Posted tagged ‘sanctuary’

Last Sunday…Kinda’

December 28, 2015

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                  December 27, 2015

                                       

Today was kind of my last Sunday at Highland Park Baptist Church, the congregation I have pastored for the past sixteen and a half years. I say kinda’ my last Sunday because I return on January 17 to speak and then Carol and I will be the main targets at a reception that afternoon.

Today ended with the congregation gathered around us for a time of prayer. It was “reserved emotional!” I say reserved emotional because the dear saints know that there is another Sunday three weeks later that will probably include the opening of the floodgates.

I took notice of several today. Marla Booth was finishing elementary school when I arrived. Now she is married to an awesome man named Austin who I love deeply, and is the mother of two beautiful little girls. Marla has a heart for people and has become more and more passionate about children in underprivileged countries around the world.

Greg and Jordan Davis came to our church several years ago after a brain tumor had been discovered. Greg and I already knew each other from basketball officiating and Timberview Middle School. When he had a couple of seizures and then the tumor was discovered I showed up at the hospital just to check in with him and to ask permission to say a prayer. A few weeks later I entered the sanctuary on a Sunday morning to see their family present for worship. We’ve walked together ever since…through the anxiety of MRI’s…and unexpected seizures…and having to share the news with their daughter that the cancer had returned. Our journeys have been tear-filled and laughter-laced.

Rex and Ann Davis were present today. Rex is 95 and Ann 93. Their days of good health have recently gone by the wayside, but they come to church when they are able. Today Rex took up the offering with the sole purpose of squeezing my finger as I stood in the front row. He is a man of God whose journey has also had a trail of tragedy as part of it. About four years ago I had the funeral of their son, Ed, who was killed in a motorcycle accident trying to avoid a deer on a two-lane mountain road. I’ve considered Rex to be my “Colorado Dad!” Her models what a servant of Christ should be. Recently, he also has had some battles with cancer that have left him a shell of who he was…and I love him deeply!

Chris Oldham was there today! A few years ago she married my area minister after being a part of our church for years and years. She and Mike often are worshiping in other congregations around the state on Sunday, and she followed Mike to be more involved in First Baptist of Colorado Springs, but she has always been an encourager for me. She got me involved in the summer camping program, not to give me something else to do, but to give me some quite moments in the midst of a camp week. Sounds crazy, right? But it has actually been exactly that!

Courtney Gage Ramsey was there. I did the wedding ceremony for her and Steve a few years ago. Now they live a couple of hours away with their three year old son. Her parents, Jack and Ellen, mean so much to me, and I was delighted she came this morning.

And then there was my son, David, who surprised us and came this morning! That was awesome…and I’m getting a little teary-eyed as I sip my decaf and type this. David’s life does not mesh easily with church life. He works as a restaurant chef, and moves in different circles. One of the things I look forward to as I enter retirement is more time with Dave…like this Tuesday night when we go to the Air Force basketball game together. Today was the first time in…years that all three of my children were in a Sunday worship service together. The Christmas Eve when Lizi “Skype’d” in and watched on a front row laptop…doesn’t count.

It was a day of gladness and sadness! A day of moving forward while treasuring what has been.

The Smell of Eternity

September 23, 2014

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                    September 23, 2014

                                        

One of my unanswered questions got answered today. I had been wondering what eternity smells like…like in heaven, that is! In today’s mail I got the answer. Of all places, it came in the middle of the Kohl’s ad. To my surprise a sniff sample with the title “ETERNITY” was included in the ad.

I slowly raised one of the flaps on the sample to experience eternity. Would it be close to the tantalizing smell rising from a bucket of fried chicken, or the aroma one’s nose breathes in when the fresh bag of ground coffee is opened?

What does eternity smell like?

I was a little taken back by the fact that the scent sample of Eternity was coming from Calvin Klein, and to further confuse my theology a beachfront picture of a woman laying on top of a man, who is kissing her forehead, splashed across the cover of the scent experience.

Calvin Klein had evidently done a lot of study and research on Eternity, because one lift up flap presented a masculine eternal smell, but the flap on the other side of the sample was the feminine version of what Eternity smells like. Neither, in my opinion, smelled as spiritual and persevering as my grandfather’s Old Spice did many years ago, but I’m biased.

I’m going to sneak out and go to Kohl’s tonight, but some Eternity, and see if Carol says, “Wow! You smell heavenly!”

If she wrinkles up her nose and says with a grimace, “What’s that smell?”, I’m going to talk to her about her eternal destination. Not recognizing the smell of Eternity is reason to question where she is in her ability to smell what is of God.

Of course, our sanctuary right now has a musty smell to it. Carol has noticed that. Perhaps if I canvas the neighbors I can collect some additional Eternity scent samples and string them up like fly strips around the worship area. Is it possible that people would start thinking about Eternity more if they smelled it every Sunday?

Obviously, Calvin Klein has some funds invested in this project. They even carefully worded the description of the product. It is “ETERNITY: timeless, intimate, romantic. The perfect scents for him and her inspired by the ideal of lasting love and intimacy.”

    There you know! I’m still a little skeptical, so for right now I’m going to just put the smell of eternity in my car. Perhaps it will help it last forever!

A Room With A View

June 3, 2014

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                    June 3, 2014

 

                                       

 

I sometimes enter it early in the morning to be saturated by its quiet. I take a seat in the third pew on the right and settle in. In my world of changing agendas the sanctuary offers me one constant agenda.

To be still.

It is a hard thing to learn, to incorporate. The rest of my day is not based on my stillness, but rather on my movement. I move from meeting preparation to hospital bedsides to answering emails. Movement can sometimes take over our lives and push the stillness out.

Towards the end of the forty-sixth Psalm God whispers his desire to David. “Be still, and know that I am God.” (Ps. 46:10a, NIV)

Perhaps people have a hard time finding God these days because we have “ants in the pants” of our lives. We have un-learned stillness.

I sit in my pew and take in the room. The cross hanging on the front wall…empty…steady…reminding me of the One who conquered death itself; the cross that blesses me with a hope deep within my soul of what my life is about.

The stained glass windows echo stories of people’s lives…the great cloud of witnesses that have gone before. As I take each one of them in I glimpse the glory of days gone by and lives that impacted future generations.

The pews are solid in their weighted wood. To move one is a recipe for back problems. Their weighted anchoring reminds me of a faith community that has a foundation that can not be shaken. Through tempests and turmoils our anchor has held.

And then my eyes settle on The Lord’s Table, the place where two days earlier each of the sinners had taken a piece of freshly-baked bread and a little cup of grape juice and been told that these two elements were to remind us of the price of our spiritual freedom. Some folks cried tears and others stared with stoic expressions on their faces, but each had been freed.

Sitting in my pew I recall the moments of blessing and forgiveness, repentance and testimony.

My room gives me a view for the rest of the day. It allows me to breathe in and breathe out…

…And be still!

Bringing The Cross Back Inside

April 10, 2014

WORDS FROM W.W.                                              April 10, 2014

 

                                 

 

Our church has a great sense of humor…usually! Actually, most churches have a great sense of humor…you just may have to dig a little deeper to find it!

Years ago we had a couple of people from our congregation construct a wooden cross and a stand that it could be propped up in. It was heavy…and, forgive the term, a bit on the ugly side. Of course, it is difficult to make a cross look good, I don;t care how many Easter lilies you place around it!

The wood of this cross was rough and rigid. It was the kind of wood that takes the pounding of nails easily without stumbling. In the past few years we’ve moved it up the aisle and back to the rear of the sanctuary. Back and forth it has gone like a person without a home.

At Christmas it has crouched in the back corner so that the attention can be more focused on the fifteen foot Christmas tree in the front and a homemade livestock stall with a rustic wooden crib in the midst of it.

At Thanksgiving it disappears to make room for turkeys and canned goods.

But on Good Friday it trudges back to the front in order to have a dark piece of fabric draped over it and a handful of nails driven deep into its strength. Its meaning and significance has never waned, and yet we’ve never felt totally comfortable with its look of abandonment and sorrow either.

This past September we moved it outside. It has stood behind a fenced area behind out sanctuary, kind of like an oversized first-grader hovering over his classmates in the school picture. It’s been standing there through storms and excessive windblown snow.

Come Saturday, however, it is being moved back inside. We jest about it with statements like “It’s time to bring the cross back in” and “I think the cross has been grounded long enough. Let’s unground it!”

We say it with the lean towards humor, but, on the other hand, the cross makes us antsy and uncertain. Give us a manger scene with a dressed-up plastic baby doll laying in it and we’re fine, but a cross of wood is a remembrance for us of all the bad things God endured because of his love for us. It’s a reminder of our tendency to be wayward people of faith who sometimes are brought back to the reality of our fallible decisions.

This year, however, a number of people in our congregation are asking for the cross. It’s been the forgotten symbol long enough. On Palm Sunday it will be back at the front of the sanctuary. To temper the celebration of the palms it will silently stand at a distance in the foreground…alone…bare…reminding!

I think it will be a good thing to have it there without fabric or flowers to partially cover its frame. I hope we can even keep it inside for a while.