Archive for July, 2010

Tips on Tackling Difficult Conversations Between Seniors and Adult Children

July 30, 2010

89210640 Are you ready to tackle those hard to start conversations with your adult children? Are you a caregiver needing to address major aging issues with a parent or loved one? Here are some ways to begin, and some suggestions on what to do to help make those hard to have conversations less difficult.

Plan Ahead: Prepare your children or parent that a conversation needs to be had. Schedule a time that works for all to be focused and not distracted. Leave the TV off, the grandchildren at home, and sit around the living room or kitchen table to keep everyone comfortable.

Ask Advice: Asking questions, rather than telling people what to do is always a more welcoming conversation starter. You might ask your parents how they dealt with their loved ones as they aged. How would they like to move forward? Bring up a topic you’ve read about and begin a discussion. For example: I saw an article on home care yesterday, and I thought that may be helpful for me when you’re at work.

medfr06051 Be An Active Listener: Remember you want to know how all parties feel, to take all issues into account. Be sure not to talk over one another. Repeat what you’ve heard to make sure you understand what has been said. For example: Mom, what I heard you say was that you want to do what it takes to stay in your home as long as possible, is that right?

Use “I” Statements: “I” statements are not judgmental! For example: “I am concerned about you driving and I would be happy to make transportation arrangements for you to get you where you need to go. This will be received much better than “You shouldn’t be driving!”

Be Respectful and Kind: Remember aging initiates change and loss. Be understanding, respectful and kind as you work through this difficult time. Treat each other as you would like to be treated.

Often times having difficult conversations with professional guidance would be beneficial, contact a professional counselor or Geriatric Care Manager, like Care-Connect, offering family mediation to help guide you to planning and resolution.

Care-Connect is a Geriatric Care Management Program connecting seniors and their caregivers to appropriate and professional service providers. We arrange, coordinate and monitor the care of you or a loved one, based on a comprehensive assessment of medical and personal needs.

For a list of all of our services see our website:

Nelson Center Receives Letter of Praise From Adoptive Mother

July 28, 2010

smiling girlMost of the children residents at the Nelson Children’s Center in Denton, TX come from the state foster care system. This makes it difficult for caring family members to note and track any progress made as a result of being a Nelson Center resident. On occasion, residents are placed with the help of loving, caring family members who are able to see the difference.

Here is a moving letter we recently received, reprinted with permission from the adoptive parent of a child who was placed at the Nelson Center. Rachel is not her real name which was changed by request.

July 15, 2010

To Whom It May Concern:

My daughter, Rachel, was a resident at The Nelson Children’s Center in Denton, Texas during the fall and early spring of 2009-2010. During the months prior to her admission to The Nelson Center, Rachel had been hospitalized multiple times for severe mood disorder and aggression. As an adopted child, Rachel received assistance through Post-Adoption Services with funding and placement at Nelson.

The superb level of professional, caring treatment Rachel  received at Nelson was nothing short of miraculous. Nelson provided expert medical care that greatly improved Rachel’s physical and mental health. Group, individual, and family therapy sessions were scheduled regularly for Rachel and were extremely productive to the process of not only helping Rachel, but our family as well. The charter school located at Nelson is staffed by skilled, certified teachers who clearly care about each of their students. Rachel was able to salvage her ninth grade of high school as a result. The Nelson Center also took residents on many field trips that included Mavericks games, zoo visits, shopping trips, movies, and many more great activities. Opportunities for individual enrichment and growth were constantly offered. Volunteers often came to Nelson to teach special classes such as dance, or cheerleading that Rachel enjoyed greatly. Spiritual needs are also given priority at Nelson and Rachel loved attending the optional non-denominational church services there.

I was always impressed as a parent by the friendly, warm attitude of all the staff at every level. Rachel’s case workers, therapists, and coordinators were always available and prepared to answer questions. I was kept informed of any development regarding Rachel.

In a few short months, my daughter became a healthy, happy teen prepared to leave Nelson and move to a much less restrictive environment. She was accepted to Methodist Children’s Home in Waco, Texas where she continues to make progress toward coming home again. I’ve included a couple of photos of Rachel with this letter of recommendation to show how truly amazingly her progress was at Nelson. We are so grateful for our time at Nelson and I highly recommend The Nelson Center to anyone with a child suffering severe behavioral problems.


Rachel’s Adoptive Mother

Target Shopping Spree for LSS Foster Family Thanks to the Beaumont Foundation

July 26, 2010

new shoes! The Target store in North Austin was on alert that the Ocasio family was on its way. The nine boys and three girls, ages three to 14, were en route to select their new wardrobes, a semi-annual occasion that brings high excitement to the kids and their foster parents alike.

A generous grant from the Beaumont Foundation of America (BFA) makes this all possible. BFA provides school clothing for the approximately 1,600 children LSS serves in foster care and its three residential treatment centers in Texas each year. A provision of the grant is that the children are allowed to select their own clothing twice a year.  Wilfredo & Dimarie Ocasio

While a shopping trip with 12 kids in tow sounds like utter chaos, the  Target outing was remarkably organized and orderly, a byproduct of the guidance and leadership of experienced foster parents Wilfredo and Dimarie Ocasio. The Ocasios have two biological sons at home and didn’t start out fostering 10 kids at a time. “We went into fostering with the idea of adopting a child, and we have since adopted three,” Wilfredo Ocasio said. He and Dimarie discovered they had the desire, along with enough love (and energy!) to help many more deserving children experience lives in a stable loving home, and moved to a bigger house to accommodate and help more kids. He admits it’s a challenge, but says “It’s well worth it when you put them to bed at night and they say things like “I love you … thanks Dad!” Frank Newton & Betsy Guthrie

Before embarking on the trip to Target, the Ocasio family met at the LSS offices to meet Frank Newton, chief executive officer of the Beaumont Foundation, and his wife Nancy, who accompanied the group on their shopping spree. While the kids enjoyed a snack, Newton presented the clothing grant check to Betsy Guthrie, president and chief operating officer of Lutheran Social Services.

one full basket Upon arrival at Target, the kids grabbed their baskets, and with the help of the Newtons, older sons Miguel and Jonathan, LSS family service worker Katie Bowman, and grant writer Cecelia Blanford, headed to their favorite departments. When their red baskets were filled, the kids reteamed at the Target/Starbucks café area and were treated to popcorn, drinks, and dessert smoothies.  

“This is the fourth year BFA has generously funded clothing for LSS’s children,” said Guthrie. “This is a great example of good works and generosity in action.” snacktime

No doubt about it, this is one shopping trip that hit the Target bullseye.

Note: Interested in finding out if you have the “right stuff” to become a foster parent? Go to our Foster In Texas (FIT) website to learn all about it, or call 877-747-8110.

Middle School Cafeteria Flashbacks & the Senior Dining Experience

July 23, 2010

Here comes the new kid with his lunch tray. Hemystery meat again...’s holding his breath and his knees are knocking. His eyes dart from table to table, met only by unwelcoming stares. The only thing worse than the anxiety of finding new friends – heck, he’d settle for one friendly face! – is the glop passing for food on his plastic tray.

We’re not talking about lunchtime horrors at the middle school here … but unfortunately are referring to the very real fears and anxieties many of today’s seniors express when moving into a new retirement community and facing the dreaded group dining experience.

At Wedgewood South Assisted Living in Lubbock, the cavernous cafeteria and steam table buffet line are nowhere in sight. Instead, small private dining rooms, tasty nutritious meals, and attentive service make Wedgewood stand apart and above other senior living communities in the area.

The LSS marketing team worked with John Berkely, senior vice president for senior services, and Kim Edler, Wedgewood’s community manager, on a 60-second TV spot to promote Wedgewood as the best choice for an assisted living facility in the Lubbock vicinity. The main message and focus of the spot was on the tranquil, anxiety-free dining experience along with Wedgewood’s gracious, convenient lifestyle.

Local Lubbock station KCBD did a great job of shooting and editing the footage, adding voice-over and music, and making the most of a nonprofit’s non-existent budget.

Here’s a look at the finished product, which brought in record traffic after the first weekend it aired.

EXPLORING BULGARIA – Adoption Travelogue Part I

July 21, 2010

Bulgarian architectureSonya Thompson, vice president of foster care and adoption, and Konnie Gregg, director of social work services for the LSS International Adoption Program, are leaving August 7, 2010, on an exploratory trip to Bulgaria. They will meet up with our Bulgarian liaisons in Sofia, the capital and largest city in the country. Their charge is to learn more about Bulgaria and the plight of the children living in that country’s orphanages. Sonya and Konnie will get to know the staff of the nonprofit foundation accredited by the Bulgarian government to facilitate international adoptions through LSS, and will meet with officials at the Ministry of Justice, the central authority for adoption in Bulgaria. New processes and procedures have been recently put into practice with international rules now in place to protect children from child-trafficking and exploitation.

This will be a great opportunity for Sonya and Konnie to share LSS’s values, philosophy, and extensive experience in international adoption with the Bulgarian team responsible for ensuring that adoption processes are in accordance with all laws and regulations governing international adoption. They will learn about the Bulgarian people, their history regarding child welfare, views toward adoption, customs, language and food. They will visit orphanages to see how the children are living day-to-day – and what their fate may be if not adopted. Upon their return, they will report their findings to the Senior Leadership Team who will make a final decision about establishing an LSS adoption program in Bulgaria. “We need to feel it and touch it to know if it’s right for LSS,” said Sonya.

Stay tuned over the next few weeks to learn more about the LSS International Adoption program, why we have a commitment to children around the world, and how we came to consider a program in Bulgaria, of all places.

In August, you can travel along with Sonya and Konnie as they journey through this small Eastern European country. Who knows … once they get back, and all is in order, you may want to adopt a child from this beautiful country!

map of surrounding countries

I Am Tiger Woods

July 20, 2010

tiger woods AP photo I am fascinated by the man we simply call Tiger. What I respect most is his never-ending quest for perfection on the golf course. He is the best golfer in the world and still continues to relentlessly strive to improve his game. We can all learn from his work ethic as we strive to enhance our own God-given talents.

However, recently many of us also took pleasure in ridiculing Tiger Woods. We reveled in stories about his numerous mistresses and purported $750 million divorce settlement. The circus-like media feeding frenzy made for great entertainment as we momentarily ignored our own short comings and jumped on the paparazzi bandwagon. However, if we are honest as we unpeel our own onion, we must all admit that Tiger’s failings are at times also ours.

In retrospect it is clear that Tiger became enslaved to his own ego. Instead of asking, “Who can I serve today?” he mistakenly assumed that the world was his oyster – he was entitled to “consume” all that he desired. Sadly, my guess is that Tiger can closely and belatedly relate to the words of the contemplative writer, Thomas Merton, “What a strange thing? In fulfilling myself I had emptied myself. In grasping things, I had lost everything. In devouring pleasures and joys, I had found distress, anguish, and fear.”

The point is not to judge a fallen hero but rather to utilize this very public hanging to courageously illuminate the failings of our own lives as we seek to live a life of significance; to honestly examine the rubbish hidden within our own personal cellar. It is a reminder of just how easy it is to become inward- focused as we push God and others out of the center of our lives. As lapsed Christian and Air Force fighter pilot Howard Rutledge ruefully acknowledged after being shot down and captured by the enemy in the Vietnam conflict, it took prison to show how empty his life is without God. He observed, “My hunger for spiritual food outdid my hunger for a steak.”

When we are unmindful of our special status as God’s baptized, it is easy for all of us to live in the “insanity” of our sin. We lose sight of the importance of our relationship with God and we hurt those who we love the most – in Tiger’s case – his family. Rather than denying ourselves and taking up our cross, as Jesus demands, we live with what Eckhart Tolle calls an “illusion of self.”

However, when Christ is in the center and forefront of our lives we are able to distinguish between our cravings and our true needs. We are able to naturally move from asking, “How do I want to live out my life?” to “How does God want me to live out my life?” Our autopilot becomes, “Who can I serve today?”

In my role at Lutheran Social Services, I am honored and humbled to be surrounded by society’s true heroes – the staff, foster families, and dedicated volunteers who day-in and day-out care and sacrifice on behalf of our clients and each other in a myriad of mundane and unsexy actions. They understand that true Christian love is merely a preference of others over one’s self. Like a beautiful piece of art, they weave their work and faith together in a way that mirrors God’s image here on earth. Yes, it is they (and not our media-hyped celebrities) who are our true role models as they and we live a life of significance in service to others.

Dr. Kurt Senske is chief executive officer of Lutheran Social Services of the South and author of The Calling: Live a Life of Significance (forthcoming, November, 2010)

KNBT 92.1 FM, Gruene Hall Get New Life!

July 16, 2010

Americana JamSometimes the ball just bounces your way. Who cannot relate to that? It was certainly the case on May 16 at Gruene Hall (pronounced ”green”), the legendary dance hall located deep in the heart of Texas.

Gruene Hall is a lazy tube float down the winding, cypress tree-lined shores of the Guadalupe River from our New Life Children’s Center in nearby Canyon Lake. The geography has a Garden of Eden-like quality to it and Gruene Hall with it’s well-worn wooden dance floor and the surrounding area makes it a jewel of Central Texas.

Guadalupe_River Largely through the inspiring generosity of others, LSS was fortunate to create the New Life Children’s Center campus in this setting. The surrounding natural beauty is the first thing (but not the only thing) that strikes the first time visitor.  It’s bucolic. For the unfamiliar, New Life houses up to 60 girls at a time between the ages of 11-17 who have been physically, emotionally and sexually abused and neglected. They come from all over the state, and most are part of the Texas foster care system. Sadly, there is always a waiting list for more girls who are in need of the treatment and services provided at New Life.

DSC_0523What we were delighted to find out is that for ten years running, KNBT 92.1 FM, our neighbors downstream in New Braunfels, broadcasting a stone’s throw from Gruene Hall, stages the Americana Music Jam. Like the name implies, it is a celebration of Americana music as well as a fundraiser. What is “Americana music”?  Read on!

L to R: Barry Williams, Mary Jane Nalley, Mattson Rainer, Lisa Brown, Dr. Gary Henry, Steven Smith, Zach Jennings.Each year, KNBT and their partners choose a local charity to donate the proceeds of the Americana Music Jam.  The proceeds from this year’s Jam is going to help the girls at New Life Children’s Center. Last week we learned these music-loving merry makers raised a whopping $55,772 for the New Life girls!  Wow! THANK YOU!!!

Gruene Hall, the fascade.Like a good rain dance, timing is everything. The timing could hardly be better as New Life is preparing to open a fourth, 20-bed dormitory later this fall.  The proceeds will be used to address other needs beyond the new dorm expenses (which are not slight). Each year, we must raise 30 percent of the cost of running the 24/7/365 facility through private donations like these.

L to R: Staci Kirpach, KNBT Radio Personality Tiffay, Lisa Brown.Back to this ball bouncing your way on occasion thought.  I know it’s certainly true in my life. I can easily think back and pick out a few times when the chips were unmistakably down, and when I needed it the most, somebody did something seemingly simple they didn’t have to do that made a huge difference in my life. A “Thank You God” kind of difference.  Landing at Lutheran Social Services – best job, best mission I’ve ever had – was one of those moments.

New Life Children’s Center is one of four children’s shelters we operate in the state. Nelson, Krause, and Bokenkamp in Denton, Katy, and Corpus Christi, TX respectively, have much in common with New Life. They are all designed to be the place where the ball can bounce into the hands of children who rarely, if ever, have had that experience. Children with stories often so horrific they’re hard to believe.

When it happens at a place like New Life, it feels miraculous and is enough to make rooms full of adult women and men cry. If you don’t believe me, watch these videos of Jennifer and Kai, former residents at New Life and Nelson who will tell you that the net affect of their time at our centers was that the ball finally bounced their way. They got what they needed when they needed it most. By design.

What’s great about KNBT, their listeners, their partners, Gruene Hall and the music lovers who attended this show, is that it introduced us to each other. Two sides that seemingly have nothing in common except for maybe geography and an understanding of the power of generosity. And maybe that’s enough. Maybe there’s more!

So, what is “Americana music?” Loosely defined, Americana music is when traditional American country and folk music mixed with rock’n’roll music in the mid-sixties through the mid-seventies creating an entirely new sound that largely shaped and defined a solid chunk of popular music during that time. As a reference point, think The Eagles. Well, the early Eagles. The Peaceful Easy Feeling, Tequila Sunrise, and Take It Easy Eagles. Great melodies, multi-part vocal harmonies, rooted to a country twang, with maybe a mandolin, fiddle, harmonica, or banjo solo somewhere in between, often with a heavy back beat. Soul-soothing sounds about love gone wrong, usually. That’s Americana music.

CPH logoSo the thrill in all of this for me personally, which is far less important than the work described above, is the discovery of a Sunday evening radio program broadcast on KNBT 92.1 FM that is archived on their website every week called the Cosmic Power Hour hosted by Tom Gillam. You’ll see Tom’s name listed as one of the acts that performed at the Americana Music Jam along with other Texas music icons Robert Earl Keene, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Charlie Robison and others. So first, thank you Tom and all the other performers for your personal contributions to the success of this year’s jam and all the good it will be doing for the girls at New Life!

Secondly, the Cosmic Power Hour offers several things worth mentioning.  It plays great music from not-so-long-ago that represents a cultural movement that is nothing less than a corner of the American fabric itself. A lot of the great music you’ll hear on the Cosmic Power Hour was largely deemed “uncommercial” at the time, failing to register chart-topping hits but often inspiring other artists who went on to log monster radio hits as a result. Again, The Eagles are a good example. Even better, the show is hosted by a veritable Americana Music professor, Tom Gillam, who provides ample insight and back story on the era. He is capable of  spinning yarns all night long about how Not A Hit Song X influenced Hitmaker Y that you would otherwise not know. Above all else, it is simply highly entertaining radio in a way radio used to be and no longer is.

No way of explaining that without showing my age a little bit. I was intrigued to learn from Tom that the iron-hot peak of the whole era took place in Southern California cerca 1974.  You wouldn’t ever think of Los Angeles as a hot bed of country music, first of all.  My family moved to L.A. when I was a kid in 1975 (I got to Texas as quick as I could). In those days, if you admitted you liked straight-ahead country music, you’d likely get beat up. The very first and best friend I made in L.A. was with KMET 94.7 FM radio literally the day we moved in. KMET 94.7 was one of the all-time great FM radio stations and was in it’s heyday at the time.  Jim Ladd, the iconic DJ of that period coined the phrase “sitting around the electronic campfire” which is what it felt like.  It was just DJ’s spinning hit records, it was about being connected to a larger community. That’s the feeling I get from the Cosmic Power Hour and from the folks I met from KNBT and Gruene Hall that day they handed over the huge check to us to help the girls at New Life. I know it’s a small way of saying thanks but I’ve been telling all my music loving friends around the country about it. They’re enjoying it and I tell you, if you like that kind of music, you’re going to like the Cosmic Power Hour.

And thanks again to everybody who made the Americana Music Jam a great success!


Houston Astros Call Up New Pitcher

July 14, 2010

A dream of a lifetime came true for Jessica Burris of Frelsburg, TX, last Sunday afternoon.  Jessica, who is mentally handicapped, threw out the first pitch at  Minute Maid Park before the Houston Astros vs. St. Louis Cardinals game ending the first half of the 2010 Major League Baseball campaign. Jessica’s major league debut was part of LSS Day with the Astros, our annual fundraiser at the big diamond in downtown Houston. Unfortunately, the home team lost, 4-2.

Members of the Frelsburg Trinity Lutheran Church, a small, country church near Columbus, earned the right for Jessica to throw out the first pitch by raising more money for the Krause Children’s Center in Katy, TX, than any other Houston-area church.

“Pastor Mosely made the suggestion and people just got behind it,” said Greg, Jessica’s father.

Trinity Lutheran in Frelsburg raised more than $4,000 for the cause.  What the other churches who participated in the quest didn’t have, was a lifelong Astros fan with a dream – like Jessica, on their team.

“Jessica is the biggest Astros fan in the Columbus area,” continued her father. “She knows every player on the roster by their number. I have to print out a new roster every time they make a change to it.”

Determined to send her to toe the rubber on top of the mound at Minute Maid, Jessica served as a true inspiration to her church members.

“Everybody came out for Jessica. It was just amazing. We had a bake sale that sold out in two hours and people just kept giving.”

Jessica is no stranger to athletics being a regular participant in the Special Olympics where she competes in bowling, the 50-meter dash, and the softball toss – perhaps foreshadowing her call to the bigs and a trip to the mound. She can now count an autographed ball she used to fire the first pitch at an Astros game among her collection of medals.

“She’s pretty proud of that ball,” continued Greg. She’s been going around telling everybody, ‘I got to throw out the first pitch.’”

We’re proud of you too, Jessica.

The Krause Children’s Center is home for 60 boys and girls in the Texas foster care system between the ages of 11-17 who have been physically, emotionally and sexually abused and neglected.  Krause is partially funded by the state of Texas. Remaining funds to cover operating costs of the 24/7/365 facility must be raised through private donations and events like LSS Day with the Astros. LSS would like to thank all the church members who participated in this year’s event for helping the boys and girls at Krause!

How Lutheran Are We? Half-Orphans, Widows, Plagues, and other Anomalies…

July 13, 2010

We officially christened our 16th foster care office on July 6 in Spring, TX, with the ceremonial ribbon-cutting provided by the The Woodlands Chamber of Commerce. The new office will serve the Conroe and the Woodlands areas north of Houston.  Personally, it was my first trip to that part of the state and I was impressed by the dense groves of tall pine trees and underlying red dirt, something you don’t see in Austin. It reminded me of visiting my grandmother in the foothills of the Sierras in Northern California, albeit a little flatter and slightly more humid.

Remarks made by our CEO Kurt Senske on the occasion offered several very interesting pieces of information regarding our agency’s past, present, and future — including the percentage of non-Lutherans we employ, serve, and who generously support LSS with financial gifts. You might be surprised! Also, Dr. Senske remarked on the situations of those in need in the early days as a social services provider in New Orleans, Louisiana, circa 1881 and Round Rock, Texas, in 1926. These two entities merged in 1993 to become LSS of the South. Long since outdated terminology used to describe those in need way back when included terms like “half-orphans.” What could that possibly signify? Widows and plagues also are part of the interesting vernacular of social service in those days.

Some things haven’t changed much at all over the years, like a love for children and a deep-rooted belief that foster families who are well-served, will serve children well. It is our sincerest hope that families who participate in providing foster care, through the new office in Spring and the other 15 LSS offices in Texas, will consider the foster-to-adopt program aimed at providing permanent, loving homes and families to those who’ve never been part of one.

A special thanks to the Chamber of Commerce representatives who took time out of their busy day to help us commemorate the occasion. Day-to-day operations at the new office will be handled by Kimberly Greene, area director, and Kandi Carruth, program secretary.  Give them a call at 281-298-8639!

Al and Tipper Gore Separate as Irene and Billy Clements Continue to Serve

July 12, 2010

Al & Tipper

During my stint in national politics in the late ’80s, I had an opportunity to meet then presidential candidate Al Gore along with his wife Tipper, prior to a presidential debate. The two were gracious to a fault even after learning that I was employed by a competitor. It is safe to say that we were all stunned to learn recently about the pending dissolution of their 40-year marriage. We recalled their romantic long kiss before millions of viewers on the stage of the 2000 Democratic National Convention. No matter what our politics, we appreciated their portrayal of a warm, loving, devoted couple―a sharp contrast to the Clinton marriage.

I, of course, do not possess any inside information as to the cause of the Gore breakup. Their home state papers in Tennessee are reporting that no affair was involved – that they had merely grown apart. This may be what infuriates me the most. I understand that in some circumstances divorce simply cannot be avoided. However, if a couple such as the Gores – a couple that has publicly professed to be active in their Christian faith; together raised four children; possess 40 years of shared memories, heartaches, laughter, and partnership; simply decide to walk away, that their marriage isn’t worth the struggle; that their individual pursuits are more important than their previous commitment to God and each other, what does this say about the current state of our societal values? From my perspective there is a societal story line behind this anecdotal celebrity gossip.

Marriage is difficult in even the best of circumstances. Martin Luther quipped that anyone wanting to understand the meaning of self-sacrifice should marry and have children. Marriage becomes even more difficult when we become disconnected from our spiritual existence, from our faith. When our faith is weak we become enslaved to ourselves. We seek – we conquer and we still “can’t get no satisfaction,” so we selfishly begin anew with another ego-induced pursuit. When this occurs, far too often our spouse and children become casualties to our inner needs.

The struggle is compounded because the self-indulged world in which we live does not value a life of service and sacrifice. We are told that the most successful life is one that has the most checks on his or her “bucket list.” If a spouse is getting in the way of accomplishing one’s desires, the easiest answer is to undo the knot. The idea that we are to serve our spouse through sickness and health, good and bad, young and old, becomes such a quaint and naïve notion; a remnant of the old days when one didn’t live much past retirement and the raising of children.

Al and Tipper Gore, like you and me, live in an amazing time. They, and many of us, possess health, wealth, and freedom that those before us could never imagine. By one account their net worth has increased one hundred fold over the past 10 years. They, like us, have the freedom to decide who and what to worship. Some of us will worship status or money and will never have enough. Some of us will worship beauty and will never quite measure up. Some of us will worship our vast intellect and be in constant worry that someone will unmask our fraud. Some of us will worship power but in the dark of the night will feel weak and afraid.Irene & Billy Clements

What still gives me hope is that others of us continue to choose to  follow a different path. People like longtime Lutheran Social Services staff member and foster parent Irene Clements, who with her husband Billy have fostered 127 children during their 44-year marriage. In a perfect world it would be couples like the Clements and not the Gores who make the daily headlines. Couples who willingly set aside their own needs in order to care for each other and family.Irene & daughter Melissa

Genesis 2:24 teaches us that through our marriage we are united and “become one flesh.” In order to keep our flesh “one” marriage takes hard work. We must be willing to give all of ourselves – body, mind and spirit – to our partner. On an emotional level, we share our thoughts, needs, burdens, fears, dreams, weaknesses and hopes. Spiritually, we join hands in prayer, kneel at the Lord’s Table regularly, forgive and encourage one another, and promise to love and persevere. Physically, we enrich each other through the intimate act of making love. In a Godly marriage husband and wife set aside ego and position themselves for a life-long service to each other.

Dr. Kurt Senske is chief executive officer of Lutheran Social Services of the South and author of The Calling: Live a Life of Significance (forthcoming, November, 2010)

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