Archive for August 2021

Deaf to the Moderates

August 29, 2021

This past week I had a great unplanned-for conversation with a friend of mine about the frustrations of being a moderate in regards to politics. In all the sludge that gets thrown back and forth between conservatives and progressives, it seems that those us positioned in the middle being observers at a tennis match, looking side-to-side at each shot that is volleyed.

You see, being in the middle is seen as being indecisive and indifferent. It’s as if we don’t really care, but the fact is that we care a whole lot. We wish there was someone who understood that. We wish there was someone who cared about the poor, and the military, and not making everything free, and helping the elderly, and not really caring an ounce about LeBron’s or Trump’s opinions, and willing to hold someone accountable for their decisions, and being wise and honorable, and more worried about our nation than reelection, and willing to put a pair of khaki shorts and a tee shirt on and pass out bottled of water to people who have just been devastated by a disaster, and willing to sit in the Bob Uecker seats at the baseball game. We wish there was someone who understood that he/she wasn’t always right and is sometimes unsure on what the right answer is, someone who would therefore be willing to listen to all sides of an issue and vote the way he believes, not just what is the flavor-of-the-month opinion.

But we’re middlers who, despite what people say about us, are more concerned about the communities we live in and the unity of the country. We don’t want anyone to be left behind mentally…physically…spiritually…economically…socially…and education-wise.

We want everyone to be able to vote, but we also want the right to vote to be valued and seen as a privilege to hold dear. We applaud sacrifice and cringe at entitlement. We appreciate passion and patriotism.

As a moderate, I believe I have the ability to hear different views and see the merit in both. And as a moderate, I believe there can be compromise, that bantering and belittling do little to bring resolution.

However, as a guy in the middle, our view doesn’t get much airtime. It doesn’t heighten the drama and raise the ratings.

It is, however, usually the place on the spectrum where common sense takes up residence!

Middle School Athletic Pain

August 28, 2021

The middle school cross country team I coach had its first meet this past week. What an experience! 6th, 7th, and 8th-grade boys and girls, many of them running their first race ever…if you don’t include their video games ventures. We had less than two weeks of practice beforehand to prepare us for the mess. All of our races are one and a half miles, a mire trot around the countryside, right? For some it was! Unfortunately, only a couple of those runners were wearing our team shirt.

We had gradually been increasing the mileage of the runners, running 2 miles and then 3 miles. The day after our race we challenged many of them to complete a 4-mile run, and next week we’ll throw a 5-miler into the mix. But on Wednesday our objective was to run the first race and learn from it.

Here’s the thing about middle school athletes! You have some who grit their teeth, have fire in their eyes, and resemble pint-size Marines giving it their all. The race is a battle for them, a personal battle to quiet the inner-doubts and voices and a battle for honor pitting them against their opponents. Grit in an athlete is a coach’s dream! On our team there is a small-sized fiery redheaded girl who fought off the doubts and all those who looked at her and hadn’t expected much. We expected a couple of other girls from our team to appear over the last ridge before her but she had that look that said she thought she was leading the charge on Iwo Jima.

And then there were others who let the struggle defeat them, turning a ten-minute race into a twenty-plus minute ordeal filled with whining and complaining. A few hobbled across as if they had just finished the Leadville 100-mile Ultra-marathon. Faces showed the agony, looking for sympathetic parents who might soothe their wounds with a post-race shaved ice treat from the Kona Ice Truck parted behind the stadium. One young lady turned her ankle and was helped across the finish line by one of her teammates in a scene resembling the Confederate retreat from Antietam.

I forgot to tell our runners that I had an instant cold pack in our first-aid bag. It may have been a good thing not to mention since I only had one. I’m envisioning a line of runners laid out in a makeshift triage area, moaning for ice to be applied to their ankle, knee, calf, thigh, head, lower back, finger, etc.

Middle school athletics reveals more about a student’s strengths and character than it does their athletic ability. Oh, yes, you have the male athletes who reached puberty about five years before anyone else. Chiseled biceps are a sign that they have probably reached their max. High school may be a disappointment for them since they’ve dominated all the pint-sized competitions all through middle school. Other than those deviations from the norm, middle school athletics reveal who has heart, who’s coachable, who will be a great teammate, and who understands what makes up sportsmanship. It shows who has the ingredients to be successful, not in athletics but rather in life. Who can be counted, who feels entitled, and who will disappear?

And so we’ll go at it again this coming Wednesday on a different course against the same teams of runners, looking for that grit and fire in our 11, 12, and 13-year-olds that will bring smiles to our faces about what they’ve discovered about themselves?

Opening School Lockers

August 21, 2021

Sometimes we take things for granted, like that there will be a driver for the school bus, a teacher for the class, or football helmets for the team. In our middle school, all of those “common occurrences” were discovered this past week to be unrealistic expectations. Sports teams from any school in our district, middle and high, won’t have buses to travel to their contests; not all classes have a hired teacher, and some of the football players will be sharing the same helmet. Gross!

I’m one of those unqualified people who is filling a teaching position. I love doing it, but I’m probably a little too old school, like expecting students to be able to write a complete sentence and spell correctly. I did the same teaching position last year and was called in a few days before school started to teach the same subject in the same classroom at the same school…at least for the first few weeks!

One week has come and gone. My back wall is outlined, once again, with old Far Side cartoons that spell out the word SMILE. A poster in front of the class is titled “Wolf Teacher” with a picture of the animal looking much more fierce than me. What an experience it has been so far to banter back and forth with about 110 students during the course of each day, learning names and some of their interests, discovering their personalities…or lack of!

This school year is so much different than last year, and now, what they were accustomed to two years ago is a distant faded memory. One of the differences, dare I say new experiences for just about all of our students, is learning how to open a combination locker. I’ve dubbed one of my team teachers, Aiden Tiernan, as being the “Locker Guru”. He patrols the hallways between classes like a tow truck driver looking for stranded motorists. His customer base is so massive that I’ve picked up some of “the business” he can’t take care of.

Opening a locker seems like such a simple task on the same level as boiling water and tying one’s shoes, but we discovered it’s an acquired skill.

Turn to the left. Turn to the right one complete rotation until to reach the second combo number. Turn back to the left. The Locker Guru even made a demonstration wheel made out of cardboard (that resembled the spinning wheel on “Wheel of Fortune”) to help students understand. Each passing period, however, there were stranded and stumped students standing in the hallway with pleading faces.

I was somewhat mystified by it. That is, aren’t these the same students who master Level 78 on some video game that requires extreme concentration and coordination? Aren’t these the same testers that can text 100 words a minute in “partial language”?

But turning a combo lock on a locker is a bit too old school. I’m sure some were looking for a “passkey locker”, like they were getting into their room at the Holiday Inn.

“Mr. Wolfe, I can’t get into my locker!” cries one teary-eyed seventh-grader.

“Okay! What’s your combo?”


I spin the wheel to the left, right, and left, and…click! He’s amazed, like I’ve just performed a magic trick worthy of a spot amongst the America’s Got Talent finalists. I blow on my fingers, as if they’re on fire with my proficiency.

Once again, things we take for granted are new dives into the unknown for others. Of course, on the other hand, several things that are common knowledge for them that they talk to me about this past week I am completely clueless about. When my cluelessness is discovered they shake their heads in disbelief. They can’t believe I’m still alive and don’t know what “Boba” tea is!

The Mystery of Bread and Crumbs

August 15, 2021

I was talking to a dear friend of mine recently about a topic that had been puzzling to both of us for a long, long time. It revolved around someone who has had a spiritual conversion experience. That is, they’ve experienced a spiritual transformation and become a devoted Jesus-follower.

Jesus, also known as “The Bread of Life”. Jesus, the One who in John 6:35 identifies Himself as such and then says that anyone who comes to Him will never go hungry. Jesus, the One who took a few small loaves of bread and fed a multitude with them. And Jesus, the One who took a piece of bread and said to His disciples, “This is My body broken for you!”

Bread is a frequent object lesson that Jesus uses to communicate nourishment, freshness, and provision. In Jesus’ time, as it is now, it was one of those objects that awakened a person’s senses…the smell of fresh-baked bread, the smoothness of the outside crust to touch, the taste as a person’s tongue experienced it. It was also a simple and common part of a person’s food supply. Everyone could identify with the meaning and value of bread.

And then Jesus says that He is The Bread of Life. He is the sustenance, all that is needed.

Back to the conversation that my friend and I were having, we are perplexed by someone who experiences the Bread of Life, the Best of Life, and then walks away from it. In essence, why go from the Bread to crumbs that have been dropped off the table and ground into the dirt?

If someone has experienced life with Christ how does something less fulfilling so easily take its place? It’s a question with a multiple points answer. Scripture tells us that we all fall short of God’s perfection. That is, we all have focused on the temporariness of the crumbs at some point and missed the Bread of Life. Our fallen nature makes the staleness of life seem more appealing than the freshness of God’s presence.

There is also the disappointment that others have brought into our lives that has caused us to question the validity and value of our faith. If the worshipping community I have become a part of becomes focused on other things instead of their spiritual journey with God it can boring disillusionment and even bitterness. Sometimes the people of God have a way of getting in the way of the connection with God.

And, maybe one more answer to the question is that the lure of the world, the things that we are continually told are to be sought after and highly-valued…possessions, experiences, prominence, popularity, and position…cause us to think that The Bread of Life isn’t as great as the things of life.

Which takes us back to that confusing question that my friend and I are ealing with. We hope that those who have wondered away from the faith are having Simon Peter moments, denying Jesus for a time before re-identifying with Him. The sorrow that Peter experienced after he had walked away from Christ made him realize who he was, but also Who he needed to be following.

And then he took the Bread of Life within him again and truly became the Rock on which the church was built.

Back In It!

August 14, 2021

I received the looks layered with grins and slight head shakes. The looks came from several of the teachers at Timberview Middle School who were wondering if they were seeing things. I was back to start the new school year teaching the same class that I taught last year, seventh-grade language arts.

When the principal called me the week before school started in mid-August of 2020 and asked me to fill in for this class he was thinking, and indicating, that it would be for the first month of the academic year. The first month was then extended to the first quarter…and then the first semester…and then the whole school year. It was an amazing experience that I thoroughly enjoyed, but it was for…the one year!

This past week I received a communication from our new principal’s administrative assistant asking if I would fill in for the same position…for the first week! I started yesterday. The assistant principal thanked me for my willingness to help for the first week, and then she added, “Or maybe two!”

In sharing that news with a few of the teachers who were asking me what I would be doing I kept getting reactions like this: “Isn’t that how it started last year, Bill?”

Yes, but…but, well…this year is different!

And it is! Students will be in the classroom five days a week. There’s no hybrid learning model that will be occurring. Masks aren’t mandatory…at least, to begin with, so we won’t need to go outside and take mask breaks. Teachers won’t have to deal with the frustration of kids being online at home and have to keep asking them to turn their laptop cameras on. Side Point: There seemed to be so many broken laptop cameras that happened last year. It could have been a new entrepreneurial business venture for someone.

What seems to resemble the last school year is the shortage of teachers. There were more teachers who left the profession than new teachers coming into it. Schools are no different than the restaurant industry, commercial businesses, that term we keep hearing…”the supply chain”. I heard on the news this week that our city’s food bank supplier, Care and Share, was having to consider eliminating some of the food bank deliveries they make because of a shortage of drivers. In essence, those who depend on receiving food from one of the food banks may go hungry because there’s not someone to take the food to them.

Our educational institutions are encountering the same labor shortage. An email from our district went out this week urging coaches of our school’s athletic teams to get certified to drive one of the school district’s smaller buses because there aren’t enough bus drivers. Our school has custodian, para-professional, office assistants, and teaching positions that still need to be covered…and Monday is the first day for students.

So…here I am! Sharing my non-institutional-based teaching education, spiced with homespun humor, with inquisitive, hyper twelve-year-olds. They don’t realize my lack of qualification. They just assume my greying hair makes me qualified.

Maybe it will be for just the first week! Maybe it will speed into the second! All I know is that one of the 8th grade social studies teachers does not want it to be long-term. She’s expecting me to cover three weeks in September for her!

Being Filmed

August 11, 2021

Yesterday I experienced something that I hadn’t been a part of for a while: I was filmed, not for anything associated with Hollywood…yet! It was a videographer who taped me making comments about my RED HOT novels. He would ask me questions and then start recording my responses.

It’s one way that I’ve taken on a more proactive approach to telling people about my books. Promoting novels is a difficult task that often leads to the grinding of the author’s teeth and not shaving for three days. My videographer, Gary, did a great job in drawing out my ideas and perspectives, and answering a number of “Why” questions: Why did you write these books, why did you create your main characters in these ways, why would someone want to read the books? He filmed and interviewed for two hours and we both felt good about what had occurred.

Another person, Jordan, who I’ve known for a number of years, is getting my social media presence going. Even though I’ve written a blog for a number of years, I consider myself a social media illiterate. I flunked Instagram, sat in the back of the Twitter class hoping to go unnoticed, and my Facebook understanding can be seen in comments I make, such as “What’s this little thing right here that looks like nine dots on a Domino?” Jordan has figured out that there is not a question too elementary that I can’t ask. I’m like that first-grader again reading about Jane, Dick, Sally, Puff, and Spot. “Look, Puff! Look, Spot! Look, Puff and Spot!”

Years ago, when I was still pastoring First Baptist Church in Mason, Michigan (now known as Mason Community Church), our Sunday morning worship service was recorded and shown that next week on the local public access station. I didn’t really think about it at the time. During this time I was also on the Mason School Board and our monthly meetings were also recorded and broadcast. In each of those situations I was on screen, but there were others with me. Yesterday, it was me and me alone..except for people walking by behind us on the sidewalk.

There’s something about watching yourself on film. The way you pronounce words, the breaks, and pauses in your speech, your mannerisms…the blanket gets thrown off all of those things and you see yourself like a packet of raw sugar, unfiltered and revealed.

Of course, if I didn’t think the novels were readworthy I wouldn’t have done it. Friends of mine who I’ll just refer to as E&D, have continued to tell me that the books are great reads that people need to discover. They’ve said it so many times I’ve actually become a believer. They have done editing of the manuscripts for me, read through each book more than once to help correct errors but also question me on flow and plot twists. In other words, they’ve been very upfront about things that need correcting and “What were you thinking that day, Bill!!! Had you eaten something that didn’t agree with you?” So, if they’ve challenged me in some ways, their words of encouragement have taken root a well.

Yesterday, Gary said I had a good camera presence. I appreciate that. I’m not sure what it means, but I appreciate it. Did my grey hair not stand out because of the angle of the sun, or did I look more hip rather than “grandpa-y”? I’m sure no one was confusing me with Daniel Silva or John Sandford. For that matter, also Mr. Rogers and Captain Kangaroo (Showing my age there!).

We’ll see what happens!

(You can order any or all of the RED HOT novels on Amazon. Type in W.D. Wolfe or Red Hot: New Life in Fleming. Available in paperback or Kindle Version.)

The Thomas Complex

August 9, 2021

One of the most intriguing figures in the Bible is a disciple of Jesus named Thomas. He would be classified nowadays as a late adopter. He comes to believe in the reliability of certain events and words after the majority have come on board. For example, when Jesus has appeared to the rest of His disciples after being resurrected Thomas is not there. When told of the miraculous new life of Christ, he responds that unless he sees the nail marks in Jesus hands and puts his finger within them, he won’t believe. As a result of his hesitancy to be convinced he was given the nickname “Doubting Thomas” to be labeled with for the rest of time.

It’s not like he’s the only disciple to not accept something at face value. In Matthew 28 Jesus appears to his disciples on top of a mountain. It says the disciples worshipped Him, but some doubted. Thomas had some company in those moments of uncertainty.

“The Thomas Complex” affects most of us in one way or another. I’m an early adopter when it comes to certain things like buying new seafood products, trying a new restaurant, or being convinced about the depth of a new idea. But I’m also late to the rally for such things as hairstyle, seeing the rationale for a political viewpoint, and whether riding a new roller coaster is a wise decision. We’re all a mixture of Doubting Thomases and Entrepreneurial Esthers.

And now we see it with the COVID-19 vaccinations, early adopters, late adopters, and a bunch of others in the middle leaning one way or the other. Calling one group a herd of pigs that is sprinting toward the edge of a cliff because they were told to isn’t productive; and calling the other group stupid and idiotic, even Eric Clapton, is just as foolish. People on both sides of the issue have strong beliefs and, whether the opposition wants to admit it or not, some sound reasoning.

“The Thomas Complex” doesn’t refer to those folk who refuse to believe because “no one’s going to tell me what to do!” That’s simply a combination of stubbornness and personal arrogance. On the other hand, no one should rush to do something just because someone told you to do it. That’s like being taken in by the smiling, seductive woman, sitting behind the steering wheel of a new luxury vehicle, as if the enormous debt she has just signed off doesn’t matter.

Wisdom is in shorter supply these days than toilet paper was about 18 months ago. No matter what your opinion is about being vaccinated, wisdom does not cower to pressure. It ponders, considers, and is more proactive than reactive.

I received the Pfizer shots back in February and March, not as a result of someone telling me to, but rather because I believed I should. I was teaching school, around a lot of people and students every day, and felt it was a reasonable decision due to my situation. Others in my school chose not to, and still some others came late to the decision. What I appreciated in that scenario was the fact that no one was pressuring people to make the decision that they had already decided should be made.

There will be those who read this and immediately go to the “Yes, but…” button. We live in America. The day when everyone agrees on an issue may not be in the near future. After all, we’re a nation that began because we disagreed with what others were telling us to do.

G.A.P (Grandkids Amusement Park) Day

August 3, 2021

It has now landed in the category of traditions. That means the grandkids expect it! To not have it happen would result in whining, deep sighs, and words like “We’re disappointed in you and Grammy!” Chastised by your grandchildren!

The tradition, that has now reached four summers in a row, is a trip to a small amusement park west of Colorado Springs called North Pole. It’s Santa’s Village at 8,500 feet, at the base of Pike’s Peak, a park designed with kids and grandkids in mind. Since their school year begins the first week of August (August 3rd this year!), we plan our grandkid adventure an an end-of-summer-vacation outing, loading the three munchkins up in our CRV and making sure we’ve got Tylenol close at hand.

North Pole does not have roller coasters like Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio or King’s Island on the outskirts of Cincinnati. It has one junior-sized coaster that is more about causing a grandparent to schedule a chiropractor adjustment shortly afterwards, bouncing top and down, jerking you back and forth, as your six-year-old granddaughter sits beside you with her hands in the air.

This year North Pole had lines waiting to pay admission at 10:15. We had never experienced that before, but saw it as a good thing, since the pandemic had curtailed operations for so long and they had difficulty gathering a labor force back.

Grammy and I are a decade or two past our amusement park prime. Our squeals of delight are now more about finding an empty bench to sit down on as the 10 and 13-year-olds run to the next attraction that we have no interest in being passengers on. We do the train that goes at a snail’s pace, the Sky Ride because it’s a nice view, and at least half of the benches around the park.

But then I make a mistake caused by empathy for the six-year-old. The Tilt-A-Whirl that her brother and sister have ridden on requires an adult passenger for her to be with. When her siblings ride it for the third straight time, my resistance can’t take it any more. I ask her if she’d still like to ride it. She sprints to get in line! I mosey at a slower pace to get behind her. There’s no hurry, because no one else is in line.

Halfway through the ride I have to close my eyes and try to focus on something else, like survival and remembering what day it is. I open my eyes long enough to look at my ride partner. She’s laughing, smiling, and displaying the gap in her upper teeth where she recently lost two. My teeth are feeling like they’re about to be pulled away from my body as well!

When the ride stops and the bell sounds to indicate seat belts can be unlocked, everyone heads to the exit at the brisk pace. I am the last to leave, wobbling like a dashboard bobblehead and…looking for an empty bench! It takes me a good hour to get my equilibrium back from the twilight zone.

We spend four hours at North Pole and the grandkids ride everything that they want to ride…several times! It’s a good day. It really is. They see hug the North Pole (an ice post in the middle of the park) and say hey to Santa as we head toward the exit.

Next year, G.A.P #5, grandkid number four will join his cousins. He will be a month or two shy of his third birthday, ready to ride the boats that go around in a circle, and then the fire trucks that go around in a circle, and then the motorcycles that go around in a circle. Do you sense a theme here? Carol and I will do “Rock, Paper, Scissors” to see who stays with him, because he won’t be ready for the Tilt-A-Whirl yet…we hope!

Storyline Life Lessons

August 2, 2021

The third book in my RED HOT novel series was the most challenging and interesting book to write so far. Those who had already read the first two books in the series were anxiously anticipating the next part of the story. That created a bit of anxiety in my creative spirit. It needed to be good. Not that the first two books weren’t good, but this needed to be even a bit better.

When you write a sequel your readers already have pictures of the characters and their quirks, qualities, and shortcomings. New readers new to be introduced to them and bring them up to speed and who’s who without having to tell the whole story again. Continuing readers want to know what happens next to the protagonist, the antagonist, and the character that has tugged on their heartstrings.

A lot of questions go through a writer’s mind: What new characters can still be introduced? What new plot twists can be written that aren’t too much a reach for the reader? With a number of characters already introduced in the series, how can the storyline be written that is able to involve all of them, or do a couple need to disappear into the margins? Since the third book is further along in time, are there changes that need to be may in some of the adolescent’s lives, like getting a driver’s license or having a growth spurt?

A lot of thinking went into the plot formation before the writing began. And then there’s the life lessons. RED HOT is about friendship, seeing that everyone has value, rising above the low expectations of others, respecting one another, forgiveness, and grace. It’s about one boy who no one seems to see and another boy who can’t be missed. It’s about that kid in every school grade that seems to be invisible to his classmates as if he doesn’t matter, and another kid with bright red hair and extraordinary talent who everyone notices. It’s about an unlikely friendship that becomes an unbreakable bond. It’s a story about faith and prayer and rescue.

I received a note from the mom of a 6th Grade boy last week. He had read the latest book Red Hot: New Peace in Fleming in three days and loved it. A 75-year-old former high school basketball coach that my sister knows had received the first book in the series, read it in five days, and called my sister to find out where he could get Book 2. His two grown daughters response: “Dad, you read a book?”

Life lessons. I love writing stories that resonate with teachable moments and important values.

Last night, four from my oldest daughter’s family joined me in a Facebook Live reading of the first two chapters. What fun it was as we took on the voices of different characters!

And yes, I’ve started writing the fourth and final book in the series, Red Hot: New Hope in Fleming. And yes-yes, it is looking to be even more of a challenge than Book 3!