Not One Sparrow

Sparrow

Early one morning last week on the way to the office I was traveling at 45 mph on a two-lane road. All of a sudden, out of nowhere, two small birds flew from the grass and trees on my right, directly into my path. One flew at an altitude that allowed it to continue its flight. The other one flew directly into my right front fender and fell to the ground.

This was not the first time my vehicle had accidentally and unintentionally become an instrument that terminated the life of a living creature. Over my 59 years of driving experience, I’ve hit other birds and a few squirrels. Transparency requires me to confess that willfully and intentionally I have also sent a few rattlesnakes to their eternal destiny. Scold me, if necessary.

The day of my encounter with the bird in question turned out to be the same day of yet another school shooting. This one was in Santa Fe. Not New Mexico. Texas. Frankly I don’t recall ever knowing there was a Santa Fe in Texas. It’s just a few miles south of Houston, my hometown. Sadly, Santa Fe is now known around the world as the site of a willful and intentional eruption of evil activity resulting in the death of eight students and two teachers.

As soon as the bird fell to the ground I remembered the words of Jesus: “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father.” Matt. 10:29

And when I heard the news that ten people had died that day, I immediately recalled more of Jesus’ words in almost the same breath: “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Instead, fear the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” Matt. 10:28

But the words that have stuck with me even more poignantly are these: “And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So do not be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.” Matt. 10:30-31

Is it possible to compare the life of a human with the life of a sparrow? No way. In God’s eyes, all living creatures have value. But Jesus says the intrinsic value of human life far outweighs that of many sparrows.

That’s why many more tears are shed when a human dies, regardless of the cause of death, than when a sparrow dies. Yet God’s love is so magnificent that not one sparrow falls to the ground apart from the will of the Father.

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Answered Prayers and Unknown Angels

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This is purported to be a true story by an author named Catherine Moore, found in my file. It’s longer than my normal articles, but worth the time to read. It was untitled, so I created the title above.

“Watch out! You nearly broadsided that car!” My father yelled at me, “Can’t you do anything right?”

Those words hurt worse than blows. I turned my head toward the elderly man in the seat beside me, daring me to challenge him. A lump rose in my throat as I averted my eyes. I wasn’t prepared for another battle.

“I saw the car, Dad. Please don’t yell at me when I’m driving.”

My voice was measured and steady, sounding far calmer than I really felt. Dad glared at me, then turned away and settled back. At home I left Dad in front of the television and went outside to collect my thoughts. Dark, heavy clouds hung in the air with a promise of rain. The rumble of distant thunder seemed to echo my inner turmoil. What could I do about him?

Dad had been a lumberjack in Washington and Oregon. He had enjoyed being outdoors and had reveled in pitting his strength against the forces of nature. He had entered grueling lumberjack competitions, and had placed often. The shelves in his house were filled with trophies that attested to his prowess.

The years marched on relentlessly. The first time he couldn’t lift a heavy log, he joked about it. But later that same day I saw him outside, alone, straining to lift it. He became irritable whenever anyone teased him about his advancing age, or when he couldn’t do something he had done as a younger man.

Four days after his sixty-seventh birthday, he had a heart attack. An ambulance sped him to the hospital while a paramedic administered CPR to keep blood and oxygen flowing.

At the hospital, Dad was rushed into an operating room. He was lucky; he survived. But something inside Dad died. His zest for life was gone. He obstinately refused to follow doctors’ orders. Suggestions and offers of help were turned aside with sarcasm and insults. The number of visitors thinned, then finally stopped altogether. Dad was left alone.

My husband Dick and I asked Dad to come live with us on our small farm. We hoped the fresh air and rustic atmosphere would help him adjust.

Within a week after he moved in, I regretted the invitation. It seemed nothing was satisfactory. He criticized everything I did. I became frustrated and moody. Soon I was taking my pent-up anger out on Dick. We began to bicker and argue.

Alarmed, Dick sought out our pastor and explained the situation. The clergyman set up weekly counseling appointments for us. At the close of each session he prayed, asking God to soothe Dad’s troubled mind.

But the months wore on and God was silent. Something had to be done. It was up to me to do it.

The next day I sat down with the phone book and called each mental health clinic listed in the Yellow Pages. I explained my problem to each of the sympathetic voices that answered in vain.

Just when I was giving up hope, one of the voices suddenly exclaimed, “I just read something that might help you! Let me go get the article.”

I listened as she read. The article described a remarkable study done at a nursing home. All of the patients were under treatment for chronic depression. Yet their attitudes had improved dramatically when they were given responsibility for a dog.

I drove to the animal shelter that afternoon. After I filled out a questionnaire, a uniformed officer led me to the kennels. The odor of disinfectant stung my nostrils as I moved down the row of pens.

Each contained five to seven dogs. Long-haired dogs, curly-haired dogs, black dogs, spotted dogs, all jumped up, trying to reach me. I studied each one but rejected one after the other for various reasons – too big, too small, too much hair. As I neared the last pen, a dog in the shadows of the far corner struggled to his feet, walked to the front of the run and sat down. It was a pointer, one of the dog world’s aristocrats. But this was a caricature of the breed.

Years had etched his face and muzzle with shades of gray. His hip bones jutted out in lopsided triangles. But it was his eyes that caught and held my attention. Calm and clear, they beheld me unwaveringly.

I pointed to the dog. “Can you tell me about him?” The officer looked, then shook his head in puzzlement. “He’s a funny one. Appeared out of nowhere and sat in front of the gate. We brought him in, figuring someone would be right down to claim him. That was two weeks ago and we’ve heard nothing. His time is up tomorrow.” He gestured helplessly.

As the words sank in I turned to the man in horror. “You mean you’re going to kill him?”

“Ma’am,” he said gently, “that’s our policy. We don’t have room for every unclaimed dog.”

I looked at the pointer again. The calm brown eyes awaited my decision. “I’ll take him,” I said.

I drove home with the dog on the front seat beside me. When I reached the house I honked the horn twice. I was helping my prize out of the car when Dad shuffled onto the front porch. “Ta-da! Look what I got for you, Dad!” I said excitedly.

Dad looked, then wrinkled his face in disgust. “If I had wanted a dog I would have gotten one. And I would have picked out a better specimen than that bag of bones. Keep it! I don’t want it!” Dad waved his arm scornfully and turned back toward the house.

Anger rose inside me. It squeezed together my throat muscles and pounded into my temples. “You’d better get used to him, Dad. He’s staying!”

Dad ignored me. “Did you hear me, Dad?” I screamed. At those words Dad whirled angrily, his hands clenched at his sides, his eyes narrowed and blazing with hate. We stood glaring at each other like duelists, when suddenly the pointer pulled free from my grasp. He wobbled toward my dad and sat down in front of him.

Then, slowly, carefully, he raised his paw.

Dad’s lower jaw trembled as he stared at the uplifted paw. Confusion replaced the anger in his eyes. The pointer waited patiently. Then Dad was on his knees hugging the animal.

It was the beginning of a warm and intimate friendship. Dad named the pointer Cheyenne. Together he and Cheyenne explored the community. They spent long hours walking down dusty lanes. They spent reflective moments on the banks of streams, angling for tasty trout. They even started to attend Sunday services together, Dad sitting in a pew and Cheyenne lying quietly at his feet.

Dad and Cheyenne were inseparable throughout the next three years. Dad’s bitterness faded, and he and Cheyenne made many friends. Then late one night I was startled to feel Cheyenne’s cold nose burrowing through our bed covers. He had never before come into our bedroom at night.

I woke Dick, put on my robe and ran into my father’s room. Dad lay in his bed, his face serene. But his spirit had left quietly sometime during the night.

Two days later my shock and grief deepened when I discovered Cheyenne lying dead beside Dad’s bed. I wrapped his still form in the rag rug he had slept on. As Dick and I buried him near a favorite fishing hole, I silently thanked the dog for the help he had given me in restoring Dad’s peace of mind.

The morning of Dad’s funeral dawned overcast and dreary. This day looks like the way I feel, I thought, as I walked down the aisle to the pews reserved for family. I was surprised to see the many friends Dad and Cheyenne had made. The pastor began his eulogy. It was a tribute to both Dad and the dog who had changed his life.

Then the pastor turned to Hebrews 13:2: “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by so doing some have entertained angels without knowing it.” “I’ve often thanked God for sending that angel,” he said.

For me, the past dropped into place, completing a puzzle I had not seen before: The sympathetic voice on the phone that had just read the right article; Cheyenne’s unexpected appearance at the animal shelter; his calm acceptance and complete devotion to my father; and the proximity of their deaths.

And suddenly I understood. I knew that God had answered my prayers after all.

Now you know why I titled this story “Answered Prayers and Unknown Angels.”

God bless your day!

Pearl Harbor – Three Big Mistakes or God Taking Care?

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On Sunday morning, December 7, 1941, the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service attacked Naval Station Pearl Harbor in Honolulu, Oahu, Hawaii Territory, without warning and without a declaration of war, killing 2,403 American servicemen and injuring 1,178 others. The attack sank four U.S. Navy battleships and damaged four others. It also damaged three cruisers, three destroyers, and one minelayer. Aircraft losses were 188 destroyed and 159 damaged.

One little bit of history is recorded in a small book titled “Reflections on Pearl Harbor” by Admiral Chester Nimitz. Here’s the story:

“Sunday, December 7, 1941, Admiral Chester Nimitz was attending a concert in Washington, D.C. He was paged and told there was a phone call for him. When he answered the phone, it was President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. He told Admiral Nimitz that he (Nimitz) would now be the Commander of the Pacific Fleet.

“Admiral Nimitz flew to Hawaii to assume command of the Pacific Fleet. He landed at Pearl Harbor on Christmas Eve, 1941 and found a spirit of despair, dejection, and defeat.

“On Christmas Day, Adm. Nimitz was given a boat tour of the destruction. Sunken battleships and navy vessels cluttered the waters everywhere. As the tour boat returned to dock, the young helmsman of the boat asked, “Well Admiral, what do you think after seeing all this destruction?”

“Admiral Nimitz’s reply shocked everyone within the sound of his voice. He said, “The Japanese made three of the biggest mistakes an attack force could ever make, or God was taking care of America. Which do you think it was?”

“Shocked and surprised, the young helmsman asked, “What do you mean by saying the Japanese made the three biggest mistakes an attack force ever made?” Nimitz responded:

“Mistake #1: The Japanese attacked on Sunday morning. Nine out of every ten crewmen of those ships were ashore on leave. If those same ships had been lured to sea and sunk out there, we would have lost 38,000 men instead of 3,800.

“Mistake #2: When the Japanese saw all those battleships lined in a row, they got so carried away sinking them, they failed to bomb our dry docks opposite those ships. If they had destroyed our dry docks, we would have had to tow every one of those ships to America to be repaired.

“As it is now, the ships are in shallow water and can be raised. One tug can pull them over to the dry docks. We can have them repaired and back out at sea by the time we could have towed them to America. And I already have crews ashore anxious to man those ships.

“Mistake #3: Every drop of fuel in the Pacific theater of war is in above ground storage tanks five miles away over that hill. One attack plane could have strafed those tanks and destroyed our fuel supply.

“That’s why I say the Japanese made three of the biggest mistakes an attack force could make or God was taking care of America.”

“Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?” Rom. 11:33-34

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.

An Atheist’s View On Life

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Recently I read this clever yet poignant way of contrasting an atheist’s view on life with that of a Christian. Some complete sentences below, reading both down and back up to the top, include more than one line. I think you’ll be able to figure out where the punctuation marks belong!

 

An Atheist’s View on Life

I will live my life according to these beliefs
God does not exist
It is just foolish to think
That there is a God with a cosmic plan
That an all-powerful God brings redemption and healing to the pain and suffering in the world
Is a comforting thought, however
It
Is only wishful thinking
People can do as they please without eternal consequences
The idea that
I am deserving of Hell
Because of sin
Is a lie meant to make me a slave to those in power
“The more you have, the happier you will be”
Our existence has no grand meaning or purpose
In a world with no God
There is freedom to be who I want to be
But with God
Everything is fine
It is ridiculous to think
I am lost and in need of saving

A Christian’s View on Life
(Now read this from bottom to top, beginning with “I am lost …”)

Author Unknown

If I were the Devil: Paul Harvey

Paul Harvey Credit:  Wikipedia

Paul Harvey
Credit: Wikipedia

Several years ago radio commentator Paul Harvey spoke this Warning for a Nation:

If I were the devil, I wouldn’t be happy until I had seized the ripest apple on the tree: thee. So I’d set about however necessary to take over the United States. I’d subvert the churches first. I’d begin with a campaign of whispers. And with the wisdom of a serpent, I’d whisper to you as I whispered to Eve: “Do as you please.”

To the young I would whisper that the Bible is a myth. I would convince them that man created God instead of the other way around. I would confide that what’s bad is good and what’s good is square. And the old I would teach to pray, after me: “Our Father, which art in Washington …”

And then I’d get organized. I’d educate authors in how to make lurid literature exciting so that anything else would appear dull and uninteresting. I’d threaten TV with dirtier movies and vice versa. I’d pedal narcotics to whom I could. I’d sell alcohol to ladies and gentlemen of distinction. I’d tranquilize the rest with pills.

If I were the devil I’d soon have families at war with themselves, churches at war with themselves, and nations at war with themselves, until each in its turn was consumed. And with promises of higher ratings I’d have mesmerizing media fanning the flames.

If I were the devil I would encourage schools to refine young intellects, but neglect to discipline emotions. Just let those run wild, until before you knew it, you’d have to have drug-sniffing dogs and metal detectors at every schoolhouse door.

Within a decade, I’d have prisons overflowing. I’d have judges promoting pornography. Soon I could evict God from the courthouse, then from the schoolhouse, and then from the houses of Congress. And in His own churches I would substitute psychology for religion and deify science. I would lure priests and pastors into misusing boys and girls and church money.

If I were the devil I’d make the symbol of Easter an egg and the symbol of Christmas a bottle.
If I were the devil I’d take from those who have and give to those who want it until I had killed the incentive of the ambitious. And what’ll you bet I couldn’t get whole states to promote gambling as the way to get rich?

I would caution against extremes, and hard work, and patriotism, and moral conduct. I would convince the young that marriage is old-fashioned, that swinging is more fun, that what you see on TV is the way to be. And thus I could undress you in public, and I could lure you into bed, with diseases for which there is no cure.

In other words, if I were the devil, I’d just keep right on doing what he’s doing!

Paul Harvey. Good day!

Jerry Kieschnick Signature

Dr. Gerald B. (Jerry) Kieschnick
One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism – Eph. 4:5
For previous issues of Perspectives go to www.jerrykieschnick.wordpress.com