Jan 8, 2017 By Norris Burkes
When I was a young whip of a preacher, my 80-year-old seminary professor gave me two pieces of advice I’ve never forgotten.
First, he said, “Stop trying to sound like Billy Graham. God has one syllable, not two.” OK, that’s important.
Second, “Forget retiring in a big house. Use your money to travel.”
Last year, I took his advice by shedding our 2,800-square-foot McMansion. Since then many readers have asked about my future plans. How long will I continue my little “downsizing experiment” in our dilapidated mobile home rental?
If you’ll allow me a personal indulgence, I’d like to share our tentative plans for 2017.
My wife has just begun her second semester of French at l’Alliance Française de Sacramento. We are doing this to prepare for the second piece of my professor’s advice – travel. By July 1, we’ll retire from our jobs, shed the mobile home, sell our RV and put our household goods in storage.
Our first stop this summer will be Belgium where her French lessons should prove handy and my cooking skills shamefully inadequate. But we have made connections with a Brussels church where I promised to “preach for food.”
After Thanksgiving, we will join our daughter in Honduras where she runs a charity called Chispa, helping to bring children’s libraries to local schools.
Then, in early 2018, we will turn our attention to Central or South America. Probably Ecuador. I say Ecuador because we went there in 2015 to see the Galapagos Islands and explore the idea of overseas retirement.
We drove 8,200 feet into the cool Andes to find beautiful Cuenca and its population of 700,000. It was there we found an English community of 5,000 expats who’d sold their belongings to rent furnished homes for half the cost of an American home. We also started an ongoing conversation with a church about how we might help when we returned.
By the end of this decade, we will likely end our gypsy life and return to the states for a more permanent home – preferably a small house with a picket fence in a town with a little snow, but rarely a scorching day.
And YES, to answer your last question; I will keep writing my newspaper column as long as my editors keep taking my copy. I’m a lot like Dr. Seuss’ Sam-I-Am who conquered his aversion to green eggs and ham. That means I will write in a box, with a fox, in a house, with a mouse. I will write here and there … I will write anywhere.
As I share all of this, I am trying to keep in mind the most important lesson I’ve learned as a chaplain: Don’t count on the future. I say that because I’ve seen many folks breathe their last breath before cashing their first retirement check.
I’m praying I won’t become like the greedy farmer in Jesus’ parable who told himself, “Self, you’ve done well! You’ve got it made and can now retire. Take it easy, and have the time of your life!'” If you know that story, you’ll know that God took the old fool’s soul on the following morning.
I’m doing everything I can to not become that old – and quite dead – fool. I’m trying to live the best life I can live, no matter where that is.
With that caveat, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to tell me how you will spend 2017. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to start my cooking lessons.
– To see Norris’s latest book, “Thriving Beyond Surviving,” or to contact him about speaking, visit www.thechaplain.net. Or write him via P.O. Box 247, Elk Grove, Calif., 95759. Twitter @chaplain or call 843-608-9715.