From Okra to Sweet Potatoes

Sweet PotatoWhen I was six, my family spent a year in Houston, Texas. My parents were very good about enjoying unique opportunities in every place where we lived, so my mother tried her hand at Southern cuisine. Namely, okra. Being six years old, there were still a number of foods that . . . I had not yet learned to appreciate. Okra jumped to the top of that list.

Since then I have cautiously sampled okra that was breaded and fried (my mom boiled hers), and have found it tolerable. That’s a good thing, because I’m living in the South again (Kentucky) and may meet up with it on someone’s table.

I say all this to paint a picture of a spiritual virtue that used to sound as appealing to me as okra. I’m talking about patience.

One reason I wasn’t attracted to it was this statement by a church friend:

“Don’t pray for patience. If you do, God will send you difficult circumstances so you’ll have a chance to develop patience.”

Fortunately, in more recent years, some positive, peaceful folks have given me a whole new perspective on this virtue.

I have  developed a new personal definition of “patience” . . . but let me share first what I found in the dictionary about it:

Patience: the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset.

Oh, boy! Still kind of heavy. It gave me visions of a passive, lifeless person. You know, the kind who just doesn’t give a care.

Then I looked up “patience” in a thesaurus.

Patience: calmness, composure.

Now that was more like MY definition of the word:


I am becoming cheerfully patient in pressure situations too, but my biggest revelation of patience is related to being patient while waiting for something . . . and waiting and waiting.

I’m learning not to put life on hold while I’m waiting. When I was waiting for a response to a job application, I tackled some projects I had pushed aside. It occurred to me that I had extra time now that I wouldn’t have once I was employed. Made me actually appreciate and enjoy my waiting time.

When I just couldn’t wait for my next trip to see my baby granddaughter, I borrowed my assistant pastor’s children one afternoon for an excursion to the park. Can’t tell you how much fun it was. And that family and those girls have always been special to me since then.

I am learning not to worry and fret while waiting for a bad situation to turn around. Recently, I learned of a devastating situation involving someone I love. First, I looked up scriptures about God’s love, his power, and his ways of doing things. I began praying for an outcome that matched up with his Word. I declared my trust in God’s concern and ability to change things. But I was still anxious.

The simple strategy that got me out of that rut was to tell myself, “God is working on it already. Things are already changing–I just can’t see it yet.”

I became hopeful and confident. It wasn’t long before this person’s attitude and circumstances changed dramatically.

Now I understand the apostle Paul’s awesome prayer for the Christians in Rome:

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 15:13 NIV).

Joy, peace, hope–that’s what patience looks like to me now.

I’m glad the valuable virtue called “patience” isn’t really like okra–boiled or deep fried. It is totally like sweet potatoes–swimming in a butter-and-brown-sugar sauce.

I have heard that “happiness is a way of travel–not a destination.” * Learning to enjoy the journey. . . . There’s another good definition of patience.

*Roy M. Goodman


Morning Dew

A polluted pot hole—does that sound appealing to you? W. Phillip Keller, in his amazing book, A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23, says that restless, thirsty sheep often drink from them. Ugh! Then, he compares this to people who have a deep inner thirst for fulfillment. If their ability to fellowship with God is dried up, they will drink from any dirty pool.

He contrasts these sheep with ones who graze before dawn on grass that is covered with dew. Then, during the heat of the day, they will lie down, already well-fed and well-watered. That’s how it can be for humans, Keller says. “[T]hose who are often the most serene, most confident and able to cope with life’s complexities are those who rise early each day to feed on God’s Word.  It is in the quiet, early hours of the morning that they are led beside the quiet, still waters where they imbibe the very life of Christ for the day.”*

Some years ago, I was conversing with a friend whose family was in crisis—just like mine. Suddenly he said, “I pay a shrink big bucks to tell me how to deal with this situation. How is it you already know this stuff?”

I didn’t have an answer for him. Later, though, I realized it was the time I spent in Bible reading and prayer before the rest of my family awoke . . . During that half hour, I received from the Word and the Spirit an impartation of supernatural peace and perspective.

99 I have more insight than all my teachers,
for I meditate on your statutes. . . .
103 How sweet are your words to my taste,
sweeter than honey to my mouth! (Psalm 119:99, 103).

Making It Personal

  •  Does it seem there’s no time for Bible reading and prayer? Ask the Lord to show you how you can pull this off. (It might not be in the morning.)
  • If meeting with the Lord daily makes the rest of your day more profitable, can you afford not to?
  • Have you found yourself drinking from polluted pools—activities and thoughts you’re not proud of? Fill your heart with godliness. You will lose your taste for unclean things.


*W. Phillip Keller, A Shepherd Looks at Psalm 23 (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan, 1970), p. 50-51, 52.