WaitingHow are you at the waiting game? I generally think of myself as a patient person…until the doctor is delayed and I’ve been sitting in the waiting room (how appropriate a title) ‘way past the agreed upon appointment time. Or until the driver in front of me doesn’t immediately go forward when the light turns green. Or until I see that only two of the twelve checkout lines have people working the registers. Or…when God doesn’t act when and how I think He should.

This summer at our church the Sunday sermons are focused on the Old Testament book of First Samuel and a few of us who lead small groups are following that same pattern. We’ve looked at Saul’s appointment as king as well as the first downward, disappointing steps that lead to his ultimate  tragic end.

Most of us know the “rest of the story” so we’re not surprised when the prophet Samuel is told to find Saul’s successor in the small town of Bethlehem. We know that Jesse, leader of the clan, first parades his oldest son as a candidate and, when he is passed over, the rest of the hardy boys—quite fit for military service and thus for leadership—subsequently pass before Samuel. After this parade of the non-chosen, the last of the litter is summoned. Here’s the way Eugene Peterson paraphrases the conversation in The Message:  Then he (Samuel) asked Jesse, “Is this it? Are there no more sons?” “Well, yes, there’s the runt. But he’s out tending the sheep.”

Samuel hears God’s this-is-the-one and so begins the saga of King David. Historians place David at his anointing anywhere between 15 and 20 years of age. We know that young men were conscripted into the army around age twenty and when David was discovered by Samuel, he was still tending sheep. Even later when Saul called for him to soothe his mental torment by playing the lyre, David was still with the sheep so not yet old enough for any official position in the family.

Imagine the thoughts whirling in David’s head after that momentous anointing occasion. Was there ridicule from neighbors and family: “Yeah right…you’re the new king??” As he bedded down in the green pastures with the sheep, did he think about his older brothers out on the battlefield while he was offering nothing to the ongoing war effort? Even when he carried food to his brothers and was made aware of Goliath’s threats, he was mocked by the oldest brother: “Why did you come down here? Who’s with the sheep? You’re just a conceited know-it-all who wants to be the center of attention” (a loose translation).

Maybe at one time you felt God’s call on your life to do some specific thing but that call—or at least its specifics—have not been realized. Have you prepared for something that you believe God wants you to do but the opportunity to serve has not yet happened? One of the most difficult things God asks of us is wait. We want to jump at the chance, dive into the task, begin the process and God’s Spirit whispers, “Wait.”

David proved his trust in and obedience to his family, then to Samuel, and eventually to King Saul. The road between anointing and serving was a long one, some say fifteen years. Years filled with bloody war, hiding in caves, disappointment and—most of all—waiting. Is it any wonder David would eventually write these words:

Where would I be if I did not believe I would experience the Lord’s favor in the land of the living? Wait on the Lord! 
Be strong and confident!
 Wait on the Lord! (Psalm 27)


Thoughts: Name one or two things you’ve been waiting for. Sit quietly with God. Ask Him to lead you into acceptance of His “now” will and plan.





Need to Be Noticed

NOTICE! jpegHave you ever watched a small child in the middle of a tantrum? In addition to the frustrated parent, something I’ve often seen is that the child—while screaming and flailing about with eyes squeezed shut—will occasionally open one eye as if to say, “Is Mommy still looking??! Is Daddy noticing me?”

While definitely not amusing to the parent, that open eye tells a story only too true of all of us. While we hopefully don’t employ tantrums, we all cry out to be noticed. One of the comforts of knowing God personally is that we come to realize that He is—and may be the only one—always noticing us. Jesus lives out the example as He did when while on His way to Jerusalem; He takes something of a side trip to eat dinner with a scoundrel. Luke describes the encounter this way: “He looked up and saw him…” The sense of those verbs is that Jesus noticed Zacchaeus. The psalmist records, “He took note of their distress when He heard their cry.” Similarly, we read these words when Ruth bows before Boaz: Why have I found favor in your eyes that you should notice me, when I am a foreigner? Primary meanings of this word adds great depth to the term: to look intently at (with recognition implied); care for, respect, revere, acknowledge, perceive…

One of the things wives frequently say is that “my husband loves me but he doesn’t notice me.” Before being accused of husband bashing, let me add that women can be guilty of this same seeming indifference, but more often we hear it from wives. In the plethora of books written for women, we’re frequently advised that men have a lot of important things on their minds and shouldn’t be expected to notice things like a just vacuumed carpet, a new haircut, a woman’s sadness, or her unspoken but evident weariness after a day with the children or at the office.

A much-respected friend of mine—a pastor and counselor—was speaking to a group of businesswomen one afternoon when the complaint described above was spoken. Cliff gently but forcefully replied, “I certainly don’t condone that attitude but I must say that perhaps you have encouraged it.” If the gasps were not audible, they were certainly evident since these women knew how highly Cliff admired, esteemed and encouraged women. He went on to explain that noticing is not necessarily inherent in women but they seem to have been “schooled” in it from an early age. Looking out for others—an admirable trait—is often taught in the home: “Go see what your brother is doing.” “Take care of your sister while I’m gone.” Or even, “Daddy’s tired so don’t bother him now.” All those admonitions are good and valid. But how often do daddies say, “I sense that your mother needs to spend some time alone. Let’s go play in the backyard.”

Cliff went on to say that often men need to be trained to notice. Not with manipulation, pouting or command, but with gentle suggestions and—for those who tend not to hear gentle suggestions!—with firm and loving statements: “I’m feeling ignored. I sense that you really don’t notice me.” He went on to say that men are quite able to grow in this area. “They are, after all, quite capable of noticing the make, model and year of a car that whizzes by on the freeway. The brains are there. Your husband’s love is there. He just needs to be made aware that he’s not noticing and that you need him to notice. Don’t retreat into silence. Tell him. Eventually he’ll catch on!” (Cliff didn’t say how long that “eventually” might be!)

Noticing is not just lacking in marriage. When we get busy with our job responsibilities, it’s easy to pay more attention to the accomplishment, to the finished goal, to our own interests than to the people involved in the job. A mere “good job” just doesn’t do it. Be careful to specify how the job was done, or comment on the person’s over-and-above work ethic. Ask questions. How is the family handling a crisis? How did a daughter do on her college entrance exams? What are the family’s Christmas plans? These questions, along with sincere listening, fall right in line with to look intently at (with recognition implied); care for, respect, revere, acknowledge, perceive…

After writing and re-reading the above, I am reminded that the call of Christians—of Christ-followers—is to be servants as was our Master. And so the primary responsibility is not that we shout, NOTICE ME!, but rather that we learn to notice others and help others grow in the skill of noticing. Poet Emily Dickinson wrote:

I’m nobody! Who are you?

Are you nobody too?


How dreary to be somebody!

How public, like a frog

To tell your name the livelong day

To an admiring bog!*

 Get busy noticing, fellow frogs!


Thoughts: How can we balance the need to be noticed with the Christian call to servanthood?


*Emily Dickinson, Mabel Loomis Todd and T.W. Higginson, ed. Favorite Poems, (New York: Avenel Books, 1978), 155

Lemon Tree Lessons

ImageIn our son and daughter-in-law’s San Francisco back garden is a lemon tree. When we visited recently, almost daily we picked the luscious yellow fruit for drinks, garnishes or for bits of the fragrant zest. I brought back a supply of these citrus jewels and we’ve enjoyed lemonade, flavored iced tea, lemon-chicken-with-thyme and I’m still looking for new recipes!

As we made our daily choices from the loaded tree, we were careful to pick only the ripe fruit. Some that remained were still green, obviously not ready for harvest. Other lemons were almost ripe but still clinging to the branches.

Recorded in the Bible are a first-century Jewish author’s words about fruit of another kind: “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23). While all this fruit–these spiritual characteristics–are to be evident in a Christ-follower’s life, I believe it’s also true that they progressively “ripen.” One who has walked long with Jesus through many difficulties may experience and exhibit patience to a greater degree than one who has rarely faced situations requiring God-empowered grit. Self-control is both a gift of God and an attribute honed through lessons learned in the face of situations crying out for uncontrolled response. Love grows when we have gazed long into the face of Jesus, our true love, and when we have learned to consistently claim his love for the unlovely.

Lemon trees need good soil, pleantiful nourishent and the right combination of water and sunshine. To produce the fruit of the Spirit, we need to regularly be feeding on the words of God in the Bible, variously described as milk, meat, bread and water. Nourishment also comes from a community of encouraging Christians who know how to supply a balanced diet of encouraging motivation and thought-provoking challenge.

We’re tempted to get discouraged with ourselves or judgmental of others when we see more green fruit than succulent ripe “lemons,” but it’s important to remember that just as on that lemon tree, not all spiritual fruit ripens at the same time. The Gardener reassures us that the one “who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion…” And in the process we’re called to feed the the hungry, thirsty people around us with this just-enough fruit of the Spirit.



How has God “ripened” his fruit in you in the last month or two?

How has this fruit-in-you been feeding others?



BooksI readily—and happily—admit that I am addicted to reading. Piles of books stand near my Morning Chair. Books rest beside the couch. A book (or two) lie near my side of the bed. You often find quotes in this blog from my current reading. Not because I can’t find anything else to write about, but because words written by those far more learned, skilled, experienced than I have stimulated my mind and led me to deeper places that need exploring.

I can’t remember not reading but I suppose there was a learning process. Living in the country, my primary source of books until high school was the bookmobile that visited our school on a regular basis. I always thought it unfair that there was an actual limit to the number of books that could be checked out, and on the days of that wheeled treasure’s arrival in the schoolyard, I walked home with arms full of the world’s adventures. To her last days my mother recalled the time I sat under the huge shade tree in our front yard—undetected through any of the windows in our house—reading one of my chosen tomes. Only after calling neighbors to see where I might have disappeared to did she find me. She—not a reader—did not find the situation amusing.

Quotes about books and reading abound. They stretch from the sublime to the ridiculous, written by the learned and those simply droll:

A room without books is like a body without a soul. (Cicero)

Books fall open, you fall in. (David McCord)

I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library. (Jorge Luis Borges)

Never trust anyone who has not brought a book with them. (Lemony Snicket)

I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book. (Groucho Marx)

Because I read much in preparation for teaching or leading groups, my “relaxation reading” tends often toward the light-hearted, books unlikely to be nominated for the Booker or Newbery awards. The other day I found a small spiral notebook hidden away in a pile—in one of those book piles—in which I had written quotes from what I was reading at that period, My Name Is Asher Lev by Chaim Potok. Even at this much later date the words reached into my soul and I knew it was time to put down some of my “bathtub reading” (that porcelain vessel a great place to not only soak away aching muscles but soothe a tired mind) and re-read Potok, Bashevis Singer and similar spinners of profound tales. My soul needs a good dose of stirring.

Many years ago a treasured friend—several years older than I—bubbled over with ideas, questions, discoveries made while reading a quite literary theological journal. Her eyes sparkled as she said, “I pour over every issue that comes. Usually I need a dictionary nearby, and I frequently have to re-read particularly ‘deep’ sentences and paragraphs, but—oh my—what a dance I experience as I partner with these minds so much greater than my own.” June’s mind is now perfectly satisfied as she dances in the presence of God but she has left me a valuable legacy.

Now, where did I put my copy of My Name Is Asher Lev?


Thoughts for you:

What book(s) do you remember from your childhood? What memories are awakened as you think of those books?

If you aren’t a ”reader”—or don’t consider yourself one—what is your most enjoyable way of receiving entertainment and/or information?

A Hole in the Family

It was a great weekend. Friends and family gathered to celebrate the high school graduation of our grandson. Brats and burgers hot off the grill, salads, chips, dip and much more filled the dining room table and flowers from the backyard English-style garden graced unexpected corners. We smiled–and occasionally chuckled–at snapshots dating from infancy (“aw-w-w, wasn’t he cute?”) through the boyhood and teen years. We spoke of successes in the field of sports and academics, about faithful friends–some who’ve been part of his life since nursery school days, about skateboard-induced trips to the emergency room. This fall he leaves his San Francisco birthplace for university in Boston where he will pursue the subject of physics. (Something the many ‘word people’ in our family marvel at.)

As we sat in the living room after delectable rum cake dessert, I saw the family: our daughter, two sons and their wives, the celebrant grandson and two granddaughters. We missed the other grandson who couldn’t attend because he’s already part of the working world. But there was a hole in the family. Our second son, Rick, died many years ago at the age of eighteen. The piercing pain of his illness and death has faded, but he is very present in memory. I wondered what he would have become: would he be married? have children? what career would he have chosen? With his early interest in science and math, perhaps he would have walked a path similar to the one this new graduate is beginning. I think Rick would have been proud of this graduating nephew, his scientific, creative, curious mind, his pursuit of education. He would have spurred on the other nephew now searching for his own unique niche in life. He would have laughed at his younger niece’s zest and energy and been so proud of his older niece’s strength of will and quiet smile.

Yes, there was a hole in the family this weekend, but not a deep, depressing hole. Just an acknowledgement that you were absent, Rick. And you were missed. And you are loved.