Allow me to say, before I begin today, that this would have been Mom’s 92nd birthday today. I remember when she turned 90, just a few months before her death. She was almost in shock that she had lived that long, especially given the fact that the previous five years she had been basically bedbound, on hospice due to lymphoma. I’ve told this before – the doctor told Mom that she had probably 3-6 months to live when she was first diagnosed. Five years later, that’s why we would say that doctors practice – because he certainly didn’t have it right! We always celebrate birthdays in our family. They are big events! So – happy birthday, Mom. I miss you every day.
I mentioned yesterday that Cheri and I went up to her family’s farm on Friday, and in the course of things, took all of her dad’s clothes home so Cheri’s mom wouldn’t have to worry about them anymore. I guess we hadn’t really understood what a big deal that was for Cheri’s mom – apparently, with the house unoccupied, the clothes were the one thing she had been concerned about if something would have happened to the house. I didn’t, and still can’t quite follow that reasoning, but it certainly meant something to her mom in a deeply significant way. You know, part of living an intentional life, I am learning, is also to be intentional in the way we listen. More often than not, we “listen” by hearing a bit of what the other person says, and then we sift and grind it through our own understanding and needs and story, which sometimes means that when someone tells us something very significant and really important, we may have the tendency, when we assume we already know the answer, to minimize that important part of what another is saying to us. We “accidentally” listen, and miss the true, critically meaningful part of another’s word to us. I mean, we were out the door, in the car, backing out of the driveway at the farm when Cheri asked, “Is there anything else we can do today?” It was then that her mom kind of held her head in her hands, and said, “Well, I wish we could do something with Dad’s clothes…” She had said it many times before, like I said, and we passed it over as though it was just one of those things. But this time, Cheri listened, and I began to hear that it truly was of importance. So, we stopped the car, went back in, hauled it all out, and promised Cheri’s mother that we would take care of it all.
In that moment of honest listening, about something that didn’t matter to the two of us at all, but when we understood it did matter to her mom, the world changed a bit that afternoon. Her mom’s countenance became so much lighter, and joyful. It really was remarkable, and as I have thought back over it, and Cheri and I talked, we were 15 seconds away from putting it off until another time, and keeping the burden on Cheri’s mom. It was such a great reminder of what good each of us can do, and how very simple it is, by accident, if we ignore or deny that good to happen, without even caring.
So – what do you do when the back of the car is filled up with your father’s clothes, and your mother is happy as can be? Of course, you go grocery shopping… somehow, in the conversation, they had talked about how the local grocery store had butter on sale for $1.81/pound. That’s a pretty good price! Now, again, I wasn’t intentionally listening, and assumed the cost of butter was just another piece of information to be shared. Oh no – it became the reason to go to the grocery store, because Cheri’s mom was determined that we were going to take butter home with us!
So we found a spot to park, walked at the speed of an upper-80-year old with a cane into the store, found the small cart, and away we went. Her mom said about a hundred times, “You just get anything you want – I’m buying it – whatever you see and you want, you just get it, and I’m paying for it…” The thing is, when someone says that, I immediately can’t think of a single thing to buy, because it feels like I’d be taking advantage at that point. We went down nearly every aisle, with the two of them still talking about the butter. Finally, Cheri turned around and asked me, “Would you go and find some puffed rice? We’ll go after the butter…”
I felt like I had just been released from Alcatraz. All I had to do was find puffed rice, and meet them up at the cashier. Do you know how hard it is to find puffed rice? First all, I might as well be looking for dog food, and we don’t have a dog. The last time I ate puffed rice would be – never – but my darling wife likes it, so off I went down the cereal aisle. It’s a rare beast, I tell you. I scanned every single box of cereal, paying special attention to the section where they put all the cereal brands that just taste horrible, and that no one would really eat. It wasn’t there. It certainly wasn’t near the sugar-infused choco-bombs and the like.
Finally, at the very end of the aisle, in a bin on the top shelf, where they keep bags of cereal, instead of boxes, the way God intended, I found a bag – one bag – of puffed rice. My epic struggle was nearly over – all I had to do was get to the cashier. I made my way to the front of the store, but Cheri and her mom were nowhere to be found. This is a dangerous time, because not knowing where in the store they were, I could as easily turn and go away from their location, and have them pop out of an aisle at any moment. They are both pretty short, so they hide well. With puffed rice in hand, I jumped from aisle to aisle throughout the entire store, when at the far corner of the grocery – where the butter was – I found them. They had loaded six pounds of butter in the cart. That’s a lot of butter.
We slowly, ever so slowly made our way up the aisle, past the deli, pausing to look at the fully cooked slabs of barbeque ribs until finally we made it to checkout. Sure enough, her mom kept her promise and bought everything. When we made it back to the house, I discovered that in addition to the puffed rice, we were now the proud owners of not one, but four of the six pounds of butter. I guess Christmas baking is coming, and you know how scarce butter can get…
One other thing to learn, and learn well: part of living intentionally means that you also accept the gifts that others offer with all the grace in the world. Often, we accidentally think that the only gifts worth giving are the ones we produce, when truly, the opportunity that others have to bless us are also gifts of enormous value – even if they are in the form of yellow sticks.
It’s always a good day when love is shared, in all sorts of forms, and both given and received, it’s good to remember that there is plenty to go around. Take your turn today.
Word for the day: recoct. Happens every day. It’s pronounced REE-cocked, and of course, it’s out of a Latin root. Re, means “again,” and coquere is defined simply as “to cook.” Recoct, then, is to recook something, to reheat it, or reboil it. The word is sometimes used as well, when we talk about revamping an idea or plan, or even reconstructing something, especially when we use the same materials. So, after a great meal you have one evening, when everything tastes just right, and you have your fill, but you simply can’t eat it all, you can say to your dinner companion, “That’s ok – we can just recoct this tomorrow…” Sounds better than, “Well, there are always leftovers…” Words can make you sound fancy. Of course, just to throw on in – if you are caught up in mageiricophobia, it simply means you have a fear of cooking in the first place, so then it’s either out to eat, or order in, I suppose. Or get someone else to cook, and then tomorrow ask them to “recoct” it.
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.