Posted tagged ‘joy’

That Judgmental Evangelical Church!

March 4, 2019

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                     March 4, 2019

                      

Carol and I sat back and watched an episode of Criminal Minds last night. We can’t keep up with all the recorded episodes we have on our DVR, thus the episode we watched was from last October.

Without going into the plot too much, a woman is killed and the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit (BAU) team is sent to investigate. In looking at the way the woman has been murdered, investigating who her friends are, and her routines, they summarize that there is some connection between what has happened and the church she attends.

That’s when the term “evangelical” gets used! She was involved in an EVANGELICAL church. The way it’s said you could almost put in parentheses after it “You know…one of those!” as the person turned to the side and spat!

The next scene has the team interviewing the pastor. His character comes off as self-righteous and judgmental. Envision a pastor with a whip! The viewer immediately does not like him and, after all, he’s the pastor of one of those EVANGELICAL churches! You are given the impression that “fun” is a four letter word for him.

Several other indicators are that he and his church are narrow-minded, critical, ready to shun sinners, and legalistic. They probably don’t even drink root beer!

Such is the general public’s, or at least those in the entertainment world, view of evangelicals! I wouldn’t have been as bothered by the episode if they would have just said “church”, but those who produce the show probably don’t understand what evangelical means.

The term “evangelical” comes from the Greek word “euangelion”, meaning “the good news” or the “gospel.” Thus, an evangelical church focuses on the GOOD NEWS of Jesus Christ.

That good news includes the grace of God, forgiveness, love, acceptance, hope, and peace. 

Some evangelicals, rightfully so, have made a mess of evangelicalism! They’ve reversed the mirror of Jesus. Instead of people seeing the image of Christ in his church they see a bunch of people who seem to have been sucking on lemons too long! I’ll be honest! There are a number of people in churches I’ve served who are about as pleasant as hemorrhoids!

It should not be! “Good News” has become religious rhetoric, and grace has been replaced with guilt. 

One of my closest friends in ministry, Rev. Tom Bayes, recently urged me to write a book about “church stuff”. Tom and I, along with our other clergy friend, Rev. Chuck Moore, spent years serving churches in the Lansing, Michigan area and sharing stories over lunches. There was a lot of laughter in the midst of our burger-munching. I think I’ll take him up on his request. The book, however, will revolve around a pastor who laughs, jokes around with the people of his congregation, enjoys life, and exhibits the Joy of life. AND he will be a pastor who firmly holds to the belief that Jesus is “Good News”!

Maybe I’ll even make him…you know…one of those Baptist pastors!

Is It Okay To Feel Okay About Life?

July 16, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                      July 16, 2018

                               

People have gripes! I won’t list them here because of space, time, and the fact that I don’t want to be a “Debbie Downer!” Our days are peppered with people who look at the glass as being half-empty…with a good chance of leakage!

It’s gotten to the point that I ask myself if it’s okay to feel okay about life? Is it not okay to feel okay about where one’s life is right now? Should I feel guilty about not having issues that would have me sitting in one of those high chairs on Dr. Phil’s stage?

This does not mean that I have it all together and live a life void of any problems. I have physical therapy for my knee and hip pain later on this morning. I frequent the bathroom more than a bored eighth grader escaping math class. I read two paragraphs in a book and fall asleep. I have about five prescriptions! I often talk to speeding cars that rush by me on the highway, even to the point of showing them my middle finger…in my mind! Lord, forgive me!

But there is a wholeness in my life, a happiness…dare I say, a joy! The sadness in my soul is connected to the loss of loved ones…Dad back in February and Mom almost five years ago now, all my aunts, uncles, and Carol’s parents, dear friends and mentors who have gone on like Rex Davis…Greg Davis…Don Fackler…Ray Lutz. 

I’m okay with the goals in my life that I did not reach, or have not yet reached…officiating a high school state tournament basketball game, running a marathon in my sixties, owning an ice cream truck, hiking the Grand Canyon, slam-dunking a basketball. 

It’s the rhythm in my life that gives me a sense of peace and satisfaction. My life is spiced and seasoned with opportunities to impact young people. I’m blessed to be able to coach four teams in three different sports. I get all giddy at the opportunity to substitute teach middle school students. I have a good amount of time to write and (fingers crossed!) hopefully publish a novel in the next few months. I’m allowed to speak at a wonderful small town church that has about 20 saints each Sunday morning. I’m married to a wonderful woman. We’ll celebrate our 39th anniversary in a few days. We’ve got three great kids, but (Sorry, kids!) enjoy our three grandkids now even more!

The “feeling okay about life” is also connected to that deep sense within a person that he/she is in the midst of what God desires for him/her to be about. There is not any sense of unrest or frustration. The peace-within-myself understands that it’s not all about me. As I serve others and serve God, joy makes a home within my life.

Many people detour around contentment in their life because they think there should be more. There is grumbling about missed opportunities, usually blamed on something or someone else. Our culture seems to have been injected with a dose of disgruntlement, supplemented with pills to heighten a sense of entitlement. 

I guess for me the glass is half-empty because I’ve enjoyed the beginning and will continue to be blessed by the ending. I’ve been used by God and still have some left in the tank to be used!

And I’m okay with that!

Year End Review

December 31, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                          December 31, 2017

                                      

Two years ago today I retired…kinda’…from being the pastor of a church. I used that day at the end of 2015 to finish packing up my office, moving the 2,000 books to the confiscated fourth bedroom of our home which had been repurposed to be my home study. I remember piling the books in there making it resemble a book-burning pile…minus the burning.

Now, two years later, many of those books have been handed off to a couple of guys who are in ministry- Bill Hale, just beginning his first pastorate in Kelso, Washington and Rich Blanchette, Air Force Chaplain at the base in Los Angeles. My study has become more organized…sorta’!

Two years into retirement makes certain things fade into the background and other things become more dominant. That is, I now get to make choices on what I invest my time in and what I could care less about. It’s a pastor’s reward for surviving all those church council meetings and church members who were bitter about life and thought you were the cause of it!

Today also happens to be the end of another calendar year. It is that traditional time of reviewing and resolving. I look behind me and see the swerves of the past year’s journey and look to chart the new course ahead.

Today is a time to evaluate what worked and what needs to be cast off, what should be continued and what needs to be put out of its misery.

Here’s my short list:

NO MORE!

Playing early morning basketball at the Y

Basketball Officiating

Serving on committees

Subbing for Kindergarten PE class

Subscribing to Sports Illustrated

Eating green chili

Reading instruction manuals!

Reading Amish fiction (OK! I never actually started!)

Watching CNN or Fox News

KEEP ON KEEPING ON!

Writing this blog

Wrestling with the grandkids

Continue writing the “Fleming” book series

Substitute teach, especially 7th graders

Coaching basketball

Eating blueberries

Getting together with old friends because I want to

Working out at Villa Sports

Preaching to the saints at Simla First Baptist

Increase my laughter

Figure out what brings me joy

Listen to the whisper of the Lord in the midst of the noise of the world!

Read, and try to read without falling asleep!

Go on vacation with my wife!

Go on vacation with the whole family!

That’s about it! Two years into retirement I’m getting a firmer grasp on what needs to stay and what needs to go. In essence, I believe it’s getting more grounded in what God would have me do and be. And that’s a good thing!

Enjoying Dad

June 18, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                         June 18, 2017

                                        

Today is my dad’s 89th birthday! Extraordinary, considering he had a heart attack when he was 62! 62…that’s one year younger than my age right now!

He is sharing his birthday with Father’s Day, a double star on the family calendar! So today Carol and I will celebrate with him, probably take him out for dinner tonight, and talk about what was, what is, and what is to come.

I’m a bit surprised that his 89th has even come to be. Last year we were back for an Ohio visit on his 88th. When he blew out the candles (Two candles of the number “8”, not 88 candles!) someone asked him what he wished for and he cleverly replied, “89!”

I’ve reached the enjoyment stage with Pops. It’s a place that many sons and daughters don’t arrive at. Fathers often regress in their children’s minds from being strict to irrelevant to crotchety! The next generation moves out and moves on, living their own lives with just a hint of their fathers’ influence and presence.

Sad, but true! We become so self-absorbed with careers, our own kids, and our own routines that our parents become people in the rearview mirror.

I’m increasingly thankful that I’ve reached the point of “enjoying Pops!” Last night as we broke bread together at a local restaurant I peppered him with some questions about his courtship with Mom. How that came to be? How long had they known each other? What drew him to her, and vice-versa?

Our conversation was punctuated by amazement and laughter, as family stories were shared and details discovered. My dad had lost his dad when he was 14 in a mining accident. He shared the events of that story, the loss and the ripple effect of that loss. Losing his dad meant that my grandmother had to move him and his two siblings to Wittensville, Kentucky to live with his Uncle Sam, thus setting in motion a series of events that brought him together with my mom at Oil Springs High School.

My generation, and any generation once removed from their parents, tends to forget the stories of our past that have brought us to where we are in the present. We minimize the importance of pre-history, that is… the stories of our parents that precede our existence.

And so we talked and laughed. When my dad laughs his whole body shakes, especially his shoulders and head. He often slaps his knee with his right hand in extended appreciation of the humorous episode that was just shared.

I’ve noticed a few other things that stand out about him and his life. He has several University of Kentucky hats, fashion displays of his college alma mater. The other day he asked me to get him a Kentucky hat from the closet to wear. Expecting for there to be one UK hat when I opened the closet door I was a bit taken back to see “the collection” on the the top shelf.

I’ve enjoyed watching him converse with his “neighbors”, the other thirty people or so who live at Wyngate, a senior living complex in Proctorville, Ohio. Meal time at Wyngate is more about telling stories, and other stories as a result of the stories, than it is about the food. What can you say about egg salad? Not much, but you can tell a number of stories from when your family had chickens back in the day…that cause other stories very loosely connected to chicken to spring up!

Enjoying Dad has a warmth to it that is comfortable and satisfying. Watching the many Wyngate Widows smiling at him is a little hard to get used to, but also causes me to smile. Yesterday I joined him for lunch and we sat with two Wyngate ladies. I could tell that they find him charming and…enjoyable!

So today I’m going to seek to be showered with his laughter and bathed in his tales of what has been. I’m simply going to enjoy Pops!

“Great!”

May 29, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                          May 29, 2017

                                               

I get asked the question numerous times each day.

“How are you?”

I’ve come to the point that I usually give a one word reply.

“Great!”

When I’m at school it is the response I ALWAYS give! Not hokey, or inauthentic, but truthful…I’ve come to the point that I realize that I’m doing great! Not “am great”, like a star strutting down the sidewalk like a peacock, but rather living life one day at a time and doing great! In a middle school environment giving that one word response takes the conversation in a positive direction. At the end of the school year when I was encountering tired teachers, unmotivated students, and overloaded administrators one unexpected word perhaps planted a seed of pondering about attitude and the possibilities of a new day.

I use that one word response because I seem to encounter a lot of people who are “Woe be me’s!”, or seem to be apathetic about this life we are blessed to live. That’s not intended to be a knock against them. Many people are in the midst of life situations that are difficult and heartbreaking. One student I had last week was telling me about a couple of life situations he is in the midst of. Not momentary bumps in the road of life, but rather ongoing circumstances that he has no control over involving family dynamics. I listened to his wearied words, but also conveyed in my teaching and storytelling a delight for being present with him and his classmates.

Even in the down times I know that I’m blessed and, more importantly, loved. And so I give the one word response to a question asked half-heartedly.

“Great!”

A couple of weeks ago I asked one of the 8th grade classes to share one thing about that maybe no one else there knew about.  One beautiful young lady responded, “I’m often depressed and feel lonely.”  I thanked her for sharing, and in the last two weeks of school I sought to subtly share the joyful side of life.  I caused a few smiles and grins to emerge on her face. Nothing earth-shattering, but perhaps she caught a sense that life can be more than dreariness and dreadfulness.

And lastly, why is life great for me? Well…today I’ll have three grandkids jumping on me. Tonight I’ll take a walk with my wife. This afternoon I’ll get to talk to my dad on the phone…just three weeks away from his 89th birthday.

And when my dad, who has a frequent flyer membership to his local hospital asks me how I am I’ll be able to respond from the depths of my soul…

“Great!”

What Do You Say To High School Students Who May Have Heard It All?

June 24, 2015

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                             June 24, 2015

       

In about ten days I’ll head to camp…church camp, that is! Church camp for about six and a half days with high school students. High school students, many of whom have heard it all…or believe they have!

So what do I say to them that won’t cause a rolling of eyes or the closing of eyelids? What do I say to them that is truth without the hint of parental guilt? What do I say to them that will encourage them to the futures and purposes that God has for their lives?

I’ve been pondering and praying these questions for a while, but even more since a young lady I had coached passed away about three weeks ago. Just two years out of high school she lost some of her sense of purpose. Her death has caused me to ponder a tremendous amount each day.

So I’ve tried to come up with things that need to be said to a young man or woman who has sixty to seventy years of life ahead of them. Here’s what I’ve got so far…and I would love to get your ideas and suggestions!

    1) Know that the world is broken…and so are you! We live in the midst of fallenness. Remember that when people, systems, and mindsets try to convince you of their perfection. Part of maturing is coming to grips with the fact that you will never have it all together. Don’t use that as an excuse, but rather as a clarifier of your environment and your life. Wholeness can come only after there is an admission that a person has some cracks in their life.

2) Accept forgiveness and be forgiving! Know that everyone makes mistakes…and you will too! Be willing to let it go- your mistakes and the errors of others that affect you- and move on!

3) Embrace your purpose! Discover it and pursue it with passion because it is this purpose that God will use to bring glory to him and some form of healing to the world. Your purpose doesn’t have to be something that is headline-grabbing, although it may be noticed when you least expect it!

4) Identify who it is who will “go to the wall” for you! “Go to the wall” means they would be willing to lay down their life for you. Know that your list will be very short, but also take note of who you wouldn’t put on that list. Who are the people who would jump on a plane and fly across the country at a moment’s notice because you need them? Would you be on their list?

5) Seek joy more than the pursuit of happiness! Joy doesn’t leave; happiness is a temporary feeling. Put another way…happiness is a seasonal visitor, but joy is a resident. Incorporate practices in your life that keep you in the stream of joy.

6) Know without a shadow of a doubt that God loves you unconditionally! Most of what happens in our lives is conditional, but nothing you do or don’t do will negate the love that God has for you. The doubts you experience in regards to that are simply deceiver-driven or self-imposed.

7) Embrace a Community of Faith! A church or gathering of Christ-followers needs to be intimately connected to your life. They need you and you need them! Don’t try to go on a spiritual journey by yourself. You’ll fall and there will be no one to pick you back up! Going to church camp one week a year is not a fulfillment of your spiritual nutrition and need!

8) Identify a mentor and walk with him/her! Joshua had Moses, Timothy had Paul. Who is it in your life that already has the wisdom and experience with the potholes of the journey? Who can steer you in the right direction, but will also be there to encourage you after you’ve screwed up?

9) Just because everybody is doing it doesn’t make it right! As my grandfather used to say, “If everybody else jumps off a cliff, are you going to jump off, also?” Sometimes my answer was yes…and I fell hard! Don’t buy into everything that our culture says is the way or the truth, or where life is! If you do you’ll end up either disillusioned or dysfunctional!

I’ll stop at 9! Perhaps I’ll add to the list later…maybe you’ll help me! But make it fast! Camp starts in ten days!

Oh…I’ll add this one for the parents! 10) Clean your room!

Nine Girl Scouts Dancing

December 15, 2014

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                         December 15, 2014

                                             

There are many pictures of Christmas that cross our minds or are caught by our eyes. Holly and mistletoe…egg nog and fruitcake…the mall Santa and front-yard inflatables. We use a number of things to convey the messages of hope, peace, love, and joy. Sometimes it’s hard to keep the proper perspective of things. My daily email box is full of on-line offers for everything from doormats to designer jeans. I’ve never had so many emails from Omaha Steaks!

A few days ago I was driving by the grocery store and I saw a sight that brought joy to my soul. In front of the store was one of the red buckets for The Salvation Army. I could hear the bell being rung.

But then in front of the bucket were nine Girl Scouts dancing round and round in a circle, laughing…enjoying…experiencing a sense of delight as they manned the bucket for a couple of hours. It was a picture of Christmas being lived out. Dancing with joy because of the season’s reason, while performing acts of charity.

Joy in child-like giggles.

Collecting coins and dollar bills to help the impoverished gain a step in the uncertainness of daily living.

Joy-filled charity. A picture of the blessed being a blessing.

Christmas is many things. On the day the girl scouts danced a “grandparently” couple at church lit the advent candle and shared how this past year had included many challenges but many, many more blessings. A dear lady who loves God and people brought me gingerbread cookies shaped like moosely-looking reindeer. In receiving we sought to give, and invited an African-American gentleman from church to join us for lunch.

Joy and delight…giving and receiving…being blessed and being the blessing…all of those are descriptions of Christmas that convey images, actions, feelings, and pictures.

God only knows how much delight those nine girl scouts brought to the customers coming and going from the supermarket, but I know that sparked a flame within my soul that warmed my heart.