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Thanks, guys, for all the prayers for BJ and her ‘spell’. She is fine at home and making up for lost time watching her cooking shows and eating nuts and drinking a Black Cherry soda. We are blessed indeed. However, I have concluded that they need to add another chapter to Jammie Hawkins book of “How to Get Attention”. You could just title it ‘BJ’s Spell’. But I think she kind of over did it this time. Her little attention getting ‘spell’ Tuesday morning of been light headed and nauseas plus sweating caused her a two day stay in two different hospitals 50 miles apart. She even had an ambulance ride between them. That was kind of nice as she got to share that ride with a man from Madison where they talked about guns and sweet tea. For those that don’t know, BJ packs two S&W 38’s. One for each hip, you know kinda like Roy Rogers? She also has pepper spray and a taser. Mess with her at your own risk. The man from Madison had gone to the same doctor too and had the same two-day event schedule.
Anyway, I get the call while loading limbs and wood from two trees we had just cut down and got Robert to rush me to the hospital. My truck is still in the front yard loaded down. At the hospital I found BJ and my daughter, Candi with granddaughter, Katelynn along with the man from Madison with his wife in the ER. The ‘spell’ was over, but you know doctor’s orders, test, test and more test, such as CT Scan, x-rays, Lab, etc. The next day she had the first at the Madison Hospital, (well it was the second one because the man from Madison had the first one), a Cardiology Video Conference. With the nurse acting as his hands he examined BJ through a TV screen. And from that exam came a fast trip to Tallahassee and a heart cath. So, off we go, (my daughter, Terri is with us now and driving me), following the ambulance along with Candi, Katelynn plus son-in-law, Levi and another granddaughter, Kaylee behind us.
There we waited again for a couple hours. Grandson-in-law Todd had flown in from Aiken, South Carolina for a two-day inspection at Mexico Beach, came in to check on her. BJ came out of surgery and they had found no blockage. Praise the Lord. Todd prayed over her and he and Candi’s family left. Terri stayed to drive BJ and I home. The doctor said she could go home after they were sure that she was ok. When that time came, she went into the bathroom to dress. After a few minutes she called out to me. I went in and got the shock of my life. There was blood everywhere and all over her. It was on the walls, the toilet, towels and floor.  I mean everywhere.  She was bleeding from her artery where they did the cath in her hand.  I went flying out screaming for help! Terri Jo was yelling for anyone to come help and about six nurses came running and they finally stop her from bleeding out. Needless to say, the doctor said, “You ain’t going home tonight.” Stay the night, a week whatever it takes, just fix my wife. Scared the life out of me. Terri almost went into shock!
But all is well. All the test were negative. They only found a slight infection that they treated with antibiotics.  We really don’t know what cause the ‘spell’.  So now she is home getting ready to spend a week in the mountains next week with six of her girlfriends and classmates. All in their 70’s. After this spell I finally agreed for her to go. So, you see what a little acid reflux can get you? She could have just bribed me with a new fishing rod and reel and forgone all of this. Anyway, thanks again for all the prayers for the woman that God gave me. I am blessed more than I deserve…

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Have you ever had a divine appointment? I mean has God ever arranged for someone, or some people, to be in a certain place on a certain day at a certain time just so you could be with them? Well, I’ve had several but last night BJ and I had one that I want to share with you.
It started this way, we had attended church in Aiken, South Carolina, with our daughter, Missy, and her family to celebrate our grandson, Jason, being licensed as a worship minister. After lunch as we prepared to leave, we were warned of severe weather stretching all the way to Florida, which was our destination and home. For the most part we traveled along the front edge of the storm. We were constantly checking our weather app and receiving weather alerts. I didn’t count the number of tornado warnings, (not watches but warnings), we received for the counties we were passing through, but half a dozen comes to mind.
We stopped in Hazlehurst for a restroom break, and sure enough they had a tornado warning. So, we got out of Dodge fast. Later in the evening as we approached the town of Denton, the front finally caught up to us with a vengeance. As we were passing through the town our weather app that was tracking us came on and said they was a tornado warning for Jeff Davis County and to seek shelter immediately.
We’re thinking, “Shelter…where?” Then the wind picked up and it started to hail. We all know that hail usually precedes tornados and needless to say, we were scared. That’s when BJ cried, “There’s a church!” I never saw it, as I could barely see the road in front of me. I did a U-turn and we went back to the church and pulled into the parking lot with other vehicles. I’m thinking that others had come for shelter as it was too early for church. The hail, wind, and rain was so bad that I pulled right up to the front door. Going into the church we were met by a couple of ladies. They had come to the door to see what the weather was like. I told them we were travelers and wanting a shelter out of the storm. They welcomed us and one of the sweet ladies looked at BJ and said, “You play the piano.” Not do you play, but you play. I’m thinking, “How do you know that?” BJ with a puzzled look on her face said, “Yes?” The lady then asked BJ to play for them, which she graciously did.
So, with about a dozen of us we sang hymns and had a good time. I’m texting my girls to let them know we had taken shelter from the tornado. My daughter calls and asked if it was a Baptist Church. Yep, we are safe now! BJ is playing request after request and the people are singing. I look around and everyone is so calm, and I’m as nervous as a long tail cat in a room full of rocking chairs, praying that they can’t hear my knees knocking over the music, but they are having church. After a while some more men came from the back of the church and we had Discipleship Training on Prayer. Our leader talked about the names we should call God in our prayer like Abba Father and the other names of God, such as Elohim, El-Shaddai and so forth. In the middle of the lesson the City’s Tornado Siren goes off! BJ and I looked at each other and I’m wondering if we can all fit into the baptistry! Our leader? Calm as a cucumber he just talks louder over the siren with several people having input. BJ and I just sat there not wanting to inject anything into the lesson that would betray our emotion. The siren quit and the weather passed, and nothing happened to us or the church. What a teachable moment for me. In the mist of the storm, the kind people of faith at Denton Baptist Church showed no fear of the dangerous storm outside and wrapped their arms around us. The pastor said that the only reason they were there that early was because of a deacon’s meeting. Divine Appointment? You bet. Thank you, Jesus. Mark 4:39…

Prologue:
Early November 1991 near the Suwannee River in Hamilton County Florida.
He hunted this land all his life and knew every road, trail and landmark and while he was sitting in his deer stand he heard the cry for help echoing off the Ole Suwannee River. Keith sat real still listening hard to see if his ears were telling him the truth, then he heard it again. He was only about 50 yards from the river, and the echo made it hard to pin point where it came from. But there it was again, “Please stop, somebody help me!”
Climbing down from the stand, he eased down to the river bank. Listening hard for any sound he decided to go down river thinking that it may have come from that direction. About 150 yards later he saw movement on a rocky cliff ahead of him. Years of hunting taught him how to move silently through the woods and he did so now moving deeper inland to approach the cliff from the north. He heard men voices now and a young woman whimpering. Keith got down on his knees in the canopy forest and slowly crawled closer to the sounds. At ground level, the air was hot, damp and very still even in November. It was quite dark with the sunlight being absorbed by the triple canopy above him. His hunter’s instincts were working at full mental capacity as he eased forward to a clump of palmettos.
He slowly looked over the top of the bushes and saw a man sitting with his back to a tree with a gun in his hand. Another man was on his knees holding the arms of a young girl on the ground. He was laughing while another man was straddle the girl. The girl’s pleas for the man to let her go only made them laugh harder.
The girl turned her head in Keith’s direction. He dropped his head and thought, “I know that girl!” For a few seconds he didn’t know what to do. He had no law enforcement experience, nor was he ever in the military, and in fact had never been in a fight of any kind. A quiet and peaceful man all his life he was shaking with fear. He looked up again and saw what was about to happen to the girl. He knew that he could never let that happen. His first thought was to warn the man that he would shoot if he didn’t get off the girl, but anger took over and he lifted his rifle and aimed at the man’s head that was straddle the girl and pulled the trigger.

My Friend, Ray

Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.
He was standing in the field with his son looking out over the crop that he had put his life into. The hopes and dreams, he had for this year’s crop, was that it would not be as the last few the drought left drying in the fields. But it was not to be. The prayers that he sent up to heaven for his crops were unanswered. As all farmers the livelihood of his family depended on crops that he could take to market.
His son looked up to the man that was his hero and role model, the very essence of his existence with tears in his eyes and said, “Daddy, why won’t God let it rain?”
“Son, I don’t know why, but we are going to serve Him no matter what happens to us.”
Heroes come in all shapes and sizes and for reasons that appeal to the individual. I have a list of those myself. It was no accident that Ray Burnett happens to be one of them. You see, God in His infinite mercy brought me to a permanent landing in Ray’s neighborhood. That in itself brought Ray into my life. And knowing the above story from long ago has resonated with me for the last 40+ years. I watched a man walk tall when most would have stumbled and fell. A more humbler man I have never known. A man whose family was once the ‘Farm Family of the Year,’ a man that showed that very family, neighbors and community how to overcome adversity with dignity and grace.
However, he was not going to be denied the ‘Abundant life’ promised by his Savior. He remained a farmer but on a smaller scale and even became a Correctional Officer. He took that same spirit and integrity to work with him. Ray was respected and well liked by the Administration, his supervisors, peers and inmates and was simply known as ‘Sarge.’
But nothing was more important than his God, his wife, Rita, his sons and their families and his church. Church treasure for decades, (till the end), as well as song leader, Sunday School teacher and Deacon, it was as much part of his life as breathing. The legend he leaves behind in his three sons is frankly legendary, something that few families see. Uncle I.T. would have been proud, because he did get a handle on them.
In his last days he showed us how to leave this world with dignity. Surrounded by an army of family and friends to the end he told everyone good bye and that he would see us again one day. He was witnessing to the very last. You wouldn’t have been around him long before learning that ‘God so love the world.’
His last thoughts were on his wife and soulmate for the last 64 years, but anxious to be on his way and start walking the streets of gold with the One that would be taking him there.
As for me…I think about a couple of song chorus’ to describe what this man among men meant to me:
Did you ever know that you’re my hero?
You’re everything I wish I could be.
I could fly higher than an eagle,
For you are the wind beneath my wings.
Thank you for giving to the Lord
I am a life that was changed
Thank you for giving to the Lord
I am so glad you gave.
It has been said, “No one can become a peacemaker until he has found peace himself.” For my friend, he has found peace in his valley. Godspeed, my dear friend…

America The Great

NY Gov. Andrew Cuomo said, “America was never that great.” The man doesn’t know our history. This country has overcome so much in our 242 years. Why in the world do you think people want to immigrate to our country anyway they can. They apparently don’t think their country is so great. Cuomo took a good campaign slogan, “Make America Great Again,” to make a mockery of because he had no idea what President Trump was getting at. In the last decade our country has suffered on the world stage. We were bad mouthed by our own leaders when they visited other countries. President Trump is keeping that promise by letting the world know we are great and they will no longer take advantage of us. But you can depend on us as you always have in your time of need. That is making America great again. The last decade is just another chapter in our history that we have had to overcome. From Wars, Slavery, Assassination, Depression, Corruption, Persecution, etc. we have overcome them all in our history.

Below is a couple of foreigners that saw greatness in America:

Alexis de Tocqueville in his book Democracy in America, written a long time ago, in it he wrote; “Upon my arrival in the United States, the religious aspect of the country was the first thing that struck my attention, I sought for the key to the greatness and the genius of America in her harbors … in her fertile fields and boundless forests … in her public school system and institutions of learning … in her democratic Congress and in her matchless constitution. Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits a flame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great because America is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.”

Gordon Sinclair, a Canadian Television Commentator wrote in 1973
“The Americans” The United States dollar took another pounding on German, French and British exchanges this morning, hitting the lowest point ever known in West Germany.
It has declined there by 41% since 1971 and this Canadian thinks it is time to speak up for the Americans as the most generous and possibly the least-appreciated people in all the earth.
As long as sixty years ago, when I first started to read newspapers, I read of floods on the Yellow River and the Yangtse. Who rushed in with men and money to help?
The Americans did.
They have helped control floods on the Nile, the Amazon, the Ganges and the Niger. Today, the rich bottom land of the Mississippi is under water and no foreign land has sent a dollar to help.
Germany, Japan and, to a lesser extent, Britain and Italy, were lifted out of the debris of war by the Americans who poured in billions of dollars and forgave other billions in debts. None of those countries is today paying even the interest on its remaining debts to the United States.
When the franc was in danger of collapsing in 1956, it was the Americans who propped it up and their reward was to be insulted and swindled on the streets of Paris. I was there. I saw it.
When distant cities are hit by earthquakes, it is the United States that hurries into help… Managua Nicaragua is one of the most recent examples. So far this spring, 59 American communities have been flattened by tornadoes. Nobody has helped. The Marshall Plan .. the Truman Policy .. all pumped billions upon billions of dollars into discouraged countries. Now, newspapers in those countries are writing about the decadent war-mongering Americans. I’d like to see one of those countries that is gloating over the erosion of the United States dollar build its own airplanes. Come on… let’s hear it!
Does any other country in the world have a plane to equal the Boeing Jumbo Jet, the Lockheed Tristar or the Douglas 107? If so, why don’t they fly them? Why do all international lines except Russia fly American planes? Why does no other land on earth even consider putting a man or women on the moon? You talk about Japanese technocracy and you get radios. You talk about German technocracy and you get automobiles. You talk about American technocracy and you find men on the moon, not once, but several times … and safely home again. You talk about scandals and the Americans put theirs right in the store window for everyone to look at. Even the draft dodgers are not pursued and hounded. They are here on our streets, most of them … unless they are breaking Canadian laws are getting American dollars from Ma and Pa at home to spend here. When the Americans get out of this bind … as they will… who could blame them if they said, ‘The hell with the rest of the world’. Let someone else buy the Israel bonds, let someone else build or repair foreign dams or design foreign buildings that won’t shake apart in earthquakes.
When the railways of France, Germany and India were breaking down through age, it was the Americans who rebuilt them. When the Pennsylvania Railroad and the New York Central went broke, nobody loaned them an old caboose. Both are still broke. I can name to you 5,000 times when the Americans raced to the help of other people in trouble. Can you name me even one time when someone else raced to the Americans in trouble?
I don’t think there was outside help even during the San Francisco earthquake. Our neighbors have faced it alone and I am one Canadian who is damned tired of hearing them kicked around. They will come out of this thing with their flag high. And when they do, they are entitled to thumb their nose at the lands that are gloating over their present troubles. I hope Canada is not one of these. But there are many smug, self-righteous Canadians.
And finally, the American Red Cross was told at its 48th Annual meeting in New Orleans this morning that it was broke. This year’s disasters, with the year less than half-over… has taken it all and nobody…but nobody… has helped.”

But there is a dark cloud on our horizon and it is Socialism. If the far left takes this country that far, then America will cease to be great!

Frank

Frank, “Go rest high on that mountain, your work on earth is done.” Vince Gill didn’t know my friend, Frank Smith, when he wrote that song, but if there ever was a song written for someone that song was written for Frank.
I first met Frank, when we were getting ready to build the work camp at Hamilton Correctional Institution. He was in that first graduating class of officers for that work camp. The warden, Rob Cason, told me to seek out any officers in that class that had construction experience to assist in the construction of the camp. Frank was one of those that raised his hand. That begin nearly three decades of friendship between us. Frank worked as both a security officer, rising to the rank of sergeant and every position for maintenance and construction for Region Two for the Florida Department of Corrections. A better man never served as Maintenance & Construction Officer as Frank. His skills and ability in those trades were at the top that field. Even though we competed for the same positions during our time with DOC, we were as close as brothers. He served under me twice and I under him twice. Never once did we have a disagreement. Never!
I was there the day he was demoted back down to officer for purely political reasons, which brought shame on the Region, and I was there the day the new Regional Director, Mark Redd, brought him back to build Suwannee Correctional Institution. No one was as angry as me for what they did to him, but Frank held to a higher standard than I did. He never held a grudge. I will never forget the lesson from that teachable moment. That servant leadership attitude put him right back on top again.
Vince wrote, “I know your life on earth was troubled and only you could know the pain.” There again, this was Frank, losing Claire, his wife, to cancer while building Suwannee was as hard as it gets.  He could never overcome that loss.  I watch his health deteriorate over the years to the point that retirement was the only option for him. Only those of us close to him knew of his struggles. Because of that we know he is at peace now.
“Go rest high on that mountain Son, your work on earth is done. Go to heaven a-shoutin’ Love for the Father and the Son. Good bye my friend, go with God Speed.

The Bucket List

Ok, being a writer, everyone expects a story when you’ve been, seen and have done something different.  For our 50th wedding anniversary, BJ and I took a trip up to Maine and back.  While I have stories in mind, I just need to check off some items on my bucket list.  Ever since the movie, “The Bucket List,” with Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman came out, everyone has created a list.  We were no different, so here is my list of completed ones on this trip and the ones still to do, listed at the end.

 

CHECKED!

1.                  Mount Airy NC. The Real Mayberry USA.  (Nice)

2.                 Gettysburg Battleground.  (Take the bus tour!)

3.                 Lancaster County PA.  Amish Country. (Highly recommend, one of our favorites!)

4.                Hershey Factory Tour. (So so)

5.                 Travel New England States.  (Outstanding)

6.                Stay at Boothbay Harbor Maine.  (Can’t wait to do it again.)

7.                 Visit L.L. Bean Stores in Freeport Maine.  (Wow!)

8.                Visit Acadia National Park, Maine.  (Cadillac Mountain was great)

9.                Eat Lobster at Bar Harbor Maine. (First & last, give me shrimp any day).

10.            Buy Maple Syrup in Vermont.  ($70 Worth?)

11.              Get BJ on a boat at Niagara Falls.  (Frighten, soaked and froze her all most to death.)

12.             Let BJ drive through Cleveland Ohio. (Ha!)

13.             Tour the Ark Encounter in Kentucky.  (No words to describe this beautiful creation!  A must see.) 

As you can see I have trimmed my list down somewhat, but here are just some of ones left to do.

 

NOT CHECKED YET:

1.                  Visit the Creation Museum near the Ark Encounter.

2.                 Fly one more time with my longtime friend and service buddy, Randy Sizemore.  (The greatest Chinook Helicopter Pilot in the world.)

3.                 Zip line across the Grand Canyon.  (At the widest point, while eating a Hershey Bar.  With BJ of course.)

4.                Hike the Appalachian Trail. (The whole long way!)

5.                 Canoe the Suwannee from the Okefenokee Swamp to the Gulf of Mexico.

6.                Catch a 10+ pound bass with my brother, Irv at Lake Blackshear.

7.                 Retire December 29th 2016.

8.                Write a Best-Selling Novel.

9.                In progress is to continue to watch my kids and grandkids become great citizens of this great country that I love so much…