Oct 182022
 

Timing is everything, or at least so I have heard.  Sometimes I wonder if it’s true, and sometimes I wonder what part God plays in the timing of our lives.

I remember during my college days, my roommate and I somehow found ourselves registering for the same class at the same time.  Given our different class position, schedules, and career goals, it almost never happened.  But this time, the stars aligned, and we found ourselves taking the same early morning class for one semester.  The class was called “Man’s Aesthetic Experience.”  It was a class designed to give us an appreciation for classical music, Greek sculptures, Danish paintings and such, but in truth, such a class scheduled for 7:30AM in the morning was perfectly designed to put students to sleep.  In fact, it did it very well.

That being the case, and Joey and I being the enterprising and adaptable students we were, we devised a plan. Most mornings, we would both go to class (attendance was part of the grade) but would take turns paying attention and taking notes.  So, one of us would stay awake, listen, and take notes while the other would put his head on the desk and sleep.  Or in Joey’s case, snore.  Later on, at a reasonable hour before a test, we would share notes.

It was a perfect plan, but it wasn’t long before Joey modified the plan and started pushing the limit a little bit.  Since at least a few absences were tolerated, why sleep with your head on the desk when you could remain comfy and warm in your own bed?  Thus, on multiple occasions when it was my turn to take notes and his turn to sleep, Joey would utter a groggy “Go on without me.”  Which I did.  Sometimes he would miss something important, like a quiz or a presentation, but for Joey, the extra sleep was worth the risk.

For me, it was a different story.  I’m not saying I didn’t trust Joey’s note taking, but for some reason, I couldn’t do much sleeping in class, and I almost never skipped a class.  Joey would encourage me to stay in bed some mornings, promising to go and take good notes for us both, but I never did . . . except once.

I remember the morning when we were maybe two-thirds through the semester and Joey got up to go to class.  It was his turn to take notes.  I woke feeling an undeniable urge to skip class, so I told Joey to go without me.  “I’m going to skip class and sleep in this morning,” I said.

Joey looked at me like some alien had taken over my body.  It was so uncharacteristic of me.  But I assured him I was still in my right mind and told him he should go on without me, which he did.  It was the one and only time I decided to sleep in and skip that class, which makes it even more amazing that ten minutes later, Joey came shuffling back to the room, threw down his books, and said, “Class was cancelled.”  I had unknowingly picked the perfect time to sleep in.  Maybe timing is everything.

Now as far as God is concerned, I wonder, did He cause class to be cancelled?  Did He prompt me to relax and sleep in?  Or was it just a crazy, very unlikely coincidence?  I can’t pretend to know anything about God’s class skipping strategies, but I do believe he is involved in the timing of our lives.

The Bible says there is a time for everything.  It says we should “wait on the Lord.”  It also says, “now is the time.”  I think we Christians often spout the “wait on the Lord” timing, but we are not so crazy about the “now is the time” moments.  God’s timing isn’t always about waiting.  Sometimes it’s about moving forward in life even though we would rather stay where we are.  Maybe we are comfortable.  Or maybe we are afraid of something in the future.  Or maybe we see something coming that we want to avoid.  But that stuff is all a part of God’s timing too.  

Think about Jesus.  He was the Messiah.  He said so.  He proved it.  But the Pharisees said, No, you are not.  We are still waiting for the Messiah.  Even so, there was a right time for him to go to Jerusalem to die.  Peter tried to postpone it.  He was working against God’s timing.  Jesus recognized that “timing rebellion” as the devil’s work and went on to Jerusalem despite the suffering in store for him there.  Now was the time, for the hard part.

In every life, there are good things that happen, and bad things that happen.  Or maybe I should say, there are fun things, and not so fun things.  There are happy things, and sad things.  But God’s timing applies for both.  If there is a best time for that good thing to happen, then there is also a best time for that “bad” thing to happen.  And a “bad” thing happening at the right time, can be a good thing.  That flat tire in my driveway may have kept me from a bad wreck on the interstate later.  The layoff now may be God’s push toward finding a better job.  The timing is part of the way in which God works all things for good.

But what about the really bad things?  Is there ever a good time to get cancer?  For my house to burn down?  For my child to die?  For me to die?  I can’t answer that.  What I can say, is that sooner or later, I must die.  And I don’t want it to be later if God wants it to be sooner.  Even if I could somehow postpone God’s timing on that, I would be terrified to do so.  What horrible things could I cause or do, maybe even unintentionally, in the days, months, or years I was on Earth when I should have been in Heaven.  If God had allowed Hitler to die from some disease at the age of six, those who loved the child would have thought it a horrible thing.  That he had an “untimely” death.  Would it be so?

I am not saying that everyone who dies young would have grown up to be a Hitler or Charles Manson, or that every house that burns down would have harbored a future gang of evil.   What I am saying, is that in every play, there is a perfect time to exit the stage.  In every game, there is a right time for the coach to pull his star player out.   There is that moment when the very best that could happen has happened.  When “goodness” is at it’s peak.  To wait longer, to refuse to move on, is to allow things to stagnate and rot.

The timing is part of the way in which God works all things for good, right?  I may not like it.  I may protest and scream “Why now?  Not yet!  I wasn’t ready.”  Or like Jesus, I may even fall on my knees in the garden and pray to skip it altogether.  But in the end, if the Kingdom of Heaven is my ultimate concern, I must accept it.   I must believe that a perfect God has perfect timing.

So, what if we screw up and miss God’s timing?  In that case I suppose we may miss some opportunities and bring some unnecessary hardships.  However, we can’t let that cause us to give up in despair.  For God, timing isn’t everything.  It’s just one thing out of everything in an everlasting, infinite universe over which He reigns supreme with absolute control.

Oct 272017
 

Jay lived on an island with a large tribe.  His complex culture had evolved over the centuries and included religious practices that were also complex, and at times, difficult to understand.  Jay didn’t think too much about it.  He just followed the culture’s lead and worshiped in a similar fashion to the vast majority of his tribe.  He worshiped many gods, as did most of his tribesmen.  Not even knowing the gods’ names, he just followed the rest of the tribe and made his sacrifices like everyone else.

He did at times wish life could be simpler.  Worshipping so many gods kept him busy.  They constantly harassed him, wanting attention, demanding he sacrifice for them.  They all yanked him about like a fish on a hook.  Though he didn’t know their names, he could feel their pull.  There was the god of Others’ Opinion.  The god of “Jay is in Control.”  He was closely related to the god “Have it My Way.”  Then there were Appetite and Desire gods, and their very powerful relative, Lust.  The Fame god, Pleasure god, Power, Riches & Security god . . . the list was way too long.

On his stroll through the streets of Manhattan, Jay walked past the Madison Avenue Baptist Church.  He was thinking about his to-do list and the sacrifices the gods were demanding this week when the joyous singinging of the worshipers in the church caught his attention.   He took a quick glance at the church sign.  “Love the Lord God with all your heart.  No one can serve two masters,” it said.  He stopped for a moment and pondered the meaning of it.  What a simple minded bunch, he thought.  Did they not know about all the other gods? As he resumed his walk, his thoughts went back to his to-do list and the sacrifices all the gods required.  His shoulders slumped a bit and his once purposeful steps degenerated into a slow shuffle.  Life would be so much more peaceful, so much more joyful, if I could serve only one god, he thought.

 Posted by at 1:30 pm
Nov 282015
 

Tom Adams sat behind his big desk, writing out his agenda for the merger.  He had it all figured out.  He was good at seeing what needed to be done, making an agenda, checking things off and getting things done.  It’s why he was the boss.

Meanwhile, there were other agendas being created.  Tom’s wife was making her list.  Cleaning house and washing clothes.  Dinner tonight.  A weekend with Tom.  Perhaps going to church together on Sunday.  She hoped as she scribbled it down with her pen, but felt adding it to the agenda for the week-end was a waste of ink.

Tom’s daughter also had an agenda.  School work, hang out at the mall with friends, piano recital.  She wondered if her dad would be there, then struck it from her agenda.  He wouldn’t come.  Why should she let it bother her.  If he didn’t care, neither would she.

Somewhere else, there were unseen agendas.  God had his written down long ago.  His agenda for mankind.  His agenda for Tom Adams . . .  Seek Me.  Love Me.  Know Me.  Enjoy holy fellowship with Me.  Love others.  Give yourself and gain your soul . . . and many other things too wonderful for Tom to comprehend.

Elsewhere, in a dark place not far from the office, the devil was making his agenda for Tom.  Become too busy.  Become too important.  Focus on self.  Abuse  power.  Ignore the needs of those around you.  Make money and possessions your priority.  His list was long, and easy to make.

Later that evening, as his wife and daughter got up from the cold dinner table and headed for the piano recital, Tom was walking into the boardroom.  As the meeting began, he tried to assert his first agenda point, but hit some resistance from others.  That’s when it occurred to him that others might have an agenda too.  He thought about it only for a second, then decided his plan was best.  His way was better.  He brushed them off, overruled them all, and pushed through his own agenda.

. . . and somewhere in a nearby dark place, the devil smiled, licked his pen, and checked one off his list.

 Posted by at 9:21 am
Nov 092014
 

Sam discusses life with Oak

An interesting character along the path

Sam and I went for a hike in the National Forest yesterday.  Since it was a beautiful day at a popular spot, the trail was pretty busy.   We met several interesting characters along the way,  but one of the most interesting was a rather old looking individual that was standing beside the path.

As we walked past the spot where he was resting, we commented about how large, strong and tall he was.  I did a double take then recognized him as one Mr. Oak Tree.  Sam, being the friendly guy he is, stopped and struck up a conversation. “How long have you been resting here?” he asked.

“A lifetime,” said Oak with a playful rustle.

Sam and I glanced at each other with a quizzical look of disbelief.  This character had to be at least 100 years old.

I turned to Mr. Tree and suggested he might want to move along the path and see more of the world, to which he replied, “The Creator instructed me to wait here, so that’s what I’m doing.”

We stood and stared for a moment, but Oak didn’t seem to mind.  As a matter of fact, I think he almost enjoyed the attention.  After I took a picture, we turned and headed on down the path. Looking at Sam I commented, “Don’t you wonder what made him so big and strong?”

Oak can evidently see and hear a lot from his height because he heard me and replied with a windy, one-word sigh, “Obedience.”

 

 

Jul 022014
 

The rain fell despite the young boy’s protest.  He stood on the front porch, staring out towards the wet black pavement on the street.  He gazed up at the sky, shook his fist and yelled, “Stop it!”

The sky answered with a far away rumble of thunder and refused to comply.

The boy yelled louder, his voice building to an almost panicked crescendo.  “Stop it.  Stop it!   STOP RAINING!”

Distant lightening flashed a reply, followed a few seconds later with a defiant thunderous laugh.

The boy sat down on the top step of the porch and began to cry, the tears dripping to his lap as he watched a few bold drops of rain splash their way to the toes of his tennis shoes.  He looked up at the edge of the porch roof, then pulled his feet back against the step, trying to keep them well within the drip line.  He thought he could already feel his toes getting wet.

The bang of the screen door behind him made him jerk and spin his head around.  His dad was standing on the porch behind him, staring out at the dark wet sky.  Still gazing at the sky, he casually asked “What was all the yelling about?”

The boy stuck out his lower lip and grumbled, “It won’t stop raining.  I can’t make it stop raining.”

The dad started to chuckle, then caught himself.  This was serious business to the little boy, and if it was important to his boy, then it was important to the father.  He mustered a more serious tone, then replied.  “Of course it will stop raining.  But not because you want it to.  And certainly not because you scream at the sky.”

“Then how do I get it to stop?” asked the boy.

“You don’t,” said the father.

“Then when will I ever get to ride my bike?”

“Well,” the father paused for a second, “I suppose when you decide to.”

“But I want to ride now,” whined the boy.

“Then ride,” the father replied.

“I can’t.  I’ll get wet!”

The father let a faint smile infect his face.  “Now that’s a different issue all together, isn’t it?”

The boy crooked his head around and gave his father an irritated look.  “I want to ride my bike but I can’t because it won’t stop raining.”

The father took a deep breath and slowly sat down by his young son.  “As I see it, ” he said, “there are at least two things going on here.  One you can’t control, and one you can.  You can’t control the weather.  You can’t make it stop raining.  It will stop when the storm is over and not before.  But . . . ”  he pursed his lips then opened his mouth with a little smack.  “You can control when and how you ride your bike.  You could ride your bike right now.  You just have to be willing to get wet.  Or maybe you have to be willing to wear a rain coat.  Or maybe you could practice doing wheelies under the shelter of the front porch.  You can’t control the weather, but that doesn’t mean you can’t control what you do in it.”

The boy looked up at his dad with a quizzical look on his face.  His eyes widened a little as a mischievous grin invaded his face.  “I’m going bike riding,” he said.

A few minutes later, the boy was cruising through the puddles just so he could watch the water splash. It had been a long time since he had this much fun riding his bike.  The rain water was still splashing his sneakers, but he hardly even notice that his feet were wet.

– JMS

 Posted by at 8:40 pm
Apr 292014
 

Bob sat in his chair looking for the sunrise.  He stared out the window, just waiting for the faint light to appear on the horizon.  He glanced at the clock.  It should be coming up by now.  Maybe there are clouds blocking the weak early morning light.  He waited.

Bob waited in that chair for another 2 hours, but the sun never showed itself.  He began to imagine the worst.  What if the sun went out?  What if the sun never did shine again?   Suddenly feeling colder, he stood up, grabbed an afghan and wrapped it around his shoulders, then began to pace the floor.  For several days, the news had heralded the coming of massive sun spot activity, but no one had predicted the sun would stop shining.   Bob’s heart was beating so fast and hard that he could feel it throbbing in his temples.

Most days, Bob worked the evening shift, getting home just a few hours before daylight.  Typically, he would come home, eat a snack, then sit in his chair and read for a bit.  When the sun started coming up, he would go to bed.   Now, as he waited for the sunrise that didn’t happen, he was beginning to realize it would all be night shift from this point on.  What he didn’t realize is that he had fallen asleep in his chair shortly before dawn, and slept the entire day away.  It wasn’t 8AM. It was 8PM, and the sun was faithfully shining on the other side of the earth.  Bob just had to wait a while longer, and the sun would shine on him again.   For a brief few moments, he would be ecstatically happy . . . until he realized that he would have to call and explain why he missed a day of work.

 Posted by at 1:26 pm
Nov 252013
 

Typically, the neurons in his brain would fire with no regard for reality. He had begun to replace choices with habits from the time he was born, gathering thought patterns that had worked to define him. Now, locked in a cycle of suffering, he needed a way of undoing what had been done. But what could he do to lessen the gap between the habits that made him and the virtue that inspired him? No matter how much he tried, he could not create himself as he wanted to be. However, he knew there was One for which all things were possible, and thankfully, he knew the One.

Words from The Sunday Whirl: regard, lessen, create, gap, gathering, however, choice, undoing, cycle, habits, virtue, suffering

Jul 162013
 

A coworker / neighbor / friend of mine writes a blog I like to read.  She also participates in a writing exercise where one takes a list of words and uses them in a poem or short prose.  I decided to give it a try, maybe bending the rules (or taking the easy way) by using them in a flash-fiction type story.  Even so, it was fun.  Every sentence of the story below has at least one of the words in it.  Thanks Sabra, and Brenda’s The Sunday Whirl for the inspiration!
——————————————————————————————————————————————

The Sunday Whirl 117

The Sunday Whirl 117

It was very late  when she left the lab and headed for her car.  She had a sick feeling it was a mistake to stay until late into the night, but she had so much work to do and her workaholic conscience just would not let her leave until it was done.  As she walked through the dark parking lot, she was thinking about how she would spend the rest of the night together with some friends.  Although she did not detect the danger hiding behind the green truck, she did listen to a voice from deep down in her soul.  She couldn’t quite translate it into words, but there was a voice, leading her to walk in a different direction.  She took only a second to ponder the Voice before changing direction and taking the long way to her car.  The police would later note that following an unexpected path had saved her life.

 

 Posted by at 10:07 pm
Apr 112013
 

Dave and Barbara Mass lived in a modest house in the midst of a green and vibrant land.   Trees, gardens and beautiful landscapes were scattered throughout the area. Neighbors were all around, each person tending their heart garden and working diligently at mind renewal.  Then one day, they saw a sign proclaiming the freedom of a new wide-open space.

“No rules.  Do what you want.  Act however you feel.  Live for yourself.  It’s all waiting for you in the wide open space of Anythingoes.”  The Masses listened to the rhetoric of The Media, sold them their hearts and minds, and quickly moved toward the big empty desert of Anythingoes.

 Posted by at 1:50 pm
Aug 252012
 

The building stood empty and dark.  Here and there, a window was broken, a jagged hole left as evidence of a rock, hurled by a strong arm, powered by passion and malice.  All around the building, rocks, shattered glass, broken boards, nails and debris lay as evidence of dastardly deeds.  The doors were all locked, some with chains and bars.  It was evident that no one had used the building for some time. Continue reading »