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FALLING….BUT NOT FALLEN

September 29th, 2016
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By Barry Hatfield

I took a fall recently.

It’s something that we of the ‘older generation’ are prone to do.

Just a quick slip on wet grass in our sloping backyard … and a micro-second later I was on the ground with shoulder and wrist on my right side taking the impact. It could have been much worse. The pain, stiffness and joint immobility came later that day as swelling cut in. Cold packs and bed-rest speeded recovery.

But … (there always seems to be a ‘but’), the real discomfort began to creep in immediately and it concerned how I had been seeing myself as a ‘senior’ – up until then. And it wasn’t all that pleasant.

I had taken a fall.

I had ‘known’ that older folk appeared to topple over more than the virile, stronger, younger generation surrounding us, but suddenly I was up there with those of the ‘fallen’, it seemed.

I discovered I was vulnerable. And I didn’t like it. It wasn’t funny. It was a little disconcerting. Was this the start of something inevitable, irreversible for someone of my age?

Sadly, the answer is yes – to a degree.

Since that day, I’ve been having mild bouts of ‘vulnerability-itus’. I’m finding that where once, in earlier days, I boldly stepped, I now foresee a pathway seemingly mined with booby traps specially crafted for my particular age group.

Yet this is nothing new. Our physical bodies don’t carry a lifetime warranty, despite our attempts at regular care and maintenance and careful driving. It’s just that we tend not to want to think about the limitations on our chassis until we’re confronted with an incident on the highway of life.

I clearly remember when I was a teenager, my 80 year-old grand-mother slipping on a linoleum floor and landing on her shoulder (much as I did). The injury was not serious, but the mental-emotional-physiological shock triggered deeply locked-away memories of childhood that she continually verbalised to the gathered family that evening. As a youngster I found it confronting. And all because of a fall.

Yes, our old bodies are vulnerable to trauma — and not necessarily of our own doing. If we were left to fend for ourselves we could find the going very rough indeed. Thankfully, we’re not alone, whether we safely ride the storm of life without the need of a lifeboat; or find ourselves in rough water without a life-jacket and heading for jagged rocks.

With all this falling business that older people often suffer (along with many other issues of life) God seems to have set an ‘Early Warning System that, if we’re alert enough, we can sense what could be ahead – and so take measures to skirt around potential road-blocks to a more productive walk in our later years.

Feeling vulnerable (but not frightened) is one such warning. The present world glorifies senseless risk-taking; the results of which we see in our daily news. In contrast, members of Christ’s church value their body and the longer they live the more they rely on His Grace to sustain and nurture what they’ve been given to use for Him.

Knowing we’re vulnerable (that word again) to the physical impositions of this aging life spreads a reality blanket over us when minor and major incidents surface unexpectedly – even a slip on the grass!

God’s awareness of this ‘vulnerability’ is a comfort. He wants his aged people to live productively within the bounds of their physicality so that their spiritual journey may bring Him all the glory.

As aged, we will probably ‘fall’ at some time in our human frailness and physical weakness and suffer the painful effects for a season. Despite this though, we’re given a solid promise in 2 Peter 1:10 for what is vastly more important than the increasing effects of aging on our physical bodies. Here it is:

‘Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall….

Now that’s re-assuring. But he isn’t finished. Rather than promising a support mechanism to prevent us toppling over in our later years, we’re given far more than any assistance package man could ever offer the weary, infirm, damaged, wounded, aged and injured of this life.

‘…and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.’

We may have falls in this life, but we’re certainly not of … the fallen.

Over 60's

Perspectives for an Ageing Congregation

November 3rd, 2014
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Congregations can start off young and full of the confidence of youth. But if they remain faithful over the decades, then the inevitable will become true: they will become an ageing congregation.This is in fact very positive. It means that people have endured until the end and their walk with God has not been just a youthful passing fad, but a life time commitment to doing good and pleasing God.

 
I would like to share several perspectives .

 
1. The first one comes from the late John Halford. A couple of years before his recent death, John made a video about growing older entitled Changing Seasons. To view please click here.

 
There is a reality we have to accept. We are mortal and we do age. But we can also discover that this season of life does offer its own opportunities.

 
2. Regardless of how we live there is what the book of Ecclesiastes describes as in

 
Ecclesiastes 12:1

 Remember your Creator
    in the days of your youth,
before the days of trouble come
    and the years approach when you will say,
    “I find no pleasure in them”—

 
And we cannot sugar coat this reality. It is something we as an ageing congregation need to appreciate and seek the love of God to share this burden with one another. Many are house bound or have limited opportunity to get out. Others are suffering the grief of loss – whether bodily functions or of family members. In fact one could say that ageing can be a series of losses with the accompanying grief.

 
Thus there is an opportunity of the congregation to mourn with those who mourn and to share the comfort of God with one another.

 
3. Recently Joe Tkach discussed the following:

 
At times we’ve referred affectionately to our very small, often aging congregations as “legacy churches.” We’ve stopped doing so because it implies that they don’t have a meaningful, ongoing part in the mission of God. But that’s not what we believe. We value every congregation, no matter how small and no matter the age of its members. We value every member, no matter their age or other limiting circumstances. We believe that each congregation and every member can play a meaningful, important part in what God is doing to make of us a church planting movement.

 
This mission focus keeps all of us aware that the living God is continuing to add to his family and share the life of the Father and Son in the Spirit.

 
Isaiah 40:28-31

 
28 Do you not know?
    Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
    the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
    and his understanding no one can fathom.
29 He gives strength to the weary
    and increases the power of the weak.
30 Even youths grow tired and weary,
    and young men stumble and fall;
31 but those who hope in the Lord
    will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
    they will run and not grow weary,
    they will walk and not be faint.

 
This involvement in the God, who does not tire or lose interest in his loving purpose to include all in his family, lifts us as a people to put our hope in him.

 
4. This last point is the deepest and most personal. It is described in a prayer by the apostle Paul in

 
Ephesians 3:14-21

 
14 For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family[a] in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.

 
The longer we live the more aware we are of our weaknesses, our mistakes, the fact we still have blind spots to how we affect others. This can cause us to feel a bit fragmented, disconnected and at times alone. But the good news contained in scriptures like this is that God is complete, full and that we can know that we are loved, that we belong and be embraced, at home with God. The fullness of God involves the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

 
Prayer can be the focused awareness of this filling. So as we age, just enjoy God in his fullness, allowing him to embrace you in his acceptance and giving thanks for such a growing knowledge of his love for all of us.

Over 60's

RETIRE! …. WHO ME?

June 23rd, 2014
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By Barry Hatfield

(Warning: under 60-years readers must be accompanied by a retired adult)

Sydney church has a ‘men’s shed’ of sorts. It’s when a few men are working together in hall set-up before the ladies arrive. We have a short time window in which to talk, laugh and generally bump things around as men do without fear that we’ll be chastised for ‘not being nice’. Those moments are precious.

In similar vein, here’s a radical thought. Men shouldn’t be at home. At least those who’ve retired and don’t have an interest that keeps them out of their wives’ way. (I hear wives shouting agreement).

The human form ‘Man’ was meant for work. Most of us would agree. Notwithstanding, there comes a time when body and mind succumb to inevitable age-creep and the decision is made to cease employed work – or your boss decides you have become a ‘redundant’ employee and euphemistically ‘lets you go’.

What then? Are you a redundant human being? Is that the way God sees you? Obviously not. He wants us to be active, productive, permanent members of His family where the terms of tenure won’t be broken by an encroaching arbitrary age barrier. If we’re there, we’re there to stay – is how our Heavenly Father has structured His plan.

Yet in this world, Christians don’t get a free Senior’s Pass to soften the ride into what the world has come to label ‘Retirement’.

When I made that shift some years back my mind wasn’t prepared for the almost immediate change in my long-held ‘work’ mindset. From day one, the business phone calls ceased, the emails stopped filling my inbox, invitations to press conferences dried up, the requests for consulting services stopped. It was as if I’d left the planet. I was anticipating publishing deadlines disappearing — but not this isolation. My self-imposed ‘work-stoppage’ (retirement) had put me out on an age-labelled limb from which there was no climbing back to the trunk of the ‘productivity’ tree.

But we (men especially) must be willing to face the inevitable fact that we do ‘age’. It’s tough on us, we who’ve been the bread-winners for decades. We can easily feel we’ve been cheated by time and in turn are cheating our families by not leaving for work each day like we used to.

When I handed in my National Heavy Truck licence that had allowed me to road-test and report on new truck-trailer combinations I had made the decision because my body and mind don’t run at the speed they used to. And I don’t want to become a risk to others.

I’m now limited to a God-ordained winding down body. After seven years isolation from a working life-time of productive (and exciting) man-style activity I’ve accepted the fact that I’m retired — yet not retired from life.

The challenge for all of us creeping over the age-hill like a heavy truck climbing a steep grade, is that we tend to only see the grinding slope ahead of us. It can be a hard, un-rewarding slog at times, knowing that it won’t get easier. Unless, of course, we ‘see’, in faith, what awaits on the other side. Unlike most of the world, we don’t need technology to see ‘over the hill’.

In place of a GPS screen we have Christ’s own assurance that whether currently we are human men or women – our new spiritual bodies will be a reflection not so much of how we’ve held a particular identity in this first life, but of the continuing identity and realm of Christ throughout our ‘second’ and eternal life.

For we older men, who’ve focused on jobs and careers and responsibilities — this isn’t easy to get our heads around at times. We still want to join up and talk about ‘manly’ issues — without solving the problems, I might add. Fact is, we can’t. Only the power of God can. We can but want to be an active part of what He’ll be doing with us …forever.

Men! Good news! There won’t be any retirement when you have a spirit body. Life won’t wind-down because of advancing years. And there won’t be any stiff backs, sore knees, weak muscles and creaky joints. No un-utilised talents. No un-realised dreams. No redundancies!

What you will be as a spirit-‘man’ in the image of God, and as a brother of Christ, will be validated – no matter what role Christ assigns you. Others (and yes, that includes resurrected family members!) won’t question your life, times, work, enjoyment and worship in Christ. You will be you– as Christ wants you to be in and around Him.

Whatever position, involvement, challenges, responsibilities, and opportunities we’ve had as men in this life will, in the life to come, be so far removed from the reality of living as glorified members of God’s Family in His Kingdom and all its astronomically gargantuan (see dictionary) purpose throughout eternity, that the frustrations of the few short bumbling, stumbling years of so-called ‘retirement living’ here and now will evaporate before our new eyes, when the dark glasses are removed and we see, for the first time, clearly, what our ‘real’ life will be in Christ.

(Now to mow the back lawn!)

Over 60's