It’s nothing like the good old days.

aaaMy dishwasher decided that it no longer wanted to drain. I followed the steps that I read about to see if something was clogged. I cleaned out the tubing and filter, but the water refused to drain. Rather than fight with it any longer or replacing parts that would have cost almost as much as a new dishwasher, my wife and I decided to purchase a new one.

This dishwasher came with the house that we bought eleven years ago. I do not know how old the appliance was at that time. What I do know is that people, of course, say the same thing every time something breaks. “They don’t make them like they used to.” They also don’t make them as inexpensive now.

I see a lot of posts from older folks, many of whom are my age, remembering the good old days. They show pictures of devices of which today’s younger generation have not seen.  I recognize more of these devices than I care to admit.

I remember our first VCR, metal ice trays, having only five channels, and our first video aaa2game (Pong). Reminiscing about the good old days brings back some great memories.

Today is not like the good old days. We no longer have 8-track tapes. We have music that we download or stream. We seldom write checks or pay cash anymore. Most pay for their goods and services with debit or credit cards. We no longer have to defrost our freezers like we used to do.

It is fun to think about the good old days. However, we cannot live in the past. We must move forward.

The old days had their problems, as well. In 1950, the life expectancy was only 68. Today, the average American lives until 79. In 1900, only 2% of homes had electricity. Today, it is rare to hear of someone without it. The mortality rate of newborns in the U.S. dropped from 58 per 1,000 to only 6.15 per 1,000 between 1933 and 2010.

Today has problems of its own. We have tools, such as the internet, from which we can learn many things. The problem is there is also a lot of misinformation that we tend to believe. We have social media which can be used to reunite friends, but it is often used to conquer and divide. We have hundreds of channels of television to watch, but most are not uplifting to watch.

aaa3Past, present, and future all have good and bad things about them.  Ecclesiastes 1:9 says, “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” (NIV)

There will always be things that can bring us together. The problem is the heart gets in the way. We would rather be right than lose a fight. We would preferably rule over others than humble ourselves or encourage each other. The problem is not the technology or the changing of times. The problem we confront is and always has been a heart problem. We all look too much at ourselves but love each other too little.

The future is coming, and these will become the good old days. Let us learn from our mistakes. Let us appreciate what God has given us as well as how far he has taken us. Let us continue to grow, not just in technology, but as loving, caring, and humble people that will choose to make tomorrow even better.

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The Scars of a Warrior

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I watched warriors on the screen battling out with swords and spears. The intimidating champion comes out to the battlefield with a massive scar across his face and many others across his body. The warrior made me wonder how many fighters in movies seem to have physical flaws to be intimidating

Doing a quick internet search to find out, I came across an article published by  JAMA Dermatology in 2017. The report was about the physical characteristics of movie villains.  They found that six of the top ten villains had some physical defect. Most villains had scars, warts, deep wrinkles, dark circles under the eyes, a bulbous nose, or other types of what are considered defects.

The reason this fascinated me is simple. Those characters are intimidating when confronted. Why is it so intimidating when an opponent’s physically scarred champion faces someone on the battlefield? I think the answer is simple. He survived the other attacks.aaa5

I like to read about David’s mighty men. Few of us could fathom ourselves doing the exploits of these men. Josheb-Basshebeth killed eight hundred men in one battle. When the rest of his army retreated, Eleazar stood his ground and struck down the Philistines till his hand grew tired and froze to the sword. The Lord gave him the victory. These men are just two examples of the warriors listed with David in 2 Samuel 23.

We like to think of our warriors as strong and undefeated. However, this is rarely the case.

aaa4Those intimidating scars did not come from winning every battle. The warrior may have won the war, but somewhere along the line, a weapon struck him or her. The physical scars remain for all to see. It reminds us of previous, but it also tells us that we are overcomers. We did not die from the weapons used against us. We prevailed. We can look at our scars and say the Lord delivered us. We can live to fight another day.

Not all scars are physical, however. David’s mighty men probably had a few physical injuries, but no one could see most of their wounds. These men most likely met David at the Cave of Adullam mentioned in 1 Samuel 22. “In addition, every man who was desperate, in debt, or discontented rallied around him, and he became their leader. About 400 men were with him.”aaa3

Many wounds are emotional, spiritual or mental. When you overcome these areas, like David’s mighty men, no one can see that you have faced a battle. They do not know what you have defeated. Only you know how each situation turned out. Emotional, spiritual or mental scars are for your knowledge only. They should be no less a reminder to you of how you survived the battle to fight another day.

Do not look at your wounds and think you lost. Look at them and know you overcame. The injury did not kill you. It cannot stop you from moving forward. The only thing that can stop you is you. If the enemy can get you to think you can not win, he will. Rather than allowing this to happen, put your faith in God, who gives you the strength to carry on.

Regardless of what has injured you, live to fight another day. Be the warrior you were meant to be.  aaa2

 

The Wonderful World of Autocorrect

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I have always been a good speller. That is not something everyone can say. Being a good speller does not mean I can win a spelling bee with the children that spell words such as feuilleton, nunatak, and gesellschaft. These are some of the winners’ final words in some of the championships. To be honest, I am not even sure what those words mean or how to pronounce them.

I attribute several things for my ability to spell. School teachers still taught phonics. Phonics teaches how to identify letters when hearing them so you can read the words. We also had weekly spelling tests in school for which I would have to study.

I was also in trouble a lot at school. I am very active and loud by nature and get bored very quickly. As a result, I spent many recess periods writing the dictionary as a punishment. While I may not have stopped being active nor have quieted down, it probably has something to do with learning how to spell.

Since I grew up in the ‘70s and ‘80s, we did not have spell check or auto correct features. We had typewriters, paper, and pen. If I needed to spell something, I asked my dad. His response was always the same. “Go look it up in the dictionary.” While this never made sense to me, my phonics class helped me enough to find the word in the dictionary so I could spell it correctly.

aaa2Nowadays, everyone sends digital messages to each other. People post their thoughts on social media. However, it seems no one seems to check their spelling or grammar. Either people do not care or are just too lazy to check what they have typed. I suppose this generation relies on autocorrect to do the work for them rather than taking the time to edit their work.

There have been books written and websites devoted to the hilarious misadventures of autocorrect. People laugh at these errors in spelling as they can change the entire meaning of what was trying to be said. While some people will say it does not matter since the messages are just for fun and entertainment, but I have seen it carry over into professional emails. It only takes a minute to check your work.

While spelling and grammar may not be the most crucial aspect of life, we tend to be just as lazy or nonchalant in other areas.

We make mistakes, but we do not learn from them. We keep making the same mistakes over and over again. We expect that things will correct themselves, but how often do things get back on course if no one is steering?

Autocorrect does not work in real life. You have to make the corrections yourself. Maybe you have an issue that is hurting you professionally or socially. You are the only one that can change it, but you have to recognize the problem first.

aaa3Self-examination is important. No one is perfect. We all have flaws. We should take a step back occasionally, identify areas of our lives that need adjusting, and form a plan of action that will help guide us back on track. It is much better to do a self-correct than to have unpleasant situations do it for you.

1 Corinthians 11:28-32 Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. But if we judged ourselves truly, we would not be judged. But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplined so that we may not be condemned along with the world.

 

 

One Normal Night

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They’re creepy, and they’re kooky,

Mysterious and spooky,

They’re altogether ooky,

The Addams Family.

(First verse of The Addams Family Lyrics by Vic Mizzy)

 

I took my wife to the local theater the other night to see The Addams Family: A New Musical Comedy. Whenever the show’s reruns aired (the show went off the air the year I was born), I watched it. It quickly became one of my childhood favorite shows.

For those that are not aware, the show is about a close-knit family with macabre interests. They are not evil but are unique, as you can tell from the first verse of the song describing them. The parents, Gomez and Morticia, hold onto a passionate love for each other that rivals anything in any other production. The family is friendly and hospitable to others despite the reactions to their peculiar way of life.

In the play, there is a scene where the daughter, Wednesday, and her boyfriend, Lucas, sing a song to their parents. Since the families could not be any more different from each other, they are asking the parents to act normal for one night.aaa2

Asking for one normal night poses a question. What is normal?

My family may not have macabre interests, but I can guarantee that ordinary to me is not normal for you. The statement is also accurate for you. Your standard may seem strange to me. Different ways do not mean either family is wrong. We are just different.

Even within my immediate family, normal is hard to define. My wife and I, though raised in the church, were still raised entirely differently. She finds some of the things I do baffling at times, and I wonder why she does the things she does. After a quarter of a century of marriage, we still wonder why the other person does what they do. It does not change our love for each other.

Society expects people to act normally, but who defines what normal is?

In a society where people are no longer attending church on a regular basis, scheduling things on a Sunday has become the norm. However, my routine is to attend church whenever my work schedule allows. Lately, that has not been enough for me, though I will try to listen to online services when I can’t attend.

We pick and choose what we think normal should be and hold others up to our standards. We judge those that do not meet our usual expectations. It may not be intentional, but it happens. We may not even verbalize it, but we think it. If you ever thought, “why would they do that?” you have judged them.aaa3

We should never judge others by their action. We do not think alike. We do not act alike. We are individuals. God created us to be in his image not in the likeness of each other.

I have certain traits that I have either inherited or learned from my dad. My siblings have the same dad but may have acquired different characteristics from him. All of my siblings have some things in common, but none of us are identical.

The same is true for everyone else in the world. It even holds true for those with which we attend church. We have the same heavenly father but have different traits.  Some may look at things from a teaching perspective while others look at things from a serving perspective. God did not create us to be like everyone else. He created everyone to be who he created them to be. He made us all unique.

So what is normal? Whatever you usually do is normal to you. In whatever manner you typically think is normal to you. Do not hold me to your standard of normal. I won’t keep you to mine.

I always hear that diversity is a good thing. If that is the case, why do we want everyone to be like us?

Romans 14:12-13 So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God. Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister.

 

Vacation

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I love vacations. I know that seems like a simple statement, but it is accurate. My wife and I do not take enough vacations. We like to travel and see new things, but most of the time our trips are to visit the grandchildren or to attend. Trust me when I say those visits are worth every moment. Though they are almost monthly, they do not seem to come around enough. However, they are not the same as vacations.

We do not plan every moment of our vacations. Some people stick to rigid schedules. That is not us. We may schedule a couple of things and wing the rest.  This time our plan was only to go south of Miami to see friends for the weekend. The rest of the trip was to see what else there was to do on the way.

We began our trip in St. Augustine, Florida. It is the oldest city in our nation. I was here for a night back in 1984, but it has certainly changed since that time. It has become much more touristy. There was so much to enjoy about this place. We visited the St. Augustine Pirate & Treasure Museum finding the story of a pirate that shares my last name. We walked through the historical Spanish fort, the Castillo de San Marcos. I especially enjoyed the tour of Colonial Quarter which covered the 16th through the 18th century.

Miami was HOT which is not a surprise. The amount of traffic was also crazy. However, spending time with friends and visiting The Vizcaya Museum and Gardens was well worth driving the 28-hour round-trip.

The thing I enjoyed the most on our vacation was time with my wife. She is a magnificent person, which is kind of why I married her. However, between work, hobbies, and the hustle and bustle of daily living the time spent away from it all allows us just to be together.

I love spending time with my wife. It does not matter if we are doing anything or just sitting there. I love her, and I love the togetherness. While we have similarities in our likes and dislikes, there are much more ways in which we are different. Yet, we find things that we can do together. She is indeed my best friend.  The few vacations that we have gives me an opportunity to experience life together without distractions.

We are all busy. Life doe not slow down for anyone. Sometimes we need to get away to see what is really important. Smell the roses, visit the beach, and enjoy a sunset. The beauty of this world far exceeds the ugliness on which so many people focus. We need to stop getting distracted. Focus on what is really important.

Philippians 4:8  says, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”

That verse does not say to think about the troubles in the world. It never mentions criticizing everyone who disagrees with you. Sometimes we need to step away and think about what we have been thinking about. Have our thought and words been productive?

Just like I enjoy spending time alone with my wife, God enjoys spending time with us. No matter what is going on in the world, He has time for us. We forget to spend time with God, but we must use the time we have. Get away from all of your trials and tribulations and just be with God. Give Him all of your troubles. He loves you even more than I love my wife. Sometimes she thinks she is a burden to me, but she is not. She is a great joy to be around. God feels the same way about you. You are not a burden. You are loved.

The Little Pebble

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While driving, there are a lot of signs that point towards dangerous situations. These warnings allow us to make changes to our course before we arrive at the problem spot. Some signs tell us construction work is approaching. Others may reveal road conditions or even that the lane is about to end. Warnings may also include flashing lights or barricades.

Regardless of how prominent they are, some people ignore these warnings. People do not always slow down for construction which besides their safety affects the safety of the workers.  People have hit large construction trucks or fallen in holes because they went around barricades. Many of us have seen footage of police officers getting crushed while on the side of the road even though the bright lights were flashing.

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The first question many people ask when seeing these events is, “Did you not see the warnings?” The real problem is that most of them just ignored them. They did not want to change directions or take another route.

These seem like they should be easy enough to avoid as long as we see them coming in advance, but what about the little pebble in the road? There are no warnings about those. How many windshields were cracked because you did not see that small rock flying in your direction? Windshields are not cheap. Think of what you could have done with the money replacing all the cracked windshields cost you over the years.

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Too bad no signs are saying, “A pebble will be thrown from the car in front of you if you remain in the left lane.” Unfortunately, most people would probably still stay in the left lane.

While we cannot avoid all of the flying debris that can cause damage, we can do a few things to prepare for the possible outcome. Do not drive behind dump trucks. Leave a big enough space between our car and the vehicle in front of us. These do not guarantee that pebbles won’t be a problem, but it can minimize the danger. Not being in a position to be hit is the key to not being struck.

This principle applies outside of driving, too. We can see the big warning signs tell us of approaching danger. If the fire alarm sounds, we should be wise enough to leave the building and call for help. It is the small things that pop up suddenly that cause us the unexpected problems. Someone may say something, and we hold a grudge as a result. This kind of situation may not be financially troubling, but it can damage a friendship.

We can have unforeseen small issues arise that cost us money. The battery on your car may die. That needs replacing. The problem is you do not have the money to replace it. Sometimes the lack of money is because we do not make enough, but many times it is because we do not live within our means.

We cannot prevent the little pebbles in life (E.g., what others say or dead batteries), but we can prepare for them. We can live by the fruit of the fruit of the Spirit which is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance. Living like this prepares you to overcome an offense that shows up. It is not always easy to live this way, but it will make you a stronger person. We can also learn to be good stewards of budgeting or saving for unexpected financial problems.

These are just two examples, but we should prepare because the unexpected always seems to occur.

 

 

Earth Day and Family

aaaOn April 22, 1970, 20 million Americans demonstrated in streets, parks, and auditoriums all across the country. The demonstrators were concerned about toxins in the air and water.  No legal or regulatory mechanisms were in place to protect our environment. Supporters of this effort came from almost every walk of life. The result of that first earth day was the creation of the United States Environmental Protection Agency and the passage of the Clean Air, Clean Water, and Endangered Species Acts.

I was only three and a half years old, so I do not remember any of this. Nor was I ever really concerned about the environment. Of course, I would prefer clean air and water, but that was a concern for others.

Nearly 48 years later, I find myself caring a lot more. I am not an extremist about it, but I do what I can including recycling. It is not a political issue with me. I merely want to leave this world in better shape than I found it.

Let us go back a few thousand years. (Depending on your theology, it may be a few million years, but that is another topic of discussion.) The original Earth Day was a week-long demonstration of God’s power. It is when he created the Earth. In Genesis 1, it says the earth was formless and void.  God decided to do something about it. In six days, he shaped it into what he wanted, and then he rested.

Seven times in the chapter, God looked at what he made and saw that “it was good.” He also placed man in the garden of Eden to “work it and take care of it.”  From the beginning, we were supposed to take care of what God made. From that point until 1970, we fell short of keeping this planet in the shape God created it. People have made progress, but the responsibility that God gave us is ongoing.

I, personally, cannot create a world. I am no god, apparently. However, with the help of God and my wife, I have been able to create a family. Each step of the way, I looked at it and thought it was good.aaa2

That does not mean I have not made mistakes because I have made plenty. I can only work and care for it to help it stay right. That is my responsibility.

Too many people look at the families they created and see no good in it. Some tell their children on a regular basis that they are bad. Some say to their children they will probably end up in jail or dead. Negative thoughts and words are not the way we are to care for our children. We need to nurture them and raise them into people with hope and a future.

We become more like our parents as we get older then we would like to admit. Your children will grow to be more like you. Raise them up to be positive. See the good that is in them. Mold them into happy, respectful, and productive individuals.

They are the world that you created. Work it, care for it, nurture it, and watch it grow into something good.