Why Another Blog?

Over the years I have had various experiences in working with people. Some humorous and some not so humorous. If you know me personally, you know I enjoy a good, clean joke. In fact, some will say that it 'sounds like a Raymond joke' when they hear a particular kind.
True humor to me, is that which happens unplanned and unrehearsed. I believe that has contributed to my sanity over the 56+ years of preaching and working with the brethren. To try and have a positive attitude in life, to retain the pleasant and good memories of years past helps one physically, emotionally, and mentally. We read in Proverbs 15:13, "A merry heart makes a cheerful countenance, but by sorrow of the heart the spirit is broken". Again in 17:22, "A merry heart does good, like medicine. But a broken spirit dries the bones".
I do "love life" (1 Peter 3:10). God is truly my "refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble" (Psalm 45:1). I enjoy an "abundant life" because of Jesus Christ, who gave His life for me (John 10:10). I hope you find the following remembrances enjoyable and entertaining.

23 October 2013

More Ozark Memories

"That Suit Looks Terrible On You!"
If I remember correctly, those were the very words spoken to me by a faithful Christian widow and a dear friend, sister Ida Davis. We had moved to Ozark to work with the church where she was a member. I had bought a beautiful brown wool/silk suit while living in Savannah, Georgia but I had lost about 25 pounds and it no longer fit me. Sister Davis was a professional seamstress and she volunteered to alter the suit for me.
After I had carried the suit to her, at which time she measured me so she could alter the suit accurately, sister Davis became sick and had to be in bed for several days. I went to see her and while standing by her bed I glanced over to another bed in the room and there was my beautiful suit - one arm in one place, a leg in another place, etc. She had taken the suit completely apart. I remember what she said to me when she saw my concern,"Brother Elliott, I know you hope I don't die before I put your suit together again." She did get well and when I tried on the suit, it was tailored to fit me perfectly.

Sister Davis Was a Modern Dorcus
Sister Davis was a seamstress and a faithful Christian, loved and respected by all who knew her. I was in need of borrowing some money to help pay some bills that we had accumulated but did not know anyone personally in the banking business since we were new in town. Sister Davis did. I mentioned my need to her on one occasion and she called the manager of the bank where she did her business and related my needs to him. The gentleman informed her to send me to the bank and ask for him. I was able to see him that very day and, upon the reputation of this good woman, was able to borrow the needed money. I shall never forget her kindness and her trust in me, believing that I would repay my debt and this I did.
Postscript ~ Sister Davis attended the school in Highland Home, Alabama that was begun by J. M. Barnes, who had been a student of Alexander Campbell at the Bethany College. She was also a 'true southerner'. She named one of her sons, Thomas Jefferson Davis.

"And the Walls Came Tumbling Down" - NOT!
It was Sunday morning and I was teaching the adult Bible class, which met in the auditorium in the church building on Martin Street. We did not have air conditioning and so all the windows were raised in order to get a fresh breeze flowing through the auditorium. All of a sudden we heard the voices of small children marching around the building, being led by their teacher, Virginia Bradley. You see, Virginia had been reading to them about the walls of Jericho and she wanted them to act out the biblical story of Joshua and the children of Israel marching around that city. I think they marched around our building 7 times and I was so thankful that the block building, in which we were seated, did not fall!

Happy and Sad Memories
The city of Ozark was the home of Fort Rucker. Christians who were members of the military stationed at this base would find where the church building was located and the times of our various assemblies. Most became active in the work of the church and there was, perhaps, 40 percent of our membership made up of faithful personnel.

One Sunday morning a young man approached me about the teachings of the Bible. There were some questions in his mind about certain aspect of Christianity and he expressed those concerns. I gave him some material to read and later we had some discussions about those topics. Sunday morning, August 12, 1962, he responded during the singing of the 'invitation song' and expressed his desire to be immersed into Christ for the remission of his sins. His name was Robert N. Bradley, known to us as Bob. He later married Virginia Cole and they had two daughters. Following their stay in Ozark, he was stationed at Ft. Benning, Georgia. Bob was a helicopter aviator. He was sent to Viet Nam during that conflict and, on one mission, his ship was shot down. Bob lost his life in the service of his country.

It was March of 1967 that Virginia called, while we were living in Elba, Alabama, and informed me of his death. Our hearts were broken. I flew to Michigan and was one of the speakers at his funeral, which was conducted in the church building of Swartz Creek. Some memories you never forget. I am so thankful that in the providence of God, Bob became His child but tears still come to my eyes when I think of his death, the wife he left behind, and two beautiful daughters he never saw grow to become adults.

Our Oldest Child Was a 'Kindergarten Dropout'
This particular kindergarten was free, so Virginia and I decided to send our oldest son. Well, it was only a short time before he declared that he no longer wanted to attend such a place. However first grade was required. Now, where we lived on Byrd Circle, you could see the elementary building but you would have thought it was a hundred miles removed because of the wailing and weeping of his mother as our firstborn was 'leaving home'. Our 'kindergarten drop out' is now Dr. Tim Elliott, a professor at Texas A&M.

Prayerfully, A Better Christian Than My Being A Golfer
Jimmy and Libby Murray and family were in attendance for worship assemblies but Jimmy was not a Christian. We became good friends and I wondered how to find the opportunity to study the Bible with him. I had tried my hand at golf while living in Savannah, so one day I approached Jim, who was a very good golfer, and made this suggestion, "If you will teach me how to play better golf, I will teach you more about the Bible." Without any hesitation he agreed to my proposition and informed me that on a certain day he would pick me up at 9:41 a.m. I thought to myself, this person is going to expect perfection by setting the exact time of 9:41! Why not 9:45 or 10:00? It was then that I learned a weakness of my good friend. He was, generally, never on time. Jimmy did become a Christian after several sessions of Bible study and, in time, became an elder in the church. It was a loss for us all when his life ended at the young age of 57, but none moreso, than his widow, Libby. Jim and Libby have three sons with a cippling disease. Two are married and one lives with a sister. I'm sure they all have missed a loving father and a fine man.

With Some Apprehension We Did Move From Ozark
Now you might ask why, so I'll tell you. You see, our oldest child, Timothy, was born in 1956 while I was a student at Alabama Christian College in Montgomery. Joel was born in the Ashland Hospital in 1958, when we lived in Lineville, Alabama.  Angela was born in Savannah, Georgia during my time preaching for the Garden City church in 1960. Matthew was born in 1963 while we lived in Ozark. Now do you understand our hesitancy?

We have been blessed with three sons and one daughter, but back to Matthew and his being born in Ozark. There were many individuals who thought Jimmy Murray and I favored in physical appearance. One day, while Virginia was in the Dale County Hospital (back then, they kept new mothers in the hospital for 4 or 5 days),  Jimmy went to visit her. He met a nurse at the door and she said something to him, like, "Since you are the father you may go in". I don't remember if Jimmy stuttered or not on this occasion but he got that impression cleared up in a hurry!

16 October 2013

Ozark, Alabama

Was It A Bird, A Plane, Or A Byrd?
When I informed the brethren of the Garden City church that we were moving to Ozark, Alabama, there was a misconception of exactly where we were moving, especially when I told them our new address would be 2 Byrd Circle. To many, it sounded like 2 Byrd Circle was somewhere in the Ozark mountains. I could feel the sympathy of some of the brothers and sisters who thought we were moving to a very remote area of the United States of America.

Two brothers came over to help move us to the city of Ozark. This was before most brethren in small congregations were using companies that specialized in the moving business. The truck was like unto a 'cattle truck'. Virginia recalls that Joel lay on his bed and hugged the mattress, not wanting the men to move it.

Anyway, we made the long haul in one day and got into our small house located at 2 Byrd Circle just off of White Avenue and across the street from Dr. Bob McLaughlin, who later became our family physician. We moved during the month of September, 1960. The church building was located on Martin Street, a concrete building with a new education wing built when Ray Humphries, their former minister, was working with the congregation.

I Didn't Walk On Water, But I Did Row A Boat
A good sister, a widow, came to the office one day and asked if the church might help her financially. This was the day that our church treasurer, elder Ogburn Smith, was not on his job at the local A&P grocery store. It was his day off. I learned that he was fishing at the Dale County Lake, so I drove there and saw him almost in the middle of the lake trying to catch fish. What could I do but get into a boat and row out to talk with him. This was the first time that I had ever tried to reach a brother in this manner, as we did not have cell phones in those days. Was he ever surprised to see the preacher coming his way paddling a boat!

There we were in the middle of the lake, boat to boat, discussing whether or not to help this fine Christian lady. But, come to think of it, Jesus even preached while sitting in a boat. The decision was a positive one and we did, in fact, help this widow. I hope brother Smith caught plenty of fish that day. Maybe it was not a net full but enough for a 'mess'.

Time To End My Sermon
Being much younger the four years (1960-1964) I preached for the congregation in Ozark, I often taught the teenage Bible classes. It is amazing how young people will express their feelings of acceptance to you. Well, while preaching one Sunday morning, all of a sudden, an alarm clock sounded in the pulpit stand. I was about halfway through my sermon at the time and simply hit the stand with my knee. Undoubtedly the clock fell over and stopped ringing. To this day, I am not absolutely sure which teenager set that alarm clock but I think I know. His mother said her son would never have done that. I will admit there is a need sometimes for an alarm to sound when some preachers prolong their sermons that can be immortal without being eternal.

I Was Still Alive After An Explosive Situation
It was at this same pulpit stand that something unusual occurred. Once again, I was preaching during the worship assembly on a Sunday morning when all of a sudden there was an explosion inside the pulpit stand. I thought to myself, 'I am still alive', so I continued to preach. After the assembly I returned to the pulpit stand and opened the door. The only thing I saw was a bottle of Welch's grape juice with its cap missing. Undoubtedly, because of the heat in the building (we did not have air conditioning at that time), the wine fermented and blew off the top, causing the sound of an explosion. You can understand why I became rather nervous while preaching behind that particular stand. I never knew when a sound like a mighty rushing wind might occur.

Big Bad John, I Mean Jess
It was during teaching one Sunday morning Bible class, that I noticed about halfway back in the auditorium Jess Bruton had stood. Now, Jess stood approximately 6' 2" inches tall. His copy of the Gospel Advocate Annual Lesson Commentary was doubled and he began approaching me, moving slowly, with the book in his right hand. Let me tell you now that you can speak on one subject while your mind is thinking on something else! I don't remember what I was saying, but I can tell you what I was thinking, "What is Jess going to do with that book!"

I stood there without moving, although I must admit that my first inclination was to move rapidly in the opposite direction. All of a sudden, Jess made a swift swing with that heavy book and killed a wasp that had settled on my shoulder. Everyone enjoyed a good laugh at my expense and the whole episode that developed in a Bible class while studying God's Word. I do wish Jess had forewarned me so I could have had peace in my heart rather than wondering who was going to speak at my funeral!

A Church On Fire!
Well, not really the church but the building where the congregation met on Martin Street. The family and I were getting ready for Sunday School when Dr. Bob called and informed me that his mother, who lived across the street from the building, said it was on fire! I hurriedly finished getting my clothes on and rushed out. Sure enough, smoke was billowing from the bottom. The fire department was there and the chief asked if I knew where the thermostat was located in the auditorium. Knowing what needed to be done, I made the foolish decision to enter the building.

I had to enter through the first floor of the education complex and walk up a flight of stairs in order to get to the auditorium. Opening the door, the smoke was so thick I could not see anything. So closing my eyes, I walked across the room, felt along the opposite wall from where I had entered and was able to turn off the thermostat so the gas would stop flowing into the furnace. By the time I left the building, coughing had become a problem. However, assuming the building might be burning down, I drove my car to the rear of the building, where my office was located on the first floor of the educational complex and quickly began carrying my precious books through the window, loading them in the trunk of my car.

Preachers always endeavor to build up brethren in the Lord but that day I took an instrument and began to knock holes in the bottom of the building so the firemen could get their hoses underneath the floor of the auditorium and put out the fire. The cause was found. A well meaning Christian lady, who cleaned the building, decided to put a rubber mat on the floor furnace that was located in the small foyer. She didn't realize that when the heat came on, the mat would eventually begin to burn; and it did, along with the flooring in the auditorium.

The preacher's job should be to 'set the church on fire for the Lord', not to break blocks in the lower part of the church building. A rather humorous but serious telephone call from a fellow gospel preacher that Sunday afternoon, who was trying to get his brethren to build a new church building, informed me that the "Lord sent fire to the wrong building". I think he was wishing that the fire had occurred where he was preaching.

The Spirit Was Willing But The Flesh Was Weak
There have been many opportunities given in the lives of preachers to teach the gospel to truth seekers. After the funeral of an aged mother, a couple agreed to study the Bible with me in their home. Following several studies over a period of time, I was pleasantly surprised when I entered their home and the husband, Morris, announced that he and his wife, Pauline, were ready to be baptized. Of course this news made me rejoice; however, before he completed the sentence he stated emphatically that his wife was "scared to death" of having someone place her in water backwards. I smiled and said, "I have never lost a candidate." He replied, "I am being very serious, she is really afraid of being baptized." I encouraged them to get ready and we would to the church building.

Did I mention it was in the middle of winter and it was a very cold night?! Well, it was! I called some family members and friends and we gathered in the building on Martin Street. It was frigid inside the building, so you can imagine how cold the water was in the unheated baptistery.

I showed Morris and Pauline where to go to change into garments we had for those being baptized and told him that I would baptize him first so Pauline could witness how things were going to be done. Putting on rubber waders, which came up to my chest, I walked down the steps into the icy, and I mean icy!, water. I could feel the coldness through my 'baptizing suit'. Morris followed me and I immersed him without any difficulty, except he nearly froze to death.

Now it was time for me to walk across the baptistery to assist Pauline down into the water. She was nervous and freezing at the same time. I remember when her foot touched the water she let out a very loud sound like 'I am going to freeze to death in that water!'. I was finally able to coach her down the steps and into the baptistery. I informed her that the Lord commanded me to immerse her in water and so I told her, due to her great fear, to bend her knees and I would place her into the water forwardly. I made a few remarks and began to place her face first into that frigid water. Then her instinct to survive came into play.

She reached over with her left arm, grabbed hold of the side of the baptistery and I could not get her all the way under the water. She came up and made a chilling sound, shaking because of fear and the cold. It was then that I told her, "Pauline, we are going to do this again because you did not go completely under the water." Well, with some hesitancy, she agreed and we started the whole process again. While placing her face forward into the water, she once more grabbed the side of the baptistery. This time I took her hand off the side and forced her under the water. That was the first and only time I have ever done that in of my experiences of baptizing people.

But that is not the end of the story. When I forced her into the water there was a large splash that caused that icy water to go upward and you know it was going to come back down according to the law of gravity. Well, when it did, the water landed on my head and down into my waders. I was soaked. For two weeks, I was sick with a cold to the point of visiting our family doctor to obtain medicine. But it was worth it. Over the years when I would look at Pauline, she would have a smile on her face, as I did. We both remembered one cold winter's night when she was immersed into Christ for the remission of her sins - in spite of her fear of being put under water by someone.

06 October 2013

Savannah, GA

I often inform people of the fact that all my 'full-time' preaching for various congregations has been in Alabama, except for 2 years of foreign mission work. They will usually inquire as to which 'foreign country'. I will reply, "Savannah, Georgia". You see, I was born in the small town of Trion, Georgia which is located about 35 miles south of Chattanooga, Tennessee amongst the ridges and, not far from, Lookout Mountain. This 'hillbilly's' view of any size body of water would have been Blue Pond and the Chattooga River (not the one in NE Georgia). It was a thrill to see the Atlantic Ocean, to watch large ships travel up the Savannah River to Port Wentworth to load and unload their cargo. Ah, seafood, especially shrimp, was in abundance. We moved there in 1959 and you could buy mid-size shrimp for .39 cents per pound!

We did not live in the part of the city of Savannah where there were beautiful homes and historic places to visit. I was amused that one congregation had the name of Bull Street Church of Christ. Due to a multitude of church problems, it was a discouraging 2 years. We did make many friends during our time in Savannah, but the best thing we received while living there was our beautiful daughter, Angela, who along with Tim and Joel made us a family of five.

Almost a Burial In Water But No Resurrection
Talmadge Jenkins was 6 feet plus tall in height. I was still a novice in baptizing people. The baptistery in the church was made of concrete as many were in that time period. By experience over the years, I have learned where to place an individual in the baptistery so there will be no possibility of a head injury. Nowadays, the baptisteries are so large you can almost swim in them. Well, I had not placed this tall individual where I should have, and that would have been nearer to the opposite end of the baptistery where I was going to lay him backwards into the water. As I was laying him down into the water I quickly observed that his head was going to hit the concrete end. However, I was able to pull him toward me and his head barely missed the edge by my laying him down in the corner of the baptistery. With his help, I resurrected him from the watery grave of baptism. If things had been different, I could imagine Talmadge approaching the pearly gates and being asked if he had ever been baptized, and him answering in this fashion, "Yes, in fact, that was the last thing I remember."

When Do I Get To Preach?
He was a friend of one of our families in the congregation. An excellent song leader, the brethren asked him to lead the singing during our worship assembly on that Sunday morning. His song book was different from the ones we were using. You see, it was in Braille. This brother was blind but that did not hinder him from using his God given ability to lead congregational singing in fine fashion.

The custom was that one would lead three songs and then a brother would lead us in prayer. Following the prayer, another song would be sung and then I would bring the morning's lesson. Not this Sunday. After the prayer, our good brother led another song and then another one while I stood behind the pulpit ready, but wait, there's another song to be sung. That was perhaps the shortest sermon I had preached at the Garden City church, and I would suppose that the brethren loved it. We still needed to partake of the Lord's Supper before we were dismissed with prayer. While I was somewhat embarrassed while standing and waiting for the opportunity to speak, I would have never criticized my dear brother in Christ leading us in some beautiful hymns.

Where Did You Get That Name?
Our pediatrician was a fine doctor and a gentleman. Perhaps one of the best you could find in the state of Georgia and in the city of Savannah. We trusted him in his care of our two young sons. One day he stated to Virginia that he knew where we got the name Joel, and then asked where we got the name Timothy. You see, our doctor was Jewish.

03 October 2013

Union Springs, Alabama

Ananias and Who?
When Virginia and I married in 1955, we began to go to Union Springs several months later and I became one of the preachers for the congregation in that city. We had a training class for the young boys and girls. The boys would lead songs and also make short talks. One young fellow was talking about Ananias and Sapphira lying about how much they had given to the apostles to help those in need (Acts 5). Before I can complete the ending of this short story, I must tell you about a radio program called 'Amos and Andy' that began in 1920 and continued into the 1950's. Then during the years, 1951-1953, 'Amos and Andy' became a television series and was a very popular program among the viewers. One of the main characters was a lady named 'Sapphire Stevens'. Well, when this young lad mentioned the two characters named in the Bible story, he referred to them as 'Ananias and Sapphire'. Of course that brought a smile to our faces and we had to correct him on the name. Steve Hickman, of the Prattville congregation, was a member of that class in 1956 and he tells me he knows who that boy was! We enjoyed a good laugh together as we think of those early years when he was a teenager and I was a young preacher.

A Real Snakey Visual Aid
During the 1950's it was customary to conduct gospel meetings under a tent, thus we had 'tent meetings'. Sometimes my memory does not serve me well but I think Brother E. R. Brannan was the preacher during this particular 'tent meeting' in the Union Springs, Alabama area, one week during the summertime. As I recall, he was speaking on sin and how Eve was tempted by the "serpent" to eat of the forbidden fruit from the "tree of the knowledge of good and evil". About that time a real snake came crawling across the grass between him and the front row of seats. What happened then was pure excitement and sure enough someone did more than bruise the head of that slippery snake! I don't believe that Brother Brannan had planned to use a live visual aid but it did keep everybody's attention during the rest of his sermon!