Tuesday, February 20, 2024

Night Breaking

 

Early in my career I worked for one of the big, unionized LTL carriers.  I was in the management training program which meant working a lot of nights and weekends in the beginning.  There was no such thing as a normal sleep schedule.  But I was young and adaptable.  When I had the chance to sleep, I went to sleep quickly and slept hard.  Sometimes I would build up a big sleep deficit and on an off-day sleep 12 or 14 hours straight through.  

 

But that was then, and this is now.  And between then and now, sleep has become increasingly difficult for me.  Aches and pains and chronic sinus problems do not lend themselves to long periods of sound sleep.  And, of course, there are those frequent nighttime trips to the bathroom which just seem to be  part of getting old.  Fortunately, I can usually go right back to sleep and manage to cobble together 6 or 7 hours of decent sleep.  Throw in a nap now and then and I’m OK.

 

That is, until I get sick.  Sick people need rest and sleep.  But when I’m sick, I’m too uncomfortable to rest or sleep.  Case in point, I recently had a long bout with RSV (respiratory syncytial virus).  I was not terribly ill, never ran a fever or had aches and pains.  But just enough breathing and coughing and wheezing to make sleep almost impossible for one who has problems sleeping in the best of circumstances. 

 

So for weeks now, my wife and I have been in separate bedrooms.  She asleep and me searching for sleep.  I’ve tried white noise, brown noise, green noise.  Meditative music.  Reading until the words become a blur.  I go sit in a recliner.  I pile pillows up around me in bed hoping to find a comfortable position. I watch You Tube videos. 

 

I even talk to God, but mostly he talks to me.  He has me pinned down.  It’s 3 o’clock in the morning and there is no place to hide.  I can’t even tap out and go to sleep.  God has loaded up You Tube with messages.  So has the devil, but I seem to only be getting recommendations to listen to C.S. Lewis books and essays, or Charles Spurgeon sermons, or James Earl Jones reading the Bible.  Or sometimes it’s just two or three hours of old hymns on a violin or cello.  The Word will not allow me to sleep until I have listened and confessed.  The Word is breaking me down and building me up; and there is nothing I can do about it.  It is grace and mercy for a sick old man who needs much more than just a few hours sleep.

 

Should I give thanks for being sick?  I think not.  God doesn’t make people sick.  I’m not putting that on Him.  But He does allow sickness and pain and loss in this life and does so for His purposes.  This is a mystery we dare not attempt to unravel.   We can only give thanks that He is there with us, wide awake and restoring our soul.





Friday, December 22, 2023

Chaos and Reality

 

“Chaos is the score upon which reality is written.” – Henry Miller


So, we come to the end of the year and it’s time to grade my 2023 predictions and look ahead to 2024.

 2023 Prediction Reviews and Grades:

 _1 The Ukraine-Russia conflict gets resolved. Probably before the end of March.  Russia gets something out of it and the world agrees that Russia did not lose the war (even if they did.)

Grade F -  (Now it’s going to be a stalemate until the 2024 election is over).

_2 With the Ukraine-Russia situation settled world energy markets calm down and the European economy starts a slow recovery.  2023 will not be great and we will have a recession.  But it won’t be very deep nor will it last long.  Inflation eases up.

Grade  B -  (I should have said we might have a recession.  We dodged that one, so I was wrong.  Otherwise, not too far off on this prediction.

_3 The 2024 Presidential campaign is in full swing by the second half of the year.  The Democrats are stuck with Biden/Harris and the Republicans try to figure out how to make Trump go away.  I predict Trump does indeed fade out.  Barring a scandal of some sort, DeSantis is the favorite going into 2024.

Grade F – (Trump has not gone away yet and DeSantis has faded.  Biden/Harris may not be the ticket for the Dems.  American politics are in crazy land.   

_4 The Stock Market surges in the second half of 2023.

Grade A -  Pretty accurate on this one.

_5 2023 will be a big year for M&A activity, especially in transportation/logistics and food/grocery.

Grade A – Again not a bad prediction. 

_6 Georgia repeats as college football national champs. Kansas City wins the Super Bowl.

Grade A – 2024 will be different

_7 As evidence mounts that Covid originated in a Chinese lab, the “Covid Story” goes away.  Republicans will push it, but it will be to a dead end.

Grade B – I think this is sort of the way it turned out.  Will probably be discussed more so in 2024 as part of the Election battle.

_8 There will be some Federal response, at last, to the border crisis.  It has become a nasty loose end going into the 2024 elections and the Democrats recognize the need to do something.

Grade F – Really doesn’t appear that the Feds have done much and it’s going be a major issue during the 2024 campaign.  Weak play by the Dems.

_9 The United States, along with other Western industrialized nations, continues to move further to the left on climate, economic and social issues.  Conservatives will object and continue to issue dire warnings.  But the tide has turned and isn’t likely to change until there is some sort of cataclysmic event.

Grade B – I figured this was an easy grade A prediction but Climate was really the only move further to the left.  If anything Economic and Social issues might be leaning to the right just a bit.

_10 And lastly, I have one prediction that is guaranteed to be correct: Expect the Unexpected. 

 Grade A -  The “unexpected” is always  reliable and the Hamas-Israeli conflict certainly qualifies.  Not unexpected that there would be some sort of Palestinian-related trouble, but certainly not of the current magnitude.  Nor would one have expected the level of protest and anti-Israel sentiment across college campuses in the States.  

 

 And now for the 2024 Predictions

 _1 The economy shows some improvement driven by lower energy costs and a mid-year interest rate cut.

 _2 Trump/Haney lose to Biden/not Harris in a very close election.  (The Democrats must come up with a viable running mate for Biden given the likelihood that he cannot remain upright for four more years.) Republicans are fighting an uphill battle.  Younger people, BIPOCs and single women will overwhelmingly vote Democrat.  The abortion issue will be a major factor in this election. Whatever the outcome, the loser will go ballistic.

 _3 The Israeli-Palestinian crisis continues triggering terrorists’ attacks on European and American targets. This is going to get very ugly.

 _4 Trump’s legal battles drag on as do Hunter Biden’s. This too shall pass.

 _5 Over in the toy department, Alabama wins another Natty and the 49ers win the Super Bowl.  Paris hosts the 2024 Olympics. It turns out to be more of a Tik-Tok event than a television event. Advertisers, networks and nations lose vast sums of money on the Olympics. Eventually, the world will decide to just let Greece have the Summer Olympics and Switzerland the Winter Olympics on a permanent basis.

 Five predictions are enough.  Of course, there will be the unexpected. And that will change everything.

Saturday, December 16, 2023

It Happened

 

A recent poll conducted by The Economist/YouGov reports that 20% of young Americans age 18-29 believe that the Holocaust is or may be a myth; that it didn’t actually happen.  If one in five young people actually do not believe the Holocaust occurred;  is it any wonder why so many elite college campuses have become hotbeds of anti-Semitism? 

Certainly one may rightly plead the case on behalf of the Palestinian people who have legitimate grievances against Israel and those who have supported and enabled the injustices inflicted on them. But one must not pretend that the Holocaust did not happen just so they can feel more virtuous in supporting Israel’s enemies.

My father was a member of the 101st Airborne.  He was with those who liberated a Nazi concentration camp.  It was one of the few war experiences he was willing to share. Together we would look at the photos and then he would just go silent.  He could never reconcile what he saw there with what he had been taught and once believed about God.  It haunted him until the day he died at the age of 46; an accidental death and an empty vodka bottle near where he had been working.

So for those of you who may not believe the Holocaust actually happened, I can assure you that it did.


 

        "For the dead and the living, we must bear witness." - Elie Wiesel




Saturday, December 9, 2023

As Are We All

 

I was recently watching a television show where an old man in a nursing home was talking to a younger man about the young man’s father whom the old man had known well.  This father had been dead for many years.  The son remembered him from his childhood and the memories were painful.  He was a hard, demanding man; prone to drink and inclined to discipline his children in the old ways.  

The son asked the old man, “You knew him well. What sort of man was my father?”.  

The old man hesitated and then looking into the son’s eyes replied sadly, “A lesser man than he had hoped to be…as are we all.”

That might be one of the best lines I have ever heard.  Most of us have the tendency to judge others far too harshly while giving ourselves a pass on our behavior to the point of even blaming others for the people we have become.  

I’m not going to make this about victimhood or oppression and all the socio-economic-political push and pull around those issues.  This is, and should be to each of us, more personal.  How does one feel about the people in their life who have let them down?  Family members who failed to meet expectations, would- be mentors who let them down, employers who did not deliver on their promises, people in one’s life who just let us down without warning or regret.  

But how often do we look in the mirror and recognize that we are that family member who failed, the mentor who missed the opportunity to change someone’s life for the better, the employer (or employee) who did not deliver on promises or that we are the person in someone else’s life who let them down? 

Repentance begins with recognition.  Certainly, the realization that we are not the person we had hoped to be.  But more importantly, confessing that we are not the person God made us to be.  I don’t mean physically or mentally.  I mean the person you are as an eternal, spiritual being made in the image of God.  That person is the one who must confess they are less than they had hoped to be and most assuredly less than God created them to be…..as are we all.



 


Friday, November 24, 2023

Recognizing The Good

 


In the Hebrew language there are several ways to express thanks or gratitude.  The one I like best for our season of Thanksgiving is Hakarat Ha’tov which literally means “recognizing the good”.  In the world today, finding “good” to recognize can be a challenge.  And too often recognizing something good triggers a severe, negative response from those for whom any good thing came at the expense of something or someone else.  For many the world is a zero-sum game.

 

But, I cannot believe this world is a zero-sum game. Therefore, I choose to recognize the good things in my life. First and foremost, I am thankful for the Gospel, The Good News of Jesus Christ “for it is the power of God unto salvation for everyone who believes” (Rom 1:16).  "Salvation for everyone who believes".  It is only a zero-sum game for those who choose to make it so.

 

My wife, Kayla, is certainly at the top of my good things list.  She is the one who makes everything else in my life better.  But like all good things, they don’t come easy, and they take time.  That would certainly apply to our marriage.  I am no day at the beach yet she still loves me.

 

Next would be health.  After a couple of scares last year, I recognize how good it is to be healthy again.  Of course, the years along with some bad habits and poor decisions can take their toll.  But I am in pretty good shape now for the shape I’m in.  

 

And I recognize the good of working.  That I am still engaged in work I can pursue full-time and do reasonably well at my age is a very good thing.  And the team we have at High Road Partners makes that all possible.

 

I recognize the good of being blessed financially.  By the grace of God, I’ve had some financial success in my career and the very good fortune to be born in the right place, at the right time to the right people.I have more money than I need and certainly more than I deserve.  (And I do realize that some would say that’s a bad thing.)

 

I recognize the good of The United States of America while still acknowledging the bad of slavery and the treatment of Native Americans.  I also recognize the bad history of denying constitutional freedoms to so many of our citizens.  I recognize that this nation is not perfect and has never been perfect.  But to be sure, it beats anything coming in second place.

 

Hakarat Ha’tov, “recognizing the good”.  At Thanksgiving, it’s worth a try. We might even start to see some good in those with whom we disagree.



Sunday, November 19, 2023

Bread and Circuses

 

“Frivolity, aestheticism, hedonism, cynicism, pessimism, narcissism, consumerism, nihilism, fatalism, fanatics and other negative behaviors and attitudes suffuse the population.  Politics is increasingly corrupt, life is increasingly unjust, a cabal of insiders accrues wealth and power at the expense of the citizens fostering a fatal opposition of interests between the haves and have-nots, the majority lives for bread and circuses. They worship celebrities and throw off social and moral restraints, shirk duties but insist on entitlements.” – Sir John Bagot Glubb


Sir John Bagot Glubb is a somewhat forgotten figure these days.  He was a decorated British officer who led the Arab Legion from 1939-1956 including fighting against the Israeli Army in 1948.  He passed away in 1986.  He wrote quite a bit about the Middle East and his observations are worthy of consideration. 

 

But this is about another of his writings: “The Fate of Empires and Search for Survival.”  This essay written in 1976, concludes with a summary.  Here are some of his observations and conclusions:

 

_1 Looking back over 4000 years of history, the greatness of a nation only lasts around 250 years.  This is a consistent pattern.

_2 We do not learn from history because our studies are brief and prejudiced.

_3 The stages of the rise and fall of great nations seem to be:

      The Age of Pioneers

      The Age of Conquests

      The Age of Commerce

      The Age of Affluence

      The Age of Intellect

      The Age of Decadence

_4 Characteristics of the Age of Decadence:

      Defensiveness

      Pessimism

      Materialism

      Frivolity (behavior that is silly, not serious)

      An influx of foreigners

      The Welfare State

      A weakening of religion

_5 Causes of this Age of Decadence

     Too long a period of wealth and power

     Selfishness

     Love of Money

     Loss of a sense of duty

_6 The life histories of great nations are amazingly similar and are due to internal factors.

_7 The falls of these nations are diverse because they are largely due to external causes.

 

Born in Preston, England in 1897, John Bagot Glubb was the product of a different time and place. And some of his comments and opinions would certainly get him cancelled these days.   But in his defense, he is primarily sharing historical facts albeit shaded by his own personal biases.  Nevertheless, Sir John’s overall assessment as to how great nations rise and fall is mostly on point.  

 

When he wrote this essay the United States was still in the Age of Commerce and Affluence although beginning its steady decline into an Age of Intellect and Decadence.  Glubb suggests that the most dangerous by-product of the Age of Intellect is the idea that the human brain can solve all of the world's problems.  In our day the “global elites”, primarily wealthy progressive humanists, are committed to this idea.  How’s that working out so far? 

 

And clearly, we have fallen even deeper into the Age of Decadence.  What Affluence we have enjoyed in recent years has been funded by massive government spending and debt, not by the effort and productivity of our citizens.  One might say we are past the tipping point and are now facing the battle for survival.  Winning this battle will take sacrifices which so far, we have been unwilling to even consider, much less make.  Do we continue to live for “bread and circuses” until they are gone, or do we get off the merry-go-round now?

                                                       

                 

                                        

Wednesday, November 8, 2023

The Old Rugged Church

 

No one really knows exactly how many Protestant denominations there are.  I suppose it depends on who’s counting.  Some say the number is in excess of 30,000.  I think that’s unlikely and must include every “independent” bible church along with a growing number of virtual churches who happen to have a website or a mailing address.  But whatever the number, it’s embarrassingly large.  Large enough that critics may rightly charge Protestants with a lack of unity in their beliefs.  And if Protestants can’t agree on their beliefs about church, how can they be so confident in their beliefs about God?

 

It comes down to “essential” beliefs vs “preferences”.  It would be almost 400 years after The Resurrection; long before the Great Schism, The Reformation and the subsequent outbreak of Denominationalism; that the one and only church of that time could agree on the essentials of the faith and came up with the Apostles and Nicene Creed statements.  These are probably as close to the essentials of the faith as we can get.  Some churches still recite those creeds today.  Why some churches do not is another matter.

 

For over a decade my wife and I have been attending a local Disciples of Christ church.  She grew up in this denomination and I, being a recovering Baptist, followed her to the Disciples.  The Disciples are considered a mainline denomination even though they are relatively new, forming out of the Restoration Movement of the early-mid 1800’s in the United States.  But in 1906 the Church of Christ denomination was formed and broke away from the Disciples.  The split is generally attributed to the use of musical instruments in worship. Today the Church of Christ is “a cappella” and the Disciples use musical instruments.  But the underlying differences are really about liberal vs conservative views on Bible interpretation and authority.  The Church of Christ is conservative and the Disciples have become increasingly liberal. However, some Disciples churches still tend to lean conservative and our church definitely fit in that category which suited us just fine.  A nice blend of conservative doctrine and beliefs joined with traditional worship.  

 

For at least the past 40 years mainline, traditional churches have experienced a significant decline in membership. Most of this can be attributed to mainline churches becoming more liberal and socially conscious at the expense of Biblical and traditional orthodoxy.  In the meantime, fundamentalist evangelical churches have grown.  With that growth most have embraced a more “seeker friendly” worship experience with contemporary music, casual/no dress codes and dynamic preachers.  For the serious “seekers” they offer “small group” bible studies where the real “disciple-making” goes on.  

 

This “not your grandparents' church” experience is working well enough and where matched up with bible-based messaging, churches are flourishing.   Now even the old mainline churches are chasing the new ways of doing church.  But lacking a meaningful, life changing message, they continue in decline.  Sadly, in the race to change, traditions that hold meaning for many of us have been lost.  As a result, some older Christians find themselves unchurched or churched unhappily out of habit or convenience or for the sake of friendships.

 

Our church has moved away from its Disciples roots and traditions.  Attendance is up, baptisms are up, more young families are showing up.  So it’s working. Praise God for that.  But for those of us who feel deeply touched when the congregation is saying the Lord’s Prayer or singing the Doxology, going to church these days just isn’t the same.  Nevertheless, our time is short, and God’s ways are not our ways.  So, we will adjust and worship as best we can for as long as we can... wherever we can.


“Praise God from whom all blessings flow….”