The Stuff of Life

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Next Monday is Pearl Harbor Day, observed annually in the United States on Dec. 7 to remember and honor 2,403 U.S. citizens killed in the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii on Dec. 7, 1941. The U.S. declared war on Japan the next day, thus entering World War II. FYI. Lest we forget.

The stuff of life. Stuff happens. Some of it is good. Some not so good.

Winter is approaching here in Texas. Winter weather at our home requires putting all of Terry’s pot plants and hanging baskets in the greenhouse. It’s only 6′ x 8’—should have been larger. Terry loves plants! Maybe they’ll survive winter. Happy plants are part of life’s good stuff. So is a happy wife!

Last week our heating system quit working properly. The home insurance policy covers some but not all of the cost. Unexpected expense. Not thousands but hundreds. The stuff of life.

On the way home from church on Sunday, my vehicle’s warning light for low tire pressure came on. Could have been caused by the cooler weather. Got the tires filled. All were way too low.

Next morning the warning light came on again. Got the tires checked. Nail in left rear tire. Too close to sidewall to be repaired. My long standing relationship with the dealership owner converted a potential expenditure into a courtesy replacement. Not thousands but hundreds. The stuff of life.

These are relatively minor issues compared to more significant stuff of life. Cancer or other terminal disease. Serious or fatal auto accident. Divorce. Financial catastrophe. Pandemic. Loss of job. Foreclosure of home. Hungry or abused children. The stuff of life.

Through all the stuff of life, I’m thankful for God’s grace. In spite of bad stuff, you and I are bountifully blessed with good stuff. That’s what we said last week at Thanksgiving. It’s true every day. Here’s a story that might help us remember to be thankful for the stuff of life:

A blind boy sat on the steps of a building with a hat by his feet. He held up a sign: “I am blind, please help.” There were only a few coins in the hat – spare change from folks who hurried past.

A man was walking by. He took a few coins from his pocket and dropped them into the hat. He then took the sign, turned it around, and wrote some words. Then he put the sign back in the boy’s hand so that everyone who walked by would see the new words. Soon the hat began to fill up. A lot more people were giving money to the blind boy.

That afternoon, the man who had changed the sign returned to see how things were. The boy recognized his footsteps and asked, “Were you the one who changed my sign this morning? What did you write?”

The man said, “I only wrote the truth. I said what you said but in a different way.” I wrote, “Today is a beautiful day, but I cannot see it.”

Both signs spoke the truth. But the first sign simply said the boy was blind, while the second sign conveyed to everyone walking by how grateful they should be to see.

It’s good to be thankful for the stuff of life we see and also for the stuff of life we cannot see.

God bless you abundantly!

Thanksgiving—What Happens In Heaven When We Pray?

For this early Thanksgiving edition of Perspectives I’m sharing a story. Author and date are unknown and it has not been doctrinally reviewed. Here’s the story:

I dreamed that I went to heaven and an angel was showing me around. We walked inside a large workroom filled with angels. My angel guide stopped in front of the first section and said, “This is the Receiving Section. Here, all the petitions to God said in prayer are received.”

I looked around this area. It was terribly busy with many angels sorting out petitions written on voluminous paper sheets and scraps from people all over the world.

Then we moved on down a long corridor until we reached the second section. The angel then said to me, “This is the Packaging and Delivery Section. Here, the graces and all the blessings the people asked for are processed and delivered to the living persons who asked for them.”

I noticed again how busy it was there. There were many angels working hard at that station, since so many blessings had been requested and were being packaged for delivery to Earth.

Finally, at the farthest end of the corridor we stopped at 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 a little embarrassed.

“How is it that there is no work going on here?” I asked. “So sad,” the angel sighed. “After people receive the blessings that 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 many people in this world.

If you have a bank account, money in your wallet, and spare change in your pocket, you are among the world’s wealthiest.”

“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 more blessed than millions of people in the world.”

“If you can attend a church without the fear of harassment, arrest, torture, or death you are more blessed than many people in the world.” Note: This story was written before COVID.

“If you find reasons to smile, you are more blessed than those in doubt and despair.”

Terry and I, with Legacy Deo Board and Staff, pray for you a happy and blessed Thanksgiving. This is a season of generosity through giving, and of giving thanks for blessings received.

Though your Thanksgiving dinner table may be more sparsely populated this year than usual, no thanks to COVID, thank God for your blessings, especially your family and friends.

If you have no family or friends with whom to share Thanksgiving joy, thank God for faith, freedom, and forgiveness. Thank God for life, liberty, and his love.

May your Thanksgiving and your life be blessed with the peace of God that transcends all understanding, through faith in Christ Jesus our Lord!

Whom Can You Trust?

Any of you who are wondering whether “whom” in the title of this article should be changed to “who” may feel free to do the research. I did. The title is correct. But both words are acceptable.

So the question is: Whom do you trust? Here are several examples:

Nutrisystem says: “You eat the food. You lose the weight.” But how long will it stay off?

Tom Selleck says you can trust reverse mortgages. But you’d better read the fine print.

Joe Biden says he’ll unite America. Many people wonder just how that promise will be kept.

Donald Trump says he’ll continue to make America great. Many don’t like or trust the man.

Parents promise their children a trip to DisneyWorld. The economy tanks. So does the trip.

Married folks promise to stay with each other till death parts them. Half of them get divorced.

Some doctors and politicians say wear the COVID mask. Others say it doesn’t really help.

Some physicians say Remdesivir is a cure. Others say hydroxychloroquine. Some say neither.

Need I go on? Promises are made all day every day. But not all promises are actually kept.

So whom can you trust? Try these biblical suggestions:

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. Prov. 3:5

Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him, and he will act. Ps. 37:5

It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust in man. Ps. 118:8

But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. Is. 40:31

Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go. Josh. 1:9

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. Is. 41:10

Try those on for size. They’ll work. Trust me.

Darkness and Light

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In the middle of the night early this past Friday morning, the electricity in our home went off. Though it happened at 1:30 a.m., I first discovered it at 2:45 a.m.

The coolness of our bedroom turned to warmth. The ceiling fan was still. It was pitch dark.

Being careful not to wake my roommate of 54 1/2 years, I got out of bed and grabbed my cell phone from the nightstand. I walked through the bathroom, home office, hallway, kitchen, and living area. Looking out the window at the ‘hood, I saw nothing but darkness. We had company.

For such occasions, my contact list has the number of our electricity provider. The answer to my call was automated, of course. After a non-personal dialogue with the automaton on the other end, I pressed “1” often enough to communicate that our home was in fact without power. I pressed “1” again, requesting notification of restored power. Then I went back to bed.

Forty-five minutes later, power was on again. No call came from the power company. Not necessary. After my unlit early morning tour through our home I hadn’t gone back to sleep.

Through closed eyelids I felt the fan and faintly heard the A/C unit. Voila! Back in business!

What I also noticed was unmistakable. Lights everywhere. Not the big lights. Just the little ones. Night lights in the rooms I had visited less than one hour earlier. Computer lights. Monitor lights. Printer lights. Speaker lights. Clock lights. Oven lights. Microwave lights. TV lights. Lights.

What’s the point? Simple. I don’t like darkness. Never have. Never will. I like light.

In the morning when the blinds are opened, the sun shines in. Sunlight is good light. In the darkness, any light is good light. The Bible says a lot about light:

  • The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. John 1:5
  • God is light, and in him there is no darkness at all. 1 John 1:5
  • Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” John 8:12

Darkness has its place and serves its purpose. Most of us sleep better in darkness than in daylight. But darkness makes it difficult if not impossible to see what’s waiting to be seen.

Light makes it possible to see people and pictures, homes and hummingbirds, art and automobiles, buildings and BBQ pits, food and furniture, rocks and rivers, sunshine and stoplights, books and babies.

The light of Christ replaces the darkness of sin in our hearts. Darkness? Light? I prefer light!

Wisdom from Three Very Wise Men

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The past few weeks I’ve written about the bad stuff going on in our country and the world, including COVID-19, violent protests, statue destruction, culture cancelling, law enforcement denigrating, etc.

Today I’ve chosen to lighten up a bit on those topics but still go deep by sharing some simple but sage advice from three very wise men.

Albert Einstein (1879-1955) about life:

  1. Stay away from negative people. They have a problem for every solution.
  2. We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.
  3. A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.
  4. You never stop failing until you stop trying.
  5. Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.
  6. Two things are infinite–the universe and human stupidity, and I’m not sure about the universe.
  7. Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
  8. Weak people revenge. Strong people forgive. Intelligent people ignore.
  9. Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.
  10. You have to learn the rules of the game, and then play better than anyone else.

Will Rogers (1879-1935) about growing older:

  1. One day you will reach a point when you stop lying about your age and start bragging about it.
  2. The older we get, the fewer things seem worth waiting in line for.
  3. When you are dissatisfied and would like to go back to your youth, think of algebra.
  4. You know you’re getting old when everything either dries up or leaks.
  5. I don’t know how I got over the hill without getting to the top.
  6. One thing no one tells you about aging is that it’s such a nice change from being young.
  7. One must wait until evening to see how splendid the day has been.
  8. Being young is beautiful, but being old is comfortable and relaxed.
  9. If you don’t learn to laugh at trouble, you won’t have anything to laugh at when you’re old.
  10. Long ago, when men cursed and beat the ground with sticks, it was called witchcraft. Today it’s called golf.

Jesus Christ (4 B.C.?-30 A.D.?) about faith, life, love, and trust:

  1. Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled; everyone who humbles himself will be exalted.
  2. Ask and it will be given you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will open unto you.
  3. Do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious enough for itself.
  4. Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.
  5. Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to cast a stone.
  6. Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
  7. I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.
  8. I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he dies, yet shall he live.
  9. Your Father in heaven makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.
  10. God sent his Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved.

I pray that your day and your life will be lightened and brightened by these three very wise men.

Blessed! Thankful!

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Credit: Kiy Turk on Unsplash

Yesterday marked Terry’s and my 54th wedding anniversary. Our marriage was solemnized on Saturday, January 29, 1966, my 23rd birthday. You can do the math.

The past 54 years have been exciting and challenging, full of a mixture of joy and sorrow, blessing and difficulty, victory and defeat, laughter and tears.

Through it all, faith in God, dependence on God’s providence, love for each other, and marital commitment, all under the umbrella of God’s grace, have sustained us through the valleys and taken us up the mountains. Suffice it to say that I am blessed and thankful.

Here are just some of the people by whom I’ve been blessed and for whom I’m thankful:

  • My wonderful, loving, talented, forgiving, patient wife Terry
  • Our dearest favorite daughter Angie and her gifted husband Todd
  • Our special favorite son Andrew and his four legged menagerie
  • Our beautiful favorite granddaughter Kayla and her special friend we call Super Trooper
  • Our handsome favorite grandson Kolby and his life of faith, service, and leadership
  • Sainted parents Martin and Elda Kieschnick and their legacy of love and hard work
  • Sainted grandparents Walter and Martha Kieschnick, Fred and Bertha Hellman
  • Sisters Carol, Karen, Debbie and their husbands Jerry, Mel, Curtis
  • Aunts, uncles, nephews, nieces, and cousins
  • Sainted in-laws Emil and Dorothy Roos and brother-in-law David
  • Lutheran congregations served in my career: St. Paul Austin, Trinity Nokomis, Ascension Charlotte, Good Shepherd Biloxi, Redeemer Beaumont, Hope Winnie, Faith Georgetown
  • Lutheran organizations served in my career: Lutheran Foundation of Texas, Texas District LCMS, The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod, Concordia University Texas, Legacy Deo
  • Parachurch organizations and boards served: LCMS Commission on Theology and Church Relations, LCMS Council of Presidents, International Lutheran Council, Mission of Christ Network, Pastor360, Ministry Focus, Driving Hope of Texas, B. M. Woltman Foundation, Lutheran Social Services of the South

In compiling and reviewing that list, it’s obvious that my life has been and continues to be a combination of being served to serve. I see life as the Jordan River, not the Dead Sea.

In my Legacy Deo presentations I explain it this way: Our legacy from God is who we are and what we have. Our legacy to God is what we do with who we are and what we have.

For 77 years I’ve been loved and served by God, my family, and many friends. For most of those years, I’ve endeavored to love and serve people and organizations I’ve been blessed to know. It’s pretty easy to sum it up in two words: Blessed! Thankful!

That’s a Lot of Concrete!

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Credit: Wikipedia

Interstate 10 (I-10) is the major east–west Interstate Highway in the Southern United States. It stretches from the Pacific Ocean at California State Route 1 in Santa Monica, California, to I-95 in Jacksonville, Florida. The only longer Interstate Highways are I-80, which runs 2,906 miles from San Francisco to Teaneck, and I-90, which runs 3,085 miles from Seattle to Boston.

In Texas, I-10 runs east from Anthony, a small town near the New Mexico border, through El Paso, San Antonio, and Houston, all the way to the border with Louisiana in Orange, Tex.

At just under 880 miles, the Texas segment of I-10, maintained by the Texas Department of Transportation, is the longest continuous non-tolled freeway in North America that is operated by a single authority. In recent years toll lanes have been added on portions of the highway west of Houston, yet it is still possible to travel the entire length of I-10 with no toll.

I-10 is also the longest stretch of highway with a single designation within a single state. Mile marker 880 and its corresponding exit number in Orange, Texas, are the highest numbered mile marker and exit on any freeway in North America.

After widening was completed in 2008, a portion of the highway west of Houston is now also believed to be the widest in the world, at 26 lanes. There is a wider section in China on the G4 Beijing–Hong Kong–Macau Expressway, but that section is a toll plaza approach.

More than one-third of I-10’s entire length is located in Texas alone. El Paso, near the Texas–New Mexico state line, is 785 miles from the western terminus of I-10 in Santa Monica, California. That makes El Paso closer to Los Angeles than it is to Orange, Tex., 857 miles away at the Texas–Louisiana state line. Likewise, Orange is only 789 miles from the eastern terminus of I-10 in Jacksonville, Florida.

That’s a lot of concrete!

Travel on the Interstate Highway system, notwithstanding the frequent bottlenecks and pileups those of us who live in major cities along that system regularly experience, allows those who drive it to travel long distances in relatively short periods of time.

Compare that reality with the time and effort it took biblical characters like Abraham to travel from his point of origination, Ur of the Chaldees (present day Iraq), to God’s chosen destination of Shechem in Canaan, known today as the Holy Land. Only several hundred miles as the crow flies but more than 1,000 miles along the route taken to avoid the Sahara Desert. Not much concrete on that journey. Only lots of faith in the God who was leading him.

“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?

My New Book

Life, Love, Faith, Family: Perspectives from a Veteran Church Leader. That’s the title of my new book now available for pre-order from Concordia Publishing House. Here’s CPH’s description:

The Christian life is often not an easy one. Struggles occur in marriages and vocations. Death cannot be avoided. Natural disasters and illnesses arise unexpectedly.

With pastoral care, a spiritual perspective, and real-life wisdom, Dr. Gerald (Jerry) Kieschnick has written on matters of life and faith for years. This collection combines some of his best writing on a variety of everyday topics, encouraging you to turn to God’s Word, the ultimate source of wisdom, for guidance in navigating the Christian life.

May these brief musings offer you spiritual encouragement and comfort as you experience all that the Christian life encompasses—grief, happiness, tension, contentment, fear, and joy.

The Preface sets the stage in my own words:

For more than half a century, I’ve served in numerous Christian leadership capacities, from developing a mission church starting with nothing to president of a national church body of over two million members. Throughout those years, I’ve met and known many people who experience much joy, meaning, and fulfillment in life and love. Yet, many of these wonderful people have encoun­tered challenges and difficulties along the way, often in the arenas of family and faith.

 Every week, for the past nine years, I’ve written my personal perspectives on these and a variety of other topics. In this little book, I share one hundred of those stories and reflections for your reading enjoyment, emotional encouragement, and spir­itual enrichment.

Late last week I received word from CPH that this book is now available for pre-order. Go to:

https://www.cph.org/p-32843-life-love-faith-family-perspectives-from-a-veteran-church-leader.aspx Copies will begin shipping on August 15.

My first book published by Concordia Publishing House was Waking the Sleeping Giant (CPH, 2010). It’s an honor and privilege to work again with CPH. I pray this new book will be a blessing to those who read it. And if you happen to have your copy with you next time we’re together, I’ll be happy to sign it.

God bless your day!

God Bless America

Before today’s article, allow me a personal note. Today would have been my father’s 102nd birthday. He was born in 1916 and died 35 years ago, in 1983. My 102 year old mother Elda still misses him. So do I and the rest of our family. Martin Kieschnick was a godly man and great father. He wasn’t perfect but he loved the Lord and he loved his family. To God be the glory!

Next Wednesday is the Fourth of July. Star-Spangled Banner was written in in 1814 by Francis Scott Key. God Bless America was written in 1918 by Irving Berlin. Both have become  nationally known and frequently sung songs of American patriotism. Some even suggest God Bless America would be a better national anthem than Star-Spangled Banner.

Here’s a bit of reported history I found regarding God Bless America. In the late 1930s America was still in a terrible economic depression. Hitler was taking over Europe and Americans were afraid we’d have to go to war. It was a time of hardship and worry for most Americans.

In this era just before TV, radio shows were quite popular. American families, including mine and very likely most of yours, sat around their radios in the evening, listening to their favorite entertainers. One popular entertainer was Kate Smith, a very patriotic person.

One source I read says Kate went to the famous American song writer, Irving Berlin, and asked him to write a song that would make Americans feel good again about their country.

Another source says that in 1938 Berlin went to his files and found a song he had written 20 years earlier, but had decided not to publish. He redid the song and began searching for the right singer to introduce it. He thought about Kate Smith and gave it to her and her orchestra.

Regardless of these details, God Bless America become an overnight sensation. Smith and Berlin agreed not to take any revenue from God Bless America. All profits would go to the God Bless America Fund he established to support the Boy Scouts of America and Girl Scouts of America. It’s reported that Scouting programs have received millions in royalties from this song.

To this day, God Bless America stirs patriotic feelings and pride in our country. Kate Smith and Irving Berlin succeeded in encouraging and raising the spirits of their fellow Americans during years of hardship and worry. Their song continues to do so today for many Americans.

So on this Fourth of July and every day, God Bless America!