An introduction to the "Good Ol' Days" and a brief explanation of what a post telling about the Fourth of July has to do with the beginning of Autumn
(Press "play"—the little arrow button below—for an audio intro . . .)
These Are the Good Ol' Days
This day is colored to please.
A slip’n’slide cuts a broad swath of blue across Grandpa and Grandma’s lawn while young bodies attempt all kinds of stunts on the slippery slope. My dad converses with Melissa’s dad at the top of the slide while grandkids hurtle their bodies between.
Below, among the orchard trees, five tents in yellow, blue, green, and gray dot the grass. We might be a bit more tired for having slept on the ground last night, but memories are worth a little discomfort. Of course, I’m not qualified to speak for everyone; I slept quite comfortably and stayed warm and dry, though the dew lay thick on the lawn this morning.
To the left is the kickball diamond where, a couple of hours ago, a friendly battle handed the victor’s crown to our opponents. But really, we were all winners, cheering the youngest, lauding the eldest, and surrounding every person with affection’s warmth.
Blue overhead, softened by a touch of northwest gray, is a special blessing—the forecast suggested showers. It’s true that the temperature is only 63° F, but we’re enjoying the relative warmth of this summer day after a late, wet spring.
We’re busy people who’ve gathered here on this Fourth of July: busy with our own lives and families, our own defeats and victories, our own private struggles and pain. And we don’t often stop to enjoy the good gifts of God to us. Separated by our own pursuits, we traverse the path with our eyes on our feet, our noses to the grindstone of life.
In truth, we might not have made room in the schedule for this get-together if it weren’t Mom and Dad Perry’s chosen way to celebrate their fiftieth wedding anniversary.
Did I say fifty years? And today marks seventeen years since my bride and I vowed our lives to one another before God.
For a moment, the curtain lifts on the scene before me. Just beyond the slip’n’slide I envision first-time drivers, newly licensed for the challenges of twenty-first century roads. Just beyond childish noises and tottering steps, I imagine wedding bells, and voices, thick with emotion, vowing their lives. Just beyond the vibrant colors of today, I recognize the sepia tones of antique photos and faded memories.
These are the good ol’ days.
It’s easy to long for times that have already passed or to wish for what’s yet to come. There’s a certain security in dwelling with those whose character is sealed by the grave, whose expended deeds are fully known. It’s hard to be disappointed by those whose words no longer wound, whose actions are all finished. They are relegated to the world of ideals; we can shape them to fit our minds.
But in real life, the people of the past people just like us. They had hopes and dreams; they wounded others and were wounded by them; they knew the colors of life under the sun. They weren’t always dim portraits staring out from age-encrusted frames.
They lived in their time just as completely as we live only in ours.
Luke considers King David in Acts 13:36. “For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep and was laid with his fathers and saw corruption. . .” David accomplished God’s purpose for him, and then . . . and then he stepped off the scene of this life and into the life to come.
I’m looking forward to meeting David someday. His life, his struggles and failures along with his joys and triumphs, has opened the way of God to me. I want to sit down with the King and hear him play his harp, listen to his perfected voice sing praise to the King of Kings. I want to tell him how his love for God has increased my devotion, how his songs have become my own songs in the night.
But David’s days, in many ways, were no different from my own. He ate and drank, he grew tired and sick, he aged and died. Sure, he was royalty, God’s chosen man for a special time. But he was only a man. And, come to think of it, we who are children of God are kings, too—kings and priests to God forever.
History is often gilded by imagination, all the neon errors of the past are turned to romantic sepia tones. We’d like to live in such ideal times—when children respected adults . . . when the populace respected the Bible . . . when the courts administered justice . . . when preachers taught the truth and the people turned from their sins. We’d like to live in a less complicated age. No cell phones and social networks, no long commutes to work, no disturbing bioethical decisions or distressing lose-lose elections.
It’s true that times past were different—but they were also much the same. The nature of man hasn’t changed.
We’re a bit dyslexic when we consider the past. We envy its removal from the real and difficult world of today while castigating its leaders for their errors, knowing that we’d do a better job of life. We wouldn’t pollute the rivers coursing through our land or run native Americans to reservations or condone the bigoted practice of human slavery.
That’s the essence of what the Pharisees communicated to Jesus: “If we had lived in the days of our fathers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.” Nonsense, Jesus says. “Thus you witness against yourselves that you are sons of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of your fathers” (Matthew 23:31–32). While building monuments to yesterday’s martyrs, they sought to kill today’s Prophet.
Zeal to rectify the errors of the past, self-righteous indignation against former injustices, can blind us to our own problems.
In varnishing the past or repudiating it, we miss the injunction, “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24). Today is our chance to do the will of God; today is our opportunity to enjoy the good gifts of the Father.
The “day” the Psalmist had in mind was the day when the despised Stone became the Cornerstone. Prophetically, these words anticipate Jesus’ advent. Peter declares, “This Jesus is the Stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the Cornerstone” (Acts 4:11). A momentous day indeed, and the greatest cause for rejoicing to those who love Him.
Another cornerstone was laid in the days of Ezra. The people gathered to celebrate the commencement of the project to rebuild the temple borrowing language the very language of Psalm 118, “For He is good, for His steadfast love endures forever . . .” (Ezra 3:11; Psalm 118:29).
But then, as in our day, confusion and distress mingled with joy. “And when the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the Lord . . . all the people shouted with a great shout . . . But many of the . . . old men who had seen the first house, wept with a loud voice . . . so that the people could not distinguish the sound of the joyful shout from the sound of the people’s weeping . . .” (Ezra 3:10–13).
Today’s triumph was marred by the memory of what had been.
We can learn from the past; we can sow justice in fields where evil once was cultivated. But we cannot live for what was. Today is our day, and when God’s purpose for us is done, we, like David will sleep with our fathers.
These are the good old days when the might of God can work through us, when we can bend our minds to the task and keep our hand on the plow. These are the good old days—before they’ve been glazed by rosy memory or encrusted by superficial judgments. These are the good old days for us to live.
I once knew an elderly widow who kissed the photos of her deceased parents every night before bedtime. I don’t fault her for cherishing memories or honoring those whose lives were inextricably bound up in her own. Those are good things; but if the past ever swallows up the present—if today’s good is strangled by the remembrance of good gone by—then life is as empty as a stiff black-and-white portrait, and just about as useless.
As I hear the hum of little knots of conversation on this special day and watch the antics of children slithering down the slide, I can see the patina already beginning to form. This day will be a beautiful memory when years have piled upon it and the dust of time has blurred my vision. But never again will I enjoy it as I can right now. This day is my day—God’s day—to fulfill His purpose through me.