My Favorite Local Hero

My daughter graduated from Patrick Henry High School in Ashland, Virginia. My wife and I go to the Patrick Henry Y to exercise.

Patrick Henry’s home is almost within spitting distance of Ashland. His father helped to defend several of our church’s pastors, who’d been arrested for preaching in a non-Anglican church.

(Winn’s Baptist Church was founded on July 4, 1776, although that had nothing to do with the Declaration of Independence; because of limited communication, Winn’s founders wouldn’t have known that day about the signing of the Declaration. But they declared their independence against the law forbidding any but Anglican churches to exist in Virginia.)

You might say people in this area almost have Patrick Henry in their blood. And of course everyone knows the famous words Patrick Henry spoke more than two hundred years ago in a church in Richmond.

“I know not what others may choose but, as for me, give me liberty or give me death.”

But those aren’t the only important words he spoke.

Although we may not be facing another bloody American Revolution, there’s little question that today’s ultra-liberal forces are putting all of their effort into taking away our liberties and making us dependent on them for everything.

Our founding fathers would be horrified at America’s current state of affairs, and Patrick Henry would undoubtedly be ready to give his “liberty or death” speech once again. And to say a lot more than that.

“The Constitution is not an instrument for the government to restrain the people; it is an instrument for the people to restrain the government – lest it come to dominate our lives and interests.”

Whoops! That’s becoming less and less the case in America with every passing day.

“The liberties of a people never were, nor ever will be, secure, when the transactions of their rulers may be concealed from them.”

Oh, my! That’s not the case nowadays.

“Guard with jealous attention the public liberty. Suspect everyone who approaches that jewel. Unfortunately, nothing will preserve it but downright force. Whenever you give up that force, you are inevitably ruined.”

Does he mean we should be ready to fight if necessary to remain free–even from our own government?

No free government, or the blessings of liberty, can be preserved to any people but by a firm adherence to justice, moderation, temperance, frugality, and virtue; and by a frequent recurrence to fundamental principles.”

Hmm. When’s the last time we thought of our government as being just, moderate, temperate, frugal, or virtuous?

“It cannot be emphasized too strongly or too often that this great nation was founded, not by religionists, but by Christians, not on religions, but on the gospel of Jesus Christ!”

And there’s the problem. We’ve allowed America to slip away from Christian values. And to no longer be a primarily Christian nation.

Your comments are welcome.

I’ll be back again next Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

Best regards,


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Talkin’ about the Weather

I wonder how many people can hold a conversation without saying something about the weather.

And why not? It’s something that’s with us constantly. We can’t get away from it, although when we’re snug inside our homes during winter or enjoying the air conditioning in summer, we can pretend the weather isn’t affecting us.

I’ll never forget Hurricane Isabel in 2003 and the effect it had on us personally. Like thousands of other Virginians, we were without electricity for almost two weeks. We visited Winn’s Baptist Church that Sunday because we’d heard they were holding a service even without power. Uh, without electrical power, that is.

But it was a spiritually powerful service, and we were really impressed at the end when Pastor Brauer asked people to divide up accordingly:

  • Those having power and willing to let people come take showers
  • Those having chain saws who would be willing to help remove problem trees

Then he told the people who needed take a shower or have a tree removed to go meet with one of those groups and get help.

Kathleen and I didn’t belong to Winn’s yet, and we didn’t realize how much longer we’d be without power, but the church was filled with such a loving spirit that I’m sure we would’ve felt comfortable asking for help.

We definitely couldn’t get away from the effects of the weather those two weeks. Probably every conversation included a lengthy discussion of Isabel.

When I was young(er), I used to say I preferred cold weather. When it’s cold, you can always put more clothes on, but when it’s hot you can’t legally take but so many clothes off, and even then you might still be too hot.

Now that I’m old(er), I find cold weather to be more debilitating. I don’t know why unless it’s just an age-related problem.

Yesterday we enjoyed a temporary heat wave–mid-thirties Fahrenheit, but it’s twenty degrees right now and only going to the mid-twenties. Even though we have heat tape on the pipes, we don’t trust it, so that means leaving a tiny bit of water dripping to keep the pipes from freezing.

See what I mean? I couldn’t even post a “normal blog post” today. I was so weather-conscious that I couldn’t keep from talking about it.

What’s your weather like? Do you have any particular preferences or dislikes regarding the weather? How about leaving a comment.

I’ll be back again on Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

Best regards,



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Twin Birthdays

The Fourth of July is a special day for most Americans. It’s a doubly special day for the members of Winn’s Baptist Church in Glen Allen, Virginia. It’s the church’s birthday.

And Monday wasn’t just any birthday. Like America, Winn just turned 240.

Yes, Winn’s was actually founded the same day the Declaration of Independence was signed. The timing was not intentional, however. Without any of the modes of instantaneous communication available to us today, Winn’s founders had no way of knowing something as significant as the signing was taking place that day in a different state.

Uh, in a different colony.

The founding of Winn’s in 1776 created a problem, however. Since Virginia was an English colony, the Anglican church was not just Virginia’s official church, but the only legal church. Other denominations were not tolerated.

Several of Winn’s first ministers were beaten and/or imprisoned for ignoring “man’s law” and obeying God’s law by preaching the Gospel in a non-Anglican church. One of those men–Winn’s first pastor–was American statesman Henry Clay’s father, John. Like many events from the distant past, that kind of religious persecution is difficult for us to imagine.

Patrick Henry, whose home in Scotchtown is less than twenty-five miles from Winn’s, provided defense for the persecuted ministers.

Many people—too many—fail to see that religious persecution is not just a problem from 240 years ago. And even today it isn’t limited to the Middle East.

American Christians are not yet imprisoned or beaten for their faith, but they are often ridiculed and accused of being hate mongers. Some stores have quit selling the Bible because they believe it is hate literature. Christians are being fined and sometimes driven out of business for applying biblical principles to the way they do business. Christian students are being forced to shut up and not share their faith.

What’s next? It’s hard to say. But churches that don’t turn against biblical teachings and go along with the current liberal trend are almost certain to become the targets of intolerant leftists who accuse Christians of being the intolerant ones.

I thank God daily for lawyers like the members of Liberty Council, a group that has already defended hundreds of persecuted American Christians—and they’ve done it pro bono.

Winn’s Baptist Church has stood the test of time. It has survived its share of challenges. What’s ultimately important, though, is how it will face the future.

How about leaving a comment?

NOTE: Various people have complained about not being able to find or leave comments. Go all the way to the bottom of this post, beneath my “Best regards, Roger.” On the very bottom line of that last section just above the previous post you’ll see “Leave a Comment” if yours will be the first or “X Comments,” where  X denotes the number of existing comments.


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I’ll be back again on Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

Best regards,

Family Fishing Day

Family Fishing Day


Tomorrow (I’m writing this on Friday), weather permitting, Winn’s Baptist Church will hold its annual family fishing day at the home of the Dukes. No, not the Dukes of Hazard, but two fine older folks from church who own a pretty decent-sized pond and are more than happy to have visitors.

I’ve only missed one of these events in the past four or five years, and that was only because I was going to be out of town that day. I really hated having to miss it. I love taking pictures, and I really enjoy using whatever photographic skills I have to capture and preserve the day’s family atmosphere.

That means I always have my camera in hand and not a pole, however. That’s a shame. I really enjoyed fishing as a kid. I recall when my father periodically drove me out to the home of a church member who had a pond. Unlike the Dukes’, however, there weren’t any trees nearby. My most vivid memory is of using a bamboo pole. When’s the last time you saw one of those babies?

And then there was the time we were vacationing somewhere on the coast of North Carolina and my father took me fishing. You have to understand that my father was never a sportsman. Not even a fisherman. But he was a good sport about it. The highlight of that day was the blowfish one of us caught. I believe we took it back to the cabin, but decided against trying to cook and eat it. Good thing. I believe those are poisonous if not treated properly.

As an adult I used to go to a nice park that wasn’t too terribly far away. It had a wonderful lake, and people were permitted to fish there. I assume they needed licenses, but I had neither license nor gear, and I knew I wouldn’t go there often enough to justify the expense. A real shame, though. Laid-back fishermen waiting for a bite look a whole lot more relaxed than bowlers and other sports participants.

Maybe I should put the camera down for a while tomorrow and do that kind of relaxing myself.

What about you? Do you enjoy fishing? Eating fish? Whatever? How about leaving a comment?

P.S. Although the weather was a bit overcast yesterday, the crowd (see the picture above of folks enjoying the hot dog lunch) was even bigger than usual. We had a great time!


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Best regards,

Blessed to be a Blessing

Click on thumbnails to see larger images. Many additional pictures from Nicaragua are available here.

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[NOTE: This post was originally included in the Winn’s Baptist Church newsletter. I’ve edited it just slightly to post here.]

Every Christian should have a chance to go on a mission trip to Nicaragua. One word of caution, though. That experience is apt to be life-changing.

Using the Internet to learn facts about Nicaragua, the second poorest country in Central America, is one thing; seeing poverty like that in person is something else. But the enthusiasm and dedication of the local pastors as they minister to the physical as well as to the spiritual needs of their communities is uplifting beyond description.

I went to Nicaragua on March 5—we returned on the 10th—with fellow Winn’s members Bruce & Renee Bingham, Richard & Leslie Gray, and Jason Harris. Although Leslie had been to Nicaragua before, the rest of us had not.

In order to check six large duffel bags of baseball equipment, used clothing, and other mission-related items, each of us packed our personal things in our carry-on bags. Our back packs accompanied us every day, as did bottled water, hand sanitizer, and cameras. Most of the group wore shorts or capris except on Sunday morning. Temps were in the 90s.

Pastor Carlos Garcia and his wife, Luisa, were our hosts for the week. Carlos had served as the translator on past trips and ended up feeling called to the ministry. In addition to pastoring a church, he also works for the Asociación de Iglesias Evangélicas La Gran Cosecha de Nicaragua. We participated in activities at most of the churches in that association of churches.

We hit the deck running soon after our arrival…a trip to the station where Carlos has a radio ministry. He interviewed Bruce, and Luisa interpreted.

Renee makes jewelry, and she presented each pastor with a bracelet made of fishing tackle—appropriate for “fishers of men.” She gave their wives an angel necklace. At two of the churches we visited, she also did crafts with large groups of children and let them blow bubbles.

We spent two afternoons taking food and Bibles to needy people and seeing their homes up close. The average “house” was probably no bigger than a single-car garage. Although we saw electric cords strewn all over, no one had an actual kitchen—or anything more than a simple outhouse, if they even had that much of a bathroom.

The better homes were cinderblock. The poorer ones were constructed from whatever sheet metal scraps the resident could scrounge up. Many of the homes didn’t have doors. Many were incomplete. Heavy rocks held the metal down on a number of roofs.

Probably our most meaningful activity took place on Thursday, when we washed the feet of a hundred needy children and put new socks and shoes on them. As reminiscent as that was of Jesus washing the disciples’ feet, I sincerely hope he didn’t have the problem of dropping the towel in the basin of water.

We stopped at Pastor Leon’s church, much of which Winn’s helped to build, and enjoyed fellowship with him and his wife.

Sunday was special. We worshipped at Carlos’ church—a two-hour service that didn’t seem nearly that long. Luisa led the singing with her guitar, and I was permitted to share one of my songs. Richard and Leslie participated in the service as well. Carlos’ preaching was dynamic.

That afternoon, everyone but me went zip-lining. Even Carlos’ and Luisa’s three kids. Okay, so I’m scared of heights. But it gave me a chance to take pictures.

Although Monday was a long day of travel—thanks to lengthy layovers—we all got home safely.

You often hear volunteer missionaries say that they went to their place of service hoping to be a blessing, but came away feeling that they had received more of a blessing than they had rendered. I suspect all of our group felt that way.


Please leave a comment if something in this post has spoken to you. I’ll be back again on Wednesday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, just go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

By the way, “Aging Gracelessly” isn’t my only blog. On “As I Come Singing” I post lyrics of the Christian songs I’ve written over the last fifty years. Free lead sheets (tune, words, and chords) are available for many of them. Check here to see the list.

Because I’ve already posted all of my songs, I revise and repost a previous post each Wednesday. If you’re interested, please check that blog out here.

Best regards,