Mike Cope's blog

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

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?


  • Buddy Arnold at Otter Creek was my model (he passed away a couple of years ago). He was the song leader before Brandon came here and he was one of the most gracious men I have ever known. He stepped aside gracefully for Brandon to come in and supported him through some difficult times of transition.

    He allowed younger people to take leadership in the congregation and with his wife Bernie were paragons of hospitality.

    He was as much a part of the personality of Otter Creek as anyone ever was.

    By Blogger Phil, at 10/05/2005 06:37:00 AM  

  • Gotta keep coming back to him, because he has had such a major influence on my life......Dr. Henry Farrar. He is in his 80's and he STILL goes back to Nigeria every year to perform surgery in the hospital, and to preach the Gospel. What a GIANT, even when age has caused him to be stooped over.

    Wonderful post, brother!

    By Blogger David U, at 10/05/2005 06:38:00 AM  

  • Carol Locke is someone I look up to greatly. She isn't in her "later years" yet, but I would do well to emulate her when I grow up.

    She has tremendous influence in our church leadership - the same church where Dr. Farrar attends, David U! She serves as our children's minister, but her service extends far beyond.

    Thank you for these last two posts, Mike. I found myself thinking to myself "there's joy in the journey" several times yesterday. And you know what? There really was (and is).

    By Blogger Amy, at 10/05/2005 06:50:00 AM  

  • Wow... my very thoughts/worries this morning concerning my parents. I come here for a breather, and get a gift.

    Thanks, Mike.

    By Blogger Jeff, at 10/05/2005 06:56:00 AM  

  • Never met Reuel Lemmons, but I read his stuff up until the day he died. Never stopped thinking, never stopped growing, and never stopped stirring the pot. Would love to be like him.

    By Blogger Matt Elliott, at 10/05/2005 07:49:00 AM  

  • Margaret Pruitt, an elder's wife at Providence Road was a mentor and friend when we were in Charlotte. She passed away several years ago, but I remember things she said to me on almost a daily basis. She reminded me during the rough toddler years that sometimes we come to services set a pattern of attendance for our children, even when it seems that we (the moms) don't get much out of church (when you are wrestling a 2 year old to the ground). She told me how important it was for women to serve their congregations. That was an eye opening lesson for me. The last time I saw her she said, "Sing to Me of Heaven".....and I did. It's one of my most precious memories. She enjoyed cross stitch and did it all the time, but had very few finished pieces displayed in her home. She gave away almost every piece she completed. Her wisdom, generous spirit and pleasant memory are a treasure.
    Thanks for reminding me.

    By Blogger Snapshot, at 10/05/2005 08:12:00 AM  

  • I've said it before, and I'll say it again. When I grow up I want to be J.B. Gibbs. Golf every morning . . . lots of hugs every Sunday. Does not miss a game . . . does not dress his age. Always speaks his mind. My Shepherd, without the title.

    By Blogger Buster, at 10/05/2005 08:51:00 AM  

  • Buster - If I keep going to the health club where I often see J. B., will I ever be as strong as he is (now in his 80s)?

    And yes, Henry Farrar, for sure. And a few others who probably don't want to be thought of as old: Clois Fowler, Wally Bullington, Tom Formby, Grady Jolly, and John Willis.


    By Blogger Mike, at 10/05/2005 09:00:00 AM  

  • Mike,
    Thanks; what could be greater than hope.

    By Blogger Clint, at 10/05/2005 09:42:00 AM  

  • There is a gentle Proverbs 31/Titus woman in a small church in east San Diego county - Winnie Cross.

    She opened her home to me when I first returned to San Dieto county, still in deep mourning for the death of my dad, going through social amputation of moving back to the US after almost 30 years in Mexico - Winnie, the quiet spirit is a wonder to observe.

    She's up very early, much like you Mike, out for her walk to the top of Mt. Helix where she observes her morning devotional and prayer time.

    The rest of her days are spent either teaching science to her daughter's kindergarten class, demonstrated by things she finds or thinks of as she walks the 3 miles back home in the early morning.

    Or she's at the church preparing the children's church for Sunday, the Thursday morning Kid's Garden, [she teaches in each of these ventures] or proofing the church bulletin.

    Often at midnight, Winnie and I would be deep in conversation, prayer, as she would take a breather from answering, correcting, encouraging the over 300 WBS students she has served for about 20 years now.

    You see in her manner the great love she has for her Savior, for His children and for the lost. If she sleeps 4 hours a night, that's a lot.

    She soothed my hurting heart, walked with me through my grief recovery, prayed for me when I began to feel the need to begin ministry again and all in that quiet, soft-spoken manner she has. How I wish I had more of her quietness!!

    Winnie is well into her 80s now but still continues to attend her 50+ year old mentally ill child with the same sweet, gentle spirit. She does all this alone now, since her husband's [an elder at La Mesa for many years] homegoing three years ago.

    How often I remember Winnie when searching for answers to how to approach a difficult situation - remember her gentleness and sweetness of spirit. How I love her!!

    By Blogger Kathy, at 10/05/2005 10:08:00 AM  

  • A precious woman whom my fmaily and I refer to as "Grandma Hop" is who I want to be like when I grow up. She has adopted us and somehow always knows when we need something. One day I said to my husband, "I really am needing some new pots and pans." And I got the usual answer, "Let's get it in the budget." Literally, the next day, Grandma Hop showed up at my doorstep with some brand new pots and pans. She said, "As I was walking through the store today, I saw these and thought for some reason that you needed them." It's more than her giving, though, that amazes me. She is probably one of the only people who can tell me when I'm having a sinful attitude or behavior and I don't get mad. She always has a scripture for me to read and is quick to pray for me. She has many tidbits of wisdom that she is gracious to share with me almost daily. I am thankful that God saw that I needed a mentor and sent me my sweet Grandma Hop!

    By Blogger erinlo, at 10/05/2005 11:07:00 AM  

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    By Blogger Crista, at 10/05/2005 11:27:00 AM  

  • My #1 role model is definetely my Grandma. Some call her, "mom" :). I can remember my dad lecturing me (when I was young), and always using her as an example of who I needed to watch and follow. She is awesome. She'll do anything for anyone, any time. When I grow up, I want to be a mix between her, my dad, and a little bit of my mom thrown in there.

    By Blogger Crista, at 10/05/2005 11:28:00 AM  

  • A neighbor of mine who evolved into a 'best friend' and 'mentor' is near 90! "Obi-Wan" is a black man who grew up in the south so he's had his share of crud thrown his way.

    In addition to teaching me friendship, enjoying the moment, and the plight of the elderly, Obi-Wan has demonstrated true forgiveness throughout his life - not seeking vengence or anger from past racial injustices,etc.

    I'll never forget these moments with him. And he cooks a mean fried pork chop.

    By Blogger Agent B, at 10/05/2005 11:39:00 AM  

  • In my youth, I remember visting my distant aunt Flora Jordan. Arthritis had confined her to a wheelchair, and eaten her fingers to just stubs on her hands. There weren't many wonder drugs back then, so the pain must have been incredible. But what I remember most about Aunt Flora was her cheerfulness. I don't think I ever heard her complain. She loved God and she loved life. One of her greatest joys in her later years was singing with our (ad hoc) youth group whenever we visited her in the nursing home.

    Today, there is Anita Krazer. A lovely, quiet woman of gentleness and grace. She always wants to know how I am doing - never wants to talk about her pain.

    And my friend John Cothran, who is singing with the angels. He embraced change in the church and was never one to worry when we did something new. When his eyesight was nearly gone and he could no longer drive, he had a telephone ministry unlike any other I've heard of. He used his experiences to minister to others and no one he heard of went through heart surgery without John's having told them what to expect. I remember John asking me (maybe more than once) if I thought it would be okay if he raised his hands during our singing. Too bad he died before we got to that point. But I know he is raising his hands in praise to his God now.

    By Blogger P Watson, at 10/05/2005 12:42:00 PM  

  • Hi Mike,
    I met you at the Lectures on Preaching a couple of weeks ago. I am the guy from Fort Collins, Colorado.

    I have been reading your blog with interest the past few days. Nine years ago, at age 41, I was diagnosed with kidney cancer. My life was full of all kinds of activities and all the sudden everything came to a screeching halt. The surgery was successful and the cancer was contained and I healed up, but what was odd is that instead of wanting to slow down the pace of my life, I was almost frantic to get things done that I had wanted to accomplish.

    I signed with to help with Habitat, eventually becoming an officer. I finished my M.Div. work and just recently finished my D.Min. I took up wood working. I avidly fish. It is almost as if I don't want to run out of time.

    I wonder if others have had this same sensation or if I am as my grown kids think I am truly weird :o)

    Thanks for your blog, I am a faithful reader.

    God's Blessings,
    Doug Hall

    By Blogger Doug Hall, at 10/05/2005 12:47:00 PM  

  • Another agreement on Dr. Farrar...what a guy, and in all he does he radiates nothing but joy!

    By Blogger Julie, at 10/05/2005 01:11:00 PM  

  • I have a list of a few who have been and still are those role models for me.

    Don Finto
    Buddy and Bernie Arnold
    Judy Thomas
    Harold and Jeannette Lipford

    I want to be like them when I grow up!

    By Blogger Brandon Scott, at 10/05/2005 02:22:00 PM  

  • Great post. Thanks for that. I am blessed with Al Ogren (though I'll never has his vision), Steve Ewart (though I'll never have his wosdom), and..., man, I need some more mentors.

    I want to be wise in my later years, which means I am going to have to live twice as long as most people because I learn slow and require multiple failures for a lesson to sink in.

    One other thing: in a previous comment I made about you considering quitting teaching for simplicity sake, I said if you quit teaching you ARE an idiot. I want to apologize for that. I should have said you are PROBABLY an idiot. I'll leave in there the chance that you could be making the right choice.

    By Blogger Fajita, at 10/05/2005 03:06:00 PM  

  • Oh, that's easy. My dad, Glenn Shelton, is 83. He still drives like he's 45 (okay, that's a little scary). When he was 74, he opened a restaurant in Kensett, Arkansas that many from Searcy and the Harding community would visit. He ran that until a small tornado destroyed it in 2001. He still has horses he looks after and, even at his age, is helping to look after other elderly relatives younger than he. Anybody that knows dad knows that he has always been one ready to help. He still has a good mind and is one of the most optimistic people I know -- in that sense, we're sorta different. ;-)

    By Blogger Jim Shelton, at 10/05/2005 03:09:00 PM  

  • My Mom, for sure. She could see God (and therefore, good) in everything. When she was diagnosed with brain cancer, she said it was probably an answer to her prayers that my Dad would be saved. She never complained or questioned God. She ended up encouraging many of the folks who came by to encourage her.

    I want to be thankful and have joy in all circumstances like she did.

    By Blogger Lynn, at 10/05/2005 08:38:00 PM  

  • "Grow old along with me
    The best is yet to be
    The last of life for which
    The first of life was made" (Robert Browning). From the worldling's viewpoint the last of life is not best, because the world system is tainted by the Enemy. The last of life is better because in weakness we bow and kneel which promotes the spirit."Oh God," though just two words is a massive cry from pain and darkness to the author and finisher of Hope. Most of my many great mentors were old men and women, and the older they got, the more I loved them. Henry Farrar

    By Blogger Henry Farrar, at 10/07/2005 07:52:00 PM  

  • My mom Jo Choate models this for me.

    When I was a little girl she would paraphrase from Jeremiah when would be upset or offended by minor things. She said, "If you weary with the footmen, what will you do when the horses come?"

    The battle with big losses have come for my mom many times, from the sudden death of my father at age 45 to being the last survivor of her generation in her entire extended family, she exudes faith and devotion. Her immersion in God's word feeds this indomitable spirit.

    She would paraphrase the prohet who said

    "Though the fig tree do not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation. GOD, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like hinds' feet, he makes me tread upon my high places."

    with phases like--even if all the plants close, and the money dries up...yet I will rejoice in the LORD.

    If folks practice this kind of thinking for decades, it makes their insides resilient.

    By Blogger Beverly Choate Dowdy, at 10/10/2005 01:24:00 PM  

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