Posted tagged ‘mentor’

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!”

The Wisdom of Ray Lutz

December 3, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                          December 3, 2017

                                    

As I drive through Calhan, heading to Simla, this morning out of habit I’ll look to my right as I pass a certain street two blocks this side of the county fairgrounds. Down this street on the right Ray Lutz has lived. It’s a nondescript home that has seen its share of pie consumed by numerous visitors. The number address, in fact, should be 3.14!

Ray passed away on Friday, December 1. He had been a sports official for so long people were prone to call him Methuselah.

Ray would greet me with “Reverend” or “Reverend Wolfe”. Always a kind word or gentle jab. He told me he was Methodist. I told him I’d pray for him. The more I got to know him the more he didn’t resemble a Methodist. Method was secondary to common sense for Ray. The rulebook might say one thing, but sometimes basketball game situations required that common sense trump the rules of the game. Don’t get me wrong! He knew the rules, but if everybody on the interstate is driving 85 when the speed limit is 65 you sometimes have to inch that speedometer up a bit more to not get rear-ended. Common sense driving!

The first time I met Ray was at a class he taught for brand new basketball officials. Twenty or so of us were seated at desks in the classroom and listened to Mr. Lutz explain how a person officiates a basketball game. He was interesting to listen to then, and I wasn’t even sure what he was talking about. At the end of our six weeks of sessions we took a test to see if we would be able to actually blow whistles at basketball games that season. As I sat there mulling over possible answers he came by and told me that I should probably think about what I had answered for a certain question. It was his way of getting me past the cut-off. For sixteen years, until the end of last season, I proceeded to blow my whistle and wear the stripes. He was my officiating shepherd, and I was one of his striped lambs.

One year he encouraged me to run for one of the elected positions of our basketball officials organization. I did, and I lost! My first reaction was disbelief, not because I had been beaten, but rather because Ray had been the one to get me to do it in the first place. I thought it meant victory.

For several summers I went to a basketball camp for officials that Dave Hall conducted. Dave Hall has done NCAA championship and tournament games for a number of years. Ray was always one of the clinicians for Mr. Hall. It was where I was able to talk to him the most, sitting beside him by a court and taking in some of the wisdom that would naturally ooze from his personality. It was also at those courtside chats that he encouraged me with flattering remarks on how good I was doing, that he expected big things from me that coming season, and other remarks that made me think I was all that. Of course, I think Ray, the encourager, made those remarks to most officials at the camps he was a part of, but either way it caused me to want to be the best I could be.

A few years ago he was in the hospital for a serious medical condition, so I went and paid him a visit. I walked in the room and he looked at me.

“Reverend!” he greeted me, and we talked about life, basketball, health, and blessings.

Some of us are privileged enough to make a mark in the world in some way. The most effective people are those who influence others in their craft or passion. They are the folks who people can look behind and, like the waves behind a motorboat, see the number of people who are following faithfully in the wake of the same pursuit.

Ray Lutz will always be that. A wise mentor, a professor of common sense basketball officiating philosophy, and perhaps…even a Methodist!

The Saints That Go Before Us

June 16, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                             June 16, 2017

                                     

I’ve been blessed with many of them! Saints, that is! Saintly people who didn’t know they were saints, just men and women who were walking steadily with God, stepping humbly forward in daily obedience.

They didn’t know they were making an impact, impressing young lives, and marking out a trail for those of us behind them. They just lived a day at a time, but another pebble would be placed in the vase of wonder each of those days. Over time the pebbles crowded out the uncertainty and marked the life with weighted consistency.

Yesterday I took my dad, one of those saints, to see another saint who has impacted my life. Bill Ball, with a nine in front of his age, has been an encourager of me and many others for years and years. I remember his words of encouragement when I was a high schooler trying to break my school’s record in the mile run…and that was 45 years ago. My record has long since been broken, but Mr. Ball’s words of encouragement have stayed with me. Now in the final lap of his journey he would be awed by the number of people who have been impacted by him.

Saints are like that…hesitant to believe they are making a difference and convinced that they are no one that is anything special. When I asked my dad what he would like to do and where he would like to go while Carol and I are visiting from Colorado his response was quick. “Go visit Bill Ball!” The number of times his friend has visited him during my dad’s hospital stays have been numerous. Yesterday was my dad’s chance to visit Bill in the care center he has recently become a resident of.

We’re all familiar with the official saints. St. James, St. Paul’s, St. Mary’s, and St. John’s…the names mark the places we worship at and the school’s we attend. My dad has resided many times these past few years at St. Mary’s Medical Center in Huntington, West Virginia. “Saints” is a term we relate to locations and a professional football team.

For me, however, saints have graced my life all along the journey. They appear in my memories and stories…Ken Bystrom, Russ Vincent, Rev. Gale Baldridge, Rev. Floyd Norton, Rev. Chuck Landon, Rev. Tom Bayes, Irene Voss, Marie Lyons, Glenn Fairchild, Ben Dickerson, Rex Davis, Virginia Welsby, Charles Slusser, and Pauline Jones. Names that don’t mean anything to most folk, but conjure up adventures and appearances in my life.

A tragedy is a life that never realizes or recognizes the appearance of the saints, never understands the gifts that they are. In a culture that is very much self-absorbed there are a lot of people who are blind to the saints around them.

The thing is…a life that is blind to seeing the saints that have graced it is a life that lacks guideposts and clarifiers. It is a life without teachers, a vessel without a rudder.

I’m increasingly thankful for the footprints of the many who have helped me stay on course, encouraged me to keep on going and redirected me when I wandered. As I said at the beginning, I’ve been blessed with many of the saints.

The Students Who Mentor You

November 16, 2015

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                      November 16, 2015

                                   

In recent weeks I’ve come to realize a few things about being the adult. Sometimes the younger ones we’re raising up, teaching, discipling, are teaching and mentoring you…the adult, the teacher, the pastor…perhaps more than you’re impacting them.

About a month ago, when I was in Chicago, I had dinner with a young lady who was in the youth group I directed more than thirty-five years ago. I still refer to Cyndi as a young lady even though she is now in her mid-fifties! When we met for dinner we had not seen each other for about ten years, but it was like we had seen each other the day before. A three hour conversation ensued. It was delightful to talk about the past, the present, and the future; to hear what God has done in her life and the lives of her family, to hear of a special mission project that her ninth grade son has initiated that has taken off.

And in the midst of it I realized that Cyndi, and her friends Laura, Sue, George, Wave, and others had raised me up as a youth minister. They showed grace to me when I was trying to figure out how to communicate scriptural truth to adolescents. They gave me the freedom to laugh at myself for my moments of cluelessness. They stood beside me in times of lacking confidence, and showed me that there are different ways of looking at a relationship with Jesus besides the Baptist mindset, the only view I had ever experienced.

And perhaps most amazing, and deeply moving, was to hear that Cyndi had become a follower of Christ at a Young Life Camp in Colorado I took a van load of students to the summer I was on staff at her church. For some reason I hadn’t been aware of that. And now 37 years later I was blessed to discover the rest of her story.

The students we mentor often becomes the students who mentor us.

Last week another of my former youth groups students, Deb Simpson Aldridge, went home to be with the Lord. She battled cancer, and cancer finally won, but her victory was assured even in the midst of death because of her faith in Christ. Deb was part of the first youth group I directed at First Baptist Church in Marseilles, Illinois. I had just graduated from Judson College in Elgin, Illinois, was going to start seminary that next fall, and was hired by the church to be the summer youth director. I had never had a youth position before…operated out of the experience of cluelessness! Deb and her sister Connie were two high school students in the youth group who accepted me right away. At my less-than-stellar bible study gatherings they would voice their thoughts and help me to keep going. There is nothing quite as disconcerting than to lead a group of students who sit there and look at you like you are speaking a foreign language. Deb would share something, or, in a loving sisterly way, tell Connie that what she just said was ridiculous.

Deb had a dry wit and humor that made our gatherings or road trips in the van experiences of laughter-laced fellowship. Anything I planned or suggested she would support. Think of it! A young guy right our of college with no experience could have been trampled to a ministry death by a youth group that saw him as an outsider to be neglected, but this youth group raised me up to proceed forward for a forty years of ministry. They could have killed me, but inside they mentored me.

Deb’s passing made me realize the effect she had on my life and my ministry.

Cyndi, Deb, Connie, Steve Landon, Shirl Streukens, Jon Daniels, the Epps Twins, Phil Girard, Jon Girard, Amy Anderson, Keri Anderson, John Chora, Brad Johnson, Tiffany Chora,Tony Lamouria…the list of student mentors for my life is long and deep.

A big part of how I see ministry…especially youth ministry…has been chiseled into my person by their hands.

And I am very, very blessed!

A New Name

October 25, 2013

WORDS FROM W.W.                                             October 25, 2013

 

                                           

 

     Today my dad and I invited a great gentleman named Bill Ball out for lunch. Bill was one of my mentors growing up.  Always encouraging with a urging towards perseverance, Bill was a welcome smile to a high school boy of smaller stature. He also had three daughters, the middle daughter, Teresa, whom I thought the cat’s meow.

A week ago Bill’s wife of sixty-six years, Sue Ball, passed away after a sudden illness. Sue was a fine lady, charming and personal. She was one of those people you’ve save a seat for beside you in a restaurant because she was such a delight. When I was back for my mom’s funeral less than two months ago Sue and Bill came up to my parents’ house and we sat and talked for a solid hour about life, kids, and pursuits.

I was taken back at her passing, and then today Bill told me that her name wasn’t really Sue. My response: “Say what?”

The first day of class as both of them began their college careers at Rio Grande College in Rio Grande, Ohio, they met in the college library. Bill took a fancy to this young woman immediately. They started dating, and five years later they got married. But her name was Edna Pearl!

Bill, however, called her, Sue. I’m not sure why he called her Sue. She was always “Pearl” to her mom. Perhaps he didn’t think she looked like someone whose name was “Pearl.” Whatever the reason, “Sue” stuck! It stuck so much that when they moved to Ironton, Ohio fifty-something years ago everybody in town came to know her as “Sue”. Whenever Bill was around Sue’s mom he was wise enough to call her Pearl, but otherwise she was Sue.

It isn’t often that someone is so accepting of a new name. Our identity gets associated with who we’ve been, not who we will be, or even invited to be. I know who I have been. There’s a certainty to it. A new name takes a bit of faith in the not-yet.

I never knew Sue in her prior life of her original name. Most everybody in Ironton, Ohio didn’t know her birth certificate name either. So unknown was her “Edna Pearl days” that Bill had to put “Sue” into the obituary listing to make people aware of who it was that had passed.

I was amazed by the story as he shared it today. Scripture tells several stories of new names that God gave people. Usually the new name was bestowed at a “fork in the road” moment. Abram to Abraham…Saul to Paul…nomad to father of the faith…persecutor to proclaimer.

The thing is…the longer you wrap yourself in the new identity that Jesus gives you the more it seems that is who you have always been. At some point people see you more as a “Paul” and forgetting of “Saul.”

Whatever name we remember Edna Pearl Sue Ball by the Lord knows her by a newer new name…”Beloved!”