He knocked the city out of me…

by DanWolgemuth on January 18, 2019

“Don’t let the world around you squeeze you into its own mold, but let God re-mold your minds from within, so that you may prove in practice that the plan of God for you is good, meets all his demands and moves towards the goal of true maturity.” (Romans 12:2, Phillips)

My parents, Sam and Grace Wolgemuth, grew up in beautiful Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Rural and productive. But, by the time my twin sister and I were born, love, and life, and leading had planted them firmly in Wheaton, Illinois.

So, while many parents in suburban Chicago were sending their kids to a YMCA summer camp, Sam and Grace sent Debbie and me to Lancaster. To the farm. To extended family.

Enter Jesse and Wilma Dourte. One of my Mom’s younger brothers. An uncle with six kids. An Aunt and Uncle with a gritty work ethic and a willingness to “educate” two city kids.

An education that included the smells. The sounds. The schedule of rural America.

It was shock and awe with a purpose. An alignment with our roots.

Chores. Daily, rigorous, unrelenting, and deeply rewarding.

Jesse Dourte was on a mission. Quite simply, this was an effort to knock the city out of us. No orientation needed. The farm called, and it didn’t coddle.

Gathering eggs from unimpressed and uncooperative hens. Pigs that needed to be fed. Cows that calved and then got milked. Hay to bale and load and stack. Tomatoes to pick. And yes, stuff to shoot. With guns. Real guns. Then… repeat.

Jesse and Wilma were on a mission and they had deputized their six kids, my cousins, to assist. And they loved every minute. Every uncomfortable minute… every hold this, squeeze this, aim the milk at this, shovel this, shoot this, slop this, stack this… minute.

Any hint of self-importance evaporated. Soft and supple city hands surrendered.

On January 16th, at the age of 95, Jesse Dourte, a Renaissance Man, before there was such a thing, met the King he served. Jesse Dourte, the man who knocked enough city out of me to make room for far more important values, was reunited with family members who had preceded him.

Jesse Dourte… farmer, bee keeper, ordained pastor, wood worker, singer, teacher…

Uncle Jesse. The man with the twinkle in his eye every time he ushered me to the next unfamiliar and potentially embarrassing task.

Calloused hands, tender heart. A man on a mission.

City expunging. Value inducing. A re-molded mind. In Lancaster County.

“Well done, my good and faithful servant.”


Making Cents of Sparrows

by DanWolgemuth on January 11, 2019

Having spent time, once again, watching the beautifully adorned Flicker at our feeder, I was drawn to some thoughts I shared a year ago…

Ah, the beautiful Flicker. A bird of size, color, elegance and stature. A bird that frequents the feeders on the deck outside our kitchen window.

Like an extra guest at the breakfast table. Like an artist displaying some of their finest work.

Yet the Flicker isn’t our only feeder patron. In fact, many birds come to feast on Mary’s generous provision each day. Many birds.

Pinyon Jays, Purple Finches, House Finches, and Chickadees. Each creating their own attraction.

But our primary visitor each day is the common sparrow. These ordinary little birds are abundant. They invite no comment, they invoke no inspiration. They splash around in the seed in utter oblivion until a celebrity appears.

In the language of Jesus, a couple of them are worth about a penny. One cent.

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. (Matthew 10:29, ESV)

But just as rapidly as Jesus mentions their economic value, He discloses their placement in the hands of His Sovereign Father.

Not one of them, not a single sparrow that visits our home in Aurora, Colorado is unknown to God. Each flap of their wing, every seed that they pluck from our feeder… all of them are known to Him.

But Jesus told us this not to make us feel guilty about loving the Flicker more than the sparrow… He told us this to give us perspective on our worth and significance to “our Father”.

Feeling alone?

Feeling insignificant?

Feeling overwhelmed?

Feeling oblivious?

Feeling lost?

Feeling trapped in the rat race?

Feeling overpowered by circumstances?

Feeling like your life is out of control?

Dealing with pain?

Dealing with a gut wrenching diagnosis?

Convinced that what you do doesn’t matter?

Hiding in the darkness because you think you are invisible?

Every day of your life; every step that you take; every breath that you breathe; every flap of your wings; every meal you eat… known to God.

You saw me before I was born.
    Every day of my life was recorded in your book.
Every moment was laid out
    before a single day had passed. (Psalm 139:16, NLT)

But unlike a sparrow, we are an image bearer of God. Unlike a sparrow, we are considered a masterpiece. Unlike a sparrow, Jesus came to rescue us. Unlike a sparrow, the Holy Spirit lives inside of us.

Infinite worth. Unmeasurable love.

Perspective. Promise. Hope.

In the classroom of the bird feeder.

Not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 

Not one. Not you. Not me. Not one.

Fear not.

So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows. (Matthew 10:31, NLT)

This is where we rest. This is where we hope.

Every sparrow.


Mary knew…

January 4, 2019

When Jesus saw his mother standing there beside the disciple he loved, he said to her, “Dear woman, here is your son.” The scandalous and rumor-filled beginning to Mary’s journey into motherhood was a precursor to what was ahead. A bookend that would have a brutal Roman cross at the other end. For thirty-three years Mary […]

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Shame on Mary

December 21, 2018

Two years ago I ventured down a reflective pathway as I thought about the life of Mary, the mother of Jesus… Before the miracles, gossip. Before the cross, whispers. Before an empty tomb, rumors. Before the swaddling clothes, a pregnant, unmarried teenager. Before glorious praise, scandal. Before Magi worship, neighborhood humiliation. Before confidence, doubt. “Do […]

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What Child Is This?

December 14, 2018

The words and the tune floated through the air at the Christmas program that Malia, our eleven-year-old granddaughter participated in. Malia’s fingers moved confidently across the white and black piano keys, and her voice pounced securely on every word and note. Malia’s practice, preparation and courage had positioned her on the bench that faced the […]

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November 30, 2018

A zip code. A community on the south side of Dallas. For our Youth For Christ mission… a calling. In the words of an employee in the local juvenile detention facility… 75216 is a “cradle to prison pipeline” for young people in the neighborhood. Predictable. Gut-wrenchingly predictable. 92.5% of the students in 75216 are eligible […]

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A Rolling Stop?

November 16, 2018

Littered throughout my neighborhood are stop signs. In fact, just about 100 feet north of my driveway is one, and a quarter of a mile south, another that I have traversed hundreds of times over the last 13 years. While I understand that the octagonal sign says STOP, seldom do I feel compelled to do […]

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In Captivity to be Set Free

November 9, 2018

As the temperature drops in Colorado so does the obvious food supply for the variety of birds that call our neighborhood their home. So, before Mary hangs her wintertime bird feeder, she wanted to reduce, if not eliminate any potential competition. That means a live animal trap on our deck. And yes, within hours, our […]

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No Shortcuts

November 2, 2018

On October 22nd I held Mack William Horst in my arms for the first time. He was hours old and beautiful. All 10 pounds and 3 ounces of him. My grandson. As I held him, I stared, and as I stared, I marveled at the magnanimous gift of life. Mack’s mom, our daughter Alli, was […]

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Eddie Daniels III

October 19, 2018

On Wednesday night I received word that Eddie Daniels had been shot. A short time later, he was gone. Eddie, a 15-year-old who frequented our City Life Center in downtown Spokane had been embraced and loved by Jeff Ross, our local site director. In Jeff’s words… “He was like a son to me”. A year […]

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