Friday, May 18, 2018

The Order of Time

Not long ago, our family spent about a week or so in La Jolla, near San Diego, for Spring Break.  While we sat by the beach and watched the waves lap upon the shore, it quite literally seemed, for that moment, as if - time stood still.

And as it turns out, according to a recent book by Physicist Carlo Rovelli, in actual scientific terms, that might have in fact been the case.  In his new book, "The Order of Time," Rovelli, surmises that time actually moves faster on the tops of mountains than it does near the flatlands, or ocean.  New clocks have been developed, using nuclear magnetic imaging, which make it possible to detect these finite differences in time.  The concept is an extension of Einstein's theory of the relativity of time, that time responds to the gravitational pull of large masses.  The earth is a large mass.  The closer that a clock, or a person for that matter, is to the earth, the slower time moves.  In very real terms, a person who lives near the ocean ages less than a person who lives near the mountains.  Looking back on it, the time my spent in Colorado Springs, around 6,033 feet above sea level, did seem to move faster than my time spent in Oxnard, at sea level.

Of course, the idea of the relativity of time is not a new idea.  The Bible tells us that, "A thousand years in your sight are like a day the has just gone by, or like a watch in the night," (Psalms 90:4).  By this description from the book of Psalms, apparently time moves faster for God than it does for humans.

Most people forget that the whole notion of time itself was invented by monks who were trying to figure out how to pray with more regularity, "The first mechanical time devices appeared in late medieval monasteries.  Bells driven by weights called monks to the hours of prayer" (Subversive Spirituality, L Paul Jensen, p. 37).  It was the invention of railroads, the transcontinental railroad in America, for example, that necessitated the standardization of time.  Previously, each town and city had its own clock and those clocks were very far from synchronized with one another.  But I digress....

Rovelli's book, the content of which I haven't yet read myself (though I have reviewed several articles and listened to several podcasts about Rovelli), reveals that the notion or idea of time is actually totally a construct of our imaginations.  Rovelli says, "We never see time, time is not something we can see or smell or taste or touch.  All we are able to do is to watch clocks which measure time."  Rovelli has even gone so far as to take the integer of time "T" out of all of his equations.  Rovelli says that time is  totally a mental construct.

Rovelli says that most people have this idea that the past and the present and the future are three different things, totally different from one another.  However, physics is showing us that the difference between the past and the present and the future are all relative.  Once again, this seems to reflect the thoughts of the book of Ecclesiastes in the Bible, "Generations come and generations go, but the earth remains forever.  The sun rises and the sun sets, and hurries back to where it rises" (Ec. 1:5-6).

Reflecting further upon this Rovelli says that, "The only difference between the past and the future is the amount of disorder which lies ahead."  In other words, the way to tell the difference between this present moment and the future moments are that in this moment, we know exactly what is happening.  For example, I am typing this blog at this computer right now.  What will the future hold?  Will there be future blogs?  We don't know, because the the definition of the future is that it is disordered.  Again, Jesus lifts this up in the famous Sermon on the Mount, "Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself (or in Rovelli's terms, "the future has enough entropy." (Matt. 6:34).

If you are like me, this momentary convergence between the thinking of one modern day physicist and the Bible are head scratching and heartening at the same time.  Perhaps the real lesson in all of it is, we should all spend a lot more TIME...

At the beach!

All For Now,


Thursday, May 3, 2018


This past weekend I led a mens retreat for Burlpres (First Pres. Burlingame) at the Valambrossa Retreat Center in Menlo Park (pictured above).  It was a great retreat entitled; "Braveheart: Every Man Dies, but Not Every Man Really Lives."  We discussed a lot of really important topics like the difference between healthy risk and unhealthy risk, the role of work in our lives, the role of accumulation, and life in Christ.  But what will remain with me is less what I taught from the front, but what I learned from the other men.

One gentleman, at the end of the retreat, when we went around the room to share what we had learned or gleaned from the retreat said; "The word that keeps coming to me is - REVEAL."  He went on to say that what he had learned was that, "Real soul health begins with the courage to be able to reveal ourselves to one another.  And then, the goal is to be able to reveal ourselves to ourselves." Wow, I had sat through many seminary lectures on soul healing and soul growth and had heard much less wisdom from the so-called "experts in the field.

Not too long ago a man in his mid-sixties came to meet with me in my office.  After about 30 minutes of discussion about small, seemingly insignificant topic matter (the weather, the Giants, the Warriors), I asked, "So, what's on your mind?"  He took the cue, and paused, and then said, "I've come to a decision in my life, that it is now time to retire.  I have never used the "r" word out-loud with anyone else, but I feel like it's time for me to start to make plans to"  After he said this, he began to cry.  I asked him what was going on with him?  He said, "It feels good to finally say it, and now that I have said it, it doesn't seem like it will be such a hard thing to do."  This man had revealed his soul to me, and then, and in the process, he had revealed his soul to himself.

Self-Revelation of our souls to others is, it must be said, not always a good thing to do.  Unless we find someone that we trust with our thoughts and processes, it can be a dangerous thing to do.  Also, very often, we do not know what we ourselves are thinking about something, and so the words that come out of our mouths when we reveal ourselves with others are actually quite inaccurate.

When I was growing up as a teenager, and I would come home at the end of a long day at school, I would almost always be upset.  "I don't like school,  I don't like the kids, I don't like where we live," I would tell my mom.  She would then ask, "Did you each lunch today?"  "No," I said angrily.  "Why don't you eat a burrito and then let's talk about it."  After eating, of course, I would feel much better about the entire world.  Sometimes the things that come out of our mouths do not REVEAL what we really think, but how we really feel in the moment.

An expert in Small Groups ministry (Dr. David Augsburger) once told me that it is actually quite unhealthy to share our most intimate thoughts with any more than two or three people in the entire world.  So, you really don't want to encourage your small groups in churches to REVEAL themselves to each other.  It's too much for most people to process.

But we can reveal our hearts to God.  That, in the end, is the best definition of prayer!

All For Now,