Thursday, April 26, 2012
Tuesday, April 24, 2012
Wednesday, April 18, 2012
Life is full of waiting. We wait at the supermarket. We wait in traffic. We wait through the seasons. We wait for special days to finally come. It seems that we always have to wait for something. Of course, the old adage is "good things come to those who wait." Waiting is not easy. Waiting is not fun. Waiting requires patience, of which I have very little.
Some statistics show that the average person waits between 45 and 62 minutes per day. Considering that many of us work for at least 8 hours every day and sleep for 6 to 8 hours a day, nearly an hour of waiting is fairly significant. It might be counted as a waste of time if we look at it from the wrong perspective.
But I think that we sometimes mistakenly approach times of waiting. We have been duped into thinking that waiting means inactivity, means wasting time. But there is an activeness with which we need to approach times of waiting. While we may incorporate times of rest into periods of waiting, there is way that we can actively wait.
Recently, I got stuck in a significant traffic jam on 95 on my way to a seminary class. A trip that should have taken me less than 2 hours ended up taking 3 1/2 hours. My attitude was horrible because I just wanted to get to where I was going. My stress level rose and I tried to take control of a situation over which I had no control. All this did was increase my anxiety and stress level, eventually leading to a migraine. When I finally arrived at my destination, I was in such rough shape that it's a miracle that I was able to function as well as I did. Of course, after class, I still have to make the nearly 2 hour drive home.
Thinking through how I handled the situation and how I should have handled the situation convicted me. First off, I found out that the reason for the traffic jam was that a man was threatening to throw himself off of a bridge on I-95. In comparison to whatever he was going through in his life, I guess my life looks fairly simple. Thankfully, he did not follow through with his desire and was brought to a facility where he should receive help.
I also thought through the idea of being prepared. I generally carry books with me wherever I go. At any given time, I am generally reading at least one book. If I had had any wits about me, I would have simply pulled out a book and taken advantage of the time that I had to read in the car while waiting for traffic to clear. There was no one with me in the car, so I could have taken that time in silence and prayer to clear my head. Thinking back, there were probably a number of options that I had for things to do while I was waiting. But I chose poorly.
Yesterday and this morning, I was reminded by some friends of Psalm 27:14, "Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD." When we come to times in our lives where we must wait, it is not always a passive waiting that we are called to. When we find ourselves in places where we need to wait, it doesn't mean sitting on our hands and doing nothing, we can actively wait, and I think we are called to actively wait.
We will face times of waiting in our lives, it is inevitable. These times are not to be avoided, but they can be embraced. What would happen if we took a different approach to waiting? What would happen if we were prepared to read, to write, to pray while we're waiting? What a difference it would make in our attitudes and probably the attitudes of the people around us.
Last Friday, I blew my opportunity to actively wait in the midst of what I was facing, but today is a new day. Through grace, I am given new opportunities and new mercies every morning that I awake, will I seize those opportunities? Waiting is unavoidable, wasting time isn't. May we embrace our times of waiting in order that we can approach them actively rather than passively.
Tuesday, April 10, 2012
Ozzie Guillen’s at it again. Seems like this guy never knows when to quit. For someone who has had their mouth get them into trouble so many times before, you have to wonder whether or not it’s possible for him to finally learn a valuable lesson: think before you speak.
In case you are out of the loop, Guillen made a comment regarding Cuban leader, Fidel Castro, saying that he “respected” the leader. This statement has caused a firestorm among Cuban-Americans who have lost loved ones under Castro’s regime. While Guillen claimed that his respect was for him as a person, because he respects everyone, the damage had already been done. The news this morning states that MLB has suspended him 5 games for his statement.
As I came to work this morning and continued work on my sermon for Sunday, I found it interesting that within the passage from which I am preaching is this verse, “If anyone speaks, he should do it as one speaking the very words of God.” Wow! That’s a fairly tall order.
In context, the verse falls in 1 Peter 4 where Peter is writing his letter and imploring people to love each other deeply, using their gifts to help and to serve one another. How carefully we have to choose our words. While I feel like I have said this ad nauseam, talk is cheap even though there’s no way for us to retract words that have already been spoken. I sincerely fear for the next generation if they have role models who think that careless talk can be easily fixed with simple retractions.
I have had some times in my life where my mouth has gotten me in trouble. Pride won the day and I did not bridle my tongue, and I reaped the consequences of that. Words are powerful and can be interpreted so many different ways. Our language is versatile and that can be a blessing and a curse. Body language speaks volumes and in this day and age of electronic communication, the lack of body language, voice inflection, and simple face to face conversation can lead to all kinds of misunderstandings.
I am sure that I will experience additional times in my life when I will say things that I regret, but I have certainly worked hard to keep my mouth under control. I think back to the Disney movie “Bambi” when Thumper told that timeless truth that still stands: if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything. While it’s a bit of an oversimplification, there is a lot of truth to it.
I don’t know what will happen to Ozzie Guillen, whether he will learn a lesson or not. My fear for him and any of us that might let our mouths get the best of us is that people will just stop listening. They will have come to expect useless things from our mouths and they will choose to ignore us rather than think that we have anything valuable to offer to the conversation. I hope that I don’t come to that place. I pray that I would use words as if I were speaking the very words of God.
Sunday, April 1, 2012
In fact, what has appeared as silence to those who have not heard from me is actually just temperance and self-control. I have started and scrapped a number of blog posts that would probably have landed me in hot water with someone. I took the opportunity to actually write them out because I knew that part of the purpose was for my own well-being, venting to no one in particular about certain things that have been happening in my life.
As I have grown older, I have learned more about the value of words. Talk is cheap and words get thrown around too easily. I have learned the importance of listening and the greater importance of keeping my mouth shut when opening it achieves nothing of value.
I still believe that it's important to speak up when I have something to say, especially when I choose to stand up for something, there are certain contexts that are better than others for that. Certain issues are way too volatile to actually think that opening up about them in public forums on social media will be interpreted correctly and without misunderstanding. Each and every one of us interprets things from our own context with our own lens and regardless how clear the communication, there is always potential for misunderstanding and social media doesn't allow for a simple and easy way to work through those misunderstandings in a very conducive way.
I had an experience a few weeks ago where I sent out an email to a friend. While I did my best to express positive things within the context of that email, I realized that the issue that was being raised was far too important to have assumed that a simple email would effectively communicate my intentions. This led to a misunderstanding and some hurt, which led to a meeting, which led to a great time of conversation and "airing out" of some issues. If I had only requested a meeting in the beginning, I could have saved some hurt and misunderstanding as well as all of the steps in between.
Communication is a challenge. We need to not only understand the various means and methods of communication, but we also need to understand how certain people respond to these certain means and methods. There are some people that I can write very direct emails to without any kind of pleasantries or greetings whatsoever without fear of offense. There are others who take that as me being short and impatient, and if I really stop and think about it, it probably is me being short and impatient.
Communication takes time. We can get things done without communication, but our effectiveness will be reduced because of the lack of relationships that are being fostered. If people think that we are simply goal-focused and don't care about relationships, their attitude towards us will be fairly evident and our impact on them will be evident as well. We may get things done, but how much respect will we get from people.
So, in the past few days, I've been reevaluating things a little bit. I've had to schedule some appointments with people to make right things that I've neglected. I need to focus more on relationships than I've been doing. Yes, it takes time. Yes, it takes me away from getting things done that some might see as "more important," but in the end, I think everyone will be better for it.
The piles of stuff will still be on my desk tomorrow and probably the day after that, but I'm not always sure that the people who I lead will be there. I'd rather have piles on my desk knowing that my relationships are good than to have an empty desk with uncertainty in my relationships.
So if I seem silent, chances are, there's a good reason for it. Silence has actually saved me time and time again, I think we could all do with a little bit more of it in our lives. Try it, you might like it, and if you're lucky, you'll learn something in the process.