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“You got to take care of the roots. If they die, then you ain’t got nothin’ left at all.”

A wise mountain man shared that advice with me when he gave me a small seedling to transplant.

This is important advice for all plants, but especially young plants and those susceptible to cold temperatures. Phil and I have gathered pine needles for years from parking lots around Jackson County and we mulch heavily, especially around our azaleas and camilias.

The roots are the foundation of a plant, as well as the vehicle for dispersing water from the ground to the stems, leaves, flowers, and fruit of a plant. Roots are not usually seen, but they are of utmost importance to the health and well-being of a plant.

As people, we need roots.

We need a foundation of beliefs and truth that will anchor us when we face times of “strong winds” or “flood waters.”

As parents, we need to make sure we lay a strong foundation for our children to build their lives upon. We cannot protect our children from the storms of life, but we can help insure that they will be able to weather these storms by being rooted in truth.

Jesus taught us how important good roots are or a firm foundation is in –

Luke 6:47-49  (NLT)

47 I will show you what it’s like when someone comes to me, listens to my teaching, and then follows it. 48 It is like a person building a house who digs deep and lays the foundation on solid rock. When the floodwaters rise and break against that house, it stands firm because it is well built. 49 But anyone who hears and doesn’t obey is like a person who builds a house without a foundation. When the floods sweep down against that house, it will collapse into a heap of ruins.”

How do we help our children lay a firm foundation?

Just like with tender plants we;

  • put a little fence around to guard new plants
  • water regularly so the roots grow deep and don’t stay on the surface
  • mulch around to protect the roots
  • fertilize to ensure growth

As parents we;

  • set boundries for use of the Internet, limit TV and videos
  • take our children to church and Sunday School so they hear Biblical truth
  • talk about God and trusting Him to our children so they know they can trust God
  • pray with our children and be honest that we need God’s strength just like our children do

My prayer for our children and grandchildren is right from the Bible – Colossians 2:7 (TLB)

7 Let your roots grow down into Him and draw up nourishment from Him. See that you go on growing in the Lord, and become strong and vigorous in the truth you were taught. Let your lives overflow with joy and thanksgiving for all He has done.

God is faithful.


A Legacy of Lasting Love

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This week, my father passed on to his eternal reward. We have received so many kind, thoughtful, and meaningful messages from family and friends around the world. You realize at a time like this just how many lives are touched by one individual.

Even though it is my dad who died, every message references “Bark and Esther” or “Mr. and Mrs. Barker” or “your Dad and Mom”.


Husband and wife.

67 years of marriage.

It is like butter on hot cornbread – you can’t separate them.

Our son-in-law Tim wrote the following – “Bark was always interested in me and Salem and what we were up to. He and Esther have been great examples of what a Godly marriage looks like.”

A lasting legacy of love.

So much is written about love around Valentine’s Day. Some of it is meaningful and sincere. Some is self-serving and shallow. You can tell after being around a couple for a certain period of time whether their love is genuine or fake.

My friend Joyce told me today on the phone – ” I loved watching your parents together. You could see how much they loved each other.”

They did not practice “public displays of affection.” Their love was expressed through deference to the needs and feelings of each other.

Two days before Dad died he was retaining fluid and having difficulty breathing. I was sitting with him and he opened his eyes, looked at me, and said, “Gayle, where is Mother?”

“She went to take a nap, Dad. Is there something you need?”

“Oh, good.” Dad replied. “She needs to rest.”  Dad was struggling at the end of his life here on earth, yet his thoughts were of his wife’s health and comfort.

I will always remember Jay Fesperman telling young couples what the most important skill for effective parenting was for the parents to –

Love each other.

That creates an atmosphere of security, trust, and peace in the home. It is also the perfect environment for children to thrive.

I was blessed to grow up in a home where my parents truly loved each other.

Our home was not perfect – but my brothers and I never doubted that my parents genuinely loved each other. Our home was a secure place to live.

I Corinthians 13: 4-7  expresses real love this way –

4 Love is very patient and kind, never jealous or envious, never boastful or proud, 5 never haughty or selfish or rude. Love does not demand its own way. It is not irritable or touchy. It does not hold grudges and will hardly even notice when others do it wrong. 6 It is never glad about injustice, but rejoices whenever truth wins out. 7 If you love someone, you will be loyal to him no matter what the cost. You will always believe in him, always expect the best of him, and always stand your ground in defending him.

I am so very grateful for the legacy of love my parents have left behind.

It is worth far more than any material inheritance – it is of eternal value.

My father will be greatly missed. I pray that Phil and I and our children and grandchildren will carry on that legacy of lasting love.



My father has always rooted for the underdog. Unless his favorite team is playing, he has generally pulled for the team that is considered less likely to win.

Being from Illinois and a Cubs fan, his favorite team and the team considered the underdog are often the same!

It warms our hearts to see teams considered less capable triumph and pull off a victory. I’ll never forget the feeling of victory when our daughter’s high school soccer team defeated the favored team from a big school in Charlotte for the second round of the state playoffs. We were definitely the underdog, and it was so exciting for our team and our fans. “Little Mountain School Beats Big City Favorite”

Paul uses examples of athletic events several times in his letters to the early church. His readers were familiar with competition in games of physical skill and so Paul uses these to encourage new Christians.

Hebrews 12: 1-3 NET

12 Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, we must get rid of every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and run with endurance the race set out for us, 2 keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith. For the joy set out for him he endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Think of him who endured such opposition against himself by sinners, so that you may not grow weary in your souls and give up.

That “great cloud of witness” are those who have gone on before us – who by faith have testified to the truth of God’s absolute faithfulness. (AMP)

They are cheering us on!

Even when we feel like the underdog, the less talented, the “loser”, God’s saints are pulling for us.

When we feel incapable of

  • raising our children,
  • facing the challenges ahead,
  • just getting out of bed,
  • feeding one more whining, reluctant eater

we must continue to run with endurance the race set before us.

Your race is different from mine.

Yet we have the same promise of God’s presence and strength.

It appears my father will be joining that great crowd of witnesses soon. I know he will be cheering us on, trusting in God’s faithfulness to give us strength for what we are facing.

After all, Dad was a track coach and he always pulls for the underdog…