Tuesday, September 11, 2007

The Old Man Still Sings

I found the following quote from Leonard Ravenhill's book, Meat for Men, on a blog by a friend, Corky Alexander. It says something I've been poring over in my mind as I approach retirement. I've even asked two or three people whom I know have great ability in the field of music writing to help me by writing a song with that title: "The Old Man Still Sings", so coming onto this quote was like finding a nugget of gold in a forest stream.

"THAT literary genius, Robert Louis Stevenson, though hounded by handicaps and pinioned with pain, turned tragedy into triumph. His battle with tuberculosis lasted years; then came the master stroke -- blindness; later came sciatica with such an iron grip that the moving of a muscle was excruciating pain. In this derelict condition, Stevenson, the writer, was ordered to bed, and there the doctor strapped up his right arm to immobilize it. Writing meant agonizing pain. Days later the doctor came, only to be staggered at Stevenson's determination to work. The wellspring within was gushing forth. Then the doctor speculated, "Bitter things will be written and dark shadows of pain translated into verse." How wrong he was! Under this duress, the brilliant author of Treasure Island gave the world the glittering book, A Child's Garden of Verse. When a man can carry Stevenson's load and still sing, he is worthy of any man's admiration."

I am thinking at this moment that I may just save this blog in draft form and come back to it to change, correct, refine and polish it for some time. So...What I really want to do is write the song about those who taught us to sing and to laugh...even in painfully bad times. Of course we all have those bad times or maybe I should call them "blue days". I'm not sure when I first became aware of them, but have known for a long time that I did not always feel so chipper. For example, one of my pet peeves has been song leaders at church who want us to jump like a jack-in-the-box from the first word of the first chorus or song that they lead. I don't feel like singing - sometimes. If I do sing on those days, I'd rather sing the "blues". This genre of music seemed to be popular among African slaves when they were first bought and brought to the America's. Some of it became known as "soul" music. Why sing if one is blue? Well, it was better than moanin' and complainin'! Let me explain it as I experienced it.

Long ago when just a lad, when I was feelin down and sad,
And just to be honest I didn't know why, but felt like I just wanted to cry.
When a voice from above me, looking down,
Said, "Son! just lift up your head and sing

Cause if in life I've learned anything
It's that when you feel down you should stand up and sing!
And the old man would sing - of his Heavenly Father!
He'd sing of His Love, of His Grace, and of Hope bye and bye!
Yes, the old man still sings, of our Heavenly Father!
And soon I'm gonna join him, In the Sweet Bye and Bye
(More to come in the future on this song)

In his unique way my Dad made a lot of other people feel good about themselves and about life by his "singing attitude". My observation is that when the blues remain hidden in our souls it turns into depression. But when the sad feelings are brought out into the open, in the light of God's son-shine, they can then be easier dealt with.

Today is September 29, 2007 and I've decided to put this on the Cabin page. Early this week I had a particularly rough day and felt that some of my colleagues had really mis-interpreted some of my suggestions and treated it with great condescension. I was physically and emotionally exhausted at the end of that day. I decided that what I needed was a "coke" - for "everything goes better with coke", right? Upon opening the fridge door and seeing that there were none left, I shouted to Frances that I was going to the store to get a coke. "OK", she responded. "Would you also pick up a birthday card for our grand-daughter Gracie?" "Sure!," I said. While standing at the card counter, a beautiful young lady whom I assumed to be in her late 20's or early 30's approached me and asked, "Is your name Brannen?" When I answered that I was, she said, "Well, I'm Melissa, John Colbaugh's daughter, and I want to tell you something that your Daddy used to tell me. When I was young I was very shy. Your Dad worked with my Dad at the Monroe (Louisiana) church and I would always walk timidly into the church hallway with my head down. Your Dad would get up from his chair in the office and come out into the hallway to meet me. He would bow his body and meet me head on until his head bumped my head lightly and say, "Hold up your head, Melissa! You have NOTHING to hang your head down about!"

When I returned to the house I told Frances that I had just had a message from my Daddy and also from my Heavenly Father!

Monday, September 10, 2007

Who Am I? Where Have I Been? Where Am I Going?

This morning, I am writing from Maggie Valley, NC where Frances and I stayed last night. I am on the Internet from the MicroTel Inn - an experience that would not have happened even a few short years ago when there was not even a FAX machine available. At least, if it was available, I was un-aware of it's existence or purpose before December of 1988. It may have existed but was priced out of range of us "common folks". This is consistent with the book I'm reading now entitled, "The World is Flat" by Thomas Friedman. Friedman says that the Phone, FAX, Personal Computers and the Internet have caused the world to become "Flat" at lightning like speed. What he means is that now the things which were only available to the rich and powerful are now made available to everyone through these modern technological developments.

Let me share my earliest experiences with the FAX and the Personal Computer... In December 1988 we were visiting family in Monroe, Louisiana. One day we took the women out to the mall to shop. Dad and I wandered into a Radio Shack store because of my interest in amateur radio and all other kinds of gadgets. When we looked at a strange "phone" and enquired about it, the salesman said that we could write with a pen or pencil on one sheet of paper and that the phone/fax on the other end would print out whatever had been written. I remember asking, "Can you demonstrate this by calling from one fax machine to another?" It was shocking, awesome, wonder-ful to see this thing operate. When the girls finished shopping and we showed them what we had discovered, Frances and I decided that day that we had to have one of these machines to take with us to Africa. It was astounding that we could call a number at home and then transfer a letter via "fax" that would be printed out 10,000 miles from where we would be living.

As for the Personal Computer, the only one I had seen prior to that time was a Commodor 64 which we had bought for Tabitha as her graduation present from high school. That grand machine stored 64 kilobytes of memory. It amazed me that by connecting that computer to a "dot matrix" printer with a color ribbon we could print out a picture that actually looked something like the picture on the box!!! About a year later, just before we left to go to Kenya, East Africa, the Missions Department decided to buy us a personal computer. It was un-believably full of memory storage capacity. It had 20 mega-bytes of memory. "Fred, that's all you'll ever need for Kenya!" said the chief accounting officer in our missions department.

I just read my sister's blog about her visit to Flat Rock, NC, home of the famous poet Carl Sandburg. I'll let him speak for me this morning with a quote: "It is necessary now and then for man to go away by himself and experience loneliness; To sit on a rock in the forest and ask of himself, 'Who am I, and where have I been, and where am I going?" In a paraphrase of an old commercial from TV, "We've come a long way, baby!"

That's one of the main reason's I bought the cabin at Pumzika Acres in the Cherokee Forest. I really look forward to going there more often for that kind of reflection when I retire. For now, we are on our way to "The Cove" and a three day retreat with our Assistant General Overseer, Dr. Tim Hill, and his "Covenant Ministry Team". I'll give ya'll a report after it's over...but for now gotta get up and get going as we still have another hour of driving to get to our destination.

This afternoon we are in the Billy Graham Training Center at The Cove near Asheville, NC. Here in the quietness of our room (which is deliberately designed with no TV set) I tried the question that Carl Sandburg said should be asked of oneself ocassionally by asking Frances to tell me who she is. After talking for 30 minutes or more I observed that she had not told me who she is, but had told me about her children, her brothers and sisters, her Mom, her friends. I am about to conclude that asking who a person is may be one of the most difficult questions of life. When Frances began to indicate that she felt I was picking and being irritating - I decided we needed a bucket of ice. Now Frances is stopping me (has stopped me in the last 10 minutes at least three times) to read to me what Billy Graham has said in some of his observations about life and death. Is this an indication that it is easier to read what someone else has said than to come up with our own observations?

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Exegetical & Hermeneutical & Theological Mis-givings

As most of you who will read this Blog are aware, I spend lots of time in my pick-em-up truck - on the road to or from missions services in some of our Church of God churches. One of my favorite things to do as I travel is listen to the AM radio, especially to Gospel radio broadcasts. On a recent trip from Franklin, Indiana I tuned in to a station where I heard the following:

"My text today comes from Matthew 20:1 'For the kingdom of heaven is like unto a man that is an householder, which went out early in the morning to hire labourers into his vineyard.' The speaker then mentioned his conjecturing thoughts about this householder with a vine-yard. Now the key to understanding here is to pronounce this as two words; Word number 1 is VINE, and word number 2 is YARD. So that's not a vineyard. It's a vine yard. "Vines all over th place. Well," he allowed, "the man probably had 20 or 30 apple trees - and maybe some pear trees - and coulda even had some peach trees here - but the bad part was that these here vines was a coverin' the trees and a killin' th' fruit. And that's whats wrong with a lotta Christians today. God has planted some good fruit trees in their lives - but they keep a lettin' them vines choke out th' fruit from their lives!!!" Thirty minutes of program time, and most of it was consumed with this theme about the vines that grows in Christians apple and pear and peach orchards. "When there are too many vines you don't have an orchard - you've got a vine yard!" Whoop! I'd like to hear T. Tommy Thompson get hold of that and preach it!

That reminds me of a few other choice exegetical efforts I've heard over the years. One of the recent ones was a preacher in East Tennessee as my friend Dr. E.L. Williams and I drove along together. The preacher read from the scripture where four men carried a lame man up on the housetop, tore away part of the roofing, and let their lame friend down through the roof in front of Jesus. The passage is found in Mark 2:2-3 "And straightway many were gathered together, insomuch that there was no room to receive them, no, not so much as about the door: and he preached the word unto them. [3] And they come unto him, bringing one sick of the palsy, which was borne of four." The preacher read it this way "...which was BORNED of four." His comment that followed almost made me lose my teeth! "Now", said he, "This here man was borned of four. Now I don't understand how that could happen, but the Bible said it and I believe it. Of course we all know he only had one Mama, but the Bible says he was borned of four! But let me tell ya. These men wasn't all bad. At least they had enough sense to get the lame man in front of Jesus! And that's what you oughta do. You need to get people in front of Jesus! That's what somebody done fer me. They got me in front of Jesus!"

Wednesday, September 5, 2007


My first cousin (who is just three months younger than me) and his new wife of two years were here to visit me when I returned from my most recent trip to Franklin, Indiana. Terry Junius Jones re-married just over two years ago to a very nice lady named Tricia. Of course, I brought them to the cabin - and - as I thought, he enjoyed it. While I'm not sure how much Tricia enjoyed the rustic nature of things here, one could easily tell that she is enjoying the attention that Terry (whom I have always called Junius) is giving her.

We reminisced about our childhood days in hunting camps with Grandpa and Grandma Jones who used to build a semi-permanent spot somewhere in Gulf Hammock near Yankeetown, Florida, and then basically lived there during the whole of hunting season. The frame of their temporary "home" would be of small trees and "saplings" from 2 inches to 6 inches in diameter, then palmetto fans were cut and tacked and/or tied to the poles to protect the old kerosene stove used to cook on and the few pots and pans necessary for the cooking. Grandma and Grandpa both hunted for deer and turkey - but also would occasionally kill a squirrel, rabbit, or quail.

We talked of the time I had tried to follow Junius across a fallen log across a creek, slipped and fell, but managed to lock my legs around the log which caused me to wind up head-down with my .410 gauge shotgun hanging down, almost touching the creek. I held so tight to that log that I had leg cramps after Junius was able to pry the gun from my white-knuckled hands and help get me up-right. I remember inching my way laboriously along to finally get across the creek. Junius remembered a time when myself and some others had gone through the woods ahead of him and he heard shooting and shouting in the direction we had gone. When he arrived he was surprised to find us shooting at "Coots" (ducks) way out on a pond. My memory was that we killed two of the coots and Daddy waded out into the pond and collected them, then we tied their feet together and hung them over the radio aerial on the old '41 Chev to take them back home to Tennessee. I don't remember whether Mama cooked the coots or not...but she might shed some light on that one. We talked about Yankeetown, Grandpa's boat - the May Bee, "Cousin" Manuel and Alice Jones, and many other things. "Cousin" followed by their first name was the correct way of kids addressing their parents' first cousins.

Frances went with us. We stopped in Benton at the IGA Foodliner to buy groceries (or so I thought) but wound up buying from the delicatessen. So for lunch it was chicken and salad and potatoes and didn't even have to heat up the stove. After lunch I put on my inevitable pot of coffee. We had also taken a watermelon in a cooler - mmmm - so ripe it split ahead of the knife...know whut I mean??? Wow! Good stuff!

Whoa! It's time to go meet Junius and Tricia and Donice & husband for breakfast.