Category Archives: Centering Prayer

When Waiting Is So Difficult

Despite the fast pace of life in the postmodern world, we still spend huge gobs of time waiting. In a few days, I’ll be arriving at Denver International Airport an hour and a half before my flight time—to wait. When I served as a hospital chaplain, patients used to joke about the playing the game of “hurry up and let’s wait!” It’s par for the course not only for medical appointments; we wait in lines at supermarkets and shopping malls.

But much more difficult is the matter of waiting for big events in life—to get a report on a medical test, to hear back after a job interview, or hardest of all, to wait as someone who’s dying when suffering is intense. Those who serve in hospice ministries become gifts for so many.

Somewhere along life’s way, it’s occurred to me that there are three ways I can wait in the small and huge events. I can wait anxiously, lethargically or expectantly.

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Religious Language and Postmodern Ears

In Lake Wobegon, says Garrison Keillor, “All the Norwegians were Lutherans, of course, even the atheists—it was a Lutheran God they did not believe in.” The theism a lot of atheists reject describes a God I cannot believe in either.

Many grew up, as I did, with an emotionally or physically absent father, at the same time hearing of God mainly as a male figure, so God seemed distant. Images and language skew our attitude toward the Sacred. Lots of religious words make spirituality seem irrelevant. The word repent is one such example.

Desmond Tutu tells of brutal killers in South Africa who had slowly cooked people alive at one end of a campsite while enjoying a barbecue at the other end. Later in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings, these perpetrators would confess without emotion that they were sorry. They might be staring across the room or down at their shoes as they spoke. But if the victim’s family member would say, “Turn to me; now say what you just said.” Then the confessor would be deeply moved, hardly able to gasp the words.

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