Fatherly Influence

Father - DaughterAs most are aware, last Sunday was Father’s Day. In our home, that calls for a celebration including a very nice home cooked meal. Usually I cook the meat on the grill outside and Terry does everything else inside. All family members who can come fill our dining room table.

Much of the time we laugh a lot. We also talk about subjects of current interest. Sometimes I’ll ask folks at the table to relate any memories about their father (in the case of our kids that’s me) they feel like sharing. Those stories are sometimes funny, sometimes sad and sometimes serious.

Often I’ll talk about my father, Martin Herbert Otto Kieschnick, recalling quotes and pithy sayings for which he was fairly famous. A few examples:

  • On gaining painless experience: I’d like to learn how to shave on someone else’s beard.
  • On an egotistical person: I’d like to buy that man for what he’s worth and sell him for what he thinks he’s worth.
  • On the importance of personal values when hiring an employee: You won’t end up with good BBQ if you don’t start with a good piece of meat.
  • On Christian giving: You can’t out-give the Lord. He has a bigger shovel than you do.
  • On marital faithfulness: One woman is enough for a real man.

While not every person has fond memories of his or her father, mine are almost all very positive. My dear 99-year-old mother, Elda Mary Sofa Hellman Kieschnick, would agree that her husband was not without original sin. She would also agree that the good in the man she married far outweighed the very little bad. My three sisters and all four of our spouses would concur.

So every day, not just Father’s Day, I thank God for my father, the man I called “Dad.” His influence has made a difference in my life, the full extent of which I may never know. I pray the same is true of the influence of my life on our children, grandchildren and, someday, great grandchildren. All of them, including my dear wife Terry, are precious gifts of God in my life!

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Juneteenth

SlaveryTomorrow is a day of special importance, particularly for people whose ancestors spent all or at least part of their lives in slavery in America. An article titled History of Juneteenth provides a summary of this special day (juneteenth.com/history.htm). Here are excerpts:

Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States. On June 19, 1865, Union soldiers led by Major General Gordon Granger landed at Galveston, Texas, with news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free. This was two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, which had become official January 1, 1863.

General Granger read this order: “The people of Texas are informed that in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of rights and rights of property between former masters and slaves, and the connection heretofore existing between them becomes that between employer and free laborer.”

The reactions to this profound news ranged from pure shock to immediate jubilation. Even with nowhere to go, many felt that leaving the plantation would be their first grasp of freedom. The desire to reach family members in neighboring states drove some into Louisiana, Arkansas and Oklahoma. Settling into these new areas as free men and women brought on new realities and the challenges of establishing a heretofore non-existent status for black people in America.

Recounting that historic day in 1865, June 19th was coined “Juneteenth” as a time for reassuring each other, for praying and for gathering remaining family members. Juneteenth continued to be highly revered in Texas decades later, with many former slaves and descendants making an annual pilgrimage back to Galveston on that date.

On January 1, 1980, Juneteenth became an official holiday in the state of Texas through the efforts of Al Edwards, an African American state legislator. Legislation he introduced marked Juneteenth as the first emancipation celebration with official state recognition.

Today Juneteenth is celebrated in many ways and many places, with institutions such as the Smithsonian, the Henry Ford Museum and others sponsoring Juneteenth-centered activities.

Significantly, the apostle Paul wrote a long time ago these words in Galatians 3:26-28: “So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (NIV)

Happy Juneteenth!

Ecclesiastical Pet Peeves

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Because of the great response to last week’s article Grammatical Pet Peeves I thought I might as well continue the general topic. So this week’s focus is Ecclesiastical Pet Peeves.

Essentially, I’m writing this week about matters that are distracting or otherwise detrimental to the Christian worship experience. I pray and trust these comments will be read and received in the same spirit of constructive but non-judgmental criticism in which they are offered.

Here are a few of my Ecclesiastical Pet Peeves:

Outside and in the parking lot:

  • Un-mowed grass, un-trimmed bushes, outdated church sign, poorly maintained facilities
  • Non-existent or unclear directions for visiting, elderly or physically challenged worshipers to convenient parking spots
  • Poorly marked parking spaces or spaces too narrow for the average vehicle
  • No parking lot attendants to provide information and assistance, especially for seniors and in times of inclement weather

In the worship service:

  • Absence of friendly, outgoing, well-groomed, trained greeters to welcome worshipers
  • Lack of properly trained ushers to assist latecomers in finding a seat in the sanctuary or to invite latecomers to wait in the narthex until a natural and appropriate time to enter
  • Printed orders of confession of sin that put what may not be accurately self-descriptive words in the mouths of worshipers
  • Responsive readings that are pedantic and unrelated to the life experience of worshipers expected to speak those words
  • Selection of hymns or songs that are very difficult, if not nearly impossible to sing
  • Projecting on a screen the words of unfamiliar hymns or songs without the musical score
  • Requiring worshipers to stand and sit, stand and sit, repetitively or unnecessarily—three times in one worship service should be sufficient
  • Requiring worshipers to stand during a several minute prayer or for an unusually lengthy Scripture reading, even if it is the gospel lesson for the day—I can listen or pray to our Lord with greater devotion while remaining comfortably seated than if having to stand again after being seated only moments or sometimes even seconds earlier

In speaking or preaching:

  • Absence of a friendly word of welcome by the pastor or other church leader that briefly explains the reason for worship and the central theme of the day’s worship service
  • Reading of Scripture lessons by the pastor or other person without clear and distinct pronunciation or without the emotion demanded by the text itself
  • Service leaders who pay little if any attention to personal appearance
    • Shoes freshly shined
    • Hair neatly trimmed
    • Face cleanly shaved or, if you insist, beard/goatee/mustache neatly trimmed—Note to clergy and other public worship leaders: Compare the most recent photo of the motorcycle shooting participants in Waco or Mexican drug cartel leaders with a photo of the Fortune 500 CEOs or all but nine of the 44 U.S. presidents and see which group you most nearly resemble—I’m just sayin’ …
  • Lack of explanation regarding the reason and purpose for gathering of offerings
  • Non-existent practice of explaining in simple, evangelical and understandable words the reason for the sacrament of Holy Communion and what the Bible says about proper reception of this wonderful means of God’s grace
  • Speaking or preaching in a manner that makes it difficult for people of all ages to hear and understand what is being said
    • Slow down, you speak too fast
    • Speed it up, you talk too slow
    • Speak up, don’t whisper, we can’t hear you, you’re speaking to a crowd, not an individual
    • Speak naturally, lose the pulpit tone

That’s enough for now. I’m fairly certain this list omits some personal peeves that you could readily add. I’m also fairly certain some will agree and others will disagree with what I’ve written. I’m always interested in hearing what you think about stuff I write, even when it’s not possible for me to reply to all the responses, suggestions, criticisms and adulations I receive.

One final thought in the interest of full disclosure. It’s right and proper for you to know that at one point or another in my own ministry it’s very likely that I fanned the flame by participating in some of these peevish matters myself and sometimes that happens still today. Mea culpa! Mea maxima culpa!

What’s the bottom line? If you’re in charge of anything ecclesiastical, pay close attention to what goes on around you and do what you can to make the worship experience as worshipful and meaningful as possible. Even when that happens Satan will try to disturb and distract.

People assemble to worship our Lord in spirit and in truth. Do everything you can as an ecclesiastical leader to help that happen!

Grammatical Pet Peeves

Student PaperA year ago I saw a Facebook posting from a friend of mine, Rev. Tom Handrick, titled “Rants and Pet Peeves.” It brought to mind a few such pet peeves of my own, all grammatical. While a few of my peeves are the same as Tom’s, I have others. I’ll try to forego the ranting. Here we go:

  • Spelling the possessive of “it” as “it’s” which is actually the contraction of “it is”
    • The possessive of “it” is simply “its”
  • Making plural words out of last names and other personal nouns by adding ‘s (such as Johnson’s are coming for dinner) which makes them possessive words
    • A simple “s” without the apostrophe is all that’s needed to make a noun plural
  • Beginning a sentence with “me” instead of “I” as in “Me and Tom are eating”
    • The correct way is to say “Tom and I are eating”
  • Confusing “counsel” (a noun meaning advice or a verb meaning to advise) with “council” (a group)
  • Saying “as per” your request, which is redundant, instead of simply “per” your request
  • Saying “I told him, I said” instead of simply “I told him” or “I said”
  • Splitting an infinitive verb form (to go, to do, to take) with an adjective or adverb
    • The LCMS Mission Statement correctly includes the words “vigorously to make known the love of Christ” instead of the incorrect “to vigorously make known”
  • Referring to an inanimate object as “healthy” instead of “healthful”
    • Have you ever seen a sick store or a sick vegetable? Why call them healthy?
  • Using a singular noun with a plural pronoun:
    • Incorrect: Every child must bring their own lunch.
    • Correct: Every child must bring his or her own lunch.
  • Placing a modifier incorrectly:
    • Incorrect: Pray for the mother of Judy Smith, who died yesterday. (Who died?)
    • Correct: Pray for Judy Smith’s mother, who died yesterday. (Judy’s mother died.)
  • Using “irregardless” instead of simply “regardless”
  • Misusing “I” as an object and “me” as a subject
    • Incorrect: Susie gave Jane and I a tip on the race.
    • Correct: Susie gave Jane and me and tip on the race.
    • Hint: Take out “Jane” – Susie gave me a tip, not Susie gave I a tip.
  • Writing “your” (something belonging to you) when you mean “you’re” (you are)
  • Saying “unthaw” instead of simply “thaw”
  • Using the verb “affect” instead of the noun “effect”
    • Incorrect: What’s the affect of the rain on our picnic plans?
    • Correct: What’s the effect of the rain on our picnic plans?
  • Saying “loose” (not tight) when you mean “lose” (lost or can’t find)
  • Using “principle” (moral rule) instead of “principal” (person in charge)
  • Saying “lie” (recline) when you mean “lay” (put or place)
  • Using “advise” (verb) instead of “advice” (noun)
  • Other terms that are misused include:
    • “Farther” (physical distance) and “further” (figurative distance)
    • “Who” (nominative) and “whom” (subjective)
    • “Fewer” (specific numbers) and “less” (smaller quantity)
    • “Since” (refers to time) and “because” (causative effect)
    • “There” (location), “their” (belongs to them) and “they’re” (they are)
    • “Then” (point in time or as a result) and “than” (comparison)
    • “Could of” or “would of” or “should of” rather than “could, would, should have”
    • “Compliment” (saying something nice) and “complement” (adding to)
    • “Historic” (important event) and “historical” (happened in the past)

Others could be added to the representative group above. I fully expect to receive replies from some of you, adding your own particular examples.

Pet peeves may seem frivolous to some. Their abuse has no eternal consequence. Yet proper grammatical usage reflects, for better or worser (oops … for better or for worse) J on the user. That’s especially true in the case of folks who frequently write for public consumption or speak in public gatherings. Incorrect grammar is simply an unwelcome and unnecessary distraction!

So please accept this reminder as a respectful, fraternal encouragement to pay attention to grammatical correctness. Preachers, teachers, business leaders, parents and politicians, this includes all of you. Sometimes that’s easier to do than (not then) J at other times!

Many blessings!