Archive for March 2012

The Resurrection Financial Bonanza

March 30, 2012

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                         March 30, 2012

There always seems to be an outcry at Christmas-time about the commercialism of the season. Blow-up nativity scenes, houses that are so lit up it requires sun glasses to be able to look at them, crowded mall parking lots…we know the seasonal routine!

Resurrection Sunday…also known as Easter Sunday…which follows closely on the heels of Good Friday…is becoming a financial bonanza as well! My wife went to purchase some new “resurrection eggs” ( a product that comes in an egg carton, and tells the story of the cross and resurrection) at a local Christian supply and gift store and she was started that the price to tell the story of Jesus with a visual aid had risen substantially. Evidently, “rising prices” goes hand-in-hand with Jesus rising from the dead.

I can just imagine Jesus “buying into” Passover; or being a walking example of the Mosaic Law. “Ten Commandments Chain Necklace!” A t-shirt that says “I Am the I Am that I Am Talked About!” That would have gotten some attention. Perhaps a “burning bush” inflatable on the Sea of Galilee beach!

Go into a Christian book store these days and you will be amazed at how many things you can buy that have the words “He has risen!” stamped on them. “He’s alive!” on a t-shirt is a hot seller. Pretty soon the open tomb will come in an inflatable as well; or maybe with a blow-up boulder that can be anchored in the grass of the front lawn.

Why the commercialism of Easter? Could it be that the gap in the midst of our culture between the religious and not-interested; or the “determined” and the “embittered”, is so wide that Christians are going to the next level in terms of displaying our identity?

Not necessarily inflatables for the front yard, but products that offer us a bit of assurance that we’re people of the Way! My cynical nature tells me it’s less about proclaiming the celebration of the Risen Savior, and more about our growing uncertainty as to how to verbally testify who he is, and why we follow him. It’s less threatening to us… buy a picture for my living room of a pile of empty cloths in an open tomb than it is to talk to my neighbor about the hope that I’m experiencing in my life.

And do you know what will happen if enough Christians flock to Christian book stores and buy Easter products?

Walmart will get into the action! I cringe at the thought!

Christian Sarcasm

March 29, 2012

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                 March 29, 2012

This week my office door at church features a sign that says “Sarcasm…just one more service we offer here.” Seriously! I think we’re on to something!

What if the church could elevate its sarcasm game a little bit? What if we could say more things that we don’t really mean?

Josh, you’re so friendly today!” Josh, who is about as friendly as an IRS tax guide, is now wondering if he really is…or isn’t!

Sue, I didn’t realize that hairstyle was coming back.” Sue is now in a quandary. Is she a trendsetter? Are you being serious with us?

Jim, your breath is so minty!” Jim is now wondering if that mint he had a week ago is still working. Could it be more effective than the Awesome Blossom he had at Chili’s for lunch?

Sarcasm could go a long ways in keeping people focused on what is being said in conversations. Perhaps more sarcasm in the Sunday sermon will keep people on their toes. Drawing attention to Herb’s leisure suit just as his eyelids are closing could keep the sleepy awake.

Can you imagine the offering plate being passed around and when a dollar bill gets dropped in the usher says, “Oooo…big spender!” in a loud voice?

Christian sarcasm has possibilities. It would allow us to stay superficial while acting in ways that minimize the value of the other person.

Oh, wait! That’s how we are a lot of the time already.

That’s right…I guess…I forgot that a lot of how we communicate already tends towards being unauthentic and not how what we really think.

I guess, in looking back at it, most of my words here were sarcasm…or were they?

Doing Things With One Hand

March 27, 2012

WORDS FROM W.W,                                                                      March 27, 2012

Sometimes during basketball practice we do a special day called “Left Hand Wednesday”. I’ve inserted another day for Wednesday when it falls accordingly. Wednesday was often the day it fell on, because there had been a game the day before, so the “lack of having a left hand” was still vivid in my mind. On Left Hand Wednesday practice consist of left-hand lay-ups, ball handling drills with…that’s right, the left-hand. Since the offense almost always started on the right side, on this special day I’d restrict it to the left side of the court.

Making the point about being so “left-hand challenged” the players were started to resonate with some of them. Others never quite got it. I’d find myself saying things like “Is there a train track that you’re having to stay on each time that leads you down into the right baseline corner?” or after someone had tried to sneak in a right-hand lay-up on the left side, “No, use your OTHER left hand!”

Our potential as a team was intimately connected to how one-handed dependent we were.

I’m typing this with my right hand only..and one finger only besides that. I sliced my left hand this morning as I was moving some tables at church. So now I have an excuse for being left-hand deficient. My left hand is elevated at the moment, and my one typing finger on my right hand is getting sore…oh, is that a callous on the end of it?

When a basketball player is one-handed, he/she becomes predictable, and predictableness limits innovation, accomplishing the objective, progress, and vision. The last couple of hours have seen limited productivity from this wounded warrior. Ever tried to eat a chicken pot pie with one hand? One hand with a fork, that is! Ohhh…there goes a piece of carrot right on to my shirt! And of course it lands on the white stripe on my multi-colored shirt!

It raises many questions for me.

How much of my life is one-sided in my approach without even realizing it until there’s a wound…a verbal disagreement, a view that suddenly becomes glaringly distorted? When that happens how often do I try to hide from the truth of it?

No, that’s not what I meant to say! You misunderstood me!”

How much of my life is lived in neglect of God standing on my left side? Or, perhaps lived with a blindness to how God desires to help me and grow me on/in my weak side.

How often does the church only listen to one-sided people at the exclusion of those who can see both sides?

How often does the church only function in one way, and it being a way that is not open to new creations, new beginning, and new life?

How often do I take the words of Jesus about being “the way”, and package it in my way, which I spiritualize with language that verbalizes “one way”, but is followed only if it fits my way?

How often do I neglect those on the left because I always go right; or how often do I neglect those on the right because I always go left?

My left hand is in a state of numbness right now, as I let the God who constructed it and designed begin to heal it. And my right hand is numb, also, not out of empathy, but fatigue!

This one-handed thing is giving me some ideas for other practice emphases for next basketball season.

No dribble Tuesdays!

Sarcastic Saturdays!

Psycho Coach Fridays!

Run for a while Thursdays!

Finishing Perseverance

March 21, 2012

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                          March 21, 2012

Perseverance must finish its work, so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:4)

“The Wall” is the term that is used to describe a point where an athlete is physically, emotionally, and mentally fatigued. To go any further he must be able to reach deep with inside of himself and discover a hidden reservoir of strength and energy that he didn’t know was there. At the Boston Marathon “the Wall” is even known by the name “Heartbreak Hill.” It comes between the 20th and 21st miles of the race, and is an incline not quite a half-mile long. Heartbreak Hill is the point in the race where most runners must “finish perseverance”, or they will drop to the side.

I hadn’t actually thought about perseverance being something that needs to be finished, but James infers that in his words towards the beginning of his New Testament letter. When perseverance is complete a person is taken to a new point in his journey. That new point happens because perseverance has achieved it’s purpose.

It reminds me of that fascinating game called “curling”, that we only seem to see once every four years (during the Winter Olympics). The “curler” guides a “stone” towards the target area. “Sweepers’ use brooms to finish the stone’s placement. It is the curler whose precise and focused moments are essential for the stone to get to the finish. Perseverance is like the curler. It carries us to that certain point where the target is in sight.

If I’m reading the words of James correctly, maturity comes at the finishing of perseverance. Perhaps spiritual immaturity takes a hold on a person’s life, because perseverance is never finished. It’s like all the books I have in my library. I am a “book addict.” The problem is that I have a book-load of unfinished hard copies. It’s not that the books are uninteresting. It’s more that I’m undisciplined to go the distance, to go from Preface to Epilogue.

Could it be that our lack of spiritual maturity is intimately connected to our deficiency in perseverance? It’s easier to bail out than to stay with an uncomfortable leg in the journey. Maturity, however, is signatured with some battle wounds, and painful events.

In a culture that is increasingly superficial and enamored with the outwardly beautiful, perseverance brings us to a point of “aged and deep beauty.” It goes past a 140 character Tweet to a volume of depth.

Finish perseverance, and persevere as you finish!

Crystal Seasons and Silver Linings

March 13, 2012

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                March 13, 2012

I freely confess upfront that I’ve always been suspicious and uneasy with “church on TV.” I was raised, grew up in, and have pastored in situations that have conveyed and believed in the importance of the local church. My vision, therefore, has been tinted by my experience.

Most of us in the calling of “pastor” have looked with an eye of concern about the mega-churches, and yet longed to pastor one. We have had a bit of disdain towards huge ministries, and yet lusted over their Sunday morning slickness.

Just being honest! To put it in a different context, it’s similar to dreaming of playing for the Colorado Rockies, but being on the roster of a team in the local “50 and Over” league.

So the recent plight of the Crystal Cathedral has given me pause to reflect, repent, and be grieved. Robert Schuller’s magnificent building, built in 1961 at a cost of $3 million dollars, has been the scene of architectural beauty and excellent TV “churching.” In recent times, however, it has fallen on tough financial times and in February was sold to the Roman Catholic Diocese for $57.5 million dollars. The Crystal Cathedral congregation has three years to find a new meeting place. In the mean times, however, there is the lingering pathway of debris that keeps flowing out of the situation. Hurt feelings, financial woes,  a divided congregation over issues like “traditional music, choirs, and worship service order” has further splintered the church.

It is at this point that many of the sharpest critics of the Crystal Cathedral, “The Hour of Power” telecast, and Robert Schuller, start or more boldly point their wagging finger. There is a strong smell of glee that is in the air.

For me there is more sadness, because I know how so many people were ministered to by “The Hour of Power” when, perhaps, they weren’t able to attend worship at their local church. The elderly who went through times of illness and being home-bound could turn on the TV on Sunday morning and see Schuller’s smiling face and hear his encouraging words.

In our fast-paced world it conveys to us the quickness of change. Fifty years may seem like a long time, but it is simply a few moments in the span of time. How easily movements come and go! How fickle are the interests and passions of our culture! As Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes 3, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.”

What “our season” is should point to the One who created the seasons! Recently when I watched the snow piling up against our house I thought to myself, “Thank God the snow will not make a permanent “lean-to” against our home!” It had come, but it would also go. Brief and delightful, is you were a child wanting to build a snow fort; gone and forgotten as the ability to go for a walk in short sleeves arrives.

“The Hour of Power” inspired and ministered to many people. There should be no joy in its disappearance.

“Being A Team”

March 6, 2012

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                 March 6, 2012

The 8th Grade boy’s basketball team I coach played in a tournament last weekend that involved the middle school teams on the north side of our city. They finished second in the tournament, after a heartbreaking defeat in the winner’s bracket final of a desperation 30 footer that swished the net at the buzzer.

Result: Loss 51-50!

Finishing second, however, meant that the team qualified for the all-city tournament in a couple of weeks.

Personal Comment: I’m not big on the all-city tournament. First of all, I don’t think it’s that important to find out who the best middle school team is in the area; and second different school districts have different criteria for who is able to be on their team.

BUT I met with the parents of the boys after our Monday night game to discuss the situation. I laid out the positives and the negatives of being a part of the tournament. Two of the parents said that their sons were committed to other things on the Saturday that the final games of the tournament would be played. Another mom and dad said that their family would be away the whole weekend. Parents of the remaining eight players were affirming of the team still participating. They felt the team had earned the opportunity, and it would have them play against good competition, regardless of the outcome.

I then went into the locker room, where I had told the team to wait, and presented the situation to them. It was their choice.

They recognized the absence of the three teammates for the event, and they said this to me: “Coach, we don’t want to be in it. We’re a team, and since some of our teammates can’t be there, we don’t want to participate. We’re a team!”

I said that was fine, and then I had them follow me out, where I told the parents that their sons were unanimous in their decision not to go.

I could tell that several of the parents were deeply touched at the high value that the boys had placed on being a team. They recognized that “TEAM” (with no “i”) had been given greater value to their sons than winning a basketball game.

It’s has been a successful season for this team, but the highlight for me was that moment when they went against what is so often preached in our culture- winning and losing- and stayed committed to one another!

And that is awesome!