Kairos—καιρός There are two words for time in Greek; chronos and kairos. The first identifies chronological time while the latter emphasizes an opportune moment in which to seize. God provides the moment and we are charged with responding to the opportunity.
Too Busy Doing Good Things
“I Was Radically Changed.”
The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ Matthew 25:40
Sometimes we can get so busy in life that we overlook “the least of these,” as Jesus called them. Certainly, we have lots to do in a day, but there are those days we miss the opportunity (Kairos) that God has set before us. Let’s learn from Robin’s story.
Robin Jones Gunn’s Neighborhood
I had a moment in my life, as we all do, when a bit of eternal truth broke through my “convenient Christianity,” and I was radically changed.
We lived in a small university town where God opened up many opportunities for ministry. My husband was working as a youth pastor. We had teenagers over to our house all the time and even had a college student living with us. I accepted a part-time position as what they called a “radio personality” at a Christian station in town. I was busy writing a series of teen novels for a Christian publisher, and women’s groups were calling asking me to speak at various events. In every way, I was Ministry Woman!
One night I was on the phone with my best friend, Donna. In three weeks she and I were flying to Europe where I’d been invited to speak. There was so much to do, and I told Donna, “If one more person asks for one more little piece of me, I’m going to fall apart! I have no more pieces left to give.”
As I was speaking to her, the call waiting signal on my phone started beeping. I ignored it but the caller continued to dial in. “Just a minute, Donna.”
It was almost ten o’clock, and the caller turned out to be my neighbor, Jana. She said, “Robin, I didn’t know who else to call…could you come up? Just for a minute?”
I thought, okay. This is it. The last piece of my sanity and now my neighbor wants to take it from me. Doesn’t it ever let up?”
I considered saying no. I thought she would certainly understand if I said it was too late. I would come see her in the morning. Whatever it was could wait until then, couldn’t it?
“Oh, all right,” I heard myself tell Jana. “I’ll be there in a minute.”
I told Donna I’d have to call her back, and I jerked the front door open ready to march up the street to Jana’s house.
It was a crisp cold night. It had been snowing. That, and the fact that I walked out without a jacket made me feel even more inconvenienced. I couldn’t imagine what Jana wanted. I’d given her all my books, but she hadn’t read them. I told her when my radio program aired, but she never listened. I’d given her two books by important Christian psychologists when her husband left her, but she hadn’t gotten around to reading them. The way I saw it, I’d done my part. Jana simply wasn’t interested in coming to the Lord.
When I arrived at her front door, Jana stood there on crutches. I’d forgotten that she told me a week ago that she was having her right hip replaced. She had now had both hips replaced before she was forty-five due to arthritis. I knew her mom had come from the East Coast the first few days to help out. Her ex-husband had their two daughters every Thursday, and this was Thursday. Her mom had gone home, and Jana stood before me, all alone.
“Thanks so much for coming,” Jana said showing me in and hobbling to the hospital bed set up in the family room. “I didn’t know who else to call. You see, I wanted to go to bed, but…” she looked down at her feet. I couldn’t take off my shoes.”
In that moment, I realized that I thought I was “ministry woman,” and yet I was not worthy to untie the laces on my neighbor’s tennis shoes.
I knelt down, and let me tell you, it was all I could do to not wash her feet with my tears. I saw what God desired of my life. I suddenly understood His concept of ministry. All God has asked me to do is love Him and love my neighbor.
That’s what a real ministry woman does.
I untied Jana’s shoes and slipped them off her feet. Then I helped her take off her sweat pants. I saw the scar. It was vile. So much pain, I thought. And no one here to comfort you.
Jana slid into bed but I didn’t want to leave just because my task was done. I pulled the comforter up to her chin and asked if she’d like a cup of cold water.
I brought one for her. In Jesus’ name, I thought, as she sipped from the glass tumbler.
Then before I could be self-conscious about what she might think of me, I kissed her on the cheek and said, “Good night, Jana. I love you.”
“I know,” she said. “That’s why I called you. I knew you would come.”
A year and a half later, Jana gave her life to the Lord. We had moved to another state when she told me her good news on the phone. She was excited about plans to go on the women’s retreat and the weekly Bible study group at the church she was attending.
More than once I have wondered what would have happened if I had said no on that snowy night. After all, I had books to write, planes to catch, and a radio show to record in the morning. What if I had missed the opportunity for the pure and undefiled ministry of loving my neighbor simply because I was too caught up in my own version of being Ministry Woman?
A time for reflection:
- What do you think Robin learned from her experience with Jana and how do you think it changed her life with her neighbors?
- What have you learned from Robin’s encounter with Jana and what would you do differently now with a neighbor in need?
- How would you respond if a neighbor called you for help when you didn’t have time to help them, because of a busy schedule?
(Robin Jones Gunn is the much loved author of the popular Christy Miller series for teens and Sisterchicks® novels as well as non-fiction favorites such as Victim of Grace and Spoken For. Her 90 books have sold nearly 5 million copies worldwide. Robin is a frequent speaker at local and international events. She and her husband live in Hawaii where she continues to write her little heart out. For more information go to www.robingunn.com.)
Having Eyes for the Kairos Adventure
“A Must Read!”
“Jesus said…My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working…I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does…For the Father loves the Son and shows him all he does. Yes, to your amazement he will show him even greater things than these.” John 5:17, 19, 20
The most exciting life you can experience is the Kairos life, filled with adventure and surprises. Once you enter this kind of life you will never wish to go back to the old way of living. It is how Jesus lived His life.
Most of us are driven by the clock and busy lives and deadlines; but Jesus lived His life free from such constraints. His relationship with His Father and loving and serving people were at the heart of what allowed Him to live a kairos life.
Kairos vs. Chronos Living
You are probably asking, “What is kairos?” I am glad you asked! The Greek has two words for time: chronos and kairos. Chronos concerns time as in the 24-hour day. We define our workweeks by the number of hours that we work. We have a list of things to do and only so much time to get everything done. Having a chronos mind-set can often make us miss out on seeing what God is doing all around us. Instead, our eyes are fixed on the clock, where we need to go next, and checking off another item on our “to do list.”
Kairos is quite different than chronos. It is not linear or bound by time constraints limitations; in that it doesn’t include a clock or a schedule. It is life lived in the moment and being fully present when you are with others in that moment. Kairos is best referred to as an “opportunity.” For example, parents have only a certain season of time to raise their children and then the opportunity is over. Opportunity may refer to a lengthy period of chronos or the short kairos moments that we are to redeem. The Apostle Paul says, “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity (kairos)…” (Ephesians 5:16, 17 NIV). And again, he says in Colossians 4:5, “Be wise in the way you act towards outsiders; make the most of every opportunity (kairos).”
A perfect example of a kairos moment is when my wife Jo and I were hosting a Christmas dinner in our home for some people from our church. As people were arriving, I noticed that Jo was at the front door talking with our neighbor Marcy.
Marcy’s car had been broken into near her kids’ school and her purse and a great deal of cash had been taken. She had to freeze her accounts at the bank, leaving her without easy access to emergency funds. Her husband was out of town on business and wouldn’t be back until the following day. Here she was, just before Christmas, thirty-eight weeks pregnant and home alone with two young children. She was deeply concerned that whoever broke into her car, knowing that she had this amount of cash, would now be coming into our neighborhood, and she came to warn us. She was visibly shaken from the break-in and Jo asked if it would be okay if she prayed for her. Marcy agreed, and Jo put her hands on Marcy’s shoulders and prayed. As Jo was praying, the Lord told me, in a way that only He can communicate, “Give her two hundred dollars.”
After everyone had left our dinner party, Jo came up to me and said. “How much are we going to give Marcy?” I immediately responded, “The Lord told me two hundred dollars.”
I had been to the ATM the day before and there was two hundred dollars in my wallet. I asked Jo to get a Christmas card ready and said I would go and see if Marcy was still awake. I gave her the card with the gift inside.
The next day, I got a call from Marcy. She thought I had given her just a Christmas card and she put it on her nightstand with all the others. She woke that morning and decided to read all of her Christmas cards, hoping to cheer herself up. After opening our card, she called me in great surprise and said, “I will pay you back!” I said, “No, Marcy, that’s a gift from God for you.” Her response was priceless: “That’s not normal!”
I love not being normal.
When I talked to Marcy’s husband the following week, he told me that when Marcy told him about the gift he almost cried.
Kairos Moments Require a Choice
Like our story with Marcy, kairos moments frequently occur when we least expect them and they seldom fit into our self-determined plan for the day. They are often viewed as intrusions in our lives. Each time one occurs, we are forced to make a choice. Do I disrupt my plans and choose to lay them aside for the sake of what God is doing in the moment?
I have often thought that when Jesus gave the parable of the Good Samaritan, He was making a comparison between the way He lived His life and the way the religious leaders of His day lived theirs. The priest and the Levite were too busy after their temple service activities to stop and care for their desperate “neighbor” who was beaten and robbed and left to die by the side of the road. Oddly enough, Jesus uses the most despised in society in that day, the Samaritan, to demonstrate extraordinary “neighbor-love.” The religious leaders missed out on the kairos moment. Helping may have been an inconvenience. They may have been late in getting home, or perhaps there was too much risk involved. They could not be bothered.
“Doing what the Father is Doing”
You may be asking now, “How do I move from seeing these moments as more than impositions and enter into the kairos life?” During the early development of Neighborhood Initiative, the Lord helped me understand that there were two ways I could choose to move forward with this good work that He initiated. I could choose to try and make things happen on my own or I could join Him in what He was doing. This is at the heart of the kairos lifestyle. I discovered the first approach was difficult and frustrating, because I was trying to make things happen. The second approach was easy and full of wonderful surprises, because God was inviting me in to what He was already doing. I found the same to be true in my own neighborhood. If I wanted see God’s kingdom move in it, then I needed to relinquish my good intentions and plans and surrender my will to the work that He was already doing with those in my neighborhood. It was a new revelation for one who had, for years in ministry, relied on coming up with a strategy to reach people with the gospel. It was so freeing to rely on God to lead me in to relationship with those in my neighborhood. I was experiencing what Jesus spoke of, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” I was experiencing the easy yoke with Jesus. Some of you may be asking, “What is a yoke?” A yoke is a wooden crosspiece that is fastened over the necks of two animals and attached to the plow or cart that they are to pull to make sure they are moving in the same direction. I learned that it was Jesus carrying the heavy weight and I was joining him in the easy yoke with Him…He took away the burden and any sense of guilt in serving God in my neighborhood.
In the early days of Neighborhood Initiative, Dallas Willard, a dear friend and well known philosophy professor at USC, one who walked closely with Jesus and deeply respected by many Christian leaders, told me, “Don’t stop doing what you are doing. If you keep moving forward with what you are doing, we will see revival and awakening.” These were significant words coming from Dallas, one who chose his words carefully. I took what he said to heart.
If you have listened to or read much of Dallas, one of his noteworthy quotes among so many was, “Don’t ever try to make anything happen.” I watched this up close and personal in his life. He didn’t need to promote himself or try to make things happen, yet God used him greatly to influence so many lives in and outside the church. He understood and lived in the “easy yoke” with Jesus and did what the Father was doing; by this yoking with the Lord, he was in one accord with Him.
“Joining What the Father is Doing”
Not trying to make something happen is such a freeing way to live life. I have found there are three things that I can do that have enabled me to live a life free of performance and “trying to make something happen.” These three simple activities have allowed me to see what the Father is doing and then, after His invitation, I join Him. They have shown me His activity in my own neighborhood, enabled me to live the kairos life and seize divine opportunities: “I pray,” and “I wait,” and “I watch.”
You probably have a set way that you pray…I would encourage to stay with the way the Lord has directed you. I believe prayer, conversing with God and Him with you is a personal matter…there is no one way to do it. I am sure we can all learn from others, but I have found in this season of my life that prayer walking has become most refreshing for me. It allows me to be focused as I listen and talk with my Father. Each day of the week, I walk and pray with a different focus in mind. On Tuesday mornings, I walk through my neighborhood and I pray for each of my neighbors by name and I ask the Lord to show me what He is doing in their lives. Sometimes He will speak to me about my neighbors or give me ideas of what He would like me to do. Sometimes I hear nothing or see nothing happening and I have boldly asked Him, “Is this a fruitless activity?” He has faithfully and dramatically, like the story of Marcy, shown me that He is in favor of my weekly prayer walks in my neighborhood. So I have continued to make this my regular practice.
Rather than try to make something happen in my neighborhood after I pray, I wait for Him. This kind of waiting is not a passive waiting, but a waiting with a sense of expectation. When Isaiah speaks of “those who wait on the Lord” in Isaiah 40:31, he is referring to a waiting with expectation and that’s the kind of waiting I do. I pray and then I wait for the next thing the Father invites me to do with Him in my neighborhood. I have been prayer walking through our present neighborhood for years. I must confess, in the early days, I would question if anything would ever happen in our neighborhood. But in time relationships have begun to open like flowers. There is a tendency to want to make something happen like a child wants to force open a budding flower before its time. But if you pray and wait, God is faithful and begins to open the hearts of people in your neighborhood like He opens a flower to display its beauty.
Then I watch and out of nowhere something will happen that I least expect. A neighbor will call me and ask me to perform a wedding at his home or another will ask me to officiate at a funeral for someone in the neighborhood. Or, a fifty-foot tree is blown down in front of our home, a car is crushed, the tree lands on our neighbor’s house across the street, and an opportunity opens up with a neighbor. Or, I follow an ambulance up the street and that experience opens a new relationship with one of my neighbors. You can’t control, anticipate or predict; however, because of His sovereign working and prayer, God has invited me in to participate in His ongoing work.
Patiently waiting and watching for God to do His work in your neighbors’ lives can, at times, become discouraging and may cause one to lose heart, because we don’t see results immediately. We want the work to take place in our time. We might even find ourselves trying to make something happen in the lives of our neighbors to hurry the process along. The story of Frog and Toad: The Garden, a children’s book, gives a helpful parable for us who are impatient with this process. Here’s a summary of the story.
When Toad sees Frog’s beautiful garden, Toad decides that he too would like to have a garden. Frog tells Toad that a garden is hard work, and gives Toad some flower seeds to plant. After Toad plants the seeds, he tells them to start growing, and when they do not do so immediately, he shouts to the ground that the seeds should start growing—but this still doesn’t work. Frog suggests that Toad is frightening the seeds with all the shouting, and tells Frog to leave the seeds alone for a few days. That night Toad observes that the seeds have still not begun to grow, and he worries that they are afraid of the dark. Toad begins experimenting with reading stories and poems to the seeds and playing music for them. Still, the seeds do not grow. Eventually, Toad falls asleep, and when he wakes up he sees that the seeds have started to grow. He is very happy that his “seeds have stopped being afraid to grow.” Toad then reports to Frog that Frog was right, growing a garden is “very hard work.” Frog and Toad Together Arnold Lobel; HarperCollins; First Edition edition (October 3, 1979)
The Frog and Toad story helps us better understand what Jesus conveys in the Parable of the Growing Seed, “This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.” (Mark 4:26-29) Often, the process with neighbors is slow. But one day, when you least expect it, God surprises you with an invitation to join Him in His work with one of your neighors, like He has with me on so many occasions.
Living the kairos life with the Father is like a little kid who is waiting for his dad to invite him on a new excursion with him. He knows that only dad can drive the car and he waits for his dad to say, “Come on, kid! I have a wonderful surprise for you. Let’s go!” And off they go together with dad in the driver’s seat. This is the adventure I spoke of earlier. This is the kairos adventure: becoming like a child and enjoying the ride with Dad on an amazing journey through life with those in your own neighborhood.
We live in a cul-de-sac of 5 houses. Three of them, including us, are next to each other and have had the same residents for more than 24 years. Not all go to church, are of the same beliefs, or are even Christians. We have seen babies born, the arrival of grandkids, and various pets, tragedies, sicknesses, and retirement. We all share vegetables from our gardens, watch each other’s houses when on vacation, feed each other’s animals, shovel snow, exchange Christmas goodies, visit when another is sick in the hospital, send cards, etc.
Last night a new neighbor, an older widow, was out on her front porch with her dog. We walked over to say ‘hi’ and Neighbors from two of the other houses walked over and we just talked for awhile. This is not an uncommon thing lately. We are also friends with some beyond the cul-de-sac and are on a first name basis.
Our new elderly widow neighbor recently asked our next door neighbor (who is not a Christian) why she fed our cat and watched our house while we were away recently for two weeks. She answered, “that’s just what we do in this neighborhood. We take care of each other.” I’ve gone over to her house more than once in the middle of the night to help pick her disabled husband up off the floor.
It wasn’t always this way. A few years ago my wife and I read Lynn Cory’s book, “Neighborhood Initiative”, especially since we’ve known the Cory’s for more than 40 years. We began to pray and ask God how we could better love our neighbors. God is answering that prayer, and we are sure there’s more to come.
Gary and Charlene Miller both recently retired from law enforcement careers. Gary was a Deputy Sheriff, working as a patrol officer and a training officer in Ada County, Idaho. Charlene was part of the Crime Prevention Unit with the Boise City Police, responsible for Neighborhood Watch programs, teaching personal safety and crime prevention on local, state, and national levels. Their professional lives carried over to their church experience at Calvary Chapel in Boise, Idaho. They have been mentors, pastors of an adult singles group, counseled married couples in crisis, and lead bible studies. Gary is part of the men’s ministry team at their church and Charlene volunteers weekly at the local Union Rescue Mission for women, City Lights. They have 3 children and 7 grandchildren. They have known Lynn and Jo Cory since the 1970s.
Welcome to The Kairos Adventure! A journey filled with surprising and life-changing opportunities with God in the neighborhood. All great adventures begin with excitement and anticipation and this one is no different. The Lord is about to take you on a venture better than any ride you will ever experience at any theme park.
You are about to read stories about people whose worlds were rocked by what God did in their own neighborhoods. Each story you will read actually happened to real people, in real time, and in a real neighborhood. In some cases, you will hear firsthand from people as they penned their story. In other cases, I will share someone’s story or share my own. Each story is intended to open your eyes as to how God is at work in the lives of people in their neighborhoods and help you realize that He is doing the same with people in yours. I will reveal how you can have eyes to see what He is up to with your neighbors. Having eyes to see how God is at work with those in your neighborhood is so important in this new adventure that you are embarking upon.
Each story will allow you to learn from others’ experiences and help you to better relate and care for those in your own neighborhood. In some cases, a story will stand on its own and in other cases, a story will be coupled with an insight drawn from someone’s story. Each story provides a time for reflection. Stories are one of the most powerful ways to learn…Jesus taught using them. I am sure, through the years, you have shared your own experiences with others hoping they would learn from your mistakes or how God used you. The Scriptures are packed with stories like this that hopefully we have learned from and shared with others.
You will find by living the kairos life, experiencing divine appointments with God, that you don’t need to try and make something happen in your neighborhood, but God wants to invite you into what He is already doing in the lives of your neighbors. It takes the burden off you and allows you to be in the easy yoke with Jesus as you love and care for them. You will learn to live the kind of life Jesus did when He loved and cared for those near to Him. If you have never thought about it, Jesus loved His neighbors perfectly and invites you to join Him to do the same with your neighbors.
To get the most out of the stories, I would encourage you to read one story a day and then take time throughout the day to reflect and learn from what the person learned from their story. Each chapter will relate another person’s story and their experience with one or more of their neighbors.
Before you embark on this adventure, it’s important that you read the first chapter. The first chapter in this book is the most critical to read before you start on this adventure. Not reading the first chapter is like walking into a movie theater after the movie has started…everyone else can see, but you are groping around in the dark trying to find an empty seat to watch the movie. After you have touched a few people and are a bit of embarrassed, the usher recognizes that you can’t see and shines his light to an open seat you can easily find your way to. Reading the first chapter will help you find your way as you enter each chapter and have your eyes opened as to how God works in the lives of those sharing their stories.
Enjoy the journey, my friend, but please make sure to read the first chapter in order to get the adventure started.
The stories of some individuals can speak volumes. One such story is about my neighbor, Manny. Manny works twelve-hour days as a machinist and then drives around the city collecting scrap metal in an effort to make ends meet. His wife drinks too much, but behind the drinking is another story—drug use and violence, some of which we have witnessed first hand. In Manny’s mind, any dysfunction within his family can be solved with more money . . . or so he thinks.
The other day, Manny saw me in the front yard playing baseball with my son Josiah. His truck was full of scrap metal. “He must be coming home after a long day of work,” I thought. After all, he starts work at 2:30 a.m. and it was now 5 p.m. He stopped his car in front of our house and turned off his ignition. Then he rolled down his driver’s side window and yelled, “Hey Joe! Come over here!”
I walked over to the car, now parked in the middle of the street, and before I had the chance to say a word, Manny blurted out in his typical gruff tone, “Joe, you’ve been here for a couple months now. I have to know . . . what do you do, you know, for work?” I laughed. It’s a good question. After all, he does see me around the neighborhood a lot. “Well, Manny, we are going to start a tutoring club for kids at the elementary school that will emphasize math and reading. We are trying to take an abandoned property in our neighborhood and turn it into an urban farm. And we are starting a church.”
His eyes perked up and looked right at me. “Church,” he said. “What kind of church?”
“Well,” I said, “it’s kind of a church for people who don’t like church.”
I watched as his eyes filled with tears. Turning his eyes up toward me, hands firmly gripped on the steering wheel, he said in a low whisper, “Do you mean a church for people like me?”
“Yes, Manny. It’s a neighborhood church, a church of neighbors, just like you.”
– Joe White—Neighborhood Church, Fresno, California