Posted tagged ‘faithful’

Thinking The Best, Seeing The Worst

December 21, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                       December 21, 2017

                     

The world is populated with pessimists and optimists, Norman Vincent Peale disciples and Doomsday prophets. I tend towards the optimistic side of the spectrum. When I hear that someone might have committed a misdeed I respond with an optimism towards innocence.

When watching a basketball game, now as a former basketball referee, and a suspicious whistle is blown I respond to the disbelief of those around me with a belief that the one who whistled had a view of the play that no one else had. Sometimes my optimism crosses over into absurdity!

Yesterday the wife of a friend of mine had surgery that was complicated. In fact, the surgeons believe they will need to operate again after she heals up some. My positiveness, and my belief in a God who heals, carries an assuredness that the situation will work out in good ways, that there will be a positive, awe-inspiring conclusion.

Of course, I’m an optimist!

The reaction scale is balanced with pessimists to keep things from resembling Pleasantville.

My initial reaction on the recent sexual revelations of a number of celebrities and elected officials was to not believe. After all, Matt Lauer spent time as a news reporter and anchor at WOWK-TV in Huntington, West Virginia. That was one of the channels I watched while I was growing up in Ironton, Ohio across the river and in the shadow of Huntington. No one who worked at WOWK could have done anything wrong, could they?

I also held out hope for the existence of Santa Claus until I was a teenager. It was a depressing day when I found out he wasn’t coming!

And I tend to believe that all door-to-door vacuum cleaner salespeople have my best interests in mind!

The world needs both optimists and pessimists. Pessimists have a way of irritating me, but I realize that my cheery outlook on life probably makes a few pessimists grind their teeth.

As a long-time pastor my faith congregations went through times of optimistic faith and pessimistic re-evaluating. Each fall as the church council prepared the budget for the coming year one viewpoint or the other would tip the scale. Some years there was a confidence that the year ahead would be blessed and a time of growth…and the financial vision was approached with that in mind. Other years the “downside of lifers” carried more weight and we planned a trimmed down budget.

Notice the terms! Financial vision and budget. They are monikers for the two different perspectives.

It seems 2017 has tilted to be a year of increasing pessimism. It filters through our newspapers each day. It rises to the surface in our conversations. I can even see it emerging in my driving attitude. I’m now prone to verbally insult the guy in the BMW that just cut in front of me. In fact, I’ve developed a pessimistic attitude about BMW’s all around.

Life has hit this optimist hard this year. Things I never thought people could possibly do have been done. The evil side of saints has shown its ugly presence.

I have a fear that I’m crossing over to the dark side of pessimism! God help me!

The Saints Who Go Before Us

April 22, 2015

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                            April 22, 2015

                                         

We have been blessed in so many ways and by so many people…and so often we don’t immediately recognize it.

Today it hit me…in an unusual way!

Today is the 96th birthday of a woman who I always saw as being a person of compassion, gentleness, and faith. Her name is Ruth Kennedy.

Now…you need to understand something! I haven’t seen Ruth in close to twenty years. I was taken back by the fact that she has a Facebook page…and is now one of my Facebook friends, although in my birthday greeting to you today I couldn’t bring myself to calling her Ruth. She has always been Mrs. Kennedy to me!

Her oldest daughter, Cindy, was a good friend of mine in high school, and several of us hung out quite often at the Kennedy mansion in Ironton, Ohio, between the flood wall and North Second Street. The Wolfe’s and Kennedy’s were  a part of the same church, and our youth group as close-knit.

Mrs. Kennedy would welcome us into her home, and then…this is important!…give us space! She would go to another part of the house and let our group of friends laugh and converse together.

She was faithful! She would sit with her husband Jim on the Vernon Street side of the sanctuary each Sunday for worship at First Baptist Church. Ruth was not a hit-and-miss attender. She was consistent and friendly and warm.

And now years later it hits me how blessed I was to have her in my life during those high school and college years.

We talk about the saints that go before us, but sometimes we are blind to the saints that are with us! And then years later…in an unexpected Facebook post you catch sight of how special someone in your past was to you.

Mrs. Kennedy was just one of many saints who affirmed my call to ministry in 1979 when I was ordained. I can see some of the other faces…Pastor Gale Baldridge, Pastor Jerry Heslinga, Bill and Sue Ball, Paul Hughes, Glenn Fairchild, Ralph and Phyllis Carrico, Ramona McCollister, Dale Clark, Betty Douglas, Rev. Earl Dale…the list could stretch on to the horizon! Some have gone on to Glory…some were like “church moms” to me…and some were encouragers. All had a part in shaping me and causing me to press on!

Happy birthday, Ruth…I mean, Mrs. Kennedy!

The Dad Effect

June 16, 2013

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                    June 16, 2013

It’s Father’s Day, a special day where it’s okay for dads to watch back-to-back football games…except it’s not football season. Obviously the placement in June of Father’s Day was a conspiracy created by moms who felt guilty that they had a day that honored them…but not too guilty!

Our dads affect us in different ways. This has been a hard week for me, knowing that my dad has been in a Huntington, West Virginia hospital for part of it with heart problems…while I’m here in Colorado within a couple of miles of the devastating fires. I was able to talk to him on the phone today. He sounded tired and he promised me that he had his feet up as he was watching the U.S. Open golf tournament on TV.

I see the remnants of my dad’s mark upon my life in numerous ways. For instance, I like a freshly groomed lawn. I didn’t learn that from Home and Garden magazine. It came from my dad. Even today as an eighty-five year old he has I nicely manicured yard, although it is now my brother-in-law, Mike, who does the cutting on it.

He exercised patience. Grilling hamburgers was meant to be done with care and attention. The patties were even turned carefully. A neck tie was to be tied until it was right. Polished shoes for Sunday church was not to be rushed. I can see it today with how he cares for my mom, who is now bed-ridden. He feeds her dinner, a process that requires a good forty-five minutes if Mom is cooperating; more if she decides not to. Dad doesn’t press. When Mom’s attention fades he very gently draws her back to the present. People will tell you that I’m a patient person. You have to be to coach girls’ basketball, but I learned it from watching my father. Although I have some of his patience, I am not on the same level as him. For instance, I’ve encouraged him not to make spaghetti for Mom at dinner time ever again- an experience in torturous perseverance.

My dad is about as friendly as you can be. When he is able to attend Sunday worship at church people’s spirits are raised just by his presence. People have described me as friendly. I would like to think that a big part of that trait comes from my Dad’s influence upon me. To him everyone has value, and everyone needs a friend. Although he is a long-time Democrat he makes Republicans feel listened to and valued.

Perhaps most of all, my dad has affected my spiritual walk. We always went to church when I was a kid. If we weren’t home we were usually at church…Wednesday night, Sunday morning, Sunday night. But church attendance wasn’t an indicator of his faith. I remember countless times walking into the kitchen/dining room of our house and seeing his Bible and Sunday School teacher’s guide laying open on the table. We always prayed at dinner. When I travel back to southern Ohio to visit now I feel honored when he asks me to say the blessing for dinner, although I am deeply moved when I hear the words of a prayer coming from his lips. Being a pastor I have tried to never use guilt with my kids about church…although I’m sure that there have probably been a few times through the years when I have been guilty of using guilt. I desire for each of them to have a faith walk, which isn’t necessarily the same as a church attendance sheet. My hope is that I’ve been a good example for them, a person of conviction and faith. If so, the influence of my father has extended to two generations, and now with our two grandkids, both who battle to say meal grace, three generations.

I’m extremely fortunate to have a dad, and the dad that I’ve had. I think of the increasing percentage of children who now have absentee fathers, or don’t even know their dads, and I think, who will be the person to step into the gap for them?

Thank you, Pops! Thanks for being real, not put-on. Thanks for keeping high standards, and expecting your kids to have high standards. Thanks for loving us even when we were unlovable.

Fanatics, Fans, Followers, or Faithful

April 11, 2013

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                      April 11, 2013

I’ve just returned from the NCAA Men’s Basketball Final Four in Atlanta. What an experience! My son and I thoroughly enjoyed everything but the MARTA train ride after the Saturday night games were over. We now know how it feels to be a cow being herded!

In Atlanta I experienced four types of basketball people: fanatics, fans, followers, and faithful. Each type gives the church some clues about momentum, fickleness, and congregational life.

“Fanatics” were evident for each of the teams. They were people who took on a different appearance for a few hours. A Michigan fanatic dressed up to look like a big banana…or at least that’s what it looked like to me. Another one painted his face maize and blue. A Wichita State fanatic wore a full body gold suit. Fanatics are people who are different for a few hours, before going back to who they really are.

Church fanatics get worked up for a cause or an event, but it is only a surface appearance for a moment or a time, and then they take on their usual nature again. Fanatics get attention, but the energy that they expend usually can only endure for a season. To use a basketball analogy, they are like the slam dunk that gets highlighted, but in the scheme of things is still worth just two points.

“Fans” wear the team colors and show up in the good times. We use the term “fair weather fans.” Fans are loyal as long as they are benefiting from it. If they don’t perceive there being a benefit they get testy, and look for the best possible scapegoat. Fans are willing to invest as long as it’s the popular thing to do. If the team’s success starts sliding fans often head for the exits.

Church fans are committed until there is a conflict. If they don’t care for the pastor, and can’t create enough discord in the congregation to get him ousted, they will head for the exits. Fans are not early adopters of change. They are late adopters, joining in when the buy in from enough people reaches a tipping point. Fans were amazed at the teachings of Jesus, but joined the crowd that shouted for Pilate to put him on a cross.

“Followers” wear the team colors, and check the Sports section the next morning after an away game to see how the team did. They are usually a member of the team’s Facebook page like “the Big Blue” from Kentucky or “Duck Nation” from Oregon. They are more invested than fans. Their car probably even has a bumper sticker proclaiming a team name like “Duke Blue Devils” or “Marshall Thundering Herd.”

“Church followers” are not necessarily Jesus followers. They are loyal, but maybe not for the right reasons. There is attraction to the music, or the location. The pastor could be the focus of their following. A new pastor comes in and it could be a different story. Church followers may follow the trimmings, but not the Core. Fellowship time conversation may revolve around the professional basketball team or the new store that just opened in the mall, instead of it being conversation that flows out of spiritual journeys.

To use another story from the sport’s world, it’s like a professional baseball player who couldn’t figure out how to get off of the I-285 that went around Atlanta. He kept driving around and around, missing the game he was to play in, and could never get to the core…the center…the destination.

Finally, there are the “faithful.” The faithful know that it is not all about them. That the point they are presently at has been paved by many years of tradition, principles, and wise people. The faithful know that valleys happen and mountains don’t go on forever.

The “Church Faithful” know where they have come from, but also know that there needs to be movement from where they are at. They understand the source of their energy and filter the good times and the bad times through Christ. Perhaps, most of all, the faithful are not fickle. They can applaud a good high tide without getting swept away by a tidal wave.

Final Four madness! Memorable even beyond the guy dressed up like a cardinal!