Friday, July 22, 2016

Ordinary Time

The rain kept up a steady rhythm throughout the night, causing my thoughts to wander toward the approaching fall. Ordinarily, fall is my favorite time of year. Back to school excitement, new books, sharpened pencils, blank pages waiting to be filled.

This year is more uncertain. We haven't determined for sure how or where our children will be educated. Much of this depends on my own work schedule; we may be entering a new season in which my work hours will extend beyond the home in different ways. Am I preparing to home school, or am I preparing to branch out? Am I looking for the yellow Ticonderoga pencils in our school room, or am I looking for the yellow bus down the road? I don't know.

It was this uncertainty that relentlessly pushed itself to the front of my mind as I circled the pond this morning. Toward what am I walking this fall? Again, I don't know.

Even the pond felt uncertain, awkward, and ordinary today. Not quite summer, not quite fall. The landscape workers contributed to the tedium. A steady drone of weed-eaters reminded me that time marches on and there is work to be done, even if we don't always know the object toward which we are working.

A disassembled fence, dusty lupine, rain drenched grasses . . . all so ordinary.

I'm currently reading Christie Purifoy's lovely, lyrical memoir, Roots and Sky. She devotes a thought-provoking chapter to the church calendar's season called "Ordinary Time." This is a time unmarked by the more "exciting" events such as Advent or Lent. These are the ordinary days -- not ordinary as in plain, but ordinary as in ordinal, or "ordered." One day falling after another.

Interestingly, the book I've just finished, Emily Freeman's Simply Tuesday, also devotes a section to this idea of Ordinary Time. Freeman writes, "to learn to live well in Ordinary Time is to keep company with Christ on our simple Tuesdays and remember how He delights in keeping company with us."

I long to be faithful in this time, whether it's uncertain, ordinary, awkward, or celebratory. Lately, my morning Bible reading has taken me to the book of Esther. Today I was reminded that "these days should be remembered." (9:28) The context refers to Purim, and therefore "these days" were marked for God's people by celebration, feasting and joy. But shouldn't also these ordinary days be remembered? For God is with us -- God is Emanuel -- whether we find ourselves in Advent or Ordinary Time.

The last bend of the pond path is often ordinary. Drying grasses bent by their own weight, decaying bushes giving up the last of their blossoms. But this morning, one stretch was marked by something slightly out of the ordinary. A cluster of Queen Anne's lace bowed before me, scepters stretching across the path. My mind went back to Esther, to King Xerxes extending his scepter before Queen Esther. She boldly approached the king at Mordecai's request: "Urge her to go into the king's presence . . . ." (4:8) She approached, and her people were blessed.

Surely it is no ordinary thing to come before a king. Yet I am invited to do so every day. The scepter was extended long ago, and there it remains. I am urged -- yes even warmly beckoned -- to go into the King's presence. And this makes any time -- ordinary or uncertain as it may be -- a holy time to be remembered.

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