Poem – now is not the time

Odd how
on my lunch break,
my own time,
I always worry about
what I’m going to do next
always
check my schedule
always
think I’m missing something

meaning that
I’m missing
the most important thing
which is
my time
right then.

Trying to multitask
means I’m not doing
the task
at hand.

While worrying about
saving time
I end up
losing it.

Now is good

The trick is learning how to adapt to what actually is happening. Too many of us live in the past or live in the future. Too many people wish that things were like they used to be or dream of how things are going to be. Meanwhile they are miserable and they don’t realize that they will continue living in the now. So they will always think about how things used to be awesome when they weren’t that awesome. And they will think about how they would like things to be but they never become that. So they will always stay miserable.

We need to recalibrate our brains to accept that what we have right now is what we have right now and stop trying to force it to be something else. We are trying to force a round peg into a square hole. It just isn’t going to work. We are trying to pour a gallon of milk into a pint glass. We will always be miserable this way. We need to change our assumptions and our perceptions. We need to start seeing things the way they are instead of the way we wish they were. This way, life won’t surprise us and confound us all the time.

One way I’ve found to stay in the now is to be constantly thankful. Whatever I have, I give thanks for. It can be something like having hot running water or wireless internet. These are commonplace things where I live, but not everywhere. The danger of them being common is that I start to take them for granted. When they don’t work, I miss them a lot. So I’ve learned to be thankful for them every day. It is the practice of “counting my blessings” rather than cursing my losses. This way, when something does break or go wrong, it isn’t the center of my world. It is softened by all the many other things that work well and have gone right. This practice ripples out into everything else. Being thankful in a little means that I start to become thankful in a lot.

Evil spirit?

So God is supposed to be all good, right? But what about these verses – God sends “evil spirits” to rile people up, to make bad things happen. Maybe there is something more to all of this. All Bible quotes are RSV.

There were a lot of judges in Israel before they had kings. Somebody had to make decisions. But then it seems that every now and then God stirred things up. Control was taken out of their hands.

Judges 9:22-25
22 Abim′elech ruled over Israel three years. 23 And God sent an evil spirit between Abim′elech and the men of Shechem; and the men of Shechem dealt treacherously with Abim′elech; 24 that the violence done to the seventy sons of Jerubba′al might come and their blood be laid upon Abim′elech their brother, who slew them, and upon the men of Shechem, who strengthened his hands to slay his brothers. 25 And the men of Shechem put men in ambush against him on the mountain tops, and they robbed all who passed by them along that way; and it was told Abim′elech.

Then God made Samson want a woman who was a Philistine just because God wanted to stir up a fight between the Philistines and Israel. God knew there would be a fight at the wedding.

Judges 14:1-4
Samson went down to Timnah, and at Timnah he saw one of the daughters of the Philistines. 2 Then he came up, and told his father and mother, “I saw one of the daughters of the Philistines at Timnah; now get her for me as my wife.” 3 But his father and mother said to him, “Is there not a woman among the daughters of your kinsmen, or among all our people, that you must go to take a wife from the uncircumcised Philistines?” But Samson said to his father, “Get her for me; for she pleases me well.” 4 His father and mother did not know that it was from the LORD; for he was seeking an occasion against the Philistines. At that time the Philistines had dominion over Israel.

Then God sends an “evil spirit” to King Saul, which stirs up problems between him and David, who God has chosen in his place to be king.

1 Samuel 16:14
14 Now the Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the LORD tormented him.

Here’s another example of God sending an “evil spirit” upon Saul.

1 Samuel 18:10-11
10 And on the morrow an evil spirit from God rushed upon Saul, and he raved within his house, while David was playing the lyre, as he did day by day. Saul had his spear in his hand; 11 and Saul cast the spear, for he thought, “I will pin David to the wall.” But David evaded him twice.

The same thing happened to Judas. He wasn’t betraying Jesus because he wanted to –he was made to do it by forces beyond his control. Satan, the very definition of an “evil spirit”, entered him.

Luke 22:1-6
Now the feast of Unleavened Bread drew near, which is called the Passover. 2 And the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to put him to death; for they feared the people. 3 Then Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot, who was of the number of the twelve;4 he went away and conferred with the chief priests and officers how he might betray him to them. 5 And they were glad, and engaged to give him money. 6 So he agreed, and sought an opportunity to betray him to them in the absence of the multitude.

Here’s another take on the same scene.

John 13:21-27
21 When Jesus had thus spoken, he was troubled in spirit, and testified, “Truly, truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” 22 The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he spoke. 23 One of his disciples, whom Jesus loved, was lying close to the breast of Jesus; 24 so Simon Peter beckoned to him and said, “Tell us who it is of whom he speaks.” 25 So lying thus, close to the breast of Jesus, he said to him, “Lord, who is it?” 26 Jesus answered, “It is he to whom I shall give this morsel when I have dipped it.” So when he had dipped the morsel, he gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot.27 Then after the morsel, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, “What you are going to do, do quickly.”

So what’s going on? This is pretty wild. God isn’t what we thought. What does this say about God and the nature of God?

Are we willing to let God use us like this? This is some hard stuff – wars being waged, innocent people being attacked and killed. All because God makes it happen by sending an “evil spirit”. God is in control of evil spirits? God is in control of everything.

What does this say about “free will”? It is out of the window. These people didn’t decide to be angry or crazy or start wars or betray a friend.

What does this say about bad times, about wars, about people attacking innocent people? David and Jesus were both innocent. They didn’t deserve to be attacked. They’d done nothing wrong.

Perhaps that is it. We need to trust that everything is part of a plan that we can’t see. The more we fight against it, the harder it is for us.

Maybe that terrorist, that road-rager, that narcissistic manager, that abusive parent is part of the plan. Maybe an “evil spirit” entered into them. Who knows? We can’t know. That is part of the problem. We want to see the whole picture, and we can’t. We don’t have the capacity for it.

God says that God is the Alpha and the Omega – the beginning and the end at the same time. We can’t comprehend that. It is like trying to play a DVD on a record player. Our technology, the human brain, lacks the capacity to process things like God does.

(All Bible quotes are RSV.)

The Now of Job

Job is an amazing character in the Bible. He was wealthy beyond imagining.

Job 1:1-3
There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was blameless and upright, one who feared God, and turned away from evil. 2 There were born to him seven sons and three daughters. 3 He had seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen, and five hundred she-asses, and very many servants; so that this man was the greatest of all the people of the east. (RSV)

He was righteous, even offering extra sacrifices for his children just in case they made a transgression unintentionally. They would all spend days together having feasts at each other’s houses.

Job 1:5
5 And when the days of the feast had run their course, Job would send and sanctify them, and he would rise early in the morning and offer burnt offerings according to the number of them all; for Job said, “It may be that my sons have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts.” Thus Job did continually. (RSV)

But then he lost it all.

Job 1:13-22
13 Now there was a day when his sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their eldest brother’s house; 14 and there came a messenger to Job, and said, “The oxen were plowing and the asses feeding beside them; 15 and the Sabe′ans fell upon them and took them, and slew the servants with the edge of the sword; and I alone have escaped to tell you.” 16 While he was yet speaking, there came another, and said, “The fire of God fell from heaven and burned up the sheep and the servants, and consumed them; and I alone have escaped to tell you.” 17 While he was yet speaking, there came another, and said, “The Chalde′ans formed three companies, and made a raid upon the camels and took them, and slew the servants with the edge of the sword; and I alone have escaped to tell you.” 18 While he was yet speaking, there came another, and said, “Your sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in their eldest brother’s house; 19 and behold, a great wind came across the wilderness, and struck the four corners of the house, and it fell upon the young people, and they are dead; and I alone have escaped to tell you.” 20 Then Job arose, and rent his robe, and shaved his head, and fell upon the ground, and worshiped. 21 And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return; the LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.” 22 In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong. (RSV)

It is amazing that Job doesn’t complain or freak out when he hears all of this bad news. Notice that each messenger hadn’t even quit speaking before the next one came in with even worse news.

Remember how bad news is said to come in threes? He got four. All at once. He didn’t even have time to recover from each blow before he received the next one.

Then he personally is afflicted with sores all over his body.

Job 2:9-10
9 Then his wife said to him, “Do you still hold fast your integrity? Curse God, and die.”10 But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips. (RSV)

He praises God and accepts what is given to him. What a model for “being in the now” It reminds me of the story of Jonah. He praised God while in the belly of the whale. While in the middle of a bad situation, he praised God. He didn’t say “If you get me out of this I’ll praise you.” He didn’t know if he was even going to get out of it. In fact, just before, he thought he was going to drown from being thrown overboard during a storm. Things weren’t great, but he was alive, having been rescued in an improbable way.

Job and Jonah teach us a lot about accepting where and how we are, just as we are.

Now is the time.

A coworker just died. His wife died about a month ago. He was young. They were both young.

He had been not taking care of himself for the past year, ever since she got sick. His blood pressure was high. He drank a lot of sodas and ate a lot of breakfast sandwiches. He ate fast food. He never took time to exercise.

He said that he used to take care of himself, but that he just didn’t have time now.

Now it is too late.

Pointless. Pointless. Pointless.

Such a waste of a life.

Jeff Russell was a good man. He was kind, caring, and funny. He could do any impression. He brought cookies and snacks for us all the time. He was good with the patrons. He was easygoing. He didn’t gossip or badmouth anybody.

And he suffered. He was quiet about his pain and his loss. He didn’t know how to handle life after his wife died.

He laid down because he wasn’t feeling well, and he didn’t wake up. His family thinks it was a heart attack.

His heart stopped. It was broken. His sadness filled him up and drowned him, and he died.

Now is the time. There is no other time to eat well, to exercise, to take care of yourself. There is no other time to rest, relax, and process your feelings. Now. Or never.

You have to build up your flame, or it will go out. You, and nobody else, can do this. You must do this.

Tomorrow doesn’t exist. Today is all you have. Use it well.

Shorts

Try not to take life personally.

Forgive yourself and others.

Keep trying.

You are never too old to be a child.

Childish and childlike are different things.

Don’t wait – tomorrow may never happen.

How you spend your days is how you spend your life.

Be mindful. Autopilot is for planes, not for people.

You are responsible for your own feelings – not anybody else’s.

Love is a better motivator than fear.

What you expect to see, you will see.

Poem – Sad birds

Not every baby bird
learns how to fly.

Not every story
has a storybook ending.

Sometimes the ending
is the ending
and not a beginning.

It is healthy to know this.

It is part of knowing
what is,
of accepting
the truth.

Sometimes people
can’t
won’t
don’t.

Sometimes things break
and stay broken.