Ecclesiastes 3:1: “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.”

“Echo, play Christmas music.” “Echo, where is Tibet?” “Echo, what is the temperature in Honolulu?” These are samples of the kinds of commands and questions we have posed for the Echo alarm clock I received for Christmas a year ago. For those unfamiliar with this piece of technology, it is a voice-activated digital fountain of information that seems to know everything.

While the Echo looks simple, it is actually a computer you can talk to. It will play music, forecast the weather and tell jokes. And Echo will offer an opinion if asked, although the opinions are not necessarily consistent.

On one occasion, when our device was asked what is the best breed of dogs, it expressed a preference for beagles (to the chagrin of our pugs). At other times, however, Echo has equivocated, saying that some people like this breed and others like that one. So much for taking a stand on important issues.

The function that we have relied on more than any other is Echo’s ability to be a timer. While this feature of the device is certainly not one that would tax its circuitry, it has come in quite handy in a home where there is a fair amount of cooking done regularly. And it was our use of Echo in this way over the holidays that prompted my reflection here.

Among the several delicacies created in our kitchen on Christmas Day was a piece of meat that had to be roasted for a couple of hours. Given the limitations of my culinary talents, the task I was given was to be the time-keeper. Consequently, I contributed my part to the feast by periodically saying, “Echo, set the timer for 30 minutes.” Understand that I was fulfilling this function while dutifully sitting in my chair, watching television.

When I was asked for the fourth time to have Echo restart the timer, I suggested that maybe it would have been simpler just to add up all of these numbers and to have Echo notify us when two hours had passed. It was at that point I was instructed that after each of these increments of 30 or 40 minutes, something had been done to the meat: turning or basting or whatever cooks do. There’s apparently more to it, in other words, than just waiting for the passage of time.

It seems, then, that cooking is a bit like living. It’s a process. We complete one thing before we move on to the next. Perhaps it’s what the child in the comic strip had in mind when she said, “God created time to keep everything from happening all at once.”

In other words, there’s a season for everything. Just as that piece of beef was tasty not because of the mere passage of two hours but because of the periodic seasonings, so our life is enriched not by the number of years lived but by the seasons that shape who we are.

Nicholas Phillips is pastor of New Hope Presbyterian Church in Biggersville and practices law in Iuka. Contact him at

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