Posted tagged ‘Peace’

Recovering From Vacation

March 31, 2019

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                 March 31, 2019

                        

Vacations are tragically funny! We long for the excitement and happiness that the advertisements seem to convey and come back home exhausted in our search for them.

Let me say this up front! The best parts about vacations are either the deepening of relationships or the experience of being embraced by peace. 

When I reflect on journeys that are the most memorable I think of being with either family or friends. The destination was secondary in importance. Memories of conversations and humorous happenings rise to the top. For example, three years ago my wife, Carol, and I took a road trip from Colorado to southern Ohio. We went to a couple of Presidential Libraries (Eisenhower and Truman) on the trip east, which were interesting, but what we’ll remember is surprising our nephew, Eric, on Sunday morning when we showed up in worship at the church he pastors In Bethalto, Illinois, and then surprising my brother at the Woodford Reserve Bourbon Distillery outside of Frankfort, Kentucky where he is a tour guide, and then being in Proctorville, Ohio for my dad’s 88th birthday celebration. Those are the moments that stand out. 

And peace! Like the sound of ocean waves as a person stands on the shore is the embracing of peace that some vacations offer. It’s the feel of a gentle breeze touching your soul, an absence of noise and clutter that allows the person to hear the whisperings of God and the beauty of silence. In our culture quiet moments are under appreciated and yet vitally important!

We returned from our most recent vacation late last night. We went to The Magic Kingdom where peace and rest are like alien creatures. Once again, the best part involved the deepening of relationships- going with our oldest daughter, son-in-law, and grandkids. The magical moments were connected to them: seeing the grandkids playing in the pool with a couple of children from Brazil and listening to how they connected across Portuguese and English language barriers, watching the personalities of the grandkids emerge in their distinctive differences, and taking long walks around the Orange County Convention Center with Carol.

The frustration of air travel, the crowds of people, the price gouging of $25 just to park at Disney, and the spike in Disney food prices were all dampers on the experience. I mean…really, do I need to pay $6.00 for an ice cream bar shaped like Mickey Mouse’s head image, or $9.00 for a plain hot dog?

So why is the Magic Kingdom so popular, so overcrowded? Perhaps it’s because many of us think there is something offered there that our lives are lacking. Or perhaps it’s the other way around…our lives are lacking and we are hoping that a visit to a place that features a castle with stardust above it will fill that void.

The other interesting thing I noticed at Disney revolved around the number of people who had their faces buried in their cell phones as they waited in line or as they walked through the park. It’s as if we want to go on a magical journey, but can’t quite let go of the world we live in.

And so we arrived home last night- actually 12:30 in the morning- to recover from the crowds and the chaos and return to the “ho-humness” of our routines. We return from vacation to our vocations remembering…not the rides and attractions, but rather the conversations and chuckles.

The chuckles, however, will end when I received my next credit card statement! It will tell me we can’t afford another vacation for a long, long while, and there’s something, like I said in the first sentence, tragically funny about that!

Unplanned Open Day

January 23, 2019

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                     January 23, 2019

                             

Yesterday schools, the public libraries, military bases, and other spots that are usually open…weren’t! The Colorado Springs area got blasted with a blizzard during the night and into Tuesday. The wind gusts scooted the swing across the deck behind our house. The cover on our hot tub was blown open (and I can’t wait to see what our next utility bill will be)! Roads were closed as snow drifts were shaped and created.

It was a planned day that suddenly became unplanned. Snow days have that effect. What hadn’t become a possibility pushes all the plans out of the way as it goes from the back row to the front and only seat!

There is something refreshing about a planned day that suddenly becomes open and free, unless you’re one of those drivers who gets stuck on the side of the road when the temperature is 4 degrees. There is something freeing about realizing that there is nothing you can do the whole day. You are homebound, away from the classroom or office, whether you want to be or not…and you breathe in a deep sense of peace!

Our lives are consumed by schedules and tasks. When I pastored I would make a list at the beginning of each week that would be filled with all the jobs to complete, the people to visit, and the meetings to attend. It covered a page, two columns wide, top to bottom. I’d cross off completed tasks, but each week the page would get filled back up. 

To be told that it’s okay to chill for a day, to be unproductive, to sit back in the recliner and read a James Patterson novel…it brings a smile to our face. We come face-to-face with the fragile nature of our plans and the harsh truth that we aren’t always the ones who can be in control.

Yesterday I worked on a jigsaw puzzle, read for a couple of hours, took a long nap, and wrote the first few hundred words in a new story I’m writing. In sharing what I did I must say that I didn’t seek to do them so I could have a sense of accomplishment. Each of them happened in the midst of my relaxed outlook.

It was as if I received sabbath rest on a Tuesday. There is a hint of God’s intentions in it, a calmness in the midst of the blizzard. It reinforces my belief that some of life’s biggest surprises come in the unplanned moments.

Pothole Faith

June 4, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                   June 4, 2016

                                          

I remember the potholes of Lansing, Michigan, enormous craters that swallowed Chevettes in mid-day! Potholes were reminders of winter’s brutalizing. Just as you thought the scars had healed from the cold winter experiences…here comes a personalized version of the Grand Canyon for your front tires.

Potholes created more business for chiropractors…and Firestone and Goodyear!

Colorado Springs, where I live, is now pitted with potholes (Say that five times fast!). I have noticed that I now do multi-task driving. I watch the vehicles around me, but also watch for the potholes to steer around. On my streets it feels like I’m skiing the Giant Slalom course.

A street repair bond issue passed a few months ago, but we may all be operating hovercraft by the time all the street issues get fixed.

My wife notices that I give expressions of pain when we suddenly hit a spot that jars the vehicle. I give a cry of “Ouch!” because the thumping sound is so disturbing that it requires a response of anguish.

Faith is a journey through a potholed life. We’d like it to be a smooth new highway that has no disturbances, no construction zones, no confusing merge lanes, and no potholes, but a journey of faith is not about smoothness, but rather assurance. Assurance that the God of mountaintops and valleys is also the God of potholes and inconveniences.

A faith that is untested is a faith that is shallow and suspect.

Potholes, like our problems and challenges, come in all shapes and sizes. Some can be seen from a distance and planned for, and then there are others that seem to sneak up on you like a new hospital bill that arrives in the mailbox. Pothole faith is belief in a God who is with me even when I sense I’m sinking into a new depth that has an uncertain bottom to it.

Driving our streets right now heightens the level of frustration. My son-in-law blew a tire a couple of months ago when he hit a pothole that was on a mission. A pothole faith is coming to grips with the God of peace in the midst of a hole of unrest.

Perhaps, just perhaps, some of us are learning to take the journey a little slower as we navigate the breaks in the asphalt. Even potholes can be used for good!

Having An Unclear Peace

April 18, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                    April 18, 2016

                                 

Peace is a highly valued condition seldom understood and, most of the time, awkwardly explained. It is searched for like the Holy Grail, elusive to find and fleeting when experienced. It gets treated like a chemical formula…two parts this and one part that…but it’s not confined or easily defined.

Sometimes peace is experienced in the knowing, finding out a diagnosis and having a sense of peace about it. Sometimes peace takes a long time in the arriving. I remember standing beside the hospital bed of a young mother who had just lost her unborn baby. It took a long time for her and her husband to have peace about the loss. They grieved a long journey and asked a lot of questions that mostly began with the word “why?”

But sometimes peace comes in the lack of clarity. It’s the sensing that things are going to be okay no matter the outcome. It is the best kind of peace, because it is not dependent on what someone says or does, how circumstances play out, achievement or rejection. It’s walking into the fog that often descends along the banks of the Ohio River without reservations.

Peace gets linked up with happiness like they are twin sisters, but happiness is more like a distant cousin who shows up at weddings and reunions.

Recently I experienced a sense of peace in a time of uncertainty. There was a decision that was to be made by a committee that affected me. I knew that the decision was out of my control, and, remarkable as it sounds, I had peace about it regardless of the outcome. The disappointment in the news was minimal, as would have been the excitement in a decision that was positive.

Those moments of unclear peace are few and far between. Perhaps it is because I’m getting older…and older…but I view those times as ways that God redirects us. We’re prone to struggle against the wind instead of going with it. That doesn’t mean that everything is going to be cheesecake and champagne (or since I’m Baptist, Baptist champagne…otherwise known as 7-Up!), but experiencing peace is never discovered when we keep a death-like control grip of our life direction. It’s letting God chair the meeting, but knowing that he will always involve you in the dialogue.

I’ve experienced what the Bible says about peace. It surpasses all understanding. That’s comforting, knowing that today is also “Tax Day”, and the IRS got another kind of “piece” from me!

What Would Jesus…Text?

January 14, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                        January 13, 2016

                              

I’m not high tech, even though I have devices that give people the illusion that I am. My cell phone gets used more for playing “Words With Friends” than it does for actually talking to people. That’s about as high tech as I get.

But I do seem to be texting more these last few months. Yesterday I was texting back and forth with a young man who asked me if I was familiar with the Thomas a’ Kempis book The Imitation of Christ. Today a text was received about a prayer concern. A few days ago my sister sent me a text with a picture of my dad holding a fruitcake that she had made for him. Every once in a while I get a “scripture text” text.

My brain gets thinking about Jesus in our day and what he would do and not do in various situations. So, obviously, I began wondering about what Jesus would text? Would he “LOL” often?

Perhaps he’d text Levi, the tax collector, with a simple “Dinner?” message. Before Martha could get to him about her brother, Lazarus, he could work his fingers on the keypad with a calming “He will rise again!”

I envision Jesus keeping his message simple, but powerful. In the midst of a stressed-out day I can hear the ping of the message coming in and seeing the words on the screen, “Peace be with you!”

When I’m feeling worthless and full of doubt I’m sure he would send me the words “Blessed are you!”

    When the world is not making sense, and there is heartache and tragedy he would most assuredly text me “Praying for me!” I’ve sent those words many times to others as they’ve wrestled with life situations. Admittedly I’ve sometimes said them because I had nothing else that I could say; and sadly, I’ve sometimes sent them without the commitment to do what I say. I know, however, that Jesus would stand behind those few words and kneel in the depth of them.

For those times when I start towards disconnection he’d would text me that John 15 reminder, “Abide in me!” And for the times when the crashing waves of life are towering over me, the words would come: “Have faith!”

     What would Jesus text? Simple, life-changing, foundational words that would convey glimpses of the sacred way.

Simple Gifts That Run Deep

December 23, 2015

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                            December 23, 2015

                                        

Each Christmas for the past…I don’t know…fifteen years Carol and I have said that we aren’t going to buy Christmas gifts for one another…and we do! Each Christmas I search for something special that I think she would enjoy. She has a bit of her mom in her; her mom who would give gift suggestions to her children such as a new spatula…or a used paperback mystery from the public library cast-off pile.

Each Christmas I try to be sneaky and hide a few present that I’ve purchased for Carol. Unfortunately, my memory of where I hid them is not spot on. I’m still missing something I bought for her three Christmases ago. It’s hiding someplace in the house. I don’t even remember what it was I got for her, but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t edible.

Each Christmas our trash cans get filled with wrapping paper and packaging contents. Grandkids commence to dancing with toy boxes, while our grown-up children discover twenty dollar bills in wrapped empty boxes of Triscuits and Cheerios.

But the gifts that mean the most at Christmas never come with a price tag. The best gifts aren’t secured during an early morning dash on Black Friday with a crowd of crazed consumers. The gifts that run deep within us are those moments when a hug is shared, a story is told, and a family prayer is said.

For me the simple gifts that run deep will include the discovery of Christmas by our nine-month old granddaughter. As her older brother and sister jump around in hyper-giddiness she will watch and begin to get a sense that Christmas is a special time.

A simple gift for me will be to see a young family with a two-week old daughter, plus her older brother and sister, light the advent candle during the Christmas Eve service. A little while later, after carols have been sung and scriptures read, a simple gift will be the singing by candlelight of “Silent Night” by the gathered worshipers. It is a few moments of calm and peace that hush the chatter in my soul.

A simple gift will be the voice of my 87 year old father that I will ring up on Christmas Day. It gently nudges the sadness within me that comes from being several states away. I will be blessed by his chuckles as he shares the recent stories of happenings in his senior living complex. Any relationship is a simple gift. A visit with my dad is like a drink of the deep water from my Papaw Helton’s well- renewing and quenching.

Finally, the last simple gift of Christmas Day will be when I lay my head down on the pillow that night and know…because I know…that I have been blessed.

Peace of Mind or Pieces of Our Mind

December 14, 2015

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                  December 14, 2015

                                 

There’s a difference between “peace of mind” and “giving someone a piece of your mind.” The first can come to a person as a gift from God. The second comes from a person who isn’t afraid to hold back their rage and discontent.

The shepherds received peace of mind. King Herod wanted to express a piece of his mind to the exited Magi. Jesus came as the Prince of Peace, but was subjected to pieces of the minds of Pharisees and religious leaders.

In our churches today there is a growing urgency to surrender our agendas, conflicts, and unrest, and allow the peace of God to embrace the people of God.

Peace of God? Piece of someone’s mind? Peace that surpasses all understanding?

When someone chooses to give a piece of their mind the Body of Christ needs to identify it for what it is…someone’s personal agenda…someone’s pet peeve…someone’s perceived truth derived from rumor…someone’s bitterness manifested.

When the peace of God is evident a calmness descends upon the journeyers. There is an assuredness that God is guiding and creating a way that will one day is evident.

When someone gives a piece of their mind there are usually pieces that need to be picked up afterwards. When there is peace of mind the awesomeness of God begins to be realized.