Archive for the ‘Christianity’ category

Cold Companion

June 27, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                           June 27, 2017

                                               

I despise colds, the head and chest kind! I think I would rather have a colonoscopy than a head cold! I’ll get my wish in a month when I get laid out on a table in a less than flattering way after drinking a gallon of some concoction that was created by a doctor who was mad at the world.

This year had been punctuated with colds and bronchitis. I’ve “worn” a cold this year more than I wore my new varsity letter jacket after I received it at the beginning of my junior year of high school. It would be ninety degrees outside and I would sport my orange varsity “I” jacket of Ironton High School. In a similar way I’ve had a cold clinging to me for a while now.

I’ve heard of the remedies. Take more vitamin C. Check! Drink more water. Check! Get more rest. Check! Wash your hands a lot. Check! Use an inhaler. Check! Pray more. Check! Repent of my sins. Check…I think! Maybe there’s one that I keep forgetting about!

I’ve heard the reasons that do nothing to bring comfort, like “You’re getting older!” and  it’s twin brother “You’re not getting any younger!” There’s the Dr. Oz friends who offer the wise advice that adds nothing, “You need to take better care of yourself!”

My Baptist upbringing still looks at a cold as some kind of divine retribution for my wayward inconsiderate actions. The other day it occurred to me that perhaps my present cold is because I consistently forgot to put the toilet seat back down after assuming the standing position in front of it.

I missed church a few weeks ago. Perhaps the sniffles descended because my singing praises didn’t ascend that Sunday!

Baptist guilt tends to connect illnesses with transgressions!

My physician saw me a couple of weeks ago and greeted me with the words, “Here again?” That’s just a few letters different than “You again?” He had a disturbed expression on his face, like a school principal seeing a problem student for the umpteenth time! Trust me! At $40 per office visit I’m a little disturbed whenever I have to see him as well!

I’ve also used various medications. NyQuil could be better referred to as “My Quil!” I’ve resorted to drinking! A bottle of Woodford Reserve Kentucky bourbon is hidden in the back of one of our cabinets. It goes back to one of my grandmother’s cough remedies…bourbon, honey, and a squirt of lemon! But, once again, being Baptist there is a hint of guilt associated with each shot poured. I even find myself trying to be quiet in the kitchen as I’m preparing the remedy, even though Carol knows I’m doing it. I feel like the little kid who used to sneak sips of RC Cola from a bottle in my grandparent’s storage room. And so I pour the bourbon and then quickly hide it away in the lower cabinet behind the steam iron and excess water bottles.

I bought the family-size bag of cough drops at Walgreen’s…for me!

It’s just a little irritating, like the girl you broke up with back in high school who keeps trying to hang around you. You try to be nice and get her interested in your best friend, but she seems to gravitate to you.

That’s this year and this cold with me! It’s like teenage acne that disappears in one spot and then emerges close by the next day. Right now my nose looks like a war zone!

The only good thing about having a cold and/or bronchitis is that my physician gives me the cough medicine that makes you happy! It’s like having a restaurant manager apologize for how your steak was cooked and giving you your meal free, plus dessert! Yes, it’s kind of like that with a dazed look added on to it!

The way this year has gone whenever this cold decides to take its leave I’ll stand at our front door and yell to the waiting room of future sniffles and say, “Next!”

The “F” Word

June 26, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                       June 26, 2017

My granddaughter recently used the “F” word. Her mom’s eyebrows hit the ceiling! She had used it in reference to Satan. Instead of “Defeat Satan”, or “Stand up to the devil!” she had used the “F” word as a verb in front of Satan. When my daughter’s eyebrows came back down from the rafters she asked her where she had heard that word. It had floated out of one of her kindergarten classmate’s lips, and she had heard it a few other times in other places.

My daughter controlled herself and taught her that there are certain words that are not appropriate to use. In a few years her daughter might ask her mom a follow-up question. “Mom, if it’s not appropriate why do I hear it being said so much?”

The question might cause her mom to have to think about the answer a good bit.

The “F” word is now the over-used expletive that seems to be accepted by many. Robin said, “Holy Cow, Batman!” My grandfather said “Lord, have mercy!” Beaver Cleaver said, “Gosh, Wally!” Now the “F” word is the word of emphasis, the word of anger, and the word that seems to flow fluidly from the lips of many people.

I remember using it one time my sophomore year of high school for no apparent reason in talking to my friend Dave Hughes. I called him the “F” word with the maternal pronoun in front of it. I was having an exaggerated moment of machoism and I thought it would make me seem taller than my 5’2’ stature. I remember his look of dismay because he knew it was out of character for me. My moment of a verbally raised testosterone level quickly passed and I felt stupid. Dave Hughes was forgiving and ended up being my best man about nine years later.

I figured out that the “F” word didn’t define me, or make me seem tougher and meaner. I was who I was, and my vocabulary was prone to stay on the more positive end of the spectrum.

I could put a list of reasons why people seem to use the “F” word more these days, but I’m not sure that would be helpful. I prefer to focus on the “F” words of scripture that mean more to me and are more about hope, promise, and building up.

Words that come to mind are “faith” and “faithfulness.” My faith in Jesus has set me “free” to be one of his “followers.” I hear the other “F” word often used in frustrated reaction to failure. My “faith” however assures me that Christ’s victory on the cross “finished” it! And now I cherish the “fellowship” that I enjoy with the other “followers.”

Don’t think too highly of me, however! I still use the word “Crap!” from time to time, usually after a miss a jump shot playing basketball, but never in reference to someone else’ s character.

Just some “food” for thought! What kind of “fruit” is coming from my tongue?

The Illusion of Facebook Friends

June 25, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                            June 25, 2017

                                    

I’ve crawled up close to a thousand Facebook Friends now. I’m almost impressed with myself! I am easily fooled into thinking that they know me…or, even so, read my Words from WW blog that gets posted on my Facebook page. ..like this one!

But let’s be honest! Very few of our Facebook friends are actually friends. They are more like acquaintances, people that we know and are interested in to some degree. I graduated with about 210 classmates from Ironton High School Class of 1972. There are 76 of us on Facebook. About 50 of those are my Facebook Friends, and about 5 of the 50 are my real life friends. That isn’t to say that I don’t care about the others, it’s just to say that friendship means more than giving someone a “Like” sign, or sharing your latest vacation pictures with them.

There has been some neat reconnections for me with people on Facebook. Kids I led in youth groups over the years, former basketball players that I coached, college teammates, cousins, and young adults whose weddings I performed. Those are awesome connections that I treasure.

An old friend of mine named Harold Anderson once said that “He had a number of acquaintances, but very few friends.” A couple of months ago Carol and I met up with the Anderson’s as they traveled through Colorado. We hadn’t seen each other in about twelve years,  but it was like we hadn’t missed a day. Our conversation was constant and meaningful for a solid three hours. Harold is in that growing list of friends that I was categorize as “non-resident friends”, people that I don’t get to see on a daily…or even yearly basis, but still hold a special place in my heart.

Friends value each other. We value what each of us brings to the life of the other. We value meaningful information about life events. We value the humor and the heart cries. Friends can sit down on the deck and have long conversations, or also feel comfortable just sitting there in silence. Friends can call each other up at a moments notice to check on how the other is doing. Friends use Facebook as only one source of connecting with the other.

Friends respect each other. Differing opinions do not necessarily divide them. Facebook has become the dumping ground of how people feel about issues, and the reaction ground of others who disagree with them. There are not clear boundaries on what is acceptable communication and what is venomous rhetoric. It’s like a verbal mixed martial arts slugfest! And here’s the thing! People say things on Facebook that they would never say face-to-face, or say to their parents…or perhaps now, let their kids hear them say. Friends are respectful of the other. To use a term of one of my old seminary professors, they see each other “with equal regard.” Friends can agree to disagree.

Friends check in on one another. One of those high school classmates, a guy who was my best man and I, in turn, performed his wedding ceremony, lost his 34 year old son less than a month ago. I dialed his number and let him grief on my shoulder for a few minutes from 2000 miles away. Two weeks later I called again and we talked for a long time. In another week or so I’ll check in with him again.

One of my best friends in ministry lives in North Carolina now. We check in on one another by phone. He reads my blog, and will probably send me a reply. When I was having a rough stretch of ministry he’d call me to see how I was doing. When he was having a similar stretch I’d call him. That’s what friends do! I don’t really care about what he ate for breakfast, but I do care about how his rotator cuff is healing from the surgery he had, and how the expected arrival of his second grandchild is looking.

I’ve got another friend in San Antonio who I need to call back today. He left me a voicemail to see how my dad is doing from the surgery he had this week. I’ve got to carve out about an hour of time when I do call him, because that’s how long we’ll talk about life, family, and friendship.

If I use those criteria for friendship my Facebook page would probably be 90% acquaintances and 10% friends…and that might be high! Either way I’m thankful for all the 976 who “friended” me. There’s a lot of blessings in those faces!

The Bet

June 19, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                             June 19, 2017

                                                  

In September of 1977 I began dating a young lady named Carol Faletti. Both of us were involved in the leadership of Young Life in the western suburbs of Chicago, and we hit it off pretty well to begin with. A couple of dates and a lot of laughter, it seemed like the relationship had possibilities. I was beginning my second year of seminary. She was teaching pre-school deaf children.

And then we made a bet!

I was still rooting for the Buckeyes of Ohio State at that point. Her brother-in-law had attended Oklahoma University. The Sooners were scheduled to invade “The Horseshoe” in Columbus for a football showdown, so we made a wager on the game. If the Sooners won I would buy Carol a steak dinner. If the Buckeyes were victorious she would do the same for me. Oklahoma kicker, Uwe von Schamann kicked a 41 yard field goal with two seconds left and Oklahoma was triumphant 29-28.

Before I could buy the steak dinner for her, however, both of us started dating other people!  Time passed and paying my debt got buried underneath term papers and textbooks. I didn’t really think of it any more…and then around Christmas of 1978 I received a Christmas card from Carol wishing me glad tidings, but also with the statement “Still waiting on my steak dinner!”

I had taken a class that fall in “Liberation Theology”, and was still intrigued by the language so I sent her a quick reply that said something like “The oppressed shall serve the oppressor, and I’ll buy you a steak dinner when I get back from Christmas break.”

On January 8, 1979 we had a nice romantic dinner at that restaurant hot spot where so many romances begin, Sizzler! Two months later we got engaged! Four and a half months after that we were married!

When I look back at those events I’m amazed at how an unfulfilled promise set in motion a thirty-eight year commitment! So many factors could have altered or derailed our journey. Von Schamann could have missed the field goal and Carol would have quickly paid up her bet. There would have not been a reason to get back together a year and a half later. She could have forgotten about the bet and we would never have renewed our relationship. Each of us could have gotten involved in another relationship that could have resulted in our paths never crossing again.

So many other possible outcomes, but a bet…one silly unfulfilled bet…caused two young adults to risk the possibility of love.

That story continues to amaze me, even after 38 years! It draws me towards the Great Designer, the Orchestrator, and gives me a sense of assurance that He knows what He’s doing! I would even go so far as to say that Use von Schamann didn’t make the 41 yard field goal. God did…because he had two people in mind who he wanted to bring together!

The Blessing of Three Dave’s

June 17, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                          June 17, 2017

                                        

Three seems to be a number that is used quite often in various ways. In A Christmas Carol Ebenezer Scrooge is visited by the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future. The three wisemen brought gifts three kinds of gifts to the baby Jesus, and my seminary preaching professor taught us to preach sermons that had three points…and a poem!

Father, Son, and Holy Spirit! Shadrach, Meshach, and To Bed We Go- er, Abednego! Abraham’s three visitors! Three crosses on top of Golgotha! The angels in Isaiah’s vision saying “Holy, holy, holy!” Jesus saying “Verily, verily, verily!” Important encounters and relationships seem to grow out of threes!

I’ve been blessed by three Dave’s who have been a part of my life journey. Our son, David, is  named after two of the Dave’s. He would have been named after the third Dave, but we hadn’t met him yet!

Dave Shaffer was a part of the first church I served on the staff of after graduating from seminary. He and Pam graced the lives of a just married young couple entering the intimidating experience of ministry. Laughter was a part of our friendship. We felt comfortable around one another. My ministry at the church was a short fifteen months, but our friendship is about to hit forty years.

Dave Hughes was one of my high school best friends and my best man. We were a part of the same youth group, ate a lot of pizza together, and played basketball together. I was privileged to perform the wedding ceremony for Dave and his wife, Robyn, and on a different wedding night- the wedding night after our friend Mike Fairchild got married-  Dave and I, groomsmen in the wedding party, went to the hospital in our tuxedos to celebrate the birth of my first niece, Jennifer. Three weeks ago his oldest son, Brad, was found dead on a hiking trail in Arizona’s Saguaro National Park, passing away from heat exhaustion and dehydration. I called my friend to walk the journey of loss and sorrow with him. I know he would have done the same for me.

And the third Dave, a hulk of a man named Dave Volitis, came strolling into my life about 15 years ago when he and Donna moved into the house across the street from us. Now a retired Air Force Chief Master Sargent living in San Antonio, he continues to grace my life with his stories and encouragement. We recently were a part of a mission work team that traveled to British Columbia together. My kids were always intrigued by Mr. Volitis, his humorous sayings (“higher than a cat’s back”, “about as welcome as a hemorrhoid”, “about as useful as tits on a boar hog”), and his engaging personality. He became a part of my congregation even though he and his family were more of the pentecostal tint. I cried when he moved to San Antonio.

Three Dave’s! I’ve had other Dave’s as a part of my life as well, but these three men left their imprints on my life…past, present, and future. I envision a time in the future when I arrange to have them all together in the same place, and to express my appreciation. What stories would come out of that gathering!!! I think that would be pretty cool!

A utility company worker, a civil engineer, and a career military person…about as diverse in occupations as you can get. Each of them now a grandfather, and each of them a part of families that have encountered significant loss in the past year.

Each of us has been blessed by numerous people in various ways. God plants them in our lives for a bit, a while, or a lifetime. Rarely do they congregate around the same first name, but the repetition of my Dave’s has highlighted in permanent marker how blessed I am!

The Saints That Go Before Us

June 16, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                             June 16, 2017

                                     

I’ve been blessed with many of them! Saints, that is! Saintly people who didn’t know they were saints, just men and women who were walking steadily with God, stepping humbly forward in daily obedience.

They didn’t know they were making an impact, impressing young lives, and marking out a trail for those of us behind them. They just lived a day at a time, but another pebble would be placed in the vase of wonder each of those days. Over time the pebbles crowded out the uncertainty and marked the life with weighted consistency.

Yesterday I took my dad, one of those saints, to see another saint who has impacted my life. Bill Ball, with a nine in front of his age, has been an encourager of me and many others for years and years. I remember his words of encouragement when I was a high schooler trying to break my school’s record in the mile run…and that was 45 years ago. My record has long since been broken, but Mr. Ball’s words of encouragement have stayed with me. Now in the final lap of his journey he would be awed by the number of people who have been impacted by him.

Saints are like that…hesitant to believe they are making a difference and convinced that they are no one that is anything special. When I asked my dad what he would like to do and where he would like to go while Carol and I are visiting from Colorado his response was quick. “Go visit Bill Ball!” The number of times his friend has visited him during my dad’s hospital stays have been numerous. Yesterday was my dad’s chance to visit Bill in the care center he has recently become a resident of.

We’re all familiar with the official saints. St. James, St. Paul’s, St. Mary’s, and St. John’s…the names mark the places we worship at and the school’s we attend. My dad has resided many times these past few years at St. Mary’s Medical Center in Huntington, West Virginia. “Saints” is a term we relate to locations and a professional football team.

For me, however, saints have graced my life all along the journey. They appear in my memories and stories…Ken Bystrom, Russ Vincent, Rev. Gale Baldridge, Rev. Floyd Norton, Rev. Chuck Landon, Rev. Tom Bayes, Irene Voss, Marie Lyons, Glenn Fairchild, Ben Dickerson, Rex Davis, Virginia Welsby, Charles Slusser, and Pauline Jones. Names that don’t mean anything to most folk, but conjure up adventures and appearances in my life.

A tragedy is a life that never realizes or recognizes the appearance of the saints, never understands the gifts that they are. In a culture that is very much self-absorbed there are a lot of people who are blind to the saints around them.

The thing is…a life that is blind to seeing the saints that have graced it is a life that lacks guideposts and clarifiers. It is a life without teachers, a vessel without a rudder.

I’m increasingly thankful for the footprints of the many who have helped me stay on course, encouraged me to keep on going and redirected me when I wandered. As I said at the beginning, I’ve been blessed with many of the saints.

Eight Guys Out

June 15, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                           June 15, 2017

                               

At 5:00 A.M. on June 1 eight men climbed into two vehicles and headed north! We weren’t going to a Rockies’ baseball game or the rodeo in Cheyenne, but rather to a camp in British Columbia just shy of 2,000 miles away. Two and a half days after departing Colorado Springs, with stops in Missoula, Montana and Jasper, Alberta, we arrived at Rock Nest Ranch for four and a half days of hard work to complete two needed projects: a deck at the front of the camp’s lodge and working on the shower and restrooms in the basement of the lodge.

Why would eight men- most of us now considered “old”- take 11 days out of our schedules to be part of such an experience?

Well…to give a simple answer to begin with, we went because we’re friends! I’ve known all of the men for a number of years. One guy, Ron, has coached basketball with me for 15 years. Another guy, Dave, has been one of my best friends for years, even though he now lives in San Antonio. One of my son-in-laws was another team member, as well as being the needed team plumber. Our senior citizen, Tom (age 69), had wanted to go up to the camp to help out…and to fish. Doug and Carl were both a part of the last church I pastored, and Jeff had been a part of the mission work team I was a part of that had gone to the Dominican Republic a few years ago…as well as being an experienced deck builder. Me…I was the trip coordinator, nightly devotional presenter, communicator, and, according to Tom, the “Hod Carrier!”

Eight men on a mission!

As the miles clicked off the stories developed…most of them of the chuckling kind. In Missoula, a great couple named Rex and Etta Miller met us at the church we stayed at with two freshly baked pies and a Cracker Barrel gift card! Outside of Jasper, Alberta we pulled over for a few minutes to watch a grizzly bear roaming a few yards off the highway. I got ribbed about my Starbucks attachment! Fishing stories started being created before anyone actually fished.

Rock Nest Ranch is a camp that has become a safe haven for children and youth of the First Nations tribes in that area. The percentage of girls that are sexually abused by the time they are 16 is extremely high. The number of First Nations young people who commit suicide is elevated, and the amount of alcohol and drug abuse is jaw-dropping. The camp, in many ways, has become a safe haven as it lives out the gospel. It is a place of hope in an area where many young people feel hopeless.

Therefore, as the week at Rock Nest went on the reason eight men were part of the experience shifted from the friendships we had to the ministry and mission of the camp. We went from enjoying being together to being a part of a cause…while we enjoyed being together.

When we returned to Colorado Springs we were tired. Four of us were “the tired retired!” But it was also a kind of satisfied exhaustion…eleven days well spent…eleven days of memories in the midst of the nail pounding and sawing.

Eleven days that we will always remember, and eleven days during which we made a difference!