This past March, I planned to spend my Spring Break at my parents’ home in Jackson. A “staycation” sounded wonderful. Living alone, I had felt very isolated in my little apartment in Manistee and needed to spend time with my close immediate family. What I didn’t know was that I would be there for over two months. It was the beginning of the “Stay Home, Stay Safe” mandate.
We all want to be safe. Yet there is an “invisible enemy” within our world today. The condition of the world has changed so very quickly. As a preschool teacher, I notice that my young students often fret over things that adults may view as silly. Loud or sudden noises tend to bother them. The title of this article comes from a Veggies TalesTM song. The “Boogie Man” is a pseudonym for our fears. Children are not always able to distinguish the two. God is greater and bigger than any of our fears. When anxieties or fear make their way to my conscious mind, I remind myself of my Confirmation verse, “The Lord is my light and salvation, whom should I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life, of whom should I be afraid?” (Psalm 27:1).
As a retired LCMS pastor, my dad (Pastor Bill Gatz) has always stressed the value of regular worship throughout our lives. On Easter Sunday my parents and I watched four different online church services. Wow! What a blessing to hear so many different messages of faith during such uncertain times. Over the years, our family has considered several congregations home and we still feel a sense of belonging to them. How amazing that we were able enter those sanctuaries again and worship with long-time friends.
During my “staycation” at my parents, I needed a book to read. My favorite genres of literature are biographies and autobiographies because I love learning about notable people and successful leaders. Since I couldn’t visit the public library, I pondered over my dad’s collection of books, until I found an author I recognized. I began reading, “A Man Spoke, a World Listened,” written by my campus pastor at Western Michigan University. Dr. Paul Maier wrote a loving, insightful account of his family history, and specifically how his father founded the Lutheran Hour in 1930. Walter Maier was an inspiring spiritual leader and a trailblazer as he brought “Christ to the nations.” He helped create KFUO radio station and launched the Lutheran Hour radio program. Walter Maier was a true pioneer and created a new genre in radio. In a sense he created his own mission field and sowed the seeds for generations to come.
At the same time that I was reading Paul Maier’s book, I could see parallels between the innovation of KFUO and the emergence of online worship nationwide. Family friends in small-town Wisconsin, southern Ontario, and little Manistee, Mich. were now “video-taping” or livestreaming their services. Just as the Lord empowered Walter Maier, he can just as easily equip us to impact our own individual mission field. “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few” (Matthew 9:37). I am not a commissioned worker, but love teaching in a Lutheran preschool and feel a “calling” to my occupation. I love teaching kids to pray and sharing the love of Jesus with my young students. It was wonderful to reunite with the kids this fall and we’re enjoying our school year.
As the stay-at-home order was lifted, I returned to my home in Manistee. I still hadn’t finished Paul Maier’s book which was over four hundred pages long. Sitting on the beach reading, I was suddenly in shock at what I had just read. I had invested months reading this inspiring biography and suddenly read that Walter Maier had died at the young age of fifty-six. It was so sad. I even called my parents that evening and asked why they didn’t warn me. Maybe I was overly sensitive or emotional from being isolated for so long, but I was in a state of mourning. Some things are just so hard to understand. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding” (Provers 3:5). We don’t know what the future holds, but we know Who holds our future. We need to stay strong and reject the victim mentality so common this past year. Look at the blessings from 2020 and not the burdens. “I have told you these things so that you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
The world is changing and we must change with it. The pandemic we are living through is real, but the “Boogie Man” is not. God is always bigger than our fears and frustrations. Always.
Photo (c) CreationSwap