Time is of the Essence

Time is factored into everything. And it seems that everything can be factored into time.

Photo by Cliff Johnson on Unsplash

In our work and our play, time is a consideration.

The statement that “time is of the essence” has its origin in contract law. Those five words carry a heavy weight. They say, “There is no margin for error when it comes to time. Even a little late breaches this contract.”

You may know people who live their lives as if time is of the essence. We find them to be remarkable and stable and champions of both professional and personal relationships. They’re the ones toiling in the sun who pause to lean on their shovel to chat. They’re the ones who stop, even in the middle of the most tedious task, and make room for you to sit for awhile.

Oddly, those who truly seem to make time the essence of their lives are the ones who seem to be unaware of time.

I’ve become lost in stories where the author describes an experience as timeless. It’s not, of course. But it seems that way because of the focus in the moment. Our attention is shifted away from the demands of life to honor the sanctity of relationship or beauty or calm.

Holy scripture teaches that finding God is best achieved in timeless moments. It is in those precious intervals that He unlocks the secrets of time and servant opportunity. And therein is the essence of living life as it was intended.

The Noises We Make

My gym workouts aren’t as frequent as they were just a few months ago. Travel, distraction, and a bit of injury have cut into my routine. So I was pleased this morning to be back at my Abilene gym. I even checked-in there on Facebook to enter one of the constant contests underway. It was early and quiet. The noises I heard were limited to the music from my earbuds and the muted thudding of my trainers on the treadmill.


Photo credit: Bruno Nascimento/unsplash.com

And then, I heard it.  A sharp cry. And then again. Over time, the brief outbursts morphed into a grunting sound. The noises made as hernias are created.

I looked back for a moment to see a man half my age sitting on one of the nearby weight stack machines. In that instant I could tell he was new to the machine. His form was wrong, the seat was in a bad position, and, from the agony on his face, it appeared that he was attempting too much weight. And so the grunting continued, interrupting my music and my concentration.

I hear a lot of noises at the gym. Half-conversations from people on cell phones who somehow think we can’t listen in. Sounds of machines moving alongside human body parts. Weights dropped by those who believe that such behavior makes them somewhat akin to Conan, the Barbarian. Conversations among friends about sports and relationships and politics. One guy even talks to himself — constantly. He says those things a trainer might say to a client. “You can do it! Two more! DO YOU REALLY WANT THIS??!!” And then, there are those exertion noises like the ones I heard this morning.

I wonder what noises I make. Not just in the gym, but at the office, at home, and in my community. What are the noises that people hear when they think of me?

As we continue to seek a level of equillibrium following a rocky political campaign and as we move now into a period of a new normalcy in regard to our political leadership, I find myself being more and more aware of the noises people are making. We have seen protests. We have heard exasperation from those who don’t like the protests. We have seen individuals choose to fall quiet, to slip on the sneakers of self-preservation and steal away into the shadows.

I have heard good and bad noises during this time. Some are expected and even welcomed. A few are surprising, revealing underlying anxiety that had been previously hidden. And some are like those from the gym this morning — explosive outbursts indicating a lack of forethought and preparation . . . sure signs of pending internal and external damage.

Perhaps in life, as in exercise, attention to the noises we make can serve as a governor to our choices and our well-being — and to our influence as leaders and people of faith.

Voting Early

fear and relief in one action

People are rushing to the polls and voting early.  They’re driven by fear and seeking relief.

It’s not so much the same fear that has driven so much of this political season — the fear of others, the fear of loss to entitlement. It’s the fear that yet something else will be revealed about one or both of the major party candidates that will give the voters pause on their electoral decision. It’s a fear of being forced to wade back through the grit and the slime that has dominated this presidential race.

And it’s not really relief about the candidate they’ve chosen and the job he or she will do. There is that, of course. But it is a relief from doing what can be done and letting the rest of it go. It’s a relief to know that our personal role in this entire debacle is coming to a turn in the road.

Now that we’re done voting early, it’s time to take that turn on move on. There will be things to do. For one thing, we all have to come together to find a new source of leadership. This, what we have, has proven unworkable — regardless of how you vote or which party you claim.

Yes, your fear is subsiding and you feel some relief from voting early. But it’s time to get up and move toward something better. History repeats itself. People have been in worse spots before. And they have emerged, fearless and calm. Shall we ?

And Now, for a non-political, Political Announcement

I’ve been wading through the issues in this political season trying to decide my vote for president. Not once have I ever leaned toward Mr. Trump. I tried to listen. I tried to make this election about the political issues and ignore the non-political. But I can’t. Because at some point, the non-political elements will become political.

For all those, including some dear friends, who have tried to justify what Mr. Trump says and how he acts, I have just accepted the fact that you and I are in far different places.

Some may even challenge me over the question of grace. Doesn’t it mean anything to you that Mr. Trump apologized and that he says he’s a changed man? they will ask.

First, a non-apology (a statement that sounds like an apology but that is worded to place blame on those who were hurt or offended) is not an apology. Remember, Mr. Trump is the one who told us that he has no need for forgiveness. I have not heard a genuine apology yet. (He’s only on version 2 of his apology as of the writing of this post, so perhaps he’ll improve.)

Second, I’ve heard a lot of locker room talk and locker room talkers over my lifetime. That’s what Mr. Trump says this is — just locker room talk. Locker room talk is not ok.

The inner compass of locker room talkers does not change when they’re not in the locker room. They still objectify people, start rumors, cast blame on others and avoid taking responsibility. They just shift to a more subtle and, some would say, more acceptable mode. I believe Mr. Trump truly feels that he has made some major changes only because he has changed his language for the public. That’s applaudable, but not my primary concern.

Mr. Trump is still a locker room talker. It’s classic bully positioning. He must make others look bad and show his power over them because of his own lack of self esteem. If that means inciting racial violence by espousing white supremacy or trying to downplay the mistreatment of women, he knows no boundaries. And talking has a bidirectional element to it. Talking can reveal our inner selves and it can also mold our inner selves.

Mr. Trump has openly admitted that he has behaved badly. His language and demeanor almost guarantees there is more bad behavior to come.

For non-political reasons, I will never vote for Mr. Trump. For those of you who believe you can, just remember that non-political reasons transform themselves into political realities for us all. This will not make America great.


NEAT Communication – Timely

In this series of posts on NEAT Communication, we have looked at essential elements in seeking true understanding and promoting dialog. Necessary – Effective – Accurate – and now Timely.*

As a young boy, I was fascinated with performance. For a good number of years, I regularly prayed that God would bring me talent — singing, playing an instrument, sports. It really didn’t matter what, I simply wanted to be recognized for something. In answer to my prayers, God wiped out my singing voice (I was a remarkable soprano until puberty), provided me with a notable void in musical ability (although I did do a little drumming over the years), and made me short, slow, and generally uncoordinated. Seriously, I couldn’t have had a richer blessing.

As I dealt with the disappointments of non-achievement in those areas I felt certain would bring me fame, I was allowed to stretch and exercise some other gifts. Reading, writing, speaking. I still longed to be a performer, however. And, I believed that my niche would be humor. Back in the day, many of the main-line comedians produced clean acts that were recorded on long-playing (LP) records (that’s vinyl, for those of you who are just now discovering the ways of the past). I would sit and listen to these folks for hours and memorize their routines.

I did realize that I would go nowhere simply by doing their routines. The gift of the comedian was her or his ability to see life and see the humor that naturally bubbles up and to tell their personal stories. It was this experience that propelled me into the world of storytelling.

I never really became a master of storytelling. But, I did discover something important as I made the attempt.

Timing is everything.

memes-009Basically, to be a strong communicator, you have to balance the attributes of patience and assertiveness. You have to know when to say something — not too soon and not too late. In conflict management, we talk about the importance of timeliness in terms of “ripeness.” If a conflict is not ripe — if it’s green, no one wants to deal with it. If it’s over-ripe, there’s not much you can do with it.

Communication is like that. How often have you heard it said that a warning was given, but it went unheeded because it wasn’t timely? And we all know that a warning given after the fact, has no value.

For communication to be valuable, it must be timely. And that timeliness requires us to be vigilant, patient, and assertive.

* Just in case you wondered, yes, I find it ironic — and humorous —  that this post on timeliness is appearing over 5 months after the previous one in the series. Hardly a timely thing, this.