Saturday, January 31, 2009

Time, the Timeless, and the Timely

My times are in your hands. Psalm 31:15

Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom. Psalm 90:12

It seems my life is ever an inner dialogue about the interface between the timeless and the timely. Whether I reminisce about long dead family members and their impact on my thinking, the legacy of my mother's furniture and life, the complexities of missionary life or parenting, or simply trying to decide how to organize my basement and how that fits with the existential issues of life, a constant theme in my thinking and writing is expressed in this timeless phrase.

I search for it on Google to see how much it is used by others and discover over 700 references spanning make-up, architecture, decorating,cooking,clothing, poetry, religion, philosophy, music, and so on. I recall the seminar at a Christian writers' conference that impacted me the most. The author teaching the seminar is an editor of several top thoughtful Christian magazines. He urged that every article and piece of writing, especially Christian writing, needs to use the timely to hook in the reader in order to share timeless truths. In a sense that is what we do on this blog. We take the daily doings of ordinary life and weave in universal themes, eternal truths, and epic issues of concern.

I particularly enjoy finding Christian and human truth expressed in words that are not typical Christian jargon. There were many years of not doing that for me, but they left me feeling that much was left out of the expression of my experience and my observation of the experience of others. While being a regular worship leader who enjoys much of the modern music written for our contemporary services, I gravitate toward much of the secular music around to articulate the agonies of human existence and relationships. My faith has to be expressed in very honest ways.

Now that I am in the second half century of my own life, my concern for such honesty has only increased, even as my faith and assurance have deepened. And with them both has grown the passion to make the utmost use of every moment I have, while at the same time 'taking my time' to do things well, to only do what really needs to be done, and what I am truly equipped and called to do. Eliminating the superfluous needs to be a daily quest, whether it be in my basement, my thinking, or my dreams, while appreciating the opportunity to see a snowflake fall or watch a squirrel jump from tree to tree. Today is all I have. This moment is all I have. And I need to live each day and moment in that awareness, but with joy.

I have just discovered a writer who in this past century sought to live each day fully by writing poetry every morning. More than that, he was a Christian, a serious one. William Stafford wrote in a "deceptively simple" way, they say, but actually wove in complex themes as he mastered in his writing a blend of the timeless and the timely. He didn't need to say the name of Christ to teach a timeless truth. His life and his poetry said it for him. I offer one of his poems for us here today to remind us of the choice we are offered, each day and moment.

The Gift

Time wants to show you a different country. It's the one
that your life conceals, the one waiting outside
when curtains are drawn, the one Grandmother hinted at
in her crochet design, the one almost found
over at the edge of the music, after the sermon.

It's the way life is, and you have it, a few years given.
You get killed now and then, violated
in various ways. (And sometimes it's turn about).
You get tired of that. Long-suffering, you wait
and pray, and maybe good things come - maybe
the hurt slackens and you hardly feel it any more.
You have a breath without pain. It is called happiness.

It's a balance, the taking and passing along,
the composting of where you've been and how people
and weather treated you. It's a country where
you already are, bringing where you have been.
Time offers this gift in its millions of ways,
turning the world, moving the air, calling,
every morning, "Here, take it, it's yours."

William Stafford


Belinda said...

Meg this is beautiful on many levels. I love it.

I just read last night in "Making Time Work for You," by Harold Taylor, that the secret of good time management (which is a myth, he says, since we can only manage ourselves,) is to do fewer things and do them well.

Thank you for blessing us with your writing.

Joyful Fox said...


I really enjoyed reading about timely words that are timeless. Thought provoking and challenging. I especially enjoyed the poem by William Stafford. Our moments are gifts and happiness is fleeting.

Thanks for sharing. Your words bless.