Author Archives: robert

Are You Listening?

By Dick Koehneke

Jesus saw the two disciples of John following him.  He asked them, “What are you seeking?”  They said, “Rabbi, where are you staying?”  Jesus replied, “Come, and you will see.”  (John 1:38-39)

Jesus listened carefully to the two disciples of  John.  He did not give them what they asked for.  They wanted his address.  He gave them what they needed:  a relationship with him.

When your prayers are not answered in the way you expect, remember how the Lord works.  He knows you better than you know yourself.  He knows that what you want may not be what you need.  He is listening carefully, with care for you.   

I appreciate this devotional meditation titled, “I Asked and He Gave.”  “I asked God for strength, and he gave me challenges to make me strong.  I asked God for wisdom, and he gave me problems to solve.  I asked God for prosperity, and he gave me the ability to think and work.  I asked God for courage, and he gave me obstacles to overcome.  I asked God for love, and he gave me troubled people for me to help.”  That’s how God works.

“Where are you staying?”  they asked.  “Come and see,” Jesus said.  He was listening carefully and with care.

Are we listening to one another?  The temptation in these hurried and hectic times is to do what I call, “Snap, Jump, and Rush.”  Make snap decisions about another person.  Jump to conclusions.  Rush to judgment.    Snap, Jump, Rush.  Is that how you want to be treated?  Let’s not treat each other that way. 

We’ve all had the experience of being misunderstood.  It doesn’t feel very good, does it?  Sometimes we want to say, “I know you believe you understand what you think I said, but I’m not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.”  There are times when the best thing to do is to say, “Let’s rewind the tape and start over!”  Or as the engineer in the recording studio says, “Take two!  Let’s do it until we get it right!”  That’s the way to understand each other. 

I’d like to say something to young people.  If you’re not so young, maybe you could share these thoughts in your own words with the young people in your life.  Here goes: 

Dear young people, when you listen to your parents, listen for the meaning behind their words.  When you hear them making rules and setting boundaries, you may think they are saying, “We don’t want you to have any fun.  We don’t trust you.”  That’s not what they mean.  Here is the meaning behind their words:  “We love you more than you can imagine.  We want only the very best for you.  We don’t want harm to come to you.  We want you to grow up into the fullness of God’s plan for you.”  That’s what your parents are really saying.

God has given us the Good News of Jesus Christ to share with people whose lives we touch.  In order for us to communicate the Gospel in a way that connects with others, we need to learn to know them, and that takes some careful, caring listening — listening that hears the meaning behind the words, listening that uncovers real needs, listening that leads to the practical application of real Christ-like love to meet those real needs.  In the Spirit of Christ and by the Spirit’s power, we want to listen carefully and with care — to those near and dear to us, to people we barely know, and everyone in between.  

They asked Jesus, “Where are you staying?”  He answered, “Come and see.”  The next time someone asks you, “Where is your church?” or even “Where do you live?” you could give them the location, or you could say “Come and see!”

   

 

What’s Brewing – April 2019

THE YOUNGER AND THE OLDER NEED EACH OTHER!

“Younger people and older people aren’t separate species. The old were once young, the young will get old. We have a lot of common cause.” (Mary Schmich)

The St. Arbucks’ coffee guzzlers agree entirely with the above quote. We wish we would have said that! Why is it that our society seems to continue to separate us by “age groups” and then wonder why we often do not understand each other? Our conversations this week centered on how we older ones can become more intentional about connecting with our younger friends all around us. How can we also model to the younger that we also need their presence, smiles, and input as we continue to age?

One grandpa turned the discussion around by sharing a “clever” approach to grandkids by writing up a list of “How grandkids can get along with your grandparents” Here goes:

  1. Carry pictures around of your grandparents at all times!
  2. Call us at any time, about anything.
  3. Keep loving your parents, as they keep loving you.
  4. Laugh at Grandpa’s jokes, even if …..
  5. Hug as much as you can. Grandparents live on hugs.
  6. Always know that your parents love you, even when you may not feel that they do.
  7. Listen to your parents more than your grandparents – they have to live with you!
  8. Say “I love you” as often as you can to your grandparents.
  9. Let them win some of the card and board games you play. They need affirmation also!
  10. Help your family and friends know that the Lord loves us all through our laughter, friendship, and caring for each other, as well as for others!

Our discussion then centered around what is the basic role of grandparents and other older adults  to younger people. One word sums up our thoughts….ENCOURAGE! Do a word study in the Scriptures and see the significance of this word. It means to “inspire with hope.” The Lord encourages us through His love and forgiveness to be encouragers of one another. Other “encouraging” words from the Lord to check out are: Hebrews 3:13, Hebrews 10:25, and Ephesians 6:22. 

So what are some other specific ways we can make intentional “connections” between the younger around us? First of all, be creative. Think of little action steps, take advantage of the people the Lord puts into our lives. And build on the relationships you already have with the younger!

How can you greet some young folks before and after worship? How can you show interest in the high school student who comes to your door asking for financial help on a school trip? Any chance of you signing up as a tutor at a local school?  Here’s a few more quick suggestions shared:

  1. Listen, listen, listen to little kids. Give advice, if you wish, but no need to tell them what to do or not to do. Just listen and respond accordingly.
  2. Do special projects with the younger: visit hospitals and retirement homes together, play sports together, make something together, take them to a ball game, for an ice cream cone, or a movie.
  3. Think Out Loud. Let the younger hear your thoughts, concerns, passions for life. Share your own joys, as well as concerns, with them. A great way to model the process of aging.
  4. Share your faith together. Point out “God Sightings” to them in your own life. Talk about “What a friend we have in Jesus”, regardless of our age!
  5. Ask the little ones for their advice. Get a better perspective of their views on issues, joys and concerns of living. Then share your thoughts in non-judgmental ways.

In general, celebrate the little things in life with as many young people as possible. Be the “friendly, encouraging older adult” and a model of celebrating the Christ-Life, rather than the stereotype “grumpy old guy”! All it sometimes takes is a smile, a chuckle, and a kind word of friendship and support.

Come to think of it: as we encourAGE, encourAGE, encourAGE the younger, the Lord turns it around and helps them to encourage us as well. What a partnership of faith!

Philippians 2:1-3 is a nice conclusion for our St. Arbucks discussion: “If you have any encouragement from being united in Christ, if any comfort from His love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in  spirit  and purpose. “

I think I’ll go and call my grandson right now, just to say “Hi” and “Thanks for being You!

Rich Bimler

Just Watching – April 2019

IT’S A REAL HAPPENING!     For years R and C Resources has been forecasting an imminent tsunami of Super-Seniors.  Not just Seniors (those 65 and older) but Super-Seniors (those 85 and older).  Surprise.  Seniors, plus 490,000 Super-Seniors, are here – with more pouring our way just down the road.  Did you notice?

WINDSOR PARK    Audie and I now live in Windsor Park, a residence primarily for Senior/Super-Senior men and women (more women than men) many/most of whom are over 80 years of age. Our Windsor Park world is full of fascinating folk who are only living longer but are living longer longer.  That fact when extended across the US populace means that we will need a constant increase in yesterday’s promised Medicare dollars.  Ditto yesterday’s pension commitments.  Great-grandparents and great-grandchildren have an eye on the same future tax dollar.  That looks like a problem.  Solution?  First voluntary and the involuntary euthanasia is being hinted at even now by the same immoral “majority” who approve late-term abortion today.  Am I a fear monger?  Check out Earl’s comments in a contemporary Pickles cartoon to which I will later refer.

Just so you don’t think I’m the only guy concerned with Senior/Super-Senior changes have you noticed the number of books and articles about life after 65 that are hitting the market today?  We are long past the day when it was assumed that anyone over 60 would be parked in an Altenheim, or some such similarly named home for the aged, where they would be satisfied to daily rock into eternity on the home’s front porch.  That picture doesn’t sell today.   2019 has an abundance of age sensitive visionary people and organizations who don’t like rocking chairs.  They like to rock boats.   A few examples?

KALAMAZOO    Zion Lutheran Church’s (Kalamazoo, Michigan) monthly publication. “Harbinger” is much, much more than the average congregational newsletter.  It’s more like a pan-generational literary magazine (16 pages, plus) filled with well written news and notes, stimulating book reviews, comments about social, community and ecclesiastical shifts, original “think pieces”, informative parish reports and much else.  The March 2019 issue announced Zion’s latest effort to be known as “Aging with His Grace Ministry”.  That ministry will reach in/out to the age segment that is living longer and living longer longer.   Zion sees a Senior/Super-Senior population segment everywhere they look and are anxious to seek and save them.   Want to know more about what a Gold Star congregation’s pan-generational efforts?   E-mail Pastor Tim Seeber at Zion@zionkazoo.org and ask for a copy of their parish monthly.  Read it and then go and do likewise.   All it will take is understanding, commitment and hard work.

MORE FROM THE FRONT LINES     Pastor Dick Koehneke (Ft. Wayne pastor and regular R and C Resources contributor) flagged two other noteworthy age related items.  One is the book “Women Rowing North” written by clinical psychologist Mary Pipher.  “North” in the title refers to “getting older”.  “Rowing” implies hard work that effective aging requires.  The Wall Street Journal’s review of Pipher’s book offered three “rowing north” survival insights.  The rowers need to recognize : 1) gratitude as a positive response after working through life’s age-related pain and suffering; 2) managing expectations means learning how to get what you want from life by knowing what to want; 3) developing a sense of humor is crucial as you first become a   Senior and then keep moving on into Super-Seniordom.  Buy and read her book.  Oh yes, she says she writes primarily for and about the women because they are her professional specialization.   I feel her female shoes will fit my male foot fine.    What do you think?

Richard offered more.  He was the first to alert me to the “Reformation Retirement Manifesto” which was issued by the Colson Center for Christian World View.  As best I can tell being promoted by John Strongstreet who fronts an age related organization and a radio program.   I’m sure the Manifesto will be passed on by others.  In point of fact while it is important it’s nothing new.   Rather it’s a kind of generalized distillation of what past Senior visionaries have encouraged on those who are getting older and  little uncertain about what to do as that is happening.   Something to think about.

MARY SIMON Well known author Mary Simon wrote about comments I had made about a recent publication, “Aging Thoughtfully”. She added, “…I appreciate the opportunity for us to look down the road through your eyes.”   In return I appreciate all that Mary is doing or all of us on such a broad age related front.   She understands that prepared for it or not tomorrow is just down the road for each of us.   Whether that will be a happy day will depend on whether and how we prepare for it.    Hand in hand with Him it will be a wower.  So…..

PICKLES: EARL AND OPAL    I look forward each morning to a daily newspaper cartoon serving of Earl and Opal, two Super-Seniors.  The strip is called “Pickles”.

One strip last week featured Earl and an older friend.  Earl said, “I heard a guy on his cell phone the other day say that it is the duty of old people to die and get out of the way”.  His friend answered, “That’s pretty cold hearted.” Earl’s response, “My new motto is, ‘Old, in the way, and here to stay’.” 

Or, in one cartoon Earl’s wife Opal shouts from somewhere in the house: “Earl!”.   Earl answers: “What?”.  That same exchange is repeated for two more panels before Earl in the last one says to his grandson: “Some days we play this game for hours.”  Makes me wonder whether the strip could just as easily be named, “Rich and Charlie”, or…..

I love the humorous lift that I get every morning from Opal and Earl.   My approach makes me think I’m doing OK by one of Mary Pipher’s “Women Rowing North” survival criteria: maintaining a sense of humor.

90 YEARS OLD AND STILL GOING    I appreciate Dr. Simon’s comments about “looking down the road through your eyes”.  I’m delighted to help anyone who is interested in doing that.  But my real goal in life is to help Seniors and Super-Seniors look down their own road through their own eyes.  If the reaction to what I write is, “That’s interesting and I need to remember his experience,” I have failed in what I set out to do.  But if the reaction is, “So that’s what is going on in my life.  I need to be on top of it myself”, then every hour I work at Just Watching is worth it.  It’s another application of the adage: “Give a man a fish and feed him for a day.  Teach a man to fish and feed him for his life.”  Here’s to all who want to teach others to fish as Jesus dared to do with already Master Fisherman Peter in John 21:9.

In the meanwhile, whether viewed as a chronological date or personal event Easter is near at hand for all, to Super-Seniors more than most.  May it be a blessed day for all.  “Be not afraid.  He is not here.  He has risen.”

Amen to that.

Charlie

AH-HA Moments – April 2019

This article is in memory of my brother, Don Bimler, who died suddenly on March 1, 2019. It was shared as part of the worship service at Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hillside, Il, on March 9,2019 . Thanks, Don, for being my best, and only, brother, who brought many AH-HA Moments to family and friends throughout your 81 years.

IN THE NAME OF JESUS, OUR LENTEN LORD AND RESURRECTED SAVIOUR!

THIS IS A SAD, YET JOYOUS AND AH-HA, OCCASION. WE GRIEVE THE LOSS OF A HUSBAND, FATHER, GRANDPA, BROTHER, COUSIN, UNCLE, AND FRIEND. DON WILL CERTAINLY BE MISSED BY ALL OF US. THANK YOU ALL FOR BEING HERE, FOR YOUR PRAYERS AND PRESENCE AND SUPPORT FOR KAREN AND THE WHOLE FAMILY. YOU ARE OUR HOLY HUDDLE!

WE ALSO REJOICE IN THE PROMISE OF THE RESURRECTION! FOR US, TODAY, IT’S GOOD FRIDAY AND EASTER AT THE SAME TIME. AN OLD HUMOROUS SAYING GOES “FOR MIDWEST LUTHERANS, EVERYDAY IS LENT!” BUT FOR ALL CHRISTIANS, EVERY DAY IS EASTER! AFTER EVERY GOOD FRIDAY, THERE’S ALWAYS AN EASTER…AND DON IS REMINDING US OF THAT RIGHT NOW! AS WE WALK THROUGH THE LENTEN SEASON, DON IS ALREADY CELEBRATING THE RISEN LORD IN HEAVEN!

WE CELEBRATE THE JOY OF KNOWING THAT OUR REDEEMER LIVES, AND THAT DON IS EXPERIENCING THAT JOY RIGHT NOW. I REMEMBER ONE TIME WHEN DON AND I WERE TALKING ABOUT FUNERALS AND WE AGREED THAT THEY SHOULD BE JOYFUL AND HAPPY TIMES, AND DON SAID, ‘IF THERE WON’T BE ANY LAUGHING AND SMILING AT MY FUNERAL, I’M NOT SHOWING UP!” DON, WE ARE ALL HERE TO GRIEVE YOUR DEATH….AND ALSO TO CELEBRATE YOUR ETERNAL LIFE, AS WELL AS OUR OWN, WITH SADNESS AND JOY IN OUR HEARTS!

OUR DAD DIED WHEN HE WAS 50 YEARS OLD. I REMEMBER THE AGREEMENT DON AND I MADE AT MY DAD’S FUNERAL. FIRST, WE WOULD WORK HARD AT LIVING LONGER THAN 50 YEARS …AND WE DID…AND WE ALSO AGREED THAT EACH OF US WOULD SPEAK AT EACH OTHER’S FUNERAL. (THINK ABOUT THAT!) AT LEAST I KEPT MY PROMISE, ALTHOUGH KNOWING MY BIG BROTHER, HE JUST MIGHT SHOW UP AT MY FUNERAL AS WELL!

LOOK AROUND YOU AT THIS HOLY HUDDLE OF PEOPLE WHO LOVED, SUPPORTED, PLAYED, LAUGHED, ARGUED, AND ENCOURAGED DON AND KAREN AND FAMILY THROUGH THESE MANY YEARS. WE THANK YOU FOR THAT. AND NOW WE NEED TO CONTINUE TO SUPPORT ONE ANOTHER AS WE CONTINUE TO WALK THE LENTEN ROAD TO THE CROSS AND THE RESURRECTION!

HOW DO WE DESCRIBE DON? JUST ASK HIS FAMILY –KAREN, KIDS, GRANDKIDS, AND OTHERS. FOR ONE THING, HE REALLY DID “CELEBRATE GOD’S GIFT OF AGING!” AS HE AGED, HE CONTINUED TO LOVE AND SUPPORT HIS KIDS, GRANDKIDS, FRIENDS, CLUBS, DARTS, CHURCH….KAREN SAYS HE BECAME AN EXPERT AT CROSSWORD PUZZLES AND SUDOKU. HE NEVER MISSED A SEGMENT OF JEOPARDY …BUT NEVER MADE ANY MONEY FROM IT EITHER!

HIS KIDS AND GRAND KIDS WROTE THEIR IMPRESSIONS AND REMEMBRANCES OF Don. WONDERFUL AND POWERFUL MEMORIES OF HOW IMPORTANT DAD/GRANDPA TAUGHT, LISTENED, AND ENCOURAGED THEM ALL.HIS LIFE WAS ALL ABOUT FAITH, FAMILY, FATHER, GRANDFATHER,GARDENS, FRIENDS,AND FISHING, AMONG OTHER INTERESTS. DESCRIPTIVE WORDS SUCH AS TRADITIONAL, KIND, STUBBORN, A MODEL (TEACHING CAREER), HARD-WORKER, OPINIONATED, PROVIDER, A HAT FOR EVERY OCCASION, AND THE FACT THAT THEY SELDOM HEARD A DISCOURAGING WORD FROM HIM…. EXCEPT PERHAPS AT ONE OF THEIR FAMILY KITCHEN DEBATES!

HE WAS A MASTER BUILDER OF SPECIAL CHRISTMAS GIFTS FROM HIS WOOD-WORKSHOP. THEY RECALL HIM STANDING UP A LOT, BECAUSE, AS HE EXPLAINED, ‘OTHERWISE I FALL ASLEEP!” THEY REMEMBER MANY OF HIS FAMOUS QUOTES, LIKE, ‘I DON’T SHOVEL SNOW – I BELIEVE THAT THE LORD GIVETH AND THE LORD WILL TAKETH AWAY!”

KAREN EVEN MENTIONED THAT THEY HAD NEVER HAD AN ARGUMENT IN ALL OF THEIR 54 YEARS OF MARRIAGE ….BUT THAT THEY DID HAVE A LOT OF CONSTRUCTIVE CONFLICTS!  KAREN ,AS WE KNOW, HAS THAT GREAT GIFT OF PATIENCE !

IN DON YOU GOT WHAT YOU SAW- A KIND, HUMBLE, FUN-LOVING,UN-ASSUMING ENCOURAGER, WHO CARED SO MUCH FOR KIDS – HIS OWN AND OTHERS – THAT HE TAUGHT HIGH SCHOOL INDUSTRIAL ARTS FOR OVER 30 YEARS. (AND IS THE REASON ONE OF HIS GRANDKIDS IS A TEACHER HERSELF!)

HILLSIDE WILL NEVER BE THE SAME WITHOUT DON BIMLER. THOUGH STEMACS MAY BE GONE, JUST LIKE THE OLD SHOPPING CENTER, AND OTHER CHANGES ARE MADE, DON’S SPIRIT OF HARD WORK , LOYALTY , COMMITMENT TO THE PAST, AND LOVE FOR HIS FAMILY AND NEIGHBORS WILL NEVER BE SURPASSED.

WHAT IS DON’S LEGACY THAT HE LEAVES US? TO LOVE ONE ANOTHER IN WORD AND ACTION, TO FORGIVE AND HEAL BROKEN RELATIONSHIPS, TO USE THE GIFTS WE HAVE AND DON’T WORRY ABOUT THE GIFTS WE DON’T HAVE…AND TO LIVE LIFE TO THE FULL …IN THE LORD! TO SEE AGING AS A BLESSING TO CELEBRATE RATHER THAN A BURDEN TO BEAR!

Charlie Brown once said, “One day we are all going to die”. Snoopy REPLIED “Yes, but all the rest of the days we will live”. LET US ALL CONTINUE LIVING THE LIFE THE LORD HAS GIVEN US, AS WE SHARE HOPE, LOVE, AND JOY THE WAY THE LORD DID THROUGH DON!

REST WELL, BROTHER, IN THE ARMS OF THE RESURRECTED LORD! THANKS FOR HELPING US CELEBRATE EASTER EARLY THIS YEAR!

AND LET ALL OF GOD’S HOLY HUDDLE SAY, ‘AMEN’ AND ‘AH-HA’!

Rich Bimler

 

 

 

 

 

In the Shadow of the Cross

By Dick Koehneke

As Peter, James and John trudged up the Mount of Transfiguration with Jesus, they might have been thinking about his words spoken in the verses right before the Gospel reading for The Transfiguration of our Lord (Luke 9:28-36).  Speaking of himself, Jesus had said, “The Son of Man must suffer many things . . . he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.”  Then Jesus had said these strong and challenging words:  “If anyone wants to come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” 

Following Jesus can be tough going.           

Maybe it was tough going for Peter, James and John, climbing up that mountain.  Perhaps there was some slipping and falling, some bruised knees and scraped knuckles along the way.  When they got to the top of the mountain, it wasn’t tough going anymore.  Scripture says that as Jesus was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. 

And to top it off, suddenly there stood Moses and Elijah, one of them personally buried by God and the other taken up to heaven in a whirlwind; Moses and Elijah, representing the law and the prophets of the Old Covenant; Moses and Elijah, standing there talking with Jesus!            

What were the three disciples doing?  Not much.  They were taking a nap.  They couldn’t stay awake on the mountaintop, and they couldn’t stay awake in the Garden of Gethsemane either.  Neither the glory of Jesus nor his agony could keep them from taking their rest.  But once they roused themselves from their slumber, Peter, James and John thought they had found a shortcut to heaven.  They weren’t thinking anymore about denying themselves and carrying a cross.  This was glorious!  They wanted to stay there on the mountain.  Peter suggested building a tent village.  He didn’t know what he was saying. 

Sometimes we don’t either.  Sometimes our tiredness or boredom keeps us from paying attention to Jesus.  Sometimes we become resentful and self-pitying when suffering and hardship come our way.  We want to stay on the mountaintop, when Jesus calls us instead to follow him on the way that leads to the cross.  Ash Wednesday and Lent and Holy Week remind us that the path to glory goes through Golgotha.  The way to the crown is the way of the cross.

That’s exactly what Jesus, Moses and Elijah were talking about.  The Bible says, “They spoke about Jesus’ departure, which he was about to bring to fulfillment at Jerusalem.”  The word “departure” meant his death on the cross, as when someone “departs” this life.  There on the mountaintop, they were talking about the cross.  Speaking figuratively, the Transfiguration took place in the shadow of the cross. 

But the cross was not the end.  Jesus’ “departure” also meant his glorious departure from the tomb on Easter morning.  The light that created the shadow of the cross was the glory of the resurrection on the other side. 

Following Jesus can be tough going.  For the Christian, the sufferings of life are not eliminated. They are illuminated by the glory that is to come. 

That word “departure” also refers to the ascension of our Lord, his physical departure from this world.  He says to all believers, “I am going to prepare a place for you.  I will come again and take you to be with me, to behold my glory.  Where I am, there shall my servant be also.”  The struggles of today are experienced in the light of a victorious eternity. 

At the Transfiguration, God the Father spoke from the cloud:  “This is my Son, whom I have chosen.  Listen to him.”  We listen to Jesus, the chosen Son of God, as he says, “If anyone wants to come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.”

When you’re following Jesus, you’re crucifying your sinful self.  That’s painful. When you’re following Jesus, the sinful world sees you as an enemy.  That’s difficult.  When you’re following Jesus, Satan wants to take you down.  That’s dangerous. 

Following Jesus can be tough going.  Thank God, you’re not by yourself.  Fellow Christians are walking with you, and Jesus is with you every step of the way to a victorious eternity. 

If life sometimes seems dark in the shadow of the cross, remember:  The light that is casting the shadow is the light of resurrection glory on the other side.   

What’s Brewing – March 2019

A recent quote from a St. Arbucks’ session: “Don’t get all weird about getting older! Our age is merely the number of years that the world has been enjoying us!”

Now how’s that about an “Attitude of Gratitude?” Seeing each day as a gift from the Lord, regardless of our age, is a hope-full way of celebrating God’s gift of aging as we model this mindset for others to grasp.

The St. Arbucks’ Coffee Clutch group had a fun time of “playing” our made-up game of asking each person to add a descriptor to the word, “Aging”. Here are some of the responses:

  1. Aging Joyfully
  2. Aging Gracefully
  3. Aging Thoughtfully
  4. Aging Well
  5. Aging Grudgingly
  6. Aging Regretfully

Any that you might add to the list? Perhaps for some, it really depends on how each day is going. Lots of worries about snow and cold? Not a day to be joyful. Enjoying the grandkids? Wow, what a joy-filled day! Sorry for what you said yesterday?  Regretfully aging, indeed!

However, perhaps we need to keep in mind that “Aging Joyfully or Gratefully or Well “ is not talking about our day-to-day ups and downs and goods and bads in life. Rather, it is referring to our relationship in the Lord, because of what He has already done and is doing in and through us, in spite of our feelings and failures.

Our definition of “old” or “elderly” may change as we age but our relationship with the Lord never changes! Our words reflect and shape our prejudices and expectations .This is why it is so crucial in these days that we St. Arbucks’ people, and others, model and reflect an attitude of hope and joy and celebration, even as we continue to ach and brake and even fake our feelings and attitudes. As the author Ashton Applewhite states, “Ageism is the last socially sanctioned prejudice”, perhaps because we older people are not modeling and speaking out more boldly about the gift and joys of aging!

Aging well and joyfully and gracefully all involve living honestly. And it is crucial that we embrace the truth of getting older. However, we do not have a good language or “snap chat” for aging that challenges our church and society’s discomfort with it. Check this mindset out by Googling the word, “elderly”. The first definitions we see include….old, mature, older, senior, hoary, ancient, old as the hills, past one’s prime, over the hill, and no spring chicken! Perhaps not intentionally, our society defines “old” in the broader sense with the term “demeaning.”

But it’s only a word, right? What’s the big deal of how we use and perceive “aging”? If only it were so!

The St. Arbucks’ group will continue to discuss these fascinating concepts and mindsets. Why don’t you join us at your own “St. Arbucks’” location?

And in the meantime, continue to celebrate God’s gift of aging, and please do not fall into the trap like Frank Sinatra did when he sang, “Fairy tales can come true it can happen to you if you’re young at heart.”  Wrong, Frank, so wrong! Look around you folks – great things are happening to us when we are “old at heart” as well!

Rich Bimler

Just Watching – March 2019

How about putting our thinking cap on as we take a whack at a quote from CS Lewis that was passed on to me by an old friend Michael Bryan.  Lewis said: “You don’t have a soul.  You are a soul.  You have a body.”

That pretty well captures what I rediscover about myself as I peer at that old-man-me in the mirror each morning.  Am I that guy?  Or am I the very different person that I feel is simultaneously right there inside me?

What stirred all that to the surface is not only my normally restless mind coupled to the Lewis quote but also  quite another book with which I’m wrestling.  It was recently referred to me by Dr. George Heider.  Like many other Seniors and Super Seniors I think he senses that there is large scale change going on in our world as the number of people over 85 years of age zips past the 490,000 mark, still growing as it does!  The book, titled “Aging Thoughtfully” is a 2017 Oxford University Press publication that features essays crafted by Chicago U profs Martha Nussbaum and Saul Levermore on eight of the topics which Senior and Super-Senior face.  It’s meant to make you think and surfaces every bit as many questions as it does answers.  

“Aging Thoughtfully” has been a slow read for me.  That’s not just because of the intellectual capabilities of the authors but because page after page, almost line by line, the two of them make a thoughtful reader face a favorite question of Martin Luther: “What does this mean?”.  That for sure and more.  The book makes me search my soul (ala Lewis), “What does this mean to me?”  The book’s target is more than the head.  It aims for the teaser run-on attached to the book’s title says it contains “…conversations about retirement, romance, wrinkles and regret.”  Do those sound like critical post-65 concerns to you?  It does to me.  Standing here at 90 I have learned that the “aging” component of the books title is a given.  Like it or not I keep aging day by day.  But the “thoughtfully” component of the title is up to the each of us.  

So let me report on how Audie and I are doing in our new abode where Carol Stream, Illinois’ Windsor Park we are aging for sure – thoughtfully more so some days than others.  We have lived here for nearing six months all the while learning new things about senior community living and about ourselves with every passing day. 

Much (most?) of this community’s population can be doctrinally described as Evangelical and/or Reformed and at first blush see things quite differently from folks in Lutheran world in which we came of age.  But socially they are no different from the great people among whom we were raised.  Caring.  Loving.  Sharing.  Open.  Welcoming. 

To begin the vast majority of those who live here with us are either Seniors (those 60-85 years of age) or Super-Senior population segment (those 85 years of age and older).  There are not many Millennials or Boomers living in Windsor Park most of who manage the place, prepare and  serve meals or help with the maintenance needs that people like us can no longer do.  I think that of total population of maybe 600 a significant number are receiving some kind of specialized care.  As much as it can be said the rest care for themselves – with lots of support.

In general, Windsor Park has widows and widowers aplenty. Many are separated by circumstance from family and friends.  They enjoy social contacts and Windsor Manor provides contacts aplenty – as I am sure other facilities do as well.  Whether one is a resident here or not there millions of Seniors and Super-Seniors who have worked their way through all of life’s stages without knowing the Good News God offer them.  It is still true, as Jesus put it, “The fields are white unto harvest.”  Don’t let white hair, wrinkles and walkers fool you into thinking that those who are aging have no need “to hear the Story”.  Remember the CS Lewis quote?  “You don’t have a soul …you are a soul.”  Audie and I are at peace with where we now live because we see Windsor Park as a ministry and we start each day looking around for what God wants us to do – today.  

We know a lot about those whom we have been sent to serve because we are learning a lot about ourselves.   Most of them (us, too) don’t see as well as we once did.  I forgot but now remember how as a kid I would regularly thread a half dozen or so needles for Grandma Steinkamp who loved to sew but couldn’t see or hit the eye of the needle.  And I’m amazed by how many church publications use small type in material they send to us old guys.  They might just as well throw in the trash.  We, of necessity, do. 

Most of us don’t hear well, either.  Look at us when you speak – and don’t lower your voice at the end of sentences.  Be committed to successfully communicate with Seniors and Super Seniors.  “Can’t hear” looks a lot like “Don’t care.”

Everyone has memory lapses, Super-Seniors more so.  ‘Nuf said.  And as we age just walking can become a greater and greater challenge.   Steps?  Ugh!  Even without them walking can be a slow-go.    

Thinking back I recognize that each and every previous generational segment of my past had limitations which I learned to accommodate.  As I “age thoughtfully” I look out for new challenges seeing them as reminders of the lifelong constancy of change. 

I’m the oldest living Mueller male in direct descent going back to the mid-1600s.  That’s nothing to brag about.  To me it means I have a responsibility to my descendants as well as to my peers to pass on what I am learning about thoughtfully aging.  Aging?  For sure.  Thoughtfully?  That remains to be seen.  But in any case, passing experience and wisdom on is what at 90 I am called to do.  I hope doing so will benefit them.  I know it benefits me.

There is still much more I have to learn and will want to share that will come my way as I am “Aging Thoughtfully”.  I mean to pursue whatever that is and I promise to pass it on.

Meanwhile Lent 2019 is about here, my 90th.  Lent means “spring time”.  What an odd name for such a somber season!  No matter the root meaning imbedded in season of Lent is the conviction that Easter and the resurrection it offers is also just around the corner.  “Easter people” of the kind Rich Bimler encourages us to be have no time for denying aging.  Instead we marvel that God has offered Seniors and Super-Seniors a chance to age thoughtfully as the newer Day which the Father has prepared for His own draws nigh.  We wait expectantly.  How about that?

Charlie

AH-HA Moments – March 2019

What do you get when you bring together over 2200 people of God, of all ages, for a 3 day experience of worship, prayer, fellowship, learning, and laughter? You get a fantastic “AH-HA Moment” experience as you connect, re-connect, grow, and absorb the joy and presence of the Lord through His people, from all over the country!

I am referring to the Best Practice Conference that happens each Spring at Christ Church Lutheran, Phoenix. What a powerful assortment of God’s AH-HA people! Pastor Jeff Schrank and a cast of hundreds host this annual event which provides a platform for professional church workers and laypersons to gather together to teach and learn, laugh and pray, and to support and encourage one another.

No decisions are made, no resolutions are passed, and it is certainly a joy NOT to ever hear the term “Point of Order” shouted from the crowd!  These people of all ages are there to share their gifts, learn together, develop ministry relationships, and celebrate and serve each other as God’s saints.

These folks do not show up in Phoenix in February just to enjoy the sun and warmth of their winters. No way! This was especially tested this year as it rained and never got above 50 for the whole week. I had heard that Phoenix is bearable in the summer because of its “dry heat”, but it is certainly a stretch to call the weather last week, “dry wet”! At least the steady rain kept reminding us participants of our daily Baptism and allowed us to remember that we are always “walking wet” in the Lord!

For more information, contact Pastor Jeff Schrank (jschrank@cclphoenix.org) or Nancy Barton (nbarton@cclphoenix.org) and consider attending next year’s event, February 20-22, 2020. You will be blessed for being there as well as being a blessing to those who attend with you.

And there’s more good news: There is no cost to attend! (That doesn’t even sound Lutheran!) All you need to do is get there and find a place to stay. All meals, materials, and the total program is provided by Christ Church Lutheran! Now that’s what I call a servant ministry! Another unique component is that participants volunteer to lead sectional presentations to share their expertise and skills. What a way to earn and grow with your peers. Plenty of national and international mission and ministry partners are also present to provide resources and significant materials and resources with you as well.

See you there, rain or shine, as we continue to share and celebrate the AH-HA Moments all around us!

Rich Bimler

Just Watching – February 2019

 For the last few years I’ve kept my eyes peeled for any item touching men and women who are over 85 years of age, the ones I call Super-Seniors.  They are the successor segment to the 65-85 year olds that throughout most of my life were called Seniors and often treated as if they were the last stop before heaven.  But given there are a lot more Super Seniors today than in the past and that their numbers are mounting.  Sadly the ignorance about them, even the denial of their existence by some seems to be mounting, too.  That probably should come as no surprise.  Not many today and fewer in the recent past live as if they will be old enough to example George Burn’s 95th birthday quip, “If I’d known I’d live this long I’d have taken better care of myself.”  That comment usually gets a wry guffaw of recognition in response.

But surprise, surprise.  Here I am within a few weeks of my 90th natal day.  Together with 490,000 Super-Senior men and women (with more coming stage center every day) I greet a new dawn.  In the near future public parking lots will be divided between “Handicap Parking” and “Really Handicapped Parking”.  It’ll be parking at the curb out on the street for everyone else.  I suppose that when that happens those 10% Senior discounts at restaurants and drug stores will be limited to Super-Seniors Only – first come, first served. 

Far-fetched?  Probably not.  Today, I’m told, in tiny Ecuador, long lines of people waiting to buy basic family goods form each day. Another but much shorter parallel line is also formed and monitored by the police.  It is limited to those who are infirmed or disabled, to pregnant women, to mothers with small children and to a group called the Third Age.  That Third Age is composed of people over 65 years of age who can prove it.  Anyone who tries to work their way into that line without proof of age are unceremoniously removed. 

Will the USA ever adopt a Third Age classification?  Who knows, but it has to be obvious that a kind of Third Age category is already upon us.  Look at the “older” age related housing, medical care or pension tsunami that is building in our society.  How many are projected to ultimately end up bankrupt or in default?  Think Tanks of all kind are tussling today with how the projected 20 billion people of our 2050 world will be supported.  Where will they live?  Will they have food and clean water?  What will the energy needs be in 31years? 

As you consider all that remember it wasn’t until the mid-1800s that the world population reached one billion. It wasn’t until the 1930s that it doubled to two billion.  Now a population of twenty billion within 30 years?  Hey, wait a minute!   Large chunks of our R and C Resources readership may still be alive then!   As L’il Abner (remember him?) would have said, “Who’d a’ thunk it?”

Yes, indeed, “Who’d a’ thunk it?”  And that’s the question Super Seniors (plus parents, pastors, Think Tankers and concerned leaders of all kinds) need to wrestle with today.

As I was preparing this issue of Just Watching and thinking about sharing this kind of supersonic change for Super-Seniors there came to my mind a mythological Greek figure from the past: Cassandra, the daughter of Priam, king of Troy.  As one story about her goes she was object of the god Apollo’s affection.  He offered her the gift of prophecy if she would become his.  She said yes to the receiving the gift of prophesy (and received it) but then no to Apollo’s desires (and didn’t keep her word).  How did Apollo react?  He put a curse on her that while she would receive the gift of prophecy no one would believe her.  Possible?  Hardly.

There are many “prophets”, past and present, who deal with Cassandra’s double whammy.  They possess a needed truth but those with whom they most want to share it spurn their offering.   Possible?  How about probable! 

Many a Cassandra-like caring parent (prophet) yearns to guide an obstinate child who will not listen or obey.   Or, many a Cassandra-like faithful pastor (prophet) speaks the truth in love to an intractable parishioner or an unyielding parish.  Or, how about the Cassandra-like political visionary (prophet) who agonize over constituents who spurn 21st societal improvements.

All this is nothing new.  There is a well-known collective paraphrase of many Old and New Testament texts that essentially say, “There’s none so blind as he who will not see – or deaf as he who will not hear.”  Even so, the ministry of many past or present “prophets” (like Jeremiah, John the Baptist – your own Mom or Dad) is to painfully speak the truth no matter what.

So how’s it going with those in the 21st century who faithfully keep testifying to undeniable life realities?   My answer is, “Not so good”.  Cassandra’s curse is still very much alive.

Notwithstanding, R and C Resources will continue its focus on the needs of individuals, home life and local parishes. For personal reasons, since I am one, I’ve been especially concerned with the Super-Seniors among whom I find myself.  My goal is that of tending to a number of practical issues.

  1. I will keep pushing whomever I can toward a better ministry to Super-Seniors.
  2. I will continue exploring those post-85 years, a Bonus Land that God has given to a rising number of us! 
  3. I will recognize that change is a constant and that more of it is on the way.  It’s not over until it’s over.  Change isn’t slowing down even a little bit.   
  4. I need to remember that centuries before Christ was born the Romans taught each other: “Tempore mutantur, et nos mutamur in illes” (which means, “The times are changing and we are changing in them”).  Much earlier Greeks agreed.  Their cryptic saying was, “Panta rhei” (which means, “Everything flows”).  That quote from Ovid of old was later adopted and adapted by the Lutheran Reformers.   
  5. As a 21st century Super-Senior I am committed to blessing my heirs with Johnny Mercer’s 1944 instruction for living life in God’s Bonus Land.  He urged a three step approach of, “accentuating the positive, eliminating the negative while latching on to the affirmative”.  Super-Seniors might adopt that song as guidance for life.   What do you think?

In any case, today is the day God has given us.  As I hold it in my hand a well-known quote attributed to many surfaces: “Yesterday is history.  Tomorrow is a mystery.  Today is a gift – which is why we call it the Present.”   Why God has chosen to gift me as long as He has – and as long as He yet will – I know not.  But that fact that He urges me to unwrap it hour by hour and as best I am able, use it to His glory and for the benefit of all with whom He surrounds me.   In God’s economy of things each day is a mulligan.  Maybe next time I’ll be able to keep my head down and follow through.

Join me at the tee?

Charlie

Give God the Last Word!

By Dick Koehneke

When Jesus had finished [teaching the people from the boat], he said to Simon, “Put out into deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.”  Simon answered, “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything.  But because you say so, I will let down the nets.” (Luke 5:4-5)

If Simon Peter and his friends had listened only to their feelings, they would have gone home empty-handed.  They were tired, worn out, and frustrated.  They had put in hours of hard work with nothing to show for it.

If Simon and his friends had been slaves to their circumstances, they never would have experienced the miracle Jesus wanted to give them, and they might never have become his followers and friends.  The fish simply weren’t there.  They hadn’t been there all through the night, when fishing was supposed to be good.  They certainly wouldn’t be there in the heat of the day. 

But Simon Peter and his partners did not listen only to their feelings.  They listened to Jesus.  They did not obey their circumstances.  They obeyed Jesus.  They gave him the last word.  They did what he said.  What happened?  They caught such a large number of fish that their nets began to break.  They had to call for help from another boat, and both boats were filled with fish!  Then they left everything and followed Jesus. 

Let’s take another look at Simon Peter’s words:“ Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything.  But because you say so, I will let down the nets.”  What if he had said it the other way around?  “Master, you tell us to let down the nets.  But we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything.”  He would have been giving the last word to his feelings and his circumstances.  His decision would have been dictated by emotions and events, not the word of the Lord.

You and I are tempted to do the same thing.  Thank God, we know the Word of God.  We hear it.  We read it.  We discuss it.  But sometimes, when the crunch comes, we give the final say to feelings and circumstances.  We are guided by emotions and events instead of God’s Word.  Listen to how it works:

  • “Jesus says he is always with me, but I feel so alone.”
  • “God tells me to forgive, but I am really hurt right now.”
  • “God’s Word says not to be afraid, but I’m facing some huge struggles.”
  • “The Lord wants me to work on my job as though I’m working for Him, but my boss is so hard to please.”
  • “The Bible tells us that the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin, but I feel so guilty, so dirty, so ashamed.”

That’s what happens when we give the last word to our feelings and our circumstances.  We’re walking by sight, not by faith.  That road leads nowhere good. 

Here is what Simon Peter actually said: “Master, we’ve worked hard all night and haven’t caught anything.  But because you say so, I will let down the nets.”  He acknowledged his feelings.  He recognized his circumstances.  But he gave the final say to Jesus.  He took action based not on his emotions or events, but on the word of the Lord.  Here’s how it works.  Here are the same five sentences with the clauses reversed, giving God the last word.  

  • “I feel so alone, but Jesus says he is always with me.”
  • “I am really hurt right now, but God tells me to forgive.”
  • “I’m facing some huge struggles, but God’s Word says not to be afraid.”
  • “My boss is so hard to please, but the Lord wants me to work on my job as though I’m working for Him.”
  • “I feel so guilty, so dirty, so ashamed, but the Bible tells us that the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin.”

What a difference!  What a transformation!  Now we’re walking by faith, not by sight.  Give God the last word.  Don’t deny your feelings or stuff your emotions.  Acknowledge them, express them, but don’t give them the last word!  Give God the last word, and feel your emotions begin to change!

Don’t ignore your circumstances or pretend that events aren’t happening.  Stay informed about what’s going on around you, but don’t let events dictate your decisions.  Give God the last word, and you will change the reality around you.  When one person changes his or her behavior, it changes the situation.

I love the command and promise of Galatians 6:9 — “Let us not grow weary of doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”  The proper time is God’s proper time.  It may come today.  It may happen tomorrow, or a year from now, or a decade from now.  It may not happen in your lifetime.  The harvest may come in the next generation or the generations after that.  It most certainly will come when we are together forever in heaven. 

Then God will have the everlasting last word:  “Welcome home!”