Today I turn seventy-four. As the title of my autobiography (published in 2006) says, "The Lord Has Been Mindful of Me." I have enjoyed an unusually high degree of good health. I have never spent but one night in the hospital in my entire life. I was not even born in a hospital, but in my grandfather Fulford's farmhouse in Geneva County, Alabama—as far south in southeast Alabama as one can go and still be in Alabama!
As we advance in age changes come. My most recent physical checkup revealed a slight elevation in my triglycerides, as well as a slight lowering of my "good" cholesterol. I am not alarmed by this. To me it is an alert. I know what I need to do, and I will do it. I will be more mindful of my diet and I will see to it that I get more physical exercise. Seventy-four years is long enough to be able to eat whatever you want whenever you want it! Some changes must—and will—be made.
Other changes also come. On July 31, 2000, I retired from full-time ministry after serving churches of Christ for a little over forty-two years. I thought then—and still think—that then was the time to make that move. My intentions never were to stop preaching, teaching, and writing, but to do so at a more leisurely pace, without the stress and pressure that are part of full-time ministry. For five months during the rest of 2000, I "took it easy." I held one meeting during that time, preached six or seven Sundays on a "fill-in" basis in nearby congregations, and continued to meet a minimum of writing assignments. My wife and I both were busy getting settled into our retirement home.
January 1, 200l rolled around and I was "rested up" and antsy. A church offered me the opportunity to preach for them on a part-time basis, and I accepted it, though it involved a commute of a little more than forty miles one way. After a year, I was invited to preach for a church much nearer my home. I began with the LaGuardo Church of Christ in nearby WilsonCounty, Tennessee on the first Sunday of January 2002. Day before yesterday—Christmas Day—I completed ten years of ministry with those wonderful people. A few weeks earlier I had told them that at the end of this year I would terminate my work with them. This represents another change for me, my wife, and the LaGuardo church. We care deeply about the members of that church.
What does the future hold for us? I don't know, but as has often been stated, I know who holds the future. I still love to preach, to teach, and to write. This weekly "Hugh's News & Views" is but one expression of my desire to try to say something that will be helpful. For 2012 I already have a few gospel meetings and a lectureship engagement scheduled. I have committed to speak at some Wednesday evening Summer Series at area churches. Two Sundays in January are already committed for preaching engagements. I may just "fill in" here and there when a church's regular preacher must be absent. I may decide to preach every Sunday for a small church if an opportunity presents itself to do so. One thing is for sure - I don't intend to sit down and do nothing.
My maternal grandmother was a hardworking woman. When I was a child I remember asking her, "Bigmama . . . (all of us grandchildren called our grandparents "bigmama" and "bigdaddy"; after I was grown and married my wife let me know emphatically that when she became a grandmother she would NOT be called "bigmama," but that's another story.) But back to what I started to say. "Bigmama," I asked, "why do you work so hard?" Her answer was, "It is better to wear out than to rust out." I think she was right. She lived to be eighty-eight. I don't know how long I will live. I have already passed the proverbial three-score and ten years (Psalm 90:10). I still feel good and still enjoy going and doing. But if I should die today and on the resurrection morning of the last day experience the greatest of all changes (I Corinthians 15:51-58; I John 3:2), I could still say, "The Lord has been mindful of me."
December 27, 2011