Saturday, August 20, 2016

The Massive Flood in South Louisiana 2016. Do not self deploy.

The temptation is to load up the truck and head south, but this disaster is so massive it's better to work through some organization, such as your church. Here's the link to the national United Methodist relief organization:


UMCOR is collaborating with FEMA and other national disaster response organizations, including the American Red Cross, Lutheran Disaster Response, Southern Baptist Disaster Relief, and the umbrella group, National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters (NVOAD).

Rolling Hills Ministries
And here's a Baptist link. Rolling Hills Ministries, based in Ruston, Louisiana, is an efficient and compassionate source of help. It sends teams to help with disasters.

Race Relations

Today is the last day to download Manuela Blayne for free. It is a shocking little book about race relations.

Bruce Siegmund is the realtor who helped me sell my house in Ruston, LA, so I could move to Shreveport and marry my new love, John Cooke. Bruce  published the following on his Facebook page. With his blessing I'm sharing it with you.

The national racial discussions are unsettling to me. I don't hear anyone talking about what I've experienced. I've been thinking a lot lately about what God has done in my life over the years. I originally posted this 2 years ago, but God continues to show just how much more He can do. I am the offspring of His goodness.
I was born a white baby in the heart of Mississippi. God must have a sense of humor. When I was in the 6th grade they integrated the schools where I was living in Lafayette, La. I clearly remember my classmates, including Clara Green Gibbs. The kids from my part of town and the black kids that were brought in on buses didn't mix very well at first. We had very different backgrounds. That year I got in a fight with a black girl name Eunice. I had caught her with my stolen notebook and confronted her. She responded by chasing me down and taking a few swings at me even though I had run from her into the boys bathroom! I know, I was quite a wimp, but I was raised NOT to fight, especially girls. Why would someone hit me after they stole me notebook? I still don't understand.
There is one thing that I remember from that whole episode. I distinctly remember feeling sorry for black men. I reasoned that because they would have to marry black women. Look at my limited experience at the time. Nobody I knew was marrying outside of their race in the 1960's. It's funny the small things we remember.
Fast forward to 1980. I'm a student at La Tech and am leasing a large 7 bedroom, 3 bath house in downtown Ruston that summer. I plan on renting rooms to friends to make money while I live there. The landlord tells me that I can't rent to Blacks. I don't think much about it because we didn't mix that much anyway. Not too long after that, without thinking, I invite my friend Robert Egbi, a student from Nigeria to live with me. Oops, I did the right thing without thinking about it. The landlord later said it was ok, since he was African . Not too much later I met another student, Larry Langlois, who happened to be black and was from New Orleans. He was active in the La Tech Chi Alpha Campus Ministry with me. He moved in as well. Oops again. I forgot what my landlord told me to do.
Larry was a Med Tech major and he invited one of his classmates to come to one of our Chi Alpha ministry meetings. Her name was Bren Jelks. She was also Black (There weren't any African-Americans at that time as they are now referred to). Bren didn't really want to come, but Larry was persistent and I guess God had plans. Reluctantly she came and God miraculously met her that day. She became a lover of Jesus.
I was a young campus ministry leader of that Chi Alpha group and I had a self imposed "no date" policy with the young women in the group. I just didn't think it was right for a guy to date someone he was trying to lead. I kept my distance, especially if she was cute! I sure enjoyed hanging out though with the new girl Bren. I wasn't worried about dating her since she was black. Nobody was doing that in the early 1980's in Ruston, especially if they were a Christian! We did however do a lot of group activities together which made for a great time for us to get to know each other.
Something happened though along the way. She became a best friend and then I kissed her! I fell in love with her and I really didn't know what to do. I was in the ministry, I shouldn't be doing that! We broke up and got back together 2 or 3 times in one week as we were both trying to be realistic. We really couldn't be separated though, we really loved each other. The leadership though of the campus ministry and the local Pastor had other ideas. They felt like it would harm the ministry of Jesus. Look people, we are still making dumb decisions today that we justify. We peacefully disagreed and parted ways, even though it hurt, I knew I had made the better choice. My identity was challenged, my dreams were shattered, but I had the one I loved and I had the support of friends and family. Many of you are reading this now. Thank you!
Fast forward to 1986 and I'm marrying Bren in Ruston at the same church that the pastor had opposed our relationship. A new Pastor had come and had embraced us and welcomed us. God loves reconciliation! Fast forward to the present and I now sit on the advisory board for La Tech's Chi Alpha Campus Ministry. Wow! God is NOT a God of judgment but of reconciliation. Mercy triumphs over judgement!
I could tell story after story of my marriage to Bren. Many of you already know the stories and have your own. Although I was worried about having kids with her at first, because of how hard "mixed kids" would have it in the world. Unless you were an adult in the 80's or before in the South, you don't know what I'm talking about. We decided to trust God anyway. Ooops! Six kids later in 10 years, God had blessed us abundantly. Bren even had a child while battling cancer. People thought we were crazy, but we had Hannah, our sixth child during that time.
In 1990 I was hired to teach Marketing at Grambling State University. I end up spending 19 years teaching and helping students there. I felt uniquely prepared by God to be there during that season of life. I could tell many stories. Many of you reading this met me during that time.
Bren's battle with cancer ended in March of 1999. The kids were ages 1 to 11 and were being home schooled at the time. So here I am, a white guy in Ruston, now a single parent with six mixed race kids. The ladies in Ruston never spoiled a man and his kids as much as they did me in 1999. They cooked for us, cleaned our house, kept the kids, loved on them, etc. I had to stop it before I got too fat and used to it!
Later that summer I traveled with Mark Boersma and a group from what was then known as Christ Community Church to Malawi, Africa with my oldest two daughters. Bren had insisted we go even if she died. During the two week mission trip, I did something that I didn't believe in, I fell in love with a young lady named Pamela that I was assigned to work with in the clinic that we were opening. I kept it to myself, but wrote her a letter upon leaving, letting her know that I would like to get to know her. Ooops! Seems like every time I did the right thing accidentally it brought about a great result!
The following summer I'm traveling to Malawi for a different kind of mission trip. I'm going to visit her and meet her family all over the country. That trip I end up getting engaged. So in the summer of 2000, Pamela and I get married in Ruston, La. So now I have an African (now African American) wife. Pamela is 22 years old at the time and I am, well, a few years older .
We've made 16 years of marriage now. We've added 2 more children through extraordinary circumstances. I've been elected to the Ruston City Council by the good people of Ruston, La. I've seen many of my kids leave home for college and graduate. Two of them have married and another is engaged and they are blazing their own trails for God. I've seen them travel the world themselves and struggle to make the right choices in a world that is often time backwards and upside down in its thinking. We have all struggled! I am more in love with my wife than ever before and I am so proud of my children and the choices they have made to become the young women and men that they are today. All along though I have found the best way to understand a situation and learn about someone is to LISTEN. Give them a chance and give them space. Love them as they are and listen. After you listen to them, listen to God.
What does the future hold? I don't know. I really never expected to be where I am now. I do know that when I choose to follow however God leads, no matter how strange it feels, or how uncomfortable it is, He is always faithful. You may call me crazy but I see God revealing Himself to people these days. I see our community and cities turning things around and falling in love with the God that loves them! I've seen God do more miracles in my circle of friends in this last year than I had seen my entire life. If you are looking for a better way, He is the way.
Back to the race stuff. Have I earned the right to speak and give my opinion? First of all, I don't have all the answers and I don't feel like an expert, but I know a little bit. I used to ask my students at Grambling, "If a race war broke out, which side would you be on?" They usually got confused by the question, and maybe you are too. Everyone wants to defend their "family". But what if you're wrong? In the end, I am not participating or taking sides in this division. There are forces at work right now that want you to join "their" side. If you choose a side, you are wrong. We cannot fight a race war and be right. Right now there is too much hate being spewed out on both sides. It needs to stop, but it won't stop unless you stop it in your heart and in your mind. If you have hate in your heart, you are not going to receive what I am saying. We ALL have experienced bad stuff in our life where people have wronged us. I have experienced that too, but we have to forgive or we become captives to our own hatred!
Here is where I am going to upset many of you. It doesn't matter who is elected President, they are not going to solve our real problems. Our real problems are heart problems that cannot be solved by a political system or a religious system. Both those systems will try and promise solutions that they will use to try and control your actions. God wants your heart and He has a different kingdom that is greater than those other systems. I'm not telling you to not vote, but I want to remind you that there is One who is greater than the President. He wants to rule your heart so you can fulfill the destiny he created you for.
Do yourself a favor today, and the world a favor too. Go out of your way to show an act of love to someone of another race, political party or whatever difference there is, just because it's the right thing to do. In fact, I believe God is putting someone different in your mind right now that He wants you to reach out to. Stamp out some of the division that creeps into ALL of our hearts by loving someone different intentionally! If you can't do it or you don't feel like it, ask God to help you. It isn't always easy! But just maybe you will discover something that God does within you that changes your heart a little at a time. You just might like the change. We could all use a change.
Feel free to share my story, it's God's story. God bless you all!

We are Louisiana!

Melissa Dillon Seal has given me permission to share a post from her Facebook page in the Collard Patch. It's full of useful contact information. Melissa wrote:

We are Louisiana! Here's a glimpse of what is happening here. You may not have seen these images on your 6:00 news, but this is the nightmare we are dealing with. Humans & pets are displaced & lives and property have been lost. I have compiled a few links for anyone wanting to help. Many shelters & rescues are in need, so I also threw together an Amazon wish list in case you'd like to donate supplies and I will get them to those who are doing everything they can to save lives. 
(Alligator on Highland Road near LSU)
You can donate $10 to the Red Cross by texting "LAFLOODS" to 90999
Humane Society of Louisiana has rescued & transported many animals to safety, even by boating in to shelters who had no choice but to open kennels and let the animals loose to have a chance at survival
St Tammany Humane Society took in 20+ displaced shelter dogs
LSART has done many deep water rescues of animals, including livestock & gotten them to safety.
Tangi Humane Society received devastating damage to their shelter & must completely rebuild
A general wish list of supplies that I threw together for people wanting to send supplies. Of course, any & every type
of cleaning supply, and pet items are appreciated. In case Amazon asks for my phone # 985-335-2780 and shipping address is 75181 Hwy 1083, Covington LA 70435…
There are also many churches & organizations collecting toiletries, bottled water, food, clothing, hygiene items & putting together cleaning supply for people. I can get those links as well. If you'd like to donate in anyway, please message me & I can get you the needed info.
Melissa Dillon Seal can be reached through Facebook. Photos are from her Facebook Timeline. On her page she has many more photos that will tear at your heart,

Friday, August 19, 2016

The Great Flood of Louisiana 2016 is your flood, and it is my flood.

South Louisiana’s flood is our tragedy. We are hurt by it. The disaster in south Louisiana is our hardship to claim. We cannot look away. In the ways we are able, we must help.

Almost four hundred years ago, John Donne, an English poet, priest, and lawyer spoke these words:

For Whom the Bell Tolls

No man is an island,
Entire of itself.
Each is a piece of the continent,
A part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less.
As well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thine own
Or of thine friend's were.
Each man's death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.

In the year 1624, John Donne wrote, “No man is an island.”

In our time, as the Great Flood of 2016 sinks the fortunes of our fellow residents in what we call “down south” here in Louisiana, we are saddened. Whatever the floodwaters wash away is a part of our state, our nation, and our humanity. We, too, are diminished by the flood waters.

We are called by that which makes us human to extend help. “No man is an island.”

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Helping the flood victims

The Little Summer Grove Church in Shreveport, Louisiana-- 


STEP 1: Donating money.

Summer Grove United Methodist Church will be taking a special offering this Sunday, August 21st to support the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) and their efforts to help with much needed supplies for flood relief.

STEP 2: Joining with a larger church.

In addition, Summer Grove UMC will be teaming up with Broadmoor UMC in Shreveport to collect much needed items to send to South LA.

STEP 3: Donating personal items.

THIS WEEK AND NEXT, the church will be collecting the following:

travel size shampoo and conditioner
travel size body soap
travel size hand sanitizer
travel size deodorant
travel size toothpaste and toothbrushes
feminine hygiene products
baby formula
baby wipes

"Please bring your items to the church this Sunday or next Sunday, OR to the church office during office hours (M-Th 8 AM-1 PM)."


I received this message as a text and in my e-mail. 


This project has a motto: Together we can make a difference.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

One Day Freebie

August 18, 2016, for one day only the Kindle version of The Dream Bucket will be available at no cost.

Excellent News Coverage of the August 2016 Louisiana Flood

Looking for coverage of the flooding in south Louisiana? Let me suggest the Shreveport Times.

The newspaper has some informative human interest stories online:

Taylor Swift donating $1 million to Louisiana

Those without insurance may qualify for grants

The above links will take you to the Times, where  you can find more coverage of the flood.

Louisiana Floods, August 2016

"The Louisiana flooding is likely the worst natural disaster in the United States since Superstorm Sandy hammered the East Coast in 2012, according to the Red Cross,,,,

"As many as 20,000 of the parish’s 141,000 residents had to be rescued after the area endured 25 inches of rain in just three days [in Livingston Parish]. About 5,000 residents were in shelters." The Los Angeles Times 

In the news, this story is not as compelling as the presidential election or the Olympics, but it leaves us feeling sad, helpless, frightened.  

"An elderly man drowned after slipping and falling in high waters amid heavy rain in East Baton Rouge Parish. And in St. Helena Parish, a man died when his pickup truck was swept off a flooded highway and submerged underwater, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said at a news conference today. A woman was also recovered from the Tickfaw River....

"The governor and his family were forced to leave the governor’s mansion when chest-high water filled the basement and electricity was shut off. 

"The flooding this week also closed many schools in the Baton Rouge area, including Louisiana State University." Louisiana Floods, August 2016

Relief will come we hope, weary residents will go back and clean up their homes, eventually school will start.

Please go to this link Volunteer Louisiana

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Illiteracy in Louisiana--Why Children Don't Go to School

The percentage of adults in Louisiana who cannot read exceeds the national average. Not only do we have people in our state who have to rely on pictures to order a hamburger and who have trouble passing the test to acquire a driver's license. We have parents who cannot help their children with homework. Embarrassed, these parents often hesitate to send their children to school. Or maybe they don't see the need.

(About the hamburger, have you noticed we use icons to communicate more and more these days? Maybe we are acquiring a picture language. Originally icons were used to tell illiterate church attenders about God.)

How does it hurt you personally if those around you cannot read?
How can you help?

Illiteracy in Louisiana Is Currently Worse Than National Average

Monday, August 15, 2016

The Value of Teachers

How many ways have teachers blessed you?

I don't know what I'd be doing today if my teachers had not inspired me.

Columnist and author Judy Christie interviewed me recently. I told her a little story about Ms. Hegwood, my fifth grade teacher, who was the first person to show me I could write and that writing could benefit my life.

Judy published this article in the Shreveport Times:

Fifth-grade teacher inspires writer’s journey

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Why Children Don't Go to School Throughout the World

This month the privileged children of the United States will lug their backpacks stuffed with pencils, crayons, notebooks, glue--whatever their lists demand--and head off to school. Most of the children will wear new uniforms, or gently used ones, or they'll wear stylish clothing. On their feet, they'll have new shoes that look special. It's an exciting time.

I have a new granddaughter who will be entering first grade. She brings memories of my first day at first grade--we didn't have kindergarten in Mississippi back then. I remember how precious my own daughter looked when she started to school. We took a picture of her holding her pencil box.

Education is truly a privilege and it is the key to maintaining the future welfare of our nation...and our world. But what happens if children don't go to school? So why don't they just go to school?  I read an interesting article about why children throughout the world don't go to school. Here's the link:

10 reasons why children don’t go to school

(I am an author. One of my constant concerns is the lack of opportunities for an education among the underprivileged. Today you are invited to read for free Manuela Blayne, a novella about a young girl who didn't get to go to school.)

Monday, August 08, 2016

Why Children Don’t Go to School

It’s time for school to start again—August 2016.

As a former teacher in Mississippi, I’m concerned about the educational opportunities of children. I’ve presented the pathetic situations in Mississippi schools about one hundred years ago. In The Courtship of Miss Loretta Larson, Loretta quotes statistics about inadequate schools for African American youth. She also exposes the lack of opportunities for Italian immigrants to attend school.

In The Dream Bucket, white children struggle with the dread of going to school when they should stay home to help their mother keep the house warm to protect the baby.

The novella Manuela Blayne paints the grim picture of pathetic schools for African American children.

Sarah Walker Gorrell and I have a new novel in progress, Travelers in Painted Wagons on Cohay Creek. We are showing a group of children who were unwelcome in any schools because of their ethnic differences.

School attendance and the resulting illiteracy is still a major problem in my beloved state. In 2012 statistics showed that 20 percent of the adults in Mississippi could not read.

By showing conditions a century ago, I hope to call attention to the lack of education in our own time.