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Posts Tagged ‘birthdays’

Birthday_candlesToday is my birthday. Not a big deal—I’ve had a lot of them—but still, a birthday is a good day for reflection.

As far as I know, there is only one reference to a birthday in Scripture and that is a mention of Pharaoh’s birthday in the story of Joseph found in Genesis 40:20. It must have been hard for people to even know the day of their birth before access to calendars was common.  Calendars have been around since the beginnings of history. God gave the Jews a calendar in order to celebrate feast days remembering their exodus from Egypt, but apparently the average person didn’t really know the exact day of their birth.

In medieval times, I’ve read that people celebrated the saint’s day for which they were named—which probably was the same as the day of their birth. So, for instance, St. Mark’s feast day is April 25, so that would be my day of celebration each year instead of October 23. If my parents had followed medieval traditions, I’d be named Hilarion after St. Hilarion (291-371), one of the earliest monastics. I think I like Mark better!

I was actually named after a very saintly man named Mark Armstrong, who was one of my dad’s best friends. I met him several times as a boy, but have always known that he was a good man and a devoted Christian.

One of the lists that people like to make on their birthdays is of all the things that have changed since they were born. The frequency of change in our times is almost more than we can keep up with, so one of my thoughts this morning has been to make a list of things that have not changed since I was born. Here are a few of my thoughts:

People are still frantically trying to find security. One of my earliest memories is of the people next door who had built a bomb shelter and stockpiled it with canned goods in case of atomic war. And, yes, I do remember the notorious school drills of hiding under our desks to protect us from bombs. I used to wonder if we had enough aluminum foil to cover all our windows. Today, we are more afraid of economic destruction, but I suspect our sheltering strategies are about as flimsy as those bomb shelters would have been.

People still need to be loved. Today the hot issue is same-sex marriage. As a child the big issue was divorce first, then the question of remarriage. Modern Family is quite different from The Partridge Family or Leave It To Beaver but then not so much in each family members need to belong to others and to love and be loved within that relationship.

Our lives are still framed by birth and death. I was the oldest of five children, so I remember the excitement of the day each of my siblings was born. I remember the birth of younger cousins, and, of course, you never forget the births of your own children—and then our nine grandchildren!!  As you get older, your calendar of special birthdays can really fill up!  But then, it starts to empty as well.

My first real experience with death was a boy in my class in elementary school named Guy who drowned in a municipal swimming pool.  Then my grandparents started dying while I was in high school and college. A very close college friend died in a light plane crash when I was in my twenties. Older aunts and uncles died during my 30’s. My dad died when I was 41. Sherrylee’s mother died eight years later. It was hard to lose them.

In just the last couple of years we have lost some close friends of our own age—that’s a real shock. Sherrylee’s sister Linda died of early-onset Altzeimer’s. I have watched my Mom who is now 90 lose almost all of her friends at church, so I start thinking, yes, that time of life has begun.  We may live a little longer now than centuries before—sometimes a blessings, sometimes I wonder—but our lives are still framed by birth and death.

God is still God. Jesus loves me, this I know! Security, love, and eternal life,  everything that we long for, that we work for, that we fight for—everything is found in Him.  I’m so thankful today for parents who taught me about God, for Sister Tew—the first Sunday school teacher I remember at the Riverside Church, for Beryl Hooten, who asked me one Sunday if I was ready to follow Jesus, for Alex Humphrey, my first Bible teacher at Fort Worth Christian,  for great teachers at Harding, for Owen Olbright who invited me to do mission work in the Northeast, for Joe Hacker who encouraged us to become missionaries, and for the many Christians who have continued to teach and encourage and walk with us right up to today.

And I’m unspeakably—deeply thankful for my wife Sherrylee, who has not only been my soulmate—the one I love more than my own life—but my teacher, my confessor, the one who has kept me honest before God. Her love is the most physical expression of God’s love in my life.

Great is Thy Faithfulness, O God My Father!

 

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