Parkland, Florida

Observances of last week’s Valentine’s Day and Ash Wednesday were overshadowed by news of the latest in the ongoing series of school shootings. This one occurred Feb. 14 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., Broward County, near Fort Lauderdale.

Seventeen students and staff lost their lives. Imagine the horrendous grief of parents and family of those who died that day and the thankful relief of those who were spared that trauma.

Anger is being directed toward the FBI, whose agents apparently received information about a comment the shooter made on YouTube: “I’m going to be a professional school shooter.” The FBI said they investigated but were unable to identify the person who made the comment.

The  AR-15 rifle used in the attack was purchased legally one year ago, according to a federal law enforcement official, who said: “No laws were violated in the procurement of this weapon.”

Renewed demands for gun control legislation have arisen, mostly pointed at outlawing rapid fire weapons and prohibiting people with documented mental illness from purchasing them.

Sadly, such legislation would not totally solve the problem. Unless assault weapons could be totally confiscated, people who want to use them will be able to get them, legally or illegally.

Yet what harm could come from legislative restriction that still protects the second amendment right to bear and keep arms? What need exists for American citizens to own an AR-15 or any similar weapon other than the unlikely need for self-defense against an aggressor armed with that same weapon? The exceptions are officers of the law and members of our military forces.

In 1994, U.S. Presidents Gerald R. Ford, Jimmy Carter, and Ronald Reagan co-signed a letter urging the U.S. House of Representatives to support a ban on the domestic manufacture of “assault weapons” such as semi-automatic AK-47s (used in a 1989 shooting in Stockton, Cal.).

The letter said, in part: While we recognize that assault weapon legislation will not stop all assault weapon crime, statistics prove that we can dry up the supply of these guns, making them less accessible to criminals. We urge you to listen to the American public and to the law enforcement community and support a ban on the further manufacture of these weapons.

Respecting the right of any who disagree, I concur. I also believe more serious consideration should be given to training and arming carefully selected school faculty and staff.

As long as “… the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour …” (1 Pet. 5:8), deranged individuals he controls will place more people in the horrible position of mourning the loss of their victimized loved ones. Yet we have the responsibility to keep from making the mass shootings our country is experiencing way too easy for those so possessed.

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Winter Olympics, Valentine’s Day, Ash Wednesday

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Lots of stuff going on this week!

The PyeongChang 2018 Olympic Winter Games began a week ago. Incredible displays of power, grace, endurance, speed, and daring athleticism! If you’re interested, Google “Olympic Trivia” and read some interesting history of the event. One factoid is that athletes in contemporary Olympics do not compete in the nude, as was the ancient tradition. Imagine the frostbite!

The Olympic Creed reads: “The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.”

It’s reported that 92 nations are officially represented at this year’s Olympics. Terry and I are blessed to have visited nearly half those countries in our travels on behalf of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. Great memories of wonderful Christian leaders and friends!

How notable and sad that the collegiality and fraternalism existing in athletic competition and international ecclesiastical circles are not always present in global political relationships.

In addition to Olympics, this week we also observed Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s Day.

Valentine’s Day originated as a Western Christian feast day honoring an early saint named Valentinus. Legend has it that he was imprisoned in Rome for performing weddings for soldiers who were forbidden to marry and for ministering to Christians persecuted under the Roman Empire. Today it’s a day to express love and affection. Hallmark sells lots of expensive cards!

It’s ironic for Ash Wednesday to be observed this year on Valentine’s Day. Ash Wednesday is the beginning of Lent, a 40 day season of prayer, repentance, and fasting to recall the 40 days Jesus fasted in the desert. It’s especially a remembrance of the suffering of Christ prior to his crucifixion, the ultimate sacrifice for those he loved. The six Sundays between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday are considered Sundays in Lent, not Sundays of Lent.

The vastly different but at least somewhat similar objectives of Winter Olympics, Valentine’s Day, and Ash Wednesday are cause for prayer for peaceful coexistence among nations, remembrance of a saint who served, and thanksgiving for the God made flesh who saves.

Grief is love with no place to go

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Yesterday would have been my mother and father’s 79th wedding anniversary. They married Feb. 7, 1939, at Zion Lutheran Church in Alamo, Texas.

Dad went to heaven way too soon to suit Mom and the rest of our family. He was only 66 when he passed away New Year’s Day 1983. He’s been gone over 35 years.

Mother Elda, who might yet see her 102nd birthday April 10, prays every day that she would be blessed by God to join Father Martin. But her desired answer has not yet been granted.

Elda misses Martin every day and longs to be reunited with him in heaven. The rest of our family, even those who were not yet born when he passed away but have only heard lots of stories about him, miss him also. Although it would be selfish for us not to affirm Mother’s prayer that one day soon she’ll wake up in heaven, we’ll also truly miss her when she’s gone.

In a very real sense, people who lose a loved one grieve that loss. It never really goes away.

The other day I read this definition of grief: Grief, I’ve learned, is really just love. It’s all the love you want to give but cannot. All of that unspent love gathers up in the corners of your eyes, the lump in your throat, and in that hollow part of your chest. Grief is just love with no place to go.

Over the years our family has mostly learned to live with our grief. As the Apostles’ Creed states, we believe “in the resurrection of the dead and the life everlasting.”

That hope in our hearts keeps us from expressing grief by curling into a fetal position or doing a catatonic rock. We simply miss the man we called “Dad.” He was a good man. Not perfect. But a dedicated Christian, hard-working provider, faithful husband, loving father and grandfather.

Most people I know can tell a similar story about grief for a loved one they’ve lost. That’s likely true in your life as well. For me, some of the most consoling words in the Bible are 1 Thess. 4:13-14, 17-18: Brothers, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you will not grieve like the rest, who are without hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, we also believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in Him… And so we will always be with the Lord… Therefore encourage one another with these words. 

Humanly speaking, grief is just love with no place to go. But we can do as the hymnist suggests:

I lay my griefs on Jesus, my burdens and my cares; He from them all releases; He all my sorrows shares. (Lutheran Service Book 606)

As I Get Older

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Thanks to my many readers who expressed birthday greetings and anniversary congratulations last week. Your expressions of love are sincerely appreciated. The years go by quickly!

In that regard I recently saw the following observations titled As I Get Older:

#1  –  I talk to myself, because there are times I need expert advice.
#2  –  I consider “trendy” to be the clothes that still fit.
#3  –  I don’t need anger management. I just need people to stop ticking me off.
#4  –  My people skills are just fine. It’s my tolerance for numskulls that needs work.
#5  –  The biggest lie I tell myself is, “I don’t need to write that down. I’ll remember it.”
#6  –  I have days when my life is just a tent away from a circus.
#7  –  These days “on time” is when I get there.
#8  –  Even duct tape can’t fix stupid, but it sure does muffle the sound.
#9  –  Lately, I’ve noticed people my age are so much older than me.
#10 – When I was a child, I thought nap time was punishment. Now it’s a mini vacation.
#11 – I thought growing old would take longer.
#12 – Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could put ourselves in the dryer for ten minutes, then come out wrinkle-free and three sizes smaller?

Some of those observations are accurate. Others are gross exaggerations. One not mentioned above is that sometimes we procrastinate on responsibilities that need attention.

In my current vocational calling I discover that folks of all ages, including men and women my age or better, keep postponing preparation of important legal and practical documents that need to be taken care of. I’m thinking especially of a Last Will and Testament.

Also important are powers of attorney for finances and health care; a list of assets, liabilities, account numbers, and passwords; information and plans for our funeral service.

Some folks put off taking care of these things because they simply don’t want to admit that one day those documents will really come in handy for a surviving spouse and family. Or they just don’t want to think about the reality of death. Here’s the truth: Death happens!

We at Legacy Deo can assist you with these important matters. Go to http://www.LegacyDeo.org or email me at GBJK@LegacyDeo.org. You’ll be glad you did … especially as you get older!

A Day to Remember

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January 29, 1966, was a long time ago! For me, it’s a day to remember.

At 5:00 p.m. that day Terry and I stood before the altar at St. Paul Lutheran Church in Austin and pledged to one another our faithfulness “… to have and to hold, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, till death parts us, according to God’s holy will.”

That was 52 years ago! And although many things that happened more than a half century ago have been lost in the maze of my seemingly totally stuffed gray matter, other recollections are quite clear. Here are a few that come to mind:

  • Our wedding day was preceded by our wedding rehearsal the night before. Friday afternoon, January 28, I drove from my nearly completed graduate school semester classes at Texas A&M in College Station to Austin for the rehearsal at St. Paul. All went well and was followed by the rehearsal dinner hosted by my mother and father at the Villa Capri Hotel.
  • After kissing Terry goodbye on her front porch at midnight, I drove the 100 miles back to College Station, getting to bed shortly after 1:00 a.m. Saturday. At 7:00 a.m. I arrived in class to take my final final exam … in Biochemistry. Both because of our wedding and my decision to leave grad school to go to the seminary, neither my heart nor my head really gave a rip about that exam.
  • After concluding those last few moments at my alma mater I packed my few worldly goods in my ’57 Chevy, turned in the key to my dorm room, and drove back to Austin in time to hang around the hotel with my parents, three sisters, and other family members.
  • The wedding began promptly at 5:00 p.m. The officiant was the sainted Rev. Dr. Albert F. Jesse, who had hired me in August 1964 to teach the fourth grade at St. Paul. My entire preparation for that memorable year was a B.S. degree in Animal Science. Go figure! Mid-August, the date I was hired, was only two weeks prior to the beginning of school. I had a pulse and was willing to work for $200 per month. I was his man!
  • After the wedding service and ceremony, our reception was held at the Villa Capri Hotel. I remember the beautiful wedding cake. I recall Terry and I posing for a photo, both with a piece of said cake in hand, lovingly feeding it to each other. What I failed to see, discovered only when asked en route to our honeymoon destination by my new bride, was the groom’s cake. I had absolutely no clue what she was talking about! Never saw it! Haven’t yet lived it down!
  • We arrived at the Stagecoach Inn in Salado, a short 48 mile drive north of Austin. It was late and we were newlyweds, so we chose not to do any midnight sightseeing. Money was tight in those days. One night in the hotel cost 10% of my monthly salary. We stayed two nights … 20% of my monthly salary. After a semester of grad school, the bank account was not quite non-existent but was far from flush. I think we ate in the restaurant only once. Another 10% of my monthly salary!
  • Monday morning we packed the car and headed back to Terry’s parents’ home in Austin to pick up her clothes, other belongings, and our wedding gifts, and headed to our first home in Houston, arriving late Monday afternoon. The apartment on Bellefontaine in southwest Houston cost $75 per month, half of which was payable every two weeks.
  • The next day, Tuesday morning, I started my second teaching job, also in the fourth grade, at Pilgrim Lutheran School in Houston. Angie Bielefeldt was on maternity leave that semester and I needed a job prior to moving to Springfield, Ill. to enter the seminary, so it all worked out just fine. Terry worked with my father at Rice Food Market those four months in anticipation of the move to the seminary in June.

Lots of water has gone under the bridge since those days. Neither Terry nor I could possibly have had any clue whatsoever about what the Lord had in store for us. Perhaps in the weeks ahead I’ll be moved to share some of those stories as well.

In the meantime, I thank God for his priceless gift of a beautiful wife who became an awesome mother, an incredible grandmother, a gracious hostess, an excellent cook, a friend and mentor to many women including countless pastors’ wives, a tireless companion on many weekend trips for preaching engagements across the country, a fearless travel companion on many international trips to the mission fields and partner church locations around the world, including numerous third world countries where she was the only woman in the entourage, and a woman who loves to give of herself to people she meets … friends, family, and strangers alike.

Happy 52nd Anniversary, dear Terry! I love you more than words can express and thank God for you every day!

An Interesting Psychology Experiment

Monkeys

Have you heard the story about the psychology experiment? Here’s how it goes:

You start with a cage containing four monkeys. Inside the cage you hang a banana on a string. Then you place a set of stairs under the banana. Before long a monkey will go to the stairs and climb toward the banana.

You then spray ALL the monkeys with cold water. After a while, another monkey makes an attempt. As soon as he touches the stairs, you spray ALL the monkeys with cold water. Pretty soon, when another monkey tries to climb the stairs, the other monkeys will try to prevent it.

Now, put away the cold water. Remove one monkey from the cage and replace it with a new monkey. The new monkey sees the banana and attempts to climb the stairs. To his shock, ALL of the other monkeys beat the dickens out of him. After another attempt and attack, he knows that if he tries to climb the stairs he will be assaulted.

Next, remove another of the original four monkeys, replacing it with a new monkey. The newcomer goes to the stairs and is attacked. The previous newcomer takes part in the punishment – with enthusiasm – because he is now part of the “team.”

Then replace a third original monkey with a new monkey, followed by the fourth. Every time the newest monkey takes to the stairs, he is attacked.

In every case, the experienced monkeys that are beating up the new monkey have no idea why they were not permitted to climb the stairs. Neither do they know why they are participating in the beating of the newest monkey. Having replaced all the original monkeys, none of the remaining monkeys will have ever been sprayed with cold water.

Nevertheless, not one of the monkeys will try to climb the stairway for the banana. Why, you ask? Because in their minds, that is the way it has always been!

The original version of this story goes on to make application by suggesting that “monkeys” holding certain elected offices in governmental circles should all be replaced at the same time. It goes on to say that this suggestion is meant to show no disrespect to monkeys.

I’ll suggest another application, albeit a fairly obvious one. In circles other than governmental ones, the same phenomenon sometimes occurs. In families, schools, churches, community organizations, neighborhoods, civic clubs, social groups, and almost any other collection of people one can imagine, traditions abound.

We often don’t know the source of traditions we follow. We simply follow them. Why? Because they are traditions. We’ve always done things that way.

Most folks my age, and many folks even younger than I, are pretty cotton pickin’ traditional. Yet unless breaking a tradition requires violating biblical, moral, legal, or ethical principles, a tradition might well be replaced by a new practice that better accomplishes the organization’s purposes or objectives.

You might want to remember this story next time you come across a tradition that seems to have no intrinsic value or detracts from the mission you and your group are trying to achieve.

During his earthly life, Jesus broke many traditions. And on a topic far more important than earthly traditions, he said: “Behold, I make all things new!” (Rev. 21:5)

The Power of Prayer

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Before reading the story below I had never heard of Pahrump, Nevada. Google it and you’ll see a listing of “adult entertainment” that gives an indication of what might be its “claim to fame.”

Here’s the story:

In Pahrump, Nevada, the Diamond D brothel began construction on an expansion of their building to increase their ever-growing business.

In response, the local Baptist Church started a campaign to block the business from expanding, with morning, afternoon, and evening prayer sessions at their church.

Work on Diamond D’s project progressed until the week before the grand re-opening when lightning struck the building and burned it to the ground! After the brothel burned to the ground by the lightning strike, the church folks were rather smug in their outlook, bragging about “the power of prayer.”

But shortly thereafter, Jill Diamond, the owner/madam of Diamond D, sued the church, the preacher and the entire congregation on the grounds that the church “was ultimately responsible for the demise of her building and her business, either through direct or indirect divine actions or means.” 

In its reply to the court, the church vehemently and vociferously denied any and all responsibility or any connection to the building’s demise.

The crusty old judge read through the plaintiff’s complaint and the defendant’s reply, and at the opening hearing he commented, “I don’t know how I’m going to decide this case, but it appears from the paperwork that we now have a brothel owner who staunchly believes in the power of prayer and an entire church congregation that thinks otherwise.”

The moral of this story is we’d better be careful about how and for what we pray. And if we really trust God to answer our prayer, when he answers the way we asked, we’d better be willing to say that that’s exactly what happened and to give him the credit.

God bless your day!