I just happened to be somewhere on July 2 at 12:00 noon where there was a clock. I pointed out to my beloved that, at that very moment, we had crossed the halfway point in 2021. Of course, the summer solstice occurred on June 20th, which brought us halfway through the sun’s yearly cycle, as we look forward to September 22, and the autumnal equinox. Today, however, is our third “midpoint” to our year, if you are keeping track. July 15th is that perfect point of finishing the first half of our calendar summer, which began June 1st, and the second half begins.
When I was a child, I would always use whatever means necessary to convince myself I still had many delicious summer days left before I was dragged in chains back to a school desk for the long, tortuous 9 months of public education. It always seemed, however, that somehow I had wasted the first half of summer on July 15th. Sure, there was Vacation Bible School, and lots of swimming at the pool, and riding bikes all over the country side, and some years we would make the family vacation, either to the Great Smoky Mountains – Cumberland Gap – or up to Omaha to see the rest of Mom and Dad’s relatives. Still, it was already 11 days after the 4th, which was a third of a month! C’mon Randy – get your stuff together! Summer is slipping through your fingers!
When I was little, we didn’t start school until the day after Labor Day, so I knew there were at least 45 days left – 45 mornings to wake up when I wanted – 45 days to truly waste some days.
However, about this time in the summer, sinister forces were starting to cloud up on the horizon. You see, one of the possible options of having an unplanned day in the summer, when you were tired of riding bikes, and even swimming, and playing with your friends, was to just lie around the house, like summer slugs. I didn’t want to read a book, or play in my room, or do really anything creative – just lie around, which most likely also meant an easy opportunity to pick on four younger sisters. It was a dangerous game, because it drew attention to the fact that “I had nothing to do.”
Those words in quotes set off the flashing red lights and the loud piercing alarm in my mother’s ears. If there were anything unacceptable in living in a good upstanding Protestant home, it was to appear that our time was truly going unused. The whole idea that one child, not even considering seven children could not find even one thing to occupy their time, and make the day worth living was completely unacceptable. And don’t even begin to think about considering the possibility of perhaps moving toward the idea of turning on the television! And of course, the next step was to find ourselves hungry, and so we would forage through the kitchen for some sort of snack, even though it was between meals. Sometimes we even sunk so low as to try to eat some of the candied fruit that was on the pantry shelf, supposedly to be used some day to make a fruit cake… it was horrible, but at least it had sugar in it. You see, the nine of us lived in a three-bedroom, one level, one bath home, with nowhere to escape. The words that would come out of Mom’s mouth were simply, often used, and deadly: “If you can’t find something to do, I have some things that you can do!” Those words NEVER meant, “Why not go have a nice bowl of ice cream?” or “Here’s some money – go down to Brown’s 5 and 10 cent store and buy something nice…” No – those words always meant the threat of forced hard labor. Bedrooms always needed to be cleaned and straightened up. Dusting the house was a given. Our dachshund’s deposits on the lawn always needed scooping up, and we could clean the bathroom, sweep the sidewalk, wash the car, or any other chores that someone sentenced to prison would have on their schedule.
But this was summer! Lazy, hazy, crazy days? Why would we place ourselves under the yoke of the taskmaster? I just think the picture of a bunch of children lying around, bothering each other, and causing fusses was too much for Mom, which in hindsight was probably pretty fair. We could really be obnoxious.
So the best we could do, before given an assignment which could destroy an entire day of summer, is that we would head outside, into the blistering heat, to do… nothing. But we were out of sight, and hopefully out of mind, at least for a while.
Looking back, I really can’t fathom that I wasted so much time each summer! There were planted the seeds of living an accidental life. With “nothing to do,” and no imagination to find anything, we allowed whatever might come to come, and it usually was not good, or entertaining or helpful in any way.
Now, as a full-grown man with a new sense of summer vacation, known today as “retirement,” I can still find myself in that same predicament, asking, “Now what do I do? Sure, I can always find tasks to be done, but what do I do that is enjoyable, fun or interesting? When we trade the computer screen for the television, and still go foraging for snacks mid-afternoon, it’s the same bad habit.
Like all of us, I need to start the day intentionally, planning for what is to come, and open to what may happen. To simply “not work” is not acceptable, nor is to lie around and live in idleness. Let my prayer, even on this midpoint of summer, always be, “Fill my cup, and fill my life, O Lord – let me live this day as a gift from You, so that I may focus my life, my energy, my hope on serving You more nearly, more clearly and more dearly today.”
We still have half a summer left, right? Get up and do something!
Word for the day: droke. Pronounced simply DROAK. This is one of those words that is particular to certain regions of the world. In this case, it comes from both coasts of Canada, so unless you live “up north” you may never have encountered the word. It’s defined in two ways: the most common describes a valley, with steep sloping sides – sometimes it can also refer a ditch. “He wasn’t watching where he was driving, down the country road, and ended up in the droke.” The other definition is “thicket,” or dense wooded or shrubbery. That makes sense, because in many “drokes,” you will find a “droke”
Yes, it’s an odd word, but one to keep in your back pocket, until the time you are riding with some folks in a car with steep ditches on either side, and you can comment in a throwaway manner, “My, those are quite the drokes!” and everyone will be in awe…
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.