Archive for the ‘Christianity’ category

Coffee With Jesus…Fifth Cup

July 19, 2014

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                    July 19, 2014

 

                                   

 

I brought a clean coffee cup with me today to drink some java with Jesus. I have a heavy population of coffee cups in my life. Today’s mug-of-the-day features a Far Side cartoon on the outside that reminds me of the funnier side of life.

“I like your coffee mug,” Jesus says as we sit down.

‘It’s a Far Side cartoon!”

“Yes…I can see that!”

“And you like it?”

“Why wouldn’t I?”

“Because Far Sides can sometimes be a little…what’s the word…borderline irreverent.”

“That’s two words, and I usually laugh out loud at Far Sides, or, what’s the term? LOL!”

“OMG! Jesus using social media terms!”

“Excuse me, Billy Dean! But people take themselves too seriously too often. Perhaps there needs to be more LOL moments in people’s lives. The last time we chatted we talked about what makes your soul sing. My guess is that laughter is music for your soul.”

“Yes, usually! Not laughter at the expense of someone else, but laughter that comes out of life moments.”

“Far Side moments, so to speak.”

“Exactly! Moments that give me a glimpse that I’m still child-like.”

“Being reminded that you are a child of God.”

“I don’t want to say I’m totally sure on this one, but I’d like to think God has a sense of humor.”

“Why would you think he doesn’t?”

“Because he’s God!”

“He created aardvarks, didn’t he?”

“Good point.”

“…and prune juice!”

“Another good point. But prune juice is good for you.”

“But prune juice is disgusting…even to me.”

“But it shows that God has a sense of humor?”

“Hey, there’s a lot of jokes related to prune juice.”

“As long as you’re not the one drinking it!” I look down at my coffee mixture. I would never have thought that I’d be talking to Jesus about Far Side cartoons and prune juice.

“Remember when I asked that question back a few cups of coffee ago…how is it with your soul?” I give a nod of recognition. “A soul that echoes that it is well is a soul that allows itself to laugh.”

“Let me understand this a little bit, because you’re not necessarily talking about an audible chuckle or uncontrollable laughter.”

“Sometimes they emerge in those ways, but I’m talking about when you allow the presence of the Holy to delight you. Does that ever happen?”

“To use an analogy, kind of like when a Far Side cartoon grabs you for a moment. It’s a brief experience in…surprise.”

“Ahhh…surprise! That’s an interesting word to use to describe it. There was a book written a number of years ago entitled Surprised By Joy.”

“C.S. Lewis.”

“Yes. It seems that our conversation has brought us back a ways to some of the experiences of his life.”

“It’s quicker to summarize a far Side cartoon than a book, Jesus.”

“Perhaps the laughter of the soul is not so much about quickness as it is about contemplation.”

“Kind of like a cup of coffee, not to be gulped, but rather sipped.”

“Or a fine glass of water that’s been turned into wine!”

“As opposed to a glass of prune juice that you want to get down as quickly as possible.”

“A disturbing image for the mind, Bill!”

 

          TO BE CONTINUED

Coffee With Jesus…Fourth Cup

July 16, 2014

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                        July 15, 2014

 

                             

 

I look at Jesus for a second before returning my focus to the refilled cup in front of me. “It feels funny to be drinking coffee in front of the Son of Man while you remain caffeine free.”

“I don’t mind. I’m not a big coffee drinker. Probably goes back to the brief time I spent drinking Egyptian coffee. That brew could put hair on the Holy Ghost!”

“Does the Holy Spirit have hair?”

“It was simply an expression of exaggeration, Bill. I have been known to think big.”

“I guess so.”

“Think of the feeding of the 5,000. Why twelve baskets of leftovers…ever ask yourself that question?”

“Because of the twelves tribes of Israel?”

“Some think that, but I simply wanted to over-do it because the people, to begin with, couldn’t imagine God supplying their needs…let alone having stuff leftover.”

“So…back to this joy thing we were talking about…you asked me why I desired a joyous soul?”

“Yes, I believe I did say something like that.”

“I guess I struggling to find an answer. Is it because that’s what we were always taught in Sunday School…you know the song, “The joy of the Lord is my strength…”

“Yes, I’m familiar with it. Although when your congregation sings it my teeth chatter.”

“Why so?”

“They are a little rhythm impaired on the clapping.

“Jesus, we’re Baptists. Anything resembling dancing or music with a beat, we’re a little off…like a toddler trying to walk.”

“Let me ask you this. Do you think having a joyous soul is like eating fruits and vegetables- something that you’re told to to because it’s healthy?”

“No…I don’t think so.”

“So…going back to the question…why do you desire a joyous soul?”

“I was just asking you to help me figure that out. You’re the know-it-all at this table.”

“You’re the one who can begin to discover the answer.”

“I think…I think it was part of God’s design in our creation. I think he wants me to live out of a soul that is joyous. Even though I often wonder why he allows certain things to occur and other things to not be I don’t believe he desires for us to live out of a bitter or sorrowful soul.”

“Is it something you have to convince yourself of each day? In other words, it isn’t natural for you to know that your soul is joyous?”

“That’s a tough question, but “yes”, I think I have to convince myself each day. Perhaps it’s because the cynicism of the world has invaded my soul and weakened it to my desire for the things of God.”

“Fallenness leaves bruises, cuts, and wounds.”

“That’s for sure.”

“There’s another song that comes to mind…and your congregation actually sings it well. Some of the words include “Then sings my soul…how great thou art!”

“Yes, that’s a great hymn that seems to draw in the whole of me.”

“Perhaps, like music, desiring a joyous soul is comparable to finding that new song that your “whole” self can sing.”

“Does this mean learning to play the guitar?”

“No…no! I’m using music only as an analogy. It’s about what causes your soul to sing.”

“A topic for another cup?”

“Yes. You sip, I’ll observe.”

TO BE CONTINUED

Coffee With Jesus…Third Cup

July 11, 2014

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                   July 11, 2014

 

                                       “Coffee With Jesus…Third Cup”

 

“Refill?”

“Why not? Helps the pain get swallowed.”

“Let’s talk about joy.”

The shift startles me for a moment. The look I give Jesus reveals my surprise.

“It’s okay to experience joy, you know.”

“I know…I know, it’s just that it doesn’t rise to the surface of conversation very often. There always seems to be a problem to focus on, a difficulty to voice concern about, someone’s disgruntlement.”

“Well…let’s talk about joy!”

“I don’t know where to start.”

“How do you experience joy? Let’s start with that.”

“All you can eat jumbo shrimp.”

“Come on! You can do better than that.”

“How so?”

“That’s a craving you have produced by your taste buds. Let’s get to joy.”

“Jesus, you make it so difficult.”

“…when you prefer it to be easy?”

I pause. “Yes, probably so.”

“Most of life is spent “taking it easy”, so to speak.”

“What brings me joy…my kids, my grandkids, my wife, and even a 93 year old man named Rex.”

“What about them brings you joy?”

“The things they say, the things they do.”

“Don’t other people their ages say and do the same things?”

“I’m sure they do.”

“So perhaps the things they say and do are a ripple effect of what brings you joy. The joy comes from the relationships you have with them.”

“I suppose so.”

“Could it be that the relational joy you experience with them might simply be a delightful shadow of the joy your soul experiences when it is conversing with our heavenly father?”

“I’ll have to take a sip of coffee and think about that one.”

“Understand what I’m saying. My father created you and everyone else to be relational. The delight you experience when your grandkids make you chuckle is a small expression…and experience…of the joy that echoes out of your intimacy with God.”

“Then why don’t people talk about that more? Why do most of my conversations, especially in church, deal with solving problems, budget demands, and people’s warped view on life?”

“You live in a world of pessimists who, given the choice…to use a Biblical phrase, would choose to return to Egypt rather than go forward into a promised future.”

“Because they were familiar with Egypt.”

“ For some people history looks more glorious the further away you travel from it.”

“So how do I help others focus more on joy than sorrow?”

“This isn’t another “how to” problem to add to the agenda.”

“Okay, how should I phrase the question then?”

“Ahhh…another “how to” question rephrased slightly!”

“Sorry…it comes from living in a age of manuals, and “Dummy Guides.”

“Let me encourage you to begin with you!”

“How so…I mean, explain!”

“Instead of worrying about others, which as a pastor you’re ingrained to do, what about yourself? Why would you desire a joyous soul?”

 

TO BE CONTINUED

Coffee With Jesus…Second Cup

July 10, 2014

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                       July 10, 2014

 

                                   

 

I stare at the coffee that has been altered with a dose of cream and two sugars. I admit to myself that I prefer my cup of coffee to be this color rather than the original pouring of brew.

“You’re right!” I whisper across the table to Jesus. “When it comes to coffee I don’t think of it in any other way than with the add-ins…the disguises, as you say.”

“How easy it is for that to be interpreted as the norm. Likewise it is easy…perhaps inevitable, for things of the soul to get mixed in with the distractions of life to the point where a person can’t distinguish between the two.”

“Help me understand!”

“For instance, on the sleeve of your coffee cup there is an advertisement for a kind of tea. The woman who is promoting the tea, it says, is inviting people to take a few moments to pause and reflect each day. Notice that there is even a web site to go to. Do you see the name of the web site?”

“SteepYourSoul.com!”

“So suddenly drinking a cup of tea gets equated with the caring of your soul.”

“Perhaps it’s some powerful tea.”

“And many people will believe it. As they sip it they will assume that it is satisfying their souls.”

“I sometimes feel that way about church on Sunday.”

“Say a little more.”

“Don’t get me wrong! It’s not bad, but sometimes…many times…my soul doesn’t get touched, poked, or breathed into.”

“Aren’t you the pastor?”

“Yes! Sad, isn’t it?”

“Why do you think that is?”

“Back to the interrogation questions again, are we?”

“Just helping you discover again.”

“I think…I think it’s perhaps because we confuse the cream for the coffee. It’s getting back to that idea of knowing what the essence of something is and what are the disguises.”

“Keep going.”

“Come on! You’re Jesus! I’m just telling you what you already know.”

“And I appreciate it.”

“So most of the things that I lead the congregation in doing in worship dance around the King…without ever dancing with the King. I don’t know if that makes sense or not.”

“I love your use of images to explain what is hard to verbalize. Staying with that image, perhaps dancing with the King is too intimidating because the dancer is afraid she will step on the King’s toes.”

“Dancing from a distance.”

“Dancing around the purpose, without dancing with the purpose.”

“I often feel guilty because…I’m leading the dancing around the purpose.”

“That’s quite a burden to shoulder.”

“And you know about carrying burdens.”

“Let me suggest that you let me carry that one, also.”

“I’m not very good about surrendering.”

“Not many people are.”

 

TO BE CONTINUED

Coffee With Jesus

July 9, 2014

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                    July 9, 2014

 

                                       

 

   The steam rose from the mug of coffee and disappeared in the air. I sat facing him and wondering how our conversation would flow.

“I was surprised you would meet me here, Lord.”

“You can call me Jesus. I don’t mind. In fact, I think I prefer it.”

“Oh…well…okay…Jesus. That sounds a little strange, but I’ll try to get used to it.”

“Would you prefer that I call you Bill…or Subject?”

“Subject?”

“The other end of the spectrum from Lord.”

“Bill is fine.”

“So Bill, what’s going on in your life?”

“A lot…church work…our thirty-fifth wedding anniversary coming up…grandkids…just a lot of stuff.”

“How is it with your soul?”

“What…my soul…that’s a hard question to answer. It would be easier to start with something simpler, like whether or not I think the Reds will make the playoffs in baseball this season?”

“Something that doesn’t dig as deep?”

“Something less painful.”

“Is talking about your soul a painful topic to explore?”

“Yes.”

“Why?”

“I’m a pastor. Like the song, it is always suppose to be well with my soul.”

“But it isn’t.”

“No. Sometimes it’s like steam rising from the cup, inviting and comforting; but other times there is no steam left. The lukewarmness penetrates to my bones.”

“Why do you think that is?”

“Jesus, you know. Why do I even have to tell you?”

“So you can discover what you are afraid to say.”

“That much of my life feels like a playground merry-go-round…that is always moving but never going anywhere.”

“That’s a powerful image. What is the picture that you wish your life would show?”

“I don’t know. It’s easier to describe how it is than what it should be.”

“Why do you think that is?”

“Didn’t you just ask me that question thirty seconds ago?”

“And you started to answer it.”

“I guess it goes back to this cup of coffee. I’ve always had my coffee with cream and sugar. I add enough of each to the point that I miss the essence of what gets poured in the mug first…the coffee. I’m guessing that my soul gets disguised with other “stuff’ to the point that I don’t know how it is with it.”

“Wearing disguises protects us from what we’re afraid to find.”

 

                               TO BE CONTINUED

Painfully Alone In Our Thoughts

July 7, 2014

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                       July 7, 2014

 

                                  

 

Recently released findings from a University of Virginia psychologist indicates that most people are extremely uncomfortable being alone with their thoughts. Tim Wilson recruited volunteers for the research- mostly college students-  from a church and a farmer’s market. Each person was placed in an undecorated room and asked to be alone with their thoughts for fifteen minutes. Many of the participants admitted afterwards that they had cheated during the time frame and checked their cell phones or listened to music.

After an initial fifteen minute period participants were asked to do another fifteen minutes, but this time they were given an out. They were hooked up to an electric shock. If at sometime during the fifteen minutes they wanted to be done with being alone with their thoughts they could self-administer the electric shock to themselves and they would be done. Of the participants “67%” of the men went for the electric shock rather than be alone with their thoughts. of the women 25% administered the shock.

Amazing, that so many would choose the pain of an electric shock over the uncomfortableness of being alone with their thoughts.

It also may say something about our reluctance to seek quiet. Quiet threatens, so we “self-medicate” ourselves with music, social connectedness, and cell phones. Think about it! A traumatic experience for many people is having their cell phone broken and having to go through a full day without it. As I’m writing this I’m listening to music on Pandora to help me focus.

How did our grandparents ever make it? They must have had to hum a lot!

For me as a Christ-follower there are other implications. How will I hear the whisper of the holy if it chooses to not come through my headphones? How will I see the burning bush if it doesn’t come through a lap top screen?

This is a quandry, a challenge, and an opportunity for me. I’m at the beginning of a month-long study leave. To call it quiet time would be too threatening, and, to be honest, not as productive-sounding. Not many people see a month of quiet reflection as being valuable.

Listen! I’m not necessarily comfortable with it either. If the button for the electric shock we close at hand I would might it numerous times.

I’ve come to believe, however, that I serve a God of quiet moments in a world of noise. It is often in the silence that he entertains and tames my thoughts, and reigns in my tendency to race forward like a wild pony.

Crushing the Sermon

July 2, 2014

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                   July 2, 2014

 

                                   

 

I’m a pastor.

I’m suppose to be humble.

Last week a young guy from my church who makes me laugh in a good way asked me the question, “Do you ever come home on Sunday afternoon after church and pump your fists as you shout ‘I crushed that sermon today?’ Do you ever say ‘I was awesome?’”

    Yes, that happens all the time! And then my wife says, “And honey! That second point was off the charts!”

And then I dance around our kitchen like an NFL wide receiver who has just scored a touchdown…taking a Sharpie out of my suit coat pocket and signing the bulletin with it!

And then my wife falls down in front of me in recognition of my pastoral celebrity status, and tells me how blessed she is to be married to such an awesome sermonizer!

I relive the message highlights the rest of that day, and several times during the day I remind the rest of the family that “I was money” that morning!

I call my dad and tell him how Jesus was giving me high-fives that afternoon in the nap dream I had.

I put my “Orange Crush” jersey on with the number “1” on the back with a finger pointing heavenward, and my “playing name above it “Rev. Crush!”

“I crushed it, God!”

Oh, going back to the question my young friend asked me at the beginning: Do I ever come home from church and exclaim “I crushed the sermon today?”

 

The answer is “no”…and thus none of the other things I wrote above occurred as well!

I just come home and start getting ready for the next Sunday. After all, I’m a pastor. I’m suppose to be humble.

And I’ll admit there’s been a few Sundays where I’m come home and said “I crashed the sermon today!”

Church Softball League

June 21, 2014

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                     June 20, 2014

 

                                     

 

Depending on who you talked to God was in it or grieved by it!

The Independent Church Softball League was canceled after the sixth week of the  season. Some said it was long overdue; others said it was a sign of secular humanism’s takeover of the world. Y2K was linked to it by some since most churches are about twenty years behind the times anyway.

It started with the Freewill Baptist Church Flames, who protested the fact that the Brethren Church Brethren were permitting a woman to play on their team. The Flames did not believe freedom extended to the opposite gender when it came to church softball. It did seem kind of odd that the Brethren would be the only team to have a female put a glove on.

The disagreements between league congregations didn’t end there. Torrential rains canceled all games during the second and third weeks of the season. It was either forget about them or plan for a few to be made on Wednesday night. The Apostolic Holiness Church could not allow that to happen. Many in their church believed that Jesus was going to come back soon…and it would probably be during their Wednesday night prayer meeting. Not many from their softball team attended the prayer meeting, but if Jesus did return on a Wednesday night, and they happened to be playing softball they were certain there would be eternal consequences. The Nazarenes weren’t too high on the idea either, but their make-up game was to be against Mercy Bible Church who hadn’t won a game since Jesus was here the first time. The Nazarenes couldn’t let a sure win slip through their fingers, all because of it being a Wednesday night.

And then there were the Independent Irregular Baptist Church, who no one much cared for. They voted not to let a new church join the league because several of the players had hair that came almost to their shoulders. They forfeited their game against the long hairs rather than be tainted by the association. Brother Rice of the Irregulars stated that long hair was the working of the devil, getting men to take on feminine characteristics. To quote him: “You let one little thing pass, and pretty soon a tidal wave of paganism starts arriving every Sunday to the church.” The manager of Mercy said he thought Brother Rice was splitting hairs.

The final straw of dissension amongst the league’s members was when a visiting evangelist for the church of the Flames was asked by his hosting church to give the prayer before their game with the Second Street Wesleyan Church team, and he preceded to pray that the Wesleyans would turn away from their wicked ways and be saved.

After long loud debate and accusations the league disbanded. Some of the best players from amongst the teams got together and made a new team that was sponsored by Rosie’s Bar and Grill and played in the City Tavern League. Most of them rediscovered that playing the game is fun!

Dressing Up A Pastor as a Princess or Yoda

June 10, 2014

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                        June 10, 2014

 

                           

 

It’s Vacation Bible School week at the church I pastor, an experience in contained hyperactivity. Somehow I got roped into being the focus of the kids bringing their coins and dollars bills to support the mission cause of the week- buying chickens for farmers for the southeast African country of Burundi. The Evangelical Free Baptist Church of Burundi is coordinating this project to help raise people out of poverty.

It’s a great cause, seeking to give farmers a starting point in establishing an ongoing more dependable income and living.

But…as I said, somehow I got roped into being the focus. There are two glass jars at the front of our sanctuary where we begin the VBS gathering each day. One glass jar has a name plate underneath it that says “Yoda”, and the other jar has a name plate that says “Princess”.

At the end of our VBS week the money will be counted and which ever jar has the most money…that is what I will have to dress up as!

What a contrast! Yoda or a princess…and not just an princess, mind you! As the week has progressed the princess has now become Anna from the movie “Frozen”, which I have not seen, but my three year old granddaughter has the words to all the songs memorized for.

And now I am to sing “Let It Go!”

Being Yoda would be a lot easier. After all, I look a lot more like him and am just slightly taller in height.

The campers have been scurrying to put their coins and one dollar bills in the princess jar. I countered today with a twenty dollar bill for Yoda. It looks like this is going to be an expensive week if I manage to be “Yodaized!”

Excited kids are running up to me with their costume suggestions…for a princess! I’m afraid glitter is in my near future!

There will be several thankful farmers in Burundi who will have no clue what it cost me for them to raise chickens.

And I guess I’m okay with that…although I’m bringing two twenty’s with me tomorrow !

Dr. Anne

June 10, 2014

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                        June 9, 2014

 

                                              

 

She greeted us with a smile. The smile arrived shortly after her walker did. Anne was her name, and she had realized quite a while ago that she couldn’t do the gardening, weeding, and outdoor grooming that she had done for decades. So she called us.

Three of our neighborhood churches join volunteer help together on a Saturday in the Fall and a Saturday in the Spring to help some of our neighborhoods out. Most of them are elderly or disabled in some way.

That’s how we met Anne. A door-to-door offer to help with simple tasks around the houses of the community had resulted in her call, so we went.

As our work team trimmed bushes and pulled weeds Anne engaged us in conversation. She leaned on her walker as she pointed out certain things to our crew members.

Sometimes we assume things about the people we meet. We see their inability to do certain things and we take a mental leap in thinking that they were never able to do much of anything.

We may have thought that about Anne, until she began sharing life experiences. She holds a doctorate in education. She is extremely well-read, and familiar enough with current events and politics to debate the person she is talking with.

Life has dealt her some hard blows, including multiple hip surgeries and the inability to stand but just for a few moments.

Perhaps that’s why she was so grateful for our help. Her backyard was filled with numerous kinds of plants, bushes, and flowers, but it was obvious that its glorious seasons had passed. Anne’s sadness about that was easily sensed, but there were new flowers roaming in her yard for a few hours. Some were Presbyterian, some Mennonite, and some American Baptist.

There are people who thank you because it’s the polite thing to do, and then there are people who thank you because they are filled with heart-felt gratitude.

Dr. Anne fell into the later category. We were blessed for having met her.


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