Most of my days are organized around a schedule. Events, meetings, phone calls, and appointments cram some days or weeks more than others. Quiet days are a respite. Busy ones energize my spirit. And, until I found myself removed from the distraction of everyday life, I am not sure that I realized how busy my life has become in 2016.
Generally, my activities are good and fulfilling. I like the work I am called to do and am fully aware of how lucky I am to be able to write that. Not everyone likes their work or is comfortable in their calling. Meetings lead to new projects. I can sense God's presence in the church where I serve. Phone calls are opportunities to enter the journey with another person. Some events exist for unfortunate reasons, e.g. some fellow clergy and I have a template for organizing a prayer service after a mass shooting--the reason? We have had practice. Still, organizing and helping lead these services of healing after major catastrophes is humbling and part of my calling. It is my work, and I am thankful to God for calling me.
I have an acquaintance who tried to schedule a breakfast meeting with me. We looked at our calendars, until he referred the matter to his secretary. The secretary said he was unavailable for months. It seemed to be a not-so-subtle way of saying, "No thank you." Yet, it is possible that he really is that busy. If so, I pray to never be as inaccessible as him.
Time is a gift. Today, I am at a family gathering. I have no work-related books to read. My parents asked for my siblings and I to bring our families to a secluded spot so that we could have a vacation together. This was all they wanted to do to celebrate their 50th wedding anniversary. Here we are. We will be together all week.
After a wonderful dinner last night, we sat around and talked. This morning, we spent time at a beach, and this afternoon, different groups are doing different things. I found myself enjoying some quiet time, alone, and that's when I realized: time is a gift.
My family, parents, spouses, children--we have the gift of time together this week. But, there is more to it than just this week. Each person has the gift of time every, single day. Whether we choose to fill our schedules or not, the days and moments we have are gifts. According to the Gospel of Luke, Jesus tells a parable about a man who stores up treasures on earth. Then, God says, "You fool! This very night your life is ending. Who will get all these things you have gathered up?"
People have different priorities from one another. Some focus on themselves. Some focus on work. Some focus on friends. Some have superficial relationships, limited to social media, like Facebook. Some focus on money and material things. Recently, I saw a Facebook post in which a friend of mine felt unimportant when relating to someone who was rich. I commented: you are only unimportant if importance correlates to wealth.
At a party once, someone introduced me to a man and told him that I am a sailor. The man said, "I was just in Newport on a friend's boat..." He went on to describe the wonderful food they serve on their 130+ yacht. I asked, sincerely desiring to know, "How do you dock a boat that large?" Somewhat embarrassed, he explained that the crew took care of that. A super yacht might be appealing to some people, but I am thrilled to sail my 1985 29-foot Beneteau with my family and friends. And, I am well-aware that there are millions of people who cannot identify with owning a 29-foot boat.
In fact, there are over one billion people in dire poverty on this planet. They cannot identify with snacks, three meals per day, basic health care, working electricity, public education, and many more things I take for granted. They may not be able to conceive of recreational activities, like sailing, scuba diving, or anything else I enjoy. However, there is more to life than money.
Wealth is relative. When we make wealth the focus of our lives, we miss the joy of each day. We miss the joy of having a quiet moment, as I experience while writing this. We miss the joy of time with family. We miss out on the happiness that surrounds us each day. Instead of focusing on what we have missed or what we lack, let us be thankful for what we have. I keep a list called "Gratitude." Sometimes, I add to the list. Other times, I read it. In either case, holding on to bitterness, envy, and other negative emotions is more difficult when counting my blessings.
One of the greatest blessings is the gift of time. Each day is an opportunity to do something nice, make the world better, improve ourselves, pray, learn, and enjoy God's world. For me, I say, thank you God for today; thank you God for the gift of time.