I love art. No one would ever call me an expert or critic, but as Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart said about pornography, “I know it when I see it”—art that is. Jim Gray pieces inspire me; just down the road from my house, Ruby Dayton’s home and gallery are filled with beautiful paintings of nature scenes. I’ve tried to figure out which niche best fits my taste, but none seems to include only the things that I consider beautiful.
I wanted to be an artist, but the cold world of second grade dashed that desire as Mrs. Garrett stifled any
creative abilities that I might have had. Our class undertook a project. A girl our age was at home and suffering through the agony of leukemia. The teacher passed out red piece of construction paper, along with white sheets of paper. Our task was to fold the white paper several times and then cut designs in it. However, we weren’t supposed to cut too deeply because doing so would ruin the design on the page when it was unfolded.
I struggled with the task; for some reason, my being left handed made cutting with regular scissors difficult. I goofed on the first cutting. Mrs. Garrett took the failed project and handed me another piece of white paper. Another goof and another goof and another goof kept me confined to the project while all the other students went about other things. I never did cut the darn thing right, and the cards were sent from the class minus one: mine.
Through the years, I tried to sketch things. My cousin Charlie could free-hand the coolest hotrods on paper. Mine looked too much like blocks with acute angles that in no way looked as if they belonged on the vehicle. Even drawings with mountains in the background of a green field looked more like bruises across the landscape. My trees appeared as lopsided triangles without any limbs.
Once I tried to draw a profile of a person like the ones that used to appear on art school ads. My generation remembers these things because they declared that anyone who sent in a drawing was a budding artist who only needed a few lessons to become a world-class painter or sketcher. In my case, the company might have sent regrets that it could do nothing to improve my abilities. Faces on my paper always looked flat; not a single feature was natural.
I wasn’t much better with crafts. Our fifth grade class made leather wallets. First I struggled to put imprints on the leather with tools. Then I never seemed to be able to weave the plastic strand through the holes that tied the pieces together. One year we made potholders for Mother’s Day. Mine was pink and yellow.
However, I kept skipping places that caused the woven strips to look broken.
One year our class made bookends. With hammer and woodcutting tool, I jumped into the project. As for the end result, let’s just say that the “R” on both ends lost important details as I couldn’t keep on the correct side of the line. I still have the wallet and bookends. Each time I look at them, the mistakes pop up and remind me of my lack of skill.
Now, I sometimes attempt woodworking projects. I’ve managed to put together a seat made from a twin bed head and footboard. I recently completed a table with a chevron top. Another table I built even sits at my bedside. None of the projects is perfect; the chevron table isn’t quite flat on top or level on the floor. A piece of Plexiglas on top and a folded piece of cardboard serve as fixes for each faux pas.

I used to watch Bob Ross and say prayers that I could paint as he did. The most success I ever experienced with paint came with a roller and brush as I attacked walls in bedrooms and dens. In other areas, giving up isn’t about to happen. Woodworking projects might never be perfect, but trying to complete them is a fun challenge, and it keeps me from taking up less honorable hobbies. These days, I even have moderate success with undertakings, especially when a You Tube video offers step-by-step instructions. I’m still looking for the artist in me. 


For some reason, I feel as if my writing has been more on rants than lighter topics. I’d like that to change, but too many topics cry out for attention. The most recent topic deals with the latest Holocaust news. It seems that history repeats itself.
 According to CBS’s “Sixty Minutes,” Father Patrick Desbois has taken upon himself the task of discovering unmarked mass graves of Jews who were slaughtered at the hands of German death squads. For thirteen years he and his team have traveled to meet with villagers across Eastern Europe. There, he listens as they tell the tales of mass murder with all its horror. 
The priest said that the witnesses were children at the time, and some were even chosen by the Nazis to dig up graves to retrieve gold from teeth, jewelry, and clothing. Debois also made the observation that people can act differently in the most deadly situations. He said,
I learned that you like to see other people dying in front of you, killed by other people, when you are sure you will not be killed.”
Thousands upon thousands of butchered individuals are being added to the 5-6 million Jews who were recorded as being murdered by the Nazis. To my surprise, research indicated that the entire Jewish population living in Europe at the time was only 9 million. Had Hitler’s hate for Jews not been stopped, the entire Jewish people would have been eradicated from this world.
I think of all the soldiers who gave their lives in the war against the Nazis, and have in the past, I’ve wondered if such a huge sacrifice was worthwhile. We eventually entered World War II when it became clear that Europe could not defend itself. Young men traveled across the ocean to fight on land that wasn’t their native soil. So many of them never made the return trip and left heartbroken families.
After learning more about what Germany’s maniacal leader and blood-thirsty killers did, the answer is clear that the sacrifice was honorable and right. We in the world owe those men all of our gratitude, for they stopped a man hell-bent on racial cleansing.
Today, the world faces the same kind of threat. ISIS, which stands for Islamic State, is intent on once again cleansing the world of all who don’t measure up to the strict standards of the group. They’ve begun the same kinds of activities that the Nazis used: overtaking cities and killing all who oppose them. This time, Christians are major targets. We’ve heard horror stories of the indiscriminate killing of people. The Internet and some
television stations air the beheading of individuals who were innocent of any crime. As bad as this, the terrorists in ISIS vow to destroy all relics and historic sites as they aim to erase the past accomplishments of great civilizations.
So far, the world has stood back and allowed ISIS to have free reign in Syria and other areas close to it. The flood of refugees continues as the strength and power of the organization increases. Leaders call for summits to discuss the problem, but they seem not at all committed to putting an end to things. Russia’s Putin pledges 150,000 troops to stop ISIS for good, but his bombing runs have done nothing but attack groups opposed to Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad without touching ISIS forces.
The rest of the world must find the courage to confront ISIS. That means sending troops, arms, and supplies to the region. It also means being as ruthless as the enemy when battles break out. The threat that the terrorist organization brings must be ended, and that means that all countries opposed to the spread of such radical violence and intolerance must willingly send soldiers and money to cause.

If our world is too afraid to fight or if countries aren’t willing to fight to the fullest extent to exterminate the evil known as ISIS, then we might again see the rise of another group that believes all who don’t agree or don’t have the right genetic make-up must die. I hope our leaders have the backbone and resolve to stop a growing cancer known as ISIS. The balance of history might well hang in the decision. If we haven’t learned from history, we surely will live to repeat it.


Somehow UT managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory in its latest game against Florida. Plenty of social media buzz spewed forth, and many of us are plenty disgusted enough with the entire thing to stop putting ourselves through such anguish. We’ll pray that a more creative offense evolves sooner than later to take advantages of all the talent available.
I stomped through the house and even uttered a few expletives when the game ended with a Florida touchdown. My mood was fouler than a wounded bear’s, and for a while, my entire week looked to be a rather sour one. However, I had a few seconds of clarity that allowed me to put things into perspective about life in general.
Sure, a UT win was important to me, but something much more important this past week caused it to be a wonderful one, and it made most everything else trivial. I’m talking about the visit to the U.S. by Pope Francis.
First of all, no, I’m not a member of the Catholic Church. The fact is that I’ve never cared much for the institution or its rather restrictive set of beliefs and dictates. Neither have I had an affinity for past popes.
They seemed too far removed from life and too tired to bring energy to the church.
Pope Francis has changed all of that, not for just me but for all the world. The man loves people and refuses to allow his position to keep them from him. His passion for all folks is a bright light in a world where selfishness prevails.
The man came to this country with a message. It was one that stressed loving others and taking care of the earth. With unapologetic, yet loving, frankness, Pope Francis spoke to swells of people in churches, world organizations, and even the hallowed halls of our own federal government.
I suspect that one of his greatest accomplishments was the influence he had own John Boehner, Speaker of
the House. Boehner resigned following the pope’s visit, and many suspect that he did so after heeding the advice of the pontiff to do something positive. Perhaps the congressman no longer had the stomach for the divisiveness that characterizes our federal government.
Pope Francis brought with him more than just masses and speeches. He brought a presence of God that too often goes unnoticed in our world today. The man’s smile and his eyes pierced even the most hardened hearts. His simple goodness was infectious, and he won over millions of folks during his visit.
As I understand it, the pope is God’s representative here on earth. I’m not sure about past men who held the position, but I feel sure that Pope Francis fits the bill. He brightens those in his presence; his humility and accessibility to the common person endears him to them.
Best of all, Pope Francis is someone who is able to show us what is good and inspires us to begin living by it. He gives a glimpse into what joy and peace can be discovered by living a life faithful to our God and His desires for us. Look at the faces of those who stood for hours to get a glimpse of the man. They shunned the cares of this world and focused instead on the excitement that being in the presence of someone who lives a Christ-like existence.

I’m not happy that UT lost to the team from Florida for the eleventh straight time; the Vols should have defeated them and gone about their business. However, when I compare that “game” with a visit from the most popular pope that the Catholic Church has ever had, the importance of that college contest dulls. I am glad that Pope Francis visited our country and that he touched some many lives. For one week, he gave us a glimpse at what we can be and what we can have. I only hope that our leaders can take lessons and become such wonderful, inspirational leaders. I also hope that each of us can live lives that center of kindness, love, and charity. Heaven knows we need it.