Andrae Crismon


John 13:34 (NIV) “A new command I give you: Love one another …”

There are a host of people in this city that I truly admire, but as I pondered on this month’s column, I though about two persons in particular. 

They are both Believers. They are both working professionals. They both love their families. They both publicly serve the citizens of Rutherford County. They both love this community. One is educator Mariah Phillips. The other is Judge Toby Gilley. (It just so happens that one is a Democrat and the other is a Republican.)

Mariah is one who has committed her life to be a voice for the marginalized. She daily encourages her students to maximize their potential despite the obstacles they have to work through. 

We saw her great leadership in the cross-cultural, non-partisan Murfreesboro Loves response to the organizers for White Nationalism who targeted Murfreesboro for their march. I have observed her speak to large crowds but also one-on-one. She is just as genuine and caring when you see her managing a Starbucks as she was during her Congressional campaign.  

Mariah’s humility and the spirit in which she educates and uplifts her students, trainees and fellow members of this community is nothing less than inspiring.

Likewise, Judge Toby Gilley is one whom I equally admire — not just for the degrees he has attained or the judicial robe he wears. I admire Judge Gilley because, just like Mariah, he loves this community. 

It is not known everywhere but Judge Gilley in addition to his heavy caseloads at the Judicial Center, VA and TrustPoint, handles another group of noteworthy cases. He conducts free divorce mediations for domestic violence victims who cannot afford legal help. You may not have heard that he does this service. (He handles them very successfully, too.) 

Yet, the hundreds of hours that he has done these cases since 2016 have made a monumental impact in the lives of the women, men and children he has helped.

Labels should not create the presumption that a person has good character. Our daily walk with God (or lack thereof) will reveal what is truly in us. Our county is blessed to have people like Mariah Phillips and Judge Toby Gilley living and serving here. The love they have for God has manifested into their actions lifting up others in this community. 

Are you tired of hearing “a divided nation” and a “divided city”? As Believers we have been equipped with the love of God to stop talking about division and start using His love to lift up those whom need our help the most. 

Andrae P. Crismon, Sr. is the pastor of Higher Ground Worship Center in Murfreesboro, Tennessee. He is also the author of “Lord, Keep My Mind Clean: A 31 Day Devotional & Accountability Journal.” For more information about booking Andrae, go to

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