This has been a week when I am back to keeping a schedule.

Or trying to.

Today a forgot a lunch date until 20 minutes past the appointed hour.

So embarrassing!

It was a very busy morning, starting with 6:30 birthday song chorus from Owen and Julia for Granddad’s birthday, then a trip to the Eastern Mennonite University campus where I’ll be spending a lot of time this semester, attending the opening convocation of the spring semester, and meeting the new president of EMU, Susan Schultz Huxman.

Susan Schultz Huxman, ninth president of EMU

Susan Schultz Huxman, ninth president of EMU

After I forgot about my lunch date, (which was salvaged by a kind friend and a reminder phone call) I started pondering chronos time versus kairos time.

You may remember the distinction that chronos lends its name to calendars and watches, measuring the passage of chronological minutes.

Whereas kairos time connects with the eternal.

We can call it God’s time. The video below explains it without using those names.

Here’s an excellent blog post that describe Kairos and Chronos in more depth.

I’m not so good with Chronos time after living all of last semester in Kairos time.

In the midst of moving back and forth between kinds of time, I had some great news yesterday.

My article on Jubilación was the lead article on the website Next Avenue and was also published at In it, I tell the story of why I think jubilee makes a better name for the “third act” of life than retired. I hope you’ll read it, and if you like it, share it. It would be great to be invited to continue writing for these websites.

How does jubilee connect with time?

We can’t experience jubilee without also experiencing Kairos. But in this life we can’t disregard Chronos either.

I still feel a lot of movement between these two kinds of time. Ironically, once I establish a pattern of Chronos time that moves predictably and rhythmically, I can free myself to be open to grace, to Kairos.

 I am going through a lot of first-time processes as I move back to teaching and to participating in campus life.

Soon, I hope, this lovely space I’ve been given will become not just the place to prepare syllabus and lectures, but also the place to contemplate and converse,

to breathe deeply and enjoy the gift of the right time in the expansive universe and tender hands of God.

My temporary home in Professor Mark Sawin's office.

My temporary home in Professor Mark Sawin’s office. I’m teaching one course while he is on sabbatical.

Tell us what YOU know of chronos and kairos time? What impact does aging have on your experience of time?  No matter what your age!

Shirley Showalter


  1. Elfrieda Neufeld Schroeder on January 11, 2017 at 10:22 pm

    That video on chronos and Kairos time is powerful! I am such a time conscious person, and if I don’t have a watch I feel lost. My dad taught all of us the importance of being on time, and I love to have a schedule. So retirement was hard to get used to, but I am learning to savor the moments, and at my age, I know how time flies. When your children are little you somehow think they will always stay that way, even though you know better. I dote on my grandchildren because now I know how quickly they change, how quickly everything changes!

    • Shirley Showalter on January 11, 2017 at 10:35 pm

      Elfrieda, thanks for starting the conversation with your own memories of time. I’m glad you enjoyed the video. Finding it was abut of a Kairos moment for me today. It was embedded in a comment on the blog post on chronos and kairos and turned out to be perfect.

      My father was a stickler for punctuality too. He viewed it as respect for the other person’s time. So I always feel a little ashamed when I’m late.

      Part of jubilee is relaxing and expanding in time while still keeping our commitments.

  2. Sue Shoemaker on January 12, 2017 at 1:48 am

    The first time I heard these concepts, I realized that I was a Kairos person living in a Chronos world. My rather simplistic definitions for these terms are:
    Chronos (by the clock)
    Kairos (as the spirit moves me)

    Like you, Shirley, I was a teacher for 13.5 years. The school day is Chronos and classes are run “by the clock.” When I became a guidance counselor, my work started “when a need arose” and ended “when we were finished.” For 25 years my “schedule” was flexible and “open ended” and much more Kairos in nature. Time expanded or contracted as needed.

    Being Kairos meant that I had my share of issues with timeliness and punctuality. I have often tried to “squeeze” too much living/activity/accomplishment into an inadequare amount of time.

    My greatest love, outside of my family, is travel, which often requires meeting exact schedules. For some reason, I have no problem with punctuality when it is related to travel. In my “encore career,” I am a tour director, and not only do I have to be “on time,” I also have to inspire my group participants to be quite Chronos during the days we spend together.

    Travel is so full of variables. No two days are alike. As stated in the video, travel provides me with opportunities to step outside my comfort zone, meet new people, create memories, move, experience, and stretch myself in ways I would not if I was at home.

    At home, I live on a farm in a rural setting, and I refuse to have a schedule beyond when I get my haircut. I usually attend two dance classes and two exercise classes each week; however, if I choose not to go, it’s no big deal. I leave my schedule “open” so I can say “YES” when my daughters-in-law need a “back-up” babysitter, or my grandchildren want to hang out, or my husband needs a ride to the implement dealer, or a friend wants to talk.

    My life ebbs and flows at a pace that feels just right.

    • Shirley Showalter on January 12, 2017 at 9:44 am

      Sue, I love reading these stories about your life! We have so much in common, yet we have taken slightly different paths. I am reading a book right now, Designing Your Life, that argues anyone of us has available multiple paths at any given time. The authors come from a design background and believe in “building” a vocation. As a guidance counselor, you might enjoy reading it. I’ve already picked up a few ideas I’ll use in my class tonight.

      I love this sentence: “At home, I live on a farm in a rural setting, and I refuse to have a schedule beyond when I get my haircut.” May you live each day in Kairos time until you go on a trip. Now you are in a new subject — the relationship between time and space! To understand, we’ll probably need to delve into physics and philosophy. Fun!

  3. Melodie Davis on January 12, 2017 at 7:55 am

    Jubilee Time is a new book to me, I will need to check it out. I had first heard Lynn Miler (author, pastor, stewardship counselor) talk about the concept of “soy jubilado” when interviewing him for Mennonite Media’s documentary in aging and I loved the word, and the concept. But it sounds like Maria Harris used it before Lynn did. Living with a spouse who is now freed from his horrific schedule and rat race I am pleased to see him adding new routines to his life (exercise, visiting shut ins) and exploring the creativity that always had to be squeezed in, not celebrated. That doesn’t mean I’m celebrating the messes he makes and takes too long to clean up, in my book. Oh well. 🙂

    • Melodie Davis on January 12, 2017 at 7:57 am

      first heard. (Sorry about the typo.)

      • Shirley Showalter on January 12, 2017 at 9:45 am

        Typo fixed!

    • Shirley Showalter on January 12, 2017 at 9:50 am

      Melodie, thanks for reminding me of this documentary on aging. I wonder if it is in one of the local libraries. I’ll look. People who have spent time in Latin America are evidently familiar with the term.

      I am so glad your Stuart is opening up to Kairos time.

      And I chuckled about the messes around the house. Have you done a blog post on this topic? 🙂 I’m thinking Judith Viorst here. 🙂

  4. Marian Beaman on January 12, 2017 at 8:36 am

    Chronos time is embedded in my psyche. My aunt wore a watch with a leather strap keeping her classes lock-step. My mother kept a close watch on the second hand of the kitchen clock especially when we were getting ready for school or church.

    Though I’m extremely time conscious, I no longer wear a watch, which probably says something about my wish to be released from time’s clutches. Like Andrew Marvell in To His Coy Mistress “But at my back I always hear / Times winged Charriot hurrying near.”

    The closest I get to Kairos time these days is during my early morning meditation and when I’m visiting love ones. Taking a sabbatical now would feel like a luxury.

    I read your article first when it was posted on Facebook. I shall read it again and share it too. Yes, Jubilee!

    By the way, when you want a change from contemplating time, exploring space would be a good segue. You had a special room at Collegeville, and now a lovely office for study and prep at EMU. I believe our environment influences our mood and ability to concentrate. Maybe one day you could explore that topic . . .

    • Shirley Showalter on January 12, 2017 at 6:00 pm

      What a great way to describe Chronos: “a close watch on the second hand of the kitchen clock.” You always capture more ideas in a sentence than just the surface one.
      Your 2017 word FOCUS, and your goal of finishing your manuscript, is probably preventing you from lingering too long in Kairos time. Although I am sure you love those times as a writer when you enter the “flow” state. Have you read the book by the guy who was quoted in the video, whose name looks like all consonants and is apparently pronounced Cheek sent me high? I know, you don’t have time. ? I have it right next to me on the shelf, but like many others, it sits there mostly unread. Oh well, here’s to flow in your life and mine anyway.
      I like your suggestion. In fact, it fits with my gathering thoughts for a post soon to come. Stay tuned. ?

  5. Shirley Showalter on January 12, 2017 at 9:58 am

    Oh, and thank you so much for your offer to share the post. Reading it once was surely enough. 🙂

  6. Audrey Denecke on January 12, 2017 at 2:05 pm

    My spirit is vibrating in resonance with your post. I have been experiencing several synchronistic moments in recent weeks. First, I would share that I am a moderate sensate (I feel into what is going on with others and around me). So all the political happenings of the fall and since then have affected me at an energy level. Then, at Christmas, one of my younger sisters gifted me with several books (as is her custom). This year, one of the books was The Ragged Edge of Silence: Finding Peace in a Noisy World by John Francis.
    Then, early in January, I was clearing and organizing my office, and I turned over an old Parabola journal from Spring 2008, the issue dedicated to SILENCE. Work too has slowed (a bit unsettling); a space clearing for something new? I have learned to respect these synchronistic moments. I have said YES to the Universe or Holy Mystery or my higher self and increased the space for “stillness” in my days (meditation, reflection, etc.). I find myself spending my mornings with less and less noise (no AM news, less or quieter music, etc.). Today your post is welcomed as an affirmation of the synchronistic messages. John Jaworski wrote in his book on Synchronicity that these messages which keep appearing are God’s way of speaking to us. Without the slower Kairos time and the stillness, we may miss the gift life offers (as the video suggests. Namaste Shirley.

    • Shirley Showalter on January 12, 2017 at 6:45 pm

      Namaste to you also, Audrey. I loved that book Synchronicity. I must be at least part sensate also, because the book described many experiences similar to ones I’ve experienced and made them more comprehensible to me.

      I know it is a little disquieting when work slows down when you are a freelancer, but I admire the way you are allowing the current to ebb and flow, enjoying the Kairos. Look at that word dis-quiet. It says a lot, doesn’t it?

      May your silences be deep and wide, may new courage come to you in the quiet hours, and may you continue to find friends along the way. Glad we found each other this year!

      • Audrey Denecke on January 12, 2017 at 7:36 pm

        Holding the space for and with you tonight, may the class tonight be an opening for your students and a blessing for both teacher and students.

        I neglected to mention, and it would indeed be so exciting if Next Avenue and would start to seeing you as a regular writer for them! I’m thrilled that your vision for stepping into a public writing voice role is so quickly coming to fruition. Hurrah!

  7. susan scott on January 12, 2017 at 3:49 pm

    I nearly jumped out of my skin when the video started Shirley … but watching it later and the beautiful picture of the seasons and his emphasis on finding meaning in the beauty of life and living brought me back to calm.

    I gave up wearing a watch many many years ago because I felt it was ruling my life. Perhaps I noticed firstly how it was ruling other peoples’ lives. People are always looking at their watches, even while playing tennis or scrabble. And punctuality is key for me …

    Kairos time, time to be and not to worry so much about doing, being still and silent helps me to feel more vibrant paradoxically. Thank you for this lovely post, and may your Kronos and Kairos blend well as you make new steps in your adventures.

    • Shirley Showalter on January 12, 2017 at 6:49 pm

      Susan, I know what you mean about that jarring beginning. I guess I should have warned people. Glad you were able to enjoy it past that noise.

      You are the second person here who has chosen not to wear a watch. I think our desire to move away from Chronos (or Kronos) gets stronger as its stranglehold on our lives gets stronger. People have a FOMO — fear of missing out. When what we should fear more is the fear of plunging headlong into activity and waking up at the end wondering where our lives went.

      All best to you also, Susan. Eager to hear more about your book.

  8. Dolores Nice-Siegenthaler on January 12, 2017 at 4:08 pm

    To increase and allow more Kairos time, I recently joined a six-week group of “Dreamers.” We dream of the sea by reading the story “The Selkie’s New Skin” by Sharon Blackie. Six of us, from around the world, meet online every two weeks. We keep track of our dreams and syncronicities to discover how the story and our group time creeps into our Chronos time. We also include herbs in our lives, e.g. making a mugwort bundle to put under our pillows (mugwort traditionally invites dreams).

    • Shirley Showalter on January 12, 2017 at 6:52 pm

      Dolores, this group of Dreamers sounds so delightful! How did you find out about this idea? I want to know more. I take it that mugwort is an herb or plant of some kind? Do tell what happens as you invite Kairos in this very creative way. You have an audience of one right here, and I imagine all the readers of this blog will be interested too.

  9. Carol Bodensteiner on January 12, 2017 at 5:56 pm

    I grew up obsessed with being on time – a sign of respect in our family as it was in yours, Shirley. At home, I don’t wear a watch since time is kept all around us – computer, phone, wall, radio. Even with all that, I’ve lost track of hours, even days. When I leave the house, however, I wear a watch. Easier to peek at time (and not be rude) than to pick up my phone.

    Funny about your forgotten lunch. When I read the post, I was waiting – and waiting – for a friend to join me for lunch. Unfortunately she was waiting for me in another restaurant. As each of us waiting, the minutes ticked by interminably. When we finally connected, the next hour and a half sped by so fast I nearly missed my next appointment. Ah, time.

    • Shirley Showalter on January 12, 2017 at 6:56 pm

      You described my experience exactly, Carol. My friend must have found the waiting time interminable, but fortunately, he found a way to contact me. And then, o my, I fortunately had a car and a short trip. We immediately entered flow time and emerged with the goal for the lunch fully accomplished, but we moved in and out of time just like you did.

      I’m looking at the clock right now in this lovely new classroom with all the latest technology in it. Soon students will be filing in. I’m feeling a little suspended in time right now, and a little nervous, as always. But I’m pretty sure that I’ll not look at the clock again for any reason other than to make sure I don’t keep them too long. At least, that’s the way I pray time will fly by tonight.

  10. Richard A Kauffman on January 12, 2017 at 9:04 pm

    Monks had a role in the invention of clocks to help them remember the hours for daily prayers, an instance of kairos time invading chronos time.

    • Shirley Showalter on January 12, 2017 at 10:06 pm

      Fascinating, Richard. The monks of St. John’s Abbey were very punctual indeed at the Liturgy of the Hours. This poem now has human reference points for me, and now I will think about the way it combines the two kinds of time, thanks to you.

  11. Kathleen Pooler on January 13, 2017 at 10:12 am

    Hi Shirley, I had to chuckle as I read this. My Dad was an engineer and very precise about anything related to time, always looking at his watch. It was never around 3 o’clock. It was 3:07. Needless to say, I grew up adhering to punctuality as my profession required. But when I retired in 2011, I lost track of the clock and now happily live in Kairos time.I hardly know what day it is sometimes and I often don not wear a watch. Of course, that can be a challenge and I too have been late for meetings because I was so caught up in my own world. I love this “go with the flow ” feeling! Thank you for enlightening me about Chronos and Kairos time. The links were powerful. I wish you much peace and light as you enter into the next phase of your journey.

    • Shirley Showalter on January 13, 2017 at 6:30 pm

      I believe nurses have to wear watches with a second hand? And engineers carried those pocket watches. You had a double does of Chronos in your background, Kathy. I’m glad you can enjoy some catching up with Kairos time now and hope that it gives you strength for your journey that has always been about healing.

  12. Merril Smith on January 13, 2017 at 1:57 pm

    Shirley, I am fascinated by time, and I enjoyed your post. I was struck by your statement: “once I establish a pattern of Chronos time that moves predictably and rhythmically, I can free myself to be open to grace, to Kairos.” And actually, I don’t think it’s ironic at all. As it was pointed out in the comments above, monks have adhered to specific time for their devotions. My days are often spent in a combination of Chronos and Kairos–that is I am often focused on tasks–as in today, when I need to finish reading and editing several articles for my book–but I am also conscious of time, such as getting to the gym for a particular class. I don’t wear a watch because I generally see the time on my computer or other clocks at home, or on my phone, if I’m out.

    I’m giving myself only a limited time for a lunch break today–so now it’s time 🙂 to get back to work. I will check out your article later. (As you saw, we had a busy day yesterday!)

    • Shirley Showalter on January 13, 2017 at 6:53 pm

      You sound both organized and flexible, Merril. That allows you to experience both kinds of time. And a historian has to be interested in time. 🙂

      I am excited with you that your daughter and son-in-law “won the lottery” of the gift of a house. I hope they will let you tell the backstory in your blog. We all would be interested. How thrilling.

  13. Richard Gilbert on January 14, 2017 at 10:52 am

    I wonder if achieving/enhancing kairos time is why travel is supposed to be so salutary? Especially for oldsters? Even though travel is hard, especially for older folks, and exposes you not only to beauty but to bleakness—and a boatload of ordinariness—thereby shattering the shell designed to protect us from all that. But which, of course, numbs us.

    I think too of my granddaughter, whois having such an intense life, each day jam-packed. Is this more “it,” the message here? Because that’s a LOT harder than travel, say . . .

    • Shirley Showalter on January 14, 2017 at 1:03 pm


      You might be interested in Sue Shoemaker’s comment above, if you haven’t read it yet. She makes this point about travel. I’m pondering it. The last few years have brought lots of travel for Stuart and me. Space travel definitely slows down time, 🙂 but I am not certain that time slows on earth — except for moments when we are completely engrossed in work, in love with someone or some thing, or filled with awe. I have definitely experienced one or more of these in almost every trip I’ve taken. However, looking back on the trip, the time seems to have flown by.

      Your granddaughter should be a toddler by now, right? Are you saying that traveling back in age is harder than traveling in time? Just trying to be sure I understand . . .

  14. Richard Gilbert on January 14, 2017 at 1:08 pm

    Yep,she’s just now two. Very busy. I do think it’s hard to emulate a toddler’s intensity; in fact, it would kill me. But I wonder if each age has its daemon. We can perhaps learn from each other, but is youth’s kairos,if that’s what it is, unique to youth? And the older person’s likewise.

    • Shirley Showalter on January 14, 2017 at 2:14 pm

      Ah, the thesis of the video–only young people live in kairos naturally. That’s a Romantic idea, and it does seem to fit. Wordsworth:

      “Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive,
      But to be young was very heaven!”

      • Shirley Showalter on January 14, 2017 at 2:15 pm

        Perhaps each age has its daemon. Interesting concept. I wonder if the developmental psychologists, Erikson, for example, address this??

  15. Elaine Mansfield on January 15, 2017 at 1:27 pm

    Congratulations all around, Shirley. Such good news. I’ll go to the sites to read your post and will share.

    I tend to get trapped in chronos time. It’a a lifetime issue. And yes, it steals energy from kairos time if I’m not mindful. If I don’t meditate first thing, I get too busy to sit and contemplate later. When I was married, our family schedule included contemplative time. For 40 years, Vic and I meditated in the evening between work and dinner. Our children were used to a late afternoon snack and dinner around 7. Vic and I counted on meeting each otherin meditation at that time. I also miss those kairos possibilities of travel and visits to holy places, but the Dalai Lama will visit Ithaca this summer. I’ve invited both my children to come to see him since he’s been a lifetime inspiration.

    Time feels short without the spaciousness of “later” that I once had. I feel the need to focus and commit–and it doesn’t always work to will that since the deepest motivation and knowing come from receptivity.

    • Shirley Showalter on January 15, 2017 at 9:16 pm

      Elaine, thanks for sharing the deliberate ways you and Vic created space for Kairos as part of daily living. How impressive. I know how hard it is. The whole world, or at least our culture, conspires against it.

      I’m so glad you’ll get to see the Dalai Lama again this summer, and that your children will be able to see him also.

      Your comment about the foreshortened “later” is profound. I hope you explore it more and turn it into a blog post of your own. Can we be receptive even without the knowledge of long stretches of time ahead!!??

  16. Laurie Buchanan on January 17, 2017 at 10:49 am

    Shirley — Happy belated birthday to Stuart! I have a love affair with this mystical magical thing we call time, so this post was especially fun for me to read.

    I’m beyond thrilled that your article on Jubilación was the LEAD article on Next Avenue and was also published at FORBES! Holy Toledo!

    Currently, my keyboard strokes are marching to the beat of Chronos time as I laser focus on completing the next book—The Business of Being. And even though a three-month sabbatical sounds like a lot of time, it’s whipping by like a bullet train!

    The office space you get to enjoy while Professor Mark Sawin is on sabbatical looks wonderful — I especially like the natural like pouring in through the windows.


    • Shirley Showalter on January 17, 2017 at 12:05 pm

      You have a great memory, Laurie, which serves you well in relationships and in writing. Perhaps a gift of dwelling in Kairos?

      Thanks for celebrating with me on the article. It was fun to have my first placement in those two great venues online.

      I know how fast even sabbatical time flies by.

      I am heading back to that office sometime soon and do love the natural light. You’ll probably see more of that space before the semester is up. 🙂

      All peace and power and flow to you as you connect with others today and go deep inside for writing tomorrow. A lovely way to divide time, by the way.

  17. […] the upcoming inauguration of President Susan Schultz Huxman at Eastern Mennonite […]

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