March 23, 2017
I’ve been working with a computer in one way or another since the early 1970's. Back then, I sat for hours in front of a “key punch” machine, translating my hand-written program plans through the keyboard into a stack of cards, with holes punched in them at my keystrokes. Then I would wrap my 3" high stack of cards (about 3"x 9" each) in a sheet of paper, write my name on the outside, and leave them in the tray for the “real” computer operators to run my program in the next 24-36 hours. I would wait and pick up my stack of cards, hopefully attached to the successful program I had written in Fortran, the language of the day. It never worked. There was always an error message.... or a great many of them, detailing how my logic had gone badly, my syntax was faulty, I’d given a non-existent instruction, or I’d put commands in the wrong order. The downside was that I never had a single program work.... not one. The upside is that it was irrevocable, “in-arguable” proof for me that I was not “cut out” to be an electronics engineer, even though it was just my first semester in college! Probably saved me an ulcer, and kept quite a few trees from the pulp mills, due to all the cards I didn’t waste!
But Dean White, who taught our class, planted one phrase in my mind, and it continues to “bubble up” frequently: “G-I-G-O.” Ever heard the term? “Garbage In; Garbage Out.” The computer, he said to us frequently, does exactly what it’s told to do! No more; no less. No matter how many times you tell it to do something it can’t do, it will always give you the same error message. (To borrow the robot’s phrase from the 1960's black and white TV show, Lost in Space: “That does not compute!”) More recently, I’ve heard it this way: “If you always do what you always did, you’ll always get what you always got!” Can you stand one more version of the same old saw? If you should discover that you’re flogging a dead horse, the best thing to do is dismount!
I bring all that along as an introduction to a confession. I spent several hours today, both before and after lunch-time, working on the book I assembled and brought home from Mexico at the end of February: Thursday Thoughts. For nearly a decade, I wrote it in weekly installments using a long-passed-by word processing program called “WordPerfect.” But it will save documents in MS Word format, and after I added them all into one great long WP document, I then converted it to Word.... and that’s when the trouble started!
My computer found something in my original file it didn’t like, so it gave me an error message. So I tried it again... about 5 or more times. Same message. And then, it began to dawn on me: I was repeating an action, like Dean White said, hoping for a different result! So I’ve put it down awhile, and will come back to it later.... maybe in the next century! Problem is, I don’t have that long! The clock’s ticking, and while “the iron’s hot,” I want to strike, produce something publishable, and move on! I just have to discover how to get out of the rut I’ve worn in the track I’ve been cycling repeatedly, all the while expecting a different outcome.
For a great many years, I’ve heard that the “7 Dying Words of the Church” are: “We always did it that way before!” (Conversely, “We never did it....”) Even though folks didn’t come to the Revival last year, let’s do it again this year with more “spirit” in the music and maybe they’ll show up! We always had a “Young Marrieds” Sunday School class, and now that there’s no one in it, maybe we should get a new teacher, or paint the walls, or change the name! Why would we want a new air conditioner for the sanctuary? Grandma never had one in her day, and the place was always full! (You get the picture, right?!?)
In about a month, we’re going to plant our first “Little Free Food Pantry” box alongside the lane bordering the cemetery, near to the USPS mailbox. I hope it will have lots of “children and grandchildren” springing up all over town, providing a little help for folks in need with some staple goods, a little selection of personal hygiene supplies, and maybe a couple of pairs of clean, dry socks. I’ve never done this before; only heard about it about a year ago, for the first time. But a good many of you have been encouraging and supportive, and we’re going to do something new in our corner of Poquoson.
Then, in the summertime, I’d like to get together some of our musically inclined folks on Sunday afternoons, for a spell of “picking and grinning!” Never done that anywhere before, either, but it seems like it could be a great way of encouraging others to take up some of the traditional music of the church along with some of the wonderful new pieces, and enjoying the sounds we make to God’s glory together. Maybe we could sit out under the cedar trees with a vat of lemonade and some homemade ice cream, and have ourselves a great old new time making “wooden music!” All comers are invited! (Details to follow!)
What about Vacation Bible School (VBS)? Usually happens in mid-summer in most churches. If you’ve never helped make it happen before, you should take the chance of holding “lightning in a bottle!” With several dozen children and youth in the sanctuary, a lot of energy is let loose in the mix, and it may be the most exciting thing you’ve ever taken up! I hope you’ll prayerfully raise your hand, and try it out.... for the first time, or the “dozen-th!”
Ours is a God, I believe, who says that He’s making “all things new,” and if that disturbs you, then maybe it’s because He has something “new” in His heart and mind for you. I hope that as Spring dawns upon us, you’ll find some of His “new life” not just in some serene, calm moment, but also in the challenges of the new and previously untried moments of inspiration and exploration into which He may be trying to lead you. Could you be so trusting as to step out of the boat onto the surface of the sea, Simon Peter?
Grace and peace.
Jim Earley, Pastor
Sr. Pastor, Tabernacle UMC