Archive for December 2010

Old Resolutions and New Regrets

December 30, 2010

WORDS FROM W.W. December 29, 2010

Which is it that we focus on…the end of a year, or the beginning of a new year? Are we more prone to concentrate on what was or what could be?
I’ve noticed something the last few days. The past too often anchors us from sailing into new uncharted waters. Many would say that the past helps us learn what mistakes we can never make again, or, said another way, the errors of our ways help guide us in a smarter direction.
There is truth in that, but there is also regrettable truth that prevents us…hold us back…from a true walk of faith in the future.
For instance, I believe there are more people who are haunted and weighed down by their past than there are people who just blow off their past with an absence of repentance. Even though we talk about the grace of God and receiving forgiveness for our sins through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus, I encounter so many Christians who can’t shake the chains of their pasts off.
We “sloganize” it in our theology with some trite sayings like “Let go and let God” and “Know God, know peace; no God, no peace.” If the darkness of my past continues to shadow my present it will also gray my future. Slogans don’t clear the slate.
Freedom to go forward only comes from trusting, truly trusting, that Jesus was not blowing smoke at us. He meant what he said. As you read the gospels there are a number of encounters that Jesus has with people who can’t experience freedom in their lives because of their pasts. Most of these conversations are witnessed by some of the religious leaders of Jesus’ day, who, ironic as it sounds, won’t let the people forget their pasts.
There’s an interesting encounter that Jesus has with a blind man in John 9. The disciples of Jesus ask their leader a question: “Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
The question seems insensitive and head-shaking, but the question is there because the disciples had been indoctrinated with that kind of thinking. It’s what they had been taught as truth by the religious leaders before Jesus. It echoes the belief of the day that a person can’t be freed from what has been. If you read the rest of the encounter that follows the healing of this blind man (John 9:1-41) that deeply-ingrained shackled belief becomes powerfully evident.
How might the Body of Christ help cut the chains from the anchor to the past to help people look towards the future without rear view mirrors attached? I believe Jesus desires for us to be continually renewed with no regrets.
And the thing is that we will fail again, as sure as peanut butter is peanut, but he is faithful to forgive us and point us once again to a future that is full of purpose and potential.

The Crazyness of the Season

December 7, 2010

WORDS FROM W.W. December 7, 2010

The Christmas Season is the time of the year that many people classify as the favorite. There is so much in it! Just take a moment to ponder.
Christmas cards….Christmas carols…manger scenes…Salvation Army bellringers…Toys for Tots…Santa Claus…Black Friday 4am specials…egg nog…candy canes…fruitcake…Christmas Eve candelight service…Christmas trees…lights…fudge…wrapping paper…silence…FedEx deliveries…children’s programs…company Christmas parties…Christmas ties…advent devotional booklets…cookies…family gatherings…decorations…bows…a “Christmas Story” movie, and THE Christmas Story.
I could go on, but you get the idea. It’s massive. It’s a seasonal event that requires the whole season.
This is not a new thought I’m about to put before you. Think of it more like being one of those sticky note reminders on your kitchen counter about something you know, but might forget.
There is an even greater danger of displacing Jesus during Christmas than any other time of the year. It’s all about him to the point that it can become nothing about him!
I remember being at a hospital one time to visit someone from the church I was pastoring. The patient had another visitor there at the same time, who was there…supposedly to encourage the patient, but the visitor monopolized all of the conversation and made it all about herself, even though she was in the room of the patient who needed attention.
Interesting, and disturbing.
Christmas is so much about Jesus, that it can become nothing about Jesus.
Last week our senior adults’ bible study was sharing what makes Christmas special to each one of them. One couple said that a tradition that they have that remains in a sacred time space is the reading of the Christmas story from scripture on Christmas Eve. Everything else is put on pause, all activity ceases, in order for the story of God Incarnate to be heard once again.
Perhaps that’s where we might start this year. In the midst of the fruitcake and wrapped presents, set aside some space…some time…for the scripture story to be heard once again.
I am such a radical optimist that I think the massiveness of the Christmas season won’t deluge upon us in some ways. I mean I almost have to use a forklift just to carry the Sunday paper in a couple of those weeks. I know it’s not that there has been a great increase in the news. The Gazette is on a sliding scale- as the rpice goes up the amount of news goes down. No…I know that the bulk is because a multitude of stores want to entice me to think that my life will not be complete without a visit to their crammed aisles in the coming days. The massiveness of Christmas surrounds me.
But maybe I can create some space for Jesus.

It that crazy!

The Moment of Uncertainty

December 2, 2010

WORDS FROM W.W. November 29, 2010

This is my tenth year of officiating high school basketball. Some might say that I’m a glutton for punishment.
From November until March I attend Monday night meetings with other basketball officials. The meetings always include tips and instruction on certain aspects of officiating. We look at film clips, talk about basketball plays that could go either way. In officiating there are moments of uncertainty. There are moments where, simply put, we aren’t sure. “Was the defender there in time or was it a blocking foul on him?” “Was the ball released before the buzzer, or after?”
It occurs to me that the lives of most followers of Jesus are interjected with those moments of uncertainty as well. The uncertainty originates in our own minds and hearts that experience the void of wonder. It begins in the midst of a gray day. It commences in an unsettling conversation. It whispers in an illness that rocks us.
Sometimes the uncertainty is ever so slight. I’ve found myself thinking despicable thoughts about someone, and then the guilt and shame of what only I know is harvested in doubts that God could love someone so wicked.
Ministry is infected with uncertainty. People leave the church we pastor and we become uncertain about our calling to pastor. A Sunday sermon comes out passionless and we wonder if God is calling us to apply at Walmart. Each week carries with it a multitude of work details and we become uncertain as to which is more important, or more urgent.
In other words, the calling carries with it the ball and chain of uncertainty.
Let it be said, however, that God is never uncertain. Even when I’m doubting his interest in my life it never affects the heightened interest that he already has in it. Even when I’m skeptical that grace could be given so freely, he never changes the consistency of his intense compassion.
There will continue to be those moments of uncertainty in our walk with the Lord. It’s not a ripple effect of a diminishing commitment to our Lord, but rather a stain from our fallen creation.