Tag Archives: time

When “One Day at at Time” Really Means One Day at a Time

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve practiced a little self-coaching through difficult stretches by taking a few deep breaths and reminding myself, “One day at a time.” Yet I will confess that I’m always only partially successful in taking my own advice. I can’t function well either in my vocation or my family life without planning ahead. What’s happening on Sunday? What’s happening next week, next month, next fall?

Except now, “one day at a time” has become much more literal. It’s like being on the fault-line in the middle of an earthquake. The ground is changing around me, I’m standing here, and I have no idea what it will look like when the shaking is over, or even whether the ground around me will swallow me.

Our church council met on Saturday morning and made the difficult decision to suspend in-person worship on Sunday and for the next 4 weeks. Some felt we were being a little reactionary; at that time the CDC was discouraging any gatherings over 250. By Sunday, the number had dropped to 100; Monday morning, 50, and by Monday afternoon 10. That’s how fast it’s changing.

Social media is abuzz with how churches and leaders are responding to this new normal. Some are trying to figure out how long they should be planning the suspension of their in-person worship. Frankly, I think that’s an exercise in futility. Our local school board at first cancelled classes until April 6. Now, it’s May 4. Others are suggesting that school is over for this school year. Who knows what we’ll be saying by the end of the week? We haven’t been here before; no one knows. One day at a time. Literally. Because that’s how fast it’s changing.

That thumbnail prayer of Jesus gives us a little something to hang onto in the new one-day-at-a-time reality. There’s a reminder about the daily-ness of God’s provision. “Give us today our daily bread” – not tomorrow, not for the weekend, next week, or next month.

The provision that God gave God’s people in the wilderness sojourn was for that day. The manna came each morning. The Israelites were instructed to gather enough for that day, and only that day. The greedy among them discovered that gathering more only got them rotten leftovers.

It’s hard for me as part of a culture of planners suddenly to be thrust into circumstances when making plans for the future is pretty much impossible. Yes, it will pass. Yes, we will get through it. But there is no timeline and no roadmap. One day at a time.

This has forced me also to take a step back in my own faith life; it’s pulled the curtain back on my self-made illusion that I’m in charge and have control over my life and my circumstance. I know that’s never really true, but in my life of relative privilege, I usually live as if it’s so. It’s not.

So, a day at a time. Literally. We’re doing the best we can, making our decisions with an eye towards caution and love for our neighbor, trusting that for this day, God is with us.

There’s that other thing Jesus said. Don’t worry, saying, “What will we eat?” or “What will we drink?” or “What will we wear?” Indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the reign and the righteousness of God, and all these things will be given to you as well. So do not worry about tomorrow.”

In a Moment in Time

redwoodsIn a moment in time, early on this Christmas Eve, I crawled out of bed to greet this new day. In a moment in time, in the morning darkness of my kitchen, I ground beans, boiled water, and made a cup of coffee with an ancient Melitta pour over coffee cone. In a moment in time, I sit in a quiet room watching out the window as the sun peeks over the horizon. Moments of time stacked one upon another in a progression compose an individual life.

In a moment in time Mary and Joseph came to the difficult conclusion that there was no other place to bed down for the night. In moment in time the labor pains could no longer be ignored.  In a moment in time Mary gave birth, not in her mother’s home surrounded by matriarchs and a midwife, but in a cattle stall surrounded by beasts. In a moment in time, a moment marked not by the idyllic tranquility of O Little Town of Bethlehem, but by the terror of giving birth in such a place and the wonder of giving birth in such a place.

In a moment in time the Eternal put on the limiting cloak of chronos.  The Infinite became finite. In a moment in time God entered our world in an utterly dependent baby. In doing so, that moment in time would become the pivot point of all human history. In that moment in time, God took on all that it meant to be human, our tears, our sprains, our sniffles, our disappointments, our dashed dreams, and eventually our death.

The splinters of that crude manger would one day become the splinters of a cruel cross.  The One who entered time would endure death for our sakes. All of this in a moment in time.

God entered our times and our places and our flesh so that we could know God. In the baby of the manger and the crucified man on the cross, we discover God’s true disposition towards us, indeed towards all creation. God entered our world in a moment of time so that we could live in the confidence of divine grace and mercy.

God entered our time so that there are no moments of time in which we are abandoned to our own self destructive ways, to the evil of our lashing out at on another, to the ways of death we seem so determined to follow. We live trusting that even now, God is bringing all things to fullness in Christ.

Regardless of what any particular moments of time may bring, of this we can be sure:  they are embraced and redeemed by a loving and gracious God who at Christmas became one of us. In a moment in time.

Merry Christmas.


Progress Is not the Point

progressI recently returned from a conference whose theme had to do with the marking of time in the church. The conference was good as far as it went, but it felt to me like it lifted out and treated a very, very narrow slice of the who issue — namely how we mark time in the church by the use of a system of weekly readings (the lectionary). It was a bit unsatisfying for me because it left so much on the table.

In North American culture the passing of time has become inextricably linked with the notion of progress. As time passes, things will inevitably get bigger and better. To witness, every four years, the American presidential candidates stand before us and proclaim that the best years of America are ahead of us, thus enforcing the myth of perpetual, eternal progress, often despite the very apparent indicators all around us. It doesn’t take much reflection to grasp the absurdity of that position. No culture in the history of humanity has continued a path of increasing growth and increasing economic well-being into perpetuity. Kingdoms rise and fall; corporations rise and fall. Human persons are born, they grow, and they die.

Even in the church, we have bought into this notion of perpetual progress. There’s this unspoken, but clearly accepted notion that congregations and congregational leaders are somehow failing if the membership numbers, average weekly worship, and budget don’t keep growing. Yet, that is not a realistic expectation. The culture around keeps changing, communities change, congregations themselves go through life cycles; so the notion that as time passes, congregations will continue to progress (with the definition of progress that things keep getting bigger and better) is a patently unrealistic expectation.

When I think about how Jesus talks about the kingdom of God, he talks about growth in a way that somehow seems different than our American notion of progress. It’s hidden, like the yeast and like the seed that germinates in the darkness of the soil, apart from anyone’s ability to see it or notice it. As time passes, what is intended to be accomplished is. The New Testament seems to support the notion that God is moving all things toward their fulfillment in Christ, but I’m suggesting that it’s not the same thing as our cultural notion of progress.

If cycles of birth and death are the way of the created world; if that is how we experience the passing of time with respect to the changing seasons; if that is, in fact, how our very lives are structured, it seems to me that it would be a helpful and refreshing way also to look at our work in congregations and the church, both with respect to our internal work of community building, and in our external work of enacting God’s intentions for the world.

Especially the latter: if things are moving toward telos, fulfillment will be the enactment of God’s vision for the human community and all creation. And that’s what we ought to be working towards, regardless of whether it looks like progress or not.