Texas Population and Traffic

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Credit: Wikipedia

You can see it. You can feel it. You can experience it. Just get on a road many places in Texas. Any day. Almost any time. Bumper to bumper. Parking lot. Delays. Wasted time. Frustration.

Those are words describing what most people living in Texas know firsthand, especially folks in the “Texas Triangle” — the megaregion with Houston, Dallas, and San Antonio as its vertices, including Austin about 80 miles north of San Antonio and 180 miles south of Dallas.

That region is projected to have 35 million residents by 2050—75% of the Texas population. Residents can readily attest to the rapid growth, visibly apparent nearly everywhere.

Recent information published by Wells Fargo Economics Group says that of the 50 largest metro areas in the United States, none has grown faster since 2010 on a percentage basis than Austin, whose population is up an astounding 25.5%. Texas dominates the rankings with Houston and San Antonio filling out the top five along with Orlando and Raleigh. Dallas-Fort Worth ranks sixth over this time period, with its population rising a mere 16.9%.

The Austin-Round Rock metropolitan area, home to the state capital and the University of Texas, continues to attract a steady stream of business and tech investment as well as large numbers of migrants. Years of red-hot growth have driven housing prices sharply higher and raised concerns over congestion and gentrification.

Higher home prices and increased congestion have pushed growth out into surrounding cities, making Austin suburbs such as Pflugerville, Georgetown, Cedar Park, and San Marcos some of the fastest growing cities in the country.

The 7.5 million Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex has 11 counties and numerous cities. In addition to Dallas and Fort Worth, it has four cities between 200,000 and 500,000 residents (Arlington, Garland, Irving, and Plano), and eight more with over 100,000 residents (Carrollton, Denton, Frisco, Grand Prairie, Lewisville, McKinney, Mesquite, and Richardson).

In light of this rapid growth, accompanied by the growing pains cited above, I’m inclined to discourage from doing so anyone considering a move to Texas. Yet I know that attitude is largely selfish, for Terry and I are among the native and longtime residents of our beloved state who wistfully recall the days when living in Austin was much more enjoyable than it is today.

When I think that way I’m reminded of King David’s words in 1 Chron. 29:15: “We are here for only a moment, visitors and strangers in the land as our ancestors were before us. Our days on earth are like a passing shadow, gone so soon without a trace.”

I just hope there’s no traffic in heaven!

Veterans Day

November 11 is Veterans Day, originally called Armistice Day, commemorating the end of World War I. The war officially ended with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles on June 28, 1919 (my father’s third birthday) but combat ended about seven months earlier. The Allies and Germany stopped fighting on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.

Accordingly, November 11, 1918, was considered the end of “the war to end all wars” and in 1938 it became an official holiday. But then World War II and the Korean War happened. So on June 1, 1954, Congress amended the commemoration by changing the word “armistice” to “veterans” in order to honor American veterans of all wars.

Sometime ago I came across the poem I’m sharing with you today. It’s simply called “A Veterans Day Poem.” A portion that’s overly derogatory to politicians has been omitted.

He was getting old and paunchy and his hair was falling fast,
And he sat around the Legion telling stories of the past.

Of a war that he once fought in and the deeds that he had done,
In his exploits with his buddies, they were heroes, every one.

And though sometimes to his neighbors his tales became a joke,
All his buddies listened quietly, for they knew whereof he spoke.

But we’ll hear his tales no longer, since old Joe has passed away,
And the world’s a little poorer, for a Veteran died today.

He won’t be mourned by many, just his children and his wife.
For he lived a very ordinary, quiet sort of life.

He had a job and family, going quietly on his way;
And the world won’t note his passing, though a Veteran died today.

When politicians leave this earth, their bodies lie in state,
While thousands note their passing and proclaim that they were great.

Papers tell of their life stories from the time that they were young,
But the passing of a Veteran goes unnoticed and unsung.

The politician’s stipend and the style in which he lives,
Are often disproportionate to the service that he gives.

While the ordinary Veteran, who offered up his all,
Is paid off with a medal and perhaps a pension small.

He was just a common Veteran and his ranks are growing thin,
But his presence should remind us we may need his likes again.

If we cannot do him honor while he’s here to hear the praise,
Then at least let’s give him homage at the ending of his days.

Perhaps a simple headline in the paper that might say:
“Our Country is in Mourning, for a Veteran Died Today.”

Especially next Monday, join me in thanking the women and men respectfully called “veterans” and remember with a thankful heart those who gave their lives for the freedoms we enjoy.

Teeth and Tires

Screen Shot 2019-10-23 at 9.56.02 PM.pngYou may think teeth and tires are an odd combination having nothing to do with each other. Stay tuned. We’ll get there.

Nearly four decades ago the Lord called me to leave an established congregation in southeast Texas to start a new church in central Texas. From scratch. Terry and I took a big financial hit to make this move. She went back to work outside the home and I took on a part time job.

It was 1981. We had taken a 25% cut in pay, it took eight months to sell our home in southeast Texas, and we were also renting a home in Georgetown. Interest rates were 16-18%!

How clearly I recall having to decide every month which of our bills would be paid and which would need to wait till next month. Late fees and penalties had not yet emerged but the interest kept accumulating on outstanding obligations. Times were tough.

One expense we simply chose not to incur for a number of years was regular family dental checkups and cleaning. Just didn’t fit into our budget. By the grace of God, we were able to get back into that routine and our teeth and gums seem not to have suffered permanent damage.

Teeth are important. We use them every day of our life. They need to be taken care of. A dentist friend of mine says, “Floss only those teeth you want to keep.” Good advice.

New topic. Most Texans drive a lot. We live in a large state, with 268,597 square miles and many roads. A study 10 years ago says Texas has 679,917 “lane miles.” That’s a lot of highway and is the highest number in the U.S. Next largest is California with a mere 394,383.

From pickup trucks to SUVs to four door sedans to buses to 18 wheelers, people are going from one place to another. One thing all these vehicles have in common? They all need tires.

Yesterday on the way home from a pastors conference in Flower Mound, a suburb of Dallas, all the cars in front of me on I-35E, traveling south at 75-85 mph, were swerving to the left or to the right. After the SUV right in front of me had passed the object everyone was trying to avoid, it came right at me. A big chunk of rubber tire had obviously broken loose from the 18 wheeler parked on the side of the highway several hundred feet ahead.

By God’s grace I was able to avoid that hazardous obstacle. It reminded me of the importance of maintaining those black round rubber things that connect a vehicle with the road beneath.

Tire pressure, rotation, and balance. Wheel alignment and suspension checks. All important for safety, comfort, and longevity of the tires we all need and take for granted.

Teeth and tires. A couple of God’s unique and sometimes neglected gifts. What would we do without them? How necessary is it to take care of them?

It’s part of our multi-faceted responsibility for care and maintenance of everything in life that’s important for our health, safety, and well-being, including teeth and tires. Not to be taken for granted but appreciated and cared for. Regularly. Faithfully. Thankfully.

One Hundred Year Floods

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Guadalupe River Flood Damage in 1972
Credit: Wikipedia

The Guadalupe River runs 230 miles, from its origin in Kerr County, Texas, to San Antonio Bay on the Gulf of Mexico. My now sainted mother and father bought and moved into a home at 1480 Sleepy Hollow Dr. on the river in New Braunfels following the 100 year flood of 1972.

That flood ruined the interior of the home but its structure was sound. Mom and Dad spent weekends and summer vacations for several years driving 175 miles from their apartment home in Houston to New Braunfels to restore the home to livable condition.

They made the permanent move to Sleepy Hollow after Dad’s retirement April 17, 1979, and resided there together until he died January 1, 1983. Mom lived there, alone, for nearly 16 more years, enjoying the beautiful white water rapids and huge cypress trees lining the river.

Then came October, 17, 1998, twenty-one years ago today. The Guadalupe River in New Braunfels experienced its second 100 year flood in little more than a quarter of a century. The raging waters of that flood rose eight feet above the roof of Mother’s home. It left a trail of damage, destruction, and putrid silt that covered literally everything in its wake.

Huge bulky items such as automobiles, player pianos, freezers, etc., were washed down the river, some of them never to be seen again. Amazingly, fragile items like drinking glasses and Mother’s prized possessions of about 100 intricately and delicately decorated emu and ostrich eggs were still intact, but buried in black silt. Family, friends, neighbors, and strangers helped recover many such items.

Mom was alerted and evacuated by her insurance agent just before the flood arrived. She took with her the rolls she had made for a church bake sale and her purse, but not much more. Exactly four months later, February 17, 1999, she suffered a minor stroke. By the grace of God it left no major effects.

After a period of homelessness, waiting for payment of flood insurance, and buying a permanent home in a local subdivision, Mom made the decision to demolish her spacious home on the river, which had been damaged beyond repair, and build a summer home in its place.

Shortly after its completion, that home was destroyed by the third so-called 100 year flood. Mom relinquished the remains of that home and sold her irreplaceable lot on the Guadalupe River.

That beautiful body of crystal clear and refreshingly cool water turned into a raging, mean, ruthless, agent of destruction again in 2004, 2010, and 2015. Not all these floods were as disastrous as those of 1972, 1998, and 2002, but still caused significant flooding.

These disasters, like the hurricanes and floods we’ve experienced in Texas and beyond in recent times, are stark reminders of the value of life and the temporary nature of things we own.

Though I thank God for both, life is most certainly of greater value than even the sentimentally and emotionally valuable possessions destroyed in hurricanes and 100 year floods.

Praise God for the precious gift of life!

The Washington Monument

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Credit: Wikipedia

Did you know there’s a cross on the top of the Washington Monument in Washington, D.C.? Here is information from various public sources about this little known fact:

The Washington Monument is 55 feet wide at the base and 555 feet tall. It is constructed of 36,000 blocks of marble (from Maryland) and granite (from Maine) and weighs 90,000 tons. About 800,000 people a year visit the monument.

On the aluminum cap on top of the monument are two words: Laus Deo. No one can see them from the ground and most people have no idea they are even there. They are 5.125 inches high, perched atop the monument to the father of our nation.

Laus Deo! Two seemingly insignificant, unnoticed words very meaningfully placed at the highest point over what may be considered the most powerful city in the world. And what might those two words mean? Very simply … “Praise be to God!”

Construction of this monument began in 1848 when James Polk was President of the United States. It was not until 1888 that the monument was inaugurated and opened to the public. It took twenty-five years to finally cap the memorial with the tribute Laus Deo! Praise be to God!

Equally noteworthy is George Washington’s prayer for America: “Almighty God, We make our earnest prayer that Thou wilt keep the United States in Thy holy protection, that Thou wilt incline the hearts of the citizens to cultivate a spirit of subordination and obedience to government, and entertain a brotherly affection and love for one another and for their fellow citizens of the United states at large. And finally that Thou wilt most graciously be pleased to dispose us all to do justice, to love mercy, and to demean ourselves with that charity, humility, and pacific temper of mind which were the characteristics of the Divine Author of our blessed religion, and without a humble imitation of whose example in these things we can never hope to be a happy nation. Grant our supplication, we beseech Thee, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.”

A study of history shows that America is one of the few countries in the world established under the guidance, direction, and banner of Almighty God, who was recognized, honored, and worshiped by the great men who formed and fashioned our country.

That historic reality needs to be remembered, proclaimed, and celebrated, especially at this time in our nation’s history. One way to do so is to observe the inscriptions found in public places all over our nation’s capital, including the top of the Washington Monument.

Laus Deo! Praise be to God!

 

Don’t Let the Old Man In

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Credit: Wikipedia

Several days ago my second cousin once removed John Kieschnick forwarded to me a link to a song inspired by Clint Eastwood and sung by Toby Keith. The song resulted from a story.

One day Toby Keith, the country-western singer, was playing golf with Clint Eastwood. At one point, Eastwood said to Keith, “I turn 88 on Monday.” Keith asked, “What are you going to do?” Eastwood replied, “I’m going to shoot a movie.” Filming was to begin the following week.

Keith asked him, “What keeps you going?” Eastwood replied, “I get up every day and don’t let the old man in.” Keith went home that day and wrote a song. He sent it to Eastwood, hoping he would approve it. And, he did. Here are the words:

Don’t let the old man in, I wanna leave this alone
Can’t leave it up to him, he’s knocking on my door,
And I knew all of my life that someday it would end
Get up and go outside, don’t let the old man in.

Many moons I have lived, my body’s weathered and worn
Ask yourself how old you’d be if you didn’t know the day you were born.

Try to love on your wife and stay close to your friends
Toast each sundown with wine, don’t let the old man in.

Many moons I have lived, my body’s weathered and worn
Ask yourself how old you’d be if you didn’t know the day you were born.

When he rides up on his horse and you feel that cold bitter wind
Look out your window and smile, don’t let the old man in.
Look out your window and smile, don’t let the old man in.

Whether we like it or not, someday the old man will come in. It’s simply a fact of life that people grow older, every day. It’s important to live each day with the kind of positive attitude reflected in this song. Yet someday, even Clint Eastwood will meet his maker.

This brings to mind the seventh and final estate planning myth I promised months ago to share: “It’s too depressing to make plans for my funeral service. I’ll let my kids make those decisions.” The fact is that making advance plans relieves loved ones of that burden and allows them to celebrate your life and home-going to heaven.

Celebrating Victory in Christ is the name of Legacy Deo’s Funeral Planning Guide. It’s available for the asking in electronic fillable format. Request your free copy at info@legacydeo.org.

In the meantime, between now and the day the Lord calls you home, don’t let the old man in. Keep living your life, every day, to the glory of God and to the joy of the people you love.

Family History

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Credit: Roman Kraft on Unsplash

My good friend Rev. Robert Greene, in heaven since passing away two months ago, was an avid family history buff. In his retirement Bob spent much time at his computer almost every day, researching the history of his and his wife Jean’s family. At the time he died, Bob had identified over one million people to whom he or Jean were related. Seriously. I kid you not.

Several years ago in preparation for a family reunion, I spent a bit of time collating the names and important life event dates of my great grandfather’s family. I’ve identified 454 people related to my great grandpa Carl Otto Kieschnick and great grandma Christine Sohns Kieschnick.

Though it’s highly doubtful that my affinity for family history will ever come close to that of Bob Greene, I do find it interesting to talk about family. So does my dear Terry, who occasionally mentions her desire to dig into her genealogical roots. Perhaps someday she and I will do that.

A question that had always intrigued me is how my great grandfather could afford to keep his family in Thorndale, Texas, while he cleared and built a grand home on property he had purchased just north of Bishop, Texas, 275 miles south of Thorndale. Then one day I finally figured it out.

It started the day I preached at St. Paul Lutheran Church in Thorndale a few years ago. I began my sermon by noting my relationship with this congregation through my great grandparents who had lived in Thorndale just after the beginning of the 20th century. I also expressed my desire to know the location of the home and farm of Otto and Christine Kieschnick.

After worship was over, a man named Dennis Hengst greeted me at the door, identifying himself as a realtor who might be able to help. A few months later he called and said he had found not only one but two farms that had been owned by Otto and Christine.

Shortly thereafter my sister and I met Dennis for BBQ lunch at the Thorndale Meat Market. Then he took us to those two farms. The answer to my question was that Great Grandpa had sold one farm and applied the proceeds to their new adventure. He had left Great Grandma and their eight children in Thorndale while he went to Bishop, cleared the land, and built their new home. He then brought his family to Bishop, where he lived for most of the rest of his life.

The point of this article is not my family’s history. It’s simply to illustrate that everyone has a family history. Some, like Bob Greene, go to great lengths to learn about their ancestors. Others, like me, do a little research to satisfy their curiosity. Others either have no interest or simply don’t spend the time and effort required to discover the people from whom they came.

For an interesting genealogical story, check Matthew 1:1-17 in the New Testament. You’ll love the main character. Actually, I think most of you already do. Happy reading!