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Barbara Walking in the Valley
A bi-weekly column, featuring one Christian's (a)musings on life's journey

by Barbara Dahlgren

Teaching an Old Planet New Tricks
Column for the weeks of September 1-15, 2006

What do you think of when you hear the word, “Pluto?” Not being the most academic bulb on the tree, I always think of Mickey Mouse’s dog first. This isn’t so far from the truth, since under new definitions, the planet Pluto is no longer a planet. I guess little planet Pluto was always considered the “mongrel” planet, anyway. It’s smaller than the other planets – six times smaller than Earth. It’s even smaller than our moon. Pluto’s orbit is different than the other planets, too – it’s tilted at 17 degrees. Its orbit is elliptical and crosses the orbit of Neptune. Poor Pluto! One day it’s a planet; the next day it’s a dwarf!

We live in a constant, changing world. (Pardon the oxymoron!) With our current technology, by the time a new science text book comes out, it’s outdated. New things are being discovered all the time. Countries have different names than they had years ago. Words have different meanings. Our Information Age is on an accelerated course of change, change, change! So much so, that you can kiss some of the stuff you memorized in school goodbye.

I remember when:

Istanbul was Constantinople.
Gay meant happy.
A mouse was a little rodent.
Television news was not considered entertainment.
A driver just drove the car.
AIDS used to help at the principal’s office.
Everyone believed there was a Holocaust.
Math was arithmetic.
Marriage meant the legal union of a man and woman.
Cape Kennedy was Cape Canaveral .
There were nine planets.

Change is not always a bad thing. In fact, our survival could be contingent on our ability to adapt to change. The book Who Moved My Cheese? by Spencer Johnson is about dealing with change in the workplace and in life. His parable is about two little people the size of mice named “Hem” and “Haw” and two mice called “Sniff” and “Scurry.” Each day all four happily locate their daily dose of cheese, but when the cheese is moved, what will they do? Hem screams, “It’s not fair!” Haw stands frozen in shock. However, Sniff hunts for more cheese with Scurry following close behind. A cute story, but it has a powerful message. Whether, we like it or not, change will always be with us. If we don’t somewhat adapt our way of thinking, then we will not know what’s going on in the world. Sometimes we either adapt or get left behind or die.

Believe it or not, people in Biblical times faced this same challenge. When Jesus came, they had to choose whether or not to be tied to an Old Covenant way of thinking, filled with rituals, legalistic laws and regulations, or accept the message Jesus brought. Believe on me and be saved! The old way led to death, the new way to life. Would people embrace this new way of thinking? Many did; some did not. Change is hard.

As for me, this news about Pluto has certainly put me in a tizzy. It’s hard to teach this old dog new tricks. The only way I could memorize the names of the 9 planets was through the mnemonic phrase “My Very Eager Mother Just Served Us Nine Pickles!” (Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Juno, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune….and PLUTO) Now what am I going to do? It’s difficult to learn new mnemonic phrases at my age, but I know I can do it. I’m working on it right now:

My Very Eager Mother Just Served Us Nightingales. No, that doesn’t sound right! What about Napkins? Narcotics? Nanny Goats? No, that won’t work. What would I do with that “g” word? What about Neapolitan Ice Cream? That’s worse than Nanny Goats. What about Needles? No, who wants to eat needles? What about Nectar? Hey, that’s a possibility.

Don’t worry about me! I can change. Just give me a little time.

Let’s see…Pluto was a dog…well, actually a planet…but not a planet anymore…now it’s a dwarf planet…but he’s still Mickey Mouse’s dog. Let’s hope that never changes!



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