How Many Birthday Candles?

Why are American voters preoccupied with presidential birthdays? Questions have been asked: “How old is John McCain?” “Hillary Clinton?” “Obama?”

If age means anything, McCain is 72, Hillary is 60, and Obama is by far the youngest of them all: 46. If Hillary is elected, she would be the first woman president of the US. If Obama, the first African-American to occupy the White House; but definitely not the youngest (both Theodore Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy became president at age 43).

Why are they so concerned about presidential ages? Is it because of John McCain? If elected, McCain would be the oldest to occupy the Oval Office (Ronald Reagan became president at 69).

They never ask this question of Romney (if elected he could be the first Mormon president of America); or of Edwards (he could be the second member of the church to occupy the White House, next to James Garfield); of Giuliani (he could be the first American president with an Italian-sounding name). These three are not strong contenders.

Vladimir Putin, president of Russian Federation, does not like McCain, not because he is also a Republican like Bush but because he could follow in the steps of Bush. But to Felipe de Jesus Calderon Hinojosa, president of Mexico, such bloody fears of Vladimir are unfounded. The Mexican president cares for neither Obama nor Hillary. So what?

Well, so what? They say that wisdom comes with having many birthday candles. King Rehoboam’s damnation was because he had listened to his youthful advisers, they add. So you want someone older? As one American columnist has pointed out, in the case of Miss Britney Spears this doesn’t seem to ring true. The wisdom of age eludes her. Her Baptist background was no help either.

Methuselah holds the record of the being the oldest man in the Bible (age: 969). Wonder what he was doing while his grandson Noah was constructing the ark. For the information of everyone, Methuselah had perished in the year of the Flood.

There is an exhortation for people to “remember your Creator in the days of your youth,” and I think there is wisdom in this, coming from the Father of all ages who also inspired the Book of all ages. This is to cushion them from the infidel challenges to their faith; but again this all depends. Pat Boone grew up in the church of Christ. I was then a Catholic who idolized him for his songs; but by the time I became a member of the church, Pat Boone was gone.

In July, I would be blowing 62 birthday candles, and if so Catholic candle sellers, come, you can make much money out of the likes of people like me. Just choose a man much older, like McCain.

The wife of my youth (she will be 60 in June, 2008) looks up to me as the pillar of her age. She hates it when I recite statistics, like there are more widows than widowers in the world, and that the oldest person to have ever lived was a woman (age: 122). We have weathered enough storms, and there are still more coming, and she wants to weather them with me. Such a nice thought. Age carries with it a depository of stock knowledge and wisdom, which, like the shield of an M10 Wolverine tank, could weather the onslaughts of the enemy.

God has not decreed for man to live as old as Methuselah (Genesis 6:3). Your birthday candles may be 62, 72, or 82, and for one who lives in sin, this is too long.

For one serving the Lord, this amount of time may not be enough. But whether long or short, let us learn from the Book of the ages the long and short of it:

Firstly, Understand that the candles of your life are trouble-wrought. “Man that is born of a woman is of few days and full of trouble” (Job 14:1, 2). Think how frail life is. Take the matter to God in prayer, like the psalmist of old: “Lord, make me to know mine end and the measure of my days, what it is; that I may know how frail I am” (Psalms 39:4).

Second, Save what you can from your calendar days. “So teach us to number our days, that we may apply ourselves to wisdom” (Psalms 90:12). My family’s benefactor, brother Charles, has been advising me to slow down, an advise I didn’t often heed, but I saw the wisdom of it when after having climbed Mt. Busay, my heart palpitated faster than I could say, “I am strong!” That race is only for the young, I told myself. Save your health but for a purpose. “The days of our years are threescore and ten, and if for reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away” (Psalm 90:10). For whatever contributes to our longevity, we all must thank our Giver, and save that remaining strength for Him.

Third, “Redeem your time” is Paul’s advise in Ephesians 5:16. To redeem is to buy it back. Methuselah’s 969 years is too long and too big to buy back, but perhaps for 60, you can buy back another 10. If by reason of good food and exercise our threescores becomes fourscores, then the twenty years that we have redeemed should better be used for His service and glory. The sin of idleness has sired more sins, and the temptation to always call for a “non-working holiday” from God’s service is very strong. Paul has this warning: “And withal they learn to be idle, wandering about from house to house; and not only idle but tattlers also and busybodies, speaking things which they ought not” (1Timothy 5:13). Jose Rizal, our national hero, had tried to defend the indolence of his countrymen, but I will not. Indolence is indolence, and it runs counter to the culture of the Bible which we have adopted when we became Christians.

Fourth, Tomorrow is the realm of the unknown. “Boast not thyself of tomorrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth” (Proverbs 27:1). Since God owns it, live in God’s today and let Him do what He wishes with His tomorrow. If He allows you to have a slice of it, well and good. But live as if today were your last. There is wisdom in this because this erases all your justification for procrastinating. A day not doing anything for God is a day unused. This too erases your justification for building physical futures.

So it matters not how many birthday candles you have, as long as those candles are lit for God.

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