How “Terribly Strange?”

He was only twenty-four when he wrote the words, so we can forgive him if he got it a little wrong.  For while beautifully extolling the virtues of “old friends,” Paul Simon posed the question, “can you imagine us years from today, sharing a park bench quietly?” and then he added, “how terribly strange to be seventy.”

Reaching that milestone marker today myself, however, I have to think that being seventy may feel a little odd, but it’s not “terribly strange” at all.  Rather, it’s “wonderfully blessed.”  For looking back over the first seven decades of my life I am enormously grateful for every age and stage and how I have seen God work in them.

My childhood years (or at least what I can remember of them) were on the whole happy ones and when I became a teenager, I received a gift that I still cherish:  a Honda 50 motorcycle, a moving metaphor for independence, long before that company began making cars as well.  In my twenties, I not only had the privilege of sitting and learning from incredible teachers at Gordon-Conwell Seminary, but of discovering for myself as a missionary in what was then Communist Eastern Europe that I really could trust God in everything.  And when I came back, most significantly at the age of 24, God gifted me with an incredible help-mate for life, a beautiful woman in a yellow dress that captured my heart and still holds it.

In my thirties, two incredible children came into our lives, and we’ve been laughing and loving with them ever since.  And entering the next decade I had the joy of turning forty while working on a college campus surrounded by eighteen-year-olds whose youthful enthusiasm was fortunately contagious. 

The fifties brought the arrival of grandchildren into our lives, which eventually blossomed into a matched set of three rather remarkable kids on each side of the Atlantic Ocean.  And in the decade just completed, I not only discovered a new-found love for the land of Israel, but I was privileged to work in helping to birth a new Methodist church as well.

And all along the way, in good days and in bad, what I’ve discovered is that God has been constant in both His character and His caring.  As enormously talented as Paul Simon was, in fact, it’s Jenn Johnson who got it right, I think.  For it was while driving on a long country road during the adoption process of their son that Jenn began to think about the faithfulness and kindness of God.  And so, she recorded a song into her phone with words that find a special resonance with me on this day:  

“All my life You have been faithful, all my life You have been so, so good, with every breath that I am able, I will sing of the goodness of God.”

I’m thankful indeed for my “winter companions” as Paul Simon called them.  But we are not just “lost in our overcoats waiting for the sunset.”  We’re lost in wonder, love, and praise, waiting for the Son.

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32 Responses to How “Terribly Strange?”

  1. jflint77 says:

    Happy Birthday Chappel,

    Hope we see you soon!  Perhaps @ Trinity Church?

    Jay & Colleen Flint


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  2. Linda Kay Cohn Huysman says:

    Happy 70th Chap! Welcome to the club! 70 is the new 50. Thanks for all you did for Roland and I all these years. We will always have fond memories of the time at church and especially on the trip to Israel with you and Julie. Roland and I are dealing with the challenges of him being home most of the time now. As you know he can’t sit still and needs lots of projects. He’s a problem solver and fixer so hopefully we will get the house spik and span finally as we have a very long list of honey-do’s now.

    We hope to keep in touch and see yall soon.

    Happy Birthday!

    Love, Linda

  3. Debbie seime says:

    Beautiful! Happy Birthday Pastor Temple!
    -Dean & Debbie Seime

  4. Colin McLeod says:

    Singing God’s praises all the day long for your wonderful friendship and this special mile marker.

  5. amygyoung says:

    Happy Birthday Chappell! This was a beautiful look back on your life, and I consider myself blessed to know you and count you a friend. I treasure the knowledge and wisdom that you have shared with me over the years. Hope to see you soon!

  6. Gail McClendon says:

    Happy Birthday Chap!!! Wishing you all the best in your 70s. It is a glorious decade to be in. Praises to God for your faithfulness. Beautiful story of your life. Hope to see you in the near future.

  7. Marvin Fuller says:

    I always appreciated what you did for Christ Church and wish you the best in the years ahead . I am now 81 years old, and I thank God every day for the many blessings he has bestowed on me and my family.

  8. Jerry says:

    Thank you Chap for being an inspiration to those of us whose appreciate your life, work, and ministries!

    Please continue keeping me on your mailing list as I always love to hear your thoughts. Not only do I read your posts, but also read the books you gifted to me. You have been a wonderful student, missionary, pastor, and teacher – thank you.

  9. Sunday Coffman says:

    Happy birthday Chap! Love and hugs to you and Julie! Sunday

  10. pruth says:

    Happy Birthday!

  11. Stephanie Flatt says:

    Dearest Chap
    Happy Birthday! Daryl and I want you to know what a blessing you were to us and still are. We still hear your voice from the culprit.Your wisdom and knowledge of our precious Lord Jesus is missed everyday. Loved your words…”we’re lost in wonder, love, and praise, waiting for the Son”. As hard as it gets for me in our “son-set”, I am reminded he’s not done with us yet! The Flatts

  12. Linda Kana says:

    Happy, happy 70th birthday, Chappell! I hope that you and Julie are doing well. I wish you a wonderful day and many, many more blessings in the year ahead!

    Linda Kana ________________________________

  13. Amen! Beautiful…and Happy Birthday!

  14. Edward A. Monto says:

    Happy birthday! Yesterday I achieved 83 years of Grace and continue to be thankful for every day I have been on this journey. It is great to be a child of God! May we have many more. Best wishes always good friend!

  15. Wes Whiddon says:

    Thank you, Chap, for these beautiful words. And happy birthday.

  16. Patty Beatty says:

    Wishing you a very Happy Birthday, Chap!
    Love and Blessings,

  17. Robert Cofffman says:

    Happy Birthday Chap! Wishing you and Julie the best!


  18. Kathe Behrend says:

    What a wonderful essay Chap. You have been a gift to so many every decade. Birthday blessings.

  19. Sandy Crow says:

    Happy Birthday!!!

  20. Bill & Pat Hood says:

    Happy Birthday! May the Lord give you many more Happy Birthdays and to be able to sing his praises!
    We love your article for giving the Lord praise in each phase of your life. We thank the Lord everyday for another day of life and good health at 88.
    Give Julie our love the whole has walked beside you all these years.
    You are loved and appreciated by so many.

  21. Sally McKnight says:


    A very happy birthday Dr. Temple.

  22. Paula Kopczynski says:

    Happiest of Birthdays to you, Chap and many many more!! What a blessing it is to have had you as our lead pastor and to get to travel to the Holy Land with you and Julie! We miss you both!!

  23. Patsy Johnson says:

    Wonderfully stated! It made me smile & I’m so thankful for my Heavenly Father & all His incredible blessings-seen & unseen.
    Here’s to more birthdays!

  24. Lary says:

    Well said, Chap! Amen! Happy Birthday from one of your many friends that you have made along the journey….h

  25. Cindy Dalmolin says:

    Happy Blessed Birthday!!

  26. connieh1 says:

    Happy Birthday, Pastor Chappell! Wishing you Many Blessings in your 70’s. I have discovered the 70’s are really not bad at all! You were such a Blessing to Dave and our family when we truly felt “churchless”! It didn’t matter to you- you told me and showed us we did in fact have a church family. I will forever be grateful to you for being there for us during that time and to you and Julie for always being such beautiful examples of Christ’s love. God Bless you both and hope to see you out in Katy sometime!❤

    Connie Hagler

  27. Rhonda Ward says:

    Chap, what a treasure this post is.For me, there was personal significance with the lyrics of the songs you referenced.  You write with elegant simplicity that is compelling to read. I look forward to reading more from you.

    Happy Birthday!Rhonda

  28. Cathy Menefee Miglicco says:

    Happy birthday, Chap! What a blessing you have been to my family! So happy God is still using you in mighty ways. I think it’s because you have been such an open vessel For Him and obedient to His calling. Thank you for all you have done and are continuing to do. Have a wonderful birthday!

  29. Lucille Massey says:

    Happy Birthday Chap! What a wonderful summary of your “Here am I Lord, send me.” I treasure our friendship with you and Julie over the years. It doesn’t seem like it’s been 15 years since you celebrated the one in Israel.

  30. stacyhowdy says:

    Well said Chap. You are truly a gifted writer! I enjoyed reading this and hearing you recount God’s faithfulness in your life. Thanks for all you’ve done for Christ Church.
    Happy Birthday! May God continue to bless you and Julie for many years to come.

  31. Marilynn Scanlin says:

    Happy Birthday my dear friend. What a wonderful blessing you and Julie have been in my life and all the good work you have done for God. What a testimony!!! I miss you here at Christ Church. My prayers and wishes go with you on this new chapter in your life. I just celebrated my 80th year. God’s not done with us yet. I still have more cookies to bake!!! Please continue sending out these messages, which I enjoy reading.
    Love you both, Marilynn Scanlin

  32. Becky Monto says:

    Happy birthday , Chap!
    A beautifully written essay of a wonderful life. You have been blessed and you have blessed so many of us. Enjoy your 70’s, the best is yet to come! Our love to Julie and family.

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