A Squibble of Thread

Last week I came across an article in the business news that the New York Stock exchange were developing systems to time stamp trades at a nano scale – that is accurate to the billionth of a second. They have found that day trading – traders who only trade while the stock market is open, and cease trading at the bell – is generating so many trades at the close of the market that the only way to make sure that the trades are handled in a fair way is to time stamp the trades to an unprecedented accuracy, and actually process the ‘valid’ trades in the seconds after the market closes.

This article reminded me of an illustration that Admiral Grace Hopper (one of the pioneers of computer programming) used to explain the limits of computer systems…

I have here some lengths of string … each length has two knots… roughly 30cm apart…

Squibble if you would take the string out of its bag and hold it in front of you… that space between one knot and another… that is roughly the distance that light travels in one billionth of a second…

So the NYSE time stamp system would be sufficiently accurate to indicate that a trade had occurred in the time light would travel from your left had to your right hand… it’s a truly mind boggling scale of accuracy.

The morning I read this article my devotional readings also included Psalm 19, and I was struck by the exponential relationship we have with timescales.

Geologists looking into the deep past of our planet talk about the Precambrian SuperEon, and the periods of the current eon – including the Carboniferous, Jurassic, Cretaceous… these geological time scales are immense covering millions and billions of years…

In Human history timescales were marked out by the rising and setting of the sun – giving us days; the phases of the moon – our months; and the changing of the seasons – years. A common measurement in the old testament was that of a ‘generation’…

Over the past two thousand years the christian church has marked out the year – with seasons of Advent, Christmas, Easter, harvest, and depending on your tradition the feast days of saints…

Just under 300 years ago James Harrison’s sea going clocks were used to measure time with unprecedented accuracy (and reliability) so that navigators could calculate longitude and thus traverse the ocean for trade… The one o’clock cannon here in Edinburgh was used to synchronise these navigation clocks on ships that traded across the world.

A hundred years later – the industrial revolution and steam power saw the introduction of national train travel… and time became standardised across the United Kingdom.

And since then each advance in technology provides new developments in measuring time scales. The radio time pips, the speaking clock, international atomic clocks, Global positioning satellites – the list could go on.

We can soon find that daily we are fighting against the clock. Dare I ask how many people here take work home to meet deadlines and timescales that maybe a few short years ago would have been achievable in our ‘working’ hours.

The Psalmist gives us a different perspective –

He sees beyond even a geological time into a theological time scale.

Before humans were created, the earth has been declaring the glory of God… creation speaking without words… but the message, the word, has been going throughout the earth… in all of this time.

Over periods, Eras, Eons and SuperEons the whole earth has been telling of the glory of God.

And God has placed eternity in the hearts of mankind – his timescale is that of eternity.

The challenge for us is to keep our focus, our hope on God’s timescale while we attend to timescales of the business of the day…

So today if you feel pressure to rush, or growing anxiety over time…

Take a moment…

Be still…

Be counter cultural…

Seek Gods timescale, enter into his grace – let his peace come to you.

Take a look at this squibble of thread again, measuring off the billionths of seconds, and know that you have the whole depth of eternity available to you in God, through Jesus Christ.

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