Archive for September 2013

Father of the Bride Reservations

September 27, 2013

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                   September 27, 2013

 

 

     Fifteen days until my youngest daughter’s wedding! We’re shifting into wedding gear tonight. that’s like Nascar drivers entering into the final lap. There is a reckless abandon as we take the engines to their limit.

For us that means cleaning a couple of rooms at the house tonight. I have to clean my home study! That’s about as appealing as gargling Geritol!

Garage vacuuming is on the horizon. Cleaning the outdoor grill will soon be upon me…even though we won’t be using it.

A wedding is an event, kind of like our own Super Bowl festivities without the commercials…or the football game.

On October 12 at 4:45 (estimated) I’ll walk my baby down the aisle to be wedded to Mike Terveen. I’m happy…and reluctant at the same time. She has been ours for twenty-five years. We remember when she was born at Sparrow Hospital in Lansing, Michigan. We remember her first day of school…missing two front teeth as she smiled. We remembered when she was eating at a Pizza Hut and she was totally unaware that  a piece of sausage was stuck to her right cheek. We remember when she was on the Homecoming Court at Liberty High School, and when we dropped her off at college seven hundred miles away from home and considered relocating just off campus!

We also remember when she introduced us to Mike, and we could tell that she was smitten. The next few years included break-ups, sorting out differences, solidifying the relationship, and then a ring. Mike called me to ask my permission to pop the question. I appreciated that.

As I consider “the walk” in two weeks I am even more amazed that God would give up his son for people like me. Just as I have reservations about giving the hand of my daughter to the man she will journey on with, I can’t imagine that our Heavenly Father didn’t have any reservations about handing his child over to those who would put him to death.

Some might accuse me of distorted theology, but for me to view God as a totally willing participant is to make him into an insensitive, stoic deity. It had to have grieved him more than anything else. As Jesus struggled to Golgotha under the weight of the sin of the world his father must have struggled in some way.

Giving my daughter in marriage to the man she loves is simply a transition point for me. It’s a celebration even as I display eyes that are red. But imagine God giving his son up, not because of a celebration, but because of a death sentence. What depth of love for us does that convey?

This is my baby that I walk down the aisle, but this was God’s Only!

Amazing love!

Coffeed Out!

September 26, 2013

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                        September 25, 2013

 

 

     My office does not have Folger’s in it, but it does have a mountain of other caffeinated aromas. I could supply a finals week for a whole college campus. My office is so caffeinated I’m thinking of putting in barista stand. I’ll call it a “Baptrista stand!”

I’m starting to feel like a coffee-hoarder. I can’t even go to a hotel and not put the little in-room personal coffee packs into my suitcase before I leave. I have some still from when Jimmy Carter was president.

Today I finally finished the Starbucks Christmas Blend bag! That might give you an idea of how many bags of coffee beans I ordered last Advent.

Lo and behold, just when I thought I saw an opening on the coffee shelf my nephew and his wife from Baltimore sent me a pound of Zeke’s Coffee beans, a special blend called “How ‘Bout Dem O’s!” His message to me written on the back of the bag was, “Uncle Bill, thought you could use a little pick me up. Enjoy this playoff push blend!”

     The Orioles were eliminated from the picture the day after I received the gift. Do I return the bag to him? Do I keep it until they make the playoffs? Will Jesus return sooner than that happens?

Right before the bag of Zeke’s showed up I had a two-pound bag of Guatemala blend coffee beans from Starbucks given me as a gift from someone who borrowed something. I’m thinking of starting a Central American section in my office. Besides Guatemala, I’ve got coffee bag flags from the Dominican Republic, Honduras, Costa Rica, and Mexico. I need an entry from Panama to start a Coffee Fantasy League.

I have a four-cup coffeemaker in my office, sitting right beside the latest Keurig. I’m thinking of getting an espresso machine so it could be like a Java trinity- a cappuccino between two coffees.

Each one of us has those areas in our lives that could be classified as “EXCESS.” We seldom like to come clean and admit it, but truth is truth. Coffee and books are my excesses. My cholesterol is high, but not excess.

Recently we got water in our basement and realized that we have a lot of meaningless excessive junk downstairs. A wet basement sometimes gives you new perspective! Does anyone really need that many Christmas ornaments? Do we really need the treadmill that now has thirty shirts and blousers hanging on it like…Christmas ornaments?

I’ve committed myself to not buying any more bags of coffee beans or Keurig pods until my mountain has been shaved down to a hill. It might take a while, but I invested in a huge box of “Sugar In the Raw” to help me conquer.

Meanwhile, I’m wondering if we should bring the coffee ministry of the church to a new level. Maybe get some t-shirts and personalized coffee cups. I have to be specific in the purpose, however, because some might interpret being a part of “The Brew Crew” to mean something different.

What DO I Believe???

September 25, 2013

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                  September 24, 2013

 

 

      I’m beginning a new sermon series in a couple of weeks entitled “What I Believe..and Why I Believe It.”

It’s caused me to pause and ask myself the question, “What DO I believe?”

Most of us can spout off what we don’t believe, but saying what we do believe makes us pause and consider. For instance, I no longer believe in the tooth fairy, Transformers, or fries being French. I don’t believe that the Pope walks on water, or water baptism saves you. I don’t believe there is a special section, Boardwalk if you will, for Baptists in heaven. I don’t believe that anyone knows the time or the day that Jesus is coming back, or that a worship service should last a certain amount of time and be done.

What I do believe is that the gospel is the most incredible gift that God could ever gift us, and that the gospel makes all the difference in the world.

I believe that grace is awesome, but often not believed in.

I believe that God believes in me, even when I don’t believe in myself!

I believe that God has purpose for my life, even when some of my days seem purposeless.

I believe in the church, even though so many of God’s people have given up on it.

 

Those are a few things I believe. Now I’m taking it to the next step: why do I believe it? One of my seminary professors, Dr. Tom Finger, at Northern Baptist Seminary outside of Chicago, would always ask us that? He pressed us to get past our “Sunday School answers” and ask ourselves why we believed what we believed. I hated it at the time, but thirty-four years after seminary I think of him as being the professor who shaped my belief system more than anyone else.

What DO I believe?

In losing my mom recently it has caused me to think deeper. It’s not that I’m more cerebral, it’s that I’m more introspective…perhaps even quieter.

My cynical side sees our culture believing in a lot of fluff with no substance. Some people think Starbucks is the basis for theological belief. More espresso shots means deeper revelations. I saw a deeply meaningful commercial the other night about important relationships that ended up being sponsored by a beer company. Not that I have anything against beer..except that I hate the taste and college students think it’s a mandatory part of university life…but it seems to be the source for what the “good life” is about these days.

I believe we settle for shallow belief. We settle for beliefs that don’t require pondering.

What DO I believe? It seems that my belief list is getting shorter, while my ‘uncertain list” is getting longer. But the beliefs that have stuck have made me stronger, more grounded…and that’s what I truly believe.

The Cost of Newness

September 16, 2013

WORDS FROM W.W.                                             September 16, 2013

 

 

       This summer we had new carpet installed at the house. Put it as a line item under “Wedding Expense”, because new carpet is vital to the success of a wedding! (That was an attempt at sarcasm.)

Actually, and this is the truth, we got new carpet because the cat died. Princess Maiboo (“Boo) went to meet her Maker in December. Our old carpet was stained with different “Boo offerings”, so I had promised Carol that we would get new carpet when Boo died. It also happened to be the original carpet from when the house was built a little over twenty years ago.

I’ve discovered one thing about new carpet versus the old. The new has more “rise” to it. That is, our old carpet had been beaten down over the course of time from foot travel and wear. The new…is new!

That became apparent to me the other night when I was in my study doing some work and I had the door closed. After a while I decided to take a break, so I went to open the door like usual and walk down the hallway. Except the clearance between the bottom of the door and the new carpet was like squeezing Shamu in through the front door of the house. Newness has caused resistance. I’m used to the old still, so I started to proceed through the doorway before there actually was a doorway to go through. I banged my knee on the door! It hurt! I proceeded to belittle the new carpet, as if it had a choice in the matter.

I enjoy the cushy feeling of the new carpet, but newness brings changes.

Newness costs us something even as we’re excited by it. I always try to approach “newness” in the church with tempered enthusiasm. Even though we talk in our churches about “new life”, “new birth”, “new hope”, when we replace something that has been with something that “hasn’t been yet”, there will be a period of uncomfortableness.

We see it in so many ways. Replace the Folgers with Starbucks and it will thrill some and disappoint others. Replace an existing ministry with a new one and there will be heartburn, as well as jubilation. Change pastors and some will go into deep mourning while others will be on the verge of singing the “Hallelujah Chorus.”

Newness causes stubbed toes and bruised knees, while raising the spirits of many of the saints.

If given a choice the Israelites would always have voted to return to Egypt! What has been quite often becomes more attractive than what will be.

But sometimes newness needs to happen regardless of the heartburn and naysayers. It just does! Kind of like going to the orthodontist for braces…no one looks forward to the discomfort of braces, but can’t wait to have straight teeth.

One last thing! What is new now will someday be old. Simplistic, I know, but what I mean is that those who are excited about new directions today will someday resist the next new direction that would replace the current new one. Their current “new” will gradually become what they are comfortable with.

In essence, the church will always have battles between the old and the new. And to think, this whole blog post started because I banged my knee on the door as a result of new carpet.

 

Prayers for Pops

September 11, 2013

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                      September 11, 2013

                                       

       I have to be honest! When I traveled back to Ohio with my wife Carol I only got misty-eyed twice. One of those times was when I went into my mom and dad’s bedroom and saw that her hospital bed was no longer there. The mattress was leaned up beside the wall. I was overwhelmed by the emptiness of the space that had been occupied by her bed the last time I had been home in late April. No one else was in the house at that moment, and the quiet of the room hit me.

The second time I got emotional was when I saw Mom in her casket at the funeral home before the time of visitation began. The stillness of her presence gripped my heart. The welling up of emotion lasted for a couple of minutes and then I was okay. You see, the last couple of years of Mom’s life had resulted in her being still most of the time, so it did not seem too much different from what had been.

My concern is for my dad. Married to the same woman for 65 years, her main caregiver for the past several years, Dad’s life has been focused on his lifemate. I asked him on Monday, as we shared breakfast together at Bob Evans Restaurant, what he was going to do this week. He looked at me and said, “Well, Bill, I have no idea!”

He has been freed from his daily routine, and the freedom is numbing. His day had revolved around Mom’s care. A home health care person would come in each day from nine until one in the afternoon. Dad would use that time to do yard work, or go to the pharmacy or grocery store, or to doctor appointments. Come one o’clock he would be sitting by Mom’s side reading Time magazine or watching the local news on TV. Around 5:00 he would fix her dinner and feed it to her, and my sister would stop by. Around 8:00 my sister would come back and they would get Mom ready for the night. Around 9:30 a tuckered out husband would make his way to bed, where he usually did not sleep well despite his exhaustion. And then the next day the routine would start again!

And so now he has a kind of freedom that he has not wished for. His only daily task for the next two weeks is radiation treatments at 9:50 each weekday at St. Mary’s Hospital. It’s his third round of radiation for skin cancer spots, a second round for places on his right ear.

My dad is a special man. And so, just as we prayed that the Lord would take Mom home as the Parkinson’s took more and more control of her body and mind, we pray that God will protect and strengthen Pops in these days of difficult transition. Being 85, he is in the home stretch years of his life. We’re praying that they will be solid, memory-filled, laughter immersed.

“God, he deserves it! I understand the grace thing, that the wages of our sin is death, that we didn’t earn eternal life. I’m just asking for some time for my dad where we can focus on him, we can love him, and communicate by our words and actions that he is special. I know that when you passes from this life he will live eternally, and I’m extremely thankful for that. I’m just hoping he gets to live unburdened for a while still in this life. That plea, I admit, is more for our benefit than for him. But, Father God, like I I said, he deserves it!”

       That’s my prayer and my plea. We could tell that the weariness of this journey has tired him in many ways. I pray for the days to be easier. He deserves it.

Condolences and Companions

September 8, 2013

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                           September 8, 2013

 

 

     Going through the loss of my mom has been a journey. It has allowed me to see the despair of Jesus in his Garden of Gethsemane darkness. He was utterly and completely alone. His disciples had eyelids heavier than a Sunday morning Baptist listening to a long-winded monotone preacher.

Jesus had no one. No shoulder to lean on, no one to embrace him. No one to pray with him or hold his hand.

And I now know in a very real way how difficult it would have been to go through an experience of loss by myself. The last few days of grieving and mourning has included a long list of journeying companions.

Let me tell you…the kitchen counter at Mom and Dad’s house has resembled a food buffet line without the sneeze guards! Fried chicken, lasagna, meat and cheese tray, veggie tray, vegetable beef soup, chicken casserole, chicken casserole #2, salad, potato salad, cole slaw, chip dip, potato casserole, peach cobbler, apple pie, chocolate cake, brownies, chocolate chip cookies…you get the picture? Food is a consoling agent! Somehow grief is made easier with a chicken leg in your hand.

And the flowers! People sent enough flowers to fill a nursery. Mom loved flowers. Dad’s yard is a picture of gardening excellence. Flowers are expression of love and concern that bring a hint of beauty to a gray moment of life.

At the visitation before Mom’s funeral service there were a multitude of people who kept streaming in to pay their respects. Everyone knew that Mom’s time had come. In fact, the past couple of years were almost like a second epilogue…one more extra that wasn’t needed. But still the people came to say farewell to Mom, and offer condolences to our family. Former neighbors, church folk, workmates, classmates, distant cousins, and people whose paths had crossed at some time with Mom and Dad. I saw my cousin, Annette, who I had not seen in a good forty years, and my cousins Michelle and Matthew that I wish I could have a week with.

Companions for the journey. Encouragers in the midst of discouraging times.

I’ve had people ask me during my years as a pastor “How do people make it through this who have no faith?” I’d revise that question and make it “how do people make it through this who have no faith or friends?” (Food is a bi-product of having friends!)

My best man, Dave Hughes, came by yesterday for a couple of hours. My former partner in ministry, Artie Powers, journeyed down from West Virginia to the visitation and funeral service. My church in Colorado Springs sent flowers. My good friend, Mike Fairchild, who lives outside of Rochester, New York now, and his brother, Mark, sent flowers.

Companions for the journey.

Which takes me back to Jesus! I can’t imagine walking this road alone. It makes his death walk seem even crueler…that there was no one there for him…and yet he continued. Instead of a shoulder to lean on he had a cross he had to bear.

Speaking to Mom

September 7, 2013

WORDS FROM W.W                                               September 7, 2013

 

 

Most who are reading this know that my mom passed away on September 3. Her funeral was yesterday. After the service at Hall’s Funeral Home in Proctorville, Ohio, the family traveled about an hour and a half to Highland Memorial Gardens outside of Staffordsville, Kentucky for her graveside. I was asked to conduct the graveside service. Now, understand that I’ve conducted a lot of graveside services over the years, but this was different. This was for Mom, the one who changed my diapers and kept me in line. One doesn’t just read a scripture, recite a poem, and close in prayer at his mother’s cemetery plot. The following are my last words to Mom before her casket was lowered into the ground just to the foot of her parents’ graves, and also in the company of her sister Irene, and husband Milliard Vance, her brother Dewey Junior Helton (who I always thought  was actually named Junior…Uncle Junior!), and his wife Grethel, and Mom’s brother-in-law, Bernie Whitt. Her sister, Cynthia Whitt, age 91, is the last of the six children still living.

“Family plot” is an appropriate term for that section of the cemetery! And those of us who are still walking upright were gathered there with them.

Dear Mom,

    I know that you are in heaven now. As I thought about who you are- your personality, likes and dislikes- and who you have been, and I thought about where you are now, I started pondering what it is about heaven that impresses you…not that there is anything in heaven that is unimpressive!

     I know that you will be taken back by how immaculate everything is in Glory. Everything is perfectly placed. There is no hint of chaos. There isn’t a place in the whole expanse that “looks like a tornado hit it” (Your term used often to describe my bedroom!). 

      Everything is clean! Cleanliness is next to godliness…and now you know that it also describes the area next to God! The order of heaven has brought a smile to your face. If heaven has magazines they are neatly arranged. Good Housekeeping would figure prominently in the tidy mix.

      I know you will also be thrilled to discover that there is no death, mourning, crying, or pain there. The last few years have had their share of those things…from the passing of siblings and friends…to the pain of your illnesses. Dad and Rena often found that there was nothing they could do to comfort you, to make things so you would not hurt. They did not want you to be in pain, but there was a pained helplessness within them as they waited by your bedside. Heaven, as you have discovered, does not have a hospital ward…or doctor’s waiting rooms…or pills to take and health insurance forms to submit.

      In heaven I’m sure you are rejoicing with those who have gone before you. I know you’re experiencing a reunion of the saints. There’s been a separation that has now come back together. 

      Can you hear Aunt Rene’s laughter? 

      Do people still have Kentucky accents there, which, I know, Kentuckians have thought are pretty heavenly on this earth? 

       Is the aforementioned Uncle Junior still allowed to pinch the legs of unsuspecting little boys…like he would do to me while sitting in the swing together at Mamaw and Papaw Helton’s house? 

       Have you seen Papaw yet, and does he drink buttermilk in heaven? I always thought that buttermilk was disgusting, so I’m assuming he is having to go “buttermilk cold turkey” for the rest of eternity.

      And, Mom, you’re seeing the Lamb of God, Jesus, with the multitudes encircling him in praise and adoration of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Since I know you were always impressed with Easter Choir Cantatas, you must be standing there with your mouth wide open in awe of what you are now hearing and seeing. 

      We grieve your death, but we rejoice in your life, and now…new life. As the scripture says “…we live by faith, not by sight.”

      Because of our shared faith we know that someday we will be reunited with you, and for that we are thankful!