Good Morning Church! There Is No Separation Of Church And State!

Photo by Shelby Knowles

At least not in the way we have been led to believe.

Earlier this week, a story circulated on social media, regarding the interaction between Hillsong Pastor Carl Lentz, and Joy Behar of ‘The View’.

The story dealt with the pastor’s failure, to clearly state abortion is a sin.

The conversation featured the ladies of The View, asking the pastor how he handled the big social issues of our time. Such as, gay marriage, and abortion.

At one point Joy turned to the pastor and said, “So, it’s not a sin in your church to have an abortion?”

His response?

“That’s a kind of conversation we would have, finding out your story. Where you’re from. I mean God’s the judge, people have to live with their own convictions. If I have to tell you… that’s such a broad question to me. I’m going higher. I’m going to sit with someone and say, where do you believe…”

At this point Joy interrupted him and said, “So it’s not an open and shut case with you?”

To that Pastor Lentz said, “Some people would say it is. To me, I’m trying to teach people who JESUS is first. Find out their story. Before I start picking, and choosing what I think is sin in your life, I’d like to know your name.”

The feedback to his comments, on the lives of our most helpless citizen’s, our unborn children, has not gone over well with those who are unapologetically pro-life.

My reaction then and now, is one of disappointment. I am a huge supporter of the Hillsong ministry. I like pastor Lentz, but I am heartbroken when people of faith, miss such big opportunities, to declare the truth about the lives of our unborn children.

With that said, I want to take a look at the conversation between Joy Behar and Pastor Lentz, once she concluded he was flexible — or as CHRIST might say ‘lukewarm’ — on some key social issues, she began asking him about the separation of church and state.

Here is an transcript excerpt from the interview;

Joy: We’ve talked to other religious leaders on this show about whether politics and religion mix together. We do have the separation of church and state. So you’re really not suppose to endorse any candidates for example from the pulpit. Do you do that or how do you feel about that?

Pastor Lentz: I don’t want to get in trouble, we keep it really straight laced. No… I think at our church, when people say, keep politics out of the pulpit, I say what do you mean by that? Because politics affect people. So, if that’s happening, you better believe I’m going to talk about politcs. To not do that in a church setting to me is…

Joy: Where’s the line, where’s the line where you infringe upon the separation of church and state?

Pastor Lentz: My dad’s a lawyer, so dad if you want to text right now, I’m getting into hot water. I don’t know, I feel like JESUS came to destroy the political norm of the day. So, since I’m a Christian, I believe we’re still suppose to speak directly to politics, and things that affect people, they should be talked about in our church. I’m just going to preach what I feel is right.

Joy: I’m not going to argue with you, but if you endorse, let’s say President Trump from the pulpit, you are infriging upon that particular law of the separation of chruch and state. Am I right?

No, Joy. You’re not.

There is no law regarding the separation of church and state.

The phrase ‘Separation of Church and State’, prominently appeared, in a letter Thomas Jefferson wrote during his presidency.

A group of Baptist ministers from Connecticut, had written to the president. They were concerned they would one day be forbidden from preaching, because they were a religious minority in the area.

The president responded to their concerns with a letter of his own.

He assurred them, that The First Admendment to the Constitution, clearly erected a separation of church and state, and would as it states, prohibit Congress from making ANY LAW setting up a state religion, and would not prohibit the free practice of religion in any way.

Unfortunately, Judges are not all created equally. Nor, do they have the same opinions.

In 1947, the state used the 1st Amendment to argue a case. It was regarding the reimbursement of parents, for both public and private school students. These parents, were using public transportation to get their kids to school when school buses were not available. The use of public funds, to reimburse parents that were sending their kids to parochial or other religious based schools, was deemed unconstitutional.

And, just like the Judges ruling on Roe vs Wade, this opinion has had lasting implications.

The Separation of Church and State is not a law. It is an enormous misinterpretation of the First Admendment.

An admendment that was, intended to protect all free expression of religion,not prevent it.

Churches, unfortunately, have fallen victim to the threat of losing their status as non-profit organizations, if they take a political stand.

It is constitutional extortion!

But, there has never been a case where a church has lost it’s charitable status.

As a result, more and more churches are finding the boldness to take a stand, on issues that are not just matters for the state, but matters that threaten our nation’s eternal soul.

When we allow debates, like the one this past week on The View to go unanswered, we contribute to the continued mission of misinformation, being perpetuated by those who would seek to not only ban GOD from our public spaces, but would cast HIM and HIS SON to the winds of change, till only those deemed religious radicals will know HIS name.

God Bless!

LaVern Vivio

Original Post Date; November 12, 2012

Repost Date; April 29,2018

Published in: Uncategorized on August 19, 2018 at 3:19 pm  Leave a Comment  

Good Morning Church! Do You Know Why Israel Matters?

This week President Trump, made what Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described as, a historic and courageous proclamation.

On Wednesday the President acknowledged Jerusalem as the capital city of Israel, and pledged to move the United States Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

At the heart of this proclamation, is the absurd reality, that most of the world fails to recognize Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel, when in fact it has served as the capital city since 1948.

When the State of Israel was established, Jerusalem was named the capital of a sovereign Jewish state.

King David first declared Jerusalem the capital city of Israel over 3000 years ago.

With the rebirth of the nation, Israel could consider no other city as it’s capital. However, the city remained divided until 1967.

War broke out, at the very moment Israel regained their sovereignty in 1948.

At the end of that war a year later, Israel controlled west Jerusalem, and Jordan controlled the east side.

It wasn’t until the six day war of 1967, that the city was reunited under Israeli control.

But, due to the political implications of the city’s status, presidents and political leaders across the globe, have refused to recognize the city for the truth of what it is.

The proclamation by President Trump was indeed historic.

Christians across the globe are celebrating this moment, but do we really understand why?

First, It’s a fulfillment of prophecy.

Ezekiel 36:24–38 “For I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. Then you will live in the land I gave your ancestors; you will be my people, and I will be your God. I will save you from all your uncleanness. I will call for the grain and make it plentiful and will not bring famine upon you. I will increase the fruit of the trees and the crops of the field, so that you will no longer suffer disgrace among the nations because of famine. Then you will remember your evil ways and wicked deeds, and you will loathe yourselves for your sins and detestable practices. I want you to know that I am not doing this for your sake, declares the Sovereign Lord. Be ashamed and disgraced for your conduct, people of Israel! “‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: On the day I cleanse you from all your sins, I will resettle your towns, and the ruins will be rebuilt. The desolate land will be cultivated instead of lying desolate in the sight of all who pass through it. They will say, “This land that was laid waste has become like the garden of Eden; the cities that were lying in ruins, desolate and destroyed, are now fortified and inhabited. ” Then the nations around you that remain will know that I the Lord have rebuilt what was destroyed and have replanted what was desolate. I the Lord have spoken, and I will do it.’

God clearly has plans for HIS chosen people.

Second; The fact that Israel and the Jewish people still exist, is a miracle, and evidence of GOD.

History records that in 1897 England’s Prime Minister, Benjamin Disraeli, at the First Zionist Congress was asked if he knew of any infallible proof of God’s existence. He responded “The Jew, sir, the Jew.”

We have clear, and undeniable evidence, of repeated attempts to wipe the Jewish people from the face of the earth, yet they endure, survive, and thrive.

Third; From a purely political perspective, Israel is a stabilizing force in a region that is responsible for many of the greatest sources of terror that threaten the world, and Israel is clearly one of our strongest allies.

After dubbing America, ‘The Great Satan’, in 1979 during the Iran Hostage crisis, Iranian leader Ruhollah Khomeini later tagged the nation of Israel as ‘The Little Satan’, in part because of their unwavering support of The United States.

Fourth; We are told those who are a blessing to Israel will be blessed.

First in the promise GOD made to Abraham when HE described the nation that would come after him.

Genesis 12:1–3 “I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you. ”

Then again through the prophet Balaam, as he spoke about the children of Israel.

Numbers 24:9 “May those who bless you be blessed and those who curse you be cursed!”

And Fifth and finally; Jesus was a descendent of the tribe of Judah.

The one who stood in our place, brought us back into fellowship with GOD, and made our adoption into the family possible, was a part of the nation of Israel. Through HIS sacrifice when we stand for Israel we are in fact standing up for our own.

Israel matters to America, and America matters to Israel.

God Bless!

LaVern Vivio

Originally posted December 10, 2017

Repost May 13, 2018

Published in: Uncategorized on August 19, 2018 at 3:14 pm  Leave a Comment  

Good Morning Church — Are You Afraid of the Dark?

That was the question I asked my friend Tim Martin last week as we were retrieving some frozen food items we had stored at the church building.

We had pushed old grocery carts from the Church’s Benevolence Center down to the kitchen in our Fellowship Hall. (When we run out of cold storage for our food distribution program at The Benevolence Center we fill up the freezers at the church.)

The Fellowship Hall is in the basement of the church buildng so we rode the elevator to save ourselves a few steps.

On the ride down we were able to fit both grocery carts onto the elevator so we rode together.

But with the carts loaded we had to ride up one at a time.

I asked Tim to wait in the hallway by the door as I took the first cart up a level.

The hallway was dark so as the elevator door began to close I said “Are you afraid of the dark?” and just as the doors snapped shut I heard Tim respond “No but it’s afraid of me.”

I had the elevator ride to let that sink in.

Then when the doors opened he finished his thoughts (as he turned out the light in the room he had apparently glanced into as he waited for me.)

“That’s all it takes for the darkness to return.” He said with a flip of the switch as the hall and the room darkened again. “Just turn off the light.”

For the rest of the day it’s all I could think about.

I’m not afraid of the dark — but is it afraid of me?

Is it?

Or am I just a flicker of light — an interruption to the darkness but never a real threat?

This week I read a story based upon a Gallup survey — that said only 24% of Americans believe the Bible is the Word of God and is to be taken literally.

26% said they viewed the Bible as a “book of fables, legends, history and moral precepts recorded by man.”

And 47% said the Bible was inspired by God but shouldn’t be taken literally.

Yet 89% of us say we believe in GOD based on a Gallup poll taken just last year.

Is this what Christ was talking about in Revelations when he said you are neither hot or cold?

Could the lackluster commitment to GOD be the reason we seem to find ourselves in a bit of darkness around the world?

When my twins were just a year old we experienced an ice storm that knocked out the power in several counties. Because we live out in the country we were one of the last houses to have our power lines reconnected.

During that time period we witnessed many moments of darkness that we were unaccustomed to.

We always had flashlights and lanterns available so we could continue to move about after the sunset but nothing could really penetrate the darkness like the organized power and distribution we have grown accustomed to from the electric company.

I can still remember fumbling around in the evening hours and the relief I felt (especially as a young mother) when the sun would rise and wipe out the darkness.

So much is being written and said about the state of our country / our world.

And I have this image in my mind of all of us running through the house (like we did as kids when we were afraid) flipping on every light in every room to chase away the darkness.

And when I read the stories like I read this week I wonder how things might change if those who say they believe in GOD acted like it.

What will it take for the people of GOD to realize the power each of us has with the simple flip of a switch?

How would the world change if the darkness was really afraid of those who say they believe in GOD?

But too many of us find ourselves stumbling around in the darkness with a mediocre flashlight. — enough light to illuminate the path directly in front of us but nothing to light the way for others or to penetrate the darkness beyond our little circle of influence.

Our light is shinning but the darkness doesn’t fear us — it almost ignores us.

I’m not afraid of the dark — but is it afraid of me?

If you want the world to change — You have to want to change the world.

How many lights in how many rooms can you turn on this week? And please don’t just read this — think about it then do nothing — I am serious — how many lights in how many rooms can you turn on this week?

Find ways to show the world your Light!

Be intentional and be deliberate about being patient, loving, kind and peaceful and be bold, gentle and respectful about telling the world of the GOD we serve and the SALVATION we have through HIS SON!

And let’s turn some lights on in this place!

God Bless!

LaVern Vivio

July 29, 2018

Published in: Uncategorized on August 19, 2018 at 2:57 pm  Leave a Comment  

Let Me Show You My Tattoo!

Did you know if you want to get a tattoo you need an appointment?


If you have a large group getting tattoos, you really need an appointment.

Just saying.

Trust me, this is information you need if getting a tattoo is on your bucket list or if the most conservative friend you have in the world calls and says, “Let’s get tattoo’s.”

That is basically what happened to me a few weeks ago.

It was just a couple of days after our Day of Pentecost event that was held on Sunday May 24th, The Day of Pentecost 2015.

We had hosted a group of old friends and a group of new friends in a day of reflection and strategy at our farm in Tennessee.

The goal was to focus on renewing the fire of the Holy Spirit and to ignite support for those being slaughtered by Islamic extremist.

Our new friends are a group of Coptic Christians that now call Nashville home.

You may remember the first group of Christians that were publicly beheaded on the beach when ISIS paraded them across the sand in orange jumpsuits. They were all Coptic Christians and just to clarify, Coptic Christians are simply Egyptian Christians. An ancient group of Christians founded in Egypt by the Apostle Mark in the first century.

During the event we heard the story about a cousin of one of our Egyptian friends and how he was murdered in front of his family for refusing to deny Christ and convert to Islam.

Coptic Christian’s are well known for being very stubborn regarding their faith and have displayed over and over again that even under the threat of death they will not deny Christ.

After hearing the horrifying story from our new friend, the conversation turned to the cross they all wear on their right wrist.

The image of the cross is tattooed on the inside of their wrist at a very early age, some within the first year.

All of the Coptic Christians I have met wear the cross and many wear more than one. It is a tradition that is almost as ancient as the Coptic’s themselves.

It began in defiance to the custom of slave owners marking their slaves with a tattoo on their wrist. The tattoo was used to identify who owned the slave so if a slave escaped and was recaptured they could be returned to the proper owner.

The Coptic Christians declared they belonged to no man but to Christ alone and began to mark themselves with the cross to declare, “We belong to Jesus!”

The tradition of the right wrist came from the belief that is was the thief on the cross to the right of Christ that was forgiven as they were crucified together.

As a result, Coptic Christians are easily identified and deal with persecution and discrimination in Egypt. Our friends shared stories of problems obtaining VISA’s because they were showing the mark of the cross. They had stories of jobs being denied to Christians. The general hostility they deal with and of course the new fear of execution by Islamic extremist.

A few days after the event I called Kathy Hardin. One of my oldest and I think it is safe to say my most conservative friends. Kathy and I have raised our kids together. She just had a few more than I did. I have four boys, she has six boys and three girls. Yes, that’s nine total.

Kathy is one of those women much like the vitreous woman described in proverbs.

She’s does it all, from home schooling, gardening and canning to grinding her own wheat to make bread. She is basically an overachiever. So much so that after she had her eighth child and it became obvious she was going to be unable to have more, she decided to adopt.

Adoption for Kathy and her husband David could not be mundane either. No, they wanted to adopt a child no one else would adopt and they did.

They found their daughter in Armenia at an orphanage ran by nuns. Karene had Spina Bifida and many other medical complications but just as the Hardin family was getting ready for Karene to join them in America she became very ill and nearly died.


It is a long story but basically because of some incredible miracles and timing that simply can’t be explained, Karene did make it home to America.

Four years later she is not only fully recovered but she is thriving.


Shortly after the miracle of Karene’s coming to America Kathy began to pray for God to use her again.

She said being a part of a big miracle was such a powerful experience that she wanted to feel that power again.


But as she prayed for God to allow her to be a part of another miracle…  it wasn’t long before she discovered how desperately she needed one. She had stage four-breast cancer.

Doctors told her from the beginning they could offer no hope of a cure but might be able to buy her more time, extra months not years, with aggressive treatment.

Kathy has lived for a long time under the advice of Hippocrates who saidLet food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food. So, after making the decision to say no to aggressive medical treatment Kathy began her education on everything cancer related and how to fight it the natural way.

Over and over doctors have told her there is no hope and twice she has passed her expiration date as she calls it.

On the day I called her right after the Day of Pentecost event, she had just had a cancer scan that showed the cancer had not progressed. There is no explanation for why she is not only not getting worse but now seems to be getting better.

As she shared with me the news from her doctor she abruptly said, “I want us to do something.” I said, “Sure, what do you have in mind?” and honestly if you had ever told me I would hear these words come out of Kathy Hardin’s mouth I would have laughed and declared you were crazy and obviously didn’t know my friend.

But she said, “I want us to get tattoo’s.”

At first I thought she was joking. That maybe our kids were asking her to participate in a prank and I half expected one of them to jump out announcing they had recorded everything. Getting my shocked, surprised reaction on video but she quickly explained her reasoning and I was all in.

She told me how impressed she had been with the people from the Coptic Church and how incredibly special she thought they were.


She said, “When I think about how they are so strong and proud of their faith in Christ, that they wear the cross permanently on their arm, I decided I have to do that too.”

She asked, “Who is a bigger miracle and testimony to what Christ can do than me and Karene?”

She then told me she didn’t ever want there to be a doubt who she gave the glory to and couldn’t think of a better way to make her point crystal clear and permanent.


Then she explained – she needed to do something – she had to do something – or the rocks would cry out.

Immediately I agreed and we began discussing details but we wondered if the Coptic Christians would mind us adopting their tradition.

It didn’t take long to get an answer.

They were thrilled with the idea and wanted us to encourage others to do the same.

So a couple of weeks ago, we gathered at Forever Yours, a local tattoo and body piercings establishment, with a group of friends. Including several from the Coptic Christian community and we got our cross.


Many in our community still don’t fully understand why we did what we did but our Egyptian friends do.

It has quickly become a connection and an act of solidarity with those who have faced persecution like we could never imagine.

Joe, our friend whose cousin was murdered in front of his family, shared the idea and his story with a group of college students the other day.

Later that evening they decided to join us… and you can too!

college pic

Luke 19:40 And Jesus said  “I tell you, if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”

Laus Deo!

LaVern Vivio

July 9,2015

Published in: Uncategorized on July 9, 2015 at 11:41 pm  Leave a Comment  

I Wished I Had Been Born a Boy

I am a 52 year-old woman and mother of four. A wife for almost twenty-six years but I wished I had been born a boy.

Probably until I was well into junior high and maybe even high school I was fairly convinced God had simply mixed me up with John Mark, the name my parents had selected if I had been born male.

photo 2-2

You see, I am over six feet tall and very large framed. I wear a size thirteen shoe. My hands are as large as any man my height. I was always told I had a pretty face but because of my height I was able to carry a lot of extra weight without looking fat and the fullness on my frame tended to make me look less pretty and just attractive. Still I never felt pretty or much less feminine.

So for many years I wondered. Did God make a mistake?

As I watch and listen to the coverage of Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner and the many stories of gender identification concerns, I wonder what life would have been like for me if I were growing up now rather than in the sixties and seventies.

Back then when a girl like me came along they called me tomboy. For the guys the term was sissy or girlie.

I suppose it was probably easier to be a ‘tomboy’ rather than a ‘girlie’ or ‘sissy’ guy but maybe not. Just like the guys opposite me, I was having trouble finding comfort in what God made me to be.

But that was part of the journey He had for me.

It’s a journey I am thankful was accompanied by parents, peers and mentors that taught me God does not make mistakes.

Life was very difficult at times and the scars of adolescent taunts, a very low self esteem and deep, deep loneliness took its toll for many years but that was the journey God had for me.

I am so thankful I was not approached by anyone that might have worked to convince me I was not what God made me to be and I wonder often, what if?

photo 1(4)

What if I had been raised that the choices for me sexually were vast and practically limitless?

What if, in my adolescence, my deep loneliness, a girl had kissed me and I liked it?

Think back, to your own adolescence.

Remember how the slightest intimate touch induced chills?

What if someone of the same sex had touched you? Could the flutter and chills of your adolescent senses have possibly been misinterpreted? Leading you to a destiny not planned for you?

My heart aches for Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner and those who have walked a similar journey. If he were my friend or part of my family I would simply love him.

My concern is for what we are doing to ourselves as we seek to continue down a road that tries to recreate our lives into what we want them to be rather than what God created us to be. The road we are paving for our children is so confusing and hard and it doesn’t have to be.

I am so thankful my path was exactly as it was.

I am so thankful that eventually it was a path that led me to a man, my husband, that filled the deep loneliness with a love so complete I can’t imagine life without him.

I am still a tomboy. I struggle to identify with many of the women in my life.

I had a conversation with a co-worker just last year. I was concerned about my inability to connect with a couple of the women I was working with. I told him I could not understand why they seemed to not like me, why they almost seemed uncomfortable around me. His response still makes me laugh. He said, “Well LaVern, you’re basically a dude! You’re intimidating as hell.”

So still, as basically a dude, I am completely and fully a girl, a woman.

Fully and completely comfortable with who and what God made me to be.

I still detest dressing like a woman. I hate dresses and frills.

I spend as much time as possible in my favorite muck boots and weathered tattered clothes working outside, getting as dirty as possible.


I love working with my hands till they are rough and worn.

I’m proud my hands look like hands that work, not like a man but like a woman.

A woman that may be a bit rough around the edges but make no mistake, still one-hundred percent woman.

The woman God made me to be.

Perfect but flawed.

And praying without ceasing for those still on the journey to find peace and understanding of their own flawed perfection and the perfect plan God has for them.

God Bless and Laus Deo,

LaVern Vivio

June 4, 2015

PNG head shot LaVern

Published in: Uncategorized on June 4, 2015 at 10:55 am  Comments (152)  

The Three Things Jillian Michaels Taught Me That Changed Everything

Five Years Later:

I am fifty-two years old and can easily say until about five years ago fighting my weight was constantly on my mind. What a shame don’t you think? But it is just simply the truth.

From the moment, as a child I began to realize I was bigger than average I have been reminded constantly I was over weight. It was an annoyance as a kid but an obsession by my teen years.

Briefly in High School I obtained true fitness as an athlete but the moment I entered college the Freshman thirty escalated to the Sophomore sixty. I again had a brief moment of apparent control my junior year and was at that moment the thinnest I ever remember. It lasted maybe 6 months.

A few times in my young adult life I felt I looked OK but never did I feel I was the best I could be. I was slim when I met my husband. Even slimmer the day we married but I never felt in control.

As I had our children my weight ballooned to well over three-hundred pounds prior to the birth of our twins and yo-yoed back and forth between two-hundred and thirty pounds and three-hundred pounds several times over my last two pregnancies.

With four beautiful boys and my childbearing years behind me, I determined it was time to conquer the beast, lose weight and keep it off. I always had the goal of just below two-hundred pounds in mind. That was my weight when I married. I really felt beautiful that day so it seemed a good goal. A goal I never achieved on my own and it was not from the lack of trying.

I tried them all, diets that is. The Dolly Parton Soup Diet, The Atkins Diet, The Apple Cider Vinegar Diet, The Moon Pie and Diet Dr. Pepper Diet. That last one was my own creation, ask my chiropractor, Dr. Shawn Eckley. I really did it. He still teases me about that one but you get the picture.

Fast forward five years ago. Actually it started six years ago, winter 2009. My husband Mark had torn his ACL. As they were prepping him for surgery they discovered a heart problem. He has Atrial Fibrillation and Atrial Flutter aka AFib, Aflutter. According to our doctor, Dr. Chris Ellis aka The Electrician at Vanderbilt Hospital, if you have to have a heart problem these are the ones to have. Having both at the same time complicates the issue but you won’t drop dead from it.

Still, with my husband now a heart patient, facing multiple surgeries and procedures. He has had two heart surgeries so far with one more scheduled. More cardioversions than I can count but well over 20, the year 2009 was a bit overwhelming.

That spring, our twins were finishing high school as I completed my college degree. As fall 2009 approached along with my husband’s first surgery, we had closed our business of twenty years. I had started driving the school bus to help offset the tuition for the Christian school our kids had attended since kindergarten. My husband was able to help with those duties when his heart was stable.

I had started teaching High School part time, selling a multi-level marketing health product and was continuing my full time radio job as traffic reporter, U-Turn LaVern in Nashville. In January I also accepted a job as an adjunct, filling in for an injured professor at the University I had just graduated from.

I remember clearly sitting in my office just staring at the computer screen. My husband and my youngest son were in a deep state of depression. My husband for the obvious reasons, my youngest son for the same reasons I had dealt with my entire life.

He is now nineteen years old and 6 10’ so you can imagine his height at the tender age of twelve. Also overweight, he had dealt with a level of bullying that I was familiar with but still had no answer for. Honestly there isn’t one. Bullies have and always will exist but it is how we allow them to affect us that matters.

Despite my constant reassurances that when he got older he would understand. That everything would be OK and bullies need to be pitied not feared. He still pulled deeper and deeper into himself. The conversations we had still break my heart and I honestly don’t think it is my place to say more.

Nevertheless, one night I found myself staring into the computer screen praying and thinking, and brain storming for an idea. Any idea to help my husband and my son find motivation, purpose but mostly joy again.

The Biggest Loser television show was in its heyday but I had never watched more than a moment or two. I honestly had no idea who Jillian Michaels was, except for the fact she and her team were great at marketing. Even if you didn’t follow the show you recognized her picture.

I went to their site hoping for ideas and was immediately reading a notice regarding a summer series with Jillian called ‘Losing it with Jillian Michaels’ and they were coming to Nashville the next week. The premise had Jillian moving in with families for a week over the summer to help them get their lives back on track. At first I didn’t even consider it. There was no way I was going to allow my son to be involved. It didn’t sound like a good idea.

Still I found myself filling out the form thinking maybe I will get some ideas, never expecting to hear from them. I was wrong. Within moments it seemed, their questions to me were flying across the web. Even though I was already involved with the media as a longtime radio personality they still wanted to meet us.

At this point I thought, why not? Nothing will come of it and it will be a nice distraction for all of us.

In an effort to make a long story shorter, they were interested in us.

As it became obvious they were serious and our participation might actually happen I consulted my ministers. I was ready to stop everything. The thought of allowing my child to participate in this for this reason mortified me. It was my ministers that convince me otherwise. Again this part of the story involves my son more than myself so I will leave it there. Please do not judge us. Unless you know every detail of what was happening in my family’s lives at that time you have no idea if you would or would not have made the decision as we did to appear in the series.

Fast forward to Jillian’s entrance. From the moment she entered our lives she was more than kind to us. The comment I get mostly from those who have watched our show and have watched her in the past is “why didn’t she yell and scream at you guys?” The reason is simple. We did what she asked us to do. We never complained. We didn’t whine. We didn’t stop, no matter what.

I think one of the biggest misconceptions about Jillian is that many who watch her think she is brutal, mean and maybe even cruel. She is brutal. After all she is America’s toughest trainer but cruel, mean? She is anything but. The difference she made in my son, in my husband and in me was because she didn’t come in and just get what she needed for the show then leave. She genuinely cared.

There are so many instances I could share to explain what I mean but I decided to share just one, one that no one saw. She and I were sitting on the curb in the parking lot at the YMCA. The cameras were rolling of course. Actually I was stunned when what I am about to share with you didn’t show up on national TV but as far as I know the only ones aware of what transpired are those who I have shared the story with.

We had walked out of the Y after an emotional moment. As Jillian and I talked about what had happened, what was next and just everything in general she began to peel back my layers. At that time I was absolutely near breaking down. I don’t know whether to call it a nervous breakdown, an emotional breakdown or just me curling into the fetal position and crying ‘uncle!’

As we talked I told her of my concerns for the days ahead. My husband’s continued health issues, job concerns, the five jobs I had held that year and the reality of having to pull my two youngest sons out of the only school they had ever attended, especially as they were just entering high school. Without a thought she asked how much it cost and when I told her she said without hesitation, “I’ll pay it.”

I looked at her in disbelief and she assured me, “Really, no big deal. I will pay it for three years.” She clarified. And then I believe her exact words were something to the effect of “I would just piss it away anyway.” and she did, pay it I mean, every year for three years. No media coverage, no strings attached. She just did it because she said she would.

At the end of our time with Jillian we had all lost a substantial amount of weight, won some much needed cash and she left me with three key guidelines that has helped me maintain my weight loss for the last five years.

You’re dying to know aren’t you?

OK here is goes. The three things Jillian Michaels taught me that changed everything. No tricks, there really are three keys things she taught me that have helped me keep my weight off and feel in control for the first time in my life.

Number One: Calories = energy:

Stunning news I know. I had the same reaction but hear me out. The day she dropped into our lives she began to go through my cupboards, refrigerator and pantry. Over and over she came across, fat free, low carb and sugar free products. At one point she rolled her eyes and in a voice tinged with classic Jillian Michaels sarcasm said, “Well how’s that working out for ya mom?”

I really didn’t know what to say as she grabbed garbage bags and began to throw everything away. Even the frozen foods weren’t safe. As she tossed items into the bags she explained, “Weight loss is just math. Calories are energy and if you consume more energy than you burn you store it. The base rule to follow is 1500 calories = 1 pound.” She continued. “If you eat 3000 calories and only burn 1500 then you gain a pound, reverse that and you lose, simple as that. It’s math!”

I said, “Wow, counting calories? That is just how we dieted in the 70’s.” To which Jillian threw up her hands and said, “Well big surprise it still works!”

She did go on to add that the processed foods we eat and our terrible lifestyles in general can muddy our metabolisms and prevent us from burning calories efficiently. That is why she pushes clean calories, whole foods and healthy snacks but bottom line? She said if you are eating good food stop looking at anything but the calories. That is the key.

She does promote supplements to help rev the metabolism and cleansing products to boost weight loss but always goes back to calories; calories in – calories out. Otherwise you are fooling yourself she told us.

She also had a lot to say about how upside down we have become as a society to allow food to control us. She said we have convinced ourselves that we need a set number of calories, a set number of meals and we have allowed the obsession to dominate and sometimes destroy our lives.

She talked about the importance of making sure your body has fuel to work but most importantly to understand we could actually do just fine on lower calorie numbers than we realize. Of course she always insisted we work with a doctor but to closely and honestly re-examine the reality of how many calories the human body needs to stay healthy.

Number Two: Think of your perfect weight as a wall:

When we started working with Jillian my idea of a perfect weight was anything below two-hundred pounds. Once I got to that number two-hundred became my wall. As long as I stayed two-hundred or just to the left of that number I was in maintenance mode. If I ever moved to the right again I would drop my calories and step up my work out. After losing my weight I think I only crossed back over the two-hundred wall once or twice.

I eventually decided to move the wall first to one-hundred ninety and now my weight wall is one-hundred eighty.

This has been the best trick I have ever found for maintaining my weight. As long as I stick to my wall number or move a little to the left of the wall, for example one-hundred seventy-five, then I relax and treat myself to extra calories every now and then.

But I never ignore my wall. I know if I do I will regret it and so will you.

I hear a lot of people say, “I never get on the scales. If my clothes don’t feel right then I pay attention.”

If you are tall by the time your clothes are starting to feel tight you could be twenty-pounds to the right side of your wall. If you don’t think that is a lot, pick up a twenty-pound bag of dog food the next time you go shopping. Then carry it the entire time.

I have found the five-pound range the key to never being overweight again.

175 (extra calories!)  – 180 (The wall)  – 185 (Drop calorie intake!)

Commit to checking on your wall every few days or at least every week. If ever you move to the right of your wall, even one pound, get to the gym or drop your calorie intake into the range you now know you need to drop weight. Get back on or below your wall as quickly as you can, with a doctor’s supervision of course.

It may sound too simple, too obvious but it is a visual that will make the difference. The weight wall is an illustration Jillian shared with me very randomly. I have never heard her repeat it so it may not be an example she commonly uses but for me it has made all the difference.

Number Three: If you get a flat tire don’t get out and slit the other three tires, air up the flat and get back on the road.

This is one I have heard her repeat and I use all the time on our Live Hosted Commercials at The Blaze TV.

She shared this with me right after I had lost my weight. I had a speaking engagement she knew I was nervous about. That night, after I had given the speech and been less than thrilled with my presentation, I pigged out on chocolate. It had been included in a gift bag they gave me at the presentation. At first I had taken the chocolate out to leave behind and then at the last minute I put it back in the bag. On the car ride home I ate one after the other.

When I emailed her that I was disgusted with myself she answered, “Well why don’t you just slit the other three tires and forget it then.” She then explained what she meant and I got the message loud and clear as my son went through the bag and threw out the rest of the chocolate.

Bottom line? If you are struggling with your weight decide now that the struggle is over. Just start. No matter what program or system you use, remember the message Jillian Michaels shared with our family. Life is too precious to waste it over the blessing of having too much food.

I saw a movie recently about orphan children from the Sudan that came to America, it’s called ‘The Good Lie.” in the movie one of the characters marvels to someone back in the Sudan, “Here in America people die from too much food.”

Jillian Michaels may appear to be the toughest trainer in America but from my experience she is less tough and more heart broken that so many people are not getting this message. Does it make her yell and scream? Yes, because it makes her angry when people give up.

Not because she is cruel or insensitive but because she’s been there and she knows that being overweight is like being in a self imposed prison. She is just screaming for everyone to break free and see what they are truly capable of.

Thank you Jillian.

God Bless!

LaVern Vivio

February 16, 2015

Published in: Uncategorized on February 16, 2015 at 11:29 pm  Comments (6)  

Sharing Daddy

May 31, 2012

For days I have known I had something to say but I could not bring myself to write the words. Almost as if writing about it made it real. If I could just wake up maybe I would realize this is all a bad dream but as the days wear on I know things will never be the same.

Fourteen days ago I lost a piece of my heart.

It’s been exactly fourteen days since my father, Larry Albin Wilson flew away. He was just seventy-three years old. Not old at all by some standards but when anyone you love crosses that seventy marker you know they have beaten the odds.

Still nothing prepares you to say goodbye to someone so close.

I come from a family of farmers. We are the real deal.

My grandfather started the farm I grew up on. Dad took over the reins his senior year of high school after his father passed away. Now my brother and his sons continue on.

Originally a dairy farm, Dad is a master at sensing when the tide is about to change.

He switched from a dairy farm to pork production in the seventies and when pork prices tanked he and my brother turned their attention to row crop production.

Dad always diversifies. He’s never had just one source of income.

He is innovative, always trying something new and never afraid to break something apart to make it better or more efficient.

One of nine children, five boys and four girls, he stepped into the shoes of his father rather than attending college as he intended but never seemed regretful of the path that was set before him.

He has the mind of an engineer, building and developing projects that peaked the interest of the local media from time to time.

He is a real trailblazer.

I have never spent a single day that I was not proud to be his daughter and I boast often that my dad is one of the smartest people anyone will ever know.

As I try to cope and wrap my mind around my world without his presence I simply can’t bring myself to think of him in the past tense.

You see… it occurred to me as I worked in my garden the other day… Daddy is closer than ever.

Dad loves my garden and I love sharing it with him.

Last year I couldn’t wait to show him how I had laid out the rows and what I had planted. The tiller I use was the last thing he put together for me.  Of course it’s an older model with a few modifications but I doubt I will ever use anything else. It is way too special.

As I worked, thinking over the things I would not get to show him, I began to talk to him. I had told some of those closest to him to do the same. I wanted to offer a degree of comfort to those who spoke with him most everyday.

There is one young man in particular, he thought of my Dad almost like a second father. He and my Dad both love to learn and to talk about what they know.

Dad is much older than him so I am sure he never thought he had much to teach my Dad but Daddy is a person who assumes everyone has something to offer. He listens with intent interest to anyone who will take the time to visit. Dad reads constantly, not for pleasure as most do but to learn, because learning is his pleasure.

When I saw this young man at the memorial, he broke my heart. I knew well the relationship he had with my father and I grieved for him.

At one point I pulled him aside and told him something I told only a few others,  I didn’t mind sharing my Dad with him.

Sharing Daddy is something I have gotten use to.

Over the years we have never had him to ourselves. He is simply not that kind of guy.

I have several cousins that lost their dad when we were all very young. They were the first I grew accustomed to sharing Daddy with but over the years there have been many others. I can’t say I was gracious to them all. Some seemed to take and never give but Daddy never seemed to mind.

As I stood talking with those closest to my Dad something else occurred to me.

Dad is still with us. Not just in the way he influenced us over the years but with us… really with us.

Didn’t Paul write in Hebrews about a cloud of witnesses?

This was something that had occurred to me years ago but many would disagree when I suggested those who have left this life are watching us from the next.

They would typically respond, if heaven is a place of pure joy without tears and struggles, how can we expect those who have already gone on to look back to the sadness of a fallen world?

It is just in the last few days that I think I am finally beginning to understand.

We are told in scripture that after death we will be like Christ. Does that mean we will be able to see the whole picture of what this life holds and not just the snap shot we experience on a daily bases?

In the book, Heaven is for Real, little Colton talked about seeing his father taking part in a battle but quickly reassures his father, “it’s okay… Jesus wins.”.

Could that be what the witnesses see?

Life as we know it… full of the strife and pain that began as mankind turned away from our Creator?

Then beyond the pain can they see the ending?

Or maybe we should call it the beginning.

The fulfillment of the promise made in Paul’s letter to the Romans, that in all things, God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

Think about this… have you ever read a story that was full of heartache but had an ending so beautiful it takes your breath away?

If you read the story again, knowing the ending, would it change the way you view the story?

Can the cloud of witnesses see the ending?

Can they see the eternity waiting for us all?

An ending so beautiful and breathtaking that the journey is nothing more than a story they have all read before… pointless in the light of the conclusion… allowing them to be joyous… cheering us on through the strife.

As this occurred to me I encouraged others to keep talking to Dad and I began to do the same.

He’s really not so far away… Just because he is not standing beside us doesn’t mean he is not with us.

We just have to share him again.

This time with the cloud of witnesses he joined as he stepped through the veil.

If we listen closely maybe we will hear him cheering us on!

Encouraging us to persevere and throw off everything that hinders us in the race marked out for us all

Until we join each other again…

Anxious to hear the words I know my father heard to the thunderous applause of those who witnessed the life he led

well done good and faithful servant… now life really begins!

I love you daddy! Amen!



Published in: Uncategorized on May 31, 2012 at 2:28 am  Comments (8)  

Laus Deo! The Month of May

May 31, 2012

As I write these words I am still not sure what to say. A couple of months ago I felt the same way as I wrote about a young man, Matt Waller, only sixteen years old and how he was snatched from this life in the tragic moment of an auto crash. The point of the story was trying to find a reason to praise in the face of such heartbreak.

As I sat to write the story I thought at first, what right did I have to even consider Laus Deo in the face of such tragedy? If you missed the first story, Laus Deo is Latin for Praise be to God and it is also the phrase inscribed at the top of the Washington Monument. Several times I considered not writing the piece but it simply would not leave me alone and so I wrote what I felt I had to.

It is what scripture tells us to do, to praise God even through the sadness. We are told to look for the good that will come in all things for those that love God but it is sometimes the hardest thing we are called to do.

That is where I am again today. Not really sure what to say but knowing it needs to be said. You see, the month of May 2012 is forever a part of our family history.

The month began with my husband again having heart issues. Nothing terribly major but a major annoyance and something we were hoping would stay quiet. Especially since I had just lost my job and our insurance benefits. Still, we knew we could face the renewed issue. God had seen us through this many times over the past few years.

As we began to make arrangements for my husband to get the follow up care he would need we received word my husband’s father had been admitted to the hospital to repair a broken leg but there was a problem.

Clarence Vivio, Moola to his friends had fallen from his porch the week before and had not awakened from the surgery required to set his broken leg. On May 2, 2012 my father in law passed away.

We began to make hasty arrangements to go north. My husband had worn a heart monitor for a couple of days in the midst of the chaos but his pending heart issues were pushed aside as we prepared to say goodbye to a man that had lived seventy-eight years.

Clarence had out lived his wife Rita for five years and most would say he was ready for a reunion but for those left behind good-bye is never easy. My heart broke for my husband and his siblings, especially his only sister. Is it ever easy for daddy’s little girl to say goodbye? It was hardest for her I think… or so it seemed… but having raised four boys myself, just as my in-laws had done I know they grieve differently… but just as deeply.

The service was beautiful, a Catholic Mass, topped off with a poem written just for Clarence from a life long friend and the declaration from our niece that her grandfather did in fact know Jesus Christ.

She had decided someone needed to ask her grandfather, what many assumed, just to make sure. She had told him she was a Christian and wanted to make certain he would be in heaven with her. When she asked if he knew Jesus was God’s Son and had died for his sins, his reply was, I learned that in first grade. She said but do you believe it? To which he smiled and nodded he did.

As we laid Clarence to rest conversation quickly turned to the reunion he and Rita were having. The time we spent with my husband’s family was a beautiful reflection of a life lived and a legacy left behind.

As we returned to Tennessee we began to slowly return to our normal routine. My husband had a business trip scheduled and I decided to go along. I was unemployed so we decided, why not? I could use a break and he would like the company. Our kids are all sixteen and above so we were sure they would survive just fine on their own.

We had a great time. He went to the conferences while I rested, caught up on some reading and a few writing projects. The four days went by too quickly and as we headed home my husband’s doctor called to schedule a hospital stay the next week. They were changing his heart medication and would need to admit my husband to the hospital for observation. Not exactly the news we were hoping for but after the few days break we felt renewed and faced the challenge with optimism.

The following Wednesday I drove my husband to Vanderbilt Hospital and checked him in. He was fine so I left after an hour or so and went to join our church for the mid week services. The lesson and worship time was great. I left feeling better than I had in weeks but really worn out from the days events.

I talked to my husband, told him good night and went to sleep as soon as I got home. At 3:00 A.M. my phone rang. It was one of those calls you get in the middle of the night and you know there is something wrong.

My first thoughts were of my husband in the hospital, could something have happened? I answered the phone quickly and discovered the voice on the other end was my brother in Kentucky. Our father had just had a stroke and was on his way to the hospital. He and my mother were still in the car following the ambulance. Even though my brother had told me things didn’t look good, I still felt my dad would pull-through. An hour later my brother called again from the hospital in Kentucky, dad was non-responsive and they were flying him to Vanderbilt.

All the way to Nashville I prayed. I knew God could heal what doctor’s could not so I began to ask for a miracle. I arrived at the hospital before my dad. I called a friend that has a daughter working with the Life Flight program at Vanderbilt. I was hoping for some insight as to when the helicopter from Kentucky would arrive. As I was talking with my friend my husband called from his room on the seventh floor. He could hear a helicopter about to land. It had to be my dad. I rushed into the emergency room and after a few minutes was allowed to join daddy in trauma.

Nothing can prepare you for the moment you see a loved one lying in the trauma bay at Vanderbilt Hospital. I had been there before with one of my sons after a car accident but from the moment I stepped into his room I knew he was injured but would be okay, with my dad it was much different, my fears had been confirmed. Non-responsive meant completely unaware or what seemed to be unaware but that didn’t seem possible. He was fine just a few hours earlier. He and my mom had a great evening. They actually fell asleep holding hands she told me later. He had joked and visited with his friends at church that night and had spent the entire day on the tractor in the field.

How could things change so quickly… in a moment? I continued to pray and the doctors continued to advise me there was simply no hope. My mother, brother, one of my nephews and a family friend arrived right after my dad. We all knew but continued to hope and pray.

It wasn’t long till my sister, her son and granddaughter joined us as well. Over the course of the next twenty-four hours several more family members and friends joined the bedside vigil as we prayed to God for a miracle… begged daddy to hear us… move just a little… give us some hope… but finally on May 18, 2012 at about 3:00 A.M. we let go and let God call him home.

An hour or so later I went upstairs to see my husband as my family headed to Kentucky to make plans for a funeral that seemed impossible to consider.

Daddy had been fine one minute and the next… but hadn’t that been the same for Matt… for Clarence… One minute my father in law was simply reaching out to open the door from his front porch… the next he was lying on the ground with a broken leg that would lead to his last moments with us as well.

How things can change in a moment… an hour… seven days…  a month?

In those moments how hard is it to always say Laus Deo? Especially when life can be so hard?

I think back on Matt’s parents and loved ones again and how I doubt they will really see the Laus Deo of their experience till they can look back on this life… reunited in eternity with the one they love and lost so young.

Maybe that was why I needed to write about Matt. To prepare me for my own moment of Laus Deo! Through tears.

It is a lesson we all must learn. Christ told us all this life would be hard. It is not a surprise.

And so even now as my own heart breaks…

I still can say…

Laus Deo! For lives lived well.

Laus Deo! For legacies and loved ones left behind.

Laus Deo! For Jesus Christ and the Christ like love shown to us all.

Laus Deo! For the eternity to come.

And again with a heavy heart of grief I struggle but still I say… Laus Deo! For the Month of May.

Clarence J. Vivio

July 21, 1933 – May 2, 2012

Larry A. Wilson

August 28, 1938 – May 18, 2012

Published in: Uncategorized on May 31, 2012 at 2:01 am  Leave a Comment  

Laus Deo! The Last Seven Days

April 4, 2012

Laus Deo! Laus Deo! And I say again Laus Deo! For the last seven days. The first time I really noticed this phrase it was in an email Glenn Beck sent me. The salutation said simply Laus Deo! When I saw it I thought I should probably know what it meant but couldn’t quite place it. So I googled it. Laus Deo is Latin for Praise Be to God and it is also the inscription on the top of the Washington Monument. I loved it and from that moment on I stole Glenn’s idea and began to include the phrase in my correspondence.

For the last seven days those two words keep coming to mind.  As you read through this you will not understand at first but hang in there you will.

A lot can happen in seven days. It was exactly one week ago today that I was sitting just where I am now tired and frustrated asking God for something new. Later that night I told friends about my frustration and how I had sat that afternoon for an hour on the bridge over the creek that runs through our property just praying. I was restless. After twenty-eight years my job no longer felt right. It was a good job though with great perks. I could never walk away.

The next morning one hour into my shift I was told to join a conference call at ten. I did my updates, which consisted of recording traffic reports for Memphis and Nashville then dialed into the call. Within about sixty seconds of hearing who else was on the line I knew. I had just aired my last traffic report on a station that had been as much a part of me as my trademark name, U-Turn LaVern, for over twenty-eight years.

From that initial, “we’re going in a different direction…” I heard little else. My friends asked me if I saw it coming and honestly? It’s radio. I had seen it coming since I started the job in 1984. There was never a guarantee.

The rest of the day was spent on the phone letting a few friends know what had happened so they would hear it from me, not the wind. It wasn’t until the next day, after signing my separation agreement that it really sunk in. I was off the air in Nashville for the first time in nearly thirty years.

The next twenty-four hours were tough. Slowly I began to resolve the circumstances in my mind. I had asked God for something new. I was just hoping to find it on my terms.  Since God appeared to be insisting He knew best, I prayed for direction and started looking through the job listings.

As Sunday rolled around part of me just wanted to stay home. I teach teens at my church and I knew I would have to fill them in. I didn’t want to. They thought my job was cool.

I walked into the church looking for my son’s coach. I knew I needed to get upstairs to talk to the kids but my footballer had been at a football combine all weekend. I wanted to give his coach an update. As soon as he walked up I started filling him in. My son had done well and I was anxious to see a big smile on the coach’s face but instead he just stood there. It took him a moment but he finally said “Did you get a text this morning?” I am sure from the look on my face it was obvious I hadn’t so he continued. You could tell he had something to tell me that he could hardly bear to say. He told me one of my son’s teammates had been killed in a car accident the night before. Matt Waller, Gator to his friends, just sixteen years old had lost control and hit a tree.

I couldn’t wrap my mind around what he was telling me. It didn’t seem real but as he continued, relaying what few details he knew it started to sink in. I gave him and his wife a hug and told them I would see them later in the day at the high school.

I had to let my son know. He was still at the combine with his dad. I called my husband and he assured me he would wait until he could get our son alone to give him the news. Then I went upstairs to see if the news had made it to the teen center. It had and the kids were having the same reaction as me. A look of stunned silence wrapped around them. As we started the class telling them about my job situation was completely forgotten.

As it so happens, the lesson for the day centered on how sometimes bad things happen for good. The obvious focus quickly became, how do we see that now? I agreed with the kids. I could not step away from the hearts of the parents that had just lost a son. I told them it may be in heaven as they look back on this life before they can smile and say, “I see,” but I said we will see great good as those who loved Matt encircle his family and friends and love them through this.

Still the questions and focus returned again and again to the horribleness of it all. Finally I shared with them an illustration, one of the best I have ever heard but I hate to use. It seems when this story comes up it is because something terrible has happened and we are trying to make sense of it all.

It’s a story told to me by a grieving mother. She had just lost her six-month old son to SIDS, a son that ironically would be nearly the same age as Gator right about now.

As I visited with her after her son’s death I was struck by her strength. I was a mess, absolutely overcome with grief for my friend. As we stood there talking she told me a story her pastor had shared with her that week. She said we have to think about life as a river. It flows easily along most of the time but occasionally a ripple will form from the pebbles that fall into every life along the way. At times there are splashes when larger intrusions fall into our lives and occasionally there is a boulder so large it threatens to stop the flow of the river forever. But the river of life is strong and as time wears on even the edges of the boulder will smooth as the water struggles at first but continues to flow. She said those boulders are always with us. They are not forgotten like the splashes and ripples of life but even their edges smooth and so do our hearts, changed forever but able to continue on.

As we dismissed class I decided to tell the kids about my job. I wanted them to see how extraordinarily insignificant it was. It was nothing more than a ripple or a splash and maybe even a blessing and an opportunity to take in the view from a different path.

That night we all converged on the High School, Goodpasture Christian School. The only thing tougher than watching children grieve for one of their own is watching parents and siblings grieve for a child taken long before their time.

The evening was long and difficult as the long goodbye began.

The last few days have been filled with stories, tears and overwhelming grief. The kids have spent much of the last few days sitting in Gator’s empty parking spot at school. It has become a makeshift memorial to the young man with the mischievous smile.

They put a cross in front of the tree that claimed their friend. Car and truck windows are covered with messages of love and remembrance and they are now preparing for the funeral that is being held at the high school. Matt and all the football players will wear their jerseys to the memorial and I suppose the number 59 will be retired as Gator takes it to heaven.

The last seven days? The primary election continues. Tornados hit Texas. There was a campus shooting in California and the Wildcats won the NCAA.

And so I say…

Laus Deo! For doors that close as gates are thrown open.

Laus Deo! For friends who hold us up when we don’t have the strength to stand on our own.

Laus Deo! For the God in heaven who smoothes the edges of the heaviest boulders that crash into our lives.

Laus Deo! For the precious souls that pass through this world and let us see heaven in their smiles.

And with a heavy heart of grief I struggle but still I say… Laus Deo! For the last seven days.

Matt Waller


September 26, 1995 – April 1, 2012

Published in: Uncategorized on April 4, 2012 at 5:03 pm  Comments (3)  

Why Christ Had to Die

I rotate with a group of three teachers in our Sunday morning eighth grade Bible class. We have an online curriculum we follow with topics listed on a website each week. This week’s lesson was centered on the Messianic prophecies and why Christ was born the way He was born, lived the way He lived and why He had to die for us.

One of the primary focuses of the lesson was that all of these things happened to fulfill prophecy.

Over the course of the last several years I have read most everything written by Bodie and Brock Thoene.  They are a husband and wife team, she is the primary writer and he is a historian. Together they have written novels that are so solid in historical fact they are used in many university classrooms to help students gain a better grasp of history and the life experience of the time period they are studying.

They have written extensively about the early west in the United States, the rise of the Nazi party and the Jewish people through World War II, on into the establishment of Israel as a country and a few years ago they began publishing their latest work which is a historical novelization of the time period when Christ lived.

It is within those novels that I gained a better and more significant understanding of why Christ was born the way He was born. Of course the City of David was the town of the prophecy but also significant is a historical observation the Thoene’s make in their novels.

Bethlehem was the home for the shepherds responsible for the lamb sacrifices at the temple in Jerusalem. Probably because of convenience those traveling to Jerusalem opted to purchase a lamb upon their arrival and history shows that the Bethlehem community was responsible for providing those lambs. So not only was Christ born in the city of David as prophecy foretold but the last Lamb sacrifice was born among the lambs set aside for the temple as well.

The Thoene’s, also make a beautiful illustration of why Christ had to die in a little book they published for Christmas called “Why a Manger?” In this book Bodie tells of a Christmas back in 1985 when their young eve had suddenly died giving birth and left a motherless lamb. The same night another ewe in their flock had given birth to a still born lamb. Unsuccessfully they tried to coax the surviving ewe into accepting the orphaned lamb.  

Finally the veterinarian said he knew of an old trick shepherds used to help an orphan lamb be accepted by a different mother but it wasn’t pretty. It involved hiding the live lamb under the fleece of the dead lamb.

They agreed it was worth a try and after taking both lambs away the Vet and Brock returned with the live lamb wrapped in the fleece of the ewe’s stillborn baby.

The lamb was placed in the feeding trough, ‘the manger’ so the ewe could discover the lamb on her own. I am sure by now you can see where this is going.

The Thoene’s and the vet stepped back and watched as the ewe began to sniff at the orphan lamb recognizing the scent of her lamb she nudged the lamb out of the trough and encourage the lamb to nurse. Wrapped in the fleece of her lamb she now accepted the orphaned lamb as her own.

But it doesn’t end there.

On Saturday as I wrapped up our schools 8th grade trip to Washington D.C. I had about 5 minutes to grab lunch and sat briefly with a friend in the Reagan Center. Knowing Beth loved a good Bible study I began talking with her about the illustration I just shared with you from the Thoene’s book.

Beth was raised on a farm like I was but had more experience with livestock. When I finished telling her of the Thoene’s Christmas in the stable her eyes lit up and she said. “Now I know why we are having lunch together even if it is only for a couple of minutes.” she said she also remembered how difficult it was to try and get an adoptive mother to accept a orphaned offspring but knew that the key was to get the baby to nurse and the scent of the mother would spread throughout the baby and she would recognize it as her own. I looked at her a little confused not really understanding her point at first until she said, “Don’t you see? That is the Holy Spirit.”

Then it hit me, how the illustration was now complete with my rushed ‘accidental’ lunch encounter.

Christ the last Lamb sacrifice covers us in His blood making us acceptable to His father just as the still born lamb did for the orphaned lamb. Then once accepted through drinking in what the father has to offer the Holy Spirit fills us up with His essence. The more we drink the stronger that essence becomes allowing us to not only be a part of the family but to stand out with His Aroma for the world around us.

I then reminded the kids it is not our works, our deeds, our church attendance or our observation of religious holidays that save us but the blood of Christ. However, when we drink from what God has to offer, the study of the word, fellowship with our Christian family, working with those in need. That is when the Holy Spirit fills us up to over flowing and the Light of the Holy Spirit Shines

2 Corinthians 2:15 For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.

Matthew 5:16 In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.

Happy Easter

God Bless

LaVern Vivio

Published in: on March 31, 2010 at 10:06 am  Leave a Comment