by DanWolgemuth on October 13, 2017

“He’s the joy of my life.”

The words exploded from the lips of Nick Wallace. Nick is a friend and a member of the Taylor University Board of Trustees. His reflective words were about his 26-year-old son, Ben.


A son.

A beautiful script. A father’s love. Expressed openly and emphatically.

But there’s more. So much more.

Ben Wallace, the son of my friend Nick, has Down’s Syndrome.

While Ben won’t ever attend the university where Nick and I share board responsibilities, he will bring unconstrained amounts of joy. He is incredibly adept at sharing and invoking love.

Ben is nonverbal, but his vocabulary is immense. He’s five foot even, but a giant.

Joy isn’t calibrated by perfection. It isn’t confined or defined by convenience or self-sufficiency.

In fact, vulnerability increases the velocity of love and life and tenderness.

One day some parents brought their children to Jesus so he could lay his hands on them and pray for them. But the disciples scolded the parents for bothering him. But Jesus said, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to those who are like these children.” And he placed his hands on their heads and blessed them before he left. (Matthew 19:13-15)

Joy. Delivered through children, and those with a perpetual childlike heart. Ben Wallace.

Amplified through the words of Jesus.

Ben, and so many others like him, deliver what a fully engineered resume can’t. Unfettered joy. Unencumbered delight.

In Nick’s own words… “Ben does not have a strategy or a five-year plan with short-term tasks and deadlines to support the long-term goal. God just uses him. Just as he is. And his influence spreads love and joy. That’s my Ben.”

Culturally we do our best to navigate around imperfection. We avoid the very thing that could transform our soul. We terminate transcendent joy.

I’m sure that Nick and Peri wouldn’t have drawn it up quite this way… but their love and trust in God opened their hearts to embrace a plan that eclipsed their own. I sit in their classroom. I learn lessons from them.

Lessons about joy. Pure joy. Unembellished joy. Amplified only by the breath of God.

“God, forgive me for the times that I’ve asked for less than you want to give me. Forgive me for defining joy in my own terms.”



Journey Towards Vulnerability

by DanWolgemuth on October 6, 2017

Periodically I write for a dad serving website called dadcraft.com. Today, one of my posts landed on the site. I wanted to share it with my Fragments list as well. Read it as a confession and a vision.

Whether I was aware of it or not, I often found myself as a dad navigating my children away from points of vulnerability. I suppose it started appropriately enough… no good dad wants to expose his children to danger: traffic, hot stoves, or unfettered electric current. Yet implicit in this philosophy was a tendency to steer myself and my kids away from the vulnerable.

Raising our family in suburban, middle-class Kansas City was its own protective environment. Yet, I confess with some regret, that I seldom found opportunities to expose my children to those who live with less protection and safety.

To some extent, I contrast this with my own childhood. I too grew up in a middle-class neighborhood though my early years were lived outside of Chicago. But with some level of regularity, my parents would load all of us in a vehicle (I have five siblings and we had no minivans, so I’m not even sure how this was possible… except seatbelts weren’t around!) and we would head to downtown Chicago to a Rescue Mission. We would sing and serve and teach. There were young and old. Black and white. Addicted, impoverished, neglected and overlooked. The vulnerable.

This regular brush with vulnerability was good for me. No, it was more than that. It was shaping and moving and terrifying. I was completely out of my element, but my parents seemed to understand that “my element” wasn’t enough; it lacked a richness and depth and perspective that is only calibrated by the vulnerable. By those who live humbly and broken. By those who need help.

Good fathering isn’t nested in the pursuit of self-reliance. It’s not at its best when it’s bulletproof or ironclad. Authentic dadcraft finds vulnerability and the vulnerable to be a wonderful usher to grace and compassion and mercy. To perspectives unexplored, to vantage points unseen.

Jesus shows us the way. Jesus lights the path. Jesus walked this way.

So what if, as followers of Jesus, we planned regular trips to vulnerability. A local assisted living facility. The cancer ward of a children’s hospital. Volunteering at a Special Olympics event. Finding a house that needs a weekend of work for a vulnerable owner.

Engage, don’t avoid. Intentionally and thoughtfully get involved… with the vulnerable. It’s dadcraft at its best. It’s following Jesus at its best.



Six Days and Counting

September 29, 2017

Don’t tell the Chamber of Commerce, but Denver is in the middle of a weather funk that I’ve not seen before. Six days and counting. September should bring seventy degrees and sunshine. Frankly, nearly every day in Denver delivers sunshine… but not the past six days. The skies have pulled a grey blanket of clouds […]

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Drawing My Own Mushroom

September 15, 2017

Kellen is a seven-year-old. He’s the bright and inquisitive grandson of my twin sister. Last week Kellen, his parents and his two siblings stayed at our home for several days. During the course of his visit, Mary tapped her “grandma resources” and introduced Kellen to our Hidden Picture book collection. These are essentially workbooks that […]

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August 25, 2017

He is jealous for me, loves like a hurricane, I am a tree Bending beneath the weight of His wind and mercy When all of a sudden I am unaware of these afflictions Eclipsed by glory and I realize just how beautiful You are And how great Your affections are for me And oh, how […]

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August 23, 2017

It was a year ago that I completely ruptured my hamstring. I won’t go into the unpleasant details, but by mid-September I was in an operating room and all the way through this past February I was in physical therapy. The gap in time before surgery created an issue that both complicated the procedure and […]

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August 11, 2017
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240 middle school students filed out of the Club Room at Sunstream Camp in Odgen, Iowa in silence. They had just been riveted to every word that Jarell Roach (J-Roach) had communicated about brokenness, confession, forgiveness, restoration and hope. It was time to reflect and respond. It was time to consider and declare.  It was […]

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A Plea For More

August 4, 2017

(The following is an encore Fragment.  Although written and published some time ago, I hope that it refreshes your soul today.) “Do you see anything?”  And he looked up and said, “I see men, but they look like trees, walking.”  (Mark 8:23, 24) Jesus’ encounter with the blind man at Bethsaida looks an awful lot […]

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At the Trailhead of Wow

July 28, 2017
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“A life-changing hike…” Those are the exact words extracted from the “National Parks of America” book that I gave to Mary for Christmas. The words wrap around the description of the Highline Trail at Glacier National Park in Montana. They are part of an invitation to drive on the breathtaking “Going to the Sun” Road […]

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Loving Jesus-Style

July 20, 2017

(The following is an encore Fragment.  Although written and published some time ago, I hope that it refreshes your soul today.) I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…  For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have?  Do not even the tax collectors do […]

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