I’ve always enjoyed staying in Hilton hotels – whether that’s Embassy Suites, or Hampton Inn, or just plain Hilton. They are nice hotels. In the eight years I served as a superintendent, I made a point if at all possible of staying in the Hampton Inns around my district and in the conference. They rewarded me by making me a platinum member of Hilton honors, and just checking my account today, I have nearly 250,000 points racked up. It’s actually enough for Cheri and me to stay at a resort for nearly a week.
Last year, on March 11, I checked out of the Hampton in Mitchell, South Dakota, as we wrapped up a Cabinet meeting, dealing with appointing pastors to churches. I repacked my suitcase, gathered up all my toiletries, and tossed it in the back of my car, and later that day, I drove the four hours back to Fargo.
So, after staying an average of 45 nights per year in hotels, last March 11th was the last time. I didn’t know it at that time, but it was a year ago when everything shut down. Our Cabinet never met again face to face. For the next four months, it was by video conference. I changed the way I “met” with churches, and did either video or just phone calls as we moved through the spring. Where I also probably ate nearly 200 meals per year in a restaurant, it all vanished – dried up, and I found my office to be far more than a stopping off/dropping off point in my work. I used to say my office was really my 2018 Mazda CX-5. That all changed on March 11. Instead of getting oil changes about every month, and rotating and replacing tires what seemed like constantly, suddenly I was doing oil changes every 6 months, just to change the oil.
My last airplane flight was a year ago January. At one time, I could almost guarantee sitting in first class on Delta, with my status. A few months after last March, I finally completely unpacked my green suitcase and stored it in the basement, instead of being on the ready just inside my bedroom closet. I did take one more day-trip to South Dakota to introduce a pastor to a new church appointment, but that was probably two weeks after everything shut down, and then it really shut down. Where I used to spend equal time in the south part of my district, in South Dakota, since then I haven’t been out of the state, except driving over to Moorhead, just across the river.
It’s usual and customary to have a farewell party for a pastor either going off the district, or retiring – or both. My “party” consisted of the chair of my district committee stopping by the house one day in May and dropping off an Amazon gift card.
Annual Conference, where all the pastor and churches would meet for four days, became a “virtual” event. The traditional celebration for the retirees, where they could address Conference for the last time as an active member, simply went away. I didn’t see my pastors again, to say goodbye and talk about what we had done together. Although there was time on the phone, neither my fellow superintendents, nor my bishop and I have met face to face since March 11, 2020.
Perhaps you can guess that my column today marks an anniversary that really elicits a sense of mourning for me. Relationships, activities, work and mission, and even travel to so many different places in our two states and our country all have gone away. There are rare occasions when we leave town – mostly it’s to drive up to Grafton to see Cheri’s mom. Otherwise, probably 90% or more of my time is spent inside our house. I’m actually looking forward for this latest snow to melt – again – and the temps warm up for good to be able to sit outside on our patio, if for no other reason that to expand our world a little bit.
Now, I’ve not experienced any one I know and love getting sick or dying. I am blessed that way. And my isolation and separate living from the world is okay for me as an introvert – I get to spend time with me, which I’ve always been comfortable with! But the loss of so many things, for an entire year and counting, feels like a dark room, and a dimly lit bulb. The best I can describe is the feeling of being a bit pinched in my heart.
Yes, I know that I/we could have and even now can do things differently. We could travel all over, drop in on people, put a lot of variety in our world. Lots of places are opening up, and I know of many people who never really shut down – their going out to eat, to sporting events, visiting without socially distancing – and probably most of them haven’t been harmed in the least. But my goal in all this time was to make sure neither I nor my loved ones would get sick, would get hurt. So, on the side of caution, we have not done what we might otherwise have done. Cheri has spent 52 weeks wearing a mask at work for 9 hours/day.
We have done all of this on purpose. NO, it hasn’t been fun, and hasn’t been an adventure – it has been frankly a drain, and a pain. However, living intentionally isn’t always a barrel of laughs. It’s not always and exciting and fulfilling way to spend days. But it is always a significant thing to do. Living on purpose is far better than accidentally dying. I’m truly hoping that soon this fog will lift, and will lift safely. There are hints of that happening even now. I can tell you, however, that I will be one of the last, and it will be on my schedule, my discernment, my decision.
I pray for your ongoing safety, and that even in all of this, you will find a rich and meaningful life. Hope to see you soon – without the mask.
Word for the day: fallaciloquence. Pronounced fall-uh-SILL-oh-kwence. It’s a big word, that we can easily break down into two separate ones. Loquence means “speaking or speech.” We will often use the word eloquence, which means “to speak out,” as someone is eloquent in expressing their thoughts. The first part of our word, however, is fallacil, from which we find the word “fallacy.” It describes something – not necessarily a lie, but framed in a way to deceive the hearer. A fallacy sounds true, but to the skillful listener, you would hear the holes in the argument.
Put them together, and you have “false speech,” or “deceptive, pretentious speech.” A fallaciloquent orator will woo you into believing what he is saying, when indeed, it may be just the opposite that is true. It’s like that old saying, “Beware of someone who says, “I’m from the government, and I’m here to help you…”
After 43 years of ministry, Randy Cross lived his "fourth life" and shared about retirement, living boldly and intentionally in our world. To be sure, there was some North Dakota thrown in.