Archive for the ‘Prayer’ category

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?”

The Rewrite

June 8, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                   June 8, 2018

                                            

Last night I finished rewriting my book. The overall content didn’t change, but the way things were said differed from the first draft. It’s interesting to be able to rewrite your words. The second time through has much more contemplation in it, more refitting of words and phrases as if it’s a jigsaw puzzle.

The parallels of rewriting a novel and redoing one’s life are many. Oh, that each one of us could rewrite certain life scenes! We all have had those conversations in our past that have altered the fluidness of our life’s direction, words that continue to haunt us!

Sometimes the damage and pain from those original words and doings wake us up to the wayward course of our life. For some of us it DOES take us back to a new beginning, a redo cleansed by forgiveness and simmered in grace. Most of us, however, never have the opportunity to rewrite the story, noticing the errors and perfecting the script. We live with the “What ifs..” and grieve about the “Why did I’s…?”

God’s grace can be viewed as setting a blank page before us and telling us to try again, that the flawed original has been crumpled up and a new possibility has been placed in front of us. 

Yes, I know! People don’t forget, but God forgets the errors of a truly repentant heart. In a way He says “I believe there is a masterpiece within you. Try writing it again!”

Getting My Gospel Jet (or Wolfe Wings!)

May 31, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                     May 31, 2018

                                  

I don’t have a jet, not a single one!

“Lord, what did I do to deserve this lack of air travel, even a propjet!”

My bitterness stems from the report this week that Louisiana evangelist Jesse Duplantis is raising funds to add a fourth jet to his fleet, a three engine Dassault Falcon 7X to be exact. A new one right  from the showroom goes for just 54 million, although used ones can be had for the bargain basement price of 20 million. 

Jesse, with his snow white hair, heard the voice of God tell him to aim high! He needs this fourth jet that can fly 700 miles an hour to preach the gospel around the world. I’m not sure what the other three jets he already owns are to do. Having a backup is always a good thing, I guess! But a backup to the backup to the backup…seems kind of overkill!

Jesse is committed to the prosperity gospel, a twist on the words of Jesus that says God desires to bless his people with wealth…and jets (my paraphrase!). 

He rationalizes his need for Jesse Jet IV with the statement that if Jesus was on earth today he wouldn’t be riding a donkey any more. Sound theology!

One young man I pastored a while back DID refer to my Honda Civic Hybrid as “the spaceship!” Other than that, however, I’ve ministered with all four wheels on the ground and two feet on the cracked sidewalks. 

Perhaps I should aim higher! Maybe I’ll take the idea of “Wings for Wolfe” to the little congregation in the small Colorado town on the eastern plains I travel to speak at. It takes me 45 minutes to drive there. Perhaps I should tell them to have faith and give funds. 

Tele-evangelist Creflo Dollar asked his congregation and listeners to give $300 a piece so he could buy a $65 million dollar luxury jet. Unlike Duplantis, however, Dollar needs a new jet to replace his old one that he says no longer works. (I know where he can get a Dassault Falcon 7X for 20 million!)

Here’s how my pitch to the congregation in Simla, Colorado, will sound and their obedient response!

“God has called me to fly! He wants me to spread my wings and spread His Word! And he has told me that y’all are going to have faith enough to raise the funds for me. Would you help me fly today? Can you believe in miracles?”

And they would shout “Yes! Yes, we believe!”

And then the next Sunday with tears of joy running down their faces they’d present me with a package. “We believed, pastor! We believed! We raised the money to make “Wings for Wolfe”…Wolfe Wings, if you will, possible.”

Tears would begin to stream down my face as I opened the package, expecting to see a pair of keys. Instead, however, the opened box top would reveal a red cape inside, and then they would look at me and say, “Okay, Pastor! We believed! Now…how much faith do you have that God has called you to fly?”

Baristas and The Bible

May 12, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                      May, 12, 2018

                                

It feels a little bit like “Baptist Mom Guilt” (BMG) is being laid upon me, and yet there is sad truth to it!

In The American Bible Society’s 2018 State of the Bible, Barna Research announced that 37% of Americans say that coffee is a daily necessity for them. The Bible was viewed by 16% as a daily necessity. Between java and Jesus were “something sweet” (28%) and social media (19%).

I’m feeling an altar call for repentance! I’m sitting on my usual last stool on the right at my local Starbucks as I write these words! I know the names of my baristas better (Cody, Rhea, Sara, Katie, Steph, Chase, Viv, and Kallie) than the order of the Minor Prophets (Hosea, Joel, ehhh…)! My Keurig gets more use than First and Second Kings!

I too often fall into the category of those who say, “I’ve heard it all before!” I admit that there are times I look at my Bible like it’s a replaying of It’s A Wonderful Life. Nice, heartwarming, great story, and…flip it over to the Kentucky basketball game and see what the score is?

Surprisingly, my generation and the generation older than me are the two generations more likely to say coffee is needed. Baby boomers (47%) and those 75 years of age and older (46%) put the dark roast as the best part of waking up. Millennials and Generation X are both in the low 30%’s. 

What is even sadder (Hear the BMG again!) is the plethora of Bibles of different versions and reading levels that are available. Go to a Mardel’s and there is a long, floor-to-ceiling, wall of the Word! There’s Bibles for seniors, youth, single people, divorced folk, people in need of healing, military, moms and dads, young couples, and pentecostals. There has been market saturation of scripture, and yet for more and more folk it’s lost it’s appeal, kind of like Rocky 7. 

And I guess if there’s going to be change it needs to start with me! Am I willing to pray for the centrality of the Word of God in my life? Will I allow my spirit to sip through a couple of Psalms today just as much as my Pike Place medium roast? Will my Bible speak to me today as much as this morning’s barista, the warm and friendly, Cody? Will I be as concerned about what God would reveal to me in Philippians today as I am about getting the right mixture of cream and sugar in my brew? 

As the patronage of Starbucks increases the interest in scripture decreases. Barna found that the percentage of people who said they wished they would use the Bible more is lower than it has been in seven years. 

The interesting thing that I’ve noticed at Starbucks is the number of people who read their Bibles here while sipping on a latte. I’ve noticed groups of three or four engaged in bible study. Maybe in some weird way a coffee shop can be a “brewing ground” for increased use of those leather-bound books of God’s story!

I’m pulling out my iPad right now to take a couple of gulps!

(Statistics from Lifeway Facts and Trends, May 11, 2018)

Praying From the Past To the Future

May 1, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                         May 1, 2018

                        

“Keep us safe from ourselves and the Devil. You’re in charge!” (Matthew 6:13, The Message)

“Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the Evil One!” (Matthew 6:13, NIV)

When I pray I have a habit of praying about the “not yet” right away!

“Lord, give me strength to get through a day of teaching sixth grade language arts!”

“Lord, help me to deal with that person when I have to see him next week!”

My prayer life has been dominated by situations and events that are in my future path. I noticed, however, when Jesus taught his followers how to pray and gave them a modeling prayer to help them understand he talked about the past and the present before he got to the future.

He suggests that we pray about our present needs and our past failures. The present is about the simple and uncomplicated…”bread!”…the essential for now!

The past is about the moments that haunt us, the ill spoken words, and the inaction in those situations where a response was needed. As a Baptist I don’t enter a confessional booth and reveal my transgressions to a priest, and yet that may be a missing element of my faith journey. It becomes too easy to race blindly into the future! When we don’t deal with our past it clouds the clarity of the future.

There are wounds in our memories that haven’t received the treatment of grace and forgiveness. The peripheral vision of our faith walk is lacking because of the blurring of our past. I think Jesus is leading us to get a grip on our past in preparation for our future. Many of us “avoid” the past as if it never happened. My understanding of how God will lead me from here, however, is influenced by the trail of my steps behind me.

This is true for churches, also! If a congregation hasn’t dealt with its past- how it mistreated a staff member, how judgmental it was towards a family dealing with a relational failure, or demeaning it he’d been towards women- it will most assuredly mis-step into its future.

And so Jesus advises us to deal with our history as we pave the path in front of us.

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!”