Lent and Coronavirus

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Credit: Grzegorz Krupa from Pixabay 

Lent consists of the 40 days before Easter, not including the Sundays of the season. Yesterday was Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. Tuesday was Shrove Tuesday, aka Fat Tuesday, the last day of feasting before the historic practice of fasting for the Lenten season.

Some folks I know observe Lent by depriving themselves of favorite food, beverages, habits, activities, or pleasures. Others proactively do something significant, like reading the Bible more faithfully, praying more fervently, or doing generous acts of kindness and love more freely.

Giving up something of value during Lent hasn’t always been an admirable quality in my life. One year I gave up black and white TV, not only for Lent, but also for good. I was only 26 at the time. Studies show that the male reptilian brain matures at 25. I suppose I was a late bloomer.

The purpose of the Lenten season is to remember with a penitent heart that Jesus gave his life for us in his suffering and death on the cross. Many people do that by attending worship services not only on Ash Wednesday but also each Wednesday during Lent, plus Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter Sunday.

As Lent begins this year, worldwide attention is focused on Coronavirus, a most unwelcomed intruder. It began in Wuhan, China, but quickly spread to other countries, notably Iran and now Italy. As today’s article is being written, this deadly epidemic has infected more than 81,000 people, claiming the lives of 2,700. Lord, have mercy!

What do Lent and Coronavirus have in common? Both are intimately connected with death. Lent emanated with the death of Christ for the life of the world. Coronavirus has brought with it the premature and untimely death of thousands of human beings who were planning to live a lot longer than the age at which they actually died.

The Bible says death is the result of sin. The mortality rate is 100%. It’s just a matter of how, when, and where. For each of us.

Whether our life will end as a result of Coronavirus or cancer or heart failure or stroke or accident or any other cause, it will end. But our life will continue in heaven because of what Jesus did. That’s also what Lent is all about.

Today is the first day of the rest of your life. Live every day as if it were your last. And don’t forget that at the end of Lent is Easter, the Festival of the Resurrection of our Lord!

Put Me in Charge

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Credit: Joshua Earle on Unsplash

In my Perspectives file this week I found an article that my notes say appeared in a newspaper in Waco, Texas. The author, a 21 yr. old young woman, expresses how she feels about the social welfare system in our country today. Here are excerpts from “Put Me in Charge.”

Put me in charge of food stamps. I’d get rid of Lone Star cards; no cash for Ding Dongs or Hostess Ho Hos, just money for 50-pound bags of rice and beans, blocks of cheese and all the powdered milk you can haul away. If you want steak and frozen pizza, then get a job.

Put me in charge of Medicaid. The first thing I’d do is get women birth control implants or tubal ligations. Then, we’ll test recipients for drugs, alcohol, and nicotine. If you want to reproduce or use drugs, alcohol, or smoke, then get a job.

Put me in charge of government housing. Ever live in a military barracks? You will maintain our property in a clean and good state of repair. Your “home” will be subject to inspections anytime and possessions will be inventoried. If you want a plasma TV or Xbox 360, then get a job.

In addition, you will either present a check stub from a job each week or you will report to a “government” job. It may be cleaning the roadways of trash, painting and repairing public housing, whatever we find for you. We will sell your 22-inch rims and low profile tires and your blasting stereo and speakers and put that money toward the “common good.”

Before you write that I’ve violated someone’s rights, realize that all of the above is voluntary. If you want our money, accept our rules. Before you say that this would be “demeaning” and ruin people’s “self-esteem,” consider that it wasn’t that long ago that taking someone else’s money for doing absolutely nothing was demeaning and lowered self-esteem.

And while you are on government subsistence, you no longer can vote. For you to vote would be a conflict of interest. You will voluntarily remove yourself from voting while you are receiving a government welfare check. If you want to vote, then get a job.

Obviously this is a bit radical or even offensive. Obviously it’s targeted toward those who abuse the system. And obviously there are many, many people who simply cannot find a job due to physical or developmental or emotional impairment and truly need financial assistance.

At a time when prospective candidates for the highest office in our land are proposing lots of “free” benefits for American citizens and non-citizens, it behooves us to think carefully, to choose wisely, to supervise appropriately, to act responsibly, to provide adequately, to care generously, to serve selflessly, to be thankful continually.

The one we “put in charge” this November will have all those responsibilities, and more. He or she is definitely in need of our prayers for wisdom and discernment.

The Future is Here

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Before getting into today’s topic, a couple family notes. February 6 was my sister Karen’s birthday. I’m not telling her age–“many” years younger than I am will need to suffice.

Karen was born the day before our parents were married–February 7. Of course her birth was 10 years later than their marriage. I’m thankful for Mom and Dad, my sisters–Carol, Karen, Debbie–and the rest of my immediate and extended family members. All are gifts from God.

Now to today’s topic. The future that was forecast by self-appointed seers years ago is here. Along with that future has come many changes. Examples abound.

In 1998, Kodak had 170,000 employees and sold 85% of all photo paper worldwide. Within a few years their business model disappeared. They went bankrupt. That has also happened to other organizations unwilling to adapt to technology and creativity affecting life everywhere.

More change is ahead and even already upon us. Artificial Intelligence, health care that melds medicine with engineering, remote diagnostics, autonomous and electric cars, Uber, Lyft, Alto, Airbnb, 3D printing, hypersonic aircraft, and much more. Welcome to the Exponential Age.

Futurists are predicting that some auto manufacturers will cease to exist. Traditional car companies will try the evolutionary approach and just build a better car. Tech companies (Tesla, Apple, Google) will use the revolutionary approach and build a computer on wheels.

It’s also predicted that such computers on wheels will result in much safer driving and fewer accidents. Time will tell. I’m aware that auto insurance leaders are discussing the long term impact of self-driven vehicles on the auto insurance industry. Whose computer is liable?

Online learning and costly delivery of traditional models have created huge challenges and significant anxiety in the field of higher education. In my own church body, two institutions of higher education have closed– in Selma, Ala. last year and Portland, Ore. earlier this week.

Solar, wind, nuclear, and fossil fuel energy sources are competing for market share with huge economic and environmental ramifications. And we’re seeing a significant increase in business leaders and workers working remotely via cell phone, computer, and video conferencing.

Even some in the church are thinking and acting futuristically. Virtual worship services live streamed are attracting large crowds of folks worshiping in their own living room. Distribution of The Lord’s Supper remains a challenge but electronic giving works just fine. The Amazon mentality is universal.

Here are just a few of the many quotes about the future by famous people:

Trying to predict the future is like driving down a country road at night with no lights while looking out the back window. The only thing we know about the future is that it will be different. Peter Drucker

Time and the world do not stand still. Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or the present are certain to miss the future. John F. Kennedy

Hold fast to the Bible. To the influence of this Book we are indebted for all the progress made in true civilization and to this we must look as our guide in the future. Ulysses S. Grant

I don’t know what the future may hold, but I know who holds the future. Ralph Abernathy

Prime Time Debauchery

As you’re likely aware, the first Sunday in February is the date of the annual Super Bowl. For the uninformed, that’s the final NFL (National Football League) game of the season, between AFC (American Football Conference) champions and NFC (National Football Conference) champions.

This year’s game in Miami was the 54th since the Super Bowl began. For the non-Roman numeral aficionados among us, that number looks like this: LIV. Next year’s game, the 55th, will be LV.

For a number of years, Terry and I have watched the first half of the game at the beautiful west Austin home of my first cousin, Dick Rathgeber. Dick and Sara are gracious hosts who entertain 150 or so of their nearest and dearest friends at their annual Super Bowl party. Our friend Dr. John Mehl, executive director of Mission of Christ Network, joined us. With Dick’s blessing.

To facilitate guests’ conversation, the numerous TVs around the house were muted. So we watched the game, with no audio, and the $5.5 million dollar per 30 second commercials, also muted.

At halftime we thanked our hosts and drove home to fast forward through the first half of the game, which we had already seen, and to play the commercials, which had been seen but not heard. We decided to skip the halftime program, to watch and listen to the second half of the game and the second half commercials, in order to get to bed at a God-pleasing hour.

The next night, Terry and I decided to watch the halftime show. It featured a duo of popular performers, Jennifer Lopez and Shakira. I had heard from ladies at the office that the show consisted of a lot of Latin music, writhing, jiggling, and other sexually suggestive movements.

They were correct. And slightly understated. The word “debauchery” comes to mind.

Debauchery is a term defined by the following synonyms: wickedness, sin, depravity, corruption, decadence, iniquity, wantonness, immorality, shamelessness, licentiousness, impiety, self-indulgence, intemperance, hedonism. Some of those terms are stronger than others, providing a bit of leeway when they are used. And not all of them are accurately descriptive of the Super Bowl halftime show. But some of those words tell the story.

The gyrations of the two headliners, with poles and ropes, and of the groups of male and female dancers accompanying them, were not just a little over the top. That’s especially true considering the prime time audience watching, which surely included children, some of whom actually participated on stage with their scantily attired “role models” leading the way.

Our children and grandchildren will be exposed to debauchery soon enough, and maybe already have been. But it shouldn’t be coming into their own living room. From their family television. Before their bedtime. National Football League, I think you can do better than prime time debauchery!