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Today is Ash Wednesday. The one day of the year when many Christians all over the world will have ashes put on their foreheads in the shape of the cross. This marks the beginning of Lent, a time of waiting in expectation of Easter- Resurrection Sunday. A time of contemplation and inner examination. A time of anticipation and adoration. A time of waiting.

When we wait, we choose. Sometimes we choose to grumble and complain. Sometimes we choose to get frustrated or worried. At times we choose to rejoice and give thanks. Many times our choice depends on what we are waiting for. More often than not, it depends on the kind of person we are. Ultimately we wait patiently or impatiently. It all depends on what’s inside us.

I have read an article and a book recently that have greatly impacted my perspective on patience and what it means to be a patient person. The article is called Silence, Patience and Presence. It is from Fuller Studio. The book is called Liturgy of the Ordinary by Tish Warren. Below are some quotes from both that I hope will impact you as much as they did me.

From Silence, Patience, and Presence – Fuller Studio

Being patient means waiting for a God whose patience outdistances and outlasts our own – we only have a brief span of life to wait; God has eternity. Peter Blum

Christians believe that through cross and resurrection we have been given the time to be patient in a world of impatience I am often in a hurry and busy, but this is not the same thing as impatience. Patience does not mean “doing nothing.” Rather patience is sticking to what you’re doing because you believe that is is worthy and worthwhile. Stanley Haurwas citing John Howard Yoder

Learning to weep, learning to keep vigil, learning to wait for the dawn. Perhaps this is what it means to be human. Henri Nouwen

Ones willingness to be wronged, to absorb evil patiently without retaliating, helps to break the cycle of vengeance and opens up the possibility for healing and peace. Hence though forgiveness is a constitutive practice of peace, forgiveness is unimaginable apart from patience. Philip Kenneson.

Waiting patiently in expectation is the foundation of the spiritual life. Simone Weil

From Liturgy of the Ordinary by Tish Warren

When we practice the Sabbath, we not only look back to God’s rest after his work of creation but we look forward to the rest ahead, to the Sabbath to come when God will finish his work of re-creation. We recall together that we are waiting for the end of the story, for all things to be made new.

In the liturgical year there is never celebration without preparation. First we wait, we mourn, we ache, we repent. We aren’t ready to celebrate until we acknowledge, over time through ritual and worship, that we and this world are not yet right and whole. Before Easter, we have Lent. Before Christmas, we have Advent. We fast. Then we feast. We prepare. We practice waiting.

We want happiness now. Fulfillment and gratification now. I get angry when I have to wait because it reminds me that time is not at my bidding.

Our problem with time is a spiritual problem, one that runs right to the core of who we are as human beings…. Indeed, these distortions drive us into the arms of a false theology: we come to believe that we, not God, are the masters of time. (Dorothy Bass)

Time is a gift from God, a means of worship. Time revolves around God – what he has done, what he is doing, and what he will do.

We live in a waiting world, a world where time itself, along with all of creation, groans in childbirth, waiting for something to be born. We are waiting and hoping. Our present reality is fundamentally oriented toward what is to come.

Waiting is an act of faith that is oriented toward the future. Yet our assurance of hope is rooted in the past, in the person of Jesus of Nazareth and in his promises and resurrection. In this way, waiting, like time itself, centers on Christ-the fulcrum of time.

Scripture tells us that when we “Hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience” (Rom 8:25). We live each ordinary day in the light of a future reality. Our best life is still yet to come.

I have a friend who has struggled with cancer for a long time. She said to me one day,”I always felt like I was waiting for the gift. But I have come to see that the waiting is the gift.” There is more happening while we wait than just waiting. God is at work in us and through us as we wait. Our waiting is active and purposeful.

The church father Tertullian wrote –

The singular mark of patience is not endurance or fortitude, but hope. To be impatient is to live without hope. Patience is grounded in the Resurrection. It is life oriented toward a future that is God’s doing , and its sign is longing, not so much to be released from the ills of the present, but in anticipation of the good to come.

Even now as we wait, God is bringing the kingdom that will one day be fully known. We can be patient because we know there are gifts promised by a Giver who can be trusted.

May your Lent be filled with peace, the presence of God, and patience.

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On our recent family vacation to the U.S., we spent a lot of time in Colorado visiting my parents and mykindness2 sister and her family.  They both live on little farms right next to each other.  We stayed in a RV trailer between them, about 30 yards from each of their houses.  It was not connected to a sewer system, so we normally used the bathroom at one of their houses.  My sister’s house has two bathrooms, one upstairs and the other downstairs.  When I used her upstairs bathroom, I noticed she had printed up and framed a Bible verse, Romans 2:4.  Quick, can anyone quote that verse?  Although I have read Romans many times, and even taught a class on that epistle of Paul, I couldn’t remember that verse which talks about God’s kindness, tolerance or forbearance, and patience.  Later I used the downstairs bathroom, and there was that verse again, located strategically in TWO places!

So here was a wonderful but somewhat obscure verse printed and displayed for all bathroom users to see and read in both her bathrooms.  Not your usual restroom reading material.  Needless to say I spent a lot of time thinking about Romans 2:4.

“Do you take lightly the kindness, tolerance and patience of God, not realizing that His kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?”

That is Romans 2:4 in whatever version of the Bible my younger sibling was using (NASB).

Every time I walked into her bathroom I felt like Paul was there personally asking me about how seriously I took God’s kindness, tolerance and patience.  How often did I think about those attributes of God?  How often did I give thanks for those characteristics of the Almighty?  Sometimes I felt like saying, “Hey Paul, a little privacy!”

The words that jumped out at me were “Do you take lightly”.  I looked at this verse in my trusty NIV and the question was “Do you show contempt?”  I think most Christians would say of course I don’t show contempt for God’s kindness, forbearance (NIV) and patience, and go onto the next verse. We forget about it.  But how about taking those things lightly?  To me that’s another question entirely.

When we dig deeper into Romans one and two, we see that Paul is making the argument that all have sinned and have fallen short of God’s high and holy expectations for humanity, which  culminates in chapter three.  In chapter one Paul shows how the gentiles have come up short, and all the Jews in the audience are thinking, “Yeah, what do expect from a bunch of stinking gentiles?”

In chapter two, Paul turns his argument against the Jews.  He tells them that they are even worse than those pagan gentiles because they have the law of God which forbids the things the gentiles do, and yet the Jews do the same things, while condemning the gentiles.  In Romans 2:4, Paul is exclaiming to the Jews that God has shown them great kindness, tolerance and patience through the ages, and they seem to take it lightly as is seen by their propensity to judge their gentile neighbors.  The greatest act of kindness, tolerance and patience God showed the Jews was sending Jesus the Messiah to them, and they killed him.  Now who are the bad guys?

Jesus said in Luke six that God shows kindness to the wicked and ungrateful.  Paul says in a speech to the pagans in Acts. 14, that in ages past God has been kind to all peoples, giving you rain from heaven and crops in their season; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy.

But now that they know about the one, true God, a time of reckoning has come.  He asks those heathen, he asks the Jews, and he asks you and me, “Do you take lightly God’s kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that His kindness is intended to bring you to repentance?”  Good question.
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