Archive for June 2009

June 24, 2009

WORDS FROM W.W. June 23, 2009
“Sometimes the Student, Sometimes the Teacher, Always The Learner”

Recently I was at a camp for basketball officials. We don’t stand around a campfire late at night singing “Kum Ba Yah”, but we also don’t have to eat camp food. This camp is about learning what to do to elevate your basketball officiating. (One of the instructors reads my blog each week…and he’s Methodist! According to a line in the film A River Runs Through It, a Methodist is just a Baptist who can read!)
At this camp I’m able to hear some focused critiquing of how I officiate certain situations in a basketball game; how to not get myself into a fix; what coaches look for in terms of consistency in officials; what the different philosophies of officiating are, and on and on and on.
I’m a student in these situations as I edge towards being a senior official.
But I also find that I am now increasingly a teacher! As I head towards my tenth season of blowing whistle I find the number of times that I am with someone who is less experienced being more than the times I am with someone with more experience. It occurred to me at the camp that many of the things that I have been taught I’m now teaching newer officials.
It’s not a heady moment. It is rather a moment of awakening. I’ve crossed, ever so slightly, to the side of teacher.
It’s something very few of us think about. Who knows when the transition happened? It’s not as obvious as crossing the state line and being welcomed to Kansas. It just suddenly hits you that it’s happened.
And then you recognize that this transition carries with it new responsibilities. People look to you for guidance. They look to you for a word of clarification or instruction. They look…up to you! Being a teacher or a mentor can’t be shrugged off as an every other Saturday occupation, or even something I am when I feel like it! It’s an opportunity that is.
In some situations I am a student, and some situations I am a teacher, but I am always the learner. There is no point this side of glory where “I have arrived”. I am always learning.
From my point of view, a lot of people stop learning at some point in their life, but also they no longer seek to be a student nor a teacher. They enter and become accustomed to a sort of living lukewarmness that just is. Life no longer fascinates them. I believe that is one of the greatest tragedies, equal to someone having the resources to help another in need but avoiding it with committed apathy. When someone becomes a “drop-out of learning”, there life becomes a wasteland of nothingness.
Still a student; still a teacher; always the learner.

June 19, 2009

WORDS FROM WW June 18, 2009
“Conveying Our Bad Side”
Las Vegas has a pretty effective, as well as sleazy, ad campaign that uses the catch phrase “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.” The idea is that you can come to “Sin City,” get caught up in some activities that you wouldn’t dare be involved in back home, and word of those activities will never leak out or back . . . to your bosses, spouses, or kids. Vegas is promoted as being a place where you can allow your “bad side” to live freely before returning to the real world.
Conveying our bad side has never been so popular! Taking care of our cravings has climbed the list of what seems to be acceptable behavior. I realize that there are many as well who try to hide their addictions and obsessions, and therefore don’t live authentically. That’s another situation for another article. “Bad sides,” however, in many people’s eyes are in!
But there’s a catch! What seems cool for the moment is beginning to have repercussions a little later on. For instance, employers are starting to ask potential new employees whether or not there is anything on their social networking communications (MySpace, Facebook, etc.) that shows bad decisions or inappropriate conversations. I’ve been amazed at some of the communications and photos that people put on Facebook. In other words, are there evidences of our “bad side” that could cause embarrassment to the employer down the road? Even “sexting” decisions are coming back to haunt young adults.
A report that came out last week from the U.S. National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism said that binge drinking in on the rise amongst college students. Dr. Marc Galanter of the New York University School of Medicine says, “The heavy drinking during college not only results in severe consequences at that time, but it also primes college students for later alcohol addiction. Heavier drinking at this age is a predictor of later alcoholism and is likely a major causative factor.”
During the college years, however, throwing down a few beers is conveyed as being the natural thing to do.
I think we’ve come to that point in our “freed” civilization where exhibiting a bad side is applauded and high-fived. It’s affirmed in the immediate without regard to the future.
Which brings me to another disturbing question! Is it becoming more acceptable, or should I say more encouraged, to promote one’s bad side than it is to be a person of high values and morals? Don’t misunderstand my question here. None of us are without fault. We all have checkered pasts and errors in judgment in the present, but are our errors being lifted up just short of exalted? I’m as “bad” as anyone else, but I guess I don’t trumpet it as a sign that I’ve arrived. Is “being a person of faith” something that now comes toward the bottom of a resume in small font? I fear that it is. The Bible talks a lot about persistence and perseverance. These days perseverance gets applauded in the Olympics and also the two-minute human interest stories at the end of the nightly news. It rarely makes the cut in the daily tough decisions of a person’s life.
We’re edging closer and closer to being a society that thinks it’s cool to live on the edge.
Speaking of edges and ledges and mountain tops, I think I’d like to write a book on how Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount might relate on a culture focused on our “bad side.” The problem is that it might show up at Barnes and Noble in the “humor” section . . . even if it wouldn’t be intended for that!
Pastor Bill
Highland Park Baptist Church

June 11, 2009

WORDS FROM W.W. June 3, 2009
“The Tendency to Talk To Ourselves”
There are occasions when I talk to myself. It’s usually when I’m confused by something that I don’t understand; or perplexed by something someone else is doing.
Most of the perplexing moments happen in the midst of driving down the road.
“Go ahead! Obviously you’re more important than anyone else on the road!”
“Ma’am, there’s two lanes. Pick one!”
“If you’d get the cell phone out of your ear maybe you could not be so clueless about what is happening around you.”
I can be obnoxious when I’m talking to myself. Let me control the conversation and I can sink to new lows. Of course, the people I’m talking to don’t know I’m talking to them or about them…and probably don’t care either! By focusing on their wayward ways I can feel a little vindicated and self-righteously elevated.
There’s a tendency in churches to also talk to ourselves, either at the exclusion of others or with the complete unawareness of others.
We exclude others by using language that is known to us, but foreign to others. I’ll always remember the story of a church in New York that was situated by the main route that led people to the beach. In the summertime the road was a constant congested line of vehicles heading for the sand, sun, and water. The church put up a sign out in front of their building and along the road that read “Have You Been Washed In the Blood of the Lamb?” The meaning was fairly clear to the people from the church, but was completely misinterpreted by many of the beachgoers that drove by.
Think about it. If you were unfamiliar with Christian terminology and beliefs, what would you think about being asked to wash yourself in a young animal’s blood?
The challenge of the church is not to de-mystify the gospel, while conveying truth in understandable ways.
We also talk to ourselves when we think we’re speaking to unbelievers, but both sides “have their windows up.” It’s like bemoaning the low turn-out for a church event by asking those who ARE there why there aren’t more? Sometimes we talk about the need to Jesus to those who already know him and stay away from those who don’t know him, and are unaware of not knowing him. After all, a vast majority of the American population list themselves as “Christian.” If all they need to do is check a box on a census survey what else do they need to know?
“They need to know Jesus!” we tell ourselves. “If they knew Jesus like we know Jesus they would have a lot less problems,” we keep saying…to ourselves.
When we talk in “we” and “they” statements the windows are rolled up and no one is listening.
Talking to ourselves convinces us that we’re spiritual, and others aren’t. We’ve decided who the goats are and who the sheep are. Who’s going to burn and who isn’t?
And if we can convince ourselves that someone else is eternally doomed, it’s somehow easier to not have to look at our own relationship with Jesus.