Category Archives: Opinion

A Little Extra Prodding by Patty LaRoche

Patty LaRoche

Proverbs 2:2-5: … making your ear attentive to wisdom and inclining your heart to understanding; … if you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasures, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.                                                                                                                                                                                         

At my granddaughter-in-law’s baby shower, Sonya joined us at our table.  We introduced ourselves and asked how she knew the mother-to-be. She was an open book, energetic and delightful.

As part of our conversation, she mentioned living with her daughter, son-in-law and three grandkids which somehow morphed into an in-depth discussion about her Ecuador mission trips with her husband.

She had no idea when she was going back because her spouse died of COVID last year, and it wouldn’t “be the same without him.”  We sat there, stunned.

I asked questions about her husband’s death and heard details that brought tears to our eyes.  Once he went into the hospital, she never saw him alive again.

Later on, Sonya and I had time alone.  I asked more questions but heard something I never expected.

Her husband worked for the post office but never believed in the tax system, so for 12 years he refused to pay what he owed the government.  He spent what he made, had no life insurance, no I.R.A. or bank account, no hidden surplus of cash.

Sonya had worked in day-care but never made enough to pay the bills. Soon after her husband’s funeral, she learned that she would have to sell her house to avoid foreclosure.

Her daughter and son-in-law bought her home and allowed her to live with them.  She had her car, her clothes and nothing else.

Sonya had been told that if she worked, the government would be the first recipient of what she made.  Was it worth it?  She would end up with very little cash.

I sat, shocked at what I was hearing, praying for the opportunity to tell her that she needed to pay back her debt. Lord, help me, I said silently, but all I said aloud was, “And you weren’t angry?”

“I was livid.  I had nightmares about him.”  Sonya continued by saying that the month before this baby shower, she went to lunch with a Christian friend with whom she shared her anger by saying, “I don’t want to pay for someone else’s debt.  It’s just not fair.”  Taking her hand, the friend replied, “You mean, what Jesus did for you?”

Wow!  It never crossed my mind to express my thoughts the way Sonya’s friend did.  The words pierced Sonya’s soul, and she knew it was a message she needed.  No matter what it took, if it was right for Jesus, it was right for her.

At the end of our conversation, Sonya and I hugged, and I left her with words of encouragement.  I told her to approach the women’s ministry leader at her church and ask to address a women’s group to share her testimonial.  She definitely had the personality, and there were so many life lessons that every woman needed to heed:

1.  Understand your family finances, and never allow your spouse to  convince you to be involved in illegal activity.

2.  Educate yourself so that you are self-sufficient, should the need arise.

3.  Pray for a Christian friend who gives godly counsel.

4.  Love Jesus enough to follow his lead, even when it costs you something.

Sonya was excited about the possibility of using her tragedy to help someone else.  Her transparency allowed for this to happen…even if it did take a little extra prodding to get her there.  My prayer was answered…just not the way I expected.

 

Jumping Through Hoops by Carolyn Tucker

Keys to the Kingdom

 

I’ve blazed an easy-to-follow trail from California to Missouri to Kansas for the past 64 years. On my last birthday, I was required to renew my driver’s license. I understand the need for rules, regulations, stipulations, and statutes, but jumping through all those flaming hoops nearly caught my clothes on fire! I presented my California birth certificate, Missouri marriage license, Kansas driver’s license, social security card, and homeowner’s insurance bill as required. Several days later, I was pleased to receive my new driver’s license with a gold star in the upper right-hand corner. I had to go through a lot of red tape to prove I was who I’ve always been. What’s funny is that the day I renewed my license I had a really good hair day, so my photo doesn’t even look like me!

 

Before Jesus came, God instituted a strict religious system of laws and statutes for burnt offerings, grain offerings, food and drink offerings,  peace offerings, sin offerings, guilt offerings, etc. “Under the Old Covenant, the priest stands and ministers before the altar day after day, offering the same sacrifices again and again, which can never take away sins” (Hebrews 10:11 NLT). The old sacrificial system that was implemented in Leviticus ended the moment Jesus fulfilled all the requirements of the law for sin offerings.

 

As a contemporary Christ follower, I’m truly thankful to be living under the new and better covenant. “Then He said, ’Look, I have come to do Your will.’ He cancels the first covenant in order to put the second into effect. For God’s will was for us to be made holy by the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ, once for all time. …our High Priest offered Himself to God as a single sacrifice for sins, good for all time. Then He sat down in the place of honor at God’s right hand” (Hebrews 10:9,10,12 NLT). All the arduous red tape with offering animal sacrifices was abolished and replaced with the one perfect sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Once and for all, the shedding of Jesus’ blood marvelously redeemed us to live completely free in Christ. Hymnist Elisha A. Hoffman asks the question, “Are you washed in the blood, in the soul-cleansing blood of the Lamb? Are your garments spotless? Are they white as snow? Are you washed in the blood of the Lamb?”

 

When Jesus gave up His spirit on the cross, something miraculous happened in the Temple. “At that moment the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom“ (Matthew 27:51 NLT). God’s plan of salvation under the new  covenant was literally made visible when the curtain split open. Direct access to God was made possible only through the death and resurrection of Jesus. The requirement to jump through the hoops of sacrificial sin offerings was declared null and void.

 

How should we live in proper response to God’s loving mercy and Jesus’ supreme sacrifice? In Romans Chapter 12, Paul encourages believers to surrender ourselves to God and be His sacred living sacrifices. He admonishes us to live in holiness and stop imitating the ways and opinions of the culture around us. Consecrating our lives in total commitment to God should be our heart’s desire. “For God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body” (1 Corinthians 6:20 NLT).

 

The Key: Thanks to Jesus, believers can let out a victory whoop instead of jumping through hoops.

Tax and Spend by Gregg Motley

 

I have relatives that live in Georgia who want to move back to their home state of Kansas to retire, but are taken aback by the additional taxes they must pay for the privilege of living here.  I have been providing them with data on the tax rates of different counties.  They cannot justify the additional $200,000+ in taxes it would take to live here over the course of their retirement just to be closer to family.

 

The Tax Foundation, Inc. (www.taxfoundation.org) calculates state rankings by taking the taxes paid for all purposes across the state and dividing by the number of residents to come up with a statewide number; Federal taxes are excluded.  They have been accumulating and reporting this data since 1937.  They report that Kansas ranked 20th out of the 50 states at $5,185 per person, according to the latest data from 2018.  Parsing the data between state and local taxes made no difference in our ranking.

 

Tax collections of $11,311 per capita in the District of Columbia surpass those in any state. The three states with the highest tax collections per capita are New York ($9,829), Connecticut ($8,494), and North Dakota ($7,611). The three states with the lowest tax collections per capita are Tennessee ($3,286), Alabama ($3,527), and South Carolina ($3,705).

 

Kansas ranks worst among all the surrounding states, except Nebraska, which ranks 17th and collects about $179 per person more than we do.  The best ranked state is our area is Oklahoma at $3,850 per person, earning them a ranking of 45th; Missouri is not far behind at 41st.

 

The first comparison that potential new residents consider is the cost of property taxes on houses; I don’t have to tell you that we fail that comparison miserably.  One can only conclude that the cost of government for all purposes inside our state boundaries is too high.

 

The good news for Kansas is that we are number two on the list of the Cost of Living Index, as compiled by the Council for Community & Economic Research; only Mississippi had a lower cost of living.  Of our Midwest neighbors, Oklahoma is 4th and Missouri is 7th.  For highly taxed Nebraska, the news is not as good, as they were ranked 19th of the 50 states.

 

If Kansas and Bourbon County want to promote economic development, we need to address this issue.  If we can’t convince relatives who were born and raised here to come back for retirement, what chance do we have with those who have never lived here?  Local governments must look at ways to cooperate across jurisdictional lines to share resources and save expenses.  It is the only way I can see that will give us the opportunity to lower taxes while not making drastic cuts to services.  It is imperative for us to take action unless we want to continue to divide the increasing cost of government services amongst a declining population base well into the future.

 

 

 

Narcissistic by Patty LaRoche

Patty LaRoche

I recently read that Alice Roosevelt had said of her dad, Theodore, “Father always had to be the center of attention. When he went to a wedding, he wanted to be the bride. When he went to a funeral, he was sorry he couldn’t be the corpse.”

Last week I wrote about our obsession with Selfies, only to later discover that the average person takes more than 450 selfies per year. I’m not one of those people.  Why would I want to spend hours posing to perfect a snapshot no one would recognize?  Too, do you know how hard it is to hold your phone at the exact angle above your head in order to disguise facial/neck imperfections while somehow managing to press the photo button?

Really, really hard.

There are few things as narcissistic as the Selfie.  Defined as “love of self,” the term  “narcissistic” comes from a Greek myth about a studly young hunter, Narcissus.  On a walk one day, he saw his own image in a pool; not realizing it was a reflection, he fell in love with what he saw and stared at his likeness until he died.  Now, we might read that and think it absurd, but research shows that more people die each year taking Selfies than from lightning strikes.

Apparently, some people are dying to be valued.  (I know, not funny.)

The “It’s all about me” philosophy goes back to the Garden of Eden.  (Then again, doesn’t everything?) The majority of us probably have encountered self-absorbed people.  Conversations are focused on them and their needs/wants.  They have no interest in asking questions about you because you have nothing to offer.  They are louder, more boisterous, more demanding and certainly not humble.  They depend on people noticing them and glorifying them.

Today, a friend shared a story that speaks to these kinds of people.  An airline had to cancel a flight and asked all the passengers to go to the customer service counter to be rescheduled.  Naturally, people weren’t too happy about this inconvenience, but one man was particularly irritated.  Stepping ahead of all of the other customers, he announced that he “had” to get on the next flight.  The agent told him to go to the end of the line and wait like every other passenger.  His response?  “Don’t you know who I am?”

Without missing a beat, the airline employee picked up her microphone, pressed a button and addressed everyone in her area.  “There is a gentleman standing in the customer service line who doesn’t know who he is.  Please take a close look at him.  If you recognize him, please tell him who he is.”  After shouting a stream of expletives, the man was told by the smiling agent, “And that, Sir, definitely sends you to the back of the line.”

Folks, you and I were made for glory…just not our glory.  We were made to glorify God and him alone.  Not His creation, no matter how spectacular it might be.  Not in others who, as Scripture says, “all fall short of the glory of God.”  And certainly not ourselves…no matter how awesome we think we are.  Paul makes that clear in his letter to the Philippians (2:3-4): Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to their own interests, but also to the interests of others.                   

Selfies, take note.

 

 

 

Pray, Smile, and Crochet by Carolyn Tucker

 

I don’t know how to crochet and I don’t think I want to try to learn at this point. However, I truly appreciate the beauty and talent represented in crocheted items. Both my mom and mother-in-law crocheted afghans for us in the early 1980s and I still cherish them. I can only make potholders with those stretchy-nylon weaving loops and they‘re too little to keep me warm.

 

In Old Testament times, it was a disgrace for a wife to be childless. Hannah had been incapable of conceiving a child for several years. Her husband Elkana tried to comfort her with these words, “Hannah, why do you weep? And why do you not eat? And why is your heart sad? Am I not more to you than ten sons?” (1 Samuel 1:8 ESV).  She was too sweet and gracious to answer aloud, but she probably thought, “Nope.”

 

Because she was barren, Hannah was in the temple of the Lord at Shiloh weeping bitterly, deeply distressed, and praying for a baby boy. Her prayer was so fervent that Eli the priest wrongly assumed that she was drunk. She woefully explained that she was troubled in spirit and simply pouring out her soul to the Lord. Eli then responded, “Go in peace, and the God of Israel grant your petition that you have made to Him.” And she said, “Let your servant find favor in your eyes.” Then the woman went her way and ate, and her face was no longer sad” (1 Samuel 1:17,18 ESV).

 

Hannah received peace and believed that her prayer would be answered. We might say she left the temple with a photo of her baby in the picture frame of her heart.  She entered the temple in an inconceivable physical condition, but she left conceiving (in her mind) a baby of her own. In reality, Hannah entered and exited the temple in the same physical condition, but her heart had made a radical turnaround. She traded her sad face for a happy face, and exchanged anxiety for peace. Hannah quit acting like she’d lost her last best friend and started crocheting a blue baby afghan. In due time, she conceived and delivered a baby boy with joy.

 

Hannah is a sterling example of an individual shaking off the mulligrubs. Her  emotional pain drove her to seek help from Jehovah-Jireh (the God who provides).  Mothers must remember it’s not our responsibility to worry and fret, or try to play God by taking into our own hands situations that should be left to Him alone. But it is our responsibility to cast our care upon Jesus, trust Him, and pray without worry. Hannah received into her heart what Eli said, and believers need to receive what God says through His Word. There are thousands of promises in the Bible, and if we’ll truly believe them, we can live joyfully as a child of the King.

 

Hannah illustrates the nature of faith as taught in the New Testament. She was utterly  convinced that God answered her prayer as she left the temple. Jesus said, “I tell you, you can pray for anything, and if you believe that you’ve received it, it will be yours” (Mark 11:24 NLT). Hannah was no longer sad, even though there was no hard evidence that her petition was granted. “Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see” (Hebrews 11:1 NLT).     

 

The Key: Mothers who pray in faith are teaching their children to trust God.

Community Foundation by Gregg Motley

Community Foundation

 

Bourbon County is fortunate to have one of only three community foundations in Southeast Kansas; the other two are in Crawford County.  In 2007, a number of citizens of our county had the foresight to establish The Fort Scott Area Community Foundation (“FSACF”) in order to encourage long-term investments in our area.  Since then, the organization has donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to schools, governments and charities all across Bourbon County, thanks to the vision of a number of donors.

 

What is a community foundation?  The purpose is to create legacy investments in a city, county or region by accumulating donations, investing those dollars, and awarding grants based on the return on the investments.  While donations of all sizes are accepted and appreciated, the FSACF also provides a path for individuals who have accumulated assets over a lifetime of hard work to make a planned gift that will benefit the community they love long after they are gone.

 

You might ask, “Why accumulate these dollars; why not donate the money as it comes in?”  The answer is ongoing growth and building a legacy that continues well into the future.  Some donors choose to have the principal preserved, and then direct how the annual interest that is earned will be used.  Those donations allow the FSACF to support our community for many years to come; it is designed for the long-term.

 

During the annual grant process, the FSACF provides funds to help multiple community organizations meet the needs of our most vulnerable citizens. Truly, some of those grants are working to change lives every single day in Bourbon County.

 

In addition to those grants, perhaps one of the most important roles of the FSACF is collaboration.  We are more effective when governments, charities, businesses and individuals work together to solve problems and fill needs.  FSACF looks to create partnerships that pull all these elements together into a program that can address significant quality of life issues such as housing and parks.

 

I am so glad that many organizers and donors of every stripe loved our community enough to make the investment of their time, talent and treasure on a volunteer basis to FSACF.  This type of collaborative effort is impressive; it gives credibility to our community and helps put us on the economic development map.

 

Selfie by Patty LaRoche

Patty LaRoche

Dave noticed her from our Mazatlán deck and pointed her out to me.  She, the mother of three youngsters, sat in her lounge chair nearby while her kiddies played in the pool.  For fifteen (15!!!) minutes, she took Selfies, which, statistically speaking, were some of the 93 million taken that day.

First, she checked the sunlight.  Then she twisted sideways.  Swished her hair.  Puckered her lips.  Moved her bangs.  Crossed her legs.  Uncrossed her legs.  Raised her eyebrows. Tossed her head.  Showed her pearly whites.  Closed her mouth.  Turned the other direction and started over.

You name it.  She tried it.  This mother was determined to find one photo that made her look stunning, oblivious to her young kids in the pool. Dave found it fascinating that she was so picky about finding the perfect pose to impress…well, someone. (Perhaps just herself?)

Surely one of the Selfies in the first minute should have done the trick, right? I mean, even I can probably find one picture that makes me look younger, skinnier and sexier quicker than that.                      Okay, I can’t, but you know what I mean.

Talk about self-consumed neediness!  The woman’s search to appear perfect screamed volumes of insecurity. Goodness, she has three children.  If ever an excuse existed to have crows’ feet, eyebags and unruly hair, this was it.  Relish it.  Be empowered by it.  Use it.

Like I do.

But then, for some reason, I started thinking of myself, and yes, I know, that that in itself is a form of neediness.  Haven’t I been known to delete album photos that for some silly reason make me appear 30 pounds overweight?  Or magnify my double-chin? Or show my bald spot?

Yes to all of the above.

But that’s not the worst of it.  Not only am I needy in the physical realm, I’m needy in the spiritual realm even more, even though I want to want (read that again) everything in my life to be about loving God first and looking forward to life with Him in eternity. You know, loving the cross more than the crown.

Don’t I agree with Paul’s writing in 2 Corinthians 5:8? “…we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.”  Paul would never have taken a Selfie.  His purpose on earth had nothing to do with how he looked to others.  It was all about pleasing Jesus and meeting him face-to-face in Heaven.

I’ve been thinking that someone should invent a Sacred Selfie to reveal our spiritual lives…sort of a wake-up call for Christians who just might need to get into the Son-light to examine their priorities.

Then again, maybe that’s what the Bible is for.

 

Tears On My Cigar Box by Carolyn Tucker

Keys to the Kingdom

 

I have an outgoing and upbeat personality, but I sure didn’t act like it on my first day of first grade back in 1964. Since kindergarten hadn’t been invented yet, I was venturing into very-scary territory. I was sad and distressed as I entered Mrs. Neill’s room toting my cigar box with a tear on the lid. As I sat at my table waiting for the teacher to begin school, I watched another classmate acting like she was at a party! Patsy was boisterously    interacting with the other kids and having a blast. I couldn’t believe she could act like that in such a traumatic situation. But it was quite obvious her attitude was, “Yippee! Kids to play with, and so many of ‘em all in the same room! This is great!” My attitude was, “Gloom, despair, and agony on me!”

 

Although Patsy and I were experiencing the same environment, our attitudes were on opposite ends of the spectrum. Attitude is a mindset, outlook, or perspective about something or a particular situation. When we have a set way of thinking (whether right or wrong), it’s reflected in our behavior. I had an attitude of distress and I was completely miserable. Patsy had an attitude of fun and she was as happy as a lark.

 

God is not honored when His children have bad attitudes. It’s really important that believers have the same attitude as Christ. “Don’t be selfish; don’t try to impress others. Be humble, thinking of others as better than yourselves. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, too. You must have the same attitude that Christ Jesus had” (Philippians 2:3-5 NLT). Just as Jesus is willing to go the distance to reach, love, and care for us, we should want to do the same for others.

 

Having a selfish mindset runs contrary to God‘s purposes and guarantees a life of misery. But those who choose to pursue a Christ-like mindset reap the benefits of an abundant life now and eternal life later. “…those who live by the impulses of the Holy Spirit are motivated to pursue spiritual realities. For the mindset of the flesh is death, but the mindset controlled by the Spirit finds life and peace” (Romans 8:5,6 TPT).

 

Christ followers are not to live in hopeless confusion like the world. When nonbelievers  close their minds and harden their hearts against God, they’re cutting off their nose to spite their face. Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. “…let the Spirit renew your thoughts and attitudes” (Ephesians 4:23 NLT). When believers fill their minds with life-changing truth from God’s Word, there’s no room for the enemy to fill them with his rotten lies. However, Satan loves it when he finds a lazy believer who’s made no effort to fill his/her mind with God’s Word. An empty head is a lot easier to hoodwink, and the devil is more than happy to oblige.

 

If our attitude stinks to high heaven, we can make a life-changing decision to fine-tune it or completely overhaul it. Nothing is impossible with God. Our thoughts direct the course of our lives because we act and speak according to what we think. “As a man thinks in his heart, so is he” (Proverbs 23:7 NLT). Do yourself a favor, up the ante and get on board with the right train of thought.

 

The Key: Trade in your old soggy cigar box for a new game-changer attitude.

Big Plans by Gregg Motley

 

Over the course of my 42 years in the business world, lending to hundreds of businesses during that time period, I have rarely seen people succeed by accident.  Big success stories are almost invariably preceded by big planning.  Yes, these plans have had to adjust on the fly sometimes, but the fact that people are thinking strategically on an ongoing basis gives them a better chance at meeting their objectives.

 

That being said, I have seldom encountered effective planning by communities.  Perhaps it is because a 10-year plan seems meaningless to a politician whose term lasts for four years, but it is more likely because it is a herculean effort.  No matter what state, county or city undertakes the process of producing a plan, the project must be undertaken by credible citizens, and the diversity of the whole jurisdiction must be considered.  In today’s world of caustic social media, who among us has any critical mass of credibility left?

 

Despite these obstacles, the people and communities of Bourbon County must try; if we fail to plan, we are planning to fail every day.  We will all wake up one day and wonder how we have drifted so far away from the best we can be.

 

Some communities engage outside organizations to drive this process.  I don’t mind the thought of getting a consultant involved to give some guidance, but a third-party who drives the process misses the point of our own community learning to engage one another on a healthy basis and do our own planning on an ongoing basis.

 

What is involved in a Bourbon County comprehensive plan?  It starts with a solid vision of what we want to look like in 10 years, 20 years, etc.  The vision has to be doable and make sense in context of who we are now, what resources are available, and what we realistically can be; for example, it would not make sense for us to aspire to be the entertainment capital or the Silicon Valley of the Midwest.

 

Once we have a vision for the county, and every jurisdiction inside the county, we can begin to create processes within realistic timelines, set priorities and allocate resources.  There also needs to be standards and procedures set for reviewing the vision and adjusting it as conditions change or new opportunities present themselves.

 

Bourbon County REDI will begin discussions of the who, what, when, where, why and how of community planning.  Get ready to be a contributor, not just a social media naysayer.  If you have thoughts and ideas as to how community planning should unfold, we would

For The Shame of It by Patty LaRoche

Patty LaRoche

If you watch the news, you saw it.

A public relation’s nightmare unfolded in the White House.

Barak Obama, the U.S. President from two terms previous to Joe Biden, was invited to speak to a group of selected Democrats applauding the 10th anniversary of Obama Care, a universal health care program unearthed under Obama’s tutelage.

Following the charismatic Obama’s talk, those in attendance encircled him, fawning over this opportunity to be near their political hero.

The cameras caught a rejection tragedy live, for President Joe Biden looked like a lost soul, struggling to find someone to pay attention to him.  Biden meandered on the outskirts of the celebratory Obama swarm, reminding me of middle schoolers sitting alone at a cafeteria table, desperate to be noticed.

The airways played that tape ad nauseum.

One doesn’t have to be a Biden fan (but everyone should respect the position of President) to imagine what those few moments of feeling like a “nobody” had to be like. I mean, I’ve known rejection, but never in view of the entire world.  Here he was, the president of the most powerful nation in the world, and no one cared.

A week later, someone sent out a musical version of President Biden first trying to get Obama’s attention, only to finally give up, wander aimlessly in the background and ultimately reach for the hand of some woman in the audience. The song “All By Myself” played in the background, and I thought, this scene by itself is tragic enough; adding a musical score truly compounds the humiliation.   

 But then I realized something.  If Jesus—whose humanity was a picture of rejection– wasn’t above such shaming, why should any human, no matter how powerful, be different?  And yes, I know that Jesus had no music accompanying his tortuous death, but he did have celebratory Roman guards competing for his clothing and mocking his pain.  More tragically, on the cross he endured the ultimate rejection. Matthew 27:45 tells us that at the ninth hour Jesus cried out, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?”  God Himself had turned His back on His son, the one representing the sins of the world—us! —for which he willingly gave up his life.                                                                                                                                                     Rejection hurts, so if we felt sorry for President Biden when Obama turned his back on him, I get it.  But maybe it needs only to point us to the rejection we deserved but never endured.

 

Just Walk On By by Carolyn Tucker

Keys to the Kingdom

I could tell you stuff about her that would make your hair curl!“ (Please don’t.) “You won’t believe what I just heard about him!” (No, I won’t.) Sometimes we find ourselves in conversations against our will. It starts innocently enough, but quickly heads south and turns into gossip. I hate gossip as much as I love chocolate. Hearing “juicy tidbits” about others makes me want to dig a hole and crawl in. I know of a godly man that wouldn’t listen to gossip. He would simply walk away without saying anything. I think his silent response and gentle actions spoke louder than any words.

Mom used to wisely advise me, “You don’t have to tell everything you know.” I often think of the New Testament scripture about Jesus’ mother: “All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often” (Luke 2:18,19 NLT). Mary pondered things in her heart; she mulled it over, meditated on it, carefully thought about it. She kept it to herself because the things she had witnessed were too personal and treasured to share. Occasionally, some experiences are so amazing that we are left speechless.

Gossip can be defined as undisciplined or idle talk about an individual’s private affairs involving details that are not confirmed as being true. However, even if the intriguing details are true, if you truly love your neighbor as yourself, you should choose not to share the hurtful newsflash. The Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” would apply here. “If you are sensible you will control your temper. When someone wrongs you, it is a great virtue to ignore it” (Proverbs 19:11 GNT). God’s way is to overlook a wrong and not blab it (which could possibly destroy the person‘s reputation).

Instead of setting our radar for gossip, let’s challenge ourselves to see how many people we can build up, encourage, and compliment every day through our words. Reach out in love and concern to help alleviate tough situations for others. “So encourage each other and build each other up, just as you are already doing” (1 Thessalonians 5:11 NLT).

A gossip (intentionally or unintentionally) creates mischief in society. “A gossip goes around telling secrets, but those who are trustworthy can keep a confidence” (Proverbs 11:13 NLT). I want to be a confidential friend who can be trusted with someone’s heartache. I don’t want to be guilty of James 1:26 NLT: “If you claim to be religious but don’t control your tongue, you are fooling yourself, and your religion is worthless.” The way we treat and speak about others reveals the true condition of our heart.

On the flip side of gossip, let’s use our words to build up those that have been flattened by life’s steamroller. “Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works” (Hebrews 10:23 NLT). We can use our tongues to spur one another on. Positive reinforcement is all some people need in order to believe they can do the seemingly impossible. Words of encouragement can change everything. Let’s go for it!

The Key: When someone says, “I’m not supposed to tell this, but…,” it’s time to dig a hole or put on your walking shoes.

Community College by Gregg Motley

Community College

 

James Fallows, a freelance writer, became curious about the demise of small towns; so, in 2013, he and his wife, Deborah, traveled over 100,000 miles around America to find out the common factors of communities that are succeeding despite the trends.  They wrote about it in a book entitled, Our Towns (thank you to Rick Mayhew for sending me a copy), which was turned into a documentary by HBO, and summarized in an article published by Atlantic Monthly magazine.

 

Number seven on their list of 11 common attributes of thriving small towns is their support of a community college.  These resources are efficient, effective, and extremely accessible to our children and grandchildren in rural America; it certainly gives us a better chance to keep them here and slow the “brain drain” crippling many small towns.  Beyond the positive influence on our youth (and some adults), what is the economic impact of Fort Scott Community College (“FSCC”) on Bourbon County?  Here are some numbers:

 

  • Total revenue for all sources in fiscal year 2021 was $13.2 million, expected to increase to $14.4 million in 2022.
  • Total student income was $5.2 million in 2021; that budgeted number is $6.1 million for 2022.
  • FSCC employs 170 individuals, 119 of which live in Bourbon County; annual net wages for our county residents total $3.2 million.
  • FSCC does business locally whenever possible, patronizing 82 Bourbon County businesses with close to $1 million in spending in 2021.
  • Tuition waivers totaling $76,668 were awarded to 127 Bourbon County residents in 2021.
  • FSCC students volunteer about 6,000 hours of community service to Bourbon County over the course of a school year. I know dozens of them showed up for the recent downtown Fort Scott cleanup.

 

These are significant contributions to our community, all accomplished while avoiding a mill levy increase since 2012.  In 2013, the levy was 29.519, and was budgeted at 29.299 in 2022.  Given the steady increase in costs to run any organization over that same time period, one can only conclude that FSCC is run on a financially sound basis.

 

As with all political entities, there is going to be significant disagreement over how they are run and how the money is spent, but no one can deny that we much better off with FSCC.  Having lived in a rural Kansas county that tried and failed to attract a community college, I can tell you that we are envied.  Four of my 11 grandchildren live in or around Bourbon County and may attend FSCC, but either way, I am happy to pay a little higher taxes in exchange for the all-around economic impact to our community.  It is a must for site selectors who are considering locating a new business in rural counties.

 

You may be focused on the imperfections of FSCC, but I encourage you to consider the economic and academic treasure it is for Bourbon County.  We would be a much poorer place without it.