Tag Archives: Retirement

The Spiritual Barometer of Comfort

“For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him. You have done a foolish thing, and from now on you will be at war.”
2 Chronicles 16:9 (NIV)

A friend dropped by for coffee yesterday and we enjoyed a long discussion. One of the slivers of conversation was around a class that is being offered in our community in the near future. The premise of the class is that some of history’s most influential people had their most productive and years after the age of 70. The class is intended to encourage adults in the back stretch of life’s journey to consider shunning the traditional view of retirement. Instead of moving somewhere warm and sitting by a pool, the class encourages people to consider how their final stretch of life’s journey might be their most productive and influential.

I thought about that this morning as I read today’s chapter and contemplated the story of King Asa. In yesterday’s post, the prophet Azariah encouraged Asa to “be strong and not give up” but the stretch of life journey that Asa was entering was not one of struggle. Asa’s major challenge and climactic fight was behind him. He was entering a time of extended peace. Thirty-five years of peace and rest. And that’s when he blew it.

Thirty-five years of relatively easy sledding finds King Asa has changed, but not in a good way. He forgot the lesson he learned in his war with the Cushites. He forgot how his faith had led to good things. He forgot Azariah’s admonishment. Thirty-five years of peace and comfort turned Asa into a hard-hearted, self-centric old man. It was the good times and life of relative ease that revealed the true nature of Asa’s heart. A seer named Hanani confronts Asa, but it only confirms and seals Asa’s bitterness (and lands Hanani in the stocks).

This morning I’m thinking about my current waypoint on this life journey. I often think that it’s the tough stretches of pain, tragedy, and difficulty that reveal the true nature of our hearts. Perhaps it is the stretches of comfort and ease that are a better barometer of my spirit.

Living in This Time and Place

2015 Pella Tulip Time 039Now during those days, when the disciples were increasing in number, the Hellenists complained against the Hebrews because their widows were being neglected in the daily distribution of food. Acts 6:1 (NRSV)

I spoke with my parents last night on the phone. Just this past week they put a deposit down on a retirement apartment that is part of a larger community and care facility. Over the past couple of weeks I have toured three different facilities with them. We have discussed their options and their preferences as well as the major shift life is taking for them.

It has struck me in the midst of this process how our relationship has changed over the years. It seems like yesterday I was seeking their help, their wisdom and their insights as I made major life decisions. This time around I find that they have sought my help, wisdom, and insight in their major life decision. I realize that we are at a very different stage of this life journey.

Along my spiritual journey as a Jesus follower, I have heard some who speak in idyllic terms regarding the church as described in the book of Acts. They speak of the events, the miracles and the outpouring of the Spirit as a pinnacle from which we have fallen; an ideal for which we should strive. The further I get in my journey the more foolish I find this line of thinking.

We live in a different chapter of the story, in a different time, and a different place. God is the same yesterday, today, and forever, but human civilization is ever changing. How our heavenly Father relates to we His children will naturally change across time just as my relationship with my parents will change across time. Looking back across the story from Genesis to Acts we find that the way God intersected, communicated and related to humanity changed from creation, to the Exodus, to the period of the Judges, to the time of the monarchy and the prophets, to the period before Jesus was born, to the time of Jesus, and to the time we are studying in Acts. To say that the church today should be like the church in the book of Acts is like saying that the time of King David should have been more like the time of Noah.

I found it interesting this morning that Dr. Luke is sure to mention that things were not all signs and wonders. The Jesus followers who were Hebrews from Greece were hacked off because their widows weren’t getting their share of the communal welfare program. The more things change, the more they stay the same. People are people. “Where two or three are gathered,” Jesus said,  “you’ll find me in their midst.” That is a good thing. We need a referee because where two or three gather you’ll also find conflict.

I’m grateful for the times we are living in. I’m grateful for my relationship with God. I’m grateful for my relationship with my parents. We are blessed to experience some really great things in our day and age, and at the same time we face unique challenges that those living through the book of Acts couldn’t possibly fathom. Such is life. I am not called to live in another time and place, but to walk the journey set before me in this time and place.

The Tragedies of Choosing Early Retirement

 

My Grandpa V with my father and daughter, Taylor outside the nursing home where he gave himself the job of welcoming committee.
My Grandpa V with my father and daughter, Taylor, sitting outside the nursing home where he gave himself the job of welcoming committee and tour guide.

In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war, David sent Joab out with the king’s men and the whole Israelite army. They destroyed the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained in Jerusalem. 2 Samuel 11:1 (NIV)

My grandfather was a school teacher and administrator for many years. When the school system told him he had to retire from teaching he took over the school lunch and bus program. When they told him he had to retire from the lunch and bus program he got a job as bailiff of the county courthouse. After many years working at the courthouse the judge called him into chambers and said, “Herman, I’m tired of having to wake you up to take the jury out. I think it’s time for you to retire.” In his nineties, my grandfather was no longer able to manage on his own. When he moved into the nursing home, however, he promptly gave himself the job of welcoming new residents and giving them a tour of the facility.

My grandfather was fond of saying that “the day I retire will be the day I die.”

David was a warrior. David was a general. David was a natural born leader. He was still in his prime, and yet now as King he chose to stay in Jerusalem and send the army out to war without him. It would prove to be a tragic choice. Because he was not out with the army doing what he was gifted and called to do, he found himself on the roof of his palace peeping at another man’s wife. Worse yet, it was the wife of one of his own men who was an honorable soldier. David then made the tragic mistake of inviting the woman over for dinner and sleeping with her. She conceived. The led to the tragic mistake of covering up his actions and ultimately conspiring to commit murder. The consequences of this series of tragic and unnecessary mistakes would haunt David, his family, his monarchy, and his kingdom for the rest of his life and beyond.

We are not told why David chose to “retire” from leading the army. A few chapters ago we read that David wanted to build a temple and God clearly responded that building the temples was not what David was called to do. I get the feeling that having finally ascended to the throne, David was feeling a bit of a mid-life crisis that is common to man. He’s tired of what he’s always been gifted at doing. Leading the army is what he’s done his entire life. Yes, he’s good at it, but it’s boring to him. David wants to retire from all that and build temples and do other things.

Perhaps David should have stuck with what he was gifted and called to do. Perhaps he should have taken my grandfather’s attitude and just stuck with the job until “retirement” was forced upon him. Tragic things happen when we choose to prematurely retire from the path to which God has called us and strike out on our own.

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Clean Hands, Clear Conscience

Pope Benedictus XVI
Pope Benedictus XVI (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“Now testify against me in the presence of the Lord and before his anointed one. Whose ox or donkey have I stolen? Have I ever cheated any of you? Have I ever oppressed you? Have I ever taken a bribe and perverted justice? Tell me and I will make right whatever I have done wrong.”

“No,” they replied, “you have never cheated or oppressed us, and you have never taken even a single bribe.”

“The Lord and his anointed one are my witnesses today,” Samuel declared, “that my hands are clean.” 1 Samuel 12:3-5a (NLT)

This past year the world witnessed something it had not seen in hundreds of years as a living pontiff of the Roman Catholic Church retired from the papacy and turned over his office to another. I thought of Pope Bendedict and his successor, Pope Francis, this morning as I read Samuel’s retirement speech as leader and judge of Israel. Reading through the historical narratives of the Judges, it appears that the Judges carried out their national leadership until death much like the leader of the Roman church has done for centuries. To have Samuel retire and transition his leadership and authority to King Saul was something of a unique moment in Israel’s history, as was his retirement speech in today’s chapter.

I found it interesting that Samuel’s first concern with retiring his office was to make sure that he could do so with a clean conscience. He stands before the people and asks any who he has wronged to step forward and make it known so that he might reconcile the matter. When nobody does, he declares “my hands are clean.”

I have worked in the business world for twenty years and have been involved in one form of church leadership or another for over twenty five years. I have met precious few leaders who seem at all concerned with retiring with clean hands. I have met far more men and women whose lives are layered with feelings of guilt, shame, and regrets for past words and actions which haunt them. Key relationships from their past remain broken. In many cases, I observe that they have little interest in washing their hands, but appear to cover the dirt and stink of their past with a spiritual pair of good looking gloves and some cheap perfume.

As I read Samuel’s speech this morning, I felt an intense desire to be like him. I want clean hands and a clear conscience when it comes to my business dealings and relationships. If, like Samuel, I don’t want to face a long line of people bearing witness to the dirt of my life at my retirement party, then I better be careful how I think, speak and act today.