• Built a fire in the fireplace tonight while it is snowing and blowing outside.  Earl-the-cat is sleeping nearby, and I'm making the finishing touches on today's letter to you.
  • Today's sermon topic was, "Why Does an All Powerful God Let Bad Things Happen?"  No sermon in history has ever been able to helpfully answer this question.  But I gave it a go nonetheless.
  • Reading Andrew Sean Greer's, Less:  A Novel.  It is about a middle aged man who's lover is getting married and he escapes the humility of it by traveling to different cities around the world.  Not sure yet what I think.
  • On this Martin Luther King Jr. weekend, I am praying and hoping for profound changes of heart in our country when it comes to more and more volatile race relations.  At times in our history, it seems we are making progress against hatred and bigotry.  But evil is elastic:  it just keeps snapping back at us.

January 14, 2018
Keeping Up to Date
It was just two weeks ago that I was running around New Orleans wearing my Russian aviator hat, also known as a Ushanka.  Since my hat does not contain actual animal fur, it is sometimes known as a "fish fur hat."  In New Orleans, of course, anything goes when it comes to dressing up.  The odder you are, the more you fit in.  

 But now that I am back in Central Illinois, even though it has been brutally cold here, I am a little timid to wear my fish fur around town.  I didn't used to be timid about what I wore.  But my whole family is now very fashion conscious (except for my two year old grandson and me,) and my daughters are especially eager to seem me move into the modern world. They have a growing concern that there are so many things that I'm just not getting the hang of.
So, I decided to evaluate myself with an internet quiz, googling the phrase: "things people don't do anymore." Some sites listed "old-fashioned manners."  I ignored those sites because I'm actually a little bit proud that I'm still old fashioned when it comes to manners. The sites that concerned me the most were the ones that listed things people don't do anymore due to developing technology. 

Last May, USA Today ran a list of 20 things that modern people don't do.  It turns out, I still do 8 of them.  Turning that into a score, I am 40% outdated.  What are those things that modern people no longer do?   I sold my old car last summer by parking it out by the street and putting a sign in the window.  I tend to figure math out in my head (much of the time.) I have (and listen to) a CD collection, often tell time by the hands on a clock, run to the store at the last minute to get gifts for people, occasionally send hand-written letters, am all the time looking things up in my  dictionary, and often call up members of my family and ask them where they are.

The site also indicated that modern people no longer memorize phone numbers.  It's been a while since I memorized a phone number.  I think the last one I memorized would have been my own cell number, which I committed to memory 16 years ago.  But even though I'm modern on this point, I feel guilty that I have stopped stuffing all those numbers into my brain. In fact, I haven't even bothered to remember my home number since moving here to Mattoon.  I just give out my cell number (since it is already in my head.)  

But if I don't want someone to call me, I'll give out my home phone number instead.  At least I think it's my home number, but am not positive since I haven't actually memorized it, since I don't care.  
I would also be more outdated than I actually am if I could figure out the technology for how to video tape TV programs off the complicated set-up my cable TV company uses.  
Another website, called "Mozy" listed "50 Things We Don't Do Anymore."  In addition to some of the items listed in the above paragraph, I still use paper maps, have an address book, own an encyclopedia set, go to the DMV to renew my car registration, read hard copies of the Yellow Pages, watch DVDs, buy newspapers (on my days off), and visit yard sales.
And some of the outdated things I sort of do...some of the time:  write checks, advertise in the newspaper, fax documents, and order things on the phone.  I still read lots of hard copy books, but almost all my novels are on my Nook┬« and I listen to dozens of books on Audible┬«. I do collect and read all my books on U.S. Presidents and presidential elections in hard-copy.
The simple thing I miss the most in this modern world is holding and reading real newspapers and magazines. Too many have gone out of business, too many aren't worth the paper used to print them, and too many days are too busy for me to get through them.  Maybe in retirement...  And so, I peruse about 7-10 newspapers a day on the internet, and keep up with family and friends on Facebook (US) and WeChat (Chinese) 
And I ponder:  My most precious material possession in this life would be my old-fashioned libraries:  one at home and one at the church. But my most prized portal is the internet, the greatest library and pen pal facilitator in the world, in a sense.  In the end, I love that the life I live is 50% modern and 50% out of date.  It gives me the best of both worlds, yet offsets much of the meagerness of each era.   --Mike

 The Sunday letter is something I have done now for over 20 years.  It is a disciplined musing:  mindfulness, memory, and imagination.  I write it when I first wake up on a Sunday morning and then share it with the congregation.  The letter you see published here is usually revised from what the congregation receives.  This discipline of thinking and writing puts me in the place of describing rather than advising.  It prepares me to proclaim the gospel rather than get preachy with the souls who will sit before me.  --JMS


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