Posted tagged ‘bitterness’

Where Do Children See Hope?

July 17, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                           July 17, 2017

                             

      One eight year old boy sees it at school!

The shoes that he wore to school each day were so worn out that they were held together by duct tape that was wrapped around them. His mom didn’t seem to be that concerned about it. The school social worker called me and told me about the situation, told me his shoe size, and I went to a shoe store and bought him a new pair of shoes. He didn’t know that the shoes had been purchased by our congregation…and that was okay! To this day he believes that the shoes came from the school…and that gave him hope! He saw that his school hoped for his best!

My six year old granddaughter sees hope in her mom!

Each night her mom kneels beside her bed and prays with her. Her mom reads her stories and tells her stories. Her mom tells her that she is very talented and very intelligent and whatever she does when she grows up she knows that she will do it well. Hope echoes from her mom’s words and actions. When our granddaughter hits a wall of uncertainness and apprehension her mom helps her climb over it and step up to a new level of accomplishment that hope has been a foundation for.

Where do our children see hope? Seeing is a bit different than finding. Seeing hope is the introduction for believing hope. They say that seeing is believing, but what are our children seeing?

One friend of mine made the point that our kids see or don’t see hope in us…the grown-up generations. They watch our reactions, they monitor our language, they investigate our consistency. How does my life convey hope to them?

Let’s be honest, our news stories and our Facebook posts quite often communicate cynicism, sarcasm, and negativity. When I watch the national news on TV in the early evening I usually am blasted with 27 minutes of what’s bad in the world, followed by a 3 minute feel good story. I’m thankful for the 3 minutes, but I wish that there were a few more stories of hope that inform my spirit.

How do children see hope in churches? Jesus gets talked about as being the hope of the world, but how do kids see that in the flesh and in action? Last Sunday at the small town small church I speak at most weeks a married couple gave five dollar bills to each of the four kids who were leaving for church camp that afternoon. The kids were told to use it however they wanted, and for whatever they wanted at camp. It was a gesture of their generosity that hoped for a great week for each of the campers. Their church is becoming a place of hope and blessing for them, not a place that mandates and controls.

I have to ask myself that question also: how do children see hope in me? Does my life paint a pitiful picture of what it means to be a follower of Jesus? Have the brush strokes of my days left a canvas of grace, peace, and hope or a rough portrait of bitterness, hatred, and spite?

Angry Church People

October 1, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                     October 1, 2016

                                   

The cell phone game, “Angry Birds”, got turned into a movie this past summer. Angry birds flying into pigs has been a big seller!

Something I’ve noticed over the years are “Angry Church People”- people with anger issues stomping through places of grace because other church people want to be loving and kind to those that even Jesus would have a hard time putting up with.

Angry church people take advantage of the grace of God’s people, but angry church people have a real gift for keeping the church from focusing on its mission and purpose.

Years ago my friend in ministry, Dr. Mark Sommers, who now pastors in the Syracuse area, came to see me at the church I was a staff person at. On Fridays an eighty-plus year old woman staffed the office. I’m not sure I ever saw her smile in the year and a half I was there. Every couple of months she would stand in front of the congregation and lambast them about needing nursery volunteers. On one Friday morning Mark came to see me and was greeted with these words as he entered the building and headed towards the office:

“What do you want?”

    It was said in the most unwelcoming way possible, as the elderly receptionist looked at him with a frown and skepticism. Thirty-five years later when Mark calls me I answer with those words to him and we chuckle about that memory. The thing is…this lady had issues in other areas of her life. Her anger towards life got poured on to those she met at church.

Let me be clear! We all have issues in one way or another, but angry church people is an area that leaves people shaking their heads about the purpose of the church. When they hear the words “Grace Church: Loving God, Loving People”, and then get assaulted with a verbal bombshell about keeping their child quiet in church it becomes very disillusioning.

Angry church people shoot the message of grace and forgiveness in the foot. Like geese scattering in the air because of a predator in close proximity, people in need of hope scatter from churches where they’ve been treated as hopeless.

How did Jesus relate to angry temple people? He stayed focused on truth, never swayed from it. The law keepers used their religion as a sledge hammer. Jesus told them about his Father who was more concerned with people experiencing God’s love rather than who left the toilet seat up!

Angry church people are often very willing to be in leadership so they can use that sledge hammer of power and bitterness. Sometimes they push their way in because there is a vacancy where they can ease into power. Perhaps a template for leadership in the church should be Philippians 2 where Paul talks about a servant who considers the needs of others above their own. That might create a number of unfilled vacancies!

Angry Birds was a multimillion dollar seller. Angry church people is a multi-million person turn-off, and it isn’t a game!

Bottom lion, angry church people need Jesus!