Company Time

Do you have a love/hate relationship with time? I sure do! In the past, I’ve vacillated between boredom and wondering how to “kill” time, or stress and wondering how to “find” more time. When I was growing up, my mother set an excellent example for me. Even when she relaxed, it seemed that she was doing something constructive. She watched TV and ripped wrong stiches out of a dress she was making. She reserved a minuscule amount of time for reading just before going to bed. (I still think reading is more fun when I should be doing something else!) As a teen, I underlined multiple proverbs in my Bible, urging me to be diligent and imitate the busy ant. Mother’s message had reached my brain, although not always to my hands and feet.

By now you’ve probably guessed this post isn’t about having company over for dinner. But it’s not about time management, either. I started to write it in my head during the early months of the pandemic. At first time weighed heavy. With everything moving online, familiar activities such as church, Bible studies, and writers’ groups took less time.

Soon, though, I saw new needs around me and they filled much of that time. That was fine–up to a point. Sometimes they sucked me dry. Why did needs crop up when I felt the most tired?

Don’t get me wrong. I didn’t always follow the Holy Spirit’s promptings to respond to needs, although I usually tried.

A couple months ago, though, I just put my feet up and reclined with one basically frivolous mystery after another. For several days. I don’t binge watch TV, but I can binge read with the best of them. “I can do this. I’m retired,” I told myself.

Not!

I’m not retired from Kingdom service. I’m never “off the clock.”

Paul knew the struggle and challenged Timothy, “Never lose your sense of urgency, in season or out of season.” (2 Timothy 4:2, Phillips)

I’m no Paul–not even a Timothy–but their mission is my mission, so I’d often taken the challenge as my own. Now God had given me the chance to experience it on a new level.

I’m never “off the clock.” It’s always “company time.”

I accept the challenge. Lord, may I never lose my sense of urgency!

What about the “sucked dry” part, you ask? Don’t set yourself up for burnout!

Thankfully, the Kingdom works differently from our world. Jesus reminds us to work under his power, not ours, for real results. Paul had a thorn in his flesh to teach him to rely on Christ’s strength. “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” ( 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 NIV)

2 Corinthians 9:8 highlights this sufficiency so well: “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work.” ( NIV 1984; emphasis mine)

Don’t forget that the Kingdom provides for rest, as well. We serve the God who rested after He created. He cares for sparrows and offers us an easy yoke.

This rest is grace–a provision–not an entitlement. (Preaching to myself!)

I accept the “company time.” challenge! I’m not punching a time clock. How about you?

Preaching to Myself: 99 Sheep Syndrome

sheepI memorized Psalm 23 in Vacation Bible School when I was seven. In the King James Version, of course–that’s all we knew. I earned a plaque of the psalm, but the gift I appreciated the most at the time was a Barbie doll! In high school, our choir learned an anthem called The New 23rd. It was based on the Living Bible version, and it’s beautiful. So is the classic Scottish hymn I discovered later.

My point? I’ve known this beautiful psalm most of my life–almost too well.

Psalm 23 was paired with Luke 15:3-7 in a reading this morning, and I almost opted for another passage because of their familiarity.

I’m glad I didn’t. The two passages stewed in my heart along with yesterday’s sermon.

I don’t know if I’m sheep number twelve, or number ninety-nine. But in the story in Luke reference is made to The Ninety and Nine, I’ve called the syndrome I suffer from “the 99th Sheep Syndrome.”

A not-too-recent Sunday sermon was a rousing reminder of our primary mission as Christians: seeking the lost sheep, aka number one hundred. The pastor admitted that the destiny of those who don’t know Christ is a hard truth to swallow, and he even reminded us of ways we cope with the truth that those without Christ will be separated from God eternally, in hell: we ignore the truth, we try to rewrite it, we believe it but do nothing–or we do something about it.

I wander between the do-nothing believers and the doers. I think part of the problem is the fact that I sometimes suffer from 99th Sheep Syndrome! Much of the herd is right there with me, scampering and bleating around the shepherd’s feet. “Baa! Baa! Look at me! Feed me! Listen to me! Hold me!”

Maybe we 99 Sheep Syndrome sufferers forget that we’re supposedly seasoned, mature believers. We like to ride on the shepherd’s shoulders and be coddled and celebrated. (Here’s where the sheep analogy breaks down a bit. Hopefully, we’re not quite as dumb as sheep are reputed to be.) The reality is, though, that we really (should?!) know how to feed and care for ourselves. We shouldn’t require the constant care of our leaders and our Shepherd. We have work to do.

The wonderful news is this: because of Who our Shepherd is, He doesn’t need to look at us, attend to us, or know us more. He already knows us fully, inside and out. Attending to the 100th sheep doesn’t diminish His attention to us one iota! He never fails to provide banquets, streams, fresh green grass, and healing oil.

Assured of his completely adequate protection, we can stop our bleating and look at Him, attend to Him, and learn to know Him more!

He’s chosen us to help search for the lost sheep! When we do bleat, may it be, “Baa! Use me!” 

Preaching to myself today!