I began writing this column 15 years ago, in January of 1997. If my math is correct (and that’s a big if!), that means I’ve written 780 columns, and have been through the three-year lectionary cycle five times. I have informed The Tidings that I would like to make this my last year writing these articles, finishing at the end of this liturgical year. Today’s second reading tells us that “the word of God is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating even between the soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and able to discern reflections and thoughts of the heart.” Well, I’ve certainly experienced this to be true in my time writing this column. I’ve tried to honestly reflect on the Scriptures of the week — what it might mean not for others but for me to live my faith. I have consistently been challenged and humbled in the process. I am immensely attracted to the call of the Gospel, but keenly aware of my shortcomings.At this point, I feel like I’ve said all I have to say about the weekly readings — I am often think that I am saying the same things over and over again. What I hear in God’s word is a call to generosity, compassion and joy. This is sadly in stark contrast to how God, the church and Christians are often perceived or depicted in our society. If there’s one issue that disheartens me more than anything, it’s the widely held notion that God is somehow out to spoil our fun, and wants to scold us for wanting to be happy. In my experience, nothing could be farther from the truth.So, for the next several weeks I may depart at times from reflecting on the weekly readings to make some more general observations about how I, and you, might show the world a truer picture of the God that we follow. If there’s one issue that disheartens me more than anything, it’s the widely held notion that God is somehow out to spoil our fun, and wants to scold us for wanting to be happy. In my experience, nothing could be farther from the truth. After 15 years of wrestling with the weekly readings, I find that God is constantly urging us to desire and pursue more for ourselves — more happiness, more joy, more fulfillment — rather than settle for the small pleasures of material and financial gain.In today’s first reading, the book of Wisdom tells us, “I prayed, and prudence was given me; I pleaded, and the spirit of wisdom came to me. I preferred her to scepter and throne, and deemed riches nothing in comparison with her.” Clearly, the writer sees the gifts of God as more valuable than any possible position or possession. In my writing, I’ve tried to shed light on this good news. I’ve also tried to hold myself accountable to living this good news. It isn’t easy, I know. I’m as enticed by scepter, throne and riches as anyone, and I frequently choose these pleasures in place of the real thing. But as I’ve said many times, God does not ask us to be flawless, but to be faithful. That’s the good news of the Gospel that we are called to enjoy and to share.Bill Peatman writes from Napa. He may be reached at [email protected]