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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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…………………………




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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.

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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

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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)



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