Sunday, September 30, 2012


Our servicemen and women give much of themselves.  Far more than most of us can imagine.  The same can be said of the families and friends of our military personnel.  Especially.....and I say this with the strongest tone I can, especially when there is a loss of life.

It's obvious what's given on the outside, but it's on the inside that few of us ever see.  It's through these hurting times, that God uses people to provide proof that he is there.  Let me give you an example:

From the Rockford Register Star (October 14, 2010)

The war in Afghanistan has struck close to home.  Lance Cpl Alec E. Catherwood of Byron, Illinois was shot and killed Thursday by small-arms fire while conducting dismounted combat operations against enemy forces in Helmand province, Afghanistan.

Catherwood, a 19-year old rifleman was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Pendleton, California.  He was the sixth Marine from the same unit to die in combat within 24 hours.

Catherwood, the son of Kirk and Gretchen Catherwood, was engaged to be married July 2, 2011 to Hailey Patrick of Davis Junction.

Patrick's mother, Christine, an employee of the Register Star, described him as "the kindest human being who ever walked the face of the earth".  

As you read the last sentence......"the kindest human being who ever walked the face of the earth", it could very well cause you to stop for a moment.....maybe even choke down the lump in your throat......or wipe away a tear streaming down your cheek.  My gosh.  What a testament from a lady who was to be a future mother-in-law!!!

How will Alec be remembered?  And how will his family and friends continue his "kind" fruits?  Enter Project 52....a non-profit group that donates trees to families in memory of those who have left us far too early in life.  Their mission statement, "planting seeds of hope, one tree at a time" intersected with the Catherwood clan's desire to further Alec's legacy .  Last October, Project 52 traveled to Byron to honor the request of a memorial tree plant.

A Tree of Hope

"It was such an honor to plant a tree for Lance Cpl. Alec Catherwood in Illinois", said Bill Clark co-founder of Project 52.  "He was one of the first serviceman we planted a tree for".  But the story doesn't end there......

A letter from Project 52 details the REST of the story.    

Lance Cpl. Joseph Lopez found his calling as a U.S. Marine in his mid-twenties.  His superiors noted his maturity, bravery and sense of duty.  He was quickly given positions of responsibility-manning high-maintenance machine guns and defending his battalion from enemies who might sneak up from behind.

His family remembers him as a fun-loving guy with a soft spot for children, always smiling and spoiling his nieces and nephews.  Longtime friends recall his ability to lift spirits no matter the situation.    

Joseph served in Afghanistan alongside Alec Catherwood, a 2011 Trees to Remember honoree.  The two young men were ambushed while coming to the aid of other soldiers who were pinned down by insurgents.    Alec, 19, was shot and killed.  Joseph stepped on an explosive device and died instantly. He was 26.

After receiving a memorial tree, Alec's family nominated Joseph's family to receive a tree as well.  

This Wednesday (October 3rd) in Rosamond, California, Lance Cpl. Joseph Lopez will be honored with a tree planting at the Assembly of God Church at 5 p.m.  "When the Catherwood family nominated a fellow platoon member, Lance Cpl. Lopez, we felt that Alec's family wanted to pass their honor and gratitude along", said Clark.

 Where is God?  Where was he that day Lance Cpl. Catherwood and Lance Cpl. Lopez were killed?   He's right there, alongside us guiding us through the difficult times.  And he's right there as we help others.  

This Wednesday, the spirit, the kindness and the love Alec Catherwood exhibited, will be carried on.  His family and friends saw to that.  It will be interesting to see, who among the Lopez family and friends, God uses next....



Thursday, September 27, 2012


God's at Work around us all the time. All we need to do, is stop, watch and listen.  It could very well be your next door neighbor that he is changing.  Maybe it's someone you work with.  In fact, it might just be the person you sit next to in the church pew this week.

How do you and I react when God does beckon?  The typical response might be, "it depends on what is being asked".  Thus, some of us take Giant steps when God calls.  Jump right in and trust the Lord.  For others, it's little Baby steps.  And that's all right.  Most importantly, it's being open to moving when God calls.  Rest assured, he will call.  It's in our hands, then, how we will respond.

Let me give you an example of an opportunity that awaits someone.  That someone could be you.  Or scores of others that have a deep love for the Lord.......and the game of baseball.  Let me take you to a  little village in the Dominican Republic where God is changing lives through community.......

I'd like you to take a look at the picture below and imagine in your wildest dreams what sport is played there?  If you thought motocross, you're wrong.  If your guess is golf, you'd be off base too.  Try baseball.  That's right baseball.  And not what you'd call a "Field of Dreams" site at the present time, either. Is it?

It's a what kind of field?
The ballfield you see is located in Las Charcas in the Dominican Republic.  Population, 9,254.  Now imagine again, what it would be like trying to play your country's favorite sport if you were one of the youth of that community (over 2,000 by some estimates) .  Let's not mention the lack of a backstop or fence.  Or dugouts.  Or grass.  But let's focus on  what is there...... rocks.  Not small pebbles mind you.  But rocks the size that many in the United States would use for accent in their gardens.

Let's take the imagery one step further.  It's the bottom of the ninth in the hotly contested ballgame at Rockbottom Field.  Two out.  Bases loaded.  Home  team is trailing 4-2.  There's a line drive hit to the shortstop's feet.  He reaches for the ball, but it caroms off a small boulder and ricochets to the third base foul line and three runs score.  Game over.  If you're the home team you're happy, but if you're the visitor you're pretty upset to lose that way. These are the elements Las Charcas' youth play with.  Not because they want to, but they have to.  There is no other place to play.  For now....

To understand what baseball means to Las Charcas, local organizer Cristian Santiago, had this to say, "baseball is the most popular sport in all of the Dominican Republic.  Building a field for this community would attract baseball teams from up to 3 hours away and would be the pride of Las Charcas!"

Las Charcas in its present state

This past year, Project 52 worked with Lighthouse Projects, a Las Charcas organization, to help build a gymnasium and weight room.  It's been a huge much in fact, that the question was not "now what happens?, but "what's next?"  Thus the baseball field dream. Truly, if YOU HELP build it, they will come and come and come!!!!

The cost of the project is estimated to be $49,780 and is broken down as follows:


Cement blocks ( 8900 at $1 each)                             $    8900
Sand needed (9 truckloads at $900)                                8100
Gravel needed (8 truckloads at $900)                              7200
Bleachers  $12,000                                                        12,000
Fencing $8,000                                                                8,000
Bags of cement (620 needed at $9 each)                       5,580

Las Charcas' "Field of Dreams" 
And that's where Project 52 is today.....searching for those who want to not only help the sport of baseball continue its global reach, but offer their service in some manner.  Perhaps it's as a sponsor.  Or perhaps you have skills that would prove valuable in the building of the ball diamond.  Maybe you want to be a part of future teams that travel to the Las Charcas and play in tournaments....... you just might have a  groundskeeper background that would prove valuable to maintaining the field or you have a baseball coaching background that would be helpful in offering clinics to the community once the field is constructed.  The ideas of helping are endless!

For more information you can contact Bill Clark at or myself at



Tuesday, September 11, 2012



Most of us have experienced something tragic in our life.  And when that happens, often times our response is....."where were you God".   Those words might be a knee-jerk reaction or it might be a question we know we'll never get an answer to here on earth.  Nevertheless, the feeling is there.

These past few days, I've heard a number of people ask questions in regards to 9-11.  "Where was God that day?   Why did he let that happen?"  Well......there is an answer.  One that will be useful to you anytime you reach a point of despair.  The story I'm about to share with you is a God-thing.  Told only by the one that knows.....      

I was there................

You say you will never forget where you were when you heard the news on September 11,2001.  Neither will I.  I was on the 110th floor in a smoke filled room with a man who called his wife to say "Good-Bye".  I held his fingers steady as he dialed.  I gave him the peace to say, "Honey, I am not going to make it but it is okay......I am ready to go.

I was with his wife when he called as she fed breakfast to their children.  I held her up as she tried to understand his words and as she realized he wasn't coming home that night.  I was in the stairwell of the 23rd floor when a woman cried out to ME for help.  "I have been knocking on the door of your heart for 50 years!", I said.  "Of course, I will show you the way home-only believe in ME now.

I was at the base of the building with the Priest ministering to the injured and devastated souls.  I took him home to tend to his Flock in Heaven.  He heard my voice and answered.

I was on all four of those planes, in every seat, with every prayer.  I was in the very hearts of the believers there, comforting and assuring them that their faiths has saved them.

I want you to know that I saw every face.  I was in Texas, Virginia, California and Afghanistan.  I was standing next to you when you heard the terrible news.  Did you sense me?

I want you to know that I saw every face.  I knew every name-though not all knew Me.  Some met ME for the first time on the 86th floor.  Some sought ME with their last breath.  Some couldn't hear ME calling to them through smoke and flames"  "Come to ME....this way......take my hand",  I offered.  Some chose, for the final time, to ignore ME.  But, I was there.     

I did not place you in the Tower that day.  You may not know why, but I do.  However, if you were there in the explosive moment in time, would you have reached for ME?

September 11, 2001 was not the end of the journey for you.  But someday your journey will end.  And I will be there for you as well.  Seek ME now while I may be found.  Then, at any moment, you know you are "ready to go".

I will be in the stairwell of your final moments....


We are just days removed from honoring 9-11.  The sting is still there...but for how long?  Will the words God offered in this story be something you can hold onto for more than a couple of days, a week, or perhaps a month?  Or will they be something you can grasp for eternity?

Know this...He was there on September 11th, 2001.  He is here today.  And He will be there tomorrow.



Saturday, September 8, 2012


I'm not what you'd call an avid book reader.  I tend to read short stories on the internet or in the paper or in magazines.  Not really sure why, because once I get started on a book, I generally get riveted to the story and jump knee deep into subject at hand.  On more than one occasion, my wife Joanne, has said to me, "why don't you grab a book and snuggle up and read.....and get your head out of that stupid television".

While I agree with her, much of my apprehension is that I think I'm a better visual learner than anything else.  At least, that's what I've countered with under my breath.  But she's right, I should do more book reading because there's a whole new world out there!!

This past week I took her suggestion and began reading , "Should We Fire God".  a book written by a young pastor who offered a myriad of questions and answers to the very subject at hand.  The timing couldn't have been better.  I'm no different than anyone else who struggles at times with God's involvement or lack of  connectivity in our lives.  Here is the short lead-in to the book:      .

 "When the worst school shooting in history occurred, Pastor Jim Pace, a Virginia Tech alumnus, was front and center.  Media, students, church members and strangers asked him the same question: If God is loving, why doesn't He stop disasters before they start?  SHOULD WE FIRE GOD is Jim's thoughtful, reasoned response to the idea that God isn't doing His job very well.  In conversational, non preachy prose, Jim explains why God allows pain and devastation to occur-and what the consequences would be if He didn't.  And he leads readers to question, if we fire God-who takes His place-woefully imperfect humans?  Jim uses real-life examples and his own battles with faith to develop readers' understanding of God, His true role in their lives, what they should do with doubt and fear and what He feels when we ache.  

Think back to that April 16, 2007 day.  Do you remember the first images that flashed across the television screens of the deadliest shooting by a single gunman in U.S. history?   Hour by hour the death count went up....32 in all on the Virginia Tech campus.  Another 17 were wounded.  Why?  Where was God?  How could he allow such evil to take place?

Slowly....ever so slowly the wounds have begun to heal.  But it hasn't been easy.  Pastor Pace was placed front and center to the "where was God" question.  And he has tackled it with great passion, compassion and thought.  But most importantly, his responses are something that we can all take to heart.  They are the words that cross every path we take.  Not easy words, but defining ideas that can help offer hope and ease the pain.

Pastor Rick Warren who penned a "Purpose Drive Life" wrote the foreword for Pace's work.  He offered these thoughts.  "We live in a broken world.  Because of that, we've all been brought to our knees by tragedies.  What do you do when you're struggling with overwhelming circumstances and emotions?  How should you respond when your faith is tested and God seems absent or in no hurry to act?"    

So here's my suggestion.....and not a subtle one I might add.  Read this BOOK!   You owe it to your self, your family and those people who you'll encounter in the future who are asking the question...where is that God of yours?

"If you ask to be adopted by me, I will do so,
And if you seek me- you will find me"-paraphrased by Pastor Pace from Ephesians 1:5 and Matthew 7:7