Posted tagged ‘praying’

Meaningless Prayer

June 28, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                June 28, 2018

                                 

“Rub-a-Dub! Thanks for the grub! Yeah, God! Amen!”

There’s been a few of those prayers that I’ve said through the years. How about this one?

“Good food! Good drink! Good God! Let’s eat! Amen!”

Yes, I know! A tint of irreverence in there. Here’s my daily irreverent offering!

“Cream and sugar, sugar and cream! Thank you, God, for coffee with steam! Amen and amen!”

A lot of prayer has a sliver of meaning and a lot of meaninglessness. It gets uttered or muttered, but not spoken. That is, I may speak the words with my lips, but they’ve detoured around my emotions and belief. 

Carol and I gently hold hands as we pray before partaking of the meal in front of us. (Gently holding hands because of her sensitive pinky finger, mind you!) I’ve become accustomed to saying “Thank you, God, for the food and this time together! Amen!” Simple, short, steam still rising from the bowls of mashed potatoes and peas when I’m finished. Quite often, however, I realize that I’ve simply said the words in order to get to the entree! They have carried no meaning, no true sense of thankfulness. 

Being fully present in the words of my prayer is difficult. It’s like when Carol would be saying something to me while I was watching a basketball game. She could throw in a few ad lib lines like “The house is on fire!” and I’d respond with an “Aha”!

Focus, Bill! 

Jesus had a few “Come to Jesus moments!” with the rigidly religious folk of his day. He harped about their words that had no meaning and depth, no urgency or heartfelt thankfulness. The people that he encouraged and affirmed were those who risked something in their prayer and committed themselves to the words they spoke. In essence3, they stood behind their pleas and praises. 

Mark 1:40 tells us about the man with leprosy who begged Jesus to make him clean. To others he was meant to be seen only from a distance, but he risked coming close to God. Mark 5 includes several stories and encounters with Jesus. One of them is about a woman who had a feminine bleeding issue that had spanned twelve years. She simply touched the hem of Jesus garment. That, in essence, was her prayer act…her reaching for the mercy of God. 

And Jesus affirmed her!

We talk a lot about who needs prayer (Look at the prayer concerns list in the weekly church communique!), and discount the praying. It’s like getting all the ingredients together for a double-layer chocolate cake, but never actually making it!

The awareness I have of the prayer shallowness in my life has caused me to focus more of my heartfelt praying in a certain way…asking for forgiveness!

Slow Down Day

June 26, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                    June 26, 2018

                                          

adult fashion footwear ground

Photo by Jens Mahnke on Pexels.com

Tomorrow, June 27, is Bike to Work Day in Colorado Springs. Since I’m retired, plus I don’t own a bicycle, I won’t be participating. I’m all for the idea, but I’m not sure a bike helmet will protect someone from the local Nascar drivers heading to work.

I’ve got another idea! How about a “Slow Down Day”? A day when people commit to driving the speed limit or UNDER IT!

I just shake my head at the number of drivers who seem to be in a hurry to get to the next stoplight before anyone else. They are over-populating the roadways more than the rabbits are taking over our neighborhood. 

About two months ago I was sideswiped by a man in a man-sized pickup truck who thought he would thunder over two lanes to the exit. He said he didn’t see my dark blue CRV with all the daylight around us! Thankfully no one was hurt…and I had a witness who pulled up beside my vehicle and said “I saw the whole thing!” I’m not bitter (Okay! Maybe a little bitter!), just agitated. His sense of hurry resulted in hours of my times in the next three weeks or so taking care of repair details, getting a rental car, talking to insurance company people.

Slow down!

One of our insightful neighborhood residents has posted signs at each of our subdivision’s entrances with the number “25” in large print, and also put these words above the number: “Drive like your own children live here!”

God had it right when he instructed his people to have a day of rest each week, a day of slowing down for reflection and renewal. It was law, but it was also therapeutic…kind of like someone in an art museum sitting and staring for a while at a sculpture!

So what if we had a Slow Down Day to the point that some bicycles whizzed by the cars and trucks? We’d know how the cyclists would feel all of the other days of the year. Instead of racing from work, what if people picked up the pace at work and took their time getting home?

Fast food restaurants could close their drive-thru lanes for the day. Jiffy Lube could keep their garage doors closed. Neighbors could schedule an evening walk together around the neighborhood. Baseball, the sport that has recently tried to speed up the game, could go back to its traditional ways of a nice and easy pace. Chess clubs could promote the game that takes thought and vision.

Slow Down Day! Churches could open their sanctuary doors for people to come and meditate! Doctors could slow down and talk to their patients. Families could sit at the dinner table and eat a meal that has been cooked slowly in the crock pot. 

Or…maybe a better idea is that people would just slow down a little bit each and every day so that everyone…everyone!…might feel a little more at ease with the flow of traffic and the flow of life!

Running and Thinking

June 11, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                              June 11, 2018

                            

This morning I’ll get my four miles of trudging done around ten o’clock. Some days, I swear, the miles have been lengthened like a taffy pull, and other days (infrequently!) they seem to go by faster. However, on the days when the miles seems to speed by and then I check my watch I’m brought back to the reality that I’m running just as slow as ever.

The key seems to be my thinking! I run, therefore, I think! I go deep inside to thoughts and ideas. With music playing from my ear buds I ponder events from the past, like races I ran back in my high school days. There was the Fourth of July race around a recreational lake area outside of Ironton, Ohio. Fellow classmate Pat Boggs and I ran neck to neck around the lake and then I out sprinted him in the last hundred yards. As I run I relive those moments, the congratulations he extended to me after the race, the sound of our breathing and footsteps, it all seems to become real again.

I think about the story narrative of my book, reconfiguring scenes, and envisioning how my characters look and how they sound. I think of ideas for blog posts and how I might present an experience or interpret a scripture. 

As the laps get clicked off I’m not just running, I’m contemplating.

I’ve started praying more as I run. The granddaughter of a good friend of mine keeps coming to my mind as I make a turn into the wind. A couple of women that we know who are in complicated battles with cancer cause me to reach down deep and keep going a bit further as I pray that God would impart strength to them. I pray for friends and family, that God would walk closely with them in the coming day. I pray for a nephew who pastors a church, and one of his sons who faces a surgical procedure. 

Prayer seems to minimize the aching in my knees and hips…for a while, that is! 

As I begin my last mile and consider the possibility of quitting, I think of a young lady named Kayla Montgomery who won several state cross country and track titles even though she battles MS. Her ESPN profile brings me to tears and it carries me through the last mile, as well. 

As my 64 year old body runs I try to focus on the struggles of the distance. In two months I’ll be coaching a bunch of middle schoolers doing similar workouts. I want to be able to identify with the groans and the doubts. If I can push through the quitting points I’ll be able to come alongside them during those tough training runs. 

And I think of some of the guys I used to run with back in high school and college…Stan Brown, Duane Young, Jim Fay, Larry Crane, and Kevin Kelly from my cross-country team at Judson College; and Cecil Morrison, G.P. Markins, Greg Byington, Jim Thomas, Greg Harding, and Randy Justice from the Ironton High School team. I think of Eugene Smith climbing trees and waiting for the rest of us to pass him on our return to the high school. 

In essence, these days my four mile runs deal with the past, the present, and prayer. It isn’t until later on in the day that my knees scream at me, “What were you thinking?”

The Last Stool On the Right

January 21, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                              January 21, 2018

                               

I sit on my stool this morning drinking my Pike Place medium roast and staring out at the snow flying past the window. The storm obscures my usual view of Pike’s Peak, but there is still a sense of peace in the scene in front of me. My earbuds bring soft music to my ears and I sip my morning brew with an attitude of gratitude about God’s hand of grace and abundant blessings.

The last stool on the right at the Starbucks on the corner of Union and Briargate Parkway is my sacred place, or perhaps better phrased, my sacred seat! Some spiritual pessimists may question my choice for where I sense the closeness of God, but I’m okay with that…as long as they stay off my stool! Strange as it may sound, it is from this perch that I have my deepest spiritual ponderings and quiet (with music in my ears) moments with God. Perhaps I should call it “Coffee With Jesus”!

Each one of us needs our space, but we too often neglect to look for some sacred space. We minimize the urgency of holy whisperings in the midst of the culture’s noise. As I sit here this morning God brings people to my mind even as I’m pecking out the words of my blog post.

Ray Stromenger, having a heart procedure tomorrow…my dad passing blood in his urine…one of the young ladies I used to coach in basketball, Autumn Boyles, who torn her ACL in her game last Thursday night…Diana Stucky, who I know will be dealing with a health condition she has in the midst of the change in weather we’re dealing with…my niece, Jennifer Graham, recovering from surgery…Henry McIntosh, in his journey of loss as he grieves his wife’s passing…our neighbor’s, the Nash’s, who lost their eighteen year old grandson back in late October…Nate and Alyssa Price, celebrating the birth of their son. The longer I sit here the more names and faces keep passing through my mind, many because of the down moments of life, but some because of the mountain top events they are shouting about.

Psalm 16:11 says “You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence…”

 

That Psalm is referred to as a “miktam”, a term that many believe is unclear or untranslatable, but some believe it meant that the Psalm attached to it was of such importance that it needed to be engraved in the hearts and minds of the ones saying it.

I sit in his presence experiencing the quiet joy of the morning, and reciting those words once again…”You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence.”

My sacred spot usually runs through three cups of coffee, one blog post, about fifteen recorded songs, and then it’s time to journey back to the rest of my day. It’s an intimate time, oddly enough, in the midst of a gathering crowd of coffee drinkers.

I’ve warmed the stool for the next journeyer as God has warmed my soul. Amen.

Facebook Grandparenting

June 26, 2015

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                  June 26, 2015

                                      

My good friend, Steve Wamberg, and I were sharing over coffee this morning about our grandkids. Steve has a four month old and my quiver is almost full with three. Grandparenting is exciting, and an excellent source for new sermon material.

Steve made the revealing statement that Facebook has become an excellent way of checking in to see how the grandkids are doing. Everyday…multiple times…my daughter and his son post pictures, videos, updated news, Christmas gift lists, and if all the grandkids are healthy that day on their Facebook pages. It’s like we can watch our grandkids grow up without being helicopter grandparents.

This morning I watched my newest grandchild, Corin Grace Hodges, talking to a stuffed animal that was dangling in front of her face. Last Sunday when she was dedicated in our morning worship service a posted picture on Facebook showed the displeasure of Corin’s big sister, Reagan, as I was saying the dedication prayer. Reagan likes to pray, and she was borderline pouting that I was leading it instead of her.

I’ve watched my grandson Jesse’s mugging of another boy in the midst of a Buddy Basketball game from last season. Jesse might tell you that he got all ball, which he did! The problem is he also got both arms and a couple of ribs with it!

Steve and I see Facebook grandparenting as being almost like a monitor camera in our grandkids’ lives that we can look in on. “What’s Jesse up to, I wonder?” Click…oh he’s reading Charlotte’s Web! Awesome!”

Understand  that Facebook grandparenting will never replace face-to-face and sitting-on-lap grandparenting, but it does keep us in the loop without being a pest.

In a couple of weeks I’ll be baptizing Jesse on a Sunday morning. I’m sure it will hit Facebook within ninety minutes of the event…and I’ll watch it and watch it. But even more awesome is the fact that our families in Illinois, Arizona, Georgia, Ohio, and Kentucky will be able to view it. call it Facebook “Uncle-ing” and “Aunt-ing” and other family relative terms.

And just so you know…Reagan said the prayer before lunch last Sunday. She was quick on the draw and left me in the dust. She’s a sly one! I have Facebook videos to attest to it!

Heartache, Helpless, and Blessed

June 8, 2015

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                June 8, 2015

                                

I’ve recently written quite a bit about loss…losing people close to me who have gone on to glory. Believe me! I don’t want to write about the process of grieving for the rest of my life, but I had two experiences yesterday that have profoundly affected me.

It began with “the missing!” A dear man and his wife, 94 and 91 in age, were missing from their usual spots in worship yesterday morning. Rex helps take the offering each Sunday morning and always squeezes my finger when I put my offering envelope in the plate. He looks at me and says “I’m praying for you”, and then he gives me a wink. It’s an important moment of the morning for me…but he wasn’t there.

He’s been battling a form of cancer, running a race against old age…and the age is catching up to him. He is a dear committed man of God and serving husband to his wife, Ann.

I  called him Sunday afternoon and asked if I could bring our group of young men by to pray with him and his wife, Ann, that evening.

“Well…that would be great, Pastor Bill! Yes…I think that would be all right!”

So we went, six of us, spent time with them, heard about his “miracle malts” that his granddaughter was bringing to him that seemed to make him feel better, and then we stood with them in a circle and prayed.

Each one of us felt a bit of heartache knowing that this couple were in the midst of daily struggles to just keep going. The weariness of their bodies was now dictating what could be done and what had to be surrendered. Things that we took for granted were now only maybes for the two of them.

But we were also blessed by simply being with them, holding hands with them and praying, listening to their stories told with wit and humor. They were so thankful that we had come, but we were even more thankful that we had been there.

After we prayed and hugged on them for a while we got in our vehicles and headed down the street to the ice cream place, BJ’s Velvet Freeze, and we all ordered malts!

Right before I had gone to be blessed by this pair of ninety somethings I became aware of another kind of heartache. I young lady I had coached for three years in basketball died. Twenty years old, full of potential and primed for life…suddenly gone. I was numbed by the news. On the wall behind me in my study is a team picture from her freshman year where she is standing just behind my right shoulder, in the midst of her teammates, looking happy and almost giggly. That was one of the sweetest, most fun groups of girls I’ve ever coached. They finished 13-5 and beat an undefeated Doherty team in the last game of the regular season…a group of Doherty girls that had not lost since they started playing together in 6th grade.

And this young lady was a vital part of the team, but more than that, she was just a delight to coach that year.

And now her light had faded out!

That same sense of heartache that I experienced as I sat with Rex and Ann I also experienced as I processed the news of the death of this young woman, but this time it was tagged together with helplessness. I wished I could have said something to her to change the course of her ship, to let the wind be in her sails again. I wish I could go back to her freshman year and be blessed once again by the giggling and the solidity of those relationships amongst teammates. I wish I could rewind and know that I could say one thing that I hadn’t said before that would result in June 5, 2015 being different…being a day of celebration and fulfilled promise instead of grief and deep, deep sorrow!

A strange day of lives that have been long, purposeful, and fulfilling…and a life that had barely started…and I can’t stop thinking about it!

Hope-Praying, Peace-Living

December 23, 2014

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                           December 23, 2014

                                                

     Two days from Christmas and there’s an empty feeling within me. I’ve had my share of fudge, chips, and Christmas cookies…so it isn’t my tummy that is empty. The emptiness is tied tightly to the events and conversations of our world these past few months. It feels like a tearing apart of lives, communities, and relationships.

Two days ago a professional football player stomped on the ankle of an opponent who was lying on the ground. In the news conference afterwards when he was asked about it he denied any wrong-doing.

Film doesn’t lie!

But this isn’t about the brutality and abuses of the National Football League…although that could be a long list even after being checked twice! That picture is a visual for what is going on in our world these days.

A scorn for the person who is down…or the person who is helping the downtrodden…like the ninety year old man who has been arrested a couple of times in a Florida city for feeding the homeless.

A disregard for someone in a different uniform. The hostility of ISIS towards anyone who doesn’t convert to their understanding and practice of Islam. Slaughtering the men and boys of a village and posting the film on the internet.

Denying wrongdoing. A Florida State quarterback, who has a golden arm, had charges dismissed this week by the university. In reading the news reports the situation seemed to be handled a little suspiciously by the school, and the quarterback has denied any wrongdoing. Odd that it has taken almost two years to get to this point…or, should I say, two football seasons later.

In other words, what seems to be important to our culture is not having people around who make us feel uncomfortable, stepping on those who disagree with us, and football championship trophies…and the millions that got with it.

Perhaps I’ll narrow-minded in my view. After all I was raised in southern Ohio, but I’m troubled by the strange priorities, avoidance of responsibility, and the exaltation of athletic talent.

What can I do about it? Live my life with compassion, mercy, and selflessness.

Be hope-praying and peace-living.

Pray for the hopeless and pray against hopelessness! Pray with hope, even when things look like they are being ripped asunder.

Live with peace and in peace. Be a person of peace even the hate-filled seem to be winning. Commit to peace for the journey, not just for a moment, and yet know that the journey consists of many, many moments, each a step towards a better tomorrow.

Hope and peace are two of the greatest gifts from our heavenly Father, and yet they are often put back on the shelf like flawed products that have no appeal.

Lord, help me as I strive today to be a pray-er of hope and an example of peace! Amen!