Posted tagged ‘pain’

The Pain in Laughter

August 10, 2019

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                     August 10, 2019

                                      

Last week I wrote about the tragic loss of a father of five (“Answering the Why”, August 4; WordsfromWW.com) in a road accident. The family was in the midst of a move from our city to another community. It was a new beginning, new challenges and opportunities, new friends to make and schools to attend…and then in a few seconds everything changed. My blog post focused on the “why” questions of life that we strive to answer and yet we can find no answer.

Yesterday I attended the funeral of the father. During the course of the service there was pain and there was laughter…and there was laughter, acting like a blanket, bringing some warmth to cover the chill of the deep, deep pain.

The laughter was healing. It drew the gathering into the story, the person. It swung like a grapevine from the heartache of loss to the loss of opportunities to the emptiness of Dad’s chair at the table.

Every chuckle about a past encounter or a humorous saying was tempered with the realization that it would never occur again. And yet the laughter was ointment for the aches of the journey.

I’ve thought a lot about this tragedy in the past week. In the midst of the accident details there’s a sense of injustice and a rising amount of anger. The laughter helps simmer the unrest that has been planted in people’s souls.

My mom’s last few years were filled with the afflictions that Parkinson’s Disease can bring. The loss of mobility and the devastating effect on her ability to speak. My sister and I recently retold “Mom stories”. It’s been five years since she passed and, although we remember the pain, we shared the stories of who she was, experiences we shared and conversations we had…and we laughed. The humor brought her back to us. We could see her sitting in her chair, watching “Dancing With The Stars” and working her crossword puzzle. We remembered how she would use her “Baptist Mom Guilt” on us to make us do things we didn’t want to. 

We could envision the times when she would grab on to Dad and say her classic line of romance to him: “Kiss me, slobber lips! I can swim!” We would pretend we were grossed out by the dining room affection, but it really caused us to chuckle…and still does.

There is pain in life and laughter in the pain. It is not an escape from the grief, but rather footwear for the journey. The steps begin with the uncertainty of a tightrope and gradually gain a steadiness as we balance our mourning with the memories.

Our souls cry out. Our laughter helps us to keep going.

Down In the Back

January 13, 2019

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                   January 13, 2019

                                   

I’m preaching this morning. Could be a short sermon!

As my Papaw Helton would say, “I’m down in the back!” The muscle spasms in my lower back came on Thursday night. I could blame it on the 20 missed free throws my boy’s basketball team…17 for 37! That makes me flinch just thinking about it, and when I flinch…Ouch!

Back problems are no fun! I’ve had them on and off for twenty years now. A herniated disc afflicted me back in 2001, and since then I’ve noticed the warning signs of the possibility of spasms before they arrive.

This time I had played early morning basketball at the YMCA on Wednesday. That must have lit the fuse! On Thursday night as I coached I could tell the back wasn’t doing well. When I coach during a game, I’m usually in a squat position, like a baseball catcher. By the second half on Thursday night I couldn’t do that!

And so I’ve become cozy with a heating pad, and closely attached to the recliner. Last night I watched “Enemy of the State” with Will Smith and Gene Hackman for about the seventh time. In other words, it was an unproductive evening.

I believe that God sometimes puts us on our back to teach us something. Most of us learn best in the midst of uncomfortable situations and personal pain. The story of Jonah’s time spent inside a big fish comes to  mind! 

It’s when we’re “down in the back” that our listening needs to be even more acute. Years ago a man from our church had a serious heart situation that put him flat on his back for several weeks. Afterwards he told me that it was a life-defining moment for him. He had been slowed down enough to have long chats with God. If he hadn’t ended up on a hospital gurney he would have kept going full steam ahead and been oblivious to the presence of the Almighty.

After I preach this morning to the saints in Simla, Colorado, I’ll drive back home and spend the rest of the day  with “R’s”…recliner, reflection, rest, heated up RICE BAG, and reading. I’ll pick up my “One Year Bible” and perhaps get ahead in my reading of the scriptures. 

Maybe I’ll skip ahead to the Books of Job and Lamentations! 

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!

Shooting The Wounded

October 22, 2014

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                  October 21, 2014

                                     

 

We are all fallen!

The problem is that Christians, ironic as it is, have a nasty habit of trampling on fallen people…even though scripturally we believe “…that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God!” (Romans 3:23)

Recently, Mark Driscoll, founding pastor and lead pastor of Mars Hill Church, whose main campus is in Seattle, resigned amidst allegations of bullying, plagiarism, and an oversized ego. Mars Hill Church, founded by Driscoll in 1996, is attended by more than 15,000 people.

I’m sure that Mark Driscoll made mistakes, perhaps even abusing his leadership powers to excess. All of us have sinned!

But some of the ways he has been tormented in recent weeks is harsh evidence that Christians are prone to shoot their wounded. Driscoll and his wife and five children have moved three times, people have been arrested at their home and he has also received death threats. One morning baseball-sized rocks were hurled through windows of their home.

Of course, Jesus didn’t prohibit the throwing of rocks. He just said to let the person who has not sinned, and not fallen short at some time…let him or her throw the first rock.

Why do followers of Jesus seem to be sometimes be cruel and hateful? What pleasure does that bring to the heart of God to see those that his son was crucified for be crucified over and over again?

It’s what saddens me the most about the church. We have a tendency to think the worst about people, instead of thinking with a grace-filled mindset.

Where there’s a wounded hurting spirit you’ve got to watch out for the smoking gun.

Drinking Coffee With A Bad Tongue

June 14, 2013

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                 June 14, 2013

This morning has its challenges! I’m trying to drink my first cup of coffee. That’s not usually a challenge, but today each sip does not have that soothing effect.

I got drilled yesterday in the mouth! No, it wasn’t a bar fight, or…bringing back some bad memories…I didn’t take a softball in the jaw.

I went to the dentist, and before she drilled me she gave me about eighty shots to numb the back of my mouth and close to my tongue. Even though that was yesterday mid-afternoon, this morning my tongue is still feeling the effects. It feels like it laid out in the beach in the sun all afternoon, and now anything that touches it gets a reaction.

Let me take another sip! (pause)

Ouch! Still sensitive.

I feel like Napoleon Dynamite whining about Chapstick.

A friend called me after I got home from the dentist yesterday. I sounded like Sylvester the Cat trying to properly pronunciate. “T’s” are hard to pronoun when you have a bad “t’hongue!” Sufferin succotash!

Some might ask why I’m drinking coffee if it is painful? Because it is a part of my daily routine. It’s what I do! It is a little weird tilting my head to the right and trying to swallow with the caffeine avoiding the left side of my tongue, but I’m halfway through my mug and I’ve only screamed like a baby once.

My fear is that I’ll still be talking this way on Sunday. My message will have so many “thou, thine, and thy’s” in it that I may start talking that way out of habit. It’s “thertainty” a possibility.

What happens when it’s hard for a preacher to preach? What happens when it’s painful? You preach carefully.

This coming Sunday will be an experience of that, not because of my “thongue”, but because of the week we have had here. Hundreds of homes destroyed in the Black Forest fire…memories of the Waldo Canyon fire from one year ago almost to the day…lives altered. When it is hard for a preacher to preach you preach slowly and carefully. Sometimes the preacher doesn’t even need to speak and his words are heard.

The lesson that I’m experiencing this morning of a sensitive tongue may be a personal teaching moment. I long for a little comfort in my mouth. There will be people gathered in worship on Sunday who will long for a little comfort from my mouth. Words that are felt as they are preached become a cool drink of water on parched souls.

I need a “thrink.”

The Pain of Momentum

November 21, 2012

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                November 21, 2012

 

The knees are going!

Well, actually, the right knee! I’m reminded of it each morning when I come downstairs. Stiff, inflexible, uncomfortable, like a broken bike that you’ve always had, and can’t decide whether or not to junk it or restore it.

As I start coming down the stairs my momentum increases, but the pain in my knee doesn’t decrease. “Ouch…ouch…ouch” accompanies each step down.

The knees of a 58 year old former marathon runner when running shoes weren’t so cushy and former basketball player who still likes to drain the eighteen-footer are knees that announce their presence every morning when I wake up.

We probably don’t think about the challenge of getting from the top of the stairs to the bottom. I’m thinking of following my granddaughter’s example- laying down and sliding down on the stomach. I’m sure she would enjoy seeing me do that.

We talk a lot in churches these days about momentum; that when we get momentum in our ministry there is a snowball effect. There is truth in that statement. Churches become “Christianized iPhones.” People flock to the one, or ones, that are deemed “with it” and “hot.”

Blackberries used to be hot. Now they are in recovery mode.

Momentum is good if those moving are clear on where they are heading. It seems like there was a story in the Bible where a herd of pigs rushed over the side of a cliff. Sometimes momentum is following the crowd in a rush to someplace that we’re not sure of.

Back to my knees! Momentum is sometimes partnered with pain. Moving forward is not always a total satisfaction experience. Aching knees is the rider on that horse coming down the steps. Movement unsettles parts of the body.

But momentum is necessary, and to be strived for. I can’t get from upstairs to downstairs without some pain…even on my tummy! A church can’t move forward without experiencing some pain in the process.

It gets visualized and verbalized in various ways. The 70’s style of the sanctuary needs changing, and it will cause some pain in people who have become accustomed to it. After all, it takes 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.

Starting an AA group in the church will cause pain, because there who still equate alcoholism as something that happens out there in the world, and the church needs to have that separation from it.

I don’t have to say anything about how different types of music in church cause knees to throb.

A new ministry initiative to a population of immigrants who have settled in the area around the church will cause pain. It is pain experienced as a result of an obedient congregation. The momentum created in becoming a welcoming community will also have it’s sparks, like a sagging muffler hitting the pavement as the car moves down the street.

The question is how much pain is too much pain? Does the tail wag the dog? Does the knee guide the body? What is the tipping point between “Spirit-led momentum” and “holy hesitation?”

It’s interesting that as I progress through the day my knee pain lessens. In fact, mid-afternoon trips down staircases are often pain-free and quicker. No ouchs, no moans and groans. I’m a man on a motivated mission. Put a trip to YoYogurt for ice cream at the bottom of the steps and just see how I can pick up the pace!

Momentum for the church is sometimes like that.

But that’s the exception!

Reflections of a Middle School Camp Pastor, Day 2

July 17, 2012

WORDS FROM W.W. July 17, 2012

Yesterday we climbed a mountain! Last night we struggled with the pain!
Not the pain in my knees, mind you, but rather the pain in the lives of middle school students. I had encouraged them to write down questions they had for God about something that troubled them. The responses gave me a view of the landscape of heartache and doubt that “recently-turned teenagers” deal with.
And, troubling as it sounds, a sense of cynicism towards the workings of God. They are troubled by, what they perceive, as God’s inactivity. Where was the Almighty when they felt picked on? Why did he create life and then allow someone close to them to die? Why pray if God is going to do what he wants to do anyway?
In essence, they are open to asking questions that my generation was afraid to ask, although we may have thought them! My generation got structure in Sunday School and youth group (which were good things). We dealt with “when, where, what, which, and how.” What we seldom dealt with, however, which the middle school group is willing to, is “why?” We had the Biblical numbers down…”forty this” and “twelve that”…but time seldom allowed us to get to the why.
Our Associate Pastor, when I had gone off to college was a guy named Jerry Heslinga. When I would come home on break, or for the summer, I would love to be involved in discussions or Bible studies with Jerry, because Jerry was not afraid to take the “why road.”
Now I gladly am leading…or perhaps being led…by these middle schoolers down that same road. It’s a pathway that does not guarantee answers, but encourages the searching.
Last night I was ready to launch into a presentation on Joseph’s journey from the pits to the heights, from the dungeon to exactly the place God wanted him to be in.
BUT…a few of the campers were dealing with something last night, a loss in their own lives, and I sensed that what I was to say could keep for another day. I turned to one of the counselors, a great young man about 22 named Bobby Cody. I said, “Bobby, come here.” He came to the front of our meeting area and I simply asked him “Tell us why you love Jesus?” For the next five to six minutes Bobby shared from his heart to a group of kids, who were focused on what he was saying.
Which describes something else about this coming-up generation. They aren’t afraid to ask why, but they also want to hear the truth, and about the Truth, as it is being experienced and lived out of someone’s life.