speedlimitsignFor many of my friends and me, this is the year we turn 60. It’s amazing how quickly one can go from Chocks (or Flintstones) to silver vitamins.

Once upon a time we thought of 60 as old age. Those were the retired guys with eight and a half fingers who helped us kids with Vacation Bible School projects.

They taught us to saw, drill, and nail together rustic tie racks and make other handicrafts. Nothing conveyed the majesty of the Creator God like taking home a hand-molded, personalized ashtray at the end of the two-week conglomeration of flannel graph, mission stories, glue, stand-up/sit-down chords, Kool-Aid and cookies.

Now here we are at that advanced age; it sure sneaks up on you.

One moment Fonzie is the tough guy we want to emulate, and the next thing you know he’s pushing reverse mortgages. Our favorite athletes are now promoting the latest medical products to sooth their aches and pains.

Late nights have lost their charm. And the current celebrity culture has little appeal. Movie theaters are expensive places to take a nap.

Blogger friend Leroy Seat, who served for decades as a professor and missionary in Japan, has shared that one’s 60th birthday is highly honored in many Asian cultures as being of great significance. It marks having successfully completed the 12-year zodiac cycle five times — a noteworthy accomplishment.

I’m glad to learn that; turning 60 feels significant — beyond the ensuing discounts offered.

There is some comfort in sharing this rite of passage with my classmates and other friends who bear the same number of rings around their trunks. And even the rich and famous can’t escape the steady turning of the calendar.

Those whose birth certificates are marked as 1956 include Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson, Bjorn Borg and Martina Navratilova, Joe Montana and Larry Byrd, Kenny G and Dorothy Hamill, Carrie Fisher and Mel Gibson, Bill Maher and Kim Cattrall.

Bo Derek turns 60 this year as well. (There’s a joke in there somewhere about going from 10 to 60 in record time.)

Even David Copperfield lacks the magic to make six decades disappear.

Some say age is just a number. But it is a number that represents a very specific amount of time.

Yet, one’s life is marked significantly by much more than its quantity of time. Some of history’s most remarkable and influential people lived comparably brief earthly lives: Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Martin Luther King Jr., to name a couple. Even Jesus accomplished his mission in the brevity of time.

So the proper perspective on aging seems to be to acknowledge and even celebrate the miles traveled with a renewed commitment to squeezing the very best and most out of whatever lies ahead. Gratitude for reaching this milepost is a good starting place.

Spiritual growth knows no age limit. Learning can continue as long as we don’t set our minds and hearts in concrete.

There are some practical ways to move forward well: staying active, continuing to explore, and avoiding the familiar trap of overstating the past while fearing a different-than-familiar future. There’s always more to see, learn and do.

Denial does no good. So I’ll work at accepting the reality of being 60 — no matter how staggering that seems to be.

So it’s time to light some candles, to reflect deeply, to wish — and to be grateful for the gift of life.

Did I mention that Bo Derek turns 60 this year too…? NFJ

By John D. Pierce