Jesus Kicked My Legos

April 1, 2016

Vizzini: “He didn’t fall? Inconceivable.”
Inigo Montoya: “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”           –The Princess Bride

Jesus can bust some stuff up.

In Matthew 18, Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”
Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”

Jesus significantly broadened Peter’s understanding of the word forgive. Actually, he demonstrated that Peter didn’t understand the word at all. My brother Dan has always been like Jesus. Even when we were seven or eight, he was like Jesus. I would spend hours carefully constructing a magnificent Lego fortress, and say, “This fortress is indestructible!” Dan-Jesus would enter the room and demonstrate to me that I did not really understand the meaning of the word.

Jesus seems to get a real kick out of busting up our indestructible definitions. In the gospel of Matthew, he said, “Some of you guys are patting yourself on the back. You think that because you’ve never slept with someone else’s wife, that you’ve never committed adultery, but I tell you the truth, if you’ve objectified a woman in your mind, you’ve committed adultery.” Can’t go around using people to get mental happies—even if it’s “only” in your mind.

Back to Peter’s question: “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother or sister who sins against me? Up to seven times?”

How does someone sin against you or sin against someone else? This morning, I was confident that I knew what this phrase meant, and then Jesus made a train-wreck of my Lego fortress. Like Saint Dan.

The way I saw it, for someone to sin against someone, there would have to be perpetrator and a victim, but the scenario also seemed to imply willfulness and action. When I see the word “against,” I think of impact, even painful impact: pushing against, fighting against, striking against. For example:

A mischievous boy named—oh, let’s see—Dana—deliberately and with malice kicks his foot against his younger brother’s Lego fortress and destroys it (There is, by the way, no connection between the Dana of this illustration and the previous illustration in which my brother Dan decimated my fortress. Dana is bad, but Dan was trying to teach me like Jesus, who of course was sinless).

Perpetrator: A mischievous boy named Dana
Victim: a younger brother
Willful: …deliberately
Action or commission: … kicked his foot against his younger brother’s Lego fortress and destroyed it.

And how? “…with malice.” This was not just any action, but a sinful action. Despite mischievous Dana’s successful effort to strike the Lego fortress, to sin literally means “to miss the mark.” While Dana did not miss his brother’s Lego fortress, he missed the most important mark; he “missed” doing the just thing. In the Bible, the word “sin” is used to describe bad behavior or injustice.

To sin against someone is to impact another person in an unjust, even painful way: kicking, punching, mischievously and deliberately breaking other people’s Lego fortresses (for the wrong reason), murder—for sure, as well as slander, unkind words and gossip.

Whether we use the phrase “sin against,” most people would agree that the aforementioned behaviors are unjust and painfully impactful. This morning, however, a short verse from 1 Samuel slammed against me like a foot against a Lego fortress, and suggested that my definition was lacking.

Samuel was preparing to step down from his duties as a judge over Israel when the people begged him to pray for them. Samuel’s response:

“Far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by failing to pray for you.”

I could almost hear the sound of Legos falling against the floor and my brother’s laughter. Definition destroyed. The sin against in this verse is not an ACTION, but an INACTION: failure to pray for someone you should be praying for. God knows you can’t pray for everyone all the time—not effectively anyways. There are a few people however, whom God has gifted to us, and He has given us the special privilege of covering those people in prayer.

More startling, Samuel doesn’t say:

“Far be it from me that I should sin against YOU by failing to pray for you.”


“Far be it from me that I should sin against THE LORD by failing to pray for you.”

God has entrusted certain people to us for whom He expects us to consistently pray, and when we don’t, He takes it personally. “David, I’ve entrusted Debbie and Jack to you because they are VERY SPECIAL TO ME. Your prayer could change their lives for the good. Why would you withhold that gift from my special ones?”

I’m glad God understands forgiveness and is patient with me. One day, I want to look Deb and Jack straight in the eyes and say with absolute honesty, “Far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by failing to pray for you.”

P.S. Dan, I’m praying for you. Don’t hesitate to let me know if I can come to your house and destroy any definitions for you.


He is risen! 72 dead in Pakistan

March 28, 2016

Emotional whiplash. That’s how it felt to me. Much, much worse for others.

Yesterday, with my church family, I celebrated the most important event of our faith; the resurrection of Jesus. We talked about the contrast of emotions that the disciples must have experienced. On Friday, their teacher and friend was crucified and entombed behind a massive stone. On Sunday, he arose. Hopelessness to hope. Despair to joy. The equation always moves in that direction on Easter Sunday: death to life. That’s the beauty of Easter.

But yesterday, for Christians in Lahore, Pakistan, the equation took a U-turn.

As several families celebrated the life-giving hope of the resurrection of Jesus, death to life—death robbed them of their loved ones. Most of the dead were women and small children. The distance between the joy they were feeling and grief that descended upon them is incalculable. Death to life—and back to death.

Easter isn’t supposed to take a U-turn like that, but it did, and I would not dare to offer answers.

The tragic events in Pakistan affirmed something for me. We talk about Jesus being in the tomb, behind the stone, but I believe that’s exactly backwards. Hatred, murder, rape, assault, bigotry, greed, selfishness, unkindness and all manner of death exist on our side of the stone, not the other. We are in the tomb. We are behind the stone. My only hope is this: Life is on the other side, and Life has rolled the stone away.


November 17, 2015

Some friends lost their pup of 14 years yesterday.

One evening, around 1979, I scrambled to answer the Band-Aid pink phone in our kitchen. Every call is critical when you’re fourteen.

“Hello?” No response. “Hello?”

Finally, “David?”

I recognized my brother’s voice. “Hey, Bobby. How’s it going?” Silence. “Bobby?”

“Can I talk to Daddy?” he asked, clearly struggling to talk. In retrospect, I’m not sure I had ever heard him cry. I yelled back to Daddy that Bobby was on the phone and waited until he picked up the receiver. I have many flaws, but I’m not nosey. I really did plan to hang up the phone.

“Hey, Mr. Big.” That’s what Daddy has always called Bobby.

“Daddy…,” the pause so long, I wondered if he’d hung up the phone. “Maggie died.”

Maggie was a fine Irish Setter that Bobby had raised from a pup. No one greets you like a dog and Maggie was no exception. Day after day, year after year, Bobby came home from work, and Maggie responded to his whistle, bounding out of the woods, running, leaping, circling, licking, leaping. If you’d seen it, you might have been in doubt about who was happier.

I don’t think Bobby said anything else in his conversation with Daddy. I’m not sure he could. He’d called the right person. Daddy had lost some good canine friends over the years, and I was struck by how he affirmed Bobby’s grief. I will never forget what he said just before I quit snooping: “Oh mercy, Mr. Big, I’m so sorry. We sure do fall in love with’m don’t we?”

Yes we do. Until we’ve had one, we might be skeptical about that. I was. He’s a dog, after all, not my wife, parent, sibling, or child. Or so I thought. I agreed to invite a dog into our house reluctantly and with many rules and stipulations, only to become redunkulous: allowing the dog on the couch, using baby-talk, carefully vetting pet-sitters.

Few people love like a dog. As to forgiveness, we are not their equal. Step on your dog, stumble over her in the dark, wait too long to put food out, come home late, and she still wags, longs to please and love you. To their own detriment—even in the face of cruelty by wicked individuals—they express the most incomparable, incomprehensible loyalty.

Have you ever wondered about the name “Fido”? According to the source of all knowledge, Wikipedia:
Fido (1941 – June 9, 1958) was an Italian street dog that came to public attention in 1943 because of his demonstration of unwavering loyalty to his dead master, Carlos Soriani (Soriani named the dog Fido, a derivation of the Latin word for faithful). Fido was written about in many Italian and international magazines and newspapers, appeared in newsreels throughout Italy, and was bestowed several honors, including a public statue erected in his honor.”

My Clyde is a Fido. He lives to love. Like a 70 pound lapdog, he wants to be in perpetual contact with me, his 40 pound head in my lap, blinking at me with complete adoration. I can return from the mailbox and he greets me like I’ve been in Iraq for five years. He is my shadow, following me on the most mundane journeys to nowhere. Sure, like every dog, he loves a treat, but I’m fairly certain he doesn’t care if there’s a point to my pointless trips up and down the stairs, into the backyard, or if we’re there yet, or what’s in it for him. The relationship IS THE TREAT. When my Clyde is gone, I’m going to curl up under a blanket for a while and cry.

Some friends lost their pup of 14 years yesterday, and I can only imagine how heartbroken they must feel. I want to express my sympathy to them. When people die, we send flowers, but that did seem exactly right. Thankfulness seems a better tribute. In light of another family’s loss, I’m more mindful of these noble, faithful friends, and I need to express how awesome they are. C.S. Lewis said that we do not express gratitude solely for the sake of the other person, but gratitude is something we need.

“I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation. It is not out of compliment that lovers keep on telling one another how beautiful they are; the delight is incomplete till it is expressed.” -C.S. Lewis

Ainsley, Shelley, and Keith, I’m so sorry that you’ve lost your “old girl”. Praying for you all.

Living in the Spirit: Not Rocket Science

October 26, 2015

Jesus died and rose again so that we could have eternal life AND the power to live now. He does not expect or want us to live in our own strength. We cannot and our attempts lead to frustration and exhaustion. When you became a Christian, Jesus gave you the gift of His Holy Spirit, and the Spirit lives in you to empower you to live this life. In fact, Paul says that God wants “to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us.” We don’t have to live a life of powerless-ness, frustration and exhaustion. We can live in the power of the Spirit and it’s not rocket science. I always feel disappointed when an author suggests that she/he is going to give practical instruction and does not. My goal is to provide clear, practical instruction from the Word. For example, prayer is a part of the journey, but what do we pray for? Paul spells it out. Praying for you as you begin or continue on this journey. Here’s an outline of Sunday’s message on living in the Spirit.

  • Understanding precedes Transformation: As Christians, the Holy Spirit lives in us and transforms us, but He begins by giving us understanding.
  • How does that work? What do we do? What does the Holy Spirit do?
  • John Ortberg uses an analogy of the boats to help us think about our part and the Holy Spirit’s part.
  1. Rowboat – We do all the work. No.
  2. Motorboat – Holy Spirit does all the work. No.
  3. Sailboat – Yes. The Holy Spirit is often described in Scripture with the word “pneuma”, which means breath or wind. Jesus said the wind blows where it will, we can’t control it, but we see its effects. We can’t control when the wind of the Holy Spirit will come, but we can be prepared. We prepare or “raise the sails” so to speak, but the wind supplies the power.
  • What does it look like to raise the sails?  Paul describes this in Ephesians 3:14-21.
  • 14 “For this reason I kneel before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. 16 I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, 18 may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.

    20 Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”One attitude, 2 actions:

  1. Attitude – Trust: Verse 20: first, believe, trust, have faith, that God, through his power at work within us, wants to do immeasurably more than all we can ask or imagine.
  2. Action: Pray: Explicit: Verses 14 & 16 – “I kneel, I pray…” There is no way around it. Prayer is a crucial discipline for living in the power of the Spirit. All healthy relationships require communication. More on what to pray for below, but start simple. You don’t get more points for praying longer or with more eloquence. For now, you’ll be praying Ephesians 3:14-21. If you feel lead to pray more, go for it.
  3. Action: Read the Word: Implied by the fact that instruction is given in the Word: (e.g., We know to pray and what to pray for because of God’s Word in Ephesians 3:14-21). Understanding precedes transformation. The Bible says that God’s Word is supernaturally powerful. To fail to read it daily depletes your soul just as not eating depletes your body. Where to begin? Don’t try to start big and don’t try to start at Genesis 1:1 and read through the entire Bible. Start simple. I would suggest reading the daily devotionals available at He Reads Truth or She Reads Truth and allow the Spirit to help you grow. http://hereadstruth.com
Note what Paul prays for:
  • “your inner being”: We try to fix the outer person by our own strength: “I’ll stop yelling at my kids. I’ll stop looking at pornography. I’ll stop being selfish.” If you want to get all the air out of a glass, you could create some type of air-tight vacuum, but it would be easier to fill the glass instead. Rather than trying to subtract the bad things, be filled with good. The Holy Spirit will change you from the inside out.
  • “…Christ to dwell in your hearts”
  • and the most critical part: “that you may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, 19 and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—
  • so that: that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”
THE KEY: Understanding precedes transformation and grasping or understanding that 1) Jesus literally dwells/lives in you and understanding 2) the love of Jesus is the key. It is the single most important thing to understand. Why?
  • Jesus loves what is good: Rather than promising to quit losing your patience with people, Jesus, through you, will love what is good (And by the way, He loves you. And He likes you. He doesn’t tolerate you or shake his head in disappointment over you. When you came into a relationship with him, you were completely forgiven, and God now loves and accepts you unconditionally).
  • Jesus loves well: Rather than recommitting to loving your spouse/kids/neighbors better, Jesus will love them through you with a perfect love.
  • Jesus loves what matters: He knows you better than you know you. There are many good things to love, but Jesus will love through you, and will direct your love to those things that you need to be focused on.*
  • Understanding the love of Jesus fills you with all the “fullness of God”, His peace, power, love, kindness…
Take away for now: 1) for the next 21 days (about the time needed to develop a habit), pray Ephesians 3:14-21 for yourself every day. If it’s the only thing you pray, pray this. The Spirit will grow your prayer life as He is ready, 2) Read the Word: If you have a plan that works, great, if not, He/She Reads Truth is a good starting place. http://shereadstruth.com
*We are called to love everyone, but we are not called to prioritize everyone the same way: for example, as a spouse or parent, you are called to love your spouse or child with a greater priority than a co-worker.

Rev. Jim Jackson’s 100 Things I’ve Learned the Hard Way

September 29, 2015

100 Things I’ve Learned the Hard Way by Rev. Jim Jackson of Chapelwood UMC in Houston Texas

  1. Thirty percent of a senior pastor’s job is conflict resolution; unfortunately healthy arbitration does not guarantee a healthy response.
  2. The conventional wisdom is usually wrong.
  3. Authority diminishes with use; influence increases with use.
  4. Choose your battles carefully; ask yourself, “Is this issue central to my vision?”
  5. Sheep bite.
  6. Whatever goodwill and favor you have earned with people through acts of service, usually evaporates immediately when you cross them on something they consider important.
  7. The results of an act of ministry often have nothing to do with the expenditure of time; you can spend an enormous amount of time in ministry that bears no fruit, and then do or say something in passing that changes someone’s life.
  8. “The way things are” is a human invention; if you can vision it differently, it is reinventable.
  9. People often fail in ministry because they never learn to say the four “magic” words:  “I need your help.”
  10. You cannot do ministry in isolation; you need a support system made up of people you trust and to whom you are willing to be accountable; if you get singled out you get picked off.
  11. Senior pastors who raise the budget seldom get run off.
  12. Hire a “world-class” team of equippers as your staff: you cannot hire enough doers to get the job done; hire people, don’t fill positions; the best people usually cost you the most money; never hire people to help them out; trust your gut in the hiring process. Spiritual integrity #1 and then look for equippers.
  13. Write a staff mission, vision and core values statement and have everyone who joins the staff sign them with their blood.
  14. Communicate to your staff that it is okay to fail, but it is not all right to punch holes in the boat below the water line.
  15. Manage your staff on an ongoing basis by getting them to write three growth goals for each quarter; no one can manage a staff through annual goals.
  16. Senior pastors need to understand the trends in business management and leadership development.
  17. Computer programs are a two-edged sword: they can save you time, but they can also restrict your creativity and keep you from having a personal encounter with God’s Word.
  18. Develop a Kingdom mentality; the pastor down the street is not your competitor; this pastor is your brother/sister and deserves your prayers, encouragement, and collaboration.
  19. Ministry is not finding needs and filling them; it is helping people to identify their spiritual gifts and deploying them in ministries that are fulfilling.
  20. Prayer ministry is the most vital program priority in every church.
  21. The reason some churches are small is because they are made up of members who have a terminal disease called “the smalls.”
  22. Put your vision in concrete and your methods in sand.
  23. The style of preaching that communicates today is Biblical, relevant, and confessional; it is best delivered without notes.
  24. Effective pastors have a teaching ministry as well as a preaching ministry.
  25. Great leaders speak their vision into existence; they shape the institutions they serve with words.
  26. Resources follow vision; where there is vision there will be provision.
  27. The most important things we do in ministry are often not what we do but what we do not prevent from happening.
  28. Denominational senior pastors must resist the subtle danger of denominational codependency; the institution can easily become your “Messiah.”
  29. The two most dangerous emotions senior pastors wrestle with are fear and cynicism.
  30. Attitude and people skills have more to do with success in ministry than technical knowledge and proficiency.
  31. A senior pastor must have a high tolerance for chaos.
  32. One of the most important skills to develop is how to ask the right questions.
  33. People are never as strong as you think they are or as weak as you think they are.
  34. Leaders are risk takers; they fail often but they are resilient.
  35. Be proactive rather than reactive with your calendar; put your personal and professional priorities on your calendar early; otherwise the general demands of ministry will consume all your time.
  36. Make your peace with the fact that as a senior pastor you are a judge.
  37. Do not spread your time evenly among your many tasks; fulfill your job description as quickly as you can and use the balance of your time in a ministry specialty.
  38. Develop a priestly ministry to your people: write one-fiftieth of your congregation each week and tell them you are going to be praying for them in an upcoming week; ask them to send you their specific prayer requests.
  39. Set a goal to write down 10 sermon ideas and/or illustrations every day; develop a system of keeping up with these resources; preparing sermons will then be more about culling material than finding material.
  40. If you have to choose between failing your family or your congregation, always fail your congregation; your first ministry is to your family.
  41. The most essential spiritual gift that a senior pastor can have is discerning of spirits.
  42. The senior pastor is the most morally vulnerable person in the congregation; if Satan can destroy the pastor, evil will prevail in the congregation.
  43. If you are not intentional about your devotional life, it will be sacrificed on the altar of busyness; burnout occurs when you are doing more ministry than your spiritual life can support.
  44. Write your definition of success in non-bottom line ways (mission, vision, core values statements, goals for life, etc.) and look at them at least once a week.
  45. You are only as sick as your secrets; pastors need a small group of people with whom they are transparent.
  46. Have someone needlepoint this quote for you and put it in a prominent place in your office so you can look at it often: “There is a God–You’re  not God.”
  47. As you do ministry, remember: you are not the Holy Spirit; it is your job to love people, not to convict them of their sins.
  48. Read two newspapers a day plus the “New York Times” on Sunday, a news magazine each week, and 50 books a year.
  49. Read a contemporary book, then an old classic, then a contemporary book, etc.; the old books will keep you from following temporary fads.
  50. Assimilating people is just as important as reaching people; unless the process of assimilation is effective, a large percentage of the new members will eventually become inactive.
  51. Most pastors are atheists until 10:00 AM on Monday; make no major decisions before Monday noon.
  52. Listening is the highest form of self-sacrifice.
  53. Moral purity and spiritual integrity are more important than good theology and professional ability.
  54. If you’ve got to bite the head off a frog, don’t spend a lot of time looking at it; if you’ve got to bite the head off two frogs, bite the biggest one first.
  55. The deeper the commitment you call people to, the more they like it and the more faithful they will be.
  56. Every senior pastor needs a mentor and needs to be a mentor.
  57. As a church grows pastors must suffer the grief of giving up areas of ministry to which they feel called and competent.
  58. When people think you are wonderful, subtract; when people are critical of you, add; when people praise God for blessings, multiply; when people leave the church because of you, divide.
  59. Develop a strategy for teaching stewardship year-round. 4x/year
  60. Never read anonymous letters. Dear friend I saw that someone is writing tacky letters and signing your name to them.
  61. Remember that every leader in the Bible faced opposition, and you are not likely to please everyone either.
  62. Don’t be ashamed about going to a therapist.
  63. Have a family night at home with your family each week; guard it militantly.
  64. Spend an hour a day, one day per quarter, and a week a year in silence and solitude; the best place to do this is at a Roman Catholic monastery or retreat center.
  65. The “balanced life” is as much of a logical impossibility for a passionate pastor as it was for Jesus; think instead of the Holy Spirit as a swinging pendulum in your heart which is always pointing to an area that needs special attention; respond obediently to the Spirit’s promptings.
  66. Beware of developing an entitlement mentality when you are with your more affluent members.
  67. Never give up hospital visitation no matter how busy you get.
  68. Every local church should be a mini-seminary, equipping laypersons in their spiritual formation.
  69. When you have a major “big event” at your church it always looks like it is going to be a disaster, but at the eleventh hour things come together.
  70. If you want to experience renewal in your home, go back and reread your old sermons on marriage and the family, and then practice what you preach.
  71. Never attend wedding rehearsals, rehearsal dinners, or wedding receptions; stay home with your family.
  72. Find a schedule pace you can hold; allow time for Sabbath, vacations, study leave, and “shadow time” (R&R after stressful events so that you can catch up with your shadow.)
  73. In long-range planning, hardly anyone can see beyond three years.
  74. Comparison kills contentment and relationships.
  75. When someone gives you a prayer request at the door of the church, ask them to write it down.
  76. Pastoring is a lot like parenting: usually the pastors who do the right things get the right results, but not always.
  77. You are not the last Senior Pastor your church is going to have; you are just the temporary steward of the church to which Christ has assigned you.
  78. God is not likely to do a great work through you until God does a great work in you.
  79. Never accept an honorarium for providing Baptism or Holy Communion; if you accept an honorarium for some other act of service, give a portion of it to the church in honor of them and save a portion of it to do something special for your family.
  80. The more the substance of His message is compromised, the more likely the church is to be rigid about worship style.
  81. All the people who are looking for a church with a boring, lethargic worship service have already found it.
  82. If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.
  83. A woodcutter never wasted time by sharpening his/her ax.
  84. Recognize people in public; reprimand people in private.
  85. Successful people are early risers.
  86. Find a way to offer Holy Communion each week.
  87. It is more effective and better stewardship of your time to provide a required premarital seminar several times a year and follow it with a single session with each couple prior to marriage rather than offering them multiple premarital counseling sessions. Write a one page blind on why you want to get married. Use it for grist for homily
  88. Have couples you are going to marry send you a one-page blind e-mail detailing why they want to marry their fiancé: it provides helpful information for the homily.
  89. No Senior Pastor has time to be a counselor; find a therapist you trust and refer people.
  90. Be a tither: you cannot teach people to do what you are not doing yourself.
  91. There are three different kinds of financial stewardship and they each target different sources of money: budget monies come from people’s income; capital funds monies come from people’s wealth; and planned-giving monies come from people’s estates.
  92. Never steal sheep, but always grow grass.
  93. Handle your personal finances with integrity and never ask for a ministerial discount. Always ask people about finances when interviewing.
  94. When you walk into a room and someone says, “Hey, preacher,” it is not a greeting; it is a warning.
  95. It is hard to preach on the importance of spiritual disciplines if you are overweight.
  96. If you don’t do a good job in the nomination process, you will end up with the tackle playing quarterback.
  97. Have some authorized personnel committee in the church to which you are accountable to tell all the staff secrets; recruit gifted, objective, visionary people to serve on this committee; you also need an attorney with personnel experience on the committee; swear them to secrecy and listen to their advice; many minds think better than one.
  98. You are ready to preach when after preparing you can pray, “Lord, if it takes making a fool of me for You to communicate Your Word, I’m willing.”
  99. Never close your door or share meals alone with members of the opposite sex. Visibility and interruptibility.
  100. 100. When you move, remember this principle: the “nuts” always find you first.

80’s friends & Pro football

September 23, 2015

GronkspikeshortcakeBucrunnertelly Dallasfumbletellgronkspikecb  mortoncarebear fumbleshortcakeravenkicktelly VinateriTellyTub

Simple but Indispensable Advice for College Students

August 18, 2015

College Students,

In the bullet points that follow, I’m going to share some advice that could change the trajectory of your life. None of what follows is in the category of world-view, “rocket science”, or ground-breaking. These suggestions are small, simple, practical, but the first piece of advice is…well, you’re in college, you can read. I make no claim to be wise, nor have I mastered all the items on the list. Full disclosure: the last two items are a little more than a bullet point.

  • Little things matter. What you consider to be a small or insignificant act (even forgettable), may be the thing that makes the greatest impression upon an acquaintance, boss, friend, or professor. Teachers spoke words into my life that changed me forever, and when I went back to thank them, they had no memory of the event. The decision to calendar appointments and tasks seems like a small change, but it may save your job.
  • Immediately write thank you notes to people who have done good for you. Not an email. Not a text. Not a FB post. Use a pencil, paper, and give details. Similarly, acknowledge the grief of those who suffer with a note or visit, whichever is appropriate.
  • Each semester make at least one scheduled visit to your professor for help. It will demonstrate to her that you care.
  • When you’re with others, be fully present with them. In other words, stay off of your phone. Nothing says, “You all bore me,” like the person staring at their mobile device in the presence of others. When I am with others, I only answer my phone if I have a call from my wife or son.
  • Don’t put your dirty laundry on social media.
  • When you mess up, make apologies quickly and take full responsibility without an iota of rationalization, justification, blaming or prevarication. “I’m sorry that you’re offended,” is not an apology.
  • Be just as quick to forgive. Unmerciful people rarely enjoy mercy.
  • Be direct. Passive aggressive behavior is galling and ineffective.
  • People like to be around positive people. Complaining, negativity, and whining feel good but it pushes people away. People have enough crap to deal with. Make them glad to be around you.
  • Do windows. In other words, surprise your boss, professor, landlord, et al by doing more than you’ve been asked—by exceeding their expectations.
  • Be fastidious regarding grammar and spelling. Like it or not, many people still care about these things and make snap judgments when they hear or read statements like:
    • I don’t have no (good grammar)…
    • I’m loosing my mind.
    • There grammar is better than ours.
    • Congradulations. Thankyou. Alot.
    • Davids grammar is amazing.
    • Your not going to hire me are you.
    • Im going to regret this bullet point because I know someones going to corrct my spelling or grammar on this list.
  • No meaningful controversy has ever been resolved on Facebook. Resist the urge to contribute to these posts.
  • Wait 48 hours before quitting or firing off an angry email, post or letter.
  • Difficult or sensitive conversations should happen face to face. The written word fails to communicate facial expressions and nuances in tone and is susceptible to misinterpretation.
  • Go out of your way for someone else at least once a day and with no expectation of reciprocation.
  • After the party, the adults help the host clean up, and kids stand around and watch adults clean up. You’re the adult.
  • When someone is giving you instructions, write those instructions down: A) this increases the possibility that you will follow said instructions and B) it demonstrates to the other person that you care.
  • Get organized. Put it away. The average American loses 150 hours a year looking for lost items.
  • Use great discernment in discussing politics.
  • Don’t get drunk. Nothing good can come of it and 1000 calamities can result. You can feel sober as a judge and still be over the limit.
  • Guys (mostly), pornography reduces women to an object whose only purpose is to satisfy your desire. It reduces your ability to be intimate (not just sexually intimate, but a man who is gentle, thoughtful and present with a woman). Just don’t.
  • Going to college is a huge transition, and it’s normal to get overwhelmed and anxious during times of transition. If you’re feeling that way, ask for help.
  • Call your mom and dad. It’s a huge transition for them too.
  • The wrong thing done right is still the wrong thing.
  • Give a firm handshake—not a bone-breaker or a dead fish—with good eye contact.
  • Calendar important events and appointments and set your mobile device with reminders. Look at your calendar at the start and end of every day.
  • Tardiness kills. Showing up late is not a little thing in the real world.
  • Halitosis kills.
  • Be generous with encouragement and stingy with criticism.
  • It’s great to be a part of the latest noble crusade, but:
    • not all crusades are noble.
    • the truly noble crusade may not be the wisest investment of your time.
  • Slander will come back to bite you, but you’ve nothing to lose by speaking well of others.
  • Write a paper entitled, “My Calling.” The paper should describe as specifically as possible, the vocation that you are pursuing, as well as the reasons that you believe this is the best vocation for you. Include the abilities, passions, experiences, personality traits and natural gifts that support your decision. When the going gets tough, the tough go back and read their calling paper to remind themselves of their dream and the reasoning behind their dream. Your calling paper may keep you from quitting. Alternately, this exercise my open your eyes to a different possibility. If you are pursuing a degree in electrical engineering, and you absolutely hate math and physics and all studies related to engineering, you may decide to consider a different path.
  • If you hope to be married some day, write a bullet point paper similar to this one that lists all the attributes you want in a spouse. The heading of one list should be Non-negotiable. These are the attributes you must have. Be specific. My faith is important to me, so my non-negotiable list included “Devoted Christ-follower.” I wanted to marry someone who wanted to have children, was generally happy, compassionate, healthy in their interpersonal relationships with others, and wise in terms of money and spending. I wanted to marry someone who valued learning and humor. (By the way, I got everything I wanted and more). Those were all in the non-negotiable list. The negotiable list includes attributes that might be nice, but weren’t mandatory: likes to travel, a good cook, enjoys movies. My negotiable list may be your non-negotiable list and vice-versa. That’s not the point. The point is compatibility matters. Marriage is hard when the other person doesn’t value the things you value most. If you are intentional about finding a compatible spouse, your chances of enjoying a happy marriage are better. Finally, after you’ve made your list, ask yourself, “Does this list describe me? Am I kind? Compassionate? Financially healthy?” If not, become the person on your list.

Beware Wolves in Mixed Metaphors

August 11, 2015
Wolf-fruit tree in sheep clothing with bad fruit...on a broad road. Matthew 7:13-20 NASB

Wolf-fruit tree in sheep clothing with bad fruit…on a broad road. Matthew 7:13-20 NASB

Wolves in Cheap Clothing

Wolves in Cheap Clothing

Groana Lisa: Having Pun with a Classic

August 7, 2015

Mona Pisa and Lame Tourists

My Sharona Lisa

Pneumonia Lisa

Jonah Lisa

Corona Lisa

Ecce Monkey Lisa

Mystiqa Lisa


Slagle Kinterest

April 25, 2015


I’m so grateful for the genealogy work that Phil Slagle has done. Phil’s work sparked my own interest, and this past year, for Christmas, I spent a little time creating a compilation of “kinteresting” Slagle facts and pictures: where we came from; where we landed; who served our country; and famous folks. I’m no genealogist, so the 17th century folks should be considered with healthy skepticism (i.e., Mayflower passenger, Thomas Rogers). Phil Slagle is the expert and can better sort fact and fiction. I’ve almost certainly left out some interesting stories and people as well. I welcome correction. Most of this you probably already know. Enjoy. And Phil Slagle, thanks for all you do and have done. Forgive me for my errors.

For a point of reference, relatives are identified by their relationship to me, David Slagle. My father is Frederick Alexander Slagle, whose father is Fred Moore Slagle (Podgy), whose father is Jesse Henry Slagle.

Ex. Richard Pace 10GGF – Tenth great grandfather.


  • Ports of origin
  • Ports of arrival
  • Ships or Snows
  • Who crossed the pond?
  • In Service to our Country
  • Huh?
  • Famous
  • Appendix

Ports of Origin
11 from England
3 from Germany
5 from Ireland
1 from Austria
1 from France

Ports of Arrival
7 in Virginia
8 in Maryland
3 in Pennsylvania
1 in Massachusetts
1 in Delaware

Ships or Snows
Sea Venture
Good Ship Welcome
Two Sisters

Who Crossed the Pond?

By order of arrival:

Captain William Pierce 11GGF
Birth 1560 in Heacham, Norfolk, England
Death 22 Mar 1622 in Martins Hundred, Isle of Wight, Virginia, United States
He was the captain of the Mayflower on its second voyage. His daughter, Jane, married John Rolfe after Rolfe’s wife, Pocahontas died. Arrived in Jamestown on the Sea Venture in 1609.

Jane Phippen Pierce 11GGM (wife of Captain William Pierce)
Birth 1580 in Weymouth, Dorset, England
Death 1650 in Isle, Virginia, United States
Arrived in Jamestown in 1610 on the Blessing.

Lt. Francis Mason – 11GGF
Birth 1 Jan 1584 in Surry, England
Death 15 Nov 1648 in Elizabeth City, Norfolk, Virginia.
Arrived in VA in 1613

Richard Pace 10GGF
Birth 24 May 1583 in Wapping, Middlesex, England
Death 1 Sep 1627 in Jamestown, James, Virginia, United States
See “Nearly Famous” and “About the Massacre” in Appendix

Samuel Maycock, Jamestown 10GGF 
Birth 4 Nov 1594 in , Northamptonshire,  England.
Death 22 Mar 1622 in Jamestown, James City, Virginia, United States. Wife, Mary Pierce Maycock Birth 1600 in England, Death 22 Mar 1622 in Jamestown, James, Virginia, United States. He and his wife died in the Powahatan Massacre of 1622. See “About the Massacre” in appendix.
Arrived in Jamestown, VA in 1618

Sarah Maycock Pace 9GGM
Birth 1621 in Jamestown, James City, Virginia, United States
Death 1655 in Virginia, United States.
Was not first generation, but was the infant daughter of Samuel and Mary Maycock (above). Samuel and Mary hid Sarah, and she was not killed in the massacre. Sarah married Richard Pace’s son, George Pace (See info on Richard Pace). Sarah was a tiny baby at the time of the attack, about four months old. She was found several days later when the colonist were burying the dead.  Pace family lore says, “She was hidden in the barn during the attack.  She was the only living survivor. Even the livestock was butchered.”

Thomas Rogers 9GGF
Birth 1590 in Stratford Watford, England
Death 11 Jan 1621 in the first harsh winter in 1621, Duxbury, Plymouth, Massachusetts, USA.
Arrived in 1620 on the Mayflower, original signer of the Mayflower Compact.

Thomas Rogers Signature on Mayflower Compact

Copy of Compact. Thomas Rogers Signature circled in red.

Dr. John Coggin – 9GGF

Birth 1618 in England.
Death 1659 in Charles City, Prince George, Virginia, United States.
Arrived in VA between 1620-1633


John Coggin, the Pugnacious.

Mary Hamilton 9GGM

Birth 1600 in Ulster, Donegal, Ireland
Death 1634 in Cecil, Maryland, United States

Richard Cheney III 8GGF
Birth 14 Jun 1616 in St Johns, London, England.
Death 6 March 1684 in Anne Arundel, Maryland, United States.
Arrived in Maryland in 1649.

Mary Maxwell 8GGM
Birth 1634 in Ulster, Donegal, Ireland
Death 1680 in Cecil, Maryland, United States.
Arrived Maryland in 1659

John Jacob 7GGFS
Birth 28 December 1632 in Dover, Kent, England.
Death 29 Oct 1726 in Anne Arundel, Maryland, United States
Arrived in Maryland in 1665

Joseph Alexander – 7th GGF
Birth: 1660 Raphoe County Donegal, Ireland.
Death: Mar. 9, 1730 Cecil County Maryland, USA.
The Presbyterian ministers were persecuted by the State Clergy. In 1676 Joseph Alexander and seven of his brothers sailed from Ireland on the Good Ship Welcome for America. They anchored in the Delaware River, off shore from the town of New Castle.
Arrived in New Castle, Delaware in 1676

Elizabeth Alexander Wallace – 8GGM
Birth 1650 in Ulster, Donegal, Ireland
Death 1692 in Manokin, Somerset, Maryland, United States.
Arrived in Maryland in 1685

Matthew Wallace – 8GGF
Birth 1640 in Ulster, Donegal, Ireland
Death 1714 in Manokin, Somerset, Maryland, United States.
Husband to Elizabeth Alexander Wallace
Arrived in Maryland in 1685

Dietrich Ramseur – 6GGF
Birth 1690 in Ramsaur River, Austria
Death 1772 in Lincolnton, Lincoln, North Carolina, United States
Arrived in Philadelphia, PA on The Venture in 1727

Pleikard Dietrich Siler – 5GGF
Born 29 May 1719, in Weimar, HRE (Germany), sailed from Rotterdam to Philadelphia on the snow Two Sisters in 1738. The death toll for those sailing that year was so high, that it became known as The Year of the Destroying Angels (See Appendix for description). Arrived in Philadelphia, PA in 1738.


Snow Two Sisters Passenger signatures. The “X” indicates that someone else signed the name and the passenger placed the x. Pleikard is spelled several different ways. In this instance, the person writing the name probably spelled the name phonetically.

Elizabeth Hartsoe Siler – 5GGM
Birth 29 Sep 1727 in Germany.
Death 16 Jan 1817 in Siler City, Chatham, North Carolina, United States
Wife of Pleikard. Supposedly, she and her future husband, Plikard Detrich Siler came to America on the same ship in 1738. Family tradition has it that Elizabeth’s father was the captain of the ship.
Arrived in Philadelphia, PA in 1738

Mary Pilgram 5GGM

Birth 1748 in London, London, England
Death in Mulberry Creek, Wilkes, North Carolina, USA.
Arrived in 1750

George Plott 5GGF
Birth 1734 in Heidelburg, Heidelberg, Baden-Wuerttemberg, Germany.
Death 1810 in Ton, Mecklenburg, North Carolina, United States.
Arrived in 1750.
(See Almost Famous).

Richard Duckett 6GGF
Birth 1675 in London, London, England
Death 29 Oct 1733 in Prince George’s, Maryland, United States
Arrived in Maryland in 1752

Nicholas Valentine 7GGF
Birth 1645 France
Death 1720 James, VA
Uncertain Date of Arrival

In Service of our Country

French and Indian War

Weimar Siler – 4GGF
Served in the Indian War as a drummer at the age of fifteen, and in the Revolutionary War under Francis Marion, fighting in the battles of Sumpter, Kings, Mountain and Cowpens.

Civil War

James Wallace Alexander – 2GGF

Duda’s (Lida Slagle) grandfather was James Wallace Alexander.
James Wallace joined the army in May of 1863 and served in the 5th Regiment, N.C. Cavalry, also known as the 63rd Regiment of North Carolina State Troops, in the Civil War. Like his brothers John Smith and William, he was a member of Company F. He joined the Confederate Army in May of 1863 and died August 3, 1863 in Charlottesville, Virginia, of “febris typhoid.” On February 8, 1864, the Sharon Church elders voted to pay tuition for one year for the education of his children.

Jacob M. Gillespie – 2GGF
(Podgy’s GF) Born 1840. Enlisted in Company K, North Carolina 1st Cavalry Regiment on 04 Jul 1861.Promoted to Full 2nd Lieutenant on 01 May 1863.

*Elam Leander Slagle 3rd Great Uncle 
Birth 27 Feb 1824 in Lincoln, North Carolina, USA
Death 30 May 1908 in Macon, North Carolina, USA


Elam Leander Slagle’s presidential pardon for participating in the rebellion.


World War I

*Alfred “Mack” McAnally Slagle
Birth 6 Feb 1891,
Death 29 Sep 1918, France.
Great Uncle, brother to Podgy. Killed in battle during WW I as the Hindenburg Line was broken. Letter to parents said, “He was leading his men toward Berlin.”


Corporal Alfred “Mack” McAnally Slagle


World War II & Korea

Frederick Alexander Slagle – F
“Granddaddy”, as we call him, served on a destroyer escort, The Raby, as a gunner’s mate, from 1943 until the end of the war. He was called back up for Korea in Dec. 1950. Granny had just found out that she was pregnant with Jesse Clifford Slagle when Granddaddy left the day after Christmas. He returned in 1953.

Frederick Slagle Navy

Granddaddy WWII


Granddaddy (Korean War) and Granny


DE-698 Destroyer Escort, U.S.S. Raby


Ruth Crawford Slagle – M

Worked in the Oak Ridge Facility in Knoxville, TN. In August of 1945, she and her co-workers were informed that they had been part of the team that built Little Boy, the first atomic bomb. For a great read on the Appalachian girls who participated in the Manhattan Project, see The Girls of Atomic City by Denise Kiernan.


Thomas Dick Slagle  Great Uncle, brother to Podgy
Captain Thomas Dick Slagle


Captain Thomas Dick Slagle



James Alexander 6GGF x 2
Birth 1695 in Manokin, Somerset, Maryland, United States.
Death 15 Jul 1779 in Cecil, Maryland, United States
Yes, that’s right. He shows up three times in our family tree. Remember Ambrose Conley? The guy who went to war with all six of his sons? Ambrose’s wife, Margaret Alexander Conley is a direct descendant  of JA. Duda’s mother and father are direct descendants of JA.



Richard Pace 10th GGFS
Richard Pace was an early settler of Colonial
Jamestown, Virginia. Richard Pace played a key role in warning the Jamestown colony of the impending Powahatan Massacre on the colony.


Thomas Dick Slagle Great Uncle, brother of Podgy


Elizabeth Alexander Wallace – 8th GGM
5th GGM of Bess Truman, wife of President Harry S Truman


President Harry S Truman and Bess


George Plott 5th GGF

Developed the Plott Hound (bear dog)


Von Plott with Plott Hounds


Von Plott at Plott Balsam Range


Jacob Siler 3GGF

Birth 1 Jun 1795 in South Carolina, United States.
Death 21 Apr 1871 in Macon, North Carolina, United States.
Jacob was the first permanent white settler in Macon County, NC.


Thomas Rogers 9GGF
Early 1620 Mayflower passenger and settler of Plymouth Colony. He died there in the first sickness. Thomas was the 18th of forty-one signatories of the Mayflower Compact.



About the Massacre: The Powhatan Massacre, March 22, 1622

The settlers violated several land agreements with the Powhatan and relentlessly encroached upon their land. According to Wikipedia: “Jamestown’s tobacco economy led to constant expansion and seizure of Powhatan lands, which ultimately provoked a violent reaction. At first, the natives had been more than happy to trade provisions to the colonists for metal tools, but by 1609 the English governor, John Smith, had begun to send in raiding parties to demand food. This earned the colonists a bad reputation among the Native Americans and precipitated conflict.” It was hoped that the marriage of Chief Powhatan’s daughter, Pocahontas, to John Rolfe, would create peace between the Powhatan and the colonists, but it did not. Chief Opechancanough, who became chief after Chief Powhatan died, had seen the colonists raid and slaughter his people on at least three different occasions and believed that the only hope of survival for the Powhatan was to attack, thereby causing the colonists to abandon the colony and return to England. He led the surprise attack on March 22, 1622, in which 347 colonists were slaughtered. Colonists who survived the attacks raided the tribes and particularly their corn crops in the summer and fall of 1622 so successfully that Chief Opechancanough decided to negotiate. Through friendly native intermediaries, a peace parley was arranged between the two groups. Some of the Jamestown leaders, led by Captain William Tucker and Dr. John Potts, poisoned the Powhatan share of the liquor for the parley’s ceremonial toast. The poison incapacitated the Powhatan and about 200 were killed. Chief Opechancanough escaped. Below, there is better news of our kin’s relationship among the Indians in the section entitled, “The Silers and Chief Chuttahsotee.”

Richard Pace

George Sandys, Treasurer in Virginia, also wrote a letter to England about the Powhatan and its consequences, and evidently went into much more detail.

Sandys’s letter was apparently the original source of the story of the Indian who warned Richard Pace. According to the story, a Powhatan youth living in the household of Richard Pace had been instructed to kill Pace and his family in conjunction with a planned attack on the colony. The youth instead warned Pace of the impending attack. After securing his household, Pace rowed across the James River to warn James City.


Year of the Destroying Angels

Volume 10, Number I, January 1998 “Beyond Germanna” The Year of the Destroying Angels -1738 by
Klaus Wust 

The situation in 1738 earned the reputation as the Year of the Destroying Angels. The reference was to Psalm 78, verse 49, “He let loose on them his fierce anger, wrath, indignation, and distress, a company of destroying angels.”

After the ship Glasgow and the snow Two Sisters arrived, the next three vessels to arrive with Palatines were the Robert dc Alice, the Queen Elizabeth, and the Thistle. Captain Walter Goodman of the Robert & Alice sent a letter back to Germany on October 19th. Excerpts were published in the Rotterdam Courant two months later: “On the 4th of July last I sailed out of Dover in England and arrived here on this river on the 9th of September with crew and passengers in good health but on the way I had many sick people, yet, since not more than 18 died, we lost by far the least of all the ships arrived to-date. We were the third ship to arrive. I sailed in company with four of the skippers who together had 425 deaths, one had 140, one 115, one 90, and one 80. Said one person in a letter: “There has been a cruel, destroying angel among the travelers this year for the number of those who died so far on the voyage and here has reached about 2000.” The two Stedmans, who had so far been renowned for the transfer of Germans lost probably five-sixths, of 300 hardly 60 were left. According to Captain Goodman (above), between 80 and 140 people would have died on the snow Two Sisters (Pleikard Siler’s ship).


Jacob Siler

“After making peace with the Indians, Jacob Siler returned to Buncombe County and got his brothers, Jesse, William and john to come back to the to settle here. Each built a home within “visiting distance” of each other log cabins at first afterwards two-story frame houses, hand smoothed and mostly hand sawed. The home of Jacob Siler stood where the Maxwell home, given by a descendant, now stands. The other three original homes are still in existence and in use. The W. B Lenoir home was the home of John Siler.” – Notes from 1926 Siler Family Reunion.

The Siler Family Reunion, by the way, is the oldest continually meeting reunion in the U.S.


The Silers and Chief Chuttahsotee

It was a turbulent time for the Cherokees as their once great nation shrunk, and they were forced to move from village to village. One young Cherokee named Chuttahsotee, or Jim Woodpecker, decided to stay in Cartoogechaye with his wife Cunstagih, who was known as Sally. They became close friends with William Siler and his family.

When General Winfield Scott’s soldiers rounded up Western North Carolina’s remaining Cherokee residents at gunpoint, Jim and Sally were taken to Fort Aquone, and then led on the “Trail of Tears” to Oklahoma. Jim and Sally were among those who managed to escape, and returned on foot to their old homes. When the ragtag band of Cherokee arrived back in Cartoogechaye, William Siler proved his friendship. He deeded a 200 acre plot along Muskrat Creek to Jim, knowing that Cherokees who legally owned land could not be forced to move. As time went on, other Indians joined them, and the settlement on Muskrat Creek became known as Sand Town.

The government made a second attempt to remove the Cherokees in 1843. Major James Robinson was sent to Sand Town in 1843 to persuade them to leave their homes and join the other Cherokees in Oklahoma. Chief Chuttahsotee is reported to have said, “In sight of these mountains I was born. In sight of these mountains I will die. My talk is ended.”

Jim Woodpecker served as chief of the Sand Town settlement for many years, and was a highly respected member of the community. When he was an old man, and facing his last days, Albert Siler, William’s son, came to read the Bible and pray with him, as he often did. At this time, Jim is reported to have said, “Chuttahsotee going soon. Bury Chuttahsotee like a white man.” The next day the old chief’s son came to tell Albert that he was dead.

Chuttahsotee was buried in the Siler cemetery near the future site of St. John’s Episcopal Church. A large gathering of Indians and white friends crowded the cemetery. Following the burial, Albert Siler went to see Cunstagih, the old chief’s widow. She was sitting in the doorway of the cabin, gazing at the sunset. “Chuttahsotee calls Cunstagih,” she said. “Cunstagih must go.” The next day her sons found her dead, still sitting in the doorway. She was buried beside her husband, and there they remain today.


Chief Chuttahsotee


Chief Chuttahsotee Grave Marker