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!

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The Ultimate Job

mothers-day-48957_1280Recently I read an article in The Federalist Papers that caught my attention. It seems appropriate for this week’s Perspectives article since Mother’s Day is right around the corner, so here we go:

There seems to be this belief among some that women who eschew a career to remain home and care for their families do not know what it means to work hard. This preposterous assumption is based on the belief that it takes much more effort to go to school, earn a degree and work long hours at the office than it does to care for a family.

But anyone who is or has ever had a mother (that’s pretty much everyone) should know that the role calls for significant effort. Whoever wrote the following certainly understood that:

A woman renewing her driver’s license at the County Clerk’s office was asked by the woman recorder to state her occupation. She hesitated, uncertain how to classify herself.

“What I mean is,” explained the recorder, “do you have a job, or are you just a …..?”

“Of course I have a job,” snapped the woman. “I’m a mom.”

“We don’t list ‘mom’ as an occupation. ‘Housewife’ covers it,” said the recorder emphatically.

I forgot all about her story until one day I found myself in the same situation, this time at our own Town Hall. The Clerk was obviously a career woman, poised, efficient, and possessed of a high sounding title like “Official Interrogator” or “Town Registrar.”

“What is your occupation?” she probed.

What made me say it? I don’t know. The words simply popped out: “I’m a Research Associate in the field of Child Development and Human Relations.”

The clerk paused, ball-point pen frozen in midair, and looked up as though she had not heard.

I repeated the title slowly, emphasizing the most significant words. Then I stared with wonder as my pronouncement was written in bold, black ink on the official questionnaire.

“Might I ask,” said the clerk with new interest, “just what you do in your field?”

Coolly, without any trace of fluster in my voice, I heard myself reply: “I have a continuing program of research (what mother doesn’t?) in the laboratory and in the field (normally, I would have said indoors and out). I’m working for my Masters (first the Lord and then the whole family) and already have four credits (all daughters). Of course, the job is one of the most demanding in the humanities (any mother care to disagree?), and I often work 14 hours a day. But the job is more challenging than most run-of-the-mill careers and the rewards are more of a satisfaction rather than just money.”

There was an increasing note of respect in the clerk’s voice as she completed the form, stood up and personally ushered me to the door.

As I drove into our driveway, buoyed by my glamorous new career, I was greeted by my lab assistants — ages 13, 7, and 3. Upstairs I could hear our new experimental model (a 6-month-old baby) in the child development program testing out a new vocal pattern.

I felt triumphant! I had scored a beat on bureaucracy! And I had gone on the official records as someone more distinguished and indispensable to mankind than “just another mom.”

Motherhood … What a glorious career, especially when there’s a title on the door! Does this make grandmothers “Senior Research Associates in the field of Child Development and Human Relations” and great-grandmothers “Executive Senior Research Associates?” I think so! I also think it makes aunts “Associate Research Assistants.”

This story, brought to us by The Federalist Papers Project, makes an incredible point. Just think about how much work it takes to raise and care for a child — work that really never ends. The job starts the moment a child is born and continues indefinitely, day after day, week after week, month after month and year after year!

And you had best believe that there are no breaks. A mother must be ready 24/7 to tend to her child, regardless of whether it is a holiday or not and regardless of how she herself feels.

If anything, being a mother is the ultimate career choice, for no other job on Earth matches it in intensity and labor — pardon the pun!

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom!

Children

Credit:  Al Jazeera

Credit: Al Jazeera

Yesterday’s newspaper reported horrific news from Peshawar, Pakistan. The Pakistani Taliban had already bombed or burned over 1,000 schools. Then they shot Malala Yousafzai, the teenage advocate for girls’ rights and 2014 recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.

“But on Tuesday, the Taliban took their war on education to a ruthless new low, with a concerted assault on a crowded school in Peshawar that killed 145 people — 132 of them uniformed schoolchildren [ages 5-17] — in the deadliest single attack in the group’s history.” (New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/17/world/asia/taliban-attack-pakistani-school.html?_r=0)

The lives of parents and other family members of the children in Pakistan, like those of the children in Newtown, Conn., will never be the same. Lord, have mercy!

On another note about children, many of you have asked about three little ones I’ve mentioned in Perspectives articles, asking for prayer in their behalf. These are the premature triplets born to my nephew Doug and his wife Diana Wheaton’s daughter last Christmas, December 25, 2013. So they are my sister Carol’s great grandchildren, my mother Elda’s great great grandchildren and Terry’s and my great grandnephew/nieces. Each weighed one pound and a few ounces.

Logan went to heaven on December 26, 2013, one day after his birth. He was laid to rest in a family graveside burial service shortly thereafter.

Here’s the latest update on Anna Christine and Emma Grace from their mother, Amanda Collins:

“Emma and Anna both weigh over 15 lbs. now. Anna cut her first two teeth this week and began crawling some today! Anna has had two surgeries, both after her four month stay in NICU. Anna’s first word was “Anna.” She has reflux disease but is otherwise perfectly fine, a true miracle for a baby born in the 24th week of pregnancy.”

“Emma has had four laser eye surgeries, eye injections, two scleral buckle operations, a vetrectomy on her right eye, a nissen, g-tube, and tracheostomy. Emma will be getting glasses tomorrow, passed her swallow study today so she can start learning to bottle feed again, and is making huge strides in catching up developmentally. She is scheduled to come home on a ventilator Thursday morning. Emma has been in four different hospitals and has been hospitalized almost a year. She loves music.”

“Both girls are extremely happy and playful. We appreciate everyone’s continued prayers.”

Thank you for your prayers and concerns, dear friends in Christ. God is faithful, enabling this family to live through a frightening and exhausting year. Christmas will always have a very special meaning to Amanda, her husband Jesse and the rest of the family who still mourn Logan’s passing, while being truly thankful for Anna and Emma’s progress and development.

Advent blessings to each of you!

Children of the Parsonage

Credit:  Milan Jurek

Credit: Milan Jurek

That’s a respectful term for people born into a pastor’s family, aka preachers’ kids or PKs. My father was not a pastor. Neither was my grandfather or great grandfather. So what I know about being a PK is purely observational and neither experiential nor hereditary. Our children know more about this topic than either Terry or I will ever know.

PKs have a sometimes well-deserved but often unfairly caricatured reputation of being misbehaved scoundrels and rebellious ne’er-do-wells. Some have been raised with unrealistic expectations of parents, parishioners or peers. Those expectations can result in overreaction from a PK who goes way out of his or her way to prove that he or she is not perfect, holy or pure.

In many other cases PKs are raised with a balanced understanding of who they are, both as children of the Heavenly Father and also as children of earthly parents. Such PKs come to understand that they have been brought into this world by parents who love them enough not to impose upon them unrealistic expectations of how they should dress or behave or live just because one of their parents happens to be a pastor.

My heart is heavy for PKs who come from homes with inordinate amounts of dysfunction or unnecessarily stringent parental expectations. My heart rejoices with PKs who have been allowed and encouraged to live life as normally as possible, in the freedom and forgiveness of God’s love and the unquestionable assurance of their parents’ love.

For all who read these words, whether a PK or not, I pray your life is blessed with unconditional love, not because of what you do but because of who you are, by God’s grace.

Immigration

Credit: Getty Images

Credit: Getty Images

In recent months attention has been given in our country to the tens of thousands of people, including many children who are making their way to our border. Seeking admission as immigrants, many of them come from countries in Central America, where life is, in many ways, not very good. In addition to poor living conditions, violence is prevalent in their homeland.

An Associated Press article this week stated: “The U.S. government announced Monday that it will soon close three emergency shelters it established at U.S. military bases to temporarily house unaccompanied children caught crossing the Mexican border, saying the flow of illegal entries has declined and capacity at other shelters has been expanded. Since Oct. 1, more than 57,000 unaccompanied children, mostly from Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, have been apprehended crossing the border. Administration officials have said as many as 90,000 child immigrants could cross the border by the end of the budget year in September. ”

While the dilemma facing our country is probably a whole lot more complex than most of us realize, two issues come quickly to my mind:

  1. The freedom they seek is not free. Somebody has to pay for the food, clothing, shelter and education needed to survive and to thrive in our country. That burden falls mostly on the federal government and/or the communities in which these modern day immigrants ultimately settle. Some communities simply say they cannot afford to bear that burden or that they do not want to be responsible for the care of illegal immigrants.
  1. Immigrants are children of the heavenly Father. Simply to turn them away, many miles from the homes and families they left, is difficult to reconcile with biblical injunctions such as the words of our Lord Jesus himself: “I was hungry and you fed me…I was a stranger and you welcomed me…As you did this to the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.” (Matt. 5:35, 40)

There are many considerations to this dilemma in addition to the two mentioned above. The issue of immigration has legal, moral, biblical, humanitarian, spiritual and emotional components.

If there were an easy solution, someone would have suggested it by now. To ignore the problem, hoping it and the children at the center of the controversy will simply go away, is irresponsible.

Individual Christians, who are also law abiding American citizens, have something to say and many things to do. Let our voice be heard! Let our love be seen! Let God’s grace abound!

Memorial Day

Normandy CemeterySince we will observe Memorial Day this coming Monday, I thought it appropriate to post next week’s Perspectives article early. So from my file come two stories with an important connection.

STORY NUMBER ONE

Many years ago, Al Capone virtually owned Chicago. Capone wasn’t famous for anything heroic. He was notorious for enmeshing the windy city in everything from bootlegged booze and prostitution to murder.

Capone had a lawyer nicknamed “Easy Eddie.” He was Capone’s lawyer for a good reason.  Eddie was very good! In fact, Eddie’s skill at legal maneuvering kept Big Al out of jail for a long time.

To show his appreciation, Capone paid him very well. Not only was the money big, but Eddie got special dividends, as well. For instance, he and his family occupied a fenced-in mansion with live-in help and all of the conveniences of the day. The estate was so large that it filled an entire Chicago City block. Eddie lived the high life of the Chicago mob and gave little consideration to the atrocity that went on around him.

Eddie did have one soft spot, however. He had a son that he loved dearly. Eddie saw to it that his young son had clothes, cars, and a good education. Nothing was withheld. Price was no object. And, despite his involvement with organized crime, Eddie even tried to teach him right from wrong. Eddie wanted his son to be a better man than he was. Yet, with all his wealth and influence, there were two things he couldn’t give his son; he couldn’t pass on a good name or a good example.

One day, Easy Eddie reached a difficult decision. Easy Eddie wanted to rectify wrongs he had done. He decided he would go to the authorities and tell the truth about Al “Scarface” Capone, clean up his tarnished name, and offer his son some semblance of integrity.* To do this, he would have to testify against The Mob, and he knew that the cost would be great. So, he testified.

Within the year, Easy Eddie’s life ended in a blaze of gunfire on a lonely Chicago Street. But in his eyes, he had given his son the greatest gift he had to offer, at the greatest price he could ever pay. Police removed from his pockets a rosary, a crucifix, a religious medallion, and a poem clipped from a magazine. The poem read:

“The clock of life is wound but once, and no man has the power to tell just when the hands will stop, at late or early hour. Now is the only time you own. Live, love, toil with a will. Place no faith in time. For the clock may soon be still.”

STORY NUMBER  TWO

World War II produced many heroes. One such man was Lieutenant Commander Butch O’Hare.

He was a fighter pilot assigned to the aircraft carrier Lexington in the South Pacific.

One day his entire squadron was sent on a mission. After he was airborne, he looked at his fuel gauge and realized that someone had forgotten to top off his fuel tank. He would not have enough fuel to complete his mission and get back to his ship.

His flight leader told him to return to the carrier. Reluctantly, he dropped out of formation and headed back to the fleet. As he was returning to the mother ship, he saw something that turned his blood cold; a squadron of Japanese aircraft was speeding its way toward the American fleet.

The American fighters were gone on a sortie, and the fleet was all but defenseless. He couldn’t reach his squadron and bring them back in time to save the fleet. Nor could he warn the fleet of the approaching danger. There was only one thing to do. He must somehow divert them from the fleet.

Laying aside all thoughts of personal safety, he dove into the formation of Japanese planes.  Wing-mounted 50 calibers blazed as he charged in, attacking one surprised enemy plane and then another. Butch wove in and out of the now broken formation and fired at as many planes as possible until all his ammunition was finally spent.

Undaunted, he continued the assault. He dove at the planes, trying to clip a wing or tail in hopes of damaging as many enemy planes as possible, rendering them unfit to fly. Finally, the exasperated Japanese squadron took off in another direction. Deeply relieved, Butch O’Hare and his tattered fighter limped back to the carrier.

Upon arrival, he reported in and related the event surrounding his return. The film from the gun-camera mounted on his plane told the tale. It showed the extent of Butch’s daring attempt to protect his fleet. He had, in fact, destroyed five enemy aircraft.

This took place on February 20, 1942, and for that action Butch became the Navy’s first Ace of World War II, and the first Naval Aviator to win the Medal of Honor.

A year later Butch was killed in aerial combat at the age of 29. His home town would not allow the memory of this WW II hero to fade, and today, O’Hare Airport in Chicago is named in tribute to the courage of this great man.

So, the next time you find yourself at O’Hare International, give some thought to visiting Butch’s memorial displaying his statue and his Medal of Honor. It’s located between Terminals 1 and 2.

WHAT DO THESE TWO STORIES HAVE TO DO WITH EACH OTHER?

Butch O’Hare was “Easy Eddie’s” son.

*NOTE: For those who check such things, online watchdog Snopes says: “When Easy Eddie did eventually provide information that aided federal authorities in sending Capone to prison for income tax evasion, it was far less likely that he did it because he had an attack of conscience, wanted to right the wrongs he’d done, or sought to teach his son the value of integrity. More probably he turned state’s evidence because he could see the handwriting on the wall: Capone was going to be nailed with or without his assistance, but by doing the government a favor, Eddie could keep himself out of prison. Some sources even suggest the connections Eddie made by turning government informant were what got his son Butch a berth at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis.”

Notwithstanding that grounding of “Easy Eddie’s” story in reality, these two stories demonstrate that even when children are raised in less than desirable moral circumstances, they still have the possibility of becoming people of integrity, valor and courage. Eddie O’Hare was such a man.

Children Who Hurt Themselves

Credit: Penny Mathews

Credit: Penny Mathews

Recently I read an article in the Austin American Statesman. The front page headline was quite disturbing: “Austin schools tally 1,000 students who intentionally hurt themselves.”

Here’s a portion of the article: “When Lizzie was in seventh grade, she would use a mechanical pencil to cut her arms and ankles under her desk. Her teachers never noticed. She would do it to make herself feel numb when she was anxious or when her emotions overwhelmed her. It became an addiction that Lizzie, now a high school student, is still fighting.”

“Health officials say self-injury – cutting, hitting, burning, bruising or otherwise hurting oneself to relieve stress or anxiety – frequently stems from underlying emotional or psychiatric problems, such as bipolar disorder or post-traumatic stress disorder. It is an often misunderstood problem that is more widespread than parents might think.”

The Austin school district last year began tracking when students tell counselors or teachers that they are cutting or hurting themselves, and it has tallied nearly 1,000 such reports so far. “When I got those numbers, I was alarmed,” said a crisis counseling coordinator at the district who started the program. “For many years, we’ve known it is high, but the last two or three years we started paying more attention to it.”

The article goes on to describe self-injury as something teenagers and preteens have seen their friends and classmates doing, and some try it, not realizing that it can become addictive or that it can be a precursor to suicide. The body reacts to the injuries by releasing serotonin, dopamine and endorphins. Self-injury can become addictive as the body builds tolerance.

In the Austin instance, school officials are working to prevent self-injury in schools, rewriting the crisis handbook to include a protocol for dealing with self-injury. They provide staff development with counselors and are creating a DVD aimed at middle school students to teach them what to do if they or their friends are hurting themselves.

One school official said: “Self-injury is one thing a lot of people aren’t aware of. What surprises me time and time again is how well the kids hide it. Our kids are good at masking – their grades look great and they’re still involved in clubs and look happy, but they’re doing this.”

Once adults do find out, though, they need to be sure to treat it like it is: an unhealthy coping mechanism. “There a lot of things people do that are unhealthy, and this is just one of them. It’s not like you’re crazy for cutting … you just learned a way to cope that’s not healthy.”

My thoughts are simple. In addition to providing appropriate professional assistance, parents, grandparents, pastors and teachers can help immensely by affirming in young people a sense of individual self-worth as children of God. His love, forgiveness and acceptance have great power!