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Family is a dichotomy of love and hate – especially true in the relationships of siblings.  Both emotions are steered by the conditions of their lives as they grow up.  There were six of us children, growing up as “army brats”.  That meant that every two years we moved to a new state.  As a result, we became each others best friends because we had to depend one-on-the-other to be the constant in our lives during our formative years.

Then as we grew up we drifted into forming individual lives, only coming together as a family unit on holidays.  That is until life began to bring us back to those feelings from our childhood when we were the only ones who recognized and who truly understood what the others were feeling.  It is those very feelings that cause us to join in God’s word in Isaiah 40:1 “‘Comfort, yes, comfort My people!’ says your God”  bringing forth the unconditional comfort of family.

Today, my guest blogger is my oldest brother, Bill.  When we were kids, he let me stay up late and watch The Twilight Zone with him on Friday nights, followed by those scary Godzilla movies on Saturday mornings, and laughed with me while watching Bugs Bunny cartoons, enabling me to face fear with the knowledge that better times always come.   When I was only nine and weighed 75 pounds, a bully at school stomped my foot, causing me to cry.  The next day at school, Bill walked up to the bully, stomped the bully’s foot and said, “Don’t ever do that to my sister again!”  And the bully never did, nor any other bully because words do get around.

Bill is the one who, when I was home with a very bad case of the flu, signed me up for cheerleader tryouts; not something I had even considered.  He then became my campaign manager by again signing me up to run for student council – also not on my “bucket list”.  He helped me write the words to my campaign speeches and encouraged me to reach all the way to my toenails and to pull up the courage to share them in front of the student body (I was very shy).  Imagine my surprise when I succeeded at both and both are two of my best high school memories.

He is the one, as I struggled with the decision to go to college after getting married said, “Just try it.  Take one class, make it your favorite subject – and if you don’t like it, you don’t have to go back.  You just need to know what it’s like.”  As usual, he knew me better than I knew myself.  Not only did I graduate cum laude from his favorite – The University of Alabama, I went on to obtain my Masters Degree.

He is the one who is calm in the storms of our lives as siblings today – all with words of peace, faith and hope, – and a whole lot of prayer.  I want to share the words of this man who backs them up with actions, making a difference.

 

BillWords by Bill Brewer

“I guess, just about everyone has heard the saying “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” I, for one, have never embraced this saying, because words do have meanings and they do have consequences.

What if you had printer in your home and as you went through each day each word you spoke was printed from the printer, page by page? What would be there for you read when you got home? Would you share it with everyone or just shred it?

Then, what if for one day each word that you spoke would travel across the screen of all television sets in your hometown? Could you then go out and walk in public with your head held high? Or would you hide and only come out when it was dark?

In a spiritual way, each word we speak appears on the screen of God’s television. When each of us talk to people we meet each day, we should always strive to use words that God would approve of.  Always remember that a word of kindness and encouragement, especially to a child, could give hope to a person that had none before, or give that child the needed encouragement to excel.

A single kind word or act to someone close to you, or even to a stranger, could show them that someone cares. So as you start each day ask yourself. “What will my printer say about me today?” But more importantly, when the day ends, we need to ask ourselves, “What would Jesus say about the words we spoke today?”

Bill, husband to Kathy, father to two daughters and grandfather to five grandchildren, brother, friend, veteran, refers to himself as “Just a God loving country boy.”

And so he is.

 

Happy Fall Y’all

What's that leaf doing here? It wasn't here a minute ago!
What’s that leaf doing here? It wasn’t here a minute ago!

“Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow. It empties today of its strength.” 

– Corrie Ten Boom

Every New Year kick-starts us by focusing our attention on new beginnings. Spring then propels us to a time of renewal, while Summer slows us down as we enter those “lazy, crazy days” of fun and relaxation. As we enter Fall, I begin to wonder:  What were my New Year’s resolutions? Did my spring cleaning get done? Did my “bikini weight loss goal” happen?

Some would say Fall is a time of cooler weather, football rivalries, comfort foods like soup and chili, the smell of burning leaves or of wood smoldering in a fireplace. Crazy Halloween costumes and treats or tricks are only days away while gathering with family and friends to give thanks for our country over a feast of golden brown turkey and dressing, mashed potatoes and gravy, with a pumpkin pie finale is weeks away. The Christmas season has begun making its advancing presence felt, although it is months away.

Each day I accompany my dog Teddie on his twilight walks, with the sun either peeking over the horizon of the trees as it brings forth the dawn of a new day, or its descent teasing us with a gentle, albeit, restless reminder that the day is coming to a close. Teddie exudes glee with either time. Head down, he walks as fast as those little legs will carry him, nose to the ground searching out something elusive. Other times, he chases birds, or bunnies. or squirrels and with what purpose, I do not know. His walks are his own and the one thing I have come to realize is this: he is in the moment with the importance and enjoyment of that moment only. It is his moment and it is up him to do with it what he will.

For me, Fall is a season of reflection that usually occurs during those twilight walks with Teddie. Two seasons gone; did I do the right things –  those which are only important in this moment and on this day? Life is happening right now. Did I laugh out loud when Teddie ran after that bird that teased him into a chase? Whether this moment right now is joyful or sad, hurting or healing, the important thing to reflect on is in the knowing that everything changes. Life happens in the moment and if we fail to be in the moment with life, then we simply miss it.

What has happened then becomes a memory, often leaving us changed. What will we do with those changes? What will be is YET to be; leave the excitement or the worry for then. Be here now. Stop and look at the vibrant, as well as the muted colors of nature in the fall – both have purpose. Inhale the crispness of the morning air and feel the remaining warmth of the fleeting afternoons that are not yet willing to let summer go.

Nature grows older, but no less beautiful as it prepares for what is to be. Life grows shorter as the moments pass. That is our destiny. So for now, let time take care of itself.

In this moment do good things. Be kind to yourself and be kind each other and remember to pray. Laugh with others, cry with others, care for others – but make life count in this moment.

Lights of Grace:
Matthew 6:25-27 “Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?”

Squeeze Life Out of Every Second Because You Never Know When the Clock Will Stop Ticking! by Pastor Mic Barnett

Pastor Mic Barnett“You do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away” (James 4:14).
I love the fall season with its brilliant colors, crisp air and the smell of football in the air. I feel so much more alive, getting up on these early mornings and walking out to the truck, the cool air hitting my face. I then travel to work through Horns Valley and Chandlers Springs into Clay County in beautiful central Alabama. It is twenty or so miles of pristine, brightly colored rolling hills and deep valleys. Many mornings, heading East, I can see the beautiful red and orange colors of the sun trying to peek through the dense fog as I drive in and out of valleys into the countryside. I have lived all over the world but this little piece of paradise is special and tranquil. Some mornings I just want to keep driving and not stop at work because of the beauty God paints for me each morning. So majestic and powerful are the colors that it sometimes blinds me with its beauty and takes my breath away. I know many who cannot see and I am amazed that God would bless me to have the sight to be able to see His beauty.

But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”— 1 Corinthians 2:9

I don’t know if it is me getting a little long in the tooth or getting wiser, I try, but often fail, to enjoy each day as if it is my last. I notice the things and the people around me more than when I was younger and running a hundred miles an hour. I call it “living in the moment”. Let me explain my change in thinking.

A little over 10 years ago, I had my first stroke. I woke up that morning assuming it would be like any other day. While taking a shower, I realized it might not. I was having a problem standing up straight. I went on to work, made an appointment to see my doctor (wife wouldn’t stop bugging me about getting an appointment) and went about my daily business. When the doctor said, “You have had a stroke and I will be admitting you into the hospital immediately” I was stunned. This could not be happening to me. I’m in great shape. This is supposed to happen to someone else!

As I lay in that hospital bed that night with my wife, Dot, sleeping in a chair beside my bed, I looked at her for a long time, appreciating her for all she had done for me over the years and forgiving me for all the wrong I had done. I asked myself, “Does she know how much I appreciate her and love her?”

What if I had another stroke before she woke up and I didn’t get a chance to tell her? I reached over and touched her arm and quietly said, “I love you with all my heart and appreciate everything you do. I just wanted you to know.”
I felt a huge weight roll off my shoulders. I then started to evaluate my whole life and wondered if I had done everything I was put on this earth to do. I realized then that many opportunities to touch other people and to truly appreciate this thing called life had passed me by. I had been too busy living life to truly LIVE life. From that time on I’d like to think I am different and I do cherish people and the years, months, days and every second God has given me as a gift.

I guess since that day God has given me a new perspective. I take time now to enjoy everything and everyone that crosses my path. I say, “I love you” a lot more than before and I do things now that it might not look cool but I do it anyway. I’ll get down in the dirt with my grand-kids and not care how dirty I get. I laugh hard now not caring how I sound. Most of my hair has waved good bye over the years, but that doesn’t bother me either. God has a wonderful way of talking to us, if we will only listen.

At one time, having male pattern baldness really bothered me, having that round spot on the back of my head reached down deep into my vanity but then something happened that stopped it from mattering. One day our second grandchild, a beautiful little girl of six months, was sitting on my shoulders and I noticed she had put her hands right in that bald spot. I moved her hands to see what she would do and she put them right back in that spot. They were a perfect fit! I almost cried. The Holy Spirit spoke to me and said, “Now do you know why you have that spot? It is so your grandkids have a place to put their small hands when they are on your shoulders.” Wow! My male pattern baldness doesn’t bother me any longer needless to say.

Living with the certain knowledge that your life is fragile and limited is different than just living. Things here are passing away. You’ve got to hold on to what will stand. Savor what matters. Showing love to your fellow man will last forever.
A few years ago I tried this principle out. It was Christmas time, Dot and I were in the toy section of a local WalMart. Talk about a mess; toys were everywhere!

A young clerk was on her hands and knees frantically trying to pick up and re-organize her department. No sooner than she’d clean up one area, kids would come through and mess it up again. From the other end of the aisle, I saw her just sit on the floor with her shoulders slumped over. She was in deep despair.

I knew then why I was there. It wasn’t just to shop for gifts, but to uplift someone. I walked down the aisle and said, “Miss, thank you for keeping this section organized because if you did not, no one could find anything. Merry Christmas.”
The young lady looked up at me and said, “Thank you. Merry Christmas to you, too.” Her face had changed from a deep scowl to a smile, all because of a few kind words that didn’t cost me time nor money. Kindness and love are amazing aren’t they? They are a great tool against sadness and depression.

Life Is Short. Eternity Is Long. Live Like It.

Surely God means for our minutes on earth to count for something significant.
You will exist forever. How long doesn’t matter. How you live does! Time is precious.

Psalm 31:19 Oh how great is your goodness, which you have laid up for them that fear you…

Squeeze Life out of Every Second by making those seconds count!

Driven to Distraction

I am excited, once again, to have Pastor Mic as a guest blogger.  He’s a regular man, walking his faith, and telling his truth.  His blog, Driven to Distraction, is a good old fashioned reminder that God loves us enough to do what any good parent does, provide caution when needed.  After reading his blog my epiphany is that God is not a rock star.  We don’t need that “backstage pass” to get to know Him.  We don’t have to wait for death to give us a better life.  He is with us, this day, this moment, right where we are.  His sparkles of grace are all around us!

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John 8:12King James Version (KJV) 12 “Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.”

Football season is here! This means less yard work, summer vacations are over, and that new sixty inch television will be able to display all its HD magic! The important thing to remember is – no distractions.

I drive to work every morning through the beautiful countryside of eastern Alabama with its rolling hills and valley. With that beauty, comes also rain and fog that hovers in the valleys. Many times I have to slow down and use my fog lights so I can see better and to keep me from running off the road into a ditch or over a cliff. This morning was one of those mornings and as I drove I thought “That’s the way the Lord is”. He brightens our path. When the storms of this life rolls in like a thick fog and our lives are filled with rain, He will light our path with His written word or a word of encouragement from another Christian that will illuminate our path with His love, keeping us out of the ditches of this world and taking us safely home.

I just got back from an HR conference in Orange Beach and one of the classes I attended was entitled “Driven to Distraction”. The class was all about how we as drivers are distracted by so many things other than what we are supposed to be doing – driving. The instructor talked about the dangers of not focusing on the road and the vehicles around us. Most of the distractions were obvious such as being on the phone, texting, changing the radio, putting on make- up and passengers. He explained how dangerous it is to be distracted. As I sat there I started thinking about the spiritual aspect of this subject. As Christians, we too are driven to distractions that can take our eyes off the Christian road.

1. TV
2. Facebook
3. Sports
4. Shopping
5. Work
6. Hobbies

I’m not going to elaborate on each one and how it can distract us. I’m sure you can look at each one and KNOW how it can distract us can’t you?

I’m not talking about not doing any of this; everything in moderation. With football season starting, I think you know what I mean!

Making use of the most widely read guide book, the Bible, will help us with avoiding the pitfalls of distractions. It is a “cautionary tale”, it’s purpose to help us “press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus”(Philippians 3:14).

Did you ever notice how much of life is full of warnings and cautions? You can’t drive anywhere without seeing something that’s a direct warning or caution, or at the very least, a law or a limit with an implied warning.

Speed limits are an example. They’re an implied warning that if you drive over that limit, you can be ticketed, or get yourself hurt, or hurt someone else…. that’s why we have limits.

There are road hazard warnings. The road narrows ahead – move over or you’ll run out of pavement. There are all kinds of warnings in life.

Most products we purchase have labels warning about improper use. I found a great list of these kinds of warnings. Believe it or not, these are all real. Here’s a few:

– A fishing lure, with a warning that reads: harmful if swallowed.

– A warning label found on a baby stroller cautions the user to “Remove child before folding”

– A cardboard car sun-shield that keeps sun off the dashboard warns, “Do not drive with sunshield in place”

We can laugh about these and think who would be foolish enough to need such warnings?

But apparently someone did something goofy enough or some lawyer thinks someone is or will be foolish enough to actually drive with the sunshade in place.

Then of course, we often hear about warnings that go unheeded and the sometimes very serious consequences of these things that aren’t at all funny.

For example, how often have we heard the clear warning: “don’t drink and drive?”
But then how often do you hear or read of a drunk driver who causes an accident that kills someone.

Focusing on warnings or admonitions can help us know the difference when making choices that hurt or help ourselves and others. Cautions and warnings can be our friends. They exist to keep us well. Sometimes they exist to keep us alive.

The same is true of our life in Christ. While we rely completely on the grace of God, through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for our eternal destiny, we Christians sometimes do things to mess up our lives on earth.

We can all think of things we’ve done or not done, things we’ve seen others do or not do, things that had at least some short-term negative consequences or often even long-term or life-altering consequences.

The Word of God is first and foremost is a story of how Jesus lived a life worthy of eternal salvation, as it details His plans for our eternal salvation. It is a guide that helps us focus on making us better and in the doing, makes our world better.

For, it’s not just a book full of caution and warning. The readings helps us understand how we can live Godly lives for Him and in doing that, escape the consequences of what we’d otherwise have to classify as foolish behavior.

While this world just about guarantees some measure of trouble, illness, or hardship, by walking wholeheartedly with Jesus, by devoting our lives to Him, we can escape or handle the hardships that we have to deal with in life.

There’s no guarantee of total bliss, even with the Lord, but things do go better as we focus: “Looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2 ESV)

—Mic Barnett, Alabama

WHY MATH IS IMPORTANT

The new school year has either begun or is about to begin. I remember how excited I would be getting paper, pencils, a dictionary, and crayons. I was not so excited, however, getting calculators, compasses, and rulers for the dreaded math classes, because I refused to enjoy math.

Why?  Well, first I’m a girl and girls aren’t supposed to be good at math.  Although I usually made an A in math because, well, why would you not want an A? I simply saw no value purpose for math.  Sure, basic arithmetic is fine for balancing check books, figuring out percentages of 20% off of those shoes I’ve been lusting after, and perhaps the 10% tithe that the pastor occasionally reminded us about, never specifying if it was pre or post-tax dollars. I realize that math is one of the oldest academic fields, but I just don’t see why there has to be so many other kinds, such as:
algebra
geometry
trigonometry
calculus
linear algebra
combinatorics
differential equations
real analysis
complex analysis
abstract algebra (includes group theory, ring theory, field theory, and module theory)
topology
number theory
logic
probability
statistics
game theory
functional analysis
algebraic geometry
differential geometry
dynamical systems (includes “chaos theory”)
numerical analysis
set theory
category theory
model theory

See my point?

Until today when I attended Ms. Billie’s Watercolor Demonstration Class. This is what I learned:

My mentors Nelle and Lehehia are on the left - they actually think I can paint!  Ms. Billie is on the right.  Stay tuned for my progressive musings as I take her course over he next few weeks!
My mentors Nelle and Leheia are on the left – they actually think I can paint! Ms. Billie is on the right. Stay tuned for my progressive musings as I take her course over he next few weeks!

1. Good paintings begin with a good value plan. Your painting begins by first recognizing shades of black and white in order that those shades may become shades of rich, soft colors that envelop you in the warmth of peace.
2. Have a focal point and paint everything toward that. Everything painted around that focal point is there for the purpose of illuminating the artist message.
3. There are no rules, therefore go ahead and paint outside the lines – in fact you are encouraged to do so. This form of self-discovery allows the freedom to create art without restriction.
4. Always go to the edge of the canvas with lots and lots and lots of color. This seems scary, but by going to the edge comes the realization that we don’t have to jump or fall. We learn that beauty can be brought back from that edge.
5. Allow the paint color to run. Just like life meanders seemingly without purpose, the varying hues and shapes make it a life worth the living.
6. Don’t copy another’s paintings. True artists pull out their own creativity, creating their own joy.
7. Keep your sketch pad accessible at all times and don’t be afraid to use it. While stopping to smell the roses, it is important to memorialize the hues, shapes and flaws of the rose.
8. Take time to step back and look at the focal point using the value plan. Assessing our path along the way serves as a gentle reminder of a purposeful life.
9. Never ever construct without a value plan….of faith, of hope, or of love – all given so generously by God and should be generously received by us.
10. Perspective in watercolor art is a mathematical principle (geometry) and is learned from a square block.

After all, as Anais Nin said, “We don’t see things as they are, we see things as we are.”

Aha! Math is an art and that is why math is important.

My Best Friend

My Best Friend.

I can tell you what Christmas is all about.

Remember when we were kids and how exciting it was to go back to school and we’d make a list of all the great stuff Santa had brought us?  Barbie dolls, a red wagon, a BB gun, fruit, candy and a huge ham and cakes of all kinds for Christmas dinner.  Dad would say the blessing and carve the ham.

That is not what my childhood Christmas was all about.  Dad was away in the war and any extra money went to pay for the heat in the house and food like beans, potatoes, bread and milk, not toys.  It seemed like life sucked because I didn’t have all those things other kids had.  Dad eventually came home from the war and the warmth of his presence and his love was worth any sacrifice.

Remember how our mothers were the heart of Christmas, creating it’s meaning for all of us?  The shopping, the baking, the decorating, the wonderful secrets and always, always going to midnight communion which gave us the joyous peace that mothers know it will? But then mother died and Christmas became lonely and fake and life sucked.  At some point, I can’t tell you when or why, I began to do all of the same wonderful things with my children and we began to build on the foundation mother had provided, making it stronger with each new memory we created as a family.  Her legacy gives us joy and peace, keeping her close, and I believe – happy, always.

Then we grow up and realize that life can suck on any given day with or without notice. This hurts and with the pain, memories of what is good and right in our life are swept away by the uncertainty of just how much adversity one can withstand.

In the Charlie Brown Christmas Special where Charlie Brown asks about the meaning of Christmas and Linus, blanket in hand, explains, “And the angel said unto them, Fear not, for behold, I bring unto you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you this day is born in the City of Bethlehem, a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; you shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel, a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God, and saying, ‘Glory to God in the highest, and on Earth peace, good will toward men'”. (Luke 2:10).

Like Charlie Brown, we may shout, “What’s the big deal about Christmas?”

It seems to promise good things, but bad things still happen.

It appears that many of us may not be sure what Christmas is all about either.

But if we only seek the meaning, we discover it really is all around us.

Linus ends his explanation by simply saying, “That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.”  If we all could have the faith of Linus, life would still sometimes suck, but we would gain some of that peace on earth and good will toward others as we realize that the good in our lives gets us through those bad times.

God gave us His son, Jesus who suffered and died for us of His own free will:  “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son… .” (John 3:16).

If we think about that, we can find hope in the will of  people everywhere, every day, who give their lives freely for others so that others might live. A friend of mine gave her husband her kidney so he might live, a sister gave her sister her bone marrow which put her cancer in remission, a young firefighter died of smoke inhalation but managed to rescue an 87 year old great grandmother, troops every day give their lives so we are safe.  The reality of Christmas is the understanding that God doesn’t prevent bad things from happening, but He does provide us with comfort and support as He guides us through the bad times, often using those around us to help us.

In the first days of my widowhood, Kathy, Tammie and Rosita called me every day, ignoring that I often didn’t answer the phone or return their calls.  Still their calls continued, every day, until I began to answer the phone and I began to call them back; God at work through people.

Christmas is about accepting that bad things are just going to happen, and having the faith that God is there every moment.  Anyone can be thankful when times are good, but maintaining our faith and belief in God through the bad times will give us strength to persevere and to eventually recognize and to be grateful for the goodness that still exists in our lives.

And that, my friends, is what Christmas is all about.

Thanksgiving Day 2013 – Concepts of Choice

I choose to keep an adequate supply of “rose colored glasses” to wear during the darkest of times because they let sparkles of light shine through.

I choose to try to be happy because choosing to be sad, well, it just keeps me sad.

I choose to try to live according to God’s plan, even though I may not understand or agree with it; because understanding is not the same thing as knowing.  That comes from faith.

I choose to try to be a good mother, a good sister, a good friend, a good person even when I don’t want to be any of those things, because through God’s grace I have had the goodness of a mother, friends, and many other people who have blessed my life with their goodness.

I choose to try to have a glass half full of champagne, choosing to celebrate the good that comes with the bad.  Because how could we ever gain wisdom about what’s important in life, without acknowledging that the path that takes us to God has moments of joy to get us through moments of pain.

I choose to try to be faithful , even when the world is saying faith is a myth, because faith has always sustained me.

I choose to try to remember there is good in people, while choosing not to hold onto a perceived hurt, hoping others will forgive my hurts to them.

I choose to try to thank God throughout the day for my dog, Teddie, which means “gift from God”. So when I do, I’m actually thanking God for His providence.

I choose to try to donate time, money, products or services even when I’m experiencing tough times because I have received time, money, products and services to get me through tough times.

I choose to believe everyone will join me in choosing to be thankful this Thanksgiving Day, because I choose to try.

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