Tuesday, 10 January 2017 17:01

On the mend with new insights on life

On Nov. 30, 2016, my left leg was amputated below the knee after a nine-month effort to save it. Because of some complications, I spent 29 days recovering to get well enough to return home from the hospital. I still have some healing to do before I can get started on the process of getting ready for my new, artificial leg.

I am overwhelmed with gratitude for all you dear friends for your prayers, thoughts, good wishes, cards and letters. I was so swamped with letters and e-mails that it will be impossible for me to answer them all. They ran into several hundred. I know you will forgive me and understand when I finally read messages from you and offered this little prayer: “Thank you God for this friend of yours and mine who spoke to you about my great need.” I was a pretty sick puppy for a long time and I was never forgotten.

Tuesday, 03 January 2017 17:08

Count the blessings of this new year

This New Year, 2017, couldn’t get here soon enough to suit me! I’m not lying about this. As we hillbillies say, “I’m done wore out.” I’m ready for a new year and some relief. The rustic rube that is me says, “I’ve done swore off,” of cable TV cable news. I’m just “flat-out, slap-dab done.” Football season is about finished and none of my favorite teams has done well. So that’s done. Please, somebody, just stick a fork in me; I’m done!

I apologize, friends, for that brief diatribe but I couldn’t hold it back any longer. I know it wasn’t pretty and I should have warned you in advance to protect your young children from that ugly display. However, I do believe I’m feeling better already. I’m going to breathe deeply a few times and hit the reset button.

Our house will be quiet this Christmas morning. I get up early because that’s a Christmas morning habit I developed long ago when our children were young and I was as excited as they were to see what had transpired overnight. They were eager to know whether the mysterious Santa had stopped in. Had he left gifts? Had he eaten the cookies and drunk the milk they had left on the mantle? I had assured them that Santa was a personal friend of mine and I knew he could not resist cookies and milk. Usually, I wore a milk mustache above my lip on Christmas morning.

Back then, after a few frenzied minutes in a blizzard of discovery and mayhem, Judy and I would sneak in a little catnap and get ready to motor off, family in tow, to visit our parents and other kin in far away places.

Things are different now. Our parents have all gone to be with God. Our children are all grown up and our grandchildren are, too. We are often together as a big, extended, close-knit family. But Christmas mornings now are spent with just the two of us at home. We sleep as late as we can. Then we awaken and sip cups of coffee to Christmas music. There’s a serene rhythm to Christmas now for us. This is how it should be. We chat about how Christmas has changed for us through the years. Christmas is all about change. Birth is always about the emergence of change entering a world in need of new beginnings.

Some change is more welcome than other kinds of change. I think of myself as a person very open to change. But sometimes I get a bit grumpy when it comes to political correctness. For instance, what is the proper greeting for a morning like today? Particularly for a person like me. I am going to say, “Happy Christmas,” “A blessed Christmas to you,” or “Merry Christmas.” I’m just grumpy enough, even on Christmas, to resist greeting you with “Happy Holidays” or “Season’s Greetings” or “’Tis the season to be jolly.”

Now don’t get me wrong; I enjoy holidays as much as anyone. I like all seasons too — especially seasons in which to be jolly. I mean, I’ll put my jolliness up against anyone else’s anytime. But right now, I’m talking about Christmas! I’m resisting the efforts of some to remove Christmas from Christmas. I’m firm in this. I’m not going to be unkind or impolite, unpleasant or disrespectful about it. I’m simply going to be straightforward about who I am and what I’m celebrating. Lots of folk whom I love see this differently than I, but you know me.

It’s true, Christmas changes for us as our lives change. So I wrote Santa the following note this year:

“Dear Sir Claus,

I know you are very busy at this time of year. I want to take a little pressure off you and ask you to change your plans as they relate to us. It’s important for you to get to all the children as you make your rounds. We would enjoy your visit, but we really don’t need it. We have what we need and want. Look out for the children. Spread some happiness. Bring a little peace to the children. We will be thinking of you. I’ll be happy to eat the cookies and drink the milk left on our mantle this year. We will be thinking of you. Your friend, Harold.

Oh, and Santa, a joyful Christmas to you!”

Harold Bales is a retired Methodist minister who lives in Concord. He enjoys hearing from his readers, so send him an e-mail at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Our daughter, Susannah, is a member of the staff at Embry Hills United Methodist Church in Atlanta. She works with children and has a few moments with the children in the services each Sunday. What follows here is her account of those moments on the Sunday after our recent election. I am biased, of course, but I think it is wonderful.

“Did you see that Donald Trump won?” The question came from a 9-year-old.“Yes, Jackson, I did see.”

“Ms. Susannah, did you want Trump to win?”

When I told y’all I was having a leg amputated, I also mentioned that I was imagining all kinds of gallows humor about that. And I invited you, dear friends, to send me some as well. I was swamped by your jokes and one-liners. Our daughter Susannah wrote, about my invitation for you to do this: “You are a goober. A one-legged goober. I love you!” Isn’t that sweet?

You sent me lines about socks lasting twice as long, one-legged kickers who always land on their behinds, the problem one-legged men have in butt-kicking contests. I received lots of IHOP jokes. Eight-year-old Lionel, who lives in New England, is sending me an eye patch so I can become a pirate. I love it.

I am very proud of the bravery exhibited by my family members over the centuries. One old fellow was very brave. He was charged by the British with being an American spy during the American Revolution. Fortunately he escaped hanging. Over in the Smoky Mountains near Gatlinburg, Tenn., is Roaring Fork, a rushing mountain stream. There outside a little cabin, the historical marker notes that the pioneer couple, Ephraim and Minerva Bales, raised nine children. It says that her nickname was “Nervy.” I like that. Mountain women are all nervy. Most of them are fairly brave.

Do you remember the old Country and Western love song that begins with “Together again, my tears have stopped falling ... ” by Buck Owens? Don’t feel bad if you don’t know the song. It is probably not among the hymns in your church hymnal. But those opening words have stuck in my brain since our recent election. We have been left with lots of wounds as a nation. Any fair-minded, intelligent, patriotic citizen must conclude that we cannot continue to carry the bitterness, rancor and anger we have endured during recent years in our national life. A “States of America” without the word “United” in it is a shame upon us.

Tuesday, 15 November 2016 16:44

Thou shalt not steal from this preacher

You know how when something good or bad happens to you, it can change your behavior forever? Well, a few years ago I discovered that someone managed to steal some money out of our bank account. It caused me to develop the habit of checking the account every day to be sure nothing is amiss.

Recently, I did my usual check wondering whether we would still have any month left when the money runs out. Well, wouldn’t you know, I discovered that someone, only an hour earlier, had withdrawn several hundred dollars from our account. They used my beloved’s ATM card at an ATM about 40 miles from our home.

Tuesday, 08 November 2016 21:27

Humor helps take things all in stride

I heard a story about a fellow being hanged once upon a time. The hangman, being a generous public servant, asked the honoree if he had any last words. The doomed citizen paused and, trying to put the best face on it, replied, “Well, it shore does beat drowning.”

That epitomizes what we mean by gallows humor. Sometimes a stressful situation is relieved by cracking jokes about it. I have often remarked that people of faith are the only people on earth who can laugh in the face of death itself.

Tuesday, 01 November 2016 19:09

The stories of lives on the fridge door

The refrigerator door is the great archive of American culture. If you want to know what is important to an American family, just take a look at what is posted there. It’s a collection of “post it” notes, magnetic inspirational slogans, cute photos, “to do” reminders, important appointments, emergency phone numbers, grocery lists, birthdays, anniversaries and miscellaneous artifacts of modern life.

Right there in the heart of the home is an index of the values of the people who live there. It is a perpetual reminder of things that really matter to that family. Of course, I enjoy the funny stuff stuck to the doors, too!

Tuesday, 25 October 2016 16:48

Find what inspires and immerse in it

Christians are familiar with the word “immersion” in relation to baptism. Baptism by immersion means that the person being baptized is placed completely under the water by the pastor. It is only one of the methods used by Christians. Another method is by “sprinkling” or having a small amount of water placed upon the head. Yet another is by “pouring” or increasing the amount of water over the head. Some churches baptize only by immersion. This is true of Baptist churches. We Methodists use all three methods depending on which the recipient prefers.

I especially appreciate immersion. To be totally bathed in the symbol of new life — I like that.