It’s been a little over two months since we moved and I was desirous of not only getting an Illinois Drivers’ License but also registering to vote. So, I walked into the DMV the other day. I had most of the required paperwork, but I hadn’t been able to locate my Social Security Card. That put an end to that afternoon’s quest: no social security card, no way forward.

            The next day I went to the Social Security Administration office on Pioneer Parkway. After a little over an hour waiting for my number to be called I walked up to the window. I presented my completed application and my Nebraska Drivers’ License. After a few clicks by the affable fellow on the other side of the counter, he looked at me and said, “It would appear you’re not a citizen of the United States.” I’m sure my eyes got wide as saucers (an expression which most certainly dates me). “Do you have any proof that you’re a citizen?” I answered something about not much more than what he’d already seen, although I could get my State Department Birth Certificate created when I was born in Quezon City, the Republic of the Philippines. He shook his head. I was dumbfounded; what was I going to do as a 56-year-old undocumented alien? He then asked, “Do you have a passport?”

            Yes! I have a passport! Bingo, I’m back on track. I can bring it back tomorrow and continue the process.

            But that raised more questions. How did I get a passport without what the state of Illinois regarded as necessary proof? How had I lived so long without these difficulties? It also explained why I had to send in my birth certificate three years ago when I had another difficulty being approved for a certain status. 

            Thankfully, I got the same guy behind the counter when I returned this morning. He was very good-natured as he handed me my completed paperwork and congratulated me, “You are now a citizen of the United States!”

            The lessons I am taking away from this are: I have taken my status as a citizen of this country for granted; I am grateful for people who not only explain problems but also help to find solutions; and, I will need to find a better place to store my new Social Security Card when it arrives.

            We each have a citizenship in heaven by God’s grace (Philippians 3:20). It is easy to take such status for granted as we chug through each day, but my, what a precious thing it is as we reflect upon it. God has placed us in this communion both to keep one another accountable, but also to help restore one another (Galatians 6:1). Thankfully, it’s not a piece of paper which assures us we belong but simply the faith, engendered by the Holy Spirit, in Jesus’ sacrifice for us on the cross. It’s good to belong in this kingdom with you! 

We'll get there

“We’ll get there.”

            This was said to me by a fellow red-clad fan leaving the stadium known as “The Big House” in Ann Arbor, Michigan, last Saturday. We made eye contact, smiled weary smiles, and she said, “We’ll get there.” 

            It had been a long afternoon. A new coach and a program in sorry shape had been drubbed 56-10. But she encouraged us, “We’ll get there.”

            You can imagine this phrase being spoken by a parent from the front seat of the car. It’s a raging storm outside and the child in the back seat is worried. “We’ll get there,” comforts the driver.

            Perhaps you can also hear this said to an elderly friend, one who is wondering “why am I still here?” It’s a plaintive question, asked by those whose spouse and friends have already gone to be with God. In terms of her query about joining the company of redeemed in the presence of God: “We’ll get there.” Maybe not anytime soon, but “We’ll get there.”

            It could well be used as someone deals with the day to day struggle of living as God calls us to live. For every step of progress there are times we encounter two steps of frustrating reversal. Still, “We’ll get there.”

            Amid the persecutions of Christianity that are predicted for us in Revelation, might it be assuring to hear “We’ll get there”? 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 10:13). “We’ll get there.”

            That “We” in these last three paragraphs does not refer to a rabid football fanbase. It refers to us, the Body of Christ - any group of Christians in whom the Holy Spirit resides. It is this Spirit which “calls, gathers, enlightens and sanctifies the Christian Church,” as the meaning of the Third Article of the Apostles’ Creed assures us (Luther’s Small Catechism). And He “keeps” us, with Jesus Christ. “We’ll get there.”

            When the way ahead looks dark, when the burdens are heavy, and when you wonder whether you truly can go on, refresh yourself in God’s Word so that the Spirit of the living God can encourage you with the truth that “We’ll get there.”

Books...and influence.

            It’s been good to get here to Peoria and to have most of the unpacking finished. Most of it. Many thanks to the people who have been asking how Jami and I are getting along. We appreciate you asking after our well-being!

            One of the comments made during the move was echoed at both the church study and at home: “The Winters have a fair number of books.” The mover who helped that Thursday evening at the church added the question “Do you know all that’s in these books?” My answer was, of course, “No. But that’s why I keep them. I can refer to them when I need the information they have.”

            It dawned on me last night that all of those heavily loaded apple boxes full of books may have left an impression on our children. The contents of those boxes might be a part of the reason our daughter, Mary, is an academic reference librarian at a medical school and our son, Chase, is a language arts teacher in a high school. Those books and the stories and information they conveyed were obviously valued by Chase and Mary’s mom and dad. Why else would we lug them part way across the country with us? 

            What things of value did your folks pass along to you? What are the things that were important to them that you find are still important to you?

            By the same token, what ideas and values are you passing along to the next generation? What do your children and grandchildren, nieces and nephews glean from their contacts with you regarding what you think they ought to know or have?

            We read in Proverbs 22:6 Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.We can certainly see and hear in toddlers the effect of our example in their mimicry. That kind of influence continues through the formative years and beyond. 

            God bless you as you set an example in your worship, devotion, prayer, and study patterns. They are a blessing not only for you but for those around you, as well. 

Deadlines

            Each of us has operated under deadlines. There are fixed times within which inoculations must be administered, students must be registered, and budget requests must be submitted. I did notice in Webster’s Encyclopedic Dictionary that the secondary definition for “deadline” is a perimeter around a prison which a prisoner crosses at the risk of being shot. May we never know that sort of deadline!

            I’ve operated under many of these deadlines with you. As a called worker, I’ve also known deadlines for submitting worship themes to church musicians and worship arts coordinators so that music and liturgical pieces can work more effectively together. We’ve got deadlines in place to make certain that Katie has all the information she needs to keep the screens and the Priority One up to date and informative. 

            Now, with this initial “issue” of the Winter Blog on Redeemer’s website, we’re adding another deadline, though this one will largely be self-imposed. It is my hope and goal that this blog will be added to perhaps every ten days to two weeks, initially, and then with greater frequency (hence, the deadline). This will be a place to share devotional thoughts as well as to delve further into serious issues. 

            Our God has worked with deadlines in His efforts to reconcile us back to Himself. St. Paul reveals the expert timing of our God in this mission: “In the fullness of time, God sent for His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law” (Galatians 4:4-5). “At the right time Christ died for the ungodly” (Romans 5:6) 

            There is also a deadline looming before us in this mission, though we don’t know its exact terminus. “Working together with him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain. 2 For he says,’In a favorable time I listened to you,and in a day of salvation I have helped you. "Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation” (II Cor. 6:1-2). Now is the time for our witness to others, our ministry to them in God’s name and for their salvation. 

            Again, we don’t know the final deadline, only that it’s coming; or better yet, that Jesus is coming. What we do know is the grace in which God would redeem all to Himself through the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins. And we have the assurance that His Holy Spirit will be of inestimable value in the words we share and the service we bring.