I Call Him Dad

He was 20 when I met him, though I don’t remember much about the encounter. He had a reputation of being a bit wild and crazy. He was a son of a preacher who drove fast and was a little reckless, to the point he even once rolled his car. His nickname, “speedwater.” He was as thin as a rail, had a flat top, and had just met a beautiful young lady in Indiana. He married her, and soon after, I met him for the first time. He is my dad.

I don’t have the memory he has; he can remember things from when he was a child, events as early as three years old. He remembers his first bike, walking to school, and even his homes and places in the many towns he lived in as a preachers kid. I have memories of things we did as a child, but they only come by watching slides (old photos shown on a projector for those who have no idea what a slide is). Slides of him taking us vacations out west, to many national parks landmarks, California to see an uncle, and what felt like  yearly trips to Florida.

Dad worked in a factory in my early years, the Gearworks in Indianapolis. I mention this because it’s my first actual memory of him, every week, on payday, he would bring me a Matchbox or Hot Wheels car. I still have them today. Our first home was simple, a little ranch in Noblesville on Cumberland Road, it still stands today, and brings a couple of early memories. First was the day I woke up to cows in our backyard, somehow, they had broken through the fence. A second was the night he and mom let me and Jim Coffey sleep out in my tent in the side yard. He strung a light out to our tent to help “keep the monsters away.” We couldn’t have been more than four years old. Finally, I remember big snow storms and the drifts we would have, it was like a Christmas card, and dad would always be out early in the morning shoveling snow.

At the age of five, we moved to a new two-story colonial home on the north side of Noblesville. It’s been home now for over 50 years.  I don’t remember riding bikes, playing games, or playing ball with dad, he wasn’t much of a ball player and that was pretty much my life as a kid, but there are still lots of memories that stick out. First was coffee, he always had a cup of joe with him. Sometimes he left it on top of the car, sometimes he spilled it, but a black cup of coffee was always near. Second, I remember the year dad got mom a popcorn popper for her birthday. To say the least, it didn’t go well. I resolved in that moment that if I ever got married, my wife would never get an appliance for her birthday or Christmas. The final memory is the best. For years mom wanted a pool. Dad’s excuse was that he couldn’t find the pump to the well in the backyard. This worked well for a while, until mom decided she would help him find the pump. One day she sent me under the house to find the water line, I spotted it, and we started digging. We were getting close, my hands and head were in the hole, when mom said, “let me give it one more shovel.” My head still in the hole, she hit the line. Suddenly there was an Old Faithful explosion of water. With several neighbor’s help, we finally got the water shut off. I bathed at one of their homes, and a few months later we had a pool. Dad had met his match. That pool provided so much fun and laughter through the years, and though he didn’t swim much, it says a lot about who he is. His enjoyment was watching the memories he was able to give to his family.

Dad has always had a passionate love for his family which led to him being an incredibly hard worker, doing all he could to provide for us. Our lives changed when he decided to leave the factory and become a real estate agent. Over time he began to succeed, and not only did he become a good salesman, but the companies he worked for noticed his leadership ability. He would become a manager at three different realty firms, spending his final twenty-five years, as a Vice-Presidnet of the Noblesville branch of F.C. Tucker, the largest realty firm in Indiana. His office was nearly always the top preforming group in the company, and his office was a place people loved to work at.

Dad’s strongest attribute is his love for God and His Kingdom. He grew up in a pastor’s home, and there was much he saw that he didn’t like, but it also made him the man he is. After marrying, he became a sectional youth leader and was a song leader. With my mom’s gift of playing both the piano and organ, they were quite a team. My first memory of dad in church was when we left the church in Noblesville and started attending a church in Alexandria, Indiana. Dad became an important part of the church and a close friend to pastor Davenport. Soon after we started attending, the church went into a building program. Though I was just a child, I have fond memories of tagging along with dad and helping on the project.

When I was twelve, we left the Alexandria for a church in Indianapolis, Calvary Tabernacle. It’s here that dad left an indelible mark. He served as an usher, taught in Sunday School, and became a board member. He was a board member for nearly 25 years and was an integral part in securing finances for multiple projects. He left a lasting impact helping Calvary Tabernacle build a new facility and assisting them secure facilities for Indiana Bible College and Calvary Christian School. When Mary and I started Life Connections he came on board and heled us secure financing for its current campus and served on the board for 15 years. In addition, Dad has supported countless missionaries and mission’s project. His impact on the world and the Kingdom of God will not be fully known and appreciated until eternity.

I would define my dad’s life in four dimensions. As mentioned above, he is an incredible businessman and a man who loves God and His Kingdom. After dad’s love for God and the Kingdom he has an incredible love for reading. His office is a small library, filled with a mirid of authors and subjects. Get an invite and you will see 50 years of National Geographic Magazines, the complete collection of Louis L’Amour westerns, a plethora of books on travel, and many biographies. Still larger, is his collection of religious writings and Bibles. Nearly every book Max Lucado has written, authors from the early 1900’s, and all types of commentaries on the Bible. Finally, dad loves to travel. He and mom have traveled the world, seeing five continents. They have been to every state in the U.S., Europe, Israel, Egypt, China, and so many other places. Add countless cruises and ports and there aren’t many places they haven’t been.

Today, December 15, 2023, we celebrate dad as he turns 80. He has lived a full and successful life. He has lived a blessed life and blessed many. He has impacted people’s lives personally, impacted his community, and impacted the world through his passionate love for God and missions. He has been a successful dad, grandfather, and now great grandfather. He has left us all with an amazing example of how to live life, to be a Christian, and has given us a legacy that will outlive him. Dad. I’m blessed to walk in your shadow and thankful that God chose me to be your son. I love you and admire you more than you will ever know. Happy 80th!  May God bless you with many more healthy and prosperous years.

Lahaina and the Power of Fire

Three weeks ago, Mary and I set at a table at the Lahaina Fish House. We relaxed enjoying a gentle breeze as we watched the South Pacific waves crashing alongside our dinner table. We enjoyed some ciabatta bread with salted butter before Mary’s tilapia and vegetables came out along with my Greek salad. We finished off the lunch with an amazing piece of key lime pie and then strolled down the street stopping at a myriad of souvenir shops. We walked along the shoreline, admiring the yachts, sailboats, and cruise ships. We watched and listened to the laughter as kids played on the Banyan Tree in the middle of a courtyard, it had been an incredible day. Little did we know we would be one of the last to enjoy Lahaina and its storied history. We, along with the world, have watched how in hours, fire ravaged a beautiful town, took countless lives, and destroyed a hundred and fifty years of history. Fire shows no mercy. It doesn’t respect the wealthy or the poor, the educated or uneducated; it doesn’t care about your ethnicity. Fire destroys and purges everything in its path. 

Years ago, while working at a Christian college, we sponsored a senior class and got to travel with them on their senior trip to Gatlinburg. We wanted to connect with them, make memories, so Mary stayed with the girls in their cabin, and I with the guys in there’s. After the first couple of days, they came to us and told us that they had pooled their money together and got us our own cabin. We were overwhelmed and grateful. We gathered our stuff, moved into the cabin, and as we entered, we noticed the cabins name, “No Problems.” It was a beautiful cabin, backing up to the woods, a spacious hot tub, and an amazing fireplace. The name and the cabin connected with us, so much so, that for years we would go back, often taking our kids to “No Problems.” 

I’ll never forget in 2016 as we watched the news and saw the horrific fires that had broken out in the Smokies. I remember reading one particular story mentioning that Black Bear Ridge had been hit extremely hard. Instantly, I recalled that was where No Problems was located. I looked for the rental on the internet, but nothing came up, and I had a sinking feeling that No Problems had fell victim to the fire. The next visit we made to the area we took a drive up to Black Bear Ridge, when we rounded the corner, my fears were realized, No Problems was gone, and the forest behind It bare. Fire shows no mercy, it doesn’t value your memories.

While fires are terrible, there is one caveat to a fire. It purges. Though everything is lost, invariably life comes back, and often it comes back stronger. Forest fires purge the dead, eliminates the weak, and destroys the diseased. After a forest fire, growth is new, strong, and vibrant. In Gatlinburg, new cabins are replacing the old and new forest growth is emerging. In Lahaina, while it is abysmal now, the loss of life and possessions horrific, in time, new life will come. Beautiful buildings will replace the old, businesses will come back stronger, and there will be a new energy and excitement in Lahaina. While nothing will replace the past and its history, a new future lies ahead.

I share all this because there is an important spiritual principle to be garnered. When the Spirit fell in the book of Acts it was described as fire. It was a purging fire. It expunged out sin, weakness, and failure. Eleven disciples, who swore to be loyal to Jesus at the Last Supper, had failed miserably, and now, they sit in an Upper Room trying to piece life back together. They, along with 120 others, gather waiting on God’s promise. When it came, it came as fire, and it changed everything. Weakness was gone, boldness came, and a Holy power empowered them. It’s just days later that they stand boldly before the Sanhedrin, refusing to bow, and it’s a few chapters later they are described as people who have turned the world upside down. What happened? What changed? A fire. The Holy Spirit. It purged out the old and brought vibrant life! 

Feeling weary? Feeling overwhelmed? Pray for a Holy fire to hit your life. It will change you forever. It will eradicate your past and bring you a vibrantly bright future. Discouraged by the direction of our country? Pray that God sends His fire, the Holy Spirit. It cleanses, it purges, it brings new life, and it makes all things new. God send us a book of Acts fire again.

The Less Traveled Road

Our recent travels took us to Maui. Before we left, we asked several who had been to give us some recommendations of what to see and do while we were there. The suggestions were as varied as a Ryan’s Buffet. Some suggested restaurants, others gave us sights that we shouldn’t miss. Nearly every list had one item on it, take the Road to Hana.

So, we did. We may be strangely wired, but I must say, it wasn’t for us. The eight-hour drive had a few beautiful views, the Garden of Eden was nice, and there were some scenic waterfalls, but overall, we were not impressed. Mary was not overwhelmed with the “best banana bread ever”, most of the stops were crowded to see much about nothing, there were long lines to cross one lane bridges, and the drive through the foliage got old after a while. And just so you know, the best part of the going to Hana is the journey, not Hana itself. After taking the Road to Hana I can now say “we’ve been there and done that, but we don’t have to do it again.”

That evening, after returning from our journey to Hana, we got a late text from someone with a final submission. It said, grab a sweet tea from McDonalds in Kaanapali, it’s like some you’ve never tasted. Take the western road, go North to Kapalua, and then continue to Kahului. The next day we grabbed breakfast, hit a few souvenir shops, and then Mary suggested we try the trip recommended in the text. Up to this point some suggestions had been singles, some strike outs, but this was a grand slam. First, and I can’t believe I’m saying this, the McDonald’s tea was amazing. I don’t know what was in it, but we went back for more before we left.

The road to Kahului was stunning! Some of the most incredible and amazing views we have ever seen. Around nearly every turn, and there were many, was another breathe-taking view. Indescribable views of the South Pacific, amazing hues of blue waters, beautiful mountains, small villages tucked in small valleys, scenic bays, and a breath-taking rock at Kahakuloa Bay. It was an incredible journey.

What our friend did not tell us was two things. First, the road was not for the faint of heart, and if I knew what I know after taking the road, I probably would not have done it. Many one lane bridges, but also several areas where there was only room for one car. More than once we had to back down the road, find a wide spot in the mountain, so the oncoming traffic could pass. It also worked the other way, several times other vehicles had to back up to where there was a wide spot so we could get through.

The second thing that we weren’t aware of until later was that by going on certain parts of the road, we were violating our car rental policy, there was a red box area that said, “do not travel.” Thankfully we made it, got to see some astonishing views, and have a story to tell. If you are thinking about taking the chance, cover your own insurance and make sure you take the north to east route and not the west to south. You definitely want to be on the inside lane and not the outside!

My life lessons from our trip to Maui? There were several. First, like the Road to Hana, the roads advertised and promoted by others are not always the best roads. Too many times the bright lights and shiny packages turn out to be pandora’s boxes. Second, though difficult, sometimes life’s greatest moments are often found on obscure roads that few are willing to take. Finally, if you want to experience the awesome and incredible you have to be willing to take chances and go where few are willing to go. Take the road less traveled.

Crazy Squirrel

One of my main family objectives has always been to make sure that our home has been filled with laughter. Often that has meant being the source of silliness or the recipient of one of our kids pranks.

When our kids were young, I would often find myself pushing them on the swing in our backyard. One day one of our kids saw a squirrel and said, “dad, look a squirrel,” as I turned to look, a foot hit my backside. It was just a brush, but I heard a giggle, and I realized I had an opportunity to create laughter. From that simple moment came one of our kids’ favorite activities, “crazy squirrel.” I would push the swing, they would yell “crazy squirrel,” I would turn, they would hit my backside, and I would tumble, summersault, and flop like I had been hit by a two by four. Over and over, they would hit me, I would tumble, they would laugh, cackle, and giggle until they were in tears, and then I would hear, “do it again dad!” This became the swing set routine for years. I have tumbled, and flipped more times than I can count. To this day when Gent or Ris see a squirrel they still say, “hey dad, crazy squirrel” and there is the biggest smile.

My grandson doesn’t’ know it yet but soon crazy squirrel will return. I’m hoping I’m still fit enough, and even if it means being a little sore, I’m planning on flipping and falling just to hear the cackle and laughter of Carter. Why? Because there is no better gift you can give your family than laughter. It doesn’t matter how old your kids are, laughter is always good medicine.

How do I know? Saturday Mary, Gent and I took a quick day trip to Washington D.C. We visited a few museums and saw some landmarks. It was at one of those landmarks, the Washington Monument, when we decided to take some pictures. Gent had the iPhone, and I was waiting for Mary to get in place when I heard Gent say, “dad, hold your hand like this.” I saw the smile on his face, and I knew what was up. He wanted my palm turned up like I was holding something, I complied, and then the requests, “a little left, up some, over, down and to the right, yep right there, hold it.” And then it came, a roar of laughter and a big smile. I was holding the Washington Monument in my hand. I knew where it was going, it was just a matter of when, Insta. Didn’t care though. I made my twenty-six-year-old son laugh, created a memory for a lifetime, and reminded him that he’s worth any prank he ever wants to pull on me.

Too many focus on giving kids things that cost money, but one of the greatest gift you can give them, is the gift of laughter. It will remain long after you have passed. Still have doubts? Ask my daughter, Risa, about some socks that ended up in my pillow for a week and then get ready to see the biggest smile and tears of laughter. Here her story and then watch for my revised and corrected version in a later blog!

The Value of Sleeping in an Airport

My son Gentry has a zeal for life like no one I’ve ever met. He’s 26 and loves to travel the world. He’s been to countless National Parks, Ireland, and Iceland, yet ask him today what one of the highlights of 2022 is, and he would tell you a day trip with his dad. Unfortunately, the past year has been filled with much upheaval and one of the tragic results was me saying, “no” to countless trips that Gentry wanted to take with me. Finally, with our pastoral transition behind me, a little extra cash, and some spare time, I was able to say yes to a trip. First, I should say I am thankful that Gentry continued to ask me to go on trips; that he didn’t give up on me. He had every right to become bitter and resentful. What it spoke to me was, that more than any gift I could give him, he wanted to have time, make memories, and experience life with his dad. Again, a blessing I will forever be thankful for. As for the trip, it was short, just one day. It started early, 4 a.m. We were on a plane to Detroit by 6 a.m. and by 10:30 a.m. we were standing in Denver. He had rented a car, planned the day, and taken care of every imaginable detail. The day was amazing. It wouldn’t be a Gentry trip if it didn’t mean getting lost, we managed to do that within the first hour, trying to find a Dunkin Donuts. Somehow, we ended up in the middle of an office complex parking lot. Once we got our coffee, we were off to the Garden of the God’s, a state park just south of Denver. We walked, hiked, and climbed for a few hours, though both of us eventually admitted it was a little less than overwhelming, and that there were so many people on the rocks that we felt like ants at a picnic. From there things got much better. A much bigger venue, and a lot less people. Pikes Peak. We enjoyed every twist and turn, the scenic views, and ever-increasing snow. We ventured up the mountain to a little over 13,000 feet when we rounded a corner to see a park ranger. The news was not what we wanted to hear. Winds were blowing at 75 mph, with gust over 100 mph. Our journey had ended. We through some snowballs, got some pictures, and headed back down the mountain. The day was long from over though, from there he had planned our next expedition, downtown Denver. We saw Mile High Stadium, Coors Field where the Rockies play, and some local shops, before finding a restaurant and settling down for dinner. The day was over, so I thought, but Gentry had one more adventure for me to experience. Flights were tight, but he managed to get a us a flight to Houston, one caveat, we would have to sleep in the airport, something that he had done many times, but would be my first experience. I survived. I woke up understanding that there are some strange people in airports after midnight, sore, and very tired. By noon on Sunday, we were back in Noblesville setting at Chili’s, reliving the journey, and already embellishing the trip. Some simple observation. No matter how old they are, and no matter how busy you may be, take time for those who matter most. Make more memories than money. Give your kids, regardless of their age, the best you have . . . yourself.