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).

Meet our team!

We are one month closer to this summer’s trip to Roatán! Our team is so excited to see what the Lord has in store for our time there and we can’t wait to share it all with you! 

Meet our team!

The group at Casa de Luz will be teaching English to children and adolescents and putting together a VBS program. This team will be led by Claudia Berlin and Hannah Ross will coordinate VBS. The other team members will be Ashley Young, Kailey Grueser, Rachael Swanson, and Richard Crespo.

The group at Hottings Sparrow will be constructing a playground and putting together a VBS program. This team will be led by Bill Wright and Sarah Rice will coordinate VBS. The other team members will be Ella Wilburn, Kirsten Wehmeier, Austin Petry, Robin Littell, and Phil Manilla.

The group at Corozal will be putting in a water system and putting together a VBS program. This team will be led by Jeff Garrett, and Tori Garrett will coordinate VBS. The other team members will be Scott Steward, Christian Taylor, Zach Swanson, Susan Swanson, and Bruce Johnson.

Two very kind young ladies offered to share why they feel that this trip is important! Kirsten Wehmeier, who will be going to Roatán for the first time this year, said “I think this trip is worthwhile because we are called to serve even if it is for a short time. I think that our time in Roatán will help the locals, but also impact us greatly.” Kirsten also hopes to gain a better perspective on the call the Lord has for her life and a better perspective on life in general.

Sarah Rice is a returning member of the Roatán team. When asked why she decided to return, Sarah responded, “I saw how people were affected by our ministry last year in Roatán. Also, it played such a large part in my walk and I couldn’t imagine not going back this year.” Sarah also said that Roatán has given her a new outlook on life and changed her heart.

To those who have not gone before, Sarah has kindly offered her advice: “I would say keep your eyes open, and by this I mean to be aware of how God can work in any opportunity. Also, I would say to be open and accepting of change. They live a different lifestyle in Roatán and our job is to spread the gospel wherever we are placed and needed. God may have a different place for us once we arrive than where we had previously planned.”

Our team is so very thankful for all of your support in preparing for this trip and we appreciate your continued prayer!

Why do I have this battle when others are free?

I feel like I have been singled out because I am weak to deal with this addiction. I see others that live life so easy and happy and I wonder why God hasn’t just waved His hand and removed this evil from me. I know though, that God has put me through this for His purpose. I remember what Joseph said to his brothers when they came to Egypt. They had sold him into slavery and now he was second only to the king. They apologized and he simply responded you did it for evil, but God meant it for good. So I am reminded that God does only good. We may make bad decisions and we will, but the beauty of God is that no matter     how many mistakes we make or how many times we fall God will use that for good in some way. We don’t need to know the plan we just have to have faith He is with us every day. You may fall just to reach somebody that has fallen further.

Everybody has a cross to bear and I mean everyone. No one walks through life without something. Paul often commented about the thorn in his side that he dealt with until death. They never say what it was but he walked on in faith and continued to build a relationship with Him. He put on Gods amour and continued on. Then I remember Mathew 26:36-56 { Then Jesus went with them to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to his disciples, “Sit here, while I go over there and pray.” 37 And taking with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, he began to be sorrowful and troubled. 38 Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch[a] with me.” 39 And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” 40 And he came to the disciples and found them sleeping. And he said to Peter, “So, could you not watch with me one hour? 41 Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” 42 Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.” 43 And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were heavy. 44 So, leaving them again, he went away and prayed for the third time, saying the same words again. 45 Then he came to the disciples and said to them, “Sleep and take your rest later on. See, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 46 Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.” Betrayal and Arrest of Jesus

This puts everything in perspective, because He accepted His cross that no one else could carry. Jesus showed the human side of the flesh and the strength of faith in His Father to do the good that God knew had to be done. Jesus fell to earth just so He could help us up. 


Fathers and Mothers: do not exasperate your children!

A couple of weeks ago two of my children were leading worship at a local congregation that serves individuals that are participants in the recovery community. We have ministered there before and were especially excited about the fact that this particular night they were celebrating the accomplishments of a few graduates of this long-term treatment program.  This particular recovery community is extremely loving and encouraging toward one another and the graduation happened just prior to the worship service that our band was leading.  My youngest son Ian was with us to enjoy this particular service. Ian loves music! He is one of the biggest fans of his sibling’s praise and worship band, Meacham toward Carper!  Although Ian has autism and many of the sensory issues like occasional over stimulation that goes with this, Ian loves worship! However, this particular night the speaker introduced the graduates with a loud and excited voice. Most of the folks in the room understood that this was uplifting and exciting for the graduates and that the loud claps and yelling was that of celebration! Ian, however, interpreted this to mean angry and aggressive and his instinct was to cover his ears and bolt to the back door of the church, walking briskly down the ramp outside! After several minutes of calming him down we returned to the church where he was able to enjoy the service with some hesitancy due to fear of being yelled at! I began to think to myself, “I wonder how many kids or even adults have been scared out of church due to a misunderstanding on their behalf or one of the church members/leaders?” I have been guilty of reacting wrong to discipline of my children in or out of church or even provided poor guidance that was not truly a loving guidance that they needed.

In James 1:19 it reads: My dear brothers and sisters take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry. Then in Ephesians 6:4 it reads, Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instructions of the Lord. We always need to understand that communication can be misunderstood by the receiver. I wonder how many times we may have innocently scared off a person due to our actions, or our behaviors. How sad that even one child may cover their ears in fear and run to the door! All are precious in His sight! It is our jobs to carefully look after His sheep!
In Him,
Susan Swanson

Campus Ministry

One year, when I was in Beijing, one of my Chinese friends asked me for a favor. Two of her friends from Inner Mongolia were planning on being in Beijing for a couple days and they didn’t have a place to stay. She asked if they could stay with me.  My hotel room had two beds and a couch. I told my friend that it was no problem (mei wenti!) her friends could stay with me. Her friends were two young men who taught in a university in Inner Mongolia. For two days we just toured Beijing. The first thing my new friends wanted to find was a Starbucks. They told me that there wasn’t a Starbucks in their city. I was surprised that one of these young men was wearing a Kentucky t-shirt. What a small world! One day they asked me if I knew why the Great Wall was built. I answered, “I thought it was to keep the Mongols out.” These men (with Mongol blood) smiled and said “It didn’t work!” In addition to teaching in a university they have a campus ministry. One of them had a guitar and in the evening when we’d return to my room they would sing praise songs in their native tongue. They told me that they would bring students to Christ and then after graduation these students would return to their hometowns and start up house churches. I’m thankful I was given the opportunity to spend some time with these Christian brothers and hear about their life and their church in Inner Mongolia.

Straighten the Paths

It seems organization has become a big business in the past few years. There are stores dedicated to it, Internet sites, magazines, books, and even consultants that help us organize our homes, offices, and our entire lives. 

For several years, that was my New Years resolution-to completely organize my home. Each year I would fail and once again, it would appear on the list of goals for the following year. I would fantasize about what it would be like to have my entire house organized. Not a paper out of place, no clutter to be found. Boxes of odds and ends that I was sure I might one day need, would finally be gone. How freeing I imagined that would feel. 

I stopped making resolutions a couple years ago. I grew tired of never succeeding. An organized home continues to be a goal of mine but I keep my expectations low. 

Likewise, my life needs organized, particularly my spiritual life. I am a failure at daily Bible study. I've longed to have uninterrupted quiet time every morning for prayer and study, and a time set aside in the evening. I know the tone of my day starts in a more positive way when I have accomplished this, but it is always short lived. 

My life, I tell myself, is too busy. I use my husband's illness as a crutch. By the time we do his dialysis in the evening, I've become too tired to "use my brain" and I prefer a more vegetative state with Pinterest or Facebook to pass the time. I need to remove the clutter from my mind and make room for more positive thoughts.

 It really comes down to commitment and allowing God to take control. I say that the Lord is first in my life, but am I completely practicing that?  I need to give my time to God and let Him plan my day and organize my life. It would help to start with a couple scriptures:

I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is best for you. Who directs you in the way you should go. Isaiah 48:17b

In all your ways acknowledge Him and He shall make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:6
Now it's time to let Him lead and straighten the paths!


Leave It All on the Field

When my children played softball, we had a saying that was pounded into their heads: Leave it all on the field.  I bet I have said it over a thousand times to my girls.  It means hold nothing back, play your heart out and give it all you have to win.  I believe it is good advice for sports and a great metaphor for life in general.

My daughter Bethany was born the same year her oldest sisters started playing softball and was usually at the field with us.  This means she literally heard this phrase her entire life, from the time she was born until she stopped playing competitive softball at age 18.  Bethany was the least tomboy of my girls, but was also the most driven to excel at sports, as she was almost obsessed to play to the level of her four older sisters.  She had an incredible softball work ethic.  Throughout her youth, she pushed herself to throw at least 200 pitches per day (that’s an astounding 70,000 per year!), hardly ever missing a day, including most Christmases!

Trust me, my poor body can attest to how much Bethany pitched, as I was her primary practice catcher throughout those years.  The problem was that every year she got way faster and I got way slower!  My knees were the first casualty, from all the crouching.  At some point I started sitting on a bucket to preserve them.  Unfortunately, this exposed my feet and on the very first day she broke one of my big toes with a drop ball, leading to several years of having to wear steel-toed shoes whenever I caught for her.  Though I wore catcher’s gear, I have still had my bell rung more times than I can count from all the times I got hit in the mask.  I have been pelted on every body part imaginable, several times, including (ouch!) my Adam’s apple.  But I digress…

By the time Bethany reached her senior year of high school, her body was beginning to show the signs of wear and tear from the physical stress it had been through.  By the end of the season, she had five bulging discs in her back and an injured hip.  She came home from the field many nights and soaked her body in ice in our bathtub, screaming out in agony.  I couldn’t stand to see the pain she was in and begged her to quit playing; however, due to player injuries and attrition, her team needed her to throw virtually every pitch that year, especially toward the end of the season.  She refused to let her teammates and coaches down, and willed herself to finish out her commitment.

At last, Bethany’s high school team lost in a heartbreaking game in the district championship, bringing her senior season and career to a merciful end.  Although college coaches had been recruiting her, playing beyond high school was now out of the question, as her body could not take any more.  She had left it all on the field.  I hated myself for ever uttering that expression.

There is no better example of leaving it all on the field than what Jesus did for the likes of me at Calvary.  He endured unspeakable, unimaginable torment for lowly, worthless me.  There is absolutely no possible burden I would ever bear that could even remotely come close to what He did that day.  I do try to think of Jesus’ anguish when I am going through my earthly trials, but I need to be much more mindful of what He went through for me.  Am I witnessing for Him at every possible opportunity?  When I die, will I have done everything in my power to further His kingdom?  Will I leave it all on the field?

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7).

A Flower for Cliff

My father grew up on a farm in Mason County, West Virginia.  He was born in 1929, just a few months before the stock market crash that helped trigger the Great Depression.  These were tough times, with scarce job opportunities for white folks such as my dad’s family, but especially more so for African-Americans in this pre-Civil Rights age.  Thus, many blacks were employed by white families in capacities such as maids, handy-men and day laborers.  My dad’s parents had such an arrangement with a World War I veteran by the name of Cliff Thompson.  He did odd jobs around the house and farm for a small salary and was invited to live in a little house on their property, where he remained until the day he died.  Not having a family of his own, he was essentially treated as a member of their family.

As a young boy, my dad loved to hear Cliff tell stories about his youth.  Cliff had led an interesting life.  He had a metal plate in his head, either from a war wound or from professional boxing in his younger days (Dad was not sure which, as Cliff had recounted both versions of this story).  In an era when it was almost unheard of for whites and blacks to associate beyond being casual acquaintances, Cliff was like a brother to my grandfather and loved my dad like a son.

When Cliff died in 1955, my father mourned as if he had lost his own parent.  Since Cliff had no known survivors to claim his body, Dad and some other community members made sure he received a proper burial and purchased a modest grave marker.  He was laid to rest in the same cemetery as my dad’s parents, both of whom had died in the late 1940’s.

Every year on Memorial Day from the time his father died in 1948 until his own death in 2011, my father made the trek to that little cemetery in Mason County.  For many years of my life, including the last ten years or so of Dad’s life, I was privileged to accompany him on his annual pilgrimage and fortunate to hear him retell stories about his childhood, including the one about Cliff which I related above.  We had the same ritual every year: We would stop at Kroger on the way to the cemetery and buy six single artificial flowers, all different colors.  My dad would poke holes in the ground with a screwdriver and insert one flower in front of each tombstone for his father, mother, two sisters, a favorite aunt and Cliff Thompson.  Dad made me promise I would continue this tradition and also pass it on to the next generation.  My youngest daughter Bethany has agreed to accept the torch, and this year will mark about the fifth straight year she has joined me on our Memorial Day expedition.

This coming Monday, Memorial Day 2016, Bethany and I, along with millions of others, will head out to various cemeteries to remember our loved ones who passed before us.  We will place flowers on the graves of my parents, both sets of grandparents, my sisters, and some aunts and uncles.  And of course, Cliff Thompson, who lived his life and died, probably believing he had left no lasting mark on this world.  Though he died before I was born and I never got to meet him, I marvel at the impression Cliff made on my young father’s formative years.  I can only hope to live my life in a way that I leave an imprint on someone such that he or she is inspired to pass on my memory to future generations.

Like Cliff Thompson, Jesus didn’t leave a legacy of money or property.  Instead, He left a legacy of loving God and us sacrificially and completely.  If you want to leave a lasting legacy on this earth, love someone sacrificially and completely.

“And He has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister” (1 John 4:21).

Someone's Always Watching

My daughter Ally started talking at a very early age.  We always joked that she came out of the womb, looked around the delivery room and said, “Wassup?”  Then she proceeded to talk pretty much nonstop until she was about 12.  Interestingly, she is now relatively reticent as an adult.

I recall a friend of mine asking Ally her name when she was very tiny and she replied (I’m fairly certain without taking any breaths), “Well, my name is Amy Allison Hogsett, but they don’t call me Amy because that’s my mommy’s name and they don’t call me Amy Allison, except for when I’m in trouble, because that’s my cousin Elizabeth’s Cabbage Patch doll’s name, who(m) by the way I am named after, so sometimes they call me Allison but usually it’s just Ally which is spelled like a famous movie star who was in The Breakfast Club…” and on and on and on.  I’m sure my friend was sorry he asked.

I posted a previous blog that alluded to being embarrassed by something one of my children said.  All parents can relate to this, especially when it involves toddlers, as they have not yet developed a verbal filter.  All my children were occasionally guilty of this, but Ally probably provided the most memorable bloopers, I suppose due to the sheer volume of words spoken.

Unfortunately for me, many of Ally’s classic quotes were at my expense.  Once in the middle of a church service, a very young Ally exclaimed in her finest drill sergeant voice, “Dad, wake up!”  I must have had at least 10 people walk up afterward and tease me about staying up late on Saturday night.  Around the same time, during the quiet portion of a communion service and while sitting on my lap, she announced, “I gotta (something ‘Everyone’ does, according to a popular children’s book)!” Thankfully she wasn’t talking about me this time, but I admit I was a little uncomfortable carrying her out to the nursery through the gauntlet of quiet snickers.  Another time, our entire family went to visit my mother when Ally was about two and she ran inside the house and broadcasted, “Daddy’s been yelling at Mommy!”

I couldn’t get away with anything around Ally.  One evening I walked in the front door from work and was greeted at the top of the steps by my glaring wife, Amy.

Me (meekly): “What?”

Amy: “Ally cursed again today.”

Me (slightly bolder): “What’s that got to do with me?”

Amy: “Nice try.”

Needless to say, I quickly learned to be on my best behavior whenever toddler Ally was around.  Heaven forbid she would snitch me out to my wife, or even worse, my mother!  But what about all the times when I wasn’t with this vociferous little cutie?  I have heard the definition of integrity is to do the right thing even when nobody is watching.  By extension, I believe the same could be said about Christianity.  But we, as Christians, know there is never a time nobody is watching, because our God is a living, omnipresent God.  Shouldn’t we always live our lives as if we are under the watchful, peering eyes of a chatty child?

“Out of the mouth of babes…” (Psalm 8:2).

Vacations: Bring Home Memories, Not Debt!

It's almost that time of year again.  The kids will soon be out of school and families everywhere will be packing up and hitting the road to go on vacation.  Whether it be the beach, the mountains, Disney, or some other favorite destination, vacations are a great time to step away from the daily grind and relax (Okay, Disney was fun but I wouldn't really consider it relaxing!).  They can be much needed time away from stressful jobs and busy schedules, and can serve to rejuvenate tired parents and kids.  Not only that, but vacations can leave us with some of our best family memories.  

Now that I've built up the family vacation, let me take a step back and share some words of caution.  Without proper planning all the wonderful, fun thoughts that fill your mind when you think about vacation can be overtaken by the guilt of spending way too much and going into debt, and the harsh reality of paying up when the bill comes due.  If you're not careful you could be paying for that vacation for months to come!  

So, how can you avoid bringing home vacation debt?  The most important thing you need to do is figure out how much you can realistically afford to spend (EVERYTHING INCLUDED).  Knowing what your budget is will help you determine what options are viable.  Don't even begin to peruse the Internet before you have figured out your budget.  That's an almost surefire way to get yourself into a vacation that you can't really afford!  And you know what that means!  You'll end up bringing home more than just good memories and a few souvenirs.  

He's Got the Whole World in His Hands

I am a born worrier.  As a child, I would obsess over even the most obscure possible outcomes in nearly every circumstance.  I can remember lying in bed awake fretting that my parents would die. This condition persisted through to adulthood, and got even worse once I started having children of my own.  Of course I loved my parents, but the love I felt for my children was immensely greater than I previously knew I had the capacity for, magnified by a sometimes overwhelming sense of responsibility for their well-being.  Talk about lying awake worrying!

By the time I reached my early thirties, my nearly constant apprehension had become almost unbearable.  Knowing my mother was also a worrier and one of the wisest people I knew, I decided to seek her advice so I could get some peace (and some sleep!).  I asked her how in the world she kept from going crazy with anxiety about her children; it must have been even worse for her, as all of her children were adults and most of the time she had no idea where they were.  At least at this point in my life I was still more or less in control of my children’s whereabouts.

Mom told me that many years prior her worrying had gotten so bad that she, like I was now doing, decided something had to change.  Through much prayer and counseling, she finally came to the realization there was simply too much she could not control and all she could do was place all of her cares, especially her family, into God’s hands.  She explained this requires accepting that God always knows what is best and has a plan for our lives, even when we do not understand and EVEN IF IT MEANS LOSING A CHILD.

This was over 25 years ago.  Now my children are adults and, like my mother before me, I rarely have any clue where they are.  It was not instantaneous for me, but I can say that I no longer lie awake at night (not every night, anyway!) worrying about things I cannot control.

I have had many opportunities to put my mother’s advice to practice, most notably with my daughter Miranda.  Miranda is our wanderlust child.  I’ve heard there is one in every family.  She is the one who likes to rock climb, bungee-jump, travel to exotic lands and I’m sure many other things I’m better off not knowing.  Miranda has lived abroad in four different countries—Kenya, Finland, Israel and South Korea—and plans an extended stay in Germany later this year.  I believe I would have literally lost my sanity had I not learned to release her into God’s huge hands.

One Christmas break a few years back, Miranda traveled to Europe for a cross-continent train trek.  Her adventure ended at Athens, Greece, where she spent a couple days before returning to the USA.  On her first day in Athens, she noticed she kept seeing stray dogs, dozens of them.  They seemed to be everywhere and appeared to be well-fed and tame.  She finally asked a restaurant waiter if he knew who owned these dogs.  He told her they belonged to the community and that everyone pitched in and took care of them.  She thought, how very cool and unusual.  Stuff like this is why she is so fascinated with other cultures.

The next night, Miranda had a flight out of Athens in the middle of the night, about 3:00 AM.  She was staying at a hotel roughly a mile from the nearest bus stop for the airport shuttle.  Being the minimalist that she is, she decided the most efficient use of her resources would be to walk to the bus stop.  So at about midnight, she departed her hotel for the 20-minute walk through what had seemed like a perfectly good neighborhood during daylight hours.  She immediately heard a blood-curdling scream coming from a female across the street.  There were sirens in the distance and other intimidating sounds of an urban night.  Just as Miranda was beginning to realize that perhaps this wasn’t her smartest decision ever, she saw a hooded figure cross the street and begin approaching her.  Filled with fear, she clutched her can of pepper spray and began to pray.  The instant the person was upon her, one of the cherished street dogs, a Saint Bernard no less (think about it), suddenly emerged from a dark doorway and got between the man and Miranda, going berserk on him, snarling and growling fiercely up in his face.  I guess you could say it was gnashing its teeth in the true Biblical sense.  The man mumbled something that was, well, Greek to Miranda, and he scurried away into the night.

This mutt, this surrogate from God, this man’s best friend, escorted my baby uneventfully all the way to the bus stop.  Meanwhile, over 5,000 miles away, oblivious to my daughter’s situation but safe in the knowledge that I would be slumbering in those same hands that were caressing her, I prepared to retire for a peaceful night’s sleep.

“Cast your cares on the LORD and He will sustain you…” (Psalm 55:22).

The Gospel in a Tattoo

Working in surgery every day allows me to see a lot of interesting things….even tattoos of all shapes and sizes.  This one I came across the other day became very thought provoking. 

Once I figured out what the object in the middle was….a tomb!….the rest was basic gospel 101. THE GOOD NEWS OF THE GOSPEL…IN A TAT!  Now, what was interesting was that this was the arm of a drug addict! 

Jesus came….he was crucified….buried in the tomb….and raised from the dead.  And he’s coming back!!


What kind of sinner are you?  Classy, sleek, sophisticated sinner?  Coat & Tie sinner?  Filthy, willful, habitual sinner?  Tattooed, drug addicted sinner?  Sinners who lack all earthly advantages or sinners who appear to never have a problem in the world?

Paul tells us in Romans that we are all sinners and we all fall short….Not one of us is able to approach God or his salvation on our own merits.  Not one of US is without the need of a Savior and there is not one of US whom Jesus cannot save.  Paul tells us that while we were yet sinners……while we were enemies with God….while we had NOTHING to offer God, HE DIED FOR US!!!  His sacrifice settled the debt with God.  Because of that sacrifice, God has forgiven us and ADOPTED and HAND PICKED us into his family as his sons and daughters.


Every Day is Mother’s Day at Our House (If we know what’s good for us!)

Having only been blessed with daughters, I have been accused a time or two of raising my girls like stereotypical boys.  One only needs to look at my pet names for them--Bert, Klod, Buddy, Billy and Doogie--to see there may be some merit to these allegations.

My daughters have broken no less than three windows from the inside of our house.  They once destroyed the trim on our balcony banister by rappelling over it with a rope and broke off a porch light fixture throwing a football.  We have photos of my two oldest girls playing basketball in our driveway in their prom dresses while they were waiting for their dates to pick them up!  I could go on, but I think you get the picture.

I proudly recall another such instance of my “girls being boys.”  We were driving down the highway on a family trip when my wife, Amy, fell asleep.  Keep in mind that I think Amy looks cute no matter what, but on this particular day she was in rare if not unprecedented form.  She seemed to be totally knocked out and her mouth was completely agape.  Well, the girls thought this was hilarious and proceeded to fashion a huge stogie out of paper towels, gently placing it in their poor mother’s mouth so as to not awaken her.  Of course, they took snapshots and even flagged down passengers in passing cars to share in the moment.  Our sweet little girls were literally “lol” at the expense of their dear mother.  Upon finally being roused by the cacophony, a confused and (very briefly) angry Amy spat out the faux cigar and barked, “You’re all going to miss me when I’m gone!”

All I can say is no truer words were ever spoken.

The following could be said about Amy and many mothers: She is the glue that holds our family together.  She is the sun around which all of our worlds orbit.  She is the one who, when we are feeling lazy, tells us to get out of bed to go to church.  She is the one about whom we sometimes say, “We’d better tell Mom!”, and then other times say, “We’d better NOT tell Mom!”  She is the maker and keeper of all our family traditions, from the matching pajamas that all the girls look forward to receiving every Christmas, to the endless posing for pictures every Easter.  She is staunchly and equally proud of all her children, but still quick to give them those infamous “daggers” when they disappoint.  I pity the bear that gets between her and one of her cubs.

If you are not fortunate to have had a mother or wife in the mold of Proverbs 31:10-31, I am so sorry.  I am blessed beyond words to have had both.

Dear God, as we pause to honor mothers everywhere on this Mother’s Day 2016, thank you so much for godly mothers.

"I am reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also" (2 Timothy 1:5).

Newness of Life

Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. Romans 6:4

Oh how I love the spring time.  All things fresh and new, trees budding, flowers blooming, I welcome the warm sun on my face after a harsh season of cold blustery winter weather. Even though I suffer from seasonal allergies, I love the warmth and newness that spring ushers into our region; fully enjoying the eye candy that God so generously provides with the colorful crocus, daffodils, and peach tree blossoms. That is what the weather was like when I first started this blog in mid to late-March…unseasonably warm, and oh so inviting for these tired, achy joints. 

The nice weather teased and tantalized me, making me daydream of being outside and clearing away the winter sludge, digging around the perennials and planting flowers in my new flower bed. I could hardly wait for the smell of freshly cut grass and had an insatiable yearning for those longer days of daylight to enjoy the warmth on my comfy front porch swing. Tomorrow, I thought, I am going to get outside, work in the dirt, and take some pictures of those gorgeous peach blossoms!

Those were my comforting thoughts as I went to bed that Friday night. Much to my chagrin when I woke up on Saturday the ground on top of our mountain was covered with snow!  The cool spring rain and night air had turned on me with a vengeance! The wind blew fiercely, bending the tender young limbs of the dogwoods and the frigid air nipped at the precious young buds and all but destroyed the beautiful peach tree blossoms. I was sad and distraught; the freezing rain and snow had damaged my precious hydrangea bush that I had nurtured back to life after some careless landscapers all but destroyed it. I had watched it daily as the warm sunshine had coaxed it to slowly burrow up from deep within the earth during those last weeks of warmer temperatures.

As I wallowed in my sorrow that cold, snowy Saturday morning, I thought, this must be how God feels about us. We are God’s once perfect creation "gone bad"! As Christians, we are washed totally clean by the blood of His precious Lamb. The sacrifice of His Son has made us clean, fresh, and new just like spring, a rebirth. Praise God for His sacrificial and redeeming love. But when we take our eyes off Jesus, Satan comes along dangling prize after prize in front of our nose. For some, that prize is fame, others covetousness, still others it might be jealousy, busyness of life, or perhaps gossip. Whatever we may choose to call it, it is sin, and like a cold frost that burns away the freshness of spring, sin destroys the newness in our lives.  
Happily spring is a season of many changes in our area and soon the warmth returns and regrowth begins anew.  Fortunately, for Christians God’s grace and unconditional love allows us the forgiveness we need to return to our ‘spring’…our newness, and continue to grow in oneness in our relationship with our Creator. 

Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.  II Corinthians 5:17

Six-Pack Abs?

I am a person who likes to interject comedy into conversations.  Of course, my family will tell you that all three of my jokes get old really fast (including that one!).  Unfortunately, there have been many instances where I didn’t think it through very well and my attempts at humor failed miserably.  I have been known to blurt out things while trying to get a laugh that came across as awkward or even offensive.  So I suppose I have no right to be upset when one of my children does this to me.

Back in the summer of 1990 or thereabouts when my daughter Kara was about nine, the Norway Avenue congregation had an outing at Beech Fork State Park to welcome our new preacher, Jeff Stevenson, and his family.  Having met Jeff that very day, I was on my best manners as I tried to impress him with how upstanding of a Christian husband and father I was.  I spent the day speaking my best “Christianese” as I paraded my perfect family in front of him and the rest of our church family.

At some point in the day, a big volleyball game broke out that involved many of the attendees, including Jeff, Kara and myself.  I was standing right between Jeff and Kara being my upright, godly self when Kara sashayed over, placed her hands on my midsection and announced (to the entire park, I assume, based on the decibel level), “Wow, Dad, that’s a nice beer belly you’ve got there!”

Imagine how mortified I was!  How could my daughter embarrass me like that?  A million thoughts raced through my head as I tried to think of a clever comeback that would preserve my facade.  Kara had never even seen me drink a beer, so where in the world would she come up with a comment like that?  But if I said anything to take up for myself, it would just sound like a lie anyway.  What to do, what to do?  Then I remembered that my belly actually did originally get fat from drinking beer; it was irrelevant that I had managed to not do it in front of my children.  And what about all the other terrible things I had done, both in my children’s presence and not?  So all I could do was shrug, sheepishly laugh, and wait for my face to return to its normal color.

There is a lesson in this.  We might think we are fooling people, and sometimes maybe we are.  But in the end, we will always be exposed for what we truly are, if not in this world then certainly in the next.  Let’s strive to not act like the Pharisee about whom Jesus speaks in Luke 18:11, who prayed, “God, I thank you that I am not like other people–robbers, evildoers, adulterers…”  Let’s strive to live our lives in such a way that we don’t feel the need to resort to acting or pretense.  Let’s strive to live our lives in a way that sets a good example for the world and is pleasing in God’s sight.  In short, let’s strive to be like Jesus.

"…Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners–of whom I am the worst" (1 Timothy 1:15).

"And a voice from heaven said, 'This is my Son, whom I love; with whom I am well pleased' ” (Matthew 3:17).

Sweet Smells of Childhood

I asked a class of about 30 adults what piqued a pleasant memory of their mother, father, grandmother, or grandfather. Almost without exception, they wrote about a scent that brought back these pleasant memories.  Think about it. Does the blooming of the lilac bush in your neighbor’s backyard remind you of your grandmother? Does the smell of coal remind you of a hard-working grandfather? What about the smell of apples in the oven, does that bring back a memory for you?

The Bible tells us we should be a sweet fragrance to God. 2 Corinthians 2: 15 To God we are the aroma of the Messiah among those who are being saved and among those who are being lost. How do we teach young children to emit that kind of fragrance to God

  1. Keep prayers short and pleasant. Lengthy prayers over the meal with a hungry toddler are not pleasant for anyone.
  2. Make sure church experiences are related to children as pleasant. Roasting the preacher or congregants sends a message that church is not a pleasant place to be. If you must criticize, make it among adults not the community with children.
  3. Teach children to be thankful. Frequently say how grateful you are that God provided the sun, or your car, or the food you are about to eat. Be sincere, in your own expression of thanksgiving.  All good and perfect gifts come from God.
  4. Instill in your child the desire to be a part of God’s family.

The Mission Value

 “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” – Matthew 28:19 

This month, I had the opportunity to meet with the elders at Norway to discuss the value of missions, and more specifically the upcoming mission trip to Roatán, Honduras. Together, we approached frequently asked questions and common misconceptions about missions.

One of the most common questions regarding missions is “What about the people who need help in the United States? There are people in our community that are struggling, why do we need to go to a different country?” To this question, the elders said, “We can do good work for God anywhere.” 

Acts 1:8 says, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Christ has given us specific instructions and these instructions do not confine us to one specific location, but rather tell us to go into all nations. “All nations” includes our own, and Norway does serve the city of Huntington. However, it also includes nations like Honduras. One specific aspect that the elders have considered about overseas missions is the growth of our mission team. Leaving our comfort zones leads to reliance on God and in stepping out in faith, we are more aware of our purpose to serve others. While serving others in our own community is certainly beneficial for all, sometimes it is easy for our minds and hearts to be clouded by our comfort. Stepping out of our comfort zone aligns are hearts more with Christ and less with the world. 

Finances are also a major consideration when it comes to missions. Some people may wonder, “Could this money not be better spent? Doesn’t the church have bills to pay?” 

To this question, the elders were clear that the money for this trip is being raised outside of the operational budget. Each member of the mission team is responsible for raising the money to pay for his or her personal expenses, which is a personal sacrifice. However, there is no shortage of help from the people at Norway, as the congregation has pulled together to help out the mission team! The elders were adamant that you couldn’t put a price tag on the work of God and that if we trust God, He will provide for this trip.

Another question that applies more specifically to our trip is, “Why would you go on a short-term mission trip? What is the benefit of that?” 

While this is a short-term mission trip, in a way, it actually is long-term. Our presence will have a lasting affect and the relationships that we build will continue even after we come back. The organization that we will be working with has a permanent presence and Richard Crespo is very active in this organization. It isn’t about how much money that we have to spend or how long we go; it is about changing the lives of the people we are serving and changing the lives of the people on our team.

The elders are very excited and look forward to the trip. They are hoping to eventually increase participation in the future and have the mission team grow and change throughout the years. Bill Wright said, “We would love to see more teenagers become more involved in missions.”

The congregation has also been supportive of the trip. According to the elders, there are no objections to the trip and there has been a desire to help out and raise funds. The congregation has been very helpful when it comes to events and all of the fundraisers have been well attended! The outpouring of interest and support from those who are not going on the trip has been a blessing.

Absentee Father?

Some people may remember the Hogsetts as the “softball family.”  I suppose this is the normal progression when a family consists of five (!) daughters, a baseball buff father (unfortunately, the only time the word “buff” will be used to describe me) and a consummate supportive/involved mother.

It started out innocently enough.  I didn’t even realize Little League Softball for girls existed until my two oldest daughters, Amber and Kara, brought home entry forms that had been handed out at school.  Little did I know this would eventually lead to coaching, league administration and travel ball that replaced summer vacations for many years.  I always say, “Show me a coach or a league president and I’ll show you someone who wasn’t quick enough on his feet to lie his way out of being asked to volunteer!”  But as the cliché goes, I wouldn’t trade that period of my life for all the money in the world.

In the first year or two of our softball affiliation, I was just a bystander parent.  I wouldn’t have minded helping out, but I’m typically not a person who needs to be in charge.  So I was perfectly happy watching from the bleachers.  Both girls excelled, especially considering their late start, as many of their teammates had been playing since t-ball.  As well as Amber played when I was there, occasionally I would miss a game and find out later that she had performed exceptionally.  She never seemed to have these outstanding games when I was present.  At first I thought this was just my bad luck, but I finally talked with her about it and was dismayed to learn it made her very nervous when I attended games and she would prefer I did not attend.

Although somewhat heartbroken by my oldest daughter’s honesty, I decided that for her sake I would attend games, but position myself in a place where she could not see me and thus not know I was there.  Picture a grown man crouched down between cars or lurking under a jungle gym.  I was that guy.  This went on for several months until Amber started to figure it out, but by that time she had developed more confidence and (sort of) began to welcome my presence at games.

As I reminisce about this, I wonder if I made a mistake by letting my beloved daughter believe I was absent from her games.  In my limited earthly wisdom, I did what I thought at the time was best.  Sometimes we might go through events in our lives where we think God is not there for us.  We should know that He is always watching us, even when we can’t see Him.  Unlike this earthly dad, our Father in Heaven does not make mistakes.  In His flawless Heavenly wisdom, He knows the perfect time to reveal His constant presence and always knows what is best for us.

“Have I not commanded you?  Be strong and courageous.  Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9).

Drum Major

When I received my class schedule on my first day of high school, I was surprised to see that I had Marching Band in third period.  This was because I did not play a marching band instrument, nor had I signed up for band.  I went to the office and was informed that it was a computer error, but they were very backed up and I should report to the class for that day and come back the next day when things had settled down a little.

I reported to class and immediately informed the band director, Mr. Tweel, of my situation.  He said, “We can always use extra bodies.  Why don’t you consider staying and being a ‘roadie’ for the band?  If you do everything I ask, I will give you straight A’s.”  Wow!  No studying, no homework AND straight A’s?  I enthusiastically agreed.

One of my tasks that year was to help carry the “Huntington East Highlanders” banner out in front of the band as they performed in the annual band festival parade that went down 4th Avenue in Huntington.  This was a fairly innocuous duty and one that I pretty much forgot about over the years.

Some 35 years later, my dad and I were eating at a local restaurant.  He was one of those people who called waitresses by their names and liked to engage them in conversation (to this day when I do that, my children jokingly call me Pa-Paw!).  You know how as we get older our minds sometimes play tricks on us?  Well, our waitress mentioned that she was in the marching band at Cabell Midland High School, which prompted my dad to proudly proclaim, “My son here was the drum major for Huntington East!”  The drum major was the guy who actually conducted the band.  He carried a scepter, wore a kilt, and it was considered quite an honor to hold the title of drum major.  I quickly interjected that I only carried the flag, but Dad didn’t seem to hear.  This same basic (and embarrassing) conversation happened several times over the next few years until I finally just didn’t have the heart any more to correct my dad.

So, despite my marriage, children, college degree, career and any other worldly accomplishments, possibly my greatest achievement in my father’s eyes was something that I didn’t even do!  It’s kind of funny and sad all at once.

When I think of all the anguish I caused Dad during my high school years, it makes me realize that there wasn’t much positive for him to remember.  True or not, he chose to remember something good.  Isn’t this similar to how our Heavenly Father looks at us?  He knows all the disappointing things we have done, but He still chooses to remember the good that is in all of us.

"Love…keeps no record of wrongs" (1 Corinthians 13:5).

March 2016

As the second poorest country in the Americas, Honduras has an unemployment rate of 56%. With a population of approximately 7.8 million, more than half lay below the poverty line. The people of Honduras earn an average pay of $10 per day and typically, a family makes around $4,500 in one year. 

Roatán is an island off of the northern coast of Honduras. The population is approximately 70,000. While the major language in Roatán is English, many of the people speak Spanish.

Our mission team will divide into three smaller teams to address the needs of the communities that we will be serving.

The first team will be working alongside a missionary couple at Casa de Luz. This couple is retired, and through the support of a U.S. agency, they are committed to living on the island of Roatán and serving the people there. Casa de Luz is located in La Colonia, which is a slum. This group will be teaching English to children and adults. By learning English, the people of Roatán gain a skill that will help them to get a job.

The second team will be working in the community of Corozal. They will work alongside members of the community to construct a playground for the children. The third team will be working in the community of Hottings Sparrow. They will be working alongside community members, helping them with their water system. By teaming up with the people of Roatán, both of these teams are helping to complete projects that would take a significantly long time without our assistance. 

In addition to these service projects, a few members from each of the three teams will be putting together a VBS program. All three teams will be using the same VBS program in the three different locations. 

Richard Crespo, the leader of our mission team, has been going to Roatán for over twelve years, working with a Christian clinic ran by a non-profit organization. According to Richard, his time in there has given him an appreciation for the people of Roatán. Many of the people there work in the tourist industry. Their strength to persevere despite the fact that they are poor and surrounded by wealth is very admirable. They also have a high regard for education, as they want their children to one day have a better life. 

Richard’s hopes for this trip are that the members of our team will expand their worldview and cultivate an appreciation for the differences between our culture and theirs. The greatest value of our trip will be the establishment of relationships with the people of Roatán. While our tasks will end and we will return home, our relationships will continue on and provide the people of Roatán with the encouragement to persevere.