Monday, July 29, 2019

Little Kids and waterfront recreation

Having lived at the beach for 33 years and owned a vacation rental house for 18 years, and having been a fire department chaplain for 16 years I've figured out some safety tips for having children around the water.

The number 1 priority when taking kids to the beach or staying at at beachfront home or one with a pool is to always have someone watching.  By watching I mean literally watching.  Being present isn't enough.  Put down the book, the phone and face the ocean, lake or pool and stay on top of where the little ones are located.  Forget the nap.  They can take off down the beach quickly. 

Residential pools are surrounded (by code for your protection) with a fence.  If you can enter the pool area directly from the house, keep the door locked when there's not an adult at the pool.  If there is a gate, it should not be accessible by a small child.  And DO NOT prop the gate open for convenience.  It's there for a purpose...to protect your children.

And if you have no children at your vacation rental/waterfront home you still need to keep the gate closed and locked.  A child from next door could wander over and into your pool.

A cover on a hot tub should only be removed when an adult is present and in the tub.  Little ones not only don't belong in a hot tub, but can fall into one left uncovered.

The first thing you want to do when arriving at your rental is to unpack.  But if you have children, assign one adult to stay with them.  Kids love to explore, and the first thing they want to see is the pool.  On more than one occasion with which I'm familiar a child  has drowned while the adults were unloading the cars. 

At the beach it's not the lifeguard's job (you are swimming at a lifeguarded beach, right?) to babysit your kids.  While they keep their eyes on the water, it's your job to protect your child.  And always ask the guard about rip currents and tides.  And outgoing tide (when it changes from high tide to low)  can pull a small one out.  It's not a lake or the pond on Grandpa's farm.

Life jackets save lives.

It only takes a couple of seconds for them to wander into danger.  Don't let those seconds become the worst of your life. The pool or the beach can be the best part of your vacation.  But it can also become your worst nightmare.

I'm sure there are probably some more I can think of, but this will get it started.



Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Officer Down

“Did she say, ‘officer down’?”  My fire department pager went off around 3:30 AM, waking me up from a sound sleep.  That was not so unusual.  I heard the words ‘1050’
and the location in Nags Head as I snapped out of slumber.  But did she really say “officer down”?  I asked the question aloud to my wife, Gail who was also awakened by the dispatcher’s voice.

Her reply was, “I think so”.  I had never heard that over the radio before, but I knew what it meant.  So, to confirm, I made a phone call to Dare County Communications.  “This is Chaplain 16.  Did that call come out as an ‘officer down’?”  The answer was affirmative.  I had to ask...”Who is it?”

I hurried to get dressed and got in my car to make the 15 minute drive to Nags Head.  On the way I called our police chaplain, Jim Lewis to let him know and to get him to the location as well.  

Lots of blue and red lights were clustered on the east side of the highway.  There were more cops than I had seen at one incident.  They all heard the radio as well, and from other towns and the county they came to do whatever they could.  Our fire engines and crews were there and the firefighters were taking turns trying to save Earl’s life.

A few feet away was his mangled patrol car, wrapped around a concrete utility pole.  It had rained hard, and in route to a burglary in progress Earl’s car had hydroplaned.  My friend, a frequent attender at my church and one of the best cops around died there, surrounded by his public safety family, most of whom were crying and in shock.  

Sgt. Earl Murray was a career police officer.  A family man with a wife and two daughters in their late teens.  He also was a believer in Jesus.  And he was our first and only police officer to die in the line of duty.  Ten years ago today, and the memory of that early morning still brings tears to my eyes.

With the chief I was dispatched to Earl’s home in Kitty Hawk to bear the news to his wife and girls.  

The next few days were a blur as we ministered to the family, our fire and police departments and worked on a LODD funeral that would honor this hero.  

This morning I stopped at the benches along the highway where a memorial bears his image and name.  There I sat for a few minutes remembering my friend, and then praying for his family and our law enforcement officers.  I was glad to see Old Glory flying at half-staff today honoring all in law enforcement who have given all to protect and serve us.  

Buddyro, I won’t forget you.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

"We don‘t want them to know about any of it."

The ugly truth about firefighting the public doesn't understand.

My family wonders why I get so angry at people crossing the highway where there is no light or cross walk (my anger increases when they are with children). Or why I want to stop every bicyclist riding against the traffic or pedestrians walking with it. Why do I holler from my truck at vehicles in the left lane to get over when a fire engine or ambulance is trying to get by?

Why do I shake my head at adults allowing children to ride in the back of an open pick up truck or teenagers texting while driving? Or those who let kids shoot off fireworks or dig deep holes in the beach? And don't get me started about those who think the red flags on the beach don't apply to them.
It's because I've seen stuff. The pictures are forever in my mind, and I don't want to see anymore.

And I'm rarely a first-responder. Those guys and gals on the trucks and the ambulances and the patrol cars have usually cleaned up/covered up things and have stopped me from seeing them. But they see it all. They're the heroes.

They don't want to see anymore, but they know they will.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Saint You, Saint Me

Over the last few years I've read about Patrick, patron saint of Ireland.  Quite the story!  Here's a link or two if you want to learn a wee bit more.

No doubt about it, Patrick deserves the title "saint".  A great evangelist to the then-pagan Emerald Isle, his mark is still seen throughout.  He even is supposed to have done some miraculous things, which makes him even more worthy of saint...right?

Are you a believer in Jesus Christ?  I mean "believer" in the sense that you have personally trusted in Him alone as your Savior.  Lots of people recognize Jesus as the Son of God, etc., but have never done the new birth decision, putting total faith in His life, death and resurrection for forgiveness of sin and everlasting life.

So are you?  If not, I invite you to visit this Facebook page and learn how you can become a Christian.

If you are, then may I call you "Saint _______"?  That's who the Bible says you are.

The word "saint" in the Greek language penned by the Apostles means "holy ones".  Not "perfect", but "holy" or "set apart".  Once you believe in Jesus Christ as your Savior He then sets you apart from the world around you, and for His service.

The New Testament writers, Luke (in the book of Acts),  the Apostle Paul (in most of his letters to the churches), Jude and John in Revelation used the term saints to address the Christians in the churches or to speak about them.  Never was the word "saints" used to designate a select one or few from the church, but included them all.  For example:

To all who are in Rome, loved by God, called as saints. - Romans 1:7

To God’s church at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus and called  as saints, with all those in everyplace who call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lordtheirs and ours. - 1 Corinthians 1:2

All the saints greet you. - 2 Corinthians 13:12b

If you are in Christ you are a saint.  His expectation is that you and I will act like it! Just don't expect to have a cathedral named in your memory.



Monday, January 28, 2019

The Tipping Point?


In 2008 my daughter-in-law, who has lived her entire life with Cystic Fibrosis (a disease inherited from parents who were carriers of the gene) found herself at the point of being put on the lung transplant list at Duke University Medical Center.  Adding to her dire condition was her pregnancy.  She wasn’t supposed to get pregnant.  Her doctors warned her not to get pregnant.  And after years of trying, she and my son assumed she was unable to conceive due to her disease. 

But, on the eve of a scheduled trip to Duke to be evaluated and likely placed on the transplant list she discovered she was, indeed, pregnant.  The next day the doctors expressed their dismay.  One even cursed when hearing the news. The obstetrician there said she had never recommended termination before.  But this time she said, “You can’t risk your life like this.  You need to abort.”  Due to their deeply held conviction that life is sacred, especially in the womb, they told their doctors, “No.”

In January 2008 she was at the place where her diseased lungs could no longer supply her with the oxygen she needed.  The growing child inside her (not part of her body, but housed within her) only exacerbated the limited air her lungs could take in.  So, the plan was to intubate her, putting her on a ventilator to breathe for her.  The doctors told her this had never been done at Duke – placing a pregnant patient in need of a transplant on a ventilator.  In fact, they told her by doing this, her chances for receiving a transplant were near impossible.  Again, it had never been done.

Less than an hour before the surgery to ventilate her she and my son were told they had to make a choice.  If her vitals dropped to dangerous lows during surgery, who should be saved, mother or baby?  They were told that if she began to crash, they would perform a Caesarian.  But there were no guarantees that either would/could survive.

We hear a lot of arguments for terminating a pregnancy revolving around protecting the life of the mother.  With that rationale no one had a greater justification for aborting than my daughter-in-law.  The baby was just barely 24 weeks. 

Prior to going to surgery our son and his wife called my wife and me into her room in ICU.  “What do we do?”  I don’t know that I’ve ever been asked a harder question.  But my belief is that God alone has the authority to determine life and death.  So, to the doctors’ question their response was, “Do everything you can to save them both”.   

My granddaughter was born just after noon, weighing in at 1 lb. 6 oz.  Her chances of survival were slim.  Her mother was successfully intubated and place on a ventilator.  Her chances were equally small.  Nearly three months later she would “write the book” at Duke and receive new lungs.  Four months later her daughter would be released from the NICU to come home, and today she is a beautiful 5th grader. 

Life’s not fair.  Sometimes the choices we must make are next to impossible.  But, we’re not God, who alone can accomplish the impossible.  He’s the same God who declares that He created us knew us when we were in our mothers’ wombs. 

Readers of my column, my blog and those who have heard me preach know where I stand on the the abortion issue.  For me, it is not a political hot-potato as much as it is a moral and ethical issue.  Of course, being a man whose faith has determined my personal worldview, and whose faith is grounded on the concept of absolute truth, I clearly see the abortion of pre-born as a violation of the basic building block of our society that every man and woman has the right to life.

Lest someone suggest that I sit in some sort of ivory tower without the experience or understanding of life circumstances that might justify the termination of a pregnancy, please know that because of my family, I have been up close and personal with the options -   closer than I would ever want or choose to be.

I believe we have reached a tipping point in our country.  The state of New York has now legalized abortion up to the point of birth at full term.  In New York, convicted murderers cannot be put to death.  But now, unwanted, innocent children can be and will be. 

Reaction will either be for other states to follow their lead or for this national sin to be reversed.  Our soul, our future is in dire jeopardy if this is allowed to continue.  May God have mercy on us.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

First Date: Hoops and Pizza

Monday, January 26, 1976.  Forty-three years ago. 


She must have picked me up, since she owned a car and I did not.  It was a yellow ‘71 VW Bug.  She insisted I drive.  Old-school.  I learned to drive a stick on a VW my senior year of high school.  My friend Don owned one.  They’re actually a lot of fun to drive.  Later that year I bought my own yellow VW bug.  It was a lemon for sure.

So I drove to Jefferson Forest High School in Forest, about a 15 minute drive.

I really don’t remember much about the game.  The only thing I remember about being there with her was the lady who sat behind us commented on how pretty her hair was.  If you’ve seen pictures of Gail from college you know she had long brown hair.  Gail was tall - 5’8” and slender.  I’m 5’10”, so I felt a bit short next to her.  The lady was right.  Too bad she couldn’t see her green eyes.

Mission accomplished, I guess.  That guy never did ask her out again.  The decoy must have worked because another guy did ask her out.  He also took her to a basketball game (we had free admission).  But that was only a one time thing.

After the game we went to Duffy’s on Old Forest Road for pizza.  It was a rainy night, and from the walk from the gym to the car, then from the car to the restaurant we got wet.  “I’m going to the bathroom to dry my hair”.  They had hand dryers in the restrooms and a few minutes later she came out with her hair dried.  I would never had thought of such a thing.  But then, I didn’t have long hair.

We ordered a pizza and talked.  I don’t remember about what.  But it was all friend to friend kind of stuff.  I drove back to my house, got out of the car and she got back into the driver’s seat and drove off.  I think we both had fun.

The End.

Sort of.  

Until just a couple of years ago Gail and I never knew the date of our first date.  Some couples apparently keep track of such things.  But, not us.  We don’t know the date I proposed or when I gave her a ring, although I might be able to figure one or both of them out.  

But a couple of years ago I got curious.  Knowing we went to a basketball game on a rainy night in January gave me a good benchmark.  Using the internet I searched for the basketball schedule and then the home games.  At the same time I found a site that gives weather history and found rainy days in that month.  Then it was just a matter of finding the two that matched: basketball game on a rainy night.  The only one was January 26.


Our plan for this January 26 is to go out and eat pizza.  Maybe a movie, too.  It’s too far to drive to Lynchburg for a basketball game.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Where does the blame belong?

Yesterday both houses in the New York legislature approved a bill that ultimately allows abortion up to the point of birth.  It's a horrible, immoral law. 


News feeds are showing pictures of Gov. Cuomo signing the legislation, making it the law of the state.  Both he and the NY state Senate and Assembly are being demonized by pro-life organizations, news outlets and individuals.  But, they're the tip of the iceberg.

None of those who voted for this bill nor the governor who signed it into law could have done so without being placed into their offices by the voters of New York.  The weight of the blame falls on the citizens, either those who support this kind of legislation or those who do not, but did not use their right to vote for those who support life.

And the same is true nation-wide.  We have a government "of the people", and it wields its greatest power in the ballot box.  That's where all this begins.  Not in protests and marches.  It changes with the vote.


Sunday, January 20, 2019

First Date: the ask

When we met in November Gail was coming off of an on-again-off-again long term relationship.  Not being in the same social circles at school we had not met prior to my becoming her co-worker.  I might have bought a donut or two from her my freshman year when the cheerleaders sold donuts in the dorm to raise funds, but I don’t remember.  I did, however, know who she was, since she had cheered my first two years at school.  And it was a small school in those days, not much bigger (or smaller) than most high schools.  Everyone knew who the cheerleaders were.  

We weren’t much more than acquaintances from our time working together before the holidays.
So, it wasn’t my business, nor did I know that she was unattached romantically.  And, honestly, as I said in the earlier post, I wasn’t interested.  But, she was coming off an on again-off again relationship of a couple years when we met. 

After finals, Christmas break came and I got lots of extra hours at work.  The other students were gone for the holidays, and being a local resident with nowhere to go, I worked.  For Gail, it was probably the first Christmas in a long time when she didn’t have a boyfriend.  My hunch is that during that week or two while she was at home she came up with a plan.  Unbeknownst to me, I was part of the scheme.

Such are the wiles of a woman.

After her break-up she had been out with another guy, but it wasn’t anything she wanted to continue.  Like most young ladies, who struggle with telling a guy “thanks, but no thanks”, she wanted to let it be known that she was not in a committed relationship to anyone.  And how would she do that?  Oh, yeah. The plan. (At least this is how I surmise what happened.)

So, it’s after Christmas break, sometime in January, and I get asked this question: “Would you go with me to a basketball game so others can see I’m not dating so and so.”  In essence I was a decoy.  IF (big IF) she had any interest in me at all, I had no clue.  You’ll have to ask her,  I saw it as an opportunity to do a friend a favor.  And honestly, I wanted to hear from my friends when they saw me at the game with Gail.  As one later asked me, “Aren’t you a bit out of your league?”.  

I’ve never played bush league anything.

So, I agreed to escort her to the game at Jefferson Forest High School, where Liberty Baptist College played its home games.  

No big deal. 

Saturday, January 19, 2019

First Date: How we met

Mostly for my kids.  

The older I get the more I appreciate writing down stories for them...stories that tell our heritage.  Actually, I’m discovering that I enjoy writing them down and telling them for my own enjoyment.  I’ve always been a history freak, ever since my great-grandfather (born in 1883) would sit me on his knee and tell me about being in the Marines during the Boxer Rebellion at the very end of the 19th century.  His tales not only captured my imagination as a boy, but gave me knowledge about my roots that I otherwise probably would not have known.

If you’re not my kid, you are welcome to read my meanderings about the life God has given Gail and I over the past 40 plus years.  

This coming weekend she and I will celebrate our very first “date”.  I put quotation marks around it because it’s purpose wasn’t for us to get to know each other better, hoping for a continued dating relationship.  Not at all.  

I was at the time in a long-distance relationship with a girl I had met the previous summer while doing an internship in Florida.  And that relationship was growing stronger, even though since summer we would only see each other for a few days in December when she came to visit.  I already had a girlfriend, thank you.

In November of 1975 I was a 20-year old unemployed junior in college.  A job would have been great, but I was carrying a full load of classes, was living at home and wasn’t overly ambitious to go out and find one.  So, I was broke. And broke at 20 means (among other things) no social life other than the occasional pickup basketball game at the gym.    

My mom worked in a doctor’s office.  She came home one day to tell me that one of the patients, a sales associate at JC Penney mentioned to her that the store was looking to hire in their shoe department.  The busy Christmas season was cranking up, and they needed extra help.  I had worked my senior year of high school selling shoes for Kinney Shoes in Alexandria, so mom said something like, “You should go over there and apply”.  

Having no car was not an issue.  Pittman Plaza shopping center, where Penney’s was located was just about 4 blocks from our home.  So, I applied, got interviewed and was hired.  Having occasionally shopped there, I was somewhat motivated to go for the job since I knew that there were three or four LBC coeds working there, and all were cute girls.  As fate would have it, one of them quit after Christmas break, so I was given her job.  Thanks, Betsy

It was there, selling shoes that Gail Ballentine and I became friends.


Wednesday, December 19, 2018

A Lesson from the Unborn John the Baptist

Two of our grandkids spent the night with us Monday.  It's always fun to have grandkids in the house...unless they're arguing over something!  (Not that a brother and sister would argue.)

Our morning routine is to read a daily devotional and pray together before I head out to work.  That includes a cup of coffee.  With the two kids up and about in the house our routine wasn't going to be the same.  So, while I was finishing up my bowl of Special K Gail texted me.   (Yes, we've slid down that slippery slope, it appears.)

"Come here with age appropriate devotion for all of us.  And another cup of coffee."

Hmmm.  I'm a Bible teacher, so here was a challenge I would accept.  On the fly.

With it being eight days before Christmas I thought of something with a Christmas theme.  My thoughts went to the story in Luke 1 of Mary's visit to her older cousin Elizabeth, herself about six months along, carrying John the Baptist in her womb.

I read from the Bible app on my smart phone (yes, I'm there, too) some of the story, keeping it age appropriate.  When Mary (recently impregnated with her consent* by the power of the Holy Spirit) arrived after a long journey from Nazareth to Judea she greeted Elizabeth.   "When Elizabeth heard Mary's greeting, the baby leaped inside her, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit."

"Did you know that babies inside their mothers can hear sounds and people's voices?", I asked them.  "That is why when a baby is born and his or her mommy or daddy speaks to him/her ("it" is not an appropriate word for any of us) that baby will focus on the person speaking because the baby recognizes the voice".

Then I continued with the seed I hoped to plant in their young minds.

"Was tiny John the Baptist a person inside his mother?"  You could see them thinking, because in their experience a "person" is someone who can be seen.  I followed up with pointing out that he (unborn John) responded to Mary's voice, which was not familiar to him, but got his attention at just six months gestation.  OK, I didn't say "gestation".

They got it.  Unborn babies are people, too, with the ability to respond to voices.  More than anyone else, being unable to protect themselves, they need our protection

I hope they never forget that.

I still believe that "Jesus loves the little children of the world."  Certainly He doesn't exclude the littlest ones.

* "My it be done to me according to your word."  Luke 1:38