Posted tagged ‘questions’

Answering the Why

August 4, 2019

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                        August 4, 2019

                                       

A friend of mine lost her husband two days ago in a traffic accident. He was 45 and they are the parents of five children, the youngest two adopted as a result of their mission experiences in Africa.

They were in the midst of a move from Colorado Springs to another community about 30 minutes away when the accident happened. In other words, they had just uprooted from where they had lived for a long time to relocate to a place that is strange and new.

And I keep asking the question that has no suitable answer: Why would God allow someone so vital to so many other lives to be taken? 

It’s a question that gets rephrased and asked in numerous ways. We don’t understand tragedies. We cringe at the appearance of heartache, not just in our lives but also the lives of others. 

It’s convenient to theologize the pain with the unhelpful statement, “Who can understand the ways of God?” That’s about as useful as burlap toilet paper! (Sorry for the visual!)

There’s also a tendency to philosophize the wounds by talking about the side effects of a world that is highly developed and complex. Once again, that does not help. 

But we’re a society of answers, people that believe any question has a valid solution. We struggle with the idea that some questions don’t have agreeable answers.

My life is littered with unanswerable “whys”. Why did my mom have to suffer with Parkinson’s in the last few years of her life, a form of the disease that caused her to lose the functioning of her arms and legs, and effected her ability to speak?

Why did my friend and mentor, Ben Dickerson, have a heart attack and pass away at the age of 65 when he had no apparent signs of heart problems? That question still haunts me 11 years later.

Why did a gunman open fire in an El Paso shopping mall yesterday, killing 20 people? 

Why do bad things happen to good people? 

There is an unsettledness in my spirit this morning as I consider the numbing grief that my friend is experiencing. Two days ago the family of seven moved boxes into their new home, and now life has become uncertain and grey.

The lack of answers means I can’t let it go. It tumbles over and over again in my thoughts. Perhaps that’s part of the unsatisfying answer. My sense of caring about the pain in another is an indication of the sacredness of relationships, the importance of coming alongside those who are wounded.

It’s not THE answer, but at least it begins to lead me down the path to a hope-filled understanding.

Weird Stuff I Think About

February 20, 2019

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                     February 20, 2019

                                 

My mind is active, and it seems more and more it’s active in the confusing waves of life. Like the various debris washed onto a seashore each morning, I find the sands of my thoughts cluttered with questions.

Here’s a few of the shells I’ve picked up and wondered about.

1) Does it seem that there are Girl Scouts selling cookies everywhere these days? The supermarket, the library, school, the high school basketball game, church, the appliances section at Home Depot! Okay, just kidding about the last one, but not about all the others! I’ve seen more Girl Scouts than rabbits recently, and that’s saying a lot!

2) Do Republicans and Democrats ever agree on anything, or does the media only seek to report the differences? Geez! It feels like a nasty custody battle with the nation as the child! Wouldn’t it just a little bit refreshing to hear someone say something like, “Yep! we were wrong about that!”, instead of “We’re never wrong!”?

3) Why doesn’t Old Navy sell men’s jeans in size 35? I feel like the wiener inside a corn dog in size 34 and someone who is unintentionally sagging when I wear size 36. And speaking about that, companies that make jeans should put extra strong fabric in the back left pocket. I put my wallet in that pocket and it wears out long before anything else. Carol says to just move my wallet to the right back pocket, but you can’t teach an old dog new tricks…and I guess you also can’t convince Old Navy that some of us are size 35’s!

4) Instead of the three advertisements I get in the mail each week from my cell phone company I wish they’d just take $3.00 off my monthly bill! Hello! I’m already your customer!

5) After substitute teaching for 5 days in 8th Grade math I believe it should also qualify as a foreign language! 

6) I did not watch the NBA All-Star game last weekend. Having coached for twenty plus years I can’t bear to watch it! It’s like a pick-up game at the Y where defense is optional!

7) All the clergy sexual abuse cases that are arising make me ill!

8) I bought three CD’s for $5 each last weekend. They were all contemporary Christian musical artists, like Lauren Daigle, but then I figured out why they were only $5 each! It took a toolbox just to get them unwrapped and open! Plus, my MacBook doesn’t play CD’s, so the only place I can listen to them is in the car! It may be easier to just hum to myself!

9) I’m reading through the Bible this year, and there are a number of things that confuse me. Like why God filled Egypt with frogs, and then Pharaoh’s magicians did the same thing! Why would they do that? That makes about as much sense as Old Navy’s discrimination against size 35 men! (I’m not bitter about that, though!)

10) I get a Medicare ad in the mail everyday. It’s kind of disconcerting to realize how many people seem to know that any 65th birthday is coming up! 

And, yes! My mailbox seems to be filled with cell phone ads, Medicare possibilities, and this week’s Kohl’s sale items! Thank God it isn’t political campaign season! I actually look forward to having a bill amidst all the stuff!

Now you know how weird I am! I can’t help it! I need a Tagalong cookie!

The Why

August 17, 2015

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                    August 17, 2015

                                                    

Most of the things I do each day are done out of habit. The way I brush my teeth, when I brush my teeth, and how I brush my teeth…regardless of what my dental hygienist tells me…is done out of habit. Some habits become a part of our life because of a situation that we go through. For instance, I always read at bedtime. Sometimes I read a few pages, and sometimes I read for two hours. The root of my bedtime reading goes back to when I had a herniated disc in my back and I was mostly bed-bound for a couple of weeks. I would read between pain pills.

Habit is a powerful life stabilizer. We hang our hat on it. It’s also why bad habits are hard to break. We shape our lives around them. Good habits, bad habits, routines…even rituals.

Many of our habits are done without a clue as to why.

I take a shower in the morning…every morning! Why? Because…that’s all I can say. I didn’t always take a shower in the morning. Goodness gracious! When I was growing up we didn’t even have a shower! So at some time in my life I decided that a morning shower sounded like a good idea.

“The Why” is a question that gets covered over. Why do I do what I do? If you were to ask me that question while staring at me there is good chance that you’ll get this glazed over look staring back at you.

Why am I a pastor? Because God placed a calling on my life that became defined my senior year of high school. I was clueless about a lot of other things my senior year, but I was clear on my calling.

“The Why” is a question that gets forgotten as we journey. A young lady I’ve known since she was born about 24 years ago, Allison Perrine, just completed a seventy day 4,000 mile bicycle journey along with 30 other college-aged young adults from across the country. I’m sure that when Allison was pedaling across Kansas she may have had moments when she asked the question, “Why am I doing this?”

Kansas has a way of doing that to people!

She was doing it to raise funds for cancer awareness programs. (She raised over $22,000.) But, really Allison was bicycling from baltimore to San Francisco because of her mom who lost her battle with cancer and her Aunt Marie who is a cancer survivor. That’s the real why behind the journey.

The church is often negligent of revisiting the why question. Why do we do what we do? Why do we give of our financial resources to the church and to missions? Why do we volunteer our time? Why do we pray for people? Why do we help our neighbors? Why are we passionate about ministry? Why do we clap when someone is baptized?

What is at the core of our purpose? Why do we care?

When we remind ourselves of the why we stay grounded in the cause.

It even helps us get through Kansas.

Questions An Old Man Mutters To Himself

June 30, 2015

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                       June 29, 2015

                          

People say I’m not old, but I bet if I went to a swing dance party no one under fifty would be hoping I’d ask them for a dance. I’m married anyway, and I’m not sure what “swing dance” means. “Swing” is something my four year old granddaughter asks me to give her a push with.

So a lot of people humor me with sympathetic looks attached to words like, “Ohhh…you’re not old!”

Actually I’m two-thirds gone! And that’s if I live to 92!

So now I’m in the muttering stages of  my life. I mutter to myself! I mutter questions to myself that don’t need to be answered.

Why can’t the newspaper delivery person hit the driveway with the morning toss? How can they hit the pile of snow that’s about three feet wide with the paper, but miss the thirty foot stretch of concrete? Of course, the yearly renewal notice comes in May…after I’ve forgotten about those frustrations!

Why do people pay fifty bucks to get dirty running a 5K race? Back in college we went out in front of the dorm and played football in the mud…for free! Why do people pay fifty dollars to get color thrown on them? I can lay down on the deck and have my grandchildren use me for a marking board…once again, for free!

Why does my bedtime seem to get earlier and earlier…and yet as soon as I lay my head on the pillow I’m wide awake?

Why do people in sporty cars with tinted windows think other cars are like orange cones on a race course? Strictly there to weave in and out of!

Why does my next door neighbor’s barbecuing smell so tantalizing, but I can’t seem to make any kind of meat smell good? Why doesn’t my next-door neighbor realize how unfair his cooking aromas are for the rest of us?

Why do people rush to get on a plane? If I’m sitting in 22A does it matter if I get on the plane in the first batch or the last? Speaking of planes, why can’t we have the little bags of pretzels again? Why do the airlines give coffee in 6 ounce cups but Coke in a 12 ounce can? What’s up with that?

Why are my toes so ugly? My feet look like they went through six hours of prep and make-up for a horror movie! It looks like I have painted toenails distributed unequally amongst my ten toes.

Why do my ears look like they have crabgrass growing out of them? Good Lord! I’m thinking about sprinkling them with Weed-B-Gone!

Why do dogs seem to think 11 p.m. and 6 a.m. are appropriate times to start barking? That causes me to mutter to myself while I’m still lying in bed…still trying to sleep! But, of course, that 6 a.m. bark alarm wakes up my bladder…and it ain’t going back to sleep!

Oh! And here’s one more that I’m still muttering about! I got one of those print-out coupons at King Soopers that said I could get a free…I say it again…free Starbucks “Refreshers” drink that comes in a can. So I went looking for my free can…and guess what? They don’t have it! The store employee who was very gracious and kind wasn’t even sure they carried it! Wait a minute! I have a coupon for a free one, but they don’t carry it!

Would that cause you to mutter to yourself?

 

Does It Snow in Heaven…and Other Questions

April 27, 2015

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                   April 27, 2015

                             

I’m sitting in my usual Monday morning Starbuck’s seat looking out at Pike’s Peak…except I can’t see Pike’s Peak this morning because it is an overcast day, and there are flakes of snow coming down. Let me write that again. There are snow flakes coming down!!! It’s April 27! I’m going to petition God that there should be no snowfall after April 15!

We’ve had so much snow this winter that I’m starting to wonder if the Lord finds pleasure in it. I know snowboarders do! I’ve got a guy at church who actually gets all giddy at the possibility of a blizzard because he loves getting the snowblower out.

It makes me wonder if it snows in heaven? I can’t use “at the higher altitudes” as a reason for whether it does or not.

It’s one of a number of questions that I never ask anyone around me out of fear of the looks I’ll receive. A lot of my questions actually dance through my mind in this Starbuck’s seat around the end of my first cup of dark roast. By then I am neatly dangerous!

Imagine a safety umbrella above my head as I ask the following brain drains.

-Why doesn’t Old Navy make men’s jeans in size 35? I’m dealing with waist discrimination! If I spend a month at the Golden Corral buffet bar I could easily solve it. Conspiracy theory! Old Navy and Golden Corral plotting together…especially targeting me!

    -Is there something I’m missing? Are sagging pants sexy? I just don’t get it! Of course, if I wear size 36 without a belt I could be sagging as well. Are sagging pants on a sixty year old man sexy or a sign of dementia? Just asking…while I still remember!

    -Why is my vertical leap now about two inches?

    -Why does high fiber cereal always have to look like rabbit droppings and taste like grass clippings? Is it to convince us that we are eating something that is healthy for us?

    -Why do I still listen to the flight attendant give the pre-flight instructions? I’ve heard it a hundred times. Is it my Southern Baptist growing up years rising to the surface and shoveling guilt into my thoughts…or is it in case I’ve missed something during the previous times I’ve heard it?

    -What are all the recent stories about various police officers shooting citizens, and other citizens rioting in protest telling us about our culture? This is not a slam on law enforcement, but rather a question that pertains to the rise of violence in our society. Video games…professional athletes beating up people…school shootings…crowded prisons…Two A.M. bar fights…will we ever be able to honestly admit that we have a problem…and will we ever, ever, ever be able to say that it is related to a diminished regard for life itself?

    -Why does hair grow in my ears like weeds gone crazy?

    -Why does the dog in the yard behind our house bark at all hours, and why can I hear it as clearly as a car alarm going off but his owners not seem to be able to?

    -Why does a middle school boys’ locker room rival an overflowing rollaway dumpster in odor? 

    -Why are so many Christians as excited about their faith as I am about eating whole hominy?

I have other questions that take journeys through my mind every day. Questions that, for the most part, have no answers, but rather remain as puzzles in my head like a boatload of Rubik’s Cubes.

I’ll stop here! I’ve got to get a refill!

Hurrying From the Tomb To Uncertainty

April 8, 2015

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                               April 7, 2015

                                 

On Easter Sunday I preached on the first eight verses of Mark 16 about the three women who  encountered the young man dressed in white inside the empty tomb of Jesus. They fled the tomb afraid, and yet they had to be asking the question, “What now?”

They believed Jesus had lived and then been crucified. They expected the tomb to still be occupied by him, not by a guy in white telling them to not be afraid.

What now?

The rest of Mark 16, which was not a part of the earliest manuscripts, tries to bring some clarity to that question, but I think Mark 16:8 is a very relevant question for many people today who follow Jesus, or are trying to figure out what it means to be a follower of Jesus.

Too often we try to explain away all the mystery of the Christian faith, as if that will draw more people to our crucified Lord. You can’t explain “death to life”. It just is, because he said that’s how it was to be.

I’m sure there were a number of people who left our church after the worship celebration on Sunday wondering…what now? If I believe that Christ conquered death, what now? What does that mean to me and for me?

What does that mean for the church? What happens after Easter Sunday?

The neglect news is…not much! Some might answer the Final Four championship game. Others start counting down the days until summer vacation, or…the really, really negative…April 15th income tax return deadline day.

But let me take the high road. What happens after Easter Sunday? People start talking about things being different, about hope in the midst of uncertainty, and about perhaps…just perhaps…life suddenly having a purpose that is not tied tightly to a paycheck or the Sports section of the newspaper.

The women ran away uncertain of what had just happened, but knowing that the heartaches of the darkest day of their lives, uncomfortably close in their memories, would be soothed and replaced by the mysterious hope of something different, something incredibly unexpected.

They had “what now” questions, but ones with growing optimism instead of bitter pessimism.

It disturbs me, and yet challenges me, that too many people are asking “what now” about the place of their faith and are greeted by pat answers from pastors and churches that lead them to surrender their hunger for the Mystery.

Perhaps pilgrims in the midst of the journey once in a while should consider answering “I don’t know, but let’s walk together and see if we can find out.”

We Don’t Know!

December 30, 2014

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                    December 30, 2014

                                                     

        Nothing quite causes unrest and frustration more than three words: We don’t know!

People who are looking for the answer or final solution find it hard to truly hear those words. You can blame it on the times we live in…and the devices of our time.

For example, I can look at a device wrapped around my wrist and instantly discover how many calories I’ve burned off during my workout.

I can look at the side of a box to find out how many grams of sugar are in the bowl of cereal I’m munching on.

I can go to the Channel Guide on my TV to find out what is playing at 9:00 tonight on the Sci Fi Channel.

I can go on-line to see the balance in my checking account.

But there are some things in life that have a grayness to them, that aren’t instant answers. Those three words…”We don’t know!”, cause eyebrows to be raised and fears to be heightened. They are three words that have become like a foreign language to our culture.

“We must know! We have to know!”

I recently was sitting with a family in a hospital waiting room waiting to hear from the surgeon about the difficult procedure the loved one had undergone. As we waited the text messages kept bombarding family members.

       “How did it go?”

       “Is he in recovery?”

       “What did they find out?”

       “How long will he be there?”

The spouse patiently responded to each one “We don’t know!” The waiting for word and the pressure from those who weren’t there to know was raising her own level of concern. Patience quite often takes a detour around hospital waiting rooms.

Last week my wife and I were inquiring about the purchase of a hot new product that we were looking to buy. The store was out of them. I found myself getting a little agitated when the salesperson’s respond to when they would get some more in was “We don’t know! Maybe next week…maybe a couple of weeks!”

The answer wasn’t immediate…and so I was up against a brick wall. The bricks did not feel good against my desire to move forward.

I often get spiritual questions that I can’t answer. The questioner looks at my response of “I don’t know!” and is taken back. I’m a pastor. I’m suppose to know.

But I have no idea how God created angels, or what kind of fish it was that swallowed Jonah? Why do good things happen to bad people…and bad things happen to good people? Why does one person get cured of cancer, and another die a slow painful death?

Life is filled with questions that I am clueless about answering.

Most of my day is spent in “the immediate.” That is, I can immediately know without wondering. It’s the moments of wondering that are uncomfortable, and yet they are also the moments that are usually tinted with the presence of God.