Posted tagged ‘wisdom’

Signs That Old Age Has Rested Upon You

January 12, 2020

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                      January 12, 2020

                            

Last week I was at our local YMCA in the morning to work up a sweat. I climbed the stairs to the balcony track that circles above the gym. Thirteen laps to a mile and I try to do a mile or two. A runner can only do so many laps before he starts leaning towards the inside railing!

As usual, I stretched and watched the half dozen walkers and runners making their circuits. One young man in his twenties was setting a good pace. Another man, looking like he was hovering around 75 and on the edge of death, plodded along. Down below several octogenarians played pickleball at a snoozing pace. When I entered the track the man who looked like he had limited life expectancy was about 20 yards in front of me. 

And then five laps later I realized he was still 20 yards in front of me! It was a “Come to Jesus moment” for me, a slap on both of my cheeks. I WAS GOING THE SAME SPEED, or should I say, lack of speed. The man in front of me, who probably had checked to see where the nearest AED device was located, was running at the same pace as me. No wait! He was actually getting further ahead of me!

I cursed the extra piece of pecan pie I had consumed the night before, thought about the salad I would now eat for lunch…and dinner, and considered if my will was up to date.

Signs that I’m heading towards a rocking chair and a blanket are coming more frequently. Each night when Carol and I sit to watch a TV show I grab a blanket to warm up my freezing hands and feet. Our couch now has more blankets on it than pillows. Actually, it also has more blankets than seating capacity!

When the TV show ends at about 8:30, Carol asks me if I want to watch another show. My answer to that question usually includes a look at the time. If the minute hand has ended its downward journey and is heading back up towards the top of the hour the chances are I’ll pass on watching another TV episode. That’s another sign that age is crowding in with me.

This week I bought a new nose and ear hair trimmer. As the hair on the top of my head decreases the amount of hair protruding out of my nostrils and ears seems to be increasing. It’s like I accidentally put a treatment of Miracle-Gro on them!

On the bright side it seems that people ask what my opinion is more often than they used to. They ask me if I have any suggestions. Sometimes I do and sometimes I admit my lack of wisdom on the situation. 

I read more, become impatient quicker, and eat more yogurt. I think about the things I used to do: jumping and touching the basketball rim back in college, running the Pike’s Peak Ascent race (Otherwise known by my wife as “The Death Race!), and sleeping through the night without having to get up and urinating. I sigh deeply and mutter to myself “Those were the days!”

And yet in my longing to return to “what was” I realize I wouldn’t have what I now have: four grandkids, the same spouse for 40+ years, an abundance of friends and acquaintances. The arrival of Medicare eligibility coincides with the realization of how blessed I have been and still am. 

Just as I keep the shrubs trimmed growing out of my facial areas, I now keep the areas of my interest and involvement trimmed to where I want to focus my time and energies. With that comes the acceptance of the fact that I don’t need to catch the old guy in front of me on the YMCA track, and that it’s okay to throw a blanket on top of me. Old guys don’t have to worry about being called wimps, they simply need to hope that they’re seen as being wise. 

Middle School Cell Phone Addiction

September 1, 2019

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                     September 1, 2019

                                    

A few days ago NBC Nightly News ran a story about San Mateo High School, just down the road from Google headquarters. The school has instituted a ban on cell phones during the hours of the school day. Students put their phones in a locking pouch when they arrive at school and go to a staff member with the unlocking device at the end of the school day. There are exceptions for medical reasons and special circumstances.

The reason for the “lockup”, according to one of the administrators, is because the phones were having a negative effect on the educational environment of the school. One student also made the comment that at lunchtime “now students actually talk to one another!”

I see the addiction taking over the lives of adolescents, but also adults. I’m always amazed when I tune into a baseball game on TV at the number of people right behind home plate focused on their cell phones instead of the game that they paid several hundred dollars to attend. Or foru adults sitting at a restaurant table for dinner, each staring at their cell phone. 

Middle school students mimic what they see their older peers doing. They’ve even learned how to be sneaky about it. Most of the classrooms I substitute teach in have cell phone policies that stipulate that they can be used for educational purposes. Students use them to go online for sites such as Schoology and Google Classroom. The problem is that a number of them will be using them for gaming or social media and then quickly switch to Google Classroom when they see the instructor heading their way. 

At my school the consequence for being discovered is to have the student take their phone to the office where it will be kept until the end of the school day. Last year I had a student playing video games on his phone when the rest of the class was ten minutes into doing an assignment. I had him take the device to the office…but he didn’t come back! We discovered from security video that he had gone into the school library, found an isolated corner, and continued to play his video game. 

Some teachers have a “cell phone parking lot”, a bin that phones are put in when students enter the classroom and “unpark” at the end of the class period. Some teachers have become so frustrated that they don’t allow cell phones to even be seen.

San Mateo may pioneer a movement in the opposite direction from technology. My guess is that there are a multitude of teachers who wished they could be in San Mateo’s shoes. 

At the church camp this past summer where I was middle school camp pastor, we limited cell phone use to a couple of short time blocks each day, a half-hour in the afternoon and a half hour at the end of the day. It was amazing to see how the young teens connected with one another when their “cell buddy” was not holding hands with them.

BUT many of them ran to their phones like kids to free candy being thrown in a parade when they had permission!

Cell phone wisdom is needed. Proverbs 3:13 says “Blessed are those who find wisdom, those who gain understanding.” The word ‘wisdom’ is used 54 other times in Solomon’s sayings of that Old Testament book. Anytime a word in the Bible is used a multitude of times it means it’s a need, not just a want! It’s an essential, not a luxury!

Perhaps a class called “Device Wisdom” could help!

Nah! Students would probably learn the information, but not take it to heart. It would be like learning the state capitals- impressive, but not useful for figuring out the consequences of bad decisions. 

Careful!

February 3, 2019

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                   February 3, 2019

                                         

Yesterday was nice and sunny here in Colorado Springs- about 60 degrees, in case anyone in the East and Midwest is wondering- so I took a walk. I went past the Liberty High School parking lot and noticed a young lady being taught how to drive. Her mom was giving her instructions and she slowly made a loop around. Whenever she made a turn she almost came to a complete stop as the tires were redirected. Her mom had her park in one of the parking spaces and it took her three times of going forward and then backwards before she put the Subaru in the spot. 

She was being extremely, extremely, really extremely careful! The question occurred to me as I watched this from the hillside overlooking the school, “when will she stop being careful?” Will there be a point where she will begin exiting the school parking lot at the end of a school day driving like a bat out of hell?

Our three year old granddaughter is determined. Otherwise known as being stubborn! There’s been a few times when she’s been given a cup of juice to drink and she grabs it like a Black Friday 5 A.M. shopper at Walmart! The juice goes every which way, sloshing to freedom on the table, chair, and floor. Sippy cups have made her reckless! They’ve taught her to proceed carefree! Perhaps when she’s five she will discover the relevance of carefulness for her life…cautious and controlled now to avoid spills and cleanups later.

Being careful appears and disappears like the fog along the Ohio River. Someone runs down the driveway to pick up the morning newspaper, trips and falls on a spot of ice, and breaks their arm. Another person, an elderly woman, walks with heightened fear taking each step slowly as if she’s on a tightrope. Her fear of breaking a hip has made her careful, whereas the first person has learned the hard way that there are times to slow down.

Working quite frequently with middle schoolers, I am amazed at how so many of them now have cell phones…without protective cases! A thirteen year old’s cell phone without a protective case is an accident waiting to happen! Little Jimmy, who races through the hallways between classes, now has an iPhone that has no many cracks in it there’s no way he can make out what anything on the screen says.

Careful or without a care, so much of our lives get spent at one end or the other of the pendulum.

I was surprised to discover that the Bible uses the word “careful” 120 times. the advice of Ephesians 5:15 is simple and clear. “Be very careful, then, how you live – not as unwise but as wise!”

Reckless behavior has its consequences. Decisions not thought through will have negative results. Doing something stupid has the potential to do damage for years to come. Here in Colorado we have had several devastating fires in the past decade. Last June’s Spring Creek fire burned over 108,000 acres and destroyed 141 homes. It was caused by a man who has been charged with arson. One moment of stupidity caused damage that will take decades to undo.

Scripture keeps reminding us to be careful in our words and actions. When something is said or put into print or onto social media it can’t be undone. It’s there, and will be there! Being careful is associated with being wise!

We need not be as careful as the young lady inching her Subaru along in the school parking lot, but so often we resemble our granddaughter, sitting in the splashes of our rash decisions. 

A 3 Year Old and 8th Grade Girls

May 25, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                        May 25, 2018

                              

She met me in the driveway. Her mom (our daughter) was heading to her next to last day of school, teaching fourth graders, and her brother and sister were heading to the same school for their education. 

But she was staying!

“Hi, Granddad!” 

Corin, our three year old granddaughter, was ready. We blew and chased bubbles for thirty minutes and then pursued an imaginary creature she referred to as the beast. I made the mistake of calling the beast “her”, and was quickly corrected on the gender! A few minutes later I had to share an imaginary Happy Meal with Chicken McNuggets with the beast. 

We took a walk…a long walk!

Not once did she have to look at her cell phone. Her imagination and grandfather were enough to occupy her time and keep her attention.

The day before I had substitute taught 8th Grade Science for a third straight day. Thus, 8th Grade girls! The differences between the three year old and the girls in my Wednesday classroom are more than just eleven years of life and size. They are also worlds apart.

A three year old’s life is uncomplicated. 8th Grade girls are complicated! Corin’s decisions included what kind of juice she wanted to drink and whether we should play inside or outside. 8th Grade girls make decisions on which path to go down. Many of them choose the path of wisdom and common sense. Some choose the narrow path of uncertainty, where a wind or a sudden stumble can send them falling in one direction or the other. But there are others who have chosen the path that leads to destruction. It is a way that often features defiance and drama, a deafness to reason and a blindness to consequences. 

Before cell phones and social media it seems that deciding which path an adolescent would take came a couple of years later, but life has sped up to a scary pace of change. 

The girls in my science classes this week, that I had also taught last year in an awesome long-term substitute teaching experience of 7th Grade Social Studies, listened to me, talked to me, and remembered the January journey we had walked together. Many of the ones that didn’t know me blew me off as irrelevant and, since I’m “old”, uncool!

The paths are as different as east is from west. The distance between them results in a lack of hearing or, more accurately, an unwillingness to hear someone who is going in the other direction. 

And I had a growing yearning for my three year old “play buddy” to stay that age! I longed for her to stay at that point of deciding on what kind of juice she was going to drink and what imaginary creature Granddad was going to share a Happy meal with.

Don’t Do Stupid!

April 7, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                    April 6, 2018

                           

In my adventures as a middle school substitute teacher and coach I have experienced a number of students who have strayed into that strange land known as “Stupidity”! It is a place whose only borders are common sense and reasoning.

Sometimes students stray into this dark territory like lambs who have lost their way. A few seconds of their life that dumbfounds everyone around them suddenly finds them standing at a point where the question comes too late: What was I thinking?

And so I tell the students that I coach at the beginning of the season the three words:

“Don’t do stupid!”

I explain to them that my incorrect verb usage is on purpose, because “stupid” is not who a person is, stupid is a choice! Someone chooses to do stupid!

Most middle school students do not have the ability yet to think of long term consequences when it comes to crossing over the Stupid boundaries. I remember one of my basketball players years ago who “de-pantsed” another boy at the beginning of one of our practices. He did it in the middle of the gym and, unfortunately for him, he did it right as the assistant principal was coming into the gym. It was funny for a few seconds…and then he received a five day suspension!

I’ve noticed trends in the treks to Stupidity. Eighth grade boys tend to be tempted the most to cross over. For some it’s the thrill of the ridiculous, the stories that they will tell years later at class reunion gatherings. They are reincarnations of “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”!

Eighth grade girls are a bit more hesitant, or, optimistically speaking, wiser. They think about it longer, but, as a result of that, are also a bit more devious when they sneak into the forbidden zone. Their head-shaking exploits often involve a cell phone that they look at more often than the world around them.

Seventh grade boys follow closely behind, swayed by stories of their predecessors. Their exploits are usually void of creativity. They’re things like throwing a pencil at someone or pulling a chair out from another student who is just about to sit down. Some seventh grade boys, however, are building reputations for being citizens of the land of Stupid. Ask any seventh grade teacher about two months into the school year who the “suspects” are and they  know the ones who have applied for citizenship status in Stupidity.

Seventh grade girls infrequently come close to the border. The ones who venture across usually are verbal in their transgressions, saying words that are hateful and demeaning. Rarely do they stray over in ways that are physically dangerous or do the stuff that legends are built on.

Stupidity lurks in the midst of each school day. It’s sweet aroma draws in its prey at a moment’s notice. Some students do things at school that would curl the toes of their parents if they knew about them. There should be billboard pictures of mom and dad all along the border into Stupidity. For most students, parental fear is a good deterrent!

If pictures of my mom and dad had been plastered on my school desk I would not have made some of my journeys across the border when I was a middle schooler. Since they weren’t staring me in the face, however, I ventured into Stupidity every once in a while. Fortunately I was always “just visiting!”

The Few Seconds Visitor

March 28, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                    March 28, 2018

                                     

I had lunch last week with a friend of mine who needed to vent some…and laugh! He had just spent the previous thirty minutes with someone who had stopped by his office and asked the question:

“Got a few seconds?”

Being someone who is responsible for a workload that is enough for two people, as well as being a nice guy, he said yes. The few seconds extended past a few minutes and into one long rant. It took a few minutes to bring him back down to the humor involved in just being human, but a long lunch later he was ready to return to work.

I remember those days of having an unscheduled visitor stop by the church office and, with a smile on his/her face, ask me that question. One man who was a representative of a mission organization would cause me to grind my teeth as I struggled with the spiritual dilemma fueled by my deeply-rooted Baptist guilt of telling him I was unavailable. That internal wrestling match had come as a result of several experiences with this man of God, and several of those “Got a few seconds” pop-ins!

People who ask for a few seconds usually have no concept of time. In their minds time is infinite. A few seconds could mean a decade in the vastness of time.

In my 36 years of pastoring the only productive meetings I had with someone who asked me if I had a few seconds was when another staff person approached me. Since we were working in the same building it meant that there was something vitally important for me to hear. Otherwise, the person who would stop by, like I was a Starbucks coffee stop, would produce anger, frustration, and cost me a half-day. The half-day cost would be because of how difficult it would be to shift my mind back to one of the other tasks I had to get accomplished that day. After the unannounced visitor left I was still dealing with the frustration of what had just been talked about.

If it was the week leading up to Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Easter Sunday I could expect someone to grab my ear for a while. It, of course, was “something that just couldn’t wait!”

“The Few Seconds Visitor” was usually a single-issue person, thinking that the whole church was also disgruntled about the same thing. He/She often saw himself/herself as being the mouthpiece for a larger contingent, like an elected senator speaking for the voters.

In ministry the pop-in person usually has an issue that could and should be handled by a committee or staff person, but the visitor doesn’t like how the team or staff person is handling it. Forget about process and rules of procedure! If he can bend the ear of the pastor/director/principal/administrator for a while to get his way then so be it!

If Jesus had been stopped by someone who wanted just a few seconds of his time he would have said “Get behind me, Satan!”, or perhaps he would have performed an exorcism of the one-issue demon the person was afflicted with.

Let me get to wisdom! The wise person is one who identifies the few people who he trusts, and who, when asked, tell him the truth and advise him on the decisions to be made. The wise person is the one who seeks to receive “a few seconds” of thoughts from people such as that. The wise person knows he needs those trusted few who he can filter situations, assumptions, ideas, and perceptions through. He needs those few people who can lead him to the right decision through clarifying questions.

My youngest daughter would often come to me with a request of something she wanted me to buy her. As she reached her high school years, when her requests seemed to grow in the size of their price tags, I would ask her the question, “Is this a want or a need?” She hated that question because it put things into perspective.

The person who wants just a few seconds of your time is usually someone who has a want not a need. The healthy organization, and effective leader, is one that is able to separate personal wants from organizational needs, personal agendas from organizational priorities, and personal rants from absolute truth.

Thanks for taking a few seconds to read this!

Dad’s Bible

February 25, 2018

WORDS FROM W.W.                                                         February 25, 2018

                                               

I brought Dad’s Bible home with me this past week. Laurence Wolfe passed away on the fifteenth of February four months shy of his 90th birthday. His Bible has been speaking and reaffirming to me who Dad was and is.

A Bible often does that…communicates who the owner is! It shows his search for truth and the value he placed on wisdom and revelation. Sometimes it also reveals the lifeline that the person held on to in facing difficulties and weaknesses.

My dad’s book of scriptures has verses underlined on most of the pages. Not a single verse in the Book of Psalms is underlined, but Proverbs is well-used. “Blessed is the man who finds wisdom, the man who gains understanding, for she is more profitable than silver and yields better returns than gold.” (Proverbs 3:13)

“He who despises his neighbor sins, but blessed is he who is kind to the needy.” (Proverbs 14:21)

“Through love and faithfulness sin is atoned for; through the fear of the Lord a man avoids evil.” (Proverbs 16:6)

Wise counsel would be a term people would associate with Dad. I remember the number of phone calls he would receive at home after he retired from the Social Security Administration. People would call him for advice and guidance on how to approach a situation with his former employer. He would listen and offer…wise counsel. I’ve got a feeling that Proverbs was a book he read often to help ground him in the area of wisdom. The Book of James echoes that belief. Underlined in the first chapter are these words: “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt…” (James 1:5-6)

And then a bit later. “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.” (James 3:13)

Paul’s letter to the Romans seems to have been a favorite book, as well as the Gospel of John. In the midst of the gospel one verse gets emphasized. “He who does not love me will not obey my teaching.” (John 14:24)

Dad’s Bible tells me other things about him as well. Any verse that is emphasized is underlined with great care to make sure the line is straight. It reminds me of a father who was always organized. A task worth doing- even underlining a scripture verse- was worth doing well!

And then there is the prayer list! It was tucked between pages in the midst of Nehemiah. The list held the names of friends, family, his pastor, his church, and his country. Some of the names were of people who had been struggling with health difficulties, and others who were struggling with spiritual difficulties.

In the coming months Dad’s Bible will be the Bible that I read, discovering in the midst of the Word of God the man of God that my father was. In a way it will be like a continuing conversation with Pops, visits that I am extremely grateful for.