I just heard the school bus stop across the street with its squeaky brakes. At about 7:30 in the morning, the boys (there are no girls in our neighborhood at that age) gather in front of the house that has two boys living there, and hop onto the bus for what is now the second week of school. I always hated starting school in August. I know there are some schools in Texas and such that begin about the first week of August, which in my book is totally ridiculous. Of course, school used to start in September because those boys that hopped on the bus this morning would have been on farms, helping with the harvest, and there was no time for something as uneconomical as going to school. When The Happenings (remember that rock group dynamic!) sang “See You in September,” in 1966, they had it right. When we lived in Rapid City, the school year could only begin after Labor Day. The reason there, of course, was to drain all the tourism dollars possible before Fall set in, and everything seemed to change.
So, there are a number of beginnings for the season of Autumn. According to the sun, the autumnal equinox – when that instant of time brings the earth and sun into a special alignment, as the center of the visible Sun is directly above the equator. It happens this year on September 22, where the day and night is the same, and the sun sits directly east and west. Far different than for us in the north land, when in December, and the solstice comes, we barely see the sun at all, as it peeks above the horizon on the shortest daylight of the year.
But when the equinox comes, in terms of astronomy, it heralds in Autumn, although for many of us north of the Mason/Dixon line, by then, the leaves will already be changing, and even falling. Still, it’s a good measurement.
Meteorological Fall, on the other hand, is ushered in on September 1. It’s a good marking point for what is probably the end of the hottest months of the year, at least in the northern hemisphere. We will see the daily highs and lows start to fall pretty quickly, and talks of sweaters and hayrides and pumpkin spice lattes will fill our conversation. This morning, as I have my window open, enjoying the 58 degrees outside, I also hear the deafening sound of Canadian geese, doing practice flights over our house. There are two fairly large bodies of water to the east and west, and those goofball birds fly about 30 feet above the ground, honking like they are in a California traffic jam. Pretty soon, they will get organized, and whoever is in charge – Big Shot Goose – will start heading south, and they all will follow. Fall is coming.
I used to really dread the Fall season. For my entire life, since age 5, Fall meant being trapped in school after the summer of running wild. That was the case through 12 years of public school, three years of college, and another four years of seminary. Every fall meant the same thing. I remember looking forward to finally being done with my education, and being able to enjoy Fall.
Silly me. In the ministry, whether local church or at the conference level, Fall meant the revving up (pardon the pun) of all the ministries and activities that had taken a break after the last Sunday in May. Sunday school, youth groups, bible Studies, two or three worship services on Sunday, committee meetings and on and on and on. When I began to work a step away from the local church, I found that Fall meant another huge surge of programs and planning events and one-on-one conversations with more than 50 clergy, and then charge conferences which stretched from the end of September to December, filling every week with thousands of miles of driving, and hotel rooms, and marginal meals, and the expectation that I would bring the answer, the key to all the struggling churches, how they could simply turn their church around and be vital once again. The only good thing about that schedule is that when December indeed came around, the churches were too busy with Advent and Christmas to want a superintendent or a conference staff member entering into the picture.
And then it happened. 42 Autumnal equinoxes later, I woke up on the last day of August last year… and was retired. That, along with the pandemic, meant that instead of working seven days/week and driving 3500 miles a month, it all became far quieter. Almost peaceful, one could say…
And while we are coming to the very end of Summer today, and I will miss the heat and the liveliness of the season, my calendar remains my own, as I fill it with things that interest me, and that I enjoy, as I live in this “fourth life,” enjoying what God brings to me to do, and for me to explore. It’s quite a freedom.
I hope and pray that whatever stage you find yourself in life, that you will be able to take the time to acknowledge the changing of the seasons, and today, especially, the last day of Summer.
Word for the day: bel-esprit. Pronounced bell-eh-SPREE. Of course, the way it sounds, and even is written, calls us to think French. Before that, however, we find spiritus, the Latin for “spirit, or presence.” Bel is always tied to “beautiful,” so in Latin, it means, “beautiful spirit.” In the early 1800s, however, esprit meant “mind, or intellect,” instead of spirit. The phrase commonly became known as a beautiful mind, or a person with great wit or intellect. We’ve all known persons who seem to always bring a liveliness to conversation, and a certain vivacity to a room. Of course, it should always be a phrase that one uses to describe another person in a complimentary light. It’s just kind of rude, and even arrogant, to claim this title for yourself. You’re not that smart… nor am I…
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.