Sunday, March 29, 2009

Save SOME Stuff

Some people are hoarders. Others are throwers. And we all tend to hold on to certain sentimental items that have meaning only to ourselves. So when we’re gone, it’s likely that those sentimental items will be sold or given away, or even put in the garbage.

There are other sentimental realities that are not material: memories, visions, hopes and dreams sought after and attained; stories of struggle and victory, failure and success, and the significance of one’s personal faith throughout life. To pass these realities on to our heirs (and other descendants) we need to communicate our personal histories.

Concordia Historical Institute (St. Louis) does a good job of explaining the rationale for encouraging Christians to make autobiographical notes about their lives:

“Autobiography serves church history by producing historical records. We are not suggesting prideful patting oneself on the back, however, but that in godly humility you write an account of your life and work, telling the good and the bad, the high points and low points, the successes and failures. These are all part of the story of God's continuing grace in and through the church.

Personal insights into the past, an evaluation of personal experiences in the service of the church, comments on major events and many related subjects can often be better understood through autobiographical accounts, reminiscences and diary entries. Without the accounts of the services rendered and reactions to episodes and incidents in the church, much human interest data can easily be lost.” (Service Bulletin #3b at

Whatever age we are, it’s never too early or too late to keep a journal, or just jot down some facts that could be useful to those who follow after us, in our families, in our work place, and in the church. Even if we don't see that there is much value in the story of our lives, some day there will be others who are thankful that we took the time to write them down.

Sunday, March 22, 2009


With our nation's current focus on economic problems, the story of Paul Levy, the CEO of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, brings some hope that people are willing to work together on all levels to help one another through this time of crisis.

Hmmm... Did you notice that Deaconess is part of the name of Levy's hospital?  [Or have you ever noted that there are Deaconess Hospitals in St. Louis, MO; Bozeman and Billings, MT; Evansville, IN; Spokane, WA; Boston, MA; New York, NY; Oklahoma City, OK; Cincinnati, OH; Detroit, MI; Milwaukee, WI; Northwood, ND; Newburgh, IN; and so on, across our country?]

The Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center is a teaching hospital of the Harvard Medical School, well known for its biomedical research and the quality service it provides for "nearly three quarters of a million patient visits annually in and around Boston."  But this auspicious hospital began in 1896 when a group of Methodist deaconesses decided to dedicate their energies to the care of Boston's poor and sick.  In 1996, the New England Deaconess Hospital merged with Beth Israel Hospital, rendering the current hospital name.

The early history of Missouri Synod deaconesses is also closely tied to certain hospitals and institutions:  Koch Hospital and Sanatorium in St. Louis; Lutheran Hospital and later, Lutheran Homes for the Aged in Fort Wayne; the Lutheran Sanatorium in Wheat Ridge (CO); Lutheran Hospitals in Beaver Dam (WI) and Hot Springs (SD); and Bethesda in Watertown (WI).

Until 1935, most LCMS deaconesses trained as nurses.  Few are nurses today, but many are called by congregations, districts, or "recognized service organizations" to provide spiritual care in prisons, hospitals and hospices, nursing homes, group homes, and other assisted living residences.  Like the word Deaconess in the name of so many of our nation's hospitals, modern deaconesses continue to leave their mark in these important areas of service.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

NOW is OUR History

Most of the time we live for the present. When we start applying to colleges, find a soul mate, or hit a midlife crisis we also tend to live for the future. The interesting thing is that our present and our future are completely intertwined with our past. Our present and future days are influenced and even driven by our personal history, our family history, our nation’s history, and our church’s history.

As individuals, we know some of our history and other parts are full of mystery. In the Footsteps of Phoebe is a project designed to document and discuss an overlooked area of modern church history that affected, and is still affecting, the church and its members, the role of women in the church, exegetical issues and Christian belief.

NOW is OUR history. And as we live out our lives we want to be remembered for making wise decisions and prudent choices that are good for our families, our nation, our church, and ourselves. Our primary guide for discernment is God’s Word, A lamp to our feet and a light to our path (Ps. 119:105) But we do need to examine how God’s Word has already been applied (or not!) in any similar circumstances and happenings that have brought us to this point in time. We remember our history so that we can emulate its good examples and avoid the repetition of mistakes. We evaluate where we have been so that we can move into the future with certainty and hope.

NOW is OUR history. Let’s learn from it together!