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Why Wait Till Tommorow?


Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

Shakespear may have been excessively dour but he put his finger on how some of us feel some of the time.  The melancholy Dane may have been depressed but he had reason to be.

I’ve often thought how we spend most of our time waiting. When I was a child everything was wait. We waited for our birthdays, we waited for Christmas,we waited for the summer, we waited for the first snowfall and everything was always delay until that vague point in the future that we were never quite sure would come. My parents had a saying that before things could happen tomorrow or whenever, that we had to get organized.  I never understood, nor was it ever explained to me, what the organizing was all about.
Someone pointed out that rather than a vague salvation somewhere off in the future, I’m going to go to the clouds  in heaven for instance, or by and by when we die, one of the favorite words in one of the Gospels is “today”, or or “this day”. The angels say today, “this day is born for you in the city of David a Savior”. The story of Zaccheaus is a marvelous picture of God’s redeeming mercy today.  Jesus says it is a divine imperative thank I stay at your house today. And of course the words to the thief on the cross – today you will be with me in paradise.
All of the promises of God are yes and amen in Christ and it is a divine necessity that he come to us today and every day with his redeeming mercy and grace and once again tell us “today pick up your cross and follow me”.  Today remember how much my mercy has meant in your life, and today remember the sacrifice I made. It is a divine necessity Jesus says that He be with you today.

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The Unpredictable


Thinking about last Sunday’s Gospel and the phrase from Job where God asks him if he walked on the tempest or the waves and the Gospels account of the disciples reaction to Jesus dealing with wind and wave

Looking at the different ways the Gospel writers view and portray Christ gives us wonderful pictures of   devotion and what makes our worship of Him span the gamut from praise and adoration, to awe and what be properly thought of as fear.  We should feel something like Job felt.  A beautiful exposition of this come from David Scaer in a CTQ article back in 2005

Mark portrays Christ as an untamed lion; he is like the Aslan of C.S. Lewis’s Narnia Chronicles. For those asking themselves “What Would Jesus Do?” Mark is a shock to the system, reflecting the fact that Jesus’ actions are often unpredictable, even strange. As we look for glory, Mark cautions us that the Lord often appears to us behind masks, and that our God is the crucified one. On the other hand, the Evangelist John furthers our understanding of Jesus by plunging us into previously unfathomed theological depths, and lifting us up, on eagles’ wings, to unchartered spiritual heights. John depicts Jesus as an alien, who has come to us from realms of glory, and whose true identity is a mystery to be unraveled. John also offers an intimacy not found in the other Gospels. Here we meet Jesus one-on-one, as does his Beloved Disciple, and are attached to him as branches to a vine. With the woman at the well, we come to see baptism as Christ’s living well that springs within us. We come to see that in Holy Communion we also rest our heads in the bosom of our Lord. John leads us into the mysteries, where we see that the Christ and the sacraments are one, and that through the sacraments Christ – becomes one with us.

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Down in the Mine

This is a picture taken along time ago at the Climax Molybdenum mine where I used to work.  It is a lunch room way underground.  My lunch rooms were a lot smaller usually holding about 6 of us.  Thought about this when reading Job 2828 There is a mine for silver
    and a place where gold is refined.
Iron is taken from the earth,
    and copper is smelted from ore.
Mortals put an end to the darkness;
    they search out the farthest recesses
    for ore in the blackest darkness.
Far from human dwellings they cut a shaft,
    in places untouched by human feet;
    far from other people they dangle and sway.
The earth, from which food comes,
    is transformed below as by fire;
lapis lazuli comes from its rocks,
    and its dust contains nuggets of gold.
No bird of prey knows that hidden path,
    no falcon’s eye has seen it.
Proud beasts do not set foot on it,
    and no lion prowls there.
People assault the flinty rock with their hands
    and lay bare the roots of the mountains.
10 They tunnel through the rock;
    their eyes see all its treasures.
11 They search[a] the sources of the rivers
    and bring hidden things to light.

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Julie McManus and Her Dad

This picture of Julie McManus a former Mary Okeyo Scholarship traveler and missionary to Kenya was taken probably just before she came home.  Her service there was appreciated.  Her Father Rev McManus has traveled to see her and the Project 24 work being done.  He recently wrote – Greetings: I know you have been visiting with Pres. Fondow about the Rescue
Centers. i am Julie McManus’s, Dad, Pastor Dennis McManus. I recently
retired and plan on promoting Project 24 in the MNN District. I am planning
on offering my services to the congregations in the MNN District completely
free so that all money given will be for this great mission. I understand
you will be putting together new brochures. My thought is a map of Kenya
with the completed sites marked and the proposed sites marked so people can
see our vision.

If you need a speaker contact him at














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The Foundation of Missions

There is an interesting phrase that Missouri synod types use a lot.  It is “pure doctrine” or correct doctrine, or pure doctrine correctly taught.  Some argue and say that we worry to much about doctrine when we should be worried about missions and mercy.  Doctrine is God’s Word to us and so……

Luther says:  The great difference between doctrine and life is obvious, even as the difference between heaven and earth. Life may be unclean, sinful, and inconsistent; but doctrine must be pure, holy, sound, unchanging … not a tittle or letter may be omitted, however much life may fail to meet the requirements of doctrine. This is so because doctrine is God’s Word, and God’s truth alone, whereas life is partly our own doing…. God will have patience with man’s moral failings and imperfections and forgive them. But He cannot, will not, and shall not tolerate a man’s altering or abolishing doctrine itself. For doctrine involves His exalted, divine Majesty itself (WA, 30 111, 343 f.)

Doctrine is so important that Paul, seeking a sponsoring church to get him to Spain where he could preach the Gospel some more, writes the letter to the Romans to teach them pure doctrine.  “The entire letter, then, illustrates the foundational importance of doctrinal agreement between those who agree to support  missionary activity and those who engage in carrying it out”  writes Michael Middendorf in his Romans Commentary.

We would do well to think of that when we support willy nilly all kinds of mission endeavors without an understanding of what kind of doctrine the promulgate.


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When the Bible Interprets Us

I am convinced that there is truth to what someone said about the Bible interpreting us.  You can read your Bible everyday, study until your eyes ache, read it for comfort or knowledge of reproving or correcting but there is always something that jumps out when you least expect it and grabs you even though you have read it before.

This from Acts 22

12When we heard this, we and the people there pleaded with Paul not to go up to Jerusalem. 13Then Paul answered, “Why are you weeping and breaking my heart? I am ready not only to be bound, but also to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” 14When he would not be dissuaded, we fell silent and said, “The Lord’s will be done.”…

Luther was stopped by friends on his way to Worms and the same thing happened and almost the same words used.  “Why are you weeping – I am going to Worms no matter what for the confession of the Gospel even if I go to my death.  I will go even if there be as many devils there as shingles on the roofs”.

And just this week I heard from someone that their loved one is dying and told them that the worst thing they could do was cry and “break his heart”.  He knew in whom he believed and his only fear was the grief of those he loved.

This is a grace – to know that our loved one trust in Christ and are ready for the final summons.  The only thing that can bother and discomfort them are our tears.



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Calvin Seter R+I+P March 21, 1934 – August 3, 2017

I was born in near the Turtle Mountains of North Dakota, spent some of my early years in San Diego, California, moved to Leadville, Colorado until I went off to college, and after graduation came back to North Dakota where I’ve been for almost 40 years. Not far from where we lived in Colorado are the headwaters of the Arkansas River. The river starts out as a fast-moving stream, roars through gorges, meadows, close to Leadville to Buena Vista to a town called Salida and wends its way east until it meets up with the Mississippi River. I bring this up because for many people the Arkansas River is an anomaly. It seems it should be flowing to the west based on where most people think the continental divide is and yet it goes to the east. That was always a topic of conversation when my uncles would get together and it was by the Arkansas River not far from Salida where I have my first conscious memory of my uncle Calvin.

He lived in the not very large house, and so all the men folk were chased out to go do something until dinner was ready.   My dad and I and Calvin and some other folks went out to the fields on a walk through farmland in the middle of what I was to learn was a high desert. I learned about alfalfa and how many cuttings of the crop could be made in a year. I learned about buckwheat and how many farmers raised it not to produce a crop, but to till it back in the soil to increase nutrients. I learned about how Mexican settlers made the land thrive by using acequias as a form of irrigation. I learned that Arapahoe and Jicarilla Apaches sometimes fought in this area. I learned that the town name, that we pronounced Sa-lie-da, meant “exit” or “the way out”. There was a discussion that the land opened up there to the high plains of New Mexico and way to the Santa Fe Trail. Uncle Calvin looked at me and said ”we say it wrong, but no one cares to change”. He arched one eyebrow when he said that as if waiting for a response or a question but I never said a word because the next thing that happened is that my dad and Calvin took out knives and cut willow branches and made willow whistles. It was a really neat thing that actually worked and whistled and I imagine it is a lost art today. I wish I had taken the time to ask them how to make one.

I bring this story up because years later visiting missionaries in the Dominican Republic I saw a sign that said “Salida” and I proudly proclaimed that it meant “exit”. I had pronounced it Sa-lie-da and the missionary laughed and said “you say it wrong. It is pronounced Sa-lee-da. You should come down and go to our Spanish immersion school”. Calvin had tried to teach me that years ago and I should have paid attention. That raised eyebrow was an opening that I missed. I still remember all the visits with my uncles as learning experiences.

These folks were interested in everything. Calvin was particularly interested in astronomy. He had bought a small telescope and set it up in his back yard. He spent quite a few hours looking at the planets and stars and wanted a telescope that would remain steady because it would compensate for the rotation of the earth. He and my dad starting calculating the cosine of the latitude of Salida and I was lost. Later he set the telescope on a Christmas star the Kiwanis had put up on the mountain across the way and brought my mother outside to show her the star. She thought the blue lights on the mountain were the real thing and she exclaimed “I never thought they would look like that”. She said it over and over again until she looked at where the scope was pointed. She was embarrassed of course but it was all in good fun.

I wonder if Calvin knew that not far from where he was born there is now a large sundial clock that allows you to track the hours of the day with the movement of the sun. The place is called Mystical Horizons and has ties to the solstices and equinoxes as its configuration aligns in specific ways with these astronomical events. There’s a sighting tube that helps you pinpoint the North Star and all of this very close to the Seter homestead.  It is like a small Stonehenge on the prairie.  The place was inspired by a man named Jack Olson who grew up in the Turtle Mountains as well and was another of those folks who were interested in everything.  Maybe there is something in the water there.

My uncles could talk about the precession of the equinoxes and the ecliptic. They knew about geology and refrigeration and thermodynamics. They could identify plants and tell you whether they were poison. They were carpenters and masons. They could build walls and barbeque pits out of field stones. They were not fussy however and I don’t want to give the impression that our visits were pedantic and boring, they were anything but. I don’t not want to give the impression that they acted like know it all’s because they didn’t. A know it all would not have let me wait for thirty some years to figure what he meant by “we don’t say it right”. They were polymaths and renaissance people who came from tough stock and their lives were not easy.  They spoke with soft Norwegian brogues. Conversations were hard to start but once they got going they were wide ranging. I remember listening to Marsha, Vivian and Margaret talking about literature and poetry and it was like auditing a college course.

There were 17 of them born to Carl and Mina Seter. Four children died soon after birth. Marvin, my dad was the oldest. His brothers were (and I don’t know the order), Howard, Gordon, Clair, Lynn, Vernon, Calvin, and Arthur. Arthur and Vernon are the only ones left. The sisters were Gretchen, Vivian, Shirley, Marsha and Margaret.  The last three are left.

They lived right up against the Turtle Mountains and some recall winters when they woke in the morning with snow on their blankets because there was no insulation. Some winters there was so much snow they sledded off the roof. They broke ice for the livestock. My Father was laid across a wood cook stove with blankets because he had pleurisy and could barely breathe. He also spent time in a TB sanatorium even thought they were never sure that he had TB. All the boys cut wood to make fence posts and all worked with the animals and took care of the little ones. They seem to all have a fascination with berries. High bush cranberry I learned are called Pembina. I learned where blue berries grow and not to eat too many raspberries. Travelling with the uncles could be patience trying when they found a June berry patch. They would disappear into the woods for hours and come out with hatfuls of berries searching for buckets to get more. My father claimed that as a small child he saw the last of the Plains Tribes that still travelled to the Turtle Mountains to collect berries and make pemmican. He claimed they travelled with travois and a sort of Red River cart. The carts constantly needed lubrication and they would stop at the sloughs and collect small frogs that they crushed on axles to grease the wheels. I have always wondered if he actually saw them or if he had been told the story and rehearsed it so many times it was as if he lived it. I do know that there are spots where you can see the travois trails that scarred the land if the light is right and you are on the right ground.

My dad would have been 14 when Calvin was born. How much they got to know each other before dad moved off the farm I don’t know. Later in life when I was about 14 we spent quite a bit of time with Calvin. My parents were the sponsors for his children when they were baptized. When Calvin married Glenna Gibson Carpenter  she fit right in but we did not have the contact we did after he moved to Texas.

I wrote this because we cannot choose the families that we are born into. We don’t get to choose where we were born, or when or to whom. There are those who will spend most of their life trying to forget their past. There are some of us who will spend their dotage trying to remember the past and the things that our amazing relatives tried to teach us. Years ago I was at a meeting at the headquarters of the Missouri Synod Lutheran church and one of my Pastor friends had come back from some conference in Texas. He said that they had met on the campus of a rather large church there and a gentleman asked if they knew a Pastor Seter from North Dakota. They said yes and they visited for a while and as they were leaving he told them to say hello to Butch. My friends said that the place was immaculate and that my uncle was a gracious host and something of a curator. They were very impressed with his obvious love for his church and witness to Christ. They were also impressed that my nickname is Butch. I still get the business for that. I had not seen or heard from Calvin for some time. I woke up the other day and found that he had died. That makes me sad and at the same time this gives all us a chance to remember the families that we have and all the connections that exist that make up a family tree. These quiet, private, wickedly smart Norwegians that are my family on my dad’s side are part of me and I am a part of them. Calvin’s intense love for his family is a tribute. His love for his church was exemplary. Christ love for him is, as it is for all of us is ineluctable. He didn’t have to excogitate on that as he did on other things. He received it and he shared it. If you don’t know what I said in those last three sentences, look it up. It will make Calvin happy.


AUG 10. 11:00 AM

Peace Lutheran Church

941 W. Bedford Euless Road

Hurst, TX, US, 76053


AUG 10. 01:00 PM

Dallas-Fort Worth National Cemetery

2000 Mountain Creek Parkway

Dallas, TX, US, 75211



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Marlene Brandenburg R+I+P

She was a genuinely funny person.  I am confused to this day about the spelling of her last name because of a remark she made about fortresses and sandwiches and mountains.  I doesn’t make much sense right now but to be with her in person and hear her talk about it was hilarious.  She was a fixture along with Bev Drager in skits that became famous in the Lutheran Women’s Missionary League.  Somewhere in my pile of stuff there is a chicken tie that would take too much time to explain right now, but LWML Counselors were pretty much forced to wear it – in a kind way of course.  She could do a mean Norwegian accent and I believe that she auditioned for one of the Kroll Diner commercials.  She did the “sit down and eat” bit with German brogue for me about five times and she was very good.

She received the sobriquet “Mother Superior” in the LWML Assembly of leaders some years ago, not because she acted superior but because she was a servant leader, gracious and kind and extremely patient.  Upon meeting her you knew you had a friend.  When you walked away from her you knew she wouldn’t forget you.  When she said that she would pray for you, you knew it was not just a clichéd conversation ender, it was a promise.

She and her husband Don were extremely interested in Missions.  They were fixtures and pillars in the LWML, LLL, Orphan Grain Train and so many other things.  Marlene was very interested in the All Faiths Chapel music ministry and supportive as well.  They attended everything and supported so much, including each other.  I very seldom saw her without him and vice versa.  I am sure that Don will continue on as example and support.

She was also a theologian.  I had a long conversation with her years ago that has stayed with me because of two things.  We were on the telephone and she kept going to the window to see “what Don was up to in the yard”.  I could imagine her moving the curtains to see if he was loading or unloading a bin, or moving  machinery, all the while conversing with me about consolation.  How we got on that topic I have no idea.  The point was that no matter how funny, perceptive, faithful, conscientious, a person is there will be trials and tribulations and difficulties in abundance.  We don’t just dance through the world, much of the time we are just limping along.  Some times in the limping we help.

The conversation came to my mind because it seems like at least once a week I have repeated the same words from the funeral agenda, the old one.  “Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort; Who comforts us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort whereby we ourselves are comforted of God.”  (2 Corinthians 1)

“Blessed be God!” Paul is full of wonder and praise and so was Marlene.  She was always a bit stunned that God empathizes, sympathizes, feels for human beings  in the terrible things that happen in life. Knowing that God is “Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,” a God who sent His Son into this world out of love and grace and shear mercy for the sinner, can “sigh with”  us in our tribulation is an incredible thing (Is. 66: 13). God’s mercy is also active.  God does not just feel for us, He does something.  Our conversation was about the magnitude of having a God aware of our many troubles, to have God sigh with us in them and then having comfort, that effective strengthening power in enduring sufferings.   For Marlene these were not just words but a powerful impulsion to seek out those who were suffering and comfort them with the comfort she had so often received.  We talked about how so many folks want to avoid suffering and those who are in the midst of it.  “They need their privacy” or “we don’t want to intrude” are the excuses.   The truth might be that we haven’t allowed God to comfort us.  We don’t need comfort, we need escape and sometimes it doesn’t come.  If God doesn’t rescue, the old human nature rebels even against the comfort.  Marlene had great insights into the nature of human beings because she sought to be “truly human”.   That means to have the full and complete reliance upon God which is the essence of the 1st Commandment, and the essence of being a creature.  She lived in the rhythm of saying “God be merciful to me a sinner” and hearing the Gospel announcement of forgiveness in Christ, to responding with “blessed be God”.

Marlene died early this morning and we mourn with her family and friends but we also say “blessed be God”.  You cannot tell by the picture whether Marlene is waving hello or goodbye.  Some of us never had a chance to say good bye but many people who saw the picture of her surrounded by former LWML Presidents have told me that that is the essence of the LWML – the ongoing and continuous sister and brotherhood in service and devotion to Christ and His church.  We don’t have to say goodbye.  Someday we will meet at the marriage feast of the Lamb in His Kingdom that will never end.  For those who knew Marlene, don’t be surprised when you get there to hear a voice with a German brogue say, “sit down und eat”.



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The Theology of Drought

Jeremiah 2:13 – 13 for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters,
and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.

The forsaking of God is often punished by drought, and self reliance without thanksgiving brings judgment.

This little stick was a tree planted in Kenya by Pastor Mike Geddings when he was there working at a Project 24 Center.  There must be a drought in Kenya now because they are trying to protect the tree by shading it with brush.

There is a drought in North Dakota right now which seems to be getting worse and there has been drought in the South for a while now.  California has been in drought for a long time.  There are wonderful rescue efforts being formed to get hay to farmers and ranchers to help them keep their stock.  Rev. Kirk Douglas at New York Mills Minnesota has some great information on that.

So is this a judgment of God or what?  The God who sends rain to the righteous and the unrighteous has a particular animus against  idolatry and our world is one big idol.  In fact there seems to be a lot of earth worship out there.  So if we can clean up the environment and slow down global warming or heating or climate change or what ever it is today, why can’t we make if rain?

When I was in Kenya someone told me that people who complained when it rained were silly because they didn’t recognize God’s goodness and grace and felt His gifts were inconvenient.  There seems to be a lot of that going on out there.  In the mean time Rev. Geddings needs to go back and water his tree.







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Pasquinades Then and Now.


A pasquinade was a statue in Rome back in the day, in which people would post nasty things said in funny ways.  It was a single location and you had to know where it was and how to get there in order to enjoy the action.  It took some effort to get your kicks from some one else’s discomfort.  The problem is that the word pasquinade came to mean any kind of joke or statement or lampoon directed at anyone in a public manner.  That it has come to mean this in this day and age, means that only comedians are allowed the realm of the pasquinade.  That is too bad because most of the comedians today simply aren’t funny.  Who today can compare with just three things that Winston Churchill said about Clement Attlee?

A sheep in sheep’s clothing.

A modest man, who has much to be modest about.

An empty taxi arrived at 10 Downing Street, and when the door was opened, Atlee got out.

These are witty and funny and devastating.  They are not ribald or filthy or coarse.   They are however, impossible to respond to.

Pasquinades today are pretty public what with Facebook and Twitter and the so called comedians.  The problem with humor is that it has to have truth behind it.  Just throwing out lies and filth and hoping to have it re-twittered and played on YouTube is a sad attempt at wit.

Jesus was witty and to the point with his pasquinades.  He was devastating in his criticism because it was true.  It was also always directed at the self-righteous.  Check out Matthew 7 and 23.  One of Jesus most devastating funny lines in Matthew 7:3.


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