Posted tagged ‘sainthood’

The Saints That Go Before Us

June 16, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                             June 16, 2017

                                     

I’ve been blessed with many of them! Saints, that is! Saintly people who didn’t know they were saints, just men and women who were walking steadily with God, stepping humbly forward in daily obedience.

They didn’t know they were making an impact, impressing young lives, and marking out a trail for those of us behind them. They just lived a day at a time, but another pebble would be placed in the vase of wonder each of those days. Over time the pebbles crowded out the uncertainty and marked the life with weighted consistency.

Yesterday I took my dad, one of those saints, to see another saint who has impacted my life. Bill Ball, with a nine in front of his age, has been an encourager of me and many others for years and years. I remember his words of encouragement when I was a high schooler trying to break my school’s record in the mile run…and that was 45 years ago. My record has long since been broken, but Mr. Ball’s words of encouragement have stayed with me. Now in the final lap of his journey he would be awed by the number of people who have been impacted by him.

Saints are like that…hesitant to believe they are making a difference and convinced that they are no one that is anything special. When I asked my dad what he would like to do and where he would like to go while Carol and I are visiting from Colorado his response was quick. “Go visit Bill Ball!” The number of times his friend has visited him during my dad’s hospital stays have been numerous. Yesterday was my dad’s chance to visit Bill in the care center he has recently become a resident of.

We’re all familiar with the official saints. St. James, St. Paul’s, St. Mary’s, and St. John’s…the names mark the places we worship at and the school’s we attend. My dad has resided many times these past few years at St. Mary’s Medical Center in Huntington, West Virginia. “Saints” is a term we relate to locations and a professional football team.

For me, however, saints have graced my life all along the journey. They appear in my memories and stories…Ken Bystrom, Russ Vincent, Rev. Gale Baldridge, Rev. Floyd Norton, Rev. Chuck Landon, Rev. Tom Bayes, Irene Voss, Marie Lyons, Glenn Fairchild, Ben Dickerson, Rex Davis, Virginia Welsby, Charles Slusser, and Pauline Jones. Names that don’t mean anything to most folk, but conjure up adventures and appearances in my life.

A tragedy is a life that never realizes or recognizes the appearance of the saints, never understands the gifts that they are. In a culture that is very much self-absorbed there are a lot of people who are blind to the saints around them.

The thing is…a life that is blind to seeing the saints that have graced it is a life that lacks guideposts and clarifiers. It is a life without teachers, a vessel without a rudder.

I’m increasingly thankful for the footprints of the many who have helped me stay on course, encouraged me to keep on going and redirected me when I wandered. As I said at the beginning, I’ve been blessed with many of the saints.

Explaining Jerk-hood

May 28, 2015

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                May 28, 2015

                                          

Jerk. A four letter word that I find myself saying more frequently these days. The way I use it almost never is connected to some kind of meat, like chicken or beef, but is, however, almost always related to a meathead!

Jerk-hood for many people is not a sickness. It’s a persistent condition, like bad breath or B.O. It travels around with them like a dust storm announcing Pig Pen’s presence.

The “Big Boy” truck that weaves in and out of traffic like he’s a Duke of Hazzard…the forty-something man who charges out of the grocery door without regard for the pregnant lady coming in with two pre-schoolers in tow…any of the Real Housewives of Anywhere, USA…jerk-hood is gaining new members more rapidly than gray hairs on my head!

It’s puzzling to me! Why do more and more people act like “Biff Tannen” from Back to the Future. Do they realize it? Oblivious?

It’s interesting that jerk-hood stands out like a sore thumb compared to sainthood! Saints don’t go around wearing their good deeds and compassionate hearts on their sleeves. Jerks stand out like a leisure suit at a GQ Fashion Show!

So what’s going on? Is this a phase, a momentary trend? For one we’re more and more self-focused. We’ve even given it a name…”selfies!” We’re very much about ourselves. We’ve bought into it, and now believe it. It’s blurred the lines of what is acceptable and what is unacceptable. We’re not as sure these days.

Jerk-hood has even entered our churches. Most of the time we wrap it in Christ-like language, but it’s still there. Some weeks a person has to look real, real deep to find any fruit of the Spirit in the congregation. Part of Joel’s Osteen’s popularity has been the blurring of theology. It’s mixed up even more than a DQ Blizzard, spinning together some God talk with mostly self-talk. The message sounds appealing…and it makes me happy…which is what it’s all about! Jerks for Jesus…has a certain ring to it!

What Jesus said is a little disturbing to the jerk clan. He said “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will save it.” (Luke 9:23-24) Those words might not sell well to the sixty-something woman who just displayed her middle finger for me to see as she turned in front of me.

Lives are based on the mountain of momentary decisions that display our true selves. What is right, what is Christ-like, what is encouraging and positively impactful…often get buried in the last chapter of a person’s unwritten life of destructive behavior and disturbing words.

Some might miss this point, but it really is the evidence of the evil one’s intense interest in each of our lives. If I can have a few “f bombs” thrown my way it can take me off my commitment to doing random acts of kindness. If the hamburger I order at Wendy’s looks like it was put together by my four year old granddaughter it will take me into those darker moments of bitterness and disgust that will cause me to treat someone or several people with disdain and no value.

It’s a hard thing, and a spreading fog of fallen humanity, and I recognize that my membership card for jerk-hood gets displayed quite often.

Thank God that he even loves jerks as much as the saints!

 

The Saints Who Go Before Us

April 22, 2015

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                            April 22, 2015

                                         

We have been blessed in so many ways and by so many people…and so often we don’t immediately recognize it.

Today it hit me…in an unusual way!

Today is the 96th birthday of a woman who I always saw as being a person of compassion, gentleness, and faith. Her name is Ruth Kennedy.

Now…you need to understand something! I haven’t seen Ruth in close to twenty years. I was taken back by the fact that she has a Facebook page…and is now one of my Facebook friends, although in my birthday greeting to you today I couldn’t bring myself to calling her Ruth. She has always been Mrs. Kennedy to me!

Her oldest daughter, Cindy, was a good friend of mine in high school, and several of us hung out quite often at the Kennedy mansion in Ironton, Ohio, between the flood wall and North Second Street. The Wolfe’s and Kennedy’s were  a part of the same church, and our youth group as close-knit.

Mrs. Kennedy would welcome us into her home, and then…this is important!…give us space! She would go to another part of the house and let our group of friends laugh and converse together.

She was faithful! She would sit with her husband Jim on the Vernon Street side of the sanctuary each Sunday for worship at First Baptist Church. Ruth was not a hit-and-miss attender. She was consistent and friendly and warm.

And now years later it hits me how blessed I was to have her in my life during those high school and college years.

We talk about the saints that go before us, but sometimes we are blind to the saints that are with us! And then years later…in an unexpected Facebook post you catch sight of how special someone in your past was to you.

Mrs. Kennedy was just one of many saints who affirmed my call to ministry in 1979 when I was ordained. I can see some of the other faces…Pastor Gale Baldridge, Pastor Jerry Heslinga, Bill and Sue Ball, Paul Hughes, Glenn Fairchild, Ralph and Phyllis Carrico, Ramona McCollister, Dale Clark, Betty Douglas, Rev. Earl Dale…the list could stretch on to the horizon! Some have gone on to Glory…some were like “church moms” to me…and some were encouragers. All had a part in shaping me and causing me to press on!

Happy birthday, Ruth…I mean, Mrs. Kennedy!