Posted tagged ‘respect’

When Pops Is No Longer There

July 19, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                           July 19, 2018

                                  

Today is different.

It is the first time I have traveled back to where I grew up in Ohio and neither of my parents are here. Translated into years that equates into 46 years of coming back home and seeing Mom and Dad…until today!

When Pops passed away February 15 things changed. I’ll be going to my nephew’s wedding in Frankfort, Kentucky this weekend, but I’m here in southern Ohio today with no father to eat lunch with.

It’s hard to explain or describe. The best that I can compare it to is that it’s like going back to your roots and seeing that the house you grew up in has been torn down in order to make way for a parking lot. Or, for me, when I went back to the town I was born in and realized that the elementary school where I attended first and second grade had been condemned. There’s something sobering about that!

My dad would have turned 90 on June 18, so it’s not like his passing was unexpected. However, when someone has always been there for you it is unbalancing. It’s unsettling…kind of a conscious disorientation. 

In the midst of the new reality I’ll honor some traditions. Dad and I would always visit Bob Evans Restaurant for breakfast at least once during each of my visits. I’ll carry on that practice one morning during my week-long visit. I’ll go have lunch one day at Wyngate, the senior living complex he resided in his last three years or so. I’ll sit with Carl and Louise and soak in the old stories, visit with Robin, the residence manager who loved my father dearly, and try to talk to Chuck, who would visit Dad in the hospital but can’t hear squat!

And while I’m here I’ll drive down to Paintsville, Kentucky and visit the cemetery. That may be the moment that overwhelms me as I gaze upon the plot of ground where my parents now lay side-by-side. For the past five years or so each cemetery visit has had Dad standing beside me quietly staring at Mom’s resting place. Now I’ll stand by myself and long for his voice to say a few words. 

One tradition I will not carry forward is taking Pops to at least one doctor’s appointment, radiation treatment, or hospital admission while I’m here. He had a “time share” at St. Mary’s Medical Center across the river in Huntington, West Virginia!

Life is populated with assumptions. One of those is that things will always remain the same even though we are fully aware that they won’t. I assumed that Victory Heights Elementary School would be there fifty plus years after I last attended it. I assumed K Mart would always be in business! I assumed I would always have hair and be able to run fast! And at some time in the journey what I thought would always be changed to”the way it used to be!”

I’ll miss watching my dad socialize with the Wyngate residents this trip. He could bring a smile to the face of the most sour personality. I’ll miss sitting in his living room and talking about what was and what is, as well as just sitting and watching NBC Nightly News. 

I’ll miss seeing the respect that people had for him. He was Deacon Emeritus at his church. People still remember him as a gift from God. There’s still that respect, but his passing has reshaped that respect in a different way. 

Carl, who was born four miles from Dad in a remote part of eastern Kentucky and turns 90 this coming September, will look me in the eye and say something like this: “I miss your dad. He was my friend and a wonderful person!” And then Carl will pause for a moment out of respect…and I’ll see a tear slide down his cheek. That’s when I’ll know that although Pops is no longer here…he is!

The Perseverance of Integrity

April 24, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                        April 24, 2018

                           

“…because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:3-4)

Yesterday I was talking to a man who I’ve known for a number of years, coached with, and felt honored that he refers to me as his friend. He recently had resigned his head coaching position, and it is still a painful time for him. His wins-losses record had not been stellar, and the decision to resign came after his administration had voiced their disgruntlement.

After we had talked for some time I looked at him and I said, “Coach, I have the greatest respect for you, always have! In the midst of adversity your integrity has persevered. You could have done things outside of the rules and perhaps, because of that, won a few more games, but you chose the way of integrity.”

He thanked me. My heart went out to him, because the coaching ranks has lost one of the people you want your kids to be influenced by. Sometimes, however, integrity must persevere through rough waters. It’s in the midst of the rolling waves that many people lose their way and become uprooted from the positive values and morals that get preached, but then forgotten.

We all make judgment errors and fall short. The difference is that many people choose the way that is suspect as their main life route instead of a momentary mistaken by-pass.

Its interesting that I have even more respect now for my hurting friend. He took the hits but stayed the course. He is one of the good guys in the sports world that we know is heavily populated with people who sacrifice integrity in order to worship the god of winning.

The Illusion of Facebook Friends

June 25, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                            June 25, 2017

                                    

I’ve crawled up close to a thousand Facebook Friends now. I’m almost impressed with myself! I am easily fooled into thinking that they know me…or, even so, read my Words from WW blog that gets posted on my Facebook page. ..like this one!

But let’s be honest! Very few of our Facebook friends are actually friends. They are more like acquaintances, people that we know and are interested in to some degree. I graduated with about 210 classmates from Ironton High School Class of 1972. There are 76 of us on Facebook. About 50 of those are my Facebook Friends, and about 5 of the 50 are my real life friends. That isn’t to say that I don’t care about the others, it’s just to say that friendship means more than giving someone a “Like” sign, or sharing your latest vacation pictures with them.

There has been some neat reconnections for me with people on Facebook. Kids I led in youth groups over the years, former basketball players that I coached, college teammates, cousins, and young adults whose weddings I performed. Those are awesome connections that I treasure.

An old friend of mine named Harold Anderson once said that “He had a number of acquaintances, but very few friends.” A couple of months ago Carol and I met up with the Anderson’s as they traveled through Colorado. We hadn’t seen each other in about twelve years,  but it was like we hadn’t missed a day. Our conversation was constant and meaningful for a solid three hours. Harold is in that growing list of friends that I was categorize as “non-resident friends”, people that I don’t get to see on a daily…or even yearly basis, but still hold a special place in my heart.

Friends value each other. We value what each of us brings to the life of the other. We value meaningful information about life events. We value the humor and the heart cries. Friends can sit down on the deck and have long conversations, or also feel comfortable just sitting there in silence. Friends can call each other up at a moments notice to check on how the other is doing. Friends use Facebook as only one source of connecting with the other.

Friends respect each other. Differing opinions do not necessarily divide them. Facebook has become the dumping ground of how people feel about issues, and the reaction ground of others who disagree with them. There are not clear boundaries on what is acceptable communication and what is venomous rhetoric. It’s like a verbal mixed martial arts slugfest! And here’s the thing! People say things on Facebook that they would never say face-to-face, or say to their parents…or perhaps now, let their kids hear them say. Friends are respectful of the other. To use a term of one of my old seminary professors, they see each other “with equal regard.” Friends can agree to disagree.

Friends check in on one another. One of those high school classmates, a guy who was my best man and I, in turn, performed his wedding ceremony, lost his 34 year old son less than a month ago. I dialed his number and let him grief on my shoulder for a few minutes from 2000 miles away. Two weeks later I called again and we talked for a long time. In another week or so I’ll check in with him again.

One of my best friends in ministry lives in North Carolina now. We check in on one another by phone. He reads my blog, and will probably send me a reply. When I was having a rough stretch of ministry he’d call me to see how I was doing. When he was having a similar stretch I’d call him. That’s what friends do! I don’t really care about what he ate for breakfast, but I do care about how his rotator cuff is healing from the surgery he had, and how the expected arrival of his second grandchild is looking.

I’ve got another friend in San Antonio who I need to call back today. He left me a voicemail to see how my dad is doing from the surgery he had this week. I’ve got to carve out about an hour of time when I do call him, because that’s how long we’ll talk about life, family, and friendship.

If I use those criteria for friendship my Facebook page would probably be 90% acquaintances and 10% friends…and that might be high! Either way I’m thankful for all the 976 who “friended” me. There’s a lot of blessings in those faces!

Being the Listening Church

February 5, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                             February 5, 2017

                                    

In the New Testament letter of James he writes, “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” (James 1:19, NIV) The church has, quite often, stuttered its way into deafness. Our loudness has clouded our hearing!

It’s a balance beam position to be in. On one hand the church is called to be the prophetic voice of God, speaking of hope and singing of God’s unwavering promises. And yet, like someone with a box of chocolates, the church has a hard time understanding that there is still a need for moderation, and we blabber all over ourselves.

Give a preacher a pulpit and he will build a church around it! What begins as divine opportunity escalates into an enterprise that we mistake for a movement!

It occurs to me that there are plenty of people willing to talk; even an overabundance of congregations willing to condemn and mandate…no matter their theological leanings. I’m just wondering if the church has lost its capacity to listen? The concern seems to be that if we aren’t speaking we aren’t saying anything, but perhaps if the church recovered its ability to hear that would speak volumes.

In a time of polarized populations, who is committed to keeping their ears unplugged? In a time of verbal venom who will, as James said, “be quick to listen?”

There are people that I avoid conversation with because they seem to be more interested in sharing lengthy diatribes than they are in whether or not I might have a thought. In admitting that I’m also confessing where many of us have holed-up! We reside in the shadows of quiet avoidance, fearful of expressing our beliefs and what it is that we really value.

Can the church regain its ministry of listening? To do so it must recommit itself to the urgency of mutual respect. Can the gathered saints sometimes agree to disagree?

My friend, Greg Davis, who passed away less than four months ago at the age of 41, would often get into political conversations with a woman named Terri Inloes, the librarian at the middle school he taught at. They disagreed more often than they agreed, but they always listened to one another, and they always discussed their views based on a foundation built with mutual respect. Terri recalls the specialness of those conversations and how they deepened their friendship with one another. It is a life story that the church needs to hear and understand.

Honestly, I’ve seen more examples of the contrariness of church people than the potential for peacemaking…and that’s just in reference to how people from the same church treat each other! Being listeners is a hard thing to be for people who are set on destruction!

My recent three weeks of teaching seventh grade social studies revealed a number of things to me. One of those that applies to this area of listening is this: Listening is a commitment, and there are those who refuse to listen because their lips get in the way of their ears!

 

Dad-Sitting

February 4, 2017

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                      February 4, 2017

                                       

My dad has had a January to forget. Two weeks in the hospital…one week home…and then back in the hospital for another week. He loved the nurses, but disliked the meatloaf.

So I had the opportunity to fly in for a few days and be with him. My dad turns 89 in about four months. He’s no spring chicken! In fact, his spring sprung a while ago. The times I’m able to come back to the southern tip of Ohio from the elevation of Colorado are special, deeply personal, and filled with shared stories.

Yesterday I walked with him down to the dining room of his senior adult apartment complex. A slow walk, but a steady walk. When he arrived he made the rounds, giving a hug to each of the women who, I swear, all initiated the embrace. He shook the hands of each man before setting down at a table with two of his peers, Leo and Dale. It was Dad’s first meal taken in the midst of the gathered “white hairs”, and it brought a sense of exhilaration to the 25 or so. He is loved and appreciated, always ready to give a warm word of greeting and an engaging question.

Then it was back to his apartment to sit and talk. Three days earlier I had “grandbaby-sat” for a two year old. Now I was “Dad-sitting” a man who was almost twenty-six when I was born!

We shared stories about teaching, his military service, Kentucky basketball, and all the nice nurses who cared for him at the hospital. Our conversation wound its way through the many rooms of our lives, one door leading towards the next one on the other side of the story.

I told him stories from my recent three-week teaching stint and the one student that I sent to have a chat with the assistant principal, and he told me about the student who he had a difficult  time with when he was student teaching high school agricultural science.

We got on the topic of security guards at schools, banks, and other places, and he recalled the pre-security days at the Social Security Administration office he managed…the times when an irate citizen had to be calmed down simply with words, not a Taser gun!

We have a way in our culture of devaluing our older folks, minimizing their relevance and becoming deaf to their voices. Thankfully I’ve come to the point of seeing how treasured my life is because of the father I have. The occasions of “Dad-sitting” are dwindling, shared moments waning, and I breathe each one of them in as if they are my last sip on water in a long journey.

Tomorrow I’ll watch the Super Bowl with Dad. I can’t remember the last Super Bowl we watched together! It may actually be the first time we’ll share the moment. The game will become secondary to just being together. I’m sure we’ll laugh at some of the commercials and take bathroom breaks while Lady GaGa is being a spectacle. We’ll talk about the Cleveland Browns of the 60’s, the Ironton High School Fighting Tigers, and recall when my big brother came back from an away game that the Williamstown High School football team had played on a Friday night and said to Dad, “Look Dad! Real mud!”

We will simply sit and enjoy the moment. The depth of life is made from moments like these.

Respecting The Office

June 3, 2016

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                         June 3, 2016

                                

I was not always on the same page with my parents. For example, I wanted to grow my hair out…like all the other kids…but my mom and dad kept me looking like a cue ball with fuzz until I was halfway through high school. “Morris Barber Shop” in downtown Ironton, Ohio is still “razor shaved” into my memory!

My mom’s definition of cleanliness differed from mine. If my bedroom “looked like a tornado hit it”, that meant my bedspread was slightly tilted to the side and one of the sliding doors on the closet was open.

On several other issues that I thought at the time were life-changing, or life-restricting, we differed as well. BUT I always greatly respected my mom and dad. We didn’t have to agree with one another. When Mom fixed dinner I did not receive a menu to decide what was to be served. I was not asked whether or not I wanted the spinach that was staring at me from my plate. I did not have voting privileges! I never doubted my parents’ love for me, even if I did doubt their sanity and thought that “they were so unreasonable!”

They were not swayed by the popular vote.

ME: ”Everybody’s doing it!”

MOM: “Not everybody! You aren’t!”

There is a difference between agreeing with your parents and respecting your parents.

Yesterday, I attended the Air Force Academy graduation ceremonies. The second cadet that we have been the sponsor family for, Justin Katzovitz, graduated, so Carol and I went to celebrate this incredible milestone in his life alongside his parents, twin sister, and other relatives.

I had the opportunity to see my first President in person. I thought President Obama’s speech was very good. Most of what he said I agreed with, but there were a couple of things that he said that I didn’t agree with.

When I posted a picture from the graduation of the President standing at the podium and simply wrote “I saw my first President at the Air Force graduation today”…and left it at that, it was interesting to see all the comments from people. Some said “Great! That must have been awesome!”, and others said “I’m sorry you had to hear him!”

Is it wrong to disagree with someone, but still respect him?

In my mind “respect” does not necessarily go hand-in-hand with agreement. Kind of like with my parents! When one group sees the president as the greatest thing since sliced bread, while another group sees him as the worst thing since the Yugo it seems that a person’s political perspective is the lens that the view is looking through.

I’ll admit that I’m a registered Republican who voted for Romney in 2012, but I still respect the person who holds the office.

Of course, respect is defined in different ways by different people, but one thing that gets voiced quite often, and in various settings, these days is the lack of respect. Teachers sense that in the classroom with their students and with the parents of their students. Customers sense it in the employees that willingly take their money, and employees sense it in how some of their customers treat them. Coaches deal with it in the players they coach. Police deal with it in how citizens communicate to them.

And people holding public office deal with it as they seek to serve the citizens. In Michigan I served on our community’s school board for five years. I don’t remember anyone coming to one of our monthly school board meetings to affirm us on a tough decision, or to thank us for leading our community in the constant pursuit of quality education.

Respect is what each one of us desires to receive, but not as open to give. In our President’s last seven months of office I’m sure he will make some decisions that I don’t agree with, but he will always have my respect.

It’s interesting to me that in the negativity of our culture and the polarization of our beliefs that we seldom anymore hear these words: I respectfully disagree!

Deacon Emeritus Laurence Wolfe

April 13, 2015

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                                      April 13, 2015

                                           

I sat beside my dad in worship yesterday at Beulah Baptist Church in Proctorville, Ohio. It’s the church he’s been a part of for the past several years after moving up-river from Ironton, Ohio. The pastor of Beulah asked Dad to give the closing prayer for the service, and he referred to him as Deacon Emeritus.

I was surprised because Dad had never said anything about it. In fact, my first thought was that Pastor Rob was recognizing Dad’s age, but wasn’t really serious about the title…kind of like calling our Regional Executive Minister the Baptist Pope. A fitting title, but not one he is going to put on his business card.

Later on that day I asked my dad about it just to make sure I heard the pastor correctly. Yes, he said, he had been given that distinction a few months before that. I wanted to say, “And you never said anything to me about it?”, but it occurred to me that my dad never would.

You see, titles and awards have never been what his life is about. He has never put much stock in things you can hang on the wall behind your desk. Humbleness doesn’t dwell on accomplishments. It doesn’t go with “bragadocious!”

Sometimes, as sons and daughters, we fail to observe our parents long enough to be able to identify their qualities and characteristics. We’re absorbed in our own lives and what we’re doing too much to take a look. Perhaps we still see our parents as those supervisory figures who don’t really have lives of their own. They’ve just always been Mom and Dad!

And then a pastor refers to your Pops as “Deacon Emeritus” and you go “Huh?”

There is not a plaque on his wall to let visitors to his apartment know. The church didn’t give him a name tag for visitors to know that he is highly-valued. He is still content to be who he has been and who he is and who he will always be until Glory calls.

A person of wisdom who thinks before he speaks.

A storyteller of family history…and just as the Israelites tell the Passover story over and over again, my dad retells the family stories that I never get tired of hearing.

A person of convictions. He still believes that certain things aren’t right, no matter what public opinion says, but he has never forced his beliefs on someone else.

An organizer…chaos does not set well with him. My oldest daughter inherited this from my dad…he folds his clothes a certain way and everything is to be in place. I did not receive that gene in my list of passed on traits!

A person of the Word. His Bible is a bit tattered…but it’s organized tattering!

A person who is personal. I’ve noticed this week at his new senior apartment complex that people come to him to talk just as he initiates conversation with anyone who might be sitting in a front porch rocking chair. One night I noticed there were two people sitting in rocking chairs when I dropped him off at his building. I watched as I slowly drove away. He stopped to talk to them. I proceeded to the end of the parking lot and made the turn to come back towards the exit. He was still engaged in conversation and the two rockers seemed to be enjoying the moments just as much as him.

A person of integrity, which means he lives life with consistency and truth, but recognizes and admits the errors of his humanness.

A great-grandfather who my granddaughter gravitated to, even though she has spent less than two weeks with him in her first four years of life. A grandfather that my three kids love dearly even though they all live five states away.

A great dad!

So, even though he would never say so, and never say it is so, there is not a more qualified person to be designated “Deacon Emeritus”, and, without a doubt, will never bring up the subject again!