Well, it’s 68 degrees right away this morning. The sun is fully shining, with no expectation of any clouds today. It’ll probably get up into the upper 80s before lunch and hang there all day. Another typical summer morning and day to come here in the Northland. I raised the shades in the bedroom to let the morning sun heat things up there, and lowered them in the living room to keep the sun from burning up and fading our little Norwegian corner cupboard, all painted with a red milk paint more than a 130 years ago.
Hermes, who we call our little cat with a big responsibility, is going through his morning tasks of making sure everyone is awake, even if they don’t want to be. He likes to stand in the stairwell, and offer his best howl so that it echoes on two separate levels. He and Thor, our Siamese, already got their little tastes of cream cheese to start the day, so he will make noise for the next hour, and then find the sun and a soft blanket, and curl in, at least until lunch.
And so we start the last day of my first year of retirement. In some ways, it seems to have flown so fast, and yet, when I break it down, it has been filled with an incredible amount of activities and thoughts and memories. Even this column, which has served as a walkway for me at least, a path in the retirement forest, now contains 948 pages of writing, some of it excellent and insightful, and some of it, I even realize, are more like putting words on a page.
I haven’t really “gone” anywhere this year. No plane flights, only one overnight to Grafton, and otherwise every night was home. That’s a drastic change from previous years, where I would put on 45,000 miles on the car, and be out close to 45 nights in hotel rooms, doing the superintendency. We have driven to Grafton frequently, especially now to see Cheri’s mom, but I haven’t taken a trip to South Dakota since probably April of last year. I used to spend half my time there, straightening out churches and pastors. Instead, the “big trips” were to the grocery store, or perhaps the hardware store, or to fill up a tank of gas every three weeks or so.
Sure – the pandemic had a whole lot to do with the change of activity. I still despise face masks, and am glad we are pretty well past those, at least up here. One thing is that with the quarantine, I haven’t been sick a single day this past year. Not even a sniffle. We’ve gone through the seasons and the celebrations, and I can say that I really have accomplished very little, actually, in terms of changing the world.
You know, we humans go through days and weeks without much reflection, until we come to a day that serves as the chime of the clock of our lives. We take a moment and realize – wow, is it that late already? Have I really spent all those days since the last time it rang? Sometimes, we look at a time past, and make all sorts of resolutions of how this next period of time will be different, and more meaningful and leave more of a mark than just having the dawn every 24 hours. Sometimes, however, the best we can do is to recognize the time has indeed past, and to look forward to another day when it comes.
Do I regret retirement? After all, I did retire when I was 63, and I have many years left, hopefully, to make a difference. My answer to that question is assuredly no. You see, the word “retirement” is always pinned to a past activity. “I retired from this job or this career, or this thing that filled my life in the past.” In that sense, retirement only means that I am no longer doing what I used to do, and so I’m out to pasture, closed that door, shed that work. Retirement in that sense is simply the absence of an “active” life. I used to, but I don’t anymore…
That really is why, when I give myself some time to reflect, I instead call this period of my time on earth my “fourth life.” You can go back and read the very first column written last June 30 for the best explanation, but I consider it more to be, instead of shutting a door, of walking through the doorway to a new vocation, a new set of experiences, a yet-unexplored territory, known as the rest of my life.
I have barely started. Sure, I have deliciously wasted lots of time this past year, taken way more naps than I ever thought, and found holiness in being simply idle sometimes. That’s part of the exploring that I never had time or access to do when I constantly walked around with to-do lists, and unreturned phone calls, and thorny situations. Free of all that, I’ve really tried not to fill that mostly empty cup up with tons of things to get done. After I write this column, I will once again to an on-line crossword puzzle, as I drink another cup of coffee. I’m done with busy-ness, which I wrote about a while back, asking God to save me from both the curse of much speaking and the death of vain busyness. Let me do what is significant, or let me sit and wait until that opportunity comes, and not simply fill my life and days with ballast of things that may indeed not matter. It’s sort of like clearing everything out of a room, and then being very careful about what you decide to put back in. Otherwise, you simply trade one mess for another, which is the least significant thing we can do.
So – fourth life, year number two. No parties, no celebrations. Only a recognition of the future. I’ve mentioned many times before how I loved, and love outer space, and the exploration of humans. Of course, I loved Star Trek, and especially the opening words: Space – the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise, whose five year mission, to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations – to boldly go where no one has gone before….
Let that be my fourth life. I’m here to explore, but not to race at warp speed to make it happen. May God allow me – and you – to greet the day, to open the window, and to discover what we never knew before, which is only a taste of the glory of God.
In celebration of my new year, I will be away from the computer during this holiday weekend. Enjoy the commemoration of our independence, and I look forward to writing to you again next Monday. Blessings and peace. And watch out for fireworks – it’s pretty dry out there…
Word for the day: predilection. Pronounced preh-dih-LECK-shun. A great word, which is never casual or accidental. It comes from the Latin (of course) predilegere, which means “to prefer before others.” Breaking it down further, prae, means “before” and diligere, “choose, or love.” A predilection is a preference, a special liking for something. A greater word is that it is a “prepossession” – something you are always drawn to, if there is any choice. I have a predilection for spicy foods, for great jokes, for words and for my wife. Think about what your own predilection may be – it’s not a bias or prejudice – it’s simply your first choice, if you have a choice to make.
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.