Posted tagged ‘valuing others’

In Honor of Marie

October 20, 2019

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                      October 20, 2019

                                     

I first met Marie Lyons…kinda’…at a funeral home in Mason, Michigan, the Ball-Dunn Chapel. I was there for the visitation of Harold Bickert. Harold and his wife, Mildred, were elderly members of Lansing First Baptist Church, but years before they had lived in Mason and attended Mason First Baptist Church. 

I visited with Mildred and talked to her about the funeral service for Harold that would happen the next day. In an adjoining viewing room laid the body of Robert Lyons, Marie’s brother. Mildred knew I had been talking to the pastoral search committee of the Mason church, Marie’s church. She had me go into the viewing room and sign the guest book. The visitation had already concluded and no one was still present. I felt a little awkward, signing the guest book of a departed man I had never met, but Mildred was insistent. She WANTED me to be the next pastor of her former church, and Marie Lyons was on the search committee.

About two months later I became Marie’s pastor for the next fifteen years. She was a source of strength, gentle determination, wise counsel, a listener, and a respecter of everyone’s opinions no matter how opposite they might be from what she believed. She was African-American, in a town that was almost completely Caucasian. She never married, but took on  the responsibility of being the caregiver for her brother, Buddy, who had mental limitations and was also mute. She was a school teacher, loving her elementary students as they learned. 

Marie passed away this week at the age of 86. It is one of those deaths that causes you to weep and rejoice at the same time. A faithful follower of Christ, she looked forward to her march into glory. She did not fear death, but rather saw it as the transitional step into the presence and peace of the Lord. And yet, for her friends near and far, there is a rumbling cry in our spirits. She was so valued, and valued others so, that it hurts to know she has moved on to the place she looked forward to. Quite frankly, there just aren’t that many people around these days who have such strong character and are firmly anchored to the Rock that is Christ.

The last time I saw Marie was in 2015. I had traveled back to Mason to meet with my friend and financial advisor, David Leonard. While in Mason I met with our friend, Janet Smith, and Marie at an ice cream shop in Mason and we talked for about an hour. That was four years ago almost to the day. She was getting thinner as she was traveling through her early 80’s, but she still had that same kind voice that made you feel you were important.

  There are people who you’re around for a long time and they impact your life; and then there are those folk who you’re privileged to know for a season of life that leave their handprint upon you. Marie’s handprint has stayed with me for these past 20 years since we moved from Mason.

As the Mason community remembers and celebrated her life this coming week, I shed a sweetened tear. A saint has joined up with the saints. Like a Fodor’s travel guide, the words of scripture that Marie had memorized about what Glory is and how it looks are now being seen firsthand by this just-arrived friend of Jesus. 

Encouraging the Untalented

June 10, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                          June 10, 2018

                                

In all my years of coaching multiple sports I’ve had numerous athletes who were extremely talented…and I’ve also had numerous athletes who were incredibly untalented!

-Kids who get positioned in right field

            -Kids who play a forward in soccer because you would rather play great defense than score goals.

-Kids who can’t walk and chew gum at the same time.

-Kids who you could use a sun dial in timing their 100 yard dash.

-Kids who have great attitudes and no athletic skill.

In our sports-crazed world there seem to be more non-athletic, untalented participants lacing up the sneakers and putting on the pads.

I remember one young man on the middle school football team I coached. In practice one day he was playing defensive cornerback. He was about as far away from the action as he could possibly be and still be standing on the field. I suggested that he move in closer since there wasn’t even a wide receiver on his side of the field. All five feet one inch of him looked at me and said, “No, I’m okay!”

Or there was the foreign exchange student one year on the Girl’s JV team I coached. She had never played basketball, plus she had gotten out of line the day God passed out athleticism. If she shot the ball it had a better chance of getting stuck in the rafters than going in the basket. Her accuracy never improved during the season, although she did come to understand that the team with the ball was on offense and the team that didn’t have the ball was on defense. Running down the court without dribbling the ball meant that you suddenly would no longer be on offense and once again be…on defense! She came to realize this from personal experience.

I had a young man who would be the first one to show up for open gyms but couldn’t make a layup if his life depended on it. When he asked me if he was improving I replied, “Well, I can’t fault your effort!”

Every coach has the untalented kid who wants to be on the team. It becomes an exercise in patience as they struggle through the simplest drills that focus on fundamentals. Often they are the also the nicest, most well-behaved kids. They are the ones that you grieve over cutting, but know “there ain’t no way” you can keep them on the basketball team!

I try to find ways to encourage students who fall into this category, engaging them in conversation that shows I see them as persons of value. At the end of a tryout practice I may ask one of them to “get us a team break”.” I applaud their effort. When I post the basketball roster I try to be ready to give an evaluation to anyone who asks for it, what they can work on as well as a couple of positive points. I also try to communicate the importance of being a team manager or someone who keep stats. This past year I had one boy who didn’t make my basketball team, but I convinced to keep game stats. He’s a great kid who was disappointed in not making the roster, but saw how he was valued in a different role.

Often I encounter kids who are not as invested in athletic success as their parents are. There’s the parental pressure to change Lenny into LeBron…and Lenny would prefer to just be Lenny! 

There’s a lot of pressure on kids these days to be someone that they aren’t. It seems that only certain roles and specific achievements are valued, while others are ignored. 

As a coach, however, I hold to a certain principle: It is not necessary for an awesome kids to have a ball in his/her hands to still be great!

Hugging the Leg of Jesus

October 20, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                        October 20, 2017

                                      

The past two weeks I’ve been battling a cold which turned into bronchitis. After a few days of the medicines and seeing my physician I was feeling better. Carol was scheduled to watch our three grandkids at our daughter’s house so I drove her over there.

“Granddad has a cold so he can’t give you a hug, okay?” They looked at me with a mixture of “How could you do such a thing?” to sympathy.

And then two and a half year old Corin Grace came over to me and hugged one of my legs! It was the best medicine I received that day.

One of the stories in the New Testament that I find confusing and amusing is when the disciples try to keep the children from coming to Jesus. The story appears in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. In Matthew 19:13 it says, Then people brought little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples rebuked them.”

Jesus in turn rebukes the disciples and says  “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”

Embarrassed disciples slowly creep off to the side as the children come to Jesus and do some leg hugging. I envision the chuckling of the Savior as little Corin’s and miniature David’s attach themselves to the part of his robe that covered his legs.

Perhaps I’m reading into the situation too much, like a Hollywood movie director adding a bit more to the scene than was really there, but, in my opinion, it is a picture of who Jesus was and is. He gave value to those who were considered to have no value. He raised women, children, and the outcasts up, making the point that everyone is valued and loved by God. To Jesus a small child was no less important than the most powerful king. The scribes and Pharisees were seated at the same table in the Kingdom of God as the toddler who has half of his food plastered to his face. In essence, Jesus had no time for those who had no time for the least of these.

When Corin hugged my leg she held tight for a few seconds. I can see children holding tight to Jesus. Could it be that in those “holding tight” moments Jesus was being ministered to as much as he was blessing the huggers?

It won’t be too long until he will be grabbed hold of by some others who do not love him!

Jesus Coffee: Part 4

July 13, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                         July 13, 2016

          (Parts 1-3 of this ongoing conversation can be viewed at “wordsfromww.com”)                                      

                                  

I brought the cup with a new rising of steam back to the table and sat back down in my chair. “You didn’t need anything?” I asked Jesus.

“No, I’m fine.”

“Where were we?”

“You were looking inside of yourself and making a discovery. You said you believe that at the core of your being is the longing to be loved.”

“Yes, I’m not sure that is my final answer, but I think that hits on it. I long to be loved.”

“So what do you think that means?”

“I think it means I have a need to be seen as a person of value, to be appreciated, and to belong.”

“And on the other side of things, perhaps you do not want to be considered worthless, cast aside, and hated.”

“I guess that is a fair summary.”

“And in saying you long to be loved…you have hit on what is at the core of most people.”

“Do I get a gold star or a tall trophy?”

“No, but you do get to come to that point of understanding that may help you as you journey forward.”

“A trophy would help me remember more.”

“Sorry!”

“But go back to what you said a few minutes ago. Authenticity is the convergence of who I am with who people say I am.”

“Right.”

“There are a few people that I know who don’t really care for me. How does that play out with who I am?” If I have a longing to be loved, why don’t I get along with everyone?”

“A simple answer…because of the fallen nature of the world. Perfection in our relationships went out the window with the arrival of sin.”

“And a more complicated answer?”

“You’re screwed up most of the time.”

“Thanks! That doesn’t sound complicated, that sounds harshly matter-of-fact!”

“Well, you see, Bill, that longing to be loved that is at the core of who you are, often gets pushed to the side by the longing to be right. Being right carries a spirit of superiority in its backpack.”

“But what if I am right and the other person is blatantly wrong? Am I to just ignore what is wrong?”

“No and yes!”

“Don’t give me that, Jesus. Didn’t you once say “Let your yes be yes and your no be no?”

“Glad to see you’re familiar with my sayings. What I’m saying is that when there is a wrong the righting of the disagreement should be the healing of the relationship, not one person being superiorly right and the other being humiliatingly wrong. Ever had a disagreement with your wife?”

“Sure, many times over!”

“Do you remember the resolving of the disagreement and what happened?”

“Yes, I usually gave into her.”

“I doubt that. Do you remember a time when the two of you were in different corners of an issue and you came together to a common understanding, compromise, or even a place of forgiveness?”

“Yes, I remember a time when I said something to her that was totally insensitive and she lashed out at me.”

“And what happened?”

“I apologized.”

“But there was something else that happened in the midst of that. You sensed that you had wounded her deeply. She has a need to be loved just as you do, and you knew that you had bruised her at the core of her being.”

“You’re right! I was ashamed of what I had said, and I longed to turn back time for a few minutes and have the scene played out in a completely different way.”

“You longed to make the relationship whole again, didn’t you?”

“Absolutely! And after I apologized about what I had done to her I just wanted to hold her.”

“You longed to be loved by your lover again.”

“And that’s why that moment stands out in my mind so clearly. I remember that coming back together, that reconnecting after the forgiveness and healing…the grace she showed me that was not deserved.”

“But what if the other person is blatantly wrong. You said not to ignore it.”

“I did.” He looked at me with a hint of sadness and paused.

(TO BE CONTINUED)