Monthly Archives: September 2009

Sixteen Tons

Sixteen tons and what do you get? Anyone born before 1955 can tell you the answer to that question. Tennessee Ernie Ford’s version of the song “Sixteen Tons” sold two million copies in less than two months! Americans identified with the tale of a coal miner so deep in debt that he could not afford to die.

You load sixteen tons, and what do you get? Another day older and deeper in debt. Saint Peter, don’t you call me, ’cause I can’t go; I owe my soul to the company store. . .

When I was in college I served a church that was built for the employees of a lumber mill. It was named for the mill owner who also had built all of the workers’ little houses. The company store sold all of the groceries, dry goods and liquor the people wanted. The costs were deducted from their paychecks, and so was their rent. They could also get paycheck loans and advances. Yet most of the church people tithed, so the church could have a fulltime pastor and part-time music/youth director. They gave to missions, bought Sunday School literature for everyone, mailed out a newsletter and had wonderful potluck dinners.

Sometimes we forget that the “good old days” were a whole lot like today, only with less stuff. The preachers railed against a growing materialism that was leading us down a path of greed, selfishness and heartache. When our gods, they said, are money, prosperity and things, our dreams will sadly miss the mark. “Fly now, pay later” revolutionized advertising and introduced credit cards. More than 50 years later, the dreams of millions of our neighbors seem to have fallen short. The company store has been replaced by predatory lenders, corporate greed and too easy credit. The Biblical vision of simplicity and generosity still holds, even in the toughest economic times.

Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Honor the Lord. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.

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The Most Trusted Man in America

I have been somewhat fascinated by the recent public memorials. Michael Jackson was The King of Pop to this generation, differentiating him from The King, Elvis Presley. Edward Kennedy became The Lion of the Senate because of his influence, tenure and mane of hair. A September 9 tribute at the Lincoln Center honored journalist Walter Cronkite, The Most Trusted Man in America. I have been thinking about Cronkite’s title since his death in July. What does it mean to be “the most trusted man in America?” Do we even trust the news anymore?

Walter Cronkite received that title in the early 1970s as a result of a national poll. The reasons given included his quest to verify every story he reported, his speaking heartfelt truth to power and his personal integrity. He reflected an “average man” quality that allowed many to identify with him. He had his detractors, but his reputation as the most trusted man never diminished. His one regret, he often said, was that he retired too soon, signing a CBS contract that prevented him from reporting the news.

A fundamental shift in news reporting has taken place today. With the advances in cell phones and video cameras, anyone can be a “reporter” anywhere in the world. Truthfulness, accuracy and integrity don’t really seem to matter. The blending of entertainment, celebrity, advertisement and political viewpoints into national and local news stories has blurred the lines of trustworthiness. This is giving rise to a critical, cynical spirit. If you cannot trust the news to be serious, truthful and factual, why read it or watch it?

So who is the most trusted man or woman in America today? Is it a reporter, politician or religious leader? Have we reached a time in history when no one can be trusted? We still have lists of “the most admired,” but the Billy Grahams and Nelson Mandellas of the world are now mostly retired. In a recent poll, Time Magazine asked that question again about the national news anchors. By far the most trusted man in America turned out to be the political satirist Jon Stewart.

How do Christians measure up on the trustworthiness scale? How do you and I?

Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Be trustworthy. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.

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True Neighbors

Last week in a pre-Sunday school Bible lesson, the children acted out the story of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:329-37). This story answers the question “Who is my neighbor?” There was some competition to play the hero in the story. A couple of the boys really liked the idea of playing the robbers! There was more reluctance for playing the parts of the religious leaders.

Yale AptsRecently a few of the neighborhood pastors and the high school principal toured the new apartment building under construction at Admiral and Yale. This four-story building has stirred quite a controversy over its “stealth” placement in the community, its size and its future residents. It is owned and operated by the Tulsa Mental Health Association. Of the 76 apartments, about 50 of them will be occupied by single adults who have been working their way through the mental health process to fully independent living. Many are coming from the downtown YMCA Building, which is being torn down early next year. About 25 apartments are being reserved for any single adult who would like low-cost housing.

Many are concerned about having neighbors with a history of mental health issues. The TMHA leadership assures us that only individuals with a long history of mental health progress will qualify to live in the apartments. No sex offenders or felons will reside there. Their position is that these men and women have worked very hard to get to this place in their lives and need a chance to continue to better themselves. The mental health association is asking the churches to be available to minister to the spiritual needs of the residents.

These people have been in the ditch. Many are poor and they are trying to stay well. I guess the question we should be asking ourselves is not: What kind of neighbors are they? The real question is: What kind of neighbors are we?

Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Be a true neighbor. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.

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Grandparents’ Day

This Sunday, September 13, is another national holiday that I did not know was a real holiday. Somewhat cynically, I thought it was created just to sell more greeting cards. But Grandparents’ Day was signed into law by a president just like Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and Thanksgiving. It was started by Marian McQuade (1917-2008) to encourage lonely nursing home residents. The West Virginia woman was relentless in calling attention to the lonely elderly. Also, she wanted to connect the wisdom of older adults to their grandchildren. West Virginia enacted Grandparents’ Day in 1973, and in 1978, President Carter signed it into national law, designating it on the Sunday after Labor Day.

Deacon and Carter

Deacon and Carter

I am in the season of grandparenting. Our eldest grandchild just turned 5, his little brother is 2, our granddaughter turned 2 on Labor Day, and her little brother is about to be born. Through the wonders of the internet, we were able to watch our little Texan Molly open her birthday present, and she was able to see and hear us sing “happy birthday.” What a wonderful way to stay connected. I suspect that many children and teens would love to show their grandparents how to do that.

Molly

Molly

I love being a grandparent! The little ones demonstrate unconditional love and trust. They watch everything we say and do and try to copy it. They will give you their whole hearts and great big hugs. They will tell you endless stories, they laugh at all of your jokes, and their hurts are cured with a kiss. So hooray for Marian McQuade, mother of 15, grandmother of 43 and great-grandmother of 15. She was an example of the words of Paul to Timothy when he said, “I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois. . .” 2 Timothy 1:5 (NIV)

Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Connect with your grands. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.

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Happy Birthday, Dini

Dini 1It looks like he is going to make it! This Labor Day, September 7, will mark the day our pet bird, Dini, will be 30 years old. One of our church members at the time, Ty Frederick, was trying his hand at breeding cockatiels. I was very interested in his new hobby. Then he called me one evening to say that a new mother was rejecting her two hatchlings. He asked if I could come over and help him. We decided that I would take one and he would work with the other. So I took the hatchling home and fed him with an eye dropper and kept him warm with a towel in a shoebox. After his feathers came out, I began to teach Dini to talk and to fly. Then, one fateful day in the summer of 1981, I brought him to church to show the children.

The world’s longest children’s sermon began during the morning service as usual. When I took the bird out of his cage to show how he was trained to talk and fly back … well, let’s just say he flew and flew and sang, all through the rest of church that morning. I thought it was poetic that Ty was singing a solo in worship when Dini decided to make it a duet. No one slept through church that day! Later that evening I was able to rescue him from his perch near the sanctuary cove lights.

I looked up the life expectancy of the cockatiel—they live about 20 years. According to Wikipedia, there is one bird confirmed to have lived 35 years. Dini is a good pet that has outlived a number of our cats. For around eight years he shared a cage with a female cockatiel we called DeeDee. We thought Dini would like the company and that they might even mate. He mostly tolerated her. When she died unexpectedly one July, he did not mourn her loss. In his “retirement years” he still keeps us amused and he sings a greeting whenever we come home. Even pet birthdays are times to reflect, tell stories, sing songs and smile. Go ahead and celebrate another birthday just for fun.

Cockatiel owners are a passionate people who, like other pet owners, have their own shows and conventions. This year Tulsa will host the National Cage Bird Show at the Renaissance Hotel November 19-21. The Cockatiel Division is very competative. The National Cockatiel Society is just one of the organizations that promote the enjoyment these beautiful and intelligent birds.

Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Celebrate someone’s birthday. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.

Dini 2

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