Posts Tagged ‘time’

It’s a hard reminder that our lives are not our own, no matter how much we believe they are. Oh sure, there are responsibilities and choices that only I can make for myself, and yet, in the end, it is God and all that is infinite that chooses to give or take away, to end or begin.

James 4: 13-14
Come now, you who say, Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a city and spend a year there and carry on our business and make money. Yet you do not know [the least thing] about what may happen tomorrow. What is the nature of your life? You are [really] but a wisp of vapor (a puff of smoke, a mist) that is visible for a little while and then disappears [into thin air].

Conceptually, it should be a joy: after all, isn’t God sovereign? Doesn’t God promise to do what is good for me, even better than the birds of the air [Matthew 6:26]? But I don’t walk each day in this confidence. I am still wary of the next moment. I still want to “control” it: after all, what is familiar, even painful seems better than the unknown.

But the future is the great unknown. We can create probabilities, but we cannot create absolutes.

And so, I ask, what will I experience for the rest of this day? Can I keep my hands open? Can I say “yes” to this day before it unfolds? Can I trust god with my time, my experiences, my journey?

When/what is the next moment anyway? Is it now? no now, no this other now. I can watch the clock or I can turn that invisible countdown outward.

When my elderly mother lived with us, up until her 91st year, she would get so frustrated because she felt so unproductive in those last years. In fact, one of her biggest concerns, “What should I do for the rest of my life?” She never considered the number of those days, just the fullness of them. She wanted to see her minutes and hours as valuable to others, useful.

Can I be more mindful of my day time? Can I hear the stray comment, the smallest encounter, the big mistakes as well as the great successes as opportunities to embrace the “rest of my day” in God, through Christ and the Holy Spirit?

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Us. Not just Paul and not just Timothy, us. And just like those two followers of old, we can’t earn a place in the “holy club” either. If God has a purpose and a willingness, then there is also enough grace, because of the work of the Christ, we’re in. And all of this happens “outside of time.”

II Timothy 1:9
He has saved us and called us to a holy lifeā€”not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, . . .

I know this verse doesn’t really say “outside” of time, but Paul does write “before the beginning of time,” and I ask, what’s the difference? Because if something is before time, then it’s beyond the control and increments of time. It could be happening “now.” Call is not part of time. That’s amazing!

And if call is not part of time, then service to the Christ is also unhampered by the march of the years of my life. I can be used by God when I am 15 or 90. I can manifest the holy life for a minute, a day, or a lifetime. Those moments are not about me and more than likely, no one will necessarily point at my life’s work or example and say, “oh look, a holy life.” My holy life is in the hands of God’s purpose and grace.

I have skipped the previous verse that articulates the importance of suffering as a portion of the call. This aspect is always a challenge to me. Is suffering a testimony to holiness? I know there are some I can attest it’s true, friends who have walked the suffering pain of cancer and many to their death. Their courage and their abiding love for God during their illnesses humble me still today.

Is that time still to come? I don’t know. Will I choose with courage? If I can just hold on to one truth: suffering in time is finite while the holy life is eternal.

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What does this look like . . . working hard “in the Lord?” I’ve been thinking about this since yesterday. I’m thinking the essence lies in the word sacrifice – a sacrifice of time and energy.

Romans 16:12
Greet Tryphena and Tryphosa, those women who work hard in the Lord. Greet my dear friend Persis, another woman who has worked very hard in the Lord.

Truthfully, there isn’t much we can “give” to God since everything we have is gift from God already. Except for time. Granted, time is also part of God’s creation, and yet, we have free will in our use of time. It cannot be repaid and it cannot be controlled. Time marches on. Time is the qualifier to all of our lives. Time is our ultimate measuring stick.

How do I use my time?

To work hard within the constraints of the time given to me is, according to Paul, worthy of acknowledgment. The time I give to the things of God has more value than the time I give to anything else.

To work hard in the Lord then means I use my time for God. There are no surprises here: prayer (in all of its forms); helping the poor, widows & orphans; practicing koinonia with other believers; sharing our story (our witness); studying; teaching; and loving the unlovely.

Working hard in the Lord is not setting up church programs or retreats, cooking and serving a ladies’ luncheon, practicing skits, or building a building.

Instead, working hard is going against the easy way. Working hard is the way of the seed in soil or the caterpillar in its chrysalis. Working hard is transformation.

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A Restraining Spirit

That Paul, once he was in a groove, it was tough to get him to listen to anyone else. He was single minded. How often have I allowed my single mindedness to prevent me from hearing sound counsel or trust that “waiting” is part of the plan?

Acts 21:4b-5a
Through the Spirit they urged Paul not to go on to Jerusalem. But when our time was up, we left and continued on our way.

When is our struggle to reach a goal simply an attack from enemy lines and when is that struggle the restraining pressure of the Holy Spirit? I’m not sure I always know the difference. This is particularly difficult when the original goal seemed compelled by God in the first place. Did God change? Probably not…

But, isn’t it possible that the methods or the path I am taking to accomplish my goal may have strayed from a better plan?

When Mike and I decided to adopt our teenage daughter, Lily, we felt sure and confident that this was God’s will for both her life and for ours. But as the weeks stretched into months and one obstacle after another kept daunting our efforts, I began to doubt the entire process. Had I missed God? Why would God have this girl languish in an orphanage for two years while we were stumbling over bureaucratic red tape? I went into overdrive: there’s more than one way to skin a cat. Since our agency’s authorization to operate in St. Petersburg was still on hold, I found a Russian lawyer who would handle our adoption privately. This would process would be very tricky and expensive, but I would not be blocked. About two months later, the agency got their paperwork and we decided to continue with them.

Here’s the end of the story: at the court hearing, the new director of the orphanage turned out to be the crux to our successful adoption hearing. He spoke fearlessly before the judge who had been of dead against our adoption. He was our champion. This man had only been the director of Lily’s orphanage for about a month. The previous director was much too political to fight the judge (he was on a trajectory to bigger things). I believe our long wait was necessary to insure all of the pieces were in place, particularly this new director.

So, what is the moral of this story? God is sovereign. If God restrains me, then I must adjust my personal time schedule to God’s timing. This is particularly true when circumstances are completely out of our control.

In my case, it wasn’t the obstacles but my attitude toward the obstacles that was the problem. If God wanted to stop me and the adoption, that could have been easily done. In the same way, God could have stopped Paul from going to Jerusalem. I still think Paul was pushing the process a little because of his nature. But, in the end, God is God. And even if I (or Paul) blow it or force an issue, God is there to pick up the pieces. It’s just easier on everyone if we pay attention along the way.

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Acts 17:26b
…and he [God] determined the times set for them [people of the Earth] and the exact places where they should live.

If I could get it deeply rooted in my heart and mind that this is my time and this is my place then I believe I would flourish. My petty complaints and resistance are my stumbling blocks. It’s not that complicated.

I am a woman. I am living in America, born in the latter part of the 20th century to immigrant parents. My mother lost four other children; I survived. I am healthy and whole. I am strong. I am intelligent. I have many gifts and talents.

I met Jesus, the Christ of my soul, in a real and powerful way in my late twenties.

I am ordained to live in this time and place. I am ordained to walk this life now, whether with ease or troubles. This is my time. This is my place. I have a purpose here.

When Paul was stunned by God on the road to Damascus, he heard a voice say, “…It is dangerous and turns out badly for you to keep kicking against the goads [to keep offering vain and perilous resistance].” [Acts 26:24, Amplified] God wants to work with us but it is we ourselves who resist.

I choose to accept the now. As Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaiden of the Lord…” [Luke 1:38a]

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John 3:22
… Jesus and his disciples went out into the Judean countryside, where he spent some time with them, and baptized.

It’s really very simple. To get to know someone, you have to spend time together. If we want to be known, then we have to spend the time. But, our contemporary life is making the spending of time with others more and more difficult. We are busy… too busy to “spend” time. We will spend money before we will spend time. We will rush from place to place, event to event, workday to workday, phone call to phone call… but is it really spending time together?

To me, spending time means giving no thought to my own agenda, but giving that time as a gift to another. If I am more interested in the other person and listening to that person, I am spending my time on him or her. There is a difference.

I confess, I enjoy telling a good story. I can “entertain” anyone or any small group with a series of anecdotes about the Browns… one teen story after another, one work story after another, one random act after another (for instance, I fell out of my shoes at the last Chamber of Commerce luncheon: I landed on the floor and my shoes remained standing like two brave soldiers… a funny story at my expense). But, have I spent time with the person? Have I listened to them? Not really.

The time has come to make a conscious effort to “give” my time, my presence, my heart to others. It’s time to spend the time. And of course, the same is true for the time I spend in prayer and meditation. As I give time to God, I am rewarded with more time to give. “… to him who has, more will be given…” (Luke 19:26)

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