Posted tagged ‘praying’

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!

When A Child Prays For You

October 21, 2013

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                      October 20, 2013

 

 

Today I was incredibly blessed in numerous ways. Every day is like that. We just don’t recognize a lot of the blessings.

But today a ten year old boy named Miles blessed me more than he will probably ever know. Before our worship service started, he was invited into my office, along with Rich Blanchette to pray for me.

Rich and Miles each laid a hand on my shoulder and “prayed me up” for the morning service. Miles has not been ordained, elected, or even assigned. He’s just a neat kid who likes to wear combat pants in the woods, laugh a lot, and follow Jesus. He got baptized last April along with his little sister. He goes to school like any other kid, eats turkey legs at Air Force football games, and can be a goofball when he feels like it.

So why was I so blessed by Miles? Because too often kids are tolerated in the church, not empowered. Kids are cute, but seldom are taken seriously.

But a church that allows kids to not only pursue a relationship with Christ, but also be a part of ministry is awesome.

And why is that important? Because kids are awesome. Kids simplify what we grown-ups complicate.

I’m not nominating Miles for sainthood or planning his ordination. I’m just saying I was overwhelmed that he thought enough of me to want to pray for me.

Perhaps next week I’ll be surrounded by praying kids…and I’d be okay with that.

Taking Lunch to the Teachers

August 22, 2013

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                          August 22, 2013

                                      “Taking Lunch To The Teachers”

       For the past five years our congregation has taken lunch to the staff of Audubon School, the elementary school a half mile down the street from us, on the staff work day right before students return from summer vacation. We take lunch to them and we eat lunch with them.

We used to take lunch to a couple of other grade schools close by…but they closed.  We trust it wasn’t because we brought them lunch! Actually, it was a sign of the changing population base in our community..more seniors, less kids.

The reasons we take lunch to the staff are multiple. We want them to know that they are appreciated. We’re entrusting our children to them. If there was a scale that measured parental gripes versus “thank you’s” it would probably be tilted. You can make the determination which way you think it would lean. Providing lunch is an easy way…so easy…to just say thank you.

We take lunch to them because we want them to know that we’re in a partnership with them…that it takes a community to raise a child. Churches are a part of that, and schools are a part of that. In fact, although there are other participants in the raising of a child- namely parents- the two major players outside the family are the church and the school. Our church has worked hard at being a support for the school. It has now come to the point where the school has asked how they can help us. Last December the school choir came one morning and sang for our seniors’ group, and then we all had a pizza and salad lunch together. (Not much salad was eaten!)

We also want them to know that we are praying for them. I tell the staff that each year at the luncheon. I told them that I am fully aware of the separation of church and state. If they want to share a prayer concern with us, no student names, we will pray for them. At the luncheon one of the staff people told me of a student with a serious health issue. We prayed for the student…once again, no names were shared…but there’s a good chance that God is familiar with the child!

We take lunch to them because we want to reinforce the commitment to be there for them. “The Lunchroom Ladies” are usually the first ones to notice a student in need. They know that they can have the school secretary call us and request a winter coat for a first grader, or a pair of jeans for a young girl, or a pair of shoes. When the school social worker has a family in need of food we stock them up.

It has taken a few years, but the school staff sees us as their allies, not a threat. The result is a better community, a community that knows that we will help.