Friday, January 04, 2008

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Happy New Year 2008!

It is a tremendous blessing, and a gracious gift of God, to be alive to see the beginning of 2008!

I cannot but remember that there are many who started out with us into 2007 who are no longer here. This past summer, my immediate family lost cousins Ludy (Virginia) and Adam. Both deaths were sudden and unexpected. It was in June when Ludy, my maternal grandmother’s niece, returning home to South Carolina from a vacation with her husband and son, suffered a massive heart attack. Adam died in July as a result of a sudden, massive stroke. He was only 38 and lived in the Boston area for most of his life. My uncle’s oldest son, Adam and I met when he was around two years old and I was about seven or eight. When he and his brother Gabriel would come to Illinois for visits or to spend the summer, we would play together. And now, he’s gone! What a somber reminder of both the certainty of death and the fragileness of life. We may live to be a senior citizen, like Ludy, or we may not live to see 40, like Adam, but it is guaranteed that we will die.

And then, like my great-grandmother used to say, one can never know “how you’re gonna leave here”. Some people die after suffering years of lingering illness, while others die suddenly with no warning, like my cousins. Some people keep their presence of mind to the end, while others suffer some form of dementia for years and come to their deaths no longer able to recognize even family and loved ones.

This is why it is such a blessing to be alive and well. To see 2008 is a cause for praise, thanksgiving and rejoicing. In Methodist tradition, each Annual Conference opened with the singing of Charles Wesley’s hymn, “And Are We Yet Alive”. As we begin a new year, I think it’s appropriate to quote a few verses of that old hymn:

And are we yet alive,
And see each other’s face?
Glory and praise to Jesus give
For His redeeming grace!

Preserved by power divine
To full salvation here,
Again in Jesus’ praise we join,
And in His sight appear.

What troubles have we seen,
What conflicts have we passed,
Fightings without, and fears within,
Since we assembled last!

But out of all the Lord
Hath brought us by His love;
And still He doth His help afford,
And hides our life above.