8-19-2016 8-27-16 AMWhat I mean by the question is not, how long ‘til every obstacle in the way of a Clinton presidency is removed, literally or figuratively. I mean how long will she be physically held up by men and doctors around her until she collapses? In the past two weeks, there has been a rising tide of concern over whether or not Hillary Rodham Clinton is neurologically and thereby physically fit to take on the most stressful job on the planet.

Now, it is true that FDR was physically propped up at times, and helped to stand when he made addresses, but that was due to the after effects of polio, which withered his limbs. Here is what we do know: Hillary has had several falls, some notably reported on the mainstream evening news. We know she was in the hospital for nearly a year. We know she has debilitating coughing fits. We know she has been caught on film making very strange, Parkinson-like movements. While I am not a medical person, I will tell you that she reminds me of Michael J. Fox, especially when he is not on medication to subdue his movements, and she mimics the movements of a childhood friend, also a Parkinson’s sufferer, who I had to help feed at Christmas a few years ago.

8-19-2016 8-27-29 AM

Then there is the picture of the lesion on her tongue, as well as the crater that is there now. More subjective are the outbursts of anger, the maniacal, inappropriate laughter, and the telling absence of any venue which would by necessity have the presence of flashing cameras. What in the world is going on with this woman? Rumors range from stroke to Parkinson’s to tongue cancer to HPV to blood clots to mental illness.

Secret Service members, who simply do not talk about this kind of thing, have anonymously broken their silence and reached out to the media. They are allegedly going to make an announcement at the end of August, and we shall see what happens with that. Julian Assange claims to have more emails. Could the supposedly non-essential communiqués reveal that she is terribly ill?

Then there are the bodies that are stacking up on Hillary’s watch. The latest count from the last six weeks is 5, all with strong ties to Hillary. That makes the total body count of people who have mysteriously died during the Clinton regime close to 50. More tellingly, the deafening silence on the part of the media says more than if they were reporting it nightly.

There is another development, something that is just never done during a presidential campaign, and that is to have a sitting member of the Executive Branch co-present a campaign speech. Vice President Joe Biden is speaking in concert with Hillary, and then the unthinkable happened: Joe Biden, in the process of bashing Donald Trump and claiming he’s not fit to have access to the nuclear codes, pointed at the guy whose full time job is to follow Joe Biden around with the codes in the event that, God forbid, we have to use a nuclear solution to a problem, and exposed him. Is this a demonstration of being “fit” to have the nuclear codes?

My husband was the one to tell me about the Biden blooper, and he was met with stunned silence. Is it possible that Joe Biden is easing into the position of the Democratic Party nominee for President, and the “big announcement” will be that Hillary will step down? We shall see, and may the truth not only come out, but speak to power.
8-19-2016 8-27-39 AM

8-5-2016 10-48-28 AMAnthony Lindner moved here from Tennessee about six years ago to be nearer to his family. He had retired from a successful insurance business which he had built from the ground up, and this was actually his third professional career. Anthony was born in post WWII Germany in 1947. His father was murdered in Heidelberg when Anthony was three, and his mom eventually married an American. They moved to America, and during Vietnam, Anthony enlisted. It was on his induction day that he was naturalized as an American citizen. He flew Huey helicopters in Vietnam, and asked specifically to be a medevac pilot. This was one of the most dangerous jobs possible; Anthony was permanently bitten by the “flying bug,” and spent 20 years flying “birds” as well as fixed wing crafts. Upon retiring from the service as a CW 4 (Chief Warrant Officer), he flew for Eastern Airlines for three years, until the company went under. Beginning as a rookie insurance agent in his early 40s, he worked hard, and retired at the age of 57. It is ten years later, retirement has been good, and of the ways Anthony spends his time these days is to volunteer at the Alabama Veterans’ Museum. It was on his way to his volunteer shift that our story begins.

8-5-2016 10-48-40 AM

“I live in a subdivision off of Newby Road,” he told me, “and we put our garbage out on Tuesday night. It was Wednesday morning, I had one more thing to put in the garbage can before I went to the Vets’ Museum, and I put my wallet and cell phone on the trunk of my car. I drove out of the subdivision, turned onto Hwy 72, and didn’t even know I had left them. I got to the museum, realized what I had done, told Yvonne Dempsey in a panic mode what had happened, and turned around to backtrack my route.”

What he didn’t know is that his “Good Samaritan” neighbor, who wishes to remain anonymous, saw what happened, followed Anthony’s path in his own automobile, looked for the phone and wallet as cars were whizzing by at 60 mph on 72, and miraculously found them both. “Sam” didn’t know where Anthony had gone, and kept an eye out for him to return. Now here is a bit of background on Sam. He lives in the next part of the subdivision over from Anthony, one that is newer and only has a couple of houses in it. He and Anthony had never met. Sam is married, a father, happens to be African American, and when he saw Anthony pull in, he waved to him with the found items in his hand, came over, returned the stuff, and introduced himself.

Anthony wanted to reward him, Sam wouldn’t hear of it. “You deserve something,” Anthony said to Sam. “No, I would do that for anyone,” said Sam. “I was taken aback,” Anthony said. “Not everyone would have stopped, searched, and risked their own life to help someone,” he added. Anthony wanted to have me interview them both, but Sam didn’t want the spotlight. “There’s got to be something I can do,” Anthony thought, and so, he asked Sam if he would accept some veggies from his garden. Sam agreed, and when someone else, (who had also heard what Sam had done), found out that he was willing to accept veggies, she brought tomatoes from her garden.

My fond hope for Sam is that he has to deal with the discomfort of having more veggies than he knows what to do with, and now that he and Anthony are friends who play Trivia together, that their story will spread.

Being a Good Samaritan never goes out of style, and Sam, you are one classy dude. Thank you from all of us.
8-5-2016 10-48-53 AM

7-16-2016 8-57-56 AMDear Chief Brown,
I have literally cheered this week as I have watched you handle an impossibly tragic situation, one whose heartache cannot be borne alone, and one whose weight has clearly been shouldered by the support of citizens and the prayers of people of faith all over our great nation. I live in a marvelous small city in North Alabama named Athens, and in the wake of the assassinations that occurred in your town, our Police Chief, Floyd Johnson, wrote a beautiful letter to help all of us, blue or any other pigment, get through what are deeply troubling times. I would like to quote him, and then tell you what has been happening here as a result.

It is somber to think how officers in Athens have been enjoying the smiles and laughter of children while in Dallas, officers and the community are in mourning.

As your police chief, I will continue to work with you to seek opportunities for positive interaction with officers and citizens. I will continue to have public meetings to help guide the future of our department. In closing I ask our community to keep your public safety officials in your prayers. If there is a concern, let us know. Although public safety is our prime responsibility, we also need your cooperation to be most effective.

I ask that when you see an officer, simply offer a thank you. The quick gesture takes only seconds but creates a moment the officer will cherish for much longer.

It is somber to think how officers in Athens have been enjoying the smiles and laughter of children while in Dallas, officers and the community are in mourning.

As your police chief, I will continue to work with you to seek opportunities for positive interaction with officers and citizens. I will continue to have public meetings to help guide the future of our department. In closing I ask our community to keep your public safety officials in your prayers. If there is a concern, let us know. Although public safety is our prime responsibility, we also need your cooperation to be most effective.

I ask that when you see an officer, simply offer a thank you. The quick gesture takes only seconds but creates a moment the officer will cherish for much longer.

It is somber to think how officers in Athens have been enjoying the smiles and laughter of children while in Dallas, officers and the community are in mourning.

As your police chief, I will continue to work with you to seek opportunities for positive interaction with officers and citizens. I will continue to have public meetings to help guide the future of our department. In closing I ask our community to keep your public safety officials in your prayers. If there is a concern, let us know. Although public safety is our prime responsibility, we also need your cooperation to be most effective. I ask that when you see an officer, simply offer a thank you. The quick gesture takes only seconds but creates a moment the officer will cherish for much longer.
Athens Police Department
951 Hobbs Street, East
Athens, AL 35611
Phone (256) 233-8705
Email: fjohnson@athensal.us
Op-Ed for The News-Courier by Athens Police Chief Floyd Johnson – July 8, 2016

7-16-2016 8-58-04 AM

I am heartbroken to see stories from communities across this country where animosity and distrust have developed between citizens and officers. I, like many others, am highly concerned with this situation. Along with other Americans I watched news reports describing the horrific shootings in Dallas. My heart ached to see police officers who were protecting and serving their community being shot and gunned down.

On a more positive side, I saw where reporters interviewed many who had been exercising their constitutional right of free speech in a peaceful and lawful protest. I saw officers protecting these citizens and their freedom of speech. In a couple of reports, I saw officers posing for pictures with the protestors. Most interviewed were saddened that what they intended to be a positive event evolved into a negative tragedy. In days to come we will learn more about the shootings. We will see wives, children and other family members of the officers in churches, in funeral possessions and at cemeteries, saying good bye to these public servants who were doing their job.

These families and the fellow officers in Dallas and across our country need our prayers. Your Athens Police Department needs your prayers as we work with you to have an open and respectful
relationship between the City of Athens and her officers.

7-16-2016 8-58-19 AM

I believe public safety is the backbone of any community small or large. It is an essential part of our society as we know it. Your Police Department and those around the country are depended on to keep the streets, neighborhoods and communities safe. We are the first line of defense against evil. I want to let our citizens know we are devoted to you and our city, and we will continue to do the best we can to serve Athens.

Our department desires to work in and with our community. We have worked with youth and citizens of all ages and backgrounds through community meetings and activities to give us the opportunity to understand needs you have and to explain different aspects of our job. Over the Fourth of July weekend, your Athens police officers began distributing sports balls with our department logo and phone number and playing with the children of our city. The Athens Police Department initiated this program to show our youth that officers are part of this community and are here to help them, and to teach them how they can contact us in an emergency.

It is somber to think how officers in Athens have been enjoying the smiles and laughter of children while in Dallas, officers and the community are in mourning.

As your police chief, I will continue to work with you to seek opportunities for positive interaction with officers and citizens. I will continue to have public meetings to help guide the future of our department. In closing I ask our community to keep your public safety officials in your prayers. If there is a concern, let us know. Although public safety is our prime responsibility, we also need your cooperation to be most effective.

I ask that when you see an officer, simply offer a thank you. The quick gesture takes only seconds but creates a moment the officer will cherish for much longer.

“It is somber to think how officers in Athens have been enjoying the smiles and laughter of children while in Dallas, officers and the community are in mourning. As your police chief, I will continue to work with you to seek opportunities for positive interaction with officers and citizens. I will continue to have public meetings to help guide the future of our department. In closing I ask our community to keep your public safety officials in your prayers. If there is a concern, let us know. Although public safety is our prime responsibility, we also need your cooperation to be most effective.

I ask that when you see an officer, simply offer a thank you. The quick gesture takes only seconds but creates a moment the officer will cherish for much longer.” Since last week, the “quick gesture” referred to above has nearly taken on a life of its own. People have brought food to the station, there have been cakes, cookies, and someone ordered “pizza for the police”. There have been cards, the phone has been positively ringing off the wall with positive messages for those who form the thin blue line, and Chief Johnson told me recently that “the response has been unbelievable.” He also told me, “We are planting seeds that won’t be seen for awhile,” and like you, the man is in it to win it.

What’s the “it?” It is the chance to make a difference, to lead by example, to leave a legacy of true justice. Here in Athens, Alabama, we believe that all lives matter, and that was proven 2,000 years ago when Someone showed His love for all lives by dying for all lives, irrespective of the amount of melanin in their skin. Chief Brown, your life matters, your example stirs us, and we are with you. Thank you, sir, for your service.
7-16-2016 8-58-32 AM

7-1-2016 1-28-23 PMOn June 22nd, 2016, around 125 people gathered in the upper floor of the Center for Lifelong Learning to celebrate the courage of one man, Judge James Horton, as he stood against the tide of Depression era Jim Crow racial hatred, and set aside the conviction of Haywood Patterson. Patterson, along with several other black teens, had been accused of raping two young white woman in Scottsboro.

The case was legendary, and I grew up knowing about it, having learned about it in social studies in the 1960s. Somehow, for many years after moving here, I had missed the fact that history was made with the stroke of a pen on the second floor courtroom of our own Limestone County Courthouse. I’ll never forget the day I was in that very courtroom for a reception, and happened to look at the modest brass plaque commemorating the event. It was both surreal and pleasantly stunning, and I “felt proud,” as we say in the South.

7-1-2016 1-28-35 PM

Years ago, not long after we moved here in 2000, I had the chance to become acquainted with Judge Horton’s grandson, John, but never knew the depths of his granddaddy’s courage until I heard John speak at Calvary Assembly in Decatur. How stirring and refreshing it was to hear the story from the standpoint of waging spiritual warfare, and it was a joy to see John again at last week’s celebration.

7-1-2016 1-28-49 PMI was reminded of what can happen when one just man chooses to stand for the truth, and it strengthened my resolve to do so, even when it costs me. At the celebration, there were young, old, black, white, and Hispanic people, as well as Judge Horton’s progeny, all gathered together to hear the reading of all manner of letters, both in support as well as condemnation of Judge Horton’s actions. It was a “glad day,” one that made me feel so honored to be a part of this community.

And then, on Wednesday, June 29th, we had what I would call a “sad day.” The newly restored Pincham-Lincoln center at the historic Trinity school site was vandalized, with more than a score of windows broken, and other damage done to the building. The vandals were fairly young, and thankfully, at least at this time, there is nothing that suggests that this was racially motivated.
I looked hard at the picture featured here of Richard Martin gazing out the broken windows; an elderly white man who has publically talked about what it was like to be raised on racism, and then what it was like to make a conscious decision to come away from such a despicable and dysfunctional personal philosophy. He has turned away from the beliefs of the past to the point that he has worked tirelessly to rebuild and restore not just Trinity, but the legacy of relationships that were broken as a result of decades of segregation.

It is difficult to see the wistful pain in his face, and it is indeed a sad day. But this I know: even though I have only lived in Alabama for 16 years, broken windows will be replaced, broken glass will be cleaned up, and vandalism will be repaired. And, we as a city will continue to do the work to heal more than a building. We will prize even more deeply our history, continue to walk the path of true restoration, and we will have many more glad days real soon.
7-1-2016 1-28-58 PM

6-18-2016 9-02-30 AMAs is fitting, the massacre that occurred at the Pulse in Orlando on June 12th is dominating the media, our minds, and as conservative columnist Star Parker said so well, we need to “mourn with one eye open.” Paul Foreman did a splendid job of both asking the question, “Why didn’t anyone fight back?” as well as remind us of common sense options if we find ourselves in a live shooter event. His column, Foreman’s Forum, can be found on page 23. Mayor Ronnie and I discussed public safety and situational awareness in his column, What Makes Ronnie Roll, and the need to continually remind the “average citizen,” whatever that is, of the need to stay alert and know how to act responsibly in any situation. The Mayor’s comments under “What Makes Ronnie Roll.”

6-18-2016 9-02-45 AM

However, my intent in the course of this Publisher’s Point is to educate our readers as to the all-encompassing nature of jihad, as well as some of its targets and strategies. I am not a professional, I simply earned the right to speak to this by virtue of living in Baghdad amongst the experts, and having to deal with the aftermath of successful jihadist acts that killed people I cared about.

My husband told me of an account written by a first responder who was on the scene to deal with the bloody aftermath. This man had always wondered what it would be like to be at what in the military is known as a “mass cal,” which is Army speak for a mass casualty event, and technically includes both injuries as well as fatalities. He expected the eeriness or the “surreality”, (if I may be allowed make up a word), to be the utter silence from being in a location where death abounds and all movement has ceased. Instead, what was unexpectedly unsettling to the first responder was the cacophony of cell phones that seemed to be utterly frantic as they chirped, rang, spoke, played music, or whatever the customized ring tone sounded like in the desperate desire of friends and loved ones to make contact. The sound was heartbreaking.

The LGBT community is both understandably alarmed as well as poised to leverage the carnage in order to parlay an act of jihad into a violation of civil rights. For the record, I am someone who has dearly loved gay friends and family members, I do not agree with the lifestyle, am not a hater, and personally know way too many people who have “come out” of the lifestyle and become spouses and parents to think that you are “born that way.”

6-18-2016 9-02-51 AM

The gun control folks are predictably calling for more gun control, Chick-fil-a (the supposed haters of gays) opened up the local store on a Sunday to give away food to people helping at ground zero as well as those giving blood, and the NRA has made some folks angry by saying that “terrorists are not deterred by gun laws”, and, “law-abiding gun owners are tired of being blamed for the acts of madmen and terrorists.” I agree. A well-armed citizenry should never be painted with the same brush as a murderer. If you disagree, do your homework on Switzerland, where every home is required to have a gun, and the weapon is issued by the government. Many historians believe that the reason the Nazis didn’t invade Switzerland is that they knew they would lose for this very reason. The Swiss only “appeared” to be neutral.

Here is what needs to be understood: if you are not a follower of Allah according to the standards of a jihadist, you are fair game for what happened at the Pulse. It was a superb psy-ops move to target a gay bar, but if you are a Jew, a Christian, a Buddhist, a Hindu, an atheist, an agnostic, a woman who dares to go for a walk by herself, a Westerner of any kind, or a fellow Muslim who is not functioning as a true believer from the perspective of the jihadist, you deserve to die, period. There is absolutely no concept of innocent civilians, armed or unarmed. And, the only assurance of heaven for the one who “dispatches” you is to self-martyr; hence, the “inspiration” to take yourself out and as many others as you can while you are at it.
Therefore, the quicker we understand that we understand that this was not a hate crime, but true jihad, it is a global campaign, and the only way to deal with it is to come together in firm response as well as love, the better off we are going to be. To “steal” from FDR, the only thing we have to fear is that we give in to fear, and allow ourselves to be scattered and silenced.
6-18-2016 9-03-02 AM

6-6-2016 8-55-22 AMDo you have a “why?” Do you know why you should have a “why?” What in the world is a “why,” anyway? Briefly stated, your why is what makes you get up in the morning and sticking to “it,” until it’s done, no matter what. On the surface it can be that a guy’s why is that he knows if he doesn’t get up and go to work, his family won’t have food on the table. Yet, deeper than that, his why is a mixture of love and purpose that will cause him to lay down his life for them in a heartbeat.

Some folks say that you have not gotten to your why until you cry, or at least have a knot in your throat. If the guy who gets up every morning were to imagine for a moment the prospect of one of his kids getting kidnapped or going missing, chances are he would cry. Your why is knowing and walking in the core reason you were made and put on this Earth. It is more specific than “wanting to make a difference.” There’s nothing wrong with that, but it will not keep you when it looks like you are not, in fact, making a difference. Truly walking in your why helps you take the position of doing a specific activity with no attachment to the outcome. You do it because it’s right, you do it because you can do no other, you take care of “it” before you can let yourself go to bed at night.

6-6-2016 8-55-37 AM

Maybe on the surface Rosa Parks wasn’t walking in her why the day she refused to give up her seat on the bus in Montgomery over 60 years ago. The story was that she was tired and just had had it with not being treated like a lady. But I can guarantee you that much more than that gave her the courage to stick to her guns. Way down inside she had a passion for justice that was stronger than either her fatigue or her outrage; that and God’s grace sustained her.

Athletes might start off with a goal centered why that is tied to winning a gold medal in Rio this summer, or beating Auburn or Alabama, depending on which “house” you live in. But, athletes age, and if they don’t have something deeper that lasts past lobbing their last pass, they come up empty. I think that might be why we see such a high incidence of crash-and-burn lifestyles, especially amongst professional athletes, after they are no longer in the stats or the sports shows. They never got a hold of their why.

You’ll read in this edition about Will Haney, who passed away from cancer. Interestingly, while Will worked hard, served his country, “never met a stranger,” he did not get in touch with his why, (which was to go to nursing school) until he was near the end of his life and battling cancer. Why didn’t that come for him earlier? I don’t know, but I have learned this from talking to his family: Will was a “live-er,” and I have the impression that he was quite a nurse himself to the nurses who were taking care of him.

It is said that when you are able to distill your purpose down to six words, you’ll have a short-hand of sorts that serves as a hand hold when you are slipping. Mine has changed over time, and might change again, but it is this, and it is on purpose crafted in the continuing action form of the three verbs because the whole point is to never stop: “Choosing life, doing good, doing well.” The walk-out of that is the “what”, and all of it is pointless if at the end of the day I have not checked in with my boss, the Jewish Carpenter. Find your why, love the One who gave it to you, show it to the world.
6-6-2016 8-55-50 AM

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?

5-6-2016 9-31-18 AM

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.

4-15-2016 2-00-26 PM

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.
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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.

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“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.
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