Monthly Archives: April 2021

Epoch Times

My husband is a newspaper reader. For many years we’ve been subscribers to the Thomasville Times-Enterprise. Part of every morning’s routine for Charles was to pull that paper from the box and read the headlines while walking back to the house. He’d then read every bit of it that night, sharing news, cartoons, and obituaries with me while I knitted. It was really a shock when, during the Covid year, the Times announced it would no longer be a daily and, in addition, would no longer be delivered to our box. We would receive the paper in our mail three times a week. We still enjoy it and depend on it but now our news is always a day or two old.

About the same time the Thomasville paper made such a drastic change we received a sample of a paper called Epoch Times. It is only a weekly paper but is rich in editorials, feature stories, historical essays, national news, and much more. It is a conservative paper giving readers much opportunity to see both sides of political views.

We subscribed and have both enjoyed and been enlightened by this refreshing newspaper. Let me tell you a little of what you will find in its pages.

If you’re basically a front page and headline reader, as I am, you’ll notice articles such as “UNACCOPANIED MINOR CRISIS SPARKS FEAR OF MS-13 RESURGENCE,” “BIDEN’S GUN LEGISLATION AGENDA RAISES RED FLAGS FOR RIGHTS GROUPS,” “ATTACK ON HONG KONG EPOCH TIMES’ PRINTING PRESS DRAWS INTERNATIONAL CONDEMNATION,” and “GOP SENATE CANDIDATE IN PENNSYLVANIA SAYS SHE WILL BACK CONGRESSIONAL TERM LIMITS.” A chilling between-columns plug says “Collecting Americans’ Data a Priority for China’s Communist Party.” The main headline on the March 31-April 6 edition reads: “CCP Adviser Revealed Detailed Plan to Defeat United States.”

But there’s much, much more to this paper that sparked my interest. One week in the “Life and Traditions” section, there was a lengthy feature story on American inventors. Though Ben Franklin and Thomas Edison were big names on the list, this writer also pointed out the marvelous input of unnamed inventors of chewing gum, drawers, mirrors, cell phones, dishes, magnifying glasses and on and on. “…I do know,” the writer, Jeff Minick, says, “that all of these spring from one source: human ingenuity.”

In that same section is the astonishing account of how a baby girl left to die in a garbage bin was rescued, nursed to health, and later adopted into a loving family. Morgan Hill now says “If my story saves at least one life, it was worth telling and I believe it has saved many.” She is now working to save the lives of infants by making people aware of the “safe haven law.” Instead of abortion or leaving a baby in a trash dumpster, mothers can place their newborn in a “haven” attached to the outside of fire stations in many communities. An alarm, after a few minutes, goes off inside so firemen know to rescue the baby. Morgan Hill is now 26, a beautiful young woman, pictured with her adoptive mother, the man who heard her cry and rescued her, and the nurse who cared for her.

Sections on “Mind and Body,” “Opinion and Business,” and even a comic page are very captivating even for this “only the front page” girl. In the April 14-20 edition the “Life and Tradition” section had a fascinating article on what it means to be a “Vessel” for music. In that same section was an article revealing prophecies and very studied warnings by Frenchman Alexis de Tocqueville. Even two centuries after he wrote them his words are stirring and apropos: “Freedom is such a normal concept in American thought and rhetoric that the idea that our system could become tyrannical ‘with unusual ease’ makes us incredulous.”

I really liked the article about Tom Cornish, U.S. Navy volunteer during World War II and now 96 years old. He is a knitter! During the pandemic he has knitted more than 500 woolen hats for the Salvation Army. He says he intends to make hats “until I take my last breath.”

In almost every issue there is an article by an artist analyst along with painting or paintings he/she is writing about. Near Easter the painting was “Christ in the Wilderness” by Russian painter Ivan Nikolaevisch Kramsky. A more recent issue included an analysis of several paintings depicting the story of St. Peter’s supernatural release from prison.

At the bottom of the first page Epoch Times gives its history and purpose: “Founded in 2000 as an independent newspaper with the goal to restore accuracy and integrity in media. We have received numerous rewards for reporting, including from the Society of Professional Journalists, The Society for News Design, and the New York Press Association.”

Though we, of course, value highly our local papers The Thomasville Times-Enterprise and The Cairo Messenger, Charles and I recommend this paper, Epoch Times, to all who are seeking “Truth and Tradition.” As much as I might like to hide from all the frightening news these days, I know the Lord expects us to be wise, not ignore the rumblings of tyranny and socialism but to stand up for individualism and for constitutional rights. We believe this paper is dedicated to giving us the truth no matter how grim, but at the same time lightening our lives with good news too.

Quoting Tocqueville again: Freedom is such a normal concept in American thought and rhetoric that the idea that our system could become tyrannical ‘with unusual ease’ makes us incredulous.

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Popcorn Picnic

Children help us step outside the box of traditions and take on a new perspective. They give us a new outlook on the ordinary. They give us laughter and make our hearts light.

One blustery March day when hot chocolate seemed like a good snack, my two great grandchildren said, “Let’s have a picnic!” Now, I’m up for a picnic almost anytime, but that day really didn’t seem like a picnic day. But I asked what they wanted for their picnic. The answer was popcorn.

A popcorn picnic on a cool breezy day?

A picnic is a pleasant, fun, event more often associated with summer. You may think of a picnic by the sea or a picnic in the mountains, or a picnic in the park. But of course a picnic can be anywhere you spread out a blanket, or settle around a table for that matter. Just call it a picnic and it’s a picnic! You may think of PBJ sandwiches or pimiento cheese. You think of stuffed eggs and fried chicken. You think of crisp cookies and potato chips, maybe apples or bananas. But I think this was the first time we’ve had a popcorn picnic.

When I think of popcorn I think of the exciting sound of the popping, the buttery smell, the fluffy mounds of snowy kernels magically made from those hard little seeds. The warm friendly smell reminds me of the theater, a good movie with family members. It reminds me of going to a country fair, fun at a fall festival, and football games. I remember my parents popping corn in a corn popper held over an open fire. It was a rare occasion when we had popcorn and thus a very special one. The popper was a contraption with a pan that was closed and could swivel on long handles, turning upside down and right again as the corn began to pop. Daddy joked that the popping corn was the sound of soldiers firing away inside the pan.

Charli found the bright beach towel I sent her for, Kaison hauled a packet of popcorn out of the pantry. With some bickering they popped the corn, poured it in bowls, and headed out to a nice grassy place near the mulberry tree. Munching on popcorn and sipping sodas, they were happier than clams on the seashore. They tossed kernels in the air and tried to catch them in their mouths. It was nice no one would have to sweep popcorn from the den floor! I huddled, shivering, on a bench nearby, joining in their chatter and a guessing game or two, then watched them play badminton. They didn’t worry about the wind blowing the birdie in all directions, just thought it was funny.

On another day when summer had invaded spring Kaison disappeared for much too long and I went hunting for him. I finally realized that the odd pile of pillows on the couch was his fort and he was inside it. That fort, as it turned out, was a hiding place for Kaison to play his cell phone games, free from shadowy glares and free from Nana’s prompting to “go outside and play.” When he emerged from his seclusion he was drenched with sweat.

We’ve learned never to throw away a big box if there are children who can enjoy it for a day. That box becomes a fort, a theater, a playhouse, and even a monster’s mansion. Though sturdy treehouses can be very nice, don’t discount the fun two lively children can have in a cattle trailer. An old fashioned lawnmower, relic of quieter days with no motor, becomes a source of great entertainment even for kids who have dirt bikes and four-wheelers at home. And oh, the fun they can have with a box of chalk and an asphalt driveway.

Some of their ideas don’t work, such as trying to catch butterflies in January or climbing a tree in flip flops. Some attempts have to be thwarted by stuffy adults for being too risky, like chasing each other with six foot bamboo swords.

It’s a good thing, though, to listen to the children’s proposals, such as a popcorn picnic. You can learn a lot. And just maybe you’ll have a chance to share one of your own bits of wisdom or even fit their energy to accomplishing a chore, like picking up pine cones or pulling weeds.

Considering the inventiveness and freshness of children’s play, I’m reminded of the cartoon Charles shared the other day. A little boy says to his father, “When I grow up my shoes will be bigger. I’ll have longer laces so you won’t have so much trouble tying them for me, Dad.”

Robert Louis Stevenson was one of those fortunate people who never did grow up, at least not in attitude. He wrote this poem for his book “A Child’s Garden of Verses”:

“When I am grown to man’s estate

I shall be very proud and great,

And tell the other girls and boys

Not to meddle with my toys.”


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The Lonely Heron

The lonely heron (or egret) stood at the edge of the water, long spindly legs supporting his perfectly white feathered body, his ess curved neck turning occasionally with calm deliberation. His long sharp beak must have ignited fear in every little mud scrambler or water creature, although they didn’t have to fear for long. He was so quick at snatching a morsel of dinner you would hardly notice.

There were a few ducks nearby, such different fowl from the heron. They swam and feasted, sometimes simultaneously, moving effortlessly from one area to another. The ducks were playful, pestering each other, diving head first into the cloudy water and coming up a distance away. The tall heron was silent and stood for long minutes as still as one of the sweetgum trees or oaks nearby, only his alert eyes seeming to move at all.

On the other side of a wide boardwalk, gliding towards the deep water, were black and gray Canada geese. Perhaps less playful than the ducks, they still were noisy and opinionated, asserting their claim to the lake. They were sociable, communicating with each other. Three more geese flew in from the other side of the lake, slicing smoothly into the water’s surface and instantly becoming part of the party.

Still, the heron kept watch, only moving a few feet occasionally along the edge of the water, sometimes in the water, yellow legs making squiggly reflections, sometimes on the shore. He seemed preoccupied as if he were studying to make a long speech. Then, like a snake striking, he would bend his long neck and spear a fish or frog pulling them neatly out of the lake, barely disturbing the surface.

There were several kinds of ducks, some dark brown, some almost golden, some male Mallards with unbelievably colorful markings–glistening green heads, a brown bib, as well as black and gray feathers along their backs. The mama Mallards are just as pretty in a much more subtle way. There weren’t many white ducks but two or three pair. They swam and foraged for water weeds and rested together not mixing with other ducks, or with the geese, or trying to converse with the silent heron.

Why was that heron all alone? Every time we went to Lake Cherokee (about once a week during the long Covid year) we could depend on seeing him there in the same location, all alone, no other heron to keep him company. I use the male pronoun, though I have no idea what sex the heron is. Maybe it was a she all alone with no one to tell her whether or not her feathers were smooth or to tell her troubles to. Whichever sex, why were there no other herons? When we had Covid we were absent from the lake for several weeks. When we went back, there was that heron, the only one of his kind, still fishing the same corner of the lake.

With my penchant for romance, I rushed to assume that herons mate for life, that the mate of this one had died, and that this lonely widow or widower stalked the shores or took flight across the tiny inlet, day by day, year by year, sad and grief stricken.

Then I decided to learn more about this lovely, sad, amazing bird.

I haven’t by any means done an exhaustive study but here are a few facts I have gleaned.

The great heron, great egret, snowy egret, and blue heron all have a wingspan of 4.3 to 5.6 feet and stand three to four feet tall. It is very hard for an amateur to distinguish between some of these herons and egrets so I’m not sure my lonely bird is a great heron or a great egret but I know it is great! Some have long thick yellow beaks and yellow legs, some have dark beaks and legs. Some grow beautiful plumes during mating season. The majestic great blue heron is colorful, but most of the egrets and herons are white, some snowier than others.

During mating season herons pair off though there’s no proof they mate for life. The male builds the nest in the top of a very sturdy tree, usually near water. Sometimes he lets his mate help him finish the job. Maybe she does the decorating! The nest is about four feet wide and a foot deep, quite a structure. And they reportedly do not use their nest again. What a waste! Heron eggs are about as big around as a chicken egg but longer. Egret eggs are a bit smaller.

Only a few of the young ones survive, not so much because of predators like hawks or foxes, but because the herons and egrets are very bad at siblicide. Yes, they are very agressive chicks, and very jealous too, and they eat each other.

Those plumes that herons grow during mating season? They are stunningly beautiful, I guess. My heron (or egret) only has a few dark plumes at the back of his neck. But the showy ones grow on the bird’s back. These plumes became cause for near distinction of the bird in the 19th and 20th centuries. Ladies loved to have those plumes in their hats and would pay a good price for them. But, happily for the herons, by 1910 it became illegal to hunt them. The Audubon Society was founded to protect birds from feather hunters.

Herons and egrets do migrate, always in flocks, but in the southeast U.S. they stay year round.

Almost everything I’ve read indicates that the heron belongs to a very sociable species, one whose members nest often in colonies, who fly together to migrate, and who, though silent unless very disturbed, seem to communicate with each other.

So why is this Cherokee Lake heron/egret always alone? I observed him week by week for months and always he was a loner. Yesterday Charles and I had the opportunity to drive over to Cherokee Lake, the first time in several weeks. I eagerly looked along the edges of the little inlet but he wasn’t there. We studied the shores for the tall white graceful bird but there was no sign of him. Geese and ducks were everywhere but no heron.

Was he in grieving and finally found another mate? Was he ostracized but finally welcomed back? Had he gotten lost somehow?

One thing is clear: he was a beautiful creation. He will never know how much pleasure he gave people just by being there in his little corner of the world, doing what he knew how to do, fishing and being beautiful. Wherever he is now, I hope he’s doing the same–except maybe now he has a mate, maybe a friend or two.

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Lost in the Wilderness

I had never before experienced such a dense forest. At midafternoon it was dark with only rare glimpses of sunshine glinting on the ferny forest floor. There was no trail. We (I had about five children in my care for this hike) were not far from the Willis’s house. But which way was it? The great firs and spruces I’d been so excited to see now seemed like towering monsters, every one of them looking so similar to others they weren’t good landmarks. The children were still in picnic spirits. They had no idea we were lost. I wanted to keep it that way.

Living for two weeks at the foot of snow-capped Mt. Rainier in 1964 was an experience never to be forgotten. Even now I can feel the ever cool, moist air, smell the lush ferns and other foliage, and hear the sound of children’s laughter. And I can so well picture that awe-inspiring mountain, iced with snow even in June. As a summer student missionary in Washington state under the then Baptist Home Mission Board, I was moved from assignment to assignment every two weeks. The two weeks in Packwood was a watermark time in maturing (a little bit!) this naiive girl who thought she had things under control.

Usually assigned to a church or mission, in Packwood I was assigned to help one woman put on a Vacation Bible School in a small church building no longer occupied by a church. I was told the church had disbanded because of an argument over whether or not to purchase a new pulpit, or something minor like that.

Nova Willis, a new Christian herself, felt compassion on the children growing up with no Bible teaching and responded to a Southern Baptist offer of summer help. I arrived on a Sunday evening to learn that she needed me to start the next day directing the school of all ages children, teaching the youth, leading the music, and whatever else was needed. She would teach the younger children and provide cookies and Koolade.

Quickly I learned that Nova’s husband, a nonbeliever, was only grudgingly tolerant of her zeal for teaching the children. My bed was a couch in their small living room. If I didn’t turn the light out by 9:00 I could hear Mr. Willis on the other side of a thin wall complaining to Nova about that he couldn’t sleep with a light on and what did I think I was doing up so late. He was a logger and left the house at 4:00 every morning.

In addition to Nova and her husband a lively occupant of the house was their four-year-old daughter who loved to play with me as long as she was awake. I was glad I hadn’t taken her with us on this hike. No one was under eight years old and could walk on their own quite well. But, apparently, none of these children, though they lived nearby, knew the forest very well. My subtle attempts to get a sense of direction from them proved totally ineffective.

I directed the children to sit down amongst the tall sweet smelling ferns. We’d learn a Bible verse, sing a song, and just talk about things they liked to do. And maybe I would figure out which way was home!

Two or three of the children told me their fathers “broke brush” for a living. I had already become familiar with this term that meant picking ferns like these to ship to florists all over the nation. I learned other things as well. It turned out that the troublemaker boy who was prone to pick on whomever sat near him and had a filthy mouth lived with his grandma and hadn’t seen his parents in months. A quiet little girl confided in a whisper that she was planning to write a book.

Even the little bit of sunlight that had filtered down on us now disappeared. Was a storm coming or was it getting that late? Lord, please help me get these children safely home.

I had actually written my mother soon after my arrival in Packwood that I thought it would be fascinating to be lost in the beautiful forest. She, knowing I didn’t always exercise good judgement, wrote me by return mail: DO NOT GET LOST IN THE FOREST!

Now, here I was and the description of “fascinating” did not exactly fit my plight.

We all stood up and I led the way seeking light, seeking the edge of this vast thick woods, breathing another prayer as I walked. To keep our spirits light, I started singing “I love to go a-wandering along the mountain track…” and then, abruptly, I held up a hand for everyone to get very quiet. Ahead of us I saw a deer walking very purposefully. That was not just any deer. I had seen it evening after evening come to the Willis’s little barn to eat sweet feed with their cow. My heart thumped. We’d follow that deer and hope he was going to the Willis’s now.

I’ve never been any more thankful to the Lord than when we stepped into the light, the clearing, with the Willis house in plain sight.

There were many other experiences that two weeks to remember the rest of my life. But being lost in the wilderness taught me to understand better the pressing sense of lostness which an unbeliever experiences. Having made a commitment to Jesus when I was six years old, I had no concept of what it would be like to grow up without Him in my life. It would be worse by far than simply to be lost in the forest.

A happy ending to my two weeks in Packwood was that three little girls came to know Jesus. I pray for them even today as I do for Nova Willis and her husband. I remember his incredible kindness as he insisted I call home. He couldn’t imagine why I had gone so far away on what he considered a whimsical idea. That three-minute long-distance call to Georgia took a bite out of their budget, I know, but I was very grateful to hear my mother’s voice. I did not tell her I’d gotten lost in the forest.

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The Light Lives

This is an Easter poem I wrote as a student at Young Harris College about 1962. Sunsets and sunrises in the mountains were always breathtaking as were the season changes. One of my fondest memories is that of half our student body climbing Brasstown Bald to have a special vespers service at sunset one day. But sunsets and sunrises, wherever we enjoy them, are a testimony to the eternal hope God freely gives.

The sun is setting red flames in the sky;

A minute more they will fade, then die.

Clouds blackwinging scatter the glow;

Separate embers light a river’s dark flow.

Wind rises fatefully stirring the trees

Like dry-boned skeletons hung in the breeze.

Mountains are clad in quiet mourning;

A night owl screeches as if in scorning.

Time shows in the east a soft red lining.

See its splendour climbing, shining!

The sky is filled with glad new light

Like the old that died last night.

As dawn after dark, hope survives pain,

For a time buried, then rising again.

Bird songs explode from forest to bay,

And I must sing, too, this Easter Day.

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