Let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. Hebrews 10: 22-23 (NIV)
The approach of 2013 finds us home in our pajamas which is exactly where we like to be. We had frozen Chinese food for dinner, leftover wedding cupcakes for dessert and will soon go to bed and sleep through the arrival of the New Year if our neighbor’s huge fireworks display which has been banging over our heads for the last hour lets us. 2012 was a year of changes for us. From the flood which required a new kitchen and floor to a few new pieces of furniture, our house looks different. From youngest son’s wedding and move to St. Augustine to oldest son’s return home our nest looks different. From new staff to new job duties, my career looks different. I changed my attitude towards my health this year as I try to manage the constant pain from arthritis in my hands and back. I have tried massage therapy, chiropractic treatments, worked with a personal trainer once a week and am now going to physical therapy. I used portion control to lose weight, learned Pilates and am working to manage my stress and keep my blood pressure down. By the time I reach my 55thbirthday in March, I hope to be healthier than I was at 50. The greatest change though has been in my beliefs about God. I have been a Christian for 46 years now, but some events this year forced me to evaluate what I really believe. I have been reading a book that oldest son recommended called, Mortality by Christopher Hitchens. He warned me that it is not a book that you can read straight through. I read a little, contemplate it, go back and reread it and think some more. Hitchens was an excellent writer, funny, engaging and honest. He died in 2011 from cancer and the book is about the process of dying. But the process of dying without god or any hope of life after death. Hitchens, an atheist, was very different from me. In the book, he makes fun of the beliefs I have held my whole life and his writing challenges me to dig deep and ask myself, “Why do I believe what I do?” Even without his book, I think I would have done so. How can you make three trips to Guatemala and not consider if there is a God and if there is, what must He be like to allow such suffering in our world. How can I not be with Nanny Christy and wonder why her and not me? Or see Billy struggle knowing that if he had just been born in America, he would even now be enrolled in a magnet school for technology with an IPAD in his backpack and a cell phone on his hip? One of the things that Hitchens says as he tries to discount God is regarding the power of prayer. He says he cannot believe in a god that could change the laws of nature or that would agree to. In his view, prayer does not change things, except perhaps give the believer some calm similar to meditation or deep breathing. I have to disagree with Hitchens. Take for example youngest son’s wedding day. For a week leading up to it, the weather forecasters predicted 60% change of rain all day. No clearing of the skies at 4:00 PM. Even the morning of the wedding, the forecast was for rain all day long. So, I wonder how Hitchens would explain the sun’s appearance at Noon and a cloudless sky at 4:00? I know it wasn’t coincidence nor where the forecasters wrong. God responded to the prayers of many and moved the rain away. Now, God is not like a Genie in a bottle, we don’t always get what we pray for. But, instead of like Hitchens dismissing the possibility of God working in our lives, I believe that God gives us what is best for us and sometimes we are asking for the wrong thing. I read somewhere that if we knew what God knows, it would be easy for us to pray for His will to be done and to be obedient when He asks us to do something that we don’t understand. I am not through with the book yet, so will continue to read and consider as we enter into 2013. But, I think Hitchens might be appalled to know that instead of driving me from God, he actually made me draw closer!