Another Birthday

I have some news to announce as it is nearly my birthday. This may not actually be “news” in the strictest sense of the word since most of you have carl_fredricksenprobably heard this already, but according to my sources, and I’m happy to mention this since I am turning 58, I’ve heard that 58 is the new 57. That’s right. 57.

That explains why I don’t feel any older than I did a year ago … except that last year I was halfway recovered from a cycling crash that grounded me for 150 days, and I was stiffer and heavier, even though the difference maybe not be obvious to most observers since I seem plenty stiff and heavy this year, too.

But besides all that, I can’t let a birthday go by without some discussion. I believe life brings us certain Evaluation Seasons every year, opportunities to evaluate our current position and ponder our future. One of those is January 1, which begs for New Year’s Goals. Another is September, the beginning of the school year, which has the feel of a new beginning even if we’ve been away from school for decades.

And then, of course, there is your birthday. It is the most personal time for evaluation.

It has been my goal as I’ve gotten older to live bigger, not smaller; more open, less closed; open-minded, not opinionated; active, not sedentary, investing, not hoarding, giving, not taking. It is my intent to NOT become narrow and exclusive. I don’t want to be one of those old men who are stubbornly set in their ways, but rather I want to live expecting and reaching out.

Jon Katz has described one of the dangers of growing older as “spiritual grumpiness: a jaded, irritable, dour view of the world, about change, the young, and the world's prospects.” (Bedlam Farm Journal, August 13, 2013) It's easy to become a skeptic and cynic. It makes you sound smart even when you’ve done very little thinking on your own. It’s a sad and unproductive way to live.

In his book, The Well-Played Life, Leonard Sweet wrote, “The older I get, the more complex my theology becomes, but the more simple my faith is.” That describes my journey as well. Although I’m not sure “complex” is the best word to describe my theology. I would use “broader” or even “softer.”

I am a hardliner on way fewer topics than I was ten years ago, and I’m not as afraid to be wrong or uninformed.

Don’t misunderstand me – I’m convinced in what I believe about God and Jesus and Grace and Hope, but I’m no longer afraid to listen to (and maybe learn from)  Atheists, or Buddhists, or dare I say it, Democrats. And I don’t feel compelled to argue with people I disagree with, even in my own head.

I realize I’m not bullet-proof; a well-phrased pitch can certainly lead me astray. And I’m not as smart as I let on. But I’m not afraid of doubt or uncertainty because they only take me in deeper. New insights open my world rather than frighten me. They make me stronger.

The older I get the more I believe and depend on the power of spiritual disciplines, of the “practice of Christianity.” Practices like reading the Bible every day, memorizing verses, teaching and writing, worshiping with my church, praying and meditating. It is the practice itself that has made me who I am today.

I believe grace leaves us a broader and more welcoming path than we can imagine. In that sense my faith gets simpler each year.

As so, as I approach my 58th birthday, the new 57th, which is only 14 Celsius (even less when you consider wind chill), I am searching for my next influences. For clever ideas, new writers, crooked trails, and amazing views. And I’m always begging for suggestions.

Who have you read that I should read? Where have you gone that I should visit? Where have you run, biked, hiked, that I should experience?

Because I’ll be 60 soon, and I need your help more than ever.

“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32

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