Posted tagged ‘children’

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!

Kids At Church Camp

July 19, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                              July 18, 2016

                                      

A number of years ago Art Linkletter hosted a TV show entitled Kids Say The Darnedest Things. The host would ask an assortment of questions to four or five children sitting on the stage. Their answers were often unexpected and hilarious. That’s what made the daytime show such a hit for a number of years.

This week I’m one of the supervisors at a church camp. In that capacity I have the opportunity to observe what kids are doing and saying. It has been awesome!

Whereas middle and high school campers are concerned about things like fashion, who is in their room or cabin, make-up, hair styles, and not looking stupid…elementary age kids are in a totally different frame of mind.

On the first night the camp director had to make it a point to tell the kids to not lick the camp bell. Evidently a few had already ventured into that taste sensation! It makes you wonder how they ever even thought of doing it? What kind of conversation brought a few boys to the point of seeing what the bell tasted like?

Today there was a debate going on between three campers. My friend Rich told me about it. It went something like this:

“Yes you can drink Cheetos!”

“No, you can’t!”

“Yes, you can!”

“How?”

“You put some Cheetos into a blender, add water, mix it all up, and then drink it!”

Drinking Cheetos…not one of those cocktail party topics that comes up, but with young kids you never know!

And think of it! Was one of them at home one day this summer, both parents away at work, and the child got bored so he decided to mix up some Cheetos with water? What was the seed for such an idea?

I walked around during the elementary “Canteen” time. Canteen takes place at the camp’s snack shack, and is a chance for the campers to buy a can of pop or ice cream or candy. I watched one young girl with a smile as wide as Kansas as she held a can of Pepsi in one hand and an ice cream bar in the other. Sometimes kids get to make decisions at camp that would probably fall outside of the permissible at home.

But tonight these same kids who talk about Avenger super heroes, Kona Ice, and the fast-paced game called Oct-a-ball, were invited to wash one another’s feet, and most of them willingly did it. There was a powerful spiritual lesson in the act…kind of a church camp version of learning by doing…and they grasped the meaning in the doing.

Many of them are missing their moms and dads, but are also experiencing that they can still be safe and okay in a strange new place surrounded by people who will walk alongside them…as they hike to the top of Soldier’s Peak; sit beside them… at a nighttime campfire; and laugh with them…as the next darnedest thing is said!

Last Sunday…Kinda’

December 28, 2015

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                  December 27, 2015

                                       

Today was kind of my last Sunday at Highland Park Baptist Church, the congregation I have pastored for the past sixteen and a half years. I say kinda’ my last Sunday because I return on January 17 to speak and then Carol and I will be the main targets at a reception that afternoon.

Today ended with the congregation gathered around us for a time of prayer. It was “reserved emotional!” I say reserved emotional because the dear saints know that there is another Sunday three weeks later that will probably include the opening of the floodgates.

I took notice of several today. Marla Booth was finishing elementary school when I arrived. Now she is married to an awesome man named Austin who I love deeply, and is the mother of two beautiful little girls. Marla has a heart for people and has become more and more passionate about children in underprivileged countries around the world.

Greg and Jordan Davis came to our church several years ago after a brain tumor had been discovered. Greg and I already knew each other from basketball officiating and Timberview Middle School. When he had a couple of seizures and then the tumor was discovered I showed up at the hospital just to check in with him and to ask permission to say a prayer. A few weeks later I entered the sanctuary on a Sunday morning to see their family present for worship. We’ve walked together ever since…through the anxiety of MRI’s…and unexpected seizures…and having to share the news with their daughter that the cancer had returned. Our journeys have been tear-filled and laughter-laced.

Rex and Ann Davis were present today. Rex is 95 and Ann 93. Their days of good health have recently gone by the wayside, but they come to church when they are able. Today Rex took up the offering with the sole purpose of squeezing my finger as I stood in the front row. He is a man of God whose journey has also had a trail of tragedy as part of it. About four years ago I had the funeral of their son, Ed, who was killed in a motorcycle accident trying to avoid a deer on a two-lane mountain road. I’ve considered Rex to be my “Colorado Dad!” Her models what a servant of Christ should be. Recently, he also has had some battles with cancer that have left him a shell of who he was…and I love him deeply!

Chris Oldham was there today! A few years ago she married my area minister after being a part of our church for years and years. She and Mike often are worshiping in other congregations around the state on Sunday, and she followed Mike to be more involved in First Baptist of Colorado Springs, but she has always been an encourager for me. She got me involved in the summer camping program, not to give me something else to do, but to give me some quite moments in the midst of a camp week. Sounds crazy, right? But it has actually been exactly that!

Courtney Gage Ramsey was there. I did the wedding ceremony for her and Steve a few years ago. Now they live a couple of hours away with their three year old son. Her parents, Jack and Ellen, mean so much to me, and I was delighted she came this morning.

And then there was my son, David, who surprised us and came this morning! That was awesome…and I’m getting a little teary-eyed as I sip my decaf and type this. David’s life does not mesh easily with church life. He works as a restaurant chef, and moves in different circles. One of the things I look forward to as I enter retirement is more time with Dave…like this Tuesday night when we go to the Air Force basketball game together. Today was the first time in…years that all three of my children were in a Sunday worship service together. The Christmas Eve when Lizi “Skype’d” in and watched on a front row laptop…doesn’t count.

It was a day of gladness and sadness! A day of moving forward while treasuring what has been.

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!

Being Free, Being Passionate

February 3, 2014

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                       February 3, 2014

 

 

Two weeks ago I wrote about my former college classmate, Tom Randall, who was being held, along with two Philippino men, in a jail in the Philippines. After 22 days the charges against Tom were dropped and he is now free.

Praise the Lord!

The other two men, Toto and Jake, are still being held at this point.

As I’ve been reading the daily updates from Tom’s wife, Karen, who I also went to school with, I’ve been amazed by the stories that have come out of Tom’s imprisonment. First of all, over 58,000 people have “Liked” the “Free Tom Randall” facebook page. the prayer support and encouraging words have been incredible.

But then there’s the stories! Tom Randall is passionate about the gospel. He understands the rescue that God did in his life many, many years ago. He has experienced a sense of peace in his life that was punctuated with restlessness. He knows the hope that can stay within a person when everything seems to be falling apart.

His passion for living a life that makes a difference for others has been evident. The charges that had been leveled against him came out of accusations about the treatment of some of the children at the orphanage that he has operated for the past thirty years. Understand that Tom began the orphanage to help rescue lives of kids who had no hope. As time goes on it will become clearer as to how these accusations came to be, but for now it is important to note that the orphanage was begun out a man’s heart for kids…hope for the hopeless. It’s an indicator of what his life is about.

In his time of incarceration he shared the gospel with a number of the men who were locked up with him. He introduced Jesus to them, and several became followers of Christ behind the iron bars of a cell.

It tells us that a person’s passion does not fade away just because his surroundings take a significant dive. Tom would probably say, although I’m presuming here, that God orchestrated this whole thing so he could be a proclaimer of the good news to some men who desperately needed to hear it. So us it is hard to see the “forever of a person’s soul”, but God demonstrates his love for all of us in the creating of temporary harshness for everlasting change.

How will this experience change Tom and Karen? It will only make them more resolved to love the people they have been serving. Passionate people rarely have their flame fade, but rather burn more intensely because of their experiences.

Perhaps the more significant question is how will this experience change us…the thousands of people who have been following it? My hope is that it will give us more resolve to be agents of change wherever God has placed us to serve, that we will seek to be people who will make a difference for the Kingdom.

A passionate life is never totally free because the calling won’t release us from it’s urgency.

Springing Hope

September 4, 2012

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                              September 4, 2012

Carol and I went to see “Hope Springs” last night. I saw a couple of aunts and uncles from my past in it. It was amusing…and too close to home! It made me ask the uncomfortable question “Is that us?”

If you haven’t seen the movie it is about a couple who have been married for 31 years. They have become…predictable…and emotionally distant even though they live in the same house. It’s the residue of time and routine that have swallowed up their love. The love is there, but it takes an incredible amount of guided effort to rediscover it.

Enough of the plot. I chuckled a lot during the film because I saw people that have been a part of my journey and upraising, but also I saw myself.

There are weeks that come and go as unsurprising as a farm tractor cultivating a corn field row by row. A surprise might be brussel sprouts at dinner, or, this year, a cool day in the summer.

But…I have to say this…there is also some comfort in the predictability. It is comforting to know that some things don’t change. Carol tells me that my color selection in what I’m wearing is not good. She also knows that Saturday nights are usually restricted times as I struggle with finishing up the Sunday sermon. I know that she enjoys playing “Spades” on-line. A pause in a phone conversation with her is a hint that she is in the midst of a tight game. She knows that I snore and has the freedom to kick me in the middle of the night. Bruises on my body are not a sign of spousal abuse, but rather a night of deep sleep and kicks with more effort behind them. One of us often ends up in the middle bedroom because of restlessness, snoring, intestinal issues, back pain, or trying to finish a book before sleep enters the picture. I am moved by how she engages and cares for kids. She is thrilled by former players that I’ve coached who come up to me in a store, or on the street, and initiate a conversation.

There is a routine in our lives that is good, even as we search for new opportunities. This summer we took a two day vacation. I know…I know…two days…ooo, big spender! But it was a great two days. We went to Vail and just relaxed, walked, explored, rested, ate, slept. Two days was too short, but it was good!

And then it was back to our routine.

We have a good life, a blessed life! It is filled with random moments of the touch of God, the soothing of our souls.

It’s things like our grand-daughter, Reagan, chasing our frazzled cat, Princess Malibu, around the house like a greased watermelon that is never quiet in the grasp. It’s taking Carol with me whenever I have clothes to buy, or never questioning the hint of going with her because dress shirts are on sale at Dilliards’s. It’s being comfortable with the fact that “if it’s cooked on the grill” it’s my job, and if it’s cooked in the oven it’s her domain. It’s helping her step down from the terraced garden in our backyard. It’s telling her what is going on in a ball game because her eyesight is not good.

I suppose you could say that there is a rhythm in our routine, a sense of feeling so fortunate in the midst of all the ways we have been blessed.

I know that I am not James Bond, but I also want to be a little bit to the left of my dearly departed Uncle Milliard.

A little adventure while I stand watering the front yard.

Tonight I’m going to take my bride of thirty-three years for a walk.

Maybe we’ll even hold hands…as we’re in the crosswalk!

Important Lessons At Three Year Old’s Soccer Games

September 14, 2011

WORDS FROM W.W. September 14, 2011
I took in my three year old grandson’s first soccer game last Saturday morning. The men’s bible study group I lead extended some grace to me and pushed me out the door so I could catch the second half of a delightful time.
Three year old soccer isn’t about the game, as much as the experience and the post-game snacks. My grandson had a hat trick- two goals in the other team’s net and one in his own. He was all smiles no matter what. As long as there was a net on the back of the goal he was all giggly.
I learned a few things as I watched and savored.
It’s okay to have fun playing a kid’s game, even though adults are watching. Kids have fun playing when there aren’t any adults watching; and sometimes kids have no fun when adults are watching. It’s possible…just possible…if the parents can allow it…for the kids to have fun even when mom and dad are there. Sometimes the church needs to become more child-like and less childish, more laugh-filled and less demanding.
It’s okay to pull to the side for a moment even when the game is still going on. Our grandson, as well as many others, would take a tumble, get up and run over to mom or dad to get some consolation about the fact that he had some grass stain on his “waist high” socks. After his parents assured him that it would be okay, he was back at it. It was more like a pit stop during a NASCAR race. The race went on, but it was okay for him to stop for a brief intermission. It made me think of how infrequent my own pulling to the side happens.
In 3 year old soccer there is no “Them and Us”. If the ball is going towards the other team’s goal there was a fifty-fifty chance that the team on the defense will keep kicking it in that direction. Three year old’s aren’t as aware of the right direction as they are of their right foot. Right and wrong have been defined in different ways. “Right” is stopping and helping someone back on his feet, or saying how nice his shoes look. “Wrong” is pushing or hitting another player who has fallen on top of the pile; or saying something mean. In other words, right and wrong have not been defined by the white line boundaries, or which goal to shoot on, or even refraining running onto the field to help stop the ball even though you aren’t in the game. A soccer game with three year old’s is more about grace than law, freedom than constraints.
In a soccer game played by three year old’s there is joy. One of the coaches had tied a smiley face balloon to the top of their goal. The result was that both teams were often heading towards the smile. Three year old’s are attracted to joy. I need to learn that as a principle of life: Aim for joy. Detour away from scowls and disgruntlement. I need to consider the question: What really brings joy to my life?

And so it ended! The game was over. Not one of the three year old’s knew what the score was. I’m sure a few parents probably did, but most of the observers also saw life lived on a smaller field with excitement, delight, and laughter.
May the adult generation get a sense of that as we play on our larger fields!