Failure To Lunch

Posted March 2, 2015 by wordsfromww
Categories: Bible, Christianity, Community, Faith, Grace, Jesus, Pastor, Prayer, Story, The Church, Uncategorized

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WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                              March 2, 2015

                                                  

I’m trying to slow down! Yes, I talked about that last week…and here goes again! If I repeat myself often enough perhaps i’ll start hearing what I’m writing.

I had my moments last week where I remembered my words and fasted from going fast. I sat and pondered at times, did not speed on the ice-covered roads that covered our area, went to bed at decent hours, and even took in a movie with my wife (McFarland).

But there were the other times! I slowed down enough that a cold caught me.

Here’s my challenge this week. Sometimes fasting from going fast isn’t the answers to all the ills and problems. Another challenge for me this week is not just slowing down, it’s also to not pile the plate high with the week’s buffet of things that need to be done.

The excuse that I so often use is that they need to be done! If I don’t do them they won’t get done! As a pastor it’s easy to get whirlpooled into that trap. Every congregation has people within it who think the pastor has all the time in the world and are very free to assign him something else to do. And most pastors are not good at saying no. It’s the Baptist guilt element rising to the surface, that tells us that we can never do enough for Jesus. Baptist pastors have a hard time with those verses in the Bible where Jesus goes off by himself and takes some time to ponder. We can’t relate!

Last week I had one day that was loaded with this, that, and the other…little of which had any eternal value connected to it…and at about 3:00 I realized I had failed to lunch. Perhaps it was the three month old cookie that I consumed at 10:00 that made me forget, but regardless…lunch came and went and I ne’er noticed!

The tyranny of the urgent will always attempt to keep us from caring for our soul!

One good thing that happened last week was a gathering on Wednesday of a pastor’s group that I highly value. We intentionally take time to be still, reflect, pray, and share. It’s called a “Together in Ministry” group, or TIM group, and it causes me to value the sharing with the saints.

Now I come to another week of possibilities and problems, people in need and people in peril. How will I journey through this week? Reflectively? With eyes seeking glimpses of Him? How will I journey through this week with those who I love the most? With the third grandchild due to emerge into this world any day now will I be able to fast from going fast look enough to celebrate a new gift, a new grace?

I’ll let you know…in a while!

Fasting From Being Fast

Posted February 23, 2015 by wordsfromww
Categories: Bible, children, Christianity, Faith, Grace, Humor, Jesus, Pastor, Prayer, Story, The Church, Uncategorized, Youth

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WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                         February 23, 2015

                                            

Some people would say that I don’t have to give up “being fast” for Lent. I’ve naturally migrated to that place of slowness. There’s some truth in that…okay, there’s a lot of truth in that. We used to call it “the painful truth.”

But in this season of Lent I’ve been trying to slow down in regards to other areas of my life. Basketball season is always the most hectic, chaotic time of the year for me as I coach two teams, officiate high school games when I’m available (which, my game assignor, this year informed me was not very often!), lead our church’s Buddy Basketball program, while beginning a new year as pastor of a church that is always challenging.

Going fast is a condition for me…kind of like dandruff! A few years ago I took two weeks off after Easter and on Day 14 I finally was slowing my pace.

So I’m intentionally trying to not be fast in the weeks leading up to Easter. How do you do that? I eat soup!

Say what?

I eat soup! It is hard to eat soup fast, especially tomato or chicken noodle. I can’t keep the noodles in the spoon if I try to eat them fast. Soup is a slow food for me…a reminder…to take my time.

I’m also pausing a few times each day to…do nothing…to just sit. I’ve been reading Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin. One small detail hit me about Abraham Lincoln. He would often sit in a chair in front of the fireplace with his long legs crossed and ponder…think…for long periods of time.

Lord knows, Lincoln had more things to worry about than I do, but he still slowed his pace to just sit for a while.

“Sitting for a while” brings back pictures of days gone by back in Oil Springs, Kentucky, where my grandfather…Papaw Dewey Helton, would sit in the swing on the front porch in the evening and watch the cars go by. There were also a few cows in the pasture across the road to look at, but it was a slow pace…a time to sit and jaw jack, tell inflated stories, and respond with amazement at other fish tales.

Soup and sit. Two things to remind me to not be fast. You might call them “simmering moments.” A good stew always needs some time to simmer.

I realize that there are other people around me in hyper-mode, who want to speed me up. I was officiating one of our Buddy Basketball games for the youngest age group Kindergarten through 2nd Grade). They run up and down the court like excited puppies at play time. I don’t move much during those games. As I said to someone, “I don’t have to run after them, because any moment now they’ll be coming back in this direction.”

I’m seeking to stay…not rush after what to others seems urgent…not rush to judgment.

Let me tell you! It’s hard. There are certain decisions that need to be made quickly, but most are saturated with the urgency of personal agendas.

I’m letting things simmer…eating the chicken noodle soup of life…and just sitting for a while!

Reliving Life

Posted February 16, 2015 by wordsfromww
Categories: children, Christianity, Community, Death, Faith, Humor, Jesus, love, marriage, Parenting, Pastor, Prayer, Story, The Church, Uncategorized, Youth

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WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                        February 16, 2015

                                                  

The needle of my life pushed past the halfway mark a few years ago…unless I live to be 120! Since my chronological age has a six in front of it I spend more than a few moments each day reliving past moments.

Understand that doesn’t mean that I’m constantly reliving those moments- few and far between- when I was hoisting a trophy in the air…or being honored by the Rotary Club for being named “Citizen of the Year”…no, that was a dream.

I seem to relive conversations, talks that stand out for their depth and discovery. As a pastor I remember counseling sessions where I was as stressed out as the confessors. I remember hospital bedside moments where eternity has been anticipated, regrets have been voiced, and hopes have been attached to grim realities.

As a parent I relive some of our kid’s soccer games…David’s high school team winning the state championship; basketball experiences…seeing Kecia nailing four three pointers in a game; Lizi captaining her college cheer squad at football games.

I also relive the boyfriends and girlfriends that graced our homes…sometimes for a while and other times for a moment. Most of the time these “special friends” got kicked to the curb…in a loving Christian way.

I relive special moments…Carol’s surprise 40th birthday party at Mason First Baptist where we drove up to a dark church building, but Carol noticed Lorraine Demorest’s car sitting out front and immediately thought that Lorraine had been killed by an axe murderer while we was practicing hymns on the organ for that coming Sunday.

I relive moments with many of my relatives who have gone on to glory. I think of my Uncle Junior prone to give my leg a pinch if I wasn’t paying attention; my Uncle Bernie’s pipe and delightful laugh; and my Aunt Irene’s taking me to Dairy Queen in celebration of my sixth birthday and allowing me to order a foot-long hot dog, milk shake, and banana split.

I also relive the dark moments and dreaded phone calls. I remember Dave Hart’s early morning phone call that his step-son Gary McClellan had been killed in a car accident; and my wife’s call while I was in the middle of a Deacon’s meeting to say that David, who was two years old at the time, had fallen from our neighbor’s second-floor landing on to a piece of sheet plywood that, thankfully, was laying on top of the asphalt below.

I relive my daughters’ weddings and the overwhelming emotional experience it was for both Carol and me. I’m tearing up as I relive them again right now.

I relive the waiting room experience at Penrose St. Francis Hospital as Kecia was in labor with her second child…and suddenly hearing the cry of a newborn baby a few yards away…and Reagan has been talking ever since then!

We relive life, learn from our mistakes, long to repeat the unforgettable, thank God for the endearing. Every conversation is a gift, another ornament on the tree of my life. Every sunrise is a blessing, every sunset a reminder of the cycle of God’s attentive care.

I pause several times a day to thank God for what has been, the richness of relationships, and the ability to say “Lord, you have blessed me bountifully!”

Mud Prints

Posted February 11, 2015 by wordsfromww
Categories: Bible, children, Christianity, Grace, Humor, Jesus, Pastor, Story, The Church, Uncategorized, Youth

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WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                 February 11, 2015

                                                  

I wear a red Nike shoes. The red stands out in a crowd of short people. They feel comfortable and are about as radical as I ever get. Perhaps that’s why people notice them so much, because they seem like a hood ornament on a guy who drives a seven year old Civic Hybrid.

My Nike’s get good traction, are very light, and easy to spot in my closet. But there’s one thing that bugs me about my pair of “reds.” It’s the bottom of my shoes. They announce where I’ve been, and leave tracks that look like an octopus has taken a stroll across our kitchen floor.

I can’t hide the mud prints! In the crevices of my shoes the dirt takes up temporary residence, and it doesn’t matter how much I stomp on them in the garage I still manage to “hold on” to some freeloaders until I come inside.

I’m sure that many of you are thinking to yourself, “Just take them off when you enter the house!” Sometimes I do, but at other times my common sense, time-efficient mind reminds me that taking them off would mean that I would have to put them back on when I exited again. That would cost me…what, thirty seconds?

And so I track the outdoors to the indoors. In case you are wondering, mud prints on the kitchen floor equal unhappy wife looking at me!

Where we’ve been leaves a trail as we walk to where we’re going. I can’t hide my past path when I stride across the kitchen floor.

There’s numerous stories in the Bible that give us a similar message. David couldn’t hide his adulterous affair with Bathsheba from Nathan. Ananias and Sapphire couldn’t hide their deception and greed from Peter. Jonah couldn’t hide his bitterness for the Ninevites from God. Our behavior and reactions too often give us up. People see the trail of our words that don’t match the footprints of our behavior.

One time quite a while ago I left a public restroom with toilet paper stuck to the bottom of my shoe. Unbeknownst to me I was communicating to everyone who passed me where i had just come from.

Now a days I always check my shoes, especially my red Nike’s, when I leave the john! Unfortunately, I’m not as discerning with our kitchen floor!

Selling The Invaluable With the Replaceable

Posted February 2, 2015 by wordsfromww
Categories: Bible, children, Christianity, Community, Faith, Grace, Jesus, love, Parenting, Pastor, Story, The Church, Uncategorized

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WORDS FROM W.W                                                                         February 2, 2015

                               

There were some really good commercials during the Super Bowl. Loved the tortoise and hare redo by Mercedes. The bouncing blue pill commercial sponsored by Fiat that was creative. The muscle-bound Skittles ad was a hoot as well!

Then there were the ads that tried to sell invaluable experiences and qualities, but would put their product or company as the face of that experience. Four that stood out to me were the Coca-Cola ad where an accidentally spilled Coke into a computer network changed hate into love around the world. Let’s be honest! I like a Coke with a hamburger or popcorn, but Coke is a drink high in sugar that has more negative effects than positive attributes. A Coke late at night will have the result of blessing me with a sleepless night, and when I’m short on sleep I’m grumpy. “A loving person” does not fit my demeanor at those times.

Another ad featured McDonald’s promoting the idea of kind acts and loving behavior. I’m fine with random acts of kindness and letting people know you love them, but McDonald’s does not impress me as Dr. Phil with golden arches. In case you missed it, when you go to a McDonald’s and purchase something there will be random selections where the customer will receive his/her order free if he does a certain act of kindness like call his mom and tell her he loves her. It’s sweet, and I suppose since Mickey D’s can’t promote many examples of a healthy diet a few words of appreciation must atone for the cholesterol hike.

There was a third commercial that could have been sponsored by Promise Keepers. It promoted fatherhood all through the ad with various scenes of dads with their kids. I was expecting Bill McCartney to come on at the end, but instead…Dove for Men was the sponsor. Nice smelling men must make better fathers!

Finally, there was the car company that promoted fatherhood, ironically through a dad who was a professional race car driver…and gone most of the time. But at the end of the commercial he drives up to his son’s school in a new Nissan and all seems well. Amazing how a new car can atone for a dad who is gone most of the time.

Love, happiness, being awesome dads…all good things, but not found in a shampoo bottle, a hamburger wrapper, or a shiny new car with a huge monthly payment. But I’m sure a lot of people bought into it. After all, that’s why companies spend millions of dollars advertising at Super Bowls.

As a pastor I have to take it to my arena! As churches are we sometimes guilty of trying to sell the gospel instead of proclaiming it? There’s a difference. The cross and the events of the crucifixion are hard to sell. They are excruciatingly painful and agonizing. When we try to sell the gospel the cross is rarely mentioned. It’s like the black sheep of the family that no one wants to talk about.

When we proclaim the gospel we tell the story of the love of God that took Jesus to his death, and brought Jesus from the tomb. There’s joy at the end of the story, but pain and suffering is the dominant element of the chapter.

Like “Dove For Men” sometimes churches try to sell the idea that if you come to this place you’ll be better dads. Whereas that sometimes happens, it seems that the church should promote the idea that it will come alongside you on your journey…the low points and the high points; that the church of Jesus consists of broken who recognize that we’re fractured and seeking to be healed and whole.

Let’s be honest! That’s the truth, but there isn’t much shine to it.

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.

 


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