“They will still bear fruit in old age; they will be full of sap and very green….” (Psalm 92:14)
Here’s what happened.
As I was surfing through the program containing all the articles in this website from nearly twenty years of blogging, I came across an unfinished draft called “the last temptations of the aged.” I breezed right past it, in search of something else I was looking for.
A moment later, I was back. That was an intriguing title, I thought. Must have started that article a year or more back. Wonder what it says.
After reading it, I deleted the entire thing.
It was indeed written a few years back, and then left in the program and forgotten. But the strange part is that nothing it said applies to my life now.
Not a thing.
Here is a list that will stand the test of time, methinks, and may apply to a great segment of geriatrics as we move into life’s red zone. Let’s think of these as the last temptations of the aged….
“This shall be written for the generation to come; and the people who shall be created shall praise the Lord” (Psalm 102:18).
Please go to the front of your Bible and write in it.
Start by putting your own name.
Often, when I pick up the Bibles of friends to see what they have written in them, I’m chagrined to see they don’t even have their names.
Write in your Bible, friend. Please.
At Christmas 1973, my aunt Eren gave to her mother, my wonderful grandmother Bessie Lowery McKeever, a Bible. Grandma died in 1982, but not before marking up that Bible.
I now own it. It is a treasure beyond price.
This morning, I read something I had never seen before, that made the tears flow. (I was looking up the text above, and Grandma’s Bible was handy.)
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!