Do We Need to Wait More?

In a world where we are connected via smart phones, tablets, laptops and email we seldom are required to wonder about and anticipate the arrival of someone, someone special. Last Sunday, I was sharing the morning with my 4 year old granddaughter. We were early to church, getting there before many others and their children. Of particular interest to my grandkid was her current 'best church friend', Ruthie. Ruthie is a preteen and simply the greatest small human on the planet to my granddaughter. The order of the morning was to find Ruthie. We walked around the church building, strolled outside to survey the parking lot - we paused and waited - then we looked in another place. As I let my granddaughter lead me on our search for Ruthie, I wondered if Ruthie was even coming to church that day.

Waiting on Ruthie

My first thought was to call Ruthie's mom, but I didn't have her number so we waited. As other children arrived and the time for worship approached, I mentioned that Ruthie might not be coming to church. My granddaughter was undaunted and took her position by the front lobby window. As she watched each car and person arrive with no Ruthie, I imagined the varied emotions she must be experiencing.

Haven't we each had the experience of wanting someone to arrive, hoping to see them? Truth is, as I thought about the experience I had to go to memories of my childhood, to a time when technology wasn't so available, a time when we weren't connected constantly. I remember waiting, nose pressed to the window pane, for my uncle and aunt to arrive on Christmas eve. We couldn't open presents until they arrived, and they wouldn't arrive until they completed their trip to my aunt's parents. We didn't have any way of knowing when they would arrive, or where they were in their timeline. The high tech communications of the day consisted of nothing more than house phones - usually one to a home. So we had to wait. We just did the things we needed to do and carried with each of our actions the hovering expectation of their arrival. The later it got, the more excited we got. The more we lived with that unknown and the knowledge that they could round that corner any moment, the more excited we got. I haven't had that experience lately. I watched my granddaughter experiencing something similar and wondered how quickly technology would make her unknowns fade.

Is there something necessary in our waiting, our expectations in waiting? Do we need to develop and live with some level of uncertainty in order to have a deeper level of connection or value to the arrival moments in our lives? Have we grown so accustom to rapid communication and instant accessibility to family and friends that we are less capable of dealing with uncertainty, and open expectations?

Last Sunday, Ruthie never arrived. My granddaughter finally gave up and joined me in the pew as worship began. Soon she was sharing drawings and quiet conversation with the 4 yr old boy seated next to us. In a few minutes they walked downstairs together for 'children's church.' It was clear her expectation of Ruthie's arrival had passed. What was not clear is how immeasurably valuable that simple moment of hoping, anticipating and waiting may have been for her development. Did she learn something about waiting? Did she build even care to share in the next meeting with Ruthie?  What is clear is that it has me thinking...


I Corinthians 13 as a "Found Poem"

A "found poem" is what happens when someone recognizes the lyrical qualities of a pre-existing prose text and releases the underlying poetry, the way Michelangelo talked about "freeing" the figures (statues) "imprisoned" within the marble.

(See Wikipedia for a longer and more precise discussion.)

If I speak in the tongues
of men and of angels,
but have no love,
I am like a booming gong
or a clanging cymbal.
If I am gifted with prophecy
and can fathom all mysteries
and all knowledge,
and I possess a faith
that can move mountains,
but have no love,
I am nothing.
If I give all I have to the poor
and deliver my body to be burned,
but have no love,
it gains me nothing.

Love is patient,
love is kind.
It does not envy,
it does not boast,
it is not proud.
It does not dishonor others,
it is not self-seeking,
it is not easily angered,
it keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil
but rejoices with the truth.
Love bears all things,
believes all things,
hopes all things,
endures all things.

Love never ends;
but where there are prophecies,
they will cease;
where there are tongues,
they will be stilled;
where there is knowledge,
it will pass away.

For we know in part
and we prophesy in part,
but when completion arrives,
what is partial will come to an end.

When I was a child,
I spoke like a child,
I thought like a child,
I reasoned like a child –
but when I became a man,
I put childish ways behind me.
For now we see but a dim reflection,
but then we shall see face to face;
now I know partially,
but then I shall know fully,
just as I am fully known.

So faith and hope and love abide,
these three –
but the greatest of these
is love.


Expectations of God

There is a saying in 12 step programs that goes like this - "It is ok to make plans, just don't plan the outcome." How many times have we reached the end of the day and felt disappointed? The gift wasn't right. The meal was dry. The weather was wet. The ex-spouse was late bringing the kids. The cake fell. In some small or major way, our expectations for the day weren't met. We just weren't ready for the particular events of the day.

 Matthew 24: 42. Watch therefore, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. 43. But know this, that if the householder had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have watched and would not have let his house be broken into. 44. Therefore you also must be ready; for the Son of man is coming at an hour you do not expect.

This passage from Matthew warns us about expectations if it does anything. You won't know when, how or where the Christ will come - but be ready anyway. But, ready for what? It is a fair question - just not the right one. The better question is how to be ready...for whatever comes.


My youngest step-daughter, Christine, had a goal as she prepared to go to school for the first day of 1st grade. She eagerly dressed, got on the bus and was off. At the end of the day, the bus dropped her off at her drive way and as her mother stood there to greet her she placed her hands on her hips, planted one foot soundly and proclaimed with a huff, "I didn't learn to read!" Expectations.

Have you ever exercised with a goal, to perhaps run a race, or lose weight (not that anyone here needs to lose weight. In fact, I can't believe I even brought that up), or maybe to recover from an injury.

A few years ago, I went through a round of physical therapy - exercises actually- for a back injury. The Physical therapist and the techs would teach me an exercise and instruct me to do it each day. Then each week I would come back for evaluation, some treatments and the next level of exercise - if I was ready for it. We had a plan - to get me healthy. We had a menu - specific exercises done on a regular basis. But, week to week I was surprised by the changes in my body - sometimes more than expected, sometimes less. My body did or didn't do what I expected it to. I'm still amazed I can't touch my heel to my nose.

Then one day I realized, the back pain was gone. I'm not exactly sure when it happened, but it did. The pain left and ease of motion was there. Preparation requires of us openness to God's working. We are not the only ones with a plan. We are not the only one working. God's coming is more like getting healthy, getting fit than it is like catching a cold. It doesn't just happen to us because of proximity - we have to work to benefit from it. God is free. God is available to everyone - but what happens in our life, in our world when God comes in an unexpected way is, well... beyond our control. AND, God always comes unexpectedly. It's always an unexpected type of gift - so we need to be open minded to the unexpected ways and times God works and of course we need to - show up, do the work of the day and receive the outcome.