I had to do a little research to discover when “rock, paper scissors” was invented. Apparently, the first known instances were in China as far back as 200 B.C. It spread from there to Japan, and then around the world in later centuries. The game always had a maximum of two player, and two purposes to it. The first one allowed the winner to inflict pain on the loser, by (if you were a boy) slugging the loser in the upper arm, or twisting the skin on the wrist, or (if you were a girl, apparently) pinching someone really hard. Life is sometimes cruel, and when you engage in trying to win something like rock, paper, scissors, you need to be prepared to get slugged or pinched. That’s life. Now, I can tell you, however, that if you decide to play this ruthless game with your big brother, even if you win, you lose. For instance, when I would play Ray, and most often lose, since he knew how to cheat very well, I’d have to drag my arm around for a few hours after having it punched repeatedly. Even if I won, and decided to foolishly haul off and pound his arm, if it were too hard, the rule of the game was thrown away, and he’d just punch back as hard as he could. Don’t play games with your brother – there is no honor among relatives.
The second purpose was to decide a dispute. Two sides both professing the truth, and with rock, paper, scissors, the one winning truly did win the argument. It’s even been used in court cases, when no simple solution could be found, and an innovative – or cowardly-- judge would direct a round of the game, and the winner would take all. The ingenious part of the game is that it appears that all three items have equal power – each one can destroy one other – paper covers rock, scissors cut paper, rock smashes scissors, and of course, then, each one has a deadly opponent, who can cover, cut or smash. In atomic weapons, it was known as mutually assured destruction, or MAD.
I felt myself falling into the game yesterday afternoon, but it wasn’t with a family member or a friend – instead, I was battling against the natural forces of the universe. Let me tell you the story. The whole “what’s for dinner?” and menu challenge continues to rage at our house, with no one willing to come forward and say what exactly they would like to eat, for fear that others in the house will offer their own supportive comments, like “Oh, yuck – I’m not eating that!” or “Nope – not feeling it,” or even, “But we just had that (about a month ago, but I’m not ready to put it back in the rotation…).”
I went to the grocery store on Friday, and there saw some great pieces of chicken, ready to be cooked, and offered to me at a really reasonable price. I decided to slide barbeque chicken into the rotating line up for this weekend. Now, for whatever reason, as evening approached, and the pall of laziness fell over the house, we decided to go the “look in the freezer for whatever you want to eat” option. Saturday came, and with it the renewed commitment to the chicken. Saturday afternoon saw a nice long nap, and the start of a new jigsaw puzzle, and once again, the option of the freezer, or ordering something in. Did I tell you this cooking this is messed up?
Finally – Sunday. The afternoon that was designed for grilling outside and enjoying the weather, and watching the beautiful chicken come into that perfect state of cooked-ness. I was ready, and I was willing. In the rock, paper, scissors game of the world, I was ready to beat indecisiveness, and go-look-in-the-freezer-ness, with a renewed commitment to cook that chicken! I took it out of the refrigerator, trimmed it up, all the time commenting on how this was going to be a great meal, and that we’d need to have corn – God’s favorite vegetable – with the chicken. It was going to be great…
I was probably two minutes away from firing up the grill when the first bolt of lightning sailed through the air, along with a deafening thunderclap. Please understand – I watch the weather pretty carefully, and although some rain was forecast after 10pm last evening, the skies were predicted to be clear and safe for the remainder of the afternoon. Tell that to the next bolt of lightning that sounded like it was hitting about a block away, with immediate thunder. And then the next one, followed by a few drops of rain, and then some plinks of tiny hail, and then a gully-washing, pouring down of tons of rain without end. Apparently the rain that was due after 10 caught an earlier flight, and over the next few hours, we received nearly an inch and a half of rain.
I stood in the kitchen, with chicken platter in hand, watching the monsoon. The rock, paper, scissors game began to form in my mind. Indeed, commitment to grill beats out indecisiveness, and the dream of having tasty barbeque chicken and corn beats out “look in the freezer,” but the fact is, drenching downpours that last through the supper hour and more always beats fresh chicken ready to be cooked.
I sadly and carefully bagged up the chicken pieces, offering to the family that tonight we would “Guamanian Chicken,” with time to marinade and a sunny day and evening in store. At least we are making progress in slimming down the provisions in the freezer, after three nights in a row…
It also must be said that, in this time of pandemic and social unrest and financial insecurity, if my greatest disappointment and concern is not to be able to grill chicken, then I am above all others someone to be admired and desired. It’s not a big thing, until we make it one. That’s the case, by the way, for most of our lives. In our efforts to try to control, and keep reins on all parts of how we live, and as we try to make our world so small that we can easily handle it without much effort, I can tell you without a doubt – the rain is coming. And we are going to get wet, and our best laid plans and our schedules and our control may very easily go by the wayside, as we stand with chicken in hand, watching the downpour of disappointment.
So, the way we get out of that predicament is not by trying to control things even more tightly. When we try that tactic, we quickly find out it doesn’t work well, and it also makes us pretty obnoxious to be around. Instead, I would offer in those times, which you and I both know are most times, since we don’t control the world, we take the path that indeed requires an intentionality, but one with flexibility as our cornerstone. We don’t know the future, and we don’t really the last sentence of today’s history. We do know, though, that we can expect surprise, and changes of plans and a different idea being offered when we are ready to go one certain direction. Living today intentionally means that we can live with a purpose, and a pretty good blueprint for how we hope the day to go, but we can also “intend” to receive something different than what we had dreamed it would be. Sometimes that’s an invitation to a new experience, and sometimes it’s the unfortunate reception of a disappointment, since that’s also part of life itself. When I am ready, however, to move forward with what I hope will happen, and always aware that it may not happen the way I personally wanted, I can live in grace. I can receive all that this life offers me, knowing that in this life, I also will always walk with the One who will never disappoint, but who gives me the joy of simply living this day as an important and wonderful experience.
So, if you have to – put the chicken back in the fridge, and check to see what the freezer holds. Hopefully, tomorrow will offer another chance to grill out. On purpose.
Word for the day: philodox. Pronounced PHIL-uh-docs, the word of course sounds like a Greek word, which it is. Two parts to it are philo, “lover” and doxa, “one’s belief, dogma, truth.” The word sounds pretty noble, until you realize it is defined as someone who is fond of, interested in, a lover of one’s own opinion. A philodox does an excellent job in shooting holes in other people’s idea and stances, but carefully and near-neurotically protects and adores his/her own particular idea or opinion. This is far different than a closely sounding word, “philosopher,” which is a lover of wisdom, and one who would seek to uncover truth, instead of the philodox, who believes truth has already been found, and it’s held in my own very important mind. Now, we all have levels of philodoxy in our minds and hearts. I do of course know some things for certain and better than anyone else! However, we are able to set those skillfully crafted egos aside, it’s maybe helpful to remember that we shouldn’t always believe everything we think.
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.