A year-end review and coming distractions

Column by Jim Bishop

“Stand at the crossroads and look;
ask for the ancient paths,
ask where the good way is,
and walk in it.”
– Jeremiah 6:16

As 2007 nears its close and a new year is about to unfold, I’m impressed anew – how one looks at things makes a world of attitudinal difference.

Earth to Jim: Well, duh, isn’t that obvious – like overeating, smoking and overexposure to the sun and to Britney Spears are hazardous to your health.

Yes, that’s apparent, but I still need to remind myself of the fact.

It can make all the difference in the way we go about our business if we deliberately look at life’s interruptions and challenges as opportunities for renewal and growth.

I like author and social reformer John Ruskin’s (1819-1900) take: “Sunshine is delicious, rain is refreshing, wind braces us up, snow is exhilarating; there is really no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather.”

The late Southern comedian Bro. Dave Gardner put it this way: “Gratitude is riches and complaint is poverty, and the worst I ever had was wonderful.”

I fully expected the pace to slow a bit by this stage of life, but it hasn’t. Already my calendar is full of commitments for January, many of them arranged by other people who seemingly aren’t satisfied until every last speck of their time is accounted for and I’m drawn in by virtue of office.

In many ways, this past year was one of the best. Milestones included celebrating 40 years of marriage to the same wonderful woman, several of the best mini-vacations ever, then, several months later, hosting a 40-year reunion during homecoming weekend of the EMU class of 1967. I think this small but enthusiastic group looked better than we did at our 25th assembly.

The year had its sobering moments – the Virginia Tech shootings, the death of EMU junior honors student Thomas P. Bowers, 22, to complications from muscular dystrophy; the Bluffton University bus accident in Atlanta, Ga., that claimed seven lives; the sudden loss of local actor-playwright Lee Eshleman, whom I’d known for 20 years; the death of Dr. G.I. Lehman, professor emeritus of Old Testament at EMU, a favorite professor.

Time waits for no one. I’m having more difficulty remembering what I did five minutes ago or recalling the name of the person I’ve just been introduced to and already have forgotten his name, while at the same time an insignificant piece of trivia is bouncing off my cerebrum – like the fact that the No. 1 song of the last week of December 1959 was “Why” by Frankie Avalon. Why? Good question.

Now, after decades with virtually no health-related issues other than the occasional cold or flu or trips to the hospital other than to donate blood, I now find myself enjoying better living through chemistry in taking my first medications other than a daily multivitamin.

My advice to anyone taking prescription pills: stay on them. As my doc says, “They’ll help you live a lot longer – along with sensible eating habits and regular exercise.”

I commit to a regimen of all three in 2008.

So, I ponder again the remarkable cycle of events of this past year – the joy of fresh discoveries and reminders that I don’t know as much as I think I do. (Reader responses to this column are helpful in both regards).

I pulled a clipping from a dog-eared file that must be more than 40 years old, but the words ring true today:

When the song of the angel is stilled,

When the star in the sky is gone,

When kings and princes are home,

When the shepherds are back with their flock,

The work of Christmas begins:

To find the lost,

To heal the broken,

To feed the hungry,

To release the prisoner,

To rebuild the nations,

To bring peace among all peoples

To make music in the heart.

To this awesome aphorism I add these queries:

What if, in the new year, each of us

-Listened more and talked less,

-Smiled when we felt like frowning,

-Took up one new hobby or interest,

-Worked to quit one bad habit,

-Refused to transmit gossip or rumors,

-Got involved in a community service project,

-Learned to know someone from another land or culture,

-Tried our best to live within our means,

-Affirmed others instead of accusing or criticizing them

-Said “I love you” to spouse, children and friends regularly

-Practiced the Golden Rule every day.

Let us light one candle that shines a message of hope in a dark, fearful, confused world in 2008.

Psalm 121 reads, “The Lord will keep you from all evil; He will keep your life. The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forevermore.”

  

Jim Bishop is a regular contributor to The Augusta Free Press.

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