Thursday, July 31, 2008


The one think that makes for a love/hate relationship when researching ancestors is a legend. Every family has legends that surface every time there is a reunion. Sometimes legends have more than one protagonist, several antagonists, and several sub-plots and plot twists.
One such legend that always surfaces among the Goffs is, "When the pilgrims were landing on the Mayflower, the Goffs were already here." This is probably true, but proving it is another matter. Since nobody has actually documented the parentage of my ggg-grandfather, Richard Goff, it is pretty hard to document how we get back to the Jamestown Settlement from here.
Another such legend is that of my gg-grandmother, Martha Webb. Martha was born to Willis and Margaret Webb (nee Stewart) in 1845. My great-grandfather, John "Spoony" Webb, was born in 1865. There are all sorts of tales about how Margaret Webb hid her children away inside of caves so that the Yankees wouldn't shoot her boys or rape her daughters. The east Tennessee hills must have been a horrible place during the war, particularly since the volunteer state was the first to fall to the Yankee juggernaut. However, legend has it that Martha was raped by a soldier boy of Cherokee descent who had worked for her father as a farm laborer prior to the war. After his treacherous deed, the boy went off to war, and did not return to make an honest woman out of Miss Martha. Consequently, the legend says that Martha willed herself to die after her son was born, leaving John "Spoony" to be reared by her parents.
Now, none of this story can be documented. Even though it is the story that has been told since 1865! We know the Civil War ended in 1865. John "Spoony" was born in May of that year. It is possible that his father went off to enlist. It is also possible that such a story was invented so as to disguise the promiscuity of Miss Martha. The only thing we can know for certain, is that Martha died and is interred in Carpenter's Cemetery outside of Glenmary, Tennessee, resting quietly next to her parents. Her tombstone displays only her name, Martha Webb, and the word "daughter."
Legends have no place in serious genealogy, unless, of course, they can be proven by documentation. Legends, however, are the very things that make family history exciting. They give poignancy to otherwise very ordinary existences. History is written by scolars while ordinary everyday people are making it every single day. We need the legends and the oral histories of our parents and grandparents, because we need to know the people who made the way for us. It would just be a whole lot better if they could be easily proven.

It Is Well With My Soul

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Richard Goff (b. 1810)

Richard Goff was born in 1810 in Pulaski County, Kentucky. He married Nancy Pointer in Pulaski County, on March 25, 1831. Nancy's mother, Matilda Bradley Ping, put up the bond. This is the only record that's been found of Richard Goff's existence. There are several possibilities as to whom his parents might have been, but the stone that holds the Excalibur of knowledge has not yet been revealed.
Richard and Nancy had seven children, William Monty, Andrew Jackson, Alvin, Almira, Fountain, George and Matilda Frances. Records exist for all of Richard's children. Tax records, land records, births, marriages and deaths, all testify to the fact that Richard Goff's children were here. Andrew died in Missouri at the start of the War Between the States. George could have been a victim in an Agatha Christie novel; "George Goff disappears following the death of his wife. What happened to him? Is he alive? Is he dead?" Nevertheless, there is a record of George having been born, living and being wed. William married twice and spawned twelve children. His descendants are sprawled across the continent. Fountain also married, as did Almira, Alvin and Matilda. There are records proving they were here.
Richard (1810) is how this man is known among his descendants. We know he died in 1865, but we don't know where or how. We know this because of one reference in an old family Bible. We know that he and Nancy were buried side by side in a cemetery that no longer exists today. It was among many whose residents were disinterred by the Tennessee Valley Authority to make way for Lake Cumberland. Many of those were re- interred in other cemeteries, but we suspect that Richard was probably buried in a pine casket with no vault. There was likely no tombstone, and identification of remains from an unmarked grave would have been impossible in those days.
He was a son, a husband, a father, a grandfather, a great grandfather. He was loved, possibly hated. He was a farmer. Richard (1810) truly belongs to the ages, but he did exist.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


Rebecca Belle Dodson Grimes McCloud Cole, better known as Belle, was born May 15, 1889, and died March 25, 1986. Belle was my great-grandmother on my mother's side. By the time I came along, Belle was already an old 69 years, a hard fiery Cherokee woman with a heart as big as Oklahoma. This is her story.
Belle was born in White County, Tennessee, the first child of Emily Bowlin Dodson and the seventh child of Sam Dodson. Legend has it that Sam was 3/4 Cherokee, and judging by Belle's dark piercing eyes, high cheekbones and porcelain skin, there was probably an element of truth to it. Growing up poor on the plateau of the Cumberland Mountains, Belle's education was sparse. She did, however, finish grammar school, which at that time, was the sixth grade.
By the time she was 15, Belle was living in Oklahoma Indian Territory where Sam Dodson was running a boarding house. It was there, outside of Broken Bow, that she met the rogue and rounder, Lonnie Grimes. Being that it meant one less mouth to feed, Sam and Emily, gave their blessing to a marriage that sent Belle back to Tennessee.
In 1907, Belle boarded a train with her new husband and travelled to Whitwell, Tennessee. Lonnie Grimes was a player, however, and it didn't take long for Belle to figure out that he still had some running around to get out of his system. Lonnie travelled around by horse and carriage or by train, going from one depot to another, one poker game to another, and Belle had had enough. Belle used to say, "That Lonnie Grimes gambled away half of White County before he finally give it up."
Belle was hanging laundry outside on the clothes line, when one day, out of nowhere, her husband showed up at her gate. All set to ask for an annulment of her marriage, a storm blew up, and they went inside their little shack. Lonnie Grimes never left home again until he died of typhoid in February 1914.
Belle gave birth to her first child, Virgie Belle in 1910. Lena Mae came along in 1912. Lonnie Edward was born in June 1914, four months following the death of his father. Alone with no money, Belle boarded the train back to White County, where her mother, Emily, was now living. She moved in with Emily and set about doing odd jobs - ironing clothes, baking pies, cleaning houses - to make a little money. She married Casto McCloud sometime around 1918 and gave birth to Hubert in 1919.
Casto worked in the coal mines all along the Cumberland Plateau. He drank heavily and often took out his rage on Belle and her children. Belle and Casto divorced sometime around 1935. It was the height of the Great Depression, but for Belle, that would not have meant anything, because she had known no other way but dirt poor. In 1938, she met Elmer Cole, a widower with a six month old daugther. Belle and Elmer married, and Belle suddenly had another daughter, Rilda Dean.
Elmer Cole gave Belle the one thing in life she had never had, a peaceful home. Elmer was a quiet mountain of a man who worked in the coal mines. He moved his family to Crossville, Cumberland County, to a little asbestos shingled house on the outskirts of town.
I spent many summers at Grandma Belle's house in Tennessee. Her home is a series of snapshots in the my mind that I'll never lose. That little blue-green house had a front porch with a rocking chair. Out in front of the house was a little vegetable garden, to the side, chickens pecked the ground. A cornfield was in the back of the house and beyond that was the outhouse, a tiny building of aged pine, with three depositories. That outhouse stunk to high heaven, which is why it was so far away from the house!
Upon entering the front door, was the living room, small and painted an olive green. A long couch was against the front wall, while Elmer's brownish red vinyl recliner (usually with Elmer in it) was positioned immediately across from it. A coal stove took up a huge part of the living room, but it rarely burned in the summer time or early fall. There was an old Zenith console television that was never turned on, and just above the rabbit ears was a picture of Rilda Dean hanging on the wall.
Off to the right were bedrooms and to the back was the kitchen. There was a picture of Sam Dodson over the kitchen table. In Lena's bedroom, which became the guest bedroom whenever Grandma Virgie and I would visit, hung a portrait of Lonnie Grimes. The walls in the bedrooms were papered by newspaper, but the beds were pure feather down with heavy wool blankets and homemade quilts.
I remember the smells that emanated from Grandma Belle's kitchen. She always had a pot of pinto beans on the stove, sometimes cooking with a ham in them, other times just a slab of fatback, but they always tasted as good as they smelled. Since Belle's family went to the bed with the chickens and got up with the roosters, breakfast was the big meal of the day, but all the meals were meant to sustain a person through the work that needed doing.
Elmer Cole died in the early part of 1979, and Belle left her little farm and moved into the Crossville city limits. At 90 years old, Belle finally had hot and cold running water. She had three bedrooms and an indoor bathroom, but she wouldn't enjoy it long. In 1982, Belle broke her hip and never recovered. Her memory slowly but surely faded away as did her strength and zest for life.
Belle died on March 25, 1986 at Cumberland Medical Center, leaving behind, two sons and three daughters, 12 grandchildren, 20 great grandchildren, and six great great grandchildren. Belle lies beside Elmer at the Green Acres Memory Gardens in Crossville, Cumberland County, Tennessee. In spite of the hard times that Belle knew all her life, she remained a devout Christian. She is undoubtedly among the Great Cloud of Witnesses watching her descendants run our races and cheering us home.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Andy & Nellie

Andrew Montgomery Goff was born, July 23, 1892, and Nellie Hughes Goff was born, July 10, 1892. Andy was the son of Richard and Mary Ellen Goff (nee Stephens,) of Somerset, Kentucky. Nellie was the daughter of Bud and Mattie Hughes, also of Somerset.

Andy used to talk about the first time he saw Nellie in almost fairy-tale prose. She was running across the meadow with her long red hair blowing in the wind, and she was the prettiest thing he'd ever seen. They eloped to Huntsville, Tennessee and were married by Justice of the Peace, James McDonald, on April 29, 1913.

Andy found work on the river barges, moving coal up and down the Cumberland River, while Nellie set up housekeeping. Their first child, Herbert, came along on February 28, 1914, but died on March 21, 1914. John Milton Goff came along on June 20, 1915, followed by Thelma, born February 12, 1920.

By 1920, Andy was working for the Southern Railroad, and he moved his family to Ludlow, Kentucky to become a foreman. They moved into the section house, a home owned by the railroad. Nellie would give birth to three more children, Richard on November 17, 1924, Paul Martin on June 12, 1927 and Abel on April 2, 1930.

The child rearing and discipline fell to Nellie, as Andy's job took him away from home five days out of the week. The depression hit the Goff family hard, as they were beyond poor but still had it better than some, since Andy always had work. Five children tried the patience of the fiery redhead who was known for her Irish temper. Nellie sometimes took drastic measures to keep her children in line. One legend that surfaces at every family reunion is about the time she tied Johnny to a tree to teach him not to run away from home!

Andy and Nellie were strict Southern Baptists. That defined who they were and how they lived their lives. Andy believed in the cooperation of churches to advance missions. He believed in that old fashioned, soul saving grace. Members of the First Baptist Church of Ludlow, Kentucky, Nellie attended as often as she could when her health permitted. Andy sported a perfect attendance pin 35 years of faithful service. They reared their children in the church, and when they were grown, they too reared their families in the church.

Andy retired in 1955, and with all his children married and on their own, he and Nellie bought a little home in Covington, Kentucky. The house on 18th Street is where they were living when I would come to know them. I can remember walking up the steps and into the front door. On the left was their master bedroom. Walking past that, the living room was a big open room with two huge windows that Nellie had covered with venetian blinds and white lace curtains. There was a couch on the front wall, and two chairs on both side walls. The main attraction, though, was the huge black iron wood stove with the smell of Andy's cornbread emanating from within.

The kitchen was simple with linoleum floors, white walls. It was very utilitarian with a stove and refrigerator and a table with six chairs. Nellie's signature dish was chicken and dumplings, and that is what she served whenever the family gathered there for dinner. Dinner was often followed by Andy playing his fiddle or banjo.

Nellie died on December 4, 1972, five months shy of being married sixty years. After Nellie died, Andy moved in with his youngest son, Abel. Abel's wife, Cora, took care of Andy when Andy could no longer care for himself. In the four years following Nellie's death, Andy got weaker and weaker until congestive heart failure finally took him home in May, 1976.

Andy and Nellie are together now in Gloryland. They watched the big Goff Reunion of 2004 from the Great Cloud of Witnesses, and must have been overjoyed by those of us who came together. Strangers met at Appalachian Park in Renfro Valley and came away family. Relationships were made that will endure forever, despite distance and absence. The Goff legacy is well established.

Thursday, July 17, 2008


Miranda is Phil's daughter and my step-daughter. When Phil and I met, she was still in college at KY Wesleyan. Then she went on to Vanderbilt for her MTS, and she eventually graduated from UT Law School. In 2006, Miranda married David Head, and they live in Tennessee, where Miranda practices law.
This young lady is one of the most focused, driven persons I've ever known, and she has her own mind with the courage to give it voice. She plays the piano quite well and continues to study. Apparently, she is also quite the golfer and plays regularly.
We are extremely proud of Miranda for the way she chooses to live her life and the light she brings to the world.

The Great River

This is the Rio Grande, the photo taken standing on the dam outside of Del Rio, Texas. The right side of the river is Mexico; the left is Texas.

Standing on the dam, it is easy to imagine standing on a bridge that crosses Jordan. Loved ones are on both sides, those we leave behind, and those standing in that great cloud of witnesses. The bridge across Jordan is a bridge built by love, not that we loved Him, but that He loved us.

Kids Upstage the Preacher

This has to be every performer's worst nightmare, to be in the middle of a performance and be upstaged by a kid. Vacation Bible School began yesterday evening. Following the parade of classes and the pledges to the flags and Bible, Rev. Tony spoke to the children about Jesus. He used a "rubics" cube of sorts to explain the redemption story.
At the first the cube displayed a picture of a man in the dark and a very bright light, meant to be God. Then he showed Jesus on the cross. Then he showed the tomb with the stone in front of it and the Roman soldiers standing guard. Then he showed Jesus on the outside of the tomb.
Suddenly one of the boys shouted, "Wait a minute! How'd he get past those guards?"

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

It's Time to Discuss Phil

Philip Andrew Christy is the one and only reason I would have ever moved to Bracken County. We met while I was leading the music at the fall revival of First Baptist Church of Augusta in October, 1999. Yes, that was the revival that would change the course of my life.
I didn't like Phil very much when I first met him. He was arrogant and something of a smart Alec. On our first date, we went to Tumbleweed in Florence. Dinner was awful, and we argued the entire time. Phil, being a pilot, kept telling me how I would eventually want to learn to fly, even though, I kept telling him that I had absolutely no more interest in flying a plane than running my fingernails down a chalkboard.
When he took me home, he told me he was going to Texas for a week, and would I call him while he was there. I remember saying to him, "Are you crazy? I wouldn't call you if you were in Kentucky, and I'm surely not going to call you in Texas." The week went by, and I didn't call him, nor did he call me. When he returned to Kentucky, however, he did call and asked if I'd like to get together. I told him I didn't think we had very much in common and we probably shouldn't pursue anything.
Then I had to get together with my friend, Susan, who proceeded to tell me that I was being a stubborn and spoiled brat; and if I wasn't going to call Phil back, she would! So, from Susan's house, I did call him back, and the rest, as they say, is history! Phil and I were married on January 9, 2000, at the First Baptist Church of Augusta. We moved into a really nice apartment in Florence, and I became Property Valuation Administrator for Boone County the very next day. Phil continued to work for Comair.
The first year of our marriage was tricky because we were both so busy. During that year, 2000, I got married for the first time, accepted a public job that would be scrutinized, (or so it seemed,) by the world, bought a house, and ran an unsuccessful political campaign. Phil accepted a new job, bought a house, and watched me run an unsuccessful campaign. Somehow, we got through it.
We've been married 8 1/2 years. Phil hated Boone County, so we bought a farm and built a house in Bracken County. I don't hate Bracken County, but it will never be home. All that aside, I love Phil with all my heart. There are times I really hate him, but thankfully, those times are few. Fundamentally, we are the same. We're both Christians. We both believe in the infallibility of the Bible, although we sometimes interpret it very differently. We laugh together, and Phil puts up with my "stuff."
He accepts that I fight with Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Fybromyalgia. He accepts that I'm a diabetic and an asthmatic. He accepts my migraine headaches. He accepts my two dogs and five cats (although the cats come in and out of his grace.)
My house is something that Phil built with his own two hands. Every nail that's hammered in this house was put here by Phil or his brother, John. He is in the process of building a deck. Phil is second most talented man I've known, the first being my dad. He is intelligent beyond belief, although he was not so successful with his own education. He can read for a flight exam and pass it with a 99% grade! Currently, he drives a truck for a living, which he says he hates, but he works because I can no longer. That isn't something he signed on for, but he's here.

Virgie Belle Grimes Webb

Virgie Belle Grimes was born on the 2nd of June, 1910 in Whitwell, Tennesee to Lonnie Grimes and Rebecca Belle Dodson, the first of five children. Virgie and her sister, Lena, barely got to know their father, as he died in February, 1914 when Virgie was four and Lena, two. Lonnie Edward Grimes, the baby, was still on the way.
So, Belle packed up her girls and boarded a train for White County, Tennessee. Moving in with her mother, Emily, Belle set about making a way for her family. Emily Bowlin Dodson, was a widow, herself, as Belle's father, Sam Dodson, had died in 1908. Lonnie Edward came in June.
White County is in the heart of the Cumberland Mountains, as Virgie's memories were of coal mines and company stores. Education was hard fought, as Belle's children would walk to school every day. Their homestead was miles from town, and the roads were dirt. Virgie was a straight A student and graduated at the top of her class from the 8th Grade. High School was a luxury unavailable to Virgie, but she made the most of what she had.
Virgie met John Henry Webb, from over in Glenmary, Scott County, Tennessee, sometime around 1927. They married in 1929 in Jamestown, Tennesee. John was from a family with ties to the land nearly as ancient as Virgie's. A family whose farm had been in the family for four generations, surely looked like security to her. They set up housekeeping on the Webb Farm, and she would give birth to Reba and James Lonnie.
The world around the Webbs had already shifted on its axis, as the stock market had already crashed, and the depression was well underway. Virgie, was used to being dirt poor, but the Webbs began migrating to Northern Kentucky in search of work. First, Will Webb, accompanied by his wife, Ina, moved to Covington, Kentucky, to take work with the Southern Railroad. Then Jim Webb, accompanied by his wife, Christy, came to Northern Kentucky to work for the same rail. One by one, the Webb family migrated. John Henry moved Virgie and his family to Ludlow, Kentucky, a small town on the Ohio River, in 1933, and the depression was raging.
Virgie would take on odd jobs to make extra money for the family. She would do laundry, iron clothes, whatever she could do. John Henry looked for work. During much of that time, John would haul ice, work for the railroad, and for the WPA to keep his family from starving. The family held its breath after December 7, 1942, as John Henry faced the draft board, but he returned having not been in good enough health to fight in a war.
Ironically, life began to change for Virgie and her family. The WPA brought steady work, and her children were involved with school. As poor as she had always been, she must have started feeling rich, as much in spirit as in wealth. The 1940s and 50s were good for Virgie. She worked in Nell Donnelly's grocery store and eventually took it over from Nell. She ran her business, and for the first time, Virgie didn't have to worry about having rent money. She saved every nickle she made, and she could stretch a nickle into a mile. Although, it's important to note that Virgie never owned her own home.
In 1950, Reba got married, and James Lonnie was married in 1951. Virgie got her first grandchild in 1952, followed by two more in 1958. She would have three more by the end of the 1960s. In 1962, however, Virgie would face life alone, as John Henry passed away in May from a cerebral hemorage. She buried him in Forest Lawn Cemetery, in Erlanger, Kentucky, and at 52, she was a widow.
Virgie worked for Dolly Madison in Cincinnati, Ohio until she retired at age 60 in 1970. She remained active in the First Baptist Church of Ludlow, Kentucky until she could no longer live by herself. When she was 86, Virgie moved to Burlington to live with her daughter, Reba. She would join John Henry in Gloryland on December 6, 1997.
Virgie Belle Grimes Webb was a tower of strength. Whatever she set her mind to do, she could accomplish. She read the Bible every single day. It was hidden in her heart, to spill out whenever she felt threatened by the devil. She worried about her family, her children and grandchildren, sometimes to the point of overkill; but they always knew they had that hedge of angels around them because of the prayer warrior that Virgie was.
Virgie couldn't always remember her grandkids' names, and she would often get them confused. She would cook dinner for me using Rhonda's favorite foods. She would call Scott "Sparky" instead of his name. Sparky was the dog. Virgie was more than offended the year Scott and I made name tags for Thanksgiving dinner. She didn't take jokes well, but she liked games. She would spend hours playing Old Maid or Go Fish! She beat everybody at Chinese Checkers.
The legacy that Virgie left behind is well established. All of her grandchildren went to college. That was very important to her. She went to my graduation when I received my master's degree, and she probably shed more tears of pride and joy than anybody. Virgie's great grandchildren are functioning members of society. She didn't live long enough to know my family, but she would have approved.
Virgie is always here at every holiday gathering, at weddings and funerals. She meets us where we need her in dreams or prayers. She'll always be in our hearts.
I was with Virgie on her deathbed. I told her I wanted her to get well and come home. I'll never forget her words to me, "I'm going home. It won't be long, but I know I'll see you there."
No, it won't be long at all.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Farther Along

There is an old gospel song called Farther Along, by R.E. Winsett. The words are as follows:

Tempted and
tried we're oft made to wonder
Why it should
be thus all the day long
While there are
others living about us
Never molested
though in the wrong
Monday afternoon, I had to go into the city and decided I'd come back along the river so I could take advantage of the sunshine and take some pictures for another website. Augusta has this one intersection that is really tricky, and if I live here for 100 years, I'll never get it right. There I was sitting in the middle of the intersection waiting for two other cars to make their moves. Suddenly they both started beeping their horns. Then there was a car behind me too, and I'm reasonably certain that poor women must have been deaf because she was using sign language to communicate with me. Finally, after a moment of shear dread and panic, I realized that I was the only person without a stop sign.
Then just as I put my foot on the accelerator and started to make my turn, the car coming toward me decided he had waited long enough and turned right. I nearly hit him and slammed on my breaks. Looking in my rearview mirror, that poor deaf lady was signing me again. You know that sign that said Welcome to Augusta right before I got to that intersection? Well, Augusta really didn't seem all that welcoming to me today.
As if that wasn't bad enough, I drove on down Main Street whereupon I saw the meanest lady in the town unpacking her car. Now this lady, Sandra, opened a new restaurant in town, which I'm sure is excellent. (Just because the lady is mean, doesn't mean she can't cook. I've tasted her food and it's usually very good.) Sandra has a new vehicle. Last year, she drove a Ford; this year, she is driving a BMW!
Why does it always seem like people who are mean to us get so many blessings? Oh I know the answer. It's because their blessings aren't really blessings. They are material things that will bloom and fade, but once they're gone, well.. they're gone forever. As a Christian, I'm laying up treasures in Heaven. Sure a BMW would be nice but I'll never have one, and I'd probably wreck it if I did.
I admit that I have prayed for Sandra for about a year now. I want God to bless her and her family, because at one point Sandra was my friend. I should look at that BMW as an answer to my prayers for her (but I admit I'm not quite there... yet.) I do want those drivers who were impatient with me to have a little more patience in their lives, to have a bit more grace. I want those things for myself.... not patience. I don't want patience.

Farther along,
we'll know all about it.
Farther along,
we'll understand why.
Cheer up my
brother. Live in the sunshine.
We'll understand it all by and by.


Monday, July 14, 2008

The Old Home Place

This is a picture of my mother's old home place in Glenmary, Tennessee. It doesn't look like much, does it? I'm told it was made from old chestnut logs cut from ancient trees that grew right there in Scott County.

Of course, Scott County was at one point Morgan County, and Morgan was once Roane. The map just kept changing around the old Webb farm, but the old Webb farm never moved. Webb ancestors raised sheep and chickens. They planted the gardens that sustained their families through the changing seasons. They forged shelter in the caves during the civil war. God surely blessed my ancestors with the old home place.

I never got to visit the old home place. Most of the family had moved north during the depression. At one point the farm had to be sold to pay the taxes, but family bought it back. For more than a 100 years, the old home place kept faith with the Webb family. Finally, they sold the old house, and it was dismantled as the old chestnut logs were carried away one by one down the mountain, probably to be used in a new log home to sustain a new family. I like to believe that anyway.

The Webb and Carpenter Cemeteries are providing temporary residences to all my great grandparents (going back through four generations) and aunts and uncles, cousins I only meet through census reports and paper trails. Someday though, I will meet them all on the streets of Glory. In that day, when we all see the Lord... when we're all on our knees thanking Jesus for our salvation... In that day, I will also be able to thank all my ancestors for the home place deep inside my heart.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Lead Us Not IntoTemptation

This morning Rev. Tony preached what he said will be his final sermon on the Lord's Prayer. His text, of course, came from the Sixth chapter of the Book of Matthew, verse 13. "And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil..." (KJV) Actually, there is another sermon in that verse, as it goes on to say, "for Thine is the kingdom and the glory and power forever. Amen." (KJV) However, Tony ends it here.
Today's premise is that the word temptation is defined in this situation as "test." When temptation comes our way, it is not from God, because God cannot lead us into evil. He can, however, allow tests that will shape our character. We can be tested during emotional highs and extreme lows. When we fall into one of these tests or "traps" (my word,) we do so because of the lusts in our own lives, as he paraphrased Chapter 4, Book of James.
From here, the good reverend explained that there is a very real adversary working against the children of God, and we need rescuing. "Deliver us from evil," is a cry for rescue from that which causes pain and trouble in our lives. When we pray, we are to pray for individuals. The church is brick and mortar, but the people in it make up the body of Christ. He said that when we ask God to keep us safe from those tests of evil, we "win," because through Christ Jesus, we have been delivered.
I told Rev. Tony, coming out of church today that I thought his sermon was concise and to the point. I had to think about it for awhile to really be able to comment, and believe it or not, the only comment I have is as follows:
I agree wholeheartedly with Tony that as Christians we will go through tests, and as such, we learn lessons from resisting temptation, and sometimes greater lessons when we don't.
The Apostle Paul is very clear in the Book of Romans that the Spirit will help us with our prayers. Romans, Chapter 8, verse 26, "Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered." (KJV) We have to be very careful not to burden our brothers and sisters in Christ with expectations of perfection that are not manifest to our human eyes. We should not instill a "fear" into our congregation that if they should "fall prey to any test because of their own lusts, then they would be out of the will of God." That is simply not true. To suggest otherwise is to negate the entire redemption story.
Case in point. When Peter walked on water, where was he in this test? When he took his eyes off Jesus, was he suddenly out of God's will? The answer is clearly "NO." Didn't the Savior reach out His hand for Peter and tell his disciple that he should have more faith? Clearly, the result of this test was Peter learned a valuable lesson about who commands the seas and who is worthy of his service and worship. Most tests that we face are like this. They are tests of faith, and we are reminded over and over that the source of our faith is God.
Sometimes we stumble publicly in ways that embarrass us and call our character into question. Once again, Peter denied Jesus three times. He was, however, never "out of God's will," as Jesus had already told him he would be the rock upon which His church would be built.
We have to remember that God has called us to Him. He will qualify us according to His plans, and even though we may stumble, forgiveness is available to us. Every Sunday, and today is not different, Tony talks about standing in judgement. We cannot say to our fellow Christian, "you will have to answer to God for your sin," for if he is saved (and only God can truly know,) then Romans 5:9 states that the believer is " justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him." (KJV) Our mortal lives may face the consequences of our missteps, but our eternal lives are never on the line when we are covered in the blood.
Rev. Tony was absolutely correct when he proclaimed, "We win!" Those headlines have been written in RED.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Life With Sam

Meet my German Shepherd, Sam. Sam just showed up on my porch one Saturday in October 2005. He scared us to death, because the coyotes around our farm are really brave. They'll come within ten feet of people and stand there as if to say, "I was here first!" We thought Sam was a coyote.
He was skinny when he walked up onto the porch. Phil opened the front door, and I sat down in the floor of our foyer and just looked at this poor dog. At first, he was timid and unsteady as he stepped onto the hardwood floor, but he did come inside. I just sat there and he walked over and laid down, putting his head in my lap. I loved this dog immediately.
Phil and I walked all over the hills where we live to see if anyone had lost a dog. Sam is definitely a purebred German Shepherd of German stock. You can find dogs like him for sale on the Internet for tons of money, but nobody would claim this dog. We put an ad in the local weekly newspaper, and at the time, I had a small gift shop in town, so I put signs up there. Thank God! Nobody else wanted this dog.
Sam belongs to me now. He's my pet. He's my friend. I had him microchipped. He has saved the life of my pekingese so many times. They are brothers. I have three young cats who look to Sam like he's "dad." He watches out for them, even waiting until they've tasted his dog food before nudging them out of the way. At night, he herds the cats into the bedroom. If he hears one in another room, he'll go get her and bring her to us. We didn't teach him that; he's a dog filled with love.
If Sam had to choose between eating and being with me, he'd choose me. He came knowing how to walk behind me, to stop when I stop and to lie down on command. He is now a 90 pound dog, so he can't turn around in our hallway very easily. That's usually when I fall over him.
He's great at fetch, but he doesn't always bring things back. I quit with the Frisbee because I kept hitting him in the head, but he always forgave me and was willing to keep on trying.
I take Sam almost everywhere. He rides in the front seat beside me, or sometimes he'll lay in the back seat. He is a great dog, and he was free! I wouldn't take a million dollars for this dog! I love my dog.

The Beginnings of Discussions on Theology

I have always been fascinated by theology. It's a very dangerous topic and not one I visit lightly. I'm not a theology scholar, although my daughter has a masters degree in it, and she is always sure that the rest of us have misinformed opinions. I study theology because I want to know God. So many people seem to know a great deal about God, but I'm often bewildered by the fact that they do not KNOW God. They do not appear to have any kind of personal relationship with Him; the concept is not logical to them. They question how something supernatural can have a "relationship" with someone in the natural. It tests the limits of their imagination.

I've been studying Calvinism over the past several years. Ten years ago, I thought Calvinism was reserved for people who, well, let's just say see themselves as set apart from the rest of us. I've learned over and over all about God's sense of humor that's wrapped up in that marvelous irresistible grace that is always sufficient. Thus, today I see this form of theology as very liberating. It gives back to God what has always been His.
We know that we are born into sinful world, that even in the innocence of infancy, we are sinful merely because sin has separated us from God. We know, as Christians, that He calls us to Him with no conditions. He doesn't call the qualified but qualifies the called. Unless we embrace universalism, atonement is limited to those who repent of our sins and call upon Him as Lord. His grace is irresistible, because He is all powerful. He rules the universe, and in so doing, how can it be possible to ignore His call? Finally, for those who are covered by the blood of Jesus, losing our salvation is just too much fathom.

The an acronym for Calvinism is T.U.L.I.P..
  1. Total depravity of man
  2. Unconditional election
  3. Limited atonement
  4. Irresistible grace
  5. Perseverance of the saints

I am going to write more about this as the days go by, to share my thoughts on why I've evolved to embrace this theology. My pastor and I seem to have this discussion every Sunday, and I walk away laughing, while he walks away scratching his head. Here's the key that turns the lock: God is omnipotent. If He is omnipotent and His grace unlimited, God cannot be limited by human characteristics! In the future, I'm going to include Scriptures that I believe support these five tenants.

Again, I am not a theologian or scholar. I'm just like everybody else, waiting on the Lord and walking toward home. I'm hoping people will visit and leave comments so I can learn from them and maybe everyone else can too.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Reba Webb Goff

Reba Jerleen Webb Goff was born in Glenmary, Scott County, Tennessee to John Henry Webb and Virgie Belle Webb, nee Grimes. She was the first of three children, born during the depression. She had one brother, James Lonnie (Buddy) and one sister, Shelba Jean. In 1932, the family moved from the hills of Tennessee and the land that had been in the Webb family for generations to Ludlow, Kenton County, Kentucky. Reba is my mother.
When John Webb could find work during the depression years, it was often doing odd jobs such as carrying ice and working for the WPA. John's brother, Will, had moved to Northern Kentucky with the Southern Railroad, and eventually, John worked there too.
Virgie always worked, doing laundry for other people or whatever she could to help make ends meet. She worked in Nell Donnelly's store for awhile and eventually bought it from Nell. She carried groceries all over Ludlow, making deliveries for extra cash.
Reba is a product of the Ludlow Independent School system, having graduated from high school in 1948. She has always talked about Anna Jean Fightmaster, whom she said was her best friend through school. There are photographs of the two of them on various trips.
In 1950, Reba married Paul Goff, in a small ceremony in the parsonage of First Baptist Church of Ludlow. The two set up housekeeping living upstairs over Clarence and Gladys Dunnegan's house across from the church. I came along in 1958, and they had moved to Church Street. By 1960, Paul wanted to move to the country. So they borrowed money from Paul's dad for a down payment and bought a house on Bullittsville Road in Burlington, Boone County, Kentucky.
Paul and Reba immediately began attending Burlington Baptist Church to which they eventually moved their membership.
Reba didn't drive in those years. She worked for Reeve's Drive-in in Florence, and Paul would load me into his Impala and drive her to work at 5:00 and go and get her sometime after 11:00. Somehow, they made that work even though he worked everyday on the Railroad.
Reba's house was immaculate. One could still eat a scrambled egg off the floor of her kitchen and never fear (a weird gene that did not get passed to me.) We had that little bitty house, and every 10 years or so, Reba and Paul would decide to paint the walls and try something different. Yet, it was always simple and neat.
It was sometime in the early 70s that Reba went to work for the Boone County Fiscal Court. Her friend from church, Billie Jo Morris, was beginning a juvenile program in Boone County under the auspices of then County Judge Bruce Ferguson. They asked Reba to come to work, an opportunity for which Reba was always grateful.
Reba is two things: a died in the wool Roosevelt democrat and a strict Southern Baptist. I think she has crossed over in her voting a few times, but never in her spiritual life. She's the rock on a Rock. In the late 60s and early 70s, Reba taught Sunday School. (She was my teacher at least three times. Billie Jo was my teacher four times that I can recall, not to mention my GA leader.) Reba was always the realist in the family too. If someone (I) wanted to take dance lessons, Paul was all for it, but Reba would second guess whether it was right. Paul usually won, and when awards or accolades came as a result, Reba was usually all smiles. Yet, having said that, Reba was usually the one who ended up taking her daughter to all those lessons that Paul decided she should have. Tisk, I regress.
Reba has a million friends. No joke. True Friends. .. At least a million. She knows everybody, and everybody seems to know her. All one has to do is be nice to her, and she'll be their friend for life. She builds people up and defends them. She's very naive, but that's definitely worked for her. Her closest friends have to be Bea & Larky Smith, Mabel & Darrell Reed, Frances Love and Billie Jo Morris. She's also close to her sister-in-law, Dorothy Webb, although she gets frustrated when Dorothy gets snippy. (I don't think she means to get snippy, but she doesn't like to answer many questions.)
Reba is now 79 years young and still works as often as she is needed. She loves working for the county, mostly because she loves being with people. Judge Executive Gary Moore and County Administrator Jeff Earlywine seem to take very good care of her. Daphne Kornblum and Robin Curry also look out for her. They pretty much allow her to come and go as she wants, but Reba would never ever take advantage of that. She'll always agree to work longer hours during vacation season and employee illnesses, even at the chagrin of her family and friends who think she ought to slow the pace a bit.
Reba is my mother. As much trouble as I've managed to give her in my life, I thank God for her everyday. She taught her daughter well and made sure she was well rounded in her life experiences and studies. She taught me about Jesus. She made sure I knew (and still know) that I could always come home. No matter what, I could always come home. That is one incredible foundation.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Paul Goff

Paul Martin Goff was born June 12, 1927. He died August 13, 2005. He was my father. The words come slowly now as emotions work their way to the surface.
Paul's father, Andy, was a foreman for the Southern Railroad. His mother, Nellie, had a second grade education. He had three brothers and one sister with whom he remained steadfastly close all his days.
The Goffs migrated to Cincinnati from Somerset, Kentucky so that Andy could work on the rail. Paul was born in Ludlow, in the section house where his family lived until Andy' retired. The section house was owned by the railroad, and that was a good thing. The depression hit the family hard, and they could never have afforded a home of their own. They lived in extreme poverty, but they had it better than most. Andy, at least, had steady work. Nellie was home alone with the children. She was a strict disciplinarian and was known for her redheaded temper. Times were different then. Things she used to control her children would not be tolerated today, but not to fear, her children turned out just fine.
She believed in rearing her children on the Word of god. The children attended Ludlow School, and were all raised in the First Baptist Church of Ludlow. Andy was a strict Southern Baptist, believing strongly in the need for the cooperative association among churches. Andy wore his perfect attendance church pins proudly. All the Goff children would grow to be avid church going evangelicals, especially Paul.
It's hard to imagine what life must have been like for the Goffs, being so poor. Paul used to talk about the day his elementary class went to the Cincinnati Zoo. He wore a winter wool suit. He said he nearly roasted, and some girls made fun of him because it was spring. He said he cried the rest of the day. It was the only suit he had.
Paul joined the U.S. Army in 1944 after his brother, Richard, was wounded during the kamikaze strike of the U.S.S. Morrison. He entered the Army at 16, and got to see most of Europe. He was an MP in Italy immediately after the fall of Mussolini. That's a subject that was off limits for discussion unless he mentioned it first.
When he came home from the service, he asked Reba Webb to marry him, and after a two year engagement, they married on April 29, 1950 at the First Baptist Church parsonage. Paul worked for the Southern Railroad, like his father before him. During a slow time when he was laid off from the rail, he sold insurance which he hated. When he went back to the rail, he spent 37 years there.
In 1960, Paul moved his family from Ludlow to Burlington. By this time he had a two year old daughter (me.) He bought an 800 sq. ft. red brick house. He fenced the yard, and built patios and flower beds. He planted trees and kept his property looking better than anyone else's in the neighborhood. The backyard was Paula's Playground. At one point, he had built a swing set, a slide, a merry-go-round, two different kinds of seesaws and a swimming pool. There were more toys in our backyard than at the elementary school playground. (I always wondered if other kids came to see me or to just play with my toys.)
There wasn't anything I couldn't get if I caught Paul in just the right mood. His goal was very simple: He wanted his daughter to have everything that he didn't have as a child. He worked everyday so that my life would be easy. He attended every play I was ever in, and he insisted that I learned to read music. He encouraged me in anything I ever expressed interest. Band, drama, choir, dance and baton twirling were all things he supported, emotionally and monetarily. He loved my friends. His favorites had to be Leslie Berkshire, Claudia Nevel and Teresa Smoot. He loved Bonnie Reed too, but she was more like another daughter as her family lived next door.
Paul lived a good life. He said so on his death bed, even though he had spent the last 20 years of it in and out of hospital after hospital. He started out with throat cancer whereby he had a laryngectomy. His beautiful tenor voice was silenced, but he could still coach me. He then entertained a bout with prostate cancer, followed by congestive heart failure and diabetes. Finally, lung cancer took him home.
Even in the last 20 years of his life, although sick and somewhat feeble, he managed to "see the USA in his Chevrolet." Paul & Reba, along with our next door neighbors, Mabel & Darrell Reed, his boyhood fishing buddies, John D. & Frances Love, and Bea & Larky Smith, spent six weeks each summer travelling to different parts of the country. When John D. was the first of the crew to pass away, Paul lost much of his amusement for life.
He rallied in 2000 when his daughter was appointed Property Valuation Administrator of Boone County by then Kentucky Governor, Paul Patton. The night before assuming that position, Paula married Phil Christy. When Phil built a house in Bracken County and the brick was finally on it, Paul could rest easy, knowing he had left Reba in good shape and Paula had Phil. On Saturday morning, August 13, 2005, Paul went to Heaven. He is missed more than any one person should be, but everyone knows where he is. He left the world a better place for having been here. That's more than most people can ever say.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008


This past Sunday, Rev. Tony preached about forgiveness, taking his text from the Lord's Prayer in the sixth chapter of the Book of Matthew, "Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors." Tony brought in the rest of this text wherein Jesus explained that if we do not forgive others, God cannot forgive us. For 35 minutes, Tony drove this home. There was no implied threat here. He was crystal clear that one could not receive forgiveness from God unless one forgives and forgets others for whatever transgression may have been committed.
I totally agree with Tony on this. What's to disagree with, the Bible? I'm not prepared to disbelieve what I believe to be the Word of the Living God. However, I think forgiveness, of ones own accord, is not always possible let alone probable. It is not something that the human condition can bring about without the divine intervention from God.
It is, therefore, my contention that forgiveness comes only in communion with God. By communion, I'm referring to prayer. Praying for our enemies is the only possible way to forgive them. There are wounds that cut so deeply, words cannot describe it. The only balm for those wounds comes from the Holy Spirit. We cannot continue to despise people when we are asking God to forgive them, to heal them, to guide them. We forgive their trespasses, not by our own virtues, for we have no virtues. The Bible is very clear, that there is none righteous.
When we lift our enemies up to God, He calms our spirits and binds our wounds. When we sit quiet and lay the hurt and the venom at the cross, God takes it and casts it into the depths of the sea. When we say, "Father, care for my enemies as you care for me, and forgive my anger." God answers prayer. The hurt may or may not go away over night, but it does subside. It goes away. It's forgotten.
It is my contention that this is the one and only way to get to the point of forgiveness. We have to give it to God. I believe that God is omniscient and knows what we can and cannot do in our state of mortality. I also believe that for a shepherd to admonish his flock for bad behavior without telling it how to correct it is doing only half the job. In this case, Tony's sermon was half of what it should have been. Maybe he'll read this and come back to it next Sunday.