Author Archives: robert

What Was I Thinking?

By Dick Koehneke

Recently I wrote about the subject of “navigating difficult conversations” using some insights from Sheila Heen, the co-author of the book Difficult Conversations.  She says, “In difficult conversations we need to become aware of our own internal voice.” 

That comment is true in any conversation.  When we’re not aware of what’s going on inside our heads, a conversation can turn into a confrontation.  When that happens, and when we reflect on the resulting communication meltdown, we might ask ourselves, “What was I thinking?” 

Let’s think about our thoughts before we have the next conversation.  Call it preventive reflection.  Maybe being aware of our thoughts ahead of time will help the conversation stay on a healthy track.  I can’t control the other person’s thoughts, but I’m supposed to be able to manage my own. 

Here are five thoughts that can make any conversation not only difficult, but painful.  They don’t come out of our mouths, but if they’re in our heads, that’s enough to cause problems.  

  1. “I’m here to fix you.”

When we see the other person as a repair project, we’re in trouble.  First of all, we probably don’t know what their problems are.  We might think we do, but as the saying goes, “When your only tool is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.”  Second, we can’t fix someone else’s problems; the best we can do is provide resources and support.  Third, that kind of superior attitude gets conveyed quite quickly to the other person, who is likely to respond with resistance, either passively or aggressively.

  1. “If you knew what I know, you would agree with me.”

Oh, so the problem is the other person’s ignorance, right?  Now I’m the great authority, the all-knowing source of important information for the other person to absorb, so that he or she can align with my absolutely correct thinking.  No room for learning on my part, is there?  If the other person thinks I see him or her as an ignoramus, they’re not likely to be open to my self-styled wisdom and insight.  In fact, they may decide to live down to my expectations, like this:  “If this guy thinks I’m an idiot, I’ll just go ahead and act like one.”   

  1. “When you reach my level of maturity, you’ll understand.”

Now the problem is not the other person’s lack of knowledge, it’s their immaturity.  Do you think the person who is truly mature ever feels mature?  Maturity is an ongoing process of becoming one’s best self.  True maturity involves humility and a desire to learn and grow.  Many years ago I was in an older pastor’s office.  On the wall there was a plaque that said, “I thought I finally got it all together, but now I can’t remember where I put it.”  Beautiful! 

  1. “My job is to talk. Your job is to listen.”

Ah yes, I’m the master of the monologue.  No comments from you, please.  What I’m saying is too important for you to interrupt.  Besides, I’m afraid that if you interrupt my train of thought, I might run off the rails and not be able to get back on – but I don’t want to admit that, so I just keep talking.  I don’t care if you’ve stopped listening.  I’m going to keep doing my job no matter what:  talking. 

  1. “I know what you’re thinking.”

How do you know?  Omniscience is an attribute of God, not man.    If I think I know what you think, that gives you the right to think you know what I think.  That’s a prescription for relational disaster.  As someone has said, “Overconfidence gives you the courage to act on your faulty convictions.”

Maybe I’m the only one who ever has thoughts like these.  Or maybe not.  What thoughts might  you add to this list?

On the other hand, here are some very different sorts of thoughts to keep in mind in advance of the next conversation. 

  • “I respect you.”
  • “I will listen to you.”
  • “I hope to learn from you.”
  • “I would like to know you better.”
  • “I’m glad we don’t think alike.”

Those are thoughts I want to have.  Can you add some more?  

What’s Brewing – September 2019

Welcome to another coffee-conversation of “What’s Brewing at St. Arbucks? We encourage you to find your “St. Arbucks” in your neighbor and gather regularly with folks to pray, study, share, laugh and support one another in love. We just heard from some friends who say they prefer meeting at Panera’s because their cinnamon rolls are much better!  Remember, cozy and creative communications can happen anywhere cozy and creative people meet. That reminds me of a T-shirt my daughter gave me for a birthday present that reads, “Friends Don’t Let Friends Drink Starbucks!” Of course, it’s printed by Dunkin’ Donuts!

Our conversations got a little more heated and “political” as we started asking ourselves “What is the role of a person of God in the current struggles and battles in our government today around civility, truth, “fake news”, leadership styles, and the role of the Church in all of this? One person mentioned his grandson who said he was confused because he was chastised by his teacher the other day by saying some of the same words that he heard the President of the United States say on TV! On a more personal level, how is it that some of my really good friends have some strong views than I personally oppose regarding the current political battles in the U.S.? Whose “side” is right? Why do we even have “sides” to defend, both in our own government as well as in our own church bodies?

A good friend and I had an intriguing conversation around how various people respond to the current political battles around us. There are basically three ways in which we respond to conflicting situations:  We can FIGHT, we can FLEE, or we can FREEZE. We FIGHT by trying to prove we are “right”. We speak out, we argue, we make our case, if only the “others” would see things the “right” way. We FLEE by running away from the “issues” that face us. We convince ourselves that it’s someone else’s job to “fix” things. So we go along , thinking our voice does not count, our vote does not count, and we may even think that it is time to flee to Greenland (If the U.S. hasn’t bought it yet!). We FREEZE, like the little bunny in our yard that sees a big animal approaching but hopes that he won’t be seen. We FREEZE by not doing anything at all, except to keep our opinions to ourselves, turn off the evening news, and somehow try to convince ourselves that “everything will work out okay”.

Our St. Arbucks’ discussion focused on one more word …and that word is FAITH! What does our faith have to say to how we respond to the world’s situations? What is Jesus saying to us as He walked the land sharing and proclaiming unconditional love, loving those who hated him, serving those of all races and gender? When Jesus said “Love Thy Neighbor” did He really mean that we should not hurt or harm our neighbor? Where does our FAITH show up in our political discussions, both in our congregations as well as in our daily lives? One of our coffee-klatch persons closed off our discussion with these words, by Henri Nouwen: “For Jesus, there are no countries to be conquered, no ideologies to be imposed, no people to be dominated. There are only children, women, and men to be loved.” 

And that’s what’s brewing at St. Arbucks this month! Thanks for joining us!

Rich Bimler

 

 

Just Watching – September 2019

I wasn’t sure what to feature in this month’s Just Watching so I decided to review what I had written in the September issues of the last two years.  Guess what.  As far as my life is concerned it was the same-old-same-old topic: change. 

Change has been a constant in my life.  The Latin saying, “Tempore mutantur et nos mutamur in illes” has held true for me since my Day One.  (Of course, all you Latin students know that phrase means, “The times are changing and we are changing in them”.  Right?)  

What is and has been true for me has also been true for others.  A year ago I wrote: “It looks to me that Henry Lyte’s 1847 hymn, “Abide With Me”, had it right: “…change and decay in all around I see…”.  Change for sure.  Decay?  Maybe, or so it seems when I see myself in the shaving mirror.  Who is that old man looking back at me?  Change?  Maybe decay?” 

Lest you think I am about to launch into a rant about ageing let me assure you that even as I wrote that last paragraph the rest of Lyte’s verse was on my mind: “… Oh Thou who changest not abide with me”. 

Henry completed this hymn three weeks before he died of progressive and diagnosed tuberculosis.  That last line makes this hymn a great profession of faith.  The way he peppered his end-of-life composition that explores change with the pronouns “I” and “me” has made it a Christian faith favorite for nearing 300 years. Throughout my 90+ years change has been a challenging and continuous constant. 

Changes have forced me to daily adjust my life.  Things as every-day (now) as the telephone, zip codes, television, automatic transmission and computers have kept my change world spinning.  (Explain to your grandchild why the noise they hear when their cell phone is activated is called a dial tone.)

Add to those representative change areas the radical social and religion changes with their new norms that we face day in and day out, the augmented educational expectations that elementary school children today face (intellectual challenges I didn’t meet until college), the shifting moral and sexual standards of today, even what was thought to be time-honored family values.  A popular saying of a few years ago put it right, “This ain’t your grandpa’s world!”  It sure ain’t.  Lots of change going on together with lots of decay by my standards.     

As a Lutheran Christian church worker, I have found it helpful to re-read and reflect on Concordia Seminary’s Dr. Paul Raabe’s article of a few years ago.  It was about the new world that LCMS congregations and her individual members cope with today.  In the article he listed a few of the more sweeping (and usually overlooked) life situations Lutherans face today.  He calls them, “Elephants in the Room”.  Let me share a few and then leave it to you to determine how each plays out in your personal/congregational/denominational world. 

Elephant 1.  A huge mismatch exists in what our church body faces in that when founded most congregations and schools of the LCMS were in the middle of the USA (half of all Lutherans still live within 500 miles of Chicago)  and in rural areas while most of the US population has shifted to the coasts and in major metropolitan areas. 

Elephant 2.  The LCMS (locally and nationally) needs to reach the multi-ethnic population of the U.S., (Hispanics, Africans, and Asians, for example) and find new ways for attracting them to the LCMS’s predominately Caucasian congregations – and how to invite and accept them into our homes and families as well.

Elephant 3.  What can we do about the rising tide of non-church-attendance at both the local and national level?  Surveys show that on any given Sunday only 18% of the U.S. attend a church service…over 80% do not.  What’s the story in your congregation – and why?

Elephant 4.  How can we work in the USA’s multi-religious environment not only with non-Christian religions but also with many different versions of Christianity?  Many have been turned off by their preconceived distortions of the Christian faith and life – at least of the Christian faith and life in which I was reared.

Elephant 5.  The biblical illiteracy among church-going Christians is awesome.  Many Christians cannot speak or think in larger biblical categories; they only know a few biblical sound bites.  Along with that many Lutherans are unfamiliar with the basic documents of our denomination like the Small Catechism.

Elephant 6.  The church no longer represents how life at its best is lived today.  What writes the script for the best view of life today are the entertainment industry, social media, corporate America, radical individualism and current popular and/or political ideologies.  As a result, the life of many Christians differs very little from that of non-Christians.

Dr. Raabe wrapped the challenges implicit in his Six Elephants article with:

“Every generation is called to be faithful in its own time and place, to confess the truth of the gospel (Galatians 2:5), to teach the written Word of God in its truth and purity (2 Timothy 2:15; 3:15-17), to walk in the ways of the Lord (Isaiah 2), to proclaim repentance unto the forgiveness of sins to all nations (Luke 24:44-49).  With such huge, overwhelming, elephant-like challenges facing us, we are tempted to lift our hands and cry out in utter despair.  But it is still 2019 anno domini – the year of the Lord.  Jesus the Messiah, crucified and risen for all, is that Lord.  Therefore, our labor in his name is not in vain.”

So…

How are you dealing with the Six Elephants internally and in your family, church and community?  Denying that the Elephants do not exist in your world is whistling in the dark.

I once saw a book plate featuring a sailing ship hull down heading toward for the horizon and the words, “More to Come”.  That’s a very Biblical take on life both existentially (our day-in-day-out stuff) and eternally (Henry Lyte’s abide-with-me views).  We are all copies of that ship with sails full and billowing, driving through the waters toward a horizon beyond which we cannot see and beyond which (as some see the future) we will topple into oblivion.  Or, as people of God past and present believe they are heading with Henry and millions of God’s people past and present toward and into what is a welcoming home port. 

As for me and my house we believe there’s more to come – and more to do – until as we are safely harbored with Him.

Meanwhile, as Audie and I move on into another of life’s chronological levels an do so in a brand-new residential arena we do so with confidence believing that:

 “… yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery while today is His gift – which is why we call it the present.”

Whoever originally authored that phrase is not important.  Knowing that it is true, is.

Audie and I have found ourselves weathering the most challenging August of our lives.  We are bruised but not broken.  September already filled with the promise of more change creep closer and closer.   Oh, Thou who changes not, abide with us – and with you.

Vaya con Dios,

Charlie

AH-HA Moments – September 2019

How much laughter do you hear around your church these days? Do you hear giggles, chuckles, and even some guffaws in the entrance ways, hallways, and even during worship itself?  If you do, keep it up! If you do not, why not start a new group, entitled the LLM – “Let’s Laugh More”!

The best AH-HA Moment of all is to continue to realize that the Lord has risen! He has died for us! He gives us new life each day! Let’s keep that focus as we share our faith through laughs and joyful hearts and holy giggles as we sing, pray, baptize, receive the Holy Supper and hear God’s freeing Word of love, joy and forgiveness!

Here are some signs of health, hope, and laughter in the parish. Watch for them:

  1. There is a vision! It is God’s vision of faith and hope and we are empowered to articulate it.
  2. There is a celebrative spirit. There is laughter, smiles, and hugs. And even in the tears, there is love and acceptance.
  3. There is a passion for people. Faith communities know that “God so loved the world….”and that includes everyone, those inside and outside of our faith communities. There is a passion to tell others of God’s love for them, especially to those who think God has forgotten them.
  4. There is a sense of hope! Hope is not a naïve wish that things will go well. Rather it is the assurance that in spite of the Good Fridays in our lives, there is always an Easter!
  5. There is a global mindset. We see the Lord alive in all of life throughout the world with all of His people and we help others connect with other cultures, ideologies, and environments.
  6. There is a sense of “taking care” of ourselves as individuals but not at the expense of those “outside’ of the Church. We are not a country club with membership for those who only look, act, and live like we do. The only membership requirement is for all of us to be sinners – and redeemed sinners at that!
  7. There is a servant-leadership style. We do not “pay” the pastor and other staff members to DO the ministry for us, We support them to equip and encourage all of us to be ministers of the Gospel where ever we live and go.
  8. There is the proclamation of the Gospel in doing, telling and being. The gospel is alive because the Spirit is present, and the Spirit does not live in the church building but rather in the hearts of all of us as we move and live and celebrate in our daily lives.
  9. There is a lot of “Resurrection Practicing’ going on! As Wendell Barry, a modern prophet, puts it, “Expect the end of the world. Laugh. Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful though you have considered all the facts. Practice Resurrection!
  10. There is forgiveness! Life is for giving and life is forgiving. We live out a life of forgiveness because He first has forgiven us!

The next time you worship at Church, greet your fellow members with a laugh, a smile, and a hug….and then let worship and the fun begin!

Rich Bimler

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Downsizing

By Dick Koehneke

This is only the second time I’ve written about aging in these pages – or anywhere, for that matter.  I’m inspired to do so by the excellent writings and insights of Rich Bimler and Charlie Mueller. 

Speaking of Rich and Charlie . . .

I remember the 1989 LCMS Youth Gathering in Denver, Colorado, when I had the great joy of baptizing Rich and Hazel’s infant grandson Matthew in front of  thousands of people.  Matthew’s parents Marty and Diane (Bimler) Cillick were members of the congregation I was serving in New Jersey.  Rich thought we should let some more people share in the joy of Matthew’s baptism.  I thought that was a great idea, and I still do.  Thirty years later, Rich continues to bless me in so many and varied ways.

As for Charlie Mueller:  What a strong force for good he has been in my life, and continues to be.  I first met him at a gathering of pastors during my vicarage year of 1969-70 when I was assigned to a congregation in Long Island, New York.  I remember thinking when I met Charlie and heard him speak, “Wow, this man is really something special!”  I still think that, more than ever.  Little did I know, at the unripe young age of 24, that Charlie would be such an important person in my life for the next 50 years – and counting, thank God.

Now about the subject of aging . . .

“The secret that all old people share is that you really haven’t changed in all these years.  Your body changes, but you don’t change at all.  And that, of course, causes great confusion.”  That’s a quote from the late British novelist Doris Lessing.  It’s found in the new, excellent book Elderhood by Dr. Louise Aronson.

The Lessing quote speaks to me.  The basic personality of an individual stays the same despite the physical changes that aging brings.  For the believer in Jesus Christ, although your personality doesn’t change with the passage of time, spiritually speaking you’re actually being changed for the better, to become more and more like Christ as the Holy Spirit works in you.  “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.” (2 Corinthians 4:16)

I think the entire passage is profound and wonderful (2 Corinthians 4:16-5:7).  Here it is. 

“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

“For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.

“So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight.”

That’s the key, isn’t it?  We walk by faith, not by sight.  Our assessment of ourselves and our situation is based less on our own external appearances and more on God’s eternal promises – less on our emotions and more on our convictions – less on how we feel and more on what we believe.

We understand more and more what the apostle Paul meant when he said, “When I am weak, then I am strong.”  In our weakness we turn to God for strength.  God is the Source of true and lasting strength that transcends circumstances.  When He gives us His strength, we are strong in supernatural power, even though our muscles and bones may be weakening.  We’re growing while we’re groaning.

Which brings me to the title of this essay:  “Downsizing.”  I wonder if the metaphor of downsizing – moving from a larger place to a smaller one – might be appropriate for the process of aging.  As our bodies age, as our physical “house” becomes smaller, we learn to adapt to smaller space.  “Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.”  As we lose some strength and mobility, we compensate by adjusting our expectations and finding ways to work within our limitations.  We draw on a reservoir of  endurance and wisdom acquired over decades of experience, to deal with the changing situations that aging brings. 

In short, we view the body/person tension (see  Doris Lessing’s quote above) as a normal part of a grand – if not always glorious – learning experience.

Just Watching – August 2019

Charles Darwin once wrote, “It is not the strongest of a species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.”

I am by no means a Darwinian evolutionist (sounds ominous) but that statement makes sense to me.  From my current Robinson Crusoe (remember him?) take on life, I am convinced that change is a constant.  The “three C-s” I was told were coming my way as I age — Cataracts, Cancer and Change — have all arrived as foretold.  Now either I handle each of them or they will handle me. 

As with Robinson Crusoe, Super-Seniors are living in a world like none they had previously known and, worse yet, it is constantly changing and in such unpredictable ways.  It reminds me of the best car I ever owned, a 1970 Volvo.  I grieved when I finally had to let it go not because the engine, the ignition system or the transmission failed.  They were sturdy to the end.  I had to get rid of it because as the car aged, I couldn’t keep up with the down time and the cost of replacing quarter-sized seals, tiny electric connectors and endless crucial small rubber parts that didn’t cost much themselves but were crucial to continued driving.  

Much the same thing happens to our bodies as we age.  Cartilage we ignored through our earlier life as it protected our joints wears paper thin and dissolves.  Further, all our five basic senses weaken as we age calling us to buy hearing aids, better eyeglasses and one or more safety devices for seniors.    

Now my latest.  Have you ever heard of “Sensory Neuropathic Cough”?  After years of preaching full voiced a dozen or more times a week I would suddenly start coughing in uncontrollable spasms.  I thought it was bronchitis or a growth.  Wrong.  After the doctor fed a small video camera into my nostril and down my throat (yes, that can be done) I watched SNC as it did its thing.   One suggested treatment involved an $800 a month prescription that has helped some who deal with SNC – and thousands of Super-Seniors do.  My own “50 cent solution” is to stop teaching.   So, at 90 years of age I am no longer able to serve the half dozen classes a week I have been serving for the last ten years.  That is an example of change at work on a massive scale for me, for the five classes and for the parish that now must find replacements.

I’m not telling you all this to vent a personal problem or seek sympathy.  I share this experience in response to Charles Darwin’s observation that the survivors in life do so by making changes, some large, some small.  I am a survivor as are five great classes that have already made adjustment and Trinity parish itself.  All will change, survive and thrive.

For years when I’ve shared upside-down life stories in Just Watching I’ve been encouraged to do so by “me-too-messages” responses I’ve had from readers.  I don’t cough as I report my experiences, so I write instead of speak even though I also produce a lot of two-finger typos.  My experiences may all be new to me, but they are obviously not unique.  To varying degree the nearly 500,000 Super-Seniors in the USA deal with one or more of the same physical-mental-emotional “worn out parts” that affect the post 85 years.  Previously inexperienced loneliness crops up without warning.  New kinds of ailments, major or minor, claim you as a latest victim.  Uncertainty about the future is a constant as are a myriad of other changes that pop up unannounced as we grow older. 

Some dismiss any or all of that as just more end-of-life-issues.  OK.  Maybe.  If they say so.  But I come at them as end-of-life-realities which call me and my peers to pay attention to what’s happening and focus on life to its fullest as we head for home. 

As I do so four items, guided by the Spirit and Scripture based, come to my mind.  They want my attention.  Yours, too.

Item One:   There’s more in Scripture about living life effectively as a Senior and Super-Senior than any other age segment in life.  Did you realize that? It strikes me that God knows that I – you, too – need all the help we can to make the most of our numbered days.  There’s a reason God called to full time service OT people like Abraham, Moses, Miriam and Sarah and many others when they were well into their 80s.  He’s not done with us just because we are long in the tooth.

Item Two:   Ecclesiastes 12:1-7 very specifically lays out what had been going on in the life of Seniors and Super-Seniors in the distant past.   Solomon’s view of it looks depressing and all downhill.  About all people could do as life deteriorated over time was bear up under deteriorating change and turn to for help to whatever balms, potions and remedies they found through experience or in nature.  Before the 18th century there was not much that could be done with worn out human parts or their perceived inevitability.  But with the 19th century things changed dramatically as Gerontology in all its glory exploded on the scene introducing wondrous medical discovery after medical discovery.  Together they set the stage for health, healing and hope in our new and different world.

Item Three:   There’s no reason today for dreary talk about being “over the hill”.   God’s children today are to attack life at every stage as they say and to love in every way they can imagine for as long as they are able.  I am inspired by what the many Seniors and Super-Seniors are saying and doing who love it here at Windsor Park and at my home parish to say nothing about doing so in their families and various communities.

Item Four:   I have a special concern akin to that of Solomon.   He wrote Ecclesiastes with all its remarkable insights and advice to coming generations about making the most of their moment but his opening sentence of chapter 12 is an unabashed appeal to those who are young and just starting out in life: “Remember your Creator in the days of your youth.”  That’s his way of saying, “With the Lord begin thy task…”, the hymn those of us who at 12 years of age were preparing for service to the Lord in the church.  The question I till struggle with as a Super-Senior is, “What can I do to help those who are young see, accept and delight in how their Father in heaven cares for them?”

Truth to tell that’s the same question I ask each day about how to best help my Super-Senior peers care for themselves and others who they love. 

For myself, I start each morning by walking through Psalm 103.  What a way to start the day or end it, too! 

Blessings, Charlie

What’s Brewing – August 2019

A letter to Mr. and Mrs. Hallmark, C/O Hallmark Cards:

Thank you, Hallmark family, for providing greeting cards for all occasions through these many years. You have enabled and encouraged people of all ages to remember their loved ones with birthday and anniversary greetings. You have provided greeting cards to comfort the bereaved, encourage the newlyweds, welcome the new baby, and in general, to encourage people to reach out to friends and neighbors with thoughtful, meaningful, loving, and even clever and humorous ways. And for this we give you thanks!

However, I do have a very serious concern about the way you continue to portray people 50 years and older. As a matter of fact, I would even suggest that your company is one of the biggest industries that continue to view old age as negative and youth as positive. Your messages continue to be in denial about the process and blessings of aging. You portray aging as something that must be denied rather than a gift from the Lord to be celebrated.

May I strongly suggest that you change your mindset and attitude about aging and see aging as a blessing to celebrate rather than a burden to bear; to no longer see aging as a problem to fix or a disease to be cured, but rather as a powerful, rational, life-long process that connects all of us as one community of people – children, youth, adults, and older adults.

Let me hasten to encourage you to continue to share and use the gift of laughter, joy, and humor that is so evident in so many of your greeting cards. People of all ages need to laugh and “lighten up” more in this serious world of ours! The key is that you, and all of us, help people to laugh at themselves, rather than laugh at others who are different that we are. Help us to look in the mirror each morning and laugh out loud at what we see! Help us to take each other “less seriously” and take the Lord and His blessings to us very seriously. Remember that “aging is the only way to live”!

I like to laugh. I am Lutheran so I like to “make fun” of Lutherans. Why pick on the problems of the Methodists? Lutherans have enough problems of their own! I am 79 years old, so I like to laugh at the dumb things I do as an older person, rather than having someone else do it to me. Help us to laugh at ourselves before someone else does! Let the older laugh at themselves and not at the younger, and let the younger make fun of themselves, and not of the older.

What kind of message are we adults sending to younger people if we continue to portray them/us as forgetful, crippled, dependent, and always needing help? Sure, many of us are more dependent on others than we had been. Yes, some of us are even HARD OF HEARING! But that does not make us any lesser an individual, or of lesser value that the younger, Life is not over when a person “retires”! Perhaps we need to change the word “retire” to the word “re-position”, as older adults become even more important to serve as mentors, examples, forgivers, and friends of people of all ages as they continue to age gracefully by using their gifts.

Recently I spent some time in one of your lovely stores. The clerks probably thought I was “casing the joint” for a possible robbery, but I spent “hours” ready your birthday cards, especially as they related to older people. Here are some “good examples” of “bad examples” I found, which, to me, portrays aging as a negative journey, a frightful experience, a dead end, and something that should be shunned rather something to celebrate and seen as a blessing. I recall the story of two little kids at a funeral looking at the casket of an 88 year old man. “What did he die from?”, one asked. The other said, “Don’t get too close to him. They say he died of old age!”

Here is a small sampling from the Hallmark shelves:

  1. “You couldn’t wait to get older. You can stop now!”
  2. “Aging is something we all must face – You – sooner. Me – later!”
  3. “Don’t worry. You’re not old. You’re just a young person that a lot has happened to.”
  4. “Remember when you used to laugh at people who were old? Now, what was so funny?”
  5. “Birthdays are like cocktails. The more you have the less you feel like keeping count.”
  6. (Picture of an elephant on the cover) – Inside it reads….” Feel Ir-elevant “? Welcome to the club!
  7. “Remember when you were young and handsome? “Me neither!”
  8. “Fairy tales can come true, it can happen to you – when you’re YOUNG-at-HEART. Sorry, Frank Sinatra, but I wouldn’t count on it at your age!”

Clever? Sure. Cute? I suppose. But let’s make sure we continue to laugh and celebrate WITH older people instead of laughing AT them!

Rich Bimler

AH-HA Moments – August 2019

One of the many blessings of living together and connecting with people of all ages is how we can learn from each other, celebrate together, and support one another in the Lord’s ministry! “Joining Generations” a project of Prince of Peace, Carrolton, Texas, is an amazing ministry that brings young people and older adults together to help build stronger relationships and partnerships – and to change the perceptions that the younger and the older have of each other. High school students and older adults spend significant time regularly discussing various life issues as they listen and learn from each other. Congratulations to Pastor Ken Holdorf, Nick Weiss, and Mary Manz Simon (board member of ALOA) for making this happen! ALOA, the expanding national older adult ministry organization, is partnering with this parish on this project, including taping “Faith Stories”, which are available from ALOA (aloaserves.org).

Here are samples of some “AH-HA Moments” and quotes from young people who have experienced this generational ministry. Listen in, and consider how you might replicate this generational ministry in your parish and home:

“The main lesson I learned is that people need to view older people as useful people who are constantly evolving in our society.”

“I learned that seniors go through a lot pf physical, mental, and emotional pain when transitioning. It is hard for them to stay content when their whole lives are changing.”

“This project made me realize that senior adults aren’t useless and have a big role to play in our community. I loved spending time with them and getting to know what it was like for them to grow up in their era.”

“I learned that they are not very much different from me and that we can still have common interests.”

“One old perception I had is that older adults were lazy and slowly decaying people. However, I found out that they are constantly trying to find ways to live healthier and to stay in good condition.”

“I learned that certain older adults lose certain skills and others retain them. I also noticed that they are some of the most positive people. I see them as wise, thoughtful, capable,  and as people worth listening to.”

“This “Joining Generations” project has really changed my perspective about older adults. Too many think seniors are just there and don’t do anything. It really changed my point of view in the way that seniors and teens can share concerns and problems of loneliness, respect, and looking for love.”

What an “AH-HA Moment” this ministry has become! For more information, contact www.ALOAserves.org , and consider starting your own ministry of “Faith Stories” between the younger and the older!

Just Watching – July 2019

Here comes another of my “perennial” reports that is written, first, for other post-85 perennials – then to pre-perennials of any age who must deal with us, or who may to their surprise become one of us.  It happened to me – I never expected to be 90 years old.  It will happen to others. You.  Maybe? 

This month’s report is wrapped around two real life adventures Audie and I had involving unexpected trips to the hospital – an EMT experience (me last year) or an Urgent Care experience (Audie, this year) each ending up at Alexian Brothers Hospital. 

Last year’s EMT run began for me at home.  I don’t know how I landed on the bathroom floor in the middle of the night.  I had a 104 temp, later attributed to an internal infection.  When the two EMT guys arrived and picked me up they started by asking three questions: 1) What’s my name?  2) What year is this?  and 3) Who is president?  I got my name right but my other two answers of, “1985” and “Reagan” earned me a mid-night ride to Alexian Brothers Hospital followed by a four day stay.  So much for creative repartee.

This year’s hospital adventure is an Audrey story.  It started with her experiencing a wildly pounding and erratic heartbeat that demanded a 6 AM run to the nearest Urgent Care Facility.  (In other places that is sometime called an Emergency Room.)  Even though we had moved recently I fortunately knew where our nearest was.  By whatever name do you know where yours is?  Just in case?

The Urgent Care in-take doctor immediately examined her, gave her the first of many tests, electronically consulted with a distant specialist who is on call somewhere 24/7.  After some long distant conversation between the two doctors I was abruptly asked whether I was ready to drive her to the hospital immediately or should they order an ambulance.  That’s when we realized this was serious.  I drove. 

By the time Audie and I got to the ER of the hospital she had been already been electronically pre-admitted, the results of all her Urgent Care tests had been forwarded, the hospital’s medical intake team was ready and waiting, a hospital room had been assigned to her as soon as she had been properly prepped.  Wow! 

The rest of her story about her erratic heartbeat and the subsequent treatment may come later.  It was remarkable.   But the Lessons for The Day, first for me and then for my shrinking pool of perennial peers needs more immediate attention.

Start with this: Audie and I are not a couple of chronic hypochondriacs.  We are just two 90-year-old Super-Senior perennials who are finding out to their surprise that some body parts are worn down while others have essentially worn out.  Hence our recurring medical experiences.  They are nothing new.  We have noted time and again that Super-Senior are living longer and are living longer longer. 

Surprising as has been our rising awareness of the medical problems that attend our l-o-o-o-ngevity condition is discovering the amazing changes that have quietly taken place in the medical field as we have been getting older.  The result of all this is that we face life and death choices that even our most recent ancestors did not have.  Is that good?  Bad?

For instance, a wide range of for medical specialists have developed who have committed a big chunk of their life preparing to answer our special Super-Senior needs.  GPs properly refer us to them at the drop of a hat. Whether in the hospital or in their offices these specialists do their highly skilled thing and then quietly move out of our world like ships passing in the night.  God bless them.  Three or four of them played a part in meeting Audie’s recent need.  Without them she was facing a stroke or heart attack, common Super-Senior experiences in much of the recent past.  But practicing their skills effectively presents a question for those who are older: “Now that due to their expertise many of us are living longer what are we to do with our added years?” 

If you don’t think that vast changes have taken place in the practice of medicine during our lifetime let Audie give you her insight.  While sitting in her room I chanced to survey the multitude of dials and hoses and cords affixed to the walls around her bed and also at the rolling electronic cart the nurse towed along and on which she recorded all kinds of results as she made her rounds.  Audie started her professional life as a graduate nurse.  I asked her, “When you started working what of all you can see was then in a hospital room?”  She answered, “The bed (and a much different and more basic one at that) and the pole on wheels from which we occasionally hung a drip bag.”  That’s it.  “Toto, we aren’t in Kansas anymore!”  So what does all this medical change/challenge/opportunity mean for Super-Seniors in 2019?  That’s a great question!

That’s enough about the current medical adventures of Audie and Charlie for now.  I report on them to my peers as some of the things that Super-Senior survivors like us (and you?) experience and as more evidence of the changes with which God surrounds by His will and determination as we strive to live the Christ-life to its fullest. 

Keep on keeping on.  Until He says differently there is more perennial world to come!  Ready?  I mean, really ready?

Blessings, Charlie

Navigating Difficult Conversations

By Dick Koehneke

That was the focus of a speech by Sheila Heen at last August’s Global Leadership Summit.  A lecturer on law at Harvard Law School, she has worked for two decades at the Harvard Negotiation Project.  Her consulting firm, Triad Consulting Group, works with executive teams to help them make sound decisions together.  She has co-authored two books, Difficult Conversations and Thanks for the Feedback.  If you want to know more, here are two websites you may want to check out:  

https://triadconsultinggroup.com/ and https://stoneandheen.com/

Here are seven of Sheila Heen’s observations at the Global Leadership Summit. [My comments are in brackets.]

  1. “Difficult conversations indicate that you care about what you do, and you care about the people you are doing it with.”

[If you don’t care, you don’t engage.  Apathy is the enemy of excellence.  Apathy is deadly to relationships.  It’s much better to be upset than to be apathetic.  In the midst of a difficult conversation, if you can think to yourself, “I really care about this subject” and/or “I really care about this person” you become much more likely to navigate the conversation in a healthy way.]

  1. “In difficult conversations, we need to become aware of our internal voice, because in difficult conversations our internal voices are turned up to full volume.”

[In a difficult conversation I need to ask myself, “Why am I feeling what I’m feeling right now?  What is it that’s got me so annoyed?  Why am I having such a hard time listening?  What else is going on in my life that might be affecting my feelings and attitudes at this moment?”] 

  1. “The other person also has an internal voice that’s reminding them what they are right about. In most difficult conversations, we feel like it’s our job to set the other person straight.”

[Maybe I’m falling victim to the attitude that says, “I’m not arguing with you, I’m simply explaining why I’m right.”  People don’t respond well to someone else’s self-righteousness and sense of superiority.  We don’t appreciate being treated with this kind of condescension:  “Your problem is that you don’t know all that I know; if you did, you would agree with me.”]

  1. “Instead of trying to prove who’s right, try asking what it is that we both think this conversation is about. Why do we see this situation so differently?”

[That question could help clear up a lot of confusion, couldn’t it?  So often people talk right past each other because they don’t realize that they are talking about two (or more) different things.  That happens in marriages and families, in the workplace, in the community, everywhere.  Let’s agree on the subject of the conversation before we start talking.]

  1. “Instead of asking whose fault it is, try asking what each of us has contributed to this problem. Blame looks for who is at fault. It assumes someone is wrong.”

[The Biblical statement, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” doesn’t apply only to everybody else on the planet.  “All” includes me.  Another good question could be, “What can each of us contribute to solving this problem?”]

  1. “Separate intentions from impact.”

[We can evaluate behavior, but we cannot discern motives.  Sometimes we mess up when we are sincerely trying to do the right thing.  A mistake is not the same as a sin.  There is truth and wisdom in the saying, “We judge others by their worst moments, but we judge ourselves by our best intentions.” Why not assume the best, not the worst, about the intentions of the other person?]     

  1. “Stop holding on to an either/or mentality. We are saints and sinners, fallible but also precious to God. Sometimes we misunderstand each other and let each other down.  We need each other to learn from those mistakes.”

[I love the many “both/and” truths of our Christian faith.  God is a Trinity, both Three and One.  Jesus Christ is both true God and true man.  The Bible is both human words and the Word of God.  Holy Communion is both bread and wine and the body and blood of Christ.  Eternal life is both “here and now” and “not yet.”  Let’s celebrate paradox and mystery instead of trying to figure everything out.  Let’s rejoice in the complexity of one another and the relationships that God has given us.  When we do that, we can navigate difficult conversations and find our way through them together.]