Calling a New Pastor

Monday, September 30, 2013

My church is in the process of calling a new senior pastor. The Call Committee will present three names to the Voters Assembly tonight, and we will vote to issue a call to one of them.

The process in the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod is both similar to and different than the call process I experienced growing up in the United Presbyterian Church. In both cases, the congregation gets to decide who they want to call, and the minister gets to accept or reject it. And both denominations rely on God’s guidance for the decisions to extend and accept (or reject) the call. But the process in the Presbyterian Church gave the voting members of the congregation a chance to hear a sermon and talk to a candidate before voting, while the LCMS is concerned that too much vetting will turn it into a secular hiring process.

Still, the process revived memories of my own experiences, and I wanted to share a couple of them with you.

When I was growing up, the search committee came to my father’s current church, heard him preach, and talked with him after the service. If they liked him better than they liked any of the other candidates, they asked him to come to their church on a Sunday morning to preach. Afterwards, the members of the congregation who stayed for the meeting would ask him questions before voting. Of course, we would not be there during the discussion and the vote. That’s when someone usually took us over to see what Presbyterians call the manse (a parsonage to some denominations) where we would live if Daddy became the minister of that church. I think there may have been a potluck in between the service and the meeting at some of the churches, but I don’t remember for sure.

Two things stand out for me. The first is what I referred to as Daddy’s “candidating” sermon. He always used the same one. I liked the sermon but thought it was a little misleading. Daddy was an intellectual who liked to explain what the Bible meant in the original Greek or Hebrew and whose sermons were filled with Biblical history and geography. That took the first two-thirds of his usual sermons, with the last third as practical application. His candidating sermon (“Fishing Season is Open”) was more folksy than normal. If people were misled, however, I never heard them complain about it.

The other strong memory is when Daddy candidated in Schoolcraft, Michigan at what he hoped would be (and was) his last congregation. Mama did not like the manse (pictured above), which was poorly insulated. But the biggest problem was the bedrooms. They were large but there were only two of them for my parents, my two brothers, and myself. And neither room was quite large enough to divide into two. I don’t know how my father talked my mother into it, but he accepted the call. It was a good decision: my parents were happy with the church and the church was happy with them. (Unfortunately, I had to share a bedroom with my parents. Fortunately, I was in college and only home summers and holidays.)

At least our new minister will get to chose his own home.

Never Safe

Monday, September 23, 2013

When I heard there had been a shooting at the Washington Naval Yard, my first reaction was a selfish one: I was thankful that it didn’t happen at Newport News, Virginia, where my son’s ship—the USS Abraham Lincoln—is in dry dock for refueling and overhauling.

When people hear that John is in the service, they think of danger. When I tell them he is assigned to a ship that is being refurbished and may not even go to sea until his enlistment is up, they think he is safe. But last Monday’s shootings and 9-11 both remind us that death can come at any time and any place.

For me, September 11, 2001 began in a conference room in Chicago waiting for the weekly management meeting to start. As usual, we had a video hook-up with our New York office, located only a few blocks from the World Trade Center. Around 8:00 a.m. Chicago time, the manager of our New York office was called out of the room. When Joe returned to the video conference, he said his building was being evacuated and left abruptly.

At that time I was flying to New York on business every couple of months. My company held two Board meetings a year at Windows on the World at the top of Tower 1, and I sometimes browsed the shops in the concourse. So I could have been there.

Our building in Chicago was close to the Sears Tower, so it was also evacuated. I got home just after noon and sent an e-mail to my family reassuring them that I was not in New York. But it wasn’t until I got a frantic call from my daughter, who was away at college, that I realized I should have used the telephone rather than just sending an e-mail.

Yes, death can come anywhere, at any time. The important thing is to be ready.

But what does it take to be ready?

Romans 10:9 says: “That if you confess with your mouth, 'Jesus is Lord,' and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, You will be saved.” (NIV)

Faith in Christ is the only way to heaven. Referring to Christ, Acts 4:12 puts it this way: “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” (NIV)

I feel for the family members and friends of the victims of the Washington shooting and for the family of the shooter. But I am also concerned for the victims themselves. I hope they were ready for death when it came.

From Pen to Typewriter to Windows 8

Monday, September 16, 2013

My laptop went into hospice care last week. It's an essential tool for my writing career, and I was terrified that it would die at the most inconvenient moment. So I replaced it.
I exaggerate, of course. A computer isn’t an essential tool. Shakespeare wrote with pen and ink and Hemingway used an old-fashioned typewriter, yet they both managed to produce master works that are still selling today. And when I’m away from my computer, I use pen and ink, too. So a working laptop isn’t a necessity.
But it is a huge convenience.
Typewriters were the technological preference of most individuals when I was in college. They were imperfect time-savers. To make corrections, I used an eraser, whiteout, or correction tape. Not very professional looking. So I had two alternatives: (1) hire someone else to type my papers or (2) type each page until it came out error-free. I was too cheap (or too poor) to do the first, so I chose the time-consuming second option.
Then there was that back-up copy. Before the invention of carbon paper, it was done manually. I used carbon paper, but that had its problems, too. Correcting the copy was a messy job that often left an unreadable blob where the error had been. Thank goodness for the invention of the photocopy machine.
I’m sure it was even worse in Shakespeare’s time. Imagine re-copying everything in long hand.
Now the computer saves our changes and spits out back-up copies in seconds. Sometimes it even makes changes automatically—whether we want them or not. (I’m a big fan of turning off most of the auto-correct options.)
In my 30 or 40 years of computer ownership, I’ve progressed from DOS to various versions of Windows, including Vista, XP, and, most recently, Windows 7. Now I have to get used to Windows 8.
New technologies can be daunting, and we have to be careful not to rely on them. But I can’t imagine going back to my typewriter days.

The First Americans

Monday, September 9, 2013

I come from good American stock, but it is not old American stock. My ancestors didn’t immigrate from England and Germany and Canada until the 1800s.

The Native Americans were here hundreds of years before that.

Roland and I ended our vacation at Cahokia Mounds near Collinsville, Illinois. Cahokia Mounds is an ancient city built by tribes of the Mississippian culture. From approximately 700 to 1200 A.D., they were the North American version of the Mayans and the Aztecs. Like Americans today, the Mississippians were a diverse population: farmers, craftsmen, fishers, hunters, and traders. With a population between ten and twenty thousand, Cahokia was the largest city north of Mexico. The picture at the top of this post is an artist’s rendering of what Cahokia may have looked like.

Unfortunately, the Mississippian cities did not stand up to weather and intruders as well as the Mayan and Aztec cities did. This is because people tend to use the building materials that are most readily available. In Central and South America, that was stone. Here, it was dirt. So although the Mississippian structures were just as large, they were neither as impressive nor as long-lasting. Still, some did survive. The second picture shows what archaeologists have named “Monks Mound,” which is the largest structure at Cahokia. Those are stairs climbing its face, and there are plenty of them.

Although the Mississippians disappeared around 1200, they were the forefathers of the Native Americans who populated the continent when the white man arrived. Native Americans like the Shawnees.

In the middle of our vacation, we stopped at the Shawnee Indian Mission in Fairway, Kansas. It consisted of three brick buildings, one of which is shown in the third picture. The Mission was a boarding school (1839-1862) founded to “Americanize” the Shawnee children to help them fit into the white man’s world. Apparently the Shawnees themselves were split on whether that was good or bad, but on the whole I think it was a shame that those children lost their cultural identity.

As we look back on the history of this great country, let’s not forgot to honor its original settlers.

Another Type of Pioneer

Monday, September 2, 2013

Labor Day celebrates the American worker. It may have started with labor unions, but it soon grew broader than that.

This post celebrates an American worker who was also a pioneer. She made great strides for American women, proving that they have as much courage as men and are capable of doing many of the same things, including joining them in the skies. And although it wasn’t exactly a labor union, Amelia Earhart was one of the founders and the first president of the Ninety-Nines—an organization of women pilots that still exists today.

On our summer vacation, Roland and I visited Amelia Earhart’s birthplace in Atchison, Kansas. She was born at her maternal grandparents’ house, shown in the second picture. She also spent a lot of time there during her early years.

Amelia was always a dare-devil. The third picture shows a replica of the roller coaster she built in her grandparent’s back yard after seeing one at the 1904 World’s Fair. I don’t know if the scale is correct or if the one Amelia built was taller. Amelia Earhart: Young Aviator by Beatrice Gormley (part of the Childhood of Famous Americans series), has the roller coaster starting at the top of a tool shed. Either way, her grandparents soon put a stop to the experiment.  

But they couldn’t stop Amelia’s quest for adventure.

Among Amelia’s many accomplishments were being the first woman to fly across the Atlantic Ocean (unfortunately, she was not allowed to pilot the plane on this 1928 flight); the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic (1932); the first woman to fly nonstop across the U.S. (coast to coast in 1933); and the first person (male or female) to fly solo between Honolulu, Hawaii and Oakland, California (1935).

Those achievements weren’t enough for her. She also wanted to be the first woman to fly around the world at its greatest circumference: the Equator. She would take a navigator with her and make several stops for fuel and a little sightseeing.

On May 21, 1937, Amelia and her navigator, Fred Noonan, took off from Oakland, California, in an Electra airplane. They headed from west to east, and everything went fine for most of the trip. Amelia and Fred made it to Lae, New Guinea without any major problems. They were now about three-quarters of the way through their planned route.

When they left Lae, they headed for tiny Howland Island, where they would refuel before continuing on to Honolulu. The crew estimated that they had about twenty hours worth of fuel, which left them little margin for error.

Ships from the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Coast Guard monitored the Electra’s radio signals. Amelia and Fred maintained radio contact most of the way, but there were indications that they were having problems with their radio. And in those days before sophisticated equipment, the radio was a crucial navigational aid.

The last communication from the Electra came a little over twenty hours into the flight. Amelia’s message indicated that the crew was having trouble finding Howland Island.

Amelia and Fred were lost at sea on July 2, 1937. After an exhaustive search for the plane, Amelia was declared legally dead on January 5, 1939.

There have been many theories about what happened. The two most widely accepted are: (1) the plane ran out of fuel over the Pacific Ocean or (2) knowing that their fuel situation was desperate, Amelia and Fred tried to land on the uninhabited Gardner Island and ended up crashing on the reef. Either situation would have killed them.

Although the official search ended long ago, adventurers and researchers still spend significant time and money looking for remnants of the Electra and answers to its disappearance. Maybe one day we will know the rest of the story, but that day isn’t here yet.

Even so, Americans are indebted to Amelia Earhart for her pioneering spirit and her example to other women.

* * * * *

The photo at the head of this post shows Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan. The picture is in the public domain.