Archive for November 2011

“Here and There”

November 23, 2011

WORDS FROM W.W. November 23, 2011

I find myself thinking about the “not yet” quite often these days.
When the car loan gets paid off!
The next vacation away!
Easter…even though it’s yet to be Christmas!
The next wedding of one of our children…even though no one is even engaged!
The next book I will read…even though I’m only half-way through the 500 page book I’m presently reading!
What’s for dinner…even though I’m staring at my breakfast yogurt and fruit (OK! That’s a very valid one!)
A good night’s sleep… even though I just woke up from the last one!

Planning ahead is encouraged, but I seem to have a hard time living in the present. The Bible instructs us to keep “the here” and “the there” both in perspective. Jesus warns of consequences if we are so focused on the wants of the present (Luke 12:13-34), that we can’t think about the things of the Kingdom of God. On the other hand, in promoting the quality of being prepared, Solomon wrote in Proverbs 21:20 “In the house of the wise are stores of choice food and oil, but a foolish man devours all he has.”
Finding the balance is a slow walk of humble awareness.
How can I be wholly present in the moment, while envisioning the possibilities and dreams of the future? How can I be here, while walking towards “there?”
Sometimes it seems to be an easy escape to think about “there.” The “here” is filled with so many problems that there seems to be a great sense of peace to think about what might be. If my present is dysfunctional, let me populate my thoughts with a world that is perfectly functional.
On the other hand, recent years has seen several examples played out where the futures of our children’s children have been mortgaged for the sake of the present.
The people of God struggle with the “here and there” as well. If too much attention is placed on what will be, people feel not cared for in the present; but if we focus so much on the present we will never get to the what will be.
Personally, I will come to a Thanksgiving gathering tomorrow delighted to spend time with spouse, kids, and grandkids (and perhaps even the cat!), but aware that sometime in the midst of the festivities I will begin to think about Sunday sermon preparation, tasks to perform next week, and Buddy Basketball being just six weeks away. Perhaps I’ll begin our Thanksgiving meal with a prayer that says, “O Lord, thank you for your provision, and thank you for these moments. Help me, Lord, to be present in the here! Amen!

The Balanced Radical

November 10, 2011

WORDS FROM W.W. November 10, 2011

Here in Colorado Springs in the midst of one of the main tourist attractions, Garden of the Gods, there is a huge boulder that looks like it has been turned upside down and balanced on its tip. Thus the name of the attraction, “Balanced Rock.”
Balanced Rock looks like it could go either way at any moment. One notices that there are some tourist who walk a wide circle around it because of having just a little fear of being smushed! And Balanced Rock has continued to stay balanced for a long, long time.
Walking with Jesus is meant to be a radical experience in many ways. All one needs to do is read the gospel stories of the encounters Jesus had with people from various livelihoods, and listen to the words that Jesus said to pick up on the fact that being a “Jesus follower” is transforming. For instance, when Jesus tells the parable of the sheep and goats and he talks about feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, giving water to the thirsty, visiting the prisoners, and taking care of the sick, he makes the point that what was done for the least was done for him. (Matthew 25:31-46) Of course, he goes the other direction in the same parable and talks about the fact that what was not done for the least person was also not done for him. It’s a rather uncomfortable scenario. I guess you could say rather radical.
There’s also a section of Scripture in Luke 11 called “The Six Woes.” To summarize the six woes Jesus makes the point that the religious folk known as the Pharisees were all about outward appearances, but spiritually vacant on the inside. They put on a good show, but there was no substance and root to it.
I’ve been reading an interesting book entitled Good News in Exile: Three Pastors Offer a Hopeful Vision for the Church. In the book the three pastors (Martin Copenhaver, Anthony Ropinson, and William Willimon), drawing from their experiences serving various congregations and college chapels, are pushing for what could best to titled “A Balanced Radical Faith.” They push for their readers to see how often the church has tilted to one side or the other, and therefore, the participants of the church have also usually tilted one way or the other. In many congregations there is the push and emphasis to get involved in fighting hungry, abuse, homelessness, and violence. In other congregations there is the emphasis to have a multitude of Bible studies, home groups, prayer gatherings, and worship services.
Neither is necessarily bad. It’s good to feed the hungry. It seems that Jesus made a pretty big deal out of that. It’s also good to study the Word, and discuss the depth of our faith and beliefs.
A balanced radical is one who is coming more and more to an understanding, a conviction, that Jesus is calling for followers who want to go deeper in their spiritual lives, and also desire to serve more sacrificially.
It’s like “Balanced Rock.” Many people will make a wide circle around it, because it seems so strange. And yet, balanced radicals are who Jesus is calling us to be. In a sense, our world is turned upside down in service to the King of Kings. Not many of us risk it, because it looks like our world could topple over.
And here’s the thing, a balanced radical realizes that he/she never arrives at a point of settledness, because the winds of life are always causing adjustments. In other words, the balanced radical comes to an understanding that it is only faith in Jesus that is holding him up.

The Ache

November 1, 2011

WORDS FROM W.W. November 1, 2011

It’s a tough time!
Almost all of us have been through them. They take different forms- loss of jobs, fractured relationships, serious illness, mounting expenses, loss of life. The past couple of weeks have been a tough dark tunnel for me. Two people I’ve known for a long time passed away. My mom’s health has slipped at a quickening pace. And then there was the bronchitis issue!
On top of that there are a number of life stressing situations that people of my congregation are dealing with that have no easy answers.
It produces “the ache”, that internal moan that is void of peace, and the antonym of comfort. The ache intensifies and suppresses joy. It is unsettling and lonely. The anxiety of the ache is connected to the uncertainty of its time table. How long will it be within me? Will I wake up one morning and discover that its gone? Will it lessen in intensity? Will I come to a place that I no longer recover the pain, but consider it as a part of my existence, kind of like aching knees in the morning and a tooth that always throbs?
What comfort I receive in the midst of this is knowing that so much of the Bible is written by those who were experiencing the ache? So many of the Psalms are about trials, tribulations, discouragement, and fear. Ecclesiastes has the reoccurring theme of meaninglessness. Lamentations I not a title for a happy book. The prophets were led to write and prophesy about the ache of God, as he encountered the various betrayals and apathy of his people. Paul writes about the thorn in his side, the ache in his life.
It is good to know that those who have been close to God all down through history have dealt with the ache. There’s a sense of journeying together with those who have gone before, and yet there is also that sense of “deadness” that is a part of me.
The ache of “the dessert” causes us to draw closer to God or drift further away. It is an experience that we can not stay the same as a result of.
And so I seek a deep intimacy in which the embrace of God will be sensed in more profound ways. I pray the words of the psalmist: “O Lord, the God who saves me, day and night I cry out to you. May my prayer come before you; turn your ear to my cry. For my soul is full of trouble and my life draws near the grave. I am counted among those who go down to the pit; I am like a man without strength.” (Psalm 88:1-3)
If David could pray that, and yet at another time pray, “I love you, O Lord, my strength. The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.” (Psalm 18:1-2)
It gives me hope.