Posted tagged ‘creating’

Writer’s Conference Anxiety

May 15, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                     May 15, 2018

                              

The Estes Park Christian Writer’s Conference is one day away and I’m feeling like a jittery five year old about to hug his mom and walk with shaking knees into his kindergarten class for the first day of school. What will happen? What if I have to go to the bathroom? What if I fall on the playground and skin my knee, or tip over the building blocks accidentally? What if my teacher doesn’t like me and makes me stand in the corner?

Kindergarten questions simply get redressed into grownup worries. As I head to the conference the questions cloud my mind like the halo on top of Pike’s Peak this morning. 

What if my clinic teacher tells me that my writing really sucks? What if they use literary terms that I have no clue about? What is the people there are about half a bubble off center…you know, the elevator doesn’t go to the top floor? What if I have to go to the bathroom really bad? (As you can tell, I’m a bit concerned about taking care of “my business!”) What if I get asked a question and my mind goes as blank as a stare? What if I get Gordon Ramsay for an instructor, complete with English accent and expletives? 

When you have never experienced something you begin to let your mind wander to dark places. 

I WAS accepted as one of six people in the Fiction Intensive Clinic. I had to send my book synopsis and first chapter to the clinic teacher about two months ago and the six of us that were accepted were notified at the end of April. Each of us now has the first chapter and synopsis of the others in the group. There will be some major critiquing and, hopefully, encouragement as we learn about writing tendencies and bad habits. 

I will have appointments with a few literary agents, with hopes that someone will be interested in my book enough to express desire in getting it in front of some publishers. In the midst of this is some personal pride about the story I’ve created, the characters I’ve come to love, and the value of the message that the book brings. My stomach becomes a bit queasy thinking that I’ve written four hundred pages that might get trashed. Actually, I’ve written eight hundred plus pages, because the sequel to the first book has already had its first draft finished. The third book has already been started. Through the pages of type I’ve come to love the characters like the ninth grader, Randy Bowman, and his seventh grade neighbor and friend, Ethan Thomas. It hit me a while ago that I WAS Ethan Thomas in seventh grade and I wanted to be Randy Bowman when I was a freshman. In the course of the first two books Randy helps Ethan become more than he ever thought he could be, a kid easily unseen in the midst of his school who is mentored and befriended towards the discovery of potential and value. 

And, that is also why there is anxiety about this new experience. I’m all in with the story! Like a fourteen year old who discovers his name is not on the list of players who made the basketball team, I’m trying to brace myself for the possibility of disappointment, but also hold out hope that…something just might happen!

Regardless, I believe that God has orchestrated this moment. I’m just hoping that it doesn’t sound like a harmonica in the midst of a wind ensemble!

Creating Poets Without Beards…or Rhyme!

January 27, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                              January 27, 2018

                             

I was given the opportunity yesterday to teach seventh grade Language Arts class. One hundred adolescents more excited about a weekend of doing nothing as opposed to fifty-seven minutes of literary creating and discovery!

The assignment for each period was to create a poem, based on an ancient form of Chinese poetry called “Shi” poetry. I explained the creative process to them, showed them a few examples and set them off on the road of pondering, erasing bad lines of gibberish, and creative expression.

“Mr. Wolfe, what do you think about this? “I have a flying dog who flies in the air like a pigeon.”

“Needs a bit of work!”

“Why?”

“Well, I’m not exactly sure where you’re going with this, but if you have a flying dog do you really need to repeat two words later that he flies? And, isn’t it enough to say it’s a flying dog, as opposed to comparing him to a pigeon?” He ponders, returns to his seat, and I notice he immediately flips his pencil to use the eraser.

A masterpiece just destroyed by a substitute teacher who doesn’t understand about flying dogs.

“Mr. Wolfe, what do you think about this?” He hands me his creation, which I carefully read.

“The season of winter has begin

The light will be dim…”

“Shouldn’t that word be ‘begun’?

“Well, I wanted it to rhyme with dim.”

“(Thinking the words but not saying them: Listen, Longfellow!) Begin doesn’t rhyme with dim.”

“Yes, it does…begin…dim…” He is trying to convince me that I’m in error.

“No, it doesn’t! And, anyway, you don’t need to rhyme!”

“I know, but I thought it sounded good!”

(Thinking the words again: “Well, it doesn’t!”)

There were other inspired students yesterday who impressed me with the depth of their thoughts and flow of meaning. Poems about the afterlife, death, and personal value were mixed in with other poems about chicken wings, watermelon, and having a rat for a pet.

The drudgery I sensed about the assignment was soon replaced with an excitement about personal expression. Even if the poem was about macaroni and cheese there was still a sense of pride about what had been transmitted from the pencil to the paper.

When students shared their creations they read them with smiles on their faces and the hope of recognition. When each student finished reciting we snapped our fingers together like we were beatniks from the 60’s.

A few poets may have been created in those moments yesterday, as well as visions of flying dogs who look like pigeons.

Lego Language

April 3, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                         April 3, 2017

                                        

Our family of ten (Mom, Dad, 3 kids, two son-in-laws, and 3 grandkids!) just returned from Carlsbad, California yesterday after five days of vacationing. The resort we stayed at is directly across the street from Legoland, an unbelievable place of creativity and imagination.

I grew up with Lincoln Logs, wooden planks that could be put together to build…a log cabin! Yes, that was pretty much it! Now there is a plethora of different Lego “pieces!” When our kids were growing up, and were playing with their first Legos, they were able to choose between a block that was rectangular or another one half the size that was square. That was pretty much it! A little more flexible than my 1950’s Lincoln Logs…but not much!

At Legoland I discovered a whole new Lego language has been invented. I felt like an alien trying to order from a dinner menu without pictures!

I trailed the two older grandkids (6 and almost 9) into a “creating room”, filled with tables that contained various pockets of Lego pieces. Jesse and Reagan comfortably plopped onto two seats at one of the tables and started jabbering. I sat between them and looked confused. “I need a body,” Jesse exclaimed like a surgeon hovered over his latest transplant patient. “Here’s one, Jesse!” Reagan passed a Lego piece that was no more than two inches long to him. I sat there like a Basic Math student who had been mistakenly placed in a Calculus class.

“What’s this?” I asked, holding something that looked kind of like an ‘L’, “a leg maybe?”

“No!” Reagan snickered like I’d just told the world’s funniest joke. She didn’t go further, however, and tell me what it WAS, just what it wasn’t!

The two of them were creating Lego hero figures. After a few minutes I figured out what a body was and actually attached another piece to it. Understand that I did not know what the other piece was that I attached to it, but I did make it click into place. For all I knew I just attached a Lego throw rug to my body’s back!

The two builders were enthralled by the whole experience. I was enthralled by their understanding of this new language. I was not a good foreign language student in high school, college, or seminary. Spanish, Latin, and Hebrew were three attempts at being bi-lingual. Each one of them affected my GPA…in negative ways.

And now here was a new, innovative modern language that had no verbs. A generational gap  language that required more than a Lego bridge to cross! And it is amazing! Sometimes when a person is confused the coolest thing is to just step back and watch. In the distant hazy memory behind the two builders I could still see my Lincoln Logs, remembered the hours of happy play I had with them. That was now my connecting point with the “grand creators”, happiness! Happiness is a common language that crosses generations and circumstances.

Outside our creating room I could see a life size Lego person smiling at me! He understood!

One Year Retired!!!

January 22, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                           January 22, 2017

                                       

On January 17, 2016 I spoke for the last time at Highland Park Baptist Church in Colorado Springs, the church I pastored for sixteen and a half years. I went from a long-time pastor to a has-been pastor.

A week after I graduated from Northern Baptist Seminary in June of 1979 I began a position as Minister of Christian Education and Youth at First Baptist Church in Davison, Michigan. For the next thirty-six and a half years I ministered and pastored in churches of Michigan and Colorado.

And then it was time!

This last year has been awesome, not because I’m just sitting around each day watching my toe nails grow! My passions have always been “coaching” and “creating.” Pastoring and coaching have a number of elements that are similar. Creating and sermon-writing are like twin sisters. This past year has enabled me to do a lot more creating, blog-writing…working on a novel…thinking…pondering…conversing. And I’ve also been able to coach middle school football and basketball, coach a struggling small-town church as it navigates the future, and, most recently, coach roomfuls of 7th Graders in the discovery of Social Studies.

I headed into retirement thinking that I would golf more, work on my slice, hone my putting game. Instead, I actually golfed 7 holes all last summer. Yes, 7! A fog bank rolled in on us as we were getting to the 7th green, and then we couldn’t even see the 8th hole!

I headed into retirement thinking that I would read a lot of those theological books that look impressive on my book shelves but have been harvesting dust. (Pause) They are still harvesting dust. I’ve read a lot this past year, but not very much theology. I discovered a new treasure- the public library! Not a week goes by that I don’t go there at least a couple of times. I’m reading history and mystery! Carol has been pleased by the decreasing number of Amazon packages delivered to our front door. I’m currently reading Barbara Tuchman’s The Guns of August, about the outbreak of World War 1, Ken Bailey’s Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes, and John Sandford’s Escape Clause. I just finished J.D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy, that resonated a lot with my family’s Eastern Kentucky roots.

We headed into retirement thinking that we would travel more, and we have: road trips to Phoenix and Ohio, and a week in Hawaii; an upcoming family trip to San Diego and heading up a mission work team to British Columbia this summer.

Retirement has really been more a refocus. Carol tells people that I am now much more relaxed and less stressed. I enjoy traveling out to Simla and worshiping with the 20 folk at First Baptist Church. They have helped me fall in love with the church again.

Carol and I get to watch and be with the grandkids more. On Saturday nights I’m not worried about the Sunday sermon. This past week I sat on the couch with the two oldest “GK’s” and watched “The Secret Life of Pets” together. It was awesome to laugh with them about different parts of the film. They are a delightful trio…with their two-year old sister.

The hardest part of this past year has been the separation from many of the dear relationships I had with people of my former congregation. As a long-term pastor I’ve tried to keep my distance as the church navigated the journey ahead of them. There is a journey of loss for everyone involved, the congregation and the former pastor and pastor’s wife. I miss the Saturday morning men’s bible study group and the Thursday morning Ageless Wonders bible study. I’ve kept my distance from the Buddy Basketball program I started 14 years ago. Others have picked it up and continued it. I miss the conversation amongst the older saints, and I miss the group of young guys that I “coached” for several years in dialogue about their families and faith.

Retirement is about missing some things and moving on to others. I think the first year of ours have been done well. Thankfully we still have our health. Thankfully I can still talk to my dad every Sunday night on the phone. Thankfully I still have a couple of support groups that help keep me grounded and healthy. Thankfully Carol and I don’t get on each other’s nerves very often. (If Sister Wives is on TV I just leave the room! She did tape my snoring one night on her iPhone and sent the scene to me the next morning while I was substitute teaching. I just want to say, however,  that the film footage was very grainy, so it probably would not hold up in court as evidence!)

Year two of retirement began with a long-term substitute teaching position. What a hoot! Getting to spend most of each day with 120 7th Graders in a portable classroom! I could write a book!

Oh…I’m already writing a book!

I could write another book! Perhaps that will come in Retirement Year Three!

Sand City

July 22, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                          July 21, 2016

                                          

    A week of church camp is filled with incredible moments and discoveries. Quite often the adult counselors get surprised in delightful ways by the things their camper kids say and do. One of those happened with our elementary campers the past two days. In the midst of the sand volleyball court a few of the kids, and a couple of their counselors, started making sand creations. It started simple! A two story house about a foot wide and a foot long.

Then a second house…a few more houses to make it begin to resemble a village, and then a house that started to resemble an Aztec temple or a four-layered wedding cake…one of those!

A few more campers joined the fun, and suddenly instead of Bust, Colorado (Population 2!), the sand creation started looking like a city…and ancient city, since a couple of the artists started building a sand wall around it.

Then another sand city started to be built on the other end of the sand volleyball court! Not wanting to look exclusive and uninviting, a few of the first “sanders” built a sand road between the two sand cities.

This morning there were close to thirty campers and counselors digging in the sand…creating, working together, laughing, and talking. It was not a planned activity, but, instead, became a movement. What an experience to see knees in the sand sharing ideas on what the next building phase might be. I’m pretty sure they put a Sonic and a Starbucks in there on one busy sand street! Interestingly enough, no sand schools were built by kids who are seeing their summers come quickly to an end.

One of the high school counselors got wind of a plot that a few of her students her devising  about going through and destroying Sand City and “Sand City West” and writing “Godzilla was here!” in the sand. She talked to them about being encouragers instead of destroyers. She conveyed to them the fact that the kids involved in the sand creations and construction would be crushed by a few seconds of mischievous fun. They understood…and the Sand Cities got larger. A few of the high school students even “got sandy!”

It made me think of the violent acts that have left their imprint across the country. How easy it is for people to respond with destruction in mind…instead of coming alongside and working together. How easy it is to tear down instead of build up? Sad City is becoming too prevalent!

How easy it is for churches to tear down and destroy instead of building places of grace and compassionate love! There are too many Sad Churches! I am perplexed as to why!

The reality of the weather at our 8,700 elevation camp is a late afternoon rain storm. What took hours to build, we knew, would be flattened by showers. The wise leaders explained the situation to the young sanders. They suggested that since the kids were the builders that they should be the ones to have the opportunity to “disassemble.” The campers stood along the sideline of the volleyball court and on the signal moved forward like a swarm of locusts, breaking down the fragile creations.

Rain came a couple of hours later.

Today, I fully expect, reconstruction will take place. Like rebuilding after a major storm…one sand house at a time!

600 Posts!

July 8, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                             July 8, 2016

                                              

Today I’m writing my 600th Words from WW blog post. It’s been an adventure! The first post emerged on December 30, 2008. There have been times of writing frenzy, like in June of 2014 when I took on a challenge that wordpress.Com presented of writing a blog post each day for the entire month. Plus, they gave you the subject matter.

I’ve written about death…greatly on my mind when my mom passed away Labor Day weekend of 2013.

I’ve written about grace…and how it so often is lacking, oddly enough, in the church.

I’ve written imagined coffee conversations with Jesus…stressing that things are not always so cut and dried as people think.

I’ve written about personalities…people who have greatly influenced my life in various ways.

I’ve written about how weird people are…or should I say we all are!

I’ve written about stories in Scripture and what they teach me.

I’ve written about the church…my hope for it, and my frustration with it.

I’ve written about life…normal life and life moments that have a sense of sacredness to them, like my daughter’s wedding and car rides with my granddaughter.

I’ve written from a stool at Starbucks, my home study, and a cubicle at the public library. There’s been many occasions where I’ve sat on my Starbuck’s stool, looking out at Pike’s Peak, with no idea what I would write about and then God gives me a thought, an idea, a moment of remembering something from the past…and the words tumble out. With my earbuds in, tuned to the Coldplay station on Spotify, I go at it.

And the thing is, I write and trust that God will take it from there. He’s like the paperboy for my blog. I trust that he hits the driveway to whomever he sends it to, and it doesn’t end up underneath the shrubbery.

A couple of weeks ago someone I least expected told me that she really enjoyed my “Words.” “It is so where I live!” she exclaimed. I greatly appreciated that. I’ve never been one for high academia, as my college grades would attest to! I’m more like “The Hardy Boys”, rather than “The Brothers Karamazov!”

One of my best friends suggested that I try to get money for my blog. He knows someone who does. My mind can’t fathom that. My writing is kind of like my baseball card collection. It keeps getting bigger, but I never sell any. I’m just thrilled that people seem to enjoy reading it. According to WordPress I have 128 followers. I’m not sure what that means, and, quite honestly, I don’t know ninety percent of them. How closely do they follow? Are they more like stalkers who are following me, or readers who are looking for a chuckle in the midst of a ho-hum day?

And so I write as I sip on my Pike Place brew. Perhaps someday I’ll be on The Today Show…not!

What or whom might be the subject for #601?

Billy Goat Stories On the Fly

March 12, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                              March 11, 2016

                                  

Each day when I pick up my granddaughter Reagan from her “Little Sprouts” pre-kindergarten she asks me the same question as soon as she is buckled into her car seat.

“Granddad, tell me a Billy Goat story!”

“Reagan, another one?”

I hear a slight giggle. She knows that she has me wrapped around her pinky so tight I have no wiggle room. I’m bound to obey.

“One day Billy Goat was running through the field-“

“Because he had already eaten lunch…”

“Yes…because he had already eaten lunch…and as he was running through the field he saw a squirrel-“

“Was the squirrel his friend?”

“Yes…he was his friend, and his name was Squeaky. Billy Goat saw him running along the top rail of a fence, and so he scampered over to say hello. He strolled up to the fence and said, “Hey, Squeaky!”

“Does Squeaky have a squeaky voice?”

“Yes he does!” And I proceeded to speak in a high soprano voice that would be annoying in any other situation, but with my five year old granddaughter…it works! “Hey, Billy Goat! Did you have lunch yet?”

“I sure did, Squeaky. I had some oats and grass and a couple of carrots. How about you?”

“I’m on my way to getting lunch right now. There’s a few nuts laying on the ground by that big old tree over there that are just ripe for the taking.”

“Granddad, does that mean he is going to steal them? Because you aren’t suppose to take anything that isn’t yours.”

“No, he isn’t stealing them. They are like little treasures that belong to no one, and are free for the picking…So Billy Goat says to Squeaky, “I wish I could run along the top of the fence railing like you do. But I can’t because I have hoofs, but you have feet.”

“And Squeaky said to Billy Goat, ‘If you’d like to try I’ll help you.”

“Squeaky, you can’t give me a push. You’re too small…and what if I fell back on top of you? I’d crush you!”

“You’re right! How about if you put your hoofs on this rail and try to boost yourself up on top of the fence?”

Reagan is absorbed with the story from the safety of her car seat in the back. She’s following the storyline as I follow Powers Boulevard towards our home.

“Billy Goat said, ‘Okay, I’ll try!’ And he put his front hoofs on the rail, braced himself, and took a spring into the air, got to the top of the fence, but…”Whoa!”…he had pushed to hard and he went toppling down on the other side of the fence and hit the ground.”

“But he didn’t hurt himself.” Granddad stories where animals get hurt is a no-no!

“No, he was okay! And Squeaky told him to try again…so he put his hoofs on the rail and took a jump again. This time he landed on the top rail and stayed for a few seconds, but then one of his hoofs slipped a little bit, he lost his balance and he fell down…Whoa!”

“Squeaky said, “Are you okay, Billy Goat?”

“Yes,” said Billy Goat with a hint of being sad. “I guess I can’t be like you, Squeaky. I’m never going to be able to run along the top of the fence.”

“That’s okay, Billy Goat! You are who you are and I am who i am. I’m not gong to try to be a goat, because that would be silly, and you will never be a squirrel because that would make you a “silly billy!” We are who we are.”

“I guess you’re right, Squeaky! I’ve been a goat, I am a goat, and I’ll always be a goat. Thanks for trying to help me!”

The voice from the back seat summed up the story. “Squirrels are squirrels and goats are goats, and that’s the way it is!”

“That’s right, Reagan!”

“What’s for lunch?”