To balance yesterday's blog about joy in the journey, I'm thinking today about what lies ahead for most of us. It's easiest just to not think about end-of-life issues, but the reality is hard to duck. As columnist David Brooks pointed out recently, 20% of us are going to get cancer or another debilitating disease and will die within a year. Another 20% will have some cardiac or resperatory failure. And 40% will suffer some form of dementia -- either Alzheimer's or a disabling stroke. Aren't you glad you came here today? I don't want to be someone who obsesses on aging and death. But I also don't know how to ignore the reality of what lies ahead unless I die suddenly. Here's what I imagine may help: 1. Foster the spirit of joy along the way. If we spend a lifetime doing what I wrote about yesterday (finding joy on the journey--even in the midst of pain), then it holds open the possibility of finding joy even with bodies that don't fully cooperate. 2. Nurture lives of spiritual discipline. If we really believe that spiritual formation is related to the practice of spiritual disciplines, then we can anticipate a time in life when we'll be forced to slow down (what most of us only dream about when we're younger!) enough to pray and meditate on the word of God. 3. Stay connected to brothers and sisters in Christ who are aging the way we'd like to. Diane's way of putting it is that she wants to grow up to be Kathryn Witherspoon. (Highland folks will know exactly what she's talking about.) The community of faith offers us opportunities to learn from those who are further down the road. We come to depend on their wisdom, realizing that so much of life isn't just a matter of black and white but a matter of wisdom. 4. Realize that we are, in families and especially in the Family of Christ, fully dependent on one another. We are called into one another's lives to love, serve, admonish, and encourage. I like these words from Brooks' column: "A generation ago, all the emphasis was on rebelling against conformity, on liberating the individual. Now the emphasis is on nurturing bonds so sacred they are beyond the realm of choice. Now the individual is less likely to be regarded as the fundamental unity of society. Instead, it's the family." A question for today: Are there models in your life--maybe especially in your congregation--of how you would like to be in your later years?