Of Time and Hearts

I promised to write the explanation of the story of Ruth, and I have. But I am still not satisfied with it. So I’ll try for next week and post what I presented at church last week. It surprised even me.

When the pastor asked if I wanted to take one of his vacation speaking spots, I was honored and excited. Especially since he had already asked me to deliver one of the talks I gave at The Character of God Conference last year. But this one was going to be a ten-minute follow up to a teen talk. He has been featuring teen speakers all summer. I was excited because it would give me an opportunity to do a shorter, less-important talk and get comfortable with my own congregation–always a harder crowd. And the topic was time–as in how we use time.

But when I started, it went somewhere I wasn’t expecting:

As the head elder at this church I had finally gotten myself into a rhythm of spending time with each elder, and then suddenly, I wasn’t. I went on vacation and just couldn’t get back in the groove. It’s all about time management–some of us are good at it, and some of us aren’t. But it is the gift we all have. How do I choose to spend time?

When I started to write this talk, for some reason my first thought was about pretests and post-tests. I used to be a high school English teacher, and educators then were pushing us to pretest, teach and post-test to see if you were effective. I didn’t like it then, so I was surprised  my mind went there. But since I’d asked God for help, I honored it. And here is your pretest.

  1. Generally speaking, how you choose to spend time tells who and what you value. T F
  2. Name two people in Jesus life who spent as much time with him as possible.
  3. On a scale of 1-10 how would you rate your relationship with God? (1=I pray every day; 10=I spend an hour + alone with God every day)

I started reading the Bible every day in high school because I was on a Bible Quiz Team. It was great fun and they encouraged us to keep up by reading every day instead of cramming before the meets.

In college I don’t really remember how I maintained a relationship with God. It was a hard time. I was overloaded with work and school. But I’m sure I stayed connected because I was miserable.

During my first job after college I was teaching at the California Women’s Prison, and was impressed with my need for a regular time with God. So I made a schedule to fit in ten minutes reading and praying in the morning. I was raised in church, but that year I experienced God’s love and understood that I didn’t have to be good for God to love me, and I began a real relationship with God.

During that year I made friends with a woman who became my surrogate mom, and she shared that her pastor had said point blank in a sermon that unless you were spending time with Jesus every day, you shouldn’t call yourself a Christian! She was shocked by that, and started reading the book The Desire of Ages, on Jesus life, every morning. That impressed me, and I felt the need for more time also.

So I started spending an hour after I got home from work. I couldn’t talk to myself about it or I would talk myself out of it.  I started saying, “There is nothing you have to do that’s more important right now!” It became a discipline, and looking back, it shows God’s graciousness. Because a year after that I had the hardest year of teaching ever. Plus that summer my little brother and his family were killed in a car accident.  I really needed that relationship with God.

For 25 years it was a discipline I maintained with Bible reading and journaling. The year before a faith venture of opening a tiny natural food restaurant by a lake in Minnesota, I was spending three hours a day, and it was rich. I saw lots of miracles.

Currently I generally spend two hours in the morning. The pastor shared a study with me, showing that it takes 50 hours to develop an acquaintance, 90 hours to make a friend, and 200 hours to have a confidant.

For the last five to ten years God has been teaching me how to just BE with Him. How to let Him make my discipline into a relationship with Them. (I think and write of God as Three persons who fill one position: Abba, Jesus and Ruach.)

It was my intention to talk about Mary and Martha. But it turned into Mary and Judas. The two in your pretest were Mary and John. Did you get that? They spent every moment they could right next to him. John had a terrible temper, but his heart was open. Mary was a prostitute, and Jesus was probably the first man she ever loved. I was thinking its all about time spent–the choice, the discipline. Mary would drop everything, to sit and listen to Jesus.

But as I was thinking through this with Ruach, I suddenly realized that Judas was with Jesus daily for two years! And he chose it! But why?

Perhaps it was his father, Simon’s idea. (John 13:2 ) Simon was a Pharisee who had been healed of leprosy by Jesus. (Mark 14:3) But while he was grateful, he wasn’t a follower until that fateful banquet he gave to honor Jesus. The one when Jesus kindly confronted him about what he had done to Mary. The banquet where Mary accidentally upstaged them with the spikenard, was when Judas got so upset at Jesus’ kindness to her that he went out and made arrangements to betray Jesus.  Simon was grateful that Jesus didn’t expose him, and was converted by Jesus’ kindness  that night, but his son was not.

Judas was a scribe, and maybe his dad Simon had urged him to go and become one of Jesus’ disciples to quietly show his gratitude. Judas prided himself on his ability. He was bright and well-educated. He wanted to be there when Jesus declared himself Messiah and king. In fact, he would help him set it up, even push him into it. But with all that time in Jesus’ presence, Judas never trusted Jesus. He always thought he knew better than Jesus. He didn’t respect Jesus’ kindness with his cousin, Mary. He didn’t love Jesus. He was there for what he could get. Or perhaps he was pleasing his dad.

But how could he spend every day for two years in the very presence of pure love and not be changed? Sometimes his heart warmed and he wanted to open up and be drawn to Jesus, he just wouldn’t give himself permission. He held back. His heart hardened. He criticized Jesus. He hardened more.

Judas never opened his heart. He never surrendered, was never  renewed. He didn’t let Jesus love him. Judas killed himself the same day Jesus was crucified. Poor Simon lost his son and his new lord on the same day!

Do you spend time with Jesus? What for? Discipline is a good thing. Starting with just a choice and no feeling is fine. And if you can’t give yourself, can’t open your heart because it’s become hard, that’s ok, you can still choose. Choosing is the strongest power in the universe, because God will never force you to have a relationship with Them. But you can ask God to make you want a relationship, to give you a new heart, a soft heart that can love. I’ve had to do that at different times. They love to oblige.

So now your post-test is to honestly write the number between 1 and 10 that shows your choice to invest in a relationship with God.

It’s important. Because this life is all about choices, time, and open hearts. Joy comes from God’s presence.

Jesus said something that summarized Judas’ life in Matthew 16:25, “The man who cares for his own safety is lost, but the man who will let himself be lost for my sake (love, trust, authenticity) that man will find his true self.” (NEB)







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