Since this column is syndicated in almost 40 papers nationwide, I don’t always know which day your local paper runs my column. So let me say, if you’re reading this on Christmas Day, please stop. Go join your family for a second helping of pie.
However, if Christmas has passed and you’ve little else to do, then lean back and peruse the witticisms I’ve again collected from the past 12 months.
For example, in January I assured those with a wimpy faith that “... God can handle your puny doubts and criticisms. Stand up and shake your fist at God. Just please stop bad-mouthing him behind his back. Go right up to God (wherever you talk to God) and say, ‘Hey, God! My life stinks!’ He’s God. He can take it.”
In February, I reminded readers “that there must be freedom of religion, as well as freedom from religion. No one deserves to be blasted for his or her faith, or lack of it. So whether you’re born-again or atheistic, liberal or conservative, don’t give ear to the hate-whisperer of intolerance.”
In May, I challenged readers to measure the effectiveness of their faith by considering, “What would happen if your faith community or church burned down tomorrow? Would anyone but the fire department notice? Would there be one less hungry person fed? One less family housed? One less child adopted? Would there be fewer battered women?”
In June, I highlighted the folly of judging others by asking, “Can you imagine what life might be like if everyone got what they deserved? I wonder what God’s judgment would be for cutting someone off in traffic, taking an extra-long lunch or wearing stripes with plaids? At the end of the day, our job will always be to keep our own accounts in order, do our footwork, answer the phone when God calls and let God take care of the rest.”
After watching gruesome execution videos by ISIS in July, I said, “True Muslims aren’t burning POWs in cages or decapitating innocent hostages. The people doing that are fanatic lunatics overtaken by their religious ideations. Using ‘Muslim’ to identify ISIS terrorists is as erroneous as using the word Christian to describe a KKK member.”
On Aug. 9, I concluded with two paragraphs about faith:
“To keep my faith, I’ve kept my doubts as well. Doubting is not the enemy of faith; I believe it can be the fertilizer of faith. After all, God didn’t create robots. He made us thinking people. When you are honest with your doubts, faith flourishes.
“Keeping my faith in the midst of trauma is no easy thing. I see faith as the clasp the parachutist feels when his harness tightens, or the grasp felt by the trapeze artist who’s snatched in mid-air by a skillful partner. That’s why I know that at the end of the day, I can never really keep the faith — faith keeps me.”
I close my last column of the year by sharing this blessing I wrote for a patient in 2015.
May God place you in his hand and hold you there.
May he pull you close to his heart.
May you know the beating of God’s heart.
May your heart match the rhythm of his heart.
May his spirit fill your lungs with God’s healing breath.
May you know the calling of his direction.
May you hear his voice and find a peace that passes all understanding.
I pronounce this blessing on you in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Write Norris Burkes at firstname.lastname@example.org or P.O. Box 247, Elk Grove, Calif., 95759. Twitter @chaplain, or call (843) 608-9715.