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!

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Mother’s Day Love

Mother

In our home Terry and I often ask each other what gifts we’d like to receive for our respective birthdays, our wedding anniversary, at Christmas, and on Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. Our response to each other is often: “I don’t really need anything more than your love.”

It’s challenging to put love in a box with a ribbon. Tangible gifts sometimes accomplish that objective more successfully than do intangible emotions. The gift of love is often enhanced by a palpable expression of that love. Jewelry usually comes in the right color. So do gift cards.

Yet gifts in a box are no substitute for what our loved ones need and want the most. Many years ago I heard a simple statement that rings quite true: Children and spouses spell love T-I-M-E!

This Sunday is Mother’s Day, a special opportunity to honor our mother, whether she is still living this side of eternity (my mother is 102) or already in heaven (where she’d like to be). Either way, thank God for the positive memories and try really hard to forgive your mother for the unpleasant recollections.

Reflect on the following words from a mother, expressing what she wants for Mother’s Day:

“Every year my children ask me the same question: What do I want for Mother’s Day?

After thinking about it, I decided I’d give them my real answer: I want you. I want you to keep coming around. Ask me questions, ask my advice, tell me your problems, ask for my opinion, ask for my help.

I want you to come over and complain or brag about whatever is on your mind and heart. Tell me about your job, your worries, your dreams. I want you to continue sharing your life with me.

Come over and laugh with me, or laugh at me. Hearing you laugh is music to my ears. I spent a large part of my life raising you the best way I knew how. Now, give me time to sit back and admire my work.

Raid my refrigerator, help yourself, I really don’t mind. I want you to spend your money making a better life for yourself and your family. I have the things I need. I want to see you happy and healthy.

When you ask me what I want for Mother’s Day, I say ‘nothing’ because you’ve already been giving me my gift all year. YOU! I want you!”

Most mothers are the first to admit they are not perfect. Yet a mother is a special gift from God. So in addition to this Sunday, take many other opportunities throughout the year to honor your mother, to express your love for her, and to thank God for her role in bringing you into this world and into her life.

Father’s Day

Father

Not long ago I read an article lamenting the lack of respect frequently experienced by fathers, especially those who have primary responsibility for raising their children. The author had received emails from stay-at-home dads, single dads, widowed dads, step dads, grand dads, divorced dads, separated dads, and dudes who can’t wait to be dads. Regrettably, I don’t recall the author’s name but following are some of the notes I captured from what she wrote.

The author suggested that if we could simply shift the way we talk about fathers, the effect could be world changing. What would happen if more parenting publications started writing for fathers with realistic information and encouragement that accurately reflects the era in which we live?

What would happen if more hospitals changed the content of their prenatal and postnatal classes to recognize that childbirth is something that happens to men as well as women?

Imagine what would happen to the mostly unseen and undiscussed yet staggering rates of male postnatal depression if we talked widely about the issue and more men felt socially supported to say “Hey, I’m having a tough time! I need some help!”

What if more maternity wards referred new fathers to a local dad’s group? What if more workplaces took the topic of dads to the boardroom, talked about it, and realized the economy probably wouldn’t implode if fathers were given additional paid time off when a child is born?

Do working fathers have an equal right, as do working mothers, to be at home, to bond with their new baby and wrap their heads and hearts around their new world? Does a newborn need more time to learn not only from mother but also from father’s face, voice, smell and heartbeat?

Fathers, either raising a child alone or sharing that responsibility with the child’s mother, play a huge role in the development of that child. Greater emphasis on that very important part of child rearing would produce more children for whom Father’s Day is more than just a national holiday.

My father has been in heaven for over 33 years. He was a very important part of my life. Martin wasn’t perfect, yet he loved his children. We knew his love, which together with the love of our dear 100 year-old mother Elda, established a foundation for my life and for that of my three sisters.

This Father’s Day, whether or not you are a father, remember that you have one. He may or may not still be living here on earth. He is or was most likely no more perfect than my father. Nevertheless, take this Father’s Day to give thanks to God for the life he and your mother gave you.

These words are well spoken: “Listen to your father who gave you life and do not despise your mother when she is old…Let your father and mother be glad.” Prov. 23:22, 25

My Dear Mother

MomMany of you are aware that, God willing, my dear mother Elda Kieschnick will reach her 100th birthday April 10 of this year. She is known by many as a remarkable woman with great personal skills, numerous talents and multiple abilities. She’s also a woman of faith, ready to see Jesus.

Until two weeks ago Mom was living independently in her own home in New Braunfels, Texas. A few weeks earlier it became obvious that her strength was waning, making it difficult for her to stand and walk. She fell three times, thankfully sustaining no serious injury or broken bones.

It soon became apparent that Mom was no longer able to live alone. It also quickly became obvious that none of her four children would be able to provide the nearly constant care her condition required. So our joint decision, following consultation with our dear mother, was to seek an assisted living facility in which her needs could be met with proper care and concern.

The place we selected had one very nice vacant room with eight people on the waiting list. Not one of them was ready to move in, so the room was available, almost miraculously, for our dear mother. She made the move on Saturday, February 20, and is doing as well as can be expected.

To the 54 living members and spouses of her immediate family (three others are already in heaven), Mother is affectionately known as Granny. In reporting to them this assisted living decision I wrote:

“We all know that our gracious Lord has enabled our dear Granny to live a whole lot longer than most people live. How many other almost 100 year old women or men do you know? We also all know that someday her life on earth will end. So will each of ours. And we know what Granny has said repeatedly, that she is ready to go to heaven. None of us knows when that will happen.”

“In the meantime, what we feel is important, and we think you’ll all agree, is that we make every necessary decision and take every prudent step to keep her as safe and comfortable as possible, as long as the good Lord sees fit for her to stay on this earth.”

“What can each of you do? Remember Granny in your prayers. Write a note. Send a card. Call her occasionally. Thank God for bringing each of us into the life of this very special woman!”

Note to Perspectives readers: If you are so inclined, prior to March 31, please consider sending a 100th birthday note or card to the following address:

Elda Kieschnick
c/o Lutheran Foundation of Texas
7900 East Highway 290
Austin, TX 78724-2499

If you prefer email, send your note to me at GBJK@LFOT.org. I’ll print and pass it along to her.  This request is a surprise to my mother, so please help keep it that way. Thank you very much!

Next week I’ll write about caring for aged parents. If you have suggestions, email them to me.

The Truth, the Whole Truth and …

Kieschnick GrandnieceBefore beginning today’s Perspectives, I’ll share one important update and one brief reflection:

  1. Update: My prematurely born great grandnieces are progressing quite well. Anna is blessed with good health and Emma (photo above) continues to improve, having had her breathing tube removed for 20 minutes recently. Thank you for your prayers for these two young ladies, their parents Amanda and Jesse and grandparents Doug and Diana.
  2. Reflection: This week marked the 14th anniversary of my initial installation as president of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod on September 8, 2001. Three days later our world changed. In some ways it seems like yesterday. In other ways, a lifetime ago!

Now today’s edition. Most Americans know the words that follow the words in the title above. They are part of the oath Americans are required to make prior to taking the witness stand in a court of law. The entire oath is a question that goes something like this: “Do you solemnly swear that you will tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?”

While legally required to make this oath in court, is it not reasonable to assume that trusted leaders, both public and private, should adhere to the same standard at all times? Even when not called to testify in a court of law? Wouldn’t it be wonderful if that were really the case?

In 1998 a 49-year-old national leader denied having a certain kind of improper relations with a 22-year-old woman. That leader told the American public he was telling the truth. But he wasn’t telling the whole truth. While denying that he had had a specific kind of relationship with this woman, it later came to light that he had had other equally improper relations with her.

That man held what is considered the most powerful office in the world. A number of others are now seeking that same office. Each of them has equal responsibility to speak the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

Several historical figures have said: “Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Abraham Lincoln said: “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” Jesus in the four gospels said “I tell you the truth” 80 times.

What’s the bottom line? Leaders at all times should be held to the standard of speaking the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. That standard is universally applicable to powerful leaders, both secular and sacred, in whom their constituencies place confidence and trust.

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.

April Birthday Ladies in My Life!

Credit:  Zsuzsanna Kilian

Credit: Zsuzsanna Kilian

April is an important month for some very important ladies in my life!

April 10 is the date my dear mother, Elda Mary Hellman Kieschnick, was born in Nashville, Kansas. The year was 1916. Do the math! This young lady turns 98 years of age today! Her health is strong, with relatively few minor aches and pains. She lives independently, cooks and entertains folks with bed and board. She is called “Granny” and works like the Energizer Bunny!
Two years ago Mom gave up driving but still goes lots of places, with kind assistance from her friends. She has been blessed with four children, 12 grandchildren, 21 great-grandchildren and three great-great-grandchildren, two of whom are still living here on earth. One of the premature Christmas triplets passed away two days after birth. Granny is a blessing and loved by many!

April 10 is also the date my dear wife, Terry Lee Roos Kieschnick, was born in Austin, Texas. That makes it easy not to forget either birthday! The year was a few decades later than that of my dear mother noted above. Terry and I have been married more than 48 years and have been blessed with two grown children, one grown son-in-law, and two grandchildren who call her “Mimi.”

Terry has been and continues to be a genuine blessing to our immediate and extended families and to many other dear friends and loved ones across the country and around the world. She is blessed with many gifts, including the gift of hospitality. She loves to feed people, as few as two and as many as 120 at one time! Terry also loves to decorate our home, which she does beautifully and joyfully! She is very special to me, to all our family, and to many others!

April 15 is the date Terry’s mother, Dorothy Nell Gruesen Roos, was born in Austin, Texas. The year was 1926. She left this earth for her home in heaven on June 21, 2011, at the tender age of 85. She was blessed with two children, two grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

Dorothy was a lifelong member of St. Paul Lutheran Church in Austin. Her life is remembered in many ways by many people and is especially memorialized by a beautiful wooden cross dedicated to the glory of God in the chapel auditorium at Concordia University Texas.

April 6 is the date our dear daughter, Angela Lynn Kieschnick Keith, was born in Springfield, Ill. The year was 1970. Angie arrived shortly before Terry and I left the seminary for our first call in Biloxi, Miss. She is a very special young lady who has blessed us with much joy and pleasure!

Baptizing our infant daughter moments after I was ordained on June 6, 1970, was my first official pastoral act. She was crying! Her pacifier was not handy. So I put my index finger in her mouth. That did the trick! Angie and Todd have been married nearly 25 years and are blessed with our two awesome grandchildren, Kolby and Kayla. Kayla, born in August, broke the April birth pattern!

In our home April is an important month! I am blessed to have all these wonderful women in my life, together with three sisters and other female family members. I thank God for each of them!