God often speaks to other people. To me, not so much. And yet ten years ago I distinctly heard God. Don’t worry, it was not an audible voice like those muttering homeless guys hear. It was ten words that took shape in my mind on the night after my eldest daughter’s wedding. It was a promise from God: “I am going to bless you and increase your house.” I wept for joy. But the days and weeks turned into years, and still no grandchildren were forthcoming. It wasn’t until seven years later that my eldest daughter informed me that Cindy and I were going to be grandparents. Luca was born on September 5th. He is now three years old and the lad has been more of a blessing to me than I can articulate. He has become more precious than career, a comfortable retirement, possessions, you name it. In short he is more precious to me than me myself.
A week ago my youngest daughter informed me that she is pregnant. Then last Friday my eldest daughter told me (via text) that she is also pregnant, again. My cup runneth over. My wife, Cindy, has nearly lost her mind with excitement and utter joy over the soon-to-be additions to our clan.
We are an immediate satisfaction society. But God does not act on our timetable, no matter how often we pray, beseech, plead, or throw a tantrum. I can’t stress that enough: God DOES NOT act on our schedule. We either have faith that he knows when and how it is best to bless his people, or we don’t. Ten years ago I was forty-nine years old. Back then I would not have appreciated grandchildren as much as I do now that I’m knocking on sixty and the things I once thought so important have faded into the background. The place I’m at has freed me to be completely present when I am with my grandson. He gets my undivided attention. So will the grandchildren who are on the way.
If God makes you a promise, he might deliver right away, or you might have to wait for it . . . a long time. With the benefit of hindsight (a skill I employ with expert proficiency), ten years ago I was not ready for grandchildren. In the church, we often hear it preached that God’s timing is perfect. That isn’t just a trite slogan to help us develop the admirable character trait of patience. It is a reality that must work itself into our faith. So why does God reveal what he intends to do and then he makes us wait, sometimes for many years? I don’t know, but I have a theory: he does it so we can see how much he has helped us grow and prepare for receiving his promised blessing. In other words, so he gets more veneration than he would if he’d simply given us the blessing right away. And that’s very appropriate.
Is it just me, or does getting older increase the sensitivity of one’s back to heat and cold? When I was a young fella, the heat and cold didn’t bother me. These days, the slightest chill in the air will run down my back and set my whole body to shivering. If the mercury (an archaic term used to describe a thermometer that measured air temperature) tops 100 degrees here in California, my back sweats like the proverbial pig.
And by the way, what happened to the long-ago magic of summer that set in after the last day of school, when each morning was filled with the promise of adventure in the outdoors? As a lad I enjoyed the freedom of riding bikes all over town, playing baseball, fishing in little streams, flagging down ice cream trucks that prowled the neighborhoods, swimming at the community plunge (and accusing my compatriots of peeing in the pool), gorging on homemade potato salad doused with paprika, laying on the floor under the swamp cooler (an archaic term used to describe a machine people used to cool their homes). Yep, those were the glory days of summer. Funny, I don’t recall sweating as a child during the summer, though I must have since mom insisted I take a bath (an archaic term used to describe a method people employed to wash their body) every couple of days.
People in the West often say: “Sure it’s hot, but it’s a dry heat.” Yeah, dry heat doesn’t make you feel any more comfortable when the sweat gushes from your body like a lawn sprinkler. Dry heat my . . . well, you get the picture. But despite my growing sensitivity to temperature extremes, I still love much about summer. Is there a spiritual lesson here? Maybe it’s that summer, despite its discomfort, is a blessing from God. It’s a season for growth and spending more time outdoors in God’s cathedrals.
There is something soothing and healing in a summer breeze rustling the leaves above your head. Summer can be a time of extreme activity or disinclination to activity, without the guilt. The magic of summer is still there, we just have to take time to experience it. Go camping. Go fishing. Go to a strawberry festival. Go swimming at the lake. Go to a baseball game. Explore the county fair. Have a glass of cold ice tea after mowing the lawn. If you happen to be in Northern California, drive to the redwoods where you can sit on a bench in a grove of massive trees that have been alive since Christ walked the earth, where I promise you will feel closer to God. Or go to the mountains. Go to the ocean. Go to the desert. God is there, especially in summer. He loves to see his people enjoy His handiwork and the simple pleasures that endure.
It is a beautiful day in Northern California and my two dogs won’t go outside after breakfast. (If they had thumbs they would play video games all day.) Anyhow, we recently bought two identical food bowls, one for each dog. Each food bowl is divided into sections designed to reduce the speed at which my dogs gorge themselves at feeding time. My female dog, named BG, is often bitter and irritable if our male dog, named Joe, gets his bowl of food a few seconds before she gets her bowl of food. BG probably thinks Joe is getting fed with her bowl. In the spirit of détente, my wife wrote each dog’s name on their bowl with a permanent marker, but that didn’t ease tensions between the dogs at meal time. (No, I have not questioned my wife as to why she thought it helpful to write the dogs names on their identical bowls, which made me wonder if my dogs are more literate than I give them credit.)
BG often gets irritated at everything Joe does. If Joe gets a few pats on the head, BG growls at him. If Joe runs to get his bone, BG growls at him. If Joe tries to sleep under the bed with BG, she growls at him. If we go to the park and chuck a tennis ball for Joe to retrieve, BG chases Joe and barks at him. (Their relationship is a lot like marriage . . . did I just say that?)
Have you ever noticed how some people are just like BG? They find fault with everything and everybody. Negativity oozes from their pores. If management changes the layout of office furniture at negative Neal’s place of employment, he doesn’t like the new layout. If a colleague at work makes a mistake, he is on it like white on rice. If the company changes a policy, negative Neal whispers complaints under his breath. If a meeting starts late, negative Neal gripes about the leader’s lack of punctuality. On the other hand, if negative Neal makes a mistake, well, you bring it up at your own hazard. In the mind of negative Neal, his work is important and highly confidential while the work of others is unnecessary and inconvenient, especially when it interferes with his duties.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not an acolyte of Norman Vincent Peale. I do not bow down at the altar of the power of positive thinking. To deny that bad things happen is to deny the truth. I do not believe God expects us to live in a fantasy world where we pretend everything is OK. But I find it disconcerting when encountering uber-negative Christians who have been churched a long time. I have fallen into this trap at times. You know the type: the person who will tell you they are an imperfect sinner but never seem to see their own flaws, only the flaws of others. Again, don’t get me wrong, I too see all the faults and warts that are part of the modern Christian church. What I am talking about here is an unhealthy personal feeling of superiority to others. A need to constantly feed the beast of superiority through criticism is evidence of something amiss in a person’s life. It is, rather, a weakness and a possible sign of deep insecurity.
If the entire Christian church would spend several weeks a year studying and implementing the three verses in Matthew 7:3-5 (it will have more impact if you look it up), it would send shock waves through the darkness for generations. It would also drastically improve the spiritual, mental, and physical health of God’s people. In addition, Philippians 2:14-15 tells us to stop grumbling and complaining. We can attend church for years and go through all the motions of piety, but it is just dead religion if we never make these verses active in our lives. Sure, we’ll feel good when our ears are tickled by truth, but we won’t be transformed down deep in our soul. These verses are the cure for many ills.