Archive for October 2015

Whose Next?: The Responsibility of Supporting The Next Called Ones”

October 30, 2015

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                                  October 29, 2015

Our money preaches our priorities. It clearly conveys what we feel is important and what is an add-on. It conveys our dedication to comfortableness and reluctance to commitment.

As I approach retirement from being a pastor…a paid pastor that is…I’ve been doing more and more thinking about money. Carol and I are looking at what we can expect, and not expect, once my position at our church ends.

But I’ve also been thinking about my responsibility to support the next generation of “God’s called.” I’ve been blessed to see several people I’ve known as their pastor or their coach enter into some form of full-time ministry. I believe I have a responsibility to affirm and encourage their calling through words of blessing, prayerful support, and financial backing. It’s the punctuation mark to their blessing, to be affirmed in these ways instead of comments like “Hope it works out for you!”

     That conviction I have was affirmed today as Carol and I met a young man named Tony LaMouria, his charming wife Elisabeth, and their four boys…nine years old down to seven months.

Carol and I have known Tony since he appeared one cold, sleet/rain Sunday morning at our church in Mason, Michigan, riding a bicycle. That ride into our midst began a new chapter in his faith journey that was marked by disappointment, confusion, acceptance, and unconditional love.

There’s so much to “the Tony Story” that I won’t mention, but one thing that I will mention is how one family in the church, the Andersons , took Tony into their home, gradually brought him to the point where he became the new little brother to their two older daughters, and modeled for him a love that is blended with wisdom, firmness, and encouragement. The Andersons felt a deep responsibility to support this high school kid with a charming smile and a confusing past. They were entering the period in their lives called “the empty nest”, and now they believed God had called them to parent another who wasn’t even theirs.

That family that supported him was part of a new foundation in Tony’s life. The other was our church that took him in, came alongside his new family in the “congregational parenting” of him, and applauded him in his accomplishments.

Today as Carol and I talked with him and Elisabeth he told us of their calling to be a part of a mission organization that sends pastors to churches, mostly rural or small towns, who don’t have the financial resources to support a pastor. There are thousands of churches like that around our country. In our conversation Tony shared how important our church in Mason was to him at that time in is life when he was trying to figure out if he had purpose and value. As he said to us today, if he had gone to a large church he would have gotten lost in the crowd, but our church loved him and embraced him. Now, years later, he sees the value in small churches, and is looking to serve in one of them.

That means I have a responsibility to continue the blessing, to come alongside him, to help him to keep the pursuit.

What blessing! What a responsibility! What a privilege!

Friday Night Fire Alarm

October 26, 2015

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                 October 26, 2015


Bernice latched on to my dad’s hand. She had forgotten her cane. A ninety-three year old can’t be expected to remember everything! She got her housecoat first, but didn’t think about her cane leaning against the wall in her kitchen. Friday night fire alarms at 9:00 were a nuisance…and, more than likely, Leo, who lived down the hallway, had set it off because he wanted some late night fried bacon.

The various elderly folk slowly wandered into the hallway amidst the very loud and obnoxious sounds of the building’s fire alarm system.

“Leo’s been frying bacon again!” bellowed Bonnie! Bonnie had responsibilities to take care of. She assumed her role as “group captain.” She had six people that she had to make sure were okay. “Okay” meant she had to check them off on her clipboard which she clutched close to her chest as she strutted into the darkness.

The senior independent living complex had been through this before. It was the second time that Leo had given into temptation for late-night bacon resulting in the fire alarm sounding. the evidence of his crime could be seen in the smoke rising from the grease in the skillet. There had also been a 4:00 A.M. fire alarm a couple of months ago because of a system malfunction, to which Leo now used the excuse, “At least I set it off at a decent time!”

Bernice clutched my dad’s hand, one unsteady person teaming up with another shuffler. She was feisty and my dad did not refuse her. He had no choice. She commandeered his hand as soon as they walked outside.

Bonnie checked people off.








“Agnes isn’t coming.”

“Why isn’t she coming? I’ve got to check her off.”

“She doesn’t want to. She’s just going to stand on her balcony.”

Bonnie tried to hide her annoyance. It was a fire alarm and Agnes, ninety-five and counting, decided she was going to pout and not follow protocol. “These people!” she muttered to herself.


Leo stood in the distance smoking a cigarette. Smoking bacon in his apartment and smoking a Winston outside.

The fire alarm kept blaring. People were getting annoyed. There was a good movie playing right then on the Hallmark Channel and they were missing it. Senior citizens only have so much patience, and then they just do what they want to.

Bernice pulled her housecoat tighten to her body while trying to get some warmth from my father. Although my mom was six months older than Dad, it’s still awkward to see your dad holding hands with a woman six years older than him.

The alarm finally shut off and Bonnie assumed group control. People had to have her permission to go back inside. She held the clipboard of power.

“All right! You can go back in now. See everybody at breakfast! Leo, no more frying bacon!”

Leo there his cigarette butt down and crushed the life out of it.

Friday night fun! Although most of the residents gave Leo “the look”, they also admitted that it was nice to have a little fire alarm excitement on a chilling evening. Bonnie was proud of the fact that she performed her duties flawlessly, and Bernice couldn’t remember the last time she had held hands with a fine looking gentleman. She gave thought to buying Leo another pound of bacon!

Lord of the Spartan Impossible

October 19, 2015

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                               October 19, 2015


As the late Yogi Berra said, “It ain’t over until it’s over!” According to a Grand Rapids TV station it was over before it was over, as the reporter stood outside Michigan Stadium…the Big House…and reported Michigan as the victors over Michigan State.

But it wasn’t over! Obviously, he had a deadline! All U of M had to do was punt the ball, or at least hold on to the ball, for the final ten seconds and the victory over their in-state rivals would be assured. The TV broadcasters were even talking about the Wolverines getting the upper hand once again in regards to in-state recruiting.

And then the impossible happened!

Now…I’m not one to believe that God is partial to someone when it comes to a game of some kind, but could that thunder be the laughter of heaven?

I have to admit that I had resigned myself to a Spartan loss. My youngest daughter was already texting in whining words! According to the odds, Michigan State had a 0.2% of victory heading into those final 10 seconds.

I wonder what the odds were for the Hebrew people to make it through the Red Sea? I wonder what the chances of Daniel making it out of the Lion’s Den un-chewed were? I wonder what the odds were for Jesus to make it out of the tomb?

It ain’t over until it’s over!

The picture of the Michigan student with his hands on top of his head was a scene of disbelief. Expect it to be in SI this week!

The scene of disbelief in that final play will rival the ending of the Cal-Stanford football game in 1982 where the Cal player ran the final twenty yards or so through part of the Stanford band, who thought the game was over.

This play will be right up there, complete with open mouths and resurrected Spartan hopes.



Trusting in Siri

October 18, 2015

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                      October 18, 2015


This past week I was traveling from Chicago to my dad’s place located in the southern tip of Ohio. It’s a trip that I did many times when I was in seminary…36 years ago! In 36 years, however, roads change, new configurations of asphalt are created that seek to baffle the wisest.

But I have my iPhone friend, Siri, to lead me and guide me! She shares mileage numbers, how many miles until I come to the next road I’m suppose to turn on to. I even asked her to tell me where the next Cracker Barrel restaurant is.

I put a lot of trust in Siri!

When I arrived on the outskirts of Cincinnati, which must have every road under construction, she navigated me through the maze of I-74 to 275 to 71 to somewhere else. She took me over the river and through the woods to the business district of Cold Spring, Kentucky. I began to doubt as I passed the First Baptist Church of Cold Spring; doubted even more as the speed limit decreased to 35 as the road wound itself past a Waffle House. She took me to Highway AA, which I’ve never heard of. Roads have always been numerically marked in my experience, and now I’m following two capital letters into the dark.

She gave me an arrival time in Proctorville, Ohio, and, by golly, she was right! I followed here directions through hill and dale, past surging coal trucks and lounging late-night drivers.

Siri could have led me into the Ohio River, not over it, if she wanted to. She could have not been current in her understanding and sent me to Virginia instead of briefly passing through West Virginia. She could have been quiet or garbled in her directions, or given an instruction and a few minutes later added a “My mistake!”

I trusted her, even though I’ve only heard her voice.

It occurs to me that my trust in the Lord often doesn’t run as deep as my trust in Siri. I pray for his guidance, I ask for his direction, and yet I’m prone to not follow it. I sing the song “Where He Leads I Will Follow”, but am content to take personal detours that lead me into periods of wilderness wanderings.

Scripture gives me story after story of people who followed the Lord, or heard his voice and didn’t heed his warnings. Scripture tells me of the guidance of the Holy Spirit. It tells me of the hope of the gospel, the perseverance of the saints, the journey of the people of God. I’m reminded again and again that God is faithful, that he will never fail me.

But I exhibit limited trust in the absolutes of the Almighty! If I could figure out why that is I could bottle it and make billions, or travel the country giving over-priced seminars to a multitude of others who have issues following the leadings of the Lord.

But I have a hard time figuring out myself. I’ve got a streak of idiocy within me mixed together with a hint of common sense.

And so…I am continually amazed by grace. Grace is essential for the faith traveler whose strength is getting lost! Grace excuses where there is no excuse.

Grace stays with me even when my trust has exited the highway.

Retiring or Being Reconditioned?

October 16, 2015

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                          October 16, 2015


On December 31 I will retire from full-time ministry. Yesterday I was at a retirement seminar put on by our denomination’s pension plan. So many questions…what if’s…and shall be’s!

I’m getting a lot of questions like “Retiring already?” and “What are you going to do?” I also gets comments and insinuations that pastors have a lifetime calling and, therefore, I can’t retire.

I agree with the lifetime calling aspect. I’m simply retiring as the pastor of a church where I have been for the past sixteen plus years. I’m still a pastor, I just won’t get paid!

Wednesday night I met with a young lady…who is suddenly fifty-five, who was in the youth group I led back in the late seventies. We talked for three hours and I was blessed to hear about her continuing spiritual journey. In many ways…in those three hours…I was her youth pastor again. In some ways I have been her pastor/encourager/mentor for about four decades.

Through social media I’m still a pastor in undefined ways for numerous people who have been a part of my life in some way over the past forty years. I offer encouragement to a woman who was a part of the first youth group I led back in Marseilles, Illinois. She is waging a courageous battle against cancer.

This past summer I invited young ladies I had coached in basketball at Liberty High School over a five year span to come over a Sunday night cook-out. The igniting fuse for that event was the death of a couple of months before that of a young lady I had coached, and who was their teammate. Even though I am “Coach Wolfe” to these young ladies I was a little bit their pastor that night…as we grieved…as we laughed…as we celebrated friendships and shared experiences.

I could go on and on, but my point is that retiring as the pastor of a church doesn’t mean that I am retiring from being a pastor. There is a huge difference. It means that I won’t be on a schedule to “to receive a word from the Lord” each week for the next Sunday’s sermon, but it doesn’t mean that I won’t receive a word from the Lord.

It means that I no longer will be pushed to get over to see one of the seniors who is in poor health, but it does mean that I will go see a senior friend who is in poor health because I love him dearly.

It means I won’t feel the urgency to spend time in the Word, but it does mean that I will spend time in the Word because I have a desire to be enriched and spiritual nourished.

It means that I won’t have to write a sermon each week, but I’ll not stop writing. Perhaps…cross my heart and hope to die, stick a needle in my eye…perhaps I’ll be able to have a greater impact through written words more than spoken words. The power of a “shared word” can have a ripple effect.

So I’m moving out of a role that has certain job description responsibilities and into a similar role that will become clearer as I travel on the road. I’m like my old softball glove that I’ve had since 1979. Carol gave it to me as a birthday present that year…even before we were married! I used that glove again this past summer as a part of our church softball team. It still catches, but has a couple of broken strings and is looking…”weathered!” It still catches, if the softball hits in certain spots, but just needs a little reconditioning to be used in more effective ways.

That’s me! I’m like an ole’ softball glove with a couple of broken strings just in need of some reconditioning!

Popcorn Stories

October 5, 2015

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                            October 5, 2015


My four year old granddaughter, Reagan, has a creative streak about her. I think most four year olds do, until stressed-out grown-ups tell them to conform to the norm. You know…color between the lines, not outside the lines!

Thankfully Reagan has a a mom and dad who encourage creativity…so whenever Reagan is in the car with me after I’ve picked her up from her pre-kindergarten for four year olds we have a unique kind of story time on the car ride to the next destination.

She calls it “popcorn stories”, because you’re never quite sure what’s going to pop up.

The way it works is she tells me what the story is to be about. Lately, she’s been fixated on a goat named “Billy”, a little boy named “Billy” (Billy the Kid!), and a fox.

I begin the story with those things in mind, and then when I say “Popcorn!” she picks up the story from there until she says “Popcorn!”, and then it’s back to me.

That back-and-forth goes on until we reach our destination.

It’s amazing the plot twists and turns that can happen in a ten minute car ride between an AARP member and a four year old.
Billy the Kid got captured by the mean old fox…Popcorn!

And the fox strung him up by his ankles until he was ready to eat him…Popcorn!

And the fox was listening to some of his favorite music…foxtrot…and fell asleep with his fox Beats wireless headphones on. He dreamed of running freely through fields of grain, and his own swimming pool…Popcorn!

Meanwhile Billy Goat was combing the hairs on his chin because they had tangles on them, and he decided to have a peanut butter sandwich with banana slices and pickles. And then he said “I wonder where Billy the Kid is!” I thought he was going to have lunch with me…Popcorn!


Reagan and I have dealt with tornados, squeaky mice, mean little boys, pumpkin patches, and squiggly worms. You’re never quite sure where the story is going to take us, or how it’s going to turn out.

Each of us has just half of the story! We rely on one another to help row the boat down the stories stream.

I’m sure she will grow our of it after a while…hopefully, not too quickly…but perhaps we’ll get a few novels created in the midst of our vehicle before then.

Reagan is about about the story, which tells of a different kind of book that she is writing. It’s entitled How to Wrap Your Grandfather Around Your Little Finger?”