A few lazy nights ago, I found my wife snuggled on the couch watching my favorite movie of all time. I joined her on the couch as the lyric “doe a deer a female deer” was being sung. Yes, the movie was “The Sound of Music”. Oh I suppose I could say that I love this movie because of the great love story or the beautiful music and the singing or even that I used to be in love with Liesel, but I think the real reason is that this is the first movie I remember watching in a theater as a child. While still in Korea, my parents have told me that they had taken me to a few movies before this one, but none of them made as big of an impression as much as “The Sound of Music”. Even months later, I dreamed of being one of the Von Trapp children. I wanted to jump up and down the stairs singing “doe a deer”, to put on a puppet show to the “Goatherd”, to hear my father sing “Edelweiss”, and to walk along the Alps meadows while singing “Climb Every Mountain”. Music has always been a part of our family. My father would sing and play the piano or the guitar and my mother would sing and hum while cooking or doing chores around the house. Growing up, I would be awakened every Sunday morning by the sound of Bach, Mozart, Ravel, Stravinsky, Beethoven or Puccini in preparation for attending church that morning.
As I continued to watch the movie, the song that hit me this time was the song that was sung when Maria and the Captain finally realize their love for each other, holding each other while singing, “nothing comes from nothing and nothing ever should. Somewhere in my youth or childhood, I must have done something good.” I often think of this line when I am holding my wife or when I hug my kids and look into their eyes. But today, I thought about this as I reflect on what we celebrated just a short week ago. We celebrated Christmas. In my eyes, somethings did come from nothing. The song sung by Maria and Captain Von Trapp seems to suggest that their new found love came about because they had done something good in their past. But God’s love that was born to us in the form of a vulnerable baby child came in spite of all the horrible things that humanity has done or all the good that we have not done. It is God’s gracious gift to us. And for me, the questions is always, now what? How does this event even change us or compel us to act in a certain way?
About a week ago, I heard a discussion on NPR about the concept of happiness. Two psychologists, both outspokenly nonreligious, were speaking on the subject, and both of them conveyed that religion and faith seem to have much impact on one’s happiness. Why? Answer: gratitude and purpose. They both concede that happiness is indeed the state of the mind and spirit and those who are religious seem to live with gratefulness for what they have been given. Of course, these are in general terms. But simple things like giving thanks for food, for shelter, for friends, family and life itself, instead of coveting others and thinking about what one does not have seem to make people happier. And the other reason for the greater happiness for those who are religious is a life lived with a purpose; a reason for living.
I would love to be able to change the world, bring peace, bring about justice and equality for all people, make most firearms illegal, or even make the world environmentally friendly, but I know that I can only help to bring about change in me, those in my family and those who I come in contact with. So with the theme of gratitude and purpose in mind, here are a few of my selfish and not so selfish new year’s resolutions for the year 2009 off the top of my head:
1. Shed Some Pounds: Since the birth of my son and daughter, I have gained 15 or so pounds. My wife has pretty much lost all of her weight through breast feeding and by her awesome metabolism. I have neither so it will take more more work on my part.
2. Exercise: my resolution #1 pretty much hinges on this one. Again, my excuse has been no time, no energy.
3. Walk My Dog Daily: With the birth of my children, my lovable dog Chewy has been getting the shaft. I barely make time to pick up his poop in his “poop” spot in our backyard. This way, I can walk my dog daily for an hour, get some exercise and lose weight at the same time. At least that is the plan.
4. Weekly Date with Wife: Before our first child was born, my wife and I promised to go on at least one intentional date a week. We were doing pretty well until our second was born almost 7 months ago. We still do spend quite a bit of time together, but our intentional time has gone by the wayside and I would like to retain it again.
5. To Actually Finish at Least Two Books From Beginning to End Every Month: I am notorious for beginning books and reading through to the middle before I find others that interests me and I begin reading many of those. Every year, I am left with a plethora of unfinished books. By the end of the year 2009, I would like to be able to say that I actually finished 20 or so books.
6. Finish The 12 Week Lesson in “The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron and Finish One Song: This is one of those books on my desk that I keep reading and putting down, and writing a song has been something I have always wanted to do.
7. Do One Thing Good for Myself Each Week: Being an introvert, I need my time alone to rejuvenate and to get my creative juices flowing. It may be a walk on the beach, a browse through a museum, hanging out at my favorite San Francisco tourist areas, or just taking in the sights, the people, the smells and the sounds from my favorite coffee shops or bookstores. This is made somewhat easier by embarking on the lessons of the Artist’s Way, where I will have to go on a weekly “Artist date” by myself.
8. Even in Difficult Times, Continue to Count My Blessings: These last few years have been fairly difficult for my wife and I. We have been through much in our work and in our personal life. Financially it has not been easy for us, and we were taxed spiritually and emotionally as well. But not a day goes by where laughter is not heard or a smile is not shared. Everyday is filled with joy, love and gratitude for all that we do have and I hope to continue these sentiments into 2009.
9. Instill an Attitude of Giving: Now that my son is 4 going on 5, I would love to be able to begin to instill the heart of giving, not just things and money, but of giving of oneself. This year, I would love to go with him to do at least two service projects in the city to open his eyes to the needs of the city and how we can help.
10. Give Hope and Direction in My Ministry: I have been in my current church for just over a year and I feel like I am just beginning to understand them. I now get the ethos, understand the leaders and see how the church operates. I am also beginning to get the feel for the congregation members. Though I am a part time “unofficial” pastor at this church, this year, I would like to help the English Ministry of this church begin to think about and formulate a vision, a direction, a sense of self, a purpose and hope for the future.
That is my list for now. Happy New Year! And what are some of your hopes and dreams for this coming year?