Friday, August 29, 2014

Large Catechism: Short Preface Part 2

Read the Large Catechism with me.  
Ten-minute studies on short readings from the Large Catechism.  
Let's do this.
Click on the link below and read the short assigned reading.  Then, if you have time, check out what I have to say about it.  If not, no problem.  Just soak up the goodness of the LC.

Short Preface Part 2: Click here and read The Ten Commandments of God, The Chief Articles of Our Faith, and the Prayer Which Christ Taught (through paragraph marked 19)

The basics:
- The Ten Commandments
- The Creed
- The Lord's Prayer
- If you aren't willing to learn these, you are not to be tolerated (in the words of Luther)

My thoughts today:
You just completed what Luther is saying you need to do everyday (or twice or three times...) when he speaks of meditating and reciting the Catechism.  This takes such little time.  Memory work is good for your brain, and what better memory work could there be than these basic parts of the faith.  This doesn't have to be difficult.

For an example, this is how it looks in our home on most days (not all days, because we are sinners and fail at this often) -

Each night at bedtime, we bring the kids into the boys' room, turn off the lights, and sit with them in their beds.  We do the following short service:

Leader (L): In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
All (A): Amen.

L: The Lord Almighty grant us a quiet night and peace at the last.
L: It is good to give thanks to the Lord.
A: To sing praise to Your Name, O Most High.
L: To herald Your love in the morning,
A: Your truth at the close of the day.

A: Recite the Ten Commandments
A: Recite the Apostle's Creed

L: Prayer - thanks for the day and gifts, individual prayers for those in need, prayers for our parents, siblings, and godchildren.
A: Recite the Lord's Prayer
A: Recite Martin Luther's Close of the Day Prayer
A: Amen

L: Let us bless the Lord.
A: Thanks be to God.

A: Sing two to five hymns chosen by the boys

Goodnight kisses abound.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Large Catechism: Short Preface Part 1

Read the Large Catechism with me.  
Ten-minute studies on short readings from the Large Catechism.  
Let's do this.
Click on the link below and read the short assigned reading.  Then, if you have time, check out what I have to say about it.  If not, no problem.  Just soak up the goodness of the LC.

Short Preface: Click here and read the first two paragraphs marked 1-6

The basics:
- The three parts: the Ten Commandments, the Creed, and the Lord's Prayer are for all children and all Christians to learn.
- It is the duty of the father of the household to examine his children on these chief parts.  He is responsible for teaching the Catechism to his household.
- Anyone receiving Communion must know these chief parts.

My thoughts today:
Today, I am actually going to link to someone else's thoughts, because they are awesome.  So, go ahead and read about a father's responsibility to his household in the words of my dear friend, Rev. Jordan McKinley.  His article also helps me to remember my husband is my theological head, and it is my responsibility to listen to and learn from him.

While reading, remember this:
If your home does not have a father in it or has a father who refuses to fulfill his God-given duty, please recognize your own responsibility to stand as head of the home in place of God's ordered design.

Find Pastor McKinley's article here:
The Most Neglected Part of the Small Catechism

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Large Catechism: Introduction Part 3

Read the Large Catechism with me.  
Ten-minute studies on short readings from the Large Catechism.  
Let's do this.
Click on the link below and read the short assigned reading.  Then, if you have time, check out what I have to say about it.  If not, no problem.  Just soak up the goodness of the LC.

Introduction Part 3: Read paragraphs 14-20.

The basics:
- We are a sinful bunch - people who know we live with the devil and all enemies and yet we fail to see the importance of daily repetition of the sword He gives us - His Word.
- If we think we are beyond the daily studying of the LC, than we are calling ourselves more educated than even God Himself, as He is the One who teaches these same lessons day after day.  He needs nothing new, and neither do we.
- If we knew the Ten Commandments perfectly, we would know Scripture perfectly.  Luther calls the entire Psalter thoughts and exercises of the First Commandment, and he refers to the Catechism as a brief summary of all of Holy Scripture.

My thoughts today:
I love when someone points out how awesome I think I am.  It really brings me back to real life.  The basics of the faith seem just that - basic.  Except the more I learn about them, the less I know.  The more I learn about what sin is, the greater I see my sin.  The more I learn about Christ's death on my behalf, the more I seek out knowing about the Gospel. It is good for the soul.  

The basics are not basic as in easy.  They are basic as in a necessary foundation which must be daily reviewed and studied. Daily reviewed and studied even when we don't think we need to anymore. No, actually ESPECIALLY when we don't think we need to anymore.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Large Catechism: Introduction Part 2

Read the Large Catechism with me.  
Ten-minute studies on short readings from the Large Catechism.  
Let's do this.
Click on the link below and read the short assigned reading.  Then, if you have time, check out what I have to say about it.  If not, no problem.  Just soak up the goodness of the LC.

Introduction Part 2: Read paragraphs 7-13

The basics:
- Luther recognizes his own high education and yet inability to master even the LC.
- Luther suggests reciting the Ten Commandments, the Lord's Prayer, the Creed, the Psalms, etc. every day or more!
- The Holy Spirit is present in our repetition and meditation of the chief parts of our faith.
- You cannot find a greater stench for the devil than the daily reading of God's Word and recitation of the Ten Commandments, the Lord's Prayer, the Creed, the Psalms, etc.  He despises this and is unable to be near you because of it.
- Luther is hilarious, and says awesome things like, "pelted with dung."  He is serious.  This stuff is serious.

My thoughts today:
Luther is truly amazing at making me realize what a poor miserable sinner I truly am.  One of the ways he does this is by not smoothing over my sin of neglecting the daily meditation of God's Word.  

Life is really busy.  We all fail at this, right?  So, no big deal, right?  It is just part of our sinful nature!  
NO!  It is a big deal.  It is a "deserving of dung throwing" kind of big deal.  

And it isn't like God says, "Yes, read this stuff because I want to make your life even more difficult.  I want to give you one more thing to do and one more thing to feel bad about not doing."  No.  He says, "Hey, this stuff will make the devil hate you.  It will fill you with the Holy Spirit.  When you are filled with the Holy Spirit, the devil has no power over you."

There is a large group of Christians who spend a lot of energy trying to figure out how to be filled with the Holy Spirit.  Luther reminds us here that we need look no further than the daily recitation of things as "simple" as the Ten Commandments, the Lord's Prayer, the Creed, and the Psalms.  

Monday, August 25, 2014

Large Catechism: Introduction Part 1

Read the Large Catechism with me.  
Ten-minute studies on short readings from the Large Catechism.  
Let's do this.
Click on the link below and read the short assigned reading.  Then, if you have time, check out what I have to say about it.  If not, no problem.  Just soak up the goodness of the LC.

Introduction Part 1: Read paragraphs marked 1-6.

The basics:
- The LC is for all Christians, but specifically written for pastors and preachers.
- Luther calls out all pastors who find the studying of the catechism to be unnecessary.
- Luther calls out all Christians who think they can learn the catechism once and move on with life.
- Luther speaks against the idea of being able to learn the faith simply from a book and neglecting our duty of listening to our pastors.

My thoughts today:
Being Lutheran is awesome.  I feel incredibly blessed to be a part of a church body with an educated clergy.  Not every church body can say that today.  But, as Luther reminds us here, even the most educated pastors are not done learning the LC.  You should expect your pastor to be extremely knowledgeable about the LC.  He should read it often.  He should study it.  You should find him in his office with his nose in the Book of Concord often.  Don't be tempted to say, "What is he doing just reading?  He should be out spreading the Gospel!"  For indeed, he should be doing that, as well.  But of what use is the spreading of a Gospel by a pastor who is not filled with the correct language of the faith?  Just as Luther says, your pastor has the responsibility and privilege of reading the LC, reading the Bible, and praying for you.  That is his job.  His calling.  He is your shepherd.  So, encourage your pastor in the faithful reading of the LC.  Ask to have a study around it as a church.  Read it yourself.  Ask him questions about it.

I have failed at this.  I consider myself a relatively educated layperson, but I have yet to read hardly any of the Book of Concord.  I often say that Lutheranism gave me a really great pair of glasses to read the Bible.  The language of the faith and the pure understanding of the tenants of the faith focus our eyes when reading Scripture.

I have really bad theological vision, and therefore, I am thankful for the gift of a pair of glasses.
I perceive that through this study of the LC, I will be getting a much higher prescription.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Large Catechism: Read it with me

I like to write series for my blog.  Not for you, the reader, but for me, the writer.  It makes me actually stick to a plan.  I feel like I have a responsibility to complete something when others are watching.

I have tried to join groups reading through the Large Catechism (LC) before, and quite frankly, I make it through a week and then get bogged down in life.  The assignment of a huge section and then discussion is somewhat overwhelming for me.

So, here is the plan.
You and I are going to read the LC.  The entire thing.  Stick with me here.  I plan to make this doable for you and for me.  I will write a post with a link to the two-and-a-half to four-minute reading (depending on your speed) and my commentary on whatever my mind wanders about while reading.

Since I know you love the wanderings of Kelly's mind.

The whole reading of the LC and my post should take less than 10 minutes.  A 10-minute study.
You can do this.
I can do this.

The only thing is, this will take approximately 90 posts.  You have to have some dedication here.
Stick with me.  It will be worth it.  The LC rocks.
If you don't have time to read my writing, no problem - at least read the section of the LC assigned for the post.  Really, who am I?  You don't need to hear what I have to say.  You do need to know what Martin Luther had to say.

I won't post everyday, but I will try to post at least 5 times per week.  I can't make any promises.  I do have three small children, you know.

In 18 weeks, you and I will be able to say we have closely read the entire LC.
Seriously.  18 weeks.  Before Christmas.  You can do this.

Game on.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Reality: My dirty little secret.

We have decided to home school.

And, no, that is not my dirty little secret.  Although, with as much anger and confusion as it seems to produce in some people, maybe it should be.

This is not going to be a post about all the reasons you should home school, because I can't make that argument for you.

This isn't even going to be a post about all the reasons we chose to home school, because after countless conversations with my husband about how we can succinctly answer that question without offending, we decided maybe we just won't answer that question quite yet.  We are certain of our decision for our family, and we decided our certainty is enough.

Nope.  This post isn't any of those things.

This post is about a hidden, inner Kelly.  The Kelly that covets and questions and thinks about herself most of the time.  She isn't very nice.  You probably wouldn't like her near as much as the Kelly you might love.  My husband knows her.  My kids know her.  She rears her ugly head around the house more often than I like to admit.

You see, that Kelly really wishes her kids would get to an age when they would go away to school for awhile each day.  She had thought for years that when her kids were in school, she would go back to work.  She would try to get some of her professional credentials back in order and make a run for that president of a university thing she always wanted.  Sure, it was pretty far out of reach with the time taken off to raise her kids to school age, but there was still a chance for her.  She likes to think pretty highly of herself.

Or even before they were all gone for awhile each day, at least one or two would be away.  She really wishes she had a little more time to herself.  She thought it would be so much easier when they went away to pre-school or K.  Then, there would only be a couple of them.  A couple is nothing to her now.  She could totally read books with a couple around.  She could totally talk on the phone with friends with only a couple to occupy elsewhere.  She was really looking forward to the freedom.  She likes to do what she wants to do.

Now, she has been chosen over.  Her kids and their education and their religious knowledge and their choice of peers have prevailed.

And the truth is, it hurts.  My dirty little secret is I am mourning the loss of the life I never lived.  The life out there.  The life where I didn't have to give up so much.

But then I remembered -

We make sacrifices for our children.  This is what good parents do - whether they work or stay home or send their kids to private school or public school or home school.  We are each called to sacrifice for those whom God has given us.  

Kelly (the one who thinks highly of herself) and Kelly (the one who is - by the grace of God - somewhat more humble) both agree with her husband - home schooling is the right decision for us.  It is a decision worthy of sacrifice.

And when I am able to control the more selfish part of my nature, I know the joy of my children experiencing the real me everyday - sinner and saint, selfish and humble - far outweighs the joy of the life I could live out there.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Reality: The Peace of Three

Having three kids is peaceful.  You might not hear that one everyday.  In fact, you might not ever hear someone udder such seemingly ridiculous words.  Come to think of it, you might call me crazy for even saying them if you saw my house on any given day.

It doesn't look all that peaceful.
Believe me.
Peaceful brings one to think of quietness and gentleness and cleanliness.
My house is none of those "ness"es.

But my spirit as a mother is finding its way here with three.  It is finding its groove.

I have spoken with other mothers of three and the experience seems to be similar.  Mothers who hope and plan for more and mothers who know their blessings of new children are finished.  Somehow, number three makes a profound impact on the soul of a mother.

I believe the difference is the wisdom that comes from children.  They are wise and they share it.  Children trust and give and believe so much deeper than adults.  Maybe a very small portion of that wisdom rubs off on parents.  Maybe mothers absorb it along the way.  It makes us see the world differently.  It makes us understand excitement.  It makes us stop questioning everything and start breathing in the moment.

On child one, I spent hours google searching about sleep patterns.  I knew I was the only person in the world with a child who would not sleep.
On child two, I spent hours google searching second child sleep patterns.  I knew I was the only person in the world with two children who would not sleep.
On child three, I don't spend hours google searching much of anything.  Granted, some of that comes from the lack of time to actually spend hours google searching, but most of it comes from the peace of three.

I have watched my four-year-old grow into this amazing young man.  I have seen him sick.  I have seen him healthy.  I have held him for hours, days, weeks.  I have missed him after he has fallen asleep.  I have longed for one more hug.  Time passes, and they grow and change.

By the time number three comes, number one has shown you just how quickly it really goes.  And sure, every elderly woman in the grocery line tells you that it goes quickly, and someday maybe I will learn to listen to the wisdom of those aged mothers...

But some lessons you must learn by living.
Some lessons you must learn through the wisdom that rubs off of those small people.

No one can tell you to cherish the every hour feedings.
No one can tell you to forget about sleep patterns and just love and hold your babies.
No one can tell you that this phase too shall pass.
No one can tell you that the years are short and the days are long.

Instead, the wisdom just keeps rubbing off.  Mothers keep gaining more, and we find our peace.
And somehow, believe it or not, life becomes more peaceful with three -

even when it doesn't feel like it.
even when it doesn't look like it.
even when you have a day when all you want to say is, "Will everyone please stop touching me for one single second!?"

Even then, life is somehow more peaceful.

But, you know, I can't tell you that.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Reality: On Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Contentment

We live in a culture obsessed with happiness.  Do whatever makes you happy, right?  Happiness is a goal above all else.  And then worse, we turn someone else's pursuit of the all-hail King Happiness into a selfish statement about me me me.  "As long as it doesn't hurt me, do what makes you happy."

We are quite conceited, aren't we?  First to think that doing whatever we think will make us happy will, indeed, actually produce results.  Then to think that someone else's unrealistic ambitions of making themselves happy really depends on whether or not that thing will hurt me.

I hate to break this to you.  We don't make ourselves happy.  We never have.

What we do is strive for more and always think we have less.
What we do is look at another's gifts and think we were cheated.
What we do is lust for forbidden fruit and think it will satisfy our needs.
What we do is seek happiness and always fall just a bit short.

The truth is we will never be happy if our goal is happiness.  Whenever we get what we think will make us happy, there is always something else just out of reach.  Happiness is exhausting.  Happiness is empty.  Happiness is a pursuit unworthy of our valiant efforts.

True happiness only comes through contentment.
True contentment only comes through the perfect following of God's Law and plan...

That means I have to trust that God has given me all I need.
That means I have to perfectly love my neighbor even when he has so much more than me.
That means I have to completely give myself to the only one God has given me in marriage.
That means I have to rejoice in the gifts given to another rather than wanting them for myself.

So, my pursuit of contentment falls pretty short.  My greatest efforts at finding contentment will always be just out of reach in this life, because I am a sinner.  I don't always trust God's gifts.  I don't always love my neighbor's success.  I don't always give to my husband.  I don't always resist wanting more than I have been given.

Thanks be to God that contentment and happiness are found in recognizing our own failings and rejoicing in the Christ who took all of them upon himself.  When we say, "As long as it doesn't hurt me," He says, "Crucify Me instead."  When we say, "Do whatever makes you happy," He says, "Come all you who are weary and I will give you rest."

True rest.
True contentment.
True happiness.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Reality: A New Normal for the Schuett Family

The glass doors slid open.  Inside was a whole new world - a world full of people who wish they weren't a part of it.  A world full of real people living real lives - the kind of people you never think you will know.
I am speaking of the spinal cord injury wing of the hospital.  This experience, like so many in life, is pretty impossible to understand unless you are one of the patients or family members inside those doors. 

On April 25th at exactly 1:09 AM, Carolyn and her grown son, Larry, awoke to a very loud crashing noise in their new home.  This was their third night there - boxes yet to be unpacked, rooms full of piles of their belongings.  They opened their bedroom doors, turned on the lights, and saw Danny (Carolyn's other grown son and Larry's younger brother) lying at the bottom of the stairs.

"I can't move my arms or legs!  I can't move anything."

Those were the only words he shared then, and when asked of his greatest struggle today, three full months later, he still replies, "I can't move my arms or legs.  I can't move anything."

This is the story of one family living under the cross, suffering a tragedy most of us will never understand.  This is the story of Carolyn Schuett and her two sons, Danny and Larry.

Danny is diagnosed as a quadriplegic.  He broke his neck between the C3 and C4 vertebrae when he fell down those stairs three months ago.  He is unable to move his body from the neck down.  His respiratory system is struggling.  He has a tracheotomy in order to breathe correctly.  At night, he is on a ventilator.  Just today, three months later, he had his first extended trip outside for 45 minutes.  He was able to see and feel the warmth of the sun on his face.  He was able to catch a little breeze.  Those seemingly small things are moments of joy for Danny today.
Three months ago, Danny was thinking about unpacking his belongings in his new home, going to work each day through a temp agency, and spending time with his mother and brother.  Today, his mother and brother spend every day from 7:30 am - 6:00 pm sitting next to him in the hospital.  They feed him, change him, roll him, lift him, push him, and love him (in the most action-filled love one can dream to see). 

Life is a new normal for Carolyn, Danny, and Larry. 

For many years, Carolyn worked in an office just below her son's hospital room.  She did secretarial work for nursing administration and medical services.  She saw the names of many patients come over her desk.  She saw families come and go.  She filled out forms for people she would never meet.  Today, she passed by that office on our walk together and said, "I should have listened more back then.  I didn't realize I would need so much of that information someday for my own son."

Carolyn's husband and Danny and Larry's father died in February of 2013.  For a year, the three of them provided end of life at home care to their cancer-stricken husband and father.  Little did Carolyn and Larry know, their experience would start to prepare them for this new life they were about to lead.
That is, if anything can ever prepare one for such a task.

Life is a new normal for Carolyn, Danny, and Larry.

"I don't know what people do without faith." Tears roll down Carolyn's cheeks.  She continues, "I know God's promises.  He doesn't promise us no suffering.  He does promise us His Son."  The tears come faster now.  I kneel at her feet with my hand on her knee.  I hear crying from behind me and turn to see Larry comforting Danny as they both cry. 

The suffering is great.  The burdens are heavy.

"I'm 82 years old now.  82.  Lord, give me extra strength." 
You can hear her thoughts -
"What happens to him when I die?" 
"How can I care for my son the way he needs?"
"How will God provide for us?"
"WHY GOD??????  Why him and not me?  Why can I walk and my son cannot?"
"I wish it was me."

The love of a mother.

Larry looks determined.  "When he comes home, Medicaid will cover 12 hours per day of a nurse.  I can do the other 12.  Is that a lot?  Do I wish I had some more help?  Sure, but I can do 12, because that is what he needs."  Larry has dedicated the rest of his life to caring for his brother.  Three months ago he knew nothing about breathing machines and lifts and bed sores and muscle therapy.  Today, he has a plan.  He learned a new language - a language of medications, tracheotomies, catheters, and technology. 

The love of a brother.

Life is a new normal for Carolyn, Danny, and Larry.

The new home they moved into three days before the accident needs some changes before Danny comes home.  A team from Messiah Lutheran Church in Charlotte, NC, built a ramp outside their home.  Larry shows off the picture of the new ramp with pride.  Carolyn donated her living room furniture to make room for Danny's at-home medical room.  She has plans to remove the sliding doors from her deck for Danny to sit outside in his wheelchair.

Life is a new normal for Carolyn, Danny, and Larry.

Danny tells me,  "I have dreams about eating at Golden Corral!"  His brother adds, "Didn't you dream about vanilla ice cream on top of a raspberry doughnut the other day?"  They smile and share a laugh.  Recently, he has been able to eat banana pudding.  When I smiled and said, "Banana pudding never tasted so good," he smiled and his eyes lit up for a moment. 

Danny used to find great joy in playing church league softball.  He is an avid sports fan - The Miami Dolphins, the Chicago Cubs, the Chicago Bulls, and NC State University.  His face lights up when you speak of any of them. 

Golden Corral.  Church league softball.  Standing up to cheer for your favorite team.  The simple things. 

"What do you pray for, Danny?"
"That I will be able to move my arms and legs again.  That I will be able to eat again."
The humble prayers of a man who lies in bed and cries, "Why, God?  How could you let this happen to me?"

Life is a new normal for Carolyn, Danny, and Larry.

They hear the stories of real people who have defied all odds and moved again.  They meet the woman who became a nurse after her four months of being paralyzed following an accident. 
They were healed.  They walked again. 

There is some hope in those stories, for sure. 
A hope for healing someday.  A hope for a sense of normalcy.

But more than those stories, this family knows of the paralyzed man lowered through a ceiling to be healed by Jesus.  But before Jesus heals his physical needs, Jesus does the greatest healing for the man - He forgives him of his sins.  If you had asked this man or his friends or his family what his greatest need was, the answer would probably have been to walk.  Thanks be to God He knows our greatest need better than we do. 

Danny, too, is forgiven. 
Danny was washed in Baptism at St. John's Lutheran Church in Lagrange, IL, as a baby. 
Danny received instruction in the faith at Ascension Lutheran Church in Charlotte, NC, as a child.
Danny received the Body and Blood of Christ for the forgiveness of his sins at Abundant Life Lutheran Church in Charlotte, NC, as an adult.
Danny, even now from his hospital room, receives visits from his pastor in the stead of Christ.

Someday, Danny knows he too will be healed physically - on this side of eternity or when he comes face to face with his Healer, Jesus Christ.  But before Jesus heals his physical needs, Jesus does the greatest healing for the man - He forgives him of his sins.  Thanks be to God!

Life is a new normal for Carolyn, Danny, and Larry.
Here is how you can help them in their new normal -

For Carolyn, for Danny, and for Larry, we pray, Lord, have mercy.  Christ, have mercy.  Lord, have mercy.  Heavenly Father, we ask You to send the hands to care for this family, the resources to provide for this family, and the faith to endure the suffering for this family.  We pray for healing for Danny, and strength for Carolyn and Larry.  In all things, may your good and gracious will be done.  Amen.

Donate time and talents.
If you are near Charlotte, NC, consider donating meals to the family.  If you have medical training, consider donating your time for personal relief for Larry and Carolyn.  If you have construction experience, consider donating your time for remodeling the Schuett home. 

A fundraising page has been set up for the Schuett family at this address:  Any donations will be helpful in providing nursing care, home remodeling, and purchasing updated devices and assisted technology to aid Danny in everyday life.