Archive for the ‘Christianity’ category

The World Is Filled With Exceptional People

December 15, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                            December 15, 2017

                     

The Today Show, itself in need of a heartwarming story, told the story about the Olds family from Florida yesterday. DeShoan and Sofia Olds had heard of seven siblings whose biological parents could no longer care for them. The children were being split up into three different foster homes. The Olds, as Sofia explained it, felt “a calling” to adopt all seven. She and her husband, both veterans who’s served overseas in Iraq, were childless. To take on seven children at once was a challenge, but when they decided to pursue it the “calling” was either for all seven or none.

One of the children commented that he had never lived under the same roof with all of his siblings, or in the same home with a mom and dad. Now he is!

The story resonated with many people, especially in a period of time that seems blanketed with discouragement, troubling revelations, and political anger. In a season where we speak of hope their story is a story of hope.

It also reminds us that despite all the bad news we get showered with that there are a number of exceptional people in this world. They are all around us, rub elbows with us everyday, and are influencers who mostly go unnoticed.

My wife is one of those exceptional people. She works with special needs students who she loves, cries tears for, laughs with, and makes them feel important. She’s Grammy to three children who adore her. She’s the sounding board for her youngest daughter about this, that, and the other. She’ll never be on the front of Time, but most exceptional people aren’t. Time front covers are populated with people who make the news, or the issues that are the news.

Ron McKinney, 7th Grade science teacher at Timberview Middle School, is one of those exceptional people. Having taught there ever since Moby Dick was a minnow, he has influenced and impacted countless lives of kids in the weird adolescent year of seventh grade. He’s coached hundreds of kids in cross-country, track, volleyball, basketball, and softball. Last summer he joined eight other men and me in a mission work trip to a camp in British Columbia that ministers to the children of the First Nations tribes, and he loved it.

Kasey Lucero is an exceptional person. I joined her for three years as her JV Girls’ Basketball coach at The Classical Academy in Colorado Springs. She was more than thirty years younger than me, but wise beyond her years. Her consistency in how she treated people was amazing, a person of grace and fairness. Recently I asked another young woman, who coached alongside me this year, who stood out to her as a person of integrity and she didn’t hesitate in saying it was Coach Lucero.

Sylvia Hale is exceptional! Today is her last day of teaching music at DaVinci Elementary. For years she has been a source of encouragement for young kids as they discover the gift of music. Starting next month she’ll be living in the state of Washington with her husband, Bill, as he begins his first pastorate at the age of 63. It is an exciting journey for them, and one that has demanded exceptional faith.

When I think of exceptional my mind automatically filters it through “character.” Exceptional character is the term. DeShoan and Sofia Olds led me back to the community of hope this past week with their story. Today I look around me at all the other people who will allow me to stay there with their ongoing stories of inspiration and encouragement.

The Changing of Advent (Holiday) Traditions

December 13, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                          December 13, 2017

                            

Last Christmas Eve was a strange time for me. It was the first time in 38 years that I was not involved in the leadership of a Christmas Eve worship service. Having retired from pastoral ministry at the end of 2015 I had to shift from leading to being one of the ones being led.

It’s okay! I survived, and enjoyed the worship gathering at First Baptist Church in Colorado Springs that evening. It just felt weird, like the first time you wear silk pajamas!

Advent and Christmas are punctuated with traditions. Last Sunday we sang Christmas carols in worship. Christmas music is about as traditional as you can get, although the Starbucks I’m sitting in right now is playing their “holiday tracks.” Bah humbug!

In the secularizing of our culture the traditions’ scale has been shifting in recent years. Although Christmas Eve is the most heavily attended worship service of the year, when people think of traditions between Thanksgiving and Christmas they are likely to put 5 A.M. Black Friday shopping trips, office holiday parties, watching The Christmas Story movie or It’s A Wonderful Life, fruitcake, and ugly sweater contests as their traditions this time of the year.

Advent calendars used to be a tradition in many families, counting down the days until Christmas. Advent is a season of waiting and expectation but we are no longer a culture that waits very well!

Wrapped gifts used to be symbolic of the gifts being brought to the Christ-child. Now gift cards in an envelope will be the biggest sellers this season. We’re unsure of what to give someone so we get extra fuel points at the grocery store by simply buying a Best Buy gift card and letting the receiver figure out what they want. Our giving has taken on an element of what we get out of it!

The number of people sending Christmas cards, another tradition, is dropping as Facebook has made things easier and cheaper…and who wants to wait in line at the post office anyway?

The tradition of Christmas Eve services has changed also. It used to be that going to one’s church on Christmas Eve was a time of worship and reuniting. Kids who had grown up in the church were back in town. Old friends were back. It was a gathering of community that had become tradition. In recent years families look for a service that fits their time schedule. Mega-churches with five or six service times become the place to go so that people can get on with what else needs to be done.

Things change, that’s how it is! I just wish more people would first think of “O, Come All Ye Faithful!” when they consider a Christmas song rather than “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas.”

Church Going To The Dogs

December 12, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                    February 13, 2017

                                 

A few decades ago I remember being on the front steps of our church, First Baptist Church of Ironton, Ohio. An elderly man was coming up the steps just as a dog bounded up the steps past him. The man stopped for a moment and I heard him mutt-er “Dogs going to church!” He climbed a couple more steps and paused once again, and with a grin on his face he said, “Church going to the dogs!”

Recently we discovered a church where people can bring their dogs. The worship service is transmitted on an AM radio station to the cars parked in the parking lot. Some of the cars are occupied with people who have difficulties with crowds or allergic reactions to perfume scents. But many of them are occupied with canines brought to church by their owners. Attenders never have to get out of their car, unless Fido has to relieve himself!

Unique, yes! It’s not my cup of tea, but for some people it obviously works. After all, there was a film a few years ago entitled “All Dogs Go to Heaven!” So, perhaps, going to church is the prequel!

Staying in the car with the pooch has a downside and an upside. The downside is that the attender never enters into “community.” Church is about much more than an order of worship to go through, message to hear, and the offering plate to pass. Being the community of believers is the oft-forgotten part of it. It’s the meshing of lives in the progression of the journey.

The upside is that the dog-loving attender can escape the drama of church that often focuses on the petty and ridiculous. Stay in the car and get spared from the stupid! Let’s face it! Some church folk are more concerned about keeping the carpet clean than they are about people being cleansed!

So…I’m not sold on the dogs-going-to-church idea, but, of course, I don’t have a dog! I might feel differently if Lassie came home to live with me.

What do you think?Church

The Blessing of Cluelessness

December 12, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                       December 12, 2017

                            

Recently I was sitting on the bench waiting for my 8th Grade boy’s basketball team to begin their game. The 7th Grade team had played right before us, and, after a post-game meeting with her team, the coach came out of the girl’s locker room, where the boys had been assigned to dress, and sat down beside me. She was laughing…one of those “I can’t believe I heard that” laughs.

“What’s going on, Coach?” I asked her, wanting to be clued in on the humor behind the chuckling.

“I just heard one of the boys say to one of his teammates as they stood in front of a machine anchored to the locker room wall, “Twenty-five cents! Who would pay twenty-five cents for a napkin?”

Sometimes middle school kids bless us with their cluelessness. The head librarian at the middle school where I coach told me a story about another 7th Grader who was reading an article about the Easter Island’s famous stone statues. He called across the library to her and asked her, “What does defecation mean?” She let him know that it means to poop. A strange look came over his face as he stared at the picture in the article. She watched for a few moments and his expression of confusion did not change. It was as if he was trying to figure out a math problem, so she walked over to see what was puzzling him. There was a man in the picture standing in front of the statues showing their massive size in comparison to him. Then she saw what the wording was underneath the picture. It said, “Easter Island stone statues are thought to be the result of deification.” The librarian chuckled as she realized the student’s confused look was because he was trying to figure out how the man in the picture had been able to poop out the statues?

Cluelessness leads us to moments of humored blessing!

One of the reasons I love teaching and coaching seventh graders is the heightened level of cluelessness that appears in their midst. I was the same way growing up! Perhaps my enjoyment has some connection to some of those past personal experiences. I see myself in the rear mirror of some of the seventh graders I’m walking by.

We often limit our understanding of blessing to the serene, the peaceful, the surprise gift in the mail, but some of the pimply cluelessness of adolescent life also falls into that category as well.

In fact, last week as I was substitute teaching seventh grade a couple of students were updating me on some of the middle school lingo that I was clueless about. They taught me what a couple of words meant and challenged me to use them in some way in my next class. When I did they burst out laughing! There’s something refreshing to students to be able to view cluelessness in their instructors.

God blesses us through wisdom and revelation, but he also touches the tickle side of our spirit through the innocent moments of cluelessness.

Tilted Spectacles

December 12, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                         December 11, 2017

                                  

I have history with eyeglasses! I’ve worn them since I was in fourth grade. My teacher, Mrs. Riley, noticed my “squinting to all get out” as I tried to figure out what she had written on the chalkboard. She contacted my parents and about month later I was officially a “four eyes!”

Through the years I’ve tried to stay within two decades of what the stylish spectacles are. I’ve gone from Atom Ant, to geek, to thin, back to geek, and have now settled into “grandpa” frames. Since I’m a granddad three times over I’m okay with that.

Recently my glasses got hit by someone- maybe even me- to the point that they were  creating a ravine on the top side of my left ear. I was coming to the point where I dreaded putting them back on in the morning. Any time I could get them off of my left ear for a few moments I did it.

Finally, my tough guy image broke and I crept into my optometrist’s office. His assistant sat me down and looked at how the glasses were positioned on my face. He stroked his chin a few times and then took them to the back room to make an adjustment. A few moments later he returned, had me position them again, and took another look. Another quick adjustment and I was good to go. He told me that they were just a little bit tilted and the slight tilt over a period of time had taken its toll on my delicate ear skin with its constant pressure.

Four days later I’m okay!

Just a slight tilt had caused all that discomfort! It’s like that for me spiritually when my life is just a bit out of whack, when I’ve lost my clear focus on the direction Jesus would have me go. Just a slight waywardness has the potential to bring me an abundance of sensitivity and pain. When that happens I come to the point of letting go of my tough guy image and letting the Great Physician speak to the source of my pain and things seem to come into clear focus again.

Christmas Off-Key

December 10, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                      December 10, 2017

                                     

Our three children still remember the car ride on Christmas Day morning. We were coming over Rosemont Hill in Portsmouth, Ohio, heading towards my parents’ house upriver in Ironton. It was pre-satellite radio, pre-CD, pre iTunes days! We had to listen to…The Radio! AM no less!

Carol found a church choir trying to sing! The song was “What Child Is This?” and one man with a rather loud voice stood out as we listened in pain. He always came in about a half note too late. One important line in the song goes “This, this is Christ the King!” This man’s first “this” straddled the end of the same word everyone else was singing, and the beginning of its repeat right after. He used it as a conjunction where there was not suppose to be one.

To this day we bring up that song and choir, and…yes…we mock the moment as we relive it and impersonate it.

Christmas is known for all of its music, Handel’s Messiah, Christmas CD’s, Christmas carolers. In the midst of all the peace-filled music there will always be some shrieks, screeches, and voices that can’t quite get to those high notes.

We still have memories of our son, David, singing with the kids of First Baptist Church in Mason, Michigan, and David covering his left ear because Luke Wandell kept singing the same note over and over again loudly to his left. Luke was totally unaware of the pain he was inflicting. It goes down in the Wolfe family humorous memories section.

The church I grew up in, First Baptist Church of Ironton, always did a Christmas Cantata. The choir practiced in preparation for it numerous evenings, but no amount of practice could cure one lady whose voice could also have been used to frighten burglars away and keep mosquitoes from nesting. We all prayed for laryngitis to afflict her, but God did not answer our prayers. We hoped there would be male solos during the cantata to give our ears time to heal before the next onslaught!

Christmas, however, was about celebration and decorations, no matter how off-key the musicians were. Having someone sing “O Holy Night” while the congregation lit candles at the Christmas Eve service…that is a tradition that still resonates in my soul. Nate and Alyssa Price playing their string instruments as Jean Price accompanied them on the piano…Wow! Singing with my two daughters and one of my son-in-laws on Christmas Eve, I’ll always cherish that!

Christmas has its off-key moments that simply sound off in between long periods of sweet harmony. The times when we look for the ear plugs are simply like receiving one of those gifts that our young child wrapped, a jumbled mass of paper with a roll of tape to hold it together. We received it, cherished it, and filed the memory of it within our minds for the rest of our life.

The Wisdom of Ray Lutz

December 3, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                          December 3, 2017

                                    

As I drive through Calhan, heading to Simla, this morning out of habit I’ll look to my right as I pass a certain street two blocks this side of the county fairgrounds. Down this street on the right Ray Lutz has lived. It’s a nondescript home that has seen its share of pie consumed by numerous visitors. The number address, in fact, should be 3.14!

Ray passed away on Friday, December 1. He had been a sports official for so long people were prone to call him Methuselah.

Ray would greet me with “Reverend” or “Reverend Wolfe”. Always a kind word or gentle jab. He told me he was Methodist. I told him I’d pray for him. The more I got to know him the more he didn’t resemble a Methodist. Method was secondary to common sense for Ray. The rulebook might say one thing, but sometimes basketball game situations required that common sense trump the rules of the game. Don’t get me wrong! He knew the rules, but if everybody on the interstate is driving 85 when the speed limit is 65 you sometimes have to inch that speedometer up a bit more to not get rear-ended. Common sense driving!

The first time I met Ray was at a class he taught for brand new basketball officials. Twenty or so of us were seated at desks in the classroom and listened to Mr. Lutz explain how a person officiates a basketball game. He was interesting to listen to then, and I wasn’t even sure what he was talking about. At the end of our six weeks of sessions we took a test to see if we would be able to actually blow whistles at basketball games that season. As I sat there mulling over possible answers he came by and told me that I should probably think about what I had answered for a certain question. It was his way of getting me past the cut-off. For sixteen years, until the end of last season, I proceeded to blow my whistle and wear the stripes. He was my officiating shepherd, and I was one of his striped lambs.

One year he encouraged me to run for one of the elected positions of our basketball officials organization. I did, and I lost! My first reaction was disbelief, not because I had been beaten, but rather because Ray had been the one to get me to do it in the first place. I thought it meant victory.

For several summers I went to a basketball camp for officials that Dave Hall conducted. Dave Hall has done NCAA championship and tournament games for a number of years. Ray was always one of the clinicians for Mr. Hall. It was where I was able to talk to him the most, sitting beside him by a court and taking in some of the wisdom that would naturally ooze from his personality. It was also at those courtside chats that he encouraged me with flattering remarks on how good I was doing, that he expected big things from me that coming season, and other remarks that made me think I was all that. Of course, I think Ray, the encourager, made those remarks to most officials at the camps he was a part of, but either way it caused me to want to be the best I could be.

A few years ago he was in the hospital for a serious medical condition, so I went and paid him a visit. I walked in the room and he looked at me.

“Reverend!” he greeted me, and we talked about life, basketball, health, and blessings.

Some of us are privileged enough to make a mark in the world in some way. The most effective people are those who influence others in their craft or passion. They are the folks who people can look behind and, like the waves behind a motorboat, see the number of people who are following faithfully in the wake of the same pursuit.

Ray Lutz will always be that. A wise mentor, a professor of common sense basketball officiating philosophy, and perhaps…even a Methodist!