Archive for May 2013

Would Jesus Defriend me?

May 27, 2013

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                   May 27, 2013


Would Jesus Defriend Me?”


I was doing some cleaning house today. Facebook friend cleaning, that is!

Something had to give. I was starting to feel like an extreme Facebook friend hoarder. And it isn’t that I’m that popular. I don’t want you to think that “I’m all that.” I can’t even remember what LOL stands for! I don’t even play Farmville, or whatever the new games are that some of my Facebook friends keep requesting me to try.

It’s just that I’ve continued to accumulate friends like books. My personal library includes more books that I’ve never read than books that I have read…and I keep buying more. Amazon makes it too easy!

So today I started making the “friend cuts”, like it was an NFL free agents camp.

Too weird? Cut!

Can’t remember who she is? Cut!

Too many requests to play Bingo Blitz? Cut!

Bad memories of? Sliced!

Tendency to say stupid things? Gone!

Michigan State hater? Cut, cut, cut!

Facebook gangsta’ picture poses! Tossed!

Infatuated with “Bridezillas”? Hurled!

Snooki followers! Fried!

In a matter of a few minutes I was able to shave away some excess friend-age. I almost felt like I was in Washington, deciding on what stays in the budget and what gets the ax.

It wasn’t that I was ruthless. I still have two Ruth’s in my friend list,and, coincidentally, I was reading the Book of Ruth this morning.

Go figure!

I discovered that defriending with Facebook is almost as easy as friending. It didn’t involve heated conversations, or physical violence. All I had to do was make my way to the appropriate list, point the finger (the one next to the thumb, mind you!) at “defriend” and click.

See ya!

And then I got to thinking, like a good guilt-ridden Baptist would, whether Jesus would ever defriend me? Would me cut me from his list if I hadn’t IM’ed him for a while? Would he scrutinize my posts and block me like a Halloween movie? Would he become disinterested in what is going on in my life? Would I not make his “A” list and get tossed in a holy cut-back?

Would Jesus be my friend until someone better came along?

And, of course, the answers to all these questions would be that Jesus would never defriend me…regardless! No matter how much time I gave to Farmville instead of him…no matter how many instant messages I didn’t reply too.

Even…no matter how many rumors I circulated about him!

Jesus would never defriend me…no matter what!

Freckles, Zits, Warts, and Age Spots

May 22, 2013

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                               May 22, 2013

Hitting 59 has made me more conscious of my slowness, morning aches, evening exhaustion, and the multiplying of pill bottles. When I look in the mirror I notice a couple of warts that weren’t always there, but have grown in prominence as I’ve clicked off the years.

The last year of your fifties makes you think of what has been and where you have been. When I was growing up in Winchester, Kentucky I was graced with some freckles on my face. I was actually cute, especially when I was missing a few teeth in the midst of freckled cheeks. Freckles were signs an imaginative childhood. I played with imaginary friends, or even played football against an invisible defense, scoring touchdowns on two yard dives in my backyard. Freckles were child-like, not childish.

A few years later, about the time when it was no longer cool to be cute, pimples started sprouting up on my face like mysterious dandelions in spring lawns. I discovered Clearasil and other products that were suppose to ease the uncomfortableness of adolescence.

Zits were a sign of not knowing whether I was still a child or had emerged into the beginnings of adulthood. It was that time when I wasn’t sure what was going on in my life. I wanted parental closeness, while at the same time keeping some distance. My dad lost some of his intelligence. I insulted my mom’s fried chicken. I wanted to be somebody, and yet I often felt like a nobody. I had a humorous streak about me, but I also was painfully short. Dreams of who I might grow up to be were being shattered. I missed the days of being a child, but knew that I was speeding towards a time of more responsibility.

And now, years later, I look in the mirror and only see trace of the freckles and a couple of little scars from the effects of teenage zits. The warts now stand out. I’m suppose to now have it all together. Experience echoes through my facial imperfections. Although people tell me that I don’t look my age, no one is approaching me to go to a rock concert at Red Rocks, or inviting me to watch Monday Night Football at Buffalo Wild Wings.

I am now a picture of maturity, and I’m about as comfortable with it as I was with youthful blemishes. Oh, it isn’t that I don’t want to be responsible. It is more that I often feel burdened…weighed down by the expectations of others. I want to be able to make mistakes, but I’m often viewed as someone who isn’t allowed to make mistakes.

And yet my warts also tell me that I’m in that phase of life when people want to know what I think, where they will often take their lead from me. There is some sense of gratification that goes with that sprinkled over the mass of responsibility.

I’m just around the corner from the next phase called “age spots.” Sometimes they appear like someone took a red marker to the face. Other times they emerge as little pre-cancerous spots. In fact, I’ve already had a few frozen off by my physician. My dad has undergone two sets of radiation treatments for cancerous spots on his ear and nose.

Age spots are a sign that I’ve gone from being a learner to a leader to a mentor. More of my time will be spent in coffee conversations and quiet reflection. I’ll start collecting letters, photos, and other indications of a lived life. I feel valued as a result of people asking me what I think, as opposed to pressing my opinions. There is soundness in “elders” being respected in the church.

Freckles, zits, warts, and age spots. It seems that there are many parallels between those facial stages and a person’s spiritual development. Dare I also say there are many parallels also with a church’s life stage.

We go from childlike energy and optimism to youthful uncertainty; living out our faith responsibly to passing on the soundness of our beliefs to the next generation.

Chaos appears when we confuse life phases; when a pimpled church tries to pretend it is certain and unyielding in it’s statement of belief, or a warted congregation is childish in it’s actions and attitudes.

A church that is healthy is one that is allowing each of it’s participants to live in the period of faith that they are in.

Taking A Page From Abercrombie and Fitch

May 10, 2013

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                     May 10, 2013

The CEO of the clothing chain, Abercrombie and Fitch, recently reiterated his business plan focus that A&F is for the hot and attractive young people. They don’t want larger sized people to wear their clothes, or be customers in their stores.

Cool, obviously, is everything!

CEO Mike Jeffries made this statement: “In every school there are the cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids. Candidly, we go after the cool kids. We go after the attractive all-American kid with a great attitude and a lot of friends. A lot of people don’t belong in our clothes, and they can’t belong.”

This is not a new position for A&F. Those words were said by Jeffries in a 2006 interview. The troubling thing is that even though we are irked by the arrogance, we go along with the philosophy. How can I say that? A&F is a 5 billion dollar company. The younger crowd drops money there like crazy! Teens and twentysomethings and “wanna-be twentysomethings” have bought into the idea that wearing A&F is an element of creating an image.

The arrogance of A&F is that they define what the image is, and expect the customer base to, pardon the pun, “fit into it.” Some of that arrogance has come out in several discrimination court cases involving minorities, the dismissal of an employee who wore a prosthetic forearm because she was told that her appearance breached the store’s “Look policy”, and the dismissal of a Muslim woman who refused to remove her head scarf.

And yet people… the right people…continue to shop at the store like it is selling Beatle’s memorabilia…oops, wrong generation!

The concern I have is that I see some of that filtering into the church. I really do! Not that we should be surprised. The Corinthian church could have put an A&F logo out front, except using Greek letters. There was that little problem that had with consuming all the food and wine before everyone had arrived for the Agape Feast, the love meal. Knowing the culture, those who arrived early for the agape meal was mostly those who were more financially stable. The people who arrived later were mostly the ones who had to work long hours just to survive.

Can you say cool and not-cool?

Paul’s stress to the church at Corinth about being “the body of Christ” had immense relevance to what was going on there.

I know…I know, we usually talk about the church being twenty years behind the times. The point, however, is not whether we are behind the times or ahead of the masses. It is that the church is the one institution, the one organization, that it not to be exclusionary. It is the group that discards the labels that the rest of our culture slaps on us. The book of James cautions about discriminating between rich and poor in the seating arrangements. Jesus used sharp words towards his disciples who were trying to keep children from bothering him. The first century church reorganized in order to take care of the widows.

And yet there still seems to be a part of us that wants our church to be populated with the cool people. It’s the dirty little secret that testifies to our fallen nature.

The church should have a sign that says “A&O”, the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, because the arms of Jesus are intended to cover everyone in between.

Hitting Safely, Falling Hard

May 8, 2013

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                      May 8, 2013


I was playing my first softball game in a decade. It had been so long since I’d played that I had to dig to the bottom of the “odds and ends” barrel in our garage to find my mitt. Unfortunately, I could not find my old pair of rubber cleats that I used to wear. They probably made their way to Goodwill a few years ago, and have since gone on to “Glove Glory.” So I fished out an old pair of tennis shoes that were missing a few years of thread and headed for the ball park.

I had told our manager, Kimberly, that I was content to “ride the pine” (except it was aluminum), but she said “No, everybody is playing.”

I didn’t even have to share my career stats with her. This might be a similar story to the movie “The Natural”, starring Robert Redford, about a former player, Roy Hobbs, coming back to play after disappearing for a few years.

It might be…but it isn’t! If there was a sequel entitled “The Elderly” I could have played the lead.

After a less than memorable first two times at bat, but a nice backhand glove pick-up at third of a screaming grounder, I came to bat for the third time in the fourth inning ready to hit opposite field. The pitch was begging me to hit it, so I pounced on it and hit an almost-line drive that actually landed just inside the first-base line just out of the infield.

“Run, Forest, run!”

I made the turn at first base to head for second as the ball continued to bounce away from the first baseman and right fielder.

The capacity crowd of four woke up and cheered (I think).

Then it happened. I had a tennis shoe blow-out fifteen feet past first base. I hit black ice disguised as dirt…and I fell hard…I mean the ground shook…almost!

My left knee hit the ground first and then my right leg took an unnatural twist…better known as “An AARP side effect”…and I felt the muscle pop. It’s quite a mental shift to hit safely and then fall hard. Come to think of it, first base has been my injury nemesis in the past as well. About 20 years ago I hit a ground ball to the short-stop whose throw to first base was a little up-line. It connected with my jaw and broke it in two places. I was safe at first that time, also, and then slumped to the ground.

Some have reminded me that I hit 59 last Sunday, so there must be some correlation between 59 and falling hard. Perhaps my old cleats being at Goodwill had something to do with it just as much! I’m going with the cleats story.

It reminds me of the story of Elijah in 1 Kings 18 where he defeats the 450 prophets of Baal. He is in the groove, on a tear! But then Jezebel makes death threats, and Elijah falls hard. He goes down. His stumble takes the form of a flee for his life and then a hiding in a cave.

Sometimes our stumbles happen as quickly as trying to turn a single into a double. Sometimes our stumbles happen gradually as we allow pride, power, and position to blind us to the cliff we are hovering on.

Following my stumble something else happened that is significant. After I hobbled back to first base  and got a sub to take my place, my teammates came to my rescue with concern (and maybe a little chuckling) and encouragement. Thelma, a lady I deeply admire and respect, asked me about a dozen times during the rest of the game if I was okay. Others gave me pats on the back. No one said “That should be a lesson to you about whether you should be playing this game or not.”

When someone in the faith community stumbles there needs to be someone to pick him back up again. Being the church is not a spectator sport.

After my Roy Hobbs hit and titanic crash…we all went out for ice cream! There’s just something extremely right about that!