Thursday, June 30, 2005

Take My Life

My wife was recently invited to a high school class reunion. It wasn't one of those "banner" year reunions. They haven't had one in a while so they decided to meet. My class was the same way. I think we had a 26th year reunion. This year would have been my 33rd class reunion. I can't believe we didn't celebrate! Some of you are out there figuring just exactly how old I am. Get a life!!
Anyway, while cleaning out Mom's house recently, I found a program she had saved (she saved everything!!) from my high school baccalaureate and graduation. I led this song during that ceremony:

Take my life, O Father, mold it in obedience to Thy will;
And as rip'ning years unfold it, keep it true and child-like still.

Father keep it pure and holy, strong and brave, yet free from strife,
Turning from the paths unholy of a vain or sinful strife.

Ever let Thy might surround it; strengthen it with pow'r divine,
Till Thy cords of love have bound it, Father, wholly unto Thine.

As I read those words again, I realized that God has kept His end of the bargain. It's me that has been rebellious and unflexible and hard to deal with. I don't want to be that way. I would hope that these words would apply to me today as they did 33 years ago. Even though my age would not be considered "rip'ning years," I still want God to mold me. The Israelites struggled with this, the prophets struggled with this, the apostles struggled with this, so I 'm in good company. But that doesn't give me an excuse. Today I pray that the cords of God's love surround you as they have me for all of these years. And you will be bound eternally to God who pursues us and makes us pure. Have a good day. JW

By the way, today would have been my Mom and Dad's 63rd wedding anniversary. Instead of counting years, they are counting praises for God as we speak. God, please take care of these two precious souls. I know you are.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005


Yesterday I was wearing my Arkansas Razorbacks Athletic Department shirt. At this point, I must apologize to my unbelieving, non-Razorback fans, but you just got to understand; I have three degrees from the University of Arkansas and claim Arkansas as home. I have gotten several comments about the shirt complimenting me on the piece of clothing that I'm proud to wear.
I was eating with a friend of mine yesterday when the waitress noticed my shirt. "Arkansas Razorbacks, huh?" she said. I gave her a quick "Wooo Pig Soooiieee."
"Do you work for the athletic department?"
" Are you a coach?"
"Are you important?"
"Yes, I am." Really. I said that. But then I followed. "And so are you. Everyone's important."
She told us that she had just moved to Omaha from Kearney. At the end of the meal my friend asked me for my card and when she came back, he asked her if she had found a church home. She hadn't. She had been looking. We invited. She said she would come. She's looking for a teaching job. My friend said he might could get her connected to the right person. Now we wait. Will she be here Sunday?
You know, little conversations can end up with big results. Look at Nicodemus. Look at the Samaritan woman at the well.
I learned a lesson today. A lesson in kindness and openness. A lesson in just asking. What does it hurt? Jesus did it all the time. Have a great day! JW

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

The Ring

As a preacher, one wonders whether or not your message is really getting through. People kind of file in and file out. They shake your hand and tell you that it was a good sermon. I'm sometimes convinced that if I really had nothing good at all to say, someone would still say, "I enjoyed your sermon."
Sunday I preached a sermon about firstfruits. Using the sacrifices of the Old Testament, I explained how God had always asked for the first, the pure, the best from His people. Then I used Abraham as an example. I told them that God would at some time in our lives asks for us to give up the most precious thing we have. Sometimes we get it back, sometimes not. And God will never ask us to do something that He's not willing to do. He asked Abraham to give his precious son Isaac and then stopped him from sacrificing him. God gave His only Son and didn't stop.
We had envelopes for people to place their contributions in Sunday. We had printed a bow on the envelope and we had these words: To: My Father, A Gift, From: Your Child. I wanted to emphasize that giving was a part of our worship--not just an adjunct to the Lord's Supper, i.e. "separate and apart..." But I also wanted everyone to see that we are to give our best in everything, not just our money. He wants the best of our time, our talents.
After services I was called into the room where the money was being counted. One of the envelopes had some cash in it...and a ring. What did the ring represent? Was it a gift? Was it a wedding ring? What sentimental value did it have? It still remains a mystery. But I have to admit, I was moved. Someone listened. Someone heard. Someone gave something important to the Lord.
So many times we grasp what we have so tightly. It's time we let go. It belongs to God anyway. I heard a story several years ago about a guy who had been called to heaven. He knew he was going and he knew what time. He was told that he could bring one and only one suitcase with him. "What can I take?" he thought. So he loaded up his suitcase with pure gold. He lugged it up to the gates of heaven and he was met at the gates. "Please open up your suitcase," the angel said. He proudly opened the valise up and the angel replied, "Pavement??? You brought pavement?" Have a great day. JW

Monday, June 27, 2005

The First Time

Yesterday my 15-year-old son had a first in his life. He hit his first home run. I'm not talking about pee-wee league home runs where you hit a grounder to the shortstop and he throws it over the first baseman's head. While Nate scrambles to second, the first baseman retrieves the ball and heaves into the outfield. You know the routine. I'm talking a bona fide, over-the-fence, trot around the bases homerun. I think it surprised him as much as it did me. It was something he'll remember for the rest of his life.
I started to think about obscure things that happened in my life that are tucked in the inner recesses that only happened once, but are indelibly printed on my gray matter. I think about the conversation that I had with my best man. We in the basement of his house the night before he was to get married. We talked of getting involved in the church. I thought about the winning free throw I made in a basketball game when I was in junior high. Or, the moment my precious fiancee become my bride. I still remember the feeling I had when I came up from the baptismal waters after my dad baptized me.
As I watched my son trot around the bases, I couldn't help but be proud. And I have been thinking about those moments in his life that he'll remember. I pray to God that they'll be good memories. That they'll be ones that put a smile on his face, not a frown on his heart. I hope your memories are good ones, too. Have a great day. JW

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Too Short, Too Soon

In less than one hour we go to the cemetery to lay to rest a young life cut too short way too early. My words I have prepared seem somewhat empty. But I know God can take empty words and make them powerful. That's what I'm depending on. Please keep the Neal family in your prayers. As I went outside to get the paper today, it was rainy a slow steady rain. My thought was that it was God's tears. God's tears for this family who have gone through what nobody should have to go through. But they'll make it. They trust is still in the Lord. The journey will be a hard one. Once again, please keep them in your prayers. And pray for all of us who are doing the ceremony. Just pray that God's words are spoken. JW

Friday, June 24, 2005


Truth is such a precious commodity. More precious than gold. With the recent events, I've learned that truth is difficult to find because so many people want the sensational, the "story," the gritty "facts." Everything you read in the paper is correct, right? All the reporting on the news is exactly the truth, isn't it? Truth is a step child to the glitter.
Maybe that's what Pilate was struggling with when he asked Jesus, "What is truth?" What are the facts...really? All I know is all truth is God's truth. I wish I had the answers. But our goal is to constantly seek for truth. No. That word is not strong enough. It's a quest, a mission, a trek, a journey for God's truth. Join me on this quest, would you? JW

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Terrible Timing

This is my second murder. They don't get any easier. I was so angry this morning when I got out of my car. I still don't understand why a precious girl would have to suffer a frightening ordeal as Sarah did.
Let me tell you about the other one. It's all about terrible timing. George Shepherd and his wife went to the doctor's office because George had an appointment. (Little did he know it was an appointment with his God, not his doctor.) So did one of the residents of the county jail. A new (less than 6 months) deputy was commissioned to take this young inmate to the doctor. While in the waiting room, the inmate took the deputy's gun and shot him point blank in the chest. He then proceeded to leave the office. George and Sue were walking up to the office at that point. Seeing what was happening, George tackled the man with the gun. Evidently, his arm with the gun were still free and he pointed it at Sue threatening to kill her. George struggled with the prisoner some more and he turned the gun on George and shot him. I believe it was the inferior vena cava that was nicked and George bled to death.
The funeral was somewhat of a media event. The place was packed, TV cameras wanted to come into the chapel, everyone gawked at this hero. The sheriff's office made a commendation at the funeral. I still remember the words I said. "Many are surprise that such a common man would do such an uncommon thing. But he learned it from his Savior. For, years ago Jesus gave His life so that others could live. George was just emulating his Lord."
I keep going to II Corinthians 4. "Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary trouble are achieving for us a glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary. But what is unseen is eternal." Amen, Paul. That's where I've placed my stake in the ground today.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005


She was lively, active, smiling, mischievous, everything a teenager is supposed to be. She had wrecked her mom's car at one point. She would take a pencil or pen and beat out rhythmic beats at a table, window, or any other flat surfaces. She was an excellent softball player receiving honors for her abilities. She is dead.
I've got to admit that I understand the loss of a loved one, but not the loss of a daughter. I can get the sudden loss of someone since my mother passed suddenly, without warning in her sleep. But I can't understand the suddenness of murder. I continue to ask the question, "Why?" And if I feel that, I can't imagine what her parents are feeling right now.
Intellectually, I can place myself in a living God who loves me and understands my feelings and hurts and sorrows. But emotionally, I continue to question how something like this could happen.
I just talked to my own daughter who I married off less than a month ago. She said, "Daddy, she'll never get to go to her prom, her dad will never walk her down the aisle." Maybe she's on the arm of God right now. That's where I'll stand on this one. JW

Tuesday, June 21, 2005


I've grown up with a pretty eclectic collection of church music. Being raised in a good Church of Christ home, we didn't sing anything to any instruments. There was one occasion at my brother's high school graduation that the band had a beautiful trumpet fanfare to the hymn "God of Our Fathers." I remember my father wouldn't sing. But I grew up to the old, old songs. Christian Hymns II and III were our songbooks. I still have several copies of them in my library. There are some great songs. My mother used to sing "Rock of Ages." It was her favorite song. I couldn't stand it. Too slow. What did it mean? On and on. It has since become one of my favorites. "Sound the Battle Cry," "Come Ye, Disconsolate," "Ready to Suffer," were all songs we sang. I led the song "Does Jesus Care" right before a sermon one time and the preacher came to me afterward and said he wasn't sure what I was trying to say. The chorus says something about "the long nights dreary." He said he wasn't sure if I was talking about his sermon or not.
We moved to Searcy, Arkansas when I was a sophomore in high school. There we had high church. I'm not complaining, because there are some tremendous songs in the Great Songs of the Church book. "O Sacred Head," "Night with Ebon Pinion," "Twas on that Night" were beautiful songs musically and poetically. Many of those songs are still written on my heart. Stamps-Baxter music was taboo, almost sacreligious. There was a time in college when I was in choir when we weren't allowed to sing on the bus on chorus tours because of the strain on our voices. So we would get down some old song books and whistle the different parts. "Let Me Live Close to Thee" in the whistling mode sounded like a caliopy. Now THAT'S sacreligious! We could hardly get through the first line because you can't laugh and whistle at the same time.
With the addition of Christian music, new names and new songs have emerged. Names such as Michael W. Smith, Twila Paris, and groups like Point of Grace, Mercy Me, and Casting Crowns have all changed our music. My biggest gripe about music today is the songs we sing that last for ten minutes and all we do is change one word. Not that we can't be edified by those kinds of songs. We just haven't been very creative.
But I love to sing "We Shall Assemble on the Mountain" and "There is a Redeemer." In the chorus when we sing "Thank you, O, my Father for giving us your Son. And leaving your Spirit 'til the work on earth is done" moves me everytime I sing them. I can hardly get through the song. There'll be singing in heaven. In fact, Revelation talks of a new song. There's a book out called 90 Minutes in Heaven by Don Piper. He relates his story of being clinically dead for 90 minutes and being greeted outside the gates of heaven. I'm pretty much a skeptic on things like this, but you have to hear his words. Listen to his description of the singing in heaven.
"The praise was unending, but the most remarkable thing to me was that hundreds of songs were being sung at the same time--all of them worshiping God. As I approached the large, magnificent gate, I head them from every direction and realized that each voice praised God......Many of the old hymns and choruses I had sung at various times in my life were part of the music--along with hundreds of songs I had never heard before. Hymns of praise, modern-sounding choruses, and ancient chants filled my ears and brought not only a deep peace but the greatest feeling of joy I've ever experienced....As I've pondered the meaning of the memory of the music, it seems curious. I would have expected the most memorable experience to be something I had seen or the physical embrace of a loved one. Yet above everything else, I cherish those sounds, and at times I think, I can't wait to hear them again--in person. It's what I look forward to. I want to see everybody, but I know I'll be with them forever. I want to experience everything heaven offers, but most of all, I want to hear those never-ending songs again."

"I will give thanks to the Lord because of his righteousness and will sing praise to the name of the Lord most high." Psalm 7::17 Have a great day! JW

Monday, June 20, 2005

Baseball Game of Life

One of the advantages of living in Omaha, Nebraska is the opportunity to attend the NCAA College World Series. (Omaha is a great place to live. I know you think snow and cold weather. But this city of over 800,000 is a wonderful place!) Someone generously gave me four tickets to see the Tulane/Oregon State game. It was a pretty good game with good defense and the outcome in doubt to the very end.
I happened to be sitting next the crowd from Tulane. Let me set this up. The left field line is 332 feet from home plate. I was in Section T, Row 20. The Tulane group is in the next section (Section U) farther away from home plate. The section is on the third base side almost to the left field line, 332 feet away. Plus, there is a guy sitting up behind my left shoulder probably another 10 rows or so. So, in other words, he's a loooooong way from home plate. Obviously, if you know baseball, you know that the home plate umpire is directly behind the catcher. Nearly the whole game, especially when it reached a crucial part of the game, this guy behind me would yell at the umpire. First of all, there is no way in this good earth that the umpire could even hear him. Second, the amusing thing was what he was yelling about. Every pitch, "C'mon ump! Give us a break. That wasn't a strike! C'mon blue! Help us out here! AGGGGHHHHHH! I can't believe it, ump!" I made a comment to my wife and son that that guy must have a real tough time at work having to deal with all of those around him who can't understand his, perfect, eagle-eye vision.
We do the same thing. We complain about certain people. They just don't do things right. We just can't believe they would do something that stupid. We stand in left field, not even close to the situation, and we make judgment calls. Jesus talked about that when He said, "Don't pick on people, jump on their failures, criticize their faults--unless, of course, you want the same treatment. That critical spirit has a way of boomeranging. It's easy to see a smudge on your neighbor's face and be oblivious ot the ugly sneer on your own. Do you have the nerve to say, 'Let me wash your face for you,' when your own face is distorted by contempt? It's this whole traveling road-show mentality all over again, playing a holier-than-thou part instead of just living your part. Wipe that ugly sneer off your own face, and you might be fit to offer a washcloth to your neighbor." (Matthew 7:1-5, The Message) Do you think the Tulane fan in left field would listen to this? Nah. But I can. So can you. Have a great day. JW

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Star Wars

How about a little lighter post? I went to see Star Wars III last night. My son warned me about it, but I really wanted to see it. The dialogue was like a high school play. Mr. Lucas, get someone else to do your writing. Just stick to plots. The special effects were really neat and really overwhelming. I guess he decided that if one big star ship was really cool, then ten would be ten times as cool. Not. And if you're going to write a big epic, start with number 1 and work you way up. Don't do 4, 5, 6, and then 1, 2 and 3. After seeing the story at the last, and then seeing the first two plot lines, then it's pretty obvious what's going to happen in the third (last?).
Yoda is still my hero. Any short, green munchkin that can fight like he can has my vote for best actor any day.
Spiritual applications? Well, I guess the main thing would be the choices we make. Faced between good and evil, we make that choice. That's the best I can do with that.
Have fun today. It's Saturday! JW

Friday, June 17, 2005

Be Still

How much time do you spend on hold? Standing in line at the grocery store? Waiting for your spouse to come to the car so you can go to church services? On and on it goes. Don't people know that you are busy. Places to go, people to see. How many times when you ask someone how they are doing do they say, "Busy!" (Usually, that means they're not doing anything. In all my years of life, I've discovered the more that people have to tell you they're busy, they're not.)
BUT, busyness is one of Satan's tools. Too busy to go there, too busy to do that. When's the last time you just sat down with God's word? Nothing to do but read, meditate, study, quiet time. You probably think it would be wonderful to be a preacher because they have enough time to do just that. Read, meditate, study, quiet time. The fact is, at least in my case, I find myself preparing for so many things that I fail to slow down and read, meditate, study, quiet time for me. That's not selfishness, that's a necessity.
There's a reason why God says, "Be still and know that I am God." I used to think that meant be quiet. I think that may be one aspect of it. One time when I was a youth minister, we had a fall hayride, cookout, thing way out in the boonies of Northwest Arkansas. I thought it would be cool to read that verse and then hear the sounds of the night. Right after I read it, the loudest pickup truck in history buzzed by. Kinda messed up the effect.
Remember when your kids were little and they were sitting (allegedly) with you at church and they were fidgeting and talking and moving and embarrassing? You picked them up and firmly placed them on the pew and said, "Be still!" Maybe that's what God is saying to us--"Be still.....and know I am God."
That's when we discover God. In the quietness of the morning. In the calm from the busyness. Finally slowing down with no agenda but to listen to His voice. We need to do it more often. Better yet, we need to do it. Spend some time with God today. You'll be pleasantly surprised. And a peace will come to you that you never knew possible. He's waiting. There's no line. Have a good day! JW

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Changed for Good

Went and saw "Wicked" in Chicago last weekend with my son and wife. There's a beautiful song at the end where Elphaba, the Wicked Witch of the West, sings with Glinda (The Good Witch)--By the way, I know I've said this in previous blogs, but "Wicked" is the prequel to the "Wizard of Oz."--Listen to these words and see if they don't remind you of one of your friends.

I've heard it said that people come into our lives for a reason
Bringing something we must learn,
And we are led to those who help us most to grow
If we let them and we help them in return.
Well, I don't know if I believe that's true,
But I know I'm who I am today because I knew you:

Like a comet pulled from orbit as it passes a sun.
Like a stream that meets a boulder halfway through the wood.
Who can say if I've been changed for the better?
But because I knew you I have been changed for good.

It well may be that we will never meet again in this lifetime,
So let me say before we part
So much of me is made of what I learned from you,
You'll be with me like a handprint on my heart,
And now whatever way our stories end
I know you have rewritten mine by being my friend:
Like a ship blown from its mooring by a wind off the sea,
Like a seed dropped by a skybird in a distant wood
Who can say if I've been changed for the better?
But because I knew you I have been changed for good.

And just to clear the air,
I ask forgiveness for the things I've done you blame me for,
But then, I guess we know there's blame to share
And none of it seems to matter anymore.

Who can say if I've been changed for the better?
I do believe I have been changed for the better.
And because I knew you I have been changed for good.

I have to tell you, tears filled my eyes as I typed those words. How many people could I say that to? Thank you for being a part of my life. Aren't those wonderful words? Wouldn't it be wonderful if that's the way people thought of you and me? I thought of Paul and Barnabas, David and Jonathan. I thought of Pat, Bobby, Rodney, Martha, and others in my life. Take some time today to thank those who have changed you for good. Have a great day. JW

Wednesday, June 15, 2005


Sixteen babies! We dedicated sixteen babies at our congregation a couple of weeks ago. I was telling a young lady about that not too long ago and she graciously told me she didn't want to place membership at our congregation because she was afraid to drink the water. She wasn't ready to have a child yet.
There are several ways to grow a church. One is to teach people about Jesus. Another is to have people move into your area (that's really swelling, not growing). Then there's the "have babies" option. Now we just need to get all of the parents to sign a "can't move" contract.
But as I looked at those precious kids, I couldn't help but wonder which ones would stay faithful. Which ones would be wonderful servants? What would they grow up to be? How had they and would they change the lives of their parents? I appreciated one of our shepherds getting emotional as he prayed for these wonderful, precious, innocent lives. Jesus said that they kingdom of heaven was like those little children. I believe it.
I loved it when our congregation stood in affirmation. We stood telling those parents and those children that we would be there. We would teach them in Bible class, we would tell on them when they weren't doing what they should, we would love them almost as much as their mom and dad. It won't be long before they are climbing up on the podium and looking out from inside the plexiglass pulpit. Soon they'll be sprinting down the halls. It won't be long until their teeth come in, then they start loosing them. Then it won't be long before they are standing up with their future spouse telling the preacher and the witnessing crowd that they pledge to honor them until death parts them. And the cycle starts again. Praise God!
I love it. It takes a village? No. It takes a church. Have a great day! JW

Tuesday, June 14, 2005


There are times when I marvel at God's goodness and workings. I used to wonder about His dealings with me in my life. But for now, I see Him in everything. Perhaps I'll need to be reminded later. Right now, though, I find it extremely fun and gratifying to see Him work in other's lives.
He sat in my office today, calm, content, yet without a job. He is dealing with a couple of serious situations in his life. He has a number of transitions going on in his life. And though the emotions were close to the surface, there was a calmness in his life. He was secure in his thinking knowing that God is in control. Will it always be that way? I don't know, but I hope so. I think he'll be fine.
I see in him really what Paul talks about in Philippians 4:13. "I can do everything through him who gives me strength." We have so misused this verse. We have made it the Zig Ziglar, "I can accomplish anything I put my mind to" verse. Look what Paul is saying. Right before, he says he's learned to be content in any and every circumstance. The verse is about contentment, not self help stuff. That's what I saw in the man whose eyes I looked at today. And I'm glad for him. I think he'll be all right.
Have a great day. JW By the way, be content.

Monday, June 13, 2005


I was with my family in Chicago this last weekend and we visited the Shedd Aquarium. I would recommend the trip for anyone for you can see a variety of exotic and un-exotic (is that a word?) fish including sharks, dolphins, tuna, flounder, etc.
The moment that amused me was one early on in the visit. I was standing next to a huge tank filled with a small hammerhead shark, a large tuna--just a large number of fish that you would expect to find in the ocean. People were standing, observing the fish in their natural habitat. Then from the top of the tank enter two fins. All looked up to see the figure of a homo sapien (human, for all of you in Cumberland, MD), dive into the tank. He then took a rag and began cleaning the side of the large aquarium. At which point, people gathered excitedly and began taking pictures. Does anyone see anything weird in all of this?
Here were all of these wonderful fish swimming gracefully in their natural habitat and we (humans) took pictures of another human swimming in an unnatural habitat doing a maintenance job. What's wrong with this picture? We are so easily distracted.
Charles Swindoll tells a wonderful story in his book Laugh Again. A lady's husband dies and she decides to buy a pet to keep her company. The pet store owner sells her a parrot that he insists is a real talker. I'll let him pick it up from here.
"Does it talk?"
"Absolutely. . .a real chatterbox. Everybody who comes in the store is astounded by this parrot's friendly dispostion and wide vocabulary. That's why it's so expensive."
"Sold!" She bought the expensive parrot and hauled it home in a large, elegant cage. At last she had a companion she could talk to, who could answer back. Perfect!
But there was a problem. A full week passed without the bird's saying one word. Beginning to worry, she dropped by the pet shop.
"How's the parrot doing? Quite a talker, huh?"
"Not one word. I haven't been able to get a sound out of that bird. I'm worried!"
"Well, did you buy a mirror when you got the parrot and the cage last week?"
"Mirror? No. There's no mirror in the cage."
"That's your problem. A parrot needs a mirror. It's funny, but while looking at itself, a parrot starts to feel comfortable. In no time it will begin to talk." So she bought the mirror and put it into the cage.
Time passed, still nothing. Each day the woman talked to the bird, but not a peep came out of its beak. For hours on end she would talk as the parrot stared in silence. Another week passed without a word. By now she was really getting worried.
"The parrot isn't talking," she told the pet store owner. "I'm worried. All that money, the mirror--and still nothing."
"Say, did you buy a ladder when you got the cage?"
"A ladder? No. I didn't know it needed a ladder. Will that make it talk?"
"Works like a charm. The parrot will look in the mirror and get a little exercise, climbing up and down this ladder several times. Before long you won't believe what you hear. Trust me, you need the ladder."
She bought the ladder and put it into the cage next to the mirror. . .and waited. Another seven, eight days, still nothing. By now her worry was approaching the panic stage. "Why doesn't it talk?" That was all she could think about. She returned to the store in tears. . .with the same complaint.
"Did you buy a swing?"
"A swing! No. I have the cage, a mirror, and a ladder--I thought I had everything. I had no idea I needed a swing."
"Ya gotta have a swing. A parrot needs to feel completely at home. It glances in the mirror, takes a stroll up and down the ladder, and before long it's on the swing enjoying itself--and bingo! I've found that parrots usually talk when they are perched on a swing."
The woman bought the swing. She attached it to the top of the cage near the ladder and coaxed the parrot up the ladder and onto the swing. Stilll, absolute silence. For another ten days not one sound came from the cage.
Suddenly she came bursting into the pet store, really steaming. The owner met her at the counter.
"Hey, how's the parrot? I'll bet--"
"It died! My expensive bird is dead in the bottom of the cage."
"Well, I can't believe that. I'm just shocked. Did it ever say anything at all?"
"Yes, as a matter of fact, it did. As it lay there taking its last few breaths, it said very faintly, 'Don't they have any food down at that store?'"
Isn't that just like us? We get distracted so easily. Like the human in the fish tank, we missed what was really going on. Paul said it a couple of times. In Hebrews, he said for us to "fix our eyes on Jesus." In II Corinthians 4 Paul said, "So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but what is unseen." Fixing our eyes. Not being distracted. I believe that's the same thing Paul is saying in Philippians when we tells us to forget the things in the past and press on. He's basically saying for us not to be distracted.
What's distracting you? Don't look at the human cleaning the windows. See God's enduring beauty in everything. Have a great day. JW

Thursday, June 09, 2005

How's Life?

Things die. That's just a fact of life. Interesting contrast, isn't it? A fact of life is that things die. I'm looking at a plant in my office right now that is desperately in need of water. I've effectively killed it. Programs die. Plants die. Pets die. Dreams die. People die.
I don't mean this to sound pessimistic. In fact, far from it. I've just visited with someone who had someone very close to them die and then a relative is perhaps standing at death's door as we speak. There was terror in his voice. A desperation setting in. Difficult times and moments to deal with life. Because life goes on regardless. And the Scripture tells us that we are not to mourn as those who have no hope.
What set me off on this was a news item from Moscow. Police there discovered 4 skeletons in a Moscow apartment. There was an elderly couple, their daughter, and their grandaughter, born respectively in 1912, 1914, 1942, and 1971. When did they die? No one really knows except they found a 1997 calendar. There was food in the refrigerator dated to 2003. It had been two years since utility bills had been paid and the last time anyone had seen any of the family was 2003. Comments were made such as, "Honestly, we couldn't understand whether the smell was coming from the apartment or from our basement." and "We thought they'd gone away to a monastery." Where were their friends! Why didn't anyone notice that there was no activity?
When Mom died, she was discovered within the day because someone was coming to check on her. Thank goodness she had friends who were concerned for her. But to go unnoticed for at least two years?
"How's life?" people often ask. Has anyone ever asked you, "How's death?" When I die (and yes, it's coming), I want people to notice. For the way to die is to live a good life. When that happens, the transition is so much easier. Death is not the end, it is the continuation of eternity that started with our relationsihp with God.
Perhaps I've rambled today. But I cannot fathom an isolated life. Let's strive to make an impact. Let's make sure we have those arm in arm with us to assist in this journey of life. And when it's all over, maybe we can ask, "How's death?" JW

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Where Everybody Knows Your Name

Those of you who read my blog know that I am a frequent visitor to Starbucks. I know it's expensive, but there's a reason for my visits. When I walk in, they say, "Venti no-water chai?" I'm not a coffee drinker, but I do like my chai. Depending on who's there, they even call me by name and write my name on the cup. For a while there was a girl there (bartista, as they call themselves) who would say, "Good morning, Bob!" I don't know, I guess I look like a Bob. But my point is, they know me, they know what I like, and they're friendly.
Several years ago I was asked to speak at a youth retreat. My topic was to be "The Church as Cheers." You probably remember the popular sitcom "Cheers" set in a bar. Like everything else on TV, it was not a true depiction of what bars are really like, but that's another story. Now remember, this was the topic given to me. I did not choose it. The first words out of my mouth were that I was uncomfortable comparing the Lord's church to a bar. But I began by saying I had a song to sing and I wanted the young people to sing with me if they knew the words. I started singing, "Making your way in the world today takes everything you got..." That was it, the kids picked up and sang the whole song. "Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name, and they're always glad you came...." I was excoriated by some youth minister who couldn't believe that I would compare the church that his Savior died for to a bar. THAT WAS THE TOPIC GIVEN TO ME!!!! I digress again.
But the point is, don't we like to go where people know us? Don't we like to go places where we are accepted without judgement? Don't we like to go where people love us and call us by name? No wonder we're having a hard time filling the assemblies on Sunday mornings. We come in, sit down, drink some juice, eat some crackers, sing some songs, stare straight ahead, and beat the Baptists to the restaurant if the preacher doesn't preach too long. Whatever happened to community? Family? Whatever happened to koinonia? Fellowship, sharing. The synagogue was the community center of the Jewish culture. It was where education took place. It was where youngsters learned to read. It was where they were taught how to act. It was where everybody knew their name.
I attended the Crossroads Church of Christ in Gainesville, Florida years ago on a Wednesday night. (Yes, the very Crossroads that began "the movement") An hour after services were over (Amen was said, I heard it) almost everyone was still there. They were talking and hugging and smiling. They were glad to see each other. It was hump day and they needed encouraging. That's what church is supposed to be!
Brethren, let's work at making our assemblies inviting. Let's see that there is a place for everyone. Let's make sure that above all, Jesus is invited and is an honored guest. Maybe we ought to call out everybody's name as they walk in the auditorium. "Norm!!" Ah, maybe not. Have a great day! JW

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

What Love Is

As he wheeled her out of the auditorium Sunday, he stopped to tell me something I didn't know. "We celebrated just our 67th anniversary this week." That's exactly the way he said it with the emphasis on just. It was as if to say there's more years coming. I smiled at her and said, "Are you willing to go another 67?" She smiled and nodded. That's really the most communication you can get out of her. He takes care of her. Brings her to services every Sunday. She can't really talk much. She's in a wheelchair and he dresses her, feeds her, just takes care of her. His health is not that great, but he's all about her.
I get a little tired when I read about Britanny and Kevin, Demi and Ashton, Jessica and Nick, Brad and Angelina. These relationships are destined for failure. The commitments they make to each other are shaky at best. They say they love each other, but they really don't understand love. Elmer and Lucy do. Elmer has told me of some of the things they've been through. It's been tough times and it continues to be tough. But he loves her. . .and she loves him. . .deeply. That's what love is all about. It's about taking care of each other.
So if you don't mind, I'll try to pattern my marriage after Elmer and Lucy rather than the others. It works. They are an inspiration to us all. Happy Anniversary Elmer and Lucy! May you enjoy many, many more together. Have a great day! JW

Monday, June 06, 2005

Blue Skies and Rainbows

We live in a huge country. I know, I drove half of it last week. My friends were moving to California and I volunteered to help drive. From Omaha, Nebraska to American Canyon, California is 1634.7 miles. Beginning on Wednesday and finishing on Friday, I saw some of the most beautiful parts of the country. Now I've been to the arm pits of this country. (I won't tell you where those are because I might offend some of the people in Cumberland, Maryland. Oops!) But the mountains, the valleys, the rainstorms, the Great Salt Lake, the Bonneville Salt Flats, the vistas were just breathtaking.
So what do you do while you drive? Well, if you have a six-year-old riding with you, you sing. Her favorite song was Blue Skies and Rainbows. I tried to get her to sing Home on the Range (see yesterday's blog), but she didn't know the words. Blue Skies and Rainbows was the best we could do, and it was a good song to sing anyway. So traveling down the road we're singing at the top of our lungs, "Tall mountains, green valleys, the beauty that surrounds me all make me aware of the One who made it all." At that very moment we were driving through a green valley surrounded by tall mountains with flowers and green all around us. Indeed, it made me aware of the One who did make it all.
I remember sitting in a hotel room in Salt Lake City back in 1997 looking down the beautiful range of the Rockies. The mountains were unbelievable in their majesty. Solid and permanent. I was reading from the Psalms when I came across these words, "The mountains melt like wax before the Lord." The One who made them could also melt them like wax. That same Psalm begins with these words, "The Lord reigns, let the earth be glad." Wow! The Lord reigns. I am glad! Have a great day! JW

P.S. By the way, I also saw a rainbow while driving down the road. . .a double rainbow. Blue skies. The writer must have driven the same highway as I was when he wrote that song. I'll never look at the song in the same way again.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Home on the Range

I drove through the range this week. And I sang out loud these words, "Home, home on the range. Where the deer and the antelope play. Where seldom is heard a discouraging word. And the skies are not cloudy all day." I have to tell you, these are words of a person where the glass is half full. I saw lots of antelope (and I guess they were playing). I heard discouraging words (Are we there yet? How many more miles?--That'll be another blog telling you about that). It rained and there were clouds. And I wasn't riding a horse nor in a covered wagon, there were McDonald's everywhere, and it took three days, not months to get there.
I have gained a new appreciation of the pioneers who settled this great country. They went West not really knowing what the future held for them. They encountered bad weather, tough times, yet someone was able to sing about positive things. That's an accomplishment. Although I never saw the Ben, Adam, Hoss, and Little Joe Cartright in Nevada, I could appreciate the fact that some real person did at one time venture across those mountains and carved out a life, albeit a tough one.
And I complain because there's not enough hot water. Paul said, "I've learned by now to be quite content whatever my circumstances. I'm just as happy with little as with much, with much as with little. I've found the recipe for being happy whether full or hungry, hands full or hands empty. Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am." (Peterson's, The Message).
Thank you, Lord for what I have. Forgive me for complaining, moaning, griping, etc. Everybody sing, "Where seldom is heard a discouraging word, and the skies are not cloudy all day...." JW