Jesus Loves the Little Children

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That was the topic of my brief devotion at the office of the Texas District of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod this week. I shared some graphic representations of little children with Jesus and three actual photos of God’s children living today.

Photo #1 was my grandniece Amanda Wheaton and her two children, Emma Grace and Anna Christine. Some of you may recall that they are the survivors of triplets born prematurely (about one pound six ounces each) on Christmas Day 2013. That means they will turn four years old this Christmas. Their little brother Logan Christopher met Jesus the day after he was born.

Although not without ongoing physical challenges, Emma and Anna are doing remarkably well, by the grace of God. Jesus loves Emma and Grace. And Jesus also loves Logan.

Photo #2 was 15 month old Lily Grace Stigall, great granddaughter of Marlene Hahn, who worked for many years in the Texas District LCMS office. Lily is in Dell Children’s Hospital in Austin after a Thanksgiving evening fall into a backyard pool. Initially fighting for her life, Lily is now breathing on her own, yet faces many challenges on the road to restoration.

Thousands of people across the nation and around the world are praying for her complete recovery, which would be truly miraculous. Please join Lily’s parents, grandparents, great grandparents, and their entire family in praying for this precious child. Jesus loves Lily.

Photo #3 was my 101 2/3rd year old mother, Elda Kieschnick. Although in a much different chronological category than Emma, Anna, and Lily, Mother Elda is still very much a child of God, who prays every day to see him face to face. Jesus loves Elda.

That’s the message of Christmas, my dear friends. Jesus loves the little children, no matter how old we are. Here’s how the familiar song goes:

Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world
Black and yellow, red and white, they are precious in His sight
Jesus loves the little children of the world!

That includes you, my friend. God bless your day!

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More Thoughts on Fatherly Influence

Father and SonMy June 25 Perspectives article was a post-Father’s Day reflection on the importance of healthy fatherly influence. My intention was to follow it last week with another look at the same topic, but the Supreme Court decision on same-gender marriage interfered. So here we go.

Let’s begin with this question: Wouldn’t it be great if every person born into this world would be blessed with a positive paternal experience? Sadly, that’s simply not the reality.

By the grace of God some do just fine in life without the influence of a mature, responsible, godly father. In other cases, the absence of positive male parental guidance results in disrespect for authority and lack of development of proper boundaries. Not infrequently in such cases, life with minimal meaning, purpose or productivity, or something much worse, is the end result.

This topic has been researched for years, with conclusions similar to this one:

“A review of literature relevant to delinquency and adolescent behavioral and academic success revealed that there may be a correlation between a male role-model and the teaching of self-control and socially appropriate behaviors. Indeed … compared to children raised in two-parent homes, children who grow up without their fathers have significantly worse outcomes, on average, on almost every measure of wellbeing.” (Jennifer Flood Eastin: Impact of Absent Father-Figures on Male Subjects and the Correlation to Juvenile Delinquency—http://digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc4332/)

What’s the bottom line? Consider these encouragements:

  • If you are blessed with a father who was or still is a positive role model for you of what it means to be a Christian person, especially expressing unequivocal love, care, guidance and direction in your life, thank God for that wonderful blessing!
  • If that blessed man is still alive, let him know how much his influence has meant to you. A phone call, handwritten note, email or text message will make his day!
  • If you are a father, do not underestimate the importance of your presence, attention and guidance in the life of your child, regardless of his or her age. A loving, caring, affirming, encouraging, godly father (and mother) are the most important people in a person’s life.
  • Speaking of mothers, if you are a father, do not underestimate the lasting impression on your child made by the way you love, respect and cherish your wife. Especially in relationships between husbands and wives, actions speak louder than words!
  • In relating both to spouses and to children, remember the adage: Wives and children spell love T-I-M-E!

It’s my prayer that your life has been molded and shaped by a positive paternal experience. If so, join me in thanking God for the lifelong influence of a good and godly father! If that’s not the case, don’t hesitate to let me know. Perhaps I can help.

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!

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!