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Repair and Renew

It was the day before Christmas Eve and all through the church the pastor and the organist were printing bulletins and practicing the music for the two services the next day. At some point during the preparations we realized it might be handy to dust off the organ light for the candlelight service. No problem, it was where we remembered storing it. The problem was, it would not work. This light clips on to the music stand and shines three LED lights on the music. Solution, change the AAA batteries. We had some in the office. Still, it did not work and would not even flicker. We tried other solutions involving other lights, but they were too big or too bright, and cast shadows on the music. It was too late to buy a new one, so we pressed on, and the evening service was beautiful.

What do you do with an electronic gadget that does not work anymore? It’s too nice to throw away and no one wants a broken one. So after the holidays and the snow days, I consulted our family fixer-of-things, Deacon Enos, to see if he could discover the problem. He is a tinkerer and problem solver. I told him it would be okay if he broke it beyond repair because it was easily replaceable. Deacon built his own computer from scratch when he was 13.  Now almost 17, he is on an academic path in high school and at Tulsa Tech to earn an engineering degree one day. The next Sunday morning he brought the now-working organ light to us, smiling all the way. He said he found one of the battery holders had a loose wire, which wasn’t connecting properly. He fixed it like new. 

We are in this disposable culture where it is easier to buy a new one, than to fix it. If we are not careful, we can end up treating people as disposable also. I read about a church that started a Repair and Renew Ministry for their neighborhood. They call it The Repair Café because it has coffee and goodies to share. People bring their broken appliances, electronics, and furniture to the church basement where volunteers help them figure out what is wrong. If something needs a new part, the owner purchases the part and brings it back another time. While working on these projects, friendships are forged, and spiritual conversations are initiated. It seems everyone is a little broken somewhere and could use some renewal from time to time. 

Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Repair and renew.  And let’s experience the love and power of God together.

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Fraud!

I received an unanticipated letter from the Social Security Administration enclosing my new Medicare Card and not really providing an explanation. I  was not expecting a new card, but I do know why I was issued a new one. Last fall I called to report suspected Medicare fraud. Monthly medical supplies that no one had ordered appeared on one of my “This Is Not a Bill” summary statements. I called the Fraud Hotline and was told they would investigate it. I was not the only one noticing these false billings to Medicare and insurance companies. The fraudsters count on people of a certain age to have multiple health issues so they can slip in an extra item or two. They also count on thousands of people not looking at their medical statements at all. I heard on the news that a possible two-billion-dollar billing fraud had been uncovered involving seven high-volume suppliers of medical catheters. These catheter billings targeted 450,000 people in 2023, up a bit from the 50,000 in 2022. Becoming the victim of any crime is never a good experience. Look at those statements.

Over the weekend we received a letter from our former mortgage holder confessing that we may have been the victims of a scam in their company where false accident and disability insurance was bought in our name and paid for by us through hidden fees. Not nice at all. We checked, and sure enough, we were defrauded $45.60 in 2010! Does not sound like much, but when multiplied by thousands of customers, someone made off with a sizable sum. Greed in all its forms is roundly condemned throughout the Scriptures. Fraud is lying, dishonesty, bearing false witness, thievery, covetousness, and worship of the false god mammon. Fraud deprives the widow of her dignity, the orphan of his future, and the neighbor of their livelihood. Corporate greed increases the cost of everything we use and need. Political greed costs self-respect, decency, and the courage of true convictions. Religious greed is another way of taking God’s name in vain. It manipulates people’s good hearts for personal gain by misusing the sacred and the holy. The threat of artificial intelligence (AI) is in its potential use for fraud and deceit, times a million.

What can we do about fraud? I suggest three on-going steps everyone should be taking:

Stay vigilant in the small and the large matters. Call out and expose fraud. Live in honesty through the power of Christ each day. 

Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Be honest. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.

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Real Success

Decades ago, we had a leader in our church who would on occasion recite from memory a poem from Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) called Success:

To laugh often and much;

To win the respect of intelligent people, and affection of children;

To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends;

To find the best in others;

To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, garden patch, or a redeemed social condition;

To have played and laughed with enthusiasm and sung with exultation;

To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.

This is to have succeeded.

This is a beautiful understanding of a satisfying life.How do you measure success? Emerson began his public life as a Harvard-taught minister two hundred years ago. Then his young wife died of tuberculosis. A crisis of faith naturally followed. He questioned his place in the great scheme of life. He struggled with issues of faith and science, eventually settling on what I characterize as “the transcendence of creation” as the touchstone of his life. Sadly, he had abandoned the Christ of Christianity. His writings became foundations for what was called “Transcendentalism,” which still has great appeal today.

The Bible speaks very little about success as we define it today. My understanding of Biblical success is not found in popularity, prestige, possessions, or power. Biblical success does not equal great leadership or numbers of followers or ministries or even mission endeavors. To me the Biblical definition of success is faithfulness to the teachings of Jesus. When things come down to the very end, the question from on High will not be if you were successful, but rather, “Were you faithful?” Were you faithful to God’s word, faithful in your relationships, faithful in your daily actions? Faith is fully trusting God. Faithfulness is living in gratitude for God’s great love and salvation.

Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Succeed through faithfulness. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.

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Celebrity Influencers

Celebrity news has surpassed the old-fashioned soap opera, although some of us still remember Luke and Laura. With the Grammys behind us and the Super Bowl and Oscars headed our way, who can avoid hearing about the misadventures, drama, controversies, loves and losses of the headliners of entertainment, sports, and politics today? What do you know of Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce? Who was snubbed by the award givers?  Whose tweet set off a firestorm of applause and outrage this week? There is so much celebrity news you may not know the answer to that last question? 

  He sent out a perfectly gentle and caring question to his followers on X, formerly known as Twitter. Then his innocent and sheltered world was unexpectedly rocked like an earthquake in Oklahoma. I am speaking, of course, of Elmo. I assumed a Muppet’s life was fairly simple like any TV personality: sitting in a make-up chair, rehearsing lines, hitting the mark when the director says “Action,” sleeping on a shelf the rest of the time.  I did not realize Elmo was also a celebrity influencer. I should have known better because we are all influencers. Elmo asked his followers: Elmo is checking in! How is everybody doing? The responses came in overwhelming numbers—10’s of thousands followed by 100’s of thousands, soon a million and a half people shared how hard things were. Because of this Elmo was invited to talk about mental health on the Today Show. Comedian Larry David, listening off stage was enraged, charged over to Elmo, and began to strangle the Muppet saying he could not listen to this any longer. David offered a reluctant apology. Elmo accepted the apology, but later David publicly retracted his apology to Elmo.  The next day Elmo tweeted: Wow! Elmo is glad he asked! Elmo learned it is important to ask a friend how they are doing. Elmo will check in again soon, friends! Elmo loves you. 

We should all have a friend like Elmo. No matter who you are, you are an influencer. Someone is looking at you and maybe thinking, so that’s how I am supposed to… act as an adult; talk when I’m mad; treat elderly people…  The questions always become then, how am I doing in my own soul today? How am I influencing others? 

Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. You are a Christian influencer. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.

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Gen Z Love

The future is with us right now.  Today is the future, most likely even tomorrow. But tomorrow is not here yet. There is one thing about the future I always hope to see—a new awakening of the Church in America. A sweeping wind of the Spirit, a revival of the church writ large, is always found in generational repentance and humility before God.  And it is always led by young people. Every world-shaking, soul-wrenching Great Awakening over the last 600 years has been born out of the tender hearts of teenagers and young adults. The elders are the faithful prayerful. They are also the encouragers and disciplers of children and teens. The rising generation among us is Generation Z (Gen Z).  It is a generation like no other in US history.

Gen X: Born 1965-1980

Millennials: Born 1981-1996

Gen Z: Born 1997-2012 

Gen Z’ers are the first generation to be totally immersed in digital technology. The i-Phone was released in 2007.  Covid disrupted their education and brought social isolation. They feel death and sickness is always near.  Generally, they are mostly urban and suburban, following social influencers like ducklings from fad to fad and scam to scam. They long to do things irl (in real life). They would rather shop in a store than online. Yet Snapchat, Whisper and TikTok is where they retreat with their friends. Gen Z’ers have dealt with continuous economic setbacks (the great recession of 2008-2009 and Covid.) Their focus is on economic security and materialism. Gen Z’ers long for good mental health. They want authentic experiences, truthful relationships, and less violence and meanness. I asked an 18-year-old waitress recently what she was thinking about these days. She told me she was terrified of AI. She said she was always stressed out, and she did not understand the world anymore. Religious faith had no place in her life. She just wanted to go skiing in Colorado with her boyfriend.

What does a stressed out, materialistic, digitized future look like? A whole lot like today. How, then, can they call on the One they have not believed in? And how can they believe in the One of whom they have not heard?  And how can they hear without someone teaching them? (Romans 10:14)

Keep healthy. Pray mightily. Enjoy your life today. Love them to Jesus. And let’s experience the love and power of God together.

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