Archive for the ‘Prayer’ category

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!

Slow Down Day

June 26, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                    June 26, 2018

                                          

adult fashion footwear ground

Photo by Jens Mahnke on Pexels.com

Tomorrow, June 27, is Bike to Work Day in Colorado Springs. Since I’m retired, plus I don’t own a bicycle, I won’t be participating. I’m all for the idea, but I’m not sure a bike helmet will protect someone from the local Nascar drivers heading to work.

I’ve got another idea! How about a “Slow Down Day”? A day when people commit to driving the speed limit or UNDER IT!

I just shake my head at the number of drivers who seem to be in a hurry to get to the next stoplight before anyone else. They are over-populating the roadways more than the rabbits are taking over our neighborhood. 

About two months ago I was sideswiped by a man in a man-sized pickup truck who thought he would thunder over two lanes to the exit. He said he didn’t see my dark blue CRV with all the daylight around us! Thankfully no one was hurt…and I had a witness who pulled up beside my vehicle and said “I saw the whole thing!” I’m not bitter (Okay! Maybe a little bitter!), just agitated. His sense of hurry resulted in hours of my times in the next three weeks or so taking care of repair details, getting a rental car, talking to insurance company people.

Slow down!

One of our insightful neighborhood residents has posted signs at each of our subdivision’s entrances with the number “25” in large print, and also put these words above the number: “Drive like your own children live here!”

God had it right when he instructed his people to have a day of rest each week, a day of slowing down for reflection and renewal. It was law, but it was also therapeutic…kind of like someone in an art museum sitting and staring for a while at a sculpture!

So what if we had a Slow Down Day to the point that some bicycles whizzed by the cars and trucks? We’d know how the cyclists would feel all of the other days of the year. Instead of racing from work, what if people picked up the pace at work and took their time getting home?

Fast food restaurants could close their drive-thru lanes for the day. Jiffy Lube could keep their garage doors closed. Neighbors could schedule an evening walk together around the neighborhood. Baseball, the sport that has recently tried to speed up the game, could go back to its traditional ways of a nice and easy pace. Chess clubs could promote the game that takes thought and vision.

Slow Down Day! Churches could open their sanctuary doors for people to come and meditate! Doctors could slow down and talk to their patients. Families could sit at the dinner table and eat a meal that has been cooked slowly in the crock pot. 

Or…maybe a better idea is that people would just slow down a little bit each and every day so that everyone…everyone!…might feel a little more at ease with the flow of traffic and the flow of life!

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)

From Here To There

June 15, 2018

In my quest to run 200 miles by mid-August I’m in the midst of it! One third of the way in and making “significant strides”, so to speak! It is the point of commitment…either stay the course or convince oneself of the lunacy of continuing to go forward. It’s the in-between…the “Kansas”, if you will, of decision roads. Getting from here to there is the challenge that often derails the pursuits of life.

In regards to my running, I’ve noticed that I encounter several quitting points each day in the journey. I question why I’m doing what I’m doing and plant seeds of doubts into the pace every time a stiff head wind offers more resistance to the effort. The quitting points never happen at the beginning or towards the end. They always invade my thoughts in the midst of the run, that tipping point where I’m the most vulnerable.

“Staying the course” is not something our culture is passionate about these days. We are addicted to the better deal and prone to give up because that’s the easier road to take. These days people are not convinced that perseverance has value and that resolve is a great quality to have.

When we’re between the here and the there retreat gains a following…or whining! I see it with a lot of children and youth these days. In the midst of the school assignments the student’s whining begins with a great sense of injustice…and the parent takes up the cause in support of their child’s lack of staying the course.

Getting to “there” was never meant to be a comfortable experience that demanded nothing. I’m getting “there”! Slowly, but I’m getting there!

Running and Thinking

June 11, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                              June 11, 2018

                            

This morning I’ll get my four miles of trudging done around ten o’clock. Some days, I swear, the miles have been lengthened like a taffy pull, and other days (infrequently!) they seem to go by faster. However, on the days when the miles seems to speed by and then I check my watch I’m brought back to the reality that I’m running just as slow as ever.

The key seems to be my thinking! I run, therefore, I think! I go deep inside to thoughts and ideas. With music playing from my ear buds I ponder events from the past, like races I ran back in my high school days. There was the Fourth of July race around a recreational lake area outside of Ironton, Ohio. Fellow classmate Pat Boggs and I ran neck to neck around the lake and then I out sprinted him in the last hundred yards. As I run I relive those moments, the congratulations he extended to me after the race, the sound of our breathing and footsteps, it all seems to become real again.

I think about the story narrative of my book, reconfiguring scenes, and envisioning how my characters look and how they sound. I think of ideas for blog posts and how I might present an experience or interpret a scripture. 

As the laps get clicked off I’m not just running, I’m contemplating.

I’ve started praying more as I run. The granddaughter of a good friend of mine keeps coming to my mind as I make a turn into the wind. A couple of women that we know who are in complicated battles with cancer cause me to reach down deep and keep going a bit further as I pray that God would impart strength to them. I pray for friends and family, that God would walk closely with them in the coming day. I pray for a nephew who pastors a church, and one of his sons who faces a surgical procedure. 

Prayer seems to minimize the aching in my knees and hips…for a while, that is! 

As I begin my last mile and consider the possibility of quitting, I think of a young lady named Kayla Montgomery who won several state cross country and track titles even though she battles MS. Her ESPN profile brings me to tears and it carries me through the last mile, as well. 

As my 64 year old body runs I try to focus on the struggles of the distance. In two months I’ll be coaching a bunch of middle schoolers doing similar workouts. I want to be able to identify with the groans and the doubts. If I can push through the quitting points I’ll be able to come alongside them during those tough training runs. 

And I think of some of the guys I used to run with back in high school and college…Stan Brown, Duane Young, Jim Fay, Larry Crane, and Kevin Kelly from my cross-country team at Judson College; and Cecil Morrison, G.P. Markins, Greg Byington, Jim Thomas, Greg Harding, and Randy Justice from the Ironton High School team. I think of Eugene Smith climbing trees and waiting for the rest of us to pass him on our return to the high school. 

In essence, these days my four mile runs deal with the past, the present, and prayer. It isn’t until later on in the day that my knees scream at me, “What were you thinking?”