Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?

“Does anybody really know what time it is, does anybody really care?” Remember this classic song from Chicago? I had occasion to ponder a bit on the concept of time lately.  We tend to think of time in a linear fashion.  We plan our day from morning to night, set goals for the week, then the month, the year, a five-year plan, and so on.  Once we have kids, we establish a time line for how their lives should go. We end it all by planning our retirement and then the steps to be followed when we die.  That’s not bad, but I think we miss an important perspective if we leave it there.

We recently had a family gathering – a celebration. It felt like a microcosm of life.  There was a new baby and several folks in their nineties; some young married couples and those who had lost a beloved spouse; teenagers getting ready for high school or those entering their college years; folks who were in the job market and those who had found their dream position; individuals who were healthy, those recovering, and those who actually couldn’t make it due to a severe illness or disability.  I interacted with new people and those I see all the time.  I delighted in reacquainting with friends I had not seen for over 30 years.

I had the strangest sensation that I was looking at life from above, seeing the whole picture rather than the chapters unfold. It was as if I had seen the play and loved it, rather than singling out or remembering each act.  The feeling was similar to funerals I have attended when a life is summed up in a five-minute power point presentation of historical slides and then it ends.  That’s it folks.  That was the story of his life.

I think that’s how God must see our lives—the pieces are moving, the puzzle is coming together, and the whole picture will be revealed when our story ends. We might do well to not get too distressed when we don’t reach everything according to our time line.  I’m not sure it matters all that much.

Freedom is not Autonomous

It was bath time for my 2 ½ year old granddaughter and she thought it would be fun to put water in her mouth and spit it at her mother. When she was corrected and told she did not have the freedom to express her desires in that way, she made a mad face that would rival a scary Halloween poster.  It was pretty funny.  She was, in her childlike way, expressing what we all feel when we can’t do what we want to do.  None of us like to be told ‘no’ when it comes to pursuing the fulfillment of our desires.  We all prefer to have the freedom to do what we want to do. While we fight for and guard our freedom, however, freedom is not autonomous.  We have only to look at the increase in gang-related shootings, terrorism, and school tragedies to understand the concept that some expressions of freedom cause harm and are not acceptable. The concept of limitations is easy to understand in these circumstances.  What about other situations?

Mark Cuban recently commented that he would stand behind his team if they chose to protest during the national anthem.  His rationale is that we never want to squelch our right to protest or be heard.  But aren’t there better and more effective means through which protests can be made?  What about using our energy and resources to make a difference rather than bringing attention to ourselves?  We never want to be a nation that fosters oppression, where people are bullied or denied the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.   Do we want to be a nation in which a national identity, pride for our country, valuing character and integrity, are nothing more than a mere option?  Have we moved to the place where ‘freedom’—that is, autonomous freedom—is our ideal? Dignity is inherent because we are created in the image of God.   We are to love others and express that love with compassion and understanding, but that does not mean that anything goes.  The pendulum has swung too far.  Perhaps we need to grapple a bit more with getting rid of those things which have caused harm while holding on to those things which keep us a stable, loving, prosperous and cohesive nation.

The Backstory

Have you ever watched someone’s behavior and wondered, “What were you thinking?”  Consider an example in the life of the great patriarch, Jacob.  While Jacob had many attributes and successes, there was one area where he may have fallen short. Jacob had twelve sons and one daughter. In Genesis 37, we read that Jacob had a favorite.  He loved his son, Joseph, more than any of the others. If he could have kept this hidden, it might have been all right, but Jacob did not.  His overt expressions of affection reached their peak when Jacob made Joseph an expensive, beautiful coat. When the siblings saw Joseph in the coat, their response spoke volumes: “When his brothers saw that their father loved him more than any of them, they hated him and could not speak a kind word to him.” Tragedy followed.  While other factors most likely contributed to the animosity between brothers, we do wonder how Jacob could have been so unwise in the unequal expression of his love toward them.  There’s a backstory here that might help to explain.

Back in Genesis 29, we read that Jacob traveled to an eastern land to visit his Uncle Laban. After a time, Laban determined that Jacob should be paid for the work he was doing. Laban asked Jacob what his wages should be.  Well, Jacob had fallen in love with Laban’s daughter, Rachel, and therefore replied, “I’ll work for you seven years in return for your younger daughter Rachel.”  And so it was.

Unbeknownst to Jacob, Laban pulled a fast one. On their wedding night, Rachel’s older sister, Leah, was given to Jacob instead of his beloved Rachel.  The next morning, upon realizing the con, Jacob was furious.  “What is this you have done to me? I served you for Rachel, didn’t I? Why have you deceived me?”

Laban was not apologetic. “It is not our custom here to give the younger daughter in marriage before the older one. Finish this daughter’s bridal week; then we will give you the younger one also, in return for another seven years of work.”

Jacob loved Rachel so much that he did work seven more years for her.  While they rejoiced in their marriage, sadness came when they realized Rachel was barren.  Life goes on and Jacob had ten sons and a daughter to Leah and the maidservants of Rachel and Leah.  Then, after many years passed, Rachel was blessed with a child. His name was Joseph.  He and Rachel must have been ecstatic.  We can see why Jacob had a great fondness for this very special child. That helps us to understand, but as the saying goes, understanding does not justify.  So, what about us?

What behaviors in our lives would others see that would make them scratch their head but might be understandable if they knew our backstory? But we don’t want to be unwise like Jacob.  While the backstory may be interesting and informative, we don’t want it to create distorted thinking or counterproductive behaviors.  We don’t want our backstory to negatively write the end of our story.  Got anything back there that needs adjusting?

The Backstory

Have you ever watched someone’s behavior and wondered, “What were you thinking?”  Consider an example in the life of the great patriarch, Jacob.  While Jacob had many attributes and successes, there was one area where he may have fallen short. Jacob had twelve sons and one daughter. In Genesis 37, we read that Jacob had a favorite.  He loved his son, Joseph, more than any of the others. If he could have kept this hidden, it might have been all right, but Jacob did not.  His overt expressions of affection reached their peak when Jacob made Joseph an expensive, beautiful coat. When the siblings saw Joseph in the coat, their response spoke volumes: “When his brothers saw that their father loved him more than any of them, they hated him and could not speak a kind word to him.” Tragedy followed.  While other factors most likely contributed to the animosity between brothers, we do wonder how Jacob could have been so unwise in the unequal expression of his love toward them.  There’s a backstory here that might help to explain.

Back in Genesis 29, we read that Jacob traveled to an eastern land to visit his Uncle Laban. After a time, Laban determined that Jacob should be paid for the work he was doing. Laban asked Jacob what his wages should be.  Well, Jacob had fallen in love with Laban’s daughter, Rachel, and therefore replied, “I’ll work for you seven years in return for your younger daughter Rachel.”  And so it was.

Unbeknownst to Jacob, Laban pulled a fast one. On their wedding night, Rachel’s older sister, Leah, was given to Jacob instead of his beloved Rachel.  The next morning, upon realizing the con, Jacob was furious.  “What is this you have done to me? I served you for Rachel, didn’t I? Why have you deceived me?”

Laban was not apologetic. “It is not our custom here to give the younger daughter in marriage before the older one. Finish this daughter’s bridal week; then we will give you the younger one also, in return for another seven years of work.”

Jacob loved Rachel so much that he did work seven more years for her. While they rejoiced in their marriage, sadness came when they realized Rachel was barren.  Life goes on and Jacob had ten sons and a daughter to Leah and the maidservants of Rachel and Leah.  Then, after many years passed, Rachel was blessed with a child. His name was Joseph.  He and Rachel must have been ecstatic.  We can see why Jacob had a great fondness for this very special child. That helps us to understand, but as the saying goes, understanding does not justify.  So, what about us?

What behaviors in our lives would others see that would make them scratch their head but might be understandable if they knew our backstory? But we don’t want to be unwise like Jacob.  While the backstory may be interesting and informative, we don’t want it to create distorted thinking or counterproductive behaviors.  We don’t want our backstory to negatively write the end of our story.  Got anything back there that needs adjusting?

DON’T BE AUTHENTIC

I was recently encouraged by a great message from Dr. Swanson of First Presbyterian Church of Orlando in which he encouraged his listeners to be more than ‘authentic’ human beings. Being authentic is not a bad thing.  Who doesn’t value individuals that have reached the place where what you see is what you get; who’s talk matches their walk?  But if we stop at just being authentic, then the most we can be is the best version of ourselves. For some of us, that ain’t so good!  What if who we are now, could be transformed into someone who goes beyond being authentic and becomes even more faithful, true to the Word, encouraging, wise, loving, giving, honest, courageous, loyal, forgiving, and trustworthy? If you’re willing to engage in the process of transformation, beware; getting there can be daunting.  This kind of change requires great commitment and fortitude.  It is a hard road fraught with pitfalls and pain as we come face-to-face with our weaknesses and flaws, have to take responsibility for our shortcomings, put aside our egos, humbly acknowledge to others our frailties; and, while doing all of that, continue to love ourselves and others.  To add insult to injury, the journey will not end on this side of heaven!  But the results during our earthly stay just may be tremendous and not just for us, but for those we love, our communities and beyond.  Our God is a big God and desires to transform us in such a way that he can use us to make an impact on a very broken world.  What do we see when we look into the mirror? Can we envision more than just an authentic reflection but instead a transformed, albeit imperfect human being, that has become an even greater agent of change, healer, servant-leader and more? Mirror, mirror on the wall . . .

Passing the Baton

It’s graduation season. We’ve had the pleasure of attending a few.  Yes, the sun beats down on our backs; the speakers wax eloquently—albeit too long; and there are many mispronounced names to sit through.  These minor irritations pale in comparison to the air of excitement and pride visible on the faces of the students, parents and spectators who line the bleachers and stadium seats.  I have a renewed confidence in the next leg of humankind’s race being run well and can’t help but feel the baton has been successfully passed.  Scanning the graduates, I wonder who will be the next world-changers, the architects and artists who will create beautiful work; the scientists and educators discovering new answers to old heartaches, offering hope and transforming lives; the businessmen and women who will provide innovations and jobs; the parents who will love and raise the next generation.  There will be those who will surprise us because we never thought they could or can’t believe they didn’t. If I’m honest, I also feel concern about what challenges, threats, and obstacles will confront this eager young crowd.  And I wonder:  Will they be able to manage it all, persevere, overcome, accept and learn from failure and disappointment? Will they be able to grow in character and not succumb to greed, temptation, self-pleasure?  Will they be able to navigate the complexities of a rapidly changing and sometimes frightening world?  Will they be the protectors and take care of things, making the world a better place to live for those who follow?  Will they value what matters and challenge those things that threaten freedom, justice, dignity, morality, and truth?  Which ones won’t survive—because some of them won’t?  When I look at Facebook posts and comments, YouTube videos, editorials and talking heads, I doubt because of what I see and hear.  My view gets myopic and I can get discouraged and even fatalistic.  I then have to make a mental and emotional correction and change my pessimistic course, reminding myself that God promises us a future and there are those whom He has chosen to carry on.  Good does overcome evil, caring people will do their part, and justice does ultimately prevail. I feel thankful to all those newbies who are willing to fight the fight and run the race.  Can’t wait to see what you do!

Amy offers on-line counseling through Moody Call. For more information, please visit http://www.moodycall.org.

ON LINE COUNSELING SERVICES NOW AVAILABLE

I am excited to announce that I am now offering on-line counseling services through a counseling networking sight called Moody Call. This service platform uses SKYPE, enabling counselors and clients to be able to see one another and talk in real time.  Please feel free to refer individuals whom you believe might benefit from this service.  For more information, please visit www.moodycall.org

STEPS FOR SCHEDULING AN APPOINTMENT:

  1. Go to www.moodycall.org
  2. Once on the site, click on the “FIND A COUNSELOR NOW” tab
  3. Then, choose “GENERAL” in the drop down box
  4. Enter “AMY WHITE” in the search box
  5. To SCHEDULE A TIME, enter the date in on the top right box to see openings. (I am currently available Tuesday and Wednesday evenings).
  6. Click on the PREFERRED TIME AND SCHEDULE either a 30 minute or 60 minute time slot

Our Truth Source

One Friday night a few weeks ago, my grandson was going to bed and told his mom he didn’t want to go to school the next day. His mom responded by saying he didn’t have to worry because it was Saturday—no school! Without missing a beat, he responded that his mom should call his friend, who would set her straight because it wasn’t going to be Saturday when he woke up.  Children are funny but this mother/son interaction raises an important question. Who or what influences us and ultimately, what is our source of truth?  Where do we go to find the right answers to the difficult questions in our ever-changing world? Growing up our parents, culture, school, the church, and other institutions and organizations defined the truth for us.  In retrospect, most of us would say that it was a mixed bag.  As adults we embraced some things we learned and rejected others.  That’s a good thing.  We need to always be open to exploring, investigating, and questioning what we believe.  The more we do so, the less likely we will be thrown off kilter by the newest fad, scheme, or trend whether it be political, spiritual, relational, financial, etc.  To not engage in rigorous testing also makes us more vulnerable to just drinking the Kool-Aid, as they say, and that is potentially deadly.  This is more than an interesting philosophical discussion. There are real-life implications here. This week I had to make an important decision and I didn’t have all the facts.  In other words, I didn’t really know ‘the truth’.  It’s fair to say I wrestled with the matter and for several nights even lost sleep over it. Wherever I landed, someone was going to experience negative consequences. In the end I believe I made the right choice.  Experience, support, and access to information helped me get there, but there’s more to it. In spite of the struggle, I did not feel scattered or inadequate in the process.  That is because I have been blessed to have so many folks invest in me and teach what God has to say about how to do life. These Biblical truths have taken years to understand and embrace. In my human frailty, I fail to consistently live by them but they have stood the test of time.  Everything I encounter and consider is put through this grid. If it doesn’t hold up, I walk away.  It’s not very popular these days to take this route.  It’s seen by some to be rigid, intolerant, and old-fashioned.  I understand that.  I have certainly witnessed how misinterpretation, twisting, and abusing the Word has caused harm, but that is a result of human error.  How about you?  What is your source of truth?  Do you feel confident that you can withstand the storms and make it out the other side?  Perhaps something to ponder?  Happy Easter.

The Whole is Greater Than the Sum of Its Parts

My granddaughter is going to be 9 this week. How could that be? It seems like only yesterday I received the late night call that she would soon arrive. My oldest sister will soon be 85.  How could that be?  I remember when it was I that was 9 and going to her house for Christmas dinner.  She was a beautiful young woman then.  In my mind’s eye I see the faces that joined me at her table—there are many loved ones who are no longer with us. I could have never predicted or imagined all of the new folks who were to join our clan in the years that unfolded. Yet, in spite of changes and transitions, common threads were being tightly woven that would create an impenetrable bond holding all of us all together. From generation to generation, an unspoken commitment to be there for one another, demonstrated by the way we have together climbed the mountains, struggled in the valleys, forgiven, cared, celebrated, overcome, ‘worked it out’, or just simply laughed our sides off.  There are no perfect people among us, but we have one another’s backs. I am grateful that the sum of our family is so much greater than any one of us standing alone. In this fast-paced, social media frenzy and, perhaps, more superficial era, I hope this generation remembers the investment it takes to continue to build and maintain the stronghold that keeps a family whole.

One Small Step for Mankind . . .

During a more quiet moment on Christmas vacation, I watched my soon-to-be six year old grandson take a fine-pointed colored pencil and meticulously fill in the lines of an adult coloring book. He focused, chose the shade wisely, and did a great job.  For a young man his age I was impressed.  If you looked at his work, you would be too.  (You would also see that a lot more needed to be done when he jumped up from the table to run around the room with his brother and cousins).  His efforts reminded of how important the small things are in the overall scope of our lives.  During this time of year we have fun speculating on the great things that await us in the year ahead, making promises to make big changes.  While extravagant New Year’s resolutions are fun, in reality it is not usually the grandiose goals that come to fruition.  It more often true that the culmination of many small, almost mundane steps are what make the biggest difference.  I need reminded of that.  It’s sometimes hard to do the little things.  There’s nothing to celebrate, no great achievement to report, no applause from the gallery.  A retrospective view gives insight.  When I look back over the years, most of them did not include a monumental event.  Yet, over time, movement forward can clearly be seen and many positive outcomes resulted:  I love you said every night, the clean clothes, the dinner on the table, the many conversations at home and work to resolve problems, the organizing and training efforts to make things better.  It all paid off and sometimes in big ways.  Amen.  What’s your goal this year?  Dream big for sure, but don’t discount the payoff for doing the little things well.  They just may provide the springboard for that giant leap you’re waiting to take!