By: Ali Elizabeth Turner
It’s been a month since 17 people, 14 students and three teachers were gunned down at Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida by a messed-up young man by the name of Nikolas Cruz. The aftermath has been fairly predictable, and there is little in this latest school shooting that can in any way be considered unique. Broward County Sheriff’s Department has been nicknamed “Coward County” because no officer went in to take the shooter out and save the lives of the kids and teachers. FBI has come under fire because of all the warnings that were given that indicated that Nikolas was dangerous and ready to explode. SSRI-style anti-depressants, (the ones that carry the black box warning that they are not suitable for adolescents because they cause suicidal and/or homicidal thoughts or actions) have once again come under scrutiny, and the National Rifle Association has been not surprisingly portrayed as the League of Lucifer itself.

What is different this time is that there has been a groundswell movement of students who are justifiably upset about what happened, and have bought into the idea that the problem is guns and not the gunner. I used to believe that gun control was the solution, and I no longer think that is the case. I also used to think that people who believed in the 2nd Amendment as intended by the Founders were Neanderthals, while I was the embodiment of enlightened, transcendent, morality because I was a pacifist. I am no longer that, either.

The kids also are real worried about the idea of having highly-trained people in their halls or classrooms who can protect and defend them. My guess is that their belief is that the presence of an armed person would somehow sully the purity of their academic experience. That would have been my thought 50 years ago. After all, it was the era whose battle cry was, “Make love, not war.” By contrast, Federal legislation has been passed to help prevent more school violence, and Florida will be requiring that would-be purchasers of long guns be at least 21 years of age.

So, with emotions high and activism on both sides fomenting, it is encouraging to know that our own Athens High School students have made the news for their mature response to the walk-out that was held across the country on Wednesday, March 14, 2018. Rather than leave school to express their outrage over school shootings and violence in particular, the Athens High kids came up with some ideas that were not only as marvelous as they were measured, they involved Post-its, as well as acts of kindness. They wrote ideas for doing all manner of kind things on Post-its, and put them on what they called the Kindness Wall. Then they had some moments of silence for the fallen. One by one, students went up to the wall, picked up a Post-it, went and performed the deed, and when they were finished put the Post-it on the right side of the wall, which had been set aside for the finished act of kindness.

Sophie Greenhaw is the AHS Student Council Secretary. About their plan, she said, “We’re… hoping that it just creates a better school environment where more people just feel involved and feel loved on.” We are hoping so, too, Miss Sophie, and Athens High, you have done us proud. Thank you.

By: Ali Elizabeth Turner
Volumes have already been written on the life and passing of Billy Graham, inarguably one of the finest men of faith the people of God have ever been able to claim as a “gift.” And while I am not sure that I have anything to say that hasn’t already been said, please let me use this space and time to express my thanks for his life and the impact it had on me.

I heard him preach once, and that was in 1976, in the Kingdome in Seattle. It happened to be the first event ever held in a building that was wracked by financial scandal, where people died in construction accidents, where lawsuits were abundant, and it was eventually torn down. I will never forget, even though I was already a Christian, the simplicity and the sincerity of his message, and how touched I was by the sight of people by the thousands streaming down to the altar to surrender to Christ. The music was classic and lofty, and the Crusade ended up being the most well-attended events in the history of the Kingdome. Seventy-four thousand people had the chance to choose for eternity, and by the time Reverend Graham knocked on the pearly gates, it is estimated that 2.2 billion people heard the Gospel message.

So, what was it about Billy? What made this simple country boy so special? Without question, the lion’s share of it had to be the anointing of the Holy Spirit, the choice of God to be a pure voice proclaiming the simplest message of love that changed the lives of millions. That cannot be quantified; as a former pastor of mine so wisely once said, “It is just better felt than telt.”

Some of it was practical, just good “walkin’ around sense.” He had a policy of having his security team make sure that any hotel room in which he stayed was secured and guaranteed to be empty before Billy ever went in to catch 40 winks. His ministry was not tainted by scandal, which was refreshing especially in the decades when it seemed that ministries were blowing up on a daily basis.

He loved his Ruth, and for her part, in 1941 she wrote the following before she ever met and married him:

“Dear God, I prayed, all unafraid
(as we’re inclined to do),
I do not need a handsome man
but let him be like You;
I do not need one big and strong
nor yet so very tall,
nor need he be some genius,
or wealthy, Lord, at all;
but let his head be high, dear God,
and let his eye be clear,
his shoulders straight, whate’er his state,
whate’er his earthly sphere;
and let his face have character,
a ruggedness of soul,
and let his whole life show, dear God,
a singleness of goal;
then when he comes (as he will come)
with quiet eyes aglow,
I’ll understand that he’s the man
I prayed for long ago.”

Now while I know that Billy (whom Ruth always called “Bill) needed a Savior just like the rest of us, I would say that God answered Ruth’s prayer abundantly. Billy mentioned that after he retired, and in the years before she died, it was as though they had the chance to be college sweethearts again. All those years of sacrifice were restored, all the years she had to function as a single mom for our sakes, all the nights they laid awake on separate continents praying for their kids and each other, were poured back out upon them in abundant reward.

As dear as the story of all this late-in-life marital tenderness is, my personal thanks for the life of Billy Graham has to do with the fact that Billy understood (back in the era which in church history is now referred to as the Jesus People Movement) that hippie kids like me could be reached and eternally changed. We really could choose Christ over cannabis, and his love for us made us want to come home. Billy loved everyone, and everyone, from presidents to plumbers knew it. Rest in peace, dear brother. By God’s grace, you made us better.

By: Ali Elizabeth Turner
As I was wondering what to write for this particular Publisher’s Point, I began to tear up as I experienced a wave of loving gratitude for my Athens Now team, and this was to the point that I couldn’t see what I was writing. They are special folks to me, and they wrack their brains at least once a month to bring you a fresh portion of Information and Inspiration from their personal bailiwick – from cooking to personal safety; from pets to vets to sports and more.

Please let me tell you about them.
Jon Hamilton, owner of Curb Appeal Graphics. Jon has been with Athens Now from the very beginning, has faithfully labored sometimes all night so that we can stitch this crazy quilt together, and you have a paper to read. Because of him, we have never missed an edition, and he has become a dear friend. I also highly enjoy and respect his work.
Yvonne Dempsey, our copy editor and grammar/punctuation stickler. This woman has an ability to be firm about the rules and equally friendly in enforcing them. She is another one who has labored tirelessly into the night to get it just right.
Teddy Wolcott, our webmistress, if I may coin a term. Although Teddy describes herself as being “older than dirt,” she is another one who will not rest until it’s done, and because of her we are now read online all over the world.
D.A. Slinkard, whose column, Slinkard On Success, is one of our most popular, and I think it’s because this guy is the real deal when it comes to being positive. “In sickness and in health,” D.A. has been unstoppable, and we are glad he chose to join our team. If you are feeling discouraged, just Google his name and choose from plenty to perk you up.
Sandy Thompson is the director of the Vets’ Museum here in Athens, and she faithfully honors retired veterans by telling their stories, as well as honoring those who are still serving
Teresa Todd/Cayce Lee take the time to be the voice of the tourism office and keep us abreast of all the things that are available for us to do in Athens-Limestone County. Teresa wears many hats and expends herself for us because she loves this town.
Lynne Hart, who runs Keep Athens-Limestone Beautiful and the Recycling Center. She finds time to write for us in addition to her other duties, which include speaking at schools, churches, civic groups, radio stations; appearing on TV; and sponsoring a number of important events throughout the year. She also makes me laugh with some of the zaniest vids, ever.
Anna Hamilton writes our cooking column, and we want to give a shout out to Shelley Underhill and Kimberly Hobbs for all their hard work in the past. That Anna girl knows how to put love in the food!
Jerry Barksdale, whom I affectionately refer to as our “resident rascal,” regales us with tales that are simultaneously whimsical, philosophical, homespun, and hysterical. He makes me laugh out loud, and I hear that about him from you, too.
Janet Hunt keeps us fit and watches out for us, especially seniors. She has her own studio at her home, and walks the talk. She is also a Master Gardener and will help you get your landscape under control in addition to your lipids.
Wanda Campbell, of ASU’s Center for Lifelong Learning, encourages to make learning a lifestyle and is continually giving us things to do, read, try, and think about, as well as places to go.
Holly Hollman of the Mayor’s Office extends herself as a contributing writer and sends me the best pics; much better than the ones I take. She has saved my hide more than once, and has done so cheerfully.
Rosemary Dewar makes you think while you read what millennials think. She was also recently picked as one of The 25 Conservative Women To Follow On Twitter. I think someday I’ll be her seasoned-citizen summer intern when she launches her political career.
Lisa Phillipart heads up the counseling department at ASU, and teaches us how to stay sane in sixty-second chunks. She also has a private practice in Huntsville, and her biz tag says it all: urlifematters.
Jackie Warner is the Renaissance woman who gives us The View From The Bridge. She is a dedicated wife and mom, has been in the ministry, does real estate, is a passionate community builder, has the voice of a broadcaster, and always zings me with her tag: Until time, be sincere, kind and intentional.
Deb Kitchenmaster makes it her passion to connect us more closely with our Maker, ourselves, and each other through horses. I have personally watched miracles on horseback while leaning against the fence of her round pen, and her waters run deep. There is enough there for equines and humans, as well as some to spare.
Tim Lambert keeps us on top of the sports scene locally, and it is clear that he loves the kids more than he loves the sports. He also keeps things humming at WKAC
Paul Foreman is one of my heroes. Last but not least, both in the paper and on this list, Paul brings common sense to personal defense, and he does it in the midst of the fight of his life, an ongoing battle with brain cancer. I had someone from another state specifically comment on his article, and they were even more appreciative once they found out what he and Joann were having to push through in order to have him write.

This is my crew, dear readers. Regular folks who regularly slug it out so that you can have news that you can actually use. And I for one am a better person because of my crew. I straight up love you.

By: Ali Elizabeth Turner
Tuesday night, January 30, was the first time President Trump gave a State of the Union speech, and while there were predictable political shenanigans in abundance both before and after, I am going to do my best to steer clear of getting sucked in by them. Instead, I am going to make this all about me and tell you what inspired me most. I am going to shamelessly foist upon you the stories that moved me to tears, and there were several. The stories were about people and not parties, and if there is a point to this Publisher’s Point, in part, it is about the sheer power of storytelling itself.

Let us start with the end in mind: people were on their feet giving standing ovations more than 75 times, and the longest and loudest were not for the President, they were for his guests. The longest of the night, which lasted for a full minute and 36 seconds, went to Carryn Owens. Her husband Ryan was one of the SEALS killed in Yemen this year.

It was a night when first responders were rightfully shown the appreciation they deserve. One of these, a police officer from Albuquerque by the name of Ryan Holets, had stopped a woman who was a heroin addict from injecting herself, got her help, and he and his wife Rebecca adopted her baby, whose name is Hope. The detox that the birth mom went through did not occur in time for baby Hope to escape her own battle with addiction, and Hope is on her own tiny path to recovery that I hope one day turns into a highway for others. A California firefighter named David Dahlberg rescued 62 kids at a camp during the wildfires of 2017. Jon Bridgers, the founder of the Cajun Navy, and Coast Guard Petty Officer Ashley Leppert were honored for saving hundreds of lives during the hell that was Hurricane Harvey.

Then there was 12-year-old Preston Sharp, who was troubled by the fact that the graves of military members were not properly decorated, and started the Flag and Flower Challenge, a campaign to get a flag and a red carnation on to their gravesites. So far this guy has been successful to the tune of 40,000 flags and flowers now honoring our military. Staff Sergeant Justin Peck, against all odds, saved the life of his buddy while they were battling ISIS in the Great Sandbox. Contrast that with the tragic deaths of two girls at the hands of MS-13 here at home, the grief of their parents, and the ICE officer whose efforts have led to the arrest of more than 100 MS-13 gang members. We wept with the parents – Elizabeth Alvarado, Robert Mickens, Evelyn Rodriguez and Freddy Cuevas – and we thanked C.J. Martinez, the ICE officer whose whole life is dedicated to stopping MS-13. The girls were black, Martinez is Hispanic, and the point is that Americans experience horrific things, and Americans rally to help.

Americans are also legendary for honoring non-Americans in other lands for unparalleled courage demonstrated in seeking freedom for themselves and others. So, for me, the night went to a North Korean defector who now lives in South Korea and helps others recover from the brutality experienced just over the border. His name is Ji-Seong Ho. I will never forget the look on his face as the Americans in the room, Americans who were born here, who immigrated here, who are of every color and background, stood to their feet and thundered their applause. His face was a quizzical combination of joy, pain, uncertainty, confidence, defiance-in-the-face-of-repressive-evil, and bedazzlement; and in one moment, even though he is not a citizen, he became the new poster child for all that is good in our land. And that, dear readers, is way more important to me than which one first used the term “a new American moment,” Hillary or the Donald.

By: Ali Elizabeth Turner
I have a daily ritual, and it involves getting my coffee in the morning, complete with a dab of coconut oil in it, sitting down, opening up my journal, and writing down five things for which I am grateful. If my journals are left behind for any who might be interested in reading the record of my life, most often the early-morning “AM Grats” listing is going to start out with number one being coffee, and number two being sun. Anyone who is from the “Great Northwet” understands the importance of the first two, trivial and shallow as they may seem. They just get my gratitude juices flowing, and then I move into weightier matters like Steve (my husband), my salvation, my family, the Baptism of the Holy Spirit, being an American woman, Juice Plus, or some specific thing that has seemed as though it was specially delivered as a tender grace from Abba Father. Being able to do Athens Now as a later-in-life career for which I had no training is one of my “grats” as well, even though there are moments when I wonder, “Why did we decide to do this again?” That often hits on Publication Day, has been pushed aside for the last seven years, and I almost always sigh with amazement and humble satisfaction at having the team and the opportunity to bring “information and inspiration” to the Tennessee Valley. Through the miracle of online publishing, we are also now read all over the world.

Developing an attitude of “guerilla gratitude” is crucial in successfully shooting the rapids of contemporary life because now, more than I can ever remember, we are surrounded by bitter, fearful people. These folks look at people, who are grateful to be alive, and are committed to wrestling life to the ground until their last breath as being more than wack-a-doodle. How can it be for some that it is an amazing time to be alive, while others pray for death to take them? I understand that illness, chronic pain, loss, death, divorce, broken relationships, abuse of all kinds, and the worst life slings at us can make it challenging beyond belief, and I understand it from experience. However, I have met many who are smack dab in the middle of the very things described above, and they still can say, “It is well with my soul.”

I think this is most dramatically exhibited in our senior care facilities, and we have some excellent ones here in Limestone County. I get the chance to interview residents and tell you their stories, which are often told through the oddly beautifying glow of gratitude emanating out of a frail and sometimes pain-wracked body. I think what gets me the most is when the frail still choose to use their limited energy to help others.

One such permanent resident at the Limestone Health Facility leads an abundant life using her walker, takes a long stroll down the many halls in order to get exercise, and makes sure that her friend is in tow. They stop and visit folks along the way, and she expresses affection and concern for all that she meets. I know from having previously interviewed her that the loss of her husband of 64 years knocked her for a loop, but she has landed on her feet with the help of her walker, her faith, her family, and the facility, and she is a “gratitude guerilla.” Another lost a child 55 years ago, and the grit with which she could say, “All things work together for good,” made a lump form in my throat. She knows where she’s been, she knows where she’s going, and her story, as common as she feels that it is, has strength in it for all who will listen.

What a time to be alive! The good, the bad and the ugly are all friends in different disguises, waiting to be discovered and made into a “documentary,” that if heeded will strengthen your soul and spirit, and nourish those around you long after you are gone.

Ali Elizabeth Turner
We have a holiday tradition in our home, and that is to go to a movie on Christmas day. Everyone agreed that Darkest Hour, a docu-drama on Winston Churchill and the build-up to the miraculous rescue of troops on the beach of Dunkirk during WWII, was to be the winner of our vote; and I’d like to see it again.

There are a number of good reasons to go see this movie. If you are a fan at all of what I call the “craft” of movie-making, this thing is remarkable from an uncommon standpoint, and that is the use of prosthetic make-up. Actor Gary Oldman, who plays the part of Churchill, had to spend five hours a day having the make-up applied, and that was before the day’s shooting schedule began. In addition, it took about an hour to remove the make-up, and the realism of his character is indescribable. Oldman nails his portrayal of Winston, from the walk, the talk, the hand gestures, the voice, the humor, and the benevolent irascibility, to the heavy drinking.

In addition to Oldman’s character, the attention to detail when it came to automobiles, costumes, hair styles, telephones, typewriters, radios, and more was painstaking. In a word, it is a fantastic period piece, period. There is a scene when Churchill is delivering a thunderous speech to Parliament and there is a young woman up in the gallery listening to him. The actress looked so much like my mom at the same age that it was almost eerie.

As much as the phrases “cinematic triumph” and “masterpiece” get bandied around when it comes to movies, not only is it true in the case of Darkest Hour, it is an understatement. The film’s worth is in the history lesson and what it means to have unshakeable resolve when no one believes you are on the right path. Neville Chamberlain, the Prime Minister who preceded Winston, had effectively sold England down the river straight into Adolph Hitler’s control. The Conservative Party knew that they needed to replace Chamberlain for his policies of appeasement, but no one wanted Winston even though he had been warning everyone about Hitler for years. Under protest Winston was appointed, and immediately the members of his own party tried to politically hamstring him, sabotaging every attempt of Winston’s to show England forth as strong and willing to resist the Nazis.

Winston Churchill was sworn in on May 10, 1940, and Operation Dynamo, the code name for the rescue of the British soldiers on the beach of Dunkirk, was just a few weeks later on June 4, 1940. He had less than a month to not only settle in to functioning in the underground bunkers of 10 Downing Street, but plan and execute the operation which saved close to 330,0000 British soldiers.

Then, after the miracle that was Dunkirk, Winston went straight into England’s “darkest hour,” the blitzkrieg attacks by the Luftwaffe on London, as well as the ground and air war on the continent. While his resolve to “never surrender” certainly was tested to the limit, he stood firm. He got England through the war, and then was rather unceremoniously discarded in the 1946 election.

At the end of the day, Darkest Hour is a worthwhile reminder of the kinds of prices which were paid by the Greatest Generation for our freedom, and those of one man in particular, Sir Winston Churchill. Go see it.

By: Ali Elizabeth Turner
When Ted Cruz was in Huntsville campaigning in the sweltering heat of August of 2015, he announced to the crowd that was packed in the room to listen to him speak that the first thing he would do on the first day of his presidency would be “to move the United States Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.” The crowd stomped and cheered. When I had my ten seconds with the guy for a photo op, I quipped, “And, you will have Bibi (Benjamin Netanyahu) over for lunch!” “Great idea!” he said, laughing as the camera clicked. Our mutual and momentary humorous reference was to the fact that when a different POTUS was in the Oval Office, Bibi was essentially made to wait in the lunchroom while the President finished his dinner. No state dinner, not even an invitation to the Residence for a quick bite or a pepperoni-free slice. It was embarrassing, especially if you live in a region which is as legendary for its hospitality as is the South.

That same POTUS had said in 2008 that any agreement with the Palestinians “must preserve Israel’s identity as a Jewish state with secure, recognized, defensible borders. And Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel and it must remain undivided.”

Interestingly, when former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich briefly ran for the Presidency in 2011, he promised the same thing as Senator Cruz, as did then-rival Presidential candidate U.S Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann. She said during a televised debate, “Of moving the embassy, I already have secured a donor who said they will personally pay for the ambassador’s home to be moved from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.” She then told the audience, “Like you, my commitment is unequivocal and unchanging. We stand with Israel.”

I walked into the Keep Athens Limestone Beautiful office on December 6th, the day President Donald Trump announced that he had hauled off and done what had been promised way back in 1995; he had called for us to keep our word, and move the embassy. By “word,” I mean that on October 23rd of that year, the 104th U.S. Senate voted 93-5, and the House voted 374-37 to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem. However, no one in the Oval Office had done anything to make that happen, and as weird as this may sound, no US Embassy on the planet has ever been located anywhere than the capital of a sovereign nation, except in Israel.

Happy tears as the result of Lynne Hart’s enthusiastic “breaking news” greeted my cheeks, and I could only imagine what the response was in Israel. While the mainstream news warned that this would only serve to cause the region to blow up…again, the truth of the matter is that with the exception of a few flag burners, the response in Israel was one of gratitude, not so much to President Trump, but to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

From the Wailing Wall clear back up to the hillside terraces that start at the street, thousands of people crammed the area. They were not dancing, and trust me, Israelis know how to dance. They were praying, and I am sure they were celebratory prayers. Yet, the question remains: Why is this such a big deal? Because every country should have the right to determine the location of its own capital, and we were simply acknowledging that. It is not the business of “the international community,” and hopefully the US will be followed by other allies in respecting Israel’s rights as a democratic state and our strongest ally. Even people who hate Israel acknowledge that Jerusalem has always been seen as the eternal capital of the Jewish people, and anyone with common sense knows that if you attack a country, as happened 50 years ago in the Six Day War, and you lose, you forfeit anything you thought you had claim to. These are the universal rules of war, end of story.

This December, when light is such an important part of the celebration season of Jews and Christians, when the impossible is recorded, remembered, acknowledged and feted, let us remember that even the promise of upholding an American law and keeping our collective word is an act of courage, and true courage will always chase the worst darkness.

By: Ali Elizabeth Turner
This is the time of year when even the most cynical among us talk about miracles without apology. It is the season whose unifying theme for Jews, Christians and Messianics is divine light that guides, illuminates, comforts, and defies tyranny. With Hanukkah starting on December 12, it seems fitting to tell the story of an inner light that was nearly extinguished, and as of this week is burning afresh in the heart of a centenarian and his senior citizen nephew. This inward menorah, this light of love and the miraculous reunion that occurred between a Holocaust survivor and his nephew is dear beyond words, and a fitting way to usher in the Season of Light.

Eliahu Pietruszka, 102 years old, fled Poland at the age of 24, believing his entire family had perished in the camps. While it was true that he lost both of his parents and one brother who had a twin, one of the twins whose name was Vovik had survived, and believed that Eliahu had perished. Vovik had escaped from a Siberian work camp. Eliahu moved to Israel in 1949, one year after that nation was “born in a day,” and now lives there in a retirement home. Vovik passed away in 2011, having lived the rest of his life in Russia as a construction worker, and had a son, André, who is now 66. Through the relentless search by André; a mutual cousin named Hagit Weinstein Mikanovsky, as well as Eliahu’s grandson,

Shakar; and facilitated by the Yad Vashem database of Holocaust survivors, along with an online video of Eliahu’s 100th birthday, dots were connected and puzzle pieces came together. At last, Eliahu and André were able to meet for the first time. The video of that family restoration is truly touching, and then to have them meet with other surviving family members who had been previously unknown to each other is nearly unbearably wonderful.

Visibly choked up, Eliahu said, “It makes me so happy that at least one remnant remains from my brother, and that is his son. After so many years I have been granted the privilege to meet him.”

Debbie Berman, a Yad Vashem official who came to the reunion, felt that same sense of privilege and awe, and commented, “I feel like we are kind of touching a piece of history.”

I have visited Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Museum which is located in Jerusalem, and whose painstaking commitment to find as many survivors as possible is part of this miracle. As difficult and sobering as it is to be reminded of one of the darkest periods in the history of man, one leaves there with a strange resiliency and resolve to live life well, to take nothing for granted, and to refuse to succumb to fear. I hope I get a chance to go back someday, because my life changed in that building.

I guess another way of putting it is that light was meant to be stronger than darkness, if we let it. And let us burn brightly within during the holidays and beyond, no matter what darkness threatens to snuff us out.

By: Ali Eliazbeth Turner
Notice that the title of this piece is “Nursing A Nudge,” and not a grudge, and this is a story about what I have come to believe happens when we “get out of the sour and into the power.” Anyone in business knows that there are times when things just go south—deadlines don’t get met; clients cancel; team members are MIA; Charter/Spectrum gets attacked either by a solar flare, the Russians, the Norks, the Chinese, or all of them; and the “comms” are dead in the water for the day, as was the case on Tuesday. No question, Athens Now was officially behind the 8 ball. Sometimes these kinds of circumstances converge into a perfect storm, and this publication cycle was threatening to do just that.

Now for the disclaimer: If you are a client who had to cancel this week, you have already talked to me, and I know that these were circumstances beyond your control. I am not here to “guilt” you, I am simply using this to illustrate my most recent adventure with the Lord in the Land of Athens Now.

Tuesday the 14th was one of my favorite events of the month, the Chamber of Commerce Coffee. Various businesses sponsor breakfasts, we meet all over town, and it is a great way to network. The energy is always good, and 99% of the time it serves to give me that nudge that inspires me to cross the finish line of a publication cycle. However, I’ll be honest, I was just feeling sour and sorry for myself, and I seriously thought of slippin’ out the back, Jack, and trying to figure out what I was going to do to pull together what seemed like a total tangle of loose ends before we went to print.

The time came in the order of Tuesday morning’s events when Chamber Director Jennifer Williamson invited people who were attending for the first time to introduce themselves, and Dana Hill, Executive Director of Traditions Senior Living, did so. She was delightful, and I decided to take a chance and ask if she would be interested in doing an article. I thought to myself, “The worst she can say is, No.” Still feeling a bit cynical, I pushed through my fears, and went over and introduced myself. The result is what you see on the front cover, and I am forever glad I didn’t buy a first class one-way ticket to “Self Pity City via Whiney Airlines.”

What was waiting for me in the course of our interview later Tuesday afternoon was a tour of a brand new facility with the chance to play a beautiful piano and the invitation to come play that same piano anytime I wanted to, meet lovely people old and young, pray with a woman whose sons had been in Iraq, meet a nurse whom I would trust caring for my own mother, make a new friend, see amazing photos of Athens, and leave with a profound sense of gratitude.

What if I had “nursed the grudge, and not the nudge?” What would I have missed out on? As we enjoy our Thanksgiving holiday in 2017, let’s choose to get better at “the nudges,” and 86 (get rid of, be out of) the grudges. God bless you all abundantly!

By: Ali Elizabeth Turner
Around seven years ago, I attended a prayer breakfast at a Juice Plus+ International Conference, and I heard two completely different men speak. One was white, a man by the name of Ron Hall, a high end art dealer from the Ft. Worth area, and his best friend, Denver Moore, a formerly homeless man, also from Ft. Worth. The person who was not there was Ron’s wife, Debbie, who had passed away from cancer. The three of them had become inseparable since Debbie talked her husband into volunteering at the homeless shelter that was near where Denver “lived,” and the result was a NY Times Bestseller called Same Kind Of Different As Me.

After Debbie was gone, the men spent a total of 9 ½ years travelling and telling their story. The book stayed on the NYT list for over three years, and I consider my copy that is autographed by both of them to be one of my dear treasures. This is because until Denver met Ron, he was illiterate. And, if Denver had never invaded Ron’s life, he would have remained relationally illiterate. They were able to raise millions for homeless shelters all over America, and to stir people to do more than write checks.

I longed for this most unusual story to be made into a film, and was ambivalent about my desire for a couple of reasons. The first was that many faith-based movies are cheesy, poorly filmed, poorly acted, lack continuity, and I didn’t want to see it ruined. The other was that the story was so unusual I couldn’t imagine that they could find anyone who could even come close to what it was like to hear Ron and Denver tell their story.

I am glad I was wrong about my misgivings, and I got my wish. Same Kind Of Different As Me is playing in Madison, Huntsville, and Decatur, and it delivers. Several of the people in it are Academy Award winners or nominees, and it is anything but cheesy.

Greg Kinnear, who was nominated for an Academy Award, plays the part of Ron Hall and he nails it. Academy Award Winner Renée Zellweger plays the part of Debbie, and I have rarely seen someone speak at times more clearly without saying a word. Djimon Hounsou, one of those actors that you have seen a zillion times but perhaps didn’t know his name, is compelling as Denver. Academy Award Winner John Voight is superb as Ron’s alcoholic father, whose redemption is nearly as touching as Denver’s. The chemistry between all of them works, and the bottom line is a movie that preaches powerfully about the power of love without being preachy.

One last production note: a businessman in Mississippi had sold his flagship company for more than 100 million dollars, and was planning on investing the proceeds. Instead, he felt God would not leave him alone until the proceeds from the sale went toward the production of the film. A true step of faith, and a good lesson that reminds us all that ultimately we own nothing, whether we are rich or poor. The gospel mission that was transformed for the movie has remained transformed, and the community around it has been, as well. All of this was Debbie Hall’s dream, and Denver was the man she saw in a dream before they ever met. Go see it. It will be worth your time and your money.