A few days ago a dear aunt of mine died in Corryton, Tenn. Her name was Mary Lou Harless. She died where she lived for 87 years. It is the place where she was born. It is the farm her ancestor bought when he came to settle down at the end of the War of 1812. She loved this place and we who loved her loved it, too.

I knew my aunt had a real name but I always knew her as “Pug.” She was the high school sweetheart who married my uncle, R.C. Harless. He became a Baptist minister and she became, in her era, the quintessential Baptist minister’s wife. She was a total partner in ministry with him. Visiting the sick, taking flowers to cheer the lonely, cooking to strengthen the spirits. Pug and R.C. were rescuers. I can only imagine how often they would have sung through their years of ministry, an old song: “Rescue the Perishing, Care for the Dying.”

The recent occasion of Mother’s Day has stirred my mind, and I’m guessing yours, too. The commandment that we honor our fathers and mothers has a strong pull on our hearts.

Even though we know that our parents are sometimes flawed in their ability to be perfect parents, this is because they, like we children, are perfectly human. God knows this and loves us anyway. We know it, too, and therefore we celebrate Mother’s and Father’s days.

Well, we had a mild winter down in these parts. Now it’s May and temperatures are in the 80s. The warming trend is a reminder that this is a good time to warm up some old jokes.

I love old jokes. This is partly because I can remember them. My beloved Judy gets annoyed at stale old stories and leaves the room when my ministerial pals and I start telling old tales. I think I’m approaching the time when the only thing I’ll be able to remember are old jokes.

Here’s one: A high school English teacher was teaching the class about palindromes, which are words or phrases that are the same when read forward or backward. The teacher asked for an example and expected to hear “Madam I’m Adam.” However, the sharpest student quipped, “Wow.”

I am in love again. Her hair is long and jet black. She is cuddly and warm. She is approachable. She is quiet and a wonderful listener. She is friendly to strangers. She is even-tempered. She is tidy, a neat freak if I ever saw one. I haven’t known her very long but everyone who knows her sings her praises.

She is much younger than I but age is no barrier to us. Whoa! Don’t jump to any quick conclusions. She is my new cat!

Well friends, I’m ready to turn the page. As most of you know, I have spent the past four months in the hospital and in rehab centers after the removal of my left leg below the knee. It shouldn’t have taken so long to get back, but I had some complications. But now I am happily home with a brand new leg. I am so glad.

It is hard to think when you are going through something like this. I also suffered a stroke, which made it hard to communicate for awhile. I couldn’t put words together to make sentences. I soon recovered from that and can now talk the paint off the wall. I chase people around in my wheelchair until they stop and listen.

Tuesday, 18 April 2017 16:36

Spring is time to love one another

“Behold the winter is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth. The time of singing has come and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land.” The Song of Solomon, 2:11-12.

“If people did not love one another, I really don’t see what use there would be in having any spring.” Victor Hugo, Les Miserables.

“April hath put a spirit of youth in everything.” Shakespeare, Sonnet XCVII.

Easter is a good time for reality checks. As usual, most of us look at and listen to the racket around us and conclude that we live in critical times. This is what Adam must have said to Eve as they walked away from the gates of Eden: “We are living in critical times, Eve.”

This is what Caesar was telling the Roman Senate when he reported that the Gothic hordes had crossed the Danube.

George Washington surely said to his quartermaster as they trudged through the snow at Valley Forge: “These are critical times.”

Believe me; there’s no place like home! Almost five months ago I underwent the amputation of my left leg just below the knee. Since then, after many complications including a stroke, I have been hospitalized or in rehab, where I remain. Hallelujah! Today, I’m having a few hours at home again before returning to the rehab center where I’m beginning to learn to use my brand new leg!

Thank you for all your thoughts, prayers, cards, e-mails and letters. They have encouraged me, inspired me, and caused me to laugh even on my lowest days. They have run into thousands. I wish I could have answered each one. However, on many days I could not speak, think or remember clearly.

Tuesday, 21 February 2017 16:43

Get well cards make me warm and fluffy

It’s great to be home after two very recent, serious hospitalizations. One of the joys is to be able to read tons of good wishes and get well cards from you dear readers. They are great medicine at a time like this! They are like the world’s greatest multi-vitamins. Some are deeply spiritual. Many are hilariously funny. All are inspirational.

Let me give you a few examples that knocked me out of the bed with laughter and lifted my spirits. And I’ll add a few comments.

Tuesday, 14 February 2017 16:25

Strange winter weather? I blame the groundhog

I reckon I may be partly responsible for this incredible winter weather. I have sometimes professed my enjoyment of a nice winter snow storm. To watch snow falling is, to me, a wonderful sight. It brings a calmness over my spirit like few other experiences in life. God knows this about me and in most winters provides me just enough snow here in North Carolina to keep me reasonably serene.

Rarely do we get too much. Sometimes we don’t get quite enough to suit me. In fact, on Groundhog Day I was not terribly disappointed to learn that we could expect six more weeks of winter weather. I was hoping for two or three days of snow with temperatures at about 31 degrees, safe clear roads, crackling fireplaces and toasty, warm homes. We only build fireplaces anymore here in the South for the atmosphere in our homes. So I like a little snow for atmosphere.

My story this week is set in the mid-1940s. I was a young boy at the time. Many of the men in my family were away serving in the U.S. military. How many of you are old enough to remember those years? Our mothers, grandmothers and grandfathers were holding things together here at home.

Consult your elders and see if they remember any of what I’m about to tell you. They may not know about this because, while it was not secret, it was not widely disclosed at the time.

World War II was raging at the time. As the war wore on, thousands of German and Italian prisoners of war were brought to America and placed in 700 prison camps in 43 states.