I was driving through town and I received a call from my daughter, Shelby.  I asked her if she needed anything and her response was “no, not really.”  Now, dads….you know what this means…this means that our daughters are calling simply to talk and it is time to buck up and it is time to turn down our radio and put on our listening ears.

She talked of school, friends, and of funny conversations.  She updated me on the show Stranger Things and This is Us.” She informed me that she was studying for a quiz, but that it wasn’t a test. Then I asked a very important question: “What’s the difference between a quiz and a test?”

 (Dads, it is imperative to insert questions now and then to prove that you are listening to the conversation.  Just make sure that your question is relevant to the current portion of the conversation, or the intent of such question will actually backfire.) She stated that a quiz is usually over less material and carries less weight on your final grade than a test.  That being the case….students spend a lot of time studying for tests…and sometimes go into quizzes not as prepared.


Like most things in life, the quiz vs. test scenario became a theological quandary that began to race through my mind.  I began to wonder what would happen if students spent the same amount of time studying for quizzes as tests.  Would it not increase their grades and at the same time better prepare them for the larger and heavier tests that would eventually come their way??

Maybe  I could write a book….”study for the quiz and ace the test.”  I could make millions….and help students everywhere get better grades. I would receive the Nobel Peace Prize and……….


As Christians we spend most of our time worrying about the big test.  We pray about sickness, we pray about finances, we pray about whether or not our kids are ever going to graduate school and become self-reliant tax paying American citizens.  We get “churchy” around holidays and tragedies…but we pass over the daily quizzes in life without much fanfare or attention.  We don’t really pray, seek wisdom, or even think about including God in the little quizzes that the world throws at us every day….the barking dog, the honking car, the overzealous parking attendant, the call from school, the bosses demands, the piled up laundry, the tired husband, the noisy children, the empty supper table, the overflowing garbage can. 

Ahh……life’s little quizzes are coming at us faster than we can even imagine…and because they don’t carry much weight or don’t seem to be overly important…we leave God out.  Can I tell you a little secret?  It might be one you already know and if so….feel free to pass it on.  If we spend as much God time in life’s daily quizzes…we will be much more prepared for life’s big tests.  Can I tell you another little secret?  It might be one you already know and if so…..feel free to pass it on.  God is just as interested in how we do on life’s little quizzes as he is on life’s big tests.  They are weighted no differently. 


May we be more intentional and focused on the life’s daily quizzes. May we include God and let Him lead in all aspects of our life. May we be more prepared for life’s tests because trusting God and talking to Him come as natural as passing an open book quiz.  It is an open book quiz you know…..or it should be anyway.  So…go….open the Book and prepare. 

Written by Dr. Mark A Bedwell


It was October 31st and I was sitting on the front porch watching children as they scavenged through the neighborhood going door to door looking for candy.  Neighbors stopped by just to say hi.  Typical conversations were held about the weather, the football game, the economy……and the housing market.  As one of our neighbors approached, I noticed that at the end of her leash, she had the most beautiful black dog.  His hair was soft and curly.  His eyes set close together and they seemed to be chocolate brown.  He had an under bite,  a slight wheeze…and within seconds I had fallen in love.  (Please don’t tell my dog, Max.)  As I was rubbing his belly, I commented... 

“you don’t really see many black dogs.”


I was shocked  when she quickly responded…”black dog syndrome.”  The typical conversation about weather and housing market turned into an educational seminar about a condition I had never even heard of.  Apparently black dogs are the black sheep (excuse the pun)  of the canine world.  They are commonly the last, if at all to be adopted at a shelter.  The bigger they are…the worse their chances.  I was at least a bit comforted to find out males are more likely to be adopted than females.  Let’s face it guys…there are very few things we can boast about as men…so I will take what I can get.


Since I was so intrigued by this conversation, I went to the internet and found that black dog syndrome was a true phenomenon.  Destined for death at many shelters, some of the reasons that they are passed over might surprise you.  1. Harmful superstitions.  Black dogs are the center of many common folklore tales.  2. Negative labels.  Apparently people associate having a black dog with living with depression due to the terminology “transcending the black dog.”  3. Fear. Many believe that a black dog is simply more aggressive and dangerous. 4. And this is the one that I was most shocked at……they are just too ordinary.  This phenomenon has actually caused some shelters to adopt a BOGO (buy one get one) policy so that the dark coated canines can find a home.


I guess I shouldn’t be shocked that the fate of a beautiful and loving animal rests in decisions being made around superstitions, labels, and fear.  As I think about the many decisions we make every day, I wonder what is shaping those choices.  Are we so easily influenced?  Do negative labels, superstitions, fear, and opinion polls shape and guide who we are and what we do?  Are we people who act out of conviction or are we people who act simply out of conformity?  I also wonder what other kind of syndromes exist.  Who and what are we excluding based upon what we hear rather than what we see with our spiritual eyes and know to be true?  How many opportunities, friendships, and situations are we missing not simply because of the decisions we make……but more so….the basis of those decisions.


May we pay attention to what is shaping our choices.  May we be a friend of conviction.  May we use it to guide us. May we go against the flow.  May we recognize prejudices in our life and may we deal with them appropriately.  May we freely ask for God’s forgiveness.  May you reach out and ask for others forgiveness as well.  May we not be exclusive but may we have a heart that includes.  May we see things through God’s eyes and may He be involved in the basis for all our decisions. May we never look at black dogs the same again.

 Written by our Pastor Dr. Mark A Bedwell


True Story.  Harry was in the front yard trying to teach his son Shane how to ride a small motorcycle that he had purchased for $50.  It looked like something that clowns would ride in a family circus. As Shane stood beside the bike, he grinned as if he were standing beside a Harley Davidson.  He had an adult sized helmet on….so big in fact that you could have fit two of his heads inside of it.  This was shaping up to be one of those Hallmark father and son moments.  As Harry was trying to explain the nuts and bolts of riding a motorcycle….Shane was looking off in the distance and saying what sons say at a time like this….

”I know, dad.”


Harry was pointing out how to give it gas…and how to apply the brakes, how to lean in for the turn, and how keep your lower leg away from the 1,000 degree exhaust that a high caliber machine such as this would emit.  The boy…fidgeting with his helmet as it flopped from left to right kept responding with “I know, dad.”  “I know.”  Here this kid had never even seen a motorcycle before, yet in his mind, he already had a doctors degree In bike-ology. As Harry thought for a second, he realized that his son simply wasn’t listening to his instructions.  Here he was pouring out valuable information that was going to allow his son at an early age to enjoy the open road….or the open front yard at least….and his son didn’t seem the least bit interested in the helpful and even quite possibly…life saving….information.   Harry saw this as a teachable opportunity and he turned to his son and said. “Okay…since you already know how to ride…take off.”  Pretty risky time to pull out a teachable moment.

  Dad’s are like that..aren’t we?  Harry’s hope was that the son would ride, the son would fail, and the son would come back to the father humbled by this experience with apology in hand and say ….”Father, I am ready to listen.”  His desire was for the son to simply see that he actually needed his dad’s instructions to be successful. His desire was for wisdom to be received….or at least acknowledged.


Harry placed Shane on the bike….held him up…and off it went.  That little seven year old boy zoomed across the front yard as if he had been riding for years…..then suddenly it was evident that he had not been riding for years…..as the bike was headed  straight for the front porch.  Like most of us in a situation like this…panic set in…and instead of hitting the brake, he just gave it more gas….then BANG…..right into the front porch. He flew five feet.  The helmet flew twenty. ( I just knew that the oversized helmet was a bad idea.) The little boy stood up and dusted himself off.  He wasn’t hurt too bad…..just a little jarred from the crash and a little dirty and skinned up.  His dad was quite thankful that he was okay.  He thought to himself, however, that THE MOMENT was about to occur.  You know…the moment where the son was going to come to the father and say  “I should have listened.  I should have received your instruction.”  He waited patiently for the son to come up and say those words.  Instead the young lad turned to his dad and walked over to him with his hands on his hips and stated  quite forcefully. ”Way to go dad…you pushed me too hard!!!!!”


Do you see yourself in the story?  I know I do.  How many times has God patiently been trying to give us instruction, point us in the right direction, tug at our heart, our will, our mind, our character?  How many times have we refused His guidance, looked away ….and with our spirit said…”I know, dad.”  The funny thing…not ha ha funny, but ironic funny is that most of the time when we don’t heed God’s instructions or don’t listen or even seek them, we actually think it is because we can do it better on our own.  We act like we have a “doctors degree in bikology” when in actuality we have never even seen a bike before. Furthermore, we believe that He is trying to keep us FROM experiencing something good, instead of providing us with the proper tools TO experience something good.  Harry was simply trying to equip the son to ride the bike…SO THAT…in the end the experience would be richer.


……..AND then after our porch hitting failures….we come back to Him when we blow it and blame Him for allowing, not preventing, and often even causing the calamity that we brought upon ourselves!!!!!  Oh what a tangled web we weave…..  Quite simply folks….sometimes we are just a mess.  I am glad that God has a forgiving, loving, and caring  heart.  I am glad that even though time after time I say “I know, dad”…..that  time and time again….He is patient with me to teach and guide me the very next time. I wish I could be more like Him.  And that is the irony of it all.  That is what this lesson is all about..the helmet, the instructions, the pep talk before the ride…they are all tools…all words….all actions….that if followed…will make me and make you…more like Him.


May we simply stop saying “I know, dad.”  May we learn to hear the Father.  May we learn to listen to the Father….and may we learn to heed the Father’s voice.  May we recognize that He isn’t trying to hinder the ride, but to enhance the ride.  May we not blame God for things that are our own fault.   May we not blame anyone.  May we go so far as to always replace excuses for ownership.   May we strive to be as forgiving and patient as our Father is.   May we desire to be like Him.  But most of all….may we ride.  May we recognize that we were built to live life out loud.  May we go live it in Him.

 Written by our Pastor Dr. Mark A Bedwell