Archive for the ‘marriage’ category

Outsmarted By A Coffee Cup

November 14, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                               November 14, 2017

                                  

It used to be that I was in the top forty per cent of intelligent people in my household, depending on which of the kids were home! Things have changed. Since Carol and I are empty nesters I’m in the bottom half of “smarts.” Even more than that, however, we have been accumulating various devices, appliances, and controls that are smarter than me. If I was a middle school student I would qualify for special educational services due to how low I am on the intelligence testing chart.

This morning I noticed that Starbucks has a ceramic coffee cup that can be programmed to keep your coffee hot. It connects to an app on your cell phone…note the name! Smart Phone!…and assures you, through the use of WiFi of a constant sipping of hot brew. It uses WiFi! I don’t even understand WiFi, but this coffee cup does! If I decide to purchase one of these mugs my coffee cup will be smarter than I am! It allows you to choose the temperature that you desire, the time you would like it hot, cooks dinner for you, figures out your taxes, etc…

I enjoy the convenience of my smart devices, but also miss the old days when I knew I was higher up on the IQ meter; the days when I knew I was more intelligent than my rake, shovel, broom, and…, okay…well at least my rake, shovel, and broom! Oh, and also the big rock that I would put in front of the door to hold it open! I was smarter than a rock!

To make us feel good about ourselves we keep a dumb toaster oven around. It can’t seem to figure out when the toast is burning. I was warming up some tortilla chips yesterday and they ended up looking like a picture of an Old Testament sacrificial burnt offering! Who would ever have thought that I would feel a bit better about myself as a result of charred tortilla chips?

The world is a smart place populated with an abundance of moronic people. I now shy away from devices or areas that make me feel like an idiot…a list that seems to be growing rapidly. If the cable TV goes out I exit the room and pretend to be unaware of the problem. If our programmed thermostat seems to be off kilter I just leave the house for a while. I avoid conflict, especially with devices that don’t want to cooperate.

I’ve got my eye on the ceramic coffee cup still. I’m intrigued. It’s slowly drawing me into the possibility of convenience. The question, however, is what would I do with my thermo-plastic coffee mug held together with duct tape that I’ve sipped from for 25 years? The coffee has always seemed to taste better from it.

When Your Daughter Turns 36

November 8, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                             November 8, 2017

                                  

Today is the birthday of my oldest daughter, Kecia Corin (Wolfe) Hodges. She hit the three followed by the six this morning at 1:21 a.m. Being considerate of her pastor dad, she waited until early that Sunday morning back in 1981 to join her parents. I went to church that day bleary-eyed but on Cloud Nine!

Thirty-six years later she parents three amazing kids who have enormous amounts of energy, teaches fourth graders, and keeps her husband organized.

Kecia has always had a creative side to her. When she was ten she went on a mission trip with me to Keams Canyon, Arizona. We had a great week, but the two of us left a day before everyone else on our team, heading back to Michigan so that I could be there for Sunday morning worship. I’ll always remember her entertaining herself in the long, long, long car ride back making a McDonald’s Happy Meal out of paper, crayons, and a pair of scissors. She was detailed to the point of making individual french fries and inserting them in the made-to-order container. That creativity has also blessed several hundred fourth grade students over the years. Even though teaching has become more challenging in recent years due to dysfunctional families, helicopter parents, and prima donna students, she is passionate about it. Her guiding question is “how can I help my students be fully engaged in learning what needs to be taught?”

Kecia is a great mom. Make no mistake about it, she rules the house! Not like a dictator, but rather as a shepherd leading the flock in the journey that includes stumbles, celebrations, problems to solve, and new adventures to tackle.

And today she begins to tip the age scale towards forty and less towards thirty! Ironically, in my mind she’s still more like twenty-five. Her mind is youthful. She’s more optimistic about life than pessimistic about people. Even though her classroom gets several challenging students each year the frustrations of teaching have not hardened her to the purpose or hazed over the mission.

She’s a great daughter! Carol and I feel that she deeply respects and loves us. She trusts our wisdom and suggestions. We are thrilled by every encounter we have with her.

Thirty-six years ago when she arrived in this world there was a Code Blue that went out. She had swallowed some fluid in the birthing process, and we remember her being treated on the infant table over in the corner of the birthing room. Carol and I held hands and uttered a prayer. This was our firstborn who was teetering on the rim between life and death.

And then we heard the lungs give a cry, and tears flowed from our eyes a few feet away. God gifted her to us and he has used her these past thirty-six years to bless the lives of numerous people.

In fact, I’m tearing up again! Happy Birthday, Kecia!

Hearing My Parents Speaking…Through Me!

October 29, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                        October 29, 2017

                      

My mom passed away four years ago but I heard her voice this past week! It came up through my lungs and spoke to the seventh grade boy standing in front of me. He had made an unwise choice because some of his friends had made the same choice before him. In other words, since his friends had done something stupid he decided to do the same stupid thing. Before I knew it my mom spoke to him.

“If everyone else jumps off the roof are you going to jump off, too?”

There she was, coming back to life through her youngest child!

I find that happening a lot these days, especially as I deal with middle schoolers.

“Were you born in a barn? Close the door!”

Once in a while my mom’s voice comes through as I’m approaching my wife and I say to her, “Kiss me, slobber lips! I can swim!” When my mom would say that to my dad he would pucker up. With Carol, however, there is a quick retreat to a different room in the house.

My dad often begins a statement or comment with the word “Well”. “Well, I was at the store last week and bought some Kahn’s Bologna!” “Well, there was a time when we didn’t have anything but beans to eat for dinner.”

Now I find myself saying “Well…” as often as I swallow.

I look at a dinner bowl with a little bit of food left in it and hear my mom behind me saying, “Bill, eat this last bite. There’s just enough left in it to dirty the dishwater.” I hear that even though we haven’t filled the sink with dishwater for ages. We use the dishwasher!

I look at my shoes sitting in the floor and have echoes of the evaluation I would receive growing up: “Bill, get in here and clean up this room. It looks like a cyclone hit it!”

This past week a seventh grader who was a little full of himself was dictating something to a classmate…and I said it. “Who died and made you king?” A little later I refused a request from the same student and when he asked me why…the words flowed out of me as naturally as water out of the kitchen faucet. “Because I said so, and that’s the only reason you need!”

I am the product of my parents. When I was a teenager I probably would have punched someone if he said to me “You’re just like your dad!” But now I’d take such words directed at me as a compliment!

Missing God

September 30, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                    September 30, 2017

                                             

Carol and I were driving home from a wedding recently and she said to me, “I think that’s the first wedding I’ve been to where God was never mentioned.”

“You’re right! No prayers, no blessings, nothing with any spiritual meaning to it!”

Of course, why invite the presence of God if he isn’t a part of your life? Seems a bit contradictory to do that! At least this couple was being authentic in their ceremony. How many other marriage ceremonies have been spiritual in appearance, but the One who created love goes missing afterwards?

I don’t want to create a whole divine conspiracy on the basis of God not being invited to one marriage ceremony I attend, but I think we’d be idiots to think that the importance of the Almighty has not taken a dip! In many lives he’s segregated from the daily routines and opportunities. He’s like Uncle Fred who never gets invited to family gatherings any more because no one feels comfortable around him.

Instead of God being at the center of our lives many of us now look for how he might fit into our lives. He’s like that weird puzzle piece that needs to go somewhere, but I’ll put it to the side until most of the rest of my puzzled life gets put together.

The secular wedding ceremony was like a wake up call for me. In what areas of my life do I relegate God to the luggage rack, attached to the top of the vehicle of my life but strapped to a place where I can’t hear him?

In what ways am I “faking it” with my Jesus journey?

In what ways is the church faking it? In what ways is the church hindering the relevance of the spiritual faith of its people?

Those are all tough questions which are being asked by less and less people the more God goes missing.

Years ago one of the young ladies on my basketball team responded to a directive I gave to the team before the season started. I had told them that if any of them had boyfriends that they were to put them on the back burner for the next three months. This delightful young lady (who is now in law school) looked at me and said, “Coach, boyfriends are like a pocketbook. They’re just an accessory!” We still laugh at that storyline years later!

But, you know something! God has become an accessory for many of us, and has been easily shoved to the back burner!

38 Years!

July 28, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                             July 28, 2017

                                         

38 is a weird number…illegal for any basketball jersey except the NBA! Rarely…okay, never requested by one of my middle school football players! I went and asked Google who was the best NFL player to wear the number 38 and got George Rogers of the New Orleans Saints. A good player, but not exactly someone who easily comes to mind! #39 is Larry Csonka, that one I could remember!

But today is a special 38. It’s our 38th wedding anniversary. On July 28, 1979 Carol Falettu and I joined hands at the front of the sanctuary of Community Presbyterian Church in Clarendon Hills, Illinois. Much of the day was a blur for me. I knew what I was doing…and yet, I didn’t know what I was doing! You know what I mean? Kind of like when a young boy goes in for his first kiss. He knows what he’s doing, and yet he doesn’t…and back in my day there were no YouTube videos for instruction!

I met her at the front of the sanctuary. My seminary roommate and friend, Randy Saunders, performed the ceremony. Two weeks later I officiated at his wedding. Unfortunately, a few years later he and Marlene split up.

My six groomsmen lined up to my left as I looked down the aisle. David “Hugo” Hughes stood beside me as my best man. A year later I’d preside over his wedding ceremony. A couple hundred people were there…I think! Doug Loomer sang and played his guitar, like we were two flower children merging together. I remember Don Francisco’s “The Wedding Song”, a Summer of ’79 wedding favorite!

Carol was radiant as her dad escorted her down the aisle. I could tell she was nervous and excited, and maybe wondering what in the world she was doing marrying a Baptist minister who was going to move her to Michigan? Just three years before she had been teaching pre-school deaf children in a Victoria, Texas school. She couldn’t have envisioned this day three years later when Rev. William D. Wolfe would promise her the moon…or, at least, his devotion!

I brought…not much into the marriage. A ’66’ Chrysler Newport given to me by my parents, a bunch of seminary books, leisure suits, and a toaster. When I had graduated from Northern Baptist Seminary about seven weeks earlier I didn’t even have to rent a U-Haul to transport my belongings to my first full-time ministry position in Davison, Michigan. Carol was the one with the wealth! She even had a couch, a twin-size mattress, and a twelve inch black-and-white TV! She was loaded! Her Mustang Fastback was hot, just like she was! In essence, we were a two-car family. We didn’t have two of anything else except toothbrushes and forks, but we had two vehicles!

On that wedding day we looked into each other’s eyes, glistened over with moistness, and vowed words to each other that dealt with devotion, perseverance, wanting the best for one another, and journeying hand in hand for the rest of our life together. We were naive’ and completely in love, but not completely naive’! I was marrying the third daughter of an Italian-American father and North Dakotan Mom. In my family “whine” was prominent at the dinner table growing up as we surveyed the dinner of neck bones, green beans, and boiled potatoes. In Carol’s family “wine” was prominent at dinner, and I don’t think she ever had to look at a pot of neck bones!

An unusual union, the two of us, but it’s worked in the midst of church drama and church celebrations, being surrounded by saintly people and people who ain’t! One of those saints, Rex Davis, loved a certain restaurant in Colorado Springs. When he passed away last fall at 95 and I was asked to do the funeral service, his family gave me a gift card to that favorite restaurant. We’ll celebrate our anniversary there tonight, thinking of him and all the other people who have graced our lives in this journey that has more often than not resembled Lake Wobegon comedy instead of Chicago drama!

Three kids, all grown and pursuing their purposes in life…three grandkids, who seem to have more energy than Colorado Springs Utilities…and an abundance, a multitude of friends who we cherish and love!  Marriage is not just two people. It is two people taking the lead in a caravan of hundreds who have journeyed with them.

Both Carol and I would undoubtedly say we have been, and are, blessed! We have now been married sixty per cent of our lives to one another! There will be no “whine”, or neck bones, at our table tonight, but perhaps a bit of “wine!”

Up Yours: Colonoscopy Highlights

July 27, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                July 27, 2017

                 

I had procrastinated more than a frantic income tax filer looking at his empty forms on April 15. There’s just something about having someone stick something up your butt that is a little uncomfortable to my personal space! And so instead of waiting ten years since my last venture into Wonderland it had been almost twelve years since I shook hands with my gastroenterologist! As he extended his hand to me I hesitated for a moment. I had memories of a story my dad has told me several times of an equine veterinarian back in Kentucky who always walked around with a cigar in his mouth. Some men had called him about a horse that was having problems. The horse doctor knew right away that the animal was just plugged up…in other words, constipated… and he reached his hand “up there”, helped the horse get cleared out, and then, with the same hand, took his cigar out of his mouth to say a few things before sticking it back in his mouth. The men who needed his assistance promptly went around to the side of the barn and threw up.

And so with that memorable story in my mind I hesitated for a moment before shaking hands. His right hand looked clean so I shook it!

When we leave on vacation we prep for it by packing our suitcase. For a colonoscopy I had to “unpack.” 128 ounces of Powerade with a bottle of powdered laxative called Miralax. Their parade down to my inners was preceded by taking four pills that must have been like “scouts” going ahead of the fluid army to scope out the territory.

Being a smart and wise person I had bought a pack of ultra gentle toilet paper earlier that day!

Before the scout pills and the fluid army began their assault, I had spent the previous day abstaining from pretty much anything that I would classify as normal food. Carol fixed a bowl of lime jello, which I stared at as it sat in the refrigerator. It is still sitting there in the refrigerator, firmly anchored away from my interest. I had a cup of chicken broth and pretended I was sipping won ton soup…minus the won ton! Always being a cream and sugar coffee person I drank two cups of coffee that morning…black! Just about everything in our refrigerator and freezer had received amnesty from being consumed by me! I could hear the package of Nathan’s hot dogs mocking me: “You’re no Joey Chestnut, that’s for sure!”

And then the first wave of the Powerade force marched through me with a vengeance. I played Word With Friends as I awaited the next assault.

A 4 A.M. initiative was planned for the second wave of Powerade infusion! The last remnants of whatever the assault fluid ounces were meant to clear out finally gave up the ghost. By 7:30 A.M. I was thanking God for the invention of ultra gentle TP! Feeling light on my feet we walked out to the car to make the journey.

As we entered the office of the gastroenterologist I noticed that they had a little merchandise section…kind of like Cracker Barrel, but without the smell of bacon in the air…with various memorabilia to buy to help you remember the experience. A tee shirt with the words “Up Yours!” was prominently displayed. A beer mug with “Bottom’s Up!” didn’t seem to be a threat to disappear from the shelf. I like jigsaw puzzles, but the one of the GI tract did not peak my interest! Neither was the for sale DVD on “The Inner Workings of a Colonoscopy!”

You can only window shop for so long in a place such as that, and when I was called to come on back to one of the waiting rooms I breathed a sigh of relief. And then they gave me presents! A sweet little pair of shorts with an opening in the back. For some odd reason it made me think of that classic movie, Rear Window! They also gave me a nice pair of “no slip” socks that I decided I didn’t need. But, hey! Our wedding anniversary was just two days away so I had Carol’s present taken care of! Awesome!

And then they rolled me back, gave me an awesome anesthetic that put me out in fifteen seconds. Before I knew it I was back in my waiting room and it “was all behind me!” I had made it!

But (one “t”) now for the most important and the only serious part of the adventure! The doctor discovered a good size polyp in my colon. Because of that I’ll need to have another colonoscopy in two years, and he said this. “It was pre-cancerous! In another five to six years, if you hadn’t taken car of this, you’d be looking at colon cancer!”

So in July of 2019 I’ll gladly welcome another invasion of “Powerade and friends”, drink black coffee, stare at lime jello, and put another sweet little pair of shorts on…and I’ll consider myself blessed!

Wedding Guests

July 23, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                               July 23, 2017

                                       

A week before her wedding was to take place Sarah Cummins and her fiancee called it off. A blow to the ego and a stab to the heart, but it was over! Wedding guests were contacted to alert them to the news. A host of details were scratched off the list that no longer had to be worried about, and a few were added as happens whenever something gets canceled.

But…Sarah was still on the hook for the wedding reception at an upscale reception location, and she did not want the $30,000 to go to waste, so she did something that drew national attention. She invited the homeless for a dinner party.

The venue booked for a plated dinner for 170 featured bourbon-glazed meatballs, roasted garlic bruschetta, and wedding cake. Several local businesses and residents donated suits, dresses, and other items for the guests to wear.

Sarah greeted and welcomed each of her guests when they arrived, including a dozen veterans.

And they partied!

Cummins made this comment. “For me, it was an opportunity to let these people know they deserved to be at a place like this just as much as everyone else does.”

Matthew 22 has a story about a wedding banquet. Although it has a few twists and turns, and disturbing points that Jesus puts into the parable to make a point, it ultimately gets to the same place that Sarah Cummins came to. As it says, “So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, the bad as well as the good and the wedding hall was filled with guests.” (Matthew 22:10)

     How do you turn a wedding reception into a non-stuffy party? Invite the people that are usually pushed to the side so that the reception can take place. Invite the people who live outside the margins of the acceptable, the ones who are expected to wait in the shadows and not be seen.

I wish there was a follow-up story on Sarah Cummins…like, maybe a year from now, because I’m curious how this unanticipated act of generosity impacts her life more than her bank account balance? What will be the ripple effect of her valuing of the disadvantaged?

And in one of those parallel ways, isn’t this a picture of the gospel? That those who had been distanced from God by the judgment of the righteous or, if you will, the original invited, are invited to join the party because the love of God is for everyone, not just a few!

In the heartache of a broken engagement I pray that Sarah Cummins will experience and abundance of blessings, that the smiling faces of the simple folk will continue to make her chuckle, and the tears of joy of the down-and-out will drench her sorrows and warm her soul.