Thanksgiving Attitude: Grumpy or Grateful?

Last Thursday Terry and I left our home in Georgetown and spent the next five days at a series of conferences in Houston. All three gatherings we attended were inspirational and productive. It’s always good to be in the presence of fellow Christians, friends, and colleagues.

The downside of trips like this one is the drudgery of staying in hotels. For four nights. Some like to get away from home and go to a hotel. Perhaps because of our work related travel the past three decades, going to a hotel is not a mountaintop experience for us.

The quality of a hotel is often commensurate with the price of the room. Not so much on this trip. For example, one of our fairly high quality hotels had the following deficiencies:

  • The bathroom sink didn’t drain
  • There was no hair dryer in the room
  • It took forever for cold water to get hot
  • The TV remote was not functioning properly
  • The bathroom electrical outlet was poorly placed

The last morning away from home I was grousing about three of the items listed above. Then it struck me. Here I am in a safe and secure hotel room fussing about inconveniences, while many people in our country and throughout the world are sleeping on the street, in the cold, having no job or steady income, not knowing where their next meal might come from, not having had a bath or shower in days or weeks, having very little to which to look forward except a turkey meal at a homeless shelter.

That realization included the recognition of how prone I am to expect everything to be right and how little I ponder the plight of people who don’t even have most of the stuff about which I complain. Too often I’m grumpy about things and not grateful for the bountiful blessings of life.

On this Thanksgiving Eve, Terry and I extend to each of you our heartfelt love and gratitude for your friendship and, especially, for God’s grace in our lives and yours.

I pledge to work on mitigating my grumpiness and multiplying my gratitude! I’ll need your prayers!

Halloween, Reformation, All Saints Day

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Wilhelm Ferdinand Pauwels

Full disclosure: Seven years ago in the Nov. 1, 2012 Volume IV Number 9 Perspectives article, I began with these words, slightly updated to fit this year’s calendar:

Today is October 31, observed in our country as Halloween. In recent years I’ve become increasingly concerned with the growing focus on macabre manifestations and excessive expressions of spiritual darkness associated with Halloween.

My concern is that most celebrations of Halloween do not recognize what St. Paul said centuries ago: “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” (Eph. 6:12)

Thankfully, October 31 is also observed by many Christians throughout the world as the Festival of the Reformation. Catalyzed by Martin Luther’s struggle with his personal faith and escalated by the Roman Catholic Church’s emphasis on salvation by works and purchase of indulgences, the Reformation claims October 31, 1517, as its date of origination. That’s the day Luther posted his 95 Theses against indulgences on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany.

Certainly not to be forgotten, November 1 is All Saints Day—an opportunity to give thanks to God for all believers in Christ who have gone on before us to an eternity of life in the presence of God himself. Our family, like yours, remembers those saints in whose footsteps we follow and with whom we will be reunited someday in heaven.

Those truths remain and my observations have not changed. On the contrary, my perspectives regarding these three days have intensified:

  • The Reformation blessings of forgiveness, life, and salvation are gifts of God’s grace.
  • Halloween observances need to become less pagan in character and costume.
  • All Saints Day is an opportunity to remember loved ones who await our heavenly arrival.

Happy Reformation, Halloween, and All Saints Day! Observe them all, safely and reflectively, with joy and thankfulness in your heart!

Naming Hurricanes

Last week Hurricane Imelda left a trail of flood damage in southeast Texas, fueled by up to 43” of rain between Houston and Beaumont. People I know and love, who had sustained flood damage at the hands of Hurricane Harvey a couple years ago, were hit hard also by Imelda.

My heart is sad for those who now need to pick up the pieces, muck out the silt, strip the sheetrock, remove the insulation, refinish the floors, replace the furniture, and rebuild their homes and lives. Indescribable and unimaginable damage can be caused by a hurricane, even by a tropical storm, destroying in hours what took a lifetime to build and accumulate.

Do you know how and why hurricanes are named? Here’s what I found in a May 31, 2019 online article by Deanna Conners:

Meteorologists long ago learned that naming tropical storms and hurricanes helps people remember the storms, communicate about them more effectively, and stay safer when a storm strikes a coast.

These experts assign names to hurricanes from a formal list approved prior to the start of each hurricane season. The U.S. National Hurricane Center started this practice in the early 1950s. Now, the World Meteorological Organization generates and maintains the list of names.

Atlantic hurricane names for 2019: Andrea, Barry, Chantal, Dorian, Erin, Fernand, Gabrielle, Humberto, Imelda, Jerry, Karen, Lorenzo, Melissa, Nestor, Olga, Pablo, Rebekah, Sebastien, Tanya, Van, and Wendy. The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 to November 30.

In the 1950s a formal practice for storm naming was developed for the Atlantic Ocean by the U.S. National Hurricane Center. Storms were named according to the alphabet (e.g., Able, Baker, Charlie) and the names used were the same for each hurricane season.

In 1953, to avoid repetition, the system was revised to give storms female names. By doing this, the National Weather Service was mimicking the habit of naval meteorologists, who named the storms after women, much as ships at sea were traditionally named for women.

In 1978–1979, the system was revised again to include both female and male hurricane names.

This week Tropical Storm Jerry (that’s my name) is in the Atlantic, moving toward Bermuda. Tropical Storm Karen (that’s the name of one of my younger sisters) is headed north from Puerto Rico and the U.S. and British Virgin Islands. And further east, Hurricane Lorenzo is moving west. Lord, have mercy.

Do you know the story of Peter walking on stormy water in Matt. 14? The winds died down after Jesus got into the boat. And how about the story of Jesus calming a storm in Mark 4?

Lord Jesus, according to your holy will, apply your calming hand to troubled waters and violent windstorms. And if you choose not to intervene in that way, bring peace and calm to those whose lives are seriously disrupted by storms who bear the names of some of your children. I pray this in your holy and precious name, the name above all names. Jesus. Amen.

 

Leaving Home

It was on or about September 1, 1960. My mother had driven me the 100 miles from our home in southwest Houston to College Station, Texas. I had been accepted and enrolled as a freshman in the Texas A&M Corps of Cadets in the Pre-Veterinary Medicine curriculum.

Accompanied by my two younger sisters, Karen and Debbie, still in elementary school at the time, Mother and I made our way to the YMCA building on campus where pre-registration and academic orientation were scheduled to occur. My older sister Carol had already begun living independently and Dad was working that day. Thus both were unable to join us on this trip.

In addition to anxiety connected with moving away from home for the first time, what I remember most about that day was the tearful parting as my mother and sisters walked down the YMCA steps toward the car and the journey back home. There was a palpable four-way sense of at least a temporary loss. A natural response in any such circumstance, but new to us.

Three months earlier I had graduated from Bellaire High School and had spent the summer living at home, working with my father in the meat department of Lewis and Coker grocery stores in Houston. That job and a scholarship were the sources of my self-funded education.

My high school years were non-spectacular. I wasn’t on the honor roll. Nor a super star athlete. Just focused on home chores and agricultural pursuits. We lived on three acres, which allowed my involvement in vocational agriculture and Future Farmers of America projects.

That included raising for stock show competition a “fat” steer, four market calves, and two Hampshire pigs. In my younger days, Dad and I raised 150 rabbits, along with chickens, a milk cow, and nine sheep. My departure from home meant that all those chores and non-academic interests were no longer a part of my life, adding to the sense of loss that day in 1960.

As it turned out, we all survived the temporary trauma of my leaving home.

The point of this story is that what my family and I experienced 59 years ago is not unique to any one family. It happens throughout our land and across the globe. It’s a natural and normal part of the maturation process. People who have lived their entire or major part of life at home with family members are, sooner or later, faced with the departure of one of those beloved family members.

Sometimes that separation, as in my case, is the result of academic or work-related pursuits. At other times, delinquency, divorce, or death are the causative factors. Be that as it may, for many if not most families, the leaving home of one member of the family produces a very real sense of loss.

At such times, the promise of the Lord to Joshua, both to those who leave and to those who remain, is poignant: “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Josh. 1:5

Rudeness or Kindness?

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Credit: rawpixel.com from Pexels

Have you noticed that in our world today, more than a few people are downright rude?

Examples of rudeness include people cutting in line, littering the highway, being consistently late for appointments, misusing handicapped parking spaces, driving slowly in the passing lane, using cell phones in movie theaters, and not teaching manners to their children.

Thankfully there are many examples of kindness: Serving at a homeless shelter, picking up litter on the street, giving a stranger a compliment, making dinner for a family in need, paying for a first responder’s meal at a restaurant, donating Christmas gifts to an orphanage, holding the door open for other people, and helping the elderly carry groceries to their car.

Last week on Facebook I saw the following piece about rudeness and kindness:

Being rude is easy. It does not take any effort and is a sign of weakness and insecurity.

Kindness shows great self-discipline and strong self-esteem.  

Being kind is not always easy when dealing with rude people.

Kindness is a sign of a person who has done a lot of personal work and has come to a great self-understanding and wisdom.

Choose to be kind over being right, and you’ll be right every time because kindness is a sign of strength.

These observations about rudeness and kindness prompted recollections of a few biblical references about the virtue of kindness:

  • Colossians 3:12: Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.
  • Galatians 5:22-23: The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
  • Titus 3:4-5: When the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy.

A suggestion: Use these simple reminders to avoid rudeness and motivate acts of kindness in your daily routine. You’ll be blessed. And so will the recipients of your words and actions.

Ten Little Vignettes

The first six vignettes below are from an unknown source. The last four are mine.

  1. In a drought, the villagers decide to pray for rain. On the day of prayer all the people gather. Only one young boy brings an umbrella.

That’s FAITH.

  1. When a father throws babies in the air, they laugh because they know he will catch them.

That’s TRUST.

  1. Every night we go to bed without any assurance of being alive the next morning. But still we set the alarm to wake up.

That’s HOPE.

  1. We plan big things for tomorrow in spite of zero knowledge of the future.

That’s CONFIDENCE.

  1. We see the world suffering, but still we get married and have children.

That’s LOVE.

  1. On an old man’s shirt is written a sentence: “I am not 80 years old; I am sweet 16 with 64 years of experience.”

That’s ATTITUDE.

  1. A leader behaves in a way that embarrasses his constituency and the organization he leads.

That’s INCOMPETENCE.

  1. A public figure apologizes for public mistakes without changing his behavior.

That’s MANIPULATION.

  1. A leader is motivated by values that do not contribute to the organization’s success.

That’s DISAPPOINTMENT.

  1. Constituents who share a dying organization’s core objectives are inspired to take steps to resurrect it.

That’s HOPE.

+Rev. Robert Charles Greene+ (1938-2019)

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Credit: Alexander Boden on Flickr

By now many of my readers have heard about the passing of a very dear friend, Rev. Robert Charles Greene. Bob had been diagnosed with advanced pancreatic cancer on May 28 and went to heaven July 10, a short 41 days later.

Bob’s obituary is at https://www.ramseyfuneral.com/obituary/pastor-robert-greene. It’s a comprehensive yet concise review of the highlights of his life. Without writing a book, it’s simply not possible to capture adequately 81 years of faith, family, life, love, and leadership.

Jean Greene, Bob’s wife of nearly 57 years, and their children Steve and Diane shared with me a 16 page document titled “Biographical Record and Remembrances of Robert C. Greene.” On those pages Bob shares highlights of his life, family, and career, including vignettes that provide interesting insights into this man’s life, values, and character. Here are a few examples:

As a student at Concordia High School in St. Paul, Minn., Bob worked in the kitchen: “I had a difference of opinion with the President of the College about which of the two people working in the kitchen should become the head person. About this time the President came into the kitchen and told me to go hang up my apron. I was no longer to work there. I was told to come by his office and pick up my check.” Bob wasn’t reticent about expressing his opinions.

In a congregation he served as a young pastor: “There was a real need for Sunday school classrooms, youth room, kitchen, and office. But when the decision went to the Voters it was defeated, primarily under the influence of one family. So I went to a member of that family who had young children and asked him to chair the building committee for a redo of the building vote. When it came up again for a vote, this time it was easily adopted.” Bob knew how to lead.

During my last term of office as President of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod I appointed Bob as chair of the Blue Ribbon Task Force on Synod Structure and Governance, aka BRTFSSG. One of his duties was to visit each of the 35 districts of the Synod for a meeting of the Board of Directors or District convention. At one of those meetings way above the Mason-Dixon Line, in the winter, he had no overcoat. I lovingly chided him and presidentially “ordered” him to buy a coat and send me the bill. Not long thereafter I saw him. With a coat. But I never received the bill. Bob knew how to listen. Sometimes with only one ear.

Much more could be said about Rev. Robert C. Greene. Much more will be said at his memorial service this Friday. Suffice it to say here that he was an intelligent, bold, strong-willed, visionary pastor and church leader. More importantly, he was a loving husband and devoted father.

One of Bob’s favorite Scripture readings was Philippians 1:21: “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” Amen! Rest in peace, dear friend and brother in Christ!