Potpourri on Inauguration Day

Today is Inauguration Day in America, one unlike any other in our long history.

If I were writing President Obama’s inaugural speech, I’d have him approach the podium and call out, “Americans, we have overcome!”

We still have a lot of overcoming to do, but thank the Lord, some things are behind us.

It’s good to see Americans of all political stripes uniting behind our new chief executive. He will need all the good will and prayers we can direct his way as he faces the tough decisions of his new office.

“God bless him and keep Him. The Lord make His face to shine upon him and be gracious unto him. The Lord lift up His countenance upon him and give him peace.”

Now, other matters….

My friend Devona Able, wife of one, mother of three, and lawyer for the Social Security Administration up in Alexandria, Louisiana, tells about her two-year-old tumbling down the stairs. Her family was visiting in the home of friends, and both families’ young’uns were having a grand time throughout the house. After the child thump-thump-thumped down the stairs — Devona assures us he’s fine — they noticed a change in the children.

Thereafter, the kids hung around close to the adults. Before, they had been whooping it up and freewheeling around the place. But now they seemed to want an adult in their space. Their host made the observation — one which the theologian in us agrees with heartily — “Everything changed after the fall.”

Did it ever. Devona’s website is http://devonaable.org. You can read the whole story and Devona’s interpretation of it. She’d be proud to have you among her readers.

Writing in Time magazine for January 19, 2009, Justin Fox suggests that just as Congress passed a law in 1980 to make producers of toxic waste pay for its cleanup (the Superfund law), it ought to do the same with the perpetrators of the financial mess the country is having to rectify now. He suggests we find “the financial polluters and force them to ante up some of the bank-bailout money.” When we hear about the multi-million-dollar salaries and bonuses the executives of failing companies took home, it makes perfect sense to require them to give a great deal of it back.

Fox says the word for this is called “clawback,” and he does not expect it to happen. But a fellow can dream. (Justin Fox’s daily take on the economy is http://curiouscapitalist.blogs.time.com/. )

It’s been a while since a local newspaper columnist got my dander up, but James Gill did it Sunday morning. This ancient curmudgeon was waxing-an-elephant (okay, waxing eloquent) on the 2008 Louisiana legislature’s bill which allows schoolteachers to bring in interpretations on the origins of the universe other than evolution. The bill specifically says that nothing in it shall be construed as promoting religious doctrine. What it does and what it was meant to do, I expect, is to allow a science teacher to talk about “intelligent design” if he or she wants to without bringing the wrath of the ACLU or the board of education down upon their heads.

Well, Gill is sure that this opens the door for nutty religious people like you and me to bring our pulpits into the classroom and turn the place into a tent meeting. He is so anti-religion it isn’t funny.

The statement that really set me off was this: “Religion takes everything on faith, and science nothing.”

One of the things I like about our newspaper, The Times-Picayune, is they put the phone number and e-mail address at the end of columns. So, rather than sending a letter to the editor, I e-mailed Mr. Gill directly. I’ll spare you most of my letter, but will share a portion.

“Science takes nothing on faith? Ha. What a joke. The scientist takes it on faith that the laws he observed yesterday will still be in effect today. He takes it on faith that the asteroids won’t blow up this small planet, so goes ahead and makes plans for next week. In a thousand and one ways, the scientist lives and works by faith. He believes and acts on things he cannot prove but for which he has lots of evidence. We call that faith.”

“Religion takes everything on faith? That’s equally asinine. To take everything on faith would be to live by blind acceptance of religion’s claims without a smidgen of reason to back it up. I grant you there are some religions doing that — I could name you a couple — but Christians (all who call themselves disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ of whatever denomination) as well as Jews base their faith on plenty of evidence — solid historical and in some areas scientific evidence. But mostly historical.”

At the end of the note, I said, “I hesitated to identify myself to you as a preacher, because there is not the slightest doubt in my mind that you now put me down as ignorant and a rural hick. I am indeed ignorant of much and am actually off the farm in North Alabama, so guess I qualify.”

No response yet.

Couple of things on retirement….

I’ve heard people say the Scriptures know absolutely nothing of retirement. Not so. In reading through the Old Testament — Numbers 8:25 is an example — I noticed Moses instructing Israel that Levites were to retire from taking care of the Tabernacle at the age of fifty. “At the age of fifty years, they must cease performing this work, and shall work no more.”

Sure wish I’d seen that years ago. Here I am at the age of 68 and 10 months, long past that retirement-cutoff! (Of course, Moses said nothing about how the Levites were to pay their bills after retirement.)

I found some quotes on retirement which two or three readers will love….

George Archer, professional golfer, said, “Baseball players quit playing and take up golf. Football players quit playing and take up golf. What are we supposed to do when we quit?”

Sir Robert Walpole (1676-1745), British statesman, retired to his mansion and found himself frustrated. On entering his vast library, he took down a book, read a few pages and returned it to the shelf. Again and again, he repeated the process, taking less and less time with each book. Finally, he burst into tears and said, “I have led a life of business so long that I have lost my taste for reading, and now — what shall I do?” (I don’t know, take up golf?)

After Mickey Mantle retired from baseball in 1968, he was haunted by dreams of returning to the field. He spoke of this on several occasions. In his dreams, he would drive up to Yankee Stadium but was unable to get in. He would hear his name being called out over the public address system, and see his buddies Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford, Billy Martin, and Casey Stengel all searching for him. At last he found a hole in the fence, but when he tried to crawl through, he became stuck. And that’s how it ended for him.

Too many people retire with no plans, nothing to challenge them, and no recourse but to try to return to the old ways. Alas, they discover as Mickey Mantle did, you can’t go back.

Retirement is a time for a new career, one which you (and I) should have been planning for years. It’s the perfect occasion for us to answer the ultimate question. And what is the Ultimate Question?

Just this: “What do I want to be when I grow up?”

We finally get to answer it.

(source for the retirement stories is Bartlett’s book of anecdotes.)

4 thoughts on “Potpourri on Inauguration Day

  1. Does this mean that you are going to retire? Find alternate employment? Be a bum like some of the rest of us?

  2. On the topic of retirement, I have a small idea of what you are going through. Okay, I will say the dynamics are very different but some of the concerns are the same.

    I am a stay at home Mom who’s youngest child will start Kindergarten in August. I will remain a stay at home mom (just as you will remain a pastor/God’s man on the street with fewer scheduled demands). I will maintain my home and be involved in my children’s education but because of God’s financial blessings I have the freedom to branch out in to new things as well. I know confidenly that God did not put me in this position with out a purpose. As I wait on His directing I am learning much about myself and my God. I am ashamed to confess I did not so eagerly and longingly consult God before in my life. So far God has shown me that He likes to shake things up, move in unknown and radical driectons. I like it, even though I have no clue where it is going.

  3. When I retired from teaching God had told me it was time – teaching no longer held the joy it had in times past. Reason for retiring: physical problems. I took up a “part time” job that turned out to be full time – as a “part-timer” I trained 3 managers to work in a Christian bookstore. Then, after suffering a broken hip, the company want me to step down as assistant manager. God said, “I’m finished with you here. Move on.” After my first retirement I had more time to work in my church. After my secord retirement I had more time and more knowledge to work in our association. SO, as Kellie said, God has a purpose for where I am. He used every bit of my past experience in order to use me at a different level. I didn’t realize any of that at the time. Hind site is 20/20. AND, I can even use THAT.


  4. I was forced to retire early because of my health.

    But I am able to study and pray more than ever before, and enjoy a daily fellowship with my Lord, being not tied down by working to make a living.

    Joe, you will find that you will profit more spiritually than ever before and grow rapidly, as you prepare to meet the Lord.

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