Posted tagged ‘compassion’

The End of Grace

January 28, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                     January 28, 2017

                                    

All of our neighbors are familiar with a tree that has been in our front yard since before we moved there in 1999. Just to the side of the basketball hoop, it resembled a pine tree that had been on a Slim-Fast diet…for years! Each year it kept growing towards the sky, but not getting any broader at the base. Our former neighbor would always look at it and say “Um, um, um…pitiful!” We never had to worry about rabbits hiding under it, or trash accumulating around its base.

For the past several years Carol and I have looked at it and discussed whether we should chop it down and raise the property value of our house…but it became a symbolic sight for us. We named it “The Grace Tree”, for it was only by the grace of God that it had not met the blade of an axe.

Several times when I preached about grace I’d use the Grace Tree for a sermon illustration. I’d show a couple of pictures of it to the congregation and hear the sighs and facial expressions of pity.

But grace came to an end a couple of weeks ago!

High winds hit our area and we woke up one morning to discover that the Grace Tree had taken a tumble. Think of it as the end of its stay in “Arbor Hospice!” Just kind of keeled over and done with!

We’ve received no condolence notes from our neighbors, no flowers, or other things that grow out of the ground!

Grace came to an untimely end on January 9! We’ll never know now, but perhaps if it had put some firmness and width into its base over the last 20 years or so the January 9th tumbled demise would not have happened. But you know something? Trees quite often have minds of their own. It’s hard to reason with them and make them see the long-term consequences of tree anorexia! As my mom used to say, “You can talk until you’re blue in the face”, but it doesn’t make any difference.

To be honest the Grace Tree received more grace than it deserved, but it was an ongoing message to us: That the tendency in our culture, and, sadly enough, in the church, is to be the executioners of the imperfect instead of the conduits of grace. Many New Testament followers of Jesus still live by Old Testament justice!

Whereas, many of our neighbors are a bit delighted over the passing of our Grace Tree, I’m a bit grieved. Don’t get me wrong! Carol and I aren’t going to put a grace…I mean, grave marker there! It’s just that the reminder won’t be there every day as I back the car out of the garage, or every time I’m shooting baskets in the driveway. (It did act as a ball stop once in a while!) There are a few things in life that we just need reminders about. What will remind me of grace?

I do still have a “selfie pic” of the Grace Tree in the background behind me! Maybe, just maybe, I’ll make that my new screen saver! Wouldn’t that be ironic, the Grace Tree being my screen saver!

What Might Jesus Wish For On His Birthday?

December 24, 2016

                                                                                            December 24, 2016

                           

Most people reading this will be opening up some kind of wrapped gift tonight or tomorrow…or whenever their family and friends gatherings take place. Let’s be honest! We all enjoy opening presents…even if there’s underwear inside!

In celebration of Jesus’ birth the Magi brought him three gifts that are mentioned in scripture: gold, myrrh, and frankincense. Each was a gift with a purpose as it related to Jesus. The gifts recognized his royalty, his priestly function, and his death.

I wonder what might be on Jesus’ gift wish list this birthday? What might Jesus hope for? I know I’m being a bit presumptuous in answering that question, but bearing in mind the purpose, personality, and teachings of Jesus, this is what I THINK he would want.

An Avalanche of Understanding- I think Jesus would be taken back by the lack of understanding that is present everywhere…and the absence of even wanting to understand. Political division, divisive people going at it in church, parents not understanding their children and vice versa, communities not understanding the plight of the homeless, well-to-do folk not understanding poverty, and just about everyone not understanding someone else’s point of view. I think Jesus might even expand his sermon on the mount to include “Blessed are those who seek to be understanding for they shall be filled with wisdom!”

    A Tsunami of GenerosityWe live in a time of “moderate Scroogeness!” Most of us would be offended to be described as Scrooges so we show “some generosity”, while hoarding everything else. I’m not talking about giving a buck to every panhandler you meet, but rather a willingness to be generous. Jesus talked about giving up our coat to someone in need. Recently my wife Carol brought about half a dozen coats to me and asked which one or two we should keep. She was going to take the rest to a place that was collecting coats. My first reaction…to myself!…was “I might still need that!” Carol’s generosity also had wisdom mixed in. “How many coats can you wear at one time, Bill?” Many of us are prone to hoard what we have instead of allowing our resources to fulfill their purpose. I think Jesus might say something like this: “The poor you will always have with you. That is not an excuse to dismiss them, but rather an opportunity to bless them.”

    An Appetite for Spiritual NourishmentI think Jesus would desire the gift of seeking him, walking closely beside him, and wanting more of him. His desire would be less entertainment centers and more worship centers, less choreographed worship services and more spontaneity, less “the look” and more the walk. Like when we grow old and instead of a gift card we’d just like to sit with our grown up children and talk, perhaps Jesus’ wished-for gift would be ongoing conversations with people who are interested in knowing him better, desirous of a journeying relationship wth him. A dear friend of mine recently told me that the younger generations often want a big splash of spiritual excitement, but Jesus asks us for a continuos relationship that asks for $5 at a time. In other words, Jesus desires a spiritual appetite that is steady, long, and forever…not just for a weekend every once in a while.

Three gifts! One that speaks to our mind, one that speaks to our heart, and one that speaks to our spirit. Or put another way, one that speaks to those we differ with, one that speaks to those who need us, and one that speaks to the One who we need.

Happy birthday, Jesus!

Norma’s Shoes

December 7, 2015

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                   December 7, 2015

                                                     

   

Norma Koch was a person of faith…perhaps courageous faith might be the better description. She believed in a Jesus that was not weak and, therefore, she was not to approach her walk with him in a weak way!

A couple of years ago the social worker at Audubon School, down the street from our church, called to say that there was a boy at the school who needed a new pair of shoes. The young lad had a pair of shoes that were literally held together with duct tape. The tape was wrapped around and around each of the shoes to keep them from falling apart. Our church bought him a new pair. A young kid’s feet were singing hallelujah!

That child’s need struck deep within Norma’s heart. The senior living complex she resided in would play Bingo once or twice a week and there were actually “cash winnings!” A quarter here, fifty cents there! Norma began collecting her winnings in a jar with a mission. The mission was to collect the change until there was enough to buy a new pair of shoes for the next child in need.

This past July she turned the money in, and it was deposited into out church’s benevolence fund until the need arose to use it.

And then Norma passed away! Ninety years old…ready to meet the Jesus she followed face-to-face, ready to be done with the aches and pains that had accompanied her for so long. She passed…and entered!

About six weeks after her passing Audubon School called again. A first grade girl was in dire need of a new pair of shoes. Norma’s shoes got bought. A little girl is now wearing “Dora the Explorer” shoes…all sparkly and new on her feet.

Though she is dancing in glory Norma Koch continues to have an impact in this life.