Posted tagged ‘Purpose’

Starbucks Wisdom

February 7, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                   February 7, 2016

                                     

I did my usual Sunday morning time at Starbucks today. I arrive early and spend about an hour pondering, writing, and, of course, drinking coffee. The young man at the register named Chase greeted me warmly and asked me an unexpected question.

“If someone came to you and asked for a few words of wisdom that they could take with them what would you say?”

Great question…even at 7:00 in the morning! I pondered for a moment and then replied, “Find your purpose!” We had a brief conversation about what that mean, and then a few other people in need of caffeine came through the door.

What would your words of wisdom be? If a young person came to you seeking just a bit of direction for the journey of his life, what would you say?

Would your words focus on working hard? Or would they deal with living life with gusto? Would you bring integrity into your reply? Would it be about your spiritual journey with God?

The words you offer will reveal your priorities. If I went further with my words with Chase and could have offered a few other words to consider I would probably say these things:

“Relationships are more valuable than gold.”

      “The love of God is never terminated.”

      “Don’t settle for happiness. Seek joy!”

      It’s interesting that as I climbed the age ladder “work” became less important to me than relationships, and eternal matters have become more important than the temporary possessions and occurrences. Seeking joy has often gotten replaced by the temptation of happiness.

Words of wisdom, words of experience, words of having lived it.

Yesterday a young man that I’ve known for over thirty years came to visit. He is now 46, married to a great woman, and blessed with two teenage sons. In our hours together he reminded me of conversations we had years ago, and the impact of some words of wisdom I said had upon his life. Honestly, I didn’t remember the conversations, but that isn’t the important thing. The important thing is that he remembered them, and they helped him navigate the waters of his young adult years and into marriage.

The words we say have impact…even when we don’t realize it or remember what we said.

I’m getting a refill and I think I’ll expand my words to Chase as he fill my cup again: Find your purpose for living, not just an excuse for being here.

Have a wise day!

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!

Seeing Your Child’s Future

December 2, 2013

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                         December 2, 2013

 

“Words from WW” will be doing a series of blog posts during Advent. Please feel free to share then with others.

 

                                    

 

How would it effect us as parents if we were able to see what our child’s life will be focused on in the future…but we will see it now? How might the hopes of our hearts for our children blossom if someone told us the future impact of the little one that is crawling around on the floor around our feet?

Advent is about hope and promise. When the angel Gabriel appeared to Zechariah in the temple of the Lord as Zechariah was burning incense and going through the duties of the priest, he shared the future of Zechariah’s son, who had not yet even been conceived.

“Many of the people of Israel will he bring back to the Lord their God. And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous- to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” (Luke 1:16-17)

     It was an angelic proclamation of what was to be. It left Zechariah dumbfounded. He had resolved himself to being a father to no one. His wife was far past the age of childbearing. His future was simply a picture of the two of them growing old together, never enjoying the sounds of infant laughter and conversations of discovery with a child who asked endless questions of “why?”

And then he’s confronted with the news not only of a pregnancy that will start soon, but also of what his offspring will do with his life, the coming again of another Elijah.

Most parents worry about their children. First there is getting them through adolescence and orthodontics; then comes paying for college, followed by the anxiety of finding a job after college. Parents worry that their children will never reach their potential, that the dynamics of out times weigh against twentysomethings.

So, what would it mean for a parent to know that his child will have a life of impact and purpose?

But, in essence, God does have that in his plan! He desires that each one of us live a life of fulfilled promises. Sometimes we just have a hard time believing it.

59 and 1/2!

November 5, 2013

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                       November 5, 2013

 

                                           “59…and 1/2”

 

Today I’m fifty-nine and a half years old!

No birthday cake is necessary…or half a cake… or a half-baked cake, for that matter!

I can officially take money out of my IRA today and not be taxed on it. I’m serious! Yesterday I would have had to pay a 10% penalty tax. Today I’m richer even though I have not intention of taking the money out of the IRA. After all, I’m getting…like 1/2 a percent interest! It makes me giddy just thinking about it. I can almost hear the pennies dripping into the fund like a slow leaking faucet.

I didn’t know it, but there is actually a web site called “Fiftynineandahalf.com”. Who would have “thunk it?”  I can get t-shirts and other items there to prove my “fifty-nine and a halfishness!”

On the negative side, my wife Carol is gone tonight, at a camp with a bunch of sixth graders. There goes the party for me I guess! I’m going to have to celebrate my milestone by myself.

I’ll probably go to bed early!

Have you ever come to one of those points that you can choose to go one direction or another? 59 and 1/2 is kind of like that. I can hobble off to feebleness or seek to make the last third of my life the best yet.

Since I’ve been blessed with pretty good health, I’m looking forward to this last third as the best. Sometimes people get to a point like this and question whether their life still has any purpose. Thankfully I’ve never doubted that my life has purpose. I’ve just questioned the setting for where the purpose is pursued. I pastor, I coach, I write, I laugh, I mentor, I listen. All of those are part of my purpose being realized.

So I’m going to forego the t-shirt proclaiming my milestone event, and just walk forward into God’s future.

I’m not sure what that means, but it sounds like something a fifty-nine and a half year old would say.

 

Using Up Good Soil

April 2, 2013

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                April 2, 2013

 

In basketball there is a negative comment that is sometimes made about a tall player who can’t catch, rebound, play defense, or shoot. Someone will see a player like that and say, “There’s a waste of height!”

It is meant to characterize the player as, pretty much, being useless. The same statement, with some revisions, has been made about musicians, football players, artists, and others. Let’s face it! We are often more prone to be critical than affirming.

But there is an interesting story that occurs in Luke 13 with Jesus that is a variation on the theme of wasted space. It revolves around a parable he tells about using up good soil. Here’s the scripture:

A man had a fig tree, planted in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it, but did not find any. So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard. ‘For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?’

‘Sir,’ the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.’”  (Luke 13:6-9, NIV)

Bottom line! The fig tree was using up good soil! Undoubtedly it was sucking up nutrients and water that could help the other parts of the vineyard to grow healthier. It was a pothole that had become a sinkhole! It was like the “one low price” that had taken on so many additional fees that you no longer could even see the original one low price.

Just as many of the parables of Jesus prompted a number of thoughts and reactions, this parable follows suit. There is an obvious correlation between the fruitless fig tree and the nation of Israel at that time. Micah 7:1 comes to mind: “What misery is mine! I am like one who gathers summer fruit at the gleaning of the vineyard; there is no cluster of grapes to eat, none of the early figs that I crave!”

As I have re-read the parable many times I’m also struck by how it speaks to me, to my purpose, my life direction. Is there sometimes a restlessness in my life that could be summarized as a waste of good soil? Am I sometimes a user of good soil with no fruit to show for it?

Yesterday, here in Colorado Springs, watering restrictions went into effect. Since our residence is an even numbered address we are allowed to water our lawn and bushes on Sundays and Wednesdays. One of the results of the watering restrictions in the coming months will be that people will be a little bit more aware of what needs water, and what is a waste of water.

Is my life a waste of the grace of God? It’s a question I wrestle with. Without sounding arrogant, I believe that God has graced me with some incredible gifts. Like the tall basketball player ( I sometimes dream of being tall!), I realize being gifted, or blessed, and using your gifts are two different things.

Because of the weirdness of my mind I also think of the parable in relation to the Church. If a church is using up good soil, the Vineyard Owner is taking a dim view of things. Existing is not the purpose. It is not the end all! Passing a budget for the next year is not an indication of fruitfulness and fulfilling purpose. Having a full calendar of weekly events is not even an indication of fruitfulness.

Could it be that the vineyard worker is going to try to re-fertilize one more time and wait to see if the figs start appearing?

Tough questions that lead me in my journey this week. In the meantime there are a couple of pot holes in the parking lot that aren’t getting smaller, and a tall basketball player I know who has a hard time walking and chewing gum at the same time. Throwing a basketball in right now is not a pretty sight!

If Jesus Were To Be On Undercover Boss

April 19, 2012

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                      April 19, 2012

 

The King will reply. ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters, you did for me.’” (Matthew 25:40)

 

A current show on TV that is pretty interesting is Undercover Boss. The plot revolves around a company CEO, or similar, going into one of the company’s business locations as a “bottom rung” employee and getting a new perspective on how things get done, the attitudes of the employees, how customers get treated, and the frustrations of the lowest level positions.

I was at a Long John Silver’s restaurant last night in Huntington, West Virginia, and I left there muttering to myself “I wish an Undercover Boss would visit this establishment!” After standing in front of the disinterested employee for a good minute, and there was no one else in line before me or after me, she then acknowledged my presence with a pseudo-interested “How are you today?” Having just read Lencioni’s The Three Signs of a Miserable Job, I wanted to ask her “What is the purpose of your job?”…but I didn’t!

As I left the restaurant and headed to CVS for some Pepcid, I thought of Jesus! After all, eating a sampler platter at LJS probably brought me a few steps closer to meeting Jesus…for eternity! (I wonder if they have Friday Night Fish Fries in heaven!)

I thought about Jesus doing an episode of Undercover Boss in one of his churches. What would that look like? I’m imagining conversations. Our church is small enough that any visitor stands out, but also there has developed a deeper interest in recognizing one another. That is, if you are in attendance at one of our worship services everyone gets greeted. In fact, restoring order after the time of greeting is like herding cats. So, I’m pretty confident that Jesus would be inundated with greetings and handshakes.

But Jesus, being the One who knows the truth, the way, and the life…since he is…would also, I’m sure, discover the dirty little secrets that are a part of every congregation. I don’t think he’d ask much about programming and curriculum, or even about the songs that were sung or the organ that wasn’t used. I think he’d focus on the church’s relational life- how the church communicates the love of Christ to one another, how the church “cross-generations” itself in conversations, how much talking it has about “God things” and “Christ-learnings.”

How does the Body find out that Betty is in the hospital?”

How does the church specifically pray for Jim’s job situation?”

How does the Jones family sense the church’s concern for their eleven year old son who was just discovered to be diabetic?”

How does the Body keep talking about their “new life” experiences?”

And I think “undercover Jesus” would focus on how the faith experience is meshing with life. In other words, his discoveries would be made just as much outside the walls of the church building as in it. Dare I say, even more of the “aired episode” would be in the out-and-aboutness of “the church”!

I could see Jesus “shadowing” the fourth grade teacher into her classroom.

Why do you bring extra snacks with you to school?”

I’ve got a few students who very seldom are able to bring a snack with them. They know that there will be something for them if they have nothing. “Nothing” is more their norm, and it’s because that’s how it is with their family’s situation.”

Jesus Undercover would reveal the connection and disconnections between faith and life. Lived-out faith, if you will!

Finally, I think Jesus would focus on “hope.” How does his church give signs of hope and words of hope to the community? How does hope become a part of the proclamation of the Gospel? How much does the church buy into the message?

The young woman at Long John Silver’s had not bought into it. She was getting some things out of it- a pay check and an attitude of indifference- but if the deep fryer at LJS malfunctioned and the restaurant burned down today her response might more likely be “Thank God! A free night!”

Of course, in regards to the faith community and our faith, the Word tells us that our love for Jesus is lived out in how we love one another. The living out of our faith is intimately connected with how we treat one another.

For the record, don’t get the fried shrimp at LJS. I think they put in an order for the smallest possible shrimp available! Why do they always look so much bigger on the menu board?

Irrelevant Busyness

April 18, 2012

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                    April 18, 2012

Every church at some time, now or later…or both/and…struggles with irrelevance. It is not that the church is irrelevant, it is rather that some of the things the church does are irrelevant. To borrow an example that Jesus used, it is easier for a rich man to pass through the eye of a needle than it is to get a church to stop doing a ministry or a program that it has always done!

If church programming was like a person’s plate going through a buffet line, or more appropriately a potluck dinner, it would be multi-layered. There would be “fruit jello outreach programs” on top of “fried chicken committee meetings” laying beside men’s early morning prayer pastries that are squashed on top of mashed potato women’s missionary circle meetings.

We layer our ministries like food gluttons who seem to think we can’t get enough, more is better! We create churchgoing obesity.

A few years ago I remember a friend of mine saying he didn’t want to be a Christian. When I asked why, he responded that he didn’t want to end up like his Christian neighbor who always seemed to be going to church for this meeting or that group. My friend had gotten the impression that being a follower of Christ seemed to carry with it implication that he would always be pulling into the church parking lot.

It prompts me to ask the question “What is relevant?”; and the second question “What are we doing simply because we have always done it?”

I’m leading a team of people from our regional group of American Baptist Churches that is addressing those very questions. We’re dealing with the challenge of figuring out what is really important, and what isn’t important but we don’t know what else to do!

Crucial questions for our region, but even more crucial for each congregation. There are some things that churches do that our culture looks at and just shakes it’s head in bewilderment of the waste of time they see in it.

Our culture has a longing for intimacy, a desire to explore the mystery of the Holy, and a hunger for relevance, but also sees the value of time. If a church function doesn’t help them in deepening relationships with God and one another, or lead them in the serving and life-impacting of others, it will be seen as irrelevant. If it no longer has a purpose or a function, its following will be in danger of being based on guilt rather than purpose.

In essence, the church must continually ask the question “Why?” Most of the time, that question is much more important than “how”, “what”, “where”, or “when?”

Forgetting Our Purpose, But Remembering Our Cell Phone

April 15, 2012

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                                         April 15, 2012

 

Many people think I’m clueless…and I am in some respects! Without guidance from my wife my colorblindness can cause the reactions around me to non-verbally communicate “What was he thinking?” And there have been other times when a “thank you” to Carol for the dinner she has just cooked would have been appreciated, but I cluelessly sat there like a “man stone”- word-less!

So I admit my cluelessness. One time I even walked through an airport terminal unzipped before my friend may mention of an open barn door. When your “openness” is suddenly revealed it causes you to think about all the smiles and grins you have just received in the last five minutes.

But…there are other things I’m pretty observant of. In recent times I’ve noticed the attitude and attentiveness of workers in restaurants and business establishments. It might go to the fact that I just read Patrick Lencioni’s book The Three Signs Of A Miserable Job.

Sometimes the customer seems to be an inconvenience. A couple of weeks ago Carol and I took our daughters and grand kids to Dairy Queen. I like Dairy Queen. Years ago my Aunt Irene bought me my first foot-long hot dog there, plus my first banana split. Unfortunately, they were during the same meal and I just about split my tummy trying to eat both items. My Uncle Milliard, who was married to my Aunt Irene, bought a Dairy Queen for a few months, and just as quickly sold it because the fourteen hour days were killing him. He knew it was time to sell when one day he looked out at the long line of customers and yelled “Doesn’t anyone eat at home anymore?” Although in question form, it was not really a question!

Back to my recent DQ stew! The young man who took our order seemed to be more interested in one of the young ladies who was working the drive-thru lane than he was in the guy with the twenty dollar bill in his hand. We ordered, and all of our order came…except one item! Mine! My Peanut Butter Bash…missing in action!

I was patient, waiting to the side as other customers placed their orders…and then received…and then left. As I waited I noticed the young man’s cell phone placed right next to the register, and every twenty seconds or so he would receive a text from someone who was obviously more important then me. And he would respond to it.

My clueless side was not so pronounced that I thought to myself “Wow! People can text their orders to DQ ahead of time now. That’s pretty neat!”

No, I was just waiting for my Peanut Butter Bash, which I will never ever order again!

Finally, I got Employee X’s attention and told him that I hadn’t received part of our order. He asked me what I was waiting on, and I told him “Peanut Butter Bash”, which when you think of it, sounds kind of stupid. In fact, as I told him I almost felt immature, like ordering a kids’s meal when I’m old enough to order off of the Senior Menu.

In about 30 seconds he put the PBB in front of me with no “Sorry about that”, or “My bad!”…just put it right there and checked his cell phone again.

How often it seems that we forget our purpose for being where we are, and for what we’re doing. We just put in the time in a lackluster manner, making no impact and giving minimal attention and effort.

Could it be that the church needs to learn from the DQ guy? That being the hands and feet of Jesus to a person who is in the midst of a listening ear is more important than the text from Howdy Doody saying “Hey?”

Just saying…could it be that we sometimes just put the time in…without thinking how our attentiveness could be a connecting link in someone’s life transformation experience? Perhaps reducing the times of cluelessness might result from a more attentiveness to the whisper of the Spirit.