Thursday, September 29, 2011


My computer is several years old and has turned into a chronic slow loader--and the thoughts that frequently go through my head while a Web page drags its heels reaching "usability" stage aren't fit to publish in a Christian blog, or even a PG-rated secular one.

Many of us do little better when fellow human beings fail to give us what we want instantly. We fume when the waiter takes ten minutes to bring a second glass of water; rap on the counter instead of waiting for the sales clerk to glance our way; tell the customer service representative what we think of automated phone systems before getting into the original purpose of the call; blast the horn at drivers who stick to two miles below the speed limit; and, in our worst moments, actually scream, swear, and call names in public.   

Not that we give our own selves much special consideration in the "hurry up" area. Many workers spend sixty or seventy or even ninety hours a week, fifty-two weeks a year, pushing themselves to beat out the guy in the next cubicle as Most Productive Worker. When these workaholics finally go home, they still find so many chores that need doing that they barely take time to eat or sleep.

For others, the problem isn't so much the number of hours worked as the fact that those hours are spent on nothing but work. You've perhaps seen people like that at your own office. They're the ones whose necks seem frozen in eyes-on-the-computer position, who stay in their chairs until you wonder if they wear diapers to avoid restroom breaks; who eat lunch with one hand while continuing to work with the other; and who are scandalized if you interrupt them with the tiniest unrelated-to-business matter. They're afraid to let go of their work lest it get away from them.

Paradoxically, more than one study has found that those who take frequent breaks actually get more done in the long run. The need for pauses seems to be built into Creation, from flowers closing their petals at night to the human heart resting between beats. The human desire to accomplish more by avoiding rest is older than the Ten Commandments--why else would the Sabbath command be included?--but like everything contrary to God's commands, it goes against the natural order and carries its own punishment if we insist we know better.

Perhaps our craving for personal control rather than God-control is the real reason we hate slowness: we're jealous of God's ability to generate instant results in anything. We ought to be more concerned about emulating His wisdom to know when those results are most desirable.

And we can only acquire that by pausing regularly to listen to Him.

Tasks of life are never-ending;
When we never pause or rest
Till our work at last is "finished,"
All our days are filled with stress.

God in wisdom gave the Sabbath
For a time to pause each week
So our hearts could find refreshment,
So our souls His way could seek.

Even in our days of working,
Let us pause from time to time
So our hearts can hear His leading,
So our souls His way can find.

Those who rush to "do God service"
Often run so fast and far
That they seek to lead their Leader;
He may not be where they are!

Though His pace seems slow to follow,
Yet our Lord will not delay;
Let Him, in His perfect timing,
Make all things complete someday!

Thursday, September 22, 2011


A much-neglected Scripture passage is 1 Timothy 2:1-2: "I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone—for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness." Americans have turned their traditional right to question "all those in authority" into a pandemic of brutal authority-bashing. No boss or teacher escapes backbiting; disrespect for parents is actively encouraged in many a therapist's office; and the worst examples among clergy, law officers, and politicians are held up as standard. As for the highest authority in the land--the current President of the United States, and at least the two immediately before him, have been plagued nonstop with "impeach him" cries and with accusations of being everything evil up to and including the Antichrist.

(No, I don't want to argue any of these men's actual faults or fitness for the presidency. St. Paul wrote the 1 Timothy lines during the imperial reign of Nero, who made the worst of U. S. presidents look like saints.)

No one in authority, it seems, gets credit for good intentions. No one gets acknowledgement for positive accomplishments. Too many Christians' idea of prayer for authority stops at "remove him from office" or "change his mind [to correspond to my notion of what's right]"--the same way most of us "pray for" our enemies, which says a lot about how we regard authority figures. If they give us what we want when we want it, we take it for granted; if they don't, we believe only the worst about them.

Small wonder, with such attitudes toward human authority, that we treat the ultimate Authority no better. Eve swallowed whole the implication that God's command was a selfish attempt to keep her from the best option; Cain got angry enough to kill when God urged him to "do what is right"; Jacob turned swindler because he doubted God would keep His "you will be the head of your family" promise; the Israelites in the wilderness whined "God hates us" at every problem and inconvenience--the list continues through the Bible, through history, and up to the present day. The problem is rooted not only in mistrust but in ingratitude: if we really appreciated what God has already done for us, we wouldn't find it so hard to believe He cares enough to continue giving His best. If we weren't so distracted by schemes to obtain a bite of the forbidden fruit, we could be wholeheartedly enjoying the beauties of the garden.

Life will never get better until our attitudes do.

God gave manna to His children
Every day for years and years--
And they whined about the menu
Till they ate the bread of tears.

God sent Jesus to redeem us
From the power of death and hell--
And we whine for ease and riches,
Making life an empty shell.

We demand mere earthly treasures,
And pursue our fleshly schemes--
While God longs to give us blessings
Far beyond our wildest dreams.

Put aside your thankless whining;
Seek the Lord with joy and praise--
Only then will true contentment
Shower upon you all your days.