Don’t Laugh At Me

Landscape

These lyrics to a song by that title touch my heart: (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FVjbo8dW9c8)

I’m a little boy with glasses, the one they call the geek,
A little girl who never smiles ’cause I’ve got braces on my teeth.
And I know how it feels to cry myself to sleep.

I’m that kid on every playground who’s always chosen last,
A single teenage mother tryin’ to overcome my past.
You don’t have to be my friend but is it too much to ask?

Don’t laugh at me, don’t call me names. Don’t get your pleasure from my pain.
In God’s eyes we’re all the same. Someday we’ll all have perfect wings.
Don’t laugh at me.

I’m the cripple on the corner, you’ve passed me on the street.
And I wouldn’t be out here beggin’ if I had enough to eat.
And don’t think I don’t notice that our eyes never meet.

I lost my wife and little boy when someone crossed that yellow line.
The day we laid them in the ground is the day I lost my mind.
And right now I’m down to holdin’ this little cardboard sign.

Don’t laugh at me, don’t call me names. Don’t get your pleasure from my pain.
In God’s eyes we’re all the same. Someday we’ll all have perfect wings.
Don’t laugh at me.

I’m fat, I’m thin, I’m short, I’m tall, I’m deaf, I’m blind, hey, aren’t we all.

Don’t laugh at me, don’t call me names, don’t get your pleasure from my pain.
In God’s eyes we’re all the same. Someday we’ll all have perfect wings.
Don’t laugh at me.

I’m not convinced we’ll all have “perfect wings.” But I’m absolutely certain that the people described in this song know and feel the pain of insensitive, scoffing, ridiculing and bullying.

The Bible says: “Be kind and tender-hearted to one another, forgiving each other just as in Christ God has forgiven you.” (Eph. 4:32) Those described in this song say: “Don’t laugh at me. Just love me.” God bless your day!

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My New Book

Life, Love, Faith, Family: Perspectives from a Veteran Church Leader. That’s the title of my new book now available for pre-order from Concordia Publishing House. Here’s CPH’s description:

The Christian life is often not an easy one. Struggles occur in marriages and vocations. Death cannot be avoided. Natural disasters and illnesses arise unexpectedly.

With pastoral care, a spiritual perspective, and real-life wisdom, Dr. Gerald (Jerry) Kieschnick has written on matters of life and faith for years. This collection combines some of his best writing on a variety of everyday topics, encouraging you to turn to God’s Word, the ultimate source of wisdom, for guidance in navigating the Christian life.

May these brief musings offer you spiritual encouragement and comfort as you experience all that the Christian life encompasses—grief, happiness, tension, contentment, fear, and joy.

The Preface sets the stage in my own words:

For more than half a century, I’ve served in numerous Christian leadership capacities, from developing a mission church starting with nothing to president of a national church body of over two million members. Throughout those years, I’ve met and known many people who experience much joy, meaning, and fulfillment in life and love. Yet, many of these wonderful people have encoun­tered challenges and difficulties along the way, often in the arenas of family and faith.

 Every week, for the past nine years, I’ve written my personal perspectives on these and a variety of other topics. In this little book, I share one hundred of those stories and reflections for your reading enjoyment, emotional encouragement, and spir­itual enrichment.

Late last week I received word from CPH that this book is now available for pre-order. Go to:

https://www.cph.org/p-32843-life-love-faith-family-perspectives-from-a-veteran-church-leader.aspx Copies will begin shipping on August 15.

My first book published by Concordia Publishing House was Waking the Sleeping Giant (CPH, 2010). It’s an honor and privilege to work again with CPH. I pray this new book will be a blessing to those who read it. And if you happen to have your copy with you next time we’re together, I’ll be happy to sign it.

God bless your day!

What’s a Different Spirit?

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Last week’s article concluded with a statement of Martin Luther to one of his theological opponents. In German he said: “Ihr habt einen anderen geist als wir!” Translation: “You have another [different] spirit than we.” I promised I’d say more this week about what constitutes a different spirit. So here we go.

In Luther’s case the different spirit he diagnosed and pronounced emanated from a number of theological topics. On this particular occasion the question was whether the body and blood of Christ are really present in the Lord’s Supper. His opponent was Ulrich Zwingli. A significantly different spirit existed between those two men. Check Google for more details.

On a separate but related front was the quite serious, even life threatening confrontation between Luther and Roman Catholic Pope Leo X.  A vastly different spirit existed between those two, essentially resulting from their differing perspectives on forgiveness of sin. The Catholic Church believed that forgiveness could be bought with what were called indulgences. Luther correctly maintained that the price was paid by God’s grace in the person of Christ our Lord.

On a more domestic level in today’s world, a difference in spirit between a husband and a wife can quickly cause problems. If one person has a trusting and optimistic attitude while his or her spouse is distrustful and pessimistic, that difference in spirit often yields tension and friction.

In the political realm Republicans and Democrats continue to espouse policies and positions that differ from one another, often quite radically. While opposing ideas about philosophical, economic, immigration, military issues, and more do not necessarily presuppose differences in spirit, the hostile expression thereof clearly demonstrates such a difference.

Even in churches some strive for control and exclusiveness while others want the church to be evangelical and inclusive. Some approach financial support of their church with an open palm, others with a clenched fist. Those differences in spirit are manifested in a we/they attitude that can become combative rather than cooperative.

Although there’s no simple solution, St. Paul offers in Galatians 5 some good suggestions in his discussion of living by the Spirit [of God] compared to life controlled by the flesh. “The acts of the flesh are obvious … hatred, discord, jealousy, rage, rivalries, divisions, factions, and envy … But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control … Since we live by the Spirit, let us walk in step with the Spirit.”

Good idea, Paul. Living that way by the power and grace of God will obviate the necessity of Christians saying to each other: “You have another [different] spirit than we.”

Amen. So be it.

A Different Spirit

It’s pretty hard not to have noticed in recent years, particularly recent months, the depth of division that exists in our country. From vitriolic attacks in social media to public protests on city streets to flag burning incidents outside congressional offices, people are expressing disagreement with one another, with our country, and with its leaders.

It’s not just happening in the political arena. Differences abound in the ecclesiastical realm as well. That’s not new. Disagreements have existed among God’s people since the days of the disciples and apostles.

Shortly after Jesus instituted what we now know as the Lord’s Supper, a dispute arose among his own disciples as to which of them would be considered the greatest (Luke 22:24). After working together as a team Paul and Barnabas separated from each other because they disagreed on whether to include John Mark on a mission journey (Acts 15:36-40).

Fast forward to the 16th century’s embryonic stages of Lutheranism. Disagreements about faith, forgiveness, penance, papacy, and purgatory were prolific and perpetual. Since that time there has been and still is nearly constant contention about what constitutes pure biblical doctrine, particularly regarding practical application of the Christian faith in daily life and church practice.

So today, like many national religious organizations and our nation itself, Lutheran Christians share with one another many quite similar beliefs but some significantly different perspectives on matters of faith and life. Here are examples from two sources, constituents of which are of one mind about many aspects of faith and life but not of one accord on a number of matters:

  • The Lutheran Clarion: “Building faithfulness to true Confessional Lutheranism and a clear voice of Christian concerns against actions and causes which mitigate against faithfulness to the One True Faith.”  Website: http://lutheranclarion.org/
  • Congregations Matter©: “A movement of churches, laypeople and pastors committed to the restoration of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod to its historic roles of strengthening and supporting congregations.”  Website: http://congregationsmatter.org/

Notwithstanding such differences, an overwhelming majority of Lutherans agree on major points of Christian doctrine. Yet freedom from disagreement escapes us. Why is that?

Martin Luther put his finger on a significant causative factor when he said to one of his opponents 500 years ago: “You have a different spirit than we.” I believe he was right. More about that next week. Stay tuned. God bless your day!

Kiss me. I’m Wendish!

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Credit: Jim Nix

Today’s edition marks the beginning of the tenth year of Perspectives. For the past 468 Thursdays at 5:00 a.m. an article has been posted. Each year I ask myself how long I’ll continue meeting this self-imposed weekly deadline, grinding out an article of interest and value to you, my readers.

Last year I expressed that wonderment and received in the mail a beautiful sport shirt with the stars and stripes of our U.S. flag and an unsigned note encouraging me to keep writing. Thank you to the yet unknown anonymous donor. I’m still writing. At least for now. So stay tuned. Here we go.

For years I’ve seen a lapel button that reads: Kiss me. I’m Wendish! To those of Wendish descent, those words are meaningful. For those who have never heard of Wends, they mean absolutely nothing.

Here’s a portion of a brief introduction to Wendish history, written by Ron Lammert and published January 1, 2010 (http://texaswendish.org/): “Who Are the Wends?”

In December of 1854, an English sailing vessel, the Ben Nevis, docked in Galveston harbor loaded with some 500 immigrants from Lusatia, an area in Germany comprising parts of Saxony and Prussia. These immigrants were not the typical lot of Germans, Swedes, Czechs, and Poles who flocked to Texas in the 1850’s seeking cheap land and economic opportunity. This group was different.

It brought a strange new language to the frontier state — the Wendish language. And even more striking, these Slavic pioneers who were to settle in Lee County made the journey from their homeland, not in search of prosperity, but rather in search of religious liberty and the right to speak their Wendish tongue. 

The Wends were descended from a group of Slavic tribes that had developed a common language, and, in the tenth century, occupied much of central Europe. By the 19th century, the Wends had been decimated by conquest and assimilation with other cultures until only a small area along the River Spree was inhabited by true Wends.

The Wendish migration to Texas was impelled, in part, by the Prussian insistence that the Wends  speak and use the German language, even to the extent of Germanizing their names. The oppression of the Wendish minority extended to working conditions, with Wends being denied the right to do the skilled labor for which they were trained.

But most intolerable was the requirement that the Lutheran Wends join the Evangelical Reform[ed] churches in one state-regulated Protestant body. The Wends believed this action would dilute their pure Lutheran faith and, rather than accept this decree, they made plans to immigrate to the New World.

Since those days nearly 164 years ago, Lutheran Christians, including Wends, Germans, and people of other nationalities, have strived to maintain religious freedom and pure biblical doctrine while also endeavoring to proclaim the Christian faith to all who would listen. More about that next week.

Much has been written, especially during last year’s observance of the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, about the impact of Martin Luther on the church that bears his name. Last year another important publication made a significant contribution to that body of information.

The book is titled Five Centuries: the Wends and the Reformation. Its 99 pages are beautifully illustrated and very nicely bound. It was published by Concordia University Press in Austin and The Wendish Press in Serbin, Texas. This first Wendish coffee table book, the winner of the Concordia Historical Institute Honorable Mention Award, is available for $26 from the Texas Wendish Heritage Society Museum Bookstore, 1011 County Road 212, Giddings, Texas 78942-5940.

Take a look. I think you’ll like it. And you’ll have the added benefit of a glimpse into the faith of the people of my family’s ancestry. Kiss me. I’m Wendish!

On Your Lap, On Your Heart

My sainted father used to say: “Your children are always with you. When they’re young, they’re on your lap. When they’re old, they’re on your heart.” Truer words were never spoken.

Those words especially came to mind late last week and early this week as news reports focused on 12 teen-aged soccer team members and their young adult coach. All of them were trapped in a flooded cave in northern Thailand near the border with Myanmar.

Eight of the boys were rescued by a team of Thai and international divers on Sunday and Monday. The remaining four boys and their 25-year-old coach were brought out safely Tuesday.

News reports properly focused on the 13 captives, along with the sophisticated, valiant, and dangerous efforts required to rescue them. That task was accomplished safely and successfully. Sadly, however, one rescuer, an experienced volunteer diver, died in the process.

One report (http://time.com/5334374/boys-rescued-thailand-cave/) said: The plight of the boys and their coach has captivated Thailand and much of the world — from the heart-sinking news that they were missing to the first flickering video of the huddle of anxious yet smiling boys when they were found 10 days later by a pair of British divers. They were trapped in the Tham Luan Nang Non cave on June 23, when they were exploring it after a soccer practice and it became flooded by monsoon rains.

Each of the boys, ages 11 to 16 and with no diving experience, was guided out by a pair of divers in three days of intricate and high-stakes operations. The route, in some places just a crawl space, had oxygen canisters positioned at regular intervals to refresh each team’s air supply.

One Thai man who helped provide food and necessities to rescue workers and journalists, said a “miracle” had happened.  “It’s hope and faith that has brought us this success.” Because the vast majority of people in Thailand are practitioners of Theravada Buddhism, the country’s official religion, it’s certainly possible and perhaps probable that people in Thailand are thanking Buddha for this rescue. You and I would direct our thanksgiving to the triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Be that as it may, can you imagine the anguish and fear the parents of these boys experienced during their sons’ 18 days of captivity? During that time my father’s words must have been accurately descriptive of the emotions of these parents.

For 18 days these boys were nowhere near their parents’ laps but assuredly and absolutely were on their hearts. God be praised for the safe reunion of these parents and their sons!

Ministries and Resources

Church

Before getting into today’s topic I simply must take this opportunity to extend special greetings to Terry’s and my favorite (and only) grandson, Kolby Ryan Keith. This handsome, intelligent, hard-working young man is 24 years of age today. Happy Birthday, dear Kolby! Mimi and I love you more than you’ll ever know. We thank God for bringing you into our lives.

In today’s article I bring to your attention a number of significant ministries and resources:

  • Legacy Deo – Formerly known as Lutheran Foundation of Texas, Legacy Deo’s mission is to inspire giving that impacts life forever. Assistance for individuals, congregations, and organizations with endowments, trusts, gift annuities, donor advised funds, estate planning, and other special giving ideas and insights for faith and family. Website: legacydeo.org
  • Texas District Lutheran Women’s Missionary League – The 40th Biennial Texas District LWML Convention begins today in Waco. For 75 years the national expression of this LCMS auxiliary has provided prayer and financial support for mission activities in the U.S. and around the world. It’s a wonderful organization, worthy of support! Website: lwmltxdist.org
  • Mission of Christ Network – Works with individuals, congregations, entities, and groups to train, send, and support lay workers “To boldly, intentionally and faithfully make known the light, love and peace of Jesus Christ, by word and deed, to those around the world who live in spiritual disbelief, darkness and despair.” Website: missionofchrist.org
  • Pastor 360 – Intensive spiritual, practical, financial, personal leadership coaching for pastors provided by veteran LCMS church leaders named Kieschnick, Knippa, Tucker, Tyburski, Wagner. Helping pastors deal with stress that causes anguish, worry, bewilderment, anger, depression, fear, and alienation. “Making Life and Ministry Better” Website: pastor360.com
  • MinistryFocus – Founded in 2013 to eliminate systemic barriers to ministry, including often burdensome educational debt of pastors and other called workers. When personal debt distracts called workers from their work, congregations suffer. MinistryFocus can help by providing educational loan repayment assistance. Website: ministryfocus.org
  • Ministry Sabbatical Resources – Created to assist in the planning and promotion of Ministry Sabbaticals, a period of time, usually three months, when ministry leaders and congregations set aside the leader’s normal responsibilities for the purpose of rest and renewal toward sustained excellence in ministry. Website: ministrysabbaticalresources.com

These ministries and resources are brought to your attention as a public service. I am personally connected to and supportive of each and hope you find them interesting and helpful. Your support and involvement are encouraged, as the Lord leads, guides, and directs.

God bless your day!