The Value of Ordinary Time in a War Torn World

Because I grew up Orthodox, the church calendar was a part of our rhythm of life. I remember always being upset when the Lenten purple ribbons and banners and vestments gave way to green: the season known as ordinary time. Green meant no more holidays. It meant no more “highs.” It meant boredom to a child.

One year, however, shortly after Pentecost, a priest gave a homily that I’ll never forgot. He told us about how ordinary time was supposed to be a season of life. That purple shifted to green to remind us of the grass and leaves — that new life springs forth. “The church calendar year includes ordinary time to remind us that we need periods of rest and simplicity,” he said. “A time to rest and reflect so that we can feel like we’ve really lived.”

I liked that. Perhaps that’s why I never forgot it. And as liturgy became important to me again this past year, I thought about how to pass that on to my children.

That’s why this summer, I went in with different intentions about how my kids were going to spend their time. Unlike years past, the summer days weren’t filled with teaching them about how to have a missional attitude toward the world, or preparing them for the next year ahead. Instead, this summer, I gave my kids the gift of intentional, plain, boring ole’ ordinary time.

I wanted them to have memories of wind blowing through their hair while flying down hills, peddling as fast as their little legs could take them. I wanted them to have giggles ringing in their ears as they drifted off to sleep of the time they spent with their cousins in a backyard pool. I wanted them to know what it felt like to have neighborhood kids sit at a picnic table while they guzzled down buckets of sugar- laden, homemade lemonade.

And I wanted them to have all of it because I don’t know where their life is going to take them. And selfishly, I wanted memories of snuggles and picnic blankets, fireflies and family bike rides, because I’m not quite sure where this world is going to take me, either.

I look at world news reports and local murder counts and I sigh with deep pangs of sadness. I watch as marriages crumble — marriages that really have no reason to fall apart, except that couples are bored, or disillusioned, or just downright selfish. I feel like my head is spinning as I hear young children teach me about the heartaches and sorrows that are well beyond their years. In the past year, I’ve had more than a couple of middle school children whisper thoughts of suicide to me in moments of utter despair.

But I don’t want to jump from the Lenten truths about suffering, to the “Come Lord Jesus” of Advent. I don’t want to wallow in the things that have died, or have anxiety about the days ahead.

I want to guard the time, while we have it, to think of the green. To appreciate the days in between rockets dropping and women and children being buried alive. I want to teach my kids how to take big gulps of air on the good days that will sustain them through the days ahead. I want to take daily bread from the Lord when He gives it, even if it looks ordinary.

Because ordinary is a beautiful thing. And it’s not promised for long. But it is our glimpse of what lies ahead. And that might not be so bad. Fireflies and community, weeping willows and still pools of water just may be what our dreams of Kingdom come look like anyway. Where not every day has to be a high, but it’s good just to not be in need.

Without Hearing God

My husband of nearly ten years has taught me more about God than perhaps anyone else in the world. What’s interesting about this fact is that my husband has never “heard” a word from God, received a “timely bible verse,” or been able to “see” or recognize God moving. I’ve asked him to write a guest blog about what his life is like as a committed believer who “feels”  absence from God, and yet, still believes. My hope is that those of you who have some sort of prophetic ability can understand those who do not, and that those of you who are like my husband can be encouraged by his vulnerability and honesty. ASIDE: Comments are moderated. I am unapologetic about this practice.

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Without Hearing God

Some of you reading this blog have a gift, in some way, for hearing God.  It may be a clear voice, or a clearly foreign thought that must be God, or a feeling, or a well-placed Bible verse that just so happens to apply to this situation, or a word from a friend who just-so-happened to know what was going on in your life.  It may just be knowing something is true without having any reason for knowing or believing it — except that it’s actually true.  This may just be what fuels your relationship with God, or what differentiates your relationship with God from someone else’s discipline of praying regularly.

Some of you; however, don’t have this experience.  Some of you, in fact, have just the opposite.  There is no clear voice, no feeling, no response to prayer.  There is nothing.  So what does this mean in regards to a relationship with God?  How does your relationship with God function if you don’t have this gift of hearing? If all of your words and actions and cries out to God are left unanswered?  If you go through life with no words, feelings, or any other input from God?

Because that’s my experience.

If, on a given day, I hear someone say that they can’t hear from God like they usually do, and it bothers them, I will have no compassion. Because that’s every day for me. And I long for real relationship with God.

And thinking about these questions leave me totally confused about what my relationship with God is supposed to be like.  To explain this to someone who doesn’t understand, I can only propose these questions to you:

What would you do with a friend that you talk to, you write to, you come over to see, you cook for, you call on the phone, and your friend responds with nothing? Never laughs at your jokes? Never empathizes with your troubles? Never offers advice when you beg for their input?  Never compliments you on your eggplant parmesan?  Nothing?  You wouldn’t call them a friend for long, I imagine.  And for good reason – there is no relationship.  By definition, without a past or present relationship, that person cannot be a friend.

But we are told the exact opposite about God.  We are told that He is our Father, our creator, counselor, comforter, protector, provider, and even friend.   He created us with the sole intention to have a relationship with us.  And that makes sense – what on earth can we offer God that he can’t offer himself in abundance?  Money?  Time?  Labor?  Leadership?  Talent?  Everything else we would try to offer is quite limited and quite short of perfect.  In contrast, though, imperfect relationship with imperfect beings leaves room for God to be a loving, creative mentor — to be all of the titles we’ve given Him.  Relationship seems to offer something to God. So, what are those of us who don’t “feel” or “hear” God doing wrong that we cannot have a real relationship with the most capable being in the Universe?

We are told that we can find him when we quiet our soul and listen, because we are too busy; and we are told to pray to Him, but forget to listen when we are done.  We are told to seek relationship by reading our Bibles.  It’s all well-intentioned, it just doesn’t work for me.

I believe in the Bible, wholeheartedly, but I have no memory of God speaking to me when I read, even when I read every day, in the same chair, at the same time.  I love being out in nature, and I can sit, quiet and alone, but when I wait for God to speak, he doesn’t.  Situations come up in life that demand action, and I have no gut feeling as to what is right and wrong, what is from God, and what is meant to tear us down.

So, I end up with feeling like I have no relationship with God.  What I do have is a small, but growing, understanding of how He operates and how his world runs, and a respect for Him as the One in control with the master plan who won’t forget us.  On occasion I get upset, but in general, I’m not bitter about this.  I just accept that this is my lot in life.  I build up my wisdom to get me through situations, I work on my strength to get me through hardships, and I trust He loves me in ways I can’t see.

I end up believing because my faith is not conditional whether He speaks or not. Sometimes the value is in believing He loves you, even if you’re not hearing Him say it.

-Tom