In addition to Sunday being Mothers Day, I will be celebrating my 75 birthday. It’s sort of anticlimactic since Ann turned 75 this past February. I kind of wished she would have experienced some sort of miraculous transformation that would have given me some high expectations for my birthday. But, alas, she awoke to 75 the same beautiful and loving person she was when 74. My best hope is that I will wake up Monday morning. (Lol)
So, what is special about being 75 years old?
- First of all it means that I have exceeded my life expectancy of 68 at the time I was born in 1942.
- I learned today that US males that reach 75, on average, have a life expectancy of 86.8 years. Good news since I’ve always consider myself above average.
- It means there is a good possibly that I will live to see all our grandchildren into adulthood. (Neyland and Turner may need to accelerate the maturation process a bit.)
- 75 seems to hold some special significance as an age milestone, much like 65, 50 and 40. I am prepared to accept all the rights and privileges (?) accorded my standing as a Diamond Jubilee celebrant.
- Being 75 brings a tightened sense of mortality. This a good thing. When you view life and events through a lens sharpened by an awareness of your mortality, it brings a greater appreciation for experiences, relationships and the ordinary ebb and flow of daily life that might otherwise pass unnoticed.
- Because of a cultural expectation that aging brings profound wisdom and insight, I can speak and act as if I possess those qualities whether I do or not. It is, however, a bit of a challenge to assume a wise looking countenance and speak in a deep and measured voice.
- Having a 75 year old wife. Her life expectancy, not to mention her love, is a comfort.
- Children and grandchildren.
What is not so special about being 75?
- Knee replacement
- Myriads of medications
- Sleeping with a C-pap
- Type 2 Diabetes
- Hearing loss
- Unwelcome visits of Uncle Ed
- For a more complete list, watch the medication ads on TV for one day.
So, what is the very best thing about being 75… that I am!
There’s a wonderful Zen story that illustrates this teaching. A young seeker, keen to become the student of a certain master, is invited to an interview at the master’s house.
The student rambles on about all his spiritual experience, his past teachers, his insights and skills, and his pet philosophies. The master listens silently and begins to pour a cup of tea. He pours and pours, and when the cup is overflowing he keeps right on pouring. Eventually the student notices what’s going on and interrupts his monologue to say, “Stop pouring! The cup is full.”
The teacher says, “Yes, and so are you. How can I possibly teach you?”
Community is the place where our limitations, our fears and our egotism are revealed to us. We discover our poverty and our weaknesses, our inability to get on with some people, our mental and emotional blocks, our affective and sexual disturbances, our seemingly insatiable desires, our frustrations and jealousies, our hatred and our wish to destroy. While we are alone, we could believe we loved everyone. Now that we are with others, living with them all the time, we realise how incapable we are of loving, how much we deny to others, how closed in on ourselves we are.
In Praise of Pot-Lucks
Church is a meal. The question we have to answer together is whether we’re going out to a restaurant or a pot-luck. If it’s a restaurant, our individual taste matter. We can pick and choose from the menu and request our salad dressing be served “on the side.” We can rightly regard the pace, kindness, and delivery of service. If we like it, we can leave a tip befitting what we believe we’ve received. A pot-luck is entirely different. If church is a pot-luck, we know to arrive with an offering and prepared to serve and be served. We demonstrate gratitude to the others who have come equally prepared to provide a feast for all .
Do we consume at pot-lucks? Yes. But we consume in an environment in which we also share and serve.
We’ve caused harm, we’ve made willful decisions that hurt others, we’ve invited shame upon ourselves with our actions and yet in Jesus, we’ve found grace instead of judgment, and so we can offer it to one another.
There is a visible horizon with Jesus, because there are things I can understand and affirm in the creeds and confessions. But there is no actual horizon. His love, grace and majesty are never ending. My theology is a map, not a photograph. A sail, not an anchor. Faith is a mystery, not a certainty, because I can never be certain that my mind has captured more than a glimpse of his glory. A hope, not a possession, because nothing I possess can hold the one who holds me.
It seems to me that the only people who can handle power well are those who don’t need it too much, those who can equally let go of it and share it. The only people who can handle power are those who have made journeys through powerlessness.
My friend Isaac always described the responsibility of Christian parents as being to disciple their children. This sounded strange when I heard it, but of course it is true. It says a lot that that I did not intuitively associate the idea of discipling with parental responsibility.
I have thought of and described that responsibility mostly with words like teaching, instructing, disciplining, raising. It is not that teaching, instructing, disciplining and raising are not a part of the process of discipling our children, it is that they are only part of the process.
My assumption was that if I could just get my children to do right everything else would fall into place. It was the same assumption that I applied to my responsibility as a Christian to “make disciples”. Tim Keller contrasts religion and gospel.
Religion says “I obey therefore God accepts me”. Gospel says “I am accepted by God therefore I obey”.
In thinking about those statements, it becomes clear that what I was about as a parent was more religion than gospel. My objective was to teach a system, and, in that, I mostly ignored the importance and prominence of relationships. One might argue that that was not all bad. Didn’t they learn to be responsible, self-sufficient, independent, good people? Of course. Religion is not all bad for the same reasons.
But there is a vast difference in outcomes between religion and gospel. Jesus said the religion practiced by the Pharisees made their convert twice as fit for hell as themselves. The practice of religion rendered them unable to hear the gospel. An implication I see is that children parented in religion i.e. “I obey therefore God accepts me.” are at risk for developing hearts which are unprepared to receive the gospel.
Of course there are other influences in children’s lives that may very well cultivate “good soil hearts”. I am of the opinion that if I had to choose between a family who parents with “religion” and a family that has no religion but parents with love and acceptance, I would take the latter over the former. I believe children raised in a community of love and acceptance will more likely have hearts that are fertile ground and are capable of hearing the gospel.
So what are parents like myself to do when they realize their efforts to raise their children, although done with an honest heart and the best of intentions, were not Godly? The answer for us is the same as the answer for parents who are beginning their families.
The most important thing we can do is demonstrate the acceptance and love that God gives us in our lives and particularly in our relationships with our children. In relationships like those, hearts will be softened, ears will hear and eyes will see and the gospel will transform lives.
Published Feb 2017 Shadowland Community Church weekly email