Growing old is not for sissies, we’re told. Maybe not, but it’s for the lucky ones, if I may be permitted to say so.
It’s for those blessed by God with the opportunity to spend extra time on earth and do more good.
I count myself among the fortunate, the blessed ones. And I’m grateful.
1) Seventy-four is not so bad.
Granted, when you’re 30 or 40, it seems ancient. But to be 74 and still feel great and be going strong, 74 is a piece of cake.
When I was a kid, I thought of the year 1900 as the benchmark, the dividing line to determine who was middle-aged. Born in 1940, as a teen, I saw so many of my parents’ friends in their mid-50s and saw they were in the prime of life. They were at the peak of their powers. Gradually, however, they aged and now, none of that group is left.
I’m now not only a senior citizen, but a senior to most in that group!
And glad to be!
2) I’m grateful to still have my health.
Here’s the thing. When you reach your 70s, you start giving thanks for the ability to sleep the night through, the flexibility to bend over and tie your shoes, and the regularity of your digestive system. I’m dead serious.
I had a bout with cancer 10 years ago, followed by surgery and then radiation for the head and neck area. About the time I recovered from the side effects of the radiation, Hurricane Katrina blew through our area. And I’m still standing. Giving thanks for that!
3) As a part of “my health,” I still have my eyesight (with the help of bifocals), my hearing (with the assistance of some expensive hearing aids purchased last year), my taste (although since radiation a decade ago it’s not what it was), and my energy (not the pep of a teenager, but what I need, I still have).
I walk almost every day, a two-mile track at a wonderful park near here. Much of the 30 minutes, I spend praising the Lord–for the place, the day, the privilege of walking, as well as the desire and the ability and the benefit! I pray nonstop for family and certain friends. It’s a wonderful thing. I give thanks.
4) I still have my mind. This is the place to insert a good joke. But I don’t know one that fits. So, I’m dead serious about this also.
I read nonstop and blog. And I keep getting lots of invitations to speak, to preach revivals, to do banquets, to speak to school groups, none of which would be happening if the mind was shutting down. So, I am doubly grateful.
5) I am watching our 8 grandchildren grow up. Leah turns 25 next October and Jack, the youngest, turns 12 this month. In between are Jessica, JoAnne, Darilyn, Grant, Abby, and Erin. Am I blessed? You bet. And “that my soul knoweth quite well” (Psalm 139:14).
Over 53 years of ministry, I have gone to too many funerals of good people who would have given all they owned just to see their own children grow to adulthood. So, watching my three hit middle-age and the grands become young adults is a precious privilege, one I do not take for granted. Thank you, Heavenly Father!
6) My wife still loves me. We reach anniversary number 52 this April. I wish I could report that her health is as good as mine, but unfortunately that’s not the case. Arthritis and fibromyalgia are never away and brutal companions they are.
Margaret enjoys reading my blogs and, when I ask (which is often), she’s glad to make suggestions or give me her criticism. We are so different that she will see things I never thought of. I value that, and thank God for her.
7) I belong to a wonderful church, the First Baptist Church of Kenner, Louisiana, the congregation I pastored from 1990 to 2004. Throughout the membership are longtime friends, some as close and beloved as my own brothers and sisters. Our pastor, Dr. Mike Miller, lives a half-block down my street, and we are great friends. I cherish this man and his outstanding family, and give thanks for them regularly.
8) I get invited to speak a lot and am able to drive most places. The Honda CRV we bought in November of 2012 has nearly 40,000 miles on it. I put all but maybe five of those miles on there, traveling to speak in this church or that church, interspersed with a few sidetrips to see our children.
I love to drive. On the long interstates, I talk to the Lord and go over my sermons, and sometimes I turn on the Sirius XM radio and listen to symphonies, classic radio programs, or ball games. (I don’t mind flying. But getting through security is such a hassle, the planes are crowded, the suitcase has to be jam-packed to get all my stuff in, and there is so much I cannot take. If I can drive, I drive.)
9) I’m enjoying blogging and writing for our “one minute Bible study” on Facebook as never before. We started the www.joemckeever.com website over 10 years ago, and the program tells me there are over 2,000 articles there. These days, I post a new one every day.
My son Marty, a whiz at all things computerish, set me up with the “One Minute Bible Study” recently when he saw I was posting some of those on my timeline. So, in addition to doing one a day, I’m saving them in a Word program for a book, once we get a hundred.
10) And speaking of books, the year 2014 will finally see one of mine published! With more to come!
Throughout the 1980s, two other cartoonists and I collaborated on a series of books of cartoons for the church office. We did 8 volumes that sold over 300,000 copies. That was fun. But as my dad said one day, “When are you going to do a real book?” Well, Pop (now in Heaven), that’s about to become a reality. I’m not at liberty here to give the details, but am excited.
11) Honestly, I know full well that I will reach 80–the Lord willing–in six years, and that’s just fine. In one sense, it’s just a number. And in another sense, it’s pretty old! (smiley-face goes here) But, I see it as a privilege.
That’s a major reason I’m walking each day and doing my stretching routine with two handbells. Years ago, I would have said these were an investment in my future. These days, I do them for today and tomorrow. Exercise, we are told, tends to stave off so many of the problems of aging. Maybe not cancel the effects of growing old, but postpone them as much as possible. And I’m all for that.
When my teenage granddaughter Abby asked how she could pray for me, I said, “Pray the Lord will keep me healthy for a long time to come so I can continue preaching his Word and serving Him.”
12) I’m grateful that one of these days when this life ends–when He returns or calls me home, as the song said in church today–Heaven awaits on the other side. Second Corinthians calls it “home.” Matthew 25 calls it “a kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” Luke 23 calls it “paradise.”
I don’t claim to know much about Heaven. But I know Someone who does! Jesus told Nicodemus in John 3 that “no one has been to Heaven except the One who came from there!” That makes Him the authority on that subject. After all, He’s a native. So, what He says about Heaven, we may take to the bank. And the most important thing He said about it can be found in John 14:6–that “I am the way!” In John 10, He is the Door.
That’s all I need to know. As my friend Jerry Clower used to say, “There’s only one place in the universe where there is no laughter, and I have made arrangements to miss it!”
In (His) presence, there is fullness of joy; at the Father’s right hand, there are pleasures forever me. (Psalm 16:11)
I’m going there. Hope to see you there, too, friend.
Look for me near the throne.
Doing what? What else? Giving thanks, of course!