1 in 1,000

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There was a buzz of excitement in the air that morning. Volunteers from N.E.S.T. (nework for endangered sea turtles) had discovered a nest of Loggerhead sea turtle eggs. And judging from the actions of the workers, this was a Superbowl moment for them.

N.E.S.T. volunteers patrol 50 miles of North Carolina’s Outer Banks beaches each morning from spring to early fall looking for the markings of where a female sea turtle would have come ashore a laid her eggs the previous night, before returning to the sea. Normally when nests are located, they are marked and monitored in order to prevent disruption from humans, predators, and weather until the baby turtles emerge and make a run for the water. A simple matter of people doing what they can to ensure that each egg has a fair chance of survival.

My daughters had told me of a repeat of this same scenario from just two days  before. N.E.S.T. volunteers were in a frenzy as they told everyone they encountered on the beach that a sea turtle nest had been reported near one of South Nags Head’s piers (about 1 mile south of our vacation rental). Instead of marking and monitoring this particular nest, it was being relocated due to a massive beach nourishment project that was slated for the coming weeks. Eggs were being carefully removed, one by one, and being transported to similar but safer environment.

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As the events were relayed to me, I thought it all sounded like pretty cool stuff. I didn’t know how many nests were cared for in a year’s time, but I have been seeing the ATV patrols early in the mornings for as long as I’ve been vacationing in the Outer Banks. I knew it had to be a huge deal for this team of volunteers. And it turns out that they care for only 10-20 nests per year.

So it was pretty surprising when another nest was discovered just two days later. Again, my daughters had run into excited volunteers early in the morning, excitedly relaying the news of their discovery to anyone and everyone they encountered on the beach and encouraging beachgoers to come watch the nest relocation process. Since this nest was only a couple hundred yards from our rental, I decided to walk down the beach to take a look.

I watched from a short distance. About eight volunteers, working with purpose. Some carefully digging and removing the eggs. Some brushing off the sand and delicately placing them in cartons and into a large cooler.  some talking to bystanders, encouraging us all to come closer, “Does anybody else want to come up closer to get pictures?”. And some just offering a little education, “Most nests will have around 100 eggs in them.”

This was pretty cool. I was glad I had walked down the beach to witness it. It was just neat to watch people working together with such a passion to preserve nature and a form of life, even if it wasn’t human life.

Human life. Yes, my thoughts went pretty quickly to the preservation of human life. And I couldn’t help wondering what would happen to me if I just pulled a Gerber multi-tool out of my pocket and approached the cooler and bashed in a couple of eggs? Well, that would be just be barbaric of course. But I did later learn the extent to which these eggs are protected by law:

  • All of these species are protected under the Endangered Species Act which makes it illegal to harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, capture, or collect sea turtle eggs, hatchlings, adults, or any body parts. Violators can be prosecuted under Civil and Criminal laws and be assess heavy penalties (up to $25,000 fine and up to one year in jail.)

Yeah, if you bust up a sea turtle egg or destroy a nest, you’re in hot water. An that’s a good thing. But I couldn’t help thinking, “Why don’t we offer these same protections for unborn humans?” The same actions that would be barbaric and illegal for unborn sea turtles are legal and fiercely defended when it comes to unborn humans.

This simply can’t be justified, but still abortion remains legal.

Here’s the craziest part. Out of 1,000 Loggerhead sea turtle eggs, the number that will hatch and reach the age of reproductive maturity is………ONE. One out of a thousand. Do the math, 10 nests times 100 eggs equals a whole year of serious human effort and intervention in order to save one sea turtle.

And I’m not saying this is bad. I think it’s an admirable effort. But I am saying that American society is sick as long as we fail to go these same lengths to protect our unborn children who have no voice. 1 in a thousand. I can’t get past that.

We can pat ourselves on the back all we want for concerns about poverty, racism, gun control, refugees/immigrants and a variety of other issues. But until America becomes a nation that is willing to defend and protect human life to the same degree that it offers endangered species, we’re basically just full of crap in our efforts to make anything better. We’re just the sick getting sicker.

1 in 1,000. Geez.

 

Somebody Has To Catch The Little Fish

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It finally happened. That moment when I was sure that I had become all that I desired to be as a man.

Through nearly 30 years of marriage I’ve made quite a few beach trips to the coasts of Florida, North Carolina, and South Carolina. One constant in all those trips was the certain presence of an old crusty veteran surf fisherman positioned on the beach. White or gray facial hair. Sun-baked skin. A belly that may be indicative of consistent Pabst Blue Ribbon consumption.

And, of course, a fishing pole or two, seemingly perfectly positioned. Even though you may have never actually witnessed this mysterious figure reeling in a fish, you just knew. After you’d tried your hand and failed at surf fishing, you just knew that this was a guy that you could go to for some reliable fishing advice. Something just looked different about this guy.

This is the man that I’ve wanted to be. Instead of passers by casually asking “are you doing any good today?”, I wanted them to ask me how I was doing what I was doing. Tips. Secrets. Pointers. The guy that looks like he knows what he’s doing.

My first taste of perceived surf fishing status came this past week when a random woman approached me with what I was sure to be a fishing question, opening with, “Sir, you look like you must know something about the ocean……”. But I was disappointed when she finished with, “Do you know what that slimy substance is that’s floating near the top of the water?”. Of course I didn’t know the answer, so I told her that it was most likely sewage discharge from passing ships. Her blank response reminded me of the phrase I hear often from my wife, “Karrick, people don’t really get your sense of humor.”

I pressed on. Over the course of a week, between our four kids and myself, we practically had a line in the water from sunrise to sunset and beyond. And we caught fish. Not big fish, but we did reel in fish consistently all day every day.  Between catching fish and having a massive amount of gear spread out around us, people couldn’t help but take notice.

By the end of the week, people were asking questions, both of me and also my oldest son. “What kind of bait are you using?” “What kind of hooks are you using? What size?” “How far out are you casting?” “What kind of fish are those you’re catching?” Yes, I had arrived. The crusty veteran.

There were plenty of other surf fishermen scattered along the beach each day, mostly trying their luck for only 30 minutes to an hour before giving up. Over the course of a week, I paid attention to all the other anglers, both from our spot on the beach and also from the deck on our beach house. I never saw another person bring in a single fish.

One evening I asked my son, “Do you know why nobody else is catching fish?” He shrugged, so I went on. “Because their hooks are too big. Their bait is too big. Because they’re casting out too far. Because they all just want to catch big fish and they end up catching nothing nothing at all. And they give up too soon and walk away.”

We drew attention to ourselves. Why? Consistency. Small things. Constant activity. Always having at least three lines in the water. Always checking our lines to make sure they still had bait. Trying different baits. Casting different distances. Paddling larger baits out into deeper water. Work. And catching lots of fish (even if they were small ones).

Producing fruit that’s visible to others.

Isn’t that what a Christian life is supposed to look like? Bearing fruit. Consistency. Being a follower of Christ is an all day, every day thing. And maybe we need to master the art of catching small fish before we can catch the big ones. Because attempts to only catch the big ones may leave us with empty results, the frustrations of our shortcomings, and in the sad spot of giving up and just doing nothing instead.

Maybe it’s a misconception or just a poor path to set out on, to believe that we can simply tell people that they need Jesus, invite them to church, and things will just fall into place for salvation. Maybe instead we need to address our neglect of the finer points of becoming fishers of men.

A good place to start is consistent, prayerful study of God’s word. Beyond that, every part of our life should reflect authenticity and an honest pursuit of the character of Christ. Because we know that we are always being watched by someone, we have to work to becoming a person that’s worth watching and listening to. And I think this is where mastering the art of catching small fish comes in.

So what does that look like? It looks like telling the truth at all times, even if the truth makes us look bad. Loving the people that are difficult to love. Forgiving when forgiveness doesn’t come easy. Actively seeking ways to help and serve others…..being selfless and generous. Being patient with those who try our patience. Controlling our tongues…..ALWAYS. Admitting to our faults and mistakes and apologizing when necessary. Being a peacemaker. Being a great listener. Keeping our pride and anger under control. Treating others with dignity and respect. Not being a blamer or excuse maker. Being willing to do difficult things when the right things (as defined by God) aren’t the easiest things.

This isn’t Sunday morning stuff. This is all day every day type of stuff. This is authentic Christianity. This is what will make others take notice. Consistently hauling in the small fish. Showing the world that there’s something different about us. Standing out in the crowd.

“There’s something different about him (or her). What is it?”

Lead a life that causes people to ask this question about you. Because the answer needs to be Jesus. And when people start asking that question about us, we may finally be ready to catch the biggest of fish.

Wildcats, Fatherhood, Jesus, And Perspective

 

wisconsin 2015 “Well bub, are you glad we stuck around for this game?” I stood in line with my oldest son, a high school freshman, trying to find a t-shirt to take home to his little brother and older sisters. Duke and Wisconsin were getting ready to tip off in the 2015 national championship game. Most other UK fans were absent from Lucas Oil Stadium that night and had evacuated Indianapolis after UK’s semi-final loss to Wisconsin on Saturday night. 38-0 had become 38-1. We had calmly walked from the stadium after the game, disappointed in the loss, but not crushed. Just talking about what makes winners and losers in particular games. I had learned by this time in life that these moments with my son were more important than the score of any game.

He answered my question as we glanced over souvenirs,  “Yeah Dad, I love being here. I’d love for the Final Four to be our vacation every year even if Kentucky isn’t playing.” Selfishly, I really just wanted (and still do) to experience a UK national championship with at least one of my kids, especially my basketball-crazy oldest son. This was our third failed attempt. A semi-final loss to UConn in Houston in 2011. A finals loss to UConn in Dallas in 2014. We were there for them all.

The agony of defeat diminished with each loss. Part of that comes from the wisdom we gain as we age. The thrill of victory may not be so high anymore, but the agony of defeat doesn’t sting quite as bad either. Perspective changes with time. But what was it that really changed my perspective. Why do I no longer break things, swear at the tv, and go into a week-long period of depression each season when UK exits the tournament?

Let me back up in time just a little to answer that. Eighteen years to be exact, to the 1997 Final Four. Same city, different arena (RCA Dome). I sat in the backseat of a car for what seemed like two hours waiting to get away from the stadium where UK had just lost the national championship game to Arizona in overtime. Nazr Mohammed had shot 0-6 from the free throw line. Arizona had converted 34 free throws compare to our 9.

I was angry. “How long is it gonna take to get out of this freaking field!”  I stewed. “We never should have lost that game!” My wife shared the back seat with me, but I wasn’t too concerned with her at the moment. My head was hurting terribly because I’d drank too much beer before the game. I just wanted to get back to the hotel and go to bed. Our first born child Macy sat in a car seat between us. As long as she wasn’t crying, I probably wasn’t too concerned about her either. Everything was pretty much about me and my anger and my self-induced pain at that moment.

We did return home the following day. And things sort of returned to normal. Going to work and trying to raise a 7 month-old little girl. Sure, I avoided watching TV or reading newspapers for about a week because I didn’t want to be reminded of UK’s loss (isn’t that what all UK fans do?).

But things weren’t really normal. Since those first days of fatherhood, I’d been nagged with the realization that I, along with her mother, was responsible for the direction this child’s life would take. The way we raised this precious girl would determine where she spent her eternity. The kind of man that I was at the time wasn’t going to cut it. Something had to change.

I’d been raised in church, but never accepted Jesus Christ as my savior. Since that day that Macy was born, I had read the Bible cover to cover. A lot of things didn’t make sense to me, but still I knew what I had to do and the kind of man I had to become. I knew all along that I didn’t want to die without Jesus. But I was coming to realize that I was helpless to be the kind of father I needed to be without Him guiding my life.

Later that month, about a month short of my 29th birthday, I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior. The rest is history. Sort of. It’s been a journey, for sure. My wife and I were blessed with three more children. Life got pretty crazy pretty quick. And I came to realize pretty quickly that life wasn’t about me. Opening my heart to God’s love taught me how to love. Not just my own family, but slowly and surely the rest of the world.

Almost 22 years later in my Christian walk, I know it’s been a slow and sometimes not-so-steady journey toward becoming the man that God wants me to be. Keep seeking His word, grow to be a little more like Jesus every day, replace my ways with His ways, and find a way to love and forgive when it doesn’t come easy. Yeah, I still stumble a lot.

I’ve screwed up a lot of things in the past. And I’m sure that I’ll make a mess of some things in the future. But I have to keep moving. And keep changing who I am. And part of that comes constantly searching for perspective.

When my ways threaten to overcome His ways. When pride, anger, or selfishness rear their ugly heads. When love or forgiveness don’t come naturally. When life is ruled by fear, anxiety, or stress. Those are the times to search hard for perspective. The kind of perspective that’s usually found at the cross. “Seriously, did Jesus die on the cross just for you to screw this up or freak out over something so unimportant?” No, He died because His love is greater than our failures, but also to live inside of us as the Holy Spirit to steer us away from our next failure.

To search for perspective can mean to simply listen to the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Why not look? Why not listen? Why not obey?

No, I’m not really talking about not freaking out when our favorite sports team loses. I’m talking about always looking for a bigger picture that has the cross in the center of it.

Today, as another UK basketball season came to an end, I’m just thankful for the natural bonds and the easy conversations that come from being fans together. And even more so, I’m thankful for the special bond with my son that becomes even stronger because of our love for UK basketball.

He’s a freshman at UK now. And as we watched the game come to a disappointing end together, he reminded me so much of a younger version of me. Pacing, yelling at the TV, and quickly exiting our home in anger to return to school.

And I could only smile. Because of perspective. Because I know that, as long as I live, that he and I will always share the bond that basketball brings, and we’ll always dissect games and teams together………….. just like I do with my dad. 

And someday, we might still get to witness a championship together. Maybe. But it’s okay if we don’t.

“See you buddy. Be careful. I love you.”

“I love you too, Dad.”

Yeah, it’s just a silly game. But to some of us, it’s so much more.

Kids These Days

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In the final minutes of Auburn’s regional semi-final win against North Carolina Friday night, disaster struck. Star player Chuma Okeke went down with a non-contact injury that silenced the crowd. As he squirmed on the floor in pain, it seemed obvious to all in the arena that this was a season-ending and career threatening injury. Auburn teammates rushed to his side to check on him. Carolina players near Okeke had looks of genuine concern for their fallen opponent.

Finally, Okeke was helped to his feet and assisted off the playing floor toward the locker room. As he left the floor, every single North Carolina player on the floor made their way to him to express concern and encouragement. In the game’s aftermath, social media raved about the acts of sportsmanship by the Carolina players.

But the actions of these players go beyond sportsmanship. All those little things that we consider acts of good sportsmanship are things coaches can require or demand. North Carolina’s kids displayed something much more important: a high level of character. They weren’t just following a coach’s demands or trying to uphold the values or their basketball program. They had genuine concern for their fallen opponent.

And you may not have noticed, but this is becoming the rule, rather than the exception. College basketball is being flooded with high character kids. If you’ve watched long enough and give it just a little bit of reflection and thought, you’ll realize it hasn’t always been this way. Think of Big East basketball in the early to mid 80’s. Dirty play, brawls, and plenty of guys that looked like they were destined for prison instead of the NBA when their college days came to an end. Academic standards were lower for college admission for athletes.

Coaches regularly took chances on talented guys with questionable academics, work ethic, character, and coachability. The best example of this would be N.C. State’s stereo stealing and 500 SAT scoring Chris Washburn (who left college after one year and was one of the biggest draft busts in NBA history). But guys like that don’t even get recruited now. Why? Because the unknowns have become know. How?

My guess is two things: Prop 48 and social media.

Enacted in 1986, Prop 48 raised academic requirements for incoming student athletes (combination of GPA and SAT/ACT scores).  The outcry didn’t take long to surface: “Prop 48 disqualifies a much larger proportion of black and low income students. ACT and SAT tests are racially biased.”  The short term statistics may have loosely backed up these claims.

But the short-sighted vision of looking only at short-term outcomes could have easily washed away any potential of lasting benefits.

What died after Prop 48’s inception was the attitude of, “If I play well enough in high school, some college coach will find a way to get me into school.” Once kids started missing out on a shot at Division 1 basketball, the attitudes of athletes toward high school academics didn’t take long to start shifting. “If I won’t do school work, I won’t play.”

It’s pretty amazing what happens when you raise standards for young people instead of making excuses for them.

What about social media? Just as higher academic standards removed some level of uncertainty for coaches concerning future academic troubles, social media of high school athletes gives college coaches a closer peak at the character of players.

If a kid’s Twitter account is full of profanity, unhealthy attitude towards women, racism, etc., it’s no longer a matter of some college coach being willing to take a chance on a kid of questionable character. It’s becomes a case of no longer being recruited by anybody. Coaches make it clear what is expected. Players have come to learn what is acceptable.

Simply put, I’m a firm believer that lower standards produce lower quality of effort. You can say what you want about requirement-lowering ideas like affirmative action, but you’ll never convince me that they produce anything other than the poison of meeting lowered expectations. If you demand less, you’ll get less.

Expecting and requiring more of NCAA athletes has produced some pretty favorable results. And as I’ve watched game after game during March Madness, I’m often impressed with great players and good teams and the excitement of the tournament. But I have learned to thoroughly appreciate all those moments where plays unfold, and the actions on the floor leave me thinking, “He just seems like a great kid.”

Good guys don’t finish last anymore. And bad guys don’t even make the team. I’m okay with that.

 

Building A Better Kind Of Wall

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Puerto Penasco, Mexico. Early in the morning, inside a white-walled compound sitting next to a busy two lane highway. I stood in a large outdoor shelter waiting for my toast to pop up in the toaster. Scanning over the Spanish labels on the butter, jelly, and peanut butter containers spread across the table. I couldn’t help thinking, “why can’t grape be the universal jelly flavor instead of strawberry? It’s always strawberry”.

My useless morning thoughts were interrupted by a man speaking behind me, “Are you with the group from Kentucky?” I couldn’t contain my grin, being a proud Kentuckian and making no attempts to hide my heritage. No, I don’t walk around barefoot, carrying a moonshine jug. But I make no pretenses by speeding up my slow and thick Kentucky accent or correcting the grammatical butcherings that I avoid using when writing.

When I answered, “Yeah, I’m with the Kentucky team”, he immediately asked how our group ended up here. “Here” was the 1Mission home base.  1Mission is a community development organization that gives people in poverty an opportunity to earn a home by serving in their community. In the last 10 years, they have built over 800 homes in Central America (primarily in Mexico). Work teams arrive from the USA to work 2-3 day shifts, and new homes are built in only a few weeks time.

“How did a team from Kentucky wind up here?” was a common question there, as most of the other teams were from Arizona. And my grin got just a little wider when I was personally asked this question while waiting for my toast. “Well, a few years back, my daughter raised enough money to build a house. And our church has sent a team here to build every year since then.”

About the time I started to tell my patchy version of the events at a Christ In Youth conference that started things in motion, my daughter Maddie walked up and I gave her a chance to finish the story that started with her.

I walked away smiling because I knew that the reason we were here was because Maddie simply said yes to God on that day at CIY. CIY’s website today loudly proclaims, “Amplifying Christ’s call to be kingdom workers”. Another page states that “God is using high school students to change the world”.

How true that turned out to be! When Maddie returned home from her conference as a high school junior, she explained to me that she had taken a challenge card to raise $4,000 to build a home through 1Mission. At the time, it didn’t seem real feasible to me. I don’t know if she realized how much money $4,000 was, but she did realize how big her God was. I saw a big Goliath, while she (like David) saw a bigger God. And her faith was bigger than her obstacle. So she moved. And a lot of God’s people moved with her. Enough was raised to build a home.

Soon afterward, Maddie and her mother started plotting to take a trip to Mexico to participate in building a home. A team was assembled, the trip was made, and another home was built. Lives were forever changed both here and there.

How did a team from Kentucky get hooked up with 1Mission?

As I walked away that morning, I fully realized that the reason I was there, the reason that one house was funded, and the reason that our church had sent four teams to build four houses………………

Was that one young lady had said “Yes!” to God one time.

When we search for our own talents or spiritual gifts, if you’re like me, you probably have trouble confidently naming just one. But I’ve realized over the past few days that a simple yes to God’s calling, in all things, large and small, has a value that we can’t measure with human eyes. Because once we start a ripple, we don’t know what will happen once God carries that ripple beyond our sight. And we have no clue just how big of a wave that a big God can make out of one little yes.

I had personally run out of excuses for not tagging along on one of these trips to Mexico. Our youngest son turned 13 in December and we were the only remaining family members who had never participated in building a home there. So we helped make up a team of 19. I felt useless at times, due to my lack of construction skills combined with struggling with dry heat and headaches. But any negative feelings were overwhelmed by the feeling of being exactly where God wanted me to be. Serving others in the midst of a group of people that excel in the ripple starting business. Helping those who struggle to help themselves. Patiently teaching the next generation valuable and confidence-building skills. Modeling the true heart of a servant for both their peers and our youth.

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Yes, I needed to be there. Because I knew that the people who, year after year,  made these and other trips to selflessly serve others, were the exact same people who work tirelessly to serve God by serving others in their own community. I needed to change, to become more like them. To see the world just a little bit differently. To learn to say yes, even to some things that may sound crazy. Maybe you do too?

And maybe all of us, while all the bickering about a border wall is going on, could just learn to love just enough to help people where they are. Whether it’s in our own home, down the street, or even Haiti, Mexico, or other impoverished countries.

High school students really can change the world. Not with a vote, but with their heart and their faith. Maddie’s wave is still moving and growing. It started with a simple yes.

How hard will we look for our own yes today?

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Trust Me, You’ll Thank Me Later

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It didn’t match my style of parenting. And it wasn’t the kind of husband that I am. But at the end of this particular family conversation, the message was clear, “This conversation is over and my opinion is the only one that matters.”

I’ll circle back around to that, but I need to back up a few steps first.

Our family’s home currently has some unused bedrooms. We have two kids away at college and our oldest daughter is married and living a few hours away in the Knoxville area. When she came in to visit a couple of weeks ago, I was reminded that “her room” will always be “her room”.

There are personal touches there that I could simply never change. A sizable collection of track and cross-country medals hangs in a cluster on a  uniquely painted wall with hundreds of handwritten Bible verses. The opposite wall displays a mural type picture of a tree that she painted as a teen with the inscription, “Rooted in Christ” at its center.

During her visit, she joined me in the living room after spending time in her room studying. “Look what I found in my room, Dad.” It was an older Kindle. Obviously not that old, but one that had been written off as lost a few years back, and also one that managed to make a dad feel a little nostalgic.

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A leather-like case protected the Kindle. And the words scraped out on the case by a teenage Macy brought a warm smile to my face. Dream, lead, inspire, hope, soar, create, peace, joy, love, kindness, grace, loyalty, plus a few words that I can’t make out. She asked if I wanted it (because she uses an iPad now). Of course, I said yes.

Some days, I look at her words chiseled on the outside more than I read that Kindle that is stored inside. It’s a treasure to me. Another representation of what I know will always be remembered as the most amazing and wonderful years of life for her mother and me.

Inside the Kindle case was a single picture that I didn’t even know that Macy had.

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A picture of my brother and I on family farmland that we owned briefly. Walking sticks in hand. Just like our dad. It took me back to my own childhood. To our old family home where I spent the first 10 years of life. So many memories of those few years in that old house. Backyard wiffle ball games, pickup basketball games, avocado green appliances, kick the can, catching crawldads in the creek, backyard campouts, accidents and stitches, and staying up til midnight on Saturdays to watch the only wrestling show on tv in those days.

I loved my childhood. And I loved that house and all the memories that draw me back to it. So many times over the years I’ve had the urge to simply go knock on the door and ask the current owners if I could just come in a walk through it one more time.

On the weekend of Macy’s visit, our partial family crew, piled into my truck and headed out on to watch a women’s college basketball game and grab a Saturday afternoon meal together. And the classic “gang up on dad” ensued. My wife and our 13 year-old son began to plead slightly different cases for selling our current home and moving into a smaller place closer to town (we live about 5 miles from the center of our small Kentucky town).

They brought up valid points. The wisdom of buying something smaller and cheaper now that the kids were getting older and moving out. The convenience of being closer to the activities they are involved in. The points of argument kept flying at me. Macy silently grinned in the passenger seat.

But I wouldn’t budge. Finally my son took his pleas a step too far and began to talk to me like I was an idiot. At this point, he lost his privilege of stating his case, and I responded forcefully but still patiently, “You’ve mad some good reasons, guys. But as long as I’m living, there’s no way I’m selling or leaving .” Case closed. End of discussion.

But why, Dad?

Because it’s the house that all four of our kids grew up in. It’s the home that three of our four kids came home to from the hospital. It’s a house where they all learned to walk and how to swim. It’s the home of bedtime stories, birthday celebrations, and first days of school. It’s the home of hi-chairs, Blues Clues, and Thomas the Tank Engine. It’s the home where our kids’ friends have showed up, and still do, thinking this is their second home. And it’s a home of every pet we’ve ever had (and buried) since the kids were small.

No, we’re not leaving it. Ever. That’s my final answer.

But that’s not how I answered. I took a different path.

“Because you’re gonna be 30 years old someday before you know it. And you’re gonna come visit for Christmas or Thanksgiving with your wife and family, and your brother and sisters will be here with theirs. And your gonna still have your own room and you’re going to share fond memories and stories with your mom, dad, siblings, and your own kids about what it was like growing up in our home. And when that day comes, you’re gonna remember this day, and this conversation and you’ll thank me for this day.”

Kal was silent. I don’t think his mother said anything either. The value she places on nostalgia isn’t nearly as great as mine. And then I glanced at Macy. Maybe it wasn’t a tear forming in the corner of her eye that I saw. But I’m certain that I saw a twinkle there.

Because she understands. She knows. The joy of coming home. The wonderful memories of family and childhood.  And she knows that her old dad just might know what he’s talking about.

That’s what dads do sometimes. Think about things that nobody else is thinking about. And always be on the lookout for situations where the answer to “why” questions just might come in the form of “someday you’ll regret this” or “someday you’ll thank me for this.”

The Murder Of Work Ethic

Faith without works is dead (James chapter 2). The two go together. Also, an education without work ethic is dead. “Get an education. Get an education.” Well, just showing up in a school doesn’t make you educated; some consistent effort is required.
And just getting through school at any level doesn’t make you employable. And just having a job doesn’t make your employer responsible for you meeting your bills. These things are worthless without a willingness to try hard and the presence of good work ethic.
People tell me sometimes that “just try harder” isn’t the answer to everything. But it kinda is. No, we can’t try our way to earning our salvation. But just like our salvation isn’t something that we deserve, there are a lot of other things in life we are misled to believe we are deserving of.
I know my wife sometimes questions my interest in politics. But my interest isn’t in politics at all. My interest is in people and what they believe. And alarms go off for me daily when I hear anything that steers people toward compromising their morals or their work ethic.
These things usually appear in the form of telling people what they want to hear or what they deserve or offering to provide a some sort of shortcut in life that brings instant gratification or justification of destructive behaviors.
No, the billionaires aren’t our enemies (as Bernie Sanders and company constantly decry). I don’t know any of them and I don’t know anyone who has been prevented from providing for themselves by them. For a government and talking heads to target the super-wealthy as villains and use manufactured useless terms like income inequality does nothing but stir envy. People are being fooled into becoming their own worst enemies.
I don’t know any super wealthy people. But I do know of a lot of people that grew up in post-depression America with the same thing everybody else had: nothing. And it was a nothing that was much less than our poorest people have these days. But they had work ethic (and sometimes little education) and certainly never thought they were entitled to anything. And some of those people worked while other people were resting, saved while others were spending, and risked while others played it safe. It’s amazing what people are capable of when their life isn’t full of guarantees. And the sum of those people’s work is the very reason that many of us are employed today.
No, they are not the enemies of the people , whether millionaires, billionaires, or comfortably retired. To tag these people as villains or to further soak them to fund a never-ending mass of government programs is just destructive. Can they afford to pay up a little more? Probably. But it comes at the expense of eroding liberty and personal responsibility. And envy grows under the surface. “They don’t deserve to have what they have. I deserve to have more than I have.”
Work ethic dies a silent death in the background.
Trying harder. Work ethic. Are those enough? Yes, they should be. Believe it or not, there are people all around, whose stories you will never hear, that have done quite well because of these simple things. People who maybe never finished high school, but managed to show up at their same job and do their best. And they did it day after day, year after year. No guarantees of a living wage and no talk of what they deserve. But their skills, their value to their employer, and their paycheck grew consistently over the years.
And maybe they didn’t ever become wealthy or live comfortably, but they didn’t buy what they didn’t need or envy what others had and didn’t spend what they didn’t have. And many of those people have gone to bed every night with the satisfaction of doing a job well in a house that they have managed to pay for in full.
Does our younger generation hear the stories of these people? No, of course they don’t. These stories place power in the hands of individuals. Instead, we are forced to hear stories of guarantees and government saviors.  Young people mostly just hear about how they’re entitled to a “living wage”, the evils of the super rich, and the help they deserve.
Instead maybe everyone just needs to pound home the fact that people with terrible work ethic really should struggle in life…………and any system or policy in opposition of this is worth resisting.
So yeah, just try harder.