New Beginnings

thWhere in the world has this year gone? In some ways it has been a very long year and in some a very short year. Being retired it seems quite short… not a lot of obligations except to see the doctors more often and to add new doctors to our list. Meds that keep you a little  foggy help to make that year zoom right on by… at least what you can remember of it.

The political year seemed like five or six years… I didn’t think it would ever end. Perhaps with the Russian investigation it may still be going on for some time to come.

An end is always followed by a beginning… at least it has been that way so far as I can remember.  There is a saying I use with my family… when we are speaking about a loaf of bread. What do you call the pieces on each end? Most everyone I know call them “end” pieces. My point is why do we do that? They could just as well be called “beginning” pieces.

It could be kinda like New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day… one is an end and the other is a new beginning. I kinda like that thought… the closing of one door and the opening of a new door of great expectations.

This past year found me not at my best. I let the negative of the election bring me down to its level. I could not believe what was being said, what had been done and what was happing in the now. I could not believe how the American people could vote for a person who was a bigot, an admitted molester of women who said he did not respect them. My only justification is that I believe the vote was not for Trump but for the Supreme Court Justices and Roe vs Wade.

Well, the end is that the election is over and we have a new person who will be President of the United States. The new beginning is what we do with next year. Will we join in the accountable support of the new President or continue to hold the grudge and fight the battles. I plan to give the new President a chance. I hope he will succeed in making America a “Better” place for ALL PEOPLE.

My prayer is that both parties will come together and work together for making America a better place for all our people… that we do, indeed, have a new beginning. Pray for a NEW BEGINNING!

 Perhaps there are new beginnings in my books. Give a look see…

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Christmas Eve


Myers Park UMC

Eventide is the night before something really important is going to take place. Eventide sounds like one of those theological words all dressed up and ready for use in the sacred places reserved for all of God’s people. To me it speaks not the excitement of a Christmas Eve where we are awaiting toys, great gifts, or even traveling over to grandma’s house to see all the rest of the family (and that was fun way back when).

Eventide for me speaks of another side of the evening before Christmas… it is the quiet, thoughtful, introspective time when we travel deep inside ourselves to contemplate the meaning of tonight and tomorrow on our own lives and the lives of the world. I spent forty years as the pastor of a church. For many of those years we would do one of two things; either a Christmas Eve Candlelight Service or drop in family communion. I loved them both. But the drop in Family Communion gave me more time to just ponder the eventide and prepare my soul for the happenings of the next day.

After Communion had ended I would spend some quiet time in a soft chair in the living room getting lost in the lights of the Christmas tree. After an hour or so of that special time I would move on to finishing off the night with worship at The Vatican. For some reason, even though not Catholic,  I enjoyed the sacredness of that time of worship. Since retiring we spend each Christmas Eve enjoying the Candlelight Service at Myers Park UMC in Charlotte. Their music is wonderful and James Howell (Senior Pastor) always inspires and challenges me to be more like Jesus.

If there ever was a time to ponder the real meaning of Christmas for us and for the world it is this year. The world today seems not all that different from the world into which Jesus was born; Political strife and corruption, factions of all sorts seeking to come into power, people subjected to the rule of the powerful, life having little or no meaning to a large number of folks, and people yearning for hope… crying out for hope in the Messiah.

I know I need to ponder deeply… because I am letting too much of this mad, mad, mad world into my brain, my heart and my behavior. I need God born in me again this Eventide and this Christmastide… that it the only way I can change. My prayer for us is found in these very simple words:

O holy Child of Bethlehem
Descend to us, we pray
Cast out our sin and enter in
Be born to us today
We hear the Christmas angels
The great glad tidings tell
O come to us, abide with us
Our Lord Emmanuel

Merry Christmas


More simple words and thoughts are found in my books on line. I hope you will take the time to ponder them.


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Something Tastes Funny

thFood has always been an important part of any celebration or gathering of the Martin, Sechrist, Melvin clan. You simply couldn’t do it properly without food. Back in the olden days (sounds like the Lone Ranger should come riding out of the pages… save that for another time) we would have the huge spread, table busting, buzzard attracting reunions on these long, long, long planks (tables) that connected most of the trees in the backyard of the church… or the front yard of Uncle Tommy Moore’s old farm house in Stuart, Virginia, or food in the kitchen, back porch, and screened in porch at Mama Martin’s house in Mayodan.

Those were some very happy days. Even we kids just loved the food and everybody laughing and telling stories of how life had been for them since the last reunion. We just missed the Martin-Sechrist reunion back in early December. I wasn’t feeling well at all, and my cousin Kenny’s step-son was taken to Duke for a bleeding brain tumor. Several went to Durham to be with them. He has since gone on to heaven.

I also remember how the responsibilities and locations of the reunions and other celebrations changed as some of the younger ones took their turn as Reunion Celebration Activities Directors. My immediate family (being in ministry and always working while everyone else was celebrating) fell out of the loop for the Martin reunion. The Melvin’s, as far as I know, did not gather for reunions, but the Bruce’s and McGehee’s did up until there were not enough left.

When we lived in Asheboro (mid 90’s), all Shirley’s grandparents were no longer with us, 13213716aunts, uncles and cousins were scattered from Tennessee, Texas, New England, and Georgia. We just didn’t get together that much – the linchpin; her grandmother and grandfather were not there to bring everyone home. The responsibilities of the Thanksgiving and Christmas meal had now fallen to Shirley. We had a parsonage large enough to accommodate everyone and a formal dinning room able to seat everyone.

One year on Thanksgiving Eve Shirley had two tickets for a basketball game in Cameron. She and Stephen (our son) headed off for Duke while Shirley’s mom, Margie and I were left to fix the potato salad and the sweet potato casserole. Needless to say, Julia Chiles did not show up that night nor answer the phone. I allowed the potatoes to scorch a bit….(UNDERSTATEMENT) Margie and I laughed as we decided not to reveal our big secret. We worked hard that night getting the black burned spots off of and out of both sets of potatoes. We added the mustard, mayonnaise, sweet pickles and onions for the potato salad, and all the sweet stuff for the sweet potatoes, baked the casserole and put the salad in the fridge.

We aired out the house and until there was no oder that would give away our secret. Shirley and Stephen arrived back after midnight. All of OUR stuff was ready… nicely covered in the fridge. The people started arriving around ten the next morning. We gathered round the table, the blessing was said, small talk had given way to eyes that were searching out the next big spoonful of something delicious. And then it happened. Shirley said right out loud: “This potato salad tastes a little funny.” Margie and I looked at each other and just grinned. I think I responded with something like; “Do you think we got too much mustard in it?” Shirley quickly added: “No, It tastes burned!” Margie and I appeared shocked for a second and then bursted out laughing, sharing the big reveal. Everyone got a big laugh out of that… but I don’t think they ate any more of our original country-fried potato salad.

For some strange reason Margie and I were not called to potato duty for quite some time. Since then we have blown tradition out the window. Instead of hours and hours of work at someone’s home usually by the woman of the house, we have ordered ready made meals, turkey and ham with all the fixings from Salem Kitchen in Winston or the Moose Caffe at the Farmer’s Market, we have gone out to Kanes and Walkers at Myrtle Beach, visited that place in Sophia that Richard Petty likes so much. Only recently have we come back home with the adjusted tradition. Now the three men of the family wait for the three ladies of the family to tell us what to do, how to do it, when to do it, and why we should do it faster. Everyone is happy.

I hope you have enough food for Christmas… burned or regular. But more than that I hope you have family and friends with whom you can share some of this day. Yes, the food is important… but sharing our hearts is a much greater gift.

Merry Christmas


Only 75 more showings of “The Christmas Story” with Ralphie before

The Big Wait

Well, as usual, Shirley is out shopping and I am at home doing what old people do at home, not a whole lot of anything. Sitting here with my cup of joe and starting this blog. Soon Kenny (the handyman) will be here with me finishing up the framing of the kitchen door. I got to thinking that this almost month long ordeal has turned into quiet a wait. At times this wait was disappointing, at times downright frustrating, and others the excitement grows as we near the completion of the long wait.

I remember way, way, I mean way back, when we children “waited for Christmas.” Those old enough will rem87b8ae2b641c79ea92f6694baa45cc10ember the Christmas season ritual of the child. It all started with the famous SEARS CHRISTMAS TOY CATALOG. I can’t begin to explain what a BIG, BIG deal that was. My brother and I would (reluctantly) take turns looking, staring, dreaming into and about the stuff in that holy book. It seemed that most of November and December was spent looking through that book a thousand times. The pictures drew us right into the scenes of whatever joy and excitement that particular toy was to provide.

Now the second most popular book at Christmas was the Lionel Train Book. These two books kept the kids of the world busy. In writing this story I even found a Sears Catalog from Japan with Godzilla on the front cover. Never knew theyf6b3880dd36743b80e0b1ea0eabf7bcf had one of these. But didn’t those trains look beautiful as they took us to new places all over the United States, especially if there was smoke coming out of the engine?

This is the season of waiting for that which will speak to our needs, desires, successes and failures. We wait not for something from a toy catalog that will make us happy as long as it doesn’t break. No, we are looking for something that is permanent, eternal, real and everlasting… something that will bring about real change deep inside where we really live and move and have our being.

Santa says: “I’m making a list, checking it twice to see if you have been naughty or nice.” Our receiving a gift… the one we have wished for, dreamed of depends on how well we have measured up… fulfilled the law. Jesus comes and takes all that burden on himself as He touches human life… all of human life with His Wonderful, Life-Giving GRACE. It is a grace that is wonderful and amazing which is for us personally and last from everlasting to everlasting.

Sears can’t do it! Lionel can’t do it! But Jesus can. Pay attention. Wait for the gift He brings to your soul.

Merry Christmas!


I know you can find the Grace of Jesus Christ in all my books. Hope you will take a look on line:


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Fridge Has Been Moved!

img_6283Last night I ranted on and on about the new fridge I bought Shirley for Christmas… and how it was stationed in our living room because someone forgot to measure and purchased a fridge so big it would not go through the kitchen door. Several people had been there to help get it through the door (Sears people the last ones would not even try).

Today Kenny came back to make the opening a little larger. He took out another inch or so of door space and he and his brother moved that big ‘ole fridge into the kitchen. Now the big ‘ole fridge in the kitchen looks like a walk-in fridge. But… Hey… it is in the kitchen.

We have placed our moveable food back in the fridge, run several cups of water through the water dispenser, turned on the ice maker and set the ice style to crunched… my kind of ice. I was disappointed to find that the first make of ice takes 12 to 24 hours… boooo.

One of the things I have found is that whenever you get something new there is a learning curve. Yep, you have to relearn how you have done this whatever for as long as you have been doing it. That is what Shirley sorely dislikes about cell phones, computers and automatic updates. It changes the stuff she likes from the way she is use to using that application to a new application or a new way.

Well, on this fridge, I assume we do what we have always done… put food in and take food out. Push a lever and get ice or water. However, this thing has a lot of lights and buttons that set temps for each section, checks air and water filters… but will not give you change for a dollar? I know that we will learn how to operate this monster, and that will be an accomplishment at our age.

The description of a true Marine is that they innovate, adapt and overcome. We may have to use some Marine logic on this fridge. But, you know, life has been teaching us to innovate, adapt and overcome for 70 years now. Sometimes we have done that well and other times proved that we were not up to the job. That is life for all of us.

Whatever you may be facing during this time of the year… particularly this year may very well be more difficult than any you have faced so far. But, as God walks with you everyday of your journey, He will see you through all the doors that are too small, help you get that big 800 pound gorilla out of your living space, and bring you the peace your soul longs to experience. Advent (Pay Attention to Jesus) is the time for close walking, hand holding and soul searching. May you find the Peace of God which surrounds your every moment.

I pray that you will find in my books examples and experiences of the Peace of God. My books can be found on Amazon and Barnes & Nobles.


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Welcomed Interruption!

dscn0713A few weeks ago I had this very bright and loving idea… I would buy Shirley a new refrigerator for Christmas. We have had the old one for a few years and it doesn’t make or crush ice very well. She and I are walking around Sears one evening (while these things just happen to be on sale) and I spotted one I thought was perfect. It was stainless steel, had french upper doors, one middle drawer for wine and other drinks or whatever you will like to store there. The bottom drawer is the freezer. I liked what it did. I liked the way it looked. I even liked the size. We made the deal and waited for the delivery.

The first two delivery dates were postponed because of something somewhere in some factory or warehouse. It was finally delivered on December 6. And guess what? That beautiful new refrigerator that looked so good in the store… so perfect in the store… was too big to go through our kitchen door… yes, even with the doors off.

In a panic we called friends who knew about that stuff and they told us it would take a long time… no word from them yet. We called the man the installer said was good at this sort of stuff. He came that day at 5pm and worked till after 6pm widening the opening of our kitchen door. The plan was to call him when Sears came back to complete the installation. Today – December 13 at 4pm they showed up and told Shirley that the opening was STILL TO SMALL!!! You see there are these little plastic things that stick out when you remove the drawers which will not let this fridge pass through the eye of this needle.

Tomorrow afternoon Kenny is coming back out and I GUARANTEE this time the hole will be BIG enough. I am tired of the fridge setting in my living room. We may have a great room when he is finished… but the fridge will be in the section of the house named KITCHEN.

With that as our day, this evening we headed to SEMS for Abby’s Winter Choral Concert. We get there a little late and there are no handicapped parking spaces… and with my inability to walk much this posed a problem. Well, about two rows over in an adjacent parking lot I spied an empty place (not a space but a place). A space is a marked parking space while a place is a spot on or near the pavement where you can park but it is not a parking space. It causes funny looks, even stares and sometimes a lot of people clearing their throats. I am sorry I did that… but any further away and I would not have been able to get to the auditorium. That is my story and I am sticking to it…

Luckily, Joy and Stephen saved us seats inside. We found our places and sat down. Behind us is this little boy… I would say maybe 3 years old who is making a little noise. At the beginning of the concert they make the announcements about phones off, no using electronic devices, no cameras with flash photography… do all you can to not disturb those around you or keep them from enjoying the concert.

This little boy made singing sounds throughout the concert… mostly between the selections sung by the choral groups. But this was one of those times when you simply could not say anything to the mom or the little boy. In a low tone… almost a whisper he was singing: “Jesus Loves Me This I Know.”

That little boy made the Winter (Christmas) Concert at Southeast Middle School. He brightened up my day. I hope this word will do the same for you. Jesus Loves You!

Grace and Peace


I hope you will find Jesus Loves You in my books…

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A “Remember Pear Harbor” Kinda Forgiveness!

157229372Every December 7th I simply must stop and remember the sacrifice, courage, and gallantry of those American service men stationed at Pearl Harbor. I remember Sunday mornings on a Naval Base. The day is slowed down and if you were on liberty or not on duty at 8:00am that morning you were probably enjoying a beautiful, sun filled day in paradise. You must admit… it just doesn’t get any better than Sunday morning in Hawaii.

Most of these men (not on duty) were probably just finishing a lazy breakfast in the galley. Heading topside to enjoy the morning breeze as you write a letter home to your wife. Others (anchored away from the dock) are waiting for the skiffs to come along side to take you into the docks for a trip into town. When I was on ship I just loved sitting on a locker box affixed to the bulkhead on the side of the starboard bow. I would just lean back, look at the ocean, feel the warm breeze. Oh my, it was breath taking.

You must imagine how peaceful and serene this picture was, and how totally unaware these sailors were to anything that might bring them harm… much less bombs being dropped on their ships… bombs so large that they sunk all the battleships before they could get underway.

One moment there is peace and the very next second bombs are dropping and ships blowing up all around you. One moment you were safe in the gentle breeze of paradise and the next you are being blown into a sea full of oil, gas, flames and black choking smoke. One moment you have it all together and the next there are body parts of your friends all over the place. You are in SHOCK! Your mind is set on liberty mode. Your dress is casual liberty dress. You are in down time mode. And all of a sudden you are at war: At war in flip-flops and a flowery shirt.

Many awards were earned that day (15 Congressional Medals of Honor, Navy Crosses, Silver and Bronze Stars, and over 3,400 Purple Hearts… 2335 men were killed… 1143 wounded…) to men who were able to adjust their minds quickly from lazy Sunday liberty to kill those bastards before they kill you. One such quick thinking young sailor was a porter in the Captain’s mess (Dorie Miller), who without any training whatsoever, runs out on deck of the USS West Virginia, mans an anti-aircraft station and begins to shoot down Japanese planes. He also rescued many sailors who would have otherwise died… even rescuing his mortally wounded Captain. He was awarded the Navy Cross.

Military men of our generation who have fought in war look back on these men, the times in which they lived, the circumstances under which they fought and we are in awe of their courage, valor and bravery. We honor them all because we have seen what their war was like… what they experienced. What they saw. It is absolutely amazing that the men who fought on those Pacific Islands were ever able to function again in civilian life… it was that horrible. It was so horrible… the viciousness and unbridled evil of the Japanese soldier these men faced in places like Iwo Jima, Tarawa, Guadalcanal, Philippians, and Okinawa. The fierce nature of  battles like these… the  Japanese determination to never surrender but sacrifice their own women and children in the battles made it necessary for President Truman to use the Nuclear bombs. Okinawa was the next to last battle of the Pacific campaign. Soon (within weeks) the United States would be sending our men to face the Japanese in Japan proper. The estimations were that 100,000 U.S soldiers would lose their lives in those battles. The bombs ended the war in just a few weeks without the loss of American lives.

Back in 2012 the National Parks Service along with the military service organizations, who help to keep the memory of Pear Harbor alive, decided to invite back to the December 7th Memorial Celebration, the Japanese pilots who were involved in the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor. This gesture was NOT received well by many on both sides… others were ready for it and needed it. I remember hearing the story of a Marine aboard one of the ships in the harbor that day who suffered burns over much of his body. He went through many, many years of very painful surgeries and procedures. He said he could not and would not forgive them for what they did. Other men on both sides found common ground for forgiveness and a way forward.

I experienced a little of that feeling of confusion when we normalized relations with North Vietnam… asking what then was the purpose… all these young men dying “For Their Country” and now we are buying clothing an other goods made in the country of our enemy by the children of people who were killing us??? I can’t imagine a mother who has grieved the loss of her son for forty years… now she stands before the Wall in Washington and asks why did this have to happen? Was it all just a waste?

For me it has just added strength to my conclusion that war settles absolutely nothing… except people are dead who shouldn’t be dead. I think I have forgiven my enemy and my own country for the Vietnam War… even though I really don’t understand. I do know I have no interest whatsoever in going back. I am done with that… except for the nights it creeps into my dreams.

My experience in Vietnam is really inconsequential to the experience of the soldier, Sailor, Airman and Marine of the Pacific Theater in WWII. If the men of that era can forgive so should I. Perhaps what we all need in today’s world with all that is going on is to witness one of these old salts of WWII to forgive with a “Remember Pearl Harbor” kinda of forgiveness. Maybe then we will see a path to real forgiveness to all around us.

Examples of our need to forgive and be forgiven are found throughout my books. I hope they will help us all find the way through. You can find them on-line at


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Off The Line

thWe have some friends, Pat and Ron, from our car rider line at Southeast Middle School. At least four days a week we park next to each other (if we can) while waiting for our grandkids. Now, I’ve got to warn you about Pat and Ron… they are UNC fans, have a grandson who plays football (#60) for UNC, have UNC stickers on their car (on the outside so people can see them) and Ron wears a UNC ball cap every… I mean EVERY SINGLE DAY.

They are nice people and we love to talk with them. We sit there and talk about most everything except politics. Usually it has to do with what bad drivers all the other parents are and how they get on their cell phones before they get out of the parking lot which has 6th, 7th and 8th graders all over the place… it is just too unsafe. But that is the 2016 crazy world.

thToday the conversation went something like this: Pat says to Shirley. Got your Christmas shopping done yet? Not all. Still got a few things yet to find. I just don’t want to get in all those crowds out there shopping. Pat responds; Yea, I know. I did a lot of my shopping “off line.” I heard her say that and wasn’t really sure what she meant. Then she clarified it by saying; “I got so and so’s present off the line.” I just grinned as I pictured Pat out at the clothes line “getting presents off the line.”

We all, as we get older, experience something I call word dropsy or identification confusion. Well that is the way it seems to happen to me. Sometimes I will get so hung up on one syllable in a word that it takes a while to pronounce it correctly. Other times I will misidentify something I have known for years or some new thing I have only heard about.

Here is the real fun part. Add poor hearing to the mix and the wonderful world of words becomes a hoot and a half. Shirley and I can be watching TV and we will hear something said on a program or commercial and immediately look at each other and together say; “What did he say?” There are times I know they could not have said what I thought I heard… they don’t allow that on network TV.

Have you ever got something off the line? Have you ever gotten words a little mixed up? Having problems with your hearing? If you are don’t worry, it will get worse. So what do you do? Learn how to laugh at yourself and enjoy the moment. Laugh so hard that you wet your pants. That will give you even more to laugh about.

We haven’t purchased all our son’s gifts yet. I think tomorrow afternoon we will go out to the clothes line and get something off the line. Maybe we’ll run into you there?

I have some funny, down to earth happenings in all my books. Hope you will take a look. They are actually ON-LINE at:

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Let There Be Peace

He shall judge between the nations, and shall arbitrate for many peoples; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. O house of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of the LORD! Isaiah 2:4-5

thWe begin our devotional time together early in Advent… that time of heightened anticipated waiting for the fulfillment of the promise of the prophet. One of the criteria of the fulfillment of that prophecy of the coming of the Lord would be that God would arbitrate between the nations. Wow! This could be the headlines of this morning’s newspaper: “World’s people call for the United States, South and North Korea to call on the Lord to arbitrate their differences before war breaks out again.” Yesterday on the national news I noticed some persons peacefully protesting (I think here in the U.S.) what they believed could escalate into another Korean War. This one man fought in Korea and didn’t want any more young men and women to die in a war there. The United Nations garden contains several sculptures and statues that have been donated by different countries. This one is called “Let Us Beat Swords into Plowshares” and was a gift from the then Soviet Union presented in 1959. The bronze statue represents the figure of a man holding a hammer in one hand and, in the other, a sword which he is making into a plowshare, symbolizing humanities’ desire to put an end to war and convert the means of destruction into creative tools for the benefit of all people.

Isn’t that our prayer in the anticipation of what tomorrow might bring? Don’t we gather on God’s mountain and pray that ALL WAR SHALL END? O how we long for the Prince of Peace, the Savior, the Redeemer, the King of Kings to cover this earth with grace and peace.

It matters not your political persuasion. What matters is that we rise above our small mindedness and bullying to embrace the world – God’s world – God’s people – in the arms of peace. Come, Lord Jesus, and bring peace to a world filled with hate Amen.

I hope you will find peace in my writings. You can find them on:


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