The Tales of Being Last

Posted December 31, 2019 by wordsfromww
Categories: Bible, children, Christianity, Community, Death, Grace, Humor, Jesus, Parenting, Pastor, Story, Uncategorized, Youth

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WORDS FROM W.W.                                                 December 31, 2019

                            

I was never picked first, never. Even in the progression of my siblings I was last. I was always afraid to ask if I was an afterthought, since Mom and Dad had my brother and then my sister. The tables seemed balanced…and then Billy Dean Wolfe came into the world. When you’re third in line you always wonder about things like that. Did my parents slip up one night and I was their surprise…or did they think my brother and sister were so cute why not try for another cutie? Did my mom use her infamous line on Dad, “Kiss me, slobber lips! I can swim!” and things went from there or I was a part of their master plan?

I was last, the last of the Wolfe’s. And guess what? Wolfe comes at the end of the alphabet, unless there’s a Young or a Zipp behind you. Just about every class I was in the teachers would arrange the students alphabetically. In U.S. History class I was even behind another Wolfe, Betsy Wolfe. “B-i” came after “B-e”!

My fourth grade teacher showed some compassion and had me move to the front of the class, not because she thought its was unfair that I always had to sit in the back, but rather because she noticed my squinting to see the chalkboard up front. I needed glasses. Being vision deficient qualified me for advancement from the end to the beginning.

My mom was obsessed with “the last.” The last little bite of food in the casserole dish. I can’t tell you how many times she hovered the broccoli cheese casserole by my shoulder and  said, “Bill, you want this last little bite?” Telling her that I didn’t was the wrong answer. It led to a series of questions, like a car dealer trying to sell my dad a Ford (Our family drove Chryslers and Buicks!). My dad’s resistance was solid. Not so much though with my holding off the last bit of broccoli cheese casserole that Mom would inch ever closer to my plate as she tilted it. When she went to her patented “Just enough to dirty the dishwater!” line, I surrendered.

I think about last things a lot these days. I’m getting closer to the end of my journey. Carol thinks I’ll live to be 105 and be featured in the local newspaper as I shovel a spoonful of pureed veggies into my mouth, but I don’t know! This past year more of my friends arrived at the end of their lives. For a few death was the last thing on their minds as they started a new day, but accidents and heart attacks put a dent into the daily agendas. 

I think more and more about what are the last words I want to say to people and how I end the journey. What last acts of kindness would I want to make priorities? What are the last things of my life that I need to resolve and be able to let go of? You know, what are the hurts that need healing and the wounds I’ve caused that need forgiveness?

And what if, like the broccoli cheese casserole, I’m life-stuffed and God says to me “Just a little bit left! Can you live a little bit longer for me? I’ve got just enough life here to dirty the dish water!” 

If that happens, my mom would have a big smile on her face and, though theologically I don’t believe it, I wouldn’t be able to get out of my mind the idea that Mom put the Almighty up to convincing me to the last little bite of living longer.

My E(xponential) Mail

Posted December 27, 2019 by wordsfromww
Categories: Community, Freedom, Humor, Parenting, Pastor, Story, Uncategorized, Youth

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WORDS FROM W.W.                                                  December 27, 2019

                              

It’s the electronic version of breeding rabbits. One disappears and three others suddenly start hopping around to take its place. You should see the rabbit paw prints in my backyard snow. They resemble a bad Picasso painting, all in white.

I’m talking about my email! It seems to grow exponentially. Something piques my interest, like KiwiCo Toys, so I click on the Facebook ad. Now I get an avalanche of KiwiCo ads on Facebook and also in my email. Curiosity killed the cat, but 50 ads a day killed the interest of this “cat!”

I’ve done Trivia Today, an email I receive twice daily, but now my inbox is also populated with Trivia Daily, Trivia Genius, Trivia Draws, Trivia Today: This Day in History, Trivia Cafe’, and FunTrivia. I receive so many trivia emails I feel shallow, like I no longer am able to think deeply.

Now when Carol and I go somewhere instead of conversation about subjects like Jesus, family, and the latest advances in knee replacements we go through emails and delete them. I swear last night we eliminated 15 emails on our short drive home from Costa Vida restaurant, but 45 new ones then flocked in to take their place. It reminded me of feeding pigeons in the park. 

We took a Viking River Cruise last May with our friends, Dave and Robyn Hughes. Viking now seems to think we want to take a cruise a week. Every day we receive an email with a “limited time offer.” Crystal Cruise Line must have gotten word of us as well because they come calling, er…emailing, every day as well. 

Then there’s the political emails. It seemed to take me forever to get off the Tea Party list. And every time I asked to be unsubscribed it seemed like I attracted the attention of five other conservative watchdog groups. It reminds me of the lint in my pants pockets that just seems to come from nowhere. 

I receive NRA, CNN, SI, NCAA, the NBA, and DSW emails on a daily basis. One time four years ago we ordered a tee shirt from fanatics.com and now they are fanatical about sending us the daily offer quadrupled!

I get an email each day that the latest copy of our local newspaper is available. It’s the same newspaper that I unsubscribed to in mid-September. 

We keep unsubscribing and the emails keep repopulating. At least the “Russian Women Are Looking For You” emails have stopped. Of course, ancestry.com rushed in to take their place. Every time I order something from Amazon they send me emails about some other products that I might be interested in.

Perhaps I should do an “email fast”. Commit to not looking at email for a day, maybe a forty day fast. Maybe I should give up email for Lent.

If I did, guess what would happen? I’d be digging out for the next month!

Remember the good ole’ days when you’d get six pieces of mail in the mailbox, spend the next two minutes considering their value, and then get on with your life? We’d get the new copy of the TV Guide and then sit in front of our television flipping back and forth between the four stations we received. We didn’t know how blessed we were, did we?

And in writing these words I realize that it will require some of my readers to open an email! Ironic, isn’t it?

Polishing My Shoes

Posted December 25, 2019 by wordsfromww
Categories: Bible, children, Christianity, Christmas, Community, Death, Faith, Humor, Jesus, love, Parenting, Pastor, Story, The Church, Uncategorized, Youth

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WORDS FROM W.W.                                                       December 25, 2019

                      

It brought tears to my eyes and it was only shoe polish.

As I dressed and got ready to leave for the 4:00 Christmas Eve service I went to the closet and retrieved the shoe shine kit. The black polish rubbed smoothly over the leather of my dress shoes. As I brushed the shoes into a shine I was taken back to the same scene played out again and again about five decades ago. Every Christmas Eve my dad would instruct me to shine my shoes. It was a tradition that I didn’t appreciate as a teenager. After all, my shoes would only be seen for a few moments. Otherwise they’d be planted partially underneath the pew in front of me at First Baptist Church in Ironton, Ohio. It seemed like busy work, just something to keep me from watching TV for a few minutes.

But to my dad it was important. There was always the unspoken idea of looking your best and, at church, giving of your best. Polished shoes were an act of devotion to Jesus. If our family couldn’t bring gold, frankincense, or myrrh we could at least show up with some shine and show the Christ-child that we had put a bit of thought into our preparation for worship. 

To my dad it wasn’t just for looks or to impress anyone. It was part of his faith identity. He’s the one who taught me how to put the proper knot into a necktie…and it was another part of the Sunday church prep. To this day I can’t put on a necktie without looking into a mirror. It’s how he taught me to tie it and I’m sorta’ necktie dislexic!

The memories of those moments washed over me as I moved the brush back and forth over my Oxfords. Christmas is about happy kids, joy-filled moments, and the glad tidings of the season. 

But Christmas is also about remembering the parts and the people that have made up the journey. In the joy of the Bethlehem birth, for me at least, there is the moan for the passing of the past. All I can do is honor its memory by continuing its practice.

And so I slip on my shoes and then stand in front of the mirror and make the loops of my necktie. My dad would be proud. He always figured that if he was proud of me Jesus would think I was all right also! After all, in so many ways he was a reflection of Jesus.

The Wolfe Christmas Letter

Posted December 24, 2019 by wordsfromww
Categories: children, Christmas, Grandchildren, Humor, love, marriage, Parenting, Pastor, Story, Uncategorized

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WORDS FROM W.W.                                                   December 24, 2019

                       

Our family has never done a Christmas letter before. Don’t ask me why. We just haven’t. It’s one of a long list of things that we could give the same answer to. We haven’t been to Aruba, danced naked in the backyard, or used a two-for-one coupon so each of us could get our toenails painted either. 

But sometimes a person needs to cross something off the list…and I don’t think dancing in the backyard is in jeopardy of being accomplished.

So here’s a quick and biased update on the Wolfe going-ons. Number 1 on the list for this past year has to be the birth of Joey William Terveen, our fourth grandchild and first child for our daughter, Lizi, and her husband, Mike. Joey arrived on one of those memorable numbered days…9/19/19. His three cousins think he’s pretty cool, although four year old Corin has this idea that she’s his aunt.

Number 2 on the list takes in the other three “grands.” Jesse started sixth grade, and made a school switch to a smaller charter school where the academics are a bit tougher. He’s adjusted well and his sense of humor and creativity stand out. He continues to play on a outdoor soccer team called the Lightning, for which his mon is an assistant coach, and enjoys the friendships he’s made. Reagan, is a third grader whose teacher in the classroom is known as Mrs. Hodges and out of the classroom as “Mom”. Yes, Kecia is her teacher. Reagan recently tested and was invited to be in the Gifted and Talented program. She’s also playing on the top competitive soccer team this winter for her age group in Colorado Springs.

Corin is a few months shy of birthday number five (March 24), but not shy on taking control of a room. Grammy and Granddad are usually the students in her pretend school and she is the teacher/principal/lunchroom lady and anything else she decides upon. Grammy and Granddad usually get some kind of reprimand and discipline any time they are the students. Corin has started ballet/tap dance and thoroughly enjoys it. She’s a talker and Grammy’s ears are usually exhausted by the end of a day in which she watches her. She’s a delight and a wonder. 

Number 3 would probably be Kecia and Kevin’s involvement in Austin Bluffs Community Church. Each of them has joined the worship music ministry, Kecia singing and Kevin’s playing the bass guitar. They have made new friends in the congregation and help with the youth ministry. They are gifted servants in ministry and special people.

Number 4 is David’s continuing as the chef at Colorado Mountain Brewery. We’ve lost track of time, but think he’s been in that position for about five or six years now. His restaurant wins awards in Colorado Springs each year in the “Best of the Springs” voting. He plays basketball on Tuesday nights at Austin Bluffs Church, along with his dad and brother-in-law, Kevin. His two cats, Mason and Jane, are his household residents. 

Number 5 would be Lizi’s arrival into motherhood and saying goodbye to her position with the Community Partnership for Child Development. She enjoys being home with Joey. Mike’s dental practice continues to do well.

Number 6 would be the vacation trips that Bill and Carol made this past year…Myrtle Beach at the end fo December and then spending New Year’s Eve with their friends in Charlotte, NC, Tom and Diane Bayes…Orlando in late March with Kecia and family, with side trips to see Rick and Connie Fuller in DeLand and Dave and Robyn Hughes in Tampa…a European River Cruise in mid-May with Dave and Robyn that started in Paris and ended in Prague…and an October visit to San Antonio to visit Dave and Donna Volitis. Bill also led a mission work trip in June to British Columbia where the group of 6 men did projects at Rock Nest Ranch, the ministry of Wendell and Heather Garrison.

Number 7 would be Bill’s involvement with Timberview Middle School, where he enjoys substitute teaching and now coaching four sports (cross-country, boy’s basketball, girl’s basketball, and track). He did a long-term sub teaching position for one of the teachers of the special needs students and discovered in a new way why Carol would often come home exhausted at the end of her school day. She, retired for two years now, even came back and was a sub para professional one day when he was the teacher. So…he was kinda’ her boss…but in name only!

Number 8 would be all the friends and special people that our lives have been blessed with. We are blessed to be part of the journeys of so many people in the celebrations and the low points. Bill continues to speak at a small church in the smaller town of Simla, Colorado, along with his friend Ed Stucky. The congregation enjoys both men coming and providing spiritual direction for the life of the church. Ed and Diana have also been instrumental in helping Bill write his novel…and rewrite…and rewrite. He also hired a professional editor to help hone it this past summer. And 8th grade student at Timberview has read the manuscript and is writing an endorsement review for it. He continues to work on Book 2 and Book 3 of the series.

That’s enough of the Wolfe’s! May your Christmas be, and feel, as blessed as ours is! In case you see any naked people dancing in our backyard…don’t call the police! Just ignore it!

The Long Silence

Posted December 22, 2019 by wordsfromww
Categories: Bible, children, Christianity, Christmas, Faith, Jesus, Pastor, Prayer, Story, The Church, Uncategorized, Youth

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WORDS FROM W.W.                                                     December 22, 2019

                                            

Life seems to be noisy these days. Two of my kids will be at the Lions-Broncos football game this afternoon. They’ll stand out because they’ll be cheering for the Lions. Seventy thousand noisy lunatics and they’ll be there. 

Meanwhile, Carol and I will be experiencing a different kind of noise— the noise of our three month old grandson wondering where Mommy and Daddy are. Life seems to be diverse in its types of noisy cries and protests.

Sometimes life is so populated with noise that we can’t hear the silence. Sometimes in our rush to negotiate the situations of life we don’t recognize that there is a moment of holy quiet. 

In the Bible there’s the story of Abraham being given the promise that he will have descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky. Abraham, however, got a bit impatient waiting for the fulfillment of God’s promise and rushed to solve the problem himself. The last verse of Genesis 16 identifies him as being 86 years old…and then there is a 13 year silence. Genesis 17:1 tells the reader that he is now 99.

13 years of silence from the heavens. It took that long for God to get Abraham’s attention.

Other than bleating sheep and angels praising God the story of Jesus’ coming is punctuated with times of silence. 

A silent Zechariah. A silent confused Joseph. A silent but obedient Mary. Shepherds in terrified quiet during the visitation of the angel. 

Silence has a way of focusing our attention on the next important word that is about to be spoken. Sometimes it’s a long silence, painful to sit through and confusing to our reasoning. Sometimes the silence is renewing. 

And when the silence is from God it is either unnerving or, troubling as this sounds, unnoticed. Some of us wait with anxious anticipation for what God will say and do. Others are so consumed with the chatter of the world that they haven’t noticed the tightened lips of the Lord. 

May today be a day of listening in spite of all the noise!

Last Day of School Before Christmas Break

Posted December 21, 2019 by wordsfromww
Categories: children, Christmas, Community, Freedom, Humor, Parenting, Story, Teamwork, Uncategorized, Youth

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WORDS FROM W.W.                                                   December 21, 2019

                            

I agreed to it. It wasn’t like I was entering a dark unknown cave unaware of the dangers and unexpected holes sending me into the great abyss. I knew I was agreeing to substitute teacher on the last day before the school’s Christmas break. Some of the students had requested me. I’m still trying to decide whether that is a good thing or a warning sign, kinda’ like the army recruiter who smiles at the young buck standing in front of him and making him believe the next four years of his life will be simply a more mature version of Disney World. 

The last day of December school is frequented with sudden fits of stupidity as young adolescents all sugared up feel compelled to commit head-shaking acts of frenzied unintelligence because of their excess consumption of candy bars, peppermint candy sticks, and Starbucks Frappuccinos.

Teachers hold up surrender flags in the form of “Home Alone” and “Home Alone 2”. In reality, by 9:30 they’re wishing they were home alone and wondering why they didn’t take a sick day? 

The sound of shoes sprinting down hallways is common. Students wearing red Santa hats and adorned with tinsel is the norm. Ugly Christmas sweaters and students in Santa suits pass by almost unnoticed. 

In a couple of classes a few students suddenly broke out in song…off key, but still festive. One student blessed me with a candy cane and another with a container of baked goods that were meant for the teacher I was subbing for. When he saw that the teacher was gone he said, with great disappointment, “I guess you can have them!”

The political correctness of our culture leads some students into some degree of uncertainty as to what the right greeting/blessing is. Do they say “Merry Christmas!”, “Happy Hanukkah”, “Have a great break!”, “Happy Holidays!”, or “See ya’ next year!” I wanted to say “May the coming celebrated birth of the Christ-child be experienced in a deep way by you and yours!”, but I knew the typical middle schooler’s attention span wasn’t that long so I shortened my greeting to “Merry Christmas!”

The teaching staff did hallway countdowns as the day went on…”Three classes to go!” “Down to two!”, and words of encouragement “You can do it!”

When the final bell rang the walls of the school expanded as the entire staff exhaled in the realization that survival had been accomplished. 

Timberview Middle School, where I hang out, is a great school, great staff, mostly great students with a few warts thrown in that grab most of the attention. I almost always enjoy my days there, but Christmas break is longed for by everyone. It’s like the  opposite of the college student who comes home on Christmas break. Coming back and living with the parents is okay for the first couple of days, but then everyone is looking forward for the second semester to begin so Junior can leave again.

My Small Town, Small Church Bethlehem

Posted December 15, 2019 by wordsfromww
Categories: Bible, children, Christianity, Christmas, Community, Death, Faith, Grace, Humor, Jesus, love, Nation, Pastor, Story, The Church, Uncategorized, Youth

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WORDS FROM W.W.                                                     December 15, 2019

                            

I’m not against the mega-church. It has its mission, purpose, and place. A lot of my friends are involved in mega-churches in various locations around the country. I’m just not a big church kind of guy.

Most Sundays I’m sitting in a rock hard pew instead of watching a band rock out on stage. The church I attend is about a 45 minute drive from the half-million people city where we live, in a small town of 500 people. The church is about as unsophisticated and un-seeker sensitive as you can get…and yet there’s something that touches my spirit when I worship there with about 15 other people. 

It’s my small town, small church Bethlehem, off the beaten path and unnoticed, a block from the Methodist church that is equally unnoticed and set back in time.

In our city’s newspaper this morning there was a special section that focused on the demise of the small town. It was like a eulogy for what used to be a main fabric in the Americana tapestry, but is now slipping into being part of a memorable past. There was a yearning in the article for a return to the richness of small town communities and weeping words about its fading away.

The same obituary points could be stated about the small town church. Most of the people who move to Simla, Colorado— the few that would apply to, that is— are either running away from something or arriving to disappear from the hustle and bustle of urban life. 

Most of the visitors who come through the doors of our church aren’t quite sure what they are getting themselves into. There’s no church nursery, children’s church, organist, pianist, or welcome center. The congregation is rarely singing the right notes that the “music machine” is playing and last Sunday we didn’t have a single Christmas carol where the number of verses in the hymnal was exactly the number of verses that the machine sounded out.

And yet I’m drawn to its homespun charm and chatter. The coffee is weaker than even Mrs. Folger’s would make it, and someone’s niece that we’ve been praying for this past year is always referred to in the bulletin as so-and-so’s “neice.” It is a church that functions out of an unwritten but defined structure and readily admits that we’re all cracked pots or crackpots.

It has never been lost on me that the birthplace of Jesus was a small town, a village, and that the first visitors were shepherds from the countryside. It took the Magi, representatives of royalty and the upper crust, much longer to show up.

Perhaps my eastern Kentucky rural roots have had too much influence on my perspective, but I hope small towns and small churches can continue to be part of the spiritual journeys of the folk I rub elbows with on Sunday mornings. 

We’ll worship together on Christmas Eve, a special service that they asked me if they could have. I told them that they didn’t need my permission to have a Christmas Eve service and they replied, “We know, but we need you to speak.”

Okay!

The last Sunday in December a young lady is getting baptized. It prompted two questions that needed to be answered. Who’s going to move the old wooden doors that the baptistry is being used for their storage space; and two, does the heater still work? Actually, the second question was more like “We sure hope the heater works!” Since my tootsies will be submerged in the water, I’m offering up a prayer for warmth as well.

Could it be that, just like in first century Bethlehem, God might bring new life and new hope to the the proclamation of the gospel through the unlikely rebirth of the small town, small church Bethlehem.

Bethlehem, after all, means “house of bread”, and the church in Simla, along with the weak coffee, has cookies just about every Sunday after worship. It’s usually a sweet ending to a morning of being blessed.