Hurts So Good…. Turning 60 and the forgotten Normal Life

I want to whine.

I dropped a log on my toe as I loaded the wood stove this morning. Not a little log, a big barked half-trunk section. On my big toe. On the nail bed. Lots of swelling, lots of purple. I almost passed out. I now hobble like a drunken sailor. Funny when I think of it, but it hurts like hell.

It gets worse.

I turn 60 years old today. Ugh. Not pretty, on many levels. There’s a dreary eight inches of snow on the ground, I

Turning 60 and re-discovering the Normal Life

Turning 60 and re-discovering the Normal Life

don’t like what aging does to my body, my wife is out of town, my kids scattered from Atlanta to California, I have a mountain of admin work to do, and more Projects than Payroll. I don’t want to get old. I can’t find my boots.

I want to whine, but I’ve got to quit that.

And that’s why I am writing. I am having one of the best birthdays ever. Bear with me on this.

Part One… Saturday

It started Saturday night. Becky and I defied the icy roads to have dinner with three other couples about our same age (we don’t usually get to hang out with other folks our age). All good folks, all different backgrounds, all restless in the seasons of their lives, and all hungry for whatever God is trying to do these days. Transparent, authentically trustworthy, well-seasoned folks. I’d refer to them all as “weight-bearing” in character. A great evening of good food, a little wine, and fun conversation. After desert we each shared, completing the line ”What is God doing in my life…”. The air just got ‘richer’ as each person shared -no bragging, no white-washing, no whining- just authentic sharing.

Then we prayed together. Sweet, kind, simple God-in-our-midst-in-togetherness prayers. And He was in our midst,we all knew it and we felt honored for such a time together. It felt wonderfully normal. The evening ended with an awareness that we are now ‘brothers and sisters’ bound together. None of us are alone. We know we are tied with these growing friendships into the Body of Christ. Nothing more, but surely nothing less. No other agendas. It was soooo good.

All too rare in most of our lives…. but part 1 of 2 of the coolness of my birthday.

 Part Two…. Sunday

So Sunday afternoon I meet with some other folks to prepare a monthly dinner for one hundred people at our local homeless/transitional housing center. A good group of eight of us gather; half men, half women, including a couple teen-agers. Some are our core regulars (we’ve been doing this since last April) and some are first-timers. With such a big group, we have our hearty meal for one hundred twenty five people prepared in 1 1/2 hours. We have enough helpers that we can all be relaxed as we serve the dinner, and a couple of us roam the room and visit with the diners. As folks line up to be served, I simply stood up and asked in my ‘big room voice’ for permission to pray for everyone as they passed by, asking God to bless them as they picked up their meal. No big deal, no pressure, nothing awkward. Most everyone smiled and nodded in agreement. And so I simply made eye contact and prayed aloud as folks filed past, lifting them up to God and asking Jesus to help them in their difficulties and make himself and his goodness known to them in fresh ways. I spent some time visiting with diners, then went back into the kitchen to help clean up.

The kitchen crew were all sharing that something has changed in the atmosphere of our time at the center. Diners and residents who had originally eaten and quickly left the room are now coming back for seconds (the food is really good!), but more significantly, they are coming up to visit and engage us in conversation. We are becoming friends with these people; they are friends -not projects- going through difficult times. And God is changing the atmosphere. The kitchen crew is having a great time of increasing fellowship together in our activities and we are having a great time with those we came to serve. God is inhabiting this activity and we can all sense it.

A friend came in from visiting in the dining room and shared with the crew that one of the ladies eating dinner had walked by my ‘prayer post’ just as I was asking the Lord to release jobs in the community. She got her food, sat down to eat, and immediately got a phone call from a local business asking if she could start work next week. The atmosphere in the kitchen changed. While earlier we were enjoying what God was doing, now we were a bit in awe and in an expectant state of anticipation.

 

A few minutes later a sharp young man,“Mike”,came to the kitchen door asking for some help. He’d developed kidney stones, lost his job, spent a week in the hospital and needed $11 for medication before his doctor’s appointment next week. I agreed to give him the funds on two conditions; that he let me pray for his healing, and if Jesus healed him before his medicine took effect that he would agree to tell the doctors and nurses what He’d done… that Mike would give Jesus the credit and honor. He agreed wholeheartedly and joined me eagerly in prayer. We both sensed that God was with us as we prayed together, and we both left with a sense of wonder at our meeting. God really loves Mike.

 

The kitchen crew finished up our work and we all stepped out into the cold of the evening and got in our cars. We all lingered a bit, in no hurry to leave one another. Our last conversations and shared thoughts were appreciation the special time we get to spend together and thanksgiving for how the Lord showed up in the midst of our time together. It was a great day.

The End

And so, with my big toe throbbing and my foot propped up, I’m here to tell you that I am having one of the best birthdays ever. I got to be in real Church this weekend; that place where people -all kinds of people- are aware of, in awe of, and reflect to one another, the glory of the living God in our midst.

 

I will most probably get jaded and cynical and mean-spirited in the coming year, but today I am writing this to you -and to myself- to remind us all that what I experienced this weekend was “the normal life” – the life we are all hard-wired for in our very design – a life of sharing our hearts, burdens, and experiences with others in an atmosphere where we invite and expect the Living God to join us. It’s real. He’s real.

I’d almost forgotten; I’d gotten so used to so much less..

I’m committed to living a Normal Life this year. Whatever it takes.

Be encouraged. I am.

 

Now I’m going to finish eating the Atlanta Cheesecake Company raspberry cheesecake my wife left me. She didn’t even tell me to ‘Just have a little slice dear, remember the calories’.

Yep, it’s my birthday!

Taken just after two friends pray together!

Taken just after two friends pray together!


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