Onward and Upward

January 13th, 2011

SaladSpinach greens, red peppers, green peppers – for a salad.  That’s what my friend Keith brought last night when he came by for supper.  I added cheese and pulled out several dressings from the fridge.

Sitting down to eat, Keith was about to pour some Italian dressing on his salad when I stopped him, "Hey!  You might want to check the expiration date on that."  He did, and it was September 2009.  So I checked the date on the Ranch: it said best by February 2010.  But they both smelled ok so we went ahead and used them.  It didn’t say they were expired, just best if used by the dates listed.

The moral of the story is some things last longer than one might think.  At least I’m not sick yet.  The other moral is I don’t eat salad often.

When I was a little kid, all us brothers used to go to a barber shop run by two older guy barbers.  We called them "The Old Geezers."  Not to their face of course, but the name stuck behind their back.  A couple weeks ago I needed a haircut and decided to return; it had been years since I’d last seen them.  One of the men was ominously missing, but the other barber remembered me right away.  As he was cutting my hair he began reminiscing:  had been barbering in that same shop for forty-three years, remembered giving me my first haircut, and was my brother the one who went to West Point? 

Sadly, his hair cutting partner had died recently of cancer.  From my perspective as an adult the surviving barber didn’t look that old, maybe 65.  And he was a “geezer” when I was a kid? Bet he will be barbering many years to come. 

Our society tells us we need to kick back and relax after a certain age.  But in my mind, similar to the out of date salad dressings, I hope to be good long after my expiration date.  I don’t ever plan on retiring.

My Grandpa sets a good example: he retired, but then went to Jamaica as a full-time missionary for five years.  Then he retired again, only to accept a full-time church pastorate for several more years.  Then he retired again, but soon was driving for a rental car agency while filling in as a substitute pastor.  He has a hard time sitting still.  So do I.

"You can’t teach an old dog new tricks," we oft hear.  But is it true?  I believe in life-long learning and can confidently attest to having learned more in the last five years since graduating college than in the four years previous at college.  At least more worthwhile things.  Just goes to show a college diploma isn’t the panacea it’s cracked up to be. 

We can’t sit on our laurels.  I remember watching a young pianist on TV being lauded as fantastic.  She was, for her elementary school age, but not by any other standard.  In order to be fantastic as an adult or even a teen she would need to improve dramatically.

What are we doing to keep ourselves sharp?  Flowing water remains fresh, but a calm pool turns stagnant.  A musical instrument stays in tune better when played. 

Here’s how the apostle Paul put it:

"I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man shadow boxing. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize."  (1 Corinthians 9:26-27)

"But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus."  (Phil 3:12-13)

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