Friday, April 28, 2017

My Den Mother

Olive was my best friend’s mother and my Cub Scout Den Mother.  What a wonderful name. Olives are health producing anti-oxidants which are anti-inflammatory, stress reducing and healing fruits that have existed since biblical times. In fact, olive oil was poured on wounds for healing and was used for anointing of the sick to represent healing and the power of the Holy Spirit for life and eternal life.  Olive's long flowing brown hair seemed to fit her warm personality. She was aptly named.

Owen, her son, and I went to school together from 4 year old kindergarten on through high school. We would do many things together after school and on vacations. Later we would hunt and fish together even with my two sons. I have written previously of our trip to Alaska after High School when we faced death and innumerable adventures.  But back to Olive.

She was the Den Mother for Den 10, Coub Scout Pack 398. She took it seriously; especially teaching crafts and providing home baked goodies every week. I can still taste her 16 layer Linder cakes. She loved being with us boys, even though we were not always so thankful to her. Perhaps most I remember her peacefulness, gentleness, kindness and faithfulness. Doesn’t that remind you of many of the characteristics of the fruit of the Spirit? 

Olive’s husband was a Southern gentleman doctor who worked long hours, so Olive spent lots of time with us. She took us on field trips to her native Sheboygan County farms and family. We would always stop at a cheese factory for fresh cheese curds and maple candy. I will have to add that I was not slim in those days and I found my clothes in the “Husky” section of the store. After picking up goodies we often headed for Lake Michigan, to the nearly vacant and beautiful beaches of Terry Andre Park. Then I didn’t care if the water was still in the 50s. I always noticed, however, that Olive had a cigarette in her mouth.

On summer vacation Olive’s family took me up north to Kettle Hole Lodge, an old style fishing resort on a beautiful lake. Our little cabin was perfect for our wet and sandy, muddy and fishy fun. We caught crappies and bass by the dozens. Olive often cleaned and always fried up the fish to perfection along with cornbread and donuts from the bakery in town.

Olive provided friendship, food, companionship and caring always. I never heard her raise her voice, although she should have at times.

Years of college, marriage and family responsibilities separated us.  Owen and I continued to see each other for hunting or fishing.  Then one day I heard that Olive was sick. In fact, she had cancer and was in hospital hospice unit.  There were few hospices in 1985.

I visited her. She was lying with her covers pulled up to her chin. Her long flowing, now silver hair lay on the bedspread. Her sad eyes looked up at me and she said, “I knew you would come.” It was as if she had been waiting for me to be there. Perhaps it was one of her last tasks in this life, saying goodbye to me and I to her. After much reminiscing, we kissed and I left. The news of her passing came quickly bringing sadness and a certain joy of remembrance to my soul. She was a beautiful and godly woman. It seemed that the Proverbs chapter on a woman of noble character fits Olive. Sleep softly and sweetly dear child of God until we meet again.  

Tuesday, April 25, 2017



Do you ever feel overwhelmed? Does life overflow your coping mechanisms? Are you on overload? I think that is increasingly how many are experiencing life today. The pace of change is accelerating and exploding life like the waves in the photo above taken by my landscape photographer cousin, Douglas F. Frank. Have you ever stood on the rocks near the crashing surf, listening, watching and even feeling the cold spray on your face? It is both exhilarating and sometimes frightening.

This is not a new phenomenon; the pace is just being exacerbated in today’s climate of momentous change. Isaiah the prophet who walked the earth as a “God Speaker,” some 700 years before Christ has some centering words to say to all of us, if we are willing to listen and reflect. “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters,
    I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned;
    the flames will not set you ablaze”’  (Isaiah 43:1-2). This is God speaking to Israel, the chosen people who feared their enemies. Do you fear the enemies? If you answered NO! then you are boastfully kidding yourself. Unless, of course you believe the One who said these words at a core heart level. If you hold God as your Savior and Lord in your spirit intimately or personally, you have the only advantage that will take you through the storms of life so dramatically personified by Isaiah in this passage.

I spent the pre-dawn hours this morning meditating on the truth of this promise of God. There are some 7,500 promises in Scripture. Many are conditional, requiring us to do something to be able to claim their power. For example, Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your paths.” What an incredible promise of God, as long as you do not lean or rely on your own understanding, plans or power. You are then on your own, subject to the winds and the waves of life to wash over you and even drown you. That does not mean that if you trust God that you will not have waves and rains, fires and flops. They are just part of all of our lives. In fact, suffering and pain are endemic to our existence. Americans do not have a very good theology of suffering. We just think that we should have a pain-free life. We think we deserve good things. But this world is flawed, ever since the first man and woman screwed up in paradise.

Now you might not believe in original sin. That’s OK, but you still will have problems. Oh, and by the way, God’s arm is long enough to keep you from being overwhelmed or burned to death. Perhaps one of the most used phrases I hear regarding life is, “God won’t give you more than you can handle.” Well, the truth is as follows, “And do not grumble, as some of them did—and were killed by the destroying angel. These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come.  So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!  No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:10-13). The things Paul is talking about that happened to the Israelites in the desert were bad and as a result of their sin and disobedience. The key to this passage is that we must trust and obey God in all things, otherwise we will not be able to stand and we will be overtaken by the storms of life.

I can tell you that I have been overtaken by storms many times in life. Fear of life occupied my first 40 years. I inherited or absorbed it from my parents, who lived in fear of life. They tried to perform and live up to societal requirements, not God’s. As a result they relied on distractions, like alcohol and parties to help. They did work hard and serve as volunteers to many organizations, not out of joy or gratitude for God’s love, but out of obligation. As a result, in the end they hated how they had lived, until they received the forgiveness and grace of God when they received Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior in the last months of their lives. The good news is that they accepted the message of forgiveness and eternal life that I was privileged to share with them from the Lord; the sad news is that it came just before their earthly lives ended. 

I had lived under this curse of sorts for 40 years of my life. Only after receiving the invitation of salvation directly from God in a blizzard at perhaps the lowest part of my life, did I begin the long and arduous trek to peace and joy that is now in and through me by the Holy Spirit. I have found Christian counselors, God’s Word, promises, and Holy Spirit power in my weakness through God’s love. These have transformed me to overcome the curse of the fathers that the Bible speaks of visiting on the third and forth generations. God’s covenant faithfulness and love is forever. He continues to transform me to throw off the heavy burdens of the past that have affected my body, mind and spirit. “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). This is the promise of God for those who believe and trust in Him.

Friday, April 21, 2017

My Mother

Genevieve Alice Frank (nee Horswell), my mother, was born in Estherville, Iowa November 21, 1919 to a middle class protestant family. I don’t know what her upbringing was like, although I know the family attended a local Lutheran Church. I believe that she was confirmed, however, I don’t believe that she came to know Jesus Christ as her personal Savior and Lord as a child. They lived on a quiet street in a white clapboard house with a covered veranda where I visited once as a child. I remember my grandmother Elsie being rather stern looking with tight white curls and a gingham print dress halfway down her legs to the black tie shoes she always wore. Yet, I have a fond memory of her baking pecan crescents, divinity fudge and baking powder donuts, rolled in white sugar. Hot from the boiling oil, they were heavenly. I also remember when they visited our home on Bay Ridge in Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin. Here Leo, my grandfaither, took out his folding knife, the first one I had seen and carved a fallen apple from the sole tree we had in the backyard.

My mother loved to garden. In fact those gardens seemed to grow in size and colors, with perennials shooting up throughout the short growing seasons.
There were roses, tulips, lilies, and wild flowers of all sorts. But I remember the trilliums and lady slipper the best. The yellow beauty, which we had transplanted from Uncle Bill’s in the country, eventually bore 76 blossoms.  The ground cover, particularly pachysandra was perfect surrounding our entrance at the Beach Drive house on Lake Michigan. The spring peonies- pink, white and red caused an early 4th of July of color splashed around the yard.  This garden brought nearly annual Garden Club tours of ladies to marvel at her green thumb while sipping iced tea.

My mother, Jen, was active in volunteering. She wore a pink smock with the lapel pin of the Lutheran Hospital Auxiliary on which she served as Secretary while serving visitors and patients in the gift shop and café.  She also was an officer with the Junior League and the Milwaukee Blood Center.

Perhaps her most extraordinary talent was her acting. She had learned the skills as a drama student at Lindenwood College in Missouri. There she had acted in solo all of Shakespeare’s works, a monumental feat.  In Milwaukee she was a founder of the Children’s and the Repertory Theaters.  Fascinatingly, acting was perfect for her as she never was able to hold a deep or meaningful conversation, but preferred to stay on the surface moving from subject to subject like a chameleon.  Her roles ranged from comic to tragic, playing lead as the Wicked Witch of The West in the Wizard of Oz and The Queen Bee with a stinging voice. She was very talented, perhaps missing a calling.

My parents married in Muskogee, Oklahoma in 1942 before my father shipped off to Africa and Italy to fight Rommel and Hitler’s Nazi Army. For three harrowing years my mother lived with her Mother-in-law, Margaret Frank (Ganny), who didn’t like her, particularly her plebeian upbringing in Iowa. My brother Rick was born while Dad was at war, adding to the stress of the situation. As he reports, she began to smoke and drink to excess under the disapproving eye of a matron who was also worried about her son’s safe return. 

He did return but on a Care ship, fully disabled after being hit by a German 88mm artillery shell in Monte Cassino, Italy.  Months of rehabilitation and 18 operations, always wearing a body cast to hold him together, added to the caregiving responsibilities.  He would never be able to participate in sports in which he once excelled at a college level. In fact, his father had been an All-American in football and basketball at the University of Wisconsin before taking his own life because of the financial stress of the early 20th century recession bankrupting his manufacturing company when my father was only nine. These magnified problems resulted in Mother’s increased drinking and smoking.

After I was born in 1947 it seemed that my mother had to basically raise the two boys and maintain social standing in a demanding role. I grew up experiencing my mother as a very social and almost manic, activity-drawn person. When I came home from school I was never sure what I would find, a plate of hot chocolate cookies or a harsh order. You see my mother was a “closet,” moving to raging alcoholic. If you grew up in such a home you would also recognize the “walking on eggshells” experience of uncertainty. This describes the tenuous, often frightening atmosphere in which I grew up with my brother. My father travelled often for business and wasn’t a great role model either. As a result, I did not develop strong direction or sense of personhood.

My mother seemed to become more erratic as she grew older. Her sad and then overzealous personality displayed what I came to believe was undiagnosed bipolar disorder with very quick cycling. She also began to show sign of dementia and early Alzheimer’s disease in her late 50s and early 60s. These symptoms were quickly exacerbated by her heavy drinking, starting at noon and into the evening. My father allowed her to have a drink with lunch because it made her easier to be with. If she had  Scotch, her favorite poison, or a martini she could easily fly into a rage. My father did not seem to understand nor could he handle her abuse by trying to control her drinking.

From my childhood I remember being asked to make her drinks, which probably contributed to my own easy journey into overdrinking at an early age. I am not proud of having been the beer chugging champion of my college.

It is tragic to think of how awful it must have been for her to cope with life having a triple diagnosis that escalated over time. As her symptoms worsened, life became almost unbearable. I know that my brother moved away from home as soon as he could after his return from Vietnam as an Air Force munitions officer because of her.  Soon it became impossible for my father as well. We had my parents over for dinner often, but found that the drinking caused acting out that made for a very stressful relationship. My father was unable to maintain a normal life and had suicidal ideations. I got him help and we agreed that he should move to Florida to be able to survive the dysfunction and start a new life.

We planned to institutionalize my mother in assisted living. The event itself was a comic-tragedy as we created a ruse by taking her to her favorite club for lunch, followed by taking her to her new home.  After my father took off for Florida and my brother Ohio, I would spend a substantial part of my life dealing with the consequences of this situation. Quickly the facility found that my mother could not be handled. I was called in the middle of the night to move her. This drama played out nine times as I moved her around the city until finally having to admit her to a locked gero-psychiatry unit at St. Camillus, ironically across from the zoo. There she declined until she was not eating or speaking. I was the only one visiting as family and friends had abandoned her.

I received daily calls and warnings about the demented outbursts of my mother. My wife Pam, an RN, and I prayed for some divine intervention. Finally it came.

I was walking across the campus of the large health insurance company where I served on a hot summer day. As I headed to a conference in the President’s suite, God spoke to me, saying “go see you mother.” I told Him that I had a meeting, which of course He knew, but He persisted and I resisted. I told the President that I needed to go see my mother.

As I entered my mother’s room, she looked at me with blank eyes. Remember she had not spoken a word for some two years of her incarceration. I happened to have her family Bible with me, so I was led to tell her about my faith. She looked at me with tears in her eyes and spoke, saying “you have Jesus in your heart as Savior and Lord and will go to heaven. And if I do the same, I too will be in heaven and we will see each other again?” Shocked and amazed, I told her yes and asked if she wished to pray with me. Together we prayed aloud a prayer of salvation holding each other and weeping. It was one of the most healing and dramatic moments of my life.  We embraced again and I took my leave.

Hours later the nurse called, asking me what I had done to my mother, because she was speaking and aglow. Several hours later she stopped speaking and died 72 hours later of complications of pneumonia.

I believe that my entry into the chaplaincy is because of a desire to care for those ill from alcohol and drug abuse as well as dementia. These folks need Jesus more than anyone or anything. Perhaps God was using my mother's illness for a purpose to be later revealed.
"I will repay you for the years the locusts have eaten" (Joel 2:25).

I will see her again in heaven.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

The Lion and The Lamb

“The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb,
The leopard shall lie down with the young goat,
The calf and the young lion and the fatling together;
And a little child shall lead them” (Isaiah 11:6 NKJV).

The lion will lie down with the lamb is the paraphrase of the above prophesy of Isaiah the Prophet about the reign of the Messiah saying, “There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse and a Branch shall grow out of his roots” (Isaiah 11:1).

Some 150 times in Scripture God talks of waiting for Him.  The psalms speak often saying, Wait on the Lord; Be of good courage, And He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say, on the Lord!” (Psalm 27:14)  The gospel of Luke tells us of Simeon waiting at the temple for the Consolation of Israel, Jesus. Paul tells us in Romans to wait with eager perseverance. Galatians tells us that it is by the Holy Spirit we wait in expectation. Hebrews reminds us that we wait for Him to reappear a second time to reign. He is coming some. In fact Revelation 21 says, “Yes, I am coming soon, AMEN.”

I love the image of the lion and wolf lying down with the young and cuddly lambs. We even have a display in our home library of this scene. But who is the real lion?
“But one of the elders said to me, “Do not weep. Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the scroll and to loose its seven seals.”  (Revelation 5:5). End times prophesy tells us that Jesus Christ is the only One who is able to open the scrolls to pour out His prophetic judgment on all the earth. He is the Lion of Judah. Judah is His tribe and Judah, the son of Jacob was blessed as a defender against the enemy. Take note that in Revelation, Jesus is referred to as “The Lamb of God.” In Revelation 5:6&12 we read, “Then I saw a lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne…worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!” All the living creatures around the throne were praising Him and fell down and worshipped.

The Lion of Judah is also the Lamb. He is both the awesome and powerful defender as well as the gentle Lamb. God in Christ Jesus is all things to all people. He breaks the back of the enemy on the cross, He heals the sick, raises the dead and He alone takes our heavy burdens from us in forgiveness and reconciliation.

We are waiting for His soon return when He comes down from heaven with the trumpet call of the Archangel and takes His chosen ones to heaven with Him in rapture as 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 vividly portrays. It seems then will start the tribulation beginning after Revelation 3 when the church is no longer referenced because we are gone from earth. This time begins the wrath of God. Remember this Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world had to die for us. His blood on the doorposts and cross. God had to die for us to have peace with Him again. He had mercy on us. So pray that the Lion and the Lamb would save you too from the world that is now in such confusion. “Now is the time of salvation”  (2 Corinthians 6:2). Come quickly Jesus- Maranatha!