Posted tagged ‘challenges’

Being Taught By Special Needs Students

September 1, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                            September 1, 2018

                               

I was asked to substitute teach one day this past week in the classroom that serves as the base for the students at our middle school who have special needs. As the day went on I realized that I was the student and they were my teachers. 

They treated me special!

One young lady let me join her in the morning for a few minutes of lego-building before she headed to class. I built a Starbucks drive-thru, which she flashed a smile about, but then threw me a look that told me that I needed to get back on task and stop goofing around.

A boy drew me into being a customer at his pretend restaurant, but when I didn’t put both of my legs squarely under the table he gave them a slight shove to get them where they are suppose to be…before taking my order of a pretend double cheeseburger and onion rings. A couple of minutes later when I had gone to the pretend restroom and then back to the table he repositioned my legs once again under the table like they are suppose to be.

Another young man drew an amazing picture of a mountain nature scene. His classmate flashed a “dab” for me a few times and explained to me what each of the three rubber snakes draped around his neck were with accompanying vital information that might save my life if bitten. 

Towards the end of the day the lego-building student “instructor” was working on math problems. She pulled another chair up close to her and smiled at me. 

“Would you like me to sit down?” She smiled, nodded her head, and patted the seat. Since my lego-building skills were suspect in her eyes, maybe I also needed math help.

Let me interject here! The para-professionals who work with the students are awesome. They guide them towards success in its various forms, whether that be improving their organizational skills, completing assignments, or relating to the other 1,200 students in the middle school. Every day is punctuated with the extreme emotions of tears and laughter. 

The students who take on the role of “peer partner” during each class period of the day are just as incredible and important. They walk with their students to class, help them conquer difficulties, and bond with them in lasting friendships. 

Last year an 8th Grade special needs student was on the school basketball team. Coach Achor told him he would play in a game sometime during the season. His anxiety was evident as he faced the possibility of that, but then the day of the game arrived. All of the special needs staff- para-professionals, teachers, peer partners, and other special needs students- were there. When he went into the game they all cheered. 

And then when he made a basket they all cheered…and cried!

Last week I went back to school for a day to be taught. By 2:45 I had learned a little bit about acceptance, grace, the love of life, and the humor hidden in the simplest moments of life. 

The next day after that I was the guest teacher for 8th Grade science. The student who had drawn the incredible picture of nature was in one of my classes. 

“Hi, Mr. Wolfe!”, he said immediately upon entering the class. “What are you going to do this weekend?”

“Well, (his name) I’m going to do some running, some reading, some relaxing, and some writing.” I should have added, “In fact, I’m going to be writing about you!”

The 200 Mile Club

May 29, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                       May 29, 2018

                                      

It was an idea that sounded good, like toilet-papering the principal’s car on the last day of school or eating Captain Crunch cereal every meal for an entire summer, as did a college classmate of mine!

An idea that sounded like a challenge!

Coach Schneiderman, 6th Grade Math teacher, offered it up before he did the math. 

“What if we challenged the cross-country kids to run 200 miles during the summer? We could give some kind of prize or shirt to those who do it?”

“That’s a great idea, Coach! Maybe get shirts that say Timberview Cross-Country 200 Mile Club!”

A few minutes later Coach Schneiderman offered a scaled down figure. “Maybe 150 miles!”

I, however, had already penciled in the number 200! There are about eleven weeks in vacation summer. Two hundred split amongst seventy-seven days is about two and a half miles a day…if a person runs every day!

Sold! I presented the idea to the students who came to a brief cross-country meeting the last week of school. Some looked at me like I was a crazed coach and others were inspired by the challenge.

And then I decided to take up the challenge myself! What??????

Perhaps it came from memories of long distance runs that I used to take: running along the top of the flood walls of Ironton, Ohio; running the roads of Oxford, Ohio; running, along with 3 other Judson College teammates, 25 miles for charity once time; and running up Barr Trail in Colorado Springs as I trained for the Pike’s Peak Ascent.

But that’s been a few years, and I haven’t been getting any younger! In fact, Carol says I should have my cell phone with me when I run in case something happens. I inferred from that remark that the “something” was a heart attack, not that I stumbled and twisted my ankle. Sixty-four year olds may be one three mile run away from eternity!

So I’ve started. Six days in and I’m at 18 miles. My knees seem more like 180 miles. My body screams at me in unkind ways. 

Perseverance and determination, that’s what keeps me going. So far I’ve only been running laps around the Timberview track. It brings back memories of running around the Ironton Junior High School track I lived about a half mile from. In those days I’d run 24 laps, six miles, around the cinder oval. This summer I’ll begin to widen my circle and run some trails and streets close by. 

18 miles in, only 182 to go! After today I’ll be more than 10% towards the goal…barely!

In August I look forward to celebrating with the other runners who took up and met the challenge.

I’m also hoping to be about twenty pounds lighter by then, a pound for every ten miles! When I graduated from Ironton High School in 1972 I weighed 110 pounds. Now my right leg weighs about that much!

And when an eighth grader whines to me that 200 miles was too hard I’ll show him/her my running chart and say, “Your 64 year old coach did it!” 

“Oh!”

The Challenge of Staying the Course

August 23, 2015

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                       August 23, 2015

                                       

Ten years ago I was running the Pike’s Peak Ascent, a 13.2 mile race for insane people. My wife called to it as “The Death Race.” She wasn’t too far off! The only people more loco than Ascent-ers were the ones who ran the Pike’s Peak Marathon the next day, a 26.2 mile race to the top of the mountain and back down again.

Okay…there is one group even more loco! Those who run the Ascent on Saturday and then the Marathon on Sunday. Crazy and whacked!

The hardest parts of the Ascent race for me were Mile Two and Mile Nine. Mile Two because the adrenalin of the start had worn off and I was suddenly doing some “serious uphill running.” Mile Nine because I was beginning to be physically depleted but I knew I had four miles yet to go…uphill!

The urge to stop and recognize the reasonableness of my actions increased as the race went on. My goal was not to win. My goal was to finish! As the elevation got higher I considered revising my goal to simply surviving.

Sometimes it is hard to stay the course…not just in a race for insane people, but also some of the insane times of life we have to run through.

The church I pastor seems to be having an increasing number of building challenges. A roof leak into our nursery area, despite a new roof being put on two years ago, and now the frustration of trying to get the roofer to come and fix it! A drywall problem as a ripple effect of that. Other things that are wearing out, like carpet and light fixtures.

It seems that each week is filled with new challenges that give reason to step to the side, to surrender to the mountain!

Hebrews 12:2-3 has taken on new meaning for me, and a new thankfulness for Jesus. It reads “Let is fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

That keeps me going!

Pastoring Kids and Adults At The Same Time

March 16, 2015

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                           March 16, 2015

        

Our church seems to have a new challenge each week. One week it’s trying to put enough buckets in classrooms to catch the drips coming from the ceiling, which, by the way, is underneath the new roof installed less than two years ago. Two weeks ago it was a financial crisis after a heavy snow Sunday left the offering plate starving for attention.

We’ve had a leaky baptistry, dark dangerous parking lots, a copier on hospice care, burst pipes, a clogged sewer line, dysfunctional families, families dealing with cancer…healed and terminal, inconsistent volunteers, and “confidential meetings.”

Welcome to the church that isn’t small, but not quite medium-sized. We’re kind of like my pants size. I’m not quite 34, but almost swim in a size 36…and try to find size 35? When I do the style looks like something Austin Powers would wear in one of his movies!

One of of the main challenges I have as a pastor these days is pastoring kids…and adults at the same time. Our church includes families of different sizes and configurations, faith backgrounds and no faith backgrounds, single parent families, blended families, shared families, and multi-generational families. We have families that are in and out…and in…and out. I’m reminded of the Benedictine Sisters at a retreat center outside of the city. They are together each and every day, and, as a result, have a certain rhythm to their community life. Establishing rhythm in today’s church is about as easy as figuring out the federal tax forms.

So often as a pastor I identify with Moses trying to lead a bunch of people who keep remembering the golden years of Egyptian slavery.

The longer I pastor the more confident I am in the fact that I don’t know very much. I become more and more sure that I’m halfway between clueless and understanding with the needle ready to flip to either side on a moment’s notice.

I don’t know much, but it makes me consider what the standards are that I must base my pastoring on.

1) Everyone has value! I don’t have to agree with someone’s position or even their actions, but I must see each person as being one of God’s created. The Body of Christ is made up of numerous parts and personalities. A nose smells things differently than an eye…yes, I know an eye does not smell, but neither does a nose see. One should compliment the other, not be in competition or conflict with the other.

  2) Everyone is on a journey! Some of us just move faster than others. Some of us get distracted along the way by family situations, faith crises, the silence of God, the hyperness of life, and the differences in value systems. It’s like being on a road trip and coming upon traffic that is backed up. Suddenly our pace and our itinerary get altered and we get frustrated. I’ve been known to talk in unkind ways to the cars in front of me that are in the same situation as I am. The thing is we’re all going the same direction, just not at the speed I’m used to. Faith journeys are like that. We want to go at our own pace that is not controlled by others.

3) Happiness is not the goal of the church! Sharing the good news, teaching people about the Christian life, and coming alongside people in their walk with the Lord…those are the goals. We substitute happiness for the joy of the Lord. I admit that I get tired of dealing with issues that people have, and when that happens I have a tendency to yield to what will bring happiness in the short term at the expense of joy for the long journey.

4) Disciple, Coach, Mentor! Recognizing that people are at different places in their faith, as a pastor I must remember that some people are to be discipled. That means there needs to be more supervision and direction, more teaching and structure. Disciples are in the making regardless of age, but most of the children in church are in the disciple phase. The foundational beliefs are still being established in their lives. A good percentage of adults are in the coaching phase. That means they need to be instructed and guided as they are walking with the Lord. There is still uncertainty that needs to be addressed, confusion that needs direction. Finally, there are some adults in the faith community who need a mentor, someone that they can go to for clarification as to how to proceed, or someone to share their frustrations and victories with. A mentor is someone who walks alongside. To put it in a different venue, a disciple sits in the front seat and is told how to drive a car as the driver demonstrates; a coach sits in the front passenger seat and directs the person as he is driving the car…in an empty parking lot, and then a street with minimal traffic, and finally a highway with heavy traffic; and a mentor sits in the back seat and watches as the driver handles the driving. Pastoring is changing hats according to who it is I’m talking to.

A church with multiple generations, all dependent on one another…all occupying the same boat…is a challenge. It reminds me of the disciples that Jesus led. They were challenging! The Bible doesn’t say that Jesus pulled his hair out, but I wonder if that was an option he considered.

And yet, that group of men ended up changing the world!

Getting Through It

November 14, 2013

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                    November 14, 2013

 

 

      I’ve discovered that life is filled with “getting through it” moments! People talk about getting through it in a variety of ways. Getting through final exams week…getting through potty-training…getting through the coming month of work overload…the list is endless!

There is a danger for people to go through life “getting through it.” Life is rarely enjoyable and productive when it is saturated with just trying to get past things. Sometimes it is necessary, like when someone is going through a divorce and he is just trying to get to the next day.

As a pastor I’ve had those times where you feel like the weight of the world is on your shoulders. You don’t want to get out of bed in the morning. You start memorizing verses from the book of Ecclesiastes. There is no joy in Mudville…and you’re the pastor…the one who is suppose to always have a happy face on.

You just want to get through it!

My toughest time in 34+ years as a pastor were the summer months before my oldest daughter got married. The church was in turmoil, people were jumping ship like it was the American Baptist Titanic, the “joy” of a pastor had changed one letter to the “job” of a pastor. Each Sunday I was just trying to get through it.

And I did…with the help of some great friends who stood alongside me and kept me propped up.

So…life does have the “getting through it” moments, but life is meant to be more than that.

And so you ask someone how their week is going and they respond “Just tryoing to get through it.” Wednesday is viewed as a time of achievement point because a person is over the hump in regards to the work week. That doesn’t really apply to pastors. I’m not sure what “hump day” is!

Following Jesus was always meant to be about green pastures and quiet waters as much as it is to be about perseverance and turning the other cheek.

And, as I led off with, there will always be “getting though it” events in our lives. Ask a student what his favorite thing about fifth grade is and he may very well answer “Getting through it!” What comes after fifth grade? Summer vacation. Ask a high school student what their favorite thing about biology is and you will rarely get an answer like “Dissecting animals.” Most students, if given a multiple choice, will choose “Finishing” as their answer.

I see parents who have a hard time enjoying this moment in their kids’ lives because they think it will be better in the next phase.

The Apostle Paul wrote that “For me to live is Christ and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21)  He was living the moment, because he didn’t know what tomorrow would hold for him.

Let me encourage you…to walk a day at a time, live in the moment, be present in this time, and know that the Lord will never leave you or forsake you. Don’t be content to just get through it.