Great Country Store

Pete Stewart owned one of those great old country ‘general’ stores. From the wood front porch with it’s Coke ice chest filled with ice covered almost frozen, cokes, R.C. Cola’s, Orange Crush, Grape bet, Pop Cola, Double Cola and Root Beer to the old glass topped hand operated gas pump.
The Colonial Bread screen door slammed with the ringing of a bell when you let it go as you enter the dimly lit interior filled with all a family would need.
In the back near the table, most always filled with men and their checkers and domino, was the great round of ‘Rat Cheese’ large tube of rag bologna, shelves packed with crackers, Vienna sausage, beanie Winnies, and a great open barrel of floating dill pickles.
It was the place to be when the weather was too bad to get in the crops, at lunch time, and when you just needed to stay awhile with other folks.
Pete also had one other great tradition that thrilled the men who made this their ‘club’. When he would make a sale, and punch it into the old cash register, pull the handle and make the bell ring as the drawer would open a hush would come over the store for as soon as the customer walked away Pete would quote a scripture verse of his choosing.
The first customer on this day was an old couple who struggled to walk to the counter where the wife wanted to purchase a spool of thread. Pete opened several drawers containing blue thread and then climbing to the top shelf on the attached ladder he found the drawer with just the right color of blue for the dear lady. She was thrilled with her choice, gave him the nickel and the store grew quiet as Pete ‘rang’ up the sale and said as they left, “Honor your mother and father that your days on earth may be long.” A wonderful sigh could be heard from the rear of the store and the men returned to fixing the problems of the world.
Next came three small children each with a penny and all anxious to spend it wisely on one of Pete’s penny candy jars. It took nine jars for Pete to satisfy the mixed craving of the kids but each smiled with their penny candy choice and again the store grew quiet as Pete punched in the three cent sale, turned the handle for the ringing of the bell and the opening of the drawer, the said as the three left the store, “Suffer the little children to come unto me for such is the kingdom of heaven.”
The men returned to their problem solving and broke only with the squalling of breaks as a fancy truck pulling a shinny new horse trailer came to a stop in the front of the store.
The driver rushed in and before the door could slam and the bell ring he said, “Mr. I am on my way to a horse show and I have forgotten the blanket for my horse would you have one I could purchase?” “Certainly”, Pete replied and went to the back room where he kept the blankets picking the one off the top of the stack and returning to the counter where he placed it down and said that would be $3.95. “No sir”, the man said, “this is a fine horse and I need a better blanket.” “I understand” Pete replied and went back to the store room, pulled a blanket, still in it’s plastic cover, from the middle of the stack and brushed off the dust as he returned to the waiting horseman. “I think this is more your taste.” Pete said, “That will be $19.95.”
“Better”, the customers said, “But understand this is a prize winning horse got something a little nicer?” “Now I understand”, Pete said as he went to the storage room took the blanket from the bottom of the stack, removed it from the bag and folded it nicely across his arm returning to the waiting customer.
“I believe I found it.” Pete said presenting it to the horseman in a very formal manner. “This one is a bit high at $79.95 but it’s my finest.”
“That’s it, that It.” said the customer.
With that the store became as silent as death for all the men knew what Pete had done and were anxious for the coming scripture verse.
The old cash register clanged as seldom were so many keys used and the bell seemed to ring louder as the register door hurried to open. Then as the excited horseman left the store all could hear as Pete said, “He came unto me a stranger and I took him in.”
From a story told to me by E.D. Miller in 1973. O course I embellished it a bit.
Ivan N. Raley

Published in: on July 30, 2014 at 11:49 pm  Leave a Comment  

I Will Carry You

For those who have known me long you will remember that I use to have a beautiful blonde Cocker Spaniel named Louie. I owned Louie’s father thus he had belonged to me for all of his life. Born on Christmas day he lived almost 15 years, in those last weeks he taught me some very important lessons; I would like to share them with you.
Toward the end of his life he had a very difficult time walking and even though I had a doggy door into my patio room so that he could come in and out from his fenced in yard it became very difficult for him to get his fifty pounds over the little door panel and through the doggy door so I got where I would go out and make sure that he came in each night, he didn’t see well, had difficult hearing so it was easy for him to get confused and not be able to get inside.
I looked at the clock and noticed that it was well past his bedtime and he was not yet in the house, so I went out in the yard and called and called him, I could not find Louie, I got a flash light and began to look under the bushes in the back yard and there he was, as always his eyes lit up when he saw me and his tail began to wag just a bit, I tried to get him to come out from under ,the bush but realized that he just was too week to make it, I told him not to worry, that I knew he was tired so I would come under the bush and that I would carry him to bed; so I crawled under the bush and told him that I would get him in the house. I put him in my arms and carried him to his bed which was in my bed room, talking to him and telling him how much and long I had been looking for him, he looked so comforted, his eyes lit up and maybe there was just a bit of a wag in the tail. I put him on his bed, tried to get him to eat a treat, he wasn’t interested, gave him some water and washed his face and eyes with a warm wet cloth, I covered him with his blanket, put his bone beside his head and listened as the sound of sleep came my way from him. I got in my bed, turned off the light and fell into a wonderful sleep, Louie was safe, I was safe. In the morning I looked at the floor beside my bed and there was my friend Louie, it was all gone, somehow he had found the strength to come to my side of the bed and fall into that lovely sleep of perfect rest. I learned a lesson from Louie;
Someday the Lord will come and He will call my name, I will be under my bush, it might be the pulpit I love, in my car, asleep in my bed, in a hospital room with all of my children there, but somewhere under my bush He will find me and He will say, “Ivan, you need to get out from under that bush and come in, tell you what I will carry you, I know you are tired, so I will carry you.”

Published in: on July 29, 2014 at 9:37 pm  Comments (5)  

I Like Byrdstown

I think one of the reasons I love Byrdstown so much is that it returns to me the day of my childhood in Jackson. We lived in East Jackson, 246 South Lindsey Street, a couple of long blocks to a small mom and pop grocery, same for the first six years of school, and the same for our church, Calvary. I always wanted to pastor a church named Calvary; if I had I would have purchased every billboard in town and put up the words, ‘Life Begins at Calvary’, corner of Lexington and Tomin: it sure did for me. Byrdstown is like that small, safe place that children long for the be able to play and old people like me find so refreshing, people speak to me when I walk in the stores, in fact they seem like they really enjoy my coming in even if I make a purchase or not. It is nice to be a ‘Ship-in’ and still have people speak to you, offer to help you, and have a few moments just to chat and talk about the weather. Our schools here are great, wonderful teachers, they seem to love their jobs and I know they know and love the children. We live near one of the nicest lakes in our country, just go down to one of the docks, park and watch the people and the boats; watch families making memories, what people touching their children in such wonderful ways that when the children are old they will bring their families back to Dale Hollow. Now I am sure we are missing a lot of ‘things’ big box stores, traffic, and other such items, in fact when I go to our home in Nashville I want to run back here where I do not have people driving on both sides of me and pointing for me to get out of the way. I think that is the pointing they are doing. When you really think about Byrdstown it is not the things that make it, it is the people, the kind of people you can grow old with, get attached to, and remember in all of your dreams. I like Byrdstown.
Ivan

Published in: on July 28, 2014 at 3:05 am  Leave a Comment  

Always

Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! Philippians 4:4
Being beaten, dumped in the sea, bound in prison, and charged for doing the right thing Paul certainly knows someone whom most people do not know in order to say for us to always rejoice. Of course Paul knew Jesus!
Even with that said I must confess that this is not an easy task. Don’t beat yourself up if you discover conditions and circumstances that you do not like and which leave you drained emotionally as well as physically. Be reasonable; Paul is not talking about things; he is talking about being so involved with Christ that in the worst of times he still knew he had someone with whom he could share his distress. Paul wasn’t any happier about being beating than we would be, but he knew that in this tragic moment he was not alone and in that he could and did rejoice.
I remember a close friend who knew that he was going to die very soon. He was not happy about this premature death; he would miss his family and seeing his dreams come true, and all the thing that all of us want to do and dream of doing, but when I said to him, all of this makes me mad, I don’t understand how you do so well. He would always say, I am the one dying, I have dying grace, not you. However he also knew that he was not going to walk through death alone and in that he found joy for each day. In your darkest hour look for Jesus.
Ivan

Published in: on July 25, 2014 at 2:05 am  Leave a Comment  

Always

Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! Philippians 4:4
Being beaten, dumped in the sea, bound in prison, and charged for doing the right thing Paul certainly knows someone whom most people do not know in order to say for us to always rejoice. Of course Paul knew Jesus!
Even with that said I must confess that this is not an easy task. Don’t beat yourself up if you discover conditions and circumstances that you do not like and which leave you drained emotionally as well as physically. Be reasonable; Paul is not talking about things; he is talking about being so involved with Christ that in the worst of times he still knew he had someone with whom he could share his distress. Paul wasn’t any happier about being beating than we would be, but he knew that in this tragic moment he was not alone and in that he could and did rejoice.
I remember a close friend who knew that he was going to die very soon. He was not happy about this premature death; he would miss his family and seeing his dreams come true, and all the thing that all of us want to do and dream of doing, but when I said to him, all of this makes me mad, I don’t understand how you do so well. He would always say, I am the one dying, I have dying grace, not you. However he also knew that he was not going to walk through death alone and in that he found joy for each day. In your darkest hour look for Jesus.
Ivan

Published in: on July 25, 2014 at 12:54 am  Leave a Comment  

I Have Missed You So Much

I’ve Missed You So Much
The small boy stopped his crying and looked into his mother’s eyes as she reached down and put her arms around him and assured him that he was ok. For the briefest of moments he had gotten lost in the large store and someone had seen him crying and they had called over the speaker for a ‘lost mother.’ The moment she had heard the call she looked around and knew that it was her son who was crying and she the mother that was lost. It was wonderful to see the way he looked at her when she ran to him and knelt down to hold him. That is one of the great gifts of mothers, that warm and safe embrace.
All of us have rejoiced when we saw our child or another looking at us with those big bright eyes. There is just something about that which reaches out and grabs our hearts. Have you ever considered that God would love to see that same look on our faces as we bow before Him in prayer? Eyes bright with joy, heart filled with excitement all because we were coming to see our master in prayer. Maybe the reason we don’t realize that is we do not spend any time listing to God, just in silence before Him with eyes that are expecting and hearts filled with joy; with even our bodies in need of His strength. We talk too much, we should listen more. Maybe we never experience that because we never seek Him with such a heart and wonder. Even my dog Louie, use to jump and bark and get so excited when my car pulled in the drive. Now we really should be smarter than dogs and we certainly should be more excited than they to meet our Master. Real prayer after all is welcoming the Master home into our heart. I use to think that Louie was saying ‘Where have you been, I’ve missed you so much.” I think Jesus would love for us to look at Him with that same longing desire to be held in His arms.
Ivan

Published in: on July 24, 2014 at 2:05 am  Leave a Comment  

I Have Missed You So Much

I’ve Missed You So Much
The small boy stopped his crying and looked into his mother’s eyes as she reached down and put her arms around him and assured him that he was ok. For the briefest of moments he had gotten lost in the large store and someone had seen him crying and they had called over the speaker for a ‘lost mother.’ The moment she had heard the call she looked around and knew that it was her son who was crying and she the mother that was lost. It was wonderful to see the way he looked at her when she ran to him and knelt down to hold him. That is one of the great gifts of mothers, that warm and safe embrace.
All of us have rejoiced when we saw our child or another looking at us with those big bright eyes. There is just something about that which reaches out and grabs our hearts. Have you ever considered that God would love to see that same look on our faces as we bow before Him in prayer? Eyes bright with joy, heart filled with excitement all because we were coming to see our master in prayer. Maybe the reason we don’t realize that is we do not spend any time listing to God, just in silence before Him with eyes that are expecting and hearts filled with joy; with even our bodies in need of His strength. We talk too much, we should listen more. Maybe we never experience that because we never seek Him with such a heart and wonder. Even my dog Louie, use to jump and bark and get so excited when my car pulled in the drive. Now we really should be smarter than dogs and we certainly should be more excited than they to meet our Master. Real prayer after all is welcoming the Master home into our heart. I use to think that Louie was saying ‘Where have you been, I’ve missed you so much.” I think Jesus would love for us to look at Him with that same longing desire to be held in His arms.
Ivan

Published in: on July 24, 2014 at 12:55 am  Leave a Comment  

Who Was He

I was on my way to Cookeville to have my car serviced when I noticed a car pulled to the side of the road and a man, I though he looked about my age, standing on the road just looking at it. I stopped, walked back and asked him if he had a phone or would like for me to call someone for him. He nodded no, said it was a flat tire but he didn’t have a spare, so I asked him what I could do and he said that if he could get to the truck stop by interstate 40 and Hwy 111 he could get someone there to help him. I told him to hop in and I would take him, I was running ahead of my schedule and had the time, he got in mumbled something that sounded a bit like thanks and we were off. I tried to get all the information I could, you know me, talking to perfect strangers is my specialty. I asked him if he had been in the army, he said he had, I asked if he was in Nam, and he spoke up for the first time and said, how old do you think I am, I said I had no clue and he said he would be fifty in August, boy I missed that one, he said he had been in during the first gulf war but did not go the area but was stationed in Germany. I asked about one hundred other question, like from around here, married, and family, got no real answers, said he had a friend who worked at the truck stop and he would help him get a tire and put it on his car. I said great, asked if he went to church, he responded by saying one of those are you, I said, yes I guess I am, just love the Lord and wish everyone knew Him, he didn’t respond just said you better get ready with what is going on in Europe and in Israel, you better get ready. I pulled into the station, thanked him for the advice and said in a parting word, hope you meet Jesus, he just looked at me and said, get ready, I thanked him and left. Of course he is right our world is troubled, but he is also wrong, God is still in control. I spent the time they were working on my car wondering who he was, thanking God that Jack and I had gotten through with our visits in time for me to be early and able to pick him up and somewhere in the thoughts asked God to trouble him, or help him, or whatever it was he needed for God to supply that need. I still wonder who he was.
Ivan

Published in: on July 22, 2014 at 11:36 pm  Leave a Comment  

Pray for Who

Pray for Who?
You have heard that it was said; You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I tell you, love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:43-45
Someone must have stood up and said, “Pray for who?” how can I pray for that person, they are unkind, wicked, just mean, and I could come up with a lot of other adjectives to describe them. Say that again; Who do you want me to pray for?
Have you ever been so hurt by someone that if you found yourself about to meet them while walking down the street that you would cross the street just to avoid having to see them face to face. I think that many of us have been there, traffic, pain, fear, and hurt all colliding against us at once.
I suppose I am to pray for the rebels who held those bodies so long and in all likely hood cause those bodies to be there. Then of course I am going to pray for the Hamish in the Gaza strip as they shell Israel, how about the Muslims, they are always giving us a hard time, Pray for them!
I think that many of us have been there. One of the mysteries of life and especially love is that when you dare to love you are very likely at some point to be hurt; the other side is that you are also likely to cause hurt. When that happens it is often very difficult to get rid of the pain and the memory. Maybe trying the way of Jesus would help it be forgiven and removed?
What if all the Republicans went over and sit next to a Democrat and they had a word of prayer before the committee meeting or session, then the next day the Democrats could to the same. The media would go crazy. Maybe our leaders on both sides of the isle need to try this?
Love and pray even for those who dislike and mistreat you. Is that not so like Jesus. Boy, He sure does place the bar high, but don’t forget He prayed for us…

Ivan

Published in: on July 22, 2014 at 12:03 am  Comments (1)  

Judgment Is Real

My cup runs over. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord Forever. Psalm 23:5-6
Don’t you love this writer? Sun or rain, good or bad, he is going to be alright because of God’s goodness and mercy. David, our author, certainly tested the Lord a number of times in his life. Yet God always filled David’s cup with more goodness and mercy than most ten men would need in a lifetime.
David looked to life with assurance, with love and certainty that it was God who charted his path. It was not his enemies, not circumstance, and not accidental; his life was formed before the eyes of God and his days were all counted and known by his Lord.
Even when David was living in sin, lying to himself, God, and anyone else who questioned his actions, he knew that he was guilty and he knew that God knew every moment of his life. He must have also known that even when He was bad, God was still good and in spite of all his failures God still loved him. Sin extracted a great payment from his life but he was never forgotten by God.
I believe most of us who know God and are assured of His being in charge of the future are very fearful in some ways about that future. We know that even though we are certain of the love of God we also know of His judgment. Everywhere we look today we see something that says to us, judgment is coming; we are not going to be able to spit in the face of God and not have to pay a great price. David was forgiven, his slate was wiped clean, but the price of his sin broke his heart and destroyed much of his joy, and no one but God knows how much of the glorious things David could have done but he allowed sin to cut them all short.
Do you understand what America can be, what we have done in the past is only a moment of what we could do in the future, but sin could cut all of that short and the whole of the world will suffer because we were not faithful.
How determined and sure are you that God has His hand on you? That God has a plan for your life. God will not force you, you can still make your own choices, but remember if we will see and follow God’s plan it will be the best that our greatest dreams could dream. Remember that God was there when you were formed and He will be there when the last enemy, death, will visit you. That belief will guide your life. It will bless not only you but all who are touched by you.

Published in: on July 20, 2014 at 9:22 pm  Leave a Comment