Things you know - but it's worth being reminded.

            It’s surprising to me that at this age I would need to be reminded of certain things. I’m well aware that my mind doesn’t retain things as easily as it did when I was in my teens and twenties. Back then I could listen to a song on the radio (which was how we listened to popular music in those days) a couple of times and have the lyrics memorized. And they are easily recalled to this day!

            But that’s not really what I’m talking about. What I have in mind is that I need to be reminded of truths that have been a part of my existence for decades. Lately, I’ve gotten into a bad habit of neglecting exercise. I know that good stewardship of my health requires portion control when I eat. But exercise – e.g. cardio and load-bearing workouts – is also good for the body’s systems. Whereas I used to spin (cycle) 3 to 5 days a week, I’d gotten to the point that I rarely even walked. 

            It’s been good to be out on the roads and trails these past few weeks. My mind is fresher, I wake up earlier and more easily, and those measures of better health (blood pressure and heart rate, for example) are better readings, too. 

            Saying “I love you” to those people who are dearest to us is an important practice, too. We can fall out of that habit when we take life’s good things for granted. We know that our spouse/child loves us, and they should know we love them. As for the former, we promised that at the altar and we haven’t changed our minds! But it’s always good to hear it aloud. 

            That is also true regarding the love of God. We need to hear that love for us, a love which moved Christ Jesus to sacrifice Himself on Calvary’s cross for our forgiveness. It’s easy to ignore that powerful Gospel, or to lose sight of it, living in a world where there is no such thing as a free lunch. The Gospel is unique in that it works in a completely different direction: it’s all gift. That’s why it is so important to be in God’s house (worship) and be in God’s word (scripture reading and devotions). 

You’d think you wouldn’t need to be reminded of that truth that has been a part of your existence perhaps since your infant baptism. But that’s something of which it’s always worth being reminded!

Have you met _______, yet?

            Sometimes, when you introduce one acquaintance to another you’ll do so with the question “Have you met _____?” I have a couple of friends whose names would fit nicely into the title sentence, above. That is, with the addition of the word “yet” before the question mark.

            I think that describes these friends with greater accuracy because it suggests that these extroverts have probably already introduced themselves! They eagerly walk up to people they’ve never met because they would like to meet them. They’re not running for office, simply enlarging their circles of acquaintances and potential friends.

            We had such a man in our midst at Redeemer this weekend. His name is Gary Thies and he serves as a Mission Development Counselor for the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod. He works through a marvelous organization known as Mission Central, where he is the director. Throughout our services and the Bible class this affable brother in Christ Jesus came back, time and again, to a variation of the title of this blog. His question, which he would encourage everyone to adopt, was not “Have you met Jesus, yet?” but “Do you know Jesus?”

            The more I think about it, that’s a wonderful way to describe part of our task as Christians, called by the Lord Jesus to be His witnesses in the world (Acts 1:8). It is more than a question about where one might attend worship or to which denomination a person might belong. It cuts right to the heart of the matter. “Do you know Jesus?”

            It helps to consider where the conversation could go from there. The follow up to that question’s answer can be (a) a wonderfully encouraging talk between brothers and sisters in Christ, (b) an invitation to come to worship, or (c) an opportunity to clarify a misconception someone might be harboring regarding the message of the Bible or the work of the church. 

Our message needs to be one that centers on the Person, the words, and the work of Christ Jesus. He is the One whose suffering, death, and resurrection brings forgiveness, meaning, and everlasting life to all who put their trust in Him. 

Passing the truth along

With Fathers’ Day just passed I’m sharing some words from Dr. Dale Meyer, president of Concordia Seminary, St. Louis.

         “One generation shall commend your works to another” (Psalm 145:4). The third century church father Origen wrote, “However much obedience we offer (to our parents), we have not yet repaid the recompense of thanks for being born, for being carried, for drawing light, for being nurtured and perhaps educated and trained in honest skills. And perhaps by the same originators (parents), we came to know God and came to the Church of God and heard the word of the divine law.” (“The Fathers of the Church,” 216).

I’m ever so thankful for the way in which my father – and my mother! – passed along to me what they knew of God and brought me to the services of His house. Yesterday we celebrated the mystery of the Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) in the midst of families passing that truth through the generations (one great-great-grandfather in the mix), as did our children in Omaha who will soon be passing it on to yet another generation. Today, on this campus, we’ll be taking part in that in yet another way - Vacation Bible School!

God bless you and your family as you share, one with another, that one thing needful! (Luke 10:42)

D Day Remembered

Did your eyes get a little moist, your throat a little tight as you watched some of the commemorations surrounding last week’s 75th anniversary of D Day? Yeah, mine too. 

            The remarks of Presidents Trump and Macron were memorable. The preceding day’s observations from Portsmouth, England, were stirring. The Higgins boats’ fatality figures during the storming of the beaches at Normandy were almost incomprehensible.

            What fortitude. What bravery. What sacrifice. 

            Never underestimate what God could work through you, were you to live in a different time frame. He has His purposes to work through you in this day and age (Ephesians 2:10), so such musings are really beside the point. 

            Still, I’m thankful for what the countries of the Free World were willing and able to do to stop the Axis powers in those fateful years of the Second World War. Thank you, Lord, for the freedom we enjoy at such a costly price. Grant us the strength and the opportunities to utilize it to share the freedom we know in the Gospel, which came at an even higher cost. 

Sharing art and the Good News

            For the past month or so the Early Learning Center here at Redeemer has been sharing their artwork on my study door. I’ve had sheep covered with cotton balls reminding us of the need to follow the Good Shepherd. I’ve had both crosses and empty tombs to share the marvelous news of Christ Jesus’ death and resurrection for the forgiveness of our sins. This week, there are fish coupled with the reminder from Isaiah 43, “When you go thru deep waters, I will be with you.”

            I’m at that in-between status where you don’t get to put children’s art work on the door (or refrigerator). Our children are grown and there are no grandchildren, yet. (But, Krista and Chase will present us with one at the end of July, God willing!)

            Still, I’m in that wonderful place where I do get to share these messages from the Bible with little ones on a regular basis. What a gift we have, here at Redeemer, to be able to watch over, feed, and teach the youngest among us the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord, as well as help to prepare them for school and the life that lies ahead. 


            In these last few weeks an interesting juxtaposition has occurred, as it always does in this season. Confirmation rites have taken place in congregations across the country; young men and women confessing what they’ve learned about the God Who called them in baptism to know His mercy, forgiveness, and grace through all eternity. Similarly, relatives and friends have gotten to celebrate graduation exercises, high school and college. At the very least, classes in primary and secondary schools are concluding. There are plenty of examples of things that have “run their course”.

            At the same time, we have evidence of spring all around us. The trees and lawns are greening. The blossoms have been colorful and abundant. And in our neighborhood, the fifteen goslings are maturing so quickly in the flock of Canadian geese that have taken up residence at the pond.

            The juxtaposition to which I referred is between the “ends” of the first paragraph and the “starts” of the second. We are tempted to see them as finite entities – conclusions and beginnings which differ greatly from one another.

            But the encouragement offered here is to see all of this under the heading of “transition.” One phase of life, one chapter of the story is passing, but that means it’s time to move on to the next. Those graduating will be moving on either to further education and training, or to establishing their own household. Those being confirmed have learned the bedrock doctrines of the faith in Christ Jesus, but there is so much more! In Christ and in all the life He has given there is a calling to continual growth, learning, and becoming.

            Please enjoy what you or someone in your family has recently accomplished for it is certainly worthy of it! Rest for a moment as you can. But then go into the new challenges and opportunities before you assured of God’s presence and love!

Some encouraging news...

We’ve all heard the discouraging news about the decline of the church in the western world. As I am attending a pastors’ conference these couple of days there are some encouraging words being shared.

One of those has to do with, of all things, evangelism. When you think of the most recognizable group taking part in door to door efforts to bring people into a belief system it’s probably the mormons who come to mind. And truth be told, when older adults are asked how many of them were part of some other church or belief when they were young, mormons raise their hands 26% of the time. They had grown up in a household that believed something else, but they were proselytized somewhere along the way. When Lutheran Church Missouri Synod members are asked the same question, 32% raise their hands! Our efforts at evangelism, sharing the good news about Jesus, have been effective all along!

It’s the retention rate, however, that’s the problem. The children we are raising in the church are leaving somewhere along the way: after confirmation, after high school graduation, etc.

In the coming weeks I’ll have some thoughts on the retention rates as well as some words to share about the intensity of Christian faith in America. Until then, remember: it’s a great time to be a part of Christ’s people!

After a little time away, some thoughts on confirmation.

            In yesterday’s worship, we had the service to confirm the twenty-two young men and women in this year’s class. Each came forward to have their confirmation verse read, at which time a blessing was given and a prayer for them was offered. During this their families, mentors, and friends stood in the congregation. 

It is a culmination in a sense, but only “one step among many” in another. It is the culmination of their rudimentary education concerning the new life given them at their baptism. It’s that descriptor, rudimentary, which makes this confirmation but one step on their life’s journey to know better their Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier. There is ever so much more to learn (and love!) about God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

I was reminded of an incident when I was working over the summer during high school. I was working for Meyer Building Company (whose unofficial motto was something like “Rome wasn’t built in a day. But Meyer Building Company wasn’t around then!”). Our lunch time habit was to knock off work at noon and listen to Paul Harvey for fifteen minutes while we ate. For the next fifteen minutes we would talk, though you were welcome to use that time for brief nap.

One day the four older men, each a member of the congregation where my father was pastor and my mother was the musician, talked about their confirmation verses. They quoted them and talked about what they meant. When it came to me, the pastor’s kid, I didn’t know what mine had been. That made me do some research that very night!

I have since committed my verse to memory and found it a very encouraging bit of scripture. If you cannot remember yours, spend some time looking it up. If it was given to you by the congregation, I’m sure it was given with some serious intent to be a blessing for you for the rest of your life. In some of the congregations I’ve served as pastor we have used the confirmation verse in the funeral service, as well.

“My sheep hear my voice. And I know them, and they follow me. And I give them eternal life and they shall never perish. No one can snatch them out of my hand.” John 10:27. That’s certainly one worth knowing and cherishing.

On the receiving end of wonderful care

As a pastor I have more opportunities to visit hospitals than the average member of the community. In the time here in Peoria I’ve been impressed with the three main hospitals. I must say that the architecture in them is befuddling until you figure out their systems. But the care in them is remarkable.

            And when I say care I mean (1) the care of the facilities (clean and well kept), (2) the care of security and confidentiality, and (3) the customer care they extend. Jami and I were on the receiving end of the latter earlier this week and we both feel that she was in good hands the entire time.

            It had been some time since I had waited for someone in surgery. The last time we received timely reports from the volunteers staffing the waiting room. What a marvel now to be updated through a status board, replete with color codes to let you know if your loved (by their 7-digit number) was in pre-op, in the midst of the procedure, or in recovery. Since I had given them my cell number, I received text updates, too.

            All of these advancements are simply the extension of the care our loving Father in heaven provides for us. He did not merely set the cosmos in motion and step away. No, He is intimately involved in our care, day-in and day-out, through His Holy Spirit and His only-begotten Son, Jesus, about whom St. Paul wrote to the Colossians in the first chapter: 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

            God bless your Holy Week with an ever-deepening appreciation of God’s care in time and His providential care for the hereafter in eternity. 

A Chance Encounter.

            I had started to write this blog before lunch, but I hadn’t left myself enough time to finish it. Since I didn’t want to keep my lunch date waiting, I stopped midway through the third paragraph and headed out.

            While I was out, I decided I might as well make the hospital visits, too. It’s a beautiful, sunny spring day in Peoria and the drive downtown was a pleasure. 

            After my last visit at the Order of Saint Francis medical complex I was walking down that very long hallway to the parking garage. About to overtake a group of three in conversation in front of me and to the right, a young man was overtaking me on my left. He appeared to be the age of our son, Chase. As he came up beside me, he said, quite simply, “My yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:30).

            I wasn’t wearing my clerical collar, but I did have my Pastors Companionbook in my left hand, which has a very small cross outlined in gold on the cover. The perceptive young man noticed that, deduced I was a fellow believer in Christ Jesus, and took a moment and a chance to encourage me in my day. 

            My response? I said, “Amen!” We talked a little bit as we made our way out of the hospital, he to the top floor of the garage and me to first ramp. And we blessed one another as we parted.

I doubt that I’ll run across that young man anytime soon. But it’s refreshing to remember that he and his like are out there. That little comment/connection made my day. 

"The Kingdom of God is like..."

            “The Kingdom of God is like a mustard seed…” When I read those words my mind often pictures the large shrub of a mustard plant that has grown from such a humble beginning as a mustard seed. Perhaps yours does, too.

            Among the many excellent points that Anthony Esolen makes in a Touchstone magazine essay from years ago is that we are apt to think that the parable has to do with the lowly beginnings of the Kingdom, beginnings that are then swallowed up in greatness and are never seen again. 

            If that were His point, Jesus could have said, “The Kingdom of God may be compared to the cedar of Lebanon, the mightiest and most beautiful of all the trees, even though it came from a small seed.” But, He didn’t.

            The emphasis here certainly doesn’t exclude the great and wonderful things God has brought about in the world. Not at all. 

            But the emphasis is that the greatness of God can be found in the seemingly smallest of things. In the Christian faith the small is not transcended and dismissed. 

            And one example would be the thief on the cross next to Jesus; the thief who comes to faith. The greatness of God is found in a movement of the heart. 

            Whatever brought them there, these two beside Jesus were not good men. They were wicked men deserving of this worst of punishments. But something turned in the one man’s heart. It was an impulse, the smallest and most secret of responses to the call of God. The thief who has been so bad says to Jesus, “Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” This is the mustard seed, the speck of yeast in the dough. “Truly I say to you,” says Jesus, “this day you will be with me in Paradise.”

            All the wonder, power, and grace of God is in this almost imperceptible turn. Thanks be to Him for this gift and for its continued growth in us. 

As we speak to one another...

            Why I thought there would be a return to civility I do not know. The Mueller report, ostensibly a search to determine if there had been collusion between President Trump’s campaign and Russia, had been so highly anticipated that whatever the results were going to be someone was going to be disappointed and someone was going to be crowing. 

            So, one side is basking in what it sees as vindication while the other side defiantly says more investigation is warranted. Sigh. 

            A trip to the Presidential museum in Springfield, IL, will remind one that snide comments and accusations, character assassination, crude cartoons, and incivility have been a part of our political life for years. A trip through history will reveal that this is the way of humankind; the pendulum of incivility in correspondence will swing from greater to lesser and back again. 

            St. Paul’s instructions to the Ephesians (4:1-15) is well worth keeping in mind. It speaks to the goal of being assertive, or perhaps even confrontational: when we are correcting someone or something, the aim is always both (1) to set things right, and (2) to be reconciled. 

“I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace…15 Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ,” 

            God bless your conversations. May they, spoken in love, ever be seasoned with salt and a benefit to relationships and to the world. 

Disaster Relief

My thoughts over the past few days have been where a number of people’s thoughts have been – on the plight of those facing the flood waters on the Great Plains and in the Midwest. My wife, Jami, and I have most recently moved to Peoria, Illinois, from Norfolk, Nebraska, and our children live in Omaha, so there are many people we know who have experienced evacuation and tremendous loss. We have joined many of you in praying for God’s deliverance, strength, and blessings for those facing the flood waters.

If you would like to help, these are a few sites you might want to explore. There are no better stewards of resources for aid than Orphan Grain Train and the Nebraska District, LCMS. Thank you for your concern and care. (and look under news and events for Disaster Relief. There you will find links for LCMS World Relief and Human Care Disaster Response, among others).

The Lenten Journey

A friend from college and I got back together after a few decades of not even knowing where the other one was (thank you, Facebook!). That was a couple of years ago. 

            But then, just last week, E. I. messaged me about an organization of which we were both a part in college. It was one of the more formative extra-curricular activities I experienced in college and it could use a bit of attention from the alumni.

            While we were talking, E. I. expressed an interest in taking part in some type of Lenten discipline. Was there anything I could suggest? I happened to be looking at my bookshelf in the study and a volume of devotions written by Walt Wangerin, Jr., caught my eye. My friend purchased it that day and we talk each week about what we’ve read (thank you, Jeff Shoumaker, for that idea!).

            In this way my friend and I are walking together on this Lenten journey. Such a pilgrimage, if you will, enables us to hold one another accountable. We are encouraged to keep up the discipline and we benefit from each other’s perspective. (These are the intended benefits of being in a Synod, a word meaning “same road”, i.e. “walking together”).

            God’s blessings be yours in abundance as together we make this forty day journey through Lent.

A thought on the passing scene...

Rider College of Business Dean Cynthia Newman resigned from her position as Dean in response to the New Jersey university banning Chick-fil-A from campus, despite it being the student body’s top pick. The university said in an email to students in November 2018 that the chain restaurant’s “corporate values have not sufficiently progressed enough to align with those of Rider.”

            We are seeing more and more of this push for Christianity to “progress” with the rest of the culture around us. We are being called to relax our adherence to orthodox Christian truths and practices and instead join with the world in what it declares is valuable and true. 

            What I really admired in Dean Newman’s response was the way in which she was not vindictive. Instead, she gives a reasoned and gracious summary of her stand:         

“I felt like I was punched in the stomach when I read that statement because I’m a very committed Christian and Chick-fil-A’s values, their corporate purpose statement is to glorify God in and to be faithful stewards in all that is entrusted to them and to have a positive influence on everyone who comes into contact with themand that mirrors my personal beliefs perfectly,” Newman told Campus Reform.

I’d have to believe that the phrase “have a positive influence on everyone who comes into contact” is the key. The Body of Christ is not called to hate anyone. We are called to love one another and to seek what’s best for one another in that love. Such love does not mean a tolerance of “anything goes.” It’s a love that is willing to sacrifice for another’s ultimate well-being. And that example was set perfectly for us by the Savior Who holds us accountable, Who offered Himself on the cross to forgive us, and Who furthermore sent the Spirit to call us to faith and lead us in life. 

The Scope of Ministry.

            This past week, while friend and associate Phil was attending the Best Practices conference for LCMS congregations in Arizona, the pastoral responsibilities were solely mine. And in that week, as I shared with the Bible class, yesterday, we ran the gambit of pastoral ministry.

            There were two baptisms this weekend: a little boy on Saturday and a little girl on Sunday. Both were wonderful celebrations as family members from near and far (Wisconsin and Kentucky) gathered and God’s grace was extended. God bless Clayton and Derby with strong faith and long life!

            There were also times to attend to matters at the end of life. During a hospital visit I was able to share the service of the Commendation of the Dying with a husband and wife as she was facing the last days of her life among us. Also, on this past Saturday there was a visitation for a family mourning the death of a son in his early 20s. Sad events, without doubt, but events in which the news of the death and resurrection of Christ Jesus for the forgiveness of sins and life everlasting is essential.

            These latter events, above, necessitated the former. It was the advent of sin in this world that led to the inevitability of death, the wages of sin.  Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men[a] because all sinned.Romans 5:12.

            Thankfully, our God did not leave us in our misery, but addressed our need for salvation with His own sacrifice and resurrection. Because of that, the former events mentioned above bring us hope and comfort amidst events like the latter. Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.Romans 6:3-4.

            God’s blessings to you as you walk in that newness of life, today. And God bring you comfort as you remember your baptism and how, in that, God has promised you life as His child in the kingdom new and glorious upon Christ Jesus’ return. 

It's good to be home...

            I missed last week’s deadline due to a trip out to Colorado. Please pardon the blog’s absence.

It’s become a regular practice for me to travel to my parents’ home in the mountains each February, before lent. I travel there to celebrate dad’s birthday. It’s good to be with my mom and dad. Their home is not the one in which I grew and the schedule is quite different from my upbringing. But it’s a blessing to be with them and to be able to help around the cabin – moving firewood up on the deck, sometimes blocking and splitting it as well, and taking part in cooking meals and cleaning up after them.

After that trip, I can say with equal fervor, it’s good to be home here. It’s good to be back with my wife, Jami. This is not the house in which we have raised our family and our schedule since moving here, which is quite different, has been tweaked a time or two. But it’s a blessing to be with her and to be back at the tasks as we find our weekly pattern rounding out.

It’s also good to be home, here, writing thoughts I want to share with you. For a number of you this has always been your church home. Others are transplants. And some of our schedules are a bit in flux – especially after the weekends continually subject to snows and cold temperatures! But it’s good to be here taking part in the life of the church, together: sharing in tasks that warm our hearts and feed our faith. 

It’s good to be home…

Fallout From the Polar Vortex

            I am ever so thankful to God for some of the things I learned through the experience of last week’s polar vortex. Our house is well insulated. Our furnace is running well. Our car batteries are strong. These are good things to know!

            But the opportunity to stay indoors, to work on things in the study, led to learning yet more things through my reading and my encounters with media, both social and news. While these things are good, even necessary to know, my initial reaction was not thankfulness. 

            The drama playing out in Virginia over a bill sponsored by a few of their delegates probably caught your attention, too. It did not make it out of committee, but the governor, a pediatric neurologist, was inclined to sign it should it have passed. This bill would not only allow for a child to be aborted at 40 weeks, but it would also have allowed for a child surviving the abortion to be put to death anyway, outside of the womb, after consultation between the mother and the physician. This possibility, previously labeled infanticide, but now becoming known as a fourth trimester abortion, followed on the heels of the joyous celebration in New York when their governor signed a similar bill. It allowed the same late term abortions which could be performed by people other than physicians and for any health reason (mental, physical, emotional, et al). Lord, have mercy.

            In a periodical I read, in almost an aside, of the casualness of sexual intercourse on college campuses across the nation. It is so commonplace in what used to be known as dating that it has become the expectation.

            And finally, in another periodical I read of the serious mental health issues and the instances of violence that appear to be connected with the use of marijuana, especially among the adolescent. Whereas Senator Cory Booker has said that “states [that have legalized marijuana] are seeing decreases in violent crime,” the states of Colorado, Washington, Alaska, and Oregon have, since the legalizing of marijuana for recreational use, seen a 37% increase in murders and a 25% increase for aggravated assault. These numbers are far greater than the national increase, even after accounting for difference in population. 

            However, in the midst of these dire items, there is still reason for thankfulness. Our God is still in control, and He is known for being at work through all things ( And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28). 

We are called to be faithful in serving Him and trusting in Him. His Spirit will keep us as we bear witness for God and the truth (God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.1 Corinthians 10:3). These things, even more so, are good to know!

The Body of Christ

            Yesterday’s epistle (I Corinthians 12:12-31) led me to emphasize our callings to serve together in the Body of Christ. St. Paul makes very strong points countering the thoughts (1) “I’m not that special, the church doesn’t really need me,” and conversely (2) “You’re not that special, the church doesn’t really need you.” 

            In the congregation where I first served as the pastor with complete responsibility for the members’ well-being they had a program called “Hands in Harmony.” A member named Lloyd had developed it. It divided the congregation into seven groups. One group signed up for a month’s worth of tasks: lectors/readers, ushers, providing coffee before Sunday School and Bible class, etc. Then, they would host the next month’s group at a luncheon, where that second group would sign up for their tasks in the following month. Overall there were 110 different jobs that needed to be done for the church to provide worship and other functions each month. 

            As I recall yesterday, here, there were people opening the doors and welcoming worshippers, people handing out the bulletins and taking the collection, serving at the Information Center, serving as acolytes, preparing the coffee/cookies/fruit to be shared after each of the worship services, teaching Sunday school, monitoring the sound and the projection of the services, playing keyboards, drums, singing and reading the lessons. Oh, and to heighten your appreciation for those reading the lessons, take a look at the names they read from Nehemiah 8:1-10!

            St. Paul’s words about the Body of Christ are important for every gathering of God’s people. They are important for you. You belong, and you are deeply needed among us.