Reflections…………………………..Mental Health

 

“Hurry Gary, we have got to get this pie over to our new neighbor.” Pie in hand mama and I went to visit our new neighbor. Upon arrival our neighbor was most gracious and laughed when she told us she already had two pies given to her by other neighbors. After a short visit Mama familiarized her with the local churches and invited her and her husband to join us on Sunday for the services. As a young boy this community was a bedrock of Godliness.

I was saddened on my recent trips to the community, that I call home, by the wide spread prevalence of mental illness. I hasten to add the definition being used for mental illness is illegal drug use, alcoholism, and suicide. It appeared everyone I came in contact with knew someone taking illegal drugs. My immediate question is “why.”

My generation were people of faith. We accepted the miraculous, we acknowledged freedom in Christ, we experienced the forgiveness of sin and believed in supernatural healing. In this small community, and others, we look around us and see people, even believers, struggling with severe mental and drug issues. “What is going on?” It makes for awkward and limited conversation. Is it possible, “we are flying by the seat of our spiritual pants when help is needed?” Is it possible Rome is burning while we gather in our “holy huddles.” Could it be our faith is no longer public but contained within the walls of the church and has slowly stopped influencing out public spheres?

The church and the church family could and should be a center of help and information for persons suffering drug and mental issues. Pastors should have training in how to deal with these common mental health issues and maintain a current list of resources available for individuals in need. There should be a consortium of churches working together within the community and every congregation should know of the churches’ resources and outreach. It is the church that should lead the way moving beyond the whispering, the silence and the stigma associated with the problem.

For the local congregation, ministry to drug users and people with other mental illnesses will not be easy, quick or fashionable. It may not even be rewarding, but is right and fitting for people called to love as Jesus loves to serve and represent His healing grace.

The sectarian lifestyle has broken down the foundation of the community and excludes God’s creation from our service. Consequently many Christians have a tendency to curl up and moan. Our most articulate need is to keep putting forth arguments offering the position of God. What is happening will not go away. The public needs to hear the counter balance, i.e. The Truth.

Disciple: “but Jesus how will they know who we are?” “They will know us by our love for one another and the fruit we bear.”

…if you are thoughtless
…about the faithless
…you will be fruitless

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Reflections……………………………..Missionary

But daddy, you don’t understand!! People don’t do that anymore, that’s old fashion!! Sound familiar. What is happening?? It seems odd to think of parenting as a strategic ministry objective from God. What? Yes, you don’t have to go to a different part of the world to be a missionary. Parents and grandparents are statistically the most lasting influence on faith, which means our children need to hear the Good News from us on a regular basis. “……we go to church regularly. What more am I suppose to do.” The parent is the child’s first and most important teacher. If you don’t raise your children the culture will. It is an ongoing process and not a one day a week task.

According to a recent Barna Report on spiritual conversations in a digital age, children who grow up regularly talking about faith and seeing their parents integrate faith into everyday life are much more likely to continue being actively engaged in their faith as they grow older. In other words, parents who are eager to talk with their children about spiritual matters raise children who are likewise eager. While we often think of sharing faith as something we do with strangers or non-christian friends, some of the most significant and impactful conversations happen in the familiar context of home.

As of this writing I have spent the past week at “Grandparents Camp”(my definition). Five of our grandchildren, ages 3-12, spent the week with us. Early on I challenged anyone to go for a walk with granddaddy and I would treat them to breakfast at the college cafeteria. The walk is approximately two miles and I leave the house promptly at 6:30 a.m. Not expecting any “takers” I was delightfully surprise on the first morning when three eager grandchildren were dressed and ready to go at the designated time. Luke, age four, motor runs on ‘go’ all the time. He basically had to run the entire route due to the shortness of his legs. After making a short stop at the fitness center we headed for the cafeteria and breakfast. The cafeteria was fairly busy with students attending the various summer programs. Our table was surrounded with young adults and seminarians returning to the seminary for continuing education. As we were seated Luke asked if he could say “Our Father.” With my delightful blessing, Luke bowed his head with hands folded under his chin and began singing. “God, Our Father, God, Our Father, once again, once again, we bow our heads and thank you ,we bow our heads and thank you. Amen” The second day I joined with Luke and sang the prayer. The third day all the grandchildren joined with Luke in singing. As I turned to observe the people surrounding our table, many had stopped eating and in reverence waited until Luke finished.

On our way out of the Cafeteria a gentleman came over to me and made inquiry, “Are you a Priest?” My reply was, “No, I am a grandparent.”

In my early years, conversations about creation and righteous living were discussed in the context of God. The law of nature was a common thought and topic of discussion. As the father of three sons and nine grandchildren, with another on the way,  I am increasingly aware of rising secularism, and our view of everyday activities is cast outward. It is ‘out there.’ However, we must cast our view inward toward our own homes, understanding that discipleship begins right here, in mundane routines and familiar spaces. Which means each day, parents function as ministers and missionaries disciplining those to whom Christ has called us……our children.

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Reflections: ……… …………Birthday

School days, Jersey Elementary

Running barefooted in a newly-plowed field, hauling hay to the barn loft, picking cotton on a hot day, listening to the voices of friends and loved ones encouraging and serving as mentors, these behaviors are part of the growing life that I have enjoyed. Rushing across the screen of life is school, teachers, sports, special friends, events, and circumstances I hoped would never end. Wish as I may the road of life changes and gradually merges into another lane. In those early years, the Vietnam war rumbled, hippies rocked, Woodstock was a dairy farm and June and Gary were getting married. Off to Kalamazoo, Michigan—- is that really a town or a figment of my imagination? The Beatles came and went.  This culture faded like tie-dyed T- shirts but the Cokers were starting a new life.

The road signs for us changed from Kalamazoo, Chicago, Nashville, Demorest, Charlotte, Atlanta, and Sewanee, Tennessee . The billboards along the way consisted of three sons, three daughters-in-law and nine grandchildren.

Reflection has become one of my favorite and enjoyable pastimes.  As I celebrate another birthday the social media of Facebook and other technological advances make contact with friends easier  bringing to the forefront memories and an array of reflections. It is this process that produces mental gymnastics returning me to those earlier days, if only vicariously.  It is this type of experience for which I am extremely grateful and find myself guilty of riding down the road of life looking in the rear view mirror.  I wish I could have a giant ‘party’ with all the people who have crossed my path.  Suffice it to say,  I certainly have enough memories to last a life time.

left to right; Kerry, Kyle, Mom, Dad and Kris

As I look to the new year I do so with optimism and a sense of expectation.  I hope you will join with me as we travel the road of life, if only technologically. I will enjoy the ride and perchance if someway we could walk together that would be special.  I wish for you God’s richest blessings.

Thank you for the memories

“Life doesn’t have to be perfect to be wonderful”

 

 

 

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Reflections………………………………Book Review

via Reflections………………………………Book Review

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Reflections………………………………Book Review

The story is told of ancient times when a very unhappy man is a carrier of water. Each day he would make the trip to the community well and fill  large clay pots with water.  He tied the jars to a long pole and placed the pole across his shoulders.  He would then carry the jars filled with water back to his master’s house. He despised his job and wanted very much to make a change. However his master did not allow him to change and therefore he continued to make the trip two times each day to gather water for the household. He was very unhappy and his disposition carried over to everything he did. He eventually realized that while he could not change his job, his job did not determine who he was as a person. He had no control over the job the master gave him, only how he would perform it.

One day a fellow traveler motioned for him to stop. The carrier of water lifted his water-filled jars over his head and rested them on the ground.. The man said he had wondered about something for a long time. “it has to do with the clay pots,” the man said. “One jar is perfect in every way. It has no cracks, chips…the lid fits tightly. It is free from any blemish. Not a drop of water is lost from this jar. But the other jar has cracks and chips everywhere and the lid wobbles terribly. Water spills from this jar. The jar has to be half empty by the time you reach your destination. Why don’t you replace it with another jar? A new one, one more efficient!”

Looking back at the path he had just traveled, the carrier of water smiled and said with great delight, “Look my friend…..you tell me. On which side of the road do the flowers grow?

Reverend Wendell E. Metty, retired pastor, has seized upon this story and written a book titled, “On Which Side of the Road Do the Flowers Grow?” The book traces the lives of several people and the stories of their life as Dr. Metty illustrates the flowers produced in their lives. A wonderful read for self-help, recreational reading or as a devotion. Available on Kindle and hard copy.

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Reflections……………………. Joy

June, Gary, Linda and Jon Paul Kirkham

My friend, Jon Paul Kirkham, recently returned from his 10th trip to Cuba. He started this process before Cuba was friendly to outsiders, especially Americans. His mission is to share the Gospel of Christ with people who don’t know Him. Does that sound like a novel idea? Ironically, I have another friend who told me, “I no longer call myself an Evangelical.” How can two individuals professing to be Christians, who have regular attendance in church, appear almost diametrically in opposition to each other?

The world has become a banner of disrepute. Evangelism and “sharing your faith” has become disfigured by political pundits, muddled by protestors from the left and right, and brought into dishonor by self-proclaimed spokespeople who excuse inappropriate behavior and language as the necessary price for political power.

He, Jesus, told us that we are like branches and He is the vine. He promises that if we remain in Him, like a healthy branch well connected to a vine, we will bear much fruit. Imagine that—branches overflowing with clusters of grapes. What an image. He continues with this promise: “Come harvest time, the vine and the branches will both share in fullness of joy…..and My joy will be in you and your joy will be made complete.”

Upon Jon Paul’s return from his numerous trips, there is a glow about him and a pure delight of life. A stream of satisfaction, that we all dream of having, is flowing from his very being.  This type of “sharing” has shifted, and many evangelicals and believers wonder where they fit. Consequently, they remain silent about their faith. The second friend who is/was an evangelical says he feels a bit embarrassed and he has chosen to avoid the term and even the identity of being a Christian. He is not alone. The term and behavior associated with “sharing the gospel” is deeply emotional. Consequently, large number of Christians have gone silent.

Anyone who has ever gone on a spiritual retreat has experienced the joy that comes from such an activity. God’s Joy is our Joy!! Remember what Christ said to His disciples? Paraphrased: “you are going to be like sheep hanging out with wolves.” I can identify with this. “Many people are going to reject you.” Been rejected! You think the disciples were reluctant and filled with fear? I would have been. I remember my first retreat with a group of teenagers who said before we left: “do we have to go?” “this is not going to be fun,” “boring.” Upon our return from the retreat as we pulled into the school parking lot it was different from their initial sendoff. Instead, they were singing praise songs with gusto. A common comment from parents of these young people was “what did you do while you were gone?’ “ I have never seen my child so happy and joyful!” “Come harvest time the branches and the vine will both share in fullness of joy.”

At this time of year when colleges and secondary schools are having their commencement programs I would echo the words of Francis of Assisi when he said,  “Preach the Gospel at all times,  if necessary, use words.” Whatever you do stay connected to the vine. God's Joy, Our Joy: How Sharing Our Faith Changes Everything

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Reflections………………………Mom/Baton

via Reflections………………………Mom/Baton

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Reflections………………………Mom/Baton

 


The British relay team had worked diligently honing their skills for the 2012 summer Olympics.

coker_2_familydca

left to right; Kerry, Kyle, Mom, Dad and Kris

The four members of the team were considered some of the fastest in the world. One aspect of the relay race, the passing of the baton, had been rehearsed and rehearsed. The criticalness of the ‘pass’ could not be over emphasized. In the relay race one runner comes to the end of his/her ‘leg’ of the race and begins to run tandem with the next runner for a period of time until the baton has been passed.

It was with great anticipation as the stadium spectators stood to their feet to view this very exciting event. At the end of the first ‘leg’, there was a gasping of breath and the onlookers could not believe what had happened. The first runner failed to make a smooth transfer of the baton to the runner. The baton had been dropped and the team lost valuable time resulting in their failure to finish in a winning position. I use this illustration as a means of emphasizing what I consider to be a dropping of the baton when it comes to our society of millenniums (ages 30 and below).

In our society there are two curricula; a formal curriculum usually taught in school and a second informal curriculum taught at home. In a genderless society both parents must carry the baton, however, traditionally MOM carried the baton with the hidden curriculum. It was mom who reminded us of the basics, put your napkin in your lap, sit up straight, get your elbows off the table, don’t play with your food, don’t interrupt when someone is talking, wait to eat until everyone is seated, and so on. The big one was, wait to start eating until everyone has been seated. It’s mom who, more often than not, is the enforcer. The one who can control the situation with that ‘look.’ But most importantly it is the positive example she sets for her children that makes the difference. It is the same stuff she learned from her mother and her mother from her mother.

Our freedom seems to impede our baton passing. What ever happened to those ‘lady’ lessons that all young girls learned? Use proper table manners, sit up straight, grace with style, gentle, community minded, honest, nurturers, and my favorite, being a good cook.

When the race of those teen years is over what will your children be doing? They will be doing the things you have taught them. When they step on that college campus or in the world of work it will be the core values, i.e baton, you have taught that will guide them.

Mom, Dad, I encourage you to have a family meeting and make a list of all the things you do in your daily lives that represent social etiquette, respect and responsibility. Some will be best taught with Dad carrying the Baton. Some will be best taught with Mom carrying the baton. In any case they are the values you want your children to possess when they leave your home. Remember, the four R’s of a happy home. Rules and Regulations without Relationships lead to Rebellion. Don’t drop the baton. If the baton has been dropped, pick it up.

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Reflections…………………………….Spring

 

The garden spot was adjacent to our house and lay waiting for the magical moment when planting would start. My dad had made it clear we would begin the process on “Good Friday.” “Why Good Friday, Dad?” His reply was less than scientific and not filled with agricultural insight. “ We’ve always done it that way.” Besides, “the nights are warmer after Easter and the seeds come up quicker.” Therefore, in my bare feet holding a cloth pouch which mother had sewn and filled with seeds she had saved from the previous year’s harvest, I set about following the rows Dad had laid out by dropping the seeds at a prescribed distance, albeit …a half stride or a full stride apart. After the seeds were in place I mastered a technique whereby I could walk down the row with a foot on each side and push the dirt over the seed. It was the original ‘boot scoot and boogie.’

As a young boy I enjoyed playing in the freshly-plowed ground. You worked hard and you waited. I can vividly remember examining the plants as they brought fourth the beginnings of vegetables. Then we would wait some more. Not everything we plant comes to fruition on our timetable. And then there is the possibility, for unknown reasons, the plants don’t grow, the tomatoes don’t produce, the broccoli flowered and failed, the corn had beautiful stalks with no corn. All of these events happened and we could not do anything about it. Nature teaches us many lessons and sometimes the most valuable one is patience.

Ruby

More current is the fact Ruby arrived at out house after her extended trip to South America. She left last October after storing up for the long flight. I find it interesting her global positioning system (GPS) guides her over the long trip while I get lost in Atlanta. It is probably because Ruby’s GPS was given to her by God and mine was given to me by the Ford Motor Company. Equally as significant as Ruby the humming bird’s arrival is the activity surrounding the recent bird house I placed in the backyard.

The birdhouse was primarily ornamental and was attached with a small chain and hung from a limb. It moved with the wind and at times turned complete circles. But there he was…..a beautiful blue bird sitting for a long period observing the bird house. Finally, he decided to enter the house. I waited anxiously to see if he could still fly after being in the house with its movement. But exit he did and departed. Didn’t expect to see him again. Not only did he return but he brought his wife who after careful observation entered the house. After her tour I was expecting the crew from “fixer uppers” to arrive, but apparently she decided to take it “as is.”

A flurry of activity surrounded the bird house with the two birds, who marry for life, busy carrying straw and other items constructing a nest that a graduate of Georgia Tech would be proud to claim. In short order mother was staying home and the incubation process began. Dad sat outside on guard and occasionally changed places with the expecting mother while she took a break.

God did it again it’s Spring.

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Reflections………………………………………….A Fix

via Reflections………………………………………….A Fix

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