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Posts from the ‘Relationships’ Category



By happenstance viewing computer files  “Disc 1  Family photos 1958 to 1985 – Christmas 2007”  appeared on the screen. The theme:  THE CIRCLE OF LIFE – ENCIRCLED BY GRACE was the message shared with our children. This holiday season respect and empathy ought be given to the diversity of cultural and religious heritages of all in a multicultural-multinational society. All can resonate, perhaps,  in terms of their own cultural and spiritual context to FAMILY PHOTOS  –  THE CIRCLE OF LIFE.  

“Disc 1 Family Photos                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Christmas 2007

Memories come to mind while downsizing our family slide connection to DVD format, 916 photos on four discs dated 1958 to 1985.  Picture taking time is usually a time of positive family experience. A quarter century of Bartling family photos suggests a theme similar to Disney’s animated film The Lion King. THE CIRCLE OF LIFE.  A man and a woman marry, founding a family – children arrive – baptisms – infant years – school years – friendships made – holidays celebrated religious observances – graduations – camping and vacations – new beaus and courtship – engagements – weddings   – grandchildren and cousins – extended family relationships – reunions – grandparents and great-grandparents – uncles and aunts – the passing of loved ones. Family if a school for character and the microcosm of society. How meaningful then that our family is ENCIRCLED BY GRACE.  GRACE coming that first Christmas as God’s incarnate love will always as in our family’s past encircle your family in its future CIRCLE OF LIFE.  With love to our children and grandchildren for sharing our generation’s CIRCLE OF LIFE.  – Pater et  Mater Familias”



On the cusp of my 85th birthday (6/3/1928) a retrospective musing on YEAR 84 may be in order. Ruth and I celebrated our 60th wedding anniversary on December 27th, 2013. Anniversary observance was shared with four Twin Cities families that included mates and several grandchildren. High point of a delightful family gathering was sharing with each a copy of the homily I read that my father delivered at our wedding.  The homily text based on Isaiah 43 read: “Fear not, for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine. ”  Theme:  THOU ART MINE.  Subsequent to the family anniversary we shared a special evening with a daughter and mate  who were celebrating their twenty- fifth wedding anniversary on the same date as Ruth and myself.

Recently Concordia University observed the annual Employee Recognition Service. Recognized are years of service to Concordia University, St. Paul. Another category recognizes years of Service to the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod.  The program notes in my behalf read:

Fred Bartling – 60 years

Fred came to Concordia in 1961 to teach at Concordia Academy and joined the College and  University faculty until his retirement in 1991. He treasures his years with the academy boys having experienced prep school at Concordia in Milwaukee, Wis. Fred’s tenure was most pleasurable and he thanks his colleagues, students and Lord or the privilege of his teaching vocation.

A footnote.  What appear above is the result of editing what I wrote. Dealing with teen age young men demands gentleness and understanding. I had experienced prep school and was familiar with the drill. I never had many problems with discipline. I simply responded to reality: “You can’t fight ’em – join, em”. We shared, in the main, personal regard and learned much socially and intellectually along the way. At the College and University level I taught a wide range of courses relating to American history. Especially meaningful for me was lecturing and sharing friendship with minority and South-East Asian students and developing new curriculum resulting from the Civil Rights 60’s. Matters of race, gender, and social equality had to be addressed.  This I did with passion.



Well advanced in age and well past the Biblical three-score and ten life has a new verve and satisfaction here at Becketwood – numerous new friends, couples, opportunities to serve in the cooperative. Ruth has committee assignments and so do I. Physical activity remains important and our individual choices in that regard are individual,  except in summer when the beach beckons. Relative good health has been a special blessing. But at heart – the attraction and love that bound us remain as always assured.  Most importantly the meaning and purpose of our marriage is our children, their mates, and grandchildren. The pleasure I had as father of six children enriched my life. Raised them in a shared playfulness and permissiveness, and, in my view, parenting without letting ethical value lose foothold is fundamental. Parenting discussed in my blog at this website regarding pygmy parenting sets the tone. I have little use for law unless it is informed by grace as bedrock for meaning in life. Law is the schoolmaster to draw us to the Gospel. I hope some of those values were reflected in dealing with family and marriage, and my relationship to my students over five decades.

My maternal forebears chose Psalm 103 as The Family Birthday Psalm. As a member of that lineage I claim Psalm 103 as My Birthday Psalm.  At age eighty-five with long life comes the reality that the day is far spent and the shadows of evening are lengthening. But Underneath are the Everlasting Arms. “Praise the Lord, my soul!” Psalm 103 is a hymn declaring the vastness of God’s love as supremely shown in love and compassion of his people as sinners and upholding them as frail mortals.  Indeed, “Praise the Lord, my soul!”



cartoonblogRecently on Mother’s Day (5/12/13) the Star Tribune social/political cartoon on the Opinion Page  pictured a student graduate with sheepskin (diploma) clutched in hand and a vicious wolf (woolfskin) with threatening incisors clutching the graduate’s back side with student debt as a tattoo inscribed on its mangy fur.

Sheepskin immediately caught my attention reminding me of a rhetorical faux pas uttered from my pulpit some fifty-five years ago. My first charge after ordination was to develop a town-gown congregation and church at Washington State College (university today) in Pullman, Washington. Property had been purchased and a church built adjoining the WSU athletic facilities and football stadium. Students were to graduate that afternoon. In a rhetorical high note I observed: “When you get your pigskins this afternoon”.  Imagine the delight of students imagining literally hundreds of pigskins (footballs) being tossed about at the forthcoming commencement exercises. Rhetorical faux pas, indeed, but harmless.

On another occasion on a Mother’s Day observance in the prayers ending worship I read from a pamphlet of prayers prepared for the various Sundays of the church year. Trusting previous use of those prayers I failed to read the prayer or add my input  prior to reading that prayer.  Imagine my consternation when the line appeared and there was not chance to carefully edit my words. The clerical rhetorician could only forge forward stating: “Pray God to preserve us from CARD PLAYING, BEER DRINKING MOTHERS.”  Too late and mortified the rhetorical faux pas was counter to my feminist persuasion in that pre-feminist time. What can be more fun then playing cards and drinking beer with mothers!  I did  that with my six children’s mother and her women friends, all mothers, for sixty years. A colossal rhetorical faux pas and actually a law oriented counter grace theological take.

Which goes to prove: a speaker’s pulpit or classroom podium makes one vulnerable to the rhetorical faux pas! The preacher or professorial lecturer must be mindful of embarrassment or misunderstanding that awaits when uttering a too glib or poorly constructed statement.  Merriment or misunderstanding lie in wait.


Daughter Meets Izaak Walton Piscatorial

February 22, 2013

Vivid in memory is the particular fishing scene described by eldest daughter, Victoria, at my 80th birthday celebration.  Early in the mid-sixties my two eldest children, Victoria and Frederick, were my companions fishing at nearby Fish Lake.

 Remarks on the Occasion of Dad’s 80th Birthday

Victoria Bartling

When asked to talk about things my father taught me, I scan countless possibilities, but hone in one memory that captures it all.

The setting is on a sweet Minnesota lake on a sunny Sunday afternoon. You had taken your two oldest children fishing. Fred and I both have new Zebco Jr. fishing rods purchased from “Monkey Wards”, with money we had earned a unique Bartling way. Under your tutelage, Fred and I had an annual summer enterprise, “Prof Kid’s Shoeshine”, and our targets were nice Lutheran pastors gathering on the Concordia campus for the SE Missouri Synodical convention. hounding the pastors going to and coming from sessions with the refrain”prof kid’s shoeshine”, we polished shoes (and socks) for 25 cents.

Back to the lake…..Zebcos on board we motor across the lake to a perfect location just outside a cluster og lily pads. The ritual begins–you prepare my line, threading my hook with a worm, adjust the weights, setting the bobber and then a little instruction on casting (“it’s all in the wrist”).  Fred has taken to this like a fish in water–it’s clear this is his passion.  I’m a bit squeamish about touching the bait and fish, but try to act like a real fisherman in good company.

Through the afternoon the bobbers sink innumerable times, and we bring in sunnies, bluegills, perch, and an occasional dreaded bullhead.  You manage the catch, letting the little ones go with an encouraging word, regretting the fish that swallowed the hook, stringing the keepers.  Once in a while, when a newly hooked fish is lifted out of the water, you exclaim, “oh look!  It’s a huge Isaac Walton piscatorial.”  I wonder, what is that?–an Izaac Walton piscatorial–is my Dad naming a new species of fish, is a piscatorial some kind of Dad’s attempt at bathroom humor?

It’s beyond explanation at that time what this type of fish might be, but later, when my intellect catches up with Dad phrases in my head, I discover that Dad the teacher; the man in love with language and references, had injected a bit of history in the afternoon of fishing.  Izaac Walton’s book, The Complete Angler,  written im the sixteenth century, is the third most published book after the Bible, and Shakespeare’s works.  In it Walton writes, in his piscatorial, which is a meandering about fishing, “when fishing we possess ourselves in as much quietness as the silver streams which we now see glide so quietly by us.”

In that idyllic afternoon, with your patient instruction, sharing of your passion, love for your children, the creative use of language and symbol, you have taught me how to live an interesting life.  Thank you.


Some decades later after this fishing expedition, Eldest child Victoria, now well into middle age, sent me a Father’s Day gift: a 6 by 7 inches artistically enhanced picture frame presenting a BLUEGILL SUNFISH. The frame itself has notes taken from Walton’s The Complete Angler.  Example:  “What Angler of any considerable experience has not encountered that circumstance, always exciting, frequently disappointing, which he expresses in the words:  “I caught it!  But what is it?”

Inscribed on the back:  To Dad, Happy Father’s Day!  Here’s to great memories of catching the huge Isaac Walton piscatorial!  Now, not the fish, but precious times together. Thanks. love (signed)) Victoria.

“Precious times together”, indeed, I am a father singularly blessed with her love as well as that of all of my six children.


Valentine’s Day: THE GRAMMAR OF LOVE

February 14, 2013

THE GRAMMAR OF LOVE:  a sentence has subject and predicate, a noun often necessitates a verb and often an active verb. Love manifests itself in loving. The personality  and essential character of my mate of sixty years, Ruth,  provided for her mate a consistent demonstration of that GRAMMAR. Divine Providence not wishing man to be alone, the Psalmist asserts, “sets the solitary in families”.  So my wife and I became one.  Expressed with the psalmist poetic imagery “my wife became a fruitful vine by the side of my house” and our “children”, the fruit of our union, “like olive plants about my table”.  Our children, each child ultimately precious and dearly beloved, together with parents in established family provided a rich, vibrant, most rewarding family life – the familial context as school for the shaping and maturing of character. The Psalmist’s final assurance for the father of the house, a promise in which the mate shares, has been richly granted, namely, that “he would see his children’s children”.  What privilege for proud grandpa to provide thirteen times repeated a golden amulet for grandma’s charm bracelet!  And what joy grandchildren and their parents bring to the enrichment of life!  And so you, Ruth, as wife, mother, grandmother serve most meaningfully as our family’s beloved matriarch.

Love kindled at first glance in the young heart of your lover as never altered. That same lover having journeyed a far distant six decades along life’s path but never alone with you as companion and wife pledges his constant,, unwavering love so long as life unites us.


Memorable Events in my Mother’s Life

September 30, 2012

As family archivist my sister recently placed into my care some of our father’s courtship correspondence with our mother spanning the years 1916 through 1919.  Among the letters was a Chicago Tribune clipping, yellow with age, describing Chicago’s celebration of the Armistice with Germany, November 11, 1918.  After some thought the presence of these clippings included among her prized love letters was for me not too surprising.

On one occasion I recall asking my mother at her rather advanced age what events in her life stood out in memory. Without hesitation she announced: “The Two Wars”.   Read more »



July 30, 2012

Within a few brief months my eldest and youngest siblings, Victoria and Barbara have both died.  Youngest sibling Barbara is now “on another shore but in a greater light”.  Having died Saturday (7-28) after a long struggle since 2002 with Parkinson’s disease she joined eldest sibling Victoria who reached that “other shore” first on Christmas morning.  A memorial service for sister Barbara Corinne (Bartling) Frey will be held today (7/30) at 4:00 p.m at Overland Park Lutheran Church , Overland Park, KS.  Her remains will soon rest with those of son Mark and parents Victor and Dorothea Bartling at Our Redeemer cemetery in St. Louis, Mo.  A committal service is planed in the near future and will afford opportunity for Barbara’s extended families to gather in St. Louis to honor Barbara’s remembered and varied roles in their  lives. (See blog 1/2/2012 A SIBLINGS  CELEBRATORY REQUIEM:  BALANCING SADNESS AND GLADNESS) Read more »



June 19, 2012

A new computer made the transfer of files from the old computer to the new necessary.  In that process I came across a file dated 2/17/07. Curiosity was  aroused   by the title:  Phebe Hanson Document about myself.     It reads: “Written January 2004 at Gloria Dei Lutheran church.  Phebe Hanson, a prominent Minnesota poet and friend discussed how to write about oneself in the first person.  Read more »


Celebrating Four score and Four Years

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For me, reaching four score and four years evokes a doxological response. Sustained by grace and upheld through radical surgery the past eighteen months have provided sharpened meaning for and grateful savoring of life. Surrounded by proven friendships and cultivating new relationships at our Becketwood Cooperative home enriches life. My mate of three score years, six children and their mates, and grandchildren shelter me with gentle affection. Gratifying is the affirmation my teaching career received as demonstrated in The Fred and Ruth Bartling Scholarship. Consistent with professorial calling a word may still be spoken for freedom, justice, and equality.

Note: Frederick Albert Bartling was born on June 3, 1928. Please visit our Guestbook and pass along a birthday greeting to him!



Ruth sorting through “Thread and Stuff”

On the front coffee table my eyes focused upon an array of some 75 spools of thread exhibiting together lustrous rainbowlike colors of the spectrum. Inquiring as to the reason for this display my wife Ruth informed she was in the process of downsizing sewing supplies. Sorting through a box titled Thread and Stuff spools of thread, needles, stick pins, and other sewing essentials  found themselves cast aside on the table – rejected victims of downsizing .  Informed as to the reason for this display I registered a note of nostalgia recalling the importance of sewing as a worthy skill in our home.  Read more »