Posted tagged ‘creativity’

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!

The Most Under Appreciated Occupation

January 15, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                           January 15, 2017

                              

There are a number of educators in my family. My dad taught high school agricultural science for a year in Kentucky before family demands caused him to pursue a different career path. His mom, my Granny Wolfe, was a teacher. My sister and brother-in-law were both teachers, and in the last several years of her career my sister was really a teacher of teachers. I’m married to a wonderful woman who taught pre-school deaf children before we were married. She had graduated from Texas Christian University with a degree in deaf education. One of her sisters was in vocational education for close to twenty years, and now my oldest daughter, Kecia, is in her twelfth year of teaching fourth grade.

Back in the mid-nineties I served on the school board of the Mason, Michigan school system. In that capacity, two years of which I served as President, I learned the challenges of being a quality school system and the daunting challenges of teachers. Now I’m a substitute teacher, and about to start my second week as a long-term substitute in a seventh grade social studies class.

What I’ve discovered is that teaching is the most under-appreciated occupation in our nation. Others may disagree with me, based on their observations and circumstances. I won’t debate the situation with them. From my perspective, however, a teacher is like a person who is asked to build a mansion with a pile of sticks, a bag of nails, and a hammer…and to do it quickly and with quality!

A teacher is a counselor…for the student who comes to school dealing with the fact that her parents are divorcing…and for the student whose dog just got hit by a car the night before.

A teacher is a listener…for the classroom full of students who all want to tell her what they did over Spring Break…and the student who needs to share what someone had said to her in the cafeteria at lunch that was hurtful.

A teacher is an evaluator…of the research papers turned in by a hundred and twenty students, tasked with the responsibility of evaluating who made a determined effort and who didn’t, who gave their best and who gave the minimum.

A teacher is a presenter…of subject matter that must be informative, understandable, and interesting. The challenge of educating the gaming and social media generation demands creativeness and a number of ways to communicate the material.

A teacher is asked to prepare students for state assessment tests and expected to have their students produce great scores…even though they have no control over such factors as home environment, limited resources of a family such as food and clothing, and emotional issues that effect a student’s ability to perform well.

A teacher is asked to participate in a number of ways outside of the classroom…such as meeting with the other teachers of their subject matter, school staff meetings, training meetings, team meetings, support school functions such as concerts, games, dances, and fundraising efforts.

A teacher is expected to continue his education…learning the latest in curriculum material, the updated technology, the new school procedures, and also know what it is that his students are interested in.

A teacher is expected to be innovative…thinking beyond the box even though most of her school day deals with stuff that is in the box, developing new and better ways of teaching old things.

A teacher has a never-ending lists of tasks to complete…replying to parent emails, meeting with students who need a bit more help in understanding the subject matter, grading papers, entering grades, contacting parents about their child’s classroom behavior, doing bus duty, doing cafeteria lunch duty, cleaning the room, communicating with the administration, and trying to get a few hours of sleep each night.

A teacher is a planner….of the classroom presentations weeks from now, putting lesson plans together way ahead of time in case he catches one of the numerous illnesses that his students have been freely passing around.

A teacher is underpaid, but passionate about her opportunity to influence lives.

A teacher is a difference maker. When I look back at my school years and also years of college and seminary training there are numerous teachers and professors who still are very memorable in my memory. They challenged me, changed me and motivated me to be someone who lived a life of purpose.

So back to my statement! Teachers make up the most under appreciated occupation…and yet, perhaps, they make the biggest difference!

Weathered Dreams

November 17, 2015

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                          November 16, 2015

                                          

We’re in the midst of a mid-November blizzard. Schools closed, roads closed, people stranded…all those signs that point to the wisdom of staying home. The wind is blowing like there’s no tomorrow. Snow drifts greeted me when I opened the garage door this morning.

Glad I got the lawn mowed yesterday!

This morning I looked out the window in our dining room to our back yard. On our wood fence in the back there is a sign that has been there for a number of years, almost like a picture frame, that says “Dream!”

It reminds us to envision, to imagine, to think the impossible.

But the strong winds and blizzard cold has loosened one of the nails that has been holding the “Dream” in place. Today it swings back and forth on the fence board with uncertainty, as if it has been abandoned. It conveys the mixed message of falling dreams, almost like someone imagining the “not yet” being pulled back down to reality.

Jesus was a dreamer! He preached about the Jubilee year of renewal, release, and redemption; encouraged kids to come to him; envisioned his death and resurrection, talked about healed people and exorcised demons. Of course, he did more than talk! He made what people thought were crazy ideas into realities.

Sometimes we’re guilty of raising up people of faith who have given up on their dreams. The dream sign is swinging back and forth in the winds of church life. The wisdom of how to raise up people of faith is tempered by the pull back into congregational conformity.

“God has given me a vision for helping people in the midst of addiction!”

     “God has placed a dream within my spirit to start a ministry where a team of people offers free vehicle inspections to senior folk.”

     “God has not allowed me a good night’s sleep because of a dream he has given me to mentor kids in reading at the local elementary school.”

     “God has given me a vision to make mittens for kids at the mission we support in British Columbia.”

Dreams come in all sizes and shapes, places and people. I’m convinced a big part of God’s masterpiece gets conveyed through the dreams of his followers. Sometimes they make perfect sense and sometimes, on the surface, they are lacking in common sense. How does the church keep dreams from falling? How do those of us who have been followers of Jesus for a long ways support the new directions of the younger generation?

It takes a bit of faith to see that lemonade comes from lemons. It takes an abundance of hands to be the under-support of a person’s dream that seeks to rise.

When the blizzard passes I’ll go out into out back yard and pound the nail back in place on our “Dream” sign. Or perhaps I’ll take the sign off from where it is and raise it up another six inches!

Popcorn Stories

October 5, 2015

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                            October 5, 2015

                                                 

My four year old granddaughter, Reagan, has a creative streak about her. I think most four year olds do, until stressed-out grown-ups tell them to conform to the norm. You know…color between the lines, not outside the lines!

Thankfully Reagan has a a mom and dad who encourage creativity…so whenever Reagan is in the car with me after I’ve picked her up from her pre-kindergarten for four year olds we have a unique kind of story time on the car ride to the next destination.

She calls it “popcorn stories”, because you’re never quite sure what’s going to pop up.

The way it works is she tells me what the story is to be about. Lately, she’s been fixated on a goat named “Billy”, a little boy named “Billy” (Billy the Kid!), and a fox.

I begin the story with those things in mind, and then when I say “Popcorn!” she picks up the story from there until she says “Popcorn!”, and then it’s back to me.

That back-and-forth goes on until we reach our destination.

It’s amazing the plot twists and turns that can happen in a ten minute car ride between an AARP member and a four year old.
Billy the Kid got captured by the mean old fox…Popcorn!

And the fox strung him up by his ankles until he was ready to eat him…Popcorn!

And the fox was listening to some of his favorite music…foxtrot…and fell asleep with his fox Beats wireless headphones on. He dreamed of running freely through fields of grain, and his own swimming pool…Popcorn!

Meanwhile Billy Goat was combing the hairs on his chin because they had tangles on them, and he decided to have a peanut butter sandwich with banana slices and pickles. And then he said “I wonder where Billy the Kid is!” I thought he was going to have lunch with me…Popcorn!

Stop!

Reagan and I have dealt with tornados, squeaky mice, mean little boys, pumpkin patches, and squiggly worms. You’re never quite sure where the story is going to take us, or how it’s going to turn out.

Each of us has just half of the story! We rely on one another to help row the boat down the stories stream.

I’m sure she will grow our of it after a while…hopefully, not too quickly…but perhaps we’ll get a few novels created in the midst of our vehicle before then.

Reagan is about about the story, which tells of a different kind of book that she is writing. It’s entitled How to Wrap Your Grandfather Around Your Little Finger?”

Apple Juice and Glazed Communion

May 25, 2015

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                May 25, 2015

                                     

There were always a few yawns when the men arrived for the 7:30 Saturday Men’s Bible Study group. Ten guys sat around the table, each slurping their first cup of coffee of the day. This was an important part of each man’s weekly schedule. It was where they unloaded, laughed deeply, and uninhibitedly questioned life.

Confidentiality was a valued element of this group. Struggles stayed here. Frustrations didn’t get retold to spouses and girlfriends.

“My brother is considering leaving his wife!” groaned Jimmy.

“Why’s that, Jimmy?”

“He thinks she’s having an on-line affair with some guy that she knew back in high school.”

“Is he assuming, or does he know for sure?”

“I think he’s assuming, but their marriage has been as rocky as Pike’s Peak for some time now. What do I tell him? I can’t condone his walking out on her, but I see the hurt in his eyes every time we talk about it.”

A wise octogenarian named Clarence stroked his silver beard and slowly began to speak. “Jimmy, tell your brother to not do anything…not make any decision for a month. We will commit as a group to pray daily for him, and even more than him, his wife for the coming thirty days. Someone once said that “decisions made in haste lead to a bad taste.”

“I think that someone was you, Clarence,” pointed out another elder of the group named Fred.

Jimmy looked around the table and said “I really appreciate it, fellas’!”

The youngest member of the group, a twenty-something named Matt, spoke up. “A good friend of mine from high school just found out he has advanced cancer.”

Moans and grimaces around the table displayed the group empathy for Matt. Most of them had friends who battled cancer- some won, some lost.

“Have you talked to him, Matt?” asked Steve, a balding forty year old.

“Yes, he’s pretty scared! I told him that we’d be praying for him. He’s not a follower of Jesus, but this has given me some opportunity to talk to him about life and death, hope and faith.”

Steve voiced the group’s commitment to pray for him, and for Matt as he walked alongside his friend.

“This group means a lot to me!” The voice was that of a recently-retired businessman named Daniel, and it was filled with emotion. “I look forward to this every week. Most weeks it’s my highlight. Talking to you guys, especially when I’m dealing with no news from my son from Africa.” Daniel’s youngest son, Nate, was in the midst of a nine-month deployment to a troubled part of Africa.

Clarence, who was sitting next to Daniel, put his hand on his shoulder for a few moments. “We’re in this together, Daniel!”

There was a sacred silence around the table. For a few moments no one stirred or even took a sip of coffee. They sat as a brotherhood.

“Do you know what we should do?” Steve suddenly asked.

“Take a trip to Hawaii and you pick up the tab?” suggested Randy, who was the comedian of the group.

“No…we should share communion together.”

“It’s not the first Sunday of the month, Steve!”

“I don’t think the scriptures say anything about first Sunday communion. That’s just something we created for some reason. No…it seems like it says something in the Bible about having communion whenever to come together…or something like that.”

“That’s not blasphemous, is it?” asked Matt.

“What?”

“To have communion when it’s not even in the sanctuary?”

“Jesus had it in the upper room, Matt.”

Randy spoke up again. “But there’s no grape juice! And you know without a doubt that there’s no wine in this church!”

“Can we pray over water and ask God to change it into wine?”

“Or why can’t we just use apple juice?” suggested Jimmy. Sometimes a question got asked in this group that no one had an answer for. Each man pondered.

“We can,” Clarence affirmed.

“Are you sure, Clarence? Do you think the pope would say it’s okay?”

Randy lightened the moment. “Unless I missed the memo, I don’t think this group turned Catholic.”

“We can…and we will share communion. Do we have a donut left?”

“One glazed!”

“Cut it up in ten pieces. Someone get some of those kid’s size paper cups for the juice and let’s do it.”

There was a hustle of activity as different guys got the substitute elements and prepared the table. Clarence led them through it. The glazed donut had a holy taste to it, not on the tongue, but rather to the soul. After sipping the apple juice Clarence led them in a prayer for Jimmy’s brother and sister-in-law, Matt’s friend with cancer, and for each other. They held hands firmly and with commitment and prayed like the King of Kings himself was sitting at the table with them.

“You don’t think Pastor Bob will be upset by this, do you?” asked Randy.

“Yes, he will be!” responded Steve.

“Really?”

“Yes, he will be upset that he wasn’t here to be a part of this!”

Randy summed it up. “You snooze, you lose!”