Baton Rouge Still Has a Place in My Heart

During the past couple of weeks I have been grieving and praying for the people of Baton Rouge. Liz and I spent four years there and I went back for another summer to study German. Our children, Suzanne and Michael, were born in Baptist Hospital there. Baton Rouge is a beautiful, friendly city. The staff at the Cerebral Palsy Center and the folks at Goodwood Baptist Church, where I taught an adult Sunday school class, opened their hearts to us. The faculty of the Speech Department at LSU were some of the finest people I have had the privilege of knowing. You cannot imagine the friendliness and the professionalism of that department.

We were there during the anxious days of the Cuban Missile Crisis and I was asked to teach oral English to many of the Cuban refugees. It was during the time that “Sing Along with Mitch Miller” was on television and my course quickly became known as Speak Akong with Mitch. Paula Eagle, director of the Cerebral Palsy Center, Sally Coperthwait, occupational therapists and I were in Dallas the weekend that President Kennedy was assassinated and Jack Ruby was shot. We were attending the convention of the National Cerebral Palsy Association.

We were very tempted to stay in Baton Rouge. We had developed so many friendships. I also had a private practice and was teaching in the Speech Department in addition to being a graduate student. The invitation to come to Charleston was too challenging to pass up. It was the right move for us, but Baton Rouge and its wonderful people still have a place in my heart.

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Be a Peacemaker

Our words are powerful. They have the power to become building blocks or wrecking balls. As the late Dr. Arthur Caliandro, pastor of Marble Collegiate Church, said. “You can never know that your words will be received the way you intended them to be.” We do not know what the other person has experienced.

As the long summer days heat up so does the political rhetoric. Inflammatory words can often spark unintended consequences. Our nation seems to be experiencing one horrific tragedy after another. It is time for us to step back, take a breath and realize that we are all in this together. Black lives matter. All lives matter equally. We need to approach each other with open hearts, open hands and an attitude of respect.

People of good will can turn this deplorable situation around. We can learn from our previous mistakes. Offer a kind word instead of a shrill voice. Offer an outstretched hand instead of a fist. Be a peacemaker.

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Tragedy Transformed into Triumph – Randy’s Writings

Randy and Sarah Moody have every right to be angry. Their bright, handsome, athletic 21 year old only son died while scuba diving on a camping trip. Randall was a committed Christian and had already decided to become a missionary .He was president of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes at the College of Charleston. He gave his testimony at the group’s annual banquet in 1997.

These grieving parents transformed their tremendous grief into a crusade to memorialize their son and to further his mission. Sarah and Randy used Randall’s writings, diary entries and the hundreds of letters and phone calls they received about him to compile a book, “Randy’s Writings, which they hope will inspire others to follow in his footsteps. It is not a sad book. There is something here for everyone. Sarah and Randy have gone even further. They have developed an oral presentation and a video from the tragedy. Their talk and/or video would make a wonderful program for any Christian organization.

Randy’s Writings, is available at www.amazon.com.

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Independence Day 2016

12989702-waving-usa-flagEvery day of my life I give thanks for being an American. I had nothing to do with where I was born, but I am grateful for this accident of birth. I mean no disrespect for any other country. I was born into a working class family in upstate South Carolina. My parents were the salt of the earth. They worked hard to earn a living and to make a home for my sister and me. They were the kind of people who made this the great country that it is. They believed in the American dream and they instilled that belief in the two of us. They taught us that all honest work is honorable. They taught us to respect ourselves and that all people are God’s children.

My wife was born into poverty in West Virginia. Most would have said that she had no chance for a successful life. A caring public school teacher saw her potential and inspired her to want more for herself. Both of us received good public school educations. Both of us enjoyed wonderful, successful careers and after different paths we found each other later in life. Neither of us could have had the lives we have enjoyed any place else in the world.

I am proud that my country is still striving for that more perfect union. I am proud that we elected an African/American as president, but I will be just as happy when we elect a woman or a Hispanic. I will be even happier when those qualifiers are not even mentioned. Freedom and opportunity still ring from every hilltop and valley

I am thankful that we are free to worship or not to worship as we choose. I salute the flag. I proudly recite The Pledge of Allegiance and my spine tingles with the sounds of our national anthem, America the Beautiful and God Bless America. In the words of the country song, “I am proud to be an American.” My heart aches when our government abandons our time honored values of just treatment of our enemies. I do not deny that there are those who intend to do us harm and who strive to defeat our way of life; however, if we stoop to adopt their practices, the battle is already lost.

I pray without shame, God bless America. I pray for our leaders and for those who protect us at home and abroad. I pray that we will always be that land that proudly proclaims, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” We are a nation of immigrants and our society has profited from the contributions of all those who came.

As we celebrate Independence Day, give thanks for all of those who gave their lives that you and I could enjoy this great land of freedom. Give thanks for those who strive every day to make this a more perfect union. Give thanks for those whose political opinions are different from yours because that means that we are still free to disagree and to express those disagreements. I did not ask anyone’s permission to write or publish this article and there are no guards outside my door. I can read whatever I choose to read and I can travel whenever and wherever I choose without interference. I will spend the day celebrating with my family the blessings we enjoy but too often take for granted. We will bow our heads and thank God for our blessings. We must learn over and over again it seems that freedom isn’t really free.

On this Independence Day and every day of my life, I am blessed to be an American and I am grateful for the privileges and responsibilities that go with being a good citizen.

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