Reflections…………………………………………………………….Resolutions

New Year’s Day is the morning of the year.  It should inspire fresh hope.  Each morning we wake, after disappearing in sleep for a split second of eternity, we should feel rejuvenated like strong coffee. Scientists tell us we have successfully spun around the earth’s axis.  We have traveled 20,000 miles since yesterday, just spinning around from day to night and back to day. When we further reflect that without batting an eye or breaking a sweat, we have rocketed over a million and a half miles in our orbit around the sun since this time a day ago and that we are now going to start over and perform these same mysteries and miracles again in a mere 24 hours.  So it is every New year’s Day but on a scale, at least 356 times more inspiring. 

It’s a new year with no mistakes in it!!!  It is awe-inspiring and the same feeling that authored the first concept of new year’s resolutions.  The flesh is weak new year’s resolutions are fleeting.  Before valentine’s day or even Epiphany, we slipped back into our old ways. Nevertheless, these light-hearted resolutions reflect a deeper, more severe impulse.  Inspired by the miracle of the New Year.

It was Benjamin Franklin who wanted to achieve moral perfection.  He defined moral perfection this way:  “Resolve to perform what; you ought. Perform without fail what you resolve.”  In his epistle to the Romans, St. Paul described what Franklin experienced and what we annually experience with our New  Year’s resolutions:  “The good that I would do, that I do.” not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.”

So, on this new year inspired by something I call New Year’s Day ambition surrounded by  “floppy” morals I am convinced we are more confident looking back on our efforts to fulfill our New Year resolutions; even if we fall short, we are better men and women for having resolved to try.      Happy New Year!!

 

 

 

 

Tis the Season

June, my wife, could quickly get the ‘pack rat’ of the year award.  She treasures notes, letters, and especially cards.  I could pull from ‘strategic ‘ spots and find Christmas cards from the beginning of our marriage. As unusual as that sounds, recently, I found myself going through cards, letters, and “keepsakes’ from her storage bins.

Laughing and giving June a hard time for her habit of  ‘pack ratting’, she reminded me that all these notes, letters, and cards were notes of friendships.  She quickly told me how much she treasured all of her Christmas cards. Each one was from someone special she’d so much like to see.

The ensuing conversation reminded me that many cards came from people we seldom see because they live far away.  Their cards are like a friendly smile that brightens Christmas day.  It is like a gift wrapped with love, each a yuletide treat.

As of this writing, the weather is bitterly cold, with expected snow and ice.  June and I are thankful for these cards that come each year with their precious notes of friendship and greetings.

We wish you all the joys this season brings – Peace, good health, and lots of love.

June and Gary

 

 

 

Reflections……………………………………apologetics

 

With growing concern, I find myself distressed with today’s youth who appear unable to defend their faith. Living on a University campus, i.e., the University of the South, I encounter young adults daily.  As often as I can, I try to engage them verbally and philosophically.  Frequently, I hear these young adults unable to defend a Christian life philosophy. This is happening across our nation, and adults sit idly by when our Christian values are attacked.

In addition to our Christian values being attacked, at the same time, our life values are attacked in the mainstream of life.  The gatekeepers of our culture, such as teachers and others, worry the students can’t handle such topics as abortion and related items.  The gatekeepers are wrong. Despite politically correct workplaces, Christians must be faithful.

When engaged with youth about ‘life’s values,’   I get a lot of, “I am Baptist, I am a Church of Christ, I am Catholic.  However, upon discussing beliefs embraced by the individual, I have found they cannot defend their faith with scriptural or life values from a Christian viewpoint.  

As the gatekeepers of the future, we must equip our children and others to respond accordingly when our faith and values come under attack or a different viewpoint is presented that is the antagonist to ours.

If your church has not offered a course in Christian Apologetics for adults and young people, I encourage you to make it a part of every person’s Bible studies.  Please do not ‘preach’ a sermon on the topic. This should be integrated into your ministry and teaching program and practiced as a laboratory of ‘doing.’ Despite politically correct workplaces, Christians must be faithful and able to defend their faith.

Christians will not be overcome by the darkness because they belong to the One who is the Light of the World.

                                                               

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reflections………………………..Aging

Gary Coker

Two days ago I fell, for no reason at all.  I just fell. I wasn’t hurt or anything.  I lay on the floor in shock.  I was surprised.  I had not been dancing.  My shoes were tied. Had I become one of those people who just falls?

 

In perspective, I was a very active young elementary student, run…. run….run.  never falling. I played high school and college sports and running for long periods of time was part of life.  In my early 20s, I began to run for fitness and fun, running two-three miles on a regular basis.  I have never ‘just’ fallen.  In fact, I have friends who talk about falling for no reason.  Yes, I say subconsciously, doubting their every word. Falling without reason is something that happens to old people.   Have I become one of those persons who fall for no reason?

The literature is filled with research and opinions on what we need to do as we age.  Stay active, get a good night’s sleep, eat your vegetables……………..and the list goes on. 

When I talk about aging, I am not talking about the horrible stuff, the serious diseases or conditions.  I am talking about things that are mainly just annoying but also mystifying in that they show up without warning.

I really embraced the recent research in the Harvard Medical review that states………….. You can slow cognitive and aging decline ———-and live longer—— socialize more.    After a period, when the participants took a series of tests, they found the participants who interacted more frequently with people, especially friends, performed better on the cognitive and physical tests than people who interacted less frequently.  They also found that cognition improved when participants who did not have much regular contact with family or friends increased their contacts.:  

The results are self-evident.  Make regular contact with people, and socialize as often as possible.   Go to the morning coffee with friends, and co-mingle with church friends after church and during the week.  Do not become a recluse and stay in your house.   Have a group of social friends who you meet and greet on a regular basis.  Play cards or table games on a frequent basis.  Anything to bring you in contact with other people. 

I am going to broaden my activities, and if I don’t fall again it is because I am too busy with my friends doing…………………………

 

 

 

Reflections: Horizontal Communications

Mrs. Gladys Sigman, my high school geometry teacher, introduced the concepts of parallel lines, trapezoid, and determining the degrees of an angle the first week of class. These concepts were present in everyday life, but as students we did not use the geometric names.  I remember our first assignment vividly.  Draw a house using the concepts we had discussed, using all the geometric designs in the house. 

  The concept of cooperative learning was not used in those days, therefore, any discussion had to be done after class. Sitting next to me in class was John Dalton, an astute student with immediate understanding of geometry, and Ronald Rowe who had the gift of gab and could articulate what John was saying. Throughout the year, the three of us would meet and discuss geometry and an array of other topics. Today, this process is referred to as horizontal communication.

My daily routine involves walking early in the morning and going by the University of the South’s dining room for coffee.  The dining hall is a large facility designed to accommodate students in both a small, intimate setting as well as large groups.  Recently, I observed 17 students having breakfast.  Some were sitting at tables for four, some were at tables with two or three, and several were eating alone.  All seventeen had their phones in hand.  There was no conversation, therefore, no horizontal communication. 

I am quite gloomy about the effect of the internet on leadership and learning. It is wonderful to have the immediate information the internet provides.  However, some of the greatest ideas of history, of philosophy, of literature came out of the anguish of struggling for understanding and might never have been reached if there was a helpful person who gave an immediate, relevant solution by pushing a series of buttons on an iPhone. I am equally distressed by the lack of relationships developed almost, “perchance”, as the result of conversations and proximity to other people. 

Whether on the front porch with friends, the classroom with students, riding down the road or the school dining room, horizontal communication is the way to go.

Queen Elizabeth

What a magnificent “Head of State”, Queen Elizabeth.   After the Queen‘s recent death and the pomp and circumstance surrounding her funeral, I became enamored with her life and began to read all I could about this magnificent person. After reading her address to the British people after World War II, in which she called upon the British people to rise to the challenge of rebuilding their country after the devastation of the war, I realized the depth of her spiritual beliefs and leadership. Five years after this initial speech challenging the people of the British empire, she had a Christmas message with a similar theme. It was during this address to the nation that she was televised on national television. For the first time, she discussed at length the changing times, especially the advent of technology. She cautioned the British people, she called them ‘cynics,’ who were trying to throw out timeless ideals—religion, morality, honesty, and self-restraint–as though they were obsolete. Sound familiar? We in America could take some lessons from the Queen’s remarks.

While we have not experienced the devastation of a world war here in our homeland, we are experiencing the devastation of our society. Queen Elizabeth dedicated herself to ‘setting an example’ for the world, a special kind of courage to vindicate the enduring character of what is right, true, and honest in the face of cynics.   She, Queen Elizabeth, used her role as Head of the British Empire to shape society by communicating ideals, self-discipline, devotion, and discernment.  

We must begin addressing the ills plaguing our country, the family, corporations, schools, and the workplace. We must make it a priority to ‘teach’ relational roles, and patterns of responsibility. We must show we are capable of addressing our deficiencies by shaping our character.  All of us, particularly Christians, should reflect on the roles and responsibilities we have as part of the institutions to which we have been called.  We must live for the future while cherishing that which we want to endure. 

 As I watched the funeral, I thought how hollow and pious it would have been in the absence of someone without real faith.  Not so with Queen Elizabeth’s life being characterized by personal devotion to her Savior and Lord.  She possessed a devotion she was not afraid to voice on important national occasions. As a monarch, Queen Elizabeth understood the responsibility to praise what is good.  She pointed to an increasingly unwilling society toward God.

May the death of this great leader rekindle personal faith in our hearts and inspire us here in America with a vision of Christian Statesmanship.

 

                                                                                                  Gary Coker

REFLECTIONS……………………………………………..Holiness

Recently I was reviewing my early childhood with a friend when the topic of church came up.  “Where did you go to church as a young boy,” he asked.  I had to pause with my answer because my parents and grandparents attended and worshipped at a “Holiness” church.  It was a church of long-standing and founded by my grandfather. However, at the age of 13, I moved to a Methodist church in the community, where I remained until I left and went to college.   My friend immediately thought I had changed because the word Holiness is often confused with Legalism which so often focuses on outward forms rather than inward transformation.  He was taken aback when I said I attended the Methodist church because of the outstanding boy scout troop and their evening youth service (MYF).

The boy scout troop was led by a retired military officer (Curtis Collier) and a local farmer (Bishop Pirkle).  The thrust of their leadership was focused on the transformation of young boys into young men. I remember vividly the first step in becoming a ‘scribe’ scout was to present yourself as living a life that reflects excellence.  It was the first time I had heard the term “let your light shine before others so that they may see you in a positive way.” Our scoutmaster was constantly telling us of the dangers of the culture and being conformed to the culture.  At the age of 13, I did not fully comprehend the teaching but I did understand “being good” primarily because the culture of the time was about being “GOOD”.  It was because of this experience and the influence of the Church that, with time, I became aware as a young person it was easier to become conformed to the world than to transform it.  I can still hear my mother tell me when I departed the house……..” Gary, you be good…………………………………..”

This brings me back to the word ‘holiness’.   In today’s society, I am suggesting that our lack of focus on holiness is causing us to compromise clear and basic biblical standards in a way that would have scandalized our scout troop. We have become and are becoming numb to sin and to the sinfulness of sin because the doctrine of holiness has been neglected or diluted.  It was the prophet Jeremiah that reminded us so vividly…..” they were not ashamed; they did not know how to blush” (Jeremiah 8: 15).  Mediate on that statement for a few minutes………………….

But we should be ashamed, we should blush.  The holiness of our lives should fill our minds with: Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things………… (Philippians 4:8)

Unlike my days as a boy scout, we are in constant danger of being conformed to the world, and in continual danger of being the proverbial frogs in the cultural kettle.  Equally so, we are in constant danger of being transformed by culture rather than transformers of it. 

We are to be in the world but not of it.  In short, regardless of the name of the church,  holiness is our status in Christ. Christ by living holy lives in word, thought, and deed. You shall be Holy………….1 Peter 1:14-16)

 

 

REFLECTIONS………………………………………..A NEW Year

 

In a short time, young people enrolled in Secondary (HIGH) school will begin to return for classes as they start a new year.   These are the people who will make our laws, manage our organizations, provide leadership, and make our society the type of place we will want to live and grow. If you had the opportunity to provide a “fireside” chat to this group of young adults, what would you say?

Through the years I have had the opportunity to provide many ‘back to school’ talks and challenges.  As I perused some of my memorabilia, I would like to share some of the points I have tried to make to these future leaders:

Have Compassion: Regardless of ethnicity, socioeconomic status, gender, color, or other differing factors, show compassion.  When people feel safe around you, when they know they can fail and are not afraid or will not be humiliated or destroyed in front of their peers, you will create an atmosphere of ‘love’, and love is the most powerful of all motivators.

Be determined: The virtue of determination allows you not to give up, not to accept defeat. With determination, you will focus your energy, on the problem or issue at hand with laser-like intensity. Expect difficulties or roadblocks.  Be prepared to find a way over, around, or straight through them.  It will be the determined person who will achieve success.

Be your best: To be the best, you must look and speak your best. Presentation of self is critical, and you want to always be your best. Do not let fashion dictate that you wear something that is not your best.

Excellence is a habit: Tell yourself you won’t quit; you won’t give up.  Don’t let anything stand in your way.  Don’t compromise.  Don’t procrastinate.  Don’t rationalize.  Don’t make excuses.  Be committed, and stay focused.  Strive for excellence in every aspect of your life.  Then repeat, repeat, repeat.

Make your bed: Your room in your home is your office. This is the place you must keep organized and free of clutter. If your room is cluttered, your closet cluttered, if clothes are scattered then you will be unorganized, cluttered, and scattered.  It all begins by making your bed every day.  The pillow is tucked, and the bedspread is evenly placed on the bed.  Everything has a place and everything is in its place.  Your room reflects WHO you are.  Do your best.

These character traits are not something listed in a book or text. They are traits I have tried to live by starting in my early days.  I am convinced they are the character traits that will make you successful, that will make you a leader and that will make you live your life with honor 

 

 

 

 

REFLECTIONS………………………Camels on the horizon

 

Reflections:……………………………………………..Camels on the Horizon 

 

The founder of Dubai, Sheik Rashid, was asked about the future of his country. He replied, “My grandfather rode a camel, my father rode a camel, I ride a Mercedes, my son rides a Land Rover, and my grandson is going to ride a Land Rover…but my great-grandson is going to have to ride a camel again. “Why is that, he was asked?

And his reply was, “Hard times create strong men; strong men create easy times. Easy times create weak men; weak men create difficult times. Many will not understand it, but you must raise warriors, not parasites.”

And add to that the historical reality that all great empires… the Persians, the Trojans, the Egyptians, the Greeks, the Romans, and in later years, the British…all rose and perished within 240 years.

External enemies did not conquer them; they rotted from within.
America has passed that 240-year mark, and the rot is starting to be visible and accelerating.   We are past the Mercedes and Land Rover Years…. the camels are on the horizon. The greatest generation consisted of 18-year-old kids storming the beaches at “Normandy,” which caused the end of  World War Two.

And now, 2-3 generations later, some 18-year-old kids want to hide in safe rooms when they hear words that hurt their feelings. They also want free stuff from the government because they think they are entitled to it.   
The “camels are on the horizon” for sure…

 More like at the front door.

Author  Unknown.

Reflections…………………………….Pride Month

Gary Coker

The lady at the cash register asked me if I would like to make a contribution to the Human Rights Campaign. Her request caught me completely off guard. My reply was, “exactly what is the Human Rights Campaign, and how is the money spent?” Like me, she was caught off guard and could not answer my question. In my quest for understanding, I can only say, if anyone wants to know what is happening in our society you need to look no further than the Human Rights campaign labeled, Pride Month.

My research, limited as such, informed me that Pride Month is the product of the LGBTQ+ community and has an entire month on the national calendar allowing parties in the streets, rainbow flags posted in windows, websites, and other commercial ventures. I was ‘flabbergasted’. Let me think this through. Recently, the statue of one of my heroes, Theodore Roosevelt, former President of the United States, the President who is responsible for the designation of most of our Federal Parks, was found offensive and removed from the public square. President Lincoln and Washington are given a full day for the celebration of their contributions to our country. Likewise, Martin Luther King has a day of celebration. The LGBTQ+ alliance has an entire month to party in the streets. And this street party is enabled by the countless commercial ventures that post rainbow flags on their windows and websites.

Do we see what is happening to our culture? It is a basic fact of history that if you control time and space, you also control the culture. Sexual identity is a biological construct, not a social order that our society is trying to make it. The obsession of the day is taking pride in one’s sexual identity. We cannot underestimate the power of what this signifies.

The time has come for every church, and especially Christian schools, to take a stand for Biblical truth or collapse into the ‘monoblob’ of progressive ideologies. We must stand on our convictions and face the blast, otherwise, a little bit of surrender will lead to an eventual collapse. Churches have to come out of their ‘holy’ huddles and speak the truth in word and in deed, unashamedly. Be prepared for accusations of hatred, discrimination, intolerance, and indoctrination. Trust me, what is happening in the ‘public square’ is to indoctrinate young children and teenagers into their worldview. The moment of truth is coming for organizations, especially the Christian schools – be prepared. Do not be surprised if the forces of this ideological change, i.e. Worldview from a Biblical Worldview, come from agents of surrender within.

A few days ago I was outside after a rain shower. Across the sky was a beautiful rainbow. It was quiet, gentle, and filled with beauty. There were no storms to disturb the beauty of the moment. It was for me a gentle reminder, that, ‘In the beginning, God created male and female, male and female He created us’. When He finished He said, “It is good.”