by Sandy Wood
Work. Sometimes it consumes us. Sometimes we find it mundane and boring. At other times, it excites or challenges us.
Regardless of how we feel about the work we do on any particular day, or at any particular part of a day, most of us spend a significant part of our lives in work environments, and it is in those environments that others see us as acquaintances, colleagues, and friends, and yes, as Christians and Lutherans, too. Our co-workers and associates see us at our best, and sometimes our worst, as we try to live out our faith and our calling day by day.
Most of us, by our own admission, follow our vocations in a prescribed arena. By human standards (but perhaps not by God’s), our circle of influence seems modest. Others, because of their calling, labor in a larger sphere, including popular culture, public service, and the board room. Often today, these seem places where matters of faith are viewed with skepticism. Yet, as Christians—and Lutherans—we are called to witness “to the hope we have” in everything we do and at every opportunity God gives us, trusting that He will sustain us—even when we are at work.
How do we do this? How does our faith inform our work? We ask that question of eight members of LCMS congregations whose vocations place them in the public eye and who labor under the sometimes unforgiving glare of the limelight. Here is what they told reporter Sandy Wood about their lives, their vocations, and their faith. —Ed.
Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer, AMR Corp. and American Airlines, Inc.
Home church: Peace Lutheran Church, Hurst, Texas
Family: Wife Lisa; children Alexandra, James, and Luke
Eight years ago this month, on a day that changed our nation, American Airlines executive Gerard Arpey was at work when a plane was crashed into the World Trade Center. And then another. A third slammed into the Pentagon. And a fourth fell in rural Pennsylvania.
The events of that day are never far from his thoughts.
“When you lead an organization like American Airlines, sometimes you feel obliged to try and explain, or make sense of, things that are really beyond our comprehension,” says Arpey, who is now head of the company. “The events of 9/11 certainly fall into that category.
“But … I think of the story of Joseph, because it’s a great reminder that no matter what happens, God remains sovereign in the affairs of this world.”
In fact, adds Arpey, a better testament to that than he could ever give “has been given by a woman named Cheryl McGuinness. She lost her husband, Tom McGuiness, who was one of our pilots, … on Sept. 11. She wrote a book entitled Beauty beyond the Ashes: Choosing Hope after Crisis about her experience and her faith …. it is much more meaningful and significant than any of my memories of that day.”
These days, that story of Joseph—hanging in there, keeping the faith—remains particularly nourishing, Arpey says.
“With a deep economic recession, high fuel prices, and very difficult capital markets,” among other factors, “we have our hands full just getting through today. But as we navigate through this tough time, we … remain focused on tomorrow, too.”
Arpey says his company has a mission of connecting the world. “It is one of the great blessings of our business that–simply by showing up and doing our jobs—we promote understanding, tolerance, and peace.”
Arpey says he seeks God’s wisdom and grace as he does his job. “I’m always mindful of Prov. 3:6: ‘In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.’”
Arpey joined American Airlines in 1982, and he’s held a number of management positions there. But his professional path really started when he loaded bags during college.
“The most important thing I have learned, both professionally and personally in my 50-plus years, is that all of us will face adversity in our lives, and just as the Bible instructs us, the key to overcoming adversity is perseverance,” he says. “Perseverance builds our character, and it is our character that enables us to build hope for ourselves and for those around us.”
Vice President for External Relations, Focus on the Family
Home church: Immanuel Lutheran Church, Alexandria, Va.
Family: Wife Jenny; sons Tim and Paul
Tim Goeglein’s favorite Bible passage is the story of the apostle Paul in Athens. Every time he reads about Paul going to the marketplace, to the temples, to the Areopagus, to share the Gospel, he is moved deeply.
It’s not hard to see why that passage touches Goeglein so, for he also is carrying a message through a powerful city. As vice president for External Relations at Focus on the Family, Goeglein shares the Focus ministry throughout Washington, D.C.
Focus is about helping families, and “Christ is at the center,” Goeglein says. “…We are about giving voice to the innocent pre-born; to orphan care and adoption; to foster care; to reach out to the thousands of people who come to Focus each week seeking help in hundreds of ways … the heart of my job is to go tell the Focus story … in a way that is winsome, winning, bold.”
Goeglein has spent two decades in government, in the White House of George Bush, in the office of U.S. Senator Dan Coats of Indiana, and in the Gary Bauer presidential bid.
The capital feeds his love of the energy where politics, policy, press, and people connect. But his real passion is the people part.
“My professional motto is two words: Relationships matter,” he says. “Building relationships is the key. … That is how you advance, incrementally one person—one heart—at a time.”
But Washington can be intense and unforgiving, making it challenging to achieve that sometimes.
“There is a lot of harshness, needlessly so, in Washington,” Goeglein says. “I consciously try to avoid that toxic brew. … you bring your faith to every situation, and you pray with the expectation that God will answer according to His will, in His own time.
“My faith guides me every single day in small and large decisions, but mostly evidences itself in how I interact with other people; how I share what Focus is doing; and how I listen—above all, listen—to what other people are conveying to me. A central part of what I do is feeding back into the Focus bloodstream what I am hearing, and why people feel as they do. There is faith quotient in that.”
He begins each day in prayer and devotions.
“That is the time of the day when I set my compass—or at least try to—and realize how far short I have fallen, and how much I need God’s grace and mercy, and the grace and mercy of other people,” he says.
That grace has come.
Goeglein says that when he resigned from the Bush administration over plagiarism issues, as he tried to apologize to the president, Bush told him, “Tim, you’re forgiven. I’ve known grace and mercy in my life, and you’re forgiven.”
United States Congresswoman
Age: Turns 55 this month
Home church: Trinity Lutheran Church, Cheyenne, Wyo.
Family: Husband Al Wiederspahn; daughter Annaliese
Wyoming’s representative in Congress is a lawyer, a cattle rancher, a mother, a politician, a woman deeply influenced by the land and the wildlife and the wide open sky of her native state, and a Lutheran who is so at one with her faith she says it’s in her DNA.
Rep. Cynthia Lummis describes her first term on Capitol Hill as “exciting and challenging and hectic.”
And on certain days, she says, it’s “enormously discouraging because of the amount of money we’re spending, debt we’re incurring, the deficit we’re growing.”
But as we know, what discourages us can inspire us, and Lummis not only is embracing the task of managing the deficit, but is enjoying it to the max.
Of the three committees she serves on—Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Budget—Lummis says she is enjoying the budget committee the most, “probably because I view those issues as so pivotal to America’s future right now.”
The fact that she is keen on working on the budget crisis comes as a bit of a surprise to her. She’s had a focus on natural-resource issues throughout her career—borne of her intrinsic sense of stewardship to the land and water, and God’s creatures.
She studied animal science and biology, and later law, at the University of Wyoming. She concentrated on natural-resource and taxation issues during 14 years in the Wyoming House and Senate. She served as interim director of the Office of State Lands and Investments.
But she also was Wyoming’s state treasurer for eight years.
There’s something else Lummis hadn’t anticipated.
“One of the more surprising things about Congress is how many more opportunities there are to witness, how many people there are who are influenced by their Christian faith, or their Jewish faith,” she says.
The at-large Republican representative goes to a weekly prayer breakfast as often as she can.
On weekends, Lummis commutes to her ranch in Laramie County, in the southeast part of Wyoming, near Cheyenne.
It’s there where she grew up, where her faith took root.
“I attended Lutheran school, Lutheran church, and was in a 4-H Club at my Lutheran school,” she says. “So, Lutheran values are in my DNA, so much so that I find it hard to objectively evaluate when my decision-making is reflected by my Lutheran values rather than just my human values because they are one and the same.”
There are many opportunities to witness that “are almost inadvertent,” she says. But “… it’s important to get comfortable with having conversations about God and faith in situations that may not always be conducive to that.”
And to young people considering a career in public service, Lummis says, “America is the greatest republic ever to be formed on the face of the earth, and young people have an obligation and a duty to protect it and preserve it.”
United States Congressman
Home church: Victory Lutheran Church, Eden Prairie, Minn.
Family: Wife Kelly; daughters Cassie, Briana, Tayler, and Liesl
There are a couple of things Erik Paulsen wants you to know about your elected representatives in Washington.
First, they’re trying hard.
“Despite what you’ve heard, I believe nearly all the people in Washington are giving their all to try to do the right thing,” he says. “We just don’t agree what ‘the right thing’ is sometimes.”
Second, they’re asking God for help.
“There are lots of prayer groups and Bible studies that meet each week in the House and Senate,” he says. “I draw a lot of strength from attending a weekly prayer breakfast. I think the American people would be very encouraged to know that many of their elected representatives are seeking God’s wisdom for the decisions we make.”
It’s Rep. Paulsen’s first term on Capitol Hill. And, like many of his colleagues in this 111th Congress, the Minnesota Republican has put solving the nation’s economic problems on the top of his to-do list.
“My main focus is the economic recovery—everything else we are trying to accomplish in health care, education, the environment, and even foreign policy depend on a strong American economy,” he says.
Paulsen brings 16 years of experience in the business world to the problem. He also served in the Minnesota House of Representatives from 1995 to 2008, and was its majority leader from 2003 to 2007.
“I’m doing a lot of work to help small businesses because there is so much focus on the ‘too big to fail’ concept,” he says. When the whirlwind workweek in the district winds down, Paulsen heads home to his family and his constituents in Minnesota’s 3rd Congressional District, which is in the western suburbs of Minneapolis and St. Paul.
That’s when he does what he calls “the real work” of being a congressman.
“I find I am working harder during so-called ‘recess periods’ and weekends, because that’s when I do the listening, learning, and helping that people elected me to do,” he says.
To keep grounded in a pace that could unhinge the best, Paulsen tries to set aside time every day “to be quiet, and pray.” He also says he works against the “pride and ego that distorts so many people” by “keeping a sense of humor and being able to laugh at the ironies of life.”
And there’s one more thing he’d like you to know: “Washington can be a lonely, frustrating, and tempting place … I hope God’s people will be praying for fellowship, fulfillment, and character among our leaders.
“… the Bible’s command in 1 Timothy 2 to pray for all those in authority … makes clear that it is the responsibility of the community of faith to pray for leaders. And whenever we are unhappy with what our government does, maybe we should ask, ‘Am I praying as I should?’”
United States Congressman
Home church: Lutheran Church of the Cross, Kent, Wash. Family: Wife Julie; children Angela, Tabitha, and Daniel
When Dave Reichert talks about his job, one word comes up a lot: Serve.
The Republican representative is serving his third term for Washington’s 8th Congressional District, which is just east of Seattle and stretches south to include Mount Rainier.
But his service began long before his stint in the capital.
He’s been intimate with what it means to serve since he hit the streets in a patrol car in 1972 as a member of the King County Sheriff’s Office.
“Being a cop, you are very in touch with your community and see so many of the problems that people, children, and families face…” he says. “Now that I’m in Congress, I get back home every chance that I can, but will never forget the experiences of my previous career.”
That career brought him national recognition. After being elected sheriff in King County, he headed the Green River Task Force, which cracked the largest serial murder case in U.S. history.
He then put into practice some more words he uses often—“Actions speak louder than words”—when he sat down face-to-face with the killer and told him about forgiveness and salvation through Jesus Christ.
These days, he’s still practicing that.
“Being in this role gives an opportunity to show your faith through your actions, and how you live your life as someone in the limelight,” he says. “You also have an opportunity to be around other leaders from across the country who may not share the same faith, and it’s important to live your faith through the work that you do both in Washington, D.C., and back at home meeting with constituents.”
Reichert says that nearly four decades in law enforcement and now Congress has taught him to be patient, and that to “serve with a servant’s heart is absolutely the way to witness and lead.”
He serves on the House Ways and Means Committee, and the Trade, Oversight, and Social Security subcommittees.
“I make every decision to the best of my ability and that ability comes from God,” he says. “There are so many pressures from every side on each vote, but I try to gain as much knowledge and facts about an issue, and make an informed decision through that information and what I feel is the right thing to do, rather than simply bowing to the pressure from others who work for their own gain. My faith always guides me through.”
When his 12-to-18-hour-a-day job isn’t commanding him, he spends time with his six grandchildren—going to recitals, football or soccer games, or just hanging out in his backyard.
He has one request for all of you: “I would humbly ask for your prayers, for strength and wisdom and patience for me and all who serve in our government. Please pray especially for our troops.”
United States Congressman
Home church: Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Collinsville, Ill.
Family: Wife Karen; sons David, Joshua, and Daniel
In his job as a congressman, John Shimkus gets asked to sign a lot of photos.
Below his signature he writes: Ephesians 2:8–10.
It’s just one way the representative witnesses his faith.
“Simply put,” he says, “these verses highlight our inability to save ourselves. It is only through God’s love for us by the sacrificial death of His Son and also God, Jesus Christ, who defeated death on the cross that we are saved. Our response to this sacrifice is to love others. We show our love through good works.”
The Republican is serving his 13th year in Congress. He represents Illinois’ 19th Congressional District, which covers rural stretches of the state from the outer suburbs of St. Louis up to part of Springfield.
Shimkus is on the House Energy and Commerce Committee. He also serves on subcommittees on Communications, Technology, and the Internet; Energy and Environment; and Health.
This session, he has campaigned against the national energy tax, also known as cap-and-trade. He also is involved in the healthcare debate, pushing for accessible private health insurance.
“This year has been quite difficult, as I do not believe the country is moving in an appropriate direction,” he says. “But I can step back and know that God is ultimately in charge.”
Shimkus says he is never challenged by constituents or fellow members of Congress when he expresses his faith. But the media, he says, is another story.
“The media and left-leaning bloggers do not believe that faith has any place in public discourse, and I disagree with that,” he says.
Earlier this year, he read from the Bible during a hearing on climate change.
“I feel my position on faith and policy is consistent with that of our founding fathers. My faith is part of who I am, thus it does have a bearing on how I reach decisions and how I go about my job,” he says.
Shimkus won his first election in 1989 when he became Collinsville (Ill.) Township trustee. The following year, he quit his teaching job at Metro East Lutheran High School in Edwardsville, Ill., to campaign for treasurer of Madison County, which he won. While treasurer, he got his master’s degree in business administration. He won his first term as a U.S. representative in 1996.
He also served 28 years with the U.S. Army, including more than five years of active duty. Defending his political ideology fuels him.
“My belief is in less government, individual responsibility, and lower taxes,” Shimkus says. “Defending this approach against those who differ is what I enjoy.”
And his way of doing that is a witness to his faith.
“We are all called to serve in the position God has placed us,” he says. “We must remember that we are all summoned to be not only followers of Christ but witnesses for Christ, wherever and however we can.”
Home church: Immanuel Lutheran Church, Seymour, Ind.
Family: Mom Tracy, Dad Keith, brother Eric, sisters Heidi and Heather.
Miss America never dreamed that one perk of her job would be getting closer to God.
But that’s what Katie Stam got.
In the months since Stam’s title changed from Miss Indiana to Miss America, she’s experienced a new depth in her faith. “I knew I would change a lot; mentally, physically, emotionally. … I never knew I was going to grow spiritually, and that has actually been the greatest growth and change,” she says. “I have only become closer to God, completely relying on Him and putting every situation in His hands.”
Stam’s schedule keeps her from attending church. If she’s not working, she’s in an airplane. She changes locations every 18 to 36 hours, works seven days a week, with no days off.
Yet, she says she has been able to dive into the Scriptures more than ever.
When she won the title, her best friend bought her a travel-size Bible, and they study devotions regularly.
“Several times a week, we read some Scripture, we discuss the Scripture, we pray together, we always talk about things we can do to become closer to Christ,” she says.
Expressing her faith in her job has been both challenging and easy. Challenging, she says, because as Miss America she represents all views, and cannot openly express her faith in public unless asked—for example, to lead a group in prayer. However, it’s also easy, she says, because “My faith guides my every move every day. I’m constantly thinking about how I can shine God’s love to everyone I meet.”
She most enjoys her work with children’s hospitals.
“I’ve been to about a dozen to 15 hospitals across the country, and these kids have completely changed my life,” she says. “I always think that when I am brought to a children’s hospital, I am brought there to offer something to the kids, but I always walk out feeling it’s so unfair because I walk out getting more than they did. I walk out so incredibly humbled, having a sense that even something that we take for granted every day—your health—these kids are fighting for.”
Stam hopes to “bring Miss America back.” She says the organization’s image can be more contemporary and relate to more people.
She says the Miss America Organization made available more than $45 million in scholarships last year, and for that reason, advises anyone thinking about entering the competition to “Go for it with everything that you have.”
After her reign, Stam plans to finish her education at the University of Indianapolis. She’s studying communications, with an emphasis in electronic media, and wants to be a TV anchor.
“Always know that we are all soldiers for Christ no matter what we do, no matter what situation or experience,” Stam says. “Always keep God with you and at the top of your priority list.”
Photo courtesy NASA
Edward Van Cise
Flight Director, National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Home church: Gloria Dei Lutheran Church, Nassau Bay, Texas
Family: Wife Amy; children Hannah and Patrick
Ed Van Cise got a new job this year that will put him in charge of some pretty important stuff.
As a flight director at NASA, the safety of the men and women who fly into space will be in his hands.
At Mission Control, he’ll be in control.
But Van Cise will tell you that a key to his career success has been knowing that he’s not in control at all.
He’s left that up to God.
“God is awesome. God’s creation is awesome,” he says. “Every time we humans think we have something completely understood, God allows us to find something in His creation that contradicts our knowledge or just outright baffles us. … It shows us that God is … in complete control–it gives me all the more reason to simply trust in Him.
“When you can put that trust in God,” he says, “it makes day-to-day life that much easier. When you can look through the cameras on the International Space Station and see the awesome beauty of the earth, or learn about planets that exist in orbits that just shouldn’t be possible, it’s that much easier to trust that God will provide for your needs when you’re frustrated that Wal-Mart didn’t have in stock all the groceries on your list and you’re in a hurry to get home to make dinner.”
Van Cise was selected to be a flight director in June, and is in a training process leading to his certification next year. It’s a path he’s been on since reading about shuttle missions and the Challenger accident in grade school in Michigan. The path led him to study aerospace engineering at the University of Michigan, and then to NASA.
Along the way, people and situations that have influenced him have all been “God placed,” he says.
“Listen to God,” Van Cise says. “He likely won’t come to you directly and tell you what He wants you to do in life (though He just might!). Instead, as in my case, He’ll put significant events and people in your life’s path that, if you listen and pay attention, can seriously affect or change your life’s path.”
And if you’re so busy you need some help making room for God, He’ll help you do that, too.
Before he was selected a flight director, Van Cise was leading a group of flight controllers and instructors. He had about 40 people working for him, and he had just started a two-year Bible-study class that required 100 percent attendance and hours of work each week.
He could have dropped out, but he asked God to help him make room for Him.
He was able to be successful at both work and the Bible class.
“Trust God,” he says. “He knows what He’s doing.”