the rhythm of life

Three days and counting… 

(Spoken in monotonous voice with foreign accent, in the style of countdowns in old Bond movies)

It’s amazing how much we live by routines. There is a rhythm to our daily, weekly and monthly lives that shapes what we do and enables us to live. The obvious things are meals and sleep, work and leisure, weekdays and weekends, even things as mundane as paydays (or pension / benefit days). There’s a song from the musical ‘Sweet Charity’ that talks about the Rhythm of Life which we are attempting to sing in our gospel singing group at our church. I had not come across it until we started singing it but I am really enjoying it. One of the things about the arrangement we are singing is that there is a relentless beat that goes through it in the main part of the song and then there are sudden changes of tempo. To me that reflects our lives – a relentless beat punctuated by changes in tempo.

That’s one of the messages I find in Genesis as we see creativity and activity in a driving rhythm that then changes into a slow relaxation on the seventh day. I am not someone who holds strictly that we should not work on Sundays (it would put me out of work for a start!) but I do feel that it is very important that we have at least one day in seven when we change pace and relax.

There’s another famous passage in the Bible that has a relentless rhythm to it – Ecclesiastes 3:

1 There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven:

2 a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot,

3 a time to kill and a time to heal, a time to tear down and a time to build,

4 a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance,

5 a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them, a time to embrace and a time to refrain,

6 a time to search and a time to give up, a time to keep and a time to throw away,

7 a time to tear and a time to mend, a time to be silent and a time to speak,

8 a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace.

9 What does the worker gain from his toil? 10 I have seen the burden God has laid on men. 11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end. 12 I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live. 13 That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in all his toil—this is the gift of God. 14 I know that everything God does will endure forever; nothing can be added to it and nothing taken from it. God does it so that men will revere him.

It was made famous by the song ‘Turn, turn, turn’ sung by the Byrds. But rather than being a beautiful poem about the rhythm of life I see it as one person’s reflection on the relentless and hectic lives that we lead and which ultimately are fruitless if that’s all there is to life. It is only when we see things from God’s eternal perspective and bring that into our daily living that we can make sense of things. We do not live to work, we work to find satisfaction in our creativity just as God did in Genesis.

newly discovered chapter in the Book of Genesis has provided the answer to “Where do pets come from?” Adam said, “Lord, when I was in the garden, you walked with me everyday. Now I do not see you anymore. I am lonely here and it is difficult for me to remember how much you love me.”

And God said, “No problem! I will create a companion for you that will be with you forever and who will be a reflection of my love for you, so that you will love me even when you cannot see me. Regardless of how selfish or childish or unlovable you may be, this new companion will accept you as you are and will love you as I do, in spite of yourself.”

And God created a new animal to be a companion for Adam. And it was a good animal. And God was pleased. And the new animal was pleased to be with Adam and he wagged his tail. And Adam said, “Lord, I have already named all the animals in the Kingdom and I cannot think of a name for this new animal.”

And God said, “No problem! Because I have created this new animal to be a reflection of my love for you, his name will be a reflection of my own name, and you will call him DOG.”

And Dog lived with Adam and was a companion to him and loved him. And Adam was comforted. And God was pleased. And Dog was content and wagged his tail.

After a while, it came to pass that Adam’s guardian angel came to the Lord and said, “Lord, Adam has become filled with pride. He struts and preens like a peacock and he believes he is worthy of adoration. Dog has indeed taught him that he is loved, but perhaps too well.”

And the Lord said, “No problem! I will create for him a companion who will be with him forever and who will see him as he is. The companion will remind him of his limitations, so he will know that he is not always worthy of adoration.”

And God created CAT to be a companion to Adam. And Cat would not obey Adam. And when Adam gazed into Cat’s eyes, he was reminded that he was not the supreme being. And Adam learned humility.

And God was pleased.

And Adam was greatly improved. 
And Dog was happy.
And the Cat didn’t give a hoot one way or the other.

>Noises off


What can you hear from where you are right now? I can hear one of my children playing Quidditch (on the Playstation) and the other watching TV. I can hear the click clack of my fingers hitting the keys of my keyboard as I type. I can hear the ticking of a clock I was given when I left Didcot. I can hear the washing machine turning relentlessly in a vain effort to keep up with the unstoppable flow of dirty clothes generated by this family. I can hear the creaking of the chair on which I am sitting. I can almost hear the cogs turning slowly in my head as I try to kick start my brain for the day ahead.

I don’t often stop like that and listen. It is an interesting exercise because now I am very much aware of all of the activity around me. While I am shut in my study, seemingly isolated from the rest of the world, there is activity all around me: I am not alone.

It’s a helpful reminder to me that I am never alone. I have God’s Spirit with me always – guiding, encouraging, prompting, nurturing, wooing, blessing, enlightening, challenging, informing, inspiring, giving, braking, loving, reassuring, growing, speaking, listening, cultivating, empowering, filling, answering, refreshing, exploring, amusing, provoking, leading, wondering, accompanying, suffering, sharing, reminding, interpreting, guarding, strengthening, breathing, acting, humouring… it’s a good thing he doesn’t get tired!

I have sometimes used an illustration where I take a large jar and put marbles in it representing different aspects of our lives (eating, sleeping, watching TV, school, work…) until the jar is full. When people agree that the jar is full I take a jug of water and pour it into the jar. It fills the gaps and surrounds all the marbles. There is space for a lot of water. I suggest that this is what God wants to do in our lives, to be involved in every aspect of what we say and do. This is similar to the following wise words:

A philosophy professor stood before his class and had some items in front of him. When the class began, wordlessly he picked up a large empty mayonnaise jar and proceeded to fill it with rocks, rocks about 2″ in diameter. He then asked the students if the jar was full? They agreed that it was.
So the professor then picked up a box of small pebbles and poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly. The pebbles, of course, rolled into the open areas between the rocks. He then asked the students again if the jar was full. They agreed it was.
The students laughed. The professor picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. Of course, the sand filled up everything else. “Now,” said the professor, “I want you to recognise that this is your life. The rocks are the important things – your family, your partner, your health, your children – things that if everything else was lost and only they remained, your life would still be full. The pebbles are the other things that matter like your job, your house, your car. The sand is everything else. The small stuff.”
“If you put the sand into the jar first, there is no room for the pebbles or the rocks. The same goes for your life. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are important to you.
Pay attention to the things that are critical to your happiness. Play with your children. Take time to get medical checkups. Take your partner out dancing. There will always be time to go to work, clean the house, give a dinner party and fix the disposal.” 

“Take care of the rocks first – the things that really matter. Set your priorities. The rest is just sand.” 

But then…
A student then took the jar which the other students and the professor agreed was full, and proceeded to pour in a glass of beer. Of course the beer filled the remaining spaces within the jar making the jar truly full.
The moral of this tale is:
– that no matter how full your life is, there is always room for BEER