Blessed by Others

I waver between optimism and pessimism. The down times come when I listen to vicious political ads and candidates who dodge questions and never give clear specifics about what they will do as elected officials. Even when some of the worst events bring on the doldrums, I have good things to rescue me. What makes me smile and shake my head in amazement are the choices that some folks have made that have enriched and blessed my life. For these folks, I’m thankful.
            I’m a big fan of quartet music, and the best of the bunch is the Gaither Vocal Band. David Phelps is the first tenor who sings with passion and strength. Phelps isn’t an ordinary gospel singer. He had the opportunity to study music and become an opera tenor. However, he chose instead to pursue this career in gospel/Christian music, and by doing so, he reaches many more individuals who might otherwise never have heard his voice. His choice blesses all of us with a beautiful song and voice.
            My mother earned a teaching certificate from teachers’ college in Asheville in the 1930’s. However, by the time she married and brought up three boys, it was no longer valid. For ten years she went to summer school to earn enough credits to turn her certificate into a bachelor’s degree in education. I’m lucky that she did. Her teaching wages were meager, but they helped our family survive after Daddy died when Jim and I were thirteen, and she provided large chunks of money to help pay for my own college education so that I wasn’t saddled with crushing debt after graduation. She also cleared a path that led her sons to the teaching profession.
            Ministers have blessed me over the years. Bob Landry captured my attention when I first joined the Christian Church, Disciples of Christ. One of the two persons I consider as my best friends, Doug Meister, shrugged off a job in construction and became a minister. He and I have spent hours discussing religion, softball, and family. I’m glad he was around.
 Bill Menees influenced me more than any other minister. He worked for years at Dupont and came late to the ministry. “Brother Bill” opened my eyes to Christianity and the truths and demands it brings. His most memorable line was, “Jesus is not the answer. He’s the question.” Chew on that for a while. Bill also pushed me until I asked Amy Moore out on a date. A year later, he married us. The man is family.
            I met Catherine Nance when she arrived at Beaver Ridge United Methodist Church and wrote a feature on her for the paper. Instantly, I liked her. A couple of years later Amy and I tearfully left FCC on Fifth Avenue and began attending BRUMC. What we discovered is a minister who is a powerful speaker and who leaves her congregation agape and awed after each sermon. In addition, she presents a sincere interest and concern for others. Now, Catherine has reared two sons, and I feel fortunate that she chose to be a minister and to serve at a church where I can hear her messages.
            I am most thankful for the choices that Amy Alice Moore made. She was a Cookevillian and a knockout. The girl could have any male she wanted. For some unknown reason, she chose me. I knew that she was “the one” after our first date and that I wanted to marry her after the second. Amy could have pursued her goal of becoming a pharmacist. Instead, she changed majors, married me, and moved to Knoxville. Because of those decisions, I was changed, blessed, and saved. Two children and a grandson are also thankful that she opted for this path, and they all acknowledge the feeling of being blessed.
            Too often I become blue and fret over things. In fact, I can work myself into a gloom and doom lather. It’s when I take a breath and remember others whose choices have enriched my life that my mood changes. Thanks to you all.
I found these in the Knoxville News Sentinel, the sports section to be precise. Complete sentences jammed together with only commas result in RUN-ON SENTENCES. Is it too much to expect that the writers for a public paper are able to follow the simple rules of grammar in their articles?


            Life is filled with frustrations. Some of the biggest are the striving to complete a task and understanding a concept or statement presented by another.
            Most of us have watched a dog chase its tail. The pup discovers that long thing flitting about and decides he needs to catch it. With all the same energy used to chase a squirrel, that mutt runs in the tightest of circles. His hope is that he can just get his teeth on that elusive tail. In the end, he either flops to the floor in an exhausted, dizzy state or, woe to him, he catches that tail and sinks his fangs into that nemesis and feels the sizzling pain that follows.
            In the past months, Americans struggled to decide about the leadership of the country. Hours of debates and commercials and millions of dollars later, no one was sure exactly what either candidate offered. Of course, most elections have turned this way. Politicians are afraid to lay out in simple terms what they believe and propose. Instead, they use double-speak that leaves voters saying “Huh” and knowing not a whit more than before the pols uttered their first words.
            One of the heights of frustration comes when a person tries to understand what coverage is offered in an insurance policy. The documents go on for pages, but the vague, legalese paragraphs offer no clues as to what is and isn’t paid for. We’re supposed to “trust” our agents, and I do. However, being able to read a clear, concise policy is what most of us want. It isn’t about to happen folks.
            Recently, I bought Amy a porch heater for her birthday. I opened the box, pulled out the contraption, along with too many pieces of foam packing, and eventually found the directions. The pages consisted of warning statements that serve as COA documents for the manufacturer. The instructions were pictures; that’s it. I stared at them in hopes that they would telepathically deliver the way I was to assemble the darn thing. After receiving nothing, I worked until the base and top were together.
            Now is the season for colored leaves and cooler temperatures. Those of us who have yards with trees have begun the task of getting up the leaves. In my case, that means mulching them. Already I’ve performed that job three times. Each time, I work for a couple of hours and choke on dust from dirt and ground leaves. With the job complete, I clean the mower and look up. To my dismay, the places that I’ve wiped clean of tree debris are once again half covered in leaves. I put the mower up and walk into the house covered in dirt and disgusted. Tomorrow, I can do the job again and then again the next day and the next until I finally grow weary of grinding leaves in December.
            I used to fret over leaves and policies and politicians, but not so much any more. Age has a way of teaching all of us some valuable lessons. The truth is that the world will go on even if leaves pile up knee deep in the yards of our world. Most of the time, we’ll be covered with insurance in spite of our inabilities to understand those thick policies. These days, one man’s election doesn’t completely determine the destiny of our country. Opposition is always somewhere to check, and most recently block, the entire efforts of the commander-in-chief.
            We choke on the gnats of our lives. We worry too often about things over which we have no control. I now figure falling leaves are one of God’s greatest teaching tools for us humans. He uses them to show us just how little control we have over external things and instructs us, instead, to work on areas that lead to personal growth. To the degree all humans turn toward that self-improvement, life will be better and frustrations will diminish. Remember, “Man plans, and God laughs.”


Today, October 31, all little kids are sitting in agony as the school day crawls by. On their minds are the plans made days ago about Halloween. The routes to cover for trick-or-treating” are plotted, and costumes are laid out and ready for donning. It’s a big night for them.
            I’ve heard adults and children alike claim that Halloween is their favorite day, and I just don’t get it. Sure, there’s plenty of candy to be taken in bags and plastic pumpkins and even pillow cases. Yes, kids have some fantastic costumes that parents purchased from stores or that moms spent hours designing. Of course, yards are decorated with assortments of creepy, scary things to bring the perfect setting to the night for witches and ghosts and goblins. Still, I don’t get it.
            When did Halloween become such an important event? It doesn’t seem that long ago that the night was characterized by a carved pumpkin sitting on the front steps, a porch light glowing, and “take two pieces of candy” instructions from homeowners. Those treats were for small children; no adult would give a teenager a single piece of candy but would instead tell the big kids to go home and behave.
Some older kids sneaked around neighborhoods to snatch Jack O’Lanterns and smash them on roads. High school kids took the opportunity to re-decorate friends and enemies’ yards with rolls of toilet paper, and sometimes they soaped windows or “egged” the siding and roofs. Most of the mischief was in the name of innocent fun.
Too many folks are intent upon scaring the stuffing out of kids and grown-ups. Staged yard scenes are filled with fake severed body parts and blood, and the more realistic the scene appears, the better people like it. Kids don’t dare eat any treat that isn’t hermetically sealed, a fact that prevents little ones from ever enjoying a homemade cookie or popcorn ball or fried pie made by a sweet little neighborly grandmother.
Nope, I just don’t get it. Something else frightens me much worse, however, and it’s coming on the heels of our national scary day. It’s the upcoming election. Our nation is counting down the days until we once again choose a leader. Over the last year we’ve witnessed debates, conventions, and nonstop campaigning. Super PAC’s have entered the fray and spent millions while spewing their own one-sided venom in ads. Voters are immune to the name-calling and half-truths after so much exposure. Most of us just want it over.
The fear comes in after the election is over. Our country faces lots of problems, and whoever becomes the next president faces tough decisions. Are taxes to be lowered? Will entitlements be cut? Is the country’s debt going to continue to increase? All of that comes with the biggest concern of all. It centers on a congress that is unwilling to work together to fix the problems. Partisan politics is practiced in spite of the plight of the country. So while both sides “fiddle” their ideology, the country burns. Yes what’s more horrible than any Halloween costume or movie or front yard set-up is an election that looks to bring with it no change to the same old politics of doing nothing.
I hope I’m wrong. It would be better to have Halloween as a fun time for children than to have an election that brings with it the fear of a broken government. A child’s “trick or treat” is an innocent sound to which we adults give sweet rewards. The same line from our government might signal the downfall of a mighty nation.
Whichever way your political views might lean, make sure they count. Don’t yell “trick or treat.” VOTE!