December 23, 2013

"Happy Holidays"

Over the past few years, it seems, I've heard more and more people complaining about the so-called "War on Christmas". Atheist groups would like to remove Nativity scenes (among other religious symbols) from public spaces, and children in public schools are being asked not to sing religious songs as part of their school pageants. These and other things have caused quite a stir among Christians who fear that our nation is being "de-Christianized" because their traditions are being laid aside in favor of those that are more inclusive to other faiths.

One of the biggest complaints I've seen is from those who are offended that many people working in stores are being asked to say "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas" to their customers.

I've heard some Christians make this into a big deal because they believe this is somehow infringing on their freedom to express their beliefs. And I have to admit that, at first, I was a little put off when I heard or saw the alternate greeting because I bought the line that this was some form of religious persecution...

But the more I've thought about it, the more I like the "Happy Holidays" greeting (or at least I've come to peace with it) and I'd like to share with you my reasons why.

October 18, 2013

The Right Words at the Right Time

Earlier today, Dad e-mailed me a devotion from Max Lucado about being thankful in the midst of difficult things. Lucado referred to 1 Corinthians 11, where Paul says of Jesus: "On the night in which he was betrayed, he took the bread and gave thanks..." - What an amazing example!

Dad sent it to me just because he said it was what he needed to hear today, and he thought it was good. I thought it was good, too, so I turned around and actually read it and talked about it briefly on the air on Walk-FM. But what neither of us knew yet is that it was exactly what I needed to hear today, too. I continued to think about it and shared it with Amber, and - without getting into all the details - this devotion ended up being an encouragement to us later on, when our afternoon took an unexpected turn!

All this to say, first of all, that yes, you can still be thankful in the middle of trying times.

In addition to that, it just reminded me of the truth that one word can inspire people you may never even realize. I'm sure that, when Max Lucado wrote his devotion, he didn't know that Dad or Amber or me would need to hear it today, just like I have no idea who might've been listening to Walk FM or who will be reading this blog and needed to be encouraged, too - but God put the right words in the right place for the right people to hear them at the right time, and that's pretty awesome, if you ask me!

So if you're struggling through something right now, I want to encourage you to still be thankful. Thank God for the blessings you know he's already given you. Thank him for the blessings that lie ahead because you know that he has promised good things! "Rejoince in the Lord always," Paul said (Philippians 4:4).

And don't be afraid to speak up when you see God's blessings. Don't be afraid to share the encouragement you've received with others, because you never know who might be listening, who might be reading, or who might hear it from a friend who told a friend what you said. You never know, but somebody might be strengthened, encouraged, or have their whole life changed just because you were willing to let God speak the right words through you to someone in need!

Tonight, I had to go back over to the radio station to finish up some work before the weekend. While I was working, Chris Tomlin came on the radio, singing "Amazing Grace (My Chains Are Gone)", and I had to just stop what I was doing for a minute and listen. I was thinking back about how this day had been a day of big ups and downs. And I just had to praise God for his wonderful amazing grace that went ahead of me and brought just the right words at just the right time to sustain me!

Our God truly is an awesome God!

October 15, 2013

Changing Seasons

"For everything there is a season,
and a time for every matter under heaven..."
- Ecclesiastes 3:1

When I was a kid, my favorite season was Summer, because that meant we were out on vacation from school. I know many of my classmates were thrilled in the Winter when we would have snow days. As I've gotten older, I've found more pleasure in the flowers and new life visible in the Springtime. Meanwhile, my wife always loves the changing colors of leaves in the Autumn.

There is beauty in every season
Whether you prefer to look forward to the holidays that come in the Winter or the warmer temperatures that come once it's past, there's really something to love about every season - different as each one might be from the rest!

The same thing might be said for the seasons of our lives.

September 11, 2013

Praying for Peace

Over the past few weeks, the war in Syria has stepped into the spotlight after reports that the government used chemical weapons to wipe out hundreds of people. Immediately, there were cries demanding justice, which led to UN inspections and heightened rhetoric from nations around the world. Whether or not the United States will send troops into the area is still up in the air, and it's sparked a huge controversy. On one hand, there are those who say we cannot allow a government to get away with war crimes against its own people, and something must be done - whether by military force or some other means. But on the other hand, I've heard a lot of people saying it's none of our business - that the US needs to focus on its own problems and stay out of Syria at any cost.

I have to admit I don't know all the details, but what I do know is that it's a complicated situation. I don't want to see us rush headlong into another war, but at the same time, we can't just sit idly by and watch injustice continue. If you see a crime taking place and you do nothing to stop it, then you may as well be participating in the crime yourself (Proverbs 29:24).

So what are we to do?

Right now, I think one of the most important things we can do is to pray for our leaders. Pray for them to have wisdom to know the right thing to do and courage to carry it out. We should be praying for the people of Syria, too, that this war for them will end soon, that lives will be spared, and that peace will come in their hearts and their lives.

August 29, 2013

"Look With Your Special Eyes!"

"Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God."
- Matthew 5:8

A couple years ago, they came out with a commercial for 1-800-CONTACTS that really cracked me up! It's done in the overly-dramatic style of a soap opera, sort of. It begins with a woman telling her husband that she ordered his contact lenses, and the package has arrived.
"They can't have my brand," he says. "I have special eyes."
She opens the package and shows him... "Look! Look with your special eyes!"
And when he looks, he is overcome with emotion, "My brand!"
Maybe it's just because I'm legally blind, but for whatever reason, that has been one of my favorite commercials from the first time I saw it. I even shared it on my Facebook page a while back!

Well, if there's one thing I've tried to do throughout this blog, it's to let you have a glimpse at the world as I see it, and to encourage you to then look at the world through your own special eyes - or "holy eyes", as I termed it in my post about seeing Unexpected Crosses. There, I challenged you to look for God in the midst of mundane things, so I was thrilled when one of my co-workers recently came to me with this example - courtesy of 1-800-CONTACTS.*

August 12, 2013

Lofty Mountain Grandeur

This past week, Amber and I went to visit her family in the state of Delaware (Dela-where?), and then on Friday, we drove down to Virginia for a wedding ceremony for one of Amber's cousins.

Amber and I have made the trip to Delaware and back several times in the six years since we moved back to Kentucky, but because of the wedding in Virginia, we had to take a different route home than we're used to this time, and I have to say, I'm so glad we had to go the way we did!

I've lived in the foothills of Eastern Kentucky for most of my life, and I've always been fascinated by the beauty of nature, so whenever we travel, I'm often looking out my window at the mountains and valleys we go past. But our new route this time took us through the rolling hills of Virginia and the great mountains of Southern West Virginia, and it was an absolutely breath-taking ride! At one point, Amber had to ask if I was alright, because my eyes were glued as wide open as they could get, and I was just staring out the window! I was just mesmerized by what I was seeing!!

Thankfully, as we were driving up the West Virginia Turnpike, I finally had the good sense to take out my phone and snap a few pictures of the amazing scenery...

July 4, 2013

Middletown, Mayberry and Memories

It's funny what things stick with you and what things don't.

Every year, about this time, my mind takes me back to a simpler time.

"Oh, criminy!"
This is my Granny Bickham
I was very blessed, when I was little, to know all 4 of my grandparents, plus my great-grandmother - or "Granny", as I always called her. I have specific memories of each of them that stand out. Thankfully, I still have one left! (Love you, Grandma!) But I wish I could remember more...

One of my favorite memories was when we used to go up to visit Granny in Middletown, IN, every few summers. We kids would run and play in the yard a lot of the time, but when it was too hot out, Granny would go down in the basement and find a toy or a game for us.

One day, she introduced us to Rummikub. I remember begging her to play game after game for hours! Maybe part of the fun was that she let us win from time to time. I can still hear her, once in a while, saying...

June 13, 2013

Unity of Believers

Sometimes it can be discouraging to be at a small church. You wonder why it doesn't grow. You wonder if what you're doing is making a difference. Maybe you even begin to feel isolated, like you're the only ones left serving the Lord - much like the prophet Elijah felt in 1 Kings 19. The truth, though, is that you cannot measure the impact of your work - especially when you work together with others - and you are definitely not alone. Just as God reminded Elijah that there were thousands of others who had not bowed to false gods, so we know there are others around the globe who also serve our God, and this can be a great comfort to us at times.

One of the great blessings of the Church, I think, is the knowledge that there are so many different kinds of people all around the world - folks from various races, cultures and nations - and yet we can be joined together through our common faith in the Almighty.

This is something beautiful God has really highlighted for me over the past few years, as Amber and I have had opportunities to occasionally worship and work with believers from other churches and cultures. I've been reminded of it when we've visited other churches while on vacation, or when people who normally attend other churches have come to visit ours. And it's been on my mind a lot this week, as Amber and I just came home from the Kentucky Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.

June 3, 2013

May Flowers

This life is filled with many seasons, but I don't just mean Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter. I mean there are seasons where everything seems especially good and there are seasons where everything seems especially bad. There are seasons of happiness and seasons of grieving. Seasons when everything falls into place and seasons where everything falls to pieces.

Beauties in bloom
on the back of our barn
A few months ago, I talked about seasons on my other blog, and I pointed out the importance of remembering that God is with you, no matter what season you happen to be going through. Today I found myself thinking about seasons again.

Personally, I've been going through a season of being extremely busy. Between work at the radio station, work at church and another project I'm working on, I've felt for the last couple months like I just run from one thing to another, without hardly a break! And when I do sit down, sometimes all I can do is think about how much I need to get up and get busy again if I ever want to get things done!

I haven't even had time to blog for over a month!

April 30, 2013

God's Sense of Humor

The Bible talks about God laughing at the plans of the wicked. I wonder what his laughter sounds like! I also wonder what other things make him laugh...

Uncle Proboscis Vanover
When I was little, my mom told me you can see that God has a sense of humor because of some of the strange-looking animals he created. She used the platypus as an example, but I was reminded of this when I recently saw a closeup of a proboscis monkey in the opening shots of Life of Pi. I didn't know what a proboscis monkey was at the time, but I thought it was funny - it looks like it could be one of my relatives! - so I had to take a picture with my phone!

When I showed the image to friends in Lexington last weekend, I discovered I am NOT smarter than a kindergartener! My friends' son knew all about proboscis monkeys from something he had seen on TV!

"He who sits in the heavens laughs..."
- Psalm 2:4a

April 24, 2013

The Eagle in the Clouds

Recently I mentioned the importance of looking for beauty in the world around you. I also mentioned a while back that - according to the doctors - my vision is so bad, I'm not supposed to be able to see shapes in clouds, but the doctors were wrong. I'm often amazed at the shapes and colors God paints in the sky!

I should preface the rest of this by admitting that Amber and I have struggled in several ways this past year. From financial hurdles and work-related stresses to questions about the direction of our future, we've both felt like we were seriously under attack from Satan. For a few months at the end of 2012 and beginning of 2013, we even felt like we were having trouble clicking together. It's not that we thought our marriage was in jeopardy, but it seemed like whenever I was in a good mood, she had a terrible day, and when she was feeling better, I was frustrated. It was certainly a trying time, yet we continued to care for each other and pray together for the Lord's help.

Well, one day this past February, Amber and I were on our way somewhere when she commented how beautiful the colors were in the sunset. I hadn't noticed because the sun was setting on her side of the car, but when she pointed it out, I agreed it was very pretty. At the time, I was participating in a "photo-a-day" project with RethinkChurch via Twitter, and I wasn't sure if I'd want it for one of my entries or not, but I decided to take a picture of the sunset with my phone, just in case...

April 22, 2013

Beauty of the Earth

Last night, Amber and I finally got to watch Life of Pi. While I disagree with the theological message that there is no right or wrong religion, I did very much appreciate the beautiful images throughout the film. There were amazing pictures of a variety of animals - some I had never seen up close before - and from storms to sunsets, the movie was filled with the astounding beauty of the earth!

Looking across my yard this afternoon. :)
You don't have to go to the movies or get shipwrecked in the Pacific Ocean to experience beauty, though. All you have to do is look for it! We get so busy sometimes, but how much time does it take to notice the flowers along your path or to notice a rainbow or soak in a sunset?

When I was in college, I took a couple trips to Northern Ireland, and I was amazed at how beautiful everything was there. Sadly, so many people I met there didn't even seem to notice their lovely surroundings because they were used to it and never really took the time to appreciate it. Then someone told me that after visiting the US, they had decided that Kentucky reminded them of Ireland more than any other state. I couldn't believe what I was hearing!

March 26, 2013

Reach for the Skies!

When we were kids, my brother and I used to play all kinds of games together...

"Reach for the skies!
Wait... Let me get my gun ready...
Cowboys and Indians... 

Karate Kid... 

Batman and Robin... 

G.I. Joe..

Every day was an adventure, it seemed, and of course, we always had to have the right costumes/accessories, no matter what the game was!

March 13, 2013

The Final Pope?

Generally, I prefer not to talk much about my thoughts on End Times stuff or the Catholic Church, but I decided to make an exception and talk about both at the same time today!

Black smoke - try again.
White smoke - a new pope is elected.
For more info, read this.
After a recent church service, someone asked for my thoughts on the upcoming selection of the new pope. To be honest, I hadn't given it much thought. Not being Catholic, why should I? Then he asked what I thought of St. Malachy's prophecy concerning "Peter the Roman", but I had to admit I had no idea what he was talking about. I listened as he briefly explained what he understood about these things, offered a few thoughts, and decided to do a little research when I got home.

St. Malachy was the Archbishop of Armagh (Ireland) back in the 12th century, and the legend says that in 1139 AD, he saw a vision predicting who every pope would be from then until the Apocalypse. His "Prophecy of the Popes" doesn't give names or dates; instead it gives a cryptic phrase in Latin to describe each pope - 112 in all, starting with Pope Celestine II. Supposedly, for several of these, their descriptions have been surprisingly accurate!

The reason this was brought to my attention was because - did you guess it? - Pope Benedict XVI was Pope #111 since Malachy's day, which means if the prophecy can be trusted, the new pope - whomever he may be - will be the last pope before Jesus returns! If that's not exciting enough, apparently many believe this last pope (referred to in Malachy's prophecy as "Peter the Roman") will also be the second beast - the false prophet in Revelation 13 - who rises up and performs miracles in order to cause everyone to worship a false religion and take the mark of the beast!

Can this be true?!

Godly Correction

When was the last time you said something and wished you could take it back? Whether you intentionally lied or said something hurtful, or whether you were simply misunderstood, I think we've all been there more often than we'd like to admit!

Yesterday afternoon, I received an e-mail with the text of a letter from Bishop Lindsey Davis (of the UMC - not a Catholic bishop) calling on Methodists to pray for our Catholic neighbors as the conclave gathers in Rome to elect a new pope. (To read the bishop's letter, CLICK HERE.)

As I read this letter, I was reminded of the way I began and ended my post yesterday morning about the Prophecy of the Popes, and I decided it was important to be clear about some things.

February 27, 2013

Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood

"It's a beautiful day in the neighborhood
A beautiful day for a neighbor...
Would you be mine?"
For years as a kid, I remember turning on the local PBS affiliate, and there were a few shows I always liked to watch: Reading Rainbow, Sesame Street... and Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. My favorite at the time was probably Sesame Street, but I loved all three. Eventually, of course, I grew up and began to feel like I grew out of those shows, and I haven't watched any of them in ages. But looking back, I think I have more happy memories of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood than any of the others.

I remember a few of the educational segments, I remember the trolley ride into the "Neighborhood of Make-Believe", and some of the fun characters there. I remember the sweaters, feeding the fish, and fun songs like "Won't You Be My Neighbor?" and "It's Such a Good Feeling". But most of all, I remember how Mr. Rogers seemed to genuinely care about the children watching his show. He spoke in a way that would be easily understood - in a calm, clear tone. He talked about things that were important to us as kids - about hopes and fears of all kinds. And his messages were always reassuring and uplifting.

"You are special."          
          "You are loved." 
"I like you, and I hope you like you, too!"

February 14, 2013

God's Valentine

I thought it was interesting that Ash Wednesday and Valentine's Day are back to back this year.

Ash Wednesday, of course, marks more than just foreheads - it marks the beginning of Lent, which is the 40-day period (minus Sundays) that leads up to Easter. It's a time to consider our own mortality, and to focus on repentance and spiritual discipline as we meditate on the truth that Jesus died to save us from our sins and rose from the dead to offer us the gift of eternal life. Many people practice fasting or other forms of self-denial during this season as a way of honoring Christ's sacrifice and remembering that the Gospel message ought to change every part of our lives. The tradition dates back to the early church.

While St. Valentine's Day has become a day for couples to celebrate their love, this day also has roots in the early church. Originally, it was a day to remember a couple men who were so transformed by the Gospel that they were eventually martyred for their faith. People didn't start sending flowers and cards on this day until sometime in the Middle Ages.

Because these two holidays are so close together this year, I've been meditating on the fact that what Jesus endured on the cross was the ultimate example of God's love.

February 5, 2013

Unexpected Crosses

Recently, I talked about the controversy in Jackson, OH, over the display of a portrait of Jesus in a middle school. This is only one in a long list of cases where groups have been trying for some time to remove Christian symbols from public spaces. At the end of my comments on the Jackson situation, though, I talked about the blessing of remembering that - even if all our symbols were somehow taken away - no one can ever take Christ away!

As the hymn says...     "He lives within my heart!"    

That said, I don't believe there will ever come a time when - just as I did here with the examples of sunlight and snowflakes, or as I do on my other blog with popular music, movies and TV - a discerning Christian won't be able to see symbols of God's love wherever he goes.

"For since the creation of the world, God’s invisible qualities
 - his eternal power and divine nature - 
have been clearly seen,  
being understood from what has been made, 
so that men are without excuse."
            - Romans 1:20 (NIV)

If you expect it and look for it, God will reveal himself even in some of the most unexpected places. Here are four places where I've seen the cross on public display, and neither the ACLU nor anyone else can do anything about it!

February 1, 2013


It snowed at our house today.

I hate having to go out in it, but I love to sit and look at it from a nice warm place in the house!

Have you ever looked closely at a snowflake?

No two (paper) snowflakes are alike!
From a distance, they all look the same - just a bunch of little white dots - but up close, a snowflake can be an interesting thing to see. I had a snowflake land on my nose one time, and I just kinda stood there and stared at it, and it was neat to see how there seemed to be so much detail in such a tiny thing!

I would have taken my snowflake home and kept it, but - sadly - when I tried to pick it up, I crushed it, and it melted right on my nose. A single snowflake by itself is a delicate thing... but look outside when it's been snowing, and see what happens when they all stick together!

Similarly, there are a lot of Christians in this world, and from a distance, maybe we all look alike, but when you get up close, there can be some big differences from person to person! But I'm not just talking about differences in physical appearance or what denomination you belong to...

January 25, 2013

God's Presence

Sometimes, when things are going wrong, it can be tempting to believe you're all alone in your problems. It's easy sometimes to feel like your back is up against the wall, and it's just you against the world...

But that's not true!

This past Sunday, at the little country church where I pastor, our attendance was particularly low because a lot of our folks were out sick. I know that's a reminder that many people need our prayers, but some of those who showed up seemed to almost take it personally that others were out. On one hand, they cared about their friends, but at the same time, they expressed the notion that if people really wanted to be there, they'd be there. It reminded me of the story of Elijah in 1 Kings 19, where he lamented, "I alone am left!"

But in the middle of the service, my wife chimed in with this beautiful observation, and it seemed to change everything!

January 22, 2013

Being Born

40 years ago today, the Supreme Court handed down their decision in Roe v. Wade, legalizing abortion, and our nation has been divided about it ever since. It's still a hot-button issue that gets a lot of people fired up both in support and in opposition - especially whenever an election is coming up.
Some people see a legal abortion as a safe alternative for a woman in the case of an unplanned pregnancy, maybe particularly if the timing interrupts other important plans. Others would say that a new human life is more important than convenience.

Some would say an abortion is a humane choice when it's known that a child will have disabilities. Others would say that everyone deserves a chance.

Some would say it's unfair to expect a woman to raise a child born as the result of rape or incest. Others would say it's unfair to punish the child for something that wasn't his/her fault, either.

Some argue that the mother's life should be more important than the child's. Others argue that the child's life should be more important than the mother's.

Some say a woman should have the right to choose what to do with her body, regardless of the circumstances. Others say the child should have the right to life regardless of the circumstances. Still others say the circumstances make all the difference. Data from The Pew Forum shows that even now - all these years later - only just over half of Americans think that abortion should be legal in most cases.
Without getting too deep into it, I just want to say...

I'm happy to be alive!!!

January 21, 2013

Lost Luggage

I definitely did NOT feel blessed the last time Amber and I flew with United Airlines!

We were flying into Chicago to catch a connection to Baltimore, but our plane was late and they were already boarding when we arrived. As quick as we could, we RAN to the gate where we had to go, but if you've ever been to O'Hare International Airport, you realize how big that place is!

We finally got there JUST IN TIME for our plane's take-off...

We watched it out the window!

The next flight to Baltimore wouldn't be until the next day, but the nice lady at the counter said we could either wait for that or she could put us on a plane to Philadelphia in a couple hours, which actually worked out for us since our final destination was a couple hours' drive from either city. We asked about our bags, and she assured us they would be re-routed with us, so we breathed a huge sigh of relief! When we arrived in Philadelphia, however, our luggage was nowhere to be found: apparently, it had gone on to Baltimore without us! That still would've been fine, but then the airline tried to say it was OUR responsibility to drive to Baltimore to get it! It took quite a bit of arguing to finally convince them otherwise!

If an airline has ever lost your bags, I feel your pain. At least we finally got ours back in the end!

But sometimes, NOT getting your bags back...
...can be a GOOD thing!

January 14, 2013

Religious Freedom

In the news lately, they've been talking about this middle school up in Jackson, OH, where there's a lot of controversy over a portrait of Jesus that hangs in the school's "Hall of Honor". The portrait was donated by a student group back in 1937, and has hung there with no complaint ever since, but a couple weeks ago, a group called "Freedom from Religion" wrote a letter demanding it be taken down, and last week, the ACLU jumped in and called its display unconstitutional. The school board believes the portrait should stay since it was a student donation and a long-standing part of the school's history. So lawyers are preparing for battle, and it'll be interesting to see how it turns out.

A portrait similar to this hangs
at Jackson Middle School
On one hand, many see this as just one more example of the growing movement to eliminate Christianity from the public square, and that has a lot of people upset. When the school board held its first meeting to address the situation, hundreds of people showed up to voice their opinions - most in favor of keeping the portrait up. People are upset because they see this as an attack on their religion and traditions by outsiders. And a lot of people don't see why we should take something down if the majority wants it there - if there are really very few people who have seen it and been offended.

But on the other hand...

January 8, 2013


Ever since I can remember, I've always been a fan Elvis Presley. There are just so many things about him that I like, and I talked a little about that on my other blog last year.

A painting of Elvis Presley's Graceland by Thomas Kinkade
Elvis was born to a poor family in Mississippi on January 8, 1935, and the Presleys went through many hardships before he was eventually discovered and catapulted to fame and fortune. In 1957, after taking the world by storm, Elvis bought the Graceland mansion and called it home for the rest of his life. Today, more than 35 years after his passing, this house looks much as it did when Elvis lived there, and it welcomes hundreds of thousands of visitors every year!

Thinking about Graceland brings a smile to my face, but not just because I'm an Elvis fan. When I think of Graceland, I think of the love of my family and the love of God.

January 5, 2013

Extra Eyes

One of the things about being blind is that you can't always see what you need to see. That might seem like an obvious point, but that's what leads me to the next blessing I'm thankful for...


January 3, 2013


As I said before, the right perspective can make all the difference. It's easy to see how being legally blind could be a negative thing - it presents challenges every day, and sometimes it's downright frustrating - and it's certainly nothing I would wish on someone else. I'm sure that being able to see well is a gift that makes life a lot simpler for those who have it! But just because something is challenging, that doesn't necessarily make it a bad thing.

In a lot of ways, I feel like God has blessed me with blindness.

My vision (or lack thereof) does not define me, but it has certainly shaped me:

January 1, 2013


A penny is relatively small, but if you hold it close enough to your eye, it can be big enough to block the sun. Time always ticks at the same speed, but somehow it flies by when you're doing something you enjoy and it barely crawls when you're waiting to get off work. Depending on who you ask, the glass can be half full, half empty, or just twice as big as it needs to be! And if you want to, when you look at this picture... can see a vase, or you can see two faces looking at each other.

Things are not always what they seem, and perspective can mean everything.

I have been legally blind since birth, and I'm OK with that.