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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Merry Christmas! (And don't shush me...)

I was a kid... at Harding Elementary School in Corvallis, Oregon. When I was in the second, the third, and then the fourth grades. I vividly remember participating in several amazing school Christmas pageants that marked each of those tender years.

I certainly can't sing like that little songbird anymore
, but as a young lad I had solo voc
al parts in those events. Yup, that was some heady stuff for a nine year-old. "Myrrh is mine its bitter perfume..." were the intro words for one of those contributions. The story of Mary and Joseph, of the Nativity--the birth of the Christ Child, celebrating the visitation by the angels and the wise men--was all central to that annual presentation, and it was put on by and at the public school, supported by the system behind it, and of course attended by the community. Wow, wow, wow!

event, and many other similar occasions and cultural "institutions" throughout the year showcased an exemplary American mindset and behaviors--a societal Character, if you please. Take for example, Thanksgiving, Lent and Easter, Sunday's Blue Laws, etc. These modeled what had become (though 200 years of American history to that point on the international landscape) a world-renown Christian Nation-type respect for God. It showcased an aggressive pride in country and a commitment to an almost unqualified world-wide neighborliness (albeit equivocally salted with some cross-culturally manipulative expressions not always well executed).

Every bit as amazing was America's--our culture's--resounding commitment to family values
--truth telling, personal honesty and lawfulness, interpersonal morality, and p
ersonal integrity, and to time time-tested appropriate manifestations of their effectiveness. Citizens generally displayed these--whether they were "churched" people or not. They ascribed to these values, they taught them to their children, they generally tried to showcase them in their own lives and conduct, and they typically required them of one another. We expected to see them as matters of fact and course in business and politics. Admittedly, some people did this hypocritically when, in fact, they weren't personal subscribers to the normative values in the way they wanted to operate). They were the "Mr Potters" and "Ebenezer Scrooges" of that day.

I attended my wonderful (and only) grand daughter's Christmas play this past weekend.
Watching the event take place in a local church forced me to realize the contrast between the school setting where I sang, "Oh Holy Night", way back then, and the "politically correct" setting for "this kind" of singing and the related events now. Wow, we've certainly "...come a long way baby," but I sense it's a long way
d-o-w-n from those comparatively lofty heights, indeed.

Some people will immediately respond with something like,
"Oh, how can you say that? People still dream of getting to the USA to live, love, and play out their lives, and they 'risk life and limb' to get here...yada, yada, yada...This is still the land of great opportunity, where dreams are realized and where freedoms reigns! Political and life-freedoms have never been more celebrated and vigorously protected for all peoples--races, religions, sexual persuasions...yada, yada, yada." Yup, and that's exactly what the now proverbial fat frog would say to his fellow frog as they both sit quite relaxed in the warming fount of the French Chef's pot.

Societal indicators depicting our potential demise LOUDLY contradict the optimistic "Yada, yada, yadas." Consider some of these interesting facts: ( You can click on the links to see the data behind the disturbing statements.)
  • Divorce rates remain statistically higher than at any another time in our nation's history (click).
  • The fastest rising portion of our population facing poverty is young, single-parent-head-of-household mothers (click, click).
  • The nation faces a "quiet epidemic" of sexually transmitted diseases--fastest rising statistically among teens and young adults (click, click).
  • The educational and academic influences in our culture are less effective at successfully teaching and training our masses than at any time in our nation's history (click), yet they have perhaps a louder voice for influence now than they have ever enjoyed at any point in the nations' history (click).
  • The number of men successfully graduating from high school has dropped, nationally (click), to an all-time low, so comparatively (i.e., percentage wise to women) fewer men are going on to college.
  • Women graduating from college for graduate degrees outnumber male graduates 1.5 to 1 (click).
  • Societal voices argue vigorously and noisily for the jettisoning of the nation's historical commitments to values that, at their roots, support family and family integrity, motherhood, sexual propriety, and marriage (click).
  • Socially, Christianity is increasingly "dissed" and Christian men and women face growing dismissal--societal impatience and rejection--for their perceived intolerance of newly fashionable ideas, situations, and people groups (click).
All of that is kind of sobering. It's sad...albeit prophetic--if you are a Bible student. But despite what's happening--maybe because of it--it's all the more important to remember and celebrate that amazing Nativity event so many years ago. Indeed it's influence is at the ROOTS of all the absolutely Christian life and lifestyle stuff to distinguishing HIS followers for over 2000 years....Emmanuel!

Is that all completely miraculous and amazing or what!!

Merry Christmas!
(And don't shush me, but if you do and then you ask me to repeat what I said, yes I will... it's worthy of a megaphone!)

Monday, December 5, 2011

Gazing Far Beyond the Horizon

Beautiful scene...and we ran across these two--a man and a sea gull-- during our summer vacation. I thought, "Who's mimicking who?" We were visiting the haunts and hollers in and around historic Nye Beach in lower downtown Newport, Oregon. It appears they're eyes are fixed on something far away, something maybe beyond the immediate horizon, perhaps a "fix" whose focal length extends beyond the limitations of thoughts to places deep within the heart? Maybe it's "bringing in close" a heart-felt longing...for man...and bird?

Do you ever feel that way? Do you find yourself emotionally reaching, reaching, reaching for someone or something you want or "need" in your daily life--but "Oh Ratz" that person, thing, or situation remains elusively beyond your best stretch?! Then, as time ticks bye your uncomfortable suspicion grows into a realization that your life, and the availability of "it," is going to stay the way it is--distant to your sweet wish!?

SO, well beyond the reach of those longing gazes, how is a person supposed to live with that growing suspicion...or that potentially consuming reality?

For the courageous--the Life Warrior--I enthusiastically recommend a two-part remedy. No, it's not a cure for the uncomfortable longings, but it offers an effective antidote for the distraction of....your "hope deferred" (Prov. 13:12 ).

First: Distinguish your life from "it" (Matt. 6: 19, 25-34). Challenge yourself to distinguish "it" from "you"--your life, your experiences, and your influence. Clearly God's purposes for you at this time do not include "IT"...even though your longings may have done a good job of persuading you otherwise. So, vigorously argue (dispute!) with your longings; remind them that no matter how you may feel about "it," your life is NOT saved by "it"---you'll never be saved by "it" (Acts 4: 12; Prov. 3: 5-6; 16: 3, 9).

Second: Fear God and focus your creative energies on today--its focus, it's demands, its challenges (Matt. 6:19-21; 7: 24-27). It's just a fact; your real purpose and effectiveness is discovered in the here and now--your "now"gradually becomes your future. We have "control" of our future in so far as we respond appropriately to what's going on right now. It's just the way life works; a practical and spiritual reality. So you wanna change your future, it's right here staring you in the face now (Prov. 16: 3,9)!

Finally, I challenge the same way I daily challenge myself: "Be a Warrior..." and don't ever stop (I Cor. 16: 13, KJV)!