Monday, January 26, 2015


Perhaps you have heard there has been an unexpected problem with one of the teams who will be playing in next Sunday's Super Bowl football game. Some have accused one of the teams of under-inflating the footballs they used when they won their respective title game a week ago. I won't comment on that.

 However, do you ever wonder who makes those footballs? Jane Helser of Ada, Ohio, is one person who does. She began working for the Wilson Sporting Goods company in 1966, two years before the Green Bay Packers defeated the Kansas City Chiefs in Super Bowl I.

At the age of 19 she began working there because she wanted to buy a new car, and since then her career with Wilson became part of football history. Jane Helser has personally stitched more than one million official NFL footballs in her 48 years with the company before she retired in 2014.

Her mother taught her how to sew her clothes, so she found enjoyment in her new job back in 1966. “But,” she admitted, "it’s a lot different sewing footballs than sewing clothes.” There are 25 steps to crafting a single ball, three of which involve sewing the exterior out of four strips of Illinois cowhide (not pigskin). In a typical day she sewed 150 footballs, contributing to the ten thousand or more NFL game balls used each year.

Ms. Helser has met some NFL players during her career and when she retired, she received a signed football from her favorite player, Peyton Manning. Naturally, it was a Wilson, one of those she had sewn herself.Our Creator God gives us a life to live and work to do, labor to help ourselves and also to help others. Jesus also calls workers to labor in the Kingdom. He said, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” (Matthew 9:37-38)

Whatever work we do, let us do it to the glory of God.

Sunday, January 18, 2015


Despite the fact that we all grow old in the same basic biological way, we don't all age the same. Some of us remain young in heart longer as our bodies grow older. Others of us find our mind aging more quickly than our body. We cannot escape growing older, but perhaps we do have some control over how we do it.

As she celebrated her 100th birthday, Lenore was asked what was her "secret" for her long and active life. She said, "Laughter, the Lord and Little Things." Each day she said she found enjoyment by talking with people, taking a walk and reading the Bible. She said, "I don't know how long the Lord will let me stay here on earth, but I surely thank Him for what He's already given me."

Few of us may live to be one hundred years old, but we can surely learn from Lenore how to enjoy the days we are given.

Consider laughter. In Genesis 21:6, Sarah said, "God has made laughter for me." She was referring to the delight she had in being with child as a 90 year-old woman. We can find merriment in all kinds of good things God has given us, knowing that, "A merry heart makes a cheerful countenance." (Proverbs 15:13)

Then we have the Lord. Psalm 111:10 tells us, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." I chose this Psalm to be read when we were married, and that verse has remained with me. When God is a central part of our life, we can learn and grow in all kinds of ways.

What of the little things? How can they help? Proverbs 13:17 tells us, "Better a dinner of herbs where love is than a fattened ox and hatred with it." Telling someone you love them, helping someone in a cheerful attitude, a smile given unexpectedly - all these things cost us nothing except our effort, but they bring joy to others. All of these are more important than great wealth and riches.

A lifelong friend of mine died last week. We grew up together, and we both became Lutheran pastors. He was not quite 70 and had served the Lord with sincerity and faith, doing the best he could among the people where the Lord placed him. Praise God that He forgives us in Jesus and allows us whatever time we have on this earth, serving Him and sharing life with others while doing the best we can among the people where God has placed us.

May you, too, find joy today in "Laughter, the Lord and Little Things."

Monday, January 12, 2015


January 13 is a special day among the Swedes, Finns and Norwegians. It is St. Knut’s Day. My dear sister (age 83) wrote me a note about this day that is worth passing along. Here is what she said,

“Even in my dotage and decline, I can still learn something new. Here it is: St. Knut's Day is soon to be upon us! This is the day the Nordic people take down their trees and end the Christmas season. After much dancing and singing the last Christmas songs, the Christmas tree is taken out. In old times, it was thrown out the window. This celebration is called ‘Julgransplundring,’ plundering of the tree.”

My sister is indeed learning many new things, as she posted this on Facebook. I also learned a few other things about St. Knut’s Day among the Scandinavians. January 13 is also the Twentieth Day of Christmas (I thought they quit counting on the Twelfth Day, Epiphany, January 6)

Canute Lavard was a Danish Duke assassinated on January 7, 1131, so his cousin could usurp the throne. A civil war followed, after which Canute was declared a saint (but not for introducing the “danish with coffee”). In 1680, St. Knut’s Day was moved to January 13, the 20th day of Christmas. Sweets and cookies are shared by all that day, and possibly danish sweet rolls.

Swedes and Norwegians joined the fun, but Finns added their own twist. The “Nuttipukki” (a scary young man dressed as a goat with mask and horns) visited houses and demanded food and alcoholic drink. Some Finnish areas still observe the Nuttipukki tradition, but he is now played by a happy little child wanting cookies and cocoa.

God made people to enjoy life. The holidays are given us to help celebrate the seasons and life. Old Testament Jews had holidays to recall God’s blessings such as the end of creation (Sabbath), the Exodus (Passover) or being spared annihilation (Purim with Queen Esther).

“This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” (Psalm 118:24)

Monday, January 5, 2015


Happy New Year! I promised a report on the gifts given to my pastor friend in Eden, Texas. He emailed with the overwhelming news that $4910 in gifts have been given to Trinity Lutheran (Box 245, Eden, TX 76837, Eden, Texas) to support the upgrading of the small house he and his wife will be occupying as soon as repairs are made. He made it through the Christmas and New Year season at his two small churches and is looking forward to his next appointment at MD Anderson Hospital in Houston.

Pastor Darrell and Wanda Howanitz asked me to say to all who have supported them by prayer and/or gifts, "WOW - THANK YOU!" I echo those words and am always humbled when people respond to others in need so richly at this time of year. I will let you know when they can move from the parsonage and occupy their newly remodeled home in Eden. Meanwhile, gifts can still be sent to assist them.

I still read the newspaper and always enjoy reading the funnies. I wonder how many of you get the daily paper, read your favorite sections, including the funnies, and do your puzzles. It's a daily ritual for so many. We've tried reading the newspaper online and going without a printed edition, but we always come back to the daily printed newspaper.
In a recent "Family Circus" comic strip by Bil Keane, the father is reminding his growing little boy that he needs to know things will change. "You never know for sure what's going to happen, Jeffy," he tells him. Little Jeffy responds, "That's okay, Dad, as long as YOU do."

Bil Keane is a Christian and his artwork shows it. In many ways God will be telling us that each day in this new year of 2015 will be filled with some unsurity, perhaps a bump or a bruise on the road of life, or even a major difficulty. We never know what's going to happen from day to day, but that's okay because we know God does.

God reminds us of this fact over and over in His Holy Word, the Bible. For example: "The Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trials." (2 Peter 2:9)  Or, "The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; He knows those who take refuge in Him." (Nahum 1:7)  Or again, "Call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify Me.” (Psalm 50:15)

On my computer monitor I have taped the words of Joshua 1:9, "Be strong and courageous. do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go."

 This year, this week, perhaps even this day something may happen to remind us we do not know what is going to happen. But whatever it is, it will be okay, because God knows, and when we trust Him to do what's best for us, that's what really counts. Perhaps little Jeffy's words can be our prayer:

"That's okay, Dad, as long as YOU know."