Naming Hurricanes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Not One Sparrow

Sparrow

Early one morning last week on the way to the office I was traveling at 45 mph on a two-lane road. All of a sudden, out of nowhere, two small birds flew from the grass and trees on my right, directly into my path. One flew at an altitude that allowed it to continue its flight. The other one flew directly into my right front fender and fell to the ground.

This was not the first time my vehicle had accidentally and unintentionally become an instrument that terminated the life of a living creature. Over my 59 years of driving experience, I’ve hit other birds and a few squirrels. Transparency requires me to confess that willfully and intentionally I have also sent a few rattlesnakes to their eternal destiny. Scold me, if necessary.

The day of my encounter with the bird in question turned out to be the same day of yet another school shooting. This one was in Santa Fe. Not New Mexico. Texas. Frankly I don’t recall ever knowing there was a Santa Fe in Texas. It’s just a few miles south of Houston, my hometown. Sadly, Santa Fe is now known around the world as the site of a willful and intentional eruption of evil activity resulting in the death of eight students and two teachers.

As soon as the bird fell to the ground I remembered the words of Jesus: “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father.” Matt. 10:29

And when I heard the news that ten people had died that day, I immediately recalled more of Jesus’ words in almost the same breath: “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Instead, fear the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” Matt. 10:28

But the words that have stuck with me even more poignantly are these: “And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” Matt. 10:30-31

Is it possible to compare the life of a human with the life of a sparrow? No way. In God’s eyes, all living creatures have value. But Jesus says the intrinsic value of human life far outweighs that of many sparrows.

That’s why many more tears are shed when a human dies, regardless of the cause of death, than when a sparrow dies. Yet God’s love is so magnificent that not one sparrow falls to the ground apart from the will of the Father.

Caring for Aging Parents

Elderly 1While that’s a topic not entirely new to Terry and to me, we’re certainly no experts. Her father, mother and stepfather passed away a few years ago. Her mother died after hospitalization from an auto accident, although she had previously spent some time in assisted living. Neither Terry’s father nor stepfather required long term care beyond the capacity of family and very close friends to provide. Yet the care family and friends did provide was both physically and emotionally demanding.

My father passed away over 33 years ago. Although he died at home, the time and energy Mom spent caring for him was very likely more consuming than any of us children might have imagined at the time. We weren’t there all the time. Mother was there, lovingly caring for her husband, watching him gradually slip away, leaving her and our family at the relatively tender age of 66 years.

As mentioned in a previous article, almost three weeks ago Mother moved to assisted living. She’s gradually making the adjustment, which may never be totally complete. Yet she knows she can’t care for herself and can no longer live alone, as she had since Daddy’s passing. She also knows her family can’t provide the almost constant care her significantly weakened condition demands.

She’s taking it one day at a time. So are the rest of us, including my sisters Carol (her husband Jerry is deceased), Karen and her husband Mel, Debbie and her husband Curtis, Terry and yours truly. From longer distances but nevertheless watching closely and praying fervently are Mother’s twelve grandchildren plus nine spouses; 22 great grandchildren plus two spouses; and three great great grandchildren (one deceased). Granny is dearly loved!

So how do loved ones care for an aging parent or grandparent or other beloved family member or friend? Last week I asked my readers for suggested answers to that question. Here are some of the responses I received:

  • Have patience! Lord willing, we will all live long enough to be in their position one day. I’ll want the love and respect of my family, not their sharp tongues and rolling eyes and all the ways children might express exasperation for a parent not hearing or not remembering.
  • If a parent has dementia or one of its many forms, whatever they say or do is not really “them” but the disease they have talking through them. Remember how they were when your parents were loving you and caring for you and supporting you. Display that same love for them by returning those feelings. It will make a world of difference!
  • Each offspring plays one of two roles. You are either the caregiver or the nurturer of the caregiver. This means all the children must work together and help the designated caregiver and the caregiver must work with the others. Harmony among family members is key in these situations for the whole family.
  • Spend time visiting, visiting, visiting, and listening, listening, listening.

In Mother’s case, Terry and I live too far away to make everyday visits feasible. Thankfully, Sisters Carol and Karen live close enough to Mom’s new address to visit her in person frequently. Sister Debbie lives in Little Rock but stays in phone contact every day and visits in person when she can. Terry and I visit Mother as often as possible, so far once each week. All of us call Mom frequently and hold her in our prayers daily.

In addition, Mother’s countless community friends, neighbors, fellow members of Cross Lutheran Church and Pastor Don Fraker also visit and communicate with her in many ways. And the wonderful folks at her assisted living facility are attentive to her needs in ways that transcend the care our family would be able to provide.

What are the factors to consider in caring for aging parents?

  • If they live at home, do what you can to make their lives safe, secure and comfortable.
  • Whether you live nearby or far away, continue to stay in touch with them frequently.
  • If the demands of their physical or emotional condition are beyond your ability to manage, investigate the alternatives for in home care, assisted living or nursing home care, as needed.
  • Do your best to see that their physical, emotional and spiritual needs are met.
  • Remember to assure them of your constant love and fervent prayers.

Here’s what I wrote to Mother’s extended family earlier this week: “Anything we’ve considered is done with Granny’s involvement and consent and with her best interest at heart. God only knows how long she will be here with us on earth. While occasionally commenting that her new apartment is not her home, she also says she realizes that this is where she needs to be at this time in her life. She knows, like each of us, that she’s but a stranger here on earth and heaven is her home.

Next week I’ll address some of the important financial matters that need attention in caring for aging parents. Stay tuned!

My Dear Mother

MomMany of you are aware that, God willing, my dear mother Elda Kieschnick will reach her 100th birthday April 10 of this year. She is known by many as a remarkable woman with great personal skills, numerous talents and multiple abilities. She’s also a woman of faith, ready to see Jesus.

Until two weeks ago Mom was living independently in her own home in New Braunfels, Texas. A few weeks earlier it became obvious that her strength was waning, making it difficult for her to stand and walk. She fell three times, thankfully sustaining no serious injury or broken bones.

It soon became apparent that Mom was no longer able to live alone. It also quickly became obvious that none of her four children would be able to provide the nearly constant care her condition required. So our joint decision, following consultation with our dear mother, was to seek an assisted living facility in which her needs could be met with proper care and concern.

The place we selected had one very nice vacant room with eight people on the waiting list. Not one of them was ready to move in, so the room was available, almost miraculously, for our dear mother. She made the move on Saturday, February 20, and is doing as well as can be expected.

To the 54 living members and spouses of her immediate family (three others are already in heaven), Mother is affectionately known as Granny. In reporting to them this assisted living decision I wrote:

“We all know that our gracious Lord has enabled our dear Granny to live a whole lot longer than most people live. How many other almost 100 year old women or men do you know? We also all know that someday her life on earth will end. So will each of ours. And we know what Granny has said repeatedly, that she is ready to go to heaven. None of us knows when that will happen.”

“In the meantime, what we feel is important, and we think you’ll all agree, is that we make every necessary decision and take every prudent step to keep her as safe and comfortable as possible, as long as the good Lord sees fit for her to stay on this earth.”

“What can each of you do? Remember Granny in your prayers. Write a note. Send a card. Call her occasionally. Thank God for bringing each of us into the life of this very special woman!”

Note to Perspectives readers: If you are so inclined, prior to March 31, please consider sending a 100th birthday note or card to the following address:

Elda Kieschnick
c/o Lutheran Foundation of Texas
7900 East Highway 290
Austin, TX 78724-2499

If you prefer email, send your note to me at GBJK@LFOT.org. I’ll print and pass it along to her.  This request is a surprise to my mother, so please help keep it that way. Thank you very much!

Next week I’ll write about caring for aged parents. If you have suggestions, email them to me.

Responding to People in Need

Credit: USA Today

Credit: USA Today

Many people have many needs. On any day in America, Christian people in and beyond their churches demonstrate genuine care and concern in response. While this is nothing new and while many churches, both in and beyond the LCMS could also be mentioned, I’ll share in this article the stories of three LCMS congregations of which I have become aware this past week.

The first is Concordia Lutheran Church in Williston, N.D. An article in the September 12, 2013, edition of The Dickinson Press tells the story of how this congregation has been providing temporary housing for job-seekers who can’t afford other arrangements.

Unfortunately, the facilities being used for temporary lodging are not in compliance with city code. That includes inadequate bathroom facilities and lack of handicap inaccessibility.

The Williston Planning and Zoning Department has declared that until the church remodels its facilities to meet building and fire codes, including addition of fire-protection sprinklers, the church will need to discontinue its “overnighters” program. So those who would otherwise be served by Concordia’s generosity will need to sleep in their vehicles or somewhere else.

The second and third are Redeemer and Christ Lutheran Churches in Fort Collins and Aurora, Colo., respectively. Facebook postings from good friend and Redeemer’s Pastor Tim Runtsch show team members from Redeemer and Christ responding to community needs in the aftermath of the horrendous flooding in that beautiful state, especially in the Boulder area.

In a few days folks in Colorado have received rainfall equivalent to their annual average and are experiencing historic flooding as a result. Homes have been destroyed, dams have been broken, and bridges have been washed away. Working together, members from Christ and Redeemer have distributed “a huge load of goods for people in need.” Remember them in prayer.

While only a few congregations are being highlighted in this article, you and I know that they are simply but significantly representative of many others whose pastors and people are moved by the love of Christ to respond to people in need. Similar responses also come from individuals and other groups, both in and beyond the Christian community.

As you hear their stories, express to those involved appreciation for their faithful service, generous contributions and diligent labors! Perhaps you already have been or will soon be moved to respond!