Perhaps it’s fitting that Thanksgiving is right in the middle of Fall which is a tough time of the year for those who struggle with depression. But Thanksgiving is always surrounded by less than favorable circumstances. On this day, we may think back to the pilgrims when they first came to this country and the Indians who helped them to survive. Those were tough days back then. Perhaps, we may think about the days when Abraham Lincoln first made Thanksgiving a national holiday. That was at a time when the country was in a terrible state of war and things were not looking good. Those were also very hard days.

But what better practice can we do when things are difficult then to stop in the midst of all that is wrong and think about the things that are right. So that’s what I want to do in this post.

  • Above all else, I give thanks to the creator. I struggle with my faith and sometimes I wonder if God is just messing with me or if he even concerns himself with the likes of me. But he always seems to pull me though even at those moments when I don’t think I can make it another day.
  • ‘I’I’m very grateful for my wife who has remained my partner for 27 years. She has been the only person who has stuck with me in spite of all my down times, angry times, and embarrassing times. I’m sure sometimes she could have been a bit more picky on who she chose to date back in college, but she has remained with me through everything.
  • I’m very grateful for my little granddaughter. She is such a happy child and I don’t think anyone is capable of cheering me up more than she can. I love to watch her grow and learn new things. She may be the only person in the whole world that likes my songs and loves it when I play guitar for her.
  • I’m grateful for my children. They have both become adults that I can be proud of. Both are hard working, compassionate, honest. They are both buying houses which is something I really have never been able to do. I’m hoping both of them will enjoy life as it comes.
  • I’m grateful for the people I have been able to get close to. I have a hard time making friends and when I do, it seems that we have to separate for one reason or another. With the distance, strong relationships can’t really be maintained as well as we like, but I am grateful to know so many people all over the country. Now we have some friends up around the Washington DC area. I had an old buddy from the Marine Corps days call them a couple days ago. He lives in Florida. We may make it down there one day.
  • I’m also very grateful for my dog. He’s getting very old now and I don’t know how much longer he will be with us. He can’t hear very well, and I suspect he is going blind too. His hips are hurting and he can’t really keep up on walks of more than a mile. But he still gets excited when I’m home, he comes up to listen when I’m down, and he is always wanting to hang out with me even if he can’t really keep up anymore. He is a very affectionate dog to everyone, but there is no doubt I’m number one in his eyes and that means a lot to me. It’s going to break my heart when he goes.

Well there’s my short list. I figure I better not write too long or nobody will read it. I hope everyone has a Happy Thanksgiving.

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Fall is such a beautiful time of the year. So today I headed up the State Park not far from where I’ve been living. Summer is so hot and infested with bugs that it makes it really hard to enjoy the beauty of a nice walk on the trails. 

It has finally gotten cooler in Arkansas but not yet too cool for a walk outside. The leaves are changing, but still on the trees which makes for some incredible scenery. The park is a nice place to go to be restored. I come here often. I know all the trails; I have seen all the big land marks; and I know where I can sit for a few moments of tranquility and reflexion. 

Inspite of the beauty fall is a tough time for many and I am no exception. Even when things are going well, there is still seasonal depression and when things don’t go well, it just makes things worse. As the leaves are changing, I am going through big changes as well. I am in the midst of changing jobs which means that I am also going to be changing where I live. So it’s very stressful and uneasy as my wife and I try to decide on our next step. 

At 52 years of age, the last thing I want to do is look for work. I’ve got a college degree and years of experience at a job that I don’t feel I am capable of doing anymore. That means that my very expensive education is pretty much completely worthless to me right now. We are planning on continuing working with children at a different home, but we are a bit nervous on how this will go. 

In the mean I have taken a job at a warehouse on weekends. It’s working 12 hour days doing very labor intensive work. I’m the oldest guy on my shift. Most are about the age of my children. In fact my children work at the same warehouse. It’s a bit humiliating when I think of how little I’ve been able to accomplish. I but all these young people I work with are wondering: What Happened? 

Life happened! Years ago I read the book University of Hard Knocks, by Ralph Parlette. In the book he talks about a cart of apples which always seems to have the good apples on the top. It’s an old book and back when he was a kid they brought apples to the store in a cart. As the cart traveled down the bumpy road the bigger apples rise to the top. The smaller ones would rattle to the bottom. He used this as an illustration of how some when they face the rough roads of life some rise, some fall. The principle is that those of good character and strong work ethics rise while the rotten ones rattle to the bottom. 

I guess I rattled to the bottom. Was I lazy? Immoral? Or maybe just stupid? Even though I make no claim of intellectual superiority I don’t think that was the problem. I’ve always been able to hold my own when it came to learning. I also don’t think very many people would consider me lazy or corrupt. But sometimes my principles and openness has put me on the losing end. 

Perhaps my altering emotions has betrayed me as well. When I feel good my humor is not well taken. When I’m depressed I’m very socially awkward and aloof. I have never been very good at faking smiles when my heart is broken. When I’m down it’s obvious. It is also quite obvious when I become very passionate or angry about something. 

Whatever the reason, I’ve rattled. I’ve sank to the bottom or at least to the middle. At 52, I’m still learning how to live and struggling just to keep my head above water. But for now my head is above water and I’m still hoping to constribute something to this life worth while. 

Fall gives way to winter which is a horrible season. It’s cold, dead looking, and sometimes it’s a struggle just to survive. We all go through such seasons of life. But when we hold on long enough Spring comes along and there is new life, new hope, and things are good again. It’s like God planned it all this way.  

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Starting Over Again

When I started working at the children’s home 16 months ago, I was sincerely hoping my wife would remain there till it was time to retire or die. I think we are both tired of moving, changing careers, changing comminities, and changing friends. It has truly been a series of unfortunate events, always hoping for the best but settling for for what we could get. I think more than anything, we want stability, but that just doen’t seem to be possible. 

It’s been obvious now for the past couple months that we were going to have to move on. What we were not sure of is how. To me it was another failure to add to the list. One more item to make me feel worthless. When the seasons change, I tend towards depression anyway, but the conflict of the past months just made matters much worse. We tried to talk through the difficulties, but nothing seemed to work and we both knew it wouldn’t be long before we’d be asked to leave. 

With no other choice availabe, we started applying for jobs. We didn’t know what we would do, but we did know where we wanted to go. Our children both live in Searcy. Our daughter is now expecting her second child, and we figured by moving there we could help out with our grandchildren. 

We let the children’s home know we would be leaving, and we’re delighted when they responded by offering us favorable conditions for departing. Yesterday I started orientation at a new job in Searcy, but I think we are just buying time in doing so. It’s hard work, long hours, and just enough money to get by on, but at least it pays that. 

For right now the cloud is lifting and we can see the light peaking through. We plan to take a job with a different home which will be farther away from Searcy, but it is a two week on two week off type things, so we will still be working with children but we will maily releaving the full-time staff. We will live between Searcy and Fort Smith which a 2-3 hour drive. Our son is buying a house and we are planning on living with him and helping to get the house paid off quickly. 

So nothing is real stable right now, but at least we now have a place to go, there is money coming in and hopefully insurance soon. So it’s onward to new opportunities, friends, and possibilites. I really hate changing jobs, leaving friends, and basically starting over, but at the same time there is some relief t the situation we’ve been facing for several months.  

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The Dark Hallway (When Doors Shut)

Ministry in it’s various forms can be very rewarding, but it also comes with it’s share of heartache and tears. Many times the difficulties can be worked through which strengthens resolve and relationships. However, there are other times when people cannot seem to see eye to eye or work through problems so the ministry can continue. 

This trend is actually quite common in church run organizations and I have seen more than my fair share of being on the losing end of such scuffles. I came out of the Marines a changed man and most of the credit for the change went to God and my new found family: the church. 

I left the military for college and ministry. It was a whole new world for me, one that I was convinced held the answers to many of the struggles I was going through. It wasn’t easy, nor did I expect it to be. I had an incredible fear of speaking (I still do). I couldn’t read well, my writing abilities in the beginning were horrible, and I was never sure how to fit in with this new social environment. I gave all I had to give, but I always seemed to come up short.  

Some handle criticism better than others. I think we can all accept the fact that it is impossible to make everybody happy, but people like me will run ourselves completely ragged trying. I think everybody from time to time needs some affirmation. We need to experience some felt successes. We need a sense of accomplishment to know what we are doing is worthwhile. If such things never come, it leaves a person feeling defeated, wore out, and feeling worthless. At least that is the case for me. 

It’s a strange thing to feel pulled in a certain direction and yet only experience defeat after defeat. Maybe it’s me. In fact it must be me. But what is wrong with me? I am the only one I can change, but I can’t change what I can’t identify. You can only pray so much before starting to wonder, is anybody really listening?

So I find myself in a perplexing guessing game wondering what God is epecting of me or if he is expecting anything at all. Another door has shut in my face and once again I find myself on the outside wondering in the dark hallway. Sure I’ve heart all the clichés: “When God shuts a door, he opens a window.” Or maybe I am fretting so much about the closed opportunities in front of me that I am not seeing the door that God has opened elsewhere. 

Please excuse me if I am a little skeptical, but the open doors I’ve been experiencing have not exactly been very advantageous. It’s hard to loose any job, but when things don’t work out in ministry a person doesn’t just loose a job, they can be missing their income, their,  home, their community of friends, even their sense of purpose. 

So I find myself at a crossroads once again. My wife and I have moved 17 times in our marriage each time hoping it would be our last move. Now it looks like we will have to move in with one of our children till we can find employment and a place to live. What does this do for my self-esteem? What self-esteem?

I’m 52 years old and I’m starting over. I’m tired, I’m discouraged, and I’m deeply confused. I have an education that is virtually useless and all my experience is in a field that I just don’t think I can do anymore. So I imagine I’ll be taking a job in some warehouse where I’ll make just enough money to survive if I’m lucky. I imagine my supervisor will probably someone about my son’s age.  I’m sure he’ll be frustrated with me as I make mistakes learning a new job. 

Oh how I wish I could truly start over. I’d like to go back to my early twenties or even before that. Instead of getting a ministry degree, I think I’d rather study something that be more beneficial. Perhaps a brick layer, an electrician, or even a plumber. There are a thousand choices which would have all been better than the one I made trying to seek out God’s will. I wish so badly I could have those years back. 

Maybe the best is yet to come. Maybe new opportunities are just around the corner. I don’t know. I’m just feeling down and frustrated so I thought I would do what seems to comfort me. I write.  

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Road Trip Concludes (Part 10): Cane Ridge, KY

Sunday morning my wife and I made one more stop at my father’s house to say good bye to everyone and take a few pictures. Naturally, there were those who didn’t want their pictures taken, but I insisted as I do every time I come. Truth is considering the distance from where I live and the age of my parents good byes are important to me at this stage of life. This may be the last time I get to see them. 

My biological parents split up in 1968. My only full biological brother was only an infant not more than a couple months old and I was 3. My mom’s brother was coming through the area and he had a truck, so they loaded up everything while my father was a work and we were gone before he came back. In spite of my father’s efforts to reconcile, the union was over, and my mother has remained bitter towards my father to this day. I have spent a lifetime trying to piece this together and understand what happened.  

Nobody questions that my father screwed up. He had just been released from prison at the beginning of 1967 (just before they were married) and he was back home with his old buddies. He wanted to party. He cheated, he wasn’t financially irresponsible, and he was incredibly selfish and immature. Nobody disputes this, not even my father. 

It’s now been almost 50 years. Mom’s been married three times and inspite of her unabated bitterness she still claims that she has never loved anyone like my father. My father remained with his second wife. If I remember right it’s been 47 years that they have stuck together. It’s been a very rocky marriage, everybody in the family expected it to end back in the 70s, but it didn’t. Yet, my father still maintains that he loves my mother and has never stated otherwise. I don’t think I’ve ever visited him when he hasn’t stated his love for her. It is also clear after all the years from Facebook post that there marriage remains on his mind. 

This post was written to my brother who has had a number of faltering relationships. I don’t remember the context, but I believe it related to the struggle he was having with a girlfriend. The fact that he remembered his anniversary and was thinking about 50 years later says so much to me. 

Now if you are wondering what in the world all this has to do with our road trip, I’m going to get to that now. 

I actually think my family story is a proper introduction for the last stop on our trip, because it has to do with what I consider the history of my spiritual family. Now if you haven’t read Part 8 from this series, you probably need to at this point. 

At the beginning of the 19th century there was a religious revival taking place in our country known as the Second Great Awakening. Much of this took place near what was called Cane Ridge, KY. One of the big leaders to immerge from this awakening was Barton W. Stone. He became the preacher at the Cane Ridge meeting house the largest one room log cabin in existence. That meeting house was the final stop on our road trip. 

The limestone building pictured here was built to preserve and protect the real historic landmark on the inside that was build in 1791.  

Above you get a glimpse of the one side of the log building. It was here that Barton W. Stone would begin a religious movement that would unite with the followers of Alexander Campbell (talked about in Part 8) to form what became known as the Restoration Movement or Stone-Campbell Movement which was an effort unite the denominations under the authority of the Bible and the Bible alone.

Stone was actually ordained as a Presbyterian minister, but he and several others came in conflict with church authorities and  they broke off and formed the Springfield Presbytery. This group started to grow really fast, but soon afterwards the group realized how such an organization was contradictory to what they really wanted to stand for. They had no intention of starting another denomination. Therefore they wrote a document known as the The Last Will and Testament of the Springfield Presbytery.  In this document they stated, “We will, that this body die, be dissolved, and sink into union with the Body of Christ at large; for there is but one body, and one Spirit, even as we are called in one hope of our calling.” 

This principle of rejecting the divisive nature that was ungulfing Christianity was a major foundational principle for Stone and his followers. The purpose was never to form another denomination, even though that’s what inevitably happened. 

It sounded like such a great idea. Let’s get rid of all the man-made creeds and sectarian names and just be Christians. The Restoration Movement was intended as a unity movement as attested to by the many plaques found at this sight. 

This last picture is a stained glass image representing the union of the followers of Campbell and Stone which took place on New Year’s Eve 1832 in Lexington, KY. Alexander Campbell wasn’t at the meeting nor was he n full support. Nonetheless, the union took place. Barton W. Stone considered it the greatest accomplishment of his life. 

The intent was good, but their goal was a whole lot more complicated than anybody anticipated. They were convinced that party names (Presbyterians, Methodist, Episcopalians, etc.) were wrong and should be abandoned in order to just be known as Christians (1 Cor. 1:10-13). They believed if people went back to the Bible instead of depending on various man-made creeds Christianity could be unified. 

Early followers considered certain identifiable terms (such as Christians, disciples of Christ, or church of Christ) as interchangeable instead of what they eventually became: separate denominations. The Restoration Movement was one of the first attempts at an ecumenical movement. They realized and accepted that unity would have a certain amount of diversity. The difference between Campbell and Stone are indeed incredible, but both could unite under the authority of Scripture as they sought to understand it. Several mottos were developed that have remained with the movement over the years, but there was a vast difference between how followers understood these mottos which eventually lead to incredible division while at the same time still claiming faithfulness to the mottos. 

“Where the Bible speaks, we speak; where the Bible is silent, we are silent.”

This motto on the service sounds so simple and promising, but it turned out to be quite complicated. To begin with people have never been all that clear on what the Bible actually speaks. Sincere people all go to the Bible, but there are a variety of reasons for them understanding it differently. This is a very complicated subject, so I won’t waste time with it right now, but suffice it to say a person would be very hard pressed to find two people who understand the Bible completely alike. This is in fact why the need for creeds developed in the first place. 

But it is the second part of this motto that has been the main instigator of the multiple divisions within the movement. The problem being followers understood silence differently. Was silence permissive or was it restrictive? More than anything else, this principle has caused almost all the division in this movement. Disciples of Christ understood silence as permissive. On the other hand Churches of Christ understood the silence as restrictive, and there lies the main division. The early disputes were over issues such as: missionary societies, instrumental music, Bible schools, located preachers, missionary societies, etc. None of which is addressed in Scripture. 

It was Churches of Christ, largely under the leadership of people like Daniel Sommer  who lead the way to division. There were always differences in the movement without division. But certain editors gained influence and convinced people that differences were intolerable. There had to be a right and a wrong; you can’t have both. The way it was explained to me in college, “Where there are differences in matters of faith, both sides can be wrong, but both sides cannot be right.” Therefore the concept developed–if a person is wrong, he must be instructed; if he doesn’t accept TRUTH, he is not just wrong, he is lost. If such a lost person continues in his lostness and teaches others; he is a heretic that must be stopped. 

Of course this thought process spreads like wildfire dividing followers, ruining congregations, and embarrassing our Lord. A number of years ago Rick Atchley, a preacher for the  Hills Church of Christ, delivered a sermon using chairs to illustrate how incredibly destructive the principle of silence of the Bible has been particularly for the Churches of Christ who have historically been the primary onstigators of the division. 

 Click Here To See Rick Atchley Video

If the truth be told, nobody has been able to apply the silence of the scripture as restrictive consistently. But that has been the basis for so much strife and division. It’s ironic to me that I have never met a person who claims to be all-knowing or faultless; I’ve never met the person who claims to understand everything about Scripture, but I have met lots of people who are so certain that they are right on matters of faith that they feel justified in dividing the church and hating other followers of Christ. This is what I call the “Sin of Certainty.”

“In Essentials, unity; in opinions, liberty; in all things love.”

This second motto is a bit closer to solving the problem of division. The main problem here though is who gets to decide what is “Essential” and what is “Opinion.” Furthermore, when these couldn’t be agreed upon the phrase “in all things love” was often simply disregarded. 

In the midst of all the divisions, all sides held on to the scriptural concept that there was only “one church.” However, the concept of what that “one church” meant changed drastically in the eyes of many. Another early motto: “We are Christians only; not the only Christians,” began to be questions as certain people especially among Churches of Christ began thinking of themselves as the the only Christians and therefore the only church. 

Much like my family, my spiritual brothers tried their best to tell me who my real family was. I’ve always beeen a bit closer to my mother and I’ve always related better to Churches of Christ which means I’ve been closer to the initiators of the division. I love both parents. My mother tried her best to remove my father from the picture (sometimes literally), but she doesn’t get to decide who is family and who isn’t. Just like Churches of Christ have often tried to remove Disciples of Christ from the church.

To the left here is a picture I found where my mother had cut herself out of the picture. My mother had destroyed all pictures in her possession after the the divorce. She really didn’t want me knowing my father at all. But when I was sent to Ohio I got to know my father and his family. As an adult, I even found pictures. I’m sure she would have destroyed them if she could, but they are now digitized on several computers. They are here to stay. 

Some of these pictures made their way onto a posterboard of memories that my family put together for me on my 50th Birthday. Mom was there for that and when she saw the pictures she became angry and even stated out loud, “That’s like a slap in my face.” 

Sorry mom. I don’t mean any disrespect and I love you dearly, but it was you who made him family and you can’t take that back. As for the slap in the face, you should be slapped for holding holding on to the hatred and bitterness all these years. It’s time to let it go and make peace. As my father stated in the Facebook post above, “You don’t have much time left.” 

I would say a similar message to strifefilled brothers in Churches of Christ. You don’t get to decide who’s in and who’s out of this family. The “one church” is and always has been whoever Jesus saves. Since you are not all-knowing, it’s time to quit acting like it. We need to get rid of the hatred, division, and self-righteous attitudes. We may not have much time left. It’s time to love and put behind us the pride and division. 

The trip to Cane Ridge was a reminder of the church unity the movement was all about inspite of all the incredible differences. Here was a church building with a pump organ next to the pulpit that has been there since the 1880’s. Even though some preferred  acapello music.

There’s a communion table with one cup even though some were starting to use multiple cups. There were inscriptions to the “Reverent” Barton W. Stone even though some disagreed with religious titles. There was a slave gallery even though the congregation was mainly comprised of abolishinist. 

My point is that there were many issues of disagreement, but the unity remained. 

Many of the things we fight over are issues of faith and faith is not certain. I’m very limited on my scope of understanding God even after years of study. But one thing I do know is that I don’t know. God left it that way. He didn’t make me all knowing, and I can see why. I’m simply meant to trust and allow others to trust as well. 

Barton W. Stone considered the unity at Lexington, KY between the followers of Cambell and Stone to be his greatest accomplishment even though there were plenty of things he accomplished. 

As for me, my greatest accomplishment was to get my mother and father together for a picture of them and their descendants. It has always seemed to be nothing short of a miracle. It wasn’t all roses, but for one brief moment in time there was a family reunion. MY FAMILY. Never picture perfect, but still mine. 

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Road Trip Continues (Part 9): Visiting Family

Friday evening my wife and I made it into Elyria, OH where we spent two nights at the house of my Uncle John. When people ask me where I am from I have trouble giving the short answer they are probably expecting. Like so many people these days, I am a product of divorce. During my childhood my parents lived 500 hundred miles apart. 

My mom left my father when I was only about three years old, so in my early years, I didn’t remember my father at all. I suppose that is the way my mother would have liked it to stay. But when my mother remarried, I could never quite adjust to the new family. I became a problem and ran away several times. I was only about 10 years old. I had no idea where I was going to go, but I wasn’t going to stay there. I wondered the streets, stole food from stores and tried to sleep anywhere that had shelter, usually under people’s front porches. 

My mother eventually found me, and without much explanation we got in the car and drove several hours without me even having a hint as to where I was going. We stopped some place in Indiana which is where I met my father. The place where we met was the halfway point between my two parents. My mother had enough and so she was sending me to my father, who was a complete stranger to me at the time. 

Dad was living in Cleveland at the time. His parents were living in a little suburb about thirty miles away called Olmsted Falls which is where I was enrolled in school. This was only the first of many trade offs between my parents. My dad was also remarried and was beginning a new family of his own. For the next six years I would be tossed back in forth between Ohio, Illinois, Iowa, and Virginia between parents, grandparents, uncles, and eventually shelters, children’s homes, detention centers, and jail. Nobody seemed capable or willing to put up with me for long. I had 21 school transfers by the time I was through with high school. So, I’m not really sure where I’m from. I know where I was born, but not where I’m from. 

For the most part though, I grew up around two geographic locations: one being in the southwestern subverts of Cleveland, OH, (Father’s Side), the other being the Quad Cities on the border between Illinois and Iowa (Mother’s Side). Even though I lived in several locations around each area, those two areas are the closest thing I’ve ever been able to consider home.

So, for the last part of our little road trip, we went to see family and explore some of my old stomping grounds. This was something very rare for us. My wife has only been to Ohio once before. It was around Christmas 1991. We were still in college back then, Paula was pregnant with our first child, my grandparents were still alive, and my father was still doing the comb-over thing with his hair. 

I have been there a couple times since then. I even took each of my children up there at different times, but not my wife. I haven’t ever been able to stay long. It’s usually just a fast trip (a night or two) before I would head out. A lot has happened over the years. My grandparents died, there’s been marriages, divorces, children,  custody battles, etc. Me and my siblings by different mother are middle age now, and my father and his wife are in the final stretch. Dad has already had two heart attacks, and he isn’t looking so good anymore. 

 My father and I haven’t been all that close over the years. Our world views are worlds apart. There’s been a lot of pain, resentments, and mistakes. But thats all over now. My dad has made mistakes as a parent and so have I. Quite often parents hurt their children in the process raising them. I know he has regrets just like I do. Things don’t always work out how we hoped and all we can do is just try to get by. Now I realize my father was just trying to do the best that he could with what he had.  I can accept him and love him for that. All’s forgiven now. 

In so many ways, I am so different from this side of the family. Nonetheless, we are family. There’s something in the eyes, something in the laugh or facial gestures. It’s really hard to describe, but it’s also quite evident; we are blood. Family doesn’t always get along. They have different lifestyles and completely different points of view but there is a common element that we cannot deny. It was good to see them. 

Friday night I was able to visit with my Uncle Tom, who is only about a year older than me. We were childhood companions along with my cousin George. Tom and George are both talented musicians. I have the desire, but not the talent part. George no longer lives in the area, but I wanted to at least visit Tom. He knows I dabble with guitar, so we spent most of our time talking music. I couldn’t have been more intimidated if I was visiting Jimmy Page or Eric Clapton. I just don’t stack up, but I enjoyed the time and learned some things too. 

Saturday was spent visiting my half brother, Michael which I really enjoyed. He is the only family who still lives in Olmsted Falls, so after our visit, I took my wife for a walk around some of the places that meant so much to me as a child. And of course, I took a few pictures. 

This trail trestle has all sorts of memories. George, Tom, and I would climb up in those ovals to hang out and smoke pot. George and I even climbed around the ledge (which is only about a foot wide) in order to get to the center sections which only the bravest or dumbest (depending how you look at it) people would do. Our names are painted in there some place, but the ledge is rotted away pretty bad now. There’s not way to get in there now. 

The above building used to be the police station. Now it’s some sort of a restaurant. What I remember most about this building is when I was put inside the little jail inside. I don’t remember why I was in there, but I remember the police chief saying, “Sayers. . . Wait a minute. . . Are you Bobby’s son?” “I remember putting you old man in this same cell about twenty years ago.” “Guess the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree does it.” How embarrassing that was. 

The middle building in the above picture used to be an ice cream shot when I was a kid. We could get a banana split for a dollar back then and take the little plastics dish down to the river around the corner and watch it go down stream. I think the upstairs apartment was were my dad lived as a child. Lots of memories in this little town. It was great to see it again. 

  We spend the rest of the day at my father’s house. My half sister lives with them and her two children who change so much each time I see them. I didn’t even know until that visit that her youngest is autistic. Her oldest child had just received her driving permit. 

The last time my wife was in the area, my sister would have been about the same age as her daughter is now. It just baffles my mind how fast times goes by. 

It was great to see family again. I never know when the next time will be when I will get up here. But it was nice to get reacquainted

Sunday morning we headed out. There was just one more place I wanted to see before the trip was over.  

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Road Trip Continues (Part 8) Bethany, WV

Friday morning we left DC to start our journey back home, well sort of. Northern Ohio is not exactly the direct route from DC to Arkansas, but I have family in Ohio and I wanted to stop by to see them. But we were not going to take the most direct route there either. My wife had never been to West Virginia or Pennsylvania, so we wanted a route that would go through both. Plus I have really wanted to visit a little town in the panhandle of West Virginia, called Bethany. So that added about 4 hours to our trip by they time we made the siteseeing stops. 

Unless you are familiar with the church history of Disciples of Christ, Christian Churches, or Churches of Christ, I doubt many have even heard of Bethany, WV. But since I’ve had a lot of experience with these churches, I know a great deal about their history and I’ve wanted to see the areas were it all started. Bethany is one of them. 

When I was a child, my grandparents took me to an old Disciples of Christ Christian Church. They were the first people I know who tried to teach me about God and how to pray. 

The history of this old church didn’t become significant to me for a number of years. 

I was introduced to Churches of Christ for the first time a 14 year old by a friend who’s family took me in a little while when I had no place to go. 

During my last year in the Marine Corps I attended a little Church of Christ congregation and was baptized in Dec. of 1987. Soon after that I went to school at Oklahoma Christian College in Edmond, OK and began my training to be a preacher for Churches of Christ. Later I would fill in in preaching at the Disciples of Christ Christian Church, but I eventually went back to the Churches of Christ which is where I remain today. The three denominations (Disciples of Christ, Christian Church, and Churches of Christ) comprise what is commonly referred to as the Restoration Movement. The start of this movement, for the most part, began in two different locations, both of which I was able to visit during my road trip.

Actually it all began when Thomas Campbell came over from Scotland as a missionary for the Presbyterian Church. It was Thomas Campbell who eventually produced what became known as the Declaration and Address document which formed much of the thought of the Restoration Movement. Thomas was soon joined by his son Alexander Campbell, his son, who became the predominant leader. It all pretty much got started in little church called Brush Run which was on the western border of Pennsylvania. The building no longer exist, but I did stop by and walk up the private drive to see the little landmark.
It was at that little church were certain practices began that still remain as common elements in all three Restoration Movement Churches: baptism of believers by immersion and communion every Sunday.  Several of the early followers were baptised not from the church location in Beaver Creek. 

Alexander Campbell began to overshadow his father as the movements leader because of his journal and skills as a debater. Alexander also married well which made it possible for him to acquire a large amount of wealth. 

It was his wife’s father that gave the land and house near Bethany Virginia to Alexander. Alexander, a big believer in education, started a school in his home at first, which would eventually become Bethany College. That’s the really short version of the story. 

Campbell became very wealthy and politically active. His friends that visited his mansions were not just religious leaders, but also governmental leaders. ​


Alexander Campbell built a seperate place that he went to every day for prayer and study. I’ve always wanted a study like this because I love gazebo’s and this is kind of like that. It was much smaller than I expected. The windows were at the top to let in light but few existed to be looked out. He didn’t want distractions. He didn’t have a desk, only a pulpit and a bookshelf. He studied standing up. 

I believe this was a 22 room mansion, but the Campbells used the top floors for students, entertainment, and guest. For the most part, the Campbell family lived in the basement. So the big house was really quite crowded with a constant flow of people. 

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to get a tour of the house. All I could do is look in through the windows. 

But across the street and up the hill was an incredible cemetery of family many of the Restoration Movement leaders. 

Bethany College was established March 2, 1840 by Alexander Campbell and it is stil active today. We were not able to stay long, but I took a few pictures. This is a small college in a small town, but there are all sorts of presidents who have spoken at this little college. I wish I had the time to explore all the big landmarks, but we had to get to Ohio before it got too late. 

I’ve spent a lot of time learning about the history of the Restoration Movement, so this was really special to me. I would love to go into more details on the movement, but I will have to save that for another time. 

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