Growing Older, Dreaming Bigger

On December 8, 2016, an American hero died—Astronaut John Glenn. He was 95 years old.

John was an ordinary person from a small town in Ohio. His mom was a school teacher and his dad owned a plumbing business. But John had big dreams. And he pursued those dreams.

  • First John served in the U.S. MILITARY for 24 years. During WWII he flew 59 combat missions over Japanese positions. His plane was hit by antiaircraft fire five times, but he survived. During the Korean War John flew 90 combat missions. Twice he returned to his base with over 250 holes in his plane.
  • Next John was an ASTRONAUT in the Mercury spaceflight program. On Feb. 20, 1962, he climbed into a small spacecraft called Friendship 7 and was launched into space. Flying at speeds of over 17,000 miles per hour, he circled the earth three times in five hours. Neither John nor NASA knew what would happen upon re-entry into the earth’s atmosphere. Would the heat shield protect his spacecraft or would it be burned up? Miraculously, he made it back safely. John was the first American to orbit the earth.
  • Later John was elected to the U.S. SENATE and represented his home state of Ohio for 24 years.

So now picture John Glenn at 77 years old. He is in his fourth term as senator. He has lived an amazing life. He has made unbelievable contributions to America and to the world. He is ready to kick back and take it easy, right? Wrong! He’s ready to go back into space! To put it in John’s own words, “Just because I’m 77 doesn’t mean I don’t have dreams.”

One of John’s focuses while senator was serving on the Special Committee on Aging. This committee studied issues facing an aging U.S. population. John pushed to go back into space, sort of like a guinea pig, to test the effects of space flight on an aging body. NASA agreed and on Oct. 29, 1998, he boarded the space shuttle Discovery and once again made history as the oldest man to fly in space. From high above the earth, John said: “To look out at this kind of creation out here and not believe in God is to me impossible.”

John Glenn had big dreams and big plans, even as an older adult. It is apparent that God had big dreams and big plans for John Glenn, too. Jeremiah 29:11 says: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” It doesn’t say “I have plans for you up until retirement age.” It just says “I have plans for you—period.”

How big are your plans? Are there people you can help or inspire? Is there a goal you haven’t yet met? Are there places you’d like to go? I want to challenge you to have big dreams, even if you are an older adult, especially if you are an older adult.

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No One Died

On TourMost passengers were from Australia and New Zealand. Some were from the United Kingdom, two from South Africa, and two from Guatemala. Toss in a tour director from Alabama and a driver from Ecuador and we were bound to have fun on the 15-day tour I was leading.

The tour began and ended in New York City, traveling by motorcoach throughout the Eastern United States and Canada. Day 9 brought us to Toronto where we were scheduled to visit the Ontario Parliament building. As we rode from our hotel to Parliament, a passenger noticed a flag at half-staff.

“Why is that Ontario flag flying at half-staff?” he asked me.

“I’m not sure,” I answered. “I didn’t hear of any death or major event on the news this morning.”

The passengers and I began to notice other flags along the route at half-staff. Our curiosity was rising by the minute. Upon arrival at the Parliament building, we could clearly see on the left lawn a Canada flag lowered and on the right lawn an Ontario flag lowered. What has happened? I mused.

We parked, unloaded, and waited on the approaching security guard for further instructions.

“Welcome! Follow me this way,” he said, pointing toward the pink sandstone building adorned with gargoyles.

I walked next to him and the group followed. “Why are all the flags in the city at half-staff?” I asked.

He laughed. “Well, no one died. Our flagpole pulley for the Canada flag is malfunctioning. It won’t allow the flag to go up all the way. Because no flag can fly higher than the Canada flag, everyone in the city has had to lower their Ontario flags until we get it fixed.”

On tour the adventures are endless and the laughs are abundant.

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“God’s glory is on tour in the skies, God-craft on exhibit across the horizon” (Psalm 19:1 MSG).

Sunshine and Ice Cream

Cassie, Becky, & Ice CreamAh! The aroma of cow body odor, manure, and freshly-squeezed milk! How can I begin to describe it? Unique, maybe? Or fresh, perhaps? Memorable, for sure. That aroma is why milk makes me gag to this very day.

I blame it on my dad. When I was a kid, he took me to Wills’ Dairy Farm each week to buy milk. We’d enter the “milk parlor,” a small room with concrete-block walls and a cement floor at the front of a barn. Through a door at the back I could see cows curiously lined up in a row. Mr. Wills would fill our gallon “milk jug” from a refrigerated stainless steel tank for a whopping fifty cents. I would try not to breathe the entire time we were there. And then, after the milk sat in our refrigerator for an hour, an inch of off-white thick stuff would form on top. We’d have to shake it up before we could drink it. I’m feeling a bit sick remembering it.

So I didn’t drink milk as a kid. And I didn’t drink milk as a teenager. And I didn’t drink milk as an adult. Now I’m fifty-four years old and Dr. Schuster told me my bone density is decreasing due to a lack of calcium. Imagine that! I thought the next words out of his mouth would be to drink the white stuff. I was already formulating my protest.

“Get lots of sunshine and ice cream,” he said.

“What?” I exclaimed.

Dr. Schuster repeated, “Get lots of sunshine and ice cream.”

I liked his thinking! “Would you put that in writing?” I asked.

He opened his prescription pad and wrote: “SUNSHINE TRANSDERMAL QD, ICE CREAM PO QD.” (Translation: Sunshine on my skin daily and ice cream in my mouth every day!)

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“Oh, how sweet the light of day and how wonderful to live in the sunshine! Even if you live a long time, don’t take a single day for granted. Take delight in each light-filled hour” (Ecclesiastes 11:7-8 MSG).

Sunshine and Ice Cream