I wonder if it is “even” or “more-so” that in retirement I find my thoughts frequently scattered, in many directions on different topics with little to connect them? I understood this while working, because in pastoral ministry one never really knew which (or how many) directions the days of a week would head. But I thought that in retirement, when I don’t really have anything on my mind, it would be different … especially this week, which shaped up to be one of the first “normal” ones since February 19.
Then came Tuesday. It started at 7:00 a.m. as Andi (our two-year-old granddaughter) and I had a delightful hour and a half all to ourselves. Then I met with the new District Facilitator for our Michigan District to get acquainted and to explore the ways he might work with our Circuit in developing collaborative ministries. That led into an inspiring study of Jude with the other pastors of our Circuit. Then I stopped by to visit a 97-year-old WW2 veteran who is in hospice care (on the anniversary of D-Day!). That evening Monica and I had a wonderful meal at Furlito’s – which included seeing many old friends and supporting MCREST. The following morning, I was privileged once again to visit with the men’s 6:30 a.m. FHL group. My thoughts became all the more scattered as I considered which one of these activities I should write about today.
And this was in spite of the fact that last week – when it was Thursday afternoon before I realized what day of this week it was – I had been planning to write about some interesting lines in the novel I am reading.
This is a conversation between Jack and Cathy Ryan, who in the novel are married to each other. She is an eye surgeon. Jack is an FBI analyst. They have recently been moved to England by our federal government:
And now she could smile, too. “So, what’s happening in your office?”
“A lot of learning the things we don’t know.”
“You mean finding out new stuff?”
“No, I mean realizing all the stuff we don’t know that we should know. It never stops.”
“Don’t feel bad. Same in my business.”
And Jack realized that the similarity between both businesses was that if you screwed up, people might die. And that was no fun at all.
(Tom Clancy: Red Rabbit, page 275)
I think, perhaps, that all my scattered thoughts of this week come together in this little conversation. Whether I am with my 2-year-old granddaughter or a 97-year-old veteran, or meeting someone new in our district or discovering the gems found in Jude, I seem to be constantly “realizing all the stuff we don’t know that we should know.” While knowledge is very helpful in many, many ways, I find it comforting to know that salvation is not found in knowledge. “So (Paul writes) we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight.” (2 Corinthians 7.6-7)
Then, allow me to throw one more scattered thought your way. As baptized believers eternally alive in our Lord Jesus Christ, we are co-owners of our Savior’s “family business” – that of bringing the Good News of God’s love – as told us in God’s Word – to all people of all generations. As you consider this, I hope you do so in light of Jack’s concluding realization above – “that the similarity between (Jack/Cathy’s businesses and ours) is that if you screwed up people might die. And that is no fun.”
The differences in our businesses come both in the definition of death (temporal verses eternal) and the fact that we live in God’s mercy. Remember, “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.” (Romans 10.17) All we have to do is work on continually hearing God’s Word and making sure others around us have the same opportunity, because Jesus has assured us, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.” (John 11.25-26)
If in your scattered thoughts, you ever question the power of God’s Word, you might consider joining me at the bedside of my 97-year-old veteran. I have been with many veterans in hospice care over the years of my ministry (some of the first fought in WW1!). The challenges that they faced in war and then adapting back to civilian life are ones I am thankful I never had to face. In what is expected to be this man’s last week on this earth, he had been agitated much of the time. But, as the family members gathered around noted, during our time of scripture promises, hymns and prayers, a calming peace came upon him – which then spread to all the others in the room. Such has been my experience time and time again with many others over the years.
So, my friends, do you find your thoughts often scattered like mine? The solution is found in God’s peace-giving promises. “The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplications with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4.4-7)
“Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time now and forever. Amen.” (Jude 1.24-25)