Archive for the ‘Christianity’ category

Starbucks Wisdom

February 7, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                   February 7, 2016

                                     

I did my usual Sunday morning time at Starbucks today. I arrive early and spend about an hour pondering, writing, and, of course, drinking coffee. The young man at the register named Chase greeted me warmly and asked me an unexpected question.

“If someone came to you and asked for a few words of wisdom that they could take with them what would you say?”

Great question…even at 7:00 in the morning! I pondered for a moment and then replied, “Find your purpose!” We had a brief conversation about what that mean, and then a few other people in need of caffeine came through the door.

What would your words of wisdom be? If a young person came to you seeking just a bit of direction for the journey of his life, what would you say?

Would your words focus on working hard? Or would they deal with living life with gusto? Would you bring integrity into your reply? Would it be about your spiritual journey with God?

The words you offer will reveal your priorities. If I went further with my words with Chase and could have offered a few other words to consider I would probably say these things:

“Relationships are more valuable than gold.”

      “The love of God is never terminated.”

      “Don’t settle for happiness. Seek joy!”

      It’s interesting that as I climbed the age ladder “work” became less important to me than relationships, and eternal matters have become more important than the temporary possessions and occurrences. Seeking joy has often gotten replaced by the temptation of happiness.

Words of wisdom, words of experience, words of having lived it.

Yesterday a young man that I’ve known for over thirty years came to visit. He is now 46, married to a great woman, and blessed with two teenage sons. In our hours together he reminded me of conversations we had years ago, and the impact of some words of wisdom I said had upon his life. Honestly, I didn’t remember the conversations, but that isn’t the important thing. The important thing is that he remembered them, and they helped him navigate the waters of his young adult years and into marriage.

The words we say have impact…even when we don’t realize it or remember what we said.

I’m getting a refill and I think I’ll expand my words to Chase as he fill my cup again: Find your purpose for living, not just an excuse for being here.

Have a wise day!

The Revelations of Snow

February 5, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                               February 5, 2016

                                

The eighteen inches of snow that we received this week was beautiful in many ways. Our back deck looks like a winter wonderland. Pike’s Peak is a living postcard!

The snow has also revealed many things..revelations, if you will, of some things we knew already, and some things that are fascinating.

Here’ one! A Jaguar gets just as stuck in eighteen inches of snow as a Ford Taurus. $600 a month car payments do not mean squat to a street with a foot and a half of snow on it. There is not a “premium lane” on our street. Snow is the great equalizer, unless you’re one of those big pick-up trucks.

Here’s another revelation! The first day when school is canceled there is great jubilation amongst students and teachers. Day Two is still greeted with cheering. Snow gear and apparel sits waiting by the door. But by Day Three of school cancellations parents are pulling their hair out, students are lounging on the couch in a semi-comatose state, and teachers are now thinking “We’ll be going to school in July!” When I left our high school gym last night after our basketball games and we were greeted by more snow falling the reaction of parents and students was “NO!”

The most revealing thing about our snow week, however, has been the diminishing value of the U.S. Postal Service. We received mail on Monday, but the mail carrier has not been by since…and today is Friday. What have we missed? The Wednesday advertising paper that has the supermarket weekly specials in it, probably a couple of envelopes from Chase Bank trying to get us to sign up for a new credit card, the weekly AARP ad, and perhaps the utility bill. I’m assuming that the mail might get delivered today, but the snowstorm has shown us that mail delivery is no longer a necessity six days a week. Maybe three!

I’m not moaning here. Our street hasn’t been plowed yet. Eighteen inches of snow have been mashed down to resemble the Iditarod. My nephew in Baltimore couldn’t get his dog to go outside to relieve himself when the East Coast got blasted a couple of weeks ago. I guess our mail carrier looked down our street with similar fear and trembling.

The best revelation from this week was seeing neighbors working together to clear sidewalks and snowplowing driveways. Our neighbor on the corner brought his snowblower all the way up the sidewalk to the house next for to us. Eric, the husband who lives there, is deployed right now. Our corner neighbor was looking out for his family. This morning two other men and I helped push a lady out of a slippery mesh at the corner. A couple of four-wheel drive trucks whizzed by us like we were the underprivileged, but the three of us helped her get out of an unfortunate situation. That’s the best thing about massive amounts of snow. In the midst of no mail delivery and snow cancellations we get the opportunity to experience community.

Loving One Another…Because!

February 1, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                          February 1, 2016

                                   

   “The person who refuses to love doesn’t know the first thing about God, because God IS love- so you can’t know him if you don’t love.” (1 John 4:8, The Message)

Yesterday I worshiped as a part if a congregation that is meeting in an elementary school. I’ve been the basketball coach of the pastor’s daughter for the past two years. The message was about loving one another. The pastor made the point that John was speaking to believers about loving one another.

A powerful element of the message was a video of several believers reading scathing emails that they had received from…OTHER BELIEVERS! The emails condemned the readers of various things from being Republicans, as well as Democrats, having tattoos, wearing skinny jeans as a worship leader, being homeless, being a single parent, and being gay. My heart sunk as I realized I was seeing the faces of the very people who got venomized.

My spirit is still wounded by emails that I’ve received over the years from other believers, from the very people I have been a pastor to. The interesting thing is that I can not remember such communications coming from anyone that I have NOT been the pastor to. The venom has always been from those who say they are Christians.

John connects the hard-to-hear dots: If you spout hate at your brother or sister in the Lord you’re missing a major piece of your Christian identity. In essence, you are half a believer, which makes you a non-believer.

Some may question how I can say such a thing. It’s not me! It’s what John is saying. If a follower of Jesus, who was wounded for out transgressions, seeks to purposely wound his Christian brother or sister…he has missed it! He has misunderstood the gospel, maybe skipped out on the weekly lesson that dealt with love.

Here’s a hard thing to hear! Not everyone who is a part of a church, even a part of ministering in a church, is a follower of Jesus. There are those who believe and practice righteousness, but have not love; there are those who practice a moral life and love, but don’t believe; and there are those who have faith and love, but are morally corrupt. A Christ-follower brings those three elements all together, but you know something? Lacking love is the main disqualifier!

I’m still disturbed by the faces of the wounded I saw yesterday. Disturbed because the disheartening comment is too often true, that Christians are the only people who shoot their wounded.

But Jacob Lied!

January 31, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                           January 31, 2016

                                       

Henry came through the front door with his brief case and the usual end-of-the-day exhaustion.

“Sara, I’m home!”

He heard some stirring in the kitchen, the banging of some pots and pans…which was never a good sign…and then the movement of feet heading his way. Sara entered the hallway with heavy feet and a frown from ear to ear.

“Henry, you’re going to have to have a heart-to-heart with your son. I can’t believe what he did today.”

“What did Tommy do?” asked Henry, his tiredness level suddenly reaching a new depth.

“He cheated on his math test at school today, and then blatantly lied about it to his teacher.”

“What? That’s not like Tommy! Math isn’t his strong suit, but he would never cheat and lie about it.”

“Well, he has started a new trend then! Mrs. Matthews noticed him looking at the paper of the girl he sits in the seat beside him, and his test paper was number for number the same as hers.”

Henry was still trying to comprehend his own flesh-and-blood doing such a thing. Tommy wasn’t the best student, but his fourth grade report card was a mixture of “A’s” and “B’s”. How could this be? There had to be some kind of misunderstanding going on here. He called for Tommy, who had been confined to quarters since he got home from school. A few seconds later the soft steps of socks on carpet came down the stairs, and a boy with a puppy dog face slinked into the room.

“Tommy, is it true what your mom just told me? Did you cheat on your math test today and then lie about it?”

“Yes, Dad,” he whispered.

“I’m in shock. What would ever give you the idea to do such a thing?” Henry was trying to keep it together, but his mind was racing ahead to what the punishment should be…grounding until Tommy turned eighteen…no TV for a year…send him away to military boarding school…the options were limitless.

“It was in the Bible.”

“What did you say?”

“I read it in the Bible.”

“Cheating on math tests is in the Bible?”

“Not math tests, but it’s in there. I was reading about Jacob last night, and how he cheated his brother out of his birthright, and then he lied to his father. It’s right there.”

“What?” Henry asked with a high level of disbelief.

“Don’t you remember? His mom had him put some hairy stuff on his arms and his dad touched them, asked him if he was really Jacob, and he said yes. And then he got his father’s blessing!”

Henry could feel the words rising up within him. He tried to hold back, but he couldn’t stop them from emerging from his lips. “That’s different!”

A moment of uncomfortable silence ensued. Tommy looked confused and his dad suddenly was feeling uncomfortable about this conversation.

“I don’t understand. How was what Jacob did different from what I did?”

“It was a different time and place…and…ahhh…people didn’t know any better…and his brother deserved it…and…ahhh…it’s just how it was and things are different now.”

Henry recognized that there was an “No Outlet” sign on this path he had taken. Quite honestly, he didn’t understand the “Jacob Blessing” story either, and he knew he had cornered by his son’s confusion. It was time to own up to it!

“Tommy, here’s the truth! I don’t fully understand that story in the Bible. I can’t say it was right for Jacob to cheat and lie back then, and it’s wrong for you to cheat and lie today. All I know is that it’s not the right thing for you to do, and I think deep down you probably know that as well.”

Tommy looked at the carpet for a few moments and said, “Yes…I kind of knew it wasn’t the right thing to do.”

“That’s good to hear, because I’m pretty sure, most of the time, you can figure out what the right thing to do is.”

“You’re right, Dad!”

“And even though Jacob cheated and lied and received his father’s blessing, his actions had some consequences later on.”

They looked at one another for a moment and Henry then took a step towards his son and placed his hand on his shoulder. “I doubt that Mrs. Matthews is going to give you a pass on this one just because you know the story of Jacob, but I’m going to show you some grace. In regards to Mrs. Matthews I want you to go to her tomorrow morning and apologize for what you did. Tell her you know it wasn’t right and you want to make things right from now on.”

“Okay!” He put his arms around his dad’s mid-section and hugged him and said, “Thanks, Dad!”

“I love you, son!”

“Love you too, Dad!”

Encouraging Encouragement

January 28, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                         January 28, 2016

                            

A  parent of one of our basketball players paid our coaching staff a great compliment last night. He didn’t say it trying to get more game time minutes for his daughter, or because there was a lull in the conversation. He simply walked up to us as our practice was about to start and told us how much he appreciated the three of us as coaches.

Then he went on to say that his level of respect for us had risen even more as he has watched the actions and antics of some of the other coaches we’ve encountered this season. In other words, in his eyes we look even better as he has watched coaches of other teams relate to their players.

We thanked him for his words of encouragement. Although my Junior Varsity girls’ team has been successful in the final outcome of our games most of the time this season, it has been a challenging season in other ways. For example, having fifteen players on the team means the cutting up of the playing time in ways that communicate that each of them is valued. That’s a challenge because it breaks down to less than eleven minutes of playing time for each player, if they all play equally.

His words were timely and uplifting.

Each of us as coaches look forward to coming to practice each day, and spending time with our players. We seek to teach, explain, evaluate, analyze, improve player skills and game understanding…and encourage. This season our high school has been dealing with the death of a student known by everyone. In the midst of practice our varsity coach several times has gone to the side with a couple of girls who are struggling with the loss…dealing with the grief. It’s encouraging to have someone listen willingly to your sorrow.

This dad, whose daughter was impacted by the death, understood the extra role that we have coaches have taken on this season. Not counselors, but rather listeners of pain and confusion…and his words, once again encouraged us.

All of us desire encouragement, but encouraging encouragement is a concept that seldom occurs to us. It comes out in the New Testament. Paul wrote to the Christ-followers in Thessalonica and instructed them with the words “Therefore encourage each and build each other up…”, and then he finishes the sentence with the clarifier “…just as in fact you are doing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:11) Encouragement gets noticed and remembered.

I would like to have met a man named Barnabas, who appears in the Book of Acts. Acts 4:36 tells us that his real name was Joseph, and that he was a Levite from Cyprus, but the apostles referred to him as Barnabas. It was his nickname, kind of like Smiley or Buck. His nickname meant “son of encouragement.”  When the apostles, and others, were with him they saw that being encouraging was what defined him. Add he traveled around with the Apostle Paul I’m sure his encouraging words were often the difference between Paul throwing in the towel or persevering.

Encouraging encouragement. The words of a parent made me ponder how I might build some young people up today with just a few brief conversations on what they are doing well.

Trends and Leadings

January 27, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                      January 27, 2016

                                       

Sunday evening, around 7:00, Carol and I entered the Target store a mile from where we live. We went there to find a certain item, but left with five…none of which qualified to be the one item we were looking for. As we entered the store, squarely in the middle of the aisle was an enormous rack of Denver Broncos t-shirts. Less than three hours after the team’s AFC title game victory Target latched on to a fan frenzy. I doubt that Target stores in the other 31 NFL cities had Broncos shirts front and center on Sunday. Lord knows Boston didn’t!

Target identified a trend…”Bronco-mania”…and made it a part of their store identity, at least for a few weeks. Most assuredly, they will sell hundreds of shirts to people who are drawn to orange and blue color combinations like bugs to a zapper!

Trends are a part of our culture. Remember bell bottom jeans? Remember eight-track tapes? Those of us who are old enough…bought into those trends. Many of us, although we begrudgingly admit it now, had “pet rocks!” Every Sunday morning when I open the newspaper there is a thick pile of advertisements that trumpet what the trends are.

People look for trends and follow. I’m sitting in a Starbucks right now writing this. When I think of coffee I now think of Starbucks, because I’m a “coffee snob.” I walk right past the  Folger’s in the supermarket, even though it is much cheaper, and head for the Pike Place. Folger’s is an antiquated trend from my parents’ day.

In essence, trends come and go like the wind. Trends lead us, but also mis-lead us.

How often has the church bought into a trend? Although most churches have bought into the trend of brewing better coffee, I’m not really talking about dark roast, lattes’, and decaf now.

For instance, we bought into the trend of convenience and started having worship services on Saturday night. I’ve got nothing against Saturday night services, but the idea behind them was to give people more choices in order to get them in church. Interestingly enough, despite more options worship attendance has dropped. That is, the typical church member attends less often than he/she did a few years ago. Making it convenient does not necessarily make it a driven need for a person’s life.

Disneyland is seen as being a place that kids become starry-eyed about. A lot of churches bought into that trend and tried to make their children’s ministry a Disneyland with Jesus. I’m sure that there has been some success in various places with that, but there has also been places where kids who come each and every week come out of that time in their life still fairly ignorant of the Bible. As their parents sought meaning in the worship gathering their kids were being entertained and slightly discipled in their age group gatherings.

I sound like a cynic! In some ways I am. From my cold perch it seems that the church has great confusion when it tries to distinguish between a leading of God and a trend of culture. When Jesus taught his disciples how to pray he could have been paraphrased with the words “Lead us not into the temptations of being trendy, and deliver us from evil.” Scripture talks quite often about someone being led by the Spirit. Leadings are not always events that lead to happiness either. Jesus was led to the cross by the leading of his Father. Ultimately, that pain became our gain.

I’m wondering if there are more leadings outside of the church rather than inside the church. Let me rephrase that! Could it be that God is leading his people outside the walls more than leading them to do something trendy inside the walls?

Mission has always been grounded in the leadings of the Lord. Programs, however, get joined at the hip with trends.

Perhaps this year…2016…could be a year that we pray for leadings…and stirrings…even a whisper!

Redeeming The Time

January 26, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                      January 25, 2016

                                 

“…making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil.” (Ephesians 5:16)

Time has a way of getting away from us. It seems so plentiful and then it suddenly is gone. I’m sure all of us have come to the end of a day and said words like, “Where did this day go?” or, with a sense of frustration, “I had all this time today and I got nothing done!”

I heard a message in worship this past Sunday morning about the grasp that “Chronos time” has on our lives. That is, the kind of time that drives our schedules…tasks to get completed by this afternoon, meetings to attend tonight, places to be early in the morning, a limited amount of time to drive from here to there. “Chronos time” is the calendar I now keep on my cell phone that tells me I have the car to take in for service at 10:00, a granddaughter to pick up at 12:00, and a basketball game to coach at 5:30.

That kind of time isn’t a bad thing. It just is! It becomes a detriment if it squeezes out that other kind of time known as “kairos.”

“Kairos time” isn’t determined by a clock. In fact, it is almost like time is standing still, a moment or a day when the numbers on my watch are inconsequential. It’s that “God moment” that rises to the top of all the events of this day and is remembered for years to come. “Kairos time” is a sunrise that illuminates the front of Pike’s Peak in a few glorious moments. It’s that scripture passage that your mind becomes focused on that burns a new understanding into your soul.

“Chronos time” will always be a major part of our lives. The world revolves around it. But “kairos time” gives us meaning and depth.

I’m in my twenty-sixth day of retirement. The pastor who gave Sunday’s message didn’t realize that it was extremely pertinent to where I am in this leg of my life journey. I realize that most of my life has been focused on schedules and details. This month is the beginning of a unique opportunity to redeem the time.

And yet, it can so easily slip away simply into a new version of “chronos time!” I could become a couch potato and watch episode after episode of “Criminal Minds.” I could hang out at Target (Why???), or play one of the multitude of Play Station 2 games that I have never played. (Yes, I said Play Station 2! I’ve had it for four years and turned the power on twice!)

You would think that being a pastor would mean that “kairos time” dominated my schedule, but it often evaded me as the daily duties invaded me.

This month I’m perhaps just a little more cognizant of the whisper of the Father in the slowing of the pace.

Redeem the time! Listen closely! Let special moments simmer!


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