Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Reflections on Ten Years of “Retirement”

Ten years ago tomorrow, July 31, 2004, was a hard day for June and me. That is the day we ended our nearly 38 years of living in Japan as missionaries.
When we left that day from Fukuoka Airport, we were exhausted physically. It’s hard to get everything done when you are in your mid-60s and have to leave somewhere that has been your home for more than half your life.
It was a difficult time emotionally, as we were leaving friends and colleagues, many perhaps we would never see again. It was hard to say good-bye to close friends and co-workers from church, school, the neighborhood, and the larger community.
It was also a hard time because of the many decisions that lay ahead. Even though we knew where we were going to live for the first year back, we had to decide where to locate permanently. Theoretically, we could have chosen anywhere.
We have been very happy with our choice to live in Liberty, Mo., but it has been a challenge to become homeowners for the first time at our age.
It has been very nice having less pressure and more time with and proximity to family. But I enjoyed what I was doing in Japan so much I was not particularly happy to leave and to be retired.
I am happy, though, that I have been able to maintain some continuity with what I enjoyed doing so much. In considering only my “public” activities, I feel especially happy because of the following:
(1) Making four trips back to Japan (in 2006, 2008, 2012, and 2013). When we left Japan in 2004, I expected to go back, but didn’t think it would be possible to go back so often. Now I am looking forward to one more trip back—in 2016 at the time of the centennial celebration of the founding of Seinan Gakuin where I taught for 36 years.
(2) Writing and publishing two books. Although I was disappointed at not being able to find a publisher, it was still gratifying to use my own logo and the name 4-L Publications to release Fed Up with Fundamentalism: A Historical, Theological, and Personal Appraisal of Christian Fundamentalism in 2007 and Limits of Liberalism: A Historical, Theological, and Personal Appraisal of Christian Liberalism in 2010.
(3) Teaching theology classes. For many weeks each year since the fall of 2006, the most enjoyable activity of the week has been conducting the course titled Christianity II: Development in a three-hour time slot each week in the fall and spring semesters at Rockhurst University. I look forward to starting next month what will, sadly, likely be my last year to teach.
(4) Writing and posting these blog articles. This has been a particularly enjoyable and fulfilling activity during the past five years. My first dated blog posting was on July 17, 2009, and I have averaged six articles a month in the five full years since then. I much appreciate all who have read some or many of those articles and especially those who have made comments from time to time.
In reflecting on the past ten years, I am very grateful for good health and for the opportunities I have had to teach, to write, and to travel. And I am thankful for my many Thinking Friends with whom I can communicate regularly.

17 comments:

  1. You and June have done well, Leroy, from my perspective. Retirement has often been such a dismal experience for others I have observed over the years. I am pleased to have a friend who has shown a path of activity and reflection as a model for us all. Reading this week's blog reminds me of an annual sermon my British pastor used to offer every January on the topic, "the books I have read this past year." It was wonderfully reflective, often challenging to all of us, and always entertaining. He diligently sought to reflect upon what he was thinking and doing at the times he was reading. It occurred to me at that time this was no "Saturday night special," but the byproduct of weekly preparation for this annual summary event. So should one's life be, eh?

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    1. Milton, thanks for being the first to respond to yesterday's blog posting. I much appreciate your kind words.

      Being in your Sunday School class for several years is one of more meaningful and enjoyable experiences we have had during these past ten years.

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  2. You keep on keeping on -- giving to the world around you. We all benefit. I'm glad you're here! I'm thankful you retired here!

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    1. Thanks for your kind words, Anton.

      Getting to know you has been one of the highlights of these past ten years.

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  3. Retirement is such a mixed blessing! It does give opportunity for attempting fresh things, trying out new ways of thinking and being, but there is always the lurking reality that even those enjoyments are time-stamped in a way that the rest of your life has never been. It's a bittersweet time, indeed. But you all handle it with such grace! You are remarkable people.

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    1. Rosanne, thanks for writing; it was good to hear from you again. Thanks for your kind words.

      But what we have done in the past ten years pales in comparison with all you have done!

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  4. You've blessed us all, Leroy!

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  5. Here are comments local Thinking Friend Debra Sapp-Yarwood tried unsuccessfully to post here. (I am sorry so many of you have trouble getting comments posted, but you can always do like Debra did and send your comments to me by email.)

    "I am particularly happy that you and June found our community in which to worship. Both of you add so much to Rainbow.

    "With regard to your books, here's my thought. There has been a sea change in publishing that happened in the last 15 years. It used to be that the worthwhile books came from the big 'respected' publishing houses, and self-publishing was considered a vanity. That paradigm has turned upside down entirely.

    "Now the big publishing houses will take NO risks and only accept authors who have an established 'platform' of built-in readers. This includes 'celebrities.' And it doesn't take much to be one of those. If you're a daughter of Dr. Oz, or someone whose last name is Kardashian, you qualify without any particular expertise.

    "It also includes 'vortex celebrities' -- people who thrust themselves into the limelight with shameless self-promotion and over-the-top verbal antics, hostility preferred (think Ann Coulter). It also includes pre-2000 'established' names or writing for those "established" names, which aren't people anymore, but brands. Very few James Patterson books are written by James Patterson.

    "I have it on good authority that Doris Kearns Goodwin is actually more a think tank than a person. She has a consortium of grad students and other paid staff who keep her name 'prolific.'

    "It is rare now for a fresh voice to enter the marketplace of ideas by way of the big publishing houses.

    "I have a feeling that if you had tried to advance a culture of religious hostility, you would have found a publisher. If you had taken a side against some 'enemies' and told the publisher that you would promote that view in your blog, you would have been published by a 'respected' publisher.

    "Instead, you ice skate down the middle, and you are thoughtful and considerate, and you hold people on your blog to a particular standard along those lines too (most days). That is precisely the opposite of what is selling now in Barnes and Noble.

    "You had to self-publish because you are a fresh voice. While self-publishing still has its share of vanity books, it is also the place one finds books of integrity, moreso than from the 'respected' publishing houses."

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    1. I wish I had said something in my reflections about Rainbow Mennonite Church (RMC), where June and I have been members the past two years.

      While we enjoyed our previous church, and Milton's Sunday School class as mentioned above, we continue to be happy with our decision to move to RMC. Debra is currently the very effective Chair of the Deacons there.

      I was also happy to receive this message from Thinking Friend John Bush, who is one of the oldest members at RMC:

      "We are certainly happy you chose to locate here and become part of the Rainbow Mennonite community!"

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    2. Debra, I much appreciate you taking the time to write about the book publishing situation.

      I may be somewhat prejudiced, but I am inclined to agree with what you say completely.

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  6. Your report on ten years of retirement comes pretty close to the ideal retirement to which I aspire. I've aspired to writing a book after I retire for most of my life. I haven't quite retired, but I'm close enough to wonder if I'll actually do it. You provide a good example to follow.

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    1. Clif, thanks for posting your comments yesterday.

      I hope you will follow through on your aspiration to write a book. But take it from me, it is a lot of work. But it certainly a rewarding experience also.

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  7. Congratulations, Leroy. I am only one year into my retirement, and I am still waiting for life to slow down enough so that it feels like retirement! In the meantime, I have very much appreciated the opportunity to share on this blog. Keep up the good retirement!

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    1. Craig, I wonder if you have considered writing a book? It seems to me that you have ideas that deserve to be shared more widely.

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  8. Congratulations on a productive first ten years! I also thank you for this forum for entertaining and discussing different topics. I always read it, but contribute less often sometimes due to lack of time and often due to inability to respond timely. Today is an example of the latter, but I felt it was important to make the time.

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  9. Glad you have been able to lead a productive and satisfying "retirement".

    We have been reviewing our "retirement" finances. The house will be paid off, and the children, hopefully, out of college and out on their own in a self-supporting manner. However, our retirement income streams seem to be filled with questions. There are long-range (5-15 year) concerns for the viability each of our pension plans and social security and healthcare. The President has proposed raiding personal retirement plans (IRA's, 401(k)'s, etc.) in order to maintain the viability of Social Security. With its enormous debt, and unfunded liabilities, there is growing concern about the "Full faith and credit of the United States". The last time the US had a balanced budget without borrowing was in the late '50's. As Rep. Cleaver put it, we are now at a point of needing to print money as our primary fiscal policy, but we should not worry about that because we are a much larger economy than Zimbabwe. I don't know how much longer market backed or government backed retirement income sources will be viable. In order to maintain with a huge, growing "retired" segment of the population, we will need a very substantial inflow of hard-working immigrants who can be taxed dramatically. But that said we are still pursuing dreams of productivity and leaving a legacy during our "retirement" years.

    Just the same, I hope that you can continue to enjoy your retirement years and find them productive. As a personal coach recently put it, the purpose of life is the "Follow Your Bliss" There is a reason why God made you the way you are.

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