Archive for the ‘Story’ category

The Perseverance of Integrity

April 24, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                        April 24, 2018

                           

“…because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:3-4)

Yesterday I was talking to a man who I’ve known for a number of years, coached with, and felt honored that he refers to me as his friend. He recently had resigned his head coaching position, and it is still a painful time for him. His wins-losses record had not been stellar, and the decision to resign came after his administration had voiced their disgruntlement.

After we had talked for some time I looked at him and I said, “Coach, I have the greatest respect for you, always have! In the midst of adversity your integrity has persevered. You could have done things outside of the rules and perhaps, because of that, won a few more games, but you chose the way of integrity.”

He thanked me. My heart went out to him, because the coaching ranks has lost one of the people you want your kids to be influenced by. Sometimes, however, integrity must persevere through rough waters. It’s in the midst of the rolling waves that many people lose their way and become uprooted from the positive values and morals that get preached, but then forgotten.

We all make judgment errors and fall short. The difference is that many people choose the way that is suspect as their main life route instead of a momentary mistaken by-pass.

Its interesting that I have even more respect now for my hurting friend. He took the hits but stayed the course. He is one of the good guys in the sports world that we know is heavily populated with people who sacrifice integrity in order to worship the god of winning.

The Right To Be An Ass

April 22, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                          April 22, 2018

                                     

We live in an amazing country. People have freedoms in the United States that would be laughed at in other parts of the world. Freedom is a tricky thing. It can cause people to loosen up and do certain things that they might not attempt if their common sense took control.

Living in a free society also blurs the lines of what is acceptable and what is the person’s right to do. Lord knows, there’s enough middle school students who have blurred vision when figuring out things like that.

And so, one of the rights we have in our country is the right to be an ass, to say things that are disrespectful, insensitive, and extra-strongly opinionated.

Randa Jarrar, an Fresno State English professor with a strong affection for using the “f” word, put it out there on social media! She trumpeted how much she was glad that the former first lady, Barbara Bush, had died. She added a number of inflammatory comments and seemed to enjoy the firestorm she created.

And she has the right to make those comments, not because they are true, but because of the freedom of speech that countless people have fought for in the history of our nation.

Barbara Bush was someone I admired. Like Jarrar, she said what she thought, but she blended in a large amount of grace, and she answered questions at the appropriate times they should be answered. I still remember an interview when her son, Jeb, was considering a run for the presidency. When asked about it, she candidly answered, “There’s been enough Bush’s in the White House!”

What enrages people is the impact of insensitive words at a time of great loss. It’s like saying to someone who recently lost their home in one of the Colorado fires, “Should have had better insurance!”

But in our country people have the right to be asses! It isn’t a crime! It’s a slap against the face of decency and a step backwards for humanity, but it’s not a crime! In fact, some people become such renowned asses that they get to teach others!

Bias Training

April 19, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                      April 19, 2018

                                   

What are we to make of the Philadelphia Starbucks’ racial bias situation? Unfortunately, it is a played-out story that mirrors the racial distrust and, dare I say, hatred in our nation.

Next week the Legacy Museum and National Memorial for Peace and Justice opens in Montgomery, Alabama. A recent 60 minutes edition highlighted this new memorial. The new memorial remembers the thousands and thousands of African-Americans who were tortured and lynched. Some of the pictures from the past elicit tears of sorrow for the brutality and tears of shame for the callous hatred in our past. Some of the lynchings show crowds of people gathered in their Sunday best as if they were going to a community picnic. In the background, however, you see a hanged black man still dangling from the gallows. Lynchings, or the threat of lynchings, were one of the ways that African-Americans “were kept in line.” It didn’t take anything but an accusation to have someone strung up. At the memorial are the stories of so many, and what brought about their being lynched: One man who failed to address a police officer as “Mister; another who had knocked on the door of a house where a white woman lived…the stories bring anger to us about what was

But that is also a part of who we are! The reality of our checkered past still stains our hands in the present.

Back in the 1960’s and 70’s banks would “redline” certain neighborhoods that were where mostly non-whites lived. “Redlining” meant that financial institutions would either avoid offering financial services, like home mortgage loans, or charge higher rates to those who lived in those areas. Often middle-class African-Americans were charged higher rates than lower-class whites.

We could also go back to the 19th century and talk about sinophobia, the broad hostility towards Chinese immigrants. Corporations towards the end of the 19th century had policies prohibiting the employment of anyone Chinese. Newspapers owned by William Randolph Hearst started using the phrase “yellow peril” to indicate the threat of Chinese immigrants to the white laborers.

Bias is a part of who we are. It’s stitched into the fabric of our history! There’s a bit of resemblance in each one of us of Archie Bunker!

When 175,000 Starbucks employees take racial bias training on May 29th perhaps the rest of us could be invited to it as well. Bias is in each one of us just as much as the blood that runs through our veins. I recognize that I have my biases. They may or may not be towards a certain race of people and my perception of that person that I’m looking at. I may also have biases towards people from certain organizations, churches, high schools, hair color and/or style, clothing attire, accent, or age group.

The stain of our fallen creation continues with us in our confusion and blurring of what is wise judgment and what is unjust bias. Unfortunately, none of us get it right all the time. That’s not an excuse, it’s a challenge!

Would Jesus Be On The Teachers’ Side?

April 17, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                         April 17, 2018

                          

Since West Virginia public school teachers rallied at their state capital and exited their classrooms for almost two weeks, there has been a stream of teachers in other states that have followed West Virginia’s lead.

Having served on the school board and as the president of that school board, plus having a sister, brother-in-law, niece, and daughter who are either retired teachers or currently teaching, plus married to a lady who got her degree in deaf education and still works with special needs students, plus being a coach and a substitute teacher myself (Did you follow all of those plusses?), I’ve had to look at public education from different perspectives.

Being a pastor I also have a habit of contemplating how Jesus might view an issue or converse with a certain individual? Would he care? Would he offer wisdom? Would be simply be present to listen? Would he be swayed by the majority opinion?

Scripture gives us stories of Jesus interacting with children. Matthew 19:13-15 tells the story of children being brought to him “…to place his hands on them and to pray for them.” The disciples had their priorities messed up and started rebuking those who were bringing the kids to Jesus. Jesus says, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Matthew 19:14)

That brief story communicates a few things about Jesus and those who impact and instruct our kids. Like foundational arithmetic the rest of the problems rely on the beginning beliefs.

Start with those of the present who would play the roles of the disciples! Jesus’ discomfort- perhaps too nice a term!- with the disciples was their interference in allowing the connection between the children and the Teacher. They minimized the importance of the little folk, taking on the attitude that Jesus’ time was better spent with the older generation.

Drawing the story into the present, it seems that those who make decisions about education that involve everything but the face-to-face contact between teacher and his/her students have a responsibility to not place obstacles in the way.

If you’re wondering who that might be the answer is ALL OF US! Government that sees the challenges of our schools but treats the situation as if you can treat a broken arm with a butterfly bandaid…state boards of education that are more enamored with state testing scores than classroom educational discoveries…school boards that have to make tough decisions…parents who send their kids to school each morning after a donut breakfast and a packed lunch of Cheeto’s and Oreo Cookies, and then blame their child’s poor performance on incompetent teachers…teachers who have lost the passion for leading young minds in the discovery of new learnings…and the communities that continually vote down school bond issues because they have bought into the myth that teachers are overpaid and the schools have all the funds they need.

In regards to the disciples, all of us have the DNA within us to be educational rebukers!

Would Jesus be on the teachers’ side? He would be on the side of those who are committed to their purpose, impassioned with the importance of their calling. Like the children who were brought to him he values those who “place their hands of influence on them”. He values the opportunities that are weaved into the relationships between the teacher and her students. When Jesus placed his hands on the children it was the indication of his blessing of them. He values teachers who are blessings on the lives of their students. Most of us can recall who some of those “blessings” were when we were in our school years. (We can also probably remember a few teachers whose classes we “persevered” through!

Would Jesus be on the teacher’s side? He would be on the side of those who understand that “the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” I might interpret that in two ways: That messing with the raising up of our kids is upsetting to Jesus, the Teacher; and secondly, that the education of our children needs to have a long-term view. Teachers are shaping, not enabling, the minds of our future leaders and influencers.

There is a saying that we’re all familiar with…”you get what you pay for!” Perhaps there should be another saying that rises above that: You reap the blessings of what you’re willing to sow!”

Dad…Two Months Gone

April 15, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                    April 15, 2018

                               

Two months ago today Dad, Laurence Hubert Wolfe, passed away after a well-lived life of almost ninety years. He really wanted to break the finish-line tape of the ninety mark, but didn’t quite make it. And that was okay!

There are very few people who come to the end of their lives and are able to say “It was good! It was very good!” Dad was one of those! What made it good was the value he placed on things that are irreplaceable. He treasured his friends. When his friend Bill Ball passed away last summer it pained his soul. Bill was the last of Dad’s long-time friends, had passed the ninety mark a few years earlier, and the two of them conversed every week. Each had lost his wife around the same time and each had been married in excess of sixty years.

When Bill passed I think it hurt Dad, but it also eased the way for him. Seeing your friends, who are irreplaceable, travel on to Glory is like being afraid of entering an unfamiliar place, but then you see your friends go there and it makes it okay.

Dad had strong beliefs and convictions that he didn’t compromise. When the days remaining are few, I think that also brings a person to be able to say life was good. Remaining true to your promises and your commitments are signs of a life that is deeply-rooted, not tossed this way and that by what sounds good at the time. Steadfast and persevering, that’s how I would describe him! Gentle and fair would also be listed in the description of who he was and is.

A person never really gets used to the absence of the one who has always been there. The impact has been too deep and significant. I’m blessed in that the impact my dad left on me causes me to smile and feel blessed, as opposed to feeling oppressed and wounded.

And now two months since that Thursday afternoon when he breathed his last I still am able to experience his breath upon my life.

And it is good!

App Ignorant

April 14, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                   April 14, 2018

                                   

Whenever I think I’m smart and need to have my intelligence altitude lowered to C-level  I just go to the supermarket and try to figure out how to use the “digital coupons!”

Last week Tide detergent pods were on sale, plus there was a digital coupon that you could use (If you were more intelligent)! I brought the container to the checkout lane, and confessed to the cashier, like the wayward penitent sinner that I am, that I was not “app-savvy!”market

She looked at me and started asking me questions that were a technological foreign language. To my mind they sounded something like this:

“Did you download the app and wash behind your ears with body wash, and then put some butter on your toast as it lay on the sidewalk while offering to sacrifice your first-born and waiting for the postal carrier to bring your new magazine by?”

“Huh?”

She gave me a momentary annoyed expression, because there was now two other people behind me in line- the line I had chosen because there was no one behind me and I thought I could receive a hint of grace from her!

Remember when you were raising your kids who had just learned how to tie their shoes? Remember the time when you were in a rush and they were taking a month to tie the knots so you just finally reached down in a huff and tied them so you could get out of the house before the rapture?

Well, that’s kind of what the cashier did! She just finally gave up and punched in some kind of secret code that she learned in the cashier’s secret society and gave me the extra two dollars off. I was melting away as I stood there, feeling the stares of the two people behind me and the scorn of “Ms. IBM” behind the counter!

I bet she would also be clueless…back in the day…if she had to bring a goat to the market to trade for flour, beans, and potatoes!

A friend of mine told me about a similar experience using the digital coupons at a different store where he was made to feel like one of the indentured servants of the business. There was some kind of glitch with the app that he had and after going through an employee who looked at him like he was a wandering vagabond he encountered a manager who said something like, “You know…this is a privilege to have this. Not everyone gets it. You understand that, don’t you?”

Memories of standing before the elementary school principal occurred!

Not all of us have been able to figure out digital coupons or, for that matter, anything that begins with the letters “a-p-p”, except “appricot”, “appalled”, and “apple”…scratch Apple!

We are from the slower generation that were amazed when adding machines came along. We watched episodes of “Lassie” where they had to ring up Jenny, the Calverton telephone operator, to call the neighbor down the road.

So now we of the slower generation are weighing whether it’s worth the embarrassment to save that fifty cents on Hamburger Helper by presenting our cell phone to the store cashier. It’s the equivalent of walking into church with your pants unzipped…which I’ve also done!

Growing My Hair Back

April 12, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                     April 12, 2018

                               

The question has repeated itself countless times since March 4.

“Did you shave your head for St. Baldrick’s Day?” St. Baldrick’s is a day in March when money is raised to help find a cure for childhood cancer. People get their heads shaved at this worthy event.

“No!” I reply.  “I lost a bet to one of my freshman basketball players.”

“Oh!”

I won’t go into the details of the unfortunate bet, just a summary. I had made a wager with one of the boys on my basketball team who was atrocious at shooting free throws. I promised that I would shave my head if he shot 90%  from the free throw line for the season. I lost! He was 2 for 2 for the whole season! (You can go to the archives of “WordsfromWW.com” and read the story entitled “My Last Day With Hair…For A While”, which I posted on March 4) 

So now the hair on my head is growing back…slowly! I’ve gone through stages. The first stage was called “Sluggo”, after the character in the old Nancy comic strip. Little specks of hair dotted the top of my head, like pepper spilled on the kitchen table. Okay, spilled SALT and pepper!

The next stage had me taking on the look of a human pin cushion. I didn’t have to worry about bedhead, but I did have to watch out for short sharp objects accidentally being pushed into my scalp.

And now this week I’ve entered into the realm of the porcupine. My hair is at that growing back point where people look at you and wonder if you’re possibly an escaped felon on the lam. No one on the front of GQ magazine has hair like this. Come to think of it, no one on the front of AARP magazine has hair like this either. I am in the hair equivalent of the wilderness desert where Jesus spent forty days roaming around.

The next stage I’m afraid may be called “crabgrass” and my wife will try to run the spreader quietly past me dispersing it’s “Weed-B-Gon”. This may be the stage where I break open the tube of Brylcream that my sister shipped to me. It had been my dad’s. Maybe the slicked back look would make it look better! Ahhh…no!

I’m just hoping that I’m sporting enough of a head of hair a month from now when I go to a writer’s conference in Estes Park, Colorado. I’ve got appointments with a few literary agents, and I’m hoping to get interest in the book I just recently completed. I need to have grown past the crabgrass stage into looking presentable and publishable!

One thing I’ve learned from all this is to qualify the wagers I make with my basketball players better, and to choose a player who will get fouled a lot during the season. Three of my players who shot 64% of all of our team’s free throws had a combined free throw shooting percentage of 46%. Next year I’ll pick one of those kind of players who won’t avoid contact like it’s the bubonic plague.

And then maybe, just maybe, I’ll actually get my head shaved next March for St. Baldrick’s!