It’s a Mess Around Here

I’m sitting in the middle of a mess.

I decided to take a break, momentarily leaving the mess to rest and put these thoughts on paper. Well, you know what I mean.

Earlier this Saturday morning, Judy and I returned from a wonderful breakfast at our favorite local eatery. Judy shifted the mood. “Bruce, your office is a mess! Doesn’t Jerry Jenkins advise that where you write is critical to being a great writer?” She stepped into the office surveying the two computer screens, the various short stacks of papers, three piles of books, my briefcase satchel with an almost out-of-date projector and my old computer. The computer is a little sad having done yeoman-like service and now sitting against the wall with no cords, attached to nothing. “I can’t believe that you’ve still got your hat collection displayed on the shelves where you could put your books?” Now she was getting close to my soul as those hats represent 40 years of travel and worldwide experiences.

Upon closer inspection, I realize that there are 4 inboxes, too, each filled with important stuff. All stuff covered with good intentions and commitments to future action. With the launching of the Live with Meaning Foundation and the (now being written) book, Retirement Reformation, I’m clearly at a crossroad and I need to make some decisions.

 As a matter of fact, committing to the obvious but painful solution, I’ve now collected and piled almost 30 books on the round office conference table.  At least they, the books of all types, are off the counter top and my extended desktop. In order to make room for them on the table, there is now even more stuff on the floor. “Beautiful day”, I muse staring out the window. The guilty feeling of procrastination starts to well up prompting re-focus and forcing the already recognized priority of Judy’s directive, “everything with a place and everything in place”.

I don’t know about you, but when someone I love and respect directs a “truism” on me, I get a little defensive. “Ugh, it’s not as bad as it looks and I can straighten it out easily." Sure I can.

When we designed our home in the Black Forest of Colorado Springs, Judy designed what she affectionately designated her “Command Center”. Yes, a place for everything and everything in its place. For her first Christmas in our house, I found an old school craftsman to make a red neon sign that aggressively declares, “Judy’s Command Center”. You ask, “What does she have in her Command Center”. As I explain to guests who wonder, “Her desk, file cabinet, computer, sewing machine, paper shredder, paper cutter, ironing board, drawers bursting withsupport papers and utensils, stamps and envelopes, a contemporary washer and dryer, sink, and upper cabinets with tools, bottles of cleaning stuff, and a hand drill dangling a long orange cord.”

As I write this, a new vision of what my office can be starts to emerge. After all, I did design it at the same time Judy designed her Command Center. When the design emerged, I remember thinking about the size, function, and experience that I wanted in the office. “It must have gotten lost during the normal activities of daily living stretching out over the last year or so”. I think I can reclaim that vision if I focus, prioritize, and organize.

Dedication to a cause and the perseverance needed to accomplish it are important personal attributes.

I’ve learned that without them, not much happens, and they are now part of who I am.  Applying those traits to my office space is what Judy is challenging me to do leading to a result that I want too. Although, it’s taken me a very long time to acknowledge the obvious.

Re-organizing my writing and study space is now taking on a life of its own. First, the fact of a random mess needs to grow, not diminish. The reason is that the old files in my office file cabinet need to move downstairs to join the family archives that go back a generation. Once that’s done, then the sad storing of my “hats of travel and history” begins. The white plastic container sits in the middle of the room waiting for the gray locking lid to be attached and then to transport it to those same archives, on the lower level. A certain sadness goes along with these acts starting the new direction understandably coupled with an energizing tinge of anticipation.

Judy just came home from her Saturday journey of visits to the Library, local thrift store, laundry, and picking up what is needed for the rest of the weekend. She peeks in again, rolls her eyes, and concludes, “Oh boy”. I am quick to remind her that “You have to clean out before you can clean up”. She nods knowingly and heads for “Judy’s Command Center”. The neon sign isn’t on, but it soon will be.

I’ve written enough to make the point of this missive.

Acknowledgment of a problem is the first step to its solution.

Then, my Grandfather’s key insight, “A job once begun is half done." Finally, vision, purpose, and perseverance will take you to a better place.

Now I need to follow my own advice and finish the job. It really is “a mess around here.”

Bruce

Stay with us as we share Trusted Advice along The Way.

The Retirement Reformation: an emerging movement

In our prior text, we explored the context for the launch of the Retirement Reformation. We left our exploration with the following:

Next we will examine the actual components, the basic elements, the critical pieces of what makes up a movement. What are the essential themes that need to present? How will those themes be identified and communicated? and, what will be the Leader’s (s) role?

A.W Tozer brought this perspective:

“With the goodness of God to desire our highest welfare, the wisdom of God to plan it, and the power of God to achieve it, what do we lack? Surely we are the most favored of all creatures.”

The two ingredients - the two keys to movements whether social, political, or religious are rooted in a growing realization that there is a problem and the consequent desire for change as an answer is a component to solving the problem.

Another good description of the elements needed to identify a movement is: 

A pervasive and identifiable issue that is coupled with actionable solutions appealing to a certain group of people. With those keys the door is unlocked and then opened for a movement of significant impact resulting in societal change.

Neil Smelser’s observations about social movements help develop our understanding of them. He identified another key element with what he called an Initiating Event. This type of event is one that leads to a chain reaction of events leading to a growing group of people reacting to the event and a movement is born.

It has occurred to me that for any movement to flourish, there are a couple of needed elements:

“There must be an element of push back against some established norms or ways of doing things, as well as a positive energy moving the solution towards something very new.” I was momentarily exhilarated with this insight. “This Retirement Reformation” will be an exciting journey! Discovering new ways of thinking and doing while replacing an entrenched way of thinking about the 4th Quarter with something dynamic and new.

A friend of mine was scratching his head the other day during our weekly time together. He reflected, “You (referring to me) are a strange combination of Serial Entrepreneur and a pragmatic systematic builder”. I was waiting for more and he added, “It makes it hard for some people who don’t relate to one or the other part of you to stay connected.” I took that in and thought about it for a couple of days. My conclusion is that he was right.

Movements are similar in that they can be somewhat confusing. They are the beginning of something new while needing the structure and pathways leading to increased clarity and subsequent action. Whether it be life’s journey or that of a movement, there is bound to be some confusion, distortion, and re-orientation before the results are clear.

No doubt, the Retirement Reformation will exhibit these characteristics too.

Leaderless Leadership

The difference between leadership and spiritual leadership is the source of the vision that drives the enterprise, mission, or ministry. Here we acknowledge the role of the Divine. Next, the difference between Top Down Leadership and Leaderless Leadership is the degree to which we open our minds and hands to welcome and include others in the growth and development process. Acknowledging the source of the vision for the movement is a great starting place.

When we acknowledge God’s role in implanting the vision in us, it is easier to become His follower rather than always trying to establish proprietary ownership. It is easier to be guided by His vision as the source of the Top Down Leadership and Inclusive leadership to be the earthly format for growth.

If the idea of Retirement Reformation is to go viral, it will be because it has been God led, openly engaging, and energetically promoted. The role of the leader is to bring a compelling interpretation of both the problems and solutions with the transparency of purpose, while including other leaders and communicators into an ever expanding circle of trust.

Here will be the challenge for all God draws to the issue of aging and the Retirement Reformation:

To listen in new ways and respond in different ways to God’s call and divine purpose for all, both now and for a lifetime!

Let’s personalize it: You will listen in new ways and respond in different ways to God’s call and divine purpose for you, both now and for your lifetime.

If so, consider this prayer, “God, give me new ears to hear your call, wisdom to discern your preferred future for me, strength to carry out your will, and the ability to consistently reflect Jesus to all I meet.”

Join the Retirement Reformation, the movement for you.

If you prayed that prayer, you are now prepared to actively join the Retirement Reformation. So you understand a little more about what you are joining, here is a review:

Four key elements to a movement:

1.     A common problem rooted in an easily observed and experienced reality

2.     A common lexicon describing the problem and the solution

3.     A common methodology for communication and interaction among the like minded

4.     A common agreement about the solution to the problem and actions that emerge as a result of the solution

5.   A common commitment to following God’s plan for our lives: a commitment that extends for a lifetime.

Stay with us as we journey with Trusted Advice along The Way.

Your thoughts and prayers are always appreciated.

Bruce

Is it time to get the movement organized?

The opposite of organization is chaos.

Or, at least a significant absence of system, process, and structure. When there is no organization, frustration reigns. I read somewhere that if you don’t know where you are, you can’t possible determine where you are going. And if you don’t know where you are going, you have to settle for any port in a storm. Hardly a positive picture.

At our church, we have adopted technology that allows our Pastor, Bob Bender, to post his message outline online prior to the service. Each member can access those notes prior to the service and follow along during the service with the option of making our own notes adjacent to his. Bob is an outstanding preacher bringing clarity to key issues of life in such a way that they are both memorable and operational. Being able to add our own notes, reflections, and observations so easily enhances an already great worship and teaching experience.

It is snowing hard today in Colorado Springs. Being housebound, I took the opportunity to review the message for tomorrow from the ongoing series about Leadership. In it, Pastor Bob lays out the need, reflecting Jesus, to give leadership to yourself. Next, still reflecting Jesus, to lead and impact others. Continuing the progression, to then learn how to lead leaders and possibly to develop the skills necessary to lead a movement. That progression really struck home for me.

As we are about to launch the Retirement Reformation movement, I was attracted to that last step in the progression about “leading a movement."

What makes up a movement anyway?

How is it different from an organization, a company, or even an “idea”?  Once defined, how then does one lead it? Immediately my thoughts went to some obvious historical movements; our countries reach for freedom from tyranny. Moses and one million+ Israelites becoming God’s people in the wilderness. Gandhi using “non-violence” to overthrow an empire. The Protestant Reformers changing the face of Europe and subsequently impacting the world as a result of the movement of the many and diverse reformers. On and on it goes. Donald Trump even likes to talk about “Trumpism” as a movement as does Bernie Sanders - now there are two extremes for you!

So what makes up a movement and then how is it lead?

Way back in 2001 in a book published by the Johns Hopkins University Press entitled, Productive Aging: Concepts and Challenges the Forward written by Dr. Robert N.Butler, President and CEO pf the International Longevity Center-US, began this way:

Will 69 million baby boomers suddenly drop out of the workforce when they turn 65? Is it difficult to imagine this generation, with its talent, education, and experience, idling away the last 30 years of life?

In the 1950s sociologist, Ernest Burgess wrote that older people’s lives were notable “roleless.” Little progress had been made since then. Today (2001), the issue takes on new urgency as the average life expectancy rises to 76.6 and evidence suggests a cause-and-effect relationship among health, productivity, and longevity. Studies begun in 1955 by the National Institute of Health have demonstrated that older people who have goals and structure have a better chance of living longer. Thus, health supports productivity, and productivity encourages health. Productive aging would appear to be in the best interest of both society and the individual.

In his book entitled “Tribes”, Seth Godin writes:

Some tribes are stuck. They embrace the status quo and drown out any tribe member who dares to question authority and the accepted order. Big charities, tiny clubs, struggling corporations—they‘re tribes and they are stuck. I’m not so interested in those tribes. They create little of value and they're sort of boring. Every one of those tribes, though is a movement waiting to happen, a group of people just waiting to be energized and transformed.

A movement is thrilling. It’s the work of many people, all connected, all seeking something better. The new highly leveraged tools of the net make it easier than ever to create a movement, to make things happen, to get things done.

All that is missing is leadership.

He goes on to say, “The real power of tribes has nothing to do with the Internet and everything to do with people. You don’t need a keyboard to lead…you only need the desire to make something happen.”

Then there is the countercultural work of Brafman and Beckstrom entitled “The Starfish and the Spider” that opens with this statement, “The unstoppable power of leaderless organizations.”

We are at unusual times of “leaderless leadership” and the parallel need for continuity, consistency of message, and clarity of purpose. How then is a movement led? And how is that leadership different from management?

The journey of the Retirement Reformation will include the struggles that this dichotomy reveals. How will the many divergent voices, both secular and faith based, coalesce and become a movement? And, how will it be led?

Is it time to get the movement organized?

Next, we will examine the actual components, the basic elements, and the critical pieces of what makes up a movement. What are the essential themes that need to present? How will those themes be identified and communicated? And finally, what will be the Leader’s role?

Stay tuned as we continue on a journey together, with Trusted Advice along The Way.

Bruce

How do we get to our preferred future?

I recently met with a friend who wanted to talk about the future of coaching within the Christian community and he made a very clear distinction between “coaching” and “mentoring”.

He brought some clarity to me on the subject when he realized I was trying to put the concept of coaching into the behavior modification school of thought.

Mentoring has the context of advising or a low level of training, while coaching asks the question, “What if?” What if God does have a preferred future for you? Would you want to miss it?”

I certainly do not want to get into a semantic argument with all those out there who are big into either mentoring or coaching. What interests me is that there are approaches to changing lives that are emerging that are teachable, reproducible, and sustainable.

I’m personally part of a Convene group of CEOs. It has been an excellent venue for safe conversation and learning from each other. Christian Leadership Alliance is developing a similar model, and for a number of years, we sponsored the CEO Forums that are still active. Other groups such as Vistage, EO, and even YPO are further examples of value and this felt need to develop intentional relationships to address common issues and solve similar problems.

There is another similar, yet different process or methodology rising up to meet what will be a growing need.

It is Spirit-Filled Coaching. Here are the aspects of it that excite me:

1.     God has a purpose for each of our lives (perhaps one for each stage of our lives).

2.     We all deserve the opportunity to live a spirit-filled life with Jesus.

3.     With coaching, we can find God’s purpose for our lives and make it actionable.

4.     The result will bring meaning to us, a purpose for us, and a tremendous asset to our communities!

With this approach, we not only answer the question, “What if?” but we also develop a plan to change - not just a time to reflect and ponder. Don’t we all wonder, “How do I figure out and then get to my preferred future?”  In conversations and certainly in the audiences I speak to, there is always the question or the person(s) that come up afterward that want to know the answer to both those questions.

I’m reminded of the George Foreman ad, “George, what do I do with my idea?” and his answer, “See my friends as InventHelp”. Similarly, “Bruce, how can I know my preferred future and then put it into action”. My answer should be, “See my friends at Spirit-Filled Coaching!”

To my knowledge, no organization like that exist but it should. And in God’s time, it will.

Further, in this conversation with my friend, he made the point that “Transformation always comes in relationships.” How true that is!

Our spiritual transformation takes place in our relationship with Jesus. Our physical transformation takes place best within a group. Our financial transformation occurs as we interact with those we care about and are financially responsible for.

Oh, also as an intrinsic part of the building of a Future Funded Ministry Plan otherwise known as “Retirement”.

I certainly have learned the most during times of pain, particularly the pain of a strained relationship. It seems like we all learn the most from pain and suffering and not so much from joy and gladness. Strange isn't it? I wish it were the other way around and I could learn from the joy and gladness of life while just enduring pain and suffering.

My friend reiterated that coaching is “solution focused” while mentoring tends to be more focused on learning.

As we launch The Live with Meaning Foundation with its siren call to the Retirement Reformation, there will be a growing need to help people discover their preferred future and help guide them into their unique action plan. And if it is true, as I believe it is, that God has a plan for each stage of life, the need to be part of a periodic discovery process will only accelerate. As a faith-based community, we will want to share our discoveries about this process and raise up those who God calls to help - Spirit-Filled Coaches. Then, when we stretch out God’s call for a lifetime, not just a season, there may need for an additional ministry - Q4 Spirit-Filled Coaches

If you, your church, or organization would like to learn more about the Retirement Reformation that is breaking out, reach out and let’s talk.

Stay with us as we navigate the river of life with Trusted Advice along The Way.

Bruce

Retirement means applying life’s lessons

As our physical capabilities decrease, our wisdom increases.

Have you ever thought about that? When we couple that truth with this thought, “Retirement means less doing and more being” and we enter the 4th Quarter, Life 3, we are initiating a new way of thinking, doing and being.

What is the last painful experience you’ve had that taught you something?

Each life experience is a teacher that uses your experiences as key life lessons. Those learned lessons accumulate over time and when taken as part of our “river of life” journey, lead to wisdom and the ability to give leadership, wise counsel, and reflective insights into those key issues of life.

Years ago, our church in Oregon sponsored a seminar series with the compelling name of “Death and Dying”. When I saw the announcement in a church newsletter, I pointed it out to Judy with the comment, “You’ll never catch me alive in that seminar”.  Of course, I thought the play on words was cute but much to my surprise, Judy looked at me and said, “We’re going!”

Needless to say, not only did we go but the experience changed our lives. We explored all the myths and realities associated with dying – the physical, psychological, and sociological patterns around it as well as the finances surrounding it.

There were a number of lessons learned that have been extremely valuable as I have counselled with hundreds of people over the years. It is valuable now as we put our “end of life” planning into place.

And most importantly, by facing those issues early, it removed the mystical fear that these mentalities are simply just part of our being human. We also know that Jesus allows us to have a healthy attitude about our own final stage of life. It frees me to look forward to that time of final transition to the eternal kingdom.

Another perspective, as I dealt with the deaths of my parents 15 years apart and the death of my brother one year after my dad. Nothing can make those events easy, but my experience allowed to deal with them in the best ways possible.

What are the experiences in your life that have prepared you for future challenges?

Mind you, you may be in one right now. We all have these undesirable experiences because that is the way God trains and prepares us, for those future challenges that lay ahead. By the time we are in our mid to late 60s we have identified the lessons learned through our youthful exuberance and bad judgment. We know about the hard lessons learned during our child-raising and career-building years.

And without question, there is both pain and much pleasure that prompts our learning during our years of marriage. I certainly have learned a lot about what not to do in mine and Judy’s 55 years of marriage. And yes, love conquers a lot as does God’s directed decision on both of our parts to “not get divorced.” Committing to be stay committed during all those times during our marriage when emotional love is not there, yet knowing that “this too shall pass”. Somewhere I read that “love is a decision” and experientially, I know that is true.

My grandfather used to ask me, “Bruce, why is experience the best teacher?” When I could not answer his question, he filled in the blank. “Because it is the most expensive”, he’d say. That teaching came when I was young and it continues to inform me today.

We are wiser when we are older because of all the lessons learned in the prior years.

Recognizing that there are three stages in retirement helps me visualize the ongoing learning process. As a matter of fact, the learning of each stage of life, including those in these 4th Quarter years, provides the platform for service to the Kingdom in each of the next stages, including the last one. When you stop learning, you die!

The river of life flows from the exploration stage of youth to the providing stage of the working years and then into the meaning and purpose years of Kingdom building.

Unfortunately, many do not see it that way. The reality is that the experiences of yesterday and today truly are the stepping stones to the action plans of tomorrow. Those action plans extend for a lifetime and not just for a season.

What we have become as a result of those experiences then guides our actions in the 4th Quarter. We reflect who we have become and who we have become reflects the decisions we’ve made at each juncture of personal choice. God has a plan for each and every stage of our life. The Kingdom impact we have is then a reflection of the lessons learned during the “doing” stages that came before.

Now is a good time for a few moments of reflection and listening to God because He has a living message for each of us.

Listen and live, learning more about your role in building his Kingdom for a lifetime!

Stay with us on the journey of life with Trusted Advice along The Way.

Bruce

When does your calling end?

So, when does your calling end?

Here is amazing news: It doesn’t!

God’s call on our life is exactly that - a call on our life that extends for a lifetime. On the one hand, we say, “I knew that” while on the other we don’t often act like it. By saying we don’t act like it means that as we approach an event called retirement, we treat it as if “old age” has pounced upon us, our contribution to God’s cause is behind us, and the preparation for death has begun.

We have some cultural confusion about this with the last 30 or so years of our lives. It seems like looking through dark glasses on a night with no moon is often the norm. Obviously, you can’t see very well and seem surprised when the timeline stretches out for years instead of days, weeks, or months.

We are surprised when key life issues such as “meaning” and “purpose” are either overlooked, ignored, or subconsciously pushed away.

There is a tendency it seems to obsess over money issues while the gentle whisper of God’s spirit in our ear is either ignored or drowned out by the cruise ship horn, the railroad whistle, the rushing of the wind in the car, or the flight attendant’s call to “buckle your seatbelt”.

Another favorite way to deny, duck, or dismiss the ongoing call to build the kingdom is the clear cultural mandate to retire and do nothing.

Our cultural misconception over the meaning and implication of retirement, old age, and the reality of longevity is huge.

Let’s face it, retirement is a real event and a point of transition from the working for pay to the active application of all you’ve learned and experienced. There is also a point of passage between the retirement and the active application and it is a time of prayer, reflection, rejuvenation, and redirection. However, this point of passage can only go on for so long until the lack of meaning and purpose leads to a life of lethargy and a broken spirit.

Just observationally, we all have examples from our circle of friends and acquaintances that we can point to where a person is active and applying their experience and accumulated wisdom to help others, lead organizations, and bring energy and new solutions to old or nagging problems that seem to hang on forever until someone actually solves them.  And then, we seem surprised when we discover their chronological age. The challenging issue is that we seem to observe them and compartmentalize them as unusual or an exception.

If they are the exception, they shouldn’t be. You and I need to jump into that compartment with them and open ourselves to God’s call on this initial stage of “retirement”.

Another problem is that our churches often aid and abet this identity and activity crises by a never-ending focus on the youth while not understanding that the older generation may be the best mentors the youth could have.

And on a practical note, it is the “gray hairs” that have the greatest impact on keeping the Church budget fully subscribed!

A friend of mine attended a church start-up and growth training class. The class lasted a couple of weeks. When he returned I asked him the single most important issue he learned. His answer: “If you don’t have gray hairs among the ponytails, the church won’t make it.” A pretty down to earth and realistic assessment of the value of the intergenerational mix of believers.

Then there comes a time, as the river of life flows, when another point of passage is timely.

It’s the season when energy is a little less, time to reflect is appreciated, and you are available to speak into the issues of life and the issues of organization and ministry.

You’ve seen a lot, experienced a lot, failed a lot, succeeded often and learned from all of it. When a board is struggling with an issue, they finally turn to you for some experienced observation and sure enough, you have some. Not only that, sometimes, to your surprise, your input is not only right on, but is even an “elegant” solution, as a friend used to observe.

So moving from Active Application to Wise Counsel is a real shift. Not to say that wisdom did not previously exist, of course it did, but somehow is different with a weight lifted off of your shoulders. Sometime during this 2nd stage of retirement health issues become more insistent. The issues may be yours or your spouses but either way, they are time consuming and often frustrating. I remember talking with my mother when she was in her early 80s, and here detailing her day by sharing, “I have a hair appointment at 9 and a doctor’s appointment at 2.” I would then wait for the rest of the schedule and there was none. Interestingly enough, I had a physical a couple of weeks ago, and it took a good three hours. Always interesting when perception and reality meet.

I recently invested a couple of hours googling “old age”. After those hours of research, I sat back and thought about what I’d read. Then I could not decide whether I was encouraged or discouraged. Seems like most think the onset of “old age” starts about 80. I’m not so sure as a life expectancy into the high 90s is pretty realistic for many and I don’t think I want to be old for that long!

Next time we’ll explore that “old age” research and see what we can learn together. In the meantime, whether you are just coming out of Life 2, as Bob Buford describes it, or coming into Life 3 as I’ve taken the liberty to describe it, make sure your points of passage lead you from success to significance and from working to living.

Come along as we journey together with Trusted Advice along The Way.

Bruce

Reflective Sharing: The Third Stage of Retirement

It is amazing how the short term memory goes first.

Those life experiences and events of long ago seem to grow clearer the older we get. Where I left my keys or glasses grow into great mysteries, while the experiences of long ago that shaped my life leap into the present with great clarity.

This reality is one of the reasons that the third stage of retirement, after the age of 85 or so and extending to perhaps as late as our early 100s, is so critical.

Like the first stage of Active Application and the second stage of Consultative Input, there is a point of transition between stages where a Strategic Pause is necessary and the point of passage is a reality. A time of poignant reflection and recognition that building the kingdom and fulfilling God’s purpose, your life has changed again.

It is also a time of inward reflection and outward sharing. We recognize that as health deteriorates wisdom accelerates. It is a time when it is critical to include other people in your life, especially those you care for and are younger. A time to make yourself available and not curl up into yourself.

A time to recognize the benefits of longevity and not only the benefits of lost youth. It is a time to encourage and share life’s experiences, travels, struggles and joyous moments. To remember not just with nostalgia, but with purpose. A time to draw from what God has provided and a time to apply his provision for the benefit of others. 

There needs to be a clear recognition that “God isn’t done with you yet”, and that all the years of experience, learning life’s lessons, and finding out what is true now have great value. That value can then be realized and delivered not by leading, and not by consulting, but by sharing.

The truth is that this is a time where your advice may not be sought but providing it is critical. A time to share wisdom not necessarily as counsel, but as insight into the issues that confront those coming behind.

A friend recently shared with me about the life journey during retirement of his mentor. They have known each other for almost 30 years. He has appreciated the active involvement and leadership when his mentor was in his 70s as well as wise counsel during his 80s. And now he is watching him retreat into himself in this 90s. I asked him what he would expect from his mentor during this last stage of his life? He responded, “I wish he would just give me a call and say, “I’ve been praying for and about you and my sense is that there are a couple of things that you might want to consider based on my experience…..” No active application, no strategic input, just wise, “reflective sharing”.

We have the ability to reflect on life’s experiences and lay out issues and principles in ways that will be helpful to the next generations.

Here are some of the key themes to follow during the times of Reflective Sharing:

1.    Bless others with your life

2.    Live past your regrets

3.    Enjoy the little pleasures and the fruits of your life

4.    Encourage others by writing and sharing

5.    Yes, an even “closer walk with thee”

6.    Become a great storyteller

7.    Be ready to let go of old friends and find new ones

8.    Share your preparation for the Next Stage of eternity

9.    Don’t isolate, don’t vegetate, spread love around

10.Connect with all who are younger because just about everybody is

Reflect on those characteristics and share your insights.

Stay with us on the Journey of Trusted Advice Along the Way.

Bruce

 

Ministry for a Lifetime

Key insights by Kevin Pate

Kevin Pate is an elegant spokesman for and about the intersection of the marketplace and ministry - something that impacts all of us. I’ve written extensively about the funding source for future ministry which I have titled “Future Funded Ministry”. Now, we are exploring the expanded and key faith basis for understanding what it means to be Faithful for a Lifetime.

A key foundational component of that is understanding the issue Kevin Pate addresses in this article, “We are all ‘Ministers’ together”. John Calvin and other reformers talked about the “Priesthood of all Believers” and it is clear that we now need a Retirement Reformation. The message that follows is critical to understanding and embracing that Reformation. 

Proclaim That God Calls ALL People into Full-Time Christian Service

Every Christian has been called into full-time ministry.

When Christ commissioned His followers, He did not designate a select few vocational pastors, missionaries or faithful congregation members, but rather He appointed all believers as ministers of the Gospel.

But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;
— 1 Peter 2:9

The work of the Kingdom falls squarely on the shoulders of all Christians with no calling greater than another. Unfortunately, many marketplace people are taught that the work they do is in some way inferior or less valuable to God. They designate themselves ‘second class’ citizens in God’s Kingdom because their work is somehow less holy or sacred than that of church workers.

But there is no biblical tier system that ranks the callings of believers as higher or lower than another.

In fact, the marketplace Christian who spends six days a week outside church walls is no less important or valuable to the Kingdom than the Christian who holds a prominent position within the church.

Who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began God’s universal calling for all Christians is into full-time ministry.
— 2 Timothy 1:9

We are "on-call" 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year with no part-time positions available. All are called to live their lives according to biblical truths and principles on a daily basis – not just on Sundays. Nowhere in scripture is there an option for casual or intermittent Christian living. Instead, there is a charge to continually abide in Christ, dwelling in the Lord and actively participating in His kingdom moment by moment of every day. It is, after all, the key to experiencing the fullness of God and fulfillment in the life He has called us to live.

Actively Dispel the Sacred/Secular Myth

Many Christians envision church and work as two separate entities, one of which is ‘sacred’ and the other ‘secular’. But the premise that there is some kind of imaginary wall dividing one category from another is a lie that needs to be exposed.

We should not isolate any part of our lives as secular when Scriptures clearly state that everything is sacred in the eyes of God.

In fact, Christians thrive when adhering to the truth that work and faith are so intricately connected that they cannot be separated in the mind of God.

One problem with "sacred" and "secular" grouping is it suggests those labeled areas of one’s life must exist apart from each other. It presents the idea that those areas are somehow morally and spiritually incompatible. Yet the necessities of living compel Christians to constantly cross back and forth from one to the other, producing personal turmoil and division that causes our inner lives to break up – the antithesis of a unified life.

A quick reflection on this message:

This impact of this message is to engage every one of us for a lifetime of ministry.

As Christian leaders, this message informs not only our personal involvement but the concurrent responsibility to engage our staff and those we influence with the same message.

The reality for each of us and those we impact is that all are in full-time Christian service and we are to be in ministry for a lifetime, not just a season.

Because of the 30-year retirement time frame and the reality of longevity, it is time we embrace a rethinking of retirement - a Retirement Reformation.

Stay tuned for more!

Come along on our Journey with Trusted Advice along The Way.

Bruce

We may have “mission” and “money” backwards

We may have the “mission” and “money” relationship backwards.

We implement mission and then we pray for the funding - for the money. Maybe we need to intentionally implement the money plans first and then pray for the mission?

What is knowable and rests on God’s principles more clearly than financial stewardship?

This extends to the areas of spending, saving, fundraising, business for mission, and investing. All of these money related areas are addressed both biblically, educationally, and by experience. We know how to do it but often we don’t exercise our stewardship muscle to follow the path to ministry or personal funding to support ministry. One reason for this is that this mentality takes intentionality, hard work and some serious focus. For another, it requires tough decision making, follow through, and both organizational and personal discipline. All things in seemingly short supply for many of our faith-based organizations.

We can dig a little deeper into this insight that we should manage money and listen to God’s instructions for our lives rather than manage ministry and pray for the money.

Providing for financial needs can be and often could be on autopilot in the sense that again, what to do is knowable and attainable, it simply comes down to execution. This doesn’t mean that it isn’t hard, but God has already provided for those activities that are being blessed and we need to follow the general path laid out in order to garner the resources so badly needed by all in legitimate ministry.

The path to resources is identifiable. God’s plans for our lives and ministry start from a zero base and extend to infinity. Surely, there are basic principles of daily living that are common to all of us and often we fall short and are thankful for God’s grace. I want to highlight the specific and unique calling that God prepares for us, his ability to strengthen and then uphold us in the tough times to accomplish what He’s laid before us.

The unique role that exists in every stage of our life is to put our shoulder to the wheel of building His Kingdom here on earth.

Let’s take the point of retirement as the beginning of one of those life stages. We know that there are three stages in retirement and that each stage has some different, yet identifiable, attributes. What you do when you are 65 is different than what you do at 95. What is knowable is that entering into the first stage of “Active Application” with the money issue satisfied, you have put a Future-Funded Ministry plan in place and now have the flexibility to respond to whatever God’s call for your next stage of life is.

We can notice two issues:

1. If you are not financially prepared, your options are more limited and your focus is on money, or the lack of it, not impacting people by listening and following God’s call on that stage of your life.

2. You have sufficient financial resources but don’t know what to do with all of your time. In many ways, this circumstance is even more difficult than the first. You are truly lost because you have not consciously participated in the process that God has been using to prepare you to minister for your lifetime.

Let’s view it this way - during the working years your job, growing family, outside interests, etc... gave meaning, purpose and focus to your life. Now you retire and there seems to be nothing to fill the void.

I recently was at a social dinner and the man sitting next to me was complaining. As he was former military, his financial needs in retirement were pretty minimal. He said, “I wish I had never retired. I’ve always had a sense of duty, meaning, and purpose in my life. Now I only have money and time”. When I asked him what he did, he replied, “Walk my two dogs who are the joy of my life, and help my grandson with this Cub Scout activities.” I asked, “Would you like to do more and do you think God has something specific in mind for you to accomplish before your die?”  He said, “I don’t know.” He’d be a lot happier if he did.

No meaning in life and no purpose for life leaves a lifetime of reduced joy and little happiness.

In 1 Peter 2:8-9 it says,

Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another, love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous not returning evil for evil or insults for insults, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing.

These are basics on how we are to be blessed. Live like Jesus and acknowledge his call on your life. Doing what you know needs to be done financially and then praying and listening to God’s call on the next stage of your life may be the way he intends us to live.

Us always asking Him to solve our monetary or financial problems must get a little wearisome when He’s shown us the basics on how to deal with them. They are available for all to see and do. What is unique and lives much more in the shadows is consistent engagement with His plan for our lives. We need to spend much more time and energy on that.

Stay with us as we continue on life’s and ministry journey, with Trusted Advice along The Way.

If this idea prompted some new or reflective thinking, pass it on to your network and comment as you are led.

Bruce

The 4th Quarter Connection

How important is the 4th Quarter of life?  Is it a time of winding things up?

A time of self-absorbed pleasure? A time of travel, leisure, and fun with friends? A time when those friends die and loneliness sets in? A time of departure? Or, is there an alternative?

There is certainly nothing wrong with some time off. There is certainly nothing wrong with working on your “bucket list”. And, if you have saved and organized your family and life to allow for some space to relax, the entitlement to enjoy the above is well deserved. However, the leaders of the 4th Quarter Connection in Australia believe there not only is more, there should be more and lives will be enhanced because of it.

Judy and I were blessed to visit our new friends in Australia for two weeks. And yes, Australia was on our bucket list! While checking that off, a much more valuable experience for us and for the attendees of the five-day conference occurred. Christian Management Advancement (CMA) has launched a ministry focused on the Q4 Connection. We met with hundreds of 4th Quarter Christians looking for further insight into answering the question for themselves and for the organizations/ministries they represented,

What is God’s plan for your 4th Quarter?

The question assumes two things:

First, that you have a spiritual journey and that this spiritual journey connects you with God, Jesus, and His presence with us, the Holy Spirit.

Second, it assumes that He has an actual plan for your life and that that plan extends for a Lifetime. As a matter of fact, there were a couple of tag lines for the day. One was, “Faithful for a Lifetime” which is the tagline for our new Foundation, Live with Meaning. The other was the rhetorical question, “How do you plan to spend the rest of your life?” I suppose another way of understanding that question is, “How has God planned for you to spend the rest of your life and how are you going to respond to that plan?” Duck, ignore, refute, or embrace?

Richard and Leona Bergstrom, authors of the Book “The Third Calling”, were the other plenary presenters for the morning session at each of the venues. Their insights into the importance of meaning and purpose and how to begin to connect with those issues in your life were thoughtful, stimulating, and set the stage for the day of learning, interacting, and being personally challenged about the topic.

You can connect with my message by reading prior blogs but the bottom line is that your Third Calling extends for a lifetime!

For some reason, the time horizon of the 4th quarter is not well understood and is not internalized by either the Australian culture or ours here in the US. It seems that when we respond to what our cultures call retirement, there are only two points on the time horizon.

The first being our transition out of the work of our career and into retirement and the next is the time of our passing when we die. Everything in the middle is unclear and often lacks direction. There is definitely something wrong with that perspective involving a huge void with diminished meaning and purpose and certainly not reflective of any plan.

So if we accept that there is a plan and also a void, how do we respond? What do we do? How do we think about the issue and approach for ourselves, let alone for our spouse, family, and friends?

Acknowledging that there is a need to find the meaning and purpose for the last 30 years or so of your life and creating an action plan for it should certainly be in the top five issues of your life.

Choosing a career, choosing a mate, connecting and committing to follow Jesus, and choosing how to spend and invest into the 4th quarter are certainly among the top turning points in all of our lives. Unfortunately, we often don’t make good decisions or lack making a decision at all and end up drifting from one life stage to the other.

One key element to bringing meaning and purpose into the 4th Quarter is to understand it’s characteristics. By characteristics, I mean understanding what in fact makes up that fourth quarter from taking the puzzle pieces of the prior three and making intentional choices about how to respond to each of those puzzle pieces.

There is so much to be said about this topic. What are your thoughts and perspective about this 4th quarter issue? Share them with us and if you think the topic worthwhile, share the content of this blog with others on Facebook, Twitter or other social connections.

Stay with us on the Journey with Trusted Advice Along the Way.

Bruce

Live with Meaning: Faithful for a Lifetime

During a recent trip to Australia, I was privileged to speak with ministry leaders from across Australia. All of them are in their 4th Quarter and this occasion was the launching of the 4th Quarter Connection ministry of Christian Management Advancement organization. What a privilege it was to share with them and give a jump start to this new ministry! Their goal is to help change the country for Jesus with those who are in or entering their 4th Quarter which begins at the age of 60 and continues throughout the remainder of their lifetimes. 

In that presentation I encouraged them to focus on and retain three ideas:

1.    The 4th Quarter lasts for a lifetime.

2.   Each stage of the 4th Quarter must be funded and it can be referenced as a Future Funded Ministry rather than retirement.

3.  There are three key stages in retirement; the 4th Quarter or even what the Bergstrom’s, in their book by that name, suggest the 3rd Calling.

The three stages of retirement are:

Active Application

Consultative Input

Reflective Sharing

Before and between each of these stages is a Strategic Pause. This is a time to pursue reflection, prayer and careful listening for God’s whisper in your ear.

Our future is often and usually rooted in our past with either a reaction to something negative or an affirmation of the positive. Either way, a time of reflection, prayer and listening is an integral component of preparing for the next stage of life, including those three during the 4th Quarter.

Here is an admonition from the Apostle Peter shared at the end of his life

1 Peter 4:10-11 NIV

[10] Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God's grace in its various forms. [11] If anyone speaks, they should do so as one who speaks the very words of God. If anyone serves, they should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.

Next, let’s embrace the key issues and process available to move into the 4th Quarter coupled with the issues many struggle with to make it both meaningful and purposeful.

1.     We need to develop and agree on the language of longevity: We are the first generation that has to confront the issues of longevity. Up until recently we were faced with the brevity of life and now we are faced with its length. Finding and agreeing on the language to use to describe both the issue and the solution is evolving. We are developing the language of longevity as well as a lexicon that is both recognizable and accepted.

 2.     Developed in the crucible of discovery: A crucible is a container, like a bowl, where we place our issues, suffering, and confusion and something new results because of the integration of the different elements. Together, we will discover that out of the pain these new discoveries can add immense purpose into our lives.

 3.     That reflects an energetic confidence: Energetic confidence is the energy that proceeds from knowing where you are going and why you are going there. All Christians can live with energetic confidence and it is heartbreaking that so many do not.

 4.     As we navigate the river of life: The river of life continues for a lifetime. Each stage of the river is different, yet God has a purpose in each one for all of us. Every aspect has value and a purpose if we are available to pursue it. He prepares us to help build his earthly Kingdom during every stage of our lifetime.

 5.     That leads to the active application of all we have learned: This is the first stage of the 4th Quarter. This is where we can both lead and wisely apply all the lessons learned during our previous journey on the river of life.

6.     The purposeful and consultative input into the real and significant issues of life: This is the second stage of the 4th Quarter. Here is where we have the opportunity to bring insight and wisdom to both the issues and struggles of the journey for others.  

7.     And the reflective sharing about those issues with those who follow: This is the third stage of the 4th quarter which is encompassed by reflective sharing. Billy Graham is a wonderful example of a man that utilized every opportunity for reflective sharing all throughout his life.

Can you see it? Can you see your retirement that isn’t marked by insignificance while lacking value but instead, a continuation of a life with both meaning and purpose that completes your God appointed roles of building the earthly Kingdom? This 3rd stage also enters us into our joyous roles in His Heavenly Kingdom

 The three facets of the 4th Quarter are:

1.     No diminution, no lessening, no reduction of meaning and purpose, but an increased intentionality to appreciate and interact with the changing landscape of life. While that landscape changes during our journey, our call to interact with that changing landscape in God appointed ways does not. It extends for a lifetime!

2.     The call to do all that He appoints while allowing our individual roles to come together and compose a body of believers here on earth creating a cacophony of blessing to others and a sense of deep fulfillment to each of us who thankfully follow JESUS on that river of life.

 3.     This is a life of meaning and purpose that reflects praise to JESUS our Prophet, Priest and King and clearly invites others to join with us where they can also experience what it means to be faithful for a lifetime. Where they too can experience a fulfilled and joyous life of meaning and purpose.

This does not change the realities of life such as aging, challenges or suffering, but it certainly changes how we respond to them. It does not change the facts but it does change the results. 

 Reflect on what is above. Decide how you will respond. The decision will be life changing, regardless of how you make it. And remember, “no decision” is still a decision.

Be blessed and continue with us on the Journey and take a moment to share this with others in your life.

Bruce Bruinsma

Living to 156

For some, the idea of living to 156 is really scary.

Many are not prepared for tomorrow, regret yesterday, and are confused about today - confused or comatose. Comatose in the sense that they have no meaning, no purpose, no direction and no action. The idea of being a part of something bigger, God’s plan for their lives, is both frightening and almost beyond belief.

The reality is that some act as if they believe that God’s plan for their lives stopped at retirement and now it is all about their plans.

It is just not so!

Connecting with a God that cares, prepares, and equips us is outside of their conscious, or even unconscious, thought process. There is also the fear of accountability and the desire to escape to the safety of doing nothing.

This “doing nothing” can take on a lot of characteristics: endless rounds of golf, ceaseless travel, unending searches for the “best” of something, continual quests for the perfect location, constant hunt for the perfect relationship, and always measuring yourself against an ideal that does not exist in reality and that won’t bring fulfillment or happiness.

Note the key characteristics listed above. They all have to do with self and have little to do with others.

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From a human perspective, there has been significant research about happiness. There is both happiness in the moment, and then there is happiness about your life situation, which really measures the difference between being happy with your life and being satisfied with it.

Eric Barker identified these keys to happiness to the positive benefits of aging. In addition to the five keys listed below, as Christians we put one more at the top of the list:

Carrying out God’s plan for our lives and making a difference for others because of our thankfulness for what He did for us is critical to embrace.

Because Jesus makes the eternal difference in our lives, we are to represent him and make a difference in the lives of others. It is that simple, it is that easy, and it is so difficult for many.

Friends:

Having individuals and/or a group of friends makes all the difference. Within a spiritual community, a minimum of 10 friends seems to be the number that impacts satisfaction and happiness. Jesus created the Church to represent Him to the world and to provide the support we all need. It is here, where two or more are gathered, that critical support is understood and helping others is experienced.

Have Goals:

When you are passionate, focused and directed by God’s calling on your life, the result produced is that you will be more energetic and confident. That energy and confidence will play out with a happier and perhaps even a longer, fulfilled life.

Have A Life Story:

Self talk reinforces life’s values and helps us to learn from life’s experiences. Sharing those stories with others then takes those values to another level for our internal compass as well as helping others to evaluate or develop theirs. Those stories play out during the second and third life stage of living with meaning and purpose for a lifetime. They are the content of Reflective Input to and for others.

Money Isn’t The Answer:

The answer to happiness does not lie with the amount of money you have. It is what you do with the resources you have that matters. However, I have observed that if you have sufficient resources, it buys the time to both reflect and act in ways that can change the world.

Keep Growing:

We are either growing or shrinking. We are either retreating into ourselves or we are reaching out to others. Happiness is a direct reflection of our consistent willingness to move forward, expand our thinking, interests, relationships, and service to others.

So where does living to 156 come into all of this?

It is just a matter of perspective. Do you know anyone who suggested how long they will live? They either focused on that specific number of years based on the longevity of their relatives or for some other reason. My grandfather died at 57. My uncle lived under the cloud of expectations that he too would die in that same general time frame. That thought process impacted much of what he did and how he planned the 4th Quarter of his life. Because God was not done with him yet, he grew another whole company to significant size after age 60 and contributed mightily to the growth of God’s Kingdom well into his 80’s. What more might he have done if he did not respond to that perceived cloud that surrounded him for a number of years.

We often get what we expect. Contemplating a life expectancy of 156 changes the way we think and act about age 65, 75, 85 and even 95! At age 75 I certainly feel and act younger with a vision of 156 years of happiness and productive ministry! Let’s try it and see how it works out. There is more meaning and purpose available to us for a lifetime.

Find it. Use it. Make a difference. You’ll live longer.

Contemplating an active life to 156 is not scary if you embrace it and surround it with the process that influences others and fulfills God’s plan for us.

Because so many Christians understand retirement in such a limiting way, it prevents them from understanding their 4th quarter from God’s perspective. They either are in denial about the stage of life they are in or have not yet adopted the “language of longevity” and understand God’s ongoing call to contribute to the expansion of His Kingdom for a lifetime.

Thanks for coming along on the Journey of a Lifetime. Share it with others in your circle of Social Media contacts and those you influence.

We will continue to explore Trusted Advice along The Way.

Bruce

Insightful Stewardship/Consultative Input: The Second Stage of Retirement

In Bob Buford's book “Halftime – Moving from Success to Significance” he uses the term halftime to describe the time when life is re-evaluated and future direction is determined.

There are always key life points when both circumstance and life seasons produce an opportunity for review, reflection, and evaluation.

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In prior editions of this blog, we have explored the first stage of retirement, or the 4th quarter, which I entitled “Active Application”. As is true with each transition to a new stage of life, there is an opportunity to review, reflect, and evaluate once again.

In Buford’s book, the timeline he mentions is Life 1, Halftime, and then Life 2.

I want to suggest that there is then another Halftime after Life 2 which leads me to entitle it Life 3. This is the 4th Quarter and perhaps the place where we can hear the Third Calling, as it is referred to by Richard and Leona Bergstrom in their book by that title.  

Let’s call the points of transition between life stages, where review, reflection, and new direction emerges, a Strategic Pause with Tactical implications.

Moving from Active Application to Consultative Input begins in your late 70s and extends through your mid to late 80s. While none of the last three stages of Ministry for a Lifetime have hard edges, there can be significant examples of overlap and extension, life, energy, willingness to engage and impact during these life stage transitions.

So what does this time of Consultative Input/Insightful Stewardship look like?

Primarily it is more collaborative and less personal. Collaborative in the sense that the focus is on using a lifetime of experience, the longest period of time walking with Jesus, with the greatest understanding or who you are to speak into the situations and circumstances of life.

During this stage of life, you either have the opportunity to begin shrinking your world and limiting new life experience or expanding the world and bringing great wisdom and even new solutions to key issues, problems, and opportunities.

In other words, you can speak wisdom into reality and expand your world, not shrink it.

Remember the perspective that the ceiling of each stage of life is the platform for the next. Willam Barclay brought an interesting perspective to this conversation when he said,

There are two great days in a person’s life - the day they are born and the day we discover why.
— Willam Barclay

 I am suggesting that being in God’s will and listening to His calling is a lifelong process and continues during those times of strategic pause that accompany each and every life stage.

The Consultative Input stage is the time to begin to lead with ideas and input from a chair of collaboration rather than from a racetrack of activity.

I have connected with a wide variety of people and have asked for their feedback regarding this stage of life and here are some key themes that emerged:

1.     A commitment to walking alongside others

2.     A developed capacity to “speak into” a situation or a life

3.     A time to expand your influence and not shrink your neighborhood/world

4.     Mentoring rather than mining – begin to mentor the mentors

5.     Bringing unexpected blessings

6.     Increased humility and appreciation of and for “differences”

7.     “Just a closer walk with God”

8.     Be an encouragement and a living example

What can we expect from those in this life stage and how can we encourage them to really see their Kingdom Value?

John Kennedy said:

Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or the present are certain to miss the future.
— John Kennedy

The temptation during this life stage is to live in the past but it is actually the time to expand your world and help build the future!

Use your past and the present to inform your input about the future because there will never be a better time to make a difference!

Stay with us on this journey through the three life stages of life’s 4th quarter.

Your comments and responses are always appreciated.

Bruce

Building Trusted Advice along The Way

 

Active Application: The First Stage of Retirement Continued

Both the understanding and the application of understanding the three stages of retirement are critical for everyone regardless of where they are in any of life’s stages.

It is also critical for Christian leaders to both comprehend and embrace a different view of retirement than what our culture promotes. We are called to serve for a lifetime, not for just a season. That service takes on new and different dimensions as we move from halftime to lifetime and from 3rd to 4th Quarter.

In our last blog post, we opened up the discussion of the first stage, which is ACTIVE APPLICATION. This is the stage that starts in the mid to late 60s and continues through the mid to late 70s. This is the time where the world says “stop” but God prepares us to go! We acknowledged that during all of life’s transitions, there are elements of stopping, moving on, leaving, and changing. All of those elements are part of the transition to the next stage.

The transition to that next stage has an inherent appreciation for what has come before, and an anticipation for what lies ahead.

When we acknowledge that as followers of Jesus, we are called to ministry for a lifetime, not just for a season, our challenge then is to listen to God’s call during each stage and to acknowledge the needed preparation that has taken place during all the previous decades of our lives.

 The active application of Jo Saxon’s quote still rings in my ears:

The ceiling of each stage of your life is the floor for the next.
— Jo Saxon

We are Uniquely Prepared and Called for a Kingdom Purpose in Each Stage of Life and Retirement.

For a number of months, I have been collecting the thoughts of others about this first stage that I call Active Application. In our last blog, we identified six characteristics that begin to bring into view the wonderful mosaic of this Active Application time of life.

1.      You have the capacity to embrace the previous lessons of life.

2.      You have the ability to put into practice what you have already learned and to model it for others.

3.      You have the experience to understand what is applicable from those experiences and what is extraneous to the solution of any of life’s dilemmas.

4.      You know how to interact with others and how to lead when appropriate.

5.      You understand what productivity means and what wasting time and money means.

6.      You have the energy and wisdom to prioritize opportunities.

It is fascinating to review the input and thoughts about this Active Application stage of life from a wide variety of people. Here are some of the themes that begin to emerge:

Mentorship: The importance of connection with those that are few life stages behind and investing in their lives.

Fulfilling old dreams with new time: Responding to prior longings to carry out and experience new areas of life while impacting the lives of others.

Fellowship: Connecting with family and others in new and meaningful ways.

Leadership: Applying a lifetime of skills of addressing key issues within the family, church, local society, national challenges, or issues that impact the world for Jesus.

There are many more areas to explore. Active Application is a point of convergence. It is a time for expanded focus and deliberate leadership. It is forward facing while recognizing the critical values of life’s lessons and the teaching of God in our lives. It is another opportunity to align ourselves with God’s plan for that stage of life. It is a time to embrace and experience the fruits of the spirit:  love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness and self-control.

And most pointedly it is another one of those key times of transition. If this time of life is also funded, this allows for the full freedom to respond to the callings and roles we talk about above. Future Funded Ministry and how you deal with this issue in prior life stages has a significant impact on how your time of Active Application will play out.

This life stage is a time where you can scale your influence and leverage your life to impact the Kingdom in new and different and satisfying ways.

Our next blog will introduce the next, second stage: Insightful Stewardship, Consultative Input.

Bruce

ACTIVE APPLICATION: The First Stage of Retirement

Understanding the three stages of retirement is critical for everyone regardless of their life stage.

Whether you are in your 30s and 40s, or 50s and 60s, having a realistic picture of what lies ahead is important.

One reason why it is important is that it allows you to think about what lies ahead. This is the purpose of maps so we can plot a route between where we are and where we want to be. It is also why travel documentaries are so alluring! They give us insight into places we have not been but would consider going. This is also why cross-cultural studies are so important. By studying other cultures, we are able to connect and think about settings that are new to us with places we have never been and with people we do not know.

That first stage of retirement, the one that starts in the late 60s and goes through the mid to late 70s is what I call Active Application.

This is not the time for stopping, although it often includes a time of pausing. It is not a time of transitioning out but a time of transitioning to. It is not a time of leaving, it is a time of going. It is not a time of depleting, but a time of growing. And it is not a time of separation, but a time of inclusion.

All transitions in our lives have components of stopping, moving on, leaving and change.

These life transitions include our abrupt welcome to the world at birth, leaving home, leaving singleness for marriage, job change, career change, etc. The shift to retirement is the only one that our society denigrates to “less than” rather than either “more than” or at the very least, “different from."

The first stage of retirement, Active Application, is one that recognizes our call to bringing value for a lifetime and not just for a season.

The call to the ministry of impacting others extending for a lifetime is not just a season or life stage. It recognizes that each of our life’s stages are different and that the very nature of our contribution to society and building God’s kingdom is likely to be just as different.

I heard an impactful quote at a recent conference. It was from a dynamic speaker named Jo Saxon:  

The ceiling of your life will be the floor for others.
— Jo Saxon

What a true observation! Upon reflection, it can be applied in another setting.

The ceiling of each stage of your life is the floor for the next.

So what about Active Application? Let’s start listing some of the characteristics of this stage. We will start here and then continue in our next blog: We are Uniquely Prepared and Called for a Kingdom Purpose in Each Stage of Life and Retirement.

  1. You have the capacity to embrace what you have learned.
  2. You have the ability to put into practice what you have already learned.
  3. You have the experience to understand what is applicable and what is extraneous to a problem solution.
  4. You know how to interact meaningfully with others and can lead.
  5. You understand what productivity means and what wasting time and energy means.
  6. You have the energy to prioritize opportunities.

Reflect on those characteristics and share your insights.

Stay with us on the Journey of Trusted Advice along The Way.

Bruce

Strangers in a Foreign Land

Wherever we are, there is a “Living Hope”.

Peter shares this ongoing theme in his book written from Rome to the Christians scattered throughout the foreign lands of what is now Turkey. We are not alone no matter the location and no matter the circumstance. This mentality can often bring us comfort when we are far from home.

During the last few months, I’ve been privileged to visit Israel, Palestine, and Mexico. And I’m looking forward to an upcoming trip to Australia and Laos. On one hand, these opportunities to connect around the world are a unique blessing, while on the other hand, they are a constant reminder of the value of home. Perhaps you can resonate with that.

Even while being that stranger in foreign lands, it is wonderful to connect with many Jesus followers of all different types with historical backgrounds and ways of worshipping. On a recent Sunday in San Miquel de Allende we worshiped in two Roman Catholic churches, an Episcopalian Church and connected with those who worship in a Protestant fellowship; all followers of Jesus and those we will join for eternity.

I am also reminded of all the different places and types of worship we experienced in Taybeh, West Bank and then in Jerusalem itself. Then, there are the underground worship groups in South East Asia, and the fellowship of believers coming up in Australia. We will go to India in the fall and again be joined with Jesus followers of other types and history.

Also, I am reflecting on my first assignment to deliver the Good News publicly in Romania. It consisted of a small rural church, a band, a 2.5-hour service and a packed building with people listening while standing outside the open windows of the church.

What a responsibility and what a blessing!

So, what are the common bonds that join the whole world of Jesus followers together? It is the reality that there is one God the Father who sent his Son so we could know Him personally and then followed that with His gift of the Holy Spirit so that our moment by moment walk with God can be both personal, joyful, and supported by His power and wisdom.

We all, regardless of historicity, style of worship or background, have personal access to God through Jesus and can live a life even as a stranger in a foreign land of “Living Hope”. What a blessing and what a unique way to live!

In a world that is so divided, especially in our own country, it is comforting to know that there is something more that can unify us and a greater power we can all acknowledge. Living with hope beyond our human capacity adds to the ability that we are each given to spread the word of “Living Hope” to all those around us, wherever we are.

Reaching my mid seventh decade, it is encouraging to know that God is not done with me yet, and if you are reading this, He is not done with you either! The growing understanding that the last three decades of life can and ought to be as meaningful than the prior seven helps me appreciate all that has happened before and view those life experiences through a lens of meaning, purpose, preparation, and growing capacity to know, understand and communicate.

There are the words of the hymn sung in my grandmother’s church in Grand Rapids, Michigan every Sunday, “Praise God from Whom all Blessings Flow”. How true, regardless of our location or circumstance. Be blessed with Living Hope today. Amen.

Stay tuned and join in as we journey and experience a lifetime of meaning and purpose.

Bruce Bruinsma

What is Your Preferred Future?

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Your preferred future, as well as mine, entails built-in questions that lead us to the answers we desire.

Those questions include the why, the what, and the how.

As leaders part of our organizational responsibility is to help envision the future. And to not only visualize the future, but also to articulate it in such a way that it encourages and inspires those we lead and impact.

As individuals that can connect directly to our Supreme Leader, it is our responsibility to envision a preferred future that includes how we will support building His Kingdom in ways that reflects Jesus in heart, mind, soul, and action.

A Preferred Future

Back in 2009, a writer by the name of Patrick O’Neill published a blog entitled, Envisioning a Preferred Future. I recently came across that blog and thought it had some excellent points worth considering. Interestingly, our Pastor in a recent Sunday message emphasized some of the same points as he challenged us to consider what a  preferred future might mean. Further, he challenged us to contemplate what God’s preferred future for us might be and how we can connect with it.

Growth is a given

As I read through the Bible I’m convinced that a key supporting message is one of growth -  spiritually, organizationally, and personally. With that in mind, it is reasonable to conclude that the status quo is then, in fact, the antithesis to growth. One of the definitions of status quo seems to nail it, “a state where there is little hope of development or change”. Of course, it is the status quo that we know best because it comes most naturally to us.

There is the old story that if all our problems were represented by keys on a key chain and we then all tossed those key chains of problems into a pile, What would happen? Then, if we could  select any set of keys we wanted, we would all select our own set of key chains again! Our problems are the most familiar and often we are the most comfortable with them. A strange anomaly.. 

In one of my recent blog posts, I outlined the process for reflecting on the subject of retirement. I encourage you to re-connect with those concepts and consider entering into the reflective process outlined when you think about your status quo and then move on to the “preferred future” consideration instead. Here is the link to that blog:

The "why" of our existence, either organizationally or personally is the key driver to change.

Here is a personal challenge for reflection: Does your “why” for even existing bring you a deep sense of meaning and purpose? If so, it will also provide the energy for addressing the “what” and the “how” questions of life.. And if not, each of us will remain stuck in the stagnant status quo.

The question that drives change

It is in the “what” question that points us in new, different, or expanded directions. Recently our Executive Team was  preparing our team meeting agenda. We started with  an insightful list of 9 issues to address. However, It occurred to us identifying the topics for discussion was important, it was the decisions to be made about each topic that was the desired result. Again, it was, is, the decisions to be made, that drives change. When  we included a description of the “what” it is that needed to be decided, that our productivity and effectiveness went through the roof.   So starting with the “why” question and then  coupling it with the “what” question is critical when entering into the “preferred future” conversation.

Coupling those together works for both a personal discussion as well as in a business or ministry setting. It's not only "why" but also the "what". 

Finally, what remains is the action issue; the “how” question. How are we going to move into that preferred future? What are the action steps to implementation? A preferred future without an action plan is a status quo equivalent.

God’s preferred future that He laid out for the Israelites through Moses in the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy is to “remember the past, prepare for the future, and follow His guidance”. I think that approach to our preferred future is still the right path today. Take a look at what is presented in II Peter, the first chapter, “Bringing us to a living hope in Jesus Christ.” There is a preferred future!

In II Peter it says:

1.     Add to your faith virtue,

2.     To virtue knowledge,

3.     To knowledge self-control,

4.     To self-control perseverance,

5.     To perseverance kindness,

6.     To kindness love.

God’s preferred future that He laid out for the Israelites through Moses in the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy is to “remember the past, prepare for the future, and follow His guidance”.

Here is a formula to grow by. Here is a formula that can inspire change. Here is a formula that can indeed lead us into a preferred future.

We are chosen, called, strengthened and upheld as we embrace the “preferred future” available to us and through Jesus.

Happy New Year

Let’s walk together in it with Trusted Advice Along The Way.

Bruce Bruinsma

From Half-Time to Life-Time

Bob Buford’s impactful book, Halftime, written in 1994, challenges the following generations, including myself, to move from success to significance. In the book, he identifies what he calls Life I and Life II. According to the Halftime Institute, Life I is the period of time that lasts into your late 40's up to age 50 while the remaining balance of life is Life II. Life I is what occurs before halftime and Life II is what occurs after….presumably until death.

Halftime then is that period of "in between”; that tactical pause between Life I and Life II when  most people are unprepared and are searching for meaning in mid-life. I found this idea challenging and it prompted my own search for deeper meaning both in purpose and in relationships. For me, this introspection took place in my 40’s. For some it could come earlier while for others much later.

During the past two decades since 1994, we have experienced those early years of that Life II. Now it is time to consider and perhaps evolve or expand Buford’s thinking a bit more. Because of longevity, living well into our late 80’s or 90’s, our life can be understood more fully as Life I, Life II and Life III which the world calls retirement. It is the time when it is important to rediscover and refine the significance of what we thought about during our younger, Life II years in light of the new reality of a much longer life.

Building relationships with God is our call.

When viewed from a Christian perspective we can continue to expand the ideas and feelings rising out the halftime discussion about vision, purpose, and meaning to include our role as Kingdom Builders. Kingdom building, expanding the world’s relationship with God, is the purpose for which we were created along with the ongoing call to follow Jesus; not simply for a time or a season but for a lifetime. The current expectation of how long we will live is into our late 80’s and perhaps stretching all the way to 100!

Themes of life are consistent, the look and feel changes.

When we include that lifetime aspect and acknowledge that there are at least three stages during retirement, or the Fourth Quarter, the overarching theme of life does not change. The important themes of life remain the same but how they look, act and feel are quite different. That halftime reflection point that occurs around age 49 is then re-introduced and often re-experienced in our 60’s or even later as we look to our retirement. We know this time is culturally referred to as retirement, the 4th Quarter, Life III, 3rd Calling, or simply being "Faithful for a Lifetime”.

All decades of life are significant.

It is interesting to note that the significant time frame lasting between ages 50 and 70 is the same amount of time as that between the ages of 10 and 30 or between 30 and 50. The realities of life during each of these time frames look different, feel different and are different. It is then reasonable to presume that the twenty years between 60 and 80 or even 80 to 100 can be just as different and just as  significant as those prior two decades.

Life III; a lifetime of purpose.

Loyd Reeb, spokesman for the Halftime Institute, says in his Ted Talk about Halftime, “The most productive years in your life may surprise you!” And he was referring to those years after halftime! I’d like to suggest that the Faithful for a Lifetime years can and should be as, or even more productive, than the years immediately post halftime. The Life-Time years typically begin in their mid to late 60’s. As a matter of fact, I’d like to suggest that for many it is time to expand our thinking from Half-Time to Life-Time and to extend them to now include Life III.

Many of the life issues raised in "halftime thinking" and subsequent discussions are simply not addressed by most Christians for a number of reasons. One is that they do not have the financial flexibility or ability to consider much more in their late 40’s or early 50’s then "what’s next?" Some are so caught up in life that their head stays down and elbows keep flying while others simply never thought about the issues of change and personal significance during those early post halftime years.

Our life journey includes our spiritual journey.

Grappling with these issues of meaning, purpose and relevance is also directly related to where we are in our spiritual journey and our relationship with Jesus. While issues of meaning and purpose often cause serious introspection it is also the longing of the Christians' heart to both be more and do more to build the Kingdom. Both the "why" and the "what" of life are important to living a life of meaning and fulfilling our specific purpose of building the Kingdom.

When explaining "halftime", they talk about this tactical pause in life's journey as an unsettling feeling or simply asking the introspective question, “Is this all there is?” But as Christians we know that there really is more. Our lives will explode with purpose when we acknowledge and accept God's call to personal relationship with him. This is the foundation needed for building the Kingdom.

Whenever we come to realize that reflecting him means that we are both called and able to impact others for the Kingdom we discover our universal call as Christians. And we discover that “serving and helping” others is the initial level of response to that call by God on our lives.

There is also a specific “call”.

The next response to God’s call is the realization that he has something unique in mind for each of us. We can listen and hear his “specific call” on our lives. This is the process for connecting with to that call: 1. He whispers it in your ear. 2. He uniquely prepares you for your role. And 3. He strengthens you for it. Hearing, doing and following through with the action plan associated with the call is the way we demonstrate that we have heard the call and are committed to  him. Not surprisingly this results in a deep level of personal satisfaction.

There is much more to be said about moving from Halftime to Lifetime and this introduction  begins to lay out the essence of what it means to be Faithful for a Lifetime. In both the Halftime pause and Lifetime pause there is an embrace of the need for significance. This feeling of significance is accompanied by finding the content and context that fills the “heart sized hole in your soul” with both meaning and purpose.

Begin to reflect on what Faithful for a Lifetime might mean for you.

Stay tuned as we journey with Trusted Advice along The Way.

Bruce

Buford, Bob. Halftime. Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 1994 by The Leadership Network, Inc.