Saturday, March 30, 2013

The Easter Story Told Through the Titles of Pop Songs

No other day in history carries the import of Easter Sunday.  The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead is a game-changer, a life-changer, a history-changer.  It's also a day of great rejoicing for all who know Christ.  So let's have some fun with the Easter story as a way of celebrating God's great victory.  I've thought through the story attaching the titles of popular songs to various dimensions of the story.  I hope that rather than finding this sacrilegious, you'll just enjoy a fresh way of hearing the story and have a little fun with it.

God's view of the story — Takin’ Care of Business (Bachman-Turner Overdrive)

Angel and the stone that sealed the tomb — I Like to Move It (Will I. Am)

Residents of Jerusalem — I Feel the Earth Move Under My Feet (Carole King)

Women thinking of Jesus on the way to the tomb — Can’t Get Used to Losing You (Andy Williams)

Jesus to the Father — You Raise Me Up (Josh Groban)

Jesus to Death — Enough’s Enough (Jamie Lidell)

Jesus for His people — Too Legit to Quit (M. C. Hammer)

The guards at the tomb — All Shook Up (Elvis Presley)

The angels to Mary Magdalene at the tomb — Tell Her About It (Billy Joel)

The room where the disciples were hiding out before they got news of the resurrection — Where the Boys Are (Connie Francis)  

Everyone’s reaction to the news of resurrection — Baby, What a Big Surprise (Chicago)

Jesus' followers initial reaction to the resurrected Christ — You Can't Do That (The Beatles)

The two on the road to Emmaus after the resurrected Christ broke the bread and gave it to them — I'm a Believer (The Monkees)

Jesus' mother — Proud Mary (Credence Clearwater Revival)

Jesus' followers as they spent time with Him and the reality of His resurrection began to sink in — Glad All Over (Dave Clark 5)

The religious leaders upon hearing the guard's report of what happened at the tomb — Ain't That A Kick in the Head (Dean Martin)

Religious leaders who told the guards to say that the disciples came in the night and stole Jesus' body — Liar (Three Dog Night)

The tomb — Running on Empty (Jackson Browne)

The resurrection story — Pretty Amazing Grace (Neil Diamond) and The Things We Do for Love (10cc)

Easter's impact on the calendar — Sunday Will Never Be the Same (Spanky and Our Gang)

Kind of fun, huh?  As you can tell, my song title choices reflect something of my age and my musical tastes—I'm pretty much lost in 60s and 70s music with a little bit of more contemporary stuff thrown in.  Your age and tastes may be different.  I imagine country music titles would open up whole new possibilities. Using your favorite music, what song titles would you use to tell the story? Please type your responses in the comment section or on the Facebook status where you're reading this.

Oh, and Happy Easter!  Jesus Christ is risen from the dead!  And that's worth singing about no matter how you do it.

Friday, March 29, 2013

You Were There

Jesus was not alone at the cross.  A whole cast of characters were there.  Every gospel tells us so.  Below are a few that we meet in the Gospel of Luke.

The soldiers who crucified Jesus were there.  Somebody had to do the job.  Somebody had to stretch out His arms, stack His feet, and pound those long spikes through flesh and bone into the rough timber of the cross.  Somebody had keep order and see that things were done just so—you know, the Roman way.  The soldiers were there.

Jesus’ critics were there.  They wanted Him crucified and they got their wish.  But no, they couldn’t leave well enough alone.  They had to heap insult upon injury.  So there they were, mocking Jesus from ground level: “He saved others; let him save himself.  He could do it, you know, if he’s really the Christ of God, really the Chosen One, really the Messiah.”  One insult after another fired like missiles at the suffering Christ.  And they were having such fun mocking Jesus that even some of the soldiers joined in.  Jesus’ critics were there.

Pilate was there … well, not in the flesh but in spirit.  He was there in the sign that hung above Jesus’ head—the sign that read, “THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.”  That was written in three languages.  Jesus’ critics didn’t want that sign.  Pilate did—perhaps to soothe his guilty conscience.  Pilate ordered it.  And it was done.  Pilate was there.

Two criminals were there.  They were hanging on their own crosses.  They had done the crime and now they were doing the time.  Did they deserve crucifixion?  Nobody deserved crucifixion: it was the absolute worst way to die.  Either one of them would have gladly said, “Slit my throat.  Run me through with a sword.  Shoot an arrow in my heart.  Anything but a cross.”  But a cross it was for both of them.  And that was a good thing for one of them.  It takes a long time to die on a cross and one of those criminals used that time to turn from his sins and trust Jesus for his salvation: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”  Jesus remembered him.  Two criminals were there.

The Centurion was there.  He was ramrodding the whole show.  This was his grisly duty for the day, and like any Roman Centurion he did it by the book and he did it well.  Apparently, he was paying closer attention than his soldiers.  When Jesus died he couldn’t help himself but to say, “Surely this was a righteous man.”  We don’t know the full extent of what he meant by that comment, but we can be sure he meant at least this: “This man is innocent and he did not deserve to die like this.”  The Centurion was there.

Jesus’ followers, including a number of women, were there.  Luke tells us that they “stood at a distance, watching these things.”  Watching what things?  The death of their leader?  The death of their hopes and dreams?  The death of their courage?  Did they whisper among one another, “We should have defended him.  We should have fought for him.  We should have done something to prevent this.”  Jesus’ followers may have stood at a distance, but they were there.

Of course, Jesus was there.  That’s Him on the middle cross, the center of attention.  For the most part He suffers in silence.  Luke records that Jesus said three things altogether: words of forgiveness for those whose schemes and nails affixed Him to the cross, a word of salvation for a penitent criminal who asked for it, and a final word—a little prayer from Psalm 31: “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit.”  Many were there that day.  When the show was over they walked away.  Jesus didn’t walk away.  He had to be carried away—carried away to a grave because He was dead.

Jesus was not alone at the cross.  A whole cast of characters were there.  And you know who else was there?  You were there.  Your sins put Jesus on that cross.  You were there in the killing and the mocking.  You were there at a distance, and you were there close enough to get His blood on you.  You were there. 

Make the most of this.  Take note of who is dying there.  Take note that He is dying for your sins, enduring your hell, opening a door for you to God and life and heaven.  Fall down on your face before Him who loves you to the uttermost and to the bitter end.  Cry out to Jesus, “Remember me when you come into your kingdom.”  And give thanks that He does.

At the top of this post you see Rembrandt's painting, The Raising of the Cross.  Notice anything curious about it?  Rembrandt painted himself into the picture.  He even kept himself in his modern clothes to emphasize his personal involvement in the crucifixion.  Even though Rembrandt lived 17 centuries after Christ died on the cross, even though he didn't live anywhere near Jerusalem, the artist knew that he was there.

And whether you paint yourself in a picture, whether you lived in the first century or the twenty-first century, you were at the cross.  You were there at the place where God’s love meets your sin, where God’s grace meets your need, where God’s mercy turns you from a sinner to a saint.

So on this Good Friday, remember Jesus, remember the cross, and remember, thank God, that you were there.  

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

A More Excellent Way

Last May I posted a blog on the issue of gay marriage in the wake of North Carolina's vote to ban it and President Obama's declaration that he supports it.  In light of the Supreme Court hearing arguments this week about the constitutionality of gay marriage, I thought I'd throw my measly two-cents into the debate.  I am fearful of what the court's approval will do to marriage in America.  I fear that if the court finds gay marriage to be protected by the constitution and make it the law of the land rather than allowing states to make their own decisions, it will become open season on traditional marriage.  Gay marriage will likely not be the end of the devaluing and dismantling of traditional marriage in America.  I'm concerned about what that will mean for the long-term well-being of our culture and society.  Will even churches be compelled to approve or perform marriages for homosexual couples or face consequences for refusing to do so?  This thing could open up Pandora's box.  I'm also concerned about God's further judgments on our nation for embracing behaviors (and not just sexual behaviors either) that are outside His will.  It already seems to me that God has let our nation go our own way for some time now.  Has He given us over to our depraved minds (see Romans 1)?  Are we already reaping the consequences of our nation's moral decay?  Maybe.

But all that aside, with the gay marriage issue fresh in the news, I wanted to share my feeble insights.  They are not just about gay marriage, by the way, but heterosexual marriage as well.  And since I really don't have any newer thoughts on the matter since I posted these thoughts last May, I'm re-posting that same blog today.  So for what its worth, here goes …. 


It’s an issue that won’t go away.  North Carolina votes it down.  The President announces he’s for it.  We’re talking about gay marriage.  Polling indicates a growing acceptance of gay marriage among Americans.  Certain branches of the church (who for 2000 years believed and taught that homosexual behavior was sinful and outside of God’s boundaries for sex) have either endorsed such behavior, sanctioned such marriages, ordained practicing homosexuals to ministry, or are at least arguing about it in heated division at their annual conventions.  A reformed Jewish rabbi asked me if homosexual practice and gay marriage were issues I had to deal with in my congregation.  “Not really,” I told him.  “We Baptists are still fussing over what women can and can’t do in church.  'Gay' issues are barely on our radar.”  Sometimes I wish we Baptists were more cutting-edge on cultural issues, and sometimes I like being the last team in the race.  I like being among the last on the issue of gay marriage.

And here’s why: we can’t make a winnable argument in our culture.  “But what about the Bible?” you ask.  Well, the Bible, in both Old Testament and New, makes no bones about the fact that homosexual behavior is sinful.  Leviticus 18 includes this behavior among a range of sexual sin.  Paul includes homosexual behavior in a list of various sins in Romans 1, 1 Corinthians 6, and 1 Timothy 1.  And in Revelation 21, the Lord told John to write down the fact that along with the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, murderers, sorcerers, idolaters, and liars, the sexual immoral (which would surely include practicing homosexuals and adulterers and pedophiles and those who practice casual sex with just anybody who’s willing) will be left out of heaven and consigned to hell.  “Case settled!” says the Bible-believer.  Sure, it seems simple enough if we take the texts at their face value and accept the Bible as our moral authority.  But we can’t make a winnable argument from the Bible when those who want to endorse homosexual practice and gay marriage don’t accept the Bible as a moral authority. 

And this is really the crux of the issue: most of us want to be our own authority.  If we don’t believe in God or accept the Bible as our authoritative guide for faith and practice, then we’ll either pitch out the Bible altogether as archaic, irrelevant rules that have no bearing on today, or we’ll twist the Bible to make it say anything we want it to mean.  Really, isn’t that the heart of the matter?  We only want to submit to authority that views something the way we want to view it—which means we want to be our own authority and make up morality as we go along to fit our changing values and views.  So while an argument from the Bible might persuade people who believe the Bible is their authority, it won’t persuade those who think the Bible is mostly a bunch of hooey.

The same goes for the Bible text from Genesis 2, a text Jesus quotes in Matthew 19, that God created them male and female, and that a man should leave his father and mother and unite with his wife and the two should become one flesh.  And then there’s that text in Genesis 1 where God tells the man and the woman to be fruitful and multiply. It seems to me that since God imagined and created marriage, God gets to make the rules.  Psychologists don't get to make the rules.  Marriage therapists don't get to make the rules.  Lawyers, judges and legislatures don't get to make the rules.  You and I don't get to make the rules.  God gets to make the rules.  And this is God's rule, God's plan: one man and one woman for a lifetime.  I like what Frederick Dale Bruner wrote in his Matthew commentary on the Bible's teachings on marriage:

They were, as we say, “made for each other.”  If God had supremely intended solitary life, God would have created humans one by one; if God had intended polygamous life, God would have created one man and several women; if God had intended homosexual life God would have made two men or two women; but that God intended monogamous heterosexual life is shown by God’s creation of one man and one woman.  (The Churchbook: Matthew 13-28, p. 251.)

Again, it seems pretty clear to me and to pretty much every civilization we know about in history, that marriage is a man-woman thing, not a man-man or woman-woman thing.  But if one refuses to accept the Bible’s statements (and the practice of civilizations from the get-go) then no biblical argument opposed to gay marriage will find any traction among those who favor it.

See what I mean?  I’m not sure we can make a winnable argument in our culture against gay marriage.  When there’s no standard of authority beyond an individual’s personal preferences and tastes and what makes a person happy, we can’t even argue from common ground.

So maybe we can make a better argument from our behavior.  In his book Bad Religion, New York Times columnist Ross Douthat, a practicing Catholic, wrote these words:

The Christian case for fidelity and chastity will seem partial and hypocritical if it trains most of its attention on the minority of cases—on homosexual wedlock ….  It is the heterosexual divorce rate, the heterosexual retreat from marriage and the heterosexual out-of-wedlock birthrate that should command the most attention ….  The Christian perspective on gay sex only makes sense in light of the Christian perspective on straight sex, and in a culture that has made heterosexual desire the measure of all things, asking gays alone to conform their lives to a hard teaching will inevitably seem like a form of bigotry.

Douthat is right.  We do seem hypocritical to espouse the virtues of appropriate heterosexual behavior and marriage when plenty of church folks are shacking-up or pursuing divorce simply because one claims to have "fallen out of love."  So many of us don't practice our own ethics; how then we can condemn those who practice theirs—even when we believe their ethics are out of step with God's ways?

I hate to sound pessimistic, but I'm not sure we can make a convincing argument on this issue.  But we can practice a more excellent way.

  • We can keep our marriage promises.  Weather the storms, get help if your marriage is struggling, but work to stay together for a lifetime.  That's a more excellent way.
  • We can be sexually faithful in our marriage.  We can commit to practice sex only within the boundaries of heterosexual marriage.  Premarital sex, adultery, and same-gender sex are outside of those boundaries.
  • We can seek God's help to rid ourselves of hatefulness and malice toward others and season our rhetoric with grace and love.
  • We can be as vocal in our opposition to heterosexual sins as we are to homosexual sins.
  • We can be as forgiving and loving to hurting homosexuals as we are to hurting heterosexuals.
  • We can befriend homosexuals as the opportunity presents itself.
  • We can lovingly communicate to all people that life has a higher and nobler purpose than indulging one's sexual fantasies or achieving orgasm.
  • We can honor celibacy and singleness as a valid way to live a holy life.
  • We can encourage heterosexual and homosexual sinners with the good news that in Jesus Christ we can have victory over our temptations.
  • And we can encourage all people, regardless of their sexual sins, that in Jesus Christ, through His death and resurrection and saving power, people can change.

I'm sure there are better ways to address this issue.  I confess that this feels like a rather clumsy attempt to do so.  But I submit these humble proposals in the spirit of the apostle Paul who, after addressing an argument among the Corinthian believers concerning spiritual gifts, offered them a more excellent way: the way of faith, hope, and love—the greatest of which is love.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

On Grandkids and Amusement Parks

So we took our oldest grandkids (Noah and Reese) to Silver Dollar City yesterday.  (They are 11 and 8 respectively.  I’m sure Noah wants to be older, but the fact that he is still 11 saved me about ten bucks on the admission price.  Yea for 11!)  We were able to take them because they are on Spring Break.  In fact it was the first day of spring.  But I guess God forgot to check the calendar—it was 43 degrees with a cold north wind.  But we dressed for it.  And so did thousands of other people.  I couldn’t believe the crowd—long lines for everything: tickets, roller coasters, and funnel cakes.  I understood the roller coasters but funnel cakes?  And trust me on this: most of the people in those lines did NOT need to be eating funnel cakes.  But it’s an amusement park after all; you pay a king’s ransom to get in and pay a king’s ransom for a funnel cake; so whatever amuses you most, I guess, you go for it.

But I digress.  You know, it’s just a different deal when you take grandkids to an amusement park.  We took our own kids to amusement parks when they were growing up, and we enjoyed it.  But it’s different when you take your grandkids.  Here’s some of what I noticed:

Grandkids live in the moment; grandparents feel the need to reminisce about stuff.  Why did I feel the need to tell Noah and Reese about what Silver Dollar City looked like when I was a kid?  Why did I feel the need to have them walk across the swinging bridge (which used to be the entrance to the City)?  Why did I want them to ride the stuff I rode when I was growing up?  When I saw a DVD of the four episodes The Beverly Hillbillies shot there 1967, why did I have to tell them I came one afternoon and watched them film?  They don’t even know who The Beverly Hillbillies are.  So grandparents feel the need to reminisce.  Is it some subconscious effort to help grandchildren know us better or is it more of a desire for some deeper connection of our childhood with theirs?  Beats me.  All I know is that too many of my sentences started with, “I remember when ….”

Grandkids get frustrated at long lines for the rollercoasters; grandparents are just grateful for short lines at the restrooms.  Enough said.

When grandkids get on a ride, they think: “Man, this is gonna be fun!”  When grandparents get on a ride, they think, “Geez, I hope I don’t get sick, hurt, or require chiropractic attention when this ride’s over.”

There was one ride Reese wanted to do but Noah didn’t.  It’s called the Barn Swing.  It’s a kind of double-pendulum deal.  They strap you in tighter than an astronaut.  Then the two arms of the pendulum start swinging in opposite directions until you are somewhere in the stratosphere looking straight down at earth.  (I think the guy who made the record jump from a plane in the stratosphere used this for his training.)  Anyway, I didn’t want to ride it.  Noah wouldn’t ride it.  Dayna certainly was not going to ride it.  But that’s another thing about grandparents: we’ll do stuff for our grandkids we wouldn’t do for anybody else.  So I told Reese I’d ride it with her.  That was all Noah needed to give it a shot too.  So the three of us (after a lengthy wait in line, of course) got on that contraption.  Reese was excited.  I wanted to get it over with.  And Noah was nervous.  While we were waiting in line Noah kept saying to himself, “I’m going to find out if a I’m a man or a mouse.”  And once we started going up, up, up, and looking straight down, down, down, Noah started screaming, “I am not a man!  I am not a man!”  When the ride came to a merciful end, the man next to me who had heard Noah shouting that during the freakier parts of the ride turned to me and said, “I’m glad he was saying that,” meaning, “Because if he wasn’t, I would have been.”  Reese wanted to ride it again.

Anyway, all in all it was a great day.  We all left the park frostbitten but no worse for the wear, and we made some shared memories—which, though not important to grandkids (yet), is very important to grandparents.

The day reminded me of those MasterCard commercials from a few years ago.  (Here I go reminiscing again.)  But you remember those commercials, don’t you?  This would be my version.

4 admission ticket$ to Silver Dollar City: $276

Three sandwiches, two small salads, and some chips for lunch: $47

A day with the grandkids at an amusement park: priceless.

Monday, March 11, 2013

It's Time to "Spring Forward"

If it’s all the same to the U.S Government, is there some reason why we can’t move the time-change to Friday/Saturday instead of Saturday/Sunday?  It’s a killer on church attendance.  I know, that’s not the government’s problem; that’s a Christian’s problem.

And yesterday it was this preacher’s problem.  I dutifully set my alarm clock ahead one hour before I went to bed.  When it went off Sunday morning, I dragged myself out of bed, showered and spent time with the Lord.  That’s when I noticed that my computer hadn’t changed the time yet, nor had the cable TV box.  I thought those changes were automatic.  It took me a few minutes until I realized that my alarm clock also changes automatically, so by setting it forward an hour at bedtime, the dang thing changed one more hour forward in the night and woke me up two hours early.  Arghhh!  And since one of the first things I learned in seminary preaching class is, “Don’t fall asleep during your own sermon,” I could have used that extra hour.  Oh well, church happened.  People showed up.  I stayed awake.  And God did His thing in spite of me and in spite of the time change.  (Of course, as we learn in Psalm 121, God “never slumbers or sleeps”—must be nice on time-change Sunday.)

Anyway, since I had some extra time on Sunday morning, I wrote a prayer for time-change Sunday.  Maybe it will encourage you as it encourages me.  

Good morning, Lord, on this time change Sunday in which our government instructs us to set our clocks ahead one hour to, as they put it, “spring forward.”  Well, it’s a little hard to spring at all with an hour’s less sleep.  It’s no big deal to you; you never slumber or sleep.  But it’s not so hot for us.  But you are here and we are here and we know you will do a work among us.

Lord, may part of that work challenge us to “spring forward” in more significant ways than the setting of a clock.  Help us to spring forward in our love for you.  Help us to spring forward in our willingness to deny self, take up our cross, and follow you.  Help us to spring forward in our love for those in need and those who are not like us.  Would you help us to spring forward in our grace-giving to others, so that we might give grace instead of grudges, mercy instead of judgment? 

And would you help us spring forward in our commitment to being church together: springing forward to humble ourselves, love one another, and have the mind in us that is the mind in you—so that we will be a people who help instead of hurt, love instead of hate, include instead of dismiss, and seek to understand instead of condemn.

And help us to keep our eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith and the forgiver of our sins, who sprang downward from heaven to earth to die for our sins and who sprang upward from the grave to the resurrected life so that we might have the life that is really life.  We can’t do this stuff without you, you know.  So we’re counting on you as we pray in Jesus’ name, amen. 

May God answer that prayer in your life and mine!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

So I Went to a Pastor Retreat

Confession time: Even though I have been a pastor for over 30 years, I’ve never been a big fan of pastors and especially of pastors’ gatherings. 

Some of that is because I know myself.  I love Jesus and try to walk with him, but there is certainly nothing otherworldly or particularly holy about me.  My spirituality is earthy.  I have my scars and my baggage and my sins.  I don’t even like my own company sometimes.  I know plenty of laypeople who are better Christians than I am.  Why would I want to spend time with a bunch of pastors who are probably much like me?

Another reason I’m no great fan of pastors and pastors’ gatherings is because I’ve been to some.  And I’m telling you: you’ll find every bit as much ego and arrogance, as much competitive spirit and sense of entitlement among a group of pastors as you’d find among a gathering of doctors or lawyers or university professors (no offense and no law suits, please).  The big difference in these groups and a gathering of pastors is that doctors and lawyers and university professors usually don’t try to pretend to be something that they are not.  Who wants to hang out with a bunch of plastic, syrupy-spiritual, God-talking, mask-wearing pastors?  Not me.

Oh, and there’s one more reason.  As someone so aptly put it, “Pastors are a lot like manure.  Scatter ‘em around and they do some good; pile ‘em together and they stink to high heaven.”

I know what you’re thinking: “McCallum, you sound awfully cynical.”  (Note: see paragraph two.)  And I know what else you’re thinking: “Then why the heck did you go to a pastor retreat?”

I wish I had noble reasons, but I don’t.  I went because Larry White, the man who put it together, asked me to be one of the speakers.  Had I just seen the ad for the retreat without having been asked to attend, I am 100% confident I would have stayed home.  But Larry asked me to speak.  I enjoy speaking.  I’ve been a pastor for a long time, and I’ve taken a lot of notes along the way.  I hoped God would give me something helpful to say in spite of myself.  So I signed up.

And I’ll be darned if God didn’t sneak up on me and bless me in ways I wouldn’t have imagined.  I can just see God on Monday afternoon, elbowing some angel next to Him in heaven and, with a grin on His face, saying. “Watch what I’m going to do to McCallum at the pastor retreat.”

The angel stands upright with a jolt: “Not McCallum.  He doesn’t go to pastor retreats.”

“Well, he’s going to this one—had to put him on the program to get him there, but he’s going.  Just take a peek at what I’m going to do to him there.  I’m going to get him good.”  The Cosmic Sneak! 

And it was good.  I enjoyed it.  I met some wonderful men, faithful men.  I heard three great speakers, and God spoke to me through each one.  I also heard our state convention's new Executive Director who is so white-hot passionate about reaching Arkansas for Christ that I wouldn't have been surprised if he had spontaneously combusted right there in front of us—I'm pretty sure a saw a couple of sparks anyway.  Good speakers all.  And not once did I hear any pastor ask another how many he had in his church.  Not once did I hear any pastor brag about his church.  Not once did I sense a competitive or arrogant spirit among the group.  Not once did a speaker try to convince us that we needed to be “visionary leaders” or “culturally attuned” or do church according to the latest fads, the current trends, or the most recent book by a mega-church pastor.

Instead, we were called to be broken before God, to seek a deeper connection with Him, to love our people, to recognize that no matter what size the church we serve, if we minister to our people we are being “the greatest pastor of the greatest church.”  We were called not to be shop-keepers or CEOs but pastors—shepherds of God’s flock under our care.  Talk about a cool fresh breeze in the wake of so much hot air promulgated by big shots and big dogs in big churches with big budgets and big staffs who seem to take more cues from Madison Avenue than the Via Dolorossa, from Fortune 500 companies than from the early church, from leadership gurus than from Jesus Christ—the one Peter calls “the Chief Shepherd,” by the way.

So God got me good, all right.  I hope He got a belly-laugh out of it, because on my way home from the retreat, I kind of did.  Here I was anticipating arrogance and ego filling the room, and I’ll be dogged if it was mostly mine.  Here I was kind of dreading the experience only to find blessing in its place.  Here I was thinking, “Maybe I can help these guys,” and I’m the guy who was maybe helped the most.  Go figure.  Don’t you just love God’s sense of humor?

So I went to a pastor retreat … and if they do this again next year, consider me signed up already.

Monday, March 4, 2013

I Feel It Creeping Even Now

Can you explain something to me?  Today my brother turns 60.  How come that makes me feel old?  He’s got me by three-and-a-half years.  Why am I the one that feels old?  As Dayna and I were driving to his party yesterday, I said, “I remember when my mother wasn’t even 60.”  And then we got to thinking about it.  My mother died a couple of years ago at 82, but she was only 46 when I graduated from high school, 49 when I got married.  So my brother turns 60 and I feel my age creeping up on me even now.

Just last summer I was sitting across from my daughter and a college student at Camp Travis, a Christian Camp in Texas.  My daughter has the most beautiful strawberry-blonde hair.  And believe it or not, this college student (what do they know) had the gall to ask my daughter right in front me, “Where did you get your red hair?”  I choked on my carrot stick, as Kristen replied, “From my dad.”  So she looked at me, furrowed her brows as she gave my hair a quick once-over, shook her head, and said to Kristen, “You didn’t get it from him.”  Yep, age is creeping up on me even now.

I wonder what it will be like to be old—you know, really old.  I know what it’s like to be 50s-old, and I’ll ask my brother what it’s like to be 60s-old (insert snicker right here).  But what’s it like to be 70s-old or 80s-old?  In 2006 Good Morning America correspondent Robin Roberts decided she wanted to know what her aged mother was experiencing—she had watched her mom start to move more slowly, to struggle.  And so she wanted to experience it—literally.

In one day Roberts aged 45 years.  Skilled makeup artists shaped her face to look like an 85-year-old.  A jumpsuit designed with special straps and cords was placed on her body that made her feel the muscle-aches and strains people feel when they are getting old.  She felt tired the moment she put the special suit on.  She suddenly couldn’t get up a few steps without a rail—even the cane she used felt wobbly. 

She went to the grocery store to see how age impacted a simple task like shopping—they placed popcorn in a pair of gloves to simulate the crunch of arthritis.  They smeared petroleum jelly on a pair of glasses so she could “see” what it was like to have cataracts.  She couldn’t read labels, and making it through the store became a chore. 

Holy smokes!  Someone coined the phrase “Getting old is not for sissies”—by the time the experiment was over, Robin Roberts and her viewers agreed.

Well, I’m not there yet, thank God, but I’m on the way, and with my brother turning 60 I feel it creeping up on me even now.  Maybe I should sit down for awhile.  No, that will just get me there faster.  I think I better go exercise or something.  And maybe I need to pray Moses' psalm with more urgency: "Teach me to number my days, that I may gain a heart of wisdom."  I don't want to be both old and stupid.

Oh well, at least I can take solace in this: all things remaining equal, I may be getting old, but my brother will always be older than me—yuk, yuk, yuk.