The smell of the old wood, tar, and resin.
The river or stream below it, rushing on and on.
Birds who’ve built their nests
Chirping and singing.
Lattice patterns, crossed beams,
Support the old structure.
Teenagers jump off of them.
Anglers fish near them, looking for
Fish in their shadows.
Covered bridges are both a shelter and a bridge, a
Protection while on your journey. So, too, is
The Lord, both a way and a shelter for your journey.
Sometimes traveling a narrow, dark covered bridge, with floor boards
Loose, isn’t easy. You must drive
Slowly sometimes. But it is certainly better and more
Rewarding than any alternative. I’ve learned to slow down
Traveling with Jesus.
My father was born in 1891, 12 years before the Wright Brothers flew. He lived his entire life in New York City from the horse-and-buggy era to the age of jet-airliners and tall skyscrapers – a very transformational period. I was born in 1946, and was the only child from my parents’ late-in-life union. Mom was 43 at the time, and they told me many times that I was a “surprise baby.”
Dad was a respected supervisory mechanical engineer. He worked until 1954 when he was ruled disabled because of quickly deteriorating eyesight. As a young lad, he took me for outings on many of the city’s far-reaching elevated and subway lines. By the time I was 11, my father was no longer able to navigate the city and transit system on his own. But he still took me out exploring to both show and teach me. My father held his cane in one hand and my arm in the other, telling me how to get where we were going, and it was my job to get us there safely. It was a sight to behold – a youngster leading a blind tour guide on sightseeing trips! On the many forays around the city, I saw bridges, buildings, trains, railroad facilities, museums, ships, and a lot more. My blind father gave me a passion for railways and engineering, which led me into a very successful and enjoyable career.
Photo - Stephen Sr. and Catherine McEvoy with “Surprise Baby” Stephen aka Me
I was told little about Dad’s earlier life before my birth. But my father did share that he was put in an orphanage when he was just 4 years old, where he lived 10 years. There was never any mention of my paternal Grandparents James and Emily (Foster) McEvoy. And, in spite of asking many times, I never learned why my father wound up in an orphanage at such a young age. It wasn’t until many years after his death that I realized how great of a man and father he truly was, and I recently learned that I only knew half the story.
My family gave me a DNA kit as a Christmas gift. It included a box, vial, instructions, and seemed high-tech and complicated. It sat on my desk for six months before I finally read the material, which turned out to be quite simple. I spit some saliva into the vial, completed a short form, put it into the provided box, and mailed it back for DNA analysis. Nothing complex at all. I had no idea what the DNA results would be. The only significant question I had about my heritage was why my father found himself in an orphanage at 4 years of age.
A few weeks later, I received the results – Great Britain 45%, Ireland 34%, Iberian Peninsula 9%, Scandinavia 8%, and a smattering of other geographical regions. I also received a list of 159 possible 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th cousins, but I never reached out to any of them. However, two of these relatives contacted me – David, the grandson of my Uncle Henry, and Patricia, the great granddaughter of my Uncle William. They both confirmed that my father was one of seven siblings. Interesting but nothing earth shattering.
Then I raised the long-unanswered question whether they knew why my father wound up in an orphanage at a young age. They were surprised that I did not know about the family tragedy. Rather than tell me the gory details, they briefed me about the basics and explained how I could research the sad events for myself.
I quite easily found the tragic story in many newspapers. I was shocked to learn that on July 6, 1895, my Grandfather James McEvoy, during a drunken rage, shot my Grandmother Emily in the head and torso. The shooting occurred in front of two of their children. The other five children immediately ran into the room after the gunfire. As reported in the New York Herald, “The seven children were screaming and yelling. The flat was in the wildest disorder.”
James penned two suicide notes before the deed, but he yielded to the children’s pleading that he not turn the gun on himself. Police officers soon arrived and took James into custody. “Only the clubs of six policemen kept James McEvoy from being lynched by his frantic neighbors…” Emily was taken to a hospital where she died two days later. My grandfather was a premeditated murderer.
The day after Emily’s death, James was being transported to court for legal proceedings via Manhattan’s Third Avenue Elevated Line. While handcuffed and waiting on the 59th Street Station platform, James pulled away and threw himself onto the track in front of the approaching train. He was mortally wounded and died in a hospital an hour later. Within three short days, my father and his six siblings (ranging from 2 to 19 years of age) violently lost both parents.
James’ family helped the seven children transition through the aftermath of the terrible tragedy. The three eldest needed minimal assistance, while my father, the second youngest, wound up in an orphanage.
I spent my entire career in railway operations and engineering, and it was bizarre for me to learn that my grandfather died in Manhattan after being run over by an elevated train, hauled much less by a steam locomotive. And I walked through the intersection of 59th Street and Third Avenue many times over the years totally unaware that such a horrific family tragedy occurred there just one long generation ago.
Photo - New York’s Third Avenue Elevated Circa 1878-1895 before Electrification
There are many events in life that we cannot foresee or prepare for, and learning this sad family history was certainly one of them. And yet, as terrible as the tragedy was, I felt prepared for the bad news to a significant degree.
I accepted Jesus as Lord and Savior 54 years ago on simple blind faith, without thinking it all through. Almost immediately, I struggled with many “whys” – why God allows pain, suffering, disease, death, and dozens more. After 10 years or so of wrestling with God, I still could not understand or rationalize the human condition, and I gave up trying. I simply decided to yield and accept the Biblical explanations – we live in a fallen world where free will prevails, sin permeates, and stuff happens – both good and bad. While I still do not like or understand why things are the way they are, I stopped trying to make sense of it all. I reaffirmed my faith in Jesus and His Sacrifice on my behalf, and I also firmly embraced God’s Written Word, regardless of my feelings and unanswered questions.
So, learning about my family’s tragedy did not jar or rattle me to any significant degree, but the sad story did slowly cut to my heart in a number of other ways. I have been unable to feel any sympathy for James McEvoy. He had a history of drunkenness and violence, and was arrested several months before the murder for attacking his wife Emily while intoxicated. I do have an immense empathy for Emily, who gave James seven children only to be slaughtered by him.
The story generated much emotion in me about my father overcoming such a turbulent and tragic childhood, and excelling in life in spite of it. Dad never complained and never seemed sad, even after he went blind. Dad’s oldest brother William stirs even greater emotion in me, because he unexpectedly became the family patriarch at the age of 19. He stepped up to the plate, providing love and assistance to his youngest siblings. My father recounted that William visited him many times during the 10 years spent in the orphanage, after which William took my father home to live with him and his family during my dad’s teenage years.
However, the greatest emotion and discomfort I have felt about the tragedy is not about James, Emily, William or my father, but about me. The story has reminded me about my sinful nature, failures and shortcomings. As strange as it sounds, I feel blessed, enriched and even healed by these sad introspective feelings. While I cannot change history, I can still change myself and also allow God greater control over my life.
A touching side story to the tragedy was that the Plasterers’ Union of which James was a member contributed $150 towards the funeral cost. When adjusted for inflation, this is equivalent to $4,167 today – not a trivial amount. Considering that James was a drunken murderer, such a sizable donation was a remarkable showing of fraternal love, and also an important reminder that the Second Great Commandment to love our neighbor applies even when we hate what the neighbor did!
The moral of the story may seem to be that before spitting for a DNA test, be prepared for the possibility of bad news. However, that is just a “catchy” title; the lesson is much deeper than that. There are many other far more likely possible tragedies that could befall us tomorrow, which would more greatly test and challenge our faith, and rack our emotions. The promises in Revelation 21:4 make clear that we currently live in a fallen world where bad stuff happens even to the best of Christians:
“He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:4 ESV)
The sheltered “bubbles” we live in might burst tomorrow. We could prematurely lose a loved one, have a heart attack, be diagnosed with cancer, or become paralyzed! I have seen these and other tragic life-changing events happen to the finest of Christians. Although rarely preached or dwelt upon, such sad possibilities are well-established Biblical truths. As much as I do not like or understand it, living the Christian Life still subjects us to significant risks and uncertainties every day, because we live in a fallen world.
Every person deals with some measure of obstacles, problems and even tragedies in life. However, Christ’s sacrificial death and resurrection provide promise, hope, grace and power to rise above and overcome the worst of events. The larger moral of my family story is Before Going to Bed Tonight, Be Prepared. I am reminded of Ephesians 6:13:
“Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.” (Ephesians 6:13 ESV)
And what is “being prepared?” Nothing more than trust and faith in Jesus Christ, not only for salvation, but also for all our tomorrows; and, obedience to the Word of God, and actively living out God’s desires and plans for our lives. Not only will this prepare us, these “actions of faith” (regardless of feelings) will also allow us to live victoriously.
Full Story with photos at https://tiaspage.com/my-story-pt-1/
I planned to climb out of my castle and ride my white horse to victory. To me, it sounded simple. Unfortunately, no one told me that a leap from the tallest tower makes for a great fall.
I was born into a Korean-Japanese family. I think the best word to describe my childhood is: extraordinary. My parents met in Tokyo, Japan, and my dad fell madly in love with my beautiful mom. They were 18 years apart in age, but my dad was persistent in getting to my mom’s heart. Soon, they tied the knot and had over a dozen miscarriages before they had me at seven months, as the “miracle child.”
My mom became a businesswoman and my dad, a high-ranking political leader for the Republic of South Korea. Unfortunately, things didn’t work out between them, and by faith, my mom remarried her long-lost friend from high school who was the youngest son from the Japanese Mafia Family.
Fortunately for me, my parents remained great friends. My stepfather looked up to and respected my biological father. I loved them both and was their princess. My biological father was always on TV, and the whole nation paid great respect to him. His words were like gold in many people’s lives, though I never knew why till years later. My stepfather, on the other side, was a very handsome and powerful figure, too. Strangely, I looked very similar to both of them and people often couldn’t guess which one was my birth father.
The unique life got me living in Taiwan, South Korea, and eventually, Hawaii. We had many properties. Our family friends who were famous and noble—including the presidents—would come over for parties at our homes. My friends, however, were only allowed to come over to three of our homes: one in Honolulu, the other two near the Paris Park and Hyundai Tower in Gangnam, South Korea.
My life was above average, but not to the extent that some of my relatives were. To give you an idea, one of my cousins received an entire temple with a golden Buddha for her birthday. Still, I grew up with butlers, nannies, drivers, and bodyguards who treated me like a princess, and I indeed always got my ways. I was also protected from the outside world, but I desired my own freedom...
“It’s so hot!” Cali fluttered a fan in front of her face trying to ease her discomfort.
“It’s not hot you’re just dramatic.” Cole continued to dig, the hole in the sand was a good six feet deep now.
“Easy for you to say, you were born here. My delicate skin isn’t used to such extremes.”
“Get over yourself,” As the shovel went into the sand once more, it hit something and sent a thud echoing through the ancient shipwreck. Both Cali and Cole stood in silence. The excitement vibrated through each of them until Cole finally spoke.
“Hand me the brush.”
Cali scrambled by the side of the hole and tossed the brush to him. He caught it and began meticulously removing the dust from below. A large square was revealed with an inscription written in ancient Greek.
Cole squinted at the characters and tried to decipher the message.
“Here lies God’s temple, beware all who enter. Your faith shall be tested. Only the worthy shall succeed.” Looking up at Cali he smiled, “Hand me the crow bar.”
She did as he asked but was hesitant, “Should we be doing this Cole? That sounded pretty heavy how do we know the legend isn’t true.”
“Every legend has a wisp of truth in it. But we can’t be afraid to try. Think about it Cali! No one’s been in here for a thousand years. We could be the first to explore it.”
“We also could be the first to die.”
“This isn’t a movie, if you’re too scared then I can go alone.” A loud hiss filled the room as the stone was unsealed. Then a rush of wind coursed through the entire ship, sounding like a howl of agony.
“God is with us, I’m not scared. I just don’t feel right about this.”
Cole struggled to lift the stone slab to the side. Then through pants he spoke, “Then don’t come. I’ll be fine on my own.”
“You’re not leaving me alone up here. I’m going.”
“Then hand me a torch and let’s go.”
They entered the tunnel through the hole. The first thing they noticed was the wind, it breathed through the hall as if the place is alive. Cali quickly pulled out her camera to document everything. As they walked down the long corridor, she clicked a picture of the entryway. She glanced at the picture then suddenly grabbed Cole and yanked him back.
“Ouch! What is it?” Cole rubbed his shoulder.
“There’s writing on the stones.”
Cole looked up at the entryway and shook his head, “I don’t see any writing.”
“I can see them on my camera if I sharpen the image a bit. See?”
She held the camera out to him and he took it in his hands. “Humble yourself in the presence of the Lord and He will exalt you. James 4:10”
Cali studied the entrance for a moment, “What do you think it means?”
“They are using humble as a verb what is the action of humbling yourself? To be humble is to lower yourself to someone in dignity and importance according to Webster's dictionary.. Lower… Lower! We have to crawl through the entrance.”
“Why? There’s nothing there.”
“We have to have faith.”
Cali nodded and they both got down on their knees and began to crawl toward the entrance.
As they came closer, Cole discovered a thin wire just above his head, it was knee high. “Careful, I don’t know what this does and I don’t want to find out.”
Cali got down even lower, “You don’t have to tell me twice.”
On the other side, they stood and let out a breath. Together, they continued on, Cali took pictures and checked every entrance before they came to a great hall. It was filled with all kinds of treasure made of gold and silver, embedded with jewels of all kinds.
“Wow! God is definitely tempting us. Look at all this!” Cole exclaimed.
Cali shook her head, “James 1:13-18 When tempted, no one should say, ‘God is tempting me.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. Don't be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of first fruits of all he created.”
Cole lit up, “So what you’re saying is we should take all of this?”
Cali looked around, suspicious of everything. Looking down she discovered another stone with writing on it. “1 Timothy 6:10 For the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.”
Cole’s shoulders sagged. “You’re right let’s stay on task. It’s real treasure that we seek.”
They walked through the gold filled room and reached a wall with a keyhole.
“Wouldn’t it be terrible if this was the wrong key?” Cole laughed.
“Don’t even joke like that. This has to be it; we went through so much to get it, I’d cry if it didn’t work.” Cali took the key from around her neck and inserted it into the slot. She gave it a turn and heard a bolt move. Then she heard gears turning and more bolts moving until a light pop came from a crack in the wall and the stones suddenly moved together to reveal a door.
The room on the other side was dark and almost empty. A table rested on the opposite side with a box. The floor was all stones with verse locations written on them in Greek.
Cali stepped forward only to be pulled back by Cole in the nick of time. As her foot stepped on a tile, a slew of poison darts flew out from the walls towards her. They both ducked and narrowly missed a slow death.
Cole swallowed hard, “I think I should go and you wait here. I'm better at Greek and I’ll ask for help when I need it.
“How are you going to get across?”
“You stepped on 1 John 3:8 The one who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work.’”
“So, All these first verses talk about either evil or good, Satan or God. You need to step on the ones about God and good.”
“Fine you can go but tell me which ones you’re about to step on beforehand.”
“Will do. The first should be Psalm 121:7-8 The Lord will keep you from all harm-he will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.”
Cole stepped out onto the corresponding tile and nothing happened. They both exhaled with relief. He looked over his shoulder at Cali, “2 Corinthians 11:3, Acts 5:3, or Proverbs 3:7-8”
“Proverbs 3:7-8! ‘Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones.’”
Cole nodded and landed on the next tile safely. “Ok I’m not sure about these three, John 8:44, Matthew 16:23, or Genesis 3:1-5.”
Cali bit her lower lip and shook her head, “I don’t know they are all about Satan.”
“Wait the next row has Psalm 34:14 ‘Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it.' I think I can make that if I jump.”
“But it also talks about evil what if you’re wrong?”
“If I am, let God judge me for it.”
Cole squatted down and then leapt into the air aiming for the tile a row ahead. He made the landing and was able to stop himself from falling over. He stepped off the tiles onto the stone stairs leading up to the table. Cali watched him make his way up the steps to the box. He lifted the lid and smiled back at her.
Cali sighed in disbelief. Cole pulled out a large book and put it into his sack then hopped down the stairs preparing to come across the tiles once more. But as he stepped on the first tile, a clicking sound began under the box. The table began to rise and the room began to shift.
Cole turned to Cali and jumped to the next tile as quick as he could. Then making it to the final tile he grabbed her hand. The two ran into the treasure room which was filling with water rapidly. By the time they made it to the corridors, the water was to their knees.
They quickly sloshed to the final entrance and forgetting the wire, ran through it. A large stone dropped from the ceiling and landed behind them, unsettlingly close. They scrambled up the opening and made it safely into the shipwreck. Cole and Cali laid on their backs breathing heavily. They looked at each other and laughed nervously until they were finally certain they were safe. Then Cole pulled the book from his bag to inspect it. It hadn’t gotten wet thank goodness.
“The first complete Greek Bible.” Cali smiled.
“Worth so much more than money.”
A voice came from behind them, “That it is. And I thank you for retrieving it for me.”
When friends praise you, they are showing that they are loving people and secure within themselves. They are also showing that they have learned that criticizing others right off the bat does not lead to a subsequent build up of themselves. Instead, they have learned the value of making time to nurture relationships and actively listen to their friends before criticizing.
Isn’t it wonderful when someone reaches for praise rather than criticism? I believe it was Alex Haley (author of “Roots”) who always said “Look for the best in someone, and praise it.” Much more productive than immediately criticizing, and much more fun to watch the potentially amazing results!
After all, our speech should be edifying. 1 Thessalonians 5:11 says, “Therefore encourage one another and build up one another.”
What Loving Criticism Can Accomplish
On the other hand, when we criticize a friend, we are judging the merits and faults of something they have said or done as either good or bad. Criticism can, in fact, correct another person in a Godly way, if the criticism is given with that intent and in that spirit.
It was Norman Vincent Peale who said, “The trouble with most of us is that we would rather be ruined by praise than saved by criticism.” And he was right. We usually don’t like criticism. I know I can tend to take it personally, but I also take it to heart and try to learn from it, especially constructive criticism in a work situation.
The Reverend Charles Stanley said, “Too many Christians have a commitment of convenience. They'll stay faithful as long as it's safe and doesn't involve risk, rejection, or criticism. Instead of standing alone in the face of challenge or temptation, they check to see which way their friends are going.” However, a true friend will speak the truth even when it’s hard to hear: "Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but deceitful are the kisses of an enemy." (Proverbs 27:6)
Since God loves people and wants the best for them, He points out faults, shortcomings, and sins. The Bible gives several examples of criticism:
Hebrews 10:24 says, "Let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds."
And Galatians 6:1 gives the primary motivation for criticizing - with a warning: "Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted."
A Personal Story: Preferring Praise to Criticism
Whenever my friends praise me, it makes me feel like a great success. I am encouraged and heartened by their words, which come as such a blessing. This is one of the main reasons that being around Christian friends is so edifying for me, and so necessary for a peaceful heart! I would rather listen to their encouraging voices than to the negative voices that are sometimes in my head, that’s for sure. Those voices might not agree with the praise! I might not feel too successful or uplifted at times, but my focus becomes redirected with praise from my friends. I start to see myself as God sees me – wonderfully made.