Reflections…………………………………….Footprints

The two of us, my lifelong friend and myself, got in the car on a Saturday morning with no destination in mind. We were nostalgic and wanted to visit yesteryear.   Where should we start?  Immediately we realized we were brought together by parents who believed in living a Holy life with the church the center of our early years.  It wasn’t just our lives, practically everyone we knew lived lives around activities at the church or in some way related to the church. This was the footprint of our early years.

It was quite interesting as we rode together on the road to nowhere we began to reminisce of those early days with comparisons to today.  We hear reports of increasing alienation in America.  People are separated from their families by thousands of miles.  We no longer pass family histories and  real traditions from generation to generation.  Yet we yearn for a sense of connection as never before. 

My friend and I both agreed that much of the needs expressed by today’s generation are the same as we had  growing up.  We laughed when we were talking about our first date with a girl was sitting in church.  Our first ‘real date” occurred after Sunday night services and “piling” in a car with other couples to go to the ‘tastee freeze”. My friend and I spent the day looking at “footprints” of our lives.  We concluded the day sitting in the town square in the town of Covington, Georgia.  This was a familiar area for the two of us.  As we sat and observed the hustle and bustle of people going into the various restaurants, deli’s, ice cream shops, we noticed two young girls were holding hands with an elderly couple praying together. With tears in our hearts we smiled………………………………………..

As I look at the wealth of information from travels, personal articles, books, presentations and materials, I see footprints from my life. Your life will leave a trail of stories and memories in your wake. Our desire should be that we will be remembered, not for who we were or what we did, but for Whom we lived.

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REFLECTIONS…………………………………EQUALITY

Gary Coker

As I sat and watched the NCAA basketball games I could not help but notice emblazed on the side line was the word “Equality”. I think I know the definition of equality but fail to understand why the word was on the sidelines of a basketball court nor the implications. As I watched the basketball game it was evident that equality does not mean equal distribution. If it did the 10 players on the court would have been equally distributed between ‘white’ players and people of color. Not so, there was only one white player on the court. I can assure you I will not notify Nick Sabin, Alabama football coach, that the team’s offensive line must have equality of race. So, I can dismiss equality as it applies to sports. In sports, performance is the main criteria. What a novel idea. Isn’t that the principle for democracy?

Equally fascinating, as travelers boarded a United Airlines flight, the passenger asked the airline attendant, “did the pilot get his/her position due to gender, color of skin or for being the best applicant for the job”. “WOW! Did he say that?” I immediately had a flash back to the early 1970’s when I was tasked with the job of recruiting new teachers for a state school in Tennessee, and the Superintendent told me our next applicant had to be a person of color—not the most qualified, mind you, but a person of color. At the same time as this employment practice was widely prevalent, SAT and ACT college entrance scores were set at a different level, lower, to allow more diversity in college admissions. This lower score did not apply to Caucasians or people of Asian descent.

Here we are in 2021 and the same issues with which we were previously confronted are before us again. However, this time around equality has expanded. Sexuality is now front and center, and the definition of equality includes gender identity allowing biological males, who identify as female, access to locker rooms, bathrooms and showers. As of this writing, I have not heard or read of any females trying to go inside showers or locker rooms designated for men or boys. If these changes were not enough, EQUALITY now defines what we teach our children as well as the freedom to live out our religious beliefs in society.

The Equality Act before Congress is despicable. Instead of equality it would forever tip the scales of justice against the Judeo-Christian beliefs that have undergirded our nation for centuries. The legislation opens the flood gates to apply federal civil right laws to public schools and church-based ministries including Christian schools and colleges. Can you imagine the impact of a mandated curriculum requiring first, second and third graders to choose to be a boy or a girl, or neither? Can you imagine ‘genderless’ restrooms in public schools. Women’s sports would be devastated. Our society would go over a moral cliff. Every Christian’s understanding of marriage and sexuality will be eradicated.

Beware!!! The pressure to pivot will undoubtedly come. The process will be slow and gradual and will eat away at the moral fiber of who you are. It will be easy to remain silent.

Be prepared!! Be sure you know your beliefs. You are about to be challenged unlike never before. You must decide where you stand. Joshua:24:15

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Reflections…………………………………………………………………Spring

For behold, the winter is past: the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on earth, the time of singing has come and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land. The fig tree ripens its figs, and the vines are in blossom, they give forth fragrance. ………………………….. Song of Solomon: 2:11-13

The writer of the Song of Solomon makes reference to the transformation that occurs between winter and spring. I would take the passage a step forward and use the symbolism to apply to life in general. There is a transformation that has to occur as we merge from those circumstances that I refer to as the ‘Winter of Life’. As I see it:……”While in the ‘Winter of Life’ I discovered deep inside of me there was a summer”. Whether we speak from a literal transformation of ‘Winter to Spring’, the impact and behavior is the same.

The cold, gray of winter is behind and replaced by blue skies, warm days, bouquets of flowers, yards sprouting life, and trees clothed in green filled with the colors of singing birds.’ Let’s all look at Spring as new life. A new start and renewed optimism.

lf I knew the world would end tomorrow I would still plant my apple tree’

Let’s bloom where we are planted! cheers………………………………………Gary

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Reflections………………………………………………..Naia

Gary Coker

I sat at the kitchen table aware something was happening to my body. June, my wife, became equally aware that something out of the ordinary was happening. My speech had become disjointed and I was unable to talk coherently about the events surrounding me. June immediately noticed something was not right and got me in the car and rushed me to the hospital emergency room whereupon the attending ER physician noticed indications of a stroke and immediately began to administer a “clot-busting” medication, intravenously, designed to dissolve blood clots.

With a great deal of urgency, a decision was made to take me immediately to Nashville and the NeuroCare Unit of Tri-Star Centennial Medical Center. The two hour trip by ambulance was surrounded by flashing lights and sirens as we made our way to the hospital’s emergency room. The room was filled with neurosurgeons and nurses as the team of physicians planned their strategies to address the medical emergency. in the corner of this room, filled with some of the most respected physicians imaginable stood a small girl with her back against the wall. “Mr. Gary, you are going to be okay….”I heard her whisper. I very distinctly remembered tears beginning to flow from my eyes.

In retrospect, I ask myself, “who was this young girl with the ‘olive’ skin tone and the peasant-like appearance. The overwhelming mystery was the fact she addressed me by my middle name ‘Gary’. My first name is Dan, and all the attending staff, as well as all medical records record me as ‘Dan’.

After days of intensive medical treatment, I have been diagnosed as having survived multiple strokes originating in the brain. Upon my dismissal, I asked the staff to locate Naia and let me meet her. Small of stature with a very meek appearance, Naia worked as part of the housekeeping staff. When I asked how she knew my name was ‘Gary’, her only response was, “I just knew”. Her closing comment was “Mr. Gary, I have been praying for you”.

There are moments in all of our lives when something happens to open our eyes or deepen our normal sense of perception, that, if we allow them, they will change our lives forever. Sometimes momentary experiences will carry us for years, if not for the rest of our lives. The Incarnate Lord is present in this world and wants us to meet with Him. The Christ is not in books or history. He is the living Lord, and we will meet Him on our travels often in the most unexpected of disguises.

Grace…………………………………………..Gary

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Reflections……………………………………………………Behavior Management

                                                                                      Gary Coker

It was a cool Friday night in this rural Georgia town, and the local high school basketball team was playing their cross-county rival in a hotly contested game.  The first game between these rivals had been won by a single point by the rival team.  The game was being played before a sold-out crowd, everyone breathing and screaming and pushing the hometown “redskins.” With 1:25 left in the fourth quarter and the score tied I committed my fifth foul and had to leave the game. My opponent made both foul shots.

Over twenty fouls are committed in an average high school basketball game.  Fouls that break the rules of the game are called ‘personal’ fouls.  Each player is awarded five personal fouls.  Once in a while, referees deem a foul sufficiently violent or dangerous to be called ‘flagrant’. 

Once a personal foul is called, the referee points at the player committing the foul calling out his number.  The player acknowledges the foul by holding his hand up.  The referee looks at the scorer’s table and gives the player’s number.  The announcer announces the player and the foul. The opposition team gets a free foul shot.   Five fouls disqualify the player from any further play in that game.

Once in a while, referees deem a foul sufficiently violent or dangerous to be called ‘flagrant’.  A flagrant foul receives a severe reprimand from the referee with the opposing team getting two foul shots and possession of the ball. A second flagrant foul disqualifies the player from any further play.

This process is a classic example of behavior management.  The player, child or person, receives immediate feedback as to the ‘foul’ with a clear identification of what the foul involved. A warning is given that future fouls will result in some form of discipline or eventual removal from the game, i.e., time out, loss of privileges, etc.  Level two, a flagrant foul, is very serious in nature and usually involves breaking rules that have been predetermined as ‘not acceptable”. Fouls, i.e., behavior, in this area receive an immediate reprimand with clear understanding the behavior is unacceptable by removing the person (child) from the immediate activity.  As with the basketball player who understands what constitutes a foul, the child or adult has been made aware of the behavior and consequences in advance through the normal instructional process associated with the game or in life.

The game referenced in the opening paragraph was lost by a close margin of two points.   The following day, Saturday, I left my job at the local grocery store, Fred Hale’s, and walked across the street to the local drug store where I was greeted by Kent Studdard. “Hey, Coker, how about a cherry coke….my treat”.  After getting the coke and having a good discussion with Kent, I sat at a small table at the front of the drug store where Roy Malcom, Mayor and Pharmacist, came and sat with me and offered  words of encouragement .

We lost the basketball game but won in the game of life.

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Reflections:…………Do You See What I See?

Gary Coker

June and I, along with ‘lots’ of other people, gathered atop the mountain where the University of the South is located in anticipation of seeing the so-called “Christmas Star”. Astrologists had told us the planets Jupiter and Saturn would align forming what would appear to be one giant star illuminating from the sky.
As the crowd sat on blankets and stood beneath the large Cross that adorns the mountain there was an array of theories as to how long since the two planets had aligned in such a manner and how long before this phenomenon would occur again. In addition to the stars’ alignment the sunset was in full blaze. If this wasn’t enough, a quarter moon was also visible to the eye, all three events occurring at the same time. The conversations from those in attendance ran the gambit with very little reference to creation or the creator. In jest I turned to the couple standing next to me and said: “the last people to witness such an event were the wise men in Bethlehem”.
They looked at me as if I had leprosy……… “do you see what I see”?
Sometimes I am haunted by the differences in our society and how people ‘see’ things. I am convinced that many of the people observing this planet alignment saw totally different things. Thus, one person can say ‘it’s a miracle”, while another says “it’s a coincidence.”
For you see, what we see and what we hear in life depends not upon the events but rather who we are as people. It’s not what is out there but what is inside of us.
Let me ask you a question. Ask yourself what you hear this Christmas. Do you hear the Christmas carols? When you watch the 6:00 news do you see chaos and strife, or do you see people without a Shepherd? Do you see people dreading Christmas because it accentuates their loneliness? In the midst of the sounds of honking horns and people rushing for parking spots do you also hear the sound of laughter?
It is my opinion that I must hear the cry from the lonely and I must see sheep without a shepherd. I want to see the events that took place in Bethlehem that night. If I lack the spiritual seeing and hearing then I would have been with the 99 percent who were present but who saw or heard nothing out of the ordinary.

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Reflections……………………………………….Light

Gary Coker

Meteorologists and astronomers tell us we will experience a “Christmas Star”, an enormously bright celestial event that hasn’t occurred in hundred of years, not since 1226.  For the star to shine as brightly as this one will on December 21st, Jupiter and Saturn will need to align by only .1 degree.  The image will appear as one star.  Scientists tell us that the planets won’t align this closely again until the year 7541,  but you can only see it about 30 minutes after sunset!

I am sure many people will have their binoculars and stand in awe of this amazing, brilliant star lighting up the sky. 

This season of coronavirus has, in a sense, put everyone into a dark kind of wilderness, the likes of which we haven’t experienced before in our lifetimes.  As the word of vaccines begin to emerge, it is though a light has come on and we begin to feel hope.

God knows, we are a people who need light.  We need to live, to work, to function, and to feel alive. Light for us is hope.  Light for us is life. 

May the LIGHT of Jesus Christ shine in your life during this Christmas season and continue throughout your life.

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Reflections…………………………………….Thanksgiving

Gary Coker

Throughout the elementary schools of America students are reenacting the first Thanksgiving between the new settlers (Pilgrims) to America and the American Indian.  Each year this reenactment occurs and after the holiday we return to the regular curriculum. While the historical activity is open for discussion, the behavior of thanksgiving is in need of rehabilitation.

We all understand and appreciate the importance of gratitude.  In fact, this concept begins very early in life.  We teach our children to express gratitude when they receive something, they cherish, for example, candy or other ‘goodies’. “Now what do you say?” And the child learns to say “Thank you.”

In the book, “A Window on the Mountain,” Winston Pierce tells of his high school class reunion.  A group of the old classmates were reminiscing about things and persons they were grateful for.  One classmate mentioned that he was particularly thankful for Mrs. Wendt, for she more than anyone had introduced Tennyson and the beauty of poetry.  Acting on a suggestion, the man wrote a letter of appreciation to Mrs. Wendt and addressed it to the high school.  The note was forwarded and eventually found the old teacher.  About a month later the man received a response.  It was written in a feeble long hand and read as follows: “My dear Willie, I can’t tell you how much your letter meant to me.  I am now in my nineties, living alone in a small room cooking my own meals, lonely, and like the last leaf of fall lingering behind.  You will be interested to know that I taught school for forty years and yours is the first letter of appreciation I ever received.  It came on a blue, cold morning and it cheered me as nothing has for years.  Willie, you have made my day.”

Greg Anderson, in ‘Living Life on Purpose’, tells a story about a man whose wife had left him.  He was lonely, depressed and found no joy in living.  Each day he stopped at the same little diner for breakfast.  On this day, although there were several people in the diner, no one was speaking to anyone else.

In one of the small booths along the window was a young mother with a little girl. They had just been served their food when the little girl broke the sad silence by almost shouting,  “Momma, why don’t we say our prayers here?”  The waitress who had just served their breakfast turned around and said, “Ok, sure honey, we can pray here.  will you say the prayer for us?”  And she turned and looked at the rest of the people in the restaurant and said, “bow your heads.”  Surprisingly, one by one, the heads went down.  The little girl then bowed her head, folded her hands, and said, “God is great, God is good, and we thank Him for our food. Amen.”

That prayer changed the entire atmosphere.  People began to talk with one another.  The waitress said, “we should do that every morning.”

Thanksgiving is more than a holiday.  It is a way of life. Even in the midst of our problems there is always something for which to be thankful.   The year 2020 has been a year of many ups and downs.  I cannot deny the reality of the problems that exist.  Just remember the change that occurred in the restaurant when the little girl said the prayer.   It is the will of God to give thanks. A cheerful heart is medicine for the soul.

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Reflections…………………………………………….The Bonus Round

The Memorial Cross University of the South Sewanee, Tennessee

Almost daily I am reminded about the ‘good old days.’  This reminder, in addition to my aging body, is usually sent to me via social media with a litany of objects, pictures, and people from the 1950’s and 60’s.  Flashbacks of those times, things and places carry a storehouse of memories. Usually in short order I am brought back to the same unnerving reality.  I am old.

A very encouraging aspect of this kind of ‘gerontocracy’ is, never in our history has their been a stranger time to be old.  How is that, and how do you come to such a startling observation?  I concur with Mark Galli when he reminds me our best hope of unseating the about-to-turn 74-year old in the White House, is a former vice-president who, at 77 won the democratic nomination over a 78-old senator whom young people preferred in the primaries.  If elected, he will, one hopes, work effectively with the 80-year old Speaker of the House, or may be thwarted by the truculent 78-year old Senate majority leader.  Additionally, until then, several crucial rights, including access to health care and abortion, may rest in the survival of an 87-year old Supreme Court justice.  Wow, by these standards the best of my life is yet to come.

If I could draw any kind of parallel with the previous paragraph and the aging leadership in our country it would be  at the height of their power they are thrust into the most difficult times and decisions facing our nation.  As a country we have never been more vulnerable, especially  when you look at ‘who will be voting.’ we cannot relax our grip.   It is the aged, people like myself who must go the bonus round. It is the aged who must carry the baton and be sure it gets passed on.

 The irony of all ironies occurred this morning in my quiet time. (my quiet time is spent walking usually around 5:30-6:30).  Many people would call this a ‘coincidence.  Except I do not believe in a coincidence, I believe it’s’ God way of speaking to me. The verse that came to me was from Psalm 104:18…” the mountains are for stags; the rocks are a refuge for hedgehogs.”  I must be honest; I was not sure the meaning of such an obscure verse.

According to John Cassian the hedgehogs of the day  gathered in the shelter of the rocks to try to find Jesus.  It was this group who were the spiritual elite of their time, they were also a source of guidance for others.

Is it possible  we, the older generation are now the hedgehogs and have become the spiritual elite?  Is it possible,  for such a time as this we have been called to share the ‘good news”?  Is it possible,  for a time as this we, the senior citizens, are given a ‘bonus round?’  Is it possible we the aged are at the height of our power and cannot relax and allow the moment of greatest power to slip away?

IN MY BONUS ROUND I MUST PASS THE BATON.

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Reflections…………………………………………………………………………Your Mother

This is a treasure found at the hospitality shop located on the campus of the University of the South.  The paper was found crumpled up inside an old book. It was hand written and as I initially read it over, tears came to my eyes.  Wouldn’t you love to know who loved their mother so much that they would jot this with pencil in a tiny cursive on a scrap of paper.  There was no name on the paper, just some numbers scribbled on the bottom.  I thought we could all enjoy this one  treasure .

 

                                                              Your Mother

Is always with you.  She’s the whisper of the leaves as you

Walk down the street.  She’s the smell of certain foods you

Remember, flowers you pick, the fragrance of life itself.

     She’s the cool hand on your brow when you’re not feeling

Well.  She’s your breath of air on a cold winter’s day.  She is the

Sound of the rain that lulls you to sleep.  The colors of the rainbow.

She is Christmas morning.

     Your mother lives inside your laughter.  She is the place you

Came from, your first home and she’s the map you follow with

Every step you take.  She’s your first love your first friend, even

Your first enemy. But nothing on earth can separate you, not time,

Not space not even death………………………. author unknown

 

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