Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Living in the Here and Now

Our pastor, who is on sabbatical, e-mails his flock occasionally with pictures and writings that would work well as a blog post, if he had a blog. It's an article relating a recent pondering, and the latest one was about living in the here and now, and not always so focused on preparing for the next thing that you don't fully realize and appreciate the beauty of life at this moment. It's kind of what a sabbatical is all about--refocusing, getting out of the hurry and the entanglements that come with everyday worklife.
I think we've all experienced events where we were so distracted by something in the past--some comment, maybe an insult or an embarrassment, a regret, a sorrow, an envy, a strife; or something about the future--a worry, any uncertainty--that we completely missed some treasure of the present. I remember a long period of time when I was so bitter at my mother-in-law that I remember more my own spitefulness than what she did to provoke it! I remember muttering to myself, arguing with Gary, and complaining to co-workers more than I remember any of the joys of that time (and it turned out she had Alzheimers'; besides, she wasn't a believer, so in two ways she wasn't fully capable of doing the optimum at any time)--those days are time lost to me, but I've learned from it how evil and undesirable bitterness is. We mutter and complain and rehearse our next clever retort as we weed the garden, and completely miss the warmth of the sun, the singing of the birds, and the budding of the flowers that all surround us; or our child says something priceless, or does a little dance or somersault in front of us, and though our eyes point in the right direction, we may as well be blind and deaf to it.
When you think about it, living in anything but the present takes many forms! When we're thinking about the future or the past, how can we focus on the moment we are experiencing, the here and now? Worry, bitterness, sorrow are all negative, damaging time stealers; so is taking pride in past successes. The Bible is replete with commands about these things. If we obey Jesus' advice, we free ourselves from the entanglements of worry and enable ourselves to serve Him like we can't if we're sinning by not entrusting our lives to Him. Paul relinquished those things from the past that he used to glory in (Phil. 3:4-11) and therefore was free to press on toward the upward call of Christ Jesus (Phil. 3:7-17).
All the world understands this concept, how wrapped up we are in other times that we miss the present pleasures and don't really live most of what time is given to us--yet it is impossible to get a perfect grasp on it, because it is time, and there is no one who can hold it. I looked up some quotes for you and myself; I tried to narrow them down, but I liked a lot of them. I wish I could claim that I found them in the actual sources (some of which I don't even recognize), the places where they were written, but...I didn't have the time. Ha! Some are wise and profound, and some are funny.

Time is a great teacher, but unfortunately it kills all its pupils. ~Louis Hector Berlioz

Let not the sands of time get in your lunch. ~Author Unknown

The past is a good place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there. ~Author Unknown

Time is an equal opportunity employer. Each human being has exactly the same number of hours and minutes every day. Rich people can't buy more hours. Scientists can't invent new minutes. And you can't save time to spend it on another day. Even so, time is amazingly fair and forgiving. No matter how much time you've wasted in the past, you still have an entire tomorrow. ~Denis Waitely

There are whole years for which I hope I'll never be cross-examined, for I could not give an alibi. ~Mignon McLaughlin, The Neurotic's Notebook, 1960

Time is the most undefinable yet paradoxical of things; the past is gone, the future is not come, and the present becomes the past even while we attempt to define it, and, like the flash of lightning, at once exists and expires. ~Charles Caleb Colton

Time is what we want most, but... what we use worst. ~Willaim Penn

It strikes! one, two,Three, four, five, six. Enough, enough, dear watch, Thy pulse hath beat enough. Now sleep and rest; Would thou could'st make the time to do so too; I'll wind thee up no more. ~Ben Jonson

Time is what prevents everything from happening at once. ~John Archibald Wheeler

Sometimes I feel that life is passing me by, not slowly either, but with ropes of steam and spark-spattered wheels and a hoarse roar of power or terror. It's passing, yet I'm the one who's doing all the moving. ~Martin Amis, Money

But what minutes! Count them by sensation, and not by calendars, and each moment is a day. ~Benjamin Disraeli

Old Time, that greatest and longest established spinner of all!.... his factory is a secret place, his work is noiseless, and his hands are mutes. ~Charles Dickens

Time, the cradle of hope.... Wisdom walks before it, opportunity with it, and repentance behind it: he that has made it his friend will have little to fear from his enemies, but he that has made it his enemy will have little to hope from his friends. ~Charles Caleb Colton

There is one kind of robber whom the law does not strike at, and who steals what is most precious to men: time. ~Napoleon I, Maxims, 1815

How long a minute is, depends on which side of the bathroom door you're on. ~Zall's Second Law

Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you. ~Carl Sandberg

What then is time? If no one asks me, I know what it is. If I wish to explain it to him who asks, I do not know. ~Saint Augustine

Watches are so named as a reminder - if you don't watch carefully what you do with your time, it will slip away from you. ~Drew Sirtors

Methinks I see the wanton hours flee, And as they pass, turn back and laugh at me.~George Villiers

Much may be done in those little shreds and patches of time which every day produces, and which most men throw away. ~Charles Caleb Colton

The Past is the textbook of tyrants; the Future the Bible of the Free. Those who are solely governed by the Past stand like Lot's wife, crystallized in the act of looking backward, and forever incapable of looking before. ~Herman Melville, White Jacket

No yesterdays are ever wasted for those who give themselves to today. ~Brendan Francis

People are always asking about the good old days. I say, why don't you say the good now days? ~Robert M. Young

We can easily manage if we will only take, each day, the burden appointed to it. But the load will be too heavy for us if we carry yesterday's burden over again today, and then add the burden of the morrow before we are required to bear it. ~John Newton

If you have one eye on yesterday, and one eye on tomorrow, you're going to be cockeyed today. ~Author Unknown

Forever is composed of nows. ~Emily Dickinson

Could we see when and where we are to meet again, we would be more tender when we bid our friends goodbye. ~Marie Louise De La Ramee

Trust no future, howe'er pleasant! Let the dead past bury its dead! Act, - act in the living Present Heart within and God o'erhead. ~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Psalm of Life

Children have neither past nor future; they enjoy the present, which very few of us do. ~Jean de la Bruyere

Let us not look back in anger, nor forward in fear, but around in awareness. ~James Thurber

We crucify ourselves between two thieves: regret for yesterday and fear of tomorrow. ~Fulton Oursler

Chasing the past, I stumbled into the future. ~T.A. Sachs

When I am anxious it is because I am living in the future. When I am depressed it is because I am living in the past. ~Author Unknown

The ability to be in the present moment is a major component of mental wellness. ~Abraham Maslow

One of the most tragic things I know about human nature is that all of us tend to put off living. We are all dreaming of some magical rose garden over the horizon - instead of enjoying the roses that are blooming outside our windows today. ~Dale Carnegie

I got the blues thinking of the future, so I left off and made some marmalade. It's amazing how it cheers one up to shred oranges and scrub the floor. ~D.H. Lawrence

Life's a journey, not a destination. ~Aerosmith

The best thing about the future is that it comes only one day at a time. ~Abraham Lincoln

There's a positive side to looking back as well as looking ahead. The only way we can redeem any of our part in the past is when we apologize and ask forgiveness for mistakes we have made, and to learn not to repeat them. We are told to remember the great things not that we have done, but that God has done (Deut. 8:10-20) to prepare ourselves for tomorrow. There's a balance, there's a focus. When we trouble ourselves anything other than the here and now in the negative, we're borrowing trouble from another time that doesn't truly exist for us. When we remember God's goodness and prepare and plan for proper stewardship of the future, we are improving our use of either the present or the future. That is a reasonable focus. I think we all could benefit from a mental sabbatical, from shedding the habits of getting caught in the negatives of another time, when that becomes a problem. Remember the freedom that comes with just existing in the present, and return to an unhindered enjoyment of it. What we have at this very moment is God's gift to every one of us, the only thing we can really put to use.
I got the quotes from

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