Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Times Are a-Changin’

When Bob Dylan released his well-known folk song, “The Times They Are a-Changin’” in 1964, it’s unlikely he imagined how much changin’ the times would be a-doin’.

Recently a friend sent me an e-mail listing some of the major changes that have transpired since 1950. Being born in 1948, I predate them all: Television, penicillin, frozen food, Xerox copiers, contact lenses, Frisbees, birth control pills, credit cards, lasers, ballpoint pens, panty hose, air conditioners, dishwashers, clothes dryers, FM radios, USA Today, CDs and DVDs.

In the 1950’s, no one bought Japanese cars; the World Trade Center had yet to be built for us to marvel at (and later see destroyed); and camera film was still fairly primitive (not even science fiction novels talked about digital photography).

Everyone was mastering the fine points of Monopoly and checkers; a “PlayStation” consisted of a seesaw and swings. Business travel took place on cumbersome propeller airplanes; now video conferencing often makes jet travel unnecessary.

No one aspired to jobs like website designer, cable TV sports commentator, cardio-thoracic surgeon, FedEx delivery person or Wal-Mart greeter, because none of those existed.

If you think all of this is amazing, you ain’t seen nothin’ yet! Futurist Dr. Richard Swenson notes, “Progress works by differentiation and proliferation, thus giving us more and more of everything, faster and faster.” In other words, mankind witnessed more change in the past century than in all the rest of recorded history combined, and we’ll see more change in the next 20 years than in the past 100. So if you’re thinking, “stop the world I want to get off,” you’re not alone.

That’s one reason I find the Scriptures comforting. In the midst of life in constant flux, Hebrews 13:8 assures us, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever."

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

The Tyranny of ‘Stuff’

Recently I talked with a young man from Louisiana who had participated in short-term missions in Belize. The trips shifted his values paradigm. “All the things I had heard growing up that are supposed to make you happy – none of those things were present, and yet the people were joyful,” he noted.

Viewing news coverage of last week’s earthquake in Haiti reminded me of his comment. Amid great pain and despair, we witnessed people rejoicing just to be alive. They weren’t fretting about “stuff” – cars, Blackberries or wide-screen TVs – partly because they didn’t have those even before the quake, but also because severe adversity reveals what really is important.

A noted financial planner observes that some of the most miserable people he knows are clients with inherited wealth. Aware they did nothing to earn their riches, heirs live in daily dread of somehow losing it – knowing they would have no idea how to regain it. Yet in much of the Western world, materialism wields enormous influence.

“How much is enough?”, we sometimes wonder. One of the Rockefellers purportedly gave this response: “Just a little bit more.” With “a little bit more” always a moving target, no wonder we feel caught in a rat race.

Bobby McFerrin achieved musical stardom with a catchy little tune with the lilting Caribbean beat, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.” That message might seem a bit simplistic, but certainly beats awakening each morning to agonize over how to preserve our stuff.

Centuries ago, the apostle Paul offered an antidote to “tyranny of stuff.” He wrote, “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation…whether living in plenty or in want” (Philippians 4:12). In another letter he added, “godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Timothy 6:6). In other words, don’t worry – be happy

Thursday, January 14, 2010

An Inconvenient Cold

Have you noticed how little has been said lately about global warming? Everyone is so focused on warding off the cold, they’ve forgotten about how warm it’s getting!

In recent weeks I’ve clipped articles about record low temperatures and snows that have stricken many parts of the world: Unprecedented lows in Florida; unusually heavy snow snarling all modes of travel in Europe; the heaviest snow in 70 years in Korea and other parts of Asia. There even was measurable snow in Houston, Texas on Jan. 6, and last time I looked, that city’s not part of the Snow Belt.

At the risk of sounding reactionary, I’m having a hard time warming to this whole notion of global warming. In the ‘70s, sensationalists were warning about global cooling, and a search of the Web will direct you to some credible sources who argue that is still the case today.

When Al Gore’s documental film, “An Inconvenient Truth,” was released in 2006, many began to fear the worst. The film provides ample data, but as any good debater knows, you only use facts that support your position. I’m starting to wonder whether this “Truth” fits more into the so-called “big lie theory” – the bigger the lie, and the more it’s repeated, the more likely people are to buy into it. (Remember the Y2K hysteria?)

That’s not to say we shouldn’t be concerned about the environment. In Genesis 1:28, God commanded mankind to, “fill the earth and subdue it.” He directed us to be responsible caretakers of His creation, not unappreciative guests. I endorse recycling; cleaner, more efficient use of energy; and other reasonable ways of treating “Mother Earth” kindly.

But we’re here to worship the Creator, not the creation. After all, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it…” (Psalm 24:1).

Monday, January 11, 2010

Wading Through the Files

It’s amazing what you discover digging through personal and/or work files accumulated over several years. Both treasure and trash!

Being a packrat, I’m inclined to hold onto things. “I might need this someday,” has long been my motto. Too often I’ve discarded something, assuming it wouldn’t be needed in a million years – only to discover, soon after consigning it to the trash, I needed it after all.

Realistically, most things we retain year after year never again require attention. Even if we need them, we’ve forgotten we had them. Some documents should be remembered, however. For example, the report on my physical exam about 20 years ago at the Cooper Clinic in Dallas, Texas: Uncovering the report in my files the other day, I was stunned at how prescient it was.

It noted my low fitness level at the time due to my “relatively sedentary lifestyle,” and recommended starting a regular aerobic exercise regimen. The report also cited cholesterol scores that, while not alarming, “warranted further attention.” (Attention I failed to provide for too long.)

The report said nothing of an enlarged aorta, but my family history, low exercise level and questionable cholesterol numbers all were harbingers of bypass surgery I would face nearly 17 years later.

Most other old files were not nearly so revelatory. Typically they fitted into either “I forgot I had that” or “Why did I hang onto that?” categories. But reviewing the Cooper Clinic file showed me what happens “should old acquaintances be forgot,” as Auld Lang Syne would remind us.

My failure to heed those warnings brought to mind the admonition of 1 Corinthians 10:12, “Therefore let anyone that thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.” Who, me – exercise? Eat right? Today, finally, I’m doing what the report suggested. Better late than never!

Friday, January 1, 2010

Everything Keeps Coming Up Roses

My life has been inordinately influenced by roses. My mom’s middle name was Rose. As a boy, I often watched my grandfather gently tend to the roses growing along trellis on the side of our house.

I played in the Franklin High School marching band in Somerset, N.J., and we often opened halftime shows to the rousing tune of “Everything’s Coming Up Roses.” Then, attending Ohio State University in the late ‘60s, I knew one of the Buckeyes’ major goals was a trip to the Rose Bowl, the so-called “Granddaddy of Them All.”

Two of the men I've mentored in recent years are married to women named Rose.

And this afternoon I again will watch another edition of Rose Bowl, where my beloved Buckeyes will do battle with the Oregon Ducks and hopefully rip the dreaded “can’t win the big game” label from their Scarlet and Gray shoulder pads.

I have long admired the rose, a beautiful, delicate flower with overlapping petals that form such wondrous designs. And I’ve enjoyed capturing the many color variations of the flower with my camera. But I must admit, another kind of “rose” has figured most prominently in my life.

As Romans 14:8-9 declares, “For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. Therefore, whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died, and rose and lived again, that He might be Lord of both the dead and the living.”

I hope the Buckeyes will emerge victorious from the Rose Bowl. That is, I “hope-so.” My eternal hope, however, is grounded in certainty -- the facts that Jesus died – and then rose from the dead – atoning for my sins and offering life for eternity. That’s the best “rose” of all