Posted tagged ‘helping’

Longing For the Simple Church

September 23, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                        September 23, 2018

                           

I’ll be driving out to Simla, Colorado this morning to give the morning message at First Baptist Church. Since I retired from pastoring at the end of 2015 I’ve made the 50 minute easy drive to Simla on most Sundays, even Sundays I’m not scheduled to speak.

As I reflected on my new place for preaching 36 years of sermons I discovered why I enjoy Simla so much. 

It’s simple!

First Baptist Church in Simla is about as uncomplicated as you can get. On a well-attended Sunday morning there may be 20 people crowded into the sanctuary that seats over a hundred. Years ago the church was filled, or close to it, and then the main industry in town closed and people moved away, or died, or became more interested in something different on Sunday mornings. No one seems to have moved down the block to the Methodist Church. They are as lean in numbers as the Baptists.

Simla reminds me of a simpler time, and probably the most enjoyable time I had in my years as a pastor. It was when I went to pastor the First Baptist Church in Mason, Michigan. Although it was my first experience as the pastor of a church, having served as a part of the pastoral staff in two previous places, the congregation of Mason helped me as I learned and didn’t threaten execution when I failed.

I remember the people…Durwould and Elsie Collar, Ken and Ardis Bystrom, Russ and Freida Vincent, Harry and Phyllis Smith, Marie Lyons, Lorraine Demorest, Tim and Karen Chora, Ed and Pat Myer, Eva Collar, Eleanor Hart, Otto and Mary Heikkila, Harold and Carol Anderson, Howard and Kyoto Wandell, Katherine Every, and Ivan Heincelman. Each name conjures up memories and conversations that chiseled me a little closer to being a good pastor. 

It was a simple time. That is, church seemed more like a summer picnic in the country than a week of meetings and responsibilities. It seemed like we enjoyed one another a little more and treasured moments like sitting in a booth at A&W and eating lunch together or having a Saturday morning men’s bible study where we ate donuts and drank coffee.

We didn’t have social media. Our media was a mention in the Ingham County News weekly newspaper…maybe! Our biggest crisis during those years was when a couple left the church because we weren’t nearly as spiritual as Jim and Tammy Bakker. 

Simla brings back memories of those days, days of joy, peace, and community. This morning as I travel on Highway 24 it’s like I’m going back to what was and maybe what still can be.

The Good Samaritan Pusher

June 25, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                      June 25, 2018                              

     “But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him.” (Luke 10:33-34, NIV)

The Washington Post heard about it and had to do a story about the incident. They needed something that had a “feel good” effect to it, something that didn’t involve scandal or accusations being hurled back and forth.

And so two unlikely people- one trapped in the consequences of her disability and age, the other a 24 year old amateur boxer out preparing for a training run- became a story that gradually received national exposure. 

67 year old Belinda Walker was sitting in her motorized wheelchair by the side of the road. The battery had died and she was stuck! When the wheelchair suddenly came to a halt with a jerk she had fallen out of it to the ground. Someone passing by had helped her back into her chair, but then went on their way. Now 45 minutes later she was still sitting in the same spot, a good 30 minute walk away from her senior adult apartment complex. 

She prayed, “Dear God, dear God, please find somebody safe to help me out!” The next thing she knew Bilal Quintyne showed up. He asked if he could help and she asked if he could call someone to assist her getting back to her apartment. He replied, “I’ll do you one better. God blessed me with an able body. I’ll push you home.” 

It wasn’t easy. The wheels had seized up on the wheelchair so the going was difficult. Bilal’s trainer drove up, expecting to do a training session with his boxer. He saw what was happening and started filming “the push” on his cell phone. When Bilal reached Belinda’s apartment complex he was drenched in sweat. Belinda hugged him and he went on his way. That may have been the end of the story, but Bilal posted the video from his trainer on his Facebook page. It garnered three and a half million views!

Belinda’s pastor saw it on Facebook and took it upon himself to bring the rescuer and the rescued together. 

In the video Bilal looks at the camera as he’s pushing Belinda up a hill and says, “When God calls you to help, you help, PERIOD!”’

I hadn’t heard about that story until my friend, Ed Stucky, shared it with me yesterday. I then found it online, complete with the video, and it made my day. 

When Jesus tells the parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10 the most unlikely person is the hero, the rescuer, the one who in all likelihood has the least responsibility to lend a help. Bilal didn’t expect to be called upon to help that day. Being called upon to lend a hand if rarely based on how convenient it fits into our plans. He didn’t know that HE was the answer to HER prayer. As he said, “When God calls you to help, you help, PERIOD!”

            “Lord, I pray for eyes to see the one you put in my path today! And when I see that person…draw me to him/her, not decide to take the wide route around! Amen!”

(Details of this story appeared in The Washington Post in a story written by Tara Bahrampour on June 19, 2018)

The One Word

June 10, 2015

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                 June 10, 2015

                                               

I wrote recently about a young lady who I had coached basketball for three years in high school passing away at the age of twenty.

Ever since hearing of her death I’ve been haunted…that’s the best word I can come up with…haunted by the absence of a word!

“A word” is not necessarily meant to be a literal term. It could be a few words… or one comment… or one encouragement…or one probing question. Just one thing that might have helped her define her life direction, her purpose, the potential of her vibrant spirit.

There have been other people who I’ve said things to, though unaware of it at the time, who have come back to me later and told me the effect of my words. I’ve written things that touched people in profound ways that I had no clue about.

And so it haunts me to know that this young woman could not latch on to something that I taught her, or I could not find that one word to guide her, years later, through rough waters.

Knowing the ache in my heart, I can’t imagine the aching fatigue in the lives of her family members.

One word! I think back over my life and the “one words” that have helped me get on track. My Uncle George taking me into the bedroom of my grandparents’ house in Oil Springs, Kentucky and giving me his “one word” after I came home from my first quarter of college with a GPA of “.533!” That’s right…the decimal point is to the left of the first number greater than “0”!

I remember Jerry Heslinga, our associate pastor at First Baptist Church in Ironton, Ohio giving me his “one word” that helped me stay the course in seminary.

I’m thankful for the “one word” that Gene Gilbert has for me on Sunday mornings when he lays a hand on my shoulder before worship and says a prayer for me.

And the “one word” that Rev. Chuck Landon imparted to me as I was floundering in the pool of pastoring. His “one word” was like a lifeline that kept me afloat.

I think of the “one word” of my coaching mentor, Don Fackler. Every time I hear, or say, “discombobulated” …which, believe it or not, is quite often, I see his bespectacled face.

And I think of my closest friend in ministry, Tom Bayes, and the defining conversations we would have. Sometimes I would be in the depths of despair and Tom would lift my spirits, and at other times when I had whacky thoughts he would ask a question to help me right the ship.

“One word” people have been instrumental in my life.

That knowledge makes it that much more difficult for me to know that I didn’t have that “one word” for this lady. In times like these I’m not sure there is a silver lining. Perhaps it will cause me to be more mindful of what I say and don’t say. Perhaps I’ll treasure the relationships I have even more.

The ache in my spirit has not lessened since last Friday. Perhaps that’s a good thing!

Opening A Door

January 23, 2015

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                  January 23, 2015

                                                  

I watched a video online this week that my wife had forwarded to me that brought me to the edge of tears. It told a story about a young man who had lost his dad, and then he and his mom used from a small town to a city. His mom thought a change in setting would ease some of her son’s pain as he dealt with his father’s death. His new high school was substantially larger than the one in his small town.

It’s hard being the new kid in a setting where people have their friends already, their peer groups, and their places of standing. That is, high schoolers know the pecking order…who to give space to, who to chum up with, and, hard as it is to say, who doesn’t matter that much.

This young man, Josh, started to be picked on and bullied. He had pictures in his locker of his father that got torn down. Sometimes insecure students will do unbelievably cruel things to others…just because!

In the midst of new surroundings and a journey of grief Josh started opening doors for people. He would arrive at school early and hold the door open for other students coming in. In between classes he would hold the hallway door open as students rushed from class to class. After a while some of the students started noticing. He started being referred to as “the door guy.” More and more students started saying “thank you” or they would give Josh a high five! More students became familiar with his story and were taken back by his wounded heart that was still looking at doing simple acts of kindness.

Such a simple thing! Opening a door!

Josh began speaking to groups of elementary and middle school students about bullying and overcoming. He developed his new gift of public speaking…and continued to open doors!

I so often hear people say they have nothing to offer, that they don’t know what their gifts are and how they can serve. There’s a tendency to make it a grandiose thing that is out of their reach. They wallow in their defeat and sense of worthlessness.

Josh’s story hit me, because almost all of us can open a door for someone. Seeking to help is a personal decision, not a talent. Every person can be a benefit to others. Telling a cashier that you hope he has a good day, shoveling your neighbor’s sidewalk, donating a book to the library, mentoring a fatherless child, praying with a parent in a hospital waiting room, or…simply opening a door!

Opening doors doesn’t require training, or to be certified. It’s simply a choice that we avoid or welcome.

 

The Lost Keys

December 19, 2014

 

(A story of an insignificant boy doing the significant)

The king was rushing. His day was full of appointments and appearances and he always seemed to be about fifteen minutes behind schedule. His executive assistant, Rudy, had the schedule memorized and frequently pointed at his watch as he got the king’s attention.

They were leaving a brief visit at a hospital dedicated for military veterans…a part of the schedule that Rudy saw no point in…when the king accidentally dropped his keys our of his coat pocket. They were important keys. A key to the royal palace, a key for the royal vault which contained many important documents, a signet key that the king used to put his approval on treaties and proclamations, and a key to the royal chapel where the king often went to be alone.

They spilled out of his pocket and unto the street and laid there as the king’s car sped off.

A young boy named Tommy saw the keys falling and tried to get the attention of the king, but Rudy pushed him back.

“The king doesn’t have time for little boys. He has much more important places to go and people to see,” said Rudy. And then they were off. Tommy picked up the keys and stuffed them safely into his pocket.

The king proceeded with his day of important proceedings. When he arrived back at the royal palace just before dinner he stepped out of the vehicle and walked with Rudy to the massive front doors. He reached into his coat pocket to fish out his keys and his hand felt nothing but the bottom of his pocket.

“Where did my keys go, Rudy?”

“I don’t know, your majesty! They aren’t in the pocket you usually carry them in?”

“Not there!” The king searched his other pockets, but found nothing. “Blast it all!” he shouted, and then knocked on the door. His doorman, James, opened the door, looking bewildered at the fact that his king was standing outside.

That evening there was much discussion and frustration experienced by the king and his assistant as they tried to figure out where he had left his keys.

“Confound it, Rudy! It wouldn’t surprise me if that fox, Mr. Raines, picked them out of my pocket when I was speaking to the House of Lords. He lives to make my life miserable. It wouldn’t surprise me if he’s using the royal vault key to steal important documents.”

“Your majesty, I’m sure that, despite your differences with him over the years, that Mr. Raines would not resort to such tactics.”

“Well, blast it, Rudy, where would they be then?”

At that moment there was a slight knocking that they heard. They heard the footsteps of James slowly walking across the great marble entryway to the front doors and thought nothing of it. Rudy offered a couple of other possible places where the king might have absent-mindedly put down his keys and left them, but the king was sure that neither of them was a plausible answer.

James came to the room entrance and said, “Excuse me, your majesty, but we have a strange visitor who must see you. It’s a matter that I believe you will be most agreeable in hearing about.”

“Well, bring the man in, James!”

“It isn’t a man, sire. It is a young boy.”

“James, the king has much more important things to deal with than an audience with a young boy,” protested Rudy.

“I believe you will want to make an exception this time, sir.”

The king motioned to James to bring the boy in. A moment later the young boy who had picked up the king’s dropped key chain slowly walked into the room and bowed to one knee.

“You again!” shouted Rudy. I thought I told you that the king didn’t have time for young children.

“Yes, sir! But I thought the king might like to have his keys back.” The boy brought the keys from his pocket and dangled them in front of him.

“Good heavens, Rudy! Our problem has been solved,” said the king with delight. “Where did you find them, lad?”

“You dropped them outside of the Veteran’s Hospital. I tried to get your attention, but you were in too much of a rush…going to see important people and give important speeches.”

The king looked at the boy, smiled, and said, “My boy, it sounds like the most important task that was accomplished today wasn’t done by any of us, but by you.”

“Thank you, your highness! I never would have thought that a young boy like me would be able to do anything for a royal person like you.”

 

 

 

Dressing Up A Pastor as a Princess or Yoda

June 10, 2014

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                        June 10, 2014

 

                           

 

It’s Vacation Bible School week at the church I pastor, an experience in contained hyperactivity. Somehow I got roped into being the focus of the kids bringing their coins and dollars bills to support the mission cause of the week- buying chickens for farmers for the southeast African country of Burundi. The Evangelical Free Baptist Church of Burundi is coordinating this project to help raise people out of poverty.

It’s a great cause, seeking to give farmers a starting point in establishing an ongoing more dependable income and living.

But…as I said, somehow I got roped into being the focus. There are two glass jars at the front of our sanctuary where we begin the VBS gathering each day. One glass jar has a name plate underneath it that says “Yoda”, and the other jar has a name plate that says “Princess”.

At the end of our VBS week the money will be counted and which ever jar has the most money…that is what I will have to dress up as!

What a contrast! Yoda or a princess…and not just an princess, mind you! As the week has progressed the princess has now become Anna from the movie “Frozen”, which I have not seen, but my three year old granddaughter has the words to all the songs memorized for.

And now I am to sing “Let It Go!”

Being Yoda would be a lot easier. After all, I look a lot more like him and am just slightly taller in height.

The campers have been scurrying to put their coins and one dollar bills in the princess jar. I countered today with a twenty dollar bill for Yoda. It looks like this is going to be an expensive week if I manage to be “Yodaized!”

Excited kids are running up to me with their costume suggestions…for a princess! I’m afraid glitter is in my near future!

There will be several thankful farmers in Burundi who will have no clue what it cost me for them to raise chickens.

And I guess I’m okay with that…although I’m bringing two twenty’s with me tomorrow !

Dr. Anne

June 10, 2014

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                        June 9, 2014

 

                                              

 

She greeted us with a smile. The smile arrived shortly after her walker did. Anne was her name, and she had realized quite a while ago that she couldn’t do the gardening, weeding, and outdoor grooming that she had done for decades. So she called us.

Three of our neighborhood churches join volunteer help together on a Saturday in the Fall and a Saturday in the Spring to help some of our neighborhoods out. Most of them are elderly or disabled in some way.

That’s how we met Anne. A door-to-door offer to help with simple tasks around the houses of the community had resulted in her call, so we went.

As our work team trimmed bushes and pulled weeds Anne engaged us in conversation. She leaned on her walker as she pointed out certain things to our crew members.

Sometimes we assume things about the people we meet. We see their inability to do certain things and we take a mental leap in thinking that they were never able to do much of anything.

We may have thought that about Anne, until she began sharing life experiences. She holds a doctorate in education. She is extremely well-read, and familiar enough with current events and politics to debate the person she is talking with.

Life has dealt her some hard blows, including multiple hip surgeries and the inability to stand but just for a few moments.

Perhaps that’s why she was so grateful for our help. Her backyard was filled with numerous kinds of plants, bushes, and flowers, but it was obvious that its glorious seasons had passed. Anne’s sadness about that was easily sensed, but there were new flowers roaming in her yard for a few hours. Some were Presbyterian, some Mennonite, and some American Baptist.

There are people who thank you because it’s the polite thing to do, and then there are people who thank you because they are filled with heart-felt gratitude.

Dr. Anne fell into the later category. We were blessed for having met her.