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  • July 11, 2014 - Reflections

    By Jean S. Horner
    The other day while walking down a corridor in a public building, I saw what appeared to be someone walking toward me. On coming closer, I found it was my own reflection in a huge mirror. For a moment it frightened me. Somehow a full-length reflection of one’s self is a startling thing. ...

Layers of Influence

By Ken Horn
Sept. 22, 2013

A broad tailfin slapped the water and sent spray skyward. I watched as my dad held on desperately, a mixture of excitement and fatigue evident on his face. His gnarled, arthritic hands all but ignored his commands to raise the rod tip and take in line. This would be the fight of his life. He’d caught bigger fish — but that was when he was much younger and healthier. If he could land this fish it would be his first salmon in fresh water. And it would be the last fish of his life.

A River of Memories

Dad and I were close. Times outdoors together were treasured experiences. He had instilled in me a love of God’s creation. We would squeeze every moment of enjoyment out of watching a river otter, a mule deer, or a covey of quail.

Now, near the end of my father’s fight with cancer, I watched this titanic struggle; and my mind returned to the beginning of the day. It was a gorgeous, still autumn morning when we arrived at the river. Fall colors adorned the shoreline and a gentle mist hovered above us.

Dad’s hands would no longer let him tie a hook. I helped him get his rig ready, then put on his waders — with no small degree of difficulty. That accomplished, we made our way carefully into the shallows. The salmon were running, and there were some great places on the river to catch fish. But I had selected an area accessible to him and, thus, less likely for good fishing.

But we were always happy just to fish together. Dad had a saying I’d heard many times over the years: “We’re going fishing. If we catch fish, that’s bonus.” He taught me to relish the experience of being out in God’s creation, and experiencing its wonder alongside people we love. Catching fish would be great, but we were happy just to be here ... together.

Just a few casts into the day, I felt my rod tip dip, lifted it, and knew I was into a fall Chinook. Then we repeated a scenario that had occurred in my childhood — but now we reversed roles.

“Dad, I’ve got one. Trade me rods.”

Never before would he ever consider such a thing. He felt a fisherman should hook, play and land his own fish. But we both knew today was different ... that it was likely his last time to hold a rod.

Now I watched helplessly as his first flush of excitement turned to labored concern. The reel sang — zzzzzz — as the large hen peeled off line. Time after time Dad laboriously drew the fish near only to see the large form shrink once again as it stripped line from the spool and raced across stream.

And now his rod tip dropped dangerously low. Weak from age, illness and fatigue, Dad just didn’t have the strength to finish the fight.

A group of onlookers had gathered, and I asked two to help Dad to shore while I took the rod. With his back turned, I quickly raised the rod tip and pumped the exhausted fish in. When Dad turned around, I handed him the rod, and tailed the fish —a 17-pound king salmon.

Dad never made another cast. He sat on a folding stool and regaled passing admirers with details of the battle.

Not long after that, I stood at Dad’s casket. He won this fight, I thought. Like the apostle Paul, he could say, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7, NKJV). Dad left me a legacy of godliness. And God left me the memory of that special day on the river.

When the funeral was over, we returned to the house. His rod stood against the wall of the garage, still rigged for action. Where’s Roy? it seemed to ask.

I still have that rod; it was many years before I took it fishing. Today, when I look at it, I remember that God gave us that one last day. And He gave Dad one last fish.

Though I have missed my dad ever since he left this earth, I have no regrets from my relationship with him. We made Dad’s final days memorable, and his life continues to have a profound influence on mine.

Second-Half Endurance

It’s been more than two decades since that wonderful, memorable day on the river, and I have edged into my own second half of life. I have often, throughout my life, looked to my dad’s example for how to live a good and godly life. Now I’m beginning to think about the example he set in finishing well.

A man in his second half of life is far from done. By maximizing those second-half years, he extends his influence beyond his lifetime. Any of my influence that outlives me is because of some very special individuals who had a part in my formation. Besides my dad, I also look to the examples set by other men of God as they continued to serve in their own second half of life.

John Mott, the Methodist layman who had an enormous impact on modern missions, did not let age slow his efforts to advance the kingdom of God.

“While life lasts,” he said in his last public appearance, “I am an evangelist.” Eighty-nine years old when he died, Mott did not fear death. He once told a reporter that death was just a place to change trains.

Ralph Harris was also such a personal teacher to me. Ralph was the first national youth director for the Assemblies of God. He founded the Speed the Light youth missions program in 1944. Today, Speed the Light generates millions annually for missions.

One of the great blessings for me in coming to the national offices of the Assemblies of God was getting to know Ralph as a close personal friend. Though advanced in years, he was still quite active.

A year before he passed away, Ralph fell extremely ill. I heard about it from his wife when I called to give him a writing assignment for the Pentecostal Evangel. He liked to keep his hand in as a writer. (He had served as editor-in-chief of the Church School Literature Department during his last 22 years in the Assemblies of God workforce.) Ralph’s wife told me he had been hospitalized.

I immediately rushed to see him. When I reached his hospital room, I peered in cautiously. Ralph didn’t look good at all. I approached slowly and gently called his name.

Ralph opened his eyes. “Ken,” he said feebly, and then motioned me to his bedside. He could barely speak above a whisper. I told him I had called his house to give him an assignment and heard from his wife that he was in the hospital — and I rushed right over. He motioned me to come closer as if to tell me something very important. When I drew near, he slowly whispered something that was not quite what I expected: “What’s ... the ... assignment?”

I loved that man.

God gave him another year (he died in 2004 at the age of 91). Ralph’s life still inspires me.


Other lesser-known people have inspired me too. Editing the Pentecostal Evangel has afforded me many opportunities to see and hear about people with a productive second half of life. Take Melvin from Nebraska. He was 72 years of age when he began teaching an adult Bible study. Seems late in life to do so, but not as it turned out.

Today, Melvin is 92 and still faithfully teaching that class. Look at what would have been lost had he thought he was too old to serve — two decades of ministry!

I’ve been inspired to run a strong second half by many great people — my dad, famous historical Christians, noteworthy leaders and energetic laypeople.

Wherever you look, you can find examples of people inspired by God to run a strong second half. They make me want to leave that kind of legacy too.

This article is adapted from a chapter in the book Longevity Response-Ability: A Collection of Legacy Readings to Help Unleash the Determination and Power of Second-Halfers (Inspiring Voices: 2013) by Robert W. Chism, founder and executive director of New Beginnings, a ministry to people in the second half of life.

KEN HORN is editor of the Pentecostal Evangel.

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