Saturday, September 23, 2006

Letter From Sun City West (corrected and updated)

For friends and interested others, herein is a report on our situation in Sun City West, Arizona--a retirement community--where we will live until the middle of next January. This term I am on sabbatical from Denver Seminary. I will try to avoid the utterly pedestrian, but this will not be stunning social commentary.

We wanted to live here to spend time with Rebecca's elderly and failing parents, to get her into a better climate for her health, and to be involved in a church pastored by friends of ours. Rebecca will also be sorting out decades of things left by her parents that are in the house, who are too befogged at this point to make these decisions, sadly.

Figuring out what to take and what to leave, as well as arranging for house repairs in our absence, was very challenging. Rebecca's stellar organizational skills served us well. We are also thankful to many friends for donating their time and talents for this task. One of my students is doing a bang up job house-sitting and helping coordinate all the repairs as well.

I arrived in Sun City West five weeks ago by car. Rebecca came by air one week later. We are living in Rebecca's parents' home, which has not been lived in for about four years. It has recently been renovated and was stocked with many household items, but we still have to do all that was necessary to move in. I was only able to bring about thirty books with me, which can be traumatic for a bibliophile-or perhaps a bibliolater. Nevertheless, there are Borders and Barnes and Nobles within striking distance and Amazon delivers here as well as Centennial, Colorado.

Rebecca and I both felt strange living in a home we so closely associate with her parents. Yet they are gone and will not return here. Her mother is in a group home and her father lives with his oldest son. Rebecca is surrounded by objects that spark deep memories--clothes, appliances, briefcases, and much more. I recently went through nearly fifty years of publications by The American Scientific Affiliation to clip articles I wanted to keep. I found two book reviews I had written for them in 1984 that had completely slipped my mind! They are now safely added to my resume. Paul Merrill, Rebecca's father, was a long-time member and a psychologist.

I am volunteering part-time at Covenant of Grace Church in Phoenix: a multi-ethnic charismatic church pastored by our long-time friends, Len and Sharon Griffin. Thus far, I have preached twice and have started an adult education class on worldview, apologetics, and ethics. This Sunday we will begin a special service oriented toward the African immigrants, whom I have a special concern for, given my many African friends I have met through my teaching. The first meeting will be mostly exploratory to see what these folks need to learn about being a Christian in America. (I am still trying figure that out.)

Estrella Mountain Community College hired me as an adjunct to teach an Introduction to Philosophy class. Only about half the students attend and few have very strong skills in writing or critical thinking. But I am laboring to reach them where they are and bring them up a few notches. If they leave the class realizing the importance of objective truth, logic, and religious questions, I will be somewhat satisfied. One student claimed that she felt like she was from "another planet" with respect to the material--it was so strange to her. It is humbling for me to labor to engage these souls.

I am also working on various writing projects, including my apologetics textbook, What Matters Most. I started this in the spring of 2003 and it is suffering from apologetic obesity. It is probably about 500 pages long so far. And I am not done. Much of it is very rough, so I need to edit and rewrite. When will it come out? I have no idea when--someday, I hope.

We will attempt to see them every other Saturday and bring some grace and love to them. Both live quite far from where we are living. Rebecca's older brother and his wife take care of the parents, a nearly full-time job. They are patient, loving, and dedicated in this task.

Although I am attending and ministering at Covenant of Grace, Rebecca cannot accompany me because of her health problems, although we are getting involved in a small group with the church. However, we found Lutheran Church in the neighborhood called Crown of Life Lutheran Church. (The Lutherans always have classy names for their churches; no Grace Community Fellowship for them.) We have been attending their Saturday afternoon services. The worship is quite liturgical, biblical, and respectful. The fungus of popular culture is almost entirely absent. The church building is beautiful; it looks nothing like a theater or warehouse, unlike most pop/schlock evangelical enterprises. It has gorgeous stained glass windows, but without any member of the godhead depicted (as it should be: make no images of God). A cross hangs from the ceiling and is impossible to ignore. No projection screen obscures it (as is the case in some clueless churches.) Everyone there is very friendly. We stick out, since we are decades younger than everyone else.

We took communion last Saturday and found it meaningful. There is no improvising there, thank God. I am becoming more sacramental in my old age.

The weather has been blisteringly hot, especially during the first two weeks I was here. It is now "cooling off" into the low nineties during the day about twenty degrees cooler at night. Of course, fall and winter is the time to live here. I miss riding my bike on the Highline Canal trial. When it cools off, I can do some bike riding with my brother-in-law, Gerry, an avid biker.

Life is slower and quieter, to be sure--and a bit lonely. It it, however, wonderfully quiet. The huge and ugly vehicles that haunt our neighborhood are absent. We have heard a few subwoofers, but not many. In the mornings, I can sit in the back porch and read. There is no activity in the other yards, since they require no maintenance and because everyone is inside.

I have been swimming at the recreation center fairly often and observing old bodies in various stages of disrepair. I have never seen people swim so slowly in my life. A woman told me tonight that it was good "to see some young people here." (I am 49.) (I was also called "a baby" by someone else.) She told me she comes most every night and swims one lap; that is her limit. Well, good for her. Most, in fact, do not swim but "water walk," usually in packs or two-by-two. It all makes me think of how I will age, how enfeebled I will be, what my life will be like, how I can prepare for it. I don't look forward to "retiring," since it isn't a biblical idea. However, Ecclesiastes 12 happens to everyone who lives long enough.

So here we are. We solicit your prayers that this will be time well spent for the glory of God and the advancement of his kingdom (Matthew 6:33; 1 Corinthians 10:31).


Suzi said...

It sounds like you are busy. I hope the time is a blessing to you all.

Is pastured a normal usage of the verb in this context? Or did your spell check correct from pastored? I haven't ever seen it used, but I do not read a lot any more in religious publications.

Douglas Groothuis said...


Thank you for pointing out the typo, which I fixed.

Beyond Words said...

Beautiful post. What a bitterseet time of life. You and Rebecca in your writings have been immensely helpful to me as I sort out my belief in a simple (but not easy) Gospel. I will pray for you and her parents--and this is not lipservice--God has burdened me with a call to prayer lately.

I look forward to your apologetics. We need a fresh look at our defense of the faith--some of us have no idea what we're defending.

Do you know if there's anything out there that appropiately explains major Biblical themes so people don't start from Genesis committing eisogesis--and thus reach Revelation completely astray from the Gospel?