Archive for June 2018

Guide The Steps of My Path, O Lord!

June 30, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                          June 30, 2018

                       

  

PSALM 31:1-5 (NIV)

In you, Lord, I have taken refuge;

let me never be put to shame;

deliver me in your righteousness.

Turn your ear to me,

    come quickly to my rescue;

be my rock of refuge,

    a strong fortress to save me.

Since you are my rock and my fortress,

    for the sake of your name lead and guide me.

Keep me free from the trap that is set for me,

    for you are my refuge. 

Into your hands I commit my spirit;

    deliver me, Lord, my faithful God.

As I run laps around the Timberview Middle School track I notice the footprints in front of me, and the weeds on the inside curve of the oval. The footprints are probably mine, and yet, they are also an assuring sign that it is a path that has been taken before. The weeds are an indication of the chaos of life that can so easily get in the way.

In my trudging ahead I do a lot of pondering about the presence of God, his protection and guidance. Sixteen laps gives a runner a lot of time to think, pray, and question. The questions come on each lap as I round a curve and encounter a headwind. 

In the thirty-first Psalm David writes a verse that has carried me through some hurtful runs and life hurdles. He says, “Since you are my rock and fortress, for the sake of your name lead and guide me.” (Ps. 31:3)

Rock. Fortress. Two strong and grounded objects. So firm and planted that they will not blow away, they will not be moved. 

Lead me. Guide me. Two directives that indicate movement and action. 

Yesterday as I ran around the track I came to a point in the oval where my shadow was ahead of me, another part where it was beside me, and a third stretch where it was behind me. The shadow “shadowed” me…always!

The strength and firmness of God is unshakeable. Nothing I do can uproot Him or cause Him to abandon me. Like the presence of a shadow- sometimes longer and sometimes shorter in length…sometimes leading the way and sometimes trailing behind…sometimes walking beside me, ready to give a hearing to my heart cries and convince me that all things are possible- the unmovable God moves with me!

It reminds me of the strength of my dad’s shoulder when I was a child! As our family sat in a church worship service and I inched towards slumber I would lean against Dad. His shoulder could be trusted to be a resting spot, a cushioned place of strength. When the service was close to ending he would not suddenly jerk away like Lucy tricking Charlie Brown in another of his ill-fated attempts to kick a football. Dad would slowly help me reposition and move on from a place of rest to the next steps of our journey. 

In my daily runs and running of life I lean on God, am led by God, but am never left by God.

The Lord God Almighty leads us, stays close to us, and is our strength! Amen!

Meaningless Prayer

June 28, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                June 28, 2018

                                 

“Rub-a-Dub! Thanks for the grub! Yeah, God! Amen!”

There’s been a few of those prayers that I’ve said through the years. How about this one?

“Good food! Good drink! Good God! Let’s eat! Amen!”

Yes, I know! A tint of irreverence in there. Here’s my daily irreverent offering!

“Cream and sugar, sugar and cream! Thank you, God, for coffee with steam! Amen and amen!”

A lot of prayer has a sliver of meaning and a lot of meaninglessness. It gets uttered or muttered, but not spoken. That is, I may speak the words with my lips, but they’ve detoured around my emotions and belief. 

Carol and I gently hold hands as we pray before partaking of the meal in front of us. (Gently holding hands because of her sensitive pinky finger, mind you!) I’ve become accustomed to saying “Thank you, God, for the food and this time together! Amen!” Simple, short, steam still rising from the bowls of mashed potatoes and peas when I’m finished. Quite often, however, I realize that I’ve simply said the words in order to get to the entree! They have carried no meaning, no true sense of thankfulness. 

Being fully present in the words of my prayer is difficult. It’s like when Carol would be saying something to me while I was watching a basketball game. She could throw in a few ad lib lines like “The house is on fire!” and I’d respond with an “Aha”!

Focus, Bill! 

Jesus had a few “Come to Jesus moments!” with the rigidly religious folk of his day. He harped about their words that had no meaning and depth, no urgency or heartfelt thankfulness. The people that he encouraged and affirmed were those who risked something in their prayer and committed themselves to the words they spoke. In essence3, they stood behind their pleas and praises. 

Mark 1:40 tells us about the man with leprosy who begged Jesus to make him clean. To others he was meant to be seen only from a distance, but he risked coming close to God. Mark 5 includes several stories and encounters with Jesus. One of them is about a woman who had a feminine bleeding issue that had spanned twelve years. She simply touched the hem of Jesus garment. That, in essence, was her prayer act…her reaching for the mercy of God. 

And Jesus affirmed her!

We talk a lot about who needs prayer (Look at the prayer concerns list in the weekly church communique!), and discount the praying. It’s like getting all the ingredients together for a double-layer chocolate cake, but never actually making it!

The awareness I have of the prayer shallowness in my life has caused me to focus more of my heartfelt praying in a certain way…asking for forgiveness!

Slow Down Day

June 26, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                    June 26, 2018

                                          

adult fashion footwear ground

Photo by Jens Mahnke on Pexels.com

Tomorrow, June 27, is Bike to Work Day in Colorado Springs. Since I’m retired, plus I don’t own a bicycle, I won’t be participating. I’m all for the idea, but I’m not sure a bike helmet will protect someone from the local Nascar drivers heading to work.

I’ve got another idea! How about a “Slow Down Day”? A day when people commit to driving the speed limit or UNDER IT!

I just shake my head at the number of drivers who seem to be in a hurry to get to the next stoplight before anyone else. They are over-populating the roadways more than the rabbits are taking over our neighborhood. 

About two months ago I was sideswiped by a man in a man-sized pickup truck who thought he would thunder over two lanes to the exit. He said he didn’t see my dark blue CRV with all the daylight around us! Thankfully no one was hurt…and I had a witness who pulled up beside my vehicle and said “I saw the whole thing!” I’m not bitter (Okay! Maybe a little bitter!), just agitated. His sense of hurry resulted in hours of my times in the next three weeks or so taking care of repair details, getting a rental car, talking to insurance company people.

Slow down!

One of our insightful neighborhood residents has posted signs at each of our subdivision’s entrances with the number “25” in large print, and also put these words above the number: “Drive like your own children live here!”

God had it right when he instructed his people to have a day of rest each week, a day of slowing down for reflection and renewal. It was law, but it was also therapeutic…kind of like someone in an art museum sitting and staring for a while at a sculpture!

So what if we had a Slow Down Day to the point that some bicycles whizzed by the cars and trucks? We’d know how the cyclists would feel all of the other days of the year. Instead of racing from work, what if people picked up the pace at work and took their time getting home?

Fast food restaurants could close their drive-thru lanes for the day. Jiffy Lube could keep their garage doors closed. Neighbors could schedule an evening walk together around the neighborhood. Baseball, the sport that has recently tried to speed up the game, could go back to its traditional ways of a nice and easy pace. Chess clubs could promote the game that takes thought and vision.

Slow Down Day! Churches could open their sanctuary doors for people to come and meditate! Doctors could slow down and talk to their patients. Families could sit at the dinner table and eat a meal that has been cooked slowly in the crock pot. 

Or…maybe a better idea is that people would just slow down a little bit each and every day so that everyone…everyone!…might feel a little more at ease with the flow of traffic and the flow of life!

The Good Samaritan Pusher

June 25, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                      June 25, 2018                              

     “But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him.” (Luke 10:33-34, NIV)

The Washington Post heard about it and had to do a story about the incident. They needed something that had a “feel good” effect to it, something that didn’t involve scandal or accusations being hurled back and forth.

And so two unlikely people- one trapped in the consequences of her disability and age, the other a 24 year old amateur boxer out preparing for a training run- became a story that gradually received national exposure. 

67 year old Belinda Walker was sitting in her motorized wheelchair by the side of the road. The battery had died and she was stuck! When the wheelchair suddenly came to a halt with a jerk she had fallen out of it to the ground. Someone passing by had helped her back into her chair, but then went on their way. Now 45 minutes later she was still sitting in the same spot, a good 30 minute walk away from her senior adult apartment complex. 

She prayed, “Dear God, dear God, please find somebody safe to help me out!” The next thing she knew Bilal Quintyne showed up. He asked if he could help and she asked if he could call someone to assist her getting back to her apartment. He replied, “I’ll do you one better. God blessed me with an able body. I’ll push you home.” 

It wasn’t easy. The wheels had seized up on the wheelchair so the going was difficult. Bilal’s trainer drove up, expecting to do a training session with his boxer. He saw what was happening and started filming “the push” on his cell phone. When Bilal reached Belinda’s apartment complex he was drenched in sweat. Belinda hugged him and he went on his way. That may have been the end of the story, but Bilal posted the video from his trainer on his Facebook page. It garnered three and a half million views!

Belinda’s pastor saw it on Facebook and took it upon himself to bring the rescuer and the rescued together. 

In the video Bilal looks at the camera as he’s pushing Belinda up a hill and says, “When God calls you to help, you help, PERIOD!”’

I hadn’t heard about that story until my friend, Ed Stucky, shared it with me yesterday. I then found it online, complete with the video, and it made my day. 

When Jesus tells the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10 the most unlikely person is the hero, the rescuer, the one who in all likelihood has the least responsibility to lend a help. Bilal didn’t expect to be called upon to help that day. Being called upon to lend a hand if rarely based on how convenient it fits into our plans. He didn’t know that HE was the answer to HER prayer. As he said, “When God calls you to help, you help, PERIOD!”

            “Lord, I pray for eyes to see the one you put in my path today! And when I see that person…draw me to him/her, not decide to take the wide route around! Amen!”

(Details of this story appeared in The Washington Post in a story written by Tara Bahrampour on June 19, 2018)

Cheek Turning and Face Slapping

June 24, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                           June 24, 2018

                                

Okay! I get it! People don’t agree with one another! I get that! Our country is polarized in about a thousand different ways. Having a difference of opinion is part of our history. Just go back and read about our founding fathers and the forming of the Constitution. I wouldn’t exactly characterize its writing as “synchronized wordsmithing.” By the grace of God they didn’t splinter into a dozen different directions and shout “Forget this!”

Good Lord! Baptists can’t agree on much! You know what they say about us Baptists (I’m an ordained American Baptist minister!)? Where there’s two Baptists there’s at least three denominations!

So…I get it! My own group of Christian journeyers are as different as each hair on my head. 

Jesus said something about turning the other cheek. His words were:

      “But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.”  (Matthew 5:39)

If someone does something unkind to you, or says something that is insulting, we refer to it as “a slap in the face.” Jesus answer was not to get even, not to seek revenge, but rather turn your cheek and let the insulter smack the other cheek. 

Not a widely practiced life principle!!!

Sarah Sanders, the White House Press Secretary, and her family were asked to leave a Virginia restaurant by the owner because the owner does not agree with the president’s policies and actions. 

I get that…the disagreement part, that is! Sanders left without incident. She took the slap in the face, BUT she had to go to Twitter and post about the incident, with a little jab at the owner in the midst of it. 

I don’t agree with either the owner’s initial slap or Sanders’ jab back. But both are representative of our cultural, political, and confused slants on life. We have become a retaliatory people, not just in our political venom, but in most areas of life. Jesus’ message focused on reconciliation. His keys words were grace, forgiveness, love, hope, peace, and justice. His message sought to heal brokenness, draw in the outcasts, give a voice to the powerless.

Respecting one another’s differences is a lost art. Instead of joining hands the overwhelming response is to punch the other person/side in the face.

I get it! Conservatives treat liberals with disdain, and liberals think conservatives are thugs. Others get pulled into the crossfire. 

There’s two enduring signs of hope in all of this. One is this! If the founding fathers could get it figured out so can we!

And second, if Jesus could turn the other cheek…the very God Incarnate!…I have hope that each one of us can too!

Cleaning Up The Migrant Kids Mess

June 22, 2018

JUNE 22, 2018

Messes happen. They are a part of our fallen (or spilled!) creation! I’ve spilled my coffee several times over the years. The worst thing, however, is to pretend that there is no mess! That the spilled coffee is just part of life and to either walk around it, step over it, or walk through it. (If you’ve ever been in a school cafeteria you’d be amazed at how many students will pretend spilled milk on the floor really didn’t happen!) What is the other option? Ahhh…clean it up! Get down on your hands and knees and take care of the mess! No parent tells their child who has just dumped his morning Cheerios to just pretend it’s not a problem.

No matter what your stance is about illegal aliens I’m going out on a limb here to say that most of us are at some degree of uncomfortableness with kids being separated from their parents. Even without factoring in the “media hype”, it’s disturbing. 

There’s always something troubling about intentionally separating children from their parents!

It’s a mess! A mess created by our yearning for a safe environment, our tendency to see our enemies as those who live outside our realm, and to push the powerless out of the way. The mess, in this case, has been swept to the side so not to be disruptive.

Like with my parents, however, when I made a mess I admitted it and took care of it. Perhaps the same thing needs to happen with the migrant children. We messed up. We admit it, and now we’re going to get down on our hands and knees and take care of the chaos we’ve brought into the lives of the people whose lives have been turned upside-down. 

The spills of our mistakes become permanent stains if they aren’t taken care of.

Dad’s Day Without Dad

June 17, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                June 17, 2018

                                 

It’s a weird feeling this morning! Today is the first Father’s Day I’ve experienced without Dad! He passed away four months ago at the wise old age of 89. Tomorrow would have been his 90th birthday. there’s

Dad has always been there. Though we were separated by five states his presence never seemed to be far away. Our Sunday night phone chats became our routine. When he didn’t answer his phone I worried…so I’d call my sister to see if he was okay. More times than I can remember he’d call me back as I’d be talking to her. I’d switch calls over to him and after answering he’d give his customary reply: “Well, hi son!”

“Did I get you at a bad time, Pops?”

“Well, I was on the pot!” He would say it like it was an unusual occurrence. 

Today, however, things have changed. It’s Father’s Day without Dad. It has the feel of eating fried chicken without also having mashed potatoes and gravy. Kind of strange and empty. 

My dad was a consistent man of faith, an even-paced Jesus journeyer. Through all his radiation treatments for cancerous growths on his ear, nose, and bladder, he never lost his humor and lightheartedness. The radiation technicians at St. Mary’s Hospital loved on him, enjoyed him, and treated him like their own father. When his name was called to come on back from the waiting area for his radiation “zap moment” of the morning he would always have a word for the attendant that would bring a chuckle and a smile. It’s how he was. His bouts with cancer weren’t seen as being setbacks, but rather moments in his journey.

When I became a father back in 1981, like any first-time dad, I had the deer-in-headlights look. What do I do? What don’t I do? I had taken a class back when I was a student at Judson College, taught by Professor Ted Hsieh, entitled “Marriage and The Family”. I still have the notes from that class, and I was tempted, when Kecia Corin Wolfe arrived, to get the lecture notes on parenthood back out and do a quick review. Instead, however, I looked into the mirror of my memories of Dad. What would Dad do? What did Dad do? How I fathered my own three children had the imprint of his parenting impression of us.

And so today I’m living with his memories, impacted by his personality. I’ll go out for a run this afternoon and wear the University of Kentucky hat that was his. As I’m huffing and puffing it will seem like he is close at hand. As my feet trudge along I’ll recall some of my favorite “Pops Stories” that I listened to numerous times, and yet, never tired of the warmth they would bring to my soul. 

It’s just weird! Dad’s Day without Dad…it sounds like the title of a horror film! In essence, it’s simply where I am on my journey, a place of wonderful memories and an aching grief.