Driving Hope

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Credit: Wikipedia

In my life I’ve known many people suffering from cancer. It took my father’s life 35 years ago. This debilitating disease affects both patient and family.

One of the greatest challenges faced by cancer patients and their loved ones is the necessity of traveling from home to a major medical center for treatment. Often such facilities are hundreds of miles away in major metropolitan areas with dangerous traffic volume and congestion.

The levels of anxiety, worry, and fear escalate in situations like this. The family member doing the driving is gravely concerned about and fearful for the wellbeing and life of the patient. Add to that the tension brought on by the trip and the result is a predictably high level of stress.

Last year Michael Hohle, truck-driving brother of my longtime friend Dr. Philip Hohle, came up with the excellent idea of what is now called Driving Hope of Texas. The plan is to secure at least one customized van that would be used to transport patients to treatment centers.

The comfortable van will include reclining seats, entertainment system, and on-board restroom. An atmosphere of Christian support, prayer, meditation, and encouragement will bless the ride.

The Mission of Driving Hope is to provide safe, timely, comfortable, affordable, long distance transportation to cancer patients (and their caregiver) by making a round trip from rural communities in Texas to distant treatment centers. Initial service will include the counties of Brown, Mills, Bell, Milam, Comanche, Hamilton, and Coryell, with more routes to be added.

Driving Hope provides neither medical nor counseling services. It is essentially a taxi service, set apart from other transportation options by the difference it will make for clients. The environment of care, comfort, and hope will make the trip as bearable as possible.

Because this is a startup organization, initial funding is needed. To assist in this endeavor, make plans now to attend the Friday, Nov 23 Glimmer of Hope BBQ, Dance, and Auction at Dale’s Essenhaus in Walburg. BBQ plates with sides are $15 and are also available to go.

The evening will include Country and Western music. Wear your boots! Shoppers will be able to pick up Christmas gifts at the live and silent auctions, which will feature many unique items. Few Black Friday deals are as satisfying as simply helping another human being in need.

Normally I do not advertise ministries or organizations in my Perspectives articles. Today I’m making an exception and encourage you to join Terry and me in supporting this worthy cause. Go to https://www.drivinghopetexas.org/ for tickets, online giving, and additional information.

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Wedding Venues

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Terry and I were married January 29, 1966, at St. Paul Lutheran Church in Austin. St. Paul is Terry’s home church. It’s where we met. After our August 15, 1965 engagement, our plans were always focused on getting married at St. Paul. We never considered going anywhere else.

Most of our contemporaries also were married in church, traditionally the home church of the bride. Sometimes that was convenient, presuming both bride and groom lived in the same community or general vicinity. If that was not the case, it became a bit more cumbersome to work out the details long distance, especially with no internet, no email, no cell phones.

In recent times, things have changed. Weddings are now often held not in a church but at a wedding venue. Some are called “destination” weddings and may occur at an exotic location, sometimes requiring international travel and expensive lodging, normally at attendees’ expense. Not everyone who would like to attend can afford to do so. Crowds are often small.

Others are held more locally, often at a venue originally constructed or recently renovated for the purpose of accommodating large public gatherings, weddings, graduations, reunions, etc. Some are elaborately furnished and decorated. Others are fairly basic.

Not all such facilities have space for both the ceremony and the reception. That means the ceremony is frequently held outside. In the elements. In the summer when it’s hot and humid. Or windy and rainy. In the winter when it’s cold and frosty. Not always pleasant for the marital couple. Or for the guests. Sometimes the service is abbreviated as a result. But not always.

Many parish pastors I know tell me the overwhelming majority of the weddings at which they are asked to officiate are held at such a venue. The rationale seems to be that if the reception needs to be held at a place other than the church fellowship hall, it’s inconvenient for guests to come to church for the wedding, only to saddle up again after the ceremony and head to the reception at a different location.

Cost of renting both a sanctuary and a reception hall, providing flowers or other decorations at two places, coordination of details with people at each place, etc., are among the reasons for this growing trend. Permission to consume adult beverages, not always granted at a church facility, is not an insignificant factor in moving the entire operation to a secular venue.

You probably know all these things. I just felt the inclination to articulate them. And to add my non-judgmental observation that I’m thankful Terry and I were married at St. Paul. In a beautiful sanctuary. Before the altar of the Lord. With congregation singing worshipful hymns. With gusto. To organ accompaniment. With church aisle processional and recessional.

Is our marriage more sanctified or successful than that of folks who are married at a five star hotel or a remodeled barn or a repurposed fire hall? Not necessarily. The Lord can be worshiped anytime, anywhere.

And I believe he smiles on people who dedicate their lives to him and promise their faithfulness to each other, no matter where those lifelong commitments are made. For better or worse. For richer or poorer. In sickness and in health. Till death parts us. According to God’s holy will.

“Republicans and Ex-Crackheads”

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Credit: Aranami

When Terry and I are home, after dinner we sometimes turn on the TV and look for something worth watching. This past Monday we had done the first part of that routine but not yet the second. The TV was on but we were reading and hence paying no attention to program selection.

The channel on our screen was showing the 70th Emmy Awards. I looked up from my book after a few minutes and noticed two men, apparently co-hosts. Neither looked familiar to me. I later discovered that that they appear on Saturday Night Live, which we never watch.

Here’s how CBN News summarized a portion of a dialogue between these two co-hosts: http://www1.cbn.com/cbnnews/entertainment/2018/september/emmys-host-says-only-white-republicans-and-ex-crackheads-thank-jesus

Hollywood’s biggest celebrities descended on New York City Monday night for the 70th Annual Emmy Awards. The show began with the usual political banter but it took a bad turn during Michael Che’s opening monologue with co-host Colin Jost when he took a jab at conservatives and a particular racial group.

“My mother is not watching,” Che said. “She says she doesn’t like watching white award shows because you guys don’t thank Jesus enough. That’s true. The only people … the only white people that thank Jesus are Republicans and ex-crackheads.”

Later in the evening, Best Supporting Actress winner Thandie Newton continued the theme about mocking winners who thank Jesus [telling] the crowd, “I don’t even believe in God, but I’m going to thank her tonight.”

One can only imagine the media furor that would have erupted had similarly derogatory comments been made in the same venue, by the same people, about Muslims or atheists.

Welcome to the Year of our Lord 2018. In some circles the Christian church no longer occupies the position of honor and respect it has enjoyed almost since the birth of America. I wonder how many Christians have responded in protest to NBC or whoever is responsible for the Emmy awards. I would hope such responses would be multitudinous yet reasonable and responsible.

St. Peter seems to encourage such with these words: “In your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.” (1 Peter 3:15)

Frankly, a spirit of gentleness and respect is not easy when communicating with individuals who say the only people who thank Jesus are “Republicans and ex-crackheads.” Know what I mean?

Remembering September 11, 2001

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This week I’ll be sending two issues of Perspectives. Although it regularly comes on Thursday, I cannot let today pass without a remembrance of what happened on this day 17 years ago.

Terry and I had just settled into our home in St. Louis after leaving behind our family and friends in Texas. Three days earlier, September 8, I had been installed as the 12th president of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, our national church body.

What happened September 11, 2001 occupies only a couple pages in the history books now being studied by high school students, most of whom who were not yet alive in 2001. But the events of 9/11 are indelibly etched in the memories of those of us who lived the experience.

Terry and I hold in our hearts and prayers all who were directly or indirectly affected by the events of this day 17 years ago. That includes children whose parents did not pick them up from school that day and parents whose adult children did not return to their homes that evening.

My prayer is that the memories of 9/11 will cause us to give thanks for the women and men who provide first response to disasters in our beloved country. Especially in times of catastrophe and chaos, these heroes unselfishly rush to the scene to do whatever they can to preserve the lives of those who survive and to honor the lives of those who don’t.

We also give thanks to God for the women and men of our military forces. They bravely confront the sources of evil around the world, leaving behind spouse, children, comfort, and safety in order to prevent a repetition of the events that catalyzed the memories of this day.

Evil men will always be inspired by satanic forces to inflict death and devastation wherever possible. September 11, 2001 is a prime example. Although the context is different from that in which these words were written by the apostle Paul, they are nonetheless appropriate for this day: “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” (Rom. 12:21)

May the remembrances of this day, with the power of almighty God, inspire and encourage us to do exactly that!

The Middle Class

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“Middle class” is a term often used but widely misunderstood. How would you define it? A dictionary definition of middle class is “the social group between the upper and working classes, including professional and business workers and their families.”

In an August 24 St. Louis Post-Dispatch article, Brookings Institution scholar Homi Kharas defines the middle class as “people who have enough money to cover basic needs, such as food, clothing and shelter, and still have enough left over for a few luxuries, such as fancy food, a television, a motorbike, home improvements, or higher education.”

Kharas goes on to say: “After thousands of years of most people on the planet living as serfs, as slaves, or in other destitute scenarios, half the population now has the financial means to be able to do more than just try to survive. There was almost no middle class before the Industrial Revolution of the 1830s—just royalty and peasants. Now we are about to have a majority middle-class world.”

The Pew Research Center defines middle class income in the U.S. as “between 67% and 200% of the average median income.” The U.S. Census Bureau reported that the average median income was $59,039 per household in 2016. Using the Pew percentages, households making less than $39,556 are low income and households earning at least $118,078 are high income.

Using similar but slightly different category definitions, the U.S. Census Bureau estimates that 32% of households in our country are low income, 42% are middle class, and 26% are high income. To be sure, those are somewhat subjective numbers. And they surely vary from country to country.

An August 3, 2017 report by Nancy Birdsall titled Middle Class: Winners or Losers in a Globalized World? says that “almost 50% of the world’s population, with incomes of less than US$1 to US$4 per day are counted as poor and live almost entirely in the developing world.”

Birdsall continues: “Approximately another 40% of the world’s population, with income between $4 to $50 per day make up an ‘incipient’ (below $10 a day) or truly arrived middle class.” A much smaller “rich world middle class” has income between about $50 to $177 a day, including the top one percent of households in the world with income of $200 a day.

My experience in “third world” countries convinces me that while some may be middle class and a very small number high income, abject poverty still exists in the lives of far too many people. This is nothing new and the solution is anything but simple. In the meantime, we are called to help.

Moses said: “There will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.’” Deut. 15:11.

Jesus said: “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.” Luke 6:20.

Jesus also said: “To whom much has been given, of him much will be required.” Luke 12:48.

Half-Truths

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Credit: Max Pixel

One of the greatest challenges of a listener is to discern the truthfulness of what is spoken. That’s not always easy. Some speakers speak half-truths.

Here are a few definitions of half-truth:

  • “A statement that is only partly true, especially one intended to deceive, evade blame, or the like … a statement that fails to divulge the whole truth.” (Dictionary.com)
  • “A statement, especially one intended to deceive, that omits some of the facts necessary for a full description or account.” (Your Dictionary.com)
  • “A deceptive statement that includes some element of truth. The statement might be partly true, the statement may be totally true but only part of the whole truth, or it may use some deceptive element … especially if the intent is to deceive, evade, blame, or misrepresent the truth.” (Wikipedia.com)

Notice the common thread in these definitions? They all include the element of deception. Here are a couple examples of half-truths:

  • “You should not trust Peter with your children. I once saw him smack a child with his open hand.” In this example the statement could be true, but Peter may have slapped the child on the back because he was choking.
  • “I’m a really good driver. In the past thirty years, I’ve gotten only four speeding tickets.” Statement may be true, but is deceptive if speaker started driving a week ago.

Most speakers say at least some things that are true but not all speakers say everything that needs to be said about the topic they are addressing. When that happens, the listener hears only part of what needs to be heard to be fully informed and to make subsequent decisions.

In my life and career I’ve heard many speeches and presentations. If I don’t know anything about the topic being presented, I’m inclined to believe what I hear, especially if the speaker occupies a position of trust and responsibility.

On the other hand, when a speaker presents a topic with which I am quite familiar, it’s much easier to discern when he or she is presenting only half-truths. In that case, I know that the speaker is omitting certain details that, if divulged, would result in the speaker needing to accept the responsibility he or she is trying to evade by speaking half-truths.

Wise Old Testament King Solomon said: “He who speaks the truth declares what is right, but a false witness speaks deceit.” Prov. 12:17 There’s that word “deceit” again—“the action or practice of deceiving someone by concealing or misrepresenting the truth.”

Half-truths. Not good, to say the least.

St. Paul writes: “Then we will no longer be infants, tossed about by the waves and carried around by every wind of teaching and by the clever cunning of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into Christ Himself, who is the head.” Eph. 4:14-15

That’s a much better way! God bless your day!

Two Good Friends and Faithful Servants

Screen Shot 2018-04-25 at 9.30.24 PMAt the end of this month a longtime friend of mine, Bill Siegrist, is retiring after 30 years of service with Texas Church Extension Fund. He was just a kid when his work at CEF began. If you don’t believe me, check out a photo from that time in his life.

Bill had previously served on the national team of Zig Ziglar, an internationally known American author, salesman, and motivational speaker. Bill’s CEF legacy will be the development, training, and motivation of CEF representatives in congregations across the State of Texas. Bill and his dear wife Pam will continue to live in Austin.

In addition, a few months from now another longtime friend will be retiring from the same organization, Texas CEF. Steve Block has served 25 years as Executive Director of Texas CEF and was duly honored at last month’s annual CEF Conference in Austin. He was a little older than a kid when he came to CEF, but still a relatively young man.

Steve had previously served in the banking industry, distinguishing himself with the use of his God-given intellect and ability to make fiscally prudent decisions. Steve’s CEF legacy will be the significant increase of CEF assets during his time of service. He and his dear wife Sandra will spend some of their retirement in Austin and some in Door County, Wis.

It seems appropriate at this milestone in the life of each of these men and in the history of Texas CEF for this article to be dedicated to the glory of God in thanksgiving for Bill and Pam Siegrist, Steve and Sandra Block.

These two wonderful women are also included because, as I’ve often said: Behind every successful man is not only a surprised father-in-law but also a faithful, patient, forgiving, loving, and godly wife. Those words are aptly descriptive of Pam Siegrist and of Sandra Block.

It also seems fitting to include in this article a few quotes about friendship from famous people:

  • There is nothing on this earth more to be prized than true friendship. Thomas Aquinas
  • Don’t walk behind me; I may not lead. Don’t walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend. Albert Camus
  • Love is friendship that has caught fire. It is quiet understanding, mutual confidence, sharing and forgiving. It is loyalty through good and bad times. It settles for less than perfection and makes allowances for human weaknesses. Ann Landers
  • Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. Jesus Christ

Thank you, Bill and Steve, for being my friends and for being faithful servants of our Lord Jesus!