Thursday, December 29, 2005

60 New Years

This will be my 60th New Year celebration. I obviously don’t remember my first one, as I was only two months old. That first New Year Harry Truman had just become the 33rd U.S. President after the death of FDR; I was living in California. My earliest memories of New Year’s Day is watching the Rose Parade on our black and white television and then spending the whole day glued to the tube watching college football. Those were the days when there was only the Orange, Sugar, Cotton and Rose Bowl’s, spaced out to end that afternoon on the west coast as there were no night games in the mid-1950’s. For an eight-year-old boy, it was about the best day of the year.

When we moved to Arkansas our standard of living dropped dramatically and one New Year’s Day was spent helping my dad on a construction job. I thought it was criminal to be working instead of sitting in front of the one-eyed monster eating Fritos and bean dip.

I preached my first sermon on New Year’s Eve, 1967 at what they called a “watch night” service. A tradition in our little Baptist church where we would gather at 8 p.m. to sing, eat and pray the New Year in. It was also a good time to let lay preachers and seminarians speak. I was a first year student in a Bible college and so they let me give it a try (after all, they had four hours to kill). I preached the whole book of Revelation in under thirty minutes.

New Year’s Day in Kenya was a bit dull. The kids were home from boarding school and Sandy usually made biscuit’s and chocolate gravy. No place to go in the small town we lived in. I’d listen to football games January 2nd on Armed Forces Radio.

Ten years ago I was in London with my friend Woody Phillips. He was living in Hungary at the time and we met there to look at a piece of property that the organization wanted to buy for a training school. The property was worthless but the time was well spent as I made a dear friend on that trip. We walked through Piccadilly Circus, found a quaint restaurant and watched fireworks. Woody and I had a lot in common and I valued his friendship. Wonder what we would have talked about if we knew he would be dead six years later?

This New Year’s day I will be in Seoul speaking at the Bul Kwang Dong Bible Baptist Church in Seoul, which has been a supporter for over twenty years. It will be cold and I don’t have winter clothes. Though a bit anxious, I count it a privilege to be asked to be the main speaker for their conference. I won’t be going through the events of Armageddon in a half an hour, but I will be just as excited to talk about my Savior as I was thirty-eight years ago.

A New Year. New opportunities. I wonder where I’ll be six years from now? If I live to see my 70th New Year’s, I wonder what the world will be like? The years really don’t matter, but each day that God gives me. I’m blessed. Happy New Year.