At age 81, still as young as ever! (He said hopefully)

“They will still bear fruit in old age. They will be full of sap and very green….” (Psalm 92:14). 

This is an updated version of a similar article written on my 78th birthday. March 28 will be my 81st birthday.  I’m so thankful to still be young and energetic and both loved and in love.   So, here are 21 things that are keeping me young! 

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.”  (Abby marries Cody Erskine in two months. I may tell that story.  Cody needs to know what he’s getting into!)

Two. I take a full regimen of vitamins. In the mid-1990s, when I’d gone a decade without seeing a doctor, I accompanied my wife for her appointment and ended up becoming a patient too.  One day the doctor gave me a list of vitamins and minerals 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 rarely missed a day taking them, although the precise 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.  The most recent one–like all of those in recent years–was perfect in every way.  Since the last checkup, I’m down 15 pounds (from walking mostly) and the numbers reflect it.  I’m blessed.

Four.  I see the dentist at least twice a year.  It was his assistant who found the oral cancer in 2004. So, I owe my life to the dental hygienist. — An update:  After 15 years of cancer-free existence, the oral malignancy returned in 2020.  I had surgery on October 22, followed by a recurrence and surgery on January 29 of this year.  In a few days, I start a series of treatments for immunotherapy which are supposed to enable my immune system to ward off the cancer.  I appreciate the prayers!

Five.  I walk every day, and have since I was a teenager, with a few lapses along the way.   For years I did four miles at least 5 times a week, but now it’s a couple of miles each day. We have a walking path/trail in our small subdivision and I’ve calculated how many laps equals a mile.  Not long ago, a friend my age had bypass surgery and told me the doctor had him walking a mile each day. Alas, not long afterwards, I did his funeral.  Ever since I’ve been encouraging friends not to wait until the doctor orders you to walk. Get on with it.  Walking is easy, not dangerous, inexpensive, and has incredible results.

Six. I read, read, read.  Sometimes a book a day (ain’t retirement grand!).  At the moment, I’m halfway through a 500-page western, I’m reading a 1959 book of sermons by Frederick Speakman, a Presbyterian preacher from Dayton, and a series of books on the political life of Abraham Lincoln by Sidney Blumenthal.  I read the paper each morning, read TIME magazine, and a few other things.

Seven.  I pray all the time. All. The. Time.   Even now, for this piece and for those who will come across it, that the Lord will be glorified and people helped.  “Thank you, Father.”  I pray as I’m walking, pray in the middle of the night, and at all other times.

Eight.  I work puzzles.  They say that keeps the mind alert and active.  I do crosswords occasionally, but the Sudoku and the cryptogram almost daily. I love jigsaw puzzles, particularly those from the wonderful Dutch cartoonist Jan van Haasteren.

My parents, both of whom lived to be almost 96, filled books of puzzles in their latter years. We played cards (rummy is the family game) at every opportunity.

Nine. I blog and interact with people on the internet.  Our website was begun in 2003 and now has over 2,000 articles on all kinds for church leaders.  Editors comb through these and select things to post on their websites, usually without my knowledge (but with my consent and appreciation).  From time to time, editors ask me to write on specific topics.

Ten. I draw cartoons all the time, going back to childhood.  For nearly twenty years, the Baptist Press has posted one of my cartoons on their website every day. They have thousands which anyone can see and editors can download and use., and click on “comics.” Or, simply google “Joe McKeever cartoons” and you’ll get hundreds.

Eleven. I’m a sketch artist. Before the pandemic I was probably averaging a hundred people a week and thousands a year.  Since we are now  (finally!) entering the post-pandemic era–thank you, Lord!–the invitations to speak and draw are coming in.  Such fun. This weekend, I’ll be preaching in two morning worship services of a church in South Mississippi, and during the Sunday School hour, I’ll draw all the children and teens in the church.

Twelve. As a preacher, I’m always working on sermons, studying God’s word, and paying attention to other preachers, trying to do a better job for the Lord.

Thirteen.  I get invited to teach a Sunday School class from time to time.  In our church–the wonderful First Baptist Church of Jackson (where I served as minister of evangelism in the early 1970s–two or three classes call on me when they need a supply.  This Easter, I’ll be teaching a terrific class of men my age and older.

Fourteen.  I work at giving generously.  This is not the place–if there is one!–to list all the places and groups to which I give money, but suffice it to say I strive to be generous, whether tipping a waiter or paying the guy who cuts our lawn or supporting our friends bringing the gospel to the Middle-Easterners who have transitioned to America. And yes, I’m a tither to the Lord’s work in our church.  (I smile at this memory.  A friend from the International Mission Board and I were having lunch. As we departed, I left a sizeable tip on the table.  She looked at it and said, “That’s rather generous, don’t you think, Dr. Joe.”  I said, “I sure hope so!”

Fifteen.  I’m married to a youthful, creative, loving wife.  Bertha and I were married in January of 2017, after we were each widowed following 52 years of marriage.  The Lord has so blessed us in this union.  We feel so honored by the Father.  Every day is a delight.

Sixteen.  I’m surrounded by friends. Yesterday as I write, I was in New Orleans for four hours and made arrangements in advance for two deacon-friends (with whom I had served a local church fourteen years) to meet me for lunch.  We shared a delightful hour together.

Seventeen.  Bertha and I have fourteen grandchildren between us (my 8 and her 6).  And there is nothing better than grandchildren to drive your prayer life, fill your heart with joy and love, and make demands on the bank account.

Eighteen. I love nature and regularly replenish the bird feeders in our backyard.  It’s even all right for the squirrels to get into it.  We love them too!  Our bird book sits on a table beside the binoculars, and we enjoy finding that the unusual bird we are seeing is a brown-headed nuthatch or a catbird. A couple of days ago it was a cedar waxwing!  A great blue heron makes a daily visit to the pond in our back yard and yesterday we watched in amazement as two herons were fighting.  Sometimes I cannot believe what an amazing place the Lord has given us to live!

Nineteen.  We have a dog. Albie is a mix of border collie and sheltie.  He’s a rescue dog which Bertha picked up in Memphis just before she and I met.  Now, I’d never had an inside dog in my life, whereas she always has.  But I love animals and quickly came to adore this member of our household.  Loving this guy–and being loved back by him–adds a dimension to my life that wasn’t there before.  (I sometimes tease Bertha that she has a rescue dog and a rescue husband!)

Twenty.  There are several television programs we enjoy watching together: Blue Bloods, Doctor Blake Mysteries, Monk and Father Brown are favorites.

Twenty-One.  We try to eat right.  I love vegetables and fruits.  Every morning, our breakfast is honey nut cheerios with fresh strawberries and blueberries.  We eat light for lunch (grazing, Bertha calls it) and then try to have a good evening meal. We keep bananas and nuts handy for munching.

However, don’t think I’m saying I’m a health nut. Far from it.  I set a bad example in many ways….

–I eat too much ice cream.  Blue Bell’s Natural Vanilla Bean is the best thing in the world. Once when I was in college and living for a short time with my sister and her husband, while they were away for the weekend, I went to the store and bought a half-gallon of strawberry ice cream.  I ate a bowl, then another, and…well, you know what happened. I finished that entire box at one sitting.  I’ve not done it since, but I could!

–I love sweets more than I should.  After the side effects of the radiation went away in late 2005, I’d lost a lot of taste sensation (since radiation kills salivary glands and taste buds as well as cancer cells!).  But the taste for sweets returned with a passion!

I pray for my health.  Common sense says it’s possible to do everything right and still get blind-sided by a disease or a truck on the highway.  Once when my grandchildren called for my birthday, I told them, “Pray that the Lord will keep me in good health for a long time to come, so I can keep on preaching and blessing people.”  One said, “I already pray that for you every day, Grandpa.”

You’re looking at one blessed man.

7 thoughts on “At age 81, still as young as ever! (He said hopefully)

  1. And we are blessed because you “are”. Dr. Jim Futral wrote an article in the Baptist Record a few years ago entitled “Did it matter that I was?” I’m sure you are familiar with it. He recounts a visit to a church he pastored early in his ministry…and only one person was left who remembered him. He recalled the daily challenges of that pastorate and at this juncture pondered the question “did it matter that I was here?” Well, Dr. Joe McKeever, I speak for many of us who say “IT MATTERS THAT YOU ARE HERE”. WE LOOK FORWARD TO MORE YEARS OF YOUR WISDOM AND EXAMPLE. THANK YOU, SIR!

  2. # Eight. I remember Pop McKeever who would sit at the head of the dining room table to lead a game of Rummy with the family; However, it just dawned on me…a Question: “Did Granny every sit down and break away from her cooking to join you all in a hand of Rummy?”

    • Never. Granny did not play one hand of rummy in her 95+ years. She would pop the corn and bring you a bowl of ice cream.

  3. You’re looking at one blessed man….

    Hello Pastor Joe
    I still haven’t had the privilege of meeting him in person, I may never know him.
    But as our Lord said: The mouth speaks of what the heart is full …. I can say that I already know him, and he really is a man of God and a blessed man.
    I have been accessing your site for a few years … and as a 53-year-old pastor, I have learned a lot with you.
    I always talk about you and your messages to my wife and children …. we are all delighted with your messages …. they have helped us a lot.
    I always thank God for his life, because it was He who prepared for me to know him, even if virtually.

    Thanks for your dedication, this is a blessing for the youngest pastors.

    God blesses

    Pastor Elias Marcelino
    Shalom Baptist Church – São Paulo – Brasil

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