Archive for the ‘Jesus’ category

Is It Okay To Feel Okay About Life?

July 16, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                      July 16, 2018

                               

People have gripes! I won’t list them here because of space, time, and the fact that I don’t want to be a “Debbie Downer!” Our days are peppered with people who look at the glass as being half-empty…with a good chance of leakage!

It’s gotten to the point that I ask myself if it’s okay to feel okay about life? Is it not okay to feel okay about where one’s life is right now? Should I feel guilty about not having issues that would have me sitting in one of those high chairs on Dr. Phil’s stage?

This does not mean that I have it all together and live a life void of any problems. I have physical therapy for my knee and hip pain later on this morning. I frequent the bathroom more than a bored eighth grader escaping math class. I read two paragraphs in a book and fall asleep. I have about five prescriptions! I often talk to speeding cars that rush by me on the highway, even to the point of showing them my middle finger…in my mind! Lord, forgive me!

But there is a wholeness in my life, a happiness…dare I say, a joy! The sadness in my soul is connected to the loss of loved ones…Dad back in February and Mom almost five years ago now, all my aunts, uncles, and Carol’s parents, dear friends and mentors who have gone on like Rex Davis…Greg Davis…Don Fackler…Ray Lutz. 

I’m okay with the goals in my life that I did not reach, or have not yet reached…officiating a high school state tournament basketball game, running a marathon in my sixties, owning an ice cream truck, hiking the Grand Canyon, slam-dunking a basketball. 

It’s the rhythm in my life that gives me a sense of peace and satisfaction. My life is spiced and seasoned with opportunities to impact young people. I’m blessed to be able to coach four teams in three different sports. I get all giddy at the opportunity to substitute teach middle school students. I have a good amount of time to write and (fingers crossed!) hopefully publish a novel in the next few months. I’m allowed to speak at a wonderful small town church that has about 20 saints each Sunday morning. I’m married to a wonderful woman. We’ll celebrate our 39th anniversary in a few days. We’ve got three great kids, but (Sorry, kids!) enjoy our three grandkids now even more!

The “feeling okay about life” is also connected to that deep sense within a person that he/she is in the midst of what God desires for him/her to be about. There is not any sense of unrest or frustration. The peace-within-myself understands that it’s not all about me. As I serve others and serve God, joy makes a home within my life.

Many people detour around contentment in their life because they think there should be more. There is grumbling about missed opportunities, usually blamed on something or someone else. Our culture seems to have been injected with a dose of disgruntlement, supplemented with pills to heighten a sense of entitlement. 

I guess for me the glass is half-empty because I’ve enjoyed the beginning and will continue to be blessed by the ending. I’ve been used by God and still have some left in the tank to be used!

And I’m okay with that!

Church Camp Journal

July 15, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                           July 15, 2018

                              

SATURDAY

Dear Journal,

I arrived at church camp safely this afternoon. Things looked normal. 

SUNDAY

Dear Journal,

Normalcy disappeared about 2:00. Kids of different sizes and ages arrived, most with their parents. Some parents were tearing up at the idea of missing Little Missy and Mini-Mike for a week. Others teared up at the temporary freedom they would be experiencing. One set of parents were taking a week’s vacation since the kids were gone. They would go back to work once the kids returned to the roost!

Young campers stared into the uncertainty of a whole week of following the instructions and schedule of adults who were strangers to them. What bizarre things would they be forced to do…eat roasted bugs, eat all of their vegetables, take a shower and brush their teeth every day?

Anxiety seemed to spread over the registration area like peanut butter on sliced bread! 

MONDAY

Dear Journal

It’s amazing how easily it is to figure out which of the middle school boy campers has reached puberty and which haven’t! A couple of the boys have been following a group of girls around like flies on honey. Other boys are more interested in figuring out mathematical equations and different Rubik’s Cubes.

One boy, who has spent the first day salivating over the girls, wears tee shirts around that announce the fact that he’s a wrestler…a Samson in the midst of the group of Delilah’s, muscle mass more important than mental capacity.

I grabbed the attention of the middle school campers in my first talk to them by microwaving an egg that was still in the shell. A couple of other things done for shock value communicated to them that this was going to be a different week. I even got Salivating Samson to sit there with his mouth wide open out of disbelief.

TUESDAY

Dear Journal,

  A couple of the boys are starting to smell like…middle school boys! They have not familiarized themselves with the showers in their dorm. The buzzing of flies around them is a clue that they aren’t picking up on. Thankfully we have a swimming time this afternoon. We just need to make sure they get in the pool and go all the way under the water…for a while!

I used shock value again this morning by throwing a full glass of milk on one of the counselors as I began a talk on serving others. She knew it was coming, but didn’t realize how cold it was! Oh well!

WEDNESDAY

Dear Journal,

Today we go rock climbing. For several of the campers who have never rock climbed before they’re wondering if it is going to be like climbing the monkey bars at their old grade school playground. 

And then they saw the red rock formations at Garden of the Gods that they would be climbing up and there was a lot of gulping and eyes wide opened! Samson saw it as an opportunity to impress the Delilah’s who pretended to be interested. 

A good number of campers who didn’t think they could do it were completely pumped when they DID do it. 

THURSDAY

Dear Journal,

Today we climbed Soldier’s Peak…all of us! No one was left behind! One boy’s nickname is now “Crockpot” because that’s about how fast he gets things done. He would be the kid at the mall whose parent has one of those “kid leashes” attached to him so he doesn’t get lost. 

But even he made it and delighted in the view from the top. I talked to all of them about mountain and valleys, and the fact that if there weren’t valleys we wouldn’t appreciate the mountain top experiences, and that God is closely beside us as we travel through the valley experiences of our lives.

Crockpot made it back down in time for lunch!

FRIDAY

Dear Journal,

The week is coming towards the finish line. A moose wandered through camp this afternoon and cooled off for a few minutes in the pond smack dab in the middle of camp. 

At certain times during this week it seems like we’ve also wandered into a strange place, but then the cool waters of God’s grace have saturated our uncertainties. 

In our last evening together the tears begin again. This time, however, they are tears because of departure, tears of sweet sorrow. They’ve become a “group of kids on a journey together.” Now they’re being asked to say goodbye. 

Samson gets hugs from the Delilah’s he’s been hoping for all week. Crockpot gets bombarded with hugs so fast he can’t keep up. The Rubik’s Cube boys seek me out. They’ve always been seen as being weird and nerdy, but this week they were loved and valued. The middle school boys who had not frequented the showers smelled of Old Spice and Axe as they gave me high fives. 

SATURDAY

Dear Journal,

And then it was over! The dust trails of the vans and wagons marked the departure of the campers. It was a week of memories, of laughter and tears, of hopes and the squelching of fears. The hopes were that everyone would be back together a year from now. Amen!

A 64 Year Old Church Camper

July 7, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                          July 7, 2018

                                  

This afternoon I leave for church camp, a 64 year old hanging out for a week with a bunch of kids bordering either side of the age of thirteen or smack dab on it. During this week, which will occur at an altitude of 8,500, I’ll probably be a target for shaving cream, dumped buckets of ice water, and the “ice cream” in the human sundae, complete with all the applicable toppings.

My role is to pastor this mass of hyperactivity, talk to them about Jesus, and listen for the hidden pain just as much as the easily heard laughter. 

The first day will be about breaking the ice…without getting hurt in the process! Having coached middle school sports since I was in my forties (WHAT!!) I know there will be the energetic campers, the quiet campers, campers who were there last year and looking forward to seeing kids they haven’t seen since last July, and campers who have never been to a camp and are terrified of their own shadows. 

And the old guy will attempt to lead them alongside Jesus! Camp can be an emotional experience, but emotions can sometimes can be their own god. They can be like the air that is blubbering out of a balloon that takes you in one direction and suddenly the other way.

I love middle school kids. You can laugh with them, discover their individual talents and how each kid is unique. You can use their gullibility and their boldness to forge lasting friendships. The painful memories and the hilarious happenings can both strengthen the sense of care and concern.

This week a life could be changed, redirected, or even saved. This week a kid who doesn’t believe in himself can have someone tell him he’s awesome, he’s loved, and his life will make a difference. 

And if that means I get smeared with shaving cream everyday, so be it! 

The Monster Under The Bed

July 1, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                         July 1, 2018

                                        

I’m not sure where I got the idea or how it penetrated into my imaginative mind. I just know it was there as soon as I leaped into bed at night. In fact, it became a habit for me to leap from a safe distance away onto my bed, like jumping from one cliff to another.

I had never seen the monster, but I had convinced myself that he was there. I’m sure my older brother, Charlie, helped in the bringing me to that belief. We shared a bedroom and I often became the gullible younger brother in his pranks and schemes. Four and a half years difference in age can sometimes do that.

Common sense and logic would tell the typical person that the monster wasn’t real. All you had to do was ask yourself some clarifying questions, like “Where does he go in daylight hours?” Or “Why is he always under my bed, but never my brother’s?”

But when it comes to monsters in dark places and six year old boys, common sense and logic take a hiatus from the scene.

I slept with both hands and feet IN the bed. No body part could be hanging over the side. That would be like accidentally sticking your hand in the water at the lake and having an alligator latch onto it! I had heard stories…probably from my brother!

Monsters live in dark places, I had been told. They live in the shadows of our life, repelling any hints of being safe, always ready to devour.

My mom always made me make my bed in the morning. It made no sense to me. Orderliness didn’t alleviate my fears that the creature wouldn’t return. And, after all, I was going to mess up the bed again in about twelve hours. If I got sucked into the abyss that night would someone else make my bed the next morning? You don’t touch crime scenes, you know!

I’m not sure when it was that I stopped fearing the unseen monster and became more convinced in the presence of the unseen God. My younger brother-side tells me it might have been shortly after Charlie became bored with the terrorizing of his little brother, but I have no evidence that is true. I think my fears of the underneath dark began to subside when I discovered “the light” of God and the abundance of scriptures that talk of God being the light and the light shining into the darkness.

At some point in my childhood journey the fear of my fears was tilted by my faith In God. The courage to let a hand or a foot hang carelessly over the side of my bed became a nightly risk of my reckless faith.

Nowadays when the shadow of a fear draws close to my thoughts, causing me to be uncertain and hesitant about life, I remind myself of the Light…”The Lord is my light and my salvation! Whom shall I fear? (Ps. 27:1)

I don’t even leap onto the bed anymore…unless I’m playing!

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!

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)