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by Ted Schroder
December 31, 2007

What inspiration do you need for the New Year? In a world in which there is much to discourage us; in a future which is uncertain; we need inspiration to keep us going. "Inspiration" literally means 'drawing in of breath'. It refers to divine influence when we understand that the breath of God is needed for us to live, and to be creative. To be inspired is to be animated, enlivened, invigorated, energized, enthused, and encouraged. Most often we are inspired by the examples and the writings of others.

My inspiration for this coming year comes from St. Luke's description of the boy Jesus: "Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man." (Luke 2:52) As he aged Jesus developed intellectually, physically, spiritually and socially. These are four areas of our lives that all of us need to pay attention to. You need to continue to take care of your mind, your body, your relationship with God and your relationship with others. By doing so you become whole and fulfill God's purpose for your lives.

Recently I have been impressed by the example of Art Linkletter. American Profile on November 26 featured a cover story by Paulette Cohn entitled, "Aging With Dignity: Art Linkletter is a model for growing old gracefully." He turned 94 last July. Famous from his television shows in the 50's and 60's he has co-authored his own new book on aging, "How To Make The Rest of Your Life the Best of Your Life", with Mark Victor Hansen. Linkletter's life is an inspiration.

He was abandoned by his biological parents and adopted by a street preacher and his wife. He worked at a number of jobs until he found his niche in radio broadcasting and then television. He, and his wife of 70 years Lois, lost two of their five children. His son Robert died in an automobile accident in 1980, and his 20 year old daughter, Diane, jumped out of the window of her apartment under the influence of LSD in 1969. As a result he turned his energies to a passionate anti-drug crusade. He spoke at churches, on radio and TV, and wrote the book "Drugs at My Doorstep." He has written 27 books, including "Old Age is Not for Sissies." He schedules 75 paid speaking engagements a year, attends numerous board meetings, works on behalf of United Seniors Association and takes care of his diversified business interests.

What does it mean to "grow in wisdom" in the new year? Abigail Van Buren wrote that "wisdom doesn't automatically come with old age. Nothing does - except wrinkles. It's true, some wines improve with age. But only if the grapes were good in the first place!" As we age we should accumulate an immense store of wisdom. If we learn from our experience and continue to educate ourselves we should become wiser with each passing year. "When you're growing in wisdom and knowledge and insight - and when you're sharing those qualities with younger people who need guidance, mentoring and guiding people who need what you know - you're not aging. You're sageing." (Hansen & Linkletter, op. cit. p.176)

One of the best ways to grow in wisdom is to read widely. I make available my annual reading list to encourage you to keep stimulating your mind through choosing books of value. Allen Bloom stated that, "The failure to read good books both enfeebles the vision and strengthens our most fatal tendency - the belief that here and now is all there is." Rene Descartes wrote, "The reading of all good books is like conversation with the finest men of past centuries."

The Wisdom literature of the Bible: Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, and James teaches us that "the fear of the lord is the beginning of wisdom." That 'fear' or 'holy reverence' grows over the years as we appreciate more and more how little we know and how much there is to know of God's truth and love.

What does it mean to "grow in stature [body]"? "Your body is a use-it-or-lose-it kind of instrument, and like a guitar or any other instrument, it needs to be kept in tune. You keep it in tune by playing it regularly. If you want to keep your body vital and mobile and fresh and pleasurable, you must keep it moving without anyone else's help. You must live independently, always pushing your body to do new things as you age, never giving in to the idea that 'I can't do that, I'm too old.' Why? As soon as that thought enters your mind, you become too old. Dr. R. Buckminster Fuller...took up skiing at seventy-seven years young." (H & L, op.cit. p.115)

Remember Jack LaLanne? At ninety-two he still works out every morning. "The average American, he works at dying. Exercise is king, nutrition is queen, put them together, you have a kingdom. The only way you hurt the human body is inactivity." (H & L, op.cit. p.125)

St. Paul reminds you "Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body." (1 Corinthians 6:19,20)

What does it mean to "grow in favor with God"? A 2005 study by sociologist Terence Hill and researchers at the University of Texas - Austin found that among people sixty-five and older who attended church once per week, the mortality rate was 32 percent lower than those people who did not attend church....On the heels of a 2003 study of longevity and religion that found a 25 percent reduction in mortality among regular church goers, this study was seen as confirmation than an active spiritual life does help you to live longer." (H.& L. p.198)

A relationship with God gives us faith, hope and love, which provides meaning and purpose in our lives. It helps us cope with changes in our lives. Prayer and reflection on the Scriptures and other devotional books gives us guidance and strength for each day. When we ask "What would Jesus have us to do?" the answers will inspire us. Growing in favor with God is an investment that lasts beyond this life. "Outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day." (2 Corinthians 4:16)

It is our relationship with God that enables us to handle anxiety, worry and fears for the future. After doing all we can to take responsibility for our lives and our loved ones, we put our worries in God's hands and trust him to take care of us and them.

What does it mean to "grow in favor with man"? We need to take care of our relationships with others. The heart of Jesus' message is to "Love each other as I have loved you." (John 15:12) As we age we lose our friends and family. We have to make an effort to form new relationships. Loneliness is a real problem for all people and especially the elderly. Relationships with others help us to live richer and more rewarding lives.

The danger as we age is that we withdraw from social engagement. We go to less meetings, we discontinue memberships in organizations, we make fewer telephone calls. While this may free us from responsibility it also isolates us from relationships which stimulate us. Relationships with others gives us support in hard times, motivation to reach goals or try new things, improves our moods, exposes us to new ideas, and gives us other perspectives on life. Going back to school, volunteering, joining a choir or an arts or hobby organization, participating in a Bible study or prayer group, fosters new relationships.

Art Linkletter has a saying that he uses in his lectures which ends with these words:

"I get a kick out of living in the here and now

But I never know the best way how

Because there is always one hill higher with a higher view

Something waiting to be learned, I never knew

So until my days are over, never fully fill my cup

Let me keep on growing."

This is good advice to inspire us in the New Year.

Ted Schroder's new book, SURVIVING HURRICANES: DELIVER US FROM EVIL, is now available from www.Amazon.com or Amelia Island Publishing, (info@ameliapublishing.com) 904-277-4414, for $24.95 plus $2.55 for shipping. It deals with the problem of evil and suffering from the point of view of the Armor of God, and the Lord's Prayer, and provides prayers and questions for reflection and discussion.

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