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!