Tag Archives: patience

Learning Patience in an Anxious Time

The novelty of our current stay-at-home routine has worn off.  Though most Americans agree that “social distancing” makes sense for curbing the spread of the Coronavirus, we all yearn to reconnect with our family, friends, and congregation members.  We are tired of being cooped up in our homes, tired of business restrictions, tired of doing everything on line. We desire social touch and social interaction.  We yearn to be back in our church building, singing hymns and drinking coffee with our friends.  We want the pandemic OVER!

But yearning, desires and wants do not always line-up with reality.  We might all wish for the pandemic to end, but the virus will not magically go away on its own.  The vast majority of public health officials agree that the pandemic will ebb and flow over the coming months.  Now I am NOT a scientist and I am not a public health official, but as a pastor I know that the pandemic has caused wide-spread anxiety in our community.  The future has suddenly become very unclear and potentially dangerous.  Many people have lost their jobs and sources of income.  Others are totally isolated in their houses or apartments.

Every day I pray the Serenity Prayer, written by Reinhold Niebuhr.  It starts with the familiar words, “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things that cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”  But the prayer has so much more – see the whole prayer here.   One line in particular stands out to me, “taking, as Jesus did, this sinful world as it is, not as I would have it.”  This is a call for patience.


Photo from PxHere

Patience is the wonderful ability to live in the present moment without feeling compelled to rush forward to something else.   You see patience in fishermen who are slowly and methodically casting their line into the deep in search of the big one.   Or in a scientist who is focused on researching the corona-virus in search of a treatment or vaccine.  Or in a mother who is sitting with her children and teaching them the first steps in reading.  They might want to rush forward to the landed fish or the completed vaccine or the skillful reader, but they know that to accomplish their goal they need to be patient in their daily tasks.  They cannot jump ahead, taking shortcuts that sabotage the results.

Patience is one of the Christian virtues that we are exhorted to embrace.

Gal. 5:22 the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness.

Col. 1:11-12 May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from God’s glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully giving thanks to the Father.

Romans 12:12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer.

Patience is not a part of our present world culture.  We want instant gratification.  We can buy on credit what we want now.  We expect instant answers, quick results, and fast turn-arounds.  We want the pandemic over NOW.

Is it possible that in this Great Pause, God is teaching us to stop our frantic, driven way of life and calling us to patiently grow deeper in our love of God and each other?   Is it possible that at the heart of this storm is God, patiently calling us to trust and love?   God is in the NOW, in this moment, in “this sinful world” as Niebuhr states in the Serenity Prayer.  Jesus promised, “Remember, I am with you always” (Matt. 28:20).

One way that I grow in patience is through Centering Prayer, a Christian form of meditation.  I sit quietly in silence each morning and evening for 20 minutes, with the sole intention of relinquishing my life, my desires, and my control to God. I have written about Centering Prayer here and here

There are four simple (yet challenging) steps to Centering Prayer.

  1. Choose a sacred word as the symbol of your intention to consent to God’s presence and action within.
  2. Sitting comfortably and with eyes closed, settle briefly and silently introduce the sacred word as the symbol of your consent to God’s presence and action within.
  3. When engaged with your thoughts, return ever-so-gently to the sacred word.
  4. At the end of the prayer period, remain in silence with eyes closed for a couple of minutes.

This spiritual practice has strengthened and nourished my love of God while also manifesting the fruit of the Spirit such as patience in my daily life.  If you want to learn more about Centering Prayer try contemplativeoutreach.org or please contact me below.

What are practices that have strengthened your patience?

The Super Bowl of Emotions

Cam Newton dab

SEATTLE, WA – OCTOBER 18: Quarterback Cam Newton #1 of the Carolina Panthers celebrates. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

One of the story lines leading up to the Super Bowl was the enthusiastic play of Carolina’s quarterback Cam Newton.  Every time he scored a touchdown he had a special dance that he enjoyed performing.   Some people took offense at his display of exuberant emotions, but others saw it as a part his passionate personality.

Cam Newton sulking cmp

Sunday showed a different side to Cam.  He barely responded to questions from the media after the loss.   He was clearly in a lot of emotional pain and he walked out of the news conference early.  He was not the model of what many would call a “good loser.”

I am writing about this not to drawn any moral judgment to Cam Newton, but rather to how emotions can rule our lives.  Cam Newton strikes me as a person who rides the roller coaster of emotions to the fullest extent.  When he is happy and excited, he revels in the emotion.  When he is disappointed or crushed, he let it all hang out.

This is such a sharp contrast to what I learned growing up.  I was taught (in both overt and in subtle ways) that to show any emotions was not appropriate.  I came out of a stoic Norwegian culture that emphasized staying in-control.  It was not appropriate to ride the roller coaster of emotions; keep an even keel and a pleasant smile.   Don’t let my highs get too high, nor my lows too low.

What I have come to discover is that neither path works very well.   I have at time chosen to ride the emotional roller coaster, but the ride can overwhelm my inner being and good judgment.   I have done and said some rash, harsh things to friends and family in “the heat of the moment.”   I have allowed self-pity to rule my days in destructive ways.

But to ignore my emotions can be just as destructive.  To bury my anger or ignore my disappointments can be just as destructive.  They tend to cause internal stress that calls for attention.

More recently I have practiced a middle way.   I acknowledge whatever emotion I may be feeling: anger, disappointment, hope, joy, fear, sadness, but I do not let it rule my judgment.  I observe how the emotion may be affecting my body, my breathing, my outlook, but I hold it at a distance.  The emotion is certainly real, but it is not in control and it will dissipate over time.  I step back and observe what my “reactive behavior” might be and discern whether that behavior would be helpful in the long run.  It usually will not be.  I don’t bite my tongue, but I certainly hold my words for a moment.

This is a practice of mindfulness.  I imagine it as part of my dressing myself in Christ.

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. (Col  3:12)

How do you handle your emotions?

Super Slow Mo Moments

I often want to rush through things, get to the good stuff.  But such rushing often causes unnecessary pain.   I have discovered that slowing down helps.  Even in training to run a race.

iStock_000016821441SmallA marathon takes a lot of time.   Not only the weeks and months of training, but the actual event takes anywhere from 3-6 hours to run.   Most runners would like to go faster, finish quicker.

But what if we just slowed down.  At least for a moment.

My running friend, Bob Timmons, connected to me a beautiful video from last month’s Twin Cities Marathon that does just that.   A friend of Bob, Ben Gavin, who works for the St. Paul Pioneer Press, shot a series of super slow motion clips that he titled Extraordinary Human Beings in Slow Motion at the Twin Cities Marathon Finish Line

What struck me in the video is that it expresses a central truth not only about the marathon, but also about life.   Life, like a marathon, is not one thing, but an incredible series of moments that are strung together.  The trick is to stay in the moment, in the now, and not worrying about the future or obsessing about the past.  Each moment is a moment of beauty.  Some days we need to slow down to see it.

As the Psalmist wrote, “This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:24

Lord Jesus, teach me to walk with you, moment by moment.

Centering Down in Patience

Tuesday morning I visited a centering prayer group in a congregation near my home. I had discovered it on their church website and wanted to practice with them. Centering prayer is a Christian form of meditation in which the purpose is to silently wait in God’s presence. You can read more about centering prayer at http://www.centeringprayer.com.  After taking a Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction Class I wanted to bring my meditation practice into a more explicit Christian context.

Jesus in the Center of Prayer

Jesus in the Center of Prayer

The seven women who gathered together were an eclectic group. They graciously welcomed me. The small chapel had a cross with candles and comfortable chairs for sitting quietly. The group is self-lead and we started with a brief devotional reading about being open to the love of Christ. They read it as a form of Lectio Devina, preparing one’s heart to listen. Then we sat in silent prayer together for about twenty minutes.  I appreciated a deep joy in sharing this time of centering down.

51KNK7QgraLRobert Roberts on his chapter on Patience in his book The Strengths of a Christian writes about how silent prayer is essential to developing the virtue of patience, the art dwelling gladly in the present moment.

Centering down is a matter of purifying your attention, collecting it into a focal point which is the God whose identity is known through Jesus Christ. As such, centering down is the practice of the presence of God and at the same time, the practice of patience defined as dwelling gladly in the present moment.  In centered prayer the individual is “absorbed,” though not in the sense of dissolved, in glad fellowship with God. (p. 73)

When I practice centering prayer I focus on my breathing, using a short prayer like “Jesus is Lord” or simply “Yah-weh” (the ancient Hebrew name for God – I am who I am – Exodus 3) with each breath. “Jesus” on the in breath; “is Lord” on the exhale. Recently I taught our congregation the simple prayer, “Papa is here,” based on the Lord’s Prayer where Jesus used the familiar word “abba” or “papa” in his address of God the Father. The exact words of prayer are not as important as consistent use of heart, mind and breath.

Like all who practice centering prayer, my mind wanders off on tangents and I need to gently bring it back to my breath and prayer. I don’t berate myself about the wandering but rather simple note it and come back to my prayer. I know that God knows my desire is to center on him and I believe He will bless my attempts. Like a good papa, God is patient with us.  Can we be patient with God?

How have you found ways to Center Down in patience?

Lord Jesus, let me be centered in you.

Cultivating Patience

I am in the midst of a preaching series called Foundational Attitudes; Developing the Mind of Christ. Yesterday the attitude was patience.  I Cor 13:4 Love is patient. I shared how my grandson Jack is helping grow in patience. He even taught me how to wait patiently at the doctor’s office prior to his cast being removed.

Jack Waiting Patiently (sort of).

Jack Waiting Patiently (sort of).


Looking back through my blog, I discovered that patience has been a growth area for me.  I have written about patience in several posts:

Patience and beyond January 2011

The Strength of Patience March 2011

The Happiness of Patience March 2011

Waiting for Patience  April 2013

From these it appears that I am a slow impatient learner!

Yet I also realize that patience is cultivated and grown over time.  It is not instantaneous. Yesterday I discussed how we cultivate patience in daily circumstances, with other people and with ourselves. .

Robert Roberts writes about this in his excellent book: The Strengths of a Christian (1984) in which he describes how we cultivate patience with other people – our neighbors in Christ.

Dwelling gladly in the presence of the neighbor does not often, or at first, come naturally to us, any more than dwelling gladly in the presence of God.  The neighbor is almost by Christian definition someone in whose presence it is difficult to dwell gladly.  .  .  . But worse than being boring, the neighbor may be positively repulsive in one way or another or may be in some need that requires attention, time or some kind of sacrifice. (P. 78)


So a peculiarly Christian answer to the question of how one goes about centering on one’s neighbor is this: Remind yourself, when you are impatient, that this is a brother or sister for whom Christ died, one who like you, is precious in the sight of God.  Look at the eyes, the skin, the mouth, and listen to the voice, and remind yourself that this is the flesh that God took upon himself in Jesus.  And so your gratitude to God is summoned up as a power of patience, and thus of love. (p 81)

When have you had to cultivate patience in your relationships with others?

Lord Jesus, teach me to cultivate patience by see you in my neighbor.

Five Things I Appreciate About Road Construction

Road Construction 2 20131001 croppedThe major intersection by our church is closed to construct a round-about. It closed about two months ago, forcing many people to find new and longer routes to Resurrection Lutheran Church. Though my first reaction is to complain about it, I have discovered five reasons to be grateful.


1. Plan Ahead: I have learned that I need to plan ahead in my driving so as to make sure I arrive on time. Planning ahead is good in many areas of life.

Road Construction  1 201310012. Boys Like Toys: Like many boys in my generation I grew up playing with toy dump trucks and bulldozer. Now I am fascinated watching the process of constructing storm sewers and road curbs. There is even a time-elapsed video of the construction project here.

3. New Ministry: Since Resurrection is on the corner of the intersection, many people drive into our parking lot expecting to find an exit on the far side of our parking lot, thus avoiding a detour. They do this in spite of several signs that clearly state “No Outlet.” They drive in expecting that by some magical means that a new exit will appear just for them. It does not. So they stop to reconsider their options before they must drive back out the way they came in. In that pause, I pray that they notice they are sitting in a church parking lot and that Jesus promised, “I am the way, the truth and the life.”

130_Sign-ThankYou4. Road Thanks: Whenever I grumble about the road construction, I pause to give thanks for the literally thousands of miles of great roads I travel every year. Having visited countries where paved, well-maintained roads are a luxury, I appreciate each smooth mile I can drive. And soon our round-about will be added to that list.

5. Patience Building. Patience is like a muscle: the only real way to build patience as a personal characteristic is to practice it daily. Road construction has given me many opportunities to practice patience. Thanks be to God.

May you be made strong with all the strength that comes from his glorious power, and may you be prepared to endure everything with patience, while joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has enabled you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the light. Colossians 1:11-12

What would you add to the list?

Lord Jesus, teach me your ways.

Waiting for Patience

Patience does not come easy.

MN Public Radio Picture

MN Public Radio Picture

As I watch another April snow shower blanket my Minnesota home and as I struggle to rehabilitate a sprained ankle, I realize how impatient I am. I yearn to be where I am not. I want quick fixes and instant answers. I want to run NOW. I want spring NOW.

Yet inside I hear a different voice calming my restless heart, a true voice calling me to wait patiently.

Those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength, they shall mount up on wings life eagles. They shall run and not grow weary (Isaiah 40:31).

Waiting is not a virtue in our American society. We hate waiting in lines, waiting for an event to start, waiting for a spouse to arrive, waiting for leaders to act. We think waiting is for wimps. After all we want ACTION heroes, not WAITING heroes.

Yet the Bible is filled with stories of waiting. Abraham and Sarah waited decades for the birth of a son. David waited years to become king. Israel waited centuries for a Messiah. When Paul begins his great description of love in I Corinthians 13, the first descriptor is “love is patient” (I Cor. 13:4).

As I listen to that inner, calming voice to wait, I realize that many things are at work. God’s Spirit is active, breathing new life into my spirit. I learn to live in the present moment, to be awake and at peace. These moments of awareness are intermittent; l slip back into self-pity. Still I wait, remembering an Objibway proverb,

Sometimes I go about pitying myself, and all the time I am being carried on great winds across the sky.

Spring will eventually come. I will at some point run again. But for now I wait on the Lord.

Lord Jesus, I wait with you.

Story “Time”

Running With Joy?

When we tell stories, we usually leave out the boring, repetitive stuff.   Yesterday I mentioned my story about running or lack of running.  After finishing Grandma’s Marathon last June, I have not been able to run without pain.  I’ve mentioned this before, but have tried not to dwell on it, since my whining will not help me nor edify you.  

In mid February that I mentioned a new physical therapy called Muscle Activation Therapy (MAT).  MAT involved reactivating little used muscles to help stabilize my left hip.  Every morning I go down into the basement to do my series of MAT exercises, which are boring, tedious, aggravating, and humbling.  Each time I remember Shannon’s promise that they will work overtime.  That is the hard part – over time. If my story were a movie, these exercises would be the parts you would fast-forward through.   

But also, if this were a movie, I would yearn for the dramatic crisis point.  I would say something about giving up, packing it in, throwing my running shoes into the garbage can and slamming the lid.  Then I would talk to Shannon and she would tell me to give it one more try . . .  and, after some stiff coaching, I would meekly pull my shoes out of the garbage, tie them on and (drum roll ) begin to run with joy!

My life is not a movie.  I still have my shoes, I still have hope, and I will continue my exercises.  I have noticed that my left IT band is much better and I can walk without pain.  In time, I am hopeful that I will run again.  But right now, I am simply in the boring part of the story.

One caveat.   In my February 11 blog I compared MAT to PAT (Prayer Activated Therapy).   Part of my Lenten therapy is to learn the contemporary wording of the Lord’s Prayer.  Though I still stumble a bit, the stumbling has pushed me to deeper pondering on Jesus’ prayer.  “Lead us not into temptation” versus “Save us from the time of trial.”   Yes, Jesus, save me from my whining, complaining self.  Teach me to be patient in all things and to seek your kingdom.  Amen.

Is your story speeding up, slowing down, stopped or on track?

Integrity of Patience

As I reread Robert Roberts’ The Strength of a Christian, I notice my own impatience rising to the surface.  I want to glean some quick insight into the practice of patience, so that I can immediately apply it to my life.  I want patience NOW.  Roberts provides instruction on the practice of patience (that I will post tomorrow, be patient), but first Roberts makes a wise observation on the necessity of patience for becoming a whole person.

Patience is also a condition for the integration of the person. Like other strengths, patience gives our lives continuity and autonomy, enabling us to live not by impulse, or at the beck and call of environmental stimulus, but by some design.  The Christian design is of course the love of God and neighbor.  It is one thing to have noble sentiments, such as compassion and concern for one’s neighbor and gratitude to God, but quite another to be in the appropriate sense the author of these, the kind of person who through “interior strength” has etched this design upon life.  Only someone self-present in the way a patient person is can practice Christian life as a spirit does. (p. 56)

The strength of an oak tree

When I was in my twenties, I remember reading a Christian article about how God is more interested in growing mighty oak trees than in zucchini.   Zucchini are rather amazing plants in that they grow from seed to fruit rapidly. Yet they will not survive a hard frost.  Oaks take considerable more time.  Yet it is the oak that survives the winter and summer storms and bears witness to God’s glory, year after year, by being the oak it was created to be.    In the same way, as Christian, we are called to serve God faithfully, becoming fully what God created us to be.   Growth in Godly character is often seasonal, with long stretches where one wonders if God has forgotten you. This is where the integrity of patience comes to bear, trusting God is at work, even in the times of waiting and hoping.  I continue to pray and seek patience as God works on my character of becoming a strong oak (see Psalm 1).

Who has been a model of patience for you?

The Happiness of Patience

Happiness needs Patience

Robert C. Roberts gives me food for thought in his chapter on patience in The Strength of a Christian.  I had never really connected happiness and patience before.

Patience is a condition for happiness.  Some vices are enjoyable, or at least seem so at the moment you practice them.  For example, most people get a delicious pleasure out of invidious gossip.  But other vices are just thoroughly unpleasant.  Envy, for example, is evil through and through.  Someone would have to crazy to go looking for an opportunity to be envious.

Impatience is an unpleasant vice.  It is a state of more or less intense frustration: you want to be somewhere other, or doing something other or accomplishing something other, or in the company of someone other, than you are.  Some people’s impatience is limited to certain moment, but other people are beset with impatience about large segments and pervasive situations of their life: for example the mother of small children who just can’t wait until they grow up enough to go to school and get out of her hair. These are the ones whose impatience has made them unhappy people, rather than just people with unhappy moments.

By contrast, people who can dwell gladly in the present moment despite some desire, or what would normally be a reason to desire, to depart from it–are not frustrated.  Because they exercise patience, this present moment of life is something in which to rejoice and be glad.  The impulses to flee are under control, and they experience peace and self-acceptance.

This week at lunch my host said he had a choice when he got up that morning: whether to choose to have a great day or not.  I think part of that choice is to decide to be patient, to live in this day, hour, moment with these people and circumstances.  God will be in this day; will I be attentive, patient to discover and rejoice in his presence?

How has patience and happiness overlapped for you?