Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Another Year Closer: Thoughts on Turning 45

45! Already? Today marks the beginning of the 45th year since my birth upon this earth. Naturally, such a day prompts various thoughts and reflections, both upon looking back and gazing forward. For me, this date is far less significant than the date of my rebirth: November 12, 1972. Yet, today is today, and my focus turns there for a while. I invite you to join me in these musings. Welcome.

There are certain birthdays which connote special times: 16, 18, 21, and perhaps 25. Then, for some people, the thresholds of 30, 40, 50 and 60 become more significant as youth departs and we begin to think in terms of decades so very easily.

For me, as for many (most?) people, my youth was optimistic, full of possibility for the future, hopeful, buoyed along greatly by my faith in God and the things I knew God had in store for me. Then, somewhere in my 30's, I woke up in a different life than I had envisioned; not a bad life, necessarily, but not the one I had believed I would live. Most people experience some version of this awakening, this disillusionment, this sudden discovery that youth has gone, and perhaps with it, its possibility.

Not too many years ago, my natural birthday marked another year closer to the inevitable end, another year further removed from my dreams, hopes, aspirations. Along with the possibilities of my youth, my faith was discarded. Life became a resignation to doing the best I could, trying to eke out what happiness I could in the remains of my life, never hoping for too much. For me, these annual days became just another day. Gone was my faith, God's call on my life, my purpose (outside of some self-defined vagueness), my hope, all charred ashes sacrificed on the altar of my choices, circumstance, and the ineffable, irrepressible flow of time moving on with or without me.

"We have things to do . . ." Suddenly, in the middle of this journey toward the end, God quietly walked up behind me, catching me unawares.

His words were the first moment I knew he was there: "I love you. I'm still here. I'm not through with you."

Turning, I see his familiar face, eyes beaming full of love for me.

"Father. Have you been looking for me?"

Laughing -- no one's laughter is like God's -- he said, "Son, I didn't have to look for you. I've never left."

As he caught me in loving embrace, all that would come: "My Lord and my God!"

Then, crying tears of joy and gratitude, I fall at his feet in amazement, cling to his feet washed by my tears. "Abba -- Daddy -- Father!"

After what seemed only a moment, though it could have been years, he said, "Get up, son. We have things to do, you and I."

Closer. You may imagine that encounter has altered my perspective somewhat.

Looking back from this vantage point of 45 years, as we measure things, when I look over that span, I see God's fingerprints all over my life. There was never a moment he was not present, never a circumstance his strength was gone, never a choice he wasn't redeeming. I gaze back and see the love and faithfulness of family and friends, God's blessing on my ministry, the beauty of my marriage.

Now, at 45, I can say I am closer.

One year closer to seeing my dreams become reality.

One year closer to fulfilling the call God placed upon me in eternity past and which I heard when I was 14.

One year closer to "laying hold of that for which God laid hold of me".

One year closer to laying down this body, being freed of the limitations of time and space, entering eternity and the fullness of all God's purposes for me.

"The End is Just the Beginning." I think of Sister Addis, a dear and godly woman whom I remember from childhood from the times my aunt Joan took my sister and I to church, where Sister Addis served faithfully with her husband. I see her now, having laid aside this mortality, standing next to her Savior, looking across eternity, saying across the ages, "Death, where is your sting? Grave, where is your victory?"

I think of my good friend Van, who, having run the race and faithfully finished his course, is on the shoutin' ground now. I quote from a journal entry from January:

Monday night, about midnight, my phone rang. It was Angela ..., Van's wife. She called to let me know that sometime early Sunday morning, Van had passed away, presumably, she thought, of a heart attack. One second, Van was up, returning to bed after getting up to go to the bathroom, he stopped and sort of slumped against the wall, and then collapsed on the floor. When he hit the floor, he was already in glory. It happened just that quick. Angela said she never heard him say anything; the only sound was when he hit the floor. They tried CPR, but Van was already on the shoutin' ground, dancing around the throne, enjoying the presence of his Father and his Savior, all thought of this world gone, I assure you. I see him there now as I write this, and I am filled with joy at the thought of my good friend of so many years finally home. I see him smiling, shouting to me in that wonderful way he had, “I'm here, Brother! I made it! And it was worth it, it was all worth it, every bit of it! Glory to God, I'm home, I'm home, I'm home! Hurry on up here – it's great, Brother! Can't wait til you git here!”

I can't sit still at this computer another minute -- I've got to run and shout a little bit! Won't somebody go with me?

[Intermission. Your patience is appreciated while the blog author engages in what is traditionally, in some circles, known as a "runnin' spell" or a "shoutin' fit". He can be seen jumping, dancing, and frankly doing movements one would not normally associate with a large white man. Who said large white men can't dance? -- Editor]

{Heard somewhere on the internet: "Myrtle, I believe somethin's got a holta that boy." Then: "Earl, hush, I'm tryin' ta read this. Go back in yonder and watch Sports Center or somethin'."}

Okay, I'm back.

45 . . . and beyond. As God literally redeems my life and reconnects me with his call, his purpose, and my dreams before my eyes, I can say with confidence that 45 will be the best year of my life. Far from being behind me, my best days are still to come. No matter what. Keep watching -- you'll see!

We're all moving closer to something. What are you moving closer to?

Some blog housekeeping. Since the last entry, I've put a new section in the sidebar to the right, below the section entitled "About Peace Offerings". It's a section of links to my favorite blog entries from my old blog, Lonesome Dove Xpress-ions. In addition to the links mentioned in the last entry, at the suggestion of a couple of people, I added a link to an entry titled "You're Doin' A Great Job!" Some folks have found it humorous. I put it in as a sidebar section for those curious enough to read those entries, some of which contain some decent writing, I think.

Things to come . . . here. No matter that I've been sporadic in writing entries in this new blog til now; I have been working on entries since its inception. Each time I sit to write what I think will come next, it changes as God works in my heart.

That said, it is my goal for the next little while to post an entry each Sunday, beginning March 28 (of course, if you are reading this entry at a later date, all that is moot). Subject to change, I still have in my heart to outline where I envision things to go over the next few times we meet here:

Week 1: "Stop Trying To Please God" -- not what you think; some meditations and thoughts on the gospel of grace and peace.

Week 2: "Dreamer" -- 1st of three entries in a series outlining some of my journey with God which I hope encourages those who read it.

Week 3: "Doubter" -- part 2 of the series.

Week 4: "Redeemer" -- part 3 of the series.

It is possible there could be changes to what I intend to write, especially in 3 weeks when I go to Dallas. I am expecting God to do mighty things during the days I am there, both in terms of my own life and in my ministry while there. I can't wait to see what God's going to do!

In days to come, I will probably share some thoughts from what I've been primarily meditating on, studying, and enjoying over the past several weeks: Psalm 73. I haven't quite decided how that will work itself into the writing here, but it's what I'm anticipating at some point.

And, for all of that, as for all else in my life, I must say: "as the Lord wills."

Until next time, walk in God's favor and peace . . . Jesus is Lord! Jesus' Love Rules!

Much love to you all . . .

Allan -- the 45-year-old