Jan. 8, 2020 A time for everything - Father Michael's Words to Live By

“For everything there is a season and a time for every matter under heaven” (Ecclesiastes 3:1)

Just a few weeks ago, Becky and I were reminiscing about just how quickly the “Passing of time.”  We found it hard to believe that over thirty years had passed since our first military assignment at Ft. Leonard Wood, Missouri; or as we affectionately referred to it – “Ft. Lost in the Woods, Missouri.”

We recalled many things:  Our marriage, our first parish together as co-pastors, our first military chaplain assignment in the U.S. Army, our first anniversary, our children, and our over 16 military moves all over the world.  Eventually, our conversation landed on the familiar topic: “The good old days.”  

It’s often true, at some point in our daily conversations with family and friends, we reflect a great deal about "the good old days" - about "how it used to be." And there is certainly the time and place to recall with fondness - "the good old days."

Stuart McAllister in his book: “Ah, the Good Old Days” describes it this way:  Nostalgia is an interesting thing. It embellishes our memories and makes the past look and feel so much better than it really was. I have a relative whose skill as a storyteller is almost unsurpassed. Names, dates, and places are poured forth with an attention to detail that is astonishing. Listening in, one can smell the air, sense the mood, and really enter into the narrative being told.”

The writer of Ecclesiastes famously wrote, "There is a time for everything" (Ecclesiastes 3:1).  Whatever it is about time, we all manage it in different (and sometimes strange) ways. For some of us, we live perpetually in the past. We treasure those relationships, experiences, and places, those loves won and lost. For others, we are always hoping to live; the best is yet ahead, somewhere over the rainbow when things will be wonderful.

I often contemplate: Is this a symptom of an inability to dwell in the present? In a recent book called Elsewhere USA, the author cites the challenges to living a focused or attentive life due to the invasive conditions of modern technology and the press of incessant demands. The author outlines how many of us are seldom present in anything we do. We are not present to our spouses, not present to our friends, not present even in our imaginations as the desire of being elsewhere overrules all else.

In the story The Princess Bride, the hero Wesley says, "Life is pain...Get used to it." While perhaps a bit overstated (it is a comedy), Wesley's thought captures something of the struggle, the real hardships we all encounter in our journeys across time. Perhaps the present is indeed so saturated by real pain, tragedy, or emotional deadness that the only available option is to flee to the past as solace from the present.

Writing to the Ephesians, the apostle Paul urged: "Be very careful, then, how you live-not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity" (Ephesians 5:15). Some translations render his instruction "redeeming the time." I like that. It is a very thought-provoking concept.

To see all of time in the light of eternity, to see every moment and every opportunity as a chance to glorify God, to receive life and experiences for what they are, and most of all, to be present. That is, to be present to others, in love, service, and availability; to be present in what I am expected to do, with diligence, care, and integrity; to be present when needed, as my workplace, friends, or community may need my contribution.

THE CHALLENGE: I don't mean in any sense to devalue the role of telling old stories or memories. After all, they are a huge part of what makes life rich. However, the wise preacher was right when he/she said: “There is indeed a time for everything."

PRAYER FOR TODAY: Lord, help us to treasure our past, to live joyfully in the present, and to look forward with hope as we embrace the future. Amen.

Have a great week,

Fr. Michael+