Posted tagged ‘darkness’

The Light Shines Into the Hatred

October 28, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                     October 28, 2018

JESUS: In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:16)

There’s something about hate that gathers headlines. In recent times it seems to be surfacing in violent and venomous ways. Shooting people and hurling angry words make the nightly news and, in this election time, fills up the TV commercial time. 

Extremists seem to be getting bolder in the acting out of their weirdness and prejudices.  And people, otherwise known as your average citizens, aren’t sure of what they can say because it might be taken the wrong way by someone who will attack like a pit bull in return.

Jesus talked about being light in the midst of darkness, and to let light shine that people might know that goodness still lives and that God still reigns. He wasn’t talking about establishing a publicity ministry that spins out nice stories, but rather entering the shadows of the world as called people on a mission for God. 

It’s a bit of a quandary for those of us who follow Jesus. Light should get noticed and yet, in our culture, “getting noticed” often goes hand-in-hand with tooting our own horn, seeking attention, and even arrogance. We’re often stumped by having a humbleness about our walk with Jesus and letting people know how great our acts of kindness are. Is there “too humble” and also a point that is “over the line arrogant?”

To use a different analogy, friends of ours moved to Alaska this summer. As the fall days head towards winter they are noticing “the absence of light” more and more. Of course, as we head towards mid-December that absence will increase each day. There will come a time, perhaps, when they become more accustomed to the darkness than the absence of light. 

Unfortunately, it may be an analogy of our world right now. We’re more accustomed to darkness than aware of the light’s absence. 

Being light does not blind like the high beams of a car. Light is assuring. It’s altering. Our stairway at home has a light that shows how many steps there are still to take before reaching the bottom. More than once I’ve tried to navigate those steps without the aid of a light and, even though it’s a staircase I’ve gone up and down thousands of times, there is still an uncertainty in the darkness. The light, however, never fails me.

If I am a light that shines for Jesus I don’t need to make sure people are noticing. I can just be who he has called me to be, and who he has called me to.

Someone who opens fire at a Jewish synagogue, kills 11 and wounds 6, will get the headlines. It tells of the price of hatred. Being light in the midst of this devastation will mean different things for different people. At worship this morning I’ll raise up Tree of Life Synagogue to pray for. In Pittsburgh there may be other “people of light” who will come alongside the grieving in love and support. 

What I believe as a follower of Jesus is that light will surpass the darkness…sometime  and someday, individually and collectively. When I find it hard to open up the daily newspaper I remind myself that light will ultimately triumph.

Like my friends in Alaska who will be asking the question, “Will we ever see light again?”; the answer is…yes! Don’t get used to living in the darkness! Keep believing that light will come back!

The Monster Under The Bed

July 1, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                         July 1, 2018

                                        

I’m not sure where I got the idea or how it penetrated into my imaginative mind. I just know it was there as soon as I leaped into bed at night. In fact, it became a habit for me to leap from a safe distance away onto my bed, like jumping from one cliff to another.

I had never seen the monster, but I had convinced myself that he was there. I’m sure my older brother, Charlie, helped in the bringing me to that belief. We shared a bedroom and I often became the gullible younger brother in his pranks and schemes. Four and a half years difference in age can sometimes do that.

Common sense and logic would tell the typical person that the monster wasn’t real. All you had to do was ask yourself some clarifying questions, like “Where does he go in daylight hours?” Or “Why is he always under my bed, but never my brother’s?”

But when it comes to monsters in dark places and six year old boys, common sense and logic take a hiatus from the scene.

I slept with both hands and feet IN the bed. No body part could be hanging over the side. That would be like accidentally sticking your hand in the water at the lake and having an alligator latch onto it! I had heard stories…probably from my brother!

Monsters live in dark places, I had been told. They live in the shadows of our life, repelling any hints of being safe, always ready to devour.

My mom always made me make my bed in the morning. It made no sense to me. Orderliness didn’t alleviate my fears that the creature wouldn’t return. And, after all, I was going to mess up the bed again in about twelve hours. If I got sucked into the abyss that night would someone else make my bed the next morning? You don’t touch crime scenes, you know!

I’m not sure when it was that I stopped fearing the unseen monster and became more convinced in the presence of the unseen God. My younger brother-side tells me it might have been shortly after Charlie became bored with the terrorizing of his little brother, but I have no evidence that is true. I think my fears of the underneath dark began to subside when I discovered “the light” of God and the abundance of scriptures that talk of God being the light and the light shining into the darkness.

At some point in my childhood journey the fear of my fears was tilted by my faith In God. The courage to let a hand or a foot hang carelessly over the side of my bed became a nightly risk of my reckless faith.

Nowadays when the shadow of a fear draws close to my thoughts, causing me to be uncertain and hesitant about life, I remind myself of the Light…”The Lord is my light and my salvation! Whom shall I fear? (Ps. 27:1)

I don’t even leap onto the bed anymore…unless I’m playing!

Wrestling with Spartan Loyalty

January 28, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                             January 28, 2018

                                 

It’s been a tough week in Spartan Land! The Larry Nassar horror had been going on for a while. I wanted to believe that he was more connected to USA Gymnastics than Michigan State University.

You see, that’s a big part of my problem, and struggle. I don’t want to believe that anything can go wrong in Spartan Country.

Sports Information Director at the Air Force Academy, Troy Garnhart, told me of the Academy’s football game at Michigan State a couple of years ago. He was impressed by everything- the people, the facilities, but, most of all, the hospitality and genuineness of the coaches and players. That’s what I want to hear! It’s difficult to hear that the coin actually has another side to it.

I want to believe that about the other university about an hour southeast down the road. Anything that makes Jim Harbaugh want to puke…like a blocked punt on the final play of a football game…brings a smile to my face!

But this is Spartan Land, and I wouldn’t even want such a debacle to happen in Ann Arbor. One of sexual assault victims of Larry Nassar is the daughter of a man who was a part of the youth group I led back in the early eighties in Lansing. Her testimony personalized a story that became so immense that there was a danger of seeing so many victims- more than one hundred and fifty, but forgetting that each one of them endured pain and suffering.

As happens in our culture, the indiscretions of one becomes the fault of the many. We’re teetering on the edge of a moral ledge where things that have been kept hidden are raising their ugly heads. In recent months, more than usual, an incision into the heart of our society has revealed the darkness of how we live. In our talent for avoidance we usually shrug off the rumors, but, in this situation, the reality has tsunami’ed us. The Nassar crimes are like when you look at a wall and see a crack in the paint, but when you more closely investigate it you notice that the crack extends in all directions.

I want to still live in Spartan Land but the “Green and White” has become grey-ish! I want my heroes to stay standing on pedestals, but I’m afraid that the possibility of falling off is increasing daily.

And how far does the failure of responsibility ripple out? A university president and the athletic director have already retired/resigned. The entire board of USA Gymnastics joined the list of resignations. How many more will be found to have ignored the elephant in the room?

I’ll always root for the Spartans, but when I wear my Michigan State hoodie nowadays I’m reminded more of the damage that has been done to a multitude of lives than I am of Spartan victories.

A school that has been known for “Magic” has entered a new chapter that is entitled  “Tragic”!

Condolences and Companions

September 8, 2013

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                           September 8, 2013

 

 

     Going through the loss of my mom has been a journey. It has allowed me to see the despair of Jesus in his Garden of Gethsemane darkness. He was utterly and completely alone. His disciples had eyelids heavier than a Sunday morning Baptist listening to a long-winded monotone preacher.

Jesus had no one. No shoulder to lean on, no one to embrace him. No one to pray with him or hold his hand.

And I now know in a very real way how difficult it would have been to go through an experience of loss by myself. The last few days of grieving and mourning has included a long list of journeying companions.

Let me tell you…the kitchen counter at Mom and Dad’s house has resembled a food buffet line without the sneeze guards! Fried chicken, lasagna, meat and cheese tray, veggie tray, vegetable beef soup, chicken casserole, chicken casserole #2, salad, potato salad, cole slaw, chip dip, potato casserole, peach cobbler, apple pie, chocolate cake, brownies, chocolate chip cookies…you get the picture? Food is a consoling agent! Somehow grief is made easier with a chicken leg in your hand.

And the flowers! People sent enough flowers to fill a nursery. Mom loved flowers. Dad’s yard is a picture of gardening excellence. Flowers are expression of love and concern that bring a hint of beauty to a gray moment of life.

At the visitation before Mom’s funeral service there were a multitude of people who kept streaming in to pay their respects. Everyone knew that Mom’s time had come. In fact, the past couple of years were almost like a second epilogue…one more extra that wasn’t needed. But still the people came to say farewell to Mom, and offer condolences to our family. Former neighbors, church folk, workmates, classmates, distant cousins, and people whose paths had crossed at some time with Mom and Dad. I saw my cousin, Annette, who I had not seen in a good forty years, and my cousins Michelle and Matthew that I wish I could have a week with.

Companions for the journey. Encouragers in the midst of discouraging times.

I’ve had people ask me during my years as a pastor “How do people make it through this who have no faith?” I’d revise that question and make it “how do people make it through this who have no faith or friends?” (Food is a bi-product of having friends!)

My best man, Dave Hughes, came by yesterday for a couple of hours. My former partner in ministry, Artie Powers, journeyed down from West Virginia to the visitation and funeral service. My church in Colorado Springs sent flowers. My good friend, Mike Fairchild, who lives outside of Rochester, New York now, and his brother, Mark, sent flowers.

Companions for the journey.

Which takes me back to Jesus! I can’t imagine walking this road alone. It makes his death walk seem even crueler…that there was no one there for him…and yet he continued. Instead of a shoulder to lean on he had a cross he had to bear.