Why Leadings?

Not to lead, but to be led            -- by the Holy Spirit.

See Leader, Servant, or Slave? in the section below, "Walking the Walk".

Jack in Denali National Park, 2012.

God's Wrath

Why was Sodom destroyed? Ezekiel tells us in chapter 16, verse 49: "This was the sin of your sister, Sodom: Pride, full-ness of bread, and abundance of idleness. Neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy."

That's also why Jerusalem was destroyed.

And now, with greed as our national virtue, what hope is there for the United States of America? We are afflicted by imperialistic pride, obesity, and entertainment addiction, and we are all called to do our part to "strengthen the hand of the poor and needy".

"Strengthen the hand" is the King James wording. Modern translations say "help the poor and needy." And there's a world of difference between the two. Helping the poor = as little as throwing some cash in the Salvation Army bucket at Christmas time. That's charity. It's doing for, not doing with.

My Grandmother was right about charity. On a below-zero day, she went out on the back porch with a skillet to throw hot grease on the back-yard snow. She shivered as she re-entered the kitchen and said, "Wooooh, colder than charity."

Strengthening the hand is much different. We get personally involved with another person who needs help, and we work with her or him to get the needed help. That's risky. You're vulnerable. It takes prayer, time and patience. You need knowledge and wisdom from the LORD. There are great rewards, however. You get a brother or sister.

Strengthening the hand is great work for our churches -- which we ignore far more often than we perform. Why? Because we're afflicted with the Ameri-can curse of individualism. Christians are to be a tribe -- a tribe that takes care of each other. In Galatians 6:16, Paul calls us "the Israel of God" -- the new 13th tribe.

Jesus said, "The poor you shall always have with you." He didn't mean that as a curse -- the notion that the poor are an inevi-table nuisance and expense, to be hidden in the slums. Rather, He was saying, "You shall always be among the poor."

When you strengthen hands, you fulfill Deuteronomy 15:4-5: "However, there need be no poor people among you, for in the land the LORD your God is giving you to possess as your inheritance, he will richly bless you, if only you fully obey the LORD your God . . ." It's a glorious responsibility and promise.

And how do prosperous Americans fulfill that promise? Generally, by making sure they have no contact with people who are poor -- and we have been that way from our beginnings in the 17th century. Early villages in Massachusetts solved the problem by out-lawing poor people. Today, we deal with the same problem by confining the poor in urban reservations, our slums.

As the Supreme Court Bailiff says at the beginning of each session, "God save the United States of America..." 

Monday
Mar252013

GOD'S GRACING: COURTING MARGARET

Margaret and I met on Monday morning, July 20, 1970, at Hope Lutheran Church, Milwaukee, Wisconsin. As I wrote in “Meeting Margaret” last week.  We spent the next 16½ hours together. 

Next morning I rose early and took the Milwaukee Clipper to Muskegon, Michigan.  My parents met me at the pier. We had planned to spend the next two weeks vacationing together in Michigan.  We had all been born and raised in Michigan.  They were living in Winter Park, Florida.  I was in Cincinnati.  We were delighted to be back in Michigan.

We drove north to Charlevoix, where my parents had been editors and publishers of the Charlevoix Courier from 1946 to 1949 while I was in Junior Hi.  We spent several days at a friend’s guest cabin on Lake Charlevoix.  It was Thursday evening.  I kept going into the basement rec room in the main house and calling Milwaukee.  I made five calls on my charge card over a four hour period.

Disturbing the Hosts

This process angered my father because he was sure I was disturbing our hosts.  I had cleared the process with the hosts and assured him it was OK.  He was not assured.

Recall that Margaret was living communally in a large house with six women.  Margaret was out for the evening.  She had taken the Cross Lutheran Youth Group to see As You Like It.  By the time she returned home, the women were in a tizzy.  In that group, Margaret at 31 was the elderly spinster.  And now she had persistent phone calls from a MAN.

At 11:15 that evening Margaret and I talked by phone.  She told me about her evening at the play.  I asked her for a dinner date on Tuesday evening, July 28.  She accepted.  Under the circumstances, my parents were also kindly in accepting that I would skip out on our vacation six days early.

Six a.m. Flight

In the meantime, vacation continued with my parents.  We went to Mackinac Island and on to Sault Stainte Marie.  On Monday, the 27th, Dad got to fulfill a lifelong wish and we rode the Algoma Central Railroad from the Canadian Soo to Thunder Bay, Ontario, and back.  Very scenic -- along the east shore of Lake Superior. Next morning, Dad and I were up at 4:45.  He drove me to the Canadian Soo airport, and I boarded the local airline at 6:00 a.m. for the flight to Milwaukee.  We had stops in Pelston and Grand Rapids.  I deplaned in Milwaukee a little after 9 a.m.

My date with Margaret was scheduled for six, so I had nine hours to check into Milwaukee’s excellent YMCA, rent a car, and research the city.  In the Army I had researched 20 European cities, so I had standard procedures.  First, I scanned a post card rack so I’d know the tourist sights. I bought a city map. Then I bought a Mobil Guide and researched restaurants. 

French Dining by a Lake

I phoned our reservations to a highly recommended French restaurant next to a lake in the suburbs. Then I checked out local history and drove around the principal streets.  By 6 p.m., I was prepped.

Margaret’s lively eyes thrilled me as I met her at the communal house.  We went to dinner.  As I expected, she was a brilliant conversationalist.  We talked of many topics.  Margaret was a Lutheran Deaconess; I was a Lutheran layman; we were both devout; we were both sensible activists in our faith.

I learned more about her terrific background.  While working for Maryland Lutheran Social Services, she had (against her boss’ advice) been in the March on Washington with Martin Luther King, Jr.  However, she and her fellow Lutherans didn’t know procedure.  They didn’t realize that at Baptist events, the big message comes last.  So, they left just in time to miss Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech.

Reaching 30,000

As the first Dean of Women at Concordia College, Margaret was director / producer for a series of musicals and dramas.  They toured the region and played mostly in Lutheran high school auditoriums and gyms. She estimated that they reached 30,000 people through theatricals.

With an expectation of marriage to another man, she had resigned her good job at Concordia. When the engagement fell through, she was unemployed and took the temp job of Secretary at Hope Lutheran Church.(This was actually good news to me, because she was free to leave Milwaukee.)

After dinner we walked around the pond, and it was easy and natural to take her hand as we walked. Memory fails me on details, but we must have talked about dancing.  A good Lutheran girl from Kansas and Colorado, Margaret had little experience with dancing.  So, on the way back downtown we stopped at a Methodist Church parking lot, and I showed her the basics of the lindy.

“We’re Looking for a Safe House”

Then she suggested that we go to The Safe House, a Milwaukee night club. Sounded good to me. We went to the front door, and a man slid open a panel like it was a speakeasy.  Margaret said the password, “We’re looking for a safe house.”  The man opened the door.  We were led to a table for two in a nook, and we were separated from the room by a beaded curtain.  There was music, but no dance floor. (That disappointed me.) So, I taught Margaret hand dancing.  It was good training.  Twenty-six years later, when she had cancer, we could still hand dance.

I guess it was the following evening that we first kissed and I taught her to dance.  Our musical selection was the LP Missa Luba, a rhythmic African mass.  While we lindyed in the living room, the other women graciously stayed in their rooms upstairs.  Margaret and I were delighted to discover that we were both passionate people.

This is my favorite picture of Margaret.  It was taken at least 20 years after we married, but it is typical of her. When she came into a room, she lit it up. And she was likely to be the most outgoing person there – the one most alive.  It shows in this picture of Margaret with three other members of the Over-the-Rhine Steel Drum Band.

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That week, during the days she worked as Secretary at Hope Church, and I did organizing in Milwaukee. In particular, I organized a Holy Spirit gathering at the communal house for Friday evening. Now, I’m a courteous, thoughtful person.  I’m sure I asked permission before scheduling the meeting, but Margaret insisted for 27 years that I scheduled the event without asking.  Inconceivable.  But, maybe she was right.

Anyway, on Friday evening, the President of the Milwaukee Chapter of the Full Gospel Businessmen’s Fellowship arrived, along with two other gentlemen.  We had a seminar on the Holy Spirit, with lots of questions, lots of examples from Scripture.

Already Baptized in the Holy Spirit

They wisely pointed out to this Lutheran gathering that we had all been baptized in the Holy Spirit in baptism and at confirmation.  At confirmation, we received the laying on of hands and prayers that they be filled with the Holy Spirit.  All we had to do was step out in faith, trusting in the LORD to give us the gifts we needed for building up His church.

The result? Two weeks later, at a weekend retreat, Margaret received the overflow of the Holy Spirit. Quietly and easily she began speaking in her new prayer language. She joyfully phoned me with the news.

She could get away for a few days in September, so I invited her to Cincinnati. She accepted. I mailed her a ticket, and told her she could stay with a woman friend from Prince of Peace Church. (At this time, I acted as if money were no problem. I was the Manager of Equal Employment Opportunity Programs at General Electric’s jet engine plant north of Cincinnati.  But, money was a problem.)

Extraordinary Conversation

She was due to fly into the Greater Cincinnati Airport at 5:10 p.m. Tuesday evening.  The Airport is in Northern Kentucky, south of the Ohio River.  On the previous Thursday, the following extraordinary conversation took place between me and my boss, Jack Mason.  He called me into his office.

MASON     I just got a call from the New York office.  They want you to give a pitch on the hourly employee orientation program you designed.

TOWE       When?

MASON     Tuesday morning at Crotonville-on-the-Hudson.

TOWE     (Makes no response. Gets up and closes the door. Sits)  Jack, I can’t do it. There’s a wonderful woman flying from Milwaukee on Tuesday, and I think I’m going to propose to her.

MASON     What time’s her plane arrive?

TOWE       5:10 in the afternoon.

MASON     (Thinks for a bit, then asks:)  If you leave this plant at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, can you be 100% sure you’ll get to the airport, find parking and be at the right concourse at 5:10 p.m. to greet her?

TOWE       No, not 100% sure.  Maybe 90%.

MASON     If you leave at 3:30?

TOWE       Maybe 95%.

MASON     You’d have to leave here at 3 in the afternoon to be 100% sure.

TOWE       Even then it’s only 98 or 99%.  There could be a wreck on the I-75 bridge.

MASON     Yes, and even if you make the trip with no problems, you’ll arrive sweaty and frazzled.

TOWE       I suppose –

MASON    Sit back and relax for a minute while I give you an alternate scenario. Ever been to Crotonville? GE’s war college.

TOWE       No.

MASON     A wonderful place.  Ever had a sauna?

TOWE       No.

MASON     There’s a sauna, a swimming pool, an exercise room.  It’s a luxury hotel, among other things.

TOWE       But –

MASON     (Holds up his hand for silence.)  Now, we’ll get you on the 1:30 flight Monday for LaGuardia.  You’ll be in at 4:05, and you’ll be met by the Crotonville limo.  You’ll be there in time for dinner.  Have the steak of your choice.  Relax in the evening, watch a movie, swim, take a sauna.  Get a great night’s sleep.

TOWE       But I gotta meet --

MASON     (Holds up his hand again.)  Tuesday morning, you’ll have an excellent breakfast.  And then – I’ll see that you’re first on the program – you’ll be done by 9:15.  You’ll catch the 10 o’clock limo to LaGuardia and be on the flight to Cincinnati at 11:50. You’ll arrive at 2:35. (Speaking quietly, but firmly.) You have a better chance of meeting your beloved flying from New York City than you do driving from this plant!

TOWE       Jack, that’s an impressive analysis.  Thank you.

MASON     You’ll do it?

TOWE       Yes.

MASON     And there are fringe benefits. With nearly three hours available, you can take care of necessities. If needed, get a shoeshine, a haircut or a shave. Definitely, buy flowers. When you greet her, you’ll be cool, fresh and relaxed.

Slick Management

Well, that was the slickest managerial maneuver I ever experienced.  And the amazing part was, Jack Mason was not a gifted manager.  But, that Thursday morning, he had an anointing.

Everything worked as Jack had scheduled.  I met Margaret, and we embraced joyfully.  I took her to dinner at the Gourmet Room – five stars in the Mobile Guide.  I think we had Chateaubriand.  I know that for an appetizer, we had escargot. (snails)  We were not impressed.

I’m sure that at dinner I told her about my most memorable meal – on the Piazza Nuvona in Rome when I was introduced to cannelloni.  (Margaret hadn’t heard of cannelloni either.)

Four Hours a Day in a Bug

She was with me in Cincinnati from Tuesday evening through Sunday afternoon.  On Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, we breakfasted together, then she rode with me to work (25 to 35 minutes on I-75), drove backdowntown, met me again for lunch, and picked me up at 5 in the evening. (Think about it. That was four hours a day for her in my VW Beetle.)

At noon, we lunched at the picnic grounds of the nearby mega-church.  She was a serious vegetarian when we courted, so I subjected myself by joining her in eating lettuce and almonds at lunch.  However, I was spared on Thursday noon.  Our office crowd went to Sorrentos for lunch and Margaret joined us.  After dinner, Margaret left to drive back downtown.  As she walked away, my secretary said, “Jack, do you realize that Margaret has gorgeous legs?”  “Zat so?” I replied.  “I hadn’t noticed.”  I was lying, of course.

Towe Family Tradition

There is a tradition for the men of our family, and I followed my Dad’s example. Dad vowed, along with two fraternity brothers, that when they proposed, they would not do it in the evening. They’d do it in broad daylight so they wouldn’t con themselves by moonlight. Dad went even farther. On a bitterly cold day, he proposed at noon in his Model-T by driving ElDean Benninghoff out on a frozen lake.  Whenever she told about it later, she claimed she said yes immediately just so he’d drive back to shore before the ice broke.

Well, I did propose to Margaret on Friday noon, but without duress.  I just slipped off the picnic-table seat onto my right knee and said, “Margaret, will you marry me?”  She considered for a little and replied, “Yes, I will.”

No Good Reason to Say No

In the years following when she told about my proposal, she related, “I said yes because I couldn’t think of any good reason to say no.”

That Friday, she left me at the plant, went back to my apartment, prepared dinner, and drove back to the plant to get me.  We drove home, and she served dinner:  Cannelloni.  Delicious.

Margaret was an amazing catch – she was not only a brilliant and passionate woman with a Master of Arts in Sacred Theology, she could also cook. In one afternoon she taught herself to make first-rate cannelloni. And, as I discovered in the months ahead, she also baked marvelous bread.

There’s much else I could tell about our courtship – how we bought our new Toyota – how we bought our bed – but this article is already too long, so I’ll stop.

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If you think about this courtship, you’ll realize two things.  Margaret was usually a couple of steps behind me and was rushing to catch up.  Also, I was doing a fair imitation of Cary Grant.  I had money, leisure time, was quite sure of myself, and was fascinated by Margaret.  I was wrapped up in the wonder of it all.  I was 36 years-old, and the LORD had finally blessed me with a marvelous woman.  I eagerly looked forward to marriage. 

More later on her disillusionment.

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“Courting” is an 18th and 19th century word. But, I can’t find a 21st century word that describes the process. We weren’t dating or going steady. For three months we wanted to be together whenever we could. If we weren't together, we talked by phone every evening. We found each other’s presence exciting. And we were so enthused about marriage that we set the date for November 1, 1970. Whatever you call it, that’s what we were doing.

Next:  Marrying Margaret

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Purpose of this blog is to compile a book for my grandchildren to read in 25 years.

Copyright © 2013 by Jack Towe

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