Reflections……………………………………………………………Sand Traps

When playing golf, my worst nightmare is getting into a sand trap. Invariably, my instincts take over and fear prevails. Many of my golfing buddies tell me to have patience, that  I act too quickly.   It was one of these ‘good’ sand trip golfers who reminded me  to consider the trap an ‘opportunity.’ What a novel idea, akin to: ‘by the time this is over you will have taken advantage of a perfectly good crisis.”
Recently I wrote to a group of e-mail friends and asked for their comments and feelings concerning the coronavirus. Their replies were enlightening as many discussed the frustrations surrounding their everyday life. I surmised from their general attitude they had acquired the essentials such as milk and toilet paper, however, the one essential giving them the most difficulty was ‘patience’.  Could it be the virus is creating sand traps in our game of life?
One of the observable behaviors in our Christian lives is the lack of spiritual goals. We have goals in other spheres—-career goals, vacation goals, weight loss goals—which we pursue with ongoing action. I hasten to add I am very aware that in some Christian circles formulating spiritual goals is considered taboo.
Have you heard anyone discuss their spiritual goals during this crisis? It is somewhat odd that many people do not have concrete goals in spiritual improvement. They go ‘with the flow’ and make comments, “God is going to take care of me.” Or they answer, “I go to church every Sunday.”
We Christians have an endless capacity for improving—“-I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

Maybe we  should we  go back to the  previous comment: ‘by the time this is over we will have taken advantage of a perfectly good crisis’.
In golf you Identify the sand traps and learn the basic procedures to get out of them or to stay out of them. In life the sand traps are the areas where you need to improve your daily behaviors and spiritual foundation and establish goals to avoid them.
Sand traps tend to occur in the same predictable spots every day.  So be smart and target these places in your behavioral analysis and “be conformed to the image of Christ”.
Look at the sand traps that are giving you difficulty and develop a Christ-like approach. You will discover to your surprise how good obedience feels—that instantaneous lightening and strengthening that accompanies putting the flesh to death.

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Reflections…………………………………………..School Make-Up

Gary Coker Ph.D

The Coronavirus has caused schools to close throughout the United States.  As things begin to return to normalcy, the question is: “How should students make-up the time missed as a result of the virus”? Obviously even with the best schooling at home, there is likely to be some loss of learning.
Research is conclusive— students learn less with online classes than similar peers in traditional face-to-face school learning.
This makes sense, because learning is a social activity. The evidence shows positive effects are stronger where technology is a supplement for teaching, rather than a significant replacement. Technology is a tool for learning and should not replace the teacher.
Special students or disadvantaged students will be hardest hit. Children from poorer households or households that do not embrace the learning process in an organized manner or where parents do not give adequate help when problems arise are at a tremendous disadvantage.
Before the school closures, children who were struggling academically were  placed at risk. Asking these students to work independently through large parts of the curriculum on line can create stress. Many of these students function below their grade level and when the process requires them to regulate their own learning pace a formula for disaster is created.
I hasten to add this is not an argument against on-line learning. Digital learning offers much potential for schools and students. Computer-aided tutoring shows positive results when used to support learning.
It cannot be considered academic equivalency to shift teaching online to large populations during a pandemic and expect equal results as to the teacher in the classroom.
So, what should school systems do when they re-open to help students bounce back.

When school re-opens students are likely to be behind. Some will be far behind. Many students will have a lot to catch up on to move up a grade in 2021. Local schools have several options. Getting students to repeat a year should not be one of them.
Acquisition of pre-requisite skills necessary for advancement to the next grade or level is a priority. Without these skills a domino effect can occur with social promotions and a student losing interest in school and simultaneously adopting a negative self-image.
So called catch-up programs offer the school system the opportunity to access the academic level of students relative to their grade level and provide intensive instruction in small groups before and after the normal school day. These sessions should be targeted at the most disadvantaged and struggling students in groups of two to five students. Positive results have been noted for co-operative learning with students who are advanced leading small groups.
Another option is intensive face-to-face academic programs delivered over a few weeks. This should be similar to what we once called ‘summer school.’ These programs have a strong academic focus and target struggling students.
The school calendar could be adjusted to incorporate the month of June as make-up time. Research indicates intense programs during the summer can help students gain two months of extra learning compared to similar students who do not take advantage of the ‘summer school’ learning. The impact of this type of approach is greater when academically focused and delivered intensively with small groups by experienced teachers.
No doubt schools and teachers will do their best to continue student learning while schools are closed. Through this process we will also learn a lot about how to implement on-line learning for large populations and improve along the way.

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REFLECTIONS…………………………………………Home Schooling

Gary Coker Ph.D

Home schooling has, heretofore, referred to children as those who did not attend school away from home but were taught at home. The coronavirus has changed this definition as schools have closed and many children are now taught at home. This change in environment from school to home requires a change in the behavioral approach in your home and to your child and represents something quite different.

May I encourage you to go to and design a daily schedule. This will take patience primarily due to the behavioral aspects your child has learned at home. For example, most likely he/she will want to lay on the bed, the floor, or somewhere he/she has traditionally studied. It is important to have a place conducive to learning- preferably a straight-backed chair at some form of desk or table, a place not surrounded by visual distractions such as wall posters, etc., and absolutely no television or audio devices. Your child needs to understand this is a time of learning and is free of distractions. If your school provides online classroom learning you will need to monitor ‘time on task’. Your schedule should provide for an orderly transition between classes and other activities. Remember, the greatest predictor of learning is time engaged with a specific learning objective.

Tips for you during this time of home schooling.

  1.  Start with a weekly schedule for yourself.  Time-blocking or scheduling chunks of time for certain tasks will net you the most productive use of your time.  It will not be uncommon for your child/student to want to assume a more casual time schedule.  It is important for the learning process to be organized with a specific schedule at a  specific time.
  2.  Do not forget important family activities;  lunch or breaks.  It is easy to lose track of time especially if your home becomes a virtual classroom.
  3.  The amount of free resources, tools, plans, etc. being offered are overwhelming.  In a virtual world you are going to make a few choices….Kahn Academy, probably the most reputable home school program, is readily available and has great reviews and recommendations..  Scholastics offers an array of lesson plans  and programs that are easily followed and tailored to the child’s academic level of functioning. Your child’s school will provide you with lessons and experiences needed during this time.  An important question for you to ask is :  “what is the essential learning in this lesson.”  It should not be ‘busy’ work but the acquisition of “essential learning”.  In the Elementary grades the answer will most likely be skills or knowledge.  In the Middle and Upper School, skills, knowledge,  concepts and higher order thinking will be the focus.
  4. Online learning or classes at home can be flexible, but must have a set of routines and procedures.  You will want to be flexible, but still have expectations so your child will know what to expect. Students aren’t the only ones who need routines and procedures.  Make yourself a checklist of tasks that must be completed each day.
  5.  Discuss with other parents, even if remotely, practices you are doing and share ‘how to’s’.
  6.  Don’t forget to give yourself breaks in an orderly fashion.  Home schooling can quickly start encroaching on family and relaxation time.  Separate home from school.

Be of good cheer and remember…………..“when they grow old, they shall be like their teacher.”



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According to Facebook the attached blog has been seen and ‘liked’ by more readers than any other blog. I repost and thank you for following my blogs and experiences of life. Merry Christmas


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Merging 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, travel, participating in Christmas pageants and parties, all of which crowded out the quiet anticipation of the season. Too many Christmas mornings I’ve realized that while my presents were wrapped, my heart was completely unprepared to truly take in the Gift. Therefore, I established a strategic plan (can you imagine a strategic plan for Christmas, remember God had one), well I did. For me, without a plan I have tendencies to let things fall through the cracks.

To you the reader, you must keep in mind June and I have Christmas a week prior to the actual date in order for our family (three sons, three daughter-in-laws and nine grandchildren) to spend…

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Ramblins…………………………………..Remember the Future

Ramblins………………………………………………….Remember the Future

Living on a college campus has many benefits. There is never a time when some activity, athletic event, performing art, etc. is not occurring. Coupled with the array of activities is also the diversity of ideology, opinions, culture and sometimes personal and political persuasions.
In one of my most recent meetings the discussion of the Democratic debate was front and center, more specifically, when the narrator asked the question, “how many of you would approve late term abortions?” The response was unanimously affirmative.
My ears perked as I remembered my classes in Human Growth and Anatomy where I had memorized the various stages of development for the unborn child. There is ample evidence from research indicating the fetus recognizing human voices, responding to music, and recoiling from any form of pain. There is no question the unborn child has self-awareness and environmental interaction while in utero.
It seems there is a point in our earliest fetal development (or before) when God begins equipping and gifting humans with whatever it is they will need to become the fullest expression of their unique selves.
I had a great deal of difficulty with my fellow ‘coffee drinkers’ wanting to support abortion. I had to wrap my arms around the concept that when God created us, He did the most shocking thing. He gave us the freedom to decide our own destiny. Think about the implications of that truth for a moment. God created us to be free moral agents.
I left the group with a challenge for a later discussion; “Christians do not kill babies.” Therefore…………………………………..

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Reflections…………………..Jersey School

Dr. Gary Coker



Since seeing the burning of the Jersey School building, I have had ‘flashbacks” of yesteryear and of classmates and friends who attended school with me. They are very fond memories

In school we studied the basic classes of English, History, Arithmetic and Science. All teachers were addressed by their first name with a ‘Miz’ in front of it. ‘Miz’ Lessie, ‘Miz’ Ethlene, etc. Students came from rural areas and would be considered out-of-date by today’s standards. The majority of the students could remember ‘outhouses’ most from firsthand experience. We certainly can remember the days of telephone party-lines and 25 cent gasoline and milk and ice being delivered to our house. ‘Fall break’ was not a trip to the beach but rather a trip to the fields to help with harvest, especially cotton. If you were lucky enough and worked hard you could earn money to go to the county fair in Monroe.

There are a few things I would like to remind the current generation about the youth of Jersey and other similar schools . Unfortunately, we are often labeled old ‘fogies’ or country ‘bumpkins.’ We worked hard and worshiped one God. We won World War II, we fought in the Korean War and Viet Nam. We can quote the pledge of Allegiance and know where to put our hand while doing it. We didn’t fight for the “Socialist” States of America we fought for the ‘land of the free and the home of the brave.’

By the end of the second grade we knew the words to the “Star Spangled Banner,” ‘America,’ and ‘America the Beautiful’. We have lived what many of today’s youth have only read in history books and we feel no obligation to apologize for America. It is noteworthy, if it were not for young men and women like those in Jersey we would all be speaking German today.

It was the basic skills that we were taught that led America into the technological age. We were not bystanders, we were active, hardworking, patriots. A common thread that wove itself in the halls of the school, in the classroom and on the playground was; respect, hard work, and responsibility.

So, as I viewed the fire that consumed my old School in that rural town of Jersey, Ga., a tear rolls down my cheek as I am reminded of the teachers who taught me and the lessons learned in that building that have lasted a lifetime and enabled me to pursue higher educational goals.

Gary Coker Ph.D.

Class of 1956

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Liquid Gold


The end of the Month of May came as local farmers had their crops planted and summer approached. Pastures were lush with green grass and the spirit in this small community was very high.
As June and July approached the temperatures hovered around 90 almost every day. Concern began to control the daily conversations with “how are your crops doing?” “I sure wish it would rain!” and a strange phenomenon began to happen as local milk cows “went dry.” When rain is plentiful, it’s an afterthought. During a drought, it’s the only thought.
At the beginning of August local water wells were dry and residents were having to go in search of water. A local spot, fondly known as ‘flat rock’, was a gathering place where grave concern with the lack of drinking water was the topic of the day. It had now been three full months without rain.
Crops had withered away. Harvest time approached and there were no crops to be harvested. Pastures stood brown and cattle had lost weight.
Local churches began to have special ‘prayer’ services where the topic of helping each other during this unusual time and praying for rain was front and center.
As a young boy it was my first time to experience a prayer vigil. Upon arrival, usually on a Wednesday night, the pastor or deacon would share concerns about the community and how families could assist other families having difficulty. After the general discussions several groups gathered in circles and began praying. Most of the prayer was done collectively without one individual leading the prayer. These circles would last ten, twenty minutes or more. Gradually the individuals concluded their prayer time and left. The prayers had been resolute yet humble, confidant yet meek, expectant yet unassuming.
On one particular night, at the conclusion of the prayer session, as we departed the church, flashes of light appeared in the sky. Some of the attendees were elated while others indicated the flashing was ‘heat’ lighting and had no bearing on rain.
However, the following day young children danced in the downpour like it was the first rainfall they’d ever seen. Parents threw back their heads opened their mouths, and caught raindrops. When it had not rain in more than three months raindrops were like liquid gold falling from the sky. It rained like a torrential downpour and gradually turned into a well-proportioned sun shower on a hot and humid August afternoon. It began to rain calmly, peacefully. A rain that didn’t just soak the skin; it soaked the spirit with faith.
It will always be remembered as the day. The day puddle jumping became an act of praise. It had been difficult to believe the day before the day. The day after the day, it was impossible not to believe.

Editor’s note. The blog is taken from a time in the early 1950’s in a rural area of Georgia known as Jersey.

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Reflections………………………………………Prayer in School


Cross on the Campus of the University of the South

Historical documents indicate John Adams, American Statesman, Attorney, Founding Father and Second President of the United States conferred with George Washington, First President of the United States and inquired about having prayer in schools and how prayers should be conducted. George Washington’s reply was “this country was not founded by religionists but by Christians. Not on religion but on the gospel of Jesus Christ. Therefore, we are talking about prayer to the Bible’s God.” “Prayer in our schools will be a unifying  process.” From that time forward prayer has been an integral part of school. (John Adams-Wikipedia)
In 1962 the supreme court ruled (Engle v Vidtale) it unlawful for schools to promote praying in public schools. I like what one student had to say about this ruling. “As long as we have tests, we will have prayer in school.” Nevertheless, what our Founding Fathers considered as a means to promote citizenship and virtuous living was considered unlawful.

As we look at the changes that have occurred since prayer was outlawed, can we say the conditions on our school campuses are better or worse? Can we say the moral fiber of our youth is better or worse? Can we say our children are less self-absorbed or more self-absorbed? Are reading and achievement scores better or worse? In other words, are our schools better off or worse off than they were in 1962? Regardless of how you answer these questions, our schools have lost a powerful tool for promoting citizenship, virtue, servanthood, and reverence:  Prayer.

During the period since the Supreme Court made the decision to eliminate prayer, we have seen our culture move in a direction of incivility characterized by rude words and behavior. The lack of civil behavior is threatening the greater good. Unequivocally, prayer leads to lives characterized by thankfulness and produces better people as well as better students.

Hardly a day goes by that someone doesn’t post on social media: “Do you want prayer put back into schools?” The answer to that statement is an overwhelming YES, provided it is done in the same manner as what John Adams and George Washington envisioned. But that time has come and gone……………A pluralistic society embracing multiple religions, where classroom teachers worship an array of gods and in some cases, godlessness, is not a place where the majority of parents want a prayer lead by a teacher.

A saying in sports as well as in leadership goes like this…… “the ball is in your court…….” Prayer as we once knew it will not return to our public schools. We are a people of faith. America is a land of hope. Hope is a quality of the soul. It is a consistent characteristic of this country that we have always sought to rise above or move beyond the conditions that are given to us. Parents, grandparents, we have lived in a country where prayer has been the centerpiece of our relationship with our Heavenly Father.  The ball is in our court. Therefore, instead of your child”s teacher leading with prayer, the home and the parents must keep this vital part of our lives front and center.  You have prayer as a centerpiece of your household. Before the children go to school…have a prayer. Before that ballgame……..have a prayer. Before a meal……. have a prayer. All the places where the school use to provide opportunities for prayer you now step into the void. Without it we perish and our life and thoughts dissolve into a meaningless, unrelated rush of events………. Let’s Pray.

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June and I arrived in Berlin, Ohio with anticipation of returning to a simpler form of life.

The new dress code is as follows, red suspenders and hat

The area and adjacent counties are home to a very large Amish community.  The country side has many working farms and is also the home of numerous industrial corporations operated and staffed by Amish individuals.  The most prominent and visible change to this idyllic community is noticed in the local restaurants and businesses where Amish girls are employed. (Most of the boys are working in the factories or on the farm) The girls wear dresses and their etiquette and politeness is refreshing.  Everything is in the natural order without artificial enhancements. This is equally true of the community where wholesomeness and order permeates both the town and the local countryside……..Behavior is learned therefore it can be taught.


Switch with me to a local high school in Nashville, Tennessee where during the last period of the day students are placed into teams with a senior class member serving as the leader of the team.  Their task is to clean the building in preparation for the following day of classes.  The school employs no housekeeping personnel.  After an athletic event the students can be seen picking up debris and other items and placing it into large trash cans.  A visitor to the school would be immediately impressed with the cleanliness and order of the campus.  Students take pride.  Behavior is learned therefore it can be taught.


Now switch with me to the nightly news which is highlighting the city of Baltimore where 2.5 Billion dollars have been spent in the last several years in an attempt to rehabilitate a population that has become dependent upon society.  A local councilman addresses the issue by placing the blame on 400 years of racism.  When interviewed, a   pastor indicates more federal funds are needed.  To add fuel to the fire, all of the problems have existed for years.  However, the reporter left no question the present conditions were the result of the President of the United States. A behavior that is positively reinforced will repeat itself.


Two outstanding football quarterbacks were recently in the news.  One for kneeling during the playing of the National Anthem at the beginning of the football game.  The second for kneeling at the conclusion of a game to thank God for His blessings.  The first was awarded a one million dollar contract by the Nike Company.  The second did not receive any recognition.   A behavior that is positively reinforced will repeat itself.


Society, grandparents, parents…….and what will they be doing when they grow old.   They will be doing what we have taught them and what behaviors we have positively reinforced.  Above all remember………Values taught are free .






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It was a sultry July morning when Dr. John Geradine was summoned to come to the Coker household. Not an easy journey from the community of Jersey down the Social Circle highway. Albeit the doctor’s car did not like the dirt roads it had to travel. Nevertheless, he made it just as Magdalene (Maggie) was in the final stages of delivering the largest baby, 12.5 pounds, the doctor had ever delivered or seen.

The oldest of the family, John (Junior), was immediately summoned to begin his pre-ordained journey to tell relatives and friends that ‘baby’ Coker (a name not yet decided upon) had arrived. Fast of foot, even barefooted, Junior delivered the message across pastures and through backyards with the final stop at  Alcovy mountain. Thus began the journey that continues with the latest birthday.

I began writing articles and blogs in my middle twenties  when my picture showed me with lots of hair. Ten years later I had less hair and my complexion began to take on a ‘rugged’ look. And now here I am, an old ‘guy’, with jowls, crows feet at the corners of my eyes, and a modest “wattle” adorning my throat. Several years back I decided it was okay to get old and grey, and that process is well underway. I am looking forward to writing in the future. Maybe something like: ‘reflections………from the nursing home’ or ‘reflections………one foot in the grave.’ Or if I have gone home to Jesus, how about Reflections……How it ends.

Birthdays create trips down memory lane and memories light up the corners of my mind. Starting with the spring of life when innocence was filled with playmates, family events, and learning can it be that all was so simple then, …or has time rewritten every line. Even with time there are special ‘closets’ tucked away in the recesses of our minds where doors stay closed. However, on special days like birthdays, you reach for the key and unlock the door and rushing out are those memories……smiles we gave one another for the way we were……

Reflecting back over the years with the many people and circumstances that have marked the pages of time…. scattered pictures of the smiles we left behind…..I ask myself……If I had the chance to do it all again…..would we….could we.

Meanwhile, time marches on. What everyone exclaims is so true: Life is really short. We don’t have time to waste—-however long you may live, today is the only today you will ever have. When today is over, it will be over, and it will not come again. Don’t waste a moment of it wishing you were younger than you are, or that you looked like you use to look, or had done something other than what you did in life. Take whatever you have to work with and make today as sweet as you can make it. Nobody can do it for you, and nobody will. It is yours alone.


…..memories may be beautiful and yet……what’s too painful to remember………we simply choose to forget…….

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