I did it again this morning. When I got up, I poured a nice hot cup of coffee, and drank it down to start the waking up process. One of my challenges in waking up in retirement is that my dear darling wife likes to wake up very early, and there days, even on weekends, when she has been awake for two or more hours before my eyes even open. She had already read most of the news, has checked the weather, has sat outside and had her cup of coffee, has come in and baked bran muffins or some such thing, and has fed and watered the cats – basically, she has lived half of her day before I stop dreaming. There is a bit of a sloshing of personalities at that point, since I really do like to wake up slowly, quietly, calmly – I have no idea how Cheri likes to wake up, but by the time I do, she has a pretty large parcel of communication with another human being that she needs to open and use, and unfortunately, I’m the unwilling receiver of a large amount of talking. Hence, the first cup of coffee. A big cup.
I’ll have another cup while I am eating breakfast or toast or bran muffin, or even a donut on those good days. I try to measure liquids and solids so they match, and I finish the cup with the last bite of the toast – or donut. It’s at that point, however, that if I am not thinking, or fully aware, that I make a tactical error. I have a third cup of coffee.
Now, let’s be clear – it hasn’t always been this way. When I lived in New Orleans one year, I would come home around 4pm from my internship, boil some water on the stove, and then pour it through a beat up aluminum drip coffee pot that I had half filled with chicory coffee. When it had brewed, I would commence drinking down the entire pot before I fixed supper. And slept like a baby. And ate anything I wanted.
Times change. Forty years later, I have now come to realize that where I once could ingest anything I cared to, I have to follow a new, amended owner’s manual, especially when it comes to things like coffee and onions and MSG and such. In terms of coffee, one cup great, two cups pretty good – three cups and prepare for bellyache. It just happens that way, and it’s the pits, to be honest. I really don’t care for the concept, but less the practical living out of restrictions on what I can eat or drink. I don’t like it at all. I guess it might be different if I had a huge list of vices that I regularly succumbed to, but I don’t. I do love onion rings, but they kill me. I have to read the back labels of almost everything in the grocery store, from meats to soups to even fried Cheetos, and to always be prepared to put the item back on the shelf, because it has monosodium glutamate or one of its many relatives. It kills me. And my dear friend, Mr. Cup O’Coffee, gently wakes me to a new day, and walks with me through breakfast, and then quietly, surely, kills my stomach with that tempting third cup.
I know, I know – you are saying to yourself right now, “Well, that’s dumb – why not just NOT have that third cup?” And some days I don’t. But I would point my finger of discipline and disappointment at each one of you, and my answer would be, “if I knew how to never want that third cup, we could all go back to Eden and enjoy NOT having the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil…”
We live in a world filled to the brim with temptations. When we are also faced with great anxiety producers, like a pandemic, or civil unrest, or financial uncertainty, those temptations begin to disguise themselves as simple treats to reward ourselves for trying to balance out the struggles each day brings. The trouble with temptation is the word itself: it means “to feel, or try out” and there is no judgment or warning or value placed on it. “I’m tempted to…” is more a simple saying of what path I’m thinking I might like to take. The trouble is, the word quickly moves from a neutral consideration of a neutral choice, to death. If I’m not careful, I will make decisions based on what I want, what makes me feel good right now, and what I think somehow I deserve, and no one can tell me otherwise. There’s the death part: I lose a bit of my life – a good part, that refuses to fall prey to only what I desire, and not what I know at my core to be the best for me, and for our world. When I get caught up, either only thinking, or worse, not thinking at all about the choice for a third cup of coffee (whatever that looks like), then I lose or give away the thoughtful, intentional part of my life, which brings the greatest joy, the greatest peace, the greatest focus and purpose. When I give in to the case of the “gimme” I lose what God intends for me, and if I stop and think about it, what I really hope for my life as well.
There’s nothing evil about a third cup of coffee. It’s just not necessary, and for me, not really good, or helpful, nor does anything but invite the bellyache. Maybe tomorrow, I’ll think before I pour the third cup. I invite you to do the same, for whatever gives you a “bellyache” in your own life.
Word of the day: illachrymable. Pronounced ill-AK-krim-a-bull, the word breaks downs along Latin lines. The core of the word is lachrymal, which means “tears” as in sobbing. Able is just that – the ability to do something, and the prefix il is changed from in since it comes up against another “l”, but it means “not.’ So, if you are illachrymable, you are unable to cry. When I think of something that doesn’t cry, I think of a snake, or an alligator. The phrase, “crocodile tears,” always means someone is faking sympathy. And snakes neither cry, nor can they take a good joke. An illachrymable may be unable to cry, but the deeper meaning that comes is that they are also merciless or pitiless beings. They are just mean, and nasty and could care less. I’m thinking Genghis Khan or the Roman emperor Caligula. They never needed to use No Tears Shampoo – those eye sockets were bone dry, and so were their hearts. It might instead be good for you and me to be a little more “lachrymable” in our daily living…
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.