Posted tagged ‘help’

The People Who Push You On or Pull You Down

December 9, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                   December 9, 2017

                         

We have a tendency to not think about it because they breeze by us like a spring gust, but most of us…if we stop to think about it long enough…have numerous people in our lives who have pushed us to keep going, and others who have grabbed us by the arm and pulled us down.

That thought occurred to me recently as I was meeting with two people who have helped me in the editing of the book I had been writing. As we sat and talked they made several helpful suggestions on plot ideas, flow, character development, and other things. I left our conversation with new excitement about the project that caused me to hibernate in my favorite writing spot later on that day.

That’s what “pushers” do! They create an excitement within you to keep on going, to motivate you to move, to create, to take a risk.

Ed and Diana Stucky have been that to me for a good fifteen years. I remember when I doubted my worth as a pastor and a person and they got behind me and pushed me up. Roger Mollenkamp, Steve Wamberg, Thelma Dalrymple, Janet Smith, Chuck Landon, James Voss, Harold Anderson, Rich Blanchette, Mike Oldham, Ben Dickerson, Don Fackler, Dave Volitis, Ron McKinney…my fingers keep pecking out names like there’s no tomorrow. Each name that flows to the page is a quick reminder of how I’ve been blessed, influenced, and shaped.

When I was back in Ohio visiting my dad back in August one of his good friends, Bill Ball, passed away. Bill was ninety-something, an optimist and encourager. I remember when I was in high school and preparing for my senior season of track that he took me aside after church one Sunday and told me he thought I could lower my time in the mile considerably if I did a cope of things with my running form, how I used my arms and the pace of my race. He infused confidence into me and I broke the school record that had stood for almost twenty years. They were just simple words backed by affirmation and belief, and they worked.

For sixteen years I officiated high school basketball. I remember Andy Brooks, my mentor, encouraging me as he imparted wisdom to me. Ray Lutz, an official and mentor of officials for fifty years, recently passed away. At his memorial service in another couple of weeks there will be numerous men and women wearing black and white striped shirts that he pushed to keep on going.

Pushers keep us moving towards our potential.

But there are others who pull us down, also. Pullers are those folks who hold us back, torment us with their words, minimize us with their disdain and attitudes. Pullers are people who would keep reminding Jesus that he was only the son of a carpenter. They are the people who would keep whispering to Michael Jordan that he hadn’t made his freshmen basketball team. They are the present-day scribes and Pharisees that seem to enjoy making other people’s lives miserable.

If someone has more pullers than pushers in her life she will be the Cinderella that never made it to the ball, the fourth grader who will never learn to read because to many people had already convinced him he never could.

I’m fortunate! I’ve had many more pushers than pullers in my life. And for that I say “Thank you, Lord!”

A Friend Who Is Closer Than A Brother

January 24, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                         January 24, 2016

    “One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” (Proverbs 18:24)

Last weekend I was blessed by…friends! One of my best friends, David Volitis, and his wonderful wife, Donna, drove up from San Antonio, Texas. Rich and Casey Blanchette drove in from Goodland, Kansas. Ron McKinney, Roger Mollenkamp, Steve Wamberg, Andy Brooks, Greg Davis, Rick Banier, Tom McBroom, and Mark Miller all made it a point to come alongside me for part of the day.

There were many others from my congregation who celebrated with me, and my clergy colleague friends who I’ve grown close to…many, many friends!

The occasion was my last Sunday at the church I’ve pastored for the past sixteen plus years, and an afternoon reception. I had a long list of people who I invited to come. Some of them had been a part of our congregation and had decided to switch churches. For a pastor that is perhaps the most painful experience, when you care for, invest, walk alongside someone and their family, and then they decide it is time to move on. But I’ve learned…after many sleepless nights…that our friendship has stayed on solid ground.

As the verse in Proverbs says, there are unreliable friends and friends who stick close.

I am extremely blessed to have many friends who stick close.

I used to do something with the youth of our church called the “Trust Fall” or the “Faith Fall.” It was simply having a group stand around one person, who was standing on a chair or ladder a few feet above the ground and having the person fall backwards. He had to trust that his friends had to catch him. They had to be there for him.

A person who is blessed knows he has a group of friends…reliable friends…who will not let him fall, who will be there for him.

My friends in ministry that I’ve known for years, Tom Bayes and Chuck Moore, both called me to congratulate me and to let me know they are with me…even though they’re located in Dayton, Ohio and Charlotte, North Carolina. When I had those times in ministry when it was tough going I would call them. And if one of them was struggling they would call the other two of our triangle. That is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.

Someone who is a friend simply to get something from you is one refusal away from being an adversary. There are numerous “friendships of convenience.” The question is whether or not this friend will walk through the fire with you. Will they be there with you in the shallow waters, but stay safe when you enter the uncertain waters of the deep?

Some Sunday Carol and I will drive to Woodland, Kansas to attend First Baptist Church where Rich Blanchette pastors…because he is my friend. Some time in the next few months we’ll head down to San Antonio to see Dave and Donna….because they are our friends. Our separation by distance increases the yearning within us to be with them again. This morning I’m worshiping with Mark Miller and his family…because he is my friend.

A friend sticks closer than a brother.

Camp Day, Day 5

July 10, 2015

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                              July 10, 2015

                                            

Dear Parental Units,

Just kidding, Mom and Step-dad! I want you to know that I love you…I really do! My week at camp is almost over, and I’ve made some great new friends. My counselor has been incredible as she has allowed me to ask her hard questions, but she’s also been there to listen to my confusion.

I’ve learned a lot about faith and trusting this week. This morning we  got up WAY TOO EARLY and climbed to the top of the peak behind our camp. I didn’t like the getting up early part, and there were a few times during our climb that I wasn’t sure I’d be able “to get up!”…but I made it And a big reason I was able to make it was because of the support and encouragement of everyone else who was climbing with me. When my thigh muscles were about to explode I got a pat on the back from my counselor and a hand from another counselor helping me make the next really big step.

It made me realize how important it is to have “solid friends.” I say solid because some of my friends back home stand on shaky ground, and they are more like the wind that blows in and out of my life.

When I come back home on Saturday could I ask something of you? I’ve decided to become a follower of Jesus this week. That’s probably something you were hoping for, but I hope you understand that it doesn’t mean I’m going to be all perfect and always doing the right thing. I’m going to mess up royally, and I’m not going to suddenly understand high school calculus just because I’m following Jesus!

But this thing I need to ask you…would you help me in this faith walk? Maybe that sounds weird, but it’s kind of like that climb this morning. I need your support and encouragement to keep going…a helping hand when I’m having those moments when I’m about to tip backwards. I know you go to church and help out in different ways, and I appreciate that more now than I did before this week at camp.

But…I’m sorry to start so many sentences with but…but I need to know that your faith in Jesus is real! I’m not saying it isn’t…but I need you to tell me every once in a while that it is…that it isn’t just something we do because we’ve done it that way for so long.

Even though I like my space from time to time from you, I need you to lead me, to help me deal with my questions about why God does certain things…what happens when I pray and when I don’t pray…help me figure out what God wants me to do in life, what my purpose is?

I hope I’m making sense. My counselor isn’t even making me write this. I’m doing this on my own! If Jesus was thinking of me when he went to the cross I want to try to think a good bit more about them in these coming days.

Thanks for being my mom and step-dad! I know you don’t have perfect lives, but I know you love me deeply…and you paid for me to come to camp!

 

Can’t wait to see you!

Your daughter!

The One Word

June 10, 2015

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                 June 10, 2015

                                               

I wrote recently about a young lady who I had coached basketball for three years in high school passing away at the age of twenty.

Ever since hearing of her death I’ve been haunted…that’s the best word I can come up with…haunted by the absence of a word!

“A word” is not necessarily meant to be a literal term. It could be a few words… or one comment… or one encouragement…or one probing question. Just one thing that might have helped her define her life direction, her purpose, the potential of her vibrant spirit.

There have been other people who I’ve said things to, though unaware of it at the time, who have come back to me later and told me the effect of my words. I’ve written things that touched people in profound ways that I had no clue about.

And so it haunts me to know that this young woman could not latch on to something that I taught her, or I could not find that one word to guide her, years later, through rough waters.

Knowing the ache in my heart, I can’t imagine the aching fatigue in the lives of her family members.

One word! I think back over my life and the “one words” that have helped me get on track. My Uncle George taking me into the bedroom of my grandparents’ house in Oil Springs, Kentucky and giving me his “one word” after I came home from my first quarter of college with a GPA of “.533!” That’s right…the decimal point is to the left of the first number greater than “0”!

I remember Jerry Heslinga, our associate pastor at First Baptist Church in Ironton, Ohio giving me his “one word” that helped me stay the course in seminary.

I’m thankful for the “one word” that Gene Gilbert has for me on Sunday mornings when he lays a hand on my shoulder before worship and says a prayer for me.

And the “one word” that Rev. Chuck Landon imparted to me as I was floundering in the pool of pastoring. His “one word” was like a lifeline that kept me afloat.

I think of the “one word” of my coaching mentor, Don Fackler. Every time I hear, or say, “discombobulated” …which, believe it or not, is quite often, I see his bespectacled face.

And I think of my closest friend in ministry, Tom Bayes, and the defining conversations we would have. Sometimes I would be in the depths of despair and Tom would lift my spirits, and at other times when I had whacky thoughts he would ask a question to help me right the ship.

“One word” people have been instrumental in my life.

That knowledge makes it that much more difficult for me to know that I didn’t have that “one word” for this lady. In times like these I’m not sure there is a silver lining. Perhaps it will cause me to be more mindful of what I say and don’t say. Perhaps I’ll treasure the relationships I have even more.

The ache in my spirit has not lessened since last Friday. Perhaps that’s a good thing!

What I Would Have Told 2015 Graduates If Someone Had Invited Me

May 20, 2015

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                             May 19, 2015

            

You can’t trust mail delivery these days! I did not receive my invitations from various high schools and colleges to give their commencement address to the different graduating classes.

None! I even looked in the phone book to see if there is another Rev. William D, Wolfe in the Colorado Springs area, and there isn’t…but can you really trust the phone book these days?

So now I’m left with all these thoughts and suggestions that are still being thrown around in my head that need to come out like twice-laundered clothes! Here’s what I wish I could have said.

Discern what it is you want from what it is you need! Our culture has screwed you up! Ask yourself the question, “What can I live without?” and “What is essential for my life?” A new, or even used, BMW is not essential for your existence. The latte from Starbucks on your way to your new entry-level employment position is not essential. Money set aside to pay your utility bill probably is an essential…unless you have lots of blankets! Need a microwave for the new apartment you are moving into? Go to the Goodwill store and pick one up for $10!

Most things that get advertised as being able to bring happiness into your life will miss miserably! Don’t get sucker-punched by the hidden left hook reality! What really brings happiness is rarely advertised. It doesn’t need to be. For instance, a spring rain shower that brings a freshness to the air is a momentary delight that can’t be bought. Drinking a boatload of beer with a group of young adults gets portrayed as a happy time, but it never shows the staggering half-conscious product of the occasion.

Don’t make your mom keep doing your laundry! Cut the apron strings and take some responsibility. For that matter, don’t expect your parents to keep forking over money to you like they still owe you a weekly allowance. If you could make it to the podium to receive your diploma you are able to do most of the things that you’ve always took your granted that your mom and dad would do.

You aren’t entitled! Get over it! Entitlement is an illusion created by a reality TV generation. the days of equal playing time are over. You aren’t entitled to almost anything…pay raises, big screen TV, a seat at the table, going 70 in a 45, going through the “15 Items Or Less” line with 20 different things…just get over it! Little League is a distant memory for you. Even that diploma doesn’t entitle you to anything…except maybe student loans. I recently read an article about the long-time baseball coach at the University of Texas who was asked about the biggest difference between players he coached at the beginning of his career and the players he coached towards the end. His response…”entitlement!” Players think they are entitled to things these days without putting in the hard work. Colleges are upgrading facilities to a point that players now expect the finest.

It’s not all about you! Seek to serve incredibly more than being served. Know that being an American gives you the opportunity to make a difference in someone’s life…whether close at hand or in a distant place…that most in the world can not do. Most people in the world are just trying to survive. You aren’t a survivor! You are simply fortunate! Identity one way this world will be a better place because of you, not in spite of you! Get over yourself!

Perhaps my commencement address would be a bit harsh. But I’d be willing to give it for free! Hey! eBay paid Hillary $315,000 for a 20 minute speech! I’m cheap! I go against the popular notion that you can’t get something for nothing! I’d even pay for my own dinner since many believe there is no free meal!

Waiting for the calls from…Harvard, Texas Tech…Judson University…Ironton High School…any high school…Academy Endeavor 5th Grade Graduation…Kindercare day care promotion Friday…home for the aged…anywhere!

A Brown-Haired Pastor Turned Redhead

February 25, 2014

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                         February 25, 2014

 

                         

Needless to say, it wasn’t my idea! Some might say I was the victim!

But sometimes you willingly become the victim to help secure a different kinds of victory.

It was a contest. The head leader of our church’s Awana program pitted against me! I was hoping for a free throw shooting contest, maybe even one-on-one foosball, or which one of us could drink the most coffee in one day. I felt pretty good about my chances if we had competed in any of those events.

But…those were not options. The competition was between kids and adults. Whoever brought the most food for our church’s food pantry would be the victor.

But victory meant either a rainbow mohawk for our head leader or red hair for me. If the kids brought more food I was safe. If the adults brought more food I would be brighter than Red Skelton.

Each week the cans and boxes came in…cases of canned corn, bags of macaroni noodles, soup, peanut butter, and on and on. Last Wednesday the contest ended. Shannon( the head leader) and I were sitting on stools on the platform awaiting the outcome. I was confident, but not cocky! Actually I was apprehensive and fearful.

I had reason to be. The results were announced! It was a tie! How convenient! That must mean that neither of us would get our hair changed! Wrong! In the world of dyed-hair contests a tie means both contestants are sunk.

So Sunday morning I preached a sermon on “What I Believe About Healing” with red hair. It seemed a little awkward. My head felt like I was wearing a bomb shelter helmet. In my Bible reading just a couple of days before that I had been reading in Leviticus about the unclean state of a man with a reddish-white sore on his head. I thought God showed his sense of humor in bringing me to that passage in my reading at this time.

In the end our food pantry got restocked. Many families will be helped who are in need of food. What is probably excess groceries in many cupboards now becomes staples for a family on the edge.

So for that I willingly went red, and Shannon willingly went rainbow mohawk.

Funny thing! Later on that day my wife showed me a picture on her cell phone. I misunderstood what she said, and as I looked at the picture I asked “Who is that?”

“That’s you, dear!”

“Whattttt?”

The Five Wise Boys

December 20, 2013

WORDS FROM W.W.                                               December 20, 2013

 

 

The five young boys started their stroll down the center aisle of the church’s sanctuary. They carried gifts made out of plastic and cardboard, but painted to look like expensive presents from Dilliard’s. Boys have a tendency to drop things. Better to have a plastic container painted gold than a gold container containing something fragile.

There were five of them, each wearing a decorative hat or head wrap to convey their roles as the three wise men…plus two!

It wasn’t necessarily the plan! The program called for three boys dressed up to be like the “We Three Kings!”

“We Five Kings” or “Us Bunch of Kings” just didn’t quite have the same ring to it. Nevertheless, there were five of them marching down the aisle in all their glory.

Magi #4 and Magi #5 had shown up for the first time that morning…and been invited to carry some fragile-looking cardboard containers to the manger scene. They were a little apprehensive.

“We haven’t practiced.”

One of the other wise boys asked the question: “Can you walk and chew gum at the same time?” He got two cautious nods. “Then you qualify! Just follow us and we’ll lead you to the right spot.”

“After all,” added Wise Boy #2, “the Magi followed a star! They didn’t really practice either, and they made it okay!”

The first wise boy took Magi #4’s hand and said “It will be fun!” He tugged a little bit to get him to follow.

The two additional characters had come to church that morning with their mom and dad who had just become homeless. A world of confusion and closed doors had greeted their parents as they tried to keep the family together, safe, and fed. The journey to the sanctuary manger scene that morning has been preceded by visits to filled homless shelters, tapped-out agencies, and declined appeals.

Christmas looked dark.

Mom and Dad and their two boys carried all their possessions in two suitcases and four backpacks, and they walked from one place to the next. Desperation was starting to seep in to their minds. Fears about survival were becoming constant.

And then the parents met someone who said, “Let me see if I can help you!” A roof over their heads, food in their hands, and an invitation to come to church. The genuineness of the helper convinced them that this was not a superficial offer, but was undergirded with concern for their well-being.

And so they had come. Someone had picked them up and brought them…and soon after the wise boys had multiplied by sixty-seven percent.

After the program as the five boys stood around munching cookies and not worrying about crumbs on the carpet, Wise Boy #1 said, “Hey! I wonder if this is how it happened in the original Christmas story? Do you think the wise men picked up people on the way and invited them to join them?”

Wise Boy #2 responded, “It doesn’t seem right that they wouldn’t have. Why keep good news a secret?”