Monday, December 30, 2013

Another New Year means that we’re All Just Getting Older

Another New Year is here.  The old is out!  Good, bad, or indifferent, it’s over.  Indeed, for me, it was good; because, this ending year of 2013, I became a grandfather for the first time.  I love it.  I celebrate it.  It’s great!  I’m a Grandfather!

It also means that I’m reaching the top end of my years.

At nine months, my granddaughter’s years are just beginning; the future is rising before her.  Yes, there’s a younger generation winding up, pressing forward and pushing upward, getting ready to take on the world.

Meanwhile my generation desperately grasps at anything promising to preserve one’s youth.  There is to be no aging gracefully for us.  Our life’s strategy is to think young, act young, look young, and be young for as long as one possibly can in a desperate attempt to stave off aging and ignore the inevitable need to come to terms with one’s mortality.  We refuse to age at all!  Not if we can help it.

Indeed, says the Bible (Ecclesiastes 3:11), God put eternity in our hearts.  Though our bodies are time bound, space bound, limited and finite, our hearts and minds reach beyond such limitations.  The earth, and all its accoutrements, is not big enough to hold our dreams and aspirations.  We want more than hourglass living.  We want life without limit, we want eternity!

Jesus prayed: “Father, the hour has come.  Glorify your Son, that your Son may glorify you.  For you granted him authority over all people that he might give eternal life to all those you have given him.  Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.”  (John 17:1-3, my emphasis.)

Biblical eternal life is not simply a reference to a life-time without end.  It is significantly relational, connected-living forever with God (“quality time”), in Christ.  It is not preserving or extending one’s mortality to the max; it is being transformed from mortality into immortality to live in the presence of God, to enjoy His glory and all that such fellowship with God entails.  It is not aging gracefully it is grace-filled agelessness.  It is the reason why God put eternity in our hearts in the first place.

How then should we approach a New Year and the inevitable mark of time upon our aging lives?  Here are some suggestions.

  • Live with an eternal focus in mind.  Have an eternal perspective.  And, from that perspective, deal with the immediate and temporal in light of the eternal.    Life does not end at the point of death.  It is but the passageway into the eternal.
  • Accept your present mortal condition as such, so as to die with dignity when the time comes.  In other words, do not extend the dying process unnecessarily by attempting drastic but useless resuscitation efforts of the mortal/dying body.
  • Embrace God’s mercy and grace upon your soul and acknowledge your dependency and need of God for your life’s spirit.  You are all too familiar with your imperfections, faults, failures, and shortcomings.  This is why we need a Savior and why Christ the Messiah, was sent to us as Lord and Savior of humanity.  Remember that the absolute power of life over death is in God’s hand, not ours.  So let God be God and run toward God, not away from God.
  • And finally, count your time here on earth qualitatively not quantitatively.  The truth is, living a few short years on earth, with love and faith and trust in God, is far better and richer than living a long life with a hardened and bitter evil heart—in the face of its eternal consequence.

And so may you all have a blessed and grace-filled HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Monday, December 16, 2013

We are more than Consumers we are Citizens Building a Nation

I saw a TV ad from Walmart that says, “Get in and get more Christmas.”  Hence, if you want more Christmas, get more stuff from Walmart.  It’s simple and sweet, and altogether missing the point of true Christmas.

Okay, so we all know about the commercialism of Christmas.  It seems a losing battle, trying to keep the true meaning of Christmas.  Why fight it?  Here’s why.

Retailers do not see Christmas shoppers as citizens who are passionately celebrating faith, family, and community; rather they see us as mere consumers.  And sadly that’s how we see ourselves as well.

We are a nation defined by consumerism: I the consumer—an acceptable self-image in our national psyche.  We buy and sell.  We make deals.  We get.  We consume.

And the more we get the better off we think we are.

And we’re never satisfied.

For the consumer, there is no such thing as “enough is enough,” or “be content with what you have.”  Such an attitude is bad for the economy.  What’s good for the economy is to buy, use, throw away, and begin the cycle again, buy, use, throw away, ad infinitum.

Thus, we don’t applaud and celebrate Christmas; rather we purchase and consume Christmas; more stuff = more Christmas!

Here’s the problem.  We are consuming the good earth itself, eating up and trashing our resources, wasting and tossing, rather than investing and building, enhancing and preserving our resources.

Remember the old saying: “Business is business”?

NO!!  Rather, business is people.  Business is constructing life, building community, health and vitality, nurturing family relationships.  The business of business should actually be the building of meaningful and thriving communities, building Life.

Thus, our focus is misguided.  Attitudinally speaking, it seems that businesses are now only in business for profiteering from the addicted consumer.  But what’s the alternative?  As I’ve already said, businesses should be in business for providing meaningful and significant goods and services that enable citizens to build and construct meaningful lives.  There is a slight difference between the two foci, but it makes a world of difference with respect to a business’s fundamental attitude and perspective about doing business.

We consumers need a new self-image.  We should not be content to be reduced to self-serving consumers.  We need to see ourselves as creators, makers, and builders.  But what are we building?  We need to be building strong, stable, and equitable communities that thrive on goodness, justice, and good neighborliness.  We need to see employment not merely as a means toward making money, but as a means of positive engagement toward creative development in constructing a healthy and thriving society, people, and nation.  In short, we should be willing to do hard work, not just for its pay but for its meaningful outcome—other than the accumulation of stuff.

So, how should consumers buy?
Buy reasonably and with discretion.  Buy useful and needful, not just for indulgence and show.  Buy within your means and budget, not just because your debt limit allows you to get more than you can actually afford.  Buy with integrity and honesty; don’t be easily scammed by your own uncontrollable desire to indulge in greedy gain.  Buy with the purpose and intent to build and create, to preserve and sustain, to keep and enhance earth’s resources for present and future generations.

How should sellers sell?
Sell actual value.  Sell quality.  Sell to serve.  Sell not only for the sake of profit; sell for the sake of serving your community.  Sell to provide useful goods and needful services that allow for thriving communities and growing families.  Sell justly and equitably.  Sell to spread the wealth not to steal the wealth.

So, let us no longer think of ourselves as mere Consumers.  We are life builders.  We are constructing families, communities, and long lasting friendships.  We are not about consuming and throwing away.  We are about working to build and preserve what is good, right, and wholesome.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Xmas or Christmas

When a movement takes off—any movement, be it social, political, or religious—and becomes bigger than its original leaders or founders could ever have imagined or envisioned, it often takes on a life of its own and morphs into something not quite the same as its origins or roots.  I’d say that our annual celebration of Xmas is just such an example.

For the vast majority of families who celebrate Xmas from year to year, it’s not about Christ, the Messiah, and the fulfillment of God’s prophetic Word, a promise from God to His people that one day they will see the birth of One who will not only inherit King David’s throne but will transform that throne into an everlasting Kingdom to rule all peoples everywhere.  (2 Samuel 7:8-14.)  Yes, for the vast majority of people that annually celebrate Xmas, it is not about celebrating the Son of David, He whose lineage is traced back to King David of Israel, though he was born roughly a thousand years after King David lived.

Indeed, for most people, Xmas “is for the kids.”  It’s NOT an adult thing.  Most adults that celebrate Xmas do so as a legitimate reason to avoid work and to engage in binge drinking and wild partying, without apology.  That is what Xmas means to most adults.  Why?  Why do people relinquish the joy of Christmas to children and the realm of childhood?

Perhaps it’s because (most) children are still prone to believe that there is a God.  Children willingly believe that there is someone greater than themselves out there, someone who is the source of all that is awe-inspiring and wonderful.  And they are still willing to believe in the idea that there really is “a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow,” that is, a place of magic, where dreams really do come true—we call it heaven.  They innately embrace the idea of heaven, redemption and salvation, and the idea that goodness will one day truly triumph over evil.  In short, they keep the faith and are ever hopeful.

“Get real!” I hear you say, “The kids are in it for the presents.  Forget the promise of a Savior, born of a virgin, born in a manger, Son of David, Messiah who is to be King of kings, God’s Anointed One, and Savior of the world.  Who cares about that?!  They want the goods!  And the more presents they get the merrier they will be.”  True.  I can’t deny that.  But whose fault is that, theirs or ours?  Are we not the ones who turned Christmas into a gift giving bonanza “for the kids”?  Yet, have you ever noticed how so many parents go out of their way to nurture their kid’s belief in Santa?  Why is that?

Parents delight in their kid’s awe and amazement; that twinkle in their eyes, that joy of expectation, surprise and excitement.  If adults were honest, they’d admit that they miss those same childhood feelings, that childhood trust in someone great and mysteriously awesome, even scary, but penetratingly good, kind, and loving, though firmly just and fair.

What many adults don’t realize is that they too can return to that same foundation of hope and expectation, trust and amazement.  Re-embrace the true meaning, spirit, and truth of Christmas.  There IS someone out there, bigger than us.  His name is Jesus.  He is the Christ, the Messiah, who has indeed come to save the world from its own inevitable self-destruction.  There is hope for this terribly unjust, crude and rude world.  Goodness shall prevail.  Evil will be defeated.  And no one shall ever be in want again.  That day will come.  Christmas, the real Christmas, is the first concrete step toward the fulfillment of that promise and hope that we have in God through Jesus, the Christ.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Employees Should NOT be Forced to Work on a Holiday

Tony Rohr got it right!  He’s the Pizza Hut manager in Elkhart, Indiana, that got fired for refusing to keep Pizza Hut open on Thanksgiving Day.  He didn’t want to force his employees to work on this National Holiday that is especially set aside for family time and counting one’s blessings.

Tony Rohr hit it on the nail when he wrote the following, among other things, in his ‘resignation letter’: "I hope you realize that it is the people at the bottom of the totem pole that make your life possible."  Exactly!!

When high and mighty corporate executives make consequential decisions based on dollar calculations only, they often fail to take into account the very real personal impact that these decisions may have on countless employees and their families.  Or, if they do realize that their decisions will significantly and perhaps negatively impact the lives of their employees, one could almost see these same executives responding with a condescending and dismissive wave of the hand, in effect saying something like: “Well, if they want to work here, they have to play by our rules and if they don’t like it, there’s the door.”

Tony Rohr did not like it, and he chose not to play by their rules.  And he was fired for it.  Did he do the right thing?  You bet he did.  He stood up for the little guy.  He sacrificed his own security to stand his ground and make his point: That greedy corporations need to draw back and back down from grasping for more and more money at the expense of employee’s family and home life.

Of course companies need to make money and prosper.  Nevertheless, they need not do so by dehumanizing their workforce—manipulating and controlling their employees as if they are objects to be exploited—simply to enhance the corporation’s bottom line.

There are of course certain professions requiring skilled workers to be on call, if not at work and on site, even during the highest of High Holidays, but that is not the issue here.  Closing a Pizza Hut on Thanksgiving Day neither threatens a person’s health nor places a community’s sense of safety and/or wellbeing at risk.  It’s pure dollar and profit motive to keep it open, nothing less.  Thus, at some point, corporations need to stop thinking only of dollars and begin to think of its people—people count, families count, and living for reasons other than making money counts!  And that is a good enough rationale to close down the store for a day or two during a calendar year.

Tony Rohr, I salute you for having the courage, conviction, and caring heart to stand your ground on principle in behalf of your Pizza Hut employees.  America should not be driven only by money.  America needs to be driven by deeper principles and greater truths than the mere dollar—things like, honest, caring, and respectful relationships, integrity, goodness and kindness, family life, and a wholesome respect for the dignity of all, of whatever social strata or class they identify with.

Corporations, if you only learn this most basic lesson, besides making a good product, there is no doubt in my mind that you will prosper and profit—without needing to exploit, manipulate, or abuse your workforce, especially over the Holidays.