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TIME WELL SPENT

It’s been a busy week. I’ve had the privilege of spending extra time with my mother this week as she’s been laid up with three compression fractures in her back. It’s so hard to see her hurting, and not able to eat because of the pain medications. I tried to make things that I knew were normally her favorites, to try to tempt her appetite, but until she could back off the pain meds a bit, it didn’t really work. The time spent with her was nice, though, as we talked and watched a few chick flicks together. I took my crocheting along and made some progress on the baby sweater, bonnet and blanket set I am making for Laurie’s baby. Bob was able to arrange his work schedule so that I could be with my mom. He travels a lot for his job, and of course I am always home with Robbie, so I appreciated his willingness to help out with that.

Then, of course, there was Thanksgiving, which also happened to be my birthday. I traditionally make the turkey, stuffing and gravy for our big family meal, so there are not a lot of early preparations I can do ahead of time. It’s all basically done on Thanksgiving morning, keeping an eye on the clock so that the turkey goes in the oven on time. As usual, everything tasted wonderful, but someone made the comment, “All that time making all of this and then it’s over in a matter of minutes!” We did take the time to thank the Lord for his abundant blessings in our lives and to share with one another some of the things for which we are most thankful.

Those were times well spent this week. Then there were the wasted times. Time I spent staring at a computer screen, struggling with writer’s block, I guess. Too much time spent in research for the book I am writing, and not enough time actually spent writing. Time worrying about the deadline that is looming and wondering if I will get it done in time. Time doodling as I waited for inspiration to come…

And what a waste of time my one attempt at snagging a Black Friday bargain was! Bob surprised me big-time with my birthday gift this week—the money to buy a new laptop for myself! And just in time for the Thanksgiving weekend sales, I thought! I poured over the ads until I found the perfect one for me—at a savings of $250 if I could get in on the doorbuster special! I went on Wednesday night to check it out and make sure they had it in stock. Yes, they had nine of them. Great! Even if there were twenty or thirty people ahead of me, they wouldn’t all be there for the exact same thing I was there for, would they? The chances of me getting the laptop I wanted seemed pretty good.

Not quite. I got up and out the door in the wee hours of the morning and pulled into the parking lot twenty-five minutes before the doors were to open. Call me naïve. I had only done the Black Friday, doorbuster thing once before with my sister many years ago, and then it had been a little crazy, maybe, but fun and not stressful at all. This time, when I got to the store ready to buy something I really, really wanted I was dismayed to see there were already 100-150 people ahead of me in a line that stretched from the doors clear around the side of the building. I went to the back of the line and started to shiver almost immediately. It was only about twenty degrees and I wasn’t dressed warm enough. Eventually a couple store employees came down the line handing out vouchers for the items people wanted, so they could go back to their cars and wait. The laptop I wanted was long-gone. I was disappointed of course, but grateful to get back to my car and go home and crawl back into bed.

As I lay there, trying to get back to sleep but still shivering, I thought about what a waste of time it had been, and that I would never, ever do that again, no matter how great the bargains sounded! I’m sure I would have felt differently if I had been able to get the computer, and then even the one or two hours I stood in line waiting to pay for the thing might not have seemed like a waste, but at that moment it all just seemed like a big waste of time. Oh, there will be other sales, probably almost as good, and if I am patient I will eventually get the laptop that is best for me.

Time is so precious to me, and I am sure, to you. Once those minutes tick by, they cannot be reclaimed. We are allotted in our lives so many years and months, weeks and days, minutes and seconds. Having a birthday this week made me think about time and wonder how many more years the Lord will allow me here on this earth. I am eager for Heaven, and yet, I want the time I have left here to matter. I go to bed sometimes thinking regretfully, “Well that was a wasted day!” On the other hand, on the days when I have really accomplished something I feel good when I go to bed, and grateful that I used my time wisely.

Robbie has had his days and nights mixed up again this week. He sleeps all day and evening and then, just about the time I am going to bed, he wakes up and wants to play all night. I feel badly that he is staring at the ceiling all night because Mom just can’t entertain him any longer. It’s hard to get him back on the right track because if he really wants to sleep there is nothing we can do to keep him awake, and if we do manage to wake him up before he is ready, he immediately goes right into seizures. I would love to convince him of a better way to use his time more wisely!

The Bible is clear that we are to use our time wisely. Romans 13:11 says, “And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed.” (A good verse for Robbie, wouldn’t you say?) We do not know how many days are left to us individually, but the Lord says that our salvation—the time when He will take us out of this world, whether it be through death or the Rapture, to eternity with Him—is near! Until that time there is work for us to do for Him! Wake up and get to work!

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“See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, Redeeming the time, because the days are evil. Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is.” (Ephesians 5:15-17) Using our time wisely means using it within the will of God. We sometimes are unsure of the next step in God’s will for our lives, but there can be no doubt in many instances of what is not God’s will. “Circumspectly” means not acting foolishly or sinfully as we did before we were saved, but being obedient. Our hearts know, our consciences know what is right or wrong; what brings glory to God and what does not; what is a waste of time and what is worthwhile. And “redeeming the time” ought to give us the sense of urgency, that because the days are evil we ought not to waste time.
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What is truly God’s will, and the whole purpose of the Gospel, is that men and women, boys and girls receive the salvation Christ has offered through His shed blood. It is our commission as believers to be witnesses to others of the Gospel. It is our sole purpose to bring glory to God through lives that are a testimony of that salvation. It is our responsibility to use our time toward that end. Our days are numbered here on earth and we are to “Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving…Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time. Let your speech be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man.” (Colossians 4:2, 5)
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God has promised blessings when we obey Him. Time is short. Time is precious. “Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand.” (Revelation 1:3) The time is at hand. We waste so much time chasing the material things of this world, the foolish things, the selfish things. Anything that draws us away from what is of eternal value. Time spent helping others is never a waste. Time spent being a testimony or sharing the Gospel is never a waste. Time spent in prayer is never a waste. Time spent obediently and wisely following God’s will is never a waste.
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Redeem the time—time well spent.
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‘ROUND AND ‘ROUND WE GO

I’ve been spending a lot of time this week working on a new book for Melissa. I love writing for the kids, so this is happy, creative time for me—once I get a good outline in my head for the plot, that is. Until then, I feel like I am spinning my wheels. I may have a general idea on what I want the book to be about, and I’ll start out tentatively laying the groundwork, but that first chapter or two is usually slow-going and sometimes I feel like I’m up against a brick wall. Finally, though, something will spark my imagination, and suddenly the ideas will begin to flow, the plot will unfold and I’m off on another adventure with the Twinkie Winklers or Kristi Cameron, Noble Heart or the Pickle People!
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It always amazes me how the story almost writes itself sometimes. It takes twists and turns I did not foresee, and rarely does it turn out to be the same story I intended to write at the beginning. I look forward to seeing how it will end as much as the children do! Once I get going, I kind of get lost in the story and leave a little bit of the real world behind me. The characters are carrying on conversations in my head. I wake up with them on my mind and I see little things that happen sometimes through the eyes of my characters. Scary, huh?
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The book I’m currently working on is a Twinkie Winkler Mystery called “The Clue in the Curious Carousel.” It is set in a nifty little place called Clown Town, where circus, carnival, amusement park, clown school and circus museum are all rolled into one. I’ve been doing some research this week into circus history and memorabilia, clowns, carnival rides, sideshows, magic tricks, circus acts and so on. In particular, I’ve been reading up on the history and making of carousels, since much of the mystery in my story centers around an antique miniature carousel and the life-sized one that is its replica.
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I won’t go into a lot of detail here about the history of carousels except to mention a few interesting facts: The word carousel comes from the Italian and Spanish words garosello and carosella which mean “little war.” It stems from the 1100’s when Crusaders brought an Arabian and Turkish war game back to Europe where it became over time an elaborate show of horsemanship called carrousel by the French. Six hundred years later a training device for this contest was invented that consisted of carved wooden horses hung by chains that radiated out from a center pole. The young knights-in-training would ride the horses and practice spearing a ring that hung from a nearby branch or pole. By the late 1700’s this early carousel had spread throughout Europe solely for amusement. It was moved by man, mule or horsepower, so it was small and lightweight.
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With the invention of the steam engine, the large, elaborate carousels we are familiar with became possible. The Golden Age of the carousel in America was from the 1860’s to the Great Depression in the 1930’s. Carousels became extravagant creations of art with beautifully carved horses, chariots and a rich variety of other animals. Many of the carousels were lost during the Depression when they were destroyed or dismantled. Later as the economy and technology improved they were not replaced by the labor-intensive carved carousels of the past but with cast aluminum or fiberglass. Technology also made newer, more thrilling amusement rides possible and the carousel went from being the centerpiece of the park to merely a “children’s ride.”
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Of course, all this research had me thinking about carousels and how they relate to life in general. (You know by now that that is how my mind works.) We all love to ride the carousel, or merry-go-round as we call them now. It’s pretty and cheerful. The music is bright and catchy. The ride itself is simple—‘round and ‘round and up and down at a nice easy speed. It’s the first ride we take our babies on. As we become older it is a sentimental favorite, not because it is thrilling, but because it is a familiar part of our past. As for how the carousel relates to life—well, that’s where the problem is.
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‘Round and ‘round and up and down—you’re moving, but getting nowhere! You get off right where you began! Don’t you sometimes feel like there are periods in your life when that is how it goes? You keep moving, but sometimes you feel like you’re spinning your wheels. Day in and day out, life goes on the same. Your life is just about the same this year as it was last year and the year before that. Our children are growing and changing, but where is the growth in our own lives (other than around the middle)? Time marches on and takes us with it, but progress and success sometimes seem elusive.
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There was a song back in the Sixties when I was a teenager called “The Circle Game” by Joni Mitchell. The chorus went:

The seasons, they go round and round,

And the painted ponies go up and down.
We’re captive on the carousel of time.
We can’t return, we can only look behind
From where we came
And go round and round and round
In the circle game.

Time. Our lives are a mere vapor, the Bible tells us. “For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.” (James 4:14) The Lord tells us not to take the days of life that we have lightly. Psalm 90:12 says, “So teach us to number our days, that we may apply our hearts unto wisdom.” When time seems to be flying and we are going nowhere, maybe it is time we get up off the couch and do something about it. Learn something new. Help someone else. Make our lives count in tangible ways in our families, churches and communities. Success may not mean a bigger paycheck, but it may be reflected in a life that we touch or in our own personal growth.
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Spiritually, we are to be making the most of the time the Lord gives us on this carousel we call Earth. The Bible also tells us to “redeem the time because the days are evil.” (Ephesians 5:16) Colossians 4:5 tells us to “Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time.” We do not know how long our ride will last. It is a matter of obedience to make the most of our life and time here to bring glory to God and do His will.
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How do we redeem our time? One of the interesting things I discovered about carousels this week is that there are four basic poses of the ponies on a merry-go-round. There is the Stander. He has three or four feet on the ground. The Prancer has just his two back feet on the ground as he paws the air with his front feet. The Jumper is in midair with all four feet of the ground, and the Star-gazer is positioned so that his head is looking skyward. These four pony poses made me think of the positions we as believers ought to take as we go around on our carousel of time:
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Like the Stander we must stand fast in the faith. I Corinthians 16:13 says, “Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong.” The NASV says it like this: “Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.” We must be grounded in doctrine, wise and understanding of God’s Word.
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The Prancer appears to me to be bold and eager. We ought to be just as bold and eager to share the Gospel, and zealous for the Lord. Ephesians 6:19 says,”…that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel.” Live boldly in Christ, unafraid to share the Gospel. Paul said in Philippians 1:14, “And many of the brethren in the Lord, waxing confident by my bonds, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.”
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The Jumper is literally flying around that carousel! So ought we to run the race with all our might, living to bring glory to God and do His will until He takes us home. “…let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us.” (Hebrews 12:1) “Know ye not that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize? So run, that ye may obtain…” (I Corinthians: 9:24)
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And then there is the Star-gazer. Like him, I want to be always watching and looking to Heaven, expectant and eager for the return of Jesus Christ to earth. “Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come.” (Matthew 24:42) When we are truly expecting His return at any moment we will live like we do, and be more aware of the urgency of sharing the Good News with others.
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The carousel of our lives and time may be going ‘round and ‘round but that is not an excuse for us to be going nowhere. Let us be conscious of the days that are slipping by and make them count for the Lord. Stand firm. Be bold. Run the race. Watch for His coming. Life is a merry-go-round. Enjoy the ride!