Monday, September 27, 2010

Growing new wood

Part 2 of my "Aging with Grace" series

They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green. – Psalm 92:14 (NIV)
“I will not make age an issue,” the late Ronald Reagan said in 1984, when, at age 73, he was running for the US Presidency. “I am not going to exploit for political purposes my opponent’s youth and inexperience.”

His opponent was 56.

Life doesn’t end at 60 or 62 or 65, or whatever age the government or company you work for says you must retire. You can still produce in the autumn and winter seasons of life.

Vanderbilt increased his fortune by $100 million between the ages of 70 and 83. When he was 74, Verdi composed his masterpiece, Othello; when he was 80, Falstaff; and when he was 85, the Ave Maria. Cato began to study Greek when he was 80, the same age that Goethe wrote Faust. At 83 Tennyson penned his renowned poem, “Crossing the Bar.” And at 98, Titian created his historic painting, “The Battle of Lepanto.”

Productivity in the golden years isn’t only for the ancients, either. I knew a man who went deep sea fishing when he was 91.

What’s the secret to aging with grace? The first secret is to keep growing. Anything that isn’t growing is dead.

“That tree is very old, but I never saw prettier blossoms on it than it now bears,” Henry Wadsworth Longfellow once wrote. “That tree grows new wood every year. Like that apple tree, I try to grow a little new wood every year.”

We, too, need to grow a little new wood each year. The Bible tells us that “Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man” (Luke 2:52). That means He grew mentally, physically, spiritually and socially. So should we, no matter what our age.

“Be transformed by the renewing of your mind,” Paul wrote (Romans 12:2). Grow mentally by keeping your mind active. Learn something new. Read something that requires effort, thought and concentration, such as classic literature. Take a continuing education course. Write your memoirs, research your genealogy and family history. Do crossword puzzles or solve brain teasers. Play games that require thinking, such as Scrabble or Scattergories.

Physically, our bodies are no longer growing as they did when we were young, but they still need upkeep. I call it “temple keeping” because God’s Word tells me my body is a temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 3:16-17, 6:19-20). So I take care of this temple by eating right, getting the proper amount of rest and exercising regularly (well, I try). It’s important to know my limits and pay attention to what my temple is telling me. Taking care of health issues immediately will save me a lot of grief and hassle down the road. And I keep up appearances because if I look good, I feel good, and if I feel good, I do good.

The famous comic strip artist Harry Hershfield lived a fruitful life until his death in 1974 at the age of 89.

“I wake up every morning at 8 a.m. and reach for the morning paper,” he once said. “Then I look at the obituary page. If my name’s not in it, I GET UP!”

Lord, show me ways I can grow a little new wood every day. Amen.

Join me at the Seasons of Life Christian Women’s Conference at the Punxsutawney First Church of God on Oct.16, from 9 a.m.—3 p.m. Tickets, which are $20, include lunch and must be purchased in advance. Benefits Punxsutawney Christian School. For tickets, call PCS at 814-938-2295 or email me at

For more information, visit the conference blog at 

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