“The Track People Of Freedom”

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“Many years ago, no one knows for sure just how long ago it was, a master builder built train tracks to connect every corner of his world. He planned it out to the last detail, and built a magnificent train to run on those tracts. It would deliver everything the people would ever need to be happy and healthy. He left a handbook that explained the benefit people would have if they build around the tracks, and the responsibilities they would have, if they were to live there in safety. Last of all, he left it totally up to them to build, or not build their towns, around the track. They had freedom to do as they wished.

At first the people did what they wanted and built their towns far from the tracks. Those communities prospered for a season but soon fell into disrepair and disgraceful, violent behavior. They lied, took advantage of each other, stole and broke every promise they made. In time their own actions caused them to be banished, and soon the towns were no more. The few people who left these communities and survived, had found their way to towns that had been built around the tracks. These towns had found the builders handbook and decided to follow its instructions. All of the towns grew and the people prospered and raised families that were filled with joy and purpose. The closer they followed the instructions in the handbook, the more benefit they got from living around the tracks. Life was good, and all the people were healthy and happy.

Over time, a very small portion of the people decided certain instructions in the builder’s handbook were not for them. They used their freedom to do whatever their emotions led them to do. So, one fine day they chose to ignore a very important part of the handbook. They began to build their homes on the train tracks. Even though there were instructions against that deadly practice, in defiance to the handbook, they did so any way. Everyone in town knew when the train came through all the track people would die. However, no matter how strongly they warned them, the track people continued to build there anyway, and began to violently oppose anyone who tried to stop them.

At first the citizens of the town had them arrested for this foolish, and deadly behavior. It violated the laws that were passed, based on the builder’s handbook, and the people of town were deeply concerned for the safety of the track people. Everyone, but the track people, became happy as the laws were inforced and this restored order for a time. However, over the years, the track people stubbornly resisted the laws and built on the tracks in secret. They became more and more angry with the people in town as their people on the tracks continued to die. No matter what evidence the town presented to show that living on the tracks was a deadly lifestyle, the track people refused to change. Sadly, over time, the pain they were experiencing and the rejection they felt from everyone made them reject the handbook even more.

Eventually the track people were confident they had come up with a solution. They got into positions of authority and passed laws based on a handbook of their own making. These laws gave them the right to not only build on the tracks, but they could marry on the tracks as well. When these new laws were passed, they shook their fists at the town in defiance and clapped their hands and rejoiced over what they had accomplished. It was a great victory for the track people because they had succeeded in getting everything their own way. Yet, the trains kept coming….. and everyone who lived on the tracks and married on the tracks died.

The endless self-inflicted tragedy brought emotional distress, disease and rejection to all the track people, and soon they decided something had to be done. They all agreed that the problem was very clear, and it certainly was not their decision to defy the handbook and live on the tracks. No… it was the train! Get rid of the train and there would be no need for a handbook, and the tracks would be safe. If they got everyone to agreed that the problem was the train, the problem could be solved! Anyone who disagreed was silenced and branded as a bigot, a track-a-phobic and a hater of freedom. Thus, the track people tried to overwhelm all opposition, silence any voice of reason and mock anyone who dared to quote anything from the builders handbook. It seemed as if they had won.

The problem in all this was much bigger than the track people could imagine. The train was built to run according to the prefect plan of the master builder, and it would NEVER stop. It would run it’s appointed rails, and continue to benefit and bless the entire world as it was designed to do. This also meant it would continue to plow through, and bring total destruction to anyone who stubbornly chose to live on the tracks. The sad truth is, it could have benefitted the track people if they had simply obey the handbook, and gotten off the tracks. Since they had decided that would not happen, the unnecessary and tragic end of all the track people would eventually come to pass.”

Does this story sound familiar to you? Freedom has never been the ability to do what you want. Freedom is the ability to do what is right! Now the question must be asked, “How does anyone know what is right”? The answer to that is found in one place, the builder’s handbook, the Bible. If you have never read it, now might be a good time to start.  A day is coming when we will all be held accountable for the truths that are in it. Will you be ready for that day? If you want more info feel free to email me at wemmons@gmail.com. Now go have yourself a great day……… and get off the tracks! 🙂

When December Comes

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     December is a month of change, wonder and nostalgia. It brings to a final conclusion the Fall season, as Thanksgiving has just passed, and hunting season is basically over. This last month of the year ushers in Christmas, the new year and all that the cold days of winter have yet to unleash. It is more than just another month on the calendar. When December comes to the northeast, it brings with it the stuff of warm childhood memories and the reality of a long, snow-filled winter. How you see it depends on how you see life. For the young and the young at heart, it is a time of dreams come true in a winter wonderland. For everyone else, it is a time of preparing to go on hold until the Spring thaw arrives. The point being made here is quite simple, life is what you make it.
     My father and mother were believers in making life good, and they instilled that value in our family. We never had much in material wealth, but we were wealthy in the things that mattered most. Love, food on the table, a clean, warm home and consistent fair discipline were in great abundance. Since my parents had both lived through the great depression of 1929, they knew what it was to go without. I heard the stories of what things were like in those days, and I marveled at how resourceful they were with the little they had. What really amazed me was that I never heard them complain about it, not once. They took great pride in the fact that their struggle for survival was met with personal strength and the courageous conviction needed to make the best of what they had on hand.
     No one ever sat back and expected or wanted the government to bail them out. People did what was necessary to make ends meet, and they helped each other when things got tough. It was not just a way of living for everyone, it was a way of staying alive. If you didn’t work together, you didn’t survive, and everyone understood the consequences. My grandmother, Louisa Rossi, was a great example of this. Over the years, my mother told me stories of how grandpa and grandma Rossi passed this lifestyle down to her and others. Especially during holiday time, when December came, they brought hope to the hopeless in what could have been the start of a very difficult winter.
     My grandfather, Alexander Rossi, was a master blacksmith in the Brooklyn Navy Yard in the dark days of the depression. He always made a good salary even when others in their apartment building in Flatbush, NY had lost their jobs. Many of those people worked temporary jobs for the wealthy, stood hours in bread lines or dug through the garbage behind restaurants just to have one meal a day. To help these unfortunate ones, grandma Rossi made it a point of cooking extra, and I mean a lot of extra, every night. She knew some in their building had eaten little that day, so just before dinner she would take a walk and invite families to join them for the evening meal. It was not uncommon for 25 or 30 people to share God’s bounty and blessing around my grandparent’s dining room table.
     To spare the guests from feeling embarrassed, grandma would ask each family to bring some minor item that was “needed” to complete the meal. A loaf of bread, a few apples, a bottle of wine or even a jug of water were welcomed additions to any meal. The time spent together praying over the meal, sharing recipes and telling stories, enriched everyone. Such kind-hearted generosity deeply impacted the lives of all who shared those meals. It kept families together during the hard months, and encouraged them to hold on for the better days to come. No one knows how many thousands of dollars grandma Rossi spent over the years, but her desire to alleviate suffering and bless all she could, made it a worthwhile, eternal investment. She knew that a little kindness, food and time was all you needed to make someone feel that life was worth living.
     Years ago, in Saranac Lake, NY, I learned a very hard lessons along these lines as I was on my way to teach school one day. It was a bitter cold January day when I stopped at a traffic light and saw a ragged man crossing the street in front of me. He had cardboard wrapped around his shoes to keep the snow out, torn gloves on his hands and wore a dirt stained overcoat. In my heart I felt God wanted me to stop and buy the man a hot breakfast. To do so would have made me late for work so I ignored the clear inner voice and drove on. By the time I arrived at work I was deeply convicted and promised God I would look for that person the next day and stop to buy him food. I never saw the man again. What I did see was the story of a homeless man who had been found frozen to death a few days later. Had I stopped that story may have ended very differently.
     What about you? When December comes, what acts of kindness will you pass on? Perhaps your days will be filled with stress and frustration of not have more to give those who already have more than they can use. My hope is that you will look beyond your self interests and seek to help and bless those who have honest needs to be met. Think of the treasured lessons to be learned around a table of food that is filled with those who have no family, the lonely or the singles who are by themselves this holiday season. Consider the eternal impact you could have by opening up your life and sharing your table with those who are less fortunate.
Who knows, by slowing down and showing compassion and kindness, you might touch someone God has destined to change the world. It could change a life, and that life might be yours!

A Time Of Thanksgiving

harvest 2I am thankful for the life we have here in America. It is amazing on so many levels. No other country in the world has been blessed like this nation. Our foundations were forged in the fires of freedom that generations fought, bled and died to secure. Most people know that the first roots on the soil of this land were put down by the Pilgrims. What they don’t know is that they were seeking a place to raise their children away from the bad influence of Holland. They had fled to Amsterdam, Holland from persecution in England during the early part of 1606, and finally settled in 1609, in Leiden, Holland. By 1620 it was clear that the religious liberty encountered in Holland was negatively counterbalanced by a political and social climate tolerant of everything. This meant there were no clear spiritual standards to live by, and Holland’s liberty had become a cesspool of mixture, lacking moral fiber and clear absolutes.

The Pilgrim’s, who were Calvinists, had uncovered a fatal flaw in what they thought would be a place of promise and opportunity. They realized that tolerance, without spiritual truth, produces a society with no reason to establish moral clarity. They saw first-hand how unbridled liberty, negatively influenced their children, and destroyed the fabric and spiritual life of the culture. Historian, Jeremy Dupertuis Bangs, uncovered what most people were never taught in school. He wrote 800 pages of historical evidence that shows the Pilgrims saw the seductive pull of unrestrained liberty as a bigger threat than the intolerance of England’s religious elite. This was the compelling force that finally drove them to one conclusion; it was better to face the possibility of death, in an untamed new world, than stay in the old world and watch their children be pulled away from God by the unrestrained liberty of a tolerant, and increasingly decadent society.

Thus, In the first week of September 1620, a band of 102 sojourners left Holland in a ship called the Mayflower. It sailed west-southwest for 66 days, crossing stormy seas as it headed for what is now the area of Virginia. They had been granted permission by King James, to plant a new colony in the fertile land south of the Hudson River. Here they would establish a place to live in ordered peace, free from the godless influence of the unrestrained liberty they had encountered in Holland. During the first week of November, as they began to approach the east coast of America, near Long Island, dangerous shoals were encountered and rough seas came up that took them 240 miles north of their intended target. On November 11th, 1620 they found safe harbor in what is now Provincetown, Cape Cod.

Five of the group had died during the 66 day trip, and they knew others, 45 to be exact, would die the first winter in Plymouth. However, before leaving the ship to establish their colony at Plymouth, the Mayflower Compact was signed by the leaders of the group. It’s design was to establish a clear biblical foundation and Christian spiritual focus for the life they all agreed to build together. After signing this covenant, they went ashore, and established the Plymouth Colony.  With the help of Squanto, an english speaking indian, 51 men and 2 women survived the winter. The next Fall, after having an abundant harvest, they thanked and gave glory to God and celebrated the first Thanksgiving.

Below are the words of the Mayflower Compact, which is our national foundation. As you read it, let each word sink in. No matter what you may have been told in school, this is the truth behind our great nation. It was built by those who wanted to protect their children from ungodly influences. More than that, the Pilgrims wanted to worship and glorify God in all they did from a place of Biblical liberty. That liberty had to be based in Christianity because it would give them the moral foundation needed to stay pure and free. This Thanksgiving, be sure to thank God for what He did in 1620 and what He is still doing in America today! We are truly a blessed nation in so many ways.

The Mayflower Compact

The Mayflower Compact was a unique document drawn up as a “covenant” between the Pilgrims and God in heaven. A covenant is a God-ordained agreement between a people and God. It is a sworn allegiance that will not be broken in order to establish the will of God in that place. This covenant acknowledged the Pilgrim’s strong Christian faith, their desire to do all things for the glory of God, and their desire to honor the earthly powers that released them to fulfill their vision. When we consider these factors, perhaps America would do well to return to these basics if we want to secure the continued blessing of God for future generations. That idea certainly is food for thought!

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“In the name of God Amen· We whose names are underwritten, the loyal subjects of our dread sovereign Lord King James by the grace of God, of great Britain, France, & Ireland king, defender of the faith, having undertaken, for the glory of God, and advancement of the Christian faith and honor of our king & country, a voyage to plant the first colony in the Northern parts of Virginia· do by these present, solemnly & mutually in the presence of God, and one of another, covenant, & combine ourselves together into a civil body politick; for our better ordering, & preservation & furtherance of the ends aforesaid;

and by virtue hearof, to enact, constitute, and frame such just & equal laws, ordinances, acts, constitutions, & offices, from time to time, as shall be thought most meet & convenient for the general good of the colony:  unto which we promise all due submission and obedience.  In witness whereof we have hereunder subscribed our names at Cape Cod in the 18th year of the reign of our sovereign Lord king James of England, France & Ireland, and the 54th year of reign of Scotland. The 11th of November Ano: Dom 1620″

With these words a new, a God centered government was established in America “for the glory of God, and advancement of the Christian faith. May we return to this foundation once again!! Happy Thanksgiving from our house to yours..

Some Things Should Not Change

 

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I have lived a few decades at this writing, and during that time, the things I have witnessed are amazing. So much has happened so quickly, that at times it’s hard to keep up with it all. Thus, I am convinced that some things should not change. Those truths that anchor us to reality, and remind us about life as is should be, need to remain a constant beacon of light in a darkening night of endless change.

Let me give you some examples of the changes that have happened during my brief time on earth. The Beatles upended the fabric of music, men walked on the moon, lap-top and hand-held computers arrived. DNA was discovered and the genetic manipulation of every organism is now possible. We have had numerous wars, the internet was birthed, smart phones revolutionized communication and spacecrafts traveled to and traveled on other planets, while other crafts went to every planet of our solar system and beyond. Mega-typhoons slammed the earth, men began living in orbit above the earth, the fall of both the Berlin Wall and communism happened. Terrorism by demonic religious fanatics murdered thousands, and 70 million babies have been murdered in the US through abortion on demand. Meanwhile, riots and unrest have been spread because any person with a cell phone and an agenda, can now do a live broadcast any time, and any place they want.

With all this change, distress, growth and development, I am so glad that some things have remained the same, and they needed to. Why? Because people still have to know the basics. They need to know how to have honest, personal communication. They need to know how to express their feelings, and recognize and respect the feelings of others. They need to know how to make a good meal, and enjoy it with loved ones. They need to know how to show compassion for those around them, and how to help those who are genuinely in need. They need to know right from wrong and how to spot a liar or a con-man, or when it’s time to go the extra mile for someone, even when it hurts. These are the things that make us uniquely human, and they hold life together in many wonderful ways.

The problem is, we all feel so pressed, pressured and rushed that we have nearly lost the art of doing the basics. We are distracted by cell phones at play, at home, at work and on vacation. We are bombarded by endless advertisements which encourage us to buy more and go deeper into debt, which means we have to work more to pay for it. From childhood we are entertained by violent and sexually oriented video games, movies and tv programs. To make matters worse, over the last 15 years, televisions have found a place on the wall of every store and restaurant, livingroom, bedroom and classroom. Companies have now put them on gas pumps so we are forced to listen to their annoying, self-serving drivel even while gassing up to get away from them.

The art of conversation, and building meaningful relationships, is nearly dead. Anything other than a brief Tweet or a condensed lettered text, (LOL, OMG) is considered unnecessary. A hand written letter in beautiful penmanship…..what in the world is that? It would be time-consuming, take days to deliver, and growing numbers can no longer read hand-written script. Beyond that, it’s not free. You have to go to the post office, buy the stamp, put it on the envelope and put it in a mailbox. Who has time or money to waste on that? All I can say is, if I receive a computer generated, spell checked and instantaneously, electronically delivered email to my inbox, it better be a short. I mean, get to the point, or it goes into the massive pile of spam that automatically is deleted daily from my four email accounts.

How bad has it gotten? Well, I have observed couples, or at least I assume they are couples, stopping at my local diner. This is where I go to enjoy reality with my wife, or one of my friends. There we sit, typically engaged in focused, meaningful conversation , solving the worlds problems. So, into this place comes a younger “couple” and I brace myself for the show that is about to begin. First of all, they must pry themselves away from their phones, long enough to glance at the menu. This is confusing and unsettling, because the menu is printed on paper. It’s not back-lit, there is no scroll button, and there is no instant electronic points to apply, or code to be scanned. Just as they adjust to this reality check, the next shock comes. They discover the menu is two-sided and they uncomfortably hesitate as they flip the page over to read what’s on the back.

I watch in fascination as they look at each other wondering what to do next. There is no kiosk, no electronic voice telling them how to place an order, and no flashing, ever-changing menu rolling across the wall. There is no place to tap their phone, insert a credit card or beep for service. They look helpless and bewildered, and they are about to leave this alien environment as the waitress walks around the counter and comes to their small wooden booth. When she says, “what would you like to drink hon?”, a look of relief floods over their faces and they say, “we will have a double, low-fat latte made with almond milk and a sprinkle of cinnamon”. Then a desperate confusion sets back in when the waitress says, “We have hot tea, coffee, orange juice or water. What will it be?”

In all honesty, this floor show is well worth the price of my morning tea. The facial expressions, the confusion and misplaced curiosity that shows up as the waitress hand-writes their order on a green order pad, is priceless. However, that is not yet the best of the morning’s entertainment. No… that comes when it’s time to pay. As they near the end of their coffee, the waitress, who is the only one ever on duty, places their bill on the table and just walks away. It has been hand-written, the total has also been added by hand, and it has simply been left there without a word. What they don’t understand is they have to physically get up, take it to the old red mica-topped counter to pay.

After I watch them impatiently waiting another ten minutes or so, because no one has come back to their booth, I usually point at the counter to indicate that’s where they go next. So up they go, phone in hand, and the grand finale is about to begin. I watch their stunned faces as the price of each item is separately pressed into the ancient cash register, and the hand crank is pulled back to add everything up. With a final flourish of two pulls the bell rings, the total flashes up on hand-lettered metal cards in the glass window, the cash draw pops open.  With a smile the waitress says, “that will be $3.00”. This is a pleasant surprise, because these two usually pay $5.50 a cup in some overpriced, cafeteria style coffee barista.

Then it happens, they look for a place to swipe, or tap, or insert, or scan, but it’s nowhere to be found. There is an aquward moment of question until the waitress says, “oh, we only take cash”, and then the fun begins. They frantically look at each other and begin to dig through pockets, wallets, purses, backpacks and shoulder bags. Eventually, they may pull together enough money, but at times I will chipped in an extra dollar or so, because they came up short. When that happens, just for the extra entertainment value, I let them sweat it out for a few minutes first. Finally, in true Adirondack hospitality, I come to the rescue and they thank me profusely. Once the cash is handed over, they leave the coffee shop, which has been the same for over 60 years, having had a new experience with the old, unchanged ways.

Yes, some things should never change, because they remind us of who we are, where we came from and what’s really important. They slow us down so we don’t get where we are going, too fast. Life can be rushed, it’s true, but we don’t have to be caught up in it 24/7, and miss the best that living has to offer. Find time every day to slow down, and decided for yourself what things you will hold fast. Is it a coffee shop that is frozen in time? Is it a friendship that holds conversation at a premium? Perhaps it’s a special weekend meal or a family tradition or a desert at holiday time. Whatever it is,  keep it close, enjoy it to the fullest, and let it be like a rock in the river that the rush of time must move around.

All of life may have to change, but every one of us must keep a few things forever anchored in the rich fabric and heritage of the past. These things hold us to reality and give us a point of reference to go back to when life gets too busy. From these unchanging places of stability we gain rest in the moment, insight for the present day and clarity for the days to come. Without them, we are caught in the rush of life-to-fast, and are swept along in unending change that rules over way too much of the precious time we have.

Are you feeling the crush of speed living, and the rush of constant change? Have you been over-run by adds, programing, distraction selling and the push to buy more, do more and be more?  Let me suggest that it’s time to find a small local diner, or a mom & pop coffee shop that is locked in time. These are wonderful places that have no TV’s on the wall or music in the back ground vying for your attention. They are gems from days gone by, that harken back to a time when phones hung on the wall at home, and conversations were savored over a cup of coffee and a fresh made doughnut.

When you find such a place, go there on a regular basis with a loved one, get a cup of coffee or tea, turn off your phone and just sit a while. Dunk a doughnut, eat a piece of pie and begin to enjoy the unhurried atmosphere of this unchanging place. It will do something within you that is desperately needed in this high pressure world. Here you will rediscover yourself, and the art of honest conversation. Here you will find words that are anchored in the past and bring clarity to the present. This is where your thoughts will finally begin to settle, and the push to live someone elses idea of life, will give way to the joy of living life the way you see it.

Now, if you will excuse me. My booth at Petes Coffee Shop is waiting!

 

A Stone On Your Head

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In 1834 the following story was written by English historians who were compiling a review of County Crayke. It is the true account of a gentlemen named Simeon Ellerton.

“Simeon Ellerton died here, Crayke, North Yorkshire, England, January 3, 1799, at the advanced age of 104. He was a noted pedestrian, and was often employed by gentlemen in the neighborhood on commissions to London and other places, which he always executed on foot, with fidelity and diligence. He lived in a neat stone cottage of his own building; and what was remarkable, he had literally carried it upon his head!

It being his practice to bring home from every journey the proper stone he could pick up on the road, and place it on his head, until he had accumulated a sufficient quantity to erect his habitation, by which time, although the motive had ceased, this practice had grown so much into a habit, that he imagined he could travel the better for having a weight upon his head and he seldom came home without some loading. If any person inquired his reason, he used facetiously to answer, ‘’Tis to keep on my hat’.”

The article went on to say that local residents all thought he was a “curious fellow”, a bit touched in the head, or at the very least, a bit eccentric. Because of his practice, the term “rocks on your head” began to be used to describe anyone who acted out of the norm, or had behavior considered a bit strange. What is fascinating, is that the term is still in use today. It has come down to us in the form of “rocks in your head”. Yet the fact is, the man it was intended to mock,  actually lived an honorable life. He was trusted and respected by all who hired him, and lived to the ripe old age of 104, during a time when the average person died before the age of 50. Hardly the life of one who should be mocked!

For me this is such a great story. It demonstrates the value of quiet resolve, personal diligence and clear vision, which are so important if you are going to accomplish anything in life. Let’s face it, few people today would stop to ask why a man was walking the roadside with a rock on his head. Most would assume he was mentally unhinged, or an emotional prisoner to some trauma in life. He would most likely be reported to the authorities and locked in some psychiatric ward. Fewer still would have the diligence, fortitude and patience to carry out a practice everyone questioned. The mockery of others, and the sheer magnitude of the task at hand, would simply wear them out.

There is a powerful lesson to be learned from the humble determination of the man who carried a rock on his head. He is the model for all of us who think outside the box. We all live in a world that tries to conform us to it’s way of doing things. Dress like this, talk like that, think like this and act like so. Drive this car, use this makeup, live in this kind of house and dress in these clothes. Conform, or you are an outcast and will have no work! The point is, most people are nothing more than rats running in a social maze and they are too blind, or too scared, to see things for what they really are.

And so, those of us with a rock on our head, who carry this load along life’s road, are doing so because it secures our future.  We are carrying the stones of a place not yet built, where we will live free, think free and enjoy independence from that which influences and manipulates the rest of the world. Run like mindless lemmings, if you so desire, into the sea that this world offers. But, as for me, I will go against that flow every time, and much prefer to be the odd ball. An outcast in some circles, perhaps, but who cares! While they are running like gerbils on their caged-in treadmills, I am having amazing failures and wonderful adventures in the real world that take my breath away!

I, and those like me, are the curious ones that others wonder about, as we serve God, pray and live biblically principled lives. We gladly walk our road with a rock on our head, knowing that in time we will have a “neat stone cottage” approved by God. It may not be tomorrow, but one stone at a time it will be built. As this world goes it’s merry way, deeper into conformity and sin, laughing, mocking and looking at us with curiosity, we will be building a future that will not be shaken, one stone on our head at a time. My question is, what’s on your head my friend, and what future are you building?  If you don’t like what you see, let me invite you to join us on our journey into the presence of God. You won’t regret it! Now go find a nice stone….. and have a great day!

 

Life As A Priority

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In the early 1900’s, life in rural America was so much simpler than it is today. Many, like myself, think this was life as it should be. The steam locomotive, wagon and horse were the main forms of transportation. Every community had a hardware store and blacksmith shop. The general store, post office and barbershop were gathering places for local news. The sawmill and gristmill were centers of community commerce, and farmers brought their crops into town to sell locally. People were happy to depend on each other in times of crises, or to meet basic, daily needs.

Life was slower, less distracted and more deliberate in those days, and each season had its own necessary preparations. There were family gardens and crops to be planted in spring, structures to be built in summer, wood to be cut, a harvest to be brought in and animals to be hunted in the Fall, and winter was used to mend, fix and prep everything for the next year. Front porches on every house were lined with comfortable wooden rockers that adults sat in during the evening and they shared a cup of coffee and good conversation. Best of all, neighbors looked out after each other on a daily basis and there was a sense of belonging that cemented things into that specific time and place.

The cars, bicycles and motorcycles were novelties, for the most part, and the average person viewed them as toys for the rich. People heated their homes with wood and lighted the night with kerosene lamps or home made candles. Hand made bi-planes crawled into the air under the guidance of inexperience daredevils, who landed them in empty fields that served as airports. Doctors made house calls and left the necessary medicine for their patients, all for a whopping price of $5. Milk and heavy cream were delivered in glass bottles to the front door by local dairy’s along with eggs, cheese and butter.

A “tab” was run up at local stores by most everyone, and this was paid off without interest, at the end of the month. Loans were made, and finances exchanged with nothing more than a handshake and a verbal agreement. No signed contracts were needed, and in many cases, no one wrote down how much was borrowed. People were basically honest, but beyond that, they knew their family name was on the line if they failed to honor their agreement. There was genuine trust and respect that people gave to one another, and nothing less was to be expected.

There was one school in each community and it had locally hired teachers who taught two elementary grade levels in a single room. Each high school grade had it’s own room and teachers specialized in two or three subjects. Elementary teachers stayed with the same class all day while those in high school rotated between classrooms and grade levels to be taught different subjects. Students all walked to school, there were no busses, and they either carried their lunch in a brown paper bag or ran home to eat at lunchtime. The average class size in these community schools was 8 to 12 students per grade level, and that was also the size of each graduating class.

It’s hard to believe, but this is very close to the world I grew up in. Our small village in the northern Adirondacks seemed to have a “Brigadoon” quality about it that resisted modernization. It disliked change of any kind, and each new decade took it further and further out of step with the world that was changing all around it. Quite honestly, we were proud of that fact, and in many ways I still am. Why? Because, I got to live in a world that was quickly vanishing away. I got to know some of the life my father had lived, in the early 1900’s, and it connected me to him and to our family history. I not only heard his stories of years gone by, but I was able to experience some of them for myself, which made them real.

Dad road in an open wagon, and I got to ride in the back of his 1954 Willies truck on summer nights. He swam in Sumner Brook on hot summer days, and 55 years later so did I. I attended the same schoolhouse he did, sat in the same desks and wrote on the same chalkboards. Our family ate breakfast and dinner together as a family every day, and life rotated around when those meals were ready. We adjusted our activities to our family mealtime, not our mealtime to our activities. Eating at my mother’s table was a constant that established our family life and time together.

Now imagine this; when I was 9 years old my father called Cohen’s Hardware Store, just down the hill from our house, and told the clerk to give me two “farmers helpers”. Dad was clearing stumps and rocks from our backfield and these made the job much easier. With $2 in hand I arrived at the store, handed the clerk the money, and he gave me two paper bags. One had sawdust in it and the other did not. He then gave me stern instructions to keep them separate and take them directly to my father.

What was in the two bags? One held two blasting caps with 10 inch fuses, and the other held sawdust that encased and two half sticks of dynamite, called “blanks”. Once a blasting cap was inserted into the “blank”, and the fuse was lit, you were in business to remove any stump or rock that might be in the way. Today people would be arrested for such a thing, but back them it was just everyday life. I had a respect for the power of what I held and I also respected my father. In addition I trusted the store clerk and they both trusted me to do exactly as I was told. Needless to say I did not let them down and the whole system worked fine. There were no permits, no laws broken and no harm was done. It was regulation free and worked for everyone.

We learned respect for authority, obedience to our parents and we accepted the wisdom of common sense. We listened to what would be dangerous, or wrong, and we kept that knowledge close at hand. We took responsibility for our actions and discovered the value of honoring the old ways that served past generations so well. The deep-rooted connection to the life that had always been, was embraced as truth, and it kept us safe, brought focus and connected us together as a community.

This was the life for me during the 1950’s, and when it began to disappear, something in me disappeared with it. The sense of permanence, historical family foundations and the knowledge of knowing where you belonged, began to fade away. Then my mother moved from our hometown at the age of 90, and a few years later Normans General Store closed, after being there for 120 years. With these two events, all connection to who we had always been was gone. Every tie to family history, and the reality that I could no longer go “home” was a shock. It set me adrift, and I felt like I was floating in a sea of uncertainty in a rapidly changing world that clearly would never be the same.

I was eventually able to get my bearings because the core values of that solid, grounded, generational life, served me well. However, many today live their lives with a directionless, rootless apathy. The need for job security often moves families across the country multiple times. Statistics show that people move, on average, every 5 years. Today, huge schools bus children in from miles around, and class sizes average in the hundreds. Millions of dollars are spent on sports programs, free breakfast and lunches and special clubs. Yet with all of this, more children are overweight, the quality of education continues to fall and students are less prepared for the workforce than ever before.

Where is the answer in all of this? Are we to go back to the horse and buggy, the kerosene lamp and the hand pump of 100 years ago? No, but we might do well to go back and revisit the values, the priorities and the heart of those earlier times. Imagine what it would be like to rediscover the art of human connection. Think of how wonderful conversation could be without the constant interruption of television, computer screens or cell phones buzzing and chirping invasively into every moment of the day. How grand would it be to sit around the dinner table and eat a well-prepared meal rather than rushing off to yet another event.

How in the world do you do this? One word: PRIORITIES! The priority you place on things always determines how they fit into the life you live. There is no exception to the rule, and no way to avoid the consequences either. You will always, and I mean always, find time for what’s really important. Tell me your kids are important, yet you are always working and never have time for them; YOU LIE! Say that family is important, yet you never take a vacation together, never do fun things as a family and rarely share your thoughts or feelings: YOU LIE! Say that saving for retirement is important but you constantly go into debt and buy things that you can’t afford; YOU LIE!

Let me challenge you to live a life of priorities. Set a standard that others will be blessed by. Set the wrong priorities and it will become a curse. Living a life of priorities is the only way to live happy and fulfilled. We may not be able to go back to what was, but we can get our priorities straight and capture a better way to live. If you want to recover some of what has been lost, let me encourage you to consider the above. If you will, you can change what is, and those who follow after you will be able enjoy the history you have created. Let me ask you, in the end, what’s that worth!

The Missing Pieces Of Time

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Time….. It is the subject of science fiction movies and multitudes of books. It is evidenced by the decay of everything around us. It shows up when we gaze into the mirror and see wrinkles and gray hair looking back. It becomes painfully real when we go through old photo albums and see people who have gone on to their eternal rest. It never stops, has no favorites it passes by, or special people it refuses to impact. The endless march of time comes to all of us, and how it touches each can be very different.

I mention the above because the other night I was watching a favorite show of mine called  “NOVA” which is on PBS. This particular show was about three girls who were born like every other girl on planet earth. However, they were handicapped and they all exhibited something that is considered to be the rarest of unknown, and unstudied diseases on earth. These three girls do not age. At one point in their early childhood development the aging mechanism within just switched off, and no one knows why.

After a lifetime of study, one genetic researcher decided to use the world’s largest supercomputer to map the entire genetic structure of these girls. After months of painstaking analysis, the team discovered the disorder was caused by a missing, or misplaced, piece of  DNA. DNA is the master blueprint for all life as we know it, so when a piece of it goes missing that is not a good thing. The protein that is produced by this missing material is not present in these girls, and because of this missing genetic material, they simply do not get any older. Strangely enough, no boy has ever been diagnosed with this same disorder. It is strictly a malady that afflicts human females.

One of the girls being covered in the story was 21 years old. Any person looking at her, myself included, would conclude she was no more than 4 years of age. Her growth and physical development simply stopped at that point, and she is forever “suspended in time” as a post-toddler. Not one inch of height, not one sign of physical development, no hormonal changes, and not one bit of mental maturation or development has happened in the past 18 years. She is, for all practical purposes, a child, and will forever remain that way until she dies. Most baffling of all, doctors have no idea how long she may live. She does not show any of the normal cellular breakdown that happens to  all living things as they age, so her lifespan is totally unknown.

What they finally uncovered in their research was quite incredible. Ageing is the result of the action of specific proteins that are made by a specific piece of DNA. When that piece is not there, the ageing process just stops. So now comes the million dollar questions I had rattling around in my brain. Could this be the proof that those in the Book of Genesis did live hundreds and hundreds years, as the Bible states, all because the genetic material for aging was not present in early creation? Is this the source of the mythical fountain of youth that Conquistadors searched for?  Now that we know which genes control the ageing process, are we one step closer to extending human life indefinitely? For those who have enough money, and the right technology, do we really want to do this?

It would seem that science fiction has once again become science fact, and it brings to mind a Biblical reality from Genesis 11:6. In this passage, the people united under their own strength to defy God, and they wanted to build a tower that would reach up to heaven. That is, man wanted to ascend, by his own strength and intellect, to become like God. The scripture says; “The Lord said ‘Behold they are one people, and they have the same language. And this is what they begin to do, and now nothing which they purpose to do will be impossible for them'”. So, God confused their languages in that place of natural, man made unity.

In the girls above, the missing pieces of DNA brought about something that looks like it has great potential, but it is actually harmful and detrimental to all who are touched by it. It is the same for those who try to bring about unity and change by misguided naturally and emotionally driven means. When pieces of the necessary DNA for a God-ordained unity are missing, it will fail. Those missing pieces bring about an aberrant cohesion of misinformed people who lack the focus and peace of something that will serve the purposes of God. This type of thing is going to fall into disorder, and will always do so in God’s appointed time.

The personal and emotional desire to unify and build something of our own making, will always be ended by God Himself! How ironic that God calls people to work together, but it always takes on a dark quality, if that urge is motivated by something other than the Holy Spirit. Ephesians 4:3 says; “being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace”. In other words, when people are working together as directed by the Spirit of God, there is going to be a clear unity, and overriding peace present. When those qualities are not part of a combined effort, the prophetic perspective is that this is a group of misguided, naturally and emotionally oriented people who are building another “Tower of Babble”.  Whatever they are united to create is doomed to simply become a painful  example of miscommunication, and it will ultimately collapse under the weight of it’s own confusion. 

Don’t let the natural or emotional disruptions in life cause you to lose any sleep. The rantings and chantings of unruly mobs, or misguided reports of fake news outlets, will make you think that the world is in chaos, poised to go up in flames. However, nothing could be further from the truth. There are a lot of missing pieces in all of this, and what you see is not what’s real, or lasting. Others may want to convince you they are reaching up to heaven in self-determined change, but it “Ain’t Necessarily So”, as the old song goes. There is a lot more to the story then any of them understand, or are willing to admit.

The missing pieces, and time itself, are on our side. When we refuse to react, and we simply respond with the relaxed confidence that comes from living with a Biblical worldview, the answers eventually come. From that place of God-ordained unity and peace, the Spirit of God will always fill in the missing pieces, and bring every answer that has lasting value.  I don’t know about you, but I am excited to see what will happen in the next few years. Expect the unexpected. Most of all, know that prayer is what brought about the national change we so desperately needed, and it will only be prayer that can finish what God has begun. Lift up your eyes and rejoice, because God is about to do great things! The natural mind does not comprehend it, but those who see beyond the natural, will see it and rejoice!