Time- it’s on our side?

I’ve heard it said that the greatest expression of love is time.  How many of us waste it?  How many of us clutch it tightly, guarding every little bit?  It’s true that once your time has been given, it is gone.  If you look at your life and calculate the areas in which you invest most of your time, would it make you stop and reevaluate?  Understanding your time as an expression of what it is you love, would you find that you love an idol or would you be proud of what it said about you?

As a culture, we “don’t have a lot of time.”  We remain busy and often over-stretched, over-booked and only momentarily fulfilled.  We have the debilitating need to will our time away, listing our “to-do’s” and checking our calendars.  We pour our time into a future that hasn’t happened yet- time that isn’t guaranteed.  We plan, and in planning we build our expectations.  How often are we disappointed by our carefully planned futures once they arrive?  Could it be that we sometimes miss God’s provision in the moment because we’ve already created an expectation of how things ‘should’ go?

In Luke 17, Jesus is confronted by people demanding to know the time in which the Messiah will come.  I always imagine him chuckling and sort of shaking his head before he says, “The Kingdom of God is already among you.”  Jesus didn’t miss the blind man in the crowd because he was slated to teach at the Temple at 3:00 sharp.  He didn’t hurry past the lepers because they hadn’t made it on to his “to-do” list.  Each moment that Jesus lived, each moment that he had, was an opportunity to love.

Like then, even now, the Kingdom of heaven is among us.  I pray we don’t miss it as we schedule and worry and prepare for the Christmas season.  God’s moments and God’s opportunities so often come in the here and now.  Open your eyes, open your heart, force yourself into the present and see if you notice it.

Where do you notice God’s Kingdom among us?


Thanking at Thanksgiving

Sunday, during the Sunday school hour, the Presbyterian Women hosted a surprise shower for me (and our baby who is due in January).  More than 100 women from First Pres showered me with advice, prayers, good wishes and even presents! Twice, I was pulled aside by women who told me that they were so thankful that I was a part of their church family.  The shower was lovely, but those comments, those thanks were what struck me.  It was incredible, and a bit overwhelming to hear… I stuttered out a thank you, but it just didn’t seem to do it justice.  And then, as fast as the surprise had come, it was over and we were all off to worship- with thanks filling my heart, but still a little stuck in my throat.

We all know that the primary purpose of the Thanksgiving holiday is to express gratitude to God.  And while on the actual day we may sometimes overlook this in the frenzy of food preparation, family time and football, we, as followers of Christ, tend to reflect on the truth that all that we have is a gift from God.

While secondary, this season also gives us an opportunity to say thanks to other people. We are given the chance to thank those for whom we are grateful, but rarely take the time to tell.  An example: as long as I’m stopping to thank God for my family, doesn’t it make sense for me to tell those people that I’m thankful for them?  We see a number of examples of this in Paul’s letters to different churches. This is from 1 Thessalonians:

“We always give thanks to God for all of you and mention you in our prayers, constantly” (1:2).

It’s not that it doesn’t ever happen, but I think it happens far too infrequently.  How would knowing that someone was thankful to God for you change things in your life?  Would your attitude change?  Would you be more open to passing thanks on to others?   What would it be like to hear from someone that they give thanks for you and pray for you?  I bet it would feel incredible, and a bit overwhelming to hear… you might be able to stutter out a thank you, but even that wouldn’t seem to do it justice.

Thanksgiving provides one opportunity for saying thanks, both to God and to those whom God uses to bless our lives.  This year, take a minute and thank someone who matters to you- even if it is just one person.

I’ll start.  Thank you First Pres.  You bless me as we work in ministry together.  I pray for you and I thank God for you.

In Plenty and In Want

The horn of plenty, or cornucopia, comes out this time of year as a sign of bountiful harvests and plentiful food, a colorful reminder of God’s bounty and our blessings.

We are thankful for God’s bounty and our abundant blessings. Yet we are also mindful that many of God’s people are underfed and malnourished. For them, the cornucopia seems an empty symbol.

We are a people of extremes. We are people who battle an epidemic of obesity while also battling chronic hunger for too many. Every one of us needs good food and something more.

God invites us all to partake essential nourishment: Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food…so that you may live. (Isaiah 55:2-3).

Whether our pantries are bare and packed, every one of us needs spiritual nourishment, to feast on God’s promises… one does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord (Deuteronomy 8:3). Whatever we have on the dinner table, if we neglect God’s Word, we are underfed and suffer malnourishment. We do not experience abundant life. We will not be satisfied.

So, in this time and place of extremes, of plenty and want, of excess and extreme poverty, may we hear this word from the mouth of our Lord to all disciples: Feed my lambs… tend my sheep… feed my sheep John 21:15-17). Jesus calls us to give good food and God’s Word that all may live well.

A portion of First Pres collection for area food pantries and hunger ministries.

An Abundance!

Life really IS good!

Why is it that we tend to walk around with our heads down?

This morning, as I was walking from my front door to my car, I realized that it had been a while since I’d looked up and really looked around.  When I did, even over that limited distance, I noticed all sorts of things… how pretty the morning light was, now that we’re back in ‘standard time,’ how gorgeously my next door neighbor’s maple leaves were turning, and how badly we needed to sweep the acorns and leaves off our driveway.

While my personal tendency (as I suspect many of yours may be as well) is to dwell on the messy driveway and forget the beauty of fall, I made a point this morning to think about these things on my drive to the church.  I asked myself when the last time was that I thought about leaves (in their beauty) and morning light, and I really couldn’t remember.

How sad!

How do we get so caught up in living that we stop noticing life’s joys and God’s little reminders of grace?  Why do we look past reminders of the goodness of the world, dwelling instead on the problems that we face?  Where is our joy in living?

All of life is a gift from God- one that we are called to enjoy.  Jesus said in John 10:10, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”  Are we accepting what God offers?

Still in the car driving to church, I gave myself one minute to list some of life’s abundances that I’d seen in the last week and hadn’t stopped to appreciate.  Here’s what I got: smiling church members, Halloween candy, pecan trees, invites from friends, Kiko- the new Giraffe at the Greenville zoo, Boy Scout popcorn, oversized sweatshirts, stories about grandparents, new photos of my nieces, fresh bed sheets, my dog cuddling at my feet and date night.  While far from comprehensive, I realized that it wasn’t hard to make such a list. Give it a try- I’d love to hear what your list had on it.

Life overflows with God’s goodness.  Are we taking time to see it?