Wednesday, October 17, 2007


When in Hawaii, every morning, after my exercise dance routine, I swim for thirty minutes – four laps across the Kuhio Beach lagoon. Salt water has a healing, life-giving effect, so I’m told. And this old, sagging, septuagenarian body needs all of the healing help it can get.

It’s not easy, though. Aging brings with it a plethora of aches, pains and metabolic changes. Exercising hurts more than it used to and takes far greater effort. Added to this, I’ve been stung twice by jellyfish while swimming. And you know the treatment for jellyfish stings, demeaning to say the least.

It’s the result that keeps me going, cleansing and regenerative, body, soul and spirit, born again every morning. This followed by a tall double-shot latte, Starbucks sanctified, makes me ready to take on the world. Like my good friend, Bill Francis says, “It’s heaven on the way to heaven.”

Here’s the rub, though. Caffeine is not everlasting, despite “power drink” testimonials to the contrary – Monster, Red Bull and Full Throttle, to name a few. Heaven and hell coexist together on this planet, each competing for control. It’s an up and down wrestling match with hell coming out on top ever too frequently, forcing you to cry, “Uncle!” The older I get, the more dependent I become upon savior uncle. To say, “It hurts like hell” is not cursing, my spiritually-minded friend; it is reality! The eternal caffeine fix is a promise yet to come.

It takes discipline to coexist in this world, dear ones. “Discipline: reflexive verb to make yourself act or work in a controlled or systematic way. Make: transitive verb to transform somebody or something into something else or to cause somebody to do something or act in a particular way” (Encarta Dictionary).

Back in the dark ages when the use of a leather strap was not called child abuse, my mother’s form of discipline was to let me have it on the behind while saying simultaneously, “This hurts me more than it hurts you!” Yeah, sure! She might as well have been speaking a foreign language. What did she mean? Why was she crying when I was the one literally getting the Hades beaten out of me? It never occurred to me that my undisciplined behavior hurt her more than that hell-cleansing leather strap hurt me.

I had a preacher once say to me, with great braggadocio, “I get up early on Sunday morning to prepare my sermons,” obviously proud of this accomplishment. I had just suffered through one of those sermons, sitting on a hard other-century pew. Made me want to cry, “Uncle!” and exclaim to that preacher, “This is hurting me more than it hurt you!”

Sounds like I’m picking on preachers, doesn’t it? Suffered through a few Sunday School teachers, likewise. Discipline, lack thereof, is no respecter of persons or situations, devotional life first and foremost, I suspect. “Disciple” and “discipline?” They somehow go together, don’t they?

Then Jesus went with them to a garden called Gethsemane…Stay here and keep vigil with me…Going a little ahead, he fell on his face praying…When he came back to his disciples, he found them sound asleep. He said to Peter, ‘Can’t you stick it out with me a single hour? Stay alert…There is part of you that is eager, ready for anything in God. But there’s another part that’s as lazy and an old dog sleeping by the fire. He left them a second time. Again he prayed…When he came back, he again found them sound asleep…went back a third time to pray…When he came back…he said, ‘Are you going to sleep on…? My time is up…Get up!’ (Matthew 26:36-46 Message)

Too bad there were no 7/11 convenience stores in Jerusalem at the time. A caffeine-laden can of Full Throttle would have been a Godsend right about then. Did I really say Godsend?

Come to think about it, who needs all that hard work and discipline anyway. A double-shot latte is worth about thirty minutes in the pulpit, enough to get a pastor through to retirement, thus ensuring that monthly pension check. Besides, on this continent, all you need is a congregation of fifty to place your church in the majority, attendance wise. What more can one ask? I mean, who’s it hurting?

Hmmm. I guess I am picking on preachers… And then he told them, ‘You are to go into all the world and preach the Good News to everyone, everywhere.’ (Mark 16:15 TLB)

Is He talking to me? I’m retired!... GET UP!

Friday, October 12, 2007


The girls are out of school this week and the whole family (nine of us), twins and all took in a movie, “The Game Plan,” starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. I was coerced into going and then surreptitiously enjoyed the movie, keep it to yourself please.

The reviews are mid-range (3 on scale of 5), but one reviewer wrote, “The Game Plan, by comparison, is a sweet, funny story that made me smile, gasp and, yes, shed a few tears.” I got a kick out of my granddaughter, afterward, announcing to the world that her mother cried during the movie. And if I weren’t so macho, I’d admit to a tear forming, only one and in its formative stage, mind you, this confession for your eyes only.

I thought the directing was excellent and loved the visually creative back-and-forth camera shots between ballet movement and football action. The lead character’s name is Joe Kingman, befitting his perceived kingly status, and his mantra is, “Joe, Never Say No!” A poster with those words hangs conspicuously on the wall in his plushy apartment and focal to the film’s plot.

This mantra resonates with me on several levels. First, obviously, because my name is Joe, a stereotypical name to be sure. Think about it. G.I. Joe, Joe’s Bar, Cup of Joe, Joe Blow, Joe Smoe,Joe Cool, Joe Camel and the list goes on ad infinitum. I’m compiling same for a future writing project, so if you can add to this list, send them on.

More importantly, I hate the word, “no,” and firmly believe that it should be purged from our vocabulary. Granted, the “Keeper’s of the Regulations” (See Sept. 14 Aloha post right) in most traditional institutions and denominations would be out of a job. Can you visualize a board meeting without the use of the word, “no?” Emails would slow to a dribble. Middle management staff positions would be eliminated, thus allowing budgets to be freed up for grass-roots mission priorities. Chaos, risk-taking and creativity would abound. Failure would be tolerated. The Kingdom would increase exponentially (Insert “Hallelujah Chorus” here).

In an early day staff appointment, I served directly under the Chief Secretary, second-in-command or “Chief Keeper of the Regulations” in our ecclesiastical body. I affectionately referred to him as “Colonel No” – under my breath you understand. By the way, “Regulation Keepers” are found up and down the hierarchical ladder, lurking in corners everywhere, plenty to go around for everyone, lest you be feeling left out.

Anyway, Colonel No’s responses to my brilliant, innovative, creative ideas inspired me to mount a flagpole on the corner of my desk. The idea was that, every time I heard the word, “yes,” the flag would go up, “no,” it would remain down. Sad to say, there was very little flag waving during my tenure in that appointment. But, brother, when it did go up there was cause for celebration; corks popping, party hats donned, glasses lifted and laughter erupting – TGIY (Thank God it’s Yes!) – Party Time!

When Jesus came, the regulation keepers were understandably bummed. He took away their “no’s,” replacing them with a resounding, “Yes!” The “shalt nots” were replaced with “thou shalts.” The disciples partied day and night, with but a few exceptions, and the Pentecostal experience was like New Year’s Eve – a new beginning. “YES!” (Arm pump goes here). His followers were released, empowered and, yes, given permission to fail, which they surely did now and again, big-time sometimes.

But as surely as God is faithful, our message to you is not "Yes" and "No." For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by me and Silas and Timothy, was not "Yes" and "No," but in him it has always been "Yes." For no matter how many promises God has made, they are "Yes" in Christ. (2 Cor. 1:18-20 NIV)

I don’t want to sound too smug here, but you must know that life in retirement is one releasing, empowering, never-ending “Yes!” Must conclude on this note because Doris is calling and she never takes “no” for an answer.

“Yes, dear, I’m coming… Do what?!!!”

(Posted on TGIF, by the way)

Friday, October 5, 2007


Most evenings we sit on the Beach in Waikiki watching the sun set out over the Pacific Rim. It never grows old. Tourist flock by the busload to look, cameras clicking, fingers pointing, smiles forming. As the sun slides beneath the horizon, there is an audible “ahhhh!” heard all around, a beauty to behold.

It occurred to me that many of those sunset gazers are also in the sunset years of their lives, yours truly included – “sun-setters” watching the sun setting. When others behold us, is it with the same awe, wonder and dignity? I wonder.

This wonder thought came about because someone called me a septuagenarian the other day, sounds like a cuss word. Had to look it up to make sure: “sep-tu-a-ge-nar-i-an” (noun) “somebody in 8th decade of life – between 70 and 79.” Contrary to popular thinking, it is not synonymous with senility. “se-nil-i-ty: “forgetful, confused, or otherwise mentally less acute in later life.”

It gets worse. Doris took our granddaughters to school the other morning. In conversation on the way, the middle one asked, “Did grandpa go to Abraham Lincoln’s funeral, too?” This came up because they were discussing my attendance at a memorial service following Martin Luther King’s assassination. Ouch!

It doesn’t stop there. We recently paid a visit to The Salvation Army’s cemetery plot in San Francisco to pay our respects. It became readily apparent that we know more people dead than alive – a sobering discovery.

Lately, this beginning septuagenarian has become acutely aware (as opposed to mentally less acute) of people’s perceptions toward we who are approaching the proverbial “four-score-and-ten” mark. In my church, when an Officer (ordained minister) reaches Social Security age, he/she loses his/her “full-time” ministerial effectiveness. A miraculous transformation occurs, with a “reverse metamorphoses” taking place at midnight on retirement day. Voila! 11:59 p.m., productive, 12:01 a.m., passé, snap, just like that.

There is no remembrance of men of old, and even those who are yet to come will not be remembered by those who follow (Eccl 1:11 NIV). Preach it, brother!

Believe it or not, there are grown, intelligent people in my church who avocationally track the retirement dates of those in leadership. Why, they even have wallet-sized cards along with formulas that will predict who will replace these retiring leaders, and with some accuracy, I might add. Imagine that?

Stop! Hold it! Wait a minute! Do you realize how important we septuagenarians are to the world economy? Without us, the Viagra industry would be in deep you know what? Pharmaceutical companies would be crying, “Uncle!” The cruise industry would be going down for the third time. Think about charitable giving. The average age of donors is well up into the sixth decade.

Could the church survive without us? Check out tithing statistics by age category. Who would they turn to when there is a clergy breakdown (in my ecclesiastical part of the world anyway)? The headlines read, “Congregations Facing Clergy Shortage.” In some denominations, “more than half the pastors of congregations are in their second career.” “Quality not quantity,” I hear it said, ad nauseam. Rationalization be damned!

You want quality? Septuagenarians arise! “Golden Agers” unite! He who has the gold, rules! Flex those atrophying muscles (and wallets)! Rebuke those patronizing attitudes! Censure those condescending postures! Join with us, octogenarians. Take up your staffs!

Moses and Aaron did just as the LORD commanded them. Moses was eighty years old and Aaron eighty-three when they spoke to Pharaoh. The LORD said to Moses and Aaron, “When Pharaoh says to you, 'Perform a miracle,' then say to Aaron, 'Take your staff and throw it down before Pharaoh,' and it will become a snake.” (Ex 7:6-9 NIV)

Read on in Exodus for the rest of the story, if you don’t know it already. What might have happened had God sent two youngsters to confront Pharaoh? You don’t even want to think about it. Want quality and quantity? Look no further!

Now, if I can only remember where I put that blasted cane, staff, whatever you call it!