12 11 2021

My wife and I took a drive from Shamokin to Lancaster this past Monday. While we were in the car, I discovered that “Sirius/XM 80’s on 8” was doing a recap of the Top 40 Billboard Songs from October 24, 1982. Terri is originally from Lebanon where we got married in December of that year. Needless to say, there was lots of reminiscing going on between us as each tune brought back a succinct memory of booking venues, renting tuxedos, Terri picking out the perfect wedding dress and all the things we did as we planned our celebration.

It will be 39 years that we have been together come December 4th. They say the average marriage these days lasts about 8 years. Many use the excuse of still loving their spouse but not being “in love” with them to keep the union alive. I was only 22 when we were wed and Terri just 20. What did we really know? I venture to say that I had no clue what was truly ahead for us as we launched our new family that Saturday at Avon United Methodist Church. It hasn’t been love that has kept us together although I love my wife now as much as I ever have. The true glue was that we took the commitment we made before God very serious and knew that if we were going to build a lasting legacy, faith had to be the foundation strong enough to sustain the weight that life has piled upon it through the years, the tears, the fears and the ever shifting gear.

The Number One song of the countdown just happened to be that little ditty about “Jack and Diane” by John Mellencamp. I can’t lie to you. The lyric, “Hold on to 16 as long as you can; changes come along real soon make you women and men,” has always hit me in smack dab in the heart. Let’s face it. When we are young, we can’t wait until we get old. When we get old, we long to go back and be kids again. We are way too preoccupied with either the past or the future, we rarely engage fully in the present right before us. The little ones we introduce into the world are handfuls for sure when they are young but when you turn around and blink for a moment, before you know it, there is nobody at home but you and your spouse once again. And if you aren’t paying careful attention, sneeze twice and then cancer or some other unwelcome casualty leaves you all alone with your best days clearly behind you in the rear-view mirror of life.

If life has a ‘smack you right between the eyes experience’, then the chorus of “Jack and Diane,” gave me a sobering sock in the head. “Oh yeah, life goes on; long after the thrill of living is gone.” Wait! What? Can we human beings get to a place where we honestly buy into a belief system where there is no hope or highlight other than to arrive at death as quietly as possible? I know the prime of my life has already been written for the book. I come to Shamokin as a 62-year-old man who is battling prostate cancer and other annoying physical ailments that without a doubt has slowed me down from my younger days. But I am not dead yet! I don’t even believe retirement is good for you because there should always be a new challenge to conquer or a God-appointed assignment to jump into. Life goes on and I know that I might be in the September of my years but just like I love December, I believe my best is yet to come! If I have a pulse, I have a purpose and so do you! If we are not dead, we are not done! And who says that the thrill of the chase is only for the adolescents?

Biblical Hope is a confident expectation and desire for something good in the future. But it is much different than “human” hope. I say, “I hope my next report shows the radiation worked.” Maybe it will. Maybe it won’t. Earthly hope still carries with it a large degree of uncertainty. But not so, “Heavenly Hope!” If God has said it will happen, even though we don’t know when, we can live like it is already a done deal! I used to hope I was going to Heaven, but I had not one iota of assurance that I would. But because Jesus told us that He is the Resurrection and the Life and if anyone would believe in Him, they would not perish, but have everlasting life, there is no doubt about it. My hope of Heaven is a not a “Maybe Baby,” its only a matter of time.

So, life does goes on but the anticipation never ceases. The moment a Believer takes his or her last breath here, the movie doesn’t end, it truly just begins. I can already hear myself saying, “Lord, I don’t think I’m in Shamokin anymore.” And Oz can’t hold a candle to Paradise! So I press on with the heart of a 17-year-old because while outwardly I may be passing away, inwardly you haven’t seen nothing yet! I think we need to remind each other more often that no matter how dark it might be getting today, the sun will come out tomorrow. So I love the Lord and cherish my wife and cheer on my kids and spoil my grandkids and take on each day with one eye on the road and the other eye peeking at the sky! It’s not “if Jesus gets around to it”, “maybe He will return someday;” It is happening and even though I have no way to make it occur, I am not going to miss it when it does. God has my hope on that fact!

When we were kids in school, they used to make us participate in fire drills. There was no fire in the building. There wasn’t a hint of smoke being smelled in the town. We were usually dressed up in our “Gym Suits.” And it was negative 25 degrees outside when they paraded us all to the parking lot. The powers to be just wanted us to be ready in case there was true danger. They wanted to make sure that we knew where to go! Well, how about “Rapture Practice.” Someone blows a trumpet as a test of the emergency Christian system and we all get on the furniture and together say, “1, 2, 3 Jump!” If our Lord comes back, He snatches us up to be with Him. If not, we hit the floor. Therefore I recommend that you don’t climb too high during the dress rehearsal. I don’t want you to forget that there is always a thrill over the next hill! It’s too soon to give up. It is time to look up. Looking up gives me the ability to love my wife with honeymoon freshness. Looking up keeps me making my “Guardian Angel” busy. Looking up means the best is yet to come.

Rudy Sheptock is the pastor at Shamokin Christian and Missionary Alliance Church and hosts weekend oldies radio shows on WISL-AM 1480. His columns appear in each Friday edition of The News-Item and he welcomes reader feedback at



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