Friday, April 9, 2021

No Rocking Chair For Me

The idea of retirement, like for many people I suspect, has really kept me going through some of the more difficult periods of my professional career.  The idea of staying home, and puttering around the house, and fishing when I want to.  Wouldn't that be great!  All those ideas are very appealing, and I know if I just keep going ,one day I'll get there and all that struggle will have been worth it.

I thought that until I started getting closer to the date when I can retire.  The closer I get, the less appealing the idea of retirement becomes.  I don't have to retire, but the only thing less appealing to me than retiring is the idea of continuing to work at what I do now.  I enjoy my job, but I want to do something more meaningful before I head out to pasture. 

I went to lunch a few years ago with a friend of mine that was coming to the same realization . . . he didn't want to retire, but he didn't want to do the same thing either.  He asked me, "if you could do anything you wanted to do for the rest of your life, what would you do?"  That single simple question changed everything.  I knew the answer almost immediately.

That's how I wound up in seminary--I'm preparing for what I'm going to do next.  God willing, I'll still be pretty young for retirement and could still have twenty or twenty-five years to dedicate to ministry.  What form that ministry takes is still unknown, but as long as my health holds out, I'm going to dedicate my time to spreading the gospel. And just knowing that I'm going to continue to get up every day and go do something has really changed my attitude--I'm not finishing up my professional career, I'll be beginning a new chapter.  And I'm bringing all those things I've learned along the way with me.  

I think sometimes we make a mistake when we think about retirement and getting older.  We see the reward at the end of our careers as not having to work anymore.  Instead, perhaps we should look at it as an opportunity to do something else.  I know a lot of really talented people who have retired.  Many have gone on to encore careers doing something completely different from what they did during their professional years.  They take all that education, and all that experience, and all that ability they've acquired over a lifetime, and they pile it into a brand new way of life for themselves. One of my friends, knowing absolutely nothing about the restaurant business, went into the restaurant business!  I remember hearing people say, "why would he do something crazy risky like that when he could have just collected a pension and retired."  

Believe me. I totally get it now.

I know a few people that have retired and just decided to enjoy a life of leisure--after the initial joy of sleeping in late wears off, they've found they have little to do and a lot of time not to do it in.  They wind up wasting what could be the best and the most productive and rewarding years of their life. One of my former co-workers told me "one of the biggest mistakes I've made was retiring without thinking about what I was going to do with the rest of my life."

It's fun to think of that green pasture of retirement there on the horizon.  Maybe it'll keep you going like it has me.  But think about it.  Just because you're drawing a pension doesn't mean you have to sit on the porch.  Maybe you're not interested in an encore career, or starting a business, or going into ministry.  I'm sure you could think of ways your unique skills and your unique knowledge could be used for good in a local charity for example.  And if you think about it, I'm sure there's something you've always wanted to do. If you're not retired yet, start thinking--what would you need to do to start preparing for that transition now?  And if you're already retired, what would you need to do to make that dream a reality right now?

What's stopping you?


Friday, April 2, 2021

Missing Pieces

My family enjoys doing puzzles--especially in the winter.  We have a big dining room table, and we clear it off and go to work on the most recent acquisition. Now there is one disadvantage of having a bit dopey chocolate lab--if it hits the floor, it belongs to Daisy.  And if you're doing a puzzle, and you don't happen to notice a piece has gone off the edge, you'll most likely never see it again.  

It's very unsatisfying to get to the end of a puzzle and discover you have a few pieces missing--especially if it's a big 1,000 piece puzzle you've worked on a few evenings. The more time and effort you've invested, the more those incomplete parts seem to bother us. 

Life is like that, too.  Sometimes we fail to see the big picture.  We fail to see that we have 99.9% of the big picture complete, and instead of enjoying that part, we tend to obsess over those missing pieces in our life.  And too often, we try and find something to fill those gaps ourselves, and it's never exactly right.  Trying to finish that picture ourselves leaves us even more dissatisfied in the end.  

Why not focus on the abundance in your life instead.  Why not focus on where you have all the pieces of your life together and be grateful for that.  When we live a life with an attitude of gratitude, God has a way of giving to us those things we need.  

God fills in those missing pieces.


Friday, March 26, 2021

Always Searching And Never Finding The Answers

I spend a great deal of time in bookstores, and it never ceases to amaze me just how many new titles there are every week in the genre of "self improvement." I think people in general are always looking for that "one thing" they're missing in their lives. And readers are no exception--they're always looking for that book that will answer those questions for them.  We're always searching . . . 

I saw titles today on topics like mindfulness . . . that's a type of meditation where you focus intently on what you're sensing and feeling at that moment.  It's supposed to help you relax and connect with your environment.  Make you more aware, more relaxed, more content and connected.

And there titles on stress, and depression, and finding your place in the world.  There were titles on how to be a better person, and how to be happy, and how to eat better so you could be happy.  There were books about how to be content, and how to stop worrying all the time. And on and on and on and on . . . 

You get the impression from the titles of these books and their popularity in our culture that we have a lot of people in our society that are lost.  That are looking from something.  That are unhappy and discontent with their lives. They are looking for some kind of fulfillment.  They know they're missing something, but they just don't know what it is.

I know exactly what they're missing.  We're wired this way.  We were made this way by our creator.  We're always looking for the meaning of our life.  We're always searching for our place in the universe.  And you're not going to find the answers to these questions sitting on a yoga mat listening to sitar music while focusing on a flower. You'll find these answers when you seek the answers from God.  

And the good news for those of you looking for answers to life's big questions at the bookstore is that there is such a book!  It's the one you've been looking for all this time.  It's the Holy Bible, and if you spend some time in the pages of that book, it'll change your life.

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened."

Matthew 7: 7-8 



Friday, March 5, 2021

Living In A "Whataboutism" World


"Whataboutism: a rhetorical devise that involves accusing others of offenses as a way of deflecting attention from one's own deeds."


My daughter got in trouble at school recently.  She broke a rule, she got caught, and the principle talked to her. It wasn't a serious offense, but it was something that the school had been cracking down on, and all the kids knew it.  My daughter was upset about it, but admitted she had broken the rule.  But her defense was that all the other kids were doing the same thing that she was doing, and they didn't get in trouble.

The "whataboutism."

The traditional defense of a child . . . but Billy was doing the same thing and he didn't get in trouble.  And I realized that adults aren't any better.  In fact, this same defense used by grade school age children is used over and over again by our culture.  We don't really care if our behavior is reprehensible so long as we can point to somebody doing the same thing--or even worse.  That seems to make it okay. Our media does it.  Our representatives do it (a lot). Our celebrities do it.  CEOs of major corporations do it.

What this leads to is an ever lower standard of acceptable behavior.  Your behavior is better than his behavior so his behavior has now lowered the bar, and your behavior while bad is not as bad as the worse example. Over time this rapidly deteriorating standard of acceptable behavior has eroded our perception of right and wrong.  But there is only one standard of right and wrong, and sadly, our standard today is far below what it was just a few years ago and dropping all the time. 

So what did I tell my daughter?  I told her it didn't matter what everyone else was doing. It's up to us to follow the rules regardless.  We set the standard of our own conduct.

And she said, "like following the Bible."  

Exactly!  As Christians we deal with this personal responsibility every day.  We have a guide for our lives in the Bible.  We have an example to follow in Christ.  One of the defining features of a Christian is that regardless of what's going on in the fallen world around us, we endeavor to live a Christian life.

We can deflect.  We can point our fingers at others.  We can make excuses.  But in the end, we know right from wrong and it's our responsibility to make those decisions ourselves, and accept the responsibility when we do the wrong thing.  We should BE the example for others, so that instead of a society that tries to be just a little better than the worst we can find, we have a society again that strives to live a life at the highest possible standard.