Archive for December, 2012

The Timeless Gift of Time

My relatives are in for a real treat this year.

Ordinarily, I give commodities for Christmas. You know, dollar bills, clothes, gift cards to Chili’s. But my family can get that stuff anywhere. Every bank’s got money. Any mall has clothes. Walgreens has a gift certificate to any restaurant your arteries desire.

What money can’t buy is time – time with me!

The family has never come right out and said it, but I can see it in their eyes. My sister-in-law doesn’t really want a James Avery pendant. She longs for a long walk with her sister’s husband.

My son isn’t truly interested in a crossbow. He’s inconspicuously crying out for a deep conversation with his old man. Preferably one that covers the birds and the bees and the various causes of hemorrhoids.

My mother, now I could buy her a coffee mug covered with her grandkids’ pictures. But I know she’s really dying for a two-hour reprise of my bank job. The regulations have changed so!

And my wife, let’s be honest. It’s not about Vail vacations or candlelight this or that. It snows in Colorado every year. There will always be sand in Galveston. But there won’t always be time with this strapping symbol of virility. Why don’t we head down to Tractor Supply?

So many relatives, so little time- yet so much of it just waiting to be spent with my mother-in-law over a tall ice water at a north Dallas Denny’s.

See, this season is not about money or gifts. It’s about time with those you chose – and those God chose for you. We may not all be in arranged marriages, but we’re all in arranged families.

Time is the great scarcity of our age. It limits wealthy and poor alike. No level of privilege escapes its ticking. So we try to maximize it. A biological clock pushes us toward productivity.

Unsatisfied with the natural timekeepers of season and sun, we have parsed time to the beat of a cesium atom (on which a second is based). A whole industry has ascended to assist us. Do you live the 7 habits? Are you GTD? The mere concept of time management would have furled the collective brow of the ancients.

Inventors and marketers try to sell us time, though things rarely work out as advertised. An automatic dishwasher frees you to waste your evening in front of the TV. A drive-thru window frees you to drive around some more. Email software frees you to write nothing of substance to everyone you know.

Managed or not, one day time will end. Eternity will resume. Only one man has experienced both.

Today, we celebrate his arrival and a great miracle of Christmas: that God shed eternity to join us in time. Just in time. “When the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman… that we might receive adoption to sonship.” (Galatians 4)

We’ll do well to spend our time like he spent his: early morning prayer hikes, long meals with close friends, talking about things that endure, confronting injustice, giving compassion.

As the prayer goes, thy kingdom come thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. And in time as it is in eternity.

Kevin Thompson writes weekly for The Boerne Star in the Texas hill country. Follow him at www.kwt.info.

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Scrabbling for sense

As a father of a first grader, Friday’s tragedy in Newtown, CT, hit particularly close to home.

It didn’t start that way. I first saw the news in passing on a muted television tuned to CNN. I thought we had been here before: Anti-social youth unleashes insurmountable angst against helpless victims in unspeakably violent spree.

As the details rolled in, some of the killer’s characteristics did seem sadly familiar. Loner. Fringe-walker. Dressed in black. Divorced home.

Then came details that made this time different, more tragic. Elementary school. First graders and administrators. Mother among victims. Multiple gunshot wounds. Victims’ families given headshot photographs only. Crime scene too grotesque to enter.

With 26 dead, news reports called it the second worst campus shooting in U.S. history. Virginia Tech lost 32 in 2007. But if you talk in terms of life lost, not just lives lost, Newtown seems worse. The victims so young. So much potential so brutally extinguished.

Heretofore, Newtown’s only national mention consisted of being where the popular board game Scrabble was developed in the 1940s. The word “scrabble”, an actual English verb, means “to scratch, claw, or grope about frantically.”

And scrabble we do. We desperately reach for any sense whatsoever to this latest expression of senseless madness. At Christmas, no less.

Author Max Lucado proposes that it is no small detail that Jesus came at night, in darkness, to a land with a jealous king with plans to systematically eliminate innocent children.

Here again, in 2012, Christ comes at night. In the darkness of our sadness, anger, confusion and grief.

As the struggle between good and evil returns to national consciousness, we re-acquaint with this familiar truth: Satan seeks to steal, kill and destroy (John 10).

And we acquaint with this perhaps less known truth: he finds no shame in devouring the youngest among us. Revelation 12 captures what happened in the spiritual realm on the night of Christ’s birth:

“The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that it might devour her child the moment he was born. She gave birth to a son, a male child…Then war broke out in heaven.

“Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray.”

This line provides our lone light of hope in the deep darkness: “he was not strong enough.”

While he may be strong enough to kill the body, he is not strong enough to kill the soul. The tortured children of Sandy Hook Elementary live on with their Creator. They had not lived long enough to be led astray.

As for Adam Lanza, a youth of sorts himself, questions abound. Was it premeditated murder, mental illness, an inability to decipher right from wrong, an overtaking by another being? I don’t know. No one does. But I do believe this hard truth: What happens to us in life is not our responsibility. How we respond to what happens to us is.

Kevin Thompson writes weekly for The Boerne Star in the Texas hill country. Follow him at http://www.kwt.info. 

Paper or plastic?

I feel torn as a sheet in a paper shredder and lost as an attachment on a deleted e-mail. As I attempt to navigate this transitional age between paper and electronic communication, I find the organizational promise of all things digital elusive.

Take journaling, for instance.

On the traditional side, there is something easy and attractive about an “always on” paper-bound journal. My pen may run out of ink, but my book will never run out of juice. I don’t have to back it up or be overly concerned about leaving it near a sippy cup. Plus, I enjoy flipping manually through the fruit of my work, and it’s just cozier.

On the progressive side, if I journaled consistently with a word processor, I could search and organize my entries. I could easily post (appropriate) thoughts on social media or Web logs, or quickly email them to a friend. I could back up my data on Web-based storage in case my computer gets lost, stolen or just tired.

Or I could handwrite with a stylus on a tablet computer and not be burdened by carrying an extra notebook.

With pros on both sides of the ledger, I find myself waffling between both and feeling more fragmented than unified in my cataloging pursuits.

Next, take letter writing.

Yes, you can fire off ten electronic messages in the time it takes to write, address and stamp a handwritten note. And we need not talk about delivery time; it will only make us taxpayers mad.

But there’s something intangible about touching a card that another has held, seeing the uniqueness of another’s handwriting, giving credit for the inefficiencies surrounding the labor of love.

Here again, not knowing which method to pursue at a given time, I sometimes end up doing neither, the worst of all scenarios.

What about household records?

Yes, I’m signing up for electronic statements wherever I can. I want to save the trees as much as the guy whose e-mail signature ends with “Consider the environment before printing this message.”

But, inevitably, Acme Company will send me some apparently important document by snail mail. The only responsible response is to create a paper file for the doc. So, the duplication of effort begins and often doesn’t end until I have paper and electronic files both at home and at the office.

(Yes, I know I can scan the paper and file it electronically, but so much labor for a piece of paper I don’t know I’ll ever need again!)

A paradox of our information age: We are drowning in our data. With near limitless filing hierarchies and storage capacities, things get buried and misplaced faster than in a paper world.

I wonder if pre-historic man suffered such a quandary during the transition from stone to papyrus. Did Moses ever say, “These stone tablets are heavy, but there’s something so certain about their constancy. Then again, scrolls can be easily transported and shared!”

In a touch of irony, hefty paper tomes are the modern equivalent of ancient stone tablets. Nano-sized digital files equal the wieldy parchment of long ago.

So, do I keep the paper because it’s more personal and tangible? Or enjoy electronic efficiencies, despite the propensity for things to float into cyberspace?

As it stands, I’m stuck between a rock and a hard drive.

Kevin Thompson writes weekly for The Boerne Star in the Texas hill country. He can be reached at kevin@kwt.info.


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