Happy New Year! That cheery greeting has been in the air since New Year’s Day. It is beginning to wane now as we get into the winter blahs. The Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays are in our rearview mirrors. Days are short and the nights are long. Winter cold has moved in to stay for several weeks and we tend to struggle with the wintertime blues.
Most pastors will tell you that folks tend to experience more depression during this time of the year. It is time to pay the bills for all the celebrating that we’ve enjoyed. Wintertime ailments, sniffles, hacking coughs, aches and pains abound.
Sometimes New Year’s resolutions can be a lot like new automobiles. They can be shiny and fresh but they can depreciate quickly. They may have been impulse commitments. The newness can wear off in a hurry and they can fall into disrepair. Dent a fender and pride of ownership wanes. Before you know it, you are off to other things.
How many times have I resolved to have a slimmer waistline by March, only to get to April and discover that I missed my goal? Does that sound familiar to you? One thing I have learned is that there are two kinds of resolutions. First are those resolutions that I’ll call “result resolutions.” They are goals that I’d like to reach. Then there are what I’ll call “effort resolutions.” They are the things I am willing to do to reach those goals. For example, I’ll resolve to get slimmer. But it won’t happen unless I also resolve to eat less! Effort resolutions are the most important resolutions we make!
Christmas and New Year holiday celebrations are great fun for all except those who are terminally grouchy. We all know a few folks who are like that. They are in need of professional help. I’m as serious as a heart attack, and I’m one who has had five heart bypasses and am on my third pacemaker. But I believe Christmas and the New Year will be sufficient to help most of us get through this tough time in our lives.
We are very anxious people at this moment. And when we are anxious, we are not usually at our best. Our judgment is impaired. We make poor decisions. We think thoughts that, in our stronger moments, we would not allow to distract us. We say things that do not truly represent our morality, our ethics, our values. This is because we are human and our humanity can sometimes cause us to weaken in the face of threats.
Y’all are smart readers. How do I know this? Because you love puns, particularly puns made by intelligent people. Whenever I pass along such a pun, I hear lots of groans. So, here we go again.
I got this from Professor George Hunter: A fellow was driving home for the Christmas holiday. He decided to leave early in the morning and stop later for breakfast. Eventually, he stopped at a diner. The waitress asked, “What’ll you have?” The traveler replied that he would like the eggs benedict with whole wheat toast, orange juice and coffee. When she returned with his breakfast he could not help but notice that the eggs benedict was perched on a hubcap.
It’s a rainy day today and I’m in a mellow mood. I wish we had a tin roof. I love to hear the pitter pat of rain on a tin roof. It relaxes the muscles in the back of my neck and makes me think soothing thoughts. It dampens my appetite for debating religion, politics, sports or almost anything else. I just want to kick back and luxuriate in pleasantries. Well, we don’t have a tin roof, but we do have tin gutters. The light rain collects volume and speed as it comes down the gutters and it puts me in the mood. Today, I’m thinking about old adages.
The Book of Proverbs in the Bible is a rich mine of sayings and wisdom. We call this kind of thing “wisdom literature.” The reason is obvious. Here are some samples from Proverbs: (1) “Guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” 4:23. (2) “Wisdom is the main thing. Therefore, get wisdom. And with all else, get understanding.” 4:7. (3) “Go to the ant, you lazy, sluggish person. Consider her ways and be wise.” 6:6.
My friend, Dr. Dennis Caudill of Kannapolis, is one of the most public-spirited people I know. He came down South more than 30 years ago to begin his practice as a doctor of chiropractic. He immediately became involved in organizing the town’s annual Christmas parade. He’s been doing it ever since. I was talking with him at Sunday school about this — he’s the class president — when he mentioned that the parade was once famous for its “possum float.” This was before his time as chief of the parade. However, it still remains in the public memory.
A dear friend wrote this note to me:
“I’m hoping you will write about all that is happening in our world — Paris, Beirut, refugees, idiots, peace, life, trying to make sense of it all while going into a supposed holiday season that feels to have lost its heart. It has become so trivialized, commercialized and so much work and expense that I’d rather skip the whole thing! I guess I needed to express that! HA! Xoxoxo.”
As you longtime readers of this blessed blurb know, I am an aspiring songwriter. I love lots of musical styles. However, I regard my own style as “Shabby, Country Chic.” So far as I know, I am the world’s only musical artist employing this genre.
Two years ago, I wrote a Thanksgiving song. Since I am a Methodist minister, I thought I would be able to get it included in the next edition of the Methodist hymnal. This may explain why I now believe there will never be a next edition of our hymnal. I include it here in the hope that you Episcopalians or Lutherans may be able to get it into your hymnals.
The world of the church is a tremendous repository of old jokes and inspirational stories. We preachers are forever recycling them and telling them as if they are brand new. And you, dear listeners in the pews, keep chuckling because you don’t want to hurt our feelings. We love you for that kindness. I worry that one day I will have a brief mind freeze and forget where I am. I will say, “Stop me if you’ve already heard this,” and the entire congregation will leap to its feet shouting, “Stop!”
I admire Thomas, the disciple of Jesus. In John 20:24-29 we read the account of a resurrection appearance of Jesus to some of his disciples. Thomas had not been present when it happened and expressed his doubts about their report. So he asked, “Show me some evidence.” A few days later, John reports that there was another resurrection appearance in which Thomas was present and was convinced. Forever after, Christians have referred to the Apostle as “Doubting Thomas.”
If there is a God, there must be a heaven. It only seems proper when you consider the traits we attribute to God: loving, kind, gracious, just, merciful, all-powerful, all-knowing, generous, faithful and true. Don’t you think? And do you ever awaken and look out your window to a morning in which everything is bright and beautiful? Robert Browning’s words in Pippa Passes ring true for you: