Newsletter 587 – Grande Finale

Gary’s back! Thank-you to all who wrote notes of encouragement when I announced that I’d stop writing this newsletter/blog for a while. This was not a sabbatical, as I may have implied. It was a hectic time of packing, selling our house and moving to temporary housing. Uncharacteristically, I cut back on my reading and we didn’t get this newsletter format revised – at least not yet.

Several years ago I spent two-days with a “life planning coach.” At his suggestion I thought back over my life and then divided this into phases such as the college years, the full-time teaching years, and the years with the American Association of Christian Counselors. Last week, when I quietly turned 80, I may have entered the final phase of my life. I am blessed with good health, a supportive family, future-looking friends and a good attitude so I don’t see the future as retirement or senior citizen years. Regardless of what comes my way, these can be grand finale years – like the final part of a fireworks display, the last act of  a drama, or the concluding movement of symphFireworks 6onies like Beethoven’s ninth. Often grand finales are exciting and spectacular. At other times they are less jubilant, quiet, even difficult, but they too have the potential to be impressive and influential.

Recently I finally read Rick Warren’s purpose-driven life book. The revised edition is titled What on Earth am I Here For? I also read an American Psychologist (September 2014) article on meaning in life. Not surprising, the professional article was scholarly and dull in spots; Warren was practical and biblical. Both acknowledged that life is better, regardless of age or circumstances, when we have a purpose.

Of course life is rarely, if ever, easy. Apparently God didn’t intend for it to be that way. As leaders, coaches and counselors, we often are involved in helping others (and ourselves) find purpose, especially in times of crisis, transition or aging. I agree with Warren’s conclusion that we are all on earth for some purpose as long as we’re here. Do you agree? Please comment. And consider commenting again on the newsletters that will come later. It is good to hear from you – and to be back.

  1. Welcome back, Gary! I’ve missed reading your blogs. Always cogent and thoughtfully written. I, too, have given much thought to ‘purpose’ at this stage in my life. Someone asked me last week how it felt to be retired. I said, “I have no idea. I don’t ever plan on visiting that place.” As a coach of physicians, I spend much time helping folks refine their ‘purpose,’ or redefine what they thought was their purpose, in the changing landscape of medicine. I’ve come to appreciate the fact that purpose is not ‘driven,’ but something that can be established. Loved Warren’s book. And now … still putting the finishing touches on “If I Should Die … Before I Live.” 🙂

    • Hey Ken, the inspiration and admiration goes both ways. I am so glad for our friendship.
      Now that we are temporarily homeless and I have been forced to consider some new realities in our lives, I am thinking anew about what is next. I agree that retirement is not for everybody but I am sobered by the millions of people, unlike us, who have no choice about what they do in the later years – or people who scramble for food and shelter and never think about finding a life purpose. I think I will bring this up in this week’s newsletter.
      How are you and your wife doing health wise? (You can reply privately) and let me ask the question I keep bugging you about. When will that book of yours be done?
      I’ve decided I need to start writing again. I have things I still want to say. Is that a surprise?

    • Kiele
    • October 30th, 2014

    This is such a beautiful perspective on a part of life most find very difficult to accept. I believe everyone is born with a gaping “destiny” hole and if not filled with purpose, can be destructive. The idea that you presented though, the idea that our purpose changes as we accomplish different stages of our purpose and move into a new phase of life, is really moving to me. Thank you for being the kind of person that pursues new levels of purpose and constantly finds new ways to contribute to the journey of others.

    • Thanks so much Kiele. I am learning that issues sometimes come into our lives (like crises or health problems) that we didn’t see coming. Then we are forced to rethink our life purposes. But even these things can shunt us in new directions that may end up as those “blessings in disguise.”
      You nailed where I am perfectly: constantly finding ways to contribute to the life journeys of others. That is not a calling for everybody. We each are unique. But it’s a calling for me!

    • Gary J. Oliver
    • October 30th, 2014

    Happy Birthday dear friend! You are loved, your wisdom was missed, welcome back and THANKS for the gift of your discernment, wisdom and insight that is so encouraging and always points us to loving, serving and living for our Lord.

    • Hey Gary. What a friend you are. I rarely mention my birthday and did not want any 80th birthday parties. But you remembered and sent me the first of, I think three, messages that appeared in my mailbox.
      And you know that you were one of the few people who kept in contact when I left AACC and, understandably I believe, dropped off everybody’s radar.
      Are you doing well? Health OK? I can’t imagine you every being old enough or inclined to retire!

    • Brian Boone
    • October 30th, 2014

    Thanks, Gary! GREAT to have you back online again. Happy Birthday to you! Praying with you and for you, for a Grand Finale to the Lord’s good purpose and plan for a life well lived.

    • Thanks Brian. It is time for me to get an update from you regarding your transition time. When are coming back to Chicago for another visit? It’s been a long time.

  2. “I agree with Warren’s conclusion that we are all on earth for some purpose as long as we’re here. Do you agree?”

    Yes … and am appreciating how you model that through your postings and your life. Bravo!

    • Thanks Phil. And thanks for your periodic posts. We have not seen each other for a while but as I recall you are in the Chicago area. Still there?

    • Henry Virkler
    • October 30th, 2014

    Gary,
    So good to have your column back. I have alwsys enjoyed your comments and perspective for the more than 40 years I have been your student..

    • Hey Henry. I cannot believe this has been 40 years. What a joy for me to still have contact with you. I still have very positive memories of the early days with you and Mary. Also of the times when we have interacted during the intervening years. Are you still in Florida? Still at Palm Beach Atlantic?

    • Stan McCreary
    • October 30th, 2014

    Welcome back, I have missed your posts. I too have been examining purpose in my life as I retired and God has called me to another ministry . Thanks for your ministry.

    • robanddawnmc
    • October 30th, 2014

    Great to have you back!

  3. Welcome back. I wholeheartedly agree. Each season of life is special for different reasons. I LOVE this season of my life! I am turning 67 in a couple days and these are now the best years of my life. I am embracing it with gusto.

    • Pam, your message reminds me of a time when we were living in Switzerland so I could write a book on the life and work of Dr. Paul Tournier. One of our Swiss neighbors turned 47 while we were there and I thought that was very old. But I remember her comment. “The age I am now is the best age.” I think that nudged me to stop thinking about some coming age or some previous time when things were better. Maybe this is idealistic, but I want to make the best of the age I am – whatever the circumstances.

    • JennyG
    • October 30th, 2014

    Welcome back and God bless you as you enter this grand finale phase! It is important to have mentors through ALL phases of our lives. Thank you.

    • I agree Jenny. I have always been a mentor but I love the fact that others mentor me. All of my mentors (except for those who have mentored me through their publications) are younger than me. The older you get, the more you learn from younger people if you take the time and effort to get to know them.

    • Rich Gathro
    • October 31st, 2014

    I heartily agree about purpose. I operate on a simple formula with my students and friends. First we determine motivated skills and gifting. Then we look at the question of what is on their hearts in terms of where and with whom they wish to use them, and for what ends. That simple formula works and it provides a “pair of glasses” to look through as they make their choices about stewarding their time. The results in terms of uplifted spirits are fun to watch.

    • Great stuff Rich. There are lots of things we can look at to help us find purpose (like “What has God blessed in your life?”) but in essence it boils down to our skills and gifts and our passions. I think we spend too much time trying to find direction but often we don’t find our calling; our calling finds us if keep our eyes open.

    • Nancy Pippin
    • October 31st, 2014

    I’m glad the transition time for you has been productive and insightful.  I’ve missed the weekly articles and thought-provoking contents of them.  I pray God’s blessings on you (and your family) as you begin your next phase. Over time, I’ve wanted to respond to many of your articles, but I tend to keep myself in reserve and not comment-as I have often struggled with feeling I have nothing important to add.  Another reason which kept me from commenting was due to there needing at one point to be a password required in order to submit comments.  I vaguely remember signing up for this newsletter way back in 2007 or 2008 and at that time the password I chose for the account ended up on a computer that crashed.  I was never able to retrieve the information for the account, and while I believed I had logged the account information in another place, I was unable to locate it.    I’m taking the risk at this point because I’m able to write a response in the “reply” section of this latest email newsletter from you, that this will actually reach you and I won’t get a notice that my comment did not make it through.  If this is successful, I will take time in the future to reply to your newsletter as I find your comments very interesting.   Thanks for taking the time to put things out there for others to read.   Sincerely, Nancy Pippin

    • Nancy. Yes, your message got to me. Thanks for sending it.
      This might be of interest. Several years ago the newsletter list got very big and I was aware that many of the addresses were wrong. So I announced that we would delete the old list at a date I specified and start over with people who went to the newsletter and clicked the “subscribe” button. I think I lost a lot of readers at that time.
      I vaguely remember this being password protected but I think that was for a short time. Now I want this to be open to everybody.
      This brings me to your excellent comment about not wanting to reply because you thought you might have nothing to say.
      I do not respond to all the comments but I have read them all from the beginning and with maybe 3-4 exceptions in all these years, the posts have been valuable. (The few that were not came from people with inappropriate sexual comments or language).
      Please skim the other posts this week. They are all encouraging and some, like yours, are insightful.
      So thanks for writing and please do not hesitate to write again.

    • roking@hotmail.com
    • November 1st, 2014

    80 years!! Wow, this is great News Dr. Gary Collins and I praise God for your life of impact through your writings, the AACC and your Internet posts. I met you at the AACC in Nashville TN in 2007 when I visited for the World conference and you signed a copy of your great book, Christian Counseling for me. I want to let you know Sir that your book has been of great helps to me both in knowledge acquisition and guidance in Christian Counseling over here in Nigeria. Your life has been a purpose driven one to produce these life-changing materials when you did. How would you feel now, if you had not done these works when you did them? I gain knowledge through that to complete all outstanding works for I have a work that is pending completion because I went back to school, Liberty University online for a Masters in Trauma counseling. May our God bless you with great good health continually in Jesus’ name. Ronald (Nigeria).
    Sent from my BlackBerry wireless device from MTN

    • Ronald,
      What a wonderful note. Do they use any of my books at Liberty? I taught there for a couple of years and even recorded some of their early on-line courses.

      You raise an interesting question that I have not thought about before. What if I had not written some of what I wrote? Now it does not matter except for the future. What do I write at this stage in my life

      I am gratefully for the opportunity to write and appreciate people like you who have found my work helpful.

    • MAURINO
    • November 2nd, 2014

    Dear Gary , I met you in 2007 in France with some pastors from the CMA . I appreciated so much your teaching on the book of Nehemiah (about times of changes) . I’m glad to read again your newsletter !
    In Christ love , pastor Alain , FRANCE.

    • Mon cher Alain. Merci. I have many wonderful memories of those conferences with the CMA in France: one in Paris, one in Toulouse, and the one in the central rural distract of France. I suspect that you were at the conference center in the countryside. I shared your post with Jean-Christophe (he remains one of my closest friends) and he reminded me of your ministry at the time. I have told him that if I only could make one more overseas visit in my life it would be to France.

    • Miriam Parent
    • November 3rd, 2014

    Welcome back, Gary,and “Happy Birthday.” Transitions, transitions…. I always value your wisdom.

    • Thanks Miriam. I bet you are going through a few of these transitions now. Do you still teach at TEDS? I almost never get there and have not even seen Steve for a couple of years. Now that we live temporarily in Wisconsin we only get to Arlington Heights and surrounding communities about every 2-3 weeks. Hopefully we will be back there to live soon. Meantime, we want to make the best of our time here.

  4. GARY’S RESPONSE TO ALL OF THESE POSTS: Thanks so much everybody for your warm comments. I have responded personally to all of these these, either here or privately. Many of you are old friends and I am incredibly grateful for your messages.

  5. Hi Gary, Happy birthday! I am so grateful to learn from you through your books and through this communication. I just finished a Masters in Biblical counseling (May 2014) and your ‘Big yellow book’ was part of the curriculum. I think of you as the author of this book (and others) and I never thought of you as being much older than me and I’m in my late 40s. That is beside the point, because it is the learning, from one like you who has walked this path which I am just starting on, that is timeless. Maybe it is in the late forties that people begin to appreciate mentors; the timelessness of the wisdom exchanged comes face to face with the finite existence we each experience. I look forward to responding to more of your newsletters.
    Regarding the importance of purpose. Several years ago I was teaching school. The principal called me into the office and asked me what I wanted to be doing five years down the road. I was at a loss to know what to answer, because I was doing what I wanted. I make a difference; that is what teachers do. At least that is and has been the goal of my life: to make a difference. Teaching helps people to find their purpose in life. Now that I am not teaching, I write cards and letters to former students (I taught for almost 20 years), and some write back thanking me for remembering them. But I do it because God believes in them, and some one reminding them of that truth may help them get through the unsure business of growing up. Knowing I make a difference gets me up in the morning.
    Thank you for your writings.
    Peace and health to you. Psalm 92:12-15 “…they will still yield fruit in old age; they shall be full of sap and very green.”

    Carla Joseph

    • Thank you Carla. It is pretty much a secret (putting it here squelches that, I guess) but I am half way through writing a book that looks back – not as an autobiography – but as what some Africans term Sankofa. Apparently it means looking to stories in the past to help us craft a better future. That is what I want to be about: acknowledging the past but focusing on the present and the future.
      Don’t look for this book to appear soon. Every time I pick it up I put it aside using a variety of lame excuses. Maybe it will get done while I am still on that in-between sabbatical that I wrote about.

  6. Welcome back Gary, and a very happy belated Birthday. I’m sorry to hear that you have had to accept the temporary housing situation until your new home is ready, and I pray that it is not too stressful on yourself and Julie. I’m glad though to see you are writing again.. what was that you said, that you cannot NOT write?? I’m looking forward to reading your upcoming newsletters about this new Season of your life that you are beginning with Gusto and Hope, and for learning through your example of how to live this Season WELL!

    Denise Barry

    • Hey Denise, I owe you a longer message by email. Bug me if I keep forgetting. And I want an update of what you have been going through since we last talked. Probably some big changes too.

    • Elsie Millerd
    • November 13th, 2014

    Congratulations, Gary, on your 80th birthday. You have been an inspiration to me over the years, in the 1980’s when we used your text in Introduction to Christian Counselling at Regent College (Vancouver) and in 2008 in Toronto when I was deciding to enter a MTS program at age 60. I like your idea of finding purpose in each stage of our lives and look forward to watching you work on writing your “grande finale” in the years ahead. May they extend for a good long time yet. I am sure you will continue to be an inspiration to the rest of us. Blessings.

    • sharen Winar
    • November 19th, 2014

    Good to hear from you again, Gary. As the opening newsletter, you have started with Pastor Rick Warren’s book. I have waited this opening newsletter… 🙂

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