Monday, May 28, 2012


One of my favorite childhood memories is going fishing with my Dad. On occasion we would go to a private catfish pond and sink a few chicken livers. On one particular occasion, I guess I was around second grade. My Dad came home off the road working construction and on Saturday, we went to the Bostick's Catfish pond. I am pretty sure at the time that Dad was fishing, and I was learning how to bait cast. But this day was different. I got a bite, and when I set the hook, it became very clear I had hooked something big. I began reeling in with all the might in my small body and the fight from the other end was substantial. Pop offered to take the pole, and I refused. "Don't touch this pole. This is mine!" I kept reeling. Every time I stopped reeling for a second, the fish on the other end would pull line back out and the brake on the Zebco would squeal. I caught my breath and began reeling again. Finally, after a struggle that seemed to last forever, I reeled in a catfish that weighed 10 lbs.

If you do some research, you will quickly find that a 10lbs catfish is not any kind of record, locally, regionally, or nationally. In fact, there are reports that catfish have been caught in excess of 600lbs. MSNBC Fish whopper: 646 pounds a freshwater record. But to a young boy in second grade, reeling in a 10lb catfish was a major accomplishment.

Fishing in a private pond had fees. You paid per pound for what you caught. As a young boy, these things really did not register. Years later, I learned that that fish cost my Dad half of his weekly spending budget. He left on Sunday evening to go on the road working construction for a week with a mere five dollars spending money to his name until his next paycheck. He made the financial sacrifice to see the smile on a little boy's face for what seemed like an overwhelming accomplishment.

Living in a small town has a few benefits that larger cities do not have. One of those is a small town newspaper which covered small local and personal events as news. One of our neighbors heard the story and suggested my Mom carry me to the newspaper office on Monday with my picture with my fish. So after school on Monday, we went to the newspaper. They deemed it newsworthy and ran a small story. When my Dad got home the following weekend, I handed him a clipping from the local paper about me and the catfish.

A lot of things happen growing up. I had clashes of will with my Dad and at times questioned if he loved me or if he just wanted to fight me at every chance in the road. But when I learned what that catfish cost him, the financial sacrifice he made for a moment of joy and a bit of accomplishment - it put it all in perspective for me and our relationship began to heal. I realized that Pop had loved me all my life. He fought me when he thought he knew better. Through our collisions, he began to realize he had to let me fail on my own to be able to mature and develop.

I will always cherish one Saturday at a fish pond with a little Zebco rod and reel with my Dad. I never realized how important that day was in my life until I was in my mid 20s. But I hold it as one of the best memories of my childhood.

Monday, May 21, 2012


A little over a year ago, we came home one night, rolled up the garage door and drove into our garage. My wife opened the door to the house while I was unloading grocery bags and was working to keep our two small dogs from running out into the garage. Suddenly a strange dog darted into our garage and headed for the door into the house. Expecting a dog confrontation with an unknown dog, I quickly started trying to run the dog out of our garage while thinking to myself, "Who is the irresponsible owner letting their dog run free through our neighborhood?" I soon discovered who the owner was as I hear a voice down the street several feet snort, "Obviously not dog people!" I was taken back by the retort after having some strange dog running into my house. In fact, I was expecting an apology instead of such a snappy retort. I finished getting groceries inside, and Allison walked out and had a conversation with the owner. She explained our concern for our two small dogs in the house and that we walk our dogs on leashes per the leash law and tried to respect our neighbors property. I heard bits and pieces of the conversation, but to say the least I was put off by the whole encounter. Allison later told me that the woman was our new neighbor two houses down. "Swell", I thought.

The next day, my next door neighbor stopped me and said she had spoken with the woman and confronted her about the situation and told her in as much that she was wrong for her actions and her response and had expounded on our virtues as some of her favorite neighbors. I was flattered that she had jumped to our defense. I thanked her and figured we just had a new neighbor that would be a burr in our saddle for the future.

A few nights later, the door bell rang. When we opened the door, there stood the new neighbor lady with some flowers and a small bag. She introduced herself as "Marli" and began to apologize for our encounter both with her dog and her earlier in the week. She then presented my wife with flowers and the gift bag of treats. I was pleasantly surprised by the change in events.

Over the course of the next few months, we regularly saw Marli and struck up conversation. We discovered she suffered from Lupus and was on disability. She had a hard time getting up and down the stairs of the house she rented, but worked really hard to have a positive outlook. We showered her with encouragement, stopped by to visit from time to time, and surprised her with small gifts of freshly baked goodies and homemade candies.

About three weeks ago, she announced that she had found a one-story house for rent about 15 miles away and was going to move as the stairs were just becoming too much trouble for her. We were sad to see her go, hugged her neck and said our goodbyes. A couple of days after her move, we found a note and some large envelopes on our doorstep with a note from Marli. The Post Office was not forwarding her mail, and she wanted us to collect her mail and send it to her. We were more than happy to help and mailed three packages of mail to her. When the envelopes run out, the mail was continuing to pour in. She called and said to just collect it, and she would swing by that Saturday to pick it up. We set a bag out on our front porch for her on Saturday before departing to a function as she had requested. When we got home late that night, the bag was still there. It concerned us, because we knew her bouts with Lupus and automatically assumed she was having a bad day. She called on Monday to say she had in fact had a bad weekend and had not been out of bed.

We continued to accumulate mail this week, and I thought we would give her a call Sunday afternoon and carry the mail down to her. She had left a voicemail Friday that she had been in the hospital with problems swallowing and had just been released. Sunday while I was with my 6th grade small group, Allison called Marli to see if we could drop her mail off for her. No one answered, so she left a voicemail. A few minutes later, Allison's cellphone rang, it was a lady police officer. She relayed the news that Marli had died Sunday morning.

We were both stunned. I walked around for a couple of hours feeling like I had been electrocuted. I am grateful for the time we were given to love on someone having a tough time with a terrible disease. I am amazed how a friendship grew from a rough first encounter. It is my prayer that some how we made her life a bit more enjoyable in the last months of her life.

Rest in Peace, Marli.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Gues Post: Leadership: The Moses - Joshua Connection

This is a guest post from Chris Vonada. Chris is an aspiring author
and professional geologist, and also enjoys reading, running, anything outdoors,
travel, family, friends, music and life! He writes about his passions
at I’m Just Thinkin’ (

Leadership: The Moses - Joshua Connection

This may be the most inspiring lesson in the history of mankind regarding leadership.

Whether you believe in God or not I hope that you will stick with me through this message as this one, like so many others from the Bible, is relevant to our world today.

We all know something of Moses' incredible story. He's the one who God chose to lead the people out of Egypt and into the promised land, and the one who God gave the 10 commandments to share with the people. Moses wasn't really thinking he should be "the one" ... when God assigned Moses the task of bringing the people out of Egypt, his reply was "Who am I?" Also, for one chosen to be the leader, Moses quickly pointed out to God that he was lacking in communication skills... so God suggested that Moses utilize the assistance of his brother Aaron to speak to the people.

Many of us know something about Joshua too... remember Joshua and Caleb were the only 2 of the 12 spies that came back from the original scouting mission to the promised land with an encouraging report. Plus, Joshua was the only one allowed to accompany Moses part way up the mountain when Moses received the law from God.

Moses had a vision and marching orders from God... unfortunately, he never lead his people into the promised land. Moses died before that happened. Fortunately, before Moses passed away he was able to share with and guide Joshua in the leadership skills necessary to lead these people... not only INTO the promised land, Joshua lead the people in a heroic and monumental way that shines the beaming light on this as one of the greatest mentoring relationships. Ever. Moses chose Joshua and Joshua became his shadow. God later confirmed this wise choice when he instructed Moses to name Joshua as his successor.

And that, to me, is the story of the greatest lesson for any leader... how to help the people around you learn to perform everything that you can teach them... the task of "making myself replaceable." We talk about this at church all the time, as any growing organization should. Making myself replaceable means I can help someone else learn the skills that I possess... that I'm confident enough in myself and the organization to tell someone everything I know about my job, without the fear of becoming obsolete in the process. That frees me up to continue leading and for the organization to keep growing.

Where would we be if Moses hadn't made himself replaceable... maybe still wandering in the desert? Maybe someone would have risen to the occasion... but it certainly made sense then... as it does now... to always focus on "making myself replaceable."

What do you feel is the most important leadership skill?