I expect it was nearly 30 years ago, when Cheri was fully in the hobby of doing calligraphy, that I had her write out a simple four-line prayer that either she or I had found, that I could put on the wall over my desk. She did a beautiful job, of course, and the best thing was, she laminated it, so that now, all these decades later, it has been preserved, and read most nearly every day. I admit right away that I did not write the prayer. I also will admit that I wish I had.
For me, these 27 words function as both a magnet and a compass. They grab my attention and draw me back to an important center, and they also direct me, and remind me of the direction I should be taking. They are profound in my eyes, and in my heart. When I have found myself exhausted, and not inspired, or when I find myself so many time being ground up by my own impatience and need to be seen as right, the words of the prayer remind me that in the end it is not about me, but only about how far away I can travel from the guidance of God and the love of Christ.
The two sentences also tap me on the shoulder and invite me to turn around and not claim so quickly the tendency I would otherwise want to own and embrace. They remind me of who I can and should be, and what stands in the way of that happening. Do they make me a saint? Not in any way – and the fact that it is hanging in front of me doesn’t show how pious or holy I am, but instead, how quickly I can fail and fade and hide my light under the bushel. To me, it is an intensely private prayer, and it invites me to pray it out loud. It also invites me to slow down, to stop for a moment, and remember what is most important. That important thing, I am reminded, is not to come in first, to be the boss of the world, or even to allow my head to remain swelled with such prominent and profound piercing wisdom. It almost asks me, “So Randy – what will it be? Are you going to chase what you can never catch, or are you going instead to walk the simpler walk, to engage in the simpler – and more intentional – life?”
For many years, I did not appreciate the focused and captivating nature of this prayer. Pastors stick a lot of different things on their walls, that they find in books and other important readings. They are usually short-lived, until another fancy glint of an insight takes greater attention. The fact that I still have it in front of me, besides the fact that Cheri made it, is that it tells me I’m not done with it yet, nor is it done with me.
Like I said – I didn’t write it. And I really don’t know who did. I have searched and hunted, but I only get references to bits and pieces of the prayer, individual words, and nothing that lets me claim a name for it. Some mysteries are good, however, and so I can let it be.
Do you have something that you own, or that owns you in this way? I would hope so – something that speaks deeply to you, and that reorients you to God’s call and focus for your life. I think we all need them – these important words for life, of life. I think we – or at least I – need to frequently recall that, again, some thoughts and ideas are not for me to manipulate or shape into what’s convenient. Instead, some things exist because of their power to shape me, to form me and the way I will approach this world.
When in the Bible, we read about “the fear of God,” the word doesn’t mean that we would be frightened or scared, or terrified of our Creator, but it’s more like the feeling I had one time when I was walking down a quiet sidewalk with a tall brick wall blocking off the back yard of a home, and suddenly, I heard a tremendous growling and barking, and looked up to see a massive dog hanging over the wall, with his eyes focused on me! I can tell you that, at that moment, I too was completely focused on that dog – no other sounds, sights, smells, besides the pounding of my own heart. The “fear of God” is that same complete focus. At that moment in your life, nothing else matters, or has any value or distraction. You are completely aware of God. When those moments happen, we are changed a bit, and we zero in on what does indeed matter. For me and the dog, it was a matter of him staying up on the wall, at least until I could get my feet to run a hundred yards or so. For God and me, it’s a matter of opening my eyes to see the glimpses of truth God has for me.
So – this is the prayer of my life, that which focuses me on God, and which recalls me from my “sidetracking,” and my preoccupation, so that I can simply do and be what God intends for me:
Gather my thought, O Lord, and keep me from wandering and weariness. Preserve me from the curse of much speaking and from the death of vain busyness.
Word for the day: tidsoptimist. Actually, today’s word appears to arise from Swedish origin. It breaks down to tid “time” and optimist “one who has a hopeful disposition.” The trouble, however, is that the origin of the word, which sounds so positive, is really the opposite of the word’s effect. Where it might sound good to have a hopeful disposition about how much time you have to accomplish something, or get ready for something, a tidsoptimist, being so hopeful, most often miscalculates just how much time he or she has before something is going to happen, and so therefore is almost always late. I grew up in a house full of tidsoptimists. Our family of nine most often ended up sitting in the front pew, having been ushered in during the first hymn. To my total and utter embarrassment. Of course, I married a wonderful person who was always afraid to be late, and so for most of my married life, we had to circle the block a number of times before parking and getting out to attend an event…
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.