It’s my birthday

Father David Epps's picture

It’s my birthday. Martin Luther King, Jr. and I share the same birthday, though not the same year of birth. My cousin John Honeycutt, four years younger than I, also shares the same birth date. On Jan. 15, I hit the big five-nine. I can no longer deceive myself into thinking that I am still a kid.

In our family, we celebrate birthdays by the month. There are four birthdays in January so, last Sunday, we had a party at my house — pizza, salad, Cokes, cakes, candles, and all the things necessary to celebrate.

I solemnly announced, “I just want you to know that this is my last birthday.”

Concerned, someone later asked me if I was sick — really sick.

No, I shared. I just want to stop being reminded that I am older than I was. As one of the sons put it a few years ago, “Hey Dad, you’re another year closer to seeing Jesus!”

When I hit 40, I was actually excited. Being 40 meant that I was really a grownup and that I didn’t have to compete with the teens anymore. No arm wrestling, if I didn’t want to, no pick-up basketball games that left me exhausted, and no feeling that I didn’t belong in the men’s group at church.

When I turned 50, I was not excited at all. It didn’t help that, a few days before my birthday, I received my AARP card in the mail. Somehow, I went from being a young member of the men’s group to being a member of the American Association of Retired Persons. I was depressed for a week.

It also didn’t help that I was taking classes at a seminary surrounded by men and women who hadn’t even begun their ministry and that some of the instructors were younger than I was!

Since I turned 50, I have had knee surgery, gall bladder surgery, stomach surgery, trifocal glasses, blood pressure medication, another medication I cannot pronounce, and people calling me to see if I am interested in buying cemetery plots.

I take the “silver” vitamins instead of the Fred Flintstone vitamins and go to bed at 9:30 p.m. if I have to get up at 5 in the morning. Sometimes, I think about going to bed at 9:30 even when I don’t have to get up early. When I rough-house with the young grandsons, invariably someone will say, “Boys, now don’t hurt Papa!” Sigh.

So, do I want to turn 60 next year? Well, yes, because the alternative is pretty permanent. But do I look forward to even more unexpected changes? I do not.

However, I realize that I may have to examine my attitude. I spoke to a lady a few weeks back who is about my age and she said, “I can’t wait until I turn 60.”

“Really,” I inquired, “and why is that?”

“Because, I’m gonna go wild!” she replied with a huge grin.

I’m not sure exactly how she is planning to do that but her enthusiasm was infectious. And I have to admit — most of the people I know who are over 60 seem to be having the time of their lives.

My in-laws both just turned 80 and they travel and entertain extensively, teach in their Baptist church’s Sunday School program, and are planning their 60th wedding anniversary for next summer — a celebration that will be 350 miles from their home. My father-in-law will be found at the gym six days a week and is in much better shape than I am. So, maybe I need to re-think this.

I’ve gone back to the gym, have lost eight pounds in the last two weeks, am watching my calories, and am thinking about doing a 5K race later on — but I will walk it, not run it ... not yet anyway.

I still have my AARP card because I get good discounts and I’m seriously thinking about going back to the Fred Flintstone vitamins. I wonder if they make those in “silver?”

So, “Happy birthday to me,” and to MLK, Jr., who would have been 81. And happy birthday to Cousin John up in northeast Tennessee who turns 55. Only one more year to go before I go wild!

[David Epps is the priest and pastor of the Cathedral of Christ the King (, 4881 Hwy. 34 E., Sharpsburg, GA 30277, between Peachtree City and Newnan. Services are held Sundays at 8:30 and 10 a.m. He is also the bishop of the Mid-South Diocese ( and is the mission pastor of Christ the King Mission in Champaign, IL. He may be contacted at]

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Submitted by Davids mom on Mon, 01/18/2010 - 12:39pm.

Getting ready to complete my 71st year - I can relate to almost everything that you have shared! God has been good to me and my family - and for this I'm grateful. I'm sharing an essay written by someone else for MLK's birthday.

This morning I awoke with a heart full of thankfulness and a mind in deep reflection. It is the national holiday marking the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. -- a day of remembrance for the spokesman for civil and human rights, the advocate for an end to discrimination, the preacher, teacher, prophetic voice lost in August 1968 to one who believed he (or they) could silence a vision, a people, a movement, a dream. Dr. King spoke of many social and political concerns facing the nation and the world at the time -- war, morality, disenfranchisement, the "unchecked cancer" called hate, "the curse of poverty" -- that were best summed up on August 28, 1963. That day in Washington, DC, before hundreds of thousands from all walks of life, he called for racial equality, for "judgment" based not upon the color of our skin but by "the content of [our] character." The speech, called "a speech of rhetoric" by conservatives past and present, established a benchmark for the country if we were to truly become united. As I consider the hurtful words spewed by Pat Robertson last week regarding the earthquake in Haiti and subsequent loss of thousands of human lives (words not far removed from those he spoke of with regard to the victims of Hurricane Katrina in 2005), I am profoundly more aware of how far we have come as a nation, and how much further we still have to go.
When I was a child we use to say "sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me." But as I became older and conscious of the world around me, I learned that was not true. One word however that communicates both power and oppression is freedom. Freedom is a core value written in many documents and a key component of various sacred texts. While sometimes misused, it is a word and a principle I love. Freedom is religious liberty, freedom is a right to love and to marry whomever one chooses, freedom is a livable wage. Dr. King once wrote, "There is nothing in all the world greater than freedom." The images ingrained in my memory from early childhood of the violent deaths of Dr. King and the Kennedy brothers taught me the price that could be paid by those who believe in freedom so deeply that they live on the front line in the fight to secure that precious gift and blessing for others. Today, as I celebrate the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., I am also aware of the approaching one-year anniversary of Barack Obama's inauguration as the nation's 44th president and the first African American holder of the country's highest office. I remember the celebration of that landmark and the genuine happiness shared by most Americans. But this new picture of America in the 21st century was met with fear and resentment by the political and religious leaders who use race, hate, homophobia and xenophobia to advance a narrow, manipulative "wrong winged" agenda.
I remain hopeful, and thankful, for the opportunity to fight for change... for freedom. As a favorite song of mine goes, "It's been a long time coming, but I know a change is gonna come. Oh yes it will."
One day we will all be judged by the content of our character. In the meantime, I thank those who carry on Martin Luther King, Jr.'s legacy in the fight for freedom, justice and equality for all. As the late Senator Edward Kennedy once said, "For all those whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die." Happy Birthday Dr. King!
Thank you, and Happy Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

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