How I Spent My 50th Birthday

Man, I always love Facebook on my birthday. So far today, a ridiculous 400* posts on my page, not counting the private messages and comments. It’s so awesome to just allow that to wash over me. Thank you, everyone.

Personal friends from all along the road…
The good and wonderful folks at Northaven…
Minister friends…
Musicians friends…
Justice-seekers…
Political friends…

And all those wonderful folks I’ve met  just from writing this blog and being on Facebook.

You need to know just how much I know that I a blessed, blessed guy. Way beyond anything I could deserve.

So, as I’ve made clear both here and on Facebook, I am allowing the calendar to have its way with me. In this season of life, staring fifty in the face, I’m refusing to look away. Not gonna blink.

And, again, not because I am a glutton for punishment. But more because it’s just here. It just is. It’s this big marker, this big moment, and it seems to me we (I) humans hurry through way too many big moments.

I still agree with what I said here. “Fifty sucks.”

But, look, I can also be realistic. If it’s inevitable, then why not listen to what it’s telling me, right?
So, that’s what I’m trying to do.

The first step? Looking back.

Today, I pulled a large, heavy old trunk out of the garage, picked the lock, and found my journals. The really old ones. The newer years were here in the house, packed in the drawers of my writing desk. But I went waaay back, to the first time I apparently ever journalled.

Then, I placed all the books in order by year on the floor, just to see what the years looked like.
Here they are…

That red book near the front is 1982. There’s one book for 1983-84. Then, you start to see multiple books, starting in 1986. Clearly, in 1988, things kick into high gear. Sometimes six or seven books in a year for about the next decade.
Then, back on the next-to-back row, you’ll see a purple book. That’s 1997. The year Maria was born. You can see how it dramatically slacks off after that. Visually, it’s obvious that I’m lucky to get through one book a year, for the past fifteen.
It’s an interesting visual picture, which I’d never put together before today. I’d always assumed that “getting busy in ministry” had caused my journaling to slack off. I probably also blamed marriage too. I think I also assumed it slacked off when I became a senior pastor. (And, there is some truth to that…)
But, it’s pretty clear that the biggest shift (downward) in journaling, happens in 1997. The most obvious culprit: Parenthood.
My guess is, when I read back through, I will find a young and giddy Dad who just didn’t have the time.
So, a part of moving through this season-of-being-fifty (note how that’s not a “day”) is going to be reading back through these books. I’ve plowed through the first two today, which gets me through undergraduate school and to the end of my first semester at Perkins.
I don’t plan to spill too much of the personal junk out here. But, I will say one pretty clear learning from today: that those first books detail the beginning of a journey of self-discovery.
Some entries from these first books sound like a love-sick school boy (which I was…). But by the end, I’m a young man on a personal journey, who probably has no clue just how life-long the journey will be.
It’s kinda cool to read it on the page.
So, no additional scoop here. Hey, I agree with the old journalling prayer:
“Now I lay me down to sleep,
 I pray the Lord my soul to keep.
If I should die before I wake,
Throw my journal in the lake.”
All I’ll say is that over the next few weeks, I look forward to getting reacquainted with me.
And, as for turning fifty? I found some nice quotes about it, and posted them here.
Some of them, you will find, express polar opposite sentiment. That’s on purpose. Because I intend to be open to it all. 
In one place, you see Norah Ephron saying:

“Every so often I read a book about age, and whoever’s writing it says it’s great to be old. It’s great to be wise and sage and mellow: it’s great to be at the point where you understand just what matters in life. I can’t stand people who say things like this.”

And I love that. But, then I follow it with the anonymous:
“Do not regret growing older. It is a privilege denied to many.” 

Given Norah Ephron’s death this year, it does make you pause.And make you grateful.

I think my favorite two quotes basically say the same things, but from differing spiritual perspectives. I closed with them on purpose, and I repost them there:

“Except ye become as little children, except you can wake on your fiftieth birthday with the same forward-looking excitement and interest in life that you enjoyed when you were five, “ye cannot enter the kingdom of God.” One must not only die daily, but every day we must be born again.”
— Dorothy L. Sayers

“He allowed himself to be swayed by his conviction that human beings are not born once and for all on the day their mothers give birth to them, but that life obliges them over and over again to give birth to themselves.” 
–Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez

Yep. Couldn’t have said it better myself.
Here’s to being born again, again.
* As of the end of the day, it was right around five hundred. Which I tell you not to brag, but because it amazes me every year….wow….
 (As always, if you like this post, then “share it” or “like” it on Facebook by clicking the box below, so others can see too…)  

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Eric Folkerth is a minister, musician, author and blogger. He has been Senior Pastor of Northaven United Methodist Church in Dallas, Texas since 2001. During his tenure, church membership has grown almost 30 percent, and a completely new church facility (sanctuary and education building) has been constructed. Northaven is a leading progressive Christian congregation in the Southwest. Northaven is an eclectic collection of gay and straight families, artists, musicians, theater folks, academic theologians, lawyers and judges (go figure), socially conscious community activists, people who don't "check their brain at the door," and a wide array of others who either see it as their "last chance" inside the "institutional church," or their first trip back in decades. Eric is an avid blogger and published author.  Eric is also an award-winning singer-songwriter, who performs throughout Texas and the Southwest. He's an engaging live performer whose first CD was released in 2000. His songs have won honorable mention in both the Billboard and Great American song contests; and he's been a finalist in the 5th Street Festival and South Florida Folk Festival songwriter competitions. Eric is also a leader of Connections, a unique band comprised of United Methodist clergy and layfolk from throughout North Texas. Connections performs "cover shows" of artists like Dan Fogelberg, Chicago, Eagles, Doobie Brothers, Billy Joel, Stevie Wonder, James Taylor and others. Their shows draw crowds of between 300 and 1,000 fans, and they have raised more than $240,000 dollars for worthy charities. Eric has led or co-led hundreds of persons on mission trips around the globe, to places such as Mexico, Haiti, Russia, and Nepal. He has worked with lay persons to build ten homes, and one Community Center, in partnership with Habitat for Humanity of Dallas. He's a popular preacher, and often tackles challenging issues of social justice in his writings and sermons. His wife, Judge Dennise Garcia, is a State District Judge for Dallas, County. As judge of the 303rd Family District Court, she consistently gets high ratings from area lawyers, and was named "best judge" by The Dallas Observer. First elected in 2004, she was the first Latina ever elected to a county-wide bench in Dallas County. She was re-elected for a third term in 2010. They have the world's best daughter, Maria, and an incredible dog, Daisy. (As always, if you like this post, then "like" this on Facebook by clicking the box below, so others can see too...)

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