Thursday, January 27, 2011

the advantages of getting older

I will turn 63 this month and move ever-closer to the generally-accepted birthday of retirement--65. I have been thinking reluctantly about what that will look like and am becoming convinced there are some serious advantages to getting older, in spite of the recurrent discordant echoes I hear of the "golden years" not being so golden...

*I seem to learn faster. The old saying--"Experience may be the best teacher but it is the msot expensive"--has merit to which I can attest. I have less time left to learn and so I am intentionally doing it more quickly, and less relucantly.

*I have new bifocals but, surprisingly, I see things better than I ever have. I look a little more deliberately and stop to focus with greater clarity on what's going on around me.

*I don't run like I used to but I walk more and find the process more exhilarating than the fast-paced exercise done on a track with a stop watch or on a treadmill with the televison blaring. The outdoors invigorates me no matter what my pace is.

*I don't enjoy the buffet line any more where I used to stuff myself until I was sick. I eat less...and do the once unthinkable--split a meal with my wife. I used to live to eat and now it's more about eating to live. (A double cheeseburger at In and Out Burger still hits the spot!)

*As a teenager I couldn't wait to get out of the house; now I treasure the times I drive the 60 miles to Stockton to visit my mother, now almost eighty-seven years old. I also have eleven grandchildren (and six children) who I can't see enough to satisfy my deepest desires.

Another advantage of getting older is a heightened appreciation of each day. With a hopefully-calculated more than two-thirds of my life lived, I recognize the value of a phone call to a family member, a quick getaway with my wife, a shared family vacation, an evening with special friends, an afternoon with a book in hand and the sound of the ocean in the background...

But the greatest benefit of all is founded on the fundamental hope I have about where this all ends--or begins--depending on your theology or philosophy of life. I called on an 87 uyear old man this morning as a part of my work as a Hospice chaplain, prayed with him (he was in a coma) and visited with his family. Just a few minutes ago I was told he had died. How quickly it ends...or begins. My faith is built on the conviction that God has made us for eternity, and because I have trusted in Him for salvation, the benefit of that is eternal life with him.

The advantages of getting older include all the above...and the promise--that eternity with a God who made us and loves us-- awaits us. I am 63...but better things are ahead!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

A new year always makes me think of “new” things, i.e. what are some things we are looking forward to at Grace in 2011? This verse grabbed my attention this morning.

“He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord.” Psalm 40:3

The context of this psalm is David’s testimony of God’s rescue of him from difficult circumstances—“He lifted me out of the slimy pit , out of the mud and mire”—and his new found place as a result—“…he set my feet on a rock, and gave me a firm place to stand”.

But what I like best from the passage is the last part of verse 3 that suggests (a) others are watching him and (b) his response to God’s work will have an impact upon them—they will fear the Lord and put their trust in Him. Our response to adversity can be a catalyst for to others reaching out to God.

I want to sing a “new song” this year—one that will cause others to take a fresh look at a God who rescues us and puts us in a new place where we can stand confidently in Him. Here are some of the verses of the “new song” I hope we’ll sing together at Grace!

1. Verse 1
“Lord, we worship you and raise our voices gladly,
Instead of sitting quietly in church and Sunday looking sadly.”

CHORUS: “Sing a new song to the Lord, a song of His mercy and grace.
He has rescued me and brought me to this new place.”

2. Verse 2
"Lord, we bring our offerings and sacrificially seek to live,
Instead of grimacing with pain every time we give.

CHORUS: “Sing a new song to the Lord, a song of His mercy and grace.
He has rescued me and brought me to this new place.”

3. Verse 3
“Lord, we embrace with joy the gift you given us to share
Instead of seeing it a burdensome cross, too heavy for us to bear.”

CHORUS: “Sing a new song to the Lord, a song of His mercy and grace.
He has rescued me and brought me to this new place.”

4. Verse 4
“Lord, we open our eyes to respond to our brother in need
Instead of closing them to focus on our own foolish, selfish greed.”

CHORUS: “Sing a new song to the Lord, a song of His mercy and grace.
He has rescued me and brought me to this new place.”

5. Verse 5
“Lord, we welcome the opportunities you call for us to pray
Instead of neglecting them, allowing our hearts to stray.”

CHROUS: “Sing a new song to the Lord, a song of His mercy and grace.
He has rescued me and brought me to this new place.”

Thursday, January 06, 2011

new year notions

The word notion has several related definitions including (a) a general understanding; (b) vague or imperfect conception or idea of something; (c) an opinion, view or belief; a fanciful or foolish idea.

Here are some new year's notions. I will let you decide which categorical definition they fit best with of those above.

*I have this notion that "new" is a hopeful word, when, in fact, it may signal only the perpetuation of what already is in motion.

*I have a notion that a "year" is a long time, but my experience retrospectively is that is passes all too quickly.

*I have a notion that the celebration orchestrated at the beginning of a "new year", generally for many accompanied by anebriation and synthetically-induced euphoria, is a temporary mask for the anticipated pain of unresolved problems.

*I have this notion that "new year" is only a calendar moment, and contains no introduction of "newness" unless some determined force is put into operation.

*I have a notion that we have a natural inclination to long for something "new", and that the hope of that is somehow mystically nurtured by the movement from December 31st to January 1st.

*I have this notion that soon enough "new year's" resolutions--the expected January activity of those hopeful for change--are soon abandoned, some as early as January 2nd.

A new year is here. If "newness" is simply the expectation of another calendar movement, all things will probably remain pretty mucha s is...or worse.

But if a new year signals a fresh calendar coupled with new resolve, new disicpline, new energy--and for me as a believer in Christ, a new hope--then the climate for change may be more than just a foolish notion. It may actually result in something new and good.