Archive for November 2015

Enjoying Senior Moments

November 30, 2015

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                   November 30, 2015

                                          

I’m having more senior moments…like when I was looking for my keys and two minutes later I discovered I was holding them in my left hand…senior moments like that.

But I also enjoy senior moments. Or, put another way, moments shared with seniors. My congregation has some incredible senior folk who are a part of it. They are the most caring, unconditional love-based, surprising group that I’ve had the privilege to pastor. They genuinely support one another, offer to help with rides, call on the phone to someone who doesn’t show up at their group gatherings.

Four of them are now in their nineties, and, although the effects of age are slowing them down, they are people of incredible faith and depth. Yesterday, a cold and snowy Sunday, none of them were able to be at worship and there was something missing. Worship isn’t a choice for them. It’s a commitment, and when they can’t come it is almost always because they are sick, are afraid of falling on ice or the snow, in the hospital, or out of town.

Another of the senior couples delight me with their humor and giving spirit. I am always blessed to be in the same room with them. The wife’s laugh is contagious and joy-filled. the husband’s stories are filled with wit that result in chuckles.

A retired military man and his wife grace me with their friendship. Even though we are not necessarily on the same page politically they are two people who give to others in sacrificial ways. The wife has a heart of gold that causes her to become emotional as she talks about the ordeals that others are going through. The husband serves every Sunday in some way, whether it be transporting one of the seniors or ushering and greeting people.

There’s an African-American lady who is like my “Black Mom!” in fact, I call her “Mom” from time to time. She gives me “instruction”, just like my mom did, prays for me, gives me “the look” just like my mom did. Wisdom and exhortation from her guide me in my journey.

There’s a lady who was a baker. She kneaded the doe for bread and cinnamon rolls. Her love went into each of her baked goods. Now she “kneads” the pains and heartaches of others each day in her prayers. Like working the doe, she works the words of her prayer for the sorrows of others. Her foundations are prayer and scripture.

There’s another lady who is the group guardian. She sometimes senses the indecision of the group and says “Here’s what we’re going to do!” She senses when someone doesn’t want to impose on anyone else, and tells the the person that things will be taken care of. She’s the Joshua in a group of Jack and Jills.

Another lady, who is on the younger end of the seniors, has a gentle spirit, an attitude of grace, and the heart of a servant. A widow, she has encountered her share of sorrow, and knows the journey that many of our senior folk are on.

There’s another woman who moved here a few years ago from another state. She volunteers whenever there is a need…at the local school, for Wednesday night dinners, giving out food to those in need, making quilts and clothing. The last few months have been hard for her as her health has taken some hits. She does not have a high opinion of doctors, but has a very high opinion and love for the woman just mentioned before her.

A widower who has started coming to our group recently is my razor…and also someone I razz. We feel very comfortable giving soft jabs to one another. I had his wife’s funeral a few years ago. She was killed by a drunk driver. Pain and sorrow have punctuated his world, and this group of seniors keeps him anchored and cared for.

Another woman who is fairly new to the group makes the best cookies I’ve ever eaten. In her mid-eighties she has a smile that would like up a cereal box and a warmth that is accepting of others.

Another couple are like Aquila and Priscilla, serving in ways that do not make headlines, but needed. The man has become the best friend of another guy who has endured a life of disappointment and heartache. These two are people who are gifts from God, people who “come alongside” someone in need.

And then there is a transplanted Buckeye who is in the midst of jubilation this week for his college team’s victory over Michigan. He imparts his wisdom to me, and encouragement for decisions made and sermons preached. His emails are always in capital letters. In fact, if they were capitalized I would instantly know someone had pretended to be him.

So many blessings! So much enjoyment that has come into my life from folk who have traveled the journey of life.

As I enter my last month as their pastor I know…i know…I know that I have been greatly blessed!

Sometimes I Just Have to Tell Myself

November 30, 2015

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                           November 30, 2015

                                   

People don’t always act properly or respond reasonably. It makes me wonder what is behind their rude behavior and insensitive treatment.

And so when I encounter someone who seems to give off an aura that the world revolves around him/her I now try to slow down and begin a sentence with the following words: Sometimes I just have to tell myself…

It sounds like this!

Sometimes I just have to tell myself…

   …that when a new checkout person at Target comes to our life that is five deep, says “I can take the next person in line”, and the last person in line rushes over to her he obviously has a wife in labor at the hospital and needs to get his deodorant bought, his Hamburger Helper home, and his orange juice chilled.

    …that Peter Fonda, who is weaving in and out of traffic on his Harley at eighty is really a surgeon on the way to the hospital to do a heart transplant…or to deliver the baby of Example Person #1!

    …that the lady who is walking smack dab down the middle of the grocery aisle with no hint of moving to the right has macular degeneration and can’t see me…or the grandchild that is with me!

    …that the multitude of video games whose objective is to have the gamer kill people, zombies, monsters, or aliens has no relation to the increasing number of shooting deaths that seem to be everyday occurrences now.

    …that my cell phone bill is just an illusion, not the reality.

    …that Trump didn’t really just say that, did he?

    …that God must get amused from time to time when he sees what various churched people believe is important…and of no importance. 

    …that the message isn’t the sermon. 

    …that the guy spouting “f-bombs” probably went to a high school that didn’t offer Public Speaking as a class he could take. 

    …that its okay to go to a movie because you have a yearning for popcorn.

    …that grandkids are God’s reward to you for living through the adolescent years of your own kids. 

    …that God loves me despite my stupidity!

Hope

November 30, 2015

 

“Zechariah asked the angel, ‘How can I be sure of this? I am an old man and my wife is well along in years.’” (Luke 1:18)

It is much easier to doubt than it is to hope. Doubt takes little effort. It comes like the incoming tide of an ocean shore…wave after wave inching its way up the sand…changing the configuration of our thoughts. Hope takes invested commitment.

Doubt pushes its way into our visions of the future. What will God do during this time? Doubt detours around God and muddies our journey. What new directions will God take us in? Doubt stubbornly roots itself in the stiffness of the present. What better things does God have for us as we journey through our life with him? Doubt sees no good, no possible renewal.

When we allow hope to rise we step into the certainty of God’s promise. We step out of our Zechariah moment and into the delight of Elizabeth’s new hope.

Some folk in our churches have to be nurtured out of doubt. There may need to be some people who walk alongside them and usher them towards hope. “Zechariahs” take a little longer to arrive at hope. Sometimes it takes a little more persuasion…a tied tongue for a while…for someone to discover the assuredness of God’s promise.

Let hope arise! Let hope arise! Let us be able to see the hope and excitement of Elizabeth’s words: “The Lord has done this for me!” (Luke 1:25a)

Manger Implications

November 26, 2015

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                  November 26, 2015

                                     

Last night a group of us were decorating the church sanctuary for Christmas. Wreaths, Christmas tree, and nativity sets. Our church has about four different nativity sets which get positioned in different spots around the room.

As we decorated and started to place the manger scenes we discovered that a couple of the sets were incomplete. In one box Mary came up missing! She had fled the scene! In another there were twin baby Jesus’s! A third set had a Mary and Joseph who were dwarfed by Goliath-sized magi.

I was game to place the different manger scenes as they appeared, but was outvoted by the rest of the decorators. What a perfect time to make people think about the implications of the birth scene of Jesus by putting out the manger scenes as we had them.

A single parent manger scene with only Joseph! What would that have looked like for Jesus? For one thing he wouldn’t have had siblings, but, more than that, Mary seems to have been the nurturer in scripture. By the time Jesus was gathering his disciples Joseph has been gone for a long time. It can easily be said that Mary was second in importance to the Christ-child as part of the nativity scene cast.

Twin Jesus’s! That would have blown everyone’s minds! I can’t even comprehend the gospel story with twin messiahs.

The more I think about it the more I’m glad I was outvoted. There seems to be enough “messing with people’s theology” going on these days!

In our own minds we’re prone to re-create the story. The gospel has had people deleting from it for years. Just as Catholics perhaps over-emphasize the role of Mary, many Protestants aren’t sure what to do with her. She gives birth and then in our theology comes up missing after that.

Twin Jesus’s! Many of us live our Christianity based on that: one Jesus for Calvary and the other Jesus to convince us that life will be comfortable and worry-free if we simply believe in him.

Giant magi and “little people Mary and Joseph!” An appropriate and relevant picture to describe how prominent our faith journey is compared to other elements of our life.

Incomplete manger scenes are disturbing for many reasons!

Running…to God

November 25, 2015

WORD FROM W.W.                                                                         November 24, 2015

                                                

A long-time friend of mine who recently lost her sister to cancer wrote a post on her Facebook page that resonated with me. She said, “Because of all your sincere prayers on my behalf my anger (that is a bit extreme) at God is gone. I was disappointed the Lord did not heal my sister on this earth. I am choosing to run to Him, not from him.”

     What is the direction of our run when we are in pain? It is easy to run from the God who didn’t answer our heartfelt prayer in the way we desired. Distance from God is a natural reaction to disappointment with God.

My own running has been punctuated by sprints away from God and slow crawls back to him. My running away in disappointment has sometimes been the result of God not going along with my desire for my enemy to suffer, or the absence of an angelic choir to sing about how my answer to a hotly debated problem is right.

Sometimes my running away comes from the unfairness of life, sometimes it happens because I don’t want to be fair with God.

My friend’s reference to running to him is using the lane with few footprints in it. David chose to run in this lane quite often, but, as we know, he also had his races of retreat.

What is the direction of our run? When the content of our prayers is dominated by the wants of our life we can expect that there will be a running from the Giver of grace. When our prayer is focused on our relationship with the Father running to him will often be our response.

If I am secure in my belief that what God wants for me is wholeness, not hurt, I will be slowly running to him.

We have a way of putting “what if’s” in our theological outcomes. Another friend of mine from years ago lost his daughter in an accident recently. I can not understand his grief, and, therefore, how he is journeying through the loss of life. Knowing the depth of his spiritual journey I’ve got a feeling it resembles someone swimming laps in a pool…the swimming away is followed closely by a swim to…and then a swim away!

My choice to run to God seems much less complicated than his.

This is Thanksgiving Week. A time to run to God and recognize that he is caring, concerned, loving, and kind. In a world with daily terrorist threats and warnings I’m choosing to be in the shadow of his wing…the cleft of the rock…rather than the isolation of my disappointment.

Feeling My Muscles…In A Bad Way!

November 22, 2015

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                       November 22, 2015

                                       

Our youngest daughter…our baby!!!…Lizi moved with her husband, Mike, from Albuquerque to Colorado Springs this weekend. Carol and I psyched up our 61 year old bodies and helped them load up and unload the U-Haul truck. We were more than happy to do that! This morning we are feeling every box…every piece of furniture…every floor scrubbed…and toilet cleaned! (Okay! I didn’t clean the toilet, but I did use it!)

We helped them get it done…and now will gladly help pay for Two Men and A Truck to help them with their next move, whenever that is!

God gives us muscles to get things done, and sometimes he gives us older muscles to remind us there are certain things we should no longer do.

Today I’m feeling what is left of my biceps. I don’t remember this feeling when Carol and I were moving into our first home back in 1979, or when I moved all of my possessions into my seminary apartment all by myself.

Today my lower back reminds me of our closet door that squeaks every time you open or close it. The squeak sounds strangely like it is saying “Leave me alone!”

My feet feel like they’ve run a marathon! the best thing I can say about my neck pain is that it let’s me know it is still there.

My fingers hurt! My eyebrows ache!

I’m soaking in muscle ointment!

But that’s okay! You do things for family and friends that border on lunacy. I’d much rather move a couch than decorate a cake. I’m prefer moving china rather then going on a shopping trip to buy it.

Coincidentally Carol and I signed our wills Friday morning. In case I dropped the china as I was dropping dead we were legally clear as to what was to happen. Comforting thought!

Today is Sunday…a day of rest and Ben Gay! Two days from now I’ll return to the illusion that I’m twenty again!

Weathered Dreams

November 17, 2015

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                          November 16, 2015

                                          

We’re in the midst of a mid-November blizzard. Schools closed, roads closed, people stranded…all those signs that point to the wisdom of staying home. The wind is blowing like there’s no tomorrow. Snow drifts greeted me when I opened the garage door this morning.

Glad I got the lawn mowed yesterday!

This morning I looked out the window in our dining room to our back yard. On our wood fence in the back there is a sign that has been there for a number of years, almost like a picture frame, that says “Dream!”

It reminds us to envision, to imagine, to think the impossible.

But the strong winds and blizzard cold has loosened one of the nails that has been holding the “Dream” in place. Today it swings back and forth on the fence board with uncertainty, as if it has been abandoned. It conveys the mixed message of falling dreams, almost like someone imagining the “not yet” being pulled back down to reality.

Jesus was a dreamer! He preached about the Jubilee year of renewal, release, and redemption; encouraged kids to come to him; envisioned his death and resurrection, talked about healed people and exorcised demons. Of course, he did more than talk! He made what people thought were crazy ideas into realities.

Sometimes we’re guilty of raising up people of faith who have given up on their dreams. The dream sign is swinging back and forth in the winds of church life. The wisdom of how to raise up people of faith is tempered by the pull back into congregational conformity.

“God has given me a vision for helping people in the midst of addiction!”

     “God has placed a dream within my spirit to start a ministry where a team of people offers free vehicle inspections to senior folk.”

     “God has not allowed me a good night’s sleep because of a dream he has given me to mentor kids in reading at the local elementary school.”

     “God has given me a vision to make mittens for kids at the mission we support in British Columbia.”

Dreams come in all sizes and shapes, places and people. I’m convinced a big part of God’s masterpiece gets conveyed through the dreams of his followers. Sometimes they make perfect sense and sometimes, on the surface, they are lacking in common sense. How does the church keep dreams from falling? How do those of us who have been followers of Jesus for a long ways support the new directions of the younger generation?

It takes a bit of faith to see that lemonade comes from lemons. It takes an abundance of hands to be the under-support of a person’s dream that seeks to rise.

When the blizzard passes I’ll go out into out back yard and pound the nail back in place on our “Dream” sign. Or perhaps I’ll take the sign off from where it is and raise it up another six inches!