Still Gardner

by DanWolgemuth on October 12, 2018

The pre-dinner mingling began at 6PM. The Taylor University Board of Trustees had finished a full day of meetings and it was time for dinner with key members of the Administration. The agenda was simple and scripted. An opening prayer, a few remarks, a beautiful tribute to a 1951 Alum all leading to an 8PM adjournment.

As I entered the dining room, soft and creative tones echoing from a grand piano in the front corner of the room floated like a spring breeze. Unpretentious, but rich. Unannounced, but present… like a friend.

Fifteen minutes later we were seated. Introductions, instructions and an invocation followed. During this time, Gardner Stewart was identified as the pianist and polite applause followed… all from a noteworthy crowd. Lawyers, doctors, professionals, educators, and administrators. Polite applause.

While plates were being filled and coffee served… Gardner. Music filled the vacant space and seemed to frost every conversation with elegance and grace.

Then the program. Microphones. Interviews. Awards. Speeches.

With final instructions given for a few subsequent meetings and an agenda for the morning… the closing prayer was offered. Done. Meal finished.

I hung in the room. I had conversations to engage in. People to meet. A 1951 Taylor graduate to introduce myself to who had felt the call of God while sitting in a Youth For Christ meeting decades and decades before. And while all of that was happening… Gardner. His music became a flannel shirt and sweat pants in the room. Comfort. Care. Safe and warm.

Thirty minutes later I was the only Trustee left in the room. Others had gone to ad hoc meetings and other commitments. I waited for three of my colleagues who had committed to return to finish a discussion begun over turkey and green beans.

By this point the room was filled with student staff, all attired in black who were focused and busy. They cleared table by table. And still… Gardner.

Tablecloths were exchanged and the configuration for breakfast now began to take shape. And yes, the beautiful piano music continued. Joy propelled long after obligation had clocked out. Gardner continued. Much to the delight of those who pressed through the mundane assignment. Much to the delight of the only Trustee left in the room. Music. Melody. Harmony.

At 9:15 three Trustees reentered the room and we picked up where we had left off in conversation nearly two hours before. And Gardner played on. Without a pause. Without a break. Without acknowledgment and certainly without recognition.

At 9:55… farewells, hugs, and an unceremonious departure and still Gardner. As beautiful and rich as 6PM with a full and prestigious audience.

Halfway down the hallway I detoured my exit and returned to the room, to the music. I walked over to the young dreadlock coiffed performer and I compelled him to take one hand off of the keys to shake mine.

“Thank you.”

I didn’t know what else to say. I’d been given a gift I hadn’t asked for or expected. Not a performance, but a gift. But like overhead sprinklers, the gift had soaked every individual that had lingered in the room. Tie and sport coat. Dress and heels. Aprons and work clothes. Everyone. To the oblivious and the grateful. Everyone.

From Gardner. Still Gardner. The melodies escorted me to the exit door… and long after.

To the served and the servers. Gardner gave his best. His gift. When the room was full, and when I was alone.

For an audience of one. Literally. In worship. With joy. Still Gardner…

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Juni, on Wednesday

by DanWolgemuth on October 5, 2018

It was in mid-August when Mary and I sat with our calendars and worked through an intense Fall schedule. Six Regional Leadership Conferences, all scheduled on weekends, a national Youth For Christ golf event, again, on a weekend. Three board meetings… etc.

Our objective in August was to find open days during the week that I could block to enable some rest and recovery. Wednesday of this week was one of those days.

What had not yet impacted our calendar was surgery for two of our grandsons. Desmond and Abe are brothers, and they both needed to have their tonsils removed… and the optimal day was Wednesday. The collision course with my calendar came with Desmond’s and Abe’s little sister, Juni. Mary would be at the hospital to provide love and support, and I emerged as the single best option for my 22-month-old granddaughter.

Juni spent Tuesday night at our house so that Mary could be out the door early on her way to the hospital. That meant that at 7:30, when the sunshine in Denver splashed across Juni’s face, the hands that would rescue her from the crib were mine.

She looked puzzled when I pulled her out of the crib. Not like she didn’t recognize me, but more like I must be a temporary place holder on the way to authentic and competent care. A look like, “Where’s Emmie?”

But alas, I was it.

Juni didn’t shed any tears, she just consistently looked at me with eyes that conveyed her lack of confidence in my competence. Maybe she was simply playing back how I looked. Honestly, I felt both overqualified and underqualified at the same time.

Juni’s only requirement was that I was present, available, attentive, responsive and supportive to her every request. And I was. For a single day, I was.

Throughout the day I thought about the effortless way that Mary cares for our grandchildren. Like a skier on a slope who glides from side to side. While I felt more like the beginner who crouches and cringes their way to the bottom in an awkward snowplow position. I got to the destination, but it wasn’t pretty.

And then my thoughts progressed to households that Juni represents… just in my family. Chrissy, Kendal and Alli… all competent and gifted and educated… who each day pour their lives into the lives of their children. Children who, for the most part demand without gratitude.

Much is made of servant leadership. Many books are written. Catalogs of courses offered… but on Wednesday, I thought that perhaps these classes and books and lessons should be taught by Moms. By those who fix a meal, organize a household, change a disgusting diaper, cradle a tiny body, sing a comforting song, mend a scuffed knee… and virtually always without affirmation or thanks.

What Wednesday showed me ever so clearly, is that I have a lot to learn about servant leadership. A lot that a Harvard MBA couldn’t come close to providing.

On Wednesday. With Juni.

Thank you to every Mom who rolled their eyes part way through this piece. You get it. And I honor your sacrifice and love.

Mother’s Day in October. Hats off. Hearts of gratitude.

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A Tale of Neighboring Buildings

September 24, 2018

Within a quarter of a mile of my office are two prominent buildings. Both are substantial, expensive and active. One is the home of the Denver Broncos, the other… the Marvin W. Foote Youth Detention Facility. These two properties are side by side, yet they could hardly be farther apart. One rewards the best moments […]

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HiPots

September 14, 2018

Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. (Romans 5:3–5, ESV) High Potential, HiPots. […]

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Remembering Grace…

August 31, 2018

Yesterday would have been Grace Wolgemuth’s 102 birthday. Perhaps they celebrate them in Heaven. Certainly, they have reason to celebrate Grace. Her life and love tugged me back to a Fragment that I wrote shortly after her death in 2010… It was typically the east side door on the Wheaton Evangelical Church where we would […]

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A Kiss for a Prodigal

August 24, 2018

And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. (Luke 15:20, ESV) In 2009, the Academy Award for the Best Motion Picture of the Year went to Slumdog Millionaire. The story is […]

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Eavesdropping on a Conversation with God

August 17, 2018

“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance […]

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“The Author and Perfecter of Our Faith”

August 10, 2018

The author… the craftsman who uses words as his/her paint brush. The author… communicates with authority and power and reliability. An author leverages credentials, life experience, training, pedigree, and origin for the good of those who are the object of the communication. That is why, when the Apostle John took dictation from Jesus using the […]

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An Epilogue

August 3, 2018

Dear July (an Epilogue) – Okay, I know, you’re now officially a part of the past. History. Archives. But lingering reflections have caused me to continue to ponder what it is that I should be learning, remembering, changing, abandoning, embracing, and trusting as a result of the 31 days I spent with you. A quick […]

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Dear July – continued…

July 6, 2018

This past week, while the World Cup Soccer tournament roared, and Major League Baseball edged past the midway point in the season… many in the world of sports focused on a 33-year-old from Akron, Ohio. LeBron James officially became LABron, with a four-year commitment to play basketball for the Los Angeles Lakers. What’s clear is […]

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