Posted tagged ‘Judson College’

Running and Thinking

June 11, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                              June 11, 2018

                            

This morning I’ll get my four miles of trudging done around ten o’clock. Some days, I swear, the miles have been lengthened like a taffy pull, and other days (infrequently!) they seem to go by faster. However, on the days when the miles seems to speed by and then I check my watch I’m brought back to the reality that I’m running just as slow as ever.

The key seems to be my thinking! I run, therefore, I think! I go deep inside to thoughts and ideas. With music playing from my ear buds I ponder events from the past, like races I ran back in my high school days. There was the Fourth of July race around a recreational lake area outside of Ironton, Ohio. Fellow classmate Pat Boggs and I ran neck to neck around the lake and then I out sprinted him in the last hundred yards. As I run I relive those moments, the congratulations he extended to me after the race, the sound of our breathing and footsteps, it all seems to become real again.

I think about the story narrative of my book, reconfiguring scenes, and envisioning how my characters look and how they sound. I think of ideas for blog posts and how I might present an experience or interpret a scripture. 

As the laps get clicked off I’m not just running, I’m contemplating.

I’ve started praying more as I run. The granddaughter of a good friend of mine keeps coming to my mind as I make a turn into the wind. A couple of women that we know who are in complicated battles with cancer cause me to reach down deep and keep going a bit further as I pray that God would impart strength to them. I pray for friends and family, that God would walk closely with them in the coming day. I pray for a nephew who pastors a church, and one of his sons who faces a surgical procedure. 

Prayer seems to minimize the aching in my knees and hips…for a while, that is! 

As I begin my last mile and consider the possibility of quitting, I think of a young lady named Kayla Montgomery who won several state cross country and track titles even though she battles MS. Her ESPN profile brings me to tears and it carries me through the last mile, as well. 

As my 64 year old body runs I try to focus on the struggles of the distance. In two months I’ll be coaching a bunch of middle schoolers doing similar workouts. I want to be able to identify with the groans and the doubts. If I can push through the quitting points I’ll be able to come alongside them during those tough training runs. 

And I think of some of the guys I used to run with back in high school and college…Stan Brown, Duane Young, Jim Fay, Larry Crane, and Kevin Kelly from my cross-country team at Judson College; and Cecil Morrison, G.P. Markins, Greg Byington, Jim Thomas, Greg Harding, and Randy Justice from the Ironton High School team. I think of Eugene Smith climbing trees and waiting for the rest of us to pass him on our return to the high school. 

In essence, these days my four mile runs deal with the past, the present, and prayer. It isn’t until later on in the day that my knees scream at me, “What were you thinking?”

Cross-Country Return

May 13, 2018

 WORDS FROM W.W.                                                              May 13, 2018

                          

I received the good news this week. Next school year I’ll be coaching middle school cross-country. It’s a return, in many ways, to my roots!

When I was a junior in high school I started running cross-country. My path had been pre-determined by the previous school year’s track program. At a cold early April triangular meet at Fairland High School in Proctorville, Ohio, the Ironton High School head track coach, Bill Trent, had asked if anyone was interested in running in the two mile race that day. Our team needed another runner to compete, or at least jog. Although I had been the Wood County, West Virginia, eight year old 50 yard dash champion…that had been almost eight years in the rearview mirror. This was my chance to run varsity…as a sophomore!

“But it’s Twwwooooo Miles!”

And it was cold with a chilling rain mist making it even more miserable! 

“I’ll run, Coach!”

“Okay, Billy! Do the best you can!”

I don’t remember my time that day…something like fourteen minutes! I remember that I wasn’t last, beat a couple of other runners, endured the wet wind on the back stretch, and scored a point for our team with a fourth place finish. 

And suddenly I was a distance runner! My time dropped three minutes in the next few weeks and I finished the season with a fifth place finish at the league meet in Athens. It paved the way for the fall cross-country season, and a summer of running on top of the flood walls of Ironton. 

Lance Clanton was the cross-country coach. I don’t think Coach Clanton had much experience with running, but IHS needed someone to keep a pack of running fools in line. During the school day he was the industrial arts teacher. He is the only industrial arts teacher I have ever met who was also a cross-country coach! 

We were a mediocre team not quite understanding the race tactics and practice ideas of the new school sport. Our home course include one part where we ran down into a dump area next to the school, affectionately called “the Sand Pit”, and back up again. Interval training was a foreign concept. One goofy runner named Eugene would climb a tree and wait for everyone to come back past him on a route we would run from the high school down to the cemetery and back. Actually, we were all a bit goofy, a few nerds before that term became commonplace, a couple of athletes, and a few others thrown into the mix who had nothing better to do after school.  

Two years after that I was wearing a t-shirt that had Miami of Ohio on the front of it. I was 16th man on a sixteen man roster, which means I was able to wear the t-shirt, run in the home meets, and endure the exhausting practices. Miami finished 7th at the NCAA nationals that year. I was not a factor in their success, but it did teach me a lot about what cross-country is and isn’t!

Two years later I was arriving on the small campus of Judson College in Elgin, Illinois to complete the last two years of my college education. Soon after I arrived I met Don Kraus, the cross-country coach, and his assistant, Ed Allen. They welcomed me with open arms, although I would not be eligible to compete that first year. Judson didn’t have a track, but cross-country fit well there, and we would run through campus laughing and sporting our Eagles’ warm-ups. At Judson I came to value the importance of relationships of my teammates. I can still remember each one of them…Stan Brown (who was one of my groomsmen), Jim Fay, Duane “the lumberjack” Young, Larry Crane, Kevin Kelly, Tom Randall, Mark Diehl, our manager, Tim “Ratman” Etternick, our coaches, and our trainer, Dr. Stuart Ryder…professor of English by day and “ice and bandage guy” by night.

We were a decent team, finishing sixth at the NCCAA nationals my senior year. Notice I put an extra “C” in there. The NCCAA stands for National Christian College Athletic Association, a bit less prime-time than the other organization with one less letter, but not nearly as plagued by scandal and populated by cheaters either!

And now…forty-two years after that I’ll be returning to the sport I always enjoyed and the challenges of training young runners, many whom are totally clueless about how long the race is that they will be expected to complete. I prepared for this return by coaching the distance runners at the same middle school, Timberview, this spring. The whining of seventh and eighth grade runners is like sweet music to my ears. It will be awesome to encourage the runners this coming August that they CAN do it, they CAN succeed, they CAN be something more than they thought they could ever be. 

Channeling Dr. Ryder

February 1, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                      February 1, 2018

                                    

Dr. Stuart Ryder was an institution at Judson College (now Judson University). A professor in the English Department for “centuries”, in his later years he also assumed the role of Athletic Trainer for the school’s sports teams.

Dr. Ryder was also a master of puns. His sharp wit would rise to the surface suddenly with a humorous line that caused occasional laughter and, more frequently, groans.

For example, before a cross-country meet one of the runners was walking around barefoot, and Doc Ryder voiced, “I guess we must be smelling ‘da’ feet!”

Now, decades later I find myself using puns in the middle school classrooms where I’m teaching to the groans of the seventh grade students. It is as if I’m channeling Doc in my attempts at witty humor. It emerged again this morning at Starbucks when one of the baristas was fixing a cup of tea as I walked up to the counter. “Just a minute, Bill! I’ve got to fix the tea before the customer gets here.”

I quickly channeled Stuart Ryder. “I guess it wouldn’t be good for the cup to be ‘emp-ty!’”

She chuckled and said “Good one!” Seven A.M. humor at Starbucks is greatly appreciated in the midst of bleary-eyed customers who are waiting  with heightened irritation for their first cup of java.

In the classroom “pun humor” keeps the middle school students alert. Some of it is too deep for them, but that’s okay! I don’t understand the math they’re doing either!

Dr. Ryder used to say a pun and then give a personal chuckle that involved some rapid and short inhaling and exhaling. When I utter a pun I just smile and look for understanding.

“Mr. Wolfe, see my baggie! I think someone stepped on my cookie that’s in it!”

“Well, I guess you could say that’s how the cookie crumbled!”

“Mr. Wolfe!”

Another situation while we were outside.

“Mr. Wolfe, I had my bag of chips sitting here on the rock and the wind came and blew the bag off. The chips went everywhere!”

“Gee, that’s too bad! I guess you might call that an example of ‘being chips off the old rock!’” (Loud groan in the midst of chip grieving!)

It’s Doc Ryder’s seeds from the past rising again in new life.

Our lives are cultivated by different people in a multitude of ways. Dr. Stuart Ryder planted, watered, and helped students grow.

Every time I find myself beginning a sentence with the words “I guess you could say…” I can hear the rumble of his laughter within me!

T-Shirt History

April 25, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                        April 25, 2016

                                       

My wife Carol had a “Come to Jesus” moment with me on Saturday. She took on the task of cleaning out my clothes cabinet and then had me come up to our bedroom with “The News!”

“Bill, you have 110 t-shirts!”

“Awesome!”

That was not the response she was looking for!

“You need to figure out which ones you want to keep and which ones you are going to get rid of.”

“But-“

“No buts!”

I scanned the stacks of reds, blues, greens, blacks, and whites. The shirt on top of the red stack was from July 4, 1989. It was one that I wore for our church, First Baptist Church of Mason, in the Fourth of July parade. I was looking at history!

Another stack had the white t-shirt that I wore in the Judson College Alumni basketball game in 1991. I scored two points! Memories of the shot came back to me as I gazed at the shirt that only had a couple of holes in it after all these years.

There was the long sleeve shirt I bought at Monterey during our Spring Break vacation to the San Francisco Bay Area in 2009. Only been worn once! Mint condition! Plus, from the same trip I had the UC-Santa Cruz Banana Slugs shirt! How many people have one of those?

Further down the stack I found my “Vote for Pedro” black t-shirt from Napoleon Dynamite days. Several camp t-shirts were clumped together, as were YMCA shirts.

So much of my life history was tied up in these bundles of garment. How could I sort through my history and discard “years?”

Carol left me alone to deal with my grief. I stayed in the room, like the surviving spouse of the deceased, spending time with the dearly garment departed.

By the end of the afternoon a group of my shirts had been moved into hospice care for their last days before heading to Goodwill. The shirts that survived the cut cheered as they were restocked into my cabinet. The doors were able to be closed…all the way!

I love history. It’s very difficult for me to let it go, but all things are possible through Christ!

I’ve noticed, however, that Carol is now looking at my stacks of books. Books…with minimal pictures and a wealth of information and stories to tell! She has forewarned me that “a summer purge” will be happening.

I’m hiding my Doris Kearns Goodwin books and seminary theology volumes. How could I cast off Jurgen Moltmann? Like Corrie Ten Boom, I’m finding hiding places for them.

They will be able to share space with the t-shirts that are already hiding there.

Bad Grades Revisited…44 Years Later!

February 15, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                           February 15, 2016

                              

They had become a distant memory, like an old girlfriend who you now struggle to simply remember her name.

And then I decided to begin the process to be hired as a substitute teacher! Steps one through thirty were fine, but then came the part where the Colorado Department of Education wants copies of your college transcripts…ALL your college transcripts!

When I transferred to Judson College in Elgin, Illinois in the fall semester of 1974 I was teetering of the slippery edge of academic probation. One more unimpressive quarter at Miami of Ohio University meant I would be asked to take a little vacation. A singing group from Judson visited our church one Sunday in the summer of 1974 and a week later I was applying to be a transfer student at the small American Baptist-related institution. A man named Wendell “Press” Webster saw some potential in the student from Ironton, Ohio who had complied a GPA in his first college quarter of “.533!” That’s right! I didn’t put the decimal point in the wrong place…”.533!” From there it was all uphill for the next year and a half.

Let me say that I didn’t knock the professors dead at Judson with my academic excellence, but I did do okay, and graduated after two years.

All that had become ancient history to be told again after my death! But then there was the application process!

What’s that saying? The sins of the past will always come back to haunt you. I never thought that failing Latin would come back to haunt me, but it now has. The irony in the situation is that one of the classes I’ve been asked to substitute teach in is Latin! Gous figureus!

Don’t worry! I’m being approved to substitute, but the memories of that past failure…and failing grades…is once again fresh in my mind. Sometimes we pay for our times of stupidity over and over again. My stupidity took the form of cutting classes, trying half-heartedly on important assignments, not navigating the waters correctly of English Composition 101. Things I should have known better about, but thought I could slide by.

Forty-four years later I can now laugh with just a hint of embarrassment.

My absence of excellence and mass of ignorance in those past actions brings a new sense of appreciation for the grace of God. I realize that the God I serve looks at the screw-ups and pitiful efforts of my past and says that because I follow his Son those things, those bad marks, and failing experiences have been forgotten. I no longer need to bring them up for review as I go forward.

God accepts me even though my Latin is suspect. Amazingus magnus!

The Appearance of Being Christian

March 19, 2013

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                    March 18, 2013

 

I was wearing a basketball hoodie, comfortable sweat pants, and my blue Nike’s, as we ate a leisurely dinner at a semi-fast food restaurant. Towards the end of our “snack” I went back up to the soda machine to get a refill on root beer. Just ahead of me was a young man…probably mid-twenties…wearing a nice suit. Another man around sixty, and also wearing a nice suit, approached him and asked the question, “So, where do you go to church?”

Did I mention that it was about 7:30 on a Sunday night?

The young man responded, “Oh…I’m from out of town, but I go to Glad Tidings Baptist Church in the city I’m from.”

The older gentleman then said, “I go to (couldn’t quite make it out) Church. Just got out of Sunday Night Service.”

I, evidently, did not look like church material. Hoodies and sweat pants give kind of an “unspiritual vibe”.

I wasn’t sure what to think. Was I more ticked off at being unnoticed, or by the fact that someone in a suit on a Sunday night in a hamburger place was assumed to be “churched?” I tried to not be cynical, but as I stared at my root beer the cynicism was rising to the surface faster than the carbonation bubbles.

As I read the Bible it seems that Jesus had issues with people who wore their religion on their sleeve. It seems to be a symptom of contemporary Christianity as well. Sunday night suits in hamburger joints is a calling card for more conservative-minded church-goers. Back in my college days at Judson College wearing a cross around your neck was considered “a sign.” In fact, the bigger the cross around your neck the closer to were seen as being to Jesus. Some of those former college classmates can attribute present back problems to heavy college year crosses. I never wore a cross. My cross to bear was Economics 101.

Some congregations base spiritual maturity according to a number- the number of times you entered the church building that week. Others base the fervor of their commitment to save the lost on the basis of how many stanzas of the closing song were sung before the pastor finally surrendered to the benediction.

Could it be that churches of different flavors are simply trying to outdo one another…like Target trying to attract more customers than Best Buy? Is our appearance of “following Jesus” as hollow as the chocolate Easter bunny many of us will bite into a few days from now?

We seem to be more and more confused by what it means to be a reflection of Christ. Suits and ties, giant cross necklaces, a few well-timed “amens”…different looks seem to be fashion statements.

The reality is that the appearance of being Christian is becoming sketchy. When I read the scripture on Sunday morning there are more smart phones being used to read the Word than the leather-bound kind. In most churches what people wear to church on Sunday morning is very similar to whatever attire they usually wear during the week. Many gatherings of followers of Christ happen away from church buildings in homes and coffee shops. I can rarely go into the Starbucks close to my house on Friday mornings and not find a table of guys in the midst of a Bible study. House churches are growing exponentially. The appearance of being Christian is losing its value and hearing in a world of church scandals, irrelevant congregations, and impoverished third world countries. What people are looking for are those who are being more the reflections of the Jesus who was on his hands and knees washing his disciples feet…the Jesus who was willing to get his cloak…his suit…dirty!