May 19 2013

Waiting on God

robin 1Today is Pentecost Sunday.  On this day Christians all around the world pause to remember how the Holy Spirit was bestowed upon the early disciples in Jerusalem shortly after Jesus had left the earth.  It is a very exciting story recorded in the second chapter of the Book of Acts.  In the first chapter of that same book the stage is set for that special day when Jesus told his followers “Do not leave Jerusalem, but wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about.  For John baptized with water, but in a few days you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.” (vs. 4-5)  The part of this I want to emphasize today is the disciples’ call to wait. 

For whatever reason, Jesus was not ready to bestow the Holy Spirit upon them prior to his ascension.  For that they would have to wait a few days.  It is amazing how often the Scriptures talk about waiting on God.  It is quite clear that God does not operate on the same time table we do.  We like things to happen fast but God seldom gets in a hurry.  And because God does not get in a hurry we have to wait.  Are you a good waiter?  I’m not.  I find waiting for anything I really want difficult.  I’m more of a “I want what I want and I want it now” kind of guy.  Such an attitude usually leads to a great deal of frustration.

robin 3I thought about that yesterday as I was photographing the baby robin you see in the pictures here.  Ironically, I was reading a book about John James Audubon when I saw the bird through the window sitting on a wicker chair on the porch.  The bird eventually flew into a nearby tree and I got to capture some images of it sitting there.  Not long later I noticed that the baby robin had company.  What I will assume was its mother began bringing it worms and berries to eat.  I decided I’d try to capture the feeding with my camera too.  Doing so became an exercise in patience and waiting.  I kept wanting to rush the adult robin, wishing it would hurry up and come back.  I found myself getting frustrated when it did not return as fast as I wanted it to.

The whole time I was fretting I was watching the baby bird through my telephoto lens.  I noticed that when the adult robin left the little one sometimes seemed to wait patiently for her return and at other times appeared to get agitated when she did not come back right away.   I also noticed that whether the bird waited patiently or got agitated the mother bird kept coming back with more food.  Watching all this take place in front of me got me to thinking that when we do have to wait on God for something there are two ways we may do so.  We can patiently wait on God to act, believing that His timing is best, or we can get all worked up and frustrated. 

robin 2In the end God, like the mother robin, will provide for us what we need but how we wait in the meantime is up to us.  If we know God is going to provide for us then we might as well learn to be patient and not stress out.  It does no good to get all flustered.  In fact, that only makes matters worse.  If we are smart we will simply sit back and wait, putting our trust in both God and God’s timing.

I write all of this today probably more for my own sake than yours.   There are some things going on in my life right now where I’m really struggling to be patient with God’s timing.  My natural tendency is to get anxious and upset.  While watching the baby robin yesterday I sensed God telling me “You might as well chill out.  Getting upset isn’t going to change anything.  Just be patient and I’ll come through for you when the time is right.”  That’s not what I wanted to hear but was certainly what I needed to hear.  It wouldn’t surprise me if there are others who need to hear that same message.  If so, I hope this post proves helpful.


Dec 2 2012

Eager Expectation

Today is the first day of Advent.  Advent is a word that means “coming.”  In the four weeks leading up to Christmas Christians will be asked to reflect on the coming of Jesus long ago and also on the fact that Scripture declares that he will one day come again.  We tend to place the most emphasis on the former but Advent calls us to remember both “comings.”  When I was a child I recall hearing preachers say that Jesus was coming back anytime now.  It was a message I heard often enough that I remember eventually coming to the conclusion that he sure was taking his time.  It’s not easy for children to wait.  I’m not sure it’s much easier for adults.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer once wrote, “Celebrating Advent means being able to wait. Waiting is an art that our impatient age has forgotten.”  Yes, waiting can be difficult, especially this time of the year.  Children will certainly be restless between now and Christmas.  For them it will be a long wait before the big day arrives and they get to open presents.  Advent is likewise difficult for us adults as we wait and wait and wait for Christ’s return.  This waiting can be as painful for us as it is for our kids waiting for Santa Claus to come.  But wait we must.

Interestingly enough, we do not wait alone.  The Bible indicates that all of Creation also awaits the coming of Christ.  In Romans 8 Paul talks about how “the creation waits in eager expectation” for the glory that will be revealed.  And there is good reason for Creation to wait in eager expectation.    In vs. 20-21 Paul writes, “For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.”

In v. 22 Paul goes to add, “We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.”  This verse contains both bad news and good news.  The bad news is Creation suffers today.  It is in pain from the “bondage of decay” brought upon it by the sin of man.  In his commentary on the Book of Romans, Paul Achtemeier says, “If one wonders at the ‘mythology’ involved in earth’s suffering for human perversity, one can have its truth demonstrated in a quite literal way by seeing what humankind has done by way of the pollution of air and water and the thoughtless exploitation of the natural resources of the world in which we live.”  Considering how we have treated the earth and its resources, how could it not suffer?  How could it not eagerly long for restoration?

That leads to the good news.  Paul says creation groans “as in the pains of childbirth.”  Although pain is associated with childbirth the pain points to something better to come—the birth of a child.  Nature’s pain and eager expectation are important because they point to a better day and a better world to come.  Paul’s words in Romans 8 are all about hope, which happens to be the theme of the First Sunday of Advent.  For both humans and Creation the Bible points to a brighter and more glorious future.  Many churches today heard passages read from the Book of Isaiah.  This prophet, likewise, looked forward to a better day to come, a day when “the wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together.” (11:6)  One day there will be “a new heaven and a new earth” where all shall be as God intended.  That truly is something worth waiting for.

Yes, a better day is coming for both believers and Creation.  In the meantime, we are called by God to make the most of our time on this earth and one way we can do this is by being good stewards of God’s Creation.  There are lots of ways we can help nature suffer less in the here and now.  Considering how long nature has already waited, wouldn’t you agree that it’s past time we did something to help?


p.s. I came across a wonderful video a few days ago where “Blessed Earth’s” Matthew and Nancy Sleeth are interview by Tony Campolo and Shane Claibore.  I encourage you to take time to watch it.  Here’s the link:

Jun 1 2011

The God Who Doesn’t Get In A Hurry

Last Friday while photographing in the Red River Gorge National Geological Area I had a chance to visit two of the area’s most popular arches—Princess Arch and Rock Bridge.  The Red River Gorge has numerous arches, more than any other location east of the Mississippi River.  It is a wonderful place to ponder the forces which can impact a landscape such as this.  Over thousands of years wind, rain, and in some cases the flow of creeks cause the erosion that forms the magnificent arches.  The arches we see today are still being shaped by these elements.  Over time these arches will likely cease to exist; they will succumb to the forces of nature while yet other arches form.

It is difficult for me to comprehend the length of time it takes nature to form geologic features like arches, hoodoos, natural bridges and buttes.  I just know that it takes a very long time.  We may be used to seeing manmade structures completed in short periods of time but nature tends to work on a much slower scale.  What is true of nature, I have discovered, is also true of God.  Time and time again I have been reminded that God typically works in what we would call “slow motion.”  I pray prayers asking for things that I cannot help but believe are God’s will and expect Him to respond immediately.  At times He does, but more often than not He doesn’t.   I, like most people, find this frustrating but I should not find it surprising.

I have been a serious student of Scripture for many years now.  I know from my studies of the Bible that God has a much different time table than we do.  There are countless examples in the biblical accounts where God seems incredibly slow to act.  For example, the Hebrews held captive in Egypt cry out to God for help but it is quite some time before He sends Moses to be their deliverer.  And apparently people long before me struggled with God’s slowness.  The Psalmist repeatedly asks God “how long” He is going to wait before He does one thing or another.  Job, too, wondered why God was so slow in getting around to answering his questions.

 In 2 Peter 3:8 we read, “But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.”  Peter’s words reveal that the way we experience time contrasts greatly with the way God experiences time.  In today’s world, filled with so many time saving devices, we are used to immediate or quick results in many facets of our life.  That makes it even harder for us to deal with God’s propensity to take His time.  Our attitude tends to be “I want what I want and I want it now.”  The testimony of Scripture seems to indicate that God’s attitude is “I know what you need and I’ll provide for it when the time is right.”

The same Psalmist who frequently asked God “how long” He was going to take to act came to realize that when dealing with the Lord God Almighty we must learn to be patient.  At the conclusion of Psalm 27 he wrote: “Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.”  That’s good advice for all of us for whether He is creating beautiful arches or creating beautiful lives God does not get in a hurry. 


 (Top image: Princess Arch.  Bottom image: Rock Bridge)

Jan 27 2010

“Waitin’ For the Light to Shine”

Canyonlands-NP-409“Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.” Psalm 27:14

He probably didn’t realize it but when Roger Miller penned the words to “I’m Waitin’ For the Light to Shine,” a song from his hit musical Big River, he wrote what could be the official nature photographer’s theme song.  Nature photographers know that light is everything.  A good subject in poor light typically does not produce a good image.  A poor subject in good light, however, can at times look amazing.  As a result, we photographers look for, and long for, “the light to shine.”

Often, to get the right light we have to wait.  The image above is a good example.  It was the last day of my southern Utah trip last month and I had not done well photographing Canyonlands National Park.  The first day there the light was terrible, making even Mesa Arch look unflattering.  On my last evening I decided to try one more time.  When I arrived at Green River Overlook the light was, once again, horrible.  I just about concluded that I was going to get “skunked” at Canyonlands but then I noticed that there was a tiny clearing at the horizon.  I held on to the hope that maybe at the very last moment beautiful warm light would flood the canyon below me.  My friend Steve, who was with me and is not a photographer, decided to go sit in the car.  Since it was 15 degrees and windy, I couldn’t blame him. 

I waited in the cold for over an hour hoping (and praying) that I would get good light.  And just when I thought time had run out on me it happened.  Whereas a split second before the scene before me was dull, dark and gray, all of a sudden a warm brilliant light flooded the canyon.  My heart soared and I immediately sought something to photograph in that glorious light.  Because the good light only lasted a minute or two I couldn’t be choosey.  Still, I found a couple of decent subjects to capture with my camera and once again I was reminded that in photography it pays to wait for the light to shine. 

In our spiritual life we also have to wait at times for the light to shine.  In my walk with the Lord there are many times when things seem flat and dull.  It can be quite discouraging and at times I may even feel like giving up.  But I have learned over the years that we must learn to “wait on the Lord.”  God does not always move on the timetable we want.  In fact, He typically moves a lot slower than I’d prefer.  But God knows what He is doing so the smart thing for me to do is be patient and wait for Him to shine His light on me.  And if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it is that it pays to wait for the Light to shine.