Southern Agrarianism and the culture of the Old South

Making the Best of it

The Tolkien quote above is one of my favorites, and it is certainly applicable to the incredible instability in the world today. Life happens, and for the most part, we are just along for the ride.

What matters is what we do with the circumstances we find ourselves in. As for me, I choose to be a Southern gentleman – regardless of the situation. It is my choice, what I do with the current situation. That really came into focus as my wife and I walked through our local Publix grocery store yesterday. The employees were frantically trying to stock the shelves while answering questions about empty shelves, the cashiers were doing their best to explain rationing to customers, and the aisles were crowded. Unlike stories I’ve heard of fights over the last roll of toilet paper, people were calm and polite, but the tension was palpable. It is my choice, so I choose to go out of my way to smile, say “thank you” wherever appropriate, and tell a couple of the employees that I appreciate what they’re doing and what they are going through. It makes a difference, both to them and to me. Another benefit is that it gives us a feeling of control at a time when everything seems to be spinning out of control.

How will we use the additional time spent at home? I hope we think it over carefully and look at it as an opportunity rather than a restriction. As for me, I am lining up a selection of books that I’ve been wanting to read. Not staring at a computer screen, but real paper and ink books – all while enjoying a comfortable chair and a cup of Earl Grey tea. I have a garden that needs tending and planning for next year. The chickens will need food and water, and their eggs need gathering. The blossoms on the peach trees mean there will be pruning to be done, and peaches to harvest.

What is happening right now is something that we will remember for the rest of our lives, and we will recount these times to those too young to remember. Make sure that your memories are good ones and that your regrets are few.

The best example I can think of at the moment, is the memory of one of the recent hurricanes that swept through here, leaving us without power in a house filled with three generations of family. Our daughter-in-law brought her harp to our house, and played it by candlelight and battery lantern. You could almost feel the calm as the hurricane raged outside. Those are the types of memories I want to carry with me from these chaotic times.

Relax. This is going to take a while.

Our daughter-in-law played the harp for us, bring a sense of calm in the middle a hurricane.


  1. Joe Putnam

    Hey Stephen,
    Good thoughts on the proper use of time right now. I too am intending to read several books I have, and yesterday I planted three new fruit trees (one apple and two peach). This Covid-19 situation will eventually pass. And then another crisis will come! Such is world history.

    • Stephen Clay McGehee

      We cannot control events of the world – but we can control how we respond.

  2. Thomas H. Harbold

    Well said, sir. I especially liked this:

    “What is happening right now is something that we will remember for the rest of our lives, and we will recount these times to those too young to remember. Make sure that your memories are good ones and that your regrets are few.”

    A good reminder, as I tend to spend far too much time staring at the computer screen, obsessing about things I cannot control! Thank you.

    • Stephen Clay McGehee

      Always a pleasure to hear from you, sir!

  3. Fugitive Agrarian

    Found a website that seems to tell it like it is regarding some of the oveboard measure implemented.

    “Here’s the hour for the man. Where is the man for the hour?” C. H. Spurgeon

    • Stephen Clay McGehee

      I’m afraid that I must disagree with the articles that you posted. Strongly disagree.

      It is easy for someone to sit on the sidelines and throw spitballs and accuse others of cowardice for not taking an “in your face” stand by packing the pews during a pandemic. The weak qualifier added means little to nothing.

      After much agonizing, prayer, and consideration, the leadership of our church has stopped holding regular services for the duration. Our own experience of “the Bible Conference flu” that sweeps through our congregation during our annual Bible Conference is solid evidence of what happens when disease gets started in a packed sanctuary. And that’s just for the regular flu.

      This does not mean a “vacation” from church. Evangelism simply shifted to other areas. We live-stream our three services each week, and have been getting participation from around the country, Canada, Germany, Australia, and probably other places that didn’t give their location. Last week, we organized a public ministry where we gathered in groups of ten or fewer at 11 different intersections in the area, where we held Gospel signs from 4:00 to 5:00. We have printed up a COVID-19 Gospel tract to take advantage of the analogy between sin and virus.

      Lastly, consider the testimony of a local church. After this is all over, the memory will remain of “THAT church that spread the virus that killed Uncle Charlie”. They will, for many years, be known for spreading a virus rather than for spreading the Gospel. Those who pack the pews just to “prove” how righteous they are will be destroying their ability to reach the unsaved. That is a good example of pride at work.

      • Fugitive Agrarian

        I appreciate your reply, general support for your local congregation, and your particular activities in light of the fear pandemic. Our church leadership, which includes two family docs, has followed the cancellation approach.

        What is in view is public policy not persons. The article is aimed at invalid responses to the policy. The post is concerned with OVERBOARD measures as in prohibition of meetings not prudential nature of abstaining.

        Surely we would not say that all that have cancelled are fear driven such as the congregation made up mostly of elderly folk. I don’t believe we would say that all who meet are pride driven like the 74 year old pastor featured in the Baltimore Sun who refuses to cease. His case is clearly one of liberty of conscience, and what we must avidly oppose.

        As a Southern gentlemen I will be more concerned about cases where they’re trampling out the vintage than justifying my actions. It seems that we should be calling our timorous brethren to trust the sovereign God and the rebellious world to submit under his judgment. As we strike a balance in our responses we’ll keep on mind the maxium:

        Sheer bravado without sagacity is folly.
        Mere dileberato without industry is pusillanimity.

        • Stephen Clay McGehee

          Well said, sir.

          Another factor in the question of church closures is that they all seem to be looking at this from purely a “You’re not going to tell ME what to do!” aspect. The reality is that this is truly a golden opportunity for churches to reach people who otherwise would just slam the door on the Gospel message. It is an in-your-face look at our own mortality – and what comes next after the body dies. This is making people realize that, for all our advanced technology, and all our military and economic and political power, we are at the mercy of something that we cannot see. It is forcing people to come face to face with their place in the universe – and the God who created it.

          Will we follow up on this golden opportunity, or will we allow it to be like 9-11, in which people gathered, lit a few candles and thought nice thoughts, and maybe even acknowledged the existence of God – and then put Him back in a box once things settled down a bit?

          I believe that God has given His church this opportunity to reach people who have previously been unreachable. His church will seize the opportunity and use this to spread The Gospel message. The social clubs for nice people that have a “church” sign out front will simply close their doors and see it as a “vacation” from church stuff. Those are the places that need to just close their doors and leave them closed. The same goes for those grand-standing “mega-churches” who are exploiting this for their own self aggrandizement.

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