Posted tagged ‘faith journey’

The Fog of The Moment

October 31, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                             October 31, 2017

                               

This morning our area was greeted with a dusting of snow, twenty-six degrees, and fog. It’s one of those mornings that a person is tempted to fall back into bed to the clarity of being covered with warm blankets.

Most of us, however, don’t have the option of doing that. There are places to go, appointments to keep, and work details to get accomplished. The fog is just one of those things we’ll have to brave this morning. The fog changes how we approach the beginning of our day. Those who refuse to believe that often end up off the side of the road, or crashed into the rear bumper of the car in front of them. And there are plenty of people who are like that…careless, and idiotic!

What about the fog of the moment in our life? What about when things aren’t clear as to where the road is leading, when the next step may lead to a person’s life spinning out of control? What about when a decision that needs to be made is as clear as Mud Creek?

The wise person is one who understands that life must sometimes move ahead slowly, cautiously, preceded with and followed by prayer. The fool is the one who rushes ahead regardless of the situation and circumstances. Solomon’s words to the wise in Proverbs 12:15 say, “The way of fools seems right to them, but the wise listen to advice…” Our world is well-populated with people who think their way is right, regardless of the fog of the moment!

But the wise listen to advice, they listen to possible solutions to the uncertainty in front of them, and they proceed slowly. Yes, there is some fog in the midst of our journey of faith. Abram had faith even though he did not know where it was the Lord was leading him, but let’s be honest! For most of us the chaos of our lives results from our reckless rushing into the fog.

The fool trusts his own understanding, but the wise trusts in the leadings of the Lord.

There’s another learning from the fog of the moment that needs to be said. The effects of foolishness often crash up into the ways of the wise. It isn’t fair, but it’s the ripple effect of a fallen creation…that the stupidity of others causes pain in the lives of those who are going the right way. I fully expect that the news of our area this morning will include stories of multiple car crashes, and that the accident was ignited by the carelessness of one. Following Jesus and living wisely does not mean trials will pass you by. The trial may have just rammed you in the rear!

Between Brews and Baptists

August 22, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                          August 22, 2017

                                

Carol and I joined a group of American Baptist pastors and spouses at a Colorado Rockies baseball game last Friday night. They were playing the Milwaukee Brewers, and brew was a prominent part of the evening.

Not for the Baptists, but rather for the group of young guys who were sitting in front of Carol and me. Since we didn’t get there until the second inning we were on the fringe of our group, so we were between the Brews and the Baptists.

It was interesting, and somewhat amusing, to see the different ways the two groups enjoyed watching the game. The Baptists would exit and come back with nachos, fresh-squeezed lemonade, and hot dogs. The Brews would exit and come back with…brew! No food, just brew! Or they would summon the beer guy walking up and down the steps and buy it from him. “Give me three!”

The Baptists were polite in their cheering, like religious high society folk. The Brews were raucous and amusing. One of their group wore his Brewers shirt, which meant any Rockies success (They won 8-4!) resulted in the rest of his group mocking him, while they gave high fives to one another. A Milwaukee home run resulted in the Brewers fan finding another Brewers fan ten seats and four rows away and giving him a high five. Success was followed by celebrated fandom, while failure was accompanied by “F” bombs.

The Baptist pastors talked about church work, the approaching Sunday sermon, how summer church camp and VBS had gone. The Brews talked about where the baseball was going to end up at the end of the inning…because they made bets about its placement. Someone would take the location of the pitcher’s mound, someone else that a player would carry it into the dugout, someone else that it would be tossed by a player to a fan in the crowd, and someone else that it would be given to one of the umpires. Dollar bets were made each time, followed by discovery and disappointment. There were also bets on whether a home run would be hit by the Rockies in an inning, and any other unusual way that bets could be made. Would a pitcher take off his cap and wipe his head? Would a batter spit on the ground? Would there be a double play? Would someone with a last name that starts with a letter between A and M hit a single? Would there be more batters with beards than batters who had shaved, or more batters with beards than batters who had shaved heads? Anything that prompted a bet, but also bleacher victory dances was fair game!

I enjoyed both groups! It was Friday night fun, or, for the Baptists, fellowship! Both groups were accepting. Carol asked one of the Brews to explain their betting games, and he went into great detail with her even though she was drinking Sprite. I talked to Mary Beth about their new pastor and the exciting things happening in her church. We enjoyed our conversation, although the cheering around us made it difficult to hear from time to time.

In essence, Carol and I were part of the Baptists touching the Brew Crew. There’s something in there for followers of Jesus to learn! We follow Jesus and we converse with the world. Some church folk believe in Jesus and turn their back on the world, but the more I think about it I believe if Jesus happened to show up for the baseball game that night he would have been sitting in, or close to, our seats. If he changed water into wine he may have even turned lemonade into beer!

The Entitled Church

March 23, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                 March 23, 2017

                       

     A few days ago I wrote a piece on the entitled church attender. I presented the idea that there are a lot of church attenders who mirror one of our cultural themes as they relate to the church. That is, there is a heightened sense of entitlement, and focus on what the church can do for “me”, as opposed to how I can join a community of believers in service and ministry for Christ.

An old friend of mine responded to that writing with another view that got me thinking. Having lost her husband in the last year she experienced a church that seemed to place its needs above her grieving. She had held a couple of positions within the congregation, and it seemed as if the church was more concerned with her continuing on in the work of those positions than it was in her journey of grief.

She was right on! The shoe is on the other foot this time! There are a number of churches who treat their servants like the Borax Mule Team. The focus is on getting things done, as opposed to being a community of believers who lean on others and are available to be leaned on.

We talked about it quite often in my years of pastoring: burn-out! The exhaustion of the saints and the pastor. It seemed that there was seldom good balance; that it was either the pastor burning the candle at both ends, or the twenty percent of the saints who were doing too much. Sometimes it was the pastor who drove “the mules”, and sometimes it was the church leaders who barked behind the pastor like an army drill sergeant!

Rarely were there situations where the rhythm of the saints and the clergy found a healthy balance.

And so my friend finds herself, after years and years of serving, now wondering about the church. Did it consider her to be like middle-management in a corporation? Did it really care for her, or simply care when it was convenient?

Honestly, that scenario has been played out too many times. Sometimes the church even uses the excuse of the Great Commission to minimize the importance of its messengers! “We’re all about Jesus, so put your pity party on the back burner!”

Entitled churches are simply gatherings of entitled church attenders who have control of the reins!

“Hahh, hahh!” says the guy with the whip riding behind the mules.

Pothole Faith

June 4, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                   June 4, 2016

                                          

I remember the potholes of Lansing, Michigan, enormous craters that swallowed Chevettes in mid-day! Potholes were reminders of winter’s brutalizing. Just as you thought the scars had healed from the cold winter experiences…here comes a personalized version of the Grand Canyon for your front tires.

Potholes created more business for chiropractors…and Firestone and Goodyear!

Colorado Springs, where I live, is now pitted with potholes (Say that five times fast!). I have noticed that I now do multi-task driving. I watch the vehicles around me, but also watch for the potholes to steer around. On my streets it feels like I’m skiing the Giant Slalom course.

A street repair bond issue passed a few months ago, but we may all be operating hovercraft by the time all the street issues get fixed.

My wife notices that I give expressions of pain when we suddenly hit a spot that jars the vehicle. I give a cry of “Ouch!” because the thumping sound is so disturbing that it requires a response of anguish.

Faith is a journey through a potholed life. We’d like it to be a smooth new highway that has no disturbances, no construction zones, no confusing merge lanes, and no potholes, but a journey of faith is not about smoothness, but rather assurance. Assurance that the God of mountaintops and valleys is also the God of potholes and inconveniences.

A faith that is untested is a faith that is shallow and suspect.

Potholes, like our problems and challenges, come in all shapes and sizes. Some can be seen from a distance and planned for, and then there are others that seem to sneak up on you like a new hospital bill that arrives in the mailbox. Pothole faith is belief in a God who is with me even when I sense I’m sinking into a new depth that has an uncertain bottom to it.

Driving our streets right now heightens the level of frustration. My son-in-law blew a tire a couple of months ago when he hit a pothole that was on a mission. A pothole faith is coming to grips with the God of peace in the midst of a hole of unrest.

Perhaps, just perhaps, some of us are learning to take the journey a little slower as we navigate the breaks in the asphalt. Even potholes can be used for good!

Beginning The Most Important Story

January 3, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                          January 2, 2016

                                      

It’s interesting to me how each of the gospels begins the story of Jesus. Matthew goes right to the genealogy of Jesus, and from there goes to the birth narrative. Luke starts his gospel with a paragraph of why he is writing this account down in the first place. John goes to the “beginning of the beginning” and refers to Jesus as the “Word.” Mark launches into his story with the identifier, “The beginning of the good news about Jesus the Messiah, the Son of God, as it is written in Isaiah the prophet…” (Mark 1:1)

From each gospel’s beginning the story goes in different directions. Matthew and Luke give us parts of the nativity story, plus Luke draws in the incredible birth story of John. John focuses on the divinity of Christ, and Mark presents the unique character of John the Baptist, and shows how he is the fulfillment of the Isaiah prophecy.

It is amazing to me to see the variety in the stories. They create like a cross-weaving pattern to help us see the story of Jesus more clearly. It’s like four witnesses viewing an event from four different angles. What is seen clearly by one is punctuated by a different viewpoint of another from the other side of the arena or auditorium.

The common element is Jesus, telling the story of Jesus, recording the impact of Jesus, putting into the words the purpose of Jesus.

I love it!

Some of the richest experiences I have had in my spiritual journey revolves around a small group of Christ-followers sharing their stories of faith. One tells of the impact of a grandparent in reflecting the love of Christ. Another talks about a traumatic event that put his life in a spin and when he settled somehow someway the gospel was taken to heart. Still another shares about someone bringing a scripture to suddenly have understanding.

The variety enriches and communicates the awesomeness of a God who loves deeply. Being a follower of Jesus brings us to a place where we can never say we’ve seen it all, because the next faith story that is shared with us brings a new understanding.

Beginnings launch us towards incredible journeys where we have opportunities to show others the footprints of our faith.

Last Sunday…Kinda’

December 28, 2015

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                  December 27, 2015

                                       

Today was kind of my last Sunday at Highland Park Baptist Church, the congregation I have pastored for the past sixteen and a half years. I say kinda’ my last Sunday because I return on January 17 to speak and then Carol and I will be the main targets at a reception that afternoon.

Today ended with the congregation gathered around us for a time of prayer. It was “reserved emotional!” I say reserved emotional because the dear saints know that there is another Sunday three weeks later that will probably include the opening of the floodgates.

I took notice of several today. Marla Booth was finishing elementary school when I arrived. Now she is married to an awesome man named Austin who I love deeply, and is the mother of two beautiful little girls. Marla has a heart for people and has become more and more passionate about children in underprivileged countries around the world.

Greg and Jordan Davis came to our church several years ago after a brain tumor had been discovered. Greg and I already knew each other from basketball officiating and Timberview Middle School. When he had a couple of seizures and then the tumor was discovered I showed up at the hospital just to check in with him and to ask permission to say a prayer. A few weeks later I entered the sanctuary on a Sunday morning to see their family present for worship. We’ve walked together ever since…through the anxiety of MRI’s…and unexpected seizures…and having to share the news with their daughter that the cancer had returned. Our journeys have been tear-filled and laughter-laced.

Rex and Ann Davis were present today. Rex is 95 and Ann 93. Their days of good health have recently gone by the wayside, but they come to church when they are able. Today Rex took up the offering with the sole purpose of squeezing my finger as I stood in the front row. He is a man of God whose journey has also had a trail of tragedy as part of it. About four years ago I had the funeral of their son, Ed, who was killed in a motorcycle accident trying to avoid a deer on a two-lane mountain road. I’ve considered Rex to be my “Colorado Dad!” Her models what a servant of Christ should be. Recently, he also has had some battles with cancer that have left him a shell of who he was…and I love him deeply!

Chris Oldham was there today! A few years ago she married my area minister after being a part of our church for years and years. She and Mike often are worshiping in other congregations around the state on Sunday, and she followed Mike to be more involved in First Baptist of Colorado Springs, but she has always been an encourager for me. She got me involved in the summer camping program, not to give me something else to do, but to give me some quite moments in the midst of a camp week. Sounds crazy, right? But it has actually been exactly that!

Courtney Gage Ramsey was there. I did the wedding ceremony for her and Steve a few years ago. Now they live a couple of hours away with their three year old son. Her parents, Jack and Ellen, mean so much to me, and I was delighted she came this morning.

And then there was my son, David, who surprised us and came this morning! That was awesome…and I’m getting a little teary-eyed as I sip my decaf and type this. David’s life does not mesh easily with church life. He works as a restaurant chef, and moves in different circles. One of the things I look forward to as I enter retirement is more time with Dave…like this Tuesday night when we go to the Air Force basketball game together. Today was the first time in…years that all three of my children were in a Sunday worship service together. The Christmas Eve when Lizi “Skype’d” in and watched on a front row laptop…doesn’t count.

It was a day of gladness and sadness! A day of moving forward while treasuring what has been.

Known and New

January 2, 2015

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                           January 1, 2015

                                               

I don’t know when it was that I discovered that stovetop burners can be hot, or how to tie a neck tie, or cars only run on “E” for so long. What I do know is that at some point in my life journey the status of each of those situations went from unknown to known. Each went from confused to clear.

Much of life is learned from experiencing it. We become wiser, often as the result of really dumb decisions.

If you stick your finger in the light socket bad things happen!”

     -Never call your fifth grade teacher “an old bag!”

     -Never tell a young lady you are trying to impress that her body proportions are full in one place and small in another. When she switches which part of the body you’re inferring is small and which part is plentiful… it will be your last date with her.”

     -The airlines doesn’t care that you were held up in traffic. No matter what your situation, they ain’t waiting for you!”

      -Don’t say ain’t when you think you might be meeting your future in-laws!”

These are just a few of the things that I now know. Experience is sometimes a teacher with a snap to it.

I enter a new year with a volumes of knowns that I no longer need to question. I know I have three great kids, each with unique talents and characteristics that I’m thankful for. I know I love and am loved my a wonderful woman who joined me on a marriage journey thirty-five years ago. I know that I have great friends in various locations around the country, and I know that friendship, unlike NBA basketball, is never over-rated.

I know that I am loved by God and made free to be by the cross of Christ.

I know that the Body of Christ gets trash-talked and cast aside by as many cynical self-absorbed Christians as non-Christians; and that very few believers understand what it means to be a community of faith. Perhaps these last “knowns” are the result of pastoring for a few decades, and are now known as I gaze upon the wounds of leading sheep.

January 1 is about about new. It marks that beginning point of another leg of the journey. It’s a dividing point between what was and what may come. As I look at “new”, I’m pondering what new knowledge I’ll encounter this year, what new developments will dot my life that cause the picture to become clearer? What new revelations will God bring forth that leave me with my mouth wide open? What new glimpses of his hand of mercy and grace will cross my path? What new understandings of scripture will I marvel at as it meshes with my personal experiences of life?

It is always important for the student to approach a new chapter with a sense of expectancy and excitement. Like a child opening Christmas presents there will be those gifts that cause our hearts to giggle with glee, and there will be the present that holds a new pair of jeans…essential, and yet about as exciting as a new cooked spinach recipe.

I walk ahead knowing that I’m never alone, and that He knows me intimately.