Archive for the ‘Nostalgia’ Category

“To the Moon Alice”

         The final mission for the shuttle spacecraft “Discovery”  landed this week. It returned from outer space after performing the latest maintenance items on the “International Space Station”. How routine this has become. Many are unaware that we had people in space or may be oblivious to the fact that a space station exists.  I had the privilege of going to the Kennedy Space Center this week and I must say that it was a bit surreal. It was hard to grasp the history and the ongoing reality of our space program. We actually place people in capsules and shuttles strapped to rockets with the explosive power of a nuclear bomb and launch them out of the earth’s atmosphere. How can we possibly not be amazed at such accomplishments?

          As a child in elementary school I still remember listening to the radio broadcast of Alan Shepherd, the first American in space, orbiting the earth and then returning. The world was fixated on the event with total wonderment. The Russians had beaten us with the first man in space followed by several failed attempts by NASA to accomplish the same feat. But then it happened. Astronaut Alan Shepherd orbited the earth. The race was on as the world’s two super powers ventured where no man had ever gone. What came next may well be the most exciting and courageous event in American history. Presdent Kennedy declared that we were going to the moon! We intentionally decided to do the impossible. What’s even more incredible, we did it. Since then a total of twelve Americans have walked on the surface of the moon. No other country has even come close to the accomplishments of our space program. With all of this in mind, I can’t help but wonder why God scattered the people of Babel for building a tower estimated to be approximately 300 ft. in height yet He allowed us to walk on the moon.

          Could intentions be more important to God than actions? The people of Babel were united in their efforts to solidify their security through building a tower that would reach into the heavens. They wanted to be in control of their own destiny. After seeing pictures from the Hubble telescope reaching millions of light years through space the 300 foot tower now looks a bit absurd. So one must conclude that God didn’t care for their purpose. Their intentions for mankind were not aligned with His plan. Therefore the next logical question must be to consider  the intentions of our own space program. Why did we and why do we pursue adventures in space? President Kennedy likened the question to “why climb the tallest mountain”. There is something in the human spirit that strives to accomplish great achievements and desires to discover the meaning of life itself. We want to know the reason and purpose for the world around us and beyond. Perhaps this is the result of our inborn nature to know God. I believe the fall of man that caused the separation between mankind and God left us with a deep rooted need to find meaning and relevance which drives us toward the inevitable truth that God does exist and life without Him is meaningless.

          Recently, I watched a video entitled “Journey Toward Creation”. This documentary depicts our journey of discovery and findings from the efforts of our space program. In an effort to see what lies beyond we have discovered some amazing facts regarding our own existence. Because we are a tiny dot in the giant cosmos it is easy to think that there must be life on other planets, otherwise the vastness of the universe seems to be a complete waste. Nothing could be farther from the truth. A study of numerous solar systems have resulted in finding no ability to sustain life on any other planet. Instead scientists have discovered how dependant our solar system and planet is upon all of the universe even the number of stars that exist. The entire cosmos is designed to support life on the planet Earth. What happens light years in space has a direct impact on our planets ability to survive and to sustain life as we know it. Many noted scientists and astronomers have now reached the conclusion that there is an undeniable grand design to the uiniverse and it is the unmistakable work of a supreme higher being. Imagime that. Our efforts to discover what lies beyond this world have served to prove that God does exist and the cosmos was created out of His magnifcent grace to support life for mankind on a tiny planet we call home. Ralph Cramden may have thought the answer to all his problems was sending Alice to the Moon; all he really needed to know was who hung it.

Ralph Cramden was a character from the TV series “The Honeymooners”.

I Got Nothing for Christmas

          I got nothing for Christmas and it was great! In our continued quest for simplification Pat and I managed to escape the “hustle and bustle” of the Christmas season and it was a great experience. Our time was more centered on family, enjoying each others company and most of all the true meaning of Christmas. We had our traditional family Christmas Eve gathering at our old church with two rows of Weese’s seated in the sanctuary spanning four generations. It was truly special. You see I actually did get something for Christmas, the blessing of family and friends. Nothing wrapped and placed under a tree could come anywhere close.

         As I still try to adjust to this new season of our life (the empty nest, grandparent thing) I must admit that I miss those Christmas mornings when we would prepare the family room with music, Christmas lights and hot chocolate before allowing the kids to come down and open their presents. Now they each have their own families and memory making traditions as time continues to blaze forward. We’re still a part of it but it’s different. We’re at that interesting point in life where we can view the past and the future all at once; the blessing of having parents with us to share the holiday as well as children and grandchildren with a couple of grand dogs thrown in. It’s all about legacy. While the legacy includes memories of Christmas past, family traditions and all the trimmings of the modern day yuletide season it goes far beyond all of that. It’s the intangible things that span the movement of time; love for God and love for each other. These are truly the only gifts that last.

          As I watch the holiday madness unfold on the news reports with visions of people pushing, shoving and trampling each other as the security guard opens the doors to the store I wonder how things came to be this way. According to the media, Christmas success is based upon retail spending and the consumers’ ability to purchase the latest Christmas craze item. Stores stay open all night, people rush to the stores to participate in “black Friday” and finances are exhausted on purchases that otherwise would not have been made. An exhausted populace begins the New Year trying to figure out how to pay off the credit card bills as they begin to roll in after the holiday frenzy. I’m reminded of how Jesus wept over Jerusalem as they missed the time of their visitation (Luke 19:41). How many are lost in the busyness of the season and missing Jesus all together. It’s been two thousand years since He walked among us. For all but the last sixty Christmas wasn’t like this. Maybe it’s time to reflect on what Christmas meant in the past, before easy credit, rampant materialism and the neurotic pace of life “we now enjoy”. Maybe it’s time to get nothing for Christmas and get everything at the same time.

You Better Watch Out…

          Before it all starts, I want to strike the first blow at the upcoming onslaught of Christmas commercialization. Last year I stopped by the local Kmart in August only to be confronted with their display of Christmas trees with all the trimmings. That’s right it was August. Fool me once but not twice, I avoided Kmart like the plague this year, no sir they weren’t going to trap me again. Who wants to start with the whole Yuletide thing when we should be listening to the Beach Boys and riding boogie boards? I remember when they used to wait until Halloween was over before they started selling Christmas. I really want it to be like it was when I was a kid.

          The real reason I started thinking about this stuff now was because of glass cleaner. I was cleaning the car windows the other day and all looked great until I drove down the street in the sunshine and all I could see was streaks. That started me thinking about what other window cleaner I could use and I recalled a product from my childhood called “Glasswax”. This stuff came in a can and dried into a white haze on the glass.  2120485243_578de01488It didn’t streak like the ammonia based type cleaners. At Christmas time we used to purchase stencils made from wax paper with snowflakes, bells, sleighs and Santa. They were taped to the windows and Glasswax was dobbed on with a sponge to fill in the designs. Once they dried the stencils were removed and the windows were decorated for the holidays. (I understand that some people used spray snow but your true holiday artists used Glasswax).   

          I also remember going with Dad to buy a real cut Christmas tree. For some reason it always seemed like the coldest day of the year which made it quite the ordeal as we painstakingly selected just the right one and then had to tie it to the car with more rope than I care to measure. It always smelled great when placed in the house and I couldn’t wait to decorate it. I think my favorite part was hanging those silver strands of icicles all around the tree as neatly asBubble lights possible.  We didn’t have them but some people I knew had the type of lights that bubbled when they warmed up. Trees didn’t have themes in those days, just lots of bright colorful decorations.

          Maybe it was just seeing it through all  the eyes of my childhood but it always seemed like a magical time of the year. It really began right after Thanksgiving and we weren’t sick of it by the time it arrived. After my last blog on credit cards I thought it might be wise if we all decided to approach the whole thing a little differently this year. So I have made a list and suggest you check it twice. This is my recipe for how to aim for a Merry Christmas this year.

  • Stay away from Kmart and the like until after Halloween or later
  • When they start playing Christmas music sixteen weeks in advance, change the station
  • When the time comes to begin thinking about it, decide to avoid the useless spending on mostly unappreciated stuff
  • Put some actual thought into doing something personal and meaningful for those you love
  • Practice random acts of kindness toward people you don’t even know
  • Spend some time reading the actual Christmas story from the Bible with family and or friends

          Now that I have espoused my holiday philosophy, let me be the the first to wish you a blessed and Christ filled Christmas. You have my permission to ignore any other mention of the subject for the next ten weeks.

Connect the dots…

winkyandyou-head07          Winky Dink I’m genuinely amazed at the Internet and the information that we have at our disposal. I have often recalled a TV show that was aired when I was about 5 or 6 years old called “Winky Dink and You”. Hardly anyone I’ve talked to seems to remember it but I thought it was the greatest thing since sliced bread. During the show kids would be instructed to place their magic screen (a rectangular piece of clear vinyl) on the TV screen and instructions followed for connecting dots by means of magic crayons to complete a message or picture that tied into the current episode plot of Winky Dink and various characters. By clicking on the link provided above (Winky Dink) you can get a glimpse of what the show looked like.

          I found the clip by using Google and was instantly transported back in time to when I was a child. The thought of ever seeing Winky Dink or the clip of the show was the farthest thing from my mind but it was right there for the viewing. I even remember the time when I forgot to use the “magic screen” and drew right on the TV screen. Mom and Dad were not quite as enamored with the program after that as I was.

          The show aired from 1953 to 1957 when it was decided that the radiation from the TV set was probably not a good thing for kids to be embracing. That started me thinking about the technological advances of our lifetime and how technology in and of itself is neutral but the applications can be either good or bad. The advent of television was new and exciting in those days. There were times when people tuned in to see the test pattern just in case something might be aired. To think about the billions of hours that have been spent viewing the “tube” is mind boggling. Just like everything else that has come along, too much of a good thing can have bad consequences.

          Back in those days we only had three stations to choose from and they weren’t on 100% of the time. Now we have hundreds to choose from and it seems difficult to find good wholesome entertainment or intellectual stimulation. Some programming is down right distasteful and or sinful. In all honesty everyone needs to to choose what we  expose ourselves to wisely. It is important for us to realize the impact that TV programming has on society. Things that were far beyond acceptable years ago have become the norm of today. Are we really more enlightened? Has social behavior benefited from all of the forms of liberalism or have we entered the new dark ages?

          Parents……..please think about the images that your children are being bombarded with. Considered the amount of time they are spending electronically. Maybe it’s time for us to connect the dots once again and see how the picture takes shape. Winky was taken off the air to safeguard the physical health of children. What dangers lurk in the technology of today if not used responsibly?

          “Train up a child in the way he should go, Even when he is old he will not depart from it.” Prov. 22:6 NASB


chevelle 021

          As far back as I can think I have been crazy about cars. I’m sure we can find a lot to blame on the sixties but it was a great time to grow up being a car nut. The big three were in their heyday and there was an excitement in the air each fall when the new models would arrive. Early in September there would be those teaser commercials where they would pull back a part of the sheet placed over the car to reveal just enough to wet your appetite. When the new cars finally hit the showroom the public would flock to the dealerships to see what the new styles had to offer. A new breed of cars had been brought to the market later to be dubbed as “muscle cars”.  (They are now highly prized by collectors and car buffs.) What would the manufacturers give to have that kind of excitement back at such little cost in advertising? In fact, where did the excitement go?

                    There were several contributing factors that caused the buying public to lose their enthusiasm. In 1970 the EPA dictated certain emission control levels and the muscle car era came to a screeching halt as horsepower became more restricted. Foreign imports were gaining in popularity and consumers began to favor smaller, more economical cars. The quality of the foreign cars were deemed superior to the American product. Most families were becoming two car families as more than one paycheck became necessary to keep up with the Joneses. The biggest factor killing the fall anticipation levels happened when the American car manufacturer decided to keep the same body styling year in and year out. The reason for the September excitement was gone forever. The problems facing the big three today actually have their roots in the events of the late sixties and seventies.

          What does all of this have to do with RESToration? Let me begin by reminiscing about my first new car purchase. It happened 1967 when I placed an order for a 1967 Chevelle from Chevrolet. It took approximately eight weeks to have one built and delivered and I thought it would never arrive. Once it did, needless to say, I was quite pleased. Dad wouldn’t allow me to have many options (nor could I afford them) but it was all mine, payments included. The picture above is of a 1967 Chevelle that I now own and love to drive. When I’m behind the wheel it reminds me of a simpler, perhaps clearer time in our country. This car has been completely restored and it now reflects what the manufacturer intended back in ’67. Restoration for a car is taking it back to new, making it like it was when it was created. Spiritually speaking God offers us the same sort of renewal. One that reflects the intent of His creation rather than the worldly, worn version we become without going through His restoration process.

          When a car is restored, it still must be maintained in order to keep its shiny new image. For Christians, we also require regular maintenance in order to walk in the newness of life. Cars require tune-ups, oil changes, tire rotations, cleaning and tinkering. Spiritually we require prayer time, time in the Word, fellowship and solitude. Solitude is where the rest comes in RESToration. God gave us the concept of Sabbath rest for our own maintenance. Each of us need to spend reflective time before our creator, contemplating His word and listening for His direction. This allows Him time to fine tune His will for our lives. We get a new spark, recharged with hope and faith that otherwise erodes under the strain of daily life. Restored cars need to be used otherwise seals dry up and things don’t get lubricated as they should and performance suffers. Restored people need to be used by the creator for His intended purpose or we dry up and our performance will suffer. If you don’t plan for quiet time before the Lord it will never happen. “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature…” 1Cor.5:17 (NASB)

Who is Vinko Bogataj?

          I remember when we only had three channels to choose from on the TV, one for each of the three major networks. If you are over forty and of pre-ESPN vintage you will undoubtedly recall ABC’s “Wide World of Sports”. I may be a bit nostalgic and perhaps you will call me crazy but there was an excitement about TV programming in those days that seems to be missing now that we have a couple of hundred channels to surf. Every week from 1961 thru 1998 WWS gave us great fast paced sports coverage from around the world. For more than a decade the show began each week with this moniker: “SPANNING THE GLOBE, TO BRING YOU THE CONSTANT VARIETY OF SPORTS. THE THRILL OF VICTORY, AND THE AGONY OF DEFEAT. THE DRAMA OF ATHLETIC COMPETITION. THIS IS ABC’S WIDE WORLD OF SPORTS.”

          If you are young enough not to remember the show you probably are familiar with the phrase “the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat”. On March 21, 1970 Vinko Bogataj competed in West Germany in the world championship ski-jumping competition. Although he never ranked high as a world class jumper he managed to capture fame on that day. It was not for his earlier spectacular jump but rather for his spectacular crash later on that caused him to become America’s symbol for the “agony of defeat”.  America watched Vinko crash every week at the opening of the show for probably more than a decade. As I look back I cannot think of any particular footage used for the victory side of the equation but the ski- jump crash will forever be embedded in my mind. 

          In his own words Vinko states “the difference between victory and defeat is very slight”.  As the jump iced up and his descent became faster than he expected Vinko tried to stop which resulted in his horrific crash. Fortunately for him, he only sustained a slight concussion. There are several interesting points concerning this story. Vinko achieved fame but was unaware of his celebrity status for twenty one years. With the advent of the Internet that couldn’t happen today but back then he was behind the “iron-curtain” and communications were severely limited. He gained no worldly fame for his success that day only his failure. He was courageous enough to compete in what I think is a very challenging sport yet his courage wasn’t up to the unforeseen icy conditions.

          Vinko could not have foreseen the outcome of that memorable day. He didn’t foresee the change in the weather conditions before attempting his ill fated jump. I wonder what would have made the “slight difference” for him between victory and success? What a great analogy for life. We don’t always foresee the changes in our circumstances before we collide smack into them. We are never sure of the outcome of any particular day. Our challenge is to have the courage to face life with the preparedness to draw upon that slight difference that will result in the “thrill of victory” rather than the “agony of defeat”. “I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.”Ps. 27:13 (NASB) Perhaps that slight difference rests in the gift of faith from God himself.