How not to become bitter in your old age

old man

I waited in the morning rush hour line at the local coffee shop.  My laptop was in one hand and my work bag in the other, while I searched around for my debit card.  An older gentleman stood beside me.

“You can go ahead of me”, he said with a smile.  “You look like you have something important to do.  I’ve done my time already, and besides, you’re probably paying for my social security too”, he said with a grin and a chuckle.

I laughed at the thought.  “Yes, I guess I am.”

“I’m so old…”, he continued, “I remember when the Dead Sea was only sick.”

I let out a big laugh.  He seemed pleased at my response, as if he had done his job for the day.

Throughout the day, I retold that joke to several more people, and they each had a good laugh too.  This one old man had spread a lot of joy that morning.

I want to be like that when I get old, and I began to wonder what was his secret.  I’ve observed that people usually take one of two paths when they get older: either they become bitter and depressed and generally unhappy about most things, or they live their life with a happy-go-lucky, not a care in the world attitude.  I want to be the latter.

So how do we make sure we do not become bitter?  It starts with how we live our lives today.  What are our priorities?  Do we put our families first, or do we emphasize work too much?  Have we learned to forgive?  Can we let go of things at the appropriate time and trust God for the rest?

I try to practice all these things but I still wanted some solid advice, some kind of script that I could follow to be sure.  I know money isn’t the answer; I see lots of unhappy rich folks.  Good health is not guaranteed for any of us and much of it is out of our control in our later days, so there must be something else.  Then I ran across this passage while reading one day:

“How do we ensure that life gets better and not bitter as our days advance?  Our treasure must be above. When our treasure is laid up in heaven, we go to our reward. We are not leaving it.  Keep life and its treasure in perspective.  It will make a difference now and forever.” – Randy Ray

That was the answer I was looking for.  We are going to something.  And it is never too late to start on the right path.  There is always more we can do on this earth.  Sometimes it’s as easy as brightening someone’s day in the coffee shop line, and making them stop and think.

The one who does God’s will remains forever.  I John 2:16

feet with waves cropped

The bakery

bakery

I love this time of year.  Autumn brings in a cornucopia of colors, enticing scents of pumpkin spice and apples, and the anticipation of good things to come.  Even the weather has an air of serenity about it.  But mostly, I love the Autumn scents.  I wandered by a candle shop the other day where they were having a sale – two candles for the price of one.  I left with an armful of candles, carrying such delightful names as Gourmet Espresso and Warm Caramel Cider.

I’ve heard that the sense of smell is the strongest of our five senses.  Just imagine… fresh-baked bread, the smell of coffee brewing in the morning, and warm scones delivered right out of the oven.  Maybe that is why I never see unhappy people in a bakery.  This thought occurred to me one evening while I was dining out in a nice restaurant.  The lighting was soothing, the food excellent, but I was stressed.  Work had been extra stressful that year.  As I sat there wallowing in my own thoughts, I had a good view of the bakery in the corner of the restaurant.  I began watching the baker as she carefully lifted the bowls of batter and poured them into the pans for baking.  Then she formed beautiful creations of art as she spread the icing on the cakes.  All the while, children and adults alike lined up at the glass counter to look at the cakes and pies she had created.  It was almost magical, and definitely mesmerizing to watch.  She did not hurry or rush the baking process.

I envied the baker a little, complete with her white coat and bakers hat.  If I ever change careers, I decided, I would love to be a baker.  But I think what appealed to me the most was the process of slowing down, and of crafting something beautiful with my own hands.  It reminded me of God, our Creator.  God created us in His own image, so we also have that same desire to create.  God also rested.  He is never rushed, and neither was Jesus during his short ministry on earth.  I don’t think we are meant to be so rushed either.

I may never become a master baker, but the image of that bakery with its smells and happy creations and slower pace has stayed with me.  I’ve learned to slow down. When I do, and put it all in God’s hands instead, it seems like God takes care of all the other busyness for me.  Work becomes less, deadlines go away, and problems are solved quicker.

And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:19

When I think about this verse, I like to think it applies to our busy schedules as much as it does our finances.  So during this Autumn and Thanksgiving season, I plan to do a lot of baking in my house.  It makes me happy, fills the air with warm scents, and teaches me to slow down.feet with waves cropped

Of Only Happy Things

Today is such a beautiful day that it is fitting that I should only write of happy things.

Snow is gently falling and my family is safely tucked inside the warmth of our house.  No where we need to go today.  The pantry is stocked full, a warm fire glowing in the fireplace, and plenty of wood to keep us warm if the power should go out during this winter storm.  It reminds me of God.  He keeps us safe from the dangers.  Sure, we all fall at times, but we only need to reach up and take God’s hand and He will lead us someplace safe.  So, today I reach back into my thoughts and remember the happy times, this being one of them.

There are bits and pieces of memories and images, of sandy shores and glorious mountains, of running through the fields with child-like freedom, holding my newborn son, celebrating all the birthdays along the way, and smiles of achievements won.

We should store these times in the front of our minds and think of them often, so we can easily reach them when we need to, when the not-so-good times come too.  Grab hold of the good memories and God’s hand, and He will lead you through.

God loves us not because of who we are, but because of who He is.

I have been reading the book of Psalms as my daily devotional this year.  I have never read it straight through like this before, but it is the most uplifting and encouraging book I have ever read.  It should be on Amazon’s Top 100 list.  Simple but pure, no fancy gimmicks, and it’s all free.  God had a specific reason for giving us the Psalms, to encourage us to seek His refuge and peace.

My voice You shall hear in the morning, O Lord; In the morning I will direct it to You, And I will look up.  Psalm 5:3

Guy Lomabardo childhood memory

This is one of my favorite childhood images, listening to this record of Guy Lombardo and the children’s choir, while holding the album cover in my hands and wondering about the people inside those windows, safe and warm, happily singing carols.  I recently found the album again on Amazon, and today is a wonderful February day to play it and listen and dream.

little feet

 

Lessons from the Sea ~ King of the Sandcastle Fort

I saw a young boy, about 3 years old, sitting in the sand.  He had made a fortress of sandcastles, shaped from those little plastic molds, all lined up around him on each side.  He was sitting in the middle of the fort playing with his bulldozers and trucks, and on his head, he sported a sahara type hat, which obviously kept him cool during his work.  He looked quite content, being the king of his sandcastle fort.  As I passed by on my morning beach run, I paused for a moment, hoping to capture some of that pure joy this boy obviously had.  Sometimes I think the very young and the very old know the secret to life, and those of us in the middle are just trying to find our way back. Do children know something we adults have forgotten?

Later the same day, I saw another small child walking down the beach tottering behind a young adult.  The adult stopped to ask me if I had seen which direction the child came from.  No, I had not, and then they proceeded on to the lifeguard stand.  I guessed that the child was lost, and I began to scan the beach for the looks of a frantic mom, knowing that would be the easiest way to spot the parents.  A few minutes later, sure enough, I see a young mom sprinting down the beach flapping her arms in all directions.  As she got closer to the lifeguard stand, the young child spotted her too, and started running toward her.  With arms flung outward, they embraced and hugged.  I was glad she didn’t scold him.  Then she thanked the Good Samaritan and the Lifeguard, and they sauntered back home.  What a reunion – parent and child.  Only so much more does our Heavenly Father want that same reunion with His children – arms open, not scolding, only happy to see us.

Thinking on both these things today, the happy boy with his sandcastle fort and the young mom and child, I am reminded of our Heavenly Father’s comforting words from the sea.
little feet

If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me.  Psalm 139:9-10

You rule the raging of the sea; when its waves arise, You still them.
Psalms 89:9

The men were amazed, and said, “What kind of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him!”  Matthew 8:27 

JM beach4

(photography from my son @ facebook.com/JohnMcCuskerPhotography)

Finding your happy year

Beautiful Monday running, while listening to a beautiful album by James Blunt, Back to Bedlam from 2004.  I was around 38 back then.  If I had to choose an age I wanted to be again, it would be 38, and it’s no coincidence that this is such a beautiful album from that time too.  At 38, I could finally see that.. yeah, it all turns out ok in the end.  I had enough experience behind me and enough hope in front of me.  I had learned how to forgive, including myself, and I learned how to let go.  I realized it’s ok not to be skinny.  In fact, confidence is much prettier than skinny.  I could see how God had never left me, and I was a little ashamed of myself for those times when I didn’t recognize it.  I discovered I could do much more than I ever thought; in actuality, we all can!  And I was finally, truly happy; content.  Your “38” may come sooner or later, but you will discover it too.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VaBDomg9a8U