Sunday, September 11, 2011
Today, September 11, 2011, marks the tenth anniversary of the attack by terrorists on the United States. As a result, this has been a weekend of retrospection on television. Once again the images of that tragic day have seared their way into our consciousness. Scenes of abject panic in the streets of New York, a blazing Pentagon in Washington, and smoke rising from a newly formed crater in a farmer's field in rural Pennsylvania have all brought back difficult memories.
Dedications and commemorations have taken place in every corner of the land. The nearly 3,000 who perished that day have been remembered in countless ceremonies at the sites of where they actually happened and in the small corners of the villages and towns that dot this expansive country. Sober faced politicians have laid wreaths and spoken words of comfort and compassion. Partisan politics seem to have taken a much deserved vacation for at least one, brief weekend before resuming its mind numbing rhetoric with the beginning of the new week. And this is as it should be.
For our family, today also marks an anniversary, for one year ago this very day, a bundle of energy and joy announced herself to the world. Her name is Noelliah but we call her Noe (Noee) for short. She came into this world with a smile and personality that proclaimed a new day had dawned and the world (at least ours) would never be the same.
This little girl, brought instant joy to her two sisters and proud parents. There is something about her that will not allow you to take your eye off of her. By the time Christmas rolled around, Noe was like bottled energy, all ready to be let loose but not sure exactly where to go with all of it. She grinned from ear to ear her first Christmas day and anyone who spent time with her could have testified that she new the real meaning of the season far better than all the adults in the room because she simply lit up with joy. I held her for a while on that cold and snowy winter afternoon and she was ready to go. Her little legs were always in motion and that infectious smile lit up every feature of that three month old face.
During the course of her first year, she has delighted us with her antics and amazed us at how quickly she has grown. One glance at a photograph reveals that twinkle in her eye that speaks of her love of life even at this tender age. She delights in being with her sisters. She cuddles with mom and warms those long evenings when my son Josh works long hours to support his brood. She lights up as daddy comes home and can't wait to leap into his arms.
Yet, the joy of this first birthday could be tempered with the sadness that history has punctuated this day with. The thought of thousands of innocent people who went to work that morning with no thought of death whatsoever suddenly perishing in a brutal, unprovoked attack could dampen any day. And we could be forgiven if it did. The misery and suffering of that day was enormous and has impacted us all even though most of us did not personally know of anyone who died in the World Trade Center, The Pentagon, or that lonely field in the countryside of Pennsylvania. We are, after all, all connected by our very humanity and the thought of the carnage of that day is certainly a sad and melancholy thought.
Yet, that day with all of its sadness and tragic memories is not the whole story of 9/11. Who would have guessed ten years ago that our family would be blessed on this very day nine years into the future with God's symbol of hope and joy. That is what this day is all about. We are not callous when we think of celebrating the life of this precious child born on one of the most historic day in our nation's history. We are human! Noe has brought a new dimension of life into our midst and it a dimension that demands celebration. She is the embodiment of hope. She is the future. She will have no memory of that awful day that stunned us all. She will have only the history books and stories from those of us who were alive when we were attacked. Every day, little Noe is a reminder that God renews the face of the earth with new life. Every day, every new child is a reminder that life goes on and it is ours to celebrate because despite the difficulties we encounter, each day is a gift.
And so, on this most somber of days, we do take time out to celebrate with all our hearts, the little girl with the big smile and enough energy to keep us all going for years to come. Happy Birthday, Noe, from a grandpa that is grateful to God for the bundle of joy that you truly are!
Friday, September 2, 2011
To the believer of Jesus Christ, faith is an absolute must. On the surface, our profession of faith in the Son of God seems ludicrous. Let's just explore this for a moment.
We believe that this man who lived two thousand years ago was, in actuality, the Son of God. We believe that He was both God and man. We believed that He lived the perfect life, sinless and in the presence of God, His Heavenly Father. We believe that He spent three years of His life traveling around the land of ancient Israel proclaiming the Kingdom of Heaven and Salvation. We believe that after a time, the civil and religious leaders of the day had Him arrested, put on trial, found guilty of blasphemy, tortured and crucified. But our belief does not stop there. No, we believe that this Jesus Christ not only died on the Cross, but after three days in the tomb, rose from the dead.
Now no right thinking person would really ever come to believe in such a fantastic story. It simply doesn't make sense. It seems like some fairy tale made up to give some sort of comfort and hope to mankind who is awash in a world filled with skepticism and cynicism. It is fairly easy to believer in a story of a man, a rabbi, going from town to town in ancient Israel preaching. That was not all that unusual in those days. And it really isn't much of a stretch to imagine that the authorities of the time would become suspicious of Him as He spoke to the common folk about subjects such as freedom, mercy, and the power of God. But what does stretch the imagination is that this same itinerant preacher, who was killed by the Romans after a brutally process of torture, rose from the dead after three days of being in a sealed tomb.
That is where the gift of faith comes in. We believe in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ not based on some empirical evidence, but rather on faith. Why do we believe? Because Jesus, Who is the Son of God, said that He would rise after being sacrificed for the sins of men. He is Truth. There is no other Truth but that of Jesus Christ. When Pilate asked Him was Truth was, he had no way of knowing that He was looking into the eyes of Truth.
We live near an empty world, devoid of truth. We don't believe things unless they can be seen or detected in some way, shape, matter or form. Scientists are the new High Priests of the age. If a scientist proclaims something as the truth, we take him at his word even though evidence suggests that he is dead wrong about his assertion. Take the debate of when life begins. There is no doubt that human life begins at the moment of conception. Yet, there are those in the scientific community who insist that no one can truly determine the exact moment when a human being comes into existence. Despite the evidence that the newly fertilized egg is now a living human being, millions through the years have steadfastly held their ground to state that no one can tell at what point life begins.
Faith is a gift. Our faith is not really ours! Our faith comes from God through the Holy Spirit. The Spirit has touched our hearts with the call of the Father. We have the option, by virtue of our free will, another divine gift, to accept the call of God to faith or to reject it. One week accept it, we have the responsibility to develop and live it.
My faith has seen me through more than I could ever possibly recount. It has gotten me through the dark moments of my life and has allowed me to become a stronger person because of the difficulties even though there may have been much pain involved. Without this faith, I quite simply am sure that I would not have survived.
When you accept the gift of faith, you begin a journey that guides you to the acceptance of Truth. We cannot accept Truth without faith and without Truth, there can really be no faith. Faith does not make us special. It does, however, allow us to understand how special our relationship with God truly is. Like everything else that God does, faith is given in Love. God loves us so much that His love knows no bounds. He gives us the gift of faith because, as our Creator, He understands us in a perfect way. He knows how we best respond to those things which we truly do not understand. He knows that man, with the remarkable mind that he was given, could not begin to fathom the reality of God, the wonder of Jesus Christ, and the mysterious nature of the Holy Spirit on his own. It is through faith that we come to these realizations.
Faith is not something that you can acquire in a lifetime. It is not like learning how to play the piano in that it can be learned. No, faith is something that is freely given and it is up to us to freely accept it. Faith is given to all. Sadly, many reject this gift because it is too hard to understand and sounds like superstition to the modern ear. It sounds like a throwback to the Middle Ages and things like witchcraft and magic. So it is often rejected out of hand because it simply is not sophisticated in some circles to believe in the things that faith allows us to know.
Cultivate faith. Encourage it in others, especially members of the family. Teach your children the importance of this gift for it is far more valuable than anything life can provide. Remind each other that faith is not easy, it is often demanding and humbling. But it also bestows upon those who cultivate it a sense of peace and serenity that nothing mortal can give.