Tuesday, May 31, 2016



     There was no better person than the preacher to be the most admired adult in the community. It was the morning of the third Sunday, and a barefoot, nine-year-old Cajun boy sat at the end of the third row by his mother at the Pleasant Hill Baptist Church. The congregation had finished singing LEANING ON THE EVERLASTING ARMS, and Mama Miller had moved from the piano stool to her reserved seat on the front row.
   The hymnals were carefully placed back in the racks, because next to the Bible, they were the most sacred books in the church.  Although the congregation knew the words, it was a tradition to open the hymnals, and hold the books firmly with both hands while singing.
   The windows of the Pleasant Hill Baptist Church were opened because the conditions inside the church were hot and humid. Beautifully shaped, hand-held fans were placed in the racks next to the hymnals.  On the front was a bright colored picture of the little Jesus in the nativity scene, and on the back was the advertisement for the local funeral home. It was a sophisticated art for Southern ladies to use short wrist motions making fanning an acceptable procedure for feminine church-goers.
   Many things made Brother Meyers a special country preacher. His bright red suspenders and his fluffy-sleeved white shirts were unique fashions for a preacher whose chief mode of transportation was riding on the back of a mule. The fluffy sleeves would often get caught in the wind and become inflated during his emotional sermons. Therefore, he wore elastic garters above the elbows to keep the sleeves in place.
   It was not only the strong gospel words which flowed from his lips that made him so effective, but also his ability to continue preaching through extraordinary occurrences. Often Sister Simmons and others would become overpowered by the Holy Spirit and shout.  Sister Simmons was famous for what the church members called the head jerk.  Possessed by the Holy Spirit, she could pop her braided pigtails like whips and send hairpins flying through the church.  Brother Meyers, from years of experience, had learned to dodge the hairpins and never skip a word in his spirit-driven sermons. 
   Even though it was difficult, he could hold the congregation’s attention while Mama Miller did the Holy Roller shakes. When Mama Miller shook, the whole church shook, and trinkets of jewels would drop from the rich lady’s body and dance on the hardwood floor.
    Then there would be the time when Brother Meyers would move from behind the pulpit and do a two-step rhythm in accordance with the words of his sermon. Forceful preaching would continue, and near the end of the sermon he would offer an Altar Call.
    For the nine-year-old, the sermon had been too long. He had become restless. He had seen the shouting, the shaking, even the rolling in the church aisle, and he needed something different. He wanted entertainment, the kind of entertainment he had seen the second night of the week-long revival.  A big bug, an unusual bug, a buzzing bug, got caught up in Miss Ethel’s bird’s nest hairdo.  To the nine-year-old it was entertainment, but to the congregation, Miss Ethel had been zapped by the Holy Ghost causing human actions never before seen in the church. Finally, the bug was freed, but the entertainment continued. The big bug dipped into several fancy hairdos before finding an open window. The nine-year-old had watched it all.
    There was another night when something unusual occurred in the Amen Corner. The Holy Spirit worked in mysterious ways when a church mouse ran up Mr. Dennis’ pants leg. The church nearly experienced a Holy Ghost striptease, but lucky for the congregation, the mouse became frightened, ran down the other pants leg, and out the front door.  
    It was during a Sunday morning service when yellow jackets escaped through a mysterious knot hole in the hardwood floor. One yellow jacket, of the stinging kind, got caught up under Miss Nellie’s dress. The congregation witnessed hand gestures and body movements never experienced by human eyes. Plus, there were audible words spoken in the unknown tongue, never before heard in any church.           
    But on this Sunday, the young boy’s wait was over.  Miss Loretta ran down the aisle and fell on her knees at the Altar. She had been referred to by some as a lady of loose morals, and on this day she was seeking forgiveness.
    The experience of an aged preacher went into affect. He placed one hand on top of Miss Loretta’s head and continued the two-step spiritual dance around her body. Her trembling turned into a full, out-of-control, body shake, and soon she lay stretched out on the Altar. 
   Trained church ladies were on track, and a spiritual séance progressed with the laying on of hands, and the repeating of a Holy Ghost chant.  When the chant had taken affect, Miss Loretta jumped to her feet and began a series of divine utterances referred to in the Bible as the unknown tongue.  Brother Meyers stepped aside, only for a moment, to allow the congregation to experience an actual example of the Holy Spirit descending from heaven and occupying a physical body. The speaking in the unknown tongue was nonstop, and the ladies escorted Miss Loretta to a room behind the pulpit, and Brother Meyers gained control.
    With the sounds of an unidentified spiritual tongue in the background, Brother Meyers moved to the center aisle. He dropped to his knees and resumed powerful preaching.
      With Brother Meyers on his knees pounding the floor with his fists, the nine-year-old had to stand to see over the head of Mr. Crain, the tallest man in the church.
    “Don’t do it, Lord! Don’t do it!”
   The begging’s continued, and the name ‘Noah’ became the   recognizable subject of the sermon.
    Brother Meyers stood up and moved farther down the center aisle. He stopped unexpectedly and began pushing and shoving with an invisible being.
   “Let me go! Let me go!”
   With his entire body shaking, he turned and ran back to the Altar.
   “The Holy Spirit won’t let me go. I can hear the voice, and he’s saying there is somebody here who needs to be saved.” 
   He reached in his back pocket and pulled out a neatly folded white handkerchief.  He removed his glasses, and instantly wiped the sweat from his face, but he never stopped preaching.
   “I know! I know! Yes, I KNOW, the Holy Spirit is here today. Just like in the days of Pentecost, the Lord is speaking to us.”
   His neat, ironed shirt was wet, wrinkled, and sticking to his arms. His bright red suspenders were drenched with sweat, but he never stopped. His throat was sore, and his voice was cracking. He took deep gulps of air with each breath, but Brother Meyers preached on. The congregation sat in fear thinking any minute the man would pass out from exhaustion or would suffer a heart attack. But like a marathon runner, Brother Meyers got a second wind, and he continued. 
   “I know, there is somebody here on the verge of a decision.”
   Once again he moved to the center aisle, fell on his knees and repeatedly beat the floor with his fists.
   “I beg of you, Lord! Don’t it!  Don’t do what you did in the days of Noah. Give us just a little more time.”  
   He stood up and began jumping up and down in rhythmic motions and speaking in an unknown tongue. The church members sat spellbound, and Mama Miller moved to the piano but did not touch the keys.
    Brother Meyers remained the center of attention, and he crawled to the front door. Someone opened the door and he stood up. He continued preaching while he walked down the steps.
    Inside the church, the congregation could hear the words, “Now old Noah, he was a good man. So the Lord spoke to Noah, and he told him, he said Noah, I’m gonna send the waters. Noah believed the Lord, and he tried to tell the people, but the people wouldn’t listen.”
   Outside the church, it was a never–ending sermon. The mule was waiting. The preacher hopped on the back of the mule with the agility of a twenty-one-year-old. Old Bessie knew what to do. With the preacher’s voice echoing through the woods, she trotted off down the dusty road.
    When the voice of the preacher could no longer be heard, Mama Miller hit a strong chord to the gospel spiritual OH, HAPPY DAY. She lifted her voice, and with the words she sang, “OH, HAPPY DAY, WHEN JESUS WASHED MY SINS AWAY.”
   The deacons were the first to leave. They, in single file, marched from the Amen Corner down the center aisle and to the front door. Only then was the congregation allowed to exit.
   The nine-year-old nudged his mother and whispered, “Come on, Mama, let’s go.”  His mind had wondered from the antics of the Primitive Baptist Church to the platter of fried chicken his mother had prepared for the after-church Sunday dinner.         

Tuesday, May 3, 2016



    Once upon a time, many, many, years ago in a land surrounded by wild animals and big oak trees, there lived a cute little country boy. He chopped wood for his mother, picked cotton for his papa, and remembered the stories his grandpa told him. He spent hours looking at himself in the mirror. He had sparkling eyes, rosy cheeks, a handsome face, and a sharp smile.  Even his brothers and sisters said he was a “special child.” This brilliant kid walked through the community spreading joy by helping the elderly, caring for the sick, and being a friend to the friendless. The meanest dogs in the community greeted him with wagging tails and uplifted paws.  He had a perfect attendance record at school. He was on the scholastic honor roll, and he was liked by all of his classmates. He was given the title of the ‘perfect student’ by his teachers. 
   Everything went well for the CUTE LITTLE COUNTRY BOY until one day an elder of the church was giving a speech before a group of community leaders.
   “We have this kid in our community, who looks like a boy, and sometimes he acts like a boy, but I believe he’s a sissy boy. Yes, that’s what I believe, alright. This kid has developed the ‘wrong love’ disease.”
   In this small community, gossip traveled fast. Students whispered, neighbors talked, and soon the words reached the ears of the CUTE LITTLE COUNTRY BOY.  He wasted no time. He rushed to face his accuser.
   “Wow! Wrong love disease, you say, what is the wrong love disease?”
   “Listen up there, young ’un. In this community we all live by the Bible. Around here we call it the Good Book and the Good Book condemns the wrong love disease. Those who have it will burn forever in a lake of fire and brimstone.”
  “Oh my, oh my, how terrible, I don’t want to burn forever. Is this true what you say?”
   “Yes, it’s true, and young man, you have it.”
   “I never realized there was anything wrong with me. I have always tried to be a good boy. I want my parents and the church members to be proud of me. I have never taken a knife and stabbed anyone. I have never taken a gun and shot anyone. I’ve not even taken my fist to hit anyone.”
   “But young man, let me tell you, none of those things matter, for you see, the wrong love disease is much worse than any of those.”
   “Mr. Elder, I don’t understand because all of those things are pretty bad.”
  “Yeah, but you must listen to me. This thing you have is a terrible disease.”   
   The troubled CUTE LITTLE COUNTRY BOY hurried home and looked at himself again in the mirror. His sparkling eyes were now dull. His once rosy cheeks were pale, and his sharp smile was upside down.
   “What must I do? What MUST I do? Just yesterday, I was a happy, young boy on my way to a successful life, but now I am doomed.  They say I have a horrible disease. My life has been turned upside down. I am ruined. Maybe I should, but no, maybe I shouldn’t. I know what I’ll do.  I’ll talk with the PREACHER MAN. He can tell me what to do.”  
  “MISTER PREACHER MAN, an elder of the church told me I have the wrong love disease. What must I do?”
   “Oh, young man, this disease is awful. For you see, there is a wrong love and a right love, but you have chosen the wrong love.”
   “Oh how terrible, you’re saying this is my fault?”
   “Yes, I am, and if you continue to travel down this road, you will suffer severe consequences here on earth and in the life hereafter.  But there is a cure.”
   “A cure, oh, tell me, what is the cure?”
   “Young man, only God can cure you, but you must first be willing.”
    “Of course, I’m willing, so please mister, tell me what I must do.”
    “You must confess your sins and ask God to forgive you, and then you must commit before God never to participate in wrong love again.”
   “MISTER PREACHER MAN, I have always wanted to do what is right, so I’ll do what you have said.  You see, I want so much to be cured of this dreadful disease.”
   “Remember young man, when you are cured it will make you happy and the Good Lord will bless you.”
   The CUTE LITTLE COUNTRY BOY immediately went home, got down on his knees, and asked for forgiveness. The next day he went to school and started looking for a pretty little high school girl.
   “PRETTY LITTLE HIGH SCHOOL GIRL, would you like to go on a date with me this weekend? I can get my Papa’s car, and we can go to a movie, and we’ll have lots of fun.”
   “Of course, HANDSOME HIGH SCHOOL BOY, I’d be delighted to go on a date with you.”
   The weekend came and the couple went on a date. After the movie, they participated in a passionate love affair in the back seat of the car.  But suddenly the PRETTY LITTLE HIGH SCHOOL GIRL jumped up with anger.
   “What’s wrong with you? You don’t even know how to make love to a girl. You are a terrible kisser. You should be making love to me, not me making love to you. You must have that terrible disease.”
   “No, no, no, PRETTY LITTLE HIGH SCHOOL GIRL, nothing is wrong with me. I like making love to you, but tonight I’ve got a lot of worries. You see, just before I left the house, I had a big argument with my father. He was mad at me because I did not do some of the chores around the house. And that’s what’s wrong with me. No, no, no, I do not have that terrible disease.”
   “I’ve never been on a date with a boy who had it, but you sure are acting funny.”
   “Please, PRETTY LITTLE HIGH SCHOOL GIRL, give me another chance. Just go with me next weekend and I promise things will be better.  Please, please, give me just one more chance.”
   “Well, after all, you are the HANDSOME HIGH SCHOOL BOY, so I’ll give you another chance, but things better be different next weekend.”
   “Thank you so much. I give you my word, things will be different. You are a pretty little high school girl and I really love you. Just wait, next weekend, I’ll show you.”
   The weekend came much too soon and things were not different. The CUTE LITTLE COUNTRY BOY had trouble making love to the PRETTY LITTLE HIGH SCHOOL GIRL, and the date ended in confusion.
   “I must leave this town and move to the big city because things are not right for me here. I’ll get a job, work hard, and I’ll go to college. I’ll study hard, graduate with honors, and make the folks back home proud of me.”
   The CUTE LITTLE COUNTRY BOY who had become a handsome high school boy became the IDEAL COLLEGE STUDENT. He graduated with honors but did not return to his home town. Instead, he started looking for an ideal wife. He found the young lady and soon they were married.
   The CUTE LITTLE COUNTRY BOY then became a loving husband. He had a good job. They lived in a big, nice house and had an outstanding daughter. However, the LOVING HUSBAND became a troubled man when he realized the perfect world he had created was not so perfect after all.  Night after night he tossed and turned and was unable to sleep. He spent hours struggling with desires that were unexplainable. He became confused concerning his role as a husband and a father, because happiness had become void in his life. He concluded that he had not been cured of the wrong love disease, and, if he was to find happiness, it would have to be found in the arms of another.
   One night he slipped quietly out of bed, tiptoed across the floor, and threw a few things in a suitcase. He drove all night and, late the next afternoon, arrived in the big city on the coast.
   The CUTE LITTLE COUNTRY BOY then became a foot-loose and fancy-free party animal. He visited all the popular night spots where the partying people hung out. He rubbed elbows and shoulders with hundreds of people who had the wrong love disease. His new found joy of freedom rushed through his body from the top of his head to the tips of his toes, and partying dominated his life. He smoked cigarettes, tried marijuana, drank alcohol, and even took the drug that gave him the power to make love all night.  
   But then one morning the CUTE LITTLE COUNTRY BOY woke up in a lonely hotel room with a terrible headache and a party hangover.  Once again he had dreamed the same dream he had dreamed a hundred times before.  It was the dream of the time when the CUTE LITTLE COUNTRY BOY had double dated with a high school buddy. They dropped the girls off early that night and the two of them drove around for a while.  Soon the HIGH SCHOOL BUDDY parked the car.  He reached across the seat and with one arm pulled the CUTE LITTLE COUNTRY BOY close to his side.
   The CUTE LITTLE COUNTRY BOY willingly slid across the seat, and with a tight squeeze, he surrendered. On a dark road to nowhere, wrong love became right.  Barriers of guilt were removed, and a series of forbidden desires were released.  Emotions became the guide, and hands were allowed in restricted areas that created unspeakable joys never before experienced. For several hours, locked in each other’s arms, two hearts beat as one.
   Finally, the HIGH SCHOOL BUDDY looked up and saw the rays of the sun appearing through the trees.
   “We must go now.”
   “But I don’t want to go.”
  “We must, because our parents will be worried.”
  “Yeah, I know but I don’t care.”
  “We must go and never speak a word about this to anyone.  What we have done is wrong, and we must never let it happen again.”
   “I don’t know why you say that, because, for me, this was a wonderful night.”
  “Yeah, but for me, I cannot live with the guilt, because this will never be accepted in our world.”
    As the 57 Chevy rolled slowly down the road, the hallowed spot where two lovers met and fell in love became just another spot on the side of the road.  In time, hundreds drove past that spot never realizing what happened that night. No matter how it was defined—wrong love, strange love, or the right love—falling in love is a miracle, and miracles only come from above.  
   Nevertheless, the two soon parted. All they had left was a memory, the memory of what should have been, but never was—the memory of what a warped society can do to prevent the happiness of a lifetime. There is what some call a wrong love that may not be meant for many, but it is reserved for a special few. And, for that special few, it is a love that is as pure as the fresh fallen snow.
   Realizing it was just a dream, the CUTE LITTLE COUNTRY BOY opened his eyes, lay very still, and for a few moments stared at the ceiling.
     “How can something that seemed so right be so wrong?”
     He jumped out of bed and paced around the room with his head down and both hands pressing firmly against his forehead.
    “Everyone said it was wrong. All my life, that’s all I’ve ever heard—it’s wrong, it’s wrong, it’s wrong. But I know it was right, because it happened to me.”
    He jumped back in bed and pulled a pillow tight over his head.
  “It’s the memories of what happened that night. I can’t get them out of my head.”
   He jumped out of bed again and ran across the room. He pushed back the curtains and opened the window. He looked straight down. It was a long way down.
   “I wonder how bad it hurts when you hit the ground.”
   He was lonely, he was scared, but he was tired of hurting. He ran back across the room and jumped in the middle of the bed. He started jumping up and down and twisting his head from side to side. 
   “It’s these memories, these memories, they won’t leave me alone. I can’t get rid of them. For years, I keep remembering. The memories, the dream, the memories, the dream, they are driving me crazy. I’ve tried to love someone else, but I can’t. I’m stuck in a time capsule of a one-love affair, and I can’t take it any more.”
   He ran back to the window. He looked down again. It was really a long way down. The people looked tiny and the cars looked small. He got up on his tiptoes and put one knee on the window seal.  He placed both hands on the window frame above and stopped for just a moment.  His hands were trembling and he could feel the blood rushing through his head from the strong beating of his heart. He took a deep breath and leaned forward. He raised his head and looked at the tops of the buildings then suddenly a gulp of cold wind struck his face and blurred his vision. 
   “General George W. said it right, ‘dying is easy, but living is harder,’ but today, okay, okay, but today, I choose living.”
   He moved back and placed both feet on the floor.
   His loud voice echoed off the tall buildings and he could hear the sound waves traveling from building to building as they bounced across the city.  His knees stopped trembling, and he stumbled backwards but sat upright on the floor. He rubbed his eyes with the palms of his hands and breathed deeply. He felt a joy of peace invade his body.
    “I will leave this place. I will seek my profession, and I will become the best teacher that ever set foot in a classroom.”
   He stood up and walked over to the table and unfolded a US map. He blindly put his finger on a city. It could have been any city, but he drove to that city. He located the school’s administration building. He walked into the office of the superintendent and slammed his credentials on his desk.
   “I want to become a school teacher.”
   The superintendent carefully examined the paperwork and slowly raised his eyes and looked at the stranger who stood before him.
   “So you want to become a teacher, huh?  Is that right?”
   “Yes, sir, and I’ll be a damn good one.”
   “Well, Mister Stranger in the blue suit, today is your lucky day. It just so happens that I have a vacancy.  When can you start?”
   The CUTE LITTLE COUNTRY BOY taught school for several years. Although he gained the title as the Ideal Teacher, he never found real happiness. He kept looking and hoping for the day that the HIGH SCHOOL BUDDY would come looking for the CUTE LITTLE COUNTRY BOY, and the OLD COUNTRY MAN could die in the arms of the only person he ever really loved.