My Personal Connection to the Space Shuttle Challenger: Remembering That Tragic Day


We were driving around Nashville in our old van.  It was a snow day.  Well, sort of.  It was one of those days when it snowed, but cleared up quickly.  We had moved into our new house just the year before.  My parents had been searching for wallpaper for the house.

We had the radio on in the van – loud enough to hear but not loud enough for us to really pay attention.  I was sitting in the back seat.  In between stores, as we were driving down the road, I faintly heard someone on the radio say “The space shuttle Challenger has exploded.”

I remember this day vividly for two reasons.  First of all – it was a major event in American history.  Tragedies such as this are things that scar your mind.  Assassinations, natural disasters, bombings, and other things such as this are the things you tell your children about in the manner of “I remember when…” or “I can remember where I was when…”

The second reason I remember this day was because of a personal connection to the shuttle.  One of the reasons the space shuttle Challenger was so important was because of the Teacher-in-Space program.  They were going to put a school teacher in space along with the other astronauts on the voyage.

One of my best friends in elementary school was Travis Fakes.  His mother was a teacher for Lebanon High School, and she qualified as one of two finalists for the state of Tennessee for the program.  Out of over 10,000 applications, she was in the top 100 of teacher candidates.

She did not make it to the top 10 – but I remember how shaken she was, and how shaken our community was when the explosion occurred.  Here’s a list of the top 100 or so candidates:

Tragedies like this are inevitable.  They have occurred all throughout history, and will continue to happen.  But, we continue to move forward.  The space program did not stop because of that tragic event.  It has had other tragedies occur as well.  But, the space program continues.

And now, I continue to have a connection to the space program through my brother-in-law, Philip Garton, who works for Boeing and has had his hand in helping with the International Space Station, and also with the new Orion program.

I praise God that He has given mankind a can-do attitude, a resolve to continue through struggles, and an ability to bounce back.

Tonight, pray for the families of those whose lives were taken on the Space Shuttle Challenger 29 years ago today.

The One Where I Say Its Okay To Send Your Child To School


EDIT:  Due to my inability to think through things and my lack of not properly proofreading and editing – I need to add a disclaimer – my church is a wonderful church, and pays me more than well enough to do all we need to do and more.  Some of you may misunderstand my purpose behind this post, so let me make it perfectly clear – this is a post that is trying to let you know its  okay to send your child to public school.  I know many who struggle with this decision, and its a hard one.

My parents sacrificed A LOT to send all three of us (my brother and sister) to a Christian school.  I’m better for it.  I hope in the future we will be able to send our child to a Christian school.  But for those of you who struggle with sending your child to a public school – I want you to know from this post – that its okay.

I have rewritten this post to emphasize my point  – which is, we should take every opportunity to share the message of Christ with people we come in contact with.  99% of the comments I have received on this post have been very, very positive.

I just did not want this post to reflect poorly on my wonderful church family or elders – who take care of us beyond imagination.  After re-reading this post, I felt like it might be best to say that, and to edit it.  Note to self … ALWAYS EDIT and PROOF!

Begin post:

On Thursday, August 1, 2013 my 5 year old daughter will start Kindergarten.

I don’t know if you all realize how big of a deal this is – Kindergarten!  It seems like she just learned how to say her first word, use the potty, sleep in a big girl bed, eat with a fork, and all the other simple things you learn in the first few years of life.

She’ll be dropped off on Thursday morning for a half day here in Davidson County, and I know when my wife drops her off, she’ll be bawling for the next few hours.  She is, after all, our little girl.  She’s the only one we have.  She means the world to us.

But I have to stop and tell you something.  I’m not scared at all.  We’ve done what we can in these first five years to prepare her for this moment.  And now, its time for her to grow some more.  The hardest time I’m going to have over the next few weeks/months/years is reading about whether or not we should have put her in public schools.

You have to understand, we are a blended family.  Not only am I an Alabama fan and my father in law is an Auburn Alumnus, but I grew up in Christian education, and my wife didn’t have that until she went to college.  From Kindergarten till the day I walked across the stage at Friendship Christian School in May of 1996, I went to the same Christian School, followed immediately by 5 years at a Christian college.

When we moved to Nashville, people told us that Davidson County schools were awful.  We were told to live in Williamson County, but it is getting further away from our church family, and we don’t want that.

So we’re happily sending our child to the public school near our home.  (For security’s sake, I will not disclose what school our child will be attending.)

I simply don’t know what to expect.

Now,I am going to have people reading on Facebook, Twitter, news channels, family events, and other various venues, telling me I should have homeschooled my child.

Understand this – I have nothing against those of you who have chosen to do this.  If you have the knowledge, the means, and the ability to do this, more power to you.  But I believe there is a reason why there’s an old saying that goes “It takes a village….”  I have minister friends, church friends, and family that homeschool.  I respect them beyond imagination.  But homeschooling is not right for us.

My wife is the product of public schools, and I think she did just fine – going to college on an athletic scholarship and graduating with a nearly perfect GPA.  In fact, she finished a lot better GPA than me, the product of the Christian School.

I’m not scared to send my child to school.  She knows God, she knows what is right, she knows how to be a good influence, and she knows that there are people out there who don’t believe in God – and she’s prayed for them.  No, I’m not saying she’s a little missionary, but she has a heart for God that I didn’t have when I was 5.  She will have a chance to influence the boys and girls in her school for God.

On top of that,  we live out of the area where many of our church family goes to school.   We will be in a school where we know absolutely no one.

We’ll be going to parent meetings, teacher meetings, and school events in a place where there will be a great opportunity to share the love of Christ through our love and actions.  Sure, it would be easier to send my child somewhere where I knew the people, and felt more comfortable, but that would take away a great ministry opportunity God has put before me.

I’m not certain why some people are so afraid of sending their children to  school.  We can’t keep them in a bubble forever.  The world is changing, and I want my child to know what she’s up against.

Many of you who are hardcore homeschool advocates won’t understand this.  I have family members who homeschool that won’t understand this.  Is there a potential for her little mind to be scarred by things she wouldn’t see if she stayed at home everyday?  Sure.  But she’s going to experience the world one day, and I would much rather be in control of it now at the age of 5 when she heads off to college at 18.

On top of these things – know this:  I know that God is with her.  I believe in prayer.  I will pray for her daily.  My wife will pray for her daily.  With confidence, we will be able to send her off to school to learn, play, and become assimilated with society – and we will still be in control of her every step of the way.  If the school teaches something we disagree with, that’s fine.  Because we’ll still be teaching her at home, and still be teaching her at church.

So many who homeschool say the problem is that they have no control over what they are taught.  I don’t plan on just turning my child over to the system and then check back in with her every May at the end of the school year.  We will go over things.  We’ll discuss things.  We’ll take time to teach alternative things to evolution and liberal government.

I’m not scared.  I’m proud.  I’m proud of who my little girl has grown up to be in these short 5 years.  I know God will take care of her.  May God bless all our children as they start school over the next few weeks.

Satan vs. the Family

Last week, we heard of a tremendous act of both courage and responsibility in a woman by the name of Stephanie Decker. As tornadoes whipped through her Marysville, Indiana home, she did the only thing she knew how to do – protect her children at all costs.

When she saw that things were getting rough, she took her kids into the basement, wrapped them up in a blanket, and help on tight by placing her body over them. She had one leg that was nearly severed and another that was crushed. At one point, she saw a brick coming at her daughter, so she maneuvered her back in a dodging motion so she would take the hit and not her children.

They emerged with their lives, but she was severely injured. She lost one leg over the knee and one just above the ankle. She had seven broken ribs and also suffered a punctured lung. The children, they were absolutely fine. Not a scratch on them.

This woman did what I would hope any mother or father would do in this situation. Protect those who can’t protect themselves. Do whatever you can to spare them from physical harm. Don’t let the weather and the elements affect them in any way. That’s what most of us would do.

What’s interesting is that we face storms and trials like this every day, but not nearly as many parents defend against them. Satan is constantly attacking our families. Satan is always throwing storms our way, shooting darts toward us daily. We would do just about anything to protect our families and friends from physical harm, but what about spiritual harm?

Just like you would run into the road to knock your child out of the way of an oncoming vehicle, we must be prepared to do the same thing against Satan every day. Why is it we’re so eager to protect against the physical problems and challenges in life, but we’re not nearly as willing, or even aware, of the dangers we face daily from the evil one.

Pray for your family and friends.

Pray that God will shield them from Satan and his attacks.

Pray that God will be victories and Satan will be defeated in all things.

May we have the courage, like Stephanie Decker, to wrap our friends and family up tight in prayer and devotion. May we step in front of the darts that Satan throws our way to protect them. May God be praised in all we do.

The Big Announcement

There is never an opportune time to make announcements such as the one I need to make today.

Today at the West University Church of Christ, I announced my resignation as their Associate and Worship Minister.

Saying goodbye to those you love is one of the hardest things to do, and I find that to be doubly true as I face the task of saying goodbye to the wonderful members at West U. After nearly three fruitful years of ministry at West U, I have been called to be the Preaching Minister of a congregation in Tennessee starting at the end of September.

This was not an easy decision to make. Being the Associate and Worship Minister at West U is more than a job – it is a place of spiritual community and growth, as well as a place where I have grown as a Christian, a Father, a Husband, and as a minister.

2 months ago, this was not even on our radar.  We were moving forward with our work here, recuperating from our VBS and getting ready for the next big thing.  I am accepting this job because there is no doubt in my mind this is what God is calling us to do.

Since I started preaching at the age of 14, I always dreamed of what it would be like to be able to do that full time.  After having served as a youth minister, campus minister, family minister, worship minister, associate minister and life group minister, God has finally seen fit to place me in a role where I will be able to do just that.  I owe the preparedness I have for this job to the West U congregation, Calvin for letting me speak, and the elders for giving me so many opportunities and seeing the potential in me.

For the next step in my journey, God has seen fit to provide me a congregation to work for in Nashville, TN, which is only 20 miles from where I grew up and where most of my family lives still today.  I will be serving as the full time Preaching Minister for the Granny White Church of Christ, located right next to Lipscomb University.  

While living here in Houston, our closest family member has been nearly 800 miles and a 13 hour drive away, you have stepped up and become that family to us.  The West U congregation has been a family to Kristen, Josie and I.  Josie learned to crawl while we were interviewing for this job.  They have cried with us when we lost loved ones.  They have prayed for us while we were separated during mission trips.  They have helped us in more ways than they will ever know.

We will love and miss you, and you will always have a special place in our hearts.

For those of you at the Granny White congregation, we look forward to our work together.  We look forward to joining you soon.

Home, a Great Place to be

Hey everyone. If you’re wondering why I haven’t posted a single thing in the past three weeks, its simple — I haven’t been here!

I got to spend a wonderful week at the Pepperdine Lectures with my good friend Jason Bybee, and from there I went across the world to China to spend time with my good friend Kevin Westmoreland, and several other old and new friends.

I have been working on trying to put together a review of the past three weeks, but all I can think about is sleep since I have returned. Jet lag has really gotten to me this time. I hope that during this holiday weekend, I can put together a report of my Pepperdine experience and my China experience.

So here’s to being home. Thanks for all the prayers and well-wishes. Love you all.