All the time in the world

 

I’ve just been reading (actually, listening to, but it’s the same thing) a brilliant book by Shauna Niequist called Present Over Perfect. (Incidentally, did you know that you can borrow audiobooks from the library here in Australia using the Libby app? It’s brilliant.)

In this book Shauna talks about her journey from frantic to simple. From busy to quiet. This is totally my groove, in fact, she starts her book in the same way I started My Year of Saying NO, by explaining how she wanted to tell us just how busy she was so that we wouldn’t think she was just weak, and how she decided not to because everyone’s busy is different but it’s still busy.

As I’ve been listening, I’ve been realising that I will always need to be reminded to slow down, to say ‘no’, to listen to my body, to rest. My addiction to busy-ness is real and it’s something I need to keep tabs on.

But there was one line, when Shauna was talking about prayer, that really jumped out at me. Here it is:

God has all the time in the world.

teapot and cup

Sometimes I can think of God as a very busy man up in heaven, keeping tabs on everything. I marvel at his ability to listen to so many prayers at once, and I limit my prayers so as not to take up too much of his time.

This is not a well thought-out position, it’s more a gut feeling. When I think it through I know that it’s not the case.

God made time. He exists outside of time. If he wants more time, he can just make some more.

I remember watching a program with Brian Cox where he was explaining space-time. He had a nice animation of a sausage-shaped thing all made with lasers and he told us that it was a representation of time, and for some reason he poked sticks through it at angles. I can’t remember why now. But that image of time stuck with me. If you put us in the sausage, walking along our timelines linearly, God is outside, like Brian Cox, able to interact with any moment in time.

This means that we can talk with God whenever we like, and however often we want to, and for as long as we desire. We are not ‘talking up his time’ we are not ‘getting in the way’. When God wants to spend time with us he doesn’t have to clear his desk or cancel appointments. He’s there for us, whenever we need him.

That’s why the Bible can say things like, ‘pray continually’ or ‘give thanks in all circumstances’. It’s not that God has a bunch of secretary angels filtering out the prayers so that only the important ones get to him. He has time to listen to every one of us.

He has all the time in the world, and more besides.

Then my brain flips the other way and says, ‘Well, if he has so much time, then his time is not precious, his spending time with me is not a sacrifice for him, and I’m not special’. (My brain is amazing at coming up with stupid ideas, let me tell you.)

The thing is, God did have to sacrifice so that I could have this precious gift of time with him. He didn’t have to sacrifice appointments with others, he didn’t sacrifice money-making time, or task-performing time.

What did God sacrifice?

Everything.

His life.

The whole lot.

Cross

That’s what we celebrate this Easter and every Easter. The sacrifice that God made so that we could be friends with him. More than friends, children.

His children.

His brothers and sisters.

So that’s my message today. It may be a reminder. For you it may be news for the first time.

God has all the time in the world, and he has given everything so that he can spend that time with you.

May you have a special Holy Week, and may it include lots of time spent with God.

Are you missing some of my blog posts? They come out every Monday. Sign up to follow the A Quiet Life blog on WordPress, or you can sign up to my newsletter on www.ruthamos.com.au  and you will receive every post straight to your email inbox. You will also find my podcast, my book ‘My Year of Saying No’, and any short stories or other books will be up there as they come along.

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An Easter Wedding

Two of my daughter’s school friends got married on Saturday. They were just slightly older than the age that DH and I were when we got married. So it was a pretty special reminder for us. We’ve known the bride since kindergarten and we’ve known the groom since late primary school.

DD was a bridesmaid so we had a special window into the preparations. We’ve shared a few ups and downs and had a pretty good look into what it is like to be on the other side, the parent side of a young wedding. I shed some tears when the bride walked up the aisle. I’m sure it will be even more emotional when it is our own children getting married.

The groom and groomsmen looked very smart, handsome, even. The bridesmaids were all gorgeous. The bride was beautiful! Her shoes were to die for. OK the dress was amazing but so were the shoes. I love shoes.

bride and groom

One incredibly neat thing was that the girls made up their own bouquets – the flowers were bought from a wholesaler but the girls chose the blooms and greenery that they wanted and made up their individual bouquet. They also did their own hair and the bride did their makeup and they worked together and got themselves all ready. And they looked beautiful. Don’t you think?

bridesmaids and groomsmen

And that was the thing about this whole wedding. It was gorgeous, professional, delightful. But it was mostly put together by the family and friends. The reception was held in the groom’s family’s hay barn. The families and bridal party had worked so hard to carpet the ground (no floor, just carpet on top of the ground), to string fairy lights all around, to make decorations for the tables. The minister was the bride’s uncle, the (funky and talented) band was the bride’s brother’s band, the (incredibly detailed and gorgeous) cake was made by a friend. The parents of the bride and groom were running around all day making sure we had drinks, food, plates, cake.  It was all so beautiful but all so full of love, full of family, full of community.

cake

I’ve been to weddings where the stress of making the wedding a perfect day has been so full-on that no one enjoyed the day – the joy was lost in the pursuit of perfection. This wedding was not perfect but it was so full of joy, so beautiful. I am sure that everyone there enjoyed it. The bride and groom certainly did. It was a memorable celebration of a life-long commitment. A joining of two families. A day to remember.

I have to say, one slight imperfection of the day was that the reception venue was filled with wasps. Everywhere. The family had been laying wasp traps and each trap I saw contained about 100 wasps, but there would not have been enough traps in the world to get rid of the swarm that joined in with the festivities. Someone found the nest while we were waiting for the bridal party to finish their photo shoot but that was a little too late to help us.

The little boys were chasing the wasps around with bits of wood and trying to stomp on them, and one little toddler was trying to catch them like they were butterflies until her mother said something to the effect of, ‘Darling! Come over here, sweetheart! Leave them alone.’ through clenched teeth, trying not to let her panic show.

We could not eat without waving a couple of wasps off our plates between mouthfuls, and DS had to poke a couple off his plate with a knife because they were stubborn and didn’t want to leave. Once we had stopped fighting the wasps for our food it was actually quite interesting and informative to watch them chop bits of meat off the scraps on the plates and carry them away. To see whether they had bitten off more than they could carry or not. The fun of fighting with wasps stopped me from having seconds of the most excellent food but I would say that the wasp diet is not highly recommended…

As far as I know, no-one got stung, so that was good. Almost miraculous, considering the amount of wasps present as uninvited guests.

The party finished with some pretty amazing dancing, including all the bridesmaids spontaneously performing the whole ‘Thriller’ dance (with the brides mother!) and some sitting around a campfire chatting. It was a long day and we were all exhausted by the end of it but it was wonderful. A joyous celebration. Reminded me of our own special day. I hope we can make our kids weddings just as beautiful and joyful.

Before the wedding I had a quick chat with the bride about the stress and frustrations of wedding preparation. She asked me about our wedding: ‘was it a good day?’ I told her, ‘it was the best day of my life.’ It was! I’ve had brilliant days since but our wedding day still is at the top of the list. I was hoping and praying for the same sort of day for Saturday’s bride and therefore I was totally thrilled to hear in her speech, ‘Today has been the best day of my life!’ I know that this is just a milestone along the journey of their lives together. It is not the beginning, just a step along the way, but I’m so glad it came off well in the end, that it was a joyous and love-filled day and I pray for them both a joyous and love-filled long life together.

Times and Seasons

Since we have had school aged children we have lived our lives according to the rhythm of school terms and holidays. Originally we would have the really LONG first term, followed by the much shorter and more manageable second term and then third term full of interesting activities leading up to Christmas and the summer holidays. Just recently we have had the change to a four term year and each of the terms is now a manageable 9 – 10 weeks. We still seem to be begging for the end of term to come, despite the terms being shorter, but we are always ready to go back to school again too at the end of the two week holidays.

At university (where I work) there is also the rhythm of semester and break. First semester starting in sunshine and long days, the mid semester break at Easter time (the week split in two so that the break can incorporate the Easter long weekend). Then the mid-semester test, always there, straight after the Easter break. Then the days draw in closer and get darker and colder and we head for exam time. We have a fairly short break (three weeks or so) after the mid-year exams and then start semester two (usually with the the addition of the semester two blues). By the time we get to week seven and the mid-semester break, the days are getting longer and life feels more manageable again and we head into summer exams, the show day long weekend, and the long, long summer break.

And, as we attend an Anglican church, our church life is full of rhythm and tradition. The Anglican church even has special traditions for the Sundays that aren’t part of the special celebrations. They are called ‘ordinary Sundays’ and I always found it special that even the normal Sundays had a name.

We are entering holy week, the most precious celebration of the Christian faith. The one it’s all built on. And this morning I started thinking about the traditions that we have, both official and unofficial.

Today is Palm Sunday, we remember how Jesus entered Jerusalem ‘lowly and riding on a donkey, the colt, the foal of a donkey’.

It is not face-palm Sunday, no matter what the meme says.

(http://anglicanmemes.com/2013/03/24/facepalm-sunday/)

The palm crosses were handed out as we entered the church as they have been for (I guess) hundreds of years. Ours were made last week by the children of the church, and that’s a much better tradition than the one I remember from my childhood which is that the children of the church destroyed the palm crosses as the service went on. I think moved on to Dad’s cross once I’d destroyed my own.

Another tradition that I remember from my childhood is the singing and processing that went with this particular festival of the church. Every palm sunday we would sing a hymn and wander (oh, I’m sorry, process) out of the church through the back door, around the property, and back in through the front door again.

The hymn is scored into my brain:

All glory, laud and honour

To thee Redeemer King

To whom the lips of children

Made sweet hosannas ring

The children of the Hebrews

With palms before the went

Our prayers and praise and anthems

Before thee we present

All glory, laud and honour

To thee… (maybe you get the idea)

There’s about 5 verses with a chorus between each one, with the idea that it will last long enough for the brown’s cows (sorry, congregation) to make their way out of the pews into a straggle (sorry, line) about 2-3 across, and then wander around the block. My memory is that every year, never failing, (even when the side door was open so that we could get an update on the way past) we would all be singing in a completely different key and also a completely different verse to the worship leader, once we got back into the church. Also, that we would go through the hymn about one and a half times, perhaps even two and a half!

We don’t do that any more. I can see why, but I did enjoy that tradition!

Of course, a super special day is coming up. Good Friday.

I’m one of the people that likes to totally get into the spirit of Good Friday. It is one day a year when I really focus on what the day is about. I wear black, I encourage my family to wear black too. DS doesn’t need much encouragement – it’s been his favourite colour since he was about in grade 2. There was that one year where his t-shirt on Good Friday said ‘come to the dark side – we have cookies’ which didn’t go down well with the Bishop’s wife! Oops! But anyway, I wear black and I usually cry. Though that’s not planned.

After our beautiful and reflective church service we used to have a tradition of processing again, behind someone holding a cross, walking up to the local shopping centre where we would meet up with other churches for another small service of unity. That was also a lovely tradition but because all the shops are closed for Good Friday I did wonder about the use of it as an outreach.

Then hot crossed buns for lunch.

One tradition I’ve never followed is that of having fish for tea. What I eat for tea on Good Friday really depends on what is in the fridge. I didn’t even know fish eating was a tradition until I was in my twenties!

Easter Sunday traditions: eggs of course! Lately in our family we have bought an egg each – a big kinder surprise one with a big toy inside. Then we have taken one each to hide and then had a mad and noisy hunt all over the house. That tradition meant that DH and I could join in the hunting, and the eating. So much fun.

Last year I hid about 20 chocolate eggs in the house, then went to spend Easter with DD in Canberra. As the days leading up to Easter Sunday went by, the boys began to find the eggs, so they hid them again, in new hiding places. When I got home after Easter I asked them how many they found. They didn’t know, they didn’t keep track! I found the last two eggs from that particular hunt in December sometime.

The Easter Sunday church service is an amazing time of celebration. Amazing music, colour, joy, love.

After church on many Easters we have gone to join the Easter march – another (yet another) procession of Christians from many churches. In the city this time. With added donkeys, balloons, music and performances. And traditionally, it’s been very, very cold. Very cold. With lazy autumn breezes going right through us and occasional rain. Then home for tomato soup and toast to warm up.

Traditions can be bad. People can get hung up on the details and lose the body of the tradition – the reason why. We can use tradition as an excuse to stop thinking. We can put the tradition first and the people last and hurt people for the sake of keeping the tradition rolling.

But traditions are also important in building community, in giving structure to our lives, in giving us roots. In times of uncertainty traditions can remind us that ‘this too will pass’ and that there is something everlasting that we can cling to. This morning, in my upside-down life, I found the tradition of Palm Sunday comforting. The structure of the tradition gave structure to my life, and I revelled in it.

Whatever traditions you have this holy week, I pray that you will feel part of a community and that you will know joy.