Wednesday, August 31, 2011

More on Waiting

More on Waiting

In my last post I asked for responses to what might be good about waiting, having offered a few thoughts of my own. A day or two later my older (and wiser) brother wrote me an email with his thoughts. Some of them were quite personal, so I have edited them a bit. But I hope that what I am sharing with you here is a close approximation of what he wrote.

His overarching suggestion was that perhaps the ability to wait is a side-effect of a life of contentment. He wrote that he was reminded of Paul’s letter to the Philippians. Paul, who incidentally is writing “in chains,” says that he has “learned to be content whatever the circumstances.” I will have to look up that text in the original language sometime, just to satisfy my own curiosity. For now however, a quick look at dictionary.com tells me that content means “satisfied with what one is or has; not wanting more or anything else.”

Ok so I’m a failure at contentment, at least in certain areas. Maybe that’s why I hate waiting. And of course our culture feeds lack of contentment with the constant barrage of advertising encouraging us to be better, stronger, faster, prettier, etc. – now.

My brother used my father as his example of contentment. He is right. My dad rarely complains about anything. He takes what comes to him with gratitude and contentment like his own father did. Our grandfather was, according to my brother, the most contented man he had ever met. My brother remembered a time when he visited my grandfather in his retirement home. Home might be an exaggeration. It was (and now I am quoting my brother) a room with a bed, a chair, and a few personal belongings.  When asked how he was, grandpa said, with noticeable honesty and sincerity, that everything was good. He had a good chair and everything he needed.

I remember my grandfather’s contentment as well, although not that particular instance. And my brother’s recollection put my own lack of contentment in bold print.

So I think I might practice waiting—being a more patient driver; being more laid back about people who are habitually late; being more willing to say to the person in line “no you go first.” (I want you to know that my immediate family is wondering right now why they have the sudden urge to fall out of their chairs laughing.) I’m not sure what other sorts of waiting I might have to do but I have some guesses and I’m pretty sure I’m not going to like it. But it seems a fair way to start moving toward the contentment that Paul talks about. And as my brother pointed out, contentment leads to the peace that passes all understanding, not just about salvation, but peace with God in all areas of my life, no matter the circumstances. That is a worthwhile goal to strive after. Thanks Carl!

Saturday, August 27, 2011


For the past several months I have been trying to read through the psalms about every 4-6 weeks. I enjoy it and am surprised at how often I come across unfamiliar psalms, as well as familiar psalms that speak to me in entirely new ways.

Today as I was reading, Psalm 27:14 hit me between the eyes. It reads, “Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD.” I meditated on the verse for several minutes to let it sink in. You see, I’m a lousy waiter. I hate waiting in line. I hate waiting at traffic lights. I get wildely impatient when meetings don’t start on time. I am crabby when someone says they will meet me at a particular time and then shows up 15 minutes late. I could go on with my confession but I think you get the picture.

And although these examples of waiting might not be your pet peeves, it strikes me that 21st century Americans are not very good at waiting in general. We are instant gratification people, aren’t we? Fast food, fast cars, fast internet connections, fast phones….the faster the better. Waiting for an internet page to load in 13 seconds rather than 2 drives some people crazy.

Isn’t the psalmist’s command in some ways completely at odds with how we live? Wait.

And of course this is not the only such command in Scripture. It actually appears a number of times in the psalms, as well as in God’s commands to his people in various stories. One text even says it is good to wait for the salvation of the LORD(Lam. 3:26).

Good to wait??? What’s so good about waiting? I’m not really sure, but here are a few thoughts. Maybe waiting reminds us that we are not in control, we only think we are. Obviously, if I could be at the front of the line I would. But I am not in control so I have to wait. And the same is true with my relationship with God. Sometimes God’s answer to my prayer is not yes or no, but wait. I’m not always so keen on that, but hindsight being what it is, that answer has often been the case in my experience.

Furthermore, maybe waiting reminds me that I am not the center of the universe. There are other people whose schedule is just as important as mine. My need to get home or to a meeting or whatever is not inherently more important than the need of the person ahead of me. Thus, when the next line over opens at the grocery store, running over without regard to the person just in front of me who has also been waiting is not demonstrating love for neighbor.

I feel  a bit like I’m grasping at straws, however. I don’t like to wait and coming up with reasons why waiting is good really doesn’t help much. But in the rush of every day life, there seems to be something deeply important about learning to slow down, and even to wait. And given that waiting is frequently commanded by God only enhances this feeling. So what do you think? What is good about waiting?

Friday, August 12, 2011

The Plains

For those of you who read regularly, I’m sorry for the lack of posts lately. We were on vacation. I did some reflecting, but no posting. In fact, I actively avoided technology in general. But that is another story. I will be posting some of my musing from our trip over the next few weeks. Thanks for your patience.

We drove 16 hours today. Much of it was across the plains states. And yes, we chose to do this during the day.

When I talk about driving across Iowa or Nebraska, something we have done numerous times, any number of people have said to me something along the lines of “oooh, those states are soooooo boring!” I usually offer some objection to their assessments, but to no avail. I thought about those comments again today and wondered whether those people have ever paid attention to the landscape they are hurrying through. Or better yet, whether they had ever bothered to get off Interstate 80 for a slower and closer perspective.

Take Iowa. The rolling farmland, deep valleys, the miles of crops that feed our families and so many more…..it is beautiful. I never tire of driving up and down those hills, seeing the silos grouped together like monuments marking out the family farms.

 I remember the nights spent on the farms of my uncles and aunts, some of the most hospitable people you will ever meet. It was so dark at night that I could hardly see my hand in front of my face as I lay in bed. And I was scared. But my aunt would bring me a nightlight if my sister was not with me, so I wouldn’t be afraid. And my older cousins would help me catch fireflies while our parents chatted and sipped sweet iced tea in the warm, humid summer evenings. Wonderful people. Wonderful land.

And of course, I can’t imagine a bigger sky than Nebraska. The horizon stretches out endlessly. The sun begins to color the summer sky pink at 9:30 and there are still traces of pink and yellow and orange an hour and a half later. And once it finally gets dark, there are more stars than you knew existed…so close you feel like you can touch them. Its almost impossible to go to bed because it is so beautiful.

While mountains and oceans tend to get more press, it turns out that the Iowa cornfields and the Nebraska sky, not to mention the sandhills, grasses, lakes, rivers, etc., of the plains all proclaim the glory of God as much as those parts of God’s world that are often considered more spectacular….if only people will take time to notice.