Tag Archives: Age


When you have had children and children’s children, and become complacent in the land….
Deuteronomy 4:25 (NRSV)

It has been fascinating for me to live in a small town. Growing up in the city, I never had much of a sense of community heritage and generational patterns, but you see these things more clearly in a small town. Families stick closer together. Lives are more intertwined. Businesses and farms are generational. Faith is part of the fabric of both family and community. Traditions bind generations.

I have also observed that there is a subtle sense of complacency that sets in across generations, especially as it relates to faith. Rather than being the personal, intimate relationship Jesus talked about and called us to it seems to me that, for some, faith slowly becomes just another communal tradition. Go through the motions. Keep up the tradition. It’s simply what we do; It’s what we have always done.

The older I get the more I realize that it takes effort not to experience complacency in our spiritual journey. Moses warned the people about it in today’s chapter as they prepared to enter the promised land.  Along the way the patterns become habits, habits become traditions, and traditions are mindlessly acted out as they have always been done for generations. But, there’s no real investment of heart or mind in it. It’s Life-less. And then, bad things can happen.

This week I’m taking up the task of thinking about the things I continually do from work to faith to recreation and relationships. I want to be aware of areas in which complacency is setting in and try to understand how it affects me and those around me. Perhaps there are some changes I need to make to consciously re-engage my heart and mind.

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Heroic Courage? (Perhaps Simply Tired)

3301233153_fce5cd186c_zNow when Daniel learned that the decree had been published, he went home to his upstairs room where the windows opened toward Jerusalem. Three times a day he got down on his knees and prayed, giving thanks to his God, just as he had done before.
Daniel 6:10 (NIV)

This morning I’ve been thinking about the context of Daniel’s life. He had been living in exile since his youth. It is likely that his family starved to death or were slaughtered in the siege of Jerusalem where he witnessed horrific atrocities. He was little more than a slave to his captors. He may have earned their respect, but he never escaped the hatred and discrimination of the people he served. He had survived the insane rages of Nebuchadnezzar. He had witnessed the divinely appointed downfall of Belshazzar. He was now living under his third foreign monarch and yet another group of power hungry middle managers scheming his destruction. Through it all he was a stranger in a strange land, despised by his foreign peers, and misunderstood by virtually everyone around him. His entire life, Daniel held firm to one thing: his faith.

It did not surprise me this morning when I read that upon reading Darius’ decree, Daniel simply went about doing what he had always done. Daniel had seen rulers come and rulers go. He’d continually witnessed and experienced their silly, ego-driven edicts. Through all of the massive political transitions he had survived, Daniel understood that he served and was answerable to a higher authority who did not lose His throne to the next despot.

The threat of the lions den may have been very real, but by the time his political enemies sprung their trap, I find that Daniel responded with an almost fatalistic detachment. He held loosely to the things of this world. When Belshazzar offered him riches for his interpretation in yesterday’s chapter, Daniel told him to keep them. The only thing Daniel really cared about was the one thing that had gotten him through, and that was his faith. He was not going to stop praying even if it did mean being devoured by lions. I wonder if, by this time in his life, there was a part of him that would have welcomed an end to his earthly exile.

This morning I’m thinking about this earthly journey. I’m thinking about how my own personal thoughts and priorities have changed over time. There are things to which I once clung, but now hold rather loosely. There are things which I prize more than ever that have little tangible, earthly value. When I was young I thought of Daniel as a man of super-hero style courage, but I think I misunderstood him. I’m beginning to believe that the Daniel who was thrown to the lions was simply a wise old man who was tired, who wanted only to be left alone to live out his faith, and who didn’t really care anymore what anyone did to him.

A lot of Words

source: disowned via Flickr
source: disowned via Flickr

I too will have my say;
I too will tell what I know.
For I am full of words,
and the spirit within me compels me;
Job 32:17-18 (NIV)

Wendy and I often joke about the differences between men and women when it comes to words. I have heard it said, and perhaps it’s an old wives tale, that women have more words than men. Yet, I am reminded of Tolkien’s wisdom when he wrote, “Pay heed to the tales of old wives. It may well be that they alone keep in memory what it was once needful for the wise to know.” 

There are often nights, especially when I’ve been on the road for a week and Wendy has been sequestered along at home, that our heads hit the pillows yet a steady stream of conversation emanates from Wendy’s side of the bed. I quietly strain to maintain consciousness. Wendy will turn and see my struggle and laugh.

“Can you tell that I still have a lot of words?” she’ll ask.

I nod silently.

“But you’ve been gone all week and I haven’t had anyone to talk to!” she’ll exclaim as she cuddles in next to me.

Just the other night at a Christmas party, I realized that it’s not just a Mars and Venus issue. I have grown quieter in social settings over the years. When I was younger I had a lot more words. I was a steady stream of youthful conversation, wisdom, and diatribes. I speak less today than I did back then. I tend to ask more questions. I ponder more. I mull things over more in my head. Words are more precious to me than they used to be, and they carry more meaning for me. I am more mindful of wasting them.

In today’s chapter, we unexpectedly meet a devout young man named Elihu (his name means “He is my God”). Elihu has been waiting in the wings listening to Job and his three friends debate. The young man finally speaks, and he is honest when he says, “I am full of words.” We’re going to get five straight chapters of his youthful exuberance starting today.

Today, Elihu has me thinking about words. Despite my speaking less than I used, I still feel like I talk more than is good for myself or others. I’m pondering the wisdom of knowing when to speak and when to be silent. As we enter a week full of family and friends, I want to hear more and speak with purpose.

Wisdom, Age and Suffering

source: mythoto via Flickr
source: mythoto via Flickr

Is not wisdom found among the aged?
Does not long life bring understanding?
Job 12:12 (NIV)

Wisdom is, indeed, found among the aged.
Still, I’ve known many an old fool.

Long life does not necessarily bring understanding, Job.
But, it seems to me that suffering does. If it doesn’t break you.

I just can’t always perceive the increase of understanding when I’m still in the midst of the pain.

Press on.

Sometimes I Need a Lecture from Doc

PhysiciaOnce again there was a battle between the Philistines and Israel. David went down with his men to fight against the Philistines, and he became exhausted. 2 Samuel 21:15 (NIV)

I had my annual physical earlier this month. My doctor has been my family’s physician since I was about 10 years old and Doc was a young man fresh out of medical school. The first time I saw him was when a large sliver from my the wooden skateboard, which I had received for my birthday, lodged deep in my thigh and required a little surgical extrication and a lecture about being careful with my toys. That was almost 40 years ago. Now he’s lecturing me about fiber, cholesterol and prostate health.

One of the things I love about Doc is his blunt and honest way of giving it to you straight. He doesn’t mince words, though he may add a little colorful verbiage. Once when were discussing a minor procedure I needed done he simply said. “Get ready. It’s gonna hurt like hell.” It did. Two years ago I wrenched my knee in a waterskiing accident at the lake. He stormed into the examining room after reading my chart. His first words were an exclamation spoken so loud the the people the waiting room had to have heard it: “WHAT THE HELL WERE YOU THINKING?! WATERSKIING?! AT YOUR AGE?!

Thanks, Doc. Nice to see you, too.

He was half-joking with me, but only half. The truth is, every season of the journey comes with its own threats and opportunities. I can’t do some of the things I could do physically ten years ago. At the same time, experience and maturity afford me the opportunity to do some things better than I ever have before. C’est la vie. I might as well embrace it because I can’t change it.

One of the things I appreciate about the story of David is that we get to follow his story from a young boy to an old man. Unlike many biblical stories in which a life span can be reduced to a sentence or two, we have two entire books and part of a third that are dedicated to his biography. We started with the young shepherd boy slaying Goliath with his sling. In today’s chapter, David discovers that he can’t wield the sword like he once could. His men, speaking like predecessors of my family doctor, gave King David their own “WHAT THE HELL WERE YOU THINKING?!” lecture. He’d reached that age. It was time for him to hang up his sword.

A few weeks ago I wrote a post about the threat of early retirement. On the surface it may seem contradictory with today’s post about about not trying to overdo things once you reach a certain age. As with so many things in this life journey, truth is found at the point of tension between the two extremes. I’m discovering that wisdom lies in channeling your available resources in the most constructive, efficient and effective ways. Where you best channel them changes at different waypoints on your life journey.

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Body and Soul

source: Geof Wilson via Flickr
source: Geof Wilson via Flickr

Sovereign Lord, my strong deliverer,
    you shield my head in the day of battle.
Psalm 140:7 (NIV)

Last night I was invited to dinner by a client. One of the men at our table shared a humorous story of when he was young and trying to get in shape for hockey season. On his family’s farm was grain silo several stories tall with a ladder that extended to its height. Each morning he would get up early and climb quickly all the way up the ladder, then back down the ladder, all the way up the ladder, then back down the ladder, all the way up the ladder, then all the way down the ladder. And, he added with a laugh, “I’d only stop long enough to have a cigarette between each ascent.”

As my own life journey continues and I can see the big 5-0 sitting out there on the horizon, I have become increasingly conscious of my body and my health. At my annual physical my doctor tells me to inform Wendy that she won’t be cashing in on my life insurance policy any time soon. Nevertheless, I find my body is starting to feel the effects of time and age more and more. I feel certain little aches, pains and twinges in places that have never seemed to be an issue before. Yikes!

One of the interesting things about the lyric of today’s psalm is the allusion made to many different parts of the body:

  • Heart (v. 2)
  • Tongue (v. 3)
  • Lips (v. 3 and v. 9)
  • Hands (v. 4)
  • Feet (v. 4)
  • Head (v. 7 and v. 9)

God’s Message refers to the body in many key teachings. When we invite Jesus into our hearts, the Holy Spirit indwells us and our bodies become, quite literally, a temple. David’s use of these body parts in his lyrics reminds me that it would be wise for me to be mindful of this temple and its parts, not just in a physical sense but in a spiritual sense as well.

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Spiritual Arteriosclerosis

Schematic of a transplanted heart with native ...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Why do you harden your hearts as the Egyptians and Pharaoh did? When Israel’s god dealt harshly with them, did they not send the Israelites out so they could go on their way? 1 Samuel 6:6 (NLT)

The events described in the past few chapters occurred some 400 years after the Israelites were delivered from their captivity in Egypt. How fascinating that the events of the Exodus were well known to Israel’s neighbors hundreds of years later. Not only were they aware that the events happened, but they knew the story of the hardness of Pharaoh’s heart. The pagan priests of the Philistines knew the story, and believed the story, well enough to warn their own leaders against making Pharaoh’s mistake.

There is a consistent theme in God’s Message of people being afflicted with spiritual arteriosclerosis, the hardening of the arteries. Pharaoh had it. The Philistines warned against it. Solomon warned of it’s consequences in his proverbs. Belshazzar was afflicted with it in Daniel’s day. The prophet Zechariah warned the people of Israel against the condition.  Jesus said that many did not understand His parables because of the spiritual hardness of their hearts and later chastised many in the throng of those who followed him because of the condition. Paul warned in his letter to the Jesus followers in Ephesus that the condition leads to darkened understanding and continued separation from God.

Thank God there is a cure. The prophet Ezekiel wrote that God desires to perform a spiritual heart transplant on each of us. When we enter into a relationship with Jesus and receive Holy Spirit into our hearts He takes away our “heart of stone” and gives us “a heart of flesh.” It’s actually a simple procedure. Better yet, it’s totally free to us because God paid for the operation Himself. All you have to do is agree to it.

Our culture is well aware of the risks of heart disease and cardiac health. Today, I’m thinking both about the condition of my physical heart, but also my spiritual one. As long as I sojourn in this life, I want my spiritual heart free of the plaque that builds up over time and slowly reduced the life flowing in me. Even as my body ages and fails, I want my spiritual heart pumping life in and through me.