Waiting and Waiting and Waiting Some More

The path around the pond is gray. The grass, normally lush this time of year, lies in brown clumps and pale green patches.  Even the hanging moss looks beleaguered, drooping from dry limbs.

The pond itself is half its size and the fountain is still.  A dull mechanism sits in the shallow center like a fallen robot.  Muddy water ripples only in a spring breeze.  While last season I trekked mud home, now there’s only dust, so fine it somehow seeps through my socks and into the crevices of my toes.

The duck family sits along a dry bank, as if the water is too stale and warm for bathing, drinking or swimming.  The largest duck waddles to the edge, like an old lady dabbing her toe into a pool, then turns back to the others and quacks, as if to say the water is too warm to be refreshing.  She settles herself in a shady spot free of the late afternoon sun.  I like to imagine that we share the same thought, wondering when the rains will come.

Many here wait for rain, longing for it, like the imminent grace we can’t yet feel.  I now feel silly carrying an umbrella and imagine saying, “Fine, God. I’ll call Your bluff.  Let it pour so I’m soaked to the bone and glad about it.”

Alas, God never plays our game of bluff.  And the pond recedes further to reveal a mid-bank which divides the sections in half, like a hard-boiled egg split in two.  I continue my walks, contemplating the dull patches, faded leaves and shriveled berries even the birds ignore.  I continue to walk, and wait, knowing that rain must come soon, though I know not when.

In scripture, someone always waits.  Time after time, in so many ways, we’re told to wait upon the Lord, wait for a sign, wait for God.  As I consider verse after verse, I realize that our ancient ancestors seem as impatient as we are, and they didn’t have fast food, drive-through pharmacies or Netflix.

Waiting for rain, or anything else requires a certain level of faith and trust, as well as perseverance and strength.  It isn’t easy to wait, wait and wait some more, trusting that we’ll meet the love of our life; land the perfect job; receive hopeful test results; get admitted to the university, society, program, club of our choice; grow our savings; age gracefully.

Tom Petty understood this when he sang:

The waiting is the hardest part . . .
You take it on faith, you take it to the heart
The waiting is the hardest part.

I want the wait for rain — and all else I desire — to be as easy as possible.  So, for now, I leave the umbrella home.  My tote bag — and my mind — are lighter.  Soaking, steady rain will come again, and I’ll let it wash over me, the way God’s grace always does, exactly when we need it most.

© 2017 – Rev. Jennifer L. Sacks.  All rights reserved.

March On

During my years in Washington, D.C., I participated in several rallies and marches.  One occurred at Ward Circle, just outside the American University campus where I was completing my final semester as a sociology undergrad.  For a class activity, I stood with Professor Barbara Kaplan, waving a sign which read: “Peace Now.”

Times were calm.  People drove past, waving and honking sporadically.  No one much cared about some college students protesting in the nation’s capital.  When my picture appeared in the school newspaper, I felt honored.  Professor Kaplan patted me on the back and winked: “Well done.  Now you’ll have a file at FBI headquarters.”  I wasn’t concerned.

A few years later, I marched with a group of women along Constitution Avenue to a rally at the Supreme Court.  We waved signs supporting women’s rights, especially for equal pay and affordable health care.  On the Supreme Court steps, as I awaited the keynote address, another woman approached and started talking.  At first, I thought we shared similar views.  Then she barraged my friends and me with statistics about abortion, birth control and infant mortality.  I attempted to shout her down, but to no avail.  Eventually, I became hoarse, muttered something like, “Whatever,” and moved away.  But not before I heard her say, “They’ll get you for this.  You’re going to hell.”

For a while, I felt nervous, not about hell, but about what my employer might think.  Or other friends and co-workers who didn’t agree with me.  Then, I remembered: I’m an American with freedom of speech, who can stand on the Supreme Court steps and declare my beliefs.

Nowhere, on those occasions or any others, do I remember any violence.  The usual Washington, D.C. security systems functioned properly, and we marched peacefully, albeit loudly.  No one fought or feared the “other side.”

I reflect upon those times, as the liberties our founding fathers and mothers, immigrant ancestors, and spiritual wayshowers established for our well-being are threatened.  I think about how each generation is called to stand up, to step out in faith — yet again — to transform our world so it becomes a better place for generations to come.

I also notice tremendous anxiety, dread and tension.  I pastor to people who fear for their safety, security and livelihoods, including some young adults concerned about what might happen to them if they’re arrested.  Others who campaigned for various causes still look forlorn.  They hang their heads with downcast eyes.  All express their concerns about the future and strive to realign with their faith.

Everywhere, it seems, we seek an encouraging word.  So, to all who march, wherever they may be, I offer this ancient assurance, passed from generation to generation:

“Be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid or discouraged. For the Lord your God is with you [and within you] wherever you go.”   (Joshua 1:9)

Lift your gaze, raise your heads high, and march on, Blessed Readers.

© 2017 – Rev. Jennifer L. Sacks.  All rights reserved.

Whose Rules? – Part 2

As we consider our Rules for Life, we realize what matters to us most.  We also discover greater appreciation for who we are and where we’ve been, so we can determine what our heart is calling us to contribute to the world.

Our mission at this point on the journey — even if we don’t have absolute clarity about our rules — is to connect with God, in whatever way we know God.  This way, we begin to find God in and through all — the thrills and joys, as well as the pain and discomfort.  We remember that God is our Source, first and foremost, for all we need.  Then we know who we are and what our calling is, just as Jesus did, and all spiritual masters and mystics do.

According to the Gospel Writer called John, Jesus explained this to the disciples who would later teach his ways of living.  Jesus said: “I have not spoken on my own authority, but God which sent me has given me a commandment — what to say and what to speak.” (12:49) Jesus continually connected with God first, so he could fulfill his true calling in service to others.

We, too, can discern how best to live and be.  Though, be prepared.  It’s usually an exercise in subtraction, rather than addition.   The practical part of this is deeply personal, so go slowly:

  • Determine when and where you’ll make time daily to connect with God through silence, prayer and meditation.
  • Keep some kind of journal, notebook or sketch pad so you can chronicle your feelings and thoughts, however scattered or random.
  • Find one trusted mental health or spiritual counselor, other than a dear friend or family member, who truly listens and can help you hear yourself.
  • Listen to your body. Notice what energizes you and what depletes you, as well as when, where and with whom your energy is strongest and weakest.
  • Consider your possessions, which you love and consider beautiful, and which have served their time and need to be released.
  • Discern whether the communities and/or people you follow share similar rules or whether you’re trying to fit square pegs into round holes.
  • Check your To-Do List. Consider what you truly need to do, what someone else can do, what can wait and what doesn’t actually need to be done.
  • Check your Bucket List or List of Dreams to see which are yours, which are someone else’s, and which you’ve put off because you’re doing something you don’t want to do.

Simple tasks, each one, though not always easy.  Yet, as we connect with God, we learn to trust our hearts and our rules become our way of life.

© 2016 – Rev. Jennifer L. Sacks.  All rights reserved.