Lydia’s Stand

southern belle

By Katy Curry©

 

She appeared as delicate as a porcelain doll that warm spring afternoon; dressed in a soft pink day dress with fresh roses at her bodice.  She sat somewhat precariously on the veranda swing and lifted her head to catch the small breeze that blew unexpectedly onto the terrace.  As the breeze faded, she reached for where she remembered her fan to be and leaned forward reaching with her other hand for the lemonade sitting  on the table.  In her off balance state, she took a tumble and was left looking about quizzically from the veranda floor.

She smoothed her skirt, picked up her Battenburg lace fan and looked up at her man-servant as if the floor was where she had planned to be all along.

“Look, Mathias, I have found my fan.  However, I could use some fresh lemonade.”

Mathias shook his white-haired head, a smile lighting his walnut toned skin.  “Now Miss Lydia, we can’t have you sitting on that floor.  Let me help you up..”

Lydia gratefully held up her arms so Mathias could help her to her feet.  He placed her back on the swing so gently one would think she might break.   He smiled at Lydia with the tenderness of a father.  Her gaze returned that affection and trust.

“It’s time for you to come in, have some tea and scones; Martha made some fresh today, and practice your music.” He gently reminded her.

“Jack left to fight for the South almost ten years ago, Mathias; I don’t know if he is even alive.    The others came back years ago.  Do you think he will return?  I know his name was never on the death lists, but if he wound up in Andersonville, well, we may never know.”

“That’s true, Ms. Lydia, but that’s just the point, we don’t know.  Besides, we need to keep yo’ fingers in shape, You would not want to disappoint Parson Kendall, he needs you to play those church tunes.”

Lydia sighed; “You are right, as always, Mathias.  I just miss Jack so much.  We were to be married seven years ago.  I should be enjoying children right now and here I am, a spinster, in love with a ghost.”

“Now you stop that right now, Ms. Lydia.  None of those other yokels out there has turned your head, and they gots nothing to offer you.  You be patient, wait for God’s good time and you will have those children soon enough.” Mathias reminded her.

Martha, Mathias’s wife, walked in carrying a large silver tray with tea, cream, and a plate of scones.  Lydia could smell the fresh scones, and her mouth began to water.  She espied the coddled cream and clapped her hands in excitement.  The three sat around a smallish table to enjoy afternoon tea together.

All eyes turned to Martha for none dared to eat until she gave thanksgiving for the bounty they enjoyed.  It wasn’t that long ago that all of them had gone to bed hungry more times than not.

Martha bowed her head, hummed to herself for a few moments and began:  “Jesus, we give you thanks for how you have taken care of us.  You have looked after us and protected us.  You have blessed Mathias and me with this precious child.  Help us to continue to raise and guide her in Your ways, so she stays in your will.  Thank you for this home and for teaching us the value of your blessings.  Keep us safe, for I fear more trouble is coming.  ”

Everyone responded with “Amen.”

“Martha,” Mathias began, “what was that you said about more trouble?  What have you heard or seen?”

Once the war had ended, the plantation had been devastated.  Fields were in ruins, cattle, horses, goats, cows; even the chickens were all gone.  The taxes were triple what they had been.  Most plantation owners lost everything.  Lydia was frantic.  She had been in her father’s corner office on the first floor and in frustration, had beat her fists on the bookcase.  Something felt different, and as Lydia stared in amazement as a section of the cabinet opened to reveal a small room.  She screamed for Mathias, who came running with loaded gun thinking she was being attacked by local vagabonds looking for food, money, shelter, and were not too particular from whom they stole.   They found the equivalent of a pirate’s treasure of gold and silver coins, pearls, rings and all manner of loose stones.

Mathias had not been surprised about the new found wealth and seemed more relieved.  There was no keeping the secret anymore and he had sat Harry Swan’s daughter down and told her the story of her swashbuckling father and the fortune he had laid aside for his beloved daughter, Lydia Morgan Swan.

He had been known as Pirate Harry and had been commissioned by the English government to raid the shipping lanes.  He had turned over just enough treasure and captured sailors to keep Parliament happy but had held back a portion of each bounty claimed to take care of his soon to be born son.  That son made a surprise entrance as a girl.    Harry’s wife, Delores, had succumbed to fever shortly giving birth to Lydia.  That put an end to Harry’s privateering.  He had sold his ships, taken his daughter and trusted first mate, Mathias, and moved to Virginia as a gentleman plantation owner.  Harry had the right temperament to play the role of a plantation owner.  He was educated, slender, but well muscled, was able to entertain with captivating stories of his exploits, had a sharp business mind and knew how to appeal to the ladies.  In truth, Harry had no interest in running the plantation, called Swan Acres.    Mathias had the knowledge and knew who to coax or purchase to get the best value and workers.  He had successfully run the estate from the beginning.  Harry was devoted to his daughter, Lydia, but grieved deeply for his wife and his seafaring days.  Finally, when he could ignore the call of the sea no longer, He left his daughter in Mathias and Martha’s  charge and traveled to Boston looking for an opportunity on a whaling ship.  He had never been heard from again.

Mathias and Martha had not disappointed Harry’s memory or trust in either the success of Swan Acres or the raising of Lydia.  He diversified the crops based on the not only the topography and soil of the land but on the changing demands of the market.  His decisions significantly affected the profitability as plant numbers could be increased or decreased depending on weather, market demands, futures prices, etc.  Lydia had been raised to appreciate the work and planning it took to run a plantation, had been employed next to field hands to appreciate the work it took.  Martha had undertaken to hire the best tutors in comportment, music, Latin, philosophy, mathematics, writing, literature and more.

Lydia was, indeed, Harry’s daughter.  She relished a day of work, decidedly unladylike riding her favorite gelding, bargaining and bartering over crops, land, just about anything; yet when she put on her gowns and fixed her hair, all one could see was a very delicate young lady who needed protecting.

Although now eighteen, Lydia remembered what life had been like before discovering the treasure.  Carpetbaggers and others had taken all there was to take, the carpets, dishes, even Lydia’s crib had been claimed to pay the new taxes levied since the end of the Civil War.   A  damaged wall had led to the discovery of Harry’s treasure.  Mathias had taken the discovery in stride, almost as expected.  With creative banking to hide the new wealth, taxes, and needed repairs happened.

Together they had decided to improve the living conditions of the workers by providing better housing and more food.  Lydia insisted on setting up a school for the children through the eighth grade.  Mathias had worried it would slow down harvests, but the parents more than made up for what the children would bring in.  Lydia had also insisted on proper medical care.  She was the first plantation in America to make such arrangements for field hands.

As they were enjoying their afternoon tea, there was a sharp rap on the door, then, a few seconds later another one.  The impatient guest raps fully three times before Mathias got to the door.  He opened the door and stared at the two men in their elegant suits and top hats.

“Boy; took you long enough to answer the door.  If you were my house boy, I’d whip you for keeping Ms. Swan’s guests waiting.  Now take Mr. Blankenship and myself to her and none of your chatter about not bothering here.  We have a most important matter to discuss with your mistress! “

His eyes were snapping with anger; Mathias strode formally into the front room where Lydia and Martha were finishing afternoon tea.

“Mistress, May I present Mr. Blankenship and Mr.???”

“Mr.  Arthur Gordon, Mistress.”  interrupted a righteously indignant junior attorney.

As the two men beheld the scene in front of them; a black woman having afternoon tea sitting as if she was an equal to Miss Lydia, they were dumbstruck.  Finally, Gordon Blankenship found his voice.

“We have some essential items to discuss with you; there is no need for the servants to remain.”  Gordon frowned at Martha and swung his gaze around, so there was no mistaking his intent.”

“Ms. Lydia, I will leave Sir Boniface with you while to talk with these …gentlemen,”  Mathias said to Lydia.   She clapped her hands at the news.

“Yes! Yes!  Please bring him; I haven’t seen Sir Boniface all day!” Lydia exclaimed.

“Madam, this discussion does not require the presence of, your barrister!”  The door opened, and Mathias led it a massive black dog who stared and growled at the two men.  Lydia held her fan up to her face to hide her amusement at the men’s reactions.   Sir Boniface settled heavily at her feet, “talking” to her as pit bulls do.   His appearance, noises, and huge teeth kept the very self-impressed men far from their intended prey.

“Miss Morgan,” began Mr. Blankenship, “are you aware that that darkie in there has been transacting the business of your plantation in your name?  He was seen with large sums for cash hiring men, selling harvested crops. Why he was even observed signing a contract in your stead! Mr. Blankenship finished drawing in some badly needed air.

“Now, we can understand your shock at such news, Miss Swann,” Arthur Gordon continued.  We are here to help you take your plantation back from these impudent sla-  excuse me, darkies, and put it solidly back in your hands.  Further, we are in a position to help advise you about crops and potential profits.  We can help you take care of this terrible situation, teach those darkies how to work  and all for a mere forty-five percent of the profit after expenses.”

Lydia was amused as well as insulted by their assertions.  She wanted them gone but could not let them go without a lesson they would not soon forget.

She clapped her hands together in mock horror.  “Mercy me, I had no idea!  Gentlemen whatever shall I do?”

Mr. Gordon warmed to his argument and continued on his tirade without noticing the gleam in Ms. Swan’s eye or the sardonic way her mouth had begun to twist.

“If you will but leave that in our capable hands, Miss Swann, we will turn the main crop back to cotton instead of all these more work intensive smaller crops.  We will shut down that ridiculous school, imagine, a school for darkies!  The children can help work the fields and bring in the crops. ”

Again, Mr. Gordon failed to notice the body language of an angrier and angrier Ms. Swann.

“We will take that overbearing houseboy, Mathias, I believe you called him, and a good whipping will teach him some manners.   Thus, we will free you from his and that woman’s control and leave you free to make decisions with our sage advice.  There are profits to be made here, Ms. Swann, and  we can guide you in the best way to use your farm and employ your field hands!”

“Well, Misters Gordon and Blankenship, I do believe we need to handle this situation once and for all immediately!” Lydia stated, and rather imperiously, picked up her bell and rang it stridently until Mathias presented himself.

“Mathias! ”  Lydia said, “It has come to my attention that you have been handling the money of the plantation and making arrangements to sell crops among other dealings on the farm.  Is this right?”

Mathias nodded his head, “You know I am, Ms. Lyd…” but was stopped short by her upraised hand.

Well, sir, I believe you are going to have to have a lesson in being fruitful and uppityness! These two fine gentlemen have a plan to move us to a one crop farm and putting those lazy children to work!  They will also do all of this for a mere  forty-five percent of the net profits.”

Lydia gave Mathias a conspiratory smile.  “Can you, Sir, explain what you have done and answer for it?”

“Yes,  Ma’am.  We doubled our profits by diversifying our crops and meeting the needs of a variety of markets, switching out the crops helps the soil so it can grow more.  Our workers are turning out half again as much work because they are happier workers and want to give us a fair days’ work.  We can afford to be picky about who we hire. ” Mathias answered,

Lydia turned to Mr. Blankenship.  “Sir, what kind of net profit do you believe we can expect using your methods?”

Taken aback by the direct financial question, Mr. Blankenship swallowed and did some quick calculations in his head.  “I do believe you could easily count on ten thousand dollars before our cut.”

Without missing a beat, Lydia turned to Mathias; “Did you hear that?   I could make five thousand five hundred dollars a year!  What do you have to say to that?”

Mathias kept his eyes on the floor as looking at these fools would have made him burst out in guffaws.  “Ma’am, I don’t know if we could meet that number.”  He stopped for a moment.

Gordon and Blankenship exchanged triumphant looks for about ten seconds.

Mathias continued, still looking at the floor.  This last season, after expenses, the plantation made seventeen thousand four hundred eighty-six dollars. ”

“Mathias, how can you explain this?”  Miss Lydia persisted.

“Well Ma’am, I think we can blame those numbers on smart use of land, happy workers, and good negotiating practices to sell the crops by this ‘uppity darkie.'”

Lydia turned back to Gordon and Blankenship.  Gentlemen, I fail to understand why I should give up over double what you believe you could produce for me?  Why I do think you are fast talking jackanapes!       You have tried to hoodwink me!  Sir Boniface, get these thieves out of my house!”  Lydia ordered.

Sir Boniface beamed at the order and ran toward the two carpetbaggers.  They ran, he kept them rounded up and headed for the door.   In their haste, they tumbled down the four steps outside the front door and again down the six steps to the ground.  They cut a funny picture as they beat the dirt from their suits while running down the road.

Lydia leaned out the window and called to them.

“If you come back, Sir Boniface will beat you to the door and welcome you himself!  We have no time or interest in thieves such as you!” Lydia called to them.

She would not realize for another couple of months what enemies she had made.

CHAPTER 2

Sir Boniface 4

Sir Boniface

 

It was the height of the growing season, the middle of July and Lydia saddled her favorite
horse, an appaloosa gelding she called Pirate to survey the crops.  She rode through them at least once a week to check on potential problems such as blight, weevils, grasshoppers, etc.  She instinctively understood that something that seemed harmless at first glance would render a crop useless in a matter of days.

While she rode and checked her crops she sat proudly atop Pirate.  She knew what she needed to do and how to do it. Lydia hoped to be done by noon as the afternoon heat would make things most uncomfortable.  She was immersed in her tasks and did not notice two men at the edge of the woods across from her.

The two scam artists, Blankenship, and Gordon, sat in the woods across from the plantation watching Lydia.

“We need to bring that girl into line.  Swan Acres is the key to this entire plan.  We have to stop her from taking care of these darkies so well, a school for the kids?  Who ever heard of the like?  Those brats are going to have a better education than all the white kids around here.”  Blankenship said.

“We need to talk to her one more time, let her know what she is going up against; how badly this could end for her and her darkies,” Gordon responded.  There was a grin on his face that promised this would not be a good meeting for Lydia.

“She’s alone in that tobacco field, now is a good time.  Let’s see how well she handles things when she doesn’t have that ugly mutt and that old man to run interference.” Blankenship urged.

outlawsThey both sank their spurs cruelly into their horse’s sides and took off for an unsuspecting  Lydia.  She heard them when they were a far ways off and shaded her eyes from the glare of the sun to see who was coming.  She let out a high pitched whistle that sounded more like a bird call.  The drop in the tone told Sir Boniface to come up to her quietly and not to expose himself.  They had taught him to do this during the Civil War to keep him safe from soldiers.

Lydia double checked the small five shot she had in a holster in the pocket of her riding outfit.    She looked around and wished some field hands were working, but the fields had been tended last week.  Lydia led her horse, Pirate, to the supply building, tied some tobacco leaves in his reins, and found some oil and matches.  She whispered in Pirate’s ear and slapped his haunches, sending the Appaloosa gelding back to the plantation.  Once Pirate came home without her they would know Lydia was in trouble and help would come.  The tobacco leaves she had tied to the reins would tell them where.  She just had to keep the two men at bay until help arrived.  No small task with only a small five shot and no extra ammunition.  She grabbed a canister of oil and started to pour it around the backfield of tobacco.   If a fire started, the backfield would cause the least amount of damage.  She had done all she could to prepare.

She whispered in Pirate’s ear and slapped his haunches, sending the Appaloosa gelding loping back to the plantation house.  Once Pirate came home without her they would know Lydia was in trouble and help would come.  The tobacco leaves she had tied to the reins would tell them where.  She just had to keep the two men at bay until help arrived.  No small task with only a small five shot and no extra ammunition.  She grabbed a canister of oil and started to pour it around the backfield of tobacco.   If a fire started, the backfield would cause the least amount of damage.  She had done all she could to prepare.

With Sir Boniface hidden nearby, his menacing growl barely audible, she stuck a match and lit her tar covered torch. and waited for Blankenship and Gordon to approach.

“Well, well. look what we have here, Gordon!” drawled Blankenship.

“I do believe it’s that uppity slut from Swan Acres.”  said Gordon.  “I bet you’re  going to be more likely to listen to reason out here all by yourself.  May as well put that torch down, we don’t scare that easy, Miss Lydia.”  He leered at her in a way that made her feel cold and dirty from head to toe.  Lydia hoped help would come soon, she could not hold out long against these men.  She was sure they had much worse in mind than ravaging her.

“Gentlemen, a ruined plantation would do you no good at all.  I am prepared to do just that before I sign papers to hand it over to you carpetbaggers.  I have refused your offer, I have not changed my mind. so you should go. ”  Lydia had lifted her chin to show she was serious and lowered the torch toward the tobacco crop.

Gordon laughed, an evil laugh that told her he put no stock in her words. “You just go ahead and burn the place to the ground, little lady.  We will replant, you will still have what we choose to give you.  We have the agreement here and we have some time.  So let’s all go into the shed, we will pleasure you and you can sign the agreement.  Why you might make an extra twenty dollars on the deal.  That is IF we are pleased with the pleasuring.”

Blankenship had worked his way up behind her while his cohort kept Lydia distracted.  He tried to wrestle the lit torch from Lydia’s hand. but had not expected the strong woman he found, rather than the weak, passive southern belle he anticipated.  Lydia had worked every part of the plantation alongside the field hands, sometimes as the only field hand.  She was strong and capable.

The torch went flying, but into the tobacco.  It began to burn with a heavy smoke that would bring others quickly to put out the fire.

Gordon cursed and slapped Lydia viciously across the face.  “Think you are so smart, missy?  When we are done with you, you won’t even be able to work the local whore house!”  He ripped the sleeve of her shirt exposing her arm and her camisole.   He was about to rip again when a great growl came from behind him.  Sir Boniface, seeing his mistress being attacked, leapt and landed on Gordon’s back.  He sunk his teeth into the man’s shoulder and shook his head back and forth violently.  Gordon gave a great howl of pain, immediately letting go of Lydia, trying desperately to reach behind him and get the dog off his back.

Blankenship jumped to help his partner but found himself facing the muzzle of a small, but powerful five shot.  “Now, now, Missy, no need for that now.  We

“Now, now, Missy, no need for that now.  We was just having some fun.  No harm was done.  You just put that peashooter away.  Call your dog off and we’;; leave you in peace.  All’s well that end’s well.”  coaxed Blankenship.  He kept his eyes on the gun, looking for an opportunity to overpower this slip of a girl that seemed to be more capable than many men he had known, swindled, and killed.

Lydia whistled a strange set of notes and called, “Bonnie, come here.”  Gordon was screaming behind her and when she backed up enough she could see that his shoulder was in shreds and probably dislocated.  “Good boy, Bonnie.” she said to the hulking pit bull.

“Now you two get on out of here.  I will keep those horses you so sorely misused as payment for the damages you have caused.  Get off my land or I will set him and the rest of the hounds on you!”  Her voice was cool. clear, and there was no  mistaking her intent.  She meant every word and seemed to know how to handle the two men.

“Your dog nearly killed me!” screamed Gordon. “You need to pay for my medical attention and that dog should be shot!”

“You go to Doc Thornbury in town and he’ll fix you up, tell him to send the bill to Swan Acres.  Don’t have time to shoot the dog, he’s due at the orphanage to play with the children.  They always look forward to playing with old Bonnie, he is so calm, let’s them pull his ears, just about everything you can think of, such a pushover.”

The thunder of hooves could be heard as men who had seen the smoke came to save what they could.  Mathias and half a dozen field hands arrived and were shocked to see Lydia with half her blouse torn, pointing a five shot at two men who were starting to leave on foot.  They took in the sight and the field hands let out a roar of fury and lit out after the two men.  Mathias immediately went to see to Lydia’s needs.

“Call them back, Mathias,” said Lydia tiredly.  “No point making more trouble for ourselves than we already have.”

Mathias called the workers back and sent two to carry both men to town where they were dumped unceremoniously onto the road in front of Doc Thornbury’s office.

CHAPTER 3

The carpetbaggers stumbled into Doc Thornbury’s waiting room calling out loudly that they had an emergency and needed medical help immediately.

“What’s all this ruckus?”  came a gruff voice.

A tall, thin man with salt and pepper hair, a white mustache and goatee ambled out from the back room.  He had impossibly long arms and legs and had often been mistaken for long gone Abraham Lincoln.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Moving All That Stuff!

 

Moving

By:  Katy Curry©

Moving.  Taking a person or persons and placing them in a new location.  It should be easy, right.  If I want to give my daughter-in-law a dress, I put it in the car, drive for two miles, and give her the dress.  Done!  It is moved!

It should be almost that easy!  When Abraham was alive, the people lived a nomadic life; they were always packed, just take down the tents, pack up the cooking stuff, put the kids in a cart and off they went to their next location!  Even then it was complicated, those huge tents!  The herds alone were huge and not always cooperative.

It is no better today.  Frank and I are moving, downsizing to a retirement home.  We are finishing one part of our lives and embarking on a new chapter.  We can bring little or nothing of what we have accumulated over thirty-seven years with us as that chapter in our lives finishes, the things, the stuff with it are necessarily leaving as well.  That should make it easy, right?  Welllllll, not exactly.  The china tea set from my great grandmother, she protected it all the way from Ireland!  The flatware that is sterling silver, the desk that belonged to my grandmother, the books I have accumulated that are a necessary part of my life, not novels, mind you, but study guides, reference books.  Then there are the art supplies, enough pictures to decorate two houses much less a two bedroom apartment!

As I look around me I have a mess, so much has already been thrown out, now the decisions about what stays and what goes.  What will the kids take?  Then my brother contacts me; he wants a few things too!

Jesus told us to store up our treasure in heaven, not here on earth.  He had an excellent point; not only can you not take it with you, but it sure is a pain to move around from point A to point B!

This “stuff” concept has been driven even closer to home for me during this particular move.  Frank is in the hospital.  He was diagnosed with sepsis.  I did not know if he was going to live or die.  The sepsis is gone, but there are other indications of an even more serious problem.  As I have watched my wonderful husband fight the sepsis, beat off a high fever being packed in ice, fade in and out of deliriousness, all this stuff has become totally unimportant.  Instead of worrying about where it will fit and looking forward to seeing it unpacked, it has become an encumbrance.   This stuff is right now not a blessing; it is a pain.

My point is, I need, we all need, to get over this having stuff!  We acquire it, accumulate it, pay a moving company a lot of money to pack it and take it to our new location and for what?  So we can say “Look what I have?”  We humans are so foolish!  We so quickly lose sight of what is truly important in life, sometimes even when the reality of it all is staring us in the face.

Our Savior, Jesus Christ must come first both individually and as a couple, He must be first in our lives.  Our second most important thing is our spouse or family, then our job, our church; our commitment to others, the stuff will come at one point or another.  The important thing to remember is that it is just stuff and worth a lot less than we would think, nothing in the grand scheme of things.

Jesus had the clothes on His back.  He was a homeless itinerant preacher.  His “stuff” was in heaven and what He shared with us was and is far more precious than the biggest diamond in the finest ring.  Each of us needs to develop a new perspective on “stuff.”

So, even if you have “stuff” that you truly need around you for your work or hobbies, stuff that brings you joy in your home, make sure it is there not for vanity but to give honor and glory to God.  It is a lesson I am working hard to learn.

So, on that note, would anyone like a pink and white tea set that is over one hundred years old?

Mourn America

Some months back I wrote the first part of “Sorrow” but then lost it.  Today, while looking for something else, I suddenly had access to where that and several other stories are.   Thank you, Jesus! 

You have read “Sorrow” now read this one.  If you are willing to slog through them both, please let me know which one you like better!

Katy Curry©

Her smile was grim as she remembered how she waved in tatters over a continental army striving for freedom from British tyranny.  She took pride in those leaders; Adams, Jefferson, Washington, Franklin.  She remembered the words penned in the Declaration of Independence:

                           “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness;”

She thought of what it had meant to the men who had rebelled against England, what it cost them, their families.  She considered how her country had been founded, in the hearts and minds of pilgrims searching for religious freedom,  from the blood and sacrifice of patriots who fought for freedom.

It had taken an uncommon amount of commitment, bravery, blind faith, and heroism to withstand the deprivations of cold, lack of food, lack of supplies, clothes or even shoes; but they stood, they stood tall and brave.   She flung the tear off her cheek, raised herself straight and proud and encouraged the eagle to scream in pride and glory.  There was more of that document, more that reminded her of the responsibility the founders and all the citizens had assumed.

“WE, THEREFORE, the REPRESENTATIVES of the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, in General Congress assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the name and by the authority of the good people of these colonies solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, FREE AND INDEPENDENT STATES;… And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.”

She saw the oath to God for the honor of what they were to do and saw how God had looked after and blessed those early Americans.  A song came softly on a drift of breeze…softly at first

“God Bless America!  Land that I love!

Stand Beside her, and guide her …..”

The words slipped away.  She tried to reach for them .

“From the mountains…to….the…”

They were gone!

A stealthy foreboding shadow had crept over her; its clouds had blocked the sun.  The angry black clouds boiled up in a fury that rumbled ominously with thunder and struck out angry slivers of lightning.  In those dark and menacing clouds and angry slivers of lightning she saw an evil try to rise, it was trying to strike down what those brave men had stood freedom, for her land, and won.

This darkness, this evil came in the shapes evil usually does; pride, greed, love of self.  There had been small skirmishes here and there with this evil that would destroy the land, they grew and grew until men and women were bought and sold like so much cattle.  It grew as states would raid and kill as a way to force new states to accept a title of slave or free state.  Then came that grave day, the day the tall man was elected.  South Carolina was the first to leave, others soon followed.  The result was the most destructive 5five years of battle, of death, of pain that a land could stand.  Brother fought against brother, father against son.  The tall man had tried to bring peace but died before he saw success.  The truth of his words rang out:

“Four scores and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

,, that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”  (Abraham Lincoln)

This man of honor and faith reminded the land and reminded Old Glory that this country, this land, this United States of America was a “new nation, conceived in liberty.” and dedicated to the equality of ALL men.  She thought of that last sentence, he honored the dead and their devotion on both sides; urged the country to resolve that these men, Confederate and Union, would not have died in vain.  That THIS country, THIS United Stated of America, UNDER GOD, should have an NEW BIRTH of Freedom and that the government OF THE PEOPLE, BY THE PEOPLE, FOR THE PEOPLE should not perish from this earth.

His words reminded her of the Declaration of Independence, was it there?  What had it said?  Oh, yes.  That all men were created equal and that all were endowed by their Creator with inalienable rights, such as the right to life, to liberty, and to the pursuit of happiness.

She had watched while the stars on her field of blue had grown, taken joy and pride as she watched the people grow into the wonderful words they had struck.  For the words of the Declaration, the words of the tall man — those were words a country HAD to grow into.  The full import of those words, the full responsibility of those words would continue to be learned and understood and implemented for years and years, or would they?????

She watched with pride as her land came to stand for right and might.  How her people would come to assist others around the world to fight against evil and injustice.  She stood so much straighter as people streamed to her borders from other lands in search of that freedom offered to any who would come and work hard and become Americans.

The wars came and went, she saw the horror of mustard gas, of the boxcars and ovens, the torture of men, women, even children.  She saw how evil tried over and over to raise its ugly head, to destroy her land.  She again stood proudly as that evil was defeated.  Her men and women came home.  Years went by, but something happened; people started to forget.  Evil had learned, it was stealthier in its attack.  No more broadsides, not for a while.

A chill went through Glory as she felt it sink, into the lives of Americans.  It had been a time of plenty, a time of economic growth, job growth, a time of comfort.  Her people, lulled into a false sense of security., relaxed their watchfulness.  Evil assured them, “No more can hurt you, just be happy, you have won and you did it, you can relax.  You have fought hard and are tired; so rest….sleep, sleep,…”  Well, the people did sleep.  They let their sense of entitlement take over; they forgot their Creator; they forgot what it takes to keep a land safe.They became selfish and greedy.  She tried so hard to wake them up but the evil, the darkness just smiled and continued being patient, advancing, retreating, then advancing again.  It gave up ground on some fronts, gained on others then went back and took back the ground it had lost.  It chortled once in the words of a man from another land “I once said, “We will bury you,” and I got into trouble with it. Of course, we will not bury you with a shovel. Your working class will bury you.” (Nikita Khrushchev).  Still, the people took no note.

Glory waved, worked to inspire, but the people could not be awakened from their malaise.  Little by little, supposed rights” took away the very words of the constitution.  First, God was denied, then a word was coined that took away the humanity of a baby, fetus.  Then came the “right ”  of a woman to her body.  Evil deluded the people.  Evil said, “Sex is good, why should you not enjoy?  Why should only those who are married have so much fun?”  Thus the crushing war on a woman’s sexuality began.  Birth Control, sex ed classes, legal abortion.  No longer is there a right to life, liberty or the pursuit of happiness,” Old Glory moaned.  “Now we extinguish life before it can enjoy life or liberty.  We take away the liberty of young women through the ideas of sexual freedom, they are forced to think they must.  Evil has taken away every protection.”  Evil’s grimace of a smile became wider, the blood of innocents stained its sharp teeth and dripped from the side of its awful ugly terrifying grin.

As the dank slumber deepened evil became more bold.  People looked not to the words of one who came to warn, the words that said: “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country!”  (John F. Kennedy) Evil killed him, He had so little time to make his words a part of the land, their meaning, their great import was lost.

Other attacks came, a weak government, too weak and frightened to rescue hostages, somehow, for a while a hero would arise to beat that evil back and Glory remembered the pride of Reagan, the simple greatness of Bush.  She remembered when evil attacked again, with a boldness she would never have believed.  Over three thousand lives were lost that day, that September 11th.  The people seemed to wake up, but they had been in their drugged state for too long.  They were not used to a true fight, they did not have the stamina, they were weak.  They heard evil’s words and again closed their eyes.  They slapped at the responsibility, and the cry of the trampled people.  The clouds that adorned evils head grew thicker and blacker.  Evil continued to whisper lies to the people, Lies they wanted to hear, begged to hear.

Glory looked around.  The horror overtook her, the stench from the drug of the malaise reached her, she reared back in disgust and lifted her hand to her mouth, “Scream Eagle, Scream!  Scream at what they have done!  Scream to wake them up! Scream to call them back.”

Eagle screamed.  He screamed through the mouths of the stalwart few who had not succumbed to evil’s lies.  He screamed through song and prayer and praise, he screamed until he could scream no more.  “Glory, it is up to them.  I can do no more, I am used up.”

Glory understood.  She herself was tattered and torn.  She and Eagle looked over the broken land, the broken people, and tears of grief rolled down their cheeks.  She looked upward to the heavens, through the ones who were not asleep, she inspired prayer.  Prayer poured forth from the lips of those still awake.  Pray for our leaders, pray for our people, pray for an awakening.”

Glory waved high and proud in my yard this morning.  proclaiming what was once and what could be again, if only the people in her land would awaken.

 

Money

In the Bible, Jesus talked about money more than sin, heaven, hell, or any other topic.  Proverbs spends more time talking about money again, than anything else.  Money is a blessing and a curse, depending on your view of it and how you use it.

Money should never be accumulated for the sake of money.  It is a tool, and like all tools should be treated as one.  I think most of us have a problem with that.  We want that nicer car or that fancier home, a better wardrobe or the upscale vacation.  Money is essential to a reasonably comfortable lifestyle, but it is not a goal in itself.  People can get confused on that point.

Money is used as recognition as a sign of a higher level or skill at a particular job, a recognition for a job well done,  payment for hours spent in the employ of another.  All these are fine things.  One also obtains monies by dabbling in the illegal, activities that hurt others such as prostitution, drugs, thievery, and a host of other inappropriate things.    There are day traders who play the stock market all day hoping to come out the big winner.  All too often they either break even or loose.   Fortunes and made and lost in the stock market and inside trading is not as uncommon as one might thing all in the name of the almighty dollar.

There is a price on everything from food to medicine, from a person’s time to a person’s life.  Yes, there is truly slavery in this world, in this country, the USA, in every country. But what I am talking about is the value an actuary will put on a person’s life.  If an individual is in the beginning of their 20’s there is a higher value on their life than on the life of a baby or a retiree.  A baby has unproven potential, a retiree has used up his or her potential thus when settling a wrongful death suit, it matters little how loved or how important to you Grandpa Jack was, he wasn’t worth what Young Ben, age 26 and an up and coming stock broker was.   In today’s world, everything is broken down into dollars and cents.

Knowing this, it is easy to forget that money is but a tool, not a goal.  In the Book of Proverbs, it talks about wisdom and who wisdom should be valued:

“Blessed are those who find wisdom,
    those who gain understanding,
14 for she is more profitable than silver
    and yields better returns than gold.
15 She is more precious than rubies;
    nothing you desire can compare with her.
16 Long life is in her right hand;
    in her left hand are riches and honor.
17 Her ways are pleasant ways,
    and all her paths are peace.
18 She is a tree of life to those who take hold of her;
    those who hold her fast will be blessed.

Money is often wasted because  people do not respect it for what it is, use it foolishly, and fall victim to those who would take advantage of that fact.  The most common form we see today is in the form of usury, payday loans that charge one thousand percent per day, and once you have taken out two or three or four of these, you are working to pay the usurers, not the electric bill or the power bill, or to put food on the table.

Why does Jesus and the Bible put so much emphasis on money?  You would think it would be on heaven or such.  Money tends to be the root of so much sin.  You either sin trying to get money, or in keeping it or wanting what it can buy.  If you do not use wealth or money as the tool God intended it will be a cause of great strife and grief and upset.

 Let’s take a look at the rich man.  Remember the rich prince who came to Jesus and said he had kept the ten Commandments and wanted to know what else he must do to enter the Kingdom of Heaven?  Do you remember what Jesus said to him?  He said, “Sell all you have, give it to the poor, and follow me. ”  The young prince hung his head and left.  You see, Jesus knew his sin, he could not give up his stuff .  He did not have the faith that He would receive enough to keep him content from God.

I wonder, are we like that?  How often are we down to our last hundred or twenty or ten and see a need before us, but stop because we better keep it until payday?   True, we may make it by a hair, or God may see a need we  have and meet it.  Perhaps that need will show up in a week or a month or a year and that is when He will meet it.

There was a lady ahead of me in the supermarket one night before Christmas.  She had a baby, maybe three months old with her.  She was short nine dollars and change.  As a retired couple, and me having no understanding of money (why can’t you spend it twice?) I studied on my wallet trying to be grownup and responsible.  She was at her wit’s end.  The “me” part of me took over and when I got up to the cash register, I told the girl to put the nine dollars and change on my ticket.  My only regret was that I had not done it sooner, before she got so upset.  I was not after recognition or thank you, I remembered being with my boys when they were little and trying to handle everything with them.  Then too, it was Christmas.  I ran into her in the parking lot, what she could not have known was that she would have had to reshopped her entire basket, they could not hold the sale.  I told her to have a Merry Christmas and kept on going and I am sure one day she will do the same for someone else.  Could I afford to do that, not really, but trusting God to get us through I just did what seemed right.  We are getting through just fine.

Why do we think we will suffer if we give something away?  I don’t think our God is like that.  However, if we are foolish with our money, do not set up a proper budget, do not live within our means, do not  give tithes and offerings, well, that is just like saying we don’t need Him or the Wisdom He offers.

It just seems funny.    it does not matter what topic we bring up, to do it correctly and well, we always wind up with God.  He is the Maker of all things, He is the Alpha and Omega.  He is  the answer to everything.  Amazing, wonderful, and so encouraging.  For if He is the answer to everything, then if we ask for something in His Name and plan to use it for His glory, will our Heavenly Father, who will deny us nothing unless it is harmful say no?  He may say wait, but our prayers will always be answered.

So when it comes to money, follow the Wisdom of Proverbs, set up a Godly budget, and use money as the tool it was intended to be used as.  You will find you can afford more, live better, and be happier!