Sunday, September 10, 2017

Greg and April Sachs: "God and Creation"

A church retreat meditation ... 

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APRIL: I almost didn’t get this written because I was too busy canning tomatoes. Diced tomatoes, sauce, paste… my family loves tomatoes, so I grow a lot of them and that means August is a busy time in my kitchen. Oh, and the green beans were keeping me busy too. I’ve finally kept ahead of the bean beetles this year and those green beans will taste extra good in February. I didn’t get much of a squash crop because the squash bugs outnumbered me about eleven million to one, but I’ll try again next year. But all spring and summer, different fruits and vegetables have found their way into my freezer and onto my pantry shelves.

GREG: What you won’t ever find in our garden, though, is corn. That’s because for three of us, eating corn makes us pretty miserable. We get headaches, rashes, and are just plain grumpy! And it’s not just corn on the cob. We can’t eat any corn products at all; corn meal, corn starch, corn syrup, and even corn in much less recognizable forms, such as dextrose, citric acid, and lactic acid. Fruits and vegetables are often waxed with a corn-based wax. Lots of foods are processed on the same equipment that processes corn, or on equipment cleaned with a corn-based cleaner. The list of things that can make us feel bad is long and includes almost anything with a label. So what’s to be done, when any store-bought food might give us headaches? Well, the safest thing to do is grow it ourselves. So we do, or anyway we try. What we don’t grow, or get from our poultry and our cow, we buy at the farmer’s market, or directly from a local farm; we have found a few safe ingredients that we order on the internet (which is kind of the opposite of local, but we haven’t found a chocolate farmer in Harrisonburg yet). The food items we buy at grocery stores can be numbered on one hand. And then, April makes almost everything from scratch, from the safe ingredients we have grown or purchased. That’s the only way we’ve found to make sure our family feels good and is healthy.

APRIL: I know our situation is pretty unusual, and it takes a lot of my time to feed my family. I probably spend as much time on food production as I would at a full-time job. It can feel hard and stressful to do it this way. Sometimes I feel like giving up, but I also feel grateful that we can eat as well as we do.

GREG: Here’s the interesting thing, though. Before we found out about the family corn intolerance, we already had the goal of growing all our own food. Why? Well, our health was part of the reason. We were starting to recognize the unhealthiness of the industrial food system that our culture largely subscribes to. Eating unhealthy food from that system was very likely to negatively affect our health. But even more than that, we were noticing how food grown on an industrial scale was bad for community, bad for all of us, not just in what we ate but in what it did to our land, air, water, ecosystems, and human cultures. Again, community.

APRIL: Let me change course for a moment and talk about our theme for the weekend. “Creation is a song.” That’s a lovely analogy, but what does it mean? Well, when we sing together, we each have a part. We’re working together, but we’re not all doing the same thing. If somebody goes out of tune, or sings the wrong thing, it can really sound bad, but a skillful group can work with mistakes and turn them into something beautiful. And we have different roles: some are leaders in the song, some have less prominent parts, but if anyone stops singing, it’s not the same song. Each part is important. The same things can be said about we creatures in the midst of creation: each creature has a part, each part is important but different, we work together but at different things, and mistakes hurt but can be redeemed.

APRIL: Here’s what else I think: I think creation as song must be a collaboration between us the singers, and God the composer. And that brings up a question: how are we doing at collaborating? Are we working with, or ignoring, God the composer and our fellow singers?

GREG: Before we address that question, let me go back to our reasons for trying to grow most of our own food: first we have the reason of corn intolerance. That’s a question of health, very narrowly defined. Second, we have the somewhat broader definition of health, dependent on the quality of food we put into our bodies. Third, we have the most broad definition: the health of our community.

APRIL: Community is a familiar word in our congregation, but today I’m going to add a twist to it and use the definition of one of my favorite authors, Wendell Berry. Wendell Berry is a farmer and writer who has worked and lived for most of his life in Henry County, Kentucky, a fact that is both shaped by, and shapes, his living and writing and thinking. Over the past several decades, Mr. Berry has become what some call a prophetic voice when it comes to agriculture, community, and environmentalism. What drew me to him first was an essay of his on community, but the more of his writing I read, the more I realized that all of his thinking and writing points in pretty much the same direction. Mr. Berry has a vision of health more unified than that of any other modern author I have seen. To him, “health” implies the whole family of words it belongs to: heal, whole, wholesome, hale, hallow, holy. God’s love calls the world to wholeness, which in Mr. Berry’s view means health, and that health must by definition include the entire community.

APRIL: I’ll let him speak for himself for a minute. Here he is, in an essay titled “Health is Membership”.

“I take literally the statement in the Gospel of John that God loves the world. I believe that the world was created and approved by love, that it subsists, coheres, and endures by love, and that, insofar as it is redeemable, it can be redeemed only by love. I believe that divine love, incarnate and indwelling in the world, summons the world always toward wholeness, which ultimately is reconciliation and atonement with God.

I believe that health is wholeness. For many years I have returned again and again to the work of the English agriculturist Sir Albert Howard, who said, in The Soil and Health, that ‘the whole problem of health in soil, plant, animal, and man [is] one great subject.’ ...

I believe that the community--in the fullest sense: a place and all its creatures--is the smallest unit of health and that to speak of the health of an isolated individual is a contradiction in terms.”

APRIL: A place and all its creatures. In Mr. Berry’s vision, then, each person, animal, clump of dirt, drop of water, breath of air is part of a community, and God loves each of them. As Jesus says in Matthew 10:29, “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care.” And a community is only healthy if all its parts are healthy. Furthermore, a true community cares for its constituent parts, because it knows each part is dependent on all the others. This is sounding a lot like our song analogy, where each member plays a role and everyone must listen to and care for each other to stay in tune. And, we need to listen to the Creator who is calling us to wholeness, so that we do not, with tone-deaf ears, introduce more disharmony into Creation.

GREG: What does that mean? Especially  in a world where things already feel pretty discordant, what does it mean to try to collaborate with God and our fellow singers in this creation song? What does it mean to listen and sing?

APRIL: When I listen, in my garden or elsewhere, I hear lots of things: lessons I’m slowly learning of life and death, work, rest, and peace; but what I want to share with you now is a lesson of interconnectedness and place.

APRIL: My garden is a good place for me to see on a small scale how interconnection works. Everything in it is affected by everything else. For example, take my squash bugs. They eat my squash plants, thrive, and multiply. But if nothing keeps them in check, they kill the plants, and for lack of anything to eat, they die. Something has gone wrong in my garden community if there are so many squash bugs that they’ve killed my plants, and I need to think about how to fix it. There are many, many other connections in my garden: each small creature, each microbe, worm, plant, insect, bird that exists in my garden does something in the community, even if I don’t want them to. If my garden community is out of balance, I have to think hard about how to rebalance it, and I often fail. I’m glad I get to try again every year.

APRIL: With interconnectedness in mind, I will venture to address that question of collaboration, how to listen and sing with God and Creation. If God’s love calls us to wholeness, and wholeness means the health of the community, then we should make a practice of observing our fellow community members and seeing what is healthy in our community and what is not. Observe, take time to be present with your community: How are you, how is your family, your neighbor, how is the water, air, and trees, how are the worms in the soil and the bugs on the plants? And don’t forget the hidden members; not just those worms and bugs but also the community members who are far away, or invisible in your own neighborhood. What hands packaged the meat you bought at the grocery store this week? Were they near or far, or is it impossible for you to know? What hands sewed that seam in your clothing? Who collected your garbage, and where did they take it? Who cleaned your water, who made the ink that printed your paper--or mined the metals for the computer you read your news on? What is their health like, and why?

GREG: If it seems like a lot to observe… it is, and we can’t really ever see it all. One reason for that is that modern life, with its systems of transportation and global economy, ensures that many parts of our community are unknowable to us. We cannot know all the people who contribute to our daily living. They are too many, too distant, too foreign to us. We also become impatient with staying in one place long enough to really know it. If we undervalue the importance of place to our identity, we lose out on connections with our community.
APRIL: And while we are observing and listening, what are ways we can adjust our singing? What small changes might we make to bring our community more into focus, to better know the place we are in and our fellow members and to improve our community’s health? Perhaps choose to connect intentionally with community members who are far away, or close but invisible. Or maybe be deliberate about cultivating relationships close to home, for instance by buying more local foods or products, so your community becomes more easily observable. Find ways to learn more about something you never noticed before, pay attention to its health, and listen. Each of us can listen for our part, and when we all do it together, that’s a community.

GREG and APRIL: We’re trying to raise all our food on a little less than four acres. We don’t know if we’ll manage it; it will take many years if it ever happens, but we’ll keep trying. It’s a way for us to connect to the place, the community we are in: the people in our neighborhood, the soil and air and water around us; a way for us to practice listening to creation. But there are many ways to participate in the creation song, many ways to tune your ears and voice, and it will take all of us doing it to bring about the wholeness that God so strongly desires for us. Let’s practice singing God’s song of love that is big enough to hold all of us. Let’s practice singing together till we are all whole.

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Sunday, September 3, 2017

Phil Kniss: Leaving room

On the Sunday before Labor Day, drawing on lectionary texts Romans 12:9-21 and Matthew 16:21-28, pastor Phil reminds us that our labor is not for us alone, but is in the service of God and God’s purposes. Thus, we are asked to “leave room” for God to be in the midst of our plans, and allow God to set our agenda and priorities.

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Our European-American culture has an almost mythical work ethic.
Some call it the Protestant work ethic.
Call it what you will, but many of us seem to assume
that a person has a duty to achieve success
through hard work and good management and self-reliance.
In other words, if you want to get somewhere in life,
it’s up to you to make it happen.

You can be responsible, or irresponsible, as a worker.
It’s your choice.
And you reap the consequences.

Countless examples reinforce that ethic.
We know people—even people born into privilege—
who made bad choices,
were not responsible, were not industrious.
And they ended up in what could only be described as failure.

We also know people who started out with very little,
or were born into greatly disadvantaged circumstances,
but they found some internal motivation
to work hard, and sacrifice much.
And they achieved great success in life.

Sure, we admit there are counter-examples,
where hard work and sacrifice did not bring success,
or where success arrived on a silver platter, without much effort.
But we don’t focus on those.
They’re just exceptions that prove the rule.

Typically, we consider it our duty and privilege,
as Americans, as Christians, (and yes) as Mennonites,
to work hard and work smart,
in order to achieve the success that is ours for the taking.

So today, on Labor Day weekend,
I want to spend some time discovering
what scripture has to say about work and calling.
What the Gospel witness is, what the Good News is,
when it comes to the work ethic that runs so deep in our culture,
and in our Anabaptist-Mennonite tradition.

I’ll start with Paul, and move to Jesus.

Romans 12—one of my favorites.
In 34 years of sermons, I think I’ve referred to Romans 12
more than any other chapter in the New Testament.
But I can’t be accused of cherry-picking this text today,
because it’s what the lectionary called for.
Churches all over the world are reading this text today.

The lectionary texts have no connection to Labor Day.
It’s a secular holiday.
But we are reading the scriptures today aware of that context—
that our country is celebrating laborers tomorrow.
All scripture reading should be contextual—
that is reading while paying attention to what’s around us.
That’s what we’re doing today.

So, concerning work, and fulfilling obligations, and doing things,
Romans 12 is a goldmine.
There are more imperatives (commands) in this short reading,
than in any other passage I know in the Bible.
This even beats out the Ten Commandments.
For it’s length, there are more than twice as many commands here.

So this must be a favorite text for people with a strong work ethic,
for people who want clear directives,
so they know what to do,
and once they finish, can check it off as done,
and feel a sense of success, of being master of the list.

One would think that . . . until you actually read them.
These commands turn out to be a problem
for someone trying to manage their lives and labor.
Those driven by a strong work ethic,
who want clear direction,
so they can control the process and outcome, and be successful,
are going to get frustrated
as soon as they put their shoulder to the wheel
of this set of commandments.

As I read down this list of commands,
I see a lot more that ask me to let go, and step back,
than ones that ask me to take hold,
or assume control, or manage the situation.

Just look at the two commands in v. 10
“Be devoted to one another in love.
Honor one another above yourselves.”
When I am devoted to someone else, in love,
that, by definition, limits how devoted I can be
to controlling the outcome and managing my agenda.
Love embraces risk, for the sake of another.
It’s the classic line, “to love someone is to let them go.”
When you “honor someone else above yourself,”
you risk the possibility that the other
may make choices you did not foresee;
you may need to modify the ideal future you mapped out.

And a command like “be patient in affliction,” v. 12,
is no recipe for quick healing of the affliction.
The need for patience may last a lifetime.
If I think my future happiness depends on
my ability to rid myself of my affliction,
I may one day be forced to let go of that illusion,
and find peace with the idea of waiting, a long time.

And v. 13, “share with those who are in need, practice hospitality.”
We don’t get to dictate what needy people do with our compassion.
Whenever we give time, money, talents, or other resources,
we must remind ourselves that these are gifts we give.
A true giver lets go, once the gift is given.

And the practice of hospitality?
There is no spiritual practice that requires
more risk, more vulnerability, more relinquishment,
than the practice of hospitality.
Make no mistake.
Hospitality is not about setting a beautiful table,
and using your entertainment skills
to create a controlled environment
and manage the perfect event.
Hospitality is opening wide your arms to the other,
it’s a posture of vulnerability.
It’s saying my door is open, my life is open.
I am here to be with you,
to listen to you, to serve you,
to attend to who you are and what you need.

Go on down the list of commands in this chapter.
They are nearly all of this nature.
When it comes to blessing those who persecute us,
mourning with those who mourn,
living in harmony with others,
associating with the lowly, and . . .
as far as it depends on us . . . living at peace with everyone . . .
if I am under the illusion that the role of Christian faith
is to help me manage the way my life unfolds,
then these commands blow that idea to shreds.

I love the clarity of the phrase Paul uses in v. 19, about taking revenge.
Yes, you may rightfully be angry.
But, he says, “leave room for God’s anger.”
Leave room.
That phrase could be applied to almost all these commands.

You can make plans for your life; making plans are well and good.
But “leave room” for God’s agenda.
Literally, in the Greek, Paul asks the reader to “make a place.”
Clear out some space.
In whatever we undertake to do,
Paul tells us not to fill up the space
with whatever we think we need to manage the situation.
But clear a spot, make a place,
leave room for God to enter into the middle of it all,
because that’s where God wants to be.
In the middle.

That’s the Good News. That’s the Gospel word for today.
God wants to be with us in the midst of our chaos.
And invites us to leave room.

What I’m describing is the practice of hospitality toward God.

Yes, we have a task list.
Yes, we have a responsibility
to be good stewards of our time and talents and resources.
But ultimately, we fail in our mega-task, or macro-agenda
of participating in God’s saving and reconciling mission,
if we don’t hold lightly to our micro-agenda,
and leave room for God to move in,
and clarify what really needs to be done,
let God rearrange the furniture if needed.

That was the posture of Jesus that we saw
in today’s Gospel reading from Matthew 16.

Jesus was given a clear vision of God’s macro-agenda for his life.
And it involved heading to Jerusalem,
and confronting the powers there.
That didn’t fit the picture of the future his disciples had in mind.
They tried to talk him out of it.
“Jesus, you don’t want to go there,” Peter said.
“Your death would derail everything we’re trying to do here.
It would destroy the plan entirely.”

See, they were trying to manage things.
They were not leaving room.

But Jesus left room. He replied to Peter,
“You do not have in mind the concerns of God,
but merely human concerns.”
In other words,
“You have no room for any agenda beyond your own.”

Then he laid down a huge challenge to all his followers.
If you want to be my disciples, you also need to leave room.
Take up your own cross, and follow me.

“Taking up our cross” is not about being morbid.
It’s not a death wish.
It’s not a blindly self-destructive sort of sacrifice.
No, it is a courageous act of faith and love,
that trusts in resurrection,
that trusts in the power of God to overcome evil,
and ensure that God’s purposes prevail.
It is a belief that there is a greater good
than the success of our personal agenda.
Taking up the cross does not diminish us, it completes us.

Because only in that act of leaving room for
God’s will, God’s love, God’s wrath,
God’s justice, God’s saving power—
only in that act of clearing out our overcrowded personal space
will we be able to live into the flourishing life
that our Creator God intends.

This idea of leaving room applies to multiple areas of life.

Can we leave room for God’s initiative, and the flourishing of the other,
when life unfolds in a way that doesn’t mesh with our plans?
when we encounter roadblocks in the workplace?
when we experience unjust treatment by those over us?
when someone treats us with undeserved and persistent hostility?
when we struggle with personal brokenness
and there is no quick fix?
when we face the end of life of a loved one, or even our own life?
when we crumble with grief, or go numb,
in the face of massive human suffering?
when we lose hope in an age of endless
war and terror and oppression?
when our political hopes and dreams,
and our political leaders, fail us?
when the church disappoints us, or doesn’t live up to its potential?

Whenever some aspect of our lives, or our world,
that we had thoughtfully designed and carefully managed,
starts to come unglued, and we are powerless to stop it,
will we be overcome with despair, and give up?

Or will we have the courage to clear out some space,
take some deep breaths,
hold our tongue,
wait . . . and wait,
and invite God into the midst of the chaos,
leaving room for God to move around,
and rearrange some things
to better suit God’s good design for our lives?

We all have a call from God.
All of us.
We were called, at our origins,
to reflect God’s image,
to order our lives around God’s purposes,
and to participate in God’s mission.

We are all called by God.
That is our vocation (which means, literally, calling).
That vocation orients us as Jesus followers.
But it needs room.
We need to clear a space if it has none.

God’s desire is that our daily labor reflects that divine vocation.
Whether that labor is paid or unpaid, full or part-time,
whether we are active in the workplace, or retired,
or still in training—
We are called to offer what we have and who we are
for God’s saving and reconciling mission in the world.

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Sunday, August 27, 2017

Moriah Hurst: “Welcoming children with openness”

Deuteronomy 6:4-9
Luke 18:15-17, 9:46-48

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Sunday, August 20, 2017

Aaron Kauffman: "The best is yet to come."

Isaiah 43:14-21 and Revelations 22:1-5

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Sunday, August 13, 2017

Moriah Hurst, Genevieve Cowardin, and Lucas Wenger: "Trusting and Listening to God"

I Kings 19:9-15 and Matthew 14:22-33

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Sunday, August 6, 2017

Barbara Moyer Lehman: "From running shoes to rocking chair"

Psalm 92:12-15, Luke 2:25-38

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When I want to learn something well and remember it, it helps me to have a visual aid.  Today I brought that for you...running shoes and a rocking chair.  Every person here is somewhere on the continuum between these two. When our children are born, how quickly we buy those cute little running shoes, about 3 inches long. We put them on those tiny little feet and soon, very soon, they take their first steps, are off and running and don't ever seem to stop!  Before we know it, those cute little running shoes cost big bucks!  They come in umpteen colors, styles, and brands. The kids outgrow them and then need new ones every year!
Our running shoes are pretty symbolic of what happens when we step into them.  We start our active, productive life of 'doing', of being busy, of needing to go places, quickly.  But over time our journey takes us through years, many years until we find ourselves at a different place and a new threshold.  We move more from the 'doing' to the 'being'.  Our running shoes may still be on, but look less stylish, are worn, weathered and taken off more frequently to relieve the tired feet as we prop them up and take a the rocking chair.
I am 68 years old and moving towards retirement...not there yet.  I have been doing lots of soul searching, reflecting, reading and asking questions of others.  How do I grow old gracefully?  How do I retire, leave a position and role that I love, in a healthy way and do it graciously?  How do I pass on to the next generation, insights and wisdom I might have gained?  How do WE do that?  How did you do that?  Maybe you haven't done it very well!  I want answers!  So I began to explore with some others, and  I read books or skimmed them.  Now my library consists of these books:  Growing Old in Christ, Reinventing Aging, The Gift of Years; Growing Older Gracefully, Aging Well,  Never Say Die; The Myth and Marketing of the New Old Age, Living Thoughtfully, Dying well,  Living Well and Dying Faithfully!!!  And so on and so on.

In recent reports from our MCUSA general assembly meetings in Orlando and recent conference meetings, I heard the concern that the gathered body in those meetings still consists of mostly the 'white hair' population...or the 'grey wave'.  How do we stay connected to each other across generations?  How do we both, value our elders and respect them for what they can teach us and pass on to us, but also allow room for and welcome newer, younger voices?  How do we provide them with opportunities to learn, grow, assume responsibilities and yes, even make mistakes?  One writer at age 75 years wrote, “In youth we learn, in age we understand.”

Several weeks ago, Jeri Schaff, Ex. Director of the Valley Program for Aging Services, wrote an Open forum column in the DNR and stated:
“.There's a demographic shift already changing the face of the Shenandoah Valley that calls for greater planning and resource allocation: our aging population.  Statewide, the population of residents 65 and older is expected to nearly double between 2010 and 2030.  (mostly rural areas).  This 'grey wave' is increasing demand for health care providers, home health services, senior living facilities, insurance and financial counseling and housing options that allow residents to age in place.”

And if you are not in retirement years you will likely be caring for relatives who are.  She calls for community organizations to innovate and collaborate as we try to meet the growing need.

Here at Park View MC, we have 238 people who are members, regular attenders, connected to our congregation who are 60 years and older!  And I know every one of them!
W presently have 17 people who are 90 years or over. Mamie Hartzler is the oldest member, 103.

In the book Reinventing Aging, in a chapter by Lonnie Yoder, he mentions that in an article way back in 1998, in the journal America, 3 primary models of aging in our culture are identified:

1.)  The deficiency model: focus is on decline, disengagement, diminished health, losses, “put out to pasture”, “put on the shelf.”
  1. The consumption model:  encourages people to have fun, travel, you worked hard, earned it, invested well, fewer responsibilities, kids grown, live.
3.)  The wisdom model:  draws on the gift of wisdom, that can be used in the interchange with younger generations. This model portrays a more wholesome view of aging, a more balanced view that incorporates and acknowledges both loss and gain.  It focuses on positive opportunities, but also recognizes the sometimes harsh realities of aging.  But it is seen as a process of growth, engagement, and integration.

In Job12:12, we read “Is not wisdom found among the aged?  Does not long life bring understanding?”  I think we have a responsibility to pass on some of that wisdom and understanding to the next generation?  Someone wrote, “Wisdom is what lasts after an experience ends”.

The gospel text from Luke 2. that was read for us, provides a wonderful example of two biblical characters, Simeon and Anna, who aged in a wholesome way.  In this account of Jesus' presentation at the temple by his parents, we first meet Simeon, a  righteous and devout man who clearly possessed the Holy Spirit.  He is guided to the temple, holds the baby Jesus and prophesies about Jesus' central role in the salvation of all peoples.  What does Simeon do?  He blesses both the child Jesus, one generation, and his parents, another generation.  A wonderful example of intergenerational exchange.
Second scene, Anna, the prophetess enters.  Widowed at a young age, she finds a new role of prayer and fasting in the temple.  She also highlights the central role that Jesus will play in God's redemption plan.  With her act of praise and confirmation, she, too, blesses Jesus and his parents.  Both Simeon and Anna model a way of aging which involves growth, engagement and integration.

In the book Reinventing Aging, one of the articles stated that people who work in the field of aging say that there are 3 keys to aging successfully: (p. 23)
  1. Continue to learn, continue your education in some manner.
  2. Continue to develop relationships.
  3. Continue to be involved in the community.

How can we age gracefully/successfully? What might this look like?  (some of my thoughts)
  1. Learn to release old hurts, bad memories, the tendency to criticize.  (If there are things that need attention to bring healing to hurts and memories, then work might still be needed, but other times we need to let them go)
  2. Learn to praise and encourage others.
- send notes, emails, texts of thanks, appreciation, encouragement to children, youth, grandchildren, neighbors, students, colleagues.
-speak words of appreciation, thanks
  1. Pray for others – intercessors
-Pray for ourselves – to be open to new insights, possibilities, that might lead us into deeper spiritual depth in our lives, pray that we will not become bitter, cynical and rigid as we age!
  1. Take each day as it we age, we can take very little for granted, each day is different with new challenges, surprises, unplanned for events. We need to 'lighten up', learn to laugh at ourselves.
  2. Stay connected to the outside world and the community in which we live.  It may be a time to allow others to come into our lives in a new way.  We no longer may have business associates, colleagues, friendships in the work place, but now we have time to discover the neighbor we seldom acknowledged before.  My husband, John, sits outside on our front stoop every morning and has learned to know the name of some of our neighbors who walk by every day, sometimes with their dogs.  And even has learned to know the names of the dogs!
  3. Recover the art of friendships between generations.
-mentor youth, Big Brother/Big Sister
-become grandparents, 'aunt' or uncle' to young children
-volunteer for SHINE time at church, Kid's Club
- tutor struggling students or those learning English
         -knot comforters, pack school kits with children and youth
-participate in church retreat in Sept. and make a new friend from the church family.

Those of us 60 and over can't just bail out as we move toward retirement or even when we get there and think we have done our turn and now it's the next generation who need to step up. The younger generation needs to step up and step into new roles and assume responsibility, but we of the 60+ group also need to 'relax our grasp', and our need to control, to influence in unhealthy ways.  We have to find the right balance for leadership transition and passing on of the wisdom and values and faith that keep all generations engaged together.

In the book Growing Old in Christ,  one of the chapters is co written by Stanley Hauerwas and Laura Yordy (old and young).  They write:
“we believe the church must be the kind of community that insists that those who  have grown in years are not relieved of moral responsibilities.  They cannot move to Florida and leave the church to survive on its own.  For Christians, there is no “Florida” even if they happen to live in Florida.  That is, we must continue to be present to those who have made us what we are so that we can make future generations what they are called to be.” (p. 182)

So what might this look like for those of you under 60, who still are more in your running shoes and the 'doing' stage? You are finishing degrees, raising children, paying off mortgage and car payments, accumulating stuff, building/remodeling, adding on to the house, starting a new job or business?  You are often exhausted!
How can we move together and toward each other, staying engaged with one another?
How can we recover the art of friendships between generations and together age gracefully? growing in our spiritual lives and forming stronger communities of faith?
      1. Acknowledge older person, learn names, invite them into your home, take them a token of friendship...plate of cookies, flower from your garden, loaf of bread.
      2. Children can make cards, draw pictures..offer a smile, even a gentle handshake, open a door.
      3. Invite older person to class, small group to share their story, wisdom from their years of work, career highlights, difficult learnings
      4. Learn to talk slower, maybe louder, sometimes we need you to repeat things more than once! Speak directly to that older person so theycan see your lips and facial expression
      5. Be patient, be tolerant.  It takes us 60 + people longer to react, longer to let go and adopt a relaxed grasp after being in control or in positions of status and responsibility.  When we need to be challenged and reminded, do it gently and out of love.  This needs to go both ways.

These are only some of my thoughts and suggestions.  What are yours?

As we move from running shoes to rocking chair in our journey, we hope that wisdom comes with that progression, but it is not learned easily nor quickly.  I think our youth leaders past and present have done a good job of finding ways to have children and youth sit at the feet of elders where they learn wisdom of the past and hear the stories that can be passed on.  I hope that continues.  As Hauerwas writes, “This 'sitting' requires that the church not be a people in a hurry, but rather a people who have learned to wait.” (p.183)

In moving to the later stages of life, closer to that rocking chair, we begin to realize that our souls are being re-shaped, something new is birthing within us that maybe we had to set aside when we were in the stage of growing, getting, grasping, accumulating. We realize it's no longer important what's outside of us, that is external success, but rather what is inside of us.

May it always be so.  

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