Jim Bishop | The pause that refreshes: Keeping pace with the human race

2008 is now another chapter in life’s annals.
Seems like just yesterday, I opened my 2008 Dave Barry desk calendar and put it in the space reserved for such important data/date managers on the kitchen counter. Now, I’m about to discard (actually, recycle) the plastic housing that held the sacred writ – and helped jumpstart each morning – as I ponder what 2009 may have in store.

One of the real blessings of my workplace is having the entire week off between Christmas and New Year’s Day. It wasn’t always this way, so I appreciate this brief respite, even though I’ll still do my weekly radio shows on WEMC-FM and WBTX and, ahem, this column.

This interlude gives opportunity to pause and reflect on what hath God wrought in the year swiftly wending its way to a close. It truly was among the more extraordinary, with many pleasant surprises and satisfactions – and a few less so.

We really don’t know, do we, what lies ahead, not even a few minutes distant from the present moment? At best, we see through a glass darkly, and it gets more complex with advancing age and bifocals.

One thing for certain: each academic year at my workplace moves faster than the previous one. I arrive at the end of another whirlwind semester, head spinning, with some unfinished tasks, and ask aloud, how did that happen?

The pace isn’t going to slacken anytime soon, even as it takes more energy and effort to achieve all I believe I need to do. But ultimately, I must acknowledge, it isn’t quantity but rather the quality of life that matters and counts for eternity.

In pausing to take stock of my life, I give thanks for people, events and those things deemed major accomplishments, without seeking praise or receiving more than fair recompense. Nonetheless, we all need a certain amount of affirmation to lift our spirits and gain incentive to help spur us on to higher ground. How unfortunate – those who rarely, if ever, receive words of appreciation and other gestures of encouragement. I resolve to offer more in this regard in the new year.

I’ve had numerous conversations, many of the sidewalk variety, in recent months, and a recurring theme is that those who appear most happy and content in the midst of the present economic upheaval are those who continue to enjoy the work they do (and are grateful for employment), actively pursue avocational interests, exercise regularly, eat sensibly, get adequate sleep, worship regularly, support charitable causes financially and personally and give top priority to maintaining good relationships with others and with their Creator. Acquiring more material goods? Ultimately, you can’t take those with you.

Most computer programs have a “refresh” icon. Click on it and in a few seconds whatever site I’m visiting or project I’m working on is reviewed and supposedly any recently-entered material is checked and “saved.” Undergoing a similar process in one’s life every so often is equally valuable.

Some years, I make a New Year’s resolution or two, other times not. I’m not inclined to do so if I recognize that the stated goal will have dissolved into the abyss of good intentions by February.

Well-meaning intent aside, each of us can enter into the new year with the same fresh slate, either with fear and frustration or with fresh resolve to maximize the same 24 hours of the day and night given us.

Author T. Alexander Anderson has said, “I have enough time to do all that I choose to do today.” He’s so annoyingly right.

So is poet-farmer-essayist Wendell Berry: “What I stand for is what I stand on.”

May each of us stand firm on a solid foundation of faith and plunge headlong into the great unknown, not recklessly but with determination and confidence, knowing who holds that future and wants to guide us with unswerving love that will not let us go.

 

– Column by Jim Bishop


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