Friday, November 27, 2009

The Power of Two Minutes

Depth, not length, is important.

Not how long you take to talk but how much you say. Not how flowery and eloquent you sound but how sincerely and succinctly you speak...that's what is important...that's what is remembered. Two memorable minutes can be more effective than two marathon hours.

The story was told of the Pennsylvania historic event in 1863. During the first days of the month of July, 51,000 people were killed, wounded, or missing in what would prove the decisive Union victory of the American Civil War. Anguished cries of the maimed and dying made a wailing chorus as the patients were hurried to improvised operating tables. One nurse recorded these words in her journal: "For seven days the tables literally ran with blood". Wagons and Carts were filled to overflowing with amputated arms and legs, wheeled off to a deep trench, dumped and buried. Preachers quoted the twenty-third Psalm over and over as fast as their lips could say it while brave soldiers breathed their last.

A national cemetery was proposed. A consecration service was planned. The date was set: November 19. The commission invited none other than the silver-tongued Edward Everett to deliver the dedication speech. Known for his cultured words, patriotic fervor, and public appeal, the orator, a former Congressman and Governor of Massachusetts, was a natural for the historic occasion. Predictably, he accepted.

In October President Lincoln announced his intentions to attend the ceremonies. This startled the commissioners, who had not expected Mr. Lincoln to leave the Capitol in wartime. Now, how could he not be asked to speak? They were nervous, realising how much better an orator Everett was than Lincoln. Out of courtesy, they wrote the President on November 2, asking him to deliver "a few appropriate remarks".

Finally on the D-day, shortly after the chaplain of the Senate gave the invocation, Everett was introduced. He knew his craft. Voice fluctuation…Tone…Dramatic gestures…Eloquent pauses. Lincoln stared in fascination. One hour fifty-seven minutes later, the orator took his seat as the crowd roared its enthusiastic approval.

At two o'clock in the afternoon, Lincoln was introduced. As he stood to his feet, he held his two-paged speech in his right hand and grabbed his lapel with his left. He never moved his feet nor made any gesture with his hands. His voice, high-pitched, almost squeaky, carried over the crowd like a brass bugle. He was serious and sad at the beginning...but a few sentences into the speech, his face and voice came alive. As he spoke, "The world will little note nor long remember..." he almost broke, but then he caught himself and was strong and clear. People listened on tiptoe. Suddenly, he was finished. No more than two minutes after he had begun, he stopped.

Over 146 years have passed since that historic event. Can anyone recall one line from Everett's two-hour Gettysburg address? Lincoln's two minutes have become among the most memorable two minutes in the history of America.
Some of you in the church may have felt a desire to set aside time to think about what's really important in evaluate your use of the hours in your pray about specific concerns in your life. Even as you're that "you just don't have time". After all, what could be possibly accomplished in the ten-, five-, or two-minute blocks of time you have to spare? It might surprise you-with God, the possibilities are limitless.

History won't let us forget the day when one man accomplished more in two minutes than another did in two hours. How much more should we not underestimate the power of two minutes with God?

So what if you find yourself with only minutes to spare? Invest them in valuable ends, in enduring goals, in honest conversation with God. Give it your best! Time is like character; it's depth that counts in the long run.

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