Archive for the ‘Story’ category

Spiritually-Addicted Christians

December 14, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                         December 14, 2018

                  

“It’s spiritually dead here!” explains the middle-aged woman to me.

“How so?”

“Nothing ever happens here!” she says, using her hands to exaggerate the point.

“Nothing of God ever happens here. Is that what you’re saying?”

“Yes, Pastor! It’s dead!”

“I’d beg to differ with you.”

“You’re the pastor. I would expect you to disagree!”

“Like last Saturday morning when the men’s bible study group prayed for a problem that Bobby was dealing with, and then we gathered around him and hugged him, and gave him encouragement! Or last week when I was out changing the letters on the church sign, and I got into a conversation with an 84 year old lady who lives a block away from our church. A few of us are going to walk up to her house and trim her bushes and fix her screen door next Saturday! Or last Sunday when Patty brought out something from the scripture story we were studying that caused a light bulb to go on in the minds of a few of us. I’m not sure what criteria you’re using to determine whether God’s involved or not, but those were all signs to me.”

She looked at me and bit her lip.

“Say it!” I urged her.

“Those things just aren’t very exciting, pastor! I’m looking for miracles and people who love the Lord, and I’m just not seeing much of that here.”

“So…have you been to see Widow Samuels? Because, even though she is in a care center now, whenever I go to visit her I experience a spiritual blessing and marvel at her love for the Lord.”

“I don’t really like those kind of places.”

“And last week I was sitting beside Joe Skinner’s bed and talking about the end of his life, his looking forward to experiencing the glory of the Lord in heaven, and how God has walked with him through a multitude of life valleys.”

“Those aren’t the things I’m talking about, Pastor. I’m talking about spiritual highs!”

“So you’re an addict?”

“Excuse me!”

“You’re a spiritual addict, whose addiction can only be satisfied by an experience that is high energy and high emotion.”

“I knew you’d blame me!”

“I’m not blaming you for anything. I’m just stating what the situation is. You don’t seem to see God working in our midst unless something awesome happens. What is awesome, however, has to be defined by your standards. Am I right?”

“No, you aren’t right!”

“Then we will just agree to disagree. The spiritual life I’m seeing is different than what you’re looking for. I mean no disrespect in saying this but there are some people who go to an amusement park and define its impact by how many roller coasters it has and how thrilling they are. When I go to an amusement park I evaluate it on being able to ride the merry-go-round with my grandkids. Different perspectives, neither which is wrong.”

“I’m not addicted, though!”

“And I’m not spiritually bored! So, I guess we’re both where we need to be!”

She smirks, starts to say something, but then turns and walks away. She has moved on to the next church down the road. 

Five years after the conversation she has moved on three other times. Sometimes, it seems, we minimize the power of God by not allowing him to be involved in our rhythms of life. There is a hunger- an addiction, if you will- to wanting to see smoke on the mountaintop while missing the nearness of His presence.

Church of The Kinda’ Most High

December 12, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                   December 12, 2018

                             

Eight marijuana businesses operating illegally were busted by Colorado Springs police this week. One of the illegal businesses was a place called “Church of the Most High”! It was listed last on the list, right below “Blazed and Confused”, “Toke-A-Lot”, and “Best Bud Gifts”. 

It gives new meaning to the biblical term “most high”, and Lord Most High…El Elyon. When the angel said to Mary, “He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High” (Luke 1:32), he wasn’t referring to high-priced weed.

In our culture today, especially in Colorado, “most high” has lost its sense of sacredness in all the smoke. People look to the high places not as holy shrines but toke  moments of personal pleasure and release.

Lord, help us…when one of the adjectives connected to God 62 times in the Bible now becomes associated with an establishment raided by the police. The eight busted establishments netted police $1.8 million in “unreported cash”, 60 guns…six of which were reported stolen in other city crimes, and an undisclosed amount of cocaine, meth, and ecstasy. 

Church of the Most High…KInda! May we, who journey with Jesus and identify ourselves as followers of Christ, recover and rediscover what it means to worship the Lord Most High instead of being like so many people who just want to get high!

If You Can’t Say Anything Nice…

December 9, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                   December 9, 2018

NOTE: My friend, Jim Newsome, that I wrote my November 25 blog post about, entitled “Sitting Bedside With Someone Awaiting Glory”, went on to glory on November 30. Jim lived by the title of today’s blog.  

                               

I’m sure you’ve noticed it. People in all walks and occupations of life seem to find it easier to say something negative, critical, or unkind much more than they can speak words of affirmation and positivity. 

Social media has made it easy to be mean spirited. Schools now do presentations to their students about “cyber-bullying”! School counselors now counsel students who have been bullied in text messages and had cell phone videos of them being pranked going viral. 

Recently The Today Show had a feature about celebrities who have been ridiculed because of such things as having their picture taken without makeup on (Julia Roberts), looking too muscular (Serena Williams),  and looking too much toned body-wise a week after giving birth (Jana Kramer). 

Let’s face it! If Jesus suddenly showed up at a wedding reception that was running low on wine and touched a few water glasses there would be people today who would criticize it. One of my old seminary professors, David Augsburger, wrote that when two people meet there is a natural tendency to try for “one-upsmanship”, the longing to feel more superior or important than the other person. With social media that tendency has been amplified. Being mean-spirited seems to be thought of as a way to climb up the pecking order. 

It’s a complicated web of actions and verbiage, all linked to the tendency to want to be seen as being more important than someone else. Today you will see NFL players score a touchdown and strut as if the six points they just scored is on the same plane with discovering a cure for cancer. A defensive backs will break up a pass and glare at the receiver as a non-verbal way of telling him he’s weak and no match for the DB’s skills. 70,000 people will applaud his antics!

Saying something nice about someone or doing something nice for someone raises that  person up…and there are some who are threatened that such an elevation will bring them down a notch.

The thing is…we get reputations! And those reputations are well-deserved. There are people, who when their names are mentioned, bring a smile to my face…and there are other folk whose name brings a taste to my soul like spoiled milk!

A lot of us don’t think about that before we tweet! Spoiling rather than sweetening defines us!

Heading Towards Medicare

December 4, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                       December 5, 2018

                              

The secret is out! Five months from today I turn 65! Everybody and their mom seems to know about it. Not a day goes by, except Sunday, where my mailbox is void of at least one reminder that my Big Day is coming!

I snickered for a while at the amount of mail my wife received with reminders that she was approaching 65. That was back in June and July (Her milestone happens this Saturday!) But I’m past the snickering and chuckling as the daily trip to the mailbox has me finding someone else who has discovered what happens to me on May 5. 

It’s a little disconcerting to know how many insurance companies and agents have this personal information. I’m guessing that if there is money to be made they will find out. I wish other information that I long for certain people to know was as widely known. Like…someone contacting me about when Blue Bell ice cream is going to go on sale…at least two weeks from now! that way I can better plan out my daily consumption rate instead of eating a half-gallon all at once! That would be useful info for me.

Or…even more vital…when my favorite stool at Starbucks isn’t occupied! Recently there’s been a guy who has already taken it by the time I arrive early in the morning. Yesterday I asked one of the baristas to notice when his arrival time is so I can beat him to the spot. This morning I arrived at 7:08. The barista told me he got here at 6:58. It would be great to find out seat availability so I don’t have to adjust! I don’t sound bitter, do I?

All the advance information about turning 65 has me a bit concerned. Kind of like getting information from different colleges during my senior year of high school. Each school of higher education tried to make you believe it was a slice of heaven, but then I arrived in the fall of 1972 and found out freshmen English Composition was closer to hell! 

All this advance stuff about Medicare has me a bit nervous. Will it be more like a birthday celebration dinner or a scheduled colonoscopy?

Sixth Grade Motivation and Just Getting By

December 2, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                     December 2, 2018

                          

I was amazed and perplexed numerous times this past week, two opposite reactions in the same classroom. I taught 6th Grade Social Studies the whole week, a journey that began in the Inca Empire and ended in a Friday discovery of Canada.

Numerous students amazed me at their quest for excellence. After giving guidelines about a project related to the Incas, these students sought to raise the bar in terms of quality. They took seriously my statement: “If Mr. Smith (the school principal) came in and looked at your project would be say ‘This is awesome!’ or ‘What is this?’”

And then there were the students who sought to just get by. One of the directions said to use colored pencils or markers in the completing of images. One student asked, “Do we HAVE to use colored pencils?” He said it as if he was being asked to do a 24 hour work shift. I looked at him and replied, “So, what you’re really asking is ‘what is the minimum I have to do?’”

“Well….ah, no!”

At the end of the second day on the project some of the work was ready to be framed and sent to an art museum, and other ‘attempts’ at work made me shudder!

To one boy I said, “I can’t even read what you’ve written here. You need a class on penmanship.”

“What’s that?” he asked, puzzled.

“Exactly!”

It made me wonder about how some kids become so motivated to excel and others become so unmotivated and seek to just get by. One of my students this past week was a girl who ran cross-country for me this past fall. She’s about as tall as a grasshopper and about that wide, also! In each race she finished no worse than 3rd and always just a few steps behind the winner. She is a competitor who would be disappointed in herself if she did not give her best effort. Her Inca project was…you guessed it!…top notch!

On the other end of the spectrum was a project that was as barren as an Oklahoma corn field during the Dust Bowl years. I looked at the boy and with disappointed dismay in my voice said, “That’s it???” He looked upon at me as he finished his last chocolate do-nette and smiled. That WAS it!

How do some students become so self-motivated and others seem to think motivation is a sign of illness?

It is an intriguing subject to ponder. I talked to one of my Starbucks coffee friends yesterday about it. She has five children and they are all different. A couple are so self-motivated it’s scary, another couple are selectively motivated, and then another one wouldn’t be motivated to even get out of bed…ever! 

I’m motivated to write some days and have no motivation to write on other days. Some days I’m highly motivated to exercise and on others I am so unmotivated that I’d even rather watch a Hallmark Christmas movie…okay, not that unmotivated!

I realize that some motivation comes from within, intrinsic in nature; and other motivation is extrinsic, coming from an outside force or person. But why is that intrinsic motivation so different for each person? Why are so many students willing to just get by?

Sixth Grade Little Brothers and Sisters

December 1, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                      December 1, 2018

                           

It’s been a week!

A week of sixth graders, that is! One of the sixth grade social studies teachers asked me to teach the full week for him as he recovered from a procedure done on one of his knees. Five days of teaching the future Einsteins, Feinsteins, and Non-Steins; smart ones and smart alecks!

Some names stood out to me after each 57 minute class period. They were the warts in the midst of a beautiful experience; the ones that the teacher can’t trust with a pair of scissors because they may cut the hair of the young lady sitting beside them…without her knowing! They are the ones who in hearing the words “You may work with a partner on this!” view it as giving permission to cause chaos, the ones who intimately know what the inside of their assistant principal’s office looks like!

So…I remember THEIR names! If I had an acronym of the phrase “Problem Child” I could put a name with almost every letter…Pete, Robert, Octavius, Bubba, etc.

The interesting thing is that I COULDN’T remember the names of younger brothers and sisters of students I’ve had in classes the last two years. After five days of having them I still can’t think of their first names. I’d ask a question and a hand would pop up from a boy with dark hair.

“Jill’s little brother!” I’d say, acknowledging him. He looked hurt and befuddled, as if his eighth grade sister had a more prominent place in life than him.

Question: “What does longitude measure?” Up comes the hand of a girl with a never-ending smile.

“Little Smith!” I bellow as I look at her. Her smile continues because she sees it as a badge of honor. Her sister, now a high school freshman, had told her stories about Mr. Wolfe. In fact, she was the one who made my last name sound French by pronouncing it “Wolf-ay”!

There were four or five other younger brothers and sisters whose first names escaped my memory. Of course, when I was growing up some of my older brother’s friends called me “Little Charlie” or, after being immersed in their high school Spanish class, “Carlos Pequeno!”

It was the first Spanish word I learned! I guess I’m a bit partial towards younger siblings. I’m the youngest of three, the one who got the hand-me-downs, like my brother’s bicycle all beaten and battered and shirts with mustard stains dotting the fabric. 

If I have these sixth graders again I’ll graduate to calling them by their last name. That would be progress towards knowing their whole personality. The disturbing thing is that I only know the first names of the problem children, and I’ll make sure my youngest daughter (Our “Little”) has a list of names NOT to give any future grandchildren. 

As one boy asked me, “Mr. Wolfe, do you remember my name?” 

“Yes!” I respond, pausing for effect. “Starts with an ‘A’ and ends with a ‘G’!” He looks at me ready to correct my thinking, but I break in before he can say it. 

“Annoying!” 

He smiles, and, although he began the week filling out one of the letters on my acronym, we kinda’ like each other! I wonder if he has any younger siblings?

Sitting Bedside With Someone Awaiting Glory

November 25, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                        November 25, 2018

                            

There are people who come into your life for a season and bless you for a lifetime!

Jim Newsome is one of those people, arriving with his wife Pat in the last three years or so of my final pastorate. A gentleman and a gentle man, a man of faith and a faithful friend, he is now in his final days.

And he’s okay with it! About a month ago he was discovered to have pancreatic cancer. Jim, now 84, understands the prognosis and for his final days he is resting at home, welcoming friends from near and far who have come to have final visits and conversations.

Carol and I went yesterday and sat beside his bed. When we left I said to her, “That was a great visit! I’ve never laughed so much sitting beside the bed of someone who only has a few days to live.”

In fact, when Jim and Pat received the news of his cancer and entered into hospice care, Jim’s comment was “I’m ready to go, but when’s it going to happen?” He said it like a Frontier Airlines passenger whose flight keeps being delayed- a common occurrence it seems with Frontier!

We talked about his life, how the Lord has guided his life, and various situations where this couple, who celebrated 64 years of marriage two weeks ago, simply trusted that the Lord would lead them.

Jim survived polio when he was in the Navy. He spent a month in an iron lung, realizing that several other sailors at the time were succumbing to the disease. It caused him to give thanks to the Lord and to understand that God had a purpose for his life. For him to live to the age of 84 would not have seemed possible back in the early 1950’s. 

Yesterday he told us stories that caused our souls to laugh. His skin color is showing some signs of jaundice as the disease affects his liver, but his face continued to smile. He told us stories of life redirection, like how a bout with pneumonia that landed him in the hospital short-circuited his graduate studies for his Master’s degree at the University of Northern Colorado. When Pat came back to the hospital the next day, worried and wondering, Jim told her that he and the Lord had talked it over and gotten it figured out. A few days later someone they knew, connected to a mission organization, called him and asked if he could do some welding work for him. Twenty years later he retired from the organization!

As Carol and I left they shared with us that they were grieved when I retired at the end of 2015 from ministry, more specifically stopped being their pastor. I replied, “The best thing about pastoring is the relationships, and the hardest thing about pastoring is saying goodbye to those people you’ve had special relationships with. 

Jim and Pat Newsome are people that I’ve been blessed to know, and saddened to leave. We joined hands and prayed as Carol and I were about to leave. As I came towards the end of the prayer Jim squeezed my hand. It was his punctuation mark on our friendship. 

“Jim,” I said, “if I don’t see you again I’ll see you on the other side!”

He looked me in the eye and replied, “Plan on it!”