Proofreading — A Dying Art?

Correcting, Proof, Paper, Correction, Correct, Mistake

Perspectives will be a bit lighter than usual this week and next week. It’s summer time. And I’m about to finish the 10th year of writing these articles every single week … 520 articles in a row. So don’t expect anything particularly profound, whether theologically or politically.

Proofreading appears to be a dying art. Here are a few examples of signs that need some help: 

  • In a Laundromat: AUTOMATIC WASHING MACHINES: PLEASE REMOVE ALL YOUR CLOTHES WHEN THE LIGHT GOES OUT.
  • In a London department store: BARGAIN BASEMENT UPSTAIRS.
  • In an office: AFTER TEA BREAK, STAFF SHOULD EMPTY THE TEAPOT AND STAND UPSIDE DOWN ON THE DRAINING BOARD.
  • Outside a second-hand shop: WE EXCHANGE ANYTHING — BICYCLES, WASHING MACHINES, ETC. WHY NOT BRING YOUR WIFE ALONG AND GET A WONDERFUL BARGAIN?
  • Notice in health food shop window: CLOSED DUE TO ILLNESS.
  • Spotted in a safari park: ELEPHANTS, PLEASE STAY IN YOUR CAR.
  • Seen during a conference: FOR ANYONE WHO HAS CHILDREN AND DOESN’T KNOW IT, THERE IS A DAY CARE ON THE FIRST FLOOR.
  • Notice in a farmer’s field: THE FARMER ALLOWS WALKERS TO CROSS THE FIELD FOR FREE, BUT THE BULL CHARGES.
  • Message on a leaflet: IF YOU CANNOT READ, THIS LEAFLET WILL TELL YOU HOW TO GET LESSONS.
  • On a repair shop door: WE CAN REPAIR ANYTHING. (PLEASE KNOCK HARD ON THE DOOR — THE BELL DOESN’T WORK.)

Thanks for sticking with me, dear friends in Christ. God bless your day!

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That’s a Lot of Concrete!

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Credit: Wikipedia

Interstate 10 (I-10) is the major east–west Interstate Highway in the Southern United States. It stretches from the Pacific Ocean at California State Route 1 in Santa Monica, California, to I-95 in Jacksonville, Florida. The only longer Interstate Highways are I-80, which runs 2,906 miles from San Francisco to Teaneck, and I-90, which runs 3,085 miles from Seattle to Boston.

In Texas, I-10 runs east from Anthony, a small town near the New Mexico border, through El Paso, San Antonio, and Houston, all the way to the border with Louisiana in Orange, Tex.

At just under 880 miles, the Texas segment of I-10, maintained by the Texas Department of Transportation, is the longest continuous non-tolled freeway in North America that is operated by a single authority. In recent years toll lanes have been added on portions of the highway west of Houston, yet it is still possible to travel the entire length of I-10 with no toll.

I-10 is also the longest stretch of highway with a single designation within a single state. Mile marker 880 and its corresponding exit number in Orange, Texas, are the highest numbered mile marker and exit on any freeway in North America.

After widening was completed in 2008, a portion of the highway west of Houston is now also believed to be the widest in the world, at 26 lanes. There is a wider section in China on the G4 Beijing–Hong Kong–Macau Expressway, but that section is a toll plaza approach.

More than one-third of I-10’s entire length is located in Texas alone. El Paso, near the Texas–New Mexico state line, is 785 miles from the western terminus of I-10 in Santa Monica, California. That makes El Paso closer to Los Angeles than it is to Orange, Tex., 857 miles away at the Texas–Louisiana state line. Likewise, Orange is only 789 miles from the eastern terminus of I-10 in Jacksonville, Florida.

That’s a lot of concrete!

Travel on the Interstate Highway system, notwithstanding the frequent bottlenecks and pileups those of us who live in major cities along that system regularly experience, allows those who drive it to travel long distances in relatively short periods of time.

Compare that reality with the time and effort it took biblical characters like Abraham to travel from his point of origination, Ur of the Chaldees (present day Iraq), to God’s chosen destination of Shechem in Canaan, known today as the Holy Land. Only several hundred miles as the crow flies but more than 1,000 miles along the route taken to avoid the Sahara Desert. Not much concrete on that journey. Only lots of faith in the God who was leading him.

A Church and a Bar

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Last week I saw a story on Facebook:

A man went to church. He forgot to switch off his phone, which rang loudly during the prayer.

After church was over, the pastor scolded him for not turning off his phone before coming into church. A number of worshipers admonished him after the prayer for interrupting the silence.

In addition, the man’s wife kept lecturing him all the way home about his thoughtlessness and insensitivity. He felt ashamed, embarrassed, and humiliated.

After that incident, he never again returned to the church.

That same evening, the same man went to a bar. He was still upset, nervous, and trembling. He accidentally spilled his drink on the table and on his lap.

Although the spill wasn’t his fault, he waiter apologized, brought a clean napkin for the man to dry his pants, and politely wiped the spilled drink from the table.

The janitor came and mopped up the liquid that had spilled on the floor.

The lady who managed the bar offered him a replacement drink … at no charge.

The manager also gave the man a huge hug and a peck on the cheek, while saying, “Don’t worry, sir. Who doesn’t make mistakes?”

And guess what? That man has not stopped going to that bar since his experience that night.

The moral of this story is obvious. Whether you’re manager of a bar or pastor of a church, people need and deserve to be treated with kindness and respect.

Demonstrating care and concern for people in, of all places, the church, goes a long way toward encouraging people to return to receive what really counts–proclamation of God’s forgiving love in Jesus Christ our Lord.

I’m Too Young

When I was a young boy many years ago, on certain occasions my mother and father were quick to tell me that I was too young:

  • Too young to ride my bike to my friend’s house by myself
  • Too young to stay up as late as my older sister
  • Too young to swim in the creek by myself
  • Too young to mow the grass

These days of my life I don’t hear that statement any more. My parents are both in heaven. My dear wife never says I’m too young. Neither do our children or grandchildren.

And I surely don’t say that to myself or about myself. I’m not too young to do anything or to own anything or to go anywhere. I’m 76 years old. I’m not too young for anything.

In my work of encouraging people not to wait too long to plan how they want what they own to be distributed after the Lord calls them to heaven, I often hear people say: “I’m too young to think or talk about death and dying. Maybe I’ll be ready for that someday. But not right now.”

It’s more likely that I’ll hear that statement from someone 40 or 50 years of age or younger. But I also hear it from folks who are in their 60s or 70s or 80s. Too young? Really?

That’s the third of seven estate planning myths I began a couple months ago. “I’m too young to think or talk about death and dying. Maybe I’ll be ready for that someday. But not right now.”

Here’s the reality. Neither you nor I nor anyone else has a special “lease on life.”

Jesus told a parable of a farmer blessed with abundant crops. He decided to tear down his old barns and build bigger ones to store all his grain and possessions. No problem with that, so far.

Jesus continued the parable with what this rich man said to himself: “Then I will say to myself, ‘You have plenty of good things laid up for many years. Take it easy. Eat, drink, and be merry.”

Then Jesus added: “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be required of you. Then who will own what you have accumulated?’”

And Jesus concluded: “This is how it will be for anyone who stores up treasure for himself but is not rich toward God.”

Your legacy plan is not only about you. It’s especially about your loved ones. No matter your age, you’re not too young to plan your estate. Doing so helps minimize the stress your loved ones will experience when your life on earth is over. Just do it. Now. Legacy Deo can help.

A Memorial Day Story and Song

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Here’s a story apropos for the week before Memorial Day.

 An Unlikely Friendship

They were quite the pair — she, a beautiful young girl with a bright, white smile; he, a homeless veteran with a scraggly beard and weathered face.

Their friendship started out slow. The girl began saying “hi” to Tony as she traveled to and from her workplace. Soon they were having small conversations, then regular talks and periodic lunches.

“Tony tells me about his war stories, loved ones, and who should win the Super Bowl,” she wrote in a Dec. 5, 2012, post on Reddit. “I tell Tony about my problems, loved ones, and how I don’t really care who should win the Super Bowl.”

From an outsider’s point of view, it seemed the young girl was offering the old, lonely man an ear. But the friendship was reciprocal.

After the passing of some time, the girl went through a difficult period emotionally, and Tony reportedly helped her navigate those tough personal choices.

One day she was walking around feeling sorry for herself when she felt a tap on her shoulder. She turned to find Tony giving her a concerned look.

He had something for her, he said. “From his army jacket, he pulled out a watch head. Tony took my hand and gently placed the broken antique in my palm.”

He went on to say: “I don’t have much but I wanted you to know that you have done what many others would not, simply by being my friend.”

The girl said she realized that when you extend yourself to those in need: “You get back not only what you gave, but infinitely more.”

I’ll close this Memorial Day article with lyrics from a song by Toby Keith, American Soldier:

I’m just trying to be a father, raise a daughter and a son
Be a lover to their mother, everything to everyone
Up and at ’em bright and early, I’m all business in my suit
Yeah, I’m dressed up for success, from my head down to my boots

I don’t do it for the money, there’s bills that I can’t pay
I don’t do it for the glory, I just do it anyway
Providing for our future’s my responsibility
Yeah, I’m real good under pressure, being all that I can be

And I can’t call in sick on Mondays when the weekend’s been too strong
I just work straight through the holidays, and sometimes all night long
You can bet that I stand ready when the wolf growls at the door
Hey, I’m solid, hey I’m steady, hey, I’m true down to the core

And I will always do my duty, no matter what the price
I’ve counted up the cost, I know the sacrifice
Oh, and I don’t want to die for you, but if dyin’s asked of me
I’ll bear that cross with honor, ‘cause freedom don’t come free

I’m an American soldier, an American
Beside my brothers and my sisters I will proudly take a stand
When liberty’s in jeopardy, I will always do what’s right
I’m out here on the front lines, sleep in peace tonight
American soldier, I’m an American soldier

This Memorial Day, thank God for American soldiers, past, present, and future.

The Secret of Western Success

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Credit: Wikipedia

Terry and I have been attending a Bible class at Zion Lutheran Church in Walburg, Texas, our home church. It’s been led by Matt Rochner, a very bright young Christian husband and father. A couple weeks ago Matt shared what I’m passing along to you today.

David Aikman was the bureau chief in Beijing for Time magazine for many years. When he was working for Time, he interviewed people like Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Mother Theresa, and Billy Graham. While in Beijing, he had access to significant leaders in the communist government.

Aikman interviewed a Chinese social scientist disciple of Mao Zedong who had carefully studied the West. The topic was the impact of Christianity on Western culture. His group explored what accounted for the success, in fact, the pre-eminence of the West all over the world.

“We studied everything we could from the historical, political, economic, and cultural perspective. At first, we thought it was because you (the West) had more powerful guns than we had. Then we thought it was because you had the best political system. Next we focused on your economic system.”

“But in the past twenty years, we have realized that the heart of your culture is your religion. Christianity. That is why the West has been so powerful.”

Aikman goes on to say to us in the West: “Now, you don’t think that way. I don’t think that way. We think it’s our economy. We think it’s that we have more airplanes and smart bombs. We stretch from sea to shining sea. We have incredible breadth of landscape, we’re protected by oceans, and it’s too cold in the north. We have all these reasons, and here the smart people in China are asking: ‘What’s the secret? Aha, we’ve discovered it. It’s Christianity.’”

Many of us in the West are saying: “Are you kidding? We’re not even very good Christians. In fact, if you’re not a Christian, you’re saying, ‘Whoa! Don’t throw me in with that bunch of crazy people. I’m not even a Christian. Don’t blame what has happened in our culture on Christianity.’”

But an objective Chinese person stands back and says to us, “You may not know the secret of your power and success, but we’ve looked at it, we’ve discovered it. It’s not your bombs. It’s not your economy. It’s not your democratic form of government. There’s something else. It’s your religion. It’s your Christianity. That’s what makes you powerful.”

“Studies by Chinese sociologists looking at their own country reveal that in rural areas where traveling evangelists/missionaries introduce the Christian faith, opium addiction goes down, crime drops, and Christian families grow wealthier than their neighbors.”

“Chinese social scientists discovered what we have lost sight of. The church matters. The church makes a cultural difference regarding the freedoms we love and the opportunities we have as Americans. We want to chalk it up to a whole lot of different contributing factors.”

“But those on the outside looking in are saying that the secret sauce to Western success is that there’s a belief system, there’s a value system, there’s a dignity given to men and women and children. And it comes from our Christian heritage. That’s the secret of Western success.”

So here’s my word to fellow pastors, professional church workers, and lay leaders. Keep working. Keep praying. Keep passing to your children and grandchildren the simple and even the complex concepts of Christianity. Allow your life to be a living testimony to your faith. And if necessary, use words. It makes a difference! It’s the secret of Western success!

Mother’s Day or Mothers’ Day or Mothers Day?

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What’s the correct way to spell the event to be celebrated this coming Sunday? The internet provides a number of options, including all three of the formats in the title of this article.

One website titled Communications Syllabus adds this note: Anna Jarvis, the woman largely behind this holiday, wanted the day to “honor one’s own mother, not mothers in general.” And so the apostrophe fits snuggly between the r and the s, and nowhere else.

Actually, in all transparency, the purpose of this article is not to argue the correct spelling of the day but to share a thought I passed along to a fellow pastor who recently asked how I handled preaching on Mother’s Day. Here’s what I told him, not verbatim, but pretty close to it.

In my humble opinion, preachers make a mistake when they only or even primarily honor the mothers in the church pews the second Sunday in May. That may be well and good for those who just happen to be mothers, but what about those who have never been thusly blessed?

In my pastoral career I’ve encountered no small number of women who have not been blessed with children. Some have learned to accept that reality. Others still grieve deeply.

That grief may be exacerbated when the pastor makes a big deal of honoring mothers in church on Mother’s Day. Doing so may not be helpful to women in attendance who are not mothers.

The suggestion I offered my friend was that pastors do well when they encourage their listeners to honor their mother, whether she is still living this side of heaven or is already a heavenly resident.

Everyone has a mother. Some are still living. Others are not. Mine passed away this past January. Some have or had positive, fulfilling relationships with their mother. Others not so much. Mine was a great blessing. But the reality is, everyone has or had a mother.

Emphasizing on Mother’s Day the importance of thanking God for our mother avoids embarrassment and discomfort experienced by non-mothers when mothers in the crowd are the ones primarily, or exclusively, honored.

Some pastors who read this article may disagree. It won’t be the first time I’ve encountered disagreement with fellow “brothers of the cloth” and I doubt it will be the last. But I betcha’ many women readers, both those who are mothers and those who are not, will say Amen!

This Sunday I’ll thank God for my mother. I encourage you to do the same.