I may have mentioned this before, writing a year or so ago, but I thought it might be worth reminding us all of the Centennial Light Bulb. It hangs high up in the main garage of the Livermore-Pleasant Fire Station in Livermore, California. It was switched on in 1901, and with only a very few short moments when it was moved from station to station, it has never been switched off, and continues to burn.
It started out as a 30 watt bulb, but over the years, it has continued to dim, so that now it puts out the equivalent of a 4 watt night light. It’s quite a celebrity, so far as light bulbs go. It is listed in both the Guinness Book of World Records and Ripley’s Believe it or Not! as the longest burning lightbulb in history. When it “turned” 100 years old, the community of Livemore had a big celebration, with a community barbeque and all sorts of entertainment. (I wonder if they all sang, “This Little Light of Mine – I’m Gonna Let it Shine…”)
Actually, there now exists a Centennial Light Bulb Committee. Not sure what the committee does, except perhaps periodically go to the fire station and remark, “Yep – it’s still lit.” It is 120 years lit, which, if you put that in perspective, the oldest living human today is Kane Tanaka, who was born January 2, 1903. She is two years younger than the Centennial Bulb. It has been burning longer than anyone has been alive. I think they got their money’s worth…
On the other end of the spectrum of light bulb longevity, I offer the exhibits of most every light bulb I buy. Even the new LED bulbs, which “somebody” promises will burn for ten years or so, still manage often to blow out mere minutes after they have been screwed in. Can anyone tell me where I can mail in blown out light bulbs that were promised to last at least longer than a day? When whoever it was announced that “they” were going to get rid of all incandescent bulbs, and replace them with “light emitting diode” bulbs, they all promised that it would be better for the environment, and last longer, and perhaps go the store for us and pick up dinner… when in truth, those suckers have a tendency in our house to light up fine, and then more rapid than eagles, they glow with the light of a supernova, and then – poof.
Ok, I will admit that not every bulb acts that way. In fact, there are some in our home that seem to never need replacing. No, they aren’t 120 years in the making, but some of those fixtures just never burn out. They are just great little workhorse light bulbs, never complaining, never faltering – almost always working, and just doing their job. However, then we have our “fair flowers” light bulbs. Big ol’ babies – you have to wonder if, at the store, before they went on the shelves, somebody shook them really hard, or dropped them on the floor a few times. They start off fine, but it doesn’t take long before darkness falls, and the world goes a bit dim, and your four bulb fixture ends up with perhaps two bulbs that are working.
As I mentioned, a few years ago the campaign started to get rid of incandescent bulbs. I have to say they were no better than today’s misfits. I recall buying an entire carton of 60 watt incandescents, which I calculated would last the Cross family for about three generations. They are all gone. Popped. Blown. Dead.
One thing that the new LED bulbs provide, however, is an avenue to spend a great deal of one’s hard earned salary. You know, sometimes, I am happy with 80% ground beef light bulbs, instead of USDA Prime Kobe Beef Filet Mignon bulbs. You know the kind – you have to check your stock portfolio to see if you can liquidate some of your holdings just to buy a four-pack.
So, this morning, Adam informed me that three of the four bulbs in his fixture blew out. Power surge? And he also stated that most of Aaron’s were dead to the world as well. My first thought was to simply seal off that part of the house, or hand them candles, but I was a kind father, and so I ordered a 16-pack of 60W LED bulbs. Should probably last a week or so.
So, of course, the larger image we need to remember today, is not how many light bulbs it takes to keep things lit, but to always consider that we human beings need and desire to live lives where light exists. Isn’t it profound that in Genesis, the first creation by God was, “Let there be light.” Light simply lets us see, lets us trust, and lets us feel confident about our world, even one where shadows seems to exist. Once in the Black Hills, I visited an old gold mining cave with a group. As we went back to the end of the excavation, the leader wanted to show us what it was like with no light whatsoever. We all turned off our flashlights, and stood in what was utter and complete darkness. No matter how I tried, I couldn’t get my pupils to widen enough to bring any kind of light into my head. When the leader then lit one candle, it seemed to be almost as bright as the sun.
That’s why, when Jesus told his disciples, “You are the Light of the world,” he didn’t mean we have to be spotlights or giant generating floods on a football field. He just meant light. A little bit of glow, like a 120 year old light bulb, but it is enough to light the world, and darkness has no place.
So, when you find yourself with all your light bulbs blown, and it is just too dark for comfort, too dark not to be scared – enlighten the world. Be the light yourself, and shine your love and Christ’s love into those icky corners, into those places where people need to see once again where hope, and joy can be found.
As you and I intentionally live this way, it’s amazing how long our own “lights” will last, and be joined by the other lights of the world, to make where we are a place where we can see God’s love.
Word for the day: sobriquet. Pronounced SO-bree-kay. Of course, it sounds French, because it is. From the older French soubriquet, the word originally meant a “jest or quip,” and broken down further, to sou, or Latin sub, and briquet, which means “brisket” or lower part of the throat – a soubriquet meant a “chuck under the chin,” like a father would do to a baby or young child, and a point of affection.
What it means today of course, is a bit more enhanced: it means to have a nickname. Remember, nicknames are always given by others, like New York City is the Big Apple, and we have other nicknames, such as Dixie, or Yankee, or Uncle Sam. Even though my full name is Randolph, for my entire life, it’s been easier to be called Randy. I knew a fellow and a gal in a church I served that both had the name of “Pinky.” Made no sense to me, but that’s nicknames for you…
After 43 years of ministry, Randy Cross lived his "fourth life" and shared about retirement, living boldly and intentionally in our world. To be sure, there was some North Dakota thrown in.