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Don’t let fear keep you from enjoying life
Are you the type of person who sees a glass half full or half empty? Are you type of person who looks for the best in people or the worst in people? Do you look for the best scenario or the worst scenario?
I know someone in Florida that is afraid to drive over long high bridges alone. His worst scenario is that the bridge will collapse and he will die. I knew a widow whose late husband was a pastor and yet she had all her windows nailed shut because her worst scenario was that an intruder might break into her house and kill her. I remember after the movie “Jaws” came out, there were people scared to swim in the ocean because their worst scenario was that a shark might attack them and kill them.
All these worst case scenario ends in death. Now what happens to a child of God when he dies? Keep in mind that we are all God’s creation but we are not all God’s children. For a child of God, death takes us to a place we call heaven. A place where there are streets of gold, no more tears, perfect peace and unending joy. The Bible tells us “absent from the body is present with the Lord.”
If our fears take us to a beautiful place we call heaven then maybe we should not be afraid. Maybe we should focus our eyes more on heaven and not so much on earthly things. Maybe we should get more involved in our church, get more involved in our community, get involved in senior games, get involved in your neighborhood, and spend more time with your friends. But don’t get more involved with the screen on your tv, the screen on your computer, the screen on your phone or tablet.
Enjoy this precious life God has given you.
Mike Townsend – Franklin, N.C.
The giving of oneself can be a good thing
When someone gives of themselves in helping out another, it’s a very honorable thing to do, and anyone who sees or hears of it would agree. It would be like giving ourselves to someone in a time of need. The unselfish giving is more realized and highlighted when it is directed towards someone that the giver may have never known. It seems a normal thing to give oneself to someone who you know, as in a relative or close friend. But it’s completely different to give unselfishly towards another in saving someone that you’ve never known. This unselfishness changes the life of both the giver and receiver. So the giving of oneself can be a good thing. The goodness of what it means to be human is the willingness to give to others in a way that honors them and not seeking praise and honor towards ourselves. The building of goodness towards each other even to the point of sacrifice, is the ultimate giving.
There’s another giving of oneself on the other hand that can be very harmful. The giving of oneself in the destruction of others, whether in life, property or character, this giving over to oneself in evil and hatred that does nothing but destroy both the giver of hate and the one receiving hate. No one wins, not even those whose thinking, what was once evil, is now to their good, for evil delights in destruction and thrives within selfishness and pride. We all have that sense of what is good and evil. The dullness of not knowing what is good or evil, is the more evil we revolve around, the power and enjoyment of evil, becomes our good. Then life becomes clouded and truth or good means little, for it has no foundation to rest upon. So both truth and good can seem evil because it is redefined as we go, and its directions are chosen by those in power.
Those giving themselves into this selfishness and pride often fall into despair, forcing upon others what they think will set their lives free. Even those striving to do good can find themselves falling into “despair.” This is a battle from within, a deterioration which can destroy the individual in a multitude of ways. The giving up of life in defeat, never being good enough, the peer pressure to conform, addictions of all sorts, porn, drugs, money, lies, all can disappoint and the internal battles seem endless and exhausting. Life in general seems disappointing and goodness seems hard to find. The battles we face are within every facet of life, young, old, Christian and non-christian, it’s a sickness within all mankind. The struggle of good and evil seems never ending. Yet we want good, but more often than not, evil is always present. Doing good seems always noble, but yet seems so difficult. We say we must conquer evil, but often turn a blind eye when it’s knocking at our door. The history of mankind is defined in our choosing good, versus choosing evil, it’s so evident to see. It manifests itself physically, but it’s seeded in the spiritual, and grows deep within the soul of mankind.
A history book of old which I hold dear, describes not the old but the newness in life that is found in no other. The Bible tells of all humanity’s restlessness of good and evil. Brokenness, pride, bitterness, hate, has been removed by Christ, given to those who ask. Just as when we ask forgiveness from a loved one we have offended, we ask this of our creator who loves us, even when we feel the most unlovely. This newness in life is found in no other, it’s worth the “giving of oneself.”
Your thoughts are welcomed.
Deni Shepard – firstname.lastname@example.org
Honor your mother; sit beside her in church
Driving home today I read a church billboard message for Mother’s Day: “Honor your mother / sit beside her in church.”
I’m always reading church billboard signs, looking for misspellings, bad punctuation, and stuff like that; it’s the English professor in me, I guess. And too, I value the written word, believe grammar serves a fundamental purpose of capturing a thought and conveying it clearly, but that’s another topic, You see, this little challenge touched something deep in me.
This has been a year of revisiting my past. My family. Memories. My oldest brother turned 70 a few weeks ago. My middle brother hit 68, and 67 awaits me in a few weeks; who knows what lies ahead. Well, for sure, the unavoidable, inescapable reality of death, but that’s not what this is about. And neither has the year been depressing, just a season of reflection, more than usual.
Back when I was stationed in Germany, coming home on leave from the military was a rarity. When it happened, I jumped on the first plane and rushed back to the States both to see my family and of course, my girlfriend. In 1977, I happened to be home for Mother’s Day. My parents were not church-goers. Dad preferred being outside, fishing, to a cold and empty pew surrounded by shouting and such. He recalled being “Dragged down the aisle and baptized with tongues and shouts of joy that scared him to death!” as he put it, when he was 12. From that point on, he worshipped with a fishing pole.
Mom, though, occasionally liked to go to church, but would never go alone—and dad wouldn’t go—so, this particular Mother’s Day Sunday I offered to take mom to church. You know, to honor her, just like the billboard I drove by on my way home today.
There was a small, storefront United Pentecostal church just down the road from where they lived out in Pontiac, S.C., just beyond the Columbia, S.C., city limits. Mom liked the pastor there, she told me, and so we got dressed and I drove us to the little church.
By then, mom was in her late 50s. She’d suffered a series of strokes two years in a row and though she survived them, she lost a lot of weight and was very small. She wasn’t really ever that big anyway, but at 4’11” when her weight fell off she was tiny. And because of that, she’d begun shopping in the girls’ Junior Clothing Dept in order to find clothes that fit her petite frame.
She put on a shimmering black dress that hung just above her knees, and with her red lipstick, when she lit her cigarette and tossed back her graying, auburn streaked and perfectly coiffed hair, she was completely beautiful. Her eyes twinkled. She was excited about going to church on Mother’s Day with her son. I looked at her and wondered why dad didn’t jump at the chance to take her himself. But that, too, is another story. Probably too many stories. So off we went.
The church was packed! Evidently, a lot of sons honoring their moms and sitting beside them that morning. Mom and I sat high up on the 3rd row. We didn’t know anybody. The music started and the hymnals came out as the song leader held up his book and gave a call to worship complete with title and page number.
I fumbled our song book open and held it for mom, who, by then, had put on her glasses so she could see. I don’t know why, though, she didn’t read music and didn’t know the songs either, but she read along and chimed in here and there and it was a beautiful moment that we shared.
At one point there was an offering, somebody sang a solo, and the plate passed around to us, and mom reached in her purse and pulled out a few dollars and made sure to put in her share and pass the plate along to the person next to us.
After the offering the song leader introduced the Preacher, and when he walked out on the stage, everybody stood, waving their hands, shouts of “Amen!” “Hallelujah!” “Bless Jesus!” filled the air and I glanced over at mom. Her eyes were lit up like flickering candles and she was full of quiet joy, a sort of deep, satisfying smile; one might call it hunger. I certainly would. She was definitely a spiritually hungry person. But all she knew of God was the Catholic church she’d rejected in her youth because, as she said, she didn’t like the priests being over-friendly with the “young girls,” as she described it. I always wondered if she’d experienced one of those moments, or just watched, but Mom left and never returned.
And when we did go to church as kids, rarely, or a family, more rarely, it was not to a Catholic church. She had me and my older brother baptized as Episcopalians in what I later learned after researching online was a storefront missionary church in NYC. Of course, it’s no longer there. To this day, if I’m anything “Christian” or embrace any form of Christianity, it’s found in the Episcopal church. For me, less judgment. Far more compassion, and inclusion too. But that too, offers a long list of other stories. This is about mom.
About that time, a handsome preacher, somewhere near mom’s age, with a head full of curly, black hair danced out on the stage. His long, Pentecostal T.D. Jakes suit hanging on his body, stove pipe pants, and a flat, beige material (no doubt $$$) jostling as he slid and shuffled across the wooden floor until he stood beside the pulpit. Perfect choreography. Then he began to jump straight up with his legs together and when he came back down, he landed tippy-toe and the tassles on top of his shiny, brown dress shoes bobbed up and down.
I kept hearing a jingling sound as he bounced and after a few times realized he’d filled his pockets with change and as the coins clanked together the sound echoed beneath the chorus of praise and shouts. Mom turned to me and said, “He’s full of the Holy Ghost, you can tell…” I just saw a pocketful of change, but it was Mother’s Day.
The pastor finally began to preach, expounding on this and that, and after sometime he brought his message to a close. I thought he was finished and we could go home now.
But then, he brought up Mother’s Day.
Mom, who, like me, was ready to leave, lit up and began to listen again. The preacher talked about his mother, and turned around to a table covered with long-stemmed red roses that suddenly appeared, and lifted one up and held it above his head.
“With this rose, we honor our mothers today!” Something like that. You could feel the congregation in agreement. And then, he looked out into the audience and called out the mothers, invited them to come forward for their rose.
One after one, all the mothers stood and slowly walked to the front. Mom included. She wanted that rose. She reached the floor and an usher took her by the hand and led her up to the preacher. He reached out, gently, and full ofr compassion and lay a beautiful, deep red rose across the palm of her tiny, outstretched hand.. And then he told all the mothers to wait up there with him for a special Mother’s Day blessing! Mom waited.
As the preacher prayed one hand after another lifted up in the air before God and that preacher. Mom held the rose to her chest and slowly raised her right hand halfway and turned her head softly to the side as he prayed, and she received a Mother’s Day blessing!
We never talked about that morning. I remember nothing about the rest of that day either. Surely, she got home and put the rose away and the moment was gone.
“Honor your mother / sit beside her in church.”
Eric R. Hendrix – Franklin, N.C.
Wild-eyed man disrupting pleasant small town
Reading The Macon County News is like taking a stroll through a pleasant small town to learn more about it. Passing storefronts, a bulletin board with local events listed, normal small-town sights. And then the reader gets to the Letters section. This is like finding themself in an area near the center of town, at one end of a very dark, fetid alley. A wild-eyed, clearly-deranged man is standing on an overturned apple crate ranting and raving, spittle flying from his mouth, warning anyone within hearing distance about the latest, and untrue, evil government conspiracy that he read about on an obscure website that morning, complete with petty name-calling. Normal townspeople are embarrassed by this ugly display and they pay no attention to him, merely shaking their heads that anyone can possibly believe that drivel. The reader of the newspaper turns the page, and gratefully the town tour returns to normal, leaving the insane blathering behind them as they continue their walk through the otherwise pleasant town.
Gillian LaRoux – Franklin, N.C.