COVID, Statues, Violence, Law Enforcement

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These days the national news is largely about those four topics.

COVID-19 is still rearing its ugly head, particularly in some parts of the country. Numerous re-opened business establishments have been closed again. So have some churches.

Masks are now mandated in most of Texas and in other parts of the country. Social distancing and sheltering in place are still recommended. Some people are scared. Others are skeptical.

In the meantime, we’ve seen historic statues and other monuments splashed with paint, covered with vulgar graffiti, or altogether torn down and tossed into nearby bodies of water.

Why? Because those who don’t like what the statue represents decide it should be destroyed, often violating federal law in the process. What gives them the right to act so sanctimoniously?

When such concerns are legitimate, the statue may be moved peacefully to a less public venue. How and by whom that decision is made is important. Cancel culture? Erase history? Says who?

And the violence continues. Between this past Thursday evening and Sunday midnight, 87 people were shot in Chicago, 17 fatally, including a seven year old girl and a 14 year old boy.

In New York City, 64 people were shot over the Fourth of July weekend. Ten of them were killed. In Atlanta, 23 people were shot, five fatally, over that same weekend.

Not much has been said about racial motivation for these shootings. You know and I know that many of these shootings were done by people of one race shooting people of the same race.

Manifestations of violence are not motivated solely or primarily by race but by immature thinking, impulsive behavior, broken relationships, greed, anger, hatred, jealousy, revenge, lust, and passion.

Violence knows no racial boundaries. Whites kill blacks. Blacks kill whites. Whites kill whites. Blacks kill blacks. White people or black people or brown people or purple people do acts of violence, both to people of other races and to people of their own race. That’s just a fact.

The reason we have law enforcement officers in our country and in our world is to provide protection for the innocent from wrongful actions of people who either believe the law does not apply to them or for any other reason willfully violate the law.

Dismantling police departments and defunding law enforcement providers will not be helpful for maintaining law and order and protecting innocent people from violent actors.

Governing authorities are God’s servants, sent for our good, for the very purpose of punishing those who do what is wrong. I believe that includes law enforcement officers. Would you like to live without fear of the authorities? Do what is right, and they will honor you. See Romans 13.

Lord of the universe, bless and protect those who have been sent to bless and protect us!

Independence Day–Why we celebrate the Fourth of July–by Rose Davidson

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The Fourth of July, Independence Day, marks the historic date in 1776 when the Declaration of Independence was approved by the Continental Congress. The document stated that American colonies were tired of being ruled by Great Britain. They wanted to become their own country.

Before the declaration, America was part of the Kingdom of Great Britain (now called the United Kingdom). In the 1600s, people came from Great Britain to settle in what is now North America. Between 1607 and 1732, the British founded 13 colonies: Virginia, New York, Massachusetts, Maryland, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Delaware, North Carolina, South Carolina, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Georgia.

As these colonies grew, the people who lived there thought the British government treated them unfairly. For example, they had to pay taxes on items such as tea and allow British soldiers to stay in their homes. Colonists had to follow these laws but couldn’t do anything to change them. So they rebelled. As a result, the Revolutionary War between the colonists and Great Britain began in 1775.

But fighting wasn’t enough. The colonists decided they needed to declare their independence in writing to explain their reasons and gain support from other countries like France. On July 4, 1776, a small group of representatives from the colonies—called the Continental Congress—adopted the Declaration of Independence.

Written by a committee led by Thomas Jefferson, the document was signed by people from all 13 colonies. But the British government didn’t accept it. So the colonists continued to fight for independence until they finally defeated Great Britain in 1783.

The Declaration of Independence, now housed at the National Archives in Washington, D.C., is recognized around the world as an important message of self-governance and human rights. The second sentence says it all: that all people are created equally and have rights that include life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Jefferson, who became the third U.S. president, wrote those words.

Today the United States and Great Britain are friends. Most Americans still celebrate Independence Day, often with parades and fireworks. Historians think this is thanks to a letter written by John Adams, who helped write the declaration and would also go on to be the second U.S. president. In his letter to his wife, Abigail, Adams predicted that the colonists’ independence would be celebrated by future generations as an annual festival with parades and bonfires. Those were prophetic words.

Here are biblical words about freedom:

+Galatians 5:1: It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.

+1 Peter 2:16: Live as free men, but do not use your freedom to cover-up for evil; live as servants of God.

Have a blessed Fourth of July!

The Lasting Impact of a Father’s Love

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Last Sunday was Father’s Day. Family gatherings, personal visits, phone calls, greeting cards, text messages, emails — all brought expressions of love for or remembrances of our fathers.

This Sunday would be my father’s 104th birthday. He died New Year’s Day 1983 at the tender age of 66, way too young in the opinions of me, my mother, my siblings, other family members and friends.

Though far from perfect, the Christian values and old fashioned work ethic Dad imparted to me have had a lasting impact on my life. I am who I am largely because of Martin Herbert Otto Kieschnick.

Credit is also due to my dear mother Elda, who worked hard to raise her four children in tough economic times. At the same time she was actively involved in many other aspects of life.

Teachers molded and shaped my thinking and communication skills. Pastors and other church leaders were instrumental in spiritual growth and leadership development. So were the Texas A&M Corps of Cadets and colleagues on The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod Council of Presidents.

Yet it was my father who emphasized love for God and respect for authority. He also modeled the values of integrity, trustworthiness, initiative, Christian stewardship, critical thinking, honest work, faithfulness to wife and children, a sense of humor, and a love of outdoor cooking.

Dad was a straight shooter, insightful, relational, wisely understanding what kind of treatment each of his children needed and the right way to administer loving discipline to each of us.

It’s my thought that if the young or not so young men (and women) involved in recent non-peaceful protests, violent rioting, and foolishness like CHOP or CHAZ in Seattle would have had the blessing of a father like mine, those activities may very well not have occurred.

The lasting impact of a father’s love cannot be over-emphasized. The Bible has lots to say about this topic, including these passages:

“The Lord is like a father to his children, tender and compassionate to those who fear him.” Ps. 103:13

“My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline, and do not resent his rebuke, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights.” Prov. 3:11-12

“Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.” Eph. 6:4

I thank God for my father, his love, and the lasting impact he had upon my life!

This Badge

Tomorrow is Juneteenth, the oldest known celebration marking the official end to slavery in the United States. In December 1865, the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified, officially abolishing slavery. An estimated 250,000 slaves were emancipated on June 19, 1865. Celebrations on June 19 took place the following year, and the holiday stuck.

This year’s observance of Juneteenth is particularly poignant, given the numerous events of the past several weeks that have a direct or indirect connection to alleged and actual racism. Unless you’ve been hibernating, you’re well aware of the events I have in mind.

Highly publicized outcry following the death of a black man in the process of being arrested has catalyzed not only peaceful protests calling for justice but also violent riots and calls for defunding police forces across the nation. Can you imagine living in a nation with no law enforcement?

Recently I read a report from the NYPD that hundreds of police officers were injured during New York City’s protests over George Floyd’s death. Officers were hit in the head with bricks and glass bottles, and watched as their patrol cars went up in flames.

Here are words I recently saw that offer very important perspectives on officers of the law. It was obviously intended to speak to those who dislike or even hate law enforcement officers, perceiving them to be untrustworthy, uncaring, disrespectful, insensitive, and undisciplined.

THIS BADGE

You hate me because I wear a badge.
Let me tell you about this badge and the thousands of men and women it represents.
This badge ran towards certain death as the Towers collapsed on 9-11.
This badge ran into the line of fire to save the people in the Pulse Night Club in Orlando.
This badge sheltered thousands as bullets rained down from the Mandalay Hotel in Las Vegas.
This badge protected a Black Lives Matter rally that left five officers dead in Dallas.
This badge ran into the Sandy Hook School to stop an active shooter in Connecticut.
This badge has done CPR on your drowned child in your back yard.
This badge has physically subdued the wife beater who left his spouse in a coma.
This badge has run into burning buildings to save the occupants.
This badge has waded through flood waters to rescue the elderly trapped on the roof.
This badge has intentionally crashed into the wrong way driver to protect innocent motorists.
This badge has helped find the lost child so his mother would stop crying hysterically.
This badge has helped the injured dog off the road and rushed it to the vet.
This badge has bought food for hungry kids because they had been abandoned.
This badge has been soaked in blood and tears.
This badge has escorted the elderly woman across the street because she couldn’t see well and was afraid to cross.
This badge has been covered by a mourning band to honor those who have sacrificed everything in service.
This badge has been shot and killed for simply existing.

You may hate me because I wear this badge. But I wear it with pride. Despite your hate and your anger, I will await the next call for help. And I will come running without hesitation. Just like the thousands of men and women across this great nation who wear this badge. ~Author Unknown

What’s the bottom line? A Facebook post says it well: “Please do not let the officer who murdered George Floyd define what you think about law enforcement officers in general. There are so many phenomenal officers out there who put their life on the line for us every day and they do not deserve the hate.” Well spoken.

My prayer is that our gracious God would direct and protect officers of the law in the performance of their duties, guiding them to use restraint when possible, judicious forcefulness when necessary, and at all times, wisdom and discernment when dealing with every person, regardless of race, color, or creed, especially in circumstances requiring split-second decisions that have life and death consequences for all involved, always respecting “the Constitutional rights of all persons to liberty, equality and justice.” (Texas Police Association Code of Ethics) http://www.texaspoliceassociation.com/codeofethics.php

“When justice is done, it brings joy to the righteous but terror to evildoers.” Proverbs 21:15

Eleven Years and Fifty Years

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Credit: Wikipedia

Though the nation continues to see and hear news reports of the aftermath of the death of George Floyd, this week I’m taking a break from that story. Maybe more about that next week.

Today marks the last edition of the 11th year of my weekly Perspectives articles. That’s a total of 572 articles, not counting a number of special editions.

Some of you have read every single one of those articles. Others are new to Perspectives. Whether you’re a veteran or a rookie in my audience, it’s good to have you along for the ride.

During those 11 years I’ve often questioned the value of spending the time and energy required each week to identify and address topics of interest about life and love, faith and family.

Just about the time I consider throwing in the towel, I hear from someone, often a stranger I’ve never met, who expresses words of affirmation and appreciation. That’s why I haven’t stopped.

This week my thoughts are focused not only on 11 years of Perspectives articles but also on the 50th anniversary of my ordination to the pastoral ministry last Sunday, June 7. That’s a long time! Much water has gone under the bridge in 50 years.

In 1970, I was 27 years old, new to pastoral ministry, still wet behind the ears. Terry was a few years younger and a brand new mother to our daughter Angela Lynn. Baptizing Angie in the same worship service during which I was ordained was my first official ministry act.

In 1970, our first home cost $14,500. A gallon of gas cost 36 cents. The Dow Jones Industrial average was 838. The world’s population was 3.63 billion. Today it’s 7.8 billion. The U.S. population was 205 million. Today it’s 328 million.

In 1970, the world’s first jumbo jet, Pan-Am’s Boeing 747, had its first commercial flight from New York to London. The Concorde made its first supersonic flight, at 700 mph. The Apollo 13 mission to the moon was abbreviated by an oxygen tank explosion, leading to the popular statement: “Houston, we have a problem!”

Liquid crystal display (LCD) was invented. The Beatles sang “Let it Be” and broke up that year. The U.S. lowered the voting age from 21 to 18. Damages were awarded to Thalidomide victims.

In the 50 years since 1970, my ministry and our lives have been seasoned with a roller coaster of joy and sorrow, bane and blessing, success and failure, victory and defeat. My life has been guided by the words of Jesus, who said, “I have come not to be served but to serve.”

Our faith in Christ and the blessing of his grace have sustained us, through good times and bad, happy times and sad. I would imagine your testimony, at least in part, is quite similar.

Through it all, Terry has stood faithfully and tirelessly by my side. Our children, son-in-love, and grandchildren have been and continue to be genuine blessings, adding great joy to our lives.

Thank you for the many cards, emails, text messages, phone calls, Facebook postings, and personal greetings I’ve received in observance of the past 50 years. It’s safe to say I won’t have another 50 years of ministry and it’s not likely that 11 more years of Perspectives lie ahead.

That being said, I’m thankful for every day of life and love, faith and family. All are abundant blessings from the hand of God. I love all of you and thank God for each of you!

Who’s to Blame?

Lots of anxiety going on in our country today. It started in March with what turned out to be COVID-19. Most schools, churches, restaurants, hotels, department stores, barber shops, beauty salons, and other establishments were shut down. Many are just now reopening.

World Health Organization reports that more than six million people worldwide have become infected and 370,000 of them have died. In the United States 1.7 million confirmed cases have been reported and more than 100,000 people have died.

Who’s to blame for this pandemic? Lab workers in Wuhan, China? The Chinese Communist regime for withholding warnings? The World Health Organization for not acting more quickly and definitively? The President’s task force? Pharmaceutical companies for not waving a magic wand and coming up with a vaccine? Yesterday? People who laughed at social distancing?

Then, just as light began to appear at the end of that tunnel, another oncoming train appeared. On May 25, George Floyd, an African-American man, was suspected of passing a counterfeit $20 bill and lost his life in a neighborhood south of downtown Minneapolis, Minn.

Mr. Floyd was arrested, handcuffed, and pinned to the ground by police officers. One of them unrelentingly pressed his knee against Mr. Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes. Mr. Floyd was unresponsive when paramedics arrived and later was pronounced dead.

There’s little if any doubt that the officer in question is at fault. He has been charged with second degree murder. The other three officers on the scene have been charged with aiding and abetting that murder. Any or all of the four could spend many years in prison.

Community response initially included peaceful protests demanding justice for Mr. Floyd’s death. Along with those pleas for justice, protesters also decried racism, undeniably a sin.

Incredibly, those protests attracted or catalyzed rampant riots in Minneapolis and other cities across the nation. Some rioters appear to have been imported and paid to participate.

Rioters shattered windows, looted stores, vandalized buildings, torched police vehicles, dismantled and emptied ATMs, defaced churches and national monuments with graffiti, and tried to attack the White House, exhibiting violent and vitriolic behavior. At least 40 cities have imposed curfews. National Guard has been activated in 15 states and Washington, D.C.

Who’s to blame? Racially biased and discriminatory law enforcement officers? Policemen who arrested Mr. Floyd and whose actions led to his death? Rampant racism embedded in our country’s culture? Rioters who burned, robbed, damaged, destroyed, pilfered, and plundered small Mom and Pop establishments along with Big Box stores? Parents of the perpetrators of violence? Municipal, county, state, and national politicians? The U.S. President for insensitive or inflammatory remarks? His critics and opponents who want him defeated? All the above?

Who’s to blame? I’d start with Satan: “Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” 1 Pet. 5:8. What we’re seeing these day is absolutely demonic!

And I’d quickly add mankind’s sinful flesh. In the Old Testament, the Lord said: “… the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth.” Gen. 8:21.

The devil and our sinful, evil flesh, working together, are at the root of both racism and rioting. In this case, the same culprits have resulted in the loss of a man’s life and have turned peaceful protest against racism into stealing, looting, torching, and destroying.

What’s the cure? Spiritual, parental, legal, moral, and behavioral reformation? Yes. But not easily accomplished. Many moving parts.

Two highly respected Black leaders have modeled helpful thoughts about responding to the sin of racism in a peaceful, non-violent manner:

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was described this way: “Never burned one building. Never robbed one store. Never destroyed one town. Changed the world.”

And Dr. Ben Carson said: “We, the American people, are not each other’s enemies. The enemies are those people behind the curtain jerking everybody’s chains and trying to divide us up by age, by race, by income. Peaceful protests of unfair practices are good and are part of what makes America a strong nation. But senseless destructive violence must be recognized and resisted.”

Additionally, a heretofore unknown man named Rodney Floyd, George Floyd’s own brother, said: “I’m asking for peace the same way my brother would ask if he could see the situation, if he was here. Peace. Peaceful protests. It is the best option we have to bring justice.”

I obviously concur with Holy Scripture and couldn’t agree more strongly with these three men.

Lord, have mercy and help us live in peace in this troubled world, regardless of who’s to blame.

Twelve More Rules for a Good Old Age–Adapted

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Today’s article is a continuation of the first “Ten Rules for a Good Old Age” shared with you on May 14. Here we go:

  1. If your spouse is still alive, be intentional about expressing your love. Say “I love you!” as often as possible. Enjoy your time together now. Don’t wait till later. She/he is one of God’s most important gifts to you. Thank Him daily and openly express your love. If your spouse is no longer with you, remember with a thankful heart the years and times you shared.
  2. Avoid using the phrase “In my time.” Your time is now. As long as you’re alive, you are part of this time. You have been younger, but you are still you now, having fun and enjoying life.
  3. Stay positive about today. Some people embrace their golden years, while others become bitter and surly. Life is too short to waste your days in the latter mode. Spend your time with positive, cheerful people, it’ll rub off on you and your days will seem that much better. Spending your time with bitter people will make you older and harder to be around.
  4. If possible, avoid living with your children or grandchildren. It’s fine to live close to family but we all need our privacy. They need theirs and you need yours. If you’ve lost your spouse, then find a place in the midst of others with whom you can readily identify and share similar values. Move only if you feel you really need the help or do not want to live alone.
  5. Try not to abandon your hobbies. If you don’t have any, find one. If physically and financially possible, you can travel, hike, cook, read, and dance. You can adopt a cat or a dog, grow a garden, play cards, checkers, chess, dominoes, golf. You can paint, volunteer at church or your favorite charity. Find something you like to do and spend time having fun with it.
  6. Even if you don’t always feel like it, try to accept invitations. Baptisms, confirmations, graduations, birthdays, weddings, conferences, funerals. Try to go. Meet people you haven’t seen in a while, go to museums, walk through a field. The important thing is to leave the house from time to time. Get out there. If humanly possible.
  7. Talk less and listen more. Some people go on and on about the past, not caring if their listeners are really interested. That’s a great way of truncating conversations. Listen first and answer questions, but don’t go off into long stories unless asked to. Speak in courteous tones and try not to complain or criticize too much. Always find some good things to say as well.
  8. Pain and discomfort go hand in hand with getting older. Try not to dwell on them but accept them as a part of the cycle of life everyone goes through. Try to minimize them in your mind. They are not who you are, they are something that life added to you. If they become your entire focus, you lose sight of the person you used to be and still are.
  9. If you’ve been offended by others, forgive them. If you’ve offended someone, apologize. Don’t drag resentment around with you. It will make you sad and bitter. It doesn’t matter who was right. Someone once said, “Holding a grudge is like taking poison and expecting the other person to die.” Don’t take that poison. Forgive and move on with your life.
  10. If you have a strong belief, savor it. But be wise when trying to convince others. People will make their own choices no matter what you tell them. Guided by the Spirit, live your faith and set an example. Actions speak louder than words.
  11. Laugh. Laugh a lot. Remember, you are one of the fortunate ones. If you’re over 70, you’ve been blessed with life, a long one. Many never get to be your age and never experience a life of fulfillment. But you have. Try to find the humor in your daily circumstance. Laugh at yourself.
  12. Take no notice of negative comments people say about you and even less of what they might be thinking. Let them talk and don’t worry. They likely have no idea about your history, your memories and the life you’ve lived so far. There’s still much to be written, so get busy writing and don’t waste time thinking about what others might think.

With all these tidbits of advice in mind, don’t forget to remember God’s promise: “Those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not be faint.” Is. 40:31

Angel Flight

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Credit: defense.gov

Last Thursday my Perspectives article was simply a powerful photo of a young boy receiving a ceremonially folded American flag at his father’s funeral. I added the words of Jesus from John 15:13: “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”

Today I’m adding a moving testimonial song titled “Angel Flight” by Radney Foster. It can be heard and seen at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aIsnD87uOeo or https://youtu.be/70Ikj1hZDnw. Here are the lyrics:

All I ever wanted to do was fly
Leave this world and live in the sky
I left the C130 out of Fort Worth town
I go up some days I don’t wanna come down

Well I fly that plane called the Angel Flight
Come on brother you’re with me tonight
Between heaven and earth you’re never alone
On the Angel Flight
Come on brother I’m taking you home

I love my family and I love this land
But tonight this flight’s for another man
We do what we do ‘cause we heard the call
Some gave a little, but he gave it all

I fly that plane called the Angel Flight
Come on brother you’re with me tonight
Between heaven and earth you’re never alone
On the Angel Flight

Come on brother I’m taking you home
Come on brother I’m taking you home

Well, the cockpit’s quiet and the stars are bright
Feels kinda like church in here tonight
It don’t matter where we touch down
On the Angel Flight it’s sacred ground

Well I fly that plane called the Angel Flight
Got a hero riding with us tonight
Between heaven and earth you’re never alone
On the Angel Flight
Come on brother I’m taking you home

Ten Rules for a Good Old Age–Adapted

  1. Stop worrying about the financial situation of your children and grandchildren. You’ve taken care of them for many years, and you’ve taught them what you could. In case of an emergency, you’ll be there to help. But you gave them an education, food, shelter, and support. The responsibility is now theirs to earn their way.
  1. Maintain a healthy life with moderate exercise like walking every day. Eat well and get sufficient sleep. It’s easy to become sick, and it gets harder to remain healthy. Stay in touch with your doctor. Get annual exams even when you’re feeling well.
  1. Always buy the best, most beautiful items for your wife or husband that you can afford. Enjoy your time and money with your spouse. Some day one of you will miss the other, and the money will not provide any comfort then. Enjoy it while you can.
  1. Don’t stress over the little things. You’ve already overcome so much in your life. You have good memories and bad ones, but the important thing is the present. Don’t let the past drag you down. And don’t let the future frighten you.
  1. Regardless of your age, keep love alive. Love your spouse. Love life. Love your family. Love your neighbor. Love your surroundings. Love your country. Giving affection helps us stay young at heart.
  1. Be humbly proud, both inside and out. Don’t stop going to your hair salon or barber, unless you cut your own hair. Manicure your nails. Go to the dermatologist and the dentist. When you are well-maintained on the outside, it helps you feel confident and strong on the inside.
  1. Don’t lose sight of fashion trends for your age, but keep your own sense of style. There’s nothing sillier than an older person trying to wear what is currently fashionable among much younger people. You’ve developed your own sense of what looks good on you. Stick with it.
  1. Keep informed about what’s going on around you. Read a newspaper. Watch the news. Go online and read what people are saying. Make sure you have an active email account and try to use some of those social networks. You’ll be surprised which old friends you’ll meet. Keeping in touch with what’s going on and with the people you know is important at any age.
  1. Respect younger people and their opinions. They may not have the same viewpoints as yours, but they are the future and will take the world in their direction. Give advice, not criticism, and try to remind them of yesterday’s wisdom that still applies today.
  1. Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight. (Prov. 3:5-6)