Posts Tagged ‘wait

14
Sep
21

My Own NGH List

Ninjas ASSEMBLE!

Last night the newly-crowned, 15-year-old champion of the show, American Ninja Warrior gazed earnestly into the camera and assured me, “Hey! If you can dream it and work hard, you can do ANYTHING!”

REALLY?” I replied, reaching to my left for another handful of popcorn, noticing the twinge in my shoulder as I did so. “You honestly think so?”

But hey… you have to love the kid’s heart. He started out with nothing but a dream. 

And then, with a lot of dedication and special training equipment (like his own custom-built Salmon Ladder, Jumping Spider, and Warped Wall), he took his nimble, 15-year-old body and trained it into championship shape. 

But as I sat and snacked and listened to earnest young Kaden speak, my NGH list expanded by one.

“NGH” is shorthand for “Never Gonna Happen.” [Or if you want to be a little more grammatically formal, call it the NGTH List; “Never Going To Happen.”] 

This is the list I keep of the things that are CLEARLY never going to happen in my lifetime. Despite Kaden’s heartfelt pep talk, I knew that becoming the next American Ninja Warrior is light years beyond my personal radar screen. 

It’s NGH… Never Gonna Happen.

Just like my dream of playing in the NBA. NGH. Or climbing Mount Everest. Also NGH. To this list I should probably also add my childhood fantasies of becoming a firefighter, or a policeman, or game show host.

NONE of those are Ever Gonna Happen.

On one hand, I find that moving things onto my NGH List is a very liberating exercise. I mean, if I keep on believing that the day will come when I finally learn to fly a plane, or become a ventriloquist, or sculpt Joan’s lovely image in marble, I invite nothing but frustration and disappointment the longer those goals remain unachieved. 

Moving that kind of stuff onto my NGH List frees me up to discover more reasonable, age-and-ability-appropriate sources of fulfillment.  

On the other hand, I have to ask myself; “Is a rapidly expanding NGH List a sign that I’ve thrown in the towel? Given up? “Settled?” Ceased dreaming?”

I think I was 19 years old when I first uttered the phrase, “Someday, I’m going to write a book.” Today, at nearly 70 years, that dream remains unfulfilled. 

Please understand: I’ve started several books. One even grew to a little more than 11,000 words. 

Each time, however, I have abandoned the effort as I became overwhelmed, discouraged, lost, or disappointed with the sub-standard quality of my effort. But then I pick up someone else’s printed, published work, and become simultaneously inspired and intimidated

And yet, despite the internal turmoil this causes me, I am still not willing to move “Write a book” onto my NGH List.

Ultimately, I (and probably all of us) must look soberly at our goals and ask the question, “Is this quest ‘of God’? Or is it just me and my idle fantasizing?” Another way of asking the same question might be: “Is this THING part of my divinely-appointed PURPOSE in life? Or not?” 

If the answer to that question is YES, nothing should stop you from carrying it out. If it is NOT, you should waste no time adding it to your own personal NGH List

I take a measure of comfort from the Bible’s story of the Israelites. Their divinely appointed purpose (recorded in Genesis 12:3) was to be a set-apart people through whom God would bless all of Creation.

But to get there, they had to endure 400 years of enslavement in Egypt, 40 years of wandering aimlessly in the Sinai wilderness, and then untold months of vicious, mortal combat before they finally “arrived.” I am sure most of them wanted to put “Be God’s Chosen People” on their NGH List at around year six of their time in Egypt.

And yet, despite all the delays, all the setbacks, all the disappointments, and all the dead-ends, God’s purpose for the Israelites was ultimately fulfilled. As the prophet Isaiah reminds us, “… but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and not be faint.” (Isaiah 40:31, NRSV).

Today, no matter what new things are being added to YOUR NGH List, take heart. Wait on God. Renew your confidence that God has a purpose and a path for you.

Abundant blessings;

20
Jan
21

Do it now? Or do it later?

One of the people in this house (not naming names) likes to do things RIGHT NOW! Action is his (or her) middle name.

The other one likes to sit with it a bit… let it marinate… wait for additional information to materialize before leaping into action. He (or she) is studious and thoughtful.

Do it before you forget about it!” argues A. “No time like the present.”

What’s the rush?” B asks calmly. “We might not have considered all the angles.”

“Do you want to order pizza tonight?” B asks idly.

Sure,” A replies. “Let me pull up the Krazy Karl’s menu and get our order started. Do you want the combo again?”

“Hang on… hang on. That’s just my first thought. No need to jump right on it. Let’s see… what are some other options?” comes the languid reply from B.

Does this dynamic sound at all familiar to you?

A dispassionate sociologist might observe this interesting blend of personalities and see a healthy tension… one that allows both action and circumspection to vie for supremacy, creating a beneficial blend. 

The people living in the middle of that dynamic might see it as something a lot more discordant… a source of friction and annoyance.

The question we all want answered is… so who is right? Is it better to be the Action Jackson person? Or is the Studious Stewart superior?

Both approaches, of course, have their distinct downsides. Leaping before you look can result in mis-steps, miscalculations, and mistakes. Spending too much time in probing, in-depth analysis can cause you to miss the moment altogether.

As the Bible so wisely tells us, the real answer is, “Both.” The Teacher (and much later, Roger McGuinn and the Byrds) told us, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal…
 (Ecclesiastes 3:1-3, NRSV).

But instead of “both,” maybe the real answer is, “Sometimes it’s one, and at other times, it’s the other.”

Which makes me wonder: would that be a preferable answer to other dichotomies we face in life? In this highly fraught moment of mid-January 2021, my thoughts naturally skew in the political direction. 

As we look on from the cheap seats, we see the advocates of conservatism insisting that, “The conservative approach is the only valid approach to governing,” while liberals and progressives loudly and emphatically assert exactly the opposite. 

What if sometimes it was one and at other times it was the other? What if we were to become a people less concerned with defending our TRIBE and more concerned with defending the TRUTH? What if there was a way for us to lift our eyes above the immediacies of our narrow, self-interested cost/benefit analyses and to instead think in terms of the WIDER well-being of the WIDER human race?

What if?

Well, as it turns out, dear friend, there IS a way. And that way is GOD’S way. 

King Solomon in his legendary wisdom writes, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” (Proverbs 3:5-6, NRSV). 

 What would happen if we all did exactly that?

I’m not sure it would resolve a lot of disputes about what to have for dinner, or where to go on vacation (that is, when we get to go on vacation again), but it would certainly help us figure out where we go from here as a society.

And you know what? I think that would be a pretty good place to start. 

Abundant blessings;

10
Nov
20

Renew Your Strength

“Just wait. It will happen.”

Don’t you just love it when you hear those words… almost always spoken with a slight, knowing smile.

Today, if I heard that phrase from someone, I might seriously think about renouncing my personal pledge of non-violence. I might just haul off and pop somebody.

WAITING is about all I seem to be doing these days. 

Last week we had to wait longer than I can ever remember to finally know the results of the 2020 presidential election. 

  • Some say that they are STILL waiting…

Joan and I waited two months longer than originally estimated for our kitchen remodeling project to begin. Now that it is finally underway, we are waiting less-than-patiently for it to be DONE

  • In the meantime, though, we are discovering an amazingly wide variety of things one can cook using only a microwave or a toaster oven. 

On the national level, most of us are still waiting (again, not terribly patiently) for some kind of “dialing down” of the state of emergency around the COVID-19 pandemic… whether through the distribution of a vaccine or a decrease in infection levels or some other solution. 

Most of the time, waiting does not sit well with me. I am impatient. I squirm uncomfortably at the idea of sitting or standing in the same place for multiple minutes. I am that guy at the grocery store who carefully scans each cash register line to see which one is moving the fastest before I pick the one to enter. And yes… I have also been known to switch check-out lines even after initially committing to one.

To be clear… I am not at all proud of this character flaw of mine. But I suspect I am not the only one afflicted with this particular defect…

Am I?

So – assuming I am not talking to the four winds here – why do we find it so hard to WAIT? Why don’t we trust the wise guidance of our elders who told us things like, “Good things come to those who wait,” or, “Patience is a virtue”? Why do we seem to be incapable of learning from the biblical example of the children of Israel who had to endure not one… not two… not three… but FOUR periods of exile from their homeland… waiting for God’s deliverance?

We might blame our impatience on the surrounding culture. It is hardly news that we live today in a time of instant gratification on nearly every front; Instant cooking, instant information, instant entertainment, and instant relationships are all available to us… at the click of a button. Or mouse. Or computer key.

Or we might blame our elevated standard of living, thanks to easily available consumer credit. Christmas club savings accounts are now a thing of the past thanks to the MAGIC PLASTIC CREDIT CARD! You say you want it? No problem… go get it and CHARGE it… but be sure you ignore that 22% annual interest rate spelled out in microscopic type on the statement. 

But as tempting as those two scapegoats are, I suspect the real answer lies a lot closer to our inside jacket pocket. That is to say, the real underlying cause behind our epic inability to wait comes from right HERE (… points to chest). 

I have decided that my impatience – maybe yours, too – stems from the absurd and often outsizedsignificance we give to that thing out there waiting on the horizon. Here is what I mean; when we allow ourselves to believe that the thing we are waiting for… whether it is the election results, the completed kitchen, the end of quarantine, the vacation, the diploma, the new car, the new job, the new spouse, the concert, the football game, the WHATEVER… is the thing that will finally make all things right in our life, we have a VERY hard time waiting for it to arrive.

Once again, we have been “caught out,” believing that our ultimate fulfillment in life comes from lining up the right set of CIRCUMSTANCES, forgetting that God calls us instead to cultivate the right RELATIONSHIP to our circumstances, whatever they might be. 

Why do we have such a hard time remembering that, “… the grass withers, the flower fades; but the word of our God will stand forever.” (Isaiah 40:8, NRSV). 

Or why can’t our thick skulls remember and appreciate the truth that tells us, “He gives power to the faint, and strengthens the powerless. Even youths will faint and be weary, and the young will fall exhausted; but those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:29-31, NRSV). 

Come. Sit here with me and wait. 

It will happen. Just like God said it would.

Abundant blessings;

27
Apr
20

The Waiting Game

Waiting“Let’s put that off for a while,” said the doctor, regarding my possible need for shoulder surgery.

“Let’s wait a bit,” said the out-of-state family member about an upcoming visit.

“Nope. Not happening anytime soon,” said the travel company about our long-awaited 20th anniversary cruise.

“Sorry. That’s on the back burner for now,” said the concert promoter.

“Don’t think we’ll be doing that for a while,” say the organizers of community-wide festivals and celebrations.

“It’ll be back sometime, but we really can’t say when,” say the owners of major league sports teams.

“For the foreseeable future, we are going to have to continue operating remotely,” said the pastor.

“Let’s put a pin in that for now,” said the counselor.

“Yeah… maybe later,” says just about everybody about just about everything.

Welcome to the time of WAITING. Welcome to the Cosmic Pause.

As the time of global pandemic and quarantine drags into its third month, we are all getting a little “antsy,” as my mother used to say. We were more than willing to isolate, sanitize, and mask up at the beginning of this, but the patience of many is beginning to wear a bit thin.

“When can we stop all of this stuff?” we each silently wail… aware that these safety measures are good and necessary and that complaining too loudly about them would be childish and dangerous.

But for those of us who occasionally think the microwave is taking too long to heat our tea water, it is not a bad thing at all to learn how to WAIT… to SLOW DOWN… to cultivate a little PEACE and COMPOSURE in our souls.

Because to wait is to HOPE.

So while we are here at home, studying our jigsaw puzzle pieces and cleaning our kitchen floors with our toothbrushes, I would like to present here a list of some things we DON’T have to wait for;

  • We don’t have to wait to reach out to someone in need.
  • We don’t have to wait to tell someone we love them.
  • We don’t have to wait to be grateful.
  • We don’t have to wait to re-connect with someone we haven’t seen for a while.
  • We don’t have to wait to learn something new.
  • We don’t have to wait to forgive someone.
  • We don’t have to wait to encounter a new idea.
  • We don’t have to wait to see the situation a different way.
  • We don’t have to wait to pray.
  • We don’t have to wait to discover beauty.
  • We don’t have to wait to “… be still and know that I am God.” (Psalm 46:10, NRSV)

We can do each of those things RIGHT NOW!

And who knows… when all is said and done, we just might find we had reserves of patience that we never knew we had.

Abundant blessings;

11
Dec
19

Great Expectations

Most interesting man in the worldA friend and I were recently talking about our kids… as parents are wont to do.

On this occasion, my friend was telling me about an experience his middle son had with a guidance counselor at the local high school he attended.

My friend said, “Josh is incredibly passionate about history. He has talked to Susan and me regularly about wanting to get a Ph.D. and teach at the collegiate level.”

But then, as my friend told me, Josh met with the high school guidance counselor. The counselor knew of Josh’s academic record and heard him talk about his dream of teaching history to college students.

The counselor’s guidance to Josh, however, was to aim lower, go for a Master’s degree, and teach history at a deserving high school somewhere.

“There is a lot less competition for those jobs,” the counselor told Josh. “And besides, there is a real need for high school teachers who are passionate about the subject they are teaching.”

Needless to say, when Josh went home and told his parents about his meeting with the guidance counselor, they were furious. Their anger did not stem from any unspoken bias against high school teachers. It came – as my friend told me – from the idea that a person in a position of trust and authority would use that position to dampen rather than fan the flames of ambition in their son.

“In essence, this guy was telling Josh to lower his sights and check his expectations before he is even out of high school!” Adding, “I am really not OK with that.”

His story kind of riled me up, too. But then it led me to some pondering about the whole topic of expectations and how they affect our lives.

To be human is to have expectations. We begin each new day with some kind of expectation about what will happen, who we might meet, what sort of weather we will encounter, and what type of experiences await us.

As our endeavors enlarge, so do our expectations. Then, as we move forward into the world, reality sets in and we adjust our expectations accordingly.

And if you are a person of a certain age, you have no doubt discovered something about the fluid and tricky nature of expectations. Crank them up too high and you just might smash your boat on the rocky shore of disappointment. Set them too low and you risk losing the joy that comes from looking forward to a new experience or undertaking.

My personal proclivity is to err on the side of high expectations. Every trip Joan and I take is going to be fantastically epic. Every new place where we choose to go out and eat is a Michelin four-diamond restaurant waiting to be discovered. Every new acquaintance I make is going to be “the most interesting man (or woman) in the world,” (with apologies to the Dos Equis beer folks).

Yes, my actual experiences sometimes do fall short of my grand expectations. But those occasional disappointments don’t seem to alter my expectation-making mechanism one little bit.

The Christian calendar tells us we are smack dab in the middle of the Advent season, here on December 11, 2019. Advent is traditionally thought of as a time of expectation. The first-century Israelites had been hanging on the words of the prophet Isaiah – for at least 800 years – which assured them that, “… the people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who lived in a land of deep darkness – on them light has shined.” (Isaiah 9:2, NRSV).

They knew these words were about them. THEY were the darkness-walkers the prophet was talking about. They lived in a continual state of expectation that one day soon the promised light would indeed shine on their lives. And yet year after year, the darkness persisted.

What are your expectations this season?

… for the world… for your community… for your family… for yourself?

How do you hold fast to hope-filled expectations in the face of disappointing realities?

Where does your hope come from?

This season, what would it be like for each of us to expect love, justice, mercy, and peace to prevail in the world… and then work to make it happen?

Blessings,

23
Sep
19

Becoming or Being?

autumn leavesI live in the Midwestern part of the U.S.

It is the part of the country where we have four separate, distinct seasons… according to some.

You see, I used to say that we just had two seasons; summer and winter. The time in between those two seasons I called “becoming” times. What others might call spring is just winter in the act of BECOMING summer. What you might call fall is just summer BECOMING winter.

Sort of the way that dusk is just day becoming night or dawn is night becoming day.

Now I find myself faced with the realization that my cute little semantic trick has done a great disservice to the two very worthy and distinct seasons of spring and fall.

They are not meaningless passageways from one thing to the next! They really do have lives and identities of their own!

Spring and fall, I apologize for my dismissiveness.

As I think about it, I now see that I discovered the error of my ways by reflecting on my own “season” of life. What I mean is: I am certainly no longer young. But I don’t think I qualify to be called old yet either. (Unless, of course, it is by one of my sons who lovingly see me as “older than dirt.”) 

You see, if I applied the same naming protocol to my life that I used for the seasons, I would now be in the tender stage of life known as “becoming old.”

Saying that I am “becoming old” is to jump ahead. It is to undervalue the moment in life I NOW actually occupy in favor of one I will someday occupy. It is to favor WHAT WILL BE over WHAT IS.

Have you ever done anything like that? We might call it the “are we there yet?” syndrome. It happens when you are:

  • Looking forward to the trip you’ll be taking next week, and you overlook the importance of the things happening in your home or community right now.
  • Preoccupied with a message that MIGHT come to you via a social media channel, you miss the messages being sent right now… particularly those being sent by God.
  • Worried about a possible future illness or mishap, you neglect to celebrate the beauty of the moment you currently inhabit.

Guilty, guilty, and guilty as charged.

Wise coaches of athletic teams head off this syndrome by instructing their players to, “Just play one game at a time.”

Wise spiritual guides tell their disciples something like, “Be here now,” or “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?”(Matthew 6:25, NRSV)

The truth is, I love autumn. I wish it would linger longer. These crisp mornings when the dew is on the grass, a gentle breeze stirs the yellowing leaves, and the birds are just beginning to stir are far too few in number.

So come… rest a while. Sit down here with me and breathe this moment in.

Here on this first, full, official day of autumn, let’s just wait here quietly together a while, shall we?




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