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May 27, 2021

The first few minutes of Pixar’s 2009 smash hit “Up” are unforgettable for a lot of reasons. We were enchanted and moved watching Carl and Ellie develop a friendship as children, which eventually blossomed into a love that led them to the altar and into the fixer-upper house where they met. We see flashes of their long years together, grieve with their unfulfilled desire f+or children, and watch as they grow older and closer. Then Ellie dies, leaving Carl by himself.

The very next scene may be the most effective transition in the entire movie. Carl, a doddering old man, moves at a tortoise’s pace through his empty house to Bizet’s Carmen Suite no. 2. He wears a glower that tells audiences right away that his life is over and he is waiting to die. Carl has given up on every pursuit but snarling at those who set foot on his lawn.

Into this gloomy senescence walks Russel—a young Wilderness Explorer who shows up at Carl’s front door looking to earn a merit badge for assisting the elderly. Despite Carl’s best efforts to shake this kid, the two get drawn into an incredibly zany adventure to South America where they develop the most unlikely of friendships. By the end, Carl has learned not so much to let go of his past as to honor it—and his deceased wife—by loving and investing in people in the present. He realizes his life is not over. In fact, some of his best adventures may still be ahead of him.

This beloved animated feature perfectly captures the attitude of a new book by Robert Wolgemuth, who joined me this week on “Upstream.” “Gun Lap: Staying in the Race with Purpose” is Robert’s guide for men entering the home stretch of their lives and looking to leave a godly legacy. The title comes from long-distance races, in which the starting gun sounds a second time as competitors begin the final lap. It signals runners to give it all they have—to spend the energy they’ve been reserving for the entire race in pursuit of victory.

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