Posted tagged ‘habits’

A Creature of Habit

November 27, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                            November 27, 2017

                                  

Perhaps you can identify with what I’m about to write. I am a creature of habit!

My habit-dominated life begins with my wake-up routine. I rise from bed fifteen minutes either side of 6:30. If I’m still in bed at 7:00 Carol knows that I’m either sick or dead. The second hasn’t happened yet so it’s usually the first!

I shower, brush my teeth, shave…the usual morning routines, head downstairs to feast on…yogurt! If I’m not substitute teaching I’m usually out the door by 7:15 headed to my local Starbucks, where I am now sitting on the last stool on the right looking out at Pike’s Peak. If someone is already sitting on that stool I make an adjustment…and sit on the last stool on the left! It is on one of these stools that I peck out my blog each time, sipping Pike Place coffee that has been flavored with cream and two raw sugar packets. The baristas at Starbucks know that I’m there for my coffee with my reusable Starbucks cup, and that I will stay there until I’ve gotten my second free refill with my Starbucks Gold Card.

Coincidentally, the book I finished writing, and am now writing the sequel to, gets created at Library 21C in Colorado Springs from the last chair on the right  at a counter that is looking out towards Pike’s Peak. Go figure!

I drink juice from a plastic cup that looks like it belongs to a first-grader. I wear low-cut white socks to bed that get taken off sometime before I fall asleep. I sleep with my “blankie” that is hovering around forty years old. I like to read for an hour or two at bedtime…underneath my blankie…that covers up my displaced white socks.

When I go to our fitness club I run/walk on the treadmill, do weight training, swim, and then shower in that order. Always…in that order!

By now you’re thinking I’m a bit anal, but if I had the habit of betting I would wager that you’ve got some ingrained habits as well.

Habits bring order and structure. They’re like the side wall of a pool that you know you can grab on to when things seem to be getting a little too hairy!

When I retired from pastoral ministry I suddenly realized that I had the freedom and the choice to go to a worship service on Sunday morning. The first Sunday after retirement, guess what I did? I got up and went to worship at First Baptist Church in Colorado Springs. The next Sunday I got up and went to a Church of Christ that friends of ours belonged to. The habit of worship continued to resonate with me. It was foundational, and continues to be.

Habits, however, need to emerge out of a purpose, a reason. Why is it that I attend Sunday worship? Because of my love for and relationship with Jesus. Why is it that Carol and I hold hands and pray before we share a meal together? Because we are grateful! Why do we contribute to ministries, churches, and other charitable organizations? Because what we have is all God’s to begin with, and we believe that giving a portion of what he has blessed us with is a privilege and an obligation.

Sometimes people adopt habits because their family had the same habits. They, however, never bought into the purpose of the habit. When a crisis happens, or a change occurs that causes them to evaluate what is going on in their lives the habits often get tossed to the side because of their rootlessness.

It seems that I serve a God who is also into the habit of doing certain things that have meaning and purpose. I’m extremely grateful of the fact that he is forgiving, gracious, and loving. That those habits are rooted in his desire for relationships with people. God has good habits!

Perhaps deep within my soul is that yearning to be relationship with him as well, and that yearning has caused some of my spiritual practices to become holy habits.

The Sound of Squeaky Shoes

August 10, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                         August 10, 2017

                                   

A couple of Sundays ago I was walking up the sidewalk to my sister’s front door. She was trailing along behind me and she said “Your shoes are squeaky.” We had just come back to her home from church and I was wearing my “Sunday-go-to-meeting shoes”.

I hadn’t noticed a squeak until she said that, and then I noticed…yes, they do squeak! Of course, at that point all I could hear for the next few minutes WAS the squeak…every step…every high squeaky octave of their connection with concrete, carpet, or wood.

“You hadn’t noticed the squeak?”

“No, not until you called my attention to it!”

My wife and I have a similar situation at home. I like a fan on at night when I sleep. The coolness and the background noise helps me fade off into a slumber filled with dreams of dunking a basket, eating Vietnamese egg rolls, and winning the Pike’s Peak Ascent…well, okay, not really the egg rolls. I just threw that in there because I’m thinking about them right now! Carol likes quiet at night, meaning no background noise. She hears the sounds, but I don’t! Ironically, during the day if I’m reading I like quiet, whereas she likes the TV on during the day for the background noise. Call us weird, but we’ve been okay with our quirks for 38 years now!

All of us have “squeaky shoes” in our lives that go unnoticed. Being a retired pastor I now have the opportunity to visit other churches besides the one I had spoken at for so long. So I notice things that probably go unnoticed by the “regulars” of that congregation. For example, I notice the usher/greeter who is handing out bulletins to people who are entering the sanctuary for worship and seems like he put a “grouch patch” on that morning. Or how fast people seek to leave the building following the worship service! Or how much “insider language” is used in the worship service! Or if there is a clear understanding as to what families with young children are to do, or are they just expected to know! If there’s coffee available (And you usually know because a few people are walking around with coffee cups in their hands!) is a visitor invited to have a cup of coffee?

Every church has a few squeaky shoes that go unnoticed by the “wearers”, but are revealed to the new “hearers”. New hearers don’t know the history or the circumstances. They don’t understand why a congregation stands and reads the church covenant every first Sunday of the month, or why Baptists are prone to celebrate communion on the first Sunday of each month, or why only men seem to be the ones involved in positions of responsibility but those involved with children’s activities or care are always women?

Some squeaks just are, and others have reasons! Although ‘’squeaks” are rarely based on some kind of doctrine, once in a while a congregation’s “squeak” is the weirdness of the sermon or some kind of issue that the pastor just won’t let go of. There’s a difference between a driving force or a passionate cause and an annoying squeak! Many years ago I remember a pastor chastising his congregation over the fact that the wedding reception of a church family the night before had included alcohol. I got the feeling that he would have been annoyed by Jesus turning the water into wine. Forty years later I still remember the “squeaky sermon” that was excessively guilt-based!

That Sunday I went in and changed shoes right away, taking off my squeaky dress shoes and putting on my Nike’s. There was no squeak, although I always have to check to see if they are leaving a trail of mud. Slinging mud, however, is another issue entirely!

Switching Pockets

March 20, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                          March 20, 2017

                                

I am a creature of habit in so many ways. Last night Carol started to make scalloped potatoes to serve with the hamburgers I was cooking on the grill. I stopped her! “We”, meaning my family growing up, always had either french fries or potato chips when we had hamburgers. So we had to make a trip to the store to get a bag of chips…and one other bag in reserve!

Habits! Habits are traditions that have become natural reactions.

I’m sitting on the last stool on the right at Starbucks that looks out at Pike’s Peak. Habit!

In the morning I shower, dress, comb my hair, brush my teeth, and shave…in that order…every morning…no variations!

I get the morning newspaper and flip through to the sports section first before I read anything else!

Whenever I’m doing work on my book manuscript I go to the public library and find a cubicle to create some words in the midst of.

Recently I’ve been dealing with another habit that I’ve tried to change. It’s simple and silly, and yet so hard to change. It involves my wallet and my left hip pocket.

You see…I’ve always carried my wallet in that pocket…always! But last week a hole started appearing in it, which clearly outlined the top part of my billfold. In the past when that has happened I’ve headed to Old Navy and simply bought a new pair, but this time someone made the simplistic suggestion of switching pockets…to move my wallet to my right hip pocket and my comb and handkerchief from right to left!

So I did that, and it is not going well! I’ve dropped my comb out of my pocket numerous times because it has suddenly gone from left to right at sometime during the morning, cozying up to my displaced wallet, and then falling to the ground when I reach for the billfold. I keep reaching for my hanky in my right pocket and finding my wallet there. I reach for my wallet in my left pocket and don’t feel it, which brings on a moment of panic about where it went. The answer…eight inches to the right…doesn’t occur to me until after the cold sweat surfaces.

Habits are hard to break! There’s a pocketful of lessons in there somewhere. We get entrenched in systems that lead to stagnation and frustration, but we can’t imagine things ever being done differently. Even when a hole gets worn in a pocket…or the carpet…we go on with our daily living habits as usual.

Lord knows that churches have hole-filled habits that need to change, but tend to cause the weeping and gnashing of teeth when they are changed. We always said that it took at least three Baptists to change a light bulb…one to change it and at least two others to stand there and comment on how nice the old one was!

Of course, there are habits that should never ever change…like the caring of the impoverished, seeking to be the hands and feet of Jesus, being light in the midst of darkness, sharing the good news of Christ and being a reflection of his grace, love, and peace. It seems , however, that those are often the habits that aren’t deeply ingrained. They haven’t left their imprint showing through to the outside of the pocket.

Habits!

I just felt a sneeze coming on and reached for my wallet! Darn it!

There is an increasingly good chance that I will be going to Old Navy sometime today!

The Why

August 17, 2015

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                    August 17, 2015

                                                    

Most of the things I do each day are done out of habit. The way I brush my teeth, when I brush my teeth, and how I brush my teeth…regardless of what my dental hygienist tells me…is done out of habit. Some habits become a part of our life because of a situation that we go through. For instance, I always read at bedtime. Sometimes I read a few pages, and sometimes I read for two hours. The root of my bedtime reading goes back to when I had a herniated disc in my back and I was mostly bed-bound for a couple of weeks. I would read between pain pills.

Habit is a powerful life stabilizer. We hang our hat on it. It’s also why bad habits are hard to break. We shape our lives around them. Good habits, bad habits, routines…even rituals.

Many of our habits are done without a clue as to why.

I take a shower in the morning…every morning! Why? Because…that’s all I can say. I didn’t always take a shower in the morning. Goodness gracious! When I was growing up we didn’t even have a shower! So at some time in my life I decided that a morning shower sounded like a good idea.

“The Why” is a question that gets covered over. Why do I do what I do? If you were to ask me that question while staring at me there is good chance that you’ll get this glazed over look staring back at you.

Why am I a pastor? Because God placed a calling on my life that became defined my senior year of high school. I was clueless about a lot of other things my senior year, but I was clear on my calling.

“The Why” is a question that gets forgotten as we journey. A young lady I’ve known since she was born about 24 years ago, Allison Perrine, just completed a seventy day 4,000 mile bicycle journey along with 30 other college-aged young adults from across the country. I’m sure that when Allison was pedaling across Kansas she may have had moments when she asked the question, “Why am I doing this?”

Kansas has a way of doing that to people!

She was doing it to raise funds for cancer awareness programs. (She raised over $22,000.) But, really Allison was bicycling from baltimore to San Francisco because of her mom who lost her battle with cancer and her Aunt Marie who is a cancer survivor. That’s the real why behind the journey.

The church is often negligent of revisiting the why question. Why do we do what we do? Why do we give of our financial resources to the church and to missions? Why do we volunteer our time? Why do we pray for people? Why do we help our neighbors? Why are we passionate about ministry? Why do we clap when someone is baptized?

What is at the core of our purpose? Why do we care?

When we remind ourselves of the why we stay grounded in the cause.

It even helps us get through Kansas.

The Chaos of Life’s Delays

November 17, 2014

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                       November 17, 2014

                                

     I love snow days…and I hate snow days!

I love the unexpected freedom, the sudden opening up of my day’s schedule, and the surprise of a snow day.

But I hate the loss of rhythm that a snow day brings.

I have discovered that I am a person of routines and consistent behavior. I’m at Starbucks right now as I write this. It’s Monday morning about 9:00 and my day off. If you were to come to Starbucks next Monday at 9:00 you’d stand a very good chance of finding me sitting on one of the stools facing the windows drinking coffee and pecking on my laptop. I feel comfortable integrating certain routines in my life.

If it’s 2:00 on a Sunday afternoon I’ll be napping.

If it’s Wednesday night I’m at church.

If it’s Friday morning at 8:00 there’s a fifty percent chance I’m at a different Starbucks having coffee with Roger and Steve. The chances are only half as good because we meet every other Friday morning.

If it’s 10 P.M. I’m thinking about bed if I’m not already in bed.

I think you get the picture. Life has its patterns and order…and then the thermometer plunges to 0 and chaos blows into the day. Events get canceled, meetings get postponed, there’s a breath of fresh air in the uncluttered day…and I feel lost!

I find myself trying to figure out what day it is, what’s on the schedule, and what I’m about. We are creatures of habit whether we want to admit it or not. If given a choice the Hebrew nation would have chosen to return to Egypt. Egypt offered steady work…yes, also enslaved work, but a person knew when he woke up in the morning what he was going to do that day!

It also makes me wonder about those who become followers of Christ during their adult years, and slip away within months of their conversion. Spiritual transformation for many people is a tremendous change, leaving the old and accepting the new. We use terms like lost and found, “the old has passed away and the new person has been born.”

And yet such terminology, freeing on one hand, is difficult on the other hand. It’s like the ratty blanket that I sleep with each night, and have slept with for about 35 years. It doesn’t really offer that much warmth, but it feels like home.

Conversion, though it offers freedom and forgiveness, a new start, a fresh beginning…is out of rhythm for us.

On the other side, I’ve been a Christ-follower since I was 12. I’ve always gone to church on Sunday. In fact, growing up I was in church Sunday morning, Sunday evening, and Wednesday night. I thought Sunday night services were mandated by the Bible. I remember asking Dr. James Payson Martin, Senior Pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Arlington Heights, Illinois why the church didn’t have Sunday night services. I was serving there as a youth director while i was in seminary. I’ll always remember what he said to me. “Well Bill, what it takes you Baptists two services to do we can do in one service!” A few years later when I was pastoring at First Baptist Church of Mason, Michigan, I brought Sunday night services to a close.

I’ve always gone to church, been involved in ministries, participated in leadership as a member and pastor. My Sunday morning seems to have gone haywire if I’m not in worship. I don’t quite understand Saturday night services. If I went to one I’d be lost on Sunday morning!

The longer I pastor the more obvious it is that there aren’t many people left who see things like I do. The church is populated with an increasing number of people whose life rhythm is not centered on Sunday morning worship as a consistent part of their lives.

Understand that I’m not whining about that. I’m just coming to grips with what is the reality. My understanding of having a conversion experience is a different picture than most people now have. Being aware of that has given me more of an open mind and listening ear to those who are still trying to find that spiritually healthy rhythm of life.