October 23, 2017

Threescore and ? — Beginning the last lap

Mike Head Shot 1

The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.

• Psalm 90:10, KJV

• • •

Well, I’ve gone and done it. Used up my threescore.

Today I turn sixty years old.  If we think of life in twenty-year-long laps, I’m starting the last lap. If we think of it as a game, I’ve reached the fourth quarter. According to Psalm 90, I’ll only make it all the way ‘round the track again or complete the contest “by reason of strength.” Yet the “strength” he mentions includes “labour and sorrow.” Lighthearted guy, that Moses.

Solomon could be a downer at retirement parties too.

Remember your creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come, and the years draw near when you will say, “I have no pleasure in them”; before the sun and the light and the moon and the stars are darkened and the clouds return with the rain; in the day when the guards of the house tremble, and the strong men are bent, and the women who grind cease working because they are few, and those who look through the windows see dimly; when the doors on the street are shut, and the sound of the grinding is low, and one rises up at the sound of a bird, and all the daughters of song are brought low; when one is afraid of heights, and terrors are in the road; the almond tree blossoms, the grasshopper drags itself along and desire fails; because all must go to their eternal home, and the mourners will go about the streets; before the silver cord is snapped, and the golden bowl is broken, and the pitcher is broken at the fountain, and the wheel broken at the cistern, and the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the breath returns to God who gave it. Vanity of vanities, says the Teacher; all is vanity.

• Ecclesiastes 12:1-8

Oh boy, so much to look forward to.  You can’t fool me with all those metaphors, Solomon. You’re talking about what it’s like to get old, to see your body break down, your teeth fall out, your strength wane, and your eyesight and hearing fail. “The days of trouble” are coming, and you are not optimistic that they will yield me pleasure. Spoilsport.

Even Jesus spoke about old age in a way that must have made Peter want to check out early.

 “Very truly, I tell you,” he warned his disciple, “when you were younger, you used to fasten your own belt and to go wherever you wished. But when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will fasten a belt around you and take you where you do not wish to go” (John 21:18).

The text goes on to say that Jesus was talking about Peter’s death. But, believe me, I’ve been around enough elderly folks to know that what he said can be a pretty accurate description of life for many of them before they reach the end. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be: the child becomes an adult and then a child again. Hand over the controls.

Whaddya mean, I can’t drive anymore?

Mike Head Shot 2

On one of his better days, when he was teaching people far younger than I, Solomon either found or passed along a much more hopeful proverb.

But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn,
which shines brighter and brighter until full day.

• Proverbs 4:18

Unlike other portions of scripture, which suggest that we are moving toward sunset, the diminishing of light and the onset of darkness, this word of wisdom sets forth another possibility. Life, long and abundant, may be lived entirely in the fresh and growing light of morning! Our path may begin at dawn and culminate when the noonday sun has reached its zenith, shedding its light and warmth over all the earth.

Our pilgrimage, however long it may be, may grow brighter and brighter until the most brilliant moment of all, when “the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father” (Matthew 13:43).

Now let me issue a caution. We must hold this word, like all wisdom sayings, lightly, and not think of it as an ironclad promise, a guarantee that our lives will get better and better, easier, and more pleasurable as we age. That we will not suffer or face the normal, seemingly random and often unfair mixed bag of experiences all human beings face.

We will. And I have no way of telling you how it’s going to go and how it’s going to end. Run as fast as possible from anyone who proclaims to you that they can.

Nevertheless, I find something here in which to take hope. Something for which I can pray. Something for which I can at least pursue in my inner being as the body slows and becomes more fragile over the years.

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.

• 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

One more lap to go. One more quarter left in the game. If by strength.

I’m aiming toward the light.

Comments

  1. Happy Birthday CM!
    I’ve only just completed my two score and my hearing is already almost gone. So you are probably doing quite well in comparison 🙂

    Many blessings to you on this day and for the years to come. We here have been blessed by your quarter score years at IM and thank you and God for them.

  2. David Cornwell says:

    Thank you so much Mike. And may this birthday be a very happy one for you and your family. Celebrate life itself, because it passes ever so quickly.

  3. Happy bday Chap Mike!

    Thanks for everything you do at IM.

  4. Chaplain Jeff Hill says:

    Happy Birthday Chaplain Mike…good article!!

  5. Happy birthday, CM. I’m about to hit the same milestone, so… your post brought tears to my eyes. I do think I’ll feel a bit better once I’ve actually turned 60 and realize that I’m not going to go to bed the night before at 59, and wake up ancient and withered. But yeah, i have fears. Thank you for your honesty. It gives me hope.

  6. Christiane says:

    Happy Birthday, CM.
    and cheer up . . . these days with knee replacements, therapy pools, senior vitamins, hormone therapy, etc. etc., you can get through the ‘and ten’ with flying colors . . . the truth is that we Boomers have paved the way for you younger folks, and the new ‘senior’ life style is practically a culture all its own.

    ah, if you are not geared to all the fuss in the above-mentioned life-style, there is always ‘simplify, simplify’ and living ‘off the grid’ somewhere on a lake, remote and beautiful, where the air itself is so fresh that it nourishes and rejuvenates, and your joints won’t stiffen ’cause you are too busy chopping wood, and tilling and planting, and fishing, and living in a more peaceable land where folks who age have no need of geriatric doses of anxiety meds . . .
    It’s all about the journey. And choosing the road that leads into profound thanksgiving for the continual wonder of life itself. 🙂

  7. Danielle says:

    Hey CM, I’ll send you big bucks if, at your retirement party one day, you actually read the Solomon passage. 🙂

    If it makes you feel better, my folks are lots older — there are no boomers in our family; my dad fought in Korea; I’m Gen X; and my brothers are millennials, which (along with the fundamentalism and the home schooling…) probably explains why I’m clueless about approximately half the mainstream culture. Anyway, the last time I was back up at my folks’ house, I tried unsuccessfully to get him to let me move some heavy logs. He was doing this one his own, which he should definitely not do. Yet the conversation went something like, “I’ve got it.” “I’ll do it.” “Naw.” “I should help you.” “No, you’ll hurt yourself.” “Dad, dad I’m practically 40, I’m pretty sure I can do this.” “I got it.”

    The lesson here: You can pretty much do whatever you want, and younger people will have absolutely no idea what to do to stop you. Until you actually hurt yourself moving the log – put down the dang log, will ya! – you have all the power. We’re all like: Is he crazy, or does he just have superpowers? Does he look mysterious because he knows something, or is he bluffing?

    Practice the evil laugh: Mwwha-ha-ha-HA! POWER!

    Happy Birthday!

  8. Eeyore says:

    Best of birthday wishes, CM – and no matter how much longer your race is, may you cross the finish line half an hour before the Devil knows you’ve rounded the final curve!

  9. Clay Crouch says:

    O God, our times are in your hand: Look with favor, we pray, on your servant Michael. as he begins another year. Grant that he may grow in wisdom and grace, and strengthen his trust in your goodness all the days of his life; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

  10. Burro [Mule] says:

    Chronia polla, Michael

    I repent better in the waning
    season
    when the blood
    runs less swiftly and all creatures
    look keenly about them
    for quickening danger.
    Then I study the rockface
    of my life, its granite pitted

    and pocked and pickaxed
    eroded, discolored by sun
    and wind and rain—
    my rock emerging
    from the veil of greenery
    to be mapped, to be
    examined, to be judged.

    Où sont-ilz, Vierge souveraine ?
    Mais où sont les neiges d’antan!

  11. So you’ve turned into a sexegenarian! Sounds awful.

    I’ll meet you there in 24 days, Mike. Hold the boat for me.

  12. That Other Jean says:

    Happy birthday, Chaplain Mike! I’ve got about a decade on you, with at least some of the attendant ills that come with age (where did I leave my cane THIS time?), but I still agree with Agatha Christie:

    “I have sometimes been wildly, despairingly, acutely miserable, racked with sorrow; but through it all I still know quite certainly that just to be alive is a grand thing.”

  13. Happy Birthday, young man!
    As I approach my 82nd in a few weeks, I realize how much I am enjoying life
    and thanking God for good health and mind. I expect to continue “lurking” on IM for some time, Can’t have my morning coffee without it!

  14. A most happy birthday to you, CM! As it happened for me, that verse about three score and ten made me realize I was halfway there when I was 35 and was the major factor in saying yes to Jesus. In my experience the years from 30 to 50 were all about the same except I realized I wasn’t any longer going to be able to do hard physical labor as I approached 50 and had to quit working in the woods. The years from 50 to 70 were my middle age and as I approached 70 I realized I no longer could handle a full work week, even just superintending a golf course. Now at 77 and in old age, I’m hoping to be on my feet and working firewood and maintenance a few hours a day until I’m 90, at which point I hope to have built up enough of a surplus of wood to last however much longer I am required to stick around, not long I hope. I wish I could look back on my life and see a period of time helping people with real needs like you are doing, CM. God bless this coming decade for you!

  15. Happy Birthday, Chaplain Mike! Have a great day. And who says 60 is the beginning of the last lap? I sure hope that’s the case as I’m only a few years behind.

  16. dennisb says:

    Have a rip roarng birthday ol’ chap….lain 😉

  17. Do not go gentle into that good night,
    Old age should burn and rage at close of day;
    Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
    Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
    Because their words had forked no lightning they
    Do not go gentle into that good night.

    Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
    Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
    Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

    Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
    And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
    Do not go gentle into that good night.

    Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
    Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
    Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

    And you, my father, there on the sad height,
    Curse, bless me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
    Do not go gentle into that good night.
    Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

    Happy Birthday, my friend, and Keep On Truckin’

  18. Ronald Avra says:

    Happy Birthday! to you chaplain. I don’t know if the hat is a recent addition to your wardrobe, but you wear it well. Must be chilly there in Indiana today. I’m considering purchasing a Stetson to wear in my last quarter.

  19. Happy birthday, Chaplain Mike, you young kid, you! As someone above said, if I could look back on my 73 years of a life as well spent as your has been and is, I would be very much content.

    But as an old woman, I at least have this to look forward to:

    When I am an old woman I shall wear purple
    With a red hat that doesn’t go, and doesn’t suit me,
    And I shall spend my pension
    on brandy and summer gloves
    And satin sandals,
    and say we’ve no money for butter.

    I shall sit down on the pavement when I am tired,
    And gobble up samples in shops and press alarm bells,
    And run my stick along the public railings,
    And make up for the sobriety of my youth.

    I shall go out in my slippers in the rain
    And pick the flowers in other people’s gardens,
    And learn to spit.

    You can wear terrible shirts and grow more fat,
    And eat three pounds of sausages at a go,
    Or only bread and pickle for a week,
    And hoard pens and pencils and beer mats
    and things in boxes.

    But now we must have clothes that keep us dry,
    And pay our rent and not swear in the street,
    And set a good example for the children.
    We will have friends to dinner and read the papers.

    But maybe I ought to practise a little now?
    So people who know me
    are not too shocked and surprised,
    When suddenly I am old
    and start to wear purple!

  20. Calvin Cuban says:

    Happy birthday, CM! You don’t look a day over 59!

  21. Dana Ames says:

    Dear Michael,

    may the Lord bless you today and always, and grant you many years!

    Seems there’s a little clutch of us regulars who just turned, or are close to turning, the 60th-year corner – HUG, me, you, numo. We should meet somewhere for a beverage…. 🙂

    Dana

  22. greg r says:

    “I’m aiming toward the light…..” I’d swear there’s an Emmy Lou Harris lyric that says exactly that….. I’ll find it…..

    ps: I hit my threescore this Friday…… got me by three days ….. and then you rise again..

  23. Burro [Mule] says:

    For musicians who stay relevant into their 60s and 70s, nobody beats the Kraut-rockers.

    Here’s Manuel Göttsching from Ash Ra Tempel (unmatched early 70s German Kosmische band) performing in his 60s and still raising the little hairs on your arms.

    When he picks up the guitar, watch out.

  24. StuartB says:

    Happy Birthday Chaplain Mike! I just hit 31 last week, how much different is 60?

    • That Other Jean says:

      Very–but you’ll adjust.

      • David L says:

        As someone who’s in the later half of the 60s said when he bent over. “Since I’m down here can I get anything for anyone else.”

        I’m only 62.

  25. Lisa Dye says:

    Happy birthday, Chaplain Mike! I just turned double nickels and celebrated with a month of pneumonia, five different prescriptions and four weekly visits to my new doctor who said, “Despite your habits of avoidance in the past, your butt will be in my office every six months from here on out.” The joy in birthdays at this point is dubious, but it still beats the alternative.

    • I hear you Lisa. Just turned 57. In the last 12 months my rheumatoid arthritis decided to attack my lung lining and give me pleurisy, and I followed up that wonderful ongoing battle by getting a nasty case of shingles. I was up to 10 prescriptions but am now back down to 7, so that is progress, I guess. You are right though, I am glad to still be here, even though I’m well on the diminishing path.

  26. Happy birthday Chaplain Mike from another who hit the big 60 this year. One thing to celebrate during this season of life … the senior discounts! Thanks for all you do. You are a blessing to so many.

  27. Suzanne says:

    I’m not too far behind. So, happy birthday!

  28. Denise says:

    I love this, Mike! HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

  29. Robert F says:

    Happy birthday, CM. May you have many more.

  30. Goldie-Bell Anderson says:

    Sixty Cheers to Life! Great words! Thanks and God’s abundant blessing to you!

  31. Last lap, loosing your license, teeth falling out, sunset….

    For pete’s sake, Mike, don’t kill yourself off just yet! You could very well still have TWO laps left.

    You are still younger than my dad (and always will be, I suspect). I’m not saying sixty is the new fifty or anything, but I’ve known many sexagenarians (enjoy THAT label while you can!) who are much more youthful and vibrant than the majority of teenagers I work with (whom sadly do not set a very high bar).

    It’s all in your head! Well, mostly, anyways. Happy birthday. May you never act your age.

  32. I turn 65 this year. I have had some of the same thoughts you have had when I realize how many people never make it to 70. It is sobering to contemplate that I could have less than 10 years left.