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The opposite of talking is not listening.  The opposite of talking is waiting.—Fran Lebowitz

 Summer months have a different rhythm. Maybe it feels that way because we set so much of our lives by the school calendar.  Perhaps Kansans pace themselves a little differently when the temperatures climb above 100 degrees.  Even in churches, we tend to suspend many of our usual meetings and activities during the summer.

 Maybe those of us who grew up in less “organized” times never quite get over the feeling that summer should be slower.  For me as a kid, summer meant stacks of books, poking around in the creek, evening drives to check cattle, snapping green beans with my grandparents.

 These days, we’re not very good at not being productive 100 percent of the time.  We only value action and results.  We just can’t wait.

 Waiting is not the absence of activity.  Webster’s definition of the word “wait” is to “observe carefully” and “to be watchful” and “to remain in readiness for some purpose”.

 Summer months as a kid meant I could read books and explore places in nature I didn’t have time to pay attention to during a busy school year.  Summer meant the opportunity for more time and longer conversations with my parents and grandparents. The learning didn’t stop—I could just be more observant about important people and everyday things in life that passed me by when I was too busy.  

Waiting is most difficult when we go through seasons of anxiety and trouble and uncertainty—we become impatient and want answers NOW—even when we understand that God reveals those answers in due season.  It’s the period of waiting where God teaches us to trust and depend on Him, and not our own abilities. 

Seasons of waiting—both in our personal lives and in our life as the church—are not seasons of doing nothing.  They are an opportunity for us to reflect on God, our faith, to pray, to listen, to study, to sit and observe—to rest and refresh, but remain in readiness to act when we’re called.

 “But those who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up on wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.”—Isaiah 40:31

 

“In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed.”–Mark 1:35

prayI’ve been thinking a lot about prayer lately–mostly how I don’t do it very well.

Most of my prayers are quick “This is the way I want things to be God–and I want them to be that way–Right Now.”

It’s interesting to wonder what Jesus prayed. As a human being, he was subject to the same temptations as us all.  Particularly, maybe, in listening to what other people wanted him to do, thought he should do, believed he should act based on their limited knowledge of God–versus what God actually wanted him to do.

We don’t know what Jesus prayed exactly, but we do know how: habitually, and alone.  And based on his actions, it’s apparent he listened to  God more than he talked.

Why do we think we can only pray with five-syllable words and long sentences, and prayer is only really, really effective if we go on . . .and on . . . and on?  What’s wrong with showing up, keeping our comments short,  shutting up, and sitting still long enough to really listen to God?

(Could be God is sending this preacher a message in that last sentence. Note to self for next week’s service: Show Up. Keep it Short.  Shut Up. And Pray. With More Silence and Less Words.)

Mostly I think I’m not always so comfortable with what God has to say.  Little reminders to not be so judgmental.  Realizations that my days may not always be as easy and carefree as I want. In-your-face discussions about how much I actually trust God, and whether I don’t really trust my own abilities more.

Sometimes, in the mornings, I’ve made the mistake of praying that God connect me with the people God wants me to see that day.  The results have been amazing–and terrifying. I’ve never really loved that feeling at the top of the roller-coaster right before you drop.  But on those  days when I’m brave enough to pray that prayer–I’m really glad I signed on for the ride anyway.  Mostly because I know Christ’s sitting right there next to me, holding my hand as I hurtle into the unknown.  Those are the days I’ve come to see Him and feel Him next to me the most.

If  you read the rest of the first chapter of Mark, you begin to wonder how Jesus–with all the people he had to help and teach– could find time to sneak off on his own and pray.  

And when you think about that–why in heaven’s name do we think we’re too busy not to pray?