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Posts Tagged ‘Time’

The Timeless One

Lord, you have been our dwelling place in all generations. Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God. You turn us back to dust, and say, “Turn back, you mortals.” For a thousand years in your sight are like yesterday when it is past, or like a watch in the night. Psalm 90:1-4

I had a revealing dream several years after my father’s death. He died suddenly, early on a  December morning, when I was 14. In the years that followed, a series of dreams haunted me where I knew he was present, but just out of sight. I would run to where he was, but by the time I got there, he would be gone. The revealing dream was this: My sister and I were looking out the front window of our home when I saw dad park the car and get out with a bag of groceries – and then I woke up (in more ways than one). The dream told me that one day, the years without my father will seem no more significant than the time apart from a trip to the grocery store. The reason this is true is that our experience of the passage of time is but a moment in the context of eternity.

Psalm 90 equates a thousand years to yesterday. Likewise, 2 Peter 3:8 tells us: “…with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like one day.” God time is not the same as human time. Here is a way we can perhaps visualize how this is possible. If we were two-dimensional beings – experiencing life only through height and width – we could only experience the third dimension (depth) in time. In other words, in any given moment we could see above and below, side to side, but not front or back. We would only be able to experience moving forward or backward in the passage of time. To us now, as three-dimensional beings, it is clear what lies immediately ahead for our two-dimensional friends because we can perceive all three dimensions at once. As the theory goes, we experience the next dimension beyond our physical reality in time. The question is this: What is the nature of the fourth dimension that we can only experience in time? When freed of our three-dimensionality, what expanded reality will be revealed to us, in the same way that depth appears to a two-dimensional being? I believe this is at the heart of our quandary, that our earth-bound perception is limited to three-dimensionality, and the mysterious reality beyond our experience unfolds for us in time.

The creation story in Genesis records that God created the earth and everything in it in six days. Some Christians believe creation occurred in 6 twenty-four hour periods, probably less than 10,000 years ago. Many scientists believe the creation occurred with a Big Bang about 13.8 billion years ago. For me, the question of which time frame is correct is irrelevant and unanswerable because time for the creator – the Timeless One – is inconceivable to us.

Albert Einstein proved, mathematically, that time is relative and not absolute. In other words, time is not a precise measurement that exists independent of our observation of it. In fact, in his later years, Einstein concluded that past, present, and future exist simultaneously in the fourth dimension, which he labeled as time-space. The point is this: Time, as we experience it, is only accurate in a limited way and for a limited cross-section of reality. When we are freed from the limitations of the earth-bound portion of our lives, the spans of decades, centuries, and eons will seem no longer than a trip to the grocery store.

All of this is to say that there is both biblical and scientific evidence that time is not as we believe, nor is the world we experience the entirety of everything created. Our lives are one part of an eternal creation that stretches from before our birth to beyond our physical death, when we will rejoin the Timeless One in an existence beyond earth-time.

Note: this is the sixteenth in a series of Life Notes on the Faces of God

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Life Notes

How Did I Miss That?

Part 27: Growth is not Chronological

 But do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like one day. 2 Peter 3:8

Beginning at birth, our bodies go through a mostly predictable cycle of growth, maturation, decline, and death. We see it in others, and most of us witness it firsthand in ourselves. Through our school years, we steadily advance in our academic achievements as we graduate from grade to grade. As such, it is only natural to expect our growth as spiritual beings to follow a similar, predictable pattern; but it does not. Our experience of time is very different from that of God. In other words, time is not always as it seems. Our human evolution seemingly progresses in a predictable way from past to present to future. God creates, and that creation – including our lives – manifests in ways that we can only experience gradually over time. That is not necessarily the core reality, however.

Because our spiritual growth – our increasing awareness of God with us – occurs outside of earth-time, our spiritual development appears to occur in fits and starts. We go through long periods where it seems nothing is changing. In fact, we go through periods where it seems we are falling back and losing what we once believed we had attained. Then something happens and we hardly recognize the person we were a short time earlier. Our spiritual growth is commonly experienced as three steps forward and two steps back.

Often painfully, the times we move forward in a spiritual way are the times that force us to reevaluate our understanding of the world. The single event that most contributed to my spiritual development was the sudden death of my father when I was a youth. Decades later, that experience continues to realign my understandings and priorities. For others it may be a serious accident or illness, a divorce, or the severe misfortune of someone close to them that drives their former certainties into a state of utter inadequacy. Athletic trainers tell us, “No pain, no gain” in physical development. The same is often true in our spiritual growth. We grow too fond of the status quo when life is too comfortable. God created our world, including us, to evolve. When we are not changing, we are not growing. Sometimes, we need a nudge to move; other times, we need a swift kick in the back side.

We know our experience of chronological time is variable at best. When we are absorbed in a task we enjoy, time flies by. When we are burdened with a dreadful job, however, the clock hardly seems to move. In childhood, time moved at a crawl. As we age, the days in a month and months in a year seem fewer and fewer. Author Gretchen Rubin said, “The days are long, but the years are short.” Truly, even time is not the stable foundation we assume.

Our growth as human and spiritual beings does not correspond to our calendar because spiritual and physical times do not always correspond. Why does this matter? It matters because we are often too hard on others and on ourselves based on appearances on any given day. God’s creation, including us, is good. From our perspective, we are always a work in progress. From God’s perspective, we are the image of God; and in God’s present, we are very good! We simply do not have eyes to see it (yet). That knowledge can and will transform our world.

Meaningful growth is not chronological. How did I miss that?

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Life Notes

The River, a Sugar Maple, and Jesus

On either side of the river is the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations. Revelation 22:2

The image of time as a river is powerful for me. A river, like time, flows in one direction and is always on the move. Sometimes the surface is rough and choppy, other times it is smooth as glass – not unlike the way we experience our days on earth. The river eventually flows to the sea, where the water is reabsorbed into the atmosphere to fall as rain across the land, replenishing the rivers. And on and on it flows.

The season of autumn also reminds me of the passage of time. As leaves that were bright green only days ago turn red, orange, and yellow, and then fall to the ground, I am reminded that everything we know as life goes through its seasons and eventually dies. Certain life forms go out in a blaze of glory, like the leaves of the sugar maple in my backyard. They refuse to pass without creating a scene. Its river of time flows froSugar Maplem the soil to its roots, through its truck, and into its leaves each year. Another river carries the carbon dioxide of the atmosphere through its leaves, converting it to sugars, then down into its roots to be stored as food for next season’s glorious resurrection. And on and on life goes.

The amazing circle of life is always on the move. Jesus modeled this cycle for us. He lived, he died, and he was resurrected. There is nothing to fear in death, he tells us. Look and see; I was dead, and yet I live! It is the same message as the river, as the sugar maple, and of all creation. We live, we die, and we live again. Most of our deaths are not physical, but transitions from one stage of life to another. Eventually, our physical death does come, and we cannot know what lies beyond. We can know, however, that there is more life. That is the message of Jesus, and the river, and the sugar maple.

I wrote a song some years ago called The River of Time. I am pleased to share it with others contemplating the passage of time: https://contemplatinggrace.com/music/the-river-of-time/. Whether we view the passage of time as a river, a tree, or a Savior, life is passing through and from us. And as time passes by, we are transformed – older, wiser, more frail perhaps, but always reborn into a new being. The river flows. The sugar maple grows. Jesus lived, Jesus died, Jesus lives again. True then, true now and forever.

Come home to church this Sunday. Celebrate the river, celebrate autumn, celebrate life!

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Life Notes

 

The Poverty of Wealth

Now as they went on their way, he entered a certain village, where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to what he was saying. But Martha was distracted by her many tasks.  Luke 10:38-40a

In his book Here and Now, Henri Nouwen writes:

“It always strikes me that rich people have much money, while poor people have much time. And when there is much time life can be celebrated. There is no reason to romanticize poverty, but when I see the fears and anxieties of many who have all the goods the world has to offer, I can understand Jesus’ words: “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God.” Money and success are not the problem; the problem is the absence of free, open time when God can be encountered in the present and life can be lifted up in its simple beauty and goodness.”

I read this passage last week while I was on a mission trip to Honduras. I am convinced the juxtaposition of the reading and the trip was divinely arranged.

While in Honduras, I expected to meet a suffering mass of people living in poverty. What I found was happy, joyful people – many living in poverty – but with time to spend with others: Time to sing, time to worship, and time to enjoy life. It hit me that while many Honduran people live in material poverty, many of us in the United States – myself included – live in spiritual poverty. The people of Honduras lack many of the material benefits we have in abundance, like clean drinking water and adequate sewage treatment. Because of the time-sucking obligations of our material abundance, however, we have little time left for others or life’s simple pleasures. The two worship services I attended in Honduras (at two different churches) both exceeded two hours in length, not including fellowship time before and after. At my church, people get antsy when a worship service approaches one hour. We have things to do and possessions to care for – yards to mow, sports teams to follow, children’s activities to attend, and housework to be done. We are busy, busy people and must actually schedule visits to see friends and family.

I am reminded of the story of Mary and Martha in the Gospel of Luke. Martha is so busy preparing for Jesus’ visit that she misses the blessing of the actual visit. Mary leaves the housework alone and sits at Jesus’ feet to experience the blessing of his fellowship. Do not get me wrong – cooking, cleaning, dusting, mowing, and painting are all important activities, especially when there is an abundance to be cooked, cleaned, dusted, mowed, and painted. The contrast is stark, however, between seeking a blessing from our “stuff” and being blessed by the presence of others. I think there is need to find a balance. We can help the Hondurans with some basic needs. They can help us learn to live with less, freeing up time for relationships with each other and with our God.

Come home to church this Sunday. Be a blessing to another and be blessed.

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Life Notes

 

What Time is it?

But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come. Mark 13:32-33

Earlier this week I thought, “It is time to start writing a Life Note for this week.” It was about 7:00 PM on Monday evening. I do not routinely begin a Life Note at 7:00 PM on Monday evenings, but that was not what I meant. I meant that it was about time to begin this week’s Life Note. Confusing? Yes, the English language is full of words, like time, with multiple meanings. In general, I like to begin writing my weekly blog several days before publishing it on Thursday mornings. That gives me time to reconsider, refine, and review my writing on a particular topic. Thus, it was time to begin.

There are at least two Greek words that describe time. The first, chronos, refers to the actual time, such as “It is now 7:00 PM.” The second, kairos, expresses a less specific aspect of time, sometimes referring to a stage of life. “It is time to write my will,” is an example. Expressing our final wishes in a will is not an urgent task for most of us, but completing it before we pass from this life is important. Beginning a Life Note is not an urgent task for Monday evenings, but it is important (at least to me) to start thinking about what and when I will begin writing.

From a whole-life perspective, what time is it for you? The context for the passage from Mark, above, is about the second coming of Christ. There is much disagreement about the nature of that appearance, but one thing is clear – no one knows the time. Therefore, the time to prepare is always now. We are not guaranteed another moment of physical embodiment beyond the current one. There are experiences, learning opportunities, accomplishments, and relationships that each of us is specifically gifted for. While I believe our life’s work continues beyond death, there is much to be done while we are physically manifested. What unfinished tasks need your attention at this time in your life?

This is the fifth week of Lent, the season of preparation for Easter. Lent is a 6-week season, so for anyone planning to follow one of the many Lenten practices, it is time to begin! This Sunday is Palm Sunday. Next week is Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, Holy Saturday, and Easter. For those who have not begun, it is time.

Come home to church this Sunday. It is time.

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