Thanks Byrdstown

This Sunday will mark the beginning of 14 years for me as a part of your community; it was the first Sunday in February of 2002 when I came to pastor First Baptist Church. I have not kept up with all the friends and families that I have buried, really too many for me to count without writing them down. But each one an important memory, a long day of saying goodbye.

I have preached about 1900 message, some of my member might remark that too many of them more than once. This is the 994 post that I have written in the past four years, they have been opened 81,535 times by people in 73 countries.

The Press has been very kind to publish many of my stories, and many of you have stopped me at the Shell, Dixie, B & K and said you enjoyed them; that is one of the Hallmarks of our community, you are a people of gratitude, that adds so much to the joy of living here.

I can remember in those early days of driving up here, attending a ball game and driving back to Nashville, not so now, the legs, eyes, and rest of the body will not allow it. In fact it is a real struggle just to sit through a game, the old body just groins too much.

We have great schools, greater teachers and staff, a medical center second to no one’s in this state, rivers and a lake that people travel far and wide to enjoy, docks where you can feel at home and beauty that is difficult to describe. But those are not the things which make our community great and desirable, you are; the people, you who live here, work here, worship here and plan to be placed someday beneath this beautiful soil, you make it valuable.

Mildred still says that I am a ship in and in truth I am, but better to be a ship in than to never had experienced life in Pickett County, thank you, the years will rob much of the future, but you, you will have added so much that many, many others will be glad they came to ‘these parts’. Ivan


Published in: on January 29, 2015 at 11:05 pm  Comments (3)  



Charlie had never express any emotion toward his mother, he spoke very little, did not want to be touched, and spent his life somewhere deep inside himself. Betty, his mother took him to school each day but she wondered if it was only adding a burden to the teacher MS Rachel. MS Rachel greeted him each day like he was the only person in her class but even with all the love which she could give Charlie lived somewhere in his own word.

About two months into the school year she decided to bring the small fuzzy puppy she had rescued from the dog pound to class. Spot, as she called him because of the large black spot on his head surrounded by and otherwise white body took immediately to Charlie. He raced across the room to where Charlie kept his word blocked from the others, but Charlie would have nothing to do with Spot.  Spot would bark at him try to climb into his lap, but nothing doing for Charlie. The days turned to three weeks with Spot running each day to Charlie being rejected but staying close all the same and watching him like he was the only kid in the room. One day when Spot jumped into his lap, instead of the usual rejection, Charlie touched him, and then held him. The days became weeks and the two grew a bond that was a wonder to both his mother and teacher.

One night as Betty put Charlie to bed and made her always rejected attempt to hug and kiss him good night he just stared at her and turned toward the wall as was his normal reaction. Just as she went to close the door she heard her son say, Mommy, hug and kiss, she rushed back to the bed and found him receptive to her good night hug and kiss for the first time in his life.

As she reached for the phone to call and tell Ms. Rachel, she realized that it was too late but let the phone ring just the same.  They both wept and praised God for a tiny crack in the wall of silence.

The next day Spot came to live with Charlie and the world began to be brighter, hope was there and maybe just maybe there was a brighter future for all of them.


Published in: on January 28, 2015 at 8:42 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Shattered Clock

It was almost time for the class to end and the teacher having completed his plan for the day asked Walter, a student in the rear of the class room near where the clock was hanging on the wall what time it was. Walter turned first to the clock then back to the teacher and said, “Look for yourself the clock is right there.” Pointing toward the wall clock. “From my position I can’t see it Walter, what time is it.” The teacher asked the second time. “Man I ant your time keeper get you some glasses so you can see.” Walter responded. “No smart mouth Walter, just the time. “The teacher said. With that Walter pulled the clock off the wall and threw it at the teacher. Lucky for the class the bell rang and all of the students ran for the door. As Walter reached the door the teacher asked him to stay after the others had left. Walter stayed and the teacher reaching to the floor picked up the clock and put in on his desk. “You can’t tell time can you Walter?” “Ant none of your business what I can and can’t do.”, he responded. Then the teacher turned the clock face up and moved the hands, “What time is it Walter?” Walter just stood there staring into space asking if he could leave. “If you would like to learn to tell time Walter, I will be at the community library on 12th each night this week at 6:00, I’ll be glad to teach you both to read and tell time. Sure you can leave.” The teacher spoke. Walter left the room and for two nights the teacher waited until seven at the library hoping Walter would come in. He had seen him, unknown to Walter, standing behind the bushes both nights as he arrived but Walter just couldn’t make the move. On the third night at 6:30 Walter came into the library and said, “I ant saying I can or can’t tell time but I am here so show me what you want me to know.” So began a two year journey between Walter and the teacher. Three nights each week they would meet in the library and three nights they would work on homework, reading, math and all the other quest a fifteen year old boy is involved with. Walter didn’t become an A student but he did pass for the first time in his school career, he graduated, got a good job with a big box store and left the world of frustration and failure on a school room floor broken into all the pieces of that old clock, because a teacher didn’t see the shattered clock, but the broken boy.

(Part of the story told to me by Dr. Jim)

Published in: on January 27, 2015 at 7:28 am  Comments (2)  

What Do You Want Me To Do Now Coach

More from ‘the boys’ in the city by the sky. We didn’t have a lot of rules about who could and could not be on the team, the one standing rule was: Be in church Sunday morning and you can play on Monday night.  When I said you could play I meant that everyone all ten would get to play. Now that is a great rule when you are having fun, but when you are in a league where the other teams are very serious about their win and loss record, not a great rule.  But we lived with it and the guys had a great time even with a loosening season. I was a really bad coach, not just bad, really bad. I remember one night with less than a minute left and we were losing by more than thirty points James got the ball.  Now I wish you could have known James, no scholarship ball player but filled with energy and enthusiasm. He had been in the game several times that night but this was his first time to get his hands on the ball. With great seriousness he dribbled over to me, now remember we are down more than 30 and we have less than a minute to play, and he said, “Coach what you want me to do now!” I said, shoot the ball James, shoot the ball, he did and with the help of those white winged things around heaven’s throne it went in, wow, we scored. That was a season. I found three other teams in other leagues that were about as bad as we were so I had an invitational tournament.  We didn’t win the tournament but we did win one game, it wasn’t a zero season, we won one game. Not a bad season for a bunch of guys who met on a parking lot and played in T shirts with iron on numbers. I learned more than the boys, but they were blessed and long after that losing season and my leaving the City by the Sky, ‘Ivan’s’ boys were still in church.  Now as I dribble down the court with only a few minutes left I look at the coach and say like James in the City by the Sky, “What do you want me to do now Coach, What now?

Published in: on January 25, 2015 at 10:04 pm  Comments (3)  

Some Choice

John looked around his office, not really an office but his room and office. The wall next to the small window was taken up with a half bed, another wall had a small table with a straight chair a 13 inch TV sit on top as did his dishes from supper. His one luxury was the closet that had been turned into a shower and toilet, of course that left his few clothes to hang from nails in the front wall which also held the door to the hall. John wondered how it had come to this, in his forties, working in a tavern cleaning up the throw up of ill customers and trying to keep the bathrooms from being disease ridden. It was a humiliating job and a dead end, no life existence. The strobe lights over his table begin to blink, something was wrong in the main room, time for him to get to work. It was the usual scene; two guys had tried to out drink one another, gotten sick and erupted their beer, fish sticks, and everything else all over the back of the room.  They laughed at him as he got his mop and begin the task of cleaning up after these drunken idiots. But really he wondered who the real idiot was?  After the boss had locked the door at three in the morning he began his job of mopping the flood, cleaning the tables, washing the dishes and trying to make the bathrooms acceptable for the next night.  How had this happened? He remembered his boyhood and the nice home his family lived in, the furniture and a real bed. He also remembered the fights with his father and the anger that finally caused him to leave in the middle of the night and the years of sleeping under bridges, in vacant cars and doing the same kind of job that now demanded his time.  It was freedom that he had longed for, the right to do his own thing. He wanted to come and go as he wished, stay out as late as he liked, and do what he wanted to do.  Well he could, but in truth in order to live, no not live, just survive he found himself now enslaved, not to his parents but to his hunger and struggle to survive. Some choice he had made, some trade, here he was filthy, smelly, and the mopper for drunks. He would sure like to go home, but home, where was home, it had been so long. He would sleep now and tomorrow he would mop.

Published in: on January 21, 2015 at 11:05 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Walk Home

I had been to what we called in those days ‘The Moving Picture Show’, today we would just say the ‘Movies’.  Having left home with twenty-five cents I had spent a dime to get in, another dime for popcorn and a coke, which left me with a full nickel in my pocket.  Now I had a choice.  I could either go to the F.W. Woolworth store at the corner of Liberty and main and get me an Ice Cream Cone; and walk home; about an hour’s walk for a nine year old boy or I could skip the ice cream and ride the bus home.  Since I had already eaten popcorn and enjoyed a coke I decided to take the ride.  I gave my nickel to the bus driver and got on the city bus with the East Jackson sign. I was in time to get my favorite seat, the one just in front of the back door of the bus.  That way I would have no one back of me.  Now in those days black people sit in the back of the bus, the area back of the rear door.  I noticed as we pulled away from the curb that a black lady was standing in that area so I did what my mother had told me to do, I got up and offered her my seat.  The bus driver saw this in his mirror and he yelled back at me to sit down.  I walked up to the front of the bus and said quietly, “Sir, my mother told me if a lady was standing on the bus I had sure better be standing. So I gave the lady my seat.”  The driver said, “I said sit down, boy.” I once again repeated my mother’s counsel, ‘If a lady is standing you had better be standing.’  He pulled the bus to the curb and said once more to me. “I said sit down.” I responded, “But sir, my mother’ about that time he stopped the bus completely, opened the front door and said, “The bus driver said get off the bus boy.”  So I got off of the bus and started my walk toward home. I really don’t remember my thoughts that day except that I bet the lady didn’t get the seat even though it was now empty for sure and that I should have had the ice cream.  Later it would occur to me that maybe, just maybe, the lady standing said to herself, ‘Well I be, there is one white boy who is a gentlemen in this town.”


Published in: on January 20, 2015 at 11:45 pm  Comments (2)  

I Made Someone Mad

I Made Someone Mad

Maybe more than one someone, on a normal day I have about 75 to 100 people who open my stories, on a normal day I have no comments, sometimes I will receive a couple, most of the time those two are positive statements.

But Monday, well Monday was different, I did receive one positive comment but all the rest and we will not say how many, were negative. More readers than usual so someone must have shared it with others, by far the most negative post I have written. That was post 986, I must try and remember that number, it really received bad revues.

I think there must be a lot more people who have lost hope than I understood, people are unhappy, I knew that, you can just stop and talk a few minutes with any group of people anywhere and you will see the unhappiness running out of some of them.

But to have decided that America is through, how can that be, we are not finished, suffering, yes, finished, no, we are still the greatest power in the world, we still do more for other countries than anyone else, we give more, pay more, and as far as I know we are one of the few nations that has a problem with too many people wanting to come here to live.

Someone said that people like me were part of the problem, that I had caused people to lose hope, me, that is very strange, I love our nation. They said old people needed to stop working and let younger people go to work, that may have some merit, but I think very little.  In fact most of my friends who are still working are making far less than the younger group is willing to work for, not sure about that assessment.

I still believe in America, our deeper purpose and our ability to overcome the horrors of life and the arrows of mistakes. We will overcome and we will remain the leader of the free world. And when history writes of us it will have to record that we are the champions, we are the free people of this world and we are the example that most of the world wishes to follow.

To the person who asked to be removed, I left you on the list for this message, I will remove you by tomorrow, sorry to part company, remember friends are able to disagree and remain friends.


Published in: on January 19, 2015 at 11:05 pm  Comments (4)  

The American Dream Is Over

The American Dream Is Over

Really! What happened? Did it have an illness that could not be cured, was it killed, did it starve to death, did I wake up to discover that it was just a dream and now I am awake and it is all gone? Why did no one bother to tell me that it was over, I am part of the family, I deserve to know, I want an answer.

I am and old man and you know something I still dream, in fact just two years ago I purchased a new home, took out a thirty year mortgage, I will be the oldest person in the country when it is paid off, is the dream gone, can I still live in my home? My grandson is in college, is he now out, with nothing, not even able to finish, another grandson is about to receive his commission as a Second Lieutenant in the Army, will that not happen, I have a dream that he will be a Colonel when he retires. Is that hope gone?

Something is wrong; that sign cannot be right, even as an old man I still dream of days to come, victories to win, and laughter to fill my heart and home. If the dream is dead, then you killed it because I would not, I believe in America.

I went to church last Sunday, I felt the presence of God and I am sure that He is still in charge and He has not said one thing about my dreams being over, my country was dead, my hope was buried, and I might as well just give up. Tear down the sigh, it is a lie.

Now for certain a lot of thing are wrong with America and in fact to whole world, but over, not so, there will be other elections, other courses of action, new days, new leaders, new dreams, more mistakes but the American dream will not die for it has been put into our hearts by our Creator and when it is in fact over, it will not be over for I will be with Him forever. Hide your head in the sand if it makes you feel better, go back to bed, give up, complain and fuss and complain, but the sign is over, The American Dream is Not Over, it still lives in my heart and in the hearts of millions of others.


Published in: on January 18, 2015 at 11:05 pm  Leave a Comment  

I Am Above It All

He leaned forward in the chair in my office and I could see the pain in his face. O. W., as we all called him, was one of the most successful people in our community. He certainly lived in the largest home.  A great old southern plantation mansion which he had restored to more than the glory of its original days, no home in the county could come close to its grandeur. His wife of thirty pulse years was almost as beautiful as she was when she served as homecoming queen and O.W. was the captain of the football team. But her beauty paled compared to her personality, her ability to touch all people, and her love of their two boys, her husband, and the Lord. Now here he was telling me that all of this was coming to a screeching halt when the news broke that he had stolen more than ten million dollars from the investment firm his father had founded and he now ran. Ninety percent of the investments that were going to vanish with the news were owned by his friends and the local town folks who almost considered him a small god. And the story only got worst; there were girlfriends, alcoholic and drugs, gambling that he was involved in with other investors. His life had been a fraud, well hidden and extremely profitable but a fraud. When the fire swept through our county and the ashes were gathered you could see the climb at any cost to great heights, the personal failure of his character and the pride that helped him believe that he was above everyone and everything. O. W. took his own life before the media could demand it, but he left the ashes for his wife, sons, pastor, and friends.


Published in: on January 15, 2015 at 10:05 pm  Leave a Comment  

A Prayer for Congress

Before Congress July 31, 2009

I have had the privilege to open the session of congress with prayer twice in my ministry. I owe this honor to Congressman Lincoln Davis who is a member of the First Baptist Church of Byrdstown, Tn. This is the prayer I prayed in 2009, I believe you could join me in praying it today for our congress.

Opening Prayer Given by the Guest Chaplain: Ivan N Raley

Almighty and eternal Father, we humbly come before you in this hallowed place that we might seek your wisdom for the work that you have set before this chosen group of leaders.  Father, many in our country are hurting this morning, many others are confused and fearful of what the future holds; they need the help of this congress.  God, accept this prayer as our confession of total dependence on you. Forgive us where we have fallen short of your best. You know the solution this body of men and women seeks; now may they receive your wisdom, your knowledge and your solution.  May future generations call these now assembled, “The greatest Generation” for like those of the past who rose to the cause of their country, may these also rise to the greatness which you have given to them.

God Bless America. We pray in our savior’s name. Amen.

Published in: on January 14, 2015 at 10:05 pm  Leave a Comment