Archive for the ‘Grace’ category

Dad’s Day Without Dad

June 17, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                June 17, 2018

                                 

It’s a weird feeling this morning! Today is the first Father’s Day I’ve experienced without Dad! He passed away four months ago at the wise old age of 89. Tomorrow would have been his 90th birthday. there’s

Dad has always been there. Though we were separated by five states his presence never seemed to be far away. Our Sunday night phone chats became our routine. When he didn’t answer his phone I worried…so I’d call my sister to see if he was okay. More times than I can remember he’d call me back as I’d be talking to her. I’d switch calls over to him and after answering he’d give his customary reply: “Well, hi son!”

“Did I get you at a bad time, Pops?”

“Well, I was on the pot!” He would say it like it was an unusual occurrence. 

Today, however, things have changed. It’s Father’s Day without Dad. It has the feel of eating fried chicken without also having mashed potatoes and gravy. Kind of strange and empty. 

My dad was a consistent man of faith, an even-paced Jesus journeyer. Through all his radiation treatments for cancerous growths on his ear, nose, and bladder, he never lost his humor and lightheartedness. The radiation technicians at St. Mary’s Hospital loved on him, enjoyed him, and treated him like their own father. When his name was called to come on back from the waiting area for his radiation “zap moment” of the morning he would always have a word for the attendant that would bring a chuckle and a smile. It’s how he was. His bouts with cancer weren’t seen as being setbacks, but rather moments in his journey.

When I became a father back in 1981, like any first-time dad, I had the deer-in-headlights look. What do I do? What don’t I do? I had taken a class back when I was a student at Judson College, taught by Professor Ted Hsieh, entitled “Marriage and The Family”. I still have the notes from that class, and I was tempted, when Kecia Corin Wolfe arrived, to get the lecture notes on parenthood back out and do a quick review. Instead, however, I looked into the mirror of my memories of Dad. What would Dad do? What did Dad do? How I fathered my own three children had the imprint of his parenting impression of us.

And so today I’m living with his memories, impacted by his personality. I’ll go out for a run this afternoon and wear the University of Kentucky hat that was his. As I’m huffing and puffing it will seem like he is close at hand. As my feet trudge along I’ll recall some of my favorite “Pops Stories” that I listened to numerous times, and yet, never tired of the warmth they would bring to my soul. 

It’s just weird! Dad’s Day without Dad…it sounds like the title of a horror film! In essence, it’s simply where I am on my journey, a place of wonderful memories and an aching grief.

Encouraging the Untalented

June 10, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                          June 10, 2018

                                

In all my years of coaching multiple sports I’ve had numerous athletes who were extremely talented…and I’ve also had numerous athletes who were incredibly untalented!

-Kids who get positioned in right field

            -Kids who play a forward in soccer because you would rather play great defense than score goals.

-Kids who can’t walk and chew gum at the same time.

-Kids who you could use a sun dial in timing their 100 yard dash.

-Kids who have great attitudes and no athletic skill.

In our sports-crazed world there seem to be more non-athletic, untalented participants lacing up the sneakers and putting on the pads.

I remember one young man on the middle school football team I coached. In practice one day he was playing defensive cornerback. He was about as far away from the action as he could possibly be and still be standing on the field. I suggested that he move in closer since there wasn’t even a wide receiver on his side of the field. All five feet one inch of him looked at me and said, “No, I’m okay!”

Or there was the foreign exchange student one year on the Girl’s JV team I coached. She had never played basketball, plus she had gotten out of line the day God passed out athleticism. If she shot the ball it had a better chance of getting stuck in the rafters than going in the basket. Her accuracy never improved during the season, although she did come to understand that the team with the ball was on offense and the team that didn’t have the ball was on defense. Running down the court without dribbling the ball meant that you suddenly would no longer be on offense and once again be…on defense! She came to realize this from personal experience.

I had a young man who would be the first one to show up for open gyms but couldn’t make a layup if his life depended on it. When he asked me if he was improving I replied, “Well, I can’t fault your effort!”

Every coach has the untalented kid who wants to be on the team. It becomes an exercise in patience as they struggle through the simplest drills that focus on fundamentals. Often they are the also the nicest, most well-behaved kids. They are the ones that you grieve over cutting, but know “there ain’t no way” you can keep them on the basketball team!

I try to find ways to encourage students who fall into this category, engaging them in conversation that shows I see them as persons of value. At the end of a tryout practice I may ask one of them to “get us a team break”.” I applaud their effort. When I post the basketball roster I try to be ready to give an evaluation to anyone who asks for it, what they can work on as well as a couple of positive points. I also try to communicate the importance of being a team manager or someone who keep stats. This past year I had one boy who didn’t make my basketball team, but I convinced to keep game stats. He’s a great kid who was disappointed in not making the roster, but saw how he was valued in a different role.

Often I encounter kids who are not as invested in athletic success as their parents are. There’s the parental pressure to change Lenny into LeBron…and Lenny would prefer to just be Lenny! 

There’s a lot of pressure on kids these days to be someone that they aren’t. It seems that only certain roles and specific achievements are valued, while others are ignored. 

As a coach, however, I hold to a certain principle: It is not necessary for an awesome kids to have a ball in his/her hands to still be great!

The Rewrite

June 8, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                   June 8, 2018

                                            

Last night I finished rewriting my book. The overall content didn’t change, but the way things were said differed from the first draft. It’s interesting to be able to rewrite your words. The second time through has much more contemplation in it, more refitting of words and phrases as if it’s a jigsaw puzzle.

The parallels of rewriting a novel and redoing one’s life are many. Oh, that each one of us could rewrite certain life scenes! We all have had those conversations in our past that have altered the fluidness of our life’s direction, words that continue to haunt us!

Sometimes the damage and pain from those original words and doings wake us up to the wayward course of our life. For some of us it DOES take us back to a new beginning, a redo cleansed by forgiveness and simmered in grace. Most of us, however, never have the opportunity to rewrite the story, noticing the errors and perfecting the script. We live with the “What ifs..” and grieve about the “Why did I’s…?”

God’s grace can be viewed as setting a blank page before us and telling us to try again, that the flawed original has been crumpled up and a new possibility has been placed in front of us. 

Yes, I know! People don’t forget, but God forgets the errors of a truly repentant heart. In a way He says “I believe there is a masterpiece within you. Try writing it again!”

The Roseannes At Starbucks

May 30, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                           May 30, 2018

                          

Yes, I frequent Starbucks…like, right now! I can’t say enough about the baristas at the coffee cafe I visit six days a week. I know them by name- Steph, Rhea, Sarah, Chase, Cody, Viv, Kallie, Katherine, and Katie. 

Rhea began taking online classes with Arizona State in January and I edited a couple of English Composition papers for her. Sarah and I share family pictures together. Katie always greets me with a smile, like I’m someone she’s happy to see. Cody would be friendly to a rock. His break times are spent sitting with customers and talking about life.

They are great people who frequently are called upon to serve others who are demanding, obnoxious, judgmental, and entitled. 

The pace is furious. I was trying to share a story with Rhea one day about something that had happened at school and it took me another three days of visits to be able to finish it! 

Starbucks closed 8,000 stores on Tuesday for a four hour employees’ training session on anti-bias. The company’s decision to conduct the training grew out of a situation in a Philadelphia Starbucks where two black men, who were waiting at the store to meet a friend, ended up being arrested. An employee had called the police about the men hanging around the store. The incident quickly gained nationwide attention. 

Racial stereotyping is not something I’m comfortable with. However, I am acutely aware of how I stereotype elderly people who are behind the steering wheel of a car, how I stereotype anyone who drives a BMW, anyone who plays basketball at a certain high school close to us, any guy who is “sagging”, anyone wearing a Michigan Wolverines tee shirt, or anyone who drops “F” bombs as easily as exhaling.

This post is to come alongside my baristas and say that they have to deal the Roseanne Barrs of the world on a daily basis. My barista, Chase, who has several tattoos, told me of a woman who ordered coffee one morning and told him his tattoos were an abomination to God. She was on her way to church. I apologized to Chase for having to be subjected to someone who felt she had to be God’s mouthpiece.

Were we surprised by Roseanne Barr’s tweets? Twenty-five years ago this week she made a mockery of the national anthem that she “kinda’-sung” before a San Diego Padres baseball game. She thought it was funny! Do we think she spent the past twenty-five years getting proper and well-mannered?

Everyday my baristas deal with the Roseannes of our area with patience and hospitable spirits. Perhaps Starbucks should consider another training session, but this time offer it for all those folk on this side of the counter who feel they have a license to kill-verbally, treat the employees like dirt, and don’t think their poop stinks!

Expected Grace

May 27, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                     May, 27, 2018

                                       

It’s only a logo!

A local high school swim team lost the state championship because of a logo that was too big!

The logo was about twice the size of what a legally-sized logo is to be. The coach of the team filed a protest, not about the logo size, but because a swim referee had inadvertently placed the relay team that the swimmer was on in the finals of the event. The disqualification had come in a preliminary heat. The relay team’s time in the preliminary heat was the best qualifying time of all the teams competing. If they had competed in the relay final (legally) they would have won the state championship by placing eighth or higher.

A Colorado High School Activities Association official said that the swimsuit guidelines were stated at the coach’s meeting before any of the competition began. The guidelines were not new. They had been in effect all season. Swimmers who had suits that might be illegal were invited to bring them to the meet officials for determining their status. Four swimmers did, but not the swimmer from the relay team that was disqualified.

When I officiated high school basketball we were charged with not allowing players to “roll their shorts.” The players knew the rule and the coaches knew the rule, but there always seemed to be a few who tried to roll their shorts anyway. As a basketball coach I’m charged with making sure my players are in compliance of the same uniform rule, although a couple of 7th Grade players on one of my teams this past year were rolling their shorts because their height made the shorts look like pants. 

Rules are important in sports. Although not always understood, their purpose is to help provide a level playing field and keep the focus on the game, not the things that detract from it.

Rules are meant to make clear what is acceptable and what is not acceptable. Grace is not a part of a sport’s laws. It does not come into play when a violation in an athletic contest takes place.

And there lies the problem! Not with the rules or the sport, but with people’s expectation of there being grace. There’s a certain attitude that gets conveyed many times by parents, athletes, and coaches that errors are to be overlooked. That grace is expected, not hoped for! Such an understanding of what grace is pollutes its specialness, its uniqueness. For grace to be grace it must come unexpectedly. It must be surprising. 

In sports the absence of rules promotes chaos, and the expectation of grace results in a widening ring of indifference towards what those rules are meant to enforce. 

It’s only a logo!

Yes, it is! It is only a logo that could have easily been changed out for another swim suit that was legal. 

Report From A Rookie Writer

May 18, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                          May 18, 2018

                               

Day 3 of the Christian Writer’s Conference is upon me. There are a lot of people here just like me, hoping and praying that some editor or agent likes their manuscript or idea for a book so much that they hand them a business card and say, “Send it to me!”

That happened in my first appointment yesterday, and I could sense the rising up of tears. Not all of my 15 minute appointments ended up like that, but a couple did. I have two more today and one tomorrow.

It was encouraging to hear the leader of our Fiction Intensive Clinic say that there were many more who applied to be in that group who were sent letters saying “Sorry!” He told the six of us that were accepted that although each of us had things to work on there was potential in each of our writings to be taken to the next level. 

The group spends an hour on each of the admissions, which are usually about the first 10-14 pages of the manuscript. My turn comes Saturday morning and then I will have a half hour Saturday afternoon with the instructor.

This conference is about learning- learning to write more effectively, learning that there are other aspects to getting a book published besides pecking out 100,000 words on my AirBook, learning new terminology, and learning many of the little things that raise a writer’s readability level. 

I’m also learning that it’s necessary to risk. Coming here is risky, because you may get trampled on. Years ago, my fiction clinic instructor was ready to walk out of the same conference because he was so discouraged, but the conference coordinator got a hold of him and gave him a word of encouragement. Years later he’s now the fiction class leader, and author of a number of books. 

There are other conference first-timers here, just like me, but the bulk of the attendees have been coming to this conference for years. They know what to do and where to go. There’s been a few times where I’ve looked like a new freshman standing in the hallway of his new highs chool trying to figure out where the Band Room is.

We all come with stories that we think are the best thing since sliced bread. They are our babies that we want to protect. Having someone suggest that a writer might change the story or the wording sometimes feels like another person telling you to change the way you parent your baby.

Through it all, I’ve become more thankful for the God who leads and guides us and the people he brings along the path to walk with us. 

Writer’s Conference Anxiety

May 15, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                     May 15, 2018

                              

The Estes Park Christian Writer’s Conference is one day away and I’m feeling like a jittery five year old about to hug his mom and walk with shaking knees into his kindergarten class for the first day of school. What will happen? What if I have to go to the bathroom? What if I fall on the playground and skin my knee, or tip over the building blocks accidentally? What if my teacher doesn’t like me and makes me stand in the corner?

Kindergarten questions simply get redressed into grownup worries. As I head to the conference the questions cloud my mind like the halo on top of Pike’s Peak this morning. 

What if my clinic teacher tells me that my writing really sucks? What if they use literary terms that I have no clue about? What is the people there are about half a bubble off center…you know, the elevator doesn’t go to the top floor? What if I have to go to the bathroom really bad? (As you can tell, I’m a bit concerned about taking care of “my business!”) What if I get asked a question and my mind goes as blank as a stare? What if I get Gordon Ramsay for an instructor, complete with English accent and expletives? 

When you have never experienced something you begin to let your mind wander to dark places. 

I WAS accepted as one of six people in the Fiction Intensive Clinic. I had to send my book synopsis and first chapter to the clinic teacher about two months ago and the six of us that were accepted were notified at the end of April. Each of us now has the first chapter and synopsis of the others in the group. There will be some major critiquing and, hopefully, encouragement as we learn about writing tendencies and bad habits. 

I will have appointments with a few literary agents, with hopes that someone will be interested in my book enough to express desire in getting it in front of some publishers. In the midst of this is some personal pride about the story I’ve created, the characters I’ve come to love, and the value of the message that the book brings. My stomach becomes a bit queasy thinking that I’ve written four hundred pages that might get trashed. Actually, I’ve written eight hundred plus pages, because the sequel to the first book has already had its first draft finished. The third book has already been started. Through the pages of type I’ve come to love the characters like the ninth grader, Randy Bowman, and his seventh grade neighbor and friend, Ethan Thomas. It hit me a while ago that I WAS Ethan Thomas in seventh grade and I wanted to be Randy Bowman when I was a freshman. In the course of the first two books Randy helps Ethan become more than he ever thought he could be, a kid easily unseen in the midst of his school who is mentored and befriended towards the discovery of potential and value. 

And, that is also why there is anxiety about this new experience. I’m all in with the story! Like a fourteen year old who discovers his name is not on the list of players who made the basketball team, I’m trying to brace myself for the possibility of disappointment, but also hold out hope that…something just might happen!

Regardless, I believe that God has orchestrated this moment. I’m just hoping that it doesn’t sound like a harmonica in the midst of a wind ensemble!