Autumn, Pecans, And Attitudes

For me the best time of the year is autumn. The church sits in a valley and the pine needles and leaves, roll down the driveway and pile against the perimeter fence in back. Birds and squirrels rummage through the pile, collecting bugs and nuts. On alternating Saturdays, one of the Deacons would come by to blow and bag the autumn collection. For a few days, the birds and squirrels go elsewhere to shop for their groceries and the sweet smell of mowed grass, weeds, and late blooming flowers fill our little valley.

An assortment of nuts returns with the leaf debris. Sometimes I will walk the ground, and pick pecans from the debris. Squirrels accompany me on this meditation walk. They dart about lifting up leaves and checking to see if the pecan trees are dropping their fruit. This is the best time of year!

One Thursday as the setting sun colored the western sky orange. I was picking up pecans that had fallen on the churchyard. Daniel rode a shiny mountain bike into my comfortable little valley.

“Pastor Richardson,” he shouted and rode closer. “Pastor Richardson, can I go on the trip with the other youths?”

I knew Daniel because his sisters were members of the church. He seldom came to church services. But, his younger sisters are regular participants in youth activities. He climbed off the bike and stood less than a yard in front of me. His body and bike blocked my forward movement and access to the scores of pecans lying near the fence. The squirrels were stuffing their cheeks and running up trees with their harvest. They would stop on a branch, look down, and laugh.

“If we have any room, you can. You will need twenty dollars and it must be ok with your mother,” I said, dryly to him. Maybe now he would move so I could get back to harvesting my nuts. There were still enough pecans in front of me to fill up my Braves cap.

“Cool,” he said, then stuffed his pockets with pecans and rode off.

Sullenly, I hoped that he would not get the money or permission to go on the trip.

Daniel did not stir within me a desire to be a caring and understanding pastor. He mostly moved me to stand taller and smile less. My intention was to let him know I was the alpha dog in the pack. The twenty dollars or his mother’s permission, I thought would save me from saying no to him. He is not disrespectful to adults, nor did he bully the children. However, he is older than my youth group, whose ages range from twelve and under. I did not want the additional task of monitoring his behavioral quirks on this trip.

Two weeks later as I was mopping the floor in the fellowship hall, Danny stopped by.  “Here’s my money,” he said, knocking and entering the closed door at the same time. “And this is for my sisters.” He playfully slapped the money in my hand and walked over to the water cooler.

As the day of the trip grew closer, my anxiety level was rising. Two of the chaperones had to drop out. I was scrambling to find replacements. The day before the trip, I had to speak with Danny about the language and loudness of his music when he was on the church grounds. He debated with me until I told him if he brought that type of music on the trip, he would not be allowed to go. My attitude had reached the testy stage. That night I asked the Lord to make this a fun and safe trip for the children.

He heard my prayer.

When I arrived at the church at six-thirty that morning Daniel and his sister were waiting. By seven-thirty, we were traveling up I 75 to the amusement park. More than a few times, I turned around to see if Daniel was behaving appropriately. He was either asleep or looking out the window. At the park, some of the children would not turn me loose, but Daniel came to my rescue. He rode with them on rides and helped me keep them all together. After lunch, we talked about his future. He wanted to join the Air Force and work on planes. We talked and ate with all the other children hanging on. I was glad he came. On the return trip, he sat beside me and I thanked him for his help.

After the trip, he began coming to church regularly. He helped the Deacons with chores and joined the choir. Sometimes he would ask about a book I was reading, his questions were so insightful that I eventually loaned him books. We talked about him attending a Bible college after graduation.

Fall had come again and we were picking up pecans off the yard when he told me he had enlisted in the Air Force. I looked long and deep into his eyes and then place a hand on his shoulder and prayed that God would protect him. (I’m going to miss him.) Afterward, I poured my pecans into his bag and we went inside the church to help the Deacons.

For Christmas, I got a card from Danny. He included a note about how he was doing. He ended the note by saying I was his pastor. I closed my eyes and thanked God for calling me to this church.

(I wrote this in 2008 and Danny came by to visit me in 2017. He was married with a child, living in Virginia. We talked and he reminded me that wherever he goes, I’m still his pastor)




There is an abundance of rain this season. The daisy, Chrysanthemum, and Pansy are drinking deeply. Mud was under my fingernails and on the cuff and knees of my pants. If I had thought I was going to do more than pulling a weed or two, I would have dressed for the occasion. About a half an hour into the weeding task; my neighbor, Calvin walked out on his front porch.

Farmer Curtis, do you like playing in the dirt?

Man, I did know I had so many flowers sleeping in this dirt; they are beautiful.

Let me put on some shoes on and I‘ll join you. I made a pot of coffee, want a cup.

Yeah, I said, one sugar.

When Calvin got back, I was in the garage looking for yard waste bags. Look under that pile Calvin and see if any bags are under there.

Here’s a couple, he shouted.

I pick up a digging tool and some gloves. The coffee smelled good, so I set the things down and grabbed the mug and lean on the trunk of the car.

I haven’t seen Beri in almost a month, I said. Is she traveling?

No, she left me.

What!       Why?

Well, the reasons she gave are confusing. It has taken me some time to understand. Her leaving hit me hard. I just got to the place where I can talk about it.

You two have been together three years. Couldn’t you work it out?

That is what I asked her. Whatever happened to trying to mend things that are broken? All Beri would say is she had done all she can to see things my way, but she has given up trying. She was leaving because I love her too much. Can you believe that? She left me because I loved her too much.

That is hard to understand Calvin. What did she mean by trying to see things your way?

You know our situation Rev., I was ready to marry her, but she was not ready. When she first moved in, we were going to save our money to buy a bigger house and have a wedding in Cancun. A year ago, she thought she was pregnant. Two months later, she said it was a false alarm. After that, she started talking about getting her own place.

Why, did she say that?

She said she needed some space and time to think. At first, I thought it was another man, but that was not the problem. She would not talk to me without snapping at me. Sometimes I snapped back. She would put pillows between us in bed. I started sleeping in the other bedroom.

You two seem like you would have been a good family. Why didn’t you and she come and talk to me?

What was I going to say to you, Rev.? Would you have helped me and Beri to stay together?

No, I would not have helped you and her to remain roommates. But, I would have helped you and her to understand the kind of commitment to the relationship that would weather the stresses of marriage. The kind of commitment that is necessary to wed, to build a home, and to raise a family. I would help you and Beri to find what is important in your spirits. What other commitments are important to her; besides marriage? It takes more than a Cancun wedding and a big house to make it through the long termed commitments of marriage successfully.

Where is she?

She got a promotion and moved to Arlington, Virginia. She took her clothes and said I could keep the rest. She left me. Now I’m sitting in that house, hurting. For all her explaining, I still don’t understand how you can leave someone because they loved you too much.[1]

Well, Calvin, some people leave when they realize that it is more painful to stay.






[1] Mykal Kilgore

Why Fear Success

Fear of falling is normal. Fear of heights is common. Fear of snakes is natural. the fear of success is hard to classify. Often, we don’t recognize it. Too many times people have walked away from success because they fear the embarrassment of failure. Some successful people are unable to handle their success without chemical scaffolding. They abuse their bodies’ even kill themselves.

There are times when success has come my way and I too felt the pangs of fear. Looking at others and myself, the signs of fear are clear. How do you recognize the fear of success? You are agitated over minor details not being right. You are easily irritated. On top of your sensitivity to criticism, you hide fears by blaming others for your insecurities. Your entire demeanor is one of suspicion and distrust. The fear that others are out to get you because you made it makes you more fearful.

We tell ourselves many stories to hide our fear of success. “I am not going to change the way I look or act. I’m still going to be me. I’m still one of the guys. I got 99 problems and success is not one.” There is nothing wrong with me, anyway?

How can I control my fears? By believing God’s promise, He said, “I am with you, so don’t be fearful (Isa 41:10). The difficulty is how do I turn down the cheering from my ego? “I will help you, I will strengthen you, He said.” My struggles are intensified when I try to stand on the teachings that lifted me when I was still climbing the ladder of success. This, I believe, God gives me power, love, and peace of mind; not fear (2 Tim 1:7).





Recently, President #39, Jimmy Carter shook hands with the passengers on a flight from Atlanta to Washington, DC. One passenger is heard joyfully shouting, I love you, Jimmy Carter! Another passenger wrote that President Carter was warm and humble. I wish I could have been there. What an unexpected joy.

My friend brought unexpected joy into our lives a short time ago. She had suffered from excruciating pain on her right hip. For two days, we prayed for release from her suffering. For two more days, we prayed that the doctors would not have to operate on her hip again. She received the results of her checkup yesterday. The news was good. She did not need another operation, all she needed was a quarter inch lift inserted in her right shoe. We prayed and shouted a joyful thank you. We did not expect to be so blessed.

Today is the first day of summer. It rained most of the night, but with the sun came dry weather. The cable company is installing wire, and the roads and sidewalks were covered with leftover red clay. Yards were dotted with bald spots of red clay. Overnight, the rain washed the roads and sidewalks clean. Just as quickly, grass or perhaps weeds are growing hair on the bald spots. The birds were singing. I did not expect such a picturesque moment. Joy is amplified when it is unexpected.

How unexpected and joyful it is when Jesus steps beyond my prayers and bless me with more than I could concede. Like the guests at the wedding in Cana, I am surprised at the richness and the volume of the libations that are poured into my life. Even, with my limited abilities to distinguish the good from the great wine, it is an unexpected joy to receive the gift. To be given such a boon at this late stage of the wedding celebrations gives me high expectations of blessings in the autumn of my life. How wonderful it is to have reached the latter stages of my life and have so many good wines still wait to be tasted. To have hope and assurance that I am still blessed is an unexpected joy.

Joy is everywhere.

Goodnight Emily

My feet are hurting. The walk today was a little farther than usual. But, now I could feel the cool effect of the witch hazel sinking in around my calloused toes. The telephone rang and spoiled my ecstasy. I let it ring; my feet were wet. Once they dried, I checked the caller id, and then redial Emily’s number.

When Emily answered, I could tell she had been crying. Her son died two years ago and she has a select list of friends she would call when her sorrows were heavy. These are friends that had heard her stories about Boyd many times and knew the difference from an end of a sentence and a sob. We were close enough that she had incorporated our memories into her stories.

She sniffed and drew air into her nose. I waited for her to speak; the wait was long. I almost said something. Then she called my name, Curtis. Yes? Curtis, did I tell you about the time Boyd got that job at Nolands?

What about it, I said?

He liked that job because one day he wanted to become a plumber.

(Actually, he liked the job because he liked driving the forklift.)

He was so nervous that he was late his first day, he made a better impression the next day.

(He forgot his wallet and badge and had to return home twice.)

He was a good worker, I said.

She got quiet. It doesn’t hurt like before, but it still hurts.

The coolness of the witch hazel was gone, so I splashed more on my feet waiting for her to speak.

She said I’m too old to have another child. I certainly don’t feel like starting parenthood over.

Have you talked to his Dad, I asked?

He says I bring him down.

He won’t talk to me if I mention Boyd. He let my calls go to voice mail. I saw his wife at Kroger; she said he’s drinking again. He better watch himself, he knows depression runs in his family.

I am trying to let go; I gave away Boyd’s things. The only thing I kept was a pair of Jordan’s. If only the memory would come at night, then I could take a pill and sleep. All day long there are thoughts about him that weigh me down. I can’t get out the chair.

I was in WalMart and they displayed three artists that he had bought. As soon as I got home, I put them in the trash and cried.

Did you bake anything this week, Emily?

Yes, I started to bake a Key Lime cake but caught myself, that was his favorite.  I made a strawberry cake instead; I’ll bring you some to church Sunday.

Girl, you are going to make me fat.


Even my fat jeans are tight; the baking calms me.

She got quiet again; I waited.

Why did he have to kill himself, Curtis?

The depression was too much, he was hurting, and he would not take the medicine.

You did all that you could. Your pain will ease; the worst is over. You will learn to live with what’s left.

I’m trying Curtis; I’m trying.

Tell you what, I ‘ll put an extra hole in my belt, bring me two slices of that cake.


Goodnight, Emily.


Live Long And Prosper

“Live long and prosper,” is a well-known greeting if you are a Trekkie. “Prosper and you will live longer,” for some this would be a better greeting to reflect these times. If you are an upper-middle-class or wealthy American, you realize how much truth is in this greeting. For the well-to-do, wealth and longevity is a part of the benefits package. Over the past few months, there have been studies published on wealth inequalities that perked my interest. Studies from Richard V Reeves, a senior fellow at Brooking and Raj Chetty, Professor of Economics at Harvard, are the major motivation for this rant. They discussed numerous points on why it is so hard to be successful in this country. There is wealth inequality, and something can be done to right the injustice. For this article, I will take on just three of the many solutions they suggested.

Reeves covered the geographical effects on health and income, and the hoarding of the benefits by the upper middle-class. Chetty had a lot to say about components that will improve your chances to move up the income ladder. He calls it income mobility.

What is the importance of geography on health and income? How long you live and how well you live that life depends on where you live. Where there are adequate health care facilities and professionals, longevity will increase. These follow the money. How much of an increase is a factor of income? More money results in a longer life. Nearly five years of increase life is reflected in the data. Individuals living in low-income areas have problems getting healthy foods and safe places for their children to play. They struggle more with health issues such as; obesity, blood pressure, and diabetes. They will not “Live long and prosper.”

Your zip code may be a reason for your health and income problems. Reeves have also identified another barrier to income equality. He detected that the upper middle-class hoard the opportunities available to move up in life. They limit access to the benefits through the discriminatory use of zoning laws, college entry, internship, and schooling.

Chetty’s study revealed that there are more opportunities for people to get out of poverty if they move to a higher income community.  He evaluated the results of the study “Move to Opportunity” for the US Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The study said by moving to a higher income area you can improve your income, education, marriage, and health. Trouble boys seem to fare better in a better neighborhood. None of this was unknown to the mothers and fathers trying to raise a family in a community plagued with drive-bys and junkies. Gentrification shows that some low-income neighborhoods are attractive and desirable. Chetty’s report calls for improvement in low-income areas to help those that do not want to leave their community of long standing.

My reason for this rant is to show that are many things that are used to deny you your share of the American pie. There many things we can do to fight the system. The right action will allow everyone to share the prosperity of this country; no matter who is in the White House. I don’t want tax cuts; I want tax reforms that limits deduct on mortgages to $300k. I want a minimum 25 % tax on all income above $500k. I want forgiveness of student debts beyond the average starting wages at graduation. I want the citizens to do congressional redistricting, not politicians. I want a mandatory single payer health insurance. These are the things I want so that I can “Live long and prosper.”

(The bibliography is included so that you can dig deeper and understand the games politicians play.)


Burtless, G. (2001, November 30). The rising longevity gap between rich and poor Americans | Brookings Institution. Retrieved June 9, 2017, from

Chetty, Raj, Improving Equality of Opportunity in America:  New Evidence and Policy Lessons. Retrieved from–6CzrJ4A&list=UUvDvWKy-27H-PxCTYi5cyfA

Growing Disparities in Life Expectancy. (n.d.). Retrieved from

Reeves, R. V. (2016, May 25). Dream Hoarders | Brookings Institution. Retrieved May 31, 2017, from

The Price of Inequality. (2017, February 28). In Wikipedia. Retrieved from

A Good Slice of Cheesecake


Is it necessary to get in a depressive mood in order to write? There are many things to write about that does not require mood alteration. There is the exhilaration of climbing Stone Mountain. There is a song that will always lift your spirits. And, there is always a good slice of cheesecake waiting to boost your moods. Sometimes for me, it is a few moments of silence that can pull me from under a rock.

Overused ideas, or slow materializing dreams, and incomplete rewards, will trick you into believing that you are not going to achieve your goals. Your mood changes and you seek a lift. What is there to do when stormy weather enters your life?

After the rain, a puddle of water remains. Pollen covers the hole like a blanket; life is barred from entry. But wait, be patience, for underneath the pollen blanket the earth is nourished and life is growing stronger. My dreams may sink into a puddle of doubt. That is when a good slice of cheesecake could change my perspectives. I live off the reassurance that I hold the hand of the divine. Slow and incomplete is the fulfilling of all my tomorrows. In the puddle of water, seeds of life begin the journey to reality and beauty. They stick their heads above the scum long enough to blossom and encourage me to travel on.

Thanks, Lord, for the huge rainbow that crosses the eastern sky and as I get closer to home it appeared to sit on my soul. When I turned into my driveway, the Rainbow is no longer visible. All that was left was little reassurances that I must go on. Rarely are my dreams fulfilled without divine stimulation. Now I know it is not necessary to get in a depressive mood in order to write.

What I need is a good slice of cheesecake will end the slump if and when it comes.