Posted tagged ‘caring for one another’

Seeing the Good In the Bad

September 10, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                          September 10, 2017

 

Natural disasters seem to be frequent headliners these days. Earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, tornados, tsunamis…they seem to be as common as a Bronco’s blitz! Carol and I have many friends who have gotten chummy with Hurricane Irma in the past couple of days. We’ve been watching Facebook to make sure each of them is okay. I’ll call a couple of  my friends today to check on them.

Some people see situations such as Irma and the earthquake in Mexico and see only the downside of it. I’m sure there will be several people this week who will equate the rash of recent disasters as evidence of the second coming of Jesus.

I take a different view entirely! Perhaps the ravished areas of the world are an opportunity for people to experience the sharing of their resources, love, and compassion.

I called my friend, David Volitis about a week ago to wish him a happy 60th birthday! We were able to talk for a few minutes, but he told me he was in Corpus Christi helping with the recovery efforts from Hurricane Harvey. He had celebrated his 60th birthday by working a fourteen hour day clearing debris. It is an example of the good of people emerging in bad situations.

One of my favorite books is John Ortberg’s Who Is This Man? It tells of the unpredictable impact of Jesus upon the world. Ortberg tells of an epidemic of smallpox that broke out in Rome in AD 165. Between a third and a fourth of the population perished from the disease, including Marcus Aurelius, the emperor. People responded in panic. At the first sign of illness a person was pushed away from their family, throwing them into the street before they were dead. But a community in that city who followed a man who would touch untouchables cared for the sick and dying. They were even willing to be infected by others with the disease in order to be caregivers for the Caregiver. And as a result of their sacrificial giving the Jesus movement spread.

In essence, the way Christians responded to the needs of a community that confounded people’s understanding of the limits of love and sacrifice ended up drawing others towards Jesus.

Any time there is a disaster such as Irma and Harvey people will be confused and devastated. We experienced that a few years ago with two major fires in the Colorado Springs area, Waldo Canyon and Black Forest, that burned down over 800 homes. From that an organization emerged- a coalition of faith-based and secular organizations- that developed a partnership for responding to tragedy. It took two consuming fires to make that happen. Good can come out of bad.

It’s like the story of Jesus’ life and death. Resurrection happened in the midst of the pain of death. It happened with the adulterous woman that Jesus encountered. Forgiveness and cleansing came out of guilt and shame. It came to a boatload of disciples being tossed to and fro in a fishing boat. Jesus woke up and calmed the waters. Peace and assurance came in the midst of a storm.

A number of people in Texas, Florida, and Mexico have lost everything they own…and there will be those who will come alongside them making sure that they will be okay.

A Two Year Old’s Stairs Shepherd

April 9, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                        April 9, 2017

                               

On Friday I had the opportunity to spend the day with my just-turned two year old granddaughter, Corin (Rennie). Her regular child care provider was battling a sickness so “Granddad” got called up from the Reserves to Active Duty.

About an hour into our time together I thought that I caught a whiff of something…potent! Time to change the diaper, so I said, “Rennie, let’s go change your diaper, okay?”

“Okay!” she replied, a sure sign of the fact that she had made a direct diaper deposit. She headed for the stairway leading to the upstairs, and proceeded up the steps…one step at a time like her brother on the playground monkey bars. I followed along behind ready to stop a tumble. My focus, although she didn’t know it, was on her.

A few minutes later, now wearing a dry diaper and the clothes for the day, she began going back down the steps…one step at a time. She would sit on a step and slowly slide her feet off of the step below it while also sliding her butt off the step she was sitting on.
I went before her! I positioned myself below her, but facing her, and made sure she safely came down the stairs one step at a time.

I’m speaking at church this morning about Psalm 23, the Lord is my shepherd! It tells us about the protection of God and the care of God. He is a Shepherd that goes before us, but also follows along behind us. In essence, he is always there for us.

Rennie is only slightly aware that her granddad is looking out for her, being in the place and position I need to be in order to make sure she is okay. I’m like the shepherd of the stairs for her!

My guess, however, is that she is more aware of my protection on the steps than I am of my Shepherd’s presence of protection! Today, at least, I’m going to seek to have a heightened awareness of what my Lord is doing, where my Shepherd is leading, and how my God is following!

Church Life

August 3, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                            August 3, 2016

                                           

“He touched me….oh, he touched me! And oh, the joy that floods my soul! Something happened, and now I know, He touched me and made me whole.”

The congregation closed the song with several heart-felt “amens” from the twelve gathered souls for Sunday worship. Most of them smiled in the warmth of the words, the truth of their meaning.

I told them the Mark 5 story of the woman who had a feminine hygiene problem for twelve years and had been “ritually unclean.” She came to where Jesus was and risked a touch of the edge of his garment. She just wanted to be clean. She was emotionally distraught, felt spiritually unworthy, and had been afflicted for so long that she had become almost invisible to people. The story was retold to ears that were listening and heads that were nodding in agreement.

“People may not be ostracized for the same reasons today, but you know, we have a way in the church of making people feel like outcasts and minimizing certain ones because of this, that, or the other. My guess is that most of us have been made to feel like we don’t matter at one time or another.”

“And the thing is…when we’re gathered as the Body of Christ, that’s where we should always feel loved, accepted, and valued.”

They were with me as we journeyed this story. Their church had been larger at one time, but things happened. People moved away because of jobs, kids grew up and went off to college and didn’t come back, and some of the saints had passed on to the next life. Those were all journeys that were a part of life, the things that just happened. It was the other losses that kept wounding the few faithful. Words that had been said in the heat of the moment, unforgiving spirits and non-repentant hearts, power plays and personality conflicts. All those things that people expected in other places, but cut more deeply when they were a part of the community of the King.

But sometimes a church needs to go deep in the valley to see the sacredness of the fellowship. Pain sometimes makes the good days more cherished.

“How might we touch one another today as the Body of Christ? Who in our community is like the woman who just longs for a touch of hope, a touch of healing? Who might we invite to join us in this sanctuary of brokenness as we seek to be a place of hope?”

The words were being felt in the midst of the congregation’s soul.

“How might the words to that song that we sang be experienced in our lives, and the lives of those around us?”

“Amen.”

It wasn’t the end of a sermon, but rather the transition to reflection and action. Prayer concerns were shared. One person shared a deep concern that was weighing upon her. We stopped to pray, but before we prayed we gathered around her, laid hands upon her weary shoulders and touched her with care. Tears streamed from her eyes and ran down her cheeks on a path towards healing.

There was a wholeness that was coming back to her, and in that wholeness was also a sense of wholeness in the midst of “the gathered.”

Church life can often be the death of us, but sometimes a church near-death experience is their resuscitation to a new life and a deeper hope.

Three Moms

May 8, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                            May 8, 2016

                                         

It’s Mother’s Day, a day where we gloat over our moms and tell them how wonderful they are. Let’s be honest! Moms don’t get the credit or appreciation they deserve. We load up the applaud one day a year for them even though they took care of loaded-up diapers many, many days for many, many years.

I’ve had many unofficial moms through the years who have encouraged me, fed me, and hugged on me, but I’d like to pay tribute to three moms for different reasons.

The first mom would be my own…Virginia Wolfe! Yes, that was my mom’s name! She was possessed by stubbornness and gifted with compassion. Stubborn compassion, quite a mix. If there was someone in need that she could take care of she would do what needed to be done in spite of protests. With Mom there were no questions to be asked. If she decided to take a pot of chicken soup to Mrs. Swallow, our eighty-something next door neighbor widow in Williamstown, West Virginia, she did it. Our neighbors through the years were cared for. Growing up on a farm in Eastern Kentucky, my mom was used to having neighbors who took care of one another, no questions asked.

She was loyal. Her patronage of businesses was not based on who had the lowest price, but rather on friendship, being treated with respect, and loyalty. For years, she traveled forty-five minutes to have the same man do her hair, because that’s what you did.

She raised three children, all with vey different personalities, and, although we frequently didn’t agree with her, we respected and loved her deeply. She’s been gone now for two and a half years. I’ll visit her grave site next month and cherish the memories once again.

The second mom is my wife, Carol. What an incredible woman! In many ways she is like her own mom, Barbara Faletti. Fairly conservative, not prone to extravagance when it involved herself, but very giving when it involves others. The Mother’s Day card I give her today will cause her to scold me a little bit for spending the four dollars. The attached chocolate to it will simmer the scold a bit.

Even harder than being a pastor is being a pastor’s spouse. For thirty-six years, until this past December 31, that’s who she was. The number of evenings where she shared a meal with three kids but no husband can not be calculated. In the valleys and mountains of ministry she walked beside me.

Carol is a champion for those who are afflicted with diminished capacities of various kinds. She works with special needs middle school students. She hung out with a six year old autistic boy at Awana Club this year. She walks alongside a few of her friends who have suffered serious health crises. Although she enjoys watching some of the reality TV shows that I gag on, we’re on the same page in most of our preferences and likes. She loves her grandkids deeply. If you checked her cell phone you would find a video library of “grandkid clips” that include one year old Corin walking across the room, Jesse playing soccer or hurling himself at the player he’s defending in basketball, and Reagan singing, dancing, or just looking gosh darn cute!

Our three children love and respect her deeply. They know that the greatest gifts they can give her are the relationships they already have with her. She is a special woman who gets me to “wise up” in various ways. She’s the “clue” in my “cluelessness.”

The third mom is my oldest daughter, Kecia. Just as my mom had three children, and Carol has three children, Kecia is now the mom to a trio. She is the steady influence to the three. I see my mom in her in terms of keeping her kids on task, and I see Carol in her in regards to her compassionate side. I stopped by her fourth grade classroom for a few moments this past week and it was evident how much her students admire and love her. She’s like their “teacher-mom”, concerned for each one of them, thrilled with their progress, saddened by their heartaches.

Just as my mom and Carol have been steady influences and engaged parents, Kecia is that steady influence in a culture that often teeters on the the edge of chaos.

I am blessed to have lived, and now live in a home where laughter is as frequent as dancing granddaughters, and dressed-up super hero grandsons. “The Moms” are as essential to that as Miracle Whip on my hamburger!

Thank you, Lord, for the mom who has gone before me, the mom who walks with me, and the mom who is delighting me.