As I write this, I am in the midst of a 7 day tour of Iowa as I interpret my ministry as a pastor in the Alaska United Methodist Church. I've got it down to a routine: 1) pull into town and take a picture of the church and courthouse (Iowa courthouses fascinate me); 2) unpack computer and make sure technology and handouts are ready to go; 3) consume too much good Iowa food; 4) present a slide show with accompanying observations, anecdotes and experiences concerning ministry in Alaska; 5) answer questions; 6) realize I have a small window to make the next appointment and pack everything up; 7) drive to next community and go back to step 1.
After several days of doing this two to three times per day I begin to forget what I've said to whom. Even worse is when I forget where I am. Referring to the church in which you're standing as 1st UMC of Chariton when it's actually 1st UMC of Clarinda is confusing to an audience and tends to call into question the verity of the rest of your presentation!
However the experience I had on Nov. 12 was even more disorienting. When I walked into the United Church of Manilla, IA - the church my parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and I attended (until I was 11) - I was greeted with words that called into question not where I was, but when I was. A woman who looked vaguely familiar came up to me and scanned me head to toe and said: "You're Gene and Marge Disburg's boy!"
It has been a long, long time since I've been described in terms of who my parents were. I then looked around the fellowship room and sanctuary which, like many small town/rural churches, have not changed much at all in 40 years. I saw the chancel where I had my first case of stage fright as I "recited my piece" for the Christmas pageant. I could see faces of folks long since gone as I wandered the pews. I sat in "Marge and Gene's" pew where my sister and I would kick and elbow each other until Mom separated us.
Being ushered back into the potluck where I relished recipes I hadn't experienced since I was a child, I sat down amidst a circle of cousins and my recently widowed uncle and listened to stories and experienced memories that transported me to different times in my life. Time became a very relative thing at that moment. When was I?
I was experiencing what Bible students learn is the difference between the two Greek words for "time" in the Bible: kairos and chronos. Chronos is the sense of precise time (it's 11:30 am on Nov. 13 as I write this). Kairos, often called "God's time," is not nearly as exact. Kairos is a sense of a season or a 'right' time (when an expectant mother announces "It's time!!" she's not referring the fact that it's 1 in the afternoon). In my life, it seems chronos always defeats kairos. I am a slave to the clock and weekly deadlines at the expense of those kairos moments in which I'm given over to the meaning of time in my life.
When the meal was over, it was time (chronos and kairos) for "Gene and Marge Disburg's boy, Dave and Joanie's brother, Grace and Leo's nephew" to be the guest speaker who's a "missionary preacher in Alaska." Back to the real world. But it was nice that, for a few moments, kairos defeated chronos and I was given the gift of a disorienting, yet meaningful, moment in which I asked myself, "When am I?"
Give yourself a gift: allow the kairos of your life to defeat chronos once in awhile. Let me know if you've asked yourself when you were.