ON THESE THINGS

OR… 21st CENTURY ‘WAIT WATCHERS’

I see you… you’re sitting over there waiting. It seems like we spend so much time waiting. We wait for our ride. We wait for the next meeting to start or the class lecture to begin. We wait for the ‘waiter’ at the restaurant. We wait for the nurse to check our weight. We wait…

I’m not certain if anyone has done a study on this idiosyncrasy we have developed when we are waiting. I am sure it has some cultural nuances but more similarities than differences cross-culturally dependent on the modernity of one’s surroundings. I also suspect the time which lapses between when a wait begins and this thing which we do almost subconsciously is initiated has decreased dramatically in the last two years.

What I observe in Americans, as I’m not traveling as much any more for a plethora of reasons, is also something I do. Like most, I do it when waiting and without even thinking about it. By now you may know of that which I speak.

Let me pose it to you as a question and I want you to NOT answer it now. I want you to, yes, wait until the next time you have to wait for someone or something and then, when you catch yourself doing it… consider how long it took you to begin. Better still, ask someone with whom you spend a good deal of time to watch for you to do it and to time how long it took you before you began. That may be a better measure. I’ll get back to that concept in a moment.

What is the idiosyncrasy, the thing which we do almost subconsciously? Check our cellphones. Yep, the second we have to sit and wait for something or someone, we pull out our cellphones and look at them. We are probably not expecting any major news item, or phone call, or text. We just need to look at our phone. It didn’t ding to tell us there was a message. It just draws us to look because what was on it the last time we looked has changed and we haven’t seen it yet.  We constantly check our cellphones and when we do it, we rob ourselves of real human interaction.

Before Cellphones

I believe some of us do it to avoid real human interaction. Think about it. You are standing in a line or in a small group waiting. Most, if not all, of the people around you are unfamiliar to you. In ‘old days’ we simply avoid eye contact, maybe look at our newspaper. (I’ll explain that to those who have never seen one or maybe suggest you watch an old Sam Spade detective movie and watch the private investigators hide behind a newspaper while surveilling someone, usually in a hotel lobby… nowadays, a spy cannot hide behind a cellphone like they could a newspaper!)

Avoiding eye contact, though, is uncomfortable if you don’t have something at which to stare. Of course, once you make eye contact with a stranger standing a few feet from you, you are forced to acknowledge that they exist and that you can see them. Then they are forced to return the acknowledgement and now, it’s blown. You both know the other exists and the other knows you know they exist so you almost have to speak to them. You have to use real words and your voice and make a facial expression to coincide with the words so as to communicate with them. WOW! If you had just looked down at your cellphone earlier, you could have avoided this whole uncomfortable situation! You are now perhaps forced to get to learn a little bit about someone you did not know before.

This may come as a surprise but you may find that in meeting someone like this, in human form, with a body and a smile and eyes that respond back to your smile, there could be a new friend or at least an acquaintance. It may be someone interesting and enjoyable.

Even better, they may be someone who needs to know Jesus.

“Oh no!”, you say. “You’re not taking me down that evangelization path where I have to give five points and a prayer to everyone I meet!”

NOPE. Maybe they just need someone to say “Hello” to them and smile at them so they know they exist. You’ve heard the story, I’m certain, about the man who was walking to the bridge to commit suicide and decided that if one person smiled at him on his way, he would not kill himself. I don’t know if that story is true but what if it was and that one person was the person standing in line in front of you at the grocery store and they happened to turn and look at you? Would they get a smile or would you be staring at your cellphone?

I have another thought on the subject and that is the actual reason for this message and its title, but before that, one quick rabbit trail about eye contact. If you are a parent or grandparent of a child – any age – even grown with children of their own, but especially the littlest of the brood, answer this. Think about the last time that they came to you and just had to tell you something at that moment, it could not wait another second! They just had to tell you something so important! Did you stop whatever you were doing, (like staring at your cellphone) and look in their eyes as they told it to you or did you just tolerate it for a second and go, ‘un-huh’? If you did the latter, I guarantee you they walked away knowing you didn’t hear them and they suspect you don’t care about what they have to say. What would it have cost you to really listen and be there? Imagine what you and they would have gained if you had!

Am I important to you?

Okay, that was a freebie thing to think about. Back to the real purpose.

Even if we are not using our cellphones to avoid human interaction, we may be robbing ourselves of important uses of our wait time.

 Are you like me and get every single red light?

WOW! Don’t you hate that! All that wasted time waiting for the light to change! Once, when my children were small, pre-school age but very verbal (too verbal sometimes), I was behind a car at a light and the light changed to green. Almost immediately, my child blurted out from the back seat in a voice determined to be heard by the driver in front of us… “What are you waiting on, the Spirit to move you?” Oops… I was teaching impatience. At least it wasn’t, “There’s only one shade of green!” or something worse!

I started trying to use the ‘wait’ time to talk to God or at least think about Him. For someone I love and to whom I owe so much, I spend so little of my day thinking about Him or talking to Him… I’m getting better at that.

Some of our wait time would be great prayer time. It could be a time to simply think about God, too. Maybe, our wait time should be time when we fill our minds with the good things in life and not the fake news or gossip texts or the less than appropriate jokes we share. (I use the pronoun ‘we’ for a reason).

Do you know what got me thinking about this? I came across a small crucifix necklace that I really liked the look of and on it was engraved the well-known Philippians 4:13 passage, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” This one is sold by Heavenly Divine Company and it got my attention because of some of the things I’m experiencing right now. I thought, ‘You know, that might be a good witness statement and a conversation starter, as well as a good reminder for me.’

So, I went back to Philippians and read the chapter wanting to make certain I wasn’t taking something Paul wrote out of context and retro-fitting it to my current day thinking rather than Paul’s intended meaning. When I did that, I came upon these words from Paul:

“Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.” (Philippians 4:13 NKJV biblegateway.com)

How different would our moods, our attitudes, our human interactions, and our listening to our children be if we did what Paul suggested – commanded- rather than staying buried in our cellphones during our wait times?

Maybe we should think on these things.

I said earlier I would get back to you about measuring how long it takes us to look at our cellphone when we suddenly have ‘down time’ or ‘wait time’. What if there were an app for that?  Wouldn’t that be an interesting bit of data to see when you look at your daily usage? Just thinking out loud on that one!

Darkest Before the Dawn

            Some scientists claim the adage, ‘darkest before the dawn’ is not accurate in the reality of the depth of the dark skies in those early morning hours. They do concur, though, the earth radiates its heat throughout the night and just before the dawn, most of the earth’s absorbed heat from the previous day of sunshine has been dissipated back to the atmosphere. It may not be darkest before the dawn; but in a quote of one writer, “it is the coldest and most miserable.”

                Let’s stay with the darkest part of the night idea. Scientists do agree the lunar cycle will provide times when the moon is not visible and the night is darkest. Working midnight shift in law enforcement patrol for more than a dozen years probably allows me to say I find it darkest somewhere between 5 and 6 am. Maybe that is just me!

               I certainly can argue in support of the biblical statement in John 3:19, “…men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. “ Police work on the night shift  will allow even the sharpest skeptic to understand that verse.

A totally non-scientific idea about how light bulbs light a room claims it is NOT because the light bult puts out light,  rather it sucks in the darkness, which makes the room bright! The argument contends all you need do is look at a light bulb which is ‘burnt out’ and no longer working. What color is it? It’s completely dark on the inside. “See,” they say! “It got as  full of darkness as it could and then it quit working.” Light created because darkness defeated! An interesting concept!

MIT scientists have shown the light of a single candle on a dark night can be seen up to 30 miles away. A single candle. Can you imagine how far a married candle could be seen? Okay, bad joke, I get it. I just couldn’t help myself.

               Do you ever feel like you are not making any difference in the world for Christ? Ever think, ‘well, its just me and I really cannot do much on my own’…

30 miles, 1 candle, lots of darkness.

You do not have to go to the far reaches of Africa or Asia. There is plenty of darkness right outside your door. Maybe there is a lot of darkness within your home! No matter where you find the darkness, this is what Jesus said, “I am the light world” (John 8:12) and if you can carry the Gospel into the darkness, you will fulfill another Bible passage, “Let your light so shine among men that they will glorify your Father who is in heaven.”(Matthew 5:16)


Honestly, I have felt much more like the light bulb which is burnt out from sucking in all the darkness, trying to bring light to the dark. What I need to do is refocus on letting Christ’s light shine in me… I cannot create the light. I cannot suck away the darkness. I can only reflect God’s light, Jesus, into the darkness of the world around me. Someone once said, we should be glad when we feel compltely surrounded by darkness, because then the candle we carry for Christ will be seen so much better.
Thirty miles…
Thirty Mile Lighthouse on Lake Ontario

             

NEVER RETREAT!

RIGGS MINISTRY MINUTE: When there is only a minute for ministry

8 June 2012     www.docriggs.com

 

The story is told of a general arriving on a battlefield only to see his troops beating a hasty retreat. From astride his horse he stopped a young soldier who was quickly retreating and demanded to know why his men were running from the battle. The young soldier looked up into the eyes of the quite irate general and said, “Sir we are not retreating! We are rapidly advancing to the rear!” Sometimes we can think of ourselves as advancing in the work we are striving to do for the Lord but we could be advancing in the wrong direction!

Early this morning I was reading my devotions using a book I have just acquired titled: Streams in the Desert from L. B. Cowman, edited by Jim Reimann. As I write Daniel, our son who is with the U.S. Army, I include some devotional thoughts or an insight on something I have read. Just this morning, I came across a quote by Marshal Ferdinand Foch that captured my attention. The Marshal was quite the war hero of the French during the First World War.[i] His quote that I sent to Daniel is:

When you have faith, you need never retreat. You can stop the Enemy wherever you encounter him.”[ii]   

WWI was dubbed the ‘war to end all wars’ and obviously that was a serious misnomer! WWI was also trench warfare where the armies each dug in deep long trenches and this was, for the most part, where the front lines would be. Sometimes with a short advance, the opposing forces could over run a trench and occupy it for a time until the troops could reclaim it. Venturing out of the trench, though, for any reason was nearly always a death sentence. Everywhere you needed to go you could do so in the trench except for one direction, forward. The key to battlefield victory was stopping the enemy’s advance movement.  It was not necessary to neither annihilate the enemy nor even just overpower them. Once forward movement was halted, without any resurgence of momentum, all hope was lost; and defeat is imminent.

Satan uses a very similar attack on Christians and he has many ways he tries to stop any advancement of the gospel. Perhaps the most effective way to stop a Christian ministry’s forward advance is to keep them busy in their trenches. Lots of activity can take place along a trench line. Once well dug in, a trench can provide a safe place to do everything a Christian ministry is expected to do in society, perhaps even obtain a grant or two as long as the ministry does not attempt to advance the gospel of Christ. Someone once defined a trench as ‘a grave with the ends kicked out.’ No better picture of a ministry without the advancement of the gospel is a church sitting in the middle of a graveyard and such  ministry is a  death sentence to the unsaved that might have been reached.

Aerial view trench lines British on left; German lines right and bottom July 1917

The question that stirred in my mind was: “Am I, as a minister, reaching souls for Christ or busily working away in the safety of my trench?”

Allied lines trench “50 yards from German lines”

The second part of Marshal Foch’s statement is that the enemy can be stopped wherever he is found. Immediately, we know that it is the Lord God that stops Satan and not us; but, we can be God’s tools that He uses in ways He chooses. The Lord has given orders to us, however, that are clear. We are not to allow Satan to have a foothold. He is to have no opportunity in our lives to sow seeds of discord. We are to not forsake the assembling of ourselves together. ‘An Army of One’ used to be a slogan for the U.S Army Recruiting forces. I did not care for that concept when it was part of the Army’s advertising campaign. One of the key foci of basic training is to tear down the individual and build up the team. So to have team building as a goal and proclaim, at the same time, that you are an Army of One is self-defeating. Churches, however, do it all the time. They meet together on Sunday for the big build up so that on Monday everyone goes their separate ways, often not even speaking with one another, even by phone, until the next Sunday.  Christ said that we are all members of one body and His analogy makes it clear, one part cannot function without the others.

Are you busy inside your trench or are you advancing the gospel? Do you prefer to be safe in the trench or out there where Satan is attacking; building up your fellow soldiers, out there where you can hear someone holler, “Medic!”?


[ii] Cowman, L.B. Streams in the Desert, Zondervan, Grand Rapids MI:1997