Saturday, May 11, 2019

Bearing Fruit as a "Senior Tree"

Lebanese Cedar Tree by Danielle Tamin 

Exasperated with human behavior, God decided to limit the human life span to one hundred and twenty years, according to Genesis 6:3.  In Psalm 90, which is entitled, “A prayer of Moses the man of God,” that number is reduced by observation to “seventy years – or eighty, if we have the strength” (v.10)  These days, we’re told, “Worldwide, the average life expectancy at birth was 71.5 years (68 years and 4 months for males and 72 years and 8 months for females) over the period 2010–2015 according to United Nations World Population Prospects 2015 Revision, or 69 years (67 years for males and 71.1 years for females) for 2016.”[1] And Google answers the question, “What is the average lifespan of a human in 2019?” as follows, “The new average life expectancy for Americans is 78.7 years, which puts the U.S. behind other developed nations and 1.5 years lower than the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) average life expectancy of 80.3.Feb 9, 2018.”[2]  In Canada, we should add, the average life expectancy was 80 years for males and 84 years for females in 2018,”[3] running right along the biblical guidelines. These days, pushing the odds, As of 27 March 2019, the oldest known living person is Kane Tanaka of Japan, aged 116 years, 84 days.[4] Less verifiable claims were made by a man in Indonesia who died in 2017 reportedly at “146,”[5] and currently one from Mexico who says he is 121 and a woman who says she is 120.
Taking all this into account, if we want to be optimistic, we could say that 120 is the ideal age goal for all of us and divide our years into three categories: youth, which goes from birth to forty years old. Young middle age would clock in between forty-one to sixty. The Golden Years would encompass eighty to one hundred. And full maturity, when we should finally know better and everything we have to say should be treasured by the neophytes who follow us as completely wise, would be a cozy one hundred and one to one hundred and twenty, at which point we could expect to check out.  That would be the optimum.  The ideal. 
As for people who claim to exceed one hundred and twenty, over the years, have you noticed the same thing we’ve observed?  That all these claims are made by people who live somewhere else?  Mexico, China, Italy, etc. and not in the U.S.?  Hmmm.
For those of us in our seventies, the takeaway from this, as the younger among us put it, is “Do it now!” Whatever dream we’ve been postponing all our lives until we can fit it in, is now due.  Our biggest hurdle (besides falling asleep occasionally over what we’re trying to accomplish) is a lack of assurance that we can any longer pull it off: that we’ve just aged out of the goal-accomplishing-years and we should finally commit that dream to the mists of morning.
At this point, we can all appreciate the God-inspired motivating blessing of Psalm 92’s verses 12-15, which promise:
The righteous will flourish like a palm tree. They will grow like a cedar of Lebanon.
Planted in the house of the Lord, they will flourish in the house of our God.
They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green,
proclaiming, “The Lord is upright; He is my rock, and there is no wickedness in Him.”
What a lovely and inspiring psalm! It tells us that, if we’re staying connected with the Lord and are trying to work to promote God’s reign, then we should expect to be fruitful.
Well, I’m taking that to heart.
All my life, I have been in love with music. My earliest composing memory was sitting in a dust spot in our back yard playing with what used to be called toys, but we know more accurately today are “action figures,” and I’m singing away at a brand new phrase I’d just learned: “Birds of a Feather Flock Together.”  My grandmother is at her window, two stories up, smiling down.  When I finally wear it out and cease the caterwauling (no doubt to the delight of the neighborhood), out the window comes sailing an item that plops down right in front of me.  It is a nickel!  In the late 1940s/early 1950s that is a whole lot more for a little kid than it is now. I’ve never forgotten the incident. It was the first time I began to realize, one can make a career out of this.  I never did, however.  I was just in it for the love of the song.
Fast forward to this century and that follow-up realization: Do it now or never.  In 2002, as we all crossed the threshold of the new millennium, I began having songs professionally recorded by Robert, a student and dear friend today who had provided music for the Sci Fi channel.  The singers were my multi-talented Athanasian Teaching Scholars (drawn from the best of my graduates), proving once again that those who are good at one thing are often good at many things.  Another recording spate followed in 2007.  But all of this lay fallow until recently when Wipf and Stock released my second novel, Cave of Little Faces, which AĆ­da and I co-wrote (her first excursion into fiction), on the strength of the award Name in the Papers, my first novel, garnered (the Golden Halo Award for Outstanding Contribution to Fiction from the Southern California Motion Picture Council back in 2013).
We fell in love with the Cave, a high adventure novel, and realized that the music lent itself to it.  So, applying “Do It Now,” we finished that 18 year compact disc project to become  a 15 track CD that has just been published.  We call it, “Songs from the Cave, Ballads from the Papers.”  The playlist splits in two halves, providing a soundtrack for the two novels that unites them.  As we worked on Cave of Little Faces, at the same time, I worked on new songs and reworked older ones to make a unified whole.  To pull this off, eleven people in all helped make this happen, musicians, arrangers, singers, all accomplished and consummate in their expertise and all of us loving Jesus.  The resulting album includes a variety of styles.  I realize it is the culmination of my childhood dream, but, more than that, it provides a creative cohesion that brings writing, my main occupation these days, and music, my avocation, together. 
The point of this all is that this is my “Do It Now,” and so I wrote this blog to encourage all of you, my sisters and brothers in Jesus, to summon up the courage to do it now – make your dream, whatever it is, a reality.
And one final thought: Is it too late for you?  No, it’s not. One of my arrangers, who was in a jazz band in the 1940s, arranged and played all the instruments on one of my songs himself, and, over his retirement years, has actually arranged, played, and recorded over 1,000 songs. He is currently 96.  Need I say more?                                       

Links for YouTube and CD: Songs from the Cave, Ballads from the Papers Cave of Little Faces: What is the novel all about?  Cave of Little Faces: Who is on the cover of the novel?