Family History

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Credit: Roman Kraft on Unsplash

My good friend Rev. Robert Greene, in heaven since passing away two months ago, was an avid family history buff. In his retirement Bob spent much time at his computer almost every day, researching the history of his and his wife Jean’s family. At the time he died, Bob had identified over one million people to whom he or Jean were related. Seriously. I kid you not.

Several years ago in preparation for a family reunion, I spent a bit of time collating the names and important life event dates of my great grandfather’s family. I’ve identified 454 people related to my great grandpa Carl Otto Kieschnick and great grandma Christine Sohns Kieschnick.

Though it’s highly doubtful that my affinity for family history will ever come close to that of Bob Greene, I do find it interesting to talk about family. So does my dear Terry, who occasionally mentions her desire to dig into her genealogical roots. Perhaps someday she and I will do that.

A question that had always intrigued me is how my great grandfather could afford to keep his family in Thorndale, Texas, while he cleared and built a grand home on property he had purchased just north of Bishop, Texas, 275 miles south of Thorndale. Then one day I finally figured it out.

It started the day I preached at St. Paul Lutheran Church in Thorndale a few years ago. I began my sermon by noting my relationship with this congregation through my great grandparents who had lived in Thorndale just after the beginning of the 20th century. I also expressed my desire to know the location of the home and farm of Otto and Christine Kieschnick.

After worship was over, a man named Dennis Hengst greeted me at the door, identifying himself as a realtor who might be able to help. A few months later he called and said he had found not only one but two farms that had been owned by Otto and Christine.

Shortly thereafter my sister and I met Dennis for BBQ lunch at the Thorndale Meat Market. Then he took us to those two farms. The answer to my question was that Great Grandpa had sold one farm and applied the proceeds to their new adventure. He had left Great Grandma and their eight children in Thorndale while he went to Bishop, cleared the land, and built their new home. He then brought his family to Bishop, where he lived for most of the rest of his life.

The point of this article is not my family’s history. It’s simply to illustrate that everyone has a family history. Some, like Bob Greene, go to great lengths to learn about their ancestors. Others, like me, do a little research to satisfy their curiosity. Others either have no interest or simply don’t spend the time and effort required to discover the people from whom they came.

For an interesting genealogical story, check Matthew 1:1-17 in the New Testament. You’ll love the main character. Actually, I think most of you already do. Happy reading!

The Eighteenth Anniversary

Hard to believe today marks the 18th anniversary of the day we know as 9/11. How well I recall where I was and what I was doing Sept. 11, 2001, when hearing the news of an airplane hitting the World Trade Center in New York City. How well I also remember the second such incident, another plane hitting the other World Trade Center tower moments later.

Then the tragic news continued. A third airplane crashed into the Pentagon in Arlington County, Virginia. And yet a fourth plane whose passengers thwarted another hijack attempt crashed in a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

American Airlines Flight 11, United Airlines Flight 175, American Airlines Flight 77, United Airlines Flight 93. Those airlines and flights are etched into the annals of American and world history.

The four attacks killed 2,996 people, injuring over 6,000 others. Additional women and men died from 9/11-related cancer and respiratory diseases in the months and years that followed.

All four attacks were coordinated against the United States by Islamic terrorist group Al-Qaeda. The events of 9/11 comprise the deadliest terrorist attack in human history and the single deadliest incident for firefighters (343 died during and following the attacks) and law enforcement officers (72 lost their lives) in the history of the United States of America.

As some of you are aware, all this occurred only three days after my installation as 12th president of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. I was leading a staff meeting in the LCMS International Center. Numerous related events transpired during my nine year presidency.

One of my most poignant memories of this historic tragedy is the full page letter unanimously approved by the LCMS Council of Presidents for publication in USA Today and The New York Times Oct. 2, 2001, three weeks after the event. Here is the letter:

A Promise – The New York Times and USA Today – October 2, 2001

In the aftermath of our nation’s tragedy three weeks ago today, we of the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod wholeheartedly offer our love and prayers for those tens of thousands of people whose lives have been drastically altered by the sudden loss of their loved ones and friends.

At such a time it is natural to wonder how we can get on with life.

Still heavy with the burden or our enormous loss, we face the potential for even more danger at our doorstep. And as we look out upon the world seeking a promise of comfort and hope, we may see only darkness.

Yet we are not the first people to suffer such darkness, nor to long for such a promise.

David in the Old Testament, in time of great personal and national distress, looked to God and took comfort in His promise:

“The Lord is my shepherd … Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.” 

Jesus, to whom the Scriptures refer as our “Good Shepherd,” spoke words that are particularly poignant right now:

“Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”    

That Good Shepherd understands suffering and death … and His own death and resurrection promise hope and comfort to us all.

In these days of great personal and national trial, it is important to remember the words of St. Paul as we struggle with ‘getting on with life’:

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

And that’s His promise!

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Rev. Dr. Gerald B. Kieschnick, President
The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod
St. Louis, MO
www.lcms.org

This day will never be forgotten. Lord, have mercy!

Leaving Home

It was on or about September 1, 1960. My mother had driven me the 100 miles from our home in southwest Houston to College Station, Texas. I had been accepted and enrolled as a freshman in the Texas A&M Corps of Cadets in the Pre-Veterinary Medicine curriculum.

Accompanied by my two younger sisters, Karen and Debbie, still in elementary school at the time, Mother and I made our way to the YMCA building on campus where pre-registration and academic orientation were scheduled to occur. My older sister Carol had already begun living independently and Dad was working that day. Thus both were unable to join us on this trip.

In addition to anxiety connected with moving away from home for the first time, what I remember most about that day was the tearful parting as my mother and sisters walked down the YMCA steps toward the car and the journey back home. There was a palpable four-way sense of at least a temporary loss. A natural response in any such circumstance, but new to us.

Three months earlier I had graduated from Bellaire High School and had spent the summer living at home, working with my father in the meat department of Lewis and Coker grocery stores in Houston. That job and a scholarship were the sources of my self-funded education.

My high school years were non-spectacular. I wasn’t on the honor roll. Nor a super star athlete. Just focused on home chores and agricultural pursuits. We lived on three acres, which allowed my involvement in vocational agriculture and Future Farmers of America projects.

That included raising for stock show competition a “fat” steer, four market calves, and two Hampshire pigs. In my younger days, Dad and I raised 150 rabbits, along with chickens, a milk cow, and nine sheep. My departure from home meant that all those chores and non-academic interests were no longer a part of my life, adding to the sense of loss that day in 1960.

As it turned out, we all survived the temporary trauma of my leaving home.

The point of this story is that what my family and I experienced 59 years ago is not unique to any one family. It happens throughout our land and across the globe. It’s a natural and normal part of the maturation process. People who have lived their entire or major part of life at home with family members are, sooner or later, faced with the departure of one of those beloved family members.

Sometimes that separation, as in my case, is the result of academic or work-related pursuits. At other times, delinquency, divorce, or death are the causative factors. Be that as it may, for many if not most families, the leaving home of one member of the family produces a very real sense of loss.

At such times, the promise of the Lord to Joshua, both to those who leave and to those who remain, is poignant: “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Josh. 1:5

Two Important Tasks

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Credit: Carlos Muza on Unsplash

Last year I created an Excel spreadsheet for the purpose of planning a family budget for the next ten years. For this purpose, our immediate family is Terry and yours truly.

My thought is that someday I’ll probably want to retire from full time employment. Because I began working for pay from the time I was about 12 years old, and still do so today, fully retiring from gainful employment will be a big step in my life. I’m not ready yet. But it will happen someday.

Be that as it may, I believe it’s not only important but critical for individuals or couples approaching the end of their working career to take a close look at anticipated income and expenses to see how the two match up. So that’s what I did.

The expenses on our list include generous contributions for our home congregation and other favorite ministries and charities; home mortgage, including PITI; auto expenses, including payments, insurance, maintenance, and gasoline; utilities, including water, gas, electricity, cable TV, internet, and cell phones; health and life insurance premiums; groceries, occasional restaurant meals, clothing, and routine household expenses; family birthday and Christmas gifts; travel and vacation allowance; federal taxes; medical expenses; savings; unexpected and miscellaneous expenses.

The sources of income on our spreadsheet include salary, estimated to terminate at an approximate point in time; retirement plan/pension payments; social security checks; income from IRAs, 401(k)s, 403(b)s, and annuities.

I planned for gradually increasing expenses with income adjusted by loss of current salary, followed by stable but slightly increasing revenues. As long as the difference between these two numbers is positive on the revenue side, we should be alright. That’s certainly the plan.

This process is closely related to estate planning myth #6: “No need to make a list of what I own. My family will be able to find it all.” Here’s the reality. This myth is the result of indifference, laziness, lack of care and concern for loved ones. It takes time and effort to create a budget and at least as much time and effort to make a list of assets and liabilities.

To assist in this process, we at Legacy Deo have created what we call the “Red Book.” It’s designed to help record in writing your assets and liabilities; account numbers and balances; contact information for each account, including address, phone, user name, and password; location of important legal and financial documents, etc. This is a very significant document!

Request your free electronic Red Book at mailto:info@legacydeo.org or call (512) 646-4909. You’ll be glad you did. And while you’re at it, get busy on that budget. Both are important tasks!

Rudeness or Kindness?

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Credit: rawpixel.com from Pexels

Have you noticed that in our world today, more than a few people are downright rude?

Examples of rudeness include people cutting in line, littering the highway, being consistently late for appointments, misusing handicapped parking spaces, driving slowly in the passing lane, using cell phones in movie theaters, and not teaching manners to their children.

Thankfully there are many examples of kindness: Serving at a homeless shelter, picking up litter on the street, giving a stranger a compliment, making dinner for a family in need, paying for a first responder’s meal at a restaurant, donating Christmas gifts to an orphanage, holding the door open for other people, and helping the elderly carry groceries to their car.

Last week on Facebook I saw the following piece about rudeness and kindness:

Being rude is easy. It does not take any effort and is a sign of weakness and insecurity.

Kindness shows great self-discipline and strong self-esteem.  

Being kind is not always easy when dealing with rude people.

Kindness is a sign of a person who has done a lot of personal work and has come to a great self-understanding and wisdom.

Choose to be kind over being right, and you’ll be right every time because kindness is a sign of strength.

These observations about rudeness and kindness prompted recollections of a few biblical references about the virtue of kindness:

  • Colossians 3:12: Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.
  • Galatians 5:22-23: The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
  • Titus 3:4-5: When the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.

A suggestion: Use these simple reminders to avoid rudeness and motivate acts of kindness in your daily routine. You’ll be blessed. And so will the recipients of your words and actions.

54 Years Ago Today

On bended knee, with fairly certain hopes for an affirmative response, I invited Terry to be my wife. It was then, and still is today, called engagement. Ours took place exactly 54 years ago today, August 15, 1965. By now you know she said yes.

Part of the proposal was that we would move from Austin, Texas to Springfield, Illinois. That was the location of the Lutheran Seminary that would accept graduates from a secular university. That was me. Bachelor’s Degree. Texas A&M. Animal Science.

Terry has occasionally mused about the dual nature of the proposal, with a slight twinkle in her eye, wondering aloud what I would have done had she said yes to the first part and no to the second. I quietly and teasingly respond by saying, “I guess we’ll never know, will we?”

How could we have known what personal experiences, family events, vocational challenges, and career opportunities would come from that invitation and its acceptance more than half a century ago?

  • Eighteen different residential addresses.
  • Two children, one son-in-law, two grandchildren, all genuine blessings from God.
  • Seminary in Springfield and vicarage/internship in Charlotte.
  • Sixteen years of mission development and pastoral ministry.
  • Fourteen years of Christian estate planning and higher education development.
  • Nineteen years of regional and national church body presidency.
  • The passing of parents, grandparents, other relatives and friends.

Along the way, both of us have worked hard, individually and together, in the home, in the world, in the marketplace, in the community, in the church. We’ve done things we didn’t really know how to do. None would have succeeded without the grace of God.

Our family has brought and continues to bring great joy, laughter, fulfillment, and godly pride. Flavored with occasional seasons of uncertainty, anxiety, tears, and concern. Navigated with imperfection, faith, hope, trust, and love.

Our many, many friends have been and continue to be remarkable sources of encouragement, camaraderie, stimulation, and companionship. All of them are gifts.

Sin and imperfection have led to times of disappointment and pain, both from outside and also from within our church body. Yet by the grace of God, our faith has provided hope in times of despondence, comfort in times of sorrow, assurance in times of doubt, inspiration in times of discouragement.

These are merely a few highlights of more than half a century together, with lots more to tell. It all began 54 years ago today. With a heartfelt invitation. And a trusting, loving response.

Regrets? None. Would I do it all again? Absolutely. And I’m fairly certain Terry would still say yes.

Evil Grieves the Heart of God

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Credit: Tony Webster / Flickr

Last week brought two more incidents of “domestic terrorism” in Texas and Ohio. Most recent tallies indicate at least 32 dead and more than 50 wounded, all at the hands of two individuals with no apparent motives. Our hearts hurt each time this kind of news arrives.

As usual, pundits, politicians, and other people are quick to decry these dastardly deeds and to offer solutions that might provide a quick fix. Gun control, background checks, psychological or psychiatric help for people who flash signals of mental imbalance or leave a trail of racial hatred or indicate vengeful predisposition are the most frequently suggested remedies.

Each of those suggestions might be somewhat helpful. But none really gets to the heart of the matter. The bottom line is: It’s the heart that matters. “The intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth.” Genesis 8:21 (ESV).

My father used to say that if you believe children are born without original sin, just put two toddlers in the same room, with only one toy, and shut the door.

The biblical quote above was spoken by God after he had sent the great flood, described in Gen. 6-9. It begins like this: “The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the LORD regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. So the LORD said, ‘I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.’” Gen. 6:5-7

The flood was caused by 40 days and 40 nights of constant, torrential rainfall. After a total of approximately 370 consecutive days on the ark, God created the rainbow as a visible sign of his covenant never again to destroy the earth by the waters of a flood. Gen. 9:8-17

Just before that covenant, “The LORD said in his heart, ‘I will never again curse the ground because of man, for the intention of man’s heart is evil from his youth. Neither will I ever again strike down every living creature as I have done. ’” Gen. 8:21

The bottom line is that nothing anyone does now or in the future will change the evil nature of man’s heart. Steps we take, guns we confiscate, laws we make, restrictions we place, speeches we hear … these and other decisions or actions might be somewhat helpful in minimizing the massive and rapid loss of life that occurs in a mass shooting. We should and must do whatever we can toward that goal.

Yet people with evil hearts will always find ways to do evil deeds. Not even the almost total destruction of mankind in the flood sent by God removed the evil from man’s heart.

So we teach our children and our children’s children that life is a precious gift of God. And we endeavor to teach others that truth as well. That won’t eradicate the evil in man’s heart. And it won’t totally stop mass shootings. But it might go a long way toward curbing the unbridled insanity that happens far too often. For evil still grieves the heart of God. And my heart as well.