Stories about my family

Category: Religion (Page 1 of 3)

The man with a hard heart

Phyllis and I decided in the the early 80’s that we would retire from the Army. Phyllis had been talking for some time that we needed to “get in Church”. Looking back, we can see God’s hand at that pivotal point in our life. He created circumstances that made the decision the only practical one. We moved to West Tulsa in 1981 and joined Bethel Baptist Church.

Everyone in the Burr family was involved in church activities, from teaching, to yard work, to kitchen help. God was doing a mighty work in our lives, blessing each of us.

As was our custom on Wednesday evening, Phyllis’s father and I went of visitation. On this particular visit, Bill choose to take the lead and started the conversation with the older gentleman, who was lying in bed, obviously very ill. He told Bill, the doctor said he didn’t have much longer to live.

When asked where he expected to spend eternity. The man replied, “I’ll be in Hell with all my buddies”. You don’t have to go there, Bill said and started telling the man about Jesus. The man stopped him and said he didn’t want to hear that stuff.

We concluded our visit and started for the door, when Bill turned and started to say something. He changed his mind and we left. It was obvious the man had hardened his heart toward God and sealed his own fate. The bible says “it is appointed unto man once to die, but after this the judgment”.

A sad story but repeated too often. God’s Grace is available to all, but is effectual only for those who believe.


The religious stories received several comments from loyal readers.. Here are a few.

Don Qualls left this comment after reading the story about Alfred and Addie Burr leading the community in building a Church in Warner, OK in 1954.

It must be in the Burr blood, my mother, Juaneva (Pip) Burr Qualls was the main force in starting a Southern Baptist Church in Stratford CA. around 1962*63-ish. My brother Jerry Qualls could probably give the exact date, he attended the church until he moved to Webber around 1974. I remember spending many days getting the storefront ready, cutting weeds in the back, going to Sunday School. After my mothers death in 1965 we began to attend the Pentecostal church of God that Janis mentioned earlier

Uncle Tom Burr left this comment. What a GREAT story. I am glad and honored to call Alfred Burr my earthly and Heavenly brother.

Janis Burr Minter left this comment after reading the same story. Very interesting. I didn’t know about the building of the church. My dad helped build the Pentecostal church in Stratford. But he didn’t attend until much later in his life.

Judy Anderson. For your memory bank of Bro & Sister Burr, (Alfred Burr’s parents). When my brother-in-law, Burl Page pastored the little brown church on the corner behind the cotton gin, (In the town of Webbers Falls, OK), Bro Burr was the assistant pastor and when Burl had to work, he preached. He was the first person I ever heard speak in tongues! I wanted to do that, didn’t understand it, but wanted it. I loved to hear both of them testify. Sister Burr always sat on the front bench of the left side of the church. I still remember the long dark colored coat with a pretty pin on the lapel that she wore. And she always prayed during the service. She like the song “I shall not be moved”. We had a wood stove in the middle of the isle in center of the church and Bro Burr would carry the wood in by arm loads and many times came early to build the fire so church would be warm. Hope this gives you a short memory to reflect on two favorite people of my childhood.

Note: Brother and Sister Burr referred to by Judy are my grandparents. Thank you Judy, I did not know. Jack

Tim Denning left this comment after reading the story “The Day I was Saved.” Thank you for sharing – I always love to hear how someone came to know our Lord.
I came to Christ the Summer of 1974 at a meeting downtown in Wichita. I too felt that God through the preacher was speaking directly to me that night. It was hard to go forward in that big crowd but I knew that is what I had to do. I’ve never been the same since and would not trade his loving care for anything. Yes, I too have not walked as I should at times but he is always ready to draw me close.

Comment left by my sister Brenda. testimony from the heart… love all bc

Comment by Dennis Burr. Fantastic testimony. (Dennis is a man who loves family traditions as much as I do, Jack).

Comment by my daughter-in-law, Donna. Amen Amen Dad!!

Thanks for the feedback. Jack



     Finding my old Bible, which I had misplaced some time ago, brought back memories about things said and the people who said them.  I made notations in the margins about things that cross my mind.  I’ve also included some funny lines as well. 

Pastor in Missouri:  A Boloney stick sliced into many pieces, doesn’t matter which slice you get, it’s still boloney.  Life is not a parking lot, it’s a highway.  A preacher should not use much runway to get off the ground.     

     Teacher in Springfield, MO:  The BIBLE contains 66 Chapters, 1,189 chapters and 81,113 words.  The authors were inspired and every word recorded is true and without error.  We can depend on on its truthfulness in all matters, especially His purpose as expressed in John 3:16.     

     My favorite verse:  Grieve not the Holy Spirit whereby ye are sealed until the day of redemption.  Eph 4:30.

     Gary Muse saved 02/12/1989

     A Pastor of a Hispanic church in Rio Grand Valley, Texas, 1997 spoke on the Garden Of Success.  (part of sermon was in Spanish and part in English.  Here is the part I understood.

Plant 5 rows of Lettuce:  lettuce be faithful, lettuce us be loyal, lettuce be truthful, lettuce be unselfish, lettuce us love each other

Plant 3 rows of squash.  squash gossip, squash criticism, squash indifference.

Plant 4 rows of peas:  politeness, prayer, promptness, perserverance,  

Plant ? rows of turnips:  turnip with a smile…… ??  Great sermon, many went forward.  

     A Sunday School Teacher :  How many agnotics does it take to change a light bulb?  I don’t know until  I see for myself. 

     How many atheists?  Atheists leave the light bulb burnt out as they prefer to dwell in the darkness.

     How many Presbyterians?  None.  Lights will go on and off at predestined times.

     How many Baptists?  At least 15.  One to change the light bulb and three committees to approve the change and decide who brings the potato salad.

     How many Amish?  What’s a light bulb?

     Pastor stepped to the mike and said, “Can you hear me in the back?  reply:  yes, but I wouldn’t mind changing seats with someone who can’t.”

     Teaching a lesson on importance of  bring patient with your spouse, a Sunday School teacher used the following quip to make a point:  “Patience is a virtue… catch it if you can…seldom found in women….(long pause)…. .  At the pause the women gasped and the men chuckled. Then the tables were turned when the teacher finished the quip…. “never found in men”.


  • Hey! It’s MY turn to sit on the front pew!
  • I was so enthralled, I never noticed your sermon went over time 25 minutes.
  • I volunteer to be the permanent teacher for the Junior High Sunday School class.
  • Forget the denominational minimum salary: let’s pay our pastor so he can live like we do.
  • I love it when we sing hymns I’ve never heard before!


Phyllis and I believe our middle child, Randy, will have great rewards in Heaven as he and his family have devoted most of their adult life to  Christian service.  More about that later.

Randy was a bright child.  While Rick and Cynthia, who like their parents, had to study and work to get A’s in school.  Randy could inherently grasp a complex concept with apparent ease and very little study.  Particularly in math.

Randy standing in front of our camper at dad’s salvage in Warner, OK

This giftedness was first recognized when Phyllis was teaching Rick math skills using flash cards when he was about five.  Randy two years younger, would interrupt with the correct answer before Rick had an opportunity to respond.

When I retired from the Army in the fall of 1981.  Our family (except Rick who remained in Wichita, KS where he later married Susan, his sweetheart) moved to Tulsa and became active in Bethel Baptist Temple.  It was here where Randy accepted Christ as  his savior and was baptized.

Shortly thereafter, Randy accepted the call to the ministry.  When he graduated Webster High School, Tulsa University offered a scholarship in engineering.  During his first semester it was apparent that his heart wasn’t in this endeavor.

His English Professor assigned students a writing assignment about a topic of the students choice.  Randy decided to write about Jesus and his plan for saving humanity.  However, the professor instructed Randy he would only be allowed to write a satire of the “story” of Jesus .

Randy disregarded her instructions and submitted his paper about the REAL Jesus.   He was chastised and given a poor grade.  Shortly after that, he withdrew, married Donna Cobb and left for Baptist Bible College, Springfield, Mo.

After 2 and 1/2years in Springfield, MO, Randy joined the Navy to attend the Naval Nuclear Power School in Orlando, Fl.  After graduating near  the top of his class he was transferred to Balston, Spa, NY to attend the Naval Prototype course.  Aftr two years of schooling, he was assigned to the USS Skipjack SSN 585 fast attack submarine.

As a crew member. Randy served with distinction on the Skipjack until it was decommissioned in 1991.   During this time Randy and Donna had two beautiful daughters, Cynthia and Kimberly.

Randy and his young family remained in Virginia where he found work as a manager trainee for Camelia Food Store, a multi-state grocery store chain.  Within a few months he was assigned Manager of the store and earned the reputation of increasing operational efficiency and profit margins in every Department.  Subsequently, Corporate Headquarters  moved him to grocery stores struggling with theft, inefficiency and profit issues.

In each case he met or exceeded corporate goals.  Again, he was promoted and assigned to an audit team to examine operations across 52 stores and make recommendations.  Randy was advancing quickly to  positions of greater responsibility and seemed to have a bright managerial future with Camelia Foods.

He did know that God was preparing him for a future where the  managerial and leadership skills developed here would enable him to weather the financial and cultural storms that began in 2007 and lasted almost a decade.

Randy felt the call of God and left Camelia Foods to joined  the ministry of Fellowship Baptist Church, Chesapeake, VA where he received his ordination and served as Assistant Pastor for 3 of the 11 years in Chesapeake, VA.

Randy and Donna

During the next 8 years Randy impacted 100’s of lives for Christ while pastoring  two churches.  In fact, the entire family was intimately involved in the ministry.   Donna is an accomplished pianist and singer.  Further, their daughters, Cynthia and Kimberly, are also musicians and singers.  Randy completed his Bachelors of Science during this time.

While Randy was pastor of Decatur Heights Baptist Church in Bladensburg, MD  he suffered a heart attack and underwent surgery.  His doctor advised him to find a less stressful profession.  Accordingly,  Randy began looking for a job where he could use his managerial skills in a less stressful but still in a Christian environment.

He found the perfect fit as Principal of Lanham Christian School, Lanham, MD.  and was hired in 2006. It was the job God had prepared for him, at a   time when Institutions all over the U.S. where experiencing  the  declining economy as well as the cultural upheaval that effected Christian institutions in particular.   In this environment several similar Christian schools in Prince George County were forced to close.

Lanham Christian School is a college prep day school  with  over 200  students enrolled in grades K-4 thru 12 fully approved by Maryland State Department of Eduction’s Board of Accreditation and Certification.   The mission of Lanham is to  shape students to (1) Magnify Christ as they learn and grow, (2) reflect the Character of God’s person and purpose and (3) to Develop Commitment to self-discipline and obedience that promote spiritual and academic growth.

Randy was instrumental in improving day to day operations and returning the school to the mission of providing high quality education to a christain community.  Here are a few of the changes made under Randy’s leadership:

Developing a long range financial plan to insure stability, hiring highly qualified and credentialed teachers, adopting a circulum which achieves high standards and academic continuity from grades one thru twelve, growing year to year student retention to 85%, improving student performance on National Standard Test to the 65th percentile in grades 1-10 and college prep testing in grades 11-12,  developing 20 Honors Level and 3 Advance Placement Courses.  In addition, a 10% increase in enrollment is projected for 2018-19 school year.

Randy is also involved in church leadership and the preaching  ministry and is an Elder at Grace Brethren Church.   He was also promoted to Executive Director of Lanham Christian School, Lanham, MD.

Phyllis and I may be a bit prejudiced but we think our son Randy is the most gifted preacher we’ve ever heard.  It is apparent that God has richly blessed Randy and his family.


Phyllis talks about her Grandma

My name is Phyllis Burr.

I am going to tell a story about my Grandma, Rachael Ninetta Prater.  I remember the time when grandma was working on a

My grandma. Nina Praterquilt with other women from her church.  I sat under the the quilt which was stretch out on the quilting frame permitting several quilters to work at the same time.  I recall watching the needles going up and down.

I’m sure these early experiences explains my interest in sewing.  In particular, my interest in making quilts.

another pieced and hand appliquéd quilt by Phyllis

Grandma was a believer in prayer.  Whenever I was visiting and told her I was sick, or sometimes she just intuitively knew something was wrong and she would kneel and start praying.  When she did so I knew she loved me.

One time we played church.  Ronnie liked to preach but, he was too small to see over the pulpit in the living room; therefore,  he stood on a kitchen chair and preached away.   During the exhortation, he paused and asked me to get him a glass of water.  He took a gulp and suddenly sprayed Billy and I.

Hand Pieced and Hand Applique stitched by Phylis

At the same time, grandma walked into the room.  She was not pleased with our behavior, disrespecting God’s Church as we did.  She gave us a light spat on the rump and banned us from the living room except when it was used for real church.

I was a quiet child and I had been told  I was an emotional child.  I suppose I was, which explains why I have fond memories of my grandma.  She was my best friend.  Especially, when someone said things to me that hurt my feelings and I would cry.  Grandma understood and and gave me sweet hugs.

It was a sad day when she passed away in 1989.   She was 89 years old.  I know I will see her again because she led me to my

A beautiful little girl named Phyllis

Lord and Savior,  when I was 12 years old, and taught me that when I trusted Jesus as my Savior that I was saved and would go to heaven because Jesus loves me . JESUS loves me this I know, For the Bible tells me so, Little ones to Him belong; They are weak, but He is strong.                                                Yes, Jesus loves me!

I know that Jesus Loves me and  she taught this song so that I would never  forget “Jesus Loves Me This I know, for the Bible tells me so”.  This song and the knowledge of God’s Grace is a great comfort to me now that I am 76 years old.  I owe much to my Grandma.



In 1989 Phyllis and I learned of the acute need for foster parents in our community.  Such a shame that so many innocent children are in need of parental love and supervision.  Because of Phyllis’ deep and abiding love for children, we decided to become foster parents.

Before we could become foster parents, Phyllis and I had to attend training sessions.  Because our foster child had sleep apnea and required a night time monitor, we were required to learn how to use the monitor to detect chest movement and heart rate.  Our daughter was living at home while attending Baptist Bible College also attended the sessions.

Christa came to us from dysfunctional family.  Her biological father was involved with drugs and was not around.  The mother, Mary, was having difficulty coping with all the responsibilities of parenthood.  As a result, Christa was removed from the home.


The first night we had Christa, we nervously hooked up the leads on her little body, fussed over her a bit and set the machine to alarm if something went wrong.  After everyone was asleep a loud  alarm caused the three of us to rush to Christa’s bedroom.

When the light was switched on, we saw Christa sitting up in her crib with a monitor clip in her hand and a grin on her face.  Perhaps it was a triumphant smile.

After we determined that everything was OK, we laughed with her.  Christa had a  wonderful personality.

Always smiling and eager to please others.

Ultimately, all of us wanted Christa to return to her biological mother.  But first the home environment needed to improve.

The social worker admired Phyllis’s work as a foster mother and asked her if she would help Mary.  Of course, Phyllis agreed.

Mary loved Christa and wanted her back.  However, she saw the need for placing her child in a foster home in the first place.   In fact, she taught Christa to call us “Mama Phyllis and Daddy Jack” and was willing to share her daughter.

Mary was a willing learner.  She learned home making and child rearing skills over the next several weeks.  She attended Church and gave evidence of her faith in ways that changed her life. During the process, Mary became a good friend and a better parent.

When it was time, the social worker told us that Christa should be returned to Mary.  Mary invited us to visit Christa whenever we wished.

Mary was gracious with her daughter.  She let Christa stay with us on weekends and once we took her on vacation to Colorado.  Another time she visited us when we lived in Muskogee, Oklahoma several years later.

Still as a teenager, Christa continued to call us “Momma Phyllis and Daddy Jack”.   She grew up to be a responsible adult.  Christa is a wonderful person and loving parent.  God works in wonderful ways.

A second foster child is another story.






It was the summer of 1995.  Our three children were married and had children of their own.  Phyllis and I lived in Springfield, MO and were busy with our own lives.

From time to time, Phyllis reminded me of the promise I had made many years earlier when she and our family followed me all over the United States and to Germany.


I had promised that someday, after the kids were gone, we would enjoy life by traveling around the United States.  We had been out of the Army for about 10 years when I became the librarian at Baptist Bible College (BBC). 

My long suffering wife had not pressed the issue even though our kids were grown and making lives for themselves.

We were both busy.   Cherry Street Baptist Church was a major part of our lives.  Phyllis was in the choir and involved in other activities.  The picture on the left is of Phyllis modeling in a Church fashion show.

I was involved with Church administration and teaching classes.  During this time I unsuccessfully ran for a position on the Springfield Public School board.

We were too busy.  In retrospect I can see that volunteering for this and that good cause can be a good thing but our lives were out of balance.  

We also became foster parents for a period of time.  Although we enjoyed being busy with all these good activities, We were over committed and needed a break.

Christa was a sweet little girl.

As the Librarian at Baptist Bible College, I occasionally went on business trips.  On one of these trips Phyllis and I took our camper to Florida where the Association of Christian Librarians (ACL) held their meeting that year. The ACL supported  Christian Colleges and Universities all over the world preparing men and women for the cause of Christ.

After parking the camper and getting everything set up, I went to the ACL meeting.  The Board members finished Association business, and then, out of the blue, the Secretary place my name in nomination for  President of the ACL.  Since I had been a member for only three yeas, I was surprised and flattered.

Obviously, the secretary had talked to each of the 12 board members because everyone voiced support for my nomination.  The meeting adjourned about midnight.  I was elated thinking about all the things I could do as President. 

I excitedly told Phyllis about the meeting and my potential election as President of the Association.  She looked me with that “look”.  She did not share my excitement and asked me a simple question. “Do you remember the promise you made to me when you got out of the Army?”

Every bit of the excitement I had felt a minute ago vanished.  Of course, I remembered and was suddenly overcome with guilt.  Phyllis had been patient with me for all those years.  What I was planning to do  would change the direction of our lives.  Different from the life I had promised Phyllis.

Two days later we returned to Springfield, MO and  I submitted my resignation to the President of BBC.   We sold our house a few months after that.

We enjoyed our travels around the US for over three years in the late 1990”s. Mainly we spent the winters in the Rio Grande Valley in South Texas where we played Golf and Bingo. We traveled north in the summer to Michigan where we played Golf and Bingo. We both had a great time.

I kept my promise.

The lesson I learned is this:  Don’t get so tied up in doing “Good Works” that you get your life out of balance and forget what’s important.



A version of this story about mom and dad rallying the neighbors to build a place of worship was first published over two years ago.

Alfred and Addie Burr

The year was 1954.  We started junking as soon as we moved from the farm.  Every town has a South Side such as the one in Warner.  Houses are smaller.  City services are meager, families make less money but usually have more kids.  Having a junk yard across the street from our house did not cause an uproar.  It was the South Side.

One thing the South Side did not have was a Place of Worship.  Dad knew a lot of people because of his years as a farmer near the town of Warner.  He was well liked and respected so when he headed up an effort to build a Pentecostal Holiness Church, he had many volunteers.

Families responded with money to buy an empty lot near the railroad tracks.  Dad laid out a rectangular form that soon became the foundation.  Many workers came and  brought with them concrete blocks, bags of cement,  tucks of sand and lumber.

Within a few weeks the walls, roof, doors and windows were finished and ready for services.  I think temporary benches were constructed until pews, altar, and pulpit could be found.  Addie Burr was the secretary so the finances were in good order.

Lay ministers were plentiful in that part of Oklahoma and even some came from Arkansas.  Most had no formal training but none was needed.  The only prerequisite was the Call Of God and His Anointment to Preach.  Services were held on Sunday morning, Sunday night, Wednesday night and a revival or two each year.

One particular lay preacher was a congregation favorite.  I don’t recall his last name but everyone called him Little Joe and he could PREACH.  He knew the Bible from cover to cover and could tell a Bible story and make the Scriptures come alive and relevant to everyday life of the believer.  Additionally, he was a likable person and a compassionate man of God.

The fledging church grew and many souls were saved over the next many years.  Eventually, a larger church with better facilities and more pleasing appearance was built a block South of the first church.  Even the south side of Warner was changing .

TheBible teaches “lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven”.  Surely Matthew was talking about laborers such as those who started the first church on the South Side of Warner 65 years ago.  Matt 6:19-20.


This story recounts my discovery of the reason why God spared my life when soldiers next to me were struck by enemy bullets and I escaped unharmed.


58,320 Americans were killed in the Vietnam War.  Seven of those were brave soldiers under my command.

In one instance, an enemy soldier threw a hand grenade that I saw in the air before it hit the ground about 8-10 feet in front of me.  I was flat on my stomach when I first saw the grenade and watched helplessly as it bounced toward me.   I covered my head with both arms and hugged the ground.  Miraculously, the grenade exploded as it bounced sideways into a ditch.

As the case with many soldiers, I could give a dozen examples, but the point is clear. There is no rational, earthly explanation how I escaped obvious jeopardy.

Like many fellow soldiers I was a changed person after Vietnam.  Life became more precious.  Small things such as  watching a sunset or listening to the chirping of birds in the morning took on new meaning.  My family became more important, particularly in matters of faith and practice of biblical teaching.

After Vietnam, life fell into a routine as Phyllis and I became more involved in the lives of our children.  After I retired, my family became involved in activities of Bethel Baptist Church on the West side of Tulsa.

I had not thought about the question posed at the beginning of this story for some time, but the question and the answer came to me suddenly.

While talking to a  young man who was interested  in religious matters, I explained God’s plan of salvation in the person of Jesus.  The Holy Spirit interceded and the young man was saved.

At that moment I knew the answer to the question, “why me”.  In God’s eyes, One soul is priceless.

As I reflected on this matter I realized there were many reasons why I returned from Vietnam uninjured.  Let me numerate a few:  help Phyllis raise three great kids,  love and provide for my family, be a good husband and father.  Be a Godly person by helping others and by being a good neighbor.

I could list others but the point is this: Living is more fulfilling and rewarding  because I recognized my purpose in life.  I owe the Lord and His Grace for giving me that chance.



In the 80’a  Phyllis and I became active in the ministries of Bethel Baptist in West Tulsa.  Distributing food was one of those ministries.  The primary purpose of our visit to needy families was a spiritual one.

As a ministry of Bethel Baptist, Phyllis and I delivered food to needy families in Red Fork and the surrounding area. On one occasion we had been asked to take a food basket to a family in Sand Springs.

Phyllis and I gathered the food and were preparing to leave when we received a call that our son had been admitted to the hospital in Derby, KS.  Since it was an emergency, we felt we should be there. I took the food to Bill, Phyllis’s father, and asked him to make the delivery and gave him the address.

When Phyllis and I returned home, Bill and Ellen gave the following account of their trip to Sand Springs.

At first, Ellen was apprehensive about going with Bill however she decided to go with him.  When they arrived they found the husband in bed with a serious illness; however he was in good spirits. They made Bill and Ellen feel welcome as they expressed gratitude for the gift of food.

The husband said he had no means to repay their kindness but asked his wife to hand him his guitar. He played his instrument and sang several inspirational tunes of God’s grace. Bill and Ellen stayed for some time after the songs as they listened to their testimony of difficult times and God’s love and provisions.

As the Lassons told us of their visit, they both became emotional.  They expressed gratitude for having been asked to make the visit.  God blessed them both, especially Ellen, the reluctant servant.

A truism:  God blesses His who deliver blessings to others.

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