Monthly Archives: January 2013

For Your Age

“For your age…”

I’ve been hearing versions of this comment more often during the last six months or so than in recent years. Or at least it seems that way to me.

The comment isn’t always negative, either. For example, in 2005 after experiencing some pain in my left knee, my doctor in Texas ran an MRI of both knees and told me I had bone on bone osteoarthritis in both knees. He prescribed six weeks of physical therapy and no running–ever. Last month a member at the church I serve asked me to join he and a couple of mutual friends in a sprint triathlon in Chicago in August. Since we already cycle together, I reminded him of the 2005 diagnosis. But after hearing from family members who “tri” that I could walk the 5K portion of the triathlon, I decided to check in with our new doctor here in the Chicago area; who, as it so happens, has a speciality in sports medicine.

The doctor here examined my knees and asked who told me I have bone on bone arthritis. I relayed the 2005 story, and she recommended X-rays as much cheaper and more reliable than an MRI. Three days after the X-rays I received her verdict: “There is no reason you cannot begin training for this sprint triathlon. Your knees are fine…

…for your age.” (I start training in February).

Another positive example of this qualifying comment relates to my YMCA employment (I teach two indoor cycling classes per week). Since I am required to have Continuing Education Credits as a Y employee, last fall I chose to be certified as a Strength and Conditioning Trainer. I enjoyed the training experience so much I am now in the process of becoming an NASM-certified Personal Trainer. For me, this certification training is a healthy use of my time; it is an area which interests me; and it gets my head out of “church world.”

At the Y training event, I asked one of the trainers what she thought of my becoming certified as an NASM Personal Trainer. Her response: “For your age, you are in good shape and have a lot to offer your peers as they retire and look for healthy retirement activities. Plus, as a pastor, you have a natural empathy for people and their needs.”

I didn’t tell her Pastoral Care was #5 on my list of Spiritual Gifts.

I decided to seek counsel from a younger colleague (and one of my strength class instructors) at our local Y. She said, “There’s a whole new market of people your age who need trainers who understand they aren’t trying to win body building contests or win the Tour de France. For your age, you’re reasonably fit and you get it. I think you’re an excellent candidate to be a Personal Trainer.” We’ve worked together long enough that I trust her; so I’m off and running.

Then there are those other examples, too (which apply to all of us of “a certain age”):

“Wow, you look great for your age.”

“We really appreciate hearing the perspectives of people your age as we start our visioning process.”

You get the point…

I will admit that perhaps–OK, probably–I’m a bit more sensitive to the “age issue” because during the last year my sister and I have entered “Elder Parent Care World” (see “Honor Thy Father and Mother” from January 2012). Mom entered a nursing home this month; and even though she is doing much better than we expected, it is a reminder of our possible future. My husband Richard and I now discuss our “final destination”–and we’re not talking eternity here, folks–a lot more often than we did even in the last five years.  Richard has worked hard and earned his retirement. I’m several years away from retirement. How do we negotiate this “in between” time?

Personal examples aside, here’s something to consider. When addressing people of any age, what if we tried saying, “Wow! You look great!” “We appreciate hearing what you have to say as we begin our visioning process.” Again, you get the point.

This suggestion has a two-fold purpose, by the way. One, by not emphasizing age, we are simply appreciating folks for who they are–period. Everyone–young, middle-aged, old–is important. Two, when we overcompensate for age, I believe we allow otherwise healthy people to adopt a “victim” mentality. That is, “I’m too old (or too young); so I can’t do (fill in the blank). Yes, sometimes we can’t do certain things. Other times, however, we can–if we’re allowed to do so and encouraged to do so, that is. So as not only the bible, but other holy scriptures as well teach us, let’s lift one another up. Let’s encourage one another to live into our highest potentials.

After all, age is just a number. Attitude is a state of mind.

Blessings on your journeys!

Identity Issues

I’m old enough to remember when the answer to identity questions were fairly simple. You were either black or white, gay or straight, male or female, Christian or not Christian–you get the point.

The times, however, they are a changin’…

For various reasons, some people who are “racially black” might consider themselves more “white” than “black,” and vice versa. Younger people especially tend to see sexual orientation as fluid and not as a once-for-all fixed identity (I’ve seen examples of this phenomenon in the congregation I serve). Gender identity is now all over the map–male, female, transgender, gender queer, gender non-conforming, and I am sure I’ve missed at least one if not more gender identifications. To give you an example of how confusing the issue of identity can be for some folks, I know a person who identifies as biologically male with a heterosexual orientation, and whose gender and emotional identification and presentation is female. I cannot begin to imagine the issues with which this person must deal on a day-to-day basis. And for the record, she isn’t the one who is confused–it is me and many of her friends who don’t “get it.”

Then there is the matter of religious identification–in this case, specifically identification as a Christian.

I was raised as a Christian. And until I was 13, I thought there was only one kind of Christian–Apostolic, Oneness, Pentecostal Christian. Other folks were nice enough–just wrong, and unfortunately going to hell–especially the Catholics.

Then I met Mrs. Howser…

Mrs. Howser is the mother of a young man I babysat when I was 13. To me, she was June Cleaver Incarnate. Beautiful, polite, the perfect homemaker direct from the pages of a 1960’s Home Economics textbook (although with a part-time job at a local department store, she was pushing the boundaries of that image). At the same time, Mrs. Howser was–and probably still is–a Methodist. As a newly converted Pentecostal, I remember once “witnessing” to Mrs. Howser about “the truth” of Jesus Christ (at least the version of “truth” I was taught at my church).

I will never forget her response. She gently explained to me how, while she didn’t always go to church, she prayed, watched church on television when her husband didn’t take her to church, and how she knew in her heart how much Jesus loved her–as he loved all people–regardless of what church they did or did not attend. Nevertheless, some of my friends at my church insisted that no matter how nice Mrs. Howser was, she was still going to hell because she was a Trinitarian who had not spoken in tongues and was not baptized correctly (in the name of Jesus).

As I look back on my life, I think that was the point I started leaving the church–at least in spirit. In my mind there was no way God would send Mrs. Howser to hell for eternity. I mean, really, what could she do to merit that sentence? Wear a little too much lipstick? Wear eye shadow and dye her hair? Wear jewelry other than her wedding ring? Actually love people for who they were–like Jesus did? Seriously?

41 years later I’m now the pastor of a “Christian” church. Who says the Universe doesn’t have a sense of humor? I put the Christian in quotation marks because we’re all over the theological map at the church I serve. We have former–and not so former–Catholics, Episcopalians, United Church of Christ folk, Trinitarians, Unitarians, agnostics, humanists–you name it–chances are you will find a kindred soul in our community of 60 or so folks.

So what unites us? To be honest, I’m not sure. That is the question we’re examining in 2013 at Holy Covenant. Are we a Christian church? Well, I guess that depends on your definition of “Christian” (and like “legion,” the definitions are many). I do know everyone at Holy Covenant loves Jesus and his teachings–even the annoying ones; and I know we believe different things about Jesus, his origins, life purpose, death and resurrection. Not everyone at Holy Covenant believes in a Supreme Being God; yet there is a respect and reverence for Mystery. The bible is holy–and so are the writings of other faiths. We represent the spectrum of orientations, gender identity and age, too. So what unites us?

Perhaps it is our humanity…

Blessings on your journeys!