Go West, Young Woman

Today we put the baby of our family, Bethany, on a plane as she moves clear across the country to embark on a new adventure in Montana.  One would think I would be used to this, as my daughter Miranda has lived all over the world and both Kara and Bethany left our area two years ago for Cincinnati and Pittsburgh.

Although I did not love it when she left, I always knew Miranda would explore the world because she talked about it her entire life.  And I have always prepared myself for the likelihood that my children would have to leave this area due to the lack of economic opportunities, so having Kara and Bethany move to larger cities in our region came as no big shock.  To be clear, I’m well aware that it could be worse, as thankfully, Amber and Ally have so far chosen to stay nearby and have managed to find careers they love.

I guess it’s the sheer distance of Montana, but this one is hitting me very hard.  Pittsburgh was bad enough, but I just never imagined that Bethany, our beautiful little 25 year-old surprise (or “accident” as her sisters lovingly call her), would ever move so far away.

While I’m not so sure about me, I know Bethany will be more than fine.  She thrived in Pittsburgh and there is no reason to suspect she won’t do the same in Montana.  I used to worry about her ability to make it in this world because we had raised her more like a grandchild compared to our other children.  Being the youngest by 11 years, she was literally carried around like a doll by her older sisters until she finally grew too heavy.  Plus, by the time she came around, our financial situation had changed drastically from the early, lean years that our older children experienced.  So you might say she had an easy life compared to her sisters.  But like all my children, she was born with this inner toughness that I honestly cannot take any credit for.

I recall a time when Bethany was about 12 and pitching for a Little League softball team.  She “pegged” the opposing batter who happened to be one of her best friends.  From my experience, when this occurs many female pitchers will stand there saying they are sorry and worrying the batter is hurt.  Not Bethany.  She just stood on the mound staring down her friend, who was lying on the ground sobbing and being attended to by adults.  Concerned that Bethany was upset for hurting her friend and having a weird stress reaction, I walked to the mound to make sure she was okay.  Without taking her eyes off her fallen friend, she paraphrased the movie A League of Their Own and said dryly, “There’s no crying in softball.”  I remember thinking, dang, this kid is tough, but I bet she goes far!  Don’t get me wrong, Bethany is actually a very lovable person, but her point was that sometimes you just have to suck it up!

Another time when Bethany was pitching in high school, she caught a come-backer line drive in her belly basically like a football, as she couldn’t react fast enough with her glove.  She didn’t flinch.  Again, she stood on the mound staring down the batter as she retreated to the dugout.  Later I asked her how in the world she had caught that ball without getting hurt and she lifted her shirt to reveal a nasty bruise.  You can’t teach that kind of stubborn grit.

You have probably figured out that I’m not the best empty nest guy.  I’m the one who told everyone that when Amber got married she “moved away” to Westmoreland.  When they asked me where is Westmoreland, I would say, “In West Huntington just past the Wayne County line, close to Camden Park!”  In case you’re wondering, that is about 15 miles from our house.  While she lived there, I called her “Amber Graves of Wayne” (think about it), but I digress.  I am excited to watch my children spread their wings and I love my life as a grandfather, but I would be lying if I said the period when all five of my children were still living at home was not the favorite time in my life.

So goodbye for now, my dear, sweet Bethany.  Pay attention to your phone, I’ll be calling it a lot.

“Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it” (Proverbs 22:6).

Who's Keeping Score?

Have you ever been to a Tee Ball game where the league chooses not to
keep score?  This is done to make sure the little boys and girls focus on how to play the game and not on who's winning.  After the game the kids go get a freeze pop and talk about playing tag or the latest video game.  On the other hand if you look around you will see moms, dads, granddad and sometimes coaches comparing "secret" scorecards, discussing and sometimes arguing about who won. Somebody is always keeping score.

Way too often we keep our own secret scorecards at church. We count how many Sunday's, bible classes, and pot luck dinners someone has missed this month. You take that number times the number of small groups they did not attend last year. Now take those numbers divided by their hospital visits and prayer request, and we now know how strong their spiritual life is.  I think to myself just how ridiculous and damaging this can be, but realize it was not that long ago I subscribed to the very same equation. I pray we all spend more energy loving than wasted time keeping score.

Now after doing the math, let's think about just how important church attendance, small group fellowship, and other things mentioned above really are.  To Jeff and the praise team: After countless hours of preparation nothing can be more discouraging than a half full auditorium. To the little boys and girls who run to give John or Miss Susan a hug, being there matters. For elders who pray for a spirit of unity, protection from the evil one, and a greater love for Jesus by every member of the flock, our being together is great joy. To small group leaders and class teachers who study, open their homes and shares God's word, fewer people showing up hurts.

I don't know about you but I need a hug, handshake and smile from Willard and Betty. I need to see my brothers and sisters sitting around me singing and praising Jesus. I need to hear a powerful message from God's word. I need to see the teens and young children excited about going to classes. If we are honest with ourselves we need each other. Jesus tells us in Matthew and Luke of a shepherd leaving 99 sheep to bring one back home.  Jesus spoke to the multitudes, fed the thousands and ate with all twelve. Jesus thought it was important to be there!  He did not keep score but kept his promise of grace.

Letter to Amber

Dear Amber:

Hey, “Bert!”  It’s me.  Just a quick note to try and sort out my thoughts after this whirlwind last couple of days.

First of all, I want to thank you for being the most trusting person of me I have ever known.  It is undoubtedly and easily my favorite trait in you.  I am so sorry there have been times I betrayed that childlike trust for the sake of a few laughs.  As you know, we have an oft-told story in our family that best illustrates the innocent faith you have always had in me.

It was your 14th birthday.  Our entire family was getting in the van to go somewhere and I handed you a bicycle helmet.

You: “What’s this for?”

Me: “You’re 14 now.”

You: “So?”

Me: “Well, in West Virginia, all children between the ages of 14 and 18 must wear a helmet while riding in a motor vehicle.  It’s a state law.”

You: “Oh, okay.”

I still remember watching in the rear-view mirror as you adjusted your chin strap, unaware that your sisters were all rolling their eyes and laughing because they knew it was your turn to be the butt of one of my many jokes.  Again, I am so sorry to have done that to you, but you have to admit, there was never a dull moment growing up in our family.

As my oldest child, you always had the enormous responsibility of being a trailblazer for your four younger sisters.  You were the first to chip away at the sometimes crazy, unrealistic and unreasonable expectations I originally envisioned for my children.  Looking back, I see that it was silly to expect you to wait until you were 18 to date (or even talk to!) boys.  Don’t get me wrong, I still think it’s a great idea, I am just admitting it was silly for me to expect you or any of your sisters to buy into it.

Now you find yourself once again paving the way for your sisters as all of you enter into that phase of your lives where you begin to suffer the effects of your earthly bodies growing older.  I cannot imagine the confusion, sadness and uncertainty you must be experiencing as you deal with the fact you recently had three unexplained strokes which caused possibly irreversible blindness in your right eye. As any parent, my heart breaks for you and I wish there were some way I could bear this burden on your behalf.

Despite the times I have taken advantage of your trust in me and the countless times I have let you down, I’m asking you to trust me one more time when I tell you this: Like you, I am unable to understand many of the bad things that happen in our earthly lives.  But I promise you that, unlike this imperfect father, your Father in Heaven will never, ever let you down and you can give Him your complete trust that He has a plan for your life and all will be okay in the end.  Please know that He is powerful enough to completely restore your sight and to keep you from having more strokes if that is His plan.  Please know that He loves you even more than I do, though it is hard for me to imagine.  Please know that while I am there holding your hand through this trial, He will be CARRYING you.  Trust me…

Still love you to the moon and back infinity times,


2016 Trip Recap

I had hoped to be able to send in daily updates, but we did not have a reliable Internet connection so I was unable to do so. However, I think that was for the best because it gave me the opportunity to expand on things and provide more details. I hope that by breaking our trip down day by day, you too are able to see the ways that God used our team during our time in Roatán!

Day 1: Saturday
After an early morning bus ride and a day full of flying, our team made it safely to Roatán. While standing in line to get through customs in our matching shirts, many of us were asked questions like, “What brings you to Roatán?” Many travelers were surprised to find that we were on a mission trip, while most of them were on vacation. It was easy to see that many people were unaware of the poverty that burdens those who call Roatán home. However, that is not to say that they were not friendly and supportive. Many of them wished us well and were very kind.

We soon arrived at Casa Isabella. This was our home for the week. Because of the time difference, we had gained two hours and were able to relax a little after a long day of traveling. 

Day 2: Sunday
Last year, the Roatán team helped to build a church in La Colonia. Our team traveled to La Colonia in three separate vehicles. However, the vehicles could not actually reach the church. The church was built on the side of a large hill. The roads there were not much of roads at all. Paved roads were few and far between. This particular road was a dirt road that more closely resembled several huge ditches full of garbage. As we began our trek up the hill, we got to see what life was like for the people that lived there. Their homes were humble and you could tell that they let little go to waste. They created stairs out of old tires and creatively used things that we are typically so quick to throw in the garbage.  

We hadn’t even made it half way up the hill and we were hot and tired. It was humbling to think that these people make this trek on a daily basis multiple times a day. It was even more impressive that people crave the word of God and fellowship with other believers so much that they are more than willing to take the time to make this trip. The people that live on this hill make the trip every single day, multiple times a day. We were only about half way up the hill when we received word that they were expecting us at a different church at the bottom of the hill. It was certainly a workout, but I think that God used that walk to open our eyes to the realities that the people that live there face every day and to the minor things that we often take for granted. 

We arrived at Calvary Baptist Church to a welcoming group of people. Experiencing worship in Spanish was a little different because of the language barrier, but nonetheless it was beautiful. Zach, Kailey, and Rachel had the opportunity to share their talents and lead the congregation in a few worship songs, as well. The message was wonderful. Typically, the message is taught in Spanish by one person, and translated to English by another. Today, however, their translator was sick. Rather than leave us trying to decipher Spanish, the Pastor taught the message in Spanish and English. This seemed very challenging, but the Holy Spirit moved through him and everyone was able to understand the message. It was very cool. God is not confined to one country or language. The God of Huntington, West Virginia is the God of Roatán, Honduras and He is good!

We had the rest of the afternoon to relax at Casa Isabella and enjoy our time together. Some of us walked to West Bay to swim, and later the rest of the team met up with us for dinner. It was a great evening of fun and fellowship and it gave us a good opportunity to prepare for the work to come. 

Day 3: Monday
Today was our first day of work. We had a big breakfast and then divided into our teams to head out to our worksites. Due to unforeseen circumstances, we weren’t doing exactly what we had planned, but God opened doors for us in other places. The Casa de Luz team – Claudia, Hannah, Kailey, Rachael, and myself – didn’t actually go to Casa de Luz. Instead, we went to the Clinic Esperanza. There we did VBS with the children who were waiting to see the doctor. Hannah, Claudia, Sarah, and Tori put the VBS programs together. We had to make some adjustments as we went due to the language barrier, but the VBS programs were phenomenal and the kids really seemed to respond. Even though communication was a challenge, with the help of our translator John Carlos, we were able to connect with the kids and got to spend some extra time just playing with them and loving on them. In the afternoon, we had planned to travel to a community called Mud Hole and do VBS there. However, they were not ready for us, so we visited the other work sites.

The team at Corozal – Bill, Susan, Zach, Tori, Jeff, and Scott – went to work refurbishing a playground at a school. Rain prevented them from doing some of the work, but it certainly did not stop them. Despite the pouring rain, they continued to do as much work as they possibly could. Throughout their workday, they were also able to play with some of the kids at the school. They did not have a translator with them, but they were still able to communicate with the kids. 

The team at Hottings Sparrow – Phil, Robin, Christian, Austin, Ella, Sarah, and Kirsten, assisted by people who lived in the community – were set to work on building a brand new playground that Phil designed. However, there were complications with the delivery of the supplies that prevented them from progressing too far. They were able to dig holes, but without supplies there was little else they could do. That didn’t stop God from working through the team there. The extra downtime allowed them to establish close relationship with the people that lived there.  

Richard was the glue that held all of the teams together. He spent the day traveling between the work sites and making sure things were going smoothly. Despite several changes to our plans, he kept his cool. There is no way that we would have accomplished as much as we did without him!    

Following a delicious dinner, the team gathered for worship and a devotional. While we were singing, a mother and her three daughters heard us from the beach and approached Casa Isabella. They needed money for school uniforms and we were able to help them and pray over them. 
Day 4: Tuesday
Today the Clinic Team did VBS at the again with a new set of kids. It was great to meet new people and share Christ with even more people, but we definitely missed the kids from the yesterday. Once we finished up at the clinic, we headed to Corozal to join them for lunch. After lunch we – Claudia, Hannah, Kailey, Rachael, Ella, Kirsten, and myself - were able to go to Mud Hole. There were so many kids and it was wonderful! Those of us who had been at the clinic even saw a familiar face from yesterday. The VBS program once again proved to be a success. The kids had a blast and so did we! We are so excited to go back again tomorrow!

The team at Corozal has made tremendous progress. The playground looks nothing like it did before! They were also able to do VBS with the kids from the school, which was very impressive because they did not have a translator and the kids spoke little to no English. The work isn’t done here, but it is obvious that this team is making a difference!

The team at Hottings Sparrow hit the ground running today. They worked very hard through the heat, but still faced some challenges. Austin, who had faithfully served alongside and just loved on the people of Hottings Sparrow, got sick and had to be taken to the clinic. This wasn’t necessarily how he wanted to be spending his time, but God is sovereign and was able to use Austin regardless. He had been sharing the room with a pregnant woman when he was receiving treatment and the room was very cool. Despite being sick and cold, he gave his socks to the pregnant woman to keep her feet warm. This was a beautiful picture of selflessness and was done with pure motives. Despite the circumstances, God was glorified!

Day 5: Wednesday
Teams have shifted some, due to different workloads in the sites. Regardless, God is continuing to use us.

Today was a rough day for the clinic crew. We did VBS at the clinic, but there weren’t many kids there. This made things a little less exciting, but praise the Lord! This meant that there were less sick kids, and we were able to bond more with the kids that were there. After lunch with the Corozal team, we were so excited to go to Mud Hole again. We arrived to disappointing circumstances. Due to miscommunications, there was no one to let us in the school and we were unable to do VBS there. This was the last day we had planned to be in Mud Hole, so we were very sad and our workday was cut a little short.

The Corozal team was hard at work again. They had another successful day of VBS and got to love on kids again! By the afternoon, the playground was nearly completed and looked incredible. They achieved so much; they too were able to end their workday a little bit early. 

The Hottings Sparrow team is so faithful to serving the Lord! It is so great! All week they have been going above and beyond. Because of the setbacks the first few days, some people have been getting up early and starting work before everyone else. While the other teams were able to head back to Casa Isabella and relax a little, they continued to put in the work necessary to finish the playground on time. 

Our evening devotional was once again incredible. During worship, the family that had joined us on Monday came back. They didn’t speak much English, but they joined us for worship and it was yet another beautiful reminder that no language barrier can stop the hand of God.

Day 6: Thursday
The team at the clinic did VBS, but once again there weren’t many kids there. We were able to work with the Corozal team to finish up the playground, adding little details to make it a little livelier. The all-white swing sets, tables, and teeter-totters are now decorated with bright green paint. Susan had an excellent idea to add a phrase to the tops of the swing sets, which now read “CRISTO NOS DA FUERZA” (Jesus gives us hope) and “CRISTO NOS DA AMOR” (Jesus gives us love). These phrases were from the VBS programs.

Once we finished up at Corozal, our combined team headed to the church in La Colonia where we had started walking to on Sunday. Once again, the hill was a challenge, but it was so worth it. The kids there were so eager to do VBS that they immediately began setting up chairs and cleaning the water that had pooled on the floor. They LOVED the David and Goliath skit and craft. Those of us from the clinic once again saw a familiar face. 

The Hottings Sparrow team made tremendous progress on the playground today. Phil has designed a great playground! It isn’t even finished yet and the kids already love it! They continued to work well after the rest of us had finished at our other sites. The whole team is doing great things, but this bunch is determined and dedicated and they deserve so much recognition for that.  

Day 7: Friday
Today was our last day of work. It is crazy how quickly the week has gone by and how much we were able to accomplish in such a short time. Since it was our last day on the island and most of the work was done, the teams at the clinic and Corozal once again had shortened workdays. We split into two groups; one did VBS at the clinic and the other traveled back to La Colonia to do VBS at someone’s home. 

The Hottings Sparrow worked all day. They started early and finished much later than the rest of us. Their hard work and dedication paid off! The finished product looks incredible! We’ve all worked hard this week, but those who had a hand in this put in a little extra sweat and poured their hearts into this project. It has been so cool to see how God has used this team despite so many unexpected bumps in the road. It has truly been an incredible week!

We did our devotion out on the beach around a fire. The stars were beautiful and the water was calm. We were able to marvel at the vastness and detail of God’s creation. It was a great evening of fellowship and reflection on our trip. It was a wonderful way to close out our time here. 

Day 8: Saturday
Today we traveled home. We were sad to be leaving such a beautiful place and the incredible people that we have met, but we are so excited to get home to our loved ones. God worked through us so much this week and a lot was accomplished for His glory, but He also worked in us. I pray that we remember that and all of the things that we learned from our time in Roatán.  

August 2016

I hear a lot of people say, “why would do without anything I want?”.  We see it everywhere on T.V. , the movies, music and on the internet that excess in all forms is the key to true happiness in this life. The world wants you to compare yourself and your level of happiness to what things you need in this world to make you complete. If the Jones can step over or on someone to further themselves then that's what we all should do. If they can drink, do drugs, hurt people, kill people, destroy kids and families, steal or lie to get what they want, THEN WHY DON’T I DO IT !!

The reason is simple. We we are not called to be like the Jones, but to be like our savior, Jesus Christ. He will not belittle you or make you feel inferior because you make mistakes or because you don't have something. He accepts you as you are. He loves you through your battle and strengthens you to stay strong. Yes, you will fall short but He does not leave you and He never will. One thing that He wants is for you to repent and to start again. Peter walked with Christ and felt the grace that simply glowed off of Him, but he fell short in his darkest time and denied Jesus three times. Then Jesus came back to him and simply asked if Peter loved Him. I think it’s funny that He asked him three times. Peter was accepted back by Christ and that's not the only time Peter failed and got caught up with the voice of the world as we do. But he did repent and tried not to make those same mistakes again.

The people we have in our lives are a big part of who we remain to be. Like my mother always said," If you lay down with dogs you’re gonna get up with fleas". So to stay in a stronger area in your life without addiction you cannot hang with addicts. Even if it’s not your addiction it will weaken you. If you have the right people around you then the life that God wants for you is attainable and it will be glorious. Then, the worlds grip doesn't seem strong at all.

2 Timothy 3:1-7 But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. ...

Because everyone you know is not looking out for your best interest/  They may just want your money or your company.

1 John 4:1-6 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already. Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. ..

In closing, just remember that the role model we are asked to follow did not drive a nice car or live in the biggest house or party every night and watch porn or gossip. He lived for others, His joy came from love and sharing of God's word. He wore tattered clothes and loved us despite of us.  He came to die for us, not to kill us. That just does not make sense to this world. So share the Word with your children.

Colossians 3:16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God.

God bless you all.

There Will Be An Emergency

Over the past month or so I've been pretty consumed (in thought as well as actually working to help) with the devastating floods that hit parts of West Virginia, including the area where I grew up.  When I first went there to take supplies our church collected and to volunteer to help people clean up I could not believe what I was seeing.  It looked just like a disaster scene out of a movie!  The destruction that the flood waters left behind was absolutely unbelievable.  As I processed what happened there, three things came to mind that are applicable to personal finance.  Two of them have to do with what you should do to prepare for a financial emergency and the other concerns being able to respond when disaster strikes.


The first thing that I thought about was an emergency fund.  I wondered how many people whose homes and cars were flooded had money set aside to help them get through this emergency situation.  Money is not the answer to everything, and it certainly is not going to solve every problem that these floods created, but it would definitely make going through something like this a little easier if there were several months of living expenses sitting in a savings account.  Having an emergency fund in place creates margin and allows you to deal with financial emergencies differently than if you had little or no money saved.  If you do not have any emergency savings I would suggest that you get on a detailed budget, get yourself/your family out of debt, and begin to frantically build an emergency fund.  


The second thing that came to mind was insurance.  I wondered how many of the impacted people had the right insurance, from home to renters to auto to life.  I know that insurance evokes negative feelings in many people, but it is absolutely necessary.  Insurance is all about risk management.  You pay a price (premium) to know that if something happens the insurance company will have to pay the bulk of the cost, not you.  You are transferring the risk for the most expensive things in your life to the insurance company.  If you haven't done so recently, you need to take the time to make certain that you have the insurance coverage that you need.


The final thought I had (pertaining to personal finance) when thinking about this whole situation had to do with people's ability to respond financially when something like this happens.  If you've followed this blog you know I started with the end in mind, and that was giving.  The main reason I find myself very interested in getting and staying on track financially is that it provides me with the ability to be generous with the money God has placed in my control.  Too many people today live so far above their means and are in so much debt that they are unable to respond monetarily when disasters happen.  If that's where you find yourself I would encourage you to do everything you can to change your situation.  If you need help getting started I would love to point you in the right direction and help you find a plan that works.  Being able to give when people are in desperate need is a wonderful blessing to them as well as you.  


After seeing the effects first hand, I wouldn't wish a flood on anyone! (Well, I don't guess would have before either!)  But if you find yourself in that situation, or any other financial emergency, I hope that you are prepared.  Being prepared to me means having an emergency fund of 3-6 months of living expenses set aside, as well as having the proper insurance coverage in place.  And if you see other people dealing with something like a flood I hope that you are able to help out in many ways, including being able to write a check or hand over some cash!




Kool-Aid Mom

Most of you have probably seen the long-running public service announcements on television where a local or national celebrity says some variation of, “It’s 10:00 PM.  Do you know where your children are and whom they are with?”  There was another commercial that ran many years ago that talked about being a “Kool-Aid mom.”  Its premise was that everyone wanted to hang out at the house that served Kool-Aid.

These totally unrelated ads remind me of a decision Amy and I made early on involving our children. Though we stumbled onto it inadvertently, it helped us follow the Biblical principles of hospitality.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not boasting or patting ourselves on the backs, as our motives at the time were mostly selfish.  You see, we figured out that if we welcomed our kids’ friends into our home, then we would have much better control over their whereabouts.  And to be clear, most of the burden for “our” hospitality fell on Amy, as I was not home as much as she, thus the title of this blog.

Another positive by-product was that we not only knew whom our children were with, but also got to know their friends.  And since we knew their friends, it made us less worried when our kids went places with them.  This initially self-serving decision has brought countless blessings into our lives, as literally hundreds of children have crossed our doorstep over the years.  Somewhere along the way we grew to love opening our home to others.

This was not without its pitfalls.  It can get expensive (and noisy!) providing snacks and drinks for an entire neighborhood of children, and forget about that spotless and perfect home we always dreamed of!  Seeing our yard makes me think of a story I once heard attributed to Harmon Killebrew, the famous baseball slugger who played primarily for the Minnesota Twins.  When he was a young boy, after a particularly rowdy day of fun with his dad and brother on their lawn, his mother exclaimed, “You boys are tearing up the grass!”  Harmon’s dad replied, “We’re not raising grass, we’re raising boys!”  These wise words help a little, but I must admit I sometimes covet my neighbor up the street who has AstroTurf-looking grass!

I recall a summer day in the late 1980’s when our two oldest daughters were about 8 and 7 years old.  There must have been 10 kids in our house and Amy sent them to the back yard and gave every one of them a chocolate fudge bar.  Their friend Eric was not licking fast enough to keep up with the sweltering temperature and was soon covered from fingers to elbows in melted ice cream.  As a typical little boy, he started using his tongue to clean up the mess, oblivious to the visible dirt on his skin.  Amy shrieked, “Eric, you’re swallowing every germ in the world!”  Without missing a lick (pardon the pun!), he looked up and in total innocence and with no sarcasm whatsoever said, “Even China germs?”  Classic.

If you want to know where your kids are and whom they are with, be a Kool-Aid mom (or dad).  Someday, you might even find yourself longing for those days after your children have grown up and moved away.  And you never know, you might just get a blessing or be a blessing.

“Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing so some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it” (Hebrews 13:2).

A Virtuous Woman

This week marks the one year anniversary of the sudden and unexpected death of my sister, Rita. I can think of few, if any, more dedicated servants of Christ.  I also struggle to think of anyone else I have known who lived her entire life as a practicing Christian, without any of the interruptions that we all seem to have, such as trying cigarettes as a teenager or dropping in and out of church attendance.  I always teased her that she never had her “hood” stage.  She truly was a “goody two shoes” her entire life, and I mean that as a sincere compliment!

My earliest memories of Rita are related to sharing a room with her for several years from the time I was a toddler.  Considering she was seven years my senior, this seems surreal by today’s standards, but that’s just the way it was in those days for a family with six kids.  Poor Rita.  Can you imagine being a teenaged girl and entertaining your friends in a room littered with balls, toy guns, Matchbox Cars and G.I. Joes?  She used to relate a story about me that I can’t really discuss in detail in a church blog.  Let’s just say it involved drinking lots of water, an occupied bathroom and our bedroom trash can.  It’s no wonder she graduated from high school a year early and went away to college at age 17!

Rita’s life revolved around her relationship with Christ.  Her undergraduate degree was a Bible degree attained from West Virginia Wesleyan College.  Remarkably, in her late 40’s after sending both of her children off to college, she picked up and moved hundreds of miles from her home in North Carolina to earn her master’s degree, also Bible-related, from Asbury Theological Seminary in Kentucky.  I mean, who does that?  In between, she was always highly involved in some type of church ministry.  For the last few years of her life, even though she had chronic medical conditions that made it difficult to get out of bed every morning, she faithfully volunteered many hours a week at Two Hearts in Ashland, Kentucky, a facility dedicated to caring for young, unwed mothers.

Rita loved her two children, Tom and Jennifer, unconditionally.  A single mother from the time they were about six and four, respectively, she did a wonderful job raising them in church and teaching them lasting Christian values.  Both are now amazing adults with amazing spouses and amazing children.

Rita and her husband, David, were so good together, and so much in love.  Married for the last 13 years of her life, they still acted like newlyweds.  We should all be that way toward our spouses!  I will never forget watching David’s utter heartbreak as Rita lay dying in her hospital bed.

But I believe I will remember Rita most as a doting grandmother.  Of course, we all love our grandkids, but “Gram,” as Nathan, Abbey, Owen and Corbin called her, was absolutely CRAZY about those babies.  She talked about them non-stop and was always trying to figure out a way to carve out some time to go visit them in their faraway cities.

I picture Rita in Heaven hanging out with her beloved savior Jesus in her new pain-free body, but still finding time for a nightly game of canasta with our mom and sister, Debbie, and our dad watching on.  What a glorious reunion that must have been when Rita earned her reward last August 2.  Until we meet again, Sis…

“Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies” (Proverbs 31:10).

Looks Like We Made It

Amy and I recently celebrated our 33rd wedding anniversary.  This big event has caused me to do lots of reminiscing about our years together.  When we met, we were little more than adolescents.  We have now gone through young adulthood and middle-age together and sit on the cusp of our golden years.  Hard to believe how fast it went.

As many young couples, we got off to a rocky start.  Looking back, I believe nothing short of a miracle of God kept us together through those early years.  Don’t get me wrong, we had mostly happy times, but had to go through all the growing pains that cause so many marriages to fail.  I’m talking about those things the experts tell you to work out before marriage but many of us are so anxious to tie the knot that we worry about them later, such as agreeing on how to raise the kids and manage the finances.  And it didn’t help that I worked long, unusual hours, both of us attended school, and we had young children.

Our start may have been rocky, but it was not without its comedic moments.  We got married in my bandmate Mike Murphy’s backyard.  Like virtually all American weddings, the plan was for Amy and her attendants to enter the ceremony to the Wedding March.  We had a vinyl copy of it on a phonograph that was set up outside (For you young people, this was an ancient method of listening to recorded music.  The version of this recording that had one song per side was called a single, AKA “45” which designated the correct RPM to set the turntable).  Keep in mind this was the afternoon of July 17 and the temperature was probably in the 90’s.  When it was about time for the procession to begin, Mike’s wife, Cathy, ran up to the groomsmen who were waiting at the front and in a panic exclaimed, “Mike, the record melted, what are we going to do!?”  Mike calmly replied, “It’s no big deal, just go in Misty’s (their daughter) room and get a love song out of her stack of 45’s.”  Unfortunately, Cathy was not all that well-versed on pop music and didn’t really know which songs were love songs.  She came across a Barry Manilow song and thought, this has to be a love song, after all, it’s Barry Manilow!  You older folks might remember phonographs were equipped with an arm that if left in the up position would cause the song to play over and over.  Cathy launched the Manilow tune and inadvertently left the arm up.  The song she chose was called Looks Like We Made It.  It is about a man and woman who used to be together but had split up, and now they are ostensibly doing okay.  I guess Amy was having a “wardrobe malfunction” or perhaps getting cold feet, but for whatever reason it took her forever to emerge from the house.  So our wedding song was a song about divorce and it played about six times while everyone awkwardly waited.

Amy and I seem to have weathered the storm and our marriage has been wonderful for many years.  It, well, looks like we made it!  But I have learned that one can never rest on his laurels.  In a recent blog, I recalled some happy memories with my parents and have generally good recollections of my childhood and their marriage.  Sadly, they eventually decided to call it quits after 34 years of marriage, so I know better than most that it can happen to anyone.

Wives and husbands, please don’t take each other for granted.  Marriage is not a finished product that can be placed on a shelf to gather dust, but rather a living work in progress that must be nurtured to survive.

“Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8).

Why do I still feel so tempted after giving myself to the Lord?

One of the hardest parts of staying sober is old habits, when things go bad or anything that triggers our dependent behaviors. God never said that when you come to Him that all your problems would be over. We have to remember, we did not get in this situation overnight and we will not be delivered overnight. He does promise to give us strength and hope to fight the battles are in daily. If we take the time and realize when we gave ourselves to Him that He is rebuilding us from the inside out, but we do have responsibilities in this walk through our troubles.  We have to make some changes in our lives to truly follow God and recognize the work that He is doing. 
The first thing we must do is start a new habit of reading and studying God's word. This is the best way to keep His promises in our heart, because that is where change truly begins. When you are building a house you must start with a solid foundation. Would you build a house on sand or a rock? You must submit yourself to recovery in God, resist the devil and he will flee.( James 4:7 ) Study with prayer will be the path that will lead you to true freedom. 

            Next, we must remember that you will continue to have struggles; but your walk will be used by God to deliver someone else you may not even know, because of your testimony of deliverance. (1 Peter 5:10) The God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will Himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. This is a promise and this is an example of us learning how to exercise faith in God's promises daily.

            The final step we must remember is in 1 Corinthians 15:33. “Don't be mislead; bad company corrupts good character.”  If you are spending time with people you think our your friends and they are not a positive force in your recovery then run don't walk away from them, because we all know misery loves company.  When we make major life changes we can’t do it alone, we can’t move forward with an anchor around our neck. Jesus defines a friend as someone who is willing to lay down their life for you. Follow this as an example to make friends and you will be so strong and life will change for you.  
            So in closing read your Bible, practice your faith and stay around people who want to watch you succeed and that empower you. This is a recipe for success for all of God's children not just addicts.  

                                                                                        God bless you
                                                                                         God loves you.

Never Say Can't

“Never say can’t!”  Ask anybody who played youth sports in our area from about 1992 to 2006 if they remember the coach who relentlessly instilled these three words into their heads.  I can almost guarantee you will hear a unanimous chorus: Brian Paul!

This was more than just a motto for Brian.  It was an entire way of life for him, both on and off the field.  Brian’s players learned very quickly they were absolutely not permitted to say “I can’t” around him.  Even as Brian battled the cancer that would eventually take him from us, he made it clear to the medical staff he would not tolerate use of the word “can’t” in his presence.

Brian was a very busy guy but always had time for others.  Every time I turned around, it seemed he was doing something for my family.  I recall the day our oldest daughter Amber was injured while totaling her car.  First, Brian helped us comfort Amber at the scene before he towed her car for us.  Then, while we continued attending to Amber, Brian picked up our youngest daughter Bethany who was sick at school and took her to his home for several hours, where he and his family nursed her until we showed up.

I have so many memories of Brian.  Man, he was strong as an ox!  I remember helping him lift the wooden dugout benches on and off his truck when we moved them from the old girls’ softball field at the former Barboursville Elementary to the new one at Barboursville Park.  I fancied myself fairly strong, but he made it look so effortless that I was sure he gave me the heavy end!  I jokingly told him I felt like saying, “I can’t do this,” but that I knew lifting this behemoth weight was much easier than hearing, yet again, his “Never say can’t” speech.  He laughed and said, “Well, I’m glad it’s finally sinking in!”

One day Brian, my wife Amy and I were at the park stocking the concession stand.  We were the only people at the fields that day.  Amy is extremely scared of bees.  One got under her shirt and she ran frantically from the building, stripping off her outer shirt and revealing a T-shirt underneath (Amy is always cold, even in the summer).  A couple days later, we ran into Brian.  He said, “Did you hear about Eustace having to go to the hospital?” (Eustace was an older gentleman who worked for the city and was frequently at the park mowing the fields or whatever else needed done).  We said, “No, what happened to him?”  Brian replied, tongue firmly in cheek, “You’re not going to believe this!  Eustace said he was at the park the other day and some woman came running out of the concession stand and tore her shirt off.  It was more than he could handle and he had a heart attack!”

But my most lasting memory is of a packed church, including three pews filled with weeping, heartbroken softball girls on the day of his funeral.  So many lives touched…

Even in death, Brian continues to touch lives.  He fought tirelessly to have the cable barrier installed locally on Interstate 64 to prevent crossover head-on collisions, which to this day bears his name.  Countless lives have been saved by his efforts.  I can only imagine the lectures Brian must have given at every step along the way whenever someone said something “can’t” be done.  A few years after Brian died, his widow Cathy was working at her job in a local hospital and was informed a lady was asking to speak with her.  The woman told Cathy she and her daughter had a wreck on I-64 that morning and had spent most of the day in the Emergency Room, where the doctors determined their lives were most likely saved by the cable barrier.  They told her one of their coworkers was the wife of the man who was instrumental in having it installed.  This eternally grateful woman just wanted to stop by to give Cathy a hug and let her know words could not express how much she appreciated what Brian had done for her family.

Just think if Brian had gotten tired of all the bureaucratic red tape and thrown up his hands and said, “I can’t.”  Thank you, Brian, for living what you preached!

As Christians, there are times we underestimate or doubt God’s power and surrender before giving Him a chance to work in our lives.  For our lives in general, but especially for our spiritual lives, we should adopt the mantra of Brian Paul: “Never say can’t!”

“For with God nothing shall be impossible” (Luke 1:37).

Reaching Out to Serve

One Sunday I was going with a friend to a house church in Beijing. After walking a few blocks, we got on the subway and rode for over thirty minutes. Getting off the subway, we walked a few more blocks until we came to an office building. The house church was located on the fifth floor of this building. One big conference room was used for the service. After the service my friend told me that this church was started with ten people but had grown to over a thousand members. I asked my friend if the authorities knew about this house (“underground”) church. My friend smiled and said, “Oh yes, they know about us. At the beginning of 2008 they were planning to shut us down but the earthquake happened (This was out in Sichuan Province) and members of our church raised money and some went out to help the victims. After that, the government just backed off.” What an amazing example of a church reaching out beyond it’s borders to help those in need! In some of his letters, the Apostle Paul writes of the need to help the poor in Jerusalem. Here at Norway we have the opportunity to reach out and serve. There are several mission projects listed on our website. Last month, a devastating flood affected the lives of friends here in West Virginia. This month, some of our family at Norway will be traveling to Roatan to serve the people in that country. The opportunities are limitless to help others. All we have to do is to look and get involved like that church in Beijing. 

What I Wouldn't Give

“Honor your father and your mother…” (Exodus 20:12).

When I think about my childhood, many of my memories involve my parents doing things that drove me crazy.

Come on, Mom, a bath EVERY WEEK just seemed excessive to me as an eight-year-old boy.  And what was your obsession with me keeping my room clean and making my bed?  And I really hated it when you used your spit to constantly clean off my face and behind my ears.  Gross!  And making me get my own switch from the front yard bush when you were religiously following Proverbs 13:24 (“Spare the rod…”)?  That was just plain cruel and unusual!  And what about your fixation on school and grades?  Like I would ever actually need all that reading, writing and arithmetic?  And you could never get enough hugs and kisses (Don’t tell anyone but I kind of liked that, even though I acted like I didn’t).

Dad, I don’t even know where to start with you.  I can remember lying in bed awake listening to you loudly using a spoon to scrape your bowl clean.  I always knew you had a big stash of ice cream in a secret freezer somewhere that was off limits to me.  And that incessant playing of the piano!  I mean, there’s only so much Sinatra a young boy can take!  Then there was the infamous pouring of rubbing alcohol on all exterior wounds, big and small.  Owwwwwwww!!!  I’m pretty sure (okay, I’m certain) you meant well, but it got to where I couldn’t tell you when I skinned my knee!  Like Mom, you always wanted to hug and kiss me.  When I was about 12, you reluctantly agreed to stop doing it in front of my friends and resorted to handshakes instead.  Thank you! (Many years later, my best friend—Clayboy, as you called him, and who would ultimately deliver a beautiful eulogy for you—confessed to me that all the neighborhood boys were jealous their fathers were not publicly affectionate like you.  Who knew?).

But the two of you together were just downright embarrassing.  You always made all six of your children say grace at the dinner table, no matter who was visiting.  Counting you, that was eight separate prayers, every evening!  Then we had to go through the same ritual when we went to bed, saying “Now I lay me down…” while one or both of you stood watch.  Mom, I remember you playfully telling Dad, “Thanks, Hanks!” whenever he did something nice.  Who talks like that, anyway?  And I can still hear the sound of your lips smacking when you kissed each other goodbye every morning.  How could something so small be so loud?


I am one of the lucky ones whose parents lived long enough for me to mature to where I appreciated, and even missed, the very things that used to grate on my nerves.  I am so thankful I was eventually able to express my gratitude to both of them, not for being perfect parents, but for being my parents.  After all, they didn’t have to be, they chose to be.  Most of us have that special person or persons who at some point accepted responsibility for us and whom we consider our parent figures, even if not our biological ones.  These folks are our parents.  If you are still able, please take occasional opportunities to thank them.

I lost both of my parents seven months apart about four years ago.  Just like that, no more incessant piano, no more encouraging me to excel, no more hugs and kisses.  No more anything except memories.  Oh, how I miss them.

“What I wouldn’t give for only one night…” (Bruce Hornsby, from the song Every Little Kiss).

The Wrestle That Saves

Wow, the family with the 6 month old baby made it to church! I don’t know how they do it.  First, there is all the stuff you have to carry: diapers, wipes, formula, bottles, pouches, and toys, extra clothes, burp pads, and don’t forget the pacifiers. Then, there is the fact that the whole family had less than three hours sleep.  Adding to this, their work obligation, and making time to go see the grandparents. There are meals to be cooked, not to mention the piles and piles of laundry that magically appear on a daily basis. This family fought all of those battles and won!

Arriving at church and settling into the pew, only to have the baby get fussy.  They try numerous things to calm the baby.  The pacifier, out comes the bottle, and moving the baby around to get into a comfortable position. No such luck, it isn’t going to work. So out they go, with an expression on their face that says, “Why did I even try?”

You tried because you know it is right.  Without the fellowship, we are weak and many fall away completely.  You go because you set a pattern for the behavior of your child.  You go because, there is nothing sweeter than teaching your child to know Jesus, how to pray, the basic Bible stories. You go because you are teaching the child values, the values you find dear. You go because you want them to grow up in the church. You want them to be cuddled by the crooked hands of the elderly woman who prays over the children.  You want them to be flirted with by the man who has grandchildren of his own, but takes the time to wink at your child. You go because you can’t do this alone or even with just your family. Raising children, especially Godly children, takes a boat load of Christian people with whom you are a fellow on the ship. 

Praise God, today you won the battle against Satan’s arrows! “I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the Lord. Psalms 122:1 KJV


Thank You!

We are just a few weeks away from our trip to Roatán, Honduras! As we prepare to leave, I have to say that I am completely humbled by the outpouring of support that our team has received. Praise the Lord for such a strong body of believers willing to share their blessings with us! This trip would not be possible without all of your support and prayer.

So far, we have raised approximately $28,600 and we are very close to having all that we need. This is absolutely incredible and we are so thankful for those of you that have contributed financially and those of you that have been praying for our team and the people of Roatán. 

In the next few weeks before we go, we ask that you continue to pray for us. Pray that God will go before us and prepare the partnerships with the communities with whom will be working. Pray that our hearts are focused on God, that God grants us wisdom and boldness to share the gospel, that we are gentle and loving to the people we encounter, and that our actions glorify Him. Pray for the people that we will be working alongside, and that their eyes and hearts will be opened to Christ.

gain, we thank you, and we cannot wait to share what God has done when we return!

A Hard Act to Follow

With the approaching Fourth of July holiday in celebration of America’s Independence Day, I have recently been contemplating an American patriot who is dear to my heart.

Can you imagine being a crusty old Army veteran and your only child (and a daughter at that!) brings home a guy with longer hair than hers and she tells you he is a musician and she thinks he is THE ONE?  Then can you imagine being a skinny, wimpy musician and your girlfriend takes you to her house to meet her parents and her father is a crusty old Army veteran?  Such were the circumstances of me meeting my father-in-law, Ernie West.  Over 35 years later, I tell my friends I’m the only man in the world whose 84 year old father-in-law could still "whup' him, as he would call it!

Ernie is one of those men who could be described as larger than life.  He is a true American hero, a recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor, which is the highest US military decoration.  Probably more importantly to him, he remains to this day the biggest hero of my wife, Amy.  She tells me I am her biggest hero, but I know better and I wouldn’t have it any other way.  She is a Daddy’s girl through and through.

Ernie came about his gruffness honestly.  He was abandoned by his parents at age five and lived for a while under the Ironton-Russell Bridge in Kentucky, where he remembers eating raw eggs he retrieved from birds’ nests.  Eventually, neighbors began to notice him and he was sent to live in the Kentucky Methodist Children’s Home at Versailles.  He remained there for the duration of his childhood and received a great Bible upbringing.  Ernie does not wear his religion on his sleeve and seldom attends church services, but he has been one of the godliest examples of a man I have ever known.

If I were to pick the most outstanding trait of Ernie and his late wife, Jane, it would have to be their generosity.  For the first several years I knew them, I saw them give away so much that I just assumed they were rich.  They insisted on helping us financially for many years while I sought my college degree.  I also witnessed them aiding numerous nieces, nephews, siblings and friends, as well as various charitable organizations.  One day Ernie’s pickup truck caught fire and was badly burned, inside and out.  Ernie took the insurance check and instead of purchasing another vehicle or even getting his truck fixed good as new, he hired a friend to help him just get it drivable.  The car they had bought for me was now much nicer than the one Ernie was driving.  And that was when it suddenly dawned on me: they weren’t rich at all!  Their giving was truly sacrificial, the kind we read about in the Bible (e.g., Mark 12:41-44).

Ernie was and is a doting father to Amy.  I rarely see any baby pictures of Amy where he isn’t proudly holding her.  He and Jane had suffered through four miscarriages and were well into their 30’s by the time Amy was born.  I believe this and the fact Ernie had no parents contributed to the close relationship Amy always had with her parents, but especially her dad.

I have spent my entire married life trying to fill the shoes of the man who raised my wife.  There are times when I feel inadequate and that my efforts are fruitless, but I know Amy desires and deserves for me to never stop trying to be the best husband and father I can be.  Jesus came to Earth and lived a perfect, sinless life.  Talk about a hard act to follow!  But no matter how futile our attempts to emulate Him, He desires and deserves for us to never stop trying to be the best Christians we can be.

“Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1).

“Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48).

You Don't Match!

There was formerly a popular television reality show called What Not to Wear.  The premise of the show was that people who dressed terribly were nominated by their friends to get a wardrobe makeover.  One day I was sitting with some of my daughters watching an episode where the guest participant wore pleated Dockers, white socks with hushpuppy shoes and whatever shirt he pulled out of his closet, whether it matched his pants or not.  For the entire installment, my girls kept laughing over and over, “Oh my gosh, it’s Dad!”

I recall an incident when my youngest daughter Bethany was a tiny toddler and still learning to speak.  She kept looking at me and repeating, “Daddy, you uggy, Daddy, you uggy!”  I called the rest of the family in and asked, “Why is she calling me ugly?”  They unanimously replied that, as usual, my clothes did not match and it was pretty bad that a baby could tell but a grown man couldn’t.

I used to be in a Christian band called the Wallaces for about ten years.  The first time I sang with them was at our home church and I was extremely nervous because they had been around a long time and were very established in church circles.  We were scheduled to sing about ten minutes into the service.  I got to church early for a sound check, so my wife and five daughters traveled separately from me and none had seen me before I left the house.  When I entered the back of the auditorium for the start of worship, all six (okay, maybe it was just one or two but in my memory it was all six!) of my girls were sitting in the same pew and turned around at the same time and with mortified looks on their faces simultaneously mouthed, “YOU DON’T MATCH!”  I looked down at my clothes and thought, what are you talking about?  How can a green shirt not go with blue pants?  I have flannel shirts that have both green and blue in them, so the two colors obviously go together, right?  I was already ill at ease about performing and now on top of that I had to worry about what I looked like, all because of made-up rules about what matches and what doesn’t match!

Okay, I get it; I don’t have a clue about clothes matching.  I have gotten better over the years due to the aforementioned “coaching.” I no longer wear white socks with hushpuppies or green shirts with blue pants, but I still think they look good!  Although I have trouble relating to having to conform to rules about clothing (I mean, really, why do people care if I wear corduroy in the summer!?), I suppose making our outsides presentable in the eyes of the world is important, and part of this is that our clothes should match.  But it’s even more important that we are presentable in God’s eyes, that when we dress up our outsides to look as good as possible, our insides—our hearts—match our outsides.

Dear God, please help me to live my life in a way that is pleasing in your sight.

“Your beauty should not come from outward adornment…Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight” (1 Peter 3:3-4).

Parental Spurs

Hebrews 10:24-25
24 And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, 25 not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the day approaching.

If ever there was a verse written to parents, especially parents of young children it is this one.  Let’s break it down at bit.  Most people look at that last verse and say that it's about going to church every Sunday. While I make church attendance a priority, that is not what I think these verses are saying.  

The imagery of spurring, points me to horses. Picture it this way, we are in a horse race. We are closing in on the finish line. We glance left, we glance right, the finish line is straight ahead. What do we do? We spur our horse and he leaps forward with new force. 

Do you think the horse liked the feel of the spur piercing his flesh? I don’t think so. Similarly, our children do not like to be disciplined. There are times, however, when there is a need to pierce the flesh of the child’s spirit to move them forward toward love and good deeds. Of course, I am not suggesting you literally use a spur on your child. What I am saying is that all of us are prone to lag in the pursuit of love and good deeds, sometimes we need to be challenged to move forward.  Even more so for the egocentric young child, however a child craves discipline. She longs to know that boundaries are going to be in place and enforced. I think this is the way trust develops in young children. The scriptures use the metaphor of racing, but we cannot have a race alone. We are in this race together as a community of racers.  Some will make it to the end, others will not.  Who makes it to the end? It may be those who are spurred along in the community. Those who suffer the consequences of potentially falling behind...don’t let your children fall behind! Allow the community of believers, which includes you, to disciple your child to love and do good works and remember this call is to you as well, to preserve. 


In observance of Father’s Day 2016, this week’s blog is dedicated to all the dads out there.

Many of you know I am blessed with a wife, five daughters and no sons.  In fact, for much of my life this has been my primary sense of identity: I am the guy with all the girls.  I mean that in the best way possible.  As most dads of daughters, all my girls have me wrapped around their little fingers and I wouldn’t trade any of them for a son, nor would I change any part of my life.

One would think that growing up with a mother and four sisters should have equipped me for the estrogen avalanche that would befall me in my adult years.  I don’t know if it’s because I had a brother and dad to share in the wealth, or if being a brother to girls is less of a focus than being a father to girls, but MAN, was I unprepared for five daughters!

I have had more cold showers than I could possibly count, and I don’t mean the kind you take on purpose.  There just isn’t a big enough water heater for six women in the same house and it seems I always got last dibs on the bathrooms.  I recall a former boss bragging on me that I had not called in sick to work in several years.  He wanted to know my secret to great health.  I told him, “I get sick all the time but I have to come to work to get in the bathroom!”  This is probably not as big of an exaggeration as you might be thinking.

WARNING!  If you are uncomfortable with the subject of undergarments, please skip the next paragraph.

For perhaps my first fifteen years of fatherhood, any time there was occasion to discuss my underwear, my girls called them panties.  “Daddy, Mommy said your panties are in the dryer.”  “Daddy, we have visitors so Mommy said don’t come downstairs in your panties.”  “Daddy, do you like the panties we got you for Christmas?”  Each instance I would emphatically answer, “THEY’RE NOT PANTIES!!!”  One day I was getting dressed and I yelled to my wife who was somewhere else in the house, “Amy, do I have any clean panties?”  I caught myself immediately and started to issue a correction, but then I got a sinking feeling of defeat and thought, what’s the point?  They had finally beaten me down.  And to beat all, due to my girls playing sports for Barboursville and Cabell Midland teams with red uniforms which faded on my stuff in the clothes washer, I was not only asking for clean panties, but for clean pink panties.  Sigh.

As Christians, we all have situations where we feel outnumbered by the worldly forces around us.  It isn’t easy being the only pro-life person among your coworkers or being called a bigot because you object to your teenaged daughter sharing a public restroom with grown men.  Take comfort, my friends.  There are numerous examples in our Bible of folks facing seemingly insurmountable circumstances and prevailing in the end, people such as Noah, Joseph, Moses, David, Jonah, Esther, the Apostle Paul, and of course, Jesus on the cross.  Remember, as long as we have God on our side we can never be outnumbered.

“…Don’t be afraid.  We have more forces on our side than they have on theirs” (2 Kings 6:16).


This past Monday, June 6, my oldest daughter Amber gave birth to my newest grandchild.  Kayden McKay Furman, a strapping and beautiful boy, came into this world six weeks early due to a placental abruption.  I am so honored that his parents chose to make him my namesake (we share the same middle name), but even more honored that God blessed me with the privilege and tremendous responsibility of being Kayden’s grandfather.  To once again witness the miracle of new life has left me in awe of God’s unimaginable magnificence.

Not being the most medically inclined person, I asked my dear friend Julie, who is a midwife, to help me understand the meaning of placental abruption.  She explained how the placenta is attached to the inner wall of the uterus and that an abruption is the peeling away of the placenta from the uterine wall, which can lead to the baby not receiving enough oxygen and nutrients.

Even as Julie was still speaking about this truly miraculous network of vessels which enable a baby to survive in the womb, my mind wandered to the sheer enormity of God’s creation and the absolute impossibility of life being explained any other way.  I thought, how could anyone believe something as complex as feeding and oxygenating an unborn baby could have happened by trillions of instances of random selection?  How do they think babies survived for all the millions of millennia they believe it took for molecules to first form billions of living cells and then randomly align into a placenta?  It is utterly mind-boggling how “smart” one would have to be to buy into such impossible propaganda.

There are many very scholarly people who share my beliefs on God and His creation; however, there is a set of elitist individuals who believe anyone who questions their evolution dogma must be a Neanderthal.  I should know, since I used to be one of them (elitist, not Neanderthal, though my wife might sometimes disagree).  I harbor no illusions that many, if any, of these “superior” minds will be changed by my rant.  From my experience, these educated lemmings are hopelessly set in their ways.  Still, I try to love them no matter how intolerant they might be of my views.

These intelligentsia sometimes like to derogatorily refer to anyone who doesn’t subscribe to their spoon-fed indoctrination as flat-earthers.  This is a reference to the people of centuries past who refused to acknowledge the earth was round, despite mounting and eventually indisputable evidence to the contrary.  It is ironic to me that any Christian would be compared to a flat-earther, as our Bible accurately depicted a round earth some two-thousand years before it became common knowledge (Isaiah 40:22).

Today I turn the tables on the people who resist opening their eyes to the truth of God and His creation.  From now on, I will call these folks flat-earthers for their inability to process the infinite amount of information that proves creation is a certainty while evolution is an impossibility.  So, with my sincerest apologies to Jeff Foxworthy and his “redneck” franchise, I present the first edition of “You might be a flat-earther if…”

  • You might be a flat-earther if you believe your eyes were formed by happenstance.  Not just one eye, but two to allow better depth perception, along with rods (120 million of them!) to enable adjusting to darkness and cones (6-7 million!) to differentiate colors and for spatial acuity.  And a lens to focus the light to project it onto the retina.  And an optic nerve to send this projected image to the brain, where it is processed as sight (Don’t even get me started on the brain!).

  • You might be a flat-earther if you believe the heart and lungs formed coincidentally, making it possible for blood to enrich the body with life-giving oxygen.  I wonder which one formed first?  I wonder what it did while it was waiting for the other to come along?

  • You might be a flat-earther if you believe plants happened to have evolved simultaneously with animals to be able to produce the aforementioned oxygen that is essential to animal life, keeping in mind that if plants evolved separately from animals, the plants would not have had the carbon dioxide produced by animals that is needed for plants to survive.

  • You might be a flat-earther if you believe animals were able to thrive for millions of millennia while they were waiting for their digestive and waste systems to evolve, with all the interconnecting and vital organs.  And what did they eat while they were waiting for other edible and sustainable life to evolve?  How many bald corn cobs had to sprout up randomly until one finally had the seeds to produce the next generation?

  • You might be a flat-earther if you believe life could have survived during the eons of time that you believe it took for the various reproductive systems to evolve.

  • You might be a flat-earther if you believe reproduction is something that would have happened even without our GOD-GIVEN libido which makes it not just a good idea to carry on a species’ survival, but a biological certainty.  Same with food and water, see next item…

  • You might be a flat-earther if you believe animals would have survived while they were waiting for their bodies to evolve to where food and water were not just tasty conveniences, but biological needs which are physically craved.  If you don’t get hungry or thirsty, you don’t eat or drink.  If you don’t eat or drink, you die.  It’s that simple.  I can just hear the caveman: “I haven’t evolved to experience hunger pangs yet, but my blood sugar feels a little low so maybe I’d better go hunt and gather me some grub!”

  • You might be a flat-earther if you can examine the fossil record and conclude any species became another species.  I get it, many species came and went, but so sorry to burst your bubble, a dog has always been a dog.

  • You might be a flat-earther if your best argument against creation is that even many Christians believe the earth is much older than the 8,000 or so years recorded in the Bible.  What does that have to do with whether or not the world was created?  And who cares how old it is anyway?  Time has no meaning to God (2 Peter 3:8).  Pick a number.  A bazillion years?  Infinity years to the infinity power?  Still not long enough for evolution.

  • If you can look at my precious grandson Kayden, still in the NICU fighting to go home to his adoring family, and if you believe he is a blob of cells that is here by chance…you, my friend, are most definitely a flat-earther.

(I’m having lots of fun and could probably do this for hours, but for the sake of time I will cut it off at an even ten bullet points).

I was a staunch supporter of evolutionist doctrine throughout my adolescence and into adulthood until I was about 25, at which point I finally came to the realization there were just too many unexplained holes.  I guess you could say the more I learned about it, the less I bought it.  I figure most people who believe in creation do so because they believe in God.  For me, it was the other way around: I started believing in God as a result of believing in creation, which itself was a result of becoming disillusioned with the whole idea of evolution.

I took one leap of faith to believe in a God who created the universe and all life.  A non-believer must take trillions upon trillions of leaps of faith to believe in all the things that would have had to come together to make evolution a reality.  Don’t get me wrong, leaping is fun and all, but no thanks!  I will try to go easy on these flat-earthers who do not believe in creation.  After all, what more can I expect from someone who descended from apes?

“For You created my inmost being; You knit me together in my mother’s womb.  I praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made…” (Psalm 139:13-14).

“For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—His eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse” (Romans 1:20).