A Silver Anniversary Shift

by DanWolgemuth on February 3, 2023

Picture it… the Chicago Sheraton Hotel, late January 1969. A milestone gathering in the life of Youth For Christ. Yes, a Silver Anniversary. Twenty-five years, and pressing on.

Photo Courtesy of Joan Young

I was a squirrely 8th grader, with an invitation to attend the festivities. That had nothing to do with me, and everything to do with the fact that my dad was the President of YFC at the time.

During the time of celebration, the MC announced that they had a special gift for my dad. A recognition of his leadership and commitment. Much to my delight, this was not a watch, or a silk tie, or a trophy… oh, no. Much better. Yes, they gave my dad, and consequently our entire family, a brand new Zenith color television.

What made this especially exciting was that just six months from that date, Neil Armstrong would walk on the moon. A top-notch television was a perfect complement to that historic endeavor.

Going from a cryptic black and white set, to a high quality color set was stunning. Stark in some ways. Vivid. Revealing.

This was more than an enhancement, it was a complete shift. Something richer and more wonderful… especially for a 13-year-old.

Ironically, this happened just before I entered high school at Wheaton Central. As a freshman, I was introduced to George and Ray Murray. These two senior wrestlers were special men. Brothers with incredible wrestling talent. Disciplined. Strong. Committed. And, Black.

Amazingly, Mrs. Murray, their mom, was our team bus driver. A lively, lovely, engaging and loving woman. A cheerleader with a message, especially for her sons.

And just like that, my world changed. Just as vividly as from a black and white set to a new Zenith. My monochromatic world shifted. Nearly everything around me… church, school, and neighborhood was white… and now color. Diversity.

While it was the Murray brothers that I saw most frequently, it was Mrs. Murray that brought life and joy and enthusiasm and laughter and warmth to every encounter. Even on a Blue Bird bus with 40 high school boys. She was my red carpet into the broad and beautiful world that God created. A world of color.

It changed me. Slowly, but significantly.

In reality, that fabulous Zenith set that we placed in our basement at 103 E. Park, would no longer be welcome in our house. We want more. Better quality. More reality. Enhanced imagery. Better sound. Entirely better…

So should my desire be to better understand the beauty of God’s diverse community. His Kingdom community. The imago deo mosaic.

Indeed, Lord help us… as so many of us seem to clamor for the old days of black and white. Lord help us as we continue to adjust the rabbit ears on our antique set in hopes that the picture will improve. Lord give us eyes to see what you alone have created for our delight and for your purposes.

February is Black History Month in the United States. I would encourage you to explore your own Black History journey. A diary entry of my own journey is above. The rest of my diary is littered with good and bad. With misunderstanding, neglect, and ignorance… but by God’s grace, the picture continues to improve. Thanks to the many patient voices God has placed in my life… starting with the Murrays.

Join me…

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No Bow On This One

by DanWolgemuth on January 27, 2023

Most often in my writing I work to wrap up a piece with a perfectly tied bow. You know, a wonderful and tidy conclusion to a compelling story or a Biblical insight. But not today. Not that the reflections that follow are untidy, or angry, or bitter… they’re just unfinished. And for whatever reason, 50 years after they happened, they surfaced during a time of quiet reflection.

Fifty years ago I was a senior at Wheaton Central High School. My high school tenure had been uneventful, and without ceremony. My singular leadership accomplishment came in an overheated wrestling room. This was noteworthy enough to earn me a co-captainship my senior year with my friend, Steve Lux. In 1973, we were unlikely District champs…

As a freshman at Taylor University, a broken leg in the Fall of 1973 nudged me into wrestling retirement, until, as a senior, I decided I wanted one more go… something I will always be grateful for.

While I was navigating the nuances of high school and college life, my dad was working through an incredibly intense time of work. Specifically, ministry. During my high school years he was both the national and international President of Youth For Christ. He traveled extensively, and shouldered both leadership and fund raising responsibilities. He was busy and focused.

My most memorable and distinct memory of my dad engaging with me and my wrestling career happened at Wheaton Sports Store. My dad offered to buy me a nice pair of wrestling shoes. The old canvas pair that I wore screamed of incompetence and Sam knew it. So in an act of extraordinary generosity, he bought me a very nice pair that lasted the remainder of my Wheaton Central High School seasons. I was both surprised and deeply grateful…

Yet, in a four-year high school career, and my single collegiate season, I can only remember my dad at one match. And that was because he was upset with Ed Ewoldt, my coach, for letting me cut weight down to 119 pounds as a senior. My dad wanted to give Ed his insights on dieting!

One match. That was it. And yet, I don’t ever remember feeling bitter, or angry, or frustrated.

I certainly never had to wonder about performance-based love. I didn’t consider my dad attempting to live vicariously through me. There was certainly no accomplishment-based support, or overamplified advice or involvement.

Wrestling was my thing. The team was my community. I poured myself in, and returned home to the love and safety of 103 East Park.

Yet, of late, I’ve ached a bit for my dad. Perhaps because I remember the joy of watching high school basketball and volleyball as our kids participated. It was an important calibration in my General Electric corporate life. A delight. A relief. An outlet.

So the bow on this Fragment is still untied… because I know it’s much too easy for a parent to be too involved in the athletic, musical, theatrical or academic accomplishments of their kids, but I also know that there can be a void or an absence as well. Both postures can extinguish joy. And neither, is inherently wrong.

An unfinished thought. An invitation to ponder and process. A balance between not enough, and too much. A journey to navigate on so many fronts.

So I linger in the tension of this untied bow. Now with grandchildren… and a memory that tugs me back 50 years.

Untied. Yet, grateful. Untied. And asking for wisdom…

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Cat and the Box Spring

January 20, 2023

It was time for the crib to come down. Mack, the youngest of our 11 grandchildren, is four… and well beyond the necessity or the desire to sleep within the confines of a crib. Nostalgia had pushed us to procrastinate, but alas… That meant a reconfiguration of our “crib room”, which included the dismantling of […]

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Half a Billion and Counting

January 13, 2023

His name is Cristiano Ronaldo… officially, he is a Portuguese footballer (soccer player). And, mind you, one of the finest footballers in the world, with more international goals than any other player, ever. But what you may not know is that in November of last year, Cristiano Ronaldo passed the mark of 500 million followers […]

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2023 in a Word

January 6, 2023

Do you do it? Do you select a “word for the year”? I went through a season a few years ago, where I would select a word that I anticipated would be an area of focus during the coming year. Perhaps you’ve done the same. The origin of the official practice of naming a word […]

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The Whys of Christmas – Part 5

December 30, 2022

We started with, Why Then?, and we progressed to Why There? Then we moved to Why Her?, only to be followed by, Why Them?. Four poignant questions that bring us to the threshold of a soul-searching, and heart-moving question… Why me? Frankly, I can’t type those two words without feeling the delight and the weight […]

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The Whys of Christmas – Part 4

December 27, 2022

To continue… Why them? It was 1992, Barcelona, Spain, and the introduction of the “Dream Team” as the Olympic Committee allowed professional athletes to compete. It was a roster of Hall of Fame NBA athletes. Jordan, Pippen, Stockton, Malone, Magic, Bird, Ewing, Mullin, Robinson, Drexler, Laettner and Barkley. What a list. Superstars on a combined […]

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The Ways of Christmas – Part 3

December 16, 2022

 To continue… Why her? Why Mary? A small-town girl. Engaged to be married. A teenager. What I’m confident of is that God knew exactly what He was doing when He plucked this young woman out of obscurity and into cosmic significance. He wasn’t checking Mary’s resume, or pedigree, or balance sheet. And while we celebrate […]

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The Whys of Christmas – Part 2

December 9, 2022

Mystery. Christmas is a collection of unimaginable events, with unlikely heroes, and improbable circumstances. Yet, singularly, it is Christ’s birth in Bethlehem that provides the fulcrum on which all of history is leveraged. And in this mystery, questions emerge. Not irreverent questions, but authentic and ponderous questions. Indeed, questions that only God can answer, but […]

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The Whys of Christmas – Part 1

December 2, 2022

Mystery. Christmas is a collection of unimaginable events, with unlikely heroes, and improbable circumstances. Yet, singularly, it is Christ’s birth in Bethlehem that provides the fulcrum on which all of history is leveraged. And in this mystery, questions emerge. Not irreverent questions, but authentic and ponderous questions. Indeed, questions that only God can answer, but […]

Read the full article →