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!

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

If I were the Devil — Paul Harvey 1965

Paul Harvey Aurandt (1918 – 2009), better known as Paul Harvey, was a conservative American radio broadcaster for ABC News Radio. From 1952 through 2008 his programs reached as many as 24 million people per week. Paul Harvey News was carried on 1,200 radio stations, 400 Armed Forces Network stations, and 300 newspapers. Here’s his commentary from 1965. Title: If I were the devil:

If I were the prince of darkness, I’d want to engulf the whole world in darkness and I would have a third of its real estate and four-fifths of its population, but I wouldn’t be happy until I had seized the ripest apple on the tree, thee. So I’d set about however necessary to take over the United States. I’d subvert the churches first.

I’d begin with a campaign of whispers. With the wisdom of a serpent I would whisper to you as I whispered to Eve, “Do as you please.” To the young, I would whisper that the Bible is a myth. I would convince them that man created God instead of the other way around. I would confide that what is bad is good, and what is good is “square”. And the old I would teach to pray after me, “Our Father, which art in Washington.”

And then I’d get organized. I’d educate authors in how to make lurid literature exciting so that anything else would appear dull and uninteresting. I’d threaten TV with dirtier movies and vice versa. I’d peddle narcotics to whom I could. I’d sell alcohol to ladies and gentlemen of distinction. I’d tranquilize the rest with pills.

If I were the devil, I’d soon have families at war with themselves, churches at war with themselves, and nations at war with themselves, until each in its turn was consumed. And with promises of higher ratings, I’d have mesmerizing media fanning the flames.

If I were the devil, I would encourage schools to refine young intellects but neglect to discipline emotions. Just let those run wild until before you knew it, you’d have to have drug sniffing dogs and metal detectors at every school house door.  

Within a decade, I’d have prisons overflowing. I’d have judges promoting pornography. Soon, I could evict God from the courthouse, and then from the schoolhouse, and then from the houses of Congress. And in His own churches I would substitute psychology for religion and deify science. I would lure priests and pastors into misusing boys and girls and church money.  

If I were the devil, I’d make the symbol of Easter an egg and the symbol for Christmas a bottle. If I were the devil, I would take from those who have and I would give to those who wanted, until I had killed the incentive of the ambitious. And what will you bet I couldn’t get whole states to promote gambling as the way to get rich.

I would caution against extremes in hard work, in patriotism, in moral conduct. I would convince the young that your marriage is old fashioned, that swinging is more fun, that what you see on TV is the way to be. And thus I could undress you in public, and I could lure you into bed with diseases for which there is no cure.

In other words, if I were the devil, I’d just keep right on doing what he’s doing.

Paul Harvey. Good day!

If Paul Harvey were alive today, I wonder whether he would add a COVID-19 comment, labeling coronavirus as a tool of the devil designed to interrupt the churches of our land, along with the schools, businesses, stock market, governments, economy, commencements, weddings, funerals, and life in general.

Maybe he would point to China as a political tool of the devil in developing and spreading the virus. Or perhaps he would recognize it as a chastisement from the God of the universe for the wayward wanderings of people in our country and world.

I wonder. But if I were the devil, I’d never tell.

COVID-19 and Resurrection

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Credit: Gerd Altmann from Pixabay 

Obviously the greatest impact of COVID-19 on life in the world today is the death of thousands of people. Lots of medical researchers and hypothesizers are trying to figure out the best ways to flatten the curve, to save the lives of those infected, and to create a vaccine that works.

Another notable result of this pandemic is that many events have had to be postponed, such as weddings planned for months in advance and funerals that allow little if any pre-planning. Brides and grooms can be flexible. But it’s painful to delay the grief process as the world waits for coronavirus to be brought to its knees.

In the midst of these new but hopefully temporary realities, Holy Week is upon us. The customary worship experiences of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter Sunday are replicated online, from empty sanctuaries, by small choruses of disbursed voices, softly and remotely spoken words from Scripture of the life and death of Jesus.

Then, on Easter Sunday morning, the responsive greetings, this year also spoken remotely: “Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!”

Especially at Easter, those of us who have lost loved ones from this life on earth cannot help but recall the joys and sorrows, difficulties and blessings that were fruits of the relationships we experienced with those dear people. That list includes beloved parents, grandparents, spouses, children, grandchildren, siblings, aunts, uncles, cousins, in-laws, and dear friends.

They are gone but not forgotten. At this Eastertide, we give thanks for the love we shared with them, and they with us, during the times of our togetherness.

Even more importantly, we look forward to that day of reuniting with them, of seeing them again, of occupying that immortal, spiritual, imperishable body of which Paul in 1 Cor. 15 so intriguingly speaks. All because of our hope and God’s promise of resurrection.

Resurrection. I say that word with conviction when I speak The Apostles Creed: “I believe in the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting!” And I speak that belief when I conduct a funeral: “Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Cor. 15:54-57)

COVID-19: Where is your sting? Where is your victory? Thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ!

Terry and I pray for each of you a blessed Festival of the Resurrection of our Lord!

It’s Not What You Know

This Saturday is the birthday of one of my sisters, Carol. I’ve always known her as Carol Ann but these days she seems to prefer Carol. So I’ll stick with that. At least for today.

The number of years she’ll be celebrating this week will be left to your imagination. My parents taught me never to ask or reveal the age of a woman. So if I need to know a woman’s age, I simply ask for her date of birth. Sometimes that works just fine. Other times, not so much.

This particular lady has been my sister all my life. Contrast that with the observation that I have been the brother of my other two sisters all of their lives and you’ll come to the conclusion that the birthday girl is my senior. But not by much.

In our earlier years I might have been a bet reticent about affirming this particular sibling. When we were kids there seemed to have been a fair amount of sibling rivalry. Not so anymore.

This lady is very smart. Always has been. Always will be.

One of the nuggets of wisdom Carol shared with me a few years ago is an expanded and improved rendition of the familiar saying: “It’s not what you know. It’s who you know.”

The meaning of that statement is simple. The premise is that if you know the right people, they will contribute to your advancement in life. As a personal favor. Whether or not your knowledge and experience are sufficient for such advancement.

Carol’s revised version of the “It’s not what you know” statement goes like this: “It’s not what you know. It’s who you know who knows you and knows you know what you know.”

It took me a few minutes to commit that saying to memory. But since I learned it, I’ve never forgotten it. And it’s so very true.

Advancement in life is connected to relationships. But relationships alone are not sufficient for advancement that’s truly earned and intrinsically valuable. Yet relationships are often the link that connect a person’s knowledge and experience with people who can offer opportunity.

In my ministerial leadership career, I’ve often been guided by inherent perception when “hiring” folks to work with me. I’m a fairly good judge of character, trustworthiness, and integrity. In my mind, those are critical qualities for a potential colleague to possess.

Happy Birthday dear sister Carol! And thank you for a memorable and helpful cliché: “It’s not what you know. It’s who you know who knows you and knows you know what you know.”

 

The Future is Here

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Before getting into today’s topic, a couple family notes. February 6 was my sister Karen’s birthday. I’m not telling her age–“many” years younger than I am will need to suffice.

Karen was born the day before our parents were married–February 7. Of course her birth was 10 years later than their marriage. I’m thankful for Mom and Dad, my sisters–Carol, Karen, Debbie–and the rest of my immediate and extended family members. All are gifts from God.

Now to today’s topic. The future that was forecast by self-appointed seers years ago is here. Along with that future has come many changes. Examples abound.

In 1998, Kodak had 170,000 employees and sold 85% of all photo paper worldwide. Within a few years their business model disappeared. They went bankrupt. That has also happened to other organizations unwilling to adapt to technology and creativity affecting life everywhere.

More change is ahead and even already upon us. Artificial Intelligence, health care that melds medicine with engineering, remote diagnostics, autonomous and electric cars, Uber, Lyft, Alto, Airbnb, 3D printing, hypersonic aircraft, and much more. Welcome to the Exponential Age.

Futurists are predicting that some auto manufacturers will cease to exist. Traditional car companies will try the evolutionary approach and just build a better car. Tech companies (Tesla, Apple, Google) will use the revolutionary approach and build a computer on wheels.

It’s also predicted that such computers on wheels will result in much safer driving and fewer accidents. Time will tell. I’m aware that auto insurance leaders are discussing the long term impact of self-driven vehicles on the auto insurance industry. Whose computer is liable?

Online learning and costly delivery of traditional models have created huge challenges and significant anxiety in the field of higher education. In my own church body, two institutions of higher education have closed– in Selma, Ala. last year and Portland, Ore. earlier this week.

Solar, wind, nuclear, and fossil fuel energy sources are competing for market share with huge economic and environmental ramifications. And we’re seeing a significant increase in business leaders and workers working remotely via cell phone, computer, and video conferencing.

Even some in the church are thinking and acting futuristically. Virtual worship services live streamed are attracting large crowds of folks worshiping in their own living room. Distribution of The Lord’s Supper remains a challenge but electronic giving works just fine. The Amazon mentality is universal.

Here are just a few of the many quotes about the future by famous people:

Trying to predict the future is like driving down a country road at night with no lights while looking out the back window. The only thing we know about the future is that it will be different. Peter Drucker

Time and the world do not stand still. Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or the present are certain to miss the future. John F. Kennedy

Hold fast to the Bible. To the influence of this Book we are indebted for all the progress made in true civilization and to this we must look as our guide in the future. Ulysses S. Grant

I don’t know what the future may hold, but I know who holds the future. Ralph Abernathy

Blessed! Thankful!

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Credit: Kiy Turk on Unsplash

Yesterday marked Terry’s and my 54th wedding anniversary. Our marriage was solemnized on Saturday, January 29, 1966, my 23rd birthday. You can do the math.

The past 54 years have been exciting and challenging, full of a mixture of joy and sorrow, blessing and difficulty, victory and defeat, laughter and tears.

Through it all, faith in God, dependence on God’s providence, love for each other, and marital commitment, all under the umbrella of God’s grace, have sustained us through the valleys and taken us up the mountains. Suffice it to say that I am blessed and thankful.

Here are just some of the people by whom I’ve been blessed and for whom I’m thankful:

  • My wonderful, loving, talented, forgiving, patient wife Terry
  • Our dearest favorite daughter Angie and her gifted husband Todd
  • Our special favorite son Andrew and his four legged menagerie
  • Our beautiful favorite granddaughter Kayla and her special friend we call Super Trooper
  • Our handsome favorite grandson Kolby and his life of faith, service, and leadership
  • Sainted parents Martin and Elda Kieschnick and their legacy of love and hard work
  • Sainted grandparents Walter and Martha Kieschnick, Fred and Bertha Hellman
  • Sisters Carol, Karen, Debbie and their husbands Jerry, Mel, Curtis
  • Aunts, uncles, nephews, nieces, and cousins
  • Sainted in-laws Emil and Dorothy Roos and brother-in-law David
  • Lutheran congregations served in my career: St. Paul Austin, Trinity Nokomis, Ascension Charlotte, Good Shepherd Biloxi, Redeemer Beaumont, Hope Winnie, Faith Georgetown
  • Lutheran organizations served in my career: Lutheran Foundation of Texas, Texas District LCMS, The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, Concordia University Texas, Legacy Deo
  • Parachurch organizations and boards served: LCMS Commission on Theology and Church Relations, LCMS Council of Presidents, International Lutheran Council, Mission of Christ Network, Pastor360, Ministry Focus, Driving Hope of Texas, B. M. Woltman Foundation, Lutheran Social Services of the South

In compiling and reviewing that list, it’s obvious that my life has been and continues to be a combination of being served to serve. I see life as the Jordan River, not the Dead Sea.

In my Legacy Deo presentations I explain it this way: Our legacy from God is who we are and what we have. Our legacy to God is what we do with who we are and what we have.

For 77 years I’ve been loved and served by God, my family, and many friends. For most of those years, I’ve endeavored to love and serve people and organizations I’ve been blessed to know. It’s pretty easy to sum it up in two words: Blessed! Thankful!

Her Last Cab Ride

As we settle into the New Year, it’s appropriate to focus on how we demonstrate love, care, and concern to people around us, whether or not we know them. Here’s a reminder in a story forwarded to me by a dear friend about some of the important things in life. It’s a bit lengthy, but well worth the read.

I arrived at the address and honked my taxi’s horn. After waiting a few minutes, I honked again. Since this was going to be the last ride of my shift I thought about just driving away. But instead I put the cab in park and walked up to the door and knocked.

“Just a minute,” answered a frail, elderly voice. I could hear something being dragged across the floor. After a long pause, the door opened.

A small woman in her 90s stood before me. She was wearing a print dress and a pillbox hat with a veil pinned on it, like somebody out of a 1940s movie. By her side was a small nylon suitcase.

The apartment looked as if no one had lived in it for years. All the furniture was covered with sheets. There were no clocks on the walls, no knickknacks or utensils on the counters. In the corner was a cardboard box filled with photos and glassware.

“Would you carry my bag out to the car?” she asked. I took the suitcase to the cab, then returned to assist the woman. She took my arm and we walked slowly toward the curb.

She kept thanking me for my kindness. I replied, “It’s nothing. I try to treat my passengers the way I would want my mother to be treated.” She replied, “Oh, you’re such a good boy!”

When we got in the cab, she gave me an address and then asked, “Could you drive through downtown?” “It’s not the shortest way,” I answered quickly. “Oh, I don’t mind,” she said. “I’m in no hurry. I’m on my way to a hospice facility.”

I looked in the rear-view mirror. Her eyes were glistening. She continued in a soft voice, “I don’t have any family left. The doctor says I don’t have very long.”

I quietly reached over and shut off the meter. “What route would you like me to take?” I asked.

For the next two hours we drove through the city. She showed me the building where she had once worked as an elevator operator. We drove through the neighborhood where she and her husband had lived when they were newlyweds.

She had me pull up in front of a furniture warehouse that had once been a ballroom where she had gone dancing as a girl. Sometimes she’d ask me to slow down in front of a particular building or corner, and would sit staring into the darkness, saying nothing. As the first hint of sun was creasing the horizon, she suddenly said, “I’m tired. Let’s go now.”

We drove in silence to the address she had given me. It was a low small building, with a driveway that passed under a portico. Two orderlies came out to the cab as we pulled up. They were solicitous and intent, watching her every move. They must have been expecting her. 

I opened the trunk and took the small suitcase to the door. The woman was already seated in a wheelchair. “How much do I owe you?” she asked, reaching into her purse. “Nothing,” I answered. “You have to make a living,” she said. “There are other passengers,” I responded.

Almost without thinking, I bent down and gave her a hug. She held onto me tightly. “You gave an old woman a little moment of joy,” she said. “Thank you.”

I squeezed her hand, and then walked into the dim morning light. Behind me, a door shut. It was the sound of the closing of a life.

For the rest of that day I could hardly talk. What if that woman had gotten an angry driver,  impatient to end his shift? What if I had refused to take the run, or had honked once, then driven away?

In reflection, I don’t think I have done anything more important in my life. We’re conditioned to think that our lives revolve around great moments. But great moments often catch us unaware, beautifully wrapped in what others may consider a small one.

People may not remember exactly what you did, or what you said. But they will always remember how you made them feel. 

That’s the end of the story but the beginning of the motivation to respond in like fashion.

It’s a blessing for me to serve two charitable organizations that demonstrate Christian love in tangible but different ways.

My vocational calling to Legacy Deo, formerly Lutheran Foundation of Texas, enables me to help people plan their estate for the benefit of their family and favorite charitable causes.

This week I spent two days initiating the probate process for a single man, never married, who made plans to provide for his extended family members, Texas Church Extension Fund, and Concordia University Texas. We can provide that same kind of assistance for you. For information and help with your plan, call (512) 646-4909 or go to www.legacydeo.org.

In my avocational time I serve on the Board of Directors of a few worthy organizations. One is Driving Hope of Texas, established to provide non-emergency medical transportation for rural Texans, particularly low income or needy people. For information on how you can help, call (800) 674-3489 or go to www.drivinghopetexas.org.

Even if you’re not a cab driver, there are many ways to use your God-given gifts to help people experience a moment of joy in this life and an eternity of joy in the life that is to come.

Legacy Deo and Driving Hope of Texas are among many organizations that can enable you to use your blessings of time, energy, and money to be a blessing to others. What a great way to start this New Year!

A New Year Prayer

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Credit: Jamie Street on Unsplash

Several years ago my dear friend and former Pastor Vernon Gundermann, now in heaven, shared with me A New Year Prayer. Frankly, I don’t recall whether he was the author. But that wouldn’t surprise me one bit. And unless someone demonstrates otherwise, he gets the credit.

The words of Vern’s prayer are particularly poignant. His last months of life on earth were full of challenges and burdens brought by the disease that captivated his body. Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, was the culprit.

The gradual but progressive death of neurons controlling his voluntary muscles transformed his athletic frame to one of virtual incapacity. Yet through it all, Vern demonstrated a rare and inspirational mixture of grace and peace.

He knew who he was. He knew whose he was. And he knew where he was going, beyond the shadow of a doubt.

Here’s his prayer, which is also my prayer for you:

A New Year Prayer

May God make your coming year a happy one!

Not by shielding you from all sorrows and pain,
But by strengthening you to bear it, as it comes;

Not by making your path easy,
But by making you sturdy to travel any path;

Not by taking hardships from you,
But by taking fear from your heart;

Not by granting you unbroken sunshine,
But by keeping your face bright, even in the shadows;

Not by making your life always pleasant,
But by showing you when people and their causes need you most;

And by making you anxious to be there to help.

God’s love, peace, hope, and joy abound in you and your loved ones in the year ahead!

Happy New Year! A Blessed 2020!