It's time to put 2010 to rest, and some ways, it seems like it's been a very long year.
Conversely, I cannot fathom where the time has gone, although according to my work log (better known as my photo file) 2010 has been busier than usual.
In addition to the events I try to cover each year, like the National Day of Prayer, the Community Lenten Services, new pastors and new churches, 2010 also brought stories of dog rescues, hero dogs and unintended death. Nationally known speakers came to town and bicyclists from across the country continued to make McCook one of the stops on their cross-country excursions. And that doesn't begin to catalog where the days of the nearly late, barely lamented 2010 went.
Years ago, when I was training for my position as Nutrition Services secretary, the woman I was replacing remarked, "Some mornings I don't know what I'm going to do when I get here, but it turns out there's always something new happening."
Apparently, I wasn't as efficient as she was, I always knew of at least one task waiting for me every morning -- and there was always something new to do.
It's the same here at the Gazette. To borrow a phrase from the cable TV show "Pawn Stars" -- "You never know what is gonna come through that door."
The entire year has been that way, both at work and at home. Danny and I put in a lot of highway miles, at least for us, in 2010 and didn't find time to put in a garden. And, although our storms have been few and far between, the same cannot be said for our children who have weathered, or are continuing to weather, storms of epic proportions. This reality has resulted in a constant call to prayer, and has brought about a season of mourning that shows no sign of relenting in the near future.
It seems to be an epidemic. An end-of-the-year wrap-up story from the Associated Press outlined some of the storms endured across the world, noting that earthquakes, heat waves, floods, volcanoes, super typhoons, blizzards, landslides and droughts killed at least 250,000 people worldwide in 2010.
Spiritual storms rage as well. According to the Barna Group, six major themes emerged in their 2010 research, bringing new challenges to Christianity in America.
1. The Christian Church is becoming less theologically literate.
This column addressed that issue quite specifically on Oct. 6.
2. Christians are becoming more ingrown and less outreach-oriented.
Apparently the thought of sharing our faith is more than we can handle. I can understand the reticence. The column "Has Christianity lost its good name?" written in August, details some reasons why people may hesitate to claim that name.
3. People are less interested in spiritual principles, more interested in pragmatic solutions for life.
The column "Contentment or Chaos" published Jan. 6, 2010, offers pragmatic spiritualism in the closing Scripture from Matthew 6:31-33 "So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well."
4. Among Christians, interest in participating in community action is escalating.
This is not a bad thing, unless the motive is skewed. The danger is that if believers engage in community action apart from genuine love and compassion, their good works will fade away. The Barna article warns, "Simply doing good works because it's the socially esteemed choice of the moment will not produce much staying power."
5. The postmodern insistence on tolerance is winning over the Christian church.
A high percentage of my columns address this issue, and have for years. "The Question of the Cross," "The sin of complicity," Taking the tangles out," "To be loved is to live," "Eliminating the illusions," "A cause for 'Celebrations'?" "Taking it one step farther," "The latest in advertising," and "Spotting a counterfeit," all written this year, touch on this issue, and it will no doubt be revisited in the future.
The sixth and final observation from the Barna studies is perhaps the most troubling of all: The influence of Christianity on culture and individual lives is largely invisible.
The aforementioned columns that address the issue of tolerance, also admonish believers to be visibly faithful, as do most columns, whatever the core subject matter. An unknown author once wrote, "Be careful how you live. You may be the only Bible some people will ever read!" It is a cliche for a reason. Peter warned us centuries ago in 1 Peter 4:17, "For it is time for judgment to begin with the family of God; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God?"
If 2010 taught me anything, it taught me that we live in perilous times. Not only is every member of the human race vulnerable to earthquakes, heat waves, floods, volcanoes, super typhoons, blizzards, landslides and droughts we also are vulnerable to deception, spiritually and otherwise. The wise man built his house upon the rock and when the rains came, it weathered the storm. It's past time to lay our foundation upon the Rock that is faith in Jesus Christ, because the storms are brewing, just over the horizon.
"However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?" Luke 18:8 (NIV)
I don't have all the answers, but I know the One who does. Let's walk together for awhile and discover Him; together.