Political and Ecclesiastical Nominees

Luther's Coat of ArmsOnly those who have been living in a cave for several months are unaware of the remarkable distinctions among the candidates eager to occupy the Oval Office in the White House. Areas of disagreement exist, both within major political parties and across party lines. These differences include positions on everything from the economy to immigration to Supreme Court appointees to foreign policy and more. Some differences are minor. Others are vitally significant.

Perhaps not quite so obvious to some are similar distinctions in the ecclesiastical world, particularly that of my own church body, The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. Nominees for the office of national president to be elected in the coming months have been announced. All three candidates are clergymen in good standing on the Synod’s roster of ordained ministers of the Gospel. They all also strongly profess allegiance to the authority of Holy Scripture and to the Lutheran Confessions as a correct interpretation of Scripture. We would expect and accept nothing less.

That commitment works well where basic matters of faith and life are concerned but not so well for issues on which Holy Scripture and the Confessions may be silent or non-conclusive or on which varying interpretations simply are not in agreement. Basic general commitment to these important documents does not necessarily imply concurrence among these men on matters of importance for the future of the LCMS. Here are some topics on which LCMS nominees might differ:

  • View of the role of the church in society.
  • Flexibility or rigidity in worship style and content.
  • Interpretation of the biblical doctrine of eternal election.
  • Attitude toward clergy participation in public civic events.
  • Application of biblical principles of inter-Christian relationships.
  • Understanding and commitment to the mission of Christ’s Church.
  • Approach to biblical interpretation of the role of women in the church.
  • Evangelical or stringent attitude toward administration of the Sacraments.

In addition to that list, other important considerations differentiate candidates from one another in both the political and ecclesiastical arenas. These include personal integrity, courage, management style, leadership effectiveness, ability to work well with others, trustworthiness, collaborative spirit, loyalty and moderation in all things. A basic question many people ask is whether they would be proud to be represented by the person elected to the office of president of the nation or the church.

In the political arena, personal attacks and ad hominem criticisms prevail. In the ecclesiastical arena of the LCMS, what used to be a highly politicized process for electing a national president prior to and during the triennial national convention has been replaced by an electronic balloting process several weeks prior to the convention. More than any other factor, that new process has contributed greatly to the peaceful climate of recent national conventions.

My prayer is for that kind of spirit to prevail, both politically and ecclesiastically, and for the leader selected in each realm to lead and govern faithfully, responsibly and effectively!

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Resurrection!

CrossesThis is the week before Easter, aka the Festival of the Resurrection of Our Lord. It’s a busy time for most pastors, who are heavily involved in preparation for special Holy Week observations of the Paschal Triduum. That’s one name for the three day period beginning Maundy Thursday evening, including Good Friday and Holy Saturday, and ending Easter Sunday evening.

In Western Christianity Easter is always the Sunday after the full moon that occurs on or after the spring equinox on March 21. Easter can come as early as March 22 or as late as April 25.

One of my so far unfulfilled goals in life is to persuade the Roman Catholic Pope to adopt my recommendation that the date for the Festival of the Resurrection be permanently established on the first Sunday in April. In my previous role as national church body president, I thought I had a platform for making that happen. Not so much anymore as a has-been official church leader.

Regardless of its date, I’ve always been amazed by the Festival of the Resurrection, which observes Jesus’ coming back to life. What a miracle! No one can prove it actually occurred. Nor can anyone disprove it. I don’t understand it. It’s a matter of faith. The Bible says it. I believe it.

We Christians confess in the third article of the Apostles’ Creed: “I believe in … the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting…” We believe not only that Jesus came back to life but also that we will do the same. Every time I speak those words I’m saying I believe that someday a miracle will occur, transforming my dead body back to life again.

Last week Terry and I went to Houston for the memorial service of my youngest sister’s mother-in-law. On the way back to Georgetown via New Braunfels to see my mother, we visited my father’s gravesite. His physical body has been in that grave for more than one third of a century. The thought that what’s left in that casket will come back to life is incomprehensible yet inspirational, bringing hope and assurance.

The older I get, the more I ponder the resurrection and the more I wonder about the nature of life in the new heaven and the new earth (Rev. 21). Many questions remain:

  • Will the body of a premature baby or an amputee or an elderly person or a person confined to a wheelchair on earth be transformed in heaven into the body of a strong, agile, wrinkle free young adult in prime physical condition?
  • Will we be driving some kind of extraterrestrial vehicles or will we simply blink an eye and be transported effortlessly and quickly to a new destination?
  • Will animals be living among us?
  • Will my favorite foods (medium rare rib eye steak, marinated pork tenderloin, grilled chicken drumsticks/thighs and lightly grilled salmon) be available? (See Luke 24:42-43.)
  • Will my least favorite foods (Brussel sprouts, yellow squash, okra, cilantro, peppers and onions) be nowhere to be found? (See Gen. 3:17-18.)

The resurrection of the body and life everlasting are made possible by the price Jesus paid during the days in his life we now observe as Holy Week. In that new life believers in Christ will be in his presence eternally. “And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.” (Rev. 7:16-17)

That’s a promise worthy of joyful anticipation! Have a blessed Festival of the Resurrection!

The Red Book

Red BookCaring for an aging parent responsibly includes helping your loved one take care of important life matters. It’s easier to do so while that loved one is still living. In a family, often one specific person takes care of all financial responsibilities. Caring for an aging parent responsibly includes helping your loved one take care of important life matters. It’s easier to do so while that loved one is still living. In a family, often one specific person takes care of all financial responsibilities.

In that case, or if a person lives alone, a “Red Book” containing critical personal and financial data can assist the spouse, child or financial advisor in handling important matters after the person’s death. Former Lutheran Foundation of Texas Board Chairman Herb Noack wrote an article titled “Where’s the Red Book?” Herb states this valuable tool should contain:

  • Location of bank accounts and safe deposit box, with shared access permission to both
  • Any long term charitable commitments, including testamentary gifts or remainder trusts
  • Location of signed, witnessed, notarized Will, Power of Attorney, and Medical Powers
  • List of retirement, 401 (k), 403 (b), IRAs, annuities, pensions and brokerage accounts
  • Favorite Scripture passages, hymns, names of pall bearers and other funeral details
  • Name and telephone numbers for Attorney, CPA, Doctor(s) and Insurance Agent(s)
  • Updated, detailed list of all assets and liabilities with location and legal name
  • Contact info, user names, account numbers, etc., for all accounts
  • Location of vehicle titles and deed to home or other real property
  • Name of preferred mortuary and location of cemetery and plat
  • List of insurance policies (life, auto, long term care, home)
  • Birth, confirmation and marriage certificates, if available
  • Location of tax returns and tax information
  • User name and password for computer
  • Copy of driver’s license and passport
  • List of credit and debit cards

Once created, it is vital to keep the Red Book updated (at least annually) and in a safe place. Because electronic information may be destroyed if your computer crashes or is infected with a virus, electronic and hard copy backup information should always be created and kept in a safe place. Be sure to tell the individual who will be handling your or your loved one’s personal affairs that a Red Book exists and where it is located.

Larry Ohls, LFOT CEO, says: “It’s the easiest thing in the world to put off doing things like this. But if you wait one second too long, it’s the hardest thing in the world from which to recover.”

For assistance with these matters, go to http://www.LFOT.org and click on “Resources.” Taking these steps now will provide peace of mind for you today and blessing for your loved ones in the future.

Caring for Aging Parents

Elderly 1While that’s a topic not entirely new to Terry and to me, we’re certainly no experts. Her father, mother and stepfather passed away a few years ago. Her mother died after hospitalization from an auto accident, although she had previously spent some time in assisted living. Neither Terry’s father nor stepfather required long term care beyond the capacity of family and very close friends to provide. Yet the care family and friends did provide was both physically and emotionally demanding.

My father passed away over 33 years ago. Although he died at home, the time and energy Mom spent caring for him was very likely more consuming than any of us children might have imagined at the time. We weren’t there all the time. Mother was there, lovingly caring for her husband, watching him gradually slip away, leaving her and our family at the relatively tender age of 66 years.

As mentioned in a previous article, almost three weeks ago Mother moved to assisted living. She’s gradually making the adjustment, which may never be totally complete. Yet she knows she can’t care for herself and can no longer live alone, as she had since Daddy’s passing. She also knows her family can’t provide the almost constant care her significantly weakened condition demands.

She’s taking it one day at a time. So are the rest of us, including my sisters Carol (her husband Jerry is deceased), Karen and her husband Mel, Debbie and her husband Curtis, Terry and yours truly. From longer distances but nevertheless watching closely and praying fervently are Mother’s twelve grandchildren plus nine spouses; 22 great grandchildren plus two spouses; and three great great grandchildren (one deceased). Granny is dearly loved!

So how do loved ones care for an aging parent or grandparent or other beloved family member or friend? Last week I asked my readers for suggested answers to that question. Here are some of the responses I received:

  • Have patience! Lord willing, we will all live long enough to be in their position one day. I’ll want the love and respect of my family, not their sharp tongues and rolling eyes and all the ways children might express exasperation for a parent not hearing or not remembering.
  • If a parent has dementia or one of its many forms, whatever they say or do is not really “them” but the disease they have talking through them. Remember how they were when your parents were loving you and caring for you and supporting you. Display that same love for them by returning those feelings. It will make a world of difference!
  • Each offspring plays one of two roles. You are either the caregiver or the nurturer of the caregiver. This means all the children must work together and help the designated caregiver and the caregiver must work with the others. Harmony among family members is key in these situations for the whole family.
  • Spend time visiting, visiting, visiting, and listening, listening, listening.

In Mother’s case, Terry and I live too far away to make everyday visits feasible. Thankfully, Sisters Carol and Karen live close enough to Mom’s new address to visit her in person frequently. Sister Debbie lives in Little Rock but stays in phone contact every day and visits in person when she can. Terry and I visit Mother as often as possible, so far once each week. All of us call Mom frequently and hold her in our prayers daily.

In addition, Mother’s countless community friends, neighbors, fellow members of Cross Lutheran Church and Pastor Don Fraker also visit and communicate with her in many ways. And the wonderful folks at her assisted living facility are attentive to her needs in ways that transcend the care our family would be able to provide.

What are the factors to consider in caring for aging parents?

  • If they live at home, do what you can to make their lives safe, secure and comfortable.
  • Whether you live nearby or far away, continue to stay in touch with them frequently.
  • If the demands of their physical or emotional condition are beyond your ability to manage, investigate the alternatives for in home care, assisted living or nursing home care, as needed.
  • Do your best to see that their physical, emotional and spiritual needs are met.
  • Remember to assure them of your constant love and fervent prayers.

Here’s what I wrote to Mother’s extended family earlier this week: “Anything we’ve considered is done with Granny’s involvement and consent and with her best interest at heart. God only knows how long she will be here with us on earth. While occasionally commenting that her new apartment is not her home, she also says she realizes that this is where she needs to be at this time in her life. She knows, like each of us, that she’s but a stranger here on earth and heaven is her home.

Next week I’ll address some of the important financial matters that need attention in caring for aging parents. Stay tuned!

My Dear Mother

MomMany of you are aware that, God willing, my dear mother Elda Kieschnick will reach her 100th birthday April 10 of this year. She is known by many as a remarkable woman with great personal skills, numerous talents and multiple abilities. She’s also a woman of faith, ready to see Jesus.

Until two weeks ago Mom was living independently in her own home in New Braunfels, Texas. A few weeks earlier it became obvious that her strength was waning, making it difficult for her to stand and walk. She fell three times, thankfully sustaining no serious injury or broken bones.

It soon became apparent that Mom was no longer able to live alone. It also quickly became obvious that none of her four children would be able to provide the nearly constant care her condition required. So our joint decision, following consultation with our dear mother, was to seek an assisted living facility in which her needs could be met with proper care and concern.

The place we selected had one very nice vacant room with eight people on the waiting list. Not one of them was ready to move in, so the room was available, almost miraculously, for our dear mother. She made the move on Saturday, February 20, and is doing as well as can be expected.

To the 54 living members and spouses of her immediate family (three others are already in heaven), Mother is affectionately known as Granny. In reporting to them this assisted living decision I wrote:

“We all know that our gracious Lord has enabled our dear Granny to live a whole lot longer than most people live. How many other almost 100 year old women or men do you know? We also all know that someday her life on earth will end. So will each of ours. And we know what Granny has said repeatedly, that she is ready to go to heaven. None of us knows when that will happen.”

“In the meantime, what we feel is important, and we think you’ll all agree, is that we make every necessary decision and take every prudent step to keep her as safe and comfortable as possible, as long as the good Lord sees fit for her to stay on this earth.”

“What can each of you do? Remember Granny in your prayers. Write a note. Send a card. Call her occasionally. Thank God for bringing each of us into the life of this very special woman!”

Note to Perspectives readers: If you are so inclined, prior to March 31, please consider sending a 100th birthday note or card to the following address:

Elda Kieschnick
c/o Lutheran Foundation of Texas
7900 East Highway 290
Austin, TX 78724-2499

If you prefer email, send your note to me at GBJK@LFOT.org. I’ll print and pass it along to her.  This request is a surprise to my mother, so please help keep it that way. Thank you very much!

Next week I’ll write about caring for aged parents. If you have suggestions, email them to me.