Archive for the ‘Community’ category

The Right To Be An Ass

April 22, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                          April 22, 2018

                                     

We live in an amazing country. People have freedoms in the United States that would be laughed at in other parts of the world. Freedom is a tricky thing. It can cause people to loosen up and do certain things that they might not attempt if their common sense took control.

Living in a free society also blurs the lines of what is acceptable and what is the person’s right to do. Lord knows, there’s enough middle school students who have blurred vision when figuring out things like that.

And so, one of the rights we have in our country is the right to be an ass, to say things that are disrespectful, insensitive, and extra-strongly opinionated.

Randa Jarrar, an Fresno State English professor with a strong affection for using the “f” word, put it out there on social media! She trumpeted how much she was glad that the former first lady, Barbara Bush, had died. She added a number of inflammatory comments and seemed to enjoy the firestorm she created.

And she has the right to make those comments, not because they are true, but because of the freedom of speech that countless people have fought for in the history of our nation.

Barbara Bush was someone I admired. Like Jarrar, she said what she thought, but she blended in a large amount of grace, and she answered questions at the appropriate times they should be answered. I still remember an interview when her son, Jeb, was considering a run for the presidency. When asked about it, she candidly answered, “There’s been enough Bush’s in the White House!”

What enrages people is the impact of insensitive words at a time of great loss. It’s like saying to someone who recently lost their home in one of the Colorado fires, “Should have had better insurance!”

But in our country people have the right to be asses! It isn’t a crime! It’s a slap against the face of decency and a step backwards for humanity, but it’s not a crime! In fact, some people become such renowned asses that they get to teach others!

Bias Training

April 19, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                      April 19, 2018

                                   

What are we to make of the Philadelphia Starbucks’ racial bias situation? Unfortunately, it is a played-out story that mirrors the racial distrust and, dare I say, hatred in our nation.

Next week the Legacy Museum and National Memorial for Peace and Justice opens in Montgomery, Alabama. A recent 60 minutes edition highlighted this new memorial. The new memorial remembers the thousands and thousands of African-Americans who were tortured and lynched. Some of the pictures from the past elicit tears of sorrow for the brutality and tears of shame for the callous hatred in our past. Some of the lynchings show crowds of people gathered in their Sunday best as if they were going to a community picnic. In the background, however, you see a hanged black man still dangling from the gallows. Lynchings, or the threat of lynchings, were one of the ways that African-Americans “were kept in line.” It didn’t take anything but an accusation to have someone strung up. At the memorial are the stories of so many, and what brought about their being lynched: One man who failed to address a police officer as “Mister; another who had knocked on the door of a house where a white woman lived…the stories bring anger to us about what was

But that is also a part of who we are! The reality of our checkered past still stains our hands in the present.

Back in the 1960’s and 70’s banks would “redline” certain neighborhoods that were where mostly non-whites lived. “Redlining” meant that financial institutions would either avoid offering financial services, like home mortgage loans, or charge higher rates to those who lived in those areas. Often middle-class African-Americans were charged higher rates than lower-class whites.

We could also go back to the 19th century and talk about sinophobia, the broad hostility towards Chinese immigrants. Corporations towards the end of the 19th century had policies prohibiting the employment of anyone Chinese. Newspapers owned by William Randolph Hearst started using the phrase “yellow peril” to indicate the threat of Chinese immigrants to the white laborers.

Bias is a part of who we are. It’s stitched into the fabric of our history! There’s a bit of resemblance in each one of us of Archie Bunker!

When 175,000 Starbucks employees take racial bias training on May 29th perhaps the rest of us could be invited to it as well. Bias is in each one of us just as much as the blood that runs through our veins. I recognize that I have my biases. They may or may not be towards a certain race of people and my perception of that person that I’m looking at. I may also have biases towards people from certain organizations, churches, high schools, hair color and/or style, clothing attire, accent, or age group.

The stain of our fallen creation continues with us in our confusion and blurring of what is wise judgment and what is unjust bias. Unfortunately, none of us get it right all the time. That’s not an excuse, it’s a challenge!

Would Jesus Be On The Teachers’ Side?

April 17, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                         April 17, 2018

                          

Since West Virginia public school teachers rallied at their state capital and exited their classrooms for almost two weeks, there has been a stream of teachers in other states that have followed West Virginia’s lead.

Having served on the school board and as the president of that school board, plus having a sister, brother-in-law, niece, and daughter who are either retired teachers or currently teaching, plus married to a lady who got her degree in deaf education and still works with special needs students, plus being a coach and a substitute teacher myself (Did you follow all of those plusses?), I’ve had to look at public education from different perspectives.

Being a pastor I also have a habit of contemplating how Jesus might view an issue or converse with a certain individual? Would he care? Would he offer wisdom? Would be simply be present to listen? Would he be swayed by the majority opinion?

Scripture gives us stories of Jesus interacting with children. Matthew 19:13-15 tells the story of children being brought to him “…to place his hands on them and to pray for them.” The disciples had their priorities messed up and started rebuking those who were bringing the kids to Jesus. Jesus says, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Matthew 19:14)

That brief story communicates a few things about Jesus and those who impact and instruct our kids. Like foundational arithmetic the rest of the problems rely on the beginning beliefs.

Start with those of the present who would play the roles of the disciples! Jesus’ discomfort- perhaps too nice a term!- with the disciples was their interference in allowing the connection between the children and the Teacher. They minimized the importance of the little folk, taking on the attitude that Jesus’ time was better spent with the older generation.

Drawing the story into the present, it seems that those who make decisions about education that involve everything but the face-to-face contact between teacher and his/her students have a responsibility to not place obstacles in the way.

If you’re wondering who that might be the answer is ALL OF US! Government that sees the challenges of our schools but treats the situation as if you can treat a broken arm with a butterfly bandaid…state boards of education that are more enamored with state testing scores than classroom educational discoveries…school boards that have to make tough decisions…parents who send their kids to school each morning after a donut breakfast and a packed lunch of Cheeto’s and Oreo Cookies, and then blame their child’s poor performance on incompetent teachers…teachers who have lost the passion for leading young minds in the discovery of new learnings…and the communities that continually vote down school bond issues because they have bought into the myth that teachers are overpaid and the schools have all the funds they need.

In regards to the disciples, all of us have the DNA within us to be educational rebukers!

Would Jesus be on the teachers’ side? He would be on the side of those who are committed to their purpose, impassioned with the importance of their calling. Like the children who were brought to him he values those who “place their hands of influence on them”. He values the opportunities that are weaved into the relationships between the teacher and her students. When Jesus placed his hands on the children it was the indication of his blessing of them. He values teachers who are blessings on the lives of their students. Most of us can recall who some of those “blessings” were when we were in our school years. (We can also probably remember a few teachers whose classes we “persevered” through!

Would Jesus be on the teacher’s side? He would be on the side of those who understand that “the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” I might interpret that in two ways: That messing with the raising up of our kids is upsetting to Jesus, the Teacher; and secondly, that the education of our children needs to have a long-term view. Teachers are shaping, not enabling, the minds of our future leaders and influencers.

There is a saying that we’re all familiar with…”you get what you pay for!” Perhaps there should be another saying that rises above that: You reap the blessings of what you’re willing to sow!”

App Ignorant

April 14, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                   April 14, 2018

                                   

Whenever I think I’m smart and need to have my intelligence altitude lowered to C-level  I just go to the supermarket and try to figure out how to use the “digital coupons!”

Last week Tide detergent pods were on sale, plus there was a digital coupon that you could use (If you were more intelligent)! I brought the container to the checkout lane, and confessed to the cashier, like the wayward penitent sinner that I am, that I was not “app-savvy!”market

She looked at me and started asking me questions that were a technological foreign language. To my mind they sounded something like this:

“Did you download the app and wash behind your ears with body wash, and then put some butter on your toast as it lay on the sidewalk while offering to sacrifice your first-born and waiting for the postal carrier to bring your new magazine by?”

“Huh?”

She gave me a momentary annoyed expression, because there was now two other people behind me in line- the line I had chosen because there was no one behind me and I thought I could receive a hint of grace from her!

Remember when you were raising your kids who had just learned how to tie their shoes? Remember the time when you were in a rush and they were taking a month to tie the knots so you just finally reached down in a huff and tied them so you could get out of the house before the rapture?

Well, that’s kind of what the cashier did! She just finally gave up and punched in some kind of secret code that she learned in the cashier’s secret society and gave me the extra two dollars off. I was melting away as I stood there, feeling the stares of the two people behind me and the scorn of “Ms. IBM” behind the counter!

I bet she would also be clueless…back in the day…if she had to bring a goat to the market to trade for flour, beans, and potatoes!

A friend of mine told me about a similar experience using the digital coupons at a different store where he was made to feel like one of the indentured servants of the business. There was some kind of glitch with the app that he had and after going through an employee who looked at him like he was a wandering vagabond he encountered a manager who said something like, “You know…this is a privilege to have this. Not everyone gets it. You understand that, don’t you?”

Memories of standing before the elementary school principal occurred!

Not all of us have been able to figure out digital coupons or, for that matter, anything that begins with the letters “a-p-p”, except “appricot”, “appalled”, and “apple”…scratch Apple!

We are from the slower generation that were amazed when adding machines came along. We watched episodes of “Lassie” where they had to ring up Jenny, the Calverton telephone operator, to call the neighbor down the road.

So now we of the slower generation are weighing whether it’s worth the embarrassment to save that fifty cents on Hamburger Helper by presenting our cell phone to the store cashier. It’s the equivalent of walking into church with your pants unzipped…which I’ve also done!

Growing My Hair Back

April 12, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                     April 12, 2018

                               

The question has repeated itself countless times since March 4.

“Did you shave your head for St. Baldrick’s Day?” St. Baldrick’s is a day in March when money is raised to help find a cure for childhood cancer. People get their heads shaved at this worthy event.

“No!” I reply.  “I lost a bet to one of my freshman basketball players.”

“Oh!”

I won’t go into the details of the unfortunate bet, just a summary. I had made a wager with one of the boys on my basketball team who was atrocious at shooting free throws. I promised that I would shave my head if he shot 90%  from the free throw line for the season. I lost! He was 2 for 2 for the whole season! (You can go to the archives of “WordsfromWW.com” and read the story entitled “My Last Day With Hair…For A While”, which I posted on March 4) 

So now the hair on my head is growing back…slowly! I’ve gone through stages. The first stage was called “Sluggo”, after the character in the old Nancy comic strip. Little specks of hair dotted the top of my head, like pepper spilled on the kitchen table. Okay, spilled SALT and pepper!

The next stage had me taking on the look of a human pin cushion. I didn’t have to worry about bedhead, but I did have to watch out for short sharp objects accidentally being pushed into my scalp.

And now this week I’ve entered into the realm of the porcupine. My hair is at that growing back point where people look at you and wonder if you’re possibly an escaped felon on the lam. No one on the front of GQ magazine has hair like this. Come to think of it, no one on the front of AARP magazine has hair like this either. I am in the hair equivalent of the wilderness desert where Jesus spent forty days roaming around.

The next stage I’m afraid may be called “crabgrass” and my wife will try to run the spreader quietly past me dispersing it’s “Weed-B-Gon”. This may be the stage where I break open the tube of Brylcream that my sister shipped to me. It had been my dad’s. Maybe the slicked back look would make it look better! Ahhh…no!

I’m just hoping that I’m sporting enough of a head of hair a month from now when I go to a writer’s conference in Estes Park, Colorado. I’ve got appointments with a few literary agents, and I’m hoping to get interest in the book I just recently completed. I need to have grown past the crabgrass stage into looking presentable and publishable!

One thing I’ve learned from all this is to qualify the wagers I make with my basketball players better, and to choose a player who will get fouled a lot during the season. Three of my players who shot 64% of all of our team’s free throws had a combined free throw shooting percentage of 46%. Next year I’ll pick one of those kind of players who won’t avoid contact like it’s the bubonic plague.

And then maybe, just maybe, I’ll actually get my head shaved next March for St. Baldrick’s!

The Laughter of Forgetfulness

April 11, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                   April 11, 2018

                           

For most of my life I’ve been a laugher at the lighter moments and unusual occurrences. I take after my dad in that respect. My mom was the more serious parent. Laughing, from my perspective, was an ointment of survival in my thirty-six years as a pastor.

Like the Sunday we ran out of communion cups before everyone had been served. I remember pretending to drink the communion juice out of pretend cups, as did the others who were up front facing me after serving the congregation. Some may have stressed about the “pretending”, but I thought it was somewhat humorous. I guess who could call it “Communion Lite”!

Carol and I seem to be advancing in age and we’re encountering a few incidents of forgetfulness. No, I don’t believe we’re in the beginning stages of dementia or some other heart wrenching affliction that we see so often these days. I don’t believe I’m experiencing the effects of football-related concussions either. I tried to stay away from being tackled or tackling someone else. I was proficient in my avoidance of contact. My helmet was as clean as a well waxed Corvette at the end of the season.

This week we had planned on having dinner with Marie one night- Marie Calendar’s, that is! Pot pies to be exact! We prefer to bake them in the oven instead of the much shorter time in the microwave, so we preheated the oven to 400 degrees. They take about fifty minutes to bake, plus another five minutes to cool. I went upstairs to do some writing and Carol continued watching Dr. Phil, or some other show where someone is willing to let the whole world know that they are screwed up!

An hour later I came back downstairs. Carol was relaxing on the couch and as I walked into the kitchen I noticed two pot pies sitting on top of the stove. “Oh! They’re done!” was my first thought, and I walked over to help serve them.

But they weren’t done! They weren’t even started! We had forgotten to put them in the oven that had now been heating “nothing” at 400 degrees for the last hour.

“Ahhh, Carol!”
“Yes, dear!”

“We forgot to put the pot pies in the oven.”

“You’re kidding me!”

“Nope!”

And we both laughed! “Well, where would you like to go for dinner?” (Perhaps each of us subconsciously wanted to go out for dinner to begin with!)

We both laughed at our mental slip, and we had a great dinner out that night!

My dad was a great storyteller. What he didn’t realize, or the better word might be remember, is that he had told the same story to me several times, and even though I knew some of his stories so well I could have finished telling them for him, I still laughed at the end. The way he told them always caused me to laugh, and he also always laughed at the end of the retelling. He passed away not quite two months ago at the well-lived age of 89 and 2/3’s! His life was well-oiled with chuckles and laughter.

Twenty years from now I’m hoping my three kids will be sitting at the dinner table with me and willingly listen to my retelling of some stories that I had forgotten had already been told…several times. And I hope we laugh as much then as Carol and I laughed a couple of nights ago after staring at those two stone cold pot pies sitting there impatiently on top of the stove.

Static Church Cling

April 9, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                       April 9, 2018

                                      

“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer…All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts.” (Acts 2:42, 44-46)

A few days ago I pulled one of my tee shirts out of the dresser, put it on, and started another day. It felt a bit different, tighter maybe, but I attributed the snug feeling to the two servings of lasagna I had eaten the night before. I often associate tight clothes with the previous night’s dinner entree’…not the oversized bowl of ice cream!

A few hours later I went to change clothes to go to basketball practice. When I took the tee shirt off I discovered one of my handkerchiefs attached to the inside of the shirt. Static cling had drawn it to its hidden position while in the dryer. The crackling of the static electricity still present sounded as I unconnected it. I felt a bit silly, but at least the hanky wasn’t hanging out behind my shirt like a piece of toilet paper!

The first church in Jerusalem could be said to have static church cling… in a good way. They hung together, developed a deeper level of fellowship, and relied on each other for love, life, and support.

The description of who they were began with the verb “devoted”, and then three times in three verses the adverb “together” is used. They clung together! The health of the Body of Christ depended upon the connectedness of its parts.

With static cling in our clothes there are certain products that we use to reduce the “togetherness” of our clothes.  There are fabric sheets and other antistatic agents that lessen the chance that a handkerchief is going to be sticking to the seat of your pants.

Our culture, in many ways, is an antistatic church clinging agent. People are busy, and busyness is an effective reducer of people connecting with one another. On the other hand, to have a church fellowship meet together more often…just because!…is not the path to deeper bonding either. Church busyness is simply cultural busyness spiritualized. There needs to be purpose behind the clinging.

Two of the draws of social media are its superficial solution for the need for relationships and its availability when the person wants it.

Our culture lends itself to relationships that are superficial and meaningless. Church culture usually mirrors that. The most meaningful relationships in these uncertain times seem to come about because of causes that seek justice and correction, but, once again, they are mostly short-lived and lack relational depth.

The decline of churches can be attributed to a number of factors. Perhaps one of the ways of renewal will lead us through the rediscovering of our devoted purpose and the re-clinging of our belief that the gospel guides us to personal transformation and also transformation together.