Posts Tagged ‘time

10
Jun
22

Showing Off

I approach exercising much the same way I approach brushing my teeth.

Now THAT is an important person!

Grudgingly. Unexcitedly. Yet gloomily resigned to the fact that horrible consequences will likely follow if I don’t suck it up and JUST DO IT, as Phil Knight constantly implores us.

And so, I listen to podcasts. 

No, not while I brush my teeth, silly. While I exercise.

You could also listen to music if your goal was to remove your mind as far as possible from the grim monotony of the moment. But podcasts are more my cup of tea. 

And one of my favorites of all time is the podcast called Hidden Brain (found at hiddenbrain.org). HB is hosted and produced by National Public Radio journalist Shankar Vedantam and it almost never fails to present a thoughtful, well-researched 54-57 minutes of content that makes me say, Huh! How fascinating! I had no IDEA!”

It’s the perfect length of time for a torture session at the gym.

The episode I listened to this week talked about a recent study done by a marketing professor at Georgetown University. This professor discovered that for many people today, TIME is their new status symbol.

Or rather, their distinct LACK of time.

In another era, 75 – 100 or so years ago, the status symbol du jour was IDLENESS. Back then, if you looked at someone’s calendar and saw nothing but entries like, “10:30, Wax eyebrows. 11:45, Read chapter six of Lady Chatterly’s Lover1:30, Nap,” and “5:00 – 7:30, Stroll the grounds, breathing deeply,” you knew that person was probably RICH and IMPORTANT.

By contrast, in TODAY’S world, people use their impossibly jam-packed calendars to show the world just how important they are. 

We’ve all heard that refrain. “I am just so BUSY! I don’t know how I could POSSIBLY fit in one more thing!” The implication being, of course, that the reason I am so BUSY is because I am so IMPORTANT. 

My first reaction to the story was to think, “That’s so sad. Wouldn’t it be great if we could go back to the time when the world valued being IDLE and UNSCHEDULED instead of being BUSY?”

But then, on further reflection, I thought, “What’s even sadder is the fact that humans constantly feel the need to come up with a status symbol AT ALL! Why are we so driven to SHOW OTHER PEOPLE how important we are and how much we really MATTER?”

And of course, we don’t just use our calendars to show off our importance and success, do we? We use our cars. We use our job titles. We use our wardrobes. We use our vacations. We use the academic and professional accomplishments of our KIDS. 

Almost anything we can get our hands on can be turned into a giant, blinking, neon arrow, pointing at us saying, “LOOK! LOOK AT ME, everybody! I really am SOMEBODY! I MATTER!”

It is almost as if we are trying more to remind OURSELVES – not necessarily other people – that we are something more than a momentary blip on the radar screen of history. 

Looking back, I see that I just used the following bible verse a couple of blog posts ago. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t perfect for this situation, too. Does it?

The psalmist starts by reminding us of just how fragile and fleeting our lives really are: “The life of mortals is like grass, they flourish like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it is gone, and its place remembers it no more.” (Psalm 103:15-16, NRSVU). 

NOW who’s the big shot, eh?

But then, in another Psalm, she/he reminds us of our true place in the overall scheme of things by saying, “You have made them [meaning US] a little lower than the angels and crowned them with glory and honor. You made them rulers over the works of your hands; you put everything under their feet…” (Psalm 8:5-6, NRSVU). 

So here’s the deal; you… just as you are right here, right now … matter more to the Creator of All Thingsthan you can possibly imagine. And it isn’t because of your jam-packed calendar, your Gucci tennis shoes, or your Chiefs season tickets. 

It is because YOU are YOU – made in the image of God – and nobody else.

Abundant blessings;

15
Nov
21

Does It Matter Enough?

OUCH!

First of all, sorry for the somewhat gross photo here. Both for the bruised toe as well as the dramatic proof that I need some SERIOUS foot moisturizing. But hopefully as you will see later, this disgusting picture is integral to today’s post.

So… I stubbed my toe the other day. I mean, REALLY stubbed it.

Joan and I were walking through the woods with the dogs when it happened. It was a beautiful, clear, warm, fall day, so we decided to take a route that led us along a wooded path that led to a creek. The dogs really love to go wading in the water, so we tend to indulge them.

As we walked along the trail, I NAILED a tree root that was hidden under the leaves. Hit it SQUARE with the big toe of my left foot, in full stride.

I almost went down, flat on my face. Fortunately, though, I managed to stumble a bit and then eventually recover.

But my toe was THROBBING with pain. When we got home, Joan looked at it, assured me it wasn’t broken, and then gave me the ice pack to wrap around it. In case I haven’t said this before, she is an absolutely WONDERFUL nurse. 

Over the next three or four days, I noticed two things going on simultaneously in my life. First, I noticed that I was not taking our dog Patrick for his morning walks around the neighborhood. I tried it once, but turned around, wincing in pain, after going about a half of a block.

The second thing I noticed was the advent of a serious state of spiritual torpor. My prayer life suddenly seemed to turn arid and dry. My brain ceased spewing out new ideas for future blog posts. My periods of meditation on the wonders of the world and the ridiculous extravagance of my blessings blew away like so much dandelion fuzz. 

What’s the deal?” I asked. “Why have I fallen into this apparent spiritual and creative dust bowl? Has the well just run dry? Has God finally tired of my naïve and incoherent mutterings and hung out the cosmic ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign in sheer annoyance?”

“I mean, SERIOUSLY! What’s going on!!” I shouted into the night sky.

As expected, the night absorbed my cry and sent back nothing.

After a few days of this unrequited questioning and knocking, it finally dawned on me: the morning walk with Patrick was the time when I did all of my praying and meditation for the day. Every iota of my daily silent transcendentalism seems to have been concentrated into that 30-minute trip around the neighborhood. Of course, in between stops for Patrick to pee, bunny sightings, and chats with friendly neighbors.

And so, if that were indeed the case, it was no wonder that I “hit the wall,” so to speak. No Patrick walking = no time for prayer and/or meditation.

Isn’t that ridiculous?

I mean, what a sad state of affairs is it to see yourself confining this life-giving, life-sustaining practice to ONEsituation and ONE environment! As if it is completely impossible to pause and utter a quick breath-prayer while waiting at a red light… or to close your eyes and talk to God while the internet takes its own sweet time to connect… or to dare to carve out a few minutes of renewing silence instead of just rushing quickly on to the next thing.

As Luke 5:16 tells us, “But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” In fact, by my count, there are 26 different instances in the Gospels where we are told about Jesus breaking out of the hurly-burly of his world-saving mission and just taking time to pray.

Pretty amazing, eh? Just goes to show you that when something MATTERS enough to you, you will make time for it.

And I will bet you dollars to donuts that on at least ONE of those occasions, he did so with a bruised toe.

Abundant blessings;

13
May
20

Final Exam

Stressed out dudeUrgent: [ˈərjənt]
Adjective. calling for immediate attention: PRESSING

 Today I am thinking back to that time when urgency seemed to rule my life.

It was a time when everything had to be done RIGHT NOW! Nothing could wait.

It was a time when I seemed to vibrate with nervous energy, spinning first this plate, then that one, praying I could reach each of them before any wobbled wildly and fell to the ground.

Back then, no matter how fast I ran, or how quickly I got there, some plates still fell and broke. Most of the time, I am embarrassed to admit, the plate that broke was the one labeled “Family Time.”

The thing is, I knew better. I knew my pace was unsustainable. I knew the value of keeping Sabbath time and allowing all my dendrites and synapses to stop their machine-gun firing and cool off a little.

But see, it was so INVIGORATING! When you live in the Urgent Zone you just feel so ALIVE!

Right up until the moment you don’t, of course.

Of course, these days, all of that has changed. Here in quarantineretirementland, there is very little that can be called urgent. If I don’t get it done today, there is always tomorrow. And if I don’t get it done tomorrow, well, there’s always the next day.

No one will die. No buildings will collapse. No sermon will be unpreached if essential “To Do” list items remain unchecked.

I’m not going to lie… it feels GREAT not to be spending my day chasing deadlines, shooting off emails, making phone calls, and driving across town. I especially love spontaneously taking naps just because I can.

But it also feels a little… I don’t know… indulgent? Self-centered? Lazy even? Shouldn’t I be building something, or planting something, or writing something instead of sitting here reading this novel?

This moment of discomfort – I now realized – is exactly the moment Jesus always picks to show up with his next Teachable Moment.

He interrupts the antsiness of my reading time and says, “Russell… I can see it is time to refresh your memory about one of the key lessons from my Sermon on the Mount. Because either you dozed off in the middle of it or have completely forgotten what I said.”

“Uh, sure, Jesus,” I stammered. “Go ahead.”

“Before you retired, you seemed absolutely WEDDED to the idea that your WORTH was tied to your PRODUCTIVITY. I had hoped retirement would have shaken that idea loose, but clearly it has not.”

He continued, “Since it has clearly slipped your mind, here is what I had to say on the subject… I said, ‘Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these.’” (Matthew 6:28-29, NRSV).

“Remember that one?” He paused, obviously waiting for a response.

“Uh, yes! Of course!” I said, proud to be able to show off my Bible knowledge to the Lord of Life.

“Well, I really meant it.” He continued, “You are in good health and – Me willing – have a lot of good years left. The thing I want you to focus on is really LIVING the time you have. Smell the roses, sip the coffee, sing along with the radio, gaze at the sunset, cuddle with Joan, walk the dogs.”

“When it is all said and done, I am not going to ask how many sermons you preached, how many churches you built, or how many “likes” you got on Facebook on a given day.”

“My questions are going to be: ‘Did you love God?’ And, ‘Did you love your neighbor?’ And the bonus question will be, ‘Did you truly LIVE while you were alive?’”

And then he gave me that sly Jesus wink and said, “Now that you know the questions on the Final Exam, get out there and prepare to ANSWER them!”

 

Abundant blessings;

04
Apr
17

Play Ball!

Play Ball imageAhhhhhhhh!

That sound you just heard is the same sound you hear when a thirsty, parched man is finally able to take a deep, satisfying drink of cold water.

It is also the sound I make – totally involuntarily – when the cold cruelty of winter sports finally fades away and BASEBALL SEASON returns to grace our land.

Because let’s be honest… the only thing sweeter than seeing green leaves budding on the trees is seeing the green grass of a baseball field come into view.

Believe it or not, some even describe the opening day of baseball season as something akin to a religious experience… a trip to the ballpark as a pilgrimage… the stadium itself as a CATHEDRAL!

But of course, those are the real die-hard baseball fanatics. Not the calm, reasonable people like you and me.

If you really pressed me hard though, I could probably come up with a few examples of things that America’s Pastime has in common with the faith we gather to practice in houses of worship all over the world. For example:

  • THREE! The number three is fundamental to baseball and faith. Of course, the Christian faith is based on the Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. (“… baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” 28:20, NRSV). Baseball is filled with threes: three strikes, three outs, three times three innings (or nine if you must), three times three players on the field, three bases (home is a PLATE), three outfield positions, and more.

  • TRADITION! Tradition is an essential part of both baseball and religion. A reverence for the practices and beliefs of the past is seen as integral to sound faith practice and sound baseball appreciation. (“Teach me, O Lord, the way of your statutes, and I will observe it to the end.” Psalm 119:33, NRSV). Change happens slowly in both baseball and faith matters. Meticulous records are kept in each, chronicling the important moments for future generations.
  • TIME! Other games are governed by a clock. They consist of 15 minute quarters, 20 minute halves or a 90 minute total limit. Not baseball. The passage of a baseball game depends on completing certain pre-determined tasks… not the ticking of a clock. In a similar way, the church has always been clear that time is marked differently in the realm of faith. Kairotic time in the church is defined as, “the appointed time in the purpose of God.” Or, in other words: God’s time. (“He himself is before all things and in him all things hold together.” Colossians 1:17, NRSV) And as we know… God’s time is not at all the same as human – or football – time.
  • FAITH AND HOPE! “It ain’t over ‘til it’s over,” is the way Yogi Berra – great Yankee catcher of the 1950s – used to say it. What Yogi meant was; until the very last out of the very last inning is recorded, there is always a chance for either team to win the game. Spectacular comebacks happen all the time in baseball. Just like in real life. Until any of us have breathed our last breath, there is always hope for us. (“Now faith is the conviction of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” Hebrews 11:1, NRSV).

    And, as the Chicago Cubs demonstrated for the world last year, faith may take a long time to be rewarded, but it is never out of place.

  • COMMUNITY! When baseball season gets into full swing (and sometimes when it is not), you can travel around Kansas City and see people wearing their blue Royals hats and T-shirts… proud to cheer for our hometown team. And remember 2015… the year of the World Series championship? Whether or not you went down to Crown Center and squeezed in with 800,000 of your friends and neighbors, we all felt as if we BELONGED together. The same thing happens when we are part of a faith community. We each feel a kinship and a sense of belonging to something much larger than ourselves. (“If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.” 1 Corinthians 12:26, NRSV).
  • And after the disappointment of the Royals Opening Day loss to the Minnesota Twins, we are reminded of that other great commonality between baseball and faith: sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, and sometimes you get rained out. But regardless of what happened yesterday, we go forward with hope and expectation to the events of today.

Of course it goes without saying that there are some significant differences between baseball and faith… the biggest difference being that, as enjoyable as it is, baseball is a game played for our amusement: Faith is about life and death… and eternal life and eternal death.

In the end, I suppose you could say that the final parallel between baseball and faith is that both have the same ultimate objective: to make it HOME. SAFE.

Play ball!




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