Tuesday, December 16, 2008


Christmas is not always a happy time. For many people it's a time of great stress, problems, and disappointment. Some of that we can avoid and there are things we can do that makes it a pretty wonderful time. Here's my suggestions:

I've found that the joy is in giving and not so much in the receiving. If there is something you really would like to receive then go get it for yourself. Hints can be misunderstood, and what do you do with someone who won't give you a clue to what would make them happy? If you don't guess right ---------well you know what comes next.

Here's an off the wall idea. There are 10 million people who live alone in the United States and 175,000 more join them each year. Old age is a time of painful changes. Here's how one old man expressed it.

I spent many long years as a pastor. Every church has their group of old people. I've always loved them and would make it a point to try to enter their world. That means listen to them talk - usually about the better times in their life. One of them wrote this to describe what it's like for the old people all around us.

It late - not just 1:31 AM, but late in my life. Many of my opportunities have been used up - wasted on people who didn’t care - lost to people who not only didn’t help but tried to make sure I didn’t make it. Everything is changing, and I feel like a man in a foreign country; betrayed by a new world I can’t understand, and often find repulsive.

I long for the old familiar things; music, caring people, honesty; a belief that integrity still existed; a time filled with pride, hope and happiness. In my world there was time to just sit on the porch and talk; go fishing with friends, time for leisurely visits, warm letters, phone calls that said: “I need your help,” and a feeling that there was a time and place for everything.

My world had been filled with family and loving relationships. We enjoyed many wonderful meals in the homes of our friends, and of course we reciprocated. There was time to eat, laugh, talk, and enjoy a leisurely meal in a warm, snug safe haven from all the problem of life. There were no interruptions, or someone jumping up to leave because they had to go somewhere.

Now, my options are dying, only a few left----like the last gasp of air in an old man’s lungs as he struggles to complete his final exit. My hopes have long ago faded, turned from bright yellow, red and green to a sickly brown and finally the dark color of death.

I look back and see so very little that I’ve done that has been worth while. Where there use to be respect and praise, now there’s only contempt and impatience; a poorly disguised wish that I would hurry up and get out of the way; stop being a bother and make way for youthful and more important things.

I feel like a tired old traveler, walking down a dusty road. I don’t want to show that I need help as everyone speeds by me on their way to urgent and more important things that won’t wait. I’ve reached a time when I’m always last on the list of priorities of those I know. I accept the fact that I’m used up; have no real value left; and need to be discarded.

Once I was needed, and others depended on my hard work, skills, and dogged determination to make it no matter how much it took out of me. Now, I’m a relic of an age gone by; lost forever in the dim mist of what use to be; and as it is slowly buried in the dust of time--maybe never was.

I’m not afraid of the final act, only glad that there will be one; hoping that those who have been my only reason for living can go on with their lives; free from the depressing burden of an old man who wore out their patience by living too long.

Like moving from an empty old house, I know that it’s time for me to walk away; accept the fact that it’s ended, and stop dreaming of better days that will never come again. It surprises me that those I love can go longer and longer without seeing, talking, or trying to make time for me. I also feel the bonds of affection, care and concern from them growing weaker.

Perhaps that’s as it should be. It would hurt too much for the end to come with strong feelings of attachment still in place. So, life and circumstances administer a powerful anesthetic so that there is little pain when the bonds are finally broken.

We don’t always reap what we sow. All of my life I loved and took care of older people. I made it a point to include them in the things we did, I went to see them when I was busy and had many other things to do. I listened patiently as they talked about “nothing” and prayed with them about their needs. I would call them on the phone and took time to listen when they called me. I felt impatient then at the interruption, but tried to understand that they needed to talk to me. I consciously practiced the grace of “giving.”

Their world was dying, and I knew they needed me much more than the younger, energetic and strong people I knew. I don’t regret what I did. I’m glad I took the time, and it was comforting to know that my “old friends” loved me. I gained something precious from them. I learned, many years before I needed it, how to grow old and prepare for the end of life here.

No, I’m not reaping what I sowed. I’m reaping something else that I never thought about, or dreamed that I would need if I lived long enough. It’s the ability to quietly let go, surrender to the inevitable, and look forward to moving to another world. I call it “my Father’s house.” Oh, we will keep on going through the motions, walking on down the sometimes lonely road that only seems to lead to nowhere. What else can we do? We can’t go back because our world is gone.

Morbid? Probably, but sometimes we need a different perspective to understand what will one day most certainly come to us. Someday we will all be old.

That pretty much describes it.... now the question is this: "If you really care about them how would you find the time to visit and the creative ideas to respond to the world they live in?

I would love to hear your suggestions,

Pastor Ken