There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:

    a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,
    a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,
    a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance…

…He has made everything beautiful in its time.—Ecclesiastes 3:1-11

I don’t know if you noticed, but a few years ago time started moving faster.

For a long season of our lives, Carey and I lived on the Oregon Coast, raising our kids through their early childhood years.  First it was just Bailey, and then a couple of years later Claire came along, and pretty soon we couldn’t remember a time without Claire.  Then things were the same for a long time, and then Caleb came along, and then pretty soon we couldn’t remember a time without him.  Year after year we trick-or-treated, went to preschool and kindergarten Christmas programs and graduations, celebrated birthdays and other milestones, and life was relatively stable.  We knew the kids were changing little by little, but the change so was gradual that we didn’t pay much attention to it.

Of course, we were changing too, but that change was also subtle enough that it was easy to miss.  I played basketball on Tuesday and Thursday mornings at 6:00am every week for about seven or eight years, and when my body started showing signs of not wanting to do that anymore, I took up distance running instead.  I ran three times a week for another seven or eight years, and it felt like it would always go on that way.  Toward the end of that time, I started to notice that a certain hill near my house had inexplicably gotten steeper, but I didn’t think too much of it.

Our church was also relatively stable.  Early on we hired a youth pastor who became a good friend, then later a children’s ministry director who likewise became a good friend.  Soon it felt like we had always been doing ministry together.  Our wives and children became close, and we raised our families and served our church together year after year, enjoying traditions and routines that had become precious to us.  It felt like it would go on that way forever.

Then everything blew up.  First one of those families moved on to a new ministry.  Other good friends started moving away.  Then it was our turn.  God called us to Susanville, so we came.  COVID-19 struck the week we were leaving town, and so after 15 years at that church our goodbye party was a half-empty room of people who weren’t sure if they were supposed to be there or not.  We exchanged air-hugs with friends in the driveway and then we were gone.  We pulled into Susanville in the middle of a March snowstorm, and proceeded to live with my parents for the next four months, because our house in Oregon wouldn’t sell, because houses weren’t even being shown during the pandemic.  Finally, we got a place of our own.  At the end of the summer, I turned 45, which for some reason sounded a lot different than 44.  10 days later my father passed away, which was not only a time of real grief, but seriously altered our vision of what life would look like for us here.  A month after that I injured my knee and had to take a long break from doing the things I enjoy.  And just like that, everything about our lives was different.

That’s when time started to speed up.  Suddenly my girls were entering the teenage years.  When did that happen?  When I was finally able to return to running, I was noticeably slower than before, even after I got back into shape.  What was going on?  From there, things accelerated even more.  Carey started talking about how many summer vacations we had left before Bailey moved out.  What?  Then Carey needed glasses.  Then Bailey started driving.  Then I needed glasses.  Our friends started to look older, and some of them even turned 50, which, no matter how you spin it, is definitely not young.  We found ourselves having conversations about what life will be like when the kids are out of the house.  All of this took roughly a week and a half, and my head is still spinning.

On the Oregon Coast, the weather doesn’t change all that much, it just rains slightly more or less at different times of the year.  In Susanville, the seasons are much more obvious: hot summers, cold winters, and short but beautiful springs and falls.  You can’t ignore the passage of time in a place like this.  And because time has sped up so much lately, the seasons come and go relatively quickly.  I hear people complain about being tired of winter and the cold, but it doesn’t bother me, because pretty soon it will be spring, and before you know it you’ll be complaining that summer is too hot.  You might as well enjoy the season you’re in.

On the church calendar, we have a few things during the year that require us as a staff to be preparing well in advance.  Toward the end of summer, we start making plans for our annual business meeting in the fall.  Budgets and leadership positions and all of that.  Then when that’s over, it’s time to get serious about preparations for Christmas.  Then after the holidays, you’d better catch your breath while you can, because Easter is coming.  After Easter, it’s all hands on deck for Vacation Bible School, and then it’s summer, when I squeeze in as much kayaking and backpacking as I can, because I know that in a few short days it will be late August, and it starts all over again, only a little faster this time.

If we’re not careful, we’re always preparing, always looking ahead, and never enjoying the moment.  I’ve learned that’s my natural tendency, and I know God wants to teach me to be more present with the people and things He has placed in my life right now.  It’s hard, because there is always a sermon or a lesson to prepare, but I know that time is speeding up for everyone around me too, and I don’t want us to miss each other.  I think back to those precious days when my kids were young, and wonder if I would have done anything differently if I’d been more aware of the fact that it was just a season.  Now that the seasons are shorter, the stakes are even higher.  I don’t want to be caught by surprise by the relentless passage of time.  I want to love people well and make the most of these days, because one day I will look back on them and realize they were precious too.

This week, resist the temptation to always be looking to the future.  And don’t spend all your time complaining about the way things are, which unfortunately comes too naturally to our sinful flesh.  Instead, think about the opportunities you have right now to love God and others in ways you may not be able to do in the future.  You might as well enjoy the season you’re in.

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