Archive for November 2019

Five Words

November 19, 2019

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                      November 19, 2019

                                             

You are never too old to learn! 

We’ve heard those words a boatload of times. Recently, I learned the truth of them in a humbling way. My learned lesson was, in the future, to consider the ramifications of my words before sending them into social media cyber-space.

A friend of mine had told of an accomplishment in his life that few people ever even come close to achieving. When he posted it on social media I made a five word comment that was a bad grasp at humor. Instead, he read it as a negative comment, an insult. 

Five words. 

We have since made amends and I’ve apologized for my insensitivity.

I’m at the age where I don’t screw up that much any more, but, this time, five words cast the shadow of embarrassment over me.

It was a lesson well learned. There’s a lot of talk these days about being careful what you post on social media. The talk, however, is usually being given to middle and high schoolers by adults who look like they would never be that stupid.

And then this 65 year old dinosaur writes five words that, if said in person, may have been viewed as sarcastic humor, but on social media, where there is no hint of voice tone and non-verbals, it felt like a punch.

One of the things I have worked on in recent years has been to think through my blogging thoughts, edit and check for spelling mistakes, and not send out “Words From WW” until I’m satisfied with the flow and conveying of the subject matter. 

Sometimes, however, it isn’t the long read that messes our message up; it’s the few words, the slighting in a comment.

It’s interesting that I can comb back over my life and think of a few other screw-ups or, better said, errors in judgment. 35 years ago I sent a birthday card to someone from my congregation who I had not seen in Sunday worship for a few weeks. My birthday greeting included a perceived jab at her lack of presence on Sundays. I still remember the confrontation in my office that next Sunday with her grandfather. I turned eighty shades of red. In a matter of minutes I had gone from preaching the Sunday sermon to being preached to, and there was more fire and brimstone in the grandfather’s words than my sermon.

Going further back, I can recall the church history professor back in my seminary days (1976-1979) confronting me about the material in a paper I had written. He could have been a lot harder on me, because sections of the paper were simply copied from a book…okay, I’ll say the dreaded word! It was plagiarism! I rewrote the paper and learned a valuable lesson.

More recently…well, about ten years ago!…I said a few words to Carol that were insensitive and hurtful. Our two daughters were with us when it happened, and they had never seen us say angry words towards one another. They were almost as shocked as much as I was embarrassed. It was out of character.

I take some solace in that last statement. That screwups are out of character. I am not a potential “Dr. Phil” episode. What I am is someone who has experienced the grace of God on innumerable moments of my life.

That last statement includes five other words— better words, mind you— that are the beginning of a powerful truth: I am saved by grace…

The Shadow Over Grace

November 17, 2019

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                  November 17, 2019

                                       

This morning I’m witnessing an incredible view of Pike’s Peak “peeking” through the low hanging clouds around it. It’s almost as if the mountain has battled to be seen, struggled to rise above and take a breath of air.

The interesting thing for me is that, as I viewed this sight, I was pondering a statement made in a sermon recently. The pastor said that we begin to value righteousness and lose sight of the graciousness. Righteousness, or our leaning towards it, has a way of pushing grace under the clouds. It becomes smothering.

One reason for that is that righteousness, the striving to do what’s right, is much easier to define. What is the right thing to do is often much clearer than the gracious act of caring.

Don’t get me wrong. I’d much rather be around people who do the right thing, the wise thing, than people who do the stupid deed. Followers of Jesus, however, have a way of endearing themselves to his righteousness and relegating his graciousness to the footnotes. Sometimes we forget that one of the reasons Zacchaeus was up in a tree, besides his small stature, was because the people were short on grace. They wanted to see Jesus, but not a despised tax collector. 

Church folk have a tendency to be like that also. The scenario and names of the characters have been changed, but the plot is the same. Someone shows up in Sunday worship who has had sin in their life (Like…that’s not true for some of the frozen chosen!) and the great separation begins. I’ve seen some people, who have committed life-errors, be treated like a swollen joint by the righteous, iced out.

A friend of mine told me of a church he attended that was very accepting and friendly. After a few Sundays he decided he would let his adult Sunday School class know about some of the struggles of his past. The room temperature suddenly dropped to freezing.

Truthfully, it is difficult to balance righteousness and graciousness. Some folk are so excessively gracious they inadvertently cheapen it. Others are so wary about grace they treat it like the family valuables, locked up in a safety deposit box only to be brought out for a moment and then put away for another six months.

And so we have the story of Zacchaeus, who climbs above the inflexibility of the righteous to be able to experience the grace of Jesus…and then a new way of life!

By the time I finished writing these words Pike’s Peak had climbed completely above the clouds, looking freed and beautiful. I wish it was as easy and natural for grace to do the same.

When Your Older Brother Turns 70!

November 13, 2019

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                    November 13, 2019

 

Today my brother, Charles Dewey Wolfe, turns the big ‘7-0”! I can’t quite get my mind around it! 70 was the age of our aunts and uncles. It seemed really old to us when we were growing up. The thing is…they were only like…50, but we just figured they were 70 like aunts and uncles are suppose to be.

And now Brother Charlie hits the tape as well! My brother is a Vietnam Vet, retired Associated Press news correspondent, former speechwriter for the Governor of Kentucky, and now an entertaining tour guide for the Woodford Reserve Bourbon Distillery outside of Frankfort, Kentucky.

He’s the opinionated sibling, much like our mom was, and, to his credit, much needed in the career path he chose. 

We only see each other once or twice a year since I’m in Colorado and he in Kentucky. We send each other birthday cards that cause each of us to laugh, and then we add snarky remarks on the inside card cover. When we’re able to get together, his sarcastic humor comes out in a dry and witty way that the slow of mind have a hard time catching up to.

My brother is a storyteller, the family historian in a way. Our aunts and uncles all stay alive in his retelling of the family folklore and saga. Charlie can go to the cemetery where many of the passed on reside and recount conversations and stories as we stare at someone’s grave marker.

I was the recipient of many of his hand-me-downs as I grew up…bicycle, all beaten and lacking shine, suit coats, bow ties, baseball glove, building blocks. His imprint was like a path that I followed. In Williamstown, West Virginia, his friends, who I thought were cool at the time, gave me the nickname “Carlos Pequeno”.

I was in his wedding and he was in mine. His oldest son is a month younger than our only son. He’s a staunch Democrat and I’m a wavering Republican. We both love history, and yet neither of us excelled in school. 

And now he’s…like our uncles! 70, and getting older! My birthday card to him this year suggested that he’s now cranky. I’m sure he will find a suitable come back for me next May when I hit 66!

Happy Birthday, Big Brother! Hope you have an awesome day!

Middle School Speeders and Laggers

November 9, 2019

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                      November 9, 2019

                             

I’ve noticed something about middle school students. Most of them have gotten their speed controls confused. They speed when going slow is the wise decision and they go slow when speed is better suited for the moment. 

Somewhere along the line wires got crossed. Rewiring doesn’t seem to be an option now. Instead, teachers monitor the hallway speed zones and take note of slow-moving students taking their time to get back to the math or language arts class. 

For example, I substitute taught in a seventh grade science class yesterday. They were taking a test. Before handing out the three page exam, I emphasized that they should take their time and recheck their answers when they were done. Some listened, others didn’t. Fifteen minutes into test time several students rushed their papers to me like they were trying to be the first to buzz in on Jeopardy. 

On the other hand, I’ve noticed one student who seems to have to go to the restroom every class period. When he goes…to go…his classroom absence more resembles the Israelites’ 40 years of wandering in the wilderness. He never seems in a rush to “cross the Jordan” back into the classroom.

At lunchtime several students remind me of Joey Chestnut eating hot dogs at the Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest on July 4th. They throw their lunch items into their mouths without a need to taste what they’re eating. Their objective is to be one of the first ones to get to the GaGa ball pit outside. There should be a mandatory serving of peas and carrots for every middle school lunch. It would act as a dietary speed bump.

On the other hand, rarely will there be a student who is quick to pick up a piece of trash under or on their cafeteria table, especially if it wasn’t put there by him/her. The same student who is quick to grab a Cheeto from someone else’s bag treats a chip bag wrapper like the source for the Bubonic Plague.   

At 2:45 when the final bell rings to signal the end of the school day the scene is similar to a Walmart 5:00 A.M. Black Friday sale. Kids fire up their turbos and battle the hallways in a human sorta’ Dodge-Em Cars. Teachers stay to the sides for their own safety. To cross the hallway during these few moments is a recipe for becoming roadkill.

On the positive side I’ve seen several students in non-academic settings, such as Target or the supermarket or an Air Force Academy basketball game and they are quick to acknowledge me with a greeting. I was glad to see one of them because I couldn’t remember if he had ever returned from his restroom wilderness journey or not. 

The Influence of Mis-fluencers

November 3, 2019

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                              November 3, 2019

 

Freddie Bentley is a 22 year old British reality TV star and social media influencer. That is to say, what he says, for some strange reason, influences the minds and beliefs of others. Freddie stated his belief this past week that World War II shouldn’t be taught in school because it’s too intense for young minds. The Gen Z influencer thinks the past is best left in the past.

He’s a part of a growing number of social media influencers who might better be described with a new title, “mis-fluencers”. 

“Mis-fluencers” are those who have taken advantage of their elevated social media popularity to promote ideas that others buy into simply because of who has said it, even if it is idiotic!

Mis-fluencers are okay with leading the Titanic on full speed towards the iceberg. And let’s face it! Social media is over-populated with mis-fluencers in every age bracket, every political persuasion, and every industry. They are evidence for the troubling trend that more and more people can’t think for themselves, but follow whatever tune the pied piper is playing, bad notes and all.  

Misguided ideas easily accepted by people who can’t process thought patterns lead to a chaos that awaits in the fog of the future. 

Freddie Bentley doesn’t believe that we need to learn about the past because of the challenges of the future. The past, however, is destined to be repeated if we don’t learn from its mistakes. 

I cringe at the “mis-fluencers” of Hollywood, the sports world, Westboro Baptist Church, and the Tea Party. The urgency of convincing the populace knows no boundaries. The pull to gain a following knows no limits, whether it is convincing fans that a wide receiver is worth a boatload more money for being able to catch a football, to a politician making his followers believe that the other side of the political spectrum is over-crowded with idiots.

Most of the responses to Freddie’s mis-fluency were not in his favor…but there were several who were fully in support of what he was saying. It is the wonder and delight in our belief in the freedom of thought, as well as the red flag that says the potential for a fire storm has been raised.