Monday, July 9, 2012

This Upside-Down World

By Rick Marschall
Special to ASSIST News Service

Springhill Sod Farm,  Bozeman, MT

SWARTZ CREEK MI (ANS) -- The world’s easiest job just might be Foreman of a Sod Farm. All day long, nothing but calling out, “Green side up!” Here are some thoughts that connect “keeping things rightside up” and the saying, “the grass is always greener”... with a bit more wisdom, trust us, than that lame joke. Our culture, in fact, is acting on upside-down values these days.

"The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.” The lesson implicit in this aphorism, that we should be satisfied with what we have, ignores the possibilities that you are standing in an awfully barren patch, or that the other grass IS greener, or perhaps that a life represented by greener pastures is not just our desire but a necessity.

Human beings have a problem with sorting out desires and necessities. It is always worthwhile, for instance, to pray for discernment so that we might ask God for what we need, not what we want. Spiritual maturity is when we know He will answer along those lines anyway: but we must keep our priorities straight. We should look less to the pastures over the fence and over the horizon, and more to the One who nurtures those pastures.

Our culture (what the Book of Common Prayer calls “the world, the flesh, and the devil”) continually distorts this understanding. The tendencies of our natures to be dissatisfied with what we have, combined with the spirit of the age that tells us that human devices ultimately will be sufficient to satisfy every human yearning, add up to an upside-down world. Upside-down values, upside-down actions, upside-down results.

The world’s literature is filled with tales of men who try to recapture a lost or misspent youth, and, contrarily, youths who aspire to manhood before the wisdom that comes with experience -– the literal meaning of premature. Closer to home, I turn to something I have observed about American society. I rely less on charts and graphs when I think about certain things, trusting instead to random half-hours at shopping malls. I have lost count of the number of teenage girls I have seen who, evidently, cannot wait to be women: excessive make-up; clothes and undergarments that (they apparently believe) make them look 30 years older; smoking and rough language; making babies like Mom did. I notice in equal numbers women who need to fool the world, or themselves, that they are still 30 years younger: tattoos; clothes designed for teens; and, again, cosmetics and clothes that are more camouflage than fashion. Upside down.

It extends to more serious realms (not that I don’t think that corruptions of age, gender, and role models are not serious). Ours has become a culture where the blessings of science and medicine run on simultaneous tracks -– more miraculous techniques of delivering premature babies and rescuing at-risk lives... and devising more efficient means to euthanize babies and “mercy kill” the sick, the elderly, and the “inconvenient,” conspiring in laboratories and courtrooms. Upside down.

Politicians say one thing and do another. Upside down. Many of society’s role models would have us think that bodies are indestructible and souls are fragile and off-limits; upside-down advice, because Americans abuse and overburden our bodies to an alarming degree; and even preachers don’t always act like they know our souls can handle all manner of tough love. 

And they should, to stay healthy.

Competition is good for people. One way we can test this is by observing that self-destructive elements in America have transformed it into a dirty word. Yet there is a fine line -– the fence separating the greener grass, if you will -– between the healthy impulses of ambition, and mere dissatisfaction or cynical pessimism. If we wallow in hypocrisy, we are a heartbeat away from fatal defeatism as a culture.

... these are all secular observations, very secular. Upside-down values are guaranteed in a secular culture, because secularism by nature does not have an Anchor. Does America yearn for better things, or are we into a cycle where we will reflexively keep hating what we have, and what we are?

By returning to God and to biblical principles, we can be free of the lies of the world, the flesh, and the devil; we can find self-respect in ways other than upside- down role reversals dictated by TV shows and commercials; we can be patient and confident, not impatient and full of doubts.

Boys act like men and men act like boys? Girls act like women and women act like girls? Scientists act like killers and killers act like scientists? Here’s another one: Every day, everywhere, people act like God. Does God act like us?

Well, we should be grateful that God does not act like us. But one time, in one unique way, He did. He chose a nexus-point in history to become man, and to dwell amongst us. Of the many reasons for this, chief of these to provide a means for our salvation, God wanted assure us in case we ever forget (!) that He knows our sorrows, He shared our pain, He understands temptation, He is not offended by failure and He appreciates repentance, He can forgive sin, He wants to live within us so that we can have a better “self” to self-respect.

He tells us that the color of the grass over the fence does not matter. After all, there will always be other fences and distant pastures. What matters is His promise that All things will be made new. Consider the words of that promise singly, separately, in any combination: All. Things. Will. Be. Made. New.

Meditate on the words of this promise, and the upside-down will pass away, whether green or slightly greener. Whatever. Things are rightside-up in God’s world, the Kingdom Come.

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We have context this week that inspires, supports, and illustrates the message. Beautiful thoughts and images from the anointed Beanscot Channel on YouTube; and a tender but powerful song by the gifted singer-songwriter J. J. Heller. “All Things Are Made New.”
Click: Kingdom Come  

Rick Marschall is the author of 65 books and hundreds of magazine articles in many fields, from popular culture (Bostonia Magazine called him “perhaps America’s foremost authority on popular culture”) to history and criticism; country music, television history, biography and children’s books. He is a former political cartoonist, editor of Marvel Comics, and writer for Disney comics. For 10 years he has been active in the Christian field, writing devotionals; co-author of The Secret Revealed with Dr Jim Garlow. His biography of Johann Sebastian Bach for the “Christian Encounters” series (Thomas Nelson) was released in April, 2011. His history of cartoon Advertising, Drawing Power, will be published in July 2011 by the Marschall Books imprint of fantagraphics Books. In October his major biography of Theodore Roosevelt, BULLY!, will be publ;ished by Regnery History of Washington DC. He is currently working on a One-Year CDevotional for Tyndale House; and edits the the reissue of Harper's Weekly -- the Civil War Years for NOVOink e-books. Rick is a former Director of Product Development for Youth Specialties. He is recipient of the 2008 “Christian Writer of the Year” award from the Greater Philadelphia Writer’s Conference, and produces a weekly e-mail devotional, “Monday Morning Music Ministry.” His e-mail address is:

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