Tag Archives: Help

“Patience, please!”

The comma is important.  You see, the phrase, “Patience, please!” was not a plea for perseverance or long-suffering; it was merely this former short order grill jockey’s call for one of the waitresses in an all-night burger joint in a restless college town to pick up her most recent order.  There was a waitress named Patience and, when her orders were ready, the grill jockeys called out her name, “Patience, please!”  Hence the use of the comma…the vocative case, don’t you know.  Direct address set off by a comma.  [I know, more grammar than you bargained for from a blogster.] 

But every time I shouted, “Patience, please!” I was sure that the burger joint’s clientele was hearing a plea for serenity while their burgers and fries and late night breakfast platters were prepared.  They thought I was asking them to wait without stress…to wait gracefully, to calm themselves in anticipation of the food that was to be delivered…radiating the steam of freshness…right to their tables and expectant palates.   “Patience, please!” 

I have to admit that part of me enjoyed the double-edged meaning and that I sometimes shouted, “Patience, please!” when Patience wasn’t even working…just for the fun of it…I’m that weird and sly. 

But all that is to say that waiting can be difficult.  I’m waiting right now for so many things: for a rescheduled visit to see my Dad, for my own sense of equilibrium in a tougher-than-expected church setting, for a wisp of wisdom about Sunday’s sermonic attempt, for the right words to break through to a college class full of students taking the course only because they must, for winter to be done, for a dose of abiding joy, for some “peace… which transcends understanding [to] guard [my] heart and mind,” for some good and clearing news from a medical practitioner about one for whom I care most deeply.  I’m waiting right now.  I am waiting and I am hoping for progress on all fronts.  But mostly I am just waiting and I.HATE.WAITING. 

Call me a product of my micro-waved, instant message culture, if you will.  Or maybe just call me self-centered and spiritually bereft if you must (or call me all three if you feel need of an ad hominem trifecta).  But I do…hate waiting…that is. 

I have much of the world fooled.  Outside I present a placid surface that would have driven the Portuguese explorer, Magellan, to nickname me, “Pacifico,” if he had spent time getting to know me instead of wasting his time with exploration of the world’s largest ocean.  Inside, however, waiting makes my mind melt and my spirit churn.  Having to wait is part of the human condition; me having to wait is part of my human confusion. 

Don’t get me wrong…I don’t plan to “go postal” (I do go post, that is, mail things from time-to-time) and I am not one of those maddening, high volume car screamers who pounce on their car horns and wave and shout and give the single-finger salute the very second the street light turns green for the car in the front of the line. [Part of the issue there is that my car horn is not very intimidating…not at all a “manly sounding” car horn…why I can’t get an 18 wheeler tractor’s horn on my Honda is still a mysterious disappointment.]  No, I won’t be cuffed and booked and jailed for road rage.  But I still hate waiting. 

And…truth be told…many of the things for which I wait are just passing elements of the human existence.  To be sure, some of them are weighty and worthy objects of concern, but many are not. 

So here is the place I try to go:  the place of realization that my weighty and worthy objects of concern (and even my lesser objects of concern) are of more concern to God than they are to me.  “Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you,” Peter says.  “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God,” Paul says. 

Going to God with my concerns helps me on multiple fronts.  It helps me discern the weighty from the trivial.  It helps me examine my own motives and strip out the selfishness inherent in nearly everything I do and worry about.  It helps me focus my attention on those things that make a difference.  It helps me regain my spiritual equilibrium and look back to those times of God’s provision in the past to find the encouragement that He will meet the needs of this day and the next.  It helps me to stay closer to Jesus and His Spirit from whom I am energized in my own spirit to know patience (not the waitress, but the quality). 

Looking back over this brief post, it strikes me as trite, void of answers and helpful prescription for “better” moments in the waiting.  I was hoping for more.  But sometimes in the waiting, there is only waiting. 

“Patience please!” [No comma; all command; all I have.] 

© All rights reserved.  Scripture from the NIV, Zondervan.

Zombie Church

My bride took me to see “The Not So Great Gatsby” last year, Old Sport.  I have to confess that I did not like the film, or the book, or the earlier film with Robert Redford, Old Sport.  Just didn’t like it, Old Sport.  When we were leaving the theater I told my brilliant and beautiful life companion that she owed me five “real” movies after TNSGG; we settled on three or four, I think.

A little later in our 2013 cinematic experience, I took her to see World War Z.  Now, I am generally not a fan of the Zombie genre.  But, in my defense, the previews did a pretty good job of selling the movie and I decided it was worth a try.  My wife and I went together.  On the way out she said, “We’re even.”  I said sheepishly (by the way…how did sheep get the rap for when we look stupid?)…anyway, I said, “Yep.”  Because we were, even, that is.  And I was, you know, stupid.

Meanwhile, back at the Zombies.  They’re kind of fun to watch for a little while (at least they were for me).

You see, Zombies appear to be alive, but they are not.  They walk and they grunt (see “grumble” in your Bible concordance).  They mass together in directionless mobs intent on the consumption of every resource in sight.  They don’t “give back”; they don’t really “give” at all (unless you count the smirk-laced amusement from a movie audience).  They devour anyone in their way.  When they are done, they move on to the next consumption opportunity.  Plus…they chatter and snarl…a lot.  They are just plain mean, but then again, they are Zombies.  You don’t expect much more from them; they are what they are.

It’s just that, from the outside, from a distance, for a moment or two, in the noir of a theater, they look like they are people.  Not dead but alive.  They look like they could help in times of trouble and provide respite for those in need and a cool cup of water on a sizzling summer’s day (which is apparently NEVER COMING this year). 

But then the Zombies come closer (they have remarkable speed for being, ummm, dead).  And when they get closer, at the last minute, when it’s inevitably too late (unless you are Brad Pitt…see World War Z above), they close in for the kill.  They have done harm–which, it seems, is all Zombies can do, even if they look like they are alive.

And…sad to say…Zombies cannot go back to being alive and being productive and being forces for good.

But we can…at least Jesus thinks so…

Revelation 3:1-3 “To the angel of the church in Sardis write:

These are the words of him who holds the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God. Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; hold it fast, and repent.”

I know that I have my Zombie moments, like everyone else in the Body of Christ.  And there have been (and are) times in church life when I feel like I am hanging with the Zombs (yes, I made up another word).  But we need to stop and turn and quit it.  Individually, collectively; alone, together; the world has seen enough Zombies. 

We have stuff to do; empowered by the presence of the Living God, we have stuff to do, Old Sport.

© All rights reserved.  Scripture from the NIV, Zondervan.







Out of Step (Parenting) & Other Cadence Challenges

​There is genuine beauty in the mobile symmetry of a marching unit.  Be it a band or a brigade, the simultaneously duplicated movements are captivating.  When I was in the military, I had the great fortune to command an Air Force Basic Military Training Squadron.  Twice weekly the unit, along with all the other Basic Training squadrons, would march in parade for family, friends, and distinguished visitors.  The Military Training Instructors, in their uniquely soft spoken and encouraging way, would work with the Basic Trainees to perfect the art of marching in step.  The best training instructors will tell you that, for optimal marching results, getting the entire group together (as a unit) at the beginning, is the best way to build the habits required for marching in step.  Later additions to the group, folks who were not part of the original unit, can throw things off completely.  The later additions can eventually catch the rhythm of the original group but it is decidedly harder.  Staying “in step” is a tough gig for the newbies.

Which is why I wonder why they call it “Step Parenting.”  Because this step parent is very, very rarely in step.  Step parents are from the outside–grafted into an existing family system that already has its distinctive movements and patterns and speeds.  Depending upon the ages of the “step children” and the whereabouts of other biological parents, step parenting can be a seriocomic marching disaster.  Zigging when needing to zag; zagging when needing to zig.  Marking time when everyone else is at double time; double timing to catch up to everyone else marking time.  It’s enough to make a seasoned marching veteran run for the hills–if only one knew where the hills have been hidden in the land of step parenting.

There is, in my step parenting experience and observation, rarely such thing as a “unit”–what usually exists is a series of momentarily coterminous “family-like” entities that bang into each other for relatively short periods of time.  Those collisions can be innocuous or they can be toxic.  As the outsider–the step parent–knowing which result will attain is tough to predict.  And, more importantly, knowing the cadence to try to help ensure a better outcome (to try to get in step) is nigh on impossible to predetermine.  More often it’s like playing Russian Roulette–only this revolver has a round in nearly every chamber instead of just one.  With each pull of the trigger, the step parent realizes, again, how out of step he or she really is.

Boundaries, other parent complications, schedules, tentacles of other step family connections, and financial issues all combine with some eerie atmospheric to make staying “in step” a challenge.

I know that there are step parents who have meshed really well with their step children and their other step relatives.  I marvel at the seeming miracle of it and applaud the sense of relational cadence those “in step” parents have achieved.  And yes…I have read the books (well, ok, I have looked at all the book titles on Amazon.com, skimmed some of the material, and read bits of it); I know that step parenting is much more art than science.  This particular artist is just desperately hoping for the “paint by number” version of the picture so that he has at least a fighting chance of getting one or two colors in the right places before it doesn’t matter any more. 

I look to the Scriptures to see Mordecai becoming an effective step (and later adoptive) parent to Esther and, of course, Joseph becoming the earthly father to Jesus; I am genuinely awestruck by the devotion to someone else’s children–a level of devotion that seems out of reach when one is so hopelessly out of step.

Here’s praying for the grace, the perseverance, the fortitude, and the devotion it takes to keep trying to get in step for this particular step parent.  

Psalm 121

A song of ascents.

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—
    where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
    the Maker of heaven and earth.

He will not let your foot slip—
    he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
    will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord watches over you—
    the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
    nor the moon by night.

The Lord will keep you from all harm—
    he will watch over your life;
the Lord will watch over your coming and going
    both now and forevermore.

© All rights reserved.  Scripture from the NIV, Zondervan.

%d bloggers like this: