Monday, April 26, 2010

Extra! Extra! Still Reading All About It

Just finished reading the latest edition of USA Today. Admittedly, I’m an incurable newspaper junkie. My first 10 years in journalism were as a newspaper editor; even though subsequent years shifted my work to magazines and books, there’s still nothing like the day’s newspaper resting crisply in my hands.

Newspapers have changed dramatically through the years – actually, centuries. The days of “hot off the presses” are long gone; slow, cumbersome hot-type presses were replaced midway through the 20th century by "cold type." “Extra” editions also became passé with the advent of television, especially cable TV. By the time newsboys could be hawking special editions on street corners, the broadcast media had scooped them hours earlier.

Computers slowly transformed newspaper writing, editing and production, starting with large, obelisk-shaped machines that morphed into the handy desktop machines we enjoy today. I still recall amazement at learning how desktop publishing software would replace clumsy manual page design that utilized galleys of type on white computer “film,” then waxed and pressed onto full-sized layout sheets.

USA Today became one of those “giant steps for mankind,” making splashy use of four-color photos and illustrations, along with satellite technology for transmitting entire editions to strategically located printing facilities, making daily distribution across the country a reality we now take for granted.

This “evolution” will continue. In time the newspaper, as I have known it, probably will cease to be. Generation X and the Millennials rarely read newspapers, except perhaps to clip coupons; one day school children touring the Smithsonian will marvel to discover newspapers once were produced on paper – newsprint – rather than presented on video and computer screens.

Ecclesiastes 3:1 tells us, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.” Even though newspapers are becoming archaic, relics of ages past, I’m proud to have been a newspaper editor, reporter and photographer, devoted to providing fair and balanced news coverage to an interested readership.

The end has not come, but it’s nearing, I fear. For now, May the blog be with you!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Beauty in the Scars

People collect all manner of things – coins, stamps, dishes, comic books, trading cards, antique furniture, vintage toys. Something we all collect with the passing of years, like it or not, are scars. My wife and I were talking about this recently, in light of surgeries we’ve undergone – major and minor – that left permanent physical reminders.

I also have scars on my hands from encounters with sharp objects. One was etched in my skin by the edge of a metal door frame while carrying a large box out of a store years ago. The others? I’ve long forgotten how I got those.

We also acquire other kinds of scars over time, although some aren’t outwardly visible. They can be byproducts of extremely difficult work situations, overwhelming financial challenges, painful relationships or other issues. Those problems may have gotten resolved, but their memory remains imbedded in our psyches.

But scars aren’t necessarily bad. Surgical scars, for instance, can be reminders of successful procedures to correct defects or heal diseased organs. Scars of everyday struggles can also be beneficial, prompting us to remember lessons that helped transform us into better people.

That person who used to scrape against you like sandpaper might have been God’s means for smoothing rough edges. On-the-job hardships may have helped you to refine skills – or confirm your need to change careers. Agonies over mishandled finances might have taught you to become a wiser steward of your resources.

The Bible tells us, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:2-4).

Memories of hard times in the past may remain, but if we have learned from them, shaping us into more mature and complete individuals, the pain – and scars we bear as souvenirs – were worth enduring.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Really a ‘Personal' Thing?

St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital’s website reports dramatic changes in cancer survival rates. For instance, in 1962 only four percent of children with acute lymphoblastic leukemia (cancer of the blood) survived; today, the survival rate is 94 percent. In 1962, only seven percent of children with non-Hodgkin lymphoma (cancer of infection-fighting cells) survived; today, 85 percent overcome that disease.

Many adult maladies boast similar statistics, including breast cancer and heart disease. In one way or another, we’re all beneficiaries of medical science’s incredible advances.

What if researchers, upon making their discoveries, had determined, “We’re not going to tell anyone about this. It’s personal. Who are we to impose our cure on someone else?”

Ludicrous? Of course. If someone found the cure to AIDS, or diabetes or Alzheimer’s and withheld that information, they might be viewed as murderers.

Yet everywhere we confront an equally devastating disease, yet many are chastised for offering what they believe to be the cure. This disease is not physical but spiritual: Sin. It takes many forms – lust, greed, selfishness, dishonesty, murder, abuse, etc. And we’re all afflicted. The Bible states, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

The cure, according to the Scriptures, is freely available: “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).

But there’s just one cure, Jesus Christ. It’s not multiple-choice. Perhaps that seems narrow, but if physicians tell me there is one vaccine for the flu, or one cure for a disease, I won’t accuse them of being rigid and narrow-minded. I’ll take the cure.

Understanding Jesus provides the cure to the depravity infecting all of humanity, I’ll communicate this cure to anyone willing to consider it. Anyone can reject the cure, but I won’t be a murderer for failing to tell them about it

Monday, April 5, 2010

Good – In Competition with the Best?

We’re surrounded by so many needs – where we work, in our communities, virtually everywhere we go. These needs seem so pressing, we’re worn out just thinking about them: pleas for food, disaster relief, foster care, blood donations, mentoring, tutoring, the church nursery. How should we respond?

In reading Oswald Chambers’ classic devotional, My Utmost for His Highest, I found two statements helpful for evaluating what to do when needs arise.

“A need does not always mean a call”

One statement is, “A need does not constitute a call.” Just because someone has a need, that does not necessarily mean I’m the one to meet it. That has freed me from guilt, for example, when the call to nursery duty is sounded. I’m really not a “kid person.” I love my own children and my grandchildren, but I might not be so fond of yours – and I’m not particularly good with kids. Other people, I have observed, have a great affinity for children, so I leave that job to them.

However, when I hear of a man – regardless of age – desiring help in addressing various areas of life, particularly from a spiritual perspective, I’m poised to respond because God has put that particular passion on my heart.

“Good is the enemy of the best”

Chambers also says, “Good is the enemy of the best.” There are many worthy needs and causes, but we have a finite supply of time, energy and resources. So what may be good for me is better – even best – for someone else; and vice versa.

The Bible also offers useful guidelines for distinguishing needs from a call, good from the best: Ecclesiastes 9:10 tells us, “Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might,” and Colossians 3:23 says, “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.” If you honestly can't do something with all your might, with all your heart, maybe it's not for you.

This doesn’t excuse us from activities beyond our comfort zones, but if we find our time and resources consumed by good things, while things best for us go ignored, it may be time to re-evaluate what we’re doing – and why.