Archive for December, 2011

When You Are Old

2011 is nearly over. We are about to celebrate the first day of 2012. People will stay up late, throw parties, eat junk, and make New Year’s resolutions. While I’m not fond of the “I promise to be good” flavor donned sometimes by New Year’s resolutions, I do like the reminder to contemplate my own life a little bit.  It also seems a perfect time to ask a question, “What or who do you want to be when you’re old?”

I probably got asked that in junior high or high school at some youth event. I know the “what would you want your epitaph to be?” one did get asked. The question and its answer could be trite, slathered with all the “right” answers, but I do think it’s an important question to ponder, because you are going to be somebody or something to others. That’s guaranteed. You’ll have made choices and lived with the consequences. You’ll have a reputation, a history. All of that will help to determine who or what you are when you are old. “What or who do you want to be when you’re old?”

This isn’t something we suddenly get to decide when we finally reach that invisible point of old age. We make decisions as younger people that play an important role in people we become when we are old. Those decisions we make today about health, finances, relationships, character, and so on affect the health, finances, relationships, character, and so on in your future. How do you live your life now? That’s going to make a difference tomorrow. It’s going to make a difference in what or who you’ll be when you’re old. If there’s a strong family history of heart disease, eating five eggs a day may not be your best bet. Saving money today instead of spending all you have and then some means that later in life, you’ll probably have some put back, and you might have even made money on it! If you marry somebody who treats you wonderfully, your old age will probably look a little different than if you marry and divorce a few times. If you’re telling lies today, it’s probably a little much to expect people to believe you’re telling the truth tomorrow. See how this goes? “What or who do you want to be when you’re old?”

Don’t kid yourself, either, that tomorrow never comes. Technically, tomorrow never does come for us, but the future held by tomorrow does eventually become our today. I’ve noticed as I’ve gotten older that tomorrow becomes today quicker and quicker. I suspect that trend will continue, and that one day I’ll wake up all of the sudden and realize that I’ve achieved old age. Will I be the person I wanted to be? I hope so. The time to start that process is now.

Happy New Year’s!

P.S. I think Ecclesiastes does a fine job of discussing the brevity and purpose of life, so I’m including a few verses from the end. Enjoy!

Ecclesiastes 11:7-12:7

New International Version (NIV)

Remember Your Creator While Young

7 Light is sweet,
and it pleases the eyes to see the sun.
8 However many years anyone may live,
let them enjoy them all.
But let them remember the days of darkness,
for there will be many.
Everything to come is meaningless.
9 You who are young, be happy while you are young,
and let your heart give you joy in the days of your youth.
Follow the ways of your heart
and whatever your eyes see,
but know that for all these things
God will bring you into judgment.
10 So then, banish anxiety from your heart
and cast off the troubles of your body,
for youth and vigor are meaningless.

Ecclesiastes 12

1 Remember your Creator
in the days of your youth,
before the days of trouble come
and the years approach when you will say,
“I find no pleasure in them”—
2 before the sun and the light
and the moon and the stars grow dark,
and the clouds return after the rain;
3 when the keepers of the house tremble,
and the strong men stoop,
when the grinders cease because they are few,
and those looking through the windows grow dim;
4 when the doors to the street are closed
and the sound of grinding fades;
when people rise up at the sound of birds,
but all their songs grow faint;
5 when people are afraid of heights
and of dangers in the streets;
when the almond tree blossoms
and the grasshopper drags itself along
and desire no longer is stirred.
Then people go to their eternal home
and mourners go about the streets.
6 Remember him—before the silver cord is severed,
and the golden bowl is broken;
before the pitcher is shattered at the spring,
and the wheel broken at the well,
7 and the dust returns to the ground it came from,
and the spirit returns to God who gave it.

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to you all! It’s nearly here. Boy, did it come fast! I think I’m more or less ready as far as presents and wrapping and all that glitter goes. It’s been a strange holiday season for me mostly because of my back injury. Some of the things I would have normally done I didn’t get to do, like make stained glass ornaments for my family, and I suspect that’s contributed to my sense of Christmas fast approaching. My routine got busted up, so it doesn’t feel like it should be Christmas already. However, despite my feelings, Christmas is all but here.

Yep, despite my feelings, Christmas is almost here. I really haven’t been excited about it this year. Normal certainly got disrupted for me, it seems like there have been a lot of scheduling issues for family get-togethers, and even the weather has been a little weird.

The funny thing is that there are things about Christmas that I do love. I enjoy a lot of the music and the way that people dip into the past to enjoy music that people have been playing at Christmas time for decades, even centuries. American culture seems to spend a lot of time looking forward and trying to achieve new and modern. I like that at Christmas, people look back a bit and remember some old and classic music. In fact, that happens with all kinds of Christmas traditions – traditional ornaments, traditional recipes, traditional gifts, traditional colors, traditional whatever. It makes me smile that once a year, we touch base with traditions.

Another thing I love is that I can be a little bit friendly and wish somebody well with a cheerful “Happy holidays!” or “Merry Christmas!” without getting funny looks. People will often even smile back! Other times of the year, a polite well wishing will more frequently earn me funny looks. People aren’t rude in response, but it’s like they have no idea how to respond to a sincere, “Have a good day,” or “I hope that goes well for you.” At Christmas, it’s more normal to greet folks and wish ‘em well. I love that!

Something else I love is the generosity I see displayed. Commercialization has certainly capitalized on Christmas, but once the greed is scraped off and set aside, I think some of that is because people do love to give. Christmas can be a great time to express that generosity. I saw that with my coworkers this year as the food and toy drive boxes and other charities were filled to overflowing. People gave a lot.

Things like this do make me happy that it is the Christmas season. Peace on earth, goodwill to men, huh?

Here’s hoping that you do, indeed, have a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year!

Relationships are funny (as in funny = peculiar, not as in funny, haha!) things. They come in a huge variety. Marriage, family, friends, coworkers, and acquaintances all generate relationships. So do enemies. A relationship doesn’t have to be good in order to qualify as a relationship. 😛 It just requires some commonality, which conflict can provide. Relationships can also be extremely casual or brief, like people sharing public transportation or a checkout line in a supermarket. We aren’t limited to relationships with other people, either. We have relationships with things like political parties, churches, governments, and even food. To be clear, for the purposes of this post, I’m thinking about people.

Not only do relationships have a huge diversity in their external structure, they present us with all kinds of diversity in the effects they have on our lives. A single relationship can, throughout its course, be enough to send a person on a trip through every emotion possessed by humanity! They can have a very powerful effect on us, affecting how we feel, what we think, our expectations, and even what we believe about ourselves and those around us.

It makes me think about the purpose or maybe the consequences of relationships. I suspect that much of the time, people are so accustomed to relationships that they’re more or less invisible, kind of like oxygen or gravity. Relationships help form part of the, oh, foundation of human experience. Why on earth would God do that to us? I’ve certainly wondered that. Often enough, it’s been followed by, “Didn’t He think about the kind of vulnerability that would give us? Or the power?” I’ve certainly had some… er… negative encounters that caused me damage, and I’ve doubted my own trustworthiness with any sort of power. I’m not exactly a saint, hey?

I don’t s’pose damage and pain was really His idea, though. What did Jesus say? “I am the Vine. You are the branches.” Sounds like a relationship to me, so I’d guess it’s safe to say that the original Idea was for us to have a relationship with God, and that the painful bits are a consequence of humanity’s own, not-so-bright ideas and subsequent fall.

As for why God would give us relationships with each other, I think part of the answer can be found in Hebrews 10:24 – 25. Hebrews 10:25 is a verse often used when a pastor wants to remind people that they ought to be showing up at church on Sundays, but I’m quite sure it has broader applications. I first learned it in the good, ol’ King James (classic Awana), so I think that’s how I’ll share it.

Hebrews 10:23-25

23Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;)

24And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works:

25Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.

I forgot. Verse 23 is also great, so I had to add it. Let’s see what we have here.

Bekah’s perspective on Hebrews 10:23-25

23) God is trustworthy, so let’s trust Him. Duh!

24) Be deliberate and considerate. Look for opportunities to promote love and good works in the people around you.

25) Don’t shun community. Don’t be a chicken livered coward who flees redemptive relationship or one who is foolish enough to underestimate its value. Time is short. We are to be here for each other to, if nothing else, earnestly remind and even goad one another into living like we believe that God is trustworthy.

Verse 23 makes me laugh, I do have to say. Writing all that out like that was pretty fun, and it seems pretty clear, too. I think one good reason to be in relationships with other Christians who are also determined to love God is because we are intended to help each other along the way.

One last thought occurred to me. I said that we’re intended to help each other out. It’s not just be helped. Nobody is so pathetic, so broken, so useless that they’ve nothing to offer, not even me. I am not saying that I’m worthless, but I have certainly gone round and round with it at times. We have something to offer to each other. We’re told to “consider…how to provoke unto love and good works.” God doesn’t break legs and then tell us to walk. He doesn’t demand the impossible without making a way, so if He’s telling us to do something, we can do it. I find that so encouraging. It’s not merely a command, a responsibility, a duty to discharge. It’s a privilege. What’s more, it’s often an opportunity for God to strengthen my own faith and trust as I see Him make yet another way for me to “exhort” another. Makes sense, though. Branches don’t stand up well by themselves. They need the support of the Vine.