Despite his hesitations about aging, Bill Horlacher delights in the fruit of his old age, three grandchildren.
They say that misery loves company. And with my 70th birthday approaching on Saturday, I’ve been at risk for feeling miserable. Fortunately, I’ve found some support—my wife, whose age shall go unstated, and other wonderful people who are going over the hill along with me.
John Cappelletti, for example. Who could be a better choice for age-related encouragement than this Penn State football icon who is exactly four days older than me? Frankly, it feels like it was only yesterday when I was watching Cappy’s heroics from my intern’s perch in the Beaver Stadium press box. In his senior season of 1973, he scored 17 touchdowns, led Penn State to a 12-0 record and won the only Heisman Trophy in the history of Nittany Lion football.
If the great John Cappelletti is now 70 years old, who am I to scorn my status as a septuagenarian?
And I also got a boost from my friends in the State High class of 1970. Most of us have recently turned 70 or will soon reach that lofty peak, so we held a joint 70th birthday party (“Happy Birthday to Us!”) on Aug. 4. And what a great time it was as we gathered, fittingly, at the University Wine Company. Just as a fine wine improves with age, there’s no question our class members have graciously matured while surviving the challenges of seven decades. Words of kindness were abundant and pride was nowhere to be seen except when discussing the newest generation. (“Have I shown you the pictures of my three grandchildren?”) No wonder I left that gathering with a greater willingness to accept a 7 and a 0.
But perhaps my strongest source of support came from a conversation with Dan Nold, lead pastor of the multi-site Calvary Church. No, Dan is not a 70-year-old. Certainly not. But the not-so-old Nold is getting closer. He will be turning 60 on Aug. 18, just five days after I pass over the 70 threshold.
Soon to reach age 60, Dan Nold has been considering ideas on how to “finish well.” (Photo by Bill Horlacher)
AIMING THE FLASHLIGHT
I’ve interviewed Dan multiple times in the past, asking him about how he dealt with COVID (his case was one of the first in Centre County); about how local Christians can help build racial harmony; and about how gratitude is needed to endure difficult times.
Why is Nold my go-to guy for spiritual insight? It’s not just because he’s one of the longest tenured pastors in the Centre Region (more than 28 years at the same church). And it’s not because his church is one of our area’s largest (it has four meeting locations—in Boalsburg, Millheim, Lewistown and Tyrone).
No, my desire to pick Nold’s brain has much more to do with his ability to offer remarkable perspective for various challenges. Psalm 119 says that “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path,” and Dan has shown the capacity to aim that divine flashlight so it penetrates life’s gloom.
So, Pastor Nold, let’s talk about getting older. What’s on your heart as you approach age 60?
“Some days I feel older than my age and some days I’m like, ‘How could I already be 60?’ If things for me go the way most people’s lives go, I’m probably within 10 years of retirement and what’s after that? I could pick sea shells on the shore or go golfing, neither of which I did in the first 60 years of my life. But that wouldn’t feel to me like finishing well.
“Obviously, our energy levels and physical ability changes as we get older. But what we have to offer to the next generation is a lifetime of wisdom and experience. For the majority of my life, my prayer has been, ‘God put me in the place where you can use me the best.’ But in this last chapter of my life, I’m praying that God will put me in (situations) where he can use me the best and love me the best. Part of finishing well is when people want what you have, and for me that’s my relationship with God.
“I like to think about Moses’ life. You know, he lived 120 years. The first third of his life was thinking that he was a somebody. The second third of his life was realizing that he was a nobody. And the last third of his life was finding out what God could do with a nobody.”
Dan and Lynn Nold are famous for cracking jokes at each other’s expense. (Photo by Bill Horlacher)
NOT ONE FOR FANFARE
As for how the native of South Dakota will observe his own birthday on Aug. 18, it’s likely he’ll take his wife, Lynn, for a day or two away from church activities. Maybe that’s because time with Lynn is his birthday gift to himself. Or maybe he’s just averse to the focus on pastoral personalities that has been created by TV evangelists. Says Stacy Sublett, one of Nold’s ministry associates at Calvary, “All I know is that he goes away every birthday. That’s happened as consistently as anything that I know. It’s like it’s going to be cold in mid-January…and Dan is not going to be here on his birthday.”
Regardless of his whereabouts, I’m sure Nold will be in the thoughts and prayers of many people on his birthday. To illustrate that, I thought it would be fitting to compile birthday greetings from a cross-section of his favorite folks. After all, pastors tend to get criticism by the truckload and affirmation by the teaspoon — so even a preacher who avoids fanfare will still appreciate some kind words.
Long-time Calvary members offered their greetings:
- “Happy Birthday, Dan. We celebrate your deep faith and unwavering integrity. We love doing life with you.” – Dan & Wendy Mead
- “Happy birthday blessings to you, Dan! The Pastoral Search Committee interviewed you in 1992, but at 29 years old they said you were too young. Two years later (after fruitless searching) they decided you were just right. I wonder what they’d say today?” – Steve Heinz
- “Just think: God knew all those years ago that you would turn 60 while being a pastor in State College, OUR pastor! What a blessing! Let’s go for another decade or two!” – Bob & Pat Barbash
A pair of former Calvary members chimed in from their home in Charlotte, North Carolina. If you’re trying to guess their identities, it might help to know that the husband once served as pastor for the Warrior’s Mark/Tyrone gathering and that these folks are the parents of an NFL head coach.
- “Happy birthday to a friend who encourages us to follow our dreams, pursue our passions and live a life of integrity and purpose…and then stands with us each step of the way.” – Denny & Gloria Rhule
With the possible exception of Executive Pastor Dan Dorsey, no one has worked with Nold more closely for so many years as the man who serves as gathering pastor for Harvest Fields near Boalsburg.
- “Happy birthday, Dan! Sixty years is a big milestone for you, and I have loved serving with you for these past 24 years. I have been blessed to have a front row seat to your humble leadership, your persistent faith and your open-handed generosity. I’ve benefited from your relentless desire to hear and obey what the Lord is saying. You have been a coach, a counselor, an encourager and a friend. I know that hugs aren’t your thing, but I’m thinking that maybe it’s time—you want to start this new decade with a big ol’ hug?” – Stacy Sublett
And of course, family members provided Dan with loving comments and a few little pokes. The four Nold children collaborated on a message, but the oldest son also added his own comment—one that suits the personality of an effective youth pastor.
- “Happy birthday to our firstborn. You made us your partners in crime more than once but have blessed us by following God’s perfect plan for your life.” – Cheryl & Rod Nold, Dan’s parents
- “Happy 60th birthday, Daniel! You have loved me, our family, our friends and our church with a generous and sacrificial heart, filled with integrity. Your desire to serve and lead like Jesus is lived out every day of your life, and I’m thankful for the gift of being your wife for 38+ years. However, your legacy of sweater vests and Levi’s ends with you.” – Lynn Nold, Dan’s wife
- “There are a lot of things we got from you that we could complain about (procrastination, coffee consumption, bad jokes, etc.), but thankfully the good far outweighs the bad. You’ve filled us with your wisdom, love, grace that seems to be never-ending, your heart for Myanmar and State College, and most importantly, the way you love Jesus and your family. We love you Dad, happy 60th birthday!” – Sarah, Katy, Jake & Josh, the grown children of Dan & Lynn
- “Wow, you’re old.” – Your favorite child, Jake
The Nold family gathered several weeks prior to Dan’s birthday to celebrate his milestone event. Photo provided by Lynn Nold
BIRTHDAY GIFT FOR DAN?
I couldn’t help wondering about the ideal gift for Dan Nold as he reaches age 60. I knew he wouldn’t suggest a box of cigars or a sweater, even a sweater vest. But I was a little surprised by his answer.
“I don’t remember exactly when we started, but it was at least a dozen years ago that we started taking people from the church to Myanmar, previously known as Burma. There’s a leadership-oriented family there that has started orphanages and schools; they’ve really served people and served Jesus.
“And so you grow to love the kids in that place. At some point we started a sponsorship program called “Calvary Kids.” As a church, that’s one of our biggest missions—the 200 or so kids that we’re sponsoring there at a residential school. If people want to know more about it, they can go to calvaryglobalkids.org to learn more or even to make a gift.”
HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME?
So thanks, Dan Nold, for sharing your wisdom with me and also mentioning a cause that merits a birthday gift on your behalf. Thanks, John Cappelletti, for reminding me of the reality of seniority. And thanks, State High Class of ’70, for showing me that maturity is a beautiful thing.
I think I’m ready to do this. Maybe there won’t be room for 70 candles on my cake, but that won’t matter. Happy 70th birthday to me!
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