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I’m Grateful!

As I begin counting my blessings in 2020 my only surviving sibling takes top billing.  Let me share with you why oldest sister Darcile (seen in the photo above) deserves this honor. My answer is simple.  For almost 90 years she has been there for me!

Darcile had turned 10 on September 10th, 1930 when I, the youngest of our family’s eight children, joined the household on February 24, 1931.

My early childhood memories of the two of us were scant to me, but not to her.  However, I do recall a few cameo moments.  When I was five you were in high school, and for Christmas 1936, Mama, I’m told, had just $5.00 to buy presents for six children.

We were living in a rural area of South Georgia in a community known as Dixie Union and the nearest sidewalk was over 15 miles away.  Nevertheless, Santa brought you, of all things, a pair of roller skates!  A little on the hefty side you put on your new skates and in a few seconds scooted across the front porch.  Alas!  You landed in in the yard, smarting from a sore behind and with your new skates bent beyond repair.

Catching up with Darcile is always a delight! This photo was taken 10 years ago.

I remember creating make-believe settings involving turning chairs sideways and draping them with quilts.  In those days, I nearly always had a tattered gathering of paper dolls I dressed in fancy attire that removed us far from our sparse dwelling.  With both of us now in our senior years, you’ve reminded me that I was notorious for making messes and never wanting to clean up!  It seems I habitually left my paper dolls strewn hither and yon while you habitually pampered by bad habits.

Darcile, I also remember watching you pick up a cast flat iron from the fire ashes, run it across the octogen soap wrapper and begin ironing a mound of clothes.  Hours later you were still ironing.


I really enjoy being around my family! Darcile, me, my niece Kathy (on the bench), and my brother Quentin’s kids Diane, Ward, and Carolyn Sweat (behind).


In our senior years, you have been my “fill-in-the-gaps” editor of those early days when daddy was alive.  You shared with me how Mama would make homemade fudge, and my brother John, 13, while peddling the Waycross Journal Herald newspaper to the local townspeople, would tempt them with bags of fudge to help with family expenses.  You also shared with me how much John enjoyed going to the movies and how Daddy always spanked him for going.  It seems John had rather endure the spankings than deny himself a trip to the theater.  He kept going, and the spankings kept coming.

Darcile, I love the story you tell of my brother Chandos being left behind at church, and that it wasn’t until the family was almost home they realized he wasn’t with them.  They rushed back to the church and found him sound asleep on one of the wooden pews!

However, my fondest memories stem from when I was in high school.  Time and again you rescued me! To say I was a troubled teen is to beg the question.  When I was fifteen my stepfather wanted me to quit school and go to work to help out with household expenses, but in a fit of anger, I rebelled and went to live with my Aunt Nevada, daddy’s sister, near Alma, Georgia.  I was there only a few months when my sister Kathryne came to my rescue and put me on a Greyhound bus headed for Jacksonville, Florida.

This occurred shortly after the Allied forces had defeated Germany.  You and your husband E.J. were creating your own family roots.  The two of you lived in a rented apartment on Longfellow Ave. in Jacksonville, not far from the Naval Air Station, where both of you worked.

I arrived on the scene, broke and unhappy.  You gave me lodging, food, enrolled me in school, and I quickly became welcomed at your church, Ortega Baptist.

I stayed with you several months, constantly miserable, making a few friends while accumulating average school grades.

As head cashier at the Jax Naval Air Station PX, you were privy to purchasing many items at a reduced price.  It didn’t take me long to discover box upon box of Hershey bars stashed away on one of your top closet shelves.  I spent many hours gorging myself on Hershey bars while the two of you were at work!

After spending a few months in your home, you and I got on a Greyhound bus, and I returned to Savannah.

The second time I invited myself to live with the two of you was after I’d graduated from high school in Savannah.  Once again I was emotionally at loose ends.  My heart’s desire was to become an international missionary which required me to get four years of college and two years of graduate study.

You had just delivered your firstborn son Gary and were experiencing some personal post-birth adjustments.  Nevertheless, you kept circling job opportunities for me in the local newspaper.  Dutifully, I half-heartedly followed suit.  Meanwhile, we mutually enjoyed fellowshipping with the members of Ortega Baptist Church.

In late August of 1953, a group of us teenage girls sat around the kitchen table of the pastor’s wife, Leona B. Althoff, for our weekly Sunday school session.  I don’t recall why the conversation that morning focused on getting an education.  However,  I do vividly remember the occasion!  Mrs. Althoff revealed that when she was our age she lived in Texas, and she worked her way through college on a six-hour-a-week scholarship.        She looked me in the eye: “I’ll write and ask them to accept you as a student if you’re truly interested.”

I wasted no time saying, “I’m interested.  Write to them for me.”  Leona Althoff wrote to Mary Hardin-Baylor College and soon I was boarding a Greyhound bus, bound for Texas.

Darcile at age 90.

Darcile, I owe much of what I’ve accomplished in my life since 1949 to you!

Thank you for the basketful of good memories you’ve bequeathed to me!  Because you took me when I couldn’t find my way forward you became a catalyst of my future.  Because of you I became the only person in our family with a college degree and went on to earn a Ministry of Education degree from Southwestern Seminary.  Because of you I enjoyed thirty years as a public-school teacher in Georgia.  Because of you I married Claude Mason and gave birth to Claude Alan, both of whom continuously prodded me forward.  Because of you I have been able to accept many losses, to count my blessings and hopefully to be a blessing to others.

Darcile, I’ll always be drawing inspiration from your beautiful spirit and love. I’ll never forget that when I needed direction in my life you were there for me.  Thanks!

“Just Mercy” Offers Lifelong Lessons on Racial Justice

            “A student doesn’t get a better desk than her teacher.  A laborer doesn’t make more money than his boss.  Be content — pleased, even — when you, my students, my harvest hands, get the same treatment I get.  If they call me, the Master, ‘Dungface,’ what can the workers expect?

            “Don’t be intimidated.  Eventually everything is going to be out in the open, and everyone will know how things really are.  So don’t hesitate to go public now.

            “Don’t be bluffed into silence by the threat of bullies.  There’s nothing they can do to your soul, your core being.  Save your fear for God, who holds your entire life — body and soul — in his hands.

            “Stand up for me against world opinion and I’ll stand up for you before my Father in heaven.  If you turn tail and run, do you think I’ll cover for you?”

~Matthew 10:24-28; 32-33
(Peterson, Eugene H. The Message. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress, 2002).

This is how a meaningful Sunday school lesson began on June 21st. Because of Covid-19, I now attend Sunday school and church without leaving my apartment.  I belong to a class with six teachers, five males and one female.  When Doctor Verbie Prevost, a recently retired English professor, teaches she often posits biblical truths alongside current social-political happenings. 

Sporting her mischievous grin, she said, “I find it ironic that the title of today’s discourse is, ‘The World Needs Shaking.’ ” I instinctively knew she was acknowledging the tsunami reaction worldwide against the murder of George Floyd, a Black man, by a white policeman in Minneapolis.  She soon followed suit with words about the movie, Just Mercy, and she then shared some excerpts from Bryan Stevenson’s book, Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption. I couldn’t wait to leave my Zoom class to download the book.

Stevenson is an American lawyer, social justice advocate, founder/executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative and a clinical professor at New York University School of Law.

 My friends were right!  Stevenson’s nonfictional account of how easy it is to be charged as a criminal in America if you’re Black, poor, mentally ill, or have a physical disability is both alarming and uncomfortably truthful.  I couldn’t walk away from Stevenson’s riveting first-person accounts of his work as a defense lawyer for death row inmates spending years with charges totally lacking in credibility. 

As I read Just Mercy I found myself being shocked, angry, and often crying as I recalled painful memories emerging from newspaper accounts during my southern Georgia childhood of Black men being lynched and others forced to work on Georgia’s infamous chain gangs.  These situations were always wrapped in silence and fear. I never heard anyone speaking up for racial justice and fear was rampant.

Fortunately, the silence of my childhood was broken during my college years at the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor in Belton, Texas.  I began to understand how terribly we were treating Black Americans through conversations with my international college friends and especially my associations with my sociology professor, Doctor Margarite Woodruff.

Before I graduated in 1953, I’d progressed from hearing about the treatment of Blacks to seeing for myself what racism was really like.  While I was serving as a vacation bible school coordinator during the summer I found it invigorating to work with children, some Black, some white, and always segregated.  The pastor in charge of our work assignments sent my partner and I to inspect a black public school in the heart of Dallas as a possible place for us to hold a bible school.

Even today I cringe when I remember visiting that school!  The entire building was no larger than three adjoining rooms. I felt like a strong gust of wind would leave the entire school in a splintered heap.  When my vacation bible school partner and I attempted to move the teacher’s desk, it obliged by falling apart.  Textbooks were devoid of covers, and the walls of the building were bare.  One year later, in 1954, I needed no one to convince me that “separate but equal” schools were a farce, and I gladly welcomed the decision by the Supreme Court to abolish school segregation in America.     

Stevenson wrote, “You can’t effectively fight abusive power, poverty, inequality, illness, oppression, or injustice and not be broken by it.  Being broken is what makes us human.  It’s the source of our common humanity, the basis for our shared search for comfort, meaning and healing.  Our shared vulnerability and imperfection nurtures and sustains our capacity for compassion.  The power of just mercy is that it belongs to the undeserving.  It’s when mercy is least expected that it’s most potent…”

I recommend Just Mercy – the book or the movie — to anyone who is not afraid to be confronted by some ugly truths concerning our country’s justice system.

Just Mercy, reminds me I can either embrace or deny being human.  I can choose to become part of the solution to social injustice, or I can camouflage the issue with outmoded clichés.  Today, more than ever, we must shuck off our timidity and speak up against systemic racism. 

Remember Jesus’ words, “Don’t be bluffed into silence by the threats of bullies.”

Discover more about Bryan Stevenson, Just Mercy–both the book and the movie–and the important work of the Equal Justice Initiative.

EJI is a private, 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization located in Montgomery, Alabama.

Climbing Mountains—My newest book just published.

It gives me great pleasure to share with you my seventh book published by Nurturing Faith (now known as Good Faith Media).  Climbing Mountains is the intriguing memoir of Doctor Phyllis Miller’s remarkable rise from humble beginnings to becoming a leading OB-GYN doctor in Tennessee who still holds an esteemed place among her colleagues, patients and friends.

Climbing Mountains opens with the story of young Phyllis who, as a child, was keen on maneuvering her way out of trouble. While still a tyke Phyllis harbored the secret of one day wanting to become a doctor. Even though her dream seemed impossible to achieve Phyllis knew that dreams were free and mountains were made to be climbed.  Would she reach her goal?


Dr. Miller & author Lynelle Mason

Prior to joining Phyllis three years ago to write her memoir I knew her only as one among many outstanding medical professionals in my First Baptist Church of Chattanooga Sunday school class.  I also knew that she, like me, grew up where modern conveniences were nonexistent. In October of 2016, my knowledge base of Phyllis increased when she invited our class to a luncheon at her Polk County cabin, 25 miles from Chattanooga.  As the event unfolded I found myself in a small group consisting of Phyllis and a few others.  I seized the opportunity to explore with Phyllis a writing assignment, suggesting that a book about her early childhood would serve as a role model for today’s children reared in homes with few economic amenities.  I was pleasantly surprised when she responded positively to my inquiry. 


In my personal memoir, Tarnished Haloes, Open Hearts, I had the monumental task of looking inward, demanding deeply introspective answers of myself.  With the vital support of Nurturing Faith’s Doctor John Pierce, we formatted a previously written manuscript into a more appealing format. Two of my historical fiction books, Behind Enemy Lines and Where the Rabbits Dance occurred during times of intense national unrest. I carefully chose my fictionalized protagonists and gave them tremendous individual problems to solve midst gigantic national upheavals of epic proportions. These books required endless research and visits to historical parks. The last three books I published, Trailblazer, Parts 1, 2, and 3, like Behind Enemy Lines and Where the Rabbits Dance, would not have materialized without the help of Laura Backes, editor of Children’s Book Insider. My protagonist in the Trailblazer trilogy, Doctor Noble Wimberly Jones, was a real person whose life spanned Georgia’s founding as a colony until it became one of our original 13 states.  Writing Trailblazer was difficult because all of Doctor Jones’ personal records were consumed during a fire that left the tiny colony struggling to stay alive.


Dr. Miller at a delivery early in her esteemed career…

Writing Climbing Mountains, though, was different. For starters, my main source would be one person–Doctor Phyllis Miller.  I began by emailing her a list of 15 questions and waiting for her reply. When she responded I was very disappointed.  Too many of my questions came back with the answer, “I don’t remember!” Instead of giving up, which I seriously considered, I reworked my questions and little by little Phyllis began to remember tidbits of information that triggered my mind to probe deeper. Soon our emails were followed by endless telephone calls, conversations we had between Sunday school and church, visits by Phyllis to my apartment to compare our manuscripts, and taking a trip to her original home site in Polk County.   Piecing together Phyllis’ scant childhood memories and turning them into lively escapades became, for me, a paramount challenge.  At some point while writing the manuscript I ceased being me and became Phyllis. Together we began facing and conquering the barriers impeding her doctor dream. Climbing Mountains is now available.  I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.

Find all of my books at my publisher’s website (formerly Nurturing Faith, now Good Faith Media.)

Praying Without Words

For many years I have found the individual and group study resources from The Upper Room ministry to be a valued source in deepening my spiritual journey in prayer and bible study. During Lent 2020, I used their study guides to be a source of spiritual renewal. Since Easter, I’ve been reading online devotionals that are centered on enriching my prayer life during COVID-19.

My inability to find the right words led me to write about praying without words during this pandemic. The part most meaningful to me is placing my palms down to symbolize that I’m entrusting this situation to my Heavenly Father who is all-knowing and all-loving:

“When you pray, use words if you must,” might evoke some of the writings of St. Augustine concerning prayer. I don’t know about you but there are times during our pandemic siege when I find it hard to vocalize my prayer thoughts. This has led me to come up with a nonverbal way of praying.

I place my hands in a steeple pose and raise them toward the sky, thanking God for his constant love and eternal promises.

Slowly I bring my hands down to my waist and extend each hand in a horizontal stretch, asking God to shower us humans – the good, the bad, the indifferent – with his lavish love.

I then bring my hands together at my waist and bow my head, confessing my sins and asking for renewal,

Finally, I take my hands and place them facing downward, while acknowledging the issues surrounding this pandemic baffle me, and that I’m willing to leave the unknowns in his loving hands as I trust in His mercy, grace and abounding love.

I leave this sacred time expecting God to use me to be His presence to someone in need.

SUGGESTION: You can use the movements and thoughts I’ve expressed or, if you prefer, adapt the positions and/or the thoughts for your own prayer without words.

My Shepherd

My Shepherd was originally written as a eulogy to honor a friend from First Baptist Church of Rossville, Georgia, and it was published in Mature Living magazine in March 2001.  Since then it has undergone numerous revisions.

The prayer springs from deep within my inner being and is a source of growing affirmation during these perilous days of Covid-19.  My hope is it will likewise enhance your journey forward.

My Shepherd

The Lord, my Shepherd, leads me.  Sometimes we travel through lush meadows or linger by still waters.  Often we wind our way through rough terrain and I feel I can’t stand it any more.  Then, the Lord, my Shepherd, restores me.

When my soul is barren and my dreams crushed He opens for me windows of hope.

The Lord, my Shepherd, walks with me.  Sometimes we laugh and sometimes we cry.  Sometimes we run and sometimes we crawl.  Ah yes!  The Lord, my Shepherd, walks with me.

The Lord, my Shepherd, sustains me.  He replaces my sorrow with joy.  He picks me up when I stumble and cuddles me when I’m afraid.

The Lord, my Shepherd, is a Forever Guide.  When this life ceases He’ll whisper, “Come with Me.  The best is yet to be!”

Heroes Work Here

A group from Brow View huddled in Club 51 to hear a report on mold. Instead, what we heard that hour has forever altered our lives.  One phrase Terry repeated haunts me to this day:  “It’s not a question of if someone at Alexian will become infected with the Covid-19 virus, but when it will happen.” Terry followed through with some sensible suggestions while assuring us that addressing such a crisis was something Ascension Living was skilled in combating.  After responding to a mountain of questions he closed by saying, “Expect to make some changes in your day- to-day lives and stay tuned to channel 98 for updates.”

Wow!  For over two months we’ve experienced mammoth changes. We basically stay in our apartments, wash our hands a zillion times each day, and wear a mask, a little akin to the Lone Ranger’s attire when we venture outside our apartment while staying at least six feet away from anybody.  We buy our groceries online and we worship online. Our meals are hand-delivered and we do our own house cleaning.

You might think we’d become stir crazy under such restrictions.  Not us. That’s because heroes work at Alexian! We’re surrounded by a host of workers all the way from Ascension Living’s front office to the hundreds of employees that serve us daily.

I asked a number of residents to add their personal comments and each of them was happy to participate. Their range of responses contained kudos to workers throughout our Alexian complex, some of which I’ll mention:

  • Front desk staff’s welcome smiles morning, noon and night;
  • Our activities threesome with their online exercise programs, grocery buying, face masks and video bingo;
  • Continual help of maintenance in our apartments;
  • Kitchen crew including servers who daily bring us our meals attached with encouraging notes;
  • Health care personnel who risk their lives daily;
  • Prayers of the Alexian brothers and others;
  • Terry Thompkins: God knew we’d need someone who is gentle but firm, truthful but encouraging, demanding but loving, so he sent us you.

To each of you we place our hands across our hearts while we ache to give you a big bear hug.  You’ve turned a dark time in our lives into a determined journey.

Yes indeed, heroes work here. Thank you!

Two Easters I Will Never Forget

During the season of Lent my thoughts naturally pivot toward Christ’s resurrection.  There are two Easter Sundays that have their own special spot for me.  One coincides with the death of my husband and the latter is yet to occur.

Easter 1994

Lynelle & Claude Mason, circa 1990

It was the Saturday before Easter Sunday in 1994 and I had gone early to the ICU section of our local hospital to visit my husband, Claude.  I remember him telling me he’d had two young men in his room during the night and they seemed to be measuring something or someone.  I smiled thinking at the time he was perhaps hallucinating.  His attending doctor arrived and said my husband was doing so good they were initiating the process to take him out of ICU and onto the ward with other heart patients.

Delighted with the doctor’s recommendation I decided to return home, go to the post office to get our mail and to walk our dog.  Blacky missed his walk that Saturday.  I also missed attending, with two of my cohorts, an egg hunt for disadvantaged children.  When I returned home from getting the mail the phone was ringing.  It was the hospital.  Claude had died!

For the seven years between Claude’s first heart attack and subsequent cardiac arrest we had lived under a cloud of uncertainty.  Upon my preacher husband’s request, I‘d typed his obituary and we got to the place during our prayer sessions to where we used the open-close palm technique, sans words.  We turned the palm of our hands upward saying, “Father, you know what is best.  We don’t.”  Then we would turn our palms downward to declare, “Lord, we trust you.  Please take over.”

All day on that Saturday before Easter, 1994 family and friends began gathering at our home with food offerings, special thoughts and hugs. There was one thing clear to me: I would join with the faithful the following Easter morning to confirm that Christ had indeed risen from the dead and that my husband was now with Jesus.  Sharing this with those we had served with for over 17+ years seemed the right thing for me to do.

Easter 2020

In all my 89 years I can’t remember a time when I haven’t attended church on Easter Sunday.  For the last 12 years I’ve played the role of Easter Bunny for lots and lots of children on the Saturday preceding Easter. Hundreds of bunny rabbit doting parents woud wait in line to take a picture of their child with the Easter Bunny.  Alas!  There was no Easter bunny this year at our annual Signal Mountain Community Egg Roll, as it was cancelled.

Today I sit isolated in my apartment with my meals delivered to my door, washing my hands what seems like a zillion times to the tune of Happy Birthday, staying 6 feet apart from all the other residents and wearing a face mask when I go walking on our campus or come in contact with other residents.  A local grocery fills our food orders twice a week and a local pharmacy delivers our meds.  Thank God for Pruett’s Signal Mountain Market!

This will be the fifth consecutive Sunday my church family, following national & state guidelines, has self-isolated ourselves from corporate worship.  Our Maundy Thursday and Good Friday services were also broadcast online.  So, what will it be like to observe Easter on Facebook or YouTube Live Stream?

I’ll have bread and juice ready to participate in the Lord’s supper on Thursday and on Friday.  Perhaps I’ll have on hand a hammer and nail to remind me of our practice of personally driving a nail into our conceptual cross.  If I close my eyes I can hear the clanging of hammered nails.

History of this Wesley Easter Hymn

On Sunday morning I’ll have my bell ready to ring during the singing of “Christ the Lord Is Risen Today.”  My bell’s sounds will join with the others who are watching and responding when we get to the Alleluias.

The format will be different–very different–but the message remains the same and even vibrates with deeper meaning during this pandemic that has shaken the world.


“He is risen indeed!”

Easter 2018

UNFORGETTABLE WORDS AT SKULL HILL

Our words define us. You can learn a lot about the character of a person by reading or hearing the last words they spoke.  This led me to explore the seven phrases Jesus uttered while suspended on a cross on Skull Hill, just outside the city of Jerusalem.

Before reading my thoughts on the seven sayings of Jesus you need to know I’m taking the position that Jesus was totally divine and totally human.  This religious tenet, while completely irrational to many, is one I believe and accept wholeheartedly.  I readily admit there are times when I find it difficult to let Jesus be completely human. His sayings from the cross, I believe, reveal both his divine and human nature.

1. Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”  (Luke 23:34)

Since midnight on Thursday until around 9:00 a.m. on Friday Jesus had gone through six trumped-up trials and endured the excruciating ordeal of being flogged until his back became a mass of bloody pulp. He was then forced to bear his cross to Skull Hill where He was stripped of his seamless robe, nailed to his cross and left to die.

It would be logical to expect Jesus to spew out vitriolic words against the religious establishment. Instead he says, “Father, forgive them, for the know not what they do.”  I don’t know about you but that reaches a level of loving I’ve yet to obtain!

2. Truly, I say unto you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” (Luke 23:43)

A criminal, also being crucified, said to Jesus, “Remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus’ response is instant and to the point.  “Truly, I say unto you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”  Jesus doesn’t stutter.  He doesn’t hem and haw.  His forgiveness then and now, is bountiful and without reservations.

3. “Woman, behold thy son.” (Says to John) “Behold thy mother.”  (John 19:26-27)

While most of his followers hid behind locked doors a few, namely John and a cadre of Mary’s, linger nearby. In the midst of excruciating pain Jesus calls to his weeping mother saying, “Woman, behold thy son.” To John he says, “Behold thy mother!”  Jesus’ concern for the welfare of his Mother is beautiful and revealing.  Jesus wants his mother to know that one of his most trusted friends will be caring for her.

4. “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani! which means “My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?”  (Mark 15:34)

For Jesus to be forsaken by God is indeed a paradox. I readily admit I don’t fully understand this phrase.  In fact, I find it disturbing!

There are two classic meanings of this tear-provoking lament.  One says that when Jesus voluntarily became the sin bearer for mankind that God, who is sinless, had to abandon Him.  While I have no trouble believing Jesus died on my behalf I have trouble believing God, at this point, turned his back on Jesus.

I don’t believe God abandons us because of our sins nor that he abandoned His sinless Son.  Abandonment, to me, is inconsistent with the very nature of God!

The second view is that Jesus is reminding his fellow Jews of a passage of scripture with which they would all be very familiar, namely Psalm 22.  This psalm certainly gives a vivid description of what was currently taking place on Skull Hill.

5. I thirst.”  (John 19:28)

We sometimes forget the Christian tenet that Jesus was 100% human as well as 100% divine.  Accepting his divinity is easier for most of us than accepting his humanity.

Uttered on Skull Hill around 3:00 p.m. this haunting cry for a bit of physical relief is telling.  Perhaps it also refers to his spiritual thirsts.

6. “It is finished.”  (John 19:30)

With a triumphant shout Jesus exclaims, “It is finished!”  In the original Greek, I’m told, it consists of only one word—one commonly used to mark bills “paid in full.”  Unknown, even to his most devout followers, Jesus knew why he was dying.

By His death, in our behalf, Jesus gave each of us direct access to Himself. “It is finished!” No longer is there a need for endless rituals to obtain God’s forgiveness.

7. “Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit.”  (Luke 23:46)

When Jesus utters these words, he demonstrates a powerful humility about his relationship with his Father as well as a divine connection to God, leading to his ultimate reunification with our Father in Heaven, thus opening the path for our salvation through his life and sacrifice.  Jesus “pays it all” on behalf of humanity, leading to the reunion of his spirit and body, the miracle of resurrection, three days later. The path for our salvation has been opened.

As I will talk about in my upcoming Easter Sunday blog, Jesus’ prayer is one that many of us who are afraid, sick, or facing our own death understand:  “I commit myself to you, O God. In my living and in my dying, in the good times and in the bad, whatever I am and have, I place in your hands.”


Many, many years ago my first cousin and I sat on the second row at Central Baptist Church, Waycross, Georgia.  I was 12 and my cousin was 11.  We had come with our minds made up.  Today we would profess our faith in Jesus and ask to become part of the family of believers at Central.  I also remember the choir, that Easter day, singing a hymn about Jesus paying it all.  I was disappointed!  I wanted them to sing, “Just as I Am.”  When I expressed my dismay at the song they had sung a choir member told me, “Someday you’ll understand that ‘Jesus Paid It All’ is truly a great hymn.”  She was so very right!  Today one of my favorite hymns is “Jesus Paid It All.”

And my heart sings, “Hallelujah! What a Savior.”


Today’s blog closes with a sobering thought.  If you were conscious and able to communicate your thoughts and had only 12 hours before you would die what would you do and say?


[Click here to see the Mississippi Baptist All-State Youth Choir & Orchestra sing Jesus Paid It All.]

All scripture references from:  The New Oxford Annotated Bible, Revised Standard Version, Oxford University Press. 1973.

In these odd times of isolation during this coronavirus pandemic, many of us have been forced to turn to worshiping in our homes–perhaps connected virtually to church services, like those at my own First Baptist Church, Chattanooga. In some ways, this was a concept I had in mind when I wrote my Lenten and Advent Encounters–brief monologues for worship in church, Sunday school, or at home. If you are feeling isolated and seeking avenues for reflection and individual worship, I encourage such an approach, either from a published work or through creative thought or online dialogue with fellow church members.

Being Humble Gives You Unparalleled Strength

What does it mean to live a life of humility?

The world in general and Americans in particular scorn meek leaders. They equate such a person as a Caspar Milquetoast, a character who existed in our national comics from 1925-1953 as “The Timid Soul.” Made famous by H.T. Webster, Caspar was a character who spoke softly and got hit with a big stick. Caspar was spineless and a person who was easily dominated and intimidated. Even his last name is a derivation of milk toast!

People will say, “Surely you aren’t suggesting our national leaders practice being meek in our dog eat dog society of today?” However, that is precisely what I am suggesting.

The Beatitudes

TissotBeatitudes
James Tissot, The Beatitudes Sermon, c. 1890, Brooklyn Museum

My understanding of what it means to be meek, i.e. humble, comes from my faith journey. About a decade ago I participated in a small group study of the beatitudes — a synopsis of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount as recorded in Matthew, and I began to look at this topic from a different angle. Lots of people can recite the Ten Commandments, but not many can quote any of the beatitudes. A host of us, including me, also find them difficult to put into practice!

In thinking about the focus of this blog, my thoughts kept going back to the fourth beatitude. Here are two translations, plus my own paraphrase.

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. ~ NRSV Matt. 5:5

You’re blessed when you are content with just who you are — no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourself proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.

The Message1280x1280

Happy is the person whose relationship with God overflows into actions of love toward all mankind. Such a person is comfortable in their own skin and doesn’t feel the need to constantly advertise his/her virtues to the world.

These translations bring with them some worthy goals for all of humankind:

  • Be gentle and then you can become bold and humble.
  • Be frugal and then you can be liberal.
  • Look at the world through your heart.

Being humble is accepting that without God’s wisdom and love I am empty.

Being humble is refusing to use one’s position of power for personal gain or as a tool of retaliation.

When politicians use the following talking points you can be sure that humility isn’t in their game plan:

  • I am never wrong.
  • No one can stop me.
  • I’m the only person who can fix our problems.
  • I have all the answers.

The humble resist making rash statements — especially false statements simply to gain political clout or to throw up a smokescreen to detract attention from a more divisive subject. Creating a life of humility is a daily practice that becomes fulfilling and trickles down to fill up our hearts and minds.


QUOTES I LIKE

A true genius admits that he/she knows nothing.
— Albert Einstein

Those who are not looking for happiness are the most likely to find it, because those who are searching forget that the surest way to be happy is to seek happiness for others.
— Martin Luther King, Jr.

Stay hungry, stay young, stay foolish, stay curious, and above all, stay humble because just when you think you got all the answers, is the moment when some bitter twist of fate in the universe will remind you that you very much don’t.
— Tom Hiddleston

Nothing is more deceitful,” said Darcy, “than the appearance of humility. It is often only carelessness of opinion, and sometimes an indirect boast.
— Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

Following Jesus is very hard, though it is not complicated.
— John Pierce

True humility is not thinking less of yourself; it is thinking of yourself less.
— Rick Warren

Love Over Hate is My Course of Action

It is so very easy for each of us to express our anger visibly.  On the other hand, withholding judgment with those with whom we disagree requires giving criticism sparingly and acknowledging our solution might not be the best option.

We Americans are politically caught up in an aura of distrust while a multitude of hate groups, led by white supremacists, are often hailed as heroes.  I personally think that when it comes to politics the words compromise and respect are essential elements in a healthy society. Positions we and others take are seldom totally right or totally wrong. I’m old enough to remember a time when my husband and I, after casting our vote, would laughingly say, “I just cancelled your vote!”

Today, I turn to the writings of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. to enlighten my journey.  May his words speak to each of us.

There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies.

I have decided to stick to love.  Hate is too great a burden to bear.

There comes a time when silence is betrayal.

We can never forget that everything Hitler did in Germany was ‘legal.’

DrKing_Landing2

Photo of Dr. King from the website of The King Center in Atlanta, GA.

Certainly, there are various degrees involved in the concepts of love and hate.  It seems nothing profitable for our nation or the world would ever get done if someone didn’t get upset over something they deem immoral or despicable.  Our anger is only productive, though, if it evolves into acts that lead to healthy resolutions. However, unchecked anger, egged on by hate groups, can produce disastrous results.

That said, I offer some of my salient thoughts for 2020 while recognizing you have every right to disagree with me.

  • While respecting the legal rights of individuals or groups to the use a weapon for sports or self-defense, I will shun political candidates that either by their actions or rhetoric refuse to commit themselves to gun control measures on semi-automatic guns.
  • I can’t vote for a candidate who refuses to take a firm stand on human rights.  It’s past time we Americans respect each other regardless of skin color, sexual identity or religious preferences (including the right to have no faith).
  • I will not vote for a candidate–Republican, Democrat or Independent– who spends more time downgrading his/her opponents than they do in sharing their well- calculated proposals for improving the lives of all Americans.

Today and every day, I choose love over hate, and every day I choose to surround myself with others who do the same.


LWV history image

Contrary to the teasing of some current family members, I was not at this election, but I always vote. This image is from the League of Women Voters website, regarding their history.

The League of Women Voters of the United States encourages informed and active participation in government, works to increase understanding of major public policy issues, and influences public policy through education and advocacy.  The League is proud to be nonpartisan, neither supporting nor opposing candidates or political parties at any level of government, but always working on vital issues of concern to members and the public.  You can also register to vote, find your polling place, ballot info, and more at VOTE411.org.

 

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