Recently my wife and I traveled to Kentucky for a long weekend visit. The occasion was two fold, one another opportunity to visit with my daughter and the other to attend my family reunion. This reunion or “family picnic” as referred to in my family is a yearly event usually held in September of each year. This tradition was begun many years ago when I was a child. My mother had three sisters and their mom (my grandmother) was still living as well. Now we did get together on other occasions like holidays, but this one gathering of all the sister’s families was a special separate event. The Newman family picnic originally was a huge picnic held at a nearby park. The location would vary in the south-central Kentucky or middle Tennessee area depending upon which of the sister families was coordinating the event for that particular year.

There would be lots of food, each sister seemed to have a specialty dish that would be anticipated to appear each year. The locale was always a place of interest to the many children of the sisters. All the cousins could explore the local park and play with only stops to snack on the leftovers of the main meal. This would be an all day event, beginning before the noon meal and shutting down in the late fall afternoon. The family gathering included the four sisters, their husbands, all my cousins, my grandmother, and on occasion some of my grandmother’s sisters and families as well. There was always lots of people and even more food. The kids had fun, the adults sat and talked about past common experiences of their childhood and caught up on the latest news. Those are especially good memories for me now.

As in the course common to all family groups, life brings changes. The children have children and grandchildren. The elder pass away one by one, leaving fewer of the original band of family to gather. This is family life. The distances that separate us grows larger and the expanding families face more challenges to gather everyone back together at one time. One thing and the most important of all of this is that the tradition continues. I personally cannot take any credit for the continuance of our traditional “family picnic”. I note here that the oldest of the original cousins valued the tradition and honored her family with the commitment to continue the tradition even in the midst of all the changing family dynamics. I personally say thank you to her for preserving that tradition. There is now only one of the sisters still with us. Though elderly, she still eagerly awaits each fall for the family gathering as do we all.

The point to all of this is the value of family and tradition. We are all blessed and given into a family. This was God’s design for relationships. Throughout the Bible we encounter many traditional events that were designed to continue down the ages. Their purpose was to bring remembrance to those remaining of the importance of that event. In the scripture we repeatedly are reminded of the value of family. It is the foundation of personal growth. I understand that not all have the same original family units and their childhood may not have included parents, siblings, cousins, and other family members. I am sorry for those who were denied that blessing. But what if new traditions were begun today. Those fortunate enough to have a family tradition would seize the opportunity and commit to participate. Those without a family tradition would begin one today for their families. It is the appropriate time to begin your own family tradition that will be valued and honored by those to come.

This year’s family picnic was fantastic. There was lots of good food and ample conversation. Two of our granddaughters attended the gathering with us as well as my daughter. It was good to get to visit with my aunt and all the cousins once more. A photo album containing vintage pictures of the family was a highlight for all. There were plenty of laughs at our childhood photos especially by our children. Another thing happened also, our children see the value of families and their traditions in action. Our family picnics are very enjoyable but they are also very important in teaching life lessons to our children as they were taught to us. I heard a pastor say once that being blessed is the easiest thing he could do, all he had to do was honor his father and mother. If he did God would bless him with long life and all would go well with him. Maintaining family traditions or even starting new ones honor our heritage. God initiated the family plan and we honor Him when we keep the tradition strong.

Although there were several who could not attend this year, there were plenty of us to have fun. As the extended families continue to grow there are even more new members added to the Newman tribe. Each year we all anticipate the event and hope to have the opportunity to see all the family together once more. I hope to be able to attend again next year and I hope all my siblings, cousins, and extended family make time for the “Family Picnic”. It is a family tradition and I am blessed to participate in honoring my family. If you have a family tradition participate, if not start one with your family. You will be blessed.


     Have you seen the TV commercial of the modern day vikings on vacation with the rewards of their special credit card? The ad ends with a close up of the card logo and the question: What’s in your wallet? I do like the ad but that is not the reason for this post. What’s in my wallet or yours, things that are valuable to us. There is money, credit cards, important medical information, and probably some photos of those we care about. We keep necessary and important items in our wallets.

     How about the word of God? I am not advocating trying to stuff the entire Bible into your wallet. What I am speaking about is a special scripture that has had a real and necessary impact on your life. A special verse of God’s word that you are impressed to realize was especially revealed to you at a particular time or to help you in a difficult situation  in your life. In the book of Jeremiah we as Christians are told that God will write His words upon our hearts (Jeremiah 31:32-33). That is a comfort to us, knowing that the Holy Spirit will help us recall God’s word. There are times I believe that God in His providence brings a special word to a believer to help. This word might be in a scripture we are reading, a word of encouragement from a friend, or a random verse of the day. Wherever it comes it rings special to us and we know it was a note from God.

     My pastor calls these special verses “refrigerator verses”. Verses of scripture that he puts on the door of the fridge so he can be repeatedly reminded of their significance in his life. Well my wife won’t allow anything on the door of the refrigerator, so I keep my special verse in my wallet. Granted there have been many verses over the years that I would name as my “wallet” verses. These special few are written on my heart and imprinted on my mind. They are faith sustaining life to my everyday journey. Allow me to tell you about the first one.

     I write about this one today not just because it was first, but recently I needed to remember it again. Hebrews 10: 36 says, “For you have need of patience, that, after you have done the will of God, you might receive the promise.”(NKJ) A quick background, I was just beginning an earnest Christian walk and a friend had given me one of those verse a day calenders. I was struggling, with my self, my walk, my seemingly very slow sanctification process, and lack of results. As a new disciple I expected sudden changes in my life, I was living for Christ now so everything should suddenly change the way I wanted it to be. Wrong! I still have the page from the day calender in my wallet, Tuesday, May 5th, 1998; Hebrews 10:36.

     My world was facing some dramatic changes about that time, none I wanted or anticipated. Where was the promise? Years later I can look back and see that God was in control of the whole picture and those changes were for my good and His glory. I was in need of patience, I needed to just keep doing what I knew to be God’s will, and trust the promises of God are true and real in my life. Once again I find myself facing some dramatic changes in my life, again not all anticipated or especially pleasant. I do feel I have grown a lot in my walk but I found myself being anxious for answers and wondering about the promises. Guess what I rediscovered in my wallet? I had forgotten it was there, God had not. He had led me to keep it all these years, knowing I would need to hear His words of assurance once more. I read them again, thanked God for caring so much. Yes, I put it back in my wallet. Only God knows when I will need it again!



     Early in September, 2010 on a weekend getaway to Blowing Rock, North Carolina my wife and I visited the Moses Cone Manor and Memorial Park. We had visited this lovely historic home along the Blue Ridge Parkway in prior visits to the area. This visit we had decided to include the adventure of experiencing one of the many walking trails surrounding the manor. This was to be our first deliberate endeavor of becoming mountain trail hikers.

     The Moses Cone Manor and Park is located at milepost 294 along the beautiful Blue Ridge Parkway just about a mile from the town of Blowing Rock, North Carolina and a few miles from Boone. The park is operated and maintained by the U.S. Park Service. There is ample parking, wide open spaces, gorgeous views, a very interesting manor to tour, and clean restrooms!  The grounds include the manor with carriage house, an adjacent apple orchard and barn, and over 20 miles of interlocking hiking and horse trails. The manor house contains an information desk, crafts from local artisans, and a look at the Cone family history. The vistas from the old front porch of the manor are outstanding. The manor sets high on a hill overlooking the surrounding valleys and a view of Bass Lake below. This is where we begin our journey.

     It was a beautiful day in the mountains of North Carolina. The sun was bright in a near cloudless sky. The temperature hoovered in the 70′s, great sweatshirt weather. As we exited the porch a large wooden frame housed a map of the grounds and the inclusive trails of Cone Memorial Park. After a brief examination of the display, I had already viewed a similar map in the comfort of our hotel room with coffee, we set off on the hike to Bass Lake below. It was early morning and the lake far down the hill shimmered in the rising sun. If there had been a straight path from the manor down the hill to the lake, it would have been very steep and about a half a mile away. The trail that did lead down to Bass Lake was moderately sloped and 2.5 miles.

     The trail down was canopied by huge trees and mountain brush. It was mostly a graveled trail with mulched areas. The hiking trail shares the space-way with a horse trail and follows along what was named Duncan Road. The walk down the trail was very quiet, the enclosing forest buffering any outside noise. Occasionally the quiet would be interrupted by the approach of early morning runners making their laps. They were a welcome break from the solitude as long as you prepared for their swift passing of casual hikers. The only downside of the peaceful walk down the trail was the preoccupation of watching where we walked, I did mention it was a shared trail with horses! We actually saw no horses but we did see signs that they had been there before us. We passed an apple orchard on the way down and at times we would get a view back up the hill to the manor above.

     The Bass Lake grounds were great. There were numerous people walking around the paved track surrounding the lake. With its large parking lot and picnic areas it was obviously a popular park for the locals as well. I believe fishing is allowed at the lake but I am not sure. Half way around the lake the climb back toward the manor house begins. This trail was also 2.5 miles and moderately graded as well. The winding trail up was more open with views of the pastures and surrounding mountains than the trail taken down. Although the trail could be reversed for decent and ascent, I believe we chose the best route for us. The hike up was moderately


strenuous but only to the point of taxing previously unused muscles of a novice hiker. The trail back to the manor crosses a trail to the park Apple Barn. We chose not to add this one to our menu, having thoughts of making it up the hill and luncheon downtown.

     I admit my legs felt as if they had been on their first mountain hike, but it was very exhilarating. The views were outstanding, the serenity was welcoming, and the challenge just enough. I would highly recommend this hiking trail for visitors to the area. I would rate it as easy to moderate mainly because of the well groomed wide pathway and easy slope of the climb. It was a great first trail for us and encouraging enough to prompt the next hike. We enjoyed the hike, the beauty of the land, and each others company. If you get the opportunity give this one a try. See you on the trail!

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