What a year that was! In some ways, for me, and I think for my country, it was a pretty bad one. But some very good things happened as well. As for the end of the world, I took a "What do Mayan devil-worshippers know, anyway?" attitude, so I was not surprised to see the year end with the planet (more or less) intact. What surprised me was how long it took for that year to finally end.
* For those who knew him well, my father's passing left a hole in the fabric of life. He was a humble man, humble enough to be unsure of himself, and he didn't fully realize how many people loved him until his final illness. Then you could hardly keep the door on its latch. People flew in from other states. A neighborhood troublemaker wrote a letter from prison, telling how Dad's patient kindness was inspiring him to turn his life around. I called him as often as I could those past months, but only now am remembering all the things I forgot -- forever in this world -- to ask.
* I am also, to be honest, deeply distraught over the choices my country made in November. The president is not a man I esteem greatly, and I see the course of wanton spending we are embarked upon, as immoral, a disaster for the United States. But I recognize that not all my readers may fully share that concern.
* 2012 was also, perhaps fittingly, the third-rainiest in Seattle history. Some of that came in the form of ice storm last January, which felled a dozen or so large fir branches onto our house (a little denting, no biggie) and fence. A couple branches are still swinging loose, even after I rented a chain saw and climbed as high as I could to cut those I could reach.
* Yet strangely enough, in the midst of all the rain, we almost broke the record for continuous days without measurable precipitation -- something like 57. Then it rained a few drops, and we had another month of sunshine. (That Dad could enjoy, looking after his thriving tomato plants.) Then we had lots of early snow in the mountains (cold rain down here), and then the year also went out like a lamb.
* Our son is off to the University of Washington for his first (sophomore, in his case) year. This item also of course qualifies as "the Best," I tell myself. But we miss having him around. (The dog has no one to fight with, for one thing.)
* Though his passing blasted a hole in our world, we are grateful for the courage, humor, and faith Dad showed in his last days. He left us an example, and gave us so much, over the years, for which we cannot thank God enough.
* Dad would have enjoyed the part of the Seahawks season he missed. (He watched as long as he could.) The season has been like one of the Psalms: troubles, yes, then crushing defeat of our enemies, seemingly divine vindication before the gate (ie, on national TV.) An 11-5 record, then playoffs -- which will belong to 2013.
* It was also a bit like the year of The Lord of the Rings after Frodo returns to the Shire, when everything seems to grow well. Those solid months of sunshine into post-Indian summer turned our grapes the sweetest they ever have grown, and we ate (and gave away) every last grape, for the first time. (I remember that last grape, about the beginning of November. Dad had some, too.) It was a good year for apples, strawberries, and tomatoes, and we even got a few peaches and pears, after heavy chemical warfare against peach curl and pear blight.
* Yes, it was a good year for doctorates, too. I finally got mine, after six years of "part-time" study, many flights across the Atlantic (but I'll miss Oxford -- it's great when it snows, I learned in February), and the most in-depth and fascinating research of my life, so far.
This study may blow the lid off of theology of religions, if anyone hears of it. My thesis may well change how people see Christianity in relation to other religions, and how Christians understand the Chinese tradition. As a writer, though some passages will no doubt be hard for non scholars to read (some parts of Chapter Two, which literally are Greek, for example), it is my greatest work, so far.
* Faith Seeking Understanding also came out a few months ago, and I don't think there's any other book in the world quite like it. I am, of course, deeply grateful to all the writers and other contributors -- what a group of deeply insightful Christian men and women! I've been busy scheduling road trips for 2013: dozens of invitations so far, maybe I'll come to a podium near you. Don't hesitate to ask me out for a cup of coffee (I'll have hot chocolate) and a chat!
* One of the highlights of the year was taking my boys to Yellowstone. We've been talking about doing that for years -- my Waterloo, where I ran through a plate glass window during the Carter Administration (in fact, Carter was sort of responsible). We had a great time -- swimming in the Snake River, hiking the Tetons, wading the warm, hot spring fed Madison, following bison and elk, camping by the spot where three rivers come together to make the Missouri River. (We also enjoyed the kind hospitality of the folks at Idaho Falls Presbyterian, where I spoke after the morning service -- especially the Spielmans.)
It was, as I said, a long year for us: those are a few of its outstanding events.
I hope your New Year will be blessed.