Reflections…………………………………………………………..Find Strength

It is August, and for 59 years, it has meant that I returned to school in one capacity or the other.   The beginning of a new year was always filled with excitement.  I can never remember ‘dreading’ or lacking enthusiasm for the beginning of a new year.  When I hear teachers and administrators say, “OH, NO! Not another school year,” I cannot identify with those sentiments or comments. As I look back over my career in education,  I ask myself what ingredients motivated me and provided a spark of enthusiasm.

First, I was always excited about learning something new.  I attended conferences literally all over the world, participating in professional learning experiences.  I wanted to learn and try something new.  I find the same to be true in my retirement.   I am not a couch potato.  I am ready to go!  You have to be committed to life as a participant, or you will hit a rut and not be able to get out of it.  To reach a port, we must sail, sometimes with the wind and sometimes against it, but we must sail, not drift or lie at anchor.

Secondly, Seek out something new.   In retirement, I have some of the same battles I had in my professional life. Fighting fatigue is at the top of the list.  How well I remember the fatigue that came over me in the classroom and as an administrator.  “Not another meeting,”  “I’m just tired.”  These are symptoms of mental fatigue.  You must work through it in the classroom, at home, or wherever you may be.   The scene plays out, for me, almost every morning now.   I have decided no matter how hard my night has been or how bad I feel, I’m ready to go.   I am determined to hit the road running with “gusto.” Remember in those earlier years when you were constantly going someplace new or trying something new?  Now is the time. There is always something new you can learn. Do not become addicted to television.   Turn it off.  Seek out something new.

Thirdly,  find your tribe. There was always one person who could ‘pick me up,’ the person who could pick me up professionally, or, in my case, who saw the bright side of things.  It is that person “who listens’,  even after all these years. Surround yourself with positive people.  Stay away from negative people. This is especially true for those of us who are in the winter of our lives.  Find your tribe.

Have coffee with a mentor or a person of kindred spirit.   Don’t isolate yourself.  Make a point, at least once a week, to do this.  In the classroom or in your retirement years, set aside time to go out together with a friend or have a date with your spouse.  “Just go for a cup of coffee.’

Resist isolation.  I have seen teachers who stayed in their classrooms and were never seen with other teachers or colleagues.  The same is true with couples in the senior years of their lives. Resist isolation.  Reach out to people you trust.  Invite them for a “Friday morning time together.”  This is especially true if you feel you are losing that spark.   A Friday morning ‘get-together’ is a good start. Resist isolation.

Never let your flame burn out. This applies to all those teachers and school personnel who are starting a new year and to all those retired individuals who are at home.     It is easy to get bogged down.   To the teacher, beginning a new school year, to the retiree, beginning that first year of retirement, you will be challenged in every way possible. It is in the struggle that you will find joy.  Never let your flame burn out.



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Reflections……………………….The Future

Reflections…………………………………..The Future*

Gary Coker

It has been my privilege to speak on several occasions at graduation exercises of different high schools.  Some of these schools have been secular, and some have been faith-based.   Invariably, I think of my graduation, which I captured in a blog graduation 59,  and reminisce about the importance and excitement of the event. 

This past year  I gazed out over the audience with 100+ graduates who were beaming with pride and ‘I hope this is short’ attitude, and moms and dads asking themselves, Is this happening?    In these cases, I try to motivate and challenge these young graduates to be forward-looking while building their lives on a firm foundation.

So graduates, “What kind of soul will you have?” ( I wish I could describe the expression on the faces of the students and audience when I made this opening comment). “What kind of person will you be?”  Will you do whatever it takes to get what you want, or will you accept even greater suffering to do what is right? It is this question you must answer, and your answer is the prime mover of your activity and will govern your behavior when you leave this graduation service.  Think about it.  Again, everything in your life will flow from your answer. Every time you decide or perform an act, you are making a moral decision.   You see, Mom and Dad are no longer responsible for your behavior; you are!!

Additionally, every decision you make will have consequences, and in so doing, you are forming your character to become the man or woman you want to become.  Think about it.  You will be called upon to endure injustice, not commit injustice……Think about it.  None of you would dream of worshipping at the altar of an idol!!

Furthermore, none of you would surrender the integrity of your souls, not for the whole world.  However, these are the decisions you will have to make.  Think about it.

Now that you are ‘ a graduate,’ and you are responsible for every action,  you must realize what you become is not your parent’s responsibility. Beginning after this event, you are responsible for all of your actions.  I am sure your parents have shaped your character to become an outstanding citizen.   I am sure your school has prepared you to become the kind of man and woman that will move from this point forward.  Nevertheless,  now it is your turn, and if you become the person God intends you to be, you will succeed.   Let me give you some suggestions to help you along the way.

First and foremost, uphold Biblical authority.  Your world has been filled with books since the first grade.  These books and philosophies contain contradictions, errors, and inconsistent theology.  You must align your philosophy and view of life with that given in the Bible and only in the Bible. To achieve this philosophy and outcome, you must make this book your guide by studying its story, philosophy, and outcome.  This objective cannot be achieved by “just reading your Bible,;: You must study it.   I have some homework for you in your quest for significance.   The Sermon on the Mount, located in the book of Matthew, should be required reading.  I will go further and say you should memorize each behavioral concept as you embark upon ‘being all you can be.’  Make these principles part of your life.  I have a challenge for you.  Reading the Bible, beginning with the first book through the final book a  challenge for you this first year after graduation.  Pretend you will have a test for your knowledge one year from today.

Secondly, Beware of false prophets.   It is hard to read a paper, listen to the radio or watch television where someone is not a proponent of false information.  Growing up in the ’50s and ’60s, I was frequently referred to as a bit  “old-fashioned” or a ‘goodie two shoes’ for some of my views.  This was especially true as I made my way through Graduate School at two of the nations leading universities.  y  My suggestion would be for you to spread the fragrance of goodness and kindness and leave the outcome to the Lord.

Graduates, if you become the person God intends to be, you will succeed by placing sunshine upon the earth.”


**This article is a brief overview of the original speech.







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My new vocabulary word is PROGRESSIVE:    In a society that appears to be deteriorating from the inside- out, I constantly hear the word PROGRESSIVE. Recently while discussing world events with a group of friends, one of the participants wanted to know if the church I attended was a ‘traditional’ or a ‘progressive’ church.  To my dismay, I had to admit and ask, “What is a progressive church?   “What is the definition of a progressive church?”  Not wanting to be a simpleton, I sat and listened to a definition of progressive that was foreign to me.  I had a similar experience with a group of educators discussing the social and emotional curriculum that had recently been initiated in the school where they were faculty members. Social, Emotional, Curriculum??

Our founding fathers landed on the coast of North America to establish a new country.  This new country was to be free of any form of dictatorship concerning religion. It did, however, without question, subscribe to the Judeo-Christian principles as outlined in the Bible.  These principles could be readily observed in the church and everyday life, including in schools. Whether your church was Methodist, Baptist, Church of Christ, Catholic, or any other name, the Bible was your platform and philosophy governing everyday life. There was no progressive Bible. There was only one Bible.  Equally important to the church, the principles we learned in the church were the bedrock of our behavior at school and everywhere else.

There is a seminary on the campus where June and I live.  Daily, I  meet some seminarians in the cafeteria, gymnasium, or other places.  I enjoy the discussions and the exchange of ideas.  Recently, one of the potential priests and I were discussing his tattoos.  His body is covered with tattoos. Accordingly, he shared with me he planned to have a ministry in the inner-city of New York, and the tattoos placed him in a better position to “witness” to other people with tattoos.  He used the word progressive as a description of his ministry.

I asked the potential priest to go to the local Ace Hardware and buy a gallon of paint.  On the way back to the campus, stop at the first church and take the lid off the paint and throw the paint on the side of the church. “REALLY!!  Really!!” was his response.   “Yes,” was my response.  “You have taken a gallon of paint and thrown it all over yourself, God’s temple, your body.”  Progressive??  Maybe not the best example, but a point is made.   I have been informed the biggest difference between a progressive church or any other organization, including your own value and /or behavioral paradigm, is the acceptance of gender difference as it relates to marriage and participation in sports.

Culture is dictating our moral values at home and in our schools. The Apostle Paul became concerned about some of the same issues and wrote the book to the Galatians.


  “When you lose all sense of common sense, you become senseless,”…coker


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Ref;ections………………………………………………………………………………….Letter to The President

Note:  The following is a letter I sent to the President of the United States.  I share it with you as my thoughts and insight into the direction we as a country are going.   There is a wise saying that is so true in all our behavioral decisions.   “it is not where you stand that is important but the direction you are going.……………………………..


Dear Mr. President:

I implore you to stop your attacks against conservative ideals and people. History has proven that all people suffer under the radical, Leftist policies you are supporting. The best and only way to make life better, more hopeful, and free for all of this country’s citizens is to:

Stop illegal immigration by securing our borders and enforcing the laws

Open the Keystone XL pipeline and maintain our energy independence

Reform the Big “Tech monopolies’ control of the public square

Stand for law and order for men and women in law enforcement

Lower taxes and encourage work

Cut spending and the size of the government

Free our children and grandchildren from a broken, radical public education system

Uphold the Constitution

Put America first.

Our forefathers founded America based on the timeless idea that all men are created equal and that they are endowed with God-given, unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  Moreover, they believed that the government existed solely to secure those rights and that its power derived from the consent of the governed.   From these principles flow the freedoms that have made the American Dream possible.

Our children and grandchildren depend on us as stewards of these principles.

I ask you to act in their defense.


Gary Coker, PhD





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REFLECTIONS…………………………………..Who am I?

Living on a college campus, as I do, every day is an adventure.  I participate in two or three discussion groups regularly.  The topics of these groups have a broad range of subjects and can be challenging in themselves.  This past week, out of nowhere in particular, one of the participants asked me, “Coker, who are you?”  It took me off guard as I gathered my thoughts. ” Who am I’?  I almost answered, “Can I get back to you on that,”  I knew that would be a cop-out.

Many years ago, I started a process that I have continued to this date.  When in doubt or  when in trouble, I pray a voiceless prayer to myself:  “Lord, I need you right now!!”  After my unnoticed silent prayer,  I repeated the question and said out loud, “Who am I?.”

Not the exact wording, but my response covered a myriad of thoughts gathered from readings and individuals.  To a large degree, they are the sum total of my life’s experience.

I answered his question somewhat philosophically with a discussion on each topic.  Afterward, I reflected on those comments and share them with you so you can also answer the question, “Who am I.”

  •   God created us, Male and Female.
  • believe that a child from the beginning of life, including the time spent inside the mother’s womb, has inherent value.
  • Marriage is the union of one Man and one Woman.
  • Religious Liberty is an inherent human right.
  • The Bible is the inspired Word of God.

You can imagine the questions and discussions surrounding each of these topics.  Although varied, I could answer the questions because of my inherent beliefs.  I know who I am!!  I do not have to go to battle in a discussion or with disagreement.  “this is who I am.”

So why tell you, the reader,  in a blog?   I think it is inherent in us to “know who we are” and be able to articulate the answer to this question and do so with conviction and love.  I encourage you to answer the same question, “Who am I” and formulate your answer and be prepared when “who you are” is questioned or challenged.


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Being Good (Virtuous)

“Gary, you be good,” was my mother’s favorite comment when I went someplace away from home. Even when I had friends over to play games in our yard, she would repeat the comment, “You be good, now.”  I ask, “What must I do to be a good person?  “

Being good can be answered in terms of behavior. Indeed, we don’t know a person is “good” unless that person does good deeds!  Perhaps that is why many definitions of virtue include the idea of  “an inherent power.”

In the small community, I grew up in, I can name all of the families who lived on the street where I lived. Invariably, they were known as good people or “she is a virtuous woman” or “he is a virtuous man.”

Virtue is ideal.  No one is completely virtuous. Virtue (being good) is a quality we seek and pursue that requires discipline, focus, and an intent to achieve.  No one is born virtuous.  Virtue is acquired.

What made this small community virtuous?  Why was there harmony and safety among the families who lived there? We are compelled in pursuit of virtue to act in certain ways that are beneficial to others. Goodness ( virtue) can be defined in a number of ways.  But who is to say what is and is not “good” or virtuous?

In retrospect, I now know the answer to the definition of  — good and virtuous.  There were two small churches in the community, and 90 percent of the population attended one of these churches. Sunday was a Holy day; first of all, the commercial establishments remained closed and free of commerce— i.e., a day of rest.  Secondly, Sunday morning saw overwhelming community residents in one of the two churches.

In these churches, virtue and goodness were defined by criteria set forth in the Holy Bible.  It is here in the Holy Scripture we learn we are not born ‘good’ but with evil intent in our hearts.  (wow !!) (Genesis 8:21).  l,  as a young fellow, I  heard numerous  ‘sermons’ that reinforced that I would become ‘good’ when Christ dwells in my heart.  Then and only then would my heart be strengthened with moral goodness and virtue in my deeds.  The statement made from the pulpit, “You must be filled with the power of the Holy Spirit.  Then, and only then, would you be established with a heart of virtue and goodness.”

It is the Bible that gives us the definition of ‘goodness.’  Once you have the indwelling of the  Holy Spirit (my home church used the term “being Saved, or turning your life over to God), and the Holy Spirit is in charge of your life, your life will produce peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

Therefore, I summarize that goodness is not a quality but an action.  This goodness can be seen in a person who shows love through interactions with others. Virtue manifests itself in calmness and even temperament.    Inherent in these behaviors are praise and the voicing of words of encouragement to others.







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My heart was beating faster as I approached the little town where I grew up as a young boy.  I wanted to ride into town like a cowboy in a western movie.  I could hardly wait to see the old antebellum homes and the quaint cottages occupied by the founding fathers.  Ethylene McGarity was the owner of the old McGarity ‘plantation,’ a home with wrap-around porches and two large circular rooms, one on either end of the porches, that sat at the entrance to the little town.  ‘Miz’ Ethylene, as we all addressed her,  taught elementary school and was the superintendent of the local Methodist church.   She had been my teacher in the third grade. In addition to her leadership and teaching skills, she was a great pianist.   ‘Wait, something is wrong…………………………where is the house?’  It’s gone!  The large gardens of evergreens, bushes, and flowers–all gone.  And the stone benches with the massive yard that I, as a young boy, kept manicured to Ms. Ethylene’s desire…all Gone!!  Later I was told the house had been disassembled and moved to another area.

Adjacent to Ms. Ethylene’s house was the town physician’s office. Dr. John Geradine’s home was where everyone from miles around came for health needs.   Dr. Geradine was famous for administering ‘all-purpose capsules,’ which everyone knew were sulfur tablets. Dr. Geradine and his son, John Jr., who later became a physician, and his daughter, Josephine, who had a  delightful personality, were a pillar in the community.

Across the street stood the house of Troy, Lois Allen, and their three sons.  JT, Felton, and  Herman.  Herman had just returned from World War II, where he was in the thick of battle. Unfortunately, Herman was hit by a car and killed while walking beside the road. What a tragedy, fighting army battles all through Europe and then getting hit by a car upon his return home.

Traveling down the street, I pass the homes of Fritz and  Bo Allgood and their families.  Their property sat on the fringes of the town center, which was composed of three general mercantile stores, Blasingame, Barrett, and Allen.  The oil mill, which had brought the small town notoriety for developing methods to extract oil and process cotton seeds, had recently burned, leaving a hole in the economy and patronage of the town.  The cotton gin continued to flourish, where each Saturday, horse and mule-drawn wagons would line up for miles waiting to take their cotton inside the gin for processing into bales. As a young boy, the weekends were a sight to behold as we saw all of this activity occurring.  The small bank flourished in the midst of what appeared to be a typical small southern town.  Law and order were maintained by the town sheriff,  “Sheriff Stargel”

It was good to see the homes of the Hutsons, Charlie and ‘Miz’ Nora.  Miss Nora was the town ‘sage,’ the person everyone went to for advice on illnesses, planting flowers, or any other “how to.” Across the street were two homes where brothers John and ‘Mope’ Coker lived. Mope had made a name for himself playing armed services baseball and shared the outfield with Joe DiMaggio.  The final little community store and home were owned by Charlie Guest.  His small store was where the men gathered on Friday night to listen to either a baseball game or the Friday night fights.  I accompanied my dad to those events. On the corner was the entrance to the local school with a gymnasium, home economics cottage, and industrial arts facilities.  Due to consolidation, the high school had moved to another community, and now the school only had grades 1-8.

I turned and headed down the street toward my childhood home, first passing ‘Miz’ Lessie and Roy Mcgarity’s home, which sat across from Mrs. Bessie Mcgarity’s home.  ‘Miz’ Lessie taught first grade at the school and was a no-nonsense, loving teacher.  I loved Miss Lessie. Adjacent to this area stood two large antebellum homes belonging to the Blasingames and the Barretts. Several other homes were on the street as well as Johnny Everretts’ Barbershop.  My home was at the end of the street, where the pavement ended, and the road was dirt.  The University of Georgia, in partnership with Purina, had a large farm operated by Curtis Collier.  The farm was based on research with chickens and pigs.  Mr. Collier, fresh out of the army, organized a boy scout troop in conjunction with the Methodist church.  The young men met every two weeks for scouting projects and many overnight excursions.  Mr. Collier was an outstanding leader and mentor to those young boys.

Wait!!!! Something is wrong.  My house is gone.  On this large two-acre plot of land, surrounded by pecan trees where my childhood home was, stood a modern, classic new home.

Emotions flooded my mind.  My home was a picturesque wooden structure with a porch and beautiful flowers my mother had nurtured. This house held memories of a lifetime where a vibrant young boy played backyard football, games of hide-and-seek, and took bike rides around town. This was where I roamed the woods in search of squirrels, took those bird dogs with my brother, and went quail hunting.  This was the yard where friends could come, and we would have countless whiffle ball games, not to mention the glorious time catching ‘lighting bugs’ or playing that twilight game of ‘tag’

These memories were now all that remained.  No one could imagine the depths of emotions stirred by this event.

I can never go home.






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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!!





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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




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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.














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