Waiting With

Waiting RoomI’ve been doing a lot of waiting in the past seven days. First I (and our daughter) waited for my husband’s surgery to be finished. Then we waited for him to be out of recovery. We waited to hear test results. We waited for him to be discharged from the hospital. We even waited for the wheelchair to be delivered to his room!

Our daughter is the perfect companion in waiting. She was silent when necessary (we both range high on the introvert scale), but ready to chat when we needed that connection. She also bakes a mean cherry pie.

Even as we react differently in the waiting game according to the circumstances and our personalities, waiting itself has varied faces. Waiting for. Waiting while. Waiting in. But it’s waiting with that comes to mind today.

Yesterday our church congregation gathered for an afternoon service. Actually, it was a legally called business meeting but it turned out to be a celebratory service of worship, of acknowledging God’s leading and sovereignty over long months, of bowing before his so evident will. Without a pastor for almost two years, the seeking had been long, careful, detailed. Faithful men and women on the search committee submitted in prayer for discernment and wisdom while many of us in the congregation fervently humbled ourselves and prayed along with them.

While our church was admirably led and fed by a remarkable, much loved and respected leadership team during these months, I repeatedly heard this refrain: Why is it taking so long? Hidden within that question was this attitude: I’m tired of waiting. Could it be that while waiting for and waiting while, we weren’t waiting with God?

What does it look like to wait with God? In our daughter’s example I find a clue: she knew how and when to be silent and how and when to chat. Waiting with God means companionship. It means sitting consistently in his presence. It means ceasing our babbling and sitting silently in his presence. It means sitting long enough in his presence to hear his whisper. It means lingering over words or phrases in the Bible until God’s Holy Spirit speaks his personal message in our souls. It means waiting when God says nothing at all.

While reviewing this whole waiting thing, I was drawn to a story in the Old Testament book of Judges. Leader Gideon who has known success in the past is discouraged and defeated. God in the form of an angel addresses this overwhelmed leader: Hey you, mighty warrior, God is right here with you! (Marilyn’s translation.) And Gideon’s response is just like mine might have been: Yeah, right. Pardon me, Mr. Angel (I love this “pardon me” feeble attempt at honor!), if God is with us, and if I’m such a ‘mighty warrior,’ how come all this disaster has happened. He showed up big time to our ancestors with all sorts of high and mighty works, but right now he has obviously left the scene. Even after hearing that God is still on Gideon’s side, Gid still isn’t quite ready: Pardon me, God, I’m not your man… (Another ‘pardon me’ attempt.) More assurance from God along with instructions requiring Gideon to prepare an offering involving the time consuming killing and roasting of a goat, baking bread, etc.

Did Gideon wonder if God would hang around long enough for the cooking to get done? to fulfill his promise? to even show up? Gideon pleads with God to stay and his patient God responds, I will wait until you return. God will wait. He wasn’t going anywhere. He was very much waiting with Gideon.

As I practice waiting with God—and I suspect there’s more practicing on the horizon—I’m so very grateful God is waiting with me.


PS   The surgery went as well as anticipated and my husband participates in the waiting game as strength seems slow to return and another (expected) surgery is in the future. Waiting lessons continue.

The Opposite of Anxious

Be anxious for nothingBy the time most of you read this on Monday, February 22nd, I will be at the hospital, either in the waiting room or at my husband’s bedside. A procedure that became necessary before heart surgery can be safely done at a later date is being performed today. Although doctors assure us that this is a “safe” surgery and is done hundreds of times each year at this renowned hospital, any surgery requiring general anesthetic should be faced with realism.

One night when these surgical plans had been finalized, I found myself awake in the dark hours. My thoughts skittered to hospitals, money, operations… Then my mind’s eye seemed to see a well-worn page in my Bible, the page on which are written the Apostle Paul’s words: Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!… Do not be anxious about anything…

Familiar words, familiar concepts that have proven true countless times in my life. I have been overtaken by the mysterious peace of God too many times to count, too many times to doubt their wisdom and truth. This particular morning I settled on the word anxious and proceeded to a practice I often find helpful in Bible study: looking at a word’s antonym—the opposite of its general meaning.

The opposite meanings of anxious caught me up short: bold, brave, calm, collected, composed, confident, cool, courageous, happy, quiet, unafraid, unworried, assured, content, peaceful, tranquil! Impossible, was my first reaction.

Then I decided to check out the Greek meaning of the word; maybe I could find something less challenging! Here I found that the word anxious means to be “divided into parts,” figuratively “to go to pieces.” So not being anxious means being whole, not distracted. Still impossible.

Or is this exactly what God pours into us when we abandon ourselves to him, fully trusting his goodness and mercy? Is this what allowed martyrs of old and martyrs today to unflinchingly proclaim faith in Christ when fires burned, bullets flew and knives slashed? On a scale so much smaller, is this what God will graciously, abundantly, without reserve, pour into me?

I anticipate that in a little over twenty-four hours my husband will be recovering, ready to go home, and I will find uninterrupted sleep returning. But there is much to meditate on in the days ahead, even as we anticipate the more serious surgery. I need to be practicing the bold, brave, calm, collected, composed, confident, cool, courageous, happy, quiet, unafraid, unworried, assured, content, peaceful, tranquil life God promises! After all, in another place that same apostle said he “had learned…” Sounds to me like a process.

Buses and Boats

Buses & BoatsOne man bought a bus. Another man didn’t buy a boat and put off retirement. One man is a mechanic, the other an attorney. They were separately featured on national media this past week and I was intrigued with their stories.*

Ghafoor Hussain is from Britain and was born in Pakistan. For years he offered his time to help feed and clothe the needy, even traveling last year to migrant camps in Europe. In Austria he saw refugees given cold sandwiches, “and he decided they needed hot food—and that he would be the one to deliver.”

So Ghafoor bought a bus! Taking it to his garage, he turned it into a professional mobile kitchen with sinks, prep tables, stoves and a 260-gallon water tank. The project cost him about $9,000 but as word spread of his efforts, donations of money and goods came rolling in.

Since early January Mr. Hussain and the bus have been in northern France where he supplies about 3,000 hot meals per day, healthy vegetarian food to avoid buying expensive Halal meat (i.e., “kosher,” approved for people of the Muslim faith). “We do about 5,000 cups of tea in the morning; then another 5,000 in the evening.”

The garage back home is run by his son. What does his family think? “They think I’m a bit mad,” he says with a laugh, “but I have (their) full support.” In fact, Hussain just bought a second bus, soon to be another fully-equipped kitchen, in order to meet the growing demand at the camps for hot meals.

The man without a new boat is 51-year-old Marty Burbank from Fullerton, California. He and his wife were set on buying a new boat and had their search down to two choices. Then he heard a sermon about charity and sacrifice and changed his mind.

Burbank met kindergarten teacher, Tessa Ashton, at church a few years ago, and after hearing her description of the children in her classroom, he began donating time, money and supplies to the elementary school. But as a consequence of hearing the sermon, “I (decided) that buying a boat at that point would be a selfish thing.” So Marty and his wife, Seon—both the first in their families to go to college—pledged to fund each kindergarten student’s tuition for two years at community college and two years at a California state school—or the equivalent if they want to attend elsewhere. All they have to do is draw a picture or write an essay each year about what going to college will mean for them and their families. All 26 students in the kindergarten class speak Spanish at home, arriving at school the first day knowing little English or ever hearing much about college. On the internet I watched their parents weep while hugging their children, expressing their gratitude (in Spanish!) to Burbank for this unbelievable—and now attainable—dream.

Marty and Seon estimate the tuition will cost about $1 million by 2032 and have set up a private foundation where he will contribute funds each year until there’s enough. Burbank plans to delay retirement and keep driving his truck for a few more years than expected. “They say give until it hurts a little, and this hurts. But we feel it’s the best investment we could make.”

Neither Hussain nor the Burbanks paraded their faith for media attention. In fact, they all were surprised at the scrutiny, but the first words that popped into my mind were from a parable Jesus told: “… Whatever you did for one of my brothers or sisters, no matter how unimportant [they seemed], you did for me” (Matthew 25:40).



*National Public Radio and CNN

Warning: This May be Dangerous to Your Religious Comfort

NO WOMEN SignA sign in the window of the Riyadh (Saudi Arabia) coffee shop: “PLEASE NO ENTRY FOR LADIES ONLY,” the all-caps sign read. “SEND YOUR DRIVER TO ORDER THANK YOU.”

Faithful Jewish women worshippers are banned from praying with a Torah scroll, the centerpiece of Jewish religious tradition.

Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani girl shot by the Taliban for defying the ban on female education, must still be surrounded by security personnel as she lives in London.

Bride kidnapping is a common practice in Kyrgyzstan and Turkmenistan.

Around the world female genital mutilation for cultural or religious reasons—often performed without anesthetic—is a common practice on girls from four to eight (but taking place at any age from infancy to adolescence).

In some parts of Ghana, a family may be punished for some offense by having to turn over a virgin female to serve as a sex slave.

And in our churches? “Many women truly think there is something wrong with them because they aren’t satisfied with a limited role in the church. They sit in the pews on Sunday, but they’re dying inside because they want to preach, lead, and speak out in church… Many Christians are reading biased Bible translations in which translators chose words skewed by patriarchal assumptions. These translations are taught as the Word of God without nuance or qualification for translation bias. And so, many women who trust their leaders implicitly—as they were taught and socialized to do—are none the wiser to the questionable and biased scholarship behind their Bible translations.” (by Jerri Dyer)

“Marilyn, how dare you compare women’s rights in the church to the horrors women face around the world?” You’re right; the comparison is stark. And yet are not all the situations described above deeply planted in our post-Eden, horribly skewed view of women?

Re-reading the Genesis story of God’s abundant grace and responsibility bestowed on both man and woman, gives us a glimpse of how we as post-cross, kingdom of God Christians must be living radically different lives.

How far the disciples had to travel from Jewish law and tradition when God revealed his plan for freedom in Christ. Peter was horrified when God challenged long-held dietary restrictions: “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.” How drastically anti-cultural it was when the Apostle Paul, steeped in Jewish law and tradition, boldly stated, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

Uncomfortable? I hope so. The path to new learning is not without brambles and briars. Missteps are probable. Our minds may twitch when we struggle with new understanding leading to new paths. But then, isn’t this what growth is all about? Transformed, renewed minds lead us to continuing, often new understanding of God’s “good, pleasing and perfect will” (Romans 12:2).




Trapped by the Ordinary

Snow DayIt’s a snow day where I live in Colorado Springs. Schools and offices are closed, meetings cancelled, drivers advised to stay off the roads. While the snow is just gently falling on the pines in our back yard, other places north and east of us will experience howling winds and tall drifts.

A day to snuggle down with a good book, cup of tea and glowing fireplace embers? Or am I trapped by thinking of all the items on my Monday list that won’t get accomplished? All those ordinary things that bind me to the here and now?

Watching the falling flakes reminded me of a song we sang in church yesterday, words lifting me out of my ordinary perspective into how the very creation majestically responds to the glory of the Creator.

Your voice it thunders
The oaks start twisting
The forest sounds with cedars breaking
The waters see You and start their writhing
From the depths a song is rising
Now it’s rising from the ground
Holy, Holy Lord, the earth is Yours and singing…

Your voice it thunders
The ground is shaking
The mighty mountains now are trembling
Creation sees You
and starts composing
The fields and trees, they start rejoicing
Now it’s rising from the ground…
Holy, Holy Lord, the earth is Yours and singing…*

 The poet is not trapped by the ordinary as he imagines the creation bursting with praise. The prophet Isaiah thousands of years ago also closed his eyes to his mundane list of things to do:

You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace;
the mountains and hills will burst into song before you,
and all the trees of the field will clap their hands. (Isaiah 55:12)

Today in the midst of making soup or baking bread, I want to watch the snow and—perhaps just for moments—imagine all creation singing, “Look at me! I am God’s and you can see Him as you look at me if you just shift your heart and mind from the ordinary to My extraordinary! Holy, holy, holy Lord, the earth is Yours and singing…


*Michael Gungor