Archive for November 2015

The Students Who Mentor You

November 16, 2015

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                      November 16, 2015

                                   

In recent weeks I’ve come to realize a few things about being the adult. Sometimes the younger ones we’re raising up, teaching, discipling, are teaching and mentoring you…the adult, the teacher, the pastor…perhaps more than you’re impacting them.

About a month ago, when I was in Chicago, I had dinner with a young lady who was in the youth group I directed more than thirty-five years ago. I still refer to Cyndi as a young lady even though she is now in her mid-fifties! When we met for dinner we had not seen each other for about ten years, but it was like we had seen each other the day before. A three hour conversation ensued. It was delightful to talk about the past, the present, and the future; to hear what God has done in her life and the lives of her family, to hear of a special mission project that her ninth grade son has initiated that has taken off.

And in the midst of it I realized that Cyndi, and her friends Laura, Sue, George, Wave, and others had raised me up as a youth minister. They showed grace to me when I was trying to figure out how to communicate scriptural truth to adolescents. They gave me the freedom to laugh at myself for my moments of cluelessness. They stood beside me in times of lacking confidence, and showed me that there are different ways of looking at a relationship with Jesus besides the Baptist mindset, the only view I had ever experienced.

And perhaps most amazing, and deeply moving, was to hear that Cyndi had become a follower of Christ at a Young Life Camp in Colorado I took a van load of students to the summer I was on staff at her church. For some reason I hadn’t been aware of that. And now 37 years later I was blessed to discover the rest of her story.

The students we mentor often becomes the students who mentor us.

Last week another of my former youth groups students, Deb Simpson Aldridge, went home to be with the Lord. She battled cancer, and cancer finally won, but her victory was assured even in the midst of death because of her faith in Christ. Deb was part of the first youth group I directed at First Baptist Church in Marseilles, Illinois. I had just graduated from Judson College in Elgin, Illinois, was going to start seminary that next fall, and was hired by the church to be the summer youth director. I had never had a youth position before…operated out of the experience of cluelessness! Deb and her sister Connie were two high school students in the youth group who accepted me right away. At my less-than-stellar bible study gatherings they would voice their thoughts and help me to keep going. There is nothing quite as disconcerting than to lead a group of students who sit there and look at you like you are speaking a foreign language. Deb would share something, or, in a loving sisterly way, tell Connie that what she just said was ridiculous.

Deb had a dry wit and humor that made our gatherings or road trips in the van experiences of laughter-laced fellowship. Anything I planned or suggested she would support. Think of it! A young guy right our of college with no experience could have been trampled to a ministry death by a youth group that saw him as an outsider to be neglected, but this youth group raised me up to proceed forward for a forty years of ministry. They could have killed me, but inside they mentored me.

Deb’s passing made me realize the effect she had on my life and my ministry.

Cyndi, Deb, Connie, Steve Landon, Shirl Streukens, Jon Daniels, the Epps Twins, Phil Girard, Jon Girard, Amy Anderson, Keri Anderson, John Chora, Brad Johnson, Tiffany Chora,Tony Lamouria…the list of student mentors for my life is long and deep.

A big part of how I see ministry…especially youth ministry…has been chiseled into my person by their hands.

And I am very, very blessed!

Laurence Hubert: A story of redemption and grace

November 10, 2015

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                   November 9, 2015

                                   

I never knew my dad’s dad. He was killed in a mining accident when my dad was in his early teen years. When you don’t know someone you miss out on part of the family story. You forget that there was family history before you ever were!

A little more of the family past was revealed to me by my dad when I was visiting him back in Ohio about a month ago. I hadn’t really thought about why my dad had been named “Laurence Hubert Wolfe”. He just was…that’s all! I never knew him by any other name and didn’t question it. It’s like breathing…we don’t think about it just is. For all I knew,

But there is a wonderful story of redemption and grace behind my dad’s first and middle names. His father, Silas Dean Wolfe, had a tendency to drink too much. Alcohol was destroying his life one shot at a time. He was losing his grip on things. My dad never said that my grandfather was an alcoholic, but he had one foot stepping into that problem.

When it seemed that he was a lost cause two Baptist ministers came into his life and walked with him through the struggles. They stayed beside him in the midst of the temptations, and lifted him out of the depths. The names of the two Baptist ministers were “Laurence” and “Hubert.” The impact of their tough love and restorative grace was so profound that my father bears their names as his names.

For many of us, our names are passed down from one generation to the next. My two names comes from a great uncle and my Uncle Dean. Some of us are “Juniors” or “the third!” But my dad’s name…Oh, my! His name is a constant reminder that the depths of a person’s life can still be ascended from. His name reminds him of where his dad had fallen and how he had risen again. His name reminds him of people who come into our loves as messengers of redemption, stand beside the broken, and never leave us!

The Grace Tree

November 6, 2015

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                   November 5, 2015

                                             

In our front yard there is a tree that could have played the part of the Christmas tree in “Charlie Brown’s Christmas.” If there was ever a homely looking tree it is our front yard pine tree. People look at it and shake their head in pity.

Over the years I’ve thought about plant euthanasia. Every week I mow around the warped branches I get a vision of a chain saw and a chipper.

But I’ve held off on what most others would say is the expected. Each year of the sixteen years we’ve lived in our home I’ve thought that the tree would straighten out its ways…but it hasn’t. Each year resonates with hope for some resemblance to a tree in a painting, but it keeps looking like tree that has had a stroke.

I call it my “Grace Tree.” Every time I look at it I think of grace. It gives me the opportunity to extend grace when chopping is the logical solution.

Each one of us needs a “Grace Tree” in our life…an illogical decision that goes against what the textbook says.

I see myself in that tree! God has the axe and he decides to put it down and pour a pitcher of water into the soil instead. He decides to nurture and love instead of chop down and mow over. Grace sees the beauty where there is no attractiveness. God sees my warts and calls them marks of maturity.

My neighbors stare at my Grace Tree with hope that I will come to my senses. It looks more like Jack’s beanstalk that rises to the sky, but no width in its branches. But I hold off! My grace tree is a theological statement to me personally every time I look at it.

This is the grace of God for me!