Archive for the ‘The Church’ category

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!

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?

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!”

Every Blessing Leads To A New Problem/Challenge

November 15, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                        November 15, 2018

                            

Recently I was worshiping at a church my daughter attends. The pastor talked about blessings, being blessed and the gratitude of experiencing the blessings of God. In the midst of his message he made a profound point that struck me so much I wrote it down!

He said every blessing leads to a new problem! 

I’m sure we could substitute the word ”challenge” for blessing if need be, but I’ll stay with problem just to press the point.

The first gathering of Christ-followers, who became the first church, prove it. Acts 6 begins with these words:

“In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Hellenistic Jews[a] among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food.” (Acts 6:1)

To break it down it would read like this: The number of disciples increased, and the number of problems increased as well!

At stake was the very reputation of the first church. Like a restaurant getting a bad Yelp review they were at risk of being labeled as uncaring, “all words but no action”, fake, a flash in the pants. Their blessing led to a new problem.

I wonder if there were some “who wished for the old days” when you didn’t have to stand in line and there was room in the meeting room? Kind of a New Testament version of the Hebrews longing to return to bondage in Egypt!

Going back to when Jesus traveled from place to place healing people and speaking truth, he kept drawing larger and larger crowds. The blessing of a healed life was accompanied by twenty more people following Jesus looking to be healed. Jesus didn’t see it as a problem, but his disciples sometimes gave the impression that they were at their wit’s end because of it. Like the employee of a major retail store on Black Friday…a sense of dread about the next twelve hours or so!

Every blessing leads to a new problem. In Colorado Springs the blessing of having a mission that is concerned about the homeless and impoverished, called the Springs Rescue Mission, has led to new problems. Perhaps this is where the word “challenge” would fit better! The mission has almost always been at capacity in the housing of the homeless in its shelter. They’ve expanded the number of beds with a new facility. It still can not accommodate all of those who need shelter, but it’s a blessing to the city. The blessing has come with new challenges, like opposition from those who are concerned about public safety and having a large number of homeless people in a certain area of the city, increased health issues that the homeless population brings, and the increased challenges of leading homeless people back to a more settled life.

On one hand Colorado Springs thanks God for the Rescue Mission, but on the other the effectiveness and caring of their ministry and mission has resulted in more challenges for them and the city.

Blessings do not lead to an eased existence and a comfortable life. Blessings are simply a step on the road that stays obedient and faithful as it follows the guidance of the Holy Spirit. 

It’s like our family gathering last night! We had dinner at our house, all ten of us- our three children, two son-in-laws, three grandkids, Carol, and I. What a blessing to have family tonight! Carol fixed an amazing dinner, that culminated a couple of days of anxiety and worry 

about whether it was going to be okay; the grandkids ran around like they were on sugar-highs; the noise level was sometimes deafening and the number of conversations going on at the same time were plentiful. We had to put up another table alongside the dinner table to fit everyone. The dishes were piled up afterwards, and Grammy and Granddad’s energy had been consumed!

And we knew we were blessed! 

We wouldn’t want it any other way! Blessings bring problems and challenges, and we’re smiling in the midst of our exhaustion!

Speed Fasting

November 4, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                     November 4, 2018

                                     

It has been a deadly year in Colorado Springs on the roadways. Last week the 45th fatality this year occurred. It is the most since 1986 and we still have two months to go.

In the majority of the deaths, whether it be of a pedestrian or cyclist hit by a car, a vehicle losing control and crashing, a two vehicle collision, or a motorcyclist dying, speed and/or alcohol has been involved.

The roadways have become so treacherous that one of the head police officers has made several appeals on local newscasts pleading with drivers to slow down. 

I now think about the dangers of driving on two of the main roads close to our house, Powers Boulevard and Research Parkway, every time I get behind the steering wheel. Last May a man in his testosterone-laced pick-up truck decided he wanted to quickly cut over two lanes and he clipped the back driver’s side panel of my CRV. 

“I didn’t see you!”   

My CRV is midnight blue…and it wasn’t midnight! Thankfully, a lady saw what had happened and she stopped to let me know it. He was found at fault and, hopefully, is now paying as much each month to his insurance company as he is for his truck super-payment! I’m not bitter!

We need a “speed fast”! Kinda’ like fasting from chocolate during the Season of Lent, we need a fast from going fast. We need to take the pedal off the metal.

Speed has become ingrained in our culture. We’re like sugar-hyped elementary students the day after trick-or-treat. For example, there’s a growing movement to speed up the game of baseball. People say it’s too slow, as if that’s a bad thing! Most teams in football now have the “hurry-up” offense. 

I tell the basketball teams I coach to slow it down and players look at me like I’m looney!

Stores start trying to rush us to Christmas long before the aisles of Halloween decorations are gone. 

We tell our grandkids that they are growing up too fast! TV commercials are now 15 or 30 seconds long so the business has to QUICKLY sell their product! We’re told that we have too much to do and too little time!

It’s an addiction! We can’t slow down! I’m going to suggest that Starbucks serve Decaf one day a week, but not tell anybody! 

A speed fast…yes, that’s what we need! Like when I was growing up and we had phonograph records. We’d play the record at a slower speed and be amazed and amused by how we could make the Beatles sound as they sang “Lucy In The Sky”…slower!

In the Bible a fast usually refocused a person on the mission ahead, the source of life, and separated the important from the unimportant. It was kind of a cleansing event, like a reset button. Things that we thought were essential for life suddenly were seen with new eyes, and other parts of life that were thought to be excess baggage were seen for how utterly essential they were. 

A speed fast. I’m slowly inhaling and exhaling as I say it. 

I think I’ll take a long, slow walk today.

I think I’ll sit and read the newspaper, put my feet up, and read a book.

Maybe Carol and I will go and see the movie “First Man” about Neil Armstrong’s slow first walk on the moon and watch a story about a time past where things seemed to be slower.

I think I’ll take a nap and listen to Classical music!

I think I’ll type with one finger! Oh, wait! That’s how I type anyway!

I think I will stay off of Powers Boulevard and Research Parkway!

The Light Shines Into the Hatred

October 28, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                     October 28, 2018

JESUS: In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:16)

There’s something about hate that gathers headlines. In recent times it seems to be surfacing in violent and venomous ways. Shooting people and hurling angry words make the nightly news and, in this election time, fills up the TV commercial time. 

Extremists seem to be getting bolder in the acting out of their weirdness and prejudices.  And people, otherwise known as your average citizens, aren’t sure of what they can say because it might be taken the wrong way by someone who will attack like a pit bull in return.

Jesus talked about being light in the midst of darkness, and to let light shine that people might know that goodness still lives and that God still reigns. He wasn’t talking about establishing a publicity ministry that spins out nice stories, but rather entering the shadows of the world as called people on a mission for God. 

It’s a bit of a quandary for those of us who follow Jesus. Light should get noticed and yet, in our culture, “getting noticed” often goes hand-in-hand with tooting our own horn, seeking attention, and even arrogance. We’re often stumped by having a humbleness about our walk with Jesus and letting people know how great our acts of kindness are. Is there “too humble” and also a point that is “over the line arrogant?”

To use a different analogy, friends of ours moved to Alaska this summer. As the fall days head towards winter they are noticing “the absence of light” more and more. Of course, as we head towards mid-December that absence will increase each day. There will come a time, perhaps, when they become more accustomed to the darkness than the absence of light. 

Unfortunately, it may be an analogy of our world right now. We’re more accustomed to darkness than aware of the light’s absence. 

Being light does not blind like the high beams of a car. Light is assuring. It’s altering. Our stairway at home has a light that shows how many steps there are still to take before reaching the bottom. More than once I’ve tried to navigate those steps without the aid of a light and, even though it’s a staircase I’ve gone up and down thousands of times, there is still an uncertainty in the darkness. The light, however, never fails me.

If I am a light that shines for Jesus I don’t need to make sure people are noticing. I can just be who he has called me to be, and who he has called me to.

Someone who opens fire at a Jewish synagogue, kills 11 and wounds 6, will get the headlines. It tells of the price of hatred. Being light in the midst of this devastation will mean different things for different people. At worship this morning I’ll raise up Tree of Life Synagogue to pray for. In Pittsburgh there may be other “people of light” who will come alongside the grieving in love and support. 

What I believe as a follower of Jesus is that light will surpass the darkness…sometime  and someday, individually and collectively. When I find it hard to open up the daily newspaper I remind myself that light will ultimately triumph.

Like my friends in Alaska who will be asking the question, “Will we ever see light again?”; the answer is…yes! Don’t get used to living in the darkness! Keep believing that light will come back!