Thursday, February 17, 2011

Waiting room

I could use all sorts of words to describe myself but patient is definitely not one of them. No person, except for my dad who has a gift of seeing what nobody else sees, would dream of putting my name and the word in the same sentence. Perhaps my life just hasn’t been hard enough to provide sufficient opportunities to develop this character quality. Or, for all these years I somehow managed to miss them.

Today, however, I am proud to announce that the word finally fit me like a glove. At a doctor’s office. I was the patient. Dr. T was my physician.

Patience, I was warned in advance, wasn’t optional. Days before surgery I was instructed to come ready to wait, and wait, and wait… and perhaps come back tomorrow to wait some more. Be prepared to be bored. Such was the nature of the procedure to bring me back into full health.

I cleared my schedule and suit-armored myself with no less than four books, a journal and several extra pens (struggle that it was, I did leave my laptop behind). I was determined to accomplish a lot, catch up on all the reading and fill many a blank page of my much neglected journal. Part of me, I must admit, relished the prospect of this health-care induced boredom, since it’s a friend that rarely visits my shores.

When I arrived, I realized I was not the only patient – there were fifteen or so others sharing in this Medicaid Sabbath day. Some like me brought books, others brought food, or friends or family members to help the time pass faster. We all buzzed through our surgeries rather quickly and then entered the waiting room. I pulled the first book out of my bag and stuck my bandaged up nose inside its pages.

Twenty minutes.

Suddenly a thought started to buzz inside my head like a hornet.

I wonder if I’ll have to go under the knife again?... It sure would be nice to have it taken care of during the first round… but doctor T said she would like to gamble with this one… I really don’t like when doctors gamble with my nose! Buzzzz…. Buzzzz… And what about all these people? Is this their first time? Or are they regulars? They are all so quiet! Would they rather be left alone or talk their way through the waiting? Is it politically incorrect to ask what kind of surgery they had? Or an invasion of privacy? Buzzz… buzzzz….

Five more minutes have passed.

I should try to read some more.

I returned to the book sitting idly in my lap. Two minutes. Then the buzzard started again.

We are w-a-i-t-i-n-g! We are w-a-i-t-i-n-g! WE ARE W-A-I-T-I-N-G! WE ARE W-A-I-T-I-N-G!

One more minute passed. I looked around the room, noticing for the first time the large paintings of galloping horses hanging on the walls behind quiet patients.

Alright, God! What do you want from me????? I am being patient, am I not? I am waiting. I am willing to stick it out for as long as it takes. I’ll grit my teeth through this entire day if need be. But I can already tell it’s going to be a loooong day. I sure can think of many much more productive ways to use my time... But, hey, nobody is asking me? You call the shots.

What?!! Isn’t that enough?!!! What are You trying to accomplish? Is this some kind of a test? I know! Of course, it’s a test! It’s a test of my faith… to see how tough my faith muscle is! Fine! I can prove…

You don’t need to prove anything.


Nothing to prove. Not a test.

But..., but, then, what is it about..? … If it is not a test…

Inside the waiting room, the horses kept galloping in place in their imaginary race.

Can you just be… with Me…? Just… enjoy being with Me…?

Silence filled the room which a moment ago was occupied with the noise of the galloping horses.

Enjoy? Just enjoy… being… with You?
I took a deep breath. And then another one. ... I shook my head in disbelief. What a fool! What a fool I’ve been and how slow to hear… and understand! The waiting rooms of my life are not some torture chambers designed to try the toughness of my faith. They are the oasis planted by my hopelessly personal, hopelessly relational God, intended to provide a place of rest and refreshment, hope and healing for my soul as much, or perhaps even more, as for my body.... A place… a time when I can, rather than proving the tenacity of my faith, cultivate the tenderness of my heart…

I’m sorry…

Mrs. S… the nurse’s chirp jerked me out of the unexpected revelation. I am a bearer of good news!

Oh… I slowly got up, putting the book away, a twinge of disappointment coloring my voice.

Does that mean I have to leave…right away?

"In repentance and rest you will be saved, in quietness and trust is your strength. But you were not willing, and you said, 'No, for we will flee on horses,'..."
Isaiah 30:15,16

Sunday, February 06, 2011


Last year my gardening buddy Donna (well, I should probably make it clear from the start that Donna is not MY gardening buddy – Donna is THE gardening queen of south Orlando and I am not worthy to clean and polish her rubber clogs!) … anyway, having clarified this, let me continue… Er.. awhile ago Donna, the queen surprised me with a present. Well, sort of. I suspect that her choice of gift had something to do with a little history we share… Having killed one too many live plants she had been giving me over the years in a futile attempt to green up my brown thumb, she decided for a slightly different approach. So, instead of something alive that could be killed (and under my management one could be fully assured that it would be killed) she gave me a… potential! Being the esthetically endowed person that she is, she wrapped my potential in fancy fuchsia tulle and tied a black ribbon around it (I told you she was a classy lady!). She also accompanied the gift with the instructions which contained a photo. I suspect she must have gathered that I am not much of an instruction-reader and needed visual stimulation if her scheme was going to work. If you haven’t guessed already, inside the fancy wrapping was a bunch of seeds, four o’clock seeds, to be more precise.

Seeds…?!!! Why would she give me SEEDS?!!! I thought to myself. If I couldn’t keep ALIVE plants alive, how in the world does she imagine me coaxing anything out of some dry, shriveled up, dead seed?!!!

So, I set my potential on the counter. And, yes, you are right, it sat there. And it sat there… and it sat… and SAT… and SAT! From time to time I would look at it, and even scan the instructions with the photo of the pretty flowers tucked inside each tiny ball. I wondered how something as marvelous, and fragrant and colorful can be so neatly packed inside the ugly black seed?!!! I can’t quite say that I expected the plant to magically pop out and grow on the top of my counter inside my kitchen just from my notifying its presence there, but the thought sure sounded nice.

Needless to say, the seeds didn’t pop out on their own and no magical transformation took place. At least not as long as the seeds were sitting on top of the scratched up Formica.

Then, I remembered - duh?!!! - that this gift was about the potential! And, the only way the potential can become the actual is if it is taken out of the pretty wrapping, buried into the ground and left there to die. Then and only then can the magical transformation occur. Not on the top of the kitchen counter. Not even in the palm of my hand. But buried deep inside the soil where the mystery of death and life occur, invisible to the human eye, until the tiny tuft of green breaks the surface, giving evidence for all to see that there is a world of miracles laying dormant just within our reach.

"...The seed... is the Word of God.. .." Luke 8:11

Wednesday, February 02, 2011


I might have gotten a little spoiled - alright, A BIG ROTTEN SPOILED A LOT!- having lived for more than 15 years in the happiest place on Earth, in the backyard of uncle Walt Disney’s estate (well, maybe more like in an outhouse at the furthest corner of the outer pasture-lands of his Magic Kingdom!) or, simply put, in the O-town, City Beautiful nestled at the heart of warm and sunny Florida. In this place, the greens remain green year round, the winter sky is more brilliant azure than an average person can handle on an ordinary January day and the song of perpetual blooms resounds all the more loudly when the rest of the world is wrapped in snowy blankets and skies of gray. The lucky residents evidence this heaven on Earth by endless uploads of photos of outdoor swimming pools and beach scenes, thus heartlessly harassing our frost-bitten friends up north and rubbing it in with the matching FB status updates.

Life in which cold season’s Fahrenheit range goes between mid-seventies and lower-eighties creates expectations of their own. The husbands here don’t fart, and the wives don’t snore. The children, of course, make only happy noises and never ever kick each other in the face. Those of us lucky enough to live here have adapted quite nicely to the prevailing climate of entitlement to happiness and adjoining assumptions that we should be spared of the suffering common to those ordinary mortals.

So, when it happened last year we all considered it a fluke. The following summer was as hellishly hot as ever, making even the proverbial fake flowers wilt in heat and humidity. We thought we were back in the saddle, looking forward to our well-deserved winter rewards for enduring the typical summer slow-cooker when it happened AGAIN! This time it was even earlier, before Christmas, mind you! Some audacious arctic blast swept across the entire country and shamelessly infringed upon our territory. Round one. What wasn’t killed during the first freeze, died after the second; the skimpy remainder succumbed under the third. We stopped counting after that. Some time between the waves of cold, I finally gave up one of the silliest practices I’d adopted after I moved here - of covering plants with sheets and blankets during the near-freezing temperatures. This year, even plants that were covered died.

I finally hung up my tools and gloves, having abdicated all my outdoor responsibilities and descended into begrudging gardening hibernation until the arctic freeze has passed and more seasonal temperatures arrive. Part of me enjoyed (or at least tried to enjoy) this forced rest. Prying away from the work of our hands doesn’t come naturally to us workaholics, whose sense of worth is tied all too closely to the number of things checked off an imaginary list by the end of the day.

The bitter cold also created (an indoor, heated!) space for more somber reflection (equally unnatural to an average Floridian). Seeing with my own eyes how just a few degree drop in temperature could overnight reduce all my months (or, even years!) worth of hard work down to a rotting pile of stinky yard-waste was… well, quite humbling. And, the knowledge that there was absolutely nothing I could do to prevent it, was even more humbling indeed. To add insult to injury, even now there is still nothing I can do to repair the damage except to wait … and wait… and wait in hope that some day spring indeed will return. And when it does, amidst all the busy, happy work, as the warm sun is shining again and the invisible roots send out new shoots, will my grip loosen on what I know I cannot keep…? …Will I remember that I cannot ensure the permanence of what I love the most except through surrender and death of the very thing I am so desperately trying to preserve?