Two Important Tasks

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Credit: Carlos Muza on Unsplash

Last year I created an Excel spreadsheet for the purpose of planning a family budget for the next ten years. For this purpose, our immediate family is Terry and yours truly.

My thought is that someday I’ll probably want to retire from full time employment. Because I began working for pay from the time I was about 12 years old, and still do so today, fully retiring from gainful employment will be a big step in my life. I’m not ready yet. But it will happen someday.

Be that as it may, I believe it’s not only important but critical for individuals or couples approaching the end of their working career to take a close look at anticipated income and expenses to see how the two match up. So that’s what I did.

The expenses on our list include generous contributions for our home congregation and other favorite ministries and charities; home mortgage, including PITI; auto expenses, including payments, insurance, maintenance, and gasoline; utilities, including water, gas, electricity, cable TV, internet, and cell phones; health and life insurance premiums; groceries, occasional restaurant meals, clothing, and routine household expenses; family birthday and Christmas gifts; travel and vacation allowance; federal taxes; medical expenses; savings; unexpected and miscellaneous expenses.

The sources of income on our spreadsheet include salary, estimated to terminate at an approximate point in time; retirement plan/pension payments; social security checks; income from IRAs, 401(k)s, 403(b)s, and annuities.

I planned for gradually increasing expenses with income adjusted by loss of current salary, followed by stable but slightly increasing revenues. As long as the difference between these two numbers is positive on the revenue side, we should be alright. That’s certainly the plan.

This process is closely related to estate planning myth #6: “No need to make a list of what I own. My family will be able to find it all.” Here’s the reality. This myth is the result of indifference, laziness, lack of care and concern for loved ones. It takes time and effort to create a budget and at least as much time and effort to make a list of assets and liabilities.

To assist in this process, we at Legacy Deo have created what we call the “Red Book.” It’s designed to help record in writing your assets and liabilities; account numbers and balances; contact information for each account, including address, phone, user name, and password; location of important legal and financial documents, etc. This is a very significant document!

Request your free electronic Red Book at mailto:info@legacydeo.org or call (512) 646-4909. You’ll be glad you did. And while you’re at it, get busy on that budget. Both are important tasks!

54 Years Ago Today

On bended knee, with fairly certain hopes for an affirmative response, I invited Terry to be my wife. It was then, and still is today, called engagement. Ours took place exactly 54 years ago today, August 15, 1965. By now you know she said yes.

Part of the proposal was that we would move from Austin, Texas to Springfield, Illinois. That was the location of the Lutheran Seminary that would accept graduates from a secular university. That was me. Bachelor’s Degree. Texas A&M. Animal Science.

Terry has occasionally mused about the dual nature of the proposal, with a slight twinkle in her eye, wondering aloud what I would have done had she said yes to the first part and no to the second. I quietly and teasingly respond by saying, “I guess we’ll never know, will we?”

How could we have known what personal experiences, family events, vocational challenges, and career opportunities would come from that invitation and its acceptance more than half a century ago?

  • Eighteen different residential addresses.
  • Two children, one son-in-law, two grandchildren, all genuine blessings from God.
  • Seminary in Springfield and vicarage/internship in Charlotte.
  • Sixteen years of mission development and pastoral ministry.
  • Fourteen years of Christian estate planning and higher education development.
  • Nineteen years of regional and national church body presidency.
  • The passing of parents, grandparents, other relatives and friends.

Along the way, both of us have worked hard, individually and together, in the home, in the world, in the marketplace, in the community, in the church. We’ve done things we didn’t really know how to do. None would have succeeded without the grace of God.

Our family has brought and continues to bring great joy, laughter, fulfillment, and godly pride. Flavored with occasional seasons of uncertainty, anxiety, tears, and concern. Navigated with imperfection, faith, hope, trust, and love.

Our many, many friends have been and continue to be remarkable sources of encouragement, camaraderie, stimulation, and companionship. All of them are gifts.

Sin and imperfection have led to times of disappointment and pain, both from outside and also from within our church body. Yet by the grace of God, our faith has provided hope in times of despondence, comfort in times of sorrow, assurance in times of doubt, inspiration in times of discouragement.

These are merely a few highlights of more than half a century together, with lots more to tell. It all began 54 years ago today. With a heartfelt invitation. And a trusting, loving response.

Regrets? None. Would I do it all again? Absolutely. And I’m fairly certain Terry would still say yes.

Julie Andrews

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Credit: Wikipedia

To commemorate her 79th birthday a few years ago, actress and vocalist Julie Andrews made a special appearance at Manhattan’s Radio City Music Hall for the benefit of the AARP. One of the musical numbers she performed was My Favorite Things from the legendary movie Sound Of Music. Here are the lyrics she used. If you sing it, it’s especially funny!

Botox and nose drops and needles for knitting,
Walkers and handrails and new dental fittings,
Bundles of magazines tied up in strings,
These are a few of my favorite things.

Cadillacs and cataracts, hearing aids and glasses,
Polident and Fixodent and false teeth in glasses,
Pacemakers, golf carts and porches with swings,
These are a few of my favorite things.

When the pipes leak, When the bones creak, When the knees go bad,
I simply remember my favorite things, And then I don’t feel so bad.

Hot tea and crumpets and corn pads for bunions,
No spicy hot food or food cooked with onions,
Bathrobes and heating pads and hot meals they bring,
These are a few of my favorite things.

Back pain, confused brains and no need for sinnin’,
Thin bones and fractures and hair that is thinnin’,
And we won’t mention our short shrunken frames,
When we remember our favorite things.

When the joints ache, When the hips break, When the eyes grow dim,
Then I remember the great life I’ve had, And then I don’t feel so bad.

In the spirit of talking about growing older, here’s Estate Planning Myth #4, as promised several weeks ago: “If I don’t have a will, my family will be able to figure it out.”

Here’s the reality: If you don’t have a will, the probate judge will appoint an administrator. Do you actually think a court-appointed person will carry out your wishes?

In all likelihood, that administrator will not have known you. So how would that person have any clue whatsoever about your wishes on how to distribute the possessions and assets you have worked hard all your life to accumulate?

One of the important decisions you’ll make when preparing your Last Will and Testament is appointing an independent executor. Pick someone younger than you. Pick someone you trust. If you can’t think of anyone, pick Legacy Deo. We’d be happy to help.

Numerous other planned giving topics of significance are addressed in our Planning Your Legacy — A Guide to Planning Your Will and Trust. Contact us at info@legacydeo.org or call (512) 646-4909 or (800) 880-3733 for your free electronic copy. You’ll be glad you did.

Here’s the bottom line: If you don’t already have a Last Will and Testament, git ‘er done! I have a feeling Julie Andrews would approve. God bless your day!

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A Plan to Destroy America

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Today’s article is the first of my 11th consecutive year of writing weekly Perspectives. Hard to believe, but very true! Thanks for your interest, thoughtful comments, and sincere appreciation.

Tomorrow is the Fourth of July, a federal holiday commemorating the Declaration of Independence of the United States on July 4, 1776. On that day, the Continental Congress declared that the thirteen American colonies were no longer subject to the monarch of Britain and were now united, free, and independent states.

The Fourth of July is a day to give thanks for the blessings of living in America, “the land of the free and the home of the brave.” Most governmental offices are closed and services curtailed. Many businesses are closed for the day. It’s a day to celebrate the unique freedoms we enjoy.

Last week I saw a news report titled St. Louis Park will no longer say the Pledge of Allegiance at City Council meetings. It appeared in the Jackson Star Tribune. St. Louis Park is a southwestern suburb of Minneapolis. Here’s an excerpt:

The St. Louis Park City Council has decided to drop recital of the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag at its meetings, citing a desire to accommodate the city’s newest and more diverse residents.

“I hope it’s not too controversial,” Council Member Tim Brausen said. “Our community tends to be a very welcoming and increasingly diverse community, and we believe our citizens will understand. I don’t think we’re going to be any less welcoming by not starting our meeting out with the standard ritual.”

Not everyone was happy with this decision. One resident is quoted as saying her grandparents wanted to be American when they immigrated to the United States. She said she didn’t understand how the council could eliminate this part of their history, calling it “obnoxious.”

This St. Louis Park decision brought to mind an article I recently read about a speech given several years ago by Richard D. Lamm, a Democrat who served as governor of Colorado for twelve years (1975-1987). Lamm told Snopes: “Yes, it is a speech I gave a year and a half ago in Washington D.C. It was a 5 minute speech, and I am amazed and gratified it has received so much coverage.” Here are a few excerpts from a revised version of his speech:

I have a secret plan to destroy America. If you believe, as many do, that America is too smug, too white, too self-satisfied, too rich, let’s destroy America. It is not that hard to do. History shows that nations are more fragile than their citizens think. No nation in history has survived the ravages of time. Arnold Toynbee observed that all great civilizations rise and they all fall, and that “an autopsy of history would show that all great nations commit suicide.” Here is my plan:

  1. We must first make America a bilingual-bicultural country. History shows, in my opinion, that no nation can survive the tension, conflict, and antagonism of two competing languages and cultures. It is a blessing for an individual to be bilingual; it is a curse for a society to be bilingual.
  2. I would then invent “multiculturalism” and encourage immigrants to maintain their own culture. I would make it an article of belief that all cultures are equal: that there are no cultural differences that are important. I would declare it an article of faith that the Black and Hispanic dropout rate is only due to prejudice and discrimination by the majority. Every other explanation is out-of-bounds.
  3. We can make the United States a “Hispanic Quebec” without much effort. The key is to celebrate diversity rather than unity. I would encourage all immigrants to keep their own language and culture. I would replace the melting pot metaphor with a salad bowl metaphor. It is important to insure that we have various cultural sub-groups living in America reinforcing their differences rather than Americans, emphasizing their similarities.
  4. Having done all this, I would make our fastest growing demographic group the least educated – I would add a second underclass, unassimilated, undereducated, and antagonistic to our population. I would have this second underclass have a 50% drop out rate from school.
  5. I would then get big foundations and big business to give these efforts lots of money. I would invest in ethnic identity, and I would establish the cult of victimology. I would get all minorities to think their lack of success was all the fault of the majority – I would start a grievance industry blaming all minority failure on the majority population.
  6. I would establish dual citizenship and promote divided loyalties. I would celebrate diversity. “Diversity” is a wonderfully seductive word. It stresses differences rather than commonalities. Diverse people worldwide are mostly engaged in hating each other, when they are not killing each other. A diverse, peaceful, or stable society is against most historical precedent. People undervalue the unity it takes to keep a nation together. We can take advantage of this myopia.
  7. Then I would place all these subjects off limits – make it taboo to talk about. I would find a word similar to “heretic” in the 16th century – that stopped discussion and paralyzed thinking. Words like “racist” or “xenophobe” that halt argument and conversation.
  8. Having made America a bilingual-bicultural country, having established multiculturalism, having the large foundations fund the doctrine of “victimology”, I would next make it impossible to enforce our immigration laws. I would develop a mantra – “that because immigration has been good for America, it must always be good.” I would make every individual immigrant sympatric and ignore the cumulative impact.
  9. Lastly, I would censor Victor Davis Hanson’s book Mexifornia— this book is dangerous — it exposes my plan to destroy America. So please, please — if you feel that America deserves to be destroyed — please, please — don’t buy this book! This guy is on to my plan.

For the full text of Lamm’s speech go to: https://www.snopes.com/fact-check/richard-lamm-on-multiculturalism/.

Knowing the controversial nature of this topic and realizing many Americans, including some of my closest friends and numerous readers, would see Lamm’s speech as radical, myopic, short-sighted, discriminatory, and even unpatriotic, I was reticent about addressing it.

Yet my sense is that although many traditions of German and Wendish origin were observed after our forefathers and foremothers settled in America, our genealogical and spiritual patriarchs and matriarchs accepted American principles and values and chose to support and become part of the country that, for the most part, welcomed them with open arms.

If any organization or country is to survive, there must be an overwhelming sense of unity of purpose and values, while allowing reasonable diversity among its members and citizens.

Much more could be said on this topic, including the role of the church and its constituents in promoting and participating in responsible resettlement efforts. Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service is one such organization. Many individuals and congregations are also involved.

Remember the words of Jesus in Matt. 25:35: “I was a stranger and you took me in.” I’d surely like to believe we can do that without destroying America!

Special Edition — LCMS Presidential Election

This weekend marks the process of election of the president of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. In recent months two electors from each of our 6,000 or so congregations had the opportunity to register for certification to cast a ballot in this election. The actual number of folks who registered is apparently known only by the secretary of our church body.

Through a password protected electronic process, officially registered electors have a window of time during which to cast their ballot for one of three nominees. If one nominee receives a majority vote on the first ballot, that candidate is declared elected.

If no nominee receives a majority on the first ballot, the recipient with the lowest vote total is removed from the second ballot, which contains the names of the two highest vote recipients. A second election takes place by the same password protected process as the first ballot.

This year’s nomination process has created an unusually high level of interest. The three candidates, Matthew Harrison, Timothy Klinkenberg, and David Maier, provide significant options for the electors.

Information, observations, opinions, and recommendations from a number of publications and groups have circulated the past several months. Here’s a brief general summary:

  1. Harrison is the incumbent LCMS president, just now finishing nine years of service.
  2. Klinkenberg is senior pastor of St. John Lutheran Church in Orange, Cal., a large congregation with a highly respected Lutheran school.
  3. Maier is president of the Michigan District LCMS and chairman of the Council of Presidents, comprised of the president, five vice-presidents, and 35 district presidents.
  4. While all three candidates base their theology on a solid foundation of scriptural and confessional principles, significant differences exist in their leadership characteristics, financial management, personal demeanor, levels of humility, administrative skills, and vision for the future of our church body.
  5. All three candidates demonstrate keen awareness of the decline of our national church body but have expressed sharply differing proposals for meeting the challenge. One suggests increased childbirth. The other two offer increased focus on mission planting, cross cultural outreach, and intentional gospel proclamation.
  6. One candidate states publicly his belief that our church body is at peace. The other two have a differing perspective, being aware, among other matters, of pastors who do not commune with one another at pastoral conferences and of significant tension among Synod leaders.

If you are an elector, duly registered to cast a ballot this weekend, my strong encouragement is that you spend time in serious, careful, and prayerful evaluation of the candidates on the basis of the matters listed above. To assist in that process, here are some resources:

Biographical Summaries of the Nominees: https://files.lcms.org/wl/?id=tQnq0OpQIlv8u7YCDyJrmsvpwRl3IYL2

A Special Q&A with each nominee:  https://blogs.lcms.org/2019/lcms-presidential-election-candidate-question-answer/

A live interview with each nominee conducted by the Southeastern District of the LCMS:
Interview with Rev. Dr. Matthew Harrison
Interview with Rev. Timothy Klinkenberg
Interview with Rev. Dr. David Maier

Whether or not you are an elector, I encourage you to support this process with your prayers, asking the Lord for his blessing upon the election, these three candidates, and the future of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod.

Proofreading — A Dying Art?

Correcting, Proof, Paper, Correction, Correct, Mistake

Perspectives will be a bit lighter than usual this week and next week. It’s summer time. And I’m about to finish the 10th year of writing these articles every single week … 520 articles in a row. So don’t expect anything particularly profound, whether theologically or politically.

Proofreading appears to be a dying art. Here are a few examples of signs that need some help: 

  • In a Laundromat: AUTOMATIC WASHING MACHINES: PLEASE REMOVE ALL YOUR CLOTHES WHEN THE LIGHT GOES OUT.
  • In a London department store: BARGAIN BASEMENT UPSTAIRS.
  • In an office: AFTER TEA BREAK, STAFF SHOULD EMPTY THE TEAPOT AND STAND UPSIDE DOWN ON THE DRAINING BOARD.
  • Outside a second-hand shop: WE EXCHANGE ANYTHING — BICYCLES, WASHING MACHINES, ETC. WHY NOT BRING YOUR WIFE ALONG AND GET A WONDERFUL BARGAIN?
  • Notice in health food shop window: CLOSED DUE TO ILLNESS.
  • Spotted in a safari park: ELEPHANTS, PLEASE STAY IN YOUR CAR.
  • Seen during a conference: FOR ANYONE WHO HAS CHILDREN AND DOESN’T KNOW IT, THERE IS A DAY CARE ON THE FIRST FLOOR.
  • Notice in a farmer’s field: THE FARMER ALLOWS WALKERS TO CROSS THE FIELD FOR FREE, BUT THE BULL CHARGES.
  • Message on a leaflet: IF YOU CANNOT READ, THIS LEAFLET WILL TELL YOU HOW TO GET LESSONS.
  • On a repair shop door: WE CAN REPAIR ANYTHING. (PLEASE KNOCK HARD ON THE DOOR — THE BELL DOESN’T WORK.)

Thanks for sticking with me, dear friends in Christ. God bless your day!

That’s a Lot of Concrete!

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Credit: Wikipedia

Interstate 10 (I-10) is the major east–west Interstate Highway in the Southern United States. It stretches from the Pacific Ocean at California State Route 1 in Santa Monica, California, to I-95 in Jacksonville, Florida. The only longer Interstate Highways are I-80, which runs 2,906 miles from San Francisco to Teaneck, and I-90, which runs 3,085 miles from Seattle to Boston.

In Texas, I-10 runs east from Anthony, a small town near the New Mexico border, through El Paso, San Antonio, and Houston, all the way to the border with Louisiana in Orange, Tex.

At just under 880 miles, the Texas segment of I-10, maintained by the Texas Department of Transportation, is the longest continuous non-tolled freeway in North America that is operated by a single authority. In recent years toll lanes have been added on portions of the highway west of Houston, yet it is still possible to travel the entire length of I-10 with no toll.

I-10 is also the longest stretch of highway with a single designation within a single state. Mile marker 880 and its corresponding exit number in Orange, Texas, are the highest numbered mile marker and exit on any freeway in North America.

After widening was completed in 2008, a portion of the highway west of Houston is now also believed to be the widest in the world, at 26 lanes. There is a wider section in China on the G4 Beijing–Hong Kong–Macau Expressway, but that section is a toll plaza approach.

More than one-third of I-10’s entire length is located in Texas alone. El Paso, near the Texas–New Mexico state line, is 785 miles from the western terminus of I-10 in Santa Monica, California. That makes El Paso closer to Los Angeles than it is to Orange, Tex., 857 miles away at the Texas–Louisiana state line. Likewise, Orange is only 789 miles from the eastern terminus of I-10 in Jacksonville, Florida.

That’s a lot of concrete!

Travel on the Interstate Highway system, notwithstanding the frequent bottlenecks and pileups those of us who live in major cities along that system regularly experience, allows those who drive it to travel long distances in relatively short periods of time.

Compare that reality with the time and effort it took biblical characters like Abraham to travel from his point of origination, Ur of the Chaldees (present day Iraq), to God’s chosen destination of Shechem in Canaan, known today as the Holy Land. Only several hundred miles as the crow flies but more than 1,000 miles along the route taken to avoid the Sahara Desert. Not much concrete on that journey. Only lots of faith in the God who was leading him.