Lessons in the Ribbon Aisle

This weekend my wife and I went to Michael’s to get some ribbon for our Christmas decorations. Have you ever been to the ribbon aisle at Michael’s this time of year? You haven’t experienced claustrophobia quite like this. I thought hockey was a contact sport until I ventured into this aisle without a helmet or pads.

This moment gave me a lot of insight of the Christmas season as it kicks off. You get a sense of some imaginary clocking ticking on everyone’s schedule. The push to get Christmas decorations done, all the activities to attend and buying presents for everyone. It has definitely shifted into another gear.

As I helped my wife find the ribbon she needed, the aisle was crowded much like the floor of the Stock Market. If you think all ribbons are the same, you obviously haven’t had the joy of looking for one. There are different designs, colors and sizes of ribbons. You just don’t know.

It is quite chaotic as people are stepping in front of you, store clerks restocking and tossing empty boxes on the floor at your feet. At one point my wife and I got separated. I looked over at here as I was trapped. I mouthed to her “helped me”. I was stuck in no man’s land with no place to move or ways of escape.

The situation was made worse when I was bookended by shopping carts which entered the gauntlet. If the aisle is already crowded what would possess someone to force a shopping cart into the mix?

After a successful mission on obtaining the necessary ribbons for our decorations and getting out of the store we both took a deep breath. We talked about the experience. My wife made the observation that people simply have tunnel vision. They aren’t being mean, they are simply oblivious to anyone else. She is right. There is no need to be upset or take it personally although it is very hard not to take some offense.

So, the lessons here are that we have to summon up more patience than usual this time of year. Everyone is on a mission for their own world and not trying to be mean. The other lesson is to realize that it’s going to get a little tight. Most of us don’t like crowds but you can just about forget that during this time of the year even if you commit to do all of your shopping online.

The holidays are a good test in patience. The hustle and bustle can put your skills to the test. We are all taking care of our own agendas and with that we are bound to forget others around us so we should be mindful to make allowances to cut some slack for others.

it’s going to be a challenge isn’t it? I think we can get through this. I’m going to try to dig deep on the patience and not let the ticking clock of the holidays stress me out. Everything will get done. I think we all try to do too much. It’s okay to say no to a few things. Don’t do the same thing every year just because you always do them. Tradition is one thing but doing things simply because we call them “tradition” tends to take away the whole meaning we are doing them in the first place.

Well, in spite of my experience in the ribbons aisle at Michael’s, I managed to get home safely and without being called for roughing, slashing or obstruction (hockey terms if you didn’t know). It’s all good and our trip was a success.

Oh no, we got the wrong ribbons. Here we go again! Lord help us all…

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Waiting For The Prodigal

The-prodigal-son-Photography-by-Nigel-CoxSome relationships we have in life are hard and, at times, we have people who choose to walk away.  In the Biblical story of the prodigal son, the son wanted his inheritance so he could go out into the world and have fun.  His father gave it to him and let him go.  When the son had wasted everything and found himself working in the pig pen, he came to himself and returned home to a father who ran to meet him when he saw him returning.

We like that part of the story.  But what if the prodigal doesn’t return?

Sometimes we have people in our lives who become the prodigal son.  It doesn’t necessary have to be a son.  The prodigal to us can be a father, mother, friend or spouse.  It isn’t easy to play the role of the father of the prodigal son because waiting is hard and requires patience.

Sometimes the prodigal doesn’t return.  That’s the part that hurts us the most.  We may keep waiting for the person to come to themselves and return to us but sometimes they never do.  Pride can do things to people.  Pride is the enemy to restoring relationships.  One side waits for the other to give in and the standoff turns into an emotional game of chicken.

As a person who has often found himself in the position of waiting for that prodigal person to return, let me give you some helpful tips.

  1. Never give up hope.  I try to always keep my end of the relationship open and never close the door.  This, my friend, is really hard to do.  Hope is the only thing that can help you in the waiting.  Sometimes hope is all you have.
  2. Pray.  This is something you need to keep going and never let it get old.  Pray for the person.  Ask God to be your help in these times.  I often ask God to talk to the person’s heart for me since there is nothing I can do to help.
  3. Don’t force the person to come back to you.  I know people who like to use manipulation or drama to force people to do what they want but this isn’t a good way to do it.  I have always been a person that wants to fix things but sometimes there is absolutely nothing you can do to fix it.
  4. Realize that people make their own choices.  People will do what they want to do.  If they want to do it bad enough, they will.  I have often said that if I sudden became a Powerball winner that people would suddenly want to return to me.

I think one lesson to learn from the story of the Prodigal Son is the reaction of the father when he saw the son returning home.  The Bible says that the father RAN to greet the son and even threw a party for him.  Are you serious?  We are sometimes harsh when someone does decide to return to us in that we want to make them pay the emotional bill for what they have done to us.  If we are waiting for someone to return to us, we should be as anxious as the father and cancel any and all debts we feel that they owe us.  We shouldn’t be waiting with a list of things to hold them accountable for.  If we are waiting for them to come back we need to act like we want them back and forgive the debt.  We don’t have to make it an issue.

I will be honest and say that this waiting is not easy.  There are days that I don’t feel like running and welcoming the prodigal person to return.  We can’t let feelings dictate what we do.  Feelings are fickle and not always consistent.  They can change with the weather.  We have to find a steady place and remain solid in spite of how we feel.   We have to anchor ourselves and be solid in the process of waiting.

Someone once told me that it is as simple as just forgive and forget.  Well, sometimes it isn’t that simple for some relationships.  Both sides have to be willing to do it yet, sadly, it turns into a standoff waiting for the other side to blink.  When the prodigal son returned home the father threw a party to celebrate his son’s return.  I don’t think there was anything held back.  If you really want the prodigal to return, you will celebrate without holding anything over their heads.

So, as you wait, think of what could happen.  Cling to the hope you have and never give up.

 

 

Do You Have A “Wait” Problem?

waitIn this instant credit, microwave age that we live in, it is difficult for us to wait. If we see it, we want it. If there’s a problem, we want a solution immediately. We get spoiled with any expectation where we have to wait on the things we want. Unlike the world, God  doesn’t work in the same way. Everything is on His timetable, not ours. As shocking as it might seem, the world doesn’t revolve around us, it revolves around Him and His purposes.

The ability to wait and maintain patience is so vital in our lives. We are told that the trying of our faith exercises our patience (James 1:3). Much like our muscles. You can’t build your muscles unless you exercise them. If you resort to being a couch potato, your muscles will never develop to their full potential. The same is true for our individual lives. Without the trials of life, we can never fully develop our faith in God. If God gave us everything we asked for immediately upon our requests, He wouldn’t be much of a God. We wouldn’t see Him as our eternal father but like a genie in a bottle who we bring out whenever we need to ask for something. The sad thing is that many times we don’t have a relationship with God until we are in need and have nowhere else to turn.

James 1:4 tells us to “let patience have her perfect work”. The word “her” injected into this verse could relate to a woman who is carrying a child. Although she may want to give birth after six months, in order for the baby to fully mature, she must wait expectantly until the full term. This tells us that waiting well is good for us. Patience will have a place in our experience to mature us and increase our wisdom in life. If you want to find consistency in your life, you have to be good at waiting. It will never be easy but you can recognize that waiting is something that is good for you and not something that you should look upon with dread.

I’m sure you have realized by now that you can’t force God to answer your prayers. Nothing you can say or bargain will forcibly move God on your behalf.  He’s not looking to make any deals with you.  When He moves and answers, He does it out of His love for you. Nothing else.  You don’t have a monopoly on God. This also means that we can’t make God move any faster in answering us than He is willing. Sometimes we lose sight of the fact that He sees the future and He knows the whole picture. We only have a portion of the big picture. We are not able to understand how the portion we have will fit into His plan. We aren’t given that information. He will only give us that knowledge on a need to know basis. He’s the one that determines that, not us. We deceive ourselves if we think we are so smart and have God figured out. Sometimes waiting is a part of that plan.

Does God make us wait just to mess with us?  It would seem that way but – no – He isn’t trying to punk us. If anything He does, He has our best interest in His heart. There are some who will rationalize that if God loved you that He wouldn’t leave you at your minimum wage job or driving a junker around town. Surely, if you are a Christian, He would bless you and you should have a big job with a fancy title and two of the latest model cars in your garage. Don’t fall into that thinking. The name-it-and-claim-it plan is not what God is all about. He is about developing you as a total person in His plan. Just because He doesn’t open up an opportunity for a better job doesn’t mean He isn’t using you where you are at. You can’t be promoted to something big until God can trust you with what you have now. (Luke 19:17). If you can’t be thankful in your minimum wage job, why would God promote you to making $50,000 a year? Would a quick promotion keep you in a relationship with God or would you be tempted to believe in your own abilities rather than God? God’s blessings on His children are not dependent upon our material possessions. Yes, God will favor you and bless you but you must prove trustworthy to Him and recognize the opportunities you have to serve Him were you are.

In 2014, my wife and I moved to Tampa, Florida because we thought that was going to be our place.  Shortly after our first month there, we knew that it wasn’t the right fit for us and we were looking to relocate.  It took two years to move from there and that time of waiting seemed like a decade.  I rode the bus to and from work everyday.  That ride was depressing but I held onto my faith that God would open a door for us to leave.  Some days it was difficult waiting especially those days when I saw nothing  happening.  One day that door opened and we were able to relocate to where we are now.  Although I may have been puzzled about God’s plans, He saw what was ahead and I was forced to wait. Was the waiting a waste? No, I can look back and see what His purpose was for me during that time.  Yes, it would have been nice to know it but it was a process I had to go through.  Today in my prayers I can point to that time in waiting as evidence that God can do anything at anytime He wants to do it.

Waiting requires that we stick with it and don’t give up.   The Bible urges us not to grow weary. Remember to “always pray and not faint” (Luke 18:1) and “let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.” (Galatians 6:9)  If we want to reap then we can’t let ourselves get weary.

Maybe today you are wondering why your life is in a holding pattern? Surely God could open a few doors for you. What is taking so long? When is it going to happen for you? Don’t be frustrated in the waiting. God is moving people and circumstances on your behalf. Trust in His timing. Don’t move until He has made the move. He is your tour guide for life. Don’t stray away from Him and do your own thing. Develop your ability to wait. Be good at waiting. God will reward you and your faith will be strengthened by it.

 

Waiting For Due Season To Come


In her concession speech, Hillary Clinton referred to the passage in Galatians 6:9.

“You know, scripture tells us, let us not grow weary in doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart,” she said.

Waiting for that “due season” is often very difficult.  Patience and waiting isn’t something any of us like to do.  We want to fix it, change it, make it happen now.  Not later.  Not in due season.

I know many times I have been in one of those times when I was waiting for due season.  For two years, my wife and I lived in Tampa, Florida.  After the first month there we knew it wasn’t the right place for us.  Every day I road the bus to work.  It was depressing to board that bus every day.  At times, I got weary hoping for the due season to come.  I prayed and I did everything I could to encourage myself.  I listened to songs that encouraged me.  I downloaded podcasts that spoke to my situation.  Some days, honestly, I wasn’t in the mood for being strong or the whole situation.  At times, it looked like it was never going to end.  Do you know how hard it is to do good when good isn’t happening to you?  

During those times, you keep do what you can do and leave the rest to God.  There are just some things that will only work on His timetable.  Many days during my lunch break I would walk over to the riverwalk along the Hillsborough River and ask God how much longer was it going to be.  I continued to tell Him I believed and trusted Him.  I knew that there was a purpose for me being there and prayed that I would fulfill that purpose.  Almost a year into the time in Tampa, my supervisor fell terribly ill for several months.  I had to pick up the slack and hold things together until she returned.  It was then that I realized my purpose and felt like my “due season” was approaching.  

When you are waiting for that “due season” you can’t just sit down and do nothing.  You have to keep doing what you know to do and keep moving forward.  Sitting and doing nothing makes it worse.  If you keep the right attitude and do the best you can do, it will teach you things and you will grow.  

Eventually, the due season came when a job came open and we were able to move from Tampa.  The time came for reaping and looking back to see how everything fell into place.  You will not always know the why until you get to the reaping time and look back to see your purpose for going through the due season.  Even today – two years later – I frequently look back at that time in Tampa and see what God did in that time.  

Many people are unhappy right now.  They are upset with the election results and afraid of the next four years.  This is a due season for many people.  It is important to continue doing good even when you feel that good isn’t happening in the White House.  Patience is a valuable virtue to have and keep doing good while you are being patient.