Christmas Off-Key

Posted December 10, 2017 by wordsfromww
Categories: Bible, children, Christianity, Christmas, Community, Freedom, Grace, Humor, Jesus, love, Parenting, Pastor, Story, The Church, Uncategorized, Youth

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WORDS FROM W.W.                                                      December 10, 2017

                                     

Our three children still remember the car ride on Christmas Day morning. We were coming over Rosemont Hill in Portsmouth, Ohio, heading towards my parents’ house upriver in Ironton. It was pre-satellite radio, pre-CD, pre iTunes days! We had to listen to…The Radio! AM no less!

Carol found a church choir trying to sing! The song was “What Child Is This?” and one man with a rather loud voice stood out as we listened in pain. He always came in about a half note too late. One important line in the song goes “This, this is Christ the King!” This man’s first “this” straddled the end of the same word everyone else was singing, and the beginning of its repeat right after. He used it as a conjunction where there was not suppose to be one.

To this day we bring up that song and choir, and…yes…we mock the moment as we relive it and impersonate it.

Christmas is known for all of its music, Handel’s Messiah, Christmas CD’s, Christmas carolers. In the midst of all the peace-filled music there will always be some shrieks, screeches, and voices that can’t quite get to those high notes.

We still have memories of our son, David, singing with the kids of First Baptist Church in Mason, Michigan, and David covering his left ear because Luke Wandell kept singing the same note over and over again loudly to his left. Luke was totally unaware of the pain he was inflicting. It goes down in the Wolfe family humorous memories section.

The church I grew up in, First Baptist Church of Ironton, always did a Christmas Cantata. The choir practiced in preparation for it numerous evenings, but no amount of practice could cure one lady whose voice could also have been used to frighten burglars away and keep mosquitoes from nesting. We all prayed for laryngitis to afflict her, but God did not answer our prayers. We hoped there would be male solos during the cantata to give our ears time to heal before the next onslaught!

Christmas, however, was about celebration and decorations, no matter how off-key the musicians were. Having someone sing “O Holy Night” while the congregation lit candles at the Christmas Eve service…that is a tradition that still resonates in my soul. Nate and Alyssa Price playing their string instruments as Jean Price accompanied them on the piano…Wow! Singing with my two daughters and one of my son-in-laws on Christmas Eve, I’ll always cherish that!

Christmas has its off-key moments that simply sound off in between long periods of sweet harmony. The times when we look for the ear plugs are simply like receiving one of those gifts that our young child wrapped, a jumbled mass of paper with a roll of tape to hold it together. We received it, cherished it, and filed the memory of it within our minds for the rest of our life.

The People Who Push You On or Pull You Down

Posted December 9, 2017 by wordsfromww
Categories: children, coaching, Community, Faith, Grace, Humor, Jesus, Parenting, Pastor, Story, Teamwork, The Church, Uncategorized, Youth

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WORDS FROM W.W.                                                   December 9, 2017

                         

We have a tendency to not think about it because they breeze by us like a spring gust, but most of us…if we stop to think about it long enough…have numerous people in our lives who have pushed us to keep going, and others who have grabbed us by the arm and pulled us down.

That thought occurred to me recently as I was meeting with two people who have helped me in the editing of the book I had been writing. As we sat and talked they made several helpful suggestions on plot ideas, flow, character development, and other things. I left our conversation with new excitement about the project that caused me to hibernate in my favorite writing spot later on that day.

That’s what “pushers” do! They create an excitement within you to keep on going, to motivate you to move, to create, to take a risk.

Ed and Diana Stucky have been that to me for a good fifteen years. I remember when I doubted my worth as a pastor and a person and they got behind me and pushed me up. Roger Mollenkamp, Steve Wamberg, Thelma Dalrymple, Janet Smith, Chuck Landon, James Voss, Harold Anderson, Rich Blanchette, Mike Oldham, Ben Dickerson, Don Fackler, Dave Volitis, Ron McKinney…my fingers keep pecking out names like there’s no tomorrow. Each name that flows to the page is a quick reminder of how I’ve been blessed, influenced, and shaped.

When I was back in Ohio visiting my dad back in August one of his good friends, Bill Ball, passed away. Bill was ninety-something, an optimist and encourager. I remember when I was in high school and preparing for my senior season of track that he took me aside after church one Sunday and told me he thought I could lower my time in the mile considerably if I did a cope of things with my running form, how I used my arms and the pace of my race. He infused confidence into me and I broke the school record that had stood for almost twenty years. They were just simple words backed by affirmation and belief, and they worked.

For sixteen years I officiated high school basketball. I remember Andy Brooks, my mentor, encouraging me as he imparted wisdom to me. Ray Lutz, an official and mentor of officials for fifty years, recently passed away. At his memorial service in another couple of weeks there will be numerous men and women wearing black and white striped shirts that he pushed to keep on going.

Pushers keep us moving towards our potential.

But there are others who pull us down, also. Pullers are those folks who hold us back, torment us with their words, minimize us with their disdain and attitudes. Pullers are people who would keep reminding Jesus that he was only the son of a carpenter. They are the people who would keep whispering to Michael Jordan that he hadn’t made his freshmen basketball team. They are the present-day scribes and Pharisees that seem to enjoy making other people’s lives miserable.

If someone has more pullers than pushers in her life she will be the Cinderella that never made it to the ball, the fourth grader who will never learn to read because to many people had already convinced him he never could.

I’m fortunate! I’ve had many more pushers than pullers in my life. And for that I say “Thank you, Lord!”

Mr. Wolfe'(“Wolf-ay”), Substitute Teacher

Posted December 6, 2017 by wordsfromww
Categories: children, Community, Humor, love, Parenting, Story, Teamwork, Uncategorized, Youth

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WORDS FROM W.W.                                                          December 6, 2017

                               

Almost a year ago I had an unusual bonding experience. I got a phone call asking if I would do a long-term substitute teaching position for a month at the middle school I also coach at. The call came on Friday and I started the next Monday. I was as green as week-old guacamole when I arrived at 7:15 that morning of January 9th. The principal’s granddaughter was in my first class!

It was 7th Grade Social Studies and I admitted to the class that there were a lot of things that I DIDN’T KNOW as I started the journey. On the board in front of the classroom I made three columns of marks to indicate all the things I didn’t know…and then to the right of that a column of things that I did know that included about three tiny marks under it.

The class was held in one of the portable classrooms outside the school building, and on the first day high winds that registered as much as 110 miles an hour in the area made the classroom shake like a 7th Grader standing in the middle of the principal’s office. The school district cancelled afternoon bus transportation because a couple of trucks had blown over.

That was the first day of my new experience…and it was awesome! We laughed together each day in our pursuit of knowledge and figuring out the world. Each day the 125 students that entered my classroom taught me as much as I taught them. They knew things would be a bit different when I showed a Duck Tales cartoon to introduce our study of how inflation worked.

And then one day a couple of the girls were playing around with how to pronounce my name and they suddenly made me French. Wolfe became Wolfe’, pronounced “Wolf-ay”. To be fair, I had turned a couple of their names into French-sounding mademoiselles first and they returned the favor.

After my month-long stint I was a bit depressed at no longer heading to the portable classroom each morning. The other three teachers on my team asked me why I hadn’t applied to be the new teacher and were a bit surprised when I told them that I did not have a teaching degree. I was simply a state certified substitute teacher.

Those three teachers would call me to sub for them, and for the rest of the school year I was in one of the portables several times each month.

Now…Year Two…word has spread about the substitute with the French name and the new seventh grade students have joined the parade of students who have made me a French-Canadian. I walk down the hallway and have students yell my name. Yesterday I was subbing for Physical Education, today I have seventh grade language arts, tomorrow eighth grade science, and Friday seventh grade science.

And it’s awesome!

The Wisdom of Ray Lutz

Posted December 3, 2017 by wordsfromww
Categories: children, Christianity, coaching, Death, Faith, Humor, Pastor, Story, Teamwork, Uncategorized

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WORDS FROM W.W.                                                          December 3, 2017

                                    

As I drive through Calhan, heading to Simla, this morning out of habit I’ll look to my right as I pass a certain street two blocks this side of the county fairgrounds. Down this street on the right Ray Lutz has lived. It’s a nondescript home that has seen its share of pie consumed by numerous visitors. The number address, in fact, should be 3.14!

Ray passed away on Friday, December 1. He had been a sports official for so long people were prone to call him Methuselah.

Ray would greet me with “Reverend” or “Reverend Wolfe”. Always a kind word or gentle jab. He told me he was Methodist. I told him I’d pray for him. The more I got to know him the more he didn’t resemble a Methodist. Method was secondary to common sense for Ray. The rulebook might say one thing, but sometimes basketball game situations required that common sense trump the rules of the game. Don’t get me wrong! He knew the rules, but if everybody on the interstate is driving 85 when the speed limit is 65 you sometimes have to inch that speedometer up a bit more to not get rear-ended. Common sense driving!

The first time I met Ray was at a class he taught for brand new basketball officials. Twenty or so of us were seated at desks in the classroom and listened to Mr. Lutz explain how a person officiates a basketball game. He was interesting to listen to then, and I wasn’t even sure what he was talking about. At the end of our six weeks of sessions we took a test to see if we would be able to actually blow whistles at basketball games that season. As I sat there mulling over possible answers he came by and told me that I should probably think about what I had answered for a certain question. It was his way of getting me past the cut-off. For sixteen years, until the end of last season, I proceeded to blow my whistle and wear the stripes. He was my officiating shepherd, and I was one of his striped lambs.

One year he encouraged me to run for one of the elected positions of our basketball officials organization. I did, and I lost! My first reaction was disbelief, not because I had been beaten, but rather because Ray had been the one to get me to do it in the first place. I thought it meant victory.

For several summers I went to a basketball camp for officials that Dave Hall conducted. Dave Hall has done NCAA championship and tournament games for a number of years. Ray was always one of the clinicians for Mr. Hall. It was where I was able to talk to him the most, sitting beside him by a court and taking in some of the wisdom that would naturally ooze from his personality. It was also at those courtside chats that he encouraged me with flattering remarks on how good I was doing, that he expected big things from me that coming season, and other remarks that made me think I was all that. Of course, I think Ray, the encourager, made those remarks to most officials at the camps he was a part of, but either way it caused me to want to be the best I could be.

A few years ago he was in the hospital for a serious medical condition, so I went and paid him a visit. I walked in the room and he looked at me.

“Reverend!” he greeted me, and we talked about life, basketball, health, and blessings.

Some of us are privileged enough to make a mark in the world in some way. The most effective people are those who influence others in their craft or passion. They are the folks who people can look behind and, like the waves behind a motorboat, see the number of people who are following faithfully in the wake of the same pursuit.

Ray Lutz will always be that. A wise mentor, a professor of common sense basketball officiating philosophy, and perhaps…even a Methodist!

The Quandary: When Your Wife Says She Wants Nothing For Christmas

Posted November 29, 2017 by wordsfromww
Categories: children, Christianity, Christmas, Freedom, Grandchildren, Humor, love, marriage, Parenting, Pastor, Story, Uncategorized, Youth

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WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                     November 29, 2017

        

I’m married to a woman from Italian descent filtered through North Dakota. It’s an odd mixture of passion and stoicism that emphasizes the importance of family and the simple things of life. Translated that means our grandkids make out like bandits at Christmas time while Grammy and Granddad enjoy the gifts of watching and laughing. Snapshots developed in our minds of family Christmas scenes are the greatest gifts we enjoy.

That being said, Carol tells me each year “Don’t buy me anything!” It’s a problem! Christmas Day comes exactly seventeen days after her birthday. For her birthday she says…you guessed it!…”Don’t buy me anything!”

So what do you do when your wife tells you to “go x-nay on the presents-nay”?

For Mother’s Day I usually give her a gift card to Lowe’s or Home Depot so she can go and pick out plants and flowers to re-create her garden each spring. She loves that! But a gift card to Lowe’s in December would be greeted with a North Dakota blank look.

We could always use a new frying pan or broom. How exciting would that be to open up a wrapped frying pan?

She’s not a jewelry person. In fact, she has about four pseudo-wedding rings that sit on the counter. It took half a dozen boxes of Cracker Jacks to create the collection.

Her vision has not been good since before we got married. Some would sarcastically say that’s why she married me- she didn’t get a good look before the wedding! Actually, Carol had a cornea transplant about thirty years ago. She reads the newspaper from about an inch away. But what do you give someone who can’t see well? She’s already got five pairs of sunglasses to help her on sunny days. She has an e-reader that expands the type.

We’re at that stage in life when neither of us really needs anything. Like I said, we’re simple people. Years ago I went to the Holy Land with a group of people from American Baptist churches in Michigan. My roommate for the trip, Rev. Tom Bayes, bought his wife a diamond necklace while we were in Tiberias. What did I bring home to Carol? A roll of Israeli caramel candies! Why? You guessed it! Because she told me not to buy her anything!

So, what to do? A Lowe’s gift card stuck to the side of a box of Cracker Jacks with a ring inside? I’m envisioning a gift such as that bringing her passionate Italian side to the surface. When she opens up that box of Cracker Jacks and discovers that new ring she’s going to grab me and smother me with passionate kisses…in my dreams!

A Creature of Habit

Posted November 27, 2017 by wordsfromww
Categories: Bible, Christianity, Faith, Freedom, Grace, Humor, Jesus, love, marriage, Parenting, Pastor, Story, The Church, Uncategorized, Youth

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WORDS FROM W.W.                                                            November 27, 2017

                                  

Perhaps you can identify with what I’m about to write. I am a creature of habit!

My habit-dominated life begins with my wake-up routine. I rise from bed fifteen minutes either side of 6:30. If I’m still in bed at 7:00 Carol knows that I’m either sick or dead. The second hasn’t happened yet so it’s usually the first!

I shower, brush my teeth, shave…the usual morning routines, head downstairs to feast on…yogurt! If I’m not substitute teaching I’m usually out the door by 7:15 headed to my local Starbucks, where I am now sitting on the last stool on the right looking out at Pike’s Peak. If someone is already sitting on that stool I make an adjustment…and sit on the last stool on the left! It is on one of these stools that I peck out my blog each time, sipping Pike Place coffee that has been flavored with cream and two raw sugar packets. The baristas at Starbucks know that I’m there for my coffee with my reusable Starbucks cup, and that I will stay there until I’ve gotten my second free refill with my Starbucks Gold Card.

Coincidentally, the book I finished writing, and am now writing the sequel to, gets created at Library 21C in Colorado Springs from the last chair on the right  at a counter that is looking out towards Pike’s Peak. Go figure!

I drink juice from a plastic cup that looks like it belongs to a first-grader. I wear low-cut white socks to bed that get taken off sometime before I fall asleep. I sleep with my “blankie” that is hovering around forty years old. I like to read for an hour or two at bedtime…underneath my blankie…that covers up my displaced white socks.

When I go to our fitness club I run/walk on the treadmill, do weight training, swim, and then shower in that order. Always…in that order!

By now you’re thinking I’m a bit anal, but if I had the habit of betting I would wager that you’ve got some ingrained habits as well.

Habits bring order and structure. They’re like the side wall of a pool that you know you can grab on to when things seem to be getting a little too hairy!

When I retired from pastoral ministry I suddenly realized that I had the freedom and the choice to go to a worship service on Sunday morning. The first Sunday after retirement, guess what I did? I got up and went to worship at First Baptist Church in Colorado Springs. The next Sunday I got up and went to a Church of Christ that friends of ours belonged to. The habit of worship continued to resonate with me. It was foundational, and continues to be.

Habits, however, need to emerge out of a purpose, a reason. Why is it that I attend Sunday worship? Because of my love for and relationship with Jesus. Why is it that Carol and I hold hands and pray before we share a meal together? Because we are grateful! Why do we contribute to ministries, churches, and other charitable organizations? Because what we have is all God’s to begin with, and we believe that giving a portion of what he has blessed us with is a privilege and an obligation.

Sometimes people adopt habits because their family had the same habits. They, however, never bought into the purpose of the habit. When a crisis happens, or a change occurs that causes them to evaluate what is going on in their lives the habits often get tossed to the side because of their rootlessness.

It seems that I serve a God who is also into the habit of doing certain things that have meaning and purpose. I’m extremely grateful of the fact that he is forgiving, gracious, and loving. That those habits are rooted in his desire for relationships with people. God has good habits!

Perhaps deep within my soul is that yearning to be relationship with him as well, and that yearning has caused some of my spiritual practices to become holy habits.

Dancing Grandkids

Posted November 26, 2017 by wordsfromww
Categories: Bible, children, Christianity, Community, Faith, Freedom, Grandchildren, Humor, Jesus, love, Parenting, Pastor, The Church, Uncategorized, Youth

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WORDS FROM W.W.                                                      November 26, 2017

                                        

When the music starts our three grandkids start gyrating! Uninhibited, and often bordering on spasmodic, they dust the wood floor in the living room with their socked feet.

On Thanksgiving Day, after feasting on casseroles, turkey, rolls, and pie they took to center stage and worked off dinner to the music of Imagine Dragons “Thunder.” The oldest, Jesse, throws himself around like a balloon that is losing air. He puts all of himself into it, sometimes on his feet and other times on his belly or back.

Reagan, the middle child, leans towards “princess ballerina” moves, graceful and calculated. She keeps her distance from her brother’s widespread routine and slows down the pace to savor each moment.

Corin, the two year old, moves her hips like a hula dancer. She goes from standing to falling to standing to falling. For someone her age she has potential…if she can stay clear of her brother’s spinning legs!

They twirl and spin, creating as they go. The audience of grandparents, parents, aunt and uncles watch from the safety of couches and chairs, applauding the effort and energy.

There’s something about kids and dancing that is renewing. It reminds the older audience of days long past when they also swayed and swung to music with no thought of throwing their backs out or breaking an ankle. And so we stand in awe punctuated with chuckles at some new twist in the midst of a series of twists and turns.

Dancing grandkids is a glimpse into the joy of heaven, unreserved delight and total commitment.

Jesus gave us a picture of the importance of being childlike in our living a life of faith when he said “Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” (Luke 18:17, NIV)

Think dancing kids caught up in the rhythm of life.

Jesus is telling us, “Look at your children! Watch them! Learn from them! Dance life with them!” Some of us reply with the excuse, “Lord, I don’t know how to dance!”

And Jesus says, “That’s your problem! You still think dancing is a series of steps and haven’t learned that dancing is an attitude and a release.”

Next time perhaps I’ll dance with the grandkids, but today I’ll simply dance through life.