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My Wife Is Finally Retiring And I'm Not Too Far Behind

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God bless you.
This week, Joyce, my wife of 42 years and my girlfriend of 49 years, is retiring from a full-time job. So it's time to celebrate.
Hallelujah!
By the end of this year, maybe even sooner, I, too, will be retiring from my 45-year career as a journalist as soon as I can get some pension issues settled.
Officially, Joyce will be retiring from working for Cushman-Wakefield, a commercial real estate company, for the last 13 years as a senior administrative assistant for some of the best brokers you'll find anywhere in the planet.
Previously, she worked 25 years for Prudential Insurance. Before that, she worked three years for Florshiem Shoes. But she started work as a part-time secretary for Boy Scouts of America 47 years ago in Kansas City, Kan.
So my dear Joyce is retiring from a cumulative 41 years as a full-times employee for three major companies.
"Hey, I feel good about it--what do you want me to say," Joyce told me Tuesday in her frequent sassy tone. "I'm looking forward to not having to get up as 5 o'clock every morning, catch the Metra (formerly the IC), walk from the station to work, work all day and then come home tired and hungry.
"You bet I feel good about this. Who wouldn't? I'm 64 years old, I got aches and pains I never had before. It hurts me when I walk on concrete to and from work. Now, starting next week, I'll be able to do what I want to do when I want to do it. I might eventually get a part-time job doing something if I'm not too bored. But no time soon.
"Now, it's time for me to sleep late like (I, Lacy, often do because I've mainly worked the night shift)). Now, it's time for me to get more rest and exercise when I want to. What I'll probably like most is not having to get up at 5 o'clock every morning during the winter. It was no fun going out into the sub-zero temperature with the wind blowing to produce stinging and numbing chill factors. Sometimes, the winds almost blew me down or out into the streets."
The wind wouldn't have a hard time blowing down my little Joyce. She's always been quite petite.
I remember when I first met Joyce early one weekday morning in the outer lobby of Sumner High School in KCK. She was one of the sweetest and prettiest little 65-pound, 4-feet-1 angels I could ever meet. She was quiet and shy. Always was, still is and always will be quiet and shy.
At that time, I was president of the student council and had arrived extra early, around 6:30 a.m., to be picked up to be honored with other student council presidents by the KCK Kiwanis Club. For Joyce and her older brother, Butch, this was standard operating procedure. Their father, Roscoe Wooten, would drop them off on his way to the first of two jobs he worked each day to provide for his wife, Emma, and their four daughters and two sons.
My father-in-law loved the Lord and he loved his family with all his heart. And my wife, Joyce, was his favorite eventually. I say, eventually, because when Joyce was born, she was born with blond hair and blue eyes and white skin. Her grandfather was white and part Cherokee and Joyce and her mother inherited many of his features.
"Whose child is that?" Roscoe thundered at Emma the first time he saw Joyce.
"It's your daughter, honey," Emma said.
"Naw, she ain't," said Roscoe, who was dark-skinned but strong and handsome. "I can't have no white baby like that!"
"He broke my heart when he saw Joyce," my mother-in-law often told me. "He really couldn't believe she was his. But as time went by, he realized she was his baby."
That's largely because Joyce quickly lost her blue eyes and blond hair and more dominant Negroid genes and chromosomes came into play in the most beautiful way. Some of the world's most beautiful children come from mixed marriages.
Anyway, Joyce and her daddy became a pair. And she won him over largely by being so loving, so caring and sharing with her father. Yes, Joyce was so much Roscoe's favorite daughter that he nicknamed her "Little Emma."
Joyce and I hit it off not too spectacularly when we first met. It was not so much love at first sight. But I knew I had to get to know this pretty little chick and get her to be my girlfriend.
Within a month of meeting each other in the spring of 1961, Joyce and I started going together. I didn't have a car at that time. Didn't even know how to drive. I'd walk three miles to her house to date her. Our idea of a date was to sit on her family's front porch and listen to the crickets chirp and occasionally steal a side glance from each other because, well, as I said before, Joyce was quiet and shy.
She says I was her first boyfriend. I find that hard to believe because she was so beautiful. But that really didn't seem too far-fetched because she was only 15 years old, and I was 17, when we first started going together and her parents were very, very protective in that old-school way. You never went out of the house unless parents knew where you were going and whom you were going with and they approved of it.
A couple of times, I quit Joyce because when I'd call her on the phone and tried to hold a conversation with her, she wouldn't say anything and only gave one-word answers. In other words, she was just quiet and shy.
So I'd tell her, "I'm going to quit you because you refuse to talk to me."
And Joyce would say, "Okay," and hang up the phone.
Boy, that made feel like a fool because two, three or four days later, I'd be calling her back acting like nothing was wrong. And since her memory wasn't too great, I could get away with it.
Eventually, we started really going together and fell in love. I almost lost Joyce when I fell in love with another beautiful girl when I was a sophomore at the University of Kansas. Joyce's family found out about it, told her to quit me because I was just using her. I was forced to make a very hard choice. I chose Joyce because we had been going together longer. For the first time, I'm telling the world that I cried when I made my decision. It a very hard one because I really loved both girls.
Joyce and I courted for seven years. We rode the bus to the movies. She came to hear me preach a few times. We were invited to each other's family dinners during the holidays. I met her sisters Gwinetta, Gloria and Deliece and her brothers Butch (or Roscoe Jr.) and Ronald. She met my sister Veronica and my brothers Sonny, Jimmy Lee, Ephthallia and Hansel. Her bothers are deceased. But they were very kind to me.
We married in her family's living room at 3129 North 29th street in KCK. We could not afford an expensive church wedding. We were saving our money more for a beautiful marriage than a big, expensive wedding.
Well, it has worked out well so far. We lost twin sons because they were born premature. But the Lord still blessed us with three daughters: Nicole, Noelle and Natasha.
Yes, it's worked out well because we loved the Lord, loved each other, loved our families and we LOVED TO WORK. Still do.
Years before we were married, Joyce and I worked hard and saved our money in joint checking and savings accounts. The only time Joyce ever really took off from work after we go married was when she was pregnant.
We have been able to raise our three daughters, send them to college and enjoy the finest experiences in life because we have always been a loving two-parent- working household. We were able to take our children on several wonderful family vacations in California and Florida, where they enjoyed both Disneyland and Disneyworld.
And when our children frowned on vacationing abroad, we'd take them on a vacation for them first. Then my sister-in-law Gloria would keep them while Joyce and I vacationed in London three times, Paris twice, Munich and Amsterdam once, Cancun once and Hawaii five times.
Now, Joyce is retiring from 41 years of full-time employment in Chicago, where we moved to set up our home shortly after we got married in 1968. We'd had some good times and we've had some bad times. But we've been blessed to work for and with some good people and some good companies. We've been able, so far, to enjoy meaningful careers with positive endings that include some pension and social security.
God has been good to us. Now, I pray that He blesses us to enjoy some retirement.
My father, the late Rev. A.D. Banks, never retired. He died of a stroke while still working full-time at age 64.
My mother, the late Sarah Lorraine Banks, never retired. She died of poisoning from medical negligence at age 42 while bearing a dead fetus in her womb.
My oldest sister, Mrs. Maude Lee Burrell, and my father-in-law died shortly after retiring and thus were never really able to enjoy much of it.
My youngest brother, Hansel, died of a heart attack while still working odd jobs at age 52.
My sister-in-law Gwinetta retired years ago. My other two sisters-in-law, Gloria and Deliece, are still working hard.
Joyce and I are the legal guardians of my mother-in-law, who remains quite beautiful and busy at age 87. Hey, sometimes my mother drives me mad and almost crazy. But I love that woman to death and I am proud to be her only remaining original son-in-law.
Joyce has always been there for our daughters and me and has worked hard for us.
Joyce suffered her greatest setback when we lost our twin infant sons at childbirth in 1973.
She was there for me when I got fired by the Sun-Times in 1975. She stuck with me and supported me through 13 months of unemployment. until I won an arbitration case and got my job back.
She was there for me when I underwent triple-bypass heart surgery in 2001.
She was there for me the two times I underwent angioplasty and stentings in 2003 and 2005.
She was there for me when I was diagnosed with a brain tumor, prostate cancer and end-stage congestive heart failure in 2008.
She was there for me when I underwent radiation treatment for my prostate cancer in 2008.
She was there for me when I underwent back surgery in 2009.
She was there for me when I was placed on the heart transplant list by the Mayo Clinic last November.
She was there for me when I suffered a heart attack on Jan. 11 of this year and then underwentlacywife.JPG life-saving, open-heart surgery to implant a heart pump on Jan. 29 to sustain me until I get a new heart.
And when I get my new heart, guess who I expect to be right there by my side praying for me and caring for me?
That's right: Joyce.
When somebody is as sick as I am, it pays to have a loving woman like Joyce in your corner. She and the Lord, not in that order, of course, are the main reasons I'm still alive.
God bless you because he sure is blessing me.

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6 Comments

Hello Lacy!

Sometime this year, I'm retiring from being unemployed. Can't happen too soon.

But, in the meantime, I say "Congratulations" to Mrs. Banks on a great run and "Welcome" to an even more fruitful time. I'm sorry to hear of her 64-year-old aches and pains, as I know the 55-year-old version and was sincerely hoping by 56 they'd be gone.

As for you, congratulations on making the right choice and having the wisdom to concentrate more on the marriage than on the wedding. That proves your great brain. As for your heart, I think I can diagnose that you just wore the thing out loving your woman so much. And that can't be classified as a disease.

You know, as I read your story, told in a blog that began two years ago with such devastating news, I am once again struck by how fortunate you really are. This great love story, the career as both journalist and preacher, and your devoted family are the treasures of a life well lived. When it does end, you'll be able to go on with a smile, for you have known heaven on Earth, being one in Love with your family. How much better can it possibly get?

Of course, I suspect you'll have several more years to think about that. Things have worked out amazingly well for you, despite the severity of your challenges. Recently, I went through some desperate times, especially with the recent suspension of unemployment benefits. One night, when I was in great anguish over it all, I sat and reviewed the number of times that things were tough and it still worked out for me. Then I realized that it always works out for me. The secret is that I get to a point at which there's nothing left to do but leave it to the Creator. Once I do that, possibilities that I couldn't have imagined start to open up.

Someone once said that all of the world's wisdom reduced to one sentence is: "This too shall pass." So it is.

Congratulations to your bride and you. And congratulations on one more day of Love.

BANKS' RESPONSE: John, on behalf of my wife, the rest of our family and myself, I thank you wholeheartedly for your sincere, kind tribute. It takes on an ever more touching tone when viewed against the backdrop of your own continued misfortune with the job industry. All the while I have been battling and blogging his health challenges, you have never been too saddened by your own unemployment misfortunes and frustration that you could not loan me your ears, eyes, mind and heart to encourage me through these storms. Yes, I, too, join you in hoping for a reverse retirement for you real, real soon. The work force is all the poorer because of your absence from it. The saddest tragedy of our day and our country is that crooked, greedy, negligent, compassionless owners and CEO have declared war against the working man, who only want a decedent job, kind, responsible and efficient management, and basic fringe benefits like health care insurance to vouchsafe the future, the pride and happiness of the workers. Being gainfully employment in honest labor is a supremely proud honor in society. More and more, the population of the have-nots is growing and whole the population of the haves is decreasing it accumulation of wealth is increasing. And these haves run our government, run our police and military and control and derive the most benefit from a judicial system growing more and more unjust as it tilts in favor of the criminal and disfavors the poor victims. Where is all this headed? Chaos. Rage. mass frustration, hopelessness and anxiety. It's the climate out of which Adolf Hitler and his criminal cronies crawled to whip Germany up into a lethal lather to oppressing the poor, the minorities, the intelligent and the kind-hearted. There was no place in Nazi Germany for compassion or honesty so long as one gave his all to Hitler, good or bad, right or wrong. God bless you, John. Be not weary in well doing, for in due season ye shall reap if ye faint not. Some hope on and faint not, my friend. Hold on and hope on through the darkest storms. Help is on the way.

Dear Lacy -

I want to respond to some of your thoughts.

Yes, I believe conditions are ripe for the advancement of totalitarian ideas and, with some talking about purity tests, RINOs, and exclusionary tactics, it is happening. As the extremists grow louder and louder, screaming about repealing the advancements in our country and birth certificates, and stonewalling help for the most beleaguered of their fellow Americans, they don't hear the quiet, still voice that speaks truth. You will remember that it was Hitler who wrote that religion must be made a cornerstone of his movement. He reasoned that the masses get tired after a while but, by making the cause a matter of their religious duty, they could be counted on to hang in till the bitter end. I have said many times to you that we believe differently, but I'm very familiar with the teachings of Jesus the Christ. And he was explicitly clear: "Many will come proclaiming my name and many will be mislead." It occurs to me that he did not say "a few will be mislead," he said "many." And so it is. And we can't forget that there are plenty on BOTH sides of the aisle that are engaging in manipulative and deceptive practices. It is written: "You shall know them by their fruits."

I don't believe that chaos will win the day, however. Extremists, no matter what end they're on, always shout the loudest. But Love is not boastful or arrogant or rude. Love never shouts, but whispers always. That still, quiet voice is the voice of Truth and we already know that Truth cannot never be defeated. It can be ignored, it can be denied, but it cannot never die. If we are enraged, we need to give our rage to Love, so that we may see that it is not true. If we are anxious or frustrated or hopeless, we need to reflect on the only reality: Love. When we remember that all this was created only as an expression of Love, then we will remember that our anxiety, frustration, rage, and hopelessness are our own creations and, thus, are meaningless. When I see that the sun has risen again this morning, that the trees have grown, the rain has fallen, that the birds are still in the sky, all without the manipulations of man, I can rest in the faith that everything is working out just fine, because it was created in such a way.

Throughout human history, "hard-hearted men of reason" have sought to control others, as a sign of power. And they always fail. No matter how oppressed or for how long, there always comes a time when a person knows they are free. Then the oppression ends. There's no telling what we may have to endure before the inevitable conclusion, but you can be certain that the extremists - on either side - will fail. They always do.

Many years ago, as I was going through a challenge, I knew a man of faith who advised, "You be right." Simple, direct, just like all truth is. It doesn't really matter what they do in Washington or Springfield or in City Hall. We can't change another; it's not our job. (We can, however, change who is there. We have a wonderful power in America called "our vote," and if we ever sell it or trade it for a tax cut or some other favor, we might as well forget the whole thing.) The only thing we can change or control is our own self. In 500 B.C., Lao Tzu wrote: "Mastering others is strength; Mastering yourself is true power." And so it is.

As I have tried to deal with the challenges of 18 months of unemployment, it has become clearer to me each day that it is all about mastering myself. So, I've turned off the news, disengaged from the debate, and refocused my attention on what really matters - aligning myself with my true faith. As I continue to work toward that, I realize that I am not subject to the ways of the world. I am subject to the what the Creator of that world made. That man has taken the creation into a disastorous direction does not dictate of what I'm capable. I live in a world in which miracles are a natural outworking. I live in a world in which a man can be diagnosed with a brain tumor, prostate cancer, and end-stage heart failure and still be alive and writing two years later.

I understand that, no matter how long my unemployment, no matter how challenging the financial conditions, no matter how bleak the "experts" say the situation is, I am not ruled by these things. I am part of a creation of abundance and joy and Love. Economic forecasts, political polls, nor partisan punditry do not direct my path. They cannot recognize the miracles that occur each day all around us. So, let the spoils of the battle sour in the mouths of those who trade in greed and manipulation. The greatest feast leaves them hungry still. I feast on the fruit of faith, which tells me that I need never be hungry, for I always have abundance. Fortunes come and go. Those who are rich today may be poor tomorrow and those who are poor may be showered with wealth. The mistake is in believing that anything but Love itself lasts forever. Love, that which you may call God, never fails.

Einstein said that there are two ways in which we can lead our lives: One is to believe that nothing is a miracle; the other is to believe everything is. In my own life, I have found, time and time again, that the second way works better. I will tell you, here and now, that miracles are upon me. And I'm so grateful.

BANKS' RESPONSE: Dear John, you have described so many rudiments of your faith, which appears to me to be prestine, powerful, peerless and impeccable. What I'd like to know more (and I'm sure you will share) is whether you subscribe to an established, mainstream faith of some specific religion or denomination. You are so profound spiritually, your analysis so extraordinary and insightful, your articulation so eloquent. They tell me you have to be rooted in God. I simply want to know how you came by such faith. Whence cometh thou? Whence cometh thy faith? This will help so many of us to draw closer to you spiritually as well as we have already done cerebrally. Are you a Chicago native? Give us the extent of your formal education Were you a philosophy major in college? What about your family, John? Any parents, sisters, brothers, children....whatever? Inquiring minds want to know, John.
Usually, people's geniuses give somewhat of a warning before they overwhelm us. Yours just sprung out of nowhere. You you analyze with such depth and precision. You quote the sages of the ages with such ease. You make me want to go back to the woodshed and study and study and study to show myself approved to converse with the likes of you, less I be blown out of the water, sort of, because you are off the hook, brother, point-on. I've always reveled being in the company of refined minds. One way for one to become more enriched is to congregate and converse with the already enriched. It should have become clear to you by now, John, that we all look forward to hearing from you, Marie, Gwen, Marcia, Donna and so many others. But especially you because of what you have been going through.

Through this blog, my sufferings have been brought into sharp focus and power perspective. The comments from and the experiences of those sharing with this blog long ago taught me there was no need or real reason for me to hold any pity party. First, I shouldn't plan or hold any because God is good. You hammered on that in a beautiful way. You described my progress so well when you reminded me how far I have come in more than two years and am still alive and happy to talk about it. When I first was diagnosed with a brain tumor, prostate cancer (and here come those tears, again....they're dropping and bouncing one by one off my black t-shirt) and end-staged congestive heart failure, if anybody had promised me I'd be alive and healthy and happy enough to talk about it a year later, I would have screamed for joy. If somebody had told me that I would be alive, happy and healthy enough to talk about it two years later, I would have jumped and screamed for joy. But now, here I am in my trinity year, and I feel like running, jumping and screaming from the lowest valley to the highest mountain these songs me dear mother used to sing: "There are some things I may not know. There are some places I can't go. But I am sure of this one thing: that God is real for I can feel Him deep within. Yes, God is real, real in my soul. Yes God is real for He has washed and made me whole. His love for me is like pure gold. Yes God is real for I can feel Him in my soul."

When I started this blog, by the grace of God, I invited the whole of you all to watch God work in me, through me and with me. I pronounced myself is a "miracle in progress." I added that just as we often come across road constructions with signs reading, "Men at work" or "Men working," I should be wearing signs saying, "God at work" or "God working" or "New Banks under construction." Outside of my hernia and continued sore lower back, in the words of James Brown, "Ooohhh weeeee! I feel Good!" And do you know why I feel good? It's because I feel God. So you are so correct in your observation. Then you reminded us of how bravely you are bearing your own burden of unemployment. You reminded us of your abiding faith in and admiration for the Lord. Then you struck lightning and exploded thunder when you shared with us that benediction from Albert Einstein, one of my fondest idols. I believe Einstein was also a prophet of the Lord. And I believe his E=MC2 has as much to say about this world spiritually and socially as it has to say physically and mathmatically. Lastly, you expressed gratitude. You uttered a small, but tremendous, thanksgiving prayer. Did y'all read him, Marie, Marcia, Gwen, Donna, Eugene McKenney and the rest of y'all? Now, ain't God good or ain't God good?

Hello Rev. Banks so good to hear that Mrs. Banks is ready to retire.I'm so happy for her,please tell her congratulations for me.In times like these with so many companies going under it is a day to day struggle to stay positive about having a job an/or pension.I hope she enjoys every day of sleeping in late.And choosing what she wants to do each day.What a blessing!I'll have 30 years with Ford Motor Company next year,so hard to believe I've finally made it,but I am so ever grateful to God that he brought me throught.Come November 1st I can then decide if I want to retire or continue to work.I'll take it one day at a time and just stay prayerful an let the Lord lead me.But for you and Mrs. Banks your blessings keep coming.Thank you Jesus. Mrs. Banks enjoy everyday of retirement you earned it.Rev.Banks when you are ready to retire I'll be happy for you but of course we will all miss your sports articles.God bless you both. Marcia

BANKS' RESPONSE: Marcia DeVille, thanks for sharing the testimony about your 30-year career with Ford Motor Company. My oldest sister and sibbling, the late Mrs. Maude Lee Burrell, worked some 35 years for General Motors before she retired. As it is with so many black families, she was the economic bedrock of her family. She--I'll be raw with my frankness--supported her husband and five sons and their children and girlfriends all her life and literally worked herself to death. Her husband claimed disability most of his life and worked odd jobs and season construction when he did work. She got her sons jobs at General Motors and a chance to carve out a meaningful and profitable careers for them and their families. But some got hooked on drugs and got in trouble with the law with other crimes and lost their jobs for these and other reasons. When Maude died, she left her family with a house all paid for to, yes, fight over. And my, did they fight! Eventually, that house fell into disrepair and got sold. What a way for the proud physical monument of my sister's blood, sweat, tears, love and faith to end. Maude was a saint, I truly believe. She loved God with all her heart. She loved her family with all her heart. And she loved her fellow man with all her heart. I will never forget her and will always be inspired by her. For you to work 30 years for a major corporation says a lot about your faith, your work ethic, your discipline and industry, Marcia. Yours is a story told over and over and over again in our struggling black communities. It's the black women who are keeping our families together. It's the black women who are keeping the black churches surviving and thriving. It's the black women who are keeping black men alive, fed, clothed, sheltered and inspired. I look at my marriage and how hard-working Joyce has always been as a professional worker, a loving wife, housewife, mother, grandmother and daughter. Yes, you are right to thank God day after day and to take life and your career one day at a time for there are millions who are not as blessed as we are.

Dear Rev,
You had to know I was going to comment on this. (-: The first time I read it I saw it as a wonderful love story, which it certainly is. The second time I read it I saw some much more profound elements that say a lot about you and Joyce's relationship over the years. I'm speaking of the stories about Joyce's birth and her relationship with her father. Only years of being together and being open and sharing of pasts could have granted you that kind of knowledge about your wife. It also is evidence that you had a wonderful relationship with your in-laws and they love(d?) Joyce and you enough to share those stories. I can see all of you at family gatherings laughing as these tidbits were exchanged. You learned a lot about marriage didn't you, during those exchanges? Joyce's parents obviously loved her immensely because they raised her with a healthy self esteem as evidenced by her not making it very easy for you to capture her heart, her most precious gift. You had to EARN it which reminds me of the scripture that a man that finds a wife finds a good thing. Oh how I pray that modern women would get that concept. I don't need to repeat everything you've written, but it is so obvious that you and Joyce were destined to be one. Our Father knew exactly the type of woman you would need throughout your life and He gave you a great gift in Joyce. And you know it, something I think that other married couples ought to reflect on frequently, to take some time to look way beyond the mundane and ordinary and extraordinary challenges of life to realize that in marriage God has given them a partner to travel the journey with them so that it won't be so lonely and as difficult as it would likely be if they were traveling alone. I won't lie and say that I'm having a wonderful time with my husband's health problems, but I can say with much certainty that I'm glad we are together on this journey. I don't even want to think about what could have been if different choices were made. God's will is so perfect that even if some of our choices didn't exactly line up with His will at the time, He turned them around and brought them back into line. Glory to God! May you and Joyce have a great vacation enjoying one another and may God's traveling grace and mercy surround you going and coming.

BANKS' RESPONSE: Yes, Marie, Joyce and I are the daughter and son of divine destiny. I believe that my other girlfriend, 47 years ago, the semifinalist possible wife in my life, also would have enjoyed a long, prosperous, happy marriage. Like Joyce, she was a woman of faith from a Christian family, too. If anybody asks us the magic formula for us staying together married for so long, we can sum it all up in one word. God. And, of course, when we say God, we've said it all because God is love. I look at you and what you've been going through and it gives me cause to pause each time I think of you and your husband and thank the Lord that your husband has a wife like you. I firmly believe that if I had been paralized for life by a stroke that Joyce would have been there caring for me patiently and diligently as best she could. My mother-in-law tried to be equally faithful to her second husband, whom she took in penniless and in debt after his family had fleeced his pockets before he moved in with her. For 11 years, they enjoyed a happy marriage. Then when he was felled by a stroke and she was not strong enough to care for him, his relatives came into the home as wolves in sheep clothing on one hand and as vultures circling to pick their bones clean on the other. Just days after they got her permission to move him in with them so that stronger bodies could care for him, they showed their real interest when they wheelchaired him into the bank and stole half of my mother-in-law's and his joint savings account. They changed his insurance policy to name his daughter as chief beneficiary when my mother-in-law and step father-in-law were still married. they did so many other things to make the couple's lives miserable, trying to break them up to resume fleecing her husband. We eventually settled out of court for fear of having litigation bleed us all financially. Still, throughout the ordeal, my mother-in-law remained faithful and prayerful. She knew that, whereas she was not in the condition or position to properly fend for herself, and neither were Joyce and I because we liked 500 miles away and had to intercede by commuting, God was still in control. She knew that God would somehow avenge her and us of our losses and heartaches. But that was one of the most painful lessons I've learned about love and marriage and what can happen when a couple gets old and one becomes sick and greedy relatives come in selfishly to take vicious and malicious advantage.

God bless you that you are able to care for your dear husband without, I sincerely hope, thieving relatives or other sordid intruders. I pray for a miracle to come to your house and to John's house and to Gwen's house before it comes to mine. I have a word from God for you, Maria: "Be not weary in well doing, for in due season ye shall reap if ye faint not." And if your tragedy becomes so painful that you have to cry sometimes, then cry if you want to cry. Let your tears wash and rinse your sadness away. And in the process, remember these words, also from God: "Whereas, weeping endures for a night, joy cometh in the morning." I pray for a radical miracle in your household, Marie. I need one, too, because I already have a pump implanted in me to do the job my weakened heart can't do. I need a new heart. But, once again, your husband and you are, I feel, deservedly ahead of me in God's healing line. But God's grace is so amazing and it works in such mysterious ways that we never know when and what he's going to do. What we do know is that He is able and that He has all power in His hands. God bless you real good, Marie. God bless you, my dear sister.

Dear Lacy -

Thanks for you kind words. I, too, come here for the exchange of ideas and truth. But, I'm sure you know, that I can't take the credit for what I've written, for that comes through me, not from me. I want to respect your curiosity with proper answers, but I may have to take them in sections. There's a lot there and, you know me, I have a tendency to go on a bit.

There are only a few things about my background that are relevant to my faith. I didn't grow up in a particularly religious household. I have experience with the Catholic, Baptist, and Evangelical churches. But, it is my life aside from religion that has led me to faith. I have been an actor for 50 years, a writer for 40, and a director for 30, all with varying degrees of success and income at different times. At times, these activities were also my sole source of income; at other times, they needed to be supplemented. But, for most of my life, I've been a storyteller. And, I have discovered that most important question a storyteller can ask is "why?" It turns out, it's the most important question anyone can ask.

It is as the philosopher Baruch Spinoza said: "Do not weep. Do not wax indignant. Understand."

So, for me, there has been a long quest to understand.

I think it's important, for the sake of others who might read this, to say that I wasn't able to go to college, for I hope that others in that situation may see that what is important about learning is the desire to do so, the desire to understand. Because of that desire, I have studied extensively - from the work of the mystics to philosophers to great artists - writers, musicians, poets, painters. I spent years studying the ego and the irrational need for power and control. I studied anything that could increase my understanding of why we do what we do and believe what we believe, which is central to the storyteller. More importantly, why do I do it and believe it?

To answer your first question: My faith is, very specifically, not part of any religion or denomination. It is, as much as possible, simply faith, without ritual or tradition.

Specific to my faith was the impact of yet another Einstein quote, which I saw on a poster in a shop some 35 years ago. It said: "I want to know God's thoughts. Everything else is details." Therein lies the cornerstone of everything I believe.

There is a profound difference in the way I, as a human, consider life and the way God, or Love, considers it. To have true faith, therefore, meant that I had to stop thinking about things the way my human self would and start thinking about them as a reflection of Love, which is what I am and what all of us are, would.

The answer to my question, "What is God?" has come back, "God is Love." Love has been defined, quite elegantly, by Paul in his first letter to the Corinthians. I realize that most of your readers are familiar with that letter, but specific to my faith is the following passage: "Love is patient; Love is kind; Love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not demand its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails."

In that description, I have found the nature, the motivation, the "why?" of Love itself. Understanding the "why," therefore, has given me the basis for a new way of thinking and a new understanding.

What I have found, thus far, is that, quite differently than I was taught long ago, God is not up there somewhere, listening to prayers and either performing miracles or not. Love (God), instead, created a perfect universe as an expression of Love, because Love must be expressed. Love doesn't perform miracles, because nothing needs to be changed in a perfect creation. What has to change is me, my vision.

A miracle is said to be a shift a perception. Therefore, when I reconsider something with thinking not as myself, but as Love, I see the "miracle" has been there all along. It is the confirmation that Love got it right the first time. It was also the confirmation that I could rest in my faith that things will work out, because they are designed to do so. The more I align myself with Love's vision, the more things work out.

(I would submit to you that, even in the most dramatic story of your illness and recovery, the miracle has not been something suddenly coming your way or being given you, but the revelation that the answers and solutions were already there, which previously, through human vision, you did not see.)

Where my faith might most noticeably diverge from traditional religions is in the idea of separation. I do not believe that Love is a deity that is "out there" somewhere - distant, removed, something to be feared or worshiped. Instead, I believe that I am part of Love, a reflection of Love, if you will. Because Love, in truth, is complete always, it means that the fear that I sometimes experience that I am lost is an illusion of my ego, my common thought. It is not possible for any one of us to be separate from the source. We are never alone, never abandoned, never lost, because it is not possible. As a drop is part of the ocean, so we are part of Love itself. And, because that is true, that means we are all one with each other. To do harm to anyone else is to harm myself.

Admittedly, it can be difficult, in this world, to remember these things. There are times when fear and anxiety and anger catches me from behind and seizes me. That's when I must be quiet and remember who I am and what I am here to represent. The more space in my mind I give to Love, the less space there is for ego. When Love is all there is, there is no fear, anxiety or anger.

That's some of what I believe. In saying these things, I hope there is no one who will take offense, for I have not intended to insult another's beliefs. My faith reminds me that I must correct only myself, and not seek to alter another.

There is an old proverb: "Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water; after enlightenment, chop wood, carry water." Thus it is that I have chores to do and must close.

I hope you and Mrs. Banks are happy and well.

BANKS' RESPONSE: Once again, John, thanks for your generous sharing and caring. We have taken one small leap for man and one giant leap for mankind in getting to know the prince of men. Namely: you. So much of the beautiful, inspiring and enlightening things you said about yourself I had already suspected. It's just nice to get them confirmed and to know that I already had a reliable head start in really getting you and getting to know all around you, as was song in the Rogers and Hammerstein musical "The King and I." I have never ceased to admire your faith and your drive to survive and thrive. It is an inspiration to legions. Perhaps, this may be your calling in life, too. Perhaps you had been called to show us all how to live through trials and tribulations in such a time as this. I thank God for you, John. I just I am inspiring you at least half as much as you are inspiring me.

Mr Banks Beautiful story. Having been retired for eight years from the state I can say its great. One benefit is that when you do take a trip while retired you don't have to go back to work the next day. Best of luck to you and your beautiful wife.

BANKS' RESPONSE: You are so right, Bruce. So right indeed. Retirement has instantly put a new, virbrant spin on each morning my wife wakes up and realizes she does not have to hustle to get ready to go to work. Also weekends have not swallowed up the week days. And vacation? Hey, they come whenever, wherever and however long you want to as long as you can afford them on that fixed income.

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Lacy J. Banks

Lacy J. Banks, 67, has been a Sun-Times sportswriter/columnist for 38 years and a Baptist preacher for 58 years. He has preached at more than 100 different churches in the Chicago area. A native of Lyon, Miss., Banks graduated from the University of Kansas with a B.A. in French and he served three years in the Vietnam War as a U.S. Naval officer. Lacy and wife, Joyce, have been married 42 years and have three daughters and five grandchildren. Among beats Banks has covered for the Sun-Times are the Bulls, Fire, defunct Sting, Blackhawks, Wolves, Cubs, defunct Hussle, Rush, Sky, college football and basketball and pro boxing.

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This page contains a single entry by Lacy Banks published on July 27, 2010 2:15 PM.

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