“Unconditional Surrender”

     In February of 1862 the Union Army under Major General Ulysses S. Grant had positioned his forces against the  Confederate garrison at Fort Donelson, on the Cumberland  River in Tennessee. Soon after capturing Fort Henry on the Tennessee, he was now poised to capture this last bastion between his army and the very important depots at Nashville. After an unsuccessful escape attempt by the Confederate occupants under General Floyd, command had now passed to General Simon Bolivar Buckner who agreed to seek the terms of surrender with General Grant.

     General Buckner dispatched a note to Grant requesting terms and expecting some benevolence perhaps due to the fact he and the General had once been comrades. Grants terse reply became one of the great quotes of the war and help to label him as one of the great tacticians of all time….His reply was….”No terms except immediate and unconditional surrender can be accepted.”….From that day forward US Grant would come to be known as “Unconditional Surrender Grant.” 

     For those of us in advanced years, I believe we can see the wisdom in such a philosophy. No matter the obstacle, ailment or stronghold, there is no recourse but unconditional surrender. In the battle of wills there is no other alternative but that His Will, meaning God’s Will be done. For that to happen, we must remove ourselves from the equation….We must surrender our will….Easier said than done, I know by experience….After years of being witness to His guidance and blessing, it is still within me to try to act on my own…To breakout…Escape….Of course it never works.

     My friends total reliance is necessary. Unconditional Surrender to His Lordship is the only way. It has been well stated that if… ‘He is not Lord of all. He is not Lord at all’. 

“Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up” ~~ James 4:10

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A Funny Thing Happened…

     As we age, I believe the one ingredient that is absolutely necessary to sustain quality of life is laughter. Or course I mean this in addition to our faith. It is vital that we have some level of joy. For me, humor comes easy, due to the fact I am a natural klutz and it seems as though humorous situations seek me out. I am told that I get it honestly, possibly inherited from my grandfather who always seemed to find himself in a spot that was….well….funny.

      On this day Pappaw was driving back from a day of enjoying his first love….Crappie fishing on Sardis Reservoir. He had been joined by his long time fishing partner and neighbor ‘Coon’ Harris…Now I mean no disrespect to Mr. Harris but this is the only name any of us who knew him had heard him referred. He was an avid fisherman, as was my grandfather and they had spent countless hours on Sardis together. I do not recall their success this day but they were headed back through the lovely town of Holly Springs, Mississippi when the episode happened.

     Entering the city limit  following state highway 7, they were approaching the first traffic light which had accumulated a few motionless cars awaiting the light to change. As my grandfather related to me later, he applied the brakes but somehow the car seemed to gain speed….The brakes failed…. He said he remembered thinking that the brakes needed replacing. Much too late at this juncture, but he knew he had to do something to avoid a collision with the unsuspecting motorists ahead. So with a 14 foot Polar Craft Boat, equipped with a 9.8 Mercury Motor, and loaded with fishing tackle, ice, drinks, and today’s catch trailing behind…..He bailed out to the side walk!!!

     The sidewalk in this case was located a bit above the street and on a fairly steep incline and followed a raught iron fence in front of a lovely ante-bellum home for which the town is well known. His escape took him and his passenger around the bewildered drivers, down a set of concrete steps and through the intersection on an angle. He then maneuvered around the oncoming traffic, along the parallel sidewalk which thankfully was situated on a more level surface and finally re-entered the street safely after crossing back to the correct side….Leaving a trail of ice, drinks, broken tackle, boat motor fuel and a few slabs of crappie in the intersection behind…Not to mention some shocked drivers who must have wondered if they had actually seen what they had just seen.DSCN4397 - Copy

     Only then did Pappaw remember his passenger….He spit out the remainder of a King Edwards Cigar and said….”Kind of a tight spot there Coon!”….But Mr. Harris was no longer there…Somehow during the ruckus he had landed in the back seat, and was obviously grateful to be in one piece.

 “Do not sorrow for the Joy of the Lord is your strength.”  ~ Nehemiah 8:10

 

 

 

Raising the Flag

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     On this date in American History, February 23, 1945  brave men raised the Stars and Stripes atop Mt. Suribachi on the island of Iwo Jima. The iconic photo of that event, taken by photographer Joe Rosenthal ,is one of, if not the most endearing photos ever taken in a time of war. Although fighting on this tiny speck of Pacific real estate would continue for several more weeks, and cost many more casualties, the sight of our flag atop the highest point on the atoll meant that victory was certain.

     With the controversy surrounding the US flag these days, it is hard to imagine what those brave Marines would think of this generation. A generation, of whom some hold such symbols in contempt, rather than reverence or even allegiance. Can anyone who grew up in my generation and attended a school where the Pledge of Allegiance was recited and a prayer said every morning before the beginning of class…..Could you fathom a time when these things would not be a huge part of a student’s day?….I must say….I could not.

     We speak many times of giving thanks to God for small favors. One I would like to add to the list is that the majority of those brave souls of Mt. Suribachi did not live to see the irreverence and contempt toward Old Glory, that we see today….It would have broken their collective hearts….They may have asked themselves…”Is this why we gave our lives?”…I submit to my readers that contempt, irreverence, and unholy misuse of our national symbols, was not the freedom for which these men shed blood… nor was it the intent of our founders in the Second Amendment.

      This is my fervent prayer on this anniversary of that day the flag was hoisted on a rocky knoll…. That we as patriotic Americans, share our influence to those who will listen and perhaps, compel a new generation of like minded country men to love our nation and the God who brought our fore-fathers to these shores.

“If my people, who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and forgive their sins and heal their land.” ~~ II Chronicles 7:14

Rainy Days and Mondays

     There are days in our mature years that seem to lend themselves to feelings of melancholy, even depression. An old song by the ‘Carpenters’ comes to mind….”Rainy Days and Mondays”. It is a tune used as an anthem for those of us plagued by the blues or just feeling a little low, perhaps on those days when life doesn’t go our way. In my own experience, those days seem to come more frequently, the more the days accumulate on my resume.

     Why is this …or am I different from others of my age? I really don’t believe that I am quite so different….Oh my weirdness….Or uniqueness, I will call it,… is well documented….But I believe most of us go through days when we are reminded of our failures in life. We are reminded of perhaps happier, carefree days of our youth. We never thought of rainy days or Mondays….There were just days of sailing through life, unencumbered by the cares of this World. But those days do not last for ever.

     On top of our aging bodies, there are the ailments, medical conditions that affect most of us at this junction in life. Here I could go on for volumes about my own experience, but I won’t bore anyone with those details. We can compare our ‘battle scars’ another day. I have already alluded to my aching joints in a recent blog. It just seems some days that those pains compete for our attention and sometimes the competition is fierce….And we won’t even mention our prescriptions. Mine have accumulated to the point of being a small size meal in themselves. Can putting all these chemicals in my body really be good for me? Could some of the melancholy be a reaction to this intrusion?

     No doubt as we age, and the years accumulate, so will the cares of this world. Sometimes the rainy days and Mondays will be one and the same. The clouds will roll in and cause us to wonder if the sun will ever shine again….Oh believe me it will…When the storms of life press in and the rains beat down, always remember….Our Master walks on water!!!

“I will never leave you nor forsake you” ~~ Hebrews 13:5

      

The Eagle in the Mist

     Those who are blessed with an extended life collect treasures which are held so dear. Those are not corrupted by rust and decay but become more valuable with the passage of time…..Our memories of happy moments spent enjoying our favorite things….To me there was not a happier time than standing thigh deep in chilling water attempting to coax a trout to rise to my fly or be fooled by bait. It is here I am more relaxed….More me….More alive than at any other time.

     On this morning I stood thigh deep in water so clear it appeared invisible, the only color held in the fog which hovered inches above. I had barely reached my spot in the White River, just below a set of shoals and just upstream from where my brother cast. We had always fished together and enjoyed our trips to this Arkansas tail water and others. Perhaps I had made my first cast, I can’t recall……And then….

     Movement downstream drew my attention.

     Appearing in the mist, almost as an apparition, silently, gracefully, ….a Bald Eagle….made his way upstream. His white head, an immediate identifying feature. He drifted on unseen currents of air, a few feet above the shoals, every flex of his powerful wings carried him father up stream. He seemed to pay us no mind,  focusing intently for unsuspecting Rainbows….Suddenly he quickly lost altitude, dropping to within inches of the waters, his deadly talons brought to bear….Skillfully he reached into the riffles and retrieved his prey, a nice 10 inch specimen. Now wing beats came in earnest, as he rose through the fog into the morning sky, away from prying eyes.

     For a few moments I stood….Enthralled….As this magnificent  creature disappeared from sight, I knew I had been witness to a spectacle few will have the pleasure to observe. Some would call it an act of nature….I would rather say God had shown favor on me this day and shared a jewel of His creation. He had brought beauty to my day, as only He can bring. For a few moments, at least, the cares of everyday life vanished and I reflected on the event that had just taken place….The symbol of our nation, in all it’s glory, it’s grace and skill, within yards or my position.

      Attempts to catch my own trout, momentarily, took a back seat to my thoughts. I was filled with a sense of gratitude. I am certain I even bowed my head and gave thanks to my Creator for giving me this opportunity to partake in His creation….His  Great outdoors…..What a morning!!!

“Those who wait upon the Lord, shall renew their strength. They shall mount up with wings like Eagles. They shall run and not be weary. They shall walk and not faint.” ~~ Isaiah 40:3174906_438444909593237_1226272539_n

 

The Frosty Rose

     Each day I normally post some of my photos, along with Bible verses and an occasional story on social media pages. On this brisk, unusually frosty November morn I took a stroll around the yard to see if there were any photo worthy sights. Approaching my ‘Knockout Rose’, I noticed the frost had bitten it badly. A few blooms remained and those were fringed with a layer of ice crystals glistening in the morning sun. Needless to say….It was a lovely sight…..Glorious Rose petals basking in an even more glorious light of a new day….No doubt…”A Rose is a Rose”.

     It is that way with our lives, I believe. We come to our ‘Autumn’ crowned with the physical frost of age and fail to realize the ever present beauty. Like the Rose, there is the same essence of who we are, and who we have always been. Whatever the season, the conditions, the obstacles, no matter how formidable they seem….We are still that Rose in God’s eyes. It seems strange that even after years of witnessing His faithfulness, to rescue us in times of trouble, we come to our Mature years and sometimes forget how far we have come and why.

     How much better would our walk be, how easier our journey, our sleep more sound….if only….We could see ourselves as our Master… After all, He chose us….From among the grains of sand of a sea of humanity, He chose us to be His children….Because He saw a Rose where others saw the frost, the cold, the imperfection of dying petals.

     Autumn comes to all who are blessed with longevity of years. When the flower of youth is adorned in the frost of our latter years, may we always remember that we remain the Rose He has chosen. We are planted in His garden, to live our lives so others will see what it means to be a child of the King.

“The Lord bless you and keep you…” ~~ Numbers 6:24-26

 

 

Why is Age 50 So Tough?

1426604_438444899593238_160359663_n     I will never forget waking on the morning after my 5oth birthday. Why was it so different? Was it my imagination or did I hear an extra creak in a joint that had not creaked before. Surely I could not have changed so much from just a few hours earlier…..But….It seemed real… Somehow my body had gotten word it was time to feel new pains, new  strains, and new weaknesses, that had not existed in the months and years prior.

     I admit to you truthfully….It was somewhat of a shock. Memories of high-school days came flooding back. Days of playing quarterback for my high school, endless running up and down the gridiron, everlasting energy and muscles hardened by months of exercise. Now it seemed those very muscles were on the attack, and had recruited bones and joints intent on payback for my enthusiasm for sports.

      I recalled how only a few years prior, although somewhat over weight and well beyond my teenage prime, I could still out-do younger men in pursuit of Wild Turkeys in the hills of the Holly Springs National Forrest. It seemed to those who attempted to follow, shared the opinion, I was much too vigorous in my desire to harvest a gobbler who dared answer my call. To me, the pursuit was part of my exercise regimen, and one way to keep the old bones intact,… and muscles toned.

     It should not have taken me by surprise as it did, I suppose… I had observed my own father go through similar physical deteriation, beginning in his 50’s. We had always hunted and worked together. I had assumed his hesitancy to face cold, or heat, or rugged country, or assigning me chores formally his, was due to a retreating interest in such things or either a ploy to get me to do it in his stead……Now I began to understand. His body had begun to change as was mine now.  

     Ecclesiastes points out very clearly the physical changes that will come upon a man. There are seasons in our lives, much like nature and all of God’s creation. One irrefutable aspect of life is that it changes as we age… Physically, mentally, emotionally, we all change… Not to say that life becomes less joyful, but that each season of life brings its own joy, it’s own obstacles, triumphs and blessings. Those of my audience who have reached the Autumn of Life as I, will feel a level of empathy with my own struggles and perhaps draw strength and inspiration.

     Now within weeks of my 60th birthday I am filled with a sense of wonder where my journey will now lead.  Fellow travelers who wish to walk this trail with me, will I pray,  come away with a sense of the hand of God on each and every phase of their lives. Our traverse may take us to mountains or valleys, but we should always know that where-ever life may carry us…..He is already there.

 

Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”