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Some advice for two young people beginning their journey together
 
 02.08.17

Please allow me a bit of a preamble: Nicholas Sanford Wansley is grandson Number Three chronologically and — pardon a grandfather's pride — a high achiever. After graduation from the University of Georgia, he entered the teaching profession like his dad. Also like his dad, he is a high school science teacher — he teaches International Baccalaureate Physics — and is a cross country coach. This year, his Girls' Cross Country team at South Forsyth High School won the Class 7-A state championship. Nick is scheduled to receive his doctorate at the end of this year. His dad, incidentally, also has a PhD. Like father, like son.

Among Nick Wansley's many achievements is his recent marriage to Lyndsay Nichols, a singer, music teacher and model who is as pretty on the inside as she is on the outside. Together they are the total package. The only thing they are missing at this point is experience. That is where this grandfather comes in. I don't know much about much but I do know a bit about being married a long time. So, I penned this advice for them. Thus, ends the preamble.

To Lyndsay and Nicholas:

Grandma and I are pleased that you two have gotten married and we welcome Lyndsay to the family.

As you read this, Grandma and I are well into our 58th year of marriage. We have done a few things right and some we could have done better. Maybe what we have experienced will help you two to strengthen your own relationship.

First and foremost, love each other. All day. Every day. Easy to do at first, but after a while we find things in each other that are irritating or frustrating and if we are not careful, we can let them become bigger than they are. Sometimes, that is because we put our own feelings ahead of our mate's. Love is about putting the other person first.

Equally important, learn to find the middle ground. It took Grandma and me a number of years to find it. Some call it "compromise." I don't like that word. It sounds like you are giving up something to appease the other person. You aren't. You are telling each other, "If this is important to you, then it is important to me."

If it is something that makes either of you uncomfortable, sit down and work it out in a mature fashion. Don't let your egos get in the way.

Remember that there are two things we cannot change — yesterday and tomorrow. Yesterday is gone and we can't get it back and we aren't even guaranteed a tomorrow. Live this day to the fullest.

Somewhere along the way, I discovered a passage in the Bible that I wish I had found a long time ago. It is Paul's Letter to the Galatians. In Galatians 5:22-23, Paul lists nine characteristics he calls "fruits of the Spirit." They are as follows: Love. Joy. Peace. Patience. Kindness. Goodness. Faithfulness. Gentleness and Self-Control. None of these take a special talent. What they do take is commitment.

I read that passage every morning before I start my day and hope, for Grandma's sake and others, that I will exhibit all nine. At the end of the day, I look back and realize that I missed several, usually "patience" and "selfcontrol."

But that doesn't stop me from trying again the next day. I recommend that both of you make this a part of your daily ritual. (It is like physical exercise. The more you do it, the better you become at it.)

Finally, never go to bed mad. You will likely wake up mad and your day is ruined before it starts. Instead, you might wish to end your day as did your great-grandparents. Granny insisted that the last words she and Papa say to each other before they went to sleep each night was "I love you." That way, if something happened to either of them during the night, they would always remember the last words they had spoken to each other. I suspect she would want you two to do the same thing.

You are about to embark on a long, exciting and, at times, frustrating journey. I know. Grandma and I have been down the same road. We wish you both a long and happy marriage. And when things get tough, maybe something you have read here will make a difference. If so, it would have been worth the trip. Love to you both.

Pa

You can reach Dick Yarbrough at yarb2400@bellsouth.net; at P.O. Box 725373, Atlanta, Georgia 31139; online at dickyarbrough.com or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/dickyarb.


TODAY IN HISTORY
 02.08.17

Today is the 39th day of 2017 and the 50th day of winter.

TODAY'S HISTORY: In 1587, Mary, Queen of Scots, was executed on suspicion of plotting to murder her cousin Queen Elizabeth I.

In 1910, the Boy Scouts of America was incorporated.

In 1915, D.W. Griffith's "The Birth of a Nation" premiered in Los Angeles with the title "The Clansman."

In 1971, the NASDAQ stock exchange began trading.

In 1996, President Bill Clinton signed the Telecommunications Act of 1996 into law, leading to a drastic overhaul of U.S. media regulations.

TODAY'S BIRTHDAYS: William Tecumseh Sherman (1820-1891), U.S. general; Jules Verne (1828-1905), author; Lana Turner (1921-1995), actress; Jack Lemmon (1925-2001), actor; James Dean (1931-1955), actor; John Williams (1932- ), composer; Ted Koppel (1940- ), journalist; Nick Nolte (1941- ), actor; Robert Klein (1942- ), comedian/actor; Mary Steenburgen (1953- ), actress; John Grisham (1955- ), author; Bruce Timm (1961- ), animator; Gary Coleman (1968-2010), actor; Mary McCormack (1969- ), actress; Seth Green (1974- ), actor/producer.

TODAY'S FACT: The first movie ever to be screened privately at the White House was "The Birth of a Nation," which Woodrow Wilson viewed in 1915.

TODAY'S SPORTS: In 1998, Finland beat Sweden 6-0 in the first women's Olympic ice hockey game.

TODAY'S QUOTE: "Science, my lad, has been built upon many errors; but they are errors which it was good to fall into, for they led to the truth." -- Jules Verne, "Journey to the Center of the Earth"

TODAY'S NUMBER: 2.35 million — estimated youth membership of the Boy Scouts of America in 2016.

TODAY'S MOON: Between first quarter moon (Feb. 3) and full moon (Feb. 10).


Our changing religious landscape
 
 02.08.17

The once-overwhelming Christian majority in the U.S. is shrinking, and this appears to be part of a worldwide trend. The number of Americans who identify as "non-affiliated" is growing. While young adults comprise the largest unchurched group, this trend is also occurring across the entire population spectrum --- men, women, college grads, high school or less, whites, blacks, Latinos. But the United States is still home to more Christians than any other nation. Almost seven of ten Americans today still claim Christianity as their religious faith. But this number was reduced by almost eight points in just seven years, from 78.4% to 70.6% in the 2007-14 timeframe. In that same period the unaffiliated, including atheists, agnostics or "nothing in particular," climbed more than six points, from 16.1% to 22.8%.

The decrease in the Christian share of the population is led by membership losses in the Catholic and mainline Protestant denominations. Both groups have declined by more than three percentage points since 2007. And some non-Christian sects are growing, but at a snail's pace. However, there are more Muslims in America today than Episcopalians (my faith).

Traditional Jews are disturbed to learn that many Jewish young people describe themselves as ethnic or secular, but not religious Jews. Equally shocking is the fact that almost half of today's Jews marry outside the faith. To some Orthodox and Conservative Jews assimilation is feared second only to annihilation.

It is generally accepted that the American south is the most openly religious section of the world's most religious large nation. This is based on several contributing factors which I will not attempt to address in this limited space. But in researching for this column I uncovered a disparity that disturbs me and for which I do not have a ready explanation. In a Georgia population profile (Podunk) by religious affiliation the largest constituency by far in Catoosa County was the 44,462 out of 63,948 inhabitants listed as "unclaimed." That's particularly surprising in a community dominated by Baptists (over 80% of Catoosa church-goers), a denomination known for its relentless evangelizing. Walker County, with a slightly larger population, has a substantially smaller unchurched population of around 30,000, or 46% compared to Catoosa's 66%. But that's hardly anything to brag about. What's going on here? Are we a community headed toward irreligion?

I sincerely hope not. Although down from a high of over 90% believers in the mid-twentieth century, religious Americans are still in the 70%-plus range and are far more religious than today's Europeans. In some European countries, Sweden for example, less than 20% of the people even profess belief in a supreme being. But to me it requires more blind faith to be an atheist than a believer.

Of the three Abrahamic faiths, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, the histories of Judaism and Christianity are punctuated by periodic upheavals; heresies, revolutions, reforms and revivals. Islam, to its detriment I think, has remained relatively static since its inception in the seventh century. The Muslims could use a Martin Luther. Out of these cathartic revolts has usually emerged a stronger, more relevant theology, one better equipped to deal with the challenges of a changing world. Let's hope that's what is presently going on in Christianity and Judaism. If not, we might be in trouble.

George B. Reed Jr., who lives in Rossville, can be reached by email at reed1600@bellsouth.net.