Posted tagged ‘doubters’

The People Who Push You On or Pull You Down

December 9, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                   December 9, 2017

                         

We have a tendency to not think about it because they breeze by us like a spring gust, but most of us…if we stop to think about it long enough…have numerous people in our lives who have pushed us to keep going, and others who have grabbed us by the arm and pulled us down.

That thought occurred to me recently as I was meeting with two people who have helped me in the editing of the book I had been writing. As we sat and talked they made several helpful suggestions on plot ideas, flow, character development, and other things. I left our conversation with new excitement about the project that caused me to hibernate in my favorite writing spot later on that day.

That’s what “pushers” do! They create an excitement within you to keep on going, to motivate you to move, to create, to take a risk.

Ed and Diana Stucky have been that to me for a good fifteen years. I remember when I doubted my worth as a pastor and a person and they got behind me and pushed me up. Roger Mollenkamp, Steve Wamberg, Thelma Dalrymple, Janet Smith, Chuck Landon, James Voss, Harold Anderson, Rich Blanchette, Mike Oldham, Ben Dickerson, Don Fackler, Dave Volitis, Ron McKinney…my fingers keep pecking out names like there’s no tomorrow. Each name that flows to the page is a quick reminder of how I’ve been blessed, influenced, and shaped.

When I was back in Ohio visiting my dad back in August one of his good friends, Bill Ball, passed away. Bill was ninety-something, an optimist and encourager. I remember when I was in high school and preparing for my senior season of track that he took me aside after church one Sunday and told me he thought I could lower my time in the mile considerably if I did a cope of things with my running form, how I used my arms and the pace of my race. He infused confidence into me and I broke the school record that had stood for almost twenty years. They were just simple words backed by affirmation and belief, and they worked.

For sixteen years I officiated high school basketball. I remember Andy Brooks, my mentor, encouraging me as he imparted wisdom to me. Ray Lutz, an official and mentor of officials for fifty years, recently passed away. At his memorial service in another couple of weeks there will be numerous men and women wearing black and white striped shirts that he pushed to keep on going.

Pushers keep us moving towards our potential.

But there are others who pull us down, also. Pullers are those folks who hold us back, torment us with their words, minimize us with their disdain and attitudes. Pullers are people who would keep reminding Jesus that he was only the son of a carpenter. They are the people who would keep whispering to Michael Jordan that he hadn’t made his freshmen basketball team. They are the present-day scribes and Pharisees that seem to enjoy making other people’s lives miserable.

If someone has more pullers than pushers in her life she will be the Cinderella that never made it to the ball, the fourth grader who will never learn to read because to many people had already convinced him he never could.

I’m fortunate! I’ve had many more pushers than pullers in my life. And for that I say “Thank you, Lord!”

Willie the Baptismal Whale (part 2)

December 27, 2012

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                  December 26, 2012

 

The pastor had to do a little pushing and pulling to get the inflatable properly positioned. It was a snug fit. Inflatable whales are a little wider than Baptist church baptisteries. Finally it was in place with the tail out the backside of the one entrance tank. Perhaps it was built that way to eliminate escapees who began to doubt at the last moment…or if the water heater wasn’t working!

The pastor went home…hopeful that Sunday morning he would not be deflated by having dry baptisms.

He arrived early on Sunday to inspect, pray, and pour. It was a long walk from the kitchen to the baptistery, but that’s where he had to go to fill bucket after bucket with hot water. Willie’s “belly” slowly started to fill up. The tail flopped back and forth like a fin out of control.

It took twenty trips with the five gallon pail to get Willie to the brim. The pastor’s upper back and arms were aching and he secretly was longing to be a Methodist. Sprinkling is a lot easier than total immersion.

That was another fear that kept creeping into his mind. Would Zach fit? He had visions of “partial immersion.” What if Zach’s muscular body couldn’t go all the way under all at once? Was it okay to baptize his upper body and then his lower body immediately after? Did that qualify? He thought back to his adjunct preaching professor in seminary who was a Presbyterian pastor. Baptist seminary students usually want to know that they have all the right answers…and that others don’t. Discussion with their professor about the validity of any baptism that involved less than five hundred gallons was a point of debate.

The wise mentor from a different tradition looked at his inquiring students and asked them a question in response to their question: “Is it the amount of water that is important or the condition of the heart?”

Silence like Pharisees before Jesus.

Zach’s heart condition had been washed clean. A sense of peace fell upon the pastor’s spirit. Sometimes his faith got lost in the fret about the details.

Thirty minutes before the worship gathering was to begin the pastor checked the water level. Willie was holding. The water was still to the top of his sides. He hoped that the temperature would hold just as well. Toes turning blue were not on his bucket list!

The sanctuary began to fill with people, familiar faces and unfamiliar. Baptisms brought the body of believers, as well as others who perhaps wanted to see if it would happen. Zach’s guests included a former high school teacher who prayed for Zach frequently, worrying about his life’s direction and consequences. There was also his boss who had taken Zach under his wing, and treated him like a son. In fact, there were a number of people sitting in different pews throughout the sanctuary that has a hand in guiding him to this point.

Little Bethany also had her guests, aunts and uncles, neighbors and playmates. Her stomach was starting to turn flips in anticipation. Truth be known, she was anxious about the water temperature. She had been telling herself all night “Don’t squeal! Don’t squeal!”She didn’t want an ice-cold whale to cause her to scream.

When the pastor touched down into the pool, however, the temperature was just a little cooler than bath water. He gave the thumbs up to Bethany and her mom and dad who were standing behind her. She stepped down, and accepted the help from the pastor as her right foot stepped over Willie’s inflated head.

Her mom and dad joined her. The increase in weight on the bottom of the pool caused the air to shift to the tail end, and Willie’s back flipper came to attention. Her dad led Bethany through the affirming words of her faith. The pastor stepped to the side and Bethany’s dad, a hair over six foot three himself, dipped his daughter low. She submerged and emerged with not even a gasp, let alone a squeal. All that the congregation could see was a little girl with a big grin that circled around the gap created by her two missing front teeth.

The congregation applauded. Aunts cried. Mom embraced her daughter.

Parents and child stepped back out of Willie and carefully went back up the steps. Zach was next. He came down the steps looking bigger than he actually was. He smiled at the pastor, who moved towards Willie’s tail to give him a little more room. He wasn’t sure how this was going to work, but he was going to make it work…even if it meant to a snug fit in between Willie’s sides for Zach.

The pastor looked out and caught sight of some of Zach’s family. Several were already tearing up. They knew his journey. They knew that there had been more doubters in his life than believers. Some of the doubters, oddly enough, still hoped for failure. The need to be right was greater than the hope to see transformation.

The pastor stood on Zach’s right side.

Zach, who would have thought that you would have a Jonah moment this morning?”

A chorus of “amens” sounded in different parts of the sanctuary. Zach’s facial expression widened with raised eyebrows and a smile that stretched his cheeks as wide as they could go. The pastor led the new believer in words of profession and identification with Jesus.

Let’s see if we can all of you under!”

I’m good with that!”

The words were said, and the young dad was dipped. The pastor swished him around a little bit in Willie’s belly just to make sure; and then he was up…drenched…chuckling…triumphant.

The pastor embraced him. The congregation applauded.

As if in approval, Willie’s tail waved for a moment.