Where Am I
Yesterday and today I woke up in a world I did not know. Streets filled with unhappy and sometimes very destructive people, buildings on fire, the lifelong investment of a family in a small business in their community destroyed, I wanted to cry, is this America? I know our people have a right to speak, to protest, to dislike something; but when did we decide that our right at the dislike of something gave us the right to destroy what others have worked long and hard to build.
Somewhere we left our respect for the law, the system, authority, and replaced it with the ugly acts of destruction and criminal actions. We go in a business, fill our arms with merchandise and walk out as though we have a right to become a thief because we do not like the system.
Now I am sure that this is an over simple view of what is happening in our country, but maybe a simple look would bring more justice and peace than the ugly acts of the last two nights.
I do not have the answer, but I know the one who does so on this thanksgiving eve I will lift my country before the Lord as I weep my tears for those who are hurting and those who have been harmed.
Where Am I
My memories of thanksgiving are all center around our home at 245 South Lindsey Street, Jackson, TN. They were centered on our family, a wonder meal and a house full of people. By the time I was five my sister had given birth to my first nephew, and that continued for the next three years. A few years later my other two sisters were married and our house really became full. Those were wonderful times, no TV, just a house full of people.
A couple of years I remember that our high school played an afternoon game on thanksgiving, it was the biggest game of the year and of course I had to go. I made almost all of the games in those days; the stadium was within walking distance and I could either find a dime or a place over the fence. When I got old enough I sold popcorn and cokes, that way I got in free.
We never called it ‘Turkey Day’ because we never had a turkey, in fact I was a senior in high school when I ate my first turkey and that was not at my house but the home of a friend. Mother always cooked a couple of large hens, also a ham, and sometimes we also had roast beef. Not sure mother knew much about turkeys, maybe they were just not a popular item in those years, but we managed to live without one. One dish we always had on thanksgiving was sweet potatoes covered with marsh mellows. I did not like the potatoes but loved the toping.
During the war years we remember my brother in law to be Ralph, and all of my cousins, and my dad’s brother who were all somewhere ‘over there’. We always took a moment before the food to thank God for all that we had, by today’s standards I guess we did not have a lot but looking around Lindsey street we were like our neighbors, blessed.
I can never remember thinking that I was not as ‘well off’ as the rest of the people, maybe I just did not know any wealthy people but maybe I really believed we were a blessed people. And you know we were; we were a happy and blessed family. It would sure be nice to go back down Lindsey Street and hear the noise of that house at 246 South Lindsey, but no one can go back, there is no reverse in life, so enjoy this Thanksgiving, love on your family; they will be gone before you know it.
Thanksgiving in the Low Country
(A reprint from ‘Just a Moment)
I was alone that Thanksgiving and gladly accepted the invitation to have lunch with an elderly lady in our community. She lived in one of those great old plantation homes of the Low Country in South Carolina. She had out lived her family and had no close friends; I was the only guest. I was greeted at the door by her butler and driver he ushered me into the formal dining room and Mrs. Mayfield greeted me with the charm and warmth of an old southern plantation. She asked that I sit at the end of the table and she was seated by the butler at the far end just to the right of the head of the table. Each place had been prepared as if someone would be eating in that seat, but in truth it was only the two of us. The cook and two servants served us and she asked that I offer grace. Then she began to tell me about each empty chair. At the head, on her left, was her husband’s place. He had died many years prior but there was his silverware and china. On the opposite side from her was the seat for her son killed in Korea. Next to him was his wife who had remarried and moved out of her life. Next was the place for her niece also deceased, then myself and to my left was her youngest son killed in a boating accident. To his left was his younger sister, killed in the accident with him. There was just the two of us at the splendid table plus the great memories of years gone by which she now relieved. Between the tears of lost love there were moments of thanksgiving. Even in her sorrow she could still remember and be thankful for other days. That day I begin to grow memories of thanksgiving. After the lovely dinner at the table set for eight occupied by only two Mrs. Mayfield asked if I would like to see the portraits of those absent from the table. I assured her it would be an honor so she directed me across the entrance to what she called the parlor. A nice fire was burning in the fireplace and hanging over it was a wonderful portrait of her husband, hanging on each side was an equally grand portrait of each of her sons. There was a smaller portrait of her daughter-in-law who had now left the family, one of her niece and then another grand portrait of her daughter. We took seats in the parlor and were served warm eggnog and pie. The staff was seldom seen but you always knew that they were close by waiting for any command. She explained that she kept the old house of more than 10,000 square feet open so that her staff of six who lived there would have a home and she would have someone to share her life with. I asked why she never came to church nor took part in the local community. She told the story of being an outsider. Her husband’s family had purchased the 15,000 plus acres of the plantation as ‘carpetbaggers’ after the Civil War and thus she felt she was always looked on as an uninvited guest. It seemed so strange that after one hundred years the old hurt still wounded the people of both sides. There was sadness in the grand old place, in her face, and on my heart as I looked at the splendor that life had given and the value that it also had withheld.
For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many. Jesus Mark 10:45
Not a very popular verse today when so many in the world are looking for someone to serve them.
Have you noticed how mad we seem to be in America? The market falls and we want someone, anyone to bail us out. No complaints when it was going up. We are angry with our government, angry with the rich, angry with others who have more than we have, and angry that we in our minds have not gotten our share.
We purchased houses costing more than we really could afford, then when we were told that there value had increased we borrowed even more money on them and went on a new spending spree. Then bang, someone stuck a pin in our balloon and we got really mad. We blame the bankers, politicians, anyone except ourselves. We really enjoy being served. Money coming in and we are happy but bang it stopped and we get mad and decide it had to be someone’s fault beside ourselves. The market had some bad days recently and I had some sleepless nights, like my staying awake was going to change the market. Now I know this is over simple, but in truth don’t you see us as real babies, spoiled, expecting everything to always be going our way.
I wonder how Jesus felt when he got on His knees and washed His disciples’ feet. You know of course that He was God, there on the flood, washing feet.
We will not take a job paying less than we think we should make let alone wash a bunch of guy’s feet that never listen and seldom got it right. I think we have put ourselves into a situation that makes us ripe to accept even that which is wrong in order for us to have it our way. In fact I think that most people would make a pack with the devil if he could promise them that they were going to make it through this world in comfort. The problem is we are not going to make it through this world, we are all going to die and after death we will see and understand the truth. Look, Jesus is on his knees washing the feet of His disciples, where are we?
My friend Frank flew down to Belize while I was living there to spend a long weekend with me, we had a great time, God touched, blessed, and gave us one of those moments that would always be marked in our lives.
I had not used the air-condition on the Jeep that I was driving but Frank said turn that thing on and get this dust out of the car, I did, the dust cleared away and it really cooled down. We picked up a Mayan Indian who was walking toward the Valley of Peace so that we might help with his long trip and the heavy load he was caring on his back. I noticed as we got close to his house that he was in a frozen state in the back seat. I think he thought something terrible had happened to the weather or he had gotten in a car with two nuts. He got out in a hurry and I am sure he went in and built a fire, he was frozen.
We visited in a home where I had delivered shoe boxes for Christmas and both of us noticed that the lady still had the boxes, one tucked under the bed with precious clothes in it and another in the kitchen with sugar she used to feed her family. I asked if the children enjoyed the gifts and about that time all five of them came in the house and each had something they had received in the shoe boxes given to them on Christian. They all had to talk at once and they were so thankful for such simple things, our children have long forgotten the value of those items, but those five boys and girls had the best Christmas of their lives. Frank gave all of the kids some money and as we prayed and left the house we saw another shoe box under the bed and two on the front porch, filled with dirt and growing beautiful flowers. Frank and I both wept as we drove out of that wealthy home that possessed nothing but had everything.
It is wonderful to know that the world is still filled with grateful people.
Life was simple at 246 South Lindsey Street, when I was a boy. In the winter we went to school, ‘played out’ as we called it in the yard, if it was not too cold, till dark, then had supper, listened to the radio and went to bed. In the summer we just spent the day outside. Sure we had chores, going to the grocery store, about three blocks away, cutting the yard, feeding the pets and a few other things as mother remembered to ask me to do, but for the most part we played out. Johnnie Barber and I were next door neighbors and most of the time we formed the group of boys and girls involved in cowboy and Indians, baseball, building a fort out of sticks and old lumber on the vacant lot and just hanging around. We road sticks for horses and held other sticks for guns and in general ‘pretended’ that so many things were real. I collected leaves from trees, put them in a bag and called it money. We chipped the concrete off of bricks, we had a great pile of them which later my father would brick out house with; and called it gold. In later years we road our bikes, cut yards for other people for about 25 cents, went to the store for anyone who would let us, most often they gave us a nickel, and wondered what girls were all about. It was simple, fun, safe, and we looked forward to each new day. I remember Betty Upton teasing me because I had only a plain stick for my horse, so she assured me that I did not know which way I was going, front or back. I fixed her; I stuck one end of my stick horse in a can of white paint and called it the head that way I always knew which way I was going. Betty was the one thing or person that Johnnie and I disagreed on, we both ‘claimed’ her, strange language but that is what we called it in those days. This sometime caused a falling out in our friendship but never more than a few hours. After all a girl couldn’t come between us guys. We listened to the Lone Ranger, Sky King, and Gang Busters on the radio and replayed them in the yards and fields of Lindsey Street. Life was simple, innocent and good; in my old age I sometimes dream at night of that street and those kids and the joys of having very little but feeling very fortunate. Life is not simple now, it is not innocent, and the dreams of a boy are now brief, fuzzy, and not so many as long ago.
David wasn’t certain where he was, it was a very noises and bright room. People were talking over one another; they all seemed worried, anxious, and fearful. Then he hear one voice say call it; a soft female voice said 4:10. The room became silent, water was running, hands were being washed, and voices were now in a very low tone. For the first time since being aware that he was in this room he saw the man standing by the door, hand outstretched and asking in a silent voice, are you ready? David got up took the man’s hand and they walked out of the room and building with complete silence. The man said, don’t ask all of those questions, just listen, in a few days you will begin to understand. With that he said, here is the key to your room and the address to the hotel, you will find what you need there and I will see you tomorrow. With that the man left and David found himself in front of a large hotel, he looked at the key which the man had given him and noticed, 1810 marked on the front, he got on the elevator and sure enough his key fit the door to room 1810.
There was a large envelope on the bed, he opened it and began to read all of the information, and looking at the pictures, the envelope was dirty, wrinkled, and unopened. He looked at the clock by the bed and noticed that it was twenty minutes after seven, he went to the bathroom, looked at himself in the mirror picked up the brush on the sink and ran it through his hair, he left the room, went down to the lobby found the restaurant and ate supper, he noticed he had several credit cards in his pocket, all with a name he did not know, David Newlife, the first name was his but where did the second one come from, but it worked when he gave it to the waiter so he picked up a paper and went back to his room .He awoke at eight, took his shower found the clothes in the drawer and the navy uniform in the closet. He dressed, got off the elevator and a hotel manager said, “Commander Do you require a car this morning?” without thinking he said yes, but I would first like to get some breakfast. Certainly the a smartly dressed man responded, and by the way Commander I noticed you put you dinner last night on a personal card, I changed it to a hotel charge, just sign the bill this morning and put your room number where it is asked for, by the way Commander, thank you for your service to our country. With that he had walked across the lobby and through a door marked Staff.
As promised the car was waiting for him as he left the hotel, he gave the driver the address and read the summary of the papers from last night once again.
They stopped at the front of a nice modest home in a quiet area of the city, David walked to the door and knocked, a young lady answered, he notice that under all of the grief and tear stained face was a beautiful lady. He called her name told her that he had known her husband as he held out his ID card and if possible would like to share a moment with her. She invited him in and asked how did a commander know her husband who was a Chief Corpsman. He explained that he was in the same unit as her husband and had been with him the day he had been killed. He told her like it was just yesterday how much her husband had loved her and talked about her and what a great example he had been to all of the men in Seal team 14. He explained that when the Navy made a final examination of all that they had returned with they had found an unmailed letter that he had written to her but which was never posted, with that he handed her the unopened letter.
She asked a million questions, cried a lot of tears, and asked if she might hug him for this wonderful closure to the death of her husband. They walked to the door, she thanked him over and over, he assured her that the privilege was his and the duty, while sad, was very important to both of them. With that he opened the door placed his cover back on his head and once more hugged this now healing young wife.
His car was waiting and the man from yesterday was standing holding open the door of the car, he was the driver.
(This is a fictional story that is part of something I am working on, if you care to comment please do. email@example.com }
My father was over the age of being drafted so our home did not post a star in our window as so many of the homes on Lindsey and throughout East Jackson. Dad joined the state guard and became a warden for the special needs of the community during the years of conflict. I remember when we had the blackout drills that dad would walk the street and make sure that all the lights were out and our community was supporting the war effort. He took special training for firefighting, crowd control, and evacuation assistance. While he never had to uses those skills he was glad to place himself at the disposal of his community. Our church hung a large American Flag in our worship center and pinned a picture of all the men from our church serving our country. I remember one Sunday a lonely looking lady with her face stained in tears came down the aisle and asked if we would be willing to put a picture of her son on our flag even though they were not member of our church. The pastor stopped the service and called for our janitor to bring the ladder and he climbed to the flag and put that boy’s picture on one of the stars of the flag. I don’t think I will ever forget how moved our people were and how our entire congregation wept that day for the dear mother and her son. Before the war was over we put that picture and the pictures of six of our young men on gold stars because they would never come back to Calvary, they had given their all in the conflict.
When It All Began
Lexington Avenue, Jackson, 1937: the eleventh month, eleventh day, eleventh hour in the morning, I arrived. All five pounds of me, dad said that mother had a dresser next to the bed and they took the largest drawer, lined it with a blanket, put a pillow in and me on top of it all. He also said that when I cried too much he just closed the drawer, maybe that is why I have always been afraid of the dark. I don’t like dark; I don’t have to like dark because God is light, not dark so if I don’t want to like the dark it is ok. I never sleep in a dark room, if I am by myself I leave the TV on, if Carole is there, then a night light will do, I don’t plan to wake up in the dark and not know where I am. I remember telling that one night in Mississippi when I was staying with some people during a revival, that night when I got home, they had given me a key, told me to let myself in, they would be in bed. Well I wish you could have seen the hall to my bedroom, it looked like the landing strip at the Nashville airport, and my room, my room had a night light in ever outlet, but there I go chasing rabbits, I do that a lot, even when I am preaching, that may be why the attendance has fallen off this year, too many rabbit trail to follow, but back to Lexington Avenue. Mother was very sick when I was born, but I had it made for I had three older sisters and a neighbor next door about the same age as my sisters, Joan Vandiver, she is still living, the only person who has known me all of my life, Wow! My older sister was almost married, so she really did not get in on the fun, but the other three really did. Both Peggy and Alice take credit for coming home from school, seeing me in bed with my mother and asking mother, “What’s That”, mom told them that it was their baby brother, they wanted to know where I came from, mother told them that doctor Brown had brought me, they said, call Dr. Brown and tell him to come and get him we don’t need him. Can you believe that 10 and 12 year old girls would not know that their mother was going to have a baby, man things have really changed, now they go in and watch while it is being born, not sure that is my choice, nope not really sure. I do remember daughter Sandra the first time she saw ‘Mommy’ cat having kittens, she came running in the house and told me to come quick that Mommy cat was exploding, well she was she exploded six kittens, but there I go with the rabbits.
My first memory is that mother told me that the cat had gotten my bottle, I went out on the back porch and said, ‘Kitty, here kitty, kitty.” Maybe she told me that and I just remember it from her. I do remember going to the grocery store for mother, this was before I was four, and deciding since she had said I needed a haircut and there was a barber shop next to the grocery, that I went in and hopped up and got my hair cut. Then I had to take the money back to pay him with.
We moved the year I turned four, I remember seeing the house at 246 South Lindsey Street for the first time, I remember that mom did not like it but that dad assured her he would fix it up and it would be a wonderful home; he did and we lived a beautiful life there. Mother left on Thursday May 5th, 1977, God came and took her to a really beautiful home.
My oldest sister, Laura, had a son before I was five; he was much like a brother. Lindsey Street became our home and I remember walking down Lindsey to Lexington then to White Hall Street each month to take Mrs. Gaither the $14.75 house payment, I still have those receipts, Dad kept them all of those years. Those three girls teased me all of those early years, but it was still wonderful; I am a blessed man, great sisters, a great neighbor, wonderful godly parents and the house and friends that gathered around 246 South Lindsey Street. Some nights before I fall to sleep I remember those days, sometime I wish I could go again to 246 South Lindsey, I would not be at all surprised if my home in heaven has, 246 South Lindsey on the post, and it would not matter if it looked just like the first house of 246 South Lindsey.
She had hated her life, she could not remember the last time she had a positive thought about herself, it had been a long, long time ago, if ever. But this moment, this event was the worst. Being dragged through the street like some kind of animal by this group of men was more than she could take; it was the very bottom of her life. She knew a number of them and she knew that they had been as guilty as she had but here they were making sure that everyone knew of her sin, and everyone would watch as she was punished. She had been set up, of that she was sure, the men came in just as she and her ‘companion’ were in the middle of their fleshly lust. But it would mean nothing to these men nor those standing watching her being shouted at, spit upon, and cursed to try and make her case, after all she was guilty, not the first time but many times.
They threw her bruised and naked body in front of a man, a man whom she had never seen and asked him to be her judge.
She could see him looking at her then searching with his eyes each of the men screaming for her punishment, her stoning. He stooped and wrote something in the dusty ground, they continued to shout at him to have her stoned, he looked up and said, “Here is a plan, Let the one without sin cast the first stone at her.” Then he continued to write in the dust. She could see the men one by one slipping away, she felt no thrown stones. The stranger covered her with his robe, asked where those who had accused her were and then told her to go and stop her sinning. Where are the stones? Ivan (Story from John chapter 8)