Birthdays and Anniversaries

Birthday CakeBefore getting started with that topic, here’s an update regarding the health and development of my two little grand nieces, Emma and Anna Collins in Evansville, Ind. Both are continuing to gain health and strength, on and off the respirator, weighing in at two pounds each. God be praised! Mother Amanda is recovering from her infection. On the other hand, father Jesse was admitted to the hospital earlier this week with extremely high blood sugar and was diagnosed with diabetes. Please continue to keep this family in your prayers.

Yesterday was our wedding anniversary and my birthday. Having both on the same day has enabled me never to forget our anniversary! I also have never forgotten Terry’s birthday. It falls on the same date (but obviously not the same year) as my mother Elda’s birthday—April 10.

January 29, 1966 was a Saturday. Our wedding took place at 5:00 p.m. at St. Paul Lutheran Church in Austin, the congregation in which Terry was baptized. She went to St. Paul Lutheran School and was also confirmed there, making it the obvious choice for our wedding venue.

Terry and I met during the year I taught at St. Paul. Her little brother was in my fourth grade class. One begins to comprehend the rapidity with which time passes when one realizes that the students in his fourth grade class of the 1964-65 school year are now 59 years old!

Our wedding rehearsal was Friday, January 28. That afternoon I had driven to Austin from College Station, where I was in graduate school at Texas A&M. After the rehearsal dinner, I kissed Terry good night at midnight, drove back to College Station, and got to bed at 2:30 a.m.

Saturday morning I woke up in time for a 7:00 a.m. biochemistry final exam, which I barely passed, and drove back to Austin for our afternoon wedding. Pastor Albert Jesse’s wedding sermon, based on John 2:2, was titled: “They invited Jesus to the wedding.” Indeed, we had!

After a beautiful reception at which I never even noticed the groom’s cake, we drove 60 miles north to Salado for our honeymoon. It was 12 degrees that night, quite unusual for central Texas, even in January. We spent two nights at the historic Stagecoach Inn, at $20 per night. On a parochial teacher’s salary of $200 per month, we couldn’t afford to stay very long.

Monday afternoon we returned to Austin to pick up everything we owned. Then we drove to Houston for the first night in our $75 per month one bedroom apartment. Tuesday morning I began a semester of teaching the fourth grade at Pilgrim Lutheran School in Houston for a young teacher on maternity leave that semester. Terry worked a temporary job to help us save money for our move to Concordia Theological Seminary in Springfield, Ill. that summer.

Most of the rest of our story is history, some of which is still being written. How thankful I am for the privilege of being married to a beautiful, loving, patient, forgiving woman for what is rapidly approaching half a century! We are blessed beyond measure and thank God for his grace!

Remembering birthdays and anniversaries is very important. Doing so communicates to those whose special occasion is being celebrated that they are loved, honored and respected. A person’s birthday is a very real reminder of the intrinsic value of life itself. Isaiah writes: “Before I was born the Lord called me. From my birth he has made mention of my name.” Is. 49:1

MLK Day

Martin Luther King Jr. 1When I was a kid there was no such thing as Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. It’s now a federal holiday on the third Monday of January each year, commemorating Dr. King’s birthday, January 15, 1929. President Ronald Reagan signed the holiday into law in 1983 and it was first observed three years later, in 1986. Only two other people have national holidays in the United States honoring them: George Washington and Christopher Columbus.

As a lifelong Lutheran I’ve always found it interesting that both Dr. King and his father shared their name with another guy named Martin Luther. Numerous points of comparison could be noted between the man who precipitated the Reformation almost 497 years ago and the man who played a significant role in catalyzing racial equality in America. Succinctly and simplistically stated, both men saw things as they were and acted courageously to make them better.

From my younger days I vividly recall the visual reminders of absolute segregation:

  • People with darker complexion than the rest of us were not allowed to ride anywhere other than the back of the bus.
  • They were forbidden to enter public restaurants and stores.
  • In stores and other public places there were three restrooms: Women, Men, Colored.
  • “Colored people” could not attend our schools. Not one African-American student or faculty member was on campus at Houston’s Bellaire High School or at Texas A&M.
  • While there were African-American pastors in the LCMS, we had none in my 1970 Concordia Theological Seminary graduating class in Springfield, Ill. I perceive and believe that was the result of a set of factors quite different from absolute segregation.

My 1964 college graduation coincided with the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and preceded Dr. King’s assassination on April 4, 1968. Since that time, slowly but surely, racial integration in America has progressed to where it is today. While racial prejudice still exists in many forms, I thank God that for most Americans racial equality has become a way of life.

Sadly, that cannot be said universally. In many countries of the world racial prejudice still rears its ugly head. It manifests itself in various ways, including the same kind of violence that took the life of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. over 45 years ago. Lord, have mercy!

St. Paul had it right when he wrote: “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28 NIV)

New Births

Baby BottleLast week’s Perspectives reported the Christmas night premature birth of triplets to my sister’s granddaughter and her husband, Amanda and Jesse Collins of Evansville, Indiana. Little Logan Christopher passed away on the second day. Emma Grace and Anna Christine continue to be in stable and improving condition. Here’s the latest update from their mother, Amanda:

The nurse practitioner just called with our daily report. Both girls are eating 7.5 ccs now. Anna caught up to Emma. Emma had some residual last night so she did not increase today. Both girls’ x-rays and brain ultrasounds look good. Emma’s blood count is good, so she will not get more blood in the next couple days; Anna’s was borderline, so she will. She said they are getting close to coming off their IVs. They take them off once they get to 14cc feedings. She said once they get to 9ccs (probably in a day or two) they will start giving them Prolacta, which is a breast milk fortifier, and they will be on that until about 34 weeks, then hopefully just breast milk. We will probably go visit soon, because they need more milk!

 

Praise God for this encouraging report! And thanks to so many of you who responded to last week’s article with assurance of prayers for this family during a time of great need and concern.

A new birth of a different kind occurred earlier this week at Concordia University Texas in Austin. The first official session of the newly formed Christian Leadership Institute took place on Monday, January 13. While not a birth in the traditional understanding of that word, it was nevertheless a very special occasion.

Twenty-four Concordia students gathered in the Board Room for presentations by veteran church leaders whose sum total of experience is well over 100 years. While significant age differences separated students from presenters, the students received us “old geezers” remarkably well!

The multi-faceted topic was: “Building relationships, developing and modeling with courageous humility a biblical worldview, grounding identity in Christ and Christian principles, understanding life purpose, personal strengths and weaknesses.” Wonderful topics, beautifully presented!

To put it mildly, I’m very excited about this new venture, impressed with the quality of the participants, and confident that this endeavor will contribute greatly to the accomplishment of Concordia’s Mission: Developing Christian Leaders! Stay tuned for more updates!

In the meantime, join me in thanking God for the miracle of new births, especially those that truly bring new life!

The peace of the Lord be with you all!

Triplets

Prayer 1Here’s a December 26 Facebook posting from Jesse and Amanda Collins of Evansville, Indiana:

“Our little Christmas miracles arrived at 11:43 and 11:45 last night. Emma Grace weighed 1 lb. 4 oz. and was 12 inches long. Anna Christine weighed 1 lb. 4 oz and was 11.75 inches long. Logan Christopher weighed 1 lb. 7 oz and was 12.5 inches long. Please continue to pray for these sweet babies, as they have a long road ahead of them.”

Amanda is the daughter of my older sister Carol Wheaton’s youngest son Douglas, which makes him my nephew. Doug and I share a birth date—month and day but definitely not year! I’m pretty sure this genealogical connection makes the triplets my great grand nieces and nephew.

Obviously born quite prematurely in the 24th week of Amanda’s pregnancy, these precious little babies were initially given by doctors a 50-50 chance of survival. On Friday, December 27, Logan Christopher passed away at 7:15 a.m. in his mother’s arms. That same day I wrote in a prayer request to a number of loved ones and friends:

“We know that sometimes our gracious Lord answers our prayers in ways beyond our comprehension or not to our liking. That’s obviously the case here. But our ways are not always his ways. And we trust his promise that “all things work together for good to those who love the Lord, who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). So we commend little Logan to our Savior’s eternal love and care and continue to pray for that same love and care for Emma Grace and Anna Christine.”
 

Today, a little more than two weeks after they were born, Emma and Anna are still hospitalized in stable condition. Both have begun to receive nourishment. Emma has a very large appetite for her condition and Anna is coming along nicely in that category as well. Both little girls have a heart murmur, which hopefully will correct itself with time. Both now have a 75% chance of survival.

In the meantime, Amanda was hospitalized Monday night, December 30, with an infection that subsequently was determined to be MRSA, a serious infection caused by the bacterium Staphylococcus aureus. After re-opening her incision and draining the infection, doctors continued to treat her with IV antibiotics. She’s now at home recuperating.

Please continue to keep Emma and Anna in your prayers, along with their parents Amanda and Jesse Collins, maternal grandparents Doug and Diana Wheaton, maternal great-grandmother Carol Wheaton (my sister), maternal great-great-grandmother Elda Kieschnick (my mother), the rest of their extended maternal family and everyone on their father Jesse’s side of the family as well.

The peace of the Lord be with you all!

New Year Reflections

New Year 2014Every New Year’s Day for the past 31 years I’ve reflected on an event that occurred January 1, 1983. My dear father, Martin Herbert Otto Kieschnick, went to heaven that day at the tender age of 66 years, 6 months, 2 days. I miss him every day and thank God for his influence in my life.

That influence continues to be exerted upon our entire family through my dear mother, Elda Mary Hellman Kieschnick, now 97 years, 8 months, 20 days of age. With the significant exception of Dad’s passing and in light of Mom’s effervescent spirit and cheerful outlook on life, most of my New Year thoughts look through a windshield, not a rear view mirror.

The Complete Speaker’s Almanac points out that the month of January is named after the Roman god Janus: “This particular Roman god had two faces, enabling him to look ahead toward the future and back at the past at the same time. As we get rid of an old year and look forward to a new one, we all try to be a little like Janus. We know through experience what we did wrong and what we did right, and hope to do better this year. Some people make ambitious New Year’s resolutions; others just take a deep breath and hope for the best.…”

How about you? Are you looking back or looking ahead? Are you making ambitious New Year’s resolutions or just hoping for the best? Resolutions have a way of losing their urgency shortly after the New Year rolls around. And I’ve never been one simply to hope for the best without trying to do what I felt necessary for the best to occur, with God’s abundant blessing. My reflections and projections, hopes and prayers for the New Year go hand in hand.

With that in mind, I share with you A New Year’s Wish from an anonymous source:

May God make your year a happy one!
Not by shielding you from all sorrows and pain, but by strengthening you to bear it, as it comes;
Not by making your path easy, but by making you sturdy to travel any path;
Not by taking hardships from you, but by taking fear from your heart;
Not by granting you unbroken sunshine, but by keeping your face bright, even in the shadows;
Not by making your life always pleasant, but by showing you when people and their causes need you most, and by making you anxious to be there to help.

 
And A New Year’s Prayer also from an unknown author:

Spirit of the Risen Christ, be with us today and always.
Be our Light, our Guide, and our Comforter.
Be our Strength, our Courage, and our Sanctifier.
May this New Year be a time of deep spiritual growth: a time of welcoming your graces and gifts; a time for forgiving freely and unconditionally; a time for growing in virtue and goodness.
Come, Holy Spirit! Be with us today and always! Amen!

 
Terry and I pray God’s abundant love, peace, hope and joy will come to you in the year ahead!