Wednesday, February 06, 2019


I  read 3-4 books per month and many of those focus on leadership or business topics that can be put to use at work. Since I often lead discussions on these same books, I would consider this professional development. It is something that has made a difference! 
The EXCEL Leadership program in Greene County included a book discussion component. So I get asked a lot about what a book discussion or regular reading is important.
Book clubs can grow and improve your professional network. But there are two other strong reasons"
1.  Advance Your Career: A book club can enhance your career on two fronts. First, the books you read may make you more effective in areas critical to success like leadership, communication and productivity. Second, the network you'll be building may help you with career advice, introduce you to new people and find your next job. 

2. Reading is Good for You: Did you know business people who read at least seven business books per year earn over 230% more than people who read just one book per year?1 Reading improves your intelligence, reasoning ability, and has been linked to reducing the chance of Alzheimer's.
Joining our EXCEL Leadership book club gives you the opportunity to read more and enjoy all the benefits that come with it.


More of Me, Less of You

It is a modern phenomenon where humans consistently value themselves higher than other people they know. Some folks blame it on social media. But it shows up in all types of conversations and behaviors.

It could be said that we are often acting like we want “more of me, less of you.”

Said another way, we tend to exaggerate our own talents and diminish the talents of others. It is a bad trait. Even worse, there is research to back this up as a growing trend.

Most people are very good at something and less competent at something else. However, we have all met someone who overestimates their knowledge or ability on a certain topic or skill.

Worse, some people are incompetent in a particular subject yet confidently insist that they know everything.

For a few weeks, there was a video on Facebook of sheep chasing a scared, young sheepdog all over a field. We can be like that sometimes. We claim greatest in an area but then discover we are in over our head.

This phenomenon has a name: cognitive bias of illusionary superiority. There was a study in 1999 is now known as the Dunning-Kruger Effect or the competence vs. confidence study.

Dunning and Kruger examined a group of undergraduate students in several categories. After knowing the test scores, they asked the students to estimate their results.

They found that the students who were less competent had the tendency to overestimate their results, despite their test scores placing them in the bottom percentile. Even more surprisingly, students who performed better at these tests underestimated their results.

This effect does not only happen in the academic field; it happens in almost every subject and situation. If you take a closer look, you will find them everywhere.

The pressing question is: “why are the least competent people usually the most confident ones?”

The least skilled person often overestimates their ability because they have no idea how much they do not know. In other words, poor performers believe they know everything in a particular subject, and therefore they tend to be overconfident about it.

On the other hand, high performers are fully aware of the vastness and complexity of their field of work. They know how much they do not know and they usually underestimate their ability and competence in a particular area.

In contrast to high performers, poor performers also do not learn from feedback suggesting a need to improve. Again, this is because they already believe they know everything.

In reality, the Dunning-Kruger Effect is not a joke. Instead, it is a cognitive bias that negatively impacts our society from the individual to the organizational level.

Incompetent people rise to the top in all kinds of organizations because they are more confident while real talent is buried due to self-doubt.

Mix this Dunning-Kruger Effect in with some modern narcissism (selfie-generation), and you find a very real challenge facing us in communities and business.

Saturday, January 12, 2019


You Can’t Go Home Again; But You Can be a Positive Force in Town

I grew up in Ash Grove from the 1960s to the 1980s. I managed a newspaper in Willard during the early 1990s. I have lived in Republic the past 15 years. I can confirm that these towns have changed in the last 30 to 15 years.

“You Can’t Go Home Again” is a book written by Thomas Wolfe. In it, he tells the story of an author who returns home only to discover that the town residents are mad at him because they see themselves in some of his stories. Then he writes this famous line: “Back home to time and memory which cannot be recaptured.”

For example, no matter how detailed or pleasant my memories are about the friendly small town experience of growing up in Ash Grove, things have changed. The town has changed because people have changed.

Those lazy, hazy days of the 1980s can never be recaptured. I can hop on a 10-speed bike and ride all over town, and it will not matter. I can cruise Main Street at night with my window rolled town playing music, and it will not be the same. I may even get pulled over by a local officer, but the town and the experience will be different.

If you have lived here long, you know things have changed.

Sometimes this change is due to external forces. Businesses come and go. Certainly, it can also have to do with changes in our culture. It can also be a reflection of changes in us.

However, the harsh reality is that it can also be because of the choices we have made. Sometimes towns change because good people turn a blind eye to evil or community challenges. Sometimes the changes have greed or pride at the root.

Our communities need leaders and volunteers who are positive. Our towns need community leaders that are agents of peace. This means being a community spark plug. It means devoting energy to community needs but doing it in a way that is not self-serving. It also means leading in a way that brings people together on issues, not creating a wider divide.

Being an agent of change may require you to make personal changes or alter your priorities. It may require that you establish peace in your family first.

Our communities need healthy individuals, stable families, and mission-minded churches and institutions that build and support the community.

Why wait for someone else to take a step forward to lead? Stop pretending that we can recapture the 1980s and start looking forward. While we cannot recapture past glories, we can work together to ensure a strong future for our communities.

Sign up for our Greene County EXCEL program online at and get regular updates about learning opportunities for Greene County leaders and volunteers.

Monday, January 07, 2019


Epiphany 2019 at the Burton Household

Sunday, Jan. 6, 2019, was a Christian holiday that most Americans know little about: the Feast of the Epiphany. From the Greek word meaning “manifestation,” it celebrates the visitation of the Magi to the infant Jesus and his family in Bethlehem. We celebrated the Epiphany dinner at our house.

Matthew 2 tells us that the magi, or wise men, travelled from the East in search of the Christ child. They inquired of King Herod where they might find Him, saying, "Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him" (Matthew 2:2). Upon finding the baby Jesus, “they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh” (Matthew 2:11).

The Bible does not tell us any other significance to these three gifts; however, tradition has it that there is a deeper meaning for each of the three. 

Gold is a symbol of divinity and is mentioned throughout the Bible. The gift of gold to the Christ child was symbolic of His divinity—God in flesh. It was also valuable and might have funded their trip to Egypt.

Frankincense is a white resin obtained from a tree. It is highly fragrant when burned and was used in worship, where it was burned as a pleasant offering to God (Exodus 30:34). Frankincense is a symbol of holiness and righteousness. 

Myrrh was obtained from a tree. It was a spice and was used in embalming. It was also sometimes mingled with wine to form an article of drink. Such a drink was given to our Savior when He was about to be crucified Matthew 27:34 refers to it as “gall.” Myrrh symbolizes bitterness, suffering, and affliction.

So while the 12 Days of Christmas have ended it is a reminder to us that our celebration of Jesus birth is more than just a day, it is a season, this day of epiphany and the three gifts of the wisemen reminds us that we have reason to celebrate Jesus each and every day.
Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 28, 2018


Positive Attitude of Local Employees Turns My Day Around

Do you realize the impact your daily attitude can have on people? Especially in business, a “hi, how is your day” attitude with a smile can go a long way.

Thursday, Aug. 23 was a day like that for me. I have many things in my life to be happy about, but there are also stresses. Sometimes stress can get the better of you and drag your attitude down. So I’ll admit, despite beautiful weather and an early morning walk with my dog Otis in the crisp cool air, my attitude was not the best when I started out.

But, four people in Republic with great customer focused attitudes helped to brighten my gray day.

I had an issue with my car the night before. Since I thought it was my battery, I went to O’Reilly Automotive in Republic. Johnny offered to come out and test my car batter – despite the rain that had just begun. He offered an evaluation and some good advice. I love buying local, but I like it even more when the person making the sale says, “this may not be the best idea.”

So, I took his advice, and headed down the road to Republic Ford where Joe met me in the service area. I do not know how he does it, but Joe remembers names, and he always seems to be in a good mood. He worked my car in, and Ford discovered the problem and made the correct fix to get me running again. I nearly felt like they had uncharged me because of Joe’s friendliness at the front end of that visit.

Then off to Lowes I went to make a semi-emergency purchase. I seldom go to Lowes without my dog Otis. When he is with me we always head to Elaine’s checkout register (where she keeps a few dog treats). On this day my dog was not with me and Elaine remembered that but still treated me like the most important customer in the building. See, I always thought it was just my dog!

By this time I was hungry and the noon food rush was on. I skipped the drive-thru and walked inside Wendy’s for carry out. Why did I go in? Because of Anderson. He works the counter during the noon hour a lot. He may be the friendliest fast-food employee I have ever met. There is no way you can have a bad day with Anderson greeting you and putting your order together.

I doubt these four people get thanked very often for their work. People are quick to judge and slow to say thank you. But if you want to make your community a better place to live, follow their example. Be positive and kind to people, offer assistance when possible, and treat people they way you want to be treated.

And thank you to Johnny, Joe, Elaine and Anderson for helping make Republic a great place to live and a great place to do business.


Facing Parenthood Takes True Grit

Both of my children are now driving cars. It hardly seems possible. As they leave the house each morning I think back to those infant years. It all goes so fast but I still remember those pivotal moments with life.

For example, when my son was still a newborn, there was that situation that has become known in our family as the “incident.”

I recall the story as follows.

The cries of an infant awakened me. I immediately slipped into protector mode. I donned my safety equipment and lumbered down the hall. There was no time to wipe the sleep from my eyes. I recognized the cry, and I knew the situation from my training.

Opening the door to my son’s circus themed room I could smell the danger. I slid the safety goggles over my eyes and pulled on the latex gloves. I straightened my plastic body apron and gently positioned the clothespin over my nose. My son was in trouble, and I was ready to help.

I felt like I was entering a combat zone. I confidentially walked to the crib, lifted my 10-day old out and in one swift move, turned to the changing table. Unsnapping two buttons and pulling on Velcro revealed the problem. My instincts had been correct. Off came the diaper, out came the wipes, and then I was attacked!

This time, I was hit by friendly fire. What seemed to be an air-activated gun began firing a yellow liquid at me, first hitting my ear and the grazing my arm. I used the wipe to cover and then ducked. This was the first of many brushes with danger during the ever-changing experience of fatherhood.

One week in, I was finding fatherhood to be life-changing. I was sleep deprived. I had not watched television for days and my wife, and I were talking in high-pitched sing-song voices.

From infant experiences to the teenage years, I've put on many different uniforms to meet the challenges of fatherhood. I have invested in the life of two children, raising them to respect others, believe in themselves, serve their community and love God. I've listened to them, gone to their events, coached teams, and taught driving. I've looked danger - and hormonal teenagers -- in the eye and lived to tell about it. That, my friend, takes true grit.


Cuba Experience Brings Lessons Home

My wife Stacey, daughter Lauren and I visited Santiago and El Caney, Cuba the last part of June on a 10-day mission trip. It was my first trip out of the United States, and my wife’s third trip to Cuba.

The experience was truly impactful for the Cubans we worked with and for us. We went to encourage them but left being encouraged ourselves.

Stacey and I went specifically to teach and lead a three-day marriage conference, which ended with a service for the renewal of vows. We participated as part of our 25th wedding anniversary. However, what was even greater to see was the positive impact this made on 32 marriages and families.

While not everything there can be duplicated here in western Greene County, or vice versa, there are certain principles that we can learn and apply to us.

1. Grand programs with hundreds of participants are sometimes an unnecessary burden. Relationships are much more important and impactful.

2. Make do with what you have; use what you have to reach the lost. This applies to things in the home. I have never seen so many useful things made out of plastic shopping bags!

3. We Americans overemphasize material wealth. It is not our money that saves us! In some situations, it may be our money that condemns us. Cubans look north to the United States and their friends or relatives that live there and think they see the answers to their problems but the truth is the answers lie elsewhere. The answers cannot be found in American dollars.

4. Never give up. The pastor in El Caney prayed 10 years for an American church to partner with his church. He never gave up on his prayer.

5. There is a strong sense of family and volunteerism in Cuba but it means something different to them. They cannot just pick up paintbrushes and go paint someone’s house. When they do civic work, it is always sponsored by the government (every 18-year-old does two years of civic work or serves in the military). Any extra time is spent supporting extended family or, in the case of what we saw, church family. That is where true volunteerism occurs in this culture.

6. Despite a rainbow of skin colors these people all get along and are, first and foremost, Cubans. Seems to be no identity politics here.

7. Lessons in health and nutrition: drink coffee and visit after every meal, have fresh juice more often, walk places when you can, wait until tomorrow on things of less importance.

8. From what we saw, Cubans are poor but they are not dirty; they put effort in to looking their best for church and being clean. It proves that being poor is no reason to not respect yourself!

9. You can be poor and overworked and still be happy and kind and welcoming.

While I am thankful to be home where I can flush a toilet, drink water from the faucet, go to a store and find what I need and enjoy air conditioning, I do miss the warmth and kindness extended to us by the people in Cuba. These are people that we now call friends.

In summary, it was one of the best experiences of my life! If you would like to know more, my wife and I are happy to speak to community groups, churches or other organizations interested in what is happening in Cuba.


Who Has the Better Haircut: Me or My Dog?

Once every five weeks I take our family dog Otis to the Mutt Hutt in Republic for his grooming. Sarah, the owner, does a great job. Otis always comes back looking great, smelling better, and in a good mood after playing with the other dogs.

Dog grooming can’t be rather expensive, but I’m told that the clients don’t always sit still. And there is also barking involved, and client snacks and an occasional potty clean up when the clients get to playing too hard!

The day after his grooming Sarah always puts pictures of her clients to Facebook. Otis always gets several dozen likes and a few comments regarding his appearance. At home, the rest of the family members make a fuss over him. They even tell him he looks great.

Now contrast this to my own experience after a visit to Angie at NeNe’s in Republic. Every five weeks, I sit patiently in the chair, I never make a mess, and Angie never has to give me treats!.But, I do leave happy.

Ironically, when I post pictures of myself with a new haircut, I get no notice. No one comments about me being a doll, adorable, or even clean! At home, my haircut normally goes unnoticed.

I don’t think this discrepancy has anything to do with the skill of the people doing the work. Sarah at the Matt Hutt and Angie at NeNe’s both provide excellent service at a great price.

I could take it personally and say that people love my dog more than they love me. But I know that is not true. It all probably says a lot more about how we Americans now feel about our pets.

Since the 1970s, Dennis Prager (a columnist, educator, and creator of PragerU) has been asking students if they would first try to save their drowning dog or a drowning stranger. For 40 years, he has received the same results: “one-third vote for their dog, one-third for the stranger, and one-third don’t know what they would do.”

Prager adds that recently the poll has begun to shift in favor of the dog and he finds that alarming. What we have in this poll is the classic tension between feelings and values.
All of us feel more for a being we love than for a being we do not know, let alone love. Therefore something must supersede our feelings -- that something must be values.

But these values must be perceived as emanating from something higher than our opinions.

I take a lot of teasing about how often I post on social media about my dog. I’m not ashamed to admit that we do baby and pamper the little fellow.

But at the end of the day, he is a dog. While many of us can love our four-legged companion’s, I do hope that as a society we remind ourselves that there are some supremely important differences between a human and a dog. Those differences are much greater than simply the price of our haircuts.


I'd Rather Be Practicing My Little Swing

Summer is a wonderful occasion but it is not without its downsides. One of the negatives from my personal perspective is that warm weather means golfers will be out swinging at tiny white balls and chasing them across acres of valuable land.

In my neighborhood, I will start seeing these golfers loading their bags into the trunks of their cars at 6 a.m., hands trembling from half-dozen cups of coffee, eyes red from waking at such an early hour.

Off they will go for another relaxing day on the golf course, only to return pale and shaken, swigging from bottles of Mylanta, after their scores ballooned out of control and their blood pressure with it.

I realize this commentary is likely to provoke a rash of vicious letters from golfers who will grab a stubby No. 2 pencil from their golf bags and scrawl, "What do you know about golf? You probably have never even played the game!" That is not, however, true. I distinctly remember the first time I played golf. I took a 23 on the first hole.

See, there was this creek in the middle of the fairway, which struck me as kind of an odd place for a body of water. Anyway, I kept plunking ball after ball into this creek. Finally, I huddled with the other members of my college-aged foursome.

"Men," I said. "Let me be brutally honest here. There are only 10 or 12 hours of daylight left, at which point I'll probably still be out her trying to clear this creek. So, how about letting me throw the ball the rest of the way?"

Everyone agreed that would be the way to go since there was a crowd of golfers directly behind us whining about not being able to tee off. Anyway, things did improve a great deal over the next 17 holes. I finished with, I don't know, a 219 or something. So, don't tell me about suffering.

The sad thing about golfers is that they are not content to simply play their game and be done. Instead, they insist on recounting, in detail, every single moment of their round. I don't know if you've ever sat and listened to a golfer drone on about his approach to a dogleg left, but it is an unsettling experience.

I have been at parties and actually dozed off during heated discussions about the Maxifly DT ball, only to be awakened with one elbow in the punch blow.

There is one more thing that captivates me about golf: the imaginary little swing golfers like to take. A friend of mind used to demonstrate his golf swing in all types of settings. You'd be in the middle of a conversation with him when, out of the blue, he'd take this imaginary golf swing.

To my knowledge, only golfers display this sort of bizarre behavior. If you are talking to a softball player, he will not suddenly take an imaginary throw from the catcher and make a sweeping tag of second base. A tennis player won't suddenly pause in mid-conversation and toss an imaginary ball in the air and pretend to serve.

But golfers take imaginary swings at the ball all of the time. I'll tell you, instead of worrying about their grip and back swing, they need to worry about that little swing.

Thursday, December 27, 2018


Finding Peace in 2019 is my Goal

I have been asking God to direct me to a focus word in 2019. During 2018 is was a phrase and very clear and purposeful. Also during 2018 I have read some great books: “Rest of God” on the topic of Sabbath, “Crazy Busy” on setting priorities and seeking God first, “Sun Stand Still” on praying big prayers, and others. I’ve been praying, and reading scripture, trying to determine what God wants me to focus on in 2019. Sabbath perhaps? Or priorities? Nope. God's word for me in 2019: Peace

God is always right on time. God confirmed this word on Dec. 23 during our small group study at Ridgecrest. I believe God is being faithful after a long and difficult year when following his purpose was not always easy.

Peace is defined as "a lifestyle of making the Lord our refuge." Another definition is “peace is a state of tranquility or quietness of spirit that transcends circumstances.” That is a peace that surpasses all understanding. (Phil 4:7)

Scripture says peace is a gift from God and it is consistent with His character. To know God is to bask in his peace. The closer we draw to Him the more of his peace we can enjoy. We cannot earn it.

“Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” - ‭‭John‬ ‭14:27‬‬

There are three ways to know peace. 1) Peace within 2) peace with others and 3) peace with God.

This coming year I am going to pursue, read about and pray about peace. Christ is always there and He is always the same. His peace is perfect and I want to be an agent of it in my family and community.

“Peace should be a hallmark of the godly person ... Peace should be part of our character also because God has promised us His peace, because He has commanded us to let peace rule in our lives and relationships and because peace is a fruit of the Spirit and therefore an evidence of His working in our lives.” - Jerry Bridges

Want to know more about peace? Check out this excellent reading:

And for me or those who are wondering, here a few of my goals for 2019 that are designed to help me focus on peace:

  1. Read more books
  2. Take longer walks.
  3. Reach a weight of 200 with exercise.
  4. Write on one of my novels.
  5. Set and follow work priorities that keep me at 40-50 hours per week.
  6. Begin each day with God, and each day with God.
  7. Be intentional with showing love to my wife and children.
  8. Keep work at work and home at home.
  9. Do not say yes to things out of guilt.
  10. Keep the sabbath.
  11. Say no to good things that are not among my priorities at both work and home.
  12. Complete one major home project per day/night.
  13. Take vacation time, perhaps even a sabbatical.

Friday, December 21, 2018


Are you Crazy Busy? Eliminating Pride and Setting Priorities are Key to Regaining Joy (and Sanity)

“Hello, I am busy.” That has nearly become the standard greeting in the United States of America.

But there is an answer that brings improvement and it is not simply better “time management” according to David Burton, county engagement specialist in community economic development with University of Missouri Extension.

“The truth is, most people feel frazzled and overwhelmed much of the time. We're distracted and preoccupied in the same sorts of ways--struggling under the weight of work, family, exercise, bills, church, school, friends, and a barrage of requests, demands, and desires,” said Burton. “It's safe to say that on a typical day for most of us, our responsibilities, requirements, and ambitions add up to more than we can handle.”

Burton says that after having a frantic 2018, he has been thinking about New Year’s resolutions. Someone suggested he read the book “Crazy Busy” by Kevin DeYoung, and the book hit a nerve.

“The biggest dangers arising from this hectic and frustrating modern life are not what we might expect,” said Burton. “An immediate and obvious threat is that busyness can ruin our joy. When we're frantic and frenzied, we're more prone to anxiety, resentment, impatience, and irritability.”

According to the book, Burton says our chaos of busyness is at least partly self-created. Often pride is a factor.

“We are busy because we try to do too many things. We do too many things because we say yes to too many people. We say yes because we want these people to like us and pat our back; we fear their disapproval,” said Burton.

Busyness also springs from such prideful factors as our tendency to overestimate our importance, our ambition to prove ourselves, or poor planning resulting from our refusal to seek help.

How can we tell when pride has made us frantic and overwhelmed? Here's a self-diagnostic question you may find helpful: Am I trying to do good--or to make myself look good?

If that question hits you hard, it make be time to change some priorities. That can alter the way we parent, what we do with electronic devices, and how we approach rest according to Burton.

“We are supposed to be busy but in the right way. The antidote to over-busyness isn't sloth and indifference. It isn't work itself that's bad busyness, but working hard at the wrong things: trying to please or control others, trying to do things we haven't been called to do,” said Burton.

An important part of the change is taking a hard look at priorities according to Burton.

Days are busy and times are tough. That means setting priorities in our personal and professional lives is more important now than ever before.

“I didn’t always appreciate the need for setting priorities in life but it is something I’ve come to appreciate since having children,” said Burton. “I’ve got lots of different interests and a very long bucket list. I also have a hard time saying no. That isn’t a good combination.”

However, being stretched too thin makes it impossible to do great work in core areas.

“After deciding your priorities decide what you need to meet them. If your priority is time, then you need to protect some of yours,” said Burton. “Our challenge is to find the balance we each need for meeting our priorities.”

Then get some rest. Burton suggests taking at least one day per week to rest or do something that rejuvenates you.

For more information, contact David Burton by email at

Never "Just Settle" When It Comes to God's Kingdom

I listened to a three-minute podcast recently  that was posted by Hosea Bilyeu. It was out of Genesis 11. He talked about how in that story, Tara moves his family – which includes Lot and Abram -- out of Ur with the intention of going to Canaan. But they stopped enroute at Harran. Then Hosea uses this phrase: “settled for something less than what God had intended.”

That just reminded me that during 2018, God impressed that phrase – do not settle – on me. I think It has many applications in our life and the life of our church. Let us never settle for less than what God has in store for us. There are great days ahead and may we never be willing to “just settle” on things regarding his kingdom.

Tuesday, January 03, 2017


14 days as a P.O.W.

            It was 1944 and the evening air in northern Italy was hot and humid. Warren Richter had just taken food to American troops in the Venetian Valley. Those troops were moving east. Richter was speeding back toward a rendezvous with his unit in an U.S. Army Jeep, but had reversed direction in the dark.

            Then he came to a junction in the road.

            “It was moonlight and I didn’t realize I was on the wrong road until I entered the shadows of a long row of trees. Then, I suddenly saw I was in the middle of a German Panzer division, sitting quietly in the shadows,” Richter recalled.

            Richter recalls sitting and wondering if he should stop and act like he was part of the German unit or whether he should floor the accelerator and try to out run the guns with his jeep.

            Richter continued to move slowly until he saw moonlight through the trees. “I had almost decided to try and out run the Germans when I was stopped,” said Richter. “They yelled for me to stop and I jerked the jeep to a stop and threw my hands up toward the sky. There is still a landmark there where I jabbed two holes in the sky with my fists. I remember looking up at the gun turret on the tank and there were rifles pointed down at me.”

            A German officer, who Richter later learned was named Dr. Al Pitrock, stepped from the tank and told Richter he was prisoner. “When he was walking toward me I said, ‘Do you want to surrender to me?’ What he really wanted to know was what nationality I was. I told them not to insult me by saying I was British. For just a few moments the Germans thought I was funny … but actually I was scared as hell.”

            Dr. Pitrock ordered the German men to frisk Richter and take over his jeep.

            That singular event marked the first of Richter’s 14 days as a prisoner of war. The experienced forever changed Richter and his perspective on what it means to be free.

            “I have more of an appreciation of what freedom is, and what it means, than anyone, said Richter, a longtime resident of Bois D’Arc, Mo. “I have seen both sides and fourteen days is long enough to be hungry and scared.”

            For 14 days, Richter was held prisoner while the retreating German Panzer unit sought to avoid contact with advancing American troops. But perhaps the most amazing part of Richter’s World War II story is the part involving his captor, Dr. Al Pitrock.

            During those 14 days of captivity Pitrock and Richter developed a friendship which survived beyond the war. It was a friendship based on the realization they were humans first and soldiers second, and neither of them a soldier by choice.

            Richter, a member of the 361st Regiment of the 91st Infantry Division, was drafted into the Army and eventually found himself in northern Africa training for the landing at Normandy.

            During that time (1944), General Mark Clark, commander of the 5th Army, called for reserves out of Africa. That included Richter’s unit and he was assigned to kitchen duty with the specific objective of taking chow forward to the fighting men.

            While in Italy, Richter earned a reputation among the men for his special “Ash Grove recipe” donuts. After the war, it was his capture and escape that gained him fame. However, Richter might not have lived to retell the story had the German officer, Dr. Pitrock, not gone through Richter’s billfold the evening he was taken prisoner of war.

            “That German officer (Pitrock) saw my picture of David (Richter’s son) and June (Richter’s wife) and then reached into his own pocket and pulled out his wallet and showed me pictures of his wife, a native of New York City, and his daughter.”

            Those family pictures almost immediately formed a bond between Richter and Pitrock, who spoke fluent English. “We spent most of the day just talking and we quickly discovered a common bond. Both of us were drafted and neither of us wanted to fight,” recalled Richter.

            The retreat of Dr. Pitrock’s 26th SS Panzer Division was a miserable endeavor. Every day the unit hid in the mountains and each evening they moved northward, leading the Germans into worse conditions. “Even while they were retreating, the Germans burned villages, killed innocent people, stole food and raped nearly every woman they came in contact with,” said Richter who packed rifles and supplies for the Germans as they moved. “The retreating German Panzer division even blew up bridges behind them but the American’s stayed within two hours of us.”

            Richter survived the cold mountain weather by sharing half a blanket with another German solider, wrapping his feet with newspaper before sticking them in his GI boots and eating stale bread and water. Despite the hardships of his capture Dr. Pitrock offered Richter hope by taking a personal interest in him. He even slipped Richter an occasional chocolate bar.

            On his 13th day of captivity, Richter was sitting beside Pitrock watching an allied task force through binoculars in a valley below. “We were sitting there together and Pitrock asked me what time the next task force would go through the valley. I asked him if it was for his own information or for the German Army and Al replied it was for his own information,” said Richter. “I told him more would be along soon, probably at dusk.”

             “The next night, we made our way down into the valley. Al had the password and we passed through sentinel after sentinel. At the crack of dawn we were behind a stone wall. We could hear an American task force moving in. It was the 10th Mountain Division,” said Richter, moving up on the edge of his seat with excitement as he repeated his often told tale of escape.

            Then, as suddenly has Pitrock had taken Richter prisoner 14 days before, Pitrock released Richter and told him to follow a path down toward the advancing Americans. Pitrock was saving Richter’s life by helping him escape but jeopardizing his own life within the German Army.

            “The troops in the trucks passed by me and just stared. They could not imagine what I was doing standing there in German territory. Finally, 14 MPs came and picked me up.”

            Richter was taken back to camp and interviewed by Colonel Rudolph Broedlow. “The first thing I did when I got back was write a letter home to tell my folks I was fine,” said Richter.

            Ironically, the unit’s mail orderly had been instructed several days before to gather up Richter’s possessions and send them home. “Thanks to the delay of the mail my letter got home the same day as the package of my belongings. In fact, my mother walked into the post office back home and got the mail and there was my letter. Then the postmaster handed her the telegram telling her I was missing so she got the latest news first.”

            In the meantime, the Germans, for letting Richter “get away,” arrested Pitrock. But, within a few days, the Germans released Pitrock, only to have him captured by the Americans. Thanks to a pleading letter from Richter to the corporal of the American prison camp, Pitrock was cared for and used in camp to separate captured troops by nationality. “I told the corporal to take care of Pitrock because he had taken care of me,” said Richter.


Dodgeball Tournament Benefits Persecuted Church

This is a project my son Matthew has undertaken and I'm sure proud of him. I'm posting it here in order to be able to share it more widely.

EVENT TITLE: Dodgeball Tournament. This dodgeball tournament is designed to raise awareness and money to fund family medical packages for families fleeing from religious persecution and ISIS in Syria.
COST: $25 dollars per team of 5.
TIME AND DATE: January 7, 2017, at 2 pm (start)
LOCATION: Fellowship Center at Ridgecrest Baptist Church. 2210 W. Republic Road, Springfield, MO
PRE-REGISTRATION: Sign up for the tournament and pay ahead of time is preferable but people/teams can  show up the day of the event. Teams can sign up at
DONATIONS: Clicking on the same link and the “ticket” option provides an option to make a donation. $35 will fund the purchase of product in the kits as well as delivery of a family medical kit to refugee camps in Iraq, Sudan, Nigeria and Syria. The packets are customized to meet specific needs and will include items like antibiotic creams, infant formula, diapers, feminine hygiene products, pharmaceuticals and other supplies. All the purchasing of the kits/supplies is being done through Voice of The Martyrs. VOM is an organization that helps spread awareness of religious persecution and has a program and network in place to help Syrian families.
BENEFIT T-SHIRTS: T-shirts have also been created and are being sold to raise money for this same project. People can purchase these until Jan. 2 online at Some will be for sale at the event and additional orders will also be taken then.
PROJECT BACKGROUND: All students in English IV Honors at Republic High School have to create a senior project that involves a research paper, a product/event related to the topic, and then finally a display and presentation for the public as a capstone. Students research an area of interest to them. Past examples have seen students create music albums, books, art shows and community projects for good causes. Matthew has chosen the “persecuted church” as the topic for his senior research project. He is interviewing missionaries and people who have faced persecution and is also working with an international group headquartered in Oklahoma called Voice of the Martyrs (VOM). It is an organization that supports and ministers to Christians who are being persecuted for their beliefs. The VOM has a goal of creating awareness of Christian persecution taking place worldwide.

Wednesday, January 06, 2016


Fatherhood Takes True Grit

A flash-writing contest entry I just finished.

The cries of an infant awakened me. I immediately slipped into protector mode. I donned my safety equipment and lumbered down the hall. There was no time to wipe the sleep from my eyes. I recognized the cry, and I knew the situation from my training.

Opening the door to my son’s circus themed room I could smell the danger. I slid the safety goggles over my eyes and pulled on the latex gloves. I straightened my plastic body apron and gently positioned the clothespin over my nose. My son was in trouble, and I was ready to help.

I felt like I was entering a combat zone. I confidentially walked to the crib, lifted my 10-day old out and in one swift move, turned to the changing table. Unsnapping two buttons and pulling on Velcro revealed the problem. My instincts had been correct. Off came the diaper, out came the wipes, and then I was attacked!

This time, I was hit by friendly fire. What seemed to be an air-activated gun began firing a yellow liquid at me, first hitting my ear and the grazing my arm. I used the wipe to cover and then ducked. This was the first of many brushes with danger during the ever-changing experience of fatherhood.

One week in, I was finding fatherhood to be life-changing. I was sleep deprived. I had not watched television for days and my wife, and I were talking in high-pitched sing-song voices.

From infant experiences to the teenage years, I've put on many different uniforms to meet the challenges of fatherhood. I have invested in the life of two children, raising them to respect others, believe in themselves, serve their community and love God. I've listened to them, gone to their events, coached teams, and taught driving. I've looked danger - and hormonal teenagers -- in the eye and lived to tell about it. That, my friend, takes true grit.

Thursday, November 19, 2015


First Chapter in Book I'm working on: "The Church Critic"

Since several have asked about my short story that won 2nd place in the Missouri Writer's Guild contest for short fiction, I'm going to share the first page here. Although I wrote it as a short story I really consider this the first chapter of a book and I'm working on more chapter.

Read the first page and you will get the idea of where this story is going. But don't be fooled, I've got plenty of surprises planned along with a climax and ending that you may not expect.

The Church Critic
My page one column for the Plano Herald was provocative and I didn’t care. The text was still making me laugh, even as I read it for the twentieth time.
"I was greeted warmly at the door of Scenic Avenue Christian Church, and then left to fend for myself. Once inside I was asked to move out of my cozy aisle seat by a member who had obviously sat in that seat for 50 years. The choir music was plentiful but missing male voices and rhythm. The offering plate was nearly empty by the time it reached me but by the time it did I was nearly asleep.
"The sermon was a neat 21 minutes. It might have been shorter if the reverend hadn't had to consult his notes so often after losing track of his thoughts. The actual message took two minutes, reinforcing its meaning took 18 minutes. In all fairness, the preacher dove into his sermon with personal anecdotes setting up his theme that -- well, I'm not sure what his theme was but I enjoyed the anecdotes."
When ink is in your veins, there is always something special about seeing text in print. But, I was surprised last week when Don Rigby had pointed his thick index finger and his fat cigar directly at my face and assigned me this new column.
"I'm adding this to your regular beat," coughed Rigby. "You can thank me later."
Rigby's thick fingers were crowded together on his hand. This helped explain why he typed with only his index fingers. His cigar was more chewed than smoked. He smoked one cigar a day but ate two a day.

“Since you are asking me to write a weekly review of local churches you should know, I’m agnostic.”

Thursday, October 22, 2015


Request for Mission Trip Funds for Matthew

A request from our son regarding his upcoming mission trip to El Salvador.

Dear friend:

I am writing because I want to share with you an exciting opportunity I have been given.  I am also hoping that you might want to support me in my efforts to be part of this amazing mission. My church (Ridgecrest Baptist Church) is taking a mission trip to El Salvador over spring break and several of my friends in the youth group are going with the youth leaders as part of this team. We are leaving March 5 and will return home March 12.

I am looking forward to the chance to meet new friends, experience a new culture, and share the love of Christ. We will spend most of our ministry days with Remar Orphanage in San Miguel. The orphanage currently has about 20 children. Most of these kids have been removed from their homes due to sexual abuse.  In additional to some light construction we will also be doing relational evangelism. Our youth band, of which I am part, will also lead some worship services.

I want to ask you to start praying for my team and for me right now. I know this is going to be a challenging experience. This is my second trip to El Salvador and I am excited to go, but nervous at the same time. You can also pray for the people I will meet. This is a third world country and they are very poor. They are in need of many things, but most importantly they need Jesus Christ.

One of my biggest challenges is the cost of the trip. It will cost me $1,000 to go on this trip.  Would you please consider giving to my cause? If you are able to give financially, you will receive tax credit for your donation. Make sure I have your correct address so we can send your contribution statement at the end of the year. Please make your check payable to “Ridgecrest Baptist Church” and mail it back to me at: 2311 E. Kentwood, Republic, Mo. 65738. The deadline for payment on my trip is January 16. If you would rather, you could also directly donate to my mission trip online at

Thank you so much in advance for your generosity. Even if you cannot give financially, please pray. Our team will need every prayer possible. I know God is going to provide and I cannot wait to see what He has in store for me this summer.


Matthew L. Burton

Sunday, September 13, 2015


As Fast as a Speeding Tractor

I’ve read remarkable stories in the world news over the years about fast running humans who have competed against horses, trains and even race cars. Apparently, it is even possible to race the wind and race against time. But one example I’ve never heard tossed around as admirable is racing against a tractor. Yet, that is exactly what I did during the Lockwood Festival back in 1983.

My brother and I grew up in Ash Grove. We paid a visit to the Lockwood Festival that year to participate in a community cross country race at the Lockwood golf course. The first-annual race was set up by some of the local men who, based on appearance, where local farmers.

We arrived at the Lockwood golf course in our running uniforms and our fashionable 1980s style Gortex running suits. We were greeted by the race officials – all in their overalls – at the sign-in desk.  From what I recall, about 40 runners showed up at the golf course. I remember warming up and being eager to begin. You could sense the anxiousness in the crowd of runners as we surveyed the golf course.  One question that arose in our minds was, “Where exactly is the course?”  The golf course was not marked in any way (traditionally, a lime mark is used on the grass and runners follow the line).  No line existed on the Lockwood golf course that year. How were we supposed to know where to run?

Our question was soon answered when an old Ford tractor was backed out of the equipment shed and driven on to the golf course by an elderly gentleman in overalls. A race official stepped toward the group and explained the rules of the race.  The man, in all seriousness, told us that we were to follow the tractor after he blew the whistle.  The grass was wet with dew and he assured us that the tires would leave tracks that we could easily follow.  I flashed a glance, and a small smirk, at my brother. Using today’s lingo, I was actually thinking, “What the heck?”

The old man on the tractor -- clad in a ball cap, flannel shirt and overalls -- sat only 20 yards in front of the runners. He started the tractor again. He put the tractor in gear.  Then the race official blew the whistle and 40 runners took off straight down the fairway right past the tractor.

As I recall, there was a lot of confusion until the old man on the tractor got it in a high gear. Then as he sped toward the front of the pack he started yelling at us to turn around and follow him.  The pack of runners slowed to a trot and the driver made a quick corner around some trees and got the tractor in high gear. He now had the tractor opened up as much as it would go.  My brother ran directly behind the tractor for the entire two mile race.  Occasionally the man would turn around on the tractor, see him just a few yards behind, and shake his head.

After the race, the tractor driver was obviously amazed that my brother had been able to run as fast as his speeding tractor.  When we talked with the tractor driver and the race official two things became apparent. One, they didn’t really understand why anyone would want to run all of the time “just for fun.” But two, they also admitted to not believing anyone could run as fast as a speeding tractor.

Friday, July 24, 2015


Be the Family Leader God Intended You to Be!

Most of us learn by observing the actions of others. But when it comes to leadership in a family unit, not everyone gets to observe a good example growing up.

My own experience as being the "head of the household" has been a mixture of learning from observation, learning from my own mistakes, listening to the advice of those older and wiser than myself, and having the benefit of a praying wife. My children have also done more than they realize to impact my leadership. As soon as they could talk I realized that little eyes were watching my every move and word.

When it comes to leadership in the family there are two principles I have found to be key: 1) wives recognizing husbands as the leader of the family and husbands being willing to take on that responsibility and 2) remembering that little eyes are always watching.


With that first principle I know I cant ask my wife or children to do things I would not do myself. I need to led the way and set the example by doing things I would ask for them, like picking up my own socks, keeping my part of the house picked up, being kind to our neighbors, being generous to others, praying about important decisions, etc. I am no longer a child myself and I no longer need a mother (but I do have a wife.)

I also have to take on the responsibility of leading my family in spiritual matters. There is no way around it. The Bible is clear on this matter: As the main character in courageous says, "where are you oh men of courage?" Men, we have to step up as leaders in our home.

But speaking from experience, woman have to allow their husbands to be leaders. Don't simply take over, or nit-pick the leadership role your husband takes on. My wife and I can speak to this issue from experience. My wife had to make it a matter of prayer to back off and allow me to excerpt leadership. At the same time, I was being negligent in my leadership role. It was a whole lot easier to let Stacey take on that role. But you know what we found: the whole family functioned better when I took on that role.


The second point, that someone is watching all of the time, was driven home a few weeks ago. I was fishing at Bennett Springs with my children, wife and father in law. It was the first day of spring break for my kids. Lauren had already caught her limit so we moved up to the spring where I staked out a great spot on one of the large rocks along the bank, giving me a great angle from which to ask directly in to the spring.

After fishing for 30 minutes with no luck, Matthew and I got our lines tangled. In a moment of absent mindedness, I told him I would come help him and I stepped straight off the boulder in to the spring. To answer the most common question I've receives, yes, the water is cold. My main concern was for the items in my billfold and the cell phone attached to my hip.

I came up out of the cold water with a different attitude than when I go for a normal swim. In fact, my son said just last week, "Dad, I didn't know you even knew those words." See,  that was another reminder to me that little eyes are always watching and listening. I did regain my composure and we had a great day of fishing and laughter, all at my expense. But it reminded me of the example I need to set as a leader in my house. Little eyes are always watching.

When a father does a chore at home or leads the family it is important to be careful about what we say and do. Our Christian witness is on the line. We also set an example for these children in our attitudes about work, the way we treat our wives: little eyes are watching.

At one time, I was not so aware of the eyes that follow me. However, raising two children has helped me to see them. My children are a nightly reminder that I need to guard against what I say, what we do and what we allow in our home. Little eyes are watching.

I can think of one person in particular who impacted life with his example: my maternal grandfather, Orlis Farmer. He looked after everyone in our family. If he ever drank, I never knew it. If he ever swore, I never heard it. What I did know was that he went to church, read his Bible, and lived every day with a steady grace, humility and compassion consistent with Christianity.

In my grandfather I saw a man who was strong because he went to church and lived out his Christian faith. His example was important because my little eyes were watching.

The Bible makes reference several times to the importance of our example. 2 Timothy 1:5  says, “I have been reminded of your sincere faith, which first lived in your grandmother Lois and in your mother Eunice and, I am persuaded, now lives in you also.”

Every parent or head of a household has a chance to exhibit leadership and servant hood. Each person also has a chance to set an example for the little eyes in their house, their neighborhood, their community and their church's it is important because little eyes are watching, and learning.

Monday, June 15, 2015


My Top Ten Favorite Bible Verses

I was challenged on Facebook to share ten Bible verses in 10 days. Honestly, I can’t say I have a single favorite Bible verse. The entire Bible is God’s inspired words. It is living and at different phases in life, or even during the year, different verses speak to me.

So instead of me sharing my 10 favorites, I decided to do a little research project regarding search strings in Bible Gateway and on websites in order to determine the Top Ten Bible verses nationally.

There are two ways to go at this, both of which result in slightly different Top Ten lists.

Here are the results according to the Bible Gateway. According to their website, they "reviewed the behavior of some of the 8 million visitors who stop by the site each month, many of them chasing results provided by Google."

Matthew 28:19 “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

Philippians 4:6 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”

Romans 12:2   “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

Proverbs 3:6 “In all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”

Proverbs 3:5 “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.”

Genesis  1:1 “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”

Philippians 4:13 “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.”

Romans 8:28   “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

Jeremiah 29:11 “‘For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

John 3:16   “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

Another source, Top Verses, ranks the top 10 Bible verses by how many times each was referenced anywhere on a website. Here is that list.

Romans 10:9 “If you declare with your mouth that "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved."

2 Timothy 3:16 "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness."

Acts 1:8   "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you: and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."

Genesis 1:1 “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.”  

Ephesians 2:8 “For it is by grace you have been saved, thought faith - and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God."

Romans 3:23  "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God   for it is by grace you have been saved, thought faith - and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God."

Matthew 28:19 “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the
Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

John 14:16  "Jesus answered, 'I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me'."

John 1:1 "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God."

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."

Notice the #1 Bible verse on both lists is John 3:16.

Saturday, May 16, 2015


New Short Story has Journalist as Main Character

I am busy working on a couple of short stories to enter in the Springfield Writer's Guild contest this year starting in July. My goal is to always submit two short stories and honestly, I'm running behind.

This year, I'm working on several stories, all of which I see in my mind as chapters in longer novels. The working title of the first one I want to finish is, "The Church Critic." Here is a taste of how the short story/future novel chapter begins:

Don Bigby pointed his thick index finger and his fat cigar directly at my face.

"I'm choosing you for this new assignment. Our readers love you and I'm adding this to your regular beat. You can thank me later," he said followed by a smokers cough.

Bigby's thick fingers were crowded together on his hand. This helped explain why he typed with only his index fingers. His cigar was more chewed than smoked. In fact, he smoked one cigar a day but ate through two a day.

"Do you have a list of places you want me to visit for this column?" I asked while looking at the large city map on the wall.

"Son," said Bigby, taking the half-eaten and wet cigar out of his mouth. "I pay you to make good decisions on the order of your site visits for this column. All you need to know is your deadline is Tuesday at noon and this new column will run on page one."

At looked at the mock up page in my hand. “So we are calling it, 'The Church Critic' and this will be a weekly review of local churches," I said. “You know, I’m agnostic. I don’t do church.”

"Perfect. It is met to be a critical review,” said Bigby. 

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