With July almost over in a matter of hours, I decided to take on the discipline of evaluating how my first month of retirement went. I am happy to say that this evaluation is not subject to the scrutiny of anyone else, and is published for entertainment purposes only…
First – I can state that I actually made it. It’s not that I had any doubts, but it’s still a nice observation. I’ve heard of persons who retire and then drop over within a few days, or a couple of weeks. I expect that often happens because their entire life is tied up in the work that they do. Once the gas pedal is let up, or the brake is applied, the vehicle just dies. I think it’s helpful and critically important to have work and a career indeed be important, but not all-encompassing. That’s just common sense.
I have not pursed a new job. Yet. Our youngest son, Adam, was very directive in his suggestion that I not get another job right away. His advice was that I wait six months. I don’t know if I want to do that, although with the way the job market is with the pandemic, if I don’t want to do phone sales or manage a restaurant, the pickings are a bit slim right now. One could even suggest in retrospect that to give away a 43-year career with a guaranteed employment in order to find another job that could be iffy might not have been the smartest thing in the world to do. However, when we look at timing, I have to say it was the right “time” in my life to close that chapter, and perhaps pause before jumping deep into employment again.
Strangely, we have enough money. In fact, with the adjusted budget and some wonderful tax rules surrounding clergy pension, this past month we put more in savings that almost ever before. Granted, it also helps that we are traveling anywhere, or really buying much of anything except groceries. Every day is a vacation day, but it’s usually a stay at home affair. We completed most of the basic improvements for this year with the house, so not much outlay in that department. We have spent a good deal of money and time putting together jigsaw puzzles. We like to do that, and so much of each week you will find a half-done puzzle on the breakfast nook table, with some pieces on the floor as a result of one of the cats deciding to help. Cat tails are not to be trusted.
I haven’t really slept in much, nor stayed up particularly late. With others in the house still gainfully employed, my schedule has not fully been my own to dally around with. However, I have found the delicious joy between after lunch, up until around 3pm, to kick up the footrest in my easy chair, and with the ceiling fan blowing nice cool air down on me, to close my eyes and nap for about ½ hour or so. I cannot figure out two things: one, why toddlers and little kids don’t’ want to nap – that’s nuts! It is a delightful time of the day and is perhaps the best way to waste time. Two – why have we in America not appropriated the siesta or the quiet afternoon – even for a half hour – to recoup and reset the second half of the day. I believe many of our social ills and issues, and most of our relationships would be much better served by putting our national feet up – just for a little while.
Although I haven’t lost any weight, I also really haven’t gained any this month either. That, I believe is remarkable. Yet, what used to be reward eating or nervous eating as I would have to deal with thorny issues or difficult people has really gone away. There is always something in life to keep a bit of an edge to what we do. I have often said that anxiety in life is a lot like blood pressure: the only people with absolutely no anxiety also have no blood pressure! You will always have some – it makes you and me alive – but the ability to keep it at a safe level is much more easily achieved when the ongoing troublesome issues go away, or get handed off to someone else. I recall the first days, even the first couple of weeks of my fourth life, I would recall the areas on the district that were not “solved,” and perhaps could not be solved. I could feel the anxiety rise – and then I would remember, and say out loud, “I don’t care – it’s not mine anymore.”
I turned down a chance to address our annual conference as a newly retired pastor. Crazy, right? Why give away that honor? Well, when I was a young pastor, the retireds would have time to speak at our Saturday banquet, and there was really no time limit, as they shared stories that had us laughing out loud or crying. As the schedule changed for conference, the speeches moved to an afternoon, and to keep things within the time frame, pastors were given five minutes to sum up their career. Of course, more than a few took the five-minute rule as a general guideline and went their merry way anyway. As things tightened up, the speeches shrunk to two minutes, with a flashing light to warn them that their time was up. I actually had my two-minute speech honed and prepared for 1 minute, 53 seconds. Then CoVid raised its head, and the conference this year will be a “virtual” conference online. I just received the notice that this year, the powers that be are requesting that each of us submit a video that will be played. A 30-second video. After 43 years of ministry – 30 seconds. I wrote and kindly informed the folks I wasn’t going to do that, and that I would just see people around. It is a bit of a disappointment, but between you and me, it’s more of an insult. Being retired means you don’t HAVE to do some things anymore, and I’m not.
So tomorrow I start month number 2. What’s nice is that I can continue to do what I enjoy, and what is important, and what is intentionally loving. I don’t see a downside to that at all!
Word of the day: mumpsimus. This is a crazy, nonsensical word, that makes great sense. In reciting the Latin mass, one of the phrases is, “quod in ore sumpsimus, Domine” which translates loosely as “what we have received in the mouth, Lord” as it refers to receiving the bread of the eucharist. Apparently in the 1500s, the story was told of an ignorant priest who, instead of quoting the recitation, said, “quod in ore mumpsimus, Domine…” It’s one thing to make a mistake, but this priest apparently refused to change the way he recited the mass, even after being corrected! He was heard to say, “I will not change my old mumpsimus for your new sumpsimus..”
The word really means a custom or way of speech, or person who “obstinately” adheres to something, no matter how unreasonable it may be – even who clings to a bad habit after it’s been shown to be bad and the person humiliated. Stubbornly wrong! Sort of like hearing the Credence Clearwater song, Bad Moon Rising, and continuing to sing, instead of “There’s a bad moon on the rise,” “There’s a bathroom on the right…” Listen to the song – you will find yourself with a mumpsimus by the time you are done.
I guess I was probably five years old before I learned that I was left-handed. In a family of eight, later nine people, I was the only one with that amazing uniqueness. We were living in Australia at that time, and Mom was pretty adamant with the schoolteacher that I NOT be trained how to write with my right hand, the way so many other children had been forced to learn. As I started to learn how to write in first grade, I listened carefully to the teacher’s instruction on how to hold the pencil, how to turn the paper, and how to write at the angle. She then said – and I remember her words so well – “And as for you, Randy – you just do the opposite.” Not helpful when you are five.
So, I learned how to write left-handed, and like the right-handers, who actually pulled their pencil across the paper to make the letters, I did the same, except it meant turning my hand upside down to create the similar writing style – except I went home every day with a black smudge on the side of my hand where my hand smeared across the lead pencil marks. The good news was in later years, no one could cheat off of me, since I always had my work covered with my left hand and arm.
In my extended family, my grandad and my cousins Joey and Matthew were the only left handers. In my own family, when the nine of us sat around the table, I had two spots where I could sit – on the far left on each side. Otherwise, I constantly knocked elbows with brothers and sisters. To this day, when I am out to eat with folks, I make a beeline toward one of those spots.
Growing up, I found a right-handed world. Especially before technology changed things, I had to fight with the fact that the pencil sharpener was right-handed (go ahead and try, if you have one), as were the dial phone, the key or the button to start the car, the gear shift in our Volkswagen, measuring cups, rulers, computer mouses, every screw on cap in the world, scissors, school desks, guitars and banjos, handshakes, salutes, spiral notebooks, can openers, power cords, and every logo on every coffee mug – and more.
Even the words arising out of ancient language make a statement about right and left handedness. If you have great dexterity, it means you are really good at using your right hand. If you happen to even be ambidextrous, it means you can use either of your Right hands. On the other hand, literally, the word “sinister” means left-handed, as in giving a left-handed compliment, or perhaps you like “southpaw,” although we never talk about a “northpaw.” People are right as rain, righteous, right down the middle, even sitting at the right hand of God. On the other hand – literally, you can be leftover, left out, left the station, left holding the bag, out in left field, or having two left feet. Again, where do we hear about two right feet?
Some estimates are that 10% of the world’s population is left-handed. No one really knows why, except that probably as the brain is developing, when the right side of the brain, which works with intuitivity and creativity and emotion, seems to be developed first or more fully, someone turns out to be left-handed dominant. Of course, still around the world there are cultures and societies that treat left-handedness with disdain, and “break” the left-hander into using the right hand, which studies show leads to stuttering, and other nervous expressions.
The left-handed world has come up with simply phrases to protect their ilk. “If the right side of the brain controls the left side of the body, then only left-handed people are in their right minds.” My seminary dean would often say, “Everyone is born left-handed – they only turn right-handed after their first sin.”
Even today, after more than 60 years of being left… handed, about the only thing that we have an advantage with is that we don’t have to change hands to pick up our fork. Even living in a house with three righties, I constantly have to adapt. When we are slicing bread or meat for instance, there is a never-ending exercise of having to turn the item around, so it can be sliced with the proper hand, whichever one is proper for you.
I’m not a victim, and I don’t need any government intervention to “right” this wrong. It would just be nice sometimes to have a person who uses their right hand consistently, to not have to point out my left-handedness, my “difference” as though I had three eyes, or some other physical aberration. We are in a season right now of great anxiety, and it becomes very easy to denigrate or belittle, or even persecute persons based on something other than their behavior or character. Let’s not do that. Let’s not follow an accidental choice to divide and demean, instead of intentionally lifting one another up, and finding the ways in which we can recognize and compliment our differences, all of us as children of God. Both left-handers… and other handers.
Word for the day: pogonotrophy. It’s actually pronounced pa-GONE-a-trah-fee. It’s kind of a funky word, that means “beard growing.” Actually, it’s from the Greek pogon “beard” and trophe “feeding.” Across the US, with the pandemic, and the quarantine, men of all ages stopped shaving, and began the work of pogonotrophy. Let’s not get confused, however – the word doesn’t mean, “Let your facial hair just grow wild.” That’s really just making a mess. Part of pogonotrophy also includes pogonotomy, which is defined, “beard trimming or cutting.” Not that it has to be shaved – just clean them up, boys – the goal of the pandemic is not to send up back to the Stone age…
As I moved into retirement, in order to shrink our monthly financial outlays, we decided to use some resources both to pay off a loan for one of our cars, and also to purchase the car I had been driving as a district superintendent. I made the arrangements, had the money transferred, and voila! We now owned two more cars outright. Sort of. I realized the next stop on our fun financial merry-go-round would have to be the place where, beyond owning the cars, we would have to make sure they were legally registered and titled as authentic North Dakota cars, belonging to Cheri and me. On top of that, my old conference car had South Dakota plates, since that is where the conference office is located. This meant only one thing: I would have to go the Department of Motor Vehicles. (insert “shudder” here.)
I’ve had to work with six different DMVs over my lifetime, getting cars registered, titled, etc. You know how, in your life, there are those experiences that are treasured memories, sweet moments that are cherished, important and significant milestones that are honored? I can assure you that none of those six trips to the DMV falls anywhere near any of those categories. It’s always been the worst of bureaucracies, and expensive and fraught with the opportunity to have forgotten, or actually, not known that a certain piece of paper should have been brought along, and how could I have been so stupid as to have not done so! The only worse experience is trying to get a change in a driver’s license. They needed my social security card for ID, even though it plainly states on the card that it is not to be used for identification. I couldn’t find my card that day, so I brought the paper stub of the card, which included all the information that was on the card, and actually additional information, like the address when I got the card back more than 50 years ago. They turned it down – they needed the actual card, even though… there was no use arguing. Brick walls won’t debate fairly. Just a word to the wise: make sure to keep your social security card in your home safe, so that you can access it to drive legally in your home state.
Anyway, I started to amass all the material I thought would be needed to complete this tremendously important legal obligation, because I am sure that I would be the only person in North Dakota without a legally registered vehicle. The only one. Of course, into the file folder I put the two titles, one from each state, and copies of my car insurance, and copies of my current registration for each vehicle. On top of that, I had to fill out the three-page application for title change, which included the declaration that the car had not been in an accident, and that there was no one else who owned the car, and my mother’s grandmother’s maiden name, and our cats’ nicknames and favorite toy, and the calculation of sales tax, license plates, and a host of other fees that were listed only by their initials, with no where to find what the initials stood for – I just was supposed to calculate the SMP, the FSSO and the whatever else. I took a risk and left if all blank, hoping they would fill it out for me, as a courtesy and service of their office.
I then went on-line to see when the DMV was open. Did I mention we are in the midst of a pandemic? Instead of finding that the office was open 9-5, I discovered it was only accessible by appointment. No problem – my optometrist is the same way – so I nicely wrote the email, asking if I could get a time on Wednesday of that week (this was on Monday), and hopefully in the morning, and could they please explain what these crazy initials meant…
A half-hour later, I received an automated reply, stating that access to the office was only possible by appointment. I knew that. They also informed me that, due to CoVid, they were backed up in their processing. That was a bit harder to figure out. Did the disease run through the Department? Were the computers infected? What had changed in their work, besides having to wear a mask? But, as is the case, they are in charge, so they told me the next available date would be twenty days later, at 11:10am, and if I agreed, to send an email back confirming the date and time. I did so, and then I received another email stating I had been accepted (I felt so proud) and with it came a stern warning that, 1) I must not show up more than 5 minutes before my appointment, or I would be turned away; 2) I must wear a mask, or I would be turned away; 3)I could only process the items I had requested – if I brought additional items, I would be turned away… the file sat on the desk for nearly three weeks.
The day before the big appointment, I found myself on edge – almost panicky. There were so many ways this could all go wrong. What if there were a secret form that I hadn’t discovered? What if I had used my nickname instead of my legal name? What if…? That night, I even dreamed about walking down a long corridor, trying to find the find the right office, and being told I only had four chances, or … I would be turned away…
The morning of the big day, I left plenty early, and so of course ended up at the office about 15 minutes before the 10 minutes before the appointment. I just sat in my car, looking down, for fear I would be found out. At 10 minutes before, I went to the door, face mask on, and a worker, with face mask, eye shield, and – no lie – hospital protective gown checked my name off, and told me to stand on the “2X” spot on the floor. I kept looking around for a disinfectant shower nozzle.
After a few minutes, one of the windows was open, and I walked up to the processor… and it was a totally wonderful experience! She was kind and helpful and explained things, and took my pieces of paper and sorted out what she needed, and typed in information and told me how much I owed, and stamped my check, and then even gave me my new titles AND my new license plates, which by the way had really neat numbers on them: 999 DDN. As I walked out, barely ten minutes later, the worker at the door said, “Thanks for coming – have a great day!”
So, I’ve been thinking about my trip to the DMV. I’ve also been thinking of Chicken Little, who went yelling around the farmyard, “The sky is falling!” And I wish someone – Henny Penny, or Goosey Loosey, or someone would have said, “Wait a minute, Chicken – maybe the sky isn’t falling – maybe it was only an acorn that bonked you on the head…” I/We, when faced with having to do something unfamiliar, and even uncomfortable (like wearing masks, or dealing with cars), can often have the tendency of building up the future in fear so much that it almost feels as though the sky is indeed falling, or ready to fall any moment, or certainly will fall when I have to do this task I don’t want to do. Isn’t it odd that often, our expectations are based on bad experiences, instead of believing it will all be fine in the end? There is so much right now that invites us to worry or fret, when the truth is, they may just be acorns.
The way we keep that from happening, is to train ourselves to be thoughtful, and instead of acting in a reactive way, to responding with a lowered anxiety, and to remind ourselves that God is with us, even when going to the DMV. There is nothing we cannot handle or go through in this life that would not be better if we would only act with intention, and not fear. So, have a good day, ok?
Word for the day: deasil. It’s a Gaelic word, meaning “to the south.” It’s actually a fancy way of saying, “clockwise” or going to the right in a circle. Folklore said that if you want to bring someone good luck, you would walk carrying a lighted torch three times deasil. I’ve never tried, it, but then again, I’m not much for a believer in luck. The opposite word is widdershins, which actually comes from the Old German meaning “to travel against.” Go counter-clockwise, or left-wise, and you are widdershins. It was believed that all demons would approach the devil from the left, or widdershins.
Actually, the very earliest use of the word, widdershins, was to describe a bad hair day! You know the kind – if you have hair – and you wake up, and brush your hair, and it goes the opposite of where it should… “My head is all widdershins!” By the way, the word is an adverb, so you can’t “widdershin” as a verb. That’s probably not a bad idea.
For about an hour last night, I did nothing. After supper was over, and the kitchen was cleaned up, Cheri still had a half dozen charts she needed to finish writing in concerning patients she had seen at the clinic, so she decided to head downstairs to our family room, and watch TV and type. Normally, I would have joined her, but last night was too nice to miss. You will recall that last week, I wrote about the 107 degree heat index that we were going to experience, and how that contrasted with the -80 windchill we sometimes get in the winter up here in the northland.
Yesterday, however, we had low humidity, and a high for the day of 81 degrees. By the time supper was over, the sun had gone over to the other side of the house, and the temp was about 73 degrees. Light wind – a breeze, really. Something even more shocking for North Dakota was that as we approached evening, there were NO mosquitoes! In the past, I have been literally chased inside, trying to flee the hordes of thousands of those bloodsuckers – by the way, did you know that only the female mosquito sucks blood? – but last night, for some reason, they decided to leave our back yard alone.
When we first moved into the house about five years ago, a delightful part of the backyard was our gazebo. Very cute, almost like a Scandinavian hut, it was a great refuge. There were about 10 little round concrete circles – I called them fairy steps -- that led to the gazebo. The area just outside the back door, however, was not so great. Little wooden steps led you down to a concrete pad – it looked just like all the backyards of the parsonages we lived in, with three wooden steps, and a cracked piece of concrete that was to serve as our outdoor entertainment center. Not so much. So, after a couple of years, we decided to work with our local builder folks, and had them install a large set of back steps, a good-sized block patio, and a brick path out to the gazebo. The results were fantastic – it transformed the back of the house, and we have found ourselves, unless it’s raining or buggy, sitting on the patio instead of the gazebo.
Last night was perfect. As I mentioned, a light breeze blew through the leaves of the maple tree, and the five giant spruce that ring the backyard. We are into our fourth or fifth set of birds for the season. We start with blackbirds, and then robins, then sparrows, and now we are home to the finches and chickadees, and their friends, the mourning doves. The spruce serve as the hotel for each group, and nests are built and rebuilt constantly.
I sat there with my iced tea, and just watched and listened, and at times closed my eyes as the breeze blew by. Not hot, not cold – no one having to mow their lawn, and the very loud neighbor kids must have gone to a baseball game or something, so it was truly peaceful and quiet. When you find yourself in those rare times, when no extra noise is needed, no tasks have to get done, no phone calls to be made or anything other than sitting and being present in that space, it’s possible for your mind to walk into distant places, distant times, and both remember and consider your own life. I think one of the joys of “maturity” that I never experienced as a child was to be able to sit, and not squirm, and not wish I were somewhere else. The quote from the early 1900s which has been attributed to both Satchel Paige and to Winnie the Pooh, but may come from an anonymous fisherman is, “Sometimes I sits and thinks and sometimes I just sits.”
Last evening, I did both. I thought about my 43 years of ministry, and how odd – and relaxing – it is to not be doing that anymore. I thought about family living far away, and some dearest ones who are no longer living. I thought about how nice it is to have at least 1/3 left to the summer and made a commitment to come out in the evening – and just sits. I did think about the future, and when it may happen that this season we are in, that’s not summer, but does direct what we do and how we act, will fade, or that what is odd and strange right now might become simply normal and just a part of life. I wondered whenever it might be that our communities can begin to take the anxiety pressure valve and let that go away.
You know, we have a lot to think about. We have much to muse, and to consider. My hope and prayer for you – and for me – is that we might find more often the back patio on a glorious evening, and en-joy, bring joy into our hearts and our lives. Life is far too short otherwise.
You bring the chair. I’ll fix the iced tea, and we can just sits for a while.
Word for the day: pantagruelian. Big word – pronounced “pant-a-GRUEL-ian” and it means something that is enormous or gigantic. It’s another one of those words that we receive as an adaptation of a character in literature. The French novelist Rabelais wrote five books that dealt with Prince Pantagruel (PANT-a-gruel), and his father, King Gargantua. Both of them were giants, although friendly. Gargantua loved to eat enormous amounts of food (his name comes from garganta, which means “throat.” Apparently, he like to throw things down his throat, but when you are a giant, you get to do that. Pantagruel was a bit of an oaf, or a fool, and the word, though meaning gigantic, really was more used to describe the way one would deal with serious issues with broad and good humor.
So, whether you are gargantuan or pantagruelian, go ahead and order the triple burger – it’ll suit you.
Go ahead – try to think of something you have never imagined could be true. I’ll wait for you… it’s a difficult task to perform, actually, because we normally live and breathe and function within the circle of what we have known and experienced. Truly, if we are honest about it, we tend to live our lives with such patterns and behaviors that we do so nearly absent-mindedly. Most days, especially since the Co-Vid lockdown and my retirement, I enjoy taking Cheri to work and picking her up afterwards. Cold and snowy, or rainy, or really hot, when she is done with work, there waiting for her is a climate controlled car and a chauffeur so she can rest her mind for a few minutes from her task as a nurse practitioner. What’s odd about it all for me is that I’ve driven that 20-minute round trip so often that I can actually get in the car, pick Cheri up, drive home, go inside and not recall any part of the trip, except talking with her. Accelerating, braking, turning, blinkers on, radio off – every part of it is forgettable, especially since I didn’t think about it in the first place. For many of us, that normal, forgotten, simply a pattern activity fits most of our days. When we do think about, we start to ask ourselves, “Did I shut of the light in the garage?” “Did I remember to fill the cats’ water?” And other questions that simply prove that, we aren’t attentive to things, it’s possible to live what I call the accidental life. It all happens well enough, but without thought or even being present to what is occurring. Perhaps the scariest or most concerning aspect of all of this, is when we realize, not that we don’t remember the details of the car trip we took – but we also don’t remember anything significant about the last week of our lives. The days were all lived within a pattern, and it’s as if we turn the off switch to our active awareness of the world around us, and it appears we have been sleepwalking, wide awake.
I believe living accidentally is a true tragedy. It’s not that it’s evil, or even sinful – it’s just such a waste of time and a waste of life. We’ve all seen those movies where someone wakes up after years in a coma, or in a frozen state, and they have to experience a huge period of time that they missed, and all the news and events and inventions and social changes. That’s what happens to us when we live accidentally. Now, honestly, we can’t be aware of everything, and sometimes our mind is filled with thoughts of things that are other than what we are doing at the moment – that’s ok. It’s rather, when our minds are completely empty, and we still go through the motions of living, that we are then living the saddest of existences.
The remedy to it all is to instead be determined to live intentional lives, as I’ve mentioned before. Intentional means that we indeed are alive to life itself, to all of the wonderful and mysterious and quirky parts of our days. What we do, we intend to do, even if we don’t quite know how everything turns out. We soak in the experiences of living, and we act in a thoughtful response to life when we need to do so. When I posed the challenge of thinking of something you never could have imagined to exist, that exercise taps into our waiting, unused attentiveness as we begin to look around our world for “what’s next?” We sing the song with lyrics of “I never would have thought of that!” to help us get into the rhythm of a world that is constantly surprising, and often can make us laugh with joy and head-shaking disbelief, since what is so odd and strange for us, is really something very normal for another – we just hadn’t thought about it before…
Which brings me to the hot dogs of Tabor. Back around 2006, when I did my first round of serving as a superintendent for The United Methodist Church, I cared for most of the southeast part of South Dakota, seeing to all the large and small member churches and the pastors who were appointed to them. That meant a lot of driving, and lots of meetings and happy and hard visits, often done with people I have never met before, and who only knew me by my position. One of the things I discovered, and was constantly reminded of, was that no two communities and no two churches were alike. I could not assume that what worked well in one setting could be duplicated. The job forced me to learn creativity, and how to approach and be present and listen and not be too quick to act and bring a solution forward. I even had to learn the styles of the cultures, since many parts of the Dakotas were settled as miniature countries and nations all on their own. Norwegians and Swedes and French and Polish and German and Czech and English and other cultures by and large in small towns have remained fairly untouched, and undiluted in their heritage approach to the world. They also were very interested in knowing where I came from, and some were disturbed when I would say I was “at large,” coming from an Air Force family that had lived all over country and the world. I sounded like an alien to them, I’m sure.
Back to Tabor. Tabor is a small town, population 423 near the Nebraska border, a few miles west of Yankton in South Dakota. It’s the home of Czech Days, which were cancelled this year due to the CoVid, but normally held about the second week of June. If you were to go, you’d experience things like kolache baking, hot wax egg decorating, glass beaded ornaments, chainsaw carving, Bohemian tractor pull, the big Polka dance-off and of course, the crowning the of queen of Czech Days, as well as lots of food, dancing and fireworks. Tabor’s population is divided in part as Czechs and Czechoslovakians, which tells you far more about eastern European history than you might want to know. Tabor’s catholic cemetery is called St. Wenceslaus Cemetery. Quite a lot, packed into a third of a square mile…
Tabor was on my district, and I went to an all-church meeting in the fall. It was a nice meeting, of little consequence, and then we got down to the real business: the potluck dinner. There were probably 30 people at the meeting, and it seemed like they brought about 100 variety of foods! I went through the line as the guest, having learned long before how to take tiny samplings so as to not fill the plate to over-heaping. I finally came to the serving platter stacked high – with hot dogs. In amongst all the ethnic foods were plain old hot dogs. Folks around me encouraged me to take a dog, which of course I did, and then sat down to eat.
I have to say that the hot dog was pretty good, and I commented about it. Their eyes lit up and they said, “Oh, they are the best in the world! The butcher here in town makes them, and they are well known in this entire area...” It seemed odd that they would all be so invested in the hot dogs, as though they were personally responsible for their existence. Then they said, “You know, whenever there is a celebration – a graduation or confirmation or such, you will find our hot dogs. Actually, they are served at most weddings, and of course, when we have a funeral, they always have the Tabor butcher’s hot dogs…”
Remember when I talked about finding joy in being surprised? I just laughed – and ate the hot dog. Years later, I can’t remember anything about the church’s meeting, or even what we were there to do – but I have re-told the story of the Tabor hot dogs a hundred times or more – eating hot dogs at a funeral lunch…
We are gifted with this life. We are also presented with a world, though filled for a time with a pandemic, still one that has the ability to fill us with wonder, and head-shaking laughter, and sometimes a reverent silence – but certainly one that deserves our attentiveness, our intentional awareness and presence, as we live in a truly awe-some place. Live it today.
Word for the day: sneeze. I know it sounds rather normal, but it’s nothing to sneeze at. Sneeze seems to have come from and Old Norse word, fnuse, which means “to snort.” Passing over to the Old English, the “f” was dropped, leaving the word “nesan.” (Not the car) Later, an “s” was added to make it a “snees,” and later, a “sneeze.” Funny looking word. Also back in the day, snuff boxes were all the rage, which carried a little powder that was “snorted,” and a sneeze would result. The use of the boxes became a way of showing disrespect or disdain for what another person might be saying in the midst of a conversation. The use of the sneeze was meant to show that the one sneezing was higher class, more important, and the words of the speaker were like blowing one’s nose. So, when someone would indeed say something profound, it could be agreed upon that it indeed “was nothing to sneeze at.” By the way, the powder in the snuff box is known as a “sternutator,” or sneezing powder. Sneeze is still a funny word.
A long time tradition around our house of either a Saturday or Sunday morning is to go out and pick up a dozen donuts for breakfast, which usually last until we throw out the stale leftovers on Tuesday. By the way, how is it that something that is so delicious on one day can become the close cousin of a piece of cement only 48 hours later? But that’s another subject… Anyway, in “BP” time – before pandemic – it was a very simple process, which consisted of going to perhaps the best donut place in the known galaxy – Sandy’s Donuts – and picking out twelve, which became thirteen since they give you a baker’s dozen, of filled, glazed, iced and always tasty wads of fried dough.
You see, I know all about donuts, since in my last semester of seminary, while I was trying to raise enough money to get married in June, that I came to be employed by another excellent purveyor of pastries – read donuts – by the name of Lone Star Donuts in Dallas. My job, for which I was paid $3.25/hour, was to take the already raised donuts, at 36 pieces per rack, and gently drop them into huge vat of bubbling oil. After waiting for however long it took, I then would use a pair of long chopsticks and quickly flip each donut over to cook on the other side. Just long enough, but not too long to have them get oil-logged, at the magic moment, I then would lift the scalding rack out of the oil, and place it on the glazer, and using a trough of white sugar glazing material, I would slowly pour what seemed to be quarts of liquid sweetness over the hot donuts, let them cool, and move them to the tray that would be carried out front to be sold. Please note – I never got to go out front. I was the grunt cook, whose jeans, night after night could almost stand on their own, as fat-coated, glaze-coated inedible creations following a night of making the donuts.
Nowadays, however, my only connection with donuts is as a regular consumer, along with my family. I said it used to be a simple process of just driving over to the store, walking in and asking for the different donuts, paying for them, and walking out. Then “it” hit. I wish I could describe the feelings that surround the difference between then and now. In the most practical sense, very little has changed. Decide what kind of donuts everyone wants. Check. Get in the car and drive over to the store. Check. Tell the people taking the order what kind of donuts I want to buy. Check. Give them money, take the donuts and walk out. Go home and eat. Check. Except…
It's that darn mask, you know. It has changed everything, because it is not only a symbol of what could happen, but also of what can no longer happen. Now, when I drive over to the store, before getting out of the car, I have to reach over, grab the dumb face covering (I know it’s important, but I can still call it dumb..), hook it over my ears, and then reposition it so it doesn’t make my ears stick out like Dumbo on a windy day, and then get out of the car, find a way to open the door of the store without touching the handle with my hands, walk up to the carpet with the colored tape telling me I can’t go past the line, and then give my order with a mumbling, smothering piece of fabric over my mouth. Then, instead of handing over some money, I have to use a card of some sort, which only I can touch, and then mufflespeak a thank-you and walk out, where I can finally take my mask off and breathe fresh air.
I end up coughing every time. I know it’s only psychological, and I can breathe just fine, but it doesn’t feel like it. And, by the way, I find myself deeply resenting those persons who go in and out of the places I go to, and as strangers, never feel the need or the responsibility to wear a mask. I know I growl at them with my eyes, and I find myself not being very courteous to them, but doggone it, I don’t want to wear it either, but I am committed to not contracting this beast, and having it change my life or the life of my family. I know, also, that it has all changed my decision making process for going out to “get something.” Donut store, grocery store, drive through at the fast food store, the greeting card store – even UPS all become strategic destinations I need to agree that I must (not sort of want) to go to, mask and all. Frankly, there are some days when I just adjust what I really must obtain for living, and what I can do without, simply because I hate that mask.
I think one of the sadder things I have read was the estimation of an expert who said she thought we might never be done with masks. Can you imagine? Birthday gifts and Christmas stocking stuffers, which once were socks and ties, now will be face masks? Extra pockets will be sewn into pants or suitcoats – the “mask pocket.” And what a proud day when a young man or woman is gifted their very first adult mask. A new confirmation present. Of course, it could all change, and we move into a different new world, where the need for a mask is minimal. But we don’t know, do we? For now, this is our life, and we hope the maskless ones don’t get TOO sick.
To live in this transitory time in our culture has us wondering if this is dusk or dawn. Is it the end of what we always enjoyed – vacations, a nice meal out, a movie theatre, a concert? Or is it simply the new age that is slowly coming into being, where with care and intentional forethought, we can live healthy and whole, while existing with joy in this world. My prayer is that we will find the best right answer, and never give up. God breathed life into the first human, and it is that breath that will help us move forward – masks and all. Take a deep breath, and wash your hands, too…
Word of the day: coddiwomple. Yes, it’s an actual word. A bit different than others I have chosen, because it really is an English slang word. You can almost say it with a cockney accent, and it sounds more legitimate. It’s a neat word, that carries a paradox. It means to travel in an intentional, purposeful way… toward a destination that you really haven’t clarified – something vague or blurry. It reflects a sense of intentional chaos, where we take steps forward on purpose and still we are not sure where we are going. To “coddiwomple” is to open the doors and windows of our lives to the fresh air of joy, and unexpected experiences, instead of leaving everything sit as a closed system, with nothing new ever being able to enter, and nothing old and stale able to leave. Our sons would tell you that often, when we were traveling back and forth across the country to take their earthly possessions to their new homes at various colleges, I might take a wrong turn, or miss the right one. After driving for a while, they would ask, “So – are we lost?” My response was always, “No – I’m just not sure where I am, but I know where we are going, sort of…” Those trips are written down in our family history as adventures with Dad. I always knew where we were going, actually – just not exactly.
Go ahead and coddiwomple today – get some fresh air.
Exactly Five months – 153 days – until we open our eyes to a wonderful Christmas Day. I know, I know. Even in a normal year, there is a catch in the breath when we think about what needs to happen in the next five months. This year, we add on face masks, school openings, shopping in a whole different way, how to bring a family together that doesn’t feed the pandemic, and more and more. My purpose for pointing this out, however, is not to feed the anxiety that is pouring through our culture, but to ask you an important question: Where do you believe I can find the best peanuts in America?
When Dad died in July of 1993, he left behind his signature tradition of making peanut brittle for Christmas for the family, which extended and extended over the years. Actually, what I remember is that just when Mom had prepped the kitchen for baking and other goodies production, Dad would walk in and announce, “Well, I think I’ll make some peanut brittle!” I remember so clearly the look on Mom’s face, as she shook her head. It was either Dad’s blissful ignorance or inability to recognize what was going on in the immediate space of the kitchen, or his single-minded (read stubborn) decision-making. Whatever it was, out would come the pan, the ingredients, and the peanuts, that Dad chopped and crushed to create the wonderful treat.
So, that summer, and into the fall, when the realization arose that the peanut brittle wouldn’t just make itself, I transformed into a confectionary Joshua, upon the death of Moses, and took up the mantle and the wooden spoon, and began to do what I could to keep up the tradition. That was 27 years ago, and although I won’t proclaim it, I have heard from family and strangers alike that my peanut brittle is perhaps as highly ranked as any other. It is good, and I have tweaked the recipe over the years to make it better. I have recently bought a new pan, reserved for making the sticky stuff, and a new super-large baking sheet to pour out the two pounds per batch in one glorious blob. I still use the same wooden spoon that is probably 50 years old by now, and I make sure I can gather up the right ingredients: Karo white syrup, Crystal Sugar from North Dakota sugar beets, real butter and the rest. What I continue to use, which is fine, I guess, are the bags of Gurley’s raw Spanish peanuts, produced in Willmar, Minnesota, and sold in little bags in the baking section of the grocery. I’ll often buy 40 bags in order to produce the 20 pounds of sweet wonderfulness.
You see – I’ve discovered that ingredients do matter. In those early years when I would substitute the store brand syrup or just any old sugar, you could tell. I didn’t produce bad brittle, but the edge was off a little bit. It wasn’t great. So, my simple discovery has led me to act more intentional, more defined. Granted – I’m just making candy, not a vaccine cure for the pandemic (although I expect a little brittle wouldn’t hurt, America!). It’s not healthy, but it is wonderful tasting, and a treat in life, which by the way is not an overall bad to receive. If it’s done right, however, which brings me back to my first question: what are the best peanuts?
I’m willing to use what I have used for these years, and who knows but that those are indeed the best peanuts on the planet at $2.00 per 8 oz. package! However, I expect that some of you, especially those of you who live in the normal peanut growing region, may have access, or at least information about what is considered the best raw Spanish peanuts you have encountered. So, I’m asking your help. If you have the name or the company, if you would leave me a comment in the comment section of this column, I’ll check it out and experiment. I’ll even make a deal – if your peanut turns out to indeed be the best, I’ll get in contact with you and send you some of the world’s finest peanut brittle for Christmas this year – how about that?
One other thing to realize is that I really enjoy making brittle. It’s not the microwaveable variety, and it is terribly thin with peanuts that have had almost all the skin removed. It takes an hour to make each batch, and it leaves me with an aching arm from stirring the entire time – but I love it. The whole process prepares my heart and head for the Advent and Christmas seasons. I ship it off to my siblings around the country, who then can share it with their children. There is a sticky, sweet brittle connection that is formed when the sugar reaches hard crack stage. I am also transformed back to the years before I held the spoon and would wait until Dad would deem the candy cooled enough to have a taste, along with all the other traditions and surprising memories of celebrations past.
So, please help me with the peanuts, if you can, and in five months when it is cooler by 90 degrees, we can all celebrate the joy of a season – despite what whirls around us these days.
Word for the day: philthrum. It is pronounced like it reads: PHIL-thrum. In the ancient Greek, it meant “love charm,” with the simpler word, phileo, meaning “love,” or “kiss.” If you look in the mirror, you will notice two little lines running from the base of your nose to your upper lip. Physiologically, the philthrum, those little lines, is where in our development in the womb at about 2-3 months, the three separate parts of our face come together, and are merged and sealed into one. The result is a complete face, and two little lines. One in 700 babies fail to merge those parts of the face, and as a result, they have what is known as a cleft palate, which often requires surgery to finish the merging and seal what would otherwise be a gap.
The Greeks believed those little lines had something to do with love, and actually the curve on the top of the upper lip is known as “Cupid’s bow.” Lips and kisses were big deals to the Greeks, apparently, and to most teenagers. The other legend was that the two lines were a mark left by an angel’s finger at the moment of birth. Any way you look at it, it’s still a philthrum – call it the place where your face is superglued together…
First, let’s go back in time, shall we? Almost six months ago to the day, here in Fargo we awoke to an outside temperature of 21 degrees below zero. Some would call that a bit chilly. Even more, there was a stiff north wind blowing that day, which dropped our “wind chill,” the sense of what the temperature feels like as you stand outside – it dropped it to nearly -80 degrees. Strangely enough, not much was shut down that day. People just put on a heavier coat. Oh, and to warm up, they would open their freezer door and stand there… but that’s winter in the Dakotas, right? That’s what everyone expects – that we would consistently be colder than Siberia.
So, you ask, what is the forecast for today, on this bright July in close to the middle of the summer? Well, our average July temperature in Fargo is right around 82 degrees. Of course, averages are all based on past temperatures, and they only give us a guess about what today might/should be. Our forecast for today is a little different. We are expected to reach 95 degrees as a still temperature. That’s five degrees off the record high for our city. Actually, when you look back, on July 6, 1936 the high temp was recorded at 114 degrees! We, however, have a couple of added features in store for today. First, we have a humidity of 85%, so it’s a little bit… sultry? And our winds, which seem to always blow in North Dakota, will be out of the south at between 25-30mph. Heat, humidity and wind gives us a “heat index” of around 107 degrees. So, the still temperature difference between January and now is 116 degrees. The felt temperature between the wind chill of January and the heat index of today is 187 degrees! You have to admit that those are fairly remarkable temperature differences!
One simple realization I have come to in all of this, is that in terms of temperatures or even the weather as a whole – is that there is not a single thing we can do about it. No committee exists that holds hearings, weighs into deep discussions, listens to proposals and then votes as to what the weather shall be on any day whatsoever. Moses may have held back the flood of the Red Sea by God’s power, but no one in the course of the world’s history has been able to stop the wind from blowing, or change the direction, or do anything except lean into it! In fact, the most amazing thing we can surmise in terms of the whole enterprise of the weather, is that we have the ability to even come close in predicting the weather at all! After today’s massive heat, we are expected/predicted/have a good chance of big thunderstorms which may bring nearly an inch of rain. All these predictions and calculations are of course general in nature, as it may actually be a bit hotter in my backyard this afternoon than up at the airport on the north side of the city, and certainly the rainfall will vary greatly, even in a three mile expanse.
Still, it’s just going to be hot today, and something tomorrow, and different the day after, and six months from now, even I can predict it’s going to be stinking cold, and we are going to wish it would simply get to above freezing, which will only come about two months later.
The weather is only one aspect in a myriad of things I have no control over in my life. As intentional as we try to be, as thoughtful and determined and direction-set as we hope to be, we know that accidents still do happen, and things in our lives do break, and people we love do get sick, and some do not survive. Plans we make get disrupted or set aside when more urgent matters come to call, and there are times when even I change my mind, and change course, and change my world. It is very easy and even tempting, given that our world is so unpredictable, and our ability to see in the future so limited, to just abandon an intentional life and close our eyes and accidentally live.
I believe, however, that we are called to a different path. Indeed, given the uncertainty of life, and our inability to have power over much of how we live, we would be well-suited to study, understand and even follow the prayer that the theologian Reinhold Neibuhr offered: God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference. There is so much in our lives that we cannot change, or that change without our power and influence. Because that is so, it doesn’t mean that we give up and run with our eyes closed. It means instead that we do live serenely, accepting the fact that we are clearly not the boss of the world. However, we are still beings that possess the power to direct and control at least portions of our lives, so that not everything is accidental. At that point, it is a demand of our humanity that we must act, must work, must offer not only our effort but our hearts to intentionally grow a more blessed life for us and for our world. Our common sense and our faith will give us the ability to know which is which. Of course, it also helps when we are able to stop for a moment and observe and listen as to whether it’s the wind that is blowing, or just our own speaking and squawking.
Life is so important. Too important not to enjoy, and too significant not to act wisely. And as for the things that are out of our control, like a hot, windy and humid summer’s day – why not simply take it in, as something we are not able to be in charge of. It belongs in the hand of Another.
Word(s) for the day – I can’t help it: pandiculation and oscitancy. Remember when you woke up this morning, and you yawned and stretched? You couldn’t help yourself. When our cats wake up from sleeping, the first thing they do is to stretch their backs as far as they can. What we do when that happens, is pandiculate. (pan-DICK-u-late). It means to instinctively stretch upon waking. You can’t help yourself. From the Latin pandiculare to stretch oneself, from the verb pandere to stretch, we also get the word expand, which is important for stretchy pants after a Thanksgiving dinner. The word oscitancy (AH-sit-un-see) is a partner to that stretching we all do – it means “to yawn,” and to do so involuntarily. You can’t help yourself. See – you have to yawn now, don’t you? Also from the Latin (which took on the middle ages latin, when the hard “c” was replaced with an “s” sound), it was originally os-citare, which literally means, “to move the mouth.
So, pandiculate and oscitate – two of the nicest things we can do when we wake up. Enjoy.
I’ve been taking on my family history for a number of years now. It’s a fun hobby, and it opens up both some wonderful and some horrible stories about people who are related to me! I ‘ve identified nearly 2000 people so far, and the “tree” goes back centuries to people like my 28th great-grandfather, who was given land and title in England after he helped William the Conqueror in the Norman Invasion. Cool stuff like that, as well as finding out that my great-grandfather was drowned in an insane asylum on one Halloween because he was “unruly,” and is buried on the grounds. Cool stuff like that – sort of…
A few things I have discovered, however, have both helped and hindered by work. The first thing is that, at least in my family, many relatives want to believe the craziest facts about their history. Passed down generation after generation, because there is nothing factual to tell otherwise, things like President Franklin Pierce was my great-great-great uncle stands as fact (actually we are related, but he’s more of a distant cousin, with the family tree connecting about three generations before him); or the story my grannie used to tell, that in our history, there is an Indian princess. Problems with that? Sort of, since the only Indian princesses to exist are from India – there is nothing in a native American tribal system that refers to a “princess,” the daughter or consort of a king. Also, in whatever branch of the family you’d like to travel back on, nowhere were there any connections besides British and German folk. My DNA test showed 0% native American. But, it’s a great story, when no one checks the facts!
Of course, family trees are funny things. You can work to trace back the family’s history in pretty much a straight line, but then you don’t really have a tree – you have a trunk. In each generation, however, there are of course marriages, which offer you another tree to call your own, as your history really includes their history, and their parent’s histories and on and on. If you go back on the Cross line of my tree, you will find Luboski, Dow, Geith, Lewis, Servis, Serviss, Van Wie, Pierce, Wood, Ellison, Clark, Scofield, Marvin, Metcalf, Wright, Carson and Bunkowski. That’s only if you go directly back three or four generations. When you go back 10 or 15, it’s ridiculous how many people I have to claim. I haven’t even listed Cheri’s tree, which the boys will need to know about…
A couple of other neat things is that there has been a member or members of my family back to the 1600s in this country at least who have been veterans of every war; also, as it happens, you only have to go back 13 generations, through my paternal grandmother, her grandmother, her grandfather, his grandmother, her grandmother, her great-grandmother, and you will find John Alden, of Mayflower claim, who married Pricilla Mullins, and then had my tree. That was a pretty big whoop-di-doo, to be able to sit only 13 people away from one of the leaders of 1620.
Of course, a perfectly reasonable response to that is, “So what? You had a relative 400 years ago sail across the Atlantic. What have you done?” You see, the danger of family histories is that as you get caught up in finding fascinating relatives, from colony leaders, to presidents, to drowning victims, it’s seductively simple to have your claim to fame resting in what someone else did. Even more, most of my ancestors are only known by a name, if that much, and their achievement was to make it to adulthood, find someone to marry and make a home with, and to create the next generation who would do most of the same thing.
For most of us, our lives are not famous or even overly significant. What they are, however, are our lives, offered to us, to live out in significant ways, and in joy. I will never know all the facts of my relatives’ lives, no matter how hard I search, and now that I am part of the oldest generation of my tree still alive, with both of my parents now in heaven, many stories are gone forever, except that God remembers them, and knows how they served and loved and lived and died.
So, there’s a Mayflower in my family tree – and lots of other facts or perhaps guesses both discovered and waiting to be found. Like I said – it’s a fun hobby, but it should never be a substitute for living today in integrity, intentionality, even in bravery and compassion and holy love. If I am able to do even part of that, I will leave a heritage for my descendants over the next 13 generations that will hopefully be worth remembering.
Did I tell you my dad won the Distinguished Flying Cross?...
Word for the day: acnestis. It’s pronounced either ak-NEE-stis, or ak-nest-is. It comes from the Greek meaning, strangely enough, either spine, or cheese grater! The simpler word is the Greek knaiein, which means to scrape or scratch. So, literally, acnestis means “unable to scrape or scratch.” And that’s what it is – it’s the place between the shoulder blade and the loins which an animal can’t scratch. The reason dogs and cats have humans around them is to take care of the acnestis. The reason a bear stands in its hind legs and rubs against a tree is to take care of the ol’ acnestis.
For us humans, it can be that place between our shoulder blades where it feels so good when your wife scratches your back. It’s also however, anything in our lives that itches, and we can’t quite get at – that nagging, distracting, uncomfortable “thing” that just becomes the cranky part of our day. Until we are able to scratch it. However, I would not use the phrase, “You scratch my acnestis – and I’ll scratch yours,” unless you can carefully explain what you are wanting to do…
I expect it was nearly 30 years ago, when Cheri was fully in the hobby of doing calligraphy, that I had her write out a simple four-line prayer that either she or I had found, that I could put on the wall over my desk. She did a beautiful job, of course, and the best thing was, she laminated it, so that now, all these decades later, it has been preserved, and read most nearly every day. I admit right away that I did not write the prayer. I also will admit that I wish I had.
For me, these 27 words function as both a magnet and a compass. They grab my attention and draw me back to an important center, and they also direct me, and remind me of the direction I should be taking. They are profound in my eyes, and in my heart. When I have found myself exhausted, and not inspired, or when I find myself so many time being ground up by my own impatience and need to be seen as right, the words of the prayer remind me that in the end it is not about me, but only about how far away I can travel from the guidance of God and the love of Christ.
The two sentences also tap me on the shoulder and invite me to turn around and not claim so quickly the tendency I would otherwise want to own and embrace. They remind me of who I can and should be, and what stands in the way of that happening. Do they make me a saint? Not in any way – and the fact that it is hanging in front of me doesn’t show how pious or holy I am, but instead, how quickly I can fail and fade and hide my light under the bushel. To me, it is an intensely private prayer, and it invites me to pray it out loud. It also invites me to slow down, to stop for a moment, and remember what is most important. That important thing, I am reminded, is not to come in first, to be the boss of the world, or even to allow my head to remain swelled with such prominent and profound piercing wisdom. It almost asks me, “So Randy – what will it be? Are you going to chase what you can never catch, or are you going instead to walk the simpler walk, to engage in the simpler – and more intentional – life?”
For many years, I did not appreciate the focused and captivating nature of this prayer. Pastors stick a lot of different things on their walls, that they find in books and other important readings. They are usually short-lived, until another fancy glint of an insight takes greater attention. The fact that I still have it in front of me, besides the fact that Cheri made it, is that it tells me I’m not done with it yet, nor is it done with me.
Like I said – I didn’t write it. And I really don’t know who did. I have searched and hunted, but I only get references to bits and pieces of the prayer, individual words, and nothing that lets me claim a name for it. Some mysteries are good, however, and so I can let it be.
Do you have something that you own, or that owns you in this way? I would hope so – something that speaks deeply to you, and that reorients you to God’s call and focus for your life. I think we all need them – these important words for life, of life. I think we – or at least I – need to frequently recall that, again, some thoughts and ideas are not for me to manipulate or shape into what’s convenient. Instead, some things exist because of their power to shape me, to form me and the way I will approach this world.
When in the Bible, we read about “the fear of God,” the word doesn’t mean that we would be frightened or scared, or terrified of our Creator, but it’s more like the feeling I had one time when I was walking down a quiet sidewalk with a tall brick wall blocking off the back yard of a home, and suddenly, I heard a tremendous growling and barking, and looked up to see a massive dog hanging over the wall, with his eyes focused on me! I can tell you that, at that moment, I too was completely focused on that dog – no other sounds, sights, smells, besides the pounding of my own heart. The “fear of God” is that same complete focus. At that moment in your life, nothing else matters, or has any value or distraction. You are completely aware of God. When those moments happen, we are changed a bit, and we zero in on what does indeed matter. For me and the dog, it was a matter of him staying up on the wall, at least until I could get my feet to run a hundred yards or so. For God and me, it’s a matter of opening my eyes to see the glimpses of truth God has for me.
So – this is the prayer of my life, that which focuses me on God, and which recalls me from my “sidetracking,” and my preoccupation, so that I can simply do and be what God intends for me:
Gather my thought, O Lord, and keep me from wandering and weariness. Preserve me from the curse of much speaking and from the death of vain busyness.
Word for the day: tidsoptimist. Actually, today’s word appears to arise from Swedish origin. It breaks down to tid “time” and optimist “one who has a hopeful disposition.” The trouble, however, is that the origin of the word, which sounds so positive, is really the opposite of the word’s effect. Where it might sound good to have a hopeful disposition about how much time you have to accomplish something, or get ready for something, a tidsoptimist, being so hopeful, most often miscalculates just how much time he or she has before something is going to happen, and so therefore is almost always late. I grew up in a house full of tidsoptimists. Our family of nine most often ended up sitting in the front pew, having been ushered in during the first hymn. To my total and utter embarrassment. Of course, I married a wonderful person who was always afraid to be late, and so for most of my married life, we had to circle the block a number of times before parking and getting out to attend an event…
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.