My life is not perfect but compared to how most people live in the world I have a pretty privileged life. Whenever I find myself complaining over stupid things I look at the news from the world. I usually see reports on people suffering in ways that I have never experienced, nor do I want to ever experience.
Last week I did not have to seek out the news. The news found me. My social media and news alerts all sent me notices of the massive earthquake that struck the nation of Turkey. The first reports I read told me that there were 2,000 people died in the quake. The early reports I read did not reveal how many people were injured or left homeless.
As later reports came out I learned that 25,000 people died in the quake. In addition, 80,000 people have been injured and 2 million are now homeless refugees. These numbers can overwhelm any nation. Turkey has been overwhelmed and refugee camps are struggling to shelter and feed the massive amount of refugees.
To put this in context, the town of Bergenfield is 28,000, just a bit more than the amount of the deceased in Turkey. The total population of Bergen and Hudson counties is about 1.5 million people. The amount of Turkish refugees exceeds the population of our county and the county to our south. Can you image these two counties needing to evacuate and needing to be housed in tents? Is there any doubt why the Turks are overwhelmed trying to care for the living and burying the dead?
And so it is that I, as someone who lives in peace and prosperity, feels obligated to contribute to our Reformed Church in America Fund in order to fund these refugee camps and to help alleviate the suffering. I will be praying for these refuges, those who have been injured and those who are morning these deaths, but that is not enough. I need to “put my money where my mouth is.” This weekend I made a contribution to relief in Turkey. I ask that anyone who is reading this blog to also contribute.
It is easy to contribute. Simply click on the following weblink to make your contribution:
A few weeks ago my car reached a milestone. She reached 100,000 miles. Of course, I photographed the event when she moved her odometer from 99,999 miles to this new mileage total of 100,000. Few people photograph the ordinary as much as I do but I take pleasure in doing it.
Nothing happened when the odometer changed to this number. There was no trumpet fanfare. No balloons or confetti fell from the roof of the car. My car, “Irma,” did not even seem to notice. She just kept driving along as if nothing ever happened and ultimately got me to my destination.
My grandmother always told me on each of her birthdays, “age is just a number.” I guess for a car, mileage is “just a number.”
Shortly after “Irma” turned 100,000 miles, my grandson Zechariah had a birthday, Pam had a birthday, then my daughter Leah had a birthday and I followed a day later. Another Grandson, Sammy, will have a birthday in a few weeks. After each birthday I did not see any changes in those who celebrated birthdays. They acted the same and looked the same. They went to the same schools or the same places of employment. Nothing visible changed from these age-markers so why do we mark them with celebrations?
I wonder if we mark them for the same reason that we count innings in baseball or that there are timers at other sporting events. Often a team that is behind in a sporting match will see that time is running out and be spurred on to try a bit harder. I even know people outside the world of sports who do not work well without a firm deadline.
Do birthdays serve as reminder that our days/years/miles on earth are finite? We have but a short period of time to do all of our good that we will do in our lives. Let us not waste our time. If there is good to be done, let us do it now. If there is peace to create, today is the day. If there is a blessing to give, there is no time like the present. In doing Jesus’ work, today is the day, not tomorrow.
There is a great deal of work for us to do. Let us do it now. We are finite.
Last Friday I had the privilege of attending a show at the Englewood PAC. I have been there before and have never been disappointed by their performances. This show was of two Elvis impersonators and seemed somehow timely since Elvis’ daughter died so recently. One impersonator played the younger Elvis while the other played the older one. The outfits were different and the music was different. There was two distinct performances but each was good.
I have always had a heart for good impersonation. When I was young I enjoyed the satire of David Frey and Rich Little. Of course, at every stage of my education there were people who could mimic teachers and be very popular because of their abilities. These performances were not meant to be flattering to those who were being imitated, unlike the Elvis performance which had the aim of honoring Elvis and paying tribute to his life and music.
Rich Little is still doing comedy but David Frey died about a year ago. Of course, Elvis has been dead for decades. I wish that we still had him with us. I suppose that in one sense we do have him. We have his music, we have videos of his performances. we have those who strive to imitate him to give us the feeling that we had the privlige of attending an Elvis concert.
During the performance it seemed obvious that these two performers, really loved and respected Elvis. For them their performances almost seemed like labors of love. I was once told that imitation is the best form of flattery. I guess that this shows the admiration that these two had for Elvis.
Whom do we imitate? Whom do we love enough to model our lives after? I do hope that we all accept the challenge to imitate Jesus the risen Lord. For some of us this is an obligation. Those of us who call ourselves “Christian” have a special obligation to imitate Jesus. If we love him we must imitate him. This is a vow that we took when we chose to be part of his church.
People who are not Christian still might be moved to imitate Jesus. Even if they do not believe that he is divine or the savior of the world, they might think that he is a teacher who is worthy of being imitated.
Are we willing to imitate Jesus? Are we willing to be positive change agents in the world? Are we willing to pray for people who claim to be our enemies? Are we willing to bless those who curse us? Are we willing to seek reconciliation with those who have hurt us or those who we believe have hurt us?
We celebrate those who imitate Elvis. Perhaps we can make the world a better place by imitating Jesus. The world will be a better place when we all imitate Jesus. We will never do it perfectly, but the world will be better because we tried.
May we all strive to make our lives imitate Jesus.
I graduated from high school in 1976 and I haven’t seen many people from high school since graduation. I did go to our 40th reunion in 2016. But haven’t kept in touch with very many of those classmates since. One exception is Nick with whom I have been Facebook friends with for a number of years. This past weekend I had the honor of officiating at Nick’s daughter’s wedding. It was a beautiful event but it had a surprise for me that I never saw coming.
Unlike me, Nick has kept in touch with many of our classmates. He went through grammar school and high school with a core of friends and these people have stayed friends all these years. They even have get-together several times a year. This group were all wedding guests and I had the privilege of seeing these old classmates once again. Nick made sure that we all got to sit at the same table. It was like a high school reunion.
I admire this group of guys who have stayed so close with one another. Several times a year they have gotten together. They have attended the funerals for the parents of one another. They even gathered together when one member suffered the tragic death of a daughter. It has been forty seven years since graduation, yet this group formed long before high school. They have been a support system for more than fifty years. In a world where relationships are increasingly temporary, this group has maintained permanent relationships. I admire and envy this group. These people know what true friendships are.
There is something for all of us to learn from this group. Their friendships have been maintained because they are present for one another. How present are we for those who we know? Are we as willing to serve others as much as this group does? I wish that faith communities took care of one another to the same extent that this group does. If we want to be served we must be willing to serve others and that service is contagious. I pray that this is a lesson that we will all learn just a little bit better.
I attended the funeral for a beloved Christian man on Saturday. He was 105 years old at the time of his death in November. For years he was a faithful member of the congregation that I serve but several years ago he and his wife moved to Suffolk County to live with his son and daughter in law. The last house that he lived in was the house that he went to as a little boy for summer vacations.
Dr. Irving Pitman was one of the true Christian Gentlemen that I have met in my life. He was an elder in three different churches, two Reformed Churches and one Presbyterian and he served on the chaplaincy board of a local hospital. I was sad and I missed him when he moved from our church out to Long Island several years ago.
I didn’t speak at his funeral. The minister of the Presbyterian church in Long Island conducted the service but a number of people rose to give remembrances of “Doc” Pitman. The stories were all similar: Irv’s love for Jesus was apparent, he made friends quickly, and he never defined himself as “old.” When others were telling him that he could not do something, he would do it anyway. Some people exist. Irving “Doc” Pitman lived and lived every day that life gave him.
I do not know why Irv was such a wonderful person. I don’t know if his devotion, energy and love of life was a genetic gift he had, or the way that he was raised. I don’t know if God gave him an extra amount of Spirit. Somehow, Irving was an extraordinary Christian who did good wherever he went. He had only lived in Long Island for several years, but his neighbors there, showered him with praise as though they had known him for a long time.
I write this blog as a tribute to Doctor Irving Pitman, my role model for Christian living. I hope that someday I might begin to live as good a life as he did. Most folks who live lives this long have small funeral; most of their friends have already died. Irving continued to live a Christian life, and engaged people each day of his 105 year life. If we wish to be remembered so well, let us begin a Christian life in imitation of Irving’s life.