On Wednesday, if you would have asked me where I would be tonight, I would have replied Kansas. well, I'm still in Houston, but Lord willing and weather permitting, I'll be in Wichita at this time tomorrow and we will probably replicate the conversation below. This is from December 23 , 2010.
On Monday, I made the ten hour drive from Houston to Wichita smoothly. I'll spend two weeks here, splitting time with my brothers and their families before heading back to Texas on the second of January. I always used to fly for the Christmas holidays but since I'm no longer coaching high school basketball, there is much less emphasis on time. After flying all those years, usually to St. Louis to be with my folks, I am adjusting comfortably to life on the highway. It's been made easier with the April purchase of my Honda Fit which now has about 4800 miles on the odometer. When I arrived at Dave and Sally's, they separately asked the identical question;
How was the trip?
Without missing a beat, I simply recounted the mileage gauge-
45.5 miles per gallon
It seemed like the logical answer. After all, that is incredible gas mileage, especially as pump prices are once again heading north. I don't know anybody who gets those numbers on the road and I was amazed myself. On my Thanksgiving drive to the Sunflower State, I only managed 43.7 so this was a pleasant surprise. I do wonder if it's possible to go any higher or if I have reached the upper limit of fuel efficiency. I feel like a pioneer.
As I thought about my response, however, I felt sheepish. After all, my drive had been blessed by beautiful weather, no accidents that I witnessed, kind people whose paths crossed mine when I stopped for gas, and much needed time to think and pray. Instead, I fell into the common practice of defining success by reducing it to a number. I'm not alone. Politicians equate polling data with mandates from the governed. Schools look at enrollment figures to rate their academic year. Coaches and fans boil it down to a won-loss record. Churches might quote contribution totals or attendance averages to measure their effectiveness in the kingdom. But numbers alone often are an imprecise tool of analysis. The best coaching job I ever did was when my high school team went 4-27. The worst coaching job I ever did was when my team won thirty-four games and claimed the Texas private school state championship. The box scores in the newspapers only told a sliver of the story.
We are surrounded by the culture of Christmas again this December, reported by the media in numerical units of shoppers, sales, and holiday travelers as affected by GNP/GDP/unemployment figures/Federal Reserve estimates/tax rates etc. But how do you assess a season without the assessment of the One it's named for? What numbers would the experts use to break down the influence of the Savior? Would it be twelve as in apostles? Maybe five thousand as in those dining on loaves and fishes or forty as in His temptation in the desert? Would it be three as in days in the tomb or seven as in demons cast out of Mary Magdalene? Even non-believers would understand the futility of quantifying the life of Jesus of Nazareth on any scale which includes numerals. Forget the computers and the sociological charts when attempting to explain the impact of a carpenter in the Galilee region of Israel. Just find an old hymnal and read once more the words of Isaac Watts penned hundreds of years ago about the One on whom history turns:
"Peace on earth and mercy mild;
God and sinners reconciled."
So, maybe there is a number we can use- one, as in the reconciliation of the created to the Creator. All other numbers become meaningless as we celebrate one more time the birth of our salvation. Joy to the world, and Merry Christmas tonight from lovely Hugoton, Kansas.
Applicable quote of the day:
"Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, and I have founded empires. But on what did we rest the creations of our genius? Upon force. Jesus Christ founded his empire upon love; and at this hour millions of men would die for him."
E-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org