Archive for January, 2010

Your Position in Life

“What would happen if there were a beautiful and highly intelligent child up in heaven waiting to be born and his or her parents decided that the two children they already had were enough?”

— Linus Van Pelt [from a Peanuts comic strip originally published in July 1970; Schultz, Charles M. The Complete Peanuts 1969 to 1970, July 2008, p. 244.]

Recently my aunt and I were discussing the issue of, as my aunt calls it, “how does it come to be that you get the feeling that you are you?” You’re probably thinking: Huh!? But, it’s not that difficult to understand, really. At least the concept isn’t difficult. The actual answer is a mystery, however. What she means is why is it that she was born the 8th child in her family. Why wasn’t her sister Helen the 8th? Or her sister Frances? Or, even her brother John? When (and how) was it decided that Helen would be child number seven, Frances child number six, and John child number five. And, I’m not talking about why their parents picked those names when they did; I’m talking about why the person as a whole was born when he or she was born and into the family he or she was born into.

In our discussion yesterday, this brought to mind a recent Sunday reading from church:

“There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit; there are different forms of service but the same Lord; there are different workings but the same God who produces all of them in everyone. To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the same benefit. To one is given through the Spirit the expression of wisdom; to another the expression of knowledge according to the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit; to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit; to another mighty deeds; to another prophecy; to another discernment of spirits; to another varieties of tongues; to another interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit produces all of these, distributing them individually to each person as he wishes.”
— 1 Corinthians 12: 4-11, The New American Bible

St. Paul goes on to say that each of us is a part of a whole, and each of our gifts are meant to be used for the benefit of the community. And, each of us, no matter our gifts, are integral to the functioning of the whole. (See: 1 Corinthians 12: 12-30.)
Well, this got me thinking. Maybe the reason each of us is born, into the family we are born, at the time we are born, is because God knows what that family and in a larger sense, the world as a whole, needs. The child being born is given those necessary gifts. And, that child as he or she grows is responsible for using those gifts for the betterment of the family and the world at large.

Now, this of course, brings us back to the quote cited at the start of this post. And, this is something I think about quite often. What if God wants a certain child to be born, knowing that that person is what the world needs. And, the parents decide that they are done having children or in the extreme case, what if the child is conceived and then aborted. I often wonder what if one or more of those 49 million aborted babies was supposed to grow up to cure cancer or some other disease. Maybe each of them wasn’t supposed to do something so heroic, but whatever gifts were given to that baby, in some small way, was supposed to make our world a better place to live. But, now by the fact that this child was not born, the fate of the world (or maybe just the fate of those that this child may have come in contact with in his or her daily life) is changed. And, what are the ultimate consequences of that choice by the parents? No one will ever know what God intended.

All of this is a mystery, of course. But something to ponder. And at the same time, we all should ponder what gifts God has given us and we should ask ourselves: “Are we using those gifts for the betterment of our family (however we define family) and the world at large?”

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“I do not play games on computers because there is nothing serious about playing games on computers…If you want to play, go outside and play with your friends.”

This is a quote from Marko Calasan, age 9, the youngest Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer. An article about Marko can be found here.

Perhaps all of us who spend too much time on computers, whether we play games on them or not, can take away some wisdom from this: Get out and interact face-to-face with the (non-digital) world around you. Have fun. It’ll be an incredibly rewarding experience. Let’s face it, when we grow old and look back on our lives, which will we remember more? A night out with our friends at a concert or restaurant (or both) or a night in chatting with our friends on Facebook?

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How can we help those affected by the worst earthquake in 200 years?

Most of us are not equipped to be first-responders, but I’m sure most of us would like to help in any way we can.

1. Pray. Everyone can do this, from the very young to the very old, from the very poor to the very rich. Pray for those affected by the earthquake. Pray for the living as well as the dead. Pray for the family members here in America and around the world. Pray for the rescue workers.

2. If you are able, donate money to recognized charities that help with disaster relief. The American Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders are two charities that do good work when disasters strike. Beware of scams that prey on people’s good intentions.

3. Again, if you are able, donate money to charities such as Heifer International. After the first-responders leave the people of Haiti will still need help to rebuild their lives and livelihoods. This is what Heifer International does.

Each of these charities can be reached by clicking the images below:

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A friend of mine e-mailed me a video this past weekend. You can watch it here. After I saw it I thought about the following quote that I re-read a couple days before:

“When you look back on a lifetime and think of what has been given to the world by your presence, your fugitive presence, inevitably you think of your art, whatever it may be, as the gift you have made to the world in acknowledgement of the gift you have been given, which is the gift of life itself…. That work is not an expression of the desire for praise or recognition, or prizes, but the deepest manifestation of your gratitude for the gift of life.” (Emphasis is mine.)

Stanley Kunitz, American Poet.

Because I thought the video had its merits, I forwarded it to relatives and friends. Little did I know that one of my relatives would find its message timely and little did I know just two days after receiving the e-mail, I too would find myself thinking back to the words in the video and in the quote above while feeling that my kind works of the day were unappreciated.

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As we plod through another Michigan winter, perhaps we should keep in mind the following quote from writer, photographer Beth Powning: “The seeds of another summer wait under the snow.”
Photo taken by Joyce P. Simkin on January 7, 2010

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