In yesterday’s post I left two questions out there for my companions discovering the Privileges of Aging: ‘What questions do those of you who are facing the reality of mortality ask? What answers do you find?’ Too often the question others–translation: youngsters–ask us, sound like the jig is up. Why they ask is a mystery to me, because they are going to go on doing what they are doing no matter what the answer. Face it, Folks. They are more like us than we care to admit, determined to learn the hard way. Someday kids will ask them the same question for all the good it will do. It is obvious to me that one of the Privileges of Aging is not being viewed as being wiser. Your experience may be different and I would love to hear about it.
I digress, which since I am a random thinker is not unusual…one thought and ping off I go down another rabbit trail in my increasingly weed infested mind. Back to questions asked of older people. One example, a study of octogenarian done in the 1980’s which I first saw reported in Tony Campolo’s book, Who Switched the Price Tags ask 100 people over the age of eighty a stereotypical question: If you could live your life again what would you do differently?
Three answers emerged as the most prevalent.
I would reflect more.
I would risk more.
I would do more things that last.
The answers are great, but the question that prompted them implies Looking Back rather than Looking Foward. Yesterday, I shared my poem, Closer to Heaven Today which I hope indicated forward motion…I have a planned destination, I am traveling toward that destination, in fact I have been since the day I was born or at least born again, but I have not stopped living, stopped reflecting, stopped risky behavior, oops! I mean risking and I have not stopped trying to do things that last.
The Privilege of Reflection
When my journey will end is not the question, but what is God going to do with me while I am still here? I feel certain He does not intend for me to spend a lot of time looking in the rear view mirror or waxing eloquent, as if I could, about what I wished I had done or not done. His business with me is to make me complete; He promised. I may stray, I may be unfaithful, I may resist his efforts, but the promise stands he will finish me. Read the words carved in the cross beam above the altar in the picture to the left, “I will lift up my eyes to the hills— From whence comes my help?” (Psalms 121:1 NKJV)
If I reflect on where I have been it should be in the context of where I am RIGHT NOW. If those old recordings that sometimes play in my head, discourage, cause guilt, or threaten relationships in the now–time to hit DELETE, rather than rewind, because those come straight from the pit of hell. Saying that is a whole lot easier than doing it, because I think the devil has figured out that I can delete them, but he retrieves them from my hard drive. Still, I now know the source at least. Time to recognise that GOD does not want us discouraged, worrisome, guilty or damaging relationships.
HE tells us what He wants us to reflect on: “Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things. The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you.” (Philippians 4:8-9 NKJV) So for me that means reflecting on the life of Christ, his words, his presence in the Old and New Testaments, on current events in the world, in the church, in the community, and in my own family and with my own friends. Reflection that simply observes the sky, the media, my own naval is useless. But reflection that is true, noble, just, etc. demonstrates itself in prayer and action.
The Privilege of Risk Taking
By no stretch of the imagination am I a dare devil. Risks I take are pretty calculated, at least most of the time. However, in 1991, Terry and I left the safety and familiarity of family and friends in Tulsa, OK, moved to Kentucky where he began his first pastoral post after seminary and I started a new job. In 2001 in our second church as pastor and spouse, I left a good job and took a completely different, but more challenging position with the Commission for Children with Special Health Care Needs (CCSHCN) as West Region EHDI (Early Hearing Detection and Intervention) Coordinator. We were 46 in 1991 and since I can do simple math, I was 56 in 2001. I retired in 2012 as Audiology/EHDI Branch Manager. During the last eleven years of gainful employment, I had the opportunity to help write and shepherd through legislation in Kentucky that would assure that Babies who referred on the newborn hearing screening would not only get follow-up evaluations, but that those evaluations would be reported to EHDI program. I had opportunity to work with people all over the United States, to develop materials, programs, and to speak on National stages. I worked with amazing people and had an amazing Director, Anne Swinford. Every step brought me some new challenge where I found I thrived. Risks generate positive stress and that is the healthy kind.
While we were striking out to Kentucky, our friends, Jeff and Rita Osborne, sold their home, headed out from Tulsa to train for the foreign mission field. Together after years of preparation they landed in the Turkana (Northwestern) region of Kenya where they served for several years until Rita’s diagnosis of cancer. They returned to South Carolina where their daughter and her family were. Rita died in 2004.
After a brief time, Jeff returned to Kenya, continued working with United World Mission solo until the Lord brought Lucy Kinya, Kenyan native, single mother of young twin boys into his life. Today they are married, the boys are now in highschool in Kenya while Jeff and Lucy now serve in Taveta, Kenya in several capacities. For more information on all they are doing, check out OSBORNE Update.
The impetus for both the Osborne’s call to foreign missions and our call to pastoral ministry with the subsequent career choices I had….a small group Bible Study in our home, once a week with a core group and others wandering in and out, that stirred a desire within more than the four of us to RISK living in mission with God. I know now that risk in my eyes is often God’s plan for me.
Recently, my son Mike took me for a ride in his new Corvette. He has always loved scaring me…coming up from behind to poke my ribs and so forth. As he accelerated on the highway, I felt a rush of adreniline…a little risk keeps the blood pumping and it is not just for kids.
I am going to stop here and continue with The Privilege of Doing More Things that Last in the next post, because I think that one may still need some cooking before I serve it.
In the meantime, remember, reflecting and risking as we age will differ from the patterns of youth and even middle age, but they are investments of time that may not keep us young, but will make us less concerned about growing old.
Now to take my own advice!