I have “retired” twice in my lifetime. I don’t plan to do it again.

Mailings from AARP have begun arriving in my mailbox, and I’ve been notified that this is the year I can begin collecting Social Security benefits. No, thank you.

By my optimistic estimations (backed up by statistical evidence) I still have 25 percent of my life before me. “Lord willing and the creek don’t rise” I plan to live to 80……and beyond.

Lest I appear foolhardy, let me tell you that I’m not in denial about my age. My body tells me every day that it is winding down, and my brain is close behind. My refusal to sign up for the American Association of Retired Persons has less to do with the name of the organization and its services than with philosophical differences. And considering the fact I expect to live at least another 20 years, hanging onto my Social Security fund is good financial planning (depending on what you believe about our nation’s fiscal health).

So I don’t plan to retire. Been there, done that — once when I left the newspaper business 22 years ago and again when I graduated my last home-schooled son two years ago. That’s enough retirement for one lifetime.

I intend to stay in the race. Just as a runner knows how many laps it takes to complete the race and keeps an eye on the white line in the track that says he is finished, I am numbering my days and narrowing my focus in these final laps toward the checkered flag.

I have been working on a “manifesto” for finishing well — “a published verbal declaration of the intentions, motives or views of an issue” (thank you, Wikipedia). So far, these are my intentions and motives. Perhaps they’re yours, too?

My Fourth Quarter Manifesto

  • To live intentionally. I wish I’d discovered this discipline about 40 years ago, but better late than never. Living intentionally means making decisions only after careful thought and learning to say “no” to things that will not impact God’s kingdom. It also can mean saying “yes” to new opportunities and adventures that may have been passed up in the past, as long as they contribute to the goal of finishing well.
  • To exhibit joy and gratitude. In the next quarter of my life, I want to live more joyfully and with more gratitude than ever. Each of us has so much for which to be thankful. Even the difficult and discouraging episodes in life have yielded benefit, if we take time to examine and celebrate them.
  • To cultivate an atmosphere of expectation and hope. Jean Fleming, author of the book “Pursue the Intentional life”, says this:

“What would it be like to live in an atmosphere of earnestness and exhilaration? Of enthusiasm and gameness? Of anticipation and readiness? What atmosphere will color the rest of my life? Will I live in eager expectation and hope or in something else — in apathy, in fear, in confusion, in anxiety, in hesitancy, in dread? Will my life be empowered and set aglow by unfading hope or drained away by parasites?”

  • To produce fruit. There is a very old orchard on our farm. Every year, the ground beneath the trees is covered with fallen apples. Even while they hang on the branches, the apples are inedible because they’re filled with worms or covered in scabs . One year, my husband decided to trim and spray a few of the apple trees. We harvested beautiful fruit that year and enjoyed it into the winter. As we age, our branches may become weak and they may need some tending, but God’s word says “They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green.” (Psalm 92:14) The fruit we are able to produce may change, depending on our strength and abilities, but if we stay attached to the living Vine, it can be pleasing and useful, perhaps even more than in our earliest fruit-bearing years.
  • To be a lifelong learner. There is so much I do not know! I feel I’m embarking on a new career with challenges and opportunities I could not have imagined in my younger years. As much as we are able, we should expect to continue to grow in skill and knowledge and to share what God teaches us with others. A dear woman in my church celebrated her 80th birthday recently. She still works part-time and is an important member of the church’s pulpit committee. She’s more than relevant in her “golden” years.
  • To love with abandon. Sometimes we’re too cautious about giving love away. We need to be discerning, but not stingy. There are so many in our world who need a touch or a gesture or simply a kind word. If I have it to give, it’s theirs.
  • To walk closely behind Jesus. I want to be covered in the dust off his sandals. I’ll look for Him and chase after Him and listen for His voice. It’s my prayer than some of Jesus will rub off on me.

This ought to keep me busy for the next two decades. I’m honestly hoping there’s more God will bring to my attention in this season of life if I don’t decide to retire and sit in wait for the gun to signal the final lap. Even if bedridden or made frail by a life that’s winding down, I want to be on my feet at the finish line. I intend to finish well.