Corner of Lexington and Tomlin

I was born on Lexington Ave, in Jackson, TN two doors down from Hampton Street then when I was still a baby we moved next door to the corner house and from there we moved to 246 South Lindsey Street in November when I turned four so my memories of those days are very few but I do have some memories that my mother and father told me about that seem to be very real.
Our church was just across the street and a couple of houses down toward the east so it was always in sight and as long as I can remember that was my church. I loved Calvary Baptist Church at the corner of Lexington and Tomlin.
My dad said that one Sunday morning as we were all getting ready to go to church that he heard several cars blowing their horns out on Lexington and decided to go and see what all the horn blowing was about. There I was in all my Sunday best standing in the middle of Lexington Avenue holding a stick in my hand stopping all of the traffic. Of course it only took dad a moment to realize the problem and he rushed into the street, picked me up and on the way back to the house asked what in the world I was doing. He said that I told him that I wanted to be the first person in church that Sunday so I decided to block the traffic so that no one could get there before I did. I guess we should have known then that I was going to become a pastor, I have always loved church, mother said that after we moved to Lindsey Street if we drove by the church and lights were on that I would pitch a fit because we were not there. It didn’t matter to me if it was a ladies meeting or a deacon’s meeting, if someone was in church I wanted to be in church.
I have wonderful memories of Calvary, as an old man I can say for certain that they knew how to love a little boy there. It was there that I made my profession of faith at the age of nine and was baptized and it was there that I preached my first sermon when I was sixteen years of age. I always wanted to pastor a church named Calvary and said that I would buy up every billboard around and put on it – Life Begins at Calvary, Corner of Lexington and Tomlin.
The church family moved some years after I left, I preached the last revival in the building and then took part in the first revival at their new building. The building is still there and when I visited one day about five years ago it stirred up so many memories that I had to weep. For life did begin for me at Calvary, there at the Corner of Lexington and Tomlin. To all those who made it possible, and I know they are all now in Glory, thank you, thank you for knowing how to love a little boy.

Published in: on October 20, 2014 at 11:05 pm  Leave a Comment  

When Loving Is Hard

They had not been in our community but a couple of months when I met them. They had purchased an old restored home on the river in the low country that came with more than a thousand acres of land. He had hired a local farmer to come over and run his place along with his own farm which joined near the road frontage. According to Ted, the local farmer, it was a sweet deal for both of them but he found the man very reserved and difficult to get to know and had not in fact ever seen his wife in all of their dealings. Ted’s wife had gone with him on one of the meetings hoping to welcome both his wife and him to the community but had simply been told that his wife was asleep in the bedroom, he thanked them for their visit and the food which she had brought to give them and nothing more. So as I drove up the drive I did not know what to expect. I had seen him in town near the doctor’s office once but only had an opportunity for a passing hello. As I walked up the steps he came through the front door and greeted me with a handshake an invitation to sit on the large porch with its beautiful view of the rolling green yard down to the river. He offered very little information, answered a few questions and side stepped others. I invited them to church and left. Ted told me a couple of weeks later that he thought maybe his wife was sick for he had seen the doctors car at the house twice in the last week. Since the doctor and I were friends I asked him what he could tell me that would not break his relationship, his reply was, go see him, he needs a friend. So back to the country I went and this time he invited me into the house, we had a coke, shared some small talk and I asked if his wife was ill. He said yes and then almost as an afterthought took me back to the bedroom to visit with her. A nurse, whom he later explained the doctor had arranged, was in the room, he introduced us and told her to take a few minutes and she left the room. He introduced me to his wife and, told her I was the local pastor, and she blinked her eyes, smiled just a bit and I could see the tears forming in them. We talked a minute as we stood by her bed I asked if I might pray and when I was finished I could see the tears flowing down her face. He walked me back to my car, thanked me for coming and said he would be happy for me to come back anytime but not to bring visitors, he did not think that would be good for her. So began a journey of two years: to make the story fit your time his wife had ALS, she had left him for a younger man and about four years later when she learned she was sick she returned to their home. He had welcomed her but his friends though him such a fool and his family so dislike his taking her back that he had purchased the house and moved so that they might spend their final days in peace. I watched him care for her like you would care for a child and what he could not do he had nurses come in to do for him. He never wavered, never tired, never complained, and spent those two years caring for the person who had broken his heart. I left the low country and heard from friends that after her death he had left as quietly as he had arrived. He never told me he was a Christian, never attended church, but he displayed the forgiving, forgetting love of God each day that I knew him. I hope that somewhere in those later years he found someone who loved him like he had loved Helen.

Published in: on October 19, 2014 at 11:05 pm  Comments (1)  

Come to See Us

For those of you looking for a quick and great place to enjoy a couple of days and see the wonders of the fall, you should plan on coming to Byrdstown, TN. Just 41 miles off of highway 40 in Cookeville on highway 111 North you will not only discover the great beauty of fall but also the town and community along with the people of yesterday. Friendly, happy to see you, and eager to make you feel welcome just stop at the Shell as you enter the area and you will see the welcome of the community, by the way gas today is $2.69.9 per gallon, I have not seen it lower anywhere between here and Nashville. Our trees are as beautiful as a trip to the Smoky Mountains would be, our Dale Hollow lake cannot be matched and just take a drive down some of the back roads and you will thrill at the beauty with which God has painted this area.
Some things you might like know, we have three nice boat docks, boats available at each one, fishing is good, if you wish to spend the night we have a nice, simple motel where nothing is fancy but it is respectable and clean along with accommodations at the boat docks and no doubt a couple of hundred homes with great lake views for rent, come on Friday night and the Dixie café has live bluegrass, first class music and food, also live music on Saturday night and a country ham breakfast to keep the doctor in business for less than nine dollars. The next couple of weekends we will have our community players presenting the ‘Sound of Music’, we are home to the birthplace of the longest serving Secretary of State in our nation’s history, Cordell Hull, and about thirty minutes from the home and birthplace of Sargent York. We are even going to have a black bear season this year, but if you kill one please don’t tell me.
I would suggest turning east by the Dairy Queen and following that road as far as you like, it is a beautiful drive, then back on Hwy 111 and make a stop at the Welcome Center, on the east side of 111 you can get all the information you can use.
A drive through downtown Byrdstown and over to Sargent York’s home by way of Moodyville another beautiful drive.
You really should plan your trip to worship with us at First Baptist, 11:00 A.M. Central, we would make you feel at home, you will be out by 12 and will not even miss the time. You might just like to come and live here, we do not have a traffic light and all the teachers know all of the students and their families by name. Our school is also one of the highest rated schools in Tennessee. We are very much what America use to be we are just red, white, and blue to the bone, we are the America of your grandparents.
Call me; I just might take you to Sunday dinner at the Dixie, 931-864-3816.

Published in: on October 16, 2014 at 11:05 pm  Leave a Comment  


The sun was just beginning to break through the clouds of the eastern sky as he walked toward the grave of his son. It had been less than a week since they place his body in that grave and already he could not remember what the fight had been about. Something to do with his son wanting to go somewhere and his saying no until they got into one of those familiar fights that so often drove deep wedges between them. He did not remember why he had not wanted him to go, just that he had said so and that should be enough. But now he would never say yes and never say no again. The tears blocked his vision of the still fresh dirt that covered the grave, his body wanted to shake, his head wanted to explode, and his voice wanted to shout, “I am sorry son!” but there was no one to hear and no way for the words to reach through that awful dirt. Sixteen years that was all he had to touch, speak, and hold his son; too little time, not a lifetime, it should have been a lifetime and his son should be standing here and the grave should be his, but it was not so and not all the time and tears and screams would change that certain fact. He said in a low tear filled voice, “Son I wish I had known about today, about the wreck last week, about the shortness of our time. Son, O my son how I wish I had been a better father.” He turned to walk toward the car and in his heart he saw the visions of thousands of fathers coming to say the same to their sons. On Sunday with tears streaming down his face he would say, “Live now, love now, use now, for it can be so very short and then it can never be again.” Ivan

Published in: on October 15, 2014 at 10:05 pm  Leave a Comment  

When Weddings Have Goofs

I thought it might be fun to share with our readers some weddings that as a pastor I have both been a part of and learned about from other pastors. The first of these happen to me many years ago and in such a place that none of you would be able to put it together. I was going through the vows with the bride and groom when she mouthed to me that she had forgotten the grooms ring. I pointed to my ring finger and began to remove it so that I could slip it to her and no one would be the wiser. About that same time it occurred to the bride’s mother that she did not have the ring so she slipped out of her front row seat went into the brides dressing room retrieved the ring and then in order to get it to me she duck walked behind the choir rail with the missing ring in hand and suddenly I felt this tapping on my bottom. I reached behind me and she place the ring firmly into my hand. Then she slowly duck walked back to the choir door, returned to the service and felt secure in believing that no one was the wiser. Unfortunately she did not realize that our TV camera located high in the back ceiling had recorder for the world to forever see her famous duck walk. At the reception we showed the tape over and over and all had a great laugh.
I followed at one church a pastor who thought it would be fun to really perform the ceremony on the night of the rehearsal. He did so, signed the license gave them to the couple and told them that now they could relax for the next day the ‘real’ wedding would just be a walk through and there would be no need to be nervous. Now that seemed innocent enough on the surface but unknowing to him the bride and groom took off that night for their honeymoon. The next day when the guest arrived for the wedding all was well except no bride and groom, they were a ‘no show.’ Since the bride’s parents had spent several thousands of dollars on the wedding and since they were both leading member of the congregation you can understand why I followed that minister. Yep, he got the ax that night. For sure I never made that mistake. A couple of other ‘wedding disasters’ and then I close.
I had a groom who became so nervous that when I said, “Tom repeat after me”, he said, “Tom repeat after me.” I was so surprised that I lost it and just said, “Tom do you want to marry her?” He smiled really big and said, “I sure do and thanks for not having all that repeating.”
Yes I had one wedding where the groom did not show. It was a tragic day but in time it proved to be a wonderful gift that he had given to the rejected bride for she would have spent a life of regret had he shown.
Once the groom dropped the ring and it rolled across the floor and through the air condition vent. We waited until later to retrieve the ring and many of the people attending the wedding never knew of the journey of that dropped ring. The best man pretended to pick it up and we went on as if nothing had happened.
There have been candles that set the decorations on fire, bride’s maids who have fainted and soloist who forgot and did not show. License not purchased tuxedo that did not fit and many, many small children that had a circus.
But on June 20, 2009 we were all blessed and impressed as our friends, Ian Gilliam and Heather Capps took their covenant vows. All went well and it would have been perfect except that when the pastor, who happened to be me, went to introduce the newly married couple he said, ‘I present to you Mr. and Mrs. Ian Gibson.’ Wrong last name. Maybe I was thinking that Ian looked like Eddie, I’m sure it wasn’t Sam. I made the correction to Mr. and Mrs. Ian Gilliam and as if he wanted to save me from total embarrassment one of the groomsmen, we want name him; just call him, TC, as the wedding party was leaving the alter area, picked up one of the bridesmaids and carried her out of the church. The congregation loved it and all applauded. The last I heard I still have a job, but if you wish to hear me preach I suggest you attend very soon.

Published in: on October 14, 2014 at 10:05 pm  Leave a Comment  

Another ‘Greatest Generation’

Unless the Lord builds the house, they labor in vain who build it. Psalm 127:1
Is it possible that the Lord is waiting for us to ask Him how to build our country? I believe that most of you would agree with me that no matter your political choice our country is still in need of help. God makes it so clear in His word that He is the builder of lives and nations. I know that we have some Godly men and women in the leadership of our country. Maybe it is time for us to stop our bias praying and ask God to take those who do seek His will and join them with others that they might discover His plan and His glory. We know that God was there when our nation was formed, He guided us through the terrible time of our civil war, and He guarded our men and women as they served across our world to bring freedom to others and to preserve it for ourselves. While I was very small in the years of the Second World War I was old enough to worry and to pray. I saw my parents and my teachers weep because of loved ones and friends who would never come home. We need to call our Nation to prayer and we need for that call to begin in our lives. Let us pray that God will raise up in this generation another ‘greatest generation,’ that our nation might find His will and His plan. That America the Beautiful will be a song that all would sing because we do bring beauty, His beauty to the world.

Published in: on October 9, 2014 at 11:05 pm  Leave a Comment  

Frozen Fish

When I taught school I raised a lot of tropical fish in the class room. The children seemed to enjoy watching them and helping me with taking care of feeding and cleaning the tanks. One Christmas I purchased a number of small bowls and gave each child two fish to take home for Christmas. I told them they could bring them back after the holidays or they could keep them, the choice was theirs. The first day after the holidays several of the children returned with their fish and stories to tell me about their names and all that had happened to them. One pair had reproduced and the bowl was now full of small fish. Another had jumped out of the bowl, landed in the kitchen sink and lived a full day before he was noticed. Most of them just wanted me to see that they had cared for their fish and enjoyed seeing them get back in our large Aquariums. Bobby said that his fish had died. I told him I was very sorry but that sometimes when you change water on fish they will catch something and not live very long. He said mine froze to death. I explained that you really should keep these kinds of fish in the house with a lamp over the bowl. We had talked about this before they left for the holidays. Bobby looked at me with those big eyes and said, “Mr. Raley, I could only keep mine in my room and they froze, in fact the bowl froze solid.” I expressed my understanding and told him that when it got closer to summer he could have some more and they would do well in a pan out in the yard where the sunlight would keep them nice and warm. The day ended and I keep thinking about what he had said, ‘They froze solid in my bed room.’ On my way home that evening I drove by Bobby’s house. As I enter the smoked filled my eyes from and bucket of coal burning in the middle of the floor. All of the family was huddled around that bucket, bodies covered with blankets eating dinner out of paper plates. The children were excited to see me but I could tell that the parents were embarrassed. We visited a few minutes I asked if they would use a stove if I could find them one. The father said they didn’t want to be a burden but that without a way to vent the fire bucket they had, he had to let the fire go out at night because he was afraid the fumes might harm them. The house became very cold, that was a certainty for weather staying in the 20’s. I called a man who owned a furniture store, told him the story and the next day Bobby had a new stove with vent and all in his house and a smile wider than the Mississippi river on his face. I am thankful for heat in the winter and a cool house in the summer. I am thankful that Bobby, now a middle age parent, lives in a house with central heat and air and a family that can raise all the tropical fish they desire. He is a great father, soon to be grandfather, and he has come a long way from a bucket of coal in his living room. Maybe that frozen fish was a message from the Lord. I am thankful for a frozen fish,
Ivan, What are you thankful for?

Published in: on October 8, 2014 at 11:05 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Failure of Fear

He shall not be afraid of evil tidings; his heart is fixed, trusting in the Lord. Psalm 112:7

In these trouble times with all of our fears God must be saying to us, ‘Stop being so afraid, believe me, I am going to win.’ I have suffered from fear since I was a small boy. There was the fear of failure, missing the ball, not doing as well as others, and a thousand other fears. It was a very crippling destructive problem in my life. I always felt inferior, not prepared, and just not able to do the job. This weight came to life when I was in the Navy. I was so fearful of failure that I could not perform. I worried about each detail until my mind was so cluttered with the fear that I just wanted to throw in the towel. A Chief at San Diego saw this in me and said, ‘Ivan with your fear of failure you are never going to be able to do enough just to get through.  Would it not be better to give it your best shot and see how it goes?  If you fail at least you tried, if you don’t try then you have already failed.’ He was right.

Published in: on October 7, 2014 at 11:05 pm  Leave a Comment  

It Be OK

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, Hebrews 12:2
While Tom was nearer my father’s age than mine in many ways he related to me as any other twelve year old boy would have. He liked the things I liked, cowboy and Indian movies, baseball, and talked about all the things which most of my friends talked about. He worked for my dad and came each week to pick up our trash and at other time to work in the yard and to in general help my dad. All of those years he had been a good friend to my father as well as to me. They told me that Tom only had a few days left so I left the office early and went by his hospital room. He was alone, in a lot of pain, but seemed happy to see me and have a moment of old time memory. Tom loved the old western movies that we had both watched when I was a boy. So we talked a lot about Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, Johnny Mac Brown, and many others. We talked about how little things cost back then and how much fun we had without the help of a phone, computer, and even a TV.
I told Tom that I understood that he was very sick and just wanted him to know that I would be praying for him and also if he had any decisions or thoughts he wanted to share now would be the perfect time. Tom turned toward me and with eyes dim with sight said, “Mr. Sonny it sure has been good to work all these years for Mr. Ivan, I hate to think what my life would have been like if I had not been able to work for him. He be a real good man, Sonny, and watching you grow up and become a preacher boy has been real good, I been keeping an eye on you and I am sure glad we had all those chats long ago. But now the time be done come that I got other things to do just like you got other places to be. Sonny, I be fixed my eyes of Jesus a long time ago. All that like those old moves be ok. They always ended with the good guy winning and so I know my movie be alright, the ending will be good.”
I prayed, left, cried a bit for an old friend and on reaching my car said, “Thank You Lord.”

Published in: on October 6, 2014 at 11:05 pm  Leave a Comment  

We Won the Night

When I was a boy I sold papers on the street in downtown Jackson; you could go to the Jackson Sun office after 3:30 and for a nickel you would get two papers, you would sell them for five cents each so you made back your nickel plus one additional nickel. I started out investing a quarter, ten papers, I could sell them at the bus stop in about an hour, so I had made a quarter, and it wasn’t long until I learned that the more I put into the job the more I would get back. For example I could buy 20 papers for fifty cents and in about the same hour sell all of them and I would have a profit of fifty cents, you see the more I invested the more I received in return.
That is still true in life, you can see it in so many different ways; all of us in Byrdstown saw it last week when our city got behind our football team, we talked about the homecoming game, our boys, each one on the team asked a girl to allow them to escort them on the field at halftime, the city business put up black and gold bows, the students had a parade, people turned out for the event and there were a lot of folks lining the streets as the team and students came by with police cars, fire truck, and lots of private cars, it was great; I am sure that at the game that night we had one of the best nights of attendance in our recent football history. It was great, we did not win the game but we won the night, our team played with character and our fans showed up and cheered with full enthusiasm. We put more in and we got a lot more out of the event. I had a great time and our fans had a great time and our boys and lady coach were honored, we were a winning town that night.
Did you learn something? I think we all did, we have a lot to be proud of in Pickett County and we have a second opportunity this coming weekend to have a winning event; the Sierra Hull Concert is big city worthy, let’s put a lot in this year and I know we will receive a lot back in return.

Published in: on October 5, 2014 at 8:59 pm  Leave a Comment  

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