He Saw… and so should we

by DanWolgemuth on October 16, 2020

As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. (John 9:1)
 
A recent trip to downtown Denver on the local RTD train provided transportation and a bit more.
 
Masks on. Space provided. Miles covered.
 
Once downtown, a walk to a beautifully renovated office building, and the assignment at hand. I was focused. My mind locked on the subject in front of me. My destination was a studio where I would livestream a video to our YFC staff around the United States. This was the virtual replacement for seven geographically targeted conferences that had been on the agenda at the start of the year.
 
I felt strongly about the specific message I wanted to deliver. A tight 25-minute window.
 
My notes were printed, highlighted and appropriately scribbled on. I was ready.

Once delivered, I retraced the route to my car. But this time, my personal attention was less focused on my own righteous agenda, and consequently, more responsive to the world around me.
 
The homeless man on the corner panhandling. The young guy sitting on the bench by the bus stop. He looked weathered. Worn. Out of it.
 
Then there was the Greyhound bus station in the lower level of Union Station. Benches cluttered with people heading to wherever. For whatever. Toting luggage and burdens that seemed to ooze from their expressions. I heard a baby crying. I saw a man on the floor sleeping on his bags.
 
Then the C Line train back to my car. Again, staccato interaction with a few other passengers. All with a story. All with a destination in mind. In relatively close proximity, but miles away.

Were these people here when I traveled downtown? Had the brokenness and loneliness of the community just surfaced?

I wish. But, no.

I was so “on mission” to get to my opportunity to preach the Gospel… the Good News… and I missed being the good news.

Jesus… on a three-year timeline. A ministry pace to change the human race. Cosmic urgency.

Focus. Purpose.

“He set His face to go to Jerusalem.” (Luke 9:51)

Yet, Jesus, in the midst of His “mega-narrative” never lost sight of His “minor-opportunities”. His attention was on the cross, but His eyes never left the faces of those around Him.

The faces of the broken. The outcast. The unclean. The disdained. The ugly.

Jesus made eye contact with the blind. He approached the leper. He touched the dead.

Always on mission, yet always aware.

Always on task, but always available.

COVID-19 has given me permission to live into my selfishness. To ignore for a reason. To avoid on purpose. A medical rationale for a sinful preoccupation.

And Jesus grieves.

Call it an “eye exam”, call it a new “lens”… but make no mistake, it’s the visional attention of Jesus. Before He healed, before He taught, before He cleansed, before He exorcised, before He bled… He saw.

And so should I. No mission, Godly or mundane, should ever obscure my vision of the human condition around me.

Eyes like Jesus. And a heart that will follow.

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Tattooed

by DanWolgemuth on October 9, 2020

It was in May of 2019 that my heart was moved beyond expectation. A heart tattooed. Marked indelibly by an experience in juvenile detention. An experience with Jesus. Now, roughly eighteen months later… I still wake in the middle of the night and think about KB. I wonder. I ache. I pray. The story of that first encounter follows…

I completely underestimated what would happen in 26 hours of incarceration. I invited this. At an important level, I wanted this. I just didn’t know what would happen.

Most specifically, KB happened.

I was clothed in the same clothes, but I was decades apart, more specifically, I was a lifetime apart. Perhaps that’s why my heart was pounding like a college senior going to his first post-graduation job interview.

I walked into the “pod” with a group of complete strangers. I was there to immerse myself in the deep end of life for the 13 to 18 year olds in juvenile detention. Nineteen of them. This wasn’t about sleeping on the same slab of concrete, or hearing the sound of prison doors locking shut, or choking down the same dreadful food. This was about the 19 faces that occupied the cells on BPod.

Immediately my eyes raced to a table of two young men. Boys. If I grabbed a seat quickly, I could avoid awkwardly walking around the room. So, I grabbed, quickly.

Thirteen years old. Yet I knew well that the experiential odometer on these two young men had progressed at an outrageous rate. They were growing up much too quickly.

To my complete surprise, they seemed to welcome me without hesitation. No fanfare, mind you, but no overt resistance either.

I tried to be stealth. To act like I belonged there. Like I was just hanging with these guys… right? After a short while I pressed in with questions. Fortunately, they didn’t push back. Talk about neighborhoods and families began to build a conversational bridge. It was KB who entered in most naturally. He spoke about his Dad and his Mom. Two adults living disconnected lives, but very intertwined inside KB. His Dad had celebrated a birthday last week, and his Mom would celebrate hers on Sunday. The transparency of KB’s angst over missing both celebrations was evident. Painful.

Then, in the most natural of ways KB looked at me and said, “I have a Grandpa. I call him Papa Leroy.” Then a reflective moment… and the fruit of his thought emerged, “You remind me of my Papa Leroy.” A smile oozed across his face as the words floated to my ears, “That’s a good thing.” KB reassured me. “A really good thing.”

I wasn’t sure how something this profound could have happened this quickly, but I whispered a prayer of gratitude. Why would I ever doubt what the Holy Spirit could do in a moment? In that moment.

For the next day, KB opened his heart and life to me. Not in what he said to me, but in how he treated me. In the six times of group interaction, each lasting about an hour, KB had a vacant seat at his side… for me. I couldn’t understand it, but I relished it. Deeply.

Picture it. A 13-year-old African American young man, with a 64-year-old white guy at his side, among his peers, by choice. Like I said, only the Holy Spirit.

From time to time KB would smile at me and whisper something about Papa Leroy. I loved it. I think he loved it too.

During a time of casual and candid interaction with a smaller group of young men, I noticed that KB had pulled his chair to the side, and more specifically, he had pointed it away from the group. On a quick glance in his direction, I watched as he used his thumbs like squeegees across his cheeks. It was invisible to his peers, but painfully clear to me. Real tears. Remorse filled, resolve inducing tears. I never asked, but I knew.

In one day, God knit KB to my heart. More accurately, He tattooed him there. That bright and beautiful face. Those thoughtful and winsome exchanges. That authentic and unvarnished pain. Marked indelibly on my heart.

In the closing hour of our time together, we pressed into the words of Proverbs 3:5 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and don’t lean on your own understanding.”

“Was God trustworthy?” Without a moment of hesitation, KB responded, “He’s trustworthy. I just read in the Bible I’m borrowing that He created everything.”

Trustworthy. Powerful. Beautiful. God. Even in juvenile detention.

As my time in detention wound to a close, I looked back into the face of the young man who had captured my heart. “KB, do I still remind you of your Papa Leroy?”

There was a thoughtful and appropriate delay in his response. And then with words that I will never forget, he said… “No, you are my Papa Leroy.”

“I was in prison and you came to me…”

Papa Leroy.

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The Profile Page of God

October 2, 2020

A profile. A personal resume. Facebook calls it an About Intro… With icons. Short narratives. And a few locations. Me. Dan Wolgemuth. 65 years distilled. So, the question surfaces. If God had to fill out a profile… something He would put on LinkedIn or Instagram or Facebook, what would it be?   Actually, He did. […]

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Pregnant. Expecting.

September 25, 2020

Those were the terms we used in the early summer of 1980 to inform our families that a baby was on the way. Our first. By August, 1980, my entire family was in Birmingham, England for the retirement celebration of my Dad from Youth For Christ. A once in a lifetime gathering to reflect, commend, […]

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A Plastic Recorder and a Borrowed Ukulele

September 18, 2020

There’s a pause, pregnant with anticipation. Then music. A note or two on a piano or a single voice, or a misaligned entry point for a little plastic recorder. And moments later, the vague resemblance of a familiar tune. Then words that confirm the identity of the cloaked hymn. Amazing grace, how sweet the sound… […]

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Only a pebble…

September 11, 2020

My work day had concluded, and I made the short commute from the office in our home to the front porch. Mary was sitting there, watching over the water play of two of our grandchildren. Our two youngest. Juni, our 3-year-old, and Mack at nearly two. They had filled a clear storage tub with water […]

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It started with Toilet Paper

September 4, 2020

I think it started with toilet paper. You remember, grocery store shelves empty from end to end. But like the pandemic itself, the shortages and binge buying raced through other aisles as well. Hand sanitizer. Pasta. Cleaning products. Rice. Masks. Meat. Perhaps a bit irrational, but real.  Photo by Mick Haupt on Unsplash Consumers clamoring for items that […]

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Buyer’s remorse

August 28, 2020

Buyer’s remorse. You know that feeling. The purchase is complete, the product firmly in your hand, and a wave of dissatisfaction or worry washes over you. My most vivid experience of this occurred when Mary and I purchased our first house in Fort Wayne, Indiana in January of 1979. A three bedroom, one bath house […]

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He Is What He Says He Is

August 21, 2020

Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  (Matthew 11:28–29, ESV) Gentle. Lowly. In heart. The outstanding new book by Dane Ortlund […]

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Not Even Solomon

August 14, 2020

A brisk and energizing hike led to a beautiful and clear alpine lake. Ptarmigan Lake. And nestled in the rocks and roots along the way… the Giant red Indian paintbrush. Against the rugged and rough, a splash of color and beauty. Delicate, yet durable and tough. A flower suitable for a wedding bouquet, yet isolated […]

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