Monthly Archives: August 2019

Why Meet the Train?


My Dad loved to tell about the time he and his mother were rescued by his grandmother even though she didn’t know what she was doing.

My Dad and his parents had come over Unicoi Gap by wagon in 1888 when he was only two and had settled in Habersham County, Georgia, on a few acres named Pinedale by his mother. He loved it there and wanted to stay forever but because of his mother’s tuberculosis, they moved on even farther south below Augusta on the South Carolina border. They left Dad’s aunt, Delia, and his grandmother at Pinedale.

Dad was very homesick for the hills of Habersham. When he became sick with typhoid, he cried in a feverish state to go back home. His mother, though herself so far from well, insisted on taking her son to Pinedale. Her husband, my grandfather, reluctantly agreed to her trip since he was teaching school and couldn’t leave.

The train trip was very hard for her but her number one goal was to make her son comfortable and get him safely home. The closer the train chugged toward Cornelia the more she began to wonder: what would she do when she got there? Cornelia was still ten miles from home. It was a very hot day and her sick child could not even hold his head up and he was a big boy, almost as big at eight years old as she was.

At this point in his story my Dad would rub his hands together in anticipation of the best part and begin pacing as he finished.

Aunt De and Grandmother were at Pinedale taking care of things. One afternoon as they sat calmly tatting lace in their small cottage, Grandmother suddenly put her work down, stood and walked to the window, sat back down, then cleared her throat. “De, we have to go to the train station in Cornelia.”

“But, Mother, whatever for?”

“I don’t know. But we have to go.”

They had to borrow a horse and buggy from a neighbor and Aunt De fussed pretty severely, sure that her mother had eaten too many mushrooms or read too many penny novels.

When they arrived at the station, there was their Gracie and her feverish eight-year-old and both ladies understood why Grandmother had felt such a strong “hunch.”

Dad would always end his story by saying “And you can believe that ‘hunch’ of Grandmother’s was just a coincidence if you want to.”

I think Grandmother’s ‘hunch’ was, in today’s language, a “God thing.”

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Ark Encounter


It’s called an encounter instead of a museum for a reason. Entering the Kentucky ark made to God’s specifications for Noah of ancient days is an experience.
Whether or not you are a believer in the one true God, you couldn’t leave that ship the very same person who entered.

We went to this wonderful attraction several months ago but I’m just now writing about it. The Encounter was too rich, the information too overwhelming, to begin immediately to recount it. Friends had been there and told us about it; we had read about it; but until we experienced it ourselves we could not imagine its magnitude.

The original Noah’s ark was huge. Noah built it in a dry land midst jeers and taunts of neighbors who’d never experienced rain and thought he was crazy. He built it because God told him to. The floods came, as God had said they would, and covered the whole earth. The only people to survive were Noah’s family, eight people. The only animals to survive were those brought to Noah by God and given space in the ark, two of every kind.

You can read about the original ark and the flood that God sent in Genesis chapters six, seven, and eight. The present ark in Williamstown, Kentucky is built to the exact same specifications. God chose Noah, the only faithful man He could find, to build that first ark for the purpose of saving whoever would choose to enter the ark. God chose Ken Ham to build the life-size ark in Kentucky for the purpose of answering the many questions people have concerning this phenomenal ship.

Some of those questions are: What does two of a kind mean? How did Noah fit so many animals on that boat? What happened to all the waste? How did they have enough food? Where did the people stay?

As we entered the ark, our first reaction was one of total awe at its sheer size: in present day measurements, instead of cubits, the ark is 510 feet long, 85 feet wide, and 51 feet high. It took 3.5 million board feet of timber to build it. By the way, it is the largest timber-frame structure in the world.

As we continued to explore the three decks we saw living quarters for the four couples (Noah and his wife, their three sons and their wives), some live animals in nice roomy compartments, in other enclosures life-size animal “dummies.” We saw means of cooking, gardening, weaving, and carpentering. After all, Noah’s family lived there for 150 days! There were life-size figures, some animated and speaking, of the family members going about their daily tasks. I’d never before pictured the women cooking on the ark. I had not imagined they might have a loom for weaving, certainly not that they might grow vegetables in tubs and boxes.

All along the way there were excellent signs and charts explaining what we were seeing. Ken Ham, whose passion is to reveal God’s word to the masses, has exerted an extraordinary amount of energy, time, and funds making this knowledge available in a fun and believable setting. Every detail has been researched and explained as facts or as speculations in keeping with history.


The engineering and workmanship of the structure is mind boggling. This ark, built to show what Noah’s was like, is also comfortable and accessible to thousands of visitors a day. The builders managed to make it where we could “peer into history” at the same time have restrooms, good lighting, long easy ramps, and even a restaurant. Noah spent 75 to 100 years building the original ark. The Ark Encounter was constructed in six years. The original ark God built with Noah’s hands was to save Noah and his family. The Kentucky ark was built with the hope of saving masses for eternity as they encounter the Creator and Redeemer God.

The story of Noah and the flood, according to Ken Ham, has been turned by many well meaning folks into a cutsie pie fairytale. Children have grown up viewing this part of the Bible as unbelievable. And if they couldn’t believe the account of the flood, then why should they believe in Jesus’ virgin birth, sacrificial death, and glorious resurrection?


Outside the ark we wandered around in the Ararat Zoo enjoying some unusual small and large animals–such as a water buffalo with a shaggy coat, a bearded dragon climbing his keeper’s shirt, and a huddle of ostriches. We ate in the huge buffet style restaurant before we left. The food was delicious, fresh and delightful, not left over from the flood!

Just twenty miles from the Ark Encounter is the Creation Museum. We spent a day at each attraction. It is hard to say which I would recommend you do if you could only do one. I’m leaning toward the Ark. We did the Creation Museum, then the Ark, but some started with the Ark. Whichever way you do it, allow for plenty of time. Allow one day for each one.

We were so blessed to be able to hear Ken Ham speak in person in a large auditorium. His Australian accent, his humor, and his passion for reaching crowds for Christ kept us spellbound. He addresses the age old question of where Cain got his wife and gives a wonderful lesson in genetics.

Don’t go to eastern Kentucky or to Cincinnati, Ohio without visiting one or both of these wild and wonderful attractions. Hey, they’re both kid geared too. You can even spin through space on a zip line at the Creation Museum. I wonder what Noah would think about that!

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Cotton Lady


IMG_1608.JPGI think the reason I feel urged to write about the one I’m calling, just for today, “Cotton Lady” is that she came to see me in a dream the other night. Her hand was warm as I drew her into my kitchen where she, another friend, and I talked about ordinary stuff, like preparations for a baby shower, or how many cups of juice it takes to make a batch of grape jelly. This might not seem like a strange dream except that the Cotton Lady has been dead for two years.

She was a caretaker. She was a baker extraordinare. She was a fun photographer, taking pictures of snakes, birds, flowers and people. She was a droll humorist finding a way to make us laugh right in the face of our problems. She enjoyed seashells, history, good movies, and mainly her family.

Those of you who knew her know by now whom I’m describing. You have your own descriptions and recollections of this ordinary and wonderful lady named Sue Hinson. The following are only my own perceptions.

I first got to know Sue when we both were part of a mission action group. Our group “adopted” two sisters at a local nursing home. We all took turns visiting them each week. After one sister died, we began taking the other one out to lunch sometimes and even having occasional little “parties.” Lottie loved the attention. Sue was right in the middle of this ministry.

When my daughter Julie became seriously affected by a neurological disease, Sue was a lifesaver. Julie was in severe pain day after day for two years while we searched for a diagnosis. Her knee “lockups” could only be relieved by sheer strength, sometimes more than I could manage alone. Her husband, Doug, took care of her at night and I took the days with Charles helping whenever he could. Sue was always ready to come and could zip over in five minutes.

Julie’s children loved Sue, especially Charles Douglas who was about five then. “Miss Sue” was really gifted at teaching and caring for little boys. One day Julie’s knees were both locked up and Charles and I together could not make them release with heat packs, therapy, and strength. We finally called 911 and promptly the ambulance arrived. When it came to going to the hospital in Tallahassee, little Charles Douglas began to cry. “I want to stay with Miss Sue. Let me stay with Miss Sue. I don’t like hospitals.” So Miss Sue had a little boy that night and Charles Douglas was happy.

Sue and her husband Cecil were members of our Sunday school class. Cecil was an excellent devil’s advocate. Whoever was teaching had to deal, from time to time, with his interesting, sometimes distracting, questions. Sue groaned aloud when Cecil began a line of questions such as whether or not Osama bin Laden could be forgiven. She would elbow Cecil and give him an evil eye, all of which spurred him on.

She pitched in to help us when folks from several churches went together in 1995 to start Grady County Baptist ESL classes. “I won’t teach,” she said, “but I’ll do just about anything else.” And she did. She rocked babies, took many pictures year after year, made peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, transported students, registered and placed students, and traveled every year to training conferences in Toccoa and Norman Park. All the students, even beginners who couldn’t understand English, loved Miss Sue. I looked forward to her coming to my house every year to clip baskets full of holly for decorating tables at the annual ESL Christmas fest.

Sue was the caretaker for several of her and Cecil’s family members but was ready any time to take others as well to the doctor, the hospital, or to the hairdresser. Once when I called her house Cecil answered. When I asked for Sue he said, “She’s out somewhere doing her thing. I have to make an appointment to talk to her. You know Sue.”

I did know Sue. If she wasn’t helping Cecil with their trout lily project or driving a pilot car for a special friend’s biking across Georgia, she’d be helping with a bridal shower or taking a cake to a shut-in. She made thirteen-layer cakes for youth fundraisers at our church and baked cookies by the dozens, even hundreds, always giving them away.

The “Cotton Lady” loved her family dearly. But a stranger might be puzzled by the disparagements she used when talking about her sons, Lofley and Dan. “I could have strangled him” or “Just wait till I get hold of him” or “knothead” were words and phrases that might spill out of her mouth at the same time she was baking a birthday cake for one of them or pulling out bragging pictures. She took great pride in being a part of the lives of her grandchildren, following one to far away swim meets and always practicing her photography on all of them. She watched her Cairo grandchildren grow up, then she and Cecil moved “back home” to Cotton where their son Dan and his family lived. “It’s time to concentrate on these children now,” she said.

When Cecil died, Sue went into high activity mode. “It’s the only way I can survive,” she said, hardening her chin to stop the tears.

In less than a year Sue herself was dying of cancer. One day when Barbara Payne, Jeani Pridgen and I went to see her, she didn’t feel like getting up but invited us all to pile up on the king size bed with her. We looked at old pictures laughing like college girls at a sleepover. We talked about how to preserve her trout lily photos. We talked about all her family–sons, grandchildren, sisters and all. One sister was with her that day ready to give her pain medication, plump her pillows, answer the phone. It was Sue’s turn to be cared for. A delightful young man Sue had mentored came by to see her. We all rallied around her. As I sat beside Sue that day I felt her gently rubbing my back. We were there to share this hard time with her but she was still ministering to us!

Though they’re gone from us for now, Sue and Cecil are still influencing us, still making a difference. Lofley reminds us often of Cecil, not just because of his red hair but his humor, although Lofley has his own unique way of telling tricky jokes. Every Sunday when I see him at church Lofley gives me a warm hug. When I told him I’d dreamed his mother came to visit me he said he dreams about her often.

Tennyson said, “I am a part of all that I have met.” Thank you, Lord, for friendships that bless us so richly!

By the way, readers outside southwest Georgia, Cotton is an unincorporated country crossing village near Pelham, Georgia.





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Thorns and Thistles


Charles and some of his half dead vines

“Look at this,” Charles says pulling foliage aside so I can see a massive formation of a vine’s origin. He’s carefully uncovered this insidious “thing” which is threatening the life and beauty of a camellia bush. He’s trying to uncover it enough that he can kill it with chemicals. Digging it out and cutting it away only encourages bits of root remaining to sprout faster.

He has been digging them out, he and Ulysses, for years. Many times I’d go out to find them gloating over some humongous armful of growth they’d extracted from the earth with pick ax, shovel, and whatever was at hand. But after months and years of removing knobs, knots and tumors only to have them come right back, he is resorting to chemicals added to the back breaking work.

There are vines that grow overnight. They really do–almost. Jack and the Beanstalk is a fairytale. No vine grows that fast. But then there’s kudzu, honeysuckle, wisteria, morning glories, and that awful vine that twists its way up through the shrubbery disguising itself amongst its host’s leaves until it’s too late for easy removal. Those are the ones that grow from globs of tubular roots as mentioned above. Charles calls them potatoes but I shudder to think of cooking and serving that potato!

Charles remarked one morning at the breakfast table that when God promised thorns and thistles after Adam and Eve’s disobedience, He really kept that promise. Thorns and thistles are a constant challenge to those who work the soil.

Some of these insidious enemies are quite beautiful when they bloom and if they are kept under control. Who would want to eradicate all morning glories? Or take the scent of honeysuckle entirely away? And what about lovely purple wisteria, its blooms drooping lushly like so many clusters of grapes? Regular pesky weeds, like dandelions and spiderwort, can be seen and battled in the open. But the vines creep out and up from the very roots of the shrubbery they threaten to throttle.

How do they even get started so close to the base of a shrub that it’s impossible to dig them completely clear without harming the camellia or azalea? Charles speculates that maybe birds drop seeds in these very inaccessible places. It’s hard to imagine these formations starting from mere seeds but maybe so. Anyway, once started, the vines put out shoots, roots, grow knobby “potatoes”, and climb quickly toward the sun waving tentacles of foliage in great victory.

One of Charles’ newest methods of “killing” is to pull vines out and away from the shrubbery, then spray those branches repeatedly. This means that when we walk around the yard we find these lanky, even snake-like, vines laid out on pavement and grass in various stages of death.

Some enemies in the plant world were intentionally brought to our country by well-meaning agronomists. I remember when my dad, along with many others, bought a starter of kudzu because it was recommended for fighting erosion and good for cattle grazing. Now north Georgia is mounded in the big-leafed wonder. It swaths the trees; it buries abandoned houses; it swallows old cars. Instead of looking for shapes in the clouds, traveling children can spy them in the massive kudzu growth: a giraffe here, an elephant there, a man in a hat, an old bent woman; a whale. Yes, some folks have discovered, in their resourcefulness, how to make walking canes out of thick gnarled vines and use vines and roots for medicinal purposes. I’ve even heard of people eating some portion of kudzu plant. But have you seen kudzu soup on a menu lately?

Wisteria and trumpet vines are so pretty growing on a trellis or, in the case of wisteria, kept trimmed in the form of a bush. But keep a sharp eye out for those sprouts that can thrust their way up a stone’s throw away from the original growth.

A gardener’s work is never finished. But the reward is a beautiful garden.

As we fight these monsters in the grass and bushes, I can’t help thinking how easy it is in our lives for bad habits, less than savory speech, and ugly thoughts to sprout and spread. And, like thorns and thistles and invasive vines, one battle does not eradicate the evil. It takes repeated applications of repentance and acceptance of God’s grace.

But as for you, be strong; don’t give up; for your work has a reward. II Chronicles 15:7

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