I’d like to say a great big “Thank You” to all of you who have served or are serving in the military and to the families – wives, children, parents – that stayed behind on their knees praying for their safe return. You are appreciated more than you’ll ever know.
While some vets have experienced years, and many a lifetime, of sorrow from the memories of the horrors of war, the rest of us have simply enjoyed the fruits of their sacrifice. There is no easy way and really no adequate way to express gratitude for what they have done.
Most didn’t know the back story of why they went to war. They felt the compulsion to defend and protect and follow orders.
I wrote, a little while back, about encountering an old gentleman in a restaurant. He wore a cap signifying his service on a Navy war ship.
He was gentle and quiet and was enjoying his lunch with the help of a caretaker. I pondered taking action, standing up and saying to the entire place “folks, we have a hero in our midst.” I chose not to. As he left and was helped into his car, I followed and told him what I had thought about doing. “Thank you, young man, but I’m so glad you didn’t. I’d do it all over again.”
Humility is fading as fast as entitlement is advancing.
What has been called “the greatest generation” is fading, too. So if you happen to encounter anyone who has served or is serving today, say “thank you.” You don’t have to elaborate. They might not want to talk or respond but I don’t know anyone that doesn’t appreciate being appreciated.
I watch the news and wonder, sometimes, “How did we get so arrogant?” There is no end to familiar faces from pop culture, TV personalities, actors, musicians who never miss a chance to speak their opinion in front of a camera.
But they’re not the only ones. For the most part, the world has gotten to be a know-it-all culture because there are really no unanswered questions.
Today, I got online and asked the question “When is a good time to trim a palm tree?” And I got pages and pages of answers.
“Whatever happened to Ralph Malph?”
“How do you make good fried chicken?”
Don’t judge me.
Most times, when we’re sitting around with family or other friends, the conversations bounce around and, usually, someone asks a question that we all ponder. Then, in a matter of seconds like contestants on a game show, somebody pulls out their phone and gets the answer. We usually assume the answer online is true. Hmm.
So, over the course of my life, I’ve asked questions of God. I’ve been through seasons where I didn’t dare ask out loud but knowing my heart as He does, it doesn’t really matter, does it? And I don’t think our questions are an affront to the One that made us. Now, in the course of conversational prayer that can run through the course of any given day, I’m not afraid to ask questions.
Unlike the www., God isn’t always inclined to cough up the answer right away.
My little boy is sick right now with awful congestion and ear infections. Of course we pray for him but realize, in light of some of the other health issues others in our family are facing, it doesn’t seem so bad.
Still, I wish he didn’t have to go through this.
Ellie, my 8-month-old granddaughter, is, at the very moment I write this, at the hospital with my son Adam and wife, Laura. An MRI was done late yesterday and they’re waiting on results and to discuss a plan of action. A mass was found in her abdomen last week during an ultrasound.
I’m waiting to hear.
If, as a dad, my children were suffering and I could do something about it, would I? You know the answer to that because you’d do the same thing and wouldn’t think twice.
So even though I’ve been a Christian since I was 9 years old, there are still times I’m confused about the whole prayer thing.
God is able to do something for my son and for Ellie and for your child. He can.
Why doesn’t He?
The comfort I find in this is that He is God and I am not.
I can’t see the picture He sees and I don’t know what He’s up to. It’s not on the internet and I can’t google it. I can find a good French toast recipe but I can’t get an answer to the question I want answered most.
When Adam called to tell me about Ellie, our conversation ended and I heard myself say, “It’s out of our hands, son.”
I can’t see. I can’t hear. I don’t know.
And it’s ok.
I was in the beautiful state of Pennsylvania a couple of weeks ago. Some of you have already read about the travel drama from a previous post so I won’t go through that again.
As we were tooling around Lancaster, PA, I noticed signs to Lititz, PA. Just seeing the name of the neighboring town brought back a great memory.
I don’t know the year but I do know it was one of those years we were touring “The Young Messiah.” I know a lot of you saw those tours and if you did, I’d love for you to share some of your memories of those days.
“The Young Messiah” would usually kick off Thanksgiving weekend. Many years, I would have Thanksgiving dinner and then leave for the first stop of the tour. We would rehearse on Friday and then the first performance would usually be on Saturday night. Most of the tours lasted until the middle of December. There were a few days off here and there but we played almost every night. The memories are vivid. I could go on and on about those tours . . . hmm . . . maybe one day I will.
On one particular tour, we had a particular night off and someone from Lititz, PA contacted my office about coming to their town to sing. It was a busy season, so I was reluctant and just wanted some down time.
Then I heard the story.
It seems that someone (named Scrooge?) had driven through Lititz and noticed a manger scene in a public park. You can probably guess what happened next. Apparently, the ACLU got involved and because of this complaint (from someone who wasn’t even a resident of Lititz) the manger scene was removed.
I’m not sure how many Christmases went by without the manger scene in the park. But the residents began to stir and ask questions. People from churches, people that weren’t “church people”, children, and elected officials hearing the voices of their constituents began to wonder why this was allowed to happen.
And so, after some time and, I’m sure some wrangling with “the powers” the people of Lititz were victorious and made plans to reinstate their manger scene to its proper place.
They invited me to come and sing at the dedication service.
It was December in Pennsylvania and, therefore, . . . cold! We set up on a platform in the middle of town and people filled the space all around us.
You could smell the smell of chocolate. Yes, the town of Lititz smells like chocolate! I grew up around towns that smelled of paper mills (not chocolate) and I’ve driven by feed lots in Colorado with the smell of . . . well, definitely NOT chocolate! But I’d never been to a place that had the fragrance of the precious bean in the air. Among other confectioners, the Wilbur Chocolate Company has been generously spilling its delicious fumes into the atmosphere since 1894. Before I left, someone handed me a huge bag of Wilbur Buds – little discs of chocolate candy like I’d never tasted before (or since . . . does anybody know where I could get me some???).
Lititz is a tremendous place with a great history. It was came to be sometime around 1741 by the influence of one Count Nicholas Ludwig von Zinzendorf, who was a devout Moravian. The Moravians are one of the oldest protestant denominations in the world and the Count was looking for a place to establish a model Moravian community. While freedom to worship and to live as they interpreted God’s will was the goal, there were strict guidelines. One posted publication declared that “ . . . dancing, taverning, feasting at weddings, christenings or burials was prohibited and those given to such inclinations cannot live in Lititz.”
On a lighter note, it’s said that pretzels were started in Lititz and that the twisted shape of the pretzel is often associated with a child’s arms folded in prayer. OK.
So with the fragrance of coco in the air, we proceeded to dedicate the manger back to its rightful place in the park. The crowd was reverent and quiet, their breath in the cold winter air creating a beautiful haze. Men and women of different faiths and practices, some of no faith (yet) all united as a community to make their voices and hearts known.
I played some carols and we all sang. And then, the crowd dispersed. Back to their homes and lives but richer now. Some probably didn’t even know why, but richer still.
I think Christmas in Lititz was different that year. I know it was for me.
I don’t know if you’ve had a chance to see the movie “” but we saw it over the weekend. I’m a sucker for sports movies and have a high tolerance for any degree of cheese factor and most of them never fail to provide the cheese! I won’t specify for fear of calling out one of your favorites or exposing mine!
“When The Game Stands Tall” starring Jim Caviezel came on the screen and within a few minutes I could tell this movie was going to be a cut above. Never mind tagging it as a “Christian” movie. While the story line and the script repeatedly follow a faith-based ideal, it’s done in a believable way. In one scene, a member of the football team is with his girlfriend at a diner and when asked by one of the other players if they were . . . well . . . you know, his response was “No, we’re waiting. We took a purity pledge.” To which the other guy asked “Man, what cult are you in?” “Pleasant Hill Baptist Church!” he replied smiling.
It’s realistic and beautifully filmed and edited. The dialogue, while refreshingly void of the rampant obscenities that we’re led to believe are the norm in the teenage vocabulary, is really well written. There are believable lines delivered with believable teenage frustration, angst and intensity without the barrage of vocab-bombs. Maybe a lot of teenagers express themselves with the lowest of language denominators but I don’t want to pay $11 to hear it. Don’t want to hear it from adults either, for that matter.
I won’t go on and on. I’m not a movie critic but I’d encourage you to see it. When the ratings description on one movie website warns “smoking scenes” as one of the things to beware of, well, all things considered, that’s pretty mild. And, by the way, it only takes a matter of minutes for the filmmaker to show the consequences of the tobacco habit.
I can’t say whether you should take your kids or not. I don’t know you or your kids, but this movie has some terrific moments and some vivid life lessons that are well told.
When someone of Robin Williams’ stature dies, it’s fascinating to observe the outpouring of sentiment from all kinds of people – from the rich and famous, the friends and co-stars, those in the media that interviewed and spent time with him, nameless ordinary people that experienced his kindness and generosity. No doubt there will be some that will site his lack of reverence and his crude stabs at some sacred social and religious structures and, frankly, I just wish they’d give it a rest.
And yet underneath his almost manic delivery of, what some would call, comedic genius (Charlie Rose of CBS said he’d never been with anyone with such a quick connection from brain to mouth), there was, to the discerning eye, the very clear display of sadness and loneliness of addiction and depression.
I’m not going to pontificate or editorialize.
When I heard the news, my heart ached. What a cruel world sometimes. I’ve dealt with suicide in my family and it’s just . . . there are no words to the shock, the suddenness and finality. My heart hurt that a human created in the Image was so very sad.
Whenever I witness genius, my first thought is to thank God for His creation, His imagination and the very fact that He gives gifts to human beings. I hear incredible musicians, singers, players, great writing, great acting, brilliant comedy and whether they acknowledge the Giver of their particular gift or not, I know where all this comes from and I thank Him. Sure, as a dyed in the wool evangelical, it would be great (and I would be so inappropriately proud) if they would, from time to time, mention that God has blessed them with a gift, etc., etc.
But again, even if they don’t publically or privately name the Name, we can breathe deep in the knowledge that God has created some beautiful things and some beautiful people.
August 12, 2014
My home church is in transition. What a useful word. It can be a hopeful word pointing toward refreshment, new visions and new accomplishments. But it can be a copout. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard the word “transition” applied to any of a number of situations that were simply in limbo. If no one is paying attention or addressing problems being in “transition” is a good way of putting things on the back burner.
Our senior pastor, a man who I have come to love and appreciate like few others I’ve ever known, retired in May. A couple of weeks later, he and his wife left for an extended trip to Europe. He gave lots of reasons for leaving the country. And the best one seemed to be his desire to get out of the way and make room for the new man and allow transition to take place.
We have a tremendous lineup of associates and they’re taking turns in the pulpit this summer. Last Sunday, one of our gifted and deeply insightful men was on point. I could tell when he came in the room early Sunday morning that something was a little off. He had that look of someone who hadn’t had a good night’s sleep, covered in the fog of a summer cold. At least that’s what we used to call it. Now, it’s a more sophisticated “respiratory distress.” It still stinks. And in this condition, he was supposed to preach at three different services.
At one point in the service, he led a reading where he, as the leader, read a sentence or two and the congregation responded. On the screens in the sanctuary, the assignments were clearly laid out with the leader reading the yellow lines and the congregation reading the white lines. About two or three slides into the presentation, he read the wrong line and, in response, some of the people in the seats read the other line and some of them read the line the leader had just read. It was as close as tongues of fire you’re ever gonna hear around our place.
And then a funny thing happened. I noticed the energy of the people participating dialed up considerably. Before the mistake, everybody was just following along . . . business as usual for a pretty common part of the worship service. But when things went sideways accompanied by a moment of mild panic and then a few laughs, concluding with a “Why don’t we try that again,” everybody joined in at a whole different level.
Someone said in a fervent prayer one day “Lord, let something happen that’s not in the bulletin.”
I’ve noticed at concerts, some of them my own and others where I’m in the audience, that people don’t seem to mind if there are problems. Sure, there are those rare occasions where an event will come off without a single flaw, but lots of times, there
are technical issues – a microphone will not work or a light cue is missed or somebody’s voice cracks or somebody forgets the lyrics (no names please!). And then the audience engages with new energy. It’s almost like they’re reminded that what’s happening in front of them is being carried on by real people, fallible humans subject to the same unpredictable bumps in the road as everybody else. And then there’s a new relationship between them.
I wouldn’t want mistakes to make regular appearances in the things I do but mistakes can pull us together and make us feel more connected. When they happen, we can acknowledge our common ground, the food chain or the ladder of ascent gets a little more fuzzy and less relevant, and we can relax and enjoy the ride.
I saw a news story this morning with the headline “Can we believe anything LeBron says about the future?”. Really . . . he can tell the future! Wow, that’s a news story! If you can, with any degree of certainty, tell the future, please call me now! 1-800- Wayne (not a real number!) I think there are too many exclamation points in this paragraph!!!
Probably won’t get any calls.
Enjoy the moments today. There will be mistakes. You’ll make them and so will every living, breathing being around you. I hope they’ll be innocent without collateral damage. If you see them in yourself and everybody else, just laugh and enjoy the botherhood.
One of my favorite passages in the Bible is this . . .
The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love. He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever; he does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his love for those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our transgressions from us. As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear him; for he knows how we are formed, he remembers that we are dust. (Psalms 103:8-14 NIV)
Wayne Watson June 2014