Never Give Up

Having cruised past 65 years of age, I’m feeling vulnerable enough to think about mortality. Pop culture thinks 65 means you’re getting old . . . just about quittin’ time. However, actuaries say if you live to 60 you’ll likely survive to at least 81 years of age.

Through the years I’ve reinvented my career a couple of times, so it’s not uncommon to be asked, “What are you doing now?” And when I tell them I’ve launched a new book publishing company, they’re not embarrassed to say, “Really? At your age you’re starting over?” That question betrays a bias that there is a limit to our productive years. Let’s think about that . . .Discovery2

  • During the 1940s, while in his 20s, John Glenn survived a combined 149 combat missions in the South Pacific and Korea—149!
  • In the 1950s, at age 36, Glenn flew the first supersonic flight across America— California to New York—in 3 hours and a few minutes.
  • In the 1960s, at age 41, John Glenn was the first American astronaut to orbit the earth. The first.
  • In the 1970s, at age 53 he was elected to the U.S. Senate, serving 24 years.

That’s more than enough for one lifetime, right! Maybe not . . .

  • Because in the 1990s, at age 77, John Glenn became the oldest astronaut when he rocketed into space aboard the shuttle Discovery—77!

At an age when most of us are re-checking Social Security benefits, John Glenn’s mission was not complete. He did not quit. As Ron Hutchcraft observed, we could use an army of “spiritual” John Glenn’s—that is, experienced men and women who don’t measure their lives in years, but in the fulfillment of their mission. People with no quit!

One of my heroes is Caleb!

In Joshua 14, Scripture reminds us that at the ripe old age of 40, Caleb was sent by Moses as one of 12 spies to scout out the Promised Land. Only Caleb and Joshua came back believing God could lead them to victory over giants in walled cities. As we recall, because of their unbelief, Israel wandered in the wilderness for over 40 years—until all the unbelievers died off!

More than 40 years later, Caleb, now 85, was not checking out Medicare benefits. Instead, and I’m paraphrasing here, Caleb tells Joshua, “So, here I am at 85, one of only two octogenarians left in Israel. But, with the Lord’s help, I’m still ready to lead the attack to drive out the giants and take the walled cities, so we can finally claim the Promised Land.”  Go, old Caleb!

So, my message today is simple. Don’t stop now! Don’t give up the fight. Never give up on your mission. We need all the believing 85-year-old Caleb’s we can recruit.

What is retirement all about? 

Quitting was institutionalized by FDR. The first social security payments were issued in January 1940. I suppose that was the birth of the modern day notion of retiring at age 60 or 65. In fact, Fortune, Forbes, and Money magazines will tell you that if you’re really clever you’ll find a way to retire at 50 or even 40.

That wasn’t what I saw in my parents: My dad didn’t step down from his professorship at a large university until he was forced to by law at age 75. So he signed on as a construction supervisor for Habitat for Humanity, continuing well into his 80s.

At age 65 my mom turned her home into the emergency childcare shelter for Denton County, Texas, and over a ten-year period took in more than 200 children. She stopped only when physically disabled, and then only sadly.

At age 65 I launched a new business—smack in the teeth of Amazon’s predatory takeover of the book industry, effectively closing 1,000 or more physical bookstores. Why would I do something suicidal like start again at 65? Simple: I’m on a mission to help people experience the heart of God.

I love what Thomas Edison said,

Our greatest weakness is giving up.

The most certain way to succeed is to try one more time.

And that after Edison’s team reportedly failed more than 1,000 times at inventing the incandescent light. If we stay the course, the 60-somethings among us will have at least another 20 years, and the 30-somethings will have 50 years to finish well.

It was the old apostle Paul, a near-homeless man with no 401K, who said in Acts 20:

I know it won’t be any picnic, . . .

but that matters little. What matters

most to me is to finish what God started:

the job the Master Jesus gave me. . . .

(THE MESSAGE)

And as saint Babe Ruth said, “It’s hard to beat a person who never gives up.”

 


Faith In America

Pop culture would have us believe that faith in God among Americans is all but exhausted. Recently, the press, politicians, and pundits pounced on a quote at The Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life under the title “The Decline of Institutional Religion.” It said the Crumbled Church 2fastest-growing “religious” group in America is those who say they have “no religion.” They went on to suggest that those who say they have no religion have grown from 8% in 1990 to 20% in 2012.

Such nonsense information can easily confirm any bias. Not unlike the secularization of Western Europe in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, many are rooting for America to loose its “naivety” about God, creation, and absolute truth. There is, they say, no creator God who provides guidance to His creation. Using liberal reasoning, all laws, morals or mores are brought about by popular vote—think same sex marriage, banned public prayer, and abortion. If you can get enough people to vote for it, anything is fair game. There is no absolute truth; truth is what we want it to be.

In my view, not only is faith in America not dead, it’s on the verge of an enormous renewal.  Christians have been naïve about surrendering the debate over faith as the founding genius of America. Even so, world events of the last year are awakening faith in the heart of America.

What Pew misses about faith in America is this: National surveys will tell you that over the past few years church membership has been stable at about 70%. Those who interpret surveys as saying more Americans have “no religion” miss the point. The truth is that the American church scene has become dramatically less sectarian–millions of Americans move freely from one denomination to another. They are far less likely to label themselves as a Methodist, Presbyterian, or Baptist. Many evangelicals have come to see the word “religion” as an almost pagan word and hate the idea of being labeled as religious. They are far more likely to say they are “unaffiliated,” simply “Christian,” or “a person of faith.” Pew neglected to clarify this vital point. As a result, when you ask an evangelical Christian if he or she is religious or tied to a specific denomination, they are likely to say no.

Ironically, Gallup first asked about belief in God in 1944, and 4% said they did not believe in God. In 2012, the number of self-labeled atheists was still about 4%.

As a publisher, it occurs to me that 70% of American consumers—most of those who walk through Walmart, Target, Barnes & Noble, or Kroger and Walgreens, are church-going Americans of great faith. They’re everywhere—and have a vibrant voice!


Celebrating the Life of Calvin Miller

Guest Blog By Kris Bearss, Executive Editor/Worthy Publishing

Regardless of the changes that occur in the months ahead, the book publishing industry will always be centered around words. We are a community that celebrates, believes in, and stands by the power of both the word and The Word. So when a gracious wordsmith like Calvin Miller leaves this world for “the better realm,” as he called it, we are all a little lesser for it.

This past weekend, we lost Calvin—one of Christian publishing’s true craftsmen—to complications from heart surgery, and now our literary world will be a touch less poignant than it was before, like a well-crafted sentence that is missing its adjective.

On a personal level, though I only knew Calvin for the final 17 months of his life, he made a distinct impression on me and the rest of the Worthy team. We’d known of his industry accomplishments—which were many; been shaped for years by his literary prowess and spiritual insight—which was extensive; but what we didn’t know until we had the chance to work with him was how fully engaged he was in LIFE! His final months were not punctuated with an uncertain question mark or a run-of-the-mill period. Rather, he concluded his final earthbound chapter as I suspect he lived his every day: with an exclamation point.

Curious, excited, and very much alive, Calvin enthusiastically approached his writing, his relationships, his faith with a gusto that I often wish I had—and with a humility that I hope to emulate. He was caring, kindhearted, sweetly funny, genuinely interested in others . . . and a man of God who was minus all the pretension of someone who sold more books in his career than almost any Christian author living today.

I can’t say how God rewards His faithful scribes in heaven. Perhaps with a pen that never runs dry, a thesaurus with perfectly appointed words, and a heart that is ever full of inspiration. But this I do know: Calvin Miller shepherded the words that heaven supplied as no other ever will, searching for those scurrilous creatures on the high plains until they were found, rescuing them from the desert of superficiality, freeing them from the valley of apathy, and then herding them onto the lush pastures of finished pages bearing his name. Pages that all pointed to the Name that is above all names. And in the process, he led everyone who read him to the refreshing waters of belief, reassurance, and a Grace not of this earth.

Having previously been hospitalized for heart trouble, he lived with the awareness that eternity is only a step away. And in his final book, aptly called Letters to Heaven (which Worthy had the honor of publishing), he sought to take care of things the only way he knew how: Through the written word. Through letters that might complete the unfinished business of this life. Through personal missives that encouraged readers to write their own thank yous and wonder ifs.

Meanwhile, he held out for us all the hope that awaits.

For Calvin, on Sunday, August 19, 2012, his hope was realized. A sweet reality no longer the stuff of mere dreams. A lifelong confidence undeniably fulfilled.

Those of us who wrangle words for a living will never be able to replicate his ability to “make verbs dance and nouns sing,” as Max Lucado described his gift. But the one thing we can do is, I believe, the one thing he would ask us to do—whether we sell words or pitch them, design words or write them, edit words or print them. I think Calvin would say: “Make sure you end your story with an exclamation point.”

He sure did. Personally and professionally.

On the last page of Letters to Heaven, Calvin told of having heard the pale horse of death stomping his steel hooves, restless in his stable. “I am a shy equestrian,” he wrote, “yet I am not afraid. I have waited all my life for this ride. . . . This is my coronation day!”

Here’s to you, Calvin. We miss you already, dear friend. But we celebrate your life too, realizing that, as C. S. Lewis said in The Last Battle, “Now at last [you are] beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read.”