66

Cyrus Avery of Tulsa, Oklahoma and John Woodruff of Springfield, Missouri are given credit for coming up with the idea of a roadway linking Chicago and Los Angeles. Their dream sat idle until Congress approved a national program of highway development. In the summer of 1926, the projected road was officially designated as Route 66. Connecting urban and rural communities, the highway provided a significant way for a still young America to open the way west for people who had never left their small town to discover their vast country, for the trucking industry to get their cargoes across the nation, for the military to be able to more rapid mobilizations, and for people who were looking for a new start.

 

Finding ways to link people still matters. The wonders of social networking are products of this ever-expanding information age but Facebook will never replace face to face. We need to be linked, in good times and bad. We need each other’s presence. We need to close the distance between us, particularly in a day when our differences are being overemphasized.

 

We need community. We need to feel we belong to something bigger than ourselves. We need interaction to share our beliefs, opinions, and passions. We need human touch whether it’s a hug or a kiss, a slap on the back or a kick in the pants.

 

Speaking of kicks, Bobby Troup, former pianist for the Tommy Dorsey band, wrote a lyrical tribute to the famed highway and included the phrase “get your kicks on Route 66” – sung by Nat King Cole in 1946. John Steinbeck proclaimed Route 66 as the Mother Road in his 1939 classic, The Grapes of Wrath. In the 1960’s, a television series captured the nation, starring Martin Milner and George Maharis who drove their sporty Corvette down the famous road looking for adventure.

 

The route represents a basic need for humans – a need for adventure. But, just like the two guys in the sports car way back when, adventure is most often best experienced with people we care about. Thank you to friends and family for remembering me on my route 66.

What did you say?

The G20 summit is over. Leaders of the top twenty economies gathered in Hamburg, Germany to display the brightest minds in government, business, and banking. The wattage in the city had to exceed that of a 60-watt bulb.

As a reminder of how astute and articulate people in positions of power can be, I offer some of these classic lines:

  • “Things are more like they are now than they have ever been.” President Gerald Ford
  • “And what is more, I agree with everything I just said.” Piet Koornoff, South African ambassador
  • “That’s part of American greatness, is discrimination. Yes, sir. Inequality, I think, breeds freedom and gives man opportunity.” Lester Maddox, former Georgia governor
  • “Wherever I have gone in this country, I have found Americans.” Alf Landon, presidential candidate
  • “My fellow astronauts …” Dan Quayle, Vice-President at Apollo 11 ceremony
  • “That lowdown scoundrel deserves to be kicked to death by a jack-ass, and I’m just the one to do it.” Congressional candidate in Texas
  • “This is a great day for France!” President Nixon at Charles De Gaulle’s funeral
  • “If I never get to Mexico again, it wouldn’t bother me. I don’t like the food or the climate.” Dan Eddy, member of the Texas Good Neighbor Commission, charged with promoting Texas-Mexico good relations
  • “If English was good enough for Jesus Christ, it’s good enough for me.” Dr. David Edwards, head of the National Committee on Language

Sometimes it would be better if we just keep our mouths closed. James had good advice: “You must be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.” After all the blustery rhetoric spewed by our leaders, it would be nice to leave all the spin behind. Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount that we should treat others as we wish to be treated. How would that change the headlines? Naïve? Simplistic? Of course. I can dream, though … and pray.

A Great American

I wonder what Will Rogers would say about America today. He never held back. He poked fun at everybody. Politically correct? He would laugh at the very idea.

Born in 1879 to a Cherokee family in the Oklahoma Territory, he became a beloved figure in his country and around the world. He traveled the globe three times, made over 70 movies, and wrote more than 4000 nationally syndicated columns. At one time, he was the highest Hollywood movie star. He came a long way from the prairie. His homespun humor coated his biting wit with keen observations about everything from politicians to gangsters.

He even wrote his own ending: “When I die, my epitaph, or whatever you call those signs on gravestones, is going to read: ‘I joked about every prominent man of my time, but I never met a man I didn’t like.’ I am so proud of that, I can hardly wait to die so it can be carved.”

He did die and the world mourned. While flying with aviator Wiley Post, he died in a plane crash in northern Alaska at 55 years of age.

We could use a Will Rogers today. Here are a few of his best lines:

  • “I am not a member of any organized political party. I am a Democrat.”
  • “Everything is funny, as long as it’s happening to somebody else.”
  • “A fool and his money are soon elected.”
  • “Good judgment comes from experience, and a lot of that comes from bad judgment.”
  • “I don’t make jokes. I just watch the government and report the facts.”
  • “If you want to be successful, it’s just this simple. Know what you are doing. Love what you are doing. And believe in what you are doing.”
  • “I bet after seeing us, George Washington would sue us for calling him ‘father.’”

 

We could use some of his common sense, don’t you think?

 

 

 

Change

A farmer and his son were making their first visit to the big city. They had never seen skyscrapers, fancy cars, and the like. The farmer had always wanted to see what big city life was all about and he stood slack-jawed at the wonders of modern day. They went into the lobby of a hotel and were overwhelmed by the sights and sounds of a busy, bustling NYC establishment. They watched as an elderly lady approached a big box with lights on the side. She walked in, the doors closed, and lights started blinking. In a few minutes, the doors of the box opened again and out stepped a beautiful young woman. The farmer turned to his son and with a hoarse whisper, said, “Son, go get your mother.”

I know. Weak, but I needed a laugh on a Monday morning.

We all know change is a part of life. It happens all around us and it happens to us. Just yesterday, I could hit a golf ball a long way. I didn’t know where it was going but I could give it a ride. Just yesterday, my mind was sharp and my wit was quick. Now, I have to think more about what I need to think about. I have to ask myself, “Did I tell that one already?” way too often.

I need to be content living today. I read some wise words this week: “If I am depressed, I am living in the past. If I am anxious, I am living in the future. If I am at peace, I am living in the present.”

I hope your day is full of the present. After all, it is a gift from the Father.

Fresh Wind

A man whose name meant “pain” dared to cry out to the Lord. He didn’t cry out in pain or despair or defeat; he cried out in hope and faith: “Oh, that You would bless me and expand my territory!” He was petitioning for a fresh wind to blow in and through his life. Jabez did not want to settle for anything less than divine provision and direction.

Jim Cymbala, pastor since 1971 of the Brooklyn Tabernacle in New York, has written a number of books that reflect his conviction that God wants to do something great in and through the church. In The Church God Blesses, he wrote: “The Lord is eager to make spiritual changes among us and shower us with His blessings. He wants us – His people – to experience the greatness of His power and the depth of His love in a new way. All He needs from us is a listening ear and a heart that believes that with God all things are possible.”

He sounds like a modern Jabez. He dares to believe that God expects bold prayers and willing hearts from His people. In his book, Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire, he tells the story of how the Holy Spirit exploded in a small, declining church through people who refused to believe that God was done with them.

Wieuca, it is time for a fresh wind to blow. It is a moment of opportunity to seek the deeper things of life in Christ. We must quit trying to fix things through human effort and ingenuity and pour our hearts out to God.

One of our staff members remarked in our weekly meeting that he was discouraged when he looked out at those gathered for worship. He saw folded arms and scowling faces. He said he thought, “How can I lead these people in worship? How can we experience God in such an atmosphere?”

Contrast that to the words of the psalmist: “I prayed to the Lord, and He answered me. He freed me from all my fears. Those who look to Him for help will be radiant joy; no shadow of shame will darken their faces. In my desperation I prayed, and the Lord listened; He saved me from all my troubles. For the angel of the Lord is a guard; He surrounds and defends all who fear Him. Taste and see that the Lord is good. Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in Him!” (Ps. 34:4-8)

Fresh wind, fresh fire. Oh, God that you would bless us to be the church You want us to be!

These guys are good!

What is it about golf? I gave up the game years ago. I don’t need the stress. I relate to:

  • Golf – an endless series of tragedies occasionally interrupted by a miracle.
  • Golfing etiquette: hit the ball, swear, look for the ball, repeat
  • “It took me 17 years to get 3000 hits in baseball; I did it in 1 afternoon at the golf course.” Hank Aaron
  • They call it ‘golf’ because all the other four-letter words were taken.

It’s not that I don’t admire great golf. I watch two tournaments a year – the Masters and the US Open. I cannot wait until the next idiot screams “Get in the hole!” They used to call golf “the game of kings” – if that’s still true the galleries then consist of something less than royalty.

Imagine if other quaint traditions found their way into golf. Like:

  • Cheerleaders prancing in cute pro-shop attire to rev up a crowd
  • Squirrels or chipmunks hurled on to the course after a successful putt
  • Guys standing near the tee box, yelling, “Swing, golfer, swing!”
  • Sideline blondes interviewing players after a triple bogey
  • Commentators speaking in their normal voices

I respect the skill required to play the tour – male or female. In some ways, the game reflects the vagaries of life. Even the greatest golfers can hit a bad shot, make a bad judgment, or blow a lead. Even the best cannot win every tournament.

What I like best, however, is that golf, like a few other sports, is a one-player game. You might be playing against the course or other players, but your skill, knowledge, experience and mental toughness matter most. No one else can hit that shot for you. You have to finish what you started. The game is on you.

Life is that way. You have to live your life. You have to use what’s in your bag. God made us with unique abilities and personalities. The stakes are high in the game of life. We have to run our race, finish our course. By the grace of God, we can walk up that last fairway with our heads held high. We did the best we could.

 

The positive side to “You’re not good enough.”

We want to build people up, not tearing them down. We don’t want our children to grow up with an inferiority complex. We hand out participation trophies. We don’t keep score because we don’t want anyone to feel like a loser.

I can agree with the sentiment behind such statements, but something is missing.

  • We want to build people up … Sometimes the best way to build someone up is to show them the steps to higher achievement, to help them gain greater self-confidence might mean showing them attitudes or behaviors that are holding them down.
  • We don’t want our children to develop inferiority complexes … Affirmation is great, but sometimes constructive criticism opens the door to understanding and life change.
  • We hand out participation trophies … I’m sorry, life simply isn’t that way. You don’t just show up; you contribute to a team, in a class, on the job, in a marriage. Discovering my true value comes when the world benefits from my investment of unique ability.
  • We don’t keep score … That might be alright for preschoolers who might not know a glove from a bat. For most of us, keeping score helps us to know how we’re doing, if we’re making progress toward our goals, if we are progressing in both knowledge and wisdom. If you don’t believe me, try that out on your coach, teacher, professor, supervisor: We don’t keep score – final score, test results, job achievements?

I have had great teachers in my life, some in formal settings and some in life situations. The ones who I remember most are the ones who, in one way or another, told me “You’re not good enough.” To me, I wasn’t hearing “You’re no good.” I was hearing “You can do better than that” or “I am expecting more from you.” I am grateful for those who believed in me and called for my best. Many of my North Fulton buddies remember Miss Acree who famously told her classes, “If you don’t vote, shut up.” Anything else wasn’t good enough!