Rising Eighty

Sherman Yellen told folks he was “rising 80” as he approached that milestone birthday recently. He’d learned that expression from his grandfather, who’d picked it up while living in London. Our youth-obsessed culture doesn’t generally link “rising” and “80.” We’ll more likely link”80″ with “slowing down”, “declining”, or “doddering”. At best we might link “80” with “spry”, and at worst “scratching and clawing to stay on the green side of the grass”. [WARNING: Don’t ever call me “spry” and not expect serious consequences. “Spry” sounds to me like code for “Amazing–a relic like you actually functioning without equipment, pills, and keepers! Why aren’t you in a home with the rest of the geezers?”]

Sherman Yellen has risen to 80 and he’s still going strong. I hope he doesn’t mind me calling him an octogenarian with attitude. “…my best advice for any age”, he says, “is to paste the battle stories of your past into a scrap book and stay close to the present, living in the moment with few regrets.” Yellen hasn’t “retired” at age “Rising 80” to rest on his two Emmies and one Tony nomination. His latest production,  “Josephine Tonight”, is playing to sellouts in Alexandria, VA, and opening next month in Sarasota, FL. His other new musical about Al Jolson (written with another octogenarian) debuts next fall. “Living in the moment” means Yellen loves getting great reviews, but not as much as tme spent with his young granddaughters. It means he’s “still learning” at an age where we expect folks to worry more about remembering to take their pills than learning new skills. Yellen says he learned to write song lyrics when he was “well over 60, when we are not supposed to learn new skills…I found that the learning process doesn’t stop, or even decline (ignore all so called scientific studies to the contrary written by rubbish statisticians who hate their fathers).” Now that’s attitude!

I believe (and I hope Yellen would agree) that “living in the moment” means living toward tomorrow. A key component of “Rising 80″ (or 60 0r 40 or any age) is faith in the future. The prophet Isaiah wrote to a once-proud people who’d watched invading armies destroy their once-proud society. Not surprisingly, they didn’t trust God for their future. God told them through the prophet,  “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?” (Isaiah 43:18-19 NIV)

 “Paste the battle stories of your past into a scrapbook and live in the moment…” Faith in the future means valuing the new thing God is doing today more than yesterday’s battle stories.We dare not forget our history. But we’ll shrivel up and die if we insist on living there forever. Today is not 1950, 1980, or whenever your “golden age” was. Today is Today–Rising 2012, with all its wonder and chaos, peril and promise. God’s “new thing” is unfolding before our eyes. “Do you not perceive it?”

God give us eyes to see Your newness springing up in and around us. Give us hearts to embrace it, strength to help build it, and mouths to proclaim it. Teach us to live in the moment, because every moment is your moment, and every day your new day.

Here’s a link to Sherman Yellen’s article “On Rising Eighty”: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/sherman-yellen/sherman-yellen-aging_b_1287692.html.

2 Responses to “Rising Eighty”


  1. 1 Terry March 22, 2012 at 10:08 AM

    If this is what I am looking forward to, I am waiting with great anticipation. I am Rising.

  2. 2 Toni March 22, 2012 at 5:04 PM

    Can hardly do anything but live in the present moment and savor every single one when you live with a precious baby girl who sees delight in everything.


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