Friday, May 3, 2013

How Are We to Return?

"Ever since the time of your ancestors you have turned away from my decrees and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you," says the LORD Almighty. 
"But you ask, 'How are we to return?"
Malachi 3:7

I grew up with a saying -  along the lines of too much of a good thing can be bad - or something like that.  I guess it's kind of an old-fashioned saying, born from parents who were raised during the Great Depression.  Parents whose families struggled financially.  As my mother tells me - it was a good thing she grew up on a farm, where at the least the family grew and raised their food... Clothes on the other hand - well, she was the youngest girl with six brothers and sisters - so she wore a lot of hand-me-downs...

My dad talks about his life growing up.   His dad was a pastor - but he was also a painter, electrician, plumber, dry-waller - literally a jack-or-all-trades.  They moved around a lot, as my grandfather was assigned to different churches - sometimes more than one church at a time - kind of like circuit preachers from way back.  Share-preachers.  My grandmother used to say they were moved often because Grandpa always worked on the parsonages - he was flipping those houses without the benefit of  profiting from the resale.  Grandma used to talk about members of the church inviting the family to dinner on Sundays - thankfully, she said - because the family wouldn't have had much of a meal otherwise.  

They lived frugally - these Great Depressioners.  My dad still follows me around the house when he visits - turning out lights, closing doors, telling me to 'close the refrigerator'.  Old habits die hard, right?

But I'm a baby-boomer.  Times were good.  Families had opportunity.  Opportunity to own a little piece of paradise - a home, a car, a chicken in every pot....  I look back on my childhood and am amazed at how we did it.   My mom didn't start working until my youngest sister started kindergarten - and even then, she was home before we got home from school.  We played outside with the neighborhood kids - we ate dinner as a family - we even watched TV (our one and only TV) as a family.  Of course, there were no video games, no computers, no ipads, no cellphones....

The other day, out of curiosity, I looked up the house I lived in back in the 60's.  It was a not-too-big, kind of ordinary home, on a small corner lot in New Jersey.  Oh my!  In the years since we moved, that house has increased in value exponentially.  My husband and I wouldn't be able to afford it - and we both work at respectable jobs - I'm a teacher, he's a senior NCO in the Army.  OK, I'll back up a little - economically speaking - the value of an item is what a buyer is willing to pay for it - what the market will support.  The value of that house is really not equal to its listed price except by virtue of its location.  New Jersey is expensive.  Period.

Times have definitely changed.  It boggles my mind to think how much they've changed since my parents' growing-up years.  Transportation, communication, technology.  Oh my goodness!  Technology.  My father used to work with a computer the size of a house - now he and my mom have a laptop they can carry around the house with who-knows-how-many-times the processing speed and memory of the behemoth from the 60s.  Technology.  Video games that read body movements - no controller, drones.  Good grief, my husband has a remote-controlled helicopter - a Christmas gift - that he uses with his ipad.  I can just imagine what my farm-grandmother would have said to see that thing flying - literally flying - around her house!  Technology.  Digital cameras.  Wow.  Internet.  Double wow.  DVRs, cable, satellite, onDemand, netflix, redbox, flashdrives - I can't even begin to list all of the changes, the inventions - even since I went to college.  Cellphones, for pity's sake.  I can check my email, text-message, facebook - I can stream pictures from who-knows-where in iCloud.  I can make a shopping list, or grocery list, or write myself a note.  I can put in appointments AND get reminders for appointments.  I can program the ring tones so I know the difference between calls from friends and calls from strangers, the difference between calls and messages.... My phone is smarter than I am!

Here's the thing.  Our lives - the complications, the technology, the availability to information, the absolute excess of choices - can draw us away from what is true, what is forever.  Can draw us away from God, sometimes we forget - in all of our excesses to love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.   We are drawn from keeping Him first, from His Son, His life and His light.

How are we to return?   The hard part is making sure to include God in our busy-ness.  The easy part is making sure to include God in our busy-ness.  Truly.   It's a shift in our thinking that makes the difference.  God isn't an addition to our world.  He's not an add-on.  He IS our world.  We just have to recognize Him - in everything.  Even the technology - He created the universe; I'm thinking He probably had a hand in some of these new-fangled inventions as well.  It's not too much of stretch...

God, Maker of the Universe, thank-you for technology.  Thank you for these things that connect us and make our lives easier.  Thank you for Malachi - who years ago, recognized that You are always, always here for us.  Times really haven't changed so very much, God.  Thank you.

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