Monday, April 30, 2012
Recent statistics reveal that about 31 million Americans live alone, representing over one fourth of the nation’s households. The migration to the burbs along with central heating and cooling has left many folks living in larger spaces around mostly strangers. Consequently, many people have learned to connect with each other via relatively new electronic means. However, Internet social media such as Facebook only accounts for about one tenth of our conversations compared to three quarters that still occur face-to-face. Online conversations appear to be mostly about “what’s happening” versus face time conversations about real life experiences. When I was involved in corporate management, I always practiced MBWA, Management by Wandering Around. Not because I enjoyed the exercise, although it’s a good way to rest your eyes from staring at a computer screen every hour or so, but because I found it much more personal and revealing than e-mails or phone calls. E-mails can be impersonal and many folks use voice mail to screen their calls. When you’re standing outside someone’s desk, you generally receive an invitation to briefly chat, which engages body language and eye contact (the window to the soul). And that face time connection can be invaluable when trying to connect and assess someone’s commitment or understanding of an issue. Of course, any connection is better than none at all.
When you think about it, everyone is strongly encouraged to build an active relationship with our creator by way of daily prayer—which by the way is instantaneous and always has an open line connected to the power source. Some folks seem to have a harder time with this than others, but it seems to me that the most effective prayers are simply engaging God in conversation. If that appears to seem a bit one sided, perhaps we’re not engaging in the fifty percent of the art of conversation which is listening. But what of face time? I’ve read and firmly believe that God still communicates with us every day of our lives. He actually became flesh and walked among us two thousand years ago, talking to everyone who had ears to listen and looking into the eyes of people’s souls. And today he still uses flesh and blood folks to communicate with us. After all, we were created in his image and he has done something about all the suffering in this world—he created you and me.
Saturday, April 28, 2012
I was recently reading about the annual vintage car auction held in Scottsdale, Arizona. One man in particular was in attendance hoping to buy his twenty fourth car. When asked what he found so alluring in his classic 1963 Buick Rivera that many consider one of the all-time best looking American cars (although mine is the 1958 Corvette) he smiled indulgently and simply answered, “Yesterday”. Another family was selling a classic 1964 Austin-Healy 3000 British roadster that the parents had driven on their honeymoon. As the bidding goes up to $75,000, their widowed mother consoles herself by stating, “It’s only metal. The memories are what you hold on to”.
But as nostalgic as these cars appear, neither the collectors nor the cars can outrun fate. Rust corrodes the metals, the plastics and rubber age and crack, leather seats tear, glass pits and cracks, fluids go dry, paint fades, and the mechanics slowly wear out. Maybe this article hit home this week as I was dealing with a recent invasion of termites under my garage floor, the pump and electronics failed on my aging washer and dryer, and my own car received a complimentary white door ding from some considerate parking mate. All of which kept reminding me of one of those eternal truths that Jesus passed along in Matthew 6 when he said that we should not store up treasures here on earth where moths and rust will destroy and thieves may steal them. Instead, he advised us to store our treasures in heaven and observed that where our treasure is, there our heart will be also. An acid test can also be to consider where you spend most of your time. That doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy the blessings we receive, but it does mean that our most important job description is growing our eternal soul and character and that absolutely nothing in this worldly life has permanence, not even memories.
Thursday, April 26, 2012
We live in a contemporary world of fast food have it your way sandwiches, instantaneous Google searches, cell phone communication in our pockets, GPS systems in our vehicles, 24/7 cable news in our homes, ruinous credit limits to buy versus save, instant hot water devices, movies on demand, etc., etc. All of these realities of instant gratification were created to satisfy our seemingly innate desire to have it now! The virtue of patience is shoved aside and trampled.
One of the oldest questions that has dogged mankind forever is “Why wouldn’t a loving God simply have maintained a perfect world in the first place and bypassed all this pain and heartbreak”? That’s a really fair question. Perhaps the answer may lie deep in the book of Revelation, a visionary book of extreme apocalyptic symbolism probably written by an aging apostle John who had been exiled on the island of Patmos decades after Jesus’ death on the cross. The oppressive Roman Empire was still in power and still very oppressive. John’s vision gives us some insight into the realm of heaven, specifically the brilliant colors beyond anything seen on earth surrounding God’s throne. Like Ezekiel’s vision, John views four magnificent creatures, who like the Cherubim (the highest order of the angels) worship God 24/7. Day and night they never stop saying “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty who was, and is, and is to come”. God had already created beings that lived in perfection. But perhaps he sought to create a being with the free will and choice to worship him in relationship. That implies providing an environment with the choices of good and evil, acceptance and rejection. Perhaps an environment where patience is a free will choice to joy and the ultimate prize takes the patience of a lifetime to acquire.
Wednesday, April 25, 2012
It wasn’t raining on that fateful day when God instructed Noah to plan ahead and build a 120 year last chance ark. But then God sent a cataclysmic rainstorm that lasted forty days and forty nights which destroyed all living things with the exception of those aboard the ark. It was a Genesis lesson in being prepared for the storms that inevitably come into our life. Jesus teaches us in the book of Luke that we must prepare our hearts and minds in advance of those storms to weather them effectively. He likens a man who hears his words and puts them into practice as a man who builds his home on solid rock—unlike a man who does not have this solid foundation of trust and faith and builds on sand. When the storm and subsequent flood comes, only the well planned and solidly built house withstands the torrent.
And who better to place your faith in but the one who commands the winds and the water? The same one who calmed the storm winds that were in danger of capsizing his disciples’ boat on the Sea of Galilee. But that trust must be nurtured long before the ominous storm clouds darken the horizon.
Monday, April 23, 2012
One of the wisest human beings who ever walked the planet, King Solomon, sagely observed in Proverbs 26:11 that “like a dog that goes back to his own vomit, so is a fool who always returns to his foolishness”. How often do we humans intuitively know that we have engaged in something that ultimately isn’t very good for us and then repeat it again anyway? Solomon really couldn’t have summed up this behavior any more succinctly or with a more direct imagery for us to ponder. Our savior must shake his head a lot.
Sunday, April 8, 2012
Expiring, Jamestown, NC
This Easter Sunday served as another reminder of the life and death of God’s son, Jesus. One particular observation that stood out this season was that the miracles he performed were all demonstrations of his divine ability to restore the world to its original perfection. There were examples of restoring sight over blindness; hearing over deafness; health over disease and afflictions; calm over the storm; plenty over hunger; love over evil; wellness over insanity; wholeness over brokenness; and finally the greatest of all miracles was restoring life over death as demonstrated with a widow’s son, his friend Lazarus and finally, his own resurrection on Easter morning over two thousand years ago today. The prominent Christian writer C. S. Lewis has noted that Christianity would have drifted into the historical sands of time, but for that final miracle.
The popular country singer and song writer Kenny Chesney recently penned lyrics that lament “everybody wants to go to heaven, but nobody wants to go now!” And although we all share a common destiny, we don’t walk around with expiration dates tattooed on our foreheads like many of the packaged foods we purchase. Nobody knows the day or the hour, but when the time arrives, we all have the hope of Easter so that we can be witnesses to a complete restoration of a new heaven and earth.
Thursday, April 5, 2012
String Theory, Jamestown, NC
One of the guiding principles I discovered during my working career regarding styles of management was the concept of “push versus pull”. I’ve also always been a believer in putting into action the adage that we can learn how to manage by keenly observing those around us. And we can become better managers by emulating those actions we consider positive (getting people to pull together) and doing the opposite of those we consider negative behavior (pushing people). Management of course has a lot to do with human relationships. Ike Eisenhower, a native Kansas boy, apparently recognized this as well. One account states that to demonstrate this principle, he laid a string on a conference table. He then challenged his officers to see how much progress they could make by either pushing or pulling the string. The seasoned commander had learned that most folks respond better to being pulled in a desired direction than being pushed into it. And they can be positively motivated if empowered to make good decisions for the common good within a simply defined framework.
In the very early days of the new covenant relationship that God had introduced to his creation through his son, the apostle Paul was hard at work trying to sort out and verbalize this new way of living. There were many differing views at the time and of course the New Testament was not yet written or selectively assembled into the Bible. The old covenant of God’s emerging creation taught relationship with God through observing the laws that He had given them to live by at the time. Finally, it would seem that God determined that His creation had matured enough to receive his son and begin a new era of relationship through faith. This new found freedom was established to release us from the bond of laws and allowed his creation to live in empowered grace. Paul reasoned that Jesus’ teachings provide us with all the guidance needed to live in love and harmony; choosing equality over dominance and diversity over separateness. When challenged to choose the greatest of all the myriad laws of the time, Jesus simply replied that loving God and others was the greatest. And empowered people that strive to live united within that framework and pull together in relationship with their Creator help to create a better world for everyone.