Stories

Have you ever seen those boxes, some look like little houses, in various places around where you live?  A while ago, I finally walked up to one of these and discovered it was alittle free Little Free Library. These are lending libraries where you can borrow books. Or, you can leave books of your own for others.

I really like the concept. You can look through what is there, read a book and then return it for another one. Or you can share a story you enjoy so someone else can add it to their reading experience. The more stories you read, the fuller your life becomes. And there is always another story.

As I think about those Little Free Libraries, I realize my life is really a series of stories. Even as there is a variety of stories found in those lending libraries, the same is true about my life. The first in the series was set back in 1952 when I was born into a loving family of two Christian parents and a sister. Since then, the stories have included experiences in grade school, high school and college, vacations, meeting my wife, various jobs, the birth of children, grandchildren and a great-grandchild.

Some of the stories are full of joy and I like to go back and reread them. There are also stories full of pain and struggles which I purposely keep way on the back shelf. Whether the stories are easy or uncomfortable to read, they are still part of my life.

Another story is beginning the end of this week as I retire. It is interesting the response that word evokes in others. Some simply say congratulations. Others ask if I am really ready to retire. Even more remark that after retirement, I will have an abundance of free time to do all those things I could not before.

I did a study of the word retire. The root is a French word retrire which means to withdraw. I understand that I will withdraw from my employment. However, I cannot see my retirement story have as its central theme one of withdrawal. The times of forced withdrawal our world has recently endured, while necessary, wrote many trying story lines into my life.

Everyone has told me that you need a plan going into retirement. I made some plans of what I want to do and did some reaching out to put those plans into motion. Some have shared with me in what direction I should head in retirement. One person shared with me his vision about what could be part of my retirement story and I thank him for those thoughtful and caring insights. Boy, he has some plans for me!

What struck me most about his comments was in the teaching he credited to me. (Please read what follows within the context it is written.) He shared I “taught him how to integrate God and prayer into my practice” and “you gave me silent permission to ask God for assistance prior to entering any challenging situation.”

Anyone would want to hear things like that about themselves, BUT, I cannot credit anything to myself. What it shows me is that God is all powerful and uses every believer in some way to spread the Gospel–even me. When he says that “you will be my witnesses” it is a statement of the reality that our lives are hung out there for everyone to see and learn from. My retirement story, whether intentional or not, is a testimony to my love for my Savior.

Now that could make retirement a little daunting, but I need to remember this promise from God, Watch, I am about to do a new thing. Now it will spring up. Don’t you know about it? Indeed I will make a road in the wilderness. In the wasteland I will make rivers. Isaiah 43:19 (EHV) Whatever my fears or anxieties may be, God is working out a new plan. And that plan includes solutions to what obstacles there may be in the times ahead. What a gracious, loving God!

I do not know how my retirement story will read. But I know my final story has already been written. The first words of that story were written when Jesus came to earth and died for the penalty of all my sins to set me right with God. Then some chapters later, I was brought to faith in that work of Jesus through the Bible. Spoiler alert! My final story finds me in heaven for eternity. That is the only true never-ending story and it is mine.

In just over three days, my retirement story begins. The cover for that story is found above. If you come back here again, we both will see how the story unfolds. I will wait you.

I first heard this song during my days as an elementary teacher. This is the most important story I could ever hear or tell.

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