WWJD. What Does It Mean to You?

Several years ago, the fad of WWJD bracelets made the rounds of Christian schools and spread through surrounding neighborhoods. The whole thing irked me. Yes, IRKED me, as in annoyed, irritated, bothered me.

200px-WWJD-bracelet

If you’re too young to remember the fad, WWJD stands for “What Would Jesus Do?”

“How could such a reminder irk you?” you might ask.

Well, (big sigh), I watched my students at school and the teens in the youth group and anyone sporting a WWJD bracelet. I’m sorry to say I saw no difference in their behaviors or their general outlook on life.

What’s more, I had used the phrase, “what would Jesus do?” as one of the major themes in my Christian walk, long before WWJD became a popular acronym. And I meant it. I got in the habit of asking myself that question, really a form of prayer, for hundreds of decisions that I needed to make, big and small. Those four words changed my worldview and my heart.

Do you know where I first learned of the phrase? From the book, In His Steps, by Charles M. Sheldon.

In His Steps

Written over a hundred years ago, Sheldon created a fictional town where one pastor and a few members of his church pledge to spend a year doing only what they think Jesus would do. The editor of the local paper has to decide what Jesus would want in the news. A wealthy young woman must consider if she is in the same position as the rich young man who met with Jesus. All who participate have some tough decisions to make as they endeavor to help the needy, serve their fellow man, and most of all, please their Savior.

Of course, their decisions affect everyone in town.Some neighbors, even fellow church folk, are not pleased at all, which makes for great conflict, and great conflict makes a great story.

While Sheldon originally wrote the book for adults, Helen Haidle has written a version for children. Either works well for read-aloud if you want to make this part of a family story time. If you’ve never read In His Steps, I urge you to add it to your list. Like me, you may never be the same again.

The Bronze Bow

bow_and_arrow

 

When I taught fifth grade, I would have story time after recess. I chose excellent children’s novels and read for ten or fifteen minutes as we settled down from lunch and active play to the afternoon’s academic pursuits.

You may ask, “Fifth grade? Aren’t they a little old to be read to?” Not a bit. If our time got scrunched, I received a collective groan because I skipped our story. Each year, one of my never-miss books to read was The Bronze Bow.

Bronze Bow

If A Wrinkle in Time is my favorite children’s book overall, The Bronze Bow is my favorite inspirational children’s book. And I never read it until I was an adult!

Elizabeth George Speare brought history and Christian faith together as well as a beautiful plot line with several conflicts and resolutions. Set in first century, Rome-dominated Palestine, the reader can be sure that Jesus will show up. For the most part, He remains a shadowy figure while His disciple, Simon the Zealot, plays one of the secondary characters.

The protagonist, Daniel, is a teenager with a tragic past. He abhors the Romans with a passion almost to the point of obsession, yet we can see a pure heart underneath all the anger. As Daniel’s hatred endangers not only himself, but his entire village, he watches Jesus from a distance. Surely this man must be the Messiah, yet the man doesn’t call the Jews to revolt against Rome!

The book takes us on Daniel’s journey. We meet him as the follower of a Robin Hood type of thief. He progresses in maturity to realize that he needs to take responsibility for his own actions and he ought to take care of others, in particular, his little sister and a mute slave. When all is lost, he must make a choice between continuing his hatred or —

I can’t tell you that. You’ll have to guess what his choice is or read the book! And it’s not a stereotypical conversion scene to Christian faith.

Can you see why my students loved story time?

Human Wisdom vs. Faith (Are we like ants?)

 

MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

“John! The ants have found their way into the house!”

It was springtime and all manner of creatures were waking up and going about their business of finding food. Unfortunately the food for these little voracious creatures had been found in our pantry. The ants not only had found their way in, but they boldly chose none other than our front door as their entrance. After foraging around our kitchen, they gathered near the door with crumbs too large to go out their exit.

Determined to defend my pantry, I sprayed an ant deterrent around the front door. For the next few days, I was pleased to see that I had prevented their return. However, undaunted, soon they found another way in near the front door. In a rage, I dashed to our local building supply and purchased a myriad of ways to eradicate these little menaces. I was not going to be dominated by them! I sprayed the whole perimeter of our house, and put many different types of bait out for them. I triumphantly declared a victory after about a month of no recurrence. Either they had found less invasive ways of feeding themselves, or they were history.

When they were denied entrance the first time, they probably thought it a huge misfortune, and set about finding another way to get what they so strongly desired. This was met with their demise, or at the very least, a serious setback.

I was reminded of a wise phrase I’d heard many years ago: trying to explain God’s ways to us is like trying to explain the Internet to ants.

How different from the ants were we, when we have stubbornly pursued a direction that was a huge mistake, even though the short-term gain looked so enticing?

So often our unanswered prayers distress us, and we refuse to look at the possible reason they haven’t been answered. Perhaps the direction was not a mistake, but there were things we needed to learn first. Either way, God is never late in bestowing blessings on us, but the blessings may come in very different forms from what we’d prayed for, and in His time, not ours.

So, have you ever had something seemingly horrible happen in your life, only to have God show you a totally wonderful new direction?

 

 

I’m Religious

gret1012153

Little Gretchen in her Sunday best. Circa 1979.

There, I said it. I unashamedly call myself a Christian, an adherent to the Christian religion. I love the word religion. It ties me to something a faith, a tradition, a person, Jesus Christ, the savior of the world. And I love religious things – dressing up, wearing a cross necklace or charm that shows my faith, hymns, prayer, churches, stained glass, creeds, liturgy.

Growing up, church was a sacred event. It was a time to wear your Sunday best, sit quietly, and have a reverent attitude. We attended a mainline Protestant denomination church until I was in eighth grade. Typically my family attended with my grandparents at their small white church that looked like a postcard. My other grandparents belonged to a different church in the same denomination, and I sometimes went to church and Sunday school with them. Usually when Dad had to work on a Sunday. We sang hymns from the late 1960s red hymnal and occasionally pulled out the older black hymnal. Each service had order. There was “Gloria Patri”, responsive reading, silent prayer, a pastoral prayer, recitation of the Lord’s Prayer, “The Doxology”, scripture reading, and a sermon. For some, that would have been stifling. But for me it was beautiful. I was somewhere holy.

Since then, I’ve attended several evangelical churches over the years and various moves. All of them similar. Singing. Prayer. Sermon. While I still dress up, sing, pray, and enjoy the sermon, it’s harder for me to truly worship.  Something is missing. It’s the formality. Singing hymns all the way through. Reciting creeds or scripture. Saying The Lord’s Prayer. “Gloria Patri” and “The Doxology”. I know there are a lot of people who don’t get much out of responsive reading. But I do. It’s how I worship. Like saying the Pledge of Allegiance demonstrates my patriotism, saying The Apostle’s Creed affirms my faith.

There have been several articles about Millennials in the church spanning the spectrum of faith. One article on one end mentioned Millennials were drawn to the beautiful old churches, liturgy, and reverent hymns. At the other end, an article spoke about how Millennials aren’t drawn in by “hip” rock-and-roll churches. These are my interpretation, but I think I captured the intent. Maybe peppy praise choruses and full bands aren’t always what young people want. Some may want to step somewhere separate from everyday.

In an effort not to place emphasis on repeating words that may be taken as a “sounding gong” or considering religious jewelry and ornate stained glass as idols, the modern evangelical church has swung the pendulum to its opposite arc. We now have loud music, Starbucks, and blue jeans in church. I’m not saying this is wrong, but there’s a place for hymns, Lifesavers, and dresses. Recite the Apostle’s creed or Nicene creed and set the keyboard to “organ” and sing all four verses of a beloved hymn. As for pantyhose they can remain a relic of the twentieth century. And when there’s 6 inches of snow on the ground, I’m wearing pants and knee-high boots.

My favorite part of worship is responsive reading. What is yours?