Monthly Archives: February 2012

Iron Rails

They’ve been workin’ on the railroad around these parts of town. One day a fascinating bit of machinery, with the help of a railroad crew, started uprooting railroad tracks and crossties through the neighborhood. The iron spikes were pulled up, sections of the tracks were hoisted onto a flatbed, and the wooden ties were either left or tossed into piles, to be dealt with later. Miles of tracks are disappearing from behind old warehouses, factories, industrial sites and even homes. The crossing signs and the tracks in the roadways will be removed later. Not only is the empty railroad right-of-way an overgrown yet vacant sight to behold, but now there are dead-end streets that can be opened up, and homes with potentially more property to be added to the deeds.

These industrial railroad tracks are called “spur lines.” They branched off the main lines so freight trains could deliver the raw materials to the factory assembly lines or storage facilities. Times changed. Some companies moved away or closed down. Other companies have taken their places, but trucks were adequate for their supply needs. These spur tracks have been unused for some years. Someone recognized that the old manufacturing companies were not returning and that miles of valuable iron lay useless on the ground. It was time to repurpose the rails.

My father started his railroad career as a switchman on such spur lines. Today many of the freight trains that move up and down the newer spur lines are operated, not by engineers or switchmen, but by computers and big game-like consoles back at the railroad yards. Once, the railroads ruled the freight and personal transportation needs of America. And many other familiar institutions ruled their segments of the world—like steel mills, newspapers and even churches. God told a young Jeremiah that his assignment would be “to uproot and tear down, to destroy and overthrow, to build and to plant” (Jer. 1:10). There are iron rails in our lives that need to be uprooted so we can build and plant again.

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

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Change or Deny

“I am not against change as long as it is back to the way it was.” That’s the philosophy of many people. I have made my peace with change. I have a different philosophy: “I embrace change because change is embracing me.” I am not always happy with the way change has embraced me. Every day I look into the mirror still hopeful for a change back of about 20 years. It’s not going to happen. So the alternative to embracing change seems to be full-out denial. Denial is like hiding in a dark closet—the light still slips in, the outside noises still can be heard and you always discover your favorite old clothes that you can’t wear anymore but hope to one day if you lost weight, exercised, ate healthy, got enough sleep, but that would mean having to change and you just don’t want to.

Denial takes a lot of time and energy, but so does change. Change is hard work, but so is denial. Either way I have to work at it. Change has some important distinctions: I may have to adapt, learn, replace, discard and/or develop new ways. Pretending not to change always seems easier. Some folks even believe that people can’t change, despite the fact that they also say they believe the Gospel, the power of God’s Spirit and missions. Maybe Christians are supposed to be personal examples of transformational change. “I once was lost but now I’m found. I once was blind but now I see.” Maybe we Christians have put too much emphasis on the “once” instead of the “now.”

A good place to begin understanding that transformational change in every area of life is good for us is Romans chapter 12. It begins by talking about our bodies, then moves quickly to “be transformed by the renewing of our minds,” and then on to our daily routines. (Warning: Reading Romans 12 may cause you to change.) Change or deny.

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

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Fast Food Theology or Lessons from Chips and Dips

I’ve started a new collection, so I need your help. Some people clean out, throw out and start over. I am not one of those people. Sociologists say we once were either hunters or gatherers. I am one of those. My most extensive collections are Star Trek, books and Beanie Babies, in that order. My children will thank me later for their huge financial windfall. This new collection, though, I am keeping in a notebook. It should not take up very much space. I am thinking this could become the basis for a best-selling inspirational book. My grandchildren will thank me later.

It all started innocently enough with a sandwich at the local Schlotzsky’s. I must have run out of people to watch or something for I soon found myself reading the potato chip bag. And there it was—the inspiration for my new collection, which I am calling “Fast Food Theology.” There on the front of the Schlotzsky’s personal-sized bag of chips, the following words appear: Sandwiches need chips, shoulders do not. What a great theological concept. It reminded me of the verse that says, “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” (Colossians 3:13)

The only other quote I have comes from Dove dark chocolates, which when melted make a great dip for potato chips.* Dove’s words of wisdom include the mandate to “Trust with your heart not with your mind.” Truer words were never spoken about chocolate, but Proverbs 3 qualifies this by saying, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” So now I need you to help me find more fast food quotes for my collection.

Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Watch out for chips. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.

*Potato chips are on my assigned “Unapproved Food List;” dark chocolate is not.

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World War I Has Ended

On Saturday, February 4, 2012, Florence Beatrice Patterson Green died two weeks short of her 111th birthday. Her death is significant on a number of levels: she was one of the oldest people in the world; she was beloved in her community of King’s Lynn in Eastern England; and she was the last surviving veteran of World War I. With her passing, World War 1 has ended for all who actually served in the first of the great and massively brutal wars of the 20th century. She enlisted in England’s Women’s Royal Air Force in September 1918 when she was 17 years old. She served as a steward (waitress) in the Officers’ Mess at RAF bases in England. My favorite Florence Green quote was her response last year to the question about how it felt to be 110. “It’s not much different than being 109.” According to USA Today, the last WWI combat veteran, Charles Choules of the Royal Navy, died in Australia in May 2011. Green will be buried with military honors also.

How many wars have you lived through so far? War has become a way of life for our nation and our world. During the two World Wars, the Korean War and the Cold War, soldiers wore uniforms. Starting with the Vietnam War many of the enemy combatants did not don a uniform. Terrorists never wear uniforms and most of their victims do not either.

Christians are asked to wear a uniform. “Put on the full armor of God,” encourages the apostle Paul. Spiritual warfare is real and brutal. The enemy knows who you are and wants to see you fall. The personal, spiritual battles you fought years ago are a whole lot like the ones you are fighting today.

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

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Star Trek Realities Today

“Medicine Begins to Catch Up with Star Trek,” read the Wall Street Journal headline dated January 24, 2012. Science fiction’s medical Tricorder was a hand-held device that the doctor used to scan a person’s body to pinpoint all of the internal problems: heart rate, temperature, blood pressure, glucose level, broken bones, etc. Some of this technology is coming to a cell phone near you. Get the App, scan yourself like a grocery item, and you can learn your body’s temperature and heart rate. I wish they would replicate Star Trek’s hospital bed that did all of that monitoring without any wires, tubes or blood pressure cuffs.

The futuristic “what if” musings of Gene Roddenberry, and his writers of a television show back in 1966, are becoming possible today. The BBC reported on January 25th that researchers from the University of Texas have “cloaked” a three-dimensional object making it invisible—a form of Star Trek’s Cloaking Device. The reality is that much of this research still has a long way to go.

The reality, also, is that many of us long for a doctor to wave a medical instrument over us to diagnose our problems and use another hand-held device to mend our bones, close up our wounds, heal our diseased organs, while never needing to make an incision. There is no such thing as a minor surgery if it’s happening to you. Some people want God to be a magical healer who waves his hand and all of the pain and disease vanish. God is not magical. Our God is the Great Physician. God understands our “dis-eases” and prescribes what is best. Sometimes we even do what God asks of us. Now that’s a miracle.

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

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