Posted tagged ‘confusion’

Perplexing 8th Graders

March 7, 2019

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                          March 7, 2019

                                    

There are some eighth grade students who I have gotten to know in the past two years as I’ve substitute taught in their classrooms and coached them on athletic teams. Some of them I joke around with in “perplexing ways”! That means that I’m able to bring a look of confusion or perplexity to their faces!

Yesterday as I subbed in a social studies class, that I enjoy greatly, I brought uncertainty and pondering to one student’s face, and a realization to another.

In the classroom there was a constant, annoying, ringing sound, almost like a humming, that could be heard in the midst of a silent moment. I wondered what it might be, but then a student sitting next to my desk asked me the question.

“Mr. Wolfe, what’s that sound?”

I paused and listened, sensing that I could lead him on towards perplexity. My face took on a moment of extreme concentration as I pretended I was trying to hear what he was hearing. I shook my head.

“What sound?”

“That sound!”

“I’m not hearing anything.”

“You can’t hear that humming, or whatever it is?”

I listened again like I was a contestant on that old TV game show, “Name That Tune”.

“No!”

Unbelief dotted his face.

“I’ve heard about people like you,” I said. “I know there’s only been a few cases, but they do happen.”

“What are you talking about?”?

“People who’s hearing is as acute and sensitive as a dog’s. It’s called Auditory Canine Syndrome.”

“What?”

“It’s when someone can hear sounds that no one else can.”

“You can’t hear that?”

“Hear what?” I turn to the boy sitting in the chair beside him. He is perceptive enough to go along with “the play”. “Do you hear anything?” He shakes his head no.

Perplexity has landed on Student #1’s face. For a few seconds he thinks he has Auditory Canine Syndrome. I let him swim in the currents of confusion for a few seconds before I confess to our ploy. Yes, we can hear the humming. One class period later I have someone check it out from the maintenance crew. It ends up being something in the heating ventilation system.

And then there was the “realization” that came to another student. The class had watched a video that dealt with the “Trail of Tears”. A study sheet accompanied the video, some questions that could be answered as they watched the 20 minute video, and a few others that they would answer afterwards. With 15 minutes left in class one young man hadn’t answered any question, even the most obvious ones! I walked by and he smiled at me. 

“Freddie (not his real name!),” I said. “Your paper has so much open space on it that it resembles South Dakota!” 

“Huh?”

“I’m not seeing anything on your paper but open space!”

“Yes, there is! There’s the ink print on it.”

I just give him “the look”. A few minutes later I walk by again. He looks up at me and says, “See! I answered number 1!”

His answer consisted of two words, short words at that! 

“Great!” I respond. “Now it looks more like North Dakota!” And I look at him with eyes that express disappointment. He realizes that I believe in him, that I don’t think he’s as dumb as he wants people to think. For a moment he realizes he is underachieving…and then he lets it go!

Things I Just Don’t Get!

January 10, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                           January 10, 2018

                                   

I recognize that I’m inching towards 64. Some mornings I feel more like 84, but other mornings I’m spry and ready to go! Some days I feel slammed and other days I feel like I can slam dunk!

It seems, however, that there are more things in this world that I just don’t get. When I say “don’t get” I don’t mean things like wearing bikini underwear or Flaming Hot Cheetos. I mean I don’t understand, I don’t comprehend the reason why…that kind of “getting!”

So here’s my list for the beginning of 2018 that I just don’t get!

I just don’t get why there seems to be a boatload of personal injury attorney commercials on TV every day. If I hear the nickname “The Strong Arm” one more time I’m going to injure myself!

I just don’t get, with all the concussion concerns, why football players bump helmets with teammates after a good play, especially when the 6’7” offensive lineman bumps helmets with the 5’7” guy who just kicked a fifty yard field goal!

I just don’t get why “Bobby Lee” has to weave in and out of traffic going 80 on a six lane heavily-traveled road where the speed limit is 55! Someone explain to me what driving academy taught those NASCAR methods!

I just don’t get parents who try to justify the wickedness of their kids! When their son sets the house on fire will they justify it by saying that Junior was just barbecuing?

I just don’t get worship services where I can’t hear myself sing because the volume of the onstage singer and the band is turned up so loud! (Does that sound like an old fart or what?)

I just don’t get the football player who makes one good play and poses for the cameras like he just solved the world poverty situation!

I just don’t get why the guy sitting two chairs away from me at the public library is making calls on his cell phone asking for admissions information at different institutions. When did the library become a personal phone booth?

I just don’t get sagging pants! Nuf’ said!

I just don’t get why we don’t appreciate teachers more; and, in like manner, I don’t get teachers who lose sight of the opportunity to impact the lives of their students.

I just don’t get why there’s a Starbucks every half-mile…but I appreciate it!

I just don’t get why poker is considered a sport by ESPN.

I just don’t get why so many good three-point shooters in basketball can’t hit free throws. It’s a closer and uncontested free shot, for Pete’s sake!

I just don’t get full sleeve tattoos, and why, when it’s twenty below outside, some guy will still wear a sleeveless shirt so you can see it? Yes, I am really, really old…and “un-inked!”

I just don’t get why some parents will willingly pay $100 for a professional sporting event ticket, but then complain that their kid needs $2.25 for lunch money!

I just don’t get “The Bachelor!” I’d be much more interested in a show entitled “The Pimple-Faced Short, Introverted, High School Junior Who Tries To Get A Date To the Prom!” Winner! Of course, that would be like watching a rerun of part of my own life story!

The Hope In Suffering

October 24, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                        October 24, 2016

                                     

    People say that I’m more of an optimist! I can see the silver lining in just about any situation. If a flight I’m on gets delayed I think about the fact that the flight attendants will probably give us an extra mini-bag of pretzels during the flight. When my 7th Grade football team got beat 42-2 in a game this year I replayed in my mind several times the play where we scored the two point safety.

So it fits that I’m able to still stay the optimistic course when it comes to suffering. A week ago my friend, Greg Davis, passed away. I led his funeral service on Saturday. During the course of the week I had some heart-wrenching conversations with his family. It had been a six year journey with cancer. Even in the midst of the grief Greg’s wife was able to say that they had come to experience the hope of God.

During the service I read Romans 15:13, a verse that Greg had underlined in is Bible. It reads, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” In the journey with the uninvited passenger of cancer the Davis family discovered that God is hope. Granted that discovery was paved with a multitude of tears, countless moments of confusion, and a list of questions all beginning with why, but they slowly arrived at the village of Hope.

Greg’s journey paved the way for other conversations I had last week with other people about being a follower of Jesus and the uncomfortableness of suffering. Some tainted theology emerged from people’s minds. Simply put it said what is the use of following Christ if he doesn’t protect you from things like cancer. If Jesus isn’t a lucky charm warding off evil, accidents, and illnesses why follow him? Great revealing questions that evolve out of a person’s real motives, that being “What will Jesus do for me?” People are always more comfortable with Jesus as a savior, but Jesus as Lord is not nearly as agreeable.

What Greg and his wife Jordan discovered is that God walks closely beside us. Following Jesus is not like having a rabbit’s foot in my pocket, but rather knowing that he is with me in the valleys, not waiting for me on the far side of the valley. It’s knowing in the depths of my soul the truth of that verse in Psalm 23, “Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil for you are with me. Your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:4)

     Times of suffering are a part of life as much as times of delight. The hope comes in knowing that the love of God is constant and pure, a mighty shoulder to cry on and a hand to lead me on. The only person who enjoys pain and suffering is a masochist, but when the agony of life makes a stop on the front steps of where I live it gives me a peaceful assurance knowing that the Good Shepherd is standing beside me as I open that door. And that isn’t optimism, but rather heart-felt belief!

But Jacob Lied!

January 31, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                           January 31, 2016

                                       

Henry came through the front door with his brief case and the usual end-of-the-day exhaustion.

“Sara, I’m home!”

He heard some stirring in the kitchen, the banging of some pots and pans…which was never a good sign…and then the movement of feet heading his way. Sara entered the hallway with heavy feet and a frown from ear to ear.

“Henry, you’re going to have to have a heart-to-heart with your son. I can’t believe what he did today.”

“What did Tommy do?” asked Henry, his tiredness level suddenly reaching a new depth.

“He cheated on his math test at school today, and then blatantly lied about it to his teacher.”

“What? That’s not like Tommy! Math isn’t his strong suit, but he would never cheat and lie about it.”

“Well, he has started a new trend then! Mrs. Matthews noticed him looking at the paper of the girl he sits in the seat beside him, and his test paper was number for number the same as hers.”

Henry was still trying to comprehend his own flesh-and-blood doing such a thing. Tommy wasn’t the best student, but his fourth grade report card was a mixture of “A’s” and “B’s”. How could this be? There had to be some kind of misunderstanding going on here. He called for Tommy, who had been confined to quarters since he got home from school. A few seconds later the soft steps of socks on carpet came down the stairs, and a boy with a puppy dog face slinked into the room.

“Tommy, is it true what your mom just told me? Did you cheat on your math test today and then lie about it?”

“Yes, Dad,” he whispered.

“I’m in shock. What would ever give you the idea to do such a thing?” Henry was trying to keep it together, but his mind was racing ahead to what the punishment should be…grounding until Tommy turned eighteen…no TV for a year…send him away to military boarding school…the options were limitless.

“It was in the Bible.”

“What did you say?”

“I read it in the Bible.”

“Cheating on math tests is in the Bible?”

“Not math tests, but it’s in there. I was reading about Jacob last night, and how he cheated his brother out of his birthright, and then he lied to his father. It’s right there.”

“What?” Henry asked with a high level of disbelief.

“Don’t you remember? His mom had him put some hairy stuff on his arms and his dad touched them, asked him if he was really Jacob, and he said yes. And then he got his father’s blessing!”

Henry could feel the words rising up within him. He tried to hold back, but he couldn’t stop them from emerging from his lips. “That’s different!”

A moment of uncomfortable silence ensued. Tommy looked confused and his dad suddenly was feeling uncomfortable about this conversation.

“I don’t understand. How was what Jacob did different from what I did?”

“It was a different time and place…and…ahhh…people didn’t know any better…and his brother deserved it…and…ahhh…it’s just how it was and things are different now.”

Henry recognized that there was an “No Outlet” sign on this path he had taken. Quite honestly, he didn’t understand the “Jacob Blessing” story either, and he knew he had cornered by his son’s confusion. It was time to own up to it!

“Tommy, here’s the truth! I don’t fully understand that story in the Bible. I can’t say it was right for Jacob to cheat and lie back then, and it’s wrong for you to cheat and lie today. All I know is that it’s not the right thing for you to do, and I think deep down you probably know that as well.”

Tommy looked at the carpet for a few moments and said, “Yes…I kind of knew it wasn’t the right thing to do.”

“That’s good to hear, because I’m pretty sure, most of the time, you can figure out what the right thing to do is.”

“You’re right, Dad!”

“And even though Jacob cheated and lied and received his father’s blessing, his actions had some consequences later on.”

They looked at one another for a moment and Henry then took a step towards his son and placed his hand on his shoulder. “I doubt that Mrs. Matthews is going to give you a pass on this one just because you know the story of Jacob, but I’m going to show you some grace. In regards to Mrs. Matthews I want you to go to her tomorrow morning and apologize for what you did. Tell her you know it wasn’t right and you want to make things right from now on.”

“Okay!” He put his arms around his dad’s mid-section and hugged him and said, “Thanks, Dad!”

“I love you, son!”

“Love you too, Dad!”

The Deaths of Two

December 22, 2015

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                     December 21, 2015

                                           

This past week has been a time of death. That may sound morbid and dark, but it is the reality of the blessing of lives lived and dreams unfinished.

One death was of our church’s former pastor, a man who impacted many lives and dealt with a number of health difficulties, although the seeds for his death may have come as a result of an accident a few months ago. Regardless, death came… and took… and left confusion behind. Grandchildren were left wondering. Friends recalled shared events, conversations had, camping trips taken.

There was sadness, and yet understanding.

The second death was of a sixteen year old young man. It was most unexpected and hard to accept. Death does not discriminate between ages. Although it mostly accompanies the elderly to the next life, sometimes it chooses a different partner that takes the breath away from those left behind.

Death seems to be especially hard at Christmas time, and, unfortunately, more frequent. Our own family views Christmas a little differently now since my father-in-law passed away on Christmas Day nine years ago. In the midst of our kids and grandkids and son-in-laws there is still a whisper of loss as we remember Christmases past.

The family of the sixteen year old are being supported by numerous friends and family as they walk through this, but there are deep wounds inside them that will take lifetimes to heal. Death is like that. It comes and stays. Even when we try to shove it into the attics of our memories it knocks on the ceilings of our hearts to remind us that something…or someone is missing.

The walk through the valley that is overshadowed by death (Psalm 23:4) takes on new meaning as people struggle on.

Our hope is in the last part of Psalm 23:4. “I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and staff, they comfort me.” 

Although very few of us are comfortable with death, we can take comfort in knowing who walks with us.

Hurrying From the Tomb To Uncertainty

April 8, 2015

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                               April 7, 2015

                                 

On Easter Sunday I preached on the first eight verses of Mark 16 about the three women who  encountered the young man dressed in white inside the empty tomb of Jesus. They fled the tomb afraid, and yet they had to be asking the question, “What now?”

They believed Jesus had lived and then been crucified. They expected the tomb to still be occupied by him, not by a guy in white telling them to not be afraid.

What now?

The rest of Mark 16, which was not a part of the earliest manuscripts, tries to bring some clarity to that question, but I think Mark 16:8 is a very relevant question for many people today who follow Jesus, or are trying to figure out what it means to be a follower of Jesus.

Too often we try to explain away all the mystery of the Christian faith, as if that will draw more people to our crucified Lord. You can’t explain “death to life”. It just is, because he said that’s how it was to be.

I’m sure there were a number of people who left our church after the worship celebration on Sunday wondering…what now? If I believe that Christ conquered death, what now? What does that mean to me and for me?

What does that mean for the church? What happens after Easter Sunday?

The neglect news is…not much! Some might answer the Final Four championship game. Others start counting down the days until summer vacation, or…the really, really negative…April 15th income tax return deadline day.

But let me take the high road. What happens after Easter Sunday? People start talking about things being different, about hope in the midst of uncertainty, and about perhaps…just perhaps…life suddenly having a purpose that is not tied tightly to a paycheck or the Sports section of the newspaper.

The women ran away uncertain of what had just happened, but knowing that the heartaches of the darkest day of their lives, uncomfortably close in their memories, would be soothed and replaced by the mysterious hope of something different, something incredibly unexpected.

They had “what now” questions, but ones with growing optimism instead of bitter pessimism.

It disturbs me, and yet challenges me, that too many people are asking “what now” about the place of their faith and are greeted by pat answers from pastors and churches that lead them to surrender their hunger for the Mystery.

Perhaps pilgrims in the midst of the journey once in a while should consider answering “I don’t know, but let’s walk together and see if we can find out.”

We Don’t Know!

December 30, 2014

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                    December 30, 2014

                                                     

        Nothing quite causes unrest and frustration more than three words: We don’t know!

People who are looking for the answer or final solution find it hard to truly hear those words. You can blame it on the times we live in…and the devices of our time.

For example, I can look at a device wrapped around my wrist and instantly discover how many calories I’ve burned off during my workout.

I can look at the side of a box to find out how many grams of sugar are in the bowl of cereal I’m munching on.

I can go to the Channel Guide on my TV to find out what is playing at 9:00 tonight on the Sci Fi Channel.

I can go on-line to see the balance in my checking account.

But there are some things in life that have a grayness to them, that aren’t instant answers. Those three words…”We don’t know!”, cause eyebrows to be raised and fears to be heightened. They are three words that have become like a foreign language to our culture.

“We must know! We have to know!”

I recently was sitting with a family in a hospital waiting room waiting to hear from the surgeon about the difficult procedure the loved one had undergone. As we waited the text messages kept bombarding family members.

       “How did it go?”

       “Is he in recovery?”

       “What did they find out?”

       “How long will he be there?”

The spouse patiently responded to each one “We don’t know!” The waiting for word and the pressure from those who weren’t there to know was raising her own level of concern. Patience quite often takes a detour around hospital waiting rooms.

Last week my wife and I were inquiring about the purchase of a hot new product that we were looking to buy. The store was out of them. I found myself getting a little agitated when the salesperson’s respond to when they would get some more in was “We don’t know! Maybe next week…maybe a couple of weeks!”

The answer wasn’t immediate…and so I was up against a brick wall. The bricks did not feel good against my desire to move forward.

I often get spiritual questions that I can’t answer. The questioner looks at my response of “I don’t know!” and is taken back. I’m a pastor. I’m suppose to know.

But I have no idea how God created angels, or what kind of fish it was that swallowed Jonah? Why do good things happen to bad people…and bad things happen to good people? Why does one person get cured of cancer, and another die a slow painful death?

Life is filled with questions that I am clueless about answering.

Most of my day is spent in “the immediate.” That is, I can immediately know without wondering. It’s the moments of wondering that are uncomfortable, and yet they are also the moments that are usually tinted with the presence of God.