Friday, June 17, 2011

The Apple And The Tree



In 2005, country music singer Travis Tritt released a song entitled, "I See Me." Written by Atlanta Falcons punter Chris Mohr and famed songwriter Casey Beathard, the song tells the story of a rambunctious child as seen through his father's eyes. It was written about Mohr's young son, Garrett, but whenever I listen to the song, I cannot help but think about my own life, my children and my dad.



It used to aggravate me when my kids would not stop playing in the pew and turn around and sit up straight, like my dad always wanted me to. And, then I realized that they were just being me, and when I think of them in that aspect, it puts things in a whole knew perspective.

I see so much of me in them, and to be honest that scares me.

"...I look at him and I'm so amazed, I'm so proud and then so afraid that the apple didn't fall quite far enough from the tree."
That line in the song haunts me. I've felt most of everything that life can throw at a person: roadblocks, heartbreak, mistakes, happiness and yet...lots of stupid stuff. Most of the bad things were my fault. My dad and mom raised me like a child should be raised. My Church family did that same, so all the stupid things were definitely my fault.

My dad did all the things that a dad should do with his children...fishing, ball playing, swimming, eating watermelon under the shade tree. He made sure we were always in Church. He picked us up when we fell and wiped the dust from our jeans. Somewhere along the way, as I grew older, I stumbled and fell and sometimes made a pretty big mess of things. My prayer for my children will always be that the apple has fallen far enough from the tree that my kids won't be like me, that they won't do the stupid things I did, or stumble and fall like I did. Someone once said that we all fall short, and while I cannot say for sure about you, I do know for a fact that I fail miserably.

"...I look at him and I'm so amazed, I'm so proud and then so afraid that the apple didn't fall quite far enough from the tree."
I can't help but wonder if my dad were alive today and heard this song, would he think the same thing about me? One thing is for sure...before I die, I want to be just like my dad.

In the song, "Life Ain't Always Beautiful," Gary Allan sings..."life ain't always beautiful, sometimes it's just plain hard." and..."but the struggles makes me stronger and the changes make me wise." That reminds me of dad. He had his share of struggles, but he overcame and I thank God for that.

Happy Father's Day!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Whose Side Is The Lord On?

During the Civil War, soldiers on both sides prayed for victory before each battle. Both presidents, Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis, asked their supporters to pray for victories. The average citizen leaned on their faith to get them through the war. That was never more true for the citizens of Albany, who were terrorized pretty much throughout the entire campaign by one of the war's most feared guerrilla's, Champ Ferguson. Religious people used their faith to get them through the war, and in the end it was their faith that helped them come to terms with the outcome and pretty much the whole entire meaning of the war. Each side in the war, as in any war, believed God was on their side and in the end, said the outcome was simply God's will.

We often hear the question asked, "Who is on the Lord's side?" But, in war, have you ever wondered which side the Lord is on?

During the 1st Kentucky Cavalry was organized at Liberty, Burkesville and Monticello and mustered in for a three year enlistment on October 28, 1861 under the command of Colonel Frank Wolford of Liberty. The unit included 85 volunteers from Albany. They were known as The Wildcats after a battle on Wildcat Mountain near London, Kentucky. There were several brave and gallant men in the 1st Kentucky Calvary, including Colonel William Hoskins, Captain John Morrison and Major J.A. Brents of Albany, but no one was more dedicated to the troops of the First Kentucky Calvary than its Chaplin, W. H. Honnell of Harrodsburg. At age 35, he was a model clergyman, not that he preached much, or appeared sanctimonious, or intruded his religious notions upon any one, but because of his devotion to the sick and wounded. Not a soldier could be taken sick without his knowing it. He visited and conversed with all, ascertained their wants, and had them supplied if it was possible. Nor was this conduct occasional, it was continual and unceasing. His name was blessed a thousand times by sick and helpless soldiers. When any died, he was foremost in providing them a decent and Christian burial. He was not only kind and tender to the sick and wounded, but treated every one with gentleness and respect. Further, he was no coward. He delighted to be upon the battlefield, encouraging the soldiers by his presence, waiting upon and caring for the wounded, and praying for the success of arms while the battle was in progress. When marching, he was always in front near his gallant Colonel, and when the conflict raged, he could be seen where the danger was greatest. He was at the battle of Mill Springs, administering to the necessities of the disabled, and was near General Felix Zollicoffer when he fell. Dismounting from his horse, the chaplain lifted the General from out of the road, where excited combatants were dashing to and fro, and carried his dying form to a place where it would not be trampled beneath the horses' feet.

Chaplain Honnell was also at the front during the fight at Lebanon, Tennessee. He became separated from his regiment, and rode into the rebel ranks, mistaking them for Union troops...

Colonel Morgan: "You take a position yonder," directing him to the rear.
Honnell: "I desire to go to my own regiment."
Morgan: "I told you where to go."
Honnell: "I don't like to be treated in such a way. I am chaplain of the 1st Kentucky cavalry, and want to go to my regiment."
Morgan: "It is hard for you to understand that I am Colonel Morgan, and you are my prisoner. My men need your prayers as well as Wolford's."


Honnell saw the position he was in, and submitted quietly. When Morgan commenced his retreat, he took Honnell along with him. After traveling at a pretty rapid gait for some distance, and the Unionists getting pretty close to them, Morgan said, "Well, Chaplain, I suppose we will have to separate, but before going you must pray." About this time a squad of Union cavalry dashed up, and Morgan had to proceed without the Chaplain's prayer.

As the above story indicates, during the Civil War both sides believed that God was on their side. During his second inaugural address on March 5, 1865, President Abraham Lincoln said “Neither party expected for the war the magnitude or the duration which it has already attained. Each looked for an easier triumph. Both read the same Bible and pray to the same God, and each invokes His aid against the other.”

So how could God be on BOTH sides?

Lincoln reframed the question and offered a startling conclusion: Neither side could claim God’s special favor. “The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes.”

President George W. Bush once said, "Faith teaches us to respect those with whom we disagree. It teaches us to tolerate one another. And it teaches us that the proper way to treat human beings created in the divine image is with civility. Yet, you also know that civility does not require us to abandon deeply held beliefs. Civility and firm resolve can live easily with one another."

When we have deeply held beliefs, like most do, it is tempting to believe God is only on our side. But, there is a chance that He may very well be on their side, too!

So, then what?

Like it or not, the fact is God's offer of mercy is for ALL people.

I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Saviour; Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. 1 Timothy 2:1-4

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Ode To A Mule

James Arness died today. Gunsmoke was every one's favorite TV show back when I was a kid. For years, at my house, we watched every single episode that came on the TV. There's isn't any need to explain the show because I am sure that most of you have seen an episode of Gunsmoke at one time or another.

When I heard that Mr. Arness has passed away, I went online, because I wanted to read some quotes from the TV show - more specifically, I wanted to read some dialogue between Festus, played by singer Ken Curtis (Sons of the Pioneers), and the rest of the cast. Festus had a way of speaking, but he always spoke the truth and what he said always made sense, well in a Festus-sort-of way, I guess.

So, I went online to do that, and well, one click led to another click, and then another and another, and before I knew it, I found myself on YouTube, and that's when I heard, for the first time in many years, this beautiful story that I want to share with you.

If you paid close attention to Gunsmoke, you know that Festus took care of mules and all their names were Ruth -- even if they were jacks. Festus' mule was always a jack but HIS name was always RUTH!

In the words of Festus Hagen, here's why.....

You ask how come I call my old mule, Ruth, when in fact the solemn truth is that he's a jack, and not no jenny, that's for sure. Well, they's no call for you to know, but since you asked, I'll tell you so just settle back and heed to what I say.

It started in 1861, the war, well it had just begun to be a war. I wasn't much, so to speak, a mule skinner, not one to seek fame nor fortune, especially in no war.

Now, every man's got a pride. Most times it's deep inside about his job and mine was attending mules. My favorite was a long-eared jenny. Now, I reckon you'll think that I'm a ninny 'cause I loved her just like I'd love my mother. She was faithful, stout and she was smart, and friend, she had lots of heart. If she'd been a man, I'd a loved her like a brother.

Well, we'd fought back with all we had, but still the war was a going bad, for in '64 Schofield hit us Tennessee boys hard, and just thirty miles away, at dawn, near Spring Hill on a early 'morn, five generals that wore Confederate gray had chitin's and bacon and eggs and grits. Lord, they'd planned to give 'em fits but the tide of war just went the other way. The five brave men that led Hood's charge was met by a artillery barrage that mowed 'em down just like so much hay.

Now, somebody had to get them men and, by golly I can't remember when I've ever been so proud as I was that day. "Just take 'ol Ruth," the Captain said, and when it got dark, I slowly led my jenny to the Harpeth Rivers bank. I'd found them boys in gray and when on Ruth's back they stiffly lay, I started back, but then my spirit sorta sank. A dad-blamed sentry opened fire and them Yankee's did conspire to add me to their list of casualties. Well, 'ol Ruth, she just plowed along not a listening to the bullet song, just brushed 'em off like they was a swarm of bee's.

Well, somehow we got back that night, and I thanked God I was alright. I'd brought them boys from where they was a laying. I hadn't even got a scratch, so I lit my pipe and when the match flared up, I seen 'ol Ruth was just a swaying'. Blood was running down her side. My throat choked up and then I cried, and she looked at me and her eyes was soft and brown. She seemed to say, "Now, don't cry for me, we had a job to do, you see!" And, then 'old Ruth just seemed to slide right down.

There's a marker that I put on her grave that reads, "Here lies a mule that gave her life and that's the truth. Now, every mule I'll ever own will bare your name. So, be it known while I'm alive, they'll always be a Ruth "

Yeah, they'll always be a Ruth.


What a beautiful story, in the words of Festus Hagen. Now, to get the full effect, you have to click on the video below and hear 'Festus' tell it. It is a very moving and inspirational piece. By the way, Ken Curtis died in 1991.

R.I.P. Marshall Dillon!


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