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I have been reflecting on time recently, probably because I often feel that it is the one thing that I’d like to have more of! There are some things that we have to do: go to work, go to school, work in our homes or look after others. Sometimes we might have a real sense of purpose about how we spend our days. At other times, we may not have much choice about the things that we have to do. Then there are the things that we can choose to do: our hobbies and interests, things we’re good at and enjoy, whatever they may be. 

How we spend our time is important. One of the first acts of God in creating the world was to create time, to separate night and day. So time is important to God. God wants us to lead full lives, lives of purpose and joy. This will mean different things for us at different stages in our lives. We all have skills, gifts and talents. Some of us are lucky, and get to use these every day, but for some of us it is easy for them to get hidden by all the things that we have to do.

A year or so ago, I spent an evening reflecting and praying about how we use our time with a church study group. We were invited to write down all the things that we do, how our days are filled. Once we got going, our lists got longer and longer! When we have so much to do - including important duties and commitments to our family, friends and work – it’s hard to simply stop and take stock of what is happening and how overwhelmed we might be getting.

I recently heard a story that might help us all to reflect on how we use our time and how we can stop and take stock. You may have heard this story too. 

A professor of philosophy stood before his class with some items in front of him. When the class began, wordlessly he picked up a large empty jar and proceeded to fill it with rocks about two inches in diameter. He then asked the students if the jar was full. They agreed that it was full. So the professor then picked up a box of pebbles and 
poured them into the jar. He shook the jar lightly and watched as the pebbles rolled into the open areas between the rocks. The professor then asked the students again if the jar was full. They chuckled and agreed that it was indeed full this time. The professor picked up a box of sand and poured it into the jar. The sand filled the remaining open areas of the jar.

“Now,” said the professor, “I want you to recognize that this jar signifies your life. The rocks are the truly important things, such as family, health and relationships. If all else was lost and only the rocks remained, your life would still be meaningful. The pebbles are the other things that matter in your life, such as work or school. The sand signifies the remaining “small stuff”. If you put sand into the jar first, there is no room for the rocks or the pebbles. The same can be applied to your lives. If you spend all your time and energy on the small stuff, you will never have room for the things that are truly important.” 

As we get used to the beginning of another year, maybe it is time for us all to think about what our “rocks” are and whether we are making enough time and space for them. This is something that we need to do as a church communities too and it is something that both our PCCs have been considering carefully. There are lots of things we want to do and feel we should do, but we have to be realistic about what we can achieve. We need to work out what our “rocks” are and make time and space for them. We need to think creatively about how we use our time to serve the people of our parish and to flourish as the people of God.

The psalmist said, “The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer, my God, my rock in whom I take refuge. “ (Psalm 18). 

May these words of praise be ours too. Let’s take care of the rocks first, the things that really matter. The rest is just pebbles and sand.