I looked at the guest list and couldn’t hold back my smile. Somehow I had anticipated when Arlene told me that she wanted to invite 20 or so of her closest friends, that many of them would be 60 or older.
One by one they arrived on Friday night. Each with a hug and a humble heart – grateful to have been included. And my smile only widened. Each decade was represented, with more being in their 20’s than in their 60, 70 or 80’s. (yes even one in her 90’s joined!) Who is 90 and has more close friends that are in their 20’s than 80? She’s impacted generations. Literally. But, she is STILL impacting generations. My kids are 11 and 7, and they look to her with eyes of adoration. She is actively involved in at least four 20 year old lives. (because there were that many in the room – none of which are grandkids – she never married!).
As we plate and serve their meal, they are going around the room sharing how they met Arlene. An overriding theme of mentoring floats through the air. Arlene mentored many – who are now mentoring many. My mentor is in the room, and shares how Arlene has been a mentor to her. I can see that as she says it, because the wisdom she imparts on me is reminiscent of Arlene’s.
When you think of a 90th Birthday, you imagine cake and birthday cards in the back of the church fellowship hall. Arlene – well, she wanted anything but that. She wanted relationship. Hasn’t she always. As missionary in Africa for most of her adult life, (before that was a popular or safe thing to do!) she is a spirit filled with wisdom. She even receives an email wish from a nearly 90 year old friend from Africa.
“‘Stand up in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly and revere your God. I am the Lord.” Leviticus 19:32
The respect Arlene has earned isn’t because of her mission work in Africa. It isn’t because she is “old.” It isn’t because she held some high position, or did something to “earn” it. The respect that Arlene has comes from her ability to relate. She has encountered the one true God in might ways, but more importantly, continues to do so. And as she encounters him, she pours out into others. She isn’t living on her memories, she is making new memories and encounters with the Lord. She lives a life that is chasing after God and learning more each day. She’s on fire for the Lord. At 90! She is entralled with learning more and discovering more about him. All the while carrying 90 years of history with him. She has experienced more supernatural than most, and yet seeks to know and see more.
And not only does she desire that for herself, she is wrapping her arms around others, gathering them as a shepherd, and leading them in a desire to know more of God. She speaks truth. Even when it is hard, she has a way of saying it with love.
My role in all of this was to serve. To stand in the presence of the aged, and show respect in one of the ways I know how. To cook, and while welcoming them into my home, to reap a blessing far beyond any service I could have done.
And as I removed plates and served dessert, I awakened to the legacy of Arlene in new ways. I want to be 90 and be like Arlene. I want to be on fire for Jesus and for taking others there with me. I can think of no greater earthly honor than to sit with 20 of my closest friends and to realize that it’s not about who is my age, or at the same place in life, but about who I’ve touched and who is touching my heart. That friends, is the holy spirit living and breathing in each of us. Uniting us in Love.
And,I want to sit at HIS feet. I want to give thanks, as Arlene does continually. I envision her as a modern day Mary sitting at his feet, learning what she can.
Who around you is bringing the bible stories to real life? They are there- we just have to look closely. Today, I’m praying that each of you encounters the bible in your life in real and living ways. And I’m giving thanks for my friend Arlene and for her constant example to those in our little hometown.