Posted tagged ‘Jonah’

We All Have Issues!

April 9, 2015

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                            April 9, 2015

                                           

     Whenever I’m home I sleep with my “blankie.” Unless I’m flying to another city I don’t go to sleep at night without an increasingly frayed piece of warm fuzzys that relaxes my tensed-up body. It’s been that way for the past thirty-five years. It was Carol’s before we got married. Sometime soon after we walked down the aisle together I stole her blanket in a gradual non-violent way. She now sleeps under an electric blanket, sheet, and comforter. I don’t. Just give me my blanket and I’m a happy camper.

That’s just one of my issues. I have others! Whenever we have popcorn or peanuts as we watch TV in the evening I have to have a soft drink. Popcorn just naturally goes with a Pepsi. It’s like PB and J, like a marriage made in the snack aisle.

I’m typing this post with two left fingers and one right. That’s how I’ve always typed. I don’t understand…it’s just how it is! I’ve just got typing issues.

As a friend of mine used to say, “You’ve got issues!”

I do, but as a pastor I’ve come to realize that everyone has issues. Some are more pronounced than others, more visible or more destructive, more emotional or more mentally challenging.

There is a tendency to focus on the issues that are apparent in other people instead of owning up to the weirdness of our own life. For example, if I strolled through the mall wearing knee high black socks with my Hush Puppies, a pair of khaki shorts, and white buttoned down shirt, people would look at me and cross over to the other side of the corridor. My fashion issue would be out there…readily visible…leaving shaking heads and wide-open eyes in its wake.

But what if I have an eating disorder, or a racial bias, or can’t stand people with white hair? Those issues are often hidden. The issues of my heart can fool a lot of people. What I do when no one is looking frequently reveals my issues and distorted views of life.

Perhaps we need an “IA” group…Issues Anonymous.

“Hi! I’m Bill, and I have issues!”

“Hi Bill!”

Probably wouldn’t work! Perhaps…however we could come to a point where each one of us recognizes we are issue-filled before we pass the box of issue tissues. What better place for that to be than the church where people can be loved with grace and understanding!

Many of you put the brakes on with that last statement!

Let’s face it! We encounter people in our churches that seem to have their act together, their lives in perfect harmony, and their relationship with God an earthly expression of heavenly bliss. To admit that we’ve got issues is threatening. We hesitate to reveal that to the saints.

But…you see…all those people with nicely combed hair and straightened ties, looking like the Ward and June Cleavers of the 21st century…they’ve got issues too!

In fact, being people with issues helps us identify more closely with the characters of the Bible. Just think about it! Jacob was honorable until it wasn’t to his advantage and then he lied like a dog to get blessed. Jonah asked the city of Nineveh to repent and then pouted about the fact that they did. David couldn’t stop looking at a bathing woman, and then couldn’t stop thinking about her. Peter exhibited compulsive behavior and would speak before he thought.

We all have issues…just like the people we meet in scripture.

And we are all promised grace that is extended regardless of what our issue is.

Just as we all have issues I’m sure there are people in the fellowship of the fallen who have issues with how easily God forgives…and that’s their issue!

Mud Prints

February 11, 2015

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                 February 11, 2015

                                                  

I wear a red Nike shoes. The red stands out in a crowd of short people. They feel comfortable and are about as radical as I ever get. Perhaps that’s why people notice them so much, because they seem like a hood ornament on a guy who drives a seven year old Civic Hybrid.

My Nike’s get good traction, are very light, and easy to spot in my closet. But there’s one thing that bugs me about my pair of “reds.” It’s the bottom of my shoes. They announce where I’ve been, and leave tracks that look like an octopus has taken a stroll across our kitchen floor.

I can’t hide the mud prints! In the crevices of my shoes the dirt takes up temporary residence, and it doesn’t matter how much I stomp on them in the garage I still manage to “hold on” to some freeloaders until I come inside.

I’m sure that many of you are thinking to yourself, “Just take them off when you enter the house!” Sometimes I do, but at other times my common sense, time-efficient mind reminds me that taking them off would mean that I would have to put them back on when I exited again. That would cost me…what, thirty seconds?

And so I track the outdoors to the indoors. In case you are wondering, mud prints on the kitchen floor equal unhappy wife looking at me!

Where we’ve been leaves a trail as we walk to where we’re going. I can’t hide my past path when I stride across the kitchen floor.

There’s numerous stories in the Bible that give us a similar message. David couldn’t hide his adulterous affair with Bathsheba from Nathan. Ananias and Sapphire couldn’t hide their deception and greed from Peter. Jonah couldn’t hide his bitterness for the Ninevites from God. Our behavior and reactions too often give us up. People see the trail of our words that don’t match the footprints of our behavior.

One time quite a while ago I left a public restroom with toilet paper stuck to the bottom of my shoe. Unbeknownst to me I was communicating to everyone who passed me where i had just come from.

Now a days I always check my shoes, especially my red Nike’s, when I leave the john! Unfortunately, I’m not as discerning with our kitchen floor!

We Don’t Know!

December 30, 2014

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                    December 30, 2014

                                                     

        Nothing quite causes unrest and frustration more than three words: We don’t know!

People who are looking for the answer or final solution find it hard to truly hear those words. You can blame it on the times we live in…and the devices of our time.

For example, I can look at a device wrapped around my wrist and instantly discover how many calories I’ve burned off during my workout.

I can look at the side of a box to find out how many grams of sugar are in the bowl of cereal I’m munching on.

I can go to the Channel Guide on my TV to find out what is playing at 9:00 tonight on the Sci Fi Channel.

I can go on-line to see the balance in my checking account.

But there are some things in life that have a grayness to them, that aren’t instant answers. Those three words…”We don’t know!”, cause eyebrows to be raised and fears to be heightened. They are three words that have become like a foreign language to our culture.

“We must know! We have to know!”

I recently was sitting with a family in a hospital waiting room waiting to hear from the surgeon about the difficult procedure the loved one had undergone. As we waited the text messages kept bombarding family members.

       “How did it go?”

       “Is he in recovery?”

       “What did they find out?”

       “How long will he be there?”

The spouse patiently responded to each one “We don’t know!” The waiting for word and the pressure from those who weren’t there to know was raising her own level of concern. Patience quite often takes a detour around hospital waiting rooms.

Last week my wife and I were inquiring about the purchase of a hot new product that we were looking to buy. The store was out of them. I found myself getting a little agitated when the salesperson’s respond to when they would get some more in was “We don’t know! Maybe next week…maybe a couple of weeks!”

The answer wasn’t immediate…and so I was up against a brick wall. The bricks did not feel good against my desire to move forward.

I often get spiritual questions that I can’t answer. The questioner looks at my response of “I don’t know!” and is taken back. I’m a pastor. I’m suppose to know.

But I have no idea how God created angels, or what kind of fish it was that swallowed Jonah? Why do good things happen to bad people…and bad things happen to good people? Why does one person get cured of cancer, and another die a slow painful death?

Life is filled with questions that I am clueless about answering.

Most of my day is spent in “the immediate.” That is, I can immediately know without wondering. It’s the moments of wondering that are uncomfortable, and yet they are also the moments that are usually tinted with the presence of God.

 

Story Continued

November 29, 2013

 

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.”  (John 1:1-2)

 

The story of the Christ-child isn’t a beginning. It is a continuation of the God-story. Perhaps it’s more like a new chapter in the book that has had many chapters preceded it. The Gospel of John puts Jesus “in his place!” At the beginning!

The birth narrative is a new development in the story that has been developed.

How about you? When you look at your faith journey can you see how the journey has taken a few turns in it? Perhaps you envisioned yourself in a certain occupation, or marrying a specific person, and having an exact number of kids in mind? Some of your hopes may have been realized, but there have been some others that have taken you on a number of detoured routes.

Is your faith journey a “story continued” or a story stagnated?

What is hard for many of us to realize is that God walks closely with us in the certain events, as well as the unexpected route changes. Jonah wasn’t expecting a big fish, but the Hebrew people weren’t expecting a parted sea either…as they stood on the bank of fear.

God knows our story. What we see as a change he simply sees as a continuation. The birth of Jesus is a new chapter in a book saturated with love.

“From Bad To Worse To Incredible”

July 18, 2013

WORDS FROM W.W.

     Have you ever had one of those weeks?

You know what I’m talking about! You’re fixing dinner and the oven goes berserk, smoking the baked chicken in the process! Or you’re cooking hamburgers on the gas grill outside and five minutes into the flipping the propane runs out…and you’ve got dinner guests coming!

Or, you forget something back at the house so you turn the car around and head back. But after getting what you forgot you return to the drive and discover that you locked it…with the keys still in the ignition…and the batteries on the garage door opener just died…so you can’t get back inside the house…or into the garage that has the hidden spare keys!

Ever had one of those days?

Or you cut yourself shaving and the blood is flowing out, so you hurriedly reach for the bandage, but in the process tip over your morning coffee cup that is sitting beside your cell phone…that has conveniently soaked up a good amount of the coffee! Do you stop the bleeding first, or clean up the coffee while grieving for the loss of your cell phone?

So…it’s been one of those weeks!

We’ve had the plumber here at church to fix a toilet…only to discover that we also needed a sewer and drainage company to come and “snake” the line. He had to go almost to Kansas before he got to the clog. It became like a cab fare. Every foot further the line went the fare rose higher.

Each one of us has those kind of days or even weeks. We raise our hands and exclaim “What’s next?”…and then the toilet overflows.

You could call them “Jonah weeks.” Just think of it! God calls Jonah to go to the one place he has no desire whatsoever to go to. Nineveh! It was like telling a Broncos fan to go and make peace with the Raiders…like Ronald McDonald having lunch at Burger King.

So Jonah does everything he can to avoid the call. He goes in the opposite direction…and things go from bad to worse. First there’s a massive storm to the point that the ship is about to break up.

Not a good scenario!

But Jonah obviously senses the storm has something to do with him. After a game of rock, paper, scissors, he is pronounced the loser and is then questioned about what is going on in his life.

Confession reveals the secret. Things are so bad that HE tells the ship’s crew to throw him overboard. What could be worse then that?

Getting “fished” is worse then that, and he spends three days squeezed into the belly of a fish. I hate close quarters, so I’m not sure if I could have kept my sanity for one hour, let along three days.

But then he gets spit up on a beach oddly enough a little ways from Nineveh. He ends up doing what God called him to do in the first place and the city of Nineveh is changed.

From bad to worse to incredible! It could be a movie, an inspirational story, a tale of transformation.

Unfortunately the book of Jonah doesn’t end there. Jonah has to write another chapter, and in the chapter that is written after the movie credits have rolled up the screen is of a man who gets angry at the compassion of God. His story was headed for Guideposts magazine, and then he had to go and do that!

What do you do with the bad to worse to incredible…to jealous?

Sometimes we seem to have a hard time living in the blessings of God, or the moving of the Spirit of God. We’ve seen the transformation, the deliverance, but we think we have to write another chapter that takes us back down the mountain.

If there was a Jonah sequel perhaps it ended better than the first one.

But that also tells me that we’re still writing our life script. We can choose to let God be God, or question his forgiveness and grace.

In thinking of this week and overflowing toilets I’m thinking “Ain’t no big thing!” Sadness is seeing a life that is getting flushed with the residue of bitterness, anger, and unforgiveness…a life that desires destruction instead of restoration.

Willie the Baptismal Whale (part 1)

December 24, 2012

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                          December 23, 2012

The water dripped out of the bottom of the baptistery. It was not a good sign! The renovation of the pool had been completed, but a testing of it a few weeks earlier had shown that it was leaking. The experienced, but aging pool man had come and reworked it. He was sure it was as sound as a steel horse trough!

Little Bethany and solidly-built Zach were ready to be the first two tip-and-dipped below the water’s surface.

Bethany, just a bit under reaching her tenth year of life and missing her front two teeth, was excited to proclaim that she knew Jesus. Her older brother, Josh, had been baptized in the frigid waters of the leaking baptistery, even though the depth was kept at just under a foot. Cold is cold, however, and when Josh’s father dipped him under all the congregation heard was a chilled whimper rising up from the walls above the water. Bethany was sure that her experience would be… warmer! Her shyness showed as she would lean against her mom as the pastor talked to her about what baptism meant; but, inwardly, her excitement could have enabled her to jump across a flowing river.

Zach was a football player turned husband and dad. He had gone through some dessert experiences, but had come to know Jesus in a personal way. It’s not that he understood everything, but he knew a few months ago that his life had come to a “fork in the road”. It was a decision point, and he chose to be a follower of the way of Jesus. His wife and kids were excited to see his life slowly but gradually change.

But on Saturday night the water was continuing to drip out of the tank. It seemed like God was giving this Baptist church an object lesson of some kind. Was there some unresolved sin that was keeping this Baptist church from performing baptisms? Or was it simply the error of a pool guy who hadn’t had much experience doing baptisteries? There was Ezekiel’s dry bones, the ram caught in the thicket for Abraham, Jeremiah buying a field as a sign. Could the dry baptistery be a sign of the absence of the Lord’s blessing on this church? People didn’t want to think about it in that way, but the thought tumbled around in many people’s minds.

The pastor sent out a plea on Saturday night to see if anyone had an inflatable pool that might be used.

When the conventional doesn’t work go with the unconventional. Just get it done! Don’t be deterred!

Within a few minutes of his email plea he had a call from one of attenders about a wading pool he had at his house. He would load it in the back of his truck and be right over. The pastor breathed a sign of relief. A short time later, however, his relieved spirit was trumped again as he discovered that his friend’s wading pool was made of sturdy, inflexible plastic and it was too wide for the baptistery.

Lord, why?”

Being December inflatable wading pools were not an item that stores stocked. The pastor had already thought of that route, and had received a few strange looks from hurried store employees trying to find Tonka Trucks and Barbie Doll accessories. One store employee when asked about wading pools looked around trying to find out where the hidden camera was filming the conversation.

The pastor’s email clicked with another message. Another family from the congregation had an inflatable pool that could be used. Baptism was going to happen!

An hour later Keith carried it into the sanctuary in a Sears shopping bag, not because it was brand new and recently purchased, but rather to keep it bundled together so it didn’t sprout into eighty different directions.

It should fit fine!” Keith said. “The only thing is this…it’s Willie the Whale!”

Willie the Whale?”

Yes, when it’s inflated it becomes Willie the Whale…complete with tail…or fin…of whatever a whale has at his back end!”

Baptism in a whale?”

Actually, it is almost like the belly of a whale since the pool part is the inside of Willie.”

A few minutes later after his cheeks had grown weary from blowing into the inflatable, the pastor gazed upon Willie the Baptismal Whale…complete with tail. He carried it to the baptistery and dropped it in.

Perfect! Thank you, Jesus! A modern version of the story of Jonah would happen Sunday morning!