Clovis Church of Christ

In 1985, on the day after Thanksgiving, we were on our way to worship with the church of Christ in Clovis, California, in hopes that Norton Dye would accept Mark as his next preacher trainee. The biggest challenge in our life at the age of twenty-three and twenty-seven, was sustaining a pleasant mood in our beautiful three-year-old daughter who seemed to be either all smiles or all crying— so much so that when we stumbled upon a button with the caption “Moody But Cute”, we pinned it to her shirt from time to time as a tongue-in-cheek heads up to the world, not unlike a medical bracelet. We couldn’t afford to fly to California, so we began to ask ourselves how on earth we were going to move our cherished drama queen through 24 hours of driving roundtrip and soon came up with what we believed to be the perfect plan: We’d pack the equivalent of a small circus of entertainment and drive during her sleeping hours throughout the middle of the night so that she would only be conscious for whatever little remained of our drive when she woke in the morning, and would never know what hit her. Except, of course, that she woke up when we hit snow in Grants Pass that required putting on snow chains and was awake for most of the night during that white knuckle drive over the Siskiyous. I’ve always wondered what the truck drivers thought at 2:00 a.m. while they were also taking off their snow chains to the background music of Muppet Ernie blaring, with heartfelt emotion, his familiar tune loudly through our car speakers: 

“Oh, every day when I make my way to the tubby

I find a little fellow who's cute and yellow and chubby


Rubber duckie, you're so fine

And I'm lucky that you're mine

Rubber duckie, I'm awfully fond of you.”

We got to Clovis around noon that Saturday and were mercifully fed and sent to bed for a much-needed nap. After we’d arrived home the following Monday night, Norton called saying he had suddenly experienced a serious health setback that required him to pause his preacher training program indefinitely. Thankfully, Norton eventually recovered and was able to resume his training program and Mark was soon able to find a congregation to work with in Forest Grove, Oregon. 

We’ve come a long way, Baby, and our roll into Fresno County this time seemed a lifetime away from our first. The preacher now in Clovis, Kyle Goodwin, had grown up in our congregation from his later grade school years and Mark had performed Kyle and Jessica’s beautiful wedding. They’ve also come a long way, now raising two beautiful daughters on eight acres they’ve recently acquired, with vast quantities of very productive plants and trees. Jessica's parents live there too, as well as a maternal grandmother, and everyone pitches in maintaining the property, homeschooling the girls, and accomplishing all the countless tasks in between their putting the kingdom first.

We pulled in just in time for the evening glow and a “private tour” among the glorious sounds of nature at dusk. I enjoyed seeing a bright, orange dragonfly chasing another over and around their pond, feeding their fish, picking ripe blackberries and lemons, and watching the transfer of tadpoles from one pond to another. I discovered the flavor of kumquats and finger limes — an exotic fruit often used in gourmet recipes for their texture similar to caviar.  I also learned during our stay that Fresno County is the number one agricultural-producing county in America, and this extended family is certainly making a respectable contribution!  It’s a lot of work, but they realize the value of all the life skills and lessons their girls can learn growing up around growing things that they can have a hand in stewarding!

On Sunday morning we saw for ourselves that things were hoppin’ at the Clovis church of Christ as much as they were hoppin’ at the Goodwin family farm. The first thing I noticed was a sign above a stack of Bibles that read “If you do not have a Bible, please take one. Also, feel free to take any of these bookmarks or Bible study resources”. Below the sign were also free copies of DVD Bible classes called “Searching For Truth”  (viewable at I also noticed some of the most professional-looking weekly handouts I’d ever seen, called “The Exhorter” created by one of the members at Clovis who was willing to use his talent to its greatest spiritual potential — adorning the gospel, in his own creative way. Another member had stepped up to be the local “tech person” — indispensable these days! I’ve no doubt these brothers have a lot going on in life, but they’re in some ways like Kyle, who also heads up the Florida College camp in the Northwest every summer while growing beautiful things from churches to children to oranges! There’s a reason for the saying that goes something like, “If you want something important done, ask the busiest person.” So often it’s those kinds of people who willingly figure out how to juggle just one more needful thing. 

Earlier that morning on the drive to worship, I had asked Kyle what he was most encouraged by in this church family. His answer was indispensable: the families at Clovis were, for the most part, retaining the next generation. In other words, there were a lot of second and third-generation families enjoying all the benefits of multigenerational faithfulness to God with the next generation learning to serve alongside their fathers who were taking the spiritual leadership of their families seriously (Ephesians 6:4). There had to be a healthy number of spiritually-minded men in order to sustain the number of studies they were offering — one for every day of the week, from what I could tell, in addition to an annual Vacation Bible School. 

What a joy to spend a couple of days with Kyle and Jessica, taking in the simple pleasures of worshiping together, being introduced to some new church family, hearing Kyle preach again, enjoying meals together, and savoring one great conversation after another. I had not shared with Kyle Goodwin the pressure I was under during the course of our stay, as I struggled inside our van to prepare the best presentation I could muster for the live recording of Older Women Likewise’s controversial program entitled “10 Reasons Why We Oppose Abortion.” Needless to say, as he began to play his own lovely version of "Somewhere Over The Rainbow'' on his ukulele one afternoon, it brought levity to my heart and was a good reminder for me that even a man with more on his plate than can be measured, does himself good to stop and enjoy the simple pleasures, and I would do well to do the same. Before we departed, we were lunching in the backyard and I began to ask Jessica's 92-year-old grandmother some questions about herself, just for the simple pleasure of it. A few of the stories that surfaced were quite colorful and included a few fascinating details she had never before shared with the family — details that made everyone chuckle. When I later asked, "What gives life purpose?", she silently pointed toward heaven, and as the conversation was winding down, she summed her life up in such a simple, heart-warming way that really said it all: "I just love God with every little part of myself" (Luke 10:27).

The moment she said that I was taken back to the summer of 2015 — when I’d go on steep hikes six miles up the mountain in my backyard while recording phone conversations with my beautiful mother’s consent, asking her a list of meaningful questions I’d gathered here and there.  In the end, I’d created a treasury of almost nine hours of her spoken memories, advice, humor, concerns, wisdom, and of course a lot of long, thoughtful pauses in between. The recording had even been useful on a practical level two years later, in creating the music video of her life shared at her memorial — the audio clips making it sound as if she was doing some of her own narration of the video with several moving quotes from her own heart about how “God has all the answers” and how, by faith, she was excited about being on the brink of meeting God face to face. 

I admire Jessica’s parents for the full-time caregiving they provide for Jessica’s grandmother, and am so happy she can enjoy watching her great-grandchildren frolic around the property they share. Seeing that dynamic reminded me of when, after my father suddenly died in 2009, I asked my mother how she’d feel about moving into some new townhouses a few blocks from us so we could tend to her on a daily basis, but her familiarity with her home of fifty years, her social circles within her own beloved congregation and her precious flower garden kept her two hours south of us until the end. It was her decision to make because she was making the decision “of sound mind”, and I didn’t take it personally. Making the decisions around the care of our elderly loved ones is often a conundrum, isn’t it? We certainly cannot judge one another’s decisions, especially given the vast variables. There are hardly two situations exactly alike. Balancing the respect of another human’s autonomy to decide as much as possible for themselves is certainly an expression of honor, but gauging an aged parent’s capacity to look out for their own best interests is perhaps the most difficult judgment call when it comes to caring for the aged that we love, and thus is certainly something over which we’d best ask God for wisdom.

Though the arrangement would certainly not work for everyone, I admired the Goodwin’s wisdom in pooling funds to purchase two separate homes on one larger piece of land. There are healthy, highly functioning bonds all the way around in this extended family that make it possible for them to live in close proximity, and reap all the countless benefits that go hand and hand with this arrangement.  Clearly, the leaving and cleaving that God has in mind for us since the creation of marriage (Genesis 2:24) does not always necessitate a physical departure, otherwise, we could not tend to our elderly. In many cultures throughout time, extended families were needed in order for a family to survive. It was not so long ago that even in America, extended families stayed together for mutual support, and if the economy keeps heading in the direction it currently is, we may be seeing even more of this lifestyle again. Leaving and cleaving then, rather than a geographical separation, must be more about emotional intimacy and interdependence— where a husband and wife are one another’s most trusted confidants and supporters, even when extended family is conveniently nearby.

It takes a lot of maturity for a multigenerational family to highly function to the glory of God, and a reasonable amount of organic compatibility. If a family is considering this kind of arrangement to ease some of the present economic strain, you might consider asking yourself and everyone involved, “Have I expressed my gratitude to my mother and father-in-law for all they sacrificed to raise my favorite person in the world?” “Have I expressed my gratitude to my son or daughter-in-law for the blessings they have brought to this family?” “Have we cleared up any unresolved conflicts or misunderstandings?” “Have we communicated our boundary preferences in every aspect?” “Are our marriages healthy enough that we won’t be tempted to betray marital confidences or backbite during times of strain?” “Are we free from wanting to control what’s not our business?” “Do we have the capacity to overlook more frequent annoyances?” “Am I grateful for offers of help I’m given rather than feeling defensive or somehow accused?” “Are there important things in my character I know I need to change anyway, so I will feel more confident and comfortable in the presence of my extended family?” “How might we divide the division of labor so that everyone is making a fair and reasonable contribution?”

I’d like to conclude this entry with the story of a little bonsai tree. About forty years ago, Kyle’s paternal grandfather purchased and, with much attention to detail, began tending to a special bonsai tree. He, like Kyle, had plenty going on. He owned his own dental practice, was raising four children and maintained a large piece of property where he bred horses. But top priority in his grandfather’s life was restoring New Testament Christianity by tending to the Bride of Christ with all his heart. Eventually, Kyle’s grandfather gifted some of the bonsais from his cherished collection to one of his sons, and for many years, this son, as well as his brother, also successfully juggled all the burdens and blessings of life, putting first things first, just as they had seen their father do. Just recently, Kyle’s parents came to visit and brought with them a special gift: a very familiar 40-year-old bonsai tree. More than “yet another project”, this tree is not unlike the mantle that has been passed that Kyle and his family bears. The key to success for both the little tree and the treasured spiritual heritage will be consistency in conscientious attention to the details.  

Oh, and that little girl in the backseat of that first white-knuckle drive to Clovis, California? She’s still as “Moody But Cute” as ever, and chuckles alongside us at this same button that she was recently gifted again by her sister-in-law. If you, too, are raising exceptionally sensitive children, just know that they can grow up to be quite gifted and useful to God in healing many hearts around them. We could not be more proud of her as she has recently become a major comfort to her own extended family by employing her comforting skills in the care of her beloved mother-in-law, presently suffering from dementia. Come to think of it, I may owe her a bonsai tree. 

Clovis church of Christ
2123 Bullard Ave 
Clovis, CA 93611
(559) 299-4045