OLD & GRAY

 "Forever young." We assign this label to anyone taken before their time, and it carries with it a mystique reserved for those who never grow old. A prime example would be Alexander the Great, who died of a mysterious ailment at the age of 32.

Alexander was unique in that he did not sport the Greek beard of his time. His father had a beard. His teacher had a beard. Nearly every Greek male grew a beard as he entered manhood — why not Alexander? Some have spread the myth that Alexander ordered his men to shave so that enemies couldn't grab their beards during battle, but there is no historical evidence to back up the claim.

The real reason: because Alexander was widely thought of as a demigod (it helps when you spread rumors about yourself). Though Philip II was acknowledged as his father, a myth persisted that Alexander's true father was Zeus, the king of all gods. Since the gods were immortal, they were forever young, usually depicted as eternally 18 years old — too young to grow a passable beard. This part of the Greek "heroic ideal." (read about this and more in Of Beards and Men)

Alexander shaved because he thought of himself as a god. He wanted to appear forever young.

Humanity has always had a problem with aging. Wrinkles begin to form on our foreheads, and we frown into the mirror. It becomes more difficult to drop weight; our metabolism fights against us the entire way. The hair either falls out or begins to gray. Joints creak, pop, and ache. Sentences begin with "Things were so much better when..."

PAY ATTENTION: the global anti-aging industry is worth $250 billion per year. Despite our differences, the nations of the world have at least two things in common: we place a premium on youth, and we seek to conceal age at any cost.

Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is gained in a righteous life.   ///   Proverbs 16:31

The glory of young men is their strength, and the splendor of old men is their gray head.   ///   Proverbs 20:29

The elderly are routinely mocked. Their worldviews are considered antiquated — maybe even quaint. Their stories are met with a smirk and a knowing glance to peers: "If only they knew how the world actually works." Hollywood specializes in "coming of age" stories, in which the protagonist is an agonizing teen entering adulthood, surrounded by ignorant parents and corrupt authority figures. We place a premium on this occasion, yet seek to diminish the importance of actual wisdom.

Despite our admiration for the young and demonization of anyone who wears their belt a little too high, the steady march of time catches up with us all, so we often respond with panic. Snip this! Tuck this! Make me young again! PLEASE DON'T LET ME DIE!

Yet time and tide wait for no man.

As I write this blog post, the gray hair has begun popping up above my ears (especially on the right side, for some reason #nosymmetry). My knees pop each time I stand up. My ankles ache in cold weather, and I find myself looking around with a scowl on my face saying like, "Smells like rain! Mmm-hmm. Yep."

I'm in the middle of the transition into middle age, and I'm keenly aware of the process. When I was younger (15-25 or so), I treated elders with respect but felt myself patronize them at times. I didn't always understand their mindset, but I just nodded and played along. I felt that younger people "got" this world and how to live in it — how to make it better. I honored my elders, but I didn't fully trust their capacity to understand this rapidly changing culture.

But time has a way of altering perception. I see young people's frustration with the older generation, and I see the older generation's concern for the young. Though it feels unique, the story has remained the same throughout history — the idealism of youth clashes with the pragmatism of experience.

But what keeps the young from becoming less like Absalom hanging from a tree and more like Solomon dedicating the Temple? It must be reverence.

Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”   ///   1 Peter 5:5

Young person, don't dismiss the voice of those who have watched the decades roll by, yet remain with us. Perhaps their pace havs slowed, but the years of experience grant them an understanding that cannot be replicated except by thousands of days lived and lessons learned.

Like Tell Sackett told the young gunslinger who challenged his friend, Cap Roundtree:

"Don't try ridin' herd over this man, boy. Those wrinkles are war maps. He's fought injuns, grizzly, and seen a hundred struttin' peacocks like you get takin' down hard."

The frustration and angst that permeates our society must not be allowed to destroy our reverence for the pillars that have established and supported not only our churches but also our world. Yes, some blemishes from our past (perhaps most obviously, racism) stain the pages of history, but many our elders are the ones who played vital roles in beginning to right these wrongs.

As they shake their heads and worry, "I don't know what this world is coming to," please do not dismiss their longing for a time that is no more. There was value in our collective innocence.

Wisdom is with the aged, and understanding in length of days.   ///   Job 12:12

A culture obsessed with eternal youth idealizes those like Alexander the Great (32), James Dean (24), Kurt Cobain (27), Amy Winehouse (27), Tupac Shakur (25), and Heath Ledger (28). We look at their young faces in retrospective pieces and think, "Oh, to never grow old."

Yet the Word of God places a premium on the wisdom that comes with time. Alexander the Great wished to appear as a god by appearing younger, but we read a different story of a different God...

His head and His hair were white like white wool, like snow; and His eyes were like a flame of fire.   ///   Revelation 1:14

It's not necessarily the experience of watching the world change over the years that establishes wisdom; it's the overcoming of thousands of genuine obstacles in life. They say that those who do not know their history are doomed to repeat it. What better way to learn our history than through the voices of those can provide a first-hand account?

The first commandment in the Bible accompanied by a promise is that which tells us, "Honour your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you." Let us make up our minds to honor our elders. Let us listen to them. Let us stop seeking out every fault and determine to focus on the principles that shaped those like the "Greatest Generation."

Remember:

That which appears weathereD
is that which has endured.


Additional Bible reading:

A wise son heeds his father's instruction, but a scoffer does not listen to rebuke.
Proverbs 13:1
Listen to counsel and receive instruction, that you may be wise in your latter days.
Proverbs 19:20
Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother,” which is the first commandment with promise: “that it may be well with you and you may live long on the earth.” And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord.
Ephesians 6:1-4
You shall rise before the gray headed and honor the presence of an old man, and fear your God: I am the Lord.
Leviticus 19:32
Do not rebuke an older man, but exhort him as a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, with all purity.
1 Timothy 5:1-2
Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially those who labor in the word and doctrine.
1 Timothy 5:17

MONDAY MO(U)RNING - 9.8.1

I skipped a week already, but this is just another collection of thoughts that have struck me in one form or another during the past two week, and I collected them and saved them for a post this Monday morning (since an average of four measly hours of productivity is standard for employees on Mondays — sorry, I don't have the link to the new story handy). This week's offerings are small, but they're here. I hope you enjoy.

1. THE iWATCH IS UPON US

Tomorrow at 12:00 PM CST, Apple is hosting an event to announce the new 4.7" (and possibly 5.5") iPhone 6. The rumors and leaks have been endless, but it's expected to look like this. The best news: the screens are finally getting larger (and on one model, much larger).

As I've gotten older and my eyes have worsened, I've actually been clamoring for a larger screen. I hate watching tiny little videos and reading tiny little text on my tiny little iPhone 5.

But honestly, I barely noticed that the iPhone screen was "small" until Android users started bragging about their ginormous HTC Ones and Samsung Galaxies, which I wrote off until I held one particular phone: the Moto X. Coincidentally, the original had a 4.7" screen. In my personal opinion, the 4.7" screen hits that perfect sweet spot where you can still comfortably hold it with one hand, but the screen is large enough to make for a significantly different experience. But you don't feel like you're carrying a tablet in your pocket.

But the iPhone 6 is (largely) a known quantity. What's really interesting is the possibility of the iWatch being announced. #EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE

We don't know what the iWatch looks like. We don't know exactly what it will do. We don't know how much it will cost or when it will be released. All we know is that it's coming, and Jony Ive told Switzerland to watch its back.

This is Apple at its most exciting in years. As a geek, this is practically another Christmas-caliber holiday.

2. THE DALLAS COWBOYS ARE GARBAGE

I'm a lifetime Cowboy fan, but they are. And I don't really have anything else to say about this.

3. I'M WRITING A BOOK, AND IT'S NOT EASY

I've alluded to it before, but I've been writing a book for about two years now. Actually, I was gathering information and thoughts for a different book for a decade, but I've since moved on, and I'm not sure I'll ever finish it. However, the current book is something I'm 100% committed to, but I don't know when it will be ready for release.

The subject of my book: awkward topics for modern Christians. I'm discussing the issues that people either seem unwilling to discuss, questions people don't want to ask out loud, and anything else that makes us squirm. I enjoy uncomfortable topics, so it seemed like a natural progression.

To one day write a book has been a goal of mine since I was a child, so I can't forget about this project. It's important to me. I don't have any delusions of grandeur — I don't believe it will sell a lot of copies or get me special attention. It's simply a personal goal that I wish to accomplish, and if it helps a single person, then the time spent will be worth it.

I'll self-publish on the iBook store and Amazon, and I'm sure I'll do a brief social media blitz to let folks know when it's ready for release. I anticipate that it will be cheap (none of this $12.99 garbage), and looks like it will top out at around 300 pages. Pray for me that I get it done sooner rather than later.

Are You Happy?

You might have seen a widely-circulated story in late April concerning Courtney Sanford, the 32-year-old woman who was driving to work, snapping selfies and posting a status update to Facebook. After picking up her phone and telling her friends, "The happy song makes me HAPPY," she lost control of her car, drove across a grass median, and hit a large truck head-on. Sanford was pronounced dead at the scene.

This story was a tragedy. We know the dangers of texting/posting while driving, yet millions of Americans like Courtney post about the minutia of their daily lives while behind the wheel.

But this post isn't about texting and driving.

The song Courtney posted about is Pharrell Williams' song, "Happy," which was featured prominently in the soundtrack to the family-friendly animated movie, Despicable Me 2. The chorus ends with these lines:

(BECAUSE I'M HAPPY)

CLAP ALONG IF YOU KNOW WHAT HAPPINESS IS TO YOU

(BECAUSE I'M HAPPY)

CLAP ALONG IF YOU FEEL LIKE THAT'S WHAT YOU WANNA DO


The idea behind the song is, "You know what makes you happy. Do it." The bridge repeats over and over, "Can't nothing bring me down."

The problem? We humans are really bad at figuring out what makes us happy.

This is why, regardless of the warnings of history, we're drawn to the materialism, wealth, sexual conquests, recreational drug use, and much more that we do in our search for peace and happiness. But we also know the darkness that follows. We knew of that darkness even before we fell victim, because something in our society's moral center tells us, "Some things are just wrong."

That moral center was the Church.

Over the course of several decades, the Church's influence was weakened. The quest for prosperity and the competitive spirit that is seemingly built into the American psyche filled us with passion and insecurity, which only left us searching for something more. The secular humanists that once constituted a fringe group found a platform in Hollywood, the music industry, higher education, literature, and the pages of the major American newspapers. The desired effect took time, but it worked.

At some point in the 20th century, the "If it feels good, do it," philosophy went from being the counter-culture rallying cry of secularists to something that made sense to many who called themselves Christians.

Ministers who preached a redeemed life separated from sin were branded "legalists," to the point that muscular preachers in skinny jeans across the continent regularly avoid the topics of sin and Hell — subjects, by the way, that Jesus didn't feel a need to avoid. As a matter of fact, Jesus regularly spoke of sin, Hell, and destruction.

The church should be a place of healing.
The church should be the central point of grace and mercy in every city.
The church should be a place to find counsel and wisdom.

But the church could be, should be, must be a place of correction.

Jesus' teachings centered around correcting institutionalized ways of thinking. The Apostle Paul routinely corrected (i.e. blistered) the churches to whom he directed his epistles. And have you read Revelation chapter 2? Holy moly, the New Testament is harsh.

Jesus wants to save us, and give our lives meaning. He wants us to stand with confidence, bodily proclaiming the Gospel — the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. But notice His words in John 8:10-11 (NKJV):

When Jesus had raised Himself up and saw no one but the woman, He said to her, “Woman, where are those accusers  of yours?  Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” And Jesus said to her, “Neither do I condemn you; go and sin no more.”

"I do not condemn you...GO AND SIN NO MORE."

If you want to be happy, begin eliminating the sin from your life. Jesus gave us the only answer for being held responsible for our sins, but never in the scripture did He give us a free license to commit unrepentent sin (See: Romans 6:15-23). If the Holy Spirit is meant to lead and guide us into all truth, then we must understand that TRUTH in the Scripture never leads us into the cares of this world.

That's why, when we are focused on ourselves, on worldly pleasures, on money, on sex, on temporary fulfillment, we always find ourselves desiring more. We inevitably look for something else — something greater, deeper, and lasting.

Do you want to be happy? Then love God more than anything.
Do you want to be happy? Then make choices that steer your life away from sin.
Do you want to be happy? Then bury yourself in God's Word. Discover who He is.
Do you want to be happy? Then rely on the One that created You.

I promise you: He knows what He's talking about.