In the year 2000…

When I was a kid growing up in the 1980s, we often talked about what life would be like in the future. A common expression to introduce such daydreams was, “In the year 2000….”

That phrase and concept became the basis for a bit on Late Night with Conan O’Brien on NBC. Conan satirized futuristic thinking with such quips as, “In the year 2000, Coke and Pepsi will merge, and successfully market a product called, ‘You Will Drink This Crap and Like It.'” and “Golfer Casey Martin will win the right to drive his golf cart, at the Indianapolis 500.”

Late night comedy aside, there was a time in the mid-20th Century that Americans genuinely had a sense of optimism. And why not? We had won World War II, new technologies were emerging daily, medical advancements were curing once-fatal diseases, and America enjoyed a time of peace and prosperity.

This optimism was captured by the above-posted Walter Cronkite special. All the way back in 1967, he predicted multiple channels and digital TV listings, large screen TVs, the internet, the home office, homeschooling, and online recipes. The technology we have today isn’t as clunky as demonstrated by Cronkite, but it accomplishes the same thing.

“By 2001, home computers will be just as common as telephones,” Cronkite predicted. That was a huge prediction, considering that most computers in 1967 took up entire rooms, and the home computer hadn’t been invented yet.

He also predicted 6-hour workdays and month-long vacations. Those didn’t quite pan out.

The optimism of the 1960s didn’t just provide a wishful look at the future, it inspired greatness. We founded companies, invented products, built schools and bought homes knowing that life in the future was going to be better. By the time the 1980s rolled around, we were dreaming of flying cars, holograms, teleportation, and world peace.

The assumption in town was that the town would grow, and the business community wanted to grow with it. The bowling alley bought the land next door to build a putt-putt course. The skating rink expanded to add an arcade. The mall installed an ice rink in the center of all the action. Remember when the mall was the place to be?

The optimism that spurred the joy and growth of the late 20th Century is gone. No longer do we hold the assumption that technology will improve, that the economy will grow, and the town will get bigger. We no longer assume that the next generation will enjoy a better standard of living than our own. In fact, many believe it will be worse.

In a world where America won the Cold War, and rapid advancements are being made in technology and medicine, we no longer look to better times in the future. Instead of preparing to grow, we assume that tough times are ahead, and we fortify ourselves for the downturn.

So, what happened? What changed?

Is it the vitriolic nature of the political discourse of the day? Is it the ongoing threat of lawsuits? Is it the declining manufacturing sector due to increased overseas competition?

I can’t place my finger on it. If you can, let me know.

Meanwhile, I’m going to enjoy the times we have now. If life has taught me anything, it’s that I will one day look back on today, in spite of its difficulties, and say, “those were the days.” Who knows, maybe I’ll catch a daydream of how great tomorrow can be.

The Lost Art of Leisure

16708472_10211627013496723_1898660107827657514_n“The world went and got itself into a big ole hurry,” wrote Brooks Hatlin to his former cellmates at Shawshank prison in the movie, The Shawshank Redemption. Brooks had served a 50 year sentence in Shawshank before being paroled in 1954.

While the pace of life in 1954 seems like a leisurely dream today, it moved at a breakneck speed for those accustomed to the pace of life in 1904, like Brooks.

The more time passes, the faster the pace of life. It’s not your imagination, and it’s not the effect of age. Life is really more hectic today than it was in 1954, or 1984, heck, even 2004.

The fast pace of life today would surprise futurists of the 1960s, who predicted that computer technology and automation systems would reduce Americans’ workloads, resulting in more time for leisure. Instead, computer technology and automation systems led to large scale layoffs. While those laid-off workers ultimately found new work in a growing economy, the fact remains that automation didn’t cut down on workload, but rather increased the demands that employers placed on workers.

It’s a far-cry from the world envisioned by Walter Cronkite on his 1967 CBS News special which looked forward to life in 2001. Instead of a life of leisure, Americans are spending one of the most prosperous and technologically advanced periods in world history trying to keep up with rising demands.

Lost in all this is the art of leisure. In time past, workers had weekends off. Fathers took their kids fishing, or to their Little League baseball games. Extended families gathered for cookouts in the back yard, weekend trips were taken, and nobody batted an eye when you took your annual two-week road-trip vacation.

Offices observed all the national holidays, and life really slowed down around Christmas, with many companies offering paid time off between Christmas and New Year’s.

All of that has gone by the wayside. Vacations are now four-day adventures in resorts, hotels, cruises, or the ever-so-popular “stay-cation,” where you take time off, but never leave the house.

At one time stores were closed on Sundays. Today, they remain open. Retailers open on Thanksgiving to get an early start to the Christmas shopping season.

All of this has built into a perfect storm where Americans not only face ridiculous expectations at work, but also live their off-time in a frenzy, trying to accomplish as much as possible in as little time as possible, all while neglecting to rest.

During a recent interview with Michael P. Foley, author of The Politically Incorrect Guide to Christianity, I asked what we could do as Americans to defend and preserve Christmas traditions. Foley said that we can preserve and defend Christmas simply by taking the time off and enjoying the holiday. He noted that we used to take Christmas off, as well as every Sunday, for leisure, adding that God gave us one day of rest per week.

He said if we truly want to preserve Christmas, we should observe it by taking the time off and enjoying that time with our families. Obviously, if you are in the military or are a first responder, this may not be an option. For those of us who have this option, however, we should take it.

It’s time that we all stop and take a look at what’s important in life. Look at your commitments, prioritize what’s most important to you, then budget your time and money accordingly. As you do this, set aside time for leisure. Take a day a week where you have no commitments, where you take a day to do nothing. Go fishing. Play a board game with the kids. Go to the local park. Take leisure.

Doing so doesn’t make you lazy. It brings you into harmony with God’s plan, which offers a day of rest every week, and periodic rest throughout the year. As Psalm 127:2 says, “He giveth his beloved sleep.”

Follow this rule, and you’ll never face sexual harassment charges

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Rep. Trent Franks

Salem radio talker Mike Gallagher opened the second hour of his radio show today by asking what the rules were regarding sexual harassment in the workplace. The question was posed in response to a breaking story about Congressman Trent Franks resigning after asking female staffers to be surrogate mothers so that he and his wife can have a baby.

National Public Radio reports that Rep. Franks (R-Arizona) gave the following statement regarding his resignation:

“Given the nature of numerous allegations and reports across America in recent weeks, I want to first make one thing completely clear. I have absolutely never physically intimidated, coerced, or had, or attempted to have, any sexual contact with any member of my congressional staff,” Franks said in a statement. “However, I do want to take full and personal responsibility for the ways I have broached a topic that, unbeknownst to me until very recently, made certain individuals uncomfortable. And so, I want to shed light on how those conversations came about.”

While Rep. Franks may not be guilty of sexual aggression, asking a female member of your staff to have your baby, even through surrogacy, is a really big deal. It’s not something you bring up in the break room or during a staff meeting. It’s even more inappropriate to bring it up in the office during work hours.

Rep. Franks, who has already fathered a set of twins through surrogacy may not have realized how inappropriate his discussions would feel to his staff, but had he followed a simple rule, he would still be looking forward to a long congressional career.

Do not treat any woman in any way that would offend you if committed by another man toward your wife. In other words, if you would have a problem with another man doing something to your wife, then don’t do that thing to other women. Before you make that comment, or put your arm around that co-worker, picture another man saying the same thing, or putting his arm around your wife. If that thought upsets you, then keep your comment and your hands to yourself.

So, let’s take that rule and apply it to some common situations that can happen around the office. First, the obvious. Personal contact.

How would you respond if you walked into your wife’s office to find her boss there with his arm around her? What if you walked into your wife’s office and a male co-worker was massaging her shoulders? Does that thought bother you? (It should.) Then don’t go putting your arm around your female co-workers, and for heaven’s sake, don’t give them massages.

Next, let’s look at verbal communication. Many of the sexual harassment claims made in HR departments center around verbal conduct in the presence of staff. Scripture tells us that the tongue is a fire, a serious statement when you consider the fires that burn in Southern California right now. As a fire, a misguided word can create a small problem that becomes a major tragedy before the flames can be extinguished. Therefore, we should guard our words closely, not only because they can create massive problems for us, but also because scripture commands us.

So, let’s take our rule, do not that which would offend you if another man did it to your wife, and apply it to our speech.

Would you be offended if another man commented about the size of your wife’s backside, or any other part of her anatomy? Would you be offended if another man told your wife that she looked attractive in her dress? What if he told her she had beautiful eyes? Personally, all of those scenarios would bother me. Therefore, I do not make those comments to female co-workers.

I find it interesting that so many accusations of sexual harassment could be avoided if people would just follow this simple rule, which is actually derived from the Golden Rule, which Christ stated in Matthew 7:12, “Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.”

Or, as more commonly quoted, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

Obey God and do as you please

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Photo by Anthony Pepitone

Pete Seeger is probably the most influential man whose name you probably have never heard. A social activist of the 1960s, he wrote songs promoting environmentalism, civil rights, the counterculture, and songs opposing the Vietnam War.

He popularized the song, “We Shall Overcome,” which became the anthem for the Civil Rights Movement, and his song “Turn, Turn, Turn (To Everything There is a Season)” became a major hit for the Byrds, and a musical standard for the 1960s.

The song, “Turn, Turn, Turn,” was taken almost verbatim from Ecclesiastes 3 in the King James Bible. The song itself was used as an anthem to call for an end to the Vietnam War, with the final line stating, “a time for peace, I swear it’s not too late.” Those who listen to the song can find themselves transported to a peaceful state of mind, relaxing and just enjoying the moment.

The irony of “Turn, Turn, Turn” is that Seeger rejected the Bible as scripture. He did not believe the Bible is God’s word, and he thought much of the book was a collection of folk tales and poetry. In an interview with Paul Zollo, which later appeared in the book, Songwriters on Songwriting, Seeger discussed his views on the Bible:

I don’t read the Bible that often. I leaf through it occasionally and I’m amazed by the foolishness at times and the wisdom at other times. I call it the greatest book of folklore ever given. Not that there isn’t a lot of wisdom in it. You can trace the history of people poetically.

Ironically, Seeger’s biggest hit came by setting music to the wisdom of Solomon in Ecclesiastes 3. The idea came after Seeger’s publisher complained that he was unable to sell the protest songs which he was writing. Seeger, a social activist at heart, put the music to the scripture, hoping that the publisher would hear a Top-40 hit, and that the listeners would hear a call for peace.

Further irony is that a song that became an anthem for peace in the 1960s also proclaimed there was a time for war, a time to kill, a time to hate, and a time to cast away stones. Also, there was a time for peace, a time to heal, a time to love and a time to gather stones together.

The opening lines say it all, “To every thing there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven.”

Seeger rejected the Bible as God’s word, and as such rejected the one who could put more power into those lyrics than David Crosby or Roger McGuinn ever could.

Ecclesiastes is a popular book among atheists and agnostics because of its seemingly humanistic approach to life. In many places, the book claims that life is empty, and none of man’s works will last for eternity. Therefore, one should simply enjoy the simple pleasures of life and the fruit of his labor. That approach to Ecclesiastes is extremely dangerous, because it plays right into the error that the writer was warning against.

Taken in its context, words of wisdom from a King who wanted his people to live with the enlightenment of the Lord’s wisdom, Ecclesiastes teaches that life outside of God’s presence is empty. It’s pointless. It is temporary and the struggles of life are futile.

The lesson in all this is that God is in control, and there is nothing we can do to add to, or to take away from, the plan that He is working on this Earth. Therefore, we should be content to live with the blessings God has given us, to learn the purpose of the seasons of life we endure, and to obey and reverence God.

Furthermore, we should eat and drink, and enjoy the good of all our labor, for it is the gift of God (Ecclesiastes 3:13). While we do that, we should give thanksgiving to God for that gift.

Or as one theologian put it, “Obey God and do as you please.”

Had Seeger understood this concept, he would not only have seen that the wars, conflicts, and times of peace and prosperity served God’s purpose, but he still would have been free to pursue his social agenda of equal rights and preserving God’s creation. Instead, he will be mildly remembered as the man behind a happy little ditty from the 1960s.

God created you with a purpose. Ephesians 2:10 says that we are created in Christ Jesus unto good works which God before ordained that we should walk in them. In giving us that purpose, he gave us passion for that purpose and the talent to pursue it. Do not separate your spiritual/church life from your daily life. The whole of your persona was built in when God formed you in the womb.

‘Time’ gets it right

24785167_922801561217477_4010651896843101497_oJanet reports to her evening shift at a fast food franchise where she has worked as an assistant manager for the past six months. Her assignment tonight is the same as every night, organize her crew of teenagers and college students into a well-oiled machine that serves up burgers within 90-seconds of being ordered, all while minimizing food and labor costs.

It’s a good job that pays well above the median household income for the local area, but keeping a crew of 12 teenagers in line can be a headache sometimes. She is flanked by two shift leads, who manage the grill and front counter operations.

Tonight is a wild night. It’s the local high school’s homecoming, business is heavy, and crowds will soon let out from the homecoming football game to swarm the establishment for the post-game meal.

As the crew ramps up for the Friday night rush, Jimmy, an 18-year old cook who has been on the crew for two years, grabs Tommy, another 18 year old cook, and twists his nipple. Both boys laugh, as does much of the crew. Tommy then looks at Janet and says, “Did you see what Jimmy did? Can I do that to you?”

Janet brushes off the statement, but Tommy persists, even advancing toward her. She orders Tommy back on the job, which he ultimately does after cornering her near the office door.

Janet calls the store’s general manager. Tommy is fired. Jimmy is suspended. A memo is posted concerning appropriate conduct in the workplace, the company’s policy is restated, and the crew is reminded that sexual harassment is not tolerated at this establishment.

However, the damage has been done. The crew turns on Janet, many of whom were friends to Tommy and Jimmy. The two shift leads mock Janet by re-enacting the scene to the amusement of the crew.

The company handled the situation properly, but the crew and middle-managers continued the behavior. Thinking that the company could not fire the entire crew and both shift leads, Janet resigns herself to the situation. Her two options were to quit, or continue working and hope the company joke would soon fade. She chose the latter, and eventually things returned to normal.

Time Magazine honored women like Janet when they named “The Silence Breakers” as Person of the Year this year. All who spoke out against sexual harassment and sexual assault under the #MeToo movement on social media are counted as “Silence Breakers.”

The #MeToo movement gained steam nationally in the wake of sexual assault allegations against Harvey Weinstein, and continued to build with each new set of allegations leveled at Hollywood elites, politicians and business moguls. Sexual harassment and assault victims, mostly women, posted the hashtag on social media, with some telling their stories.

The #MeToo movement has its share of critics. Some blast the movement as a cheap political stunt, while others make jokes about celebrities like Monica Lewinsky joining the movement.

But to politicize the movement, or turn it into a punchline is to spit in the face of the millions of women who post their #MeToo stories on social media, and the millions more who remain silent.

You see, the #MeToo movement is not about disarming a political party, taking out political opponents, or even “taking it to the man.” It’s about giving people like Janet a voice, raising awareness of an issue that many didn’t know was so widespread, comforting the victims by showing they are not alone, all while sending a message that sexually aggressive behavior will no longer be tolerated.

Without regard to the political affiliations of those who started and promoted the movement, #MeToo is the right choice for Person of the Year. It brought to light a rampant sin that needed to be stopped, and it shaped not only the news cycle, but our cultural perceptions of this issue over the past year.

May we repent of our sexual immorality that has allowed this problem to persist unchecked for so long.

Pixar has us coo-coo for Coco

Coco_(2017_film)_posterToy Story. Finding Nemo. Cars. Up. Wall-E. Iconic Pixar movies that defined the childhood of a generation, and gave parents precious memories with their kids. These films moved us in theaters, and babysat our children once released to home video.

With each classic Pixar released, it was hard to imagine that a better film could be made. Then, without fail, Pixar’s next movie would elevate the theatrical experience to the next level. Their latest release, Coco, is no different.

The film centers around Miguel, a 12 year old boy growing up in Mexico who dreams of being a famous musician, even though his family forbids music after his great-great grandfather abandoned the family to pursue a music career. Miguel idolizes Ernesto de la Cruz, a popular film/music star of the early 20th who died years earlier in a tragic stage accident. De la Cruz hailed from Miguel’s hometown, furthering the young boy’s fantasy that one day he could be as famous as the Mexican film/music icon.

Through a series of sordid events, Miguel comes to believe that he is the great-great grandson of De la Cruz, and when the local talent show begins at the town plaza, he tries to borrow De la Cruz’ guitar from his grave site. That decision sets off a chain reaction that lands Miguel in the Land of the Dead during the Mexican holiday of Dia de Muertos, the one day the dead can return to the land of the living to visit their descendants.

The adventure sees Miguel reunited with his ancestors, separated from his ancestors, and reunited with De la Cruz, where he learns what is truly important to him. His adventure changes the Land of the Dead, as well as the Land of the Living forever.

Coco is Pixar’s best movie yet, because it touches people of all backgrounds. There are characters with which kids, adults, and seniors can identify. If I could have taken my dog, there would have been a character for her. The movie relates to career successes, sacrifices for family, hopes, dreams and fears. There’s not one part of the human spirit, save for a connection to God, that this film doesn’t touch.

The movie experience was so uplifting that I stayed and watched the credits.

Among the many themes found in the movie, the one that really stood out to me was the need to be remembered. According to the movie, (and Mexican legend), on Dia de Muertos, the dead are able to return to the land of the living to visit their descendants provided that those descendants post a picture of them on an ofrenda, and remember them. This ofrenda also includes things the dead ancestor enjoyed during life, like food, or musical instruments.

Those in the Land of the Dead whose families do not post pictures or ofrendas to them are denied entry into the Land of the Living, and are stuck in the Land of the Dead without family or friends.

If no one on earth remembered you, then you also vanished from the Land of the Dead into non-existence. Therefore, it was important to each resident of the Dead to be remembered, and to have their family post an ofrenda in their honor.

Families in Mexico still celebrate this holiday. It speaks to the natural fear of death, the wish for an eternal existence postmortem, and the need to be remembered. It is on these aspects of the human existence that Coco spoke the most clearly. Coco also addressed our desire to remember our loved ones fondly who have passed on before us.

One of the most difficult things to deal with in life is death. It’s hard to face our own mortality, and it is hard to deal with the loss of a close friend or family member. Dia de Muertos is a way Mexican residents have learned to cope with the loss.

However, scripture tells us that we can all have an eternal resurrection if we know Jesus Christ as our personal savior. Scripture also foretells of a day described by African American preachers in the South as “That glad gettin’ up morning.”

1 Thessalonians 4:16-18 says:

For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words.

The day is coming when the Lord will reunite us with our loved ones. Moreover, we will be reunited with the Lord Himself.

These promises are made to all who repent and trust Jesus Christ as their personal savior. Have you made that decision? If you have, then the biggest and best family reunion ever planned is coming your way.

Take heart. This life is merely a preparation for the next. Live accordingly.

Merry Christmas, I don’t want to fight this year

Andrew KlavanA secular Jew who loved Christmas, that’s how you would have described Andrew Klavan (pictured right) as a young child growing up on Long Island, N.Y.  Klavan, author of the True Crime series, as well as other mystery/suspense novels, in addition to providing commentary for The Daily Wire, shared in his autobiography how the joyousness of the holiday attracted him to Christmas.

The Great Good Thing chronicled Klavan’s journey from secular Jew, to agnostic, to Christian by detailing the influences that shaped his faith and worldview. He wrote that as a child, he was attracted to the festiveness of the holiday, as well as the presents and the music that made Christmas the splendid celebration we have enjoyed over the centuries.

A friend of the family used to send Klavan Christmas presents, a practice his mother ended. When Klavan protested, his mother allowed him to celebrate Christmas with a Christian family down the street. Even though Christmas was synonymous with toys, Tonka trucks and candy, it was the music and festivities that attracted him to the holiday well into his adult years.

The joy of Christmas is contagious. The holiday spirit spreads like wildfire this time of year. And even though most people celebrate the holiday with the secular traditions of music, parties and gift exchanges, it does provide an opportunity for us to share Christ with an unbelieving culture. The joy of Christmas is a conduit through which we can transmit God’s message of love, redemption and hope, if we conduct ourselves properly.

Over the past several years, we have seen a national debate over “The War on Christmas.” Now, companies should not prevent their employees from celebrating or even acknowledging Christmas. We should advocate for those employees rights.

However, the Christmas war involving greetings or decor in retail locations concerns me. It concerns me that we organize boycotts over a store hanging “happy holidays” in their window, or accost a store clerk for uttering the same phrase to a customer as he checks out.

Often, very little thought goes into saying “happy holidays.” Most of the time, it’s just a catch-phrase that goes with the season. That, or it’s said to include the other holidays of this season, like New Years.

I have said this before, and I’ve been branded an apostate for it, but I do not believe we do the cause of Christ any good when we complain to store managers about “happy holidays” or correct retail employees for saying that phrase. In our battle to keep “Merry Christmas” on the tips of everyone’s tongue, I believe we lose sight of the larger mission to spread Christmas cheer and to re-insert the Gospel into a cultural cornerstone.

If the joy of Christmas can be the starting point for drawing a young secular Jew like Klavan into the faith, imagine what could happen if we let that joy permeate throughout our culture. Imagine how many other Klavans are out there.

So, as we enjoy a wonderful Christmas season, let’s remember the word of God, inscribed in Colossians 4:6, “Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.”

If someone tells you “Happy Holidays,” gently respond with “Merry Christmas.” And if you get a chance to share the Reason for the season, then by all means, do.