Glad to be grey? From God’s perspective there are lots of reasons you should be.

In my own growing old, I am hugely encouraged by God’s outstanding promise in Isaiah 46:4 ‘Even to your old age and grey hairs I am he, I am he who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you.’

As someone who started turning grey in his late thirties, and is now ‘a whiter shade of pale’ – as the sixties group Procol Harum sang, this has been good news for a long time.

I understand the need for some to keep their hair a more youthful colour, but I rest content in the words of Proverbs 20:29 – ‘The glory of young men is their strength, grey hair is the splendour of the old.’

I know a man who has recently retired from being a Police Officer. Despite having an interesting and varied job, he could not wait to get out. He counted down the months, then the days, then the hours until he finally left. He was free!

I met him a few weeks later. ‘I have nothing to do, I am so bored. I think I’ll write a book,’ he told me. I did not have the heart to tell him what that would mean…. Getting older is more than sitting around doing nothing, as he is discovering: ‘

Are we, with our grey hair, to be like the retired policeman, bored and without purpose? The answer is a resounding ‘No!’ We must wake up to this vital point: God is not finished with us.

This could not be clearer than from the Psalmist’s special and unique news for our later years: ‘The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon; planted in the house of the Lord, they will flourish in the courts of our God. They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green, proclaiming ‘The Lord is upright; he is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him’. Psalm 92:12-15.

What does it mean to have our youth renewed like an eagle’s in our later years of grey hair? The words of that Psalm remind us that in our youth we were ‘fresh and green’ – and we are to stay that way.

The Psalmist is talking about how we grew and flourished, not just physically and mentally, but spiritually. We lived in the Springtime – and it is to stay that way even though our bodies may tell us it is now Autumn and heading for a desolate, leafless Winter.

Though our hair colour may change, our spiritual life is not to be a never-ending spiral of decline. If you don’t believe that, come back again and again to these remarkable verses where God says we are to ‘flourish like a palm tree’.

On my visits to equatorial Africa I have seen the different varieties of palms, enjoying the burning heat which attacks them, swaying in the tropical storms which batter them, yet producing delicious fruit.

That is how the ‘righteous’ are to be in their later lives. They are to stand tall like the mighty cedars of Lebanon. In our lives we can do that, in our inmost beings, even when age bends our backs double.

We can do this because, the Psalmist says, we are ‘planted in the house of the Lord’ and we ‘flourish in the courts of our God.’ Stick in close with God the Father, through the presence in your life of Jesus Christ the Son and in the power of the Holy Spirit, and you will be fresh and green!

And this is all for a reason. The Psalmist says, ‘They will still bear fruit in old age’ – the verb ‘will’ is a strong word. The expression ‘old wrinklies’ is not particularly pleasant! By contrast, the ‘oldies’ of Psalm 92 ‘stay fresh and green’ and ‘bear fruit’.

Part of that fruit is we give a powerful testimony proclaiming, as the Psalmist says, ‘The Lord is upright; he is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him’.

There is also more about God and grey hair in the book of Proverbs: ‘Grey hair is a crown of splendour; it is attained by a righteous life’ Proverbs 20:29. ‘The glory of young men is their strength, grey hair is the splendour of the old! Proverbs 20:29.

This tells us our older lives are to show that God gives us a wisdom from himself as we age. As Job 12:12 says, ‘Is not wisdom found among the aged? Does not long life bring understanding?’

God’s purpose for us is to show, as we get older, that he gives us his strength and, through our experiences of him, his wisdom. ‘Grey hair’ should mean we have this wisdom through the experience of life.

We are therefore, both to bear fruit and also to use our wisdom to give counsel and leadership. Perhaps not in the formal way of church leaders, but by our loving and caring advice and encouragement.

God has a purpose for each one of us, whatever our age or the colour of our hair. There is no moment in our lives when he draws a line and says, ‘That’s it.

Adapted from Ian Knox’s new book Finishing Well: A God’s eye view of ageing (SPCK) – an engaging exploration of how, in our later years, we are not only to be blessed but also to be a blessing.

Ian Knox: Ian has spent most of his life in evangelism and teaching. Though officially ‘retired’, he has an active preaching ministry across the UK and Africa and recently became Canon Missioner at Uganda’s All Saints Cathedral in the Diocese of Lango. He’s been married to Ruth for over 40 years, with four sons and ten grandchildren. They live in rural Northumbria.

Could you be a more courageous grandparent? Here’s 5 ways.

Let’s face it, grandparenting is not an inexact science. If you are one, it’s something you know only too well. No grandchild conforms to a stereotype. Each is a unique and precious individual.

So where can we find help on how we can bless our grandchildren with our lives, our resources and our time?

Enter stage right Cavin Harper with his helpful book ‘Courageous Grandparenting’. It’s overflowing with wisdom to help us make the best of our role – especially from a Christian perspective.

To give you a taster and encourage you to dig deeper, let me walk you through 5 of Cavin’s key subject areas. If you are a grandparent he wants you to have the courage to –

1. Wake up to your responsibility

You may well identify with Cavin’s realisation that ‘My life was changed the day my first grandchild arrived’. In that context he speaks about realising being a grandparent is both a privilege and a responsibility.

He writes, ‘That day I determined to make sure my grandchildren knew the (Bible) story. Even more I wanted to do all I could to make sure my generation of emerging grandparents understood what was at stake if we did not wake up to our responsibility’.

He believes grandparents have a duty to do everything they can to help their grandchildren find faith. As he puts it, ‘we talk, we pray and we act in any way which points our grandchildren to faith in Christ.’

2. Don’t be a maybe boomer

Cavin points out that today’s active grandparents are the Boomer generation – born in the years after the last world war and growing up as teens in the 60s. This makes them the youngest grandparents in western civilisation.

That means we are likely to be active ourselves – with part time or even full time work that is either paid or voluntary, energy and health equipping us for ‘adventures’ of our own. All of which can distract us from seeing grandparenting as we should.

Cavin challenges us about our willingness to be less involved with ‘doing our own thing, protecting our own portfolios and pursuing personal comfort rather than being a conduit of blessing for the next generation’.

3. Be an ally and not adversary

Cavin is convinced ‘successful grandparents know it is not just about their grandkids and them’. Rather, it’s about parents and grandparents being on the same team – ‘as allies, not adversaries’.

Read his book and you will find helpful guidance about how we develop good relationships across the three – maybe even four – generations. This includes his assertion that ‘Effective grand parenting is a more achievable goal if you can maintain, as much as is in your power to do so, a strong and healthy relationship with your grandchildren’s parents’.

4. Take time to understand

Cavin notes that as grandkids move from being kids to teens they have a culture very different from their grandparents. And that this extends well beyond the way they dress, the music they listen to and the way they spend their time.

He suggests we can be negative to their culture because it doesn’t fit our own norms. Even critiquing youth culture with our mature wisdom may not cut much ice. Rather, we should try to understand so as to know better what to do or say to our grandchildren.

The child’s main concern is not if it’s true but does it work for me, the writer points out and argues, ‘I am convinced no amount of reason or carefully crafted persuasion will engage the world and cause it to change. It is the incarnation of truth by people of unshakable faith that will open the door for the Holy Spirit to convict the world’.

5. Untangle the technology web

Perhaps like me you’ve seen a 12-year-old send a text at the speed of light with their eyes closed. This, and everything online, is their natural habitat. With some seeming to spend more time in front of a screen than they do sleeping.

As Cavin points out, for many of those who are two generations above them this is all in great contrast to ‘the way we did things’. But whether you are ‘tech-savvy’ or not, your grandchildren are. If all they experience from us is a negative attitude to the world they live in then the opportunity for effective dialogue will shut down’.

Cavin’s book has many helpful suggestions about engaging technology to our advantage. Step by step he works through ‘God is the creator of technology, ‘Technology is not inherently evil, and Technology can be used for good’.

As a grandparent of 7, this book opened my eyes to some of my own mistakes – leaving me wishing I’d read it 20 years ago. It also encouraged me to keep going and to try some things I haven’t yet tried.

Furthermore, Cavin Harper’s book made me realise I am not the only one who could do a little better in the grandparenting stakes. Which is why I hope many others will read this very engaging and helpful book ‘Courageous Grandparenting: Building a legacy worth outliving you’.

Think this might be helpful to others? Then please share using the simple links below. Thank you.

Dave Fenton:

Dave is a retired clergyman spending his after-work time lecturing at Moorlands College, building relationships and sharing his faith at his local golf club, and escaping to a cliff-top caravan in Cornwall where his seven grandchildren enjoy the local surfing beach.

Everyone should have a ‘When I die’ document. And here’s how to create yours.

What I saw on the desktop of my friend’s computer stopped me in my tracks. It was nothing raunchy or inappropriate. But simply a file folder labelled ‘When I die’.

My first thought was, ‘How morbid and inappropriate’. After all, he was in good health and it would likely be many years before his bucket was kicked and clogs popped.

But then came my second thought – as vivid memories came of those I know who would have loved their other half to have been this thoughtful. And not left stranded and confused at a time when grief made thinking and sorting a major challenge.

More than that, such information could even be needed well before death opens its door. Such as at a time of serious illness when everything has to be in the hands of others.

As a result, I went home and created my own When I Die’ file. Right now it is printed out and, with my will, birth and marriage certificates, in a place where those who need it know where to find it. If I had a funeral insurance plan the details would be there too along with contact details for the undertaker.

On reflection, though seemingly gloomy, this is one of the most loving and thoughtful things I could do for those I love the most. And if you have not yet done the same here’s my own check list that could also be yours.

The main document

Finance: This covers –

  • The name and contact details of your executor and solicitor
  • Who to contact, and how, regarding savings, investments and pension
  • Bank card pins
  • Login and security for online banking

Home stuff: Where to find details of –

  • Car, home and travel insurance
  • Receipts, instructions and guarantees for purchased items

Computer log in and passwords: These include –

  • Mobile phone
  • Utilities – gas, electricity and water
  • Email account
  • Social media
  • Loyalty cards
  • Apple ID
  • Skype
  • PayPal
  • Etc

This sensitive information is going to be on a document held on your computer. So you may want to use an online password manager to collect them all and then add the master password to the document by hand. Trustworthy password managers include Dashlane and RememBear.

Helpful info: It may also be helpful to others to have the following all in one place –

  • NHS number
  • Passport number
  • NIE number
  • Driving licence number

Funeral plans

I wouldn’t dare to tell anyone else what to say about their own funeral. But am happy to share my own thoughts – especially as I’ve seen well-intentioned requests becoming a burden when there were already too many weights to be carried.

So although I’d love to ask for everyone to be dressed in blue and white and for my ashes to be scattered on the centre circle at Stamford Bridge, I’ve gone for a more reasonable approach.

What I want my family to know is that whatever they do to mark my passing, I will not be there. So it is not about making me happy but meeting their needs.

That said, in the hope it saves my loved ones from hours of hand-wringing and ‘what would Peter want?’, I’ve made a few suggestions to help them on their way should they choose to follow them. Things like ‘buried or cremated?’ and a song or two that might work. But that’s it.

Is there anything you would add to this list? Or lesson learned from the death of someone close? Please tell all either here or on the AfterWorkNet Facebook community

Peter Meadows

Peter is AfterWorkNet’s Programme Director. He’s using his retirement to help churches, resource inter-church initiatives, and escapes to Spain when he can.

Smile. Optimism is a key to living longer. Here’s what, why and how.

 

Want to live longer? Then the answer is to look on the bright side of life. That’s what recent research tells us – with those seeing life through optimistic eyes more likely to reach 85 and beyond.

The news is even better than that – as I’ll explain. But first let’s nail that good news about living longer.

It’s from a study at Boston University School of Medicine based on two previous long-term research projects. In each, the participants – average age 70 for women and 62 for men – had been assessed for their levels of optimism. The results speak for themselves.

  • Among women, the most optimistic had lifespans almost 15 per cent longer than the least optimistic.
  • Among men, the most optimistic had lifespans almost 11 per cent longer.

As I said, the news is even better than that. It’s not just that having an upbeat attitude can give us extra years. It’s also that those years are likely to be more healthy ones – physically and mentally.

Indeed, psychologists and researchers tell us –

  • Optimistic people tend to suffer fewer problems with depression.
  • Optimistic people seem to develop fewer physical illnesses.
  • Optimistic people overcome setbacks and keep motivated towards achievement.

What all this makes clear is that how we see life and act on that belief has a profound impact on what happens to us. And there’s much more to optimism than a man keeping his car running while his wife goes shopping.

Optimism covers a whole way at viewing life and acting on that view. Suzanne C Segerstrom, a psychologist at the University of Kentucky, explains that optimism is ‘a combination of beliefs and also behaviours reflecting that belief.’

She says, ‘Where a pessimist may respond to obstacles by withdrawing and underachieving, an optimist responds by formulating goals, planning and engaging with the issue.’

This is one of the reasons those behind the Boston study see their discovery as so important. To quote Lewina Lee who led it, ‘Our findings raise an exciting possibility that we may be able to promote healthy and resilient ageing by cultivating psychosocial assets such as optimism.’

Did you get that? A way to ‘promote healthy and resilient aging’ is by ‘cultivating optimism’.

This is underlined by health psychology expert Dr Catherine Hurt of University of London. She says the Boston study ‘suggest as well as educating and encouraging people to eat a balanced diet and exercise regularly we should also be promoting psychological wellbeing and the importance of optimism.’

Can we do that for ourselves? It’s true that some are naturally glass-half-empty people. But rather than finding danger in every opportunity can we start looking for opportunity in every danger? Instead of finding problems, go looking for solutions? Aim to have high expectations rather than low ones?

It’s true that some people seem to be born optimistic. Yet, ’Anyone can learn to be optimistic – the trick is to find purpose in work and life,’ says Leah Weiss, a Stanford professor specializing in mindfulness in the workplace.

She adds, ‘When we work with purpose or live with purpose, we feel more fulfilled and better equipped to see the glass half full.’

It’s also possible to train your brain to think more optimistically. And here are 8 tips to do so –

  1. Aim to see things through a positive lens – looking for the good rather than the bad.
  2. Focus on solutions, not on problems – not easy but try.
  3. Give the news a miss – after all, how seldom does the media report good news?
  4. Seek the company of optimistic people – and let their attitude rub off.
  5. Face up to what you can and can’t control – and don’t stress over what is not in your hands.
  6. Don’t dwell on past failings or disappointments – what’s done is done and it doesn’t always mean the same will happen.
  7. Keep a note – at the end of the day, jot down those things that went well.
  8. Be realistic – accept the negative as part of life but not as the whole story.

But ultimately, there is an even bigger picture than all this. A reason to be optimistic above all others and perfectly expressed in the Bible’s book of Lamentations ‘Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.’ – Lamentations 3:21–23.

Want to live a little longer and healthier and happier? Then it’s time for a song. Please join me, ‘Always look on the bright side of life – de-dum, de-dum, de-dum.’

Do you have a way to keep optimistic? Please tell all either here or on the AfterWorkNet Facebook community

Peter Meadows

Peter is AfterWorkNet’s super optimistic Programme Director. He’s using his retirement to help churches, resource inter-church initiatives, and escapes to Spain when he can.

Gardening – a secret to happiness?

Thanks to the impact of Corvid-19 on how we spend our time, our gardens have probably never been in better shape. And the good news is this is likely to also be true for us personally, as well.

That’s because the ‘health’ of our gardens has a direct link to our own health and well-being according to new evidence. Particularly regarding how happy with life we feel.

To put it simply, the fruit of our labours in the horticultural department can deliver very worthwhile fruit for our own lives.

We know this thanks to research from the US Princeton University. They ran a study in the Minneapolis-St Paul area with people using an app to report their emotional well-being while taking part in any of a selection of activities.

As a result, they discovered the level of emotional well-being – or happiness – generated by gardening matched that produced by cycling, eating out or walking.

When it comes to how meaningful and rewarding an activity felt while being engaged in, the researchers found home gardening was among the top five.

This is in line with research among populations with the greatest number living into their 90s and beyond. Known as the Blue Zones, these communities have certain ways of living in common that lead to longer, healthier lives. And gardening is one of them.

What’s the reason for this good news? Those behind the research and others identify a number of clear benefits from getting horticultural. These include that gardening –

Builds self-esteem. With people feeling good about the outcome of their labours.

Is good for the heart. The physical activity involved burns off calories and strengthens heart muscles.

Reduces stress. A focused and non-threatening task helps reduce depression and anxiety.

Can make you happy. Out there among the earth, breathing in mycobacterium vaccae – a healthy bacteria living in soil – increase levels of serotonin and reduces anxiety.

Boosts vitamin D. This gift from sunlight increases calcium levels benefiting bones and the immune system.

The Princetown research also suggests the benefit from gardening is equally experienced across all sectors of the population – with women and those with low income benefiting the most. At the same time, the advantages from generating a sense of happiness extended almost equally between races and urban and suburban communities.

It seems whether people gardened alone or work with others, the benefit is much the same. However, those reporting the higher levels of emotional well-being were those with a vegetable patch rather than a garden for display. So digging up the petunias and planting beans instead may be a step towards being even happier.

The research was designed to inform decisions on town planning and revealed the value of including gardens and community gardens. But in the process it has shown that those who dig, plant, water, and prune reap the benefits in more ways than one.

God really knew what he was doing when he put Adam in charge of a garden.

How does your garden grow? Do you recognise the benefits to how you feel? Please share your story here or on the AfterWorkNet Facebook community

Peter Meadows

Peter is AfterWorkNet’s Programme Director. He’s using his retirement to help churches, resource inter-church initiatives, and escapes to Spain when he can. He doesn’t have a garden.

Ten ways to pray about Coronavirus 

In the midst of the devastating impact of Covid 19 – locally and globally –it’s hard to know what to pray for or how to pray. Above all though, we know God hears the longings of our hearts even when we don’t seem to have the right words.

However, you might find help with these 10 ways to pray in this challenging time. Each is accompanied with some Scripture to reflect on.

1. Intercede for God’s mercy

‘In this time of our deep need, help us again as you did in years gone by. And in your anger remember your mercy’.  Habakkuk 3.2

Almighty God, You alone are our hope, our strength and our shield. Please move in power to rescue us from the many fearful effects of this global disaster.

2. Give thanks for those reaching out with justice, care and hope

‘I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, ‘Do not fear; I will help you.’’ Isaiah 41.13

Sovereign Lord, I bring to you those who are seriously ill. Please comfort them and restore them to health and strength. And protect the doctors, nurses and carers looking after them.

3. Ask God to grant success to medical researchers

Jesus said: ‘Pray for anything, and if you have faith, you will receive it.’ Matthew 21.21,22

God of mercy, may an effective vaccine against Covid-19 be quickly developed. Please enable pharmaceutical and other companies to provide the vital medicine and equipment that is needed.

4. Pray for our churches

‘Equip God’s people to do his work and build up the Church . . . until we all come to such a unity in our faith and knowledge of God’s Son that we will be mature in the Lord, measuring up to the full and complete standard of Christ.’ Ephesians 4.12,13

Father, please strengthen those who lead our churches as they organise care for their members and their communities – and make it possible for worship and prayer during lockdown.

5. Pray for those in badly affected places

‘Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.’ Psalm 23.4

Father, I bring to you those in areas badly hit by the virus. Please comfort and strengthen them as they battle through. And bring them soon to the point where danger begins to recede.

6. Pray for the health workers

‘The Lord has told you what is good, and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.’ Micah 6.8

Gracious God, grant insight to those responsible in the NHS for making decisions to maximise staff resources, create bed spaces and deploy life-saving equipment. And uphold all those working at great sacrifice on our behalf.

7. Ask God to watch over those in need of rescue and support

‘His faithful promises are your armour and protection… Do not dread the disease that stalks in darkness, nor the disaster that strikes at midday.’ Psalm 91.4-6

Lord, please grant peace to all who feel lonely and fearful. Provide for people who live alone, those with no job or sufficient income and families needing support. Amen.

8. Call on God to pour out his Spirit on his people

‘Since he himself has gone through suffering and testing, he is able to help us when we are being tested.’ Hebrews 2.18

Lord Jesus, may your Spirit fill your Church and make us worthy ambassadors of the Kingdom; praying faithfully, speaking truth graciously and sharing your love in this time of need. Amen.

9. Pray about the economic effects

‘We hold to the hope that lies before us. This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls.’ Hebrews 6.18,19

Lord, we cry to you about the global impact on financial markets, national economies and businesses resulting in closures, job losses and other hardships affecting many people. May wisdom and justice rule.

10. Pray for leaders around the world

’Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.’ Lamentations 3.22

Lord, grant wisdom to the Government and their advisors to act with integrity and courage as they make vital decisions and announce difficult measures that will impact our lives.

This has been adapted from CARE’s leaflet in the ‘Ten Ways to Pray’ series of prayer resources. CARE also produces a quarterly Prayer Diary covering a range of topics with prayers, relevant information and Bible verses. These free resources can be ordered from CARE resources through an email to mail@care.org.uk

If you have found this helpful please share it using the links below.

Celia Bowring

Celia isn’t retired yet – although she’s recently changed from being office-based to working from home. Celia writes the CARE Prayer Diary along with many other resources. She also chairs Pray for Schools. And loves being a hands-on grandmother.

Want to do better than just ‘survive’ the lockdown? Here’s some simple ways to actually flourish.

While in quarantine during the plague, Shakespeare wrote King Lear, Macbeth, and Anthony and Cleopatra. And while in isolation, Sir Isaac Newton he made some of his greatest discoveries including gravity.

You and I may not reach such great heights during the present lockdown. But we can use the time to do better than just survive. Yet it won’t ‘just happen’.

I like the approach of the author Guy Dauncey on keeping SANE during the crisis. With SANE standing for Strong, Active, Neighbourly and Energetic.

With that in mind, here’s some realistic suggestions that could lead you to coming out of the lockdown with something under your belt – and, hopefully, with it a notch or two tighter.

Establish some rules

Avoid the risk of just drifting, and letting things take their course, by establishing some rules to follow. I’m not suggesting mine should be yours. But here they are in the hope they give you something to think about.

  • Exercise 6 days a week
  • Be productive 5 days a week
  • No TV mid-morning or afternoons most weekdays
  • Make proactive phone/Facetime calls at least twice a week
  • Occasionally reward myself for good behaviour

Set yourself goals

Again, this is about not drifting. And having goals give you something to aim for and have a sense of achievement when you’ve ticked them off. Your goals will be personal to you. But, again, here are mine in the hope they inform your thinking.

When this season is over I want to –

  • Be fitter
  • Be more connected with family, friends and neighbours
  • Have a more rounded perspective on life
  • Have touched up lots of paintwork in the home
  • Have sorted our historic family photographs
  • Have learned to play the ukulele
  • Have sold some of our stuff on eBay

Keep the right focus

This is the spiritual bit. When walking on the water to Jesus, Peter began to sink because his eyes were on his circumstances. Perhaps this was in the mind of the writer to the Hebrews who encourages us to run ‘fixing our eyes on Jesus . . . so that you will not grow weary and lose heart’. Hebrews 12.2-3

At a time when the fierce storm of Covid 19 is raging I can think of no better place to fix my attention to see things in perspective. And, to help you do so, strongly recommend the free daily prayer app Lectio 365

Get sunlight and fresh air

Open those windows when inside and take every opportunity to get outside that the ‘rules’ allow. And fill your lungs – good deep breaths – when you do.

This is not just a good idea. Sunlight produces vitamin D which cheers us up. And fresh air is seen to improve blood pressure, reduce stress levels and improve the way we feel.

Keep active

Get things done – things that keep both your body and mind active and with thoughts other than on the crisis. Make a list and get to work. From those kitchen cupboards to disorganised drawers. A new project for the garden to a new hobby or learning experience.

Look after your appearance

When tucked away, with no need to be ‘presentable’, the temptation is to slob out. Perhaps not with full-on slobbery. But with a gentle drift to taking less care in the sprucing up department.

Taking care of our appearance increases our sense of well-being, helping keep us motivated.

Don’t keep looking at the same four walls

Cabin fever comes from the impact of being stuck in the same environment for days on end. A smart move is to change the ‘cabin’. Could you rearrange the furniture, redecorate, find a way not to spend all your time in the same room?

Even swapping some of the pictures or having a big declutter of ornaments and pictures can make a positive difference.

Maximise the opportunities for human engagements

People need people and there are many ways to engage in the lockdown era – including social media and online via Skype, Zoom, etc. Use them to the full. This is not the time to be shy or to leave the initiative to others.

One simple way is to hold a Come Dine With Me dinner party – inviting a few friends simultaneously share a meal while joined together on Zoom.

Enjoy the experience of eating well

In the old ‘normal’, life could be too busy to cook from scratch, right down to making our own sauces or using a range of herbs and spices. That’s no longer the case.

You can now enjoy the relaxation of creating a self-prepared meal and the benefit from eating less processed food. So dust off your cookbooks, search Google – BBC Food comes recommended. Better still see the great recipes in Rosemary Conley’s Stay Young Diet.

Develop a new skill or interest

Though stuck at home, it’s still easy to work at a new skill or hobby. For a mass of ideas see this list on Wikipedia. To help make it happen, Skillshare has hundreds of free classes led by those they say are ‘icons, experts, and industry rock stars excited to share their experience, wisdom, and trusted tools’.

Do something for others

Shift the focus from the virus and yourself by helping others – which is good for you and good for them. A simple way is to create a list of those you could cheer up with a phone call. But you could do something more substantial either through your church or some other way.

The charity Rest Less has some practical ideas including –

  • Good with languages? Then put this to good use by volunteering for Translators Without Borders (TWB)
  • Help those visually impaired. Use the Be My Eyes app to make life easier for people who are partially sighted around the world. Anything from helping them check food expiry dates to distinguishing colours or navigating surroundings.
  • Give practical support to overseas missionaries. Can you post a magazine? Search the internet? Audio type? Then MissionAssist will like your skills to urgent needs.
  • Be a grandparent to children on another continent. Though called Granny Cloud, it links male and female volunteers by Skype into remote locations to chat with, listen to, read with and play with underprivileged children in Colombia, Cambodia, Mexico, Greenland and Jamaica.
  • Contribute to peace and sustainable human development. As a United Nations Volunteer your time will impact the wellbeing of others by matching your skills to the opportunities. Everything from writing and editing to teaching and training. Art and design to research. Administration to event organisation.

Exercise at least a little each day

There’s a lot more benefit to moving around with some energy than you may imagine. Along with strengthening your body parts your brain gets a treat as well. This is because exercise causes the brain to release hormones- endorphins – that cheer you up and help you to sleep.

If this thought is new to you then start small and build up. A short sharp walk is good for starters. And check what is free on Google that you can do at home and do as much as you can. For more on this see the AfterWorkNet webpages on Keeping Fit.

Don’t be too driven

Finally, in these challenging and strange times cut yourself a little slack. You won’t hit all your goals or get everything done you’d hoped for. But celebrate what you can do and treat yourself when you at least get somewhere there.

If you think others will be helped by this please share using the links below.

Do you have a ‘rule’, ‘goal’ or insight on making the most of the lockdown? Please share it here or on the AfterWorkNet Facebook community

Peter Meadows

Peter is AfterWorkNet’s Programme Director and presently under ‘house arrest’ and missing his grandchildren. He’s using his retirement to help churches, resource inter-church initiatives, and dreams of escaping to Spain when travel permits.

What might God’s plan be for the early months of retirement? Ready for a surprise?

There seem to be three very different approaches to life that people take during the months that follow the end of them working fulltime.

One is to aim at doing as little as possible –treating it as the start of an everlasting holiday.

The second is to set about all the things that were waiting for a time like this – effectively trading one kind of work for another. Though at a slower rate.

The third is simply a blend of both.

But there’s a fourth option – and, I suggest, a far better one. Yet it’s an approach that seems to have passed most people by.

It’s one that takes seriously the Biblical concept of Sabbatical. And has its roots in two Biblical commands –

  • For people to stop work on the seventh day, keeping it as ‘a Sabbath to the Lord your God’. Exodus 20.8-11.
  • For the land to rest every seventh year before resuming productivity. Leviticus 25.

When this concept is applied to retirement – the years that follow years of work – it means beginning with a period of deep Sabbath rest. And using it to end toil, renew and re-evaluate.

This much-neglected principle is at the heart of the excellent book ‘An Uncommon Guide to Retirement’ by Jeff Haanen. And well worth exploring and heeding.

Jeff, the Founder and Executive Director of Denver Institute for Faith and Work, urges us to grasp and employ the value of Sabbatical in retirement.

After all, it is the best way to live on a week by week basis. So why not apply the same wisdom to the grand scale of life – and thus to the period when fulltime work ends?

Jeff points out that not only did God observe the Sabbath but this is a pattern woven into the fabric of the universe. ‘To be like God – and to be fully human – we need both work and rest in proper proportion’.

But the benefit involves much more than having time to chill. Jeff stresses the value that comes from being reliant on on God. As he puts it, ‘Like children dependent on their parents, Sabbath makes us see that food, clothes, sunlight, friendship, air – are all gifts from the Creator, not mere products of our labour’.

What Jeff proposes is in contrast to a retirement based on an attitude of ‘the time is now mine’. One focused on our own comfort and desires. Rather, Sabbath points us to the God who sustains us and the spiritual renewal and refreshment he desires for us.

Does this all suggest endless weeks of thumb twiddling and introspection? That’s not the idea. Sabbath is as much about what we do as what we don’t do.

In his valuable book Jeff sets out 9 simple practices to consider for someone planning their post working life Sabbatical. They deserve you exploring them in full. But in essence they are to –

1. Prepare

It was possible for a Jewish person to keep the Sabbath only because of the preparation they’d done in the week before. In the same way, a Sabbatical during the months after work ends needs intentional preparation rather than to be stumbled into.

That’s why Jeff stresses the need to consider how you will shape your time. Even thinking about those – a friend or spouse – who could be part of your plans.

2. Feast

It seems to me that ‘Sabbath’ has had a bad press –sounding like an activity of ridged rules and maximum misery. Yet, for the Jews, Sabbath was one of the ‘festivals of the Lord’ Leviticus 23.

So think of your Sabbatical as having a lavish feast, encourages Jeff. Or even several – for those you’ve worked with, family and friends – to look back on your working years with gratitude.

3. Worship

As Jeff points out, worship is the centre of Sabbath which was ‘to the Lord your God’. This calls for more than the usual worship times – so periods of silence, prayer walks and engaging with the Bible.

4. Re-create

Try to make your times of recreation to be ‘re-creation’ is Jeff’s advice. This means sports, hobbies, music and theatre become more than ‘things to do’ but serve as ingredients in your renewal.

This is the opposite of them being a kind of work or time-fillers. Check by ‘listening to your heart’ encourages Jeff. Make sure, during your Sabbatical, such activities create ‘rest’ for you and that something more driven is not going on.

5. Remember

Use some time to make a record of God’s goodness and care over your working lifetime. Dig out past photographs, catch up with old friends to reminisce.

6. Love your neighbour

Unlike the Pharisees, Jeff points out, Jesus saw the Sabbath as a time to do good. And you can too – with lots of good waiting to be done. Whose lives can you touch? The lonely shut-ins? Friends in emotional pain? Others?

He wisely stresses, ‘Sabbatical is a time for seeing what you otherwise were too busy or distracted to see during your career’.

7. Simplicity

Many in their early post-work life set about decluttering – their home, garage, loft and more. Jeff would have us invoke the Christian practice of simplicity and so add a layer of spiritual restoration.

Indeed, in this time of after-work Sabbatical, it would be a good time to remember that the prayer ‘Give us today our daily bread’ is effectively a call to contentment.

8. Renew your mind

Here’s the opportunity to take time to ‘be transformed by the renewing of your mind’. Romans 12.1-2. That means far more than reading religious books. It could be a time to renew or discover areas of knowledge you’ve never had the time for.

9. Decide when to stop

Finally, Jeff advises that from the very start it’s important to have a date when your Sabbath will end. This creates focus and prevents drift.

Given the alternatives of endless holiday, getting the jobs done, and a blend of the two, doesn’t all this sound a wiser and richer way to go?

In which case, it’s worth putting the meat on the bones by enjoying Jeff Haanen’s book ‘An Uncommon Guide to Retirement’ – of which his thinking on Sabbatical is just a small part of its riches.

What thoughts or questions does this generate for you? Please share them here or on the AfterWorkNet Facebook community

If you think this blog would be helpful to others please share using the links below.

Peter Meadows

Peter is AfterWorkNet’s Programme Director. He’s using his retirement to help churches, resource inter-church initiatives, enjoy his grandchildren, escape to Spain and to spend his kids’ inheritance.

Keep it or dump it? Here’s 10 valuable tips for decluttering your inner life.

The move from our three-storey home of 35 years to somewhere much smaller was always going to be a challenge. Over the many years much had been accumulated – some because we could not bear to part with it. Some just because that’s what happens.

And when that time came – and with Christmas just around the corner – I found myself singing to myself what was close to reality:

‘On the twelfth day of moving, these objects I did see…

12 torches shining; 

11 staplers stapling;

10 scissors snipping;

9 kitchen gadgets;

8 pairs of wellies;

7 extra duvets;

6 coffee tables;

5 IKEA Allen keys!

4 broken bikes;

3 doormats;

2 rusty woks;

and a fish taaaaank going for free!’

To be honest, some of the decisions were easy. After all, who needs five pairs of scissors? Just keeping the best ones made sense. But it was not all that simple.

Which got me thinking about how we can apply the principles of physically decluttering to our inner life – and the habits, thoughts, attitudes we’ve gathered over the years.

This is what I came up with – some simple questions to ask ourselves and some actions to take.

1.Is it time for an internal review?

How long is it since you sat quietly and took stock of what’s ‘cluttering’ your thoughts and emotions? Too long? Then make the commitment to do so, asking God to help you start and expecting him to be with you in the process.

2.Does such a thought fill you with dread?

Don’t be hard on yourself or charge off in the direction of feeling guilty – any more than you should about what may be cluttering your garage or attic. God wants to bless you as you ‘clean house’ and has plans for your future, for hope.

3.Are you aware of what’s in your life – emotionally and spiritually?

It’s easy to get in a rut and feel your inner life is ‘same old, same old’. But the best years may be ahead and some uncluttering could give you the space for it to unfold.

 4.What do you need to prioritise?

Looking after your health and wellbeing – physically and emotionally –is vital and not selfish. So think about rooting out activities and external demands that put this at risk.

5.Is there stuff you should dump?

Has the time come to lay down some of the past you are carrying? Hurts, resentments, disappointments, failures? Perhaps the spiritual equivalent of your local dump is The Cross – which is where you need to take them and leave them.

6.What’s good that you need to celebrate?

A physical declutter can often reveal some treasures that have been overlooked and deserve dusting down and giving pride of place. That can be true of our inner lives too. Look out for those gems that deserve being celebrated and made more of.

7.Are you taking time to enquire and listen to what God wants to say to you?

With a listening ear, ask God what he’d love you to leave go of and what he’d like you to make room for. Perhaps do so in the company of those closest to you. You may be surprised at the answers.

8.How are your spiritual disciplines?

Discipleship is lifelong learning and progress only comes through regularly practising spiritual habits like taking time with the Bible, praying and giving thanks, loving others.

9.Are there old hopes and dreams that God is stirring in you again – or could do?

The passing years might have dulled desires and aspirations you once had. So consider spending time remembering, perhaps reading old journals or sharing with long term friends. Maybe the time has now come to go for it.

 10.Is Jesus at the centre of your life or are other loves competing?

The first Commandment speaks about God’s loving jealousy for us to stay in a mutually committed relationship with him. One that places our trust in him alone to deliver and see us through. Is that where you are?

That’s my list. To be honest, it’s a lot more challenging than figuring out which pair of scissors to keep. But even more important.

If you have found this helpful please share it using the links below.

Celia Bowring

Celia isn’t retired yet – although she’s recently changed from being office-based to working from home. Celia writes the CARE Prayer Diary along with many other resources. She also chairs Pray for Schools. And loves being a hands-on grandmother.

What if Mick Jagger checked out your church? Would boomers like him fit in? If not, now what?

It may seem odd to use Mick Jagger as an example of someone who might check out your church. But I need to pick on someone of his baby boomer era to make my point.

It could equally be a Michaela as a Mick. And any of old rubber lips’ fans would fit the bill. In fact, anyone in the age bracket between mid-60s and mid-70s. Who grew up in the 60s. Never waltzed. And feels more comfortable in denim than anything else.

Right now, picture one of them checking out churches, landing on the website of yours, and asking ‘where would I fit in?’ Their quest is not for a show, or a party or dry ice and lasers. But just for a setting where they’d feel comfortable.

Perhaps something you have flagged as being for ‘seniors’? But perhaps not. ‘Traditional’ is never going to float their boat. Attractive as it might be for those a decade older, it’s ‘thanks but no thanks’.

Perhaps the ‘all-age family worship’? Well your website visitor is ‘all-age’, and does have a family – but it’s long fled the nest. Should they put a toe in the water? But can you picture a Michaela or Mick – or anyone of their boomer culture – throwing themselves with relish into My Lighthouse together with all the actions?

Can you? Really?

But there’s still that evening event geared for youth – who else in their right mind would figure 6.30 on a Sunday as a suitable time to do anything other than get ready to eat?

But there it is. Casual, friendly, contemporary – and stacked out with teens and 20s and very few of M and M’s age they could relate to.

Does it really matter that nothing seems to fit? After all, aren’t the urgent needs to reach the young and care for those who can hardly remember when they were? Of course. But should this be at the expense of neglecting the over 9 million contemporaries of Michaela and Mick?

That’s right. Over 9 million. With few of them finding a home in our churches – perhaps including yours.

Yet ought not these boomers to be on the minds and hearts of our churches? This generation is the last to have heard the Bible’s stories in Sunday School, and to have experienced an act of Christian worship at school each morning.

This means they know the Bible’s stories in a way those coming up behind them simply don’t. No wonder it was this generation, and Mick’s mates Webber and Rice, that gave us Joseph’s Technicolour Dream Coat and Jesus Christ Superstar.

What can be done? What MUST be done?

Perhaps it was with this segment in mind that an American church turned their Christmas nativity into a Beatles rock opera. Their ‘Let it Be Christmas’ celebrated the Gospel ‘according to Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, George, and Ringo’.

Mixing well-known carols, Scripture and the music of the Beatles, it invited people to a ‘magical mystery tour through the Gospels to tell the greatest story of all time, with the greatest music of all time’.

The creators discovered the songs were a perfect fit with there being no need to mess with the lyrics. Ideal was Here Comes the Sun. And not least was the moment Joseph responded to Mary’s news with an upbeat ‘We Can Work it Out’.

What boomer Tom, Dick, Harry, Michaela or Mick would not be open to that? The answer is something of a no-brainer.

Yet there’s no need to go into that kind of overdrive in order to respond to the spiritual needs of such a neglected and underserved segment of your community.

All it takes is for a small group – even two or three – to start praying and looking for appropriate ways to engage with unchurched Boomers. And then to do something about it, however small.

Push the door and see if it opens. You will never know until you try. You may even find yourself to be a ground breaker – giving ideas and inspiration to others – because precious little on this front seems to be being done at the moment.

As you pray you might seek answers to questions like –

  • Who do we know already who belong to this group of people?
  • How could we get to know them better and build friendships?
  • What issues are they facing and how are they dealing with them? Meaning to life? Disappointment? Loss of status or health? The need for adventure? And many more.
  • What openings might recreation offer – walking football, badminton, tenpin bowling, etc?
  • Is there a way to do Alpha that matches their lifestyle?
  • How can we offer them the opposite of the fake news they have come to hate?

Whatever you come up with, aim to keep it small, friendly, and relevant. Even a small book group or a pub night is better than nothing. And everything has to start somewhere.

Of course, there is still the bigger picture – the limitations of what your church may offer at the moment in the context of its worship and teaching. I wonder if there is a clue in that the Let it Be Nativity had its genesis in an advent sermon series that used a different Beatles song title each week.

Whatever, any kind of response is going to take some courage. But at least the issue should be on the church leadership’s to-do list.

Want to explore this subject more? Then see the AfterWorkNet blog on How Come Everyone is Interested in the Saga Generation Other Than the Churches. And check out Chris Harrington’s book Reaching the Saga Generation, (Grove Books).

What insights or questions do you have about reaching those retired and active? Please share them here or on the AfterWorkNet Facebook community

Peter Meadows

Peter is AfterWorkNet’s Programme Director. He’s using his retirement to help churches, resource inter-church initiatives, enjoy his eight grandchildren, escape to Spain and to spend his kids’ inheritance.

The 5 things you should know about those who live longest

The good news is that, on average, people are living longer than ever. The sad news is it’s not everyone and not everywhere.

Yet there are places across the world where people are thriving well into their 100s – healthy and free from the conditions we’ve come to expect with older age. And these communities have much to teach us about what it takes to add healthy years to our lives.

These remarkable ‘living longer’ communities were identified by a major research project from National Geographic. Its leader, Dan Buettner, discovered 5 communities – he calls them Blue Zones – from around the world where people are living some of the longest, healthiest, happiest lives.

Having identified them, Dan and his research team went on to study the lifestyles of those living there. What they discovered offers valuable lessons for the way we live – in community and individually.

But first a caveat. What the research picked up was that the people were not trying to live longer. It was all about the way they naturally lived. Which points to the need for social change generally.

However, that doesn’t stop each of us hearing, learning and acting. So here’s the essence of what each of the 5 Blue Zones communities reveal about adding years to the life God has given us.

1.They eat less meat

This was a discovery from Sardinia, Italy, which is the home to the Earth’s longest living men. Here the common diet is heavy on plants, fish and pulses. With meat not that often on the menu.

Along with what is eaten is the setting in which it happens – often in a family or social setting. Lots of friends and social engagement fights stress and so reduces heart disease, strengthens resistance to infection and keeps our minds sharp.

2.They exercise without thinking about it

This is a lesson from Ikaria, Greece. It revealed people living longest are not those who take time out to exercise full-on. Rather they live in a setting that nudges them into moving every 20 minutes or so without making decisions to do so.

That’s how it is for those on this small Grecian island. The lifestyle, even for the very oldest, involves days of gardening or often walking to meet friends.

3.They have less stress

This take out is from Nicoya, Costa Rica. Here those living into their hundreds have grown up with strong social connections, with lots of visitors. Again, it’s not about doing things; taking action to destress. It’s about a social environment generates less stress in the first place.

4.They have a sense of purpose

This one comes from the community of Loma Linda, California – where the 9,000-members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church there comprise its core. Like so many churches they serve those around them and offer many opportunities for people to volunteer.

This infuses the community with those who have a sense of purpose – a meaning for their lives – with all the life-extending benefits that come from it.

5.They are part of a ‘tribe’ that is healthy

Here it was Okinawa, Japan – where women live longer than anywhere else – which offered the revelation. The community is very united, made up of groups of friends dedicated to each other for life.

It happens because parents cluster their children in groups of five, and send them through life together. These ‘tribes’ commit to providing financial support to others if they are in need. This offers the emotional security that comes from knowing others are always there for you.

And a little more

What might the learnings from the Blue Zones mean for us – those in our active retirement years? I’d suggest, two things.

First, there are great benefits from living a life that matches, as closely as possible, the characteristics of these 5 Blue Zones. Eating more veggies and less meat, keeping active as part of our daily life, minimising stress, having a sense of purpose, and enjoying supportive ‘tribal’ relationships.

Actually, there is a little more to take on board. Researcher Dan Buettner, also notes these long-living communities share some other characteristics. Those who drink wine, are part of a faith community and invest heavily in family relationships – keeping their elderly relatives close and giving their children lots of time and attention – live longer than those who don’t.

Second, any part we can play – actively, politically, or socially – to encourage and enable the communities we are part of to adopt a Blue Zones way of living will reap benefits for those who come after us.

Of course, social change like that takes time. But it has to start at some time and somewhere. And what a great legacy to leave.

Want to explore this some more and add some years to your life? Then head for the website of Blue Zones. It’s full of helpful advice for you and your community – and even has a three-minute online test on your life expectancy.

If this blog has helped you please share it using the links below. Thank you.

Peter Meadows

Peter is AfterWorkNet’s Programme Director. He’s still working part time in his 70s, helping churches and resourcing inter-church initiatives. This is alongside enjoying his eight grandchildren, escaping to Spain and spending his kids’ inheritance.

 

Want to do well in the transition out of fulltime work? Here’s the 5 key steps.

The transition from fulltime work is like moving to a country you have never visited. With the changes involved likely to be far greater than you could ever imagine.

In theory, every day becomes a Saturday. But such unstructured time, with seemingly endless opportunities, is not as easy to navigate as you might imagine.

So if you are heading towards the world of no longer working fulltime, or are already there, here are 5 key steps to keep in mind.

1.Take a breather

This is something I wish I’d done. It was so easy to slip from a demanding work environment into an almost equally busy existence – with not enough thought as to what was going on.

Like many others, I soon found myself thinking, ‘I’m busier now than when I was working’. But is that really a good thing to just drift into?

Perhaps the biblical idea of ‘Jubilee’ has something to teach us. One year in fifty is a fallow year (Leviticus 25:11). We may not all be farmers but we will have worked for close to fifty years. So taking a year out – or even a few months – would seem a sensible way to recharge, process the change and define what you are and what you do.

But this kind of Jubilee ought to involve much more than watching endless daytime TV? A good start may be to pray – to thank God for your working years, however hard they may have been. And asking him to guide you into and through the next phase of life.

2.Make an inventory

As the dust settles on the old start listing down –

  • The things you’ll miss from the past
  • Things you always wanted to do but work got in the way
  • Dreams you might now be able to fulfil
  • Your bucket list
  • The expectations others may have for you that will impact your decisions
  • The kind of legacy you want to leave behind
  • The abilities, expertise and wisdom you now have to offer

If you’ve never done some kind of gift analysis – exploring what you have to offer – this might be a good time to do one. An example is the Shape Test which will help you identify what your passions and gifts.

Sometimes this confirms what someone already knows. And sometimes it can produce a surprise or two.

3.See where you can be used

Without being presumptuous, it is likely that you will have some 10 years of active retirement to enjoy and invest. That will match around 20 per cent of what has been your working life. This may be longer than you ever spent in one particular job. So it is worth getting it right.”

Then it’s time begin exploring some opportunities that seem to match your gifts and passions. Keep in mind that you’ll be needing to replace the companionship you had in your fulltime working days. And also the fact that you had somewhere you were needed.

But commit to absolutely nothing until you’ve had a good look around. It’s easy to end up responding to every demand made of you. Now you have time there may be plenty of people who assume you now have time for what they have in mind. So, at the very least, make sure your passions and gifts are a good match for their requests.

For example, an accountant doesn’t now have to be either an auditor or a treasurer for every charity in their county. I had a friend who longed to dump many of his financial responsibilities. On the other hand you may want to use your professional skills in retirement years.

Don’t be too restrictive or humble about what you could do. Our church recently sent an 85 year old to visit an African hospital he had supported and prayed for over the years. He’d longed to visit but caring for his sick wife made it impossible.

However, when she died he was free to go and was so blessed by the new experience. So were we by his passion for mission when he returned.

4.Be available

Before your transition into ‘after-work’ your life was crowded and demanding – it had to be that way. But you now have space and time. Not least to be more available to God and to strengthen your relationship with him. Including, perhaps, reading books or listening to podcasts you never had time for.

Such availability need not be all God-centred. When a friend asked me what I was in to at the moment. I gave some good holy answers. But he challenged me to say something about an issue I was interested in. With my passion in military history I confessed I was looking into ‘luck’ in war. I’m still researching.

Being available, includes being available to others. If you have carved out time for reading and reflection then be prepared ‘sacrifice’ some of it for drop of the hat helping out moments. Your availability could be exactly what someone needs.

5.Consider your community

In the process of reviewing where your passions and abilities could be invested, do consider your community. Especially as so many social services have been cut, leaving many people vulnerable. It’s impossible for me to be prescriptive here but a look at the local Citizens Advice may show you something that needs doing and is a good match.

Or maybe, just call in on a lonely person down your street from time to time. To lift their spirits and remind them they are not forgotten.

Whatever you do, remember each of us – at work and in the years that follow – you Christ’s ambassador (2 Corinthians 5:20). And the words of Jesus remain true, ‘Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine you did it for me’ (Matthew 25:40).

Found this helpful? Then do please share it using the links below. And have your say here and on our Facebook page.

Dave Fenton

Dave is a retired clergyman spending his after-work time lecturing at Moorlands College, building relationships and sharing his faith at his local golf club, and escaping to a cliff-top caravan in Cornwall where his seven grandchildren enjoy the local surfing beach.

The modest pension pot of a 56-year old pastor led to housing 1,000 homeless people. It’s a remarkable story.

At first sight you’d never imagine 76-year old Pastor Pete Cunningham to be someone bringing hope and housing to over 1,000 formerly homeless people.

Pete seems so unassuming and ‘ordinary’. Looking more like Captain Birdseye than a ground-breaking deliverer of shelter for those once on the streets.

Yet that is exactly what Pete is. And his remarkable and inspiring story involves some very interesting conversations between him and God.

Faced with the heart-breaking problem of so many living on the streets in his Southport community, some 20 years ago, Pastor Pete prayed. And the answer, he told me was, ‘God made clear he wants the church to eradicate homelessness, starting with Merseyside.’

‘But I argued with him’, Pete admitted. ‘There was no way of raising the money to meet such a great need. And anyway, these people would probably wreck any place they were given – with graffiti and smashing things up.’

But the issue just would not go away. The homeless where still there. And God kept ‘nagging’.

So, age 56 and at a time in the normal run of things he would have been planning his retirement, Pete did the unthinkable. He cashed in his £6,000 pension pot. And, with contributions from two others, purchased a couple of flats.

Which is how the life-changing Christian social enterprise Green Pastures was born.

Because of Pete’s simple act of obedient sacrifice, today there are –

  • Over 1,000 formerly homeless people with a place to live
  • Ten new beds becoming available each month
  • 150 participating churches helping make this happen
  • £25 million available to buy properties as the result of 1,040 loan stock investors
  • A fifth of residents growing in their Christian faith

At the heart of it all is someone who not only sacrificed their pension pot but is living their years of active retirement to the full. Now 76, and still going for broke, its clear how Pete has drawn on his work-life experience to now serve others.

Used what he had – plus God

Thanks to his early employment in the London Shares Market, Pete was able to identify the distinct investment model that is at the heart of Green Pastures’ success. It involves guaranteeing investors a return of up to 5 per cent per annum with their money used to finance the next purchase.

Then, as a pastor, Pete learned how to care for people, hear God’s voice, and share the good news of the gospel in word and deed.

Today Pete’s conviction remains that God doesn’t want anyone sleeping on the streets of the UK and expects Christians to sort it out.

‘To put it bluntly,’ Pastor Pete says, ‘Jesus commissioned the church, not the government. Christians may say they pay their taxes so the government should sort it. But the Bible has numerous accounts of the church of God stepping in and we should do the same today. God wants the church to end homelessness.’

And the need is not just people who have been forced into sleeping rough. There are also the ‘unseen’ homeless that need help.

Pete points to the thousands of extremely vulnerable people staying in rundown, overcrowded temporary accommodation. He told me, ‘Families are often broken up. And unless they are reconciled, where they can look after themselves, the children are likely to become young people who go off the rails. So we must we get them into suitable, stable housing as soon as possible.’ 

A shining example

Pete is a shining example of an older person serving the Lord. He’s making an incredible difference in the lives of some of the most vulnerable people in our society. He’s the father of six children with thirteen grandchildren and still devotes himself to the task God gave him.

At 76, Pete shows no signs of slowing down. He’s got big dreams for the future. Perhaps you could be part of them?

He challenges those with a financial cushion to consider becoming investors so that more people living on the streets can have a home. Through Green Pastures’ ethical investment programme properties are purchased for homeless people to be housed – and they also will be supported by local churches.

Or there’s a more hands-on approach, where those in their active after-work years offer their wisdom and skills in a church that signs up to help and provide volunteers.

Pastor Pete believes that if enough churches joined in, homelessness could indeed be eradicated.  Based on his example, you have to believe him.

For more about this remarkable initiative and the stories of lives changed through it, see Green Pastures.

If you have found this helpful please share it using the links below.

Celia Bowring

Celia isn’t retired yet – although she’s recently changed from being office-based to working from home, so working out her own use of time. Celia writes the CARE Prayer Diary along with many other resources. She also chairs Pray for Schools. And loves being a hands-on grandmother!

I’m 78 and refuse to retire—here are 7 things about happiness and money we’re often taught too late

I am 78 years old, have been married to the same woman for 50 years and am a proud parent of two daughters. My wife and I are also grandparents, of two children.

Of course, there have been ups and downs, including being diagnosed with two forms of cancer. But I look back on my life, and on my career as a publisher and writer, and feel reasonably successful and happy.

Now I’m nearly 80, I’ve learned 7 important lessons about success, money and happiness.

1.Remember to be kind to yourself

Kindness can be directed inward as well as outward. Being kind to yourself isn’t self-indulgence; it’s validating your own worth.

We are probably our own harshest critics, and we certainly know our limitations better than anyone else. So when things don’t turn out as you intended, it’s sometimes a kindness to remind yourself that your intentions were honourable.

Not everything that goes wrong is your fault. And while you might be good at taking the blame for the sake of a peaceful life, being kind to yourself means sharing the burden of guilt that, from time to time, cripples us all.

2.Money won’t make you happy

Money allows you to enjoy life if you have enough — and maybe a bit more than ‘enough.’ But it won’t significantly boost your happiness in life.

Your happiness and well-being comes from taking care of yourself, the good things you’ve experienced – like love and laughter –  and nurturing relationships with people who make a positive difference in your life.

3.You’re never too old – or too young – to make mistakes

Mistakes are signs of vitality, inventiveness and adventurous intelligence, at least when you’re the person making them.

You’ll never try or discover something new if you’re afraid of getting it wrong. Mistakes are an unavoidable part of progress, so don’t be afraid to make the leaps, no matter how frightening they may seem.

Of course, there are limits.

Incompetence or malpractice deserves punishment. But people – especially the younger ones – should be aware that generally when we make mistakes, it’s a sign that we prefer to experiment, rather than be cautious to the point of cowardice.

4.‘Retirement’ is a nonsensical term

I am self-employed and still working in my late-70s – and don’t plan or want to retire anytime soon. I’ve just finished writing a novel and even have another one planned. In a world where so many dream of early retirement, this must sound like a shocker.

But ‘retirement’ is a nonsensical term: to call yourself retired is a totally inaccurate description of all the activities and anxieties that fill your waking – and often your sleeping – hours. Just because you’re no longer in full-time employment doesn’t mean you have withdrawn from the world, or that you have nothing more to contribute.

Giving up your active work life just because you have reached an arbitrary age is ridiculous. If you’re still alive, active, capable and taking pride and pleasure in what you do, you should be encouraged to continue.

5.Keep your ambition engine running

Without something to aim for, you risk getting bored, and boredom can destroy you. An ambition should be just – but not too far – beyond your reach. At my age, I still have the ambition to do my daily walk a bit quicker or cook a dish I’ve never tried before to impress my wife.

Also, the greatest ambitions don’t always have to be career-related. They can be things you’ve never gotten around to doing, like playing jazz piano or mastering mahjong.

Then, once you’ve acquired the basics, you should play to win because you never really lost the competitive spirit that kept you going in the first place. Ambition means looking forward, and that’s always better than looking back.

6.There’s no point in trying to escape change

Change is difficult and uncomfortable, but that doesn’t mean you should avoid it. It can be forced upon us by unexpected circumstances: an accident, a job loss, an illness or malfunction in a machine we rely on.

The odd thing is, the older we get, the more we grumble about change. Yet so many of us have already faced the greatest change of all: going from independence to dependence, with little or no preparation at all.

I suppose it’s because it’s something we don’t want to think about too much, as we’re secretly confident we’ll cope when we have to.

7.You can be a hypocrite without even knowing it

Hypocrisy isn’t when you tell an actor they were wonderful when they were terrible. Or when you tell a friend they look terrific when they’re deathly ill. That’s being well-mannered for the sake of a quiet life and because we all want to be liked.

Hypocrisy is when you promise you’ll go see someone you have no desire or intention to visit; when you say you’d love to have lunch with someone you’ve successfully avoided for months; when you add to an email: ‘Please let me know if there’s anything more I can do,’ when you’ve plainly washed your hands of the matter.

Hypocrisy is lying, and you may be guilty of it without even realising it. And it’s nonetheless reprehensible when you do it at a distance. Don’t fall into the trap of getting so used it to that it no longer bothers you.

This blog first appeared on CNBC Make It. It has been adapted and is used with permission of the writer.

Do you have some wisdom to share about life after fulltime work? Please share it here or with the AfterWorkNet Facebook group. Thank you.

Peter Buckman

Peter has written books, plays and scripts for film, TV and radio. The first book he took on as a literary agent turned into Slumdog Millionaire. Peter’s eighth book, Still With It!, published by The Experiment, is a collection of life-changing lessons for readers of all ages.

Heading for retirement? Here’s 4 wise first steps to doing it right.

No one should let retirement sneak up on them. To assume ‘it will all be alright on the night’ is not the wisest approach – especially as most who hit this major life-change know when it will happen.

Based on my own experience and that of others, there are some simple guidelines to help plan for the season when fulltime paid work ends.

Draw up an agenda

Take time to nail down the things you’d like to do and to avoid. And be sure to talk this through with your partner if you have one. It’s no good planning days on the Costa Brava if they have a priority to be with grandchildren in Birmingham

Of course, you may not even be free to make exactly the plans that you wish. Being needed to care for an elderly parent of sit grandchildren. But, even then, an agenda will help clarify what can and can’t be.

Be clear on the kind of life you want

When it comes to having an agenda, the more profound parts are what you might call ‘spiritual’ goals. Not so much about what kind of things you wish to do but what kind of life you desire to lead.

Given the opportunity, are there ambitions you would love to have the chance to fulfil? Things like –

  • Learning a language
  • Compiling your family archive
  • Signing up for voluntary work
  • Visiting the Holy Land
  • Taking up a new hobby
  • Finding old friends and renewing old contact

If you are someone with apprehensions about retirement, such a list can make it seem more appealing. And for some inspiration on the possibities ahead see the AfterWorkNet webpages on New Opportunities.

For many, what is of greater importance than all of this is to ask ‘what might God want from these precious years of retirement?’ The gift of extra time can offer space for prayer and reflection, space which we may well have missed in the busy-ness of pre-retirement life.

Freed from responsibilities, we can take on new ones – in church, in our community or among our own circle of friends and neighbours – a new kind of ‘calling’ or vocation in our later years.

There are so many opportunities for which age is not barrier. Again, for inspiration, see the AfterWorkNet webpages on Serving.

Things you may want to avoid

As you think ahead, it’s worth considering what you might want to plan to avoid. Are you happy to be drawn into running things – clubs, groups, courses. Because you can be sure the invitations will come.

Those newly parted from the daily grind are rightly seen as a marvellous resource of untapped energy. Ask yourself if you are ready for this and what your response should be if you are approached.

Fight mental rust

On my own agenda was the need to avoid boredom and mental stagnation. Having kept my brain pretty busy at work I didn’t want it to rust in my retirement.

Some people use a daily crossword or Sudoku, or learn how to explore the internet. For me it has been regular Bible reading, challenging radio programmes, books, the theatre, an interesting daily newspaper and enriching conversations.

Take these steps and you are on your way to a retirement that’s a positive and exciting new chapter in your life.

David Winter – adapted from his book The Highway Code for Retirement (CWR)

Found this blog helpful? Then please share it using the links below. And if you have suggestions for someone nearing the end of fulltime work please share then here or our Facebook group. Thank you..

David Winter has retired three times from different settings, including as a Parish Priest and as the BBC’s Head of Religious Broadcasting. He was a regular contributor to Radio 4’s ‘Thought for the Day’ for more than 20 years.

Plastics: You can help save the planet with these 7 can-do attitudes

When it comes to taking action to save our planet from the ravages of plastic, age is no barrier. Indeed, it was 93-year-old David Attenborough, who exposed the appalling effect of plastics on oceans so widely with his Blue Planet II episode.

This became the UK’s fourth most watched TV programme of all time. It was sold on to 30 other countries. And sent shock waves across the world.

One outcome was that Her Majesty the Queen – also 93 – banned plastic straws and bottles throughout the royal estate.

That has to be a compelling example to those of us who’ve lived long enough to have probably witnessed and contributed to much of the most damage inflicted by plastic pollution. How can we help save the planet before we finally leave it?

Younger people, for all their laudable green aspirations, have pressures on their wallets and their time, so they may lack the capacity to embrace this vital crusade. But the after-work generation can help to lead the way and encourage others to do the same.

What can we do as those who are stewards of God’s creation? As I’ve researched this I’ve discovered it’s a really complicated subject. Sometimes we might wonder what possible difference our reusable water bottle or humble hessian shopping bag can make to the fate of the world’s oceans.

But please don’t underestimate the importance of those five environmentally friendly strategies of ‘reduce, reuse, recycle, biodegrade, compost.’ And there’s more we can consider doing.

Here’s my top 7 ideas as far as plastic is concerned.

 1. Recognise not all plastic is bad!

I inherited my mother’s red plastic laundry basket in 1980 – which means it’s been in constant use for 50 years. I’m very attached to it even now it’s only held together with gaffer tape and cable ties.

Plastic has revolutionised our lives in so many life-enhancing ways and is a wondrous substance. But, when it comes to disposal and recycling, especially indestructible substances that cause such harm, we urgently need to handle this problem that’s polluting our planet.

2. Find out more

For a start we need to understand more to disentangle the confusion.

There are over 50 different types of plastics but the six most common often have numbers stamped on them to identify for recycling.

It works like this –

1 and 2 are on widely recycled items like clear drinks bottles, food packaging like fruit punnets, shampoo and cleaning product bottles.

4 and 5 are on items not yet able to be recycled everywhere but that should be within five years. Such as carrier bags, some bottles and containers, cling film, magazine wraps, lined or laminated cardboard containers.

6 is on stuff that’s not ever going to be recyclable and should be avoided. Like polystyrene cups, plastic straws and cutlery, and Styrofoam packaging

Another website to help you make sense of all this is: Which?

3. Be encouraged that inventors and entrepreneurs are finding solutions

A great example is the £15 million Ocean Cleanup floating boom – designed by 18-year-old Dutchman Boyan Slat. It’s now clearing the 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic floating in the massive Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

Meanwhile people are hard at work designing robots to sort materials, picking up 80 items a minute for 24 hours a day. And the dream is to create a ‘circular plastic economy’ where products are 100% recyclable – and there are rays of hope that this will happen.

4. Join other consumers to influence supermarkets about their plastic use

The amount of packaging in an average supermarket shop is ridiculous. True, some action is being taken but we can help speed it up.

Someone I know removed the plastic packaging from every purchase that was shrouded in it and politely handed the unwanted pile to a rather startled check-out staff member before stashing it in his environmentally friendly bags.

What if more of us did the same?

We can also make our money talk by choosing to shop at environmentally-aware stores and-fruit-and-veg market stalls. And carefully thinking through what we buy – selecting loose potatoes instead of bagged ones for instance.

5. Find about what happens where you live

It’s a depressing thought that, according to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, only a fraction of plastic packaging that’s collected is properly recycled. This means, in some areas of the UK, carefully recycled household items end up in landfill along with everything else.

That’s because –

  • Plastic bags – leaving aside the green biodegradable or compostable bags – can be recycled. But so far less than 1 in 5 households have councils that accept them, according to waste charity Wrap.
  • Only 1 in 10 households are able to successfully recycle cling film and plant pots.
  • Only 1 in 100 households have a way to recycle expanded polystyrene packaging – commonly used for takeaway boxes.

To find out how your local council deals with recycling, see the website Recycle Now.  Perhaps you could start speaking out about it where you live.

6. Be part of ‘the starfish effect’

Maybe you’re familiar with the story of a child throwing stranded starfish one by one back into the sea despite there being so many he could not rescue them all. His attitude was, ‘I know, but I’m making a difference to this one.’

In the same way, we may not be able to change everything but we can at least do something.

7. Encourage your grandchildren

The great news is plastics and recycling is now high on the agenda in schools. So let’s add our own enthusiasm, interest and example to what they are learning.

As older people, our enthusiasm can speak volumes. As can our practical action.

And what better way to do so that joining with our grandchildren in local litter picking or beach-cleaning schemes.

Come to that, here’s a wonderful way for those of us for whom faith matters to show our concern for God’s great gift of creation.

What experience of helping save the planet do you have? Please share it here or with the AfterWorkNet Facebook Group. Thank you.

Celia Bowring
Celia isn’t retired yet – although she’s recently changed from being office-based to working from home, so working out her own use of time. Celia writes the CARE Prayer Diary along with many other resources. She also chairs Pray for Schools. And loves being a hands-on grandmother!

The epidemic of loneliness needs a Doctor’s prescription. And here it is.

As I’m a doctor, you’d probably expect me to use the word ‘epidemic’ in the context of a raging disease. But not so this time.

There’s an epidemic spoiling lives and even reducing their length with not a virus or a germ in sight. It’s the epidemic of loneliness.

More than that, there’s something we can all do to put this epidemic to flight because it doesn’t need special training or skill. In addition, those in their after-work years are the most able to respond.

The loneliness epidemic can be summed up with three simple statistics. In the UK–

  • Over 9 million people – that’s almost one in five of the population – say they are always or often lonely
  • There are 1.2 million chronically lonely older people
  • Half a million older people go at least five or six days a week without seeing or speaking to anyone

Of course, there’s a massive difference between being alone and being lonely. Also, it’s not just an issue for those too old to get out and about.

This came home to me in my surgery a while back when faced with a teenager asking for help with her low mood.

I discovered she had over 1,000 Facebook ‘friends’ yet nearly all her ‘home time’ was spent in her bedroom, on a tablet, keeping up with ‘friends’. When asked if she ever saw any face to face the answer was ‘hardly ever’.

My patient’s problem was loneliness. She was constantly ‘without company’ and felt ‘cut off from others’. My ‘prescription? That she should re-discover her dormant hobby of dancing – which would return her to a supportive community, with a shared interest.

This simple ‘prescription’ set her on the road to recovery – all without the need for counselling or medication.

This one incident throws up lessons important for all of us –

Loneliness does harm.

Recent research shows loneliness has health implications that go far beyond depression. There good evidence loneliness –

  • Contributes to the development of dementia
  • Increases the risk of physical illness to a greater extent than does raised blood pressure
  • Is a risk factor for heart disease and strokes – having the same impact as smoking 15 cigarettes a day
  • Increases the likelihood of someone dying by more than a quarter

In addition, lonely people visit their GPs more, take more medication, have a higher incidence of falls, and attend A+ E more. For those who are younger the impact on their health tells a similar story.

It is not just an ‘old person’s’ issue

Understandably, loneliness has come to be associated with those towards the end of their days, having lost a life-long spouse and peers, and now being house bound. Of course, this is mostly true.

However, loneliness is increasingly becoming a feature of our society and seen in all seasons of life, from school age, through to old age, and everything in between.

This ought to lead us to keeping our eyes open for loneliness where we would not expect it. As well as seeing the needs among those who are most at risk.

Something can be done

In the case of my young patient, the remedy was to get out there and engage socially. However, for those in later years that’s seldom an option – with the only solution being for caring people to visit.

This leads me to think of the huge benefits in store if more of us took time to seek out those who are lonely and visit from time to time.

This seems to be something that should be right up their street for those who are retired and still active. Be it a regular visit, to a car ride, to a lift to a social setting – including to one of the increasing number of activities being run by churches.

It is something individuals and couples can do. It is something every church should have in its radar and be responding to in a proactive and intentional way.

To explore this further, including for advice on how to become a visitor and befriender, see the AfterWorkNet web pages on The Lonely.

Take the medicine yourself

It seems unlikely that, at this moment, you fit the ‘lonely’ category. But make sure you keep it that way as it is easy to drift into it.

Whatever may happen to you over the coming years, be proactive and engage with others though an old hobby or interest, or by trying a new one. And keep linked, or make links, with a vibrant church and its supportive and loving community.

Richard Roope

Dr Richard Roope has been a GP for almost 30 years at the same Hampshire practice. He’s also the Lead for Cancer for the Royal College of GPs and Cancer Research UK. Married with three daughters – two also doctors – he’s a member of a lively C of E church in Winchester. Enjoying long distance cycling, Richard has just completed a 12-day 760 charity cycle through the length of Italy.

The happiest of all? Those aged 65 to 79. Here’s the surprising facts – and how to be even happier.

If you are between 65 and 79 then the words of the late Ken Dodd hit the nail on the head –

Happiness, happiness, the greatest gift that I possess
I thank the Lord that I’ve been blessed
With more than my share of happiness

Why? Because, as someone in that 65 to 79 age bracket, you truly do have more than your share of happiness. Its official – confirmed by a robust study from the Office for National Statistics.

The survey assed happiness for a sample of 300,000 people between 2012 and 2015, under four headings –

  • How satisfied they were with life
  • How worthwhile they felt their lives to be
  • How happy they felt
  • How anxious they were

Revealingly, in every one of these categories, the 65’s to 79s are streets ahead of every other age group with one very, very, small exception. This is what the research tells us –

Life satisfaction: This peaks between 65 and 79 with them being 400 per cent more satisfied with life than those in their mid-50s. The only other age group to match this – which is the very small exception – is those in their carefree teenage years. So there’s every reason for ‘oldies’ to be young at heart.

Life being worthwhile: It’s the same story here – with the 65s to 79s being almost a fifth more likely to feel life is worthwhile than those struggling through their mid-50s.

However – to flash a warning – the ‘life is worthwhile’ feeling nosedives for those 90 and older. Yet, even then, those 90+ reported greater life satisfaction and happiness than those in their middle years.

Life being happy: Once again it’s much the story. Those 65 to 79 see themselves as 300 per cent more happy than the miserable mid-50s.

Life creating anxiety: On this front too, the 65s to 69s feel half as anxious as those in their mid-50s.

Taking it all together, the average ratings for life satisfaction, a sense your life is worthwhile, and how happy you are, skyrockets in the 65 to 79 years. Of course, this is not true for everyone. That’s not how surveys work. But it is generally true of the UK population as a whole.

And there’s more. When the research was broken down in more detail, some interesting things popped up including –

  • Married people had the highest levels of happiness – higher than those co-habiting, single, widowed or divorced.
  • Those with jobs were happier – with part-time workers the happiest.
  • Northern Ireland was the happiest of the UK’s nations. But the most anxious and least happy people were in England, with the North East the unhappiest region.

So if you are between 65 and 79, married, with a part time job and living in Northern Ireland you must be an absolute bundle of fun.

But perhaps there’s a way for the rest of us to catch up. Because it’s possible to make ourselves happier. That’s according to global studies collated by Rotterdam’s World Happiness Database.

These studies show the strongest correlation with happiness is to lead an active life. As the project’s director Prof Ruut Veenhoven says, ‘In order to lead a happy life, a rewarding life, you need to be active.’

The project has also identified what is likely to be true of those who are happier than others. This reveals you tend to be happier if you –

  • Are in a long-term relationship
  • Are actively engaged in politics
  • Are active in work and in your free time
  • Go out for dinner
  • Have close friendships – though happiness doesn’t increase with the number you have
  • Are not too fixed on having goals

So if you are in the 65 to 79 bracket, be happy that you are happier than most. Be thankful for what is also true that can add to it. And think seriously about giving it a turbo boost by keeping active, building friendships and increasing your social relationships.

Oh, and raise a glass or two in memory of Ken Dodd who seems to have known some of this all along.

Looking to boost your happiness by being more active? See the AfterWorkNet web pages on New Opportunities and our blog on keeping active.

Peter is AfterWorkNet’s Programme Director. He uses his retirement to help churches, resource inter-church initiatives, enjoy his eight grandchildren, escape to Spain and to spend his kids’ inheritance.

Getting older is not to be laughed at. It’s time to fight back at the prejudice involved.

How did I miss it? How did I get sucked in to happily regard those growing older as the subject for mirth at their expense?

After all, I joined the rush to end racist and sexist stereotypes. Off limits now are blonds, the Irish, mothers in law and more. Yet meanwhile it’s still fine for those in their later years to be mocked for being so.

Lines like ‘Jim was so old he’d signed up to Twitter to leave short, grumpy messages for people he didn’t like’. Funny on the surface. But all part of creating a negative image of those who are older.

But being the target for humour is a small part of a much bigger picture. It’s far from the only way those of advancing years are marginalised or demeaned.

Pointing to the constant stream of ageist advertising and workplace attitudes, author Marc Middleton, a champion of the US Growing Bolder movement says, ‘We have been programmed to believe that, beyond a certain age and by design, we lose strength, power, intellect and passion. But none of these things have nothing to do with age.’

Does this ageism matter? Oh yes! There are two distinct ways in which all this is ‘not funny’. Not funny at all.

First, ageism shapes the way society values – or not – those who are older.

My wake up call to this serious issue came from author Louise Morse in her important new book, What’s Age Got To Do With It (BRF). Here Louise does more than identify the evil of discrimination simply because someone is old. She also champions the need to restore and champion ‘elder hood’.

Elderhood, Louise explains, is one step up from adulthood. It is a season richer, more meaningful and with something distinct and positive to contribute. A time of ‘being’ rather than ‘doing’.

More than that, Louise challenges us to see the richness of God’s plan for those in their later years. As she puts it, ‘God has created a human lifecycle that the longer people live the more they learn and the more wisdom they gather. Living to old age creates the qualities that God intends to benefit the rest of society.’

Yet that’s not how we, the ‘older ones’, are seen or treated – with ageist ‘humour’ contributing to the misconception. And with prejudice and discrimination fanning the flames.

Second, ageism reduces our own view as to our value and ability to contribute.

Whatever our age, what we believe about ourselves impacts what we will do and achieve. If the noise in our ears keeps telling us we are ‘beyond it’, need to be ‘put out to pasture’, are over the ‘hill then’, and ‘past our ‘sell by date’ then that’s how we are most likely to behave.

We start to settle for the slippers, blanket, fireside and Werther’s Originals despite there being much more life to be lived.

When it comes to apportioning blame for the way things are, we need to take it on the chin. That’s because we have colluded in letting insipid ageism run rampant. We’ve bought the greetings cards, laughed at the jokes, sat on our hands, and held our tongues when we should have done none of those things.

What should we do?

Here are the top three ways I want to try to live by from now on and which I recommend to you –

Stand tall and refuse to believe the lie: Think how much more you know, how much more wisdom you have gathered and how your character has matured, since you were half your present age.

And, therefore, think how much more of those vital commodities – knowledge, wisdom and maturity – you have than those half you age at this very moment.

Added to this, take note of what you are contributing. To quote Louise again, those like you are ‘helping support their adult children, contributing to their communities and boosting the national Exchequer by billions of pounds each year. And many charities would collapse without their voluntary work – itself worth billions a year.’

So as you move from adulthood to elderhood, make a commitment to do so with a mind-set that says, ‘I’ve much to offer and they are lucky to have me!’

Refuse to play by ‘their’ rules: That means no longer laughing at jokes made at the expense of those in their later years – or, at least, trying hard not to. And no longer sending your peers birthday cards with negative messages like ‘I’m not saying you are old but you are starting to smell of wee’ – no matter how funny.

Even better, be subversive – launch a range of greetings cards with positive messages about the glory and value of the later years. If ever there was a gap in the market, this is a big one.

Speak out: It’s not easy to confront the unthinking words of others. But a quiet word in season may be called for. Those made in God’s image, and for whom he has plans, deserve to be defended.

Easier is to respond to media gatekeepers – praising examples of the positive portrayal of those who are older. And identifying when the opposite happens.

And in case you should think this is all rather trivial, from someone with a shallow sense of humour who needs to get a life, please think again. The widespread and sinister practice of ageism damages the health and wellbeing of older people. This can be seen in the way –

  • Age is increasingly becoming the deciding factor as to whether cancer treatment is worth the money.
  • The UN has encouraged nations to prioritise health care in favour of the young.
  • Ageism has been shown to cause cardiovascular stress, lowered levels of self-efficacy and decreased productivity.
  • Research shows older adults with a negative attitude about ageing may live 7.5 years less than those with a positive attitude.

This is why growing older is not to be laughed at. And why it’s time to fight back.

If this issue seems important to you, please share this blog by using the links below.

Louise Morse’s book can be bought through sellers like Amazon and Eden or use this link.

Have you seen ageism, or been on the receiving end? Do you have ways of responding, or other suggestions? Please do share them here or on our Facebook group.

Peter is AfterWorkNet’s Programme Director. He uses his retirement to help churches, resource inter-church initiatives, enjoy his eight grandchildren, escape to Spain and to spend his kids’ inheritance.

How come everyone is interested in the Saga generation – except the churches?

‘No church in Britain is specifically seeking to reach the retired and active generation.’ That’s the conviction of Church Army captain Chris Harrington – whose Grove booklet Reaching the Saga Generation is a must-read.

As Chris highlights, when churches reach out to older people the focus is almost always on those born before the last World War.

They do so by running everything from a Holiday at Home, to a regular drop-in coffee morning, to visiting those in residential care or nursing homes.

All good stuff. But it doesn’t touch those of a very different generation who are also no longer working fulltime, often dubbed the Saga Generation. Those brought up on Elvis rather than Doris Day. Who jived not quick-stepped. Who wore denim – and still do!  Who by no means regard themselves as ‘old’.

Some of the ways they are distinctly different from their older counterparts, Chris stresses, are –

  • They were the first ‘teenagers’ and have lived through the free-thinking era of the new pop-culture
  • They do not trust governments, multinationals, institutions or authority figures
  • They dislike being patronized, dictated to or treated condescendingly
  • They demand honesty, consistency, reliability, quality, value for money and good service.

What’s more, this segment of our society represents a huge sector of the population.

Official figures point to there being approaching 9 million people in the active retirement band, aged between 65 and 79. That’s almost three times as many as those in the ‘old-old’ band of 80 and above. Yet think where churches put their focus and what they are missing.

What an opportunity there is for churches to treat this Baby Boomer age-group in the same way they do for other age and interest groups – with events, services and programmes crafted for them. Maybe not every week. But sometimes. Or, at least, to run small groups and events that can embrace un-churched actively retired people.

Could it happen? Is it happening?

The Church of England’s report Mission Shaped Church (2004) encouraged fresh expressions of church for the vast numbers who are either un-churched or de-churched. Now, Chris Harrington and others are exploring what that could mean for what he calls Saga Church – those who’ve reached retirement age with years of opportunity ahead of them.

However, any response must relate to them as they are and not as they’re imagined to be. When reaching out to those retired and active Chris offers a check list to keep in mind. It involves the need to –

  • De-emphasise membership – Boomers are not ‘joiners’ but will attend for the experience
  • Accommodate their desire for experiences – Boomers are not passive ‘you talk and I’ll listen’ people
  • Emphasis ‘how to’ messages – Boomers are interested in what works and how to make it work for them
  • Recognise the need for equality in leadership, authority and responsibility – Boomers resist hierarchy
  • Accept and celebrate the contribution of singles – there’s likely to be a greater percentage of them than any other adult segment of your community
  • Respond to the relatively high level of dysfunctionality and emotional pain – there may be smiles on the outside but also a lot of pain and struggle behind the masks
  • Give prominence to innovation, diversity and options – Boomers resist one-size-fits-all approaches.
  • Encourage discussion and not dogma – they want to be spoken with and listened to, not talked at

What could be done?

In his book Chris has helpful examples of what events might be like. It also stresses there are other ways – and possibly better ways – than church services to engage with un-churched afterworkers. These include –

  • A ‘seeker service’ a la Willow Creek – with everything focused on the needs and interests of the visitor
  • A film and faith group – using a current film as a spring board for conversation
  • A book club – based on secular novels with spiritual themes
  • Rambling groups, retreats and pilgrimages – with moments for reflection

How come this isn’t happening already? My sense is we’ve sleepwalked into this situation. This new ‘actively retired’ group has gradually emerged as a new phenomenon. The travel industry spotted it – and now caters for 25 million people on cruises world-wide each year.

But now is the time – a time well overdue – for the churches to wake up too.

To explore this issue more, do read Chris Harrington’s book Reaching the Saga Generation, (Grove Books).

What insights or questions do you have about reaching those retired and active? Please share them here or on the AfterWorkNet Facebook community

Peter Meadows

Peter is AfterWorkNet’s Programme Director. He’s using his retirement to help churches, resource inter-church initiatives, enjoy his eight grandchildren, escape to Spain and to spend his kids’ inheritance.

 

Are teenagers any of our business? Oh yes, says the Psalmist – and here’s 5 practical insights to do your best.

Trying to understand the behaviour and culture of today’s teens can be as challenging as attempting to eat jelly with chopsticks.

For that reason, it’s not surprising those of us who no longer have teenagers can feel we’ve done our bit and survived. So let’s leave it at that. But should it be how it is?

After all, what about the powerful words of the Psalmist – a promise and a command – that ‘We will tell the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power and the wonders he has done. He decreed statutes for Jacob and established the law in Israel, which he commanded our ancestors to teach their children, so the next generation would know them’. Psalm 78.4-6.

And there’s more here. Read on and we hear the positive and the negative consequences of our actions. If we do it right then they will ‘trust in God’ (v7) and ‘keep his commands’ (v7). While verse 8 gives us the negatives. Failure to engage produces a ‘stubborn and rebellious generation whose hearts are not loyal to God’.

Sorry, there’s no dodging it. But here’s some good news to encourage you. The findings of a new report about teens, The State of the Nation, from five Christian agencies, includes a significant finding.

Asked what made them feel good about themselves, more than 9 out of 10 said ‘my family’. They may not breeze up to you and ask for your opinion or help – but relationships need to be cultivated.

That means if you have teens within your family circle you are already ahead of the game. But our call to follow the instructions of the Psalmist doesn’t stop there and has huge implications in the context of church life. But how do we do it?

I’m not saying it is easy. We will not always get a listening ear or an acceptance of our perspective. However, that’s not a reason to chicken out.

With that in mind, here are 5 simple principles to help you give it your best shot.

  1. Listen, listen and listen. To put it bluntly, if we want to be heard we first have to listen – and listen hard.

    It can be a tough and confusing world for today’s teens. They need to know we at least want to understand what it’s like for them to live in an increasingly baffling world where ‘truth’ is a matter of opinion, peer pressure is huge, the environment charging towards it sell by date, and huge debt from a student loan beckons.
  2. Beware of the word ‘tell’. There’s a danger wrapped up in word ‘tell’; a danger which springs from today’s culture. In our day we were used to being ‘told’. Because that’s how education worked. But things have changed – dramatically. 

    Today, teens who need to hear have experienced an education based on investigation and questioning. This means we need to find ways to help them explore rather than poking them in the eye with ‘truth’. So don’t dismiss the value of floating questions in their direction for them to explore. But there is a telling that should be done which is to . . . .
  3. Speak of God in action. Note where the Psalmist says we are to start It’s not with hard facts or doctrinal statements. Rather, we are to tell them of ‘the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power and the wonders he has done’. 

    The implication is to be sure the next generation know what God has done for us. It is about our story and we need to have one.

    Forgive me for asking, but what exactly is it you are seeing God do for you today that causes you to praise his power and actions on your behalf? What is your own story; the story made possible because you are out to live your afterwork life to the full? That living story of a living God is where the communication begins.
  4. Don’t fudge what God expects. God’s statutes – what he expects of his people in the way they are to live, is also on the Psalmist’s agenda. But note, when God delivered his Commandments, he’d already giving the people good reason to praise his deeds and power – delivering them from slavery, parting the Red Sea, meeting their needs in the wilderness and more.

    If teens are to understand God’s Commandments they need to see they come from a God who wants the best for his people and has shown this in the way he acts. To use an old phrase – ‘it’s talking the talk and walking the walk’.

    More than that, it can be surprising to discover teens can welcome the clarity that comes from God’s instructions for living in contrast to the anything goes assumptions inflicted on them by the world around them.
  5. Buck the system. Churches don’t make it easy for us to share what God has done, and is doing, with other generations. That’s because in most churches there are groups for children, young people, men women and seniors. Often these groups are isolated. As a result, church operates as MULTI-generational with groups for all individual ages rather than INTER-generational which allows generations to mix together).

As a result, most of us in our later years rarely come across teenagers, let alone have the opportunity to talk with them about God and his wonders. What a loss that represents.

Which is why, if we are to fulfil the aspirations of the Psalmist, we need to work smart. Perhaps it’s something you could get your church leaders to face up to? Possible ways forward include.

  • Talk to a teenager in a church meeting – ask about their exams or where they’re heading, current issues or whatever
  • In your family, take a genuine interest in your teenagers Do you know what they are learning what floats their boat, what troubles them, and more? And be aware that statements such as ‘in my day ….’ are killers.
  • Pray regularly for a leader or group in your church and ask for prayer information.
  • Invite teens round for a meal and give them a belter. It may take a few goes at this but pray for interesting things to talk about and ask them what they think about the big issues.
  • Don’t assume all teenagers and culture ridden grunters.
  • If you have teenagers in church do what you can to see them fully integrated. A wise vicar used to ask ‘What CAN’T teenagers do in our church’ – the answer is ‘not a lot’. So rope them in.
  • Love them for who they are – even when they mess up. Because they will, just as we did.

It’s very easy to be critical of teenagers but the ones in our church or family come under the Psalm 78 command to pass on what’s true about God and his loving relationship with us.

I have worked with teenagers for over 50 years and sometimes they drive me crazy. But the overwhelming desire is to see them make sense of their world in a Biblical context. Let’s listen and love and help in any way we can.

Dave Fenton

Dave is a retired clergyman spending his after-work time lecturing at Moorlands College, building relationships and sharing his faith at his local golf club, and escaping to a cliff-top caravan in Cornwall where his seven grandchildren enjoy the local surfing beach.

What has your church done to make its teens more integrated into its life? Please share here or with our Facebook group.

Retired? It’s not just about growing older, it’s more about growing up!

Couple looking over the hill

I imagined the only way my life would change after I moved out of full-time employment would be that I would have extra time freedom to enjoy a more relaxed lifestyle!

And that, meanwhile, my values, beliefs and outlook would keep flowing in the direction they always had. In other words, though my circumstances would change that would not be true of me as a person.

I guess that’s an expectation shared by many. But should it be?

I ask because that’s not the way it’s been for me. Instead, my eyes – and my mind – have been opened to something very different. What I’ve discovered is that life can come in two very distinct phases and best expressed as –

Phase 1 – The earlier years, during which we establish our identity, build a structure of beliefs, education, relationships, career, values and so on. This has been designated as ‘climbing, achieving and performing’.

Phase 2 – The later years, which is when we allow the structures we’ve built in phase 1 to be shaped, changed and filled by new challenges, loss of control, failures, doubts, questions, brokenness, broader horizons.

This description of an upwards and expansive progression perfectly fits my pre and post retirement world.

In short, it’s an acknowledgement that the past – including its tough times – should shape us and equip us to be the kind of people who are useful in a totally different kind of way. By becoming more realistic, more accepting, more sensitive, more relational, more inclusive, more tolerant, more loving, more hopeful, more peace loving, having more time for people.

It is just as well that I made this discovery.

When I came to retirement it took me about 6 months to stop being pretty fed up. My wife’s assessment extends that timescale considerably. But what slowly dawned on me was the extent to which my values had insidiously developed to being mostly about ‘what I was doing’ and ‘how much others valued it – or didn’t’!

This was not what I’d taught others as a pastor and preacher. But it was what I found I’d tended to become and was in direct conflict with those now well-worn words ‘God made us human beings, not human doings’.

But now it’s time for confession. The penny did not totally drop as the result of my own grey matter. If only I were that bright!

Although I had begun to address what was increasingly a tension deep in my soul, the real revelation came from the writings of the Franciscan priest Richard Rohr. They’ve had a radical and refreshing impact on my thinking about life, holistic spirituality, God’s Grace and all things related.

And that’s where the main insight about two stages of life comes from. It’s wrapped up in Rohr’s book ‘Falling Upwards’. Here he encourages us to see there to be an upwards and expansive progression to our life – as set out in the two dimensions I’ve described.

Of course it can be somewhat unnerving to realise that change in our later years can – and perhaps should – involve more than our appearance and energy levels. Yet, rather than feeling threatened at such change, why not embrace it.

After all, isn’t this reflected in the words of St Paul – ‘But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely – Galatians 5v23,24 The Message.

Should it not be, as we travel through life, that we find different, and perhaps more age related values emerging? That we move from rigidity, through structure, and onwards to a more fluid and ever expansive way of doing life? To a maturity which tends towards a much more integrative, inclusive and holistic life. One that’s as generous towards others and ourselves as God is towards us.

So, here I am, in my 70’s, and knowing I can no longer ‘do’ all I did. Indeed, I have deliberately stepped away from a lot of my previous ‘doings’. But there are things I want to be focused on in all the situations I find myself in; and in truth I’m no less ‘busy’ than I ever was….which you’ll understand well I’m sure, especially if you are blessed with grandchildren!

I long to ‘be’ more loving, more joyful, more peaceful, more tolerant, more open to fresh thinking, more expansive in my theology, more gentle, more marked by humility, more disciplined in my ‘retirement’ than ever I was earlier in my career. And because of Gods outrageous grace, I find I can be! Which is fun, and fulfilling despite my well recognised flaws.

My invitation to you is ‘please join me if you are not here already’. And whatever, be blessed in your own journeys of discovery . . . . .

Stuart Pascall

Stuart has been a Christian communicator, trainer, pastor and more since his early career in the motor trade. His focus has been mostly to challenge churches to think creatively outside its ‘boxes’ and to get more involved in the wider community around them. He sees his expanding family as a joy and privilege. He loves classic cars, astronomy, coast walking and supports Man Utd with a renewed enthusiasm.

Next year is like a new country – and these 5 wise ‘travel tips’ are not to be missed.

Going into a new year is a lot like taking a journey to another country. In both cases you don’t know exactly what’s ahead. And there are some wise things to keep in mind to make the very best of it.

So, as you voyage into 2019, here are 5 rather obvious ‘travel tips’ to make the journey as worthwhile as possible.

1.Be realistic about it.

When it comes to holidays, the brochures tend to make it all look far better than the real thing. After all, that’s their job. But we too can wrongly imagine the land of New Year will be significantly different to the one that’s gone before.

In reality, nothing magical happens when the clock strikes midnight on December 31st. There’s no Cinderella in reverse to be experienced. And this is one of the hard truths to learn about travel. That, wherever we go, we take ourselves with us.

If we’re tetchy, ungrateful, easily irritated, and self-centred, that side of us will still be with us as we journey on. A new country won’t fix it and nor will a New Year. Which means the need to take a realistic account of who we are and what we are like – and doing something about it.

2.Check your baggage weight.

I hate that awful moment at airports when the unsmiling check-in person tells me with unwelcome glee that I’m a little overweight. Sure, it’s a relief when I realise this is not personal and is about my luggage.

But what excess baggage might you be taking into the year ahead? Bitterness, hatred, shame, regret, jealousy? Or some other unhelpful emotions that will way us down when we are across the border of 2019?

These are the weights to leave behind – by forgiving others, forgiving yourself, by recognising that God loves us for who we are.

3.Choose the right travel companions.

There’s nothing worse than discovering that someone who’s great for an occasional coffee is a nightmare as a full-on travel companion. So who would we best have at our side in the New Year journey?

Will they enrich your life – and give you opportunities to enrich theirs? Will they speak the kind of truth you need to hear and be open for you to do the same for them? Will their positive outlook spur you on or their negativity drag you down?

Or think of it this way, who are those you can invest time in, celebrate with, and express love and appreciation for? And how can you make sure they are traveling with you and you with them.

4.Check your destination.

There’s the classic story of the airline passenger who ended up in Istanbul when they had bought a ticket to Torquay. (Think about it!) You’ll only have one opportunity to explore 2019 so make sure you get have a ticket for the right destination.

This is where having a few simple but clear goals come in. Not overwhelming ones that, in your heart of hearts, you know you’ll flunk in the first few weeks. But a fresh commitment or two on how to make the most of one more precious year in your afterwork stage of life.

For a little inspiration, here are three possible areas to explore –

Your new possibilities

Your health and fitness

Your service to others

5.Pack wisely.

To be honest, what you take with you may be the least of your worries. That’s because, over the years, you’ve accumulated a storehouse of knowledge, skills, know-how, experience and wisdom. As they say, ‘It’s in the bag’.

In which case, having packed it, don’t keep it all to yourself. You can make the coming year more rewarding for you and others by making sure what you’ve packed is put to good use.

Ahead is a new land waiting to be enjoyed, explored and enriched. Bon voyage.

Jeff Lucas

Jeff is still some way from his afterwork years. His passion is to equip the Church with practical bible teaching, marked by vulnerability and humour. And he does so as an international author, speaker and broadcaster. Check him out at Jeff Lucas.

Warning. Three things not to miss this Christmas.

 

Never mind the Twelve Days of Christmas, beware of the Twelve Daze of Christmas. Because that’s what it can all too easily become.

A blur of advertising messages, busyness, and meeting the expectations of others can swamp us. And ‘it’s all over before you know it.

This can be especially true for those of us who’ve been around long enough to now be active and retired. Automatic pilot kicks in. Been there. Done that. Bought the Christmas jumper.

So here’s a little check list of three things we ought not to miss. Or, to put it another way, here’s some opportunities to grab with both hands.

1.Don’t miss those who are lonely

You’ll be hearing it on the radio and in the shops –that big past Christmas hit –‘Do they know its Christmas time at all?’

One of the most evocative lines of any Christmas number one reminds us that far too many will be adrift from the joy and friendship that’s wrapped up in the Christmas season.

Indeed, Christmas is the time the reality of loneliness can be painfully magnified when, seemingly, everybody else is having the time of their lives.

All of which provokes the question, ‘What small part can you play to reduce the experience of loneliness for just one person?’ The answer will be different for each of us. But can we do something?

For my own family, some of the best times have been when we have had an unexpected visitor with us. Like the Moroccan student who understood little of the meaning of Christmas and was even more confused when we went outside and threw snow at each other.

2.Don’t miss those who are hurting

Christmas has a way of stirring up painful memories for those now missing someone they love. If a bereavement is recent then this is understandable and we’ll be taking account. But it can equally be true for anyone facing a stark reminder that someone dear to them is not round the table.

It takes older and wiser heads to look out for the signs of pain. And a caring heart to come alongside and ‘be there’ for them. Who better than an after-worker – with their eyes and listening ears open – to respond.

However, a loved-one’s absence is not the only possible cause for hurt during the Christmas season. My most poignant Christmas memory was at our Christmas market when a man in a wheelchair said ‘I’m here to buy my wife her last Christmas present I’ll ever buy’. Knowing he was terminally ill, he wanted his wife to have a memory.

We took time to talk and pray with him. And now we see him as a constant reminder of the people to look out for.

Of all the wonders of Christmas, the most important thing for me is the people. And it is surely a time to look beyond the comfort and security of our homes and realise there is still a huge world of need out there.

3.Don’t miss the meaning of the season

This brings me back to my ‘automatic pilot’ concern. Those in the early stages of retirement can often have more responsibilities to distract them rather than less – children, grandchildren and even their parents.

That makes it hard – but even more important – to find some space to reflect. What better way than to wrap our minds round that profound Charles Wesley carol which has a sermon in every line.

Here it comes –to mull on and enjoy for the wonderful truths it carries. I’ve made some suggestions as to thoughts and responses you might have.

Hark the herald angels sing

Glory to the new born king

Worship is due to the son of God

Peace on earth and mercy mild

God and sinners reconciled

Pray for peace and new life for those who do not know Jesus 

Christ by highest heaven adored

Christ the everlasting Lord

Late in time behold him come

Offspring of the virgin’s womb

A brilliant description of the real Jesus

Veiled in flesh the godhead see

Hail the incarnate deity

Jesus is both man and God

Pleased as man with man to dwell

Jesus our Emmanuel

The living Word came and dwelt among us

Mild he lays his glory by

Born that man no more may die

Born to raise the sons of earth

Born to give them second birth

            From glory he came to give us new life in him

Here’s to a happy, caring and Christ-centred Christmas.

Dave Fenton

Dave is a retired clergyman spending his after-work time lecturing at Moorlands College, building relationships and sharing his faith at his local golf club, and escaping to a cliff-top caravan in Cornwall where his seven grandchildren enjoy the local surfing beach.

What way have you found to make Christmas special for others? Please share here or with our Facebook group.

Think the personal pain from abortion is nothing to do with you? Think again.

One in 3 UK women will have had an abortion by the time they are 45 – experiencing the emotional impact that can go with it. But why should this concern those in their after-work years? After all, doesn’t abortion mainly impact those much younger?

If that’s in your mind, please think again.

The 1967 Abortion Act is now 50 years old. This means many now in their later years will have made this choice – and some will be in our churches, possibly including your church. And they may well still be carrying a deep sense of guilt, failure, grief.

Even worse, due to a fear of rejection and being judged, they may never have felt able to tell anyone and so receive the loving care they need.

It’s because of this I have a longing for every church. It’s that they should be where those who’ve faced an abortion or other baby loss, can receive grace and compassionate understanding.

This is why OPEN exists, as an initiative of CARE. It’s also why your own prayerful wisdom could have such a part to play.

Is the post-abortion experience something to mention in church?

Over the years, Christians have spoken out to protect unborn human life and challenge efforts to make abortion law ever more liberal. But this doesn’t mean we should not whole-heartedly support women who’ve had abortions.

Keeping the two in balance is not easy. But, for Christians, both baby and mother matter.

In our churches, some may have come to terms with their abortion experience. They have no need or desire to open up about it. But there may well be others still feeling deeply affected, and who resist being open for fear of the reaction of others.

This means they’re left dealing with the hurt and pain on their own. This can also be the painful experience of women who’ve had a miscarriage or still birth.

I know this to be true.

Almost without fail, when I’m speaking for OPEN in churches, people confide in me of experiences which often have taken place years before. And they tell me how they’ve never spoken about their abortions, especially not in the setting of their church – and how the pain was still very real.

I’ve learned that being open, non-judgemental, and truly caring can have an amazing and transforming impact on those living with the experience of abortion.

For example I think of the woman who said she was ‘free’ for the first time in 30 years. For all that time she’d carried silent grief and pain, and a sense of unworthiness. This burden was lifted when she heard God understood this grief, and he forgives.

Here’s what you can do

With some extra time on your hands and years of wisdom at your disposal, here’s 6 simple but valuable things you can do to support those who have experienced abortion.

  1. Be aware: Start with an understanding that there may well be those in your circle of friends and contacts who are carrying pain from a past experience of either abortion or miscarriage.
  2. Be open: Sensitively include this reality in conversations or in the context of preaching and teaching.
  3. Be alert: Look for signals and be open to caring and affirming conversations with those who might find it helpful.
  4. Be praying: Pray for good conversations with those for whom this might be an issue.
  5. Be proactive: Get the issue on the agenda of your church by having a speaker share how a compassionate response can be made in your church and community.
  6. Be practical: One of the most helpful things you can do is recommend one of the OPEN Healing Retreats.

To learn more, do visit the We Are Open website. It’s a rich resource for you and your church. Or email me at open@care.org.uk

Jenny Baines

Jenny’s background as the mother of a large family, her own miscarriages and being a Pastor’s wife, drew her to respond to the needs of those impacted by pregnancy loss. She’s now a consultant for OPEN, an initiative of CARE, helping churches create an environment where these sensitive issues can be shared with grace and compassionate understanding.

Busier than ever? Here’s all you need to know about saying ‘no’.

An older woman writes a day plan on a calendar. Next to it is a cup of tea. Business concept. Close up.

It’s probably the thing I’ve most heard from those no longer in full-time paid employment – ‘I’ve never been so busy’. But it is seldom said with relish and joy.

What’s going on? Why are so many of us saying ‘yes’ to demands on our time when the opposite is what we really have in mind? And what can we do about it?

Here come my six rules to help you say ‘no’ and the four big reasons why it’s so hard to do so.

Six simple rules to help you say ‘no’

A fresh request for your time or help can come in one of three different ways. So be on the lookout for the ‘ask’ the ‘nag’ and the ‘ambush. The ‘ask’ is simply a ‘please’. The ‘nag’ is a ‘please, please, please’, and the ambush is when you are totally distracted and they sneak it in while off guard.

Parents go through this with their children. It can also happen to us in our adult afterwork life – from family, friends, church and more. Which is why you need to be clear, no matter how the request comes, that –

  1. You have a life to live too: This means you have as much right to say ‘no’ as they have to ask. You are under no obligation. And that even extends to caring for grandchildren. Love them though you do, you did not choose to have them and have every right to make your own decisions about them.
  2. It’s okay to ask for time to think it over. If the delivery of an outright ‘no’ seems too much, take the heat out of the situation. Try a response something like ‘I don’t think that’s going to be possible but let me check and get back to you’.
  3. Offer a trial run. Sometimes a request for a seemingly never-ending commitment can leave you unsure – with a ‘no’ being too definite and a ‘yes’ the same. So, reply along the lines of ‘Can we give it a try for a few weeks and then review it on both our sides?’.
  4. Never fudge. If you know the answer should be ‘no’, have the courage to say so for the sake of all concerned. You don’t have to justify your decision and the more you try to the deeper entrenched you’ll get. All that’s needed is an ‘I’m sorry but much as I’d like to that’s not going to be possible’.
  5. Having said ‘no’, leave the area. When you deliver your answer then either change the subject or move away – fast. The longer the ask is part of the conversation the more confusing it is for both of you and more likely you’ll recant.
  6. Offer a compromise. Perhaps you can’t go the whole hog but could still do something and would wish to do so. Then try ‘Sorry, that’s not possible. But what I could do is . . . . ‘. However, be sure that’s really what you want to do.

Why is it so hard to say ‘no’?

Having read the above you may already be saying ‘if only’ it was that easy. I understand. There are solid reasons why saying ‘no’ can be daunting – and here are some of them.

We fear the reaction of the other person. By saying ‘no’, will the other person like us less or even feel we don’t like them? Will we come over as selfish, thoughtless or unkind? There’s no reason for any of this to be true. Saying ‘no’ is only refusing a request and nothing more.

We wrongly believe our value is in what we do. That could have been how it was in the past – in our workplace, whatever that may have been. And it’s easy to carry such wrong thinking into our new afterwork era.

Much of our busyness – and failure to say ‘no’ – can stem from a subconscious need to feel loved and valued. In the new ‘free-grazing’ world of afterwork this can be even more so. And that can have the outcome of us trying to fill the gaps by saying ‘yes’ too often.

That is why we need to discover a greater confidence we are cherished and appreciated by God and others. This would deliver us from the pressing need to ‘do’ in order to gain approval.

We fail to recognise saying ‘yes’ to ‘this’ means saying ‘no’ to ‘that’. Time does not expand to accommodate each new commitment we make. If only! But it’s a reality we too often deny – like good old King Canute trying to hold back the waves.

Each day remains twenty-four hours long, no matter how many extra promises tumble from our well-meaning lips. Time is one of the most precious resources at our disposal and every new ‘yes’ can mean having to say ‘no’ to something else.

We have not nailed down what we will say ‘yes’ to. Think of it this way – shouldn’t Jesus have been the most overworked person to have walked the planet? So many were in desperate need of what only he could deliver. Yet he never seemed to canter or break out into a sweat.

How come? After all, think of Jesus making his way steadfastly to Jerusalem. It takes little imagination to reconstruct the possible words of his disciples walking the same road. ‘Master, there is a village close by where many need to be healed.’ ‘There is a distraught family, Master, where you could bring such a change.’

Yet Jesus kept going to Jerusalem. How was that possible? Because he knew what he had already said ‘yes’ to. And the clearer we are about our own ‘Jerusalem’ the freer we will be to say ‘no’.

What do you do that helps you say no? Please share it – here and on our Facebook page. We’d love to hear from you.

 

Peter is AfterWorkNet’s Programme Director. He uses his retirement to help churches, resource inter-church initiatives, enjoy his eight grandchildren, escape to Spain and to spend his kids’ inheritance.

Want to get closer to your grandchildren? Try these 5 simple ways.

Grandchildren come in all shapes and sizes. And you want to build the closest possible relationship with them. But how?

Here are 6 simple ways to bridge the gap without sounding like you know it all or come from planet Zog. Try them. You have nothing to lose.

  1. Ask the right questions. We all enjoy talking about ourselves and kids are no exception. But you need to ask questions that go beyond the bland ‘So how’s school?’ to get below the surface.The ‘right questions’ lead to understanding what makes them different and special. And mean they know you’re genuinely interested and care.Do it well and in answer to your questions you’ll discover information about their best friend, their favourite room, their first memory, what frightens them, which children’s tv character they’d like to be, their favourite meal, what makes them happy – and sad, what makes them laugh, what they think they are best at, if they had a shop what they would sell, what’s the best food ever, what superpower they would like, their best joke, and more.Of course, this all involves making time to listen – which is one of the greatest gifts anyone can offer to a person of any age. And such conversations should never be forced or rushed. The child chooses whether to tell you stuff and it may take patience to wait for that privilege.
  2. Listen in depth. Don’t fall into the trap of asking questions and then not truly listening to the answers. That’s the listening equivalent of turning several pages over at once when reading to them!Grandchildren will know you are listening if you repeat back what you have heard them say and then dig a little deeper. Sometimes the very best next question is ‘why’ because it can take the conversation to a deeper level. And be prepared to listen to a lot of chatter that may bore you but enthrals them!
  3. Tell them your story. Getting closer is a two way process. So offer them the opportunity to ask their questions about you. And take the opportunity to delight them by telling then your own story.They’d love to know your own answers to the questions that you asked them; especially tales from your childhood and teenage years. Better still, dig out some very old photographs to bring it all to life.
  4. The role of grandparents is not the same as for parents. That gives us extra leeway to be understanding of their faults and mistakes – though not in a way that undermines the discipline and standards of their parents.What you may be able to contribute from time to time is a story of something from your past that relates to the child’s experience. These times might offer opportunities to talk about the virtues of courage, honesty, forgiveness, creative problem-solving, kindness and hard work.
  5. Believe in them. Praise and encouragement are priceless gifts to any child. It’s good to be positive about what they achieve – but even more so if that reinforces qualities you admire about them.Keep your eyes open for the positive things they do, asking God to make you aware. And then, over time, you can sow seeds and nurture the precious potential that lies within them. Be sure to express this genuine appreciation wherever you can. It will help to build the confidence that is supremely important for children, especially those who lack a strong sense of self-worth or have particular difficulties or disabilities.
  6. Hang on in there. Life has its ups and downs and grandchildren will have their own experiences of that – as will you most probably will in your relationship with them. There may be times when it’s not possible to see each other so often, situations they get into that make you feel anxious, disappointed, let down.But whether all is going swimmingly well or there are tensions don’t give up on your responsibility to be an example of faithful unconditional love – whatever that looks like for each child at every stage of their lives.

And, of course, above all else, pray for them.

For more practical insight on being a grandparent, see the AfterWorkNet webpages at Grand parenting.

What questions have you asked your grandchildren that have opened your eyes and deepened your relationships? Please share them here.

Celia Bowring

Celia isn’t retired yet – although she’s recently changed from being office-based to working from home, so working out her own use of time. Celia writes the CARE Prayer Diary along with many other resources. She also chairs Pray for Schools. And loves being a hands-on grandmother!

Have you joined our Facebook group yet? It’s a great way to share the journey with other after-workers.

Up for a new challenge? How about becoming a Waterway Chaplain?

Life after fulltime work offers countless new opportunities. And if you enjoy the open air and have a gift for helping people, here’s something that may well float your boat.

The UK’s river and canal network is home to a large number of boat-dwellers as well as those who take to the water for fun. And out there – offering friendship, practical support and a listening ear – are Waterway Chaplains.

There’s a great need for many more to join their ranks. That’s because we want every stretch of the UK’s 2,200 or so miles of navigable canals and rivers to have a visible Christian presence.

As Senior Chaplain, it’s my job to make that happen and my vision is, by 2020 , we will have increased our present 70 Waterway Chaplains to 200.

This is a great rewarding opportunity those with time to offer and a heart for people – to extend the love of Christ through pastoral care, friendship and practical support.

What kind of needs are there on the waterways?

Don’t imagine a Waterway Chaplain’s flock is made up of posh, self-sufficient, people with boats. It’s not all P J Wodehouse’s ‘Three Men in a Boat’ – larking about on the river. Yes, there are those using the waterways for fun or seeking an escape to tranquillity in their active retirement. But there are many on limited incomes. They may be there because a boat offers affordable accommodation. With some struggling to get by, often experiencing health and relationship problems.

That’s why I can tell you about people like –

Jim’ – with depression and financial problems. He was helped by a chaplain – over a period of months – to get housing benefit, appeal when his benefits were stopped, and have access to a food bank until he was well enough to return to work.

‘Alex’ – dying of cancer. A chaplain supported him, hosted his American family who came for his funeral and led a service to scatter his ashes attended by about 30 people from the local boating community.

‘Jenny’ – feeling lost and alone. She had a new-born child and a husband who had lost his job. Too far from Citizen’s Advice and with no money for transport or fuel, she needed help. After a chaplain put a card under her door, ‘Jenny’ was helped with their immediate problems with the chaplain staying in touch until they were back on their feet.’

‘Bill – sleeping rough as he journeyed between locations, with thoughts of suicide. He thanked a chaplain for saving his life by being in touch by text as he walked along the towpath.

Dave’ – living on £50 a week. A chaplain help him claim housing benefit and have access to a food bank. When bitten by a dog, the chaplain arranged for his infection to be treated as a temporary patient.

What kind of people are Waterway Chaplains?

Our volunteer chaplains come from local churches and include both lay people and ordained ministers. Some have a background of boating. Others have had no previous experience of inland waterways.

They commit to walking a mile of towpath each week, engaging with boaters, canal workers, anglers, dog-walkers, ramblers and others. Sometimes it will just be a walk – praying as they go. But this regular journey, with a listening ear and a praying heart, may well lead to relationships with those who need to talk or have other needs to be met.

Senior Chaplains provide practical training and mentoring support, including prayer. Each chaplain is given a lock windlass engraved with our key values ‘act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with God’ (Micah 6.8). It’s a scripture that perfectly sums up the role of a Waterway Chaplain.

Could this be a role that you – or someone you know – could take on? Please find out more about this wonderful opportunity to serve others in the name of Jesus at Waterways Chaplaincy.

However, if walking the waterways is not up your street, you’ll find a host of other ways to use your God-given years after work on the AfterWorkNet website page Serving Your Community.

Mark Chester

Mark Chester is a former army officer and a Vicar in Surrey. He’s married to Zillah, who is also a Waterways Chaplain and they have two grown up sons and two grandchildren. To relax Mark rides horses – with more enthusiasm than skill – but not on the towpath.

Me, my mobile and God. Ten (suggested) Commandments for using a mobile

They say our smartphones are more powerful than the massive NASA computers that sent Apollo missions to the moon in the 1970’s.  In the UK, 85 per cent of us use our mobiles daily and some find it hard to resist regularly checking them – apparently every twelve minutes on average  – to text a message, catch up on FaceBook, play music or ask Siri or Alexa for help. Nothing wrong with any of it but let’s keep technology in its place. Particularly as we consider the habits of our children and grandchildren.

Here’s a very practical place to start that thinking! And food for thought for families we know

Ten (suggested) Commandments for using a mobile

  1. Never at a shared meal table. Including breakfast!
  2. Never sneak – under the table; in the loo…
  3. Make sure your privacy settings, especially on Facebook, protect you. It’s incredible how much information about you is out there. It could easily be exploited.
  4. Be secure and take passwords seriously. That means thinking about the process. Try Googling ‘how to set strong passwords’ and note them safely.
  5. Adults need to monitor teenagers’ mobile and other screen use. For those in our care, have a policy on where, when and for what they use their devices. Stick to it. (Katherine Hill’s book ‘Left to their own devices’ published by Care for the Family is excellent on this)
  6. Small children’s use of devices and online experience is in our hands. Parents and others looking after them need to how to limit their use appropriately.
  7. Wherever you find yourself – home, work, church – if you can, speak to someone face-to-face rather than text or call.
  8. Don’t allow your devices to interfere with your concentration. When you have work to do, fun to enjoy, people to spend time with, turn them off and put them out of sight.
  9. Never use when driving. Even on hands-free it’s very easy to be distracted. Silence it – like you do in church – and leave it screen down, in the glove compartment, or on the back seat. And if you need to use your phone, pull off the road safely and stop to do it.
  10. Try taking a mobile-free Sabbath. Perhaps on Sunday, dawn till dusk. Let others know so they don’t get worried because you don’t respond, and enjoy the experience!

How many of these do you agree with? Perhaps you would add to them. We’d love to know!

Do let us know what you think, and visit  AfterWorkNet’s Facebook page to see what others are saying.

If you would like to read in deep you can find Nigel Cameron book here

Celia Bowring
Celia isn’t retired yet – although she’s recently changed from being office-based to working from home, so working out her own use of time. Celia writes the CARE Prayer Diary along with many other resources. She also chairs Pray for Schools. And loves being a hands-on grandmother!

Sex in your 70’s – really? Perhaps, with these 6 things in mind.

Even if we’ve hit a certain age and stage in life, sexual intimacy can still happen for many married couples. It need not be just be something to look back on with a nostalgic smile.

If that sounds like a challenge or even offers some hope, here are six encouragements about having a fulfilling sex life into our seventies… and beyond!

1.It doesn’t have to be like it was.

A woman asked her husband to come upstairs and make love. With a sigh, he replied, ‘Darling these days I can do one or the other, not both!’

Now you’re no longer in the fresh flush of youth and sexual intimacy, think about focusing on gentle affection rather than passion and incredible physical and emotional experience. Romantic words, touching, kissing, and other intimate contact can be fulfilling and rewarding.

2.Physical affection is good for your health

Apparently, an active sex life can increase life expectancy. It’s good exercise, releases endorphins and reduces anxiety. If it involves emotional wellbeing and closeness that’s good too. Touch is very important to our sense of wellbeing and hugs make us all feel better.

3.If one of you used to be keener on sex than the other, have the courage to gently raise this issue

It’s not unusual – perhaps for women more than men – to quite honestly feel relieved if their spouse is winding down on wanting to make love, for one reason or another. But sex in later life could be a whole new departure, maybe less focused on needs and more about appreciation and enjoyment of each other’s love.

4.It’s OK if parts of you no longer work as well as they used to. Enjoying sexual intimacy doesn’t have to include intercourse

Feelings of inadequacy and not believing we’re sexy any more should be thought through and openly shared – with as much humour as possible.  Aging means our bodies change in many ways – both men and women may find physical intimacy and climax a challenge.  Talk about it!

There may be remedies to discomfort and disfunction. Or alternative ways to express your physical love to one another.

5.Making love well ideally starts way before you get to the bedroom

Two songs from the past: The Beatles ‘Will you still need me when I’m 64?’ They thought 64 was impossibly old in those days! And ‘You don’t bring me flowers any more’. Why not? It is such a sure way of making your wife feel good and there are plenty of male equivalents too, if your husband’s not that bothered about flowers. And there will are so many expressions of affection and tenderness whether its simply holding handsor some other gesture to make the one we love feel cherished.

6.There’s loads of confidential, understanding help out there if you need it.

The good news is that there’s ample help available for both men and women who have issues about sexual activity, physical or emotional . Google is often the first resort.

A good GP also knows what can be done about a whole range of difficulties; illness, disability, the effect of medicines, too much alcohol, anxiety over ‘performance’, surgery, low self-esteem and concerns about body image. But the first step is an honest acceptance of need and some equally honest conversations with each other.

In a nutshell

The key to resolving or at least finding a level of intimacy you can both live with is to talk about it – first with each other and if necessary with a qualified counsellor. It can be a difficult subject to broach, even after many years of marriage. But it is nothing like as difficult as living with an increasing sense of distance and even resentment.

Be kind – if things are not the way one of you would like, remember that ‘for better for worse’ line. A little understanding and TLC can go a long way.

Get help if there is a problem in this area. Sex is an important part of marriage and we need to try to understand how our partner is feeling. And there are many couples who have rediscovered a sexual relationship that they assumed was gone forever.

And perhaps the best bit of advice is something that’s relevant whatever age we are and however long we have been married. It is that that love-making starts with expressions of affection a long way from the bedroom.

For more on marriage in your active years of retirement do see AfterWorkNet’s webpages on the subject. Just go here.

Dianne Parsons – Care for the Family

Dianne has been an integral part of Care for the Family’s ministry over many years, alongside husband Rob, and speaking and writing with great empathy for women about marriage and family life.

Do you have something to share on this sensitive subject? Do share it here.

 

It’s time to capture your memories – for you and for others. Here’s 7 great ways to do it.

One thing every retired person has is memories – lots of them. And they are a precious resource to be treasured and passed on.

As David Winter says in his book The Highway Code to Retirement, ‘Without leaving your armchair you can travel back through time, to childhood and schooldays. You can recall old friends and glorious holidays. Relive the excitement of your first love, the amazing miracle of the birth of children, fulfilling spiritual experienced, happy times with loved ones.’

David adds, ‘Sitting there you can capture afresh the laughter of children, the tears of parting, weddings, baptisms, parties, and special moments. And so much more.’

But such memories are not just precious to us, they are important to others too – especially our children and, perhaps even more to our grandchildren. There will be a time when they want to know more about their own past which is, of course, wrapped up in ours.

And part of the privilege of retirement is having the time that’s needed to record all this for others. And it’s not hard.

More than that, if it’s a collaborative process – especially if you have grandkids old enough to be involved – this can be a very enriching project.

So here are some things you could do –

1.Scrapbooks and albums.

 This may be the simplest way forward. Without doubt you’ll have a bunch of old photographs gathering dust. But what about adding copies of birth and marriage certificates, old passports, school records, your Blue Peter badge and anything else you can get your hands on?

Any hobby shop will have what you need to put this all into a collection.

However, be aware that physical photos can fade over time. And there will be only one copy for others to fight over when you are gone.

2.Put it on your computer.

It may be more of a challenge and take longer to put everything into a computer file – with all the scanning and such. But it will mean everyone can share in what you create, at any time, wherever they may be in the world, and for generations to come.

Your old photographs or videos are probably not in the format you need. But slides can be copied digitally if you buy (new, probably £50 to £75) or borrow a slide copier. And those old Super 8 videos can be made into computer files. To find out how, just Google ‘super 8 conversion to digital’.

If this all sounds like a step too far and way beyond your skill-set, here’s a great opportunity to ask grandchildren for help. They are likely to easily take the process in their stride.

3.Record your story.

Sit in front of a microphone and record your memories. A way to involve your children and grandchildren is to have them ask you the questions about the past they’d like to know about.

Or work through a check list like this one –

  • Where you were born
  • What you remember of your parents and grandparents
  • Your first school and what you were good at
  • Your first house, how it was heated, what your bedroom was like
  • Your hobbies when you were young
  • Your parents and relations
  • Your first friends
  • When you were most afraid
  • Your proudest achievement
  • How you met your partner
  • Your first job
  • Your faith journey
  • What’s been important to you
  • What you wish you’d known sooner
  • One piece of advice you would pass on

4.Write an autobiography.

It doesn’t have to get published but it will be a great activity for you and a treasure for those following in your footsteps. Google ‘how to write an autobiography’ and you’ll be surprised how much excellent help is out there for you.

5.Create a blog.

This may seem complex but it’s no more than a journal on the internet that others can access. You’ll find examples at blogger.com.

6.Research and document your family tree.

There are ‘how to do it’ guides that Google can point you to which will show how to access census records and more. There are also ‘you pay for it’ resources like Ancestry.co.uk or free sites like findmypast.co.uk.

7.Dig deeper through your DNA.

For a reasonable price you can send a swab from your mouth and have your ancestors revealed as to which part of the world they came from and be matched with distant relatives alive today.

A final word – be sure to save your memories while you still have them. They are a precious resource for you and those who will one day be as old as you are. And they will thank you for it.

Peter is AfterWorkNet’s Programme Director. He uses his retirement to help churches, resource inter-church initiatives, enjoy his eight grandchildren, escape to Spain and to spend his kids’ inheritance. His DNA ancestor test was very surprising.

Have you an insight on recording your memories of family history? Please share them here or with our Facebook group.

Do something remarkable for others overseas in your retirement – using these 4 key steps. 

Travel may well be among your plans during your years of active retirement. But what about combining it with doing something amazing – for others and for you?

Indeed, there are more opportunities to make a ‘hands-on’ difference overseas than ever before. So if you envy the many young adults doing mission trips, now’s the time for yours.

Interested? Then here’s your 4 key steps to getting it right and probably the adventure of a lifetime.

1.Asses what you have to offer

Making a short-term impact overseas is not all about having the stamina to build a school. Far from it.

During your working life you’ll have gathered skills and experience that, almost certainly, match what is in need – either by doing it yourself or sharing what you know.

To help you identify what you have that would fit, there’s a wide range of assessment tools here.

2.Decide how much time you want to commit

Opportunities overseas often split into –

  • Short-term – less than 3 months: This might be visits with a team, a short placement at a project or alongside a mission worker
  • Medium term – 3-12 months: This includes gap-year type placements or opportunities that fit within a year, like teaching in an international school
  • Long term -1 year +: term: This tends to be for open-ended opportunities. This doesn’t mean staying for a long time but that the commitment isn’t limited and may include a return to the UK every year for a break.

3.Find the best fit for you

Want to serve in a Christian context? Then your first stop would be OSCAR. It’s a specialist clearing house and advice centre with everything you need.

Use their website to –

Search for opportunities that match your criteria. To comply with discrimination laws they can’t specify an age range. So assume they are all open to receiving enquiries from someone actively retired.

Compile a list of possibilities. Even if not everything matches, if there’s something that interests you about the organisation/opportunity, include them too.

Contact those on your list. Tell them about you. They will be able to see if they have something matching what you’re after.

Be open to discovery. You may be surprised to find organisations catching your interest due to something they do or where they work. Keep them in your picture too.

Find something you believe in. If you are investing your time and talents you need to fully believe in what it does and how it does it.

Apply. Eventually you’ll decide which ones to apply to. This process is also a time for helping you select the right one. This isn’t like a normal job application, you are both trying to assess what God may have in mind.

Tap into help. Once you’ve nailed this down, use OSCAR for everything else you need to sort out like travel, insurance, and health checks.

There are also opportunities through non-church sources such as –

  • VSO – with opportunities for those up to 75 and including short-term assignments.
  • HelpX – an online listing of opportunities for short-term work in exchange for food and accommodation. In a typical arrangement a helper works an average of 4 hours per day in exchange for free accommodation and meals.

4.Go as a servant

Don’t go as a rescuer – the hero or heroine ready to end the plight of ‘the poor native’. Rather, go to server those who are the true heroes and heroines– bravely battling against the odds to make life better for themselves and others.

Poor communities need the dignity of deciding and managing their own future – a future in which God is already at work. Joining in is a privilege that calls for humility and a servant attitude.

But what an opportunity and privilege. It could beat a cruise hands down every time. And to explore in more depth see our webpages on serving internationally.

Peter Meadows

Peter is AfterWorkNet’s Programme Director. He uses his retirement to help churches, resource inter-church initiatives, enjoy his eight grandchildren, escape to Spain and to spend his kids’ inheritance.

Do you have any experience – good or bad – about volunteering overseas? Or some wisdom to share? Then do please comment here or on our Facebook.

 

Would a little extra money help your retirement? Here’s 20 simple ideas.

For most people, the end of fulltime work means running a tighter ship where the purse strings are concerned. Which means a little extra income would go down well – to get by, spoil yourself or spoil others.

That’s why you might want to check out ways to add some income to your pension that don’t take you back to fulltime employment. And it’s worth keeping in mind that keeping active is likely to contribute to your health and wellbeing too.

Of course, what you can do depends on your age and state of health. But here are a few ideas to get you going, most of which come from the experience of those known to me.

  1. Delivering the local free paper
  2. Dog walking for those at work all day
  3. Light gardening maintenance
  4. Ironing – friends tell me this is in great demand
  5. Childminding – which will need complying with regulations so check with your council’s Child Care Officer
  6. Shifts at a supermarket or DIY store
  7. Catering for parties and events
  8. Book-keeping and/or tax returns
  9. Home tuition
  10. Music lessons
  11. Secretary to the parish council or local charity
  12. School lunchtime supervisor
  13. Take in a lodger
  14. Make money on eBay – clear your own ‘junk’ or unwanted items or pick them up at car boot sales
  15. Mind pets for those going on holiday
  16. Become a mystery shopper – check out the Mystery Shopper Providers Association
  17. Be a television or movie extra
  18. Teach English as a second language
  19. Be a doula – ladies only of course
  20. Self-publish a book

To explore any of the above just head for Google and search. There’s lots of help out there and also excellent advice from those who are already doing what you are thinking about.

If these seem a bit lightweight to you, you might explore something more demanding. Something like becoming a consultant or mentor, sharing your skills and experience with a new generation or to train as a life coach or counsellor.

You could even start your own online business. There’s lots of good advice out there and the tools to build your own website with automatic order taking and processing.

Remember, if you earn extra income it is likely to have tax implications. So keep not of the money you receive and any expenses involved. Possibly you many need to register as self-employed – to check with HMRC. And the Tax Office can make sure you receive the right tax-free allowance.

David Winter – adapted from his book The Highway Code for Retirement (CWR)

David Winter

David has retired three times from different settings, including as a Parish Priest and as the BBC’s Head of Religious Broadcasting. He was a regular contributor to Radio 4’s ‘Thought for the Day’ for more than 20 years.

Do you have your own experience of adding to your income? Then please share it here or our Facebook group. We’d love to hear from you.

It’s an epidemic it would not cost a penny to solve – loneliness. And you could be the medicine.

I’ve blogged before about the ‘Elinor Rigby’ epidemic of loneliness that’s doing such damage today. It’s the cause of millions of mostly elderly people being deprived of human contact for days on end – leading to poor health, depression and shortened lives.

In the past I’ve focused on the opportunity for churches to respond. But churches are made up of individuals – like you – who could do so much to bring joy and warmth to someone who is lonely.

Who are those in need?

Official UK figures say some 9 million people are lonely. This includes –

  • About half a million people are often going for more than a week without seeing anybody.
  • About 200,000 older people have not spoken to a friend or relative in more than a month.
  • Many of those receiving regular visits from care workers get no more than 15 minutes of their time – with a survey showing 500,000 pensioners received visits so brief that staff didn’t even speak to them.

All it takes is a little of your time

This epidemic would not cost a penny to solve. It just needs the time of those who care – even just an hour a week.

The need is for troops on the ground. Those who care enough and with time enough to each play a part. And those no longer in fulltime employment have a God-given opportunity to step up.

If every ‘retired and active’ person found just one lonely person to visit, the love of Christ could be shared with many who are feeling that life has lost a lot of its meaning.

How to get started? Here are 5 simple ways –

  1. Seek out a lonely person in your street or nearby
  2. Talk to your church leaders about elderly church members in need of visitors
  3. Contact nearby retirement homes, asking if there are those who seldom have visitors
  4. Check with your local services to see what needs you could meet
  5. Contact agencies like Age Concern and offer to visit those known to them

Simple ways to get it right

To make the most of your time that will mean so much to a lonely person here are things to keep in mind –

  • Relationships take time to develop trust and openness. So don’t be surprised if your Initial approaches may be tense and difficult.
  • The person you are visiting may be depressed as this can result from a lack of human contact.
  • No two elderly people are the same. Some may find conversation difficult. Others could talk for England.
  • If they are expecting a visit, make sure you turn up.
  • Get them to tell their story.
  • Don’t expect them to remember every detail of your last conversation – or even your name.
  • Take your grandchildren with you. A recent TV documentary revealed the benefit of elderly people being with children regularly.
  • Be careful about what you offer. An occasional cake is fine but don’t be over-lavish and so create wrong expectations.

There’s something in it for you too 

Our faith is built on relationship to God – and also on relationships with others. It’s easy for our circle to become closed – the faithful who gather with us every Sunday.

Here’s the opportunity to open it out – and be enriched yourself in the process.

For an overview of the loneliness issue please see our web page on The Lonely.

David Fenton

Dave is a retired clergyman spending his after-work time lecturing at Moorlands College, building relationships and sharing his faith at his local golf club, and escaping to a cliff-top caravan in Cornwall where his seven grandchildren enjoy the local surfing beach.

Do you have an experience about visiting someone who is lonely? Do share it here or on our Facebook group.

If only every church did these 6 things for their actively retired members.

Unlike their parents’ generation, today’s retirees are ready for a lot more than pruning the roses. Most have the health, energy and desire to maximise the years ahead. And their church could play a big part in them making the transition and living life to the full.

What could and should be done? Here are the big 6.

1. Realistic expectations

Don’t assume someone no longer in full time work will have lots of hours to spare. Reality can be very different.

Three generations of their family may have expectations and demands on their time – their children, their grandkids and their elderly parents. Rather than being able to contribute a little extra, they may need special care and support.

At the same time, they are likely to have plans for all those things that were impossible until now and they have worked so hard for.

2.  Seeing them as a distinct group within the church

Those ‘retired and active’ are likely to fall between those on one hand who prefer tradition and reflection, and people who enjoy energetic children’s action songs on the other! They are a distinct demographic many having grown up in the faith under the influences of the likes of Spring Harvest, New Wine, Alpha and Christianity Explored.

Almost certainly your church has programmes for children, youth, families, the elderly, and so on. Those in their active after-work years are actually another defined segment.

A great way forward is to put together –

  • A small group responsible for creating and arranging their own programme
  • A simple mission and vision statement about why the aim of such ministry and what the outcome should be
  • A budget line in the church accounts to support it!

3. Offering activities they need

The kind of initiatives that will help actively retired people flourish include:

  • Spending time with their peers socially: This needs to be no more than a few activities that have their focus on learning from each other – a walk, ten-pin bowling, a bike ride, a trip somewhere. And it should look nothing like a programme for the elderly.
  • Addressing relevant issues: Perhaps an event on the issues of stress or loss of status – followed by discussion. Or an annual ‘Heading for Retirement’ evening/day to help equip your people for what’s coming their way.
  • Developing a ‘buddy’ system: For those who want it, a seasoned retiree matched up with a newbie can be a great asset.

4.Don’t use them – develop them

Look for ways to release their experience, wisdom and gifts. This could involve creating a list of the workplace skills of your retirees that could be drawn on.

It also means thinking differently. Instead of first defining a role and then looking for someone to fill it, start by discovering the gifts and abilities waiting to be used and find a role that fits them.

Imagine the benefit of having –

  • A customer service ex-professional improving all the ‘touch points’ your church has with its members and community
  • An of entrepreneur or two thinking outside the box about what could be done with your premises or programmes
  • A market researcher developing an online survey to identify what your members see as their greatest needs
  • A well-read person helping you research facts, stories to enrich your preaching

5. Encourage them to be salt and light

Understandably, for a leader, the priority is likely to be meeting the needs of your church. But Jesus calls us to be ‘salt and light’, and with the present welfare cuts and social needs, there are ample opportunities for involvement.

This may be in the context of your church. Or a wider opportunity that will help to influence your community and cause your retirees to strengthen their faith.

Support and pray for them in whatever ‘salt and light’ role they take up, just as you do missionaries and those with other ministries.

6. Help them reach their peers

It is a well-established church principle that like attracts like. Mostly we think of this in relation to reaching youth but its equally valid for the retired and active generation, in view of their distinct culture, life experiences and present status.

This is an exciting opportunity that more and more churches are waking up to. There’s helpful thinking already in place about reaching the retired and active.

If you’re eager to understand more about the after-work generation, do check out the Church Leaders section on our website.

Do you have ideas or experiences relating to church leaders and the retired and active generation? Please comment here. Or join our FaceBook community and share them.

David Fenton

Dave is a retired clergyman spending his after-work time lecturing at Moorlands College, building relationships and sharing his faith at his local golf club, and escaping to a cliff-top caravan in Cornwall where his seven grandchildren enjoy the local surfing beach.

You could be the listening ear a child needs.

You only need to think back to how books enriched your young life to get an inkling of what a little of your time could do for some children today.

Recent reports suggest many children who lacked an ability to read in their early years end up struggling to keep up with peers in the years that follow. Many just needed someone to listen to them read.

And that’s your opportunity, fuelled by your own delight in the books that shaped your own young live.

Perhaps, as a child, the books that fired your imagination were those like The Selfish Giant by Oscar Wilde, The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis or Stig of the Dump by Clive King.

I know this was true for me – a delight to read and, unbeknown to me, they began to shape my values and were even an early signposts in my search for faith. Not bad for children’s books.

It was Clive King’s his own childhood that inspired him to write Stig of the Dump in 1963. If you are a Baby Boomer like me, you probably remember it’s the story of a boy who falls into a chalk pit at the bottom of his grandparent’s garden and discovers a new friend from the Stone Age.

It’s a reminder of the adventures children used to have, imagined or otherwise, when allowed to roam free in the countryside, discovering bits of ‘this and that’, which could be turned into something enhancing whatever game was being played. I now live in a village but have never seen children playing in the countryside. What’s happened? Have they lost the freedom we once enjoyed?

Imaginations however still need feeding and encouraging. CS Lewis recalls how a miniature garden made by his brother on top of an old biscuit tin evoked an early image of paradise, and how the talking animal stories they invented in the attic at their childhood home became the basis of the Narnia adventures he wrote in later life.

There may not be a children’s book in you waiting to be written, though you never know until you try, but you could be a listening ear to children who need their imaginations stirring.

Could you give the vital gift of being a listening ear to a child – as a number of actively-retired people from my own church are doing and finding it very rewarding? If so, here are the easy steps to take –

  1. Contact the Head Teacher at your local primary school. This could be done through the local church minister or pastor if a few of you are going in, which helps build stronger links with local schools, but it is not essential.
  2. Offer an hour a week, or more if able, to listen to children read.
  3. Go along a meet the Head and find out how to proceed
  4. They should need a Safeguarding Check (DBS) which they can organise.
  5. They will have their own books, but you can offer to take or donate books, though please do check with the school if it is ok with them.

Reading changed my life, and it’s never too late to be an agent of change for someone else.

Chris Harrington

Rev Captain Chris Harrington is a Church Army officer and Rector of Heckington and Helpringham Group of Parishes. He has a special interest in reaching the retired and active generation and author of the Grove Booklet Reaching the Saga Generation.

Once – a Company Director.  Now – supporting a prison chaplain. Steve’s story.

First, I need to come clean. ‘Steve’ is not my real name – which I can’t reveal for reasons of security. It’s a funny world.

As to ‘my story’ I didn’t see it coming. That, in my days after work, I’d be looking to do what I can to support a prison chaplain at a time when we seem to hear about the ever-increasing pressures on prison life almost weekly.

Yet, perhaps I should not have been so surprised.

For a dozen years or so I’d been ‘in prison’ four or five times a year as part of a team helping at chapel services. This was all during my very busy days as Director of a modest-size engineering business.

Then came the time when this period of my life was now coming to an end, with a younger and very able colleague ready to take the reins.

However, I could see it would be a bad idea to completely stop dead. I’d heard of those who had done so and not fared well. More than that, I could see the value of a planned a gradual withdrawal, initially with one or two days off in the week, plus some weekend days that were less crowded. But how should this extra time be spent?

Looking back at what I’d enjoyed and was good at, those occasional visits into some of Her Majesty’s Prisons came to mind. More than that, they had given me an insight into how pressured a prison chaplain’s role can be, and how much value an extra pair of hands would be from time to time.

Because of this I made contact with the chaplain at the prison near me, making the offer to do ‘whatever was needed’.

A few weeks later found me simply helping out in the chapel services – handing out hymn sheets, switching on the lights, plugging in the microphones, praying with a couple of prisoners at the end. A couple of times, when they were short of a musician I stood in on that as well.

It has been fulfilling, rewarding and worthwhile – leaving me with a sense that the more I could offer, the more opportunity I would have to do something really meaningful and appreciated.

And so has come the next possible step. I don’t have to wind down activities – I can step up a gear!

God has used my past to show what I can do in the present to make retirement more fulfilling for me and more valuable to others.

Steve

‘Steve’ has to be anonymous due to security issues relating to HM Prisons.

Do you have a story to share about using your past skills and experience in your after-work years? Do share it here or on our Facebook group.

You could be the listening ear a child needs.

 

You only need to think back to how books enriched your young life to get an inkling of what a little of your time could do for some children today.

Recent reports suggest many children who lacked an ability to read in their early years end up struggling to keep up with peers in the years that follow. Many just needed someone to listen to them read.

And that’s your opportunity, fuelled by your own delight in the books that shaped your own young live.

Perhaps, as a child, the books that fired your imagination were those like The Selfish Giant by Oscar Wilde, The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis or Stig of the Dump by Clive King.

I know this was true for me – a delight to read and, unbeknown to me, they began to shape my values and were even an early signposts in my search for faith. Not bad for children’s books.

It was Clive King’s his own childhood that inspired him to write Stig of the Dump in 1963. If you are a Baby Boomer like me, you probably remember it’s the story of a boy who falls into a chalk pit at the bottom of his grandparent’s garden and discovers a new friend from the Stone Age.

It’s a reminder of the adventures children used to have, imagined or otherwise, when allowed to roam free in the countryside, discovering bits of ‘this and that’, which could be turned into something enhancing whatever game was being played. I now live in a village but have never seen children playing in the countryside. What’s happened? Have they lost the freedom we once enjoyed?

Imaginations however still need feeding and encouraging. CS Lewis recalls how a miniature garden made by his brother on top of an old biscuit tin evoked an early image of paradise, and how the talking animal stories they invented in the attic at their childhood home became the basis of the Narnia adventures he wrote in later life.

There may not be a children’s book in you waiting to be written, though you never know until you try, but you could be a listening ear to children who need their imaginations stirring.

Could you give the vital gift of being a listening ear to a child – as a number of actively-retired people from my own church are doing and finding it very rewarding? If so, here are the easy steps to take –

  1. Contact the Head Teacher at your local primary school. This could be done through the local church minister or pastor if a few of you are going in, which helps build stronger links with local schools, but it is not essential.
  2. Offer an hour a week, or more if able, to listen to children read.
  3. Go along a meet the Head and find out how to proceed
  4. They should need a Safeguarding Check (DBS) which they can organise.
  5. They will have their own books, but you can offer to take or donate books, though please do check with the school if it is ok with them.

Reading changed my life, and it’s never too late to be an agent of change for someone else.

Chris Harrington

Rev Captain Chris Harrington is a Church Army officer and Rector of Heckington and Helpringham Group of Parishes. He has a special interest in reaching the retired and active generation and author of the Grove Booklet Reaching the Saga Generation.

Retired, active and…trapped. For some, life after work is not the Promised Land.

I always thought the move to retirement would be one more happy transition on life’s journey. Pastures new would offer freedom to travel, indulge the grandchildren and, in every way, enjoy a new phase of life.

If only!

Now I’m wondering how many others are feeling trapped rather than released; burdened rather than freed. Because, for my wife and I, instead of enjoying a world of choice we are faced with life-restricting and choice-robbing limitations – at least for the time being.

I’ve discovered I’m one of the many who, far from being free to ‘make plans’, has a responsibility for four generations.

First there’s the responsibility to meet our own needs.

After many years of self-employment and, to be honest, insufficient preparation for the financial side of retirement, clocking off at 65 was not a realistic option. On the positive side, I love what I do but the need for additional income means a significant limit on choices.

Then there’s the responsibility of our three adult children. Though they are well and truly adults, that doesn’t end the parent child relationship and concern to care for them. And like many of their peers, the road has been much harder for them than it was for us at their age.

Our elder daughter has chosen to invest her time raising her son during his pre-school days rather than return to work. That means she and her husband are in no position to buy a home and do not have a car. As a result, we are needed and help where we can.

Our son, due to the shortage of affordable accommodation, lives with us. As a shift-worker he sometimes sleeps in the day or evening, so limiting our opportunities to offer hospitality.

Then there’s the responsibility for our grandchildren – a delight of course. I just love being involved in their lives. But there’s more to it than that.

Our younger daughter and husband live near us but their jobs are at a distance with an early start. For the past year our granddaughter has been dropped off at 6.30 am each weekday so we can take her to school.

Then there’s the responsibility for my parents, now in their nineties. Having supported us through each phase of our lives, they are increasingly dependent on us.

Mum, diagnosed with Alzheimer’s several years ago, now has little capacity to remember events of even ten minutes ago though has strong memories of her Welsh childhood.

Dad, diagnosed with cancer a couple of years ago, also has a condition requiring regular blood transfusions. My sister and I take turns sitting with Mum while Dad is taken to hospital for his treatment. Neither Mum nor Dad are now very mobile.

Because of their age and lack of family living close by, Mum and Dad have almost no social circle – making frequent visits vital.

And then there is the responsibility for emergencies.

Recently Dad phoned in desperation. The fridge freezer had broken down – they had no food. I drove the four hour round-trip to take basic groceries, picking up a hot meal on the way and have been with them almost daily ever since.

On a recent visit I found an ambulance outside their home. Mum had fallen getting out of bed. Dad lacked the strength to help her up. He called an ambulance but the paramedics could not get into the house as my dad is profoundly deaf and did not hear the doorbell. He’d even accidentally left the phone off the hook so they could not phone him.

Putting it all together – and knowing I’m not alone in this – I’m finding retirement to be far from the ‘Promised Land’ I’d anticipated.

It leaves me asking how a church could and should support those in similar situations. Those like us, seeming to be coping on the outside and presumed to be enjoying their new freedom. But, in reality, retired, active and trapped.

Our own experience of church in this respect has been largely positive. But are churches in general and their leaders always aware? Do they factor this into their pastoral care? Do they recognise the need for practical support? Do they help those in similar situations ‘find each other’ for mutual support and to compare notes?

More than that, how do they help those of retirement age balance their desire to remain active in the church with the often unseen tensions of family and finance?

We are all living at a time when life expectancy is increasing and support from Social Services and the NHS is stretched to the limit. A time when there are unprecedented pressures on successive generations.

This is surely a time for churches to reach out with support for those of retirement age doing their best to hold it all together.

Chris Gander

Chris Gander is a freelance graphic designer, married to Mary, with three adult children and two grandchildren. He’s a keen photographer and an occasional blogger at Sauceforthegander.

Don’t let retirement scupper your marriage – the 3 top tips for staying afloat.

It’s a massive step to move from hardly seeing each other most daytimes to now being under each other’s feet.

Indeed, legions of women – please forgive the stereotype – have been known to mutter between clenched teeth ‘Is he never going out?!!’

That may not be the whole story behind the growing divorce rate among the over 65s. But the very existence of such a trend indicates the challenge retirement can bring to a marriage.

That means, when it comes to your own experience of retirement, you dare not be blind to its impact on others. Which is especially true of your life partner.

This is no time for a solo voyage, oblivious to the way your new role may be creating waves for our most significant ‘other’.

As the saying goes, ‘no man – or woman – is an island’. Our lives are entwined. That’s why those closest to you will have expectations, like – ‘she’ll have more time to spend with me’. And fears – ‘he’ll be under my feet all day’.

With so much at stake, here are 3 top tips to help you sail rather than sink.

1. Talk it through!

Some couples find situations like this – when major change is involved – fairly easy to work out. Meanwhile, others only get there after an explosion of built-up frustration.

Whichever it may be for you in your relationship, a planned ‘let’s talk this through’ session – perhaps over a meal – is where to start.

On the agenda would be items like –

Smaller stuff:

  • How are changes in my life going to impact you?
  • What hopes do you have for us when/now I’m retired?
  • What concerns do you have – and what would you like me to do about them?
  • What might we now be able to do together that we couldn’t before?
  • How best can we both find our space, how much time do we want to be apart?
  • Which household chores and responsibilities should now be reassigned?

Big stuff:

  • How best can we look out for each other?
  • What new adventures/experiences could we share?
  • What should be on our bucket list?

2. Give each other space

The biggest issue to impact your relationship is likely to be the ‘getting under each other’s feet’ one. When something like 200 days a year of being apart comes to a sudden or even a gradual end, readjustment can be a challenge.

Of course, what the Bible says is true; ‘It is not good for a man or woman to be alone’. But that’s not meant to be every waking moment.

Because of this it would be wise to:

  • Work at developing and enjoying your own individual interests and friendships as well as those you share. Having your own identity is good for you both and will enrich your marriage.
  • Establish separate spaces for each of you at home. There is great wisdom in having the equivalent of a man-shed – for both of you. This can be for anything from hobbies to TV watching.

3. Maintain communication

You may well find your retirement impacts you in unexpected ways. There may be the emotional issues linked to stress or your loss of status having left the workplace behind. For more see our website under Stress and Loss of Status.

When our emotions are hit, the temptation is to bottle it all up – especially for man. But that can then have an impact on your partner.

These things can be hard to talk about or even own up to. But your other half deserves to know what’s going on and have the opportunity to love and support you through it.

So honest conversation is vital for a safe and enjoyable voyage into the future.

Dianne Parsons – Care for the Family

Dianne has been an integral part of Care for the Family’s ministry over many years, alongside husband Rob, and speaking and writing with great empathy for women about marriage and family life.

Have you found a way to enrich your marriage in retirement? Do share it by joining our Facebook group and signing up for our inspiring blog  

Once – in the oil industry. Now – running Alpha for retired people. Chris’s story.

It started with a simple prayer, ‘Lord, what do you want me to do?’ Where it ended has taken me completely by surprise.

Several months before that simple prayer my paid employment had ended.

I’d been CEO of two London-based, jointly administered, charities. Before that, a bursar – looking after the business side of a school. Before that, had been many years in the oil industry.

The first months of after-work saw me catching up with jobs around the house and garden, visiting family and going to places of interest with my wife Linda. But I knew retirement had to be about more than ‘me’.

That was the reason for the prayer. And God answered – within a week. Doing so through the Vicar of my Egham, Surrey, church who said ‘Chris we have been praying and we want you and Linda to run an Alpha course for retired people’.

Though never having been on an Alpha course, I realised my past business and church experience made leading one something I could do. More importantly, this seemed to be something God wanted me to do.

Of the team I pulled together, almost half were also in retirement’s early and active years – as were about half of the 20 who attended.

What surprised me was not just how many retired people wanted to attend. It was also the number of questions and issues people raised. Some were wanting to know what Christianity was all about. Others admitted their faith had grown cold and needed to re-examine the basics.

All this proved something very important to be true. That God could wonderfully use my experience from the past in my new era of life.

This past experience had included selecting the right people for a job, building teams, planning events and a lot public speaking. My church life had involved leading Bible Studies and some preaching. And the Alpha course brought all this into play.

Indeed, this has proved to be one of my life’s most fulfilling and rewarding experiences. It was truly amazing to see God changing lives, watch faith being rejuvenated and see people’s questions answered.

Equally wonderful was what this meant for those at the same stage of life as me and serving as discussion group leaders and helpers. They too had the awesome experience of seeing God at work.

When the request came for the team to run a second course, our ‘yes’ was without hesitation. We called it Daytime Alpha – making it available to anyone free during the day.

Again, we saw people coming to faith and others whose faith came alive again.

In particular, I think of John and Joyce. This lovely couple in their late 60’s were steadily moving through retirement with no live relationship with Jesus. And their daughter had long been praying for them.

God opened their spiritual eyes and their lives were transformed. Soon after they moved to the South Coast and now have their own ministry among retired people in their new church.

This is how, in the first year of my retirement, I discovered what great blessings God gives us when we make available the past experience and abilities he has placed in our hands.

That is also the way it has continued and – ‘please Lord’ – may it do so for many years to come.

Chris Matthews

For more on using your own workplace skills and experience in your retirement visit our web page – Serving

And to share your own experience join our Facebook group. We’d love to hear from you.

 

Since when did the end of paid work mean the end of being salt and light?

Please forgive me for being blunt. But I’ve seen it far too often. Paid work comes to an end and people put their discipleship feet up as well.

In which case, please let me ask you a simple question.

Now you are in your ‘after-work’ days, how are you doing in response to Jesus’ expectation for you to be the ‘salt and light’ this world desperately needs?

Because that’s what Jesus told his followers they were to be – ‘salt and light’. And he did not add ‘until you get your P45’. So, on a scale of 1 to 10, how salty are you being in your new era? And how bright is your light shining?

Come on, honestly! These next years are a precious gift from God to you. How are you going to invest them – especially in view of what Jesus said to his first followers? One Bible translation expresses his words like this:

‘You are to be light, bringing out the God-colours in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. It shines out with hope’. The Message.

This is not a suggestion, but a firm and clear expectation. Of course it’s ok to enjoy well-earned relaxation and new experiences after a lifetime of work. But it’s not ok to also lose our flavour or hide our lamp in the process.

In fact, with full-time work behind us, there are even more opportunities to flavour the lives of others and hold up a light that shows the way. And so to make a Christian difference in our family, our church and our community.

What being ‘salt and light’ looks like

Salt: This little white stuff not only adds flavour to food but has great properties of healing and preserving. In the same way, Jesus says, our lives should enrich those around us and makes life better and more wholesome.

Light: We take light for granted – it’s always there when we need it. But in Jesus’ day powered by oil lamps rather than electricity they depended on a cluster of lights from houses on a hill to point travellers to where they could find shelter, safety and hospitality.

This is what God calls us to be – at every stage of life. It means taking the salt out of the packet and putting the light where it is needed. But how? Here are three simple ways to intentionally be salt and light.

1.By being: In the same way salt imparts seasoning, we are to enrich those around us by the way we live. By ‘being there’ and living Jesus’ way, we can humbly help people to see a better way to live.

2.By speaking: There will be occasions when living right is not enough and words are needed. Ideally in answer to questions provoked by the quality of the life we are trying to lead. At other times, our voice will be one of wisdom, or love, or compassion.

3.By serving: Jesus’ words could not be clearer –being salt and light involves action so that our ‘deeds shine out for all to see, so everyone will praise your heavenly Father’.

This offers those of us who are retired and active an inexhaustible set of opportunities. Some will be in our day-to-day lives. Others will mean taking decisive action. This might be through –

Your church – from being a Street Pastor to helping at a food bank. From offering debt counselling to assisting with a night shelter during the winter. For lots of ideas see our web page Your Church.

Your community – from volunteering in a local charity shop to being a local counsellor. From visiting those who are lonely to buddying with an adult with learning disabilities. For lots of ideas see our web page Your Community.

Overseas – from short-term volunteering to raising funds for those in need. From praying for a missionary, to sending out home comforts to enjoy. And more. For lots of ideas see our web page Internationally.

Far from it being ‘game over’ when retirement comes, it should be ‘game on’. The opportunities to live as Jesus had in mind are endless – and far too good to miss.

Dave Fenton

Dave is a retired clergyman spending his after-work time lecturing at Moorlands College, building relationships and sharing his faith at his local golf club, and escaping to a cliff-top caravan in Cornwall where his seven grandchildren enjoy the local surfing beach.

Do you have something to say about Salt and Light? Then do please add your comment. We’d love to hear from you.

Please share this blog. It’s so easy.

Probably the only book about retirement you’ll ever need to read.

Is the end of full-time work heading your way? Or are you already there – and wondering what kind of fist you are making of your new ‘freedom’.

Either way, there’s the perfect book to help you. An uplifting, positive and practical guide that’s right on the mark. An absolute gem.

Do you remember when you started to drive, all those years ago, and how important the Highway Code was? Well now, as you navigate the highways of life after fulltime work, there’s the equivalent.

It’s David Winter’s ‘The Highway Code for Retirement’. And there should be no surprise this book is so practical and easy to read.

First, it comes from someone who has retired three times, from different settings. So he knows a thing or three about what’s involved – including from his own mistakes on the way.

Added to that, the author is a first class and seasoned communicator. David was a regular contributor to Radio 4’s ‘Thought for the Day’ for more than 20 years.

At the heart of the book is a piece of good advice. ‘Retirement is something that is better planned for and looked forward to than an event that suddenly overtakes. Like adolescence, marriage, the arrival of children and grandchildren, and getting older, it’s simply a part of life for most people’.

With that in mind, David encourages a positive view of the future. And offers inspiration including that –

  • John Glenn flew into space aged 77
  • Winston Churchill was a war-time Prime Minister at 66
  • Mother Theresa was still leading her work among the poor in Calcutta at 68
  • Michelangelo was still designing churches at 88

Then it’s on to practical help that can lead to being better prepared for retirement financially, emotionally and spiritually. With content on Planning for Retirement, Making the transition, The impact on others, How to find extra income, Should you move home and more. Plus some case histories to add the cherry on top.

Throughout, the book is shaped by David’s own Christian perspective. And neatly summed up in his reference from the Psalms: ‘They will bear fruit in their old age, they will stay fresh and green, proclaiming: “The Lord is upright, he is my Rock, and there is no wickedness in him”’. Psalm 92.14-15.

For an example of the charm and insights this book offers, try this for size –

The Ten Commandments for Growing Older Gracefully

  1. Face facts – your birth certificate doesn’t lie
  2. Be your age , not someone else’s
  3. Slow down but not too much
  4. Take regular exercise – minimum 30 minutes a day
  5. Try to do a word-based puzzle, like a crossword, every day
  6. Cultivate friends of all ages, including younger ones
  7. Live positively
  8. Consider the spiritual aspects of growing older: explore issues of faith if you never have
  9. Come to terms with the present – and the future
  10. Be grateful: count your blessings – your life is a precious gift

If you know someone heading for the end of their working days this is the ideal gift. Better still, buy two so there’s one for you.

The Highway Code for Retirement’ (CWR) by David Winter £6.99

Peter Meadows

Peter is AfterWorkNet’s Programme Director. He uses his retirement to help churches, resource inter-church initiatives, enjoy his eight grandchildren, escape to Spain and to spend his kids’ inheritance.

Want to make the most of your extra after-work years? Then do explore our website and join our Facebook group. We’d love to hear from you.

5 Encouragements to finish well spiritually

The aspirations of those competing in the World Cup and Wimbledon are fresh in my mind. All those hours of gruelling preparation put to the test. The aspirations of those competing in the World Cup and Wimbledon are fresh in my mind. All those hours of gruelling preparation put to the test.

As we cheer on athletes and competitors like them, what of our own aspirations to finish the race of faith well?

What will it take for us to receive the trophy of God’s ‘Well done!’ at the end of life’s tournament? Here are 5 encouragements to take you on your way.

1. Don’t quite the race 

There’s a certain temptation to regard the afterwork years as more of a time to hang up your spiritual tennis shoes than lace them back up. Or, in cycling terms, to coast downhill rather than keep pushing the peddles.

Yet our after-work stage of life has plenty going for it when it comes to becoming more like Jesus. Of course you’ll hopefully have the time for a whole host of activities. But the encouragement to ‘Seek first the kingdom of heaven’ still holds as we get older.

2. Remember the winners of the past

We must never forget we’re part of God’s ageless kingdom. Those who have gone before us and finished well – the should be an encouragement for us to do the same.

Thankfully it’s not all down to us – because the Holy Spirit equips and empowers us when we ask. But it takes our own commitment to stick at the Christian life with the finishing line in sight.

‘Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we’d better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in.’ Hebrews 12;1 The Message

3. Finish well

It’s a sad day when we hear of someone who’s followed Jesus all their lives letting it all slip at the end. And we are all at risk here.

We may not fall to one of the big 3 – money, sex and power. But there’s also the more subtle traps of resentment, envy, laziness, indifference and self-indulgence and the like.

The Apostle Paul urges us; ‘being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.’ Philippians 1: 6.  God won’t fail us but the trials of later life might make it a struggle for us not to fail him.

So ‘be wise and watchful and’ keep on keeping on’.

4. Please the coach

Top seeds, with a tennis racquet in hand, love just to bask in the cheers of the crowd. But they are wise to which of the spectators matter the most. It’s their coach.

In the same way, it is natural to seek the approval of family and friends for the way we do life. But no one matters more than our Great Coach and his approval. So keep the words from Hebrews 13 v 16 in mind – – ‘Do not forget to do good and to share with others, for with such sacrifices God is pleased.’

5. Keep your eye on the prize

It’s an epic Wimbledon moment when, with all the ball girls and boys lined up, the Duke of Kent shakes the winners’ hands and presents their trophies – along with a nice fat cheque.

There’s a day coming for all of us who have followed Jesus when something very similar happens in the courts of heaven. You might picture it as a great stadium with angels doing the Mexican Wave as you receive your victory crown and hear the ‘well done’.

The Apostle Paul had a similar picture in mind, taken from the athletic events of his day when he said, ‘athletes exercise self-control in all things; they do it to receive a perishable garland, but we an imperishable one’.1 Corinthians 9.25.

That’s right. We press on because our reward will never fade – or be stolen or sold on eBay. The race we run has a prize that is for ever. So keep on running.

A certain Mr MacEnroe – turning 60 soon – once yelled at the umpire ‘You can’t be serious!’ But we can be serioius – and should be serious – about running the spiritual race and finishing well. Let’s do it.

 

Celia Bowring

Celia isn’t retired yet – although she’s recently changed from being office-based to working from home, so working out her own use of time. Celia writes the CARE Prayer Diary along with many other resources. She also chairs Pray for Schools. And loves being a hands-on grandmother!

Have you joined our Facebook group yet? It’s a great way to share the journey with other after-workers.

Retirement is no longer ‘one-size-fits-all’. Of its 4 categories, which is you?

A generation ago, life after work was much the same for everyone. Job done. Perhaps a gold watch to mark the moment. But with little ahead other than a few years in God’s waiting room.

But how that has changed.

Today’s baby boomers meet retirement with perhaps 20 – or even 30 – years of life ahead. And, most likely, are in better health and with more money to spend than their parents’ generation could have dreamed of.

Unlike in the past, today there’s a lot of active years to make the most of. Research points to this longer, healthier and more affluent era as involving 4 distinct categories – according to American author and retirement specialist Cathy Severson.

These categories have been defined as –

The Clueless. They are the ones who have done the least planning for their big life change and make up towards half of those no longer in fulltime work. They are often bored with their free time choices, can experience loneliness, depression and feelings of being disconnected from those around them.

The Aimless They are still looking for a sense of satisfaction in retirement and make up about 1 in 5 of retirees. They express feeling neither positive nor negative about their new stage in life. But, like the Clueless, gave little thought as to what it might offer and are now trying to figure it out while in the midst of living it out.

The same research revealed less than 1 in 5 had made plans for hobbies post-work. And only 1 in 3 had worked out how much money they would be needing.

The Directionless. They are happy to adjust to a more relaxed and, hopefully, less stressed lifestyle – and make up about 1 in 5 of retirees. But their agenda has no place for learning or experiencing new things, finding meaningful part-time work either paid or voluntary.

Content to potter around home and engage with family and friends, they lack any great aspirations. But at least, as a result, don’t experience much  disappointment.

The Motivated Redirected are at the other end of the spectrum, having prepared for retirement both by way of their plans and how they can fund them. Surprisingly, they make up only 1 in 5 of those coming to retirement.

For them, this new period is one with fresh challenges, adventure and personal fulfilment. They are engaged in meaningful work that may be paid, or unpaid with challenging hobbies, or other leisure activities.

For them, there’s no ‘keeping busy’ for the sake of it or just letting their new diary space get swallowed up.

What separates the Clueless, Aimless and Motivated Redirected, points out Cathy Severson, is the time taken to think about the future and plan for the life you want.

So why does it seem so few plan ahead and think things through, including those who should be seeing these years as a gift from God – to be richly enjoyed and wisely invested?

Why? Let me suggest two possible reasons –

Our parents didn’t need to do this kind of planning and thinking because their options were so few. As a result, we’ve had no role models and no wise parents who had travelled this way and could help us do the same.

In the main, churches fail to see this as an issue. As a result they lack plans and programmes to help those who are approaching retirement get ready for new adventures and to seize new opportunities for service.

That being the case, each of us who is heading for retirement – or are already there – needs to take responsibility ourselves. This is not the time to be among the Clueless, the Aimless or the Directionless. After all, life after work is not a rehearsal but the real thing. We’ll only get to do it once.

Peter Meadows

Peter is AfterWorkNet’s Programme Director. He uses his retirement to help churches, resource inter-church initiatives, enjoy his eight grandchildren, escape to Spain and spend his kids’ inheritance.

For more wisdom, ideas, and resources for your ‘after-work life go to afterwork.com

10 great ways to achieve great grand-parenting

 

There’s something wonderful about being a grandparent. But, just like parenting, there’s a shortage of wisdom on how to do it right.

So let me share with you some wisdom from Rob Parsons’ brilliant book ‘The Sixty Minute Grandparent’. It includes 10 great insights on making grand-parenting a success.

But first, some context. Being a grandparent today can be tougher than for our parents’ generation. Our kids tend to have their off-springs later in life than we did. So we are older when the grandchildren are younger.

That can be a challenge to energy levels as well as finding the knack of constraining a wriggly infant in a car seat. Or working out how to collapse a baby buggy that needs a degree in engineering to do so.

You may also be one of the so-called ‘sandwich generation’. At one and the same time, committed to caring for your own elderly parents, supporting your ‘adult’ children and seeking to be a hands-on grandparent. It’s a challenge few in past generations had to face.

The world has changed too. When I was little my 70-year-old granny sang me Scottish folk songs and we played Snap together. Today, the average grandparent has to cope with the mysteries of the virtual world as well as being looked to for practical support by a working mother.

In fact, 1 in 3 UK families depend on grandparents for a degree of childcare. This can be both a blessing and a stress-inducing burden. It’s no joke looking after a toddler who wanders from one accident prone zone to the next. And with, everything needing to be done as the parents say, not how you used to do it.

So what about some wisdom to see you through? Here comes those 10 suggestions, thanks to Rob Parsons. The thinking is his but some of the words are also mine.

  1.  Try not to interfere with or criticise your children’s parenting. No matter how you would choose to do things, affirm and encourage. Because that’s what they need most.
  2. When they are old enough, find ways to connect them to the past. Help them to know ‘where they came from’ by telling them about their family and its history. Hang on to old photos and other reminders and share them.
  3.  Develop traditions – activities, things and events they associate with you that happen on your watch. It might be a special game, an ‘in’ joke, a regular surprise, or something else.
  4. Make sure they know your love for them is without conditions. That they cannot earn your love or lose it. Tell them and show them – often..
  5. If asked to help with childcare don’t feel compelled to rush into a long term regular commitment. Just because our offspring has chosen to have offspring of their own doesn’t make you obliged, and sometime not everything is possible. So set a date to review the situation – how it’s working for all parties.
  6. Agree a joint policy on bedtimes, rules for TV, iPads and sweets etc. And confirm them in earshot of the grandchild to save the ‘but Mummy says’ ambush. Bute reserving the right to have your special rules when the grandchildren are in your house.
  7. Keep your eyes open for little ears. They hear more than you can ever believe. And, especially, never speak negatively about their parents in children’s hearing.
  8. If you live at a distance Skype and WhatsApp are wonderful things to keep in touch and abreast with news.
  9. Praise them for their qualities and not their looks. In our image conscious world they don’t need more reinforcement that the way they look matters the most.
  10. If you have more than one, look for opportunities to spend time with them as individuals. Their own special time with Grandma or Grandad can be more special to them than you imagine.

For of course, in no time at all these ‘little ones’ will grow and present a whole new set of needs and pleasures as teens and beyond into adulthood. Meanwhile, we can add your prayers and the example of your life. And enjoy.

For more insights on you and your grandkids, see our website on Grand-parenting. And if you have thoughts of your own, do please share them on our Facebook.

Celia Bowring

Celia isn’t retired yet – although she’s recently changed from being office-based to working from home, so working out her own use of time. Celia writes the CARE Prayer Diary along with many other resources. She also chairs Pray for Schools. And loves being a hands-on grandmother!

 

The 6 signs you need help with your hearing – and what to do

It may be that those nearest and dearest to you have started to mumble. Or, more realistically if you are saying ‘pardon’ more often, that your hearing has taken a down-turn with age.

Indeed, it’s not only your body can start to show signs of wear and tear, It can also happen to your hearing. In fact, that’s true for most people by the time they reach 70 – even if their hearing has been pin-sharp in the past.

What can especially go missing is the ability to hear high-pitched sounds such as whistles, most bird song and some speech sounds.

How can you know if this is true of you? There are 6 simple signs that point the way.

  1. You need the television or car radio volume on a louder level than other people than those you are with
  2. You miss that the sound of your car indicator is still on – though may be able to hear loud and clear the honking of those letting you know.
  3. You are saying ‘what?’ or ‘pardon’ more often – or trying to guess what people say
  4. Have you missed callers at the front door and it’s not just a delivery driver who’s dumped a package and scooted off
  5. You notice that other people are starting to mumble – or, at least, that’s how it seems
  6. It’s hard to hear conversation when there’s a lot of background noise or when you are with a group of people?

If any of these apply to you, it’s very likely you’ve reached the point of needing some help with your hearing.

And the good news is that there’s lots of help at hand.

Devices to help you hear better, or to alert you to sounds you might otherwise miss include:

  • Hearing aids, TV listeners, phone amplifiers,
  • Alerting devices for the doorbell, alarm clock, smoke alarm, phone

Hearing aids don’t give you perfect hearing but you will almost certainly benefit from them. And they are provided free on the NHS and can also be bought privately.

My advice is to try the NHS hearing aids first, as privately bought ones are expensive and NHS aids are suitable for most types of hearing loss.

It’s much easier to get used to a hearing aid when you first discover that you have a hearing loss, so don’t wait until you’re struggling.

Other devices such as TV listeners and alerting equipment may be supplied by your local Social Services. In addition, all these devices can be purchased from suppliers of equipment for people with hearing needs.

If things are serious, consider a lip reading class. Here you will meet others who also have a hearing loss, as well as learning strategies to help you in social situations.

Special opportunities for service

If your hearing loss is significant, you are ideally placed to serve others in the same situation. Because deafness is invisible it is a largely misunderstood disability. Many deaf people feel isolated and upset that nobody seems to understand why they are retreating from social situations.

You can offer:

  • Advice on how to get the most from their hearing aid and other devices
  • Encouragement to return to social situations and relieve isolation
  • Prayer and understanding of the challenges of hearing loss

Where to find fellowship

A great resource for Christians with hearing loss is Open Ears – an organisation specifically for those who have hearing loss.

Open Ears runs a weekend or short holiday event every year which has full communication support. They also produce Hearing Eye, a quarterly magazine written by and for people with hearing loss. And membership is free.

Marylin Kilsby

Marylin Kilsby is severely to profoundly deaf and Chair of Open Ears. She’s a keen musician, playing clarinet and recorder in local groups. And is part of her church’s deaf group.

If retirement today was a foreign country, it would be one no previous generation had ever visited.

Our parent’s generation would hardly believe what life after work offers today. Because, between then and now, it has changed so dramatically.

For a start, would your mum have shopped for the latest fashion, joined an aerobics class or had a ‘night out with the girls’? Would your dad, in his 60s, have jogged, gone to a music festival, or made plans for international travel?

Come retirement, would either have been anticipating fresh discoveries, challenges and experiences? A wider world beyond work and family?

The answer to these questions is almost certainly ‘no’. Because in just one generation, when paid work comes to an end, there have been incredible changes to how we live and how we approach things.

Wrap your mind round this:

Health and expectations: For most of us, our parents were already feeling old, and classed as old, by the time their pension beckoned. Not only old in body but old in mind-set too. After all, why have a bucket list if your knees are gone, your pension is minimal and the clock is ticking fast?

Yet in only a generation, 65 has become the new 55. And 70 the new 60. Even though we are now retiring several years later, we are still younger in mind, body and outlook.

Social conditioning: Unlike us, our parents’ generation lived through World War 2 and may well have fought in it. Their three score years and ten were mostly about survival. About having enough income to pay the rent or mortgage and put food on the table. About ‘getting by’.

Unlike us, many lived, worked and died in the town where they were born. For some it was even the same house. To travel far was rare. To travel often, even rarer.

Unlike us, education was all about listening, obeying, writing and remembering. While ours tended to be about discovering, questioning, reasoning and enquiring.

Unlike us, work was mostly graft and the long haul. Often with one trade, and even one employer, for the whole of a working life. While, for us, our working life may have been one of change and development.

Cultural influences: Unlike our parents, we – the ‘baby boomer’ generation – were the first to be raised with television in the home, a source of constant entertainment, fun, possibilities and a window on a different world.

Unlike our parents, for us the economy boomed and so did our opportunities in a world of growing change and choice. In great contrast, they had lived through post-war austerity and high levels of unemployment. Eating out? Forget it. Just be sure to eat everything that’s put on your plate.

Our generation were the rule breakers, the innovators and the protesters – be it The Beatles, Jasper Conran or Ban the Bomb. The sedate tea dance became the free-form disco. The three piece suit became smart casual or jeans and tee shirts.

We experienced a land of new opportunities. This included something called ‘leisure’ – time for ourselves. And travel – to places our parents had never gone and for longer than they would ever believe possible.

It is these life experiences that have shaped our retirement expectations. What else should we expect other than even more years of change, choice, experiences, and prospects?

We are privileged to have opportunities undreamed of in the past. And with privilege comes responsibility. First, we should never take for granted what we now have in view of the price paid by so many in the past to make it so.

Second, we should face the challenge to make the most of it. That will mean something different for each one of us. But it must mean something.

And if you’d like a simple rough guide to this new country that few have visited before you, do check out AfterWorkNet.com

Peter Meadows
Peter uses his retirement to help churches, resource inter-church initiatives, enjoy his eight grandchildren, escape to Spain and spend his kids’ inheritance.

To share your own thoughts on how different your parent’s retirement was to yours, do join our FaceBook page and share.

Time to face the challenge of decluttering? Then here’s some ideas.

My lovely husband once gave me ‘The Life-changing Magic of Tidying’ by Marie Kondo? What was he implying I wonder!? This Japanese best-seller with its intriguing title actually became quite a page-turner for me, particularly as we downsize our home.

In these after work years there’s going to come a time when decluttering can’t be put off any longer. Several decades of acquisitions need sorting out. Possibly tens of thousands of objects!  Oh my!

Motivation.

You’ve got to want to do this! List your reasons. Think of the rewards.

  • Some are positively energised at the thought of reorganising, trips to the dump and lugging bags to the charity shop.

For others it’s an overwhelming prospect. If you’re in the second category do you know someone in the first who’d find a cry for help irresistible? Provided they promise not to be too militant about it, ask them round.

Method.

Marie, my Japanese tidying author advocates sorting things by narrow categories. Place all your shoes on the floor and decide each pair’s fate. Then do it with china or bed linen until you have gone through everything.

Others suggest tackling cupboard by cupboard, room by room.  Or there’s systems whereby you discard a number of items each day. Look online for inspiriation.

  • Get four boxes and label them: Chuck. Recycle. Sell. Keep.
  • The internet is groaning under the weight of good advice. Find sites that will pay you for unwanted clothes, old phones and other devices, magazines… Hold a car boot or garage sale.
  • Local authorities and community groups like Freecycle can help. Old spectacles, tools, computers, furniture – there are charities that want them. Make-up and toiletries – women’s refuge centres can use them.

A bit of research could result in the satisfaction of knowing your unwanted stuff has another life. And many of the items bound for the dump are recyclable and shouldn’t be sent to landfill.

  • Prepare to act on today’s decisions – place bags for charity shop and the dump by the door or into the car straightaway, ready to drive them away!
  • Even after a major purge there’ll still be stuff left! With more storage space you may want to put things away in better places

Physical decluttering makes you feel lighter. It’s the same with other unwanted baggage.  Perhaps we can apply similar principles to our emotional and spiritual lives…

Celia Bowring
Celia isn’t retired yet – although she’s recently changed from being office-based to working from home, so working out her own use of time. Celia writes the CARE Prayer Diary along with many other resources. She also chairs Pray for Schools. And loves being a hands-on grandmother!

Downsizing – sizing it up –  three things to measure!

You’ve lived in the same place for decades – maybe raised a family in it, run a small business, created a place that’s really you. And now it’s time to move.

Lyndon and I are going through this after 32 years – we’re planning to downsize to a two-bed terraced cottage in the same locality. Believe me, it’s complicated and we’ve had lots to think about before taking the plunge and, putting our beloved home on the market with a mixture of sadness and anticipation.

Location, location, location!

Is the world your oyster? Does the south of France appeal? A Highland croft, a city mansion, a rural roses-over-the-door cottage…?  Is God calling you to a far-flung mission field or asking you to get stuck in at the church you’ve always attended? Your choices might be fairly restricted – or impossibly wide. It sounds obvious, but before sticking a pin in a map it will help to create a wish list that matches how you see life unfolding in the afterwork years.

Money

You may have more financial flexibility than ever: with the mortgage paid off, various pension options, fewer outgoings, reduced responsibilities. Or not – money might be tight. In any event professional advice is key as you probably have way more choices than you realised. New opportunities for financial management are coming out all the time targeting the baby-boomer generation. Provision for possible future fulltime care, wise ways to leave your money after you die, freeing up money now to live fulfilling lives are all vitally important to think about as you plan to downsize.

Ideal Home?

What’s your wishlist? Believe that God will provide just the right place for you and pray in faith for specifics. Your new abode will probably fulfil different purposes now. Do you plan on being super-hospitable or fancy a smaller space just for you? It’s not just a question of how many bedrooms but the layout of downstairs living space too. Open plan or secluded spaces to cook, eat, study, relax? What about the outside – do you plan growing your own veg or fancy a small patio with the odd pot of geraniums?

This process will take time and its wise to seek the wisdom of others you trust and who know you well.

And even if you’re not planning to downsize soon – its never too early to start decluttering!!  Watch this space.

Celia Bowring
Celia isn’t retired yet – although she’s recently changed from being office-based to working from home, so working out her own use of time. Celia writes the CARE Prayer Diary along with many other resources. She also chairs Pray for Schools. And loves being a hands-on grandmother!

What will you count as ‘success’ in your retirement?

Danger. Danger. Danger. Are you at risk of repeating the same mistake that you made in your working life?

What mistake? The one where how good you felt about yourself all depended on your professional achievements and how you were seen in the eyes of others.

Who, you? Strongly, probably, likely. Because it can happen to the best of us. Subtly and almost unknowingly. And it should be no surprise because that’s the way it is ‘out there’.

The society we are part of works with some very wrong assumptions about what’s ‘success’ and what makes you and me valuable. For example – that a university education means someone is smarter than those who didn’t go. That a stay-at-home parent is of less value than someone making a mint.

To navigate life based on such wrong assumptions can be damaging says the author Emily Esfahani Smith in her book “The Power of Meaning: Crafting a Life that Matters.”

In her book, Emily shares stories of many who based their self-worth on their level of education and their career achievements. For them, she says, ‘When they succeeded, their lives felt meaningful, and they were happy. But when they failed or struggled, what gave their lives value was gone—and so they fell into despair, and became convinced they were worthless.’

Writing her book taught Emily that ‘being a successful person isn’t about career achievement or having the most toys. It’s about being a good, wise, and generous human being.’

In other words, it is not about conventional ‘success’ but about the kind of person we are or are becoming. This is the basis on which we should measure the success of our lives.

However, if we’ve used the wrong criteria as the basis for our self-worth during our working life, what’s to stop it rearing its ugly head in our after-work years? And if it does, the likelihood of doom ahead is great, because the level of conventional achievements open to us in this new stage of life offers little promise as a means to bosting our ego.

Which is why our only hope is to measure our value by what kind of person we are. And that offers the wonderfully unlimited potential to be good, wise and generous. Be that with our time, our relationships, our possessions and resources, and more.

There’s also another perspective. It’s what God thinks about you – which is always going to be more accurate than what you think about yourself.

Our sense of self-worth ought to be wrapped up in the God who had us in mind before anything existed, who loves us unconditionally and paid the ultimate price to restore our relationship with him. Indeed, our true value can only be measured in the price he was willing to pay for us – the life of his own son.

We matter not because our achievements tell us that we do. But because God tells us so. It might help you to mull on these amazing facts and let them sink in. God would have you know –

You are unique Psalm 139.13, You are loved Jeremiah 31:3, You are special Ephesians 2:10, You are precious 1 Corinthians 6:20, You are important 1 Peter 2:9, You are chosen John 15:16, You are mine Isaiah 43:1.

By living as though loved and valued by the God who made you, and seeking to be good, wise and generous will do more than just help you feel better about yourself. Think of the impact it could have on those closest to you – including the generation following in your footsteps.

To explore this subject more, take a look at the page on our website that looks at Status in more depth.

Peter Meadows

Peter uses his retirement to help churches, resource inter-church initiatives, enjoy his eight grandchildren, escape to Spain and to spend his kids inheritance.

Do you have thoughts on what ‘success’ means in your after-work life? Please join the AfterWorkNet Facebook community and tell us.

20 Great Quotes About Retirement!

culturally

For some people, retirement is so wonderful they have no words to describe it. But others have some smart things to say – and here’s some of the best of them:

1. ‘Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time’. – J Lubbock

2. ‘The best time to start thinking about your retirement is before the boss does.’  – Anon

3. ‘A retired husband is often a wife’s full-time job’. – Ella Harris

4. ‘Don’t think of retiring from the world until the world will be sorry that you retire. I hate a fellow whom pride or cowardice or laziness drive into a corner, and who does nothing when he is there but sit and growl. Let him come out as I do, and bark’. – Samuel Johnson

5. ‘There is a fountain of youth: it is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of people you love. When you learn to tap this source, you will truly have defeated age.’ – Sophia Loren

6. ‘Retirement is when you stop living at work and begin working at living’. – Anon

7. ‘A thriving “New Beginning” can be and should be a time for amazing engagement, growth, connections, contributions and increased possibilities’. – Lee M Brower

8. ‘Maybe the word ‘retirement’ makes you think of old age, boredom and laziness, but I’d rather have you try think of it as freedom to do what you want, freedom to be as active as you’d like, and even freedom to work the job that you like – to be in a place where money doesn’t dictate your choices.’ – Rex Dalen

9. ‘Retire the word ‘retirement’ from your vocabulary. Look it up: it means to ‘withdraw’ or ‘retreat.’ Words can shape reality, and it’s time for this one to go. Doesn’t ‘renaissance’ or ‘graduation’ or ‘transition’ better describe your postcareer life?’ – Marika Stone

10. ‘I enjoy waking up and not having to go to work. So I do it three or four times a day.’ – Gene Perret

11. ‘Retire from work, but not from life.’ – M K Soni

12. ‘Retirement only means it is time for a new adventure.’ – Anon

13. ‘For many, retirement is a time for personal growth, which becomes the path to greater personal freedom.’ – Robert Delamontagne

14. Retirement does not mean that you are all through. It means that you have experienced a big break-through to a new freedom, with the time to do the things you’ve always wanted to do.’ – Wilfred Peterson

15. ‘Rather than fading into the sunset, we have time to rediscover our personal uniqueness, deepen relationships, and question the mysteries of life.’ – Douglas Fletcher

16. ‘Retirement is wonderful. It’s doing nothing without worrying about getting caught at it’. – Gene Perret

17. ‘Don’t simply retire from something; have something to retire to.’ – Harry Emerson Fosdick

18. ‘Retirement: the best job anyone could ever love.’ – Anon

19. ‘I see retirement as just another of these reinventions, another chance to do new things and be a new version of myself.’ – Walt Mossberg

20. ‘Retirement is not a time to sleep, but a time to awaken to the beauty of the world around you and the joy that comes when you cast out all the negative elements that cause confusion and turmoil in your mind and allow serenity to prevail.’ – Howard Salzman

Peter Meadows – Peter uses his retirement to help churches, resource inter-church initiatives, enjoy his eight grandchildren, escape to Spain and spend his kids inheritance.

Do you know any other great quotes on retirement – or have any of your own? Please share them with our AfterWorkNet Facebook Group.

The word retirement is not even in the Bible. What is taught in scripture is transition. There is nothing that says you work most of your life and then get to be selfish for the next 20 years

Rick Warren, PurposeDrivenLife