Posted tagged ‘Change’

When Someone Invades Your (Starbucks) Space

October 6, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                            October 6, 2018

                        

It’s a dilemma that is rapidly becoming a problem! Someone has been sitting on my stool at Starbucks, the last stool on the right at the counter that looks out towards Pike’s Peak!

It’s where I almost exclusively write my blog post! It’s my space to create, my stool to be cool!

What should I do? The man who has been sitting there doesn’t understand the history. It’s like the three bears coming home and finding Goldilocks eating their porridge!

I’ve thought about yellow caution tape wrapped around the seat, but, of course, the Starbucks corporation would probably frown on that idea. I wouldn’t want it to become another national news story about putting someone in his place…that is, anywhere that is not my space!

I mentioned it to one of the baristas who knows of the guy’s error in java judgment. She knows that stool is where I sit and gives me a look of disbelief and sympathy each morning it happens. 

“Can you tell him to move?”

She looks at me with concern and compassion and says, “No.”

“Well, what time did he get here this morning?”

“I don’t know,” she responds. “He was here before I got here!”

Perhaps that’s what I’ll have to do…arrive earlier, be standing at the door as Starbucks opens at 4 A.M. Then I could take note of when the trespasser arrives and snicker! Of course, I’d have to go to bed about 8:00 the night before and Carol would be asking what in the world is going on with me?

“I’ve got to get to Starbucks when it opens. There’s a guy who’s been sitting on my stool!”

Carol will look at me like a DMV license renewal clerk. “What is this, Bill? Some kind of coffee version of Black Friday? Are you going to rearrange your whole life around the need to sit on a certain stool at Starbucks?”

“Yes!”

“Just find a different stool!”

I gasp at the idea. “That’s like me telling you to find a different husband!”

“No, it’s not even close, but if you go looney over a coffee shop stool it might be a possibility! Doesn’t this sound a little bit like when one of the grandkids is playing with a toy that one of the other grandkids wants to play with? All the one without can think about is that one toy, even though she’s surrounded by a roomful of other toys.”

“No, doesn’t sound like that at all.”

So I guess I need other options! Perhaps I could carve my name into the wood on the counter with the words “Space Reserved For” etched in before it. 

Here’s the thing! I’m substitute teaching 3 to 4 days a week, so I’ve become inconsistent in my occupying of my spot. I’ve just come to expect that it will be there when I’m there, like a college student returning home on break and expecting his old room to still be the same, and to be his!

Next week, however, I’m teaching Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday. Wednesday is the only day, except for the weekend, where I can get to my stool. HE will probably be there, and I’ll sense the creative juices draining some my existence.

We humans are creatures of habit, some good habits and some bad…and some just plain weird!

No Grow and No Go

May 7, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                          May 7, 2017

                                     

Recently a pastor friend of mine was sharing his church’s “simplified plan.” Our ministry support group of five people was sitting in a restaurant having lunch together. The noise and my aged hearing caused me to misinterpret what he was saying. His congregation’s simplified plan is “Know. Grow. Go.”

I, however, heard him say “No grow and go!” I thought to myself, “That’s an unusual plan…no grow and no go!’ I asked for clarification and my friend corrected my understanding when I told him what I had heard. All five of us got a good chuckle out of it, but then I thought about it a bit more. “No Grow and No Go!” might better define many churches of various flavors around the country.

There are many reasons why a number of churches don’t desire to grow as disciples and go and make disciples of others. First of all, growing requires commitment to something and surrender of part of my agenda. “Growing” is a marathon race and the church is crowded with sprinters and jumpers. In sports there are “fair weather fans”, and in churches there are “fair weather attenders.”

Growing requires change and, whereas we are fluid in many areas of our lives when it comes to change, we are also entrenched in other ways. For example, I need a new pair of jeans but I love the pair I’ve been wearing for about a decade. The pocket that I’ve carried my wallet in has a hole in it that resembles a woodpecker’s carving. I’ve tried changing pockets, but then I feel like I walk funny. I’m considering the option of not carrying my wallet with me rather than buy a new pair of jeans that I have to get used to. That’s how we are in various areas of our lives. I drink my morning juice out of a certain plastic cup, but I drink my dinner milk from a glass. I write my blog from a certain stool at a certain Starbucks. To vary that always gives me the feeling that the quality of the writing has diminished…unless I’m visiting my dad in southern Ohio, and then it’s okay to write from the Starbucks across the river in Huntington, West Virginia.

On the other side of the equation are churches that have a hard time figuring out what that “growing” element looks like. Our recent history shows the jumping around of churches trying to nail the discipleship block. But growing followers of Christ is not easily contained in a program or a curriculum, and that’s a hard truth for many of us professional church leaders to admit. It’s not that programs and curriculums are bad or unnecessary, but rather that we often put all of our eggs in one basket and there’s, so to speak, a growing number of spiritual egg-haters!

Moving on to the “go” part we’re often unmovable! Jesus’ Great Commission too often is the great omission in congregations. To sum it up, most of a typical church’s budget goes for what happens inside the walls, and what is designated as the mission budget is what gets sent outside the walls to support people not from the church in mission work. When the budget gets evaluated each year the mission budget lies there like a clay pigeon ready to be shot at. Want proof? Just notice how many people in your church come to a potluck dinner, and compare that to how many people participate in a community service or ministry project!

“No grow and no go!” symbolizes the “standing firm congregation.” We’ve mis-translated that great hymn “On Christ the Solid Rock I Stand” a bit! Jesus didn’t intend for us to be stationary and anchored to what has always been, protective of our resources and unsympathetic towards a broken world around us.

Changing the ‘6’ to a ‘7’!

January 5, 2017

                                                                                       January 5, 2017

                                     

    Perhaps you’re like me in some way! I know, I know, you’re NOT like me in most ways. Thank God! You probably don’t have your personal “blankie” that you still sleep with even though it looks like the dog chewed on it…for years! You probably don’t pronounce the days of the week with an ending syllable that sounds more like “dey” instead of “day.” And…I’m being vulnerable here…you probably don’t sleep with one sock on (usually the left) and one sock off!

But there is one way that I’m guessing you have been walking in the same footprints as I have the last few days. When I write a personal check I am still in the 2016 mindset. I’m having a hard time transitioning from the 6 to the 7. Even when I dated today’s blog post I began with 2016! About the time February rolls around I’ll get the hang of it…maybe!

Maybe you’re one of those that has his/her total act together and you’re able to change your life situations as easily as a Mustang stick shift. Plus you’ve never had a cavity, or anything below an “A”, have low cholesterol, can build that piece of furniture from Ikea without using the directions, and don’t snore!

For the rest of us, however, there are certain things in life that change that we struggle with. The calendar year is one thing, but, quite frankly, I am a creature of habit. I almost always get the Pike Place blend coffee at Starbucks, sit on the same stool for about the same amount of time. Even though I am a retired pastor it still feels weird to not be preaching on a Sunday morning (I do speak 2-3 times a month!). It feels really weird to have my Saturday nights freed up and not be honing the Sunday message.

For me routine is comfortable. Even going to Sunday morning worship is a comfortable routine for me…and it’s okay to be involved in some things that are comfortable and comforting. Life has enough twists and turns to it, plenty of gut-wrenching times that are discomforting and disconcerting. God doesn’t expect his children to be masochists who go looking for pain. Comfort is a part of the journey.

There will be things that I encounter this year that will cause my insides to tighten up, uncomfortable changes that are necessary and unwelcome news that bring me to tears, but I walk ahead with the One who walks close beside.

I write these words at a time that my dad is in St. Mary’s Hospital in Huntington, West Virginia. He’s had a tough week. He ’s also 88 with a history of heart episodes. As a family we know that he could live another few years…or not live to be 89 in mid-June. We are thankful for what has been, but we know that “tearful change” will come someday.

A year ago I changed from being a pastor to being a “retired pastor.” In recent months I’ve changed from being a retired pastor to being a substitute teacher who does pulpit supply. I was ready for the first change and, like a kid finally tall enough to ride the roller coaster, excited about the second.

Figuratively speaking, some days I prefer the calmness of the “Lazy River” ride, and some days I’m pumped for the heart-racing Magnum at Cedar Point. In other words, some days I just want life to be the same as it has been, and on other days I’m ready for a new twist and experience. Some days I just want to sit in Starbucks and drink four cups of coffee (free refills, mind you!), and other days I’m ready to take on a class of bouncing first-graders.

Change and challenges will come whether I’m ready for them or not.

That reminds me! I need to change the furnace filter when I get home! There…that’s probably another way you’re like me!

Letting Go of My Cassette Tapes

June 8, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                June 8, 2016

                                

It’s been a difficult week. I took my carrying case of cassette tapes to Goodwill! It was comparable to that day several years ago when Carol and I took Lizi, our youngest, to college.

Carol has been cleaning up the basement this week. The trunk of our car was loaded with various boxes and forgotten treasures. I was okay with the old humidifier finding its place in the trunk, but then…then (dramatic music for effect)…she brought out the tape case.

I had forgotten about it, but then I started looking at all the products of music production that it held.

Twila Paris….Bohemian Melodies…Lake Wobegon Days…Whale Sounds…DeGarmo and Key…Cat Stevens…Andrae Crouch…Larry Norman…Keith Green! The last three are now dead, but hey!…their music never dies…unless, of course, its on a cassette tape.

I begrudgingly zipped the case closed and said a few holy words over it, sprayed incense in the air, tore my cloak and threw ashes on my head, and then drove the condemned to Goodwill.

I realize that neither of our vehicles has a tape player, and the one cassette player we have is somewhere unknown, but it is hard to let go of objects that I’ve associated with a certain period of my life.

Cassette tapes were from a time when Carol and I were raising three kids. There’s a sweetness to those memories. I would listen to Twila Paris as I prepared the Sunday message. When the music ended, I pressed the eject button and the tape door would open. I’d flip the cassette over and press Play. Good times and good music.

Life is littered with those Goodwill moments when we just need to let some things go. Pack them up and move on.

Churches usually aren’t very good at that. Sentiment runs high. Every congregation has a certain number of people who want things to stay the same. Like with my cassette tapes, I just wanted them to be there in case, for some odd reason, on a rainy afternoon I ever had the urge to hear whale sounds again.

Years ago there was a man in my church who had to travel most of the time. He would be gone for three or four months and then be home for a week. I got wind of the fact that he wasn’t going to come to church anymore so I called him. He said the church had changed, that it wasn’t the same. In essence, he wanted it to be there for him whenever he had the urge or possibility of attending. In his turbulent and fast-paced life he wanted the worship service to be the same as it had been in order to bring back to him memories of a period of his life that he longed to return to.

It’s hard to say goodbye, because we feel that we’re being insensitive. There are those who transition, it seems, with ease, and then there are those of us who hold on because we associate whatever we’re grasping with God. If it at one time was a vehicle of God we think it borders on blasphemy to get rid of it.

Churches are often hoarders out of a confused love for God. It’s like when I go to Best Buy and purchase a new Blu-Ray player, and then bring it home and sit it on top of my DVD player, which is still sitting on top of my VHS player.

Sometimes we just have to take the cassette tapes to Goodwill!

What Carol doesn’t realize is that I sneaked half a dozen tapes out of the case when she was out of the room. I think that’s okay! Bohemian Melodies, it seems, are few and far between these days.

Recognizing The Change

December 18, 2013

 

 

I get pretty comfortable with how things work, and how things are suppose to be. For example, I have the same routine each morning after I wake up…unless I go to the YMCA and work out first. Any other day I get up and shower, brush my teeth and then shave. I never shave before the teeth are clean. Go figure! It’s just how it has been and is.

But I’m also a “stuck-in-the-mud” with how things work. I’m used to things being plugged in. Toaster, TV, room air conditioner, coffee maker.

And so it took me a long time to understand and adjust to the new term wireless. Wireless technology seemed to weird to me for a long, long time. I didn’t trust it. If plugged-in gadgets were good enough for my grandfather then they were good enought for me.

I, however, have made the change. I finally recognized that the change was a good thing, even if it was a new thing.

When Jesus came as a new born a “new thing” was beginning. The old thing was familiar, but the new happening required a shift.

On Christmas Eve we sing about the new thing that is about to happen- Jesus is about to be born. But here’s THE thing! God becoming man was meant to tell us about a change- a change that God wanted to see happen within each of our lives. He wanted to see peace on earth…and in each one of us. He wanted to see hope realized in my life and your life.

The story of the birth of Jesus is about a new creation…our new creation…from death to life…from despair to delight…from judgment to joy.

Sometimes things have to be surrendered to.

I pray that this Christmas changes you in God-glorifying ways!

The Cost of Newness

September 16, 2013

WORDS FROM W.W.                                             September 16, 2013

 

 

       This summer we had new carpet installed at the house. Put it as a line item under “Wedding Expense”, because new carpet is vital to the success of a wedding! (That was an attempt at sarcasm.)

Actually, and this is the truth, we got new carpet because the cat died. Princess Maiboo (“Boo) went to meet her Maker in December. Our old carpet was stained with different “Boo offerings”, so I had promised Carol that we would get new carpet when Boo died. It also happened to be the original carpet from when the house was built a little over twenty years ago.

I’ve discovered one thing about new carpet versus the old. The new has more “rise” to it. That is, our old carpet had been beaten down over the course of time from foot travel and wear. The new…is new!

That became apparent to me the other night when I was in my study doing some work and I had the door closed. After a while I decided to take a break, so I went to open the door like usual and walk down the hallway. Except the clearance between the bottom of the door and the new carpet was like squeezing Shamu in through the front door of the house. Newness has caused resistance. I’m used to the old still, so I started to proceed through the doorway before there actually was a doorway to go through. I banged my knee on the door! It hurt! I proceeded to belittle the new carpet, as if it had a choice in the matter.

I enjoy the cushy feeling of the new carpet, but newness brings changes.

Newness costs us something even as we’re excited by it. I always try to approach “newness” in the church with tempered enthusiasm. Even though we talk in our churches about “new life”, “new birth”, “new hope”, when we replace something that has been with something that “hasn’t been yet”, there will be a period of uncomfortableness.

We see it in so many ways. Replace the Folgers with Starbucks and it will thrill some and disappoint others. Replace an existing ministry with a new one and there will be heartburn, as well as jubilation. Change pastors and some will go into deep mourning while others will be on the verge of singing the “Hallelujah Chorus.”

Newness causes stubbed toes and bruised knees, while raising the spirits of many of the saints.

If given a choice the Israelites would always have voted to return to Egypt! What has been quite often becomes more attractive than what will be.

But sometimes newness needs to happen regardless of the heartburn and naysayers. It just does! Kind of like going to the orthodontist for braces…no one looks forward to the discomfort of braces, but can’t wait to have straight teeth.

One last thing! What is new now will someday be old. Simplistic, I know, but what I mean is that those who are excited about new directions today will someday resist the next new direction that would replace the current new one. Their current “new” will gradually become what they are comfortable with.

In essence, the church will always have battles between the old and the new. And to think, this whole blog post started because I banged my knee on the door as a result of new carpet.

 

Transformed Opinions

April 26, 2013

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                               April 26, 2013

 

Once in a great while I get out my high school yearbook from the early seventies. It is a mixture of comical relief and embarrassment…even more embarrassing if there is someone looking at it with me! Comments get made such as “You looked like…THAT?” and “You wore THOSE kind of glasses?” the comments are never made in flattering ways that result in me pumping up my chest, but rather they are asked with a chuckling undertone.

It is easy to see how I have changed from a distance of forty years. Different glass frames (Thank God!), puffier cheeks, thinner hair. Distance sometimes makes things frightfully clear.

The reverse of that is trying to discern changes on a day-to-day basis. Unless a person goes through a “make-over”, how different someone is on Monday compared to Sunday, or even the previous Monday, is hard to know.

There are similar criteria involved in discerning a person’s spiritual transformation. I have a hard time knowing how I have grown in my walk with the Lord from my perspective. It may not even be as clear as a slowly receding hairline or expanding waist.

What I need are others who are in the midst of faith journeys to tell me what they are sensing. Sometimes those external views involve hard things to hear, such as sensing I’m in the midst of a spiritual dryness, or the identifying of an evident fear to go to a deeper level of trust. And sometimes those observations are encouraging and energizing comments that leave me asking “Really? You see how I’ve grown?”

The past few years I’ve attended a basketball official’s camp at some time during the summer. We don’t stand around a campfire singing “Kum-Ba-Yah” at this camp, or dance around the dining hall chanting “We are the Order of the Forks!”. At this camp we officiate basketball games while being watched by clinicians. As we go about managing the game on the court the clinicians take note and then share their observations with us during time-outs, half-time, and at the end of the game. They note good things we did- good calls, good communication- and bad things we do- lame calls, slow rotations in covering the court. Often during the three days together the clinicians will keep telling someone about a tendency that is being observed that needs to be corrected, and the official is able to correct that flaw by the end of the camp.

One of the instructions at the beginning of camp is to not use two words.

Yes, but!”

“Yes, but” is resistance to the truth. It’s a bolted door closed to reality.

Likewise, spiritual transformation needs those external eyes, trusted others to guide us and instruct us.

When I want a humorous moment I open my yearbook. When I want the close truth of the present reality I go to those I know love me, want the best for me, and want me to be all that God intended for me to be.