Ramblins………………..Kindergarten

 

I sat in awe and in total amusement as the House of Representatives tried to censor one of their own members who had recently made a disparaging remark concerning Jews. Three days of selecting the correct terms and writing, finally ended with a statement that did not address the issue nor the person who made the remark. Suffice it to say every kindergarten teacher in the nation has been confronted with some child who made a disparaging remark about a classmate. The teacher did not call for a conference with the other teachers. The teacher did not get all the children in a huddle or any other similar strategy. No! The teacher took the child aside who had made the remark and said, “We don’t talk like that”.  “We are nice to other people”. “We don’t want to hurt others.” Wow! What a novel idea. Maybe we should send a copy of the book, “All I needed to know I learned in Kindergarten” to members of Congress.

Contrary to the behavior of our elected officials, I shouted with joy when Gail Miller, the owner of the Utah Jazz professional basketball team, addressed the fans at a ballgame after a very unfortunate incident involving a fan who shouted profanity and called players vulgar names. Mrs. Miller very calmly stated to everyone that members in the audience were to conduct themselves with dignity and respect. Name calling and other acts of irresponsibility were not who the fans of the Utah Jazz were and in all cases they would show respect . Derogatory behavior toward guests and anyone else was not “who we are.”….She received a standing ovation. Amen!

WHO WE ARE !!! This would appear to be a simple question to answer. However, it appears we have lost our moorings . A nation founded on Judeo-Christian principles should readily recognize ‘who we are.’ However people of faith appear to have lost their moral compass.

I recently received an e-mail from someone who by all standards is a strong person of faith.  This person is a  weekly church attendee and frequently announces they are Christian. However, I listened as this individual berated several people including the President of the United States.  I hasten to add this was not uncommon from this individual nor from others.

I would encourage everyone to read Tim Keller’s book Fruits of the Spirit. The Holy Scriptures are filled with ways we need to stay connected to the true Vine (God). …….and how shall we know them…….by their love for one another……you will recognize them by their fruit……..they are ambassadors of love……. they are not arrogant….they have self control…………………http://Galatins 5:22

Freedom Of Speech Does Not Include The Lack Of Respect

Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me

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Reflections…………………………..Stranger

Gary Coker

In the early 1950’s my dad met a stranger who was new in our town. From the very beginning Dad was enchanted with this stranger and newcomer and soon invited him to  live with our family.

The stranger was quickly accepted and was around all the time I never questioned his place in our family.

 Mama taught me to love the Word of God, and Dad taught me to obey it, but the stranger was our story teller. He could weave the most fascinating tales. Adventure, mysteries, and comedies were daily conversations. He could hold our whole family spell bound for hours each evening. He was like a friend to the whole family.

He took Dad, my brother, and me to our first major league football game. He was always encouraging us to see movies. He was an incessant talker. Dad didn’t seem to mind, but sometimes mom would quietly get up, while the rest of us were enthralled with one of his stories of faraway places and go to her room and read the Bible and pray. I wondered if she ever prayed the stranger would leave?

You see, my Dad ruled our household with certain moral convictions, but this stranger never felt an obligation to honor them. Profanity, for example, was not allowed in our house, not from us, from our friends, or from adults. Yet, our longtime visitor used occasional four letter words that burned my ears and made Dad squirm. To my knowledge the stranger was never confronted.

My Dad was a teetotaler who didn’t permit alcohol in our house. Not even in cooking, but the stranger felt like we needed exposure and enlightened us to other ways of life. Frequently he would talk about drinking beer, and about sex. His comments were sometimes blatant, sometimes suggestive, and generally embarrassing. He spoke of homosexuality and other sexual identities as if they were totally normal.

As I look back, I believe it was by the grace of God the stranger did not influence me more. Time after time he opposed the values of our parents, yet he was seldom rebuked and never asked to leave. Nearly 60 years have passed since the stranger moved in with us, but if I could walk into my parents house today, I would still see him sitting there waiting for someone to listen to his stories. You know I never knew his name, we just called him by his initials…….”TV”

adapted: source unknown

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Ramblins……..Global Positioning System….GPS

 

 

For the past three to four years I have had an ongoing relationship with Patti. She is a delightful companion but for some reason she constantly wants me to make a u-turn. When she really gets frustrated she tells me she is re-routing. Patti has taken the place of my former traveling companion who was somewhat directionally challenged.

Most of you have had some experience with a GPS system in your automobile or perhaps, your smart phone and know how it works. You program your destination into your GPS and it gives you the directions you need to get where you need to go.

One tip I recently read, for which I am guilty, is not to set your “Home address on your GPS to your actual address. This is in case someone steals your car. They’ll know you’re out and can then proceed to ransack your property. Instead, you should set the “home” address as that of your local police station. What a great idea.

If I ask you your philosophy of life could you tell it to me? If I could take some liberties with my thinking and I would use a metaphor that your GPS is your philosophy of life. I arrived at this thought when it dawn on me that each morning when I arise I turn on my GPS. When I meet other people I turn on my GPS. How I treat other people, my attitude, how I approach a new situation, the way I spend my time, how I spend my money are in direct proportion to my Global Positioning System. In other words the direction I am going is determined by my personal GPS. And, the direction we are going is the single most important factor in our pathway of life.

When I first had a GPS in my automobile it took some practice and getting use to how to program it. On more than one occasion I found myself having to re-enter my directions and I frequently got them wrong. I was excited when my new car was hands free and the GPS was completely audible. All I had to do was talk and if I made a mistake I could return and add or take away my previous conversation.

A friend of mine recently told me without his GPS he has trouble getting to where he needs to go. Many people have lives that lack direction. That’s why we need a dependable philosophy, a GPS for our life. With a reliable philosophy of life we can program our life with a set of beliefs, values and priorities that will guide us to our destination. It comes in written form (Bible) and also voice activated (prayer) which quickly tells you when you need to make a u-turn or to re-route. The original model was issued 2000+ years ago.

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Reflections……don’t let the old man in

 

How old would you be if you didn’t know the day you were born? Think about it. Physically, Mentally and Spiritually. Don’t read any further until you have answered that question.

                               Many moons  I  have lived….                                                                       My body’s  weathered and worn

In retrospect as you ride into the future, look in the rear view mirror and reflect upon the mountain top experiences that you have had along the way. Ask the question “is it better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all?” Don’t let the old man (woman) in.

                                                       Try to love on your wife (husband)                                                                                                                                              And stay close to your friends…..

Reach over and grab your spouse’s hand as you cross the street, enter the grocery store or attend church. This is the mate that is your traveling companion. Every chance you get look at her/him and smile. Contact your friends by e-mail, telephone or a note. Stay social with friends and avoid becoming a recluse. Don’t let the old man(woman) in.

                                           When he rides up on his horse (birthday)                                                                                                                                      And you feel that cold wind……

Look out your window and smile. Ask yourself how old would you be if you didn’t know the day you were born.

                                         If I died tomorrow I would still plant                                                                                                                                                     my Apple tree….

Every day is a gift. That’s why it is call the present. Live in the present.

                                             Look out your window and smile…                                                                                                                                              don’t let the old man(woman) in

 

 

 

Writings inspired by Toby Keith

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Reflections…………………….See What I See

Editor’s Note:  Any highlighted words leading to advertisements are not designed by the author but rather the result of WordPress.

Today, December 22, my children, their wives and the grandchildren gathered at the Coker House for our annual Christmas celebration. Traditionally I try to have time with the grandchildren to share the true meaning of Christmas. Taking the account from the book of Matthew, the grandchildren were amazed how far Joseph and Mary traveled for the census taking in Bethlehem. They were equally amazed that even today we have a census taking. No riding for days on the back of a donkey while withstanding the uncomfortableness of being nine months pregnant only to be told by the Inn Keeper the Inn was full. No IPhone or IPad to make advanced reservations. This generation of children have never lived or thought about such an inconvenience or circumstance.

Equally amazing to this young generation was the story of the shepherds who spotted the star their grandparents had told them would appear when the Saviour was making His appearance on earth. We tried to emulate the excitement they must have had at such a grand event. Unlike the story in Luke, Matthew emphasizes the shepherds’ visit to Herod before going to see the young Jesus. This point in the story was the grand opportunity to introduce the concept of “gift” giving. ……..For God so loved the world He gave………….. The concept the gift doesn’t become a gift until it is received allowed a great opportunity for Granddaddy to share the gift of eternal life.

Certainly, very few people in Palestine saw and heard and understood what took place that night so long ago. Like today, the choirs of angels singing were drowned out by the busy streets (shopping malls). A lot of gift wrapping going on at the Christmas bazaar. If anyone did see Mary and Joseph on that most fateful night, they were too preoccupied with their own issues or problems to offer any assistance. 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.

Ask yourself what did you hear this Christmas? Would I have seen the ‘star in the sky?’ Would I have heard the Angels (carolers) singing? Would the rush of buying Christmas gifts have blinded me to the many issues that confronted the sheep without a shepherd. Do I need to seek a quiet place and reflect upon that night when the shepherds lead the parade with the Hallelujah Chorus.

………….busy housewives stop their labor,…..in the courtroom there is no debate….all the work on earth has ended……as the King comes through the gate………………..

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Elizabeth and Mary

Despite the Scrooges among us who annually decry the commercialization, the crassness and the blatant sentimentality of so much of the Christmas preparations, it is still a magical time of the year. The daily popping out of multi-colored lights at doorways and windows, the tree lots that seem to spring up overnight, the magnificent window displays, the wreaths, the tinsel, the reds and greens and sound of bells–it all evokes a tone of excitement and anticipation. It is as if the entire world is preparing for a visit from an emissary from another world.

Of course, like typical Americans, we overdo it. Much of the music is too loud and incessant; we are saturated with carols long before Christmas ever arrives; many of the decorations are too big, too gaudy; but still, isn’t it a remarkable time of year?

Our impulse to have a fairy tale stage seems to take our minds off the harsh Christmas realities. For even as we are caught up in the glitter and the tinsel we know that all is not well in the world. Fact: Murder and robbery in the United States reaches its highest peak in December. Fact: The Christmas season ranks just under Memorial Day weekend in the number of car wrecks on the highway. Fact: The suicide rate will begin its annual climb until it peaks out at what some call the “big downer” New Years Eve. This is the reality of Christmas. No tinsel, no glitter–just harsh reality.

So we turn from a fairy tale setting that appears to gloss over and deny to a Christmas Biblical narrative that appears on the surface to do the same thing. The story has the ring of a fairy tale. There is Elizabeth, for example, and her husband Zechariah, an elderly couple who have long since despaired of having any children, suddenly making an announcement to the community that she is with child. His name was to be called John. Later he would be known as the Baptist. Even Zechariah is unbelieving as he says in amazement, we are told, “I am an old man and my wife is advanced in years. Yet, it happened.

Across town there is another birth announcement, and this one too has the ring of mysticism. The young girl Mary, who is barely more than a child herself, the betrothed to Joseph, suddenly finds herself with child. Like Elizabeth, she is a peasant, a nobody, a nameless face in the passing parade of history. Yet, she is told that this child is to be called Emmanuel, which means God with us.

And then the two get together, the old lady pregnant with John, who will be called The Baptist, and the young child pregnant with Jesus, who is to be called Emmanuel. And the child in Elizabeth’s womb kicks at the sound of Mary’s voice. Whatever are we to make of this strange story of visions and angels and virgin births. Truth? Fiction? Legend? Fact?

There are those who would quickly tell us that we are doing with our religion the same thing that we do with our Christmas tinsel and glitter. They tell us that the story, like the decorations, offer us a temporary release from our hum drum realities. They will tell us that the story is little more than a fairy tale for adults who are seeking the lost innocence of our childhood. Like so many things associated with Christmas there is a “It isn’t really so, but wouldn’t it be nice if it were?” ring to it all. It seems to have little relation to Christmas realities–the crime, the wrecks, the increased mental anguish, world-wide tension, and complicated personal lives.

But in the midst of all of this I would simply like to make one observation. Mary and Elizabeth did not live in a fantasy world of tinsel and glitter. Like us, they lived in a world that had its harsh realities. If our world has its terrorists groups–the PLO and Afghanistan. so too did their world–the Iscariots and the Zealots. If our world has its decadent dictators– so too did their world–Herod Antipas of Jerusalem. If in our world we hear freedom’s cry coming from China, so it was in their world, with cries of freedom from the Jews and the rumblings of Rome’s legends. Their world and our world aren’t really so far apart.

And, like us, they lived in a world that had its own private realities. They lived in a world where old ladies were not supposed to get pregnant and neither were young ones who were not married. They lived in a world where human life was held cheap, a world that eventually took the lives of both of their children. And yes, they lived in a world that did not understand the ways of God.

The point is this. It was in the very midst of all of this harsh reality that Elizabeth and Mary continued to believe and hope in a God who can do marvelous things. They did this in a world very much like ours. And that is why God so uniquely came to them. Not because they were somehow protected from harsh reality. But precisely because in the midst of harsh reality they continued to be open to the voice of God.

It was faith that enabled them to experience the things that they did. Above the din of clanking armies and a torn homeland these two women heard the silent voice of God. While others went about their daily routines they saw the choirs of angels singing. They saw, they heard, they believed. And thus came our Lord into the world. He, his disciples, and even Mary and Elizabeth were not immune to life’s hardships. But he taught them how to live in this harsh reality. He can teach you, too. Amen.

 

Editor’s Note:  Sermon notes from a sermon given by Brett Blair.
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Reflections…………………………..Personal

 

I am told people who are writers, or in my case ‘bloggers’, go through hills and valleys with their writing. Some days you are filled with topics and can write for long periods of time. Other days you are without words. Today is the first day of Advent and I found myself “ramblin” at my keyboard.

Our house has the sounds of grandchildren who are visiting for the weekend. With these children every thing is an adventure. June, my wife, a former kindergarten teacher has story upon story she can tell and activity upon activity in which she can engage them. For these young children coming to grannie and granddaddy’s is a real treat.

Luke, my four year old grandson and I took an extended walk at 7:15 this morning. The sun was shining, the birds singing. My objective was to intertwine nature with God and His creation. Amidst all of the signs of nature and creation I immediately recalled a story I had heard several years ago……….

“God are you really there?” the little boy, Jimmy, said out loud.

To his astonishment a voice came from the clouds. “Yes Jimmy? What can I do for you?”

Seizing the opportunity, Jimmy asked. “God? What is a million years like to you?”

Knowing that Jimmy could not understand the concept of infinity, God responded in a manner to which Jimmy could relate. “a million years to me Jimmy, is like a minute.”

“Oh, said Jimmy, “Well then, what’s a million dollars like to you?” A million dollars to me Jimmy is like a penny.”

“Wow!” remarked Jimmy, getting the idea. “You’re so generous…can I have one of your pennies?”

God replied. “Sure thing, Jimmy! Just a minute.”

My walk with Luke was one of the most interesting walks I have ever had. Filled with questions about God, nature and peppered with “why, Grandaddy?” I found myself enlightened and challenged. At the end of our morning journey I immediately recalled a note I had stored away in one of my “writer’s” folders concerning the greatest gift a young boy said he had ever received.

This man recalled when he was a young boy his dad wrote him a note and gave him the note at Christmas.

“Son, this year I will give you 365 hours. An hour every day after dinner.

We’ll talk about whatever you want to talk about. We’ll go wherever you want to go. Play whatever you want to play, every day of the year.

It will be your hour.”

That dad kept his promise and renewed it every year.

At Christmas God sends you the greatest gift you will ever receive. It is wrapped in your heart. A promise to talk about whatever you want to talk about, go wherever you want to go, play whatever you want to play, every day of the year. And He is keeping that promise.

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Reflections…..Lessons Learned On The Road To Christmas

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Emerging from Thanksgiving holiday with an expanded waist line and a heart full of gratitude I look toward the Christmas Holidays with excitement.  Several years ago I found that I was succumbing to the busyness of purchasing presents, planning travel, … Continue reading

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Reflections………………Going Home

Thanksgiving morning meant only one thing for this young boy of 14. Today I go rabbit hunting with my dad, brothers and other relatives. Equipped with my single barrel 410 shotgun I was prepared to be a ‘man’.  One of the things I learned  about hunting early on was as everyone else listened and followed the barking, known as the chase, if I would stay back in the vicinity of where the rabbit was bedding before we ‘jumped’ it up, it would make a large circle and start back toward its home where I’d be waiting.  On more than one occasion this proved to be a successful tactic.   This lesson is true in many areas beside rabbit hunting.

If you stop and ponder the situation, animals invariably have a desire to go home. The most famous of stories is of Lassie returning home. A trip that took several days. The most pronounced exhibition of this phenomena is that of the Salmon.

Salmon babies, known as “fry”, hatch out in lovely flowing fresh streams of water. They have plenty to eat and a safe place to live. Then they leave (sound familiar). They travel downstream to escape this nice, safe habitat, so they might merge into larger streams, rushing mighty rivers, and ultimately into the vast ocean. It is here they are transformed into a salt water salmon. (what a metaphor).  “And then they “go home.” They journey through the ocean,  back into the fresh water rivers, navigate through locks and dams, bears and eagles and eager fishermen, and finally make it back home, to the place they were born and nurtured.

Thanksgiving arrives this Thursday. Our annual Thanksgiving holiday may be our most prophetic of all holidays. Like the salmon, I have a burning desire to “go home.”  We embrace every part of our family heritage. We join together and become greater.  We are individuals with  a vital future found in the company of others. Why? Because we return to our roots even as we are looking towards the future.

It is so easy to look beyond Thanksgiving. The “gathering together” for a bit of family time at Thanksgiving has now become a “staging time”,  a foray into the shopping malls and big box outlets with an activity classified as “Black Friday.” After years of consciously trying not to ‘intrude’ on the sacred “family holiday” of Thanksgiving, retailers have now decided that “Black Friday” can legitimately begin before the turkey gets cold on Thanksgiving Thursday.

So what is Thanksgiving about in 2018? Living in a fast food nation and a “take out” culture it is the one day when we remember old recipes, when we literally and intentionally “taste” our past and let the food tell the story.  As the Coker family gather together we will be looking back at family and traditions and looking around the table at ones we love. It is our goal that Thanksgiving will bring out of each of us not a thankfulness for ‘things, but rather, an awareness that Thanksgiving is not about where we are, what we are eating, or what our shopping strategy is for Friday. Thanksgiving must be rooted in a thankfulness for relationships we have been given and the warmth that only comes in Going Home.

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Reflections………………………………Truth

 

My eighth grade science teacher, Mrs. Gladys Sigman, established early in our science class, “If you make a declarative statement, you must have evidence to prove that statement.” The same axiom was seen as the local farmers and workmen gathered in Brown’s general mercantile store when they would call someone down when there was doubt in what was being said, “you’re just blowing smoke,” or if it really was blowing smoke and there was no evidence to substantiate the comment it was not unusual to hear, ‘that’s a bunch of b—s—.” During my graduate studies at Western Michigan University, Professor Donald Blash returned my research paper with comments written in bold red letters, “there is no empirical evidence to prove your hypothesis!”

Eighth graders understood the premise, the local farmers understood the premise and certainly I understand it too. I need some help! If this group of diverse individuals from a wide cross section of the culture have no problem understanding “you must have evidence to prove your declaration,” how is it the most educated people in our country, individuals chosen to be our leaders and given the responsibility to make laws that govern our very existence do not understand the premise that every eighth grader in the United States understands?

I have long considered myself to be pragmatic and not driven by political parties. After carefully weighing the principles involved I cast my vote accordingly. I always try to weigh everything through the filter of Holy Scriptures. However, as I find myself getting more involved, hopefully from a pragmatic viewpoint, I find myself trying  to figure out “Why?”  I like what Tim Keller, noted Presbyterian pastor, said in the New York Times: “Christians cannot pretend they can transcend politics. Those who avoid all political discussions and engagement are essentially casting a vote for social status quo. …to not be political is to be political.”

The great thing in this world is not so much where you stand, as in what direction you are moving.’

                                                        —-OLIVER WENDELL HOLMES

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