Something to Think about is a daily (more or less) commentary on life. The Author, Howard Merrell's, goal is to help us think Biblically and Christianly about the issues of life, from the mundane to the sublime.
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It has been about two weeks since I shared anything to think about with you. The subject of this STTA is the reason. Few of us who have hung around for any length of time think that we can live our lives in stasis, "a state or condition in which things do not change, move, or progress" (Merriam-Webster). Besides that I've seen enough science fiction TV and movies to know that stasis is not a good state. Generally, though, we live with the illusion that the change in our lives will be manageable. I'm growing old, but at a rate slow enough that I can adjust day-by-day. My health changes, but with modern medicine I treat this, take a pill for that, and still muddle ahead. Children leave home, parents die, friends change jobs, but normally these changes are like tweaks--the bulk of our lives stay the same; the differences are not all encompassing. Sure we see in the news that there are people whose whole lives are disrupted--the refugees, the victims of horrible tragedies, or those who face maladies for which we, even with all our technology, have no solution. Those are other people, though, they exist in some realm that is extra-ordinary. The change that comes to we regular folk is handed out in palatable doses. It's packaged with easy hand-holds. It comes to us in such a way that at the end of the day we can say, "I've got this." No I don't, and I doubt you do either. I don't want to appear to put myself in the group of people, like those I mentioned above, who are dealing with change that comes so hard and fast, that it produces blackout G-force. Over the past month, though, I have seen and experienced change to an extent I know, not just theoretically, but experientially, that there is no throttle in my hand that I can use to control the ride. I'm like one of those early test-pilots. Strap in, Let her fly, grit my teeth, and hope for the best. There are several factors that have made the changes in my life of late register higher on the Change-force Meter than any time in recent memory.
I was already involved in preparation for making a change when my change was changed. Here I was buying plane tickets, trying to get things buttoned down back home, thinking ahead about returning to a place of service several thousand miles from home, when--hard-right, accellerating all the while--my "orders" were changed. I was already involed in a life-adjustments--setting up housekeeping in another country and culture for four months, serving the Lord, being a missionary. These provided enough stretching that I was able to feel a bit noble. I mean, me being retired and everything. Then the change I was already comfortable with changed. Is that in the employee manual?
The change that came barreling down on Kathy and me came for an ugly reason. It's because my friend is sick. He is one of those servants experiencing needle-pegging plan-revision.
The new change threw me into a realm where I knew I didn't have control. Not only did I not know the lines for the new play, I found out rather quickly that the script was still being written, and the audience was already restless waiting for the curtain to rise.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not looking for sypathy. Perhaps I'm just passing the tenth story on a twenty-story plunge, but I'm doing OK. Maybe it's the adrenalin, but this aspect of walking with the Lord seems clearer to me. Trust is pushing aside self-suffiency. Yieldedness is taking over territory once claimed by two word descriptions that begin with "my." The illusion that I'm in the driver's seat is harder to maintain. While I don't necessarily like all of that, I do know that it is as it should be, at least most of the time, some of the time, OK, I'm still working on it.
If you are curious and want to find out about the changes in my life, you can find out more here and here. I'll warn you upfront, as these kinds of things go it's really pretty boring, tame stuff. I guess, though, when you compare it to the way my life has mostly been--pretty predictable--it is enough to get my attention, just like I hope this is enough to give you . . .
Perhaps it is appropriate that with the New Year still in its infancy I am focused almost exclusively on the future. I don't want to sound all virtuous or anything. It's not that I'm all that forward looking, rather calendar and circumstance have conspired to make the next seventy-two or so hours full of preparation for what is next. My wife and I are packing for, making arrangement to accomodate, taking a long--very long--trip to, and saying our good-byes because of a four-month assignment that came suddenly and unexpectedly. Just prior to this future-focus phase, I was blessed by a brief visit from my son and his family. Since he has now been out on his own longer than he was a part of my household, his visit caused me to look back into the past a good bit. It's enough to produce chronological whip-lash. Poised between the past and the future I have a couple of observations to make. I find the greatest satisfaction in watching the success of those in whom I have most deeply invested. Likewise there is great disappointment when those in whom I have poured my life don't turn out so well. Investing in others is risky. I find it well worth taking the chance. Therefore my greatest hope for the future is to invest in others today. At the end of this year I'll be dead or a year older. I'll gain some stuff and loose some some (I hope the loss is around my midsection). Will I have done anything of real value?
A teaser headline that came up on my Facebook wall reminded me of a conversation I had the other day.
"The Beatles: Facts and Scandalous Trivia You Need to Know"
Really? If I don't know these things I might go hungry, or shiver in the cold, or my wife might leave me? A friend and I were talking about this matter of need a few days ago. He teaches Sunday School to a group of first-graders. As the gift-a-copia of Christmas was on the near horizon, the topic of a recent lesson was, "What do we really need?" You probably have a pretty good idea. High on the list was the latest electronic gadget. I have more sypathy for those who "needed" a bike--at least it will cause them to exercise. On it goes. To get a lesson on 21st Century need--of course not to be confused with a word that rhymes and begins with "gr"--just watch one of the house hunter type "reality" TV shows. Two people need four bedrooms. How have so many of us survived so long without granite counter-tops? Just listen to the show; they are necessity. Listening to the house-shoppers, it is easy to see why kids in primary school have warped views of what they need. We have taught them well.
The Bible is not opposed to people having nice things, but when we come to think that we need them, we are well on our way to the things having us. It's a form of idolatry. This is Something to Think About, so I'd encourage you to think about it. The following will give you some material for your thought-mill:
I've never been all that impressed with New Year's resolutions. I have noticed that they generally have a very short shelf-life, and I always wonder what is special about January 1. Why not start that diet on December 3 or February 27? Having said that, if the passing of the old year gives you incentive to start doing something that you ought to do, go for it. I think the operative word in the sentence above is "doing." Too often we live our lives in the realm of "gonna." I'm gonna lose weight. I'm gonna start having a quiet time with the Lord. I'm gonna quit that bad habit. Etc, etc. If you have a list tacked on a bulletin board in your mind that says, "Stuff I oughta do and am gonna do, as soon as I get a round-tuit." Pick something on that list and actually start doing it. If you must, start doing it on January 1. I'd encourage you, though, to do it now. As Yoda might say, "Resolve not. Do!"
From a time not so long ago and a Galaxy quite near . . .
More Christmases than not, Kathy and I have been on the road. For the early part of our family life, we lived away from our parents. Now we live away from our sons and grandchildren. Because of other responsibilities we frequently ended up driving on Christmas Eve, sometimes all night. We'll be home this Christmas, but one of our sons is traveling. Some other relatives are traveling here to be with us. Friends of mine are already on the road; more soon will be. Airports and bus stations are full. the traffic can be intense. I'm reminded that right before the first Christmas Jesus' family was on the road. Countless Christmas programs--bathrobes and all--show the Holy Family making the journey. We feel sorry for Mary. If we guys think about it, we can feel the knot of responsibility in Joseph's stomach as he neared the City of David, wondering if they would make it on time. What were their thoughts as the amazing words from heaven that had come to them mingled with the immediate and urgent? There were three on that first Christmas journey, Mary, Joseph, and, as we say using the beautiful, familiar words, the Babe. Christ's journey began well before Nazareth from whence Mary and Joseph embarked. In broad, cosmic terms John said, "The Word became flesh and dwelt among us." Paul adds, "[H]e gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being" (Philippians 2:7, NLT). Isaiah had predicted, "Unto us a Son is given" (Isaiah 9:6). God the Son, Who became the God-man Jesus Christ, existed for eternity. He came to earth. It was a journey. As you pile into the family car, wait for your flight or bus, or look at your watch wondering when your loved one will arrive, be reminded of the journey that began it all, and know that "[T]he Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). That would be me and you.It's STTA.
Explore more about why the Son of God came to earth, here.
In our 24/7, multiple-news-outlet day a story has to be pretty bad to give us that knot in the stomach feeling. The report of the death of three-year-old Acen King got my attention. Acen was on a shopping trip with his grandmother. There was a road-rage incident at a stop sign. An angry motorist, got out of his car and fired into the car Acen was in. A little boy died over a few seconds' delay at a stop sign.
It's sad enough that one little guy died in such a senseless way. The reason, though, that this tragedy got to me is because we do this all the time.
Little people grow up in need, or, like Acen, don't get to grow up at all, because of the destructive habits of the adults in their lives.
Dad needs to prove his manhood, or mom needs to find herself. The kids pay the price.
In my neighborhood it is common to see forty and fifty thousand dollar pickups. Too often they're driven by folk who can't come close to affording them. Guess who ends up on the short end?
Same with houses, clothes, toys, and meals in restaurants.
The ways youngsters end up paying the price go far beyond finances. The emotional, developmental, and educational price that our children pay is far higher. Here's an idea. How about if the grown-ups actually act like they are grown up.It's STTA.