Happy New Year!

I love the fresh start, the clean slate, the limitless possibilities that a new year brings. I’ve made my list of resolutions and set some goals for 2009. But I have a bit of a problem. Do you remember that classic SNL skit where Martin Short and Harry Shearer are synchronized swimmers? (click here if you haven’t seen it) They are discussing the uphill battle that lies ahead of them, and then a deranged-looking Short says, “I’m not that strong a swimmer.” That’s how I feel about setting goals and making resolutions, you see, I’m not that strong a time-manager.

Yet the Psalmist says “Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.” Yes, I want that. I want to number my days aright. I want to look back at the end of each day and see I’ve made the most of it. In C.S. Lewis’s classic The Screwtape Letters, Screwtape tells Wormwood that “We want a whole race perpetually in pursuit of the rainbow’s end, never honest, nor kind, nor happy now, but always using a mere fuel wherewith to heap the altar of the future every real gift which is offered them in the present.” Isn’t that sad? But it’s a reality. We can miss the gifts we have in the present because we are dreaming about the future. For those of us who have young children, I think it is especially important to cherish every moment. And of course there is the temptation when I am rebuilding my one-year-old’s train tracks for the fortieth time in an hour, to think “won’t it be nice when he can build his own tracks,” but that’s that insidious altar. I hate that altar. I want to wholeheartedly embrace every “Mommy, Mommy, Mommy” I hear all day. I have a seven-year-old so I know how quickly this needy and cuddly time goes.
So there’s a bit of tension between living in the present and goal-setting. On the one hand, you’ve got to look into the future to determine what it is you are going to accomplish, and I firmly believe that there is a specific will for each of us. Yet you won’t accomplish much of anything if you loiter there too long. Maybe that’s where the heart of wisdom comes in. When the Almighty teaches us to number our days according to His good, pleasing and perfect will then we’ll have the wisdom to make the right choices and to wisely allocate our time.
In closing, I thought I’d share a quote from a book I recently reviewed, What in the World is Going On? by David Jeremiah. Jeremiah said, “I am convinced that God puts each one of us exactly where He wants us and gives each of us a task that advances His eternal plan in a particular way…Today is the time God has ordained for you and me to be alive, and we are placed in our time and place with no less purpose than Esther.” Yes, Esther.
That means that you’ve been created for such a time as this and so have I. We better be ordering our days aright!

From Life to Entertainment

I’ve been reading a thought-provoking book entitled, Not the Way It’s Supposed to Be, by Cornelius Plantinga Jr. A section of the book called “Amusing Ourselves to Death” has the following quote: “the value we place on entertainment suggests that it has become a diversion not only in the sense of a playful relief from the main business of life but also in the sense of a distraction from it, an evasion of it…”

Do you know people like this? People who seem to derive more meaning from watching others, than from living their own life? It’s certainly nothing new to say that Americans watch too much television, but I do think it’s interesting to consider why we are watching in the first place. Is it “playful relief from the main business of life”? Or have we let entertainment become a way to distract ourselves from our lives, or even evade our lives? Of course, TV isn’t the only culprit. With the latest technologies a person can avoid even a second’s reflection by taking their iPod everywhere they go. There are some wonderfully enriching and edifying options, and while I am thankful for these resources, the still small voice of God still cannot be found on iTunes. Another readily available distraction is this medium: the Internet. This is my biggest weakness. I can be pretty compulsive about it. And sometimes I sit down to do something very specific like pay a bill, and I get off on ridiculous tangents that consume way too much of my time. When one-year-old Sam toddles over and takes control of the mouse I know I’ve exceeded a reasonable limit.
I am currently doing the second year of a fellowship program offered by the C.S. Lewis Institute (find out more at http://www.cslewisinstitute.org). During year one of the program the fellows were required to do a time-audit. It was a useful exercise to take a candid look at how I spend my time. I highly recommend keeping a record for a few days, especially with regard to how much television you watch, how much time you spend on the Internet, how much time you spend in quiet reflection, and how much time you spend studying the Word of God. I need to do it again myself. Maybe, if I’m feeling brave, I will share with you just how much Internet time I log on an average day. The truth is I don’t even want to know. It’s not like I sit here for hours, but the two minutes here and ten minutes there really add up.
Of course, I have three huge reasons to be intentional about how I spend my “couple more soons” (see previous post if that doesn’t make sense to you), and their names are Will, Nate and Sam. Obviously I want to spend as much time as I possibly can playing with them, teaching them, and loving on them, but what’s more is that, just like all children, their behaviors are more caught than taught. And that means that I need to be ever-cognizant of all that I am modeling.
Sam is only nineteen months old, but I am continually amazed at what he has already caught. I don’t wear makeup everyday and I only curl my eyelashes once in a blue moon, but if Sam gets into my bag of tricks (my sister Laurie’s term) he holds the curler up to his eye! In fact, Sam somehow knows the proper use for each item in the bag, and has for months. And the sippy cups I use have a little rubber valve that fits into the top. It looks like a symmetric piece of rubber with two sides, but there is actually a right way and a wrong way. There is a tiny little arrow on the translucent valve that points to the right way and I usually hold it up to the light to see it. Sam loves to get into the dishwasher and fit the sippy cups together. He takes the cup, the top and the valve, and guess what he does with the valve? Yup, he holds it up to the light. Kind of freakish really. If we think anything is getting past our little ones we are mistaken.
But whether you have children or not, there are people watching how you live, and they are making judgments about how consistently your life aligns with what you profess to believe. How you manage your time is just one small part, but I believe it is an important part. And I for one can definitely do better.

A Couple More Soons

Wednesday marks seven of the happiest years of my life. In some ways my little Will turning seven is a stunning realization of how quickly time passes, and yet in other ways pre-motherhood days seem like eons ago.

I’ve been reminiscing about Will, how sweet he has always been, what a kind heart he has, how he comes up with amazing ways to help me. On Saturday Will and I were in Subway with the baby. I was paying for our sandwiches and Will was by my side, but as I was waiting for change I realized he was gone. Then from the back of the restaurant I saw him confidently carrying a wooden high chair above his six-year-old head. He picked out a table and straightened the straps for me to easily load Sammy. What kind of angel boy does something like that?
But one of my favorite stories about Will, and there really are so many, happened more than four years ago. He jumped off the ottoman, and although x-rays didn’t show any type of fracture, he was limping so much that the doctor casted him anyway. It was August– an inconvenient time for a two-year-old to be dragging a cast around since all you want to do in DC in August is get wet. But he didn’t complain. He would ask when he was getting his cast off, but it seemed more like a matter of curiosity than a pressing need. He was such a trooper.
As the time approached for him to get it off, I’d tell him, “only a few more days” or “pretty soon we are going to get your cast off.”
The morning before the big day Will woke up, stretched out his little arms, flashed his magical smile at me, and declared, “only a couple more soons!”
What a great outlook! And really so applicable. The Bible likens this life to “a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.” (James 4:14 (NIV)) Life is indeed short. In contrast to eternity we all only have a couple more soons. Yet lately I’ve been feeling very sad about the divisiveness in our country, about the prevalence of hate and greed, and then I’ve been researching international adoption for an article I was working on, and learning about the needs of orphans around the world is incredibly sobering. I’ve been wondering if we should buy some big farm house in the country and adopt a dozen or so orphans. But I can’t think of anything sadder than using up my mist, my couple more soons, worrying. I know God never wants me be to be anxious about anything–that it is never His will for me to worry.
Yesterday, my pastor, Lon Solomon (hear his remarkable testimony “A Story of a Changed Life” at www.mcleanbible.org), reminded us that God is sovereign. Isn’t it interesting how we really do need to be reminded of the basics? I sat there and thought why have I been worrying so much? Is God in control or not? Such a simple question. Such a simple answer, and yet it lifts the world off my shoulders.
It also reminds me of a brilliant C.S. Lewis observation about having an eternal perspective. He said, “Aim at Heaven and you will get earth ‘thrown in’: aim at earth and you will get neither.” (Mere Christianity)
Let us rest in the fact that God is in control and let us always aim at Heaven.