It happens once a year around March. The NCAA Basketball tournament begins and there is enough basketball to make fans giddy with excitement. Brackets are filled out in anticipation of predicting the winners between games involving 68 teams (we now have ‘the first four’ as well as ‘the final four). It can be a lot of fun, especially if your team happens to be of those who got in.
It can also frustrating. Those of us who live in southwest Missouri and who are fans of Missouri State are enduring another disappointing end to an otherwise great season. The Bears won the regular season Missouri Valley Conference, only to fall by a few points to Indiana State in the finals of the conference tournament.
While this sort of news is cause for some degree of angst, it pales in comparison to another kind of madness going on in Japan. We all know by now that this nation was rocked by a 8.9 magnitude earthquake, the result being a devastation the Japanese haven’t seen since World War II. The images are startling, and there are aftershocks sure to come. There’s a sense of helplessness and awe while watching the waves from the tsuanami roll across their land. Cars, houses, boats, and debris are pushed across the countryside. It’s an incredible scene.
I’ve been factoring in the developments while taking part in our church’s Lenten emphasis called “You’ve got the time.” We’ve been encouraged to take part in a 40 day period of listening to the New Testament as a congregation. To be honest, there have been times that I’ve felt like I’ve been too busy to do this sort of activity. Who would have thought it would be so difficult to carve out 28 minutes a day to listen to the Scripture during the period of spiritual reflection?
I am not interested in “comparing calendars” because I know that so many have families, children, church, school, work, doctors’ visits and other things to fill up the white space on them. It can be a mind-boggling process of juggling all these activities, and it’s easy to be swept away by this tsunami of activity that we call life. Sometimes we can find ourselves actually bragging about how much more we have to do than somebody else.
Bill Wilson, a former pastor and president of the Center for Congregational Life, penned an article “Opinion: Life by the clock or life by the compass?” He talks about whether our lives are controlled by the demands of the clock, which is the American lifestyle, or are they prioritized by a spiritual direction and purpose. I found his words particularly helpful and timely, because the truth is that the temptation will always exist to see how much we can cram into a day. Nothing wrong with goal setting, but it’s tough to slow down and listen to what the Lord is saying to us.
Our church hosted the Judson University choir recently, and during their performance of on the students shared her story of how she came to Judson and what was going on in her life. She commented on Psalm 46:10 about “being still and knowing that I am God.” Her thoughts have stayed with me all week. She added, “I learned that God can’t be God for me, until I stop being God for myself.”
We need to mindful of our time, to “redeem the time.” But my hope is that we can utilize this Lenten season to recognize those things that are creating another kind of madness in our lives and replace them with more meaningful and holier endeavors.
I”m looking forward to another glorious Palm Sunday and Easter holy week, and will do my best to keep the madness connected to my bracket and not my brain.