Everything Blurs

Are we seriously about to start a new year?

I suppose this same thought hits me at the end of every year. It’s like you’re so busy just catching your breath from Christmas that you don’t have time to realize you’re about to start an entire new year. I’ve tried to stop and weigh it in my head on numerous New Year’s Eves, but I’ve always come up somewhat short. Because I think there’s something deeper to it than we think. I guess I’ve been really fixated on how things are deeper than we think lately. I’ve asked my friends if they had a good Christmas, and many respond with what gifts they received. I’ve done the same thing. I think we’ve missed the point somehow.

So when we think about the end of year, we watch CNN talk about how historic a year 2005 has been…and certainly that is true. We plan how we’re going to spend our New Year’s Eve, because we can’t allow it to just be one more Saturday night. Surely that would cheapen it. Surely that would degrade what we’re trying to do. The hope that we’re attempting to achieve with looking forward to a New Year. The anticipation. The anxiety. The curiosity. There’s so much happening that it all blurs. The past blurs with the present, yesterday with today with tomorrow, and we can no longer distinguish between them. And in the haste to have a good time and ring in the next year with a positive vibe, we lose sight of its true significance.

I was talking to God last night about a fresh start. I was talking with someone else today about how every day is a chance to do better than the last. How much more so for a new year? We make resolutions that have become passe, but truly this is a huge chance for us to really attempt to change things for the better in our lives. Who is our God if He is not a Giver of second, third, and many more chances? How grateful should we be for this? How much should we be focusing on this instead of on our party plans?

I’ve approached my resolutions with a different sense of devoutness this year. I’m aware that what I’ve committed to do, I’ve committed to do before God. So I didn’t make cheap ones. I made three serious resolutions. I’ve asked Him to hold me to them. I’m scared to death about how He’ll do that. But in the end, we’ll be better because of it.

It’s been a wild year. The next proves to be even wilder. Bring it! So raise your glasses of bubbly and toast the coming year. But don’t cheapen its significance. Don’t cheapen the fresh start He’s given you. Don’t let it go by in a blur.

Happy New Year!

Orwellian Politics

Okay, I’m irritated.

After September 11th, I wrote an op-ed piece because I was concerned about the freedoms we were sacrificing in the name of security. Turns out it’s still an issue.

How did I just know that the Bush administration would push to have the Patriot Act made permanent upon its expiration? A little bit of power, and they don’t want to give it up. Kind of like a police force that doesn’t want to surrender their abilities under martial law. I have supported Bush in almost everything he’s done, but this fiasco of attempting to justify eavesdropping (or, let’s just call it what it is…spying) on Americans without so much as a court order for the wiretap turns my stomach. I’m not arguing that 9-11 was a horrible experience…all of us have those images forever burned into our minds. But have we become so scared that we blindly sacrifice any freedome that the government asks for in the name of our need to feel secure? All they have to do is claim that it’s a security issue, and we roll over and say okay. That’s frightening.

So today, I turn on CNN to discover that the Transportation Safety Administration (I think that’s their title) are formulating new strategies to improve our security. These include not only the screening that has now become commonplace, but includes observing behaviors in passengers being screened, and then having “conversation” with those passengers who are exhibiting susupicious behaviors.

This is supposed to make me feel secure? Actually, I’m kind of scared.

When I flew back from my vacation in Florida this summer, I opened my luggage to discover that security screeners had picked my lock and searched my suitcase. They obviously had no respect for my belongings. My clothes were jumbled, my shoes were on top of my clothes…it was a mess. Of course, they had the “courtesy” to include a little card on top that told me what had happened. But I felt violated. They hadn’t even had the courtesy to go through my stuff with me present, and they certainly showed no respect for my property. They had the right not to. Security, you know.

It isn’t difficult for me to imagine America becoming what we fear the most. If we continue to blindly allow the government to assume police powers in the name of “security,” it suddenly doesn’t seem to be a stretch to envision an America where the secret police can drag us from our homes in the middle of the night. If it’s in the name of security.

Big Brother has arrived.

1984, 2005…it seems Orwell only missed his prediction by a few years.

Flashbacks

Christmas happened largely in flashbacks this year.

I went back to where my parents live for Christmas, and spent a few days there. It’s one state over from me…a few hours drive. My parents still live in the same home where I grew up. I only usually make it back there about once a year, and that is usually over Christmas. My parents are doing this whole “trading spaces” home renovation thing…it’s really cool, and they’re totally proud of it, and all about showing their work off to me when I get there. And I suppose that the fact that they live in the same house and the same town that I grew up in would naturally lend itself to memories. This year, though, it was odd. Not odd in a bad way. Just odd. Because I kept flashing back to Christmases from long ago. I haven’t lived in that house in years, but I literally experienced memories so vividly over the weekend that it was amazing. They lasted only a few seconds each, but there were remarkable in their clarity, and left a nostalgia in the air that was so thick I had difficulty walking through it at times, although no one else even noticed it was present.

The memories came from all ages…some when I was very young, some when I was older.

I remember the excitement on Christmas Eve, the difficulty sleeping, listening for Santa to get there. We didn’t have a chimney, so I asked my parents on a few occasions just how exactly Santa made it into the place.

I remember waking up one Christmas morning to find a bite taken out of the cookie I had left for Santa, and half of his glass of milk drank. He had left me a Luke Skywalker action figure beside the plate. I remember that well. He was in his X-Wing fighter uniform.

I remember getting a race track one year. My dad had gotten a new stereo system that same year. I was very young that year, and my dad recorded the happenings of Christmas morning on a cassette tape without telling us. Then he played it back later, and I was so perplexed that my voice was coming from the radio.

“Oh my gosh, I got Optimus Prime!!!” (Yes, I was Transformers nut!)

“I’m walkin’ on air, baby!” (That one was from high school, when I got the most stylish shoes you could imagine)

I remember the back room to our house. It’s been a guest room, a den, and many other things in its various lives. But when the lights were all turned out and the Christmas lights in the window illuminated the room, it gave it such a warm glow. I used to love that room. It was frequently the “wrapping room.” I’ve wrapped many a gift in that room. My mom would help me wrap my dad’s, and he would help me wrap mom’s. That got tricky at times.

My parents used to hang a strobing Santa light in the window to the master bedroom. I used to just lay on their bed with the lights out and watch it strobe.

I could go on and on with memories that mean nothing to any of you reading this. And I understand that gifts and trees and cards aren’t what Christmas is all about. But the things that I walked away with this year are memories of an overwhelming sense of love and closeness in that home. That can never be taken away. I’m looking forward to (someday) starting my own Christmas traditions. Those wonderful memories will be the foundations for them.

Yes, I know, I said traditions. I suppose even I’m a sucker for tradition when it comes to Christmas.

Normally, my fond rememberings don’t really go back beyond high school. But for some reason, they went back much, much farther this past weekend. In retrospect, it leaves me pondering why the wonder has gone from Christmas, flown away with Santa’s sleigh as I’ve grown older. It leaves me striving to regain some sense of that magic. It leaves me curious as to why God permitted me the memories He did this weekend. Some of my family just aren’t going to be here much longer. Perhaps He wanted to give me those flashbacks as a gift, to support me as I move forward into the unknown.

Whatever the reason, they’re not just memories. They’re experiences that are invaluable. And I’m forever grateful to my family for providing me with them, and with the best home I could ever have dreamed of for my childhood. As I pursue wild dreams this year, I have the best background I could have hoped for. Not perfect. But the best.

Best wishes in your endeavors for the New Year!

Birthday Party

I seriously am having difficulty believing that Christmas is this weekend. Wow. I was sitting on my sofa this morning, sipping my coffee, and looking at my illuminated tree thinking about what’s coming up this weekend.

I spent some time dwelling on that this week. I spoke about it Sunday night. But you know what? I haven’t read the Christmas story yet. Haven’t flipped through the pages of Luke or Matthew at all. Actually, it was another Gospel that caught my eye this week. Most of us, even those of us who really aren’t avid church-goers or perhaps weren’t raised in “Sunday School” or in church, can quote John 3:16. It’s arguably the most popular verse in the Bible.

Along with that, most people find some hint of familiarity within the words of the Christmas story: “And the birth of Jesus was on this wise…”

But my eyes wandered beyond these this past weekend, to two verses that the pastor at the church I attended read. They actually reached out and touched me, though. Because we spend so much time on John 3:16, we seldom ever notice John 3:17.

“For God did not send His Son into the world that He might condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him” (HCSB).

I guess that stands out to me because it sums up the reason He came. The reason that the Prince of Heaven, God Himself, left a realm more incredible and beautiful than we can ever imagine, or that our mortal words could ever express. He left it to become the most helpless of creation, a small baby. A small baby that was born in a stable that was most likely a cave and that literally smelled like crap, laying in something that animals ate from and that was far from comfortable. He voluntarliy gave up so much, voluntarily limited His access to many of His divine attributes, and became “lower than the angels for a short time” (Hebrews 2:7, HCSB). He left His throne, and assumed the stature of a servant.

Think about it. That was suffering enough.

But the thing is that He knew what the plan was before He started. He knew He was going to die, slowly, painfully, horribly. He knew that He would taste death, punished as a criminal, humiliated as society’s worst, even though He had done no wrong. He did it for you and I, pathetic scumbags as we are, even though He knew the things we would do. Not just the swear word that you slipped and said last week, not just the beer you had as a teenager, or the crack you did for years, or the girls you slept with back in the day. But the things that are even more horrible than all of that. The things you do alone at night when no one is watching. He knew about all that, too. And He still did it. Because He cared.

And today as I was rushing through a department store for a last minute gift, I barely cared enough to stop and hold the door for someone.

Not only do we fall short, but we sell His birthday short. If there was ever a resaon to celebrate, it’s Christmas. Because His arrival was the event that changed the world, His life the life that changed history, His death the death that gave us hope. It’s not about the trees and lights and gifts. Certainly, there is nothing wrong with any of those things. But we’re really good at partying without remembering why.

My prayer for myself and for everyone who might read this is that we are able to focus on what it’s about this Christmas. What it’s really about. Who it’s really about. Because if we do, it will change our life, in whatever state it may currently be in, good or bad. That concept, that truth, will shake up your world. I hope you’ll allow it to do so.

Merry Christmas!

Evolving Doors

I’ve been so busy lately, I’ve barely had time to post anything. Such is the Christmas season I guess, at its overly-commercialized best. But I’ve had something on my mind this morning that I just had to get out, so I guess the opinion writer in me is about to rear his head.

Our country was dealt a blow yesterday, and the ACLU won another victory with their empty but pleasing buzzwords and vacuous popularity. A Supreme Court justice ruled yesterday that Intelligent Design could not be taught in a Pennsylvania classroom alongside evolutionary theory because it was a form of religious indoctrination. This justice, instead of just ruling, decided to create law from the bench (excuse me for a second: his job is to interpret law, not write it), and write a long document with scathing terminology against the decision by the small-town school board to approve this policy for their classrooms. Then there were citizens of the town on camera last night, warning others across the country to be aware of what was going on in their school boards, before it was permitted to get this far.

I’m not surprised. Teaching the two theories side by side made sense, so it was a given that the ACLU would attempt to strike it down. They are, after all, in strict opposition to anything that makes sense. Now, when you compound that with the fact that it’s okay to be anything other than a Christian in America, then you get a decision like this, and several school board members who lose re-election for doing something that makes sense. Because, as always, Christians are viewed as being the intolerant bigots of society, when, in fact, it’s everyone else that has grown intolerant of us.

Again, I’m not surprised. He told us that we would be hated. I supposed its more the lack logic that fascinates me. Evolutionary theory is just that: a theory. It has yet to be proven. When you take the time to actually examine the theory, it becomes more and more implausible. The odds of life springing from non-life are so ridiculous that they almost don’t bear mention. People flock to this theory, however, because it’s an alternative to a God that they don’t want to believe exists. So they, in their fury, attempt to push Him out of reach of the rest of us as well. Because they’re angry. Because they’re scared. Scared that He just might be up there. So then, their fear leads to them to say even more stupid things, like how evolution and creation theory can co-exist, even though they are the antithesis to each other. And they get people on their side like an overly opinionated judge that doesn’t seem to understand what his role in the judicial branch of government truly is.

The ACLU is really good at coming up with empty rhetoric that sounds pleasant to us as Americans. Tolerance, freedom of religion, etc. Ironically, the only religion that they want freedom for is their own, the religion of humanism that is masqueraded as political sensitivity.

After all, we wouldn’t want anyone to be offended by all that God stuff. Whatever makes you feel good, that’s what you should do. “Happy Holidays” and warm-fuzzies to go around for everyone.

I’m really not surprised.