Archive for April 2020

Returning to the Sky Vue

April 27, 2020
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WORDS FROM W.W.                                          April 27, 2020

Driving by the empty movie theater parking lot is strange. It brings me back to the days of boarded-up Blockbusters. Who would have thought that would happen? And now who knows when theaters will have vehicles parked in them for the evening showings?

Maybe it’s time to bring back the drive-in theaters!

When I was growing up in Winchester, Kentucky, my parents would load my brother, sister, and me into the car and head out to Sky Vue Drive-In Theater on Lexington Road, just a few miles out of town.

We’d already have our pajamas on, complete with fitted feet. (To this day I can’t wear socks on my feet at night. Maybe it goes back to the memories of their incarcerations in those smothering pajama feet!) Because we were PJ’ed we were never allowed to play on the swing set and slide down front by the giant screen. Mom and Dad were wise people. I’m sure they thought about three sweaty kids smelling up the Ford and making the family outing seem like we were in a middle school boy’s lockerroom.

It seems that I, being the youngest, always sat in the front seat between Mom and Dad. I was the insurance that they wouldn’t start smooching and causing my brother and sister, sitting behind them, to start gagging.

Mom would have popped popcorn and Dad had gathered a few bottles of RC Cola for the trip. The images of a dancing soft drink and bucket of popcorn trying to lure people to the little white stone building that served as the concession stand didn’t work on us. Mom made good popcorn anyway. We always ate it on Sunday nights as we watched The Ed Sullivan Show. Sky Vue outings were the only other time Mom would make it.

I remember watching The Bridge Over The River Kwai at the Sky Vue. I think we may have seen an Elvis Presley movie there once or twice, as well. Presley didn’t impress me as much as the army movies. Being four years old, gyrating hips weren’t understood yet. As Elvis swayed, I never thought about what my mom was thinking about. Still don’t!

Dad would hang the speaker on the driver’s side window and, if the mosquitoes weren’t too bad, keep the windows down most of the way to allow the pleasant Bluegrass breeze to float through.

Sky Vue always had a double-feature, but I never kept my eyes open for more than the first five minutes of the second movie. I’d lean against one of my parents and drift off into a distant Dreamland, where PayDay’s and Pepsi’s were the main menu items.

And then I’d wake up the next morning in my bed, magically transported there sometime during my slumber.

Those were good days. The Sky Vue opened in 1948 and finally closed in 2014. Judging from the last Yelp reviews, its closure was probably about twenty years past when it should have. But, maybe, just maybe, it’s time for drive-ins to make a comeback. Maybe it’s time for new families to be able to Bluetooth in the sound of the main feature on the screen, and girlfriends snuggle up to their latest squeeze, who is having a hard time staying focused on the film.

I’d go. Maybe even position the grandkids in the backseat! The only problem now would be that I’d be asleep five minutes into the second feature and they’d still be wide awake.


My Doubts In Self-Controlled Entitled Folk

April 24, 2020

I notice it at the four-way stops around our neighborhood. Perhaps it’s because the pandemic has lessened the amount of traffic, but my three-times-a-day walks have me seeing numerous kinda’ stops. That is, people slow down a little bit as if the stop sign is a suggestion.

That’s an indication, in my opinion, that the lessening of restrictions about to happen is also a bad sign. Our governor has emphasized that people should exercise self-control and continue to observe safe social distancing, as well as “staying safer at home.”

In our culture of entitlement, however, there will be numerous folk who will use this easing of the mandates to do what they very well please. Others be damned is the battle cry for many.

Call this optimist a skeptic, but I see it in the supermarket. A little step of courtesy and community concern like wearing a mask is ignored by so many. Here are the store employees all wearing protection gear (masks and gloves) and unmasked Johnny Cool comes waltzing in as if the world revolves around him.

That’s why I’m uneasy about reopening. Many businesses have thought through it and are ready with new procedures and safeguards. I applaud that. One restaurant owner said his establishment would go to a “no cash” system where the customer could pay, using an app. He also said the menu would be available on cell phones, instead of using paper menus. That’s thinking ahead of the best ways to run a business and keep people safe.

The problems are the Johnny Cool’s and Betty Not-So-Bright’s who feel enlightened to exercise their free will at the expense of others.

Self-control is an antiquated term and characteristic of our culture. In Scripture, it’s almost always written about as being an indicator of maturity, wisdom, and a part of someone who has a consistent spiritual journey. Conversely, the lack of self-control is a sign of depravity and stupidity.

There have been encouraging signs of how people have stepped up to help one another, contributing food, money, and creativity. It’s just all of those self-absorbed, it’s-all-about-me folk that turn his grey hair greyer.

And, let me tell ya’, I’m very careful crossing streets!

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April 20, 2020

Last Sunday night I began doing a Facebook Live reading of the novel I had come out a couple of months ago. Red Hot: New Life in Fleming is a story of an unlikely friendship between the thick-lensed, freckle-faced seventh-grader named Ethan Thomas; and his new neighbor, Randy “Red Hot” Bowman. Randy’s nickname is bestowed on him because of his bright red hair and hos basketball shooting touch. Ethan is the kid in every middle school class who doesn’t have any friends. He’s the one who gets picked last in P.E. class, and the kid who never gets invited anywhere. Randy’s father is coming to the small West Virginia town of Fleming to be the new pastor of the Baptist church. Fleming doesn’t get many new people, and now the new kid stands out because of his newness and his hair.

The two boys help each other face their giants. For Ethan, it’s the two school bullies, and for Randy, it’s the two seniors on the basketball team who are threatened by the 9th grader’s talent.

The story includes the victories and struggles for each boy and drives home the life principle that a true friend never leaves you no matter what.

If you’d like to listen to my reading of Chapters 2 and 3 on Sunday, April 26, I begin at 6:30 Mountain Time. The reading of Chapter 1 is on my Facebook page under my name “Bill Wolfe.”

RED HOT is available on Amazon in either the Kindle version or paperback connected to my author name, W. D. Wolfe.

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Things Change, Even Churches

April 19, 2020

I stood in front of a class of eighth-graders this past September 11th. The topic that day was what had happened on that day in 2001. I talked to them about how 9/11 changed things, airport security in particular. Some of them took on surprising facial expressions when I told them that people used to be able to meet their arriving family members at the gate, as well as escort them all the way to the gate for their departures.

“9/11 changed things.”

The coronavirus

low angle view of cross against sky at night

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, likewise, is changing things and will change things. Despite our incredible reluctance to admit it, things will not return to what and how they were.

Hopefully, faith communities will grasp that. Churches sometimes have a difficult time accepting that things change. Even as the elephant has thrashed around in the sanctuary, some communities of faith will insist that we need to keep things as they are.

Well, like the Titanic, that vessel is no more!

Streaming worship services are here and they are not going away. When most churches are able to gather in physical worship centers again, streaming the worship service will be an additional way of being connected to the body of believers. It is not just a temporary solution. In fact, many churches will increase their audience because it is not restricted to a geographical area. Today I listened to my friend in ministry, Chuck Moore, speak to his virtual congregation of First Baptist Church of Savoy/Champaign, Illinois. I’m a healthy 16-hour drive away, but I was in the same room with him.

Most of us long for the intimate surroundings of a sanctuary, but we’ve learned, in this time of change, that we can worship online with our faith community and it’s okay. There will be those, like during the worship war battles over hymns and praise music in the 1980s, who will scoff at the new ways, and probably send nasty letters (ironically, the email type) to their pastors about how disgusted they are with all these newfangled ideas. They may even leave the church to find another that is anchored to the past.

So be it! Let them climb into another sinking boat and pretend that it’s a Viking River Cruise.

Things change, and some faith communities are feeling the chains be broken loose during this time as they have to be innovative and creative. The choir has left the building, not virtual choirs are appearing. Last Sunday I listened to a virtual choir from Nashville sing an amazing version of It Is Well With My Soul as a part of the Mason, Michigan Community Church Easter worship. Then I found the video on YouTube and played it another five times. Just think, I’m in Colorado Springs watching the service of a church in Michigan as they air a Tennessee choir connected by about 35 iPhones singing a song.

I remember when my grandparents, farmers in Eastern Kentucky, got indoor plumbing. Before that my grandmother had used a handpump and we’d go to a well in the frontyard and lower a bucket to get a nice cool drink of water. When the indoor plumbing went in my grandfather never went back to the outhouse behind the garden. Indoor plumbing was the new norm for him, and my grandmother didn’t quite know what to do with herself when she just had to turn a faucet on.

Things change, and the churches that don’t recognize that this pandemic has changed from now on how we do ministry will be left holding the bucket.

Background Books Obsession

April 15, 2020

I can’t help myself and I’m getting a crick in my neck because of it!

Yesterday, ESPN’s Adam Shefter was talking about NFL draft possibilities…who could be picked early and who could be picked late…and all I could focus on was the books on the shelves behind him. There was Louie Zamperini’s story, Unbroken, that I’ve seen in the theatre and read the book. Other titles seemed harder to make out so I moved closer to the TV and leaned my head to the right, trying to read titles.

It’s my ADD indicator. Put books on shelves behind the NBC News Correspondent and I don’t even hear him saying that the sky is falling. There’s David McCullough’s 1776! And what was that? Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Team of Rivals! Classic!

I have yet to locate a James Patterson novel showing on one of those shelves. Probably located lower so the camera doesn’t pick it up. I did see a Daniel Silva on one shelf, trying to be hidden by the cookbooks on either side.

Thankfully the remote shoots don’t last too long. Otherwise, I’d be walking around with a warped view of my surroundings.

Some shelves have more literary works than others. Some are more opinions lengthened to 300 pages of print. Shefter had some classic-looking book covers whose contents I couldn’t make out. Perhaps they were classics like The Tale of Two Cities and The Last of the Mohicans. More likely, they were George Plimpton’s Paper Lion and Out of My League.

Fox News shelves tilted to the right and CNN readjusted my neck posture to the left. Al Roker had shelves of LPs.

Meanwhile, the news and commentaries resonated at background noise as I concentrated on what was in the background. I wonder…I just wonder…if I sent a copy of my book, Red Hot: New Life in Fleming, to Adam Shefter would he put it on the second shelf from the top, right between Michael Lewis’s Moneyball and Grisham’s Calico Joe? I’d even autograph it for him!

assorted books on shelf

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Meeting Behind A Closed Door

April 12, 2020

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                  April 12, 2020

                          The Disciples socially distanced themselves on that Resurrection Sunday, but Jesus came to them and said: “Peace be with you!”

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Faith To A Fault

April 7, 2020

Let’s be honest! We don’t want it to seem like we’re lacking faith, and yet we’re disturbed by those who seem dead set on gathering in mass in church buildings for a Sunday morning worship service!

We believe in the Jesus who is always with us, and we are anchored to the Jesus who rose from the dead. Part of that faith journey is believing that we can worship together, despite practicing social distance.

Should we begrudge those who seem committed to massing together in a sanctuary, as if they are the Hebrew people of Moses’s day, putting the blood of a lamb on their doorframes and having COVID-19 blow past them as it hunts for its next place to land? Is it unspiritual of us to believe they have taken that step of faith off a cliff?

There are enough issues for people of faith to disagree about, and here’s one more point of contention to add to the heap.

So what are the confusing elements that are the bones of contention?

First of all, there’s the proclamation of some that they are being a witness to their communities and cities by continuing to come together and worship in the freedom of Christ, not being prisoners of their homes. The reality, however, is that the only people impressed by their witness are those who are gathered in their sanctuaries. The opinion of others ranges from “those crazy religious fanatics” to “It figures they would do something as dumb as that!”

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Having a witness includes the elements of integrity and humility.  That leads into the second bone of contention: the attitude of many of those who are gathering together. When I say “gather together’, I’m not referring to those who have decided to do drive-in church services this Sunday. I applaud their creativity, their seeking that middle ground of gathering together, but wanting to be safe and be seen as being safe.

Unfortunately, those who are gathering in mass in church buildings are coming off as either spiritually arrogant or deliberately thumbing their noses toward the governing bodies (local, state, and national). They are taking church and state separation to the extreme. The opinion about the multitudes watching them from a distance is that they couldn’t care less about the communities they live in; that they are more enamored by how many people are still flocking to their buildings on Sunday mornings, than with the risen Christ who can speak to people in the quiet of the living room.

Those of us who are worshiping by watching a worship service being streamed onto our laptops are wondering if we’re simply spiritual vagrants or have we found a good balance between faith and that other thing God gave us…common sense?

Optimistic About The God Who Optimizes

April 5, 2020
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This morning I watched and listened to my friend Chuck Moore, pastor of First Baptist Church of Savoy/Champaign, Illinois, deliver his Palm Sunday message. Chuck is an exceptional preacher, even when he’s speaking in the midst of his office with a picture of the Eiffel Tower on the wall behind him.

He talked about Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem on that Sunday, just five days before He was to be nailed to the cross.

But then he brought in Psalm 46 and the scriptures that tell us that “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” and “the Lord Almighty is with us!” (Psalm 46:1 and 7)

There is a deep sigh of relief from me as I read those words. They tell me that I worship One who is an intimate part of the journey with me. He is the One who looks to make the best of any situation.

Most of my friends see me as being an optimist. I usually look for the good in a person or a difficult circumstance. In the midst of this pandemic, there are other followers of Jesus who see this as an indication of the judgment of God. They seem to rush to wrath, like angry out-of-control parents at their kids’ athletic contests who want to inflict bodily harm on the officials.

My spiritual optimism leads me to hold onto some of those Psalm 46 words and phrases like “refuge”, “strength”, and He’s “with us”. I lead heavily toward the grace of God. Ephesians 2:6-7 comforts me, where Paul writes “…And God raised us up with Christ…in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.”

Hmmm! Grace…kindness…refuge…strength.

One of the characteristics of the early church was its benevolent spirit. The grace of God seemed to result in gracious people. The hope of God was echoed in the hope-filled communities of faith. The kindness of God flowed into kindhearted servants.

In perilous times it is far easier to be pessimists and doomsday prophets than helping hands and encouraging voices. May we remember that Jesus walked through the darkness of death before walking out of the tomb into life.

Be a blessing!

Lean on Me From a Distance

April 4, 2020

Bill Withers passed away yesterday at the age of 81 of heart problems. One of the many songs he had written was “Lean On Me”, the year of my high school graduation, 1972.

His passing at this time in our country’s struggles seems strangely appropriate because it has brought that song back into our minds. It’s a time to lean on one another, even from a socially acceptable distance. The words from the song resonate in our minds and spirits: Lean on me, when you’re not strong and I’ll be your friend. I’ll help you carry on. For it won’t be long ’til I’m gonna’ need somebody to lean on.

Each one of us has times where our lean is more pronounced than at other times. Weary health care workers are looking for a wall to lean against for a few minutes. First-responders are in need of a listening ear to lean on. Grandparents lean their ears closer to the phone to hear the angelic voice of their young grandchildren. Pained souls lean into a YouTube video of a church choir singing Amazing Grace.

When Bill Withers wrote those lyrics almost fifty years ago he had no idea that they’d be intently listened to in 2020.

Oh, there are still plenty of people under the illusion that the world revolves around themselves and the purpose of everyone else is to please and pleasure them, but I think this pandemic has brought a new awakening– I guess that would be a reawakening– of how I need you and you need me.

My wife, caring of the need of others, took a half-dozen rolls of toilet paper up to our middle school this week, where bagged lunches were being distributed. Her thought was that those who qualify to receive the free lunches might also need a roll of TP! I walked by the school an hour later just to say hi to a couple of the workers and they informed me that those rolls of TP had not lasted long. They had all been given…quickly!

Leaning on one another, once in a while, means something as simple as that. As Bill Withers sang, “I just might have a problem that you’ll understand. We all need somebody to lean on.”


Realizing What We No Longer Have

April 2, 2020

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                        April 2, 2020


When I recently taught 7th Grade Language Arts for 8 weeks, I noticed somber-faced students entering the building at 7:30. Although some were excited about being at school for another day of broadening their educational experience, most were as excited as a skateboarder at a geriatric bingo night.

Many of them longed to be anywhere but a classroom. Some of them had arrived at the notion that their purpose in life was to drive teachers looney. 

And now they are just one example of a long, long list of realizations of how good we, and they, had it! E-learning has been more taxing than their 57 minute class times in the school building. Teachers expect them to still be students and most of them can no longer be convincing when they say to their parents that they don’t have any homework.

Sometimes we don’t realize what we had until we no longer have it. No workouts at the Y! No booth at Red Lobster! No library to browse amongst the rows of books! Our routines have been knocked down like Lego blocks that we assumed were firmly in place, and now new routines, less certain and more like a Jenga tower, are being assembled.

Last Sunday I attended three worship services in different parts of the country- southern Ohio; Champaign, Illinois; and Pleasanton, California. Of course, all three were streamed into my study at home. It was a unique experience, and it made me realize how much I miss the “community of presence” when a church congregation meets together. I was fed the Word and yet I missed the fellowship that touches my spirit.

Grandkids miss grandparents and vice-versa. Waving to one another from the other side of a car window doesn’t do it. In some ways, it elevates the loneliness. 

I miss my writing stool at my local Starbucks and the baristas who I would joke with each day, giving each other new first names that began with our first initial, like Bartholomew for my “B” and “Catastrophic” for the barista whose first name begins with “Cat.” 

I miss the days when you didn’t look at people with suspicion— Does he have it? Shouldn’t those young people not be hanging around there?— or cut a wide berth around an elderly couple walking in the opposite direction.

We realize that things will never, in our lifetime, be what they once were. Our future plans are on hold. Our questions about when we might take a vacation have no clear answers. Our special events just lose some of their specialness when we participate by Zoom.

And I also think, in the midst of these cataclysmic changes, that many of us have come to realize how much of our lives have been revolved around things and events that, in the larger scheme of things, really aren’t that important. Many of us are coming to the discovery that our lives don’t have much depth to them at all. We’re shallow, like multiple text messages that just keep saying “Hi!” and “What’s up?” Perhaps, in the midst of this journey, we’ll dig deeper roots into things that matter…relationships, purpose, and spiritual nourishment. 

I think of the story of Job in the Old Testament. It’s painful, in many ways to read. Job has the good life, things seem to be in perfect harmony for him. And then it all comes crashing down…wealth, health, the respect people showed toward him. But at the end of the story, after Job has everything else stripped away from his life, he finds that nothing and no one can strip away his relationship with God.

Realizing what we no longer have may help us understand what we do have and can’t be taken away!