Archive | Uncategorized RSS feed for this section

Welcome to Church! (We shoot our wounded)

18 Jun

Near the beginning of the movie “The Patriot”, there is a scene where British soldiers win a battle near Benjamin Martin’s farm.  They as they are clearing the farm, they find a number of wounded patriots who sought refuge at the farm house.  Martin (himself a war veteran of days gone by) and his family provide comfort and limited medical care.  As the brutal British commander rides through, he orders his men to shoot the wounded and burn the house (to teach Martin a lesson).  It is heart-breaking and infuriating at the same time.  It was a cruel act.

And, yet, we in the North American church are not so different.  Yes, we shoot our wounded.  All of my Christian life, I’ve been taught to live by God’s Word as best I can.  To love God.  To love each other.  These are the words of Christ.  But there is also an undercurrent … A hidden language.  The unwritten rules by which most churches function.

We, the Church, have some really bad habits.  We claim and freely embrace the mercy and grace of Christ.  We fully accept the fact that God Himself send His Only Son to die on a cross for our sins when we did not deserve it.  But, when one of our number stumbles, too often we push them to the side and keep moving.  We get caught in this idea of not wanting to justify the sin of others, so we ignore it.  We ignore them.  We ignore grace.

We don’t do this so quickly when a brother or sister among us makes a “little mistake.”  But woe be unto anyone who makes a BIG MISTAKE.  Instead of reserving judgment for God Himself, we put them on trial in the court of popular opinion.  In that court, one is guilty until proven innocent.  And even if they might be exonerated, once the damage is done to their reputation, they are done…. Untouchable …  Shot while wounded and left to die.

And those who judge don’t even realize they are caught in a self-made trap of judgmentalism and legalism.  Each and every day, they look at little more like Pharisees and a little less like Christ.  And they don’t even know it.

One of the things I will always love about my mom and dad is the fact that, no matter how bad I messed up, I would always be their son.  They would always love me.  They might be disappointed, but they would always love me.  They raised me this way, and this is what being a family means to me!  And, the last time I checked, we (the Church) are supposed to be FAMILY.

In Matthew 7:2, Jesus said “For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”  Read that a few times and allow it to sink in…  And, for goodness sake, please STOP shooting your wounded.

How do you fix Compassion Fatigue??

17 Apr

Anyone who really knows me knows that I thrive on “fixing it.”  I got that from my dad …  My dad made a career out of fixing things.  He was an industrial HVAC tech, but his drive to fix things started WAY BEFORE he began that career.  He was the son of a plumber.  His dad taught him all kinds of things, and most of all to not give up on fixing something.  When he was twelve, he took the engine out of an old truck, rebuilt it, and got it running.  When he was TWELVE.  He could fix almost anything.  And, he taught me.

Then, sadly, I landed in a profession that has many things that are conventionally “unfixable.”  But, we Wikes don’t give up.

How do you fix Compassion Fatigue??

The easy answer is STOP CARING.  Working with my dad for years, I quickly learned what callouses were.  And how they got on your hands.  If you work with tools, if you work hard, you WILL have callouses.  You will have these tender spots on the palms of your hands (especially near the tops) that will eventually harden and allow you to work without pain.

One temptation for someone who works in an industry that requires care for others is to allow the callouses to develop and stay there:  In other words, allowing your heart to harden and making it easier for you to function without feeling it.  Without caring (or without caring so deeply).  Some are able to compartmentalize their feelings and function at a high level doing this.  Most are not.  If you naturally care, you will be terribly unsatisfied in your job if you do this.

This is not so easy for many people, especially medical providers, teachers, administrators, people who work in service industries, and people who work in ministry.  If you stop caring, you will have a difficult time getting your job done.

The answer to “how can I fix it??”  might be that YOU CAN’T.  If you want to feel empathy, you will feel the hurt that comes with it.  But there are things you can do to maintain your health!!

The ancient Hebrews believed in a model of the WHOLE PERSON as being a compilation of three parts:  MIND, BODY, and SOUL.  You can make it through Compassion Fatigue, but you MUST address health in ALL THREE AREAS of your life.

Take care of your MIND!  Give your mind a BREAK!  Read things that are NOT job related.  Go see a movie!!  Do crossword puzzles or other activities that occupy your mind and allow it to exercise.  Start a blog or write in a journal!!  (And when people call you a narcissist for writing a blog, just bless their hearts!!!!)  Find what it is that will give your mind a break and DO IT!!

Take care of your BODY!   You don’t have to start by running a marathon, but running is a great activity!!  Gives you a chance to think, too!  (This morning as I ran under a full moon, all I could think about is how the high temperature today would be almost DOUBLE what the current temp was when I ran at 5:15!  But, that is another story)  ANOTHER great, therapeutic activity that I love is 9Round!!  (9Round Florence)  There is just something about being able to go into the gym and PUNCH STUFF!!!  It is a great workout, always supervised by a trainer, and they adjust to whatever fitness level you are at!!!  FIND SOMETHING to do to burn calories and expend energy.  WALK!!  Join a gym!!  Start slow, and do SOMETHING for your body!!

Take care of your SOUL!!  Now, honestly, I could come up with some generic mumbo-jumbo about this, but I’ll tell you the truth:  YOU NEED A RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD.  You were BORN for a relationship with God.  The need to know Him is built into you, even if you deny it.  And the only way to accomplish this is a relationship with Jesus Christ.  If you want to know more about that, click on this link:  How can I be saved?  Find a local church in which you can get involved!!  (And, if you are near Florence, come see me at Ebenezer Baptist Church!!!)

For those who KNOW Christ and find themselves in this spot, DIG DEEPER INTO YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH HIM!! Make sure you are spending time with God.  He cares and He knows better than anyone about the things you face.  Spend time with Him.  IT WILL MAKE A DIFFERENCE!!!

If you are here … Close to the edge … Close to a breakdown because of Compassion Fatigue … DO SOMETHING.  Talk to someone.  Find someone you can trust and allow them to help you.  And you will probably help them!!  Burdens are lighter when they are carried by two (or more) sets of shoulders.  The most important thing you can do is RECOGNIZE WHERE YOU ARE in this and DO SOMETHING TO HELP YOURSELF!!!  Because, YOU CAN DO THIS!!  You can take steps to be healthy AND care!!  If I can help you in any way, please let me know!!!!

The Price of Caring

15 Apr

A few weeks ago, I had a conversation or two with a friend who is a psychologist.  We were talking about how helping people is a great calling, but it takes a chunk out of you.  Especially if you are an introvert.  While extroverts actually gain energy being around others, introverts  expend energy to keep up with the social gymnastics of relating to others.  That is NOT a judgement against people, just a fact of introvert-ness (if that is really a word).

The price is higher when you care about others and watch them suffer.  When you sympathize with others, you relate to their pain and their struggles.  You can take on their challenges, and it takes a toll on you.  This is a fact of any and every profession that provides care for others.

I must stop right here and remind you that, while this is a distant cousin of the PTSD-related problems faced by soldiers and law enforcers, it is not quite the same.  The stakes are so much higher for those men and women that face danger and death every day for our safety.  Theirs is a more brutal reality.  The nature of life-and-death is much more near.  “Life and Death” is their reality EVERY DAY.

But, caring for others does its damage in other ways.  In small ways.  You hurt when they hurt.  When they face tragedy and heartbreak, you face it.  You feel it.  And when you multiply each small impact by the number of people in your world, the number about which you care, it takes small chunks out of your heart, your mind, and perhaps your soul.

Then, when you think you have managed the steady flow of tragedy, along comes a betrayal.  Or a tidbit of gossip.  Maybe it comes from someone on the fringe.  Maybe it comes from someone close to you.  And it takes another chunk out of you.

When you love big, you trust.  When the trust is broken, you cannot love “so big” anymore.  And you find it harder to trust.

Last week, I was talking to another friend who is a teacher.  A friend I have known for 20 years or more.  A teacher who is greatly loved and admired by her students.  And she was on the edge…  Her peers tell her she cares too much.  She doesn’t know how to do her job any other way, but it hurts.  The small chunks have become one big hole.  She and her colleagues are praying for Thursday to come quickly, so they can have a time to gather their thoughts, catch their breath, and heal a little before the push to the end of the school year.

A nurse introduced me to the name for this real syndrome:  Compassion Fatigue.  This nurse, who has worked in Hospice, managed cases, and done several other things in her career, told me Compassion Fatigue is unfortunately alive and well in her profession, in my profession, in teaching, in counseling…  Anyone who cares about others will pay a price.

So … if YOU are in a spot where you know this makes an impact on YOU, how do YOU cope??   How will YOU deal with Compassion Fatigue?

I hope and pray that you will find someone trustworthy and TALK TO THEM.  Not saying necessarily that you need to be in “counseling,” but find someone you can trust.  Someone who faces or has faced the same situations you face.  Talk to them.  Drink  coffee with them.  Trust them.  They can probably help.  You might be able to help them.

You and I, we can beat Compassion Fatigue.  But we must be intentional.  Take the first step.

Praying for you today!!!!

A Giant

8 Mar

I don’t know how many years ago it was …  Had to be 2002 or 2003.  My friend Olin Bullock had this friend from Wellman.  A leadership guru.  Olin wanted so badly for his friend to spend time with me and our church staff and he (Olin) funded it and made it happen.

And, into our lives walked a ball of fire, a box of dynamite, and a hurricane all rolled up into a man named Tommy Dowling.

You didn’t have to spend much time around Tommy to realize that he LOVED God with all of his heart.  And he loved The Church!  (The Big C church … the Body of Christ)

Tommy spent a great deal of time with me, a young pastor.  With our staff.  He got to know us.  He gave us the Myers-Briggs.  He broke it down and taught us so much about how we related to each other and how we could identify and relate to others.  And, 99,999 out of 100,000 times, he was DEAD-ON!!!  He had a gift, a knack for reading people and helping to bring the best out in them.

He pushed me to READ.  Gave me books, made me read them, and came back to drink coffee and make ME talk about them.  I will never forget him for this, because he re-ignited my passion for learning and knowing more about leadership.  He reminded me that I will NEVER have it all licked, and I can always continue to learn.  When I stop learning, I start dying.  He was so right!!

One of those times he came to meet with me, he came early and walked through the Ebenezer cemetery.  He was shocked and a little “caught off guard”  (WHICH WAS A RARE THING) when he came across a headstone of a man named Thomas Dowling who had died around 140 years ago.  He told me that drained the blood out of his face for just a moment.  But, I will never forget what he said next:

(It was something like this:)

“When the day comes for y’all to lay me in a grave, DO NOT CRY FOR ME.  I KNOW where I am going, and I will be most glad to be there!!!!

He told me that probably 100 times over the years.

Tomorrow, as his family gathers to honor his life, that is EXACTLY what I will be hearing.  I will never forget it.  And I will never forget him.

THANK YOU TOMMY, for all that you did for a young-un like me, and a TON of other pastors across this nation!!!!  You are a TRUE GIANT in the Kingdom of God!!!

TRUST

1 Jan

Can you really live without TRUST?  From an early age, we live and make decisions based on what we think we know to be true.  TRUTH.  What we TRUST to be the REALITY around us.  Sometimes life does throw us a curveball, and we cannot even explain it.  And sometimes our fellow men and women do the same.  We cannot control LIFE and all of it’s circumstances, but we can control whom we TRUST.

Many years ago, a professor likened TRUST between people to a bank account.  For example:  When I first met you (if I know you), I began to keep a mental account of you and you did the same of me.  Every time I tell you something that is TRUE or do something reliable, I make a deposit in your account and vice versa.  Every time I tell you something that is NOT true or do something that is untrustworthy, I make a withdrawal.

Whether you realize it or not, most of us view relationships that way.  When a person repeatedly tells you untruths or does things that are untrustworthy, they deplete their account and eventually you have no trust left for them.  If and when this happens, they must build that trust back up before the relationship with be healthy.

In other words, if a person is genuine, true, and seems to care, you will naturally trust them more.  If they continue to abuse your relationship and do things that make you think they don’t care, your relationship will run out of gas.

MAKE SENSE???

SO … A great thing to do to start 2019 would be to take stock of the people around you and the way YOU impact those relationships.  I cannot control those around me, but I can control how I respond to them.  And I can choose to bring my best to the relationship!!!

And, so can you!!!

You DO realize people are watching … Right??

2 Dec

Honestly, if there were not so many people using Facebook and social media to contact me, I would leave it all.  In a heartbeat.

Usually when I post something like this, I lose a few friends.  That is quite alright.  You don’t have to read this.  You don’t have to agree.  We can disagree and still be friends.  But I have watched this year.

I have seen friends come to blows over politics.  Over football.  Over things that are really insignificant in the grand scheme of life.

I have watched ministers, and leaders of local ministries, and public servants post things that were the equivalent of throwing an emotional hand-grenade into a crowded room.  And, people fall for it.  And fight.  And it does NOT glorify God at all.  And I know, deep in my heart, that God grieves.  And these men and women are falling into a trap.  They are kissing their credibility to do ministry good-bye.  I know I have lost respect for some people I love in the past few weeks.  It is sad.

And I huff, and I puff, and I try to remind them their words matter.  And my words fall on ears that do not hear and hearts that do not perceive.  (Honestly, I have no idea WHY it grieves my heart so much to watch this, but it does…  I have made mistakes, too.  Maybe that is why I am so aware of this.)

I guess if I could say one thing to EVERYONE, it would be this:  Do you realize the words you share are READ by far more people than you would imagine??  And that they might be making judgments about the Kingdom of God, about YOUR church and ministry, and about our community, BASED on your words??  Whether that be fair or unfair??

I wish EVERYONE would realize that our words matter.  Choose them wisely.  You want to make a splash in your world???  Show them Christ.  Show them positivity.  Show them love.

 

Today I heard his voice

15 Oct

Today I heard his voice.  As I was walking out of a store and a lady was walking in.  She held her arm up high to shield the sun and remarked “it’s so bright today!!”  I answered “Yes, ma’am!”  And I heard it.

I will admit that I hear his voice and I see him ever so often.  I hear his words come out of my mouth and I do an internal double-take:  Did I REALLY just say that??  I see him, not as much in me as I see him in Drew.  He had this way of crawling into the smallest spaces.  Drew has that way.  And, even though Drew never really got to work with him, he works just like him.  And that makes me proud.

When I hear his voice, I miss him.  And it reminds me that I am living a legacy…  Continuing the work.  My dad will not go down in history as a great theologian, but he lived the love of Christ.  To love God and love others.  He showed it in his own way.  I saw it  And now, my job is to continue to live it.

And, not only to live it, but to teach my children the legacy.  And, perhaps someday, grandchildren.  And maybe one day, decades from now, my children will hear voices, too.  And they will see something around them.  And maybe, perhaps, they will think of me.  If only I can do half of the job that Don Wike did.  I’ll be okay!!!