My friend Paul took up golf so he would have something to share with his boys when they became teenagers. Smart man. Fathers find fewer and fewer activities in common with their children as they grow up and mature.
When my children were small, we connected on every level. I helped them learn to swim, taught them to ride bikes, and every night, told them bedtime stories (with one lying enfolded in each arm). We flew kites and dug for sharks teeth and collected rocks. We made up silly songs in the car and they sang out as loudly as I did. We visited the zoo and played ball and worked in the yard. We visited grandparents and they slept over with cousins.
Then they got to be teenagers. Sing in the car? Dad, you’re kidding, right? Be seen in the mall with you, Dad–do I have to? Oh, and drop me off a block before we get to school so my friends won’t see me getting out of the family car. Family reunion? Boring!
They did let me teach them to drive the car. Usually, it was a Sunday afternoon in an empty parking lot, or down some deserted road. But as soon as they received their license, they preferred to be left alone with their friends.
Life had changed.
Who but God can forgive sins? (Mark 2:7)
A while back I wrote the author of a book on the political events of 1940 to express my appreciation. I added this note:
That year is also special because I made my appearance on March 28, 1940. But don’t think me old just because I was born in 1940.
Later, I wondered why I’d gone to the trouble to say that, as I do not know that author and don’t expect to meet him. Why did that matter?
I decided it’s a personal thing.
None of us want to be pigeon-holed because of demographics or statistics, and not for preconceptions or ignorance. Being a Southerner does not make you a redneck. Living in Mississippi does not mean you are barefooted. All Louisianians do not speak Cajun. All Yankees are not rude.
She hath done what she could. –Mark 14:8
The little girl was staring up at Bertha and saying nothing. Bertha and Gary were newlyweds, just beginning in ministry, and Gary accepted any invitations coming his way–sing, preach, teach, counsel, whatever. Today, he had sung in the worship service, and now stood near the piano talking to the accompanist. A few feet away, her little girl was staring up at Bertha.
Finally she spoke.
She said, “Do you sing?”
Bertha: “No. I don’t sing.”
Silence. The child is processing that. Finally, she speaks again.
“Do you play the piano?”
“No. I don’t play the piano.”
More silence. The child is thinking. Then, she speaks and gives this family a memorable line we’ve used ever since.
One. “Back in my day.” I’m actually living in my day. Today.
This is my day. I am as alive and active as I have ever been. I vote, I read the paper every day, I blog several times a week, and I’m often on Facebook. I still work–traveling to cities far and near to preach and minister.
I married Bertha three years ago. She still teaches English at a community college across town. Much of her day is spent at the laptop grading papers and communicating with students. She is very much in the present; neither of us is living in the past.
Earlier this month I drove to northern Kentucky (495 miles) to minister and drove back the next day, arriving home in time to sketch for two hours at our church’s Christmas program that evening.
I’m still here.
Two. I’m going to ‘unpack’ this message. Ugh!
My wife and I are still learning about marriage.
Bertha and I were both 76 years old when we married. I’m five months older than she.
But don’t take that the wrong way. In no way are we old. We are not infirmed, crippled (thank the Lord!), or elderly. We both still work. She teaches English for a local community college and teaches online for a Christian university in Indiana. I’m retired, but always on the go to preach and sketch people for events. I write (blogs, books, articles for various publications) and watch a lot of sports on television (and she’s all right with that!).
We are loving our lives.
Bertha and I were each married 52 years, she to Pastor Gary Fagan, and I to Margaret Ann Henderson. God took Gary to Heaven in May of 2014 and Margaret eight months later. Bertha and I met in February of 2016, and were married a year later.
When Margaret and I married, she was just short of 20 and I was 22. We were both children with hardly a clue what we were doing. An accounting of the mistakes we made would fill an encyclopedia. I’ve not asked Bertha about her and Gary who married about the same time. But I’m confident she’s a different person now from the 22-year-old who stood beside Gary and took the vows.
Who wouldn’t be different? We live and learn.
Turn them off, turn them over to Him, or turn them into gold.
“Your sins and iniquities I will remember no more” (Hebrews 10:17).
God has a healthy forgetter; we should too. The things that need forgetting, we give to him and walk away from. Even if they are not entirely forgotten, we are free from their effects.
My wife Bertha and I were talking about memories the other day. We each have a lifetime of remembrances to share with each other since we were in our 70s when we met. We were each 75 when we married.
She said, “Each of us has a wagonload of memories of God’s people who have loved us and cared for us. But we also have our share of painful memories that I sometimes wish I could edit out of my life.”
She continued, “But the Holy Spirit showed me something. If He were to remove all the memories of the pain and strife, He would also be removing the lovely things that happened during the same time.”
So, we keep all the memories. But we treat them differently.
“Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. For if either falls, the other will lift up his companion. But woe to the one who falls when no one is there to lift him up…. And if two lie down together, they keep warm. But how can one be warm alone?” (Ecclesiastes 4:9-11)
A friend whose wife died several years ago said to me recently, “I don’t ever plan to marry again. If God has something different about this, He will let me know. But I’m a long way from anything remotely like that.”
His reason for telling me that? Probably so I’d quit trying to come up with a good match for him.
Bertha and I have been married 15 months. We love this time of our lives so much–we were each wed for 52 years before the Lord took Gary and Margaret–we wish all our friends could share the joy!
“They will still bear fruit in old age. They will be full of sap and very green….” (Psalm 92:14).
In no particular order–other than this is the order that occurred to me after going to bed last night (and getting up to write it down!)—here is what I do. Don’t miss the addendum at the end on what I’m not doing right! Might as well tell the rest of the story. Smile, please.
One. I laugh a lot. I love Genesis 21:6, “God has made laughter for me.” Laughter is a vote of confidence in the Lord, that He is in control and has it all in His hands. This means some of what you’ll hear around this house is pure silliness. And I’m good with that. Many years ago, as six-year-old Abby and I played at the swing in her front yard, she said, “We’re being silly, aren’t we, Grandpa?” I said, “Yes, we are. Why do we like to be so silly?” She said, “It’s a family tradition.”
Two. I take a full regimen of vitamins. In the mid-1990s, when I’d gone a decade without seeing a doctor, I went with my wife for her appointment and ended up becoming a patient too. One day the doctor gave me a list of vitamins and minerals (including the baby aspirin and a fiber capsule) she wanted me to start taking. As I left, she said, “Mr. McKeever, I think we have just prevented a heart attack in you.” Well, apparently so. I have almost never missed a day, although the list of what I take has varied a little over the years as successive doctors have tweaked it.
Three. I have an annual checkup, complete with bloodwork.
Make friends for yourselves by means of the mammon of unrighteousness that when it fails, they may receive you into the eternal dwellings. –Luke 16:9
Whatever else Luke 16:9 means, it implies that by building friendships in good times, those connections will be there in the future when you will be needing them.
I didn’t start out to write this. But it will not leave my mind. So, I’m going to give it a try.
A preacher friend wondered why my schedule is so filled and his has too many blank spots. Mostly, of course, I don’t have a clue. There may be a hundred reasons I’m not aware of. Or, it could simply be the work of the Lord and nothing more complicated than “the will of God”. However, after we swapped notes back and forth, I ended up making a few suggestions to help him get more preaching opportunities: Find your niche; work up a few sermons on the primary things the Lord has taught you over the years; keep working to improve those few sermons, and preach them as often as you can; write a book on a subject that meets a need in the church; stay on your knees; keep growing.
The last thing I would have said to him or anyone else is that I’m smarter or a better preacher or more talented, or some such foolishness. I don’t believe that for a minute.
“Lord, teach us to number our days that we may apply our hearts to wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12)
“Lord, make me to know my end, and what is the extent of my days; Let me know how transient I am.” (Psalm 39:4)
“They will still bear fruit in old age; they will be full of sap and very green.” (Psalm 92:14).
The Bible has a lot to say about getting old. And most of it is great.
As a child, I would lie awake wondering about the future. For one born in 1940, the turn of the 21st century was several lifetimes away. “In the year 2000,” I thought, “I’ll be 60 years old. Almost at the end of my life.”
When that momentous time arrived, I was scarcely out of my teens. I was anything but old. Surely not. No way was I ready to cash in my chips, to hang it all up. To call it a day. To head for the house. And a lot of metaphors like that.
I was still young and alive and working.