Posted tagged ‘conversations’

Jesus Coffee

July 10, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                               July 10, 2016

                                          

We hadn’t connected for a while. I started with the excuses. “I’m sorry, Jesus, that we haven’t gotten together for a while. It’s just been so hectic and busy.” Busyness is always a good “go to” when you haven’t done something or neglected a certain person.

He smiled at me and invited me to sit down in the booth across from him. “How’ve you been?” I asked.

“Oh, you know…the usual…feeding the multitudes, healing the sick, raising the dead…same-o same-o.” We both chuckled a bit. “What’s been taking up so much of your time?”

I stammered through a list of poor excuses for busyness and then I confessed, “I really have no excuses for why I haven’t talked to you for a while. Perhaps what is really going on is that there’s some things in my life, and in the lives of some friends of mine, that are unsettling. A lot of it is my own poor choices, and some of it is…I don’t know…I guess I could call it a kind of cynicism towards life and some people.”

“So you thought if you talked to me you’d have to face up to what’s going on?”

“Pretty much! I’ve very proficient in the gift of avoidance.”

“So tell me why you suggested we get together again?”

“I’m not sure if it was my old Baptist guilt rising up, or realizing that I just needed this…to sit and talk with you. Maybe it’s a combination of a lot of different things…anyway I’m here and I’m glad we can talk over a cup of coffee.”

“I hope you know that I’m always free to chat.”

“I know, I know. I’ve never doubted that, even though lately it seems that I’ve had a tendency to turn away from it.”

“Cynicism tends to make us unsure of just about everything.”

“And I admit I’ve doubted just about anyone and everyone. I’ve doubted the truth of everything…especially, everything they’ve been talking about in church. I’m not sure what to believe anymore.”

“Do you believe in me?”

“You know I do, Jesus.”

“That’s a pretty good start, isn’t it?”

“Yes, but!” I didn’t know what to say after the but. I left it hanging in the air like a bad smell. Jesus looked at me with his penetrating eyes that could see what was in my heart and troubling my mind.

“Excuse me for making an analogy, but you’ve lost sight of the sun because of all the smoke. In other words, you’ve lost sight of me because there is so much of life’s chaos and fallenness that is clouding your vision.”

“Yes! All those things you teach and talk about…love, grace, forgiveness, surrender, faith, being salt and light…we talk about them a lot, a whole lot…but It seems like what I see emerging so often out of my life and the lives of others are things like hate, indifference, bitterness, a lack of forgiveness, trying to be in control, and selfish ambition.”

“You’re right!”

“Jesus, I don’t want to be right! I want to be changed and to see change.”

“And what are you willing to give up for that to happen?”

“What do you mean?”

“Do you not see that the out-of-control condition that you’re describing is because there are certain things that you’re allowing to be?”

“I would be lying if I said I can see it, and yet, in my spirit I know the truth of it.”

“Your cynicism is a symptom of the battle that is going on inside you. You want to believe, but believing is risking, and then what if you’re wrong? What if you love unconditionally and then you feel things are as screwed up as they always are? What if loving one another ends up just being a bad joke? What if you surrender and then you discover it’s all just a crock of crap?”

“I hope not!”

“But you see, Bill, your cynicism in many ways is a safe place to be.”

(TO BE CONTINUED)

Pretending Not To Hear

April 17, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                        April 17, 2016

                                        

Reagan, our delightful five year old granddaughter, has a creative side to her that emerges just about every Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday mornings at 11:55 when I pick her up from the “Little Sprouts” pre-kindergarten class. For the thirteen minute ride from Ms. Brianna’s place back to Grammy and Granddad’s house the unplanned spontaneous brainstorms of a very verbal and cerebral five year old take center stage…from the back seat.

Last Thursday she invented a new routine to run by me. Every time I said something to her she would reply “I can’t hear you because I have my ears covered.”

And then she would laugh!

We went on like that for a while. I played along by pretending to say something but remaining silent. The backseat voice: “I can hear that you aren’t saying anything!”

Reagan has a talent for getting the upper-hand in various non-competitive competitions. We went back and forth in this new listening game until we pulled into the driveway. She loved it, and I was exhausted!

My granddaughter teaches me as much about the silliness of the moment and the sacredness of life as anyone else. I’ve had to hide my copy of the book Killing Reagan when she’s around, just in case she gets the wrong idea.

In her childlike words and actions she shows me glimpses of my own relationship with my Father God.

I’m acutely aware of the fact that I often cover up ears to the whisperings of the Spirit and pretend that I’m deaf to the leadings and warnings. I surround my spirit with sound-proof avoidance and go on doing what seems comfortable and self-serving.

“I can’t hear you, God! I’ve got my ears covered!”

“Well, how do you know I’m saying anything, my child?”

“Because I just know!”

“Why not take your fingers out of your ears and listen then?”

“Because you might say something that I don’t really want to hear.”

“And in not hearing with your ears, does that keep your spirit from knowing?”

“You ask questions that are very uncomfortable to answer.”

“That’s because I love you more than you love yourself.”

Reagan pulls back the curtain and shows me some scenes from my spiritual journey even as she is living the life of a five year old. After all, a grandfather may have his ears covered to a conversation with God, but he will never close his ears to hearing the words of his granddaughter.

Viewing Being Blessed

January 12, 2015

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                       January 12, 2015

                                          

A friend of mine that I’m fortunate enough to be the pastor for recently wrote to me to tell me  how appreciative he is of me, and he went on to say that “God has blessed me in so many ways.”

It got me pondering the whole idea of “being blessed.” How seldom do we realize that we have been blessed? Notice I said “seldom”, because in thinking about it I believe that most of the blessings in our lives so unnoticed. Since I am a 60 year old male the appropriate word might best be “clueless.”

Blessings are like Honda Civics. There are so many of them on the road these days you come to a point where you don’t notice them. (I drive a Civic!) It becomes necessary for me to take a step back and view my life, do a personal review, and then slow down long enough to notice how I am abundantly blessed.

It seems that in our culture “being blessed” gets connected to something of personal gain. A promotion at work, a new girlfriend (I’m not referring to myself!), an unexpected tax refund, or the birth of a new child or grandchild…being blessed is equated with something we can clearly quantify. Believe me, there are blessings in those things just mentioned, but most blessings are misunderstood or simply missed!

This past week a dear man from our church who has been dealing with cancer was missing from our Saturday morning men’s Bible Study. It was in missing his presence that I realized how blessed I am to have him as a part of my life. Oddly enough, there is a blessing for me in the fact that I’m so concerned about him.

I talked to my dad on the phone yesterday. We are separated by about 1400 miles, but I was immediately blessed to hear his voice…the familiar eastern Kentucky accent, the few minutes of rehashing the UK Saturday basketball game, the same chuckle that makes my heart leap with joy. As I was talking to him I was not thinking about how blessed I am. It was only later on in the evening that it came home to roost with me.

Last night Carol (my girlfriend for the past 36 years) and I spent time together. We went to a pizza place close to us and enjoyed dinner there, traveled on to Target to get a few things she needed for upcoming events, while there we talked to the young man who lives across the street from us who informed us we was leaving for the Navy next month, came back out to the Civic that was covered with snow, and traveled slowly back home immersed in conversation, laughter, and blessing. As I sit here typing this now I realize what a multitude of blessings were a part of those couple of hours.

This morning in the overnight blanket of six inches of white stuff Carol asked me to drive her to school. Once again, I realize how blessed I am that she needed me to driver her, blessed to know that I am the one who eases her heightened level of anxiety in times like this.

I’m sure that I will go through much of this week anchored back into my tendency to be a clueless guy, but at least for a few moments today I’m recognizing the magnitude of my blessing.

Coffee With Jesus

July 9, 2014

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                    July 9, 2014

 

                                       

 

   The steam rose from the mug of coffee and disappeared in the air. I sat facing him and wondering how our conversation would flow.

“I was surprised you would meet me here, Lord.”

“You can call me Jesus. I don’t mind. In fact, I think I prefer it.”

“Oh…well…okay…Jesus. That sounds a little strange, but I’ll try to get used to it.”

“Would you prefer that I call you Bill…or Subject?”

“Subject?”

“The other end of the spectrum from Lord.”

“Bill is fine.”

“So Bill, what’s going on in your life?”

“A lot…church work…our thirty-fifth wedding anniversary coming up…grandkids…just a lot of stuff.”

“How is it with your soul?”

“What…my soul…that’s a hard question to answer. It would be easier to start with something simpler, like whether or not I think the Reds will make the playoffs in baseball this season?”

“Something that doesn’t dig as deep?”

“Something less painful.”

“Is talking about your soul a painful topic to explore?”

“Yes.”

“Why?”

“I’m a pastor. Like the song, it is always suppose to be well with my soul.”

“But it isn’t.”

“No. Sometimes it’s like steam rising from the cup, inviting and comforting; but other times there is no steam left. The lukewarmness penetrates to my bones.”

“Why do you think that is?”

“Jesus, you know. Why do I even have to tell you?”

“So you can discover what you are afraid to say.”

“That much of my life feels like a playground merry-go-round…that is always moving but never going anywhere.”

“That’s a powerful image. What is the picture that you wish your life would show?”

“I don’t know. It’s easier to describe how it is than what it should be.”

“Why do you think that is?”

“Didn’t you just ask me that question thirty seconds ago?”

“And you started to answer it.”

“I guess it goes back to this cup of coffee. I’ve always had my coffee with cream and sugar. I add enough of each to the point that I miss the essence of what gets poured in the mug first…the coffee. I’m guessing that my soul gets disguised with other “stuff’ to the point that I don’t know how it is with it.”

“Wearing disguises protects us from what we’re afraid to find.”

 

                               TO BE CONTINUED

Pool Hall Faith Conversations

November 12, 2013

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                       November 12, 2013

 

 

      Last night about sixty people from six different churches from our community met on the second floor of a brewery restaurant to talk about faith questions. Pool tables adorned our meeting area, although we all withheld the urge to “break ‘em!”

We talked about four questions that dealt with our understandings of worship, how we experience Jesus, what would we do if we didn’t have church, and thoughts about the growing population of people who classify themselves as “nones”- people who have exited the church as a place to experience God.

Lutherans stood alongside Methodists, who stood next to Presbyterians, who rubbed elbows with Mennonites, who smiled at Baptists. Each question began with two of the pastors giving brief thoughts on it, and then the people went at it in smaller groups. Each new question was preceded with a reshuffling of the humanity present based on what kind of shoe they were wearing, where they lived, how they licked their ice cream cone…etc.

I stood with my Sprite next to a colleague with his wine and we talked about faith. No one got upset, or tried to make others “come over to the truth.” All of us realized that none of us have all the answers, and the one who thinks he has all the answers is the one to beware of.

We listened with our ears, disagreed without coming to blows, and pondered questions about our faith that we too often don’t think about.

There was a hint of “Baptist suspicion” in a few that I met. When I see some things that have been done by Baptists (Westboro Baptist), however, I understand the hesitancy. In one of my answers to a question I mentioned the need for the church to promote an environment where questions can be asked that don’t necessarily have answers. A young man came up to me afterwards and told me he was taken back by the comment. I asked why, and he said from his experience with a Baptist church in his past questions weren’t welcomed.

People hung around after the eighty-minute session had ended and continued talking. Carol and I left an hour later, glad we had been a part of it.

Although I have no intentions of exiting the American Baptist Churches, I do find it rewarding to enter into faith conversations with my brothers and sisters of other churches. I think it is more threatening to our faith journeys to discourage dialogue than it is to discuss our beliefs.

Many might disagree with me…but that’s okay! I have never promoted the idea that I have all of the answers.

When a Follower of Jesus Doesn’t Seem To Be Following

June 3, 2013

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                          June 3, 2013

One of the toughest things for a Christ-follower to struggle with is when someone he knows well…someone who has been a follower of Christ, comes to a time when he doesn’t seem to be following anymore.

It is quite convenient at that point for the committed follower to hold to the belief that someone can lose their salvation. It’s the easy way out. He’s in, now he’s out. He’s saved, now he’s not saved. There’s a bad odor present in that. It smells of judging someone’s spiritual condition on the basis of their actions and attitude.

Granted that the Bible talks about faith and actions, but I’ve witnessed a number of followers who can speak the Godly language, quote scripture like an attorney quotes the legal code, testify to God’s provision…and then hold to racist beliefs or a coldheartedness towards the poor.

I believe it is much more difficult, but scriptural, to hold to a faith that is immersed in grace. Grace doesn’t race to condemnation, but rather stays the course with the follower who has seemed to adopt an attitude of apathy.

So what does a Christ-follower do?

It begins with prayer. Cry out to God! Prayer is the seeking of divine intervention and interaction. Sometimes we fall victim to the idea that we have to fix someone. We strategize and come up with a three step plan. Prayer becomes an addendum to the plan.

Prayer is surrendering the person and our thoughts to the Lord. Perhaps God has someone else who will step into the gap…and it isn’t you.

A second step is having dialogue with the person to discover what it is that he believes. What does he believe about faith, how God interacts with us, and his purpose for this life? There’s a lot of weird stuff out there. Most of us have “customized faiths” that we’ve formed around us that best suit our lives. I may have strong beliefs about being stewards of the environment because I do a lot of hiking and backpacking, but doubt that God desires intimacy with me because I’m not comfortable with a faith that involves my emotions. Each one of us, whether we know it or not, has shaped our faith to embrace what we don’t struggle with.

To dialogue with someone who seems to be more interested in NASCAR than he is in having a God thing happen may reveal things that can be slowly pursued. (I want you to notice that I used NASCAR as the example because I have no interest in it. I can not say the same at certain times about Michigan State basketball, fried scallops, and Sunday afternoon naps.)

A third step is guiding conversations with the person about the faith journey. Instead of asking a lot of questions that begin with the words “Why don’t you…” start conversations, or at least the thinking about, with words like “Did you ever think about…” or “Has God seemed to be quiet lately?” or “Do you ever wonder if God is really interested in us?”

Our well-founded concern for the person sometimes causes us to chase him towards the throne of grace, or “guilt him” towards God. Guilt works well in getting out kids to eat their cooked spinach, but does very little good in having someone rediscover the intimacy of God.

Finally, we must stay the course. We see the immediate, but God sees over the next hill. Perseverance is as much a part of running our own race as it is a part of walking alongside someone who is on a different pace. Remember, there are plenty of people who abandon, but few who are willing to stay the course with the person.

Pray long. Be grace. Stay the course.

 

The Chauffeur and The Three Wise Ladies

December 13, 2012

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                    December 12, 2012

 

The four-door Civic, affectionately known as “The Spaceship” because of it’s design, pulled up in front of the smiling saint’s house. The first passenger pick-up was peaking out the window in her front door, and, after recognizing the car, she opened the door sporting a smile as wide as the Mississippi River. The volunteer driver helped her into the backseat and the godly saint thanked him profusely.

The ice spots on the asphalt made pulling the “Spaceship” away from the curb a slow take-off, but finally the Civic headed on down the road to the next pick-up location. The smiling saint was delighted to be on a day trip to a celebration in the big city an hour’s drive away. Her life had been marked by triumphs and tragedies, rough roads and glorious adventures, but her faith in Jesus was a constant. “Jesus never fails” echoed in her soul. The callouses on her knees were a sign of where she spent a lot of her time. Today she was going to a celebration related to a young family she had prayed for many, many times.

The compact car pulled into the alleyway and stopped behind the flower lady’s home. She was ready, and slowly made her way down her back steps with her walking cane supporting her. She was beaming and dressed for the Senior Prom…if there was such a thing! The driver helped her navigate the last few steps around patches of snow and ice and made sure she settled safely in the front passenger seat. There was a little fumbling to get the seat belt attached, but weathered trembling hands finally found the connection and she breathed a sign of relief. She was a radiant 83 year old who was ready for an adventure. Her growing up days on the eastern Colorado plains had instilled values of patience, gentleness, and peace-loving into her spirit. She believed in a God who was always loving and kind and a provided whether the crops came in or not.

The smiling saint and the flower lady conversed with hellos and laughter, and squeals of delight that could be mistaken for not-quite-teenage girls.

The chauffeur eased on down the alley and onto the street and headed to the third stop a few miles away. A few minutes later “the Spaceship” pulled into the driveway of well-maintained older home. An African-American woman finely dressed stepped out the front door. The driver got out of the car, walked to her, and hugged her with a “Hello Mom!” greeting. She was not his birth mother, but had instead only arrived for his decade in the fifties. Wisdom for the beginning of his later part of life…and she had a lot of wisdom. She knew of a time when blacks and whites couldn’t ride in the same car together, and no Caucasian male would ever have been opening a car door for her. She knew what separation looked like, and it gave her a resolve to be the proclaimer of a Gospel that brings together, not drives apart.

Mom crawled into the back seat across from the smiling saint and greeted her spiritual sisters with vigor and excitement.

“This is no nice! To celebrate this occasion, and to ride to the big city with you all.”

“God is so good!” declared the smiling saint. “When I grew up Daddy would get all dressed up once a week, and that was to go to church. My brothers and I would take one bath a week, and it was on Saturday night. We’d get all spic-and-span for Sunday church.”

“A bath once a week?” quizzed the driver.

“There was so many of us, and we had to draw the water from the well, we just couldn’t do it more often. Summer though…summer was a different story, because we’d go down to the creek about a half-mile away and splash away like trout in paradise!”

The flower lady chimed in. “People worked hard on our farms, and the farms around us. Nobody took anything for granted. We trusted in God to get us through the hard times. My guess is that most people today would look at how we lived and would shake their heads in pity. They would probably think we were poor and deprived, but you know something? We always thought we were richly blessed. We never looked at life as being without. We looked at what we had. We had each other. There is nothing better than knowing that you are loved.”

“And there’s a a lot of people today who don’t know that,” added Mom. “We’d get a Virginia ham once a year at Christmas. Do you know what ham does?”

“Gives you gas?” asked no one in particular.

“No, honey! It gathers a family together around the dinner table. Let me tell you! My mother would put that ham on the dinner table on Christmas Day and we thought we had died and gone to heaven.”

“Sweet potatoes with that?” asked the smiling saint.

“Sister, we had sweet potatoes, and we always had sweet potato pie later on. My father was like a kid in a candy store when that sweet potato pie was about to be introduced.”

“Dinner conversation was the evening entertainment,” said the flower lady nodding her head in deep reflection.

“Now it seems like people can’t let go of their cell phones long enough to follow the conversation. Why is what your friend is texting from the mall more important than what your mama is telling you seated right next to you?” Mom was having a hard time with the disconnect.

“That’s why this is so good,” offered the smiling saint. “To just be together for a while, and to know that we have a a common bond through our Lord.”

The driver just drove and breathed in the warmth, the laughter,
and the wisdom. His life had just gotten richer…and no money was involved. The three wise ladies imparted gifts to him that they didn’t even realize.