Fourth Quarter Reflections About All Things “60”
By Charles Kelley
Today I am writing from the home where I grew up in downtown Los Angeles. I am here helping my elderly mother. She tells me that when I was just a little guy I asked her, “Mommy, were you there when I was born?” She assured me that she was there.
Last night I asked her, “Mom, do you remember where you were 60 years ago tomorrow?” She thought for a while and then it dawned on her what day it was. “I was with you!”
Funny. I don’t feel that old. But my reflection in the mirror reminds me that 60 years have passed since my original birthday in Long Beach, California on the 22nd day of April in 1955.
The life expectancy of the average white American male is 76.19 years. Statistically speaking I have completed 78.9% of my life.
Through the years my favorite sport has been basketball. If my life were a basketball game it would be in the 4th quarter. Games are played much differently in the 4th quarter than the first. When I was younger I was a mediocre player but I loved every game I played in. In the first quarter I would sprint up and down the full court often taking wild shots. I guarded my opponent as closely as possible but I wasn’t too worried when he scored. There was plenty of time.
But in the fourth quarter, when I wasn’t on the bench, I played differently. I knew that every pass had to be crisp and every shot needed to be high percentage. I understood how critical it was to make the free throws. Even though I was exhausted I played my best. I always had my eye on the clock.
You see, I knew that games were largely won or lost in the fourth quarter.
Before a game a good team plans its strategy. And then during half time major evaluations prompt equally major strategic changes. Toward the end of the game, every timeout is as valuable as gold as coaches guide their teams to execute just the right plays at the right time.
For me, halftime took place a number of years ago. I am playing in the middle of the 4th quarter. Nevertheless it is time to evaluate and reflect on things that truly matter. So for the past several evenings I have been contemplating the number “60”. Recalling the old Gospel song, “Count Your Many Blessings, Name Them One By One”, I started to list the blessings of my life.
It didn’t take long before I realized that my life has been so filled with blessings that one list of 60 couldn’t handle it. So I created categories of blessings and continued to make list after list. I was a bit pedantic in my list making, but I found it a most interesting exercise.
60 personal milestones – my baptism; first job; first kiss; first car (62 Nova); first trip to Europe; college graduation; first sermon; wedding (only one!); seminary graduation; ordination; first child; first pastorate; first trip to Latvia; first grandchild; first painting; first exhibition; first book published, etc. More than 60.
60 family members – my grandparents, Charles and Mary Singer, parents, uncles, sister, half- brothers and sisters, cousins, NANCY (the most amazing blessing of my life), her parents, Harry and Dorothy Heidebrecht and so many in her family. More than 60.
60 amazing friends and mentors – Herb Reese and Gregg Cantelmo who helped bring me to Christ; Jim Klubnik my amazing high school youth pastor; Bill Nuckles the ex-marine Sunday School teacher who understood and challenged me; Bob Rasmussen, best man in my wedding; professors like Clyde Cook, Charles Ryrie, Don Regier and Haddon Robinson; great men of intellect, vision, faith like Ingemar Martinson, Johan Candelin, Gary Ferngren and Prabhu Guptara; BBI Board and Staff members (past and present) and so many wonderful Latvian friends and colleagues like Almers Ludviks, Ainars Bastiks, Lienite Bemera, Vineta Zale, Kaspars Zarins, Peteris Sprogis and Aleksejs Naumovs. And the list goes on…more than 60.
60 of my favorite books – I fell in love with the Bible in high school, Francis Schaeffer’s The God Who is There, Escape from Reason, Genesis in Space and Time and He is There and Not Silent, CS Lewis’ Mere Christianity and Chronicles of Narnia; AW Tozer’s Knowledge of the Holy; J. I. Packer’s Knowing God; R.C. Sproul’s Holiness of God, Haddon Robinson’s Expository Preaching, John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, the writings of Os Guinness, Gordon MacDonald, Richard Foster, Chuck Colson, Bobb Biehl, Chuck Swindol, Solzenitzen, autobiographies by Don Richardson, Brother Andrew, Richard Wurmbrand, biographies of great leaders like Lincoln, Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Winston Churchill, Reagan, Teddy Roosevelt, Hudson Taylor, Henry Martyn, William Carey, Viljams Fetlers; classic novels by Victor Hugo, Charles Dickens, Ernest Hemingway, John Steinbeck, Mark Twain; fun novels by John Grisham and Michael Crichton. Of course…way more than 60.
60 struggles and storms – growing up in a broken home; living in a gang-infested neighborhood; academic failures; terrible speech impediment; low self esteem; lack of popularity; personal character flaws; the premature deaths of my dad and grandmother; serious illnesses and tragedies of close family members, depression, multiple injuries and near death experience. Again, more than 60.
60 Texts from the Bible (I memorized many of these passages when I was young and they have served me well) – Jeremiah 9:23,24; John 3:16; Ephesians 2:8,9; Revelation 3:16; Romans 5:8; John 14:1-16; Ephesians 3:18-20; Deuteronomy 6:4; Joshua 1:9; Psalm 1, 22, 23, 24, 51, 100, 103, 119, 150; Hebrews 11; 1 John 4:7,8; Romans 6:23; James 1:1-5; Acts 1:8; John 10:27-30. And…there are so many more than 60.
60 of my favorite places – Zermatt, Switzerland, home of the Matterhorn; Amalfi Coast, Italy; Mt Rushmore, North Dakota; Niagara Falls, NY; Baseball Hall of Fame, Cooperstown, NY; Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, Central Oregon, the Oregon Coast especially Cape Perpetua, near Yachats; Mt. Hermon and the Boardwalk in Santa Cruz, California, the Stockholm Archipelago; Replot Island, Finland; Brienze, Murren and Lake Geneva, Switzerland; Salzburg and Vienna, Austria; Riga, Jurmala and Kuldiga, St. James Park in London; Keukenhof Gardens in Amsterdam; Nyhavn in Copenhagen; Ponte Vecchio in Firenze, Italy; Pont Nuf in Paris; National Galleries in Washington DC and London; Hermitage in St. Petersburg, Russia; Cape of Good Hope in South Africa, Yosemite, California; Yellowstone, Wyoming. Home. Well, more than 60.
60 of my favorite artists and musicians – Chopin, Van Gogh, Mozart, Andre Crouch, Chagal, Bach, Bocelli, Monet, Matisse, Groban, Love Song, Blood, Sweat and Tears, Kokoschka, Handel, Pucinni, Bread, John Denver, Beatles, Kinkade, U2, Colm Wilkinson, Renoir, Reinis Zarins, Paula Sumane, Yo Yo Ma, Liberts, Purvitis, Naumovs, Paegle, Kaspars and Vija Zarins, Rembrandt, Vermeer, Rachmaninoff, Elton John, Hans Zimmer, Chicago…and more.
60 important events in which I participated…even helped lead some – 68 Billy Graham Crusade in Anaheim, CA; Also in 68, the World’s Fair in San Antonio, Texas; Key 73 (Los Angeles), Church of the Open Door mission trips to Mexico and Canada from 69-73; KC 83 in Kansas City; Leadership 88 in Washington DC; Lausanne II in Manila in 89; GCOWE in Seoul in 95; Interdev in Cyprus in 97; Lausanne III in Cape Town in 2010; 1996 Olympics in Atlanta; Hope 91, 92 and 99 in Riga; National Prayer Breakfasts in Washington DC and Riga, etc. Again, more than 60.
What’s my point? 60 is not a bad number. But neither is it short. God has filled these 60 years with 60 x 60 important encounters, experiences, opportunities, tragedies and surprises.
So, as I continue living my life…now in the fourth quarter…I know that I won’t experience as many of these blessings as I have listed but I try to be consciously grateful for every surprise that flows from the hand of the Father.