Thursday, October 29, 2009

30 on the 30th

So in a few hours I will turn 30 years old. I’ve come to realize that the 30th birthday is a big day for a lot of people, and not always in a positive sense. Many people stress about it because they are single and the world is telling them they are running out of time to find “the one”. To those people I say trust God, seek Him first, relax, and work on BEING the one instead of searching for the one. Many people stress out about turning 30 because their body no longer works like it used to and the world is pressuring them to worship the idol of youth. To those people I say there are better things than youth and physical prowess and that in spite of the ups and downs, the general trend for a Christian life should be to get better and better and better as the years go by. But what do I know? As I mentioned, I’m just now turning 30 myself. But I want you all to know that it is not stressing me out.

In many ways, I am very satisfied with “where I am in life” at this point. I say “where I am” instead of “what I’ve accomplished” because I feel like the good things in my life are much more the results of God’s blessings and providence than anything I have done or achieved. Often these good things in my life seem to be in spite of me much more than because of me. But anyway – I’m happy. I’m living largely in that good tension of “always content, never satisfied”. I have a wonderful wife and daughter, a great ministry, an exciting adventure of a life, and a network of loved ones scattered across the globe that would be the envy of any man. I have far more than I deserve. I wake up every day soaked in grace and mercy and these things stick to me in spite of my best efforts to run so fast and stumble so often so as to shake them off. Life is often hard, but life is most definitely good. An enthusiastic two thumbs up to these 30 years that I have been blessed to live, sometimes thriving and sometimes just surviving.

No, turning 30 is not stressing or freaking me out. I’ll admit that it is, however, causing me to reflect a lot. During the past few months I have thought more than ever about my mortality, my goals, my impact, my sins and struggles, my relationships, and my faith than probably ever before. It has been a good and healthy process. I recommend it.

There’s a pop/country artist that I’m sure all of you have heard of named Tim McGraw. I would not call myself a Tim McGraw fan, though I am a fan of some of his songs. In the McGraw canon, in my opinion, there are a handful of songs that I would call “great” or “beautiful”. One example here is a song called “My Best Friend” that is so beautiful to me that it makes me cry every time I hear it and Erin and I chose it as the song for our first dance as a married couple. There are another handful of Tim McGraw songs that I would call “awful” or “extremely annoying”. And then there is the large majority of his work, which I would classify somewhere between “so-so” and “really, really cheesy”. Most of his songs, actually, good or bad, indeed have quite a high cheesiness rating. Well, one of those songs in that middle group is called “My Next 30 Years”, and it’s a nice (though cheesy) song with some good truth and nice perspective about “the ending of an era and the turning of a page”. I like the general message of looking fondly on both the good and the bad of the past, but not dwelling there. Instead, the impetus seems to be on moving forward, doing it better, with God’s help, in “my next thirty years”.

That said, thirty years is a long time. My thoughts as I click over from 2 to 3 in the tens column drift naturally not to age 60, but to age 40. So in this spirit I would like to share with you all a list of things that I wrote down today – my last day in my 20s – as goals for the next decade of my life. Some are quite measurable and I expect you all to check up on me ten years from now to ask me how I’ve done. Others are quite nebulous and harder to quantify. Anyway, here is the list – not so much a “bucket list”, as I’d love to live far beyond 40 if, as the old timers say, “Jesus tarries”; instead just more of a “before I turn 40 list”:

* I would like to “work myself out of a job”, which is what any half-decent leader or missionary does. I want the ministry and infrastructure of El Pozo to be incredibly solid and set to thrive for the long term, without needing Erin and me. I pray and work every day toward not being the limiting factor here. Even if we’re still here in Puebla for our next 30 years, we want to be empowerers and not limiters, multipliers and not “ball hogs”.

* Erin and I have always said “two maybe three” in answer to the question of how many kids we would choose to have. But after two solid months of observing, holding, and kissing little Elsa Lynne, I have revised my plan: I’m saying we should have about six more in the next ten years. Still working on convincing Erin, but come on, Babe, just look at this photo and tell me you don’t want a half dozen more just like her!!!


* In the next ten years, I would love to learn how to participate in a poorly-officiated, sloppily-played basketball game in perfect silence, or with only positive and encouraging words coming out of my mouth.

* During the next ten years I want to more often choose the relationship over the “win”, harmony over proving that I’m right.

* I would love to still weight between 210 and 215 pounds on my 40th birthday and still be able to run up and down the court/field with the youngsters a couple of times a week.

* In the next ten years I want to continue to travel the world. Normally my travels spring from ministry and random opportunities, but aside from that, if I were drawing up the plan right now I would travel to Ireland, Australia/New Zealand/Hawaii (particularly to hike the Nopali Coast Trail), and Chile. I would return to repeat my African safari with Erin and Elsita and however many of the other six have been born to see the animalitos. I’d also like to take Erin and the kid(s) “out West” in the USA to see the wide open spaces and the national parks, especially Yosemite, Yellowstone, and Zion. I’d love to return to Germany. I’d love to finally get to the Pacific Northwest and the Northeast and the great cities of Chicago, New York, and Boston. I’d also love to return to “the Holy Land”. We’ll see which doors open in this next decade!

* During the next decade I want to continue to write. Maybe just here on the blog, maybe a book or something? I doubt I’ll have a book’s worth of worthy contributions to the world of literature by age 40, but who knows? Maybe a comic book.

* This may never happen, but I would love to be able to play golf once a week and get my handicap down to single digits. It is currently closer to triple digits. Getting out on the golf course with good buddies is a physical, emotional, and mental challenge that I love and a natural, social, and spiritual experience that really “fills my tank”.

* In the next ten years I’d love to read through the entire Bible at least four more times.

* I’d also love to memorize a lot of Scriptures, with the purpose being to more quickly locate and share bits and pieces of truth for others’ benefit. I have come to realize that while I know a lot of what the Bible says, I am pretty lousy at remembering where exactly it says what it says. The Internet and are killing my ability to remember where to find certain Scriptures. The blessing and curse of technology.

* When I’m 40 I want to be much more like Mary and less like Martha than I am right now. I want to be less of a planner, controller, worrier and more of a listener, pauser, yielder, follower of Christ’s Spirit.

* At age 40 I want to be more loving, more committed, more devoted, more invested, more intimate, and more honest in my relationship than Erin than I am right now. I want us to be well on our way to being that old couple with a twinkle in their eyes walking around holding hands and, in the words of my friend Ben, “taking hits from each others’ oxygen tanks”.

* In the next ten years I would like to finish my seminary degree!!!

* In the next ten years I also want to take a drawing class, a painting class, and a photography class.

* In the next ten years I want to give away a ton of money, save a good bit of what’s left for retirement and college and anywhere from one to seven weddings, and enjoy the heck out of the rest.

* In the next ten years I want to learn to play at least ten songs that I love on the guitar. To add to the one song that I currently know how to play.

* Ten years from now I would like to actually own LESS “stuff” than I own right now. I would love for anyone who knows me now and will know me then to easily qualify my life as lived more SIMPLY at age 40 than it was at age 30.

Those are some of my dreams and goals for the next decade. One axiom in which I whole-heartedly believe is that we usually overestimate what we can accomplish in one year but underestimate what we can accomplish in ten years’ time. With, of course the caveat that the only way to accomplish anything that really matters is to daily submit my will to the one good and perfect will of our loving Father!

May my next thirty years, and yours, be filled with things that matter. May you and I invest all of our talents, resources, and energy in God's greatest treasure - His people. May we strike the right balance between running hard and fast toward Him and resting in the realization that He is already right here beside us. May our eyes be always open to the blessings, needs, and opportunities all around us, as we increasingly see the world as Jesus does. May our lives truly be "abundant", as we realize that eternity has already begun.


  1. Let me get this straight. You wan to have 6 additional kids but own less stuff.

    Good Luck!

    I also remember spending a lot of quality time with Tim McGraw when I turned thirty.

  2. hahahaha! as always, great point! i didn't think the combination of those two goals through, did i? maybe when i'm 31 i will think things through more thoroughly! and write sentences with less th words in them...

  3. your GOLDEN bday. something great always happens that year (althought lil' ELMer may count for yours, hard to top that) jesse got judah during his 26th year (bday 7/26) and i learned to talk, use a potty and swim during my golden birthyear. happy you!

  4. I second Keight the golden bday is a special one. You are always welcomed in Germany and have a place to stay!!