Hope: Think of it as a Light

“Ain’t nothin’ gonna save you from a love that’s blind When you slip to the dark side you cross that line On the dark side, oh yeah On the dark side, oh yeah.” Eddie and the Cruisers

I’m not sure how or when it happened, but during my senior year in high school I became a shuttle driver for just about everyone who played sports but didn’t have their own car.  On any given day I would give someone a ride home after practice or games.  I remember a couple of days when the snow had piled up that I made multiple trips, taking people home in shifts.  Why, I’m not sure.  It definitely wasn’t because my 1973 Plymouth Duster was the coolest car in town. It was just something I did.  Most of the guys I gave rides to were sophomore and freshman football and basketball teammates.  One of my steady customers was a freshman by the name of Kevin Wilson.  Kevin played football and didn’t play much, but impressed everyone with his hustle.  He was a bit thin and gangly but had a wiry strength.  He definitely wasn’t the biggest or best but he always gave everything he had and did it with a huge smile.  As that year wore on we became friends, in a way.  We didn’t really hang out, I mean I was a senior and Kevin a freshman, but I could mess with him and he would throw it right back at me and he knew I would always give him a ride even on short notice.  One day we were all heading out to do some off-season weight training and Kevin caught up with me from behind jumped on my back and an impromptu wrestling match ensued. I was easily 80 pounds heaver and had rubbed him in the dirt on more than one occasion so the fact that he had jumped me left me laughing uncontrollably.   I was almost unable to defend myself but finally regained enough composure to defend my senior honor and pin Kevin.  We hurried into the weight room and I joined up with my usual partners for a tough round of weights.  That was the last time I ever saw Kevin.

I remember getting to school late and going straight to my first hour class.  After class someone stopped me and asked if I had heard about Kevin Wilson.  I hadn’t heard anything and the person (I’m have no idea who it was) blurted out that Kevin was dead.  The words didn’t hit me like a load of  bricks, I didn’t stare in shock, I just laughed nervously and said something to the effect of, ‘Yeah right whatever.’  And I hurried off to my next class.  It wasn’t until that afternoon that I got the details, at least what details there were.  Kevin had lived with his mother and a live in boyfriend.  There had been a good deal of abuse and neglect of Kevin and his siblings.  That night, after school something had happened and the boyfriend had beaten Kevin.  They found Kevin hanging in his closet the next morning.

The funeral was difficult. I was too young to know how to deal with what I was feeling so I put on a macho somber face and made it through.  There were so many people there.  I dimly remember the service but I do recall seeing Kevin lying in the casket.  Looking back, as an adult I see the waste, the tragedy.  I also see too many parallels to my own early life.  I too suffered abuse.  I too lived in poverty.  But I had one thing that Kevin did not: a parent who knew God and brought hope into our lives

I stand here today as one who has seen a glimpse of the dark side of life.  Kevin Wilson’s suicide is not the only tragedy I have witnessed.  My twelve-year-old cousin, with whom I was very close, was brutally murdered in 1984.  I was a freshman at Oklahoma State when my brother and I got the call that J.J. had gone missing.  Days later her body was found outside of Oklahoma City.  J.J. was abducted from the parking lot of her middle school football field.  She was drug into a van and carried off to be repeatedly raped and tortured.  Her attacker intentionally kept her alive as long as he could, then when it was clear her young body could take no more he threw her, still alive but just barely, from his moving vehicle.  Her funeral, like Kevin’s, is a blur in my memory.  I can only recall the weight of the casket as I helped carry her to the waiting hearse.  I can only see the hoards of local and national news reporters that huddled outside the church and rushed to take pictures as we climbed down the steps. I can only remember the disbelief that any of these things were really happening.

Then there was Dwayne.  I can still see Dwayne’s crooked smile in my mind.  He had a gold tooth that was outshone by the mischievous glint in his eyes.  We became friends playing endless hours of pickup basketball in Austin, Texas.  I was a graduate student just starting a doctorate degree program and Dwayne was one of the first guys that showed up at the church gym when the pastor had let me open it up to start a basketball outreach.   Over the next few years we played with and against people from across Austin and the surrounding area.  Most nights there were fifty to sixty people waiting there turn to take the court.  Some were bums like me, but it was very common for some of the best basketball players around to show up at that cider-brick, tile floor gym to play  (more than a couple of division 1 college players went head to head in that gym).  But regardless of who else was there Dwayne was one of the regulars.

It was just another Monday night at the gym and I had just settled in along the sidelines after finally losing (every once in a while I got to ride along with some of the good players) when Dwayne’s team took the court.  As the game went back and forth, Dwayne went up for a rebound.  He misjudged the ball slightly and adjusted in mid-air.  He reached back to grab the ball as it went over his head and tilted too far back.  His feet never really touched the ground and his head crashed into the floor.  It was soon obvious that Dwayne was in trouble.  I rushed to call 911 as others attended to Dwayne.  Unfortunately his fate was sealed as soon as he jumped for the ball.  The paramedics arrived but all of their efforts were in vain.  I watched as a friend died before my eyes.  A young man, a husband, a father of a 6 week old baby went to the gym for a game of pickup basketball and he never went home.

Unlike the those of Kevin and J.J., I do remember Dwayne’s funeral.  In part because I was older when it came, but mostly because of the manner with which it was carried out.  While Dwayne had died tragically, just as Kevin and JJ, Dwayne’s life was celebrated while their’s only mourned.  The reason for celebration in the face of tragedy?  Put quiet simply, HOPE.

Hope is a powerful thing.  I am not speaking of false hope found in self-delusion, but of real hope that transforms people and events and allows some to persevere in the face of odds that cause others to perish.  I remember the one pivotal moment the I truly realized the power of hope.  I was walking along the Bolshoi Canal in St Petersburg Russia with a young woman by the name of Natalya from Minsk, Belorus.  We were part of a larger group from Europe, former Soviet countries and the US attending a conference on politics and the media.  Natalya and I had just left a site-seeing excursion and were walking back to the apartment building that served the University as a dormitory.  The summer afternoon was incredibly hot and we walked down some steps that lead to the canal,  kicked off our shoes, and sat with our feet in the cool water that ran from the Baltic Sea.  As we sat Natalya began talking about her life and family in Belorus.  Belorus had been an early beacon of what was possible for post-Soviet countries as the Soviet Union dissolved.  Early-on economic, social and political reforms yielded stunning results.  Belorus was being hailed as a model new democracy.  Unfortunately, the early promise was not allowed to bloom and the brief spark of liberal democracy was replaced by an oppressive regime that clamped down on every aspect of society.  As Natalya spoke of her life she pointed out that her parents had been raised and had lived under oppression their entire lives.  The bleak future waiting Belorus did not affect them as much, because, she said, they had never known hope, so the absence of it was nothing tragic for her parents.  She, her husband, and others of her generation had been swept up in the brightness of those early days of independence.  They, she said, had tasted hope.  Thus, the encroaching future was even more dark in its contrast.  Then, as she spoke, Natalya said something that has rung in my ears since, “I only want, that my daughter will know HOPE.”

Hope is the existence of the possible.  Hope is that light, however faint, beacoming us to continue.  Hope does not rely on statistical probability to affect us.  Hope simply has to exist.  With hope our lives have purpose and we strive to achieve.  In the absence of hope, our lives become gray, meaningless, and unfortunately many times our lives end.




A Father’s Dream (alternate title, Undone by My Subconscious)

I awoke from a dream in the middle of the night last night. In the dream, I had heard a noise and the dogs were restless so I got out of bed and was looking around to see what was bothering them. I went into the living room and something caught my eye. I heard a voice.

“Dad it’s just me,” I felt a hand reach out and pat my leg. “I couldn’t fall asleep in my bed.”

I looked down and it was Ryan, but the seven-year-old version of Ryan. I suppose the dream was shaped by the reality that Ryan is just starting a new job and we had moved him to Tulsa over the weekend. But there I was looking at the tall skinny blonde haired boy that he was at seven and hearing that same young voice talking in a hushed tone.

In the dream, I replied “Why are you on the floor, at least get up into one of the big chairs.”

Ryan whispered “Ok,” and curled up into a big leather chair that was eerily like one we actually have.

I sat down in another chair beside him and we exchanged a few words then seven-year-old Ryan spoke of where twenty-four-year-old Ryan was and said

“You know I won’t be coming back home to live here anymore.”

I chuckled and said “There will be holidays and some weekends.”

“Yeah, but it won’t be the same,” the young voice of Ryan said.

“I know, and that’s ok, now go to sleep,” I heard myself say. “Here hold my hand.”

Grabbing my hand, he curled up pulling my arm across him like a blanket.

I whispered, “One last time.”

Beef its What’s for Dinner

  • Hebrews 5: 11 About this we have much to say that is hard to explain, since you have become dull in understanding. 2 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic elements of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food; 13 for everyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is unskilled in the word of righteousness. 14 But solid food is for the mature, for those whose faculties have been trained by practice to distinguish good from evil.
  • 1 Corinthians 3: 1 And so, brothers and sisters, I could not speak to you as spiritual people, but rather as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. 2 I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for solid food. Even now you are still not ready, 3 for you are still of the flesh. For as long as there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not of the flesh, and behaving according to human inclinations? 4 For when one says, “I belong to Paul,” and another, “I belong to Apollos,” are you not merely human?
  • 1 Peter 2: 1 Rid yourselves, therefore, of all malice, and all guile, insincerity, envy, and all slander. 2 Like newborn infants, long for the pure, spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow into salvation—— 3 if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.
  • John 3: 9 Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” 10 Jesus answered him, “Are you a teacher of Israel, and yet you do not understand these things? 11 “Very truly, I tell you, we speak of what we know and testify to what we have seen; yet you do not receive our testimony. 12 If I have told you about earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you about heavenly things?

I have three boys (who, at the time of this writing were ages 9, 7, and 5) and they can eat a ton of food. The old curse has come to haunt me. You know the one, “I hope you have children just like you when you grow up.” When I was in ninth grade, I had a football coach who was concerned that I was a little slender (I was already over six feet tall), and he asked my mother, only half joking, “Why don’t you feed this boy?” Well, my parents had an emergency and needed to be out of town, so the coach asked that my brother and I stay with him. My parents brought several bags of groceries with them, and the coach objected, saying that they had plenty of food for the weekend. Needless to say, when my parents returned, the coach told them that he would never question the amount of food I was eating again. Later, toward the end of my senior year in high school, we took a trip to Tulsa and decided to eat at a Mexican food restaurant that had an all-you-can-eat dinner. Several of us decided to have a contest to see who could eat the most. My best friend and I tied after eating THREE full platters of food plus sophapias. I am telling you I could consume vast quantities of food. Now, as father, I have not just one son who eats, but three. It’s a good thing we live in the country and my father-in-law has cattle, otherwise, I think we would go broke just paying the grocery bills. These guys have been know to consume 18 tacos in one setting. They eat a large pizza for an appetizer. The oldest, who I remind you was only 9 years old, would routinely eat TWO large hamburgers, then beg for desert because he is still STARVING.

Man, all of this talk about food is making me hungry. Do you ever get hungry, I mean really HUNGRY!!!!? I am talking about stomach-growling-so-loud-that-your-neighbor-calls-911 HUNGRY! I bet when you are that hungry, you only take a little bitty sip of milk. You don’t? You mean that when you are hungry you actually eat a whole meal? I wonder why we don’t do that with our FAITH?

Hebrews 5:11-14 tells us that we Christians spend too much time sipping milk. Why is that? I can only think of two reasons: Either we are not hungry, or we settle for having our hunger unmet. The funny thing is that if we do not satisfying our hunger or our instinct of hunger is absent, either way we end up dead of starvation. By the same token, spiritually, if we ever stop being hungry, we end up dead eternally. I’m sorry, I’m getting ahead of myself again.

We had a running joke at our house, if one of the boys says that he is REALLY HUNGRY, I would put ONE pea on his plate and say, “There you go, that should be plenty.” Amazingly none of the boys ever just ate that one pea. They were even competitive about how much they eat. A common comment was “I ate five tacos so I am going to be bigger than you.” But we as Christians do just the opposite. We sip on our little saucer of milk and say “I don’t want to drink too much.” What we are really saying is, “I don’t want to GROW too much.” It is as if we are afraid of the responsibility of being MATURE Christians.

The author of Hebrews is saying just that, “You should be teaching,” he says, “but you haven’t grown and are still having someone hold your hand as they explain the ABC’s one more time.”

I remember when I was a growing teenager, if I was hungry (which was almost everyday) I had this habit of eating a snack after school. I’m not talking about a granola bar. I, on several occasions, cooked an entire ROAST (yes I mean an entire Sunday noon meal roast) and eat it for a mid-afternoon snack. By the time I was seventeen years old I was six foot-three inches tall and 210 pounds. I would never have grown to that size if I had only drunk milk. Spiritually, I cannot grow if I never get past the Ten Commandments. I mean, if I am still having trouble with Thou shall not Kill, or Thou shall not Covet, then how can I possibly be ready for Blessed are the poor in spirit? Paul chastises the church at Corinth saying, “I can’t talk to you like adults because you are still thinking like babies.” Don’t get me wrong about milk. Milk is great. I love it. My family drinks about five to six gallons of milk a week. I drink milk for breakfast, lunch and dinner. And yes, physically, we can live, we can survive, on milk. First Peter even tells us that we should start by drinking milk like newborns. But we cannot grow strong on milk alone. God wants us to grow up, to start eating meat.

Now a few of us think we are above such criticism. After all, a few of us are Sunday School teachers. There is even a preacher or two among the congregation. I know I personally am spiritually not still drinking milk. I am a smart guy. I mean, I have a Ph.D. I know a lot of stuff. How could I ever be accused of not being a growing, mature Christian?

Jesus has a very indicting answer for such foolish thoughts. Remember the midnight meeting with Nicodemus? Nicodemus was, as Jesus pointed out, a TEACHER of ISRAEL. Nicodemus was part of the ruling class. We are talking about almost Pope status here. If anyone should have had a clue about God’s Word, Nicodemus should have. But Jesus looked at him and says, “Man, you are clueless! How do you expect me to tell you the profound truths of God, when you can’t even understand that 2+2=4.”

Jesus sort of hit me between the eyes with this, in a loving gentle way of course. I was on the brink of defending my doctoral dissertation. After a long distinguished career as a graduate student (it was a retirement not a graduation), I was about to finally complete my degree. God took the opportunity to remind me that I should not begin acting like I was too big for my britches. One evening, as I lay in bed about to drift off to sleep, God whispered, “You still have so much to learn about My ways.” It wasn’t a word to condemn but to teach. Lying there I had this vision of me sitting on the side of a hill looking out over the landscape. Christ was there, and, with a gentle voice and a tone of expectation, He said, “We are only getting started. I have so much to teach you. All that you have read and experienced only serves to prepare you for this moment.” The very next day, I picked up my Bible and by some strange coincidence (like there is such a thing with God) the next passage in my pre-set journey through the New Testament was John 3, Nicodemus’ encounter with Christ. The question placed in front of me was, “Are you ready to get started? Are you ready to start eating meat?”

God IS



Exodus 3:14 God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.[a] This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’”

God is. The simplicity of the statement belies the awesome depth of the truth that God is period end of sentence; no qualifiers or adjectives, no additions or explanations needed.

God declares, “I am.” And that truth resonates through all time and space. We, humans, are uncomfortable with the vastness of such a declaration. The enormity of God’s reality sits in our minds like a fidgeting child; we simply cannot accept the open-endedness of infinity.

God is the essence of all creation. It was His word that flung all matter to inhabit the vastness of the universe. It was His breath that stirred life in a mound of mud. Outside of Him nothing exists. He is existence. He is. God is.
In our finite wisdom, we want to define God. We want to complete the sentence. God is … Love. God is … Peace. God is … Forgiveness. God is … Judge. God is … But God replies “I am.”

Our attempts to define God, even if we have the best of intentions, only serve to confine Him into a manageable package for our comfort. We apply our limitations, biases, and agendas to God, in an attempt to relate, understand, or manipulate. With each attempt to define, we move further away from the reality of God. We focus on some fragment and proclaim it to be the whole.

When our souls come to peace with God’s definition of Himself, when we can embrace His pronouncement “I am,” then we will find Truth, contentment, and life.


On the one-hundredth anniversary of the beginning of World War I, I offer the following sobering thoughts.

How naive were our grandparents and great-grandparents when they declared that the Great War was the war to end all wars. Unfortunately, we, as a species, seem incapable of learning the lessons of our own history. While it is tempting to place our hope in human potential and reason, the truth of human nature is, however, we are capable of inflicting such incredible horrors on each other. No race, religion, or nation has garnered a monopoly on violence or oppression. All are equal in their offense. The millions of lives lost to greed, power lust, distorted ideologies should astound and humble each one of us. I challenge everyone to study and learn the lessons of history. We must stop treating history as something trivial, boring, or tangential to “real education.” None of our scientific or technological advancements have proven capable of stemming the tide of innocents ground into the dust of human progress. Science provides many wonderful solutions to grave problems, but on the other hand has created more efficient tools for genocide. True understanding of the history and nature of humanity is vital to provide a warning to the next generation. A warning that should not be tempered but rather that warning should be demonstrated in all of its profound carnage. Humbly I ask that we take seriously the call to remember.

If I speak will anyone listen?

I have been told that my white privilege denies me the ability to speak to those of different backgrounds.

I have been told that my maleness prevents me from comprehending a woman’s plight.

My middle-class home eliminates me from knowing the impoverished.

My  American-ness disabuses any hope of entering into dialogue with those from other points on the compass.

I have been told repeatedly that because I am who I am that I have nothing to contribute to the discourse of finding solutions to troubles that have befallen us.

My God is judgmental.  My gender oppressive.  My ancestry is racist.  My tax bracket selfish.

If I do as so many public voices have shouted, I would but sit in a small corner and chant prayers asking for forgiveness from past sins.   Sins that I did not commit nor would I condone.  Sins that have been attached to me by people who do not know me.  Sins attached to me because of the very same blight that I’m accused of spreading.

What then am I to do?

Should I remain cowed and silent?  Should I give in to the darker impulses of my nature?

Neither accomplishes anything of any good.  To remain silent only deepens the resentment and separation.  To lash out only reinforces the label of hateful.

I am left only one recourse;  I must tell my story.

I am not who I appear to be.  I am a study of contradictions.  I am human weakness and strength.  I am lost and found.  I am native and immigrant.  Upwardly mobile and poor, intellectual and blue-collar.   I have dined with the upper-crust and borrowed for my next meal.  My eyes have witnessed the miracle of birth and the tragedy of death carried out before them.  I have been abused and have been callous to those around me.  I have fallen to lusts and been raised with Holy worship.

I am in a word human.

That one is a label which I will proudly wear.

As part of the human race, I ask indulgence.  Allow me to speak of my experience.  Give audience to my suffering and to my accomplishments.  Entertain my attempts to understand.  I will gladly reciprocate such courtesies.

Yet many still would deny my right to speak.

But, please grant me a moment to rearrange the narrative.

Beneath the Caucasian, Christian, Middle Class exterior of what most see me as is someone different.

I am the son of a father who is really a first generation American.  Though his grandfather arrived from Germany, my grandfather was a son of Germans not Americans.  My grandfather came during the great War rushing away from the horror that had overwhelmed Europe.  His father fought with the Polish Calvary and was captured by the Russians.   Escaping from a POW camp, he returned to Eastern Germany found his family and escaped, eventually to Oklahoma.  So yes I have an inkling of insight into what it means to be an immigrant.  I remember the older relatives huddling at family gatherings and muttering their conversations in German.  But the children were told “We are Americans, you speak English.”

I am also the son of a mother whose family traces their roots to the first peoples to arrive on this continent and the first to claim it for the English crown.   On one side such names as Sir Walter Raleigh and Sir Humphrey Gilbert are found, on the other the bloodlines of Cherokee.   Linage is difficult to trace but her family escaped the Trail of Tears because my mother’s great-great grandfather known simply as Mr. Frank was not forced to sign onto tribal rolls.  Still, my connection to the oppression of the Native American’s is as proximate as most contemporary Americans.

The more pertinent truth of who I am, is that I know abuse, poverty, and vile up-close and personally.  True, I have never been arrested for DWB (driving while Black) and I point that out not to be flippant.  But as an eight, nine, or ten year old, the greater social problem of racism was something beyond my awareness.  What I did know was the sting of pain from hunger, from the blows delivered by my father’s hands, or from the insults and fists of those around me because of my family name.  The privilege of my supposed “whiteness” did not shelter me from calling a 1969 Dodge van home, or having the claw side of a hammer buried into my fore-arm.

Some of the greatest damage done by the sophomoric enterprise of labeling “privilege” is that if a person does not suffer the correct type of oppression their oppression does not count.  I have experienced the retort, “but you are white, therefore, even if you are poor you are still privileged.”  Trust me I did not feel privileged showing up at school in someone else’s discarded clothes.  I did not feel better than those who are classified as minorities when I saw their homes and compared some of the run down shanties in which I slept .

Oppression is relative, I grasp that concept.  I would not diminish any person’s suffering or trials.  All that I ask is that my own trials not be marginalized.  My experience can be educational for someone in some other sort of oppressed, suppressed, marginalized, or impoverished condition.

The scars on my body and in my psyche are real.  The pain and suffering was real.  My efforts to overcome were real.  I am not arrogant enough to suggest that I can share my story and everyone can learn from what I say.  But, perhaps, if I were allowed to speak someone might hear words that encourage, words that motivate or give hope.

If I speak will anyone be allowed to listen?

Of Spiders and Bees, Sin and Salvation

Like a spider into a bee’s honey

We’re drawn, not by the sin, but by the taste: sex drugs money.

Though the sweet smell of the nectar loses its flavor,

Still needing more, we cannot quench the savor.

Down we dive further and further until its too late.

The yearning grows stronger. The hunger overtakes.

We are no longer able to discern any way out.

The sap no longer sticks put seeps into our pours.

What was once external now internal;

Seizing the ethereal in a worthless trade of the eternal.

Muck, grime, decay; we smell of it.

Covering ourselves with perfumes of wealth and success

Nothing helps they add to the swill of it.

Stains that will not be covered.

Worth not measured by the number of lovers.

We glance in the mirror but see a false reflection

Blinding ourselves:  Justifications, rationalizations, deflections.

Nonetheless, there is someone who truly sees.

Not through a glass darkly but into our essence he peeks.

We can hide ourselves from family, friends, and passers-by on the streets

But His eyes are undaunted by our masks, lies, and conceits.

Confronted by His gaze how do we respond?

Denying useless, our righteousness revealed a fraud.

Excuses, accusations of fault on others;

We revel in our innocence.

We plead our ignorance.

We question His authority.

We deny our own humanity.

Even as our voices raise to drown out any whispers testifying to our guilt,

Even as our shame convulses our rage,

Even to the point of fists flailing and stones thrown,

He stands:

Still, Quiet, Unyielding.

Our childish tantrum spent.

If we would only look at Him one more time and not simply run back to the hive,

We will see that his hands extend.

His tears wash clean.

Years of decadence melt.

Scales of blindness fall.

Hunger, yearning, thirst; things once unquenchable now dim to irrelevance

Perspective changed we can view things of consequence.

Salvation is transformational.

He does not merely repair the replaceable .

His touch makes water into a new substance wine.

Death becomes life in the presence of the Devine.

Old becomes new lost becomes found.

The solution so childlike, so simple, we easily miss the profound.

So we must choose,

Live fully or be merely alive.

Do we follow the spider to the sweet trap of the calling nectar?

The Light Came: John 1

I began re-reading John this morning. I told myself, as I clicked on the link to the book, that I wanted to read several chapters. I spent the next thirty minutes on the first 18 verses. The following words are my reaction to those verses.

He is the light and where the light shines there is life.
Life that darkness cannot understand.
He is that light that came, but we are blind and cannot see.

God, you made us with your own hands.
Your breath gave life to us.
But we don’t know you , we run from you.

Open our eyes so we can see.
Open our arms so we can receive,
The one who brings glory and grace.

When we will see Him for who He is,
We will testify that He is real.
We will proclaim that the light shines.
We will shout that He has come to us.
From God’s own side
Bringing grace to us.

Praise to God.

The Waiting Place


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Jeremiah 29: 11 For I know the plans I have for you, says the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. 12 Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. 13 You will seek me and find me; when you seek me with all your heart, 14 I will be found by you, says the LORD, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations.

Isaiah 30: 21 And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left.

Exodus 24: 12 The Lord said to Moses, “Come up to me on the mountain, and wait there; and I will give you the tablets of stone, with the law and the commandment, which I have written for their instruction.”

Psalms 25: 5 Lead me in your truth, and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you I wait all day long.

Romans 8: 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

You can get so confused that you’ll start into race down long winding roads as a break-necking pace and grind on for miles across weirdish wild space, headed, I fear, toward a most useless place, THE WAITING PLACE….for people just waiting. Waiting for a train to go or a bus to come, or a plane to go or the mail to come, or the rain to go or the phone to ring, or the snow to snow or waiting around for a Yes or No or waiting for their hair to grow. Everyone is just waiting. Waiting for the fish to bite or waiting for wind to fly a kite or waiting around for Friday night or waiting, perhaps, for their Uncle Jake or a pot to boil, or a Better Break or a string of pearls, or a pair of pants or a wig with curls, or Another Chance. Everyone is just waiting. NO! That’s not for you! Somehow you’ll escape all that waiting and staying. You’ll find the bright places where Boom Bands are playing. Oh The Places You Will Go – Dr. Seuss.

I get a real rush when God reveals something new. I love learning God’s lessons. Sometimes, though, I wonder if my feeble mind is capable of absorbing any more information. I remember studying for my comprehensive exams for my doctorate. I was facing three five-hour essay exams. Somehow, I had to digest and organize years of graduate courses. There were moments I thought the task was impossible. My brain could not possibly hold one more fact, concept, or logical argument. There were moments that I seriously worried that my head might actually EXPLODE. It was a very painful process. God’s lessons are sometimes like that. These are periods of intense learning. I have been in the midst of such a time. The question is not “Have I learned everything God has to teach?” But rather, “Am I capable of receiving what God is revealing?” The amazing thing about God’s lessons is that they always come with a freshness. With each new insight, I am astounded by the renewal of my soul that the revelation brings. I do admit, however, that some lessons are more energizing than others. One lesson, in particular, is very difficult to get excited about: The lesson of The Waiting Place.

The old saying is that “God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life.” Most people get a nice warm fuzzy feeling when they hear that God has a plan. We Christians love to quote Jeremiah 29, “For I know the plans I have for you … plans for welfare.” Man, we get pumped when we hear those words. I’m talking shouting time here. AMEN! But when we hear “Wait,” we sulk and pout and fret and ask, “Why!?” Wait must be the most irritating, frustrating, and down-right aggravating word in the English language. This aversion to waiting is not universal. Many societies are puzzled by the American hectic fast-paced life. My travels in Russia showed me quite a different way of life. In Russia waiting is an art form. Russians wait for buses, wait for stores to open, they wait in lines forever it seems. NOT us, we want to go, do, learn, grow, anything but wait. We have fast food, cell phones, high speed internet, drive through laundries. We don’t want to wait for anything.

The great American philosopher, Dr. Seuss, tells us that the Waiting Place is a “most useless place.” God, however, has a very different perspective on waiting. I was surprised how many times the word wait appears in the Bible. Over and over again God is telling people to wait. God tells us to “Be still,” “wait,” “and know that I am God.” When God tells me to “wait,” I usually respond with, “Do I have to?” I mean, is waiting really necessary? God is a mighty, powerful God. He doesn’t have to wait. Why did he tell Moses to climb up some mountain and wait? God was one-hundred percent capable of reaching down from Heaven and handing the tablets of law to Moses right then and there. To me that seems to be a much more efficient way of doing things. Why bother with all of this waiting? I can just see God shaking His head as He replies, “The waiting is for you, not for me.” “The waiting is for me?” I can understand the words but I struggle with understanding. What is this waiting stuff really all about?

The first thing to understand about waiting is that waiting is not a passive, laborious, useless endeavor. When God tells us to wait, He expects us to be attentive, alert. When Jesus led His disciples to the garden on the night of His arrest, He told them to wait while He prayed. Jesus scolded the disciples when He found them sleeping. “Can’t you wait with me?” When we wait on God, it should be a time of anticipation and readiness. My father in law used to have this dog that loved to fetch. She would run after sticks, tennis balls, old rubber hoses, it really did not matter. If someone threw it, she would go get it. Once the game starts, if you were holding the tennis ball (her favorite) she would stand there in front of you, every nerve in her body alert. Her muscles coiled ready to move, waiting for the opportunity to chase that ball. That is what God wants. He wants us alert, ready, anticipating His command to go.

The second insight into waiting starts when we realize that as mere humans, we will go until we drop. It doesn’t matter where we are going as long as we are going. We will, to once again quote the good Dr. Seuss, go “down long winding roads as a break-necking pace and grind on for miles across weirdish wild space.” We will run as far and as fast as we can run and the next thing we know is that we have no idea where we are or how we got there. God tells us to wait, to “be still,” so that we will have direction in our going. God cannot reveal His plan to us unless He can get our attention. We cannot hear the still small whisper through the din of pagers, cell phones, and the screeching of tires. Another problem with our going is that too many times God tells us to go and do, but we say,” Thanks God, I’ll take things from here.” Then, instead of doing God’s will, we are doing our will. We end up going and doing things God never intended for us to go or do. If God says “Go!,” by all means go, but do only the thing He has told you to do and as soon as the task is complete run back to God and wait.

The third aspect of waiting is the place to which God has led me: wait for God’s time. God has a time, a moment, for everything in His plan. We humans have a hard time understanding why things happen when or how they happen. The reason for this difficulty is that we can’t see the entire picture; it’s a problem of perspective. A co-worker introduced me to a little computer game, the object of which was to turn on all the “lights” in a square grid. After a few probing attempts, I was able to solve the puzzle. To anyone watching the solution, it appears as if I am making a series of random, senseless, and even repetitive moves. The difference is a matter of perspective, I know the pattern. I have learned when to make what moves. God’s plan is like that. The major difference is that God is trying to get all of the “lights” on by playing millions of different games at the same time. The moves that God makes must be accurate and must be carried out with precise timing. If we allow Him, God prepares us to carry out certain tasks. The training may be long and arduous, but God makes sure we are ready. Then when the moment is right, and only when the moment is right, even if we wait for days, months or even years, when that moment arrives, God says, “Go get’em kid!”

When I first wrote these words, God had led me to the Waiting Place. I had just gone through a very intensive growth spurt and I finished my doctorate. God had hammered and shaped my spirit through various trials. I knew then that I had not learned everything that God was to teach me, but God was telling me, “You are ready. I have prepared you for the task at hand. There is only one thing left for you to do: wait!”

If I had only known then what was in store. Wonderful days as a father watching my sons grow into young men, rewarding years working with incredible people, but also stinging disappointments and loss. In many ways, I am still waiting but that is ok. I will keep working and preparing for whatever comes next.

Mass History or Hysteria?

Then the whole town went out to meet Jesus. And when they saw him, they pleaded with him to leave their region. (Matthew 8:34)

There is something about the psychology of human beings that clings to the notion that we know what is right.  There is an innate compulsion to convince ourselves that we make good choices, that we can discern good from evil.  Even if we can admit that, individually, we are prone to mistakes, collectively, as a society or species, we are able to choose wisely.  We have convinced ourselves through our history and our dogma that the collective “WE” of humanity is righteous and wise.

In Humanism we even created a secular religion built on the supposition that our rationality is the supreme source of what is right and good. “Man is at last becoming aware that he alone is responsible for the realization of the world of his dreams, that he has within himself the power for its achievement,” declares the humanist.

Our public discourse and political debate is immersed in discussing the majority opinion as if there is some inherent goodness in the opinion of that fifty-percent plus one that elevates a thought to the status of “correct.”  As if collective amnesia seizes a community; forcing all past wrongs done in the name of the majority into oblivion. As a species we laugh at the farcical herd mentality of the lemming but the sad reality is, that lemming is us.

Beware if you find yourself agreeing too whole-heartedly with the crowd.  Even a cursory, clear-eyed examination of human history reveals troubling patterns of mass hysteria.  Crowds, societies, the entire world swept up in horrific events which were sanctioned and blessed by the majority.  Hitler, Mao, Pol Pot, Stalin, Salem, Sand Creek, Nankin, St. Bartholomew, Nero; names associated with some of the great atrocities in human history. The tragedy is that humanity has compartmentalized these events as gross exceptions.  In general, we counter when confronted with such events, humanity is good.  We argue that we learn from the error of our ways.  We right the wrongs of the evil among us and build a better benevolent world.  But is it the collective, the majority, that strives for betterment? Or is it “A voice of ONE calling in the desert?”

Kierkegaard tells us, “Even though every individual possesses the truth, when he gets together in a crowd, untruth will be present at once, for the crowd is untruth.”  But one can stand and in standing alone they are justified. Just as we separate out the evil among us, we tokenize those who stood alone as we recite the litany of solitary heroes:  Dietrich Bonhoeffer stood to defend the defenseless while admiring throngs cheered the horrors of Hitler, Gandhi whose peaceful disobedience defied the British Empire, Rosa Parks sitting alone at the front of the Bus.  Yet while we cheer, we lack any understanding.

The unadulterated truth of humanity is that the WE is prone to lead us all astray.  The collective wisdom of our community has failed us over and again.  Countless is the number of innocent good people who have suffered torment and death at the hands of the crowd.  Even the most perfect of us to walk the dust of this earth was condemned by the masses.

Christ was condemned by the crowd.  Everyone is familiar with the frenzied masses at the public trial overseen by Pontius Pilot.  But, that is not the only occasion that Christ was rejected by the crowd.  He was ushered out of town when, in the act of freeing a man lost to “demons”, he impinged on the economic fortunes of the good town-folk. Two separate incidents detailed in the book of John show crowds who attempted to stone Jesus because of disagreement with His teaching. His neighbors in Nazareth, instead of seeing the Messiah, could not get past their shared memories of Him as the son of Mary and Joseph.  The wisdom of the WE proclaimed that Christ should be eliminated.

In Christ we find the true source of change of righteousness.  He stood alone against the thronging crowd of history.  It is instructive that he stood trial alone, died alone, rose alone.  Alone he died and rose so that WE, the human race could claim no credit for our own salvation.  His example should also serve to remind us “A student is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master.”

We are called to follow.  In following we will find ourselves standing alone.  But to stand alone against the crowd is a better way.  We forget at our own peril that misery loves company.