My Life Lessons as I turn 60


Today November 23, 2006 I awoke to the reality that I was sixty years of age. Turning sixty seems somewhat strange and surreal; with a tinge of significance. I recall a time when trusting anyone over thirty was not cool and now at 30 x 2, is just plain weird. Because of this monumental milestone there is something within that compels me with mixed emotions to take assessment or inventory of life itself; my life to be specific.

Celebrating a birthday on Thanksgiving is nothing new, every seven years this has been my experience. But that my “60th” birthday is Thanksgiving Day 2006 has something of economic or ecological dimension. So here goes a fallible attempt to at least place in written form some lessons I’ve learned over the course of my life, considering them worthy of mention to those closest to my heart.

Lesson One – Life is Not Fair.

The first lesson is that life is not fair. I didn’t really understand this one until later in life. But by observation over several years I noticed that we humans spend a great deal of time consumed trying to make life equitable for ourselves and those around us. If you think about it, most of the tension we face in life is our futile attempt to make things fair; first for ourselves and then if we have any energy left, fair for those around us. I’ve noticed that most (not all) of life’s conflicts spring from this very tension. The thing we refuse to accept is the reality that life is not fair. Bad things happen to good people and good things happen to bad people. People die young and prematurely. They are diagnosed with cancer having never smoked. Thousands of innocent children are abandoned and orphaned on a daily basis, and people treat us rudely after showing them kindness. And list goes on.

The truth of matter is that God never intended life to be fair. If fairness was God’s intention, He wouldn’t allow the rain to fall on the just and the unjust alike. If life were fair, Jesus would not have had to go to the cross and die for our sins. But He did, and one result from this huge unfairness is the blessing of living in the midst of an unfair world. The good thing is that we possess spiritual potential (because of Him) to live in this place of tension; a place of simultaneity, of being in the world and yet not a part of it. We are able to be in the midst of it all and yet above it all at the same time. Although most of the time it feels nothing like that.

One thing that provides me hope is the reminder from Scripture that one day God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil. In other words, God will one day make everything fair and just, and make all the wrongs right. (Ecclesiastes 12:14)

Lesson Two – Everything in Life Occurs in the Context of Relationship. And the most valuable relationships rarely occur on your terms –

I wish I had known this truth long ago, for much of life my relational skills have been skewed by the culture I was fashioned in. Everything really does happen in the context of relationship, and it’s usually in relationship with other people, although it can be with places and things.

To help us understand this truth it helps to understand that God’s number one agenda item is reconciliation. This is the reason Jesus came to earth was to provide a way for us to be reconciled to God through his death on a cross, his burial and resurrection and have a relationship with Him. Because Christ is our peace, he has broken down all the dividing walls that we erect that separate and divide us from one another.

It is in this context of relationship that we learn what it means to be a Christ-follower, because 90% of what God teaches us occurs in relationship to and with people. We learn from God what it means to love Him, by loving others. The Apostle John said; “For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen.” The same thing goes for all the other disciplines we are encouraged to practice such as serving and encouraging one another.

Our skewed culture says, relationship happens with people who are like us. Those individuals who act, think, and even dress like us. And oh yes, those who agree with us and those we choose because they fit within our perimeters of comfort. But life has taught me that the most valuable relationships are with people who are not like me and I might not like and would probably not pick as friends for the very reasons listed above. And in most cases are people I didn’t choose. Sometimes they are chosen for me through circumstances, situations, crisis, and the crucibles of life. I’ve learned that people who significantly impact me are those who are unlike me culturally, socially, racially and theologically. Their impact comes in ways that add richness to my life.

Lesson Three – It is better to Be Kind than Right.

I have come to a season where I’m quite bored with Christian apologists who claim to possess the right doctrine. With all due respect to evolutionists and intelligent designers- your arguments are incredibly uninteresting and boring and do not have much to do with the beauty of God or the mystery of life. The perception of being right probably provides an important sense of security to those of us who have become uncomfortable with the discontinuity of life but it also makes many of us proud, arrogant and mean spirited.

Jesus was an artist and poet who happened to be a scientist among other things. This is how I make sense of life and one reason I follow Jesus. He was right but that isn’t what made him so incredible and difficult to ignore. His kindness is what made him interesting, attractive and surprising. It is time for those of us who say we follow him ought to focus on becoming like him, particularly in this area of kindness.

A long time ago, I quit being surprised by how often I fail at being kind. It usually occurs in the process of making myself seem right in my own eyes and those of others. Reflecting back on life, I now grieve concerning the multitude of occasions I was unkind to others; and to those who hold the place of significance in my heart – specifically my wife, children and grandchildren. I agree with the words of Abraham Heschel (a Holocaust Survivor); “When I was young, I used to admire intelligent people; as I grow older, I admire kind people.” And Albert Schweitzer who said; “Constant kindness can accomplish much. As the sun makes ice melt, kindness causes misunderstanding, mistrust, and hostility to evaporate.” I sincerely want to be that kind of person.

Paul speaking to the Romans asked this question “…..do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance? (2:4 NIV) This verse suggests that when I withhold kindness from another I demonstrate my contempt for the richness of God kindness that I’ve personally experienced. Too often my experience with someone who disagrees with me is to dismiss them as “less than” and move on with little consideration toward being kind. Unfortunately, the result is an outward manifestation of my own arrogance and insensitivity to God’s kindness both in my life and that of one I disagree with.

Lesson Four – Humility is the Path of Real Life

Every time God does a work of significance in our heart or takes us to a deeper relational level with him, he always places us on a path of humility. Humility is an essential attitude for success in one’s spiritual life. Any self-centeredness, whether nurtured by intelligence, wealth, position, or the praise of others, is an obstacle on the path. Genuine humility is not posturing. It requires a constant willing-ness to deny oneself, an openness to call ourselves into question, and to welcome Heaven’s guidance even when it differs from one’s own preconceived ideas.

Lesson Five – Gratitude is the Attitude of Humility

Officiating at numerous funerals has forced me to face my mortality. This is a good thing, because I’m accustomed to taking experiences and blessings of life for granted. I’m not saying I have completely stopped doing this, but I’m more appreciative for each new day that God grants and for special gifts like friends and family. I’ve discovered or better put realized how rich I am in both family and friends. And I want to give voice to this renewed understanding of coming to terms with living in a realm of blessing; with a multitude of great, good, faithful, and inspiring friends. Thank you Lord!!!

Gratitude is a mark humility. It is the recognition that One greater than myself is responsible for the benefits and blessings you experience. Without the recognition of His great love, mercy and provision, we will always be less than we could have been.

I’m most grateful and proud of is my family – which I feel personally I had little to do with. The person most responsible for our family is your mother and grandmother – I refer to her as my “Annie.” For nearly 40 years she has been the “wind beneath my sails.” For her, many times it’s been cold in my shadow as she has been content to let me shine. And any shining I’ve been able to do, is due completely to her willingness to sacrifice herself for her family – which she does on a moment by moment basis. I’ve been able to fly only to the extent that she is the wind beneath my sails. I have come to the place of realizing that I would have a difficult time functioning to any degree whatsoever without her. Though she may not realize it, she is at least 75% of who I am. God really knew what he was doing when he brought us together. Unfortunately it took me years to catch on. Annie, we all owe a debt of gratitude to the Lord for the special person you are how He has blessed our family with your presence. All of us: Andrea, Jimmy & Karen, Jason & Charlet, and Joy & Matt are thankful for you more than we can express.

Lesson Six – Family is Everything

Family is a great instructor in all the things God wants to teach us in our life time. Over the years I have reflected with sincere gratitude concerning the children God has blessed me with. Each one of them is unique and wonderful gifts from His hand. I love you all!!

In 2 Corinthians 5:15 says: “those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.” I have no other choice as a Christ-follower. Indepted to Jesus Christ I live for him, as my consuming passion and the driving life force. This requires that I die to my own desires daily by crucifying the continuous urge that measures every action and decision around what is best for me.

Since this is the kind of life I have chosen, the life of the Spirit, I need make sure that I do not just hold it (the Scriptures) as good ideas in my head or as sentiment in my heart, but work out its implications in every detail of my life. In so doing my desire to live passionately for my Lord, loving more, giving more, and showing kindness to those in my world.

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