CeCe Gruenwald Richter proposed the idea of recalling "God Moments" as a way to remember and encourage others in our class. Several others contributed stories over the years. The collection is meant to be a continuing story of God at work in our lives. As you read, perhaps you will be motivated to share a moment or two from your life.
Has it really been 50 years since we graduated from Concordia High School? Numbers don't lie!
We couldn't possibly have known all that God would have in store for us for the next 50 years. When we left the familiar comfort of our friends and surroundings of Concordia, we stepped into the world with a foundation of secure Bible knowledge, daily devotions, group prayer, and Lutheranism. However, we had gained more than that. We were raised by each other and caring adults who took on the job of instilling Christian moral living. Even though we were ages 12 to 15, we lived together, ate together, talked together, and learned and studied together, and we grew closer than most teens who might had lived at home with parents. Because we lived in these special circumstances, God had something special in mind for all of us. This was quite evident while we spent time together for our 50th reunion. There wasn't enough time to share all of the ways God has been active in our lives the past 50 years, and each of us has many stories that show God's specific action in our lives.
It is now time to share these God moments with each other, our children and grandchildren and perhaps the world. In most cultures, the older people are the wiser and teachers of the culture. Yes, we are “the older” of our culture. These stories of undeniable happenings throughout our lives when God intervened will serve to let others know of our faith. Hopefully, these will serve as encouragement and a witness to all who read them.
What would we have become had we not been at Concordia High School? Only God knows. Our lives reflect these experiences of our high school years. Of course our lives have been a path of growth, but can any of us deny the impact of our high school years?
Read some of the defining God moments throughout the lives of the 34 special people of the class of 1961.These stories are also a gift to Concordia Seward in thanks for the continuing work of the university.
For the past 45 years I have followed my husband around the country for his new teaching positions or the ministry of churches, and during these years, I too would look for employment. Every job I found seem like a miracle, but one in particular seemed like a BIG God moment.
Ted took a call from Palm Coast, Florida to Dothan, Alabama in1994 This was a period in the time of teaching when teachers were a dime a dozen, and I applied at several schools but found no success. Ted began in December with the ministry in Dothan while I remained in Seville, Florida to complete my contract . During that 6 month period I would come to Dothan several weekends a month and interview as much as possible.
One particular Sunday during the church service at Trinity in Dothan, I left during the collection to use the "ladies room" and found another member also in the restroom. She introduced herself and immediately said," I have the perfect job for you." It was quite shocking to hear those words from a stranger in the bathroom during a church service, and yet, what better place. She explained that she worked for the new director of adult education at Wallace Community College and her boss had just put an ad in the news paper for an English as a second language teacher. She stated that I needed to submit my resume the next day. One doesn't argue with a congregation member.
I submitted my resume and interviewed for the job that next Saturday for two hours. Not only was I hired for the ESL position, but also a GED position. I began the job as soon as I finished my contract with Volusia County.
The job lasted for 10 years and my students were a constant stream of people from all over the world. Many of these people had never considered becoming a Christian, but out of curiosity would ask me about my faith. Since it was a public college, I told them I would be glad to discuss the Bible and my faith over lunch or other social meetings. During these extra English practice sessions, there was time for comparing cultures and religions, which always lead to more discussions. Many wanted to visit a Christian church. Some eventually became members.
The acquisition of the job and my many contacts allowed me to share my faith and carry the memories of the many God moments with my students of all religions.
God Moment #1
There are so, so many 'God stories' in my life...and that's with very blurred vision. As I Corinthians says, we 'see now in a mirror dimly". I'm certain that with the 20/20 vision and hindsight we'll have in heaven, there will be many, many more times that I'll see God was at work but I was clueless and/or blind. May I share with you perhaps the most significant (certainly from an eternal perspective) time that God reached into my life?
Complications associated with multiple sclerosis led to the death of my first wife, Pat, in April, 1968. That Fall, thanks to the encouragement and support of family and friends, I was scheduled to embark on a 3 1/2 month semester of college at sea on Chapman College's World Campus Afloat.
Had I carried out what I fully intended to do, I would not have boarded Holland America's S. S. Ryndam on October 10. The day I arrived in New York City, I began making my way toward the Empire State Building where I planned to end my life by jumping from the observation deck at the top of that skyscraper. However, something compelled me (I've always felt it was the Spirit of God working in/on my mind) to head out to Stamford, CT, where I would stay for a few days at the home of one of my father's college friends. I figured I could follow through with my suicide plan on the way back to the docks in NYC. Three days later, my mood was more buoyant and I went straight to the ship. However, I certainly had done nothing to address the sense of huge personal failures and sins and hopelessness combined with the ultimate self-centeredness and faithlessness that had fueled my plan for self-destruction.
One month into the semester at sea, I had gotten to know the Protestant chaplain on the ship, Dale O'Neal, well enough to sense that in the core of his being, Dale was at peace. I was the polar opposite. I desperately longed for that peace Dale had and God heard my heart cry and knew I was ready. You see, I knew an awful lot about God...had my doctrinal foundation pretty squared away (who wouldn't...I'd had Dr. Langefeld, right!). But for me, Christianity had been mere churchianity...mental assent, but my heart was far from God. I was, so to speak, well ensconced on the throne of my life. God...well, He fit in out there...somewhere.
But my heavenly Father had so much more for me. He wanted me to really know Him...to know Jesus, in a personal, real and intimate way. That personal knowing became real to me that Fall, sometime before Thanksgiving. My repentance was tearful and deep, rather than impersonal and rote. I very sincerely, even passionately, yielded control and direction of my life to Jesus...as my true and only Lord. And, the peace of God which surpasses any human comprehension or description became core reality for me...and remains to this day.
So, do I still need to deal with issues of self-centeredness? How 'bout daily. I truly need to die to self and live to and in Jesus every day. No, many times every day, and plenty times I don't...a growth process that will still be going on when the last breath is drawn.
Reflecting on how God's hand was clear in all of this...
Pat had a very real, tangible and vibrant relationship with Jesus. I sure didn't. Did He take her home at such a young age just to get to me?. That's probably way to egocentric...I'm sure the picture is much bigger than that. Could He have drawn me to Himself in any other way? No doubt, but that was the path He used.
Oh, by the way, Pat had four miscarriages. Had there been even one child, I would not have spent that semester at sea. No way could we have foreseen or understood that.
To God be the glory, great things He has done.
God Moment #2
In 1992, we moved from Southern California to New Jersey. Our youngest daughter, Heather, age 17, had finished high school and initially accompanied us. However, she quickly decided she wanted to move back to So. Cal. to attend a community college and take their flight attendant course. We certainly had misgivings, but Heather was one who was very determined and who always seemed to need to learn things the hard way. So, with a certain amount of fear and trembling, we gave our blessing and sent her off...to school, we thought.
In fact, she had prearranged to share an apartment with another girl and they immediately became completely immersed in the use of drugs and many things associated with the drug culture. Most of this, we learned later. We thank God for my brother and his wife and their three daughters who maintained a lifeline with Heather in California. Also, our daughter, Meridee, who was living with us in New Jersey, had regular, pretty open and honest conversations with her sister, but was sworn to secrecy.
After about six months, Meridee could 'sit' on this knowledge no longer and shared many of the details with Jan and myself one Sunday after we got home from the worship service. We were devastated! The only thing we knew to do that afternoon was cry out to God. Meridee, Jan and I spent a considerable period of time on our knees asking our Father to save our daughter.
At midnight, the ringing phone had us both sitting bolt upright in bed. It was Heather. Her voice was barely audible and her words were difficult to understand. She was weeping...no, wailing, that she was in terrible shape, and would we please come get her. Jan was on a plane to Los Angeles at 6:30 that morning. Heather called that morning and told me that she was okay now and we didn't need to come out. Too late, honey...Mom will be there in a couple of hours. It took Jan two days to pry Heather out of the hell hole that was her apartment. While Heather was determined to stay, no way was Mom coming home without her. So, with a small trailer attached to the back of Heather's car, they started the trek back across country.
Heather basically detoxed during that drive from coast to coast. At least twice, she threatened to open the door while Jan was driving across a bridge and jump. But, they made it home. Heather was very grudgingly accepting the fact that she was staying home for awhile. Off of the drugs, she began sharing stories that at the same time shook us deeply but also caused us to thank God for the innumerable ways in which He had spared Heather's life. There was one night when she had five different drugs in her body. She absolutely should have died. My sister-in-law found out that a mutual friend had been driving North on a remote highway in California when she had an inescapable burden for Heather, pulled off the highway, and prayed for her for a long time. That was the very night and time when Heather should have died.
Two months after Heather was back in New Jersey with us, God reached out to her in a deeply profound way and Heather eagerly and fully repented and gave her life to Jesus. She has been a constant source of joy and encouragement to us and the rest of her family as she has been a beautiful, earnest, growing and constant disciple of Jesus since that time.
God sure answered our prayer that Sunday and so many more before and after that day. And, not only our prayers, but the earnest prayers of so many others who were crying out to God with us!
God Moment #1
One morning, not long ago, I received an urgent phone call to come to the hospital where a lady’s mother was in the process of dying. When I arrived in the room, the daughter, greeted me with tears. She said, “My Mom is dying, but she struggling, terrified that God is angry with her because of her past.”
I answered, “Don’t be afraid, Jesus is here. What is your mother’s name?”
She answered, “Anna.”
Going to the bedside, I took Anna’s very small wrinkled hand in mine and called her name, “Anna!”. Her hand was trembling. She looked at me with fear-filled, questioning eyes…listening. I assured her of God’s love and that on his cross Jesus had already paid any and all penalty for her past. “You have no reason to fear your God who loves you and has completely forgiven you. You remember your sins, but your Heavenly Father does not remember them.” Anna looked at me more intently. I reminded her, “Jesus is your Good Shepherd who loves you more than anyone on earth could ever love you.” I assured her, “Jesus is the One who will be leading you from this fearful world into beautiful paradise to be with Him forever.” Still holding her hand, I noticed it was beginning to relax.
So, I started to say, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want….” Her eyes closed. At the end of Psalm 23, I said to all in the room, “Let us join in the Lord’s Prayer.” As we were praying slowly, “surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the House of the Lord forever…” Anna’s hand went completely limp. When we said, “Amen,” Anna let out a big sigh. Her eyes remained closed and her face had a beautiful look of peace. As the nurse who was present confirmed, Anna was now with her Good Shepherd.
God Moment #2
An elderly Army vet lay dying of cancer. He was not affiliated with any particular congregation, but had been baptized. I was called to minister to him. When I arrived, his daughter and son-in-law were in the room. I shared with him and all present the Good News of Jesus Christ. (Much like what I said to Anna above.) About ten days passed when I received another call, this time from the daughter. She said her father had passed away and asked if I would come to the military cemetery in Springfield and have a brief service. She went on to say that while I was visiting her father, her husband, who never went to church or had much to do with religion, listened to my message. To her surprise (and delight), her husband now wanted to know more about the Christian religion.
After the brief funeral service in which I included the simple message of the Gospel, the son-in-law came up to me, took my hand and with great sincerely thanked me for visiting his father-in-law AND for the message that was shared. He said, “You know, I’ve never been a religious person. But, now, I’d like to know more.”
This daughter and son-in-law were from out of town, so I’ve never spoken to them again. Yet, I truly believe this encounter was a “God Moment” in that it seems the Holy Spirit opened this man’s heart to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I pray the seed that was sown has taken root and has grown into a living vibrant faith.
God moved me to Southern California in 1966, a place where I had little desire to go, but where God wanted me to go to learn and grow in Him. I wasn't even aware of His hand in getting me there until later. I was sort of floating around, thinking I was doing alright, but not really giving myself totally to Jesus and trusting Him completely. Until, I started attending Bible teaching classes at an independent church during the Jesus Movement. I learned things from the Bible I had not been aware of before and things that applied to me personally. I became a better teacher, and I knew that teaching was a gift from God not just a talent I had. This profoundly changed my walk with God and I began to see purpose in all that happened. I met Steve, a committed believer, and we married in 1974.
Years later and now in Colorado. Steve was working for a printing/publishing company here in Loveland. I was teaching high school students in our home. Steve came home from work quite early almost six years ago; he had been laid off, along with about half of his department. These jobs have been effectively eliminated in all of the country. He had only one job inquiry in six months. It was very obvious there was nothing we could do about it. His severance and unemployment compensation lasted six months and my limited income kept us well during that time. Steve was remarkably calm about it all, reminding me that God would provide. Still, my normal pattern of anxiousness persisted in spite of Philippians 4:6. By summer with resources shrinking, my sister in southern Missouri who was the principal of a Lutheran school and living in the teacherage said they needed a teacher for second and third grade. I got the job and taught there three years coming home as ofter as possible. I was amazed at how creatively God worked. Our needs were all satisfied and we grew spiritually through every step.
The summer I moved home we found that Steve had bladder cancer. He had been in the army during the Viet Nam era, and are we thankful he was. God knew we would be needing their medical help, so He had Steve recruited into the army even before Steve had become a Christian. Steve had two surgeries, the second to remove his bladder. Last winter we trekked to Denver once a week for chemotherapy treatments. At present, there is no evidence of cancer, and we visit the oncologist every three months. God is so gracious.
Garry and I were traveling back home to Nebraska and were going through Kansas City on multilane I-70. Just in front of us and one lane over to the left was a pickup loaded with large sheets of plywood in the bed of the truck. It was windy and suddenly we noticed that the plywood sheets were starting to lift up and several of them became airborne and we thought that at least one would surely hit us. God was with us and guided all the flying boards "around " us and none made contact with us. Thanks be to God!!
We have some friends in Denver that had been going through some difficult times. Garry and I were in Denver on business so had not contacted our friends. The day we were leaving for home we went to our hotel restaurant to have breakfast before checking out. Here were our friends eating at the same restaurant. We were just amazed that in a city as large as Denver that we would cross path's with one another, with exact timing. We ended up spending the afternoon with them, sharing tears and joy recognizing that this truly was a "God Moment".
P.S. Garry thought that he had booked a morning flight home and we had discovered that it was really an eve flight, so that just reinforced our "God Moment" that we were supposed to meet our friends that Sunday.
Where does a person begin a God Story?
My 7th and 8th grade Lutheran teacher was a graduate of CTC Seward and knew I wanted to become a teacher. Therefore, I went to CHS and CTC in Seward, Nebraska.
Most CHS graduates lived off campus while in college. My husband to be, from Western New York, also lived off campus, two houses away.
My first call was to teach grades K-3 in Pekin, New Yorkin 1965. Two weeks after our wedding, the pastor called me and said that the congregation had voted to close the school due to low enrollment. He had contacted the Western District LCMS office, but was told the only position was 50 miles away. It was a small farming community with no job opportunities for my husband. The pastor said he had then contacted the local public school district and found they had two primary level position openings. The pastor picked me up and took me to be interviewed. My major and minor at CTC fit all the requirements to be certified to teach in a K-8 public school in New York state. The superintendent asked me my interests and said he thought I fit best in a smaller community school (four grades K-3). I received my contract for teaching second grade within the next two weeks.
The Lord knew I could not have taught K-3 by myself, my first year out of CTC. The other three teachers at Bergholtz, were loving Christian women who mentored me. They helped me through the tough problems and showed me what wonderful teachers did for their students. The following year there were two openings in the area Lutheran schools. I choose to interview for the smaller country school grades one and two. We still have friends there who were parents of my students.
The other major time God was obvious to all who knew us was in 1976. At the time I was a stay-at-home mom. The unemployment rate reported in the Niagara County, New York area was approximately 14%. Dan was working, but more and more people were being laid off in his company.
We made a trip to Missouri in October to visit my parents. My mother was the postmaster in Wittenberg. The post office building was near the railroad tracks. A team manager at Proctor & Gamble (25 miles away) was a train enthusiast. He had stopped and talked to my mom and mentioned that P & G was thinking about hiring in the next year. So Dan went down to the plant, interviewed, took tests and because he was from out of state was allowed to do the drug test at that time. Dan was told to stay in touch.
When we returned to New York we prayed about it and put our house up for sale. Of course, winter is not a good time to try and sell a house in NY. Then came the blizzard of 1977. Dan and the others were snowed in at work for 3 days. A guy who worked at the company saw the for sale sign on the bulletin board. They came out to see the house after the snow melted. They wanted to buy. So we made plans to move to Missouri with no sure job for Dan. A realtor in our congregation helped us with all the paperwork and her lawyer took care of the closing details.
The beginning of April we received a letter from P&G saying Dan needed to report for work April 28th. We moved on April 22nd. Dan was one of eleven hired in his group during the beginning of 1977.
God is so good. We have truly been blessed! Dan was able to retire from P&G in 1999 after his heart attack.
The “Light Green Paint God Moment”
Recently our class of 1961 conducted our 50th class reunion. What a wonderful time to reflect and catch up on times gone by and diverse experiences. It did not take long to recognize that the Lord had blessed each and every one of us in many ways. With the thought that we all shared the love and care of the Lord, it was suggested that we share personal “God Moments” that brought us to this point in our life.
Several shared their personal “God moment’s” at the reunion and I was struck with the feeling that an epiphany or enlightening moment was that realization of God’s hand or intervention in our lives. My thoughts were how could I not have had a similar experience since the Lord had provided his care, protection, and so many blessings to me and my family.
Try as I would however, I could not bring to mind any specific experiences that I could attest to or that seem to fit the model I had built in my mind. Disappointed, my reflection on the subject did bring many other experiences. Unfortunately each of these reflections seem to lack that ray of sunshine we associate with something as important or with as much impact as a “God Moment”. Actually though I think they are a “God Moment”. Let me tell you about one of those moments that I will call “The Light Green Paint God Moment”.
My family and I were very blessed early on in that we were able purchase a quaint home soon after we moved and located in my first career assignment. We were very proud of the older home and certainly enjoyed the warmth and comfort it provided. But as all home owners soon realize, keeping up with the maintenance was a necessary task we needed to pursue. The house needed a paint job and because the siding did not need to be painted, only painting the trim would do the job. We carefully selected a light green color that would do the job so we completed the task. It was really cute and we felt proud of our accomplishment so on to the other tasks of home ownership we moved.
About a year later, I was transferred to another location. We were excited but of course we also wanted to continue to experience the pride and comfort of owning a home. Fortunately my company had a policy of assisting relocating employees by purchasing their home. The proceeds from this process were given to the employee so they could more easily afford to continue home ownership. And with that assistance, we were able to purchase our second home.
Not recognizing at the time that I was experiencing a “God moment”, it was years later that I became aware of several events that truly demonstrated the Lord’s hand in providing for my family. After an appraisal and due process, my company purchased my first home for about a $1000 more than we paid. We of course used that money to make the down payment and complete the purchase of our new second home. Several years later, I was told that it took about 3 years for my company to resell our “green paint home” for a $1000 lower than the appraisal. While we thought it was cute (and it really was), my reflections now tell me that our choice of paint color truly limited the potential buyers and consequently a faster sale of the home.
So back to today and the realization that the Lord has many times extended His hand and intervened for us so many times. I know that so many of my ‘less than stellar’ decisions have been covered by His hand and direction so many times. Our choice of a green paint could have been a financial hardship for several years had the Lord not provided or directed me to be associated with a company that provided a compensating benefit. Only years later would I come to realize that the Lord was always there and generously protecting and providing for me and my family. Perhaps those “Light Green Paint God Moments” are when we recognize His care and intervention in our lives. These moments are the enlightenments or epiphany’s we so often cannot see. My thoughts are that we also don’t see those moments easily because there are so many and we think we are in charge and are taking care of business. In truth, the Lord is there even though we are saying, “don’t worry about this one Lord, I have got it and I am under control”. My prayer – “Lord, thank you for your constant care and presence. Help me to understand and appreciate the many things you do that I have yet to see”.
We were living in Denver in the early ’70’s in a house that we bought from the church I was serving as principal and teacher. It was a pleasant house on a cul-de-sac and we got to know the neighbors pretty well. Sandi was a stay-at-home mother but was involved with our daughter Lisa in a number of activities outside of school. She also participated in Bible Study Fellowship, a weekly intensive Bible study program for women.
A new pastor came to St. John’s, Denver, and we connected since I was serving as interim principal of their school for two years. Esther Wessling, the pastor’s wife, was involved in several Bible studies and invited Sandi to join her. They become fast friends.
Back in the neighborhood, a teenage girl down the street had connected with Sandi and Lisa. Cheryl lived with her mother in a house three doors down from us. She was probably about 16 years old and walked past our house frequently on her way to visit friends or catch a bus. She was pleasant, enjoyed visiting with Sandi and Lisa, but seemed a bit distant from her mother. I think her father had died, leaving her with her mom, who was a little strange.
Others in the neighborhood called Anita “the witch.” She didn’t venture out of the house much and when she did she didn’t say much to anyone. Most people avoided going to the house and no one remembered ever going inside. That didn’t stop Sandi. She used Cheryl to begin talking to her mother. I guess eventually she even got invited to come into the house. Lisa remembers it as being kind of dark, mysterious and smelling like incense. Anita had a number of medical issues, didn’t have a job and seemed pretty depressed.
Sandi talked with her and at some point invited Anita to accompany her to one of Esther’s Bible studies. She promptly agreed. Esther led the study and Anita was attentive and interested. At the conclusion, Esther invited anyone desiring special prayers or interested in inviting Jesus to come into their heart to stay behind. Anita stayed and Sandi and Esther prayed with her. At that point, Anita pulled a bag of pills and drugs out of her purse and said she no longer wanted to be hooked on drugs. She was going to throw them all away and start life fresh.
A day or so later, we had a phone call from Cheryl saying that her mother had suffered a heart attack and was rushed to the hospital where she had died.
Lisa remembers asking her mother what it meant to “ask Jesus into your heart.” Sandi explained it in terms a five-year old could understand and Lisa remembers praying a prayer with her mother and inviting Jesus to be part of her life. She still remembers the date and time of that moment.
Cheryl moved out of the house and went to live with her aunt and Sandi and Anita are neighbors in heaven.