July 2014: Taking the Time

Time is in short supply these days, it seems. Maybe it is because the world is running faster, or maybe it is because I am getting older - and in that sense, at least, there is less time left in my life than there was before. Yet we all have 24 hours in a day, seven days a week. All of us, no matter what we do, or who we are, have the same amount of time available to us each day. What we get done in that time is what changes. For some, circumstances prevent things from happening as quickly as for others - some can run faster, for example. Some can type or write or read faster. Some have time to stop and smell the roses; others do not. Some have time to stop and reflect on themselves and on how others perceive them to be; others do not. Stress arises when there is not enough time to do all that must be done.

It is paradoxical that a good antidote to the lack of time, and the stress that arises from it, is to stop, step back, and take time for yourself! Time spent sitting quietly, meditatively, prayerfully, reduces stress; and it can help us to do what we must do more effectively, and so get more done in less time. There are many ways to stop in this way, and most involve sitting up reasonably straight, observing the breathing, and retreating gently from stray thoughts. Five or ten minutes is a good start. For early birds, first thing in the morning is a good time to do this. Another common practice is to spend a few minutes reflecting on the day, before you retire at night. Christians should note that Jesus clearly spent time alone, in this kind of way.

Of course, it’s dangerous to undertake such a practice! It might change you! But that’s the point, isn’t it? And there’s another danger: you might encounter someone unexpected. A presence that isn’t you. A stillness that pushes against you, ever so gently, yet which is pervasive, like gravity; and an invitation to befriend the silence. Dare you take the time?


Early July: Introvert or Extrovert?

It is a common fallacy that extroverted people are the ones who speak most, and that introverted people are the ones who stay quiet. It is perhaps better to say that extroverted people are the ones who gain energy from social contact, and introverted people derive their energy from silence and solitude.

I suspect that whole congregations can be characterised in similar ways. The Hillsong Conference in Sydney presents a boisterous, extroverted gathering of people many of whom gain their energy from being together. In contrast, an introverted gathering would never make the news; silence and contemplative prayer are unattractive to the media.

The point of mentioning this contrast is not to say one way or another is better. Rather, it is to point out that not everyone is the same, and what works well for some people in bringing them closer to God may fail to do so for others. This is because we are different from each other: some are tall, some are short, some enjoy rock music, some enjoy classical, some like red, some prefer green, and so on. God is the same for all - beyond understanding, that is - but we each manage to appreciate different aspects of God, as a result of our own limitations and preferences. It is similar to the way that some of us are colour-blind, and some tone-deaf. In fact, I perceive colour slightly differently in each eye - one senses red more strongly than the other!

So, to those who would say that I missed a great conference by not going to Sydney, that by not going I missed out on hearing motivational speakers with great teaching for today, that my local church will therefore miss out on what God is pouring out on the church today, I would say that I am glad they found it so; but that they missed a wonderful encounter with God in silence the other day, one that motivates compassion for others, one that fuels heartfelt worship, and one that inspires servant leadership.

God is to be found in abundance in many different ways and places, and going by many names. Praise be to God!

-Steve

Parkdale Church of Christ 2012-18 —A community of faith, hope and compassion.