Planning for the Future

Planning for the Future

By Ken Walker –

The Jesus Film ProjectAt an age when old friends are talking about how much they enjoy retirement or how they’re looking forward to it, the people who inspire me are those who keep going regardless.

Recently I interviewed Erick Schenkel, executive director of The Jesus Film Project. Used in every nation of the world, The Jesus Film recently celebrated its 35th anniversary.

In April Cru (formerly Campus Crusade for Christ)—the ministry that uses it as a missions tool with numerous denominations and parachurch organizations—issued a revamped, high-definition DVD and Blu Ray disk that sold 35,000 copies at Wal-Mart its first three months.

Still Active

After the last director stepped down, Schenkel returned to the U.S. from Asia in 2012 to take his place. While that brought him closer to his five children and two grandchildren, he didn’t use that as an excuse to head for the nearest rocking chair.

In addition to his active work schedule, the former pastor likes to play golf, run marathons and mini-marathons, and keep up with current academic literature.

“A lot of people quit by 62, but I’m more excited than ever,” Schenkel says.

“In a lot of ways, I’m just hitting my stride. I’m growing every day and learning every day. I don’t think my capacities are diminished yet.”

An Inspiration

However, when it comes to personal inspirations, a leading figure in my life is Cec Murphey, the prolific author, novelist and ghostwriter who keeps crafting books at the age of 81.

90 Minutes in Heaven: A True Story of Death and LifeAlthough you may not readily recognize his name, you may be aware of the bestsellers he co-authored. One is 90 Minutes in Heaven, the story of Don Piper’s visit to heaven after a serious accident—and a first responder’s declaration that Piper had died. Another is Gifted Hands, the memoir of pioneering surgeon Dr. Ben Carson, who has drawn interest lately as a potential presidential candidate.

Cec and I aren’t close friends, but exchange occasional e-mails and chatted by phone when business took me to the Atlanta area. We also met a couple times, including at a writers conference in Louisville, Kentucky.

His graciousness, humility, generosity to other writers and positive outlook have made him both an example and a mentor.

However, it’s his “keep at it” spirit that I especially admire. When I profiled him for Today’s Christian Living three years ago, he made a remark that I still chuckle over. It concerned a then-30-year-old grandson, who liked to joke, “I’ve already made out my will. I’m going to leave everything to Grandpa.”

Success as Failure

It’s been awhile since we corresponded, but Cec came to mind again when I   received a copy of his June newsletter. Titled “When Success Becomes a Failure,” he mentioned how success can fizzle into nothingness when achievements in life became an end in themselves.

“If we pin everything on the reaching of one target, we’ll end up disappointed, perhaps frustrated, or possibility depressed,” he wrote.

Cecil MurpheyNoting that’s when success becomes a failure, he added, “But what if each achievement prepares us for bigger challenges? What if our purpose is not to stop as long as we breathe?”

Indeed, what if that is our goal? In talking with people my age who have retired, some have talked about the difficulties of physical labor past a certain age, or being on call 24-7 in a high-stress position of responsibility.

I understand there are many cases where continuing to work in the same occupation isn’t a good idea, and sometimes isn’t possible. However, heading for the sidelines at one job shouldn’t mean permanently sitting down. There is too much to be done in the world to take a pass on meaningful activity.

Grandma Moses was still painting at 100. Cec Murphey is still writing books at 81. Dolly Parton was 67 when she announced a $300 million expansion of Dollywood last year. So, what’s your plan for the future?


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