Wednesday Wisdom With Wyndham – 71

Wisdom and a Rock

It seems the weather has been particularly wild all over the world. Last week many of our friends in the Carolinas were dealing with a hurricane. Today we got the remnants—torrential downpours and fierce thunder and lightning. Ours only lasted a day. Theirs lasted days, and many are still under water. In other places all over the world people are still picking up pieces after storms, with homes destroyed and streets flooded. Homes on sand near the oceans have little hope of standing.

For as long as I can remember, Wyndham, when he could still speak well and pray out loud would continually thank God for being his rock. He always used this term. I don’t think I appreciated this metaphor nearly as much then as I do now.

Most weeks, when weather allowed, we would walk and pray at our special place about forty minutes from our home, in a town called Manchester-by-the-Sea. We would walk a trail leading to a place so beautiful it seemed unreal. There we would find an expanse which revealed a panoramic view of the rocky north Atlantic shore. As we neared the end of the trail, approaching this gorgeous view, we always passed a gigantic marble rock. It has likely been there for centuries, on this hill overlooking the ocean. It’s solid and has withstood years of crashing waves and howling nor’easters. 

I always admired the rock and thought it was such a great addition to an already priceless view. It provided even more ambiance. However, I never had to hold on to it for dear life. Now, as the winds and waves of deteriorating health howl, Wyndham’s true rock (and my rock) means everything. It’s no longer just admired, it’s sat on, clung to, and is essential. But, that’s the way it should be anyway.

Because our rock is the unchanging, all-powerful, and loving God who has been a friend for many years, Wyndham’s faith, joy, and peace is unshakable. He has the wisdom to hold  to the rock, to sit on the rock, to hug the rock, and to never leave the rock. He can even laugh when his voice can’t easily be understood (even though it’s hard) and can have patience and perseverance even while living an extremely difficult way of life. Without this rock, we would surely have been swept away, torn apart by the waves.

Because the rock is solid, and he has the wisdom to hold on, he is okay. We are okay. We are better than okay. Very blessed. Sometimes sad, but secure in hope. The view from the rock is always spectacular, even in a storm. Perhaps especially during a storm.

Everyone needs this rock, for it can withstand any storm. It’s not meant to merely be viewed but is meant to be embraced.

 Hear my cry, O God; listen to my prayer.
From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I.
For you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the foe.
I long to dwell in your tent forever and take refuge in the shelter of your wings.
(Psalm 61:1-4)

I believe that Jesus held to that rock while he was on earth, as he referred to this song while on the cross.

 Turn your ear to me, come quickly to my rescue; be my rock of refuge, a strong fortress to save me.

Since you are my rock and my fortress, for the sake of your name lead and guide me.
Keep me free from the trap that is set for me, for you are my refuge.

Into your hands I commit my spirit; deliver me, LORD, my faithful God. (Psalm 31:2-5)

 

 

 

Wednesday Wisdom With Wyndham – 70

 

Wisdom Loves to Laugh

Each night I read some Bible out loud before we pray…as Wyndham can’t hold a book and reading is too tiring for him. Last night as I was reading I verbally stumbled with a tongue-twisting word. I kept saying it wrong, repeating it, and then saying it wrong again. Wyndham’s voice is weak, but as I was reading, tongue-twisted, this quiet voice came from the man laying in the bed who almost looked as if he was asleep… “easy for you to say.”

My concentration completely left me when I heard this. I just laughed for a while at his quick and sarcastic comment.

Truth is, we laugh a lot. We need to. We encounter a lot of daily (hourly) hard things in our lives at this stage. We can cry or laugh. Very occasionally we cry, but most often we choose to laugh. We intentionally laugh and find things to laugh at. Laughing is good for our health. And, it feels better.

In fact, Mayo Clinic reports that laughter induces physical changes in our bodies. It stimulates our heart, lungs, and muscles and increases our endorphins. Laughter also activates and relieves our stress response, soothes tension, improves our immune system, relieves pain, increases personal satisfaction, and improves our mood.1

Ecclesiastes 3:4 tells us there is: “A time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.”

I am quite sure God has a sense of humor. Just look at some of his creation! The porcupine, the aardvark, otter, the penguin, puppies, and the sloth likely induce some heavenly laughter. (I follow an Instagram post that has the sole purpose of showing the cuteness and funny antics of animals—It’s called happiness4all if you want to add this little joy to your life.)

Think of some of the crazy and unlikely ways God has worked in your life. Certainly some of these show God’s sense of humor (as well as his incredible grace toward us).

I find remarkable irony and humor (and God’s wisdom and power) when in Numbers 22 Balaam’s donkey spoke like a man and Balaam, well, he acted like a donkey. And picture when Gideon’s tiny army defeated the Midianites by blowing ram’s horns and breaking clay jars (Judges 7). And Jesus, God in the flesh, was born in a stable, was presented as a king riding on a donkey, and his lineage included Rahab, a prostitute.

Likely, since we don’t live in the first century, we miss much of the humor of Jesus when he uses hyperbole, parables, and exaggeration to make his points.

The Dictionary of Biblical Imagery says, “Jesus was a master of wordplay, irony and satire, often with an element of humor intermixed.”

Consider Jesus’ word pictures of a log in someone’s eye, and religious leaders who strained gnats and swallowed camels. Swallow a camel?

But most convincingly, we are created in the image of God! You are, and I am too—and I sure do love humor. I love to laugh. In fact, it’s one of my all-time favorite things to do.

The Proverbs of wisdom recount the benefits of a joyful disposition. This would certainly include smiles and laughter. The Scriptures knew this long before Mayo Clinic found out.

A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones. (Proverbs 17:22)

Proverbs also adds, “A happy heart makes the face cheerful” (15:13); or seen from a different view in verse 30, “A cheerful look brings joy to the heart.” Proverbs 16:24 tells us, “Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.” 

It’s good to laugh. To be cheerful. This sign hangs in the entrance to our living room, and it’s a good one. (And yes, the Red Sox playing in the background add joy as well.)  While Wyndham takes some medicine for some symptoms, the best medicine is a cheerful heart.

May we all heed the wisdom of God (and this sign) as we “Live well, laugh often, and love much.”

 

 

______________________________________________________________________

1. (https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/stress-relief/art-20044456)

2. Leland Ryken, James C. Wilhoit, and Tremper Longman III, eds., “Humor—Jesus as Humorist,” Dictionary of Biblical Imagery (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1998), 410.

Wednesday Wisdom With Wyndham – 69

Wisdom is Mind Change

By Gordon Ferguson

The title reminds many of us of an excellent book written by Tom Jones about how he came to view and deal with multiple sclerosis. It is a most encouraging and inspiring book, and one that I imagine Wyndham and his family have received much help from as they deal with his debilitating disease. But this article is about the abundant wisdom possessed by Wyndham, and so we are discussing other aspects of mind change.

Changing our minds is not often an easy task. It is not science but much closer to an art form. Many questions asked and answered about mind change tell us a lot about a person. How quick are we to change our minds – too quick or too slow? What causes us to change our minds – emotions or clear reasoning? Who influences us most to change our minds – those closest to us or those who make the most sense? What is our attitude about changing our minds – willingness or begrudging reluctance? What motivation is strongest regarding changing our minds – a desire to be right or to determine truth? Good questions, don’t you think?

The whole process of mind change is demonstrated so well by Wyndham. I’ve watched him in this process many times in many circumstances with many people. He has mastered the process in a way that few have, providing us with yet another lens through which to observe his wisdom.

Wyndham is a slow thinker in one sense – not caused by a limitation of intellectual powers at all, but by a self-imposed spiritual limitation. He simply refuses to rush into judgment. I have known many leaders in the church who prided themselves on being able (in their minds, at least) to size up situations and make very quick decisions. Often these decisions were made after hearing only one side of a story (often a friend’s or another leader’s side) and were many times of a nature that the lives of others were significantly affected by their knee-jerk decisions. Just thinking about the times I observed this process in the past gives me a pit in my stomach right now. Had those types of self-assured, cocky, arrogant decision-makers not read the Bible?

James 1:19 – “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.”

Proverbs 17:27 – “The one who has knowledge uses words with restraint, and whoever has understanding is even-tempered.”

Proverbs 29:20 – “Do you see someone who speaks in haste? There is more hope for a fool than for them.”

Proverbs 18:17 – “The first to present his case seems right, till another comes forward and questions him.”

Wyndham is a very patient and careful listener. He won’t interrupt a person sharing their heart – and he won’t let others interrupt them either. I know – I’ve been in both places with him! He and Tom Jones remain two of my most trusted confidants, the two men whose counsel I cherish most. After leaving Boston years ago, I have flown back to Boston on several occasions primarily just to get time with Wyndham and have him talk me off of the ledge. He not only knows how to change his mind in right directions, but he can help others do that in a masterful way.

He changes his own mind by time-tested biblical and practical principles. He is not quick to change his mind, but he does understand the time sensitivity of some decisions. Unlike some leaders I have known, he is not afraid to make decisions because of worrying about being wrong or worrying about possible reactions or responses. He just wants to make righteous decisions, not necessarily popular ones. His quest for truth drives him, and he is never satisfied with good or better when best is within reach.

His mind changes are seldom emotionally based but based on those principles mentioned above that fit the situation most clearly. That being true, the emotions of others are not weighed much in the final decisions, although they are respected and listened to carefully leading up to that final decision. His wisdom in changing his mind and the minds of others leads him into answering all of those other questions raised in the second paragraph in the right way. He is never overly influenced by who is speaking, but rather by what is being said. Neither favoritism nor sentimentality will carry the day with him. What is right is the clear target and not who is right, himself or anyone else in the discussion.

As all of these articles in Jeanie’s blog show, Wyndham’s wisdom is demonstrated in many, many ways. But in my judgment, it is shown perhaps best in the realm of mind change – his own and that of others through his direction. He is not only at the top of my list when seeking guidance in the most serious life matters, but at the top of my wife’s list as well. He earned that spot soon after our arrival in Boston in 1988 by carefully guiding us through our needed mind changes about our marriage and ministry. I don’t think I would have survived the ministry part without him, and I know that our marriage would not have become what it has without him. Mind change, the fine art of discovering the pinnacle of spiritual thinking, is sought by many but mastered by few. Wyndham Shaw is one of the few.

 

 

 

 

Wednesday Wisdom with Wyndham – 68

Wisdom Connects

Anyone can say words. However, wisdom can turn words into connections. Without connection, it’s impossible to communicate on a heart-to-heart level. Wisdom connects words to the heart.

Wyndham, for as long as I have known him, has been a great connector. As he connects deeply with individuals, he also helps them connect with each other. Connectors do this. Their connections are contagious. If connection is only with us, we build dependence instead of family. For years  I have studied Wyndham’s ability to  connect and have sought to emulate this gift as much as possible. 

Ironically, Wyndham’s body has a major connection problem. Though his mind is excellent, and his body should be physically able to function, it doesn’t. There’s a disconnect. It is as if a drawbridge has gone up between his head (or mind) and body. It doesn’t connect well anymore. Our nervous system normally does this connecting automatically…but unfortunately this connection is now missing for him.

Too often, the metaphorical drawbridge goes up when people try to connect. Words are spoken but they don’t bring about closeness or desired unity. They simply give information.

I’ve noticed several aspects of connection as I’ve “studied” Wyndham’s ability to connect. This connection comes not just from words said, but also from the emotional atmosphere and feelings that surround the words. These bring down the drawbridge so that connections are made. The following are attitudes I have watched Wyndham exude which elicit true connection.

You are important to me. I care about you and I value you. This attitude is a bridge between spoken words. The drawbridge is down when we know people care as they speak to us. Even now, though Wyndham can barely talk, he will ask, “Did you give them my love?” or, “How did her meeting go?” or, “Did Caleb catch a fish today?” Because he cares.

I want to hear what you have to say. We all want to be heard and understood.  We communicate this when we truly do want to hear what others say. This invites connection.

I will be vulnerable.  People connect to our weaknesses. It’s often humbling to share them, but we can likely think of people we have easily connected with because of their vulnerability.  Sometimes (often) these posts feel vulnerable. I always read them to Wyndham and ask if it’s okay to share. He always tells me that he knows that connection is in the vulnerability.

I want to have eye-to-eye contact with you.  Often a look from Jesus elicited connection and emotion. Truly the eye is the lamp of the body, as Jesus stated (Matthew 6:22). There’s just something about eye-to eye-connection that helps beget heart-to-heart connection.

I want to hug you.  Have you ever been speaking to someone and their kindness and connectivity just makes you want to get up and hug them? Wyndham knows the importance of affection. We all need hugs. More than we think. Lots of them. It’s hard to hug someone and stay disconnected.

I will be honest with you. And, I want you to be honest with me. There’s nothing like the truth that brings the freedom allowing connection. As Proverbs 24:26 (NLT) states,  An honest answer is like a kiss of friendship.”

I want to leave you encouraged, and with hope. No matter how difficult a situation or conversation, we connect to those who are able to offer hope (which is always found in Christ). I have noted that Wyndham gives hope even (and especially) in difficult situations and conversations.

I want to be approachable. I’m always inspired by the way Jesus easily connected with children and the poor. He was a the greatest leader ever, but easily approached by what some considered “the little (or less important) people.”  It takes extra effort to ensure we are easily approached. How can we ever connect with someone we can’t easily approach.

I’m so grateful Almighty God encourages us to approach him (Ephesians 3:12; Hebrews 4:16).

May we all grow in wisdom to connect as we speak and engage with others.

 

Wednesday Wisdom with Wyndham – 67

Wisdom Knows a Secret

It’s a typical morning.

C-Pap mask off.✔ Contoured pillows under legs removed.✔  Ice packs under elbows moved.✔  Foam boots (to prevent pressure sores) pulled off.✔  Pulled from bed onto power chair.✔ Teeth brushed.✔ Face washed.✔ Shaved. ✔ Dressed. ✔ (All done for you, not by you) ✔ Picked up and put on portable commode.✔ Back on chair.✔ Help eating breakfast.✔

And so the day begins.

My question to Wyndham:  So, how are you today?

His answer, each day: Good, I’m good.

And he means it. He is grateful for this day (as am I).  I then put his shirt on him (almost always a “Life is Good” T-shirt because they are comfortable, easy to get on and off, and have a good message). Today’s shirt reads, “Life Is Not Easy. Life Is Not Perfect. Life is Good.” That works. ✔ 

We share thoughts, usually some laughter, and a prayer. A prayer for “daily bread.” In that prayer we share a secret.

Wyndham has a secret.

Wisdom knows the secret.

The secret is this:

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.
I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
  (Philippians 4:12-13, emphasis added)

This message was kept secret for centuries and generations past, but now it has been revealed to God’s people.
For God wanted them to know that the riches and glory of Christ are for you Gentiles, too. And this is the secret: Christ lives in you. This gives you assurance of sharing his glory.
(Colossians 1:26-27 NLT, emphasis added)

Christ in you (and me). This is the secret—a secret that envelops our very beings. A secret that proves true day after day.

However, since these verses have been read for nearly 2,000 years by countless people it’s really no secret. Unless Christ doesn’t live in you. Then true joy, abiding peace, and solid hope seem unattainable…a secret only longed for.

This secret remains a mystery of sorts. How else could Wyndham be “good?”  How can we be deeply happy, despite a really tough situation?

It’s because of the secret.

“Christ in us” is unable to be physically seen or touched. It’s a secret to the physical 3-dimensional world in which we live. None the less, it’s real.  When we have Christ in us, the secret is revealed.

What does it mean to have Christ in us? It means we have the same power in us that raised Jesus from the dead. Do we hope for a miracle? Absolutely. But have we both already overcome death through Christ in us? The answer is a resounding “yes.”

This secret means that God pours his love into our hearts through his Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5). We can feel loved, because we are. We can give love, because God keeps pouring it into our hearts. It doesn’t run out even if we are tired, or our bodies don’t work.

I have no other explanation as to why we can approach each day with joy, gratitude, and hope. And these are realities, not wishful thoughts.

The secret of Christ in us means that no matter the circumstances, we can have a deep joy,  an abiding peace that doesn’t make sense, and a hope that can’t be crushed.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13)

God’s Spirit IS Christ in me. In us. Meditate on this. All the power of Christ. All the love of Christ. All the peace of Christ. The whole purpose of Christ—really and truly living inside of me—the part of me that can’t be touched but is eternal. The soul.

And this is wisdom’s secret.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wednesday Wisdom with Wyndham – 66

Wisdom Is “Whataburger”

 By Sheridan Wright

I know that this tittle sounds weird…but bear with me. I have enjoyed reading “Wednesday Wisdom with Wyndham” and hearing others recount how Wyndham, in God’s wisdom, has had an impact on their lives. My reaction is always the same: no surprise. I smile to myself and think, “Yep, that’s Wyndham!”

Back to “Whataburger.” I entered the University of Florida as a freshman in the Fall of 1972. Wyndham was the Resident Advisor on my dorm floor. As was his custom, he invited me to the “soul talk” (small group Bible discussion) in his room on Monday nights.

You know how some people enter college with lofty goals of high achievement and a focused dedication on accomplishing these goals?….Well, I was NOT one of those people. I had a passion for foolishness, and it seemed to come to me with gift-like ease. Yet the “soul talk” intrigued me. Initially I went, not because I was searching, but because of Wyndham’s sincerity of faith—he had neither the self-righteousness nor weirdness that I had witnessed in many others with devout belief. During the next 2 months, I developed a love/hate relationship with the ”soul talk”: I loved the practicality and relevance of the Bible, but I hated the way it unnerved me. The unnerving won out, and I quit going. Two months later, after a night of “drinkin’ & druggin’”—in an act of sheer stupidity—I fell 3 stories off a dormitory roof.

Because I had partially separated my hip in the fall, my mobility was restricted, and I was limited to my dorm room for a few days of recovery.

A knock sounds at my door—in walks Wyndham. Now keep in mind that by this point in time, I had not been to “soul talk” in a couple of months; I was plunging headlong in the OPPOSITE direction of EVERYTHING Wyndham had tried to get me to understand. I did not want to know what the Bible said (in fact I was trying to forget what I had already learned); and to top it all off, my best thinking had led me to a dorm room convalescence from a near fatal incident.

If ever there was a prime time for a sarcastic remark like “Attaboy Einstein, you proud of yourself?”—this was it. INSTEAD, Wyndham said, “Sheridan, I’m going to Whataburger, can I bring something back for you?” At first sound this may seem so trivial—an insignificant tidbit of information. Yet, if that is so, then let me pose this question: Why do I remember it 44 years later as if it were yesterday? I knew I was a fool—I had proved it scientifically. I was in the cross-hairs of ridicule and condemnation. I was running from God. I was running from Wyndham. I was running from anyone that had anything to do with God or Wyndham. And yet, what did I get? An act of service…an act of grace.

To me, wisdom is not so much the accumulation of knowledge, it is the RIGHT USE of the knowledge you have. Wyndham knew Jesus, he knew God’s Word, and he knew his fellow man. To be sure—there are times when you have to confront, times when you have to forthrightly speak the truth. Wyndham does not shy away from that. Yet in that dorm room, all of his knowledge of Jesus, God’s Word, and human beings caused him to give this guilty soul an act of grace. In doing this, he gave me a foretaste of a Biblical truth that one day would define my life: “But God demonstrates His own love for us in this—-while we were STILL sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

Is it any wonder that six months later when I came to my senses and wanted to get my life right with God I would want to find Wyndham? At that time I was living off campus and did not know where he was. I prayed that God would allow me to find him. The very next day I ran into him right in the middle of a campus of 24,000 students. Within a week I was baptized into Christ—on January 13, 1974.

I suppose that the nutritional merit of Whataburger is a matter of debate. I can neither affirm nor deny it. But one thing I do not doubt: to have the wisdom of Christ is to reach out to individuals with genuine concern and to say or do the RIGHT thing at the RIGHT time. Wyndham did that. Wyndham taught me that. Wyndham is that.

Thank you my brother and my friend for showing me the Way. Thank you for that “Whataburger mission of mercy” that just confirmed what I had witnessed my freshman year in Jennings Hall—you REALLY believe, you REALLY follow Jesus, you REALLY care about the glory of God and the salvation of people. I love you and I gratefully owe you a debt of love….my wife, my children, and my grandchildren owe you a debt of love. 

 

If I let my imagination go, I picture all of us at the judgement giving an account of our lives. For many of us, the name Wyndham Shaw would come up in that account. “He led me to you…”, “he helped my marriage, my parenting…”, “he cared enough to rebuke…”, “he shepherded…,” “he brought me a burger”……

 

As we continue, the Lord smiles, “Yep, that’s Wyndham—-Well done, good and faithful servant!”

 

Wednesday Wisdom With Wyndham – 65

Wisdom Makes People Feel Special

By Micah Gonet

This week’s post is by our grandson, Micah, who is 8 years old. He asked if he could write a “Wednesday Wisdom” about his Papa. Wyndham loves deeply…such that people want to express how much they feel loved. Thank you Micah. We love you. 

We’re putting a lot of effort and planning to go see Papa in Boston these days.  Because he can’t walk, he can’t come down to see us in Connecticut, so we go up there. It probably easy for him to feel like, “Hey guys, I can’t walk!  Can you help me?”’  and to just be selfish.  But instead he decides to think about us and not himself.  For example, I was outside in his yard the other day playing ball with my cousin Caleb. Mom called me up to the porch where Papa was watching us play.

I said, “Man!” cause I didn’t want to stop playing. But I listened to my Mom and went up anyway.  Then Papa gave every cousin a 20 dollar bill!

Here is another reason Papa makes me feel great: Once when everybody went out to eat at a restaurant, I stayed with Papa at his house. I wanted to watch a football show.  He wanted to watch a show about fishing. He watched the football show with me even though he didn’t want to. That’s how he shows how much he cares about me.

About a year ago, when I had a baseball game on the weekend, Papa came down to Connecticut and stayed in a hotel just so he could see me play even though it is hard for him to even get into the hotel. That also shows how much he loves me and cares for me.  After the game, he gave me a big hug and kiss. 

Back to the story about the money: When he gave me that 20 dollar bill, it made me feel so good.  But giving to everyone made Papa feel so good, and that shows how amazing he is. Although it’s hard, he pulls through and never gives up. Even though he can’t walk he still sticks with Jesus and always does the right thing.  Even though he can’t do much we still can do a lot with him.

He reminds me of the scripture in Philippians 2, verse 3: Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit.  Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of others.  That is exactly what Papa does. 

And I love watching the Red Sox with him.

I love you, Papa.

Your Buddy,

Micah

Wednesday Wisdom With Wyndham – 64

Wisdom Holds to God’s Hand

Today as I ran errands I noticed several couples walking hand in hand. I reminisced and felt a little sad. I miss this. Walking together is certainly not possible. Hand holding is not easy, as Wyndham’s hands are tender to the touch and quite shaky.  Even as I took this picture I heard, “ouch.” 

Thankfully, we both have a strong, loving hand to hold. Wyndham knows the source of true strength. Wisdom holds to God’s hand.

I’m reminded of a well-loved song beginning with the words,

Time is filled with swift transition,
Naught of earth unmoved can stand,
Build your hopes on things eternal,
Hold to God’s unchanging hand.

I need the strength and security of God’s unchanging hand. Every day I need to grasp that hand. While it’s not a physical hand, the spiritual effect of his presence with me is real for both of us.  It’s not a “nice thought” to hold to God’s hand. It’s a necessity! His hand sustains me. I’m humbled that he stoops down to feel with me and make me something I can’t be without him—as he holds on to me!

  You give me your shield of victory, and your right hand sustains me; you stoop down to make me great (Psalm 18:35).

The following thoughts are taken from a chapter in my book, “Every Day is a New Chance.”  I share it in hopes that the thoughts (near the end) on Psalm 23 encourage you as much as they do me.

*************************************************************************************************

My friend: We’re going down the street. Hold onto Grammie’s hand.

My friend’s grandson: Gwammy, I’ll hold my own hand!!

(He then clasped his hands together.)

I had to laugh when I heard this exchange. Children often blatantly do the same things we do—only we are more subtle. We even know how to explain our actions in ways that make them sound quite noble. Such as:

God: You’re going through life. It can be tough. Follow me; hold onto my hand.

Me: I’ll hold my own hand. Thank you, but I don’t want to trouble you. (See how polite that sounds while telling God no?)

Why in the world would I think holding my own hand—depending on myself to direct my steps through life—would turn out well? I’m extremely shortsighted compared to God. He sees the big picture. I can only see a part.

Holding to God’s hand can at times feel childish, too restrictive for our exploration, or hurtful to our pride. Shouldn’t I be able to navigate my life on my own? Why should I need someone to guide me? After all, who can I trust but myself? These thoughts and questions can haunt the back roads of our hearts and minds, causing us to want to “hold our own hand.”

How do we know when we are trying to hold our own hand instead of God’s?  Simply put, when we rely on ourselves and our own understanding. This can be seen when we fail to spend time in God’s word, seeking wisdom and instruction for our daily lives. When we fail to pray for daily wisdom and guidance. When we don’t live the lifestyle Jesus lived and calls us to live.

Certainly, if we hold to his hand we will follow him, and thus will be serving others. We will be teaching his truths. Frankly, holding to God’s hand doesn’t mean that I will be safe from pitfalls, tragedies, and suffering. These, my friends, are all along the landscape of the world in which we live. God did not create it this way; man distorted it this way.

Holding to God’s hand means we have solid footing when we encounter these challenges. It means we can feel his strength, comfort, and guidance. God has prepared something much better for us, but we still have to walk through this life.  As time passes, I see and experience more of the challenges and suffering in life. However, I can’t imagine traveling this road without my faith—without holding to God’s hand. Holding to his hand, I feel free. I am secure. I am hopeful. I know where I’m ultimately headed. I’m full of peace and joy even amid pain, challenges, and suffering. Many of us are familiar with this beautiful passage of Scripture:

The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.  He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters,  he restores my soul. He guides me in paths of righteousness  for his name’s sake. Even though I walk  through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me your rod and your staff,  they comfort me. (Psalm 23:1–4)

For years I pictured this verse in a way that was not reality for the desert shepherds of David’s time. I envisioned God taking me to rest in plush, green, rolling hills. I recently learned that the “green pastures” familiar to the writer’s landscape were actually far different from what I had seen in my mind’s eye. They were bits of grass scattered among the rocks of the barren desert hillsides, where condensation from the sea winds allowed sprigs of grass to grow.  As the sheep followed their shepherd, he would lead them through these hillside “green pastures.”

The grass on the hillsides was just enough for their sustenance for the day.

The sheep had to follow the shepherd each day to have enough green pasture for their survival. Sheep left on their own would wander, searching for grass, and eventually die. Staying close to the shepherd was a matter of life and death.  It’s really no different for me. If I wander from my shepherd, holding my own hand, I’ll end up spiritually starving. However tempting it is to rely on myself, I can never take myself to heaven. I can never produce the fruits of God’s Spirit in my life without them flowing from him.

May we have the wisdom to hold to God’s strong and loving hand.

Wednesday Wisdom With Wyndham – 63

Wisdom and Friendship

By Jack Frederick

It’s late, just after midnight. I’m sleepy, but I remember how I spent the day…I visited my old friend Wyndham, and his lovely wife, Jeanie. 

Wyndham has a few wrinkles on his brow, many of them put there by his friendship with me. I remember the times I hurt or disappointed him, and the times I made him laugh, the fish we caught together, the children we raised together, the poor we fed together, the disciples we made together, the times we cried over lost sleep and going out to find sheep who wandered. As I was about to lay down tonight I remembered the words of an eighteenth century hymn…

How sweet, how heav’nly is the sight,
When those that love the Lord
In one another’s peace delight,
And thus fulfill His Word.

The waterworks began to flow, unabated. I had held it together during our visit today, though my voice cracked here and there. We remembered stories together. I told him I kinda avoided the passage in Romans 16:16 where Paul told us to give one another a holy kiss, but I kissed him on his slightly balding head. I held his hand. I hugged him more than usual. I miss him. His physical health is waning; mine, too, but his change is more dramatic due to a difficult neurological disorder which robs his strength but not his amazing wisdom and insight. I have known brilliant men & women, lots of successful people, scholars and the like…but I’ve never known a man or woman so gifted in wisdom. The difference was always magnified by my inherent lack of wisdom; I always blamed it on growing up without a father to teach me, I felt like I was always ten years behind my age in wisdom while Wyndham was maybe 20+ years advanced. God gave me gifts, too, I was smart in a few things, I had the whole rocket scientist thing going on and I had passion & zeal, but wisdom would add depth I had never known.

James says of God, “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you” (James 1:5). That’s the way it was with Wyndham, I felt he was willing to be my friend, willing to teach me how to gain wisdom and “show me how” to apply this in life, yet he never made fun of me for what I lacked. And Wyndham was really lame when it came to things like mechanical stuff, working on cars; I would fix things for him just to get to spend time with him. He taught me, and brought out the gifts God had given me, helped me see these and use them.

Wyndham (& Jeanie) taught me (us) so much about working in the ministry, how to lead spiritually in churches and in our family. I was like Peter with Jesus, I wanted to learn but I did some dumb things; he was gracious, he rebuked me when I needed it, but I learned by walking with him. We were discipleship partners and friends. Our wives and children were close friends. Last year during our visit he grew weary and asked me to help him from his motorized chair into bed, not an easy thing. Then after I wrestled him onto the bed he said, “you gotta pull my shirt off”…a tight tee shirt, even more difficult with him lying down. It was difficult…and awkward…we began to laugh, then he began to cry as he said, “Jack, take care of my family.” Yes, I cried. I told him I would, but reminded him he might live longer than me… I stay up so late, drink Mountain Dew and eat fried chicken. I live life at breakneck speed, even though I’m old.

I thought about the hymn…
When each can feel his brother’s sigh
And with him bear a part;
When sorrow flows from eye to eye,
And joy from heart to heart.

I’ve shared things with my friend Wyndham, things I may have shared with no other person, because I trust him as a friend to always do what is best for me. I feel a deep sense of gratitude that God put such a friend in my life, to have such a beneficial impact in my life. I feel a sorrow because we are not often together, and because we are aging and face life-limiting health challenges.

One reason I go at the pace I do, to so many places and into so many lives, is because I feel I have been given so much. Not that God has made me a great person, but God has put into my life great men & women who shaped my life, Wyndham being just one…a very special one, but there are so many who bear responsibility for making me who I am, in good ways.

I am grateful for Wyndham & Jeanie, for their friendship and for their family which is like an extension of our family. My kids look at him as a second dad. I hope for each of you that God puts someone this amazing in your life, and I hope you have the courage to go for it and the humility to allow the potter to shape you…both God the potter and those He puts in your lives.

And one more thing: I’ve argued with Wyndham, maybe more than I’ve argued with anyone ever. As elders in a large church, a fellow elder Greg Nevil once called us on the carpet and asked to get together with us to work out things as he saw us wrangling with one another. Great relationships don’t happen because two people just naturally agree and get along. Great friendships are forged in the fires of trials and conflicts as we love one another, and love God so much we will not let go.

The poet Edgar Guest said, “it takes a heap o livin’, to make a house a home.” That is true of friendships, too.

Wednesday Wisdom With Wyndham – 62

Wisdom Values the Dinner Table

Amazing connections happen at the dinner table, but only if we actually sit and talk at the table. Has the “art of the dinner table” been lost?

Wisdom values the dinner table. Or rather, what can happen around the table.

What happens at the dinner table? Unfortunately the atmosphere can too often include screens, complaining, anger, and a downright mess. But dinner tables done right build family, connect with others, create precious memories, and prayerfully  help the “diners” see God  in action, resulting in a desire to grow in relationship with him.

Our family, for many decades, has taken a week in the summer for family vacation. Since Wyndham can’t travel anymore, we did a “staycation” this week. It was fabulous, meaningful, and fun. We played, prayed, swam, did crazy Olympics, played tennis, corn hole, and gathered often around the dinner table. The crazy antics brought laughter and tears to Wyndham, as he watched. 

Jesus was a firm believer in sharing meals. In fact, Matthew 11:19 tells us that Jesus came eating and drinking.  He valued shared meals and realized the impact they have on all involved. He ate with sinners (Matthew 9:9-11), and invites us all to his feast (Matthew 22:4). He shared dinner with close friends (John 12:2), and in Luke 14  used the dinner table to teach valuable lessons.

Tonight, as our family of 17 gathered around the dinner table I asked the question…What happens at the dinner table? Here are some of their responses (both kids and adults):

We talk about the highs and lows of our days.

We celebrate birthdays and victories or encourage someone who is discouraged.

We laugh.

We listen to each other and find out how everyone is doing.

We encourage each other.

We talk about our schedules.

Sometimes we throw food (spoken for the 18-month-old).:

We have friends over to build relationships.

We meet new people.

We try new foods.

We pray.

Wyndham has always valued and protected our dinner table. Over the years we have built family around the dinner table. We’ve explored emotions. Laughed. Cried. Shared fears. Shared victories. Shared defeats. Truthfully, every mealtime wasn’t just like this. Sometimes they were hurried, sometimes someone was in a mood, or was distracted—but the sum of the times around the table added up to feelings of love, warmth, and family that linger with us.

Our dinner table has also seated many a neighbor or acquaintance, who often shared they had never before been invited to dinner with a neighbor. Many Bible studies began at the dinner table, resulting in changed lives.

Wanderers from the faith (mainly because of Wyndham’s persistent desire to see hearts restored to God) have felt loved, welcomed, and safe around the dinner table. I can think of numerous men and women who were helped back to God because of his commitment to use Monday evenings to have dinner with some who had wandered from their faith.

Something happens around the table as we connect with one other. The senses of taste, sound, smell, and sight somehow morph together to imprint our hearts, leaving us with a feeling of  love and belonging—family. Jesus knew this, and realized that sharing meals together would reveal hearts, melt hearts, and capture memories. He shared many such meals with his closest friends as well as strangers and sinners. These meals helped them never forget his love and call. We still remember him together through communion…which by definition is not an individual or solo activity.

Wisdom knows that the dinner table is powerful. It doesn’t have to be pretty to “do its thing.” But it must be filled with love.

May we all create such dinner tables as we follow Jesus’ example.