An early morning flight carried Christine and me to Boston for a family visit, the first in two years. Going North at this time of year is counter intuitive, but it was a very wonderful trip and so good to be with family. Of course the planes were packed as many families are finally getting the chance to reconnect after long times of separation and Thanksgiving had some degree of normalcy with people gathering in person.
For Thanksgiving, Freedom Village residents raised $1050 worth of gift vouchers for food, which went to 52 different families, through Turning Points, a Bradenton mission to the homeless. Buying turkeys in bulk was not an option this year, but the gift vouchers, although not as symbolic as turkeys, were much appreciated.
Veterans Day this year saw 45 veterans over 90 years old, receive a special pinning for their military services. The event is hosted by the Chaplaincy and it had been in planning mode for about six months with many meetings, discussions and options depending on Covid’s activities. Very thankfully, about 150 people could attend and it all came together, as they say ‘in the end.’ Again, that was the first time that many of the community had joined together in nearly two years.
Sadly, in November, I led three memorial services and we now have two more scheduled. One of these losses has hit our community particularly hard as it was one of the staff, a young man who was killed in a motorcycle accident, leaving a four year old son.
One of the hardest aspects of growing old is loosing who we once were and what we once could do. That is the case anyway in our own minds and we tend to imagine it so for those around us. We may not be able to drive any more, walk any more, do the buttons of our shirt up or go to the restroom alone. We may forget the names of our family members or not recognize them when they walk in. Some of these losses can grow slowly or arrive quickly with a stroke. One thing I now know is, and a friend keeps reminding me, ‘Growing old is not for sissies.’ The mental and emotional struggles we go through, as we loose our physical ability to live an active life we previously enjoyed, becomes ‘‘the work’, not for sissies”.
As our society in America appears to be living longer in years, through medical developments, we may be living through the ‘older years’, for longer. One projection recently on the news, suggested that a child born today, might experience a life expectancy in the 150 years range. I shudder at the thought and wonder if with every thing which appears ‘to be going down the tubes’ in the world, particularly our changing climate, if anyone will be here in 150 years.
The Saving Grace of Getting Older
However, living an elderly life can be especially blessed by actively living a full spiritual life. What starts to lack in the physical can grow and be restored in the spiritual side of our lives. God does not view us as any less, if we are unable to do up our own shirt buttons. God looks for what our hearts are focused on, not on our physical accomplishments. I have had a productive career as a photographer, but I believe God cares much more about how I seek Him and care for others.
The power of a growing elderly population developing their spiritual lives, as their physical abilities decline, is as incredible and formidable as the power of the Holy Spirit and prayer. Far more than we can possibly think or imagine. It is one of the church’s resources not one of it’s burdens. There is a need for a proactive paradigm shift within the church to actively equip and encourage the elderly to develop the gifts of the Spirit. Many elderly have never seen the gifts of the Spirit in action, never seen someone get healed or witnessed a deaf person hear for the first time in their lives. How meaningful and fulfilling it could be for them to be introduced to the power of our living God.
Jesus told the disciples not to leave Jerusalem, before they received the power of the Holy Spirit. The church was never intended to function with out the help of the Holy Spirit and yet many life long church attendees were never discipled to seek out the gifts or the Spirit. They have been dedicated, faithful and sacrificial but sheltered from being proactive with the Holy Spirit. I would love to see those mature 80 and 90 year olds full and overflowing with God’s loving, living Holy Spirit, as well. After all it is God who does the heavy lifting, He just wants us to join in.
‘And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.’ Philippians 1:6.
Please pray that Christine and I can complete the work God has called us to, that all people will be filled with God’s Holy Spirit, and that the work of our hands will lead people to God. And don’t forget to let us know how we can pray for you!
Love and Prayers,
Michael and Christine Hales