It’s Mother’s Day. Not Mothers Day.

This Sunday I’ll thank God for my mother, who’s been in heaven one year and four months, and for my wife, the mother of our children. For years I’ve said that Mother’s Day should focus on each living person thanking God for his or her mother and not on honoring all people who happen to be mothers. Here’s some historic support for that idea. From Wikipedia:

The modern holiday of Mother’s Day was first celebrated in 1908, when Anna Jarvis held a memorial for her mother at St Andrew’s Methodist Church in Grafton, West Virginia. Her campaign to make Mother’s Day a recognized holiday in the United States began in 1905, the year her mother, Ann Reeves Jarvis, died.

Ann Jarvis had been a peace activist who cared for wounded soldiers on both sides of the American Civil War, and created Mother’s Day Work Clubs to address public health issues. Anna Jarvis wanted to honor her mother by continuing the work she started and to set aside a day to honor all mothers because she believed a mother is “the person who has done more for you than anyone in the world.” 

In 1908, the U.S. Congress rejected a proposal to make Mother’s Day an official holiday, joking that they would also have to proclaim a “Mother-in-law’s Day”. However, in 1914, Woodrow Wilson signed a proclamation designating Mother’s Day, held on the second Sunday in May, as a national holiday to honor mothers. 

Although Jarvis was successful in founding Mother’s Day, she resented the commercialization of the holiday. By the early 1920s, Hallmark Cards and other companies had started selling Mother’s Day cards. Jarvis believed that the companies had misinterpreted and exploited the idea of Mother’s Day, and that the emphasis of the holiday should be on sentiment, not profit. As a result, she organized boycotts of Mother’s Day, and threatened to issue lawsuits against the companies involved.

She also specifically said that “Mother’s” should “be a singular possessive, for each family to honor its own mother, not a plural possessive commemorating all mothers in the world.” This is also the spelling used by U.S. President Woodrow Wilson in his 1914 presidential proclamation, by the U.S. Congress in relevant bills, and by various U.S. presidents in their proclamations concerning Mother’s Day.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with honoring on Mother’s Day all who are blessed to be a mother. Yet doing so as the primary or sole focus of Mother’s Day observances can be insensitive to and painful for women whose blessings do not include motherhood. It’s Mother’s Day. Not Mothers Day.

The bottom line? This Sunday, and every day, take time to thank God for your mother!

Mother’s Day or Mothers’ Day or Mothers Day?

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What’s the correct way to spell the event to be celebrated this coming Sunday? The internet provides a number of options, including all three of the formats in the title of this article.

One website titled Communications Syllabus adds this note: Anna Jarvis, the woman largely behind this holiday, wanted the day to “honor one’s own mother, not mothers in general.” And so the apostrophe fits snuggly between the r and the s, and nowhere else.

Actually, in all transparency, the purpose of this article is not to argue the correct spelling of the day but to share a thought I passed along to a fellow pastor who recently asked how I handled preaching on Mother’s Day. Here’s what I told him, not verbatim, but pretty close to it.

In my humble opinion, preachers make a mistake when they only or even primarily honor the mothers in the church pews the second Sunday in May. That may be well and good for those who just happen to be mothers, but what about those who have never been thusly blessed?

In my pastoral career I’ve encountered no small number of women who have not been blessed with children. Some have learned to accept that reality. Others still grieve deeply.

That grief may be exacerbated when the pastor makes a big deal of honoring mothers in church on Mother’s Day. Doing so may not be helpful to women in attendance who are not mothers.

The suggestion I offered my friend was that pastors do well when they encourage their listeners to honor their mother, whether she is still living this side of heaven or is already a heavenly resident.

Everyone has a mother. Some are still living. Others are not. Mine passed away this past January. Some have or had positive, fulfilling relationships with their mother. Others not so much. Mine was a great blessing. But the reality is, everyone has or had a mother.

Emphasizing on Mother’s Day the importance of thanking God for our mother avoids embarrassment and discomfort experienced by non-mothers when mothers in the crowd are the ones primarily, or exclusively, honored.

Some pastors who read this article may disagree. It won’t be the first time I’ve encountered disagreement with fellow “brothers of the cloth” and I doubt it will be the last. But I betcha’ many women readers, both those who are mothers and those who are not, will say Amen!

This Sunday I’ll thank God for my mother. I encourage you to do the same.

A Memorable Retirement Observance

This past Sunday, March 31, Salem Lutheran Church in Tomball, Tex. observed the retirement of Pastor Doug Dommer and his wife Delo. Doug had served Salem for 38 years in a number of roles in support of two senior pastors, Wayne Graumann and Tim Niekerk.

The celebration was inspirational. It began with an informal hour of sharing by women and men who had known and worked with Doug over the years. Speakers included one of his brothers; a couple young pastors whom Doug had influenced and mentored over the years; a woman staff member who introduced video reflections of Doug’s sermons and gave her own testimony of Doug’s support and encouragement for women using their God-given gifts; and his former senior pastor. Terry and I were invited to honor Doug’s wife Delo, a wonderfully gifted and talented woman.

That informal hour was followed by a service of worship during which Doug preached his farewell sermon, reflecting on his years at Salem and focusing on Philippians 1:3-6: I thank my God every time I remember you. In every prayer for all of you, I always pray with joy, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will continue to perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.

A few memorable points from his sermon are these:

God’s grace always precedes our peace.
Many churches eat their pastors alive. Salem loves their pastors to death.
The work we do is God’s work. He began it. He will perfect it.

One of the most moving parts of the service was the final hymn, A Mighty Fortress. Immediately after the conclusion of the sermon, Doug went straight to the organ bench and played this hymn as I’d never before heard it played. By anyone. With no notes. Majestically. Worshipfully. Powerfully. Inspirationally. A mighty fortress is our God … the Kingdom’s ours forever!

The concluding moments included words of appreciation and affirmation from senior pastor Tim Niekerk, along with presentation of a cash gift. The amount was not disclosed, but the presentation left no doubt that its purpose was for the purchase of a new automobile.

During these two separate activities, appreciation for Doug’s ministry and Delo’s partnership was articulately and emotionally expressed. Yet throughout the morning it was clear that the real appreciation was directed toward our gracious God … Father, Son, Holy Spirit … for the gifts Doug and Delo have received and the way they have used them to be a blessing to the thousands of people they have influenced for Christ during their 38 years at Salem.

Well done, good and faithful servants!

Mother’s Day Love

Mother

In our home Terry and I often ask each other what gifts we’d like to receive for our respective birthdays, our wedding anniversary, at Christmas, and on Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. Our response to each other is often: “I don’t really need anything more than your love.”

It’s challenging to put love in a box with a ribbon. Tangible gifts sometimes accomplish that objective more successfully than do intangible emotions. The gift of love is often enhanced by a palpable expression of that love. Jewelry usually comes in the right color. So do gift cards.

Yet gifts in a box are no substitute for what our loved ones need and want the most. Many years ago I heard a simple statement that rings quite true: Children and spouses spell love T-I-M-E!

This Sunday is Mother’s Day, a special opportunity to honor our mother, whether she is still living this side of eternity (my mother is 102) or already in heaven (where she’d like to be). Either way, thank God for the positive memories and try really hard to forgive your mother for the unpleasant recollections.

Reflect on the following words from a mother, expressing what she wants for Mother’s Day:

“Every year my children ask me the same question: What do I want for Mother’s Day?

After thinking about it, I decided I’d give them my real answer: I want you. I want you to keep coming around. Ask me questions, ask my advice, tell me your problems, ask for my opinion, ask for my help.

I want you to come over and complain or brag about whatever is on your mind and heart. Tell me about your job, your worries, your dreams. I want you to continue sharing your life with me.

Come over and laugh with me, or laugh at me. Hearing you laugh is music to my ears. I spent a large part of my life raising you the best way I knew how. Now, give me time to sit back and admire my work.

Raid my refrigerator, help yourself, I really don’t mind. I want you to spend your money making a better life for yourself and your family. I have the things I need. I want to see you happy and healthy.

When you ask me what I want for Mother’s Day, I say ‘nothing’ because you’ve already been giving me my gift all year. YOU! I want you!”

Most mothers are the first to admit they are not perfect. Yet a mother is a special gift from God. So in addition to this Sunday, take many other opportunities throughout the year to honor your mother, to express your love for her, and to thank God for her role in bringing you into this world and into her life.

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.

Party Time!

Screen Shot 2016-06-23 at 7.03.52 AMAs some may recall, my dear mother attained her 100th birthday this past April 10. Prior to and on the actual date, appropriate but relatively low key celebrations took place. There’s a reason.

Some of Mom’s grandchildren and great grandchildren are still in school, which made coming from out of state for a Texas weekend in April a tall order! Having the main celebration this summer allows the branches of our family that still have school aged twigs and leaves to attend.

Accordingly, nearly 50 of Mom’s 54 living immediate family members from Illinois, Colorado, Tennessee, Arkansas and Texas will soon descend on New Braunfels, Texas, for the big celebration. It’s almost party time!

How does one celebrate a centennial birthday? With cake and candles and balloons, just like any birthday! In our case, we’ve rented a spacious old home in New Braunfels, which will serve as headquarters for the event. While not large enough to house all 50 of us, it will allow us to have our home cooked meals together, along with activities, laughter, conversation and devotions.

The main character, of course, is Mother herself. While quietly but happily anticipating the event, she’s certainly not as active or as vibrant as she has been for nearly a century. Her physical condition has weakened significantly, making it nearly impossible to walk. Although still in good spirits, she regularly expresses her fervent desire to go home to heaven to see Jesus.

Those of you who have experienced the lengthy illness of a loved one, particularly one who has achieved advanced chronological maturity, can understand what I’m about to say. There may come a time when a loved one reaches the point where a return to physical health and strength is almost assuredly not going to happen. Under those circumstances, for family and friends to pray for restoration of health and strength for that loved one in all reality becomes a selfish prayer.

So my prayer for our dear mother is that her real party would soon begin. Birthday parties may not even occur in heaven. If they do, they may or may not have cake, candles and balloons.

Be that as it may, that eternal party will be held in the place where all believers in Christ will someday be at home. The hymn aptly states: “I’m but a stranger here. Heaven is my home!”

Happy Birthday, dear Mother! It’s party time! Let the celebration begin!

April Birthdays

Birthday CakeApril has special significance for me. It’s the birth month of four very important women in my life, listed here in chronological order by unspecified year, beginning with the youngest:

  • Our daughter Angie was born April 6.
  • My wife Terry was born April 10.
  • Terry’s mother Dorothy was born April 15. She passed away five years ago.
  • My mother Elda was born April 10.

Alas! Our granddaughter Kayla, born August 18, missed the April list. She’s still very special!

Without divulging the specific age of each of the four, I’ll simply point out that one sweet April lady on the list is within five days of being twenty years younger than one of the others and is exactly thirty years younger than another on the list. You can do the math.

One of these ladies, God willing, will celebrate her 100th birthday this coming Sunday, April 10. As my readers may recall from prior editions of Perspectives, Mother is ready to go to heaven to see Jesus. She’s growing weaker physically yet remaining strong spiritually and emotionally.

While not looking forward to her leaving us, I believe it’s accurate to say the 54 members of Mom’s immediate family have come to realize that praying for God to keep her here would be selfish on our part. Consequently, we’ve been praying for God to grant Mother’s desire to trade her life here on earth for life in the new heaven and the new earth. (2 Pet. 3; Rev. 21) That’s not an easy prayer.

In the meantime, we celebrate the fairly rare milestone Mom is scheduled to achieve this coming Sunday. Many of you have enhanced that celebration by sending cards, notes and emails. Mother is absolutely flabbergasted at receiving greetings from people across the country, many of whom she doesn’t even know. Thank you very much for your thoughtfulness in helping make Elda’s 100th birthday celebration an occasion to remember.

I love you, Mom! I love Dorothy’s memory! I love you, Terry! I love you, Angie! I love you, too, Kayla! All of you have blessed my life beyond measure! Happy Birthday to each of you!

Here’s an idea, dear readers. Take the time to tell the women (and also the men) in your life how much you love them and thank God for them! There’s no time better than the present to do so!

Fatherly Influence

Father - DaughterAs most are aware, last Sunday was Father’s Day. In our home, that calls for a celebration including a very nice home cooked meal. Usually I cook the meat on the grill outside and Terry does everything else inside. All family members who can come fill our dining room table.

Much of the time we laugh a lot. We also talk about subjects of current interest. Sometimes I’ll ask folks at the table to relate any memories about their father (in the case of our kids that’s me) they feel like sharing. Those stories are sometimes funny, sometimes sad and sometimes serious.

Often I’ll talk about my father, Martin Herbert Otto Kieschnick, recalling quotes and pithy sayings for which he was fairly famous. A few examples:

  • On gaining painless experience: I’d like to learn how to shave on someone else’s beard.
  • On an egotistical person: I’d like to buy that man for what he’s worth and sell him for what he thinks he’s worth.
  • On the importance of personal values when hiring an employee: You won’t end up with good BBQ if you don’t start with a good piece of meat.
  • On Christian giving: You can’t out-give the Lord. He has a bigger shovel than you do.
  • On marital faithfulness: One woman is enough for a real man.

While not every person has fond memories of his or her father, mine are almost all very positive. My dear 99-year-old mother, Elda Mary Sofa Hellman Kieschnick, would agree that her husband was not without original sin. She would also agree that the good in the man she married far outweighed the very little bad. My three sisters and all four of our spouses would concur.

So every day, not just Father’s Day, I thank God for my father, the man I called “Dad.” His influence has made a difference in my life, the full extent of which I may never know. I pray the same is true of the influence of my life on our children, grandchildren and, someday, great grandchildren. All of them, including my dear wife Terry, are precious gifts of God in my life!

Spring has Sprung!

FlowersThat’s a saying that may or may not be grammatically correct. As a matter of fact, Spell Check on my computer took a second look at it, with a squiggly frown on its electronic face.

Many in our land have been inundated with an unusually brutal winter. Records have fallen in numerous categories, particularly total snowfall in the Northeast. But not in Texas.

Here in central Texas winter was more messy than record breaking, with many misty and chilly but not frigid days of drizzle and dreariness. At least for the moment those things have given way to sunshine and warmth, the stuff we’re accustomed to experiencing here at this time of year.

Another sign of spring in Texas is the eruption of colors in the landscape. Earlier this week I was traveling along a road that provides a multi-mile view of rolling hills and valleys. I saw beautiful shades of green, provided by newly-leafed trees awaking from their winter hibernation.

In addition, I saw some of my favorite wildflowers—bluebonnets—which seem to have appeared overnight. Some of the uninformed mistakenly call them bluebells. That’s the ice cream company. The flower is a bluebonnet. But I digress.

Along with spring comes the Festival of the Resurrection of our Lord. In many ways the things I’ve just described about spring are subtle seasonal reminders of the awakening, the eruption, the appearance of our Lord Jesus from his time in the tomb. Thankfully, his season of embalmed hibernation was brief and temporary. Unlike spring, his reappearance and reemergence are not seasonal but eternal.

Remember that reality as you walk next week with billions of Christians around the world the path of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday. It’s the week we Christians call Holy.

Many blessings to each of you! Spring has sprung!

A New Year’s Outlook on Life

Gazing OffThere once was a woman who woke up one morning, looked in the mirror, and noticed she had only three hairs on her head. “Well,” she said. “I think I’ll braid my hair today.”

So she did and she had a wonderful day.

The next day she woke up, looked in the mirror and saw that she had only two hairs on her head. “Hmm,” she said. “I think I’ll part my hair down the middle today.”

So she did and she had a grand day.

The next day she woke up, looked in the mirror and noticed that she had only one hair on her head. “Well,” she said. “Today I’m going to wear my hair in a ponytail.”

So she did, and she had a fun, fun day.

The next day she woke up, looked in the mirror and noticed that there wasn’t a single hair on her head. “Yea!” she exclaimed. “I don’t have to fix my hair today!”

While some may think such responses unrealistic, especially from a person apparently undergoing serious medical treatment, our attitude toward the hand life deals us is critical.

So here are some encouragements for this New Year. Be kinder than necessary. It’s very likely that everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle.

Live simply. Love generously. Care deeply. Speak kindly. Pray continually.

Someone said: Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about learning to dance in the rain.

Life is too short to wake up with regrets.

Love the people who treat you with respect and kindness.

Pray for the ones who don’t.

Many blessings in the Year of our Lord 2015!