A lot changes in 100 years, but God is always stable


One hundred years ago, Jan. 2, 1919, my Dad was born.

Think about it. Woodrow Wilson was still president. The War to End All Wars was over. Though automobiles were becoming widespread, his parents still drove a horse and buggy to church. There was a muddy wagon trail that went to Wauchula one way and to Avon Park the other.

My father's father was a rancher, a farmer, a citrus grower and a preacher. He either drove his buggy to his country churches or took the train from Avon Park. There was no electricity in his house (and wouldn't be until my Dad was an adult). There was no tractor. There were no fences, only open range. You round up cattle and sorted them out in the pens, or you roped a calf and branded it in the pasture. It took a lot of saddle time to be a cattleman in those days.

Somehow, I never discovered if my father was born at home or if he was born in town. I imagine he was born at home. Ten miles of bumpy dirt roads in a buggy would result in a fast delivery.

In his short 42 years, my father saw electricity come to the ranch, as well as the first indoor bathroom. A telephone line was put in about that same time, a party line where your neighbors could eavesdrop on your conversations.

The family switched from horses and buggies to Model T Fords and then to Model A Fords. They stopped driving cattle to Punta Gorda or Fort Myers to ship and instead began to haul cattle in trucks to the local market. The fence law was passed, and everyone had to fence their cattle in. The Wauchula to Avon Park road was moved north and paved. It no longer took a couple of hours to get to town; now they could reach town in about 15 minutes.

My father saw another World War, and then a police action in Korea. The Atomic Age began when he was 26. Television made it to the ranch in the 1950s.

In his 42 years, my father would be an All-State Football Player, All-Around State Rodeo Champion, producer and announcer of rodeos, a Sunday School teacher and a friend to many.

The first Russian flew in space April 12, 1961. Daddy would die 15 days later, before the first American would ever go into space. He missed the Beatles, color TV, Vietnam, the mini-skirt, the moon landing, Disney World, Watergate, Reaganomics, Gulf Wars I and II, "I did not have sex with that woman," home computers, 9-11, smartphones, Google and Netflix. The heart attack that killed him would probably be averted now by a catheterization and a few stents.

A hundred years is not that long really, not in the long span of time. How could so much happen so fast?

Then I think about my own life. I came along just as the space age began and TV shifted from black and white to color. On the 100th anniversary of my birth, will my grandchildren (hope I have some by then) be amazed that we had to drive our own cars? Will they be shocked that we did not have in-home robots to clean, cook and do laundry? Will they be surprised that one great-grandfather died of cancer, since they have been vaccinated at birth to prevent it?

Will my grandchildren even understand what it means to "go to the store" since a drone from Amazon Target Mart makes daily deliveries? Will they think the idea of a cellphone is quaint since everyone is now implanted at birth with technological uplinks? Will they be amazed that we had relative peace for 60 years, until a massive three-way war between China, Russia and India broke out and engulfed every other nation?

I think about my dad being dropped into 2019 and coming to see me preach. What would he think about the contemporary music, the lights, me not wearing a tie on Sunday?

Then I think about my grandchildren and wonder if they will go to church at all? Will all church turn into an online experience? Or will Christian faith dwindle to just a few folks who stay faithful to Jesus?

Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, said, "Remember your creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come " This is not just a verse for people under 30. It tells us to live each day mindful of God. Change is constant. God is stable. No matter what the future holds, there is a God who holds us. When you know you are in his hand, you are ready for whatever comes.

Clay Smith is the lead pastor of Alice Drive Baptist Church in Sumter.