Posts Tagged ‘timing

05
Jan
23

The Gift of Candles

They say… you know, the all-knowing, all-seeing THEY… that timing is everything. 

As is usually the case, they have indulged in a wee bit of literary hyperbole to make a point. The point that TIMING is a really, really important thing.

Comedians, trapeze artists, and base stealers in baseball will each readily endorse the truth of their words. 

But as I have found out on more than one occasion, KNOWING a thing and ACTING on that knowledge are vastly different things.  I am that guy who, just the other day, ran out to our curb with a big armload of cardboard, only to find out that I had JUST MISSED the recycling truck. I am also the guy who remembers to text his spouse that we are out of eggs immediately AFTER she has left the grocery store. 

For a long time, I also clung to the story that God’s timing of my call to the ministry was WAAAY off target. It seemed to me that the Almighty really blew a chance to catch me at the peak of my powers. I wondered… why didn’t God tap me on the shoulder back when I was super-charged with health and vitality? Back when I would have eagerly worked like a draft horse to help spread the Good News?

And so today, in addition to these musings about TIMING, I am also thinking about my dad. Today would have been his 96th birthday. He died six years ago, just two days past his 90th birthday. I relate these two subjects in my mind because I have often wondered if I inherited my “timing challenges” from dad.  

With a birth year of 1928, dad wasn’t quite old enough to actively fight in World War II. So, while all my buddies were sitting around swapping stories about how their dads fought at this battle in France, or that skirmish in the Pacific, I had to just sit quietly and listen. Dad did serve in the Army in Okinawa in ’46 and ’47, but strictly as part of the post-war occupying American force.

I also thought his timing of hearing his own call to the ministry was pretty off-target, too. You see, he graduated from seminary one year prior to my graduation from high school. And because of that timing, our family ended up moving from Columbus, Ohio to his first church in the suburbs of Seattle the summer before my senior year. 

Oh, the TRAUMA! Oh, the INJUSTICE! Oh, the HEARTBREAK!

[Then again, as the father of five children, I have to admit that dad’s timing in some things wasn’t too bad!]

Today, however, I find I am able to sit here and thank God for the gift of perspective that comes with my multiple fistfuls of birthday candles. Because of those candles, I am able to see and give thanks that my father did NOT have to face live bullets in the war. 

Those candles also help me now be grateful for the new friends, new experiences, and new outlooks that came as a result of my family’s cross-country relocation.  

And as far as the timing of my own call to the ministry, I can now say that God’s timing turned out to be absolutely PERFECT! I realize now that God allowed me to simmer and percolate and accumulate a whole quiver full of life experience that – I hope – enriched my ministry in ways that wouldn’t have been possible with the younger Russell.  

Like 100% of the rest of us, dad was flawed. He struggled with his temper. He could be a little heavy-handed with his discipline sometimes. He was a bit sartorially challenged. In his later years, he was drawn in by far too many of those, “As Seen on TV” miracle products. 

But the gift of perspective has finally helped me see past all of that to the kind, generous, compassionate, wise, and God-fearing man dad truly was. After I entered the ministry, he became a priceless mentor to me during some of the low points and aggravations that often come with the job.  

I hope my timing is not TOO far off here, but please forgive me, dad, for failing to appreciate all the different ways you blessed and encouraged me while you were here. My grandest aspiration is to become even HALF the blessing to my family and to the world that you were to us.

I love you.

Abundant blessings;

23
May
17

The Right Time

“For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven…”
Ecclesiastes 3:1, NRSV

TimerContrary to what I am inclined to believe, “right now” is not always the correct answer.

On the other hand, “later” is also not universally acceptable – as some might have you believe.

“When?” is the question in question… as in “When should I do ­­­­_____________?”

When trying to solve a problem, it is no small victory to have tackled and nailed down the “What?” Pat yourself on the back a couple of times for that one.

But don’t overlook the importance of “When?”

Of course some acts come with their own built-in timetable. The time to begin cooking dinner, for example, is: well enough in advance of the desired serving time.

The time to begin your drive to Colorado is set by a combination of several factors, including the prevailing road conditions and the time you would like to arrive.

But there are other “whens” that are a bit harder to pin down. For example:

  • When will I take time to practice the guitar?
  • When will I pull those weeds?
  • When will I call to check in with my son?
  • When will I buy Joan’s birthday present?

These can all happen at any time. Which, sadly, means sometimes they can also happen at NO time.

But of all the “ whens” I struggle with, the one I probably struggle with the most has no built-in timetable or urgency about it. The answer could be “right now.” It could be “later.” It could very well be, “whenever I feel like it.”

The question is: “When will I do my ‘soul work’?” Or to ask it another way “When will I devote priority time and attention to listening to God’s voice and being shaped by God’s guidance and Spirit?”

Each of us has those times when we feel anxious and disconnected from God. In response we engage our “problem-solver” mode and set to work, looking to “fix it” somehow.

In one sense, there is nothing that should be a higher priority, right?

The very idea of saying, “Let’s see… I have to mow the lawn first… reply to some emails… then pick up the dry cleaning; I suppose I could probably squeeze in 10 minutes of ‘soul time’ before I have to leave for the softball game,” is really pretty silly.

But the more I thought about it, the less sense the original question seemed to make.

I mean, how can you really use the word “project” to talk about something as fundamental as becoming what you were designed to be in the first place?

Genesis 1:26-27 tells us that we were each made, “… in the image of God,” right? So then why would I be grunting and straining to try and manufacture something that is already there… that has been there in fact since before the beginning?

It might sound a little Buddhist to some, but maybe the “doing” I should be paying more attention to is more like an “undoing”… the undoing the attention I give to the standards of behavior the culture imposes upon me… the undoing of all of my devotion to the little “g” gods that stand before me… the undoing of my desire to seek the approval of people in my decisions and actions… the undoing of my anxiety to measure up.

And so, if that is true… if I am indeed called to less of a doing and more of an undoing… then the answer to the question “when” is pretty easy:

NOW.

And: CONTINUOUSLY. WITHOUT CEASING.

And: FOREVER.

Today let our project be one of emerging… emerging from under the pile of debris heaped upon us by the events of our lives… and emerging into the bright sunlight of God’s embrace.

Abundant blessings.

 




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