Time: Take or Make?

Time: Take or Make?

Years ago, I served as interim pastor to a large international church in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. Among many joys that came with this assignment was the opportunity to meet and become acquainted with my Dutch heritage and extended family. I met my second cousin, Henriette, who is an artist and we spent hours talking about the creative process. One day, while visiting the birthplace of my grandfather, Henriette suggested that we photograph the two of us standing in front of our ancestral home. She said, “Let’s make a picture.”

The phrase “make a picture” struck me. In the United States, we say “let’s take a picture.” In Europe, I learned, people “make” pictures. The difference may say more about us than we would like to admit.

The word “make” is generative and creative, it implies collaboration. When Henriette said, “Let’s make a picture,” she was inviting me to give as well as receive, to join a shared process, co-creating a mutual memory. Making the picture united us in art and action. The photo, like our relationship, became ours, not mine or hers alone.

When you and I say, “Let’s take a picture” we assume we mean the same thing, but I wonder. Take communicates a different sentiment. Take is possessive, implies solitary action, maybe even some coercion or control, not collaboration. Synonyms for take include grab, seize and steal. Think about those family photos that capture people frowning at the lens because they did not want their picture “taken.” When I was a child, I heard missionaries tell stories about native people believing photographs took some spiritual essence from them. Perhaps they were right.

In my last article, we began contrasting busyness with diligence. Busyness is about taking. Diligence is about making.

Paul’s words, “Have this mind in you which was also in Christ Jesus,” invites us into a generative, not possessive process. He describes Jesus who, “though in the very form of God did not consider equality with God something to be grasped.” It is a call to surrender and commitment to service following the example of Jesus.

Busyness consumes time. I must control my time even if that means forcing my demands on you. Busyness is about tasks and outcomes, not art or beauty. Leaders are to exercise their gift with diligence. The virtue, diligence, is close to mindfulness and stands in contrast to busyness. Diligence begins with the understanding that my thoughts are not Jesus’ thoughts. My time is not his time. My urgency is not his urgency. My values may be very different from the values of Jesus. Thus, diligence invites Jesus’ presence to rewire my mind toward self-emptying love and self-sacrificing service.

So, how does this happen? How do I move from taking to making?

Paul describes mindfulness as a disposition of character, a comprehensive way of thinking, feeling and acting that, like all organic change, usually starts small.

Beginning new each day
Diligence is a daily discipline that makes each day new, without regret for yesterday or worry about tomorrow. “This is the day the Lord has made.” Each morning I begin proclaiming, “Jesus is Lord,” reminding myself that I am not. The Creator’s work is re-creation. My response is to, “rejoice and be glad.” This is often best expressed in song, like my wake alarm that is always set to “Give me Jesus” sung by Fernando Ortega.
In the morning, when I rise
In the morning, when I rise
In the morning, when I rise
Give me Jesus

Turning busyness to mindfulness begins with asking God to, “Tune my heart, Lord, to sing thy grace.”

Engaging the work
Praise moves to reverent submission. “Speak, Lord, and teach me to listen.” The day’s first task is not thinking or list-making or planning. The first task is asking and listening for God’s voice, “Today if you hear God’s voice, do not harden your hearts.” How quickly my day goes wrong when I wake with worry and fail to ask God’s direction.

Like busyness, diligence may require many hours on difficult tasks. But the metrics are different. My need for accomplishment and control can mistake busyness for diligence. “If I am busy,” Busyness tells me, “than I am productive. So, the busier I am, the more productive I will be.” Track this logic very far and you will soon be slave to the clock, chasing people instead of following Jesus. This road leads to pride, “Look what I’ve accomplished, Lord!” or futility and exhaustion, “There are just not enough hours in the day!” Mindfulness orders the day by Kingdom ideals:

“Continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.”

Ending the day
End the day the same way you began, with praise that Jesus is Lord, giving thanks for grace fulfilled and, when needed, humble confession for grace neglected. Ask God’s care and keeping through the night hours that you may wake afresh for a new day.

God invites you to mindfulness, saying, “Let’s make a picture.”

–Jim Van Yperen

Philippians 2
1 Corinthians 12
Psalm 118:24
Words to Hymn, Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing
Psalm 95:8; Hebrews 3:15
Philippians 2