Birthdays

Some of my friends’ birthdays fall on or near Christmas day and so, sadly, they tend to be overlooked.

Take my friend Jesus, for example.

From my friend Mitch Teemley

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Fit Us for Heaven

We all need to be mindful of what God might be doing to fit us all for heaven. God’s love is ruthless. It stops at nothing. Lord, fit us all for heaven!

Mitch Teemley

kingdomofheaven

Bil was a proud man (yes, he spelled his name that way). Trust me, I know because I have an excess of pride myself. I came to know him when he played the lead role in my production of A Man for All Seasons, a talky but moving play about the British saint Sir Thomas More. Bil’s audition was brilliant, but as rehearsals went on it became clear that there was a wall around his heart. And no one, not me, his director, and certainly not the God of Sir Thomas More, was allowed past that wall.

His acting pyrotechnics were undeniable. But his heart never came out to play. “I don’t cry,” he admitted just before the play opened, “I never have. But don’t worry, I know how to fake it.” His talent—and the wall—were on display nightly.

Thirty years later a mutual friend, Laurie, sent me a message, “Bil…

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8 Retirement Myths Debunked

I found this article on my Yahoo News feed and thought it was worth sharing. It was written by Dave Hughes and originally appeared in U.S. News and World Report. Some wise counsel here.

Image result for RetirementDuring your working years, you may have rarely thought about your retirement. When you did, you probably had only a vague, general notion of what your retirement would be like. For many years your retirement probably seemed so far off that you could easily postpone learning, planning and saving for it. As a result, you may have some misconceptions about what retirement is really like, both financially and in terms of your post-career lifestyle.

Here are eight common retirement myths, followed by the reality that belies each of them.

Retirement is the beginning of the end. Throughout much of history people would work until they had only a few more years left. Today, the average life expectancy is 79. You may live well into your 80s and 90s, which is 20 to 30 years after you quit working. You will probably be healthy and active for many of those years. Retirement can be a time of freedom and fulfillment, if you envision and plan for it that way.

Retirement will be a permanent vacation. If your vision of retirement is years of non-stop recreation, entertainment and travel, you will probably be disappointed. While you will have time for some leisure pursuits, there will still be mundane household tasks, grocery shopping and visits to the doctor’s office. Even if you could play golf or lay on a beach every day, you would tire of that quickly.

You are miserable now, but you will be happy after you retire. While quitting your job will remove some stress and unpleasantness from your life, happiness won’t come simply because you stop working. You’ll be happier if you have something you are excited about retiring to rather than thinking only of what you’re retiring from. You will benefit from a mix of activities that provide you with physical exercise, mental stimulation, socialization and fulfillment.

At a more basic level, happiness has more to do with how you approach your life regardless of what stage you’re in. If you’re a happy person before you retire, you’ll probably be a happy person after you retire. If you’re miserable today, you’ll probably be miserable tomorrow unless you change your outlook and approach to life.

Retirement means the end of work. While retirement does mean the end of work in the traditional sense, this doesn’t necessarily mean that you will never work again. Some people will replace work with volunteering, and a growing percentage of retirees will return to the paid work force in some capacity. According to a Merrill Lynch survey, 72 percent of pre-retirees age 50 and older say they plan to work part-time, full-time or in an entrepreneurial endeavor after they retire from their primary career.

People who work during retirement aren’t necessarily doing it for the money or the health benefits. Some are working to follow their passion, stay mentally active, remain physically active, enjoy social contact and have a sense of purpose or contribution. They are likely to choose an option that affords flexibility, involves fewer hours and is fun and rewarding.

You can wait a few more years to start saving for retirement. When you’re in your 20s, saving for retirement may be one of the last things on your mind. You’re eager to get your adult life started. You want to buy a new car, have fun with your friends, pay off student loans and maybe start saving for a down payment on a house. But after you buy your first house, there will be furniture, kitchen appliances, curtains, décor and many other things to buy. There will be vacations to take. If you have children, they will require a significant expenditure for at least a couple decades. The earlier you begin the habit of saving for your retirement, the more years your money will have to compound and grow.

The government will take care of you after you retire. If you are a career government employee, the government will take care of you pretty well. But if not, and you’re counting on only Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, you’re in for a very austere retirement. The average monthly Social Security check for retired workers was 1,355 in November 2016. Social Security was never intended to provide complete retirement income. It only exists to provide a minimal safety net so that seniors won’t starve in the street.

Medicare doesn’t pay for everything either. A 65-year-old couple retiring this year will still need approximately $260,000 to cover medical expenses throughout their retirement, according to Fidelity Investments.

Your family will take care of you after you retire. Your children are going to have plenty of financial obligations already, such as raising their children, maintaining their household and trying to save for their retirement. What if your kids are barely scraping by when you reach the point where you will need to rely on them?

Having to live with your grown children and perhaps your grandchildren can be stressful for all parties. It’s true that in some cultures multigenerational households are common and it’s the societal norm for grown children to take care of their aging parents. Even if this is the case for you, an honest evaluation of your circumstances and your family’s resources and attitudes may be in order.

Your employer’s pension will take care of you after you retire. If you have spent most or all of your career at an employer that offers a traditional pension plan, you might retire with an adequate pension. In the United States, company pension plans have been shrinking and disappearing over the past few decades. Today, most workers don’t remain at the same company long enough to qualify for a pension that will provide a significant income stream.

State and federal government employees (which include military servicemen and women) are most likely to benefit from a satisfactory pension plan. But as governments continue to struggle under the burden of massive deficits and pension plans continue to disappear in private industry, government pension plans may be reduced or eliminated in the future.

Retirement can be a fulfilling, enjoyable and lengthy chapter of your life. The best way to ensure that it will turn out this way is to approach your retirement with your eyes wide open, so you’ll have a realistic and fact-based view on what your retirement will be like from both a financial perspective and a lifestyle perspective.

Dave Hughes is the founder of Retire Fabulously.

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Worker’s Code of Conduct

I just reviewed for the umpteenth time a copy of The Extension Worker’s Code by T. J . Talbert, Superintendent of Institutes and Extension Schools at what is now Kansas State 20160514_105806_001University, then Kansas State Agricultural College. Talbert concisely articulates the behaviors and attitudes that were expected of those who represented the Extension Division to the county practitioners who were their customers. In these small 18 pages he also discusses truths about communications and attitudes regarding the jobs and mission these people have set out to accomplish. I keep a copy of this little pamphlet on my desk to help me remember that there are patterns of acceptable behavior and that the values expressed are those that would continue to serve us well. While I will not restate the entirety of Extension Bulletin No. 33 here, I thought it might be well to highlight just a few for your consideration.

Think It Over

Some workers refuse to think. They don’t want to be bothered. They know everything already. Others can’t think. That’s why they never get anywhere. You have found that it pays to think, especially to think ahead. That’s why we expect you to read this and think it over.

That’s a pretty basic headline to any employee handbook. The implications of that first section are profound, if you think about it.

Believe In Your Work

If you do not believe in your work, you are whipped before you start; your efforts will be fruitless. Besides, it is tremendously difficult to get others interested unless you are a believer yourself.

If we don’t believe in the work and desired outcomes of our employers, we should not have taken the job that was offered. We have to believe that the services and products we deliver bring value to the people we serve.

Study and Serve the People

Study the people and their problems and when you are able to know them they will know you. If you do not have their support and cooperation there is something wrong. Find the reason and if you are at fault, endeavor to correct the error. Develop the spirit of helpfulness and try to be of the greatest possible service to all those with whom you come in contact.

Seems basic enough but to be honest, there are many times that I, as the customer, feel I am there to do favors for the service provider.

Stick to the Truth

Regardless of the number of errors a worker may make, if he is always absolutely honest in his dealings and relations with others, he may yet succeed. On the other hand, nothing will cause him to lose the confidence and esteem of others, so necessary in everyone’s work, as quickly as dishonesty.

Whether you are dealing with your supervisor or your customer remember to stick to the truth. The truth in any situation ensures good decisions and problem solving.

Avoid Antagonism

Carefully and tactfully avoid antagonizing people upon any particular question about which they are contending and divided in opinion. You may express determined views and firm convictions upon all questions affecting the public without making yourself offensive.

There are some words that seem to have escaped our culture in recent history. We have moved down the slippery slope of proclaiming the truth as we see things and pressing our point of view without regard for the next person. Seeking the middle  ground and the art of negotiation are fast fading skills.

These are the first five principles that Talbert impressed on his field representatives. As I said earlier, while I may refer to these principles from time to time, I’ll not repeat the entirety of the little code book here. Rather you can click on the link The Extension Worker’s Code to read this collection of workplace wisdom. I’ll wrap up with two more …

Say Something Good; Be Loyal

The little cutting remarks made about others and their work always do you much more injury than they do anyone else.

Don’t Knock; Be an Optimist

The worker who seldom if ever sees anything good in anyone or any undertaking, may be relied upon to do wrong to all of us, should the opportunity come.
Our greatest comfort and satisfaction should come from being happy in praising and serving others. The disgruntled, displeased worker does far greater injury to himself and his prospects for advancement than to anyone else.

Other headings include:

Have a Smile for Everybody
Arrive Promptly and Remain at the Meeting Place
Make Clear, Concise Talks
Don’t Be Afraid to Say “I Don’t Know”
Be Careful in Using the Pronoun “I”

Keep Cool, Control Your Temper
Use Discretion in Telling Jokes
Better to Talk Too Little Than Too Much
Remember Somebody Can Take Anybody’s Place

And lastly, Be Courageous

If you can keep courage when others lose heart; if you can keep pushing on  when others turn back; if you can smile and wait when others play the coward and quit; if you can be serene in the face of misfortune and failure; if you can keep your nerve and a level head when others get panicky; if you can carry yourself like a conqueror, keep your fixity of purpose when others waver; and you still refuse to lose courage and grip on yourself, then you may know that your work is a success and that there is a hero or heroine in you as noble as any that ever gave up his life on the field of battle for a great cause.

Good words for reflection from a day gone by. Let’s hope the values have not all passed with the years.

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Trophies Don’t Go To Those With A Good Beginning: Thoughts from the Back of the Bus

I am so proud to present a guest writer to this blog today. My grandson, Matt Northway, is a high school junior and track athlete who throws both the shot and discus. Sitting in the back of the team bus after a very long track meet, Matt wrote this piece on his iPhone.

“Trophies don’t go to those with a good beginning.” -Trip Lee

If you really think about it, it’s all about how we finish. While how we start can be an emotional setting point in our minds and hearts, sometimes we have to get past it. For example, an athlete may have a great start to a season but if he or she gets stuck in their performance and others start to catch up, well then that start of the season doesn’t seem as promising as it was before. A great line in a song made by Trip Lee is, “The trophies don’t go to those with a good beginning.”

It’s about how you finish. You can’t hit a good time or mark at the beginning of the season and give up for the rest. You have to put in work…a lot of work. And you’re going to have set backs, believe me. I’ve had more injuries than I can count, but it’s not all physical either. There’s a mental piece in everything you do. You have to build up your mental toughness and have courage. You will have set backs. But you have to get back up. You’re going to get tired and frustrated and your mental state has to be strong in order to make it.

You need to know who your identity rests in and why. When you hit those low places, you have to get out, but first you need to know how. Who holds your identity? Where do you get your strength from? Who do you feel you need acceptance from? Where or who do you go to when you’re stuck? Those are just a few questions you’re going to need to know the answer to in order to make it through life.

I would say one of the most important questions is, “Where or who do you go to when you’re stuck?” People will have different answers, but I can’t tell you enough how important mentors and church are in life. Now I know I’m talking about how it’s all about how you finish, but you gotta get to the finish first before you do that. Church first of all, is so important. That’s it. You need to go even on days even when you’re really not feeling it. Why? You can do all you want to reach God on your own, but there’s a point where we all need to come together and worship and learn about the Lord all together. Another reason is because a pastor or someone else will have something else to say that you never thought of before that can really help you in your faith walk. Or they can word things in a different way to help you understand what you don’t know. There are more reasons, but those are just a few.

Now, that’s also where the mentors come in. You may be a smart person and have a great life and all, but you don’t know everything. I’m sorry but you just don’t. Trust me I used to think that when I was a little kid and I still do sometimes, but trust me you don’t. The quicker you realize that the better. That’s where mentors can provide you with so much wisdom. How do you get that wisdom out of them though? Well, that’s where you have to invest time into relationships. Coffee, breakfast, lunch, dinner, or anything really. Just sit down and talk. I’m tired of seeing a generation that I’m a part of that doesn’t have social skills. We can’t reach out to someone through looking at a phone all the time.

You also never know when someone’s time is up or how much someone just needs to have someone else to talk to. I have a friend that I go to school with and throw with on the track team. This past summer, we had been practicing every day to get ready for spring season. One day he wanted to have practice a bit early in the morning. I had no idea why, but I was tired and I told him I would go in an hour or two. I had no idea why he wanted to meet so early. I later found out one of his older brothers had died the day before in a car crash on the way home from college. All he wanted was someone to talk to and a place to go where he knew he could blow off some steam with a friend that would be there for him. We never know what others are dealing with, but we need to make time to invest in to others.

When we go to church and invest time with others and talk and learn and chase after God with all our heart, things start to work out. But, there’s a misconception of that there is always a trophy at the end for those who finish strong or those that do well. That’s not true. Don’t like it? Too bad, welcome to life. You’re going to give it your all and you still won’t win sometimes. You won’t always win the championship or the Super Bowl or whatever. While there may not always be an earthly trophy, rest well knowing that our Father in Heaven prepares a place for those of us who believe in him. That alone can top any trophy or metal we can get in our lifetime.

 

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Thankfulness

Today the United States are celebrating Thanksgiving Day. A day set aside for being thankful. Indeed, we have much for which to be thankful. The list is long so I won’t make such an attempt here, but family and friends are near the top of the list. At the top of the list is a living God who cares for us.

We have become a highly critical society which finds great difficulty in expressing thankfulness. We find ourselves living in regret for the way some areas of our lives have turned out, rather than being thankful for the things that have gone well and blessed us.

If we were to take a few minutes today to make a list of those things for which we are thankful, our hearts might be filled with gratitude for those parts of our lives for which money is not a solution. During the years of my youth, we had few material things, but we had each other as a family. To be perfectly honest, I wasn’t always overflowing with thanks for each member of my family, but even in my days of discontent I knew my parents and my siblings had my back and would be there. There were days during my career when my job seemed to bring more stress than joy, but at least I had a job.

Life is filled with choices. We can choose to be thankful or to feel unfulfilled and dissatisfied. We can be jealous of the next guy’s car or thankful for the one we have. We can let ourselves be caught in the race to keep up with the “Jones'” or we can be thankful that we have a roof over our head. Some have made choices that have landed them in situations with no roof over their heads. Even in these choices, there is always tomorrow and the opportunity to change direction.

Thankfulness is an attitude that is chosen. It is a spirit that can be contagious and bless people around you or your spirit can push others away. Some of the most thankful people I’ve met are those who seemingly have the least in terms of material things.

For this Thanksgiving Day, I am choosing to be thankful for dear friends and the way we love up on each other ready to help at a moments notice. I’m thankful for two daughters and the loving sons-in-law that they brought into our lives and the five grandchildren who bless us at every interaction. I’m thankful for a wife of 49 years who loves me even on days when I do things that don’t make her happy. I’m thankful for 49 years of family building that we’ve accomplished together, even for some of the bumps in the road that have made us stronger.

I’m praying that you too are choosing to count your blessings and finding much for which to be thankful.

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Finishing Well or Running the Race?

Much has been written on the subject of “Finishing Well.” People of all flavors who are in my stage of life, are wondering how they can live out the remainder of their lives well. For some of us that may mean taking time to spend the resources we’ve collected by relaxing in luxurious settings. For others it may be financially scraping enough together to be able to pay the bills until we die. For most, however, our culture has determined that retirement is a worthy objective that should commence in one’s 60s. The concept of retirement was actually launched back in the 1920s with the idea of Social Security. That institution that allowed the government to help us save for our future by taxing us today and paying some of us back when we reached 60 and then 62 and now 66 and so on. The concept was that we would stop working and earning an income at those ages. I won’t take on the systemic issues related to this system but it is worthy to think about the ideological concept of retirement.

I would ask you to think about your idea of retirement. What are those things you would like to do after you cease “working?” I would like my reader to consider the concept of retirement. Dictionary.com attempts to define retirement in the following ways: (1) the act of retiring, withdrawing, or leaving; the state of being retired, (2) the act of retiring or of leaving one’s job, career, or occupation permanently, usually because of age … (5) removal of something from service or use.

For starters, I was always taught that you can’t define a term while using the term, or some derivative thereof, as part of the definition. But that aside, I come away with a couple of thoughts: (1) none of the descriptions are positive in tone or nature, (2) the definitions tell us that that those who retire, withdraw, leave, are taken out of service, (3) such descriptions align with man’s view of man, (4) none of the descriptions align with God’s view of man.

Consider for a moment, Moses and Joshua, two significant personalities whose journeys and stories are contained in five books of the Bible. Moses was approximately 80 years when he was finally prepared to be engaged in his calling. Joshua was in his 60s when he was given the mantle of leadership as the successor to Moses. They were far from being taken out of service. They were, at their ages, just ready to begin their history making journeys!

The title of this entry is Finishing Well or Running the Race. Finishing Well says a lot of different things to a lot of different people. Moses and Joshua never spoke of finishing well. They were, like the apostle Paul, running the race until they were taken from this foreign soil to their homeland. While here, every waking moment was spent in service, running the race so as to win the prize. No one pressed the pause button on their work suggesting that they have now earned the right to step aside and let others do the work.

I’m reminded of Billy Graham, who continued his international ministry until he was physically unable to carry on that schedule. Even today, at the age of 95, he is still publishing books of encouragement and demonstrating an iron will to continue serving until his last breath is taken.

Some will say that they are simply worn out in their current work. Perhaps that is true, perhaps the work you are doing today is preparing you for another work to be undertaken tomorrow. You have been given many gifts and abilities from which others need to benefit. Be open to what the Lord has for you beyond today’s work. Moses spent 40 years in Egypt in the house of Pharaoh, the next 40 in Midian serving his father-in-law, and then after these years of preparation, was commanded by God to free His people from the hand of Pharaoh and lead them to the Promised Land.

In the same way, we should not let a government program like Social Security define our productive years. God never spoke of retirement. He always had a place for those willing to serve Him. Are you readying yourself to finish or are you going to continue running the race? Your children and your grandchildren need you to continue running the race. There are many who you have not yet met who need the wisdom of your experience and your years of walking with God as a person of faith. Nearly every week I meet someone whom I am able to engage by listening to their life stories and offering a word of encouragement.

Run the race, friend! If there is nothing else that you can find to do, be that man or that woman who has a “war room” and fight the good fight until God takes you home.

Be blessed and be a blessing!

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