Last evening, I was listening to the NPR program “Fresh Air” in which host Terry Gross was interviewing the author of a book called “Winter Journal.” The man explained that now that he’s in his 60’s, he is in the wintertime of life and it’s a great time to look back.
It’s a familiar metaphor: the Spring of life = youth, Summertime being the young adult years, Autumn standing for maturity, and Winter for all that follows.
Frankly, I’m not too crazy about the image of these last decades being wintertime.
Winter suggests a time of shutting down, of dormancy, of sitting inside by the fire, of barrenness and starkness and cold temperatures.
I’m 72 at the moment, but that’s subject to change.
And let it be known far and wide, I am not in the wintertime of anything. It’s still Springtime around here, ladies and gentlemen.
“They will still bear fruit in old age; They will be full of sap and very green.” (Psalm 92:14)
This is not to say I overlook the shock of white hair staring at me from the bathroom mirror, or am in denial about the increasing hearing loss, according to the audiologist’s test two days ago. Those are reality also.
But I am not sitting by the fireside reminiscing about better times (or, for that matter, complaining about what the world is coming to!).
I’m still out in the fields. I’m planting seeds and cultivating young growth and reaping for the Lord wherever I can.
This is a Friday. Tomorrow, I fly to St. Louis where two deacons from a small town in western Illinois will meet me and we will drive to their hometown. I’ll be preaching there Sunday through Wednesday, as well as addressing a civic club and possibly some other groups. (Later, this fall, we’ll have a revival in Missouri and two in Kentucky.)
Two days after returning from Illinois, I’ll be teaching a class at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. This will be my third time for “Interpersonal Relationship Skills,” but the first time in the unusual arrangement the seminary calls CIV. (That stands for C–something–Interactive Video.) Techology connects our class of 15 students with classrooms at the Atlanta and Orlando seminary extensions where two other professors will be on duty. The students in our class will be able to see the students in the other two locations and interact with each professor. In a three-hour session, each professor will have 45 minutes to teach. Seminary these days requires the professor to be capable in areas unheard of in the 1960s when I arrived on campus: Blackboard (a program where we post assignments and have online discussions), Self-Serve (to get our class list and post grades), and such.
My brain hurts when trying to learn these things, but after getting them under my belt, I feel a sense of accomplishment.
Being able to invest in the next generation of kingdom workers is a rare privilege, one I do not take for granted.
A friend who teaches Hebrews at a Baptist college in another state sent me a note this morning: “Are you still preaching? Could you talk to my class about lessons learned over your years in the ministry?”
I could and I would love to. I sent him to my website (this one) where we keep my preaching schedule current. The schedule shows that a month from now, I’m filling the pulpit at the First Baptist Church in his city, both morning and night. I said, “Can you use me on that Monday morning? I could stay over.”
Most mornings when I’m at home, after walking on the levee and doing the around-the-house errands Margaret has for me, I spend a few hours in my office provided by our church working on articles for various online publications and for this blog. Yesterday, I posted installment number 21 on a series called “Reforming the Deacons.” Where did they come from? After all, I have scars on my soul from interaction with a few deacons over the half-century of ministry. The answer–whatever it is–would have to involve the fact that in the three-plus years of retirement, I keep getting these invitations to lead deacon-training sessions. This forced me to think through what the Lord and scriptures and life had taught me and to lay it out there. The result is this series. Will it be published, people want to know. The Lord (alone) knows.
Two nights ago, the editor of one of our state Baptist weeklies texted to see if we could get together on a cartoon for one of their features. Since my wife is in Seattle for the wedding of her sister and I was at home alone, we went back and forth over the phone (texting, sending photos of what I sketched, etc). Yesterday morning, we finished that and I emailed them to the editor’s office.
Can you tell I’m having fun?
In an old book, Harper Shannon tells of a pastor running into a seminary classmate who had left the ministry and was now selling insurance or something. He asked him, “What do you miss most about the ministry?” The man said, “The trumpets in the morning.”
I still hear them. I wake up excited, with a dozen things crowding in on my mind—people to call, sermons to prepare, blogs to write, cartoons to draw, things to do.
It’s great. Thank you, Lord.
If the Lord decides that all this shuts down tomorrow, I hope to have the courage and faith to give thanks for that, too. Even old age and infirmity are times of sowing and reaping when done right. And just think what comes after that!
The trumpet in the morning!