Archive for the ‘Freedom’ category

Thanks-Living

November 28, 2019

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                      November 28, 2019

                                

Today is our son’s 36th birthday. Unreal! Oh, and it also happens to be Thanksgiving Day, a day where we offer thanks, become more cognizant of thanking people, and, for many of us, join hands with others around a dinner table and say grace.

As I do a life analysis the immensity of the blessings in my life are overwhelming. It causes me to live my life out of a heart of gratitude. That is, “thanks-living”!

This morning I’m sitting on my Starbucks stool where I have written almost everyone of 1,100 posts. I’m tipping my baristas who know me by name, who know that I almost always get a tall Pike Place coffee, and know which stool I always sit on unless there’s an intruder. They will thank me for my tip, but they won’t quite understand how they bless me by setting the right mood for me to write in. Unless I’m substitute teaching I’m on this stool to start the day, facing out towards Pike’s Peak. That’s right, looking at Pike’s Peak drinking my Pike Place!

I notice that we live in a world— perhaps culture is a better term— where ungrateful people seem to be as common as the rabbit and squirrel populations in our neighborhood. There may be a connection between the level of ungratefulness and the epidemic of entitlement. 

I wish I could do a research project (but since I flunked Sociology 101 my first term of college I would be at a loss as to how to go about it) that could figure out the correlation between entitlement and ungratefulness. That would be interesting! An entitled person might respond that he’s entitled to feel ungrateful.

Back to thanks-living! Each day I’m aware of the grace of God upon me, his compassionate love. 

           Psalm 9:1 says “I will give thanks to you, Lord, with all my heart; I will tell of all your wonderful deeds.” Life is lived out of a heart full of gratitude. 

I realize that who I am today and how I live today has been greatly influenced by those in my past…my parents, both gone to glory…my wife, Carol, who calculates the cost of decisions with careful consternation ( A lot of “C” words in that statement!)…kids and grandkids, who bring the blessing of laughter to my life…and friends and mentors who have walked with me for parts of the journey. 

I see the handprints of James Payson Martin and Chuck Landon, my first two ministry mentors, upon how I practiced pastoring. I can hear the wisdom of my ministry colleagues, Chuck Moore, Tom Bayes, and Mark Sommers, as they advised and encouraged me through the years. I can count myself blessed to have friends like Dave Volitis, Ron McKinney, Ed and Diana Stucky, and Janet Smith, who bring a richness to my life.

Grumpiness is not an adjective that people would use in describing me. I wasn’t even grumpy when I was drinking the 128 ounces of liquid in preparation for my latest colonoscopy. I’m the reflection of my dad, who approached life with optimism, a smile, and a warm greeting. Perhaps that’s also why I’m a proponent for thanks-living.

And now, like tipping my baristas this morning, I seek to live out my thankfulness. It comes out uncomplicated most of the time, like saying “Good morning!” to each student who walks down the hallway at Timberview Middle School; taking Carol to 7-11 for her morning Diet Coke with crushed ice; and chuckling during the verbal exchanges with four year old granddaughter Corin that may cover the subjects of ballerina outfits, bugs, and building blocks all within a five minute time frame.

I’m completely consumed with thankful-living!

The Spilled Eggs of Life

November 24, 2019

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                 November 24, 2019

 

I’m into that phase of life that includes the word “spilling”. Spilling the shampoo, spilling the garbage, spilling the beans, spilling the gas as I put it in the lawnmower…you get the idea. I could insert another word in there like drop, fumble, miscalculated my grip, etc.

A couple of days ago I had prepared an awesome breakfast— hash browns cooked nice and crispy, bacon, toast— and I was ready to fry the eggs, sunny side up for Carol and over easy for myself. When I took the egg carton out of the refrigerator top shelf I erroneously grazed the side of the carton with the door and lost my grip. The full dozen validated the law of gravity and made a crash landing on the wooden floor. The styrofoam carton popped open as it hit and all twelve were thrown onto the floor. 

I kneeled down, hoping for survivors…well, survivors to cook up, I guess…but every single one of them had been broken. No yolk! (Sorry, bad pun!)

The runny egg whites had splayed across the floor, even splattering back onto the refrigerator door, like they were grasping for life. Carol came to look and she started laughing. I, on the other hand, did not have that initial reaction. After I cursed myself for having bad wide receiver hands, I debated whether breakfast could still be “scraped together.” (Bad pun #2.)

Four eggs, like a used car lot, looked driveable. Sunny side up and over easy were no longer options, but scrambled still worked. 

Carol was still laughing, and she soon brought me to the place of humor. “I wish I could have taken a picture before you cleaned them up,” she said with a chuckle. I was glad I had rushed to erase the evidence.

We’ve all spilled the eggs, in one way or another. That is, we’ve all fumbled situations and put on the coat of embarrassment. There are just some life-spills that you need to discard any thoughts of keeping your dignity and allow yourself to laugh. 

Like the time when I walked through an airport terminal to meet my friend, Artie Powers, and he let me know that I had left my barn door open. Several women who had passed me had smiled at me. I had been thinking that my manhood must have been looking pretty impressive. When I realized the smiles were because of a lowered zipper I turned red…and then laughed!

Sometimes you just have to laugh at the spilled eggs. What a crack up they are! (Bad pun #3)

So I scrambled up the best-looking four, placed them on our plates alongside the bacon, hash browns, and toast, and we feasted. 

My only unanswered question was wondering how those dark specks got into the eggs, because I know I hadn’t peppered mine!

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. 

A Man Before My Reality TV Time

October 30, 2019

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                   October 30, 2019

                           

I was born in 1954, about sixty years ahead of my time. With all the reality TV shows on these days I’ve figured out that a reality TV show about me, or my special quirks, is still in the future. If there can be a TV show about Doctor Pimple Popper, I’m sure I could have been just a couple of years removed from starring on screen with my nasty toenails and emerging aging spots.

In fact, looking back over my life I can come up with a long list of reality TV show ideas that I could have been featured in. For example, “College Prank-stars”! My creativity came out as I lived in various dormitories. I flunked Latin, but I would have “aced” laughter. Like when I put Orange Tang powder mix under the bed sheet of a friend down the hallway and then turned the heat up full blast. At three o’clock in the morning he woke up sweating and his back a sticky orange.

Or maybe a show called “Benevolent Bill”, where I’d pay it forward for the family’s McDonald’s order who are in front of me; or take care of the cost of the next person who comes into a Starbucks. The cameras could zoom in on their reactions. What would the Girl Scout think if I came up to her outside of the supermarket and bought her whole supply of cookies? Or left a fifty dollar bill as a tip for the hotel housekeeper! Or left a note for the trash collector guys saying, “No trash this week, but here’s four tickets to Saturday’s Nuggets game in the front row.”

What a hoot!

According to my wife I could star in a show called “Snore Roar”. One time she recorded me in the middle of the night. The house shook in the midst of the thunder. It could be a show with sub-plots like the grandkids being afraid to have a sleep-over and Carol shopping on Amazon for ear plugs. A spin-off show could be “Alas! He Has Gas!” Not proud of that one!

My study is loaded with books, so maybe I could star in a show entitled “Book Mo-Bill”! Each episode could be divided into a “give” part and a “receive” part. I wouldn’t be able to receive…or buy…a new book until I had given one or more away. Not sure it would take off, but I like the name for the show.

“Annoying Neighborhood Canines” would bring out one of my “pet peeves”! I’d walk around the neighborhood and have confrontational conversations with neighbors whose dogs bark constantly and leave their poop for other people to pick up. Networks seem to like those dramatic encounters and, Lord knows, our neighborhood has its share of barking dogs.

And finally, I think a hit show could be “Middle School Substitute Teacher”. It would be like a reincarnation of “Welcome Back, Kotter!”, the show that gave us, amongst other things, John Travolta! The quirks and personalities of 11 to 14 year olds would lend themselves to a never-ending supply of episode ideas. Think of it! Cafeteria conversations, principal office dialogues between administrators and offending students, middle school boys discovering deodorant sticks for the first time, and the perusing of the enormous “Lost and Found” tables. 

Yes, my reality TV hit shows are things of the future that someone else will star in. For now, I’ll just have to sit in my favorite Starbucks on my favorite stool (Last stool on the right, looking out at Pike’s Peak), drinking my Pike Place brew, and thinking about what could have been.

Middle School Weirdness

October 26, 2019

WORDS FROM W.W.                                              October 26, 2019

                           

When I walk down the halls of Timberview Middle School each day I’m taken back by the weirdness. The weirdness is a strange recipe mixture of cluelessness, pseudo-coolness, and a special spice of individuality. It goes like this:

“Mr. Wolfe, I can’t get my locker open and I’ve tried ten times.”

“Okay, let’s have a look.” We walk a few feet to a locker. “I see the problem.”

“What?”

“Your two inch thick backpack strap is hanging out like a human hand trying to escape jail.”

“Oh! So, you think that’s the problem?”

Then there’s the boys who take a clump of their hair and stand it up like a corn stalk with a rubber band or small scrunchie. If a boy wears a scrunchie around his wrist, evidently it means that he is “taken”! That is, a girl gives it to him because she likes him and he wears it to tell her he likes her back. Weird! The corn stalk hair, however, that just looks stupid.

The awesome kids who bring flavor to each of their teachers are offset by the few students who are committed to being bitter herbs in the midst of a great school day. They are the bite of “raw horseradish” in the midst of an apple pie. They come to school seeking to destroy class momentum and the grasp of concepts and ideas. One boy who makes me break out in hives has strengths in the areas of annoyance, immaturity, and inappropriate comments. He works well in a classroom all by himself, but in a classroom of 30 students he is determined to lead the Titanic into an iceberg. I have nightmares of a futuristic scene where he’s been cloned.

Then there’s the new fashion of jeans with rips and holes in them. Yesterday one girl had more holes than Swiss cheese in her pants. I remember the old days when my mom would iron on a patch over a hole in the knee of my jeans. A pair of jeans that needed a third patch ironed on meant it was time to go to J.C. Penney’s and buy a new pair. 

Weird! 

Yesterday a 7th Grade boy stood in front of his locker with an empty Dorito’s chip bag balanced on top of his head. I didn’t understand it, and I don’t think he did either.

There’s students who seem to have bathroom issues. That is, their need to go to the restroom happens about once every class period, but never during lunch and the few free minutes at the end of their lunch period. Put a mathematics calculation before them and they suddenly have irritable bowel syndrome. 

Every passing period there are a few students who walk down the hallway entirely focused on their cell phones. If the school hallway suddenly had a sinkhole they would be swallowed up…still looking at their cell phones until they hit the bottom. 

And in the midst of this climate of strange emerging adolescents are the teachers who seek to lead them to a brighter future through the jungles of their present. 

Elvis Singing to a Hearing Aid Crowd

October 22, 2019

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                October 22, 2019

                          

It was an older crowd.

To say that is to really make an understatement. A converted movie theatre turned into a concert venue would be a metaphor for the scene. Those arriving for the concert could be described in the same way: Old folk who still value music. 

After all, it was Elvis they were coming to see! Well, actually it was Donny Edwards, an Elvis impersonator, coming to New Bruefels, Texas.

We sat in the balcony with our friends, Dave and Donna Volitis. Several attendees with canes filed in and plopped down in seats around us. I noticed that hearing aids were a popular accessory for these folk, decorating the backside of their ears like ear rings and piercings. 

“Elvis” appeared on stage and began his first set of his songs from the “Fifties”. The couple to my left sang the words with the King. They knew them by heart, although their bodies didn’t gyrate like the legend in white did on stage.

Every time Elvis moved his hips the woman sitting in front of me, who was cozying up to 80, giggled and slapped her knee in sheer delight.

And then the white hairs and “keenagers” started making their way towards the stage. Elvis would lean over in the midst of his song and receive a kiss on the cheek from each one of them. He did a lot of leaning during the performance and they did a lot of cheek smooching. 

The crowd swayed from time to time…from their sitting positions! 

He sang close to 30 songs during the evening, working up a good sweat and handing out a few scarfs with his perspiration on it. 

And then the crowd hobbled out, assured of feeling joint pain the next day as the adrenalin wore off. 

And it hit me! Most of the attendees had been teenagers when Elvis had burst on the scene. If only for a couple of hours, they were reliving their youth. Memories of “Return to Sender” and “Love Me Tender” still could be heard in their hearts. And, for a night in New Bruefels, the King lived!

Hide and Scare

October 12, 2019

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                        October 12, 2019

                                      

There are certain events and traditions that each of our families practice that stand out in our minds. We remember them years later and long to return to those moments. They aren’t necessarily Grand Canyon pictures, but rather shared experiences that still reach down and touch our hearts.

Simplicity may define them. I remember family Monopoly games in my growing up years. I remember my sister hiding some of her play money under her legs to make her brothers believe she was a Monopoly welfare recipient.

I remember riding in the family car to Paintsville, Kentucky. The road was almost as curvy as Hawaii’s “Road to Hana”, so Mom would make each of the kids take a Dramamine before we left Winchester. 

For Carol and me, we’ll always remember hiding the Christmas presents in the freezer in the garage. The freezer no longer worked, but it worked as the depository for toys bought at summer garage sales. 

We’ll remember February and March spring break trips to her parents, Richard and Barbara Faletti, living in the Phoenix area; and we’ll remember my mom always greeting the kids with the statement “Give me some sugar!” Our oldest daughter, Kecia, got into the tradition of bringing her a sugar packet in response.

We’ll remember Christmas Eve Candlelight services at church and countless soccer games for all three kids. We’ll remember all of our cats, all named by the kids: Tickles, Prince Charming Kisses, Katie Katie CoCo Puffs, Duke. and Princess Malibu (Boo). I have no idea how the name “Duke” appeared in the midst of the rest. It must have been David’s choice. He was prone to being short and to the point. 

We’ll always remember Lizi having a piece of pizza sausage stuck to her cheek, totally unaware of its attachment.

And NOW, new traditions are being formed. One of them involves the three older grandkids (Older, because #4 made his debut on September 19…yes, 9/19/19! A palindrome!). We now play a game at their mom’s house that they’ve call “Hide and Scare.” 

Here are the simple rules. Granddad (That’s me!) goes and finds a hiding place while the grandkids count to fifty in the main level bathroom. On the mention of “fifty” they come searching. Grandad is expected to hide in a different place each time…closets, behind shower curtains, around corners, in the pantry…and he is also expected to do things that make it scarier, like closing all the doors to all the upstairs bedrooms and placing decoys under blankets to fool the searchers. 

“Hide and Scare” went on for an hour yesterday. I got my steps in going up and down the stairway. Each hiding moment was culminated with “the scare”, jumping out of the closet with a scary yell that sent the searchers squealing and then laughing back to the main level restroom where the whole sequence would begin again. Granddad is expected to give a monster-like cry at the least likely moment. 

It’s something that they will remember, and years from now they will think back to those moments and have a moment of inner giggling. 

You see, we have a habit of not remembering, and it’s the remembrances that get lost in the busyness of life that bring a sweetness to it. Sometimes our approach in the present has a soured feel to it, blind to the blessings in our past. Perhaps we need someone to request that we “give them some sugar”, or, better yet, we need the sweet memory of a granddad standing in a closet waiting for the anxious moment of giggling grandkids to discover his hiding place.