Fighting Fires

Fire fighting and other volunteer work is important for the community and rewarding for the individual. Churches, schools, hospitals, political parties, and lots of other organizations need help. Help them!

I miss active duty in the US Army. Not that retiring was a bad thing; God certainly seemed to direct it. But having a global mission every day, regardless of where you are stationed, is exhilarating. God plants each of us in a specific place and time, and expects us to serve, love, and enjoy Him there. In September 2018, I joined the Volunteer Fire Department in Beaver, WV. Fire service was a new venture for me, but has five major appeals:

  1. An important community mission – from fighting fires to treating drug overdoses to moving downed trees to rescuing drivers after motor vehicle accidents.
  2. A great group of people – our department has former Marines and soldiers, current emergency medical technicians and paramedics, law enforcement officers, pastors, retirees, and others.
  3. Terrific training – learning firefighter skills is tough. Citizens have three groups that they call when they are in trouble: 1) police, 2) ambulance, and 3) fire. People call the police for protection (and arrest), the ambulance if they are sick, and the fire department for everything else. We learn to do the gamut from breaking into cars or houses to rescue (ice, mountains, buildings, vehicles, lost people) to body recovery with the dive team.
  4. Fun – odd as it may seem, when you have a good outcome, this work can be fun.
  5. Volunteer service of any type (fire or otherwise) improves health, well-being, a sense of meaning, and a variety of other health indicators.

Last night we responded to a motor vehicle accident in which a full-size pickup truck hit a parked semi-tractor trailer, totaling both. The driver was not wearing his seat belt and was seriously injured. We also responded to the call of an older lady who lives alone and thought that her hot water heater was leaking and flooding her basement. When we arrived, we found that the water line from her water heater to her washing machine had broken. We turned off the water at the source and told her how to fix the problem. She said that a deacon at her church would come by to help.

America used to be a volunteer nation, with people from all walks of life giving their time and treasure to their communities. The National Fire Protection Association reports a 16.23% drop in volunteer firefighters nationwide between 2015 and 2017.[1] The Do-Good Institute at the University of Maryland produced a report showing the decline in overall volunteering in the past two decades.[2] Declining birth rates, declining marriage rates, and increasing internet use are associated with less time volunteering.[3] lists volunteer opportunities by zip code throughout the United States. Local churches also need volunteers for a variety of important tasks.

Join me in fighting fires, or otherwise volunteering!

[1], accessed 15 February 2020

[2], accessed 15 February 2020

[3], accessed 15 February 2020


Ballad of the Corona Virus

A medical musical tale of love and survival between an American man and a Chinese woman in the world of the new corona virus.

The Ballad of the Corona Virus (tune “Open Arms”, Journey)

Verse 1
Lying beside you, here in the dark
Feeling your fever so high
Weakly you touch me, pain so severe
Why did I stay for the night?
I thought it was true love, I wanted some fun
But now, I just want to run

Cause it’s Corona virus, twelve thousand cases
It has got you, will it get to me too?
Oh why, did I, visit China?
Can I catch a plane, or a boat or a train, outta here?

Verse 2
In California, hospital bed
Aching and coughing up blood
In isolation – gloves, gowns, and masks
Chills come on me like a flood
Nurses and doctors, don’t know what to do
There’s no vaccination for me.

Cause it’s Corona virus, often fatal
Waiting for doctors, insurance won’t cover
But soon my lady will arrive from Wuhan
I’m fading away, but we’ll beat you someday, Corona


In Praise of Hymns

Choruses in church are great, but let’s not lose our powerful legacy of hymns in Christian ministry.

Last night I led a Hymn Sing and Soup Supper in the Fellowship Hall at our church. Between bowls of vegetable soup, chicken soup, tortilla soup, bean soup, and a host of others, we sang To God Be the Glory, I’ll Fly Away, Victory in Jesus, and more favorites. Elderly women in the back, members of the choir when we had one, harmonized to tunes they had known as children, while teenagers in the middle sat in silence. We had no slides with words on a screen as we do in our sanctuary, but used white hymnals with gold embossing, small letters, and cryptic little symbols called notes along with the lyrics on each line. The piano was a little out of tune, but we all carried on, singing at the top of our lungs. There was no sound of strumming, drumming, or picking. Having grown up in church singing hymns, I appreciated the change.

For decades, choruses and praise bands have replaced hymns as the mainstay of music in evangelical churches. There are many good reasons. Choruses are easy to learn and easy to play. Big screens on the wall keep parishioners from burying their heads in their song books and singing at the floor. Little words in hymnbooks can be hard to see and the notes, rests, time signatures, and staffs in the music may be confusing to the musically uninitiated. It is easier for pastors to find a guitar player, a drummer, and at least one vocalist than to find a minimum of two sopranos, altos, tenors, and bases, along with a choir director, and one pianist competent enough to play complicated hymns. In such a world, do hymns belong in the dust bin of history?

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The Purpose of Prayer

When prayers don’t seem to work, and we doubt God, what do we do?

A few days ago, our family dog, Serena, found wrapped chocolates that my sons had left in their bedroom. Within minutes, truffles, peppermint patties, and a host of other delectables were gone. The same day, close friends visited from northern Virginia. The chocolate and excitement were too much for Serena, and she couldn’t go to sleep. Instead of sleeping, she barked and barked and barked.

Serena’s barking, whimpering, and fussing doesn’t bother me; I can fall asleep and stay asleep through a thunderstorm. My poor wife, Nancy, cannot. She laid awake for hours, counting her breaths, praying, and doing everything else she could to get some badly needed rest. It worked off and on. Serena napped, but at 0300, she started up again. I woke up. When I heard Serena’s caterwauling, and Nancy’s sleepless report, I fumed.

Then I prayed. Praying through a fog of sleepiness probably is not the most effective way to talk to God, and the more I prayed, the louder Serena barked. Nancy’s head began to ache. I got angrier and angrier.

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