The days of our lives are seventy years; And if by reason of strength they are eighty years, yet their boast is only labor and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away. Who knows the power of Your anger? For as the fear of You, so is Your wrath. So teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. --- Psalm 90:10-12
I just had to do it – first, at the little church I am presently serving on a part time basis and now today, August 5, 2008, which happens to be my 75th birthday.
I “officially” retired from the United Methodist ministry in 1996 after serving for 37 years. Then in 1999 I got a call from a member of the Gipsy Christian Church in Gipsy, PA. The small congregation was seeking a pastor and my name had been passed along to them. We talked and I agreed to work with them on a part time basis. The church is 27 miles from where I live in Belsano. Our “contract” is simple – they can tell me to hit the road any time they want to, and I can walk out the door and never look back any time I want to!
So I thought I would do a bit of remembering over the years God has granted me life on this planet. There are folks who have lived longer than I who have seen a lot of changes also, but there would be not really all that much difference in the changes witnessed.
First, the home environment thing -- I was born and raised on a farm. A lot of no’s in the setting such as no indoor plumbing or bathroom, no electricity and no radio. First car I remember was my dad’s 1928 Chevrolet coupe which had wooden spoke wheels and a bad valve in the engine which made a funny sound when it ran! As most rural homes at that time had, so we had the outdoor privy – no luxury of soft toilet tissue, but rather a Sears & Roebuck catalog or a Montgomery Ward’s catalog – however, our privy did offer a luxury option of using the pages of one or the other, depending on your preference! Over the years I experienced a great transformation in the home environment -- the kind of improvements I had only heard about as a kid.
Our lighting was by natural gas with a thing called a mantle over the outlet so that when the gas was burning the mantle took on a bright glow, but by no means matched the illumination of a 100 watt light bulb. My experience of electric lighting in the home along with a radio to which I could listen took place when I was about 7 years of age.
Second, the education thing -- I attended a one room country school for the first 7 years of my education experience – normally, it was an eight year time period, but I skipped one grade, which enabled me to graduate from high school at the age of 16. Teachers in those systems were excellent in their ability to maintain order and teach a lot of stuff to kids between ages 6 and 14. It was some of the best education I ever got in my entire life. I went on to high school, college and graduate school. But that one room country school provides the most cherished memories!
There was something also that went on in that country school which would cause the government people that are always concerned about our health and well-being to sound the sirens and put on their hazmat outfits at the speed of light!
It was quite common for my mother to fry an egg, smash it while the yoke was still soft and put it between 2 slices of bread for my lunch in addition to a few other items I had. That lunch sat at room temperature in the schoolhouse for about 4 ½ hours or more before we ate it. And then the water situation – 2 kids would take a water pail to a farmer’s spring house a short distance away and bring it back to the schoolhouse with some water in it, dump it in a crock that had a spigot on it, and we would take our cups off the shelf and get a drink from the crock. The crock and our cups were never washed or cleaned in any way for the 9 month term of school!
Question for those who are hyper-sensitive on sanitation and food temperature issues – how in the world did we ever survive those one room country schools?
Third, the Sunday activity thing – in those early years Sunday was the day of worship. All businesses in my home town of Clarion PA shut down. Families for the most part in the area where I grew up were found in church on Sunday and also attended Sunday School. Many parents had rather strict rules as to what was acceptable conduct and what wasn’t on the Lord’s Day! But then came the changes over time in which Sunday became a day of transacting business, following professional and college sporting events and pursuing pleasures of every conceivable kind. Today less than half of our 300 million population can find its way to a place of worship on Sunday mornings!
Major changes took place along the way as I grew in years – the 1950’s saw the ushering in of something called rock ‘n roll. Television and Hollywood produced entertainment that began to greatly erode over time in terms of moral and ethical standards.
Major court decisions transformed our culture in ways never imagined – the practice of praying and reading from the Bible in public schools was ruled unconstitutional. A few years later it was ruled by the Supreme Court that it is the constitutional “right” of a woman to have her unborn child brutally mutilated and murdered – a bonus in this is a guy in a white coat being given many bucks to do the deed and never be charged with a criminal act!
Moral and ethical changes have amounted to nothing more than witnessing a person who makes sure a bath is taken every day in order to maintain a state of cleanliness and then abandons that practice, plunging into the nearest cesspool and shouting, "Ah, this is the life -- I like it -- it's the best!"
Much, much more could be said about changes witnessed over three quarters of a century, but what has already been stated is enough to say that the United States in the past 75 years has undergone the kind of changes which amount to nothing less than the digging of a grave, and we stand by the grave side with one foot on a banana skin and the other on three dozen ice cubes!
But as I review the changes witnessed over the past decades with much alarm and a grieving spirit, I also take heart in knowing that the greatest change of all is yet to be and will take place at an hour which I know not – but take place, it most surely will because it has been promised by Almighty God.
The change will take place at the moment Jesus Christ personally returns to this world at some point in the future – here is how it is described by two persons:
We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is fitting, because your faith grows exceedingly, and the love of every one of you all abounds toward each other, so that we ourselves boast of you among the churches of God for your patience and faith in all your persecutions and tribulations that you endure, which is manifest evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you also suffer; since it is a righteous thing with God to repay with tribulation those who trouble you, and to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, when He comes, in that Day, to be glorified in His saints and to be admired among all those who believe, because our testimony among you was believed. --- 2 Thessalonians 1:3-10
Then the seventh angel sounded: And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, "The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!" And the twenty-four elders who sat before God on their thrones fell on their faces and worshiped God, saying: "We give You thanks, O Lord God Almighty, the One who is and who was and who is to come, because You have taken Your great power and reigned. The nations were angry, and Your wrath has come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that You should reward Your servants the prophets and the saints, and those who fear Your name, small and great, and should destroy those who destroy the earth." --- Revelation 11:15-18
I rest my case!