Archive for the ‘Freedom’ category

The Kid Who Always Needs a Pencil

January 22, 2020

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                           January 22, 2020

                                

He comes into class with $200 Apple ear pods firmly in place. They are a sign to his peers that his parents will buy him anything. I notice that he surveys the classroom, deciding who he wants to greet and who to ignore. His $60 backpack gets dropped on his table like a sack of potatoes, and then he goes to infiltrate the ranks of unsuspecting students. His $150 pair of athletic shoes compliment the rest of his privileged life. Not including his clothes, I estimate his classroom value at over $400. 

Two minutes later I use my voice to blow the trumpet for the launching of class. “Have a seat and let’s get into it!” is my usual summons to order.

Ear pod boy plunges into his seat like he’s launching into one of the water slides at Great Wolf Lodge. 

I take attendance and then give the plan for the next 55 minutes. The kid who, by the way, the teacher I’m subbing for has left me a scribbled note about is in his own world of “peer-dom” pretends to listen as he dreams about the tall blonde two tables away. She looks his direction and he puts a hand on one of his ear pods, as if to convince her of his value and coolness.

“Today”, I tell them, “you’re going to be completing these two work sheets.” I explain what they need…textbook, copy of the work sheets I’ll hand out, something to write with. The kid is unwrapping a Pop Tart as I’m talking. Crumbs dot the sides of his mouth. If he’s trying to impress the blonde with his ear pods, he negates its effect with the remnants of the Pop Tart.

The work sheets get passed out and students begin to fill in the blanks. Five minutes later ear pod boy comes to my desk and says the words that he has spoken so many times before.

“Can I borrow a pencil?”

“You remembered your Pop Tart and your overpriced ear pods, but you couldn’t remember to bring a pencil?”

He stares at me with a blank look that conveys his disinterest in writing utensils. Pencils are not high on his list of priorities. The blonde is. Munching on a Pop Tart that he had to remember to get out of the pantry at home, that’s high! But to bring a pencil…to any class!…on any day!…for any reason!…that has not appeared on his radar yet! That’s what the teacher is there for, to keep him supplied! 

He’s a visual aid that communicates that the simplest things in life seem to be the hardest for some people to do.

Signs That Old Age Has Rested Upon You

January 12, 2020

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                      January 12, 2020

                            

Last week I was at our local YMCA in the morning to work up a sweat. I climbed the stairs to the balcony track that circles above the gym. Thirteen laps to a mile and I try to do a mile or two. A runner can only do so many laps before he starts leaning towards the inside railing!

As usual, I stretched and watched the half dozen walkers and runners making their circuits. One young man in his twenties was setting a good pace. Another man, looking like he was hovering around 75 and on the edge of death, plodded along. Down below several octogenarians played pickleball at a snoozing pace. When I entered the track the man who looked like he had limited life expectancy was about 20 yards in front of me. 

And then five laps later I realized he was still 20 yards in front of me! It was a “Come to Jesus moment” for me, a slap on both of my cheeks. I WAS GOING THE SAME SPEED, or should I say, lack of speed. The man in front of me, who probably had checked to see where the nearest AED device was located, was running at the same pace as me. No wait! He was actually getting further ahead of me!

I cursed the extra piece of pecan pie I had consumed the night before, thought about the salad I would now eat for lunch…and dinner, and considered if my will was up to date.

Signs that I’m heading towards a rocking chair and a blanket are coming more frequently. Each night when Carol and I sit to watch a TV show I grab a blanket to warm up my freezing hands and feet. Our couch now has more blankets on it than pillows. Actually, it also has more blankets than seating capacity!

When the TV show ends at about 8:30, Carol asks me if I want to watch another show. My answer to that question usually includes a look at the time. If the minute hand has ended its downward journey and is heading back up towards the top of the hour the chances are I’ll pass on watching another TV episode. That’s another sign that age is crowding in with me.

This week I bought a new nose and ear hair trimmer. As the hair on the top of my head decreases the amount of hair protruding out of my nostrils and ears seems to be increasing. It’s like I accidentally put a treatment of Miracle-Gro on them!

On the bright side it seems that people ask what my opinion is more often than they used to. They ask me if I have any suggestions. Sometimes I do and sometimes I admit my lack of wisdom on the situation. 

I read more, become impatient quicker, and eat more yogurt. I think about the things I used to do: jumping and touching the basketball rim back in college, running the Pike’s Peak Ascent race (Otherwise known by my wife as “The Death Race!), and sleeping through the night without having to get up and urinating. I sigh deeply and mutter to myself “Those were the days!”

And yet in my longing to return to “what was” I realize I wouldn’t have what I now have: four grandkids, the same spouse for 40+ years, an abundance of friends and acquaintances. The arrival of Medicare eligibility coincides with the realization of how blessed I have been and still am. 

Just as I keep the shrubs trimmed growing out of my facial areas, I now keep the areas of my interest and involvement trimmed to where I want to focus my time and energies. With that comes the acceptance of the fact that I don’t need to catch the old guy in front of me on the YMCA track, and that it’s okay to throw a blanket on top of me. Old guys don’t have to worry about being called wimps, they simply need to hope that they’re seen as being wise. 

A Culture of Quick Stoppers

January 9, 2020

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                      January 9, 2020

                               

It’s funny the things you remember decades later. There’s no reason why a certain conversation or moment in time should stay embedded in your memory, but for some reason it keeps being revisited in your mind.

The latest moment that keeps coming back to me is from an episode of Traffic Court, a TV show on the Columbus, Ohio CBS station one night a week back in the 1970’s, usually right after the news and before Jeopardy. 

Think Judge Wapner for traffic violations!

For some reason I remember one man in one episode. He had been cited for failure to obey a stop sign. He stood before the judge and the judge asked if he had anything to add about his violation. He replied that in Indiana they had something called a “Quick Stop”. It was a stop, just real quick! The judge imposed the appropriate fine upon Mr. Quick and told him that in Ohio a stop sign means stop!

Lately, I’m thinking that a lot of Indiana people have moved to Colorado Springs because I’ve noticed a lot of “quick stoppers” driving around our streets. 

Let me be so controversial as to say that “quick stops” are an indication of how our culture has changed. What???

A stop sign is a momentary halting of our progress and we have become a culture that does not like anyone or anything to tell us to stop what we’re doing. It’s a ripple effect of our sense of entitlement. Not obeying traffic laws is simply a sign of our self-centered idea that the world revolves around “me!”

Speed limits are seen as being suggestions. 

Okay! I admit it! I have a tendency to go a few miles over the speed limit…to keep from dying! I’m going 49 in a 45 and cars are whizzing by me like I’m stuck in mud. And, of course, there’s the guy who hangs on your bumper to let you know that you’re impeding his excessive progress.

The number of pedestrians and cyclists killed in this country by drivers in 2019 exceeded 7,000. Fatalities and excessive speed has become such a problem in Colorado Springs that the City Council has made it a matter for their attention.

When entitlement becomes ingrained in our culture’s thinking there is a corresponding adjustment to expected behavior. We make exceptions to the rules and many take on an attitude that says the rules don’t apply to them. In essence, the thinking is that rules are for all those other people, but don’t apply to me. 

And, like the Indiana man, we reinterpret what a rule or law means. Don’t get me started on how “Yield” has been reinterpreted, or the emergence of that creation of a crazed road engineer called “the round about!”

And how about texting and driving? One out of every four traffic accidents involve someone who is texting and driving. Wait a minute! Isn’t that against the law? No, it’s just another one of those suggestions from our law enforcement…er, law suggestion people!

Just a Little Cut on My Right Thumb

January 3, 2020

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                  January 3, 2020

                                     

“On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor…Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” (1 Corinthians 12:22-23,27)

It was a paper cut, but it must have been angry paper…paper with an attitude looking to inflict pain!

The cut only measured a couple of millimeters…I think! I could never understand those ways of measuring things. In laypeople language it measured itsy-bitsy, but it was on the tip of my right thumb. I guess you could say that “it stuck out like sore thumb!”

No big deal. It was only a tiny cut, barely big enough to put under the microscope. I had nine other fingers to take care of details. I never use my thumbs when I type, so there was one thing. I’m a three-fingered typist, two on my left hand and one on the right. Always have been. If I have to think about using more fingers than those three I’ll become frantic, like the person in the movie who has to figure out which wire to cut, perspiration running down his face, along with tears.

So, no big deal on the thumb, right? 

Wrong! I started getting dressed to go to church and I couldn’t get the top button on my dress shirt buttoned. I’ve never worn a tie and had my top button unbuttoned, but that night— Christmas Eve, in fact— I had to resort to looking, as my mom would say, “slouchy!”

With great effort I was able to zip myself up, but I almost had to take my pants off first, zip them, and then “vaseline up” my legs and slide in.

It took me great effort to tie my shoes. I thought about wearing my loafers that I hadn’t put on since the 1990’s and have a hiding spot in the deepest part of my closet, but I struggled through the loops and would have won a shoe-tying race against my 3 month old grandson if need be.

And that’s just getting dressed with the mini-cut! 

At Christmas Day dinner we had a delicious ham, but “the cut” made cutting my piece of meat painful. Eating a pickle was painless, but how many pickles can I person eat as others are piling their plates with ham, scalloped potatoes, corn casserole, fruit salad, rolls, and veggies? Picking up the whole slice of ham and jamming it in my mouth seemed to be unfitting for the occasion. I did that later!

A couple of days later I had to shovel the driveway. Oh, the pain, the pain!

I reached to turn the lamplight off beside the bed. Jumpin’ Jimmy!

I flipped the top open on my container of Old Spice “Steel Courage” Body Wash and grimaced. Where’s that Dove bar of soap when you need it? 

You get the picture! A minute cut on the end of one finger had a ripple effect on the decisions I made, or didn’t make, for a good ten days. It’s still there, but I can at least button my shirt all the way to the top now and I’ve been able to put the Vaseline away without thinking about having to use it.

The pain of the least of these amongst us has a ripple effect on all of us. In the Apostle Paul’s description of the functioning church he never talks about the over-effectiveness of one of its parts. There’s to be no strutting amongst the people of God. Instead, he focuses the health of the church on all of its parts functioning properly…even the tip of the thumb. When one of the parts can’t be counted on it causes the whole body to shift, to rethink how to get something done, and ends up overtaxing the other members. A small cut on my thumb brought that home to me.

The Body of Christ is a unique group. When it began back in the days after Jesus was crucified and rose again it emphasized the importance of everyone. Heck! Jesus emphasized that his whole ministry. Those who were considered “the tips of the thumbs” and “the toenails on the little toes” were given just as much attention and care by Jesus as anyone else. When the church becomes more like the spiritual form of a pyramid scheme the whole body uses its focus.

My right thumb is back to ninety percent now. All is right again in the universe, but I’m putting a sign up in my study “Beware of the Angry Paper!”

My E(xponential) Mail

December 27, 2019

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                  December 27, 2019

                              

It’s the electronic version of breeding rabbits. One disappears and three others suddenly start hopping around to take its place. You should see the rabbit paw prints in my backyard snow. They resemble a bad Picasso painting, all in white.

I’m talking about my email! It seems to grow exponentially. Something piques my interest, like KiwiCo Toys, so I click on the Facebook ad. Now I get an avalanche of KiwiCo ads on Facebook and also in my email. Curiosity killed the cat, but 50 ads a day killed the interest of this “cat!”

I’ve done Trivia Today, an email I receive twice daily, but now my inbox is also populated with Trivia Daily, Trivia Genius, Trivia Draws, Trivia Today: This Day in History, Trivia Cafe’, and FunTrivia. I receive so many trivia emails I feel shallow, like I no longer am able to think deeply.

Now when Carol and I go somewhere instead of conversation about subjects like Jesus, family, and the latest advances in knee replacements we go through emails and delete them. I swear last night we eliminated 15 emails on our short drive home from Costa Vida restaurant, but 45 new ones then flocked in to take their place. It reminded me of feeding pigeons in the park. 

We took a Viking River Cruise last May with our friends, Dave and Robyn Hughes. Viking now seems to think we want to take a cruise a week. Every day we receive an email with a “limited time offer.” Crystal Cruise Line must have gotten word of us as well because they come calling, er…emailing, every day as well. 

Then there’s the political emails. It seemed to take me forever to get off the Tea Party list. And every time I asked to be unsubscribed it seemed like I attracted the attention of five other conservative watchdog groups. It reminds me of the lint in my pants pockets that just seems to come from nowhere. 

I receive NRA, CNN, SI, NCAA, the NBA, and DSW emails on a daily basis. One time four years ago we ordered a tee shirt from fanatics.com and now they are fanatical about sending us the daily offer quadrupled!

I get an email each day that the latest copy of our local newspaper is available. It’s the same newspaper that I unsubscribed to in mid-September. 

We keep unsubscribing and the emails keep repopulating. At least the “Russian Women Are Looking For You” emails have stopped. Of course, ancestry.com rushed in to take their place. Every time I order something from Amazon they send me emails about some other products that I might be interested in.

Perhaps I should do an “email fast”. Commit to not looking at email for a day, maybe a forty day fast. Maybe I should give up email for Lent.

If I did, guess what would happen? I’d be digging out for the next month!

Remember the good ole’ days when you’d get six pieces of mail in the mailbox, spend the next two minutes considering their value, and then get on with your life? We’d get the new copy of the TV Guide and then sit in front of our television flipping back and forth between the four stations we received. We didn’t know how blessed we were, did we?

And in writing these words I realize that it will require some of my readers to open an email! Ironic, isn’t it?

Last Day of School Before Christmas Break

December 21, 2019

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                   December 21, 2019

                            

I agreed to it. It wasn’t like I was entering a dark unknown cave unaware of the dangers and unexpected holes sending me into the great abyss. I knew I was agreeing to substitute teacher on the last day before the school’s Christmas break. Some of the students had requested me. I’m still trying to decide whether that is a good thing or a warning sign, kinda’ like the army recruiter who smiles at the young buck standing in front of him and making him believe the next four years of his life will be simply a more mature version of Disney World. 

The last day of December school is frequented with sudden fits of stupidity as young adolescents all sugared up feel compelled to commit head-shaking acts of frenzied unintelligence because of their excess consumption of candy bars, peppermint candy sticks, and Starbucks Frappuccinos.

Teachers hold up surrender flags in the form of “Home Alone” and “Home Alone 2”. In reality, by 9:30 they’re wishing they were home alone and wondering why they didn’t take a sick day? 

The sound of shoes sprinting down hallways is common. Students wearing red Santa hats and adorned with tinsel is the norm. Ugly Christmas sweaters and students in Santa suits pass by almost unnoticed. 

In a couple of classes a few students suddenly broke out in song…off key, but still festive. One student blessed me with a candy cane and another with a container of baked goods that were meant for the teacher I was subbing for. When he saw that the teacher was gone he said, with great disappointment, “I guess you can have them!”

The political correctness of our culture leads some students into some degree of uncertainty as to what the right greeting/blessing is. Do they say “Merry Christmas!”, “Happy Hanukkah”, “Have a great break!”, “Happy Holidays!”, or “See ya’ next year!” I wanted to say “May the coming celebrated birth of the Christ-child be experienced in a deep way by you and yours!”, but I knew the typical middle schooler’s attention span wasn’t that long so I shortened my greeting to “Merry Christmas!”

The teaching staff did hallway countdowns as the day went on…”Three classes to go!” “Down to two!”, and words of encouragement “You can do it!”

When the final bell rang the walls of the school expanded as the entire staff exhaled in the realization that survival had been accomplished. 

Timberview Middle School, where I hang out, is a great school, great staff, mostly great students with a few warts thrown in that grab most of the attention. I almost always enjoy my days there, but Christmas break is longed for by everyone. It’s like the  opposite of the college student who comes home on Christmas break. Coming back and living with the parents is okay for the first couple of days, but then everyone is looking forward for the second semester to begin so Junior can leave again.

Thanks-Living

November 28, 2019

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                      November 28, 2019

                                

Today is our son’s 36th birthday. Unreal! Oh, and it also happens to be Thanksgiving Day, a day where we offer thanks, become more cognizant of thanking people, and, for many of us, join hands with others around a dinner table and say grace.

As I do a life analysis the immensity of the blessings in my life are overwhelming. It causes me to live my life out of a heart of gratitude. That is, “thanks-living”!

This morning I’m sitting on my Starbucks stool where I have written almost everyone of 1,100 posts. I’m tipping my baristas who know me by name, who know that I almost always get a tall Pike Place coffee, and know which stool I always sit on unless there’s an intruder. They will thank me for my tip, but they won’t quite understand how they bless me by setting the right mood for me to write in. Unless I’m substitute teaching I’m on this stool to start the day, facing out towards Pike’s Peak. That’s right, looking at Pike’s Peak drinking my Pike Place!

I notice that we live in a world— perhaps culture is a better term— where ungrateful people seem to be as common as the rabbit and squirrel populations in our neighborhood. There may be a connection between the level of ungratefulness and the epidemic of entitlement. 

I wish I could do a research project (but since I flunked Sociology 101 my first term of college I would be at a loss as to how to go about it) that could figure out the correlation between entitlement and ungratefulness. That would be interesting! An entitled person might respond that he’s entitled to feel ungrateful.

Back to thanks-living! Each day I’m aware of the grace of God upon me, his compassionate love. 

           Psalm 9:1 says “I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds.” Life is lived out of a heart full of gratitude. 

I realize that who I am today and how I live today has been greatly influenced by those in my past…my parents, both gone to glory…my wife, Carol, who calculates the cost of decisions with careful consternation ( A lot of “C” words in that statement!)…kids and grandkids, who bring the blessing of laughter to my life…and friends and mentors who have walked with me for parts of the journey. 

I see the handprints of James Payson Martin and Chuck Landon, my first two ministry mentors, upon how I practiced pastoring. I can hear the wisdom of my ministry colleagues, Chuck Moore, Tom Bayes, and Mark Sommers, as they advised and encouraged me through the years. I can count myself blessed to have friends like Dave Volitis, Ron McKinney, Ed and Diana Stucky, and Janet Smith, who bring a richness to my life.

Grumpiness is not an adjective that people would use in describing me. I wasn’t even grumpy when I was drinking the 128 ounces of liquid in preparation for my latest colonoscopy. I’m the reflection of my dad, who approached life with optimism, a smile, and a warm greeting. Perhaps that’s also why I’m a proponent for thanks-living.

And now, like tipping my baristas this morning, I seek to live out my thankfulness. It comes out uncomplicated most of the time, like saying “Good morning!” to each student who walks down the hallway at Timberview Middle School; taking Carol to 7-11 for her morning Diet Coke with crushed ice; and chuckling during the verbal exchanges with four year old granddaughter Corin that may cover the subjects of ballerina outfits, bugs, and building blocks all within a five minute time frame.

I’m completely consumed with thankful-living!