Birthday Jokes and Joys

“Old age is like a plane flying through a storm.
Once you’re aboard, there’s nothing you can do” (Golda Meir).

Throughout the year, I collect a few choice jokes about aging,
because—in fact—I am definitely aging!! Last week we celebrated my 69th birthday, which is getting dangerously close to the big 7-0, and I think I’ll be on the visiting team on that scoreboard! 😦

Yes! I remember being three and getting three cents each week for my allowance . . . which I always spent on penny candy from the corner store!

Along with millions of my Baby Boomer age mates, I’m quickly passing from “getting older” to just plain being old! Yikes! Where has the time gone?

Losing hair may not be your problem, but if you’re over sixty, you might identify with something on this list:

Alan and I definitely complain of having “goldfish” brains
and depend on one another to double-check our thinking.

Along with the funny cartoons that keep us laughing lest we cry, I occasionally find some really valuable advice, and here are a few of my favorites:

“When granted many years of life, growing old in age is natural, but growing old with grace is a choice. Growing older with grace is possible for all who will set their hearts and minds on the Giver of grace, the Lord Jesus Christ” (—Billy Graham).

Those that are planted in the house of the LORD shall flourish in the courts of our God. They shall still bring forth fruit in old age; they shall be vigorous and flourishing to show that the LORD is upright; he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him” (Psalm 92:13-15, Jubilee Bible 2000).

Tolkien Visits Disney

“May the wind under your wings bear you
where the sun sails and the moon walks” (J.R.R. Tolkien).

Recently, Alan and I visited Disney World with some of our kids and grandchildren. The richness of sights, sounds, tastes . . . experiences of surprise, laughter, excitement, and layered memories always makes our trips memorable. I was thinking about all the spiritual symbolism in J.R.R. Tolkien’s wild imagination, and how his wisdom and wit could be inscribed on some of our experiences at the parks. Tolkien would have loved a day wandering through the world of Disney, I’m sure. So, in his memory, I’m going to combine a few of my favorite Tolkien quotes with a few of my favorite photos from traveling to Disney!

“The birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus means that one day
everything sad will come untrue.”

“How do you move on? You move on when your heart
finally understands that there is no turning back.”

“It simply isn’t an adventure worth telling if there aren’t any dragons.”

“Deeds will not be less valiant because they are unpraised.”

(From Psalm 91:13-16, KJV Bible. You see, even the Bible has dragon stories!) “Thou shalt tread upon the lion and adder: the young lion and the dragon shalt thou trample under feet. Because he hath set his love upon me, therefore will I deliver him: I will set him on high, because he hath known my name. He shall call upon me, and I will answer him: I will be with him in trouble; I will deliver him, and honour him. With long life will I satisfy him, and shew him my salvation

“Above all shadows rides the sun.”

“You can only come to morning through the shadows.”

“If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold,
it would be a merrier world.”

“The world is not in your books and maps, it’s out there.”

“True education is a kind of never ending story—a matter of continual beginnings, of habitual fresh starts, of persistent newness.”

“All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

“The world changes, and all that once was strong now proves unsure.”
(Speaking more of this beautiful 1919 corvette [soon to be outdated by the 2020’s coming out] rather than my beloved husband!)

“For still there are so many things that I have never seen:
in every wood in every spring there is a different green.”

“There is some good in this world, and it’s worth fighting for.”

“Living by faith includes the call to something greater
than cowardly self-preservation.”

“In sorrow we must go, but not in despair. Behold! we are not bound for ever to the circles of the world, and beyond them is more than memory.”

“There is a place called ‘heaven’ where the good here unfinished is complete; and where the stories unwritten, and the hopes unfulfilled, are continued. We may laugh together yet.”

“The chief purpose of life, for any of us, is to increase according to our capacity our knowledge of God by all means we have, and to be moved by it to praise and thanks.” . . . Amen? To know, to love, to trust, to praise! As we are taught in Psalm 100:3-5, “Know ye that the Lord he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name. For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations.”

Thoughts to Ponder Learned from Some of the Giants of the Faith

“Find your purpose, then lose your life fulfilling your purpose” (John C. Maxell).

Learning from the Giants, by John C. Maxwell, started off a little slow for me, but by the end, I was very happy to have persevered in listening my way through it. Maxwell imagined sitting in his study for a day, being visited by a number of the Bible’s great leaders. As I was usually driving while listening, I resorted to writing down my favorite memories of what Maxwell had to say after arriving at my destination, so they may not be perfect quotes, but I wanted to share some provocative bits of advice gleaned from his studies and commend the book to you as encouraging reading. (P.S.—You know how I love to share photos, too, so I picked out some pictures from my last trip to Mackinac Island, although they were chosen more for beauty than connection to the text.)

Queen Anne’s Lace

Elijah:
*God loves you, even on your worst days!
*Wait, serve, and learn while you wait.
*Our purpose must always be more important to us than our position.
*Find your purpose, and then lose your life fulfilling your purpose.
*Brokenness always precedes blessing.

Arch Rock on Mackinac Island

Job:
*Character is more important than reputation, so work on growing your character.
*Reputation is like a shadow; it has no substance.
*Character is what will enable you to withstand tribulation.
*At the end of Job’s life, he was filled with promise and not pain anymore!

Deborah:
*Be prepared for God to surprise you.
*Expect the unexpected.
*You must deal with your past before God will give you a future.
*God can make nothing out of you until you realize you are nothing without God. (Editorial Note: We are always the objects of God’s love, which gives us great worth, but I think Maxwell was pointing out that God loves the humble in heart.)

Jonah:
*God is a God of second chances.
*Mercy always runs downhill.
*But—think about what you missed by not living right from the beginning!

Joshua:
*God will only give you the promises you claim.

Daniel:
*Be motivated by conviction, not convenience.
*Greatness isn’t doing all you can do; it’s allowing God to do all He wants to do through you.
*You will never lose your way if you never lose your why.
*Courage is like muscle; it is strengthened by exercise.

With my soul have I desired thee in the night; yea, with my spirit within me will I seek thee early: for when thy judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness” (Isaiah 26:9).

This Fall, Let’s Be Real But Stay Positive

As the new fall semester begins, I wonder if it’s time to rethink our social network strategy. I wonder if we’re being a bit jaundiced to complain about Face Book and Instagram (Twitter, etc—fill in the many blanks here) being platforms for attempting to make our friends think we’re perfect. Really? Sure, we see photos of holidays and happy anniversaries and trips and amazing birthday cakes (and huge donuts 🙂 ), but we also hear about tragic losses, upcoming surgeries, and requests for prayer support during difficult challenges. There may be a few of our friends who appear to be budding Martha Stewarts (for better or worse); some may need a little affirmation that they’re doing well, but isn’t that okay . . . and what friends are for? Can we take joy in the happiness of others and find pleasure in the good things of life they enjoy and want to share with us without feeling bad about our own lives? I hope so!

What about the “bad” stuff that gets shared? The emotional drama you wish they’d share with their BFFs only? The negative side of lives and loves? I’ve heard people complain that Face Book is used to denigrate others, relieve volcanic social pressure, go on the rampage about politics, or otherwise splatter venom on innocent bystanders.

Hollyhocks on Mackinac Island, Michigan

What’s the purpose of social media? How do we manage our online networks and resources without getting so frustrated we just quit? Here are a handful of suggestions to help keep our attitudes positive and compassionate while still being open and honest about our lives:

Rose of Sharon

*Be prayerful as we read, asking God to bless each person and meet their needs. “Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep” (Romans 12:9).

*Pray about what to share with others, and share for the sake of joyfully celebrating life together as well as sharing our burdens. Let’s take responsibility for thoughtful honesty and sincerity. “Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others” (Philippians 2:2-4).

Female Baltimore Orioles

*Don’t compare ourselves with others and reject any temptation to envy. No matter how good life is for someone, we can know they have their share of heartaches and pain too. “Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another” (Galatians 5:26).

*Reserve our deepest emotional and spiritual pains for our closest friends, and let’s resist sharing these on public media. Once something is written, it can never be completely erased from the memory of those who read it. “Discretion shall preserve thee, understanding shall keep thee” (Proverbs 2:11).

Juvenile Red-winged Blackbird

*Don’t depend on the response of others for our sense of worth. Each of us is loved by God more than we will ever comprehend! He is our maker, our redeemer, our savior, our anchor, and the only “One to watch!” in the sense of needing approval. Let’s keep God as the “apple of our eyes,” the focus of our love, the sunshine that makes our spirits bright! It is only as we center our lives in Him that we will be truly centered and stable. “For with thee is the fountain of life: in thy light shall we see light” (Psalm 36:9).

*As a young person, I heard that George Washington was taught to “Be kind to all, be friends with few, be intimate with one.” I cannot find the origin of this quote, but I think it’s excellent advice both at home and online! “She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness” (Proverbs 31:26).

Honey bee collecting pollen from a budding Rose of Sharon

*Here is another quote by Ben Franklin that I think has merit in guiding social discourse, even though it’s over two centuries old (and I’m not sure how he defines “friend,” but it seems too narrow to be a friend to only one): “Be civil to all; sociable to many; familiar with few; friend to one; enemy to none” (Benjamin Franklin). “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive” (Colossians 3:12-13).

Hope this helps! I am now going to have to make sure I practice what I preach, giving up any sense of being disappointed by who doesn’t respond to my Face Book or blog entries, remembering that each of my friends has many, many friends to keep up with and lots they want to share too! Blessings~

Grace’s Wish for a Super Power

Did I ever mention that I have the world’s best in-law kids? They are each so special and “just perfect” for my kids! What gifts from the Lord!

This summer has been a whirlwind of festivities with our children and their children. From near the end of June and still ongoing (although soon to be over), we’ve been blessed by visits from all 30 of our kids and grand kids with many weeks of overlapping fun! Frankly, I’ve been delighted with how happily all the cousins have played and am a totally typical grandma in that I’d love to bore you with details about how sweet and clever they are.

However, I will readily admit that “kids will be kids,” and my angelic grandchildren do have their moments! One day as my daughter-in-law Grace and I were washing up the dishes, we were laughing about one of the videos my kids made when they teenagers. Her husband (my son Michael) made a movie called Quality Man about a guy whose super power was to SLOW DOWN in order to do all things well.

“If I had one super power, do you know what it would be?” Grace asked. I thought about it but was clueless, so she answered, “It would be to return good for evil.”

Isn’t that beautiful? Isn’t that so like Christ (and Grace really is)?!

As I was reflecting back on her thought this morning, it occurred to me that this is exactly what Jesus was talking about in the Beatitudes when he said to “Bless them that curse you” (Matthew 5:44). The ability to return good for evil, love for hate, and blessing for cursing is way above and beyond our frail humanity to achieve. Such love and goodness is not within us. It would be super human! Super natural! Even more miraculous than being able to transform our bodies! Iron Man is cool, but what about Pure Gold Grace? Even better? I think so!! Do you?!

Only God, through grace, can transform us from selfish creatures into people who love others enough to return good for evil, but that’s exactly what God’s Holy Spirit offers us if we’ll yield our lives to Him. Ready to possess a super power? Just think— We can if we will!

“The world has yet to see what God can do with a man fully consecrated to him” (Made famous by Dwight Moody, but learned from British revivalist, Henry Varley).

Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not” (Jeremiah 33:3).

“O To Be Like Thee”
(—Thomas O. Chisholm, 1897, Public Domain)

1. Oh! to be like Thee, blessed Redeemer,
This is my constant longing and prayer;
Gladly I’ll forfeit all of earth’s treasures,
Jesus, Thy perfect likeness to wear.

Refrain:
Oh! to be like Thee, oh! to be like Thee,
Blessed Redeemer, pure as Thou art;
Come in Thy sweetness, come in Thy fullness;
Stamp Thine own image deep on my heart.

2. Oh! to be like Thee, full of compassion,
Loving, forgiving, tender and kind,
Helping the helpless, cheering the fainting,
Seeking the wand’ring sinner to find.

3. Oh! to be like Thee, lowly in spirit,
Holy and harmless, patient and brave;
Meekly enduring cruel reproaches,
Willing to suffer, others to save.

4. Oh! to be like Thee, Lord, I am coming,
Now to receive th’ anointing divine;
All that I am and have I am bringing,
Lord, from this moment all shall be Thine.

5. Oh! to be like Thee, while I am pleading,
Pour out Thy Spirit, fill with Thy love,
Make me a temple meet for Thy dwelling,
Fit me for life and Heaven above.

Thoughts on the Value of Giving

Having just spent four beautiful weeks enjoying our children and grandchildren (including our youngest grand child’s first birthday, which was yesterday), I want to add just a few more miscellaneous thoughts on the joy of giving and the rewards that come to us for sharing what we have with others:

“Those who are happiest and those who do the most for others” (Booker T. Washington).

“We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.” (Winston Churchill).

“He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose” (Jim Elliot).

“It is in giving that we receive” (St. Francis of Assisi).

“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in service to others” (Mahatma Gandhi).

“It is every man’s obligation to put back into the world at least the equivalent of what he takes out of it” (Albert Einstein)

“Happiness doesn’t result from what we get, but from what we give” (Ben Carson).

“No one has ever become poor by giving” (Anne Frank).

“No one is useless in this world who lightens the burdens of another” (Charles Dickens).

“If we want to know our God-given gits, we must know the giver” (Eric Samuel Timm).

“You can’t celebrate gifts without celebrating the giver of all gifts, so I want to celebrate Jesus” (Lecrae).

“Every day is a gift from God. Learn to focus on the Giver and enjoy the gift!” (Joyce Meyer).

Giving isn’t just a duty; it’s a privilege!

The greatest joy in life is finding God’s love and sharing it with others!

Give to others, and God will give to you. Indeed, you will receive a full measure, a generous helping, poured into your hands—all that you can hold. The measure you use for others is the one that God will use for you” (Good News Translation of the Bible).

666,666 and The Boys in the Boat

The Boys in the Boat, by Daniel James Brown

This isn’t really some horrible warning about the end times, but it is the celebration of a personal mile-marker in my blogging journey: passing the 666,666 view mark and finding inspiration in The Boys in the Boat. It all started (Summer Setting) back in 2008, and it took four years before my posts had been viewed 100,000 times. In the next two years, by the end of 2014, Summer Setting had been viewed over 250,000 times. Over the next three years, that number doubled to over 500,000 times. About then, life seemed to speed up rather than slow down, and instead of posting daily, I found it maximally challenging to prepare just five times a week. The lesser output definitely affected the number of visitors, but this past weekend, I passed the 666,666 mile mark: two-thirds of a million views of my blog!

This number does not reflect those people who are “followers” and get my posts sent directly to their email inbox address, so it may be that Summer Setting has been viewed more than a million times already, but somewhere deep in my heart I keep feeling the desire to keep posting, at least until I’ve reached a million views. (I’d like to say “reached a million people,” but I have no way of figuring out how many “discreet” [different, unique] visitors are viewing Summer Setting.) That may take me until I’m 75, or it may take until I’m 90, or I may die before I ever reach that goal, but however long it takes, I will definitely keep trying until I become incapable or I believe the Lord wants me to do something else.

Boys rowing in preparation for the 1936 Olympics

Please don’t be critical of me for being a “numbers” person. Life is not about numbers, it’s about loving God and loving others. It’s about serving God and trying to reach out to others with the love of God in whatever way we can. Dreams and goals are only worth pursuing if they are God-inspired, for his glory and our good . . . or at least, that’s what I believe. Nevertheless, I think dreams and goals can be good for us. They challenge us to keep going when we’re just tired enough to want to quit, and they help us focus when the ubiquitous attractions and distractions all around us might otherwise derail us. (Or, should I say deboat us? 🙂 )

One perfect example of this is found in a book I just finished, The Boys in the Boat, which is a fabulous non-fiction account of the young men from Washington State who set their hearts on winning a gold metal in the 1936 Berlin Olympics. The book is powerful and inspirational. A movie version is in production right now, with Kenneth Branaugh directing, and I can hardly wait for it to come out!

The story was especially thrilling to me, because it is a story from my parents’ generation! In fact, my mother and uncle spent their summers working to help build the Hoover Dam during the same year several of these young men were there! (Well, my mother worked as a waitress, serving food to the guys who were hanging over the side of the cliff chipping away at granite with jack hammers.) It’s also a story of gut-wrenching difficulty to overcome human limitations in order to reach a worthy goal. My mom lived on skim milk and bread at times in order to survive college during the Great Depression. Goals are good. Hard work is good. Survival is good. Success is profoundly satisfying!

Have you heard about the Olympic runner, Eric Liddell (who won a gold metal at the 1924 summer Olympics in Paris)? God infuses us with abilities and gives us purpose. He also wants us to give everything we can muster to achieve “my utmost for His highest” (as Oswald Chambers wrote).

So, whatever abilities God has given us—whether it’s writing or rowing or running or something else—let’s use those gifts and give it everything we’ve got to accomplish whatever goal God puts in our hearts! Ready to race?!

Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:1-2).