January 10, 2013
My perspective from the rearview mirror
I’m as old as the NBA, the CIA, and Frank Capra’s “It’s a wonderful life.” Before I spent my first day in kindergarten America was introduced to the transistor, 45 RPM records, tubeless tires, life savers, the first jet airliner, antihistamines, and Studebakers. I didn’t pay much attention, though. I was snuggled close to the family radio listening to Fibber McGee and Molly, One Man’s Family, Inner Sanctum, The Lone Ranger, and Amos and Andy. We ate our meals at home together as a family around our dinner table.
I had collections of baseball cards, yo-yo’s, and marbles I wish I still owned.
My parents trusted government and hand shakes. Back then America was a nation of problem-solvers who believed in sacrifice, honesty and teamwork. We didn’t have much, but we didn’t know it.
My earliest memory is a Sunday school class where my teacher pulled people out of her Bible and they stuck to a newfangled gadget they called a flannelgraph board.
While I was reading about Dick and Jane, Curious George, and The Hardy Boys, Sir Hillary conquered Mt.Everest and TV conquered radio. We loved that snowy, black and white screen filled with Howdy Doody, Roller Derbies, Gorgeous George, Ozzie and Harriet, The Three Stooges, and Superman. Meanwhile, a national interstate highway system was emerging and new products made their way into our homes: spray cans, ball point pens, and TV dinners.
It seemed like all our heroes were constantly fighting for truth, justice, and the American way. We were motivated by human need and the common good. Behind the doors of our houses, life seemed uncomplicated, but secretive. My dad had a problem with alcohol but we didn’t mention it. It was our family secret.
1955 was an eventful year. Our house moved 36 inches in a mud slide. The house survived, but the front yard ended up across the street. It was the year my first car rolled off the assembly line, of course I didn’t own it till 1965. This was the year for Disneyland, Velcro, ducktails and ponytails, transistor radios, Chuck Berry, Rosa Parks, Davy Crockett, and Playboy magazine. My greatest fear was nuclear war and my greatest dream was having my own room.
Before John F. Kennedy was elected president in 1960, we learned to appreciate Frisbees, Barbie Dolls, ultra sound, stereo sound, Alaska and Hawaii, Sputnik, The Cat in the Hat. Pampers, and Sesame Street. While Kennedy challenged us to “ask what you can do for your country,” I was trying to make sense of the new math, Vietnam, and my braces.
Tension and unrest tarnished our “We can do anything attitude.” America suffered through the Cuban missile crisis, JFK’s assassination, racial unrest, inner-city riots, the outlawing of prayers in school, integration in the south, the Beetle’s invasion, and the hippie generation. But, before the decade of the sixties was over, we would also experience the first heart transplant and unbelievable live pictures of “the giant leap for mankind.”
We were facing a national identity crisis. Riotous voices called for dramatic changes, we were beginning the painful process of purifying our actions and our intentions. So, if it existed, it was criticized, or protested. Distrust intensified!
While my children were still toddlers we learned to wait in line for gasoline, no-fault divorce swept the country, pocket calculators multiplied, Pet Rocks were nurtured, and skateboards increased the numbers at emergency rooms. Father’s Day became an official holiday. Watergate scandalized the nation, and for the first time, more marriages ended through divorce, than through death. And in the middle of it all, “Jesus People” were on the cover of Time magazine.
When my girls were in grade school, the White House Conference on the Family ended without agreeing on the definition of family, the first case of AIDS was reported in the U.S., MTV was introduced, would-be mothers aborted one fetus in three, people the world over endured the summer months waiting to find out who shot J.R., Apple computers were introduced, Blockbuster opened it’s first video rental store, Iran held Americans hostage 444 days, and the space shuttle, Challenger, exploded before our eyes. Fast food and FedEx kept us filled, scheduled, and busier than ever, while a growing spiritual emptiness grew.
During the time my girls moved through high school, out of our house, and into adulthood, the Berlin Wall was torn down, communism unraveled from within, and the USSR collapsed. Beepers, fax machines, remote controls, microwaves, cable TV, cellular phones, CD players, and computers became technical necessities, High tech had begun. The new gadgets were obsolete within 48 hours of their release, but soon we would have a 24/7 high-definition window on the world.
We have watched war in our living rooms, while crime and violence escalated from inner-city streets to the cul-de-sacs in our neighborhoods. We’ve witnessed bombs destroy buildings filled with people. We’ve cried in national horror as the World Trade Towers fell to ground. The values that kept us secure and hopeful, seemed frayed and forgotten.
Drugs have invaded suburbia, thousands of kids have more parents, than cousins, over forty percent of our children don’t live in the same house as their birth father. Private schools are springing up faster than Dominoes pizza places, million of children are home schooled, and yet the quality of education continues to spiral down.
Respect has dwindled, discipline has disappeared, and honesty has become a relative notion.
Of course no one has stepped up to claim responsibility for these massive changes. Why is that?
Government at all levels is no longer trusted; in fact, trust is on the endangered values list. Churches have spent millions of dollars on new, bigger buildings, but for most the back door is bigger than the front.
Victims are everywhere, demanding handouts and 15 minutes of fame. The recession has infected us with uncertainty and fear. Courage is in short supply. While we have grown eager to cast blame, we seem unable to cast a captivating vision. We’ve got plenty of poll-driven reactions that point to what’s wrong, but not much on what’s right.
We talk of change, but miss the point. In an age of instant gratification, the collective voice of pop culture cries, “What’s in it for me?”
Cynicism is around every corner. Our neighbors far and near are stretched and stressed, constantly searching for a vision beyond the circumstances, looking for a trustworthy reason to hope again. We are adrift without trust. Days are filled with noise and distraction. Innocence has disappeared. Humpty Dumpty has fallen and no one seems to know where all the pieces are, much less how to put him together again.
It’s time for people of faith to stop living self-contained lives…it’s time to look for Jesus in the people around us. We can’t fix the country, but we can rock the world we touch. We can invade the impossible; we can be the story.
God has a better idea. Our part? Do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with Him.
I don’t have it all together, neither do you, but God does. Dare we trust Him? We have different life stories different backgrounds, , but a common God. We have different passions and abilities, but the same Spirit. We are in HIS story… it’s time to get radical, to live the adventure between the weekends.
Do justice, Love mercy, and walk humbly.
God says, “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?”