Thoughts on conquering the challenges of this life, one opportunity at a time.


Thank You, Billy Graham


On Wednesday of last week, the world lost the greatest evangelist it has ever known when Billy Graham passed away. My wife Hope and I are both employees at the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association. Her for almost 7 years, myself for a little over 6. We’ve been preparing for Dr. Graham’s passing for our entire tenure, others were preparing long before. For all of the preparation, it still came as somewhat of a surprise, even though he was 99 years old. As employees, we begin each day in staff devotions in the dining hall at BGEA. As our time was wrapping up, we saw people getting up and leaving before the speaker had finished. I looked over at Hope and said “I’ll bet Dr. Graham has passed away.” Sure enough, as we headed to our desks a few minutes later, I felt my phone vibrate. Looking down, I saw a news alert from a local Charlotte station confirming it. By the time we made it to our desks, the news had spread to most of our other co-workers. In that moment, I stopped and imagined what heaven must have been like as Dr. Graham made his entrance. I imagined Jesus welcoming him with open arms, then pointing to the millions of people who were impacted by his preaching. I imagined him getting to see his beloved Ruth again after 10 years. I imagined him being reunited with the two other men who partnered with him so faithfully as they built BGEA, George Beverly Shea and Cliff Barrows.


As a child of the 70s and 80s, I had some great memories of Billy Graham from my youth. I distinctly remember what an event it was when one of his Crusades would be televised. Visions of my family gathered around a tube TV that only picked up three channels on the rabbit ear antenna. Or being at my grandmother’s house or my aunt’s house and watching them make sure that all of the day’s work was wrapped up so they could get in front of the TV in time for the Crusade to start. One of the added bonuses was when Johnny Cash opened the Crusade! Many times, Dr. Graham was on more than one of those channels. You see, this was in the time before cable or satellite TV was readily available, at least to us. We couldn’t turn the channel to ESPN to watch a game, or to HGTV to watch a home-reno show, or to one of the many cable news networks to watch talking heads argue with each other. Billy Graham was what was on, and he captivated our attention with his booming voice that was both direct and loving at the same time.

There will never be another like Billy Graham. Not because there aren’t great men of God who stand faithfully and preach the Gospel and preach it well, but because our world has changed so much. Dr. Graham was tireless in his efforts to travel to all parts of the world. He was also a pioneer and a visionary when it came to spreading the Gospel through the media. He used radio and TV in such a way that will never be duplicated. For anyone under that age of, say 35, it is difficult to understand what life was like as Dr. Graham’s ministry was in its prime in the 60s, 70s, and 80s. For anyone under 20, it is nearly unfathomable how one man could be so prominent on all of the communications streams that were available at the time. Today’s equivalent would be someone who would be the only viewing option on everyone’s tablet, smartphone, streaming service, radio and television. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that this is virtually impossible. I would venture to say that as even as great as Billy Graham was, had the prime of his ministry happened in the 1990s, 2000s, and 2010s instead of the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, the impact wouldn’t have been near as massive. The message would have certainly been just as powerful, but people would have had the option to tune out and tune in to something else. Dr. Graham and the BGEA team knew this very well, and God granted them favor and wisdom to use everything at their fingertips to share the love of Christ.

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It took a man of character and humility to have the impact that he did. Had Billy Graham been a lesser man, a man of pride or ego, his ministry would have been small and short-lived no matter how smart he and his team were in using media. This is exactly why God chose to bless them. My time at BGEA came long after the prime of his ministry, but there is absolutely no mistaking his legacy. Accounts of his humility, leadership and integrity are still repeated inside this building even though in his later years he was rarely here. The well-publicized “Billy Graham Rule”, where two people of the opposite sex are not to be alone with each other without a third person around, is still part of how we operate today. It applies to every single employee at BGEA. Some may think it is a hassle to deal with, and many more think that it is old-fashioned, but it is difficult to dispute that it protects marriages and homes. I believe that 50 years ago, Billy Graham, Cliff Barrows, George Beverly Shea and their team could see that. That kind of foresight and wisdom isn’t normal, it comes through prayer and obedience.

My prayer during this week is going to be that through his death, people who never heard of Billy Graham are going to discover more about him. Through that, they will undoubtedly be exposed to the Gospel that he so faithfully preached. Thank you, Dr. Graham, for standing firm through the decades. Thank you for establishing the legacy that you did, there are countless numbers of us who continue to walk in the blessings.


I’m The Descendant Of A Confederate

It’s been a very long time since I’ve posted on this blog. Three years to be exact. A lot has happened in our country during that time span, the most obvious to me is that we are even more divided today than we were just a few short years ago. We’re divided politically, we’re divided ideologically, and we’re divided racially. Those differences can intersect or happen on their own. This post is going to be about racism. This post is going to be about my journey with regards to how my eyes have been opened to my own prejudices, and how my heart has been changed.

I’m the descendant of a Confederate. My first ancestor to this country on my father’s side of the family fought and died while fighting for the Confederacy in the Civil War. The history of that part of my family was never a huge focus, but it was a known fact that our family fought for the South. We didn’t have Confederate flags flying or anything, but there were a small number of plaques and wall hangings around with the flag and the words “Confederate States Of America.” I should probably know more about the history of my family, but it is my understanding that this part of my family did own slaves in the state of Virginia. From what I’ve been told, my ancestors had a reputation of being fair slave owners. Of course, as the decades pass, it is more difficult to verify things like that, but I state these things to provide some perspective of my family.

In the area where I grew up, the majority of the population was white. According to the 2010 census, Lewisburg, WV is 91% white and 5% black. I would say that probably hasn’t changed much since I was raised there in the 70s and 80s. My parents did not raise me to be a racist, there were never any derogatory discussions about people of other races in our home growing up. We were taught to respect people of other races. However, because the majority of the people that I was around were white, I really didn’t spend much time considering the experiences of people of different races. In addition, there were other people in my life who held on to racist attitudes that began to take root in my heart and mind. There were also experiences during my college and military years that affected me, and I allowed them to affect me in such a way that I began to hold on to some racist attitudes. By the time I was headed into my mid-20s, I was well on my way to being a racist.

In 1997, I began my journey as a Christ follower. While it didn’t change my attitudes right away, this is where the journey began. Where the true transformation came was several years later, when I decided to read through the Bible for the very first time. It was then that I realized that if I was going to truly follow what Jesus taught, I had no choice but to begin the process of letting go of those old attitudes and feelings. To follow what Jesus teaches about equality, love, grace, mercy, and forgiveness, you cannot hold on to racism. You don’t have a choice. If you’re going to hold on to racism as a believer and follower of Christ, you are making a choice to ignore what he taught.

The year of 2016, unintentionally, challenged me to go deeper into the roots of racism. The causes, the results, and the responsibility of the believer. In addition, the heavy responsibility of a father leading his family in such a way that these attitudes are not repeated in the next generation. The first step in this unexpected journey was reading the book “Under Our Skin” by Benjamin Watson. If you want to read a book that is going to challenge you to dig into racism, this is the one you want to read. (You can purchase it here.) Ben’s book was born from a social media post that he did after the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO. As an NFL player, Ben has the platform to have a large impact, which is what happened after his Ferguson post. As a Christ-following black man, husband and father, his perspective is one that I have come to admire. (As an added bonus, I got to meet him not long after reading his book!) This book gave me a look into the life of a black man in our society, how he confronted racist attitudes growing up on the South, and how racism had impacted the previous generations of his family. It also challenged me to remain vigilant to teach my sons that our skin color gives us no greater status in this life, and to continue teaching them to look past skin color to the human being under the skin.


The next step in this unexpected journey was during a weekend getaway to Charleston, SC in August of 2016. Charleston has always been a special place for my wife and I. We love the city, its history, its culture, its vibe. It is one of our favorite places to visit. After walking around Battery Park and the Market on a Saturday afternoon, we drove to the Emanuel AME Church. I don’t have to recount what happened at a Bible Study on June 17th, 2015. In my time, I don’t remember a hate crime so evil. 9 people lost their lives at the hand of a young man who was trying to incite a race war. Standing in that place, even standing in the parking lot where he drove his vehicle through to park that evening, it made me hurt and feel optimistic at the same time.

Why weren’t there riots in Charleston like there were in Ferguson, Baltimore or even Charlottesville (OVER A STATUE!!!)? Because love won. The forgiving spirit of that small church in Charleston pervaded the atmosphere and stamped out the hatred that Dylann Roof was trying to spread. When the family members of the victims looked at Roof in the courtroom proceedings and said “I forgive you”, love won. Honestly, from a human perspective they had every right to hate his race, every right to stand in the streets and let anger take control. But they decided to take away the power of the enemy, the enemy who wants to sow hatred, anger, and division. Division is Satan’s greatest weapon, if he can get us to retreat to our respective corners and keep others at a distance with our stance, he has taken a big step toward making sure we stay in our corners. Somehow, the family members  of the Emanuel AME shooting victims were able to live this out in the midst of tremendous hurt and grief.

Back to my heritage and upbringing… I could cling to my whiteness and let my Caucasian heritage be what I identify with. I could cling to the Confederate flag as a symbol of what my family fought for over 150 years ago. I could put stickers on my car, wear t-shirts and hats, make sure that everyone knew that I was a Confederate loyalist. I have the freedom and right to do that here in our country. But should I? Should I do this if I ever want to engage people of other races to see what their experiences and perspectives are? Is it going to help or hurt my chances of being able to spread the love of Christ to people of other ethnic backgrounds?

The greatest thing that I learned during this journey is this: as a Christ follower, if we put our allegiances to our heritage and skin color ABOVE our allegiance to Christ and his teachings, we have allowed a stronghold in our life that will only perpetuate the division that we see before us. If the generations after us have any hope of coming together peacefully, we have to be willing to walk a mile in someone else’s skin.


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