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In the waiting

Waiting. It’s not what I usually choose. I like a plan and the action that follows.

Yet, we all share time in the waiting room.

Waiting for Christmas as a tender child seemed interminable. 

Waiting my turn to give an oral report in high school was pure torture, wanting to get it over with while dreading it at the same time.

Waiting in the dentists office for the needle and the drill leaves me anxiously wringing my hands.

Waiting for the doctor to see me when I’ve already been there long is frustrating.

Waiting for the red light to change because I’m running late, I endure by counting the minutes.

We all wait for something. A phone call, a visit, a letter, a promotion, or a confirmation. We wait for a biopsy report, a positive on a pregnancy test, a return of strength after surgery, a healing of a broken heart. In the waiting, we wonder why it is taking so long.

After unexpected and unimaginable turn of events, a crucifixion that was mind boggling, Jesus’ disciples, friends and family huddled in fearful waiting, not knowing what they were waiting for.

All they knew for sure was that Jesus was dead. Some saw it happen. Some walked to the tomb where his linen-wrapped body was placed. Some heard the horrific details and could not comprehend how or why it happened.

They waited in their stupor of questions, uncertain of what lay ahead.

They were much like me when things don’t turn out the way I expected or planned or hoped they would. I am left wondering and waiting.

From my perspective I see the tomorrow that will come for Jesus’ followers, the empty tomb, the glory of His resurrection. If I could tell them anything, it would be this: It’s going to be alright. Just you wait and see.

And the message is the same for me. No matter my circumstances, as God’s beloved child, it’s going to be alright. I won’t necessarily understand at the moment. I may not fully know on this earth. But one day, things that hurt me will reveal their purpose. What I couldn’t understand will be made clear. I will see that the trials, the tears, and the pain had an objective and a goal, all in the mind of a sovereign and good Father, and all of it to conform me into the image of His dear Son.

The waiting room may not be the place I voluntarily go, but it is the place I will return to again and again. Perhaps I need to tell myself this right now.

It’s going to be alright. Just you wait and see.

Sunday grace

The gas logs burn in the dark of dawn, and I snuggle under the quilt, sitting in my rocker, sipping hot coffee. It’s spring they say. The cold chills me. And the bird song filters in through the closed window in the morning hours.

Maisie and I walk, me bundled in my corduroy coat and a scarf at my neck. Buds on the forsythias are peeking yellow. I cut some long branches, put them in a vase of water, hoping for spring to bloom in the house.

A redbud tree sustained wind damage a week ago, the multi-part trunk broken and a piece of it lies near the ground. I’ve done nothing with it yet. It makes me sad, this beloved tree I planted to commemorate the first grandchild’s birth almost 22 years ago.

While the geese move in pairs, one female already sits on her nest, like she’s trying to get a jump on the others. Her head is bent low and curled into her body as she tries to stay warm. Her mate swims and eats grass, always near but still living his goose life. She sits faithfully in the waiting.

The moon is full in the night sky. It will wane and wax as the season of Passover approaches. I observe its phases this time of year and remember the familiar story in Exodus.

The Israelite people, in Egyptian bondage, clothed in their slavery, crying out for deliverance, wondering when it would come. In their waiting, God was moving to bring his plan to fruition. A Passover night would symbolize their deliverance and point to their future.

We all wait for something. We do it patiently in hope or we live with frustration and anxiety. It’s my choice.

I wait for spring to fully form. I wait for prayers to be answered. I hope in the waiting, knowing that God is strong and God is good.

I choose to trust that He is moving while I wait.

Sunday grace.

Monday grace

Waiting. I’m not a fan.

I usually run tight with my schedule, doing last minute tasks before I leave for an appointment. Consequently, sometimes I make others wait for me. That’s a problem.

Sweet William often threatens to break into song with “Waitin’ On a Woman.

Waiting rooms are on my list of least favorite places. I always bring something, a book, a magazine. I can update my planner or return text messages. Don’t waste the minutes. Never let it be said that I sat with nothing but my thoughts.

And perhaps herein lies my issue, listening to my own internal talk.

Waiting is a necessary part of life, common to all humanity. I waited for Christmas as a child, waited for the birthday when I’d turn 16, then 20. I waited to get married, to get pregnant. Then waited nine months for that sweet baby boy to be born.

I wait for the cake to bake, the soup to simmer, them needing time for flavors to mingle and textures to form that please the taste. In the waiting, the recipe becomes what it was meant to be.

Soul, are you listening? In the waiting, you become who you were meant to be.

In the quieting of my frantic soul and the calming of my fretful mind, I learn to wait with hope. I remember I am not alone on this journey.

The Psalmist breaks into his own song as he waits:

I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.
Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.
(27:13-14)

Waiting in confident faith, waiting to see the good things of God, here is where my endurance increases and courage rises for the days before me. I learn to trust the One who knows the end from the beginning, who patiently waits for me to become who He meant me to be.

Waiting can be a good thing. Maybe I could even become a fan of it.

Monday grace.

The prayer

I do enjoy the re-reading of a good book. This morning, it is the account in Luke of a couple of old folks with whom I can identify. The words are anciently familiar, yet they are fresh like a sip of pure spring water on a parched tongue.

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I opened the Book to the story of Zachariah, the aged priest, who just so happened to be chosen on this particular day for a special assignment. He entered the Holy Place of the temple to offer incense on an altar that represented prayer and petition to God. The people were praying outside while the priest prayed inside.

As he offered up prayers, the smokey fragrance of incense encircling him, I wonder if Zacharia thought of that one prayer he had prayed again and again through his many years? That one prayer for blessing, for a child, a son from his loins?

Yet here he stood, an old man whose wife was equally well along in years, childless the two of them. Because Elizabeth was barren.

God’s timing for answering prayers are so often out of sync with what I envision.

The angel’s appearance was awesome, causing fear, but his announcement must have been confusing to Zachariah. “Your prayer has been heard.”

Which prayer was that? You mean the one I stopped praying years ago? The one I stopped expecting to be answered because I’m old now? The prayer that would have been on a timetable more suitable for me? That prayer?

Zachariah and I, we have things in common.

The prayers I am grappling with sometimes grip my heart with their urgency. I cry out to my Father, my eyes filling with tears, longing for an answer. And please, can it be today?

How many times have I read that God’s ways are not my ways, that His time is not my time? And yet, I want Him to do it according to my prescription and on my schedule.

Faithful Zachariah and Elizabeth had lived blameless lives, following the commands God gave to His people. Surely their prayers would have been answered. Undoubtedly their desire for a child would not have gone unheeded.

After so many years they must have become resigned. Head shakes and whispers behind their backs would have been hurtful. People can wonder when trouble beats us up and we are not being blessed in the conventional sort of way.

And yet, on this day in an old man’s life, the angel Gabriel, who stands in the presence of the Almighty, was on a mission to proclaim wonderful news to Zachariah. “Your prayer has been heard.”

Praying Hands Image
Praying Hands by Albrecht Dürer

God declares in His word that my requests, petitions, prayers are heard. He answers when He gets good and ready, in His own sweet time, because He alone knows when all the pieces are in place.

So, my fellow traveler, don’t let discouragement weigh you down. Don’t give in to doubt and unbelief. Throw off the lie that you are forgotten and forsaken. Keep believing God. Keep bowing the knee. Keep trusting in a faithful God who hears your every plea and preserves your tears in a bottle.

Believe that your prayer has been heard. In the fullness of time, and according to the perfect plan of God who does all things well, there will be an answer.

And it will be spectacular.

See the source image

Revised and reposted from December 2018

A Christmas prayer

Reading the first few chapters of the gospels of Matthew and Luke are a yearly tradition for me in December. The words are ancient and familiar, yet like a drink of pure spring water they quench my thirst. And this morning I was parched.

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I opened the Book to the story of Zachariah the aged priest who just so happened to be chosen on this particular day for a special assignment. He entered the Holy Place of the temple to offer incense on an altar that represented prayer and petition to God. The people were praying outside while the priest prayed inside.

I wonder if Zacharia thought of that one prayer he had prayed again and again, the one for a child, a son from his loins.

Yet here he stood, an old man whose wife was equally well along in years, childless the two of them. Because Elizabeth was barren.

God’s timing for answering prayers are so often out of sync with what I envision.

The angel’s appearance was awesome, causing fear, but his announcement must have been confusing to Zachariah. “Your prayer has been heard.”

What prayer? You mean the one I stopped praying years ago? The one I quit hoping to be answered in the way I was expecting? The prayer that would have been in a timetable right for me? That prayer?

Zachariah and I, we have things in common.

The prayers I am grappling with sometimes grip my heart with their urgency. I cry out to my Father, my eyes filling with tears, longing for an answer. And please, can it be today?

How many times have I read that God’s ways are not my ways, that His time is not my time? And yet, I want Him to do it by my prescription and on my schedule.

Faithful Zachariah and Elizabeth had lived blameless lives, following the commands God gave to His people. Surely their prayers would be answered. Undoubtedly their desire for a child would not go unheeded.

After so many years they became resigned. Head shakes and whispers behind their backs must have been hurtful. People can wonder when trouble beats us up and we are not being blessed in the conventional sort of way.

And yet, on this day in an old man’s life, the angel Gabriel, who stands in the presence of the Almighty, was on a mission to proclaim wonderful news to Zachariah. “Your prayer has been heard.”

 

God declares in His word that my requests, petitions, prayers are heard. He says He answers when He gets good and ready, because He alone knows when the time is right and all things are in place.

So, my fellow traveler, don’t let discouragement weigh you down. Don’t give in to doubt and unbelief. Throw off the lie that you are forgotten and forsaken. Keep being faithful. Keep going on your knees. Keep trusting that your God hears your every plea and preserves your tears in a bottle.

Believe that your prayer has been heard. In the fullness of time, and according to the perfect plan of God who does all things well, there will be an answer.

And it will be spectacular.

See the source image

 

When we wait for the glory

I’ve had some prayer requests that turned out differently than I planned. And I have prayers for which I am still waiting to see the answers come to pass. Perhaps you have too.

Image result for zachariah priest in the temple

Zachariah and Elizabeth, characters in the Nativity story, would have understood. Luke’s gospel introduces us to them.

” . . . there was a priest named Zechariah, who belonged to the priestly division of Abijah; his wife Elizabeth was also a descendant of Aaron. Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly. But they were childless because Elizabeth was not able to conceive, and they were both very old.”

These were people who followed God, exemplary in keeping the regulations given by Moses to the people. They had intrigty. It would seem they would have been rewarded for such dedication.

Instead, they were childless. And children were the reward, the heritage of a family who was blessed to have “their quiver full.”

Elizabeth’s fertility problem had affected them both. There were the years of hoping this month there would be a delay in her cycle. Disappointment met them again and again.

Heartbreak and grief were Elizabeth’s companions. Not only were her own desires unfulfilled, she was unable to give her husband an heir. And then there were the implications, the remarks whispered among the family, the community, their Levitical tribe. Comments perhaps like, “They appear to follow the law, but why is she barren?” While Elizabeth probably tried to carry herself with dignity, walking with her head held high, her heart must have been broken by the weight of not having the one thing she desired: a child. It was the one prayer she kept repeating.

She had given up long ago. She was old now, her childbearing years well past, and this was her life. The sadness still lingered. Her hopes were dashed. She would go to her grave with her prayer unanswered.

Sometimes we have to wait for the glory.

Zachariah was appointed to his once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to enter the Holy Place to offer incense at the time of prayer. How many times had Zachariah prayed for a child, a son to carry on his name and the priestly duties. When did he give up on that hope?

As he offered the incense on the Golden Altar, Zachariah was greeted by the angel Gabriel and told his prayer had been heard. I wonder if Zachariah thought “Which prayer?” The prayer for a son, the one he had presented to God over and over, remained unanswered and it was now years too late.

It is never too late with God.

There is no evidence that Zachariah told anyone of his vision. The people waiting for him outside the Holy Place simply recognized something significant had happened because he was unable to speak. But surely he managed to share some of the angel’s message with his wife, that they were to have a child in their old age. What in the world went through their minds?

It was impossible. But with God nothing is impossible.

I wonder how Elizabeth knew she was pregnant. There were no quick drugstore pregnancy tests or doctor visits. The monthly period had ended years ago so no early physical sign would give a clue. What would be her first indication that there was indeed a new life growing inside of her?

Did she believe immediately with her heart that the angel’s words were true? Or did her struggle with her faith like Zachariah? Did she fast and pray one more time for the child she longed to hold? Did she read Scripture and renew her hope in a God who hears prayers and answers?

Luke tells us Elizabeth hid herself away for five months. As she experienced morning sickness and a growing baby bump, the extreme tiredness that accompanies pregnancy in the first trimester, did she recognize the symptoms she had seen in other women? Did her faith grow as her body changed and rounded and began to show evidence of God’s word being fulfilled?

Those who have experienced the heartbreak of infertility can feel Elizabeth’s pain and longing all those years. Imagine the joy she experienced in the reality of God’s promise coming true before her very eyes.

I love the part of the story when Mary, pregnant yet unwed, came to Zachariah and Eliazabeth’s home. At Mary’s greeting Elizabeth’s baby leaped in her womb. The aged form of God’s faithful servant experienced the power of the Holy Spirit as had her young companion. These two women had a lot to talk about.

Zachariah and Elizabeth’s baby was always in God’s plan. They just didn’t understand the plan or the timing. This baby had a special purpose, to prepare the way for a Savior who is Christ the Lord. He would be neither early or late but right on time.

Sometimes we have to wait for the greater glory. Our prayers seem to go unanswered, even unheard. And we wonder where God is. We wonder what is keeping our petitions from coming to pass. We wonder.

And yet there is wonderful glory ahead. The purpose God has for each of us will be fulfilled in His time, not ours. But His word is true; His promises are sure. And He can be trusted with our prayers and our lives.

In the waiting we will see the greater glory.

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A little help from my friends

Yesterday did not go as I planned. 

My Sweet William and I went to Audubon Hospital for a scheduled heart catheterization on Bill’s heart.  I was hoping, expecting for something routine like a stint in a mildly blocked artery.  After the test, the doctor’s report did not meet my expectations.  One artery was completely blocked and two others were 80 percent blocked.  Open heart surgery was the only recommended option.

I’m glad there was a door frame on my immediate left for me to fall against.

We learned that the heart surgeon had an opening at 2:30 (sounds like making a hair appointment!).  Bill made the decision to go for it since he had not eaten or drank anything since the day before.  The next few hours were a flurry of medical tests and preparations for surgery.  I began making calls to family, friends, and coworkers.  My mind started mentally adjusting to this new information, changing all my plans for the next few days, even weeks.

Time and again as I talked with someone on the phone, he or she said, “Let me pray with you right now.”  And how I needed it.  I was trying to be calm and composed on the outside, to be strong for Bill; on the inside, however, I was crumbling into pieces.

My friend, Margie, had come at 8 am to be with me through the heart cath.  At the news of impending surgery, she set her mind to stay with me throughout the long day.

Two men from our Sunday School class, Paul and Ronnie, and a couple of my family members, Danny and Linda, had also been with us during the test.  They left and went home around 11 am.  When they heard surgery was imminent, all four of them returned in the afternoon, holding vigil with me.

Staff in the heart wing were divinely appointed to be there for us.  A man named Darrell helped to prepare Bill for surgery while they talked about the goodness of the Lord.  One of the surgical nurses told Bill she would say a prayer with him before he went under the anesthetic.

Thankfully, I did not have to walk this day alone.  People kept arriving, pastors, Little Flock staff, our Sunday School teacher and his wife, and more family.  Our son, Travis, his sweet Renee and the three grandchildren came bringing hugs and smiles.  My 89-year-old dad came rolling up in a wheelchair, pushed by my stepmother, Esther.  Calls came to me and to Travis, assuring us that prayers were being lifted up toward the throne of grace for a successful surgery for Bill and strength for us.

About 8 pm when surgery was over and the recovery room gave way to an intensive care room, we were allowed to see Bill, tubes and wires connected in so many places.  My dad said a short prayer.  Bill would spend the night being carefully monitor and attended.

As was recommended and urged by caring people, I went home to try to rest my weary body and mind in preparation for the long days that follow heart surgery.  I decided to briefly look at Facebook.  I was astonished to see so many comments from friends of mine, Travis’ and Renee’s saying they were praying for all  of us.  The messages kept me scrolling down the screen as I read each one.

It sometimes takes an event such as an emergency surgery to remind me what a vast circle of love encompasses us.  The promised prayers were lifting us up, giving us strength to endure, filling us with God’s love. 

A very profound thought comes from John 13:35.  It reads,

“This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other,” (The Message).

I stand as a witness to this truth.  God’s amazing plan was that we would need each other.  As His children, we love others because He first loved us.

Friends rally around when you are hurting.  They come, they care, they offer, they pray, they stay.  Tonight I feel so blessed to be the recipient of this kind of friendship, this kind of love.  It is God’s hand extended and one of the ways He makes Himself known in the world.