Did you know that 25 years ago, the mega-nonprofit for the over-fifty crowd, AARP, quietly dropped the name those iconic letters formerly stood for?
AARP no longer means the “American Association of Retired Persons,” primarily because many of their members are still in the workforce. Instead, the folks who run this nonpartisan advocacy organization prefer to think of the “RP” in their name as Real Possibilities.
I like that.
If you’ve been with me for a while, you know I'm a big advocate for new possibilities as we journey through the changing seasons. It’s not about having a bucket list – wish list items to check off before we check out – but instead being open to the movement of God’s spirit through our shared lives in fresh ways. If He has a new assignment for us, we’re never too old to do it.
In the words of author James Watkins, “If you’re not dead, you’re not done.” (Read on for a way to win a copy of his witty book by the same name on staying young while growing old. My favorite chapter is called, “I’m a Mess. You’re a Mess. That’s Why We Have a Messiah!”)
As I’m reading through Genesis this month, I’m astonished anew at how often those old patriarchs and their wives messed up royally (sometimes literally), and they did it at advanced ages when you’d think they’d have known better. Yet God had a divine purpose for them just as he does for us. We’re never out of reach of His grace.
Remember the question we considered in last week’s post that God’s messenger first posed to Hagar in the desert? “Where have you come from, and where are you going?”
Maybe my answer to the second part will shock you. It has me.
Going, that is.
I’m not going on the annual wellness retreat for writers I attend every January in Texas. The mission trip to Cuba scheduled for February I told you about? Not going. The five writers conferences where I had the privilege of speaking or teaching in 2023? Not going.
I had 20 out-of-state trips last year, weeks filled with significant activities but not enough space in my days for commitments I added, things I wanted to do, places I longed to visit.
I’m not going.
Not, at least, everywhere I’ve gone in the past.
By always adding to my schedule and never subtracting, I’ve left little room for God to do something new in my life. And at 70, it’s past time I learn the value of margins – white spaces on the edges of my days where I’m free to take that phone call, deliver that meal, make that hospital visit. Days that are not already so full that they leave no room for the Spirit to come in.
So does that mean I’m becoming a recluse? Never leaving my house in 2024? Turning Peace Ridge into the Hermitage?
Naw, nada, nopedy-nope!
God seems to be calling us back into pastoral ministry, which we never really left. Mike has accepted a significant volunteer position as Pastor of Congregational Care at our local church here in North Carolina. We’ll also be heading back across the pond next month to serve our other church family at North Sea Baptist in Stavanger, Norway, in an interim pastorate for 10 weeks.
Life’s too brief not to do what we can for all those we can for as long as we can.
But we don't have to do it all at the same time – always adding and never subtracting.
We need to improve our math if we want to have healthy margins.
Last Christmas, just three months before my best friend suddenly passed away from advanced metastatic cancer, Cindy sent out her annual holiday card with a personal blessing taped on the back. I’m so thankful I saved it, not knowing it would be the last one I’d ever receive.
I think Cindy would be happy for me to share it with you.
Blessing to See Yourself as God Sees You
"Perhaps you didn’t awaken today thinking
“God delights in me.”
May you know it to be true—
that gladness reigns as God walks beside you
into this new day, ever in your midst.
May the assurance of
His deep love and complete care
fortify you against all that would
cause your heart to falter and to fear.
May you be enveloped within and without –
in a cloud of calm as He quietens you with a gentle “Hush.”
And in that silence,
may you hear the most exquisite music ever –
the melodic notes of deliverance, daring, and delight.
The Lord singing over you — His beloved."
~Lucinda Secrest McDowell
from her upcoming book to be published by Christian Art Gifts
It’s your turn! What might you be adding to your schedule this year, or what are you subtracting that no longer needs your time or personal attention?
Please leave a comment below; I promise to respond to each one.
And if you’d like to win a copy of Jim’s humorous little book If You’re Not Dead, You’re Not Done, include the name “Watkins” in your comment.
Laughter is a good way to start the year!
~Maggie Wallem Rowe, 2024
Maggie is a speaker and dramatist who writes from Peace Ridge, her home in the mountains of western North Carolina. The author of two books, Maggie is adding line dancing to her schedule this year and subtracting scrubbing the floors. Just because.