Blog | Lindsey Smallwood

Ecclesiastes

Life: the Sublime & the Mundane

Lindsey Smallwood

The day I got married was my all-time favorite day.

Sure, I went a little nuts with the hot glue gun in the weeks leading up to the big event, making over-the-top bird cage centerpieces. And yes, there were tears I vowed I'd never cry about things like booking the band and the catering menu. But by the time the actual day dawned everything was perfect.

I mean not perfect.

My dress got stuck on the back row pew and I almost got slingshotted backward walking down the aisle. And there were pictures we forgot to take and people I didn't get to talk to. But still, there was magic in the air, as everyone we loved gathered in one place to sing and dance and eat cake.

My heart has never been so full, before or since. Thinking about our final dance, spinning around and singing along to Journey's Don't Stop Believing never fails to bring a smile to my lips.

Compare that to yesterday. My husband is sick, which is not his specialty. He's grumpy and tired and struggling to get life done with a cough that won't quit. I'm in the final weeks of pregnancy and am having trouble sleeping, so the days are long and exhausting. My toddlers are feisty balls of energy that leave a mess in any space they've occupied for more than two minutes, so everything in my life is dirty or out of place.

By bedtime last night, not only did our tiny apartment look like a tornado had blown through, there'd been yelling and harsh words and even a slammed door.

Not exactly magical.

But that’s life – the sublime and the mundane, the good and the bad, our best days and our worst. If we’re living as people who really believe God works all things together for our good, to make us more like Jesus, then we should expect both kinds of days.

The author of Ecclesiastes knew this. In many ways his book is a warning that life’s highs and lows can be deceptive. Good times create the false expectation that life will always be good. It won’t.

Bad times create the illusion that life has no meaning, no purpose, no justice. Not true. 

What is true is that life is both/and. God designed it that way, as we read in Ecclesiastes 7:14 (The Message):

On a good day, enjoy yourself;
On a bad day, examine your conscience.
God arranges for both kinds of days
So that we won’t take anything for granted.

Both kinds of days are in the plans, friends. So don’t be surprised when life is terrible – or wonderful. That’s how God arranged it.

There’s a warning implied here and it’s this: Don’t spend your good days waiting for the other shoe to drop. Take time to enjoy your life. Treasure those moments when everything is working, when the music is playing, when it seems like love is everywhere you look.

We're in the middle of some big life changes. If I’m not careful, I end up filling good days of time with friends and meaningful work and joy in watching my kids play with worries about the future and silent brainstorming about logistical challenges. Instead I’m trying to remember this advice from the author of Ecclesiastes to enjoy life, savoring the good days and not filling them with fears about the future.

And on the days when doors get slammed and things get yelled that I’d rather not repeat here in cyber-space, I’m taking time to tune in, to listen to the Holy Spirit, to examine my heart and ask myself where I need Jesus in the middle of it all.

God arranges for both kinds of days so that we don’t take anything for granted.

I’m learning to live that truth.

 

This post originally appeared at Middle Places

When Time is Not on Our Side

Lindsey Smallwood

For everything there is a season,
    a time for every activity under heaven.
A time to be born and a time to die.
    A time to plant and a time to harvest.
A time to kill and a time to heal.
    A time to tear down and a time to build up.
A time to cry and a time to laugh.
    A time to grieve and a time to dance.
A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones.
    A time to embrace and a time to turn away.
A time to search and a time to quit searching.
    A time to keep and a time to throw away.
A time to tear and a time to mend.
    A time to be quiet and a time to speak.
A time to love and a time to hate.
    A time for war and a time for peace.

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

A time for everything – it’s beautifully written and on its face, reminds us that no matter what season we find ourselves in, it won’t last forever. If you’re in a time for crying, you can be sure that a time to laugh will come. That’s the nature of life, nothing stays the same forever.

The deeper, more challenging truth of this passage comes in the start of verse 11 –

Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. 

It’s God who ordains time, it’s God who sets the seasons of the world and of our lives. Again, if we don’t think too deeply, this is a sweet reminder. It points us to the promise in Romans that God is working all things together, that He is doing good things for us.

When we chew on that truth a little longer, really holding it and looking at it from all angles, this passage becomes a good news/bad news situation. And since I always like to end on a positive note, let’s start with the bad news...

To continue reading at The Mudroom, click here.

The Life We Cannot See

Lindsey Smallwood

A couple years ago, some friends of ours were married in Ojai, California. Ojai is an out-of-the-way town nestled in the hills between the busy interstates going in and out of Los Angeles and the scenic California coast. Like many tourist destinations, there are quirky shops and restaurants, nice hotels and a long list of recreation options. But to me, the best part of being in Ojai was the citrus smell. The roads are lined with orange trees and tangerine groves, miles and miles of sweet-smelling fruit.

I’m not sure The Teacher would have enjoyed the sights and smells of our wedding weekend getaway as much as I did. In fact, after reading his opening thoughts in Ecclesiastes 1:1-12, it seems like he might not find much in all of life to enjoy! Listen in to some of those observations, shared here from the Message version:

There’s nothing to anything—it’s all smoke.
What’s there to show for a lifetime of work,
    a lifetime of working your fingers to the bone?
One generation goes its way, the next one arrives,
    but nothing changes—it’s business as usual for old
        planet earth…

Everything’s boring, utterly boring—
    no one can find any meaning in it.
Boring to the eye,
    boring to the ear.
What was will be again,
    what happened will happen again.
There’s nothing new on this earth.
    Year after year it’s the same old thing.

It wasn’t always this way. There was a time, not in Ojai, California, but in a different grove of fruit trees altogether when the world was new, when everything wasn’t full of weariness...

Pop on over to The Mudroom to read the rest. They are feauturing a devotional reflection from Ecclesiastes every Friday in November. Next week: Is "a time for everything" good news or bad news?

When Life Slips Through Your Fingers

Lindsey Smallwood

Every Friday in November, my latest book Ecclesiastes: Life in Full Color is being featured at The Mudroom blog. The following devotional reflection is based my book and the related materials available for small groups.

When it comes to reading and studying the Bible, I totally play favorites. The English major/story teller part of me loves to return to the narratives of Genesis, Ruth and Acts. The singer/poet side of my heart enjoys opening the Psalms and finding ways to sing along. The searching/seeking side of my heart comes back over and over again to the teachings of Jesus in the Gospels and the letters of Paul in the New Testament.

But the rest of it? Let’s just say that some pages of my Bible tend to stay more crisp than others. The laws and codes of the ancient Hebrews, the long metaphorical prophecies, instructions for building the temple? Sure I’ve read them, blazed through on a journey through the Bible in a year once or twice. But not places I tend to spend much time.

Until recently, Ecclesiastes has been one of those books in my own Bible. Neglected because I didn’t really understand it, passed over in favor of more familiar passages that seem easier to apply to my life as a Christian.

I mean, let’s just look at that opener in chapter 1, verse 2.

 “Meaningless! Meaningless!”
    says the Teacher.
“Utterly meaningless!
    Everything is meaningless.”

Talk about a strange thesis! The Teacher starts his talk with the assertion that everything – all of life - is meaningless. And in case you don’t believe him, he spends the next chapter, really the rest of the book, reasserting how empty and shallow and difficult life can be.

Continue reading at The Mudroom by clicking here