I had to do a little research to discover when “rock, paper scissors” was invented. Apparently, the first known instances were in China as far back as 200 B.C. It spread from there to Japan, and then around the world in later centuries. The game always had a maximum of two player, and two purposes to it. The first one allowed the winner to inflict pain on the loser, by (if you were a boy) slugging the loser in the upper arm, or twisting the skin on the wrist, or (if you were a girl, apparently) pinching someone really hard. Life is sometimes cruel, and when you engage in trying to win something like rock, paper, scissors, you need to be prepared to get slugged or pinched. That’s life. Now, I can tell you, however, that if you decide to play this ruthless game with your big brother, even if you win, you lose. For instance, when I would play Ray, and most often lose, since he knew how to cheat very well, I’d have to drag my arm around for a few hours after having it punched repeatedly. Even if I won, and decided to foolishly haul off and pound his arm, if it were too hard, the rule of the game was thrown away, and he’d just punch back as hard as he could. Don’t play games with your brother – there is no honor among relatives.
The second purpose was to decide a dispute. Two sides both professing the truth, and with rock, paper, scissors, the one winning truly did win the argument. It’s even been used in court cases, when no simple solution could be found, and an innovative – or cowardly-- judge would direct a round of the game, and the winner would take all. The ingenious part of the game is that it appears that all three items have equal power – each one can destroy one other – paper covers rock, scissors cut paper, rock smashes scissors, and of course, then, each one has a deadly opponent, who can cover, cut or smash. In atomic weapons, it was known as mutually assured destruction, or MAD.
I felt myself falling into the game yesterday afternoon, but it wasn’t with a family member or a friend – instead, I was battling against the natural forces of the universe. Let me tell you the story. The whole “what’s for dinner?” and menu challenge continues to rage at our house, with no one willing to come forward and say what exactly they would like to eat, for fear that others in the house will offer their own supportive comments, like “Oh, yuck – I’m not eating that!” or “Nope – not feeling it,” or even, “But we just had that (about a month ago, but I’m not ready to put it back in the rotation…).”
I went to the grocery store on Friday, and there saw some great pieces of chicken, ready to be cooked, and offered to me at a really reasonable price. I decided to slide barbeque chicken into the rotating line up for this weekend. Now, for whatever reason, as evening approached, and the pall of laziness fell over the house, we decided to go the “look in the freezer for whatever you want to eat” option. Saturday came, and with it the renewed commitment to the chicken. Saturday afternoon saw a nice long nap, and the start of a new jigsaw puzzle, and once again, the option of the freezer, or ordering something in. Did I tell you this cooking this is messed up?
Finally – Sunday. The afternoon that was designed for grilling outside and enjoying the weather, and watching the beautiful chicken come into that perfect state of cooked-ness. I was ready, and I was willing. In the rock, paper, scissors game of the world, I was ready to beat indecisiveness, and go-look-in-the-freezer-ness, with a renewed commitment to cook that chicken! I took it out of the refrigerator, trimmed it up, all the time commenting on how this was going to be a great meal, and that we’d need to have corn – God’s favorite vegetable – with the chicken. It was going to be great…
I was probably two minutes away from firing up the grill when the first bolt of lightning sailed through the air, along with a deafening thunderclap. Please understand – I watch the weather pretty carefully, and although some rain was forecast after 10pm last evening, the skies were predicted to be clear and safe for the remainder of the afternoon. Tell that to the next bolt of lightning that sounded like it was hitting about a block away, with immediate thunder. And then the next one, followed by a few drops of rain, and then some plinks of tiny hail, and then a gully-washing, pouring down of tons of rain without end. Apparently the rain that was due after 10 caught an earlier flight, and over the next few hours, we received nearly an inch and a half of rain.
I stood in the kitchen, with chicken platter in hand, watching the monsoon. The rock, paper, scissors game began to form in my mind. Indeed, commitment to grill beats out indecisiveness, and the dream of having tasty barbeque chicken and corn beats out “look in the freezer,” but the fact is, drenching downpours that last through the supper hour and more always beats fresh chicken ready to be cooked.
I sadly and carefully bagged up the chicken pieces, offering to the family that tonight we would “Guamanian Chicken,” with time to marinade and a sunny day and evening in store. At least we are making progress in slimming down the provisions in the freezer, after three nights in a row…
It also must be said that, in this time of pandemic and social unrest and financial insecurity, if my greatest disappointment and concern is not to be able to grill chicken, then I am above all others someone to be admired and desired. It’s not a big thing, until we make it one. That’s the case, by the way, for most of our lives. In our efforts to try to control, and keep reins on all parts of how we live, and as we try to make our world so small that we can easily handle it without much effort, I can tell you without a doubt – the rain is coming. And we are going to get wet, and our best laid plans and our schedules and our control may very easily go by the wayside, as we stand with chicken in hand, watching the downpour of disappointment.
So, the way we get out of that predicament is not by trying to control things even more tightly. When we try that tactic, we quickly find out it doesn’t work well, and it also makes us pretty obnoxious to be around. Instead, I would offer in those times, which you and I both know are most times, since we don’t control the world, we take the path that indeed requires an intentionality, but one with flexibility as our cornerstone. We don’t know the future, and we don’t really the last sentence of today’s history. We do know, though, that we can expect surprise, and changes of plans and a different idea being offered when we are ready to go one certain direction. Living today intentionally means that we can live with a purpose, and a pretty good blueprint for how we hope the day to go, but we can also “intend” to receive something different than what we had dreamed it would be. Sometimes that’s an invitation to a new experience, and sometimes it’s the unfortunate reception of a disappointment, since that’s also part of life itself. When I am ready, however, to move forward with what I hope will happen, and always aware that it may not happen the way I personally wanted, I can live in grace. I can receive all that this life offers me, knowing that in this life, I also will always walk with the One who will never disappoint, but who gives me the joy of simply living this day as an important and wonderful experience.
So, if you have to – put the chicken back in the fridge, and check to see what the freezer holds. Hopefully, tomorrow will offer another chance to grill out. On purpose.
Word for the day: philodox. Pronounced PHIL-uh-docs, the word of course sounds like a Greek word, which it is. Two parts to it are philo, “lover” and doxa, “one’s belief, dogma, truth.” The word sounds pretty noble, until you realize it is defined as someone who is fond of, interested in, a lover of one’s own opinion. A philodox does an excellent job in shooting holes in other people’s idea and stances, but carefully and near-neurotically protects and adores his/her own particular idea or opinion. This is far different than a closely sounding word, “philosopher,” which is a lover of wisdom, and one who would seek to uncover truth, instead of the philodox, who believes truth has already been found, and it’s held in my own very important mind. Now, we all have levels of philodoxy in our minds and hearts. I do of course know some things for certain and better than anyone else! However, we are able to set those skillfully crafted egos aside, it’s maybe helpful to remember that we shouldn’t always believe everything we think.
Yesterday, we received an unrequested magazine in the mail that looks to be published by folks who want to make the Fargo-Moorhead area a choice place for business and culture and, by the looks of it, going out to bars and buying quartz countertops. Cheri glanced through it, and then exclaimed, “Are you kidding?” She went on to tell me that the article she started to read quickly turned into an ode of praise for the newest category of heroes: bankers.
Yep – that’s what the piece said. In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, a group of heroes has arisen, using low interest rates, and possibly gifts if you open up a new checking or savings account, or get one of your friends to do so. These heroes spend tireless hours calculating your loan costs, or refinancing your home – of course, never for their benefit, since they are… heroes, of course. Their sole aim is to make sure that Fargo sails through this time, and people are able to set up IRAs and home equity loans, which although benefits the bank every time someone takes an action, but they are not going to let this opportunity get by them, doggone it…
I threw the magazine away, and then Cheri and I talked a bit about “heroes” in today’s world. Let me say from the outset that I have profound respect for human beings who take on the burden of serving the welfare and needs of people in this world. As I’ve said before, Dad retired as a Lt. Col. in the Air Force, after nearly 30 years of service. I’ve had brothers and nephews who have also served, and my wife serves daily as a nurse practitioner in women’s health. In a far lesser sense, I served for 43 years as a pastor. Folks who serve the world deserve our respect and gratitude, wherever that may be found.
However, I am also a lifelong student of words and language and the power of their true meaning. We have a tendency, at least in the western world, to take words that have a rare and powerful meaning, and downgrade them over the course of time so that they fit a wider and weaker and more common usage. Words like “fantastic,” which used to mean only something that existed in one’s imagination, almost too difficult to describe. Nowadays, it appears to be anything that looks incredible, or we want to give extraordinary position to. Words like, “awful,” which, to break the word down, really does mean full of awe, or awe-inspiring. Somehow, it was transformed into a truly negative word, usually used in my description of lima beans, or bean and bacon soup. Words even like “backlog,” which in colonial times was the giant log set first in the fireplace, that would hold the heat and the fire long after the smaller wood pieces were burned up overnight. Nowadays, of course, it stands for the huge pile of work that remains on your desk, that you have to go through – unless, of course, you are retired, in which case it all slides in the trash. Even the word, “love” has slid down a common path. At one time, the word was used only for the very highest affection one person would have for another, or for some cause or land – it was used sparingly because it was so powerful, and should not be used in a description unless you wanted to convey the deepest and most profound connection you wanted to have with another human being. Nowadays, we “love” to go out to eat, we “love” that new fall color, we “love” the way the plan worked out, or the drive in the country turned out, or the feeling you get when you eat a chocolate covered jalapeno from Widman’s chocolates here is Fargo. Do you see how the impact, with its over-common usage has diminished the impact of such a truly powerful word in our language? I doubt we can ever regain re-place the word or any words in their true positions, now that they have become so casual in their use.
That brings me to the sensitive point of this piece. I believe we are on the edge, if not already crossing over to losing the power and deep meaning of the word, “hero.” I think it’s a fascinating word, coming from the Greek, and maybe even earlier, the word originally meant, “the brave one of the people,” or “a person of superhuman strength or courage.” In Greek mythology, a hero was the child of a god and a mortal, like Hercules. A hero, as a human, was an exceedingly rare and special person, who does something perhaps no one else can do, or exhibits such bravery that leaves us full of awe as we hear about it.
In our culture, Medal of Honor recipients are heroes. “Above and beyond the call of duty” is how they are described. Certainly someone who acts with no concern for herself or himself in performing a deed that preserves or saves the life or lives of others could be included in that category as well. There perhaps are a couple of other definitions that would fit this rare and important description. I believe it is one of our more important words to preserve in our language.
My concern, then, is that in our effort as a culture to reach as far as we can to thank those who care for us, especially during troubling times, we have possibly drafted this special word, and expanded its place to include almost anyone who does something good. Please understand – I have nothing but respect for those persons, but I would ask us to consider not using the word “hero” unless it fits that narrow place.
My dad was in the military – he won the Distinguished Flying Cross – he gave his life to serve our country. He was a patriot, and someone to be honored. I think however, that he would balk at the idea of being known as a hero, simply because he served in the protection of our country. In every generation of family from the 1620s to now in this country, we have had military relatives, and I would guess that none of them would consider themselves heroes. Deserving to be thanked for their service, indeed. Heroes of those rare-air acts? Perhaps not. Having earned respect and gratitude? Absolutely.
There are others who have served and serve today – medical personnel, emergency personnel, police and more are also incredibly important and respected persons in my book. Not all, however, have either acted in a way, nor been ever given the opportunity to act in a way that would be defined as heroic – a few, certainly, but blanket stamp the title on a position, instead of an action seems to me to create something more common than rare and exceptional.
Because you see, in this season, I’ve heard that if you wash your hands and wear a mask you are a hero. If you social distance, you are a hero. If you teach your children at home, you are a hero. If you buy what you need in your life locally instead of online, you are a hero. And, like I said, if you are a banker? Nice people, I’m sure but deserving of the hero title? What have we done to this powerful and exceptional word that we are stewards of not only for our generation, but for the future?
I wouldn’t imagine to change your mind and your way of addressing others – I’d just hope you might offer respect and thanks, but save that title for the one or ones who truly are heroes in our world. Thanks for thinking about this today.
Word for the day: gargalesthesia. Pronounced gar-ga-less-THEE- zee-a. It comes from the Greek, which it sounds like it should, gargalizo, which is a word every language should have. It means “to tickle.” Gargalesthesia is the sensation of being tickled, probably to the point of laughter. Boy have always loved to tickle girls. It may be part of the DNA. Just always remember that a little gargalizo is fine, leading to a nice happy gargalesthesia, but too much is just plain too much. At that point it’s just mean, and probably deserves an elbow to the stomach.
So, my mother died in May of last year, at the age of almost 91. Incredibly, the last five years of her life found her in hospice, with given about 4-6 months to live as she suffered from lymphoma. Five years later, it was perhaps the reason they say that doctors “practice,” because her oncologist simply sent her home to die, and to do so quickly.
Still, it’s been a long while since we went through the funeral and then had to clean out her house to get it ready for sale. In all that work, it’s natural that some question arise that I’m sad to say I never asked her. I won’t include them all in this writing, but with your indulgence, I’ll take time now and then to just have a one-sided conversation as time goes by.
So, Mom – my first question is why you, and Dad too, never really sang out loud? With dozens of records and tapes ever at the ready for all of us kids to play and sing along with – like the cherished possession I claimed from your house – the “Sing along with Mitch Miller” album, I never recall hearing you sing as you cooked or sewed or sat in the back yard or did any of your thousands of crafts, or you read or wrote those volumes. By the way, I’m sure you remember, with Mitch Miller, how your sweet angelic children would sit around the stereo, and belt out such innocent songs like, “Drunk last night, drunk the night before, gonna get drunk tonight like I never got drunk before…”
But you never sang. You raised an entire troupe of singers, and from the junior choir at the base chapel in South Carolina, to choirs and ensembles and musicals and jazz, chamber, men’s and women’s groups, the Cross children would sing at the drop of a hat. Even today, my best singing has to happen alone in the car, since my family doesn’t seem to appreciate the thousands of songs in my repertoire. I know it wasn’t that you didn’t appreciate music – you did, and like I said, you surrounded us with music of all sorts – do you remember when we would get the albums from the Esso station with a fill-up, and we would put on the musical plays, miming the songs of the Jungle Book, and so many others? You sat patiently while we spent probably hours acting it all out for you.
Did someone tell you once that you were not good at that? You were so good at so many things, as a teacher, a counselor, a church leader, a scout leader, someone involved in elections and other civic things. For some reason, though, I never recall hearing “Drunk Last Night” out of your mouth… Dad only sang in church, which is where you probably did too, but it will be a mystery, I guess, until we have a chance to catch up in heaven someday.
Here’s another one for you, Mom – what made you so curious about your world? I never noticed it while we were together, but it was amazing how many different things you “tried out,” or explored or assumed into your life. I know your children always joked about the “Ruth Cross Museum of Kitchen Appliances,” but I swear, you found and purchased and were given more doo-dads for doing anything dealing with cooking or baking than anyone else on the planet. Cap snafflers, battery powered vegetable peelers, butter squirters, grinders, toaster ovens, at one time, the world’s largest microwave, the huge chicken broiler that you could “set and forget,” popcorn poppers, ice cream makers, bag sealers, tortilla steamers, and so much more. That’s not even taking into account the entire wing devoted to Rubbermaid and Tupperware lids without the containers, or the important collection of ballpoint pen caps. Just the caps. Not sure about that one.
But you threw yourself into creating herb gardens, and flowers and so much more outside, and then when you were inside, you did ink and paint decorations on fabric, you sewed miles of clothes, you did wood carving, jewelry making, metal work, scrapbooking, Chinese lettering, and just about everything that the local crafts store could provide.
What gave you that itch? The same itch that led you to read every devotional book you could find, and to write important journals, just for your eyes… and it was the itch, I’m afraid, that you gave to each of us to take on as well, with now numbers of homes across the country all filled with “things we are going to get to” sooner or later, or half-finished or soon to be started crafts and books and flowers and plants and trees and more.
Here’s my guess: with being given the mantle of caring for a house full of children, and a husband who was busy as an Air Force officer, it would have been very easy to just give yourself away to seeing to the needs of everyone else, while Ruth slowly disappeared from view. I think these activities, besides bringing you joy and even whimsy, allowed you to express who you were apart from and standing alone from everything and everyone else that demanded or expected you to take care of them. I think it was your way of saying, “Here I am – Ruth!” and put your own special signature on those pieces of creation.
Well, maybe two questions are enough for today. I do know, however, that one gift you gave us, and that I will always cherish, is the gift of being intentional about what you do. Do it on purpose, even if it doesn’t work out, and be proud of your attempt. Also, you gave us love, without ever ebbing or pulling back. We were a goofy group, and you loved us. That’s certainly the greatest gift I hold today.
Talk to you soon. I love you too.
Word for the day: sialoquent. Take cover. Pronounced sigh-AL-o-quint, the word comes from two Greek roots, loquent, which means “speaking,” and sialic or sialon, which means “saliva” or “spittle.” It’s that unfortunate combination of someone having an overabundance of liquid or moisture in their mouth, and the desire to share it all with the world. Daffy Duck is perhaps our greatest example of a sialoquent speaker. Our only response should be “Say it – don’t spray it!” Wouldn’t it be fun, however, to “compliment” someone by telling them how you consider them to be such a sialoquent conversationalist? They’ll probably thank you for it, and then you can pull out your towel and dry your face…
You see, the trouble with making a menu in a family when you are still dealing with issues surrounding the pandemic, is that one or more options may arise in the course of getting ready to fix dinner. First, what sounded pretty good on Saturday when you made the menu really doesn’t sound good at all come Wednesday; or someone comes home from working in the clinic all day and when faced with the idea of eating what has been planned, decides that she really would like to treat herself instead. Of course, it’s also possible that we just get tired of eating what we have been eating, and we have enough money to order in or pick up supper.
Last night, as Cheri got in the car, she said, “What I’d REALLY like is a nice place of chicken alfredo!” I have to tell you that that particular dish is a far distance from the planned hamburger hotdish (what some of you would call casserole or such – up here, they are hotdishes). As I looked into those beautiful blue eyes, I knew that her wish was my command, and so we go home, pulled up Olive Garden online, and proceeded to order our supper. It was going along well, until the little note flashed that if we were interested in having our meal delivered that night, we should have thought ahead, and ordered before 5pm the DAY BEFORE! Who knows that, especially when it was going to be hamburger hotdish… still, it was possible for us to order the meal, and then simply drive to Olive Garden, wait in their designated “pick up your order” spot, and the happy servers would be more than eager to bring the meal out to you, which then would allow you to drive home, and enjoy the meal from the safety and comfort of your own table, where you don’t have to socially distance yourselves from potentially infectious strangers. Such is the time in which we live.
Now, I have to tell you that since the middle of March, we haven’t gone out in the evening. We’ve sat in the back yard, we have ordered food in, we have watched TV or done jigsaw puzzles, but we just haven’t driven anywhere after about 5:15. It’s a different world in the evening, and by writing that statement, I know I sound as though I am about 120 years old, driving a 1940s Buick… But, all that being the case, Cheri and I set out to make the quick 25 minute trip across town to the restaurant, since Fargo hasn’t thought enough to encourage good restaurants out where we live on the south edge of town…
As we left our development about 5:45, I noticed there was a pretty big uptick in traffic. This was surprising, given that of course everyone was doing their best not to socially squish in next to each other. As we passed the elementary school, we were shocked to see the parking lots – three of them – packed with cars. There had been no mention of school orientation, and there were way more than just what would exist for a teacher’s meeting. As we turned the corner, we then understood what was happening: the large playground/field by the school was filled with nets and flying soccer balls and little boys and girls in expensive uniforms all getting ready for what apparently is Thursday Night Soccer. In the field were, I would estimate, close to 300 or more people, of all ages, squished in socially next to each other. I was even more amazed that I didn’t see one single person wearing a mask. All I could figure out what this was of course the Stupid Thursday Night Soccer. I wished at that moment that I could have dropped a 50,000-gallon balloon full of disinfectant all over the field. School is set to start up here on Tuesday, but they have already jumped the gun with potential infections.
As we drove in heavy traffic up closer to the restaurant part of town, I noticed another large gathering for the Thursday Night Baseball games, again, with the same cramming in of people and lack of masks. All I could think is that we were doomed
When we made to Olive Garden, I again was overwhelmed to see the parking lot almost to capacity with probably 250 cars. And no, they weren’t all parked in the handy “pick up your order” spots. Those were all full, but so were most every other spot. Some people actually were walking into the restaurant with masks in hand, but many others must have thought they were too beautiful to cover their faces with a mask. We got the food, and headed out. I was even more aware of the huge traffic, almost like it was the week before Christmas. As we drove past Target and the mall, again, the parking lots were squished with cars.
When we got home, I had the desire to wash the food off. Now, I know that we too contributed to the traffic last night, but I can honestly say that the only social interaction we had was when the young gal, wearing a mask, gave me the food through my open car window, as I was wearing a mask, and then we went home. That’s not the way the rest of Fargo functioned.
I know that God is willing for this pandemic to eventually dissipate and even become more of a nuisance than a deadly beast. I also know that most of us will not get dreadfully sick, just as we don’t when the flu season happens. The Spanish Flu was its worst for an entire year (we have been about this for 5 ½ months), and its effects went on for 10 years. The Black Plague, which killed possibly 200,000,000 people, lasted 14 years at its peak deadliness.
I have said before that the greatest asset of Americans is also their greatest weakness. It’s impatience. Because we are so impatient when things are the way we want them, we work hard to change our world, our environment, our technology to make it better. Unfortunately, we also tend to too soon ignore and set aside situations that indeed are important and potentially deadly.
I’ll not be going out in Fargo this Friday evening. We are having hotdish. I am re-committed to being intentionally patient, and to also be in intentional prayer for my neighbors, for whom it is difficult to think of as having more common sense than God gave a goose. This is a time for prayer and care, and going back to washing hands and wearing masks. Please take care of yourself – we need you.
Word for the day: mistigris. Pronounced with the emphasis on the last syllable, mist-eh-GREE, the word comes from the Old French, which originally meant, “gray cat,” or “peasant.” Both common and unremarkable things in the French world.
However, “mistigris” has the irony of being the true name for Joker, or sometimes the blank card in a pack of cards. It was especially used first in a card game in which either the joker or the jack of clubs would be the wild card. Nowadays, in any poker game, when the joker is wild, it’s known as the mistigris. The irony is found in that, while the word means simply a peasant or a stray cat, as a card, it is the most powerful card in the deck – even better than an ace, and it can change its place at will. When we see something as having little value, if we aren’t careful, we may be holding a mistigris by mistake…
Well, it’s late August in North Dakota, so that can mean only one thing. No, it’s not “back to school,” or one more weekend before September steps up – it’s time for the furnace to get checked. I know, I know – for many of you, like my siblings in Texas, you’ll spend this weekend with high temps over 100 degrees. But up here, where the Northern Lights glow on some clear nights, on Monday we will reach a high temp of 67 degrees. Lows will be in the low 50s, so it’s time for our thoughts to turn to heating our world, even if it is a few more weeks away before we crank up the furnace.
Last summer, we had the exciting experience of replacing both the heating and cooling systems in the house. I say exciting, because it’s not very often you get to write a check for four figures… after serving faithfully for almost 25 years, the furnace that everyone said was a great, wonderful model – until something happens to it, and then there would be no parts available to fix it – decided to take the long walk to heating system heaven, and we were left with getting a new one, so we threw in the air conditioner at the same time. Hopefully, it’ll be the only time we will need to do it. One way that will be kept from happening is the deal our furnace company made, that if we have the furnace tuned up and checked over yearly, any repairs that would be needed would be free. I love promises that last a lifetime – kind of like marriage.
So, with that mind, I called, made the date, and it’s being done today. All the work is taking place in the back storage room with the door shut, so any of the three cats will not be invited to oversee the work, nor to get into mischief among the boxes and tubs and Christmas trees. Even though there is a cost for the tune-up, I’m glad to pay it, instead of them sending me an instruction manual, and a few sundry parts to replace (whatever they may be). There is a reason God guided me into a life of ordained ministry. God knew that if I were to take on any number of those types of jobs around the house, like furnace maintenance or electric rewiring, or plumbing repair, that it would not benefit the world, nor make anywhere on our block a safer place.
So, beyond the fact that all of this is something I choose not to do, I am also aware that this is something I simply cannot do, and am happy to leave in the hands of someone skilled and trained. I’ll write an internet column instead. That’s ok. It’s ok that there are some things I won’t and can’t do – and I’m sure that the fellow taking care of the furnace has his own list of won’ts and can’ts.
I suppose when we are young, we carry with us the mistaken belief that we can do anything, as long as we have the time, some training, and enough space, and possibly one or two do-overs. This particular self-deception may have some value, in that it gives us the ability to aspire to things otherwise unheard of or experienced. I know that throughout my life, I’ve done some things one time that I know I will never do again. I climbed to tallest fire tower in the Chippewa National forest. I went snorkeling in Jamaica with small sharks swimming under me. I’ve driven through dense fog, driving rain, pounding hail and blizzards when you couldn’t see beyond the windshield wipers. I’ve eaten a hot dog with four drops of the hottest hot sauce nearly known to humans. There are lots more, but I can assure you they will not be repeated. It’s not that I am now entering a scaredy-cat life, or that I’ve given up any danger or risk, but I am more ready to create and grow in areas that I have discovered I am more suited to. For years I have heard that we all need to “move out of our comfort zone,” but I have to tell you that mindset is just dumb. Can you imagine me doing yoga? I’ll just tell you it wouldn’t be pretty. Why not instead do the best we can do within our comfort zone, and leave that other stuff to those who are suited to doing those things?
Part of maturity is learning to choose wisely, and to intentionally act in ways that helps the world to be a better place. Instead of closing my eyes and announcing that I’m going to climb Mt. Everest, maybe I can keep my eyes open, and do something incredible with the best part and talent of my life. I’m not going to run with the bulls, nor run a marathon, nor drive a semi cross country, but what I can do, I will work to do well, and sleep well as a result.
So, I thank the guy who tunes up my furnace, and the folks who take care of my car, and the company that will plow out my driveway this winter after a foot of snow falls, while I sit inside with a hot cup of coffee listening to the beautiful sound of snow drifts getting moved. I will live with an attitude of gratitude, and spend my life making excellent peanut brittle and pretty good meals, and even writing a sermon now and then, or leading a workshop – or just loving my family and friends, as a full-time retirement job.
Enjoy what you do as well. Find the feeling of satisfaction, even in not doing those things that frankly are not for you. That’s a good way to live a balanced life.
Word for the day: lagopodous. Pronounced lah-GO-puh-duss, the word has two vastly different meanings. First, since it comes from the Greek lagos, meaning “rabbit,” and pod, “foot,” the word means someone or something that has feet like a rabbit. Like, for instance, a rabbit. Long, furry – actually, our cat Hermes has lagopodous feet. The in more behavioral usage means someone who is borderline lazy – the kind of person who might sit on the couch all day in pajamas, watching television, or who takes a shower infrequently, and only wears stretch pants and t-shirts, which may or may not have food spilled on them. It describes, unfortunately, a huge part of our population that has been sequestered or quarantined! The lagopodous people – especially if they are wearing bunny slippers…
Yesterday, as I was standing in my socially distanced line to check out at the grocery store, I noticed that in front of me stood a mother and what probably was her 18-month old son. She wore a mask, like everyone else, but her little boy also wore the cutest little mask, hooked over his tiny ears, that you ever saw. If you are not someone who wears a mask when you go out in public, you should see this little guy – happy as can be, and happy to so his part to contain the spread of the virus.
Although I couldn’t see his face, I could tell that under the mask were two little chubby cheeks, and his eyes telegraphed to the world that he was as rascal, and more than ready to have some fun, even in a grocery store. Sure enough, it happened. While Mom was looking away, the little boy grabbed hold of his mask, and pulled it up over his eyes! He just sat there, completely covered, calmly waiting to see if his mommy would even notice. I sensed that he had done this before, since he sat so patiently. Sure enough, she finally looked at him, and said, “What are you doing, you silly boy?” And she pulled his mask down from his eyes and back over his chin. From behind the mask, you could hear that wonderful sound of a baby’s belly laugh, and the form of a big smile and twinkling eyes.
Of course, it only took a few moments before Mommy looked away, and quick as lightning, the mask went back over the eyes, and the little face sat there, waiting for another reaction. When his mother spotted him, again came the laugh, the pulling down of the mask, and another belly laugh. As I said, I would guess this was part of the normal activity for that family. It sure gave everyone around a chance to smile, to see one of our littlest citizens coping through this worldwide pandemic in the best way he could – by playing games with his mommy.
You see, one of the first things we lose as we are captivated by anxiety is our sense of humor. Some experts have said that we can only tell a joke, and respond to one out of our “higher brain” – our cerebral cortex. It’s there that we are able to process even the most rudimentary events or statements that could bring laughter, or even a smile. When anxiety hits, however, if we are not mindful of what’s going on, we will find ourselves dropping down into our “reptilian” brain – the more primitive and basic part of our mental development. It’s there that we have a our “fight or flight” tendency, and there is not much that will make us laugh. I imagine a snake – I have never seen a snake laugh, or giggle, or even smile. They don’t have a sense of humor. When we fall under the spell of an anxious heart and mind, we might as well slither.
When we are able to break out of that, however, and even find some way to think more lightly, we free our minds to do better problem solving, and imagining, and to think independently. We are able to smile – not because we refuse to understand the truth and seriousness of a situation – because we know that there is a solution somewhere, and a new possibility somewhere that perhaps we just haven’t found out yet.
The baby who giggled in a game with his face mask was not deeply insightful as to what was happening in the world, but he was able to make the best and enjoy the moment, despite what swirled around him. Such is the blessedness of a baby’s mind. I’m not calling us to become infants, but I am hopeful that we can use our efforts to think with a higher mind, to feel with a lighter heart and to act in a way that continues to bring joy, even when it’s kind of tough. Our intentional life provides the path for that, so that instead of reacting with the mind of a reptile, perhaps we can find our selves more closely aligned with the mindset of the angels.
Go ahead and play peek a boo, if it works for you…
Word for the day: obelus. Pronounced AH-bell-us. This is another one of those “show-off” words, that you can use to produce proof that you are very smart. It comes from the Greek, obelos, which means sharpened stick, or a spit – it’s the same word root as “obelisk.” It was originally used to point out possibly incorrect facts in a paper or piece of written information, but was also used as the sign/symbol employed in a division problem. It’s that line with a dot above and a dot below, that tells us to figure out how many things go into the other thing. Jethro Bodine from “The Beverly Hillbillies” would talk about learning his “gazintas” – two gazinta four, three gazinta six…
It joins some other more learned words – just a reminder – like “asterisk” instead of “star” (it comes from Greek asteriskos, meaning “little star”), or “octothorpe” instead of “hashtag, and even the plus sign, +, which is a shortening of the Latin word, “et” – which means “and.” Don’t you just feel the intelligence oozing from your mind?
“And you may eat of any fruit of the garden – and by the way, you should really try the corn on the cob! It is excellent, and wonderful with butter and some sprinkling of pepper.”
I know there are some who might doubt the accuracy and authenticity of this Bible verse – after all, when you read the first two or three chapters of Genesis, for some strange reason, “corn” is not included as one of the holy words. However, since I could sit up, and grab ahold of an ear of corn, it has been to me the greatest, most marvelous and tasty non-meat food on the earth. I know, I know, immediately some of you will want to challenge that, and say ridiculous things like Brussel sprouts or lima beans are better, but we all know that’s just a silly stance to take. Of course corn ranks at the top, with corn on the cob sitting at the top of the top, and, as we know, “mexicorn,” that horrible mixing of red bell peppers in with beautiful whole kernel corn, that was served to us in elementary school, ranks at the bottom of the top. I really wonder how many gallons, or even tons of mexicorn was dropped into the trash cans from every single tray each year. It was sad, really.
But back to corn. If it’s not biblical, it certainly is worth meditating on. Last night, while the steaks were getting ready to go on the grill, I shucked a half dozen ears, and dropped them into the big pot of steaming water. And yes, I know that the rage nowadays is to grill the corn, or microwave the corn, or steam the corn, or whatever – but this is how I do it, and it has never failed me. It was a wonderful meal, and best news is that somehow, members of my family will often turn down the opportunity of buttering up an ear, and having it get messy all over their face. When I was young, I could consume probably six ears at one sitting. I love corn – did I tell you that? These days, however, I am content with about two ears, but like I said, the best news was that there was corn left over! Yes, two ears of corn remained unenjoyed last night, so that means that today, for lunch, they will be resuscitated, and buttered and enjoyed. Extend the feast, they say – enjoy the joy.
In a larger sense, corn on the cob for me indeed falls into that large category of things that make for joy in my own life. In that wonderful bin of joyful things, you would find all sorts of foods, and desserts and such. For instance, even though it is only August, yesterday I received my order in the mail for this year’s fruitcake. Last year, we couldn’t find any anywhere, and so I thought ahead, and will just leave it wrapped up and cozy in the closet until after Thanksgiving. Beyond the food, there items that I en-joy looking at or holding or simply admiring. I love old things, that have survived opportunities to destroy them. I have an oil cruet from Israel that is around 4000 years old – about the time the children of Israel crossed the Jordan and into the promised land. It is a small 4-inch pitcher that would have hung from the larger oil vessel, and you would dip it into the oil, filling the little pitcher, which then could be used to fill the small oil lamps. I’ve always be captivated by it, because it is not the lamp itself, but the go-between of the light and the oil – kind of an image of a pastor that I’ve always tried to claim. We bring the oil of Christ’s presence to fill the lamps of God’s people.
And of course I enjoy music of so many kinds – not so much to play an instrument, but I love to sing and it’s best when I am in the car alone, so my family doesn’t feel the need to restrict either the volume or the song selection… I enjoy seeing things of whimsy and hearing great puns and jokes, and interesting facts, and important conversations. In short, I’m like all of you – there are things you cherish, and en-joy, and you can make your own list of those items and activities that fill your own lives with the sense that life is worth living.
We remain trapped at the dance with this abhorrent virus, hoping that it won’t take our hand and lead us to the dance floor. And the greater trouble is, we can’t know when the dance will be over, or we can be allowed to leave and go back to our normal lives, if ever. The awareness of that painful part of our world can indeed rob us of recognizing points of joy that come every day. If we are not careful, which means intentional about how we look at our lives and our world, we can become so nearsighted that the joyful parts of our lives grow dim and bleary, and all we see is the virus, and its horrible friends of schools and universities closed, and death announcements, and ventilators and fear.
That’s not who we are! We may live in difficult times, but we are people of joy, created in the image of the One who created Joy itself. It is for us to continually remind ourselves and each other that life is fundamentally good, that Hope – which is the assurance that God is always with us, and for us – is one of our best friends, and that our task is to celebrate the day, and not be lured into living accidentally, wondering if the worst might come, instead trusting that the best is on its way. If you want something to fill your day – take on this fundamentally good and marvelous work.
And boil up some corn, if you have time – give me a call, and I’ll stop by.
Word for the day: paresthesia. If you are a medical person, you probably know this one. Pronounced pair-es-THESE-ya, it comes from the Greek (doesn’t it sound Greek?) para “disordered,” and aesthesis, “feeling or perception.” In short, something doesn’t feel right. In medical terms, paresthesia really is the sense you get when your arm or leg “falls asleep.” We use all sorts of words for the sensation: burning, prickling, itching, tingling – even “pins and needles” that we feel after we have laid on our arm, or, again, it somehow falls asleep, which it really doesn’t do, but that’s the only way we can describe it. Have you ever had to drag your arm out, and it feels like its not even part of your body? Congrats – you have paresthesia. The good news is that about 99% of the time it’s only temporary. What’s odd is that there is no obvious reason for it happening, except that your nerves seem to take a holiday or go to the amusement park.
At least it’s only paresthesia. If you want the creeps, there is also a manifestation known as “formication,” which is the sense of having insects crawling under your skin. No thank you very much…
“She will be your stepmother, and she has two wonderful daughters who will be your dear friends…” As a rare Sunday later afternoon activity, Cheri and I decided to watch television for a bit, and found a version of “Cinderella” running. Even rarer, we both decided to watch the movie. It unfolded in that typical Cinderella script, where her mother dies, and her ever-caring father eventually decides that it’s time for wife number two, and so his conversation with his daughter includes the hoped-for famous last words – they will be your dear friends!
I laughed out loud when I heard that line, because from the Disney animated classic, to the musical with Leslie Ann Warren (who, through the eyes of an eight-year old boy was indeed the most beautiful girl in the world), the tragic hopefulness of those words created a really tough time for ol’ Cinders. Not that all step-mothers are evil, nor step-sisters self-centered, greedy and willing to destroy a sweet young girl, but in this story, at least, the sad seeds are sown for a truly lousy life, until a prince, a fairy godmother and a glass slipper all combine for a happy ending. Actually in the Brothers Grimm original version, at the royal wedding, birds come and peck the eyes out of the step sisters, and the step mother is forced to wear iron shoes that had been heated in the fire, and then to dance until she dies. Perhaps not the best bedtime reading.
But we still have those famous last words. Often, words like these are quoted because in retrospect they are so incredibly and naively hopeful – we know the rest of the story, and have to shake our heads that anyone would have believed those “last word” at any time. I remember, during my stupid teenage years, that my brother Tim secured an “M-80” firecracker, which was the equivalent of 1/8 stick of dynamite (now you understand the reference to “stupid teenage”). There was no doubt that it had to be exploded, but we pondered the way to the maximum effect. Finally, about five of us headed to the huge steel culvert that carried rainwater under the road. There, Tim lit the firecracker and threw it as far as he could into the culvert. Nothing. We waited a bit longer. Still nothing. I will always remember the famous last words spoken at that time – “Maybe it went out – let’s check the fuse” – as the five of us stepped into the culvert.
The sound of the explosion was unbelievable. It was also enhanced by the giant echo chamber of the culvert itself. It was more than a few minutes before I could hear anything beyond the deafening ringing in my ears, and the dull thumping of blood in my veins. We didn’t even laugh over it until much later. I am just very glad that we didn’t manage to find our way to the firecracker before it blew! “Maybe it went out…” sort of like in a horror movie, “It looks pretty harmless,” or “Let’s hide in the closet…”
It probably can go without saying that most things can go without saying. What we think are wise musings that we speak out loud are often in hindsight pretty ridiculous and actually kind of goofy. I remember Mark Twain’s great comment: It’s better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt. What we say and when and how we say it is always within our power. It is unfortunate that it is pretty common for us to speak our opinions, our beliefs, what we surmise, instead of not doing so. It’s almost as if our mouths are on autopilot, and our brains sometimes are switched to sleep mode.
When we are living intentionally, however, we think before we speak. We also are able to refrain from speaking everything we think. We keep our own counsel, and do not find the need to direct the entire world by our own sometimes dubious intelligence and wisdom. To paraphrase Twain, sometimes silence is our best effort at wisdom.
That’s not to say we never express our opinion, but sometimes, frankly, it’s not needed, and doesn’t add to the deafening din of pronouncements that arise out of egos without borders. I don’t think Cinderella’s dad was acting egotistically, but the irony is that he tried to sell her what he hoped, and not what he knew. That’s the perfect opportunity for famous last words.
Here’s hoping that today our words will not be either famous nor last, but instead, quietly offer wise and loving thoughts that grow a better world.
Word for the Day: ratite. You may be acquainted with the word already, but you may not know why. Pronounced RAT-ite, it is a category of birds that are flightless, which may defeat the purpose of calling them birds. In the group are ostriches, emus, rheas, cassowaries, moas, kiwis and a number of extinct birds. Most of them adapt to not flying by becoming pretty huge. The ostrich for the best example can grow to be almost 10-feet tall, weigh over 200 pounds and can run faster than a horse, and beat you to pieces if it wished. Who needs to fly then?
The rarely known part of all this, however, which is what you can spout as great intelligence when you go to a zoo or you are at a dinner party eating chicken or turkey, is that the word, ratite, is from the Latin, ratis, meaning “raft.” Why “raft,” you ask? It’s because all of these birds have flat breastbones – most birds have what is known as a “keel” on the breastbone, where the flight muscles can attach. With no keel on the sternum, it is as if the breastbone is a “raft,” like all rafts that are flat. With no muscles to fly attached to the sternum – they are ratites. You are welcome in advance as you share this novel piece of trivia.
Cheri and I decided to take a walk yesterday around the neighborhood. Actually, in the spirit of all honesty, Cheri decided we were going to take a walk yesterday. The usual plan arises, just as I have settled in to getting a few different things done, that she will ask, “So – do you want to take a walk today?” This is where after almost four decades of marriage, I have learned to pause, and actually think about the consequences of my response. My knee jerk reaction is to say, “Not really – I have some other things I’d rather do instead…” This is not a good reaction. This is not good at all. So what I do instead is to, again, pause, and no matter what I WANT to do, what I want to do is of course take a walk with my wife, even if I’m really thinking about what I WANT to do instead.
So, we took a walk. It was a nice, warm, humid, and strangely enough, windless morning. It felt like someone had stuck wet sponges in various areas on my body. On top of that, the rains that fell earlier this week, and had washed the pollen out of the air, had also managed to grow a whole new crop, and so my allergies managed to come alive, with coughs and wheezing. Lovely time. My whining, why-me-the-victim perspective lasted about a block, when I notice a real mess on the sidewalk a number of yards ahead of us. I also noticed a small furry animal racing as fast as possible around the tree positioned above the mess on the ground.
As we got closer, I realized the only thing that could move that fast was a squirrel on a mission. Further, the mission the squirrel was undertaking concerned nothing other than his survival in the months to come. The squirrel was operating in a small oak tree, and the mess on the ground all over the sidewalk were indeed acorns. Dozens, and maybe more than a hundred acorns, scattered all over. As we got closer, it was clear that only half of the little nut clusters really had nuts in them. The other half were left only with the little caps or hats that the acorns wear, empty, as the tasty part of the acorn had been absconded by the worker squirrel. I felt like I was watching a Chip and Dale cartoon, as they swiped all the acorns away from Donald Duck.
I couldn’t believe, first of all, that so many acorns could come out of one little oak tree, that barely stood fifteen feet tall. Secondly, I couldn’t believe how much work that squirrel was putting into getting the acorns in the middle of August, with hopefully more than a couple of months to go before snow was on the ground. At least, I hoped that was true, but with all those acorns, I began to wonder if the squirrel knew more than I did. I began to recall a couple of things about squirrels and acorns. First, I read once that squirrels don’t hide nuts and seeds and such from the trees to that they can find them once winter sets in, but instead, that SOME squirrel will find them and survive. Even though it looked like an individual acorn IRA in the making, if we were to observe all the squirrels in Fargo, we would notice that it is more a truly community squirrel thing, with everyone doing their share to make sure that acorns were stored and easily available once they were needed. That’s not a bad image for us to take along as we think about what we do as part of a community, and in what ways do we and our neighbors benefit from each other’s work. I know that up in Grafton, where Cheri’s mom lives, and her brother still farms, that there is a long tradition, when this time of the year rolls around, that corn and potatoes and zucchini and more gets shared among the neighbors, as one person’s garden bears fruit, and everyone enjoys it. In our “citified” lifestyle, that is a rare occurrence, but hopefully I will remember the kindness our neighbors showed even in little ways when it comes time for me to make the peanut brittle around Christmas time.
The other thing I found to be amazing, but absolutely makes sense, is that the persons in charge of surveying things have discovered that across the country, and probably around the world, wherever squirrels exist, literally thousands, and perhaps even tens of thousands of trees come into being and grow each year due to the acorns and other nuts and seeds squirrelled away in little holes in the ground, and the forgotten, which burst into life the next spring to start new small oak groves and apple orchards of their own. They predict that way more nuts and such are harvested by the little animals than could possibly be consumed, and so part of the natural order of things is that God simply put them to work ensuring that with the harvest of nuts, the future of all those different types of trees would continue and flourish.
We talked about all of this, while we laughed at the huge mess on the sidewalk left by the busy squirrel, and the walk wasn’t so bad after all. I guess it’s nice to walk with your eyes wide open, preparing to see what might be seen, that can help us recall the work and gift of God to our world, even in the form of a little furry fellow. It does, however, require a sense of being present where we are, and intentionally paying attention to what is happening around us. Otherwise, we might as well stay in bed with our eyes closed. Life is worth living, so get up and do that today.
Word for the day: argute. Pronounced ARE-gyoot, it’s a neat little word that has fallen into disuse these days. When someone is “argute,” we are saying that they are sharp, perceptive, or even shrewd. The word comes from the Latin, argutus, or arguer, meaning a clarifier, or making things become clear and understood. With a little bit of shade, someone who talks argutely is very good at having you come to understand things from his or her perspective, so that it always sound like the truth. They aren’t liars, just… shrewd. Of course the word has a cousin, that we have mismanaged for a number of years: argue, which has come to mean to disagree or find fault with or fight over, when originally to argue meant to simply put forth facts in a way that would make things clearly understood. Of course, if I am to be argute, I will argue in a way that “helps” the other person come to believe that what I am saying is the true truth.
So apparently when I bought the laptop computer back in 2015 (actually, I can’t believe it is already five years old!), I also bought the set of Microsoft programs that I would use on it, and I must have been reimbursed by the conference at that time. An interesting and crafty sales maneuver of Microsoft, by the way, happened when they went from selling computer programs as a product, to selling programs as a renewable service, that you were given the honor of renewing each year, with updates and such. Shame on you, Microsoft – that’s a stinky thing to do… anyway, when the “renewal” time came up the next year, I bought the updated “service” using my conference credit card and my conference email. For four more years, I ran two emails simultaneously on my computer, which isn’t too rare, and also somehow had two separate Microsoft program systems at least sitting on my little computer, even while one of them – the one with my personal email – went further and further out of date. I really never noticed.
Now – fast forward to the wonderful land of retirement. I no longer needed, nor did I want the conference email on my computer, since I was no longer a superintendent, and certainly did not want to continue to get emails about things I no longer wanted to know! I thought I had been a shrewd and computer savvy guy by deleting my conference email account and all the emails I didn’t need that went along with it. Unfortunately, it was a lot like taking a pair of scissors and snipping off all the leaves on a rose bush, and expecting it to have then disappeared from the planet.
I was wrong – really wrong. I kept discovering this past week that I was constantly running into my conference email as the sign in source for all my computer programs. Uh – earth to Randy? Apparently you forgot that you have those programs on the system you purchased with your conference email as the sign in, and not your own personal one. I know, I know – it’s a bit complicated. And it only got worse. Not only could I not get rid of the conference stuff, I also couldn’t use my own personal system because it was four years out of date, and needed a renewal. However, every time I tried to walk through the steps to renew it, the diabolical – meaning evil, I believe – computer kept throwing me onto the nasty conference system. It was a huge circular mess. I’m old enough to have watched some of those “Twilight Zone” shows, where someone is trapped in a situation, and no matter what they do, they can’t free themselves… I was trapped in my own computer, with no way out.
Normally I would do one of two things. One, I would find a tall hill, and using all my skills learned of throwing boomerangs from my childhood lived in Australia, I would grip my laptop, and send it flinging far into the atmosphere, only to land hopefully in a large body of water. Unfortunately, as I have mentioned before in eastern North Dakota there is neither a tall hill nor a large body of water. The best I could have done would be to toss it into the sprinkler, but that would not have been very dramatic. The second option would be to just go buy a new computer, and start over fresh. The trouble with that possibility is that I have hundreds of pages of writing – three or four books in the making, that are all hidden within the thick castle walls of the computer programs. In my life, I could never recover in my mind the thoughts I have written down. Now, of course, it’s nothing written that is going to save the world, or bring an end to the pandemic, but it’s my stuff, and it has some promise, if someday I can find a publisher. So, with that, I didn’t want to scrap it all, but it does mean I need to learn to backup data a bit more consistently… I know, I know – but right now is a little too late to lecture me about that piece of computer life that I conveniently avoided…
So, I came to the only option left. “Adam – do you have time to help me with my computer problem?” Adam for now is living downstairs, since he is working from home, and apparently as we sent him to college and graduate school, somehow he learned how to do “all that computer stuff…” Without even a groan, which I thought was pretty big of him, he came upstairs and sat in my comfy office chair, and began to hammer through block walls of the computer fortress, discovering secret passageways, and unused commands, and slowly and surely, he made it all the way down to the prison cells in the basement, and unlocked my poor outdated computer system, used my credit card to bring it back to life, and marched into the shining sun of victory.
Sort of. He did all that, but then discovered that for most of the last four years, I had been pushing data on the conference system, somehow, and so all of that will need to be discovered, backed up onto a hard drive, and then transferred to my civilian system, and then have the dragon beast of the conference system finally slain and dragged off and thrown into the abyss.
Sorry – I get carried away. It’s not that dramatic, but I have to tell you that even though I touched my first computer back in 1973, the entire enterprise is a bit wonky to me. It requires a certain brand of magic, and dealing with computer fairies and ogres, and not a small amount of code and back space and serial numbers and passwords of enormous length. It’s not my world.
I have a plaque on my wall that used to be applicable to working with difficult pastors, churches, and sometimes larger church messes. Perhaps you’ve read one before: “Do not meddle in the affairs of Dragons, for you are crunchy, and good with ketchup.” That now certainly applies to me and computers. That’s why God created sons, who, although they openly pity their poor ignorant and helpless parents, still will do what they can to overcome the messes that the “old folks” have done.
It’s sort of like finally getting payback for the dozens, even hundreds of times, Cheri and I came to the rescue for their sake growing up. School projects that were way beyond the construction skills of little kids, or math homework, or being handed something – anything – that needed fixing, or to be put back together, or cars that wouldn’t start, or even little rabbits stuck in the window well in the middle of the night. Part of the definition of “parent” is “One who takes care of the messes the child makes, with love and willingness, even if they are tired.” It’s nice to know that the definition of “adult child” is “One who does the same for the parent, when that time comes.”
A big part of life is found not in the perfect moments, but in the messes, and coming to know you can rely on someone, or Someone to get you through it. Blessings on your mess today – and I do hope it doesn’t have a computer involved!
Word for the Day: heckle. Sure – you know this word, maybe even from Heckle and Jeckle. The word is easily pronounced – HECK-ul – and it is defined today as “to question or challenge in an attempt to discover a weakness; or to taunt a speaker by pointing out his or her weaknesses in either presentation or content.” A heckler is someone who is really irritating. Actually, if you take the word, heckle, back to the Middle Dutch, it indeed does mean “to prickle or irritate.” However, the word came into its useful meaning in the Middle English language, hekelen, which described the method of combing flax or hemp before it could be woven. Apparently, flax is a real stinker in terms of getting the actual fiber for spinning or weaving. After it is harvesting, it often is left to lie on the ground, to decompose part of the tough outer shell, and then the fibers are “heckled” and the pulled and combed, separated from the husk to create the useful material. Sure seems like a lot of work. So, when we are “heckled,” it feels like we are being crushed and pulled through a long toothed comb, where the worthless part of what we are saying is cast aside, to see if there is anything of value left.
On another note, a similar word is “hackles,” as in getting one’s hackles up. Normally, hackles are the long hairs that stand up on the neck and back of a dog when it is either frightened or threatened. They look like tall-toothed combs standing on the dog’s back. When our own hackles are up, it comes from the same feeling, especially if it happens while we are heckled.
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.