To 2013 -30-

Today we write ‘The End’ to 2013; for me it seems like only yesterday that we were saying welcome, but time is like that spinning roll of toilet paper, the closer it gets to the end the faster it spends. The first year I remember writing on my school paper was 1945, I remember because I had never thought of time in the age of years before. I can remember before then, but those moment and memories are tied to events, places, and people not time. 1945 saw my brother-in-law Ralph return from Europe, marry my sister, Peggy and get ready to leave for Japan, but August came and he like four million others did not have to make that journey. I am grateful that I have made it from then until now; almost ready to write 2014, wow, how old that does make me. While 2013 has gone like a shooting star it has like a star left a trail. I buried one of my deacons, he was loved and respected and he has certainly been missed, that same week I buried my first German Army Officer from World War Two; with more than twelve funerals I have watched and joined as friends and family have shed their tears, said their goodbyes, and wished for a different day. My friend and once coworker, Carole Dyer left our ranks, far too soon and so very empty, I spoke for the final time with a young girl I baptized 38 years ago as she made her final journey as a 48 year old. Sometimes life seems unfair, but we do see a very small piece of the great picture and puzzle of life, time, tomorrow, and eternity will provide our only answers.

I preached all but one Sunday, wrote more than 240 blogs, watched them as they were opened more than 20,000 times, in more than 70 countries; you can not know how amazing this is for a boy from 246 South Lindsey Street, Jackson, Tennessee. I have experienced joyful days with my family, children, grandchildren, and friends, not bad for a man born in 1937. Many of you have opened the stories, some have spoken of them and when you do it makes my day, thank you.  My doctor says the main problem I have is that I should have been born in a different year, like maybe 47, 57 or 87…. But I was not and will not be, so my year is like the rest of me older than I have ever been, younger than I will ever be again, and forever destined to live with that stranger I see in the bathroom each morning as I stare at the mirror. My wife and children are good to me, wonderful in fact, my church is the best, and I am blessed beyond my wildest dreams. So to 2013 -30-

Published in: on December 31, 2013 at 12:05 am  Leave a Comment  

To The End

Let Him Make it to the End

He looked at all the food on the table and the tears would not leave. He listened as his nephew said the prayer and the tears still came. He excused himself walked out of the kitchen door into the back yard pulled his pipe out of his pocket, stopped a moment and lit it then walked to the edge of the yard and sit down on the bench he had put there when he had been a young man and tears never came.

He looked back toward the house; he had lived there for a long time, in fact, a life time. It was from that house that he had left for the Navy, flight school, and Vietnam. It was in that house that both of his parents had died while he was gone. They never knew that he was a ‘guest’ of the North Vietnam army. Those years had aged them, crushed them, and before the terror ended they were taken in a twist of events called an accident. He remember those five years of his own personal terror, the lost of faith, the regaining of faith and the desire to make it to the end, no matter how long that would take, he would make it to the end.

His sister had learned three weeks after their parent’s death that he was somewhere in a place called Hanoi, alive, and hopefully if all the diplomatic chess games worked with America and the enemy he would come home.

That had been forty years and more ago yet that first day seemed to him like only this morning. The house was empty then; his sister and her husband had kept it, repaired it, but left it vacant for the day he would return. He tried marriage but was terrible at it; He loved but never accepted the love of his wife. No children, no success he had just lived

 in the house worked at the simplest of jobs he could live with and made it one day to the next. For the rest of the world that war was long forgotten, the enemy now friends, and the pains of those five years not believed by most and considered deserved by some, but for him in the deep of his night he heard the silent sounds of that cell, smelled the filth of the place, and saw the hate of those who held him. He still felt the pain of bones unset and deep cuts untreated, to him the night never really ended, the prison was never left and he had yet to make it to the end. All that food on the table that his sister, her children and grandchildren had cooked was wonderful but for a moment he remembered the empty bowls that were shoved under his door and the hard dark bread placed in them that was to serve as the meal of the day.

Lt. Searcy Belton, USN, never left his prison, never made it to the end. The price he paid was not in years but in a lifetime. Unlike the story book tales that always end with ‘they lived happy ever after’ his book never ended. Somehow in some way we ask our Heavenly Father to heal his wounds when he greets him in glory. Ivan


Published in: on December 29, 2013 at 10:32 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Last Christmas


His mother died in the last week of September, her sickness had come quick and the shadow of death tarried very briefly. His dad pulled him away from her body and said, Boy she is gone, come on now and let the man do his business. He had been ten that September and the pains of the few weeks of deaths visit had been hard. His father had been hammered into more bitterness by her death and in the coming weeks the fields were made muddier by his own ten year old tears.  In early December he asked his father if he could cut a Christmas tree and put on it the ornaments his mother had displayed each year. The response had been no, There ain’t no Christmas boy that was just a womans tale. The last weekend before school closed for Christmas he had taken it upon himself to cut a tree and decorate it with the things his mother had stored. When his father saw it he just scoffed and went to bed.  Coming home from school the next day he saw smoke coming from the back yard where the Christmas tree and all the ornaments were in flames.  That was the last Christmas.  Life moved on and he became a bitter and lonely man just like his father, the years added nothing but grief and scars and now at almost eighty he lived alone in a small trailer at the edge of the old farm alone and disliked by everyone.  On Christmas Eve he heard a car, several cars and opened his door to see a number of young people singing as they approached the trailer. They handed him a small Christmas tree, plugged it into the power in his room and sung the great songs of Christmas.  That night as he slept somehow the little boy in the old man’s body smiled and again wept sweet tears of time now gone. Taylor Scarborough died that night as he slept, that was the Last Christmas.

Published in: on December 25, 2013 at 12:51 am  Leave a Comment  

Christmas Tree Time

Christmas Tree Time

On Thanksgiving we would have a great lunch in our home at 246   South Lindsey Street. All of the family would come and we would eat, and eat and have a great time. Then not too long after that wonderful meal Dad would say, “Its here!” I knew he meant December for on that first Saturday in December dad would get Tom Stewart to bring the Compress truck and the three of us would be off to a friend’s farm on the Christmasville Road just North East of Jackson. For this was the Christmas tree cutting day for us. Dad would ask all the family members what size tree they wanted as well as a number of friends. I would watch as he and Mr. Tom would cut down tree after tree. Then we would select ours. It was always a cedar tree, as they all where, and it would be too tall, too large yet I would rejoice at watching us load it and all the others on the back of the truck, then spending the afternoon delivering them to family and friends. I never met the man who owned the farm, I cannot remember his name, but I thank him for the simple joys of life gone bye and moments with my dad.

We would struggle with a wooded home made support for our tree and put it in front of the window in our living room.  We lined the floor beneath it in cotton, real cotton, strung the lights, threw on the icicles and closed the day with a body used up but a mind filled with long, long, memories. I shall never do that again, but I do it in my dreams each December.

Friday night I watched as Carole put up our tree, putting a bag under it so that we can pull it up and remove the tree from the room without all the mess, putting on the lights and all of the Christmas ornaments. She always does a great job and it is always beautiful; but I watched with awe as almost two year old granddaughter Matilda watched in glee, trying the help, touching the lights, something we could not do for ours were very hot, pointing to all the colors and in general having a wonderful time. She was making memories; maybe someday she will dream of that night when long ago she ‘helped’ Nana put up the tree. We should live each day as if someone was going to remember each moment. How beautiful that would help life to be.


Published in: on December 23, 2013 at 12:05 am  Leave a Comment  

The Christmas List Came Back No

The Christmas List Came Back No

I remember as a boy taking the Sears and Roebuck Catalogue looking up the toy section and making careful choices of what I wanted to circle, once circle I would turn down the page so that Santa could find it and then move on to one or two more items. Without anything being said I knew that the list of items would have to be limited, that all of the circled items would not be under the tree, but I still circled more than I should. On Christmas there would always be one choice and maybe a smaller one or two, but the circles still enclosed the items and my mind and heart wrote stories of how each one would be used and the fun they would bring.

In those days I had the whole month to wait, never before Christmas morning would I know, but now, now the answer comes on the 19, six days too early, but it comes.  Like a letter sent to the wrong address it is returned, undeliverable. Amy died on Thursday, forty-eight years old, she died. I have not seen her in years, I remember her most as a teenager and younger, but still there was a hole in my heart when I realized this Christmas wish would not come true. I never remember being really upset when the circled items were not under the tree, but this item, this item was so new, so young, so in the prime of some of the best years, Undeliverable.  It is my age of course which makes it sad, but age or not I think it is sad.


Published in: on December 20, 2013 at 12:05 am  Leave a Comment  

Christmas List Two

Christmas List Two

(Always room for another item or two.)

As when I was a child I had more than one item on my Christmas List, which is still true these many years later. When I grew up patriotism was running high, everyone loved their country, America. My blood runs red, white, and blue: I stand for the passing of the flag, I love America. I have traveled to countries on five continents and this is where I want to live, this is home, my land, my country. I sometimes wish I had stayed in the Navy, made it a career and maybe made a difference, but that choice has vanished with the passing of time.  But I am so weary of the conflict in our country, no one seems to like anyone else; we have all turned toward ourselves and no one can possible meet our approval. It makes me weary to hear all the thing wrong with America; thus my list includes a dream when we again stand together, when we love one another, dream of victories together, plan for new adventures, new cures, and make these dreams come true; When values, I would call them Christian values, call them what you like but when people have real values, life is precious, property rights are important and hard work can make the difference in a lifetime. I wish for Christmas that all who love this land would pause and give thanks for the blessings we have, and all of us would join in praying for our country. We cannot let the dream of our founders flounder on the selfishness of our personal desires; we must build upon that which will make us strong, great, right, and forward moving. America is on my list, not a new America, but a Godly America.


Published in: on December 19, 2013 at 12:05 am  Comments (2)  

Christmas List

Christmas List

When I was a boy I would go to see Santa Clause on the town square in Jackson, Tennessee, I would tell him a couple of things I would like to have for Christmas, sometimes I would write a letter to Santa; sometimes that letter would be read on the radio, those were fun filled days of dreams and hopes. My children ask me every year what I would like for Christmas; at my age there is really not anything that can be purchased and wrapped that I need or want. Of course I still have dreams, hopes, and wishes but none are carried by a store, sold on the internet, and advertised on TV. I learned Sunday night of a young girl, she is now 48, whom I baptized many years ago, everyone has given up on her, the family has said their goodbyes and now it is only time, she told her brother she would like to talk to me, he called and I was able to speak with her and pray with her; he said she smiled, her eyes lit up, and just a bit of joy came into the room.

For Christmas could I have her whole and well, could the medical team be so impressed with her recovery that they would never again doubt that miracles still happen. That would be a lovely Christmas. Maybe my list will increase as the days grow closer to Christmas but for today, today my Christmas want and wish is for Amy.


Published in: on December 18, 2013 at 12:05 am  Leave a Comment  

The Inn Keepers Wife

Eli heard the noise coming from outside his small home and Inn ; Sounds like the donkey needs to rest, he thought to himself as he went to the door. Didn’t everyone know by now that Bethlehem was full and his Inn was just as full? Someone needed to invent a No Room sign, oh well he would send them on their way. The tall man stood looking into his eyes with desperation, the girl on the donkey looked like she was as weary as the donkey sounded. “No Room” mister, he said, “place is full just like this whole town, go away, no room in this Inn .” “But sir,” the man responded, “My wife is about to give birth, we must have a place, we must.” “No, place here.” Eli spoke, full, just like the town all full. Sorry about your wife but full, just full.” Eli felt the gentle tug on his arm and turned to see his wife, Anna spoke, “Husband May we speak for a moment.” What now he thought but turned and moved to the wall with his wife at his side. “You know we can’t let that soon to be mother stay out unsheltered when her baby is coming, looks to me like it might already be on the way, think husband, and we must do something.” Eli said in a low voice. “The only empty place is under the house in that stable cave, and remember the sheep that gave birth to the twins is in there, what do you think I can do?”. “That will work my husband,” Anna said, “that will work, I will get our daughters and we will make the stable work.” As the darkness grew to its midnight hour the girls and their mother saw the King of Kings born in their stable. The sheep and her twins were there, the donkey, a thousand mice and who knew what else but there was a baby boy. They took the feeding trough and filled it with fresh hay and a blanket and place the baby there. That would do, the night would pass, and this would work. Anna woke her husband as she stood at the doorway looking out toward the opening of the cave, “Look Eli, Shepard’s, a bunch of Shepard’s are standing at the cave looking at the child, they are bowing husband, bowing, who is this child, what is happening in our Inn, in the stable with our sheep? “Look up”, Eli said, “Look at the sky, see that star, it has never been there before this night. What has happened Anna, who are these people and who is this baby?”


Published in: on December 17, 2013 at 12:05 am  Leave a Comment  

When Christmas Lights Go Out

She knows it is Christmas, she hears the voices talking about Christmas, the music of Christmas is playing in the air, somewhere, maybe in another room, in the hall, she is not sure but she hears the sounds.

It seems like all who speak to her are really not talking to her but talking about her; do they not know that she hears them, she speaks back to them but they do not seem to understand, she hears herself but they do not seem to hear her; they speak louder, talk too fast and repeat their words over and over, she is not a child, she is 94 years old. In truth she is not sure what happened, one day she was in her home and then it was gone, there was another home then rooms, rooms like this but in this room there was another person and people came to see her and talk to her but she never heard any response, just silence from the person she knew was there but who never seemed to notice her. Where was this place, who were these people and why did they keep doing all of these personal things to her, for her, what had happened. Sometimes the smell was terrible but most of the time it was just artificial, phony, dumb smelling. Where was Christmas, what had happened to it and who had hidden it from her, she heard the songs, the Merry Christmas spoken between people but there was no tree, no light; there is no Christmas without lights, where were the lights?  All of these years she had cooked for Christmas, put up decorations, made a tree beautiful, but that was gone and no one responded when she asked, it was as if there was a great glass wall between her and all the people, she could hear them but they did not hear her, they just spoke silent lip moving words, smiled, and left. Christmas gone dark is not Christmas for Christmas is light, without light it is not Christmas.

(From the unspoken mind of a friend who has lived longer than her health.)

Published in: on December 16, 2013 at 12:05 am  Leave a Comment  

Christmas at Point Loma

Christmas at Point Loma

I had arrived in San Diego on Friday December 12, 1958. It was my first Christmas away from family and Jackson, Tennessee.  The palm trees made into ‘Christmas Trees’ did not impress this West Tennessee boy with his memories of cedar trees; they left something missing from Christmas. Since I was the new man on the duty roster I pulled Christmas duty on that Thursday of 1958 and sometime that weekend looking for something to do I made my way to The Point Loma National Cemetery. Standing there looking across that beautiful green bed with its white markers pointing to the sky I felt a sense of home. Looking back I am sure it was because of my love for those who had served our country. At Point Loma you look across the green grass of the hillside dotted with the white markers into the great blue of the Pacific Ocean. It is a beautiful sight and a great reminder of the price that so many have paid for our freedom. I had seen the lady and her young son of about seven but caught up in my own thoughts I did not notice them until the boy seeing me in my  dress blues came running over to me and asked with great seriousness, “Did you know my dad?” Standing, not sure what to say his mother answered for me as she told the boy not to bother me and that I would not have known his father. I stooped down asked the child to show me his father’s grave and read with pride, Chief Petty Officer Dan Raymond Sharp, 1919 – 1952. I saluted his grave and putting my hat on his son saluted him as well. I left that beautiful and holy ground with tears that day but my heart was very proud and thankful for all those who made the day possible for me.


Published in: on December 13, 2013 at 10:16 am  Leave a Comment