Just a short word for a short day: today is the Winter solstice, the shortest daylight of the year, or if you like, the longest night. Things have been shrinking, daylight wise, since way back on June 21st, when it was light up north way past 9pm, and we enjoyed sitting outside, and grilling, and basking in the heat of the summer, also knowing that we had another 1 ½ months before fall set in. Now, we can expect a good three months – or more – before Spring sets in. That’s life. The word solstice breaks down into two Latin words – sol, which means “sun” and sister, which means “to stand still.” This is the day when the sun no longer falls low in the sky, but stops and turns around. At least, that was the myth before modern, or even medieval astronomy helped us figure out that we were not the center of the universe.
Anyway, enjoy the short day, and the long night. Four days until Christmas!
Now, on to today’s story. As I have written a number of times, one of the nice past times Cheri and I have enjoyed is that on the weekends, we build jigsaw puzzles. We currently have one on the table – not finishing it this weekend – and five more stacked by my file cabinet. We also have two more coming from Springbok, so that will certainly get us into the new year. We work together pretty well, and we are also the kind of puzzlers who, when we have worked on a puzzle for way too long, and are finding only about one or two pieces per hour, that we are not above simply returning that puzzle to its box, and perhaps we will work on it some other time. The year of CoVid does not need to be any more frustrating than it is already, right? The message for this year is “Be kind to your self – there’s enough other garbage to go around…”
The thing about doing jigsaws is that, while we are listening to Christmas music, and we are concentrating on colors and shapes and allowing our brains to fine tune into solving 1000 pieces into one big piece, when we have nothing else to do, it’s easy for time to get away from us. I’ve noticed some afternoons that when we finally say, “Let’s take a break,” it has been sometimes two or even three hours that we have been working on the thing. It’s kind of hypnotic, at least as long as you are getting pieces put together.
This is where our safety switch comes into place. His name is Thor. For some reason, our Siamese wonder-cat has made it his mission to make sure we don’t spend too much time getting lost in any particular project. That’s a fine reason for the brochure about life at the Crosses, but the cold hard truth is that it doesn’t matter how warm it is in the house, Thor is going to be cold. The best remedy for a cold gray cat? An extended stay on his human mother’s lap. Often when I wake up later than Cheri (and I think that even the early birds wake up later than Cheri) and stumble out to the dining room to get my cup of coffee, I’ll notice that Cheri is working on charts and patients for the day, and then a closer look will see a small gray head poking over the top of the table, as Thor has found his way onto the lap, and gets both her warmth and the heat from the laptop.
So, when we working on the jigsaw puzzle, eventually out of the blue we will hear the whiny complaint of Asian feline. Unfortunately, an alarm using only the sense of sound is not sufficient. Thor likes to do a two-step jump onto one of the chairs, and then smackdab onto the middle of the not-quite-assembled puzzle. When a puzzle is not fully put together, that means there are all sorts of little pieces, and barely connected pieces lying around. This is the perfect mix for Thor. As he is whining around, he also is walking around on all the pieces, pushing them back and forth since they are slippery under his paws. At the same time, he has a jet-black skinny tail that is perfect for flicking pieces onto the floor at a very impressive speed. In short, Thor is like what Rocky’s boxing coach said about Clubber Lang/Mr. T: “This guy is a wrecking machine!” In moments from his arrival on the table, chaos ensues. Sometimes he will try to sharpen his clawless claws on the border of the puzzle. Other times, when all else fails, he will simply flop down on the entire puzzle, the way that Siamese can flop, flinging his legs and tail and head in all directions, usually shattering what recent progress we made on creating a beautiful puzzle picture. It’s all putty in his hands.
The final stroke comes as Cheri or I try to carefully remove the intruding cat from the middle of the puzzle by actually lifting him up and out of the way. Realize that this action happens mere moments from his take-no-prisoners raid. Whether it is a learned move, or just an evolutionary trait of Siameses, but as he is lifted up, he moves all four paws as quickly as possible, sort of like a mixer on high being lifted out of the batter. I honesty can say that there have been times when we ended up with more pieces on the floor and under chairs than we did on the table.
And then he’s done. You can almost see him slapping the dust off his paws and putting his little black villain cowboy hat on as he rides into the sunset, or at least to the back of the sofa, where the sun is beaming in. We then are left to try to put the pieces of a broken experience back together, which means we usually just say, “Let’s try this a little later – I don’t have the heart to start over like this.” Which means, of course, that Thor wins…
He honestly is a sweet cat – he’s just a terror if you aren’t paying attention to him. That’s probably why there are practically no Siamese running wild in the forest or jungles. They need an audience.
Now, do I believe Thor is actually intentional about his trashing of the jigsaw puzzle? You betcha! We could bring in the FBI to assess clues, and they would bring back a blue-ribbon report that would simply say, “Yep – you betcha…” And like I said – it works.
Oh, that you and I were as firmly committed to doing good and loving things in this world, as Thor is to committing mayhem on the breakfast table! There are many times when we may even start off well, but either get distracted or grow weary in the good we are called to do. Our intention fades like a watercolor in the sun, and instead, we often find ourselves just going through the motions, and not really focused on sharing love in an excellent way – we just sort of do nice things.
During the Christmas week, let’s give the world a gift. Let’s intentionally love, without ceasing or even slowing down – let’s the sadness and the brokenness from this world in the same say Thor can clear a table – and let’s do so, remembering what God has first done for us with a Love that will not let us go. Let us love, and change the world.
Word for the Day: locuplete. Pronounced LOCK-you-pleet. This just seems to be impossible to guess, unless you took that high school Latin. Indeed, from the Latin, locuples, which is defined as “rich, wealthy or in abundance.” This is broken down to locus, meaning “place” and pleo, meaning, “to fill.” It’s sort of like if you were to stand in one place, and the room around you gets filled with riches, or at least Christmas goodies.
So, if something is locuplete, it is fully stocked, amply fulfilled, fully abundant. It is my hope and prayer that you would experience a locuplete Christmas! And that you would find a way to make someone else’s also that way…
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.