Archive for December 2013

The Grinch at Starbucks

December 26, 2013

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                   December 25, 2013

The elderly gentleman arrived at the entry door of Starbucks just ahead of a forty-something man with a serious look on his face and a cell phone attached to his ear. The senior opened the door and invited the other visitor to enter ahead of him. He did and gave his doorman a half-nod.

This was the second visit to the store that morning for the wiser of the two. The second cup of coffee was free for him, so he had taken a morning drive as he sipped on the first cup and then stopped back on his way home. His wife knew his routine, and knew how long it took him to drink twenty-four ounces of the dark roast.

The forty-something hadn’t changed out of his flannel pants, presumably the ones he had worn to bed the night before. He stepped up to the counter and gave no reply to the barista who greeted him.

Harry, the elderly gent, took his time moving from the entrance to his place in line behind the man. He stood there with his coffee cup in hand patiently waiting. The man in the flannel pants in front of him began giving his order…”Latte with skim milk…three shot mocha cappuccino…vanilla latte skim extra shot…americano…medium roast coffee…caramel macciato…three sausage breakfast sandwiches…and a pumpkin spice latte skim.”

     “What size on those drinks, sir?”

      The customer looked perturbed to even have the question be asked. “All talls!”

       “Yes, sir! That will be $31.55.”

       “$31.55! Good Lord! Are you sure about that?”

      The young woman with the patience of Job printed out a copy of the bill. “Yes, sir! Here’s the breakdown on each purchase.”

      The agitated mid-life crisis grabbed it and scanned the figures.

“Cash or credit, sir?”

      “Credit!” bellowed her challenger. The wallet was whipped out of his back pocket to show his disgust. He peered into the pockets of the fake leather, hesitated, and then searched again more frantically.

       “Is there a problem, sir?”

       “I’m missing my credit card,” replied the embarrassed adversary. “I must have pulled it out of my wallet at home and…”

       “Allow me to take care of it, my friend.” The voice of the elderly gentleman was friendly and understanding. “Amanda, would you put this gentleman’s purchases on my bill?”

       “I can’t let you do that. I don’t even know you,” said the man.

“No, but Amanda here does, and she knows that I’m going to get a refill on the dark roast before I even order, and leave me a little room for cream. Isn’t that right, Amanda?”

      “That’s right, Wally.”

      “Sir, I don’t know if…”

      “Let me ask you something, friend. I take it that you aren’t going to drink all of those lattes and drinks, and eat all of those breakfast sandwiches yourself. And I’m guessing that since you are wearing those flannel pants that you are returning home to a place where a few other people close to you are waiting to get caffeinated. This is just my opinion, but I would say it would be better for you to accept my gift here than to disappoint a houseful of people there.”

       The man glanced back and forth for a few moments pondering his dilemma, and then said, “Okay!”

       “Each one of us has found ourselves in awkward situations such as this. It is at those times that I pray that God would put someone behind me to pick me up from my mistake and let me know it will be okay. Perhaps some day soon you’ll be that person

next in line.”

        The man nodded with a look of partial appreciation and he slowly moved down a few feet to the counter where his drinks and food would appear. A few minutes later, with drink carrier and bag in hand, he stepped towards the door to depart. As he opened the door he hesitated and then looked back at his Starbucks savior.

“Wally…thank you!”

         Wally’s wrinkled face broke into a warm smile. He raised his coffee cup to the man and nodded “You’re welcome.”

Complacent Contentment

December 23, 2013

 

“Complacent Contentment”

All of us like routines. Even the most schedule-free person has routines. It’s part of our nature.

I brush my teeth a certain way.

When I go to the grocery I always enter the store and go to the left.

I like listening to the Country Top 30 on Saturday morning as I drive to church for men’s Bible study. I usually get to hear #29, #28, and #27. I never know what’s number one.

All of those aforementioned things are routines.

But sometimes God breaks into our routines in radical ways.

For instance, Zechariah was a first-century priest in the Abijah division. His life was pretty well set. Be a priest. Serve God. Lead the people in the Jewish festivals. Do what the priests before him, whom he had been related to…kind of like generation after generation of a family business.

And then an angel breaks into his life and tells him his wife, who was border-line AARP eligible, was going to have a baby…which she had never experienced before. The closest they had come to children was babysitting the neighbor’s kids.

They had reached that point in their lives when they were complacently contented…like a Sunday afternoon nap that ignores phone calls!

God had a special plan for Zechariah…a special son. What if he had simply ignored the angel?

What are you susceptible to in your life that would border on complacency? It is different for each one of us. For some of us it is losing our hearing of the hurting voiced around us. For others it’s becoming so involved in church that we become complacent to what the Spirit is saying to us.

What might your “caution tape” be partitioning off?

The Five Wise Boys

December 20, 2013

WORDS FROM W.W.                                               December 20, 2013

 

 

The five young boys started their stroll down the center aisle of the church’s sanctuary. They carried gifts made out of plastic and cardboard, but painted to look like expensive presents from Dilliard’s. Boys have a tendency to drop things. Better to have a plastic container painted gold than a gold container containing something fragile.

There were five of them, each wearing a decorative hat or head wrap to convey their roles as the three wise men…plus two!

It wasn’t necessarily the plan! The program called for three boys dressed up to be like the “We Three Kings!”

“We Five Kings” or “Us Bunch of Kings” just didn’t quite have the same ring to it. Nevertheless, there were five of them marching down the aisle in all their glory.

Magi #4 and Magi #5 had shown up for the first time that morning…and been invited to carry some fragile-looking cardboard containers to the manger scene. They were a little apprehensive.

“We haven’t practiced.”

One of the other wise boys asked the question: “Can you walk and chew gum at the same time?” He got two cautious nods. “Then you qualify! Just follow us and we’ll lead you to the right spot.”

“After all,” added Wise Boy #2, “the Magi followed a star! They didn’t really practice either, and they made it okay!”

The first wise boy took Magi #4’s hand and said “It will be fun!” He tugged a little bit to get him to follow.

The two additional characters had come to church that morning with their mom and dad who had just become homeless. A world of confusion and closed doors had greeted their parents as they tried to keep the family together, safe, and fed. The journey to the sanctuary manger scene that morning has been preceded by visits to filled homless shelters, tapped-out agencies, and declined appeals.

Christmas looked dark.

Mom and Dad and their two boys carried all their possessions in two suitcases and four backpacks, and they walked from one place to the next. Desperation was starting to seep in to their minds. Fears about survival were becoming constant.

And then the parents met someone who said, “Let me see if I can help you!” A roof over their heads, food in their hands, and an invitation to come to church. The genuineness of the helper convinced them that this was not a superficial offer, but was undergirded with concern for their well-being.

And so they had come. Someone had picked them up and brought them…and soon after the wise boys had multiplied by sixty-seven percent.

After the program as the five boys stood around munching cookies and not worrying about crumbs on the carpet, Wise Boy #1 said, “Hey! I wonder if this is how it happened in the original Christmas story? Do you think the wise men picked up people on the way and invited them to join them?”

Wise Boy #2 responded, “It doesn’t seem right that they wouldn’t have. Why keep good news a secret?”

What Do You Expect?

December 20, 2013

 

      Expectations.

When I’ve heard someone ask the question “What do you expect?” it has conveyed one of two opposite extremes.

I’ve heard it asked mockingly, referring to the lack of intelligence or ability in another person. A college student flunks a math class, and his father says to his mother, “What do you expect?” In other words, the parent had no expectations of his child for any kind of success. Sad as it is, the failure is almost hoped for by the cynical dad.

Expectations can be extinguished by past experience. It is easy to predestine personal failure because someone believes it would be out of character for him to rise above mediocrity.

But there’s another way to ask “What do you expect?”, and it is in a way that elevates, dreams, thinks of new possibilities.

Ask a class of first-graders what they want to be when they grow up and there will be lofty pictures and occupations. First-graders want to be President, or doctors, or olympic athletes, or zoologists (Okay! Maybe they just say “someone who takes care of the giraffes!”) , or Air Force pilots . Their expectations are still mountain-top like!

The story of the shepherds out in the fields taking care of their flocks as the Christ-child is being birthed is a picture of people who were raised out of their mediocrity. Shepherds usually resigned themselves to a life of mundane sheep-watching and protection. And now here is a group of sheep-herders who are pulled into the incarnation event.

No one had ever asked themselves about expectations. They hadn’t been included in such lofty  conversations.

We serve a God who asks the question “What do you expect?”

He asks it, however, in ways that seek to have us look for the possibilities?

Worship That Is Dangerous!

December 19, 2013

“Where is the one who has been born long of the Jews? We saw his star in the east and have come to worship him.” (Matthew 2:2)

 

“The elephant in the room” in King Herod’s court was that there was a different star in the sky then his. If Herod could have been voted deity status he would have gladly accepted. In fact, he expected to be worshiped like a god. To have wise men from a long distance away come looking for someone else who they deemed more important than Herod spelled trouble.

It disturbed him, and when he was disturbed he was usually perturbed! Having Herod perturbed was a recipe for disaster for some unfortunate people around him.

Worship is at the core of the church and for followers of Christ, but worship is recognizing that it is about someone other than myself. I’m not the focus. Some people get perturbed with that.

Recently I read an article about some “rock star worship leaders” who were having a tough time. Some of them, brought into mega-church settings to lead worship, were getting disenchanted…and some were getting fired…because they were trying to create a concert-like atmosphere that brought the spotlight upon themselves. In the concert scene of our culture that was the norm, but in church the focus of worship is on the One we are sining to.

Here’s the weird thing! If we focus our worship, individually and corporately, upon the Lord, it will have a strange side effect of inspiring ourselves. Some people don’t get that, and some people are pretty perturbed by that, but “wise men still seek him!”

Recognizing The Change

December 18, 2013

 

 

I get pretty comfortable with how things work, and how things are suppose to be. For example, I have the same routine each morning after I wake up…unless I go to the YMCA and work out first. Any other day I get up and shower, brush my teeth and then shave. I never shave before the teeth are clean. Go figure! It’s just how it has been and is.

But I’m also a “stuck-in-the-mud” with how things work. I’m used to things being plugged in. Toaster, TV, room air conditioner, coffee maker.

And so it took me a long time to understand and adjust to the new term wireless. Wireless technology seemed to weird to me for a long, long time. I didn’t trust it. If plugged-in gadgets were good enough for my grandfather then they were good enought for me.

I, however, have made the change. I finally recognized that the change was a good thing, even if it was a new thing.

When Jesus came as a new born a “new thing” was beginning. The old thing was familiar, but the new happening required a shift.

On Christmas Eve we sing about the new thing that is about to happen- Jesus is about to be born. But here’s THE thing! God becoming man was meant to tell us about a change- a change that God wanted to see happen within each of our lives. He wanted to see peace on earth…and in each one of us. He wanted to see hope realized in my life and your life.

The story of the birth of Jesus is about a new creation…our new creation…from death to life…from despair to delight…from judgment to joy.

Sometimes things have to be surrendered to.

I pray that this Christmas changes you in God-glorifying ways!

Leaning on Crutches

December 13, 2013

 

 

I’m sitting in the office of an orthopedic specialist waiting for my daughter. She hurt her ankle playing soccer, and is now walking around with a boot on her left foot and a pair of crutches.

To say that she despises crutches would be an understatement. She hisses at them as she picks them up.

But she needs them, and she needs to lean on them.

Of our three kids she is the one who is most independent and self-sufficient. She can accomplish most of her tasks on her own, and yet when an ankle goes…she needs to lean! In a few days…or (Don’t tell her this!) a few weeks she won’t need the crutches any more, but for now she needs to just live with the hiss.

Sometimes things happen in our life that require a dependency on God that we’re not used to. We talk about being God-dependent all the time, but…we know how to walk! We don’t need crutches! Leaning on God means going at his pace and being led by his Spirit.

Mary’s life was going along as she had planned. She was going to marry Joseph and live a simple life with a few kids in a small community. And then the angel gave her some news that caught her off balance. She was going to be the first virgin to give birth to a child…and he would be the Christ-child…not just any Tom, Dick, and Harry! She had to learn to lean.

Leaning is trusting in uncomfortable ways.

As you look at your life where do you need to lean a little more and trust…and not see the leaning as a crutch that keeps you from experiencing reality, but rather leaning on Jesus, the author and perfecter of your faith.