Archive for October 2018

The Light Shines Into the Hatred

October 28, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                     October 28, 2018

JESUS: In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:16)

There’s something about hate that gathers headlines. In recent times it seems to be surfacing in violent and venomous ways. Shooting people and hurling angry words make the nightly news and, in this election time, fills up the TV commercial time. 

Extremists seem to be getting bolder in the acting out of their weirdness and prejudices.  And people, otherwise known as your average citizens, aren’t sure of what they can say because it might be taken the wrong way by someone who will attack like a pit bull in return.

Jesus talked about being light in the midst of darkness, and to let light shine that people might know that goodness still lives and that God still reigns. He wasn’t talking about establishing a publicity ministry that spins out nice stories, but rather entering the shadows of the world as called people on a mission for God. 

It’s a bit of a quandary for those of us who follow Jesus. Light should get noticed and yet, in our culture, “getting noticed” often goes hand-in-hand with tooting our own horn, seeking attention, and even arrogance. We’re often stumped by having a humbleness about our walk with Jesus and letting people know how great our acts of kindness are. Is there “too humble” and also a point that is “over the line arrogant?”

To use a different analogy, friends of ours moved to Alaska this summer. As the fall days head towards winter they are noticing “the absence of light” more and more. Of course, as we head towards mid-December that absence will increase each day. There will come a time, perhaps, when they become more accustomed to the darkness than the absence of light. 

Unfortunately, it may be an analogy of our world right now. We’re more accustomed to darkness than aware of the light’s absence. 

Being light does not blind like the high beams of a car. Light is assuring. It’s altering. Our stairway at home has a light that shows how many steps there are still to take before reaching the bottom. More than once I’ve tried to navigate those steps without the aid of a light and, even though it’s a staircase I’ve gone up and down thousands of times, there is still an uncertainty in the darkness. The light, however, never fails me.

If I am a light that shines for Jesus I don’t need to make sure people are noticing. I can just be who he has called me to be, and who he has called me to.

Someone who opens fire at a Jewish synagogue, kills 11 and wounds 6, will get the headlines. It tells of the price of hatred. Being light in the midst of this devastation will mean different things for different people. At worship this morning I’ll raise up Tree of Life Synagogue to pray for. In Pittsburgh there may be other “people of light” who will come alongside the grieving in love and support. 

What I believe as a follower of Jesus is that light will surpass the darkness…sometime  and someday, individually and collectively. When I find it hard to open up the daily newspaper I remind myself that light will ultimately triumph.

Like my friends in Alaska who will be asking the question, “Will we ever see light again?”; the answer is…yes! Don’t get used to living in the darkness! Keep believing that light will come back!

Early Mornings and…Early Evenings!

October 24, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                     October 24, 2018

                          

When I arrived at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio in September of 1972 I was greeted with the freedom to make my own choices. That’s like being a contestant of “Let’s Make A Deal!” So many boxes to open and curtains to choose! So many new options!

My class schedule had me attending 8:00 and 9:00 classes Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Let me rephrase that! I could CHOOSE to attend 8:00 and 9:00 classes! As the fall term proceeded I CHOSE to attend less and less as I slept in to 9:00, 9:30, 10:00, 10:30. There were even a few days when I slept in got up in time to eat lunch.

Needless to say, my academic performance that first term was something less than stellar!

Perhaps you remember the days when you moaned and groaned when you had to get out of bed before 8:00! 

Things change! Now that I’m 64 and 1/2, sleeping in has become irrelevant. I remember it being in the distant past in the same breath as my first car, a 1974 AMC Gremlin. 

Today I was the assigned coach for an early morning shoot-around at high school for our basketball team. The shoot-around begins at 6:50. I did not need an alarm clock to wake up. At 5:30 my eyes were open and staring at the ceiling. My body now tells me when 5:30 arrives every morning. Actually, it also tells me when it’s about 2 A.M. as I make my nightly pit stop! As someone with minimal vocabulary but massive wisdom once said, “It is what it is!” For me “it is” every night!

Carol now knows if I’m not feeling well…like, deathly sick with chills and no energy. That’s when I’m still in bed and the clock is trudging upwards past 6:30.

On the other end of the day I now find it hard to stay up past 10:00. I went to the Denver Nuggets game last Saturday night with three young adult guys. The game didn’t get over until 10:00. They ribbed me all the way home saying things like, “It’s about two hours past your bedtime, isn’t it?” and “You should bring a pillow and blanket with you next time!” 

They’re more right than wrong! When Carol and I think about going to a movie we think about the late afternoon feature, because the 7:00 showing doesn’t get out until…like 9:00!

Isn’t it strange? When we were young we’d long to stay up late and then sleep in. Now that I’m almost to Medicare age I go to bed about the time the local news comes on and get up  with Al Roker. 

To wear out the saying, “it is what it is!”

The Church I Don’t Have to Attend to Attend

October 21, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                      October 21, 2018

 

It’s the reality that unsettles me!

The church is different than it was when I was growing up. Heck! It’s different than when I pastored! 

Not that it didn’t change at all when I was pastoring! I remember the first Sunday back in Mason, Michigan when I used power point slides to go along with my message. A twenty-something person came up to me afterwards and told me that I had a great message and that the slides on the screen had made it even better. And then a sixty-something lady came up to me and said the message was great, but the slides had been a distraction. That was a wake -up moment about generational differences at that time (early 1990’s). The power points continued each Sunday after that and the older lady got used to it!

Carey Nieuwhof said that “the gap between how quickly you change and how quickly things change is called irrelevance!” The contemporary church has rarely had the adjective “innovative” attached to it. 

It’s like the church is still learning the multiplication tables and culture has moved on to algebra. 

And yet, some churches have often rushed to change because what the culture says has occupied the driver’s seat of the mission and Jesus, although still in the vehicle, is just one of the passengers…kinda’ like Grandpa, still well-respected but no longer allowed to drive!

Social media has changed how the church functions. That’s understandable, as long as we don’t build a new garage simply because we came home with a new car. 

In a growing number of churches people no longer have to be physically present at an on-site worship service to be a part of the congregation. Aunt Lucy can now stream the worship service and watch it at home. Social media and technology have now made it possible for people to be a part of a church in a different state across the country.

The importance of having a  sense of “community” has been packed in the trunk. The new clamoring is about “connectedness.” 

Connectedness has been confused with being the twin sister of community! People confuse being connected on Instagram and Facebook and Twitter with being a part of a spiritual community. 

A wise middle school principal, seeing how social media consumes so much of a typical adolescent’s time, takes this approach. 

“You have to manage your social being with being social.”

In other words, our social being has the potential to minimize our ability to be social. 

That being said, there is something about the Body of Christ coming together in a worship setting, taking the bread and the cup of the communion experience and sharing with one another, having someone ask if the church can gather around him and touch him with their hands and prayer. Perhaps those things are antiquated elements of a church that is passing away, but I guess that means I’m ancient!

The Rage of The Ridiculous

October 20, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                    October 20, 2018

                                  

Entitlement detoured leads to rage!

This week a 49 year old man was enraged by the fact that another car was traveling too slow in the left hand lane. He raced around the car, pulled in front, and stopped. The man got out of his car and approached the other vehicle. A man who had been seated in the front passenger seat got out and explained that his daughter, who had been driving, was learning to drive. The 49 year old was upset that she had been driving slow in the fast lane, to which the father replied that she had done nothing wrong.

The 49 year old began to physically assault the father. The daughter, who had taken a picture of the man’s license plate, was then assaulted by the man and his wife!

What put a guy over the edge? His sense of entitlement! He believed he was entitled to drive like a maniac in the left lane and someone else was keeping him from doing that! It probably meant that he would arrive third seconds later at his destination than he felt entitled to!

I discovered this statistic. In 2016 road rage was involved in 10% of the automobile fatalities in Colorado!

Entitlement is the new rage and the new form of snobbishness! It says that what a person wants is more important that what is reasonable and appropriate.

Entitlement is surfacing all over the place in our culture. It’s in the little things and the big situations. Yesterday I needed a bag of Winterizer for the lawn so I went to Lowe’s. There was a space fairly close to the store that I pulled into. When I came back out of the store a woman in her fifties, parked in the first space, was putting her purchases in the back of her vehicle. She had a cart full. After she emptied the cart she pushed it two feet, half onto the rocked area and half still on the parking space. All she needed to do was to push it another ten feet to the front of the store or thirty feet to the cart corral. I wanted to ask her if that was what her mom had taught her? I thought about taking the cart back for her, but that would have been just as insulting since she had already decided to leave it halfway on the curb. 

I know, I know! Such a little thing! But it points to the bigger issue. What helps keep rhythm in our community is not as valued as what a person wants regardless of its impact on others. That lady made it difficult for someone else to park in that spot until the cart was moved, but she didn’t care. It was someone else’s problem!

Entitlement has shoved the importance of “being community” to the side. Community requires mutual respect and concern.

In the book of Acts there’s a description of the early church, a group of Jesus followers who met in the Jerusalem temple courts. Acts 4:32 describes the group this way:

     All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had. 

An incident that is told in the very next chapter of Acts revealed that “community” can be a very fragile existence when personal gain enters the picture, but for a while the first church, despised and persecuted by many, depended upon its sense of community for its very existence.

Perhaps that sense of needing one another, no matter how we might differ, can be rediscovered before our rage over the ridiculous curses us.

Happy To Do It!

October 19, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                     October 19, 2018

                                         

I’m mostly a happy person. I smile a lot, and frown mostly at middle school students who are being doofuses!

A few weeks ago my next door neighbor’s father passed away and they traveled from Colorado to California for the funeral. Their lawn needed to be mowed, so I did it! No biggie! When they returned from their trip they expressed their gratitude for taking care of their yard.

I replied. “Happy to do it!” (He edges my sidewalk and driveway a couple of times each summer!)

I didn’t feel like I HAD to do it. I didn’t cringe about spending an extra 30 minutes cutting his grass after I mowed my own yard. I was happy to be a good neighbor in their time of sorrow.

It made me think about Jesus and his acts of service for others. The gospels include a lot of them…healing the blind man, touching the leper, restoring the paralytic, feeding the five thousand, calming the waves, raising the dead, turning water into wine…I could keep going!

In all of Jesus’ miracles, all of his acts of service, I don’t sense that he felt obligated to do any of them. 

Okay! There is the exchange between him and his mom at the wedding in Cana where she seems to be saying to him, “Jesus, do something! They are running out of wine!” Jesus says that his time has not yet come, like “I do this and the cat’s out of the bag, Mom!”

I don’t think that Jesus walked around smiling all the time, but I believe he was happy to serve those in need, those who were afflicted, and those who were seen as being the unimportant and disposable. 

There’s a distinct difference between feeling obligated and feeling blessed to serve. It’s noticeable in most stores and businesses where face-to-face encounters with customers are at the core of the purpose. We notice when an employee goes above and beyond for us, and we also notice when someone who is on the time clock seems like he doesn’t really want to be there and we’re more of a nuisance than a customer in need. Recently Carol and I ate at a restaurant where the hostess/greeter escorted us to a table and then said, “Your server will be…” By the end of the meal it became apparent that the “server” hadn’t read his job description!

I’ve visited churches where the attitude of the members has been “I’m here for 60 minutes and then I’m out of here!” and I’ve visited churches where the attitude has been “Can I help you find where the coffee is, the nursery is located, or be of service in some other way?” 

Jesus was happy to serve, to restore broken lives, and care for those who needed a shepherd. 

Today perhaps I’ll be allowed to serve someone who is in a tough spot and I’ll be happy to do it!

Negative Feast or Negative Fast

October 14, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                     October 14, 2018

                          

Years ago an amazing woman named Jeannie Dohner came to our church and talked about “The Negative Fast”. Jeannie had dealt with cancer on two different occasions and in the midst of our struggles she had noticed how negative her viewpoint had become about many things that were really blessings. During that second bout with cancer God impressed upon her the idea of “fasting” from the negative. She would not say that the negative fast cured her, but it did set her mind and attitude in a better direction. 

There are plenty of people in this world who feast on the negative. They can see the bad in anything and anyone. They would have found something to gripe about when Jesus fed the 5,000! They get tired of days that are sunny and 72 degrees. Everything in the world is too expensive, even items in the free pile!

Negative people consume our energy; they dent our zest for life. I’m not sure how they got that way. Perhaps some of life’s problems and struggles pounded them for so long that they could no longer see anything positive. Maybe they’re a spitting image of either their mom or their dad! That is, their negativity is a learned behavior. They may even complain about how negative their dad was!

In our political climate there is a buffet of negativity. How many of us have grown tired of the negative political ads that paint one candidate as being the incarnation of evil and the other candidate as the new messiah? Don’t you just want to grind your teeth when one of those TV ads comes on? 

And yet those ads are effective in changing people’s minds! That’s why there’s a never-ending flow of them! “Negative Nellie” wins more times than “Positive Peter”.

Which points to a sad truth! That we are more effected or influenced by the negative than we are by the positive! We tend to believe negative news more than upbeat stories. 

What if we took a fast from the negative this coming week? What would that do for us? What would that do for the people around us? Perhaps, just perhaps, it might even cause the naysayers to stutter on their thoughts.

Maybe, just maybe.

Too Quiet To Think

October 13, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                   October 13, 2018

                                         

   My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry…”   (James 1:19, NIV)

Yesterday I substitute taught for a 7th Grade Language Arts teacher. The lesson plan for each class consisted of taking attendance and then taking the class to the school library (now called the LMC, which stands for Learning Media Center). The school librarian would then tell the students about a few new books the LMC has and they would spend the rest of the class period silently reading. 

Tough day! What did I do? Read some and did some rewriting on my book manuscript…plus, made sure the students were reading, not goofing around- a task that required considerable energy!

Libraries are not the same as they were…45 years ago. When I went to the Briggs Public Library in Ironton, Ohio you could hear a pin drop…and that pin better not drop again! It was quiet, studious, a fine place to locate one of the back wrenching volumes of the Encyclopedia Brittanica and do research on such interesting subjects as the Hoover Dam, mollusks, and the North Pole. 

Libraries today are gathering places, social settings in the midst of books and magazines, and gaming rooms. A place in Colorado Springs where I do much of my book writing is called Library 21C. It’s a great place…as long as you have earbuds! A few weeks ago I was sitting in one of the seats at the long window counter on the lower level. A man three seats away was doing a job interview on his cell phone. Good Lord! The librarian at Briggs Public would have grabbed him by his ear lobe and marched him to the door.

Things are different! Silence is no longer golden! It’s been devalued!

One of the 7th Grade girls, who is energized by the social aspect of life, didn’t seem to be reading the book in front of her yesterday. 

I’d scan the room and when my radar caught sight of her she would suddenly look down at her book. Thirty minutes into the class’s silent reading and she was on page 2. I walked over to her and said, “Hey! Let’s get busy!”

“What?”

I glanced at her book. “You’re on page 2!”

“No, page 3!”

“Okay! Page 3 and we’ve been here so long you should have read the book and written a book report on it already!”

Her eyes opened wide. “We have to do a book report!”

“No, no, no! I was exaggerating, but if you had really been reading you’d be further along than page 3.”

“I can’t think!”

“Why?”

“It’s too quiet in here!”

“What?”

“It’s too quiet! I can’t concentrate when it’s too quiet!”

“Are you serious?”

She nodded, and I realized that we were realizing- Okay, maybe I was realizing!- one of our generational differences. I read while I’m sitting in the swing on our back deck, or in my study, or at bedtime…all places where quiet and peace can follow me. This young lady operates in a world of chatter, instant communication that could better be named instant distraction, and noise. 

Noise has replaced silence as the new golden. Silence is now an indication that something’s wrong. Silence also indicates that we’re listening, and in a noisy world we no longer listen very well. 

And so what do I do in the midst of a culture that now values loudness and multiple mouths speaking at the same time? What do I do? I put my earbuds in and listen to the rhythmic noise of music to block out the noise of the other voices. I’ve resigned myself to the fact that it is my new silence.