The Good Old Days

Often those of us who are past the mid-point of life look back upon the days of our youth and reminisce about “the good old days.”  Life seemed simpler and more civil. Families were closer, churches stronger and neighborhoods safer. A man’s word was as good as his signature. A dollar was worth more and it didn’t cost you your children’s inheritance to purchase a house. Cars were made of steel; schools were places where children learned in an orderly atmosphere and where verses of the Bible could be written and a Bible on a teacher’s desk would not be cause for alarm.

Remember those good old days? Ellen and I recently attended my 60th high school (OHS-Ottumwa High School) class reunion. We enjoyed so much renewing acquaintances and friendships and seeing some of the class that we had not seen in 60 years.  My, how some of them have aged! (Laugh here) We had an opportunity to visit some old haunts in my hometown, to get a gander of the old home-place where I spent most of my childhood; to visit the famous “canteen” in Ottumwa where after high school football games everyone would crowd in for what was the best burger west of the Mississippi! (It was my first visit ever to the Canteen, so I really enjoyed finding out what made it so famous and still a favorite 60 years later!) The juice from these burgers sort of ran down from your hands to your elbows, if you know what I mean. The city at one time was going to tear down the Canteen to build a parking garage and the home folk raised such a ruckus about it, they left the Canteen in tact and literally built the parking garage around it. While we were in Ottumwa, we took a short twenty-minute drive down parallel with the Des Moines River to visit Eldon, Iowa, famous for not much more than the art work of West, Iowa artist who painted a picture of the old farmer and his wife, the farmer holding a pitchfork in his hands with the Gothic style house behind the couple. The house still stands and thousands of people visit it every year, but when I was a boy, we never paid any attention to it as the world had not yet “discovered” it.

My Dad and Mom went to the Douds class reunion every year, a combined reunion of classes of many years in their old high school. One of Dad’s last reunions, he reported that out of a class of six only he and another woman were surviving (this was about his 70th class reunion). They always enjoyed seeing old friends and recalling school days. Mom said she lived close enough to school that she could run home for lunch, but as she was wont to do, she always managed to cut it too close in getting back and in her seat on time; but the old custodian who would ring the bell always saw to it that she would be sitting in her seat just as the tardy bell would ring!

Dad, in recalling the “good old school days” tells of a time that one of his high school teachers saw him talking to a girl in a seat nearby where he was sitting; the teacher pulled him by his hair out of the seat and really gave him a roughing up. He had done it to other boys in the class throughout the year. Then, one day, two or three of the bigger boys met the teacher in the hallway and they held him by the collar up against some lockers and told him in terms that he could understand that he should never lay a hand on them again. I think they all survived the year without any more beatings!

Well, the good old days in some ways were memorable. But were they really that good? Solomon makes a striking statement in Ecclesiastes 7:10: “Say not thou, what is the cause that the former days were better than these? For thou dost not enquire wisely concerning this.”

In other words, don’t look back on the former days with too much fondness thinking that they were so much better that these days. They probably had their ups and downs, their plusses and minuses, just as these current days.

Days are what we make of them. The ebb and flow of history’s tide will bring peace and war, plenty and famine, poverty and prosperity, employment and unemployment, inflation and deflation. There is a cycle of life. There will be draught and there will be floods. There will be rest and there will be unrest. What makes the difference in the day is not what is presently making the headlines, but what your relationship with God is. Circumstances are always fluid; God never changes.

There are always good things and bad things in anyone’s world and that has been true at any juncture of history. Sin has always pretty much abounded, but it is also true that where sin has abounded, grace has much more abounded.

So, whether a time is “good” or “bad” depends not so much upon what is happening at that time, but rather, how you relate and respond to what is happening at that time.

These are, therefore, the good old days! Not yesterday. Those days were the good old days for those who lived then, or the bad old days whichever one’s perspective happened to be.

I hope that you’ll appreciate the past, but seize the moment of the present. These days will soon be gone and you’ll one day be able only to look upon them with a backward glance. Today, buy up the opportunities to enjoy the blessings of God. Cultivate an excellent spirit. Have the mind-set of Daniel, who, having been taken from his homeland, his family, his culture, excelled because of the positive spirit he manifested.

There are the “good old days” now! Never have there been greater opportunities. Never have there been more abundant and effective tools with which to serve God. Never have the challenges been so great but never have the means with which to meet those challenges been so powerful and so universally accessible. With faith in God and utter dependence upon His ability to accomplish His will and work through you, you’ll enjoy every moment of these good old days!

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