In the course of my life he broke
he cut short my days.
So I said:
“Do not take me away, my God, in the midst of my days;
your years go on through all generations.
In the beginning you laid the foundations of the earth,
and the heavens are the work of your hands.
They will perish, but you remain;
they will all wear out like a garment.
Like clothing you will change them
and they will be discarded.
But you remain the same,
and your years will never end.
The children of your servants will live in your presence;
their descendants will be established before you.”
- Psalm 102:23-28
“How much has changed in your lifetime? Just in the fields of transportation, medicine, and communication, things change so rapidly that even those at the tops of their industries often cannot keep up. Just think, until the year 1500, no books were ever published. Or think about the changes in the last 150 years from telegraph, to telephone, to email. And for the first 1800 years since Jesus walked the earth, the top speed one could go was around 20 miles an hour — on horseback. Now spacecraft zoom toward other planets at around 20,000 miles per hour!
“Sociologists point out that dealing with constant and rapid change causes humankind feelings of instability and insecurity, producing stress, confusion and fear. People seek something that just doesn’t change. In this ever-changing world, God is that immutable, never changing, always faithful Friend. He is not only the One who laid the foundations of the Earth, or crafted the heavens, He sustains everything by His power. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews113:8). God’s word will never pass away (Matthew 24:35). His overwhelming love is everlasting (Jeremiah 31:3).
“But, be cautioned. Sin is still sin. It has not changed. Sorrowing and death have not changed. The need of a lost world for a Savior has not changed.
“So in this changing, yet changeless, world, set your hope and confidence on the One Immutable God.”
- Presidential Prayer Team Devotion
First, regarding the Scripture, this psalm is a lament. The writer is afflicted. The writer is weak and tired. The writer is calling out to a God that does not change, while everything around him changes. As the devotion hints, the world is changeless in that the world is constantly changing, except for God who does not change.
Second, I’d like to have some fun down memory lane with the devotion’s first question.
Transportation: I don’t remember much about car models before I started driving as to what models of automobiles we had. I remember my Dad’s father had two vehicles. One was a late fifties baby blue and white Buick (I think). His other vehicle was a pick-up, I think a Ford, that was made in the 40s. One of my cousins missed a curve and fell into a deep gully (about 20 ft drop) in the pick-up. They retrieved the truck, but it was soon hauled away. My mother’s father, PawPaw, had a 30s Chrysler that my uncle took to Florida. When my PawPaw died, MawMaw bought a green and white 59 Chevy Impala, with the big fins in the back. She did not know how to drive until my sister taught her and the Impala was the only car she ever owned. As for us, I remember a Mercury, the model with the back window that tilted the opposite way from most back windows. Otherwise, the first car I vividly remember was the ’63 Chevy Impala that I learned how to drive in.
As for mass transit and such, I grew up in the South in the country. If you didn’t have a car, you thumbed a ride. The street in front of MawMaw’s house had trolley rails that were almost covered by asphalt. There had once been mass transit. We occasionally took trips using the bus. My first solo trip by bus was to visit my cousins in Florida. I only had to change buses once, in Atlanta. As for air travel, I have flown in commercial propeller flights, jet-prop aircraft, and a lot of jets. As for Boeing, I think I have flown in everything from the 707 to the 787. I have never flown in an Airbus 380, but most of the smaller ones. Okay, less huge. Of course, this doesn’t count a variety of McDonell Douglas aircraft.
One of my earliest memories was of moving to the farm when I was two years old. They were in the process of paving the road and installing the bridges. For a short while, we detoured the bridges and forded the creeks going to church each Sunday. Most of the backroads were gravel, a few dirt. There were no interstate highways when I was born, not authorized until 1956, but I got to drive on a few pieces while learning how to drive. Nebraska claims the first state to complete all main interstate segments in 1974, not counting by-pass loops. I got to watch the Natchez Trace Parkway being built, only a few miles from our home.
As for medicine, there were small hospitals in just about every town. My hometown had a surgeon who had been in a M*A*S*H unit in Korea. He had a drinking problem. His hands shook until they got close to the skin and then he was a marvelous surgeon from that point on. Oddly, my wife worked with a surgeon who did the same thing, hands shaking until he was cutting. My Dad could attest to the one in my old hometown. He was awake when the old doctor removed a growth from his neck. If the doctor needed to see something inside you, you got an X-ray, period. These days, the county hospitals are gone in the state of my birth and in many other states. The advances in equipment to aid in diagnosis, beyond the x-ray, and the equipment in surgery have made it impossible for the small hospitals to keep up financially and regional hospitals have taken over. When I was growing up, doctors made house calls, but mostly hospital calls. Now, the family doctor monitors your progress from a computer terminal in his office and leaves the doctoring to the hospital staff. The first thing that you hear from him or her is a note upon hospital discharge telling you when your ‘follow-up’ appointment will be. As for immunizations, I had just taken the last of the polio shots when the sugar cubes were introduced, so I took that whole regimen as well. When I became a scholarship ROTC candidate as a college sophomore, I took all the immunizations all over again, many of which are never administered anymore.
Communications: Wow! This could be a novel length description. Let’s just say that when we moved to the farmhouse, we were on a party line. We were one long and two shorts (rings to let us know that the call was for us rather than someone else). Now, most old folks still have the landline, but it is dedicated to their use only, but the younger people use cell phones only. I remember when those monstrously large initial cell phones came out in the early 80s. A guy in Augusta, GA called the radio station to brag that he had one and during the call, he drove through an intersection, wrecked his car, and asked the radio station to call for the police to come. I was in a carpool, going to work and we nearly wrecked our car because the driver was laughing too hard. The Dick Tracy wristwatch video communicators were fanciful Sci-Fi in my youth. People complained that it was ridiculous, but you can do that now.
Television: There are two changes here. First, we did not have a television until soon after we moved to the farm. We could get two TV stations out of Memphis using an antenna, three if the weather was just right, but it rarely was. Two dials on the TV, one to change channels and the other for volume. Smaller dials were for such things as vertical hold and horizontal hold. The big thing is that you watched what the station offered, or you turned the set off. These days, there are hundreds of channels with a wide variety of programming – little of it worth watching, but smart TVs can download old programming so that you can watch what you want to watch when you have time to watch it. My wife binge watches old television shows. Second, there was censorship in the old days, and you could trust that the station would be impartial in News coverage, as best they could, and that the programmed coverage would be tasteful with no foul language. That, I miss.
Computers: When I first started college in engineering, I was required to take FORTRAN programming the first semester. I was hooked from then on. The huge room that contained the IBM mainframe in an air-conditioned room. We submitted orders using punch cards. One room was dedicated to punch card machines. The punch cards had 80 columns along the card. The last eight columns for FORTRAN were comment columns and the school used those to identify your computer run. Most people used their initials or last name. I used Abednego, since many of the operators took all the requests and sorted them in alphabetical order. I might get three results in a day instead of the other people getting one result. Our phones today have a lot more computing power than that old computer that took up one-third of the main wing of the engineering building.
Books: I have never gotten into the habit of tablet reading. I like a book with pages that I can flip. I like taking notes as to page numbers, and my on-line book providers allow you to change font size, which means the page numbers change. Too much confusion. As of last Friday, I completed my 100th book for 2019, TSI: The Gabon Virus by McCusker and Larimore. It’s an alarming fictional story that could happen, but in this story, the hero saved the world from a deadly pandemic. Of my reading, about one-third is Biblical study and the like, not counting Bible reading.
With this walk down memory lane, I am not asking to be sent back there in a time machine. I am where I am in time. I enjoy air-conditioning in the home and in the car. For that reason alone, I would not wish to go back. I enjoy the computer and the internet, but I can turn them off, along with the phone. And I agree with the analysis in the devotion quoted above. I think the constant change provides stress in our lives. Some of the changes since I was born have been good, but each required getting used to the change, a level of stress that had to be overcome.
Of all these modern conveniences, the one feature that I love the most is the off switch. The one part of communication that I did not mention is that time when all the devices are turned off and God and I have a conversation. All the modern conveniences can disappear, and I will miss them, but only for a while. My communication with my Lord and Savior is like oxygen. Without it, I would die. I have to communicate with the One who does not change.
Soli Deo Gloria. Only to God be the Glory.