Joe Couldn’t Smile…And Then…

It took one picture—no, make that two—that brought back two memories that I hope and pray never fade from memory. It’s a picture of a man who never smiled. And a second picture with gleaming teeth [do teeth gleam…how about “bright“?].

The memories start with Joe Matousek and end with the Academy Awards. Hey, that’s timely, right, at least the Oscar part of this.

Joe Matousek lived in an apartment, member of the last congregation I served as lead minister. Roger Rydstrom was a member of the congregation, a highly regarded dentist.

One day spoke with teeth not showing—in truth they weren’t there in the first place—and mumbled, “I wish I could smile.”

That hit me square and center. Picked up the phone and asked Roger if we could visit. Took practically no time as I asked Roger to give Joe a smile and the expense for same would be shared. Roger nodded, “Bring him to me…love giving people smiles.”

Later…not sure how long this took, but Joe knocked on my office door. Before I could open it he inquired, “Pastor? Got your camera?” Opened the door and almost fainted, Joe Matousek had a beaming smile. “Go away!” which was my way of giving a loving verbal hug, then hugged him and said, “Joe? I KNEW you could smile.” The laughter was rich and genuine.

Roger Rydstrom, as caring and generous as anyone I know. He and his lovely wife, Barbara, are now retired in Florida. More on that in minute.

Near that time of birthing Joe’s smile, Roger called, “Pastor, Barbara and I are having a dinner with a few friends tomorrow night; could you come and give a prayer before we eat?”

“Sure,” I replied, not asking any questions. He then said, “It’s black tie, but you don’t have to dress like that.”

I got there. Oh my, black tie it was. Friends? I think they invited half the city of Elmhurst. Still, I had no idea, but I noticed 3 large screens on different walls in the large dining room. A clue began when someone said, “I hope you pray real good, Reverend; Gary’s got to win.”

Gary? I thought to myself, “No, his name is Roger.”

Well, the reason for being there unfolded quicker than a blinking eye. Gary? Gary Rydstrom is their son. The night? Academy Awards. Gary was nominated for an Oscar in Sound Development…or something like that. He worked closely with Robert Redford, even told Redford, “You should be the narrative voice in ‘River Runs Through It.’” Also worked with his good friend, Steven Spielberg, maybe you’ve heard of him.

More than a handful of people weren’t hesitant, urging me to offer the “appropriate prayer for Gary.” A dilemma, because even before a game I pitched, I never prayed for victory; only prayed for full effort.

So I prayed something like this, “Dear God, we are here tonight to celebrate the gifts of Gary. Such a special night. We ask that Gary not do poorly.”

Is that euphemistic side-stepping…or what?

Hey, turns out Gary won! And has won several more Oscars.

Finally, back to Roger and then the link that triggered this. Mentioned Roger’s retired in Florida. Not sure if he does any dental work, but he wrote me last week to say he loves his “new ministry.” He’s become a Hospice Counselor, finding caring for people who have lost more than teeth, need someone to listen and to care. Well, no one can do that better than Roger Rydstrom!

Before I post the link, have a question hopefully we each should mirror: How about us? What is “our ministry?” How do we make sure the Gospel’s not amputated, by giving the message of caring our arms and legs and ears and heart?


About Mark H Miller

Diane and I live in Leander, Texas. This past June 17, 2015 I celebrated the 49th anniversary of my ordination. We returned to Texas after three years in Washington, during which I served as interim minister in Bellevue/Eastgate and Mercer Island. Am planning to begin a 5th novel that will have my protagonist, Tricia Gleason, serve a year in licensed ministry in Snoqualmie, Washington. The novel, "The Lemon Drop Didn't Melt," will find Tricia wrestling with ministry challenges. None of which more daunting than someone wanting her breathing to stop. All the published novels are available on Amazon and Amazon Kindle under Mark Henry Miller. A primary goal in our return to Texas is to make sure grandchildren get lots of attention--here and in Chicago and Washington, D.C. Traveling is definitely an activity that will not slow down. With that, of course, fishing will happen. To that the t-shirt is apt, "I fish; therefore I am." In addition to novels, the book of Blogs, "Voice Of My Heart," is also available on Amazon.
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