Hearing the Whispers that Save Us

Like most of us, we become distracted by all the goings-on in our lives.  Money, politics, work, and obligations pull us in different directions every moment of each day.  We are exhausted by the constant barrage of bad news and meanness floating around us, intent on dragging us further into a downward, chaotic spiral.  Where do we find shelter and relief?

First, we must believe in our higher selves that answer a calling deep within our souls.  A faint inner voice tells us to live responsibly and search for the whisperer. 

We fight tooth and nail over politics and policies.  Many judge folks by race, class, or religion and cause harm because they do.  Criminals and gangs emerge from discontent, poverty, greed, and sin, creating danger.  Conspiracies rise to a fever pitch from our inability to see the truth, causing confusion and distrust.  And all are used as an attempt to silence the whispers.

Good will flow

As I walked yesterday, I noticed a tall oak tree’s branches swaying in the breeze.  Its leaves gently rocking against a bright blue October sky created a peaceful, reflective moment.  I immediately thought about those in Florida whose lives hang in the balance, and peace seems unattainable.  Under the same blue sky, they see nothing but devastation, chaos, and despair.    

 We all viewed Florida neighbors helping neighbors and leaders of different political parties leading as they should.  Because in the end, it is not our anger that saves us from harm; it is our kindness.  In times of great need and peril, evil is defeated with goodness because somewhere deep within our souls, we hear a voice.  And immediately, we rise above our conflicts and prejudices.

Money will flow from our collective generosity to help rebuild Florida communities and restore hope.  Prayers will light up heaven from countless compassionate hearts.  For a while, during these dark days, we will concentrate on others who are less fortunate, and our complaining will subside for a moment.  Our selfishness will abate, and our ire will be subdued because we rose to our higher selves until the distractions return.

A powerful noise

Evil is a powerful pull, and it resides in us all.  Our earthly battle between the devil on one of our shoulders and the angel on the other will continue.  It is the devil that distracts and divides us.  Evil fuels anger and energizes our self-importance, influencing our bad decisions.   But the worst malicious act is the noise it creates to deafen the faint voice of The Almighty, The Whisperer, The Redeemer, and The Divine.

Do we only hear and obey God when horrific events occur?  Or do we only listen to his voice when death is at our door?   His voice isn’t loud or boastful but soft and gentle.  He doesn’t yell or demean; instead, he uses His whispers to try to save us from those who do.

God is not for emergency use only.

One of the most significant issues in our country today is our inability to hear God’s voice in our daily lives.   His instructions for living a peaceful life are written page after page, not just to read but to employ.  Through every word, he is urging us to give, not take.  He tells us to love one another and not hate.  He teaches us how to destroy evil with faith, love, and compassion and to put on His armor to shield us from the enemy.

Our relief

We are begged to rise to our higher selves and become followers of His, not a hate-filled group touting anything else.  And if we can’t hear and see God in the rhetoric we hear, in our own voices and actions, it is wrong, and we know it.   

Where do we find shelter and relief?  It has always been in the arms of our creator.  Our sanctuary is our faith when we are lost and afraid.  Comfort and healing reside in the whispers within us if we only listen.  When we instinctively rise to our awakened spirit to aid those in need, the raging tide in our souls begins to calm.  

Wars battle on, injustice will continue, Mother Nature will have her way, and evil will forever be among us.   However, if we are still for a moment and hear the whispers of God, we will discover hope, relief, and tranquility.

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in times of trouble.  Therefore, we will not fear, though the earth gives way and mountains fall into the heart of the sea.”  Psalms 46: 1-2

Our Fears Can Defeat Us

Man, do I hope someone out there reads this story before it is too late to be able to read!

A remarkable family man who is intelligent, financially secure, happily married, and full of humor is dying.  Those who love him are heartbroken and know there was so much more he was meant to do. 

Yes, there were warning signs, red flags, and sirens blaring.  However, no matter how brilliant some perceive themselves to be, many will ignore the oncoming train, the inevitable crash, because of fear.  My friend made a choice to let fear win.

He chose to ignore his sudden loss of appetite, diminished energy, and the changes seen in his mirror’s reflection.  The fear of hospitals and distrust of doctors became paramount as his body began to fail.  Family and friends begged him to seek medical help, but his stubbornness intensified while his health declined.

Finally, paramedics rushed him to the hospital after years of worsening illness.  Of course, cancer had ravaged his body, and death was imminent.  Too late to live, too late to repair, too late to put fear aside…. too late.

And God is going to be unhappy.

No Coincidence

The word “fear” is stated in the Bible precisely 365 times, ironically, the same number of days in a year.  Coincidence?  I doubt that because fear robs us of what God wishes for us daily.  The Lord expects us to live up to what he expects of us.

Everything He created was to enable us to live to the nth degree so that we may finish our job here on earth.  Each of us is given talents to help another, whether we are teachers, doctors, scientists, or builders.  Who gave us our skills? 

Many of us will heed the warning signs of illness, obtain help, and move onward even if we struggle, and that is what is expected of us.  When we let fear be in charge of our fate, we will fail to thrive.

How many have mentally fallen because they were afraid to ask for support?  How many would still be alive if they had made efforts to receive medical aid?

We arm ourselves with guns to protect ourselves from dying at the hands of those bad folks, but many of us do not arm ourselves with the knowledge to escape the sting of unnecessary death.  The only way to replace fear is with trust not only in God but in one’s own wisdom.  And the only way to obtain such insight is through God.

Our Outlook

Another man was 68 years old when he climbed a ladder and began to have chest pains.  Immediately he called for assistance, and before he reached the hospital, his heart stopped.  Medical teams rushed to revive him, and he returned home after a long stint in the hospital.  He lived until he was 85 without an ounce of fear in his soul.

On his deathbed, his cardiologist said, “Ray, you are the only patient I have that has always done what I asked him to do to stay healthy.”  My father’s reply, “Well, doc, I had more living to do!”

And God was happy.

Our duty as the Lord’s children is to help not only ourselves and those we love but to do all in our power to live fully until we are called home.  Our divine plan for each of us is to serve.

Finish your purpose

I call my friend, Dan, the new Biblical Job.  He has been bombarded with challenging health issues for years.  Even though he is tired and weary from all the battles, Dan is a retired preacher who trusts God to determine when his earthly assignment is done. 

Dan understands that he is still an active minister who teaches us how to replace anxiety with trust and courage.  He preaches, even in sickness, how to press forward because there is a reason for you and me.

As we gain wisdom through faith, we are encouraged to believe…. “even though we walk through the shadow of death, we will fear no evil, for God is with us and his rod and staff will comfort us.”

But until we walk through death’s door, we must put fear aside to finish our life’s journey.

So, whoever out there needs a bit of encouragement to receive help or aid of any kind, do not waste time and get moving because you have a purpose. 

Defeat fear before you become a victim of “too late.” 

Repair the broken Cup with Respect

As we watch a nation mourn its Queen and fill its streets with flowers and tears, we are in awe of the love and reverence shown to Queen Elizabeth.  Whether or not one agrees with the monarchy is not the issue.  But the point is how much the world is captivated by the outpouring of appreciation and respect.

Behind an antique hutch glass door in my foyer lies an exquisite bone china teacup and saucer.  My mother, Elizabeth, cherished her gift from England sent in 1953.  Years later, she was not so enamored with her two children when we broke the treasure due to a royal pillow battle.   

Mom was never a sentimental person, but the Queen’s Coronation Cup was special to her for some inexplicable reason.  Perhaps, it was because the two Elizabeth’s shared a sense of refinement, dignity, and fairness.

If anyone in our family treated others with disrespect, bullying tactics, or unkind gestures, we were placed in a tomb of shame.  Disappointing our Elizabeth was heartbreaking.

A place of honor

Once Mom carefully repaired the fractured cup, it was displayed in a place of honor for the remainder of her life.  

Last Sunday morning, I poured my coffee, turned on the television, and retrieved the paper off the porch.  Of course, the televised news was broadcasting the throngs of the British waiting hours in the queue to pay last respects to their Queen.

 During a commercial break, I was told Herschel Walker beat his wife and that Raphael Warnock ran over his wife’s foot during a dispute.  Finally, the political ads end, and thankfully,  I am transported back to London, where people throw flowers instead of dirt.  A place where today folks line their streets in unity compared to ours that clearly show a divided line. 

Many of our politicians have stripped decorum, traded decency for votes, and replaced reverence with shouts of anger.  Some representatives seem to prefer duty to party before service to the country.   

 For years, bullying in politics has become an acceptable norm, and those who are supposedly our leaders are leading our nation onto the path of shame. 

Why am I not represented?

None of this politically inane behavior represents me or the American majority.  I am not a bully because my mother taught me to respect others.  How many millions believe in kindness, courtesy, and civility over winning?  My Christian faith does not condone bullying and tactics to incite hatred to gain power, nor does it allow us to spread such without dire consequences.

Where has civility, pride, duty, and dignity gone?  I presume to Great Britain where we observe it from afar.  We must demand with our votes and words to return pride to our shores, government, and homes.  

 I am confident I am not the only person who believes we can shape our country into shape with integrity.  Aren’t we tired of the old political pandering and rhetoric, turbulent exclamations, and conspiracies that have befallen us?  With all my heart, I believe those who disrespect others do not deserve to represent most of America or me.   This country is full of outstanding and decent people who believe in truth, love and doing the next right thing for others.

Our children desperately need to understand the value of virtue, commitment, and grace, and adults with wisdom must teach it by how they behave.    We can better focus on the good in us and denounce those who represent the worst in all of us.

Great leaders teach

 “It has always been easy to hate and destroy.  To build and to cherish is more difficult.”  Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II

“I am not bound to win, but I am bound to be true.  I am not bound to succeed, but I am bound to live up to what light I have.”  President Abraham Lincoln

“I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word in reality.  This is why right, temporarily defeated, is stronger than evil triumphant.”  Reverend Martin Luther King

“Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching, show integrity and dignity.  Saint Paul to Titus

These are the type of champions that continue to lead even in death.  Their words are forever immortalized and true. 

I stop to gaze at the English treasure in my foyer.  The face of a Queen bedecked in jewels adorns the cup.  A royal who lived up to her duty for seventy years and did so with dignity, honor, and respect.  She is gone now, along with St. Paul, Abraham, Martin, and my mother.  But they gave us all hope that there will be others who will rise to meet the standard by which they lived.

Let us search for the righteous but not from afar.

Searching for War to Find Peace?

My father said years ago, “When America seems lost or divided, angry or hopeless, a war or tragedy usually is the cure.” 

“Dad, that is so sad.  Why does it have to be that way?  It seems totally ridiculous to me!” I frustratingly replied.

His one-word response as he walked away was, “Humans.”

However, history does seem to back Dad’s theory.  After September 11, 2001, an entire country wept.  Political discord was forgotten, differing opinions lost importance, and we joined hands in prayer.  We grieved together, determined to unify, defend, and protect the integrity of America. 

Today, will it require such a disaster to return us to our senses?  Why does it take horror to shake up our humility, dignity, and appreciation of freedom?

We have allowed disease, politics, conspiracies, distrust, and rage to weave their destructive ways into our everyday lives.  Violence roars, people shout, and solutions seem unattainable because we keep committing the same human errors.  We often cast aside our spiritual nature to defend our personal ideologies, and thus, we weaken our entire country. 

Love of country?

 A common theme from all political sides is, “I love my country, so I will fight for what I know is right!”.  If we sincerely love our country, shouldn’t we be open-minded and listen to others’ ideas to solve our common problems?  

January 6, 2001, should have shocked all of us into change.  I am happy that my dad wasn’t here to see Americans attacking Americans, breaking into our Capitol, and obliterating integrity.  

The first few hours after the insurrection, Congress stood together in resolve and determination to defend democracy.  We all heard their words, but bias, partisan politics, and policy disagreements have destroyed such will and again become selfishly human.  So, I presume we will continue to search for war instead of peace to find peace. 

How could we let such an event slip under the rug, deny its truth, unsee what we saw, and continue to deepen a divide?   

We want violence to end in our streets, yet we want to ignore political violence and disrespect.   Death, chaos, and destruction at any time are the same; none of them is okay.  What is the difference between a young man shooting a friend over an argument gone sour and a mob on a mission to possibly kill over a dispute?  Nothing.

Wrongs are not right

We can’t make wrongs right, no matter how many blinders we wear.   Will it take a bomb to shake us to the core this time?  Will we need to endure another attack on democracy by a foreign government to save us from going to war with each other?

Let’s instead raise the bar on our humanity by bringing integrity back into our nature.  Hate-fueled speeches, ranting posts on social media, and political parties pouring gasoline on bonfires should end for us not to self-destruct.  I know that is a lot to ask, but it all begins with becoming a better human.

Honor, virtue, and valuing America should become our new mantra.  We start working our way down every street to pour our commonality into the fissures of our land.  Our ancestors fought for us to be able to vote differently and have opposing ideas, but the goal is to use such as an advantage to build and not a reason to destroy.    

From the halls of Congress to the news outlets, to the right wings, left wings, and those in the middle should raise the bar of intelligence, courage, and respect.  Stop blaming and start becoming something other than just human.  Because being just human just isn’t good enough.  Isn’t that a more acceptable option than disaster?  It takes work, humility, and compromise, but isn’t that better than defeat?

Perfecting a union

A more perfect union begins with each of us perfecting who we are and what we can do.  It isn’t rocket science, but it still takes study, concentration, and a pure heart.  It requires voting for leaders who will bring honor to our nation and build American pride.

Americans died on September 11, 2001.  It began as a typical work day for innocent people, and by the end of the day,  an enemy had changed America.  On December 7, 1941, a navy captain began his day by reviewing his orders while sipping a coffee.  By the end of the day, Americans had changed into warriors, defenders, and champions of liberty.

Humans.  We are flawed and do dumb things, but if we can unify without tragedy, we have raised the bar, pleased God, and showed the world our greatness.  That is the medicine for the cure, the hope for tomorrow instead of war and repeating human history.

The Years of Septembers

Oh my, it’s September again!  I love this month with its beginnings of all things good.  September flushes out the heat of summer and ushers in the cool breezes of fall.  Toward the month’s end, faded green hills turn to shades of brilliant ambers, reds, and golds.  Of course, football frenzy is always welcomed, bringing out the happy crazy in all of us.  Likewise, Hobby Lobby is stocking its shelves with Christmas merchandise, which always prompts the cheery in Santa and me.

 Yes, I greet September happily, except by October 1st, I have turned another page on age.  However, since the alternative is not good, I reckon I will need to live on with the number.  

Seasons change, and so do we.  As the years’ pass, we become wiser or grouchier, set in our ways, or open to new ideas.  We can either believe we are owed the world or that we owe the world.  Older folks can become complainers and cranks or thankful and filled with joy.  And the longer we live, the worse or better we become, so what will it be?

Celebrating quarter-centuries

When I turned 25, I worked with a friend born three days after me.  We celebrated our quarter of a century by exchanging little gifts, laughing with our coworkers, and wondering what the future would hold.  “Maybe we will still be in touch when we reach the half-century mark!” We both exclaimed.

Our lives traveled in separate directions, and there were years when we lost touch.  Yet, sure enough, when 50 rolled around, “Happy Half-Century!” the voice shouted over the phone.  We didn’t speak much about our different worlds or what had transpired, but we, instead, were amazed at how quickly 25 years became 50.  “Well, maybe, we will make it to the three-quarter century birthday!  I’ll call you if I am here!” He said with a chuckle.

And by October 1st, we will have made it.  More than likely, there will not be another celebratory shout-out in 25 years.  How quickly did it all pass?  Faster than a minute phone call.

A pearl encounter

Years ago, I typically joined my mother for Sunday brunch at her independent living facility.  We were in line at the omelet station when I overheard a disturbing conversation.  The gentleman just ahead of us was loudly berating a young server and complaining bitterly about the state of his less-than-hot sausage.  When I heard him, I felt the fury rise, and mother immediately noticed it. 

Or course, I am an easy read.  My face turns red, my eyes widen, and even the birds fly because they know I am about to spew.  Mom grabbed my arm, “Lynn, I know you want to say something, but it won’t do a bit of good.” 

“Why, Mom, is he allowed to get away with being cruel?” I asked.

“He is a grumpy old man set in his ways, and his ways have been foul for a while.  One can either become as he is or not.  But once a complaining, whining, curmudgeon is born of age, only the Good Lord can change them.”  And with her finger pointed to my face, she added, “Never become one.”

It is funny that some pearls of wisdom stay with you, and Mom’s idea about aging was a definite pearl.  Becoming a disrespectful grump is an affront to being given the gift of a long life.   

Now that I am the age of the old man at the omelet station, I still want to kick him in the shins or elsewhere.  One thing that makes those birds scatter in my world is watching folks’ hearts turn to stone with bitterness.

No need to add discontent

We have much discontent in this world, and it will take all ages and at every stage to calm the anger.  Nor do we need a bunch of aging grouches to stoke the flames of rage.  We, the supposedly wiser ones, could do much more to create a more peaceful world.  We build respect and honor if we become more gracious, compassionate, and kinder as we add years.    

Keeping an open mind, a humbled heart, and a thankful soul will keep us younger than any youth elixir, facial cream, or crepe eraser on the market.  Age has nothing to do with what can be seen but rather a reflection of the unseen soul.

By the end of September, in 25 years, I hope to be sitting on a cloud with Mom, and perhaps a phone will ring.  I hear a familiar voice say, “They don’t have birthdays up here, but we made it to Happy, didn’t we?!” 

And in the end, isn’t that where the years are supposed to take us?   

Only White Gladiolas for Grandpa

I stood in front of the kitchen sink gazing out my grandmother’s (aka Grandpa’s) window. The garden was splendid in its full summer glory. Dew settled on the corn stalks, green beans, and plump red tomatoes while two rows of gladiolas reached toward heaven.

“Grandpa, why do you only grow white gladiolas each year? You know they come in different colors, right?” I teasingly questioned and continued, “Your favorite color is pink, so why not grow pink flowers?

“Well, I don’t like any other color for my gladiolas. White is majestic, spiritual, and holy. I take them to the church to be used in the sanctuary during the summer. Also, have you noticed how they seem to be reaching toward heaven?”

As we both viewed the garden, the tall stalks did seem as if they wanted to reach the pearly gates. 

“Honey, all things, including people, grow upward toward God. Everything is meant to rise from seeds, to create beauty and joy for Him.”

Fleeting pleasures

Today, I look out my window and see the tree limbs swaying in the summer breeze, the flowers still in bloom, and I recall the days when Grandpa taught me the simple meaning of life. We are here to rise, reach for God, and create joy for all, just like the white gladiolas of summer.

Like most mountain folks I knew, Grandpa lived life simply. Today we create many complicated days. We wear ourselves thin by overreaching for success in all things. Our kids need to be successful winners, and our homes should be mansions. Often, we strive for happiness by obtaining treasures and being entertained, but such pleasure is fleeting. We all know the more we accumulate, the more we want. Not all of which is necessarily bad, but too much sparkle can obscure the everlasting light we are meant to view.

Indeed, Grandpa’s garden brought our family tremendous delight. From the dinner table filled with fresh produce to laughter-filled watermelon feasts after church on Sundays. But it was not only the patch of Grandpa’s earth that reaped a harvest but also the love that grew within her soul.

Real Value

  Love today seems a bit underrated and undervalued.   In truth, love causes us to evolve and become what we are to be. If we put love first, miracles happen. When we value others as much as we possibly can, we blossom.

By teaching our children and grandchildren about love, we honor God. We produce barren earth if we promote hatred, bigotry, and anger. How many stories and opinions do we read about making America greater? In truth, our country will not reach its full potential if we do not plant seeds of respect and kindness in our gardens.  

We rise when we realize love is the key to our growth as human beings. A baby can’t survive without tender care, nor will our world.   By displaying acts of love rather than vengeance, we rise together and produce a harvest for all. 

From violence in our streets to the deep fissures in America’s hearts, we see what a lack of love and sanctity for life can cause. If we want such evil to end, we should all attempt to put love back on the front burner and let it rise to reach great heights.

Look beyond the weeds

It is not easy to put away our swords and our self-righteousness, but for the sake of others, including our young children, we need to clear our gardens of the thistles and thorns that attempt to harm us.

Some of you think, “That Lynn, she is just simple-minded and sentimental!”  Occasionally reality is blinded by complicated ‘stuff,’ and a garden can be choked and obscured by weeds. Often, we must pull the weeds, push the stuff aside, and see that deep beneath the earth is a tiny simple seed. And with love and care, it will rise to produce stunning beauty.

It was a cold February day when Grandpa left us. No garden was blooming, but my brother and I were determined to find her white gladiolas. The local florist located them and rushed them to Tennessee. We laid the basket of white flowers beside Grandpa’s grave. I looked through tears as the flowers seemed to reach heaven, where Grandpa rose to meet God finally.

  It was love that flew her there, and it is what remains with me today.

Too Big for Our Breeches?

As 8th graders in middle Tennessee, our class traveled to Nashville for our big field trip before heading to high school.   We visited the State Capital building, where we were allowed to occupy congressional member’s chairs.   I settled into a wooden seat that was not only worn but creaked, so I dared not squirm as a member of the General Assembly began to speak.  The orator scanned the young audience and then bellowed, pointing in my direction. “You, the young girl with the blonde hair in the plaid dress.”

 “Me?” I responded with surprise. 

“Do you know whose chair you are sitting in?” He asked.  “You are occupying Representative Davy Crockett’s seat!  The King of the Wild Frontier!” 

I was elated because my family was also frontiersmen from Tennessee, and my roots run deep in the state’s rocky earth. 

A good lesson

In “An Account of Col. Crockett’s Tour to the North and Down East,” written in 1835, Crockett is quoted as saying:

“I myself was one of the first to fire a gun under Andrew Jackson.  I helped to give him all his glory.  But I liked him well once: but when a man gets too big for his breeches, I say goodbye.  “

During my youth, when I became sassy or errantly believed I knew everything, the expression, “You’re getting too big for your breeches!”  was used at least once a week.  Mama always said britches instead of breeches, but the meaning is the same.

So, do I blame Davy for starting a phrase used in my family for 187 years?  Not only no, but a big NO!  

I was taught early in life that humility is necessary to live an honorable life.  And, when we become too proudful, boastful, or believe that only our thoughts are the correct ones, we face trouble.  Also, in my house, apologies were a sign of strength, never weakness.

Being brave

Let’s see, today, some are ready to kill the FBI, or maybe shoot up a town, or possibly stab a writer, blow up a synagogue, steal a few cars, run over a Democrat, and stomp a Republican.    We despise Trumpers, loathe Biden voters, and anyone who supports either.  We are beginning to detest and distrust everything about our environment, economy, and ethics.  Is our britches too tight for our own good?  Yes, they are because when we split our pants,  maybe no one will care to mend them. 

With his raccoon-skinned hat, Davy Crockett left Andrew Jackson’s side because he could no longer stomach his old friend’s policies, especially regarding the treatment of Native Americans.  He was the only member from Tennessee in the United States Congress to vote against the Indian Removal Act.   Afterward, Tennessee sent him home, but Davy never gave up.  He returned to Congress two years later, continually believing in equality and justice.   

When he was voted out of office again by Tennessee voters, he made good on his promise to move to Texas.  He never intended to fight for his new adopted home, but the King of the Wild Frontier could never resist a righteous cause.  He was killed at the Alamo at age 49, doing what he did best…. Being brave.

The whispers of a legend

We should applaud those who go out on a limb to do what is right rather than sit under a shade tree, reap the rewards, and do nothing.  I would rather die with a coon skin hat than a ruby crown on my head. And I would preferably leave something other than hate for the children I love.

There is only one person I must answer to when I leave this ground.  It is not a political party, a president, a friend, or a foe, but God almighty.  Generations will pass after me, and I pray this country will be here to house them. But, perhaps, it will not be if we don’t wear britches that fit.  Pants made of integrity and stitched with courage.

For those leaders who promote vengeance, contempt, and fear to gain power, please, for the sake of tomorrow’s America, stop.  It does not matter what political party we belong to, but if any of us believe hatred and party politics will mend America, perhaps study the Bible.  

 When I was a young girl, I sat in an old seat in the halls of the Tennessee General Assembly, and it was there, I believe, a voice whispered in my ear…

“I am at liberty to vote as my conscience and judgment dictates to be right, without the yoke of any party on me…. Look at my arms; you will find no party handcuff on them.”  The Honorable David Crockett

Under that old hat and behind that long rifle lived a wise, fearless mountain man wearing breeches that fit.

How to be “Always Cool”

Each day we hear and read, the world is full of breaking bad news. Political discourse, shootings, distrust, wars, and economic woes can put us all in a foul state of mind. Unfortunately, such a mindset can motivate us to give up or no longer care. However,  some of us are born with a will to keep trying no matter what is thrown our way. I am blessed to know a few whose spirit won over immeasurably odds and whose courage inspires many never to give up and always care.

I met Austin P. Cook when I moved to LaGrange, Georgia, in 1962. We were both rising Sophomores at the local high school. I probably weighed more than Austin at the time, and I was considered thin! His kind demeanor, accompanied by a sweet Georgia drawl, was immediately welcoming.

 Austin was one of those people who everyone liked. The most robust football players, towering basketball champions, and even the bookworms loved the little guy with the huge heart. He became known as A.C., and I believed the moniker meant “always cool.”

Never change the good

Little did we know back in the 1960s, it was not only Austin’s heart that was huge, but he possessed the courage and strength of a lion. 

Austin is a fixture at all our class reunions, remains single, and never left LaGrange. I still weigh more than he, and his southern charm never faded.

 Some things never change, nor do some folks let things change them. 

After suffering through an intense battle with COVID in the early days of the outbreak, which caused many to worry, Austin finally marched through to healthier days. We were both elated and surprised he survived.

In May 2021, Austin and his brother, Dan, decided to take a relaxing Sunday afternoon drive on their motorcycles. They were driving on a backroad outside LaGrange when Dan noticed a speeding car careening around a corner. “Watch out!” He shouted.

 In a flash, an intoxicated driver struck Austin’s bike. Little did A.C. know that his arm was not only severed, but he had sustained many other life-threatening injuries.

A familiar face

A.C. spent the next four months in hospitals, including the Shepherd Center in Atlanta. A horrific tragedy tried to take Austin’s sweet life at 73 years of age, but death had no idea who it was dealing with.

When I visited my old hometown a few months ago, I stopped at a local restaurant with a group of friends. When the side door to the dining room opened,  I saw the familiar face of my old classmate.

I jumped from my chair and rushed toward A.C.  He was walking with a cane, a smile on his face, and his brother by his side.  

With his familiar Georgia drawl and the same indomitable spirit, Austin explained the travails and triumphs of his incredible journey back to life to my friends. As he spoke, we all were astounded that he prevailed. 

Now at 75, we can still count on A. C. to be at all functions, care, and keep moving forward. He was told he possibly would never walk again,  but now he only uses a cane for balance.   He still drives his beloved Corvette, adores his friends, family, and faith, and doesn’t think much about what he lost.   Instead, Austin is thankful for the medical teams who saved his life and the support he received from his community.  

Who are the heroes?

My mother once said, “When I begin to complain or feel sorry for myself, I always think first of those who suffer more than me, have cried more than me, and are far more thankful than I will ever be.”

Yes, the world is full of whiners, complainers, distrusters, and power seekers. Such weaknesses are on display each day, and their stories become headlines.   But the crux of who we can be and who many are is found in the small-town stories of heroes who live next door or the skinny kids we once knew.

The bullies in our lives may appear to be stars to some, but the true shining light is in those who never change, even when life throws them horrors. Instead, they become beacons of hope and strength for all to follow.   They strive forward without resentment or malice, even if they walk with a cane and have only one arm.

Many folks survive brutal assaults on life, whether physically or mentally. They are the ones who inspire us to live on with vigor and charity. People with big hearts like Austin P. Cook show us the meaning of dignity, kindness, and a lion’s courage. 

 You know… those people who are “always cool.”

Note:  The inspiration for many of my stories comes from those incredible folks from the LaGrange High School Class of ’65 who still live large in my soul.  

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