Miriam Jeanette

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Miriam Jeanette Caauwe was born this afternoon at 4:26pm. She weighed 7lbs., 14 oz. and measured 20 3/4 inches.

We knew she was coming for nine months. We made plans. We anxiously waited. But it always amazes me how quickly new babies go from an idea, an unknown individual, to a dear person who suddenly becomes the object of my love and affection. Not that I didn't know that she was an individual in the womb. Not that I didn't love her yesterday. But something is different this evening as I think about what has happened today and how everything has changed for this little one and for us, now seven of us. Now she has a name, and a face we can see. And in the years ahead, we have a million ways we can now show our love to her, by caring for her needs and by being father and mother to this one who is now so small. And perhaps that is what has changed from yesterday to today. Now we have these concrete ways of showing our love.

But it strikes me that God doesn't work that way. He doesn't/didn't wait for us to even be born before he showed his love for us in the most concrete way. In the birth of a child—his, not ours—he expressed love to those yet to be born. In acts of obedience and acts of love to others, with bloody nails and spear, with an empty cave, God acted in love before we ever came on the scene. "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you," God told Jeremiah.

And all the while we (and our children) were in the womb—known to our parents only in their imagination, God knew us and loved us before and while he knit us together in that womb. What an extraordinary and concrete act of love! So this whole process of birth seems to be God's way of introducing to us the one he has known all along.

What an awesome joy it will be then, to re-introduce this one (whom God knew from eternity) to her heavenly Father, not simply as one of his (fallen) creatures, but as one who has been washed and clothed in the blood of His Son. It will be a joy to bring her to Holy Baptism, to be marked with the name of God and the cross of his Son.

Reading

One of the reasons excuses for the infrequency of my blog posts recently is that when I am home in the evening (especially after the kids are in bed), I have been trying to get some reading done. Actually, I've been pushing hard to read through a number of books for several months now. You might have noticed that I have a running list on the blog (right column, "Recent Reading") of the last ten books that I have read. In a way, keeping that list has kept me going. All of those books were read in the last six months. Many of the books have links to Amazon where you can buy them. If I thought the book was really good, it might have made it to my "Recommended Books" list (also on the right column).

But another thing is that I have a stack of books in my study at church that I intend to read, and there are some really good books in the "queue" but I'm forcing myself to read them in the order that added them. The other motivating factor is that the queue is growing faster than I can read. I got several books as Christmas gifts, and it might be May before I get to them. We'll see.

Planned Giving & Baptism

This past weekend, my uncle was in El Paso. Uncle Harry is a Christian Giving Counselor for the Arizona-California District of the WELS. His job is to help individuals and congregations make plans for their giving. So he met with our church council to introduce the concept of a congregational endowment fund and he presented a seminar on Christian estate planning. So really, he was in town on business. But we managed to have a nice visit while he was here. Sara and I went out to eat with him on Friday night and I had lunch with him before he left on Tuesday.

Uncle Harry is also my baptism sponsor, my godfather. Well, it just so happened that the Sunday he came to visit was the 1st Sunday after the Epiphany, when we observe the Baptism of our Lord. And this quarter I am using the adult level materials in our Sunday School curriculum, Growing in Christ, for our Sunday morning Bible Class. The lesson was The Baptism and Temptation of Jesus. The last question in the lesson was this: What does it mean to “remember” our baptism? How do sponsors help us with that, and how do we as sponsors help those who are baptized to remember their baptisms?

Baptism
So I had the opportunity to share with the class what my sponsor did for me that has helped me remember my baptism. I asked how many people remembered when they were baptized. Not many. That's pretty typical. Most of the time when people fill out membership application or information forms, the spot for their baptism date will have a year and maybe a month. But most people seemed to think that a baptismal certificate would be the best way to find out. 

I mentioned that I don't know where my baptism certificate is. I've been told that it might be in a safety deposit box in Nebraska. So I don't have a certificate, but I do have something that is probably just as good. I have a letter that my uncle wrote to me on October 22, 1978—the date I was baptized. The letter introduced me to the family. He mentioned the "vicious rumor" that I didn't have red hair like so many of my siblings and cousins, but he suggested that lots of carrots and beats would take care of that.

Obviously, the letter didn't mean much to me way back then, but even now as I remember my own baptism, I have this concrete reminder. Uncle Harry wrote, 

Perhaps my first welcome to you should be to an even bigger family, the adopted sons and daughters of Jesus, our Savior. You're too young to know it yet, but that's the best family of all to be a member of. When your pastor put that water on you, he made a very special person out of you. When you get old enough to understand it, your mom and dad will explain it all to you. It also made a rather special person out of me and your Aunt Johanna. We're you're sponsors and we're very proud to be a part of your life. We'll keep you in our minds and in our prayers.

I have lately become very fond of the hymn, "God's Own Child I Gladly Say It." We have always tried to help our children remember their baptism and to talk about what it means, especially as they grow older. This hymn has been so helpful encouraging to me, and gives me even more reason to teach that. Our kids know at least the first stanza of this hymn, and it brings me great joy to hear them singing it, especially to hear little Lydia singing those precious words, "I am baptized into Christ!"

God’s own child, I gladly say it: 
I am baptized into Christ! 
He, because I could not pay it, 
Gave my full redemption price. 
Do I need earth’s treasures many? 
I have one worth more than any 
That brought me salvation free, 
Lasting to eternity!

Sin, disturb my soul no longer: 
I am baptized into Christ! 
I have comfort even stronger: 
Jesus’ cleansing sacrifice. 
Should a guilty conscience seize me 
Since my baptism did release me 
In a dear forgiving flood, 
Sprinkling me with Jesus’ blood?

Satan, hear this proclamation: 
I am baptized into Christ! 
Drop your ugly accusation; 
I am not so soon enticed. 
Now that to the font I’ve traveled, 
All your might has come unraveled, 
And, against your tyranny, 
God, my Lord, unites with me!

Death, you cannot end my gladness:
I am baptized into Christ! 
When I die, I leave all sadness 
To inherit paradise! 
Though I lie in dust and ashes 
Faith’s assurance brightly flashes: 
Baptism has the strength divine 
To make life immortal mine. 

There is nothing worth comparing 
To this lifelong comfort sure! 
Open-eyed my grave is staring: 
Even there I’ll sleep secure. 
Though my flesh awaits its raising, 
Still my soul continues praising: 
I am baptized into Christ; 
I’m a child of paradise!

Interesting Things

I recall Professor Deutschlander talking about the wisdom of using personal stories in the pulpit. His comments pointed out that the things in a pastor's life that are really interesting are not the kind of things that you can share with a lot of people. And so the stories that you are free to tell are probably not as interesting as you might think. If that's the case, people will probably think that you lead a pretty boring, shallow life.

I have sometimes thought about that in regard to this and other weblogs of pastors. I sometimes feel as though I have nothing to write—even though there are plenty of interesting things going on in my life and ministry. (Or at least I think they are!) But so many of the really interesting things would not be appropriate to share.

I suppose the good thing about this format (a blog) is that I can tell you all about the things that seem interesting to me (that I can share), and you can decide for yourself if it's interesting to you. This is not a sermon, where the stakes are a little higher and where the things that I share ought to really be significant—and not just to me. So I guess by reading this you are taking the risk of reading some rather trivial things, but hopefully not all of it.

Now ordinarily, talking about the weather would be a triviality, but frigid temps in some parts of the country is a pretty serious deal for some of you. I heard on the news that some colder weather might be headed our way in the next couple days, but it hasn't yet. I didn't even put a coat on today, and I ate my lunch outside at church today. It was quite nice in the sunshine. 

I've never been one to complain about the weather—wherever I have been. But I have been enjoying the weather here this winter. I understand that it usually gets a little colder here, but I'm appreciating the regular sunshine. Modesto had more clouds and fog and rain in the winter, even though the temps were about the same. I don't remember minding Midwest winter weather, either, and there is a part of me that misses it—even when the temps are as frigid as they are now. And if I ever live in that climate again, perhaps I'll appreciate it again, but for now I'll just appreciate 60's in January.