My friend, Lynne Miller Breidenbach, died Tuesday morning, September 23rd. It was a shock to me since Lynne had kept very quiet about the seriousness of her health situation, something she and her husband had only become aware of little more than a month ago.
Lynne and I first met when she came to work as a news reporter for WCIE-FM in Lakeland in the late 1970’s. The radio station was one of the pioneers in the contemporary Christian music format. That meant there was a lot of discussion (i.e., uncertainty) about how we should conduct and present our programming. What I mean is, everybody had strong opinions and seemed to feel sure of themselves except me. I had worked a number of secular radio formats before coming on board here as Program Director. I was trying to sort out what practices could be brought over to Christian radio and what really didn’t fit.
Lynne, with her usual confident manner, declared to me that we just needed to be “professional.”
“And what does that word mean?” I challenged her.
“You are professional,” she told me. And how do you continue an argument after that? (But I refused to agree that she had answered my question in a useful way!)
Melanie and I moved to a new radio job in Illinois but returned to Lakeland a few years later. By this time Lynne’s interest in politics had prompted her to run for office herself, for a seat in the Florida House. She asked me to write and produce her radio ads. Which was fun. But I was apparently not professional enough. On election night, Lynne’s race was so close the vote counters in Bartow couldn’t declare a winner without several recounts. Later the next day it was decided that Lynne had fallen short by five votes. There were still questions and doubts but Lynne graciously chose not to challenge the result further, and conceded. She decided the Lord had other things for her to do.
Lynne and her husband, Bill, had come from Episcopal churches. Indeed, they were married by the Rev. Greg Brewer, their rector at the time. (He has moved on to become bishop of the Central Florida Diocese. Lynne generally knew all the serious movers and shakers in the community.) But she and Bill had started moving toward more charismatic churches. (WCIE was based at Carpenter’s Home Church, an Assembly of God congregation.) Finally, a few years ago, Bill and Lynne stepped out to pioneer a Spirit-filled independent church that has been growing nicely. The fact that Melanie and I had come out of the Assemblies of God and moved toward the Episcopal Church made our conversations over the years particularly lively and challenging. We were all able to draw from a rich background of Christian perspectives. I’m going to miss those conversations.
One of the last conversations we had came about when we discovered we were both starting to write books. Last September, Bill and Lynne invited Melanie to speak to their church and present the daily devotional she had just written. (You can see the video of that service at Melanie’s author page.) By last winter, Lynne had published her own book, a children’s book with a deliberately political theme: Why Grandma Is a Conservative. I took the book home and turned it into a short movie that could be played on the internet, reading the text while showing the colorful drawings done by her artist, Mel Richardson.
I also invited Lynne to do a “blog interview” to help promote her book. I sent her five questions and she promptly responded:
1. Was your grandmother a conservative?
Yes, both of my grand’s, whom I knew well, were conservative politically, as was my entire family. We discussed politics around the dinner table and at family events – and we still do! My brothers and I continue the family tradition of discussing conservative politics around the holiday table.
2. Does anybody listen to mothers or grandmothers any more?
Yes, the opinions of moms, dads and grandparents are still respected, especially in Black and Latino families. Oddly, its the White family that seems to diminish their role. But, if the grand stays involved, she can make a difference.
3. How did you decide on the particular subjects in the book?
I wrote it for my own grandchildren.
4. How will you decide if writing this book was worthwhile?
If my grandchildren like the book and grow up conservative Christians it will be worth the effort. I also hope to influence other children. Christianity is one generation from being irrelevant. Each generation must take up the challenge to follow Christ.
5. This is a book about the American political scene. Why should a Christian be intruding on that conversation?
Christians must be engaged in all areas of culture, including politics, especially politics. Washington is not our savior, we only have one and He is Jesus Christ. But, scripture requires us to pray for our leaders and to engage our culture. We must keep in mind that our mission is to confront and challenge, but that we must always act in love.
Actually, I was frustrated that Lynne gave me such short answers. That wasn’t her usual style! I tucked the interview away, hoping to get some more detail from her. But Lynne was always a busy lady. She told me she was getting a good response to the book when she would take it along to her speaking engagements. But she never got around to expanding that interview for me. So this is what she had to say. I’ll follow Lynne’s example and choose to be positive and grateful. There won’t be more, now, but I’ll keep the warm memories of what she left all of us, left for her family and for her friends, for her church and for her country. For her Lord, a blessing and challenge to all of us. As Melanie commented, “She left a heritage.”
When I learned of her death I searched out Lynne’s Facebook page. The messages of sadness and condolence had already started. One friend noted that the night before she died, her term of office as President of the local Optimist Club had come to a close. Perfect, that.
At Lynne’s Facebook page I took my place in line to add a prayer:
Not surprising the Lord would call the saints home first. Prayers for Bill and the children and grandchildren (and for the loving church Bill and Lynne started). From the Book of Common Prayer that she knew well: “That it may please you to grant her a place of refreshment and everlasting blessedness, we beseech you to hear us, good Lord. That it may please you to give her joy and gladness in your kingdom, with your saints in light, we beseech you to hear us, good Lord. Depart, O Christian soul, out of this world; in the Name of God the Father Almighty who created you; in the Name of Jesus Christ who redeemed you; in the Name of the Holy Spirit who sanctifies you, May your rest be this day in peace, and your dwelling place in the Paradise of God.”
With tears, and joy. Amen.