Virtual Chat with Beth Wood at Cary Pink House

Enjoy getting to know your NC State Auditor, Beth Wood through this exclusive Cary Pink House livestream benefit event on Thursday June 30 from 7 to 8 p.m.

“Beth is sassy, classy and smart,” said Sheila Ogle, Cary Pink House owner who will moderate the livestream event. “Prepare questions to ask and learn how Beth’s strong leadership with 30 years of auditing experience has identified hundreds of millions of dollars in wasteful spending during her 12 years as our NC State Auditor. Beth remains undeterred in her mission to protect taxpayers every step of the way.”

Register through the Cary Pink House Facebook Page.

“The citizens of North Carolina recognize my devotion to this office and the need for for me to complete the work I started. I want to continue to serve as your eyes and ears,” said Beth.

Listen in as Beth shares a little about the work of the NC State Auditor’s office.

Please support Beth with a $50 donation that will help her prepare for the November election.

A Note from North Carolina State Auditor Beth Wood:

Growing up on the farm in Craven County, I had daily chores from an early age and my parents taught me the value of hard work. I became a dental assistant and worked my way through college at ECU to earn my accounting degree. I have worked as a Certified Public Accountant for 30 years, and for the past 22 years I have worked in the State Auditor’s office, including my three terms as North Carolina State Auditor. I work every day to protect all of our tax dollars.

As State Auditor, I have:

  • Identified hundreds of millions of dollars in wasteful spending
  • Maintained objectivity and independence in the Auditor’s office
  • Produced audits with irrefutable findings
  • Aggressively presented audit reports for legislative action
  • Followed up on previous audits to ensure corrective actions are taken
  • Continued to identify abusive and wasteful spending of your taxpayer dollars

I remain undeterred in my mission to protect taxpayers every step of the way. From start to finish, I vow to safeguard how your tax dollars are spent.

About Beth Wood: Beth is a long-time public servant with over 30 years of auditing experience. The first woman elected to that office, Beth has served as State Auditor since 2009. She previously worked in the State Auditor’s Office for more than a decade and also served in the State Treasurer’s Office. Prior to state government, Beth worked with Rayovac Corporation, as a CPA with McGladrey & Pullen and was the CFO for a North Carolina-based furniture company.

FRS Communications is providing the technical and social media support for this event.

Betcha Can Create Something Fun

Board games are my addiction and one of the latest games to capture our family’s attention is Betcha Can’t! The game is fast moving and tests your ability to name common and not so common things in a short time. Sometimes you have 10 seconds to list ice cream flavors or you might have 45 seconds for arctic animals. Get your bet right and you get the card. Collect five cards and you are the winner. Challenges, time outs and proving you are the better bettor are all part of the fun.

Teen Inventors

What I like most about this game is that is created by teen entrepreneurs Lily Brown and Tait Hansen. After overcoming the hurdles of designing a game that can be mass produced by a toy company, the teens entered the game into a competition and won the chance to meet a toy manufacturer. The rest as they say is history or in this case herstory!

Think you can invent a game? Now is the time to try. Betcha Can’t! was entered into the Young Inventor Challenge that happens annually during the Chicago Toy and Game Fair in November. 

To enter, kids must first design and prototype a game or toy and create a pitch video for their product. During the Fair, kids present their products to major toy companies and, ultimately, the judges. From a pool of approximately 200 entries, a handful of winners are selected across a range of categories. Only one grand prize winner is chosen, and that winner’s product is eligible to be licensed by a major toy manufacturer (in this case Pressman Toys) and launched by Target.

Listen in as Lily and Tait talk with Eyewitness News WTVO WQRF

Book Review: “Dead Last”

Amanda Lamb takes her talent for writing compelling news stories to new heights with her first fiction “Dead Last.” Available May 12 on Amazon, “Dead Last” will captivate you from the start with the intrigue around a runner who falls during a marathon and whispers, “My husband is trying to kill me.”

It’s almost as if the years of having to trim stories to the minimal for a 60-second news sound-bite have flooded through Amanda’s  writing to deliver colorful characters in a story that will keep you reading to find out what happens next. Craftily written phrases bring images offering more clarity to the story. The lead character, Maddie Arnette, doesn’t just go visit someone. Maddie enters a neighborhood with “beautiful houses that have the power to hide the lives crumbling inside.” People aren’t crazy. They “casually wield passive aggression like a machete.”

If you are craving a great mystery that offers insights into crime reporting, pre-order your copy today and be sure to sign up for a virtual book-signing on May 14 to hear from Amanda Lamb as she reads from the “Dead Last” and answers questions.  A time will be set up soon for Amanda to sign the books for readers who join the livestream event on Facebook.

About the author:  Amanda Lamb is a veteran television crime reporter with three decades of experience. She works for an award-winning NBC affiliate in Raleigh, North Carolina, WRAL-TV. She also appears on a regular basis on national news magazine programs and networks which feature true crime stories including Discovery Investigates. While Amanda has written and published nine books, Dead Last is her fiction debut and is born out of her many years of experience covering the crime beat. Amanda is the author three true crime books based on murder cases she covered for the news including: Deadly Dose, Evil Next Door, and Love Lies. She has also published four memoirs, one about caregiving and three about parenting, including: The Living Room, I Love You to God and Back, Girls Gone Child, and Smotherhood. Amanda has penned two children’s books, a story book version of I Love You to God and Back. Her newest offering is We Are Not the Same which is a labor of love for the Tammy Lynn Center, an organization that supports children and adults with disabilities.

You can catch Amanda’s juggling act daily on WRAL-TV or online at WRAL.com, on Instagram on Twitter and on Facebook.

Giving Back During COVID-19

There are so many reasons FRS Communications is a proud sponsor of Fit & Able Productions. The most obvious is the unwavering support to the community. When faced with having to cancel event after event to prevent the spread of COVID-19, this incredible nonprofit took the opportunity to highlight the needs of others.

I am proud to serve as a board member for Fit and Able and volunteer Content Strategies including videos. Check out their YouTube page that now includes workout tips you can do at home. In an email sent to the followers was the list below of the groups that need our help now more than ever.

Dorcas Ministries – “Dorcas has celebrated over 50 years of serving our local community with tools and resources to help our clients become self-reliant while addressing immediate crises. Dorcas Ministries provides compassionate assistance to area residents to empower people to become stable and self-sufficient.” Fit & Able supports Dorcas Ministries through our Threads of Hope. 

The Wake Tech Foundation – “The Wake Tech Foundation cultivates and manages an array of resources critical to Wake Tech Community College’s success. These resources allow the college to meet instructional and institutional needs and continue to offer top-quality, affordable education and training to the Wake County region.” Fit & Able supports the Wake Tech Foundation through our Fostering Footsteps for Bright Futures.

Video feature with Joe Cotton, NC State Highway Patrol

200 Club of Wake County – “The 200 Club of Wake County is an organization of concerned citizens dedicated to supporting First Responders living or working in Wake County. The primary mission of The 200 Club is providing immediate financial help for the families of First Responders living or working in Wake County who lose their lives in the line of duty.” Fit & Able supports the 200 Club through our Cozy Toes.

Life Experiences, Inc. – “Life Experiences, Inc. is a nonprofit organization that blends education, training, and the free enterprise system to create and operate businesses which provide fulfilling employment for adults with developmental disabilities, allowing them to function as independent, productive citizens while at the same time providing valuable services and products to the community.” 

The Carying Place – “Our goal is to help working homeless families achieve independent living through mentoring of volunteers providing weekly guidance in managing personal finances, seeking permanent affordable housing, and maintaining a job – breaking the cycle of poverty they have experienced.” Fit & Able helps the Carying Place raise support with the Labor Day Race for Home.

North Carolina Senior Games – “In 1983 N.C. Senior Games began with a vision to create a year-round health promotion and education program for North Carolinians 50 years of age and better. Today, there are over 60,000 participants in 53 Local Games programs that serve all 100 counties across the state. Senior Games is a holistic approach to body, mind and spirit staying fit, while enjoying the company of friends, family, spectators, and volunteers.” Fit & Able stages NC Senior Games’ annual 5K and 10K Championship.

Center for Volunteer Caregiving – “The Center for Volunteer Caregiving engages the community in providing volunteer services to improve the lives of seniors, caregivers and adults with disabilities. In everything we do, we will conduct ourselves with integrity, caring, and compassion.”

Triangle Aphasia Projected, Ltd. – “TAP Unlimited is a community based nonprofit organization that helps individuals with aphasia, their families and friends, and the community. Individuals with aphasia receive support and programming for as long as they want to, helping them return to the community with improved communicative confidence and full engagement.” Fit & Able helps TAP drive support with the Strides for Speech race.

Wade Edwards Learning Lab (WELL) – “Our Mission: Providing the student community with opportunities for achievement, enrichment, and service, in preparation for personal and academic success. How? Positive youth development is an intentional, pro-social approach that engages youth within their various social groups; recognizes and utilizes strengths of youth; and promotes positive outcomes for young people.” WELL participates in the Charity Distance Festival.

US Veterans Corps – “We are a corps of military veterans performing hands on community service with a mission deployment attitude. Our mission: to participate in community service projects and events in the military and civilian community.” Fit & Able supports the US Veterans Corps through our Fortnight Before Christmas.

Watch this video featuring Christer Berg filmed at the 2020 Mutts & Marshmallows

SPCA of Wake County

“Our Mission: To transform the lives of pets and people through protection, care, education and adoption.  Our vision is to create a humane community–and achieving that vision begins with ending the euthanasia of all healthy and treatable animals.” Fit & Able helps raise support for the SPCA with the Mutts & Marshmallows and Pups & Pastries.

Travis Manion Foundation – “Travis Manion Foundation’s mission is to empower our nation’s veterans and families of our fallen heroes to develop character in future generations in order to strengthen communities.” Fit & Able helps support the Travis Manion Foundation with the 9/11 Heroes Run. 

Horse & Buddy – “Horse and Buddy exists to help people with special needs improve balance, muscle tone, motor skills, and self-esteem. We enrich the lives of children and adults with special needs through equine assisted therapies and activities in a safe and caring environment.”

A New Lease on Life – “A New Lease on Life helps those experiencing homelessness get back on their feet through stable housing. We bridge housing opportunities with local non-profit agencies and provide an available apartment home at a reduced rate. The program offers a hand up to those in need.” Fit & Able helps support A New Lease on Life through our Leaves to Leases.

Soles for Souls – “Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority has partnered with Soles4Souls in an effort to wear out poverty in developing countries by providing gently worn or new shoes to those who currently do not have them. A pair of shoes provides relief in developing nations, in times of disaster, and helps bridge the economic gap.” Fit & Able helps support Soles 4 Souls at Sole Mates. 

Heart Smart Classrooms in a Pandemic Time

In The EQ Intervention: Shaping a Self-Aware Generation Through Social and Emotional Learning, Dr. Adam L. Sáenz offers a free Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) assessment designed to help teachers increase student academic performance and encourage a more positive classroom experience.

There has never been a better time to explore our personality style and vulnerability to stress than while we are self-isolated. “Students are feeling disoriented being away from the friends and activities that largely define them. Students are also sensing their parents’ stress and fear of the unknown,” from @AdamSaenzPhD.

In his latest book, Sáenz offers personal stories and struggles from his childhood and classroom experiences. His inspiration comes from two teachers who believed in his abilities to succeed.  Although the book was written as an aid in teaching in a classroom, much of the material is very applicable to a home school environment that many parents now find themselves. The foundation of the work incorporates self-awareness, self-regulation, social awareness, social/relationship skills, and responsible decision making.

Consider taking the online assessment first and then jump to Chapter 3 in “The EQ Intervention,” How Can We Regulate Ourselves. It takes about 15 minutes to work through the questions to receive results for your psychological measure of personality and emotional intelligence called EASEL (Educator Assessment of Social and Emotional Learning).

At the end of each chapter are shortcuts and ways to improve such as learning to distinguish the urgent from the important and conflict resolution. It is not possible to manage every emotion, it is possible to maximize strengths and work on areas that need improvement.

“When students are able to identify and manage their feelings, and when they feel connected to those around them, not only are they less likely to resort to violence to express their emotions, but they are also more likely to develop healthy social bonds and to attain higher levels of academic achievement,” says Sáenz.

About the author: As a licensed psychologist, Dr. Sáenz conducts workshops across the country in the areas of stress management, the dynamics of effective relationship and team-building, and emotionally intelligent leadership. He resides in Texas.

For more information, visit www.adamSáenz.com, or follow him on Twitter at @AdamSáenzPhD.

The First Easter Sermon

By Grandpa Whit (1920)

John 20:18 “I have seen the Lord.”

In these words we have the first Easter Sermon. It will be observed that it is not by one of the twelve, nor by an apostle, nor prophet, but by a woman. And that in an age when woman’s standing was of the lowest. And this woman, Mary of Magdalene, was one who had been looked upon only with pity, if not contempt. There was not a single disciple of our Lord whom the disciples would not sooner have expected to be such an honored messenger.

Upon the first Easter morning, early, when it was yet dark in more senses of the word than one, the darkness without being nothing to the gloom with in the disciple’s hearts – Mary had made her way to the tomb, forgetful alike of womanly fears and superstitions, and horror of the darkness. Her object John does not here tell us. But doubtless it was to be near the body of her dearest Friend, the one who had brought her healing and happiness to her troubled life.

Through the darkness, Mary perceived that the stone had been rolled away. Without a gleam of hope, but rather with despair, she saw this, and bore the news to the disciples. John and Peter set out for the tomb – John, the younger, doubtless outstrips Peter and comes first to the empty tomb, where reverence detains him and he pauses looking down and in. Impulsively Peter enters, and John following they find the tomb empty. It is said of John that “he saw and believed.” What? Apparently their belief went no further than the statement of Mary that the tomb was empty. Merely an empty tomb- no matter of what emptied, or how – will furnish men with no great dynamic for preaching. Christ’s resurrection was to mean infinitely more than a mere empty tomb. They return to their homes puzzled, alarmed. Mary had not followed them into the tomb, nor did she follow them from it, but remained waiting. Why, she herself could not have told. But she waited, and her waiting was rewarded. Reluctant to leave, she stooped and gazed within, and there through the haze of her tears, she saw the messengers. 

The disciples had not seen them. The curious eyes of even these closest followers of Jesus failed to reveal what the weeping woman saw There are many things we see only through tears. The Christian on his knees sees further than the philosopher upon the house top; through what the world calls blinding tears he sees truth unseen by the keenest sight.

The angels have surprise for the woman’s tears but not comfort, for behind her in the background, they see the figure of the Master standing in the ever characteristic attitude of waiting. They know well the comfort he will bring. When Mary turns, hoping to find the gardener, she does not know him till he speaks her name, but at that sorrow and sighing flee away as clouds before the sun, and the gloom of the night of despair is changed into sunshine of the first Easter morning. And Mary receives the commission which comes with every vision, and goes back to the city to preach the first glad tidings of the resurrection in the words, “I HAVE SEEN THE LORD!”The meaning of the Easter Sermon. Mary in the exultation of her spirit could not estimate the full significance of the words uttered. Nor are we, after the lapse of nineteen centuries, fully able to realize the meaning of that all the resurrection means.

It means for one thing that at last death had been conquered. For the first time the power of the grave had been broken and it had given up its prey, not as a miracle by a divine command from without, but by its own overthrow. His resurrection meant the overthrow of death. He has become the captain of our salvation, and at his shout we will all respond, for he himself has won for us the battle.

Again, it proved that God accepted and placed thus his seal of approval on his work of redemption. We might not know that this was after all the Son of God, without the resurrection. Other men have given their lives for the truth, others seemed divine in the eyes of their infatuated followers, but Christ’s resurrection is the confirmation of that which we already know, that he is different.

Great and wonderful as these things are, the resurrections which Mary preached for the first time has yet another meaning. Over this we pause. Her simple statement “I have seen the Lord,” meant – though she may not have measured its significance – that the Jesus of Nazareth had become the Christ of universal experience – that the matchless Man of the first generation of the Christian era had in those hours become the Christ of all time. Death had not destroyed him or taken him away, but had rather freed him from the shackles of time and place, so that he who in his body could be in but one place, could now be every where. It is not for us to contrast the meaning of Easter, but this is not the least that Christ is risen and walks the earth.

The form of Mary’s sermon. It was the statement of a fact of personal experience. “I have seen the Lord.” There was no argument, no explanation, no citation of analogous cases, or quotation of Scriptures. No, nor any elaboration or her credentials as witness: Only – and that was enough – the plain statement, “I have seen the Lord.” This is the ideal form of a sermon and what every sermon should be, the statement of a fact. The world and men are asking for no metaphysical argument on the possibility, or defense, or explanation of the great facts of our faith. But they do demand a statement of them.

All Christians should be preachers of the resurrection. It is one of the very cardinal points of our faith. Many things are bound up with it. And we are called upon constantly to be preachers of it. Not perhaps in great cathedrals or large audiences, but nonetheless preach it. For every man or woman who takes upon himself or herself the name of Christian honestly, witnesses to a belief in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. And this we must preach. We must declare that we will. Every true vision contains in it that which makes its beholder an evangelist.

But it was more than a declaration of a fact. Its objective side was there, but in the sermon, Mary there was the subjective side as well. “I have seen the Lord.” It is not the statement that the Lord has risen, great though that is, nor is it the declaration that others have seen him. It is not a second-hand information that Mary brings but her own personality is bound up with the message: “I have seen the Lord.”

Tell the needy and dying world that the Lord is not dead but is here, and that you have seen him, and hope will kindle in despairing hearts and men will rise up to serve God, saved by your vision. This is what the world needs, men and women to whom the great fact is that they have seen the Lord. This is what you must tell the world. You need not theories or argue. It cares little for your surmises, but tells that you have seen him.

Lastly, see how Mary gained her grasp of the truth that made her the preacher of the resurrection. Whenever a man or a woman has preeminently a message we know that some experience or another may be held accountable in a measure for this. We know that great heights are never gained with a struggle. And we know that in some way or another, there has been a reason. What could Mary’s be? Whatever we make out of the expression “Seven Devils,” (from Luke 8:2) we know that it was an affliction which robbed  her of respect among her friends. The most unlikely for this honor.

It was love and only love which was Mary’s claim to this high honor. It was love for this man that brought her to the tomb, while others remained home. It was love that bound her to the spot there last she saw the body of her lord. No hope had dawned in her breast. A greater love than she wrote about hope and faith being two great things in the world. But love was the greater yet. And love had outlasted hope and faith, and here, as so often, proved itself the greater and the more enduring.

The Cross and the Ordinary Man*

This Sunday begins a week at whose center stands the cross, the end of which comes Easter. Being coerced to think about the cross tempts one to insincerity and the danger is unreality instead of reality. The event which this week commemorates was terribly real. The young Prince of Glory, loving life and doubtless praying for more time in church to do his fuller work walked out instead with a cross upon his back toward Calvary and its horrors. Gethsemane and the Crucifixion were terribly real.

Just because Calvary was so dreadfully real to Jesus, however, it is likely to be unreal to us. It is so great – so terrific – that bloody cross on Golgotha with a man there broken in bleak agony and crying – My God, my God. Let us look at our lives in comparison, their ordinary preoccupations, their familiar burdens and sins.

What kinship is there between us and Calvary? There are souls which have learned that there is a kinship between themselves and Calvary in ordinary as well as extraordinary time and could not rest until they have equaled the most heroic and sacrificial deeds. But the most of us are not like that – not on ordinary days.

Let us seek some element in the experience of the cross so universal that it must become real to us in our daily life. When Jesus went to the cross, he was doing something that no one could have required of him. No law could be passed to coerce a man to sacrifice himself like that – if passed – unenforced. In going to the cross he was taking on himself something that no one could command. He was moving in the realm of unenforceable obligations. That is the practical message of the cross. If and when you experience the glory of life, it will come to you personally as you assume or realize your kinship with Calvary and move in the great realm of unenforceable obligations. 

Our ordinary life is made up of two things, enforceable and unenforceable obligations. On the one side – conduct that the law or custom of the court can command. On the other – the way of living that no law and no codes of custom can command. Even within the family some things can be lawfully demanded – but all great motherhood, great fatherhood, and beautiful family life move in the realm of the unenforceable obligations. It is true with the nation – the greatness of a nation lies in the number of its citizens who can be trusted to obey self-imposed laws. 

In our country, the importance of this might be obscured by the fact of our outrage – our lawlessness. Obviously, we would be better off if the laws we already have were observed – but that by itself alone would not make a great nation. The greatness of a nation lies in the higher realm where men and women in every relationship of life do far more than what is demanded of them. This is true in matter of common honesty. Take the case of the farmer writing to ask his Senator to vote for the Pure Food Law. The Senator surprisingly knew his practice, but the farmer wanted him to vote for the law requiring him to stop from the practice. That reveals our problem of human life – the inner difficulty of acquiring the kind of character that will yield obedience to the unenforceable obligations.

Reduced to its simplest and most universal terms, Jesus on that Good Friday was voluntarily taking on himself what no one possibly could have commanded. Consider our need for this kind of character. If with canny eyes one watches people, they fall into three general classes – lawless people; law-abiding people whose code of conduct comes from without – codes custom of society; third those people who get their criteria from within – of standards of character.

As dangerous as the lawless, the most dangerous is the second class, more of them, certainly no great society can be produced by the lawless, no more so can society – great society be sustained by those who are barely good and get by on a conduct required. So the greatness of a nation lies in the number of its citizens who yield obedience to the unenforceable laws. True artists of the nation belong to this class, must obey the inner impulse. True scientists belong to the class – must obey the inner urge. True public servants belong to this class. No law of the nation can demand what me like Washington and Lincoln endured and did.

But what I am trying to say this morning in the gift of the rays of light from the cross that EVERY TRUE CHRISTIAN belongs to this class. The essence of Christian living lies in breaking free from, and rising above, all legalism and doing far more than any law can exact or any person can require.

This is the rub and marrow of the Jesus spirit and teaching. “Whosoever shall compel thee to go one mile, go with him two.” That is His philosophy in a nutshell, the excess and overflowing goodwill. “If you love them who love you, what rewards have you? Do not the publicans say the same, Love your enemies?” That is something over and above what is expected of you. When you shall have done all the things that are commanded you say, “We are unprofitable servants – we have done that which was our duty to do.” So! That is the starting point in life – when we have done our duty.

Forgive not seven times but seventy times seven – said Jesus to Peter. Thus the privilege of generosity begins where the law ends. When Jesus faced and accepted the cross which no one could have commanded of him, it was the climatic expression of everything he had taught and done in his more ordinary days.

Our natural reaction to this idea of Christian living is to say, “Such is an extravagance of goodness that it can not fit in the rough and tumble of our business life.” Yet, when it is put into daily business life, we never forget it. Mark Twain was involved in a financial failure and saw his publishing house forced into bankruptcy with a large outstanding debt. No legal claim against him. But Mark Twain, voluntarily shouldered the debt at the age of 60 saying, “Honor is a harder master than the law.” At the age of 64, debt paid and he was ready to start life anew unencumbered.

Think of the influence this kind of character wields when it appears. We commonly estimate the worth of characters like David Livingstone going to Africa or Sir Wilfred Grenfell going to Labrador, in terms of service, they render.  But that is hardly half the story. The greater thing such men and women do lies in their powerful influence upon our whole philosophy of life. They shake our self complacency to pieces; they shall and subdue us by the simple fact that they undertake to do what no one could possibly demand of them. The sight of someone thus moving grandly off into the realm of unenforceable obligations is the most impressive thing in the moral world.

When you see David Livingstone in Africa, Sir Wilfred Grenfell, the Christian Physician, and Elizabeth Fry, the prison reformer as volunteers moving about in the real of unenforced service you behold the essential spirit of the cross in its simplest and most universal meaning. And seeing the cross in that light, you can not get away from it even on ordinary days.

Every boy and girl here, on every day in home and school can do something beyond what anybody could have demanded. Every man or woman here every day can do for someone more than one could have expected.

This amazing spiritual power, the most elevating and the most impressive in the world, is in our hands even in our ordinary hours. At the beginning the cross seemed vague and general. But now I am startled as though I hear my one name over the air – and a voice saying, “The cross means me, ordinary me on ordinary days. Every day I can do something beyond what any one has a right to demand.”

For this quality of life leads us straight to the need of personal Christianity – the kind that gets a man not from without but from within.

If we are going to move over into the realm of unenforceable obligations, something must happen on the inside – must find a potent philosophy of life within – a deep and inward propulsion of spirit must fall in love with something from within.

No man can hire or bribe or compel a man to live a life like the Apostle Paul. But Christ got Paul to do it. There is no telling how far a man will go when he loses his heart to something or someone worth following to the limit.

This inward experience can exist in many forms, but the highest and most potent form comes when a person feels that something has been done for him so great that he can never pay back the debt. His life is no longer his own. It does not belong to him anymore. He is bought with a price. The major element arrives when we feel some beauty, goodness, love, truth poured out on us by the sacrifice of others beyond our mirror or deserving, mothers, prophets, and friends put us under obligation we can never pay.

So at last, we stand before the cross of Christ and here we see one of the most towering facts in life – the realm of grace – the sacrificial gifts bought and paid for by those who did what we had no right to ask.

“When I Survey the Wondrous Cross” by Issac Watts

Were all the realm of nature mine,

That were a present far too small;

Love so amazing, so divine,

Demands my soul, my life, my all

At that point, you move over into the realm of unenforceable obligation.

Matthew 5:41 “Whosoever shall compel thee to go one mile, go with him two”

Also, The Lord’s Prayer in John 17

This blog’s worship comes from Christy Nockels, The Wondrous Cross


Life at Lee Academy

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Shirille Lee began documenting her time attempting home school through posts on Facebook titled “The Lee Academy for Hardheaded Girls.”

Shirille is keeping her humor while ensuring her girls are healthy, happy, and learning during the pandemic. The featured image above is a “before home school” and then the “after home school” image taken on April 2.

At some point, it became easier for Shirille to adopt a split personality and even brought her Mom in as a substitute teacher. Shirille’s postings on Facebook kept so many entertained that I asked if we could capture them in a blog and she agreed. I hope you enjoy these posts too.

“Clearly a Mom this close to the edge needs to be wearing a parachute,” one of Shirille’s fans.

The Lee Academy for Hardheaded Girls

Special blog by Shirille Lee

Well the first official day of The Lee Academy for Hardheaded Girls is over – thank God.

The Headmaster, teacher, custodian and bus driver left the students with a substitute teacher and went to her other job.

The students had their schedules – I mean classes didn’t start until 10:00 (2 hour delay because the sub is not an early riser- she is after all almost 81).

One student completed all the work assigned- headmaster left Social Studies off the schedule (it has been corrected for tomorrow) but the other student was rebellious.

Not only did the sub have to take her phone for playing gospel music in the classroom during work time, student refused to do spelling because she said the headmaster could not assign spelling words! Well, it’s on now!

The Substitute

The headmaster, teacher, custodian and bus driver will be in class tomorrow.

Plus the sub quit I think. I don’t know if she’s angry or cold.

Day 2

Today at the Lee Academy for Hard headed Girls went better- well depends on your definition of better! We’re all alive and no licks were exchanged!

Our day began with the Headmaster/teacher/Custodian/Bus driver-and newly added, Nutrition Director seeking God for patience , guidance and wisdom!

God is good – the work is done and everyone is unscathed and alive!

Areas the students must work on:

  • Your teacher is not a mind reader! When she calls roll, you need to acknowledge that you heard your name! Don’t cause said teacher undo annoyance!
  • When your break is over, it’s over- there is no “one more minute” or “let me finish my game”. It’s OVER!
  • When said teacher says “little girl” stop what you’re doing and look at teacher with apologetic eyes.
  • Teacher does not care what the schedules say, just do what the teacher said do (don’t argue, the teacher will win).
  • At the end of the school day, just thank God the teacher didn’t flip out from 1-4 and you’ve lived to see another day!!!!

Areas for the teacher:
* Stop trying to get the Headmaster to suspend the students. You know they really need to be in school!
* And at the end of the day, despite your many un-Christian like thoughts about your students, God still loves you!!!!!

Whew, what a day! I may go to bed before my students!!!

Day 3

This day at the Lee Academy for Hardheaded Girls began with the Headmaster/teacher/custodian/bus driver/ Nutrition Director and newly appointed IT person in prayer asking God for patience, guidance and a way to get in touch with the Governor to reinstate public school.

No response on the governor but I know His time is not my time but I hope He sees the desperation in my heart ❤

Classes started promptly at 10:00 with Kimberly working on Social Studies and Jay reading to said teacher.

The teacher realized quickly that she needed to go back to the prayer closet because if you said the word on the first 4 pages, it’s the same word on page 5. Don’t try to pronounce it different, and then look at me when I ask you to go back.

You said it wrong, little girl. 10 deep breaths and we move on.

Then when teacher ask questions about the story you just read, you look at me like I’m speaking a foreign language!

Little girl, you better answer your teacher!!! 10 more deep breaths- break time! (Lord, I’m going to need you to come on here and see about me and this little girl that is in mortal danger)

Kimberly calls because she needs the code for Zoom for her ELA class. Teacher checks her phone for the code that former teacher has not sent – she said she would.

Patience! Patience! Code is sent and we’re good.

Jaceonna and I took a break from work to do some community service, then back to work.

Jaceonna will work independently while the teacher works with the other student.

Kimberly informs the teacher she is on her lunch break. After a brief check on what work has been done, teachers go back to first student to find her sitting there – waiting because she has completed her work.

When teacher asked to see the work she was met with attitude! THAT’S it- go see the Headmaster!

Headmaster gives a heavy sigh and scratches her head. We will not tolerate insubordination – take the rest of the day to think about your behavior!!

Other student cries not fair and mutiny is in the making! The Academy will not tolerate this kind of behavior!

There will be consequences!

Kimberly says she wants the consequences if it means expulsion so be it!

Headmaster quickly realizes her precarious position. Thank God the headmaster remembered Jay had a doctor’s appointment and would have to release her to her mom.

After leaving Kimberly with a napping substitute (times are hard and good help is hard to find), Mom called Kimberly to remind her she had a math class via Zoom at 3:00.

Kimberly claimed she needed IT support to connect- what???

“I don’t have the link, it’s on your phone,” said Kimberly.

I can’t stand smart aleck children!

I think the Academy will have to close after 3 days. The teacher is threatening to walk!

Day 4

This day of the Lee Academy for Hardheaded Girls began with the Headmaster/teacher/custodian/bus driver/nutrition director/IT person and newly appointed title of Nurse in prayer- not asking God for patience (according to a friend, God is building my patience through these trials) but asking God to lead the custodian and nutrition director to the store that has eggs and Quilted Northern toilet paper.

The nutrition director scored but the custodian had to explain to the headmaster that the behinds at the Academy may have to adjust to generic toilet paper if things don’t change in the next week. The academy is not off to a good start. Nutrition director prepared breakfast for the students.

First assembly of the academy began with Kimberly telling the Headmaster she was a Headmistress (not the right time little girl).

Classes began on a delayed schedule.

Kimberly began with Science, Jaceonna with reading.

The substitute teacher (yes, she’s still hanging around) reported that Jay has been stealing toilet paper to shred and play with in which the headmistress went into overdrive– stop stealing toilet paper or charges will be filed. This is serious. If found guilty, you will serve time. Because of the toilet paper shortage, this could be a felony that comes with automatic jail time!

Student seems unconvinced so the headmistress asked the custodian to buy the generic paper and was told later that the store was sold out!

Missed opportunity! Jaceonna now must show both hands at the same time when exiting the bathroom to ensure school staff that she is not stealing the now coveted Quilted Northern toilet paper.

Because staff is now under tremendous pressure, students had a long lunch break while staff attended to other needs (like a paying job).

Jay reports her ear hurts and wants the nurse to look at it! Custodian thinks she may have toilet paper in it, but nurse couldn’t find any evidence.

Staff has decided that Friday will be a much needed mental health day.

Headmistress shared the news with students. Kimberly was happy. Jay decided she wants to work tomorrow. Teacher reminded Jay it’s been difficult to get her to complete work the last 4 days.

 “Yes, but I had toilet paper to play with. I can’t play with it tomorrow because you said I would go to jail and the Coron virus ( not Coronavirus) is out there, so I’ll just do my work tomorrow, “ said Jay.

She will be working independently because staff is out!!!!!!

Day 5

This day at the Lee Academy for Hardheaded Girls was different. Campus was closed today for community service event, yard work, and because the headmistress/teacher/custodian/bus driver/nutrition director/IT person/Nurse needed to work other job (the paying one).

My friend Jennifer suggested letting the girls write today’s entry. So brace yourself for these are quotes from the girls! (For those of you that don’t know my girls, Kimberly is very sarcastic about everything and Jaceonna is normally the kind one)

Me: Kimberly, could you write something describing this week at the academy?

Kimberly: Yea, it sucked!

Me: No honey, write a paragraph or two, describing what the week has been like for you?

Kimberly: why do I have to write paragraphs? Writing more is not going to change anything. I love YOU mom, but these alter egos or whatever you have been calling yourself this week suck! Terrible headmistress, terrible teacher, terrible….. well I guess you were okay as bus driver and custodian, but terrible IT and what’s the other one? Mom you’re obsessed with toilet paper and I think you need help. Let all them other personalities go and get you some help!

Me: Okay, thank you for not writing that. My feelings probably would have been hurt.

Kimberly: get over it mom!

Me: (trying to keep a straight face) Jaceonna, what did you think of this week?

Jaceonna: (shakes her head, gives me a thumbs down) It was bad mom! (turns and walks out)

There you go Jennifer, they’re even more entertaining than me!

Next week – same thing!!!!

Day 6

At the Lee Academy for Hardheaded Girls, this day went better, maybe.

The 3 days were good to have to re-establish our loving relationship – it had been tested prior days.

The girls were informed that at 10:00, school work would begin.

There was a lot of whining and mumbling, which ended with the teacher telling them to be quiet and get their packets. Jaceonna was asked to get her next reading assignment, so she could read to the teacher then work independently. She grabs last week’s schedule but the teacher explained it was a new week, new schedule.

Kimberly asked if she could decide what to work on and the teacher agreed. Kimberly decided she would work on Kinetic Energy. Science – good! Instead of getting her packet, she gets her Nintendo Switch.

 “Kimberly, what are you doing? It’s work time and you said that you were starting with Science,” asked the teacher.

“I’m not doing traditional Science. I’m working on my hand-eye coordination, Kinetic Energy. Come on my mom you can’t call yourself a teacher and not understand kinetics,” Kimberly responded.

Teacher told Kimberly she would have to stick with the packet of work given by her former school.

“I don’t understand why this school can’t be original. You should be encouraging my creativity, not crushing it! Geez…….,”exclaimed Kimberly.

Day 7

This was a very peaceful day at the Lee Academy. It was clear the Headmistress/teacher/custodian/bus driver/nutrition director/IT person/nurse/therapist was medicated (not sure who’s in charge of the medicine ) and calm. She remained calm when Jay asked for the 15th time if it was raining and when she asked what was for lunch 10 minutes after eating breakfast.

She even kept her cool when Kimberly challenged the very existence of the Academy.

“Other students have parents that are just parents that simply ask their kids if they’ve work on their packets. Mom, it’s not ideal for any of us to be home, but we are and I really don’t need the alternate personalities. I concerned mom that you may be on the verge of a psychotic episode. It’s a terrible time to get sick – even mentally. And I hate to tell you mom, if you go over the edge, you’ll probably have to stay – hospitals and doctors are too busy. You can’t stay here. Just think about it mom. You need a place to stay.”

Psychotic??? Me?

Day 8

The Lee Academy for Hardheaded Girls had another good day. Since the Headmistress and teacher have mellowed out, school runs much smoother.

Highlights from our day: The custodian scored big with an early run to Walmart. Yep, we scored Toilet paper and not just any toilet paper either. Quilted Northern!!!! The school Hineys will not have to adjust!!!!!

Kimberly and I listened to the robot call from the school.

AT NOON ON FRIDAY, APRIL 3RD, SPRING BREAK WILL BEGIN AND RUN THRU APRIL 13TH. THE SCHOOL SHALL HAVE NO EXPECTATIONS OF WORK FROM THE STUDENTS OR THE TEACHERS. USE THIS TIME TO REFRESH AND RECHARGE TO PREPARE FOR MORE IMPROVED AND INTERACTIVE ONLINE INSTRUCTIONAL LEARNING.

We are both a little teary-eyed by the end as it was proclaimed that spring break would begin at noon on Friday.

HALLELUJAH !!

The joy I felt had to be comparable to what slaves felt when Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 (history lesson) or what Nelson Mandela felt when he was released from prison!!

I love my girls, but this experience has been too much, especially since salons are closed and I cannot get my roots colored.

For spring break this year, I plan to go…… I forgot, I can’t go anywhere! (Deep breathes)

In a few months, after all this is over, if asked, I will lie and say this was a great learning experience for me and the girls. RIGHT

Day 9

We got off to a slow start at the Lee Academy. Students were already celebrating spring break. The teacher had to rein them in to get work done. Of course, it was not the teacher’s brightest moment when she suggested taking the students outside to work in the fresh air and sunshine. So teacher tried to inspire with a group shot but it’s clear we’re done and ready for a break!!!

After the early break, students returned to their rooms to work. Jay tried the teacher’s patience by asking upsetting questions.

Jay: Is it going to rain?

Teacher: I don’t think so, the sun is shining.

Jay: the phone says rain.

Teacher: the phone is wrong

Jay: no, you’re wrong – the phone don’t lie!

Teacher: (to save argument) Ok, it’s going to rain.

Jay: Why would you tell me that?

Me: you said it first. I’m just repeating what you said.

Jay: that’s not right

Me: Whatever….. (What????)

Then teacher checked on Kimberly.

Kimberly: I don’t need you checking up on me. I know what to do.


Teacher: okay, that’s great! What are you working on?


Kimberly: not being disrespectful mom, but can the teacher just call it a week and leave? I know how to do my work.


Me: So you don’t like the teacher?


Kimberly: Don’t like any of y’all- headmistress, teacher, custodian, nutrition, IT, nurse, definitely not the therapist


Me: You forgot the bus driver


Kimberly: no, bus driver is cool. When I get money from my mom, I need the bus driver to give me a ride


Teacher: you can’t go anywhere


Kimberly: no store is going to turn away money. Want to try it?


So glad spring break is here!

The Lee Academy has officially closed for spring break- Thank God!!!


These are trying times even for the most patient, most kind-hearted, most funny of my friends. Shirille entered my life many years ago when we worked on a very special adoption project. Over the years, Shirille has brightened my life with her entertaining stories of mentoring youth in Chatham County as well as her adoption story of two very special young ladies.

Thank you Shirille for the laughter and for being an inspiration. Over the years you have been a Mom and so much more for over 40 foster youth, a mentor to youth at Chatham County Together, and a friend to so many.

 

April Be Kind Day

It’s official. April Fool’s Day is canceled. In its place, let’s start an April Be Kind Day movement by sharing acts of kindness on social media using #AprilBeKindDay. Instead of online trickery, bad jokes and hurt feelings, we can put kindness everywhere.

It’s been about two weeks since life slowed in our home. We’ve been intentional about where we go and what we do. Our busyness is focused on helping others. Here are just a few ways:

Take-Out Surprise: One of our neighbors is self-isolated because of age. When I saw his favorite meal was available for take-out through The Mayton Inn, I picked it up and delivered it to the front porch. I rang the doorbell so he would know the meal was there and then walked up the driveway to wave as he opened his door.

Flower Surprise: When Preston Flowers had to close, they offered customers a chance to pick-up bouquets from an outdoor bin. After leaving a donation for this delightful company that supports the community in so many ways, I picked out a big bouquet that I brought home to divide up before delivering to three sweet friends.

Little Free Library: After receiving a donation box of children’s books from Dog-Eared Books, we restocked the Little Free Library in our front yard with great books for kids. For added safety, we put a bottle hand sanitizer by the library. If you live in the Wake County area, Dog-Eared Books offers free delivery. Check out the selection of educational books that can add to your child’s homeschool experience.

Chalk Art: It’s been fun to add messages to sidewalks and trails. The “Keep Moving” piece was part of a Custom Fitness by Marie effort to add fitness inspiration along the White Oak Trail near my home. It’s been fun to take walks and see the messages neighbors are leaving on their driveways.

Neighborhood Bear Hunt: If you look carefully, there are bears popping up in the windows of homes to encourage children to go on a “bear hunt.” The idea for a social-distancing scavenger hunt comes from the book “We’re Going on a Bear Hunt.”

Sheila Ogle, owner of Cary Pink House is running a contest now through April 17 encouraging families to post pictures of their bears. A drawing will be held and the winner gets a copy of “The Pink House” and a much-loved rainbow Care Bear.

Activate Good, Wake County Schools and other groups are sharing ways you can volunteer to make an impact. Many companies are sharing acts of kindness instead of ads. It’s truly a way to brighten the world. What are some things you are doing to help others?

The Loneliness of the Cross

As our world is feeling COVID-19 isolation and asked to pray the Lord’s Prayer, I wanted to continue working through Grandpa’s study on Easter sermons. The image with this blog is the cross stitch my Mom created in 1960 from Matthew 6: 9 – 13 and is hanging in our dining room.

Grandpa Whit’s message on the loneliness of the cross is drawn from Matthew 27:46,”My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” The words below are Grandpa’s and I haven’t changed anything except formatting.

Loneliness was an unlovely and a trying experience to which Jesus of Nazareth was not a stranger. It met him very early in his ministry and from then on seems to have come with frequency and severity. He had hardly gotten more than well launched in His career before members of His own family turned on Him.

Sometime later, His fellow townsmen of Nazareth followed suit. A little later on, we have the startling statement “From that time, many of His disciples went back and walked no more with him.”

As though hurt by their desertion, He turned to those who remained loyal and inquired, “Will you also go away?”  At the close, one of his own circle abandoned Him and betrayed Him into the hands of His enemies. When the soldiers came to arrest Him in the garden of Gethsemane, His closest friends with one accord forsook Him and fled. Then while on the cross – that crude instrument of torture, as thou the last vesture of strength, support was gone, in despair – He cried, “My God, My God, why hast though forsaken me?”

As all the evidence concerning His love reached the climax when he went to the cross, so there too as a climax to all, His discomforting experiences came that which was the most trying, that of being forsaken, of being left alone.

Of a truth, He had to tread the wine press alone unattended, unsupported. If one ever knew what loneliness was like, surely Jesus, while on the cross, became acquainted with that in the superlative degree.

Often a man is robbed and left half dead, all become incensed that the injured is left unattended to follow the culprits. We become highly indignant of those who left the master. While we have given little attention to the painful wounds and suffering which Jesus must have experience as a result of his loneliness.

Who did He have in mind when He used the pronouns You? Those who stood by were uncertain as to the person or persons to whom Jesus referred when He claimed He had been forsaken. Those at the cross were not agreed.

Who was the “you” in this most difficult passage? Some claim the “you” referred to those about the cross. It is hard enough when your enemies will have nothing to do with you. Still harder is it when those you assisted turn on you; still it pierced deeper when friends forsake you. Others claim He referred to God. He that spared not His own son, but delivered Him up for us all.

It is hard enough when some of your friends have turned away from you. But to know that you have been left absolutely alone will break the spirit of the most determined mind. Jesus hung there on the cross, a convicted and doomed man, with no one at all, not even God, who seemed to care about Him. It was enough to take the heart out of any man and cause Him to cry out in despair.

As long as man has God with Him, hope lives. Take God away and no true estimate can be given of his hopeless, helpless, situation.

There was darkness over the earth; the veil of the temple was torn asunder. All this added to that deeper darkness which enveloped His soul.

Upon the cross Jesus was making atonement for the sins of the world, “bearing our sins in his own body on the tree, for upon Him was laid the iniquity of us all.” He was closely identified with the race which He came to save, that he felt the burden of its sin, and cried as a representative of humanity, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”

If Jesus was weighted down and all but crushed by the experience of loneliness when He hung upon the cross, what must be the degree of his anguish if we now forsake Him and leave Him alone?

Surely he has born our grief and carried our sorrows.

He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. The Lord has laid him the iniquity of us all. He has poured out his soul unto death. He was numbered with the transgressors. He bore the sin of many and made intercession for the transgressors.

We shall ever wonder at the way in which the prophet so long before the days of the Lord in the flesh understood and revealed the inmost of our Christian faith. He brings us right into the presence of Calvary.

He grasps and portrays the one way of salvation through the transcendent sacrifice of God himself.  All of this helps us to understand that the cross is a timeless thing, that the lamb of God was slain from the beginning for us, and that how in other ages than our own that men could find a way through the precious blood of the lamb and that Christ can minister; in a way that we know not of.

To contemplate the gospel of the Old Testament, we are told that the sufferings have power in them to avail for the expiation of our sins. He shall justify many. He shall bear their iniquities. He shall see of the travail of his soul and be satisfied.

As long as man shall live, the cross which Isaiah places before us today shall represent to us the deepest facts upon which our redemption is built. It tells of eternal justice, for the Lord laid our transgressions on Him. There can be no love without justice. Otherwise, weakness. God must recognize and take an account of son.

His commandments are of his own righteousness. Righteous nature and he must enforce them. It is only a just God that we can trust. The cross will stand to us for eternal holiness. Surely sin must be a terrible thing to cause this infinitely affecting picture of the innocent, suffering, non-resisting servant brings to us as nothing else can the true depravity and degradation of sin.

When we think of the how the bearing of it racked him, when we think of Gethsemane’s cup and the awful cry from the cross and then realize it was for you and me, we can only cry out, “Lord be merciful unto me a sinner.” The cross will ever stand out as an emblem of love for us.

God commandeth his love to us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us.

And when we reflect that it was for us that love incarnate bowed himself in all the bitterness of the passion, it cannot fail that answering love shall be awakened in us as deep answers unto deep.

I know no more exalted words in scripture than the prophet’s vision which for us has been born out in fact; “He shall see the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied.”

He suffered a passion that no man can ever appraise, and in the midst of it he was glad. The message of the cross has reached its height:

I know not how that Calvary’s cross

A world from sin could free;

I only know its matchless love

Has brought God’s love to me.

E. Stanley Dover – Christ and Human Suffering

A revelation of God – the cross. It tells as nothing else. What sin will do. It tells what God will do. Paul’s estimate of the cross. The power of God. The wisdom of God.

“At the Cross” is the song for this blog and comes from Hillsong. If you have recommendations of music for this blog, please add them in the comments section.