Something God Alone Can See

Time is truly a valuable commodity. Time that is squandered is time that is lost forever. We live in a culture that prizes busy-ness as a status symbol. In our rushing around and trying to get things done, are we ever guilty of neglecting to take time to be holy? God calls us to be good stewards of this gift of time, and we will be held accountable for how well we spent our days here.

Ecclesiastes 3:17 (Common English Bible)

 17 I thought to myself, God will judge both righteous and wicked people, because there’s a time for every matter and every deed.

Ecclesiastes 3 steps into our time this week as a reminder that while everything changes all the time, God brings order to it all. We are meant to experience everything that God does as a token of love. Ecclesiastes brings us a word of encouragement to look to God as the only answer to our longing for purpose in every season of like. (Look back at Ecclesiastes 3:1-8). Without God, we can’t make sense of life, death, or life beyond death. Acknowledging God allows us to interpret everything through God’s lens of time. Our man-made reasoning will never make sense of what God is doing. Only through the wisdom of Christ will we ever hope to understand the heart of God.

In our United Methodist Hymnal, we find a lovely summary of everything we have been talking about this week. Often sung at funerals, Natalie Sleeth has captured the mystery and beauty of God’s timing in our seasons of life in this Hymn of Promise:

“In our end is our beginning
In our time, infinity
In our doubt, there is believing
In our life, eternity
In our death, a resurrection
At the last, a victory 
Unrevealed until its season
Something God alone can see.” (UMH, 707)

Are you taking enough time to be holy? What could you change in order to spend more time with the Lord? You indeed are a creation of God that is still unrevealed, and God alone can see you for who you are. May we spend this season of life discovering who God is, and Whose we are as his children.

Unrevealed Until Its Season by Kathy Schumacher

A Time for Everything

Ecclesiastes 3 is offered to us today as a lesson that brings a word of reality into our study of God. The writer, who refers to himself as ”Teacher,” says that God is in every part of creation and is present in every moment. Times of planting and uprooting, times of throwing stones and gathering stones, times of keeping and throwing away … everything comes under God’s purview:

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 
There’s a season for everything
    and a time for every matter under the heavens:
    a time for giving birth and a time for dying,
    a time for planting and a time for uprooting what was planted,
    a time for killing and a time for healing,
    a time for tearing down and a time for building up,
    a time for crying and a time for laughing,
    a time for mourning and a time for dancing,
    a time for throwing stones and a time for gathering stones,
    a time for embracing and a time for avoiding embraces,
    a time for searching and a time for losing,
    a time for keeping and a time for throwing away,
    a time for tearing and a time for repairing,
    a time for keeping silent and a time for speaking,
    a time for loving and a time for hating,
    a time for war and a time for peace.

Even the jarring examples he offers are part of God’s plan. It can feel disconcerting to read that there is a time for killing, a time for hate, and a time for war. Yet we know that in acts of self-defense and in times of battle, killing happens. We know that hate is too often experienced when people engage in anger, sin, and revenge. Yet perhaps it is understandable when we hate evil, injustice, and anything that opposes God. We know that wars are inevitable on earth and will not cease until Christ returns. The Teacher sought not to condone or approve of these things, but merely to pull the listener in with relevant examples. In like manner, he also assured us that there are times when weeping, laughing, mourning, and dancing will be our response to something. We may have little say over things that happen to us, but how we respond to them is important. The Teacher encourages us to respond with trust.

By being so specific, the Teacher has captured our attention. But the comfort that he intends to impart is found in the first verse: “There is a season for everything, and a time for every matter under the heavens.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1). Our Creator set the stars, the planets, and the seasons in motion at the beginning of time. Our Creator is present with us in every matter and every minute. Our Creator is watching everything that happens under the heavens.

Our Creator is here, with us, in it all. What comfort! What joy! To know that things aren’t just randomly happening to us, but that everything has a purpose, is the word of hope we need for today. This word of illumination should bring peace to our hearts. God is in control. God is omniscient (all knowing). Even better, God is omnipresent (always present).

God controls time …. the best of times and the worst of times. Whatever you are going through right now, God is IN IT with you. Thanks be to God!

Time to Rise and Shine by Michelle Robertson

I Hope You Dance

“Now is the time; now is the best time. Now is the best time of your life!”

Fans of Walt Disney will recognize the theme music to the wonderful attraction called “The Carousel of Progress.” This iconic moving-theater experience was originally built for the 1964 World’s Fair, and then disassembled and reconstructed in Tomorrowland in 1975. The cheerful message of progress through the century is a reminder that the best time we are living in is right now.

Do you believe that you are in the best time of your life? I imagine for many of us the answer is no. If you are dealing with addiction, undergoing chemotherapy, incarcerated, going through a rough divorce, dealing with rebellious children, caring for elderly parents, etc., you may not consider this the “best time of your life.” And that’s not even adding a global pandemic to the mix. This could hardly be considered our best time…and that’s OK.

The writer of Ecclesiastes has an important reminder for us about the nature of time:

Ecclesiastes 3 New International Version (NIV)

A Time for Everything

3 There is a time for everything,

    and a season for every activity under the heavens:

2 a time to be born and a time to die,

    a time to plant and a time to uproot,

3 a time to kill and a time to heal,

    a time to tear down and a time to build,

4 a time to weep and a time to laugh,

    a time to mourn and a time to dance,

5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,

    a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,

6 a time to search and a time to give up,

    a time to keep and a time to throw away,

7 a time to tear and a time to mend,

    a time to be silent and a time to speak,

8 a time to love and a time to hate,

    a time for war and a time for peace.

There is something comforting in realizing that there is a season for EVERYTHING under the sun. Everything has a place, everything follows an order, and everything has an appropriate and proper point on the space-time continuum. Even the things we dread have their own place. Death, war, mourning, plagues, and hate all have an allotted measure in the grand scope of our lives.

The best part is that it’s an allotted measure, i.e. something that happens for a specified period of time. This scripture teaches us that time is God-ordained and controlled and we should just relax and let life flow accordingly.

Does that work for you? Yeah, me neither.

When this doesn’t work for me is when MY timing doesn’t jive with God’s timing. Either I am being too slow to respond to his bidding, or (more likely the case) rushing into things with great enthusiasm without waiting for his direction.

Godly direction is the key to this whole thing. When we pray, discern, and yield ourselves COMPLETELY to God’s timing, he ushers us into the best time of our lives. Setting aside our preconceived notion of when something should begin or end allows God to act as Timekeeper, and sets life into motion according to his plan.

Is it time to do something? Is it time to change? Time to move? Has the time come to speak up, or be quiet and let others sort things out? Is it time to end something? Maybe you are entering a season of growing, re-inventing yourself, and leaving all kinds of heavy things behind.

This beautiful passage assures us that there is indeed a time for everything, and God is in each moment.

“A time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn, and a time to dance.”

I hope you dance.

Dancing Sunlight by Kathy Schumacher

A Thousand Years

Time. We never seem to have enough of it, are always running out of it, have no control over it, and rule our lives by it. Think about how many times every day you check your watch/phone/Alexa to see what time it is. Nobody likes to be late for an appointment, and time sets the pace for our daily activity.

When someone you love dies, time starts to play tricks on you. Suddenly time stops. You find yourself dwelling on the past, trying to stretch out last moments, and not wanting to move into a future without them. Days and weeks either get stuck in the slow molasses of grief or suddenly accelerate to a holiday you hadn’t anticipated where you get to relive your loss in a new way.

Time in God’s terms, however, is a much altered thing. In Psalm 90 we see a common idea that in God’s perspective, a thousand years is like a day:

Psalm 90 (Common English Bible)

Lord, you have been our help,
    generation after generation.
Before the mountains were born,
    before you birthed the earth and the inhabited world—
    from forever in the past
    to forever in the future, you are God.

You return people to dust,
    saying, “Go back, humans,”
    because in your perspective a thousand years
    are like yesterday past,
    like a short period during the night watch.

This is what happens when you apply eternity to time. Suddenly centuries of years become like days. In heaven there are no clocks to measure out 24-hour periods of existence. Time simply IS.

The blessing in that for all of us is that our loved ones who have gone before us will experience our arrival as though it is happening right after theirs. The compression and expansion of eternity mean that for them, time is a seamless flow of entry into heaven. So when my father died in 2009, he turned around and there came my mom in 2014, which in eternity was like a day later. Best of all, their lives now are timeless as they rest in our Father’s arms. So too will yours be when you get there “tomorrow.” From forever in the past to forever in the future, God is with us.

You sweep humans away like a dream,
    like grass that is renewed in the morning.
True, in the morning it thrives, renewed,
    but come evening it withers, all dried up.

Take some time today to meditate on these things. God has been with you since before he birthed the earth and the inhabited world, and he will be with you forever. Thanks be to God!

Timeless Beauty by Becca Ziegler

Season Confusion

Unseasonable warmth came to the Outer Banks last week, despite it being the middle of February. Our normal wintery temperatures have ceded to beautiful, sunshiny, 70-degree days. Don’t get me wrong, we love it…but it is confusing the heck out of our daffodils. This picture was posted by a friend, who warned that the cold would return that night and she hopes these beautiful blossoms will survive. She captioned it, “season confusion.”

My mind instantly went to the beautiful passage in Ecclesiastes that speaks of seasons:

Ecclesiastes 3

There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:

    a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,
    a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,
    a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance,
    a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
    a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
    a time to search and a time to give up,
    a time to keep and a time to throw away,
    a time to tear and a time to mend,
    a time to be silent and a time to speak,
    a time to love and a time to hate,
    a time for war and a time for peace.

I wonder if we don’t also occasionally experience season confusion ourselves. We stay in a time of mourning when God is releasing us to dance. We embrace inappropriately without consideration of the other person’s comfort level. We continue to tear at something when it’s time to mend that relationship. We hate, when God is asking us to love, and we go to war over an ideology or personality rather than be the peace-makers God is calling us to be.

Are you in the wrong season? Tearing down something that God is telling you to build up? Staying stuck in your ways, rather than uproot your attitude and consider other perspectives? Still searching for the perfection of that unobtainable thing when God is telling you to let it go?

If you are feeling out of sorts with your life and out of place in the world, consider that you may be experiencing season confusion. Think, meditate, and pray. God will lead you to the season he has prepared for you. EVERYTHING has a season under the sun. Maybe it’s time for a change.

Daffodils in February by Jan Wilson