Author Archives: robert

Hope in the Lord

By Dick Koehneke

“Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles, they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” (Isaiah 40:13)

What does it mean to hope in the Lord?  Christian hope is not wishful thinking.  It’s being confident that God will keep His promises.  God has given us many wonderful promises.  There are two promises of our Lord that are especially helpful to me these days.  One is, “I am going to prepare a place for you; I will come back and take you to be with me where I am.”  The other is, “I am with you always, until the end of the world.” 

The first promise tells us that we have a home with God in heaven through faith in Christ.  Trusting this promise keeps our focus on what really matters:  not so much on the twists and turns of life in this world, but on our eternal destination in heaven, our true home.  Christ is preparing a place for you.  Someday he will come and take you to be with him.  The promised future of life with God in heaven gives us strength to deal with the struggles and challenges we face here on earth.  Someday we will be with our Lord, beholding his glory.  What a joyous day that will be, what a glorious day, what a victorious day!      

Until we are with our Lord in heaven, He is with us here on earth.  That’s the second promise I try to remember: “I am with you always, until the end of the world.”  The literal meaning of the word “always” in the original language is “all the days.”  Jesus is with you all your days on this earth:  on your good days, on your bad days, your high days and your low days, your days of success and your days of failure, your days of health and your days of sickness, your joyful days and your sad days, and also on those days when you’re just plain in a daze, when nothing is working and nothing makes sense. 

The song “Hills and Valleys” by Tauren Wells says it beautifully.  Here are the words to the chorus:

“On the mountains I will bow my life to the One who set me there.
In the valleys I will lift my eyes to the One who sees me there.
When I’m standing on the mountain I didn’t get there on my own.
When I’m walking through the valley I know I am not alone.
You’re God of the hills and valleys, and I am not alone!”

Our Lord is with you in the hills and valleys of life — “all the days” of your life.  Even on your lonely days, you’re not alone.  Jesus is with you, closer than your next breath, nearer than your next heartbeat.  He helps you take your next step, and the next one, and the one after that, until you take your final step across the threshold of heaven.  When the world ends, or when your life ends – whichever comes first – Jesus won’t be with you anymore, because you will be with him!  That’s why he says, “I’m with you until the end of the world.”  Then we’ll be with him in heaven!      

Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.  Our hope is not the same as optimism.  Optimism says, “Cheer up!  Things will get better.”  But sometimes things don’t get better.  Christian hope says, “Even if things get worse, if disaster turns into a meltdown, if calamity becomes catastrophe, God has a plan and a purpose for me.  My salvation is secure in Christ, the Lord is with me in all my experiences, and I have a home in heaven.” 

I invite you to say those words right now, either in your heart or out loud, pausing after each sentence to reflect and let God speak to your heart.  Here goes: 

  • “God has a plan and a purpose for me.”
  • “My salvation is secure in Christ.”
  • “The Lord is with me in all my experiences.”
  • “I have a home in heaven.”

“Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.  They will soar on wings like eagles, they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”  When you’re soaring on wings like an eagle, hope in the Lord.  You say you’re not soaring like an eagle?  You  may not be soaring, but maybe you’re running.  When you’re running and not getting weary, hope in the Lord.  You say you’re tired of running?  Maybe walking is the best you can do.  When you’re walking and not fainting, hope in the Lord.  It could be that you’re exhausted and you can’t walk anymore.  When you have no strength left, hope in the Lord.  Rest in him.  You don’t have to do anything.  Be still.  Let the Lord love you and care for you. 

“Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.”  Yes, Lord.  Let it be so.     

 

What’s Brewing – December 2018

The “Hurry Sickness” is alive and well at St. Arbucks! It is not just because “Tis the season to be rushing!” but rather it’s the daily mood and speed of today’s society.  Remember comic Lily Tomlin’s quote, “The trouble with the rat race is that even if you win, you’re still a rat!”?

As folks, young and old, hurry in and out of St. Arbucks this morning, we pondered the fact that many of us have the “Hurry Sickness”, big time, starting with me. Larry Dossey’s book, “Space, Time, and Medicine” puts it this way, “Just as Pavlov’s dogs learned to salivate inappropriately, we have learned to hurry inappropriately. Our sense of urgency is set off, not by a real need to act quickly, but through learned cues.” Our “bells” have become the internet, Facebook, texts, Instagram, and all the others – yes, even our morning Starbucks! (Quick aside – I recently saw a sweatshirt in St. Arbucks that read, “Sorry coffee, this situation calls for alcohol!”

The “Hurry Sickness” is very contagious, and some of us are actual carriers of it to others! It is easy to catch this illness. There is so much to do, so many events to plan for, so many people to see, and it’s on and on and on. Martin Luther was right when he exclaimed, “the hurrier I go, the behinder I get!” (Well, perhaps Luther didn’t say this, but he should have!”) We, or at least I, build in self-inflicted expectations into our daily lives. The book, “Time Management for Unmanageable People”, by Dr. McGee Cooper, claims that “hurry sickness” is a metaphor for all of those illnesses brought on or exacerbated by stress, rush, and internal and external constant pressure.  She adds:

  1. Messages from childhood tell us that faster is better.
  2. Modern society encourages hurry sickness – it’s everywhere we turn.
  3. Only a conscious effort to slow down will help “cure” us of hurry sickness.
  4. We all need to learn to balance “doing” time with “being” time. After all, we are human “beings” first, and then human “do-ers”.

Take a look at our lives – do we rush to be first in line? Do we get stressed out in gridlock traffic, even though our lives probably will not change if we are 10 minutes early or late? Do we finish each others’ sentences and rush ahead of the story? Do we skip breakfast or lunch to “save time”, or even eat on the go?   Do we not have time to stop and visit with a family member? And on and on!

I am reminded of a Charlie Brown cartoon that shows Lucy telling Charlie what’s wrong with him. When Charlie asks Lucy “What can I do about it?”, Lucy simply replies, “I don’t have the answers, my job is to only point out the problems!”

But rejoice old hurrying people of God! The spirit of our Lord continues to come to us with His reassuring words in Psalm 46:10 – “Be still and know that I am God”! I do not always listen but we do know through faith that He is there to calm the storms in our lives, and to settle us down with His peace, hope, and grace. He also sends caring people into our lives to help us to “Remember the Sabbath”, to lighten up, to calm down, and to help us to take time for spiritual renewal, solitude, and just plain rest!

Perhaps you have not caught the “Hurry Sickness”. Good for you! The Lord has given you the gifts to help those of us who have caught it to hear the reassuring message of the Lord through your caring, forgiving, and loving actions to us, the hurrying horde! And if you are infected with “HS”, watch for those special people around you like ….little kids, grandparents, spouses, staff persons, and other friends…who the Lord has placed into your life for you to sooth, listen, hug, and forgive!

May this day be a gift to each of us to take a deep breath, thank the Lord for all of our blessings, pray often, sit and do “nothing” for 15 minutes…and while we’re at it, let’s read Psalm 46:10 again and again ….and try not to get caught in rush hour traffic!

Rich Bimler

Just Watching – December 2018

For the past ten years Rich and Charlie Resources has bannered itself as an “An Encouraging Word For All Who Serve”.  That’s a lot of folks, too many actually.  So we have limited our chunk of “all who serve” to parents, pastors/teachers and/or parish leaders.  That’s still a lot of people.

It’s not that we don’t care about others.  At various times Rich I have been “others” by serving as national/regional church body officials, institutional executives and we’ve even dabbled a bit in academia.  Those activities and those who fill them are all valuable and important but we decided to zero in on chosen trio be they female or male, young or old, clergy or lay.  Now, on the edge of my 90s, I want to add to our bannered purpose an accent on the Super Senior segment of life for those who live as long as Rich, me and a growing number of older guys and gals.

A year ago my December JUST WATCHING featured two items related to our publishing concern.  One of them was a remembrance of a very uncommon “common” person, Nancy Starck.  Today, no longer with us, she rests in His peace.  The world is poorer for her passing.  Many were touched by my report on her life.  They told me so.

The other item I wrote about in that issue was not about a person, but a piece of art, an engraving by Cranach of a16th century family doing their Christmas.  Even though it was a detailed snapshot of life 400 years ago it had the feel of the 20th century family Christmases I experienced as a child in Wichita, Kansas during the 1930s.

I featured those two items in JW a year ago because in my opinion, there was nothing then (or now) better in this world than having a Christian friend like Nancy nor experiencing Christmas in a Christian family like the one with which I was blessed as a child.  Both had a “heaven on earth” feel that in liturgical language has been described as a “fore taste of things to come”.   

As a Super Senior (remember last month’s JW introduction of that term?), I am a year older than when I wrote about the wonder of Christian family ala Cranach and the joy of having a Christian friend ala Nancy.  A lot has changed for me as I moved another year’s march nearer Jerusalem the Golden.  During the year, the roll call of those that have reached our common goal has gotten larger while the circle of Christian families and friends, who remain with me on earth, though still unbroken, has not only gotten smaller but has changed in significant ways.  From now on I intend to write more about what has happened in my Super Senior world (and yours?) as I work through the wonder and mystery of exploring its unique and previously unrecognized aspects.

Do I need to remind both you and me that the Super in Super Senior is not a quality measurement, (I’m not better or more valuable than anything else on earth), but is a kind of a tag   marking my chronological niche in a changing world where people not only live longer than ever before but are living longer, longer?  Ours is not-your-grandpa’s-world, a fact that any who is still in motion past their eightieth birthday needs to recognize or they will be and remain out of step with life.

As an illustration of Super Senior change, Audrey and my world keeps getting more multi-generationally complicated.  We have children, grandchildren and great grandchildren, all of whom simultaneously attend one of our family gatherings.  When someone says, “Dad…”, three of us (me, my son and my grown grandson) all look up at the same time thinking someone is calling them.  Today it’s usually not me who is wanted, nor whose answer to a question is desired, nor whose opinion on a topic is sought.  As a matter of face I increasingly don’t understand pan generational concerns today and couldn’t give a useful answer if they wanted me to.  At family gatherings in 2018, generations can live in different worlds.  They can even try to communicate in different languages stemming from different experiences and different outlooks on life.  Sometime I don’t understand them even as they can have a hard time understanding Super Senior me.  When asked as a great grandpa to attend the birthday party of a three year old great grandchild they don’t think about my inner question, “Are there steps involved?”  Steps are a casual concern for my nimble descendants, but for me with my neuropathy and cumbersome walker it can be downright scary.  In responding to them I want to not only acknowledge their invitation with appreciation but also help them begin to see that one day they will be dealing with the challenges that come with the Super Senior life.  I want to do this without coming off as a self-centered, grumpy, old Crocker well past his prime.    

Rich and I want to help people nearing or in the Super Senior world.   With few experienced guides to show them the way, today’s Super Seniors need a kind of 21st century Yellow Brick Road TripTik so they can live the Super Senior life to its fullest.  Yesterday’s guidance doesn’t always help much.  Our ancestors didn’t deal with such a high volume of rapid change compressed into their lifetime as we do.  Not only did change happen more slowly then but life expectancy was lower.  Change was happening, of course, but at a different pace.  Not so today.   There’s no way to stop the world so that we can get off.   

However, guided by God’s Word and surrounded with help from other of God’s people of the past came at life the best way they could.  They adopted for themselves and then put into personal practice God’s plan for living effective lives no matter their age or the era in which they lived.   As the Spirit moved them, and as best they could, they dealt with their world and with one another in ways that reflected the love with which the Father dealt with them most clearly: in the redemptive life, death resurrection and ascension of Jesus, His Son and our Savior.  In the future as God gives it to me I want to share what I see of love at work in my Super Senior world.  While I still intend to hew to R and C Resources’ initial aim of providing encouragement for all who serve, I will have a special concern for those who are doing their serving as Super Seniors – and would you believe it – beyond. 

In the process I’ll try to weave into my writing a running report of how Audie and I are dealing with our own Super Senior life at Windsor Park (130 Windsor Park Drive C304, Carol Stream, IL 60188).  Lots of excitement.  Lots of change.  Lots of fun.

While we have the same e-mail: chassenior@aol.com there is a new land line 1-630-933-9495.  I’d give you my cell phone number, too, except I have a hard time remembering where I leave it and even when I know its location I often don’t get there in time to answer.  Besides, I’m never quite sure of my cell phone number since I seldom call me.  Oh, the joys of nearing 90 as a Super Senior, and of getting ready for another old fashioned Cranach-style Christmas. 

May yours be as blessed as I am sure ours will once again be marked by fun, family and a living faith.

Charlie

 

 

 

 

 

 

AH-HA Moments – December 2018

TRANSITIONING TEAMS IN CONGREGATIONS – THE TIME HAS COME!

Psalm 71 says it so well, “….Do not cast me away when I am old; do not forsake me when my strength is gone……..Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, O God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your might to all who are to come.”

It is time to take seriously the gift of aging in our homes, churches, and communities.  It is time to be specific and intentional about how we live out our Baptismal Promise with the younger and the older around us.

We choose sponsors for the newly baptized. We have mentors for our confirmation classes. We pledge at various “stages” on our faith journey  to pray for, support, encourage , and “share the faith” with others….but where are we as older adults go through their transition times of losing a partner, moving to a new facility, no longer able to drive, and dealing with other life changes?

How can our congregations better see, not only the needs of older people, but also their gifts and experiences which they are so willing to share and celebrate, if only asked to do so?

Our culture, as well as our congregations, continue to see aging, not as a blessing to celebrate but rather as a burden to endure! Our congregations continue to focus on “growing the church” with children and families and millennials, which is all well and good, but not at the expense of the fastest growing population – people 65 and older. Just imagine: 10,000 people are turning 65 TODAY…talk about a mission field! These people are NOT burdens to bear but rather blessings to continue to serve and to celebrate the faith, with people of all ages!

What would happen if congregations would finally take seriously the gift of aging? What would happen if “aging specialists” were trained to serve and empower older adults in their baptism walk through their congregations? What would happen if “transition teams”, comprised of the younger and the older, would be formed to be intentional about meeting the needs and releasing the gifts of their older adult members?  What would happen if our worship services would continue to involve “sponsors” and “encourAGERS”, not only at baptism and confirmation, but also for people as they reached the age of 65…and beyond? What a great way to celebrate age as a gift from the Lord, begun at Baptism, and to continue to intentionally proclaim the promise of the Risen Lord through all of life!

What would this “transition team” do? For starters, it would increase the awareness of both the younger and the older that aging is a gift and that people of all ages have needs as well as gifts to share. This team would focus on special opportunities to speak and live words of comfort and hope as older adults deal with illness, separation, meaninglessness, and loneliness, to name a few areas of need. This team would engage the older in meaningful ministries to others as well, through community events, hospital visits, volunteer opportunities, and time to put the younger and the older in “ministry range” of each other! How fun it would be if parish teams would produce videos for children to listen to the “old folks” tell stories of their pasts? Can you imagine all of the wonderful stories in the minds of older adults, who are willing to “toot and tell”, about their past …but no one is there to listen to them? These teams would “be there” as a voice, an ear, a hand, a smile, to enable people of all ages to age gracefully, especially as they deal with life’s changes.

These “transition teams” would bring added energy and gifts to people of all ages! It would model for the younger that aging is not something to deny and be fearful of. It would model for the older that they are not being forgotten in their aging years. (Read Psalm 71 again!) It would break down the current stereotypes we have of what it means to grow older, and the Church of Christ would prosper as generation upon generation would “declare the power of the Lord” to one another! What great AH-HA Moments these would be!

Sign me up! As a matter of fact, we all are already signed up for this transitioning task ……because of our Baptism!

Dr. Rich Bimler (with great gratitude to my mentor, Dr. Dick Engebrecht)

Ambassador of Health, Hope, and Aging (AH-HA!)

December, 2018

Wisdom Is Better

By Dick Koehneke

Please ponder these words with me for a few moments:  “Wisdom is better than strength.  But the poor man’s wisdom is despised, and his words are no longer heeded.  The quiet words of the wise are more to be heeded than the shouts of a ruler of fools.  Wisdom is better than weapons of war, but one sinner destroys much good.”  (Ecclesiastes 9:16-18)

In nearly four decades of parish pastoral ministry, one of the lessons I learned was this:  Don’t listen only to the people with the loudest voices.  Don’t pay exclusive attention to the people with the highest verbal skills. “The quiet words of the wise are more to be heeded than the shouts of a ruler of fools.”  To put it another way:  Sometimes the people who speak the least have the most to say. 

Sometimes, in the midst of a stressful situation or a complicated decision, the wisest thing a church leader can do is to go to a quiet, faithful person, someone who would never come to you, someone who would be petrified at the notion of speaking at a public meeting.   Go to that person one on one and ask this question:  “What do YOU think?”  Then listen.  Listen actively.  Listen very carefully.  “Wisdom is better than strength.”

Wisdom is better than weapons of war, but one sinner destroys much good.”  People in church leadership positions tend to apply that last phrase to other people.  We sometimes call them “alligators” or “antagonists.”  They are rare, thank God, but they do exist, and they need to be dealt with according to the Word and will of God.  It’s a tragedy when a leader is an alligator.  One influential person can “destroy much good.”  An antagonistic church leader (ordained, commissioned, or lay) can cause enormous problems.   You have influence, and it can be used wisely or foolishly.  Use your influence to build up, not to tear down.  Wisdom is better than strength.   

But the poor man’s wisdom is despised, and his words are no longer heeded.”  People tend to pay attention to people with worldly resources:  wealth, popularity, position.  The poor and weak are rejected and ignored because they don’t seem to have anything to offer.  How contrary this is to the ways of God!  Listen to the poor person, the unemployed person, the person in poor health, the person with no power, the person no one seems to know.  They are important people in God’s sight.  As Scripture says, God exalts the lowly and humbles the proud.  God chooses the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chooses the weak things of the world to shame the strong, so that no one may boast before him.

Jesus Christ perfectly personified this principle.  When Jesus was brought before the Sanhedrin after his arrest in Gethsemane, no doubt his accusers thought he was weak and foolish.  They treated him with contempt and abused him.  He didn’t say very much, did he?  But when he spoke in response to their accusations, he spoke words of wisdom:  “If I tell you, you will not believe me, and if I asked you, you would not answer.  But from now on, the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the mighty God.”  Wisdom is better than strength. 

Because Jesus humbled himself and became obedient unto death on the cross, God has exalted him to the highest place.  Because Jesus was humble and obedient, our sins are forgiven, and we too will be seated with him in the heavenly realms.  The foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.  “Wisdom is better than strength” after all.

What’s Brewing – November 2018

Here I am, sitting in a St. Arbucks, one of our world-wide offices, waiting for my friend to arrive. I look around and see fascinating sites that remind me, in numerous ways, of our congregations.  Some of my thoughts affirm and support what is happening in our churches on Sunday morning. Others, quite honestly, do not, and make me wonder why. Let me count the ways as I give you a quick synopsis through these observations:

  1. People are streaming in and out of the entrance in brisk fashion. They seem to be on a mission –to grab their favorite java and get back into their cars to fight the morning rush. No “greeters” needed – these folks know what they are after!
  2. The tables are full of people who are evidently not in a hurry but have a purpose in mind – to relax, to begin the day with a friend, to just enjoy the moment. There is a student working on an assignment. I see two business people evidently talking about their agendas and priorities for the day. There is a woman with 3 little kids, each sipping on something (hopefully not coffee) while the woman tries to keep them quiet. There are two older men in the corner studying the Scriptures together. There is a woman doing a crossword puzzle (who I later find out comes here every morning as a respite before she takes on the task of caring for her 90-something year old Mom.)
  3. I look outside and see 15-plus cars waiting patiently (hopefully) in the Drive-Through lane. A quick 3 minute survey I take shows that 63% of the drivers are women. Not sure what that means, but it is an interesting statistics, eh?! I equate the drive-through line as a modern day confessional booth, a kind-of “Toot and Tell”. Would that ever work in our churches? I ponder….and then I drop that idea!
  4. I wonder how many of our Sunday morning worshippers come to Church with the energy and passion that I see around me here? Evidently these people’s needs are being met and they are committed to doing whatever it takes to meet these needs. I am amazed how Starbucks is providing a quality product, at a fairly high price, to people of all ages, and providing quality service at the same time.
  5. I stop observing for a moment and wonder if I am comparing apples to oranges, so to speak. Come on, I say to myself, get real. People come to worship to praise the Lord, grow in the faith, celebrate the Sacraments, be the Communion of Saints in that place, and to be refreshed by the power of God’s Word as they head back into their world. Here at St. Arbucks we have people focusing on their own needs, their own lifestyles, and their own priorities.
  6. On the other hand, I am observing with my own eyes people of all ages who evidently see St. Arbucks as a “safe place”, a place to build community, a place that accepts them for who they are and even for how they look, a place where relationships can grow, and a place where their needs are being met. Some “take aways” for me as I “ponder anew what the Almighty can do….” is that we as God’s people can learn from St. Arbucks to focus on relationships, model celebrative ways to live, develop safe opportunities to grow, be intentional about “attracting” people of all ages, and to deliver a Message of love and caring, not in the name of Coffee, but in the name of Christ Jesus! Remember the old “Cheers” TV show and their theme song, “….a place where everybody knows my name.”? Now that is something for us to accomplish, at St. Arbucks, sure, but even more importantly in our own “Word and Sacrament” Community, called the Church!

And that’s what’s brewing at St. Arbucks this day!

Rich Bimler

Just Watching – November 2018

SUPER SENIORS

I don’t mean to brag but I’ve often unintentionally found myself on the early edge of many positive and truly progressive changes in our church especially when giving some new “dog” a name. 

Of course I’m smart enough to realize that just because a new title or term came to my mind early on doesn’t mean the name was my creation.  I was more likely little more an early user, not the coiner, of terms like Family Life Center, repositioning, Midweek Bible School, Post-Easter Youth Camp and pastoral assistant.  Each showed up and was adopted because they made sense in the context of congregational or personal pastoral necessity. Not all new words, mine or that of others lasted long.  Using “God’s Bank” to describe a congregational agency for collecting what is now known as “church extension funds” went south fast when we discovered it was illegal to use the word “bank” for anything that is not certified and controlled by the US government.   Eraser, please!

Interesting as all that may be it is rear-view mirror stuff, yesterday’s concerns.  Today I’m more concerned with a windshield issue that needs nomenclature attention, to wit: “What’s the best clarifying name we can use for the eruption of post-70 men and women flooding our world?”  If we are concerned with and willing to serve that mushrooming age group increasingly more women than men what shall we call it?

After fussing with that question for some time I am increasingly of the mind that they be called Super Seniors.  In adopting the term for myself I concluded that both words require serious consideration.  I found that the term has a generational feel suggesting both a remembrance of yesterday and a thoughtful evaluation of tomorrow both accenting life value and life circumstance.  Both of which are true.

Today’s Super Seniors are at an exceptional life moment rampant with potential.  Since I am determined as a near nonagenarian to keep banging away at the term Super Senior let me open my understanding of this critical life concern in this Just Watching with the negative: what-it-does-not-mean.

Super Senior does not insinuate in any sense a superiority of this life moment or of those who are living it.  Super Seniors are not qualitatively better than anyone – or anything.  They just are.  Those of us who are in our 80s, 90s or beyond do not have a physical, emotional, or existential leg up on any other  life moment as we are so rudely reminded each morning by our daily ration of aches, pains, awesome challenges and limitations.  How could we pose ourselves as better-than any of the millions of those younger than we are, even if but by a decade or two?  They surround us every day and could easily leave us in their dust in most life encounters.  However, be of good cheer.  There are some amazing up-sides to the Super Senior life that I’ll zero in on a little later.

But back on topic, Scripture has a delightful way of talking about the world of Super Seniors.  As an example read Psalm 90, verse 10 in particular.  Massage those words for their fullest meaning.  As you do so, think about the Psalmist’s take on the Super Senior years that such a comparative few have experienced since the dawn of history without reaching the remarkable stage in life that has been reserved for so many today.  The ages of those who lived before Noah aside it was not long after his watery years that life expectancy steadily settled to Psalm 90’s 60 or 70 years, and later in the Middle Ages less than that.

So it was that when the Prussian leader Otto Bismarck showed up in the 1880s suggesting that people retire from the work force with a governmental pension at 70 years of age – which just happen to also be the average life expectancy in his country at that time.  So, since most didn’t live long enough, his plan was more a PR artifice than a funded retirement.

Actually, average life expectancy didn’t increase by much from Bismarck’s day to when the Social Security Act was passed by congress under FDR in the 1930s.  While the promised monthly checks weren’t very large there weren’t many in the 1930s who qualified.  But then came WWII after which for many reasons life expectancy at birth in the USA began to grow until it reached the 70.5 years of age today.  Now don’t nod off on me.  Pay attention to the caveat, “…at birth”.  Audie, and millions of other Super Seniors in our country shot past that “at birth” date years ago.  We are on the edge of our ninth decade, our 90s, and in our lifetime have even picked up a projected additional life expectancy of over four more years.  And so have millions more.  With every new day our “D-day” is steadily moving further into the future.  A past morning TV program each day featured the name of people who had a 100th birthday.  They stopped that.  There were too many centenarians. 

Even cartoonists realized what has been happening over the past 50 years.  In one panel Peanuts and Snoopy are sitting side-by-side at the end of a pier peering into the sunset — or maybe a sunrise. 

Peanuts says, “Someday we will all die, Snoopy.” 

Snoopy answers, “True, but on all other days we will not.” 

Perceptive Super Seniors of today know that while physical death is certain for all it is not necessarily imminent.   We know we’ve got a lot of living to do before Elijah’s chariot is scheduled for us.  Audie and I still attend lectures on personal growth concerns, make ready our flowers for next Spring, eat healthy food to keep us strong for tomorrow, add to our savings account as we can and make our plans for next year’s family events.  There’s not many to help us with our tomorrows since Super Seniors are by the very nature of things pioneers.  Based on their personal experiences, who can show us how to live the Super Senior years to their utmost?   Nevertheless here we are facing our tomorrow while trying to figure out what, “For me to live is Christ,” means in 2018 and beyond.

Two things for sure:  

  1. Audie and I need to make exploring our Super Senior world a life priority;
  2. The church needs to pay much closer attention to the Super Senior world and to those in her ranks who are active in it.

Happy last birthday, all you guys, and the year(s) that lie between now and then –

Charlie

PS  I didn’t scare you did I?  If I did I won’t apologize.  It’s like Harry Truman’s come-back when people in a crowd would shout out, “Give ‘em hell, Harry!”   He’d answer, “I don’t give them hell – I just tell the truth and they think it’s hell.”

AH-HA Moments – November 2018

Here is the 30 day November calendar of day-by-day Notions to Noodle and Nibble on New ways to celebrate the Now days of November! Enjoy!

  1. Celebrate your Sainthood on All Saints’ Day!
  2. Do something NICE for a stranger – just because!
  3. Start the day with a St. Arbucks to remember that “Coffee is a Hug in a Mug!”
  4. Daylight Saving Time Ends – Will you be late or early for worship?
  5. Make this a Magnificent Monday, in the Lord!
  6. Election Day – Vote as if your vote counts …it does!
  7. Look for the Wows on this Wednesday – they are all around us!
  8. This Thursday is the time to do something for yourself ….because you deserve it!
  9. It is Martin Chemnitz’ Birthday today. If you don’t know him, Google him!
  10. Saturdays are good times to clean the house …or not! It’s up to you!
  11. Today is the 25th Sunday after Pentecost. Let the Spirit guide and inspire you!
  12. Make this Monday a Yummy Day! Give treats out to your special friends!
  13. Know anyone who has a birthday today? Call or e-mail them to say HI.
  14. This is Whimsical Wednesday, just because! Share a funny joke or story with a friend.
  15. How can you make this Thursday a Thrilling one for someone else?
  16. Pray for 16 people today, and let them know you did!
  17. Mark this as “Do anything you want to do” day …and go ahead and DO it, just because!
  18. Talk to 5 new people at worship this morning, and rejoice with them through Word and song!
  19. Make final plans for your Thanksgiving celebration this week and be sure to include the hungry, the hurting, and the harried.
  20. Think of some special treats to give some friends to make it a Terrific Tuesday for both them and you!
  21. Clean the house …Your company is on their way! Or, if not, a little dusting won’t hurt anything!
  22. BLESSED THANKSGIVING …..and THANKS-LIVING!
  23. Reflect on yesterday’s Thanksgiving events. What went well? What did not? See every day as a Thanks-giving day, in spite of the spilled gravy and spots on the rug!
  24. Try not to start your Christmas shopping and plans yet. Instead, indulge in prayers of Thanksgiving and keep the season focused on the Lord!
  25. This is the last Sunday of the Church Year! Rejoice and give thanks with some hearty AH-HA’s!
  26. Hooray for the last Monday of the month. What can you do to make it a special day?
  27. It’s national AH-HA Day, so tell one, or more, jokes to your friends. (Well, honestly, it really isn’t AH-HA Day, but let’s make it one anyway!)
  28. Work hard at making this Wednesday a Wow Day instead of a Worry Day. Yes, you can do it!
  29. Celebrate this Thursday as National Thirst Day, by drinking plenty of water…and remembering your Baptism as well!
  30. On this final day of November, we remember and give thanks to the Apostle, St. Andrew, for his faithful sacrifices and faith in the Lord. May we also continue to bring AH-HA Moments in the Lord to those around us.  Look out, December, here we come!

Blessed November as we continue to Noodle and Nibble on ways to Give Thanks and Live Thanks….. AH-HA-ing all the way Home!

Rich Bimler

Why 734 Pastors Quit

By Dick Koehneke

“Why 734 Pastors Quit (and How Their Churches Could Have Kept Them)”

(In many congregations October is Pastor Appreciation Month.  Here are excerpts from an article by Lisa Cannon Green that appeared in Christianity Today in January 2016.  I hope the insights it contains will be helpful and useful.)

No sabbatical. No help with counseling. No clear picture of what’s expected.  Hundreds of former evangelical pastors say these were the crucial elements missing from the final churches they led before quitting the pastorate.

A recent study by LifeWay Research points to ways churches can encourage pastors to stay in the ministry, said Ed Stetzer, executive director of the Nashville-based organization.

“Almost half of those who left the pastorate said their church wasn’t doing any of the kinds of things that would help,” Stetzer said. “Having clear documents, offering a sabbatical rest, and having people help with weighty counseling cases are key things experts tell us ought to be in place.”

In August-October 2015, LifeWay surveyed 734 former senior pastors who left the pastorate before retirement age in four Protestant denominations: the Assemblies of God, Church of the Nazarene, the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod, and the Southern Baptist Convention.

Trouble begins early, the survey indicates, with 48 percent of the former pastors saying the search team didn’t accurately describe the church before their arrival.

Their churches were unlikely to have a list of counselors for referrals (27%), clear documentation of the church’s expectations of its pastor (22%), a sabbatical plan for the pastor (12%), a lay counseling ministry (9%), or a support group for the pastor’s family (8%). Almost half say their church had none of these (48%).

Most expected conflict to arise, and it did: 56 percent clashed over changes they proposed, and 54 percent say they experienced a significant personal attack. Yet almost half say their training didn’t prepare them to handle the people side of ministry (48%).  “These things are interrelated,” Stetzer said. “If you’re burning out, chances are when conflict arises you’re not going to respond well, and that will make the conflict worse.”

Almost across the board, the former pastors report more negative views than 1,500 current pastors who answered the same questions a few months earlier, in March 2015.

Current and former pastors agree the job is demanding: 84 percent of current pastors and 83 percent of former pastors say they feel on call 24 hours a day, while 48 percent of each group say the demands of ministry often feel like more than they can handle.

The churches in which current pastors serve look markedly different, according to the surveys. Current pastors report their churches are more than twice as likely as those of former pastors to offer a sabbatical plan and a list of counselors for referrals, more than three times as likely to have a lay counseling ministry and a document listing expectations of the pastor, and more than four times as likely to have a pastor support group.

(My question:  What do you see here that you can use in your congregation?) 

What’s Brewing – October 2018

THE SURPRISING JOY OF OLD AGE – REALLY?

A recent article in Time magazine (September 17, 2018, Jeffrey Kluger, author)  takes a refreshing look at aging and happiness. Good for Jeffrey!  It’s a creative and affirming article which re-enforces what many of us have been saying around the theme “Celebrating God’s gift of Aging!” 

It reports on a 2006 study of a group of 30 year olds and a group of 70 year olds who were asked which of the two groups was likely to be happier. Both of them chose the 30 year olds. However, when those two groups were asked about their own happiness level, guess what, the 70 year olds came out on top! Other experts on aging have long been reporting that old age is often reported as a time defined, “not by sorrow, dread, and regret, but rather by peace, gratitude, and fulfillment.”

Another interesting tidbit shared is that, perhaps surprising as well, is that the middle-ager tends to be the most miserable, as compared to children and older adults. Life satisfaction tends to follow a U-shaped course, with the youngsters and the oldsters being content, celebrative, and satisfied. This is reported in the book, “The Happiness Curve”, by author Jonathan Rauch. (May, 2018).

What might these statistics and findings say as to how congregations are “treating” older adult ministries? Might these findings be a strong indication that we older adults need to spend more time with the youngsters in order to continue to train and model a more positive and celebrative ministry style of living? Might we oldsters consider how we can model and rub ministry shoulders with our own kids and other middle-aged people to help develop a more positive view of living for and with them? Perhaps we older folks need to be more intentional about changing our lifestyle pace from being “do-ers” to being “be-ers” ; that is, to share our gifts of listening, modeling, coaching, and encourAGING from the sidelines in order for the youngest and the middle agers to learn and develop positive attitudes towards and with each other. Now that could be both challenging and rewarding as we oldsters share the satisfaction we have developed by celebrating and serving others in the Lord!

A final quote from the article: “Yes, death is nonnegotiable…something that can only be delayed, never avoided. It’s a mercy, then, that when we do reach the end, so many of us arrive there smarter, calmer, and even smiling!”  And as we as God’s people move on to our heavenly home, we rest assured that the Lord has used us to serve and to celebrate with the younger, the middle, and certainly with our peers. May we all keep celebrating the joy of aging, in the Lord, whatever age we are!

Rich Bimler