Life is a Gift

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.

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