Archive for November 2013

Life is a Gift

November 15, 2013

Life is a Gift

By Steven J. Callis

Do you recall the first words Frosty spoke when he came into existence? “Happy Birthday!”  He knew this was something very special.

As a child, waiting for my birthday to come around made it seem more decadal than annual.  That it was close in proximity to Christmas made the wait seem even longer, whereas my two brothers opened presents at Christmas and then again about 4 and seven months later.  But I had to wait 11 months to get more presents!

As an adult, it seems as though birthdays come much more quickly, and the anticipation has been replaced with dread for some, apathy for others.  While it is not the big deal it was as a child, I still enjoy having a birthday – especially considering the alternative!  But I would be satisfied with simple acknowledgement…oh, and my annual Hershey’s Double Chocolate Cake that my wife makes so well!

A few years ago I attended a birthday party for someone who was turning 100!  It was a very special occasion.  He was dressed in traditional formal attire.  He looked adorable.  The entire family was dressed “to the hilt” for this honorable event.

The celebration included a dinner, nice Korean cuisine.  The cake was a beautiful white Bundt cake. I carried it to the dining table, and it must have weighed 5 pounds!  I discovered that it was a kind of rice cake, called baekseolgi.  It tasted somewhat like angel food cake, but with its own unique texture.

Then there were the presents!  How exciting.  Oh, I neglected to mention that this celebration was not for 100 years, but 100 days.  It is a Korean tradition referred to as Baek-il.  It carries tremendous meaning in the Korean culture.

Long ago in Korea, childhood diseases were common and the survival rate for children was very low. To protect their children, parents refrained from taking the baby outdoors until the 100th day after his or her birth.  It was not until baek-il that the baby was introduced to neighbors, friends and relatives. They believe this event helps to protect the child’s life. They also pray for the child’s continued good health.

It was indeed a special honor for me, the family’s pastor, the offer the prayer for this little guy.  Further, it was a reminder that while many of us take it for granted, life is a precious gift from God that should be treasured and celebrated.

The psalmist David understood this truth.  He wrote his song to God, “For you created my inmost being, you knit me together in my mother’s womb.  I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Your works are wonderful, I know that full well.”

I may have lost count in the numbering, but I know the date, and I am thankful to celebrate another year of life, and I will express my thanks by living it for God, my Creator.

Removing the Mask

November 1, 2013

Removing the Mask

By Steven J. Callis


               However one might explain it, they all just showed up.  A Power Ranger, a princess, a lion, a couple of bumble bees, a baby pumpkin, a football player, a gypsy, a politician, Batman, a cheerleader, Little Red Riding Hood – – there were so many, I could not possibly recall all of them.

               One thing they all had in common is that they had their hands out, expecting something from me.  Now, looking at that list, we might readily expect that attitude from some of those characters, but some of them looked too sweet and too cute to be so demanding.  Actually, those are the ones who did not need to ask.  They were so adorable, how could anyone not put a treat in their bags?

               It is fun to dress up, to be someone other than who we really are.  It can be refreshing to step out of character for a couple of hours and be someone else.  After all, how boring would this special treat night be if everyone dressed in their normal daily attire?

               Then, there is the morning after.  We are greeted with a double whammy: enduring our candy hangover, and then assuming again our true identities.  Well, that is what most people expect of us, anyway.  The mask comes off, the costume is hung in the closet, and it is back to the daily routine.

               There is a word that does not necessarily apply to our annual trick or treat event, but it does have to do with wearing a mask.  Our English word, “hypocrite,” is derived from the Greek word meaning “to act on stage; to play a part, or to pretend.” History tells us that actors would wear a mask on stage, and often the mouth of the mask would include a kind of megaphone shape to assist the player in projecting the voice throughout the auditorium.

               Today hypocrisy has to do with actions that do not support a personal belief system.  Whether it is a matter of insecurity, the desire for acceptance, or a number of other reasons, the result most likely includes the inability to experience genuine, interpersonal relationships with other persons; a sad and lonely way to live.  The logical progression will develop a mutual lack of trust between the mask-wearer and his/her counterparts.

               If you are one who may struggle to any degree with the feeling of low self-worth, or in thinking that no one else could possibly believe in you and accept you for who you really are, I encourage you give others the benefit of doubt.  Most people are not nearly as demanding as we believe them to be.  Knowing that you can be trusted, that your motives are pure, and that you are true to yourself goes a long way in developing friendships.

               And because I believe the Bible to be the Word of God, I take comfort and encouragement from Psalm 139, as the Psalmist perceives humanity from the perspective of the Creator.  I must wonder if these words of David are what inspired the familiar adage, “I know I’m somebody, ‘cause God don’t make no junk!”