“…but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.”

[Philippians 3:13-14 NRSV]

My mother and me at my ordination,
January 18, 2003.

I recall a conversation I had with my mother when she first moved to Columbus, Ohio, from Pennsylvania. She was living in a senior citizens’ high-rise that had a minimum age requirement of 55 to qualify for residency. Mom was regretting the move and complaining because she hadn’t made friends in her new city.

I said to her, “Mom, why don’t you go down to the lobby and introduce yourself to the ladies that get together there?”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” she shot back quickly, “I don’t want to be down there around those old people!”

Mind you, my mother, who was 77 at the time, was at least 10 years older than the oldest of the old people with whom she refused to associate.

As I reflect on my recent 73rd birthday celebration, I guess that’s an attitude I’ve inherited. I don’t like to be around old people.

Let me be a little more specific. I don’t like being around “old-thinking people.” There is a difference.

Being open to new thoughts and ideas, exploring different approaches, seeking creative solutions, risking – are attitudes that generate an energy and enthusiasm that keep one young and alive. Though the body betray us, the mind is most often capable of overcoming whatever physical limitations age may impose.

I’m not in the habit of hiding my age, but I understand why people are inclined to do so. Society categorizes by age groups. In the most general terms, one is either a youth, an adult, or a senior. Those labels are then attributed certain characteristics and behaviors. One is expected to, “act his/her age.”

When I go for my annual physical, the doctor is obligated to run certain tests for a person in my age range. He asks questions that baffle me, such as, “Do you have problems with the sniffles?”

It’s amazing to some that I’m not retired. (There are times when I wish I were, but that’s another topic for another day.)

Others are fascinated by my familiarity with technology. Youngsters, especially, are astounded that I preach from a tablet. Granted, I know just enough to be dangerous, but I love gadgets and own just about every new thing that’s out there.

So here is my reason for writing this brief essay. Despite my advanced age and to the surprise of many, three years ago God called me as a leader in God’s Church. On occasion, even I have questioned why. But when one considers that God called Abraham (the biblical one, not me) at the age of 75, I’m a spring chicken by comparison.

As a leader, I am fully confident that God will grant me the health, the strength, the enthusiasm, energy, and wisdom to continue to serve.

And as a newly minted 73-year-old, I refuse to be categorized, labeled, or put in a box.

I have my sainted mother to thank for that.

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