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..." 

Sunday
Mar172013

GOD'S GRACING: MEETING MARGARET

You have to be careful about what you ask from Jesus.  Sometimes He takes you literally.  That happened to me in Äs, Norway in July, 1969.  I was 35 and had been actively searching for a wife since I was 22. I had prayed -- at least occasionally -- and begged God to send me a wife of His choosing -- and mine. However, I had not been passive in this quest.  I dated many women and dated a lot. 

Back in Cincinnati, Deanna and I had been going together for over a year.  It was clear to her that I liked her, but wasn't going to propose marriage.  So Deanna did an end run.  She wrote my Mother.  She and Mother corresponded, and they encouraged each other.

In July '69, my parents and I had a Scandanavian vacation.  As we drove into Äs (east of Oslo), Mother and I were talking about Deanna.  I made a deprecating remark.  Mother whirled around in the front seat and glared at me:  "Well, just what is it you want in a wife, anyway?"

Hurt and anger were in Mother's voice.  It was clear that Mom sympathized with Deanna, so my negative attitude hurt my Mother.  However, her question posed a reasonable challenge.  So, that evening at our bed and breakfast I wrote a prayer/poem that was a set of job specifications for my wife.  (I wish I could find that poem again.)  

The following summer, in 1970, the LORD answered my prayer for a wife.  Evidently, I neglected to request "a delightful wit and sense of humor" for her.  Margaret was of German heritage, and she found pratfalls funny. Otherwise, Margaret Heine was a marvel, who met all the specifications. And I met her like this –

The Wheatridge Foundation had awarded two years of funding to our Cincinnati inner-city congregation, Prince of Peace Lutheran Church.  The position was Staff Director for Community Development.  We needed a man, preferably African-American for the job. He needed to be a mature Christian and a skilled organizer. We'd been entitled to draw down the funds for several months, but had not found a suitable applicant after several interviews, so we hadn't touched the funds.

On a morning, early in July, 1970, I met with our Pastor, Bob Hullinger, and he tossed two resumes to me across his desk.  "Can you check these out for Staff Director?"  They were the resumes of two Lutheran Deaconesses.  I tossed them back.  "Bob, the last person we need on this job is a white woman."

"Jack, do you think I'm stupid?"

"No," I truthfully replied.

"Then why did I give you the resumes?"

I considered for several seconds, then snapped my fingers.  "Politics."

"Bingo."

So, I looked over the resumes:  One from Detroit, the other from Milwaukee.  The woman from Milwaukee had a Master of Arts in Sacred Theology from Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, and she had been the first dean of women at Concordia College - Milwaukee. She had also been the producer/director of many Christian plays at the College. Her resume caught my attention. Her name was Margaret Heine. (I never did contact the Deaconess from Detroit.)

That day, I called Margaret's current employer, Hope Lutheran Church in Milwaukee. Margaret was on vacation, visiting her grandmothers in Sylvan Grove, Kansas. I obtained the grandmothers' names and phone numbers. I contacted Margaret and made an appointment to meet her at Hope Lutheran Church, Milwaukee, 9 a.m., Monday morning, July 20.  I promised to mail her an information packet.

The packet was entitled "God's Hopes and Our Plans for Community Development in Over-the-Rhine". A ministry consultant at Missouri Synod Headquarters in St. Louis called it the best mission statement he'd ever read from a U.S. congregation.

To Margaret, the packet was a revelation (she told me later). After a few years in working with Lutheran pastors, she had given up hope of finding a congregation with committed, creative, caring ministries. And here it was! And she might be able to get the job! So, she looked forward to the 20th.

And so did I.  Uncharacteristically, I arrived a few minutes early for the appointment.  I drove a rented Mercury Montego.  The first view that Margaret had of me was through a church office window.  I used that window for a mirror and licked spit on my fingers.  Then I plastered down a wayward shock of hair.

We met, and I took her to tea at Shoney's.  I liked her right away.  She was bright, articulate, and an excellent listener.  She was nearly as tall as I, and she walked vigorously.  I had to stride to keep up.  She asked insightful questions.  She was lovely, and I was particularly attracted by her auburn hair.  I hadn't realized before how much I liked red hair.

(Of course, the hair coloring was a deception that entrapped me.  It was a rinse.  Margaret's hair was really mousy brown.)

Christian Dior has said that "zest is the secret of beauty", and Margaret had zest.  I saw that on the day we met, and I saw it again and again over the next 26 years.  In any gathering, Margaret was usually more alive than anyone else in the room.  And her vivacity comes through in group photos.

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That first morning, we stayed at Shoney's for an hour and a half.  By then, I was sure that she was not the right person for the Staff Director job.  However, I had another possibility in mind.  I asked if there was a park nearby where we could stroll.

As we strolled, I managed to work St. Thomas Aquinas into the conversation and gave some highlights from his life. 

Margaret later told me how my comments about St. Thomas had impressed her.  She did not want to become a pastor's wife, but she did want her husband to be a devout Christian.  She hoped he would be the spiritual head of household, with at least as much Christian learning as she had.  And here was a man who, at least in some areas, knew more! 

She was starting to see me as a gift from God, because she had resigned herself at 31 never to marry.  She never expected to find a man she admired who would also love her.  And indeed, finding your soulmate is a great gracing from God.

Margaret and me in 1990

Margaret later revised her excellent initial impression of me when she discovered that on July 20, 1979, my current reading happened to be The Quiet Light:  A Novel About Saint Thomas Aquinas by Louis De Wohl.  As she observed again and again during our marriage, my normal m.o. is to babble about my current reading.

Oh, well.  We were mutually deceived -- auburn hair and Thomas Aquinas.  "Things too amazing for me . . . the way of a ship on the sea, and the way of a man with a maid."   Proverbs 30:20.

In the park there was a pond with paddleboats, I was on the verge of renting one, when I had a burst of inspiration.  I suggested that instead of a paddleboat, "Let's rent a sailboat and joyride on Lake Michigan."  She agreed.  She had wisely taken the whole day off.

So, I drove her home, and I went back to the YMCA. We both changed into boating clothes. I picked her up and we drove to the waterfront. On arrival I was dismayed to see two flags being hoisted -- twin red squares with black squares in the center:  Small craft warning. The wind was more than brisk. Even the trunks of trees in the park were bending, and a large American flag snapped at a right angle to the flagpole -- signs that we had wind gusts in excess of 30 knots. No sailboats are allowed on the lake when the small craft warning is posted.

The LORD truly cares about us and plans our paths far better than we can ourselves. Did He send us heavy winds that afternoon? If so, he made it possible for Margaret and me to marry. We stayed ashore – with great results, as you shall see. But, if we had gone sailing that day, Margaret would probably have never married me.

Twelve years later, we did go sailing on Eastfork Lake, 30 miles from Cincinnati.  Skippering a boat, I behaved normally and issued commands to my wife and our three children so each could contribute to the handling and speed of the boat.  A skipper has to take charge and have orders obeyed instantly, for the safety of both the crew and the craft.

Margaret didn't see it that way.  As she told friends later, "We got into that sailboat, and instantly my normally agreeable husband turned into Captain Bligh." Her feminist sensibilities could not tolerate a man barking orders. So you see, that's why the LORD had the small craft warning up in Milwaukee on July 20, 1970.

With sailing forbidden, we made other plans.  She would introduce me to some people she knew in Milwaukee, and I would introduce her to Kathy Bird in West Bend, Wisconsin – a 60 mile round trip. Kathy, 15 years younger than I, was a bubbly sprite who, the previous year, had been a Prince of Peace Corps volunteer at our Cincinnati congregation, Prince of Peace Lutheran.

So, I met her Milwaukee friends.  We drove to West Bend.  Margaret met Kathy, and we both met Kathy's friends.

As the day went on, I realized that we were praying with everyone we met. I was amazed. This had never happened to me before.  I realized that Margaret indeed was a remarkable person, beloved of the LORD.

A year later, as we reflected on our first day together, I discovered that she had the same experience and was thinking similar thoughts about me.  How's that for the LORD's excellence in engineering?

However, three times that day, I did surprise Margaret spiritually.  We met people who had ailments, and I prayed for Jesus to heal them – with the expectation that they would be healed.  Being trained as a Lutheran Deaconess had not prepared her for such faith in action.

It was a long day.  I drove her home at 1:30. 

That's 1:30 a.m.

Margaret lived in a large house on the north side of Milwaukee with five other Lutheran women. As she came into the house, her younger sister, Cristel met her and said,

"You're not going to get the job, are you?"

"Well, I don't know, but he seemed very interested."

"Sure, but he's interested in you.  Nobody gets home from a job interview after midnight."

Margaret – who was leery of men – protested.  She didn't want to admit, even to herself, that I might be interested in her as a marriage prospect.   She later told me about Cristel's remarks.  I admire anyone who figures out the game, so I have esteemed Cristel ever since.  

Margaret and I were married 104 days later.

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This tale is too long to tell at one sitting.  So, in successive weeks, I'll post "Courting Margaret" and "Marrying Margaret".

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Purpose of this blog is to compile several books for my grandchildren to read in 25 years.

Copyright  ©  2013 by Jack Towe

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