Posted tagged ‘warts’

The Warts of Seventh Grade

August 28, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                     August 28, 2018

                               

Today, Tuesday, is my day off this week. I substitute teach the other four days of the week. Last week I manned a classroom Wednesday through Friday. Most of my days so far have been spent being the sheep dog for seventh graders. You know, chasing behind them and barking loud enough that the ones threatening to become wayward from the flock correct their perilous destinations!

Seventh graders in August are like caterpillars who haven’t cocooned yet. They are still wobbling around trying to find their way. The incredible thing is that most of them will evolve by the following May into beautiful butterflies of various brightness. Resisting temptation, their teachers will abstain from squashing a select few! 

Last week most of the seventh grade flock headed towards the green acres of educational grazing, but there were a few who seemed drawn to the brier patch. I’ll call them “the warts of seventh grade”, the oddities who stand out like a bald man wearing a petticoat and drain teachers of energy and patience.

There are the warts that LIKE to be noticed. When the attention of a class gets too focused on knowledge and away from them an outburst deadens the pursuit of discovery. One wart’s stainless steel water bottle redirected the attention of her class half a dozen times as she dropped it, tipped it over, and kicked it. Each drop had the same effect of someone raking their fingernails across one of those old chalkboards we used to have…back in the old days! the student squealed in glee at her ability of distract.

One boy, resembling a bad rash in the midst of academia’s complexion, must not only be ADHD, but a few more letters added onto that. Like a bug headed for a zapper, he doesn’t seem to be able to keep himself from being sent to the principal’s office. 

And then there are the few who mistake their warts for being adorable freckles. Like a bad case of acne on the teenager’s face, their teachers will be applying steady applications of disciplinary Clearasil to help their classroom complexion. For an even more select few there is now Clearasil Ultra that applies even deeper forms of correction.

In August “the warts” stand out. By next spring the beauty marks will, thankfully, command more of the attention. It’s why teachers teach! They teach for what they believe will be the result towards the end of the nine month journey, the vividness of their students’ discoveries, and the hope that warts can even be transformed along the way.

The Warts, Pimples, and Beauty Marks of a Church

April 10, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                           April 10, 2016

                            

There is free photo editor available for computers called “Picmonkey.” It allows a person to touch up a photograph and make blemishes disappear. In effect, it brings the picture of a person’s face to perfection. It hides the imperfect.

If there was a “Picmonkey” that churches could use to cover up its imperfections it would be used as much as, or more than,  the communion wine! A primitive form of it appears in the newspaper one day each week on the religious services advertisement page. Church slogans and pictures of smiling faces and praying people appear there to convince the reader that spiritual awesomeness is ready to be had at that location.

But the truth of the matter is that every church has at least three things: warts, pimples, and beauty marks. Forms of “Picmonkey” are often used to hide the warts and pimples and accentuate the beauty marks, but, believe me, the blemishes are still there under the make-up.

“Warts” are those things that just are! I’m speaking two Sundays a month at a very small congregation in a small community about forty-five minutes away from the city. Their pastor resigned in a bit of a church dust storm last fall. The congregation is a great group of people in a dated building trying to move forward. One of their warts is the placement of the women’s rest room. It is halfway down the stairway to the basement. Halfway! It is a wart that just is. There aren’t many women’s rest rooms that are halfway down a stairway, but, in this building, it would not easily be relocated, so…it just is!

A lot of church warts are related to the structure the congregation meets in. The church I pastored for many years had a leaky baptistry! Not a good thing for a Baptist church! Whenever we had a baptism we would have to bring in the fans for a few days afterwards to dry out the carpet. For $125 we bought a livestock watering trough that was smaller than the baptistry so it could fit right in the midst of that space. The leaky baptistry is still leaking, but the trough takes care of the problem. It was one of our warts that was humorous in some ways, and frustrating in others.

Every church has its warts. Some are more visible than others. Some warts are the result of gifts given to the congregation years before that have now become part of the congregational facial imprint. Some warts are even people- the person who talks non-stop in a small group, the man who falls asleep every Sunday during the sermon and starts snoring. The warts of a church aren’t necessarily good or bad. They just are! They are like Cindy Crawford’s facial mole. It just is, and now we wouldn’t recognize her without it.

“Pimples” are those tensions in a church that are often under the skin and not readily visible. They aren’t pleasant, and have a tendency to rise to the surface after a while and, forgive me, spew on others. A number of years ago there was a situation where a young unmarried woman in the congregation I was pastoring became pregnant. There was an evident tension between those who did not want to help put on a baby shower for her, and those who wanted to express their love and caring to her as she went through this. Those on one side thought that putting on a baby shower would be condoning pre-marital sex, while those on the other side felt that the young woman needed extra support and encouragement during this time and, after all, the baby was coming! Those who visited our congregation probably weren’t aware of the tensions, but the stakeholders were! Every church has its pimples!

Pimples exist in areas of a church where there are territorial battles, like the organ doesn’t get used any more, but those “cotton-pickin” drums do! Or a pastoral search committee is divided in its support of a potential candidate. Some of the committee see the candidate as a visionary for the future, while others are afraid he/she will change “their” church too much.

Pastors and congregations often become a festering pimple that is in danger of becoming a cluster of blemishes. Like adolescent faces it takes time and effort to slowly let the zits run their course and be healed.

And pimples can arise in the most unexpected places, like what is served at the coffee fellowship time each Sunday? Folger’s (which was good enough for my parents and also for me) or Starbucks (Quality matters!)?

And then there are the beauty marks…the equivalent of cute dimples and stunning eyes! A church’s beauty marks are present regardless of what the board and committee structure is. In fact, the beauty marks usually are present outside of a committee’s decisions. For example, every church has certain people that are the embodiment of Christ. The church is enriched by their presence, not because of the things they do and the ministry positions they fill, but simply because of who they are. They are the unofficial spiritual mentors.

Sometimes a beauty marks is something distinctive about the building. One church I was Associate Pastor of had an incredible stained glass window in the sanctuary that was wondrous to gaze at. The way the light hit it seemed to make it come alive. For me it still is the most awesome stained glass window I’ve ever seen, and people from the city knew about that church’s “beauty mark.”

Every church has its beauty marks!

Warts just are, pimples need attention, and beauty marks cause gratitude.

A church with too many pimples needs to invite in a spiritual dermatologist. A church with a lot of beauty marks should bring attention to them and not take them for granted.

And the warts? Live with them and avoid the temptation to cover them up with “Picmonkey” touch ups!

Freckles, Zits, Warts, and Age Spots

May 22, 2013

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                               May 22, 2013

Hitting 59 has made me more conscious of my slowness, morning aches, evening exhaustion, and the multiplying of pill bottles. When I look in the mirror I notice a couple of warts that weren’t always there, but have grown in prominence as I’ve clicked off the years.

The last year of your fifties makes you think of what has been and where you have been. When I was growing up in Winchester, Kentucky I was graced with some freckles on my face. I was actually cute, especially when I was missing a few teeth in the midst of freckled cheeks. Freckles were signs an imaginative childhood. I played with imaginary friends, or even played football against an invisible defense, scoring touchdowns on two yard dives in my backyard. Freckles were child-like, not childish.

A few years later, about the time when it was no longer cool to be cute, pimples started sprouting up on my face like mysterious dandelions in spring lawns. I discovered Clearasil and other products that were suppose to ease the uncomfortableness of adolescence.

Zits were a sign of not knowing whether I was still a child or had emerged into the beginnings of adulthood. It was that time when I wasn’t sure what was going on in my life. I wanted parental closeness, while at the same time keeping some distance. My dad lost some of his intelligence. I insulted my mom’s fried chicken. I wanted to be somebody, and yet I often felt like a nobody. I had a humorous streak about me, but I also was painfully short. Dreams of who I might grow up to be were being shattered. I missed the days of being a child, but knew that I was speeding towards a time of more responsibility.

And now, years later, I look in the mirror and only see trace of the freckles and a couple of little scars from the effects of teenage zits. The warts now stand out. I’m suppose to now have it all together. Experience echoes through my facial imperfections. Although people tell me that I don’t look my age, no one is approaching me to go to a rock concert at Red Rocks, or inviting me to watch Monday Night Football at Buffalo Wild Wings.

I am now a picture of maturity, and I’m about as comfortable with it as I was with youthful blemishes. Oh, it isn’t that I don’t want to be responsible. It is more that I often feel burdened…weighed down by the expectations of others. I want to be able to make mistakes, but I’m often viewed as someone who isn’t allowed to make mistakes.

And yet my warts also tell me that I’m in that phase of life when people want to know what I think, where they will often take their lead from me. There is some sense of gratification that goes with that sprinkled over the mass of responsibility.

I’m just around the corner from the next phase called “age spots.” Sometimes they appear like someone took a red marker to the face. Other times they emerge as little pre-cancerous spots. In fact, I’ve already had a few frozen off by my physician. My dad has undergone two sets of radiation treatments for cancerous spots on his ear and nose.

Age spots are a sign that I’ve gone from being a learner to a leader to a mentor. More of my time will be spent in coffee conversations and quiet reflection. I’ll start collecting letters, photos, and other indications of a lived life. I feel valued as a result of people asking me what I think, as opposed to pressing my opinions. There is soundness in “elders” being respected in the church.

Freckles, zits, warts, and age spots. It seems that there are many parallels between those facial stages and a person’s spiritual development. Dare I also say there are many parallels also with a church’s life stage.

We go from childlike energy and optimism to youthful uncertainty; living out our faith responsibly to passing on the soundness of our beliefs to the next generation.

Chaos appears when we confuse life phases; when a pimpled church tries to pretend it is certain and unyielding in it’s statement of belief, or a warted congregation is childish in it’s actions and attitudes.

A church that is healthy is one that is allowing each of it’s participants to live in the period of faith that they are in.