See something, say something

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How can I demonstrate God’s love? See something, say something, maybe.

SkateboardBoyHe looked to be about 8 years old, the kid focused on the front edge of his skate board as he determinedly rode up and down my street. His track was the pavement in front of several houses on my block.

I stood at the window sipping a cup of coffee, watching his progress as he got the hang of his new gadget.

Back and forth, back and forth he went, the clattering sound of skateboard wheels on the rough pavement reaching into my living room. The expression on his face showed how much he was concentrating – how fast can I go, how fast can I turn, can I do a flip – normal stuff for a kid when there’s no skateboard ramp nearby.

He was still focused down at his feet when the car came up behind him. There were no sidewalks in our neighborhood, only a few cement driveways. Any of those would have been safe for him to swerve onto to get out of the car’s way.

But he was facing the wrong way, he didn’t hear the car, and so he didn’t swing onto the nearest driveway. He kept right on pushing, right in the street, right in the path of that oncoming car.

There was a posted speed limit but our street being a short cut between two major roads, many drivers ignored it. They often speeded up instead. Still watching, I frowned as I realized that the driver didn’t see the boy. In a minute it would be too late for him to stop.

What should I have done? It wasn’t my problem. That wasn’t my child. I didn’t know his family. They shouldn’t have let him play in the street anyway. Is that what I should have thought?

No. I jerked open the front door and ran outside yelling at the top of my lungs. Hey! Hey? Car! Car!

Both boy and driver saw my flailing arms, thankfully. The car veered into the other lane – good thing there was no oncoming traffic – and the boy jumped for the shallow ditch in front of my house. The car kept right on going, tragedy averted.

Had I been acting in “love,” the way some well-meaning folks seem to define it, I would have simply smiled and kept silent. I would have let the boy continue on his way, oblivious to danger. Would have let the driver commit vehicular manslaughter. Heaven forbid that I should offend somebody with harsh words, hurt the feelings of someone going down the path to eternal destruction.

But that’s not my heart. Not Holy Spirit’s heart, either.

If I see someone who is being deceived (and/or deceiving others), I will probably say something. Write something, maybe. Something, like Hey! Hey! Danger! Danger!

Offensive? Well, “offend” means to stop someone, to turn them out of the way they’re going, so yes. Out of the path of the deceiver.

That tendency has sometimes gotten me into hot water. It has made me the target of sarcastic words to my face and worse words behind my back. Rude online articles sometimes. Or passive-aggressive hostility, the silent treatment from friends who don’t know me or my heart very well.

But it has also gotten some folks free of deceptive entanglements that could have ruined their lives, and helped others avoid that path in the first place.

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Proper Semantics About Terrorists

Shootin' the Breeze

I listened to President Obama give an address in the aftermath of the terrorist killings in San Bernardino.  Let me see whether I followed his message.

President Obama does not want to call this terrorist act as an act of Islamic terrorists because Islam is a religion of peace so these particular terrorists cannot be Islamic terrorists, by definition, because they follow a perverted version of Islam that is not true Islam.

He is unwilling to accept that these terrorists themselves apparently thought (mistakenly, it now seems) that they were followers of Islam.

Therefore, he does not believe groups that use “Islamic” in their names, such as the ISIS and ISIL, are accurate in calling themselves Islamic.  It seems that he is the person who gets to decide who is Islamic and who is not, regardless of what they call themselves.

He ought to know, better than I, what constitutes…

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Persecuted

Have you ever been persecuted for your faith?

Not beaten up or shot, imprisoned and tortured as many believers in Jesus around the world are suffering. But maybe just annoyed, aggravated, irritated, made nervous and hesitant about sharing your faith any further in public?

Whenever you’re in the public eye, small or large public, you make yourself a target. In the late 1980’s, many right-wing pro-life Christian activists worked in the political arena and thus made themselves visible targets. I was one of them.

A United States Congressman from my state was running for re-election. He was a left-wing liberal, pro-abortion and pro-big government, and yet he called himself a Christian. (He wasn’t. No fruit.) He was well funded.

Tim and I supported one of his several opponents, one whose beliefs and stances on the issues were in line with ours. He was not well funded.

A debate was held in the local library meeting room. It had been publicized throughout our multi-county district and was attended by several hundred citizens, plus a few TV and print reporters.

Tim and I arrived early and took seats on the front row nearest the entry. As we were already known in the district for community and political volunteerism, a number of people came over to greet us.

When it came time for comments from the candidates, the US Congressman looked straight at me. He did not call my name, although obviously he knew it. He bluntly called me a Nazi, because I so publicly and vocally disagreed with his position on abortion. Taken aback at how ugly and vicious his words were, I could feel my face turning red.

He went on to recount his voting record, his support of the liberal agenda in Washington, and promised more of the same if re-elected.

Our candidate was an older man, a lanky, “red-neck” farmer, not sophisticated in his appearance or manner, but nevertheless he eloquently stated his belief system, his reasons for running for office, and his positions on the issues that affected our district.

It was quite an educational event. Many of our friends came by afterward to sympathize and commiserate on the verbal attack from the platform. We just thanked them for their attendance and asked them to vote for our candidate.

But, the Congressman won in that election, and the next, and the next. After a while no-one had guts enough to run against him. He became a polished, professional politician, racking up many thousands of left-wing dollars along the way.

Eventually our congressional district was split and my town became part of a new district. Our current Congressman is one with high moral standards and one I am very comfortable supporting.

That wasn’t the only time I faced disagreement on the issues, but it was the first from such a public figure, in such an ugly outburst, in such a public forum. I realized then that when you put your name and your face and your voice and your hands and feet out into the public arena for a cause you believe in, you need moral and spiritual guts. You need a thick skin!

You need to determine how much you’re willing to risk, ahead of time. The only way you can stand up and continue to stand, speak out and continue to speak, is by knowing that the Lord who called you to do this assignment lives inside you where it matters.

When someone who disagrees with you calls you a Nazi, Jesus calls you his beloved.

Giving of thanks

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ThanksgivingCornucopiaThis may be the first Thanksgiving I stay home, alone. No family dinners, no church dinners, no dinners out at a local restaurant.

In years past this day was usually spent in someone else’s house, grandparents or in-laws, with my contribution limited to a covered dish or two.

All that changed the year after Tim died. Invitations still arrived. Occasionally I accepted, prepared a covered dish and traveled to a relative’s home, and occasionally I declined.

One year I attended Thanksgiving dinner at my church, sitting with several people I knew and hoping for a relaxed, meaningful conversation around the table. But no, it was as if the other folks were in a hurry to gobble down their turkey and return home to watch a football game, take a nap or something.

Not a fast eater myself, after the first twenty minutes or so I was left to munch the balance of my meal alone. Might as well have been back at home.

Last year a group of family members and I dined at a local buffet restaurant, standing in line for a long while before being crowded into a dining room surrounded by hundreds of like-minded (“I didn’t feel like cooking this year”) strangers.

Elbow to elbow our group crammed into place against an outside wall. Plates and tea glasses jostled one another on a too-small table in the too-noisy room. It was hard to have any conversation, let alone a relaxed one.

This year I made an executive decision. I will stay home.

Meat is off my menu now (whole foods plant-based diet), so no turkey. But favorite dishes are easy to prepare at home, like brown rice with black or red beans, topped with finely chopped onions and a dash of hot sauce. Accompanied by cole slaw or steamed kale.

OBroccoliPastar maybe broccoli and whole-wheat pasta. Perhaps grilled zucchini with yellow squash as a side dish, and/or marinated raw vegetables (diced tomatoes/celery/green peppers/onion/cucumbers with a splash of vinegar and olive oil and a sprinkle of Mrs. Dash). Hmm.

Red-skinned potatoes steamed with thin-sliced cabbage and onions sound good… I might bake a couple of sweet potatoes for dessert or mid-afternoon snack.

Oh well, I’ll decide when I get up in the morning, fix whatever strikes my fancy while watching a parade or two. All that sounds colorful, doesn’t it? And it will be delicious!

After lunch will come old movies and a nap. Maybe a book. It will be the most thankful, “thanksgivingness” Thanksgiving day I’ve had in a long time. I will enjoy every minute, being grateful to the Lord who has blessed me tremendously this year.

 

New way of living

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chowderSeveral months ago my family doctor suggested I read some of Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn’s online material about a whole foods / plant-based diet and consider changing the way I eat.

I had just been diagnosed with an incurable blood vessel disease affecting heart and lungs (pulmonary hypertension resulting in congestive heart failure). It was an unpleasant diagnosis to say the least.

After a referral to cardiology, some prescription medicines were added or adjusted to cope with symptoms, particularly fatigue and shortness of breath.

But I didn’t want to just cope with symptoms. I wanted to get well. I asked several like-minded friends to pray with me about this, knowing the Lord wants me to be healthy, strong, able to do whatever he needs me to do every day.

Next I began studying. Dr. Esselstyn (Cleveland Clinic) has done years of research and treatment for severely-ill cardiac patients. This particular diet is the only one proven medically by Cleveland Clinic and others to both prevent – and reverse – blood vessel disease. (They suggested taking a good multivitamin that included B complex vitamins, which I already did.)

And so, after reading through multiple website pages and medical research, I have made this change. I no longer eat anything “with a face.” That means no meat, no fish, no eggs and no dairy. Dr. Esselstyn recommends no oil and no nuts and I eat little of those now, as a rule.

Instead I eat more green leafy vegetables, more whole grains and rice, more beans and peas, more potatoes white and sweet, more corn. Whole foods. Little to no processed foods like white flour, white rice or white sugar.

At the recommendation of my son, I ordered a supply of dehydrated vegetables, especially beans and peas. These are already cleaned, cooked and then dried, which speeds up meal preparation time a great deal. Instead of several hours to cook a pot of dried beans, it now takes me about 15 minutes. I don’t cook with very much salt at all, just sprinkle a little over anything that really needs it.

I’m not a fanatic about all this. If I’m eating out with friends, I choose a vegetable meal and don’t agonize about whether there is oil or sugar cooked in the veggies.

After two months I’ve lost about 13 pounds. My blood pressure is way down, so much that I can eliminate some of my BP meds and hope to eventually cut them all out. Amazingly, I no longer need the arthritis medicine I’d taken for 50 years!

And coffee – although I’ve been a coffee drinker all my life, 4-5 cups a day, I just don’t think about it very much now. One cup when I first get up in the morning, maybe one more during the day, but sometimes after the first few swallows I forget to drink the rest of the cup.

Here’s what I had to eat yesterday:

  • Breakfast: one whole-wheat waffle, several chunks of canned pineapple and half of a fresh banana. One cup of coffee.
  • Mid-morning snack: handful of corn chips. Water.
  • Lunch: red beans, collard greens cooked with slices of green pepper*, red-skinned potato salad**. Also, one-third of a baked sweet potato, tossed green salad of lettuce, tomatoes, bell peppers, onion, celery slices with a tiny bit of olive oil and splash of red wine vinegar and a sprinkle of Mrs. Dash (the original salt-free variety). Water to drink.
  • Mid-afternoon snack: couple of graham crackers, coffee.
  • Supper: potato-corn-cabbage chowder***, four whole wheat crackers, water.

* Fresh collard greens washed well, sliced then chopped small, cooked in unsalted vegetable broth with several slices of green bell pepper laid across the top. The pepper absorbs the strong collards odor while cooking and may be eaten. Microwave on high 10 to 12 minutes, sample to see if done enough to suit. Cook several more minutes if needed.

** Several small red-skinned potatoes, scraped, diced and cooked in the microwave with salt and pepper, sprinkle of Mrs. Dash. When done, add tiny bit of salad dressing with pickle relish, mix well, mashing slightly. Add chopped onion, bell pepper, and/or celery if desired. Eat while still warm.

*** Three red-skinned potatoes, diced (washed but not scraped or peeled), one rib of celery sliced fairly large, small wedge of cabbage thinly sliced, small amount of sliced yellow onion, handful of frozen yellow corn, can of creamed corn, salt, pepper, Mrs. Dash. Add water until dish is about half-full of water. Combine in large casserole dish, leaving cover ajar, microwave on high for 10 minutes, stir and taste, cook several more minutes until potatoes and celery are done.

I usually prepare enough for two meals, perhaps add fresh sliced tomatoes, cucumbers or peppers, pickled beets, perhaps a slice of whole-wheat toast.

Some days I cook brown rice, black beans or corn on the cob. Also I often use canned diced tomatoes, frozen vegetables such as garden peas, green beans, broccoli, turnips, or yellow corn, and various frozen fruit such as peaches and blueberries.

I keep my salt intake low because of blood pressure and never have eaten much sugar.  My one favorite food is bread, unfortunately,  but since switching from white bread to whole wheat, I find I like the taste of it, toasted. Just don’t eat two or three slices at a time for a snack any more.

I’m learning as I go, of course. And so far so good. I have not missed eating meat, I’m never hungry, and one really good thing – I don’t have to count calories.

Interested in learning more? Here’s a good place to start. http://www.dresselstyn.com/

Who you are makes a difference

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Blue RibbonsLooking for something else on my computer, I came across this story in an email that was forwarded to me by a friend back in 2007.

It meant a lot to me back then and it still does today. I’m sure I forwarded it on to other people at the time but I think it’s just as appropriate these days. Maybe even more so.

Date:  2007/03/21 Wed PM 10:34:38 EDT
To: **************
Subject: Fw: Who you are.

A teacher in New York decided to honor each of her seniors in High School by telling them the difference each of them had made. She called each student to the front of the class, one at a time.

First, she told each of them how they had made a difference to her, and the class. Then she presented each of them with a blue ribbon, imprinted with gold letters, which read, “Who I Am Makes a Difference.”

Afterwards, the teacher decided to do a class project, to see what kind of impact recognition would have on a Community. She gave each of the students three more blue ribbons, and instructed them to go out and spread this acknowledgment ceremony. Then they were to follow up on the results, see who honored whom, and report back to the class in about a week.

One of the boys in the class went to a junior executive in a nearby Company, and honored him for helping him with his career planning. He gave hi m a blue ribbon, and put it on his shirt. Then he gave him two extra ribbons and said, “We’re doing a class project on recognition, and we’d like for you to go out, find somebody to honor, give them a blue ribbon, then give them the extra blue ribbon so they can acknowledge a third person, to keep this acknowledgment ceremony going. Then please report back to me and tell me what
happened.”

Later that day, the junior executive went in to see his boss, who had been noted, by the way, as being kind of a grouchy fellow. He sat his boss down, and he told him that he deeply admired him for being a creative genius.

The boss seemed very surprised. The junior executive asked him if he would accept the gift of the blue ribbon, and would he give him permission to put it on him. His surprised boss said, “Well, sure.” The junior executive took the blue ribbon and placed it right on his boss’s jacket, above his heart.

As he gave him the last extra ribbon, he said, “Would you take this extra ribbon, and pass it on by honoring somebody else. The young boy who first gave me the ribbons is doing a project in school, and we want to keep this recognition ceremony going and find out how it affects people.”

That night, the boss came home to his 14-year-old son, and sat him down. He said, “The most incredible thing happened to me today. I was in my office, and one of the junior executives came in and told me he admired me, and gave me a blue ribbon for being a creative genius. Imagine! He thinks I’m a creative genius! Then he put this blue ribbon that says, “Who I Am Makes a Difference”, on my jacket above my heart. He gave me an extra ribbon and asked me to find somebody else to honor.

As I was driving home tonight, I started thinking about who I would honor with this ribbon, and I thought about you. I want to honor you. My days are really hectic and when I come home, I don’t pay a lot of attention to you.

Sometimes I scream at you for not getting good enough grades in school, and for your bedroom being a mess. But somehow tonight, I just wanted to sit here and, well, just let you know that you do make a difference to me. Besides God and your mother, you are the most important person in my life. You’re a great kid, and I love you!”

The startled boy started to sob and sob, and he couldn’t stop crying. His whole body shook. He looked up at his father and said through his tears, “Dad, earlier tonight I sat in my room and wrote a letter to you and Mom, explaining why I had killed myself, and I asked you to forgive me. I was going to commit suicide tonight after you were asleep. I just didn’t think that you cared at all. The letter is upstairs. I don’t think I need it after all.” His father walked upstairs and found a heartfelt letter full of anguish and pain.

The boss went back to work a changed man. He was no longer a grouch, but made sure to let all of his employees know that they made a difference.

The junior executive helped several other young people with career planning, and never forgot to let them know that they made a difference in his life… one being the boss’ son. And the young boy and his classmates learned a valuable lesson, “Who you are DOES make a difference”.

You are under no obligation to pass this on to anyone… not to two people, or to two hundred. As far as I am concerned, you can forget it and move on. On the other hand, if you want, you could send it to all of the people who mean something to you, or send it to the one, two, or three people who mean the most.

Or, just smile and know that I think that you are important, or you wouldn’t have received this in the first place. Who you are does make a difference, and I wanted you to know that. I’m passing the blue ribbon to you, for who YOU are does make a difference, too. May GOD BLESS YOU.

Curious about the origin of this story, today I did a little internet search and found “Who I Am Makes A Difference ~ the Story by Helice ‘Sparky’ Bridges” on a website, http://blueribbonstory.org/. Here’s a paragraph from that site:

“In 1980, our “Who I Am Makes A Difference”® Blue Ribbon Acknowledgement Ceremony was created to help people express their appreciation, respect and love for their children, parents, teachers, friends, neighbors — everyone! Over the years, this heartfelt ceremony has impacted over 40 million people worldwide and has been translated into 12 languages — saving lives, eradicating bullying, and making dreams come true in the home, school and workplace.”

Proposed downtown apartment complex / parking deck

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The City of Florence’s Design Review Board has approved plans for a downtown apartment complex / parking deck combination. (See Morning News story and sketch, 3/12/15.) The structure will be on the former McLeod Infirmary site, next door to the brand-new Florence Museum building. There’s a lot of difference between what those blocks look like now and from when I was growing up… and from what they will look like a year from now. Not sure how I feel. Nostalgic?

DowntownApartmentComplexIrbyChevesSt
DowntownApts.SketchFrom Morning News and SCNow, 3/12/15:

BB+M ARCHITECTURE The city’s Design Review Board approved the request for a Certificate of Appropriateness for the apartment complex and parking deck project Wednesday, March 11, 2015. This rendering, seen from looking west on West Cheves Street to South Irby Street (back to the Florence County Museum) shows the four-story, 85-unit apartment complex that will break ground this spring. The apartments will cover a 320-space, city parking deck on three sides as well.

Anniversary – sad and happy

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TimCoxPowersReunionTimothy C. Cox 7/11/46 – 12/15/06 (at the Powers Family Reunion, 2005)

Eight years. It seems like such a long time in many ways, not so long in other ways. “Happy anniversary, honey.” That may seem weird to some people, but not to the Lord, I’m sure. And not to Tim.

Tim’s death left a huge hole in the lives of the many people he loved and who loved him. He made us laugh, made us grateful for his love, and made us grateful that we knew him. He was more than my husband, he was my dearest and best friend from the first day I met him. He was truly God’s gift to us all.

But today Tim can see, has both his legs, all his fingers and a strong heart, and I believe he is experiencing the greatest of joy with his Lord and with those who arrived in heaven before he did.

When I think more about what he is doing now, first and foremost I think of praise and worship, face to face with Jesus, Tim’s Savior and Lord. Then, meeting and greeting keep coming to my mind. Meeting and greeting family and friends who went ahead of him, especially his grandmother and his dad, but many others who Tim loved. Here’s a post from one of my other blogs, Speaking of Heaven, about that.

Touching Base
13 February 2010

What is Tim doing? I asked the Lord one evening. It was just a random question before going to sleep; I don’t ask that every night any more, like I did for a while. I got an instant answer and then a little explanation to go with it.

“Meeting with relatives.”

Oh, I thought. Ora Lee, Theron, T.C., Ninie, others of their family came to mind. When I began to visualize the way they looked the last time I saw them, I was quickly corrected.

“No, that’s not how they are here.”

Suddenly I received a new mental image of them, each one as an adult in the prime of their life, strong, vibrant and healthy. T.C. no longer looked like a 19 year old. Ora Lee didn’t look 87 and Tim didn’t look 60. They all looked around 30 years old or so.

That started a whole new conversation with the Lord, as he began describing these family meetings.

Their relationships on earth had certain characteristics: Tim was Ora Lee’s son, T.C.’s uncle, and Ninie’s nephew. Their life experiences were very different, person to person. Their eras, education, friendships, cultures and societal standings were very different. Their relating to one another, their interests and conversations with each other singly or in family groups were on the basis of all of that.

But they’re not like that now. They relate to one another now as mature adults with a common status: all residing in heaven because of their commitment to Christ.

There are still differences, of course, and thus the meetings. Some have been there a long time, some a short time. Some have traveled and met many other residents, friends, relatives, characters from the pages of the Bible and secular history. Some live in one community, some in another. Some are studying one thing, working at one thing. Others have different assignments, different habitats, even different ways of worship.

Some of these family members lived 100 years ago or longer – Tim had never met them here on earth. Neither had Ora Lee or Ninie, for that matter. Others in the meeting were great-great grandparents, cousins or aunts and uncles they never knew existed before reaching heaven. The lives these relatives had enjoyed in heaven were longer than those they’d lived on earth. What memories they had to share, what adventures, discoveries, revelations and insights!

And so, from time to time they meet. They touch base and get to know one another, not as young versus old, ancestor versus descendant, but as equals: adult residents of heaven who share a common bloodline physically, and because of Christ, spiritually.

As I drifted off to sleep, I saw them milling around in someone’s living room, chatting in small groups, smiling and laughing, sharing interesting stories of their life, some listening intently, nodding their heads in agreement or understanding, gesturing with large arm movements, displaying the wide variety of human expressions you would see in any earthly family reunion. Wonderful.

“Family reunion” has acquired an entirely new definition and dimension for me.

Click here to read this post and other thoughts about Heaven… http://speakingofheaven.wordpress.com/2010/02/13/touching-base/

THE “W” IN CHRISTMAS

Morning Story and Dilbert

Morning Story and Dilbert Vintage Dilbert
December 16, 1994

Last December, I vowed to make Christmas a calm and peaceful experience. I had cut back on nonessential obligations – extensive card writing, endless baking, decorating, and even overspending. Yet still, I found myself exhausted, unable to appreciate the precious family moments, and of course, the true meaning of Christmas.

My son, Nicholas, was in kindergarten that year. It was an exciting season for a six year old. For weeks, he’d been memorizing songs for his school’s “Winter Pageant.” I didn’t have the heart to tell him I’d be working the night of the production. Unwilling to miss his shining moment, I spoke with his teacher. She assured me there’d be a dress rehearsal the morning of the presentation. All parents unable to attend that evening were welcome to come then. Fortunately, Nicholas seemed happy with the compromise.

So, the morning of the dress rehearsal…

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Ties

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TimTiesCloseupI finally gave away the last of Tim’s ties last week. These were my special favorites, a group I have held onto since Tim died. I always enjoyed seeing them in my closet, sort of smiling at me like old friends.

A friend came over to help me clean out closets recently. When I started pulling out clothes to donate that I knew I’d never wear again, there were those lovely ties. Ties that someone else could wear and enjoy, as Tim had so many times.

If I didn’t give them up now, I knew I probably never would. So I did.

I may just print one of these images, tape it to a prominent spot in my office and let them smile at me right on.

Here is a photo showing Tim wearing one of those ties… in most photos he’s not wearing a tie so I’m glad I found this one. It was taken at a breakfast prayer meeting we hosted for Governor David Beasley.

Tim&BetteBeasleyBreakfastCropped