A Thanksgiving Dream

Thankfulness

Credit: MTSOfan / Flickr

Recently I read a story about a man who dreamed he went to heaven. When he arrived, an angel began showing him around. Here’s the story:

The angel and I walked side-by-side inside a large workroom filled with other angels. My angel guide stopped in front of the first section and said, “This is the Receiving Section. Here all the prayer petitions to God are received.”

This area was terribly busy with many angels sorting out petitions written on countless sheets and scraps of paper from people all over the world. Then we moved down a long corridor until we reached the second section.

The angel said, “This is the Packaging and Delivery Section. Here all the blessings people asked for are processed and delivered to those who requested them.”

I noticed again how busy that area was. There were lots of angels working hard at that station. Many blessings had been requested and were being packaged for delivery to Earth.

Finally, at the farthest end of the long corridor we stopped at the door of a very small station. To my great surprise, only one angel was seated there, idly doing nothing. “This is the Acknowledgment Section,” my angel friend quietly admitted to me. He seemed embarrassed.

“How is it that there is no work going on here?” I asked.

“So sad,” the angel sighed. “After people receive the blessings they asked for, very few respond with acknowledgments.”

“How does one acknowledge God’s blessings? “I asked.

“Simple,” the angel answered. Just say, “Thank you, God.”

“What blessings should they acknowledge?” I asked. The angel replied:

  • “If you have food in the refrigerator, clothes on your back, a roof overhead, and a place to sleep, you are richer than 75% of the people in this world.”
  • “If you have money in the bank, in your wallet, and spare change in a dish, you are among the top 8% of the world’s wealthy.”
  • “If you received this message on your own computer, you are part of the 1% in the world who have that opportunity.”
  • “If you woke up this morning with more health than illness, you are more blessed than the many who will not even survive this day.”
  • “If you have never experienced the fear of battle, the loneliness of imprisonment, the agony of torture, or the pangs of starvation, you are ahead of 700 million people in the world.”
  • “If you can attend a church without the fear of any harassment, arrest, torture, or death, you are envied by and more blessed than three billion people in the world.”
  • “If you can hold your head up high and smile, you are quite different from all those in the world who live in doubt and despair.”
  • “If you can read this message, you are more blessed than billions of people in the world who cannot read at all.”

Motivated to action, I said, “What now? How can I start?”

The angel said, “Bow your head right now and thank God for his bountiful blessings!”

Happy Thanksgiving! Have a good day, count your blessings, and pray with me:

“Thank you Lord, for the many blessings I have received and continue to receive every day. Help me never forget the source of these blessings and always to remember to praise you for all your goodness in my life. Help me do so every day, until the day that, with all your saints, I will praise you eternally in your heavenly kingdom; through Jesus Christ my Lord. Amen,”

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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.

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!

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!