God and that God will do everything much better than you can comprehend or desire. “Call upon me,” he says in Psalm 50 [:15], “in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.” For this reason one ought not straightway condemn such infants for whom and concerning whom believers and Christians have devoted their longing and yearning and praying. Nor ought one to consider them the same as others for whom no faith, prayer, or yearning are expressed on the part of Christians and believers. God intends that his promise and our prayer or yearning which is grounded in that promise should not be disdained or rejected, but be highly valued and esteemed. I have said it before and preached it often enough: God accomplishes much through the faith and longing of another, even a stranger, even though there is still no personal faith. But this is given through the channel of another’s intercession, as in the gospel Christ raised the widow’s son at Nain because of the prayers of his mother apart from the faith of the son. And he freed the little daughter of the Canaanite woman from the demon through the faith of the mother apart from the daughter’s faith.10 The same was true of the kings son, John 4 [:46–53], and of the paralytic and many others of whom we need not say anything here.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Prayer for a Homeland

"These all [Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham and Sarah] died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland... As it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city." Hebrews 11:13-14, 16

Abba, let us look for the city, the homeland You have prepared for us in the life to come with greater desire and joy and anticipation. Let not our hearts cling too tightly to any earthly home or promise of comfort or carefree days in this life. Help Your blood-bought children remember that we are citizens of the heavenly, eternal city, let us be mindful of that, and let us be the best ambassadors for the Kingdom of Heaven while we are here than we can. Let us strive with all your might for the service of all the residents of this world. Let us proclaim your excellencies that they might obtain citizenship in Your kingdom. Thank you for making us your own people, for calling us out of our rebellion against you, as you called our forefather Abraham out of Ur. You have done as you promised, you sent your Son, Jesus Christ, to crush the head of the serpent who deceived us and brought us death. You have destroyed death's dread grip on us and given us eternal life through the resurrection of the Lamb who was slain! Make us mindful of who we are and give us strength to battle against the many daily temptations which assail us in this our land of pilgrimage as we await entrance into the homeland which you have prepared for us.

Waiting for the true Promised Land

"But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul." 1 Peter 2:9-11

Friday, March 19, 2010


It wasn't good for Adam, and it's not good for me, though not necessarily for the same reason. I'm not hurting for companionship or pining for a husband-- at the moment, anyway (like Nebraska weather, if you want it to change, wait five minutes). No I'm thinking about the self-deception that comes from being alone.

I have a number of teen friends here who talk about how they feel like their biggest challenge to being Christians is having to live in homes with unbelieving parents. I've realized that one of the biggest challenges to my spiritual health as a Christian is actually not living with anyone else.

Living at home with family, with parents and siblings, is the kind of environment that is frustrating. There is conflict, everyone has manifold opportunities to hurt others and be hurt by them. This kind of frustration with family life, I think, causes many people to think that their families cause them to be bad Christians. I used to think that too. But now I've changed my mind. I'm just as bad of a Christian when I live alone as I was when I lived with my family.

The real difference is that when I live with my family, I can't hide from the fact that I'm a sinner in need of forgiveness. I routinely hurt others, get angry with them, and generally create all kinds of badness with my mind, tongue, and hands. All of that badness is still in me when I'm alone, but it's hidden. When I am sheltered from my own wickedness by so much alone time, something much worse than sinful human interaction happens. It's called pride.

Because I can look back at my track record and see that I haven't hurt or angered anyone for a matter of hours/days/weeks or haven't myself been angry with anyone for that time period, I start to think that I'm becoming a better person. I begin to fall back into the sin of thinking that I'm getting the hang of being a good Christian, that "I can just take over from here Jesus, thank you very much for your help to this point."

Some might say that it's preferable to be sequestered away from other people where we don't have the opportunity to sin against them or to have them sin against us in these ways, I respectfully disagree. Of course I'm not a proponent of doing damage to my loved ones. Instead of promoting family conflict, I'm saying that to not sin against people simply because one hasn't the occasion to sin against them does NOT make one more holy than the one who has the occasion to sin against others and succumbs to the temptation.

A bigger and better life, one more meaningful and more useful for growing up as a Christian, than living alone and being "good" is to live with people who are frustrating and difficult, to live in repentance and forgiveness with one another. Love decidedly does NOT mean never having to say you're sorry...

So I pray that the Lord will give me a roommate or roommates when I'm back in the US with whom I can practice Christian restraint and charity, humility and forgiveness, and that He will bless me in the long term with a husband and family who will challenge my pride and never let me forget that I'm a sinner who needs Him. May He do the same for you, too.


What a word. So small, and yet enormous. All. So much in the Christian life turns on that word and one like it, 'whole'. The one that is biting at me now, as I read Mark 12 is "all your heart" "all your soul" "all your mind" and "all your strength." We are to love the Lord our God in this way. With ALL our heart, soul, mind, and strength.

Really? All? As in "all" all? Yes. 100% is required of each of these elements of our human being.

What a word of law! Have I ever loved God, even for a moment, with all? With my whole heart? My whole soul, mind, or strength?

Not a chance.

Have I ever done ANYTHING full out, have I ever done anything with my whole heart, soul, mind, or strength?


No. Never. Except maybe love myself. Blech.

No, 99.44 % pure won't float with God's law.

"All" isn't exclusively a word of law. Neither is whole. 'All' and 'whole' in the following passages are great words of Gospel comfort:

"On this day shall atonement be made for you to cleanse you. You shall be clean before the Lord from all your sins. It is a Sabbath of solemn rest to you, and you shall afflict yourselves; it is a statute forever. And the priest who is anointed and consecrated as priest in his father's place shall make atonement, wearing the holy linen garments." Leviticus 16:30-32

"For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself. For the law appoints men in their weakness as high priests, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect forever." Hebrews 7:26-28

"Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God." Romans 6:8-10

"He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world." 1 John 2:2

"And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” Revelation 21: 3-5

So, therein lies my hope. I can't muster myself to love the Lord with all of my heart, soul, mind, and strength. But Christ, one who can and did love the Lord with his whole being, and loved His neighbors as Himself, 100% love, does the loving in my place. He has atoned for my lovelessness, for my utter lack.

All glory be to Christ Jesus who loves with all in our place!

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Sleepless Night

I'm experiencing the extremely unusual for me: a sleepless night. I really ought to be sleeping like a log or a baby, or anything else which sleeps deeply or soundly (I guess most babies don't sleep that way, do they?) because a new friend of mine and I went on a two and a half hour walk this afternoon. I blame my utter sleeplessness on indigestion caused by consuming too much cheese pizza and Coke at 10:30 PM. That's what happens when you go out with friends on a Saturday night.
I keep thinking of the Psalm that says:
It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil;
for he gives to his beloved sleep. (127:2)
and of course the sleepy, grouchy, little girl in me is pouting and feeling unloved by not receiving the gift of sleep from her Abba tonight. I suppose that I fall into the category of those eating the bread of anxious toil, however, and so perhaps it makes sense that I'm not sleeping.

I've had some things chewing at me for a few days, and I figure if I'm not sleeping, I ought to make the most of this time and do a little research to calm my anxious thoughts. A few days ago I had a conversation with someone who has been studying theology at a 'liberal' seminary and who has been steeped in the teaching of the JEDP method of exegesis. Basically, this is a method of Biblical interpretation developed largely in Germany during the late 18th and early 19th centuries, which assumes that Moses didn't actually write the Pentateuch (granted it is pretty difficult to believe that he himself wrote 34:5-12 of Deut., because those verses take place after his death...), but rather some other editor compiled the five books of Moses from 4 other sources, designated the Jahwist, Elohist, Deuteronomist, and Priestly writers. While most Biblical scholars today have greatly challenged or outright rejected this understanding of the Pentateuch, that hasn't stopped it from still being taught in some schools, including the one attended by my friend.

Just as in most times when things I have always thought or understood to be true have been challenged, I have been launched on a quest to learn the background of what I 'know' and what my friend 'knows' and which is the truth. I don't want to prove that I am right, I want to learn the truth. So, I am going to dive into research on several questions that arose in my mind as a result of our conversation and hopefully gradually write on what I have found here.

I pray that the Lord, who is in Himself the Truth, will grant that I find His truth as I search. May Christ be glorified in all and above all!

Monday, February 22, 2010

On Repentance

This being the season of Lent, the season of repentance, prayer and fasting, I've been thinking and reading a lot on those three subjects. Last night I was reading a bit of the Smalcald Articles (part of the Lutheran Confessions found in the Book of Concord), and came across two particularly great paragraphs that are definitely worth cogitating on for a while, and good to share, too.
This is really what it means to begin true repentance. Here a person must listen to a judgment such as this: "You are all of no account-- whether you appear publicly to be sinners or saints. You must all become something different from what you are now and act in a different way, no matter who you are now and what you do. You may be as great, wise, powerful, and holy as you could want, but here no one is righteous, etc." SA III:3

This repentance is not fragmentary or paltry-- like the kind that does penance for actual sins-- nor is it uncertain like that kind. It does not debate over what is a sin or what is not a sin. Instead, it simply lumps everything together and says, "Everything is pure sin with us. What would we want to spend so much time investigating, dissecting, or distinguishing?" Therefore, here as well, contrition is not uncertain, because there remains nothing that we might consider a "good" with which to pay for sin. Rather, there is plain, certain despair concerning all that we are, think, say, or do, etc. Similarly, such confession also cannot be false, uncertain, or fragmentary. All who confess that everything is pure sin with them embrace all sins, allow no exceptions, and do not forget a single one. Thus, satisfaction can never be uncertain either. For it consists not in our uncertain, sinful works but rather in the suffering and blood of the innocent "Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world" [John 1:29] SA III:36-38
May we, as we embark on the first full week of the Fast, remember these things as we seek to live lives of repentance: Everything with us is pure sin, even those things which look to us, and to others, like righteous deeds.

Christ have mercy and forgive it all!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Worship good for the soul

Who knew that sitting down at the piano and singing some great hymns would be so GOOD for me?

I've been in more or less of a funk for quite a while (and I don't pretend to think at this point that it's over just because I'm in a good mood for the moment). I decided this evening that I really NEEDED to take my hymnal downstairs and just sing and play for a while. This is always a good idea, and after tonight I can't figure out for the life of me why it isn't an idea that occurs to me more often.

I can't also figure out why I haven't (at least for a long time) paid attention to my need to worship the Lord in English. Of course, all corporate worship service I've had the ability to attend to for a very long time has been in Czech (or Polish), and I simply haven't taken time in SO long to have a hymn-sing in the basement. For some reason, I think I have deceived myself into thinking that my Czech is good enough that I don't need to sing in English (and what a fool I am for falling for that deception...).

So much of what we do in corporate worship, in opening our lips to speak the Confession, the Creed, the Lord's Prayer, and all the hymns, are times when our own lips are speaking Christ's Word into our very ears, when the Lord opens our mouths that we might minister to ourselves on His behalf. I just a week ago for the first time spoke the Lord's Prayer in Czech in worship, and I still don't quite have the Apostle's Creed down, so at least I'm always speaking those in English. I follow along with the Scripture readings in my Bible, but faith comes by hearing, and what I am hearing is still largely foreign to my ears. And the hymns? Forget it.

Well, I thought it about time to get some of the Epiphany and Transfiguration hymns sung (especially my favorite, 'Tis Good Lord to Be Here, LSB #414), before Ash Wednesday comes, Epiphany has passed, and it's "too late."
I was really struck again by the words of "Songs of Thankfulness and Praise" and what a walk through the season of Epiphany it is. I also discovered a new favorite, #416: Swiftly Pass the Clouds of Glory

Swiftly pass the clouds of glory,
Heaven's voice, the dazzling light;
Moses and Elijah vanish;
Christ alone commands the height!
Peter, James, and John fall silent,
Turning from the summit's rise
Downward toward the shadowed valley
Where their Lord has fixed His eyes.

Glimpsed and gone the revelation,
They shall gain and keep its truth,
Not by building on the mountain
Any shrine or sacred booth,
But by following the Savior
Through the valley to the cross
And by testing faith's resilience
Through betrayal, pain, and loss.

Lord, transfigure our perception
With the purest light that shines,
And recast our life's intentions
To the shape of Your designs,
Till we seek no other glory
Than what lies past Calv'ry's hill
And our living and our dying
And our rising by Your will.

Amen! May the Lord transfigure our perception by His light, the pure light of His Word, may He shape our lives by it that we look to and long only for the upside-down glory found in His death on the cross. May our glory be all in His righteousness imputed to us! May we boast only in His cross, because we have nothing else of value in which to boast, as everything else we have is only filthy rags. And may this boasting and glorying in 'unworthy' and 'inglorious' things be done in songs of thankfulness and praise to our dying and rising Savior!

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Future Plans

It was around this time last year that I wrote a blog post announcing my decision to extend my time of service in the Czech Republic. I cited the reasons why I thought I ought to stay and the process which I was about to begin in preparing to make that happen. I was filled with uncertainty about my future here, but I knew that's what I wanted to happen. I entrusted it to the Lord, and He made it happen. I'm so grateful and so glad. I wouldn't trade it for the world.

I love it here, I've learned so much of the language, fallen in love with the people, and had many incredible opportunities to share Christ with those who don't know Him. But after two years, it's time to move on. That's why this year I'm not making plans to stay. I'm planning to return to the US and to continue my education, to get some really solid theological and human care training so that I can become a deaconess in the LCMS.

I've completed my application to Concordia Seminary in St. Louis and am planning on sending it to the admissions office tomorrow. Last year I was hoping to still be in the Czech Republic in August, this year I'm hoping to move to St. Louis at the end of that month. Just like last year, I've got all kinds of uncertainty about it. I don't know that I'll get accepted to the deaconess program, but as before (as always) I'm trusting it into the Lord's care. Should I be accepted, excellent, praise God. Should I not, okay, praise the Lord.

Please join me in praying that God would have His way and that I will trust Him, come what may.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Weeping with those who weep

Oh Haiti! My heart mourns for your disaster, for the utter devastation that the earthquake has wrought. The pain and the loss and the questioning "why?" I weep for you as you search the rubble of a razed city, seeking desperately for survivors, hoping to recover more alive than dead. This surely is a season for mourning, the season for dancing will not come till long from now.

Haiti, how I long to come to you, to show you sympathy and to comfort you. But I am able to look at you only from this far off place. I don't recognize you, your face distorted now like the face of dear old Job, which in his affliction was unrecognizable to his friends. Like his friends, I long to raise my voice and weep, to tear my robes and sit with you, dust on our heads, crying to heaven. I would sit with you silently a week, speaking nothing, for I know that your suffering, too, is very great.

But when our week would pass, I would not open my mouth to accuse you of your sin. I would not presume upon God's purposes to explain that your forlorn condition is your fault. Of course, sin is the cause of all wickedness and suffering in the world. But I know that those whose blood Pilate mixed with their sacrifices, and those on whom the Tower of Siloam fell were no more wicked than I. So I presume not your guilt in your adversity.

Though I would not accuse you, I am still as wicked a friend as Job's. Your affliction is not new. Your troubles have assaulted you for many days. And I have done nothing. I have not had compassion, I have not had a care for you. Have I prayed for you? Have I made your plight known? Have I done anything within my small might to assist? No. Please forgive me, even in the midst of your present anguish. I repent.

Would that I could set it all right, that I could wind back time and somehow prevent such horror from befalling you, even the first horrors you experienced before this week. I cannot undo what has been done. But I do know One who is making all things new, whose task it is to restore all things to the peace, glory, and perfection of Eden, even better, to bring them to fullness in the kingdom of God, the new heavens and new earth, wherein dwells righteousness.

Cling to Him in your trouble, the only Christ who has suffered for you even as you are suffering, who died for you even as many of you are dying. Jesus lives for you, and because of Him, you will again see life. He will turn your suffering into hope. Let this be my wise counsel and word of comfort to you.

And I will mourn with you, but not as one without hope.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Thought for the New Year and a Resolution

On New Year's Day I read this marvelous long quotation from C.F.W. Walther, the founding president of the LCMS during my devotions using the Treasury of Daily Prayer. It's long, but I think it's worth it. Enjoy!

"Should the christian stand all day long at the grave of all joys which he enjoyed in past years? Through Holy Baptism a great stream of joy has been conducted in his heart, which does not drain away, but streams forward with his life until its waves carry him into the sea of a blessed eternity. Should the Christian be reminded all day long that the flowers of his youth fall more and more? He stands planted by God in the water of his Baptism as a palm tree which becomes greener and greener and whose leaves never wither. Yes, his Baptism makes death for him like a short winter's nap, out of which an eternal spring-- an eternal youth-- follows.

"For Baptism is a bath that washed me not only once when I received it-- washed me pure with Christ's blood-- but it continuously washes me clean even daily for as long as I hold it in faith. For just as that same water of the flood drowned the sinners, but Noah with his relatives were brought to salvation and carried to Mount Ararat, so also did the water of my Baptism drown my sins, but my soul was brought to the eternal mountain of divine grace. And just as once those same waves of the Red Sea, which swallowed up Pharaoh and his army, were a protective wall for Israel, so also has my baptismal water swallowed up all of my damnation and is for me a sure wall before God's wrath and punishment...

"Now then, all of you who believe in God's Word, let your watchword for entering the new year be this: 'I am baptized!' Although the world may laugh at this comfort, the enthusiasts vex its confidence... nevertheless, abandon any other dearly held pledges and speak only throughout the entire year to come, in all terrors of conscience and necessity through sin and death: 'I am baptized! I am baptized! Hallelujah!' And you shall prevail! In every time of need, you will find comfort in your Baptism; on account of it Satan will flee from your faith and confession; and in death you will see heaven opened and will finally come into the joy of your Lord to celebrate a great year of jubilee, a year of praise, with all the angels forever and ever. Amen!"

So, I've decided that my New Year's Resolution is this: to remember daily the promises I've been given by God because I've been baptized into Him, to daily drown my old nature, to flee from sin and to Christ, and to live a life of service to my neighbor because of the great love Christ has shown me. May God grant it!