Posted tagged ‘kids’

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!

Kindergarten Physical Education

September 6, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                       September 6, 2017

                       

I’m heading towards my second “experience” teaching Kindergarten Physical Education. The teacher who usually presides over the flocks took a European vacation for a couple of weeks…but promised to come back!

Six thirty minute classes…twenty students in each class! After a while I realized I was the student and they were the teachers. Here’s what I learned:

Do not ask kindergarteners if they have any questions!

ME: Are there any questions? Yes, Ella!

ELLA: Ahh…I…ahhh….my brother goes to school here.

ME: Great! Other questions? Yes, Sam!

SAM: My mom gave me a snack this morning to bring to school and it’s in my backpack in the classroom. Do you want to know what it is? (Suddenly the question asking has been subtly reversed and I’m the one asking!)

ME: Sure!

SAM: Graham crackers!

ME: Great!

I now notice that there are about fifteen hands in the air that want to ask me questions that aren’t really questions.

LEARNING: Kindergarteners don’t know what a question is yet!!!

I led them to the great outdoors…of the turf football field! The turf field that has all those little pieces of rubber that get into your shoes…those little pieces of rubber that a kindergartener realizes can be picked up and tossed at his neighbor!

We played a game where two students were the taggers. That’s when I learned a second thing!

Kindergarteners feel that it is an injustice if everyone doesn’t get a turn to be it!

“But I haven’t been it yet!”

“Yes, I know! But most everyone else hasn’t had a turn to be it either, and it’s time to go back in!”

“But that’s not fair!” It is at this point that I can present this child with a dose of reality and say, “Life’s not always fair! Deal with it! Suck it up, buttercup!”  OR I can defer!

“We’ll play this next week and you’ll be the first one to be the tagger, okay?”

“Okay!”

LEARNING: With kindergarteners always defer and hope they forget!

And after today maybe, just maybe, they’ll forget me! However, they know my last name is Wolfe, and have already learned to howl when they see me. That is not easily forgotten!

The Release of a Kid’s Pain

July 20, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                            July 19, 2016

                                     

Kids carry a lot of baggage with them! Their parents baggage!

In my years of being involved in camping I’ve seen a number of kids, elementary through high school, who are given permission during their week of camp to let go of the pain.

Parents worry about their kids. What I’ve come to realize is that kids worry about their parents! Parents are just grown-up kids who make mistakes that have ripple effects that are more devastating.

There are kids at camp this week who see the relationship of their parents as being like a tightrope walk, ready to topple over any second. There is the anxiety of living in a home that has the everyday potential of blowing up. They live with the stress of uncertainty- how long will they be living under one roof with both of their parents?

It is unfair in many ways to think that kids can just be kids when they live in a war zone of verbal assaults and relational explosions.

And so they fret! This week some of them are worried about what their parents will do while they are away, what errors in judgment they might make, what decisions between right and wrong they will face…and choose the wrong one!

They are kids who are being made to wear the pants of the family, and they are tired of having to be the adults!

On the other hand, kids can be ministers in smaller bodies. Sometimes their acts of service are even more genuine and authentic than the adults around them. Tonight I saw a group of elementary-aged kids who were asked to do something that was healing and loving. One of their counselors lost his best friend on the day camp began as a result of an accident. This adult was grieving, and still trying to be there for his campers. Tonight the campers all gathered around him and prayed for him. They laid their hands on him as their hearts went out to him. His was a pain that they were willing to help with.

Kids releasing their pain, and kids helping someone deal with their pain…one way that involves deep hurting, and the other way that involved a prayer for healing.

After the group prayer they all fell on top of the wounded counselor in their version of a group hug. The counselor wouldn’t have had it any other way.

Kids At Church Camp

July 19, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                              July 18, 2016

                                      

A number of years ago Art Linkletter hosted a TV show entitled Kids Say The Darnedest Things. The host would ask an assortment of questions to four or five children sitting on the stage. Their answers were often unexpected and hilarious. That’s what made the daytime show such a hit for a number of years.

This week I’m one of the supervisors at a church camp. In that capacity I have the opportunity to observe what kids are doing and saying. It has been awesome!

Whereas middle and high school campers are concerned about things like fashion, who is in their room or cabin, make-up, hair styles, and not looking stupid…elementary age kids are in a totally different frame of mind.

On the first night the camp director had to make it a point to tell the kids to not lick the camp bell. Evidently a few had already ventured into that taste sensation! It makes you wonder how they ever even thought of doing it? What kind of conversation brought a few boys to the point of seeing what the bell tasted like?

Today there was a debate going on between three campers. My friend Rich told me about it. It went something like this:

“Yes you can drink Cheetos!”

“No, you can’t!”

“Yes, you can!”

“How?”

“You put some Cheetos into a blender, add water, mix it all up, and then drink it!”

Drinking Cheetos…not one of those cocktail party topics that comes up, but with young kids you never know!

And think of it! Was one of them at home one day this summer, both parents away at work, and the child got bored so he decided to mix up some Cheetos with water? What was the seed for such an idea?

I walked around during the elementary “Canteen” time. Canteen takes place at the camp’s snack shack, and is a chance for the campers to buy a can of pop or ice cream or candy. I watched one young girl with a smile as wide as Kansas as she held a can of Pepsi in one hand and an ice cream bar in the other. Sometimes kids get to make decisions at camp that would probably fall outside of the permissible at home.

But tonight these same kids who talk about Avenger super heroes, Kona Ice, and the fast-paced game called Oct-a-ball, were invited to wash one another’s feet, and most of them willingly did it. There was a powerful spiritual lesson in the act…kind of a church camp version of learning by doing…and they grasped the meaning in the doing.

Many of them are missing their moms and dads, but are also experiencing that they can still be safe and okay in a strange new place surrounded by people who will walk alongside them…as they hike to the top of Soldier’s Peak; sit beside them… at a nighttime campfire; and laugh with them…as the next darnedest thing is said!

Getting Taught By First Graders

April 29, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                      April 28, 2016

                                   

First Graders are simply adults in little bodies. They can also teach a substitute teacher a few things! And they did!

I arrived at their classroom in the late morning to fill in for their wonderful teacher for the next day and a half. As I talked through a few things with their teacher before she left, a couple of the girls entered the classroom…and seemed a little startled to see me there.

“Are you going to be our teacher?”

“No way!” I said in jest before then saying, “Yes, I am.”

They looked at one another and I heard one of them whisper to the other, “We usually have girls for subs, but he’s a boy!” That uniqueness, all because of my gender, gave me an “in!”

A couple of minutes later the rest of the class entered their domain and gazed upon the new face in front. I wrote my name on the white board. “I’m Mr. Wolfe…with an “e”…not the Big Bad Wolf,  but the good Wolfe!”

They told me their names one by one. They were ready to teach me. One boy in the back row raised three fingers in the air on his right hand. “Yes, Andy!”

“No, that means I need to go to the restroom.”

“If you raise your hand up?”

“No, if I raise three fingers on my hand.”

“Okay! Is there a restroom pass that you take?”

“No, we sign our name by “restroom” on the backboard.”

Another three-fingered hand shot up!”

“Yes, Gabriel, you can go to the restroom.”

“No, I can’t until Andy comes back.”
“Oh, okay!” My first lesson was being taught to me about restroom usage.

“Mr. Wolfe!” said the voice of a little girl named Jill.

“Yes, Jill.”

“If you have an emergency and you need to go to the restroom you raise your hand and make this kind of sign.” She cupped her hand in a “C” shape.

“Oh, okay! That’s good to know. Well, boys and girls, I’m going to be your substitute teacher for the next day and half while Ms. Brown gets some needed rest with the cold she has. So is there anything else I need to know before we begin math?”

There was TONS I needed to know, and they were very gentle with me. The math lesson was on an overhead transparency. One boy sitting in the front row informed me that it was his job, not mine, to turn the projector on. Another student pulled the screen down, and I began the lesson…on the fringe of cluelessness!

Several times the class reigned me back in to how things are done. Like a horse about to gallop, I was slowed down by a classroom full of riders. “Whoa, Mr. Wolfe!”

I fumbled through math, but they was gracious. Without saying so they let me know that it was okay. “Good try! You’ll do better next time!”

Time for Science! I read to them from a book about Neil Armstrong and the Apollo space shuttle launch to the moon. When I informed them that I remember watching the moon walk when it happened on July 20, 1969 they looked at me with puzzled faces. One of them raised his hand and asked the question that the whole class was thinking.

“How old are you?”

“Older than when Neil Armstrong walked on the moon.”

They looked at me with sympathetic faces that said “We’re sorry that you’re so old!” And yet, they were also fascinated that I had actually watched first-hand what they were now studying about. In their eyes it gave me a sense of worth and value.

“Mr. Wolfe, what is the surface of the moon like?”

“Well, Marcus, it is kind of like a mixture of sand and dirt.” I was guessing, but they thought it sounded plausible.

Recess thankfully arrived! They taught me how to play a game that is somehow a mixture of Jurrasic Park and Star Wars. I was to choose a kind of dinosaur and also a character from Star Wars and run around the playground making “character sounds.” I was a playground rookie, ignorant of rules and procedures, but none of the students scolded me about my lack of recess experience. In fact, I gave them four extra minutes and suddenly I was the cat’s meow! I would have won a popularity contest against Hans Solo!

After recess we read. I started to read a book about a girl named Felicity, but was halted before beginning. “Mr. Wolfe, we sit on the carpet square over there and you sit in the rocking chair.”

“Oh, thank you!” The carpet got populated and Felicity made her appearance. They were drawn into the story…and then it was time to go home.

“Mr. Wolfe, can we do some dancing with the lights off?”

“Excuse me!”

“Can we turn the lights off and dance?”

“Is that okay?” (I went to a Baptist college where the “D word” was prohibited on campus. Everyone knew that the “D word” would lead to the “S word!”)

“Yes, it’s okay!” The lights got turned off and for two minutes a class of first graders did “creative dancing” between desks, down rows, with beaming faces and giggling voices. I halted it after a couple of minutes and they lined up.

“Okay! I will see you all tomorrow!”

“Mr. Wolfe!”

“Yes, Susie!”

“This has been the best day ever!”

I smiled at the compliment and realized that I could probably say something close to that myself.

What Would Jesus Say To A Little Leaguer’s Parents?

June 23, 2015

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                              June 23, 2015

                        

Dear Jack and Jill,

I happened to be watching your son Benny’s Little League game the other night. Yes, I know…that’s probably a little surprising to you. You probably think I spend all my time in prayer meetings or talking to people from the top of a mountain, walking on water and turning water into wine…you know, “the work of a messiah!” But, actually, I kind of enjoy baseball. My favorite team is…you think I’m going to say the Angels, don’t you? Actually, it’s the Cubs! They need all the help they can get! As the Word says, “nothing is impossible with God.” But, of course, those words were written before the Cubs came into existence! Just kidding!

Benny seems like a sweet young lad. I couldn’t help noticing that he laughs and seems the happiest when he is with his teammates in the dugout.

I couldn’t help noticing your body language when he came up to bat. You tensed up like the physician was about to put a hypodermic needle in your backside. When Benny stood watching a third strike sail by him his teammates still offered encouragement to him when he came back to the dugout. I then looked at you and noticed that both of you had your head in your hands in obvious disappointment.

After the game Benny was smiling when he left his teammates, but Dad, as soon as he came to you the words of advice and correction started.

So take these words with a grain of salt or chew on them and be the salt!

Let Benny be a kid! Even when the local newspaper starts putting stats in the daily sports section, let him be a kid! I don’t know if you realize this or not, but I love kids. I mean…I love everybody, but I especially love kids who are just kids. That might sound like a strange way of putting it, but actually, some kids are made to grow up too fast, and…hold on!…turn into their parents too quick!

Benny wants to know you love him for who he is, not his batting average! God wants him to enjoy being a kid for a while before he learns how to hit a curveball!

Let me suggest that you focus more on building a child with character than one who can play six positions on the field. There are a lot of adult baseball players who hit for power, but have no character. Let Benny’s baseball skills develop alongside his character. The world is changed by people who want to help others much, much more than fastball pitchers.

Don’t sell out to the game! Keep a balance in your family life. Benny may love baseball, but don’t allow him to be obsessed with baseball. Obsessions pave the road to imbalanced. Passionate is different than obsessed. Passionate echoes his love for it, his enjoyment in it. It’s okay to be passionate.

Give him some space and grant him grace. Don’t try to live your frustrated sports life through him. I’ve noticed that too many parents buy into the idea of investing their kids’ lives into extended practices, a multitude of games, long weekends in strange places, and buying the best equipment with the hope that their child will end up on ESPN’s Baseball Tonight. I worded that exactly the way I meant it also…”investing their kids’ lives!” They too often mortgage their children’s childhood for a future that the child may end up despising.

Here’s one last thing! What I noticed about Benny is that he has a caring heart. A couple of times he got a cup of water for a teammate who had just before that had made a defensive error. When he was sitting on the bench for a couple of innings he was encouraging his teammates. He helped the catcher get his equipment on, and one time put his hand on the shoulder of a kid who was smaller than him who had just gotten thrown out trying to steal second base. Benny is a great kid! And guess what? He will probably never be able to be a kid again. If you let him giggle in these years it will open up a laughter in his spirit and joy in his heart. Perhaps that’s where I’ll end it! Focus more on developing his heart instead of his muscle mass and throwing arm.

Have fun with these days! I’ll be watching and smiling, but for now…the Cubs need some divine intervention. They’ve got a series coming up with the Cardinals!

Holy Cow!

Jesus

Pastoring Kids and Adults At The Same Time

March 16, 2015

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                           March 16, 2015

        

Our church seems to have a new challenge each week. One week it’s trying to put enough buckets in classrooms to catch the drips coming from the ceiling, which, by the way, is underneath the new roof installed less than two years ago. Two weeks ago it was a financial crisis after a heavy snow Sunday left the offering plate starving for attention.

We’ve had a leaky baptistry, dark dangerous parking lots, a copier on hospice care, burst pipes, a clogged sewer line, dysfunctional families, families dealing with cancer…healed and terminal, inconsistent volunteers, and “confidential meetings.”

Welcome to the church that isn’t small, but not quite medium-sized. We’re kind of like my pants size. I’m not quite 34, but almost swim in a size 36…and try to find size 35? When I do the style looks like something Austin Powers would wear in one of his movies!

One of of the main challenges I have as a pastor these days is pastoring kids…and adults at the same time. Our church includes families of different sizes and configurations, faith backgrounds and no faith backgrounds, single parent families, blended families, shared families, and multi-generational families. We have families that are in and out…and in…and out. I’m reminded of the Benedictine Sisters at a retreat center outside of the city. They are together each and every day, and, as a result, have a certain rhythm to their community life. Establishing rhythm in today’s church is about as easy as figuring out the federal tax forms.

So often as a pastor I identify with Moses trying to lead a bunch of people who keep remembering the golden years of Egyptian slavery.

The longer I pastor the more confident I am in the fact that I don’t know very much. I become more and more sure that I’m halfway between clueless and understanding with the needle ready to flip to either side on a moment’s notice.

I don’t know much, but it makes me consider what the standards are that I must base my pastoring on.

1) Everyone has value! I don’t have to agree with someone’s position or even their actions, but I must see each person as being one of God’s created. The Body of Christ is made up of numerous parts and personalities. A nose smells things differently than an eye…yes, I know an eye does not smell, but neither does a nose see. One should compliment the other, not be in competition or conflict with the other.

  2) Everyone is on a journey! Some of us just move faster than others. Some of us get distracted along the way by family situations, faith crises, the silence of God, the hyperness of life, and the differences in value systems. It’s like being on a road trip and coming upon traffic that is backed up. Suddenly our pace and our itinerary get altered and we get frustrated. I’ve been known to talk in unkind ways to the cars in front of me that are in the same situation as I am. The thing is we’re all going the same direction, just not at the speed I’m used to. Faith journeys are like that. We want to go at our own pace that is not controlled by others.

3) Happiness is not the goal of the church! Sharing the good news, teaching people about the Christian life, and coming alongside people in their walk with the Lord…those are the goals. We substitute happiness for the joy of the Lord. I admit that I get tired of dealing with issues that people have, and when that happens I have a tendency to yield to what will bring happiness in the short term at the expense of joy for the long journey.

4) Disciple, Coach, Mentor! Recognizing that people are at different places in their faith, as a pastor I must remember that some people are to be discipled. That means there needs to be more supervision and direction, more teaching and structure. Disciples are in the making regardless of age, but most of the children in church are in the disciple phase. The foundational beliefs are still being established in their lives. A good percentage of adults are in the coaching phase. That means they need to be instructed and guided as they are walking with the Lord. There is still uncertainty that needs to be addressed, confusion that needs direction. Finally, there are some adults in the faith community who need a mentor, someone that they can go to for clarification as to how to proceed, or someone to share their frustrations and victories with. A mentor is someone who walks alongside. To put it in a different venue, a disciple sits in the front seat and is told how to drive a car as the driver demonstrates; a coach sits in the front passenger seat and directs the person as he is driving the car…in an empty parking lot, and then a street with minimal traffic, and finally a highway with heavy traffic; and a mentor sits in the back seat and watches as the driver handles the driving. Pastoring is changing hats according to who it is I’m talking to.

A church with multiple generations, all dependent on one another…all occupying the same boat…is a challenge. It reminds me of the disciples that Jesus led. They were challenging! The Bible doesn’t say that Jesus pulled his hair out, but I wonder if that was an option he considered.

And yet, that group of men ended up changing the world!