Posted tagged ‘blessings’

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!

Going Back To Familiar Places

August 26, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                           August 26, 2018

                            

In recent weeks I’ve revisited places that had been part of my life from the near or distant past. Some of the spots brought back memories of when I ran around in child-sized jeans, white tee shirts, and Converses…like my old elementary school, Victory Heights, in Winchester, Kentucky, where I attended first and second grade…and Central Baptist Church in that same town where our family frequented three times a week- Sunday morning, Sunday evening, and Wednesday night. 

Other places I revisited brought tears. I drove past the farm where my Papaw and Mamaw Helton lived until about 25 years ago. It now like an ongoing rummage sale, cluttered and in disrepair. grimaced at the loss of what was.

I I traveled up the road to the cemetery where my dad now has been laid to rest beside my mom, and I weeped and smiled and weeped again, thinking of the good times and now the loss.

This past week I substitute taught in the classroom where my friend, Greg Davis, taught. If he was still teaching it would have been his 8th Grade social studies class I would have been instructing that day. Greg passed away not quite two years ago having fought the brain cancer courageously for 6 years. There were a multitude of Fridays when I would have lunch with him in that classroom, talking about the triumphs and the struggles. As I led four classes of eighth graders this past week I was acutely aware of previous conversations I had had in that classroom. 

This morning I return to the church I pastored for 16 years to give the morning message for the congregation’s 60 year anniversary service.  A quarter of my life has been spent in that building leading the congregation. I retired at the end of 2015. Even though I delivered almost 700 sermons in that sanctuary, today will seem strange. It will be the first time, besides the Sunday when I was candidating to be their pastor in June of 1999, that I will deliver a message NOT as their pastor. I’m now “a former!” 

I’ll look forward to seeing folks I haven’t seen in two and a half years. I’ll remember and smile, and maybe even cry.

There are places we’ve been that bring chuckles back to our soul, and places that cause us to remember the pain…and often the most meaningful places of our lives are the ones that have been a mixture of the two extremes.

At my old church I remember the incredible people, the special stories that got written and lives healed, and I also remember the difficult meetings and the individuals who had the spiritual gifts of agitation and annoyance. 

Of course, I can also remember the same chapter titles from my 15 years as pastor of the First Baptist Church back in Mason, Michigan…the saints and the sinners, the blessed and the beasts.

When you live most of your life from a place of grace, love, and hope you see the warts and the warmth. 

Today I’ll look to remember the changed lives and disregard the challenges to the Body’s life. And God will be glorified!

The Blessing of Cluelessness

December 12, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                       December 12, 2017

                            

Recently I was sitting on the bench waiting for my 8th Grade boy’s basketball team to begin their game. The 7th Grade team had played right before us, and, after a post-game meeting with her team, the coach came out of the girl’s locker room, where the boys had been assigned to dress, and sat down beside me. She was laughing…one of those “I can’t believe I heard that” laughs.

“What’s going on, Coach?” I asked her, wanting to be clued in on the humor behind the chuckling.

“I just heard one of the boys say to one of his teammates as they stood in front of a machine anchored to the locker room wall, “Twenty-five cents! Who would pay twenty-five cents for a napkin?”

Sometimes middle school kids bless us with their cluelessness. The head librarian at the middle school where I coach told me a story about another 7th Grader who was reading an article about the Easter Island’s famous stone statues. He called across the library to her and asked her, “What does defecation mean?” She let him know that it means to poop. A strange look came over his face as he stared at the picture in the article. She watched for a few moments and his expression of confusion did not change. It was as if he was trying to figure out a math problem, so she walked over to see what was puzzling him. There was a man in the picture standing in front of the statues showing their massive size in comparison to him. Then she saw what the wording was underneath the picture. It said, “Easter Island stone statues are thought to be the result of deification.” The librarian chuckled as she realized the student’s confused look was because he was trying to figure out how the man in the picture had been able to poop out the statues?

Cluelessness leads us to moments of humored blessing!

One of the reasons I love teaching and coaching seventh graders is the heightened level of cluelessness that appears in their midst. I was the same way growing up! Perhaps my enjoyment has some connection to some of those past personal experiences. I see myself in the rear mirror of some of the seventh graders I’m walking by.

We often limit our understanding of blessing to the serene, the peaceful, the surprise gift in the mail, but some of the pimply cluelessness of adolescent life also falls into that category as well.

In fact, last week as I was substitute teaching seventh grade a couple of students were updating me on some of the middle school lingo that I was clueless about. They taught me what a couple of words meant and challenged me to use them in some way in my next class. When I did they burst out laughing! There’s something refreshing to students to be able to view cluelessness in their instructors.

God blesses us through wisdom and revelation, but he also touches the tickle side of our spirit through the innocent moments of cluelessness.

The Blessing of Three Dave’s

June 17, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                          June 17, 2017

                                        

Three seems to be a number that is used quite often in various ways. In A Christmas Carol Ebenezer Scrooge is visited by the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future. The three wisemen brought gifts three kinds of gifts to the baby Jesus, and my seminary preaching professor taught us to preach sermons that had three points…and a poem!

Father, Son, and Holy Spirit! Shadrach, Meshach, and To Bed We Go- er, Abednego! Abraham’s three visitors! Three crosses on top of Golgotha! The angels in Isaiah’s vision saying “Holy, holy, holy!” Jesus saying “Verily, verily, verily!” Important encounters and relationships seem to grow out of threes!

I’ve been blessed by three Dave’s who have been a part of my life journey. Our son, David, is  named after two of the Dave’s. He would have been named after the third Dave, but we hadn’t met him yet!

Dave Shaffer was a part of the first church I served on the staff of after graduating from seminary. He and Pam graced the lives of a just married young couple entering the intimidating experience of ministry. Laughter was a part of our friendship. We felt comfortable around one another. My ministry at the church was a short fifteen months, but our friendship is about to hit forty years.

Dave Hughes was one of my high school best friends and my best man. We were a part of the same youth group, ate a lot of pizza together, and played basketball together. I was privileged to perform the wedding ceremony for Dave and his wife, Robyn, and on a different wedding night- the wedding night after our friend Mike Fairchild got married-  Dave and I, groomsmen in the wedding party, went to the hospital in our tuxedos to celebrate the birth of my first niece, Jennifer. Three weeks ago his oldest son, Brad, was found dead on a hiking trail in Arizona’s Saguaro National Park, passing away from heat exhaustion and dehydration. I called my friend to walk the journey of loss and sorrow with him. I know he would have done the same for me.

And the third Dave, a hulk of a man named Dave Volitis, came strolling into my life about 15 years ago when he and Donna moved into the house across the street from us. Now a retired Air Force Chief Master Sargent living in San Antonio, he continues to grace my life with his stories and encouragement. We recently were a part of a mission work team that traveled to British Columbia together. My kids were always intrigued by Mr. Volitis, his humorous sayings (“higher than a cat’s back”, “about as welcome as a hemorrhoid”, “about as useful as tits on a boar hog”), and his engaging personality. He became a part of my congregation even though he and his family were more of the pentecostal tint. I cried when he moved to San Antonio.

Three Dave’s! I’ve had other Dave’s as a part of my life as well, but these three men left their imprints on my life…past, present, and future. I envision a time in the future when I arrange to have them all together in the same place, and to express my appreciation. What stories would come out of that gathering!!! I think that would be pretty cool!

A utility company worker, a civil engineer, and a career military person…about as diverse in occupations as you can get. Each of them now a grandfather, and each of them a part of families that have encountered significant loss in the past year.

Each of us has been blessed by numerous people in various ways. God plants them in our lives for a bit, a while, or a lifetime. Rarely do they congregate around the same first name, but the repetition of my Dave’s has highlighted in permanent marker how blessed I am!

Discovering Purpose in Abundant Opportunities

November 27, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                            November 27, 2016

                      

I was looking for my shaving kit yesterday. I looked all around our bathroom and couldn’t find it. I started fretting that I had left it at the school I had officiated a basketball game at the day before…and then I found it! Sitting on the bathroom counter in plain sight of God and everyone!

That seems to happen to me more frequently in these “senior discount years!” Last month I was looking for my car keys…and then I figured out that I was holding them in my left hand! It is at those times that I self-identify myself as an idiot.

I had a recent conversation with someone about purpose. More specifically “life purpose.” The person was in a time of his life when the opportunities were numerous. In that state of blessedness there laid the problem. He had TOO MANY opportunities. He was an ADD opportunist, not being able to focus on one or two things because of all the others. In so doing he was watering down the potential effect of his life purpose.

Sometimes people are grieved by the lack of opportunities, but sometimes people are blinded by the multitude of possibilities.

In the conversation with my friend there were glimpses of discovery. He was beginning to feel the unrest within him. A couple of opportunities that would be rewarding in the short-term would also keep him from focusing on a couple of areas that had deeper and longer-lasting blessings. Focusing on recreational opportunities in the present would most assuredly have relational consequences in the future. Situations that brought recognition in a certain setting were requiring more and more time, which were resulting in a tug-of-war with his life calling.

He was experiencing what I experience when I sit in my home study surrounded by my library of about 2,000 books. I’ve got so many books to read that I find it hard to read them! Weird and true!

For most of us it takes a majority of a lifetime to hone in on our purpose, our life calling. We are lured to new opportunities like flies on honey. We are seduced by the unimportant while the things that are life-impacting become obscured.

In my life opportunities have been abundant. If my life was DVR’ed and I could go back to the beginning of some of my episodes I’d do a few things differently. I wouldn’t let pastoring a church take me away from family as many evenings as it did. I would have told my kids that I loved them more than I did. I would have spent less time developing church programs and more time growing disciples. And I would have spent more time living my faith instead of sermonizing about it.

On the other hand, as I look at my life I see my life purpose, like a trail in the woods, has become easy to see. There are more things that I am at peace with than areas where I am conflicted. It’s taken a few decades to stay on the path, but in the midst of abundant opportunities I have a clear sense of direction. It doesn’t mean that I have arrived, but it does mean that I’m on course.

I encouraged my friend to focus on those areas that emphasize relationships, and to pursue what he is passionate about. Those things that promote rewards and instant gratification need more scrutiny.

It’s different for every person, but the constant is that every person has a purpose that needs to be discovered and pursued. Like false messiahs there will be many to follow, but few that are worth it! Like my shaving kit quite often our life purpose is right there in front of us. We just need to see it!

Enjoying Senior Moments

November 30, 2015

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                   November 30, 2015

                                          

I’m having more senior moments…like when I was looking for my keys and two minutes later I discovered I was holding them in my left hand…senior moments like that.

But I also enjoy senior moments. Or, put another way, moments shared with seniors. My congregation has some incredible senior folk who are a part of it. They are the most caring, unconditional love-based, surprising group that I’ve had the privilege to pastor. They genuinely support one another, offer to help with rides, call on the phone to someone who doesn’t show up at their group gatherings.

Four of them are now in their nineties, and, although the effects of age are slowing them down, they are people of incredible faith and depth. Yesterday, a cold and snowy Sunday, none of them were able to be at worship and there was something missing. Worship isn’t a choice for them. It’s a commitment, and when they can’t come it is almost always because they are sick, are afraid of falling on ice or the snow, in the hospital, or out of town.

Another of the senior couples delight me with their humor and giving spirit. I am always blessed to be in the same room with them. The wife’s laugh is contagious and joy-filled. the husband’s stories are filled with wit that result in chuckles.

A retired military man and his wife grace me with their friendship. Even though we are not necessarily on the same page politically they are two people who give to others in sacrificial ways. The wife has a heart of gold that causes her to become emotional as she talks about the ordeals that others are going through. The husband serves every Sunday in some way, whether it be transporting one of the seniors or ushering and greeting people.

There’s an African-American lady who is like my “Black Mom!” in fact, I call her “Mom” from time to time. She gives me “instruction”, just like my mom did, prays for me, gives me “the look” just like my mom did. Wisdom and exhortation from her guide me in my journey.

There’s a lady who was a baker. She kneaded the doe for bread and cinnamon rolls. Her love went into each of her baked goods. Now she “kneads” the pains and heartaches of others each day in her prayers. Like working the doe, she works the words of her prayer for the sorrows of others. Her foundations are prayer and scripture.

There’s another lady who is the group guardian. She sometimes senses the indecision of the group and says “Here’s what we’re going to do!” She senses when someone doesn’t want to impose on anyone else, and tells the the person that things will be taken care of. She’s the Joshua in a group of Jack and Jills.

Another lady, who is on the younger end of the seniors, has a gentle spirit, an attitude of grace, and the heart of a servant. A widow, she has encountered her share of sorrow, and knows the journey that many of our senior folk are on.

There’s another woman who moved here a few years ago from another state. She volunteers whenever there is a need…at the local school, for Wednesday night dinners, giving out food to those in need, making quilts and clothing. The last few months have been hard for her as her health has taken some hits. She does not have a high opinion of doctors, but has a very high opinion and love for the woman just mentioned before her.

A widower who has started coming to our group recently is my razor…and also someone I razz. We feel very comfortable giving soft jabs to one another. I had his wife’s funeral a few years ago. She was killed by a drunk driver. Pain and sorrow have punctuated his world, and this group of seniors keeps him anchored and cared for.

Another woman who is fairly new to the group makes the best cookies I’ve ever eaten. In her mid-eighties she has a smile that would like up a cereal box and a warmth that is accepting of others.

Another couple are like Aquila and Priscilla, serving in ways that do not make headlines, but needed. The man has become the best friend of another guy who has endured a life of disappointment and heartache. These two are people who are gifts from God, people who “come alongside” someone in need.

And then there is a transplanted Buckeye who is in the midst of jubilation this week for his college team’s victory over Michigan. He imparts his wisdom to me, and encouragement for decisions made and sermons preached. His emails are always in capital letters. In fact, if they were capitalized I would instantly know someone had pretended to be him.

So many blessings! So much enjoyment that has come into my life from folk who have traveled the journey of life.

As I enter my last month as their pastor I know…i know…I know that I have been greatly blessed!