Friday, December 29, 2006

Finishing Strong

As we wrap up another year, it is a good time to think about starting and ending strong. In the performing arts, whether it is drama or music, the opening and closing are most important. The first line of a play or the first stanza of a concert sets the tone for the whole show. Then the very last line or ending of the last song stays with the audience and determines to a large degree their overall feeling about the performance.

In our band rehearsals, we spend a good amount of time on the intros and endings. How do we start the song and how do we end it? We want to end a song (and the show) clean and strong.

This is a good metaphor for life. The first few years of life are extremely important and will serve to set the tone for the rest of our life. But the ending is also important. A surprising number of people do not end well. This week James Brown died. Brown’s importance to popular music cannot be overstated. His titles, “The Godfather of Soul” and “The Hardest Working Man in Show Business” were well earned. I saw James Brown back in 1967 and his performance set new standards as to what was possible on stage. He influenced generations of musicians both black and white. But even a short biography of him must mention his felony convictions and other bouts with the law, mainly in the latter part of his life. James Brown was not a hood who made good, he was a person who grew up in church, became a super-star, and went bad.

He is not the only one. George Eastman, the founder of Eastman Kodak, the one man that did more to bring photography to everybody than anybody, died at his own hand. A surprising number of successful business people die bitter. Finishing strong is certainly not automatic and, in fact, requires quite a bit of conscience effort and planning.

It is complicated by the fact that life gets harder at a time when we think it should be getting easier. That makes us angry. We can either give up and become bitter, striking out at anyone who will listen, or we can decide to stay in the game. Play the game until the last out is made or play the song until the last chord is struck. It really is our choice.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

God's love at Christmas

Christmas time is my favorite time of year. Sure I get tired of the commercialism, but love is always just below the surface. People are hurrying around trying to get last minute shopping done, but many if not most, still take time to think about others.

One my wife and my Christmas traditions is to go out to eat at a nice restaurant, just the two of us. We usually do this a few days before Christmas. Since Christmas is usually spent with families, we want a special time for the two of us. We have done this every year for the past 35 years.

As is often the case, this year we went to the Plaza. The Country Club Plaza is our favorite part of Kansas City and our home for a few years until last year. We decided to go to Houston’s for ribs. It seems odd that the best ribs in a barbeque town are not even at a barbeque restaurant, but Houston’s are the best.

As we finished up our dinner, the waitress said, “Oh, by the way, your ticket has been taken care of, you don’t owe anything.” It seems an anonymous person had already paid for our meal. What a joy and blessing to know that someone was willing to share love in such an unselfish way.

Even during a time in my life when resources were much more plentiful than they are now, I never did that.

We have many opportunities to share the love of God with others. Paying somebody else’s ticket at a restaurant is one; but lending a hand to person in need, or an ear to someone who just needs to talk, also shows Gods love.

But why wait until Christmas, I want to show love to those around me every day of the year.

Monday, December 11, 2006

It's Almost Christmas!

I was at a pancake house in Chicago last week when I overheard the guy next to me complaining about Christmas. He said it was just an old pagan holiday and had nothing to do with Jesus and he wanted no part of it. After I listened to him rant for a few minutes I decided to join the conversation. (One should always listen for a few minutes before joining a conversation already in progress.)

I agreed that December 25 was originally the day that the Romans celebrated the birth of the sun. But when Constantine became a Christian in the fourth century, he changed it to the day we celebrate the birth of Jesus – the son. Constantine wanted to honor Jesus’ birth and also give credibility to Christians by giving them a holiday. Since the actual date of Jesus’ birth was unknown, he took an existing holiday, by then associated with a pagan custom, and converted it to Christmas. You can do that sort of thing when you are the Emperor. We have been celebrating December 25, Christmas, as the birth of Jesus for nearly 1,700 years.

Christmas is one of my favorite holidays because it reminds me of Jesus’ humanity. Even though He was God, He chose to be born as a baby, raised in a working class family, and preach love, forgiveness, and a simply lifestyle. Like the man in Chicago, I too am a little put off by people spending huge amounts of money to celebrate the birth of a man that they don’t know or hardly care about.

In modern day America where a person’s value is determined by how much “stuff” he has, it is only reasonable that we would honor our friends and relatives by giving them more “stuff.” In Luke 12:15 Jesus said, “A man's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.” This is a hard fact to get into our heads in a culture where the opposite seems to be the conventional wisdom.

Remember that Jesus Christ is Lord on this special day when we celebrate His birth.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Voice Lesson Day

Mondays are special days because that is the day I have my voice lesson. You see, since I was a very small child, I always wanted to sing. Because I wasn’t very good, I was discouraged from singing by my teachers, parents, relatives…well, I guess about anybody who heard me sing.

After I became a Christian and the subject of spiritual gifts came up, I always wished that I had been gifted as a singer. I even silently prayed that God would give me my desire to be able to sing.

Finally, after fifty years of quietly wishing I had the ability to sing, I decided to start singing. I am not sure why I started, other than just fifty years of desire finally broke through.

At first, I was pretty tentative, but eventually I gained confidence. My wife suggested that I take singing lessons. I decided to take that as encouragement rather than discouragement. This summer I began taking voice lessons from Ronni Ward. I now singing regularly with my band and at church.

I have been getting a lot of compliments, most of which start with the phrase, “I didn’t know you could sing.”

Here are the questions: Did God answer my prayer and suddenly give me a singing voice? Did I always have the ability and just needed to develop it? Or is singing a learned skill that just about anybody can learn with enough desire and a good teacher?

The fact that music is never mentioned in the Bible in the context of giftedness, leads me to believe that singing or playing an instrument, are skills, a craft if you will, that just about anybody can learn, given enough time, motivation, and teaching. If there is giftedness involved, the gift is the desire to spend the time and energy required to develop the skill.

Let me know what you think.

Ronni Ward's response...

Thank you Jim. I think your'e onto something there about developing and learning. I would have to disagree about giftedness. There are some people who have a certain amount of ability and can work at it and increase their skill. These people may not be especially "gifted" in that particular area; whatever it may be, but there is value and purpose in it. For instance, take my guitar playing ability. I have to work extremely hard just to accompany myself to an acceptable level. Then there are guitarists like David George, Brian Ruskin, David Smart or Bonnie Raitte (not your cat). While it's true that becoming that good is a lot of disipline and hard work, I would say they are "gifted" in that area. Bob Dylan is known more for his songs than for his voice. His voice is important, but his songwriting is his gifting and he will never be what Elvis or Reba are (or were) to the world... vocally speaking. Musical giftings are never more important than the gift of being an encourager or a leader or a manager etc., only more coveted and perhaps more noticed.

I just wanted to get in my two cents. I would have responded with a blog message if I knew how to set up an account. I guess blogging's not my "gifting" I may have to work at it.
Feel free to share this with whomever you wish.


Thursday, November 23, 2006

Changing Times

I was just watching John Fogerty performing during the half time of the Chiefs/Broncos game. A few minutes in a stadium hardly gives a hint of this man’s talents, but it was fun to be reminded of the great Creedence Clearwater Revival music.

While watching Fogerty, I was also looking through some old photo magazines. Reading reviews of products that have long since come and gone, I couldn’t help but think about change. Only ten years ago, I was considered a master at a craft that is now obsolete. For over twenty years, I was as good as anybody in the world at making black and white photographs. Film, chemicals, and photographic paper were my livelihood and life. It has now been years since I was in a darkroom, and I am not sure why anybody would want to be. Digital cameras, computers, and ink jet printers can easily surpass film in quality.

The world has changed. Creedence Clearwater Revival is history and Tri-X, Plus-X and D-76 are heading for museums. Resisting change is not only futile but dangerous. John Fogerty does some nostalgic shows, but he is also doing new music, always looking ahead. Somebody has wisely said that those who resist change will inevitable be affected negatively by that resistance.

In business, we risk being left behind. In college economics we talked about buggy whip manufactures. Today we could be talking about film processors, video tape editors, carburetor mechanics, or mainframe computer programmers. Businesses have to constantly be looking down the road to stay ahead of fast moving technologies.

In ministry, it is not so obvious. Because the bottom line is not easily measured, we can be years behind without even knowing it. Peter Drucker said that if you are doing anything the same way you did it 5 years, it is probably wrong. I know of many ministries, churches, and other not-for-profits that are still following the same model set up by the founders in the 1930’s, 40’s, or 50’s.

As Christians, we cannot afford to ignore the changing cultures. We must be relevant, flexible, and proactive if we want to bring Christ’s message of love and reconciliation to a hurting world.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Squandering Resources

It seems that those of us who consider ourselves evangelical Christians have come to the environmental debate a little late. In the book of Genesis we are a given the task of managing the resources of the planet. It is probably because we don’t want to be associated with those who would worship the creation and ignore the creator, but that is not a very good excuse. In many areas we have squandered resources and largely made a mess of things. Jesus was particularly critical of those people who wasted resources and opportunities.

I don’t believe that we can be better stewards by just trying harder and recycling newspapers and aluminum cans. There is a need for total culture change. A recently heard about a couple who built what may be the “greenest” house in the nation. It uses all sorts of technical gee-whiz such as active solar and ground affects. It was not mentioned that the house is 30 miles out in the country and that they work downtown. Between the two of them they likely commute 100 miles a day or more. Clearly, this was an academic exercise with no intention of saving fossil fuel.

In the past twenty years the average new home has more than doubled in size. The average fuel economy of all the cars on the road has not changed, in spite of the fact that there has been much technical advancement. Obviously gasoline prices, natural gas, or electric prices have not had an effect on our lifestyles or how we choose to spend our money.

A large coffeehouse chain makes a big deal out of their recycling efforts but offers only single-use cups and utensils. Using glass cups and stainless steel utensils would save millions of tons of paper and disposable plastic and reduce waste dramatically. Most goods we buy are over-packaged, wasting much paper and plastic and filling our land-fills.

Our culture tells us that it is good to build a “McMansion” in the suburbs and commute 30 miles in a large vehicle that barely makes twenty-miles to the gallon. At the same time, those who share a few walls with their neighbors, reducing utilities cost by 80 – 90 %, and walk or bicycle to work, are considered weird or somehow under-privileged.

In a free society, most choices come down to economics. As long as we have relatively cheap fuel, people will continue to buy huge houses and drive inefficient vehicles too far to work.

In countries with no domestic petroleum resources, where gasoline regularly runs $5.00 per gallon or more, most people walk, or ride bicycles or scooters to work; apartments or townhouses clustered together to save energy and build community are the norm; and automobiles get 40-50 miles per gallon.

I believe that we will make great strides in improving the environment and saving resources, not from complicated technologies like hybrid cars, but from simply deciding that spending an hour a day in the car driving to our 5,000 square foot house is not the way we want to spend our time and money.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Bonnie & Me

My cat and I adore each other. I carry her around on my shoulder. She has me all figured out. She knows if she scratches her post she gets a treat. If she rolls over on her back, I rub her tummy. But she has no idea what I am writing about. She certainly doesn’t know what I do all day. Even though she tries, her singing and playing guitar leave a lot to be desired. My relationship with God is a lot like that. His realty is so much beyond mine that I can only understand a small amount and attempt to show my affection for Him through worship and obedience.

When I was about 10 years old, a Sunday School teacher sat me down and went through God’s “Plan of Salvation.” I don’t remember the exact details, but it was something like: 1. God has a plan for my life; 2. All have sinned; 3. The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life; 4. If you believe in your heart and confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord, you will be saved.

This seemed pretty straight-forward and I had no trouble understanding that all had sinned. The problem was that if it was that clear, why wasn’t this in the first four verses of Genesis, or the last four verses of Revelations. Why didn’t Jesus spell this out in the Sermon and the Mount, or at least, Luke should have highlighted it with bullet points. Why do we have to look through pages of scripture and pull out selected verses to find truths that should be so clear. Furthermore, a person could say just about anything using this technique.

Fifty years later, I am very familiar with tracts such as “The Four Spiritual Laws” and “Steps to Peace With God.” These booklets easily explain eternal truths in 10 pages including illustrations, but they open up tons of questions. Questions like, how about the person who has never heard about Jesus? Or what about all the wonderful people in churches who suffer from nothing worse than bad theology?

The problem is that this simplification is like saying that a sandwich is a piece of dead animal between two slices of bread. It is true, but there is more to know. Anyone who has ever talked to a baker about bread or a barbeque expert about sauces and meats knows that a sandwich is never just a sandwich. As I enjoy my PB&J or a veggie-burger, I realize that even my definition of a sandwich is not exactly right.

It is tempting to put God in a box and say we have Him figured out. But God is much bigger than we think or can know. His ways are beyond our widest understanding. Fortunately, we don’t have to understand God’s whole plan. It is not our place to judge or condemn others, but God’s. Our job is to respond to what we DO know - live our lives in such a way that we bring glory to Him.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006


I’ve been doing some traveling lately and have therefore been subject to airport security. Of course, everybody is for better security, but the scene at most airport security check points could be something right out of Seinfeld.

Responding to the latest threat, we are now limited to liquids in bottles of less than 3 ounces enclosed in a quart size zip-lock bag. All you have is a fold over sandwich bag? Too bad, your shampoo will be confiscated. A half-full 4-once tube of toothpaste – not good enough. The rules are weird and virtually every checker interprets them differently. One time a sealed bottle of water is OK, the next time it is gone. An empty bottle? It depends on who is doing the checking. What started as a response to a real threat has turned into real silliness.

This is the type of situation Jesus faced. What started as following God’s laws had, by first century Palestine, turned into to a fiasco led by a political party called the Pharisees. A basic idea like honoring the Sabbath had turned into detailed rules about how much a person could lift or how far they could walk. Jesus preached against this idea of following rules to the “T” without thinking, or understanding the intent. Much of His ministry involved attacking the silly rules that were being inflicted on the people. Instead, He brought a message of grace and forgiveness. He gave us the Holy Spirit to guide us in making choices based on knowing right from wrong, not a long list of complicated rules.

Today we call following a set of rules, to the exclusion of thinking, legalism. For example, if many lives have been ruined by gambling, it could be a sin to own a deck of cards. If dancing seems too sensuous, let’s ban dancing. In the book of Galatians, chapter 5, Paul spoke passionately against this kind of thinking. “It is for freedom that Christ has set you free. Stand firm then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”

As individuals, we can’t do much about confusing and conflicting airport security, building codes, or other bureaucratic red tape. But we can be careful how we live; embracing the freedom we have in Christ as citizens of the Kingdom of God, and the freedoms we do have as citizens of the USA.

Monday, October 23, 2006

The French Paradox

A lot has been made of the French paradox concerning food. It seems that the French smoke too much, drink too much, and eat fatty foods, but they are measurably healthier than Americans. Few people are over-weight and obesity is non-existent. A quick tour of France answers this question. The French eat less and exercise more. Walking is the most common form of transportation and many people ride bicycles. Restaurants generally serve smaller portions.

The bigger puzzle to me concerns the huge number of small businesses. There are literally millions of small shops and cafes all over France with very few chains, big box retailers, and almost no franchises. The typical street in any French town or city is lined with dozens of small shops with the owner behind the counter. The variety is huge, the service good, and the prices are fair.

I guess my question is: How did we get to the point in this country (USA) where the big boys run the show?

Chains and franchises have homogenized the country to the point that it is very hard to go into a town and not find exactly the same restaurants and stores as the previous town. I recently looked at a copy of “Entrepreneur” magazine and was amazed to find that half the ads were for companies selling franchises. When did we get to the place where having your own business meant buying someone else’s ideas and plans.

America has a reputation for individualist and independent thinking, but that is not at all what you see when you look down any street.

By the way, stop by Homer’s Coffee House. It is the only one;and no, we are not planning on franchising.

Let me know what you think. Click on “comments” below. Maybe together we can figure out this dilemma.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Changes in Latitude - Changes in Attitude

Louise and I and some friends just returned from 10 days in France where we were all celebrating out 35th wedding anniversaries.

It had been a quite a few years since we had been to France, so I had inadvertently bought in to some of the stereotypes and clichés about the French. Was I ever wrong! Everyone we encountered was warm and friendly. We enjoyed lots of wonderful conversations with all sorts of people. Everywhere we looked, people were working hard. The streets were immaculately clean and everything worked. There were no pot holes, no steel plates over the streets. We saw a new bridge that is the longest and the highest in the world. As far as I could tell, all the workers were Frenchmen with very little imported labor.

I suppose that if we hard began speaking loudly in English, demanding that our coffee be watered down and our Coke poured over ice, we might have been treated differently. I am also sure that if a French speaker walked into an American café, speaking loudly in French, demanding that things be served according to his custom, he would not be treated with much respect either.

Respecting other people’s customs and history is an important part of getting along as people. In I Corinthians 9, Paul talks about the importance of respecting the culture in order to share the love of Christ and His message of reconciliation.

We don’t have to travel around the globe to find other cultures, sometime we just need to travel down the street. But the message is still the same. People are people and if shown respect, they will respond with respect.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

I to Me

Over the past few years I have noticed that the personal pronoun "I" is becoming less and less useful to me. Instead the words "we" and "us" appear a lot more in my daily usage. Since we (not I) opened Homer's Coffee House five years ago this weekend, I have learned to rely more and more on my employees, friends, and family.

The things that are most worthwhile in life cannot be done by just one person. We must surround ourselves with a community of people who care about us and care about the things we care about. It is a significant spiritual step to begin thinking in terms of a community and not just about ourselves. It is a big move from "me" to "we."

The Homer's team have demonstrated that to me. It weren't for them, I would certainly have moved on to something else; but the community bond is so strong that I have no reason or desire to leave.

I play in a band - Sky Blue. It has been said that playing music together is one of the strongest of relationships because for several hours at a time we are sharing our feelings and emotions through the language of music in front of a large group of people. It is certainly a clear picture of community where we each have our role and are working closely together for a common goal.

As Rick Warren says, "First of all, it is not about me."

Sunday, September 24, 2006

The use of wealth

I believe that God has given us, or is giving us, all the gifts and resources we need to do what He has called us to do. We may need to do a better job of managing those resources, but they are there just the same.

This means that God does not give us more than we need. If we have lots of skills and financial resources, it means that God has created something very special for us to do.

Rick Warren said that it is not a sin to be rich, but it is a sin to die rich. If we are rich it is because God has blessed us with resources. If we die rich, it is because we have squandered opportunities to use those resources as God intended.

This idea somehow goes against our modern culture where leaving money for our heirs is considered a desirable thing to do. We might think that leaving an inheritance for our children is noble, but the reality is that inherited money is seldom used wisely.

The best use of our money, or more precisely, the money God has entrusted with us, is always to find out what God gave it to us for in the first place. This is not always easy. It may result in a life-long pursuit of God and His desires and will. It will result in an extremely rewarding and fulfilling life. It almost certainly will not result in seeing how much money we can accumulate.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Customer Service?

I was an early adopter of the cell phone. The idea of not being tethered to a phone line was the answer to my dreams. I quickly dropped my home phone line, confident that my cell phone would be all the communication I would ever need.

Oh sure, there were a few problems early on - dropped calls, poor reception, billing errors. You expect this with any new technology. I was sure these problems would be solved in a few months and the world would be a wonderful place, with people freely communicating with anyone whenever they liked.

Ten years later, the problems haven’t gone away; they may have gotten worse. I may have to go back to a land line in my apartment because my cell phone doesn’t work there. There is a lot of discussion about how this situation came about, but it comes down to not putting the customer first. Good business has always been about giving your best to the customer. Businesses that don’t understand that, shouldn’t last very long.

The Bible says in Philippians 2:4, “Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interest of others.” Jesus said to treat others the way you would like to be treated. These are pretty basic business principles, but they seem to be overlooked so often in today’s business settings. These principles apply whether you are a barista working in a coffeehouse or a CEO deciding whether to out-source “customer service” to India. Each of us can decide how we would like to be treated. Whether you are the guy behind the counter or the one behind the mahogany desk, are you looking out for your interest or the best interest of your customers?

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Hairs on our head

The Bible tells that God has numbered even the hairs on our heads. Well, it turns out that that was a bit of an understatement. God made each of us totally unique and with a specific purpose. He then gave us each a serial number to identify us and wrote that number on every single cell of our body. That makes every last cell and molecule in our body totally unique. Scientists are now able to read this number. It is called DNA. They even know what a small part of it means, but most of it is still a huge mystery known only to the maker who stamped the number there in the first place – God.

God then gave us each interests, skills, and gifts. The combination of these characteristics will give us a big clue as to what our purpose or calling in life really is. If we would rate all of our interests, skills, and gifts or God-given attributes, on a scale of 1 to 100, where 50 was the average person, the high numbers might point to a very specific calling.

For example, this last weekend I rode in the MS150 bike tour. The stated purpose of the tour was to raise money to fight Multiple Sclerosis, but the real reasons varied from rider to rider. Personally I rode to prove to myself that I am not old yet. Others rode just to have fun. On a scale of 1 to 100 my interest in bicycling is about 78. My riding skill is probably about 65 and my giftedness for bicycling is around 85. That means I could be a lot better if wanted to be – if I trained harder. If all of those numbers were over 95, my goal would be the Tour de France not finishing the Missouri MS 150.

Some say that an interest rating over 80 is a need; I would say anything over 95 is a passion. The area where your passion, learned skills, and God-given abilities or “gifts” come together should be the focal point of your life. After all that is why God made you. He wrote it down in His book and then encoded it into every cell of your body.

Monday, September 11, 2006

We made it!

For those of you keeping score, Tim and I and a couple of thousand of our closest friends completed the MS 150 one hundred and fifty mile bike ride with no serious incidents. The weather was great, the rain held off, and we crossed the finish line like the end of the Tour de France. Photos and more thoughts to follow - stay tuned.


Friday, September 08, 2006

Working With Your Hands

Working with your Hands

The first specific instance of a person being filled with the Holy Spirit of God in the Bible was a craftsman named Bezalel. Through the spirit of God, he was given generous gifts of skill for creating and teaching all kinds of decorative arts.
Exodus 35: 30-35

Then Moses said to the Israelites, "See, the LORD has chosen Bezalel son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and he has filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, ability and knowledge in all kinds of crafts- to make artistic designs for work in gold, silver and bronze, to cut and set stones, to work in wood and to engage in all kinds of artistic craftsmanship. And he has given both him and Oholiab son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan, the ability to teach others. He has filled them with skill to do all kinds of work as craftsmen, designers, embroiderers in blue, purple and scarlet yarn and fine linen, and weavers—all of them master craftsmen and designers.

Later when God Himself chose to come to earth, He came as a craftsman, a woodworker from Nazareth. Wood was rare in Palestine at the time of Christ. It was used as a decorative item, for furniture, or for making household utensils. Jesus was probably much more of an artisan than we are commonly lead to believe.

It seems that God has a special place in His heart for people who work with their hands, for people who have devoted the time and energy necessary to learn how to do something well. It pleases God greatly when we use the resources we have to create something beautiful.

In I Thessalonians 4:11, Paul say, “Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands, just as we told you.”

My wife and I first became aware of the difference in the way cultures view craftsman on a trip to Switzerland. We were amazed at the quality of even the most mundane things. The door handles and window latches, for example, were of much higher quality than we were used to seeing here. That culture places great value on craftsmanship. One of the shames of modern American culture is that we have devalued the importance of craft. To a large extent craftsman are now considered quaint and relegated to crafts fairs or museums. Except for medical or music schools, only a handful of colleges offer advanced degrees in disciplines where it is required to have skilled hands.

Apprenticeships for things like luthier (stringed musical instrument making), jewelry, fine woodworking, sculpture, and so forth are hard to find and outside the radar of all but the most dedicated student.

A student who wishes to pursue a career where a high degree of learned skill is required is often discouraged and directed to more cerebral pursuits. As a result, only those not considered “college material” are encouraged to learn a trade and college graduates are discouraged from learning a craft.

Because of this, the highest skilled professions are disappearing. Only a relative handful of people can build a violin, cut a diamond, or restore a painting.

I have heard it said our quality of life is determined by the skills we have. This is certainly true. Another definition I’ve heard is that a laborer is a person that works with his hands, a craftsman works with his hands and head, an artist works with his hands, head, and heart. By this definition we should all strive to be artists.

A lot of the problem is economic. Many of the highest skilled vocations don’t earn much money compared to the effort needed to learn them. Whereas other less skilled jobs pay much more. Example: Assembly line workers in the automobile industry make more money than a craftsman that restores classic cars. The autoworker could be trained in a matter of hours while the skills needed to restore classic cars take years to obtain. Should a person who writes contracts make more money than a person who writes songs?

There is no easy solution. It comes down to society’s attitudes and values. We value efficiency and productivity over creativity and workmanship. All of us suffer the consequences in the lack of quality in the products we buy, the music we hear, and the art we live with.

Of course times change. Not all professions need to live on. I once knew a man who built his own television from scratch. I doubt if anybody would do that today. But try getting a car stereo repaired now. It is surprising at how few people know anything beyond taking out the old one and putting in a new one.

If God has given us the desire to create wonderful things with our hands, no matter what form they may take, develop the proficiency to do them well. Give God the glory through the item and the way it was created.

Jim Mathis