Monthly Archives: April 2014

Letter of Thanks to My Godly Aunt on Her 80th Birthday

(from mid March)

Dear Aunt Ruth,

I wish I could be with you at the celebration today, but this brief note will have to do. It was really great being with you and yours at the wedding last year and I would have loved a repeat. Maybe next year, huh?

I’ll get around to the standard greetings on this big day, but I wanted to start with a thank-you. The truth is that I have much to thank you for, but it seems fitting that I should sum it all up with Keith Green.

You might not know why Keith means so much to me, but it starts with you. Do you remember? You sent me one of his albums during my high school years. I think it was “So You Want to Go Back to Egypt”, but I wouldn’t swear to that. It doesn’t matter because I didn’t listen to it. Back then it was just one of those religious books or records that Ruth and Jack would send along for a birthday or Christmas. I rolled my eyes every time I received something of this nature and proceeded to put the item in a closet or corner somewhere.

And that’s where I found the album when I returned from West Point a new creature in Christ. I quickly became a Keith Green fan.

Now, some might be tempted to think that your extensive evangelistic efforts were a waste of time, but I know better and I trust you do too. For to me, Keith Green is representative of a woman who was undoubtedly praying that the Lord would remove the veil from her nephew’s eyes, and of course…He did.

And then there’s Mom, who would surely send greetings of a similar spirit if she were able. I stopped to see her over lunch today. She asked me who I was. I told her I was her son. She was glad.

I helped her a bit with the meal – of course, she can feed herself and does usually, but her eyesight is not so good, and I occasionally help as I did today with the meatloaf and jello. Anyway, as she ate, “The Old Rugged Cross” came on the CD player in the dining room, and she began spontaneously singing along in between mouthfuls. I sang along quietly, helping her with the words just a bit while trying not to disturb her fellow residents lunching at the Christian Homestead. You’ll remember that while no Sandy Patti, Mom sings with gusto, and today was no exception.

Me…she’s foggy on, but she remembers the songs of her Savior.

And you led Mom to Him. More gratitude…from her, surely, but of course, from me as well.

And finally, my gratitude will never cease that today, almost exactly 5 years after his death, Dad (you’ll remember – the guy who bristled at being called “brother” upon coming into Water St. Church) is in fullness of joy. How about that? From you…to Mom and me…and from us…to Dad. Glory to God alone, but we are His instruments, and it’s amazing what a few words and an album can do.

The words of one of my favorite Keith Green songs come to mind:

Do you see, do you see, all the people sinking down?
Don’t you care, don’t you care, are you gonna let them drown?
How can you be so numb not to care if they come?
You close your eyes and pretend the job’s done
Don’t close your eyes, don’t pretend the job’s done

Well, Ruth…you didn’t. You didn’t close your eyes, and you didn’t pretend the job was done, and you didn’t let us drown…and you did care…about the most important thing.

So aside from all the Thanksgivings, and weekends during college, and great conversations and love, I thank you on this day for being a faithful witness to the Knowlton family, and I’ll bet to a whole lot of others too.

You, dear Aunt, have run this course well, and I will forever be thankful for that. So, on this your 80th, Happy Birthday from all of us in still wintry Wisconsin!

You are very loved,


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Posted by on April 8, 2014 in Uncategorized


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Saying Goodbye to Diane’s Brother Greg

Gregory%20K._Fenske_7450[1]“My sister’s getting married. Are you surprised?…are you startled?  I’m surprised…I’m startled.”

Diane’s only brother Greg, one of the appointed ushers at our wedding, repeated this mantra over and over as he passed out wedding programs on our big day. It was a glorious day, and yet the details of it grow foggier and foggier each passing year. But we can never forget Greg’s repeated greeting to wedding-goers. We love to tell the story of how surprised Greg was that his older sister had actually snared a man.

My brother-in-law, Greg Fenske, died this past Sunday. He was 39.

Diane had two siblings growing up, her brother Greg – nine years her junior, and older sister Laurie – a grade ahead. Greg was 6 weeks premature and was deprived of oxygen just after birth.  He grew up with special needs.

He also grew up with a special family.

Of course his sisters were terrific – delighting in their little brother – but I have never met more devoted parents than Barb and Ken Fenske. As a little girl, Diane grew up hearing from her parents that she needed to treat the “special” kids with love and concern. Perhaps it would be a Down’s Syndrome girl at the park, or another student in Special Ed at school.

And then, one day, a “special” one entered their family.

Life was hard for Greg, but also hard for his parents. Barb and Ken had all the same love and hopes and longings for their son that all parents have for their children: good friends, academic or athletic success, perhaps a significant other down the road. And until he entered first grade, they didn’t know their longings would be unfulfilled. But whatever had happened just after birth had taken its toll. Greg would operate at an elementary school level through life.

But it was roughly 10 years ago that a strange illness caused Greg to lose the ability to communicate. He would speak only very infrequently, and then often unintelligibly. Sadly, his ability to walk and move about at all became greatly impeded as well. And then, in the last year, Greg developed painful bed sores which became infected. Any and all antibiotics were ineffective. He moved to a nursing home months back, and then to the lovely Kathy hospice in West Bend just 7 weeks ago.

And through it all, his parents were at his side every day. The hospice workers remarked that they had rarely seen such devotion.

After Diane had come to Christ in the 1980’s, she brought the Good News home to her brother.  Greg heard and believed, trusting in the One Who had died and risen for him. When on Thursday of last week, she and I visited him, we talked again of the gospel. In an uncanny development, Greg had begun to speak again in the last few months of his life, and on that day, he was incredibly alert and responding to the verses we were quoting.

“Greg,” we looked into his eyes, “Jesus said, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live. And whoever lives and believes in me, shall never die.”

“Seriously?” he shot back, starting a new and more sober mantra. “Seriously?” Yes, dear brother, never more so.

And now we must say “goodbye”, or…better, “see you later”.  For as Paul said, “We do not grieve like those who have no hope.” (1 Thessalonians 4:13)  We’ll miss you Greg, but we will see you on the other side.




Posted by on April 1, 2014 in Uncategorized


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