July 9, 2017
How do you end that sentence? For all too many, the ending is Golf, a ball game, a soccer match, or some other recreational or sporting activity. For fewer and fewer the ending is “church”. I read recently that in America 51% of adults claim to be religious but that on average less than 20% of the people regularly attend church services on Sunday mornings. Declining attendance could be blamed on many things, but the one that I find most alarming is the trend over the last few years for organized youth activities like baseball, soccer, and hockey to view Sunday mornings as prime game or practice time. The result is whole families missing church because they have to be at a practice or a game during the times that churches are holding services.
I remember times when many states had what were called “blue laws” that required that all stores be closed on Sundays and no alcoholic beverages cold be sold, so that people could go to church. They were gradually weakened or abandoned, which was probably a good thing, but it started the process of viewing Sundays differently and with less emphasis on God and church. Now Sunday’s are all about almost anything else than going to church – sports, shopping, entertainment. There are 168 hours in each week and all that God asks for is that you take one of those hours to go to church and say thanks, by worshiping Him. Call me old fashion; but, that doesn’t seem like too much to ask.
Parents are expected to try to give their children opportunities in things like sports, but they should also take seriously the need to teach their children about God and the practice of religion. It’s hard to do that if parents choose to put their child into sports that demand their time on Sunday mornings. Some parents push back and say that the church needs to adapt and offer services at more convenient times. To them I would say, “No; you need to get your priorities right.” It is not right to place the worship of God second to the playing of a game. What lesson is that teaching your children and bye the way, where were you during the church service? Both you and your child or worse for the decision to place God after your games or other distractions.
I’ll stop for now; but I won’t stop trying to get people back to the values that are really important in life and cajoling everyone to make better decisions about how to use their time on Sunday mornings. You won’t find God sitting in the bleachers next to you at your child’s game.
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Posted by Norm Werner
June 27, 2017
I’m co-chair of the Independence Day Parade for the area in which I live. The parade, which is held on the 4th of July every year, is slowly dying out as fewer and fewer local businesses and organizations sign up to be in the parade and thus fewer parade watchers come out to see it. The parade, which used to attract up to 100 entries every year is down to less than half of that number and continuing to shrink.
There are many contributing factors to the loss of interest in the 4th of July parade, not the least of which is the fact that it occurs during the height of the summer vacation season. In our area, we have a really big and wonderful Memorial Day parade to honor veterans and those serving now, which siphons off some of the potential participants for the Independence Day parade. We used to get 5-10 scout troops – Cub Scouts and Brownies in particular – in the parade and now none show up. I’m sure economics play some role, too. This year many local cities and townships canceled their 4th of July fireworks because of budget issues. Having said all of that, I think another big reason is that many think they are too busy to take the time to march in or go see a parade.
That thought brought to mind this quote by Socrates – “Beware the barrenness of a busy life.” I think Socrates was trying to warn us about becoming too busy to appreciate and savor life. I’ve posted here before about the dangers of becoming so focused upon success in a career that one loses sight of why they are working in the first place – they lose touch with the family that they point to as the reason for their hard work They become so busy that their life and that of those they love becomes barren.
Next week we have the one opportunity that we get a year to stop our busy-work and take a moment to contemplate the birth of the greatest nation on earth, yet most are too busy to get into the parade that celebrates that event or to come watch it. Maybe it’s time to stop for a moment and consider what you are doing with the prime of the only life that you get. Are you too busy for family and friend? Are you constantly working and not taking any time to relax and enjoy the fruits of your labor? Are you perhaps confusing being busy with being productive or even with being happy? Is your busy life really fulfilling or has being busy all the time left it barren?
It is ironic somehow that the only two times in our lives that we seem to take the time to enjoy it are at the two ends of it. When we are children we are blissfully ignorant of the need to be busy all the time, although we seem to be most of the time. When we are elderly, we may finally get the time to slow down and enjoy life without the need to be busy. But, oh boy; in between those two ages, we seem to be heads down busy all the time. I’ve already posted here about the opportunity to take time for God at church having been preempted by sports – see What happened to Sundays? We’ve become a society that is too busy to stop and devote a couple of hours to church, when there are ball games and soccer matches and hockey games to be played.
There is only one solution to this problem and that is to just say no to the next busy thing that is demanding your time and instead take the time to go to church or to march in or watch the parade or to do the other things that aren’t on a To-Do list. Slow down, catch your breath, take time to think about and appreciate the things and people that are around you. You need not be busy 24/7. Life is not about being busy all the time. While most of you may not even know who he was, this quote by Eddie Cantor seems an appropriate way to end this post – “Slow down and enjoy life. It’s not only the scenery you miss by going too fast – you also miss the sense of where you are going and why.”
Come out and see our parade on the 4th of July; or, even better, be in it.
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Posted by Norm Werner
May 29, 2017
While I was at church this past Sunday, at least one of my grandsons and his dad were at a little league game that started at 9 AM that morning. It’s quite probable that another of my grandsons had a game, too. I thought back to when I was growing up and how Sunday was a day dedicated to church and family time, and not a day filled with organized sports or other activities. In fact, when I was a kid in Illinois the state still had “Blue Laws”, which made it illegal to sell alcohol on Sundays and illegal to open retail stores. We used to drive across the Mississippi River into Missouri to shop on Sunday afternoon (after church, of course).
Now, I’m certainly not advocating a return to the Blue Laws days; however, I do find it both disappointing and somewhat offensive that Sundays have been turned into sports days. It seems that every little league sport of any sort now views Sunday mornings as fair game for practices or actual games. If it’s not baseball, it’s soccer or hockey or basketball or whatever. Our children are not only lured into these things, but are now actually forced into them by the pressure to start competitive sports at younger and younger ages. II have seen articles that blame the passage of the Title 9 laws back in 1972. Those laws encouraged (some might say mandated) the creation of programs to educate and keep children busy (and off the streets). Out of that start more and more “little leagues” for all sports grew, until we have what we have today – seven-days a week sports activities that not only keep our kids off the streets but out of churches as well.
Why is that so important? I believe that a case can be made that the teachings that children used to get by attending church and Sunday School were a critical part of their development into responsible adults. It was, and still is, the primary place that focused upon establishing a moral base for adulthood, through the teaching of right and wrong as defined within religious doctrine. It was a rite of passage on the journey to adulthood that we have largely abandoned as a society and we are much the poorer for that.
I believe that another thing that the usurping of Sundays has caused is exhaustion in both the children and the families. We no longer have a day that we set aside for relaxing and rejuvenation. Instead we are on the go rung to and from activities seven days a week. Not only don’t modern children get bored, they don’t get any rest either. There is less time for reading and play, because they have to get to the next game or to rehearsal for an upcoming recital. There is no time to just be a child; one has to get ready for the next competition. We are teaching them that it’s a win-lose world, a zero sum game in which the one who works the hardest wins. What a shame that they are no longer exposed to the win-win world of Christianity in which making the effort and helping others is more important than winning every time.
All of this could be avoided, if parents just took the stand that Sundays (at least the mornings) are not for sports, but for family time and for church. Unfortunately, the current generation of parents is among the first themselves to largely abandon organized religions. Perhaps that is the fault of the religions themselves, which were slow to change and recognize the needs of younger parishioners. The growth of modern, non-denominational churches sprung from the recognition of those needs and a willingness to change in order to fill them.
However, not all churches can make the change to so-called “modern” services, with praise bands and video productions and other attractions/distractions to lure the young and the bored. Hopefully, for those churches, God will find a way to bring back the folks who have wandered away to watch a Sunday morning game. Sometime, somehow, in the back of their minds God will plant the seed that they are missing something in their lives and that the best place to fill that void is in church. Let’s just hope that the churches can hold on long enough for them to have a place to go back to when that happens. I’ll be there to welcome you back if that happens to you.
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Posted by Norm Werner