Archive for the ‘Nation’ category

Negative Feast or Negative Fast

October 14, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                     October 14, 2018

                          

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Maybe, just maybe.

Be Kind or Be Kinda’ Kind

September 25, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                   September 25, 2018

                            

At our middle school, as any other middle school, there has been a lot of information and discussion about bullying- what it is and what to do if you are the person who is being bullied? 

This school year there has been an initiative to have students and teachers think about doing the polar opposite of bullying. It’s the idea of being kind. Teachers and administrators wear t-shirts that say “Be Kind” on the front. (I’ve got one of the t-shirts!) Since school is only into its seventh week it’s hard to make any “kind” of determination on the effect or non-effect of the initiative yet. 

Students ARE influenced by slogans and sayings, images and symbols, but I’m not sure how well a school can teach kindness. It’s on a different plane than learning algebra, what the functions are of the three branches of government, or the different body parts of a grasshopper are. 

From my Christian faith, kindness is one of the results that emerges in the life of a Christ-follower as he/she allows the Holy Spirit to take up residence in his/her life. Kindness, along with other characteristics like perseverance, self-control, and peace are called “fruit of the Spirit.” That’s not to say that someone who isn’t a follower of Jesus can’t be kind, but I’m more comfortable with the belief that the Spirit can develop it within my life than in the idea that it can be taught to be a part of our human nature. 

Middle school students are a bizarre community of many things- kind and thoughtful, self-centered and obnoxious, unorganized and wrinkled, understanding and supportive. Perhaps teaching and emphasizing kindness will cause a number of them to think about what they say and do before they do it,  but I’m hesitant to believe it will change them for a lifetime. It may simply make this school year a little more tolerable!

I’m not so naive as to believe that if someone is a Christian he/she is automatically kind. I know a lot of people who identify themselves as Christians who are simply jerks! I wouldn’t let them date my granddaughter or walk my cat (if I still had a cat)! 

Jesus modeled kindness for his disciples. His disciples were a bit clumsy in how they showed such a practice, but it finally sunk in. Early followers of Christ were known for their kindness. It grew out of their spiritual relationships and from the life of their community. 

Can schools teach kindness that has sanitized from anything resembling Jesus? Time will tell, but it may end up being more like a “kinda’ kind!”

Remembering 9/11 and Other Days

September 11, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                    September 11, 2018

                           

I was part of a foursome playing in a golf benefit tournament for an organization that provides housing and services for homeless families. In fact, we were on a goofy hole where we had to replace our golf ball on the green with a tennis ball and putt it until you hit the flag. And then we received the news!

The plane hitting the World Trade Center wasn’t an accident. It was the first of two planes hitting the twin towers in a terrorist attack. I remember that we made the turn after the ninth hole and went into the clubhouse and watched the news on TV. I can’t remember any of the other golfing events of that day, just that I was there when the events of 9/11 unfolded.

Each one of us has just a few events or moments in life where we can recall what we were doing, who we were talking to, or where we were when an earth-shattering event took place; that is, an occurrence that changed life for us, or changed how we viewed our world. 

And when I say events, I mean in our own lifetime, not in the past centuries before we were alive. For example, as a follower of Jesus the events of his Passion Week…death and resurrection…define who I am now, but it occurred before I was born.

For me, the first event that changed my perspective of life happened when John F. Kennedy was assassinated. I was a fourth grader at Williamstown Elementary in Williamstown, West Virginia. I walked home and threw myself on my bed and bawled. In my simplified view of politics I was grief-stricken by the fact that someone had WANTED to kill my president. The world wasn’t suppose to be like this. It was my “Come to Jesus” moment with the realization that I lived in the world that lacked harmony and goodwill.

Other assassinations were a part of our nation’s path in the years following that, but my view of the world had already been changed by Lee Harvey Oswald.

In July of 1969 another event happened that was pivotal for me. Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. “That’s one small step for [a] man, one giant leap for mankind.”

I was sitting in the living room of our neighbors’ house in Zanesville, Ohio. He was a Nazarene pastor, and we sat there and watched the fuzzy images on the TV screen. It changed my view of the possible. A moonwalk was something that had been a part of science fiction movies. It put our world closer to the plot of original Lost In Space TV series that seemed unfathomable. To actually have someone walk on the surface of the moon broadened my idea of the possibilities of what people can achieve. 

From the destructiveness of one person to the inventiveness of a team of achievers to the depravity of an organization committed on causing destruction, these are three events in my lifetime so far that stand out as defining moments.

It’s different for each one of us. I’m not sure what someone who has been born since 9/11 would say is a defining moment for him/her. Just think! There a very few students in high school and younger who were alive when 9/11 happened. It is pre-history for them. They live in a  world transformed by 9/11, and yet don’t quite understand how it changed things for them.

There are numerous moments that slightly change us, but only a few that transform us. There are only a few where we can look back and remember what we were doing, where we were, and who we were talking to when “the moment” happened. 

9/11 is one of those for me. I remember and I never will forget.

Parisian Relief

August 21, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                      August 21, 2018

                                  

In another example of guys having a hard time keeping it in their pants, Paris has installed several public urinals along its streets. The “uritrottoir” (a combination of the French words for urinal and pavement) have been installed in various places to combat the problem of people urinating in public. (I’m not making this up!)

Now a man who can’t hold his beer can walk right up to…this thing!…that resembles a trash can, and take care of business. One of the “uritrottoirs” is located right along the Seine River. Tourists boats go up and down the river. Now they can add another “sight” to their tour.

The creator of the innovative urinal says that it offers an ecological solution to public peeing. One of the relief stations is 20 meters away from an elementary school. 

Growing up in Kentucky I was accustomed to relieving myself in non-public restroom places. When our family of five drove the curvy roads between Winchester and Paintsville to visit the relatives we’d often have to pull over to the side of the two lane highway in our 1958 Ford Fairlane so that one or more of the three kids could take the pressure off. Dad would watch for cars as we stood a few feet off the road. At our Mamaw and Papaw Helton’s farm there were a number of times where, in the midst of playing outside, I stood on the foot bridge over the creek and took care of business. The outhouse was just a few feet away, but the outhouse also…had spiders and cobwebs and dark corners that six year old boys, like me, tried to keep their distance from.

But that was in rural, agricultural Kentucky!

On the “uritrottoir” there’s a drawing to demonstrate to the urinators how to…pee! The drawing is a bit humorous because no normal action of relieving oneself would look like that. 

I’ll be in Paris next May, but I won’t be using the outdoor facility. I’m at an age where it’s difficult enough to just get started. Having people watching me has a negative effect on my speed. I’d be standing there for like…20 minutes and six passing tour boats! 

And you can’t be inconspicuous with the “uritrottoir” because they are bright red! If you’re standing in front of one it’s like you’re shouting “Hey! Look at me!”

They even have flowers on top of them. I guess that’s like organic potpourri!

I’m just a little unsure of this “advance” in civilization. Listen! If you can’t hold it long enough until you get to the next public restroom you’ve got some real issues! 

And talk about gender bias!

The Following of Fallen Leaders

August 20, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                        August 20, 2018

                             

The allegations against Bill Hybels, Lead Pastor of the Willow Creek Community Church in the Chicago suburb of South Barrington, have caused a torrent of unrest and a flood of tears in the Christian community throughout our country. Hybels began Willow Creek back in the 1970’s and it has influenced the thinking and ministry of thousands of churches around the world. 

The allegations of inappropriate flirtations and embraces that lingered too long have come in the midst of the tidal wave of other “MeToo” movement outraged voices. The accusations against Hybels have traced acts of inappropriateness back to the 1980’s. 

It’s sad! It’s sad for everyone that has had to speak in this tragedy, from accusers to accused to church leaders to the two people who had already been named to succeed him as pastor, and who now have had to back out of their decisions. 

I’ve read several books that Bill wrote, attended a few Willow Creek services, been a Global Leadership Summit conferee, and referred back over the years to lectures from those Summits that Hybels gave. 

And now the church of Jesus Christ has its mouth open in disbelief! Questions thunder from the pews. Was it all a farce, a big show with no substance? When he was seeking to attract unchurched people to attend Willow Creek what were his true motives?

When leaders fall questions abound. We want our leaders to be above reproach. In fact, when a leader with a great personality has accusations hurled at him/her most of the followers initially react defensively in support of the accused. 

Side step! We all fail and fall. When a leader we follow fails, however, it’s similar to when we were kids and heard a rumor that Santa Claus isn’t real. We refused to believe it until some of our friends confirmed the suspicions. We don’t want our leaders to be fallible!

Back to the blog road! When people idolize certain personalities they tend to not see the impending avalanche until it’s too late. 

There are those people who are cynical and skeptical about everything…and there are those people who would believe the earth is flat if a certain person said it. 

So…in recent months big-time football coaches, famous actors, politicians, mega church pastors, priests, denominational leaders, film directors, civic leaders, other professional athletes, and CEO’s have been held responsible for past actions. Accusations have been made against our current president, but his supporters have been acting as shields in defense of him. We’re not sure yet how that one will play out.

When followers become disillusioned with those they’ve believed in, it leaves a mixture of apathy and outrage in its wake. Who is speaking the truth if the truth tellers are found to be suspect? 

A conflicted form of grief fogs in our understanding of how life is to be lived and how the world operates. And where there is grief there must be a chapter of healing- slow and painful, seeking to find that firm place to step onto. 

And, finally, where there is grief over what has been and what is there will be the ripple effects of loss and revision. Things will change. The people who journeyed in the caravan known as “church” will not be the same. The disillusioned will seek to find different kinds of oases and we can only look at them and say “We understand!” 

Cheek Turning and Face Slapping

June 24, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                           June 24, 2018

                                

Okay! I get it! People don’t agree with one another! I get that! Our country is polarized in about a thousand different ways. Having a difference of opinion is part of our history. Just go back and read about our founding fathers and the forming of the Constitution. I wouldn’t exactly characterize its writing as “synchronized wordsmithing.” By the grace of God they didn’t splinter into a dozen different directions and shout “Forget this!”

Good Lord! Baptists can’t agree on much! You know what they say about us Baptists (I’m an ordained American Baptist minister!)? Where there’s two Baptists there’s at least three denominations!

So…I get it! My own group of Christian journeyers are as different as each hair on my head. 

Jesus said something about turning the other cheek. His words were:

      “But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.”  (Matthew 5:39)

If someone does something unkind to you, or says something that is insulting, we refer to it as “a slap in the face.” Jesus answer was not to get even, not to seek revenge, but rather turn your cheek and let the insulter smack the other cheek. 

Not a widely practiced life principle!!!

Sarah Sanders, the White House Press Secretary, and her family were asked to leave a Virginia restaurant by the owner because the owner does not agree with the president’s policies and actions. 

I get that…the disagreement part, that is! Sanders left without incident. She took the slap in the face, BUT she had to go to Twitter and post about the incident, with a little jab at the owner in the midst of it. 

I don’t agree with either the owner’s initial slap or Sanders’ jab back. But both are representative of our cultural, political, and confused slants on life. We have become a retaliatory people, not just in our political venom, but in most areas of life. Jesus’ message focused on reconciliation. His keys words were grace, forgiveness, love, hope, peace, and justice. His message sought to heal brokenness, draw in the outcasts, give a voice to the powerless.

Respecting one another’s differences is a lost art. Instead of joining hands the overwhelming response is to punch the other person/side in the face.

I get it! Conservatives treat liberals with disdain, and liberals think conservatives are thugs. Others get pulled into the crossfire. 

There’s two enduring signs of hope in all of this. One is this! If the founding fathers could get it figured out so can we!

And second, if Jesus could turn the other cheek…the very God Incarnate!…I have hope that each one of us can too!

Cleaning Up The Migrant Kids Mess

June 22, 2018

JUNE 22, 2018

Messes happen. They are a part of our fallen (or spilled!) creation! I’ve spilled my coffee several times over the years. The worst thing, however, is to pretend that there is no mess! That the spilled coffee is just part of life and to either walk around it, step over it, or walk through it. (If you’ve ever been in a school cafeteria you’d be amazed at how many students will pretend spilled milk on the floor really didn’t happen!) What is the other option? Ahhh…clean it up! Get down on your hands and knees and take care of the mess! No parent tells their child who has just dumped his morning Cheerios to just pretend it’s not a problem.

No matter what your stance is about illegal aliens I’m going out on a limb here to say that most of us are at some degree of uncomfortableness with kids being separated from their parents. Even without factoring in the “media hype”, it’s disturbing. 

There’s always something troubling about intentionally separating children from their parents!

It’s a mess! A mess created by our yearning for a safe environment, our tendency to see our enemies as those who live outside our realm, and to push the powerless out of the way. The mess, in this case, has been swept to the side so not to be disruptive.

Like with my parents, however, when I made a mess I admitted it and took care of it. Perhaps the same thing needs to happen with the migrant children. We messed up. We admit it, and now we’re going to get down on our hands and knees and take care of the chaos we’ve brought into the lives of the people whose lives have been turned upside-down. 

The spills of our mistakes become permanent stains if they aren’t taken care of.