Posted tagged ‘Tradition’

Wearing Black Socks With Tennis Shoes

November 18, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                     November 18, 2018


There are certain things that I once could do that I can no longer achieve, like touching the basketball rim (which I did back in my college days), not having to use the bathroom at least once during the night, and drinking Folger’s coffee without gagging!

And there are other things that I never did that I still don’t do! One of those is wearing black socks with athletic shoes. I just can’t do it! No matter what sports apparel logo is on the side of the sock…Adidas, Nike, Under Armor…I just can’t wear black socks while playing hoop or running a couple of miles. 

It goes back to my growing up days. I was not very cool to begin with, but to wear a pair of black socks in P.E. class was to risk being seen as permanently uncool! Wearing black socks with tennis shoes was something my dad did! Plus, he’d have a pair of shorts on at the time…and would be mowing the lawn for the whole neighborhood to see! I stayed inside until he was done. 

Dad would also go the other side of fashion un-coolness. He’d wear white socks with brown shoes! That was like the twin brother of “black socks and tennis shoes”!

At basketball practice yesterday there were 2 boys out of 28 wearing white socks…and one coach. Me! Everyone else was wearing black socks or multi-colored with designs. In 1972 it would have been seen as a picture of totally uncool boys. Now it’s the trend!

There are certain things in life that we just can’t adjust to. It’s like they are a part of our cultural DNA that we can’t get past. Like a redhead trying to become a brunette. After a while the red roots spring up to remind the person of who he still is.

“Y’all” still comes out of my mouth when referring to more than one person. “Why don’t y’all sit down for a few?” I can’t say “all of you” or even “you all.” They taste like sour milk coming out of mouth. 

It took me a couple of months to not feel guilty when I bought a pack of Hanes black boxer-style underwear. For about sixty years I had worn J.C. Penney’s Towncraft tighty-whities! It wasn’t until after my mom- a Penney’s retiree- passed away that I risked wearing something different. I know, this is probably too much info, but I wear the tighty-whities still at nighttime.

Our understanding of what is cool is a strong tie, but our remembering of how things were also keeps its grip on us. One happens out of the fear of being unaccepted, and the other happens out of the desire to honor family and its sense of belonging.

In regards to black socks with tennis shoes, cool was more important than identifying with Pops, but in most other things family took preference. 

Y’all understand what I’m talking about?

Living For Sameness

June 28, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                        June 28, 2016


I have my routines. I take a shower when I get up in the morning…every morning. A shower-less morning throws me for a loop. I function like a zombie in blue jeans. I can hardly even remember to put underwear on. (TMI!)

My life is sectioned into routines. Some of them are good and could even be classified as disciplines. Some are compulsive behaviors that make me think I’m just another Adrian Monk (from the TV series on USA Network Monk). Still other routines are simply things and actions that help me feel comfortable and in control.

In effect, I do a lot of living in sameness. My hamburger has to have tomato and onion on it. I drink a glass of soda whenever I have popcorn. I sleep with my personal blanket…otherwise known as my “blankie.” I sit in the same place whenever I watch television in our family room. I live in sameness. It reduces my stress level.

Sameness is okay…to a point!

A pastor friend of mine made a statement recently in describing a church. He said that the church was committed to living for sameness. I loved that statement because it describes a lot of congregations. On the other end of the spectrum are churches who are committed to constant change. They are hyperactive organizations that jump around like balloons that are released full of air but not tied shut. Both types of churches are committed to living for sameness- one to no change and the other to constant change.

Sameness, in some cases, becomes what we worship. I grew up believing that the Doxology was always sung after the offering was received. It was the cue for the ushers to bring the offering plates back to the front of the sanctuary. When I heard it sung one Sunday in a different point in the worship service I was caught off-guard. Did I sleep through the offering?

In my seminary days I worked for a year in a Presbyterian Church. The senior pastor, Dr. James P. Martin, was a great pastor and mentor. He taught me a multitude of things about ministry. But I had been raised Baptist all my life! I could see things only through a Baptist lens. When I questioned why the Presbyterians didn’t have a Sunday night service…”like we Baptists did!”…he gave me a great response that I’ll always remember. He said, “Well, Bill, what it takes Baptists two worship services to do we can do in one!”


It helped me understand that things do not always have to be the same. Change can be a good thing. After all, the Christian faith is about transformation. A person, and a congregation, can’t be transformed and remain the same.

I’m not proficient in being sensitive to the leading of the Spirit. I’ve missed a ton of stop signs and Spirit whispers, but I also sense that if given a choice many congregations would choose to stay rooted to sameness instead of being led by the Spirit. Like my “blankie”, there is comfort and safeness in sameness.

What amazes me about the first church is that although they were rooted in Judaism they were transformed by the Gospel and led by the Spirit. They were changed, but anchored to the Change Agent.

Letting Go of My Cassette Tapes

June 8, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                June 8, 2016


It’s been a difficult week. I took my carrying case of cassette tapes to Goodwill! It was comparable to that day several years ago when Carol and I took Lizi, our youngest, to college.

Carol has been cleaning up the basement this week. The trunk of our car was loaded with various boxes and forgotten treasures. I was okay with the old humidifier finding its place in the trunk, but then…then (dramatic music for effect)…she brought out the tape case.

I had forgotten about it, but then I started looking at all the products of music production that it held.

Twila Paris….Bohemian Melodies…Lake Wobegon Days…Whale Sounds…DeGarmo and Key…Cat Stevens…Andrae Crouch…Larry Norman…Keith Green! The last three are now dead, but hey!…their music never dies…unless, of course, its on a cassette tape.

I begrudgingly zipped the case closed and said a few holy words over it, sprayed incense in the air, tore my cloak and threw ashes on my head, and then drove the condemned to Goodwill.

I realize that neither of our vehicles has a tape player, and the one cassette player we have is somewhere unknown, but it is hard to let go of objects that I’ve associated with a certain period of my life.

Cassette tapes were from a time when Carol and I were raising three kids. There’s a sweetness to those memories. I would listen to Twila Paris as I prepared the Sunday message. When the music ended, I pressed the eject button and the tape door would open. I’d flip the cassette over and press Play. Good times and good music.

Life is littered with those Goodwill moments when we just need to let some things go. Pack them up and move on.

Churches usually aren’t very good at that. Sentiment runs high. Every congregation has a certain number of people who want things to stay the same. Like with my cassette tapes, I just wanted them to be there in case, for some odd reason, on a rainy afternoon I ever had the urge to hear whale sounds again.

Years ago there was a man in my church who had to travel most of the time. He would be gone for three or four months and then be home for a week. I got wind of the fact that he wasn’t going to come to church anymore so I called him. He said the church had changed, that it wasn’t the same. In essence, he wanted it to be there for him whenever he had the urge or possibility of attending. In his turbulent and fast-paced life he wanted the worship service to be the same as it had been in order to bring back to him memories of a period of his life that he longed to return to.

It’s hard to say goodbye, because we feel that we’re being insensitive. There are those who transition, it seems, with ease, and then there are those of us who hold on because we associate whatever we’re grasping with God. If it at one time was a vehicle of God we think it borders on blasphemy to get rid of it.

Churches are often hoarders out of a confused love for God. It’s like when I go to Best Buy and purchase a new Blu-Ray player, and then bring it home and sit it on top of my DVD player, which is still sitting on top of my VHS player.

Sometimes we just have to take the cassette tapes to Goodwill!

What Carol doesn’t realize is that I sneaked half a dozen tapes out of the case when she was out of the room. I think that’s okay! Bohemian Melodies, it seems, are few and far between these days.

Fanatics, Fans, Followers, or Faithful

April 11, 2013

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                      April 11, 2013

I’ve just returned from the NCAA Men’s Basketball Final Four in Atlanta. What an experience! My son and I thoroughly enjoyed everything but the MARTA train ride after the Saturday night games were over. We now know how it feels to be a cow being herded!

In Atlanta I experienced four types of basketball people: fanatics, fans, followers, and faithful. Each type gives the church some clues about momentum, fickleness, and congregational life.

“Fanatics” were evident for each of the teams. They were people who took on a different appearance for a few hours. A Michigan fanatic dressed up to look like a big banana…or at least that’s what it looked like to me. Another one painted his face maize and blue. A Wichita State fanatic wore a full body gold suit. Fanatics are people who are different for a few hours, before going back to who they really are.

Church fanatics get worked up for a cause or an event, but it is only a surface appearance for a moment or a time, and then they take on their usual nature again. Fanatics get attention, but the energy that they expend usually can only endure for a season. To use a basketball analogy, they are like the slam dunk that gets highlighted, but in the scheme of things is still worth just two points.

“Fans” wear the team colors and show up in the good times. We use the term “fair weather fans.” Fans are loyal as long as they are benefiting from it. If they don’t perceive there being a benefit they get testy, and look for the best possible scapegoat. Fans are willing to invest as long as it’s the popular thing to do. If the team’s success starts sliding fans often head for the exits.

Church fans are committed until there is a conflict. If they don’t care for the pastor, and can’t create enough discord in the congregation to get him ousted, they will head for the exits. Fans are not early adopters of change. They are late adopters, joining in when the buy in from enough people reaches a tipping point. Fans were amazed at the teachings of Jesus, but joined the crowd that shouted for Pilate to put him on a cross.

“Followers” wear the team colors, and check the Sports section the next morning after an away game to see how the team did. They are usually a member of the team’s Facebook page like “the Big Blue” from Kentucky or “Duck Nation” from Oregon. They are more invested than fans. Their car probably even has a bumper sticker proclaiming a team name like “Duke Blue Devils” or “Marshall Thundering Herd.”

“Church followers” are not necessarily Jesus followers. They are loyal, but maybe not for the right reasons. There is attraction to the music, or the location. The pastor could be the focus of their following. A new pastor comes in and it could be a different story. Church followers may follow the trimmings, but not the Core. Fellowship time conversation may revolve around the professional basketball team or the new store that just opened in the mall, instead of it being conversation that flows out of spiritual journeys.

To use another story from the sport’s world, it’s like a professional baseball player who couldn’t figure out how to get off of the I-285 that went around Atlanta. He kept driving around and around, missing the game he was to play in, and could never get to the core…the center…the destination.

Finally, there are the “faithful.” The faithful know that it is not all about them. That the point they are presently at has been paved by many years of tradition, principles, and wise people. The faithful know that valleys happen and mountains don’t go on forever.

The “Church Faithful” know where they have come from, but also know that there needs to be movement from where they are at. They understand the source of their energy and filter the good times and the bad times through Christ. Perhaps, most of all, the faithful are not fickle. They can applaud a good high tide without getting swept away by a tidal wave.

Final Four madness! Memorable even beyond the guy dressed up like a cardinal!

Keeping The Columns

January 12, 2012

WORDS FROM W.W. January 11, 2012

When I was back in Ohio recently I went to a basketball game at my old high school. It’s the first time I had stepped foot inside my alma mater since 1975.
But I can’t really say it was going back to my old high school…because my old high school was torn down four or five years ago, and a new high school was built on the spot. (You know you’re getting old when you begin a lot of conversations with the words “There used to be…”! Like “There used to be a hospital there where that Walmart is” or “There used to be 15 cents hamburgers served in this restaurant!”)
So, in terms of going back and reliving the good old days of high school, I can’t really do that, because it’s a different building. I’m sure the lunchroom ladies still wear hairnets, and the bathrooms are still disgusting, but the brick and mortar smell of newness.
Except that when they were getting state funding to build the new high school there was a group of alumni in the area who couldn’t stand to see ALL of the old school leveled. It just wouldn’t be the same (which is true since the old school was built about the time Moby Dick was a minnow). So the alumni, and perhaps the school district, spent an extra million dollars to keep the front entrance and columns of the old school building intact as the rest of the school was being demolished. Going by the school after the demolition was an interesting scene. It looked like a war zone with a few columns standing in the midst of it.
It made me think about when we ask God to do a rebuilding and renewal project in our life. We want the newness…new wine…if you will…but there’s a part of the old life that we want to remain intact.
“Lord, do a mighty work within my life, but leave the columns alone!”
“Lord, I’m tired of the staleness, but leave the pantry items alone.”
“Lord, renew my spirit, but leave my Friday nights out of it!”
How difficult it is for each one of us to let God do a complete renewal and restart in our lives! How difficult it is for renewal to break out within the Body of Christ, because we want to hold on to the columns! To the point that we’re willing to let it cost us even more. To the point that we consider “the columns” more sacred than surrendering to the Savior.

Non-Traditionally Traditional or Traditionally Non-Traditional

May 8, 2009

We throw around the terms.



They carry extensive resume’s attached to them. When we say traditional visions of straight-lacedness dance…I mean…don’t dance in our heads. We think of orderliness and finishing on-time and the traditional Thanksgiving meal.

Conversely, when we say non-traditional we think of radical natures, “out-of-the-box,” differing processes.

Okay, I admit! I think that!

It occurs to me, however, that each one of us—every one of us—is a mixture of traditional and non-traditional. Both camps of people are ready to throw something at me at this moment, so hear me out.

I love to drink a good cup of coffee in the morning. Diana says that she could stand a straw up in the midst of a cup of the coffee I brew because it’s so strong. Wimp! (Smaller font so she doesn’t see it.) When it comes to coffee I’m a traditionalist. Recently I was at Pike’s Perk Coffeehouse to get my mug filled. There was light roast, medium roast, dark roast, de-caffeinated (“What’s the point?”), and French Vanilla flavored. I usually get medium roast. Flavored coffees just don’t appeal to me. That could be because I started drinking coffee back in my seminary days when “flavored” meant that you had dipped your donut in the cup. I learned to drink coffee a certain way, and French Vanilla, or Snickerdoodle, or Swiss Chocolate, or, Amaretto is just too outside of my tradition.

On the other side of my preferences, however, is my preference to drive a hybrid car. “This is not my dad’s Buick…or Ford…or Chrysler!” My parents have always driven cars that have traditionally been thought of as having been made in America. Call me a radical, but our family owns three Hondas and I’ve gone to the hybrid car. For right now it’s still seen as being non-traditional, although the day is coming….

Henry Ford was seen as being non-traditional at one point!

We bring those labels of “traditional” and “non-traditional” into our spiritual lives, and especially into our congregational lives. Depending on where you place yourself, it’s easy to see someone who is in a different place then you as being messed-up.

“Alex hates praise music. He’s very…traditional!”

It’s said like the person has an illness.

“Alex hates Pepsi. He’s…diabetic!”

Or “Alex does not care for our 10:30 worship service. He’s very…non-traditional.”

I’m a hybrid. I’m a mixture. We’re all hybrids. Just when I think I’m a non-traditionalist I make a batch of popcorn on Sunday night, because when I was growing up my family always made popcorn on Sunday nights and watched the Ed Sullivan show together on TV. Just when I think I’m a traditionalist I find myself reading a book by Leonard Sweet like The Gospel According to Starbucks or Thomas Friedman’s book The World Is Flat.

Just when I start thinking “normal,” I look at some of my “Far Side” cartoons.

We’re all messed-up, but we’re also all “mixed-together.” Christians more often than not use labels to create separation than a unique kind of unity. We allow our preferences to irritate us about someone who has a different preference.

After all, if everyone was like me there would be a lot less arguments!

And if you thought I was serious in that last sentence, you obviously haven’t realized that I am a non-traditional humorist!