Because You Just Don’t Know

You just never know 

If this is

IT

The last embrace 

The final moment of shared joy

A simple hug in the kitchen

Before you hit the road

‘Love you dad’

‘Love you mate.’

Chests bump, hands slap

Blokes

But then

The news

That something has gone wrong 

That he won’t be coming home

Ever

The utterly unimaginable has happened 

So this evening you hold her a little longer

A treasured moment of deep gratitude 

For the life you share 

Revelling in the simple pleasure of fatherhood 

For a little longer

Because you just don’t know 

10 Weeks…

It’s been around 10 weeks now since Sam died – which I feel is long enough for the shock to wear off most people and equally long enough for the terrible reality of his absence to settle with us.

I feel like I have moved away from shock (‘can’t believe this happened to us’) to ‘what now?… How do we live in this new reality?’

I find it hard to describe the kind of pain I experience when I contemplate that I will never see him again – in this life. It’s very very ‘black’ – very dark and I get the sense I haven’t ever felt this kinda stuff before so I don’t even know quite how to articulate it.

Is it a deep wound that never fully heals and is hyper-sensitive any time it is touched? Is it an expanding inner darkness that I haven’t begun to comprehend yet? I know these last few days I felt the ‘never-ness’ stronger than before, like it has settled deeper in my being.

I’m grateful Sam wasn’t murdered like the two Aussie surfers in Mexico – I’m grateful he didn’t die a violent death, and I’m grateful that we were able to see him and his body wasn’t lost. In light of what we have seen on the news recently I guess those are things are positives. But he’s still dead.

I now observe how people interact around news of Sam’s death, how it impacts some profoundly and others seem to be unaware or maybe disinterested. I know I have never been amazing at staying in that space of grief with people. I just don’t seem to have that kind of empathy. I can focus and work at it, but I have noticed some people are just very naturally empathetic. I’m not one of those as a general rule, so I have a fair bit of grace for people who seem to not register where we are at in life.

In one sense I feel like the reality has taken hold and we have accepted (what else can you do) our situation, but in the acceptance it’s like we stepped up another level in intensity of grief. It’s a little like the chronic back pain I had a few years back – sometimes you forget it’s there, sometimes you have days when you function fairly normally, but other days it’s a searing pain that you simply can’t get around. It never goes away.

And then come the doubts – what if the whole Christian story is a myth? What if we have been the ones barking up the wrong tree all these years?… Yeah I do have those thoughts from time to time. I feel like I also know how to process them so they don’t spiral me into utter hopelessness. In those moments I reflect on what I already know of God, of Jesus and on my experiences of faith over so many years and it pulls things back into shape fairly quickly. I’m glad for those markers and moments that I can refer back to after around 50 years of following Jesus. I imagine this would be a tougher journey without the track history of God’s faithfulness and goodness to reflect back on.

This Sunday we head to Pingelly to speak to the crew down there. We had literally said ‘goodbye’ to them after a weekend on their church camp, when the call came that Sam was in trouble. So they went home with that knowledge – a fairly awful end to a good weekend. I want to go back and share with them some of how we have been dealing with this stuff – how our faith interacts with an event like this and how I have processed it all. I shared a message like this with the QBC crew a couple of weeks after Sam died, and I don’t intend to use it often. but for this context it will probably be helpful for them. I believe they have been doing some stuff with basic doctrine – so this will be a very stretching exercise in practical theology. How do these doctrines stand up and how do we navigate crises with them. I shared some of my deepest core convictions here a few months back so I will be reflecting on how they interact with this current situation.

Thanks to those who have blessed us with such care and kindness these last few months. The initial ‘assault’ is over and now we are contending with the next stages – an unknown quantity in many ways, but I’ll be reflecting on here as I’m able for those who are keeping in touch.

Taking the Leap into The Bivocational Space

If we are going to change tack and genuinely invest in a bivocational approach to mission and ministry then a first step would be coming to come to grips with just how stiff and unmalleable our imagination of the pastoral role can be.

It’s an imagination perpetuated by both pastor and church community. When pastors take up a ‘GP’ type role they end up feeling responsible for oversight of the whole church community. This isn’t bad. You can carry oversight responsibility without having to invest time in each activity or area. But wisdom and courage is required to discern where your limited time is best spent.

Note I used the phrase ‘limited time’. Seriously – we sometimes lead like time was an infinite resource, but reality is that even a full time pastor has limited time. You need to decide how many hours you are allocating to your pastoral role and then decide which activities you will need to invest most of your time in. You can’t be all things to all people all of the time.. Sorry – you just can’t… Or you can but you can expect to burn out, and feel angry, beaten up and misunderstood. But you are the one in control of your time, so you really can’t get all gnarly if you overcommit and end up with an overly full calendar.

If a good transition to a bivocational arrangement is going to happen then a conversation needs to be had with the church leaders and church community where there is agreement around the scope of the role. There is no point in a pastor drawing hard boundaries if no-one else is also subscribing to those boundaries. That is just a recipe for conflict. When we started at Quinns Baptist I somehow knew that I had 3 areas I could contribute to effectively – leadership & oversight, teaching and meeting with men. In 2 days of ministry these were going to be my priorities and foci.

What that looked like practically was:

a) allocating time for meeting with leaders both 1:1 and in groups, giving thought to future directions and ideas and addressing any challenges or conflicts that were happening. Mostly big picture & important people stuff.

b) teaching approx 50% of the time. I found I could generate a decent quality sermon if I stuck to this expectation. I would allocate 2-3 hours on a Monday morning for reading and exploration of the ideas, allow it all to percolate over the week and then on Friday morning I would switch off phones, wifi and any potential interruptions and crank out a word for word draft. Sometimes it would be dot pointed, but only if I knew my material well enough. That would take 2-3 hours. Then somewhere over the weekend I’d give it a ‘polish’ and make sure it all flowed. Teaching at blokes groups took very little prep as it was more about forming good questions to get men talking than imparting knowledge and information.

c) meeting with men happened ‘as needed’ and where I saw an opportunity. There was an intentional focus in my mind to spend time with men who were keen to move forward in their discipleship and faith. If you just want to attend church and tick the box then I won’t be chasing you.

Of course there was other stuff to do. I maintained the church website for many years, fielded emails from all the people who were seeking an opportunity to showcase their mission projects, did some marriage prep stuff, crisis meetings with families and other odds and ends – but I very rarely felt guilty or disappointed if the non-core stuff didn’t get done.

And I chose those 3 core activities based on my own gifts, the needs of the church and where I saw that I could make the greatest contribution. I

That’s how I hit it practically and it sounds pretty easy as I write it there. The challenge is that everything takes a long time to do because the time you can invest is more than halved. So if you’re a fast paced ‘go get em’ type then you may well find yourself frustrated that your ideas and plans aren’t being implemented quickly enough.

But then you have to step back and ask how important is it that the mens 4 x 4 club gets up and running asap? Or how critical is it that we establish a playgroup. Most stuff can wait and be done when you have the time – or – even better – it can be (and should be) delegated to people in the church

If you are already bivocational and frustrated then it may be

a) time for a serious conversation with leader and church to define the parameters of your role. That is for those who are feeling overwhelmed

b) for those who are feeling like everything is moving too slow it may be time to meet with a coach / spiritual director to reflect on why you are bothered by this and what is driving a need to ‘get there yesterday’.

I began this post suggesting that our imagination of church is too rigid and unmalleable – that the challenge for people going bivo is to come to a share understanding of what it means so that both pastor and church agree on steps forward. Perhaps a step in the right direction would be to get agreement around what constitutes a valid church community (theologically) and then to ask how many ways that can legitimately be expressed. If other alternatives can be imagined then they may also be worthy of consideration. Not all churches meet on Sundays in dedicated buildings led by theologically trained experts…

Of course there are different approaches to change processes. Some groups need a sharp, full frontal re-direction of their focus. Others need a more gentle approach. While I feel like I’d generally prefer to go softly, reality is that in most changes something needs to be broken, so it may even be better to just rip off the band-aid and get moving on a new direction.

Inverting Perceptions

This week it’s my job to speak in church from John 8, a story that opens with what we commonly call ‘the woman caught in adultery’ and is then followed by an almost Monty Python like routine between Jesus and the Pharisees where they argue about his identity.

I’ve spoken numerous times before from this opening story, and have always referred to it by that familiar title ‘woman caught in adultery’, until today as I was preparing and I found myself asking ‘why this title?’ Why not ‘religious leaders caught in self righteousness’? Or as one of my FB friends suggested ‘Patriarchal hypocrisy’?

I think we use the familiar title because this is where the various Bible editors have led us to. It’s the chapter heading in most Bibles and we have just learnt to accept it. Is it possible that there are more men than women on Bible editing teams and this is a male perception of the story? I wonder how a female team may have described this story?

Perhaps we need to change the title of the story, because the focus of John’s narrative is definitely not on the woman’s sin – but on the tactics the Pharisees employed to try and ‘check-mate’ Jesus.

The second question I found myself mulling over as I read the dialogue was ‘why does Jesus engage with these people like he does?‘ Is he not better to just walk away and let them be? Doesn’t he know that this is sheer futility? That you never wrestle with pigs. You both get dirty and the pig likes it)

The only sensible conclusion I can come to for Jesus’ persistent, unfiltered critique of the Pharisees is that sometimes you just have to go after evil systems and call out those who are perpetuating them. Sometimes gentle, kind persuasion doesn’t work. You have to speak directly to the issue in a way that evokes a response. I remember in the early days of running with the Forge tribe that our critique of the church was at times brutal and abrasive. It was intentionally confronting, because I suspect gentle nudges would not have made a difference. While the systems weren’t ‘evil’ the challenge of changing them required more than a ‘have you considered?…’

I seriously think we would have counselled Jesus to ‘let it go’, but he clearly didn’t think that was the best way of dismantling the broken religious systems of his time. Perhaps there is a time for abandoning tact and simply speaking truth in a confronting way. Of course the challenge is that we are not Jesus and our motives are rarely as pure as his…

Remembering and Realising

Grief is so spectacularly ordinary

As common as dust

Ever present in every day

If you choose to see

If you want to know…

As silent as breath

It festers in your neighbourhood

Its feral pulse never welcome

Its relentless pursuit exhausting

Brutal assaults begin afresh each day

Silent sinister voices enveloping

Whispering destruction

Affirming the utter pointlessness of 

Everything

—-

To grieve is to wake each day

Only to remember what will not be

To make breakfast

While images scroll on the digital frame

Joyous times 

Now singed with sorrow

Callous reminders of what was – and

Never will be again

Lunch in Fremantle (with you)

Holidays in Bali (with you)

A surfless surf (with you) that Christmas at our local

Where we three still managed

To share one lumpy wave 

For a few laughter filled seconds

Of family fun

I remember… 

With a smile

—-

Until it strikes me

Once more with blunt force

We won’t do any of these things again

They held no great value on the day

No special significance at all

But now they are savoured

Mused on

Bitter and beautiful mingled together

Because now they are all we have

Fond recollections of times we shared

Agonising memories of joy

In the simple act of remembering 

We realise

That this is what is left of you

Shards of memory 

Just enough to make us bleed

A comfort that tortures

But a pain we will endure

To savour the joy of the recollection

—-

Now you appear in playlists

Your songs speak your voice

Ruminations

Provocations

Observations 

Social media memories

Sometimes inane and trivial

Other times harrowing 

In their reminder of loss

Conversations with friends

Proffer quirky memories 

Of times shared

Notes you scribbled on your computer 

Not expecting anyone would ever read

Are a part of you we now encounter afresh 

A balm when the pain takes us down

Or sometimes a stabbing jolt

Just when we had started to heal


No longer will you call while driving

Ranting angrily, at the crazies around you

‘What is wrong with you dude!?’

Nor will we wonder if you & Cosi are coming home for the weekend

But, oh we will wonder, but only for a moment

Of course you aren’t

We wont hear another word 

About the pile of dog turds that accumulated outside your bedroom window 

Allowing you to fart freely 

And attribute the blame elsewhere

Creepy Christians doing obscene things in Jesus name

Will not be called out with such offense

Or maybe they still will…

I hope we may be responsible for helping you 

Continue to raise your fist at such nonsense

We won’t lament the injustice of the world together

Although your pain 

At other’s suffering will always remain with us

We won’t wrestle demons together

Tussle with dodgy theology

Nor dream 

Of futures you and Cosi would share

—-

Because you are dead

Yes dead

A harsh word

Like a clanging cymbal

It has no nuance

Possesses no manners

But is raw foul reality

A stench that now infests our lives

And can only be tolerated

Never excised

Dead 

Correction

Following on from my last two blog posts a friend messaged me to say that my post on the absent father followed by one on beautiful generosity seemed contradictory. God has shown up plenty in my life and in many ways we have been super-blessed. So yeah – fair call – I have probably been sitting in the blessing space much more than I gave credit for in that post.

What fuelled the ‘disappointment’ was my inability to see healing come to parts of my body that are currently reliant on drugs for pain relief. I was in the middle of reading a book that is essentially a list of dramatic, miraculous healings – and yet my experience seems to fall outside of that arc. So my focus there was on how God shows up miraculously to help.

In my experience not so much, hence my faith and expectation for this stuff is somewhat limited. But it would be incorrect to say that we have sat on the suffering side of the equation for most of our lives. We have had our periods of suffering and our moments, but by and large we have lived a very fortunate and blessed life.

So if you read that post and wondered what the heck I was dribbling about then there’s some context. 🙂 And thanks for the feedback and heads up

Beautiful Generosity

All the ‘generosity’ pics were soppy so here is one of Sam feeling blessed out of his skin!

Over the last few weeks as I have been bumping into people and they have been asking about our experience of Sam’s death, the one thread that seems to have run thru the whole of this tragic situation has been the incredible generosity and kindness of those around us. We speak of the importance of being in community for all sorts of reasons, but I never thought I’d be so appreciative and overwhelmed by the kind of love and generosity we have experienced.

We were inundated with flowers, cooked for every night for over a month, given Uber eats vouchers we are still yet to use, had people do stuff around our home to help out, had friends offer valuable practical help with various aspects of the funeral, had people regularly check in and invite us for coffee and then various people and communities have passed the hat around and given us outrageously large sums of money.

It has been incredibly beautiful to be on the receiving end of this.

We often speak of the richness of community in tough times, but I sense it is often said somewhat optimistically – hoping that maybe the dreams we have of how our communities take shape may actually come true…

Our family has been wonderully supportive and generous.

Our street has showed us love and kindness beyond what we would ever expect.

Our churches at Quinns and Yanchep have both been places where we have been loved and cared for in many ways.

Our good friends have kept their fingers on the pulse & made sure we are as ok as we can be.

While it has been an incredibly difficult period, every time I stop and ponder how we have been cared for and looked after I am enormously grateful. So if you were one of those people who stepped up somewhat over the last 3 months then ‘thank you‘.

Enjoying the expressions of love and generosity has genuinely been one of the best experiences of my life.

Is God an ‘Absent Father’?

This quote from Tim Keller appeared on my ‘memories’ from Facebook today. I liked it in 2014 when he said it and I thought enough of it to give it a re-run today.

It’s a tough line Keller takes and one that does necessitate some explanation. As my friend Phil said:

I think that’s mostly true. But it sort of misses the grace that is part of God’s character. We’re not God and don’t think like him and yet put our broken hope in our understanding of his will. Sometimes we get that wrong.

It evokes some real tension. We can think of a God who came thru in the Exodus, a God who came thru for David when he was up against Goliath, a God who protected Daniel quite miraculously, and then the other 3 exiles who were thrown into the fire. On a more human level we see a God who came thru for childless Hannah with the birth of Samuel. That’s all true enough.

But then there’s the God who ‘didn’t come thru’ for Stephen in Acts 9 as he was killed, or for Paul as he endured multiple beatings and floggings. Many of the early believers were martyred for their faith. Where was God then?

Imagine the original quote as a continuum now. At one end is ‘I never expect God to come thru for me in a hard time.’ At the other is ‘I always expect God to come thru, show up and get things done.’

Where would you sit on a continuum like that?

And why would you sit where you do?

Where would the apostle Paul sit?

Before you read on take a moment to pause and ask yourself those questions, then I will answer with my own reflections.

—————–

Ok I hope you did that because it will give you an insight into how you perceive God. Is he deeply engaged in our lives or is he quite removed? Can we even tell?

On a scale of 1-10 with 1 being ‘never’ and 10 being ‘always’ I am probably a 2 or 3. I rarely expect God to show up, fix stuff, heal people, heal me even… I have some very low expectations in this regard. (The beauty of low expectations is that it’s hard to be disappointed…) Of course the corollary is that it can be very hard to be inspired by a God who doesn’t respond as I would hope. In this space faith is more dogged than spectacular and I sense its where many of us live.

As I tapped those numbers ‘2-3’ I felt disappointed – sad that my experience of God has me expecting so little – but that is reality.

I don’t know too many people who are up around the 8 or 9 mark on this scale. Maybe it’s just the circles I move in. But I know there are also people out there who expect the miraculous and often get it. Why?

If the line is a continuum between ‘blessing’ and ‘suffering’, then I find myself leaning towards suffering and rarely expecting blessing. James 1 flies to mind… ‘consider it pure joy my brothers and sisters, when you encounter trials of various kinds, for the know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance…’ That feels like the mode I often find myself in, but I wish I could say ‘hey God healed me’ or ‘wow… God came thru in an incredible way.’ I wish my own experience of God was more dramatic and that I could speak of seeing him do incredible things.

It’s one of the questions that I have mulled around in regard to Sam’s death. Our presumption is that as he died God did nothing. Maybe that’s true… and it is then a question of reflecting on how we deal with that reality. However God may have been whispering in his ear to surface, to stop the chase, abort the mission, but maybe Sam didn’t hear, or just didn’t want to hear. I don’t know any of that for sure – I’m just speculating around the possibilities. Maybe God is more involved than we realise – we just tell him to butt out.

Either way he didn’t override the laws of nature so that Sam could surface intact. Keller’s quote seems to speak of a Genie like God, a kind of top level personal assistant who performs on demand. I just can’t even contemplate that as an image of God.

But if I forget Sam for a minute and ask ‘why doesn’t God show up more often in my life in truly tangible ways?’ I have to admit that I’m just not sure. It may be that I have low expectations from so many years in a ‘solid Baptist’ environment. It may be that he is present in ways that I can’t grasp. Or maybe he just quite literally doesn’t show his face. I’m certainly not a deist who believes God is completely absent. I sense we have moments where God seems to be present quite powerfully, but also long stretches where he feels absent or just plain uninvolved.

Could God be an absent father?

That’s a heavy tag to drop on God, but I know it has been my experience at times as it has others. “Where the heck are you? And why can’t I seem to get your attention?’

I wish I could ‘explain God’ better that this… I imagine the bottom line is that we just don’t know why he acts as he does, but he calls us to trust him anyway. Dogged trust is better than no trust, although I must admit that I would like to see my experience move quite a distance beyond it’s current location.

‘Dive Down Deep’ – Song for Sam

When Sam died and we were planning the funeral I said to Danelle, ‘I’d love to call Morro and ask him to write a song.’ But it felt a little awkward as we haven’t been in each others lives a lot lately and I knew it might put him in a difficult spot. I also knew he’d capture some of the raw energy and passion that I hoped people would feel around Sam, probably better than anyone would. Not to worry…

Then over the weekend just gone I receive a text from him telling me has written a song… would I like to hear it?…

His text came in as Danelle, Ellie, Cosi and i were standing in the kitchen together. ‘Yeah… we’d love to hear it…’ We think… unsure of what it might evoke…

So I hit play and let it roll. There’s just something about music and about good songwriting that can get into your heart in a way few other things can. As he sang the last line there was a very teary group hug. He had nailed it and he had taken right into the heart of who Sam was. (Is it was or is?…)

Thank you for a beautiful gift Morro.

I asked him if I could share it as I know some of Sam’s friends would love to hear it. Morro did let me know it was a very rough recording on an iphone, but I’m sure you will be able to look past that as you immerse yourself in the music and the lyrics.

On Saturday afternoon I sat and listened to it on repeat for about 30 minutes – just remembering the courage Sam developed and being grateful for the life he lived.

(For context, Morro is an old friend from church networks, he was the West Coast Eagles for chaplain for many years and we also connected a bit when he was one of the 98.5FM brekkie show hosts. Pretty sure it was him who got me the fortnightly gig on the show!)

Here’s the link to the song and i will post the lyrics below too in case anyone would like to read them, as well as a brief intro to what was ticking around in Morro’s heart as he wrote.

Dive Down Deep
( Song for Sam)

The day after the funeral I started writing a song about Sam and about the depths of grief we go to… and somehow holding on to the fact we know God is still there in those deep dark places…

They said he was afraid
You could’ve fooled me
There was courage in his eyes
As he rippled like the sea
With the sun on his face and a smile as big as the sky

He was rocking a six pack and two loaded guns
Who can wrestle their demons and bring them undone
Without hunting them down and staring them straight in the eye

Chorus
Dive down deep
In the water and waves be embraced by the great mystery
Hold on forever like it’s your last breath
Be a friend to your fears
and stranger to death
I’m one with the silence
So stay in the wonder with me
And dive down deep

Life is for living
But how would you know
You were really alive
Till the end of the show
He was wringing it’s neck and was holding its face to the ground

Some have a passion
That leaves you in awe
Rising up like the ocean
And Its rugged and raw
With a love that is reckless and strong as it’s taking you down

Chorus

Dive down deep
In the water and waves be embraced by the great mystery
Hold on forever like it’s your last breath
Be a friend to your fears
and stranger to death
I’m one with the silence
So stay in the wonder with me
And dive down deep

Interlude
Chorus

They said he was afraid
You could’ve fooled me
There was courage in his eyes
As he rippled like the sea
With the sun on his face and a smile as big as the sky…

60 – Just a Number?

So… 40, 50 and now 60 years old… Can you tell?..

I’ve noticed that we have all these things we say as we get older that imply age is an inevitable barrier to the full experience of life. You will have heard them;

60 is just a number…

60 is the new 50…

You’re only as old as you feel

I get it. I do. But it seems part of the intent behind these hurrahs is to stave off the experience of aging with the implication that the sheer act of getting older is to be regarded as a negative thing.

I understand that with age there does come limitation and a decrease in most bodily functions. So that’s the ‘downside’ (if that is in fact a downside – maybe it’s good to slow down). But there is an upside – in fact there are many of them and I take great joy in them. For example;

Identity – I now know who I am and I am ok with me – mostly… Let’s be real – aspects of ‘me’ still need attention, but for the most part I know who I have ‘become’ and the trajectory my life is on and in that I am content. I feel like I have come to grips with the fact that my ‘one job’ in life is to keep moving, allowing myself to be formed in Chrst-likeness in all that I say and do. In one sense that is really hard as it involves a surrender of will, but in another it is equally simple if I can daily, get the ‘surrender’ part sorted. I’m getting better at that as it’s been a focus for many years now and it is coming more naturally. If I can stay on that trajectory then I don’t expect 70 or 80 to be difficult birthdays.

Contentment – Rather than moaning about the capacities I don’t have I can be appreciative of those I still do have. I can’t surf big waves any more… But I can still surf and this week 4 of us hit a little bay on the Coral Coast for a morning of fun waves and it was one of the best experiences I have had in the last little while. Lately I’ve been learning stand up paddle boarding for the first time (which is trickier than it looks…) and I’ve been hitting the local 4wd tracks on a fat wheel electric mountain bike, enjoying the seclusion and the challenge of riding random bush tracks, sometimes getting lost, occasionally getting launched over the handlebars, but mostly just enjoying the exhilaration of a new experience. I may not be able to run any more as my knees are shot, or even play veterans basketball (one groin strain = 8 weeks out) but there is still plenty I can do and that is good.

Contribution – I don’t think I have ever had as much to give as I do in this stage of life. At 60 I know stuff, I have experienced a lot and I even think I may have moments of wisdom. The challenge is to make investments of energy rather than just throwing myself at anything and everyone. I stepped back from senior leadership in our churches to allow some younger men & women to step up. I hope that more of my future will involve standing alongside younger leaders and supporting them as they figure stuff out. I’ve been listening to the Spirit for younger men who I can be praying for and available to. Each morning I pray for these blokes. It’s a somewhat random list and some of them would have no idea I pray for them. But – that’s also one of the things I can definitely do with my time – pray. It’s not sexy work – but it’s important stuff us older people can do.

Discerning Challenges – I want to both practice contentment and pursue challenge. I have seen too many people shut up shop in their later years and simply live a self centred and easy life. I remember hearing one man tell me that he turned the TV on when he got up and off when he went to bed late at night and his life revolved around this focus. I guess that’s one way to spend your twilight years…

I find enormous inspiration in what Caleb said to Joshua when he asked him for his share of the land they had taken:

“So here I am today, eighty-five years old! I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out; I’m just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then. Now give me this hill country that the Lord promised me that day. You yourself heard then that the Anakites were there and their cities were large and fortified, but, the Lord helping me, I will drive them out just as he said.”” Joshua 14:10-12

The bloke is a beast! He’s 85 years old and ready for whatever life may hold.

So, I am listening for the challenges that I am to accept and pursue. There are soooo many things I could do with the time I have, but with this portion of life feeling like the ‘home stretch’ where every movement counts, I don’t want to waste valuable time and energy on things that don’t matter.

Freedom – We have had the odd discussion around getting another dog. But it’s a completely vexed conversation. Instagram and Facebook show us adorable puppies and the idea of a furry friend is wonderful… But reality is that acquiring a dog would impact significantly on the freedom we have to respond to whatever needs or opportunities we might see. You can’t just ‘lock and leave’ when a dog is involved…

I’m still used to saying ‘we have adult kids’ – even though we now only have one daughter, but she is an adult and fairly independent and (with the exception of this period) usually not so in need of our time. So we have a significant amount of freedom to pull stumps for a period and go work somewhere else. We were going to be helping out Marg River Baps over the next 6 months, but Sam’s death means we are all taking a breath and recalibrating our bearings.

But with a decreased need to earn $$ we do have a much greater degree of freedom than ever before.

Anticipation of Heaven – To be honest I hadn’t given much time or thought to what happens after this life here and now, but Sam’s death forced me to ponder it more deeply. The first thing I realised after he died was that my ‘hope’ was a deeply embedded conviction and not just a ‘theory’ I hoped might come true. I wasn’t panicked or disturbed about where Sam may now be – and while I am deeply sad at losing my son, I find myself actually looking forward to the day when we will be reunited. I find myself beginning to anticipate a form of life that at this stage I have very little clear description of what shape it will take. So my pondering around the next life has formed a much stronger anticipation of its inevitable reality – and I am really pleased at that.

So that’s just a quick list of up-sides to aging that popped into my mind while I was sitting here pondering the actual experience of ‘being 60’. If I can dodge the various health bullets that seem to take out blokes my age then I reckon there are at least 20 good years left! And after that who knows…

I’m really hoping and expecting that the best is yet to come!