First of all, let me say congratulations to myself! I have now completed five months of retirement. For any of you that may have been counting, I have also written 416 pages of daily columns. I’ll leave it to you to determine their value…
What has happened, however, is that I have experienced lots of dreams – hundreds, it seems, and most of them, I would guess, are efforts of my brain to try to put my thoughts and memories into the appropriate file cabinets. Just last night, I dreamed I was at a meeting – most likely with the leaders of the conference. At a break, someone asked me to step into a small room. It was there (and the conversation always starts in the middle of things, after, it seems, everyone else has heard the initial instructions or reason for why something is going to happen) that somebody of importance told me that I had to take with me some scripts for a filming we were going to do in a “little while.” Now, it became kind of a regular habit, when I served as a superintendent, for the conference to produce different web presentations – we did Lenten studies and special web talks on a variety of subjects, and we would often get tapped into doing those kinds of productions.
Unfortunately, I had no clue of what this filming was going to be about, and of course, no one had the time or inclination to tell me. They just handed me two large shopping bags full of paper and said we’d work on it after the meeting. Back at my table, I tried to sort out what was in the sacks, but it was a total mess with blank pages, and hamburger wrappers, and other sacks inside, as well as some pages with things written on them. It’s about this time that I like to wake up and reset, and let the dream madness fade away. My little exercise wristband may say I am getting great sleep every night – but this has not been fun, friends.
The other very strange thing that happened yesterday was that Cheri read me a staff message that she had gotten from work, telling me that former owners of our house had inadvertently used our address for a delivery point of some packages, and when they would come, could we please give them a call, and they would come and pick them up? I said, “I know – you told me that last week.” Cheri looked at me and said, “I just got this message about ten minutes ago.” I told her, “No – you told me the very same thing last Monday or Tuesday.” She looked at me again, and I could see in her mind that she was very close to calling 911, and have the ambulance take me over to the special mental care unit.
Now – I swear that Cheri and I had the very same conversation a week ago – I knew every part, every detail of what it was about. But Cheri says she never told me that. So that’s a bit disconcerting – did I dream it? And if so, how could I have dreamed it so clearly and exactly as it came to be? The boys just marked it off to another step in my continuing looney-ness, but it does give me pause.
What goes on in our brains is a fascinating and awe-some experience. Sometimes good, sometimes horrible – the thoughts, dreams, machinations and ruminations are incredibly complex, often, and I would think the greatest part is waiting to figure out what happens next!
A phrase that is often spoken as we look into the future is that something is somehow a “foregone conclusion.” That is, it really doesn’t matter what kind of input we have on a situation or an experience – it’s going to turn out in a particular way that “everyone” knows to be true. It’s often used as a way of convincing people about politics, or other use of power or if someone is attempting to look wise and insightful.
However – I would contend that NOTHING is foregone – that is, nothing we experience in our lives HAS to take a certain path or progress in a certain way. When I was studying systems thinking a number of years ago, I also had the game “Bejeweled” on my computer. The object of the game is to try to move the jewels so you line up with three, four, or five of the same color, which then makes them vanish, and new jewels drop down in the open spaces. The attempt is to try to clear out as many jewels as possible so you can move up to the next level and do the very same thing again, hopefully with similar positive results. The challenge, of course, is that once you clear out one set of jewels, you have changed everything – what “might” have been a lineup for another set of jewels is forever altered, as new jewels of different colors take the place of ones that might have been used to clear out a different set.
Anyway, not to get caught up in the game, but it became clear to me that Bejeweled is simply a way to look at life itself. Every decision I make alters the “game” – maybe it’s just a little change, like deciding not to go to the grocery store, so we have to have something different for supper. A change. Sometimes, a decision turns out to be hugely profound – like retirement. There are always unforeseen consequences to each choice we make in life.
This tells me that nothing is a foregone conclusion – for instance, after Dad got back from Vietnam in 1970, the Air Force wanted to send him to Nellis AFB outside of Las Vegas to work on the FB-111 swing-wing jets. They were crashing most every week, and so Dad opted to switch commands in hopes that he would be given an assignment in Omaha, where our family was living while he was overseas. The consequence of that choice was that he instead was assigned to Grand Forks AFB, and we moved to North Dakota. I would never have on purpose gone to the Dakotas, but that one choice affected my lifetime of choices, from school, to working in churches in the Dakotas, to meeting Cheri, and on and on and on. Nothing foregone at all. Now, I will offer that God nudges us in ways that create wonderful opportunities – but North Dakota was the very worst assignment for Dad – he hated it, and yet, because of it, my life became filled with abundance and joy.
So, as you sit surrounded by a pandemic, listening to the news about all sorts of national and international things that are happening, don’t let anyone fool you into thinking all is fate, or destiny. The future is as secure as your next decision, which should fill you with excitement and hope! It also means we need to be intentional about what we choose, and which direction we may take that changes everything, or maybe one thing that is a critical part of what’s to come. That’s why we pray – that’s why we are thoughtful – that’s why our best choice is to respond and not react, but to place our hope of future good choices with God. Have a great day of choosing good things!
Word for the Day: gloaming. Pronounced GLOW-ming, it’s NOT Latin, but comes closer to an origin in Scotland, around the era of Old English. Glomung is that period of the day between sunset and full night – it’s the dusk time or twilight, when in romantic views is the time when things are no longer seen clearly, but instead we have only shadows or outlines. Our eyes play tricks on us, and we almost want to wait until full darkness. It actually arises from glom meaning “twilight” or glowan, the Scottish word for “to glow.” You can almost imagine yourself in the highlands, up in the moors, as the sun sinks below the horizon. It is however, a very different word than “gloom.” That’s also a Scottish term, but it means “a sullen look.” Where gloaming could fill us with apprehension of what’s ahead, gloom only fills us with boredom and no sense of hope. I’ll take gloaming…
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.