Learning patience, or “Is there a lesson or purpose in everything?” & other musings…

I like to know WHY… maybe its the bent I have towards teaching, or perhaps its because it makes difficult/frustrating situations more bearable if there is a discernible WHY.

Know what I mean? Where you can go, “Ahhhh. I get it now. THAT’s why that happened.”

At the same time, I’ve learned through experience, circumstances, & Scripture that sometimes “rain falls on the just & on the unjust.” That there is no easy correlation between something happening & the readily apparent REASON for that thing happening. Yes, it would be great if “everything happens for a reason,” or that the sources of frustration, pain, etc could be immediately & directly identified (& therefore, have the resulting pain mitigated, even if just a leeetle.)

But it doesn’t always. At least I think it doesn’t.

On the subject of patience & being content with trying circumstances… you may have heard me tell or write about the time we were on the way to Do Something in the City (back in the olden days, the 80s,) & my mom was driving our trusty manual transmission VW bus from our home in Golden Valley towards Civilization (it’s been a minute…. there was NOTHING in Golden Valley back in those days… just houses. If you wanted Things, you had to travel.) We were at the 4 way stop-light that was 395N, (now its a real life dedicated to Golden Valley off-ramp!) waiting for the light to change so we could hurry on our way (as fast as a 70’s VW bus could hurry.) The light changed & …. nothing. Clutch is popped. We’re not moving. This is Not Good.

This kind of thing didn’t happen much when my parents were driving, as both of them could navigate a VW shifter with the best of them. Just not this time. So, my mom went to start the car, & it took a bit for it to catch (not unusual for a VW bus – if you know, you know….) Finally the engine squirreled to life & we started to move, just in time to see & feel the WHOOSH of an 18-wheeler as it ran the red light at the intersection.

Any frustration we’d felt (ok, that I’d felt as an 11-year old backseat driver) melted away in awe… even I knew that if we’d pulled out when the light turned green, we’d have been a schmear of cream & tan German auto parts. Thank you Jesus – THIS was easy to see; we’d been spared from becoming schmear by a popped clutch.

But what about…?


 

Most Thursday mornings, we (me & some guys) meet for prayer & talks in the Loft at our church at the Crack O Doom/Dawn… 6 a.m. As a creature of habit & routine, I like to Be Ready & Prepped (whatever that means) so when its time to pray, I feel like its not the first thing I’m doing during the morning… (FWIW, this Ready & Prepped list involves coffee, reading & finishing my morning Bible time, & making sure our meeting space in the Loft is Ready-To-Go.

This Thursday started like they usually do: I rolled out of bed at 4:34 & hit the shower; quickly dressed & headed downstairs with My Stuff to make my coffee (& to prep theBean’s coffee cup so all she has to do is hit the “GO” button on the KCoffee machine.) Now, an aside – after talking with my friend Antonio before our last Snow Sunday at Hillside (where we only did online church because, SNOW,) I discovered that we both are what the kids might call “Bougie“/Boujee (aka “Extra Fancy) when it come to our coffee & how we like it/make it. I don’t know that I’d agree, but say I do – if Antonio is bougie, then I will be bougie with him. Good company, that man. Anyway, I digress.

In our pre-church discussions, we talked about how we USED to drink coffee (black as the night, strong as the universe,) & how we drink coffee NOW (you can ask Antonio how he takes his coffee & decide for yourself just how things have changed for him.) As for me – I like to PUT THINGS into my coffee:

That is it. And trust me. It is tasty & it is > black coffee.

I do this EVERY DAY, with little to no trouble, no mess, no wasted motion… except today, I dropped the plastic dish holding the chocolate salt. Which means I spilled the WHOLE dish on the counter & floor. This very fine, very powdery chocolate salt, all over. At 4:50 a.m. I gotta be on the road in 2, people.

Might have gotten a little huffy-puffy. I wasn’t leaving the mess for theBean, so cleaning it up NOW was a must. And so with broom (& vacuum) in hand, I made the best of the mess & cleaned it up. Even rescued some salt off the counter (hey! There’s a win for me.) But…

Turns out I overfilled the to-go mug I was using that day. My usual mug was in Eugene (my 2001 Land Rover beast machine, where it doesn’t belong,) so I used the backup to a backup. And I miscalculated the size of the cup. Which overflowed with coffee & MCT oil & creamer & chocolate salt. BAHHHH! (Or something like that) came out of my mouth – no big deal. I can do this. I’ve already conquered one dragon this morning – I’ll just take it sloooow & dump a little coffee out of the to-go cup into the sink & be on my way.. Except…

MCT oil is oily. Slippery even. So slippery on plastic that when I attempted to pick up my cup, I dropped it. And the liquid flowed as only liquid & oils & creams can flow. All over. Everywhere. On the counter. Into the cabinets. Into the drawers. Onto the floor. Here. There. Everywhere.

I saw red (& other angry things.) And then I KNEW I was going to be late for my routine. Late for prayer maybe. And this mess wasn’t going to clean itself.

And the second thought that came to my mind (the first one wasn’t helpful or constructive,) was this: “Ahhh. I remember the VW bus incident, & several others like it where I was spared something terrible by an unfortunate & frustration circumstances that bothered me tremendously in the moment, but turned out to be a Blessing in Disguise.. Maybe THIS is THAT…”

Almost as soon as the thought crossed my mind, I ‘heard/felt’ God speak, “What if this is just one of those things that happens? What if there’s no visible, easily traceable lesson to discover? What if THIS is just a THING that happened, & you get to CHOOSE how you will act/respond/move forward?”

Those thoughts stopped me in my oily, creamy, chocolate tracks… I didn’t like that idea. That was DUMB. Its better if there’s a REASON. Something I’m being spared from… But what if if IS just an opportunity to be patient, to slow down, to clean up, to laugh at myself? What if THAT is all THIS was?

It has to be enough, today. And so it was.


Got to the church at the same time as Matt – not late, but not on my schedule. Thought quite a bit about all the things I’d experienced that morning… All the frustrations. The messes. The (surprising) NEED for all of it to be more than just a life obstacle to navigate… one of those things that every single one of us faces all the time. Told the guys about it. Laughed together. 

Been thinking about it for 2 days now. I aim to choose patience whenever it comes to mind that it IS a choice how I respond. To not have to see or know the WHY about my (petty) inconveniences… or even the not-so-petty ones. I’m asking Jesus for transformation in my heart, mind, & character. To reflect Him. To laugh quicker. To slow down. Even if I can’t see the WHY or the lesson in it. 

Do I ever REALLY stop? & other musings…

Just looked at the calendar. Five Mondays from today, theBean & I will be on our first day of sabbatical. I’m trying to prepare for this time away, with the purpose of being as intentional as possible about what we’re doing. So, I’m revisiting some studies that I began about 10 years ago on the Sabbath & Sabbath rest. I’ll be blogging some of my thoughts, discoveries, wonderings, & questions here over the next several weeks…(If you’re interested, you can read more about WHY we’re taking a sabbatical HERE)


 

A couple of my favorite ways to study something in the Scriptures are to

  1. find the word in the original language, along with a working definition of the word;
  2. do a word-search & find the first place in the Bible the word is found…
  3. ‘popcorn’ around to other places the word is found, referenced, discussed, etc…

I looked up Sabbath & found the first time the word itself is used is in Exodus 16:23  & it shows up quite a few more times, most notably in Exodus 20:8 – the place in Scripture where God gives Moses the commandments (of the most famous “10 commandments,” the command to remember the Sabbath & keep it holy is #4. But I digress. Fun rabbit trail though.) The definition of Sabbath is “to stop; rest; come to rest; cease.” The more I dug, I discovered that though the word first showed up in Exodus, the first time the concept or practice of Sabbath appears in the Bible is in Genesis 2:1-3 as a part of the creation narrative. It says:

Heaven & Earth were finished, down to the last detail. By the seventh day God had finished His work. On the seventh day He rested from all His work. God blessed the seventh day. He made it a Holy Day, because on that day He rested from His work, all the creating God had done. The Message

Think about it. The final ‘act’ of creation was God creating Sabbath, Holy Time –This was so important that He built it into the fabric of creation by working six days, then on the seventh day, He STOPPED. And then He RESTED.


The more I roll this around in my head, the more I see how tied together the two are: you cannot rest until you stop. So I think about what it takes to stop, to REALLY stop. And I think about myself & my own life patterns & pace of life. I reflect on our cultural norms, behaviors & attitudes that are normal, at least until they are held up to the mirror of God’s Word. And I ask myself, “Do you ever really stop? Do WE?”


We live in a 24/7 city – in a country that celebrates busyness, activity, & multi-tasking. We rarely think about let alone embrace the fact that we have limits – on our time, our physical/mental/emotional capacity, & on what we can do & do well. We often push ourselves & our schedules to the limit, cramming as much activity into our days & weeks as possible. We usually don’t get enough sleep & survive/re-engage with life because of coffee/energy drinks. (An interesting fact – in 2006 when I began my studies on Sabbath, I researched the caffeine, how much was consumed in the US, & how much money was spent on it. Here’s what I found: In 2006, more than $12 Billion was spent on coffee, & another $1.1 Billion was spent on energy drinks, most of which were consumed by people in the 18-25 year old range. Fast forward to 2014 – close to $40 Billion was spent on coffee last year & a staggering $13.5 Billion was spent on energy drinks, a figure which is estimated to rise to at last $21.5 Billion by the year 2017. And the reason more than 60% said they drank coffee/energy drinks? In essence it was, “I need it to get going & keep going. Can’t do what I do without it.”)

When we have time off, we use it to get everything done that we couldn’t finish during the work week, &/or we pack our free time with all sorts of activities. Technology doesn’t help us out here – the modern conveniences of ‘staying connected’ through our smart-phones, computers, omni-present wifi, mp3 players keeps a constant barrage of stimulation & noise bouncing around our brains.

No wonder silence seems strange.


 

Do I ever REALLY stop? When was the last time I took a day, set apart as Holy Time, & didn’t work… didn’t get preoccupied/distracted with something… just intentionally set myself up to BE?

The defense mechanisms kick in quickly. Countless reasons for WHY I do what I do, & WHY taking much time (let alone a day) is just about impossible with all the things that fill my busy schedule come to mind.

And then I think about what I read last week from Matthew 11:25-30, especially the part about finding God’s rhythms of grace for life… & I contrast that to the driven, life-sucking pace & practices that lurk around me… And I want that rhythm, God’s rhythm for me. And so I invite Him in to the mess of me… & I trust He will FINISH what He starts.