It is 10 days since I last wrote anything on this blog and I am not sure that I know where the days have gone. ATo be honest I had really thought it was longer as I have been so busy these last couple of weeks that I have no memory of writing my last post. Which is not only a little wierd but also very concerning. So where has the time gone?
Two weeks ago I flew to New Haven Connecticut to teach a class on spiritual renewal for a group of students who literally came from all over the world. This is one of the most enjoyable & challenging courses that I teach each year . I love the opportunity to grapple with questions such as ” “How do we develop balanced rhythms for our lives when we live in a culture very different from the one we grew up in?” and the interaction from cultures as diverse as Africa nand Korean was very stimulating.
Ironically I cannot remember when I last felt more spiritually drained out. The last few weeks have been extremely busy as we have all been working overtime to help Tom finish the manuscript for his new book Joining the Conspiracy, which will be published at the beginning of next year. With a wonderful feeling of relief we sent the manuscript off to the publisher on Friday.
Now I am ready to celebrate and find the spiritual renewal I so desperately need. On Wednesday Tom & I plan to go away for a couple of days (with our Golden Retriever Bonnie of course) for one of our regular prayer retreats at our favourite motel in Anacortes WA. I look forward to sharing with you all some of the reflections that come out of that time.
Unfortunately there is still one very traumatic event that we need to get through before I can enter into this renewal. Tomorrow is the 1st anniversary of Tom son, Clin’t death. We would appreciate your prayers as we remember Clint tomorrow evening.
Guess what? British researchers have just discovered something that those of us who love the garden have always known instinctively . Exposure to dirt really does boost our happiness . Check it out It doesn’t surprise me. There is a growing amount of research that suggests time outside is beneficial in a number of illnesses and complaints. ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) is often dramatically improved if a child spends regular time outside Check it out Other interactions with God’s creation are also beneficial. Dog owners don’t really need clinical researchers to tell them that their animals make them live longer and healthier lives (check it out) and surprisingly people who are constantly exposed to the pollens of rural living actually have less allergies than those who live in the city. check it out
If this doesn’t convince all of us that God intends all of us to interact with creation then nothing will. You may not love gardening as I do, but I do believe it is essential for all of us to interact in some meaningful way with creation. And that can take many forms – whether you own a pet (even a gold fish can be beneficial) or just going for a long walk in your closest national park on a regular basis it doesn’t matter but some part of the rhythm of all our lives should get us outside for more than a minute or two.
Yesterday we planted 30 tomato plants in the garden – another important rite of spring and and an increasingly important part of the rhythm of my life. You have no idea how much better tomatoes taste straight out of the garden. In fact I am amazed at how much better all vegetables taste when freshly picked. No wonder kids (and a lot of adults) don’t like vegetables – they’ve never really tasted anything the way God intended it to be.
Makes me wonder if part of the reason many of us struggle with what it means to be a Christian is because we get our theology and our Christian discipleship second hand – and it never really tastes the way God intends it to. Like most of our vegetables it is often old, stale and past its prime or else it has been pumped up with additives to keep it fresh and tasty.
What do I mean – well most of us learn theology by sitting down in chairs and having people yak at us. It might get some information into our heads but if definitely does not get God’s principles into our hearts – and to be honest I think it is the most boring and uninteresting way to learn anything. The only way that God’s principles will get into our hearts is by us putting them into practice. As I have said before I learned my theology in the refugee camps in Thailand. And I continue to learn it through interacting with people from other cultures and perspectives. I read somewhere once that the early Christians felt privileged to live in a nonChristian society because they believed it was through their interactions with people outside the faith that they learned more about God – now we think we learn best from people who think exactly the same way we do – and I suspect that explains why our theological perspectives are often regarded as old, stale and full of superfluous additives – a little like the produce we buy in the supermarket.
One of the celebrations of spring for me each year is when the barn swallows that nest under our eaves return. Yesterday I looked out our bathroom window and there they were. Mum and Dad sitting on the rafters inspecting their nest from last year. The challenge is that now there are a number of offspring who also want to nest around the house. Last year they built a nest right above our front door and by the time we realized it (we don’t use the front door much) there were already babies in it. Being splattered by bird droppings is not exactly a welcome that guests fuly appreciate. This year we are hoping to move them to the back yard.
However there are many benefits to havingthese beautiful birds around. Evidently a nesting swallow will eat up to 8,000 insects a day (yep thousands not hundreds) and that is definitely good for the garden and a wonderful way to cut down on the wasp and mosquito population over the summer. Even if we can’t manage to encourage the birds to move from above the front door I think that the benefits far outway the problems. Maybe we will just have to get umbrellas for our guests.
This last weekend Tom and I drove down to Newberg Oregon for graduation at George Fox University. It was a memborable event as Scott Mackey, son of my best friend Cheryl was graduating. We stayed with other good friends Ruth & Dana Austen. Cheryl, Ruth and I roomed together when I first joined the mercy ship Anastasis in 1981. This is friendship is one of the most important in my life. It has grown and strengthened over the years as we have shared life together through good times and through hard places. It was very meaningful to all be together for this important transition celebration in Scott’s life and as I love to remind Scot I have known him since before he was born.
Taking time for good celebrations like these is probably one of the most valuable accomplishments of our lives yet so often in this culture of disposable relationships we let them slip by without a murmur. Jesus placed so much emphasis on friendships and community. He spent more time together with his disciples than he did healing the sick and preaching the good news. And they did not just work and minister together. They spent much time in fun food and fellowship. My friendship with Ruth and Cheryl has been like that. We have helped each other grow and mature in our love for God and our commitment to God’s purposes. What greater thing could one accomplish in life?
Since I wrote my comments yesterday I have been thinking a lot about accomplishment. A couple of weeks ago I wrote that in order to move from poverty to the middle class people often need to give up relationships for accomplishment. My question is why don’t we see relationship as accomplishment. This week I have had 4 lunches with friends, provided afternoon tea for out of town guests, and talked to numbers of others on the phone…and tonight we pick up the Rosarios from the airport then early tomorrow morning head down to Portland to visit my best friends and attend the George Fox graduation. Why don’t I see that as accomplishment? I realize with embarrassment that I really have bought into our culture’s idea of what is important and what is of value. If it doesn’t produce a product (such as when I work on the MSA Seed Sampler) or produce an income (such as a speaking event) then I tend to under value what I do.
Maybe I need to read some of my own articles about the need for balance again. I realize that this business of living to the rhythm God intends for us is a continual learning experience. I feel sometimes that I take 1 step forward and 2 steps back. May God give me the grace to see all I commit my time to as accomplishments to the kingdom.
Another busy week and I feel at times as though I am running on the spot accomplishing very little. At times like this I need to remember what is really important in life. Reading this email reflection sent to me by my friend Doug Woods after he read Mark Buchanan’s latest book The Rest of God: Restoring Your Soul By Restoring Sabbath certainly restored my soul and made me want to dip into Mark’s book too…but maybe I am too busy.
As I stepped outside this morning I was bathed in the sounds of a sweet spring symphony performed in perfect harmony by an invisible multitude of birds. The air was soft and crisp and the heavy marine layer overhead made the light so even that the colors leapt out of every flower and leaf clamoring for attention. In an instant I was in Mexico – years ago – on spring break building houses with a youth group – only this time I was not smelly or aching – I was simply inhabiting the imprint of a sacred time – the mark of time steeped in God – the thumb print of Kairos.
There are two types of time: Kronos and Kairos. Kronos (or Chronos as in chronology) was the name of the father of Zeus who is famous for devouring his children. Kronos is our everyday time – our day planner time. Kronos is our time spent grasping at the straws of our lives and the time squandered in the vain pursuit of recapturing time that we have already lost. Kronos is our time of desperate striving, struggling to avoid being devoured – and yet we always are. Every time we grab hold of our schedule and wrestle it to the floor it evaporates and we are left with nothing. That is Kronos – he swallows his children whole and before he can burp he is ravenous again.
Kairos is different. Kairos is sacred time. Kairos is time dedicated to God. A time that does not aim at creating, but being instead re-created. Kairos is time spent in imitation of God, time spent following God’s examples of Rest and Peace and Play and Community. Kairos is Shalom. Kairos is Sabbath. Kronos leaves no marks on us – it just swallows us whole, but Kairos leaves a mark. Kairos changes who we are. With Kronos we can never return but with Kairos we can go back. With Kairos we can capture that sacred moment again and again. If you think about it you stumble over those marks all the time: remembering the first kiss of your beloved; or the wonder of seeing your child born; or that one sunset that made you stop the car and get out and watch and watch and watch until it was dark; or that triple rainbow that made you forget the worry and struggle of the day and just sit or stand and watch in silent wonder; or the song or verse that pierced your heart with grace so pure that to this very day it brings tears to your eyes and makes your heart swell with love and wonder. That is Kairos. That is the imprint of a sacred time.
The sages equate sinning with “going down to Egypt” and returning to the slavery of Pharaoh. We were delivered from that slavery. In the same way, when we spend the precious few moments we have on this planet vainly chasing after the last few we have left, we are returning to the slavery of time – we are climbing up into the lap of Kronos and begging to be devoured. He always obliges us. This culture of ours demands that we be devoured and tells us the lie that the only way to be safe is in the belly of Kronos. God asks us – no, God knows us better than to simply ask – God Commands us to devote 1/7th of our time to Him – to spend, to surrender, to submit, to sacrifice every 7th day (at a minimum) to Him. This is not for Him – none of the commandments are for him – but for us. He knows us – he knows that we would rather be swallowed alive than spend a single moment in dumb wonder. He knows that we are insanely utilitarian with out time. So he commands us not to be.
When we cut through all the clutter of dreams and visions and plans and worries and the utilitarian necessities that plague us, the heart and soul of what we are about up on Camano island is Kairos. Sacred time. Time sacrificed to God. The Hebrew root of the word for sacrifice means to “draw near”. We are simply about creating opportunities, now and for all the time we have left on this planet, to draw near to God; opportunities to be recreated, to be marked by the fingerprints of God Himself. We are about creating those opportunities to both be alone and silent before the Throne and to stand there in community – so that we can learn a little about living in the the proximity of God.