Fifty Years Together

LoveSaturday, January 29, 1966, was a frigid day in Austin, Texas. Temperatures were in the teens that night. Late the night before, after our rehearsal and dinner in Austin, I had returned to College Station to take my last grad school final on Saturday, which was also my 23rd birthday.

Terry and I were married at St. Paul Lutheran Church at 5:00 p.m. that day. Her childhood pastor, Rev. Albert Jesse, based his homily on the miracle of Jesus changing water into wine at a wedding in Cana of Galilee. It was titled “They Invited Jesus to the Wedding.”

At the reception at the Villa Capri Hotel, I was so excited I failed to see the groom’s cake, a fine southern tradition. After the reception we drove in my two door baby blue ’65 Chevy Malibu 60 miles north to Salado, spending our two-night honeymoon at the Stagecoach Inn. The Honeymoon Suite was $20 per night, a significant expenditure 50 years ago, especially on a salary of $200 per month.

Lots of water has gone under the bridge since then. During our 50 years together, Terry has been at my side providing love, patience, support and partnership. Our ministry has included:

  • Three years at Concordia Theological Seminary in Springfield, Ill.
  • One year of pastoral internship at Ascension Lutheran Church in Charlotte, N. Car.
  • Three years of pastoral ministry at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Biloxi, Miss.
  • Eight years of pastoral ministry at Redeemer Lutheran Church in Beaumont, Tex.
  • Five years of mission development at Faith Lutheran Church in Georgetown, Tex.
  • Five years of planned giving with Lutheran Foundation of Texas in Austin, Tex.
  • Ten years as president of the Texas District of the LCMS in Austin, Tex.
  • Nine years as president of the national Lutheran Church in St. Louis, Missouri
  • Five years as Presidential Ambassador at Concordia University Texas in Austin
  • One month back at Lutheran Foundation of Texas as Inheritance Legacy Consultant.

In each of these places of ministry, Terry’s unique gifts of hospitality and encouragement have provided support, comfort, hope and joy for wives of countless pastors, ecclesiastical supervisors and other regional, national and international church leaders. Non-catered seated dinners with scores of guests in our homes in Georgetown, Round Rock and St. Louis were not uncommon.

In addition, beginning with our mission development days in Georgetown, Terry helped support our family by going back to work. She spent several years at a women’s clothing store in Georgetown, followed by 17 years of six days a week employment in the wholesale fine jewelry business.

Both of us have been blessed with loving parents and grandparents, only one of whom is still living – my 99 ¾ year old mother Elda of New Braunfels, Tex. We have also been blessed with our daughter Angie, her husband Todd (Terry calls him our son-in-love), their children (our grandchildren) Kolby and Kayla, and our son Andrew.

We are very thankful for Terry’s brother, my three sisters, their spouses, children and grandchildren, our aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews. We’re also wonderfully blessed with countless friends and colleagues from across the nation and around the world, including many of you.

When asked what I believe are the most important words in a successful marriage, I usually say “Yes, Dear!” Seriously, more important words are “I love you!” I’m sorry!” “I forgive you!”

As most married couples will attest, marriage is a mixture of good days and bad, happy times and sad. While it’s incredible how much alike Terry and I often think, it’s equally incredible that each of us will still sometimes say or do things that cause the other to raise an eyebrow or shake a head in surprise, amazement or even frustration.

What’s the bottom line? I give thanks, honor and glory to God for half a century of joy and sorrow, blessing and difficulty, victory and defeat, under the umbrella of God’s grace, with Terry at my side. She has many gifts and unselfishly uses them joyfully and generously.

Fifty years ago the words each of us spoke to the other included: “I take you to be my wedded spouse, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love, to honor and to cherish, till death parts us, according to God’s holy will.” By God’s grace, we said what we meant and meant what we said. To God be the glory!

Not knowing where to draw the invitation line for a special reception, our celebration included a brief trip to Savannah, one of Terry’s favorite cities, and a quiet evening enjoying dinner together.

Happy Anniversary, dearest Terry! I love you with all my heart and look forward to the future, believing that the best is yet to come!

Dealing with Church Bullies

Church PewsLast week I shared an article by Thom Rainer identifying nine traits of church bullies. This week’s Perspectives focus is another article from the same author, who now moves “from descriptive to prescriptive.” Highlights of his article are below. To view the entire article, go to http://thomrainer.com/2015/04/nine-ways-deal-church-bullies/

How do we deal with church bullies? How do we prevent bullying? Here are nine suggestions:

  1. Fight bullying with the power of prayer. The most common targets of church bullies are the pastor and church staff. Ask humbly for people to pray for them daily.
  1. Seek to have an Acts 6 group in the church. Check out the manner in which the Jerusalem church dealt with murmuring and complaining.
  1. Have a high expectation church.Higher expectation churches tend to be more unified, more Great Commission focused, more biblically defined, and more servant oriented. High expectation churches don’t offer an environment conducive to bullying.
  1. Encourage members to speak and stand up to church bullies.Bullying thrives in a church where the majority remains in silent fear of church bullies. Bullies tend to back down when confronted by strong people in the church.
  1. Make certain the polity of the church does not become a useful instrument to church bullies.Many churches have ambiguous structures and lines of accountability. Bullies take advantage of the ambiguity and interpret things according to their nefarious needs.
  1. Be willing to exercise church discipline.Church discipline is a forgotten essential of many churches. Bullies need to know there are consequences for their actions, and church discipline may be one of them.
  1. Have a healthy process to put the best-qualified persons in positions of leadership in the church.Bullies often are able to push around less qualified people who have found themselves in positions of leadership.
  1. Have a healthy process to hire church staff. A unified church staff is a major roadblock for a church bully.
  1. Encourage a celebratory environment in the church.Joyous churches deter bullies. They like somber and divided churches.

Church bullying is more widespread than we often like to admit. Actually, last week’s article was forwarded to more people than any Perspectives article in a long time. That’s an indication that the article hit home with many of my readers, who very likely have encountered a church bully.

As stated last week, I encourage you to remember that church bullies, like you and like me, are “poor, miserable sinners” for whom Christ died. They, too, are in need of the forgiving and life changing grace of God.

Accordingly, our goal should not simply be to “run off” church bullies from our congregation, but to seek and pursue ways of helping bullies become blessings! That will not always work. Yet while such an endeavor is easier said than done, it’s certainly a worthy effort to consider!

Nine Traits of Church Bullies

Arms Crossed ManThat’s the title of an article by Thom Rainer, president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources (LifeWay.com). Highlights of the article are printed below. For the entire article, go to http://www.churchleaders.com/pastors/pastor-articles/252237-9-traits-church-bullies.html.

Church bullies are common in many churches. They wreak havoc and create dissension. They typically must have an “enemy” in the church, because they aren’t happy unless they are fighting a battle. They tend to maneuver to get an official leadership position in the church, such as chairman of the elders or deacons or treasurer. But they may have bully power without any official position.

Church bullies have always been around. But they seem to be doing their work more furiously today than in recent history. Perhaps this look at nine traits of church bullies can help us recognize them before they do too much damage.

  1. They do not recognize themselves as bullies. To the contrary, they see themselves as necessary heroes sent to save the church from [it]self.
  1. They have personal and self-serving agendas. They have determined what “their” church should look like. Any person or ministry or program that is contrary to their perceived ideal church must be eliminated.
  1. They seek to form power alliances with weak members in the church. Weaker church staff members and church members will succumb to their forceful personalities.
  1. They tend to have intense and emotional personalities. These bullies use the intensity of their personalities to get their way.
  1. They are famous for saying “people are saying.” They love to gather tidbits of information and shape it to their own agendas.
  1. They find their greatest opportunities in low-expectation churches. Many of the church members have an entitlement view of church membership. They seek to get their own needs and preferences fulfilled. They won’t trouble themselves to confront and deal with church bullies.
  1. They are allowed to bully because church members will not stand up to them. While the bully brings great pain to pastors and other church leaders, the hurt is greater because most church members stood silent and let it happen.
  1. They create chaos and wreak havoc. A church bully always has his next mission. While he or she may take a brief break from one bullying mission to the next, they are not content unless they are exerting the full force of their manipulative behavior.
  1. They often move to other churches after they have done their damage. Whether they are forced out or simply get bored, they will move to other churches with the same bullying mission. Some bullies have wreaked havoc in three or more churches.

Church bullying is epidemic in congregations. Next week we’ll explore the topic of preventing church bullying. In the meantime, join me in remembering that church bullies, like you and like me, are “poor, miserable sinners” in need of the forgiving and life changing grace of God.

Thank God for his grace in Christ our Lord!

New Beginnings

New LifeWe’re only one week into the year of our Lord 2016 and most likely many New Year’s resolutions have already been broken. If you’re still on track, congratulations! Keep up the great work! If you’ve already fallen off the wagon, remember that the year is young. It’s not too late!

Many in the latter category mean well but just don’t seem to have the self-discipline necessary to implement what they resolve. If that’s true in your case, don’t be too hard on yourself. Perhaps your goals are too broad, not specific enough, or unrealistic.

New Year’s resolutions might include cessation of a bad habit, whatever that habit might be. Or, in the case of those who struggle with weight, loss of excess body mass might be the pledge. For others, anger management is an issue that needs to be controlled. Those are fairly general goals.

It might help to begin with a more attainable objective, achievement of which would allow you to celebrate your success rather than to berate yourself for yet another failure. Remember that one must first learn how to crawl before being able to walk or to run.

Over the years of my life I’ve never really made hard and steadfast resolutions per se. That’s not because my life is perfect and has no need for improvement. It’s simply because I see a new year as an opportunity for new beginnings.

One new beginning for me this year, professionally speaking, is coming back home to a career I started in 1986. That was a new year I began by leaving parish ministry and working as Director of Development and soon thereafter as Executive Director of the Lutheran Foundation of Texas. It was a new, challenging and fulfilling type of ministry for me, one I enjoyed immensely!

Last week I rejoined LFOT as Inheritance Legacy Consultant. Essentially, my time will be spent preaching, teaching, writing, conducting seminars and workshops and visiting with individuals, couples and families. The primary focus is helping folks realize and fulfill their responsibilities as managers of assets entrusted to their care by the true owner of those assets, God himself.

I’ll focus on helping folks consider the possibilities and discover the options available when making decisions about what to do with the financial assets they have accumulated during their lifetime(s). Passing substantial inheritance to loved ones is not always as simple as it might seem. Supporting the ministry of charitable organizations can be done efficiently and effectively, with little or no reduction of, and often with increase in benefit for family members.

My new email address is GBJK@LFOT.org. Stay tuned!

That’s my new beginning for this year. What’s yours? God bless you in your new endeavors!