5-20-2016 11-12-03 AMOn Wednesday, in the middle of talking on the phone with one of my columnists and tweaking her piece for this edition of Athens Now, I heard a knock on the door. Outside were three little girls, aged around 12, 9 and 7. They all began talking at once. “Our mama’s car is dead, and she sent us to get a jump for her car. She has jumper cables, and she’ll pay you,” I managed to conclude through all their dear jabbering. I thought perhaps they were visiting our neighbors on either side of us, and that I just had never met them. I looked both ways as though I was crossing the street, but no cars were parked in either driveway. I had never seen these kids, and for the life of me, I couldn’t figure out who their mama was, how she knew me, and most importantly, how they found me.

5-20-2016 11-12-16 AM

“Tell me where you live, and no, you don’t have to pay me.” Again, they all started talking at once, and I finally figured out that they lived way down the other end of the street, past the T in the road. I wanted to make sure that they practiced safety with strangers, so I told them, “You guys head toward your house, and I’ll follow in the car behind.” They would run hard, and then walk to catch their breath, and start running again. As I crawled down the road in the car, I thought about what an adventure this could be.

I was being led down the street by not just one child, but three, and I had a choice to make. I could either really enjoy this intrusion in my attempts to pull the paper together in a timely fashion, or I could feel stressed. There was something about the power of their innocence, and the serendipity of their choosing our house that just seemed to have the fragrance of God all over it. I have found by experience that this fragrance can be heady stuff. At the very least, I have needed a jump more times than I care to remember, and always try to pay it forward when I can. I may not know much about cars, but I have gotten pretty good at using jumper cables.

We finally arrived, the cables were applied, and the car fired right up. The young mom introduced herself, thanked me profusely, and then she began to cry. I asked her, “Honey, what’s wrong?” I then learned that she had lost a child to SIDS just a few weeks ago, and she was the one who found her child. “Oh, I am so sorry,” I said, and she went straight into my arms, while I rocked her like a child. She stayed there quite awhile. She showed me a picture of her baby, and we began to talk about a number of things, concluding that we would get together soon. She had promised to take the girls shopping, and wanted to make good on her word. So, she dried her tears, gathered up the girls, looked at me and said, “God sent you to me today, thank you.” “No, honey, thank you,” I said.

I had been led by little children straight into an adventure, a chance to help, and a friendship. How glad I am that I followed them, and Him!
5-20-2016 11-12-27 AM

5-6-2016 9-30-52 AMI have a feeling, in this inarguably bizarre Presidential election season, that the idea of “Curiouser and Curiouser” may end up being a series. As a refresher, the term came from Lewis Carroll’s iconic Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland, published in 1865. It is the language that Alice uses after falling down the rabbit hole, and all of her world is turned upside down. Animals are talking to her, she is growing and shrinking, and the Hatter is Mad. She is scrambling to stay sane, and manages to learn a lot in the process.

Depending on who you talk to, either the impossible has just occurred, or the inevitable. I am referring to Donald Trump defying everyone, and winning the Republican nomination. How could this happen? Or, how could it not?

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Is this just the “course of human events,” or is it a God-thing, an enemy-thing, or a combination of all three? It will take the wisdom of Solomon to answer that one, and most likely, not anytime soon.

For now, there is a list as long as my arm of Republicans who will not, under any circumstances, vote for Trump. They include radio talk show hosts, lawmakers, authors, activists, and more. My question is, will you sit it out, vote for Bernie, or for Hillary? Please know that not voting is voting, but that may be a discussion for another day.

I remember how puzzled I felt when Sarah Palin endorsed The Donald several months ago. And, that feeling increased even more when Jeff Sessions endorsed him at the end of February during Primary season. Senator Sessions had the following to say, in part, as to the reasons he made his surprise endorsement:

“This isn’t a campaign, this is a movement. Look at what’s happened. The American people are not happy with their government… There is an opportunity Tuesday — it may be the last opportunity we have — for the people’s voice to be heard… Politicians have promised for 30 years to fix illegal immigration… Donald Trump will do it.”

Over ten years ago, Jeff Sessions met Donald through the debacle that was the remodeling/renovation project that was being undertaken at the United Nations. It was a disaster. There were deadlines missed, huge cost overruns, and someone suggested that they scrap the building altogether, move to another location, and start over. This was being presented as a cost saving measure.

Enter Donald Trump. He came to Congress and offered his services free to the citizens of the United States for the purpose of getting the project back on track. Here’s what he had to say that day:
“Anyone who says renovation is more expensive than building a new one doesn’t know the business.” He then added, “It only costs a fool more.”

Jeff felt Donald was a “breath of fresh air.” However, it was Senator Session’s subsequent statement that I find the most fascinating, as it pertained to the U.N. situation in 2005. He said he felt it was “the most impressive Congressional testimony I’ve ever heard.”

Senator Sessions is a consummate litigator. He received his law degree from Alabama. He is ex-mil. He is considered one of the best Senators in the land. Could he know something we don’t know, see something we don’t see, or did everything just get curiouser and curiouser? We shall see. All I know is, it is going to be a long, hot summer, irrespective of the weather.
5-6-2016 9-31-27 AM

4-15-2016 2-00-15 PMA week ago, my family and I took a 10-year-old girl who is like family to us to see Miracles From Heaven, a film produced by T.D. Jakes, starring Jennifer Garner and co-starring Queen Latifah. It is based on the undeniably medical-science-defying incident that has believers and skeptics alike getting real cozy with the term, “miracle.” As I have written before, if you are going to try and convince me that miracles are not happening today, you are wasting your time. I have seen them, I have experienced them, and at the risk of sounding too testy, I am bullet proof when it comes to the unbelief of theorists.

Interestingly, the body of medical evidence prior to and after that fateful day in 2011 is so huge, that all that medical professionals can do is use the “medically correct” term “spontaneous remission” while they scratch their heads trying to explain what happened to little Annabel Beam.

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Briefly stated, beginning at the age of four, Anna was embroiled in a 4.5-year battle with a rare digestive disorder that was literally killing her. Parts of her intestines would not systematically contract in order to pass her food down and out for elimination. Her belly was distended, and this child was in continual pain, building to the point that she was so worn out with it that she just wanted to die.

The yeoman’s efforts of her parents, the doctors, the community, strangers, her family, her church, and others in both the Fort Worth area of Texas, as well as Boston are to be commended. However, at the end of what seemed like “Annabel’s Last Stand,” she was sent home to die, because nothing they tried had worked. I can’t begin to imagine what that was like for all of them, and even though I knew that “Sunday was coming,” as a parent, it was hard to watch her and her family struggle without any hope that the pain would end on this side.

Then one day, Annabel had a rare burst of strength and joined her sister in climbing a 3 story cottonwood snag in their back yard. A branch began to break off, and in quickly moving to what looked like safety, she fell head first 30 feet down the trunk no one knew was hollow. She landed on her head, lay motionless and completely unresponsive in a fetal position, and the firefighters arrived thinking at best they were going to extract the body of a dead child without mangling it too badly. She was in the tree, (which is still in their yard), for around 5 hours, and during that time, she had the remarkable encounter with her Savior that is only one of the subjects of the book and the film.

Not only did Annabel live, (having suffered just a mild concussion and released from the hospital the next day), what is completely baffling is that since that time she has had no problems with eating, digesting or eliminating. All of it is inexplicable to the medical profession, and all of it is documented.

One of the things I appreciated about her parents was that they “stayed cool” when she began to talk about what happened in the tree. The first time was the day after the fall, while Anna was in the truck on the way home from the hospital that she began to talk about heaven and Jesus. She told about how much she had wanted to stay there because she was finally free of pain, and it was so beautiful. However, it was made clear to her that she had a job to do on Earth that couldn’t be completed in heaven, which I think is the most powerful take-away from the film: if you are still here, you have a job to do, so find out what it is, and get crackin’.

Her mom casually took notes on her Smartphone, and neither parent never probed or coached her because they did not want to inadvertently cause Annabel to embellish her story. Smartphone, and smart folks, and from the beginning, Anna’s story has stayed consistent.

I think Miracles From Heaven does just as good a job of addressing “the long night of the soul,” and the conundrum of unexplained, unrelieved suffering as it does the life changing effects of divine intervention. At the very least, no matter what you conclude after seeing it, Annabel and her story provide a true “Beam of hope” and that is something we could all use these days.
4-15-2016 2-00-38 PM

4-1-2016 11-19-07 AMAthens City Councilman Jimmy Gill has gone home for good, having fought a long and brave battle with cancer. He passed on Easter Sunday, nearly a week after his 68th birthday, and I spent a good part of the next day mourning, celebrating his life, and collecting “Jimmy stories.” This Athens Now edition of What Makes Ronnie Roll on page 19 has been given to Holly Hollman, who had been working with Mayor Marks for the last two weeks to put together a statement fitting of our dear friend. Facebook blew up with memories and condolences for the family and for the community. For my part, I want to do my best to put together a comforting “crazy quilt” of “Jimmy stories,” both for you, dear reader, and for my own sake. The more stories I heard, the more I realized that all of us are “just gonna be missin’ Jimmy” for a very long time.

Monday morning I walked into Mayor Ronnie’s office for our usual appointment, and both he and Annette Barnes Threet arrived not long after. The Mayor was sporting a shirt and tie Jimmy had given him a few years ago. The tie was a busy black and gold print, the shirt was two toned harvest gold with French cuffs. I just knew that he had to have been wearing it in honor of his dear friend. Jimmy had given the shirt and tie to Ronnie because he wanted him to be an even snazzier dresser, and Sandra Marks had taken a picture of her husband the Mayor and posted it on Facebook on Monday morning before he left for City Hall.

4-1-2016 11-19-36 AM

“It’s a sad day,” Annette said. So for lack of any other way to describe it, we had our own impromptu memorial service for one of the longest sitting City Councilmen in the state. As has been said elsewhere, Jimmy had nicknames for everybody. Vicki Dowd was “Li’l Red.” Annette was “’Nette.” Ronnie was “The Thin Man.” The late Dan Williams was “Big Daddy,” and Vicki still refers to him that way. Someone else was “Playah.” Another who had been in a Poke Sallet skit entitled “Triplets” was “Li’l Sister.” The joke was, she was white. The names went on, as did the stories, Jimmy as the pirate, Jimmy as the Philadelphia lawyer, Jimmy as the Master Griller, and then we moved to the subject of Jimmy’s garden.

Monday morning Annette had looked in her freezer, and saw some of “Jimmy’s peas,” straight from the garden Jimmy kept every year. There were also still some frozen bags of his famous ribs. “We had a deal,” she said. “He kept me in peas and ribs, and at Christmas I kept him in eggnog and Alton Brown’s fruitcake recipe. He told me that one year, he had planned on having just one slice, but ate the whole thing in one sitting.”

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The friendship between Ronnie and Jimmy was long, deep and funny. Ronnie’s brother used to tease them about being brothers closer than kin. No one could do an impersonation of Jimmy’s raspy voice better than Ronnie, and for a good part of our time together he acted out improv skits playing both parts. I laughed hard, even as a sad tear or two slid down my cheek. There were tales about Roscoe the dog, Meathead, Beavis and Butthead, (his rascally nicknames for his grandkids), but my personal favorite was the “termite story.” One time, during a City Council work session, a spirited discussion occurred regarding the kind of investment the City was going to have to make to restore the Houston Library. “We don’t know what we’ll find when we go in there,” Mayor Ronnie said. “I’ll tell you what we’ll find,” said Jimmy. “We’ll find termites holding up the building by holding hands, and they’ll look at us and say, ‘Heah we is!’”

Years ago, Jimmy gave Ronnie another shirt, bright purple, long sleeved, but with 34 inch sleeves, rather than the necessary 37 inches required to cover the long arms of the Thin Man. The Thin Man kept the shirt, and truth is, now Ronnie owns Trinity Colors as genuine and spiffy as Jimmy’s.

What the rest of us own forever are memories that are as sweet and complex as the sauce Jimmy used on his ribs, and it will be one tall order to fill his shoes. Rest in peace, dear Jimmy, and see you sooner than probably most of us can imagine. Until then, we’ll just be missin’ ya.

Jimmy Gill’s service will be held at Lindsay Lane Baptist Church on Saturday, April 2nd, at 2:30 pm. The church is located at 1300 Lindsay Lane, Athens, AL 35613.
4-1-2016 11-19-49 AM

3-18-2016 9-38-27 AMI have been reflecting back on the fact that it has been five years to the day that I began the ride of my life as the publisher of Athens Now. March 18th, 2011 was the first time I stared down a Publication Week, and I was not sure I was going to get through it with my sanity intact, let alone the sanity of the precious crew that I inherited when Steve and I bought the paper.

For those of you who may be interested in what is known in the biz as the “back story,” Athens Now: Information and Inspiration was started in 2077 by Wayne and Deborah Huff. I began to write for them in 2010, doing the front cover advertorials, copy editing, and an occasional op-ed piece. In 2011, the paper came up for sale, and we just knew that this was the next step for us. All I knew how to do was write, and the rest of it– the “putting the paper to bed” stuff, came by trial, error, and what can only be described as “flying by the seat of my pants, and my pants are on fire,” as my WWII pilot daddy and I used to say.

The journey, as well as the nearly vertical learning curve, have been one of the most intense I have ever encountered, as well as one of the most satisfying. I get people coming up to me all the time, saying, “I read your paper from cover to cover, every edition.” I am humbled by that—I am so keenly aware of the fact that I could not do it without Steve, Deborah Huff when she was handling sales, our columnists, our supernaturally patient production guy, Jon Hamilton of Curb Appeal Graphics, my adopted kiddo Rachel Clark, who writes the Med Updates and does copy editing, Kevin Blurton of the Times Daily in Florence, and my spunky webmistress, Teddy Wolcott, and, well, just all of you. Most of all, I could not do it without my Savior, which brings me to the real “point of the Point.”

3-18-2016 9-39-02 AM

Spring has sprung, no doubt about it, and I, for one, am ready for it. As the trees along the roads and highways of North Alabama dance in the breeze, displaying their tender blossoms, the tulips and daffodils are pushing up, demonstrating that they are once again truly unstoppable, and there is no room for going back to the bleak doldrums of Winter. The weather responds to the “dance” by being wild, mild, and wonderful. Sometimes, like life itself, it becomes unmanageable, and there are voluminous lessons in that.

However, the true hope of Spring isn’t the fleeting visual pleasure of floral triumph against all odds; it is what happened thousands of years ago, first on Passover, and then, with the Resurrection. Against all odds, Israel escaped, and will escape again. Against all odds, our Savior escaped, and because of that, we can escape. One of my favorite Psalms says, “Our soul is escaped, as a bird, out of the snare of the fowler. The snare is broken, and we are escaped, our help is in the name of the Lord.” I would say that escape is one of the unalterable themes of Spring, and let us enjoy it with abandon.

We are observing political madness of historical proportions, the threat of nuclear attack, a global economic house of cards, and the strong possibility that it will get worse before it gets better, but, the true hope of Spring is that Someone thought we were dying for, and if we just cooperate with Him, live or die, we shall triumph. The Happiest of Springs and a blessed Resurrection to you all, my dear Athenians, and thank you for a fabulous five years!
3-18-2016 9-39-16 AM

3-5-2016 9-05-54 AMMy birth name is Alice, and as a kid I was often teased in a friendly manner by folks who called me “Alice in Wonderland,” a literary reference to the book written by Lewis Carroll about a little girl who finds herself in over her head and completely out of her element through no fault of her own. Though “Alice” was written as a satire against the British government, it went on to become a fairy tale whose most famous phrase was “Curiouser and curiouser.” The butchered use of English was described as being the result of Alice being so thrown by what she was seeing and hearing in Wonderland that she could no longer speak her native language well.

I think I am beginning to understand the plight of my namesake. The craziness of this Presidential election season makes me wonder at times if our culture has become one giant, corporate Mad Hatter, and if we have permanently fallen down a rabbit hole. Even when I went to vote yesterday, the people at the polls were saying that this was the strangest election they had ever seen. People are literally shaking their heads at the Trump phenomenon, and while everyone from pundits to preachers are trying to figure out what is going on, and are virtually stammering while doing so, I wonder if we are being shaken by God down to the foundations of our American Experiment.

3-5-2016 9-06-17 AM

We have an avowed atheist and socialist as a contender for the Presidency by the name of Bernie Sanders. I remember when he first announced his candidacy, I didn’t think he would last for two weeks against Hillary Clinton. Mrs. Clinton, who at the very least should be in jail and making license plates for a long, long time, is actually lecturing us about being more loving. I am reminded of tales told by the Secret Service about ash trays being thrown by her at her husband, President Bill Clinton, while she was First Lady, and I wonder how she defines “loving.” On the other hand, one might think that Bill was getting off easy.

Then, we have an uber-crowded field of candidates for the Republican ticket, most of whom don’t seem to be actually running any longer, but who were all listed on the ballot. And for the first time in my life, the ballot was dominated by those running as delegates, who technically are in a position to pick the presidential candidates themselves. There is talk that if Trump actually wins the popular vote in the Primaries, the delegates may keep him from getting the nomination, and Mitt Romney, who, as far as anyone knows is not running, may be the one who is picked to go up against Mrs. Clinton.

Or, said another way, the guy that reflects the anger of the people and has no problem expressing it, may technically win the Republican nomination, but not be able to ultimately run against the former First Lady who is somewhat legendary for her anger. Then, again, the evangelical could go up against the atheist. Any way you look at it, we need to go on our faces and do some serious repenting that this is the state of our constitutional republic. As Alice said, “Curiouser and curiouser,” and that will only increase in the days ahead.
3-5-2016 9-06-38 AM

2-19-2016 9-12-15 AMWant some really good news? Want to know what is going on outside our country that should make you shout, (that is, if you are a believer in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob)? It is, that according to a book written by James Rutz, the fastest growing religion on the planet is NOT Islam in any form, radical or otherwise. No, every 25 minutes, there are approximately 175,000 new Christians who become what we in the South typically refer to as “born again.” However, it doesn’t stop there. These are people who are quite used to miracles, the kind you have read about all your life. The “problem,” if there is one, is that this phenomenon comparatively speaking is not happening on our soil, and we are going to have to, at some point, ask why that is the case.
Personally, I have a number of theories. One is that we have killed over 50 million of our pre-born citizens, and God does not take kindly to the shedding of innocent blood. We have become so dependent upon technology that we have nearly pushed God out of health and medicine, and we are perishing. Another is that we have gotten too fancy for our pants, and have told God what He does and does not do in our day. To try and assert that miracles are not for today is just plain folly, but I am not here to make anyone unhappy, or get into a theological throw-down; I am here to celebrate. I hope you will join me.

2-19-2016 9-12-25 AMAccording to Rutz, who has gone to great lengths to document that which he asserts, here is what is occurring all over the world. “Very few people realize the nature of life on Earth is going through a major change,” he writes. “We are seeing a megashift in the basic direction of human history. Until our time, the ancient war between good and evil was hardly better than a stalemate. Now all has changed. The Creator whose epic story flows through the pages of Scripture has begun to dissolve the strongholds of evil. This new drama is being played out every hour around the globe, accompanied sometimes by mind-bending miracles.”

I am forever grateful that I was never taught that miracles are not for today. I have seen them, and I have experienced them. I am grateful that I have lived on the foreign mission field, where they were nearly commonplace. I experienced them in Iraq, and in Africa, and you are not going to be very successful in getting me to re-interpret what I have known to be true for the last 45 years.

2-19-2016 9-12-43 AM

Rutz says further: “There will be pockets of resistance and unforeseen breakthroughs. Still, at the rate we are growing now, to be comically precise, there would be more Christians than people by the autumn of 2032, about 8.2 billion.”

More Christians than people? What a divine comedy, indeed! Rutz continued, “The growing core of Christianity crosses theological lines and includes 707 million born-again people who are increasing by 8 percent a year.” These are people who can only be described as being those “of whom the world is not worthy.” For now, they are largely underground in China, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. But make no mistake, if Rutz is right, we will live to see these things happen in our lifetime, and I for one am going to be one glad girl.
2-19-2016 9-12-56 AM

2-5-2016 3-21-15 PMWhen I was in Iraq, I was required to take training with regard to recognizing and reporting human trafficking. It was called TIPS, an acronym for Trafficking In Persons, and was developed by the State Department and the Army. What would happen, especially with companies outside of the US, was that when third country nationals would arrive, their passports were taken from them, rendering them essentially helpless.

I had staff from the Philippines as well as India, and heard horror stories about what it was like to work in the Middle East. Every single time I travelled through Dubai on my way back to the States, I would have a hotel staff person approach me and beg me to get them out. It turns out that Dubai is one of the busiest parts of the human trafficking pipeline, especially as it pertains to the sex trade.

2-5-2016 3-22-25 PM

Sadly, the State of Alabama has a new “title,” albeit a nefarious one. We are part of the biggest human trafficking pipeline in the United States, with the concentration being along I-20, particularly near Birmingham. We have a dreadful nickname: “The Sex Trafficking Super-Highway.” The purpose of this Publisher’s Point is to sound an alarm and to raise awareness. It is also to let you know that there are several fine faith-based organizations that are fighting back, and will give you an invitation to get involved, should you choose.

One of the most disturbing things about “the Super-Highway” is that it transcends those who are traditionally the most vulnerable, teens from broken homes, the fatherless who are looking for love in all the wrong places, or those who are struggling with drugs. The recruiting techniques are sophisticated, and are greatly aided by social media.

First up in this evil scheme is what is known as a “Bottom Girl.” A Bottom Girl functions as a madam of sorts, as she befriends a potential target as a peer, gains her trust, and as is always necessary to close a deal, offer options, most often money or material things. The Well House is an Alabama-based ministry that helps victims of prostitution and sex trafficking, and has the following to say:

“The Bottom Girl introduces the girl to a new friend at a party. This new ‘friend’ quickly wins the admiration of the victim through different means, typically lavish gifts and the promise of ‘grown-up’ life experiences. Through this enticing, trusting relationship, the trafficker entices the teen to run away from home. And he or she will put them up in an apartment. Once the trap has been set, there’s no easy means of escape. And so enters I-20, the perfect means of transportation for this valuable ‘product’.”

EnditAlabama.org is another organization that is committed to put a stop to human trafficking in Alabama, and is holding a conference in Montgomery on February 5th, educating the public and legislatures with regard to trafficking here in our state. For more information, go to enditalabama.org

Athens Now is going to be featuring an article some time this Spring sponsored by Set Them Free International, which is also based here in Alabama. And finally, my friend Kathrine Lee has formed an organization called Pure Hope, which is involved in rescuing, housing, and restoring sex slaves to their God-given dignity. Pure Hope is headquartered in Texas.

Very soon I am going to be able to support Pure Hope on a regular basis, and I would request that you prayerfully consider doing what you can to shut down the Super-highway.
2-5-2016 3-22-36 PM

1-22-2016 9-36-57 AMAs is the case with just about any type of publication in January, the prevailing theme is some kind of plan to set goals, hit reset, and start over, usually through the use of what is commonly referred to as New Year’s resolutions. The first 2016 edition of Athens Now was no exception. We were full of recommendations for our city, our bodies, our brains, and our dogs.

And while at first blush the title of this article might not seem exactly cheery, if you’ll stick with me, you might find that this Publisher’s Point is a resolution in reverse, and if properly applied, will be useful in January, or any other time of year.

In the Old Testament, there are a number of warnings about perishing, and two of them to me are quite rich. Hosea, whose life as a man married to a harlot is a mind boggling reminder of our infidelity as humans, (as well as God’s faithfulness), said, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.”

1-22-2016 9-37-07 AMGreat. What do we do? How do we gain the kind of knowledge that keeps us from being destroyed, either as individuals, families, or a nation? Well, first of all, repentance is always good. Making things right with God and man will quickly get you in a position to be able to receive the kind of wisdom that comes from above, and to then implement the second step.
The other bit of wisdom, which is more precious than gold or rubies, is to have a vision. “Where there is no vision, the people perish,” and that begs the question, does the converse have the opposite effect? Does having a vision prevent the people from perishing?

Well, in my view, yes and no. We could very well now be alive in a time when we will see many perish, at least physically. Our nation’s leaders are acting like Neville Chamberlain of old, trying to appease “Hitler” by thinking that somehow a nation that has sworn to destroy both us and Israel has magically become our friend. “Death to America! Death to Israel!” shows up on Facebook more than one might think, and the leaders of Iran must be laughing all the way to the bank, or the centrifuge.

We are in a political season when presidential candidates are acting like petulant, insolent children, and our nation is badly divided over issues that used to be regarded by all as being the very essence of Constitutional common sense.

1-22-2016 9-37-18 AMVision, you say? Yes! Have a vision that is not in any way controlled by the actions of others. Anyone who has ever done anything worthwhile, whether public or private, did it with a vision. They had to “see” what they wanted to have change, whether it was internally or externally first. Martin Luther King had his iconic dream. Corrie Ten Boom lived through a death camp and travelled the globe restoring people through unfettered forgiveness. Viktor Frankl had a vision for helping people find fulfillment in life as a result of his having lived through Dachau. George Bailey, the hero of It’s A Wonderful Life had a vision for the people of Bedford Falls to be able to afford their own home. While the story is fictional, the moral isn’t. Mayor Ronnie has a vision for a park where an abandoned plant stands. Frank Travis and Charlotte Fulton had a vision to tell the amazing story of Trinity School, and that vision will soon be coming to pass.

The other half of the vision/perish equation is the happiness that comes from obeying God’s laws. Now, obviously, there is only One who has ever done that perfectly, but having a heart to seek God’s kingdom as well as His righteousness results in happiness. It’s the other half of the promise, and it is the secret to the prevention of perishing. People have literally sung in the flames because they had a vision that was far beyond this realm, and they knew that the “Kingdom within,” though invisible, would never be destroyed. May your resolution this year result in having a vision that burns so brightly that it warms the many, and that no darkness can extinguish.
1-22-2016 9-37-28 AM

1-8-2016 9-16-15 AMDr. Ben Carson is a true American hero, one about whom I have already written in this column. Whether or not he becomes our next President, I have no doubt that he will continue to speak from a place of conviction, courage, and a refreshing lack of political correctness.

One of the things I like the most about him is that when he speaks up in adversarial situations, his moral and spiritual compass remain fixed, and his level of self-control is exemplary. Such was the case recently when someone tried to use the Constitution to trip him up and make him appear to be Islamaphobic.

1-8-2016 9-16-28 AM

The place was Staten Island, and a Muslim fellow, who interestingly is the chairman of the Staten Island Libertarian Party, quoted the following from Article 6, Section 3 of the United States Constitution: “No religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.” The challenger, whose name is Hesham El-Meligy, tried to then make it seem that Ben Carson had previously stated that he would never want to see a Muslim in the Oval Office, and wanted to know how Dr. Carson could reconcile his alleged statements with what he was trying to make the Constitution appear to say. The response was as follows:

“That’s very easy to reconcile, actually. If you go back and look at what I said, I said I would not want a Muslim who accepts all the precepts of Islam, including Shariah.” What happened next was pretty surprising, given that Staten Island is in the middle of New York City. Dr. C got a standing ovation, and it went on for quite awhile.

1-8-2016 9-16-36 AM

It does not take a rocket scientist to show that Shariah law and our Constitution are at permanent loggerheads. The following is a comparison of critical portions of the two documents, proving that one would have to supplant the other:

Article VI: The Constitution is the supreme law of the land: Article VI: “This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall• be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby”

Shariah: “The source of legal rulings for all acts of those who are morally responsible is• Allah.” (a1.1, Umdat al-salik or The Reliance of the Traveller, commonly accepted work of Shariah jurisprudence); “There is only one law which ought to be followed, and that is the Sharia.” (Seyed Qutb); “Islam wishes to destroy all states and governments anywhere on the face of the earth which are opposed to the ideology and program of Islam regardless of the country or the nation which rules it. The purpose of Islam is to set up a State on the basis of its own ideology and program.” (Seyed Abul A’ala Maududi)

Ben was being beneficent and gracious, and I will not judge the motives of Mr. El-Meligy. All I know, is I am grateful for a man who will fight for the truth of who we are as Americans, and what defines us. May God bless Ben all the days of his life.
1-8-2016 9-16-49 AM