Strange Times


The end of August, through September, make up my annual cycle of “strange times.” It’s Summer, but my wife is heading into her classroom most days of the week. My kids are getting ready for school and finishing up their Summer packets 1. The worship map, which I complete for the following year every July, has one week left on it before its archived. People are squeezing in last-minute vacations, so I have no idea who is going to be in worship any given week. And ABCNJ’s Annual Session dominates my thought-processes. This year, my “strange times” have an added oddity. “Kids” I’ve watched grow up have packed their bags and headed to collage or gap years 2. During this time my normal rhythm, already disrupted by the Summer months, become unrecognizable.

I’m not a happy person during “strange times.” I’m fine with flexibility, but I also need anchors which tether my life as I flex with circumstances. Most of these — scheduled writing times, a general pattern of study and preparation for sermons, space to check up on folks from Central, and ability to disengage and say to my neighbor, “Let’s go somewhere and take pictures” — get cut. About the only rhythm which remains constant during “strange times” is my morning Bible reading 3, everything else goes kablooey.

By the time October rolls around things begin to settle back into a rhythm which I’m able to surf. This new rhythm is never identical to the prior year’s — new opportunities, different obligations, and shifting realities “on the ground” make this impossible — but it becomes my rhythm, the medium though which I practice the art of life.

The irony is, as much as I dislike “strange times,” without them I’d stagnate as a person. The crucible of good stress prepares me for the next leg of my journey. It also strengthens my being for when bad stress has its inevitable season in my life. “Strange times” train me to stay anchored, even when most of my safety lines have frayed and snapped.

So, as much as I dislike them, I have to be thankful for the “strange times” cycle in my life.


  1. Or starting their reading, sigh. 
  2. And next year, my daughter will join them. 
  3. Please don’t take this as “bravado spirituality,” just a statement on my daily practice. I didn’t like how browsing the web came to dominate my mornings, so one Lent I determined to make a daily Bible reading plan the first thing I did every morning. I never stopped — this is a good example of Lent being about “adding through subtraction.”