The Good Old Days

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I remember my dad muttering, “highway robbery!” when forced to pay 29 cents a gallon for gas on vacation. I admit to thinking I’ve been robbed when seeing a medical bill. My college statements gave a low four digit number rather than the current shockingly high  five digit numbers. 

Where are the days when children went outside to play all day and neither they nor their parents worried about dangerous strangers lurking in vans? Remember when there was no need to pay attention to what others or our children posted online?

It’s natural to look back at the good old days.

Ecclesiastes 7:10 says a surprising thing about such thinking:

Do not say, “Why were the old days better than these?” For it is not wise to ask such questions. Ecclesiastes 7:10

Are the old days are better than these? 

No.

There’s always more to the story 

Conservatives think of the good old days under Ronald Reagan and liberals look back longingly on Barack Obama’s years. I’ve heard people say that they wish we could return to days when prayer was allowed in schools, when Christianity was the religion of the vast majority of people, and before smart phones and social media overtook our attention. 

Were those days really better?

In some ways the good old days were better, but in others they definitely were not. I don’t want to go back to blatant racism or sexism. Yes, both still exist, but they are no longer culturally acceptable except in small but loud groups of people. 

Medical costs have gone up astronomically, there is no doubt about that, but medicine has also made tremendous advances in the last 30 years giving many better quality of life. Personally, I’m very thankful for skilled doctors, the TPA clot-busting drug, and even chemotherapy. 

When we look at just one or two variables we see a skewed picture. It reminds me of the wandering Israelites who regularly complained in the desert and wished for their lives in Egypt. 

Oh that we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we ate in Egypt that cost nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic. But now our strength is dried up, and there is nothing at all but this manna to look at. Numbers 11:4-6

Never mind that they were oppressed and afflicted slaves; they had cucumbers in Egypt. It’s important to look at the entire picture when deciding whether life was better in the old days. I’m not so sure it was.

It suggests that God is not trustworthy, that he’s not in control, and that we know better than God.

Life on this messed up earth is full of problems. Sin always finds a way to tempt us, distract us, and it convinces us that we know what’s best. We don’t. 

In the USA, the dollar rules along with its partner, power. Politicians of both parties, businesses, individuals, and sadly even some pastors are trying to gain more influence than the other guy and to squeeze more a little more profit for themselves. Jesus said that we can’t serve God and money, and the trajectory we are on will only lead to trouble.

At the same time, God applauds the advances that humans make and he wants us to enjoy them. I think it gives him great pleasure to see one of his children discovering a new medication, or inventing an amazing gadget, coming up with a startling thought or writing an engrossing book. At creation he told us to subdue and fill the earth, and although it is complicated by sin, that’s still his desire. 

Advances in technology, medicine, agriculture, and travel have dramatically improved our lives. It’s not that uncommon any more to live to be 100 years old. Diseases that once were deadly are being cured or managed, we can FaceTime with our faraway kids and airplane travel, while admittedly uncomfortable for my tall husband and sons, is very doable. I can publish this blog post and anyone anywhere in the world can read it and I can order anything and it will show up at my doorstep within two days. 

When we think the world is going down the tubes, remember that God is in control. There are still many people who live their lives to serve Him and others. Countless folks have life-long goals that are not self-serving. Revelation teaches us that the world will eventually become beyond repair, but as long as God’s people are on the earth there will be improvements and good work to be enjoyed. 

And one day He will wipe every tear from our eyes. 

He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. Revelation 21:4

Instead of pining for the good old days, perhaps we should anticipate the perfect days to come.

Do you think that the world is better or worse or about the same as it was years ago?

Photo by Darren Bockman on Unsplash

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Cold Days, Free Days, Thankful Days

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Many of us in Chicago have been given two free days.

Schools are not in session, so I’m not working, and my husband is, at this moment, in a Zoom meeting in the dining room since no one has left their homes to get to the office. We’re all stuck in our houses due to a temperature of 20 below zero and wind chills of 40 or 50 below zero. It will be the same tomorrow.

And I sit at my computer wondering what to do with two completely free days.

It’s kind of nice. The room is cold – lots of windows – but I’m wearing a warm wool sweater, the space heater is right next to me, and I’m sipping hot tea out of a huge mug.

What to do?

Plenty of possibilities run through my head: write a couple blog posts (there has been no time for them lately), clean out some cupboards (my husband’s choice), read my novel (I’m currently reading The Weight of Ink and enjoying it). I’ve already made a few phone calls, because I know that everyone will be home today. Maybe I’ll binge watch something on Netflix. Maybe not. I could catch up on my Bible study and/or prepare for an upcoming teaching.

As I consider this list, I sadly realize that all of those lovely ideas serve…me.

Meanwhile, we haven’t even gone outside to pick up the paper that someone went to the trouble of delivering. Maybe the first thing I ought to do is to say a prayer of authentic gratitude for the people who are doing their jobs and therefore are not so cozy on this frigid day. Police, firefighters, bus and tow truck drivers, those who repair electric lines and medical workers don’t have the luxury of staying home. I predict that on the news tonight we’ll see stories of fires, broken down cars, or other disasters in which wonderful, skilled, and very cold people assisted. When faced with these conditions people generally come through to help each other. It gives me hope.

I’ll also take some time to pray, really pray, for those who do not have a warm home and for whom these days are not a gift of free time but a genuine threat to their lives and for those who are doing their best to help them. Thankfully there are people and organizations who are prepared to take in folks who need warmth.

I began this post with no particular focus and just started writing about what to do with some unexpected free time. As often happens, it took a turn and found its way to gratitude, prayer, and my asking myself why my thinking was backwards. Sometimes writing a blog post forces me to think a little slower, to process my thoughts a bit further, and eventually gets me back on the better track.

So, today I am thankful for men and women who do their work professionally, faithfully, and joyfully even in miserable conditions, and I am praying for those who will need their help in this arctic weather.

And whatever I do today, it will be done with a humble and grateful heart.

“Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Photo by Alex on Unsplash

 

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Merry Christmas

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How can it possibly be the end of December? The years go by fast, and I suppose that’s because they are so very full. I used to think that life would be a little more serene after our children left … Continue reading

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Christmas Changes Everything

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Christmas is the celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ, Immanuel, God with us. It is a miracle of massive proportions, but after a lifetime of celebrating the birth of Jesus, sometimes the meaning of exactly what he did for us … Continue reading

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Parenting is Marathon, Not a Sprint

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I’m in awe of people who run 26.2 miles and live to tell about it. My husband, Dan, used to run marathons. He tells me that training for a marathon involves running a lot, eating right, and getting plenty of rest. Physically running for that long may not be in … Continue reading

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Mentored In The Soul of Hospitality

My parents are the soul of hospitality, and their secret is not complicated.

They love people.

In the age of Pinterest, entertaining can seem a bit overwhelming. We think we must set a creative table, spend hours preparing a fussy appetizer and then produce a gourmet meal to be a successful host. I’ve tried it. It’s a lot of work, and if the host and hostess are exhausted by the time their guests arrive, hospitality will be the loser.

My parents taught me that hospitality is deeper and more relational than preparing a beautiful table brimming with inspired food choices. 

Continue reading at The Perennial Gen

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Misfits

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To fit in to a group means acceptance, belonging, and community. Every human being desires those things. I’ve always felt that I fit in well with my family and social groups, for which I’m extremely grateful, for those are the … Continue reading

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The Whisper of God

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  There are times I wish God would do something stunning, jaw-dropping, attention getting, so that his existence would be undeniable. The world does not seem concerned with him. At all. At least that’s the way it looks to me. … Continue reading

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Send in the Clouds

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Some clouds are lovely, but in general they do not carry a positive association. Dreary days, rain, and cooler weather are what I associate with clouds, and I would prefer beautiful sunny days. If I lived in a desert where … Continue reading

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Have Faith in Times of Frustration

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September means a new school year for children and college students, a new year of work for their teachers and administrators, and a new start to church programs, volunteer plans and Bible studies. It’s a time of renewed effort; new … Continue reading

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