Posted tagged ‘focus’

Redefining My Retirement Focus

March 5, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                        March 4, 2017


    Every May I travel down the street to see my optometrist, Dr. Bettner. We chit-chat for a few moments and then he checks my eyes. I’ve worn eyeglasses since I was in fourth grade. My teacher, Mrs. Riley, had noticed my squinting in the classroom trying to figure out what was written on the chalkboard. She passed along the info to my parents who made an appointment with an optometrist in Marietta, Ohio. They discovered I was as blind as a bat, and have been ever since!

Dr. Bettner checks out my vision each year to see if it has changed at all. A few years ago I went to progressive trifocals. Now he looks for things like cataracts and other unwanted situations. Mainly he looks to see if I need a lens adjustment to sharpen my focus.

Fourteen months ago I retired from full-time ministry after almost 37 years.  A number of people thought I’d sit in my recliner watching curling competitions on ESPN all day with a bowl of potato chips and a Pepsi in front of me. Although I like chips and a cold Pepsi from time to time I seldom sit in front of the TV with them. No…retirement has been similar to a Dr. Bettner eye exam. As I’ve entered into it my focus has gradually been fine-tuned to where my time is most productive and meaningful.

Last week I took officiating high school basketball games off the table after sixteen years. Substitute teaching has been put on the table, especially middle school substitute teaching. I’ve discovered the riches of the public library. It has become my second writing spot, next to my Starbucks stool! I enjoy coaching and influencing young people, and now coach three middle school teams while volunteering as an assistant coach with two other teams.

Carol and I are more available for our kids and grandkids. Granddad doesn’t have a church meeting to rush off to, and, beginning next basketball season, will not have a game to take him away for the evening.

My focus has become sharper even though a typical week is not nearly as structured and planned. What I’ve found, for me at least, is that retirement has been a time of defining who I am. For 37 years most of the people I associated with defined me as a pastor, which I was, but the other ingredients in my personal recipe were undiscovered. That hint of creativity went undetected. The pinch of humor was unknown. Like my fourth grade squinting, my focus was fuzzy. The lens of retirement has been a time of clarity.

Some people ask me, somewhat accusatory, “So you aren’t a pastor anymore?” And I respond, “Oh, yes! I’m still a pastor! I just don’t get paid for being one anymore!” People still seek me out for advice, counseling with problems, and prayer.

If God desires I have thirty percent of my life still ahead of me. My challenge and opportunity is to finish the journey with a clear focus instead of a foggy idea!

Using Up Good Soil

April 2, 2013

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                April 2, 2013


In basketball there is a negative comment that is sometimes made about a tall player who can’t catch, rebound, play defense, or shoot. Someone will see a player like that and say, “There’s a waste of height!”

It is meant to characterize the player as, pretty much, being useless. The same statement, with some revisions, has been made about musicians, football players, artists, and others. Let’s face it! We are often more prone to be critical than affirming.

But there is an interesting story that occurs in Luke 13 with Jesus that is a variation on the theme of wasted space. It revolves around a parable he tells about using up good soil. Here’s the scripture:

A man had a fig tree, planted in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it, but did not find any. So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard. ‘For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?’

‘Sir,’ the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.’”  (Luke 13:6-9, NIV)

Bottom line! The fig tree was using up good soil! Undoubtedly it was sucking up nutrients and water that could help the other parts of the vineyard to grow healthier. It was a pothole that had become a sinkhole! It was like the “one low price” that had taken on so many additional fees that you no longer could even see the original one low price.

Just as many of the parables of Jesus prompted a number of thoughts and reactions, this parable follows suit. There is an obvious correlation between the fruitless fig tree and the nation of Israel at that time. Micah 7:1 comes to mind: “What misery is mine! I am like one who gathers summer fruit at the gleaning of the vineyard; there is no cluster of grapes to eat, none of the early figs that I crave!”

As I have re-read the parable many times I’m also struck by how it speaks to me, to my purpose, my life direction. Is there sometimes a restlessness in my life that could be summarized as a waste of good soil? Am I sometimes a user of good soil with no fruit to show for it?

Yesterday, here in Colorado Springs, watering restrictions went into effect. Since our residence is an even numbered address we are allowed to water our lawn and bushes on Sundays and Wednesdays. One of the results of the watering restrictions in the coming months will be that people will be a little bit more aware of what needs water, and what is a waste of water.

Is my life a waste of the grace of God? It’s a question I wrestle with. Without sounding arrogant, I believe that God has graced me with some incredible gifts. Like the tall basketball player ( I sometimes dream of being tall!), I realize being gifted, or blessed, and using your gifts are two different things.

Because of the weirdness of my mind I also think of the parable in relation to the Church. If a church is using up good soil, the Vineyard Owner is taking a dim view of things. Existing is not the purpose. It is not the end all! Passing a budget for the next year is not an indication of fruitfulness and fulfilling purpose. Having a full calendar of weekly events is not even an indication of fruitfulness.

Could it be that the vineyard worker is going to try to re-fertilize one more time and wait to see if the figs start appearing?

Tough questions that lead me in my journey this week. In the meantime there are a couple of pot holes in the parking lot that aren’t getting smaller, and a tall basketball player I know who has a hard time walking and chewing gum at the same time. Throwing a basketball in right now is not a pretty sight!