Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Power of Generational Legacy

Many people have asked my father how in the world a school teacher from Nebraska (who is not much of a world traveler), ended up with both his children serving God overseas.

Read this blog at the risk of altering the course of your life (legacy is irresistible), your children’s lives, and the lives of the kids around you. You WILL see a world changed forever...

How do you change the world?

Destiny Words.  

Spoken one at a time. Year in and year out. Over and over. They get under your skin and seep into your blood.

I’ve stood in awe of three generations of men who know how to speak the language of destiny.  I’ve seen it with my own eyes.  It’s powerful. It’s a force that cannot be stopped.

My grandfather was born in 1901.  As a teenager, while his brother was at boy scout camp,  he’d work all summer long on a dairy farm to earn $50.  At the end of the summer, his entire earnings went to pay for shoes for all the kids in his family.

Christian Jensen (20 years old - 1921)

One summer he discovered that one of the cow’s milk dried up.  No one could figure out why...till my grandfather found the boa constrictor that had been drinking the cow’s milk all summer. I’m trying not to picture that!

He was the first among his friends to save up enough money to buy a car...a black Ford Model T.  And he was COOL!  As the only dark haired Danish boy, attending a church of blond Swedish girls...he was quite the catch.

My grandfather married my beautiful grandmother, and he took a job with the Union Pacific as clerk.

To me, this is where the story gets really interesting.

Cecil B DeMille’s film “Union Pacific” came out in 1939, and the railroad brought in the film’s celebrities for the ”Golden Spike Days”– a 4 day event celebrating the film’s premier.  The president of the Union Pacific asked my grandfather to put together a drum and bugle corp of the employee’s kids for the event.  It was such a success, my grandfather was asked to continue the corp.

For many years he passed up promotions for his clerk day he could keep directing the corp (accepting a promotion would have meant working on Saturdays...the day of band practice, so he declined).

For over 30 years he led the corp...and became like a father to many of the kids. Kind and generous, he mentored the boys, taking them on camping trips...where he made cabin stew, showed them how to build fires, and spent time fathering them.

Chris Jensen (first row...far left)

To him it wasn’t about money or titles – it was about inspiring and loving kids. 

He had so much favor with the Union Pacific presidents (because their kids were in the corp), that when he stepped down, his "clerk's retirement package" somehow reflected all those promotions he refused to take.

The UP Drum and Bugle corp was a special place, not just for my grandfather, but for my parents.  In fact, this is how they mother was a baton twirling 14 year old and my father was the 17 year old drum major.

Paul Jensen - Drum Major

Dorothy Freeman (center) - baton twirler

The drum major and baton twirler -
almost 50 years later (they clean up good)

Which brings me to my father.

When I’m back in Omaha, Nebraska – invariably we will be out to eat at a restaurant with my parents.  I can’t tell you how many hundreds of times kids have come up to my father and said,

“Hello, Mr. Jensen, How is your day?  And how are you, Mrs. Jensen? And can I have my Bonus 2?”

Ahhh....the famous Bonus 2.  My father has been a math teacher for 40 years this year...and he has a running deal with his students.  If they see him out in public and can properly greet him and my mother...he will give them a math problem that, if solved correctly, can earn them 2 bonus math points.  I’m not sure exactly how far 2 bonus math points will really take you...but I will say these kids look like they’ve won the lottery.

Which reminds me, a few years back Warren Buffet gave my dad $10,000 – for winning the Alice Buffett Outstanding Teacher Award.

That’s pittance to what my father is worth as a teacher.

Kids adore him.  He is arguably everyone’s favorite teacher. I’m pretty sure this has little to do with the Harley Davidson songs he makes them sing, or the endearing nick-names he gives every one of his kids (if they haven’t received their Mr Jensen nick-name yet...they hassle him till he comes up with something they both like), or the games they play in and out of class.

I’ll never forget being in my bedroom as a teenager and seeing one of his students dart past my second story window – ready to drop a water balloon on my dad.  He had some kind of contest going about who would get soaking wet first.  I’m sure there was some kind of math problem worked in to that?

My dad and his grandgirls

For thousands of students, he has somehow made math painless, called destiny into the lives of every student, and left each one with a sense that they should “Not Fit in, But Stand Out for Jesus.”

Of course this is what my father did for my brother and I every day of our life – spoke God’s destiny into dinner conversation and car rides. My mother whispered it into our ears at bedtime. 

My mom, brother, me and dad
(2011 trip to US was the last time we were all together)

When my brother was applying for college, he spoke to the guidance counselor at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.  She said, “Oh...your dad is Paul Jensen?  We’ve heard of him.  So many students have come here to study teaching because of your dad.”

And that brings me to my brother.  He’s number three in this generational legacy.

He is a science teacher at an international school in central asia, attended by the children of political leaders and world shakers.

I’m sure you can guess. He is everyone’s favorite teacher. He makes science come alive, while he weaves in stories of freedom, sacrifice...and I’m sure you know what I’m going to say...destiny.

One day in Physics class he paused from the lesson and said, “Dream big for your country!” The class respond by saying they had never had a dream for their country. He threw the physics lessons out for the rest of the week and the kids began to plan, write papers, and share their dreams for their country with each other. 

Another time in Chemistry class, he challenged his students to finish school, go to college, and then return to help their country. The kids responded saying "No Mr. Jensen, security will never be good enough to live in this country. We will finish school and leave."

Then and there he gave them the call of a lifetime.  He told them, “I predict 2014 will be a year of peace and if I’m correct, I challenge you to return to this place and help build a strong, solid, country.”  This was 5 years ago when no one could have guessed that that next year would be likely to be peaceful.

At the end of the class, nine brave students signed a contract that hangs in my brother’s office...stating they would return under those circumstances. Many of those students are in college now, watching to see what 2014 holds....poised for action.

My brother in his classroom

My brother’s students today are their nation's leaders tomorrow.  The destiny of a nation has been altered.  And as we all know too well...what happens all the way around the world with heads of state...affects us all.

To those children who know only of war, corruption and retribution...his words and stories bring grace and freedom.

God’s destiny – when spoken over a lost generation – is water to a thirsty soul, balm over wounds, light in the darkest place.

As I look down my family line, I see that the world is altered for eternity when a father speaks destiny, life and vision....even to those children who are not his own.

Generational Legacy has a domino effect that I am convinced, when spread out over time, will affect hundreds of thousands of those who feel fatherless.

I have begun to think about generational blessing in a new way. 

Every night, Karl prays for our girls, and after my children have gone to sleep, I slip into their room and speak words of God’s blessing and destiny over their lives.

Emerson, Jensen, Adison

I tell them, “God has put you in this family for a very special reason.  There are things for you to do that no one else in this world can do.  You were born for a very important purpose and God has given you many gifts and talents. Do not be afraid.” The message alters, but the essential meaning remains the same.

It’s interesting, since I started doing this several weeks ago, Jensen’s nightmares that have plagued her for years and fears in general have totally disappeared. Huh!

Destiny Words spoken in the bright light of classroom or whispered in the moonlight... matter for all eternity.

This world WILL shake when we call our children’s God given destiny to the front! 

As I heard someone recently say, “May our ceiling be the floor our children walk on.”