Archive for July 2009

July 30, 2009

WORDS FROM W.W. July 29, 2009
“The Thrill of Being Pied”

Years ago I remember people lining up, paying a quarter, and getting three chances to throw a baseball and hit a target. And if they hit the target the high school principal, or football coach, or band director, got plopped into the water of the dunk tank. I don’t know how much money the school booster club made at the whole carnival experience, but at least half of it had to have come from the dunk tank. There was a heightened sense of glee over seeing an adult take the plunge.
Why? Because it had been deemed “okay.” If you threw a water balloon at the same person causing a fraction of the drenching you would have been suspended from school, decked, or charged with assault. BUT…put someone in a carnival dunk tank and say it’s okay…and the fun begins!
I don’t fully understand it, but I remember throwing that baseball with all my might to knock Mr. Camp off his perch.
This week has been day camp week at my church. We’ve been emphasizing perseverance and persistence as they relate to faith and Jesus. As a day of supporting the theme we challenged the campers to bring their pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters and putting them in a big plastic water bottle. The money collected would be used to help feed impoverished families in different places around the world that the mission organization, VisionTrust International, was working with.
And then we decided (because I don’t think it was my idea!) to tell the campers that if they collected at least $150 I would get a pie in the face. We told them that the first day of day camp on Monday. Tuesday morning a number of these boys and girls arrive with BAGS of coins. By Wednesday my face was “pie-bound”. For an added incentive I said for everyone $50 over $150 I would take another pie in the face.
What can I say? I got lost in the moment!
This morning when they arrived I knew I was “doubly-pied!” One young boy named Darien brought $45 in change! He was beyond excited. He was shaking in delight!
These kids brought enough money to feed 13 families for a week in some of the poorest areas of the world. Kids! And to do it while getting to see a pastor’s face get “creamed” was satisfying in a number of ways. Perhaps some of them wanted to see the pie face a little bit too much, but they also knew that some children their own age were going to be able to go to bed not on an empty stomach.
I suggested perhaps doing a similar project with my congregation. I wonder how much we could increase our mission-giving if I’d take a pie once in a while? It could be the solution to the mission funding crisis of the American Baptist Churches. Not just me taking a pie in the face, but all the pastors of all of our denomination’s churches.
Like the dunk tank picture, there’s just something about a “moment of splat” that causes people to give.
Go figure. Excuse me while I lick my fingers.

July 9, 2009

WORDS FROM W.W. July 4, 2009

“Life Summations”

The past couple of weeks have included several deaths of celebrities. Farah Fawcett . . . Michael Jackson . . . Steve McNair . . . the headlines have focused on the tragedies and the details.

Farah Fawcett will be remembered for “Charlie’s Angels” and a poster. The poster, which I admit I bought one of in 1976, sold 12 million copies.

Michael Jackson will be remembered for being “the King of Pop,” and exhibiting strange behavior from time to time.

Steve McNair will be remembered for taking his Tennessee Titans football team to the Super Bowl, but also for being shot to death by his girlfriend as he was sleeping.

The story of our life, no matter who we are, gets summarized by people in a few words or a couple of mental images. The funeral and “the wake” may include much more – the retelling of stories, flattering oratory, and accomplishments and achievements – but afterwards people will compact all the things that have been shared into just a few words.

It causes one to pause and consider what message is being spoken by our life. I ask myself, if people only had space in their mental memories of me for five words, what would they narrow it down to? It makes me think of the woman whose husband passed away and she wrote a three page obituary about him to go into the paper. When the person in charge of the obituaries told her that the newspaper charged on a per word basis, the widow was taken aback by the astronomical amount her late husband’s tribute would cost. She thought about it for a while, stood at the counter making corrections and subtractions, and finally after a long time she handed the obituary back to the employee. The tribute had been substantially altered. Now it simply read: “Fred dead. Corvette for sale.”

Our lives get summarized in a few brief words. What we’ve invested in, or been consumed with, is what will stand out . . . or stain . . . the picture of our lives. It’s a sobering thought in a lot of ways, but it’s sobering in that we too infrequently think about what is going on in our life. We tend to be people who live for the moment instead of wise for the whole journey. (I thought about this after being persuaded by my two daughters and son-in-law to ride something called “Top Thrill Dragster,” a 17-second experience of insanity, at Cedar Point Amusement Park in Sandusky, Ohio. I bowed to their pressure and gave no heed to the warning signs at the entrance to the ride about not riding it if you had heart problems, were pregnant, were afraid of heights, had a fear of death, got nosebleeds, bladder control problems, had eaten in the last two days, etc.)

I’ve recently come across a song by Trace Adkins entitled “All I Ask for Anymore.” The chorus in the song says: “But when I bow my head tonight, there will be no me, myself and I. Just watch my wife and kids please, Lord. That’s all I ask for anymore.” As we become wiser for the journey, I’m convinced that we realize more and more that our life is about God and others instead of what feels good at the moment for me, myself, and I.

If the summary of 80% of our life would be the five words, “me, myself, and I,” that would be a tragedy.

Lord, help us not to make it the reality!