Tuesday, May 24, 2011


Digging through some old papers yesterday, I came across a form letter I'd sent out to friends about five and a half years after my oldest son was born, which would have been 23 and a half years ago. Strange tune, it. However, it does its fair share of describing young fatherhood and also describes reasonably well my oldest son, at age almost six. Here is some part of the tune:

....Colin wants to know what "excessive" means. He wants to know what "Contras" are. He's listening to the world around him. His parents are getting nervous. He wants to know what's the price of Heaven. He knows there is one because he was digging around for that baby bunny we buried last year and couldn't find it. We are glad he couldn't find it.

He's singing songs but changing the words. The Roche Sisters tune "Older Girls" has become "Only Girls" to C. "Wheel me down to the willow ground" becomes "will me down to the wheel ground" when he sings it. He wants to know what the wheel ground is. "Bugs" in his strange lexicon are "bungs." He's listening and learning, storing things away for just the right moment to embarass his parents...

C is also getting longer. It is getting harder to transfer him from the bed he falls asleep in to the bed he wakes up in. Although no Kareem, he is to his parents still growing like a weed. Ask Deb who tries to keep him in clothing.

Clothing. The war cry from Deb these days is..."NO MORE! This is the last time I buy you clothes that you won't wear!" Colin has his own taste in dress. He has definitely started a new trend in fashion that has eclipsed anything anyone has heretofore conceived of. Some of our more interesting friends have taken to observing C and trying to imitate his sense of style and color. It is hard to imitate genius, however. Clashing blues is his specialty, especially when he has an unusually early morning. When given a chance to wake up normally--say, ten o'clock--he is often found sporting three or four long-sleeve T-shirts. Hey! You never know what the weather is like out there! Lord knows you can't trust what your parents tell you.

I took C to one of my Dad's Chanters concerts. This is a group of rather elderly gentlemen, slightly out of tune but singing their hearts out. Not a five year old's ultimate dream. There were a lot of elderly people in the audience of seventeen hundred at this concert. I felt underaged. It was ninety degrees in the concert hall. Colin was wearing, at least to my knowledge, his Karate Kid pajamas (he refuses to acknowledge this) and some corduroys. Ten minutes pass. There is some singing. To my left is my mother. To my right is some serious squirming. C tries to sing along. He says he's hot. Off come the Karate Kids. Under it is a long sleeve shirt. He stage whispers to my Mom that he can take off three shirts and "still not be naked." There are snickers, now, among the elderly. Another two shirts come off. There is a pile in the aisle. He's now down to a short sleeve T-shirt and still roasting. By now the focus of attention around us is, shall we say, no longer on center stage. Intermission is hours away. Any minute a spotlight will be redirected onto my son. During the next song Mom, me, and the Kid bundle out of there with C's wardrobe in my arms...

...The fact is, ole dance-in-the-nude Colin is The Man around here...He has gone beyond accepted methods of doing business. He's developed a look. He has this dark sideways grump put on when things aren't going so great. The look says it all. It says that my opinion polls are way down. It says that one more morning of being awakened and dumped at the breakfast table without a blanket may be his last. It says that he and the dogs are considering a recall.

Of course he has his better days. Yesterday I picked him up early from school and we hopped on our bikes and did a few miles. It is a trick riding behind Colin. You have to have your wits about you, no doubt! Colin has to talk and ride and jump around and sing about Jesus (he doesn't really know the words) and dodge in and out like the guy in the RAD movie (He's seen it a thousand times). His is a little two-wheel bike that just fits his little shrimp legs perfectly. He is excited! He learned to ride one day about two months ago in the Stoughton High School parking lot, chosen because it was big and at the time, empty. It took two minutes for him to "learn" to ride his bike, and several more days to learn. He still doesn't get on his bike without the help of Dad, or a curb. But once mounted...!

A month after learning we did a 28 mile excursion along an abandoned railroad bed bike trail. Can you imagine riding 28 miles in first gear? That is about what Colin did on his little bike. Those legs just pumped all day! He didn't do badly on the falls, either. Every so often--and very often toward the end of the trip--he would suddenly veer off the path in the underbrush, completely disappeared but for a plaintive cry for help...

Monday, May 9, 2011

The Perils of Prayer

I admire those eighteenth-century Hasids who understood the risk of prayer. Rabbi Uri of Strelisk took sorrowful leave of his household every morning because he was setting off to his prayers. He told his family how to dispose of his manuscripts if praying should kill him. A ritual slaughterer, similarly, every morning bade goodbye to wife and children and wept as if he would never see them again. His friend asked him why. Because, he answered, when I begin I call out to the Lord. Then I pray, "Have mercy on us." Who knows what the Lord's power will do to me in that moment after I have invoked it and before I beg for mercy?

Annie Dillard, The Writing Life

The Perils of Work

The youth gets together his materials to build a bridge to the moon, or perchance a palace or temple on the earth, and at length the middle-aged man concludes to build a wood-shed with them.
Alas, a good description of the vigor and at-large unrealism of my early days as a woodworker. There was nothing I could not eventually do, given time and the right materials. "Time and love have branded me with its claws," wrote Bob Dylan. Craftsmanship is like this, I think. If you don't start with passion and a vision completely out of sorts with what is possible, you don't end up accomplishing anything. Yet the irony is, what you accomplish is so out of sorts with that original vision, it is difficult to consider it anything but a woodshed. So it goes.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


Ashenden sighed, for the water was no longer quite so hot; he could not reach the tap with his hand nor could he turn it with his toes (as every properly regulated tap should turn) and if he got up enough to add more hot water he might just as well get out altogether. On the other hand he could not pull out the plug with his foot in order to empty the bath and so force himself to get out, nor could he find in himself the will-power to step out of it like a man. He had often heard people tell him that he possessed character and he reflected that people judge hastily in the affairs of life because they judge on insufficient evidence; they had never seen him in a hot, but diminishingly hot, bath...

W. Somerset Maugham, ASHENDEN

Tuesday, April 5, 2011


"...I still remember it graphically...it was such a significant point in my life. I still remember, Sasse was there, after a lecture, he had a big pile of books--he always carried a big pile of books into lectures, he never opened them, he knew it all by heart, he'd just have them along just in case...
I said, 'Dr. Sasse, do you have a moment?'
And he said [using a low gruff voice], "Yes?" Ah, ah, very abrupt.
'Yes, what do you want Kleinig?'
And I said, 'Ah, look, Dr. Sasse, I've got a spiritual problem."

And Sasse stopped walking, and he faced me, and he lifted his finger and he said,

Monday, April 4, 2011

John Bunyan

From today's TREASURY OF DAILY PRAYER reading:

I find to this day seven abominations in my heart:
1) An inclination to unbelief.
2) Suddenly forgetting the love and mercy that Christ shows us.
3) A leaning to the works of the Law.
4) Wanderings and coldness in prayer.
5) Forgetting to watch for that which I have prayed for.
6) A tendency to murmur because I have no more, and yet a willingness to abuse what I have.
7) I can do none of those things which God commands me, but my corruptions will thrust themselves upon me so that "When I would do good, evil is present with me."
These things I continually see and feel and am afflicted and oppressed with; yet the wisdom of God orders them for my good.
1) They make me abhor myself.
2) They keep me from trusting my heart.
3) They convince me of the insufficiency of all inherent righteousness.
4) They show me the necessity of flying to Jesus.
5) They press me to pray to God.
6) They show me the need I have to watch and be sober.
7) And they provoke me to look to God, through Christ, to help me and carry me though this world.
-John Bunyan
Such an old fashioned geezer, Bunyan. So obviously out of step with modern wisdom and psychology. The guy obviously needed therapy.
And golly, he was so much like me.
It is interesting to me that when we think of God's grace and the work of the Holy Spirit, we naturally think of God's Goodies: his peace, love, charity, salvation. We don't naturally associate the things Bunyan writes about: tentatio, a dying to ourselves, a profound awareness of our sinfulness; our shortcomings. Naturally we flee from these things, or else go into therapy (I've always flinched at the idea personally. I'd rather fix or outwait my own problems, or ignore them altogether). And honestly, this particular spiritual reality does not market well. It isn't on the outreach agenda. Unless you're reading John Kleinig or Senkbeil and their ilk, you have to go back to Bunyan to find it conveyed. And yet, it is a mark of sanctification, or being made holy. Who would have thought that Romans 7 was just about that very thing?

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Some Recent Work

About fifteen years ago, I built the library for the common room of Lutheran Church of the Living Christ. Here is half of it:

About five years after that, a member asked me to build a sort of library/entertainment center for his home, inspired by my work at the church. Here it is:

About four years after that, I was asked by another member of that church, who saw the library/entertainment center I built for the other member of the church, to build him an 8' x8' wall library for his home office. Here it is:

A year later, a co-worker of the wife of the guy who had me build his home office wall library called, asking for a wall library of their own. Here are pics of that:

So, here, to date, is my family tree of wall units, serial recommendations over a 15 year period. But wait. The granddaddy of them all was a suite of furniture I produced for an old friend, a NYC attorney who now resides in California. His was the most ambitious:

Finally, I also finished, a Prie Dieux I have been working at for about a year (mostly just staring at it and wondering when I'd get it done). I had a very patient client:

There. That brings us up to date. I feel a lot better now...

Sim City and Real Life

I'm catching up on a few back issues of FIRST THINGS magazine. Even after the death of long-time editor Richard John Neuhaus, I almost always turn first to the While We're At It section at the back---the section Neuhaus always wrote himself and which is now handled by Joseph Bottum. Here's an interesting take:

"'I'm a feminist graduate of an all-women's college who has vowed to never change my name or end my career to raise children full time--though I would never undervalue the work that many women do in their home,' Monica Potts assures us in the American Prospect, but, to her horror, in all of her virtual reality games (and kudos to her for admitting how many virtual reality games she plays) she chooses conservatively.
'My Sims are conservative,' she admits. 'I'm in complete control of them, but for some reason their lives aren't anything like the life I consider ideal in the real world...My Sims rarely remain single long into adulthood. My wives always take their husbands' last names. They don't just have children; they bear lots of them. And they leave their careers to take on the lion's share of care-giving duties.'
It gets worse, or better, depending on your point of view: An expert on Sim City, she reports that 'things function much more smoothly if taxes are low and city government caters to corporate interests,' while 'wind energy is fine in theory, but old-fashioned petroleum and coal facilities really make them run.'
Potts blames the parameters of the game; they just make it so much easier to be a conservative: 'Having children has the added bonus of extending game time in The Sims, because I get to continue to play the same family as the generations roll by. Maternity leave is mandatory for pregnant Sim women because of a long-standing technical issue within the game..."
FT April 2011 issue; P 69

Art--or virtual reality--imitating life.
I don't know: if I'm going to dabble in virtual reality games, I suppose I'd try living out a life different from my own. So that may explain this puzzling phenomena. You can't forever blame the parameters of a game. If you know them as well as this lady knows her game, you'd eventually find a way to game the system. But there is a winsomeness to the realization that, if your wives have many children, you get to play "longer." Sweet.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

O God, O Lord of Heaven and Earth

O God, O Lord of heaven and earth,
Thy living finger never wrote that life should be an aimless mote,
A deathward drift from futile birth.
Thy Word meant life triumphant hurled,
In splendor through Thy broken world,
Since light awoke and life began, Thou hast desired Thy life for man.

Our fatal will to equal Thee,
Our rebel will wrought death and night. We seized and used in prideful spite
Thy wondrous gift of liberty.
We housed us in this house of doom,
Where death had royal scope and room
Until Thy servant, Prince of Peace, breached all its walls for our release.

Thou camest to our hall of death,
O Christ, to breathe our poisoned air, to drink for us the dark despair
That strangled our reluctant breath.
How beautiful the feet that trod
The road that leads us back to God! How beautiful the feet that ran
To bring the great good news to man!

O Spirit, who didst once restore
Thy church that it might be again the bringer of good news to men,
Breathe on Thy cloven Church once more,
That in these gray and latter days
There may be those whose life is praise, each life a high doxology
To Father, Son and unto Thee.

-Martin Franzmann

Try singing these powerful words to rich music in a high-halled sanctuary,
driven by a wonderful organist. Heaven on earth.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Why China Will Soon Own The United States

I had lunch today with an old acquaintance. She has worked as an R.N. for 22 years in a private hospital locally. In those 22 years she has supported her family nicely , had plenty of vacation time, and built a nice home in the country.

She told me today that she was going to work as a nurse in a federal facility. The job will almost exactly mirror her present position and responsibilities--actually it appeared to her to be a much easier position. Then lowering her voice, she admitted, "They're going to be paying me over $10,000 more for the same position, and about double the benefits!"

I'm fairly certain she didn't see the irony in all of this. But I did. Something is terribly wrong with the direction of the country when an equivalent publicly funded job pays that much more than the same position in the private sector. If it isn't unsustainable, it at the very least is unbalanced greed.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Application To Become A Green Bay Packer Fan

Name ______________ CB Handle_______________
Mobile Home Color: __ Two-Tone, Brown & White__Pink & White__Faded
Neck Shade: ___Light Red___Med. Red___Dark Red
Model of Pickup Truck_________Size of Tires_______
Number of Teeth Exposed (With Full Grin)--Upper:____Lower:____
Length of Right Leg____Length of Left Leg____

Note:To be accepted you must be honest and you must be able to check at least 20 items from the questions below. You may check more than one item per question.

1.I am in love with:
____My brother's wife_____Mother-in-law

2. My favorite music:

3. My favorite meal:
____Head cheese and Old Style
____Venison sausage and Old Style
____Cheese curds and Old Style
____Seven course dinner (Brat and six pack)

4.Preferred Weapon:
____12 gauge shotgun ____Tire iron
____Forehead ____Chain saw
____Ice augur ____Beer bottle

5. Primary Auto:
____'67 Ford Galaxy
____'67 Ford Galaxy with transmission
____'67 Ford Galaxy with Chevy transmission
____'67 Ford Galaxy with Chevy transmission and '71 Buick engine.

6. I usually greet people by saying:
____"Ya hey dere"
____"Dem Packers is playing like a bunch a old women"
____"Day should take a whole bunch a dem Madisom liberals
and just line 'em up an shoot 'em!"

7: I can count to:
____Ten (10) ____Twenty (20) (With shoes off)

8. Pick one:
____Someone is helping me read this.
____Someone is reading this to me.

9. Favorite Reading:
____Fishing Facts ____Beer bottle labels
____Guns & Ammo ____Tractor manuals

10. Things In My Front Yard:
____Car on blocks ____Transmissions
____Various kitchen Appliances
____Deer hanging from tree (In season)
____Deer hanging from tree (Out of season)

11. My favorite female in the world is:
____My mom ____My sister
____Both, cuz I think my sister is my mom.

12. I mostly wear:
____Polyester leisure suits
____Packers belt buckle
____Packers cheese head hat

13. The most memorable event I ever attended:
____Miocqua moose calling competition
____OMSGA Outboard Motor Repair Finals
____Lake Tomahawk Crew Cut Championships
____Carp Queen Beauty Contest
____Spread Eagle Proctologists Convention

14. My favorite entertainment is:
____Deer hunting while drinking
____Watching Green Acres while drinking
____Snowmobiling while drinking
____Ice fishing while drinking

Signed by:____________________Date:________

Note: Somebody handed this to me at a Green Bay Packers game party.
I have no idea who wrote it, but you could probably credit Jeff Foxworthy.

Thursday, January 20, 2011