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Perpetual Children

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I’m ready to be done with the toddler years. I mean, don’t get me wrong–I love my toddler like crazy, but I’ve had a baby or toddler in the house for nearly 14 years now, and it’s starting to wear on me. I’m over fun surprises like a fire starting in the bottom of the oven because my toddler thought it would be neat to stuff crayons into those nifty holes down there. I don’t particularly relish finding pins scattered across my carpet after my toddler got into my sewing kit. I’m not keen on finding hot chocolate powder scattered all over the bed and floor during so-called “nap” time. I’m done with temper tantrums and potty training and sippy cups and inane conversations. It sometimes feels like my kids will be children forever.
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Christmas isn’t about pomp and pageantry. It’s not about the gifts or the feast or how many people are in church. Christmas is all about God’s grace.

Sure, we get that, but what does that mean? To get a full picture of “grace,” join me in taking a look at the word in Greek. In this article I wrote for the Concordia Publishing House blog “The Word Endures,” I explore the nuances of God Extending Grace to us at Christmas and beyond.

 

Photo is A Blessed Birth by Carol VanHook

Christmas Wouldn’t be Christmas Without the Tree

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Whether you put yours up the day after Thanksgiving or wait until Christmas Eve, the Christmas tree is one of the most ubiquitous symbols of Christmas. Nearly every household in America has at least one tree. We see them in yards, stores, schools, businesses, and town squares. There are tree lighting ceremonies in many towns. One might say that Christmas woudn’t be Christmas without the tree. And in a very real sense, that’s entirely true.

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Come, Lord Jesus

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Have you ever noticed that the Church year ends where it begins? We celebrated the Last Sunday of the Church Year yesterday, with an emphasis on the end times as we wait for Jesus’ coming. This flows naturally into Advent, with its emphasis on–you guessed it–waiting for Jesus’ coming. Even some of the hymns are interchangeable, equally acceptable for both occasions. “Savior of the Nations, Come,” “Lo! He Comes with Clouds Descending,” “Come, Thou Long-Expected Jesus,” “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” and “Christ is Surely Coming,” show that we’re waiting for Jesus, whether His first advent at Christmas or His second advent when He returns. And let’s be honest. Waiting is hard for us.

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A Parent’s Love

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Our Saturday started out as a “normal” day, whatever that means in our household. My oldest was off with marching band, I gave the dogs a bath with the assistance of my sixth grader, and the girls were riding their bikes. Nothing unusual thus far. But while I was fixing lunch, my kindergartner burst in to inform me that my third grader had fallen off her bike and was bleeding. Okay, I’ve patched scraped knees before. I can handle this. But when I saw her, it wasn’t just her knees that were scraped. Her lip was bleeding too, and when I wiped the blood away I knew we were looking at a trip to the hospital for stitches. So much for a normal day. My entire afternoon was effectively wiped out by the hour-long trip to the children’s hospital and the time spent there, and I’m sure the bill from our ER visit will be exciting when it arrives, but it was totally worth it. After all, she’s my daughter.

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Snorkeling in Stormy Seas

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In retrospect, maybe it wasn’t the best move to try snorkeling for the first time in choppy waters. Every time a wave came at me, my instinct was to gasp in a quick breath. Breathing through my mouth into a snorkeling tube was completely unnatural, and immersing my face in the water while breathing through that tube was one of the most terrifying things I’ve ever done. I was sure I would drown. I didn’t have the rhythm of the breathing down yet, and the waves added to my discomfort. I was fairly hyperventilating into the tube, which as anyone can tell you, is most certainly not the way to snorkel. I clung desperately to the floatation device our instructor threw out, scarcely daring to let go when I dared to peer underwater. Once when I took my face out of the water, I spit out my breathing tube and promptly sucked in a huge mouthful of saltwater. If I thought snorkeling was terrifying before, I assure you, it’s nothing compared to the feeling I had after swallowing saltwater. I coughed violently and couldn’t take in air. I sounded like I was having an asthma attack (or maybe even like I was dying), so much so that our instructor swam over to me, ready to save my life. Yeah, nothing to see here, folks. Just your typical novice doing everything the wrong way. The trouble was that I wanted to trust myself and my own instincts rather than trusting the equipment to do its job.

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Sine Nomine (from the archive)

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(This post originally ran on November 2, 2015, but is entirely apropos for us as we again celebrate All Saints’ Day in the church year.)

I love All Saints’ Day. The Scripture readings speak of the saints in white robes around God’s throne in heaven, we recall the faithfully departed, and we sing some of my favorite hymns. One such hymn is “For All the Saints.” The words are so poignant that I get tears in my eyes every time I sing them. Even the tune name sounds majestic: Sine Nomine. Anything in Latin sounds scholarly, like there’s a great meaning or message there. Growing up, I knew nomine meant “name,” so I figured it was something like “A New Name” or “A Holy Name.” I didn’t realize until I was an adult what it actually meant- “Without a Name.” What? Obviously at some point, someone realized the tune wasn’t named and (quite originally) named it “nameless.” They did at least put it in Latin so it looks more sophisticated, but still. Without a name? Really?

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How Luther Went Viral

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By all rights, the Ninety-Five Theses really oughtn’t to have had the impact they did. Martin Luther was a relatively unknown professor doing a completely ordinary thing for someone in the academic world of his day. There was nothing unique about him nailing these statements to the door of the local church in Wittenberg. He wasn’t looking to start a reformation. He was merely hoping to spark a bit of public debate among his colleagues regarding the practice of indulgences. Yet within a few short months, the Ninety-Five Theses had been reprinted in Nuremberg, Leipzig, and Basel. While the originals were printed in Latin, Nuremberg also reportedly published a German translation of his theses, which was unprecedented. Copies were being widely distributed and read by not only intellectuals, but also commoners. The higher-ups were taking notice of this small-town professor, realizing something had to be done about him before he rallied more people to his cause. He quickly became a household name. Put in today’s terminology, Luther went viral.

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What a Relief

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It is difficult to explain to someone who has never had poison ivy what a relief it is to replace a used gauze bandage with a clean one. Poison ivy is rather a disgusting thing to have. A bad breakout is sort of what I imagine leprosy to look like. It blisters and oozes and makes your skin look like it was burned in acid. And as such, it needs to be covered with gauze to catch those oozing blisters. But you can’t just cover it once and be done with it. It’s important to change the dressing frequently and keep the area as clean as possible to optimize healing. I’m getting over a bout of poison oak myself, and during the worst of it, I had to put on a new gauze covering every morning when I woke up. The old one I had slept with overnight was dirty and crusty and sometimes even oozed through, but once I had a fresh, clean bandage on, I felt immediately better. Yes, I would eventually have to replace that one too, but for the time being, I had relief. In short, I felt clean.

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