Seasoned Advice from Walter Breuning

“My son, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments, for length of days and years of life and peace they will add to you.” – Proverbs 3:1-2

Earlier this week, Walter Breuning died in Montana – he was 114 years old. He was apparently the world’s oldest living man, second oldest living person (one Bessie Cooper of Georgia is 26 days older). London’s Evening Standard passed on Mr. Breuning’s secrets of life in a short blurb here. – embrace change; eat two meals a day; work as long as you can; help others, and don’t fear death “because you’re born to die.”

I’d say that sounds like pretty good advice.

Embrace Change. As we drift along through this life, things are constantly in flux around us. People never really change that much in terms of their fundamental makeup – but the nature of the interactions, societies, and modes of operation are changing all the time. The Church in particular has struggled with this one over the years. We will find ourselves in a time of great revival, and come to the conclusion that this must finally be the pinnacle of Christian society in our world. Then, as the years go by, things start to change and we struggle mightily to adapt. It’s almost as if we’re saying “hey, we had it good back then – this is just a ‘falling away’ from sound doctrine; folks just don’t want to love Jesus anymore.” It’s by-and-large nonsense. As times change we are reminded of what Paul said in 1 Cor 9:22: “I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some.”

Eat Two Meals a Day. Researchers have been on this one for some time. There is a negative correlation between caloric intake and longevity. Eat less, live longer. (Of course, my mode of operation would appear to be “I want to live longer some day … so I’ll eat less some day too.”)

Work as Long as You Can. I may be reading too much into this, I certainly have never talked to Mr. Breuning, but to my mind this speaks to consistency and perseverance in the work-life balance. A few weeks ago I was reading Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Life Together and quite enjoyed his discussion of work in the lives of Christians. His description of the day consists of prayer and fellowship, followed by work with intermittent breaks for mealtime (which included celebration and joyfulness in thanksgiving to the Lord). There was clearly balance and rhythm to the whole thing. We are not lazy – nor are we beasts of burden. We work and rest, bear a burden and take time out to rejoice and celebrate.

Contrast this with the typical American approach to the problem: work as hard as you can so you can retire early and never work again. We miss out on so much early, and then wonder what to do with ourselves late.

Help Others. Amen. There are always folks who need help, legitimately need it and won’t get it anywhere else. This is a human bond. It is laying up treasure in heaven. “I don’t care nearly as much about my time or my stuff as I do about you.”

“You’re Born to Die” Sadly true. The death rate is hovering right at 100% – and has been for some time. We can’t escape it. Don’t hide from it or live in denial. Things you want to do before you go – do ’em – ’cause you will be going some day. Questions you have – get ’em answered. Words you want to say – go ahead and say them. Something to get off your chest? No time like the present. Pressed upon by the weight of eternity? “And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls on the name of the LORD shall be saved.” (Joel 2:32) – it’s just that simple.

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