By Norris Burkes
Dec 31 2017

Normally, I compose my last column of the year from a collage of quotes collected from my past year’s writing. I’ve done much the same in this column, but I’ve focused on quotes centering on my retirement planning.

In May, I told you of my decision to retire from healthcare chaplaincy. I began the process by asking myself if I was living within my means. It’s an essential consideration since retirement will often cut household income in half.

To test the retirement waters, my wife and I purposely cut our income in half by reducing employment to halftime hours. Becky split a pre-kindergarten teaching position and I took a per diem chaplain job working only 25 hours a week. We sold our suburban home and moved into a doublewide mobile home at half the cost of the old, two-story McMansion.

We did this only after challenging ourselves to consider how much we must possess before we can claim success in life? Must we collect more and more to feel that we are worthy? Is it all about feeling we are better off than other folks? If it is, then I suggest we are in slavery and we are the ones being owned

By July, my wife and I realized we had more than enough. So we sold our car, RV, and many of our belongings. We donated many of the remaining possessions or stored them in a 10 x 10 storage unit. Then, we packed five suitcases and headed off to a four-month adventure with stays in Belgium, Sweden, Ireland and England.

Most importantly, we packed our faith. We took it with us because, as I wrote in late July, faith has to be portable. It has to work wherever you take it. And it worked well when we took it to Belgium and began worshiping with a Brussels church.

In retirement, we still must practice faith, because it’s never perfected. Church is our practice room where we exercise love, honor, compassion and forgiveness. It’s here among like-minded people of faith that we are “spurred on” to live out these one-another traits. After all, if we can’t find some success in church, then we should probably stay for an extra practice before we return to the field of life.

In October, I itemized the solutions I saw Europeans using to solve modern societal problems, such as driving, personal space and even toilet use. For instance, bathrooms employ full-length stalls that silence the gender debate.

I concluded that many of these practices reflect a good understanding of the “Golden Rule.” The modern “Message” version of the Bible best translates Jesus’ summary of the rule: “Here is a simple, rule-of-thumb guide for behavior: Ask yourself what you want people to do for you, then grab the initiative and do it for them.”

In a September column I found that Jesus expounded the best approach to retirement in his “Sermon on the Mount.” In it, he perfectly summarized the positive points of retired living. Again, from Eugene Patterson’s “The Message” translation we read:

“Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now. Don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.”

And if you’ll heed those words, I have a prediction for you. You needn’t worry about your retirement days because your days will truly be blessed ones.

Read Norris’ past columns at Write him at or P.O. Box 247, Elk Grove, Calif., 95759. Twitter @chaplain or call (843) 608-9715.