Making Decisions That People Yell At

Posted January 26, 2015 by wordsfromww
Categories: Grace, Humor, Parenting, Story, Teamwork, Uncategorized, Youth

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WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                  January 26, 2015

                                         

There were groans and catcalls from one side of the gym, and, ironically, cheers from the other side. It was a “jeer cheer smoothie”, a mixture of abuse and praise that left you unsure of the quality of the taste. For the next hour and twenty minutes I received a lifetime supply of the sweet and sour partial satisfaction and partial disgust.

     Although basketball coaching is how I spend most of my free time when I’m not with family, I still officiate a few high school basketball games each year and a few Junior College games. If my calculations are correct this is my thirteenth year of blowing the whistle. Last Saturday I was blowing the whistle as the “R” of a three man crew. “R” for those who aren’t fluent in “referee language” stands for “referee”, and for that game is the head official for the crew. I talk to the captains, talk to the coaches, check the scorebook, and make decisions where there might be a discrepancy.

Saturday’s game was one of those hotly contested games where players from both teams were prone to make unwise decisions…at the same time! The result was that every other time down the court one of the three officials had to blow his whistle and announce a verdict. A decision had been made in his mind and the results produced people pulling their hair out and others jumping in celebration.

Most basketball games are not like. I’ve been wearing the black and white stripes for many games where it seems as an official I just seem to be there watching the players run back and forth…under control…playing smart…playing as a team.

The games, like Saturday’s game, where the officials feel like they have to continually render judgment calls are the toughest games to referee. It takes common sense, the ability to instantly slice a play into pieces in your mind to determine what caused the contact, how much unnecessary drama was added to the moment, who played smart and who played dumb, who wants a bail-out, and whether or not we had a similar play at the other end of the court. As an official fairness is paramount on our list of values. We recognize that their are two different parties with vested and different interests. No one wants to be the game loser, and each play of the game is just a smaller version of that win-lose scenario.

As a coach I know the officials that are wise and that I trust, and I know the officials who whenever the whistle is blown it is like a mystery is about to be revealed. It’s interesting that my “seasonedness”, or less kind people would say “old age”, has brought me to a point where I have very few disagreements with coaches who have been around for a few years. I have to earn the trust of new coaches, but, on the other hand, they need to earn my trust as well. When they recognize my fairness and consistency they know that the verdict of the game will be on them and their players; and, on the other hand, when I as an official see how they coach their players, adjust to game situations, use common sense, and manage the game, I become more open to hearing their concerns about certain plays and questions that sometimes I don’t even have an answer to.

Fans are a different story. Fans are spectators. Games and decisions are never to be determined or swayed by spectators. They are their to watch and cheer…and yes, to jeer. I watch a lot of basketball games as a fan, and do not always agree with the decisions of the officials, but I never feel it is justified or acceptable to yell obscenities at the officials.

Many people have asked me over the years why I officiate? Why do I allow myself to be subjected to such verbal abuse and ridicule. In an increasingly unpredictable world where people feel compelled to shoot one another, throw sucker punches, and intentionally minimize your humanity, why put yourself into that arena?

Because I love the game! Pure and simple, uncomplicated and yet sincere, I love the game!

Don’t get me wrong! I blow calls. I have whistles that I wish I could take back. I replay certain situations in my head as I struggle to fall asleep that night. I’m not perfect…far from it!

In fact, ask most spectators after any game and they will usually tell you that I was wrong close to half of the time…sometimes more!

Opening A Door

Posted January 23, 2015 by wordsfromww
Categories: children, Christianity, Community, Death, Freedom, Grace, love, Parenting, Story, Teamwork, The Church, Uncategorized, Youth

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WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                  January 23, 2015

                                                  

I watched a video online this week that my wife had forwarded to me that brought me to the edge of tears. It told a story about a young man who had lost his dad, and then he and his mom used from a small town to a city. His mom thought a change in setting would ease some of her son’s pain as he dealt with his father’s death. His new high school was substantially larger than the one in his small town.

It’s hard being the new kid in a setting where people have their friends already, their peer groups, and their places of standing. That is, high schoolers know the pecking order…who to give space to, who to chum up with, and, hard as it is to say, who doesn’t matter that much.

This young man, Josh, started to be picked on and bullied. He had pictures in his locker of his father that got torn down. Sometimes insecure students will do unbelievably cruel things to others…just because!

In the midst of new surroundings and a journey of grief Josh started opening doors for people. He would arrive at school early and hold the door open for other students coming in. In between classes he would hold the hallway door open as students rushed from class to class. After a while some of the students started noticing. He started being referred to as “the door guy.” More and more students started saying “thank you” or they would give Josh a high five! More students became familiar with his story and were taken back by his wounded heart that was still looking at doing simple acts of kindness.

Such a simple thing! Opening a door!

Josh began speaking to groups of elementary and middle school students about bullying and overcoming. He developed his new gift of public speaking…and continued to open doors!

I so often hear people say they have nothing to offer, that they don’t know what their gifts are and how they can serve. There’s a tendency to make it a grandiose thing that is out of their reach. They wallow in their defeat and sense of worthlessness.

Josh’s story hit me, because almost all of us can open a door for someone. Seeking to help is a personal decision, not a talent. Every person can be a benefit to others. Telling a cashier that you hope he has a good day, shoveling your neighbor’s sidewalk, donating a book to the library, mentoring a fatherless child, praying with a parent in a hospital waiting room, or…simply opening a door!

Opening doors doesn’t require training, or to be certified. It’s simply a choice that we avoid or welcome.

 

Church Selfies

Posted January 20, 2015 by wordsfromww
Categories: Bible, Christianity, Community, Faith, Freedom, Grace, Humor, Jesus, love, Pastor, Prayer, Story, The Church, Uncategorized

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WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                       January 19, 2015

                                                     

        “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.” (Philippians 2:3)

Selfies are the new self-expression! What did we do before photo-taking cell phones! Not many people back in those old days…ten years ago…were into the habit of taking their instamatics and snapping themselves in multiple places and numerous facial expressions.

In case you’ve been a cave for a while, “selfies” are snapshots someone takes with their cell phone…of himself/herself. Usually they end up on the person’s Facebook page for people to admire. They aren’t bad, but there are some people who are a little bit overly focused on themselves.

I’ve noticed recently, however, that there are a growing number of churches that are a little bit stuck on themselves. They turn the camera toward themselves and fill up space and time with “selfies” of how awesome they are.

Don’t get me wrong! There are multitudes of churches that are seeking the face of God instead of the click of their own faces. It’s these churches that still give me hope. They are congregations that understand that it’s not all about themselves, and are committed to being agents of mercy, listeners of heartaches, and doers of the Word.

In terms of “church selfies” I’m not talking about advertising and publicity. I’ve got no problem with congregations advertising about themselves on Facebook, in the newspaper, on radio, and even mass mailings. I’m talking about a kind of religious arrogance that conveys visions of churches that are a step above everybody else.

Recently I heard of a congregation that conveyed to their denominational reps that they had it all together…that the representative could focus on all those other churches that weren’t on that first name basis with Jesus like they were. When Paul wrote to the church at Philippi he says “put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage.” (Philippians 2:3, The Message paraphrase; Eugene Peterson) It’s hard to put yourself aside when you’ve got the camera turned towards yourself.

There are a number of churches that are more concerned with how they look than how people are seeing Jesus in them. They are more obsessed with primping than proclaiming, posing rather than praying. Modern-day Corinthians…obsessed with themselves at the expense of others. (Read 1 Corinthians 11)

As a rapidly aging pastor I would much rather have someone in front of me that I can be authentic with. They don’t have to have their hair all in perfected placement. They don’t even have to have hair! The older I get the more I need people who have a little mud on their clothes and crap on their shoes. When I feel like my life is falling apart I need to know the person sitting beside me has experienced some “Woe is me” moments. Someone who can be selfless instead of ready for the next selfie; a church that isn’t afraid of repentance and forgiveness that are primers for praising and celebration.

But that’s just me! I’m admittedly ancient and have a hard time taking selfies of myself…not because I’m so humble, but rather because I’m not as smart as my phone!

One last burning question! When you’re about to take a selfie of yourself do you utter those words “Say cheese!”

Viewing Being Blessed

Posted January 12, 2015 by wordsfromww
Categories: children, Christianity, Community, Faith, Humor, Jesus, love, Parenting, Pastor, Story, The Church, Uncategorized

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WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                       January 12, 2015

                                          

A friend of mine that I’m fortunate enough to be the pastor for recently wrote to me to tell me  how appreciative he is of me, and he went on to say that “God has blessed me in so many ways.”

It got me pondering the whole idea of “being blessed.” How seldom do we realize that we have been blessed? Notice I said “seldom”, because in thinking about it I believe that most of the blessings in our lives so unnoticed. Since I am a 60 year old male the appropriate word might best be “clueless.”

Blessings are like Honda Civics. There are so many of them on the road these days you come to a point where you don’t notice them. (I drive a Civic!) It becomes necessary for me to take a step back and view my life, do a personal review, and then slow down long enough to notice how I am abundantly blessed.

It seems that in our culture “being blessed” gets connected to something of personal gain. A promotion at work, a new girlfriend (I’m not referring to myself!), an unexpected tax refund, or the birth of a new child or grandchild…being blessed is equated with something we can clearly quantify. Believe me, there are blessings in those things just mentioned, but most blessings are misunderstood or simply missed!

This past week a dear man from our church who has been dealing with cancer was missing from our Saturday morning men’s Bible Study. It was in missing his presence that I realized how blessed I am to have him as a part of my life. Oddly enough, there is a blessing for me in the fact that I’m so concerned about him.

I talked to my dad on the phone yesterday. We are separated by about 1400 miles, but I was immediately blessed to hear his voice…the familiar eastern Kentucky accent, the few minutes of rehashing the UK Saturday basketball game, the same chuckle that makes my heart leap with joy. As I was talking to him I was not thinking about how blessed I am. It was only later on in the evening that it came home to roost with me.

Last night Carol (my girlfriend for the past 36 years) and I spent time together. We went to a pizza place close to us and enjoyed dinner there, traveled on to Target to get a few things she needed for upcoming events, while there we talked to the young man who lives across the street from us who informed us we was leaving for the Navy next month, came back out to the Civic that was covered with snow, and traveled slowly back home immersed in conversation, laughter, and blessing. As I sit here typing this now I realize what a multitude of blessings were a part of those couple of hours.

This morning in the overnight blanket of six inches of white stuff Carol asked me to drive her to school. Once again, I realize how blessed I am that she needed me to driver her, blessed to know that I am the one who eases her heightened level of anxiety in times like this.

I’m sure that I will go through much of this week anchored back into my tendency to be a clueless guy, but at least for a few moments today I’m recognizing the magnitude of my blessing.

When Friends Become Enemies

Posted January 8, 2015 by wordsfromww
Categories: Community, Death, Grace, love, Nation, Story, The Church, Uncategorized

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WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                   December 31, 2014

                                            

I recently read The Bully Pulpit by Doris Kearns Goodwin. It’s an excellent historical work dealing with the presidencies of Teddy Roosevelt and William Taft, as well as the rise of the importance of journalism.

Taft was Roosevelt’s choice to follow him as President. He had served as Governor General of the Philippines as it was being freed from Spanish rule as a result of the Spanish-American War. Taft loved the Philippines, as did his family, but Roosevelt kept wanting him to come back and be a part of his cabinet as Secretary of War. The correspondence between the two men shows how close they were as friends. Finally Taft agreed to come back to the States and be a part of Roosevelt’s cabinet.

William Taft was always loyal to his president, even when he might not totally agree with him. As the 1908 Presidential election was gearing up Roosevelt, who had earlier said he would not run for a third term, put his support behind Taft. Upon Taft’s election Teddy left the country for a year to enjoy traveling and an extended African safari.

It is at this point in their friendship that the seams start coming apart. Taft wrote a very affirming letter to Roosevelt that was never delivered to him. Taft was taken back by the Roosevelt never responded, and Roosevelt was a little perturbed that Taft had not corresponded with him.

Gifford Pinchot, the head of the Forest Service under Roosevelt and Taft, was then relieved of his position. Pinchot was a close friend of Roosevelt’s, who was still in the midst of his African adventures. When Pinchot shared the news with Roosevelt with his personal biases inserted in the story, Roosevelt was angry at what Taft had done. He began to doubt the man he had picked to be his successor. Once again, however, he had not gotten the whole story. The firing of Pinchot was Taft’s only option after some of the actions that Pinchot has taken.

Distance played a significant role in the parting of the former president’s and current president’s close relationship. Roosevelt was stubborn enough to keep his distance even after he returned from his travels. Taft was gracious enough to think only the best.

The story proceeds with the unfortunate stroke of Nellie Taft that effected her speech. It was evident that Nellie was a valuable help mate of her husband throughout his career in Ohio, the Philippines, and Washington. To have her require rest and therapy for months was an ongoing grief that Taft had to bear. It could be said that the President didn’t sense a great deal of compassion from Roosevelt during this time. He had been there for Teddy in his deepest difficulties, but Roosevelt was not very empathetic in return.

Distance, life circumstances, and difficulties sometimes bring that separation between friends. For these two great men it brought them to a point where they were more resembling of being enemies, to the point that Roosevelt split off of the Republican party, forming a third party and running against Taft and Woodrow Wilson in the 1912 election. In fact, Roosevelt’s differences with Taft split the Republicans and resulted in victory for Wilson.

Misunderstandings, poor communication, false rumors, and assumptions can sometimes undermine what was a strong kinship.

At the end of the book, however, Taft has a chance meeting with Roosevelt at the Blackstone Hotel in Chicago six years after the failed election. Roosevelt in taking to someone about the encounter said, “By Godfrey, I never was so surprised in my life. I no more thought of him being in Chicago than in Timbuctoo. But wasn’t it a gracious thing for him to do?” (The Bully Pulpit, Kearns, page 745)

That started a new friendship between the two former presidents that became increasingly stronger in the last months of Roosevelt’s life. He passed away seven months later.

How often we fail to draw close to those we’ve drifted apart from. Stubbornness isolates. The refusal to admit wrong keeps us in our separate corners. At the end of our time we realize the tragedy of opportunities lost and friends sent away.

It happens to so many of us…even presidents!

Well…

Posted January 5, 2015 by wordsfromww
Categories: children, Freedom, Humor, Parenting, Story, Uncategorized, Youth

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WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                    January 5, 2015

                                                          

I often begin a conversational sentence with one word…”Well.” It’s not a word of depth as much as it is a word of delay. It’s the equivalent of a student raising their hand in a second grade classroom to be recognized.

Now…why do I begin sentences with “well?”

Well…let me tell you!

It goes back to my grandfather, my Papaw, Dewey Helton, born and raised in Johnson County, Kentucky where front porch wisdom is in plentiful supply. Papaw Helton would often initiate his sharing of wisdom with a “well” drawn out to cover a considerable time period.

Many times it was the beginning of a grandfatherly statement that was intended to make you see the error of your ways.

“Well…look a’here! If boys start wearing girdles, are you going to wear one too?”

That wisdom was shared after I grew my hair out to the point that it touched my ears. To my Papaw I was starting to look radical. My rationale about it being the new style didn’t carry water for him. That made as much sense as trying to get eggs from a pig.

Papaw’s voice would also quiver a little bit as he uttered the “well.” He had a little country preacher in his blood. For a moment you got the feeling you were in a revival meeting where he was about to call the glory down, but he would just as quickly come back down to earth and rattle off some more common sense.

“Well…’pon my honor!”

     Those words were usually said in a verbal jousting match with one or more of my uncles. Kentucky politics was a topic ripe for debate. There were always half a dozen viewpoints, but none of them even close to the gospel truth besides Papaw’s.

“Well…Lord have mercy!” Lord was the second word spoken for an eternity. In fact, Papaw lengthened it out even longer than “well” because the Lord needed to be “the most!” His voice would rise and fall as if it was heading for the end times.

“Well…Lord have mercy, son! I’ve never heard of such a thing!” 

       “It’s true, Papaw!”

“Well…look a’here, Billy Dean!”

That was the next level of the conversation. When Papaw thought you were slow to come back to common sense he would address you by your first and middle names just in case you were suffering from foolhardiness!

Well…now you know why I begin so many statement of truth with “well.”

Well?

Known and New

Posted January 2, 2015 by wordsfromww
Categories: Bible, children, Christianity, Christmas, Community, Faith, Grace, Humor, Jesus, love, Pastor, Story, Teamwork, The Church, Uncategorized

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WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                           January 1, 2015

                                               

I don’t know when it was that I discovered that stovetop burners can be hot, or how to tie a neck tie, or cars only run on “E” for so long. What I do know is that at some point in my life journey the status of each of those situations went from unknown to known. Each went from confused to clear.

Much of life is learned from experiencing it. We become wiser, often as the result of really dumb decisions.

-If you stick your finger in the light socket bad things happen!”

     -Never call your fifth grade teacher “an old bag!”

     -Never tell a young lady you are trying to impress that her body proportions are full in one place and small in another. When she switches which part of the body you’re inferring is small and which part is plentiful… it will be your last date with her.”

     -The airlines doesn’t care that you were held up in traffic. No matter what your situation, they ain’t waiting for you!”

      -Don’t say ain’t when you think you might be meeting your future in-laws!”

These are just a few of the things that I now know. Experience is sometimes a teacher with a snap to it.

I enter a new year with a volumes of knowns that I no longer need to question. I know I have three great kids, each with unique talents and characteristics that I’m thankful for. I know I love and am loved my a wonderful woman who joined me on a marriage journey thirty-five years ago. I know that I have great friends in various locations around the country, and I know that friendship, unlike NBA basketball, is never over-rated.

I know that I am loved by God and made free to be by the cross of Christ.

I know that the Body of Christ gets trash-talked and cast aside by as many cynical self-absorbed Christians as non-Christians; and that very few believers understand what it means to be a community of faith. Perhaps these last “knowns” are the result of pastoring for a few decades, and are now known as I gaze upon the wounds of leading sheep.

January 1 is about about new. It marks that beginning point of another leg of the journey. It’s a dividing point between what was and what may come. As I look at “new”, I’m pondering what new knowledge I’ll encounter this year, what new developments will dot my life that cause the picture to become clearer? What new revelations will God bring forth that leave me with my mouth wide open? What new glimpses of his hand of mercy and grace will cross my path? What new understandings of scripture will I marvel at as it meshes with my personal experiences of life?

It is always important for the student to approach a new chapter with a sense of expectancy and excitement. Like a child opening Christmas presents there will be those gifts that cause our hearts to giggle with glee, and there will be the present that holds a new pair of jeans…essential, and yet about as exciting as a new cooked spinach recipe.

I walk ahead knowing that I’m never alone, and that He knows me intimately.


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