The Wisest Day of the Year

 

I recently caught the flu. It was a miserable few days of aches and pains, sleepless nights and myriad medicines. Image

It was not improved by the well meaning but constant barrage of tips and advice from both family and perfect strangers on the best ways to combat this illness. It seems when we see someone trying to fight through something, we all become experts on that topic.

Such it is with the coming of a new year.

At the end of the year, everyone becomes a poet, a scholar, a historian, an alliterative genius. Even prophetic gifts are bestowed on those that haven’t read a passage from Isaiah since last Easter. We all seem to gain perspective and wisdom, and we can’t wait to share it. Just one glance at your Facebook or Twitter feed today is all the evidence you need. 

It certainly isn’t a bad thing to be reflective. But I wonder why we feel this urge to become wise and reflective from one 24 hour period to the next.  It’s common knowledge that most of our resolutions and revelations will be forgotten in a few weeks, yet we feel we must make some assessment of the past and a declaration for the future. It almost feels wrong not to do so. 

I believe God gave us a desire to know and share the wisdom that time provides us. We are innately aware of the principles of Ecclesiastes – “To everything there is a season” – and of Psalm 90:12, where Moses opines on our mortality, then asks God to “teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom”. Every human being understands that as time passes we are supposed to gain wisdom from our lives’ experience on how to live better. 

The problem is that time was never supposed to be our only teacher. 

As we were originally created, we were supposed to live eternally. Sin made that eternity a promise we would have to wait for. God saw that we didn’t learn what we needed to learn in our chance with eternity, so He gave us a tutor – time. Eternity is no longer an unbroken reality for us, but Ecclesiastes also states that ‘God set eternity in our hearts’. So, we know we are supposed to have an eternal view of life, yet we are cornered into a finite, time – based view of our reality. Now, like any  patient but frustrated tutor , Time tries to teach us what we could have learned from the Father directly, simply by listening to Him. 

Even with this gracious gift of wisdom, we then make another costly mistake, which makes all the pithy sayings and New Year’s declarations sound hollow. We make Time our ultimate teacher, and forget the Creator of time. Sure, we number our days, but we forget that Moses started the verse as a request to God to  “TEACH US”.  We apply our hearts to our OWN wisdom, and not His. That’s why I feel all the words we hear seem to fade quickly, with no staying power. We are lost in a swirl of good wishes, ideas, and hopes for every season that have nothing to do with our eternal destiny, because we traded out the wisdom of the Father for the temporary wisdom of a calendar and life experience. 

Times and seasons become our new idols, and the creator of Time is lost in the shuffle of grand expectations that, in the light of eternity, really don’t matter very much. 

I’m not knocking speaking good words over a season or a new year. I’m simply reminding myself that if I don’t acknowledge God’s command over my life and the times of my life, all my New Year’s declarations are just a crutch that will fail me just like any other earthly source of encouragement. 

If I don’t remember to worship the God of the season, then the season becomes my god. 

So as we read all the great things that we expect from 2014, just take a deep breath and realize that God doesn’t stress out during a earthly calendar page turn. What happens in the next year won’t be a surprise to Him, and therefore you can relax if you don’t have a witty promise to repeat, or a new revelation to declare over the year. If you are are a follower of Jesus, you can be content with the words He said as he left earth approximately 1,981 years ago. 

“And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”  

I think “always” includes 2014. That makes it a Happy New Year. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Weight of the Wait

How often do we wish God wore this watch? “Monday… I could wait til Tuesday…. if I make up my mind, Wednesday would be fine… Thursday’s on my mind…Friday, give me time… Saturday, wait… But Sunday be too late.” – Sting, “Seven Days” 

That Christmas tree is still mocking me. 

Like the smudged and fading brillance of a shiny new penny, the bright hopes of a new year quickly are dragged into the reality of work and waiting. Not that I’m ungrateful for the return to work- I nearly skipped out of the house today on my way to the office early this morning, knowing I would beat most of my co-workers there, and get some much needed focused time in my office to complete some overdue work. But other issues seem to grow big fast when you once had a sudden burst of optimism, as if to say, “You won’t get rid of us that easy, partner.  Resolutions, Smesolutions!- We’re here to stay.” So yeah, the insurance check we needed to get cashed right away? More calls necessary to get the right endorsement from the banks. The kids’ curriculum? Has to wait a week or so while I build up funds and research more on which math and history texts will work best to catch the kids up this semester.  Our plans for continuing our redecorating and purging the house of clutter?  Miki’s now the beneficiary of the colds Christopher and I finished with over the holiday break, and I’m stuck staring at this tree two weeks after Christmas, not even sure where the ornaments on the tree should go – the plastic box or the cardboard?  

Yes, this time of fasting should be the ultimate builder of patience. But even in fasting from food and fun activities, I’m keenly aware of time passing.  I catch myself counting down the days til I can eat fast food again, send Twitter updates to my homeschool chums and dad pals, and be free to swig Dunkin Donuts coffee with no cream and extra sugar.  Not the most spiritual approach, I know. Yet Jesus wasn’t in the wilderness for show –  he had to be tempted. With me, the temptation is to short circuit the mental and spiritual discipline I am building and simply turn this experience into a waiting game – one that simply proves that I can look forward, instead of looking inward.  

There’s the catch.  Looking inward, to see why I want what I want.  Is it for comfort’s sake that I’m praying for issues to be concluded?  Simply for my desire to be free of the concerns, so my life will be easier? Or do I desire certain things from God, and from myself, so that I can be a better worker, a better husband, a better servant, a better father?  Motive is everything.  If I can deny the desire for desire’s sake, and turn my attention to my Father’s desire, well, now waiting becomes the end, not the means. It’s within the wait that the great changes take place that help us appreciate how God works with and in us. And I’m trying to make sure I don’t miss those important moments in the rush to get to what I’m getting to. 

So I will try to channel the frustration into the chance to discover what I’m really looking forward to. The same discipline I’m practicing in self-denial must be worked out in my devotion to God, devotion to my wife, devotion to my kids, on a daily basis. If I don’t develop that, well, this whole exercise becomes, well, more like Waiting for Godot than waiting for God. In the play, Godot never arrives. When waiting for God, he’s already there. Our job is to use the meantime to learn to recognize Him. 

And that, as they say, is time well spent. 

Looking unto the hills, 

Homeschooldaddy

2009, Day Two – Fathering and Fasting

To all those that are still in the midst of making (and perhaps already breaking) New Year’s resolutions, I am happy to report at least one of my New Year’s goals has been met. As of this moment, I am blogging for the second consecutive day, and that makes me more consistent this year than in the three years past.  That’s right, I’m two for two – 100%. Hard to beat that percentage, and worth celebrating.  If we could just end the year now, I’d be totally in compliance with my goal. Never mind the 354 days left to go.  How’s about an early 2010, everyone?  No? You sure?

OK, enough silliness. Time to make the subtitle of my blog mean something…so this month I will attempt to leave at least one nugget of fathering perspective a day(not advice, which I am the least qualified to offer).

Our church devotional for the month is to read a chapter of Proverbs a day, and I began reading in Chapter 2 about how wisdom must be sought after like riches. Amazing how the Bible puts things in perspective. Normally we seek hard after riches, and expect wisdom to come out of ‘experience’, as if life and years simply dump wisdom into our laps with our grey hairs and our wrinkles. But we have to work at wisdom, at applying the hard lessons even when it would be easier to name and blame.  We only truly become wise when our principles are at one with our practice. Fatherhood is the place where this ideal is most evident. We can’t say because we’ve been fathers for years that we are any better at it. Seeking after the best principles of raising our children is the only way that we truly become wise fathers. Reaching out to other dads and emulating great fathers is not natural to us. We are natural loners, on an island of leadership, but it is clear that we are stronger when we search out those better than ourselves. Another proverb coming soon that summarizes this point – “Iron sharpens iron”. This year I intend to look even more to other dads in the blogosphere, to dads in my church, and yes, to my own dad to see where I can grow in this, the most important application of wisdom I will ever encounter.

This second day of January also marks the second day of my Twitterfast. For those uninitiated into Twitter, the next paragraph may seem nonsensical. But I’m am thankful that I’ve made it two days without checking, updating, or receiving a Twitter message.  Around the time that the kids were outside playing,  I found myself pining for a moment to whip out my iPod touch and send a SOS to my followers (Help! I’m starving for a reTweet of a witty post from an obscure Norwegian philosopher! PLEASE!), but with God’s help and my elimination of Twitterific on my home screen, I held on.

The day was spent in the morning catching up on Bible study assignments with my wife, while we made the kids fast the day from video games.  Yes, the daddy reared his head and declared that vacation is now winding to a close, and the kids moped around like a funeral had just been announced in the den. The perfect antidote?  Wash the cars.  Nothing breaks up monotony like soap, hoses and well positioned ambushes from behind the tailgate. Mind you, I would have joined them, but the playing of the kids outside afforded my wife and I some very needed we-time, and we instead enjoyed hearing the laughs and yelps of the kids playing from outside the window.  Tomorrow we plan to take them out to a U of Miami basketball game, which should also be fun. I’ll be sure to tell you about it. After all, I’m a blogging machine now. If only exercise and money management were as susceptible to my disciplinary prowess. Here’s hoping.

Looking unto the hills,

HsD