Ann's thoughts on a beautiful April morning -

One Sunday Morning last spring, I got a text from Fran, “I wrote a protest song this morning.” I cracked up – amazed at how different we are. I don’t think I could write a song to save my soul – much less whip one out in a morning.

Fran wrote Rise Up, Be Strong in response to the climate of fear and xenophobia he saw being fostered by the administration. Describing this song, Fran wrote,"While I continue to pray for the president and his team, I believe their policies are horribly unjust and have created a climate of greed, fear and injustice, void of compassion, with complete disregard for the truth. Silence is complicity.” Fast forward to today – Rise Up, Be Strong is perhaps more appropriate and profound now.  

Here is the live version from AwakeningSoul 2019 –

As I reflect on the song in April of 2020, I am immediately drawn to the words Be Strong . Our world has been turned upside down by the coronavirus. Everyone has been impacted. As I write this, more that 43,000 deaths have been recorded in the US. I am sure that a number of you reading this are deeply affected by the loss of a friend or loved one. Some of you are battling the virus yourselves. Some of you have significant health issues that put you in the high-risk category. The economy is scary at best and many are wondering if they can pay rent or utilities or for that next bag of groceries. Many of us are far from our loved ones and get teary when there are touching messages on TV or Facebook. Everyone is living with anxiety, grief, and fear.
The meme that got to me!
In the face of that fear I say Be Strong. But then I recall a quote from Jacqui Lewis (I am paraphrasing) “Now there is someone who will see this and think, ‘I don’t feel strong.’ And I’m going to say today, ‘I will feel your strong for you. You are strong. I will hold that for you today. And you might have to hold it for someone else tomorrow. But, you are amazing. You are strong. You’re a bad ass and you can do it.’ ”

So AwakeningSoul friends, if you need me to, I will feel your strong for you today.
How do we make sense of Rise Up as we are self-isolating? Rise Up, in my mind, is taking action to try to make things better for those in our communities – to alleviate suffering right now and as we look toward the future. Rise Up means direct action as well as advocacy. Alan and I are isolating in our house on the ridge. I go out once a week for groceries but that doesn’t keep me from being involved in my community and beyond.

  • I am maintaining the Haywood County Food Resource Guide that lists pantries, free meals, and other resources. Keeping up with days/hours of operation and offerings has me in almost constant contact with providers. I am on weekly calls with the major resource providers and county officials. I talk with restaurants who are supplying free meals to any kid under 18 who shows up (I know where I will be spending money in the future). I hear reports that transit bus drivers who are no longer running routes are delivering 100s of pantry boxes to shut ins who live way back in the mountains. The stories of the help being provided is inspiring and gives me hope, and my small contribution seems to help.

  • I am supporting Outdoor Pantries that provide food resources 24/7. The Outdoor Pantries are built on the little free library model. Some folks drop food off and other folks who need food pick it up. Those who are working minimum wage jobs at places like McDonald’s and KFC can’t get to traditional pantries because the pantries are only open when they are at work. The outdoor pantries offer an alternative. I suggest you check out if there is something like this in your community.

  • I am advocating for the un-sheltered in Waynesville (yes, small rural towns have un-sheltered populations that need services). First the fight was to get portable toilets and hand washing stations in downtown parking lots after the access to city and non-profit bathrooms was removed - accomplished. Now we are fighting to get folks off the streets and out of encampments into local hotel rooms. Am I willing to leave my isolation to give direct services for this effort? Because of personal risk factors, no, but I am able to help put pressure on elected officials and to help coordinate volunteers.

  • I am part of a grass roots advocacy group that has just drafted a platform to challenge local candidates. This disease has shown us the inadequacies of so many of our systems. This is the time to articulate what we want to change and to start getting commitments from candidates and officials to make the changes we need in order to help protect one another.

I can’t stay silent when I see injustice, and I can’t not offer up my time, talent, and resources when I see my neighbors in need. How I Rise Up looks different today, but I hope my actions and my voice are making a difference.

We would love to hear from you – what does Rise Up, Be Strong look like in your world today?
Last week's gift from Fran -

a poem by William Ayot, The Contract - A Word From the Led put to music. Fran’s comment was “Oh for a leader like this!!” What are your thoughts?

Click on Fran's photo to link to the poem.

An Update on Fran -

Fran has just completed his 4 th chemo treatment. In addition to the chemo, he is having regular acupuncture and reflexology sessions. He remains very hopeful that the combination of therapies, in addition to the prayers he feels from around the world, will have a positive long-term effect.

Each time he goes into to chemo he recites these words, “I welcome the chemo into my body, giving thanks for the brilliant minds that created it, the skilled hands delivering it, setting it free to get busy and do the work God has given it to do.” What a positive attitude!

Fran and Diana are posting updates to Caring Bridge. Here is the link to the page
Exciting News -

Charles and Julie Milling welcomed Ellis Hyde Milling to the world on Sunday evening, April 19th. Ellis weighed in at 7 lbs 5 oz and is 22 inches tall. Everyone is healthy and they are settling in at home. Don’t you know that Charles is smiling!  

We'd love to have you join us for ...

AwakeningSoul 2020
November 5-8
Lutheridge Conference Center
AwakeningSoul Is the collaborative partnership of Fran McKendree and Ann Holtz. Fran is a gifted musician based in Hendersonville, North Carolina. Ann is both a spiritual director and an independent consultant. She lives in Waynesville, NC. Together they have formed AwakeningSoul to offer spiritual events to feed hungry souls. Ann can be reached at or 865-414-8509.