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..." 



Margaret's and my wedding was scheduled for the afternoon of Sunday, November 1, 1970 – All Saints Day – at Hope Lutheran Church in Milwaukee.

I took four vacation days from GE before the wedding, and five after.  On Tuesday, October 27, Ron Schlitler and I drove to Milwaukee in my new Toyota.  Ron had been the assistant pastor at First Lutheran, three blocks south of Prince of Peace. Currently, he directed a special project for the University of Cincinnati. He shepherded youth from Over-the-Rhine and the West End in their UC enrollments.  Except for the wedding party, Ron was going to be my only guest at the wedding.

The next few days were a blur.  Margaret arranged for me to stay with a family from Hope Lutheran. We had one relaxing evening with the Concordia College choral director and his wife.  And the rest was hard work.

On Thursday, Margaret and I cleaned out her room and packed all her belongings in a U-Haul trailer. Actually, the correct verb was "stuffed".  No cubic inch was left unfilled.  We finished at 11:30 p.m.

Friday morning, we met with the Pastor of Cross Lutheran for marriage counseling. (Comment: Do this early in your engagement, not just before the wedding.)  The Pastor spotted that we had significant differences on finances and free time.  (More on that later)  However, more than half our time with the Pastor was spent with our advising him on problems within the Cross congregation.  

Friday afternoon, our four parents arrived as well as my Aunt Marian.  Paul and Hulda Heine were originally from Sylvan Grove, Kansas, and now lived in Garden City, Kansas.  Paul was a farmer and a skilled carpenter. Hulda had a beauty shop at one side of their house.  My parents, Larry and ElDean, were from Michigan, but now lived in Flordia.  They had been newspaper editors and publishers, as well as newspaper brokers.  My Aunt Marian had run the Frock and Bonnet Shop, before becoming the Registrar of the Dental School at the University of Michigan.  The five of them got along fine.

We were processing.And we took them to a palace. A man-sion, actually. On the shore of Lake Michigan. Margaret engineered this elegant arrangement. Concordia College had acquired this mansion and grounds as the new campus for the school. The mansion was currently vacant. So, our parents had luxurious accommodations. And we had this huge kitchen, butler's pantry, and dining room for our rehearsal dinner.

Saturday morning, the day before the wedding, we had tasks. One was a ses-sion at the Hope Lutheran office to run off 300 copies of the 16-page wedding liturgical booklet. The Pastor kept conferring with Margaret and me about wedding details, so the job was left primarily to my Dad.  Well, he'd spent years running print shops as well as newspapers, so he was up to the task. The mimeograph didn't run well. It was dirty. So he cleaned it and produced a fine booklet.

Saturday evening was the rehearsal and rehearsal dinner. The theory was that the other five women in the residence would prepare the dinner. They hadn't done much preparation. My Mother sized up the situation and asked permission to help. Graciously, she took charge of the event and made it a memorable, delicious meal. She and Aunt Marian also paid for a large share of the provisions. Aunt Marian was her purchasing agent.

There was quite a crowd at dinner: Four pastors and their families. Some choir members from two churches. Two lucifers and four banner carriers for the wedding party. Several Heines – Margaret's sisters from Milwaukee and Chicago and their families. And some of Margaret's other friends. 

Margaret wore a gorgeous black and white floor-length African gown that evening with a tan cowl.  Dad took an excellent picture of her.  She was never more beautiful.  I still have the photo – somewhere in 24 book boxes that I've yet to unpack from my move to Seattle.

Dad also took Margaret aside and asked a question I'd not thought to ask.  "Do you approve of spanking as a way of disciplining children?"  She said yes, and he gave her a big hug.  (In retirement, Dad taught school, and he was disgusted with children who had grown up without discipline.)

We were in the receiving line.Sunday – wedding day – I remember nothing of the morn-ing. I suppose we went to church. The wedding was at three in the afternoon.

Now here's a problem for you. We had a wedding and sit-down dinner with over 300 guests. Four pastors conducted the wedding.  We had two choirs. Margaret had a wedding gown made especially for the occasion. We had a huge wedding cake. And, of course, gold wedding rings.

We were able to do all this for less than $200.  How?

It only takes chutzpah, which my dictionary defines as "shameless audacity".

+  We had a pot-luck wedding dinner.

+  We paid the four pastors by giving them books.  That is, Margaret and I culled the books which our libraries duplicated, and we distributed these superfluous volumes among the four men.

+  Margaret made her own white wedding dress – a mini-skirt – because she wanted a dress both for the wedding and for other occasions.

+  The Heines brought the wedding cake from Garden City, Kansas – from the bakery which did the wedding cakes for all ten Heine siblings.

+  As  recall, the plain gold bands were $40 each.

Through all this, you'll notice how our parents were key players in making the wedding happen well.  We gave them hearty thanks.

Three Pastors, Two Lucifers, and Us. And you thought I was kidding about the mini wedding dress.It was a grand wedding at Hope Lutheran. An hour and a half. Margaret, among her other skills, was a liturgical scholar, and she wrote the liturgy. She pulled out all the stops for a huge celebration.  The Hope Lutheran choir was there, as well as the youth choir from Cross Lutheran Church.  So, we had a traditional German congregation mixing with an African-American congregation. The youth choir was lively and sang two songs. One was "Oh Happy Day", which included the line, "He taught me how to fight and pray."

We processed in:  Two banner bearers, the two lucifers (not devils, light bearers), the four pastors, her parents, my parents and aunt, the matron of honor, the best man, Margaret and me, and then two more banner bearers. The banner bearers and lucifers wore Fransiscan robes.

The Old Testament lesson was read by the Roman Catholic priest who was a protest leader during Milwaukee's black revolution in the '60s. Kathy Bird from West Bend read the New Testament lesson. Among the pastors, one conducted the liturgy, one read the Gospel and married us, one preached, and one celebrated the Eucharist. (The Lord's Supper) The Pastors wore flaming, glorious red, white, and gold chasubles – Roman Catholic vestments for All Saints Day.  Margaret had borrowed them from RC friends.

Margaret and I sat in the front row, and it was like watching a three-ring circus -- from a seat in the center ring.  Margaret had arranged this elegant celebration, which caused me wonderment:  "And to think I'm the occasion for all this."

The preacher began his sermon with an explanation.  "A wedding on All Saints day doesn't give much time for sermon preparation.  I'd planned to gather my thoughts between worship this morning and the wedding this afternoon.  However, I spent that time counseling and comforting a relative whose marriage is breaking up. So, I'm unprepared. Please bear with me as I wing it."

On our wedding day, Margaret and I were both sickly and exhausted. During the week, we had memorized our vows. And she spoke hers perfectly. We should have given the marrying pastor a copy of the script – because I was groggy and flubbed my lines. Margaret had to prompt me.

Speaking of liturgy, in America we have an extensive wedding liturgy, a set of pagan customs.  We ignored nearly all of them:  She received no engagement ring.  I saw my bride before the wedding.  We processed and sat together.  There was no boquet or garter throwing.  No mutual cake feeding.  No rice throwing.  But, otherwise we were traditional.  We pledged to be mutually submitted and to make Jesus Christ the center of our marriage. 

The wedding cake that travelled 745 miles.After the wedding, we went to the under-croft (basement) for the huge wedding dinner. (I'd only been a Missouri-Synod Lutheran for seven years, so I hadn't yet realized that a church service with a dinner is the normal way for Lutherans to have a good time.)

My only memory from the dinner was the wedding party sitting at an elevated head table. Seated with us were the Matron of Honor, who had been Margaret's room-mate at Concordia Seminary. They had been the only women in the school, and both received a degree of Master of Arts in Sacred Theology.

My Best Man was Dave Krueckeberg. Dave had roomed with me in a flat next to Prince of Peace in 1967, my first year in Cincinnati. At the time, Dave was a Vicar.  Since then and even now, he's a Pastor who conducts ministry in the backstretch at racetracks, particularly Arlington in Chicago.

Friend Ron from Cincinnati spoke to me about our sitting above the guests.  "This elevation, this glorification of the bride, is out of step with the rest of your wedding."  I agreed, but pointed out that I wasn't consulted.

The rest of our wedding day is a blur, except for three memories.

We drove to the south edge of Milwaukee, near Mitchell field, and we stopped at a Walgreen's because we both needed Chap Stick.  When we returned to the car, we discovered that we'd locked all four sets of car keys inside.

So, I went back in the store, borrowed a hammer, and busted the left, rear cozy wing made of curved and tinted glass.

No problem, I figured.  The next day we went to the Toyota dealer in Racine.  We were shocked to learn that our Toyota was so new that the factory in Japan wouldn't send parts for at least six weeks.  So for two months, we drove our car in Cincinnati with a cozy wing covered by a plastic sheet fastened with duct tape. But the LORD protected us.  No one broke into the car.

Second memory.  We went into our room at the Holiday Inn.  I set the luggage, and then Margaret gave me a gift. I was embarrassed. I had no gift for her. I unwrapped her thoughtful present, and it was a large firry Snoopy doll.  Why Snoopy?  Because he’s an enthusiastic dancer.  It was Margaret’s thoughtful beginning to the joys of our marriage.

Third memory.  That evening, Margaret emerged from the bathroom in a lovely white peignoir.  We cuddled in bed, prayed a blessing together over our marriage, and agreed that we’re too tired for fun and games tonight.  Next morning was another matter.


Next:  Becoming One


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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