Happy Chinese New Year of the Rabbit. Say, “Gung hay fat choy!” It means “May you have good fortune” unless you pronounce it wrong, in which case you will be making a comment about their grandfather’s vegetables.
Born towards the end of January, a third-generation Chinese American, I always feel I have three chances to decide on my new year’s resolutions and try to make good on them: January 1, my birthday, and Chinese New Year. This year the Lord told me three things, which are as follows:
1. Praise more; whine less.
2. Expect the unexpected.
3. Don’t blame.
1. Praise more; whine less because whatever you focus on will occupy your attention. If you concentrate on your problems, they will loom large and insurmountable. If you focus on how big God is, and how capable, your problems will shrink. At the very least your nervous system will get a break from all the stress of anxiety. At most, you’ll have a fresh, insightful glimpse into how much God loves you and can solve each problem in ways that are more innovative and surprising than you could ask or even think.
2. Expect the unexpected. Actually, it was on the seventh day of January when the thick blanket of snow that had fallen on the First was still very present in my neighborhood and even down to lake-level. It had never happened in the twenty years I’ve lived here and it actually went on till the 12th, when rain melted the last of the snow. The Lord told me, “Do not expect what has always been.” I shortened it to “Expect the unexpected,” but it’s really more than that.
3. Don’t blame. I heard that as I lay stunned on the hard concrete of my driveway, having just been jerked off my feet by Hedy who had spotted another dog coming down the street. She was not in harness because we were out for her leash relieve, and I was in the process of making the small loop with her adjustable leash when she lunged. I hung onto the straight line of leather with a desperate grip because we had been admonished not to let go of the leash lest the unfamiliar dog prove hostile and our guide end up injured in a confrontation. So I hung on as Hedy continued to yank and pull. Usually she stops, but this time she didn’t. Why? Because the boy had come across the street to see if I was okay. I looked into his worried young face and then down to the gentle face of a Golden so old that his face was almost completely white. “Mellow” was written all over him. “Are you okay?” the lad inquired. “Yes,” I lied. Then, too shaken to know what to say and chagrinned to have been frantic about the danger, I added, “Nice dog.”
When I got off the driveway, I was mad—at Hedy, and myself. She shouldn’t have lunged and kept lunging. I should have been more alert. When I saw the dark figure and the pale dog, I thought it was Dan and Sonny. I wasn’t prepared. I should have had the High Collar on Hedy and made her do Puppy Push-ups to get her mind off the other dog. That’s when the Lord said, “Don’t blame.” Don’t blame others. Don’t blame yourself.
Okay, so what am I supposed to do? “In everything give thanks” came to mind. Give thanks? You must be kidding! For what! For being slammed into the concrete on both knees and my poor, bruised left hand? And right after I had a really good adjustment from my wonderful chiropractor! Then it came to me: Nothing is broken. Not one bone. Not my wrist, my knees, my back, my tailbone, my neck, my hip, my fingers, my hand. Then thankfulness poured out of me, and with that gratitude, the anger washed away.
The Chinese word for “crisis” is made of two radicals: “danger” and “opportunity.” This year we will face at least one crisis. Let us remember not to whine, but praise, be alert because things won’t always go as expected, and spare ourselves the futile loop of blame. It’s our attitudes which defeat us more than what happens to us, but even though there is inherent in each crisis the danger of being ensnared and paralyzed by what looms large before us, there is also inherent in that crisis opportunity to discover a different way—God’s way—and what a rewarding trip that is!