Choosing the Right Side of Wrong

Every time an election is on the horizon, I begin to smile less, fret more, and pray for the day the votes are cast and the campaign blitzes are over.  Whether it is a local or national race, neither appeal to me.  And even though the right to vote is sacred, some candidates in the last few years seem to be missing anything that has to do with being sacred.

It is a Sunday morning, and the sky is about as gray as the political air.  Everyone says election outcomes are determined by the state of our economy.  Of course, our economy is vital; but is it the most essential aspect of keeping America united and secure?  Maybe our economy and citizens will prosper more if we put godliness above all else.  However, one needs abundant trust in the Almighty to believe that assessment.

I hear you; you’re already screaming at me!  Just let me explain. 

Who requires our loyalty?

Our political leaders or candidates, Republican or Democrat, need to focus on what is right and wrong instead of their election chances.  Almost every political ad or verbiage from many of our nation’s leaders reflects vitriol and lack of character.  Often, their words are so far from what God promotes that it is sinful.

We desire less violence and bullying and more kindness in our nation, so why do we become or support bullies when it comes to politics?  We cannot expect to become a stronger country without civility in our representatives or ourselves.  Can we envision a robust economy without God on our side?  As a matter of fact, we should never assume to be rewarded for accepting brutal unkindness because of loyalty to a political party or candidate. 

Often, devotion to God and a preferred political belief are in stark contrast to each other.  Who or what do we choose?  If we believe in God, is it necessary to ask such a question?

Profiting from anger

Over the last few years, when conspiracy theories ran rampant and social media became an outlet for outrage and violence, I often asked myself, who started all this hatred?  I finally figured it was those getting rich and famous promoting discord.  And many of us are giving them the money.  What does that say about our shortage of faith in truth?  Do we ignore facts because we want to agree with the inventor of preposterous theories? 

Alex Jones is one such individual who has made a mere fortune off baseless claims he urged folks to buy into with shouts of untruths.  For example, ” A staged Sandy Hook?”  Really, did he visit the graves of the twenty children buried in Newtown, Connecticut?  Did those who believed him do the same?  These folks can reap huge profits because they appeal to our bitterness.  Is that Godliness?

Much is the same with campaign rhetoric.  The person who appeals to our rage often wins, which is tragic.  Yet we want hate to end, hope to thrive, and wish the world were kinder.  I personally don’t believe that will happen unless what God desires of us comes first.

Sometimes we cannot separate faith in God’s words and politics.  I have often decided not to vote for a candidate because their character was the antithesis of all I believed.   Why would I?  We must not ignore honor and respect when we elect people to lead.  If we do, in the end, it will bite us.  That’s not my thought; that is the words God put forth in the Good Book, which teaches us what to do to obtain peace.  Or do we just let the Lord’s instructions slide when it involves politics? 

God first

There is no doubt that we created a firestorm of discontent between COVID, the political race of 2020, violence, rampant conspiracy theories, and the social media mess.  And, during such calamities, we often hypocritically ask God to bless us each day.  How does He bless our nation when many decide to put Him in the corner until we call His name?

If we can somehow provide hope to others through our deeds, empathy, and faith, we will be on the right side of wrong.   If we can build trust and shun harmful, divisive folks promoting fear, we will see honor and civility rise. 

  Our value as a nation is not grown in dollars and cents but in the richness of our people.  If we can invest in promoting respectfulness and the sanctity of life in all our communities, we will build a safer, calmer, more prosperous, and less violent place to live.

It all has to do with putting God’s words first before our own. 

Why Do We Suffer?

A child will require stitches daily, and a father will break his leg in a fall.  An aunt needs a hip replacement while her husband’s rotator cuff quit revolving.  A sister will endure the pain of a broken heart.  Gall and kidney stones will become thorns in our innards while diseases attempt to land at jet speed on our unsuspecting souls.  Car crashes will occur, and who knows when a bullet will graze or harm us?

What do we do when our parts wear out, are damaged or broken, or when sickness invades us? 

My husband is sporting a cast from surgery on a misfunctioning heel and Achilles.  His recliner will probably need replacing at the end of the six months it takes to heal that old heel completely.  In the meantime, since my legs still work and my ears hear, I run when he calls my name.

If I make it to the pearly gates one day, I will ask God, “Why did we suffer on earth?” I believe I know the answer but still would like to hear it from the Boss.

No bumps or bruises?

 Would we seek paradise if we didn’t have any problems and our bodies didn’t occasionally break down?  Would we search for God, pray for help, and comprehend hope?  Most of us aren’t as grateful as we should be anyway, so if our lives had no bumps and bruises, would we still be thankful for the problem-free times?

I suppose God views our lives in nanoseconds rather than years.  He knows that authentic living is not on earth but with Him in eternity; it is only there where suffering ends.

Unquestionably, some of you in the reader-land don’t believe me, or there is life after death.  However, in my humble opinion, falling apart with faith is far better than falling to pieces without support.    Of course, I don’t assume for a minute I can change someone’s mind regarding theology, but I do think we can plant seeds, and God will do the reaping.

I am no preacher, but it seems to me we are seeing a whole slew of misery going on today.  Folks, we must never give up on our journey with life.  Indeed, the road can often be filled with roadblocks, but patience, optimism, and endurance will eventually put us back in the driver’s seat.  Pessimism in our lives is akin to falling into a patch of Sumac; it’s poison.

“He always has.”

Kentucky just endured a catastrophic flood event, and news teams were there to cover the story.  A reporter interviewed a couple whose home was washed away, losing all they owned.  “How will you deal with such devastation?” the young man asked the couple.  Without a pause, the wife replied, “We are good; God will help us as He always has.”

We can lose all we have, suffer immensely, and yet survive such anguish because faith is the provider of hope.  If we lose trust in God, we join the ranks of the frantic, angry,  distrusting complainers we have all met in life.  Who wants to join that group?

Suffering builds character, humbles us, and gives us compassion for others who are living in tribulation. 

I endured an event that completely changed me when I was a young woman.  At the time, I knew God and loved him, but boy, I thought, “I am not going to live through this one!”  It seemed I was handed too much pain and sorrow to survive.  “Why did this happen to me?” I cried. 

It took a few years, but I finally understood.  Because of my intense pain, God knew I would empathize with others who endure suffering. Today I say, “One day, your despair will lessen, and your understanding will increase.”

Walking through pain

  Mama always said, “Courage and character are built by those who walk through hurt and emerge stronger.”   After walking through pain many times, I see God clearer, and His purpose for me is better defined.

We are given free will to decide how we thrive on earth.  We win, we lose, we fall, and we rise.  None of us are assured we will have breath tomorrow, but when we keep or find our faith, we will triumph each day even when we are broken.

God, who holds the golden key of mercy and love, is in the middle of our free will, illnesses, broken hearts, violence, and misfortunes.  He does not cause our suffering but strengthens us to travel through it and find the glory only He offers.

“We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know they are good for us….”  Romans 5: 3       

The Magic of Ocean Time

It has been a few years since our entire blended family gathered at the beach for a vacation.  Let me just say, to achieve such a feat is nothing short of miraculous.  Sixteen folks ranging from age three to me and every stage in-between reunited for a week.   Four little ones, two teenagers, eight middle-agers, and a couple of juvenile old-timers are packed into one large house that may need some repair today.  

When I first saw the ocean, I was heading to Florida from Tennessee with my parents and brother.  The car was hot, and the salty air flowing through the open windows did little to cool us down.  “Daddy, are we there yet?” I asked so many times, causing my father to burn hotter by the minute. 

When my eyes widened to finally view the expanse of water, the waves crashing onto the shore, and the sun glistening on the blue sea, the misery of traveling hundreds of miles faded away.  It was the most spectacular sight my six-year-old eyes had ever seen.

My older brother taught me to swim in the motel pool during our vacation. And Mama basked in the sun while Daddy conversed with anyone who would listen. 

I remember nearly everything about those magical days when the sound of the ocean calmed the soul and gave a family immense joy.

Surfing to shore

As a teenager near the same age as those two teens vacationing today, a group of girls set out for Panama City accompanied by two brave sets of parents.   As teens, we were more interested in “where the boys were” instead of the blue of the sea.  My friend, Ree, whose father could stand amidst the waves far from shore because of his towering height.  He put us on canvas rafts to let us ride a long way in the surf while we laughed ourselves even sillier. 

Today, as I recall such delight, I glimpse old friends who once walked along the water’s edge, wondering about our future lives and soaking up youth’s splendor and friendship’s happiness.

When my children were small and I was approaching middle age, I returned to the sea numerous times.  We searched for the perfect seashells and built sandcastles, and even though I wasn’t as tall as Ree’s dad, I sent them sailing on a raft to the shore.

When I watched them play in the surf and shriek as the waves knocked them down, I prayed their futures would hold such sweet, lovely moments.

The value of time

I understand that everything changes with time.  Children grow, dreams are altered, and lives end, but the ocean stays as it has always been.  A place for play, refuge, wonderment, and extraordinary beauty.

Now, I am entering the days when one realizes our time will one day end, and the memories we created for others are all that will remain.

Today, I play with the kids in the pool and help them swim, as my brother taught me.  I watch my teen granddaughter with her friend strolling in the white sand, wondering “where the boys are” and what their futures hold.   I see my son far from shore, pushing a child on a board to catch the waves.  My son-in-law is laughing at the shrieking laughter of his little boy as a wave knocks him down.

Daddy, Mama, my brother, and Ree’s towering father are all in heaven today. However, because each produced special moments for many, they remain alive in my heart.  The friends I once walked with on the shore are still strolling.  We have cried and laughed and lived to see the future.  We scattered in all directions and triumphed over life’s hardships. Now we wonder what the future holds for those little ones who play by the ocean.

Time is precious and fleeting for all of us.  What we do with our hours is what will make a difference for those we love.  Do we build joy and teach the ones who follow us the value of family and friends?  Are we afraid of tomorrow, or are we embracing the remaining moments?

God was gracious enough to bless us with memories as well as create all that we see and those we love.  We should all comprehend the magical sound of the ocean that calms the soul and brings us all great joy is a gift… just like our time.

The Present You Cannot Buy

Jaxon, our grandson, spent the night with us recently.  This month he will turn the ripe old age of six and is about as busy as the bees swarming around our purple butterfly bush.  No word describes Jax’s exuberance for life nor a power strong enough to slow him down.  Trust me, we tried, but to no avail.

We planned on taking him to the community pool to waterlog some of his energy, but the roar of thunder only allowed an hour for us to burn a small amount of fuel in his supply tank.  Now what?

Target is my cure for all things.  You can ask my 17-year-old granddaughter, my nephews, nieces, and all those who once were my little tykes, how much I love shopping for toys. 

“Jax, wanna’ go to Target?” I questioned, knowing his answer.  I swear I glimpsed flashing green dollar signs in his dark brown eyes, so I gave him a budget.  I understand he doesn’t yet comprehend how or why one toy is $100.00, and another of the same size is $10, but those little ones get it when I say, “No, we can’t afford that!”

After we buckled our seat belts, I announced, “Son, we have one stop to make before hitting the toy aisle at Target.  We must go to the Dollar Tree.”

“Why?”  He replied with a bit of groan between the w and y. 

“I’ll explain when we get there,”  I answered with a mocking groan causing the bee to snicker.

Rules of Giving

It would be lovely if I had been the awesome grandparent who came up with this idea for kids, but I am not.  However, I will pass such wisdom on to anyone with a child buzzing around their lives.   

After my husband, Jax, and I piled out of our car, I explained to him the rules before entering the store.   Sometimes the buzzing Jax creates causes him not to listen to ‘rules,’ but I am an accomplished, experienced bee wax remover.

“Mid-summer each year, a big blue box is placed inside the store to donate school supplies for children whose families cannot afford to purchase all they will need.”

I continued, “So, I am giving you money to buy whatever supplies you want to put in the box.  You cannot keep any for yourself, and you will not ask for candy or toys while we are here.”

The bee asked, “Why do those kids have no money?”

“Well, there will always be a need for you to help others.  Someday you also might require help.  One never knows, but I guarantee you one thing, you receive greater blessings by giving gifts away.”

“You mean I get a present one day for helping?” 

“Yes, you do, but you will never know when and how it will arrive.”

Learning Compassion

He enthusiastically selected rulers, pencils, and an extraordinary dinosaur pencil case.  He carefully placed them in the cart along with glue sticks, crayons, notebooks, pens, scissors, and other supplies.  I realized quickly we were extending the budget, but at that point, to put items back didn’t seem appropriate or honorable.

The toy Jax bought at Target will be forgotten within a month, but the lesson he learned by helping others hopefully will be with him forever.  It is a principle we all must learn and teach.

It would take the entire paper to quote how many times God speaks of offering our aid to others, helping the poor, and the joy it gives Him when we do.  One of the most striking verses is from Proverbs 21:13, “Whoever closes his ear to the cry of the poor will himself call out and not be answered.”

We all have been poor at some point in our lives.  Perhaps not from financial destitution but from a barren, hardened heart.  I don’t know about you, but I would rather lose all my possessions than cry out to God and He not be there for me.  Without faith, I know I would own nothing.

For seven years, I have written and contributed a weekly column for many newspapers and do so without pay.  However, I respect and appreciate my editors, who graciously promote my books and efforts.  To work for no wage sounds crazy, but it is my words that I give away, and when I receive a response from a reader, that is my reward. 

I know God summoned me to write; He is there whenever I call His name.

Hopefully, with each passing year, Jax will also understand and trust that God always hears him.  That is the gift that success, money, or fame can never buy.

“Them Good Old Days?”

It seems that when every generation begins to age, they long for the return to those good old days.  Many wish for America as it was when they were young and yearn for a time when society reflected better values and morals.  Since I am a bona fide Baby Boomer, I understand.

I recall The Greatest Generation thought the same when many of America’s youth fled to Woodstock in bell bottoms, protested, and watched Elvis swivel his hips.  And God forbid if those irreverent boomers wore their hair like those boys called “Beatles.” 

Today, many members of my generation are downright obnoxious, trying to locate a ticket to yesterday when life in America seemed perfect.  They are convinced today’s younger folks who jump up and down at rap concerts, demonstrate and wear hair in shades of blues, pinks, and green will send the world to “Hell in a Handbasket!”

 Didn’t our parents use that phrase?

Was it simpler?

  Yes, it appeared to be a simpler time, but not for all.  Women, minorities, and those considered “different” had to adjust to social, educational, and wage inequality. 

Didn’t we march for those changes?

Do we want to live in the days without lifesaving vaccines, treatments, and medicines for everything from polio, cancer, and other countless diseases to watch our loved ones suffer?  The advances in science and medicine to aid our world since World War II are miraculous.

  Plus, our life expectancy today has increased by 12 years since 1950.  Who doesn’t want to see their grandchildren grow? 

If you are old enough to remember, did you like using the phone booth to make a call during a storm?  When your car broke down on Highway Out Yonder, how did you call for help?  

Gas and everything related to automobiles is downright expensive today, but do we want to drive cars with no seat belts or airbags while our toddler grandson stands in the front seat?  I don’t think so.   Today, the number of deaths by car accidents is approximately half the number recorded in 1950.

 Wait, didn’t many Boomers assist in inventing the cures, the mobile phone, and safer automobiles?

Return to respect

However, there were some aspects of long ago we long to see again.

Bullying in our day was mostly limited to the mean kids on the playground or taunting in high school.  If we did not respect our elders and teachers, we faced dire consequences from those aging parents we knew.  Today, bullying and disrespect seem to be acceptable in adults as well.  I have listened to the tirades of politicians inciting flames of hatred as I have never heard before.  Are we no longer responsible for our actions, or was that rule applicable only in our youth?

Today, many wish to search for lies on the computer instead of truth to bolster their personal beliefs, leading to distrust.  It’s shameful how many people we harm when we do such things.  And we wonder why suicide is up, the sanctity of life is down, and church pews are empty.  

Our love of money and material things should be secondary to faith and moral values, and the Bible tells us so.  A greedy, unappreciative, resentful, hateful heart reaps nothing and never will. 

So, considering all of this, where do we wish to go, past or present?

Our legacy, our choice

Since the Time Machine is not in production, we cannot return to yesterday.  Instead, today we must consider changing what we can and prioritizing what is essential.   Returning to falling on our knees and reaching for God’s hand instead of worshiping any politician, political party, or false idol would be a good start.

God is as present today as He was when we were born.  He expected great things from us.  We fall when we don’t abide by his advice and counsel.  When we hit the computer send button or use our mouths to spread vitriol and conspiracies, or when we abandon our brothers and sisters, we fail.

Why are we so eager to share controversy instead of peace?  What does that say about us?  What does it say about us when we choose our pocketbooks over character? 

My generation is at a point they must believe that it is never too late to improve our legacy.  We can make a difference in future generations by exemplifying God’s greatest commandment:  “Love one another.” His laws will return us to morality and respectfulness, not ours. 

We were once the dreamers, thinkers, and shakers who believed we could advance humankind.  And we did.  Many forgot as we aged that we still can with the Almighty’s help and mercy.

Why not endeavor to make them “good old days”….. today?

IT TAKES TWO

Ok, here goes; I am dipping my pen in the inkwell of the abortion debate, but not the way you may think.  I don’t believe we will ever agree on that issue, so it seems useless to voice another opinion.

Years (I do mean eons) ago, I returned to college.  I decided to change my career path from interior design to become a Health and Physical Education student.  I was a wee bit athletic, yet I wasn’t leaning toward teaching physical education but instead educating others about health.  Especially women who lived in poverty and did not have access to or the means to obtain good healthcare.

Some women at the time knew little regarding birth control, breast cancer, or warning signs that they were in unhealthy, unchartered territory.  Many were not knowledgeable about the value of good nutrition, exercise, mental health, and weight management for themselves or their children. 

My dreams were lofty, but I believed we could change the future of women’s healthcare through education and prevention. 

A good theory

I did not finish the degree and became that Interior Designer, providing for my children’s health and well-being.  But I still believe my theory was a good one.

With all the shouting matches between the Pro-Life and Pro-Choice movements, there seems to be little dialogue regarding prevention or responsibility.  Few discuss what men should do to help women not to face life-changing decisions.  It takes two to create a child; if the pair do not want an unplanned pregnancy, they must prevent one.  Seems simple, right?

We all know about “surprise babies.”  I have a physician friend who found she was expecting her third child soon after her second was born.  “I just don’t know how that happened!” She exclaimed after she told me the news.  I sarcastically replied, “I guess you skipped the classes regarding reproduction in med school, right?”  Then we both laughed till we cried.  I, to this day, have no idea how my last child came into my world.

However, she and I welcomed our baby boys with open arms.  We struggled, but now we can’t imagine our life without them.   

Dire circumstances

However, we don’t live in the dire situations some women do.  There are so many today who still do not understand the value of prevention economically or physically.  Plus, many men still walk away unscathed when they learn their partner is carrying their child.  The truth is both consenting adults must step up to the plate when difficulty is placed on the table.  They need to accept the commitment of parenthood or be responsible enough to avoid becoming a parent.

As I was nearing graduation from high school, I learned a friend was pregnant.  When she told her boyfriend, he literally ran away.  At the time, an out-of-wedlock baby still produced demeaning, judgmental reactions from folks.  Many would declare, “How could SHE do this to her parents?”    My mother said the opposite, “How dare HE simply run away!”   She continued, “Women have always been both victims and villains when it involves an unplanned pregnancy.  In many cases, they become their child’s sole support while their partner is somewhere unfound.”

This slanted behavior is not reasonable or fair and has been going on forever. 

Here are a few facts as of 2022:

.  10 billion dollars in child support payments go uncollected.  More than 30% of support payments are never paid, and more than 43% do not receive the total amount due.

. 80% of single-parent families are headed by mothers, and the number is rising.

. 12.7 million children are being raised without a father.

. So, I ask you, where is the other part of the “two?”

Fostering fatherhood

Even though years have passed, there is very little change in attitudes.  Women must know that if they are not going to protect themselves from an unplanned pregnancy, they will more than likely be responsible for their actions for the rest of their life.

There are many good, righteous men in the world, and you are loved.  But for those men who feel they are not economically or physically responsible for the child they produced,  they are the epitome of a coward.  These men are present throughout every segment of our society, and the courts can do little to ease the suffering their behavior creates.

Women must help each other educate our sisters with the knowledge and compassion to prevent heartache and destitution and provide them with hope and education.

And good, decent men should foster responsibility, denounce “good ole’ boy behavior, and put fatherhood at the head of the table as it should be.

Secure the Future of Independence Day

This Independence Day, 2022, we find our nation filled with divisions, economic woes, violence, controversy, and worry.   Last year. we were hopeful that after the pandemic became more controllable, this July 4th would be filled with thanksgiving and enormous celebration. Perhaps, that was just a daydream. 

How do we return to thoroughly enjoying our Independence Day celebrations amid such tribulation?  We will because we always have.  We have endured wars on foreign soil and on American earth, plagues, recessions, political upheaval, and brutality throughout our country’s history.  And because we did, we must continue to believe we will do it again.   One way to heal destructive national division is to have faith in one indivisible land.

Our forebearers were a group of folks who amassed in a place called America.  These brave folks came from numerous countries with differing beliefs and strong views to find freedom.  Be free to express their opinions, worship their various faiths, and build a government based on equality under God’s leadership.   We must remember why and how we came to be who we are. 

Common sense plus listening

My grandfather and brother could argue over the Constitution, politics, and America’s current affairs until the cows quit mooing and the rooster crowed.  Yet, they were never irreparably divided. They respected each other’s thoughts enough to launch into how to repair many of society’s problems.  Nor did they use excusatory blame but instead used their minds to create answers.  As they sat in the corner being ignored by the rest of the family, they had the right idea on how to patch the torn bits of America’s fabric.

They simply listened to each other.  Granddaddy and John respected the other’s comments, took the best of ideas, and combined them to form logical agreements.  Using common sense and historical facts, they honestly tried simplifying and organizing ways to unravel complex issues.

Polarization in our nation is dampening the American spirit today. Many are not listening to others’ ideas or reflections regarding resolvable problems.  In many cases, it seems reasoning is lost.  When political pandering or media bias moves us away from building a stronger country by splitting us into fractions and factions, our celebrations are muted, and faith in our nation begins to falter.

Dire deep division

  We are an eclectic group, just like our ancestors were when they believed in something greater than their personal ideology.  They took significant risks traveling to an unknown land to find independence. Freedom to worship, speak, and forge a far safer, Godlier existence for their children than they endured.  Our great nation was born because courageous souls were united in the common belief that freedom should always reign supreme.

Deeply divided partisan politics espoused between each other from our backyards to the halls of Congress are replacing common sense, respect, and problem-solving.  It separates us by pointing fingers instead of shaking hands and builds vile hatred.  Partisan anger has split families, torn friendships, and shaken our faith in our nation. 

As a young child, in my elementary classroom in Franklin, Tennessee, we stood each morning after prayer. With our hands over our hearts and our eyes focused on Old Glory, we recited:

“I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the republic for which it stands, one nation, under God,  indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

Honor our pledge

I believe in those words today and know we must always strive to be an indivisible nation.  And no matter what, we should honor our Flag and what it stands for until God returns us to Him. 

Perhaps, if we recited the pledge each morning and added a prayer, we would defeat destructive divisiveness. We could calm strife, economic woes, inequality, and violence because it would renew our sense of what America’s freedom means to each of us.  

It is up to our citizens today to decide whether we will again celebrate Independence Day with a joyous appreciation or continue to damage our country with conspiracy theories, racism, lies, and self-importance.  Do we honor our heritage, Constitution, children, and faith, or keep splitting our nation into nothing?

With certainty, we will never agree on everything, nor will we vote for the same candidates.  Our ancestors and the brave soldiers who fought for our liberty assured us of the freedom to not agree and to vote our conscience.   They secured our American rights. To honor them, let’s move to the corner of rational thinking and consideration to find solutions. In doing so, we will secure future generations the freedom to celebrate every July 4th far into the future.

Improving Our Vision

We all look at life in remarkably different ways.  Some view the world as only they see it, while others view life by trying on other folks’ glasses.   We all tend to believe we see clearly, but maybe, we are looking through scratched, foggy lenses that should be tossed.

There are many ways to obtain better vision, such as eating carrots or investing in Windex.  However, I am offering a few non-scientific ideas on how to improve our eyesight.  Don’t we all desire to see a crisp blue sky instead of gathering storm clouds and view positivity and healing rather than defeat?

One: What if we begin by changing our view of our nation’s citizens as white, black, Latino, Asian, Italian, French, or Purple and instead decide that once one has become a United States citizen, we are just called Americans?   

I am as proud of my heritage as a Scottish, English, genealogical mixed Purple human as anyone, but I call myself an American.  If we can lose some of the labels we use, we will begin to ease racial tension.  Some words are not acceptable in my home, and all of them regard bigotry, which I detest and rightfully so.  It is the most archaic, ungodly, demented, selfish, and intolerable behavior we can perform as children of God.  

Does anyone believe God judges us by our ethnicity? 

Our society has faltered so many times when it comes to building better race relations.  We can improve only if we quit viewing each other through tinted glasses.

Out-of-control battles

Two:  The political battles between Republicans and Democrats are abysmal.  We must become discerning voters, find more qualified representatives, and be proud of our leaders.  If I hear the word “liberal” or “conservative” used in a derogatory way one more time, I might pick up my grandmother’s heavy iron skillet and whack the terms right out of the English language.  I hate to bust anyone’s political party chops, but we are all Americans and should focus on discovering some common national earth to stand on before it changes to quicksand and we sink.

 When political bias slants lean too far, right or left, the government will have difficulty standing tall in the middle, where many of us reside.  If we truly love our country more than our party affiliation, we must stop the blame game and instead use that negative energy to find solutions to aid our citizens. 

But above all else, a person’s character must become dominant within our leaders and within each of us.  We will find honesty, bravery, and answers through those clear, clean glasses.

Damaging hypocrisy

Three:  Religion could use a bit of a revamp.  Churches are dividing into sects, pews are emptying, and building faith is falling through the cracks.   Do y’all recall the children’s rhyme we learned by clasping our hands, raising our index fingers together, and saying, “Here’s the Church, and there’s the steeple,” and when we opened our hands, we would shout, “Open the door and see all the people!?” 

Well, where did the people go?  When we become the judge, the jury, the divine guru of all, God’s word becomes secondary.  Hypocrisy is killing faith.  How do we promote God’s teachings when supposedly Godly people espouse prejudices or political hatred and exhibit a lack of compassion?   There are countless incredible, giving, spirit-filled people whose voices and actions must rise above the clapping sounds of evil.

God’s instruction was to simply love one another and teach all nations about Him.  It is impossible to educate the earth with mere words, but we can change the world by our actions.  God’s act of sending us His only son to die for our sins showed us the meaning of love.  The least we can do is change our negative behavior to positive actions to exemplify our holy faith.  

Judging belongs only to God, who needs no glasses to see.

God’s perfect vision

These optical changes are just my attempt to help us envision a healthier world by becoming more honorable.  We are consumed by countless global views through the media, social media, religions, political leaders, and each other; we must be reminded that we are all members of one human race.

God sees distinctly and knows the purity of our hearts.  And He continues trying His level best to be seen amid dense fog.  Because when we do cast our eyes clearly upon Him, all things become more apparent, and love will begin to defeat much of the bias, hatred, lies, and self-righteousness that destroys our sight. 

Loss: A Troubled Journey

Carter is moving away.  She is the 7-year-old granddaughter of my good friend.  Carter, her brother, and her parents are moving to South Georgia within days.  I felt Saturday would be the last time I would see this precocious, spirited child for a while. 

When she turned to wave goodbye while walking toward her grandpa’s truck, something within my soul moved a flood of tears to form in my eyes.  I knew I would see Carter again when she visited her grandparents, so were the tears caused only by Carter leaving or something much deeper?  

How odd when out of the blue, our past emotions are triggered by a current situation.  Grief rises to the surface as if it wishes to choke us with sadness.  Painful as it is, sometimes we are forced to recall the heartache of loss.

 My granddaughter was only two when her family relocated to South Florida, and I remember waving to her as we both sobbed when the car drove away.  Avery is now seventeen, and there isn’t a day that I don’t miss her and wish she were just around the corner.  

When my oldest daughter moved to Washington State, I grieved for days.  It was no different when my son left for Colorado.   With certainty, I knew my life would forever be altered.

Farewells change our lives, whether from moving, a death, or the ending of a relationship.

Out of the blue grief

I recall sitting at a local car wash about a year after my brother died.  When my car emerged from the auto wash, I watched as the attendants began to dry the little white SUV.  Suddenly, my heart filled with immeasurable grief, and I could not control the tears falling down my cheeks.  My brother helped me select that car, and the pain from his loss overwhelmed me once again.

How many friends have we never seen again because life took us down different roads?  How many have died before we had a chance to visit one more time?  We rue the days when it is too late for ‘one more time.’  Loss accompanies life and reminds us that we don’t live in paradise.  Grief, heartache, and tragedy run alongside our lives’ joy, laughter, and peace.  

And we often wonder how we will survive such intense sorrow.  But we do, and we continue to muddle through the tears and search for hope.

God is there

Well, folks, if we can’t see God’s work through all our pain, we need to look closer or clean our glasses.  Because it is when we suffer the most, God hands us the gift of abundant strength.  And, when we endure those moments of “out of the blue” grief, perhaps God is reminding us to retake his hand.

The passages we travel and the changes they cause can put us in a tailspin.  Sometimes we grow weary and full of resentment or crumble from the weight of despair.  Yet, at some point, most of us pick ourselves up and continue down the road.

We learn to value life because of loss.  I appreciate that even though I don’t often see those I love the most, I know they are still there, still a flight away, and thank God for the invention of Facetime.  Faith allows me to see my brother and the rest of my family in my dreams and know they are alive in paradise where ‘loss’ is not a word.

Friends who have moved away or traveled different paths are forever in my heart, and lost loves are still loved.   Yes, we will never physically see some folks again, yet they are still a part of who we are.

Finding those we lost

After I began writing, many of my columns were published in USA Today Tennessee newspapers.  When I was fifteen, my family moved to Georgia from McMinnville, Tennessee, where we had lived for seven years, and I never returned for a visit.     After my first column was published with the byline Lynn Walker Gendusa, I received a note from a reader.

“Are you the same Lynn Walker who left McMinnville after 9th grade?”  After affirming I was, my reader was a childhood friend to whom I waved goodbye almost 60 years ago.  Since then, other lost pals have contacted me.  How grateful I am for the chance to now wave, “Hello.”

We mourn, suffer, lose those we love, and rise to the challenge of living because God gives us the strength to do so.  He reminds us that because of Him, there are no final goodbyes if only we believe.

“Let not your heart be troubled….”  John 14:1

Pie and Ice Cream in Heaven

Occasionally, there are times when I wish I could laze away a day.  Do nothing, think of nothing, ignore the chores, and not require food.  The only problem with the whole scenario is that, thanks to my father, I am not made that way.   And, Lord, to miss a meal might send me to the hospital!  Again, thanks to dear ol’ Dad!

When my father passed away in 1999, I informed my mother, “Don’t worry, Mom, daddy will be back if they don’t offer pecan pie and ice cream in heaven!”  So, just for you folks out there who are concerned, there is ice cream and pie above the clouds; Dad didn’t return.

My father believed in working hard at whatever endeavor one attempted throughout life.  Sitting down was never encouraged.  “Pull your share and contribute to humanity” was a Walker family mantra.  As far back as I can recall,  our Walker clan were hard workers and fearless doers.  I’m proud of that heritage, except when I get bone tired when the doer in me does not sit.  Stopwatches must not be in our DNA because my cousin Bobby is like me; we never stop.

A foul word

‘Lazy’ is akin to a foul word in my family.  Like my father, it drives me nuts to see people who ‘could’ but don’t.  Most of them wind up being complainers and ill-tempered.   As we become older, it is natural for most of us to slow down, except for Bobby and me.  I can tolerate loafing just so much, and then suddenly, I want to pull the recliner out from under those sleeping, drooling, healthy crabby folks.  Don’t they know there is still much to do before they can’t?

Often, I lay in bed, dreaming of what I might accomplish if I had more time.  There are more words to say and write.  I must tell my children a million things to avoid heartache because I, unfortunately, learned the hard way.    Gosh, it is a bit unfair that wisdom mostly comes with age.  If they installed more knowledge up front, you would think we would have less regret on the back end.

I  discovered that life isn’t about my life; it’s truly about what my living will do for others.  Will my life make a tiny imprint on the earth for good?  Don’t we all need to ask ourselves that question?  Perhaps, if we did, we would make a more significant imprint than the one on the sofa. 

It doesn’t matter if we are rich or poor or somewhere in between because leaving our mark on society is not only about donating money; it is about sharing our spirit.  Bobby, Daddy, and I don’t rest due to a genetic issue, but all folks should not waste precious moments in life if we are able.

The blessing of our time

The people who made the most extensive impact in my life were not those deemed by the world “successful.”  Instead, it was those who successfully changed the world by what they did.  And folks, they didn’t stop just because they aged; no, these special ones continued until they ended.

We often say, “Well, those folks need to do this for the country!”  Or “It’s nice that those people helped others!”  It is always what “those” did.  Perhaps the correct word is “we,” not “those?”

We have a minuscule amount of time on this earth, and I am grateful for my many years compared to others who were never given a chance to live a long life.  How many children have died before seeing what tomorrow held?  How many teens pass away hours before they walk into the future?  That should prompt our appreciation of our time and humble us enough to promote personal action.

In my father’s last year of life, he struggled to walk because of circulation problems and congestive heart failure.  My parents lived in an independent living facility near me.   You could find Dad in the parking lot many mornings, walking among the cars, armed with a bottle of Windex, rags, and cleaning all the car windows. 

Until his last day, Dad followed the old Walker mantra.  And just before he passed away, I asked, “Dad are you scared?” His response, “What in the world is there to be afraid of?!”

My father had no fear of leaving earth to meet the Lord; who knew Dad lived his life helping others until he couldn’t.  Be assured that pie and ice cream are waiting for us in Heaven if we keep doing and going until we can’t.

The Tragedies of Hopelessness

As I write this column, it is a beautiful Monday, Memorial Day morning.  The birds sing while American flags proudly display their colors around our neighborhoods across America.   Folks prepare for cookouts or a day at the lake and relish time away from work.  It is a happy picture of American life, yet there is undeniable grief amid such joy.

Twenty-one white crosses rise from Texas soil, memorializing the children and teachers who died in an explosion of gunfire.  A white supremacist killed 10 innocents in a grocery store in New York.  Violence injured teens in Tennessee, and an intoxicated boat driver killed a family on a river in Georgia.  This is just a brief synopsis of a few weeks in the life of a saddened America. 

Why do we seem at a crossroads of either rising above our pain or just giving up?  Some events seem too much to bear.  Suicides, violence, racism, division, bullying, and complex mental health concerns increase every minute.  Why?

The danger

I am no minister, scientist, doctor, or counselor, but just a person who believes one thing to be true…. Rising hopelessness is killing our spirits and is a danger to our country.

When people feel hope is gone, there is no one to listen to them, no escape from poverty, and God is missing, evil breeds, and light becomes darkness.  Violence is born of hopelessness.  Suicide is giving up hope.  When people are bigots, they breed division and bullying.  People who cause anguish to swell in our society bring us all despair.

Conspiracies, bogus theories, and errant information have contributed to a lack of faith in each other, thus creating more uncertainty and confusion.  Too many are so enthused to locate others who agree with their beliefs that they refuse to check the facts before spreading falsehoods.  

When our elected officials cannot reach a consensus for the betterment of all Americans, they contribute to the falling spirit of our country.  Some politicians are frantically trying to keep their jobs instead of doing their jobs to give others hope in our democracy.  I believe, perhaps, the uncompromising two-party system, lack of Congressional term or age limits, and the special interest groups today are becoming destructive to society.

Spread joy not anger

Each week I post my column on my website and on Facebook.  While I am on social media, I will scroll to view pictures, read quotes, or see what my pals are doing.  One friend posted that because nasty opinions made her so sad, she would instead share poetry to calm her and others down.  Another pal from Tennessee always posts images of cool cars or old scenes of American culture.  A new grandmother displays her chubby, precious little grandboy with his sparkling blue eyes and a big smile.  These shared images bring us joy and harmony because we can identify with each one.

Yet, others are posting rants over policy, collusions, or tirades against anything too liberal or too conservative.  Hate groups attempt to topple each other while children also read the ire, filth, and misinformation.  So, one gets a like or a love emoji for their diatribe, but do they not understand how words can affect those on the brink of hopelessness?  Do they not understand that words can kill? 

To defend their actions, they may say, “Oh, I am just trying to help America because I love her!”   Do they not love America’s people, or do they just love those who share their views?  How does hate aid our nation?

Putting God first

The answer to all hopelessness is God.  Perhaps He is letting us see what division, hypocrisy, defiance, bigotry, disease, and war will create in real-time.  Don’t we know they all produce pure agony?

Before we spread vitriol, put God first, and soon hopelessness will wither, and faith will rise. 

A belief in tomorrow is why soldiers go to war.  Our defenders are black, white, Latino, Asian, Republicans, and Democrats who fight together to protect our freedoms.    Many give their lives for us to have a sunny day filled with flags flying.  Perhaps, before we decide to cause more separation, remember that unity saved America from enemies.

Before we spread more doubt, lend a hand to hope.  Help God to build faith not only in Him but in each other.  Urge members of Congress to promote goodwill for our citizens so that our children will continue to live in a tolerant democracy.

Let’s try new endeavors, compromise, and respect to give hope a chance.  We will continue to live amid darkness where crosses rise from the earth bearing sorrow without us doing our part.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord.  They are plans for good and not for evil.  To give you a future and hope.”  Jerimiah 29:11

One Lone Man

“I never thought I would view such horror in the year 2022!” How often have you heard those words since the Russian invasion began in Ukraine?  

Indeed, we assumed that we had evolved above tyranny, evil, and barbaric dictators as a society.  We also thought there could never be another Adolph Hitler or Stalin.  Leaders of nations today would undoubtedly fear repeating the destruction of World War II and any threat of nuclear warfare.  Certainly, humankind has learned its lessons from history.

Yet, one lone man rose from the bowels of immorality, unchecked and unleashed, to render havoc and instill terror into the world.  How did that happen? 

Is it, in part, due to us wearing blinders?  When we become comfortable and complacent, something will usually shake us up.  We are reminded that we might not be as safe as we thought, as invincible and that our corner of the world is not all that matters.  We watch the atrocity of babies dying and parents fleeing their bomb-torn Ukrainian villages.  Thus, we realize the comfort of life can disappear within days due to the actions of one lone man.

A man who has lost compassion, love, humility and has sold his soul for power.  Hatred holds court, and lies fill the air where he roams.  His nation is his and his alone, and he shows no remorse for forcing his citizens into isolation and uncertainty.  He is the revival of the tyrant, and he is Vladimir Putin.

Revival of tryranny

I am bothered by those Americans and others who hail his name and extol his authority, and I pray they are a minuscule percentage of folks because praising a dictator slaps freedom in the face.  These individuals kick the graves of all the fallen soldiers who died on battlefields to keep us from falling prey to monsters.  There is no excuse for favoring someone who is so blatantly heinous.

Party politics should never be played in this game.  It is the one issue we should all agree upon.  If we cherish American democracy, we must be on the side of liberty for all people and a renewed determination to keep it that way.  We cannot sit in our lounge chairs, kick back, put on our blinders, and not be affected by what goes on elsewhere.  Who knows when a despot might arrive on our shore and attempt to sabotage our corner of the world.  

Turning blind eyes to evil and those who perpetrate it fuels the tyrant.  Sometimes our bravery is just absolutely required.  Courage to speak up, denounce those who spew hatred, and stop the madness of dissent. 

Extremism is increasing, and a threat will rise from these extreme corners.  I believe folks drawn to hostility are those who have been hurt and harmed at some point in life, and they search for a place that accepts their ire.

Common sense or truth is lost on them, and there are no words to change their minds.  Anger rules, animosity reigns, and wickedness will grow.   They twist facts into lies, turn God’s words to ashes, and swear they do so to save us all.  We must open our eyes to their malevolence  … now.   

Demise of Democracy

Democracy can fall to dictatorship, as proven by history.  There are many reasons, including a new crisis or economic failure, but three stand out as warning signs.

 Political polarization is one main contributor.  When competing political sides no longer want to cooperate with one another, they open the doors to allow violent or extremist groups to take over politics instead.*  

Democracy fails when a nation’s elites decide democracy no longer works for them.  When these elites feel that losing an election may mean forfeiting their power and influence over a country, they may seek to take over the nation by force.*

Apathetic citizens are another reason we will lose our freedom.  When we believe our vote no longer counts, our words do not matter, and we are not brave enough to stand firm, we invite tyranny home.

Hitler was one lone man who manipulated many, including educated intellectuals, into submission and cowardness.  Such monstrosities should never be repeated.   If the American majority believes in love, giving, compassion, and hope, we must be bold enough to open our eyes and close our doors to those who have no concept of freedom, faith, and fairness.  

Christ was one lone man whose gentle words influenced our world, changed our hearts, and was brave enough to die for us.   He condemned hatred, detested bigotry, despised hypocrisy, and preached kindness.

One lone person can create a hell on earth or bring heaven to our world. 

Which lone man would you ask to enter your home?

* Study by Alec Medine for Renew Democracy Initiative

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Do Good While Standing Strong

Daddy always said, “The only problem with living long is watching others go away while I still stand strong.”   He was right about that. 

Many in my family lived long lives, and they were surrounded throughout their days with an abundance of good friends.  However, when the Lord finally called them home, few friends were left to bid them farewell. 

My friend, Allison, passed away this week.  She was quite a force in the writing world who edited words, wrote books, and inspired many with her wisdom.  She was one of the first who thought a southern chic could tell a story she could promote.  Today, because she believed in me, I am blessed to see my essays in senior publications throughout the country. 

I met her only once in Denver, but one didn’t need to physically see Allison to know her.  Her humor, skill, and enthusiasm permeated through her letters and into our hearts.  What a gift she was to the publishing world and to me.

Her earthly life is over, but boy, did she do good while she was was here!

The purpose of our journey

Isn’t that what our journey here is all about?  Doing good while we are here?  No matter how long we live, the point is to live well.  Living to be old should never become a primary purpose.  A person who lives richly by caring for others with sincere devotion lives forever.

One of my best friends passed away at the age of 52.  I can quietly be in my office, recall something she said, and start laughing because the girl was such a hoot.  She was cheerful, loving, kind, and could sing like an angel.  What an impact she had on so many because she lived well. 

Ryan White, the courageous child, infected with AIDS in the early days of the outbreak, spent all his remaining days teaching others about the disease.  He died one month before his high school graduation, leaving this earth a hero.  Even though his years were short, long will live his spirit.  How many have been blessed by Ryan White’s short life?  Countless.

The sum of our life is not counted in days but in deeds.  I have said this many times, but I will share my theory again.  I believe our tenure on earth is a test to see if we can fulfill the purpose of why we are here.

Facing the Professor

Those who promote ill will, violence, and prejudice of any type, fail.  We get a big fat F on our report card if we are self-righteous, cantankerous, complainers, or are hate-filled.  We will leave no exemplary, lasting footprints for loved ones to follow. 

All of us make mistakes in life, and we sin and often fail miserably.  But in the end, if we atone and truthfully try, we just might pass the final exam because we overcame our errors with integrity, kindness, and humility.  That is what living well is all about.

We wake every morning, never knowing if it will be our last day to accomplish those things we desire to do.  When we procrastinate, waste  our days, and spend precious time doing little for others, we come to the end of the road saying, “I should have, or why didn’t I do…?”  And guess who is waiting at the stop sign?

How do we face God with a failed report card?

Leave your footprint

All of us are blessed to have the opportunity to take the test.  We are given a chance in life to be caring and help humankind.  It is usually bigotry, money, fame, power, and evil that thwart our purpose and cause us to ignore the teacher.  The Holy Professor taught us how to live well, be happy, and leave a positive imprint on the earth.  

A boy was born long ago and lived a short earthly life.  For a mere 33 years, he taught us that love, faith, compassion, understanding, forgiveness, and thankfulness were the keys to living a good life.  He was not wealthy, had no awards, and dared anyone to judge others.  He suffered on a cross, died, and rose again for us all to follow in his mighty footprints. 

And to this day, 2022 years later, He still walks among us, teaching in whispers as he goes.

So, if I pass the test and join those friends and family members who received A’s for achieving their purpose well, my sadness will be gone.  And, I will rejoice in their accomplishments, praying I, too, left a footprint on the earth.

What will you do well today while you are still standing strong?

Salute the Vietnam Warriors

While recently thumbing through my old Tennessee and Georgia high school yearbooks, tears pooled in my eyes.  Yes, they were all there, young men with hope in their eyes and their youth on the edge of disappearing. I wonder what they would have accomplished in their lives if they had the promise of a future.

 Would they laugh as I do at the silly antics of a grandchild?  Would they still possess the impish grin the camera caught in the 60s? Maybe Howard would have made it onto the big screen with his good looks.  Perhaps Bobby would be a renowned physician today, and Larry would have climbed up the ranks in his beloved army before retiring to Florida. 

However, the maybe’s left when they all boarded a military bus to serve our nation while a war escalated in Vietnam.  They, like so many, returned only to be laid to rest in their hometown cemeteries before they had a chance to see what could have been.

Bearing a scar

These young men joined the service as so many do to become soldiers of war.  They are the elite among us who, I believe, God anoints with an extra dose or more of courage.  These soldiers go blindly into battle to defend the land they love.  They steadfastly look out for each other and often give their lives to save their comrades.

The Vietnam warriors were no different in character and honor as those who bravely fought for our Independence.  They held the same gritty spirit as those who battled before them in the Revolutionary War or World War I and II, as well as all other conflicts.  Thousands of soldiers have responded to the call to serve, but the warriors of Vietnam bear a scar.

By the time our troops were pulled from Vietnam in 1973, over 52,000 young soldiers had perished.  Between 1964 and 1975, 2,709,918 men and women wore an American military uniform in Nam.  240 of them were awarded the Medal of Honor as Bobby Ray was for saving many lives, except his own. Of those killed in combat, 61% were younger than 21. Just out of school, just beginning to dream, just starting a future.   

Also, in 1973, America’s electorate was deeply divided, and some say the military was demoralized.  So, for those who returned from the rice paddies and trenches, ships, the skies, and prisons of Vietnam, there were no homecoming parades or bands of screaming, happy folks in Times Square to greet them. Instead, Vietnam was simply over for America.

Never blame the warrior

Today, those fallen Vietnam soldiers are immortalized on a wall in Washington, D.C.  For those who lost friends or loved ones whose names are etched in this wall, the war is not forgotten, nor is the sacrifice.   We are the older generation now, and our young faces are alongside those in the yearbooks who remain ageless. 

Today, 610,000 courageous Vietnam Veterans are still walking among us.  Of those who risked their lives in Southeast Asia, 97% were honorable discharged even though many were drafted for service.

Even after hearing countless stories of the heroism and bravery shown by our American troops during the second-longest war in our history, they returned home to be treated harshly by many for just doing what they were asked to do. Unfortunately, this response created a loss of self-esteem and grief for many young soldiers, leading to future deep-seated problems.  

Our worst divisive behavior is the scar of Vietnam.  The wound was not caused by the soldiers.  The injury was inflicted by the free citizens who remained on American soil that turned their anger toward those sent to battle.  

We can fairly charge those in government or politics for most anything but not the bravest, best, and the most elite among us. So we should never blame the warrior, nor the ones who suffer and give the most.  Nor the over 150,000 who were wounded in Vietnam, or the prisoners of war, or those missing in action.

Take the time to notice the brave soldiers

I look into the eyes of my framed Vietnamese doll my brother sent me in 1965.  She has my POW/MIA bracelet around her waist to remember another pilot whose remains were finally located a few years ago.   My brother lived until 1998, but his time spent in Vietnam was always fresh in his heart.  I, too, vow to honor those who gave so much to receive so little.  

Memorial Days will come and go, but this year stop for a moment, look around, and notice the brave soldiers of long ago and celebrate them.

Maybe it will help heal the scar a divided nation caused and remind us never to produce such a wound again.  

“It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died.  Rather, we should thank God that such men lived.”  General George S. Patton, Jr.