October 15th marks my birthday, a grilling event for Team Jackson, and a Walmart Saturday Morning meeting, where Dolly Parton is a special guest.
On those days, our son and his family come to Springdale and we grill a lunch. Grandson Alex often helps with grilling, but others pitch in too.
The meeting days are especially fun. I get up at 5 AM, my normal time, drive north to the Walmart Headquarters neighborhood, and take LI to the meeting in our limo, the Town Car. This will be about the 80th Saturday Morning Meeting since we moved to Arkansas. On the way to the meeting and once there, we discuss Lutherdom and the world of business and computers. We get there so early that we are often seated near whoever attends from the Walton family. I have met and spoken with the Walton family numerous times. Alice Walton has thanked my wife and me for volunteering at the Crystal Bridges Museum. I introduced myself to two CEOs of Walmart and one CEO of Sam's Club. Sometimes we sit right behind the top executives or in front of them. Various stars in entertainment and sports, politicians and others sit near us, sometimes a few feet away.
| You saw the movie "Sully"?|
Good. My son and I heard him speak at Walmart,
a few feet away from us.
He received two thunderous standing ovations.
When we drive down to Springdale, we discuss the meeting and read the tea leaves about how things were expressed at the meeting. Our daughter-in-law comes down separately with the grandchildren, because schedules vary and they often have her exquisite, homemade cheesecake to share. In that interim, LI explains current business issues to his mother, and I get the grill ready.
Long ago I was influenced by two theories. One is that confidence comes from time children spend with parents. Children are spoiled by stuff given to them to make up for lack of time with their parents, but they are not spoiled by affection and time spent with them. The second theory is quite similar and came from a famous business speaker. He said, "There is no such thing as quality time. Measure the hours your child is with others. That is the way to measure influence, not one hour of time per week that is called quality time."
LI grew up in a parsonage, and we home-schooled him for a year before he went to a WELS prep school. I tutored him in Latin, Greek, and Hebrew. The goal in Latin and Greek was to be able to sight read and translate the entire Gospel of John, without English words written in the margins. We translated Jonah to learn Hebrew. In those required prep and college language classes, he was far beyond struggling with the basics and ended up tutoring others, already at the prep school and also - at the request of faculty - at Northwestern College. Naturally, he learned more from the start and still more from tutoring in Latin and Greek. He volunteered some of my acerbic comments about the art of making the classics deadly boring - right in class. Faculty reactions varied.
We went through Pieper's Dogmatics at home, too, which continued earlier experiences in enjoying great literature for children when he was much younger - Twain, Tolkien, C. S. Lewis, and many more authors. A lot of current family jokes come from those reading sessions, which we enjoyed immensely.
We all went through the experience of losing Bethany and Erin to a mysterious disorder. I am quite sure that made LI especially appreciative of his daughters. And then a grandson came along, we all got to enjoy another child all over again.
As Luther said, "children are the blessed fruit of marriage." God intended men and women to be married and learn selflessness from having children, cleaning up messes, and dealing with the stages of growing up. From those moments come the greatest memories. I have cautioned many ministers that they will never say, "That was a great meeting 20 years ago." But they will remember those priceless hours spent with their families.
All the time spent in adding onto the church, expanding the parking lot, planning events, and working out budgets can be seen as time wasted when the congregation closes 20 years later, the synod pocketing the equity, often a hefty sum of money.
I lost track of the workaholics who lost their families in pursuit of advancement or self-esteem in the denomination. No one wants to talk about it or admit the facts.
But the family is the most important congregation of all, and it lasts - for good or ill - forever. Before 20 years are up, the children are involved in school, work, activities, and friendships. The long-term investment of time pays dividends for life, and those moments are replayed time after time with great satisfaction.
Much later, people realize that the jar of raspberry jam broken on the brand new white rug was just a moment whose agony became humor, even if the humor had to be slowly distilled from the disaster over a certain period of time.
At my 50th high school reunion, the grandparents were easy to spot. I do not think they were long on luxuries, but they were beaming about their grandchildren. One very special boy has a condition so rare that I had to look it up, and we went through the medical resources in dealing with ours. He is a special boy, very cute, with manifold problems, but he is deeply loved by his grandparents. I thought at the reunion, as we had dinner with them, how lucky he is to have parents and grandparents like that. Certain attitudes developed by sincere Christian faith developed those qualities. That was the clergy/active laity table. Gravitational pull drew us together for a unique dinner. We even sat next to one of my mother's favorite grade school students, who is married to a minister.
When I hear certain things about the business world, my mind zooms back in time to raking leaves at a Notre Dame faculty home. LI was there. When we saw Joe Montana at Walmart, LI said, "Yes, I saw him play at Notre Dame," watching the jaws drop open. We visited Yale together and he saw the beauty and quiet of the enormous Sterling Library, where he met Roland Bainton - my hero in church history. At Yale Divinity we dropped in on Paul Holmer, my favorite professor, and he met with Dr. Holmer years later.
We are a family of languages and libraries. All three of us worked in libraries. All three of us studied various languages, the men leading in Hebrew, but Mrs. I in Russian. We have so much fun together, talking, joking, and discussing current events and crises. And I often hear my favorite title spoken - Dad.
|Sterling Library is the main library at Yale University.|
|The Day Mission Library at Yale Divinity School,|
not far from where the early version of the ESV was translated
by the National Council of Leftwing Churches.