Welcome to a new year, friends! Now, of course, we know that one year from the other is only separated by a day, or an hour, or a minute, or even a second, but I expect this new years day was and is the most eagerly anticipated of any in our lifetimes. The appropriate stigma placed on 2020 made it the largely agreed on worst year most of us have experienced. It was also not just for us in the USA, but around the world, the celebration of welcoming a new start, even as we carry lots of the messes of the past year with us, was something we have hoped for in what seemed to be ages and ages of quarantine, and violence and plain messy stuff.
So, I woke up this morning, and kissed my beautiful bride, since she really didn’t make it past 9pm, which meant she celebrated New Years in Buenos Aires time. Still, her going to bed “early” did not dissuade the males of the family from completing their important yearly ritual. You see, since I was old enough to force myself to stay awake until midnight, my family undertook the important task of chasing away any evil spirits from our front door at the stroke of midnight. Everyone grabbed a pot or pan and a wooden spoon or something else sturdy, and found the noisemakers in the drawer where they had rested for the entire year. We would stand at the door, waiting for either the alarm to ring, or for Dad to say, “It’s time!” at which time we would all crash out of the front doorway and onto the porch, banging pans and blowing horns until our own ears rang from the incredible din – probably a good 15 seconds or so – and then we would all go inside to have a toast with our ginger ale (I think Mom and Dad perhaps had something a bit stronger). The New Year was officially ushered in. We would then stay up a bit more, since you can’t just rush to bed after such an exhilarating experience! Eventually, though, sleep would grab us, and leaving the mess of the past year all over, we would rest in the beauty of new possibilities.
I believe my sons have gone through the entire cycle of New Years ushering. When they were little, if they could stay awake, the permission to make awful noise at midnight was nearly irresistible. When they grew older, however, in their teens or even 20s, that moment of New Years seemed to hold a bit more embarrassing tone to it, and they would hang back from really chasing the evil spirits, which left the greatest work on my shoulders.
However, I think they have gained wisdom in this whole endeavor as they have experienced life and found the critical importance in making a huge racket precisely at midnight. Given this past year, and what appeared to be evil spirits let loose in our world, as midnight approached in our home, I noticed a steely determination in their eyes, and a sense of being fully engaged in this important powerful ritual. When the alarm rang at midnight, as we stood at the front door, which was also about 20 feet away from my sleeping wife, suddenly we burst through the doorway, and chased everything away – including, most likely, the neighborhood cat who tends to wander most nights near our yard. We also chased three other inside cats downstairs, since one thing they have never appreciated was a racket…
The next part of the ritual this year had even a deeper meaning to it. As the Cross men stood in the kitchen, toasting each other for the year that now was and is, very quickly our conversation turned to not only what could be for 2021, but what shall be. Not resolutions, but certainly talking about things in a resolute manner. Each of us has had – like all of us – particular and difficult challenges over the year that is now gone forever. Even though this new year still may carry some other challenges and disappointments, we seemed to no longer be defined by what might happen. Instead, we were able to claim a handhold on the rudder of our own future, and determined, in that kitchen circle, that we would be and do differently. This new year will be worth living, and I think, an opportunity to be amazed at what God has in store for us.
But of course you know that what we talked about is what I have been talking about for six months of retirement. Living the intentional life, or living life intentionally means that we are not victims, and we are not going to be simply used by fate or chance. Instead, we choose to plan, to act, to respond instead of reacting, and to live hopeful that as we act this way, God blesses our work, and magnifies its good and important consequences.
Again, Happy New Year to you all. It’s not too late in the day for you also to claim what shall be for you perhaps the best year of your life so far. It can certainly be one that far outpaces this past year in joy and significance. I’ll catch you up in the coming days with some of the goings on over my week of break, but that’s for other days to come. For now, enjoy the day, and may you find peace and love in all you do.
Word for the day: eremophobia. Pronounced eh-REM-oh-foe-bee-ya. I didn’t know this word before, but it appears to be a psychological term. Of course we know phobia, meaning “fear,” but eremos is Greek for “lonely, solitary.” Simply, eremophobia is the fear, or even the dread of being alone, or of stillness, or of deserted places. With the 2020 quarantine, this was probably a well-worked phobia. However, I find it interesting that in the Bible, we are told in a number of places to seek the stillness, as in being led beside the still waters, or being still and knowing God is God. Jesus even told his followers to go to that “lonely place,” of solitude, away from the crowds, where indeed you could have the capacity to listen, and to recoup. It’s a terrible term for an extrovert, and yet it is a balm and a joyful command to an introvert. I’d suggest that the greater fear is not that of being alone, but of losing any and all opportunities to do just that. Put your phone down today, and spend time with you.
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.