Tuesday, May 14, 2019

The Wake of Johnny Davis



It wuz the Sprang afore my eighth birthday that Jack come to live with us.  During them days thar war’ many Jacks traveling the southern route of Highway 80 through Meridian.  It was the time of the Great Depression and nobody seemed to thank much of a stranger showin up at our place thar’ along the Sowashee Creek.

 Now Pap didn't thank anythang jest happened.  He'as big believer that the Almighty was working thangs out to benefit them whut belonged to Him.  So, since him and Uncle Will wuz a'figuring on clearing that thar new ground south of the creek and since Jack war willing to work fer feed and found, it peered to him that this was the Almighty's way of saying to git to it.

 I‘as always jest a little scart’ of Jack. I thank maybe it was cause of that thar scar that started at the corner of his left eye, curved back in front of his ear and ended right on his adam's apple.  He said once that he'd got it from a gator down in Lou’siana.  Pap said the gator was mor'n likely a Cajun frog sticker.

 But, in spite of my fear, I’as drawn to him like a tack to a lodestone.  He had a queer way of looking at ya, almost like he’as pulling your leg.  And that twinkle in his eyes, devilment Pap called it, seemed to say, "Sump’um's ‘bout to happen."  Well I just couldn't get enough of him, er his stories either fer that matter.

 He told stories about every kind of thang imaginable, but most of them wuz about practical jokes.  Like the time he found a bunch of boys and girls skinny dipping in the creek over near Montgomery.  He took all their clothes and left town.  You found yourself wondering if such thangs really could happen.  Yet, there always seemed to be ‘nough truth in’em to whur they just might have.  But nuthun he ever told topped what actually happened one August Night.

 Johnny Davis had been coon hunting down on the Valley Road and he died when he fell out of a tree and plumb broke his neck.  Well, Pap took all us over to the Davis house whur the body was laid out in the parlor.  In them days people'ld come to the home whur the body was laid out and set up with the body all night, ever’ night until the funeral.

 As the evening wore on, the sweltering August heat influenced nearly ever manjack  to work his way out to the front porch and into the front yard with the hope of catching a good breeze. Jack said that he'd stay in the house with the body while er’body cooled off.
 

The 'squiters started to find the range as the even'n wore on and people started to head back inside.  Somebody asked whur Jack had got off to, but nobody thought much about it until one of the wimmin went back into the kitchen to fix some coffee.  Comst a few minutes a bunch of high pitched, hysterical screams seemed to rattle back and forth off the walls and throughout the rooms.  Er’body was tripping over er’body else as we all tried to crowd through the door to get to the kitchen. By the time we finally reached her, the screams had trailed off to a kind of pathetic wail.
 

She’as whiter‘n airey ghost and she jest kept a’wailing and a’pointing.  Soon’s we all turned towards the source o’ her distress, I felt my blood run cold, for thar’, propped up in the corner behind the door, with a fresh rolled cigarette stuck in his mouth, and his arms crossed just like the funeral home director had left him, was ol' Johnny Davis.
 

I don’t think I’m the only one who was scart’ nearly to death, cause someone ran back to the parlor to see if the casket was really empty.   To this day, I’ve not heard such screaming and carrying on. 
 

By the time Pap and the others finally got poor ol' Johnny back in his casket agin and everybody settled down, it was pretty late for us young'uns.  Pap said they hunted for Jack most of the night but didn't see hide nor hair of him.  He said it was just as well cause lynching fever’d already hit some of the men and they had plenty of ropes.
 

It seemed to me like most of Meridian was at the funeral.  Pap said that folks are just naturally curious about such strange happenings.  Uncle Will said that ol'  Johnny'd  probably thank Jack for causing such a turn out for his burying, if he could.  E'rybody kinda laughed and it seemed like the anger just disappeared.

After a spell people stopped talking about Johnny's wake.  E'rybody seemed to forget Jack ‘cept me and Pap.  But now and again something would happen to cause folks to think about ‘ol Johnny standing there in that corner with a cigarette in his mouth, and er’body'd laugh.

We didn't hear from Jack for a long time, but I knew we'd see him again.   An I for shore knowed I'd ner’ fergit the wake of Johnny Davis.


"The Wake of Johnny Davis" Copyright by Mike Rasberry, 1996. All rights reserved. 

Saturday, May 11, 2019

I’ve Discovered I’m Lazy



I have come to the realization that I’ve grown very lazy in my dotage.  I really don’t want to do anything except sit around and drink coffee and tea.  Now, this might not be a new reality, but it certainly is a new recognition of that reality.

I watch my wife, Diane, up and out like a bee buzzing about doing this and that as if she simply cannot stop.  She has more energy in her right arm than I have in my entire body.  I get tired just watching her.   Oh, I still do stuff, but I just don’t want to any more.  I take great pleasure in the cows, horses, and dogs; but I no longer want to expend the effort to care for them.  I have a great sense of accomplishment when I complete a task, but I’m always wondering, “why bother?”   

I find great pleasure in writing, reading, and studying but my brain is saying that all that seems like a lot of work, and I’d rather be on a creek bank with a fishing pole, if I didn’t have to do what is necessary to make even that happen.  Yes, I’ve become very lazy.

Horseback riding is so relaxing and it allows me an opportunity to think without having much interruption; but catching the horse up, then saddling him sound like work.  And, now that the horses have all grown higher than my leg will reach, just mounting sounds like work.  Yes, there’s little doubt, I’ve become lazy.

I really think I could sit around in my sleeping clothes all day and just do nothing.  My clothes need be put away, but bending over to pull that drawer out is seemingly needless exertion.  The clothes are fine piled where they are, and at least I’ll know where they are the next time I decide to get dressed.  The odds are rising that I’m definitely lazy.

I am a little hungry.  Is there anyone who will bring my meal to me, perhaps a damp cloth so I can wipe my hands.  

I’m not certain there’s a cure for this ailment.  I’m not certain I want one. 

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Making Wise Decisions

Image result for God's wisdom graphicsI hope that you fully understand the import of James 1:5,6, “If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.  But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind.

Sometimes, I forget the simple message that God will give me wisdom to make decisions, if I ask in genuine faith.   We, who are the Children of God, by faith in Jesus Christ; should not allow ourselves to become paralyzed through the inaction self-doubt brings. 

Such paralysis robs us of our initiative, our energy, and our creativity.   Prolonged periods of it might even adversely affect our physiology, making us ill.

We are told in Scripture that there is safety in a multitude of counselors, but sometimes we must act according to our own understanding of the situation.   At such times, it is comforting to repeat the passage above and ask God for guidance and wisdom in making the decisions facing us.

Someone remarked to me that it is well and good to do that if one is walking with God in the power of His Holy Spirit.  Well, let me tell you that I’m thankful that I don’t have to be perfect to ask God for wisdom.   What I must do is believe that He hears me, and that His Word is true.  Then, I must act on what I say I believe, knowing that He that is within me is greater than he that is in the world.   I’ve asked Him, by faith, believing, and He’s promised to guide me in such situations, so I act on the desire He places within my heart.  

I’m telling you that it is an energizing joy to ask, believe, and act on that which He leads me in.   The world, and carnal believers have problems with those of us who don’t spend our time halting between two opinions while awaiting a “sign.”   If you’ve honestly asked for wisdom in a matter, and you’ve done it believing that He hears and rewards those who faithfully seek Him; then trust Him to put into your heart and mind what he wants you to know.  

Just a brief warning.  He will never lead you to do anything which violates Scripture.   But He has given you a mind to understand and a heart to receive His instruction.   Trust Him and act on the desires He places within your heart and mind.  It will bring you great peace, and it will make you more productive in His service.

Monday, April 30, 2018

“Too Old, Too Broke, Too ...”


I’ve been told that I’m too old to start a new church.  I will be seventy-two in June.  I’ve also been told that I don’t have the financial wherewithal to start a new church.  BOTH STATEMENTS ARE TRUE in the natural world. 

I believe God has stirred my heart to take His Church into the market place during these latter days, so that the disinterested, those who fallen out of church, and those who have an animus toward His Church will be confronted with the opportunity to turn to Him by faith.  I believe God wants me to lead a Church which is “Unchained” to tradition, personal family relationships, social norms, or economic downturns.

I realize my limitations, but I also know that God is NOT limited.  For that reason, the name of the new church will be “FaithWay Baptist Church.”   Hebrews 11:1 says, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”  Faith is substance, and it is the evidence of God’s Divine provision.

No one comes to the Father, except through the Son, and only then when drawn by the Holy Spirit; and that coming is based upon faith.  So, the way of Faith is the only way to God, and the way of Faith is the only way to achieve God’s call upon one’s life.

Therefore, FaithWay is descriptive of not only how we come to Christ, but of how we live out the life He calls us to.

Baptist denotes the primary doctrinal position of the church.  There are several non-negotiable positions the church will hold.   They will be spelled out for each individual who becomes a part as he/she goes through a New Member class and agrees to them before becoming a member of the Fellowship.

Church separates the Fellowship from other organizations.   We do not organize to rid the world of evil, sickness, pain, or poverty.  We organize to reflect the life of Jesus in our everyday interactions with people as we devote ourselves to His purpose of seeking and saving those who are lost.

FaithWay Baptist Church will soon begin holding Bible Studies centered around our Membership Covenant.  Those classes will teach everything one needs to know to become a full member.   Classes will probably be held in the homes of interested individuals. 

Ministry Opportunities Available:

A Leadership Team to formulate and carry out ministry objectives, while overseeing the responsibilities listed below.   Team Leaders and responsibilities will evolve and should not be considered rigid.   All team leaders will undergo an intensive training program concerning the Membership Covenant, and be able to lead cell and training groups in the future.  All team leaders must have an outside source of income because the Fellowship will not be able to sustain paid staff for a couple of years, because much of what is received will be re-invested in the facilities, missions, and outreach.

An individual who can develop and lead a vigorous and exciting musical worship program, that features a blending both contemporary and traditional music.

An Administrative Assistant to the Senior Pastor to handle extensive writing and publishing of training and outreach materials. 

An individual to help develop a budget and maintain financial records, and present monthly financial statements.

An individual whose primary responsibility is maintaining the property and grounds.  This would include recruiting people to assist.

An individual whose focus is on training and education.  Cell group leaders will answer to this individual.

An Associate Pastor, who will be trained and serve in all capacities, and function in the Pastor’s stead when occasions require it.

An Individual whose primary focus is missions and outreach.

Others as the need arrives.


Now A Personal Word.    I’ve been told that I need to find at least ten people who will give one thousand dollars, and who will be ready to do it again if I get into a bind.   Well, I’m always in a bind, and I don’t know many people who can just send me a thousand dollars at the drop of a hat.  I do know a few thousand people.  I’m asking them to prayerfully make a commitment to send a monthly donation for two years for our personal support.  Any amount will be appreciated and honored as a gift to God’s work.  Both Diane and I receive small Social Security Checks, but no where near enough to sustain us in this endeavor. 

Until the church is organized donations can be made to Faith-Walk Ministries International.  I do have a Pay Pal account, & I’m told funds can be deposited in it. 

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Don’t Lean on Swinging Gates

People regularly visit my pasture and whether they be riders, nieces, nephews, grandchildren, or just people looking and talking, they all tend to prop, or climb on the gates.   I understand this because my gates are ideally suited to place a foot on the bottom rail and lean with one, or both, arms on the top rail.  Children seem to find the rails ideal for climbing.  However, what they don’t seem to realize, or remember, is that these gates are somewhat flimsy and only supported on one end.   Repeated leaning and climbing on such gates requires continual repair and/or replacement.


These gates seem much more substantial than the gates of my childhood and youth which usually were of two types.  The first was constructed of four strands of barbed wire, attached to a pole at both ends with another pole in the middle to keep the wires from becoming tangled.  One of the poles was attached permanently to a gate post while the pole on the other end was placed in a loop of wire attached to the bottom of the opposite gate post and the top of the pole had a wire loop which was slipped over it to secure the gate in position.  These gates were not conducive to leaning, or climbing, on because of the prickly nature of barbed wire.

A second type of gate prominent in those days was actually a series of poles inserted horizontally in notches on both gate posts which were slid out, one at a time, in order to open the gate.  This gate seemed more sturdy than it actually was and numerous poles were broken as people climbed, or leaned, on them.   I remember an occasion when I was riding the top rail like a horse when it broke and deposited me on the second rail which in turn also broke.  They definitely were not intended for play.

Even though my modern gate seems more substantial that those earlier gates, it is not intended to support one’s weight.   I’m afraid that many people today are leaning on things which appear substantial, but of themselves are no more stable than my swinging gates.  Education, money, position, pleasure, and health are all worthy pursuits, but they alone, or combined, cannot support
you unless their pursuit is guided by your total commitment to Christ and His purpose for your life.  The old hymn, “Leaning on the Everlasting Arms,” reminds us that our primary source of support and help is found when we are leaning on Jesus, safe and secure from all alarms. 

Don’t be surprised when the swinging gate you are leaning on comes crashing to the ground.  Put your trust in Jesus, He cannot fail, He must prevail.

Monday, August 28, 2017

SEEING HIM WHO IS INVISIBLE



Just a few weeks ago I preached a sermon entitled “Seeing Him Who Is Invisible.”   I want you to know that it is a subject which is very real to me.

I am no different that everyone else.  I become frustrated with society’s foibles.  I become angry at duplicitous politicians.  I become anxious about the future.  I become discouraged when I am rejected, or ignored.   And I become concerned about the direction of my children and grandchildren.

However, the most debilitating thing I experience is hurt when my actions and words are wrongly attributed to nefarious, or selfish motives. 

Such hurt has the potential to completely derail me from the path God has laid out for me.  The realization of that potential is sufficient in my life to stir me to once again get alone with “Him Who Is Invisible,” and seek a fresh sense of His presence in my life.  Now don’t misunderstand, I fully know, by faith, that He is always near.  But the sense of His personal care and provision for me lifts me from the doldrums, and it is as if I’ve had a conversation with Him. 

I simply do not understand those whose theology will not allow for two way communication between Holy God and man.   There seems to me those around us who believe that God only speaks through His Word.  They discount completely the personal leadership of God in our lives, lest they be associated with those who claim to have received “Revelation” from God.   I believe that all truth can be misused by false teachers, and such is the case with those who believe God has shown them something “different,” or “new.”  

Therefore, I am not afraid to say that God shows me something, or has told me something.   I might not have received it verbally, but I know His leadership, and it is as nearly verbal as one can have without it actually being so. 

James admonishes Believers to not make plans without finding the will of God in the matter, or at least putting the matter in God’s hands.   “If God wills, I will go,” is a clear indication that I should seek His face in all matters.

Because I’ve learned to seek “Him who is invisible,” I can find rest, peace, and hope in spite of whatever is thrown in my path.  I wish this for each reader of this article, that you develop a close intimate relationship with God by faith in Jesus Christ, and that He becomes more real to you than any human being.

Remember, He will not give you “new truth,” nor will He contradict Scripture.  However, He will be a friend who sticks closer than a brother.  He will be a constant and abiding companion who guides you, as you seek to serve Him.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Taking Pleasure in Simple Things


This morning was my turn to stay awhile with Mom.  I took advantage of the time to “plunder around” in her living room.  It is filled with “stuff” from a couple of families, and one must be careful lest he gets lost.  However, I had my iphone with the GPS and felt fairly certain I could find my way back to the kitchen eventually.


During the course of my plundering, I saw a simple coffee cup with a crack and a chip and the words Johnny “Chip” Rasberry written in something like fingernail polish. 

Seeing that cup brought back a rush of memories of my Dad.  He was a very simple man who enjoyed life almost as much as he enjoyed people.  The simplest thing could be a source of repeated pleasure for him.




Listening to, or watching a Cardinals Baseball game; drinking coffee with friends and relatives; riding his dog in the back of his truck; and of course talking about his children.  I so want to learn to just enjoy life and people.  Even today, people who knew my Dad speak of his love of life, his friendly personality, his sparkling eyes, and his ready smile.

For many of my generation, those growing up now, life is very complicated and finding joy in a chipped and broken coffee cup is simply not going to happen. 

Perhaps you’re wondering just what the significance of the coffee cup was, and is.  Well, as I’ve said Dad was a great one for fellowship.  On a couple of occasions when he stopped by the Rolling Creek Baptist Church Parsonage for coffee with the Pastor, the Pastor’s wife served him coffee in this chipped cup.  My Dad teased her endlessly about giving him the chipped cup and it became “his” cup.  Every time he visited he was served with that cup.  Eventually she gave it to him as a memento with the inscription mentioned above.  That cup had a place of prominence in their den, and Mom eventually moved it to the living room.

Dear Lord, Please teach me to enjoy the simple things of this world as gifts from You, and to not take lightly those relationships You grace my life with.  Thank You, Lord for reminding me of the great joy available to us for just “living” in this world.  I ask this in the sweet and holy name of Jesus, Amen.