A Day to Remember

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January 29, 1966, was a long time ago! For me, it’s a day to remember.

At 5:00 p.m. that day Terry and I stood before the altar at St. Paul Lutheran Church in Austin and pledged to one another our faithfulness “… to have and to hold, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, till death parts us, according to God’s holy will.”

That was 52 years ago! And although many things that happened more than a half century ago have been lost in the maze of my seemingly totally stuffed gray matter, other recollections are quite clear. Here are a few that come to mind:

  • Our wedding day was preceded by our wedding rehearsal the night before. Friday afternoon, January 28, I drove from my nearly completed graduate school semester classes at Texas A&M in College Station to Austin for the rehearsal at St. Paul. All went well and was followed by the rehearsal dinner hosted by my mother and father at the Villa Capri Hotel.
  • After kissing Terry goodbye on her front porch at midnight, I drove the 100 miles back to College Station, getting to bed shortly after 1:00 a.m. Saturday. At 7:00 a.m. I arrived in class to take my final final exam … in Biochemistry. Both because of our wedding and my decision to leave grad school to go to the seminary, neither my heart nor my head really gave a rip about that exam.
  • After concluding those last few moments at my alma mater I packed my few worldly goods in my ’57 Chevy, turned in the key to my dorm room, and drove back to Austin in time to hang around the hotel with my parents, three sisters, and other family members.
  • The wedding began promptly at 5:00 p.m. The officiant was the sainted Rev. Dr. Albert F. Jesse, who had hired me in August 1964 to teach the fourth grade at St. Paul. My entire preparation for that memorable year was a B.S. degree in Animal Science. Go figure! Mid-August, the date I was hired, was only two weeks prior to the beginning of school. I had a pulse and was willing to work for $200 per month. I was his man!
  • After the wedding service and ceremony, our reception was held at the Villa Capri Hotel. I remember the beautiful wedding cake. I recall Terry and I posing for a photo, both with a piece of said cake in hand, lovingly feeding it to each other. What I failed to see, discovered only when asked en route to our honeymoon destination by my new bride, was the groom’s cake. I had absolutely no clue what she was talking about! Never saw it! Haven’t yet lived it down!
  • We arrived at the Stagecoach Inn in Salado, a short 48 mile drive north of Austin. It was late and we were newlyweds, so we chose not to do any midnight sightseeing. Money was tight in those days. One night in the hotel cost 10% of my monthly salary. We stayed two nights … 20% of my monthly salary. After a semester of grad school, the bank account was not quite non-existent but was far from flush. I think we ate in the restaurant only once. Another 10% of my monthly salary!
  • Monday morning we packed the car and headed back to Terry’s parents’ home in Austin to pick up her clothes, other belongings, and our wedding gifts, and headed to our first home in Houston, arriving late Monday afternoon. The apartment on Bellefontaine in southwest Houston cost $75 per month, half of which was payable every two weeks.
  • The next day, Tuesday morning, I started my second teaching job, also in the fourth grade, at Pilgrim Lutheran School in Houston. Angie Bielefeldt was on maternity leave that semester and I needed a job prior to moving to Springfield, Ill. to enter the seminary, so it all worked out just fine. Terry worked with my father at Rice Food Market those four months in anticipation of the move to the seminary in June.

Lots of water has gone under the bridge since those days. Neither Terry nor I could possibly have had any clue whatsoever about what the Lord had in store for us. Perhaps in the weeks ahead I’ll be moved to share some of those stories as well.

In the meantime, I thank God for his priceless gift of a beautiful wife who became an awesome mother, an incredible grandmother, a gracious hostess, an excellent cook, a friend and mentor to many women including countless pastors’ wives, a tireless companion on many weekend trips for preaching engagements across the country, a fearless travel companion on many international trips to the mission fields and partner church locations around the world, including numerous third world countries where she was the only woman in the entourage, and a woman who loves to give of herself to people she meets … friends, family, and strangers alike.

Happy 52nd Anniversary, dear Terry! I love you more than words can express and thank God for you every day!

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Wisdom from Charlie Brown

Charlie Brown

Today marks the end of eight consecutive years of weekly Perspectives articles. I don’t recall having missed a single week of these articles. That’s not intended to be braggadocios, just factual.

Frankly, every year at this time I ask myself whether I should keep writing. Just about the time I’m inclined to stop, I bump into or hear from someone who expresses heartfelt appreciation for an article he or she just read. That’s usually enough to keep me going. Time will tell.

In the meantime, this week I thought I’d share some wisdom from our friend Charlie Brown:

  • Life isn’t meant to be easy, it’s meant to be lived. Sometimes happy, other times rough. But with every up and down you learn lessons that make you strong.
  • As we grow up we realize it is less important to have lots of friends and more important to have real ones.
  • The smile on my face doesn’t mean my life is perfect. It means I appreciate what I have and what I have been blessed with. I choose to be happy.
  • There are moments in life when you miss someone so much you just want to pick them from your dreams and hug them for real.
  • The less you respond to rude, critical, argumentative people, the more peaceful your life will become.
  • I don’t have time to worry about who doesn’t like me. I’m too busy loving the people who love me.
  • A good laugh and a long sleep are the two best cures for anything.
  • Worrying won’t stop the bad stuff from happening. It just stops you from enjoying the good stuff.
  • You may feel lost and alone but God knows exactly where you are and he has a plan for your life.

Lost Words from Our Childhood

childhoodGod willing, this Sunday will be Terry’s and my 51st wedding anniversary. I thank God for this wonderful woman whom I dearly love! She has been and continues to be a huge blessing to me, our children, our grandchildren and lots of people, many of whom she has never even met!

We were married on my 23rd birthday. Remembering our anniversary is not a problem. Agreeing on which event we should celebrate on January 29 is a challenge. I say anniversary. Terry says birthday. Although both a bit strong-willed, we usually come up with a workable solution!

Both of us are also chronologically mature enough to recall words and phrases used in our childhood but mostly absent from the vocabulary of our children and grandchildren. Here are some that came to my attention not long ago:

  • Heavens to Murgatroyd! (Spell check didn’t even recognize the word!)
  • Let’s get in the old Jalopy and go to town.
  • Don’t touch that dial!
  • Be sure to make a carbon copy!
  • You sound like a broken record!
  • Put on your best bib and tucker!
  • Straighten up and fly right!
  • Heavens to Betsy! Gee Whillikers! Jumping Jehoshaphat! Holy Moley!
  • Oh, my aching back!
  • Kilroy was here, but he’s long gone!
  • Pshaw! The milkman did it!
  • Go ahead! It’s your nickel!
  • Knee high to a grasshopper.
  • Well, Fiddlesticks! Don’t take any wooden nickels!

There are more of these lost words and expressions than Carter has little liver pills! Those of us past the midpoint of the chronological arc remember at least some of these words and phrases that once strutted their hour upon the earthly stage and now are heard no more, except in our collective memory. It’s one of the profound realities of aging experienced by every generation.

We were in like Flynn and living the life of Riley, and even a regular guy couldn’t accuse us of being a knucklehead, a nincompoop or a pill. Not for all the tea in China! Gone are the days of beehives, pageboys, spats, knickers, fedoras, poodle skirts, saddle shoes, and pedal pushers.  Shucks, I don’t even remember some of those things.

Well, I hope you’re Hunky Dory after you read this article. See ya’ later, alligator! After while, crocodile! God bless your day!

Worth Remembering

ProposalLast week Terry shared with me a story she had received via email. An elderly man whose wife had recently died attended his 75th high school reunion. Soon after arriving he saw across the room an old high school girlfriend whose husband had also passed away. He immediately went across the room, engaged in conversation with her and asked her to dance.

The couple spent the entire evening on the dance floor. As the reunion party ended the man asked his old flame if she would marry him. She quickly replied “Yes!” The two 93 year-olds kissed excitedly, exchanged phone numbers and parted company for the night.

The next morning the man, whose memory wasn’t what it used to be, remembered having a great evening. But he couldn’t recall for certain whether he had actually asked his high school sweetheart to marry him. So he picked up the phone and called her to find out.

When she answered the phone, he asked: “Did I ask you to marry me last night?” Her ecstatic reply was: “Thank you so much for calling! I remembered receiving a marriage proposal but I couldn’t remember from whom it came!”

Next Monday will be the 51st anniversary of the night I asked my dear Terry to marry me. I recall it clearly. For 51 years I’ve had no trouble remembering the significance of August 15, 1965!

Neither of us has been out of high school 75 years. Yet both of us sometimes have minor lapses of memory, finding it occasionally difficult to recall what so far have been matters of minor significance. Perhaps you can identify with that reality.

Some things are never forgotten. Births, baptisms, confirmations, parents, siblings, grandparents, friends, teachers, pastors, educational experiences, marriages, children, vocational callings, grandchildren, deaths of family members and personal friends—many of these are likely on your lists of people, events and experiences worth remembering.

One more thing worth remembering: “The LORD himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.” (Deut. 31:8)

Thank God for experiences and people of significance in your life! And thank God for his grace! That’s a blessing absolutely worth remembering!

Fifty Years Together

LoveSaturday, January 29, 1966, was a frigid day in Austin, Texas. Temperatures were in the teens that night. Late the night before, after our rehearsal and dinner in Austin, I had returned to College Station to take my last grad school final on Saturday, which was also my 23rd birthday.

Terry and I were married at St. Paul Lutheran Church at 5:00 p.m. that day. Her childhood pastor, Rev. Albert Jesse, based his homily on the miracle of Jesus changing water into wine at a wedding in Cana of Galilee. It was titled “They Invited Jesus to the Wedding.”

At the reception at the Villa Capri Hotel, I was so excited I failed to see the groom’s cake, a fine southern tradition. After the reception we drove in my two door baby blue ’65 Chevy Malibu 60 miles north to Salado, spending our two-night honeymoon at the Stagecoach Inn. The Honeymoon Suite was $20 per night, a significant expenditure 50 years ago, especially on a salary of $200 per month.

Lots of water has gone under the bridge since then. During our 50 years together, Terry has been at my side providing love, patience, support and partnership. Our ministry has included:

  • Three years at Concordia Theological Seminary in Springfield, Ill.
  • One year of pastoral internship at Ascension Lutheran Church in Charlotte, N. Car.
  • Three years of pastoral ministry at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Biloxi, Miss.
  • Eight years of pastoral ministry at Redeemer Lutheran Church in Beaumont, Tex.
  • Five years of mission development at Faith Lutheran Church in Georgetown, Tex.
  • Five years of planned giving with Lutheran Foundation of Texas in Austin, Tex.
  • Ten years as president of the Texas District of the LCMS in Austin, Tex.
  • Nine years as president of the national Lutheran Church in St. Louis, Missouri
  • Five years as Presidential Ambassador at Concordia University Texas in Austin
  • One month back at Lutheran Foundation of Texas as Inheritance Legacy Consultant.

In each of these places of ministry, Terry’s unique gifts of hospitality and encouragement have provided support, comfort, hope and joy for wives of countless pastors, ecclesiastical supervisors and other regional, national and international church leaders. Non-catered seated dinners with scores of guests in our homes in Georgetown, Round Rock and St. Louis were not uncommon.

In addition, beginning with our mission development days in Georgetown, Terry helped support our family by going back to work. She spent several years at a women’s clothing store in Georgetown, followed by 17 years of six days a week employment in the wholesale fine jewelry business.

Both of us have been blessed with loving parents and grandparents, only one of whom is still living – my 99 ¾ year old mother Elda of New Braunfels, Tex. We have also been blessed with our daughter Angie, her husband Todd (Terry calls him our son-in-love), their children (our grandchildren) Kolby and Kayla, and our son Andrew.

We are very thankful for Terry’s brother, my three sisters, their spouses, children and grandchildren, our aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces and nephews. We’re also wonderfully blessed with countless friends and colleagues from across the nation and around the world, including many of you.

When asked what I believe are the most important words in a successful marriage, I usually say “Yes, Dear!” Seriously, more important words are “I love you!” I’m sorry!” “I forgive you!”

As most married couples will attest, marriage is a mixture of good days and bad, happy times and sad. While it’s incredible how much alike Terry and I often think, it’s equally incredible that each of us will still sometimes say or do things that cause the other to raise an eyebrow or shake a head in surprise, amazement or even frustration.

What’s the bottom line? I give thanks, honor and glory to God for half a century of joy and sorrow, blessing and difficulty, victory and defeat, under the umbrella of God’s grace, with Terry at my side. She has many gifts and unselfishly uses them joyfully and generously.

Fifty years ago the words each of us spoke to the other included: “I take you to be my wedded spouse, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love, to honor and to cherish, till death parts us, according to God’s holy will.” By God’s grace, we said what we meant and meant what we said. To God be the glory!

Not knowing where to draw the invitation line for a special reception, our celebration included a brief trip to Savannah, one of Terry’s favorite cities, and a quiet evening enjoying dinner together.

Happy Anniversary, dearest Terry! I love you with all my heart and look forward to the future, believing that the best is yet to come!

A New Language

Text MessageIt’s hard to believe that today’s edition of Perspectives concludes the sixth year of these weekly articles. I don’t mind admitting that the deadline is sometimes a bit daunting and that topics of interest sometimes come more readily to mind than at other times. Feel free to send suggestions.

In addition, in a world of sound bites, brevity is important. Often I find it difficult to address complex topics with only a few words. When Perspectives first began, my St. Louis LCMS International Center staff insisted that I restrict these articles to two paragraphs. LOL! For a while I did pretty well at that. Not so much lately. However, beginning today and at least for a few weeks, I’ll make an effort to be brief. But don’t expect miracles!

Today’s article comes, with permission, from a devotion presented at this summer’s Florida-Georgia District LCMS Convention by Rev. Brian Kneser, convention chaplain. It’s not feasible to include here all the comments Pastor Kneser included in his devotion, but I think you’ll get the point from the information he projected on the screen in simple PowerPoint format.

Psalm 89:1: “I will sing of the steadfast love of the Lord, forever; with my mouth I will make known your faithfulness to all generations.”

A New Language: Text Messaging

  • LOL – Laughing out loud!
  • LOLH – Laughing out loud hysterically!
  • LSHMBH – Laughing so hard my belly hurts!
  • ROFL – Rolling on floor laughing!
  • T+ – Think positive!
  • 2G2BT – Too good to be true!
  • 10Q – Thank you!
  • 143 – I love you! (check the number of letters in each word)
  • 1432 – I love you too!
  • If Jesus texted, what would he say?
  • IFYP – I feel your pain.
  • IKYS – I know your sin.
  • 143 – I love you!
  • ISLY – I still love you!
  • IWALU – I will always love you!
  • RYB & PTL – Read your Bible and praise the Lord!
  • EMB – Engaged in the Master’s Business (convention theme)
  • MGBU – May God bless you!
  • AMEN – Amen!

Forty-Nine Years Ago

HeartIt was a cold January 29th in central Texas. The temperature in Austin that night reached 12 degrees. Thankfully, Terry and I were able to spend the night at the Stage Coach Inn in Salado and not in a tent or on the parking lot!

The weekend of our wedding began Friday evening with the rehearsal at St. Paul Lutheran Church in Austin, the congregation of Terry’s birth, baptism and confirmation. It was the obvious venue for our matrimonial vows.

St. Paul also operated the school at which I had taught 30 fourth graders the year before. I had been hired for that position August 15, 1964, fresh out of Texas A&M with a degree in Animal Science, for the princely sum of $200 per month. For a few days I thought I must have really impressed Pastor Jesse, who hired me on the spot. Then it occurred to me that school would be starting only two weeks later and he desperately needed a teacher in that classroom!

After the rehearsal dinner I kissed Terry goodnight Friday at midnight, drove the 100 miles back to College Station and got to bed shortly after 2:00 a.m. Saturday. My last graduate school final for that semester was Biochemistry at 7:00 a.m. You can probably guess my score on that exam! Not all that great, mostly because my mind and heart were focused elsewhere.

The grad school idea came after one year of fourth grade teaching. I was persuaded that church work would be my vocational ambition but most likely the elementary classroom would not be my final destination. A Master’s degree in biology would open additional opportunities. That plan was never completed, replaced with a decision to go to the seminary instead.

After the final was finished I got in my ’57 Chevy with all my worldly goods and drove back to Austin. The short afternoon was spent “hanging out” with Mom, Dad and my three sisters. Wedding participants had been instructed by Pastor Albert Jesse to be at St. Paul shortly after 3:00 p.m. That was a good thing, since my best man had forgotten to pick up Terry’s rings.

The worship/wedding service was wonderful, meaningful and memorable. Pastor Jesse’s sermon was based on John 2, the first miracle of Jesus at the wedding at Cana in Galilee. The title: “They Invited Jesus to the Wedding!”

After the service and photo session we went to the reception at the Villa Capri Hotel in Austin, which no longer exists. It was picture perfect. Not extravagant, just very nice. On the way to our two-night honeymoon stay in Salado Terry asked what I thought of the groom’s cake. My reply: “What groom’s cake?” I hadn’t even seen it or known it was there.

We spent Saturday and Sunday nights at the Stage Coach Inn, which at $20 per night pretty much blew our meager budget. Monday morning we drove back to Austin, picked up Terry’s belongings and our wedding gifts, and drove to our first apartment in Houston, a clean but not at all fancy one bedroom apartment that rented for $75 per month. We paid half every two weeks.

The next morning I was in another fourth grade classroom, teaching one semester at Pilgrim Lutheran School in Houston for a teacher who was on maternity leave that semester. Four months later we moved to Springfield, Ill., then the home of Concordia Theological Seminary. It might just as well have been the end of the world as far as our parents were concerned.

All that and everything that followed had its official beginning 49 years ago today. Lots of water has gone under our bridge since then, most of it joyful, some of it stressful. Through it all we have relied on our love for one another and God’s grace. We will continue to do so, as we pledged that January night in cold central Texas, “… until death parts us, according to God’s holy will.”

Happy Anniversary, dear Terry! I love you with all my heart!