The Challenge of Staying the Course

Posted August 23, 2015 by wordsfromww
Categories: Bible, Christianity, Community, Faith, Jesus, Pastor, Prayer, Story, Teamwork, The Church, Uncategorized, Youth

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WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                       August 23, 2015

                                       

Ten years ago I was running the Pike’s Peak Ascent, a 13.2 mile race for insane people. My wife called to it as “The Death Race.” She wasn’t too far off! The only people more loco than Ascent-ers were the ones who ran the Pike’s Peak Marathon the next day, a 26.2 mile race to the top of the mountain and back down again.

Okay…there is one group even more loco! Those who run the Ascent on Saturday and then the Marathon on Sunday. Crazy and whacked!

The hardest parts of the Ascent race for me were Mile Two and Mile Nine. Mile Two because the adrenalin of the start had worn off and I was suddenly doing some “serious uphill running.” Mile Nine because I was beginning to be physically depleted but I knew I had four miles yet to go…uphill!

The urge to stop and recognize the reasonableness of my actions increased as the race went on. My goal was not to win. My goal was to finish! As the elevation got higher I considered revising my goal to simply surviving.

Sometimes it is hard to stay the course…not just in a race for insane people, but also some of the insane times of life we have to run through.

The church I pastor seems to be having an increasing number of building challenges. A roof leak into our nursery area, despite a new roof being put on two years ago, and now the frustration of trying to get the roofer to come and fix it! A drywall problem as a ripple effect of that. Other things that are wearing out, like carpet and light fixtures.

It seems that each week is filled with new challenges that give reason to step to the side, to surrender to the mountain!

Hebrews 12:2-3 has taken on new meaning for me, and a new thankfulness for Jesus. It reads “Let is fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

That keeps me going!

The Why

Posted August 17, 2015 by wordsfromww
Categories: Christianity, Community, Faith, Jesus, Pastor, Story, Teamwork, The Church, Uncategorized

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WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                    August 17, 2015

                                                    

Most of the things I do each day are done out of habit. The way I brush my teeth, when I brush my teeth, and how I brush my teeth…regardless of what my dental hygienist tells me…is done out of habit. Some habits become a part of our life because of a situation that we go through. For instance, I always read at bedtime. Sometimes I read a few pages, and sometimes I read for two hours. The root of my bedtime reading goes back to when I had a herniated disc in my back and I was mostly bed-bound for a couple of weeks. I would read between pain pills.

Habit is a powerful life stabilizer. We hang our hat on it. It’s also why bad habits are hard to break. We shape our lives around them. Good habits, bad habits, routines…even rituals.

Many of our habits are done without a clue as to why.

I take a shower in the morning…every morning! Why? Because…that’s all I can say. I didn’t always take a shower in the morning. Goodness gracious! When I was growing up we didn’t even have a shower! So at some time in my life I decided that a morning shower sounded like a good idea.

“The Why” is a question that gets covered over. Why do I do what I do? If you were to ask me that question while staring at me there is good chance that you’ll get this glazed over look staring back at you.

Why am I a pastor? Because God placed a calling on my life that became defined my senior year of high school. I was clueless about a lot of other things my senior year, but I was clear on my calling.

“The Why” is a question that gets forgotten as we journey. A young lady I’ve known since she was born about 24 years ago, Allison Perrine, just completed a seventy day 4,000 mile bicycle journey along with 30 other college-aged young adults from across the country. I’m sure that when Allison was pedaling across Kansas she may have had moments when she asked the question, “Why am I doing this?”

Kansas has a way of doing that to people!

She was doing it to raise funds for cancer awareness programs. (She raised over $22,000.) But, really Allison was bicycling from baltimore to San Francisco because of her mom who lost her battle with cancer and her Aunt Marie who is a cancer survivor. That’s the real why behind the journey.

The church is often negligent of revisiting the why question. Why do we do what we do? Why do we give of our financial resources to the church and to missions? Why do we volunteer our time? Why do we pray for people? Why do we help our neighbors? Why are we passionate about ministry? Why do we clap when someone is baptized?

What is at the core of our purpose? Why do we care?

When we remind ourselves of the why we stay grounded in the cause.

It even helps us get through Kansas.

The Challenge of Speaking The Same Language…in Church!”

Posted August 12, 2015 by wordsfromww
Categories: Bible, children, Christianity, Community, Grace, Parenting, Pastor, Story, Teamwork, The Church, Uncategorized, Youth

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WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                     August 12, 2015

              

What is a hymn?

How you answer that question may actually say something more about your age…or lack of…than anything else.

If you answered that question with responses such as “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God”, “In the Garden”, or “Blessed Assurance”, chances are you are over fifty years old.

“If you answered that question with such songs/hymns “Blessed Assurance” (again), “Majesty”, and “Pass It On”, you are probably under fifty by a few years or a couple of decades.

Why would I say such a thing? I hear quite often from the senior folk of my congregation the desire to sing more hymns. We try to balance our worship between hymns and praise songs. Recently, however, a revelation occurred to one of our musical members when she was talking about what hymns are. The younger folk she was in conversation with thought that a hymn was any song in our current hymnal…which includes each of the songs I listed in both sets of responses above.

That makes sense, in that they are in the…hymnal! But those who have been around for a few years would tell you that “Majesty” is not a hymn because…it just isn’t!

It speaks to the fact that any church that is a mixture of ages will have situations occur where people assume they are speaking about the same thing, but they really aren’t. It’s a cultural disconnect in the church.

When I was growing up and someone was asked whether they went to church the answer would be “yes” if they were there every Sunday. Some might even have said yes because in their thinking being a part of a church meant you were there every Sunday morning and evening, and every Wednesday night.

If that same question is asked today the answer could be yes, but the determining criteria for the one who answers is completely different. If a person attends Sunday worship once a month he characterizes that sa being intimately involved in his church. The typical church member now attends Sunday worship 1 to 2 times a month, whereas in my young days it was 3 to 4 times a month.

It is the same topic…are you very involved in your church’s ministry…but the definition of “very involved” is seen different.

What happens too often is that people, fallen in nature, misread other people they never  discover are speaking the same language in different ways. Instead of grace entering into the conversations sometimes suspicion and presumptions become the gap fillers.

The challenge for any church is creating that environment where people can hear those who are different than they are, while also feeling like they are also being understood.

Hints of Being a Mennonite American Baptist Pastor

Posted August 3, 2015 by wordsfromww
Categories: Bible, children, Christianity, Death, Freedom, Grace, Jesus, Nation, Pastor, Prayer, Story

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WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                 August 3, 2015

                            

     One of my seminary professors was Dr. David Augsburger, a great teacher and a Mennonite in the midst of our American Baptist seminary. That was 36 years ago and was my first brush with Mennonites. Dr. Augsburger dressed like us and was rumored to even drink wine, a reality that I was beginning to see was normal. In my growing up years I had only encountered wine on neon signs that said either “Wine and Liquor Store” or “Fine Dining and Wine.” My family didn’t go out to restaurants much, but when we did it was Big Boy and, without a doubt, there was no fine wine in the premises.

Over the years I’ve come to know a number of other people who are Mennonites and the men put their pants on the same way I do. I’ve even preached in the Mennonite church here in town three times when we do our pulpit exchange Sunday.

In recent times I’ve noticed hints of Mennonite beliefs in my belief system. The main one that seems to be getting stronger is pacifism. I’m not so pacifistic that I want our military downsized, but this week has made me think a lot about violence. In the newspaper today there were articles on a policeman killed in Memphis, a physician in Pennsylvania accused of killing another lion in Africa, a man charged with the beheading of his wife and pet dogs, an update on the Minnesota dentist who had killed a lion and the people who want him killed. There was also an article and action shot of two professional baseball teams in a brawl, and a listing of the various policies that the Ferguson, Missouri violence has caused.

In other words, how thin would my newspaper be if the articles on violence weren’t there?

I’m not putting a peace sign on my Civic, but it seems that the human condition and tendency is to push the violent key pretty quickly. Here in Colorado Springs a fourteen year old boy was gunned down by the 31 year old uncle whose nephew had accused the fourteen year old of taking his cell phone. Gunned down!

In Denver the James Holmes trial is winding down, the young man who killed twelve and wounded seventy at an Aurora, Colorado movie theater. Yesterday bombs exploded within thirty minutes of one another outside two separate Las Cruces, New Mexico churches. Las Cruces!

About six weeks ago nine people were killed in a Charleston, South Carolina church in the midst of a prayer service.

There just seems to be an unhealthy trend going on here! So I’m leaning towards the Mennonites. American Baptists have a strong history of non-violence also, but we’re not quite as committed across the denomination like our Mennonite friends.

Bottom line! There needs to be an immediate increase in the production of “chill pills.”

Peace out!

Making Grown-Ups Too Quickly

Posted July 31, 2015 by wordsfromww
Categories: children, Freedom, Parenting, Story, Teamwork, Uncategorized, Youth

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WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                       July 31, 2015

                                         

As a high school basketball coach and a middle school football coach I am around adolescent athletes a good bit each week. I love relating to them, seeing them create life-long friendships with teammates, and improving on their skills and understanding of the sport they are competing in.

There is growing concern about a multitude of things related to middle school and high school sports. “Helicopter parents” is a new term that is used to describe parents who are always hovering over their children to make sure that the coaches are seeing that the next Peyton Manning is right there on their football field in a twelve year old body.

We also have the “transfer craze”, where athletes are changing schools because School A has a better team than School B, plus the attached thought process that says, “I’ll have a better chance of getting a college scholarship if I play for School A!”

      Helicopter parents spend unbelievable amounts of money to have Johnny play for a club basketball team, go to several basketball camps, and outfit him with gear that an NBA player would wear…because if Johnny is going to play for Kansas, or UConn, or UCLA someday he’d better get started now.

And so grade-school boys are treated like celebrities and middle school girls start walking with swaggers because their lives are consumed with playing a sport…one sport…year-round…too excess, but nothing is too excess in the eyes of their parents.

We cut out the years of their lives where they can just be kids, playing whiffle ball in the backyard with the neighbor kids, catching fireflies at night, and having a sleep-over in the home-made tent in the basement made out of bed sheets and blankets and propped up by chairs. We eliminate the need for kids to just be kids, like it’s a wasted period to be avoided like acne, and we rush them into being grown-ups who haven’t reached puberty yet.

But the tragedy in addition to that is that when you don’t let kids grow into their lives it’s like cutting off a body part that will hinder them in some way at some time. Johnny gets to his junior year in high school and is sick of his sport, and he’s angry with his parents for making him play it excessively. Brenda’s knees ache all the time to the point that Motrin is her best friend. Tim thinks he’s a loser simply because he is very athletic, and his parents have told him he should be with all the money they’ve spent on him over the years. Judy can’t stand being around her dad because all he ever talks to her about is volleyball.

A life rule that we just can’t seem to remember is everything in moderation! Excess does not lead to success! In fact, more often than not, excess is the curb on the road to sadness.

In a few days my wife and I are having a cook-out for all the girls I coached for five years in high school. We will talk about some of the games, and a couple of our opponents, but we will mostly talk about what is going on in their lives now, the meaningful team bonding experiences they had, and the former teammate that passed away a couple of months ago. It will be a gathering of young ladies who have moved on in life and are understanding that the most important things do not have to include a round 28.5 inche basketball!

Doing Dumb, Meeting Grace

Posted July 27, 2015 by wordsfromww
Categories: Bible, children, Christianity, Community, Grace, Humor, Jesus, Pastor, Story, The Church, Uncategorized, Youth

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WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                             July 27, 2015

                                          

When I was in fourth grade I had a friend named Terry who was a bit rougher around the edges then me. Terry even would let a cuss word flow from his lips from time to time. He would walk the line between what was acceptable behavior and what was reform school acts.

And I hung around with him!

In some odd way I thought it made me took tougher. “Don’t mess with me! Do you see who I’m hanging around with?”

And so it was on a nice spring day at the close of school. Terry and I were leaving Williamstown Elementary to head home and we noticed thee was a kickball game going on at the school playground. We loved kickball, so we stopped and joined in the game. There is nothing better for a fourth grader than kickball after school…unsupervised!

We’d been playing a while when Terry kicked the ball to the outfield, but a player on the other team made a nice catch for an out. Terry let loose with an expletive!

Unfortunately, one of the fifth grade teachers, a beautiful lady named Mrs. Davidson, was walking by when the four letter word entered our world and she stopped and in a very nice way told him not to use language like that again.

“Yes, ma’am!”

End of story!

No!

My fourth grade bravado raised its ugly head, and with pumped-out chest I did dumb! I yelled down the sidewalk at Mrs. Davidson as she strolled away from school. “What are you going to to about it, you old bag?”

Don’t ask me why I chose that moment to be a tough guy, but I can still see Mrs. Davidson doing a sharp U-turn and heading back towards a fourth grader who was now completely void of bravado. I was trying to hit the rewind button on my mouth to no avail. The condemned prisoner was about to be executed.

Her words were direct and clearly communicated. “Let’s go see Mr. Morton!”

Not Mr. Morton! Mr. Morton was our school principal. His first name was Shirley, which, I believed, caused him to approach students in a gruffer way. He is the only male I have ever known who was named Shirley, and it is a name that still strikes fear in me. Mr. Morton had snow white hair, was short and thick and carried a big paddle.

Mrs. Davidson escorted the two of us, Terry and me…the condemned about to die, to the principal’s office. Mr. Morton warmed our behinds quickly. It was “bun warming” redefined!

Terry and I walked funny all the way home. It took a good bit of acting on my part, but I never let on with my mom and dad that my backside was a bit sensitive to sit on at dinner time.

“How was school today?”

      “Great…awesome! I got a 100% on my spelling test!”

     I had done dumb and dumbness has a way of rippling through you for a while afterwards. I got a glass of water with ice a bit later, went in the bathroom and tried to cool my behind with the ice cubes. It didn’t work! I slept on my stomach that night. Never again did I call one of my teachers an old bag.

Two weeks later on a Sunday morning I had my junior usher suit on at First Baptist Church of Williamstown. I was on duty, ready to hand out bulletins and help collect the offering. I was looking like a nice Christian fourth grade boy who was serving Jesus.

And then Mrs. Davidson walked in with her husband, who was the high school wrestling coach. My Cheerios started to rise from my stomach. I turned as red as a beet! And Mrs. Davidson looked at me and with a smile on her face said “Good morning!”

With a squeaky high voice I responded “Good morning!”, handed a bulletin to her.

“Thank you!” She smiled at me in a forgiving way. My eyes spoke repentance, and I met was introduced to grace.

The Davidson’s became a part of our church, but never once did she mention my transgression. Grace moved us past it…and I will always be thankful!

Preaching With Them

Posted July 26, 2015 by wordsfromww
Categories: Bible, children, Christianity, Community, Death, Faith, Grace, Jesus, Parenting, Pastor, Story, The Church, Uncategorized

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WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                          July 26, 2015

                                              

This morning in worship I told the story of Legion from the Gospel of Mark. I was led to do two things this morning that I hoped the congregation caught. So often we tell the story from the view of outside eyes and distant ears. We minimize its relevance to our lives by speaking about it as if we are in the balcony.

So this morning I told the story and brought the congregation into it by referring to them as the people of Gerasena where the demon-possessed man was from. I came at it from the perspective of the congregation being the ones who drove off the man to the tombs. We went through the life stages. I admit that I envisioned the man’s childhood…the beginning signs of a troubled mind and spirit, the increasing tension in the city whenever he was around people, the heartbreak of his parents in knowing they couldn’t make him better. I led us through the story carefully, drawing in the emotions that we felt as Legion became more apparent.

The second thing I did was use the pronoun “we” instead of “you.” In fact, I only used “you” once and that was towards the end of the story in asking the worshipers “You remember, don’t you?”

I did not preach at, but rather included myself as one of the Gerasenes. I was simply the one who was re-telling the story about us.

I’m sure if I looked back through my old sermon manuscripts I would be embarrassed by the number of times I preached to “them”, heaping accusations and a John the Baptist call to repent! In my elderly state I’m acutely aware of my need for the grace of God in the midst of my blunders and shortcomings.

And so I preach more and more about us.

I don’t know if those who journeyed with me this morning noticed the different perspective of things. I was not driven from the sanctuary like the man was driven from the town. I noticed, however, that some of the usual slumbering saints had their eyes open throughout.

That in itself is somewhat of a miracle!


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