Special Women

1795-William-Blake-Naomi-entreating-Ruth-Orpah

“Ruth and Naomi” by William Blake (1795)

Today’s quote is from an Old Testament woman named Ruth: “Entreat me not to leave you or to turn back from following after you; for wherever you go, I will go; and wherever you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God, my God.” Ruth 1:16

Ruth was speaking to Naomi, her mother-in-law. During a time of famine in Israel, Naomi had moved to the country of Moab with her husband and two sons. After Naomi’s husband died, her two sons married Moabite women, Orpah and Ruth. Ten years later Naomi’s sons also died.

After Naomi had lost her husband and two sons, she heard that the famine in Israel was over and decided to return to her home country of Israel. Initially her two daughters-in-law began the journey with her. But soon Naomi advised them to turn back and stay in their homeland.

At this crossroads in all their lives, Naomi strongly urged Ruth and Orpah to go back to Moab and find new husbands.  Orpah decided to follow Naomi’s advice. But Ruth chose to go to Israel with her mother-in-law. In the midst of this decision, Ruth spoke the words quoted above.

Ruth went back to Israel with Naomi and married a man named Boaz. Ruth and Boaz had a son named Obed, who had a son named Jesse, who had a son named David. All were ancestors of Joseph, the husband of Mary, the mother of Jesus. See Matthew 1:1-16.

Ruth’s faithfulness to her mother-in-law was used by God to make her a very important woman in the history of the world and of Christianity. She is one on a long list of such special women.

Today’s topic of special women is not an accident. Beginning today, three of the special women in my life have birthdays in April. In descending order of chronological maturity, here they are:

  • Elda Maria Sophia Hellman Kieschnick is my mother. God willing, on April 10 she will be one hundred and one (101) years of age! My dear mother is known and loved by many!
  • Terry Lee Kieschnick is my wife. God willing, also on April 10 she will be … well let’s just say exactly a few decades younger than her dear mother-in-law. The two of them share a special bond of love that goes beyond being born on the same day in different years!
  • Angela Lynn Keith is our dear daughter. On April 6, which is today, she turns … well let’s just say several decades younger than her dear grandmother. Angie is also the mother of our sweet granddaughter Kayla Rae Keith, whose birthday we celebrate in August.

In addition, my sisters Carol Ann Wheaton, Karen Lynn Newman, and Debra Kay Zachary have birthdays in March, February, and November. No way I’m saying anything about their ages!

Happy birthday to each of these special women, all of whom have brought indescribable joy to my life and to the lives of many! I love all of you so very much and thank God for each of you!

Achievement

leadership

Here’s the quote for today: “A man would do nothing if he waited until he could do it so well that no one would find fault with what he has done.” – Cardinal Newman

My way of saying that is: “Leaders always disappoint someone!”

It took me a while to figure that out. In my initial days of leadership I thought it should be possible to please everyone with my achievements. I soon discovered the fallacy of that thought.

If one does nothing, he displeases those who think he should be doing something. If one does something, he displeases those who think he should be doing something else.

Jesus displeased people in the church of his day. Luther displeased people in the church of his day. They both achieved results that even now impact life for time and for eternity!

In our day, Pastors displease people in the church and politicians displease people in the country. It’s not wise for leaders to go out of their way to displease their followers. But displeasure often goes hand in hand with courageous leadership and frequently precedes significant achievement.

So here’s my advice, dear fellow leaders. Put on your big boy britches, buckle up your boots, get on your knees in prayer, exercise your God-given gift of leadership, anticipate disagreement and disappointment from those around you, and achieve much for the world and for the church!

Inauguration Day

inauguration

Tomorrow, January 20, is Inauguration Day in America. Donald John Trump will be sworn in as the 45th President of the United States of America. However, some may question that number.

Actually, Grover Cleveland is counted as both the 22nd and 24th President. He was elected, then lost, then won again four years later. The factual way to count U.S. Presidents is to say Donald Trump will be the 45th President but only the 44th person ever to take the oath of office.

Nearly one million people are estimated to be in Washington D.C. to witness the event in person. Tens of millions will view the ceremony across the country and around the world.

Interestingly, crowd size estimators use aerial images from satellites, helicopters and balloons, plus basic math. Three pieces of information are needed: the total area of the space, the proportion of the area that is occupied, and the density of the crowd. But I digress.

More important than the number of people who witness the inauguration, whether in person or via electronic media, is the meaning of the event. In many countries around the world, leadership transitions are less than peaceful. Historically, nations of the world have experienced change in leadership following a decisive battle, a horrific insurrection, or a regal beheading.

Not so in America. Notwithstanding protests from individuals and groups regarding the legitimacy of this presidential election, the fact remains that tomorrow we will witness the non-universal phenomenon of a mostly peaceful transition of presidential power.

Of course we’ve been told to expect demonstrators. That’s nothing new. We’ve also seen news reports predicting thousands of motorcyclists known as “Bikers for Trump” who are expected to provide unofficial security at the event. That’s not quite as common.

Tomorrow will come. Tomorrow will go. Your life and mine might not be discernibly different, at least for now. But like it or not, change will occur. Some change will be good, some not. It’s not a simple task to lead what is arguably the most powerful country in the world.

Regardless of whether our new president views prayer the way most Christians do, the best suggestion I can offer today is that we hold our new leader and our country in our prayers. Here’s one suggestion from Lutheran Service Book’s Prayer for Responsible Citizenship:

“Lord, keep this nation under your care. Bless the leaders of our land that we may be a people at peace among ourselves and a blessing to the other nations of the earth. Grant that we may choose trustworthy leaders, contribute to wise decisions for the general welfare, and serve you faithfully in our generation; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.”

 

“Only God can do this!”

clemson-football

A January 10 article by Dr. Jim Denison: “What impressed me even more than Clemson’s win” (https://www.denisonforum.org/columns/cultural-commentary/impressed-even-clemsons-win/):

In what’s being called “the best title game in college football history,” the Clemson Tigers defeated the Alabama Crimson Tide last night on a touchdown with one second left in the game. It was one of the greatest games I’ve ever seen and Clemson’s first victory over Alabama since 1905.

For years to come, Clemson fans will be discussing the feats of quarterback Deshaun Watson and diminutive wide receiver Hunter Renfrow, who caught the game-winner. Freshman quarterback Jalen Hurts nearly won the game for Alabama before Clemson’s last-minute heroics.

As great as the players were, the coaches impressed me even more.

Clemson’s head coach was born William Christopher Swinney. His older brother Tripp started calling him “That Boy,” which became “Dabo,” the name by which he has been known his entire life.

His childhood was more than challenging—his father became an alcoholic; his oldest brother was severely injured in a car accident and has battled alcoholism for much of his life. His parents eventually divorced, and he lived with his mother in a series of motels, apartments, and friends’ homes. Swinney was nonetheless an honor roll student and football star in high school.

He enrolled in Alabama in 1988 and eventually won a scholarship on the football team. His mother, who had recovered from debilitating polio (including an iron lung and fourteen months in a knee-to-neck cast), shared an apartment room with him while he was in college. He earned a bachelor’s degree and MBA at Alabama and eventually made his way to Clemson, where he has been head coach since 2008.

Swinney became a Christian at a Fellowship of Christian Athletes meeting. He is so public about his faith in Christ that the Freedom From Religion Foundation threatened to sue him and Clemson, but they could not find a player willing to file a complaint against the coach.

Alabama’s legendary coach Nick Saban is also a strong Christian. He attends Mass before football games and is a regular at his parish church in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. He and his wife are founders of the foundation Nick’s Kids, which has raised more than $6 million to help children in need. Last year, they built their sixteenth Habitat for Humanity house to honor Alabama’s sixteenth national title in the school’s history.

Both coaches say that winning titles is important, but what matters most are the young people they coach. One of Saban’s players said of him, “He doesn’t get enough credit for teaching guys how to become men.” When players from Saban’s ten seasons at Alabama gathered last year, one of them spoke for all: “Coach, you changed everybody’s life, no matter if you knew it or not.”

Similarly, Swinney says, “My driving force in this business is to create and build great men.” The most rewarding experiences of coaching, he says, have come when former players tell him he made a positive impact on their lives.

In our scientific age, it’s hard to value intangible souls more than tangible success. But of all God created in the entire universe, human beings are the only creation he made in his own image (Genesis 1:26–27). Investing in people is clearly your best way to leave your mark on eternity.

According to national champion coach Dabo Swinney, “The value of life is measured in relationships, not results or riches.”

I wholeheartedly agree and am thankful that men such as the coaches in this article are spending their lives and dedicating their careers to the development of leaders based on more than simply fame and fortune. May their number increase!

At the conclusion of Monday night’s national title game, Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said: “Only God can do this!” While I’m not convinced that the God of the universe really cares about which football team wins the national championship, I’m thankful for Coach Swinney’s public testimony of faith, giving credit and thanks to God for this significant achievement.

Legacy Deo

screen-shot-2017-01-04-at-9-55-49-pmLegacy is a word that means bequest, inheritance, heritage. Deo is the Latin word for God. Those two words comprise the new name of Lutheran Foundation of Texas: Legacy Deo.

Our legacy from God is who we are and everything we have, including possessions, wealth, fullness of life, faith, forgiveness, and eternal salvation. Our legacy to God and to our loved ones is thanking God for his gifts by using them wisely, during, at the end of, and beyond our lifetime. Helping people in that process is the ministry of Legacy Deo.

Here are portions of a recent public letter from Larry Ohls, Chief Executive Officer of Lutheran Foundation of Texas for the past seven years:

A God Honoring Legacy

The year 2017 will be a very special NEW year for this organization. It will be the beginning of a new era for this foundation that was chartered over 56 years ago.

Over the last 15 months our organization has evaluated the brand identity of this ministry. We spent a great deal of time considering and discussing our core values, mission, purpose, and vision for the future. After extensive research, examination, and prayer the decision was made to change the Foundation’s name to Legacy Deo.

Our new name reflects the essence of what we do as an organization: to assist Christians in leaving a legacy that honors God and builds His kingdom. Over the past 56 years, this Foundation has worked to inspire giving that impacts life forever. Going forward, it is our vision that God’s people, each and every one, will leave a legacy for faith and family like so many before them.

I also want to inform you that effective December 31, 2016, I am retiring as Chief Executive Officer. I plan to continue as an advisor with Legacy Deo and assist in any manner that adds value to the organization. The Board of Directors has selected Rev. Dr. Gerald Kieschnick, President Emeritus of the LCMS, to lead this ministry as Chief Executive Officer. We are blessed by God to have a man of Rev. Kieschnick’s talent, experience and commitment to guide us into the future.

It has been an honor to direct this organization over the past seven years. I consider it a blessing to have served alongside a talented staff that is dedicated to influencing the lives of Christian donors and the life-enriching ministries they support. To God be the glory!

Larry P. Ohls

Larry has been a great leader of this organization for the past seven years. I’ve known him all his life and pray his retirement will be a blessing for his wife Carolyn and their family.

It is my privilege to accept the leadership role of this very important ministry. With God’s help and Terry’s blessing, I look forward to helping individuals and families create a legacy for their loved ones, their congregations, and other charitable organizations with the gifts God has entrusted to their care.

For information and assistance on how to begin that process for your family and your favorite faith-based endeavors, see the contact information below.

Legacy Deo. God’s Gifts. Your Legacy.

Divisions Among Us

divided-churchA couple millennia ago the apostle Paul wrote a special letter to some new Christians in the city of Corinth. He had started a new church there, a church that subsequently became sorely divided.

One portion of his letter says: “In the following directives I have no praise for you, for your meetings do more harm than good. In the first place, I hear that when you come together as a church, there are divisions among you …” (1 Cor. 11:17-18)

He went on to address the particular matter of their improper understanding and observance of the Lord’s Supper. Other portions of his letter spoke to additional conflict, including immorality, adultery, idolatry, lawsuits, etc. Some of the Corinthian problems still divide the church today.

Divisions in the church and in the world are fairly epidemic. Of course, that’s nothing new. Divisions have existed since the fall into sin in the Garden of Eden. Recognition of that truth makes divisions no less serious, hurtful, or divisive.

Divisions almost always have their root in the basic nature of human beings to want things “my way.” Often people are so focused on achieving their objectives that they disregard ethical, moral, and legal considerations to accomplish their desires. They may feel the end justifies the means.

Divisions in the national political arena produce protests, riots, flag burning, and death threats. Divisions around the world catalyze civil war, terrorism, and ethnic “cleansing.” Divisions in the church result in disenchanted new Christians, bruised impressions of fellow Christians, and tarnished images of Christian churches in the public eye.

On a prior occasion, described in Acts 15, Paul was involved in another dispute among believers. The resolution of that dispute included the statement: “… we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God.”

Therein lies the real problem with disputes among Christians. Non-believers understand the truth of the song “They’ll know we are Christians by our love” and quickly turn away when that love is obviously absent from Christians they observe. It should not be so among us.

Remember Paul’s admonition to the church in Ephesus: “As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” (Eph. 4:1-3)

Wise words for healing the divisions among us!

Election Day

voting-boothOnly 18 days remain between now and Election Day. On one hand I’ll be glad when that day has come and gone. On the other hand, I’m very concerned about hearing the news to which America will awaken on November 9. Frankly, like many Americans, neither candidate rings my chimes.

For months we’ve been hearing and seeing ads, debates, and interviews espousing the minimal virtues of each candidate and eschewing the multiple vices of both. Name calling, half-truths, and allegations have filled the airwaves. No matter who wins, we won’t have a perfect president.

That in itself is nothing new. We never have had a perfect president. Yet in this year’s process of nominations and campaigns, seemingly unprecedented negative personal attributes and questionable values have emerged regarding each candidate. What are we to believe?

Hillary Clinton has been described as a deceitful, manipulative, self-serving, mean spirited, callous, angry, forgetful, dishonest, power hungry woman with no true love of country and no genuine desire to honor and preserve the basic religious values on which America was founded.

Donald Trump has been described as a rude, crude, ambitious, arrogant, womanizing, combative, name-calling New York narcissist who spends more time defending his reputation on social media than actually stating how he would make America great again as United States president.

Our country is at a critical crossroads politically, economically, morally, socially, and spiritually. Frankly, at face value, the descriptions in the paragraph above of the two candidates vying for the highest office in the land don’t offer much hope for America’s future. Yet, barring an act of God, it appears that one of them will become the 45th president of the United States of America.

Do we, therefore, simply wring our hands in despair? Do we stay home from the polls? Do we, as some suggest, hold our nose and vote for the one we think might be the lesser of two evils?

While I have no rocket science solutions, the suggestions I humbly offer are these:

  1. Pray fervently for divine direction in this election. See Rom. 13:1-4.
  2. Consider the qualifications of the two nominees in light of how they express their hopes and dreams for America’s future, notwithstanding their personal behavior and character.
  3. Review each candidate’s stance on terrorism, national security, foreign policy, military might, national debt, health care, economy, Supreme Court appointees, sanctity of life.
  4. Examine the official positions on the issues listed above as contained in the platforms of the two political parties the candidates represent. This is a most critical exercise! We’re not just voting for a person. We’re voting for the political platform that person represents!
  5. Evaluate the vice presidential candidates on the ballot, considering the attributes of the person who would be one heartbeat away. This is also a vital consideration!
  6. Pray again and cast your ballot for the candidate and platform most nearly aligned with your values and convictions as a Christian citizen of the United States of America!