Saturday, October 27, 2012

Feeding others is the same as feeding Jesus!

We all have lives full of experiences, mixed with incidents of joy, sadness, peace, unrest, times of good health, times of illness, great accomplishments, let downs and defeats, dreams realized, dreams shattered, and times of periods of unexpected experiences and surprises! There are times we have the opportunity to visit someone who is ill, needs cared for, or needs some encouragement. It's easy to get so busy that we forget about the forgotten, the widows, and the elderly who have lived-out a full life, and their retirement is spent in a nursing home or assisted living facility.

In October of 2012, I was surprised to learn my employer would send me to work in Kingsport, Tennessee, at Eastman Chemical.
While driving there, my mind reflected back to an earlier time in my life, the summer of 1976, which is when our family went to Blountville, TN, on a sad visit where my aunt Shirley Livingston's memorial service was held. When I was young, my grandparents took my sister Sissie and me to visit our Uncle Jim & Aunt Shirley Livingston, and their sons, Tracey, Troy, and Russell. Those visits were full of fun times and wonderful great memories!
Well, on this October work visit, I took the opportunity to take some time and drive by Jim and Shirley's old house.
I also drove by Shirley's graveside in the Memorial Gardens, across from the Tri-Cities Regional Airport, where Uncle Jim used to serve as an Air Traffic Controller. I spotted a air traffic control tower, and wondered if this was where he once help navigate jets in/out of the airport!

I learned from Uncle Jim's son, Troy Livingston, via Facebook, that Uncle Jim is currently residing at the nearby Greystone Health assisted living facility, which ironically, is across the pretty green hillside of the Memorial Gardens,where his wife Shirley is buried, and directly across from the Tri-Cities airport Uncle Jim worked at.

I took some time to visit with Uncle Jim Livingston, in hopes he might remember me. As I exited my car, I grabbed one of my harmonicas, thinking maybe I could play my uncle a hymn or two.
As I walked down the hall, I stopped-in at the office and met a young lady who was the assisted living manager. When I inquired about Jim Livingston, her eyes lit-up, and she said, "Oh, hes' such a sweet man, talks all the time, and a real blessing to us!" That was the Uncle Jim I recalled from years back!

As I made my way up to the second floor, I stopped by the nurse's station, and inquired of his health. They said he was fine, and would enjoy a visitor. Finding his room, I wasn't a little uneasy of his health, and not sure he would remember me. I hadn't seen him since 1976, which was 36 years ago!
As I entered his room, I noticed a 8 x 11" sheet of paper with his name hand written, "Jim's Room"! That was really neat, I might say!
Once I stepped inside the room, there he was, just sitting up in his bed eating his evening supper, around 6:00 p.m.

Uncle Jim didn't even look up to see who it was, but commenced to working on his food tray.
I sat down beside his bed on his walker bench, you know the kind with handles on each side, and a sitting bench in the middle, with wheels on it. I quickly said "Hello, Jim! How are you doing?" Still not looking up at me, to see who it was, I figured he supposed me to be just another health care worker.
I said, "Would you like me to help you cut-up your food for you?", and he replied "No, that would be alright." Well, I just figured that meant "If you want to, sure, go ahead". LOL
He had a egg salad sandwich and I noticed the bread was getting soggy, especially when he tried to pickup the wedged-shaped cut sandwich slices. I noticed he was fumbling with the sandwich, so I commenced to slicing his sandwich into smaller pieces for him.
I then took the fork and said to him, "Here, let me help you eat it.", to which I fed him some sandwich pieces with his fork. He took a few pieces, and chewed them up. I sorta felt like I was feeding one of my children again. Sentimental thoughts rushed through my mind, and God's Holy Spirit reminded me of the verses in the Bible, in Matthew 25:35-40, "for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink....‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink?.... ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’
As I fed him, I began rehearsing his past family history, recalling the names of his first wife, Shirley Pickens Livingston, his last wife, Annette, and Jim and Shirley's boys, Tracey, Troy, and Russell. I told him he used to be a air traffic controller at McKellar Airfield, Jackson, TN, and that he lived out their not too far from the airfield. I told him he was an air traffic controller at the nearby Tri-Cities Regional Airport, just across the street from his assisted living facility. When I mentioned his father and mother-n-law, Herman & Nellie Pickens, of Jackson, TN, they didn't seem to ring a bell with him.
After running all those names by Uncle Jim, I asked him, "How do I know all this about your life?", which he replied, "I don't know, I'm not sure?" There wasn't much point in attempting to push the memory issue, so I just acted like it was OK to me to not remember. Apparently, he' was dealing with a long term memory loss, dementia/Alzheimer, and couldn't connect with the names I was listing him. I said, "Look up at me, Uncle Jim. Do you know who I am?, and he just shrugged his shoulders. I knew the I was a stranger who just came by to visit him, after being out of his life for so long. That was OK in my mind for visiting my Uncle Jim ended-up being for me, and not so much for his sake, even though I wanted it to be.

I did make another trip to Kingsport, TN at the end of 2013 but didn't have time to visit Uncle Jim. I felt he was well cared for just by watching his interaction with the nursing staff, which he & they joked together while I was there.

Update: August 12, 2014
Uncle James Wallace Livingston graduated to Heaven on Aug 4, 2014, 38 years on the same day his first wife, Shirley Pickens Livingston passed. He would later in 1977 re-marry another beautiful lady, Annette Denton Livingston, and add to the Livingston "Brady Bunch" with her kids Don Petty & Lori Petty Worley.

Family & friends visitation held Friday Aug 8, 2014, at Blountville Christian Church, 5-7 pm visitation, 7-8 pm Services. Graveside Saturday Aug 9, 11 am at Tricity Memorial Gardens (across from Tri-city Airport).

Uncle Jim's family really cherished & loved one another, as witnessed at Jim's funeral services and the online Facebook page created by his eldest son , Tracy Livingston. The Facebook page is

Blessings on the family!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Yes, I Remember When They Were Little!

I'm just reminiscing today about when the kids were little, and running around the house, and at their granny & papa Crisp's house!

For some reason, I remember this song, as I reflect on some of my memories. I looked for it on YouTube, but nothing found!

~Please Take Time~

Mom and Dad I know you hurry though each day of work and worry.
But this is a reminder that I bring.
Just a little time I'm small,
Seems like hardly any time at all.
Soon these precious years will pass and so I sing.

Please take time to play,
Take the time to pray.
So quickly time will pass and I'll be grown.
Take time to take my hand time to love and understand.
Please take the time before the time's all gone.

When my life was all brand new,
God gave the job to you
To teach my how to love and how to live.
Teach me how to kneel in prayer,
Believing Christ will meet me there,
Trusting Calv'rys price my sins will all forgive.

Please take time to play,
Take the time to pray.
So quickly time will pass and I'll be grown.
Take time to take my hand time to love and understand.
Please take the time before the time's all gone.

Now while my heart is tender you can teach me to surrender,
For I look to your example and long to please.
But the time will someday come when opportunity is done,
And as the twigs were bent will grow the tree.

Please take time to play,
Take the time to pray.
So quickly time will pass and I'll be grown.
Take time to take my hand time to love and understand.
Please take the time before the time's all gone.

Please take the time before the tim's all gone.

And so it was, yesterday, I was singing that song, here in my hotel room in Williamsburg, VA "Mom & dad I know you worry...", which made me think of you kids. Yall would be running in/out of the granny & papa's house, and getting into all kind of trouble(j.k.). I was running the video camera all the time, while you kids would your imagination creating little home-businesses like, "Creative Christian Cards", "Flower pens", "Monster Preacher/mermaid", playing Uncle Barry's mystery searching games where I would hide a mystery note, which would lead you to the next clue, and so-on & so-on! How about you kids hanging from trees, swinging airplanes over your head, falling off BBQ pits, hunting easter eggs with money in them, cleaning deer carcasses hanging in the white shed, and the nurses-to-be would be playing with the deer's guts & heart.....should I go-on cherishing the thoughts that run through my mind?
I'll return here for more memories, but gotta run off to the paper mill, here in West Point, Va, and work the 7-7 night shift!
Stay tuned, and leave a comment of your memories, and I can respond to them!

Dad, aka Uncle Barry

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

"She Smiled Alot", and, "She Loved The More"

Aunt Shirley Pickens Livingston made us kids smile, and had a winsome twinkle in her eye when she winked at us!

She was a gift from God, to her own parents, as well as to her brothers Herman Leon, and Joe. (Her only sister died of polio, too young for Shirley to know)

Shirley would wink at us, and cut-up, tickle us a little, and hugged us kids! I know she genuinely loved us all. I was not fond of liking girls at that stage of life, and would easily blush. I felt sure I backed-off from Aunt Shirley's kisses & hugs. Of course, that was on the surface, cause I really liked it, secretly, or I wouldn't have remembered the times!

Shirley was quiet a delightful aunt. Her presence was so pleasing, and I could tell she loved us nieces and nephews. She really loved Jim, her husband, and her boys, Tracy, Troy, and Russell.
I must have been no older than about 10, and now I recall something was different about Shirley. I now feel pretty confident as to why she was the way she was. Shirley loved Jesus, and wasn't ashamed of it. She was a very talented lady, could cook good, and had a love for crafts and art. I'm not sure, but it seemed she did some decoupage artwork on wood, and did some paintings on pots and ceramics, but I could be wrong, for boys don't try to remember all that kinda of stuff. I was busy playing with her sons, my cousins!
I barely recall Shirley, Jim, and a couple of boys, living in Jackson, TN, out by the airport. I sorta recall one Christmas, going to their home, and seeing a toy steel jetliner among the toy presents, which may have been my Christmas toy that year! The toy airplane would have been right at home at Uncle Jim's house, for Jim worked as a air-traffic-controller. He might have even worked close by, at McKellar Air Field, in Jackson, TN. Again, I maybe be wrong about that faint memory, too!

God had plans for Shirley, who only God would know about. Once day, back then, God said, "Shirley, I want you to be with me!", so, Shirley took her Father by the hand, and just went ran home to her heavenly home! Now that I know better, I imagine she just jumped-up in the lap of Jesus, with a twinkle and wink in her beautiful eyes!
When Shirley graduated to heaven, in about 1972, I recall all of us Pickens family, from Jackson, TN, driving up to the Kingsport, Elizabethan, TN, and Bristol, West VA, Tri-City area., and attended the memorial service. I recall the church ceremony being held at a white church, and the special music sang that day. I heard what may have been her favorite song, "One Day At A Time". That was a wonderful song to hear that day, and remains a favorite to this day!
As part of the memorial service, a family with kids sang, with their dad, and it seems one of the young boy, led out in these words, with the rest of the family singers echoing (Yes I love Jesus!)

Oh - ----------- Do you love Jesus?
Oh, yes, we love Jesus.
Are you sure you love Jesus?
Yes, we're sure we love Jesus.
Tell us why you love Jesus,
This is why we love Jesus ...
Because He first loved me.
Oh, how I love Jesus
Oh, how I love Jesus
Oh, how I love Jesus
Because He first loved me.
I only wish I had other memories to share with you, but my younger age prevents me from having any others right now. If I think of them, I'll share them.
I plan to share memories of Aunt Shirley, as other family members provide them to me.

That being said, I don't worry about Aunt Shirley today, for she fought a good fight, she loved people around her, especially her husband and boys, and now, Shirley is enjoying heaven, along with her dad Herman Lee, and mom Nellie Crawford Pickens!

Shirley would never get to meet her only sister, Doris Ruth, who was older, for Doris died at an early age.

But, the good new is that she now knows her sister, Doris, and they get to see one another everyday, for they both are in heaven together, along with their mom and dad!

Shirley is experiencing the joys and splendors of that heavenly city. That is a promise we have from The Holy Bible, where God has prepared a place for us to live.

Yes, "And she smiled alot", would be very appropriate in describing Aunt Shirley, but, I would say, "She loved everybody, even more!"

Monday, January 19, 2009

The Story of Rooster

Granddaddy and Grandma Pickens’ house, wasn’t anything to brag about, but we grandkids sure enjoyed hanging out there for the summer! The old white wood-frame house could sure get to rattling and rolling, with six grandkids romping throughout it!
Once the dinner bell was sounded, it was quit a chore sitting everyone-Granddaddy at the head, grandma at the foot, and mom and dad and we kids lined up and down each side of the table. You could not help but feel welcome and loved in Nellie’s kitchen. We all felt at home, and welcome, in granddaddy & grandma’s house, there at 1670 Ashport Road, Jackson, TN. However, something struck me as kind of strange, and caught my attention. Why did Rooster, another guest, have to eat on the back porch steps, and not get to join the rest of us at the dinner table? Grandma would fix him a plate, and hand it to him, to which he’d respond with a “Thank ya, Mrs. Pickens!”, then go about to sittin’ down on the back steps, and just consume that good ole soul food grandma was accustom to fixin!
Rooster, a young "colored" boy(common reference in the 60's), must have been around the age of fourteen, at the time. He was hired, by granddaddy, to help-out on the land. Granddaddy needed help around the farm with tasks such as, planting and hoeing home-grown tomatoes, turning the watermelon vines, and harvesting all the watermelons. Loading watermelons in the pickup truck was no easy task!
I being possibly 12 back then, was doing good to stand at shoulder’s height to Rooster. Even though he was much stouter than me, Rooster never took advantage of it, and seemed pretty nice. I suppose being strong was why granddaddy hired him to work around the farm. It wasn’t kosher to play with a hired worker, though, since he was hired to do chores, and not play with us grandkids. My grandparents payed him, which helped his poor family.
I never knew how Rooster ever took on the name “Rooster”. Maybe his mother nicknamed him that when he was born, but surely not! Possibly his fellow schoolmates tagged him with it because of his hair, who knows? I never thought, or got the nerve, to ask him though. He once told me his real name, which sounded like “Zephaniah”, or some Bible name, which at the time was difficult to pronounce.
Once, granddaddy and I drove over to Rooster’s house, somewhere near Oakfield Road, and Old Medina Road, just north east of Jackson, TN. Once we arrived at Rooster’s house, I couldn’t help but notice the swinging, tattered and ragged clothes were hanging from homemade clotheslines. The old wood-frame house looked to be built around the turn of the century, and was surrounded by a yard spattered with grass patches and dirt. I could not help but notice an old bicycle rim hanging from what was suppose to be a basketball backboard and pole.

The earth beneath could probably tell of some exciting games played there. I suppose Rooster’s family was just as happy as any of us white folks, for this was all they new in their little family circle.
Although Rooster was the only colored person working for granddaddy at that time, granddaddy had hired and worked colored folk for thirty years or so. He would tell us grand kids, “Colored folks always refer to me as “Mr. Herman”, or they won’t work at all!” He was a contractor and foreman all of his life, and we grand kids must have heard the same old story a dozen times, or so it seemed.
It sure was enjoyable at granddaddy and grandma Pickens’ house, why with all the good food, home-made hand-cranked ice cream, out on the front porch, and the fellowshipping around the table.
I guess I’ll never know what was going through Rooster’s mind, as he ate all alone on the back porch steps, maybe what was going through his mind was, “I sure wish Mr. Herman would let me eat and fellowship with everyone else.” I suppose I’ll never know…..

Friday, January 16, 2009

A Welcome Detour

A Welcome Detour

We are often taken places in our lives, where we never planned on going. God has a way of doing that to us, and with us, so we need to be flexible and go with the flow, at times. It’s been said by someone, “Life is a journey”, and “surprises come when you least expect them”. Be on the look-out for “Detours” in your life, for they are sure to come.

For myself, I never planned to make a personal detour, and visit the "Floyd E. Tut Fann State Veterans Home", in Huntsville, Alabama. I had never heard of the place, and I for certain didn’t have any business there. I would later discover that it would become a welcome detour in my life.

It was a cold windy day January 1, 2008, and I had been making my way back home to where I mostly grew up. It had been some 30 years since I had lived in Huntsville, Alabama. Way back in August of 1977, the USN had stationed me in Corpus Christi, TX, where I would find my soul-mate, Connie Crisp, get married, began making a living, and began raising four wonderful kids!
In the fall of 2007, my company agreed to relocate me to Huntsville. In a sweet song to my ears, Connie welcomed the change in our lives: of course it did help sweeten the pie, by having our oldest son & daughter, precede us to Huntsville, by a couple of years.

Upon arriving Huntsville, New Years Day 2008, I made my way down University Drive, stopping at the Jordan Lane intersection. My first thoughts were memories of the many times dad would take me to his first cousin’s house, Bill Baker. My daddy, Herman Leon, always referred to Bill as Billy, so I did as well. Billy is my daddy’s first cousin. They grew up together in Jackson, TN, to which dad has shared several good memories of their times together, chumming around the North Jackson countryside!

So, as I sat at the Jordan Lane intersection, I glanced up the hill and spotted the big white water tower. That tower was very close to the Bill & June Baker homestead. Pleasant memories flooded my mind of visiting their family over the years. I had recently heard that Billy’s wife, June, had passed away, and pondered where Billy might be living now.

As I passed through the intersection, driving further into town, I headed my Dodge truck over Chapman Mountain, and settled-in at my son Phillip and daughter-n-law Rebecca’s home, located in the Huntsville NE area.

Over the course of the evening, and into the following day, my thoughts were, “I need to go check-on Billy Baker”. I really don’t know why I was contemplating it. I wasn’t aware of the purpose of God leading me in Billy’s direction.

I decided to call my sister, Jeanne, to inquire about Billy’s whereabouts. I pretty much knew that Bill & June Baker’s kids, David & Diane, no longer lived in Huntsville, but I had no idea where they were now living.
The reason for calling my sister was I reasoned that girls were better at keeping-up with kinfolks than guys were. I felt dad would probably know, but I didn’t want to bother him about it.

As God would direct my path that January day, my sister, Jeanne, told me that she had heard Billy was living at the "Floyd E. Tut Fann State Veterans Home", located on Meridian Street. She offered to meet me there, so shortly thereafter met out front of the facility. This was our first time to see one another, so we gave each other a big hug, right out front of the facility! Jeanne didn’t have the time to go inside with me that day, for she had something going on at the time. Upon her driving away, I grabbed my harmonica, slipped it into my pocket, and proceeded inside to the front desk.

The receptionist had me sign the visitor’s log, and pointed me toward the “F” wing. Heading in the right direction, along what seemed like well lighted long hallways, I finally reached my destination. Upon arrival, I asked the nurse’s station that I was there to visit my cousin, Billy Baker. The nurse informed me the “F” wing was mainly for Alzheimer’s patients, and that indeed she had a Billy Baker in her wing. She also educated me a little on visiting AZ’s patients, and that Billy would have to be found. I followed her around looking for Billy. The nurse informed me that AZ’s patients often leave their rooms, and can’t recall where they came from. She said they often end-up climbing back in bed, but it won’t be there own bed, but someone else’s.
This wasn’t the case for Billy that day. I returned to the nurse’s station to wait. My thoughts were, “I hope Billy is in good walking health, so I can have a good visit with him.”
A few minutes passed as I waited. Looking down each hall for the nurse, I spotted the nurse walking toward me, with holding Billy’s hand. I heard her say, “Now, Billy, you have a guest who has come to see you, so you behave yourself, ya hear?” I could tell the nurse was just being fun with Billy, so I smiled as she placed Billy’s hand in mine. I recall his hand was warm, and I was just hoping my own hand wasn’t cold, as it often is….ha-ha.
This visit was new territory for me, having never dealt with Alzheimer’s patients before, or at least not that I ever new. I’ve visited nursing homes before, Christmas caroling with my church, and playing harmonica with other friends over the years.

With his hand in mine, I felt as if I had a child in my hand. The nurse pointed me down the hall to large open room, where she pointed to a row of empty chairs along the wall. This was the visitor’s room, where families could interact with their loved one. Around the room, were other men, with various stages of AZ’s, but I noticed no one was there visiting them. I believe one of the men actually spoke to me, albeit in broken sentences, and I kindly acknowledged him.

I sat Billy down on one of the soft vinyl chairs, and began to talk to him. Billy was wearing just a pair of socks, to which he seemed to be looking down toward. I quickly realized that this would be very much a one-way conversation, and that God would have to give me the words to say. Me acting and feeling sorry for his condition is not what Billy needed. I had to be strong and upbeat, and stay focused on being a blessing to him.

What I’m about to relay to you, may not be verbatim, but to the best of my recollection, here is how the visit went:
“Billy, I don’t know if you recall who I am, but I’m Herman Leon’s son, Barry Pickens. I used to come visit you with my dad. I recall how smart you were about building & constructing your own water skis, and how you knew electronics real well, and seemed to be able to fix anything. I just wanted to come by and visit with you, and maybe play you a couple of songs on the harmonica. Would you like that?”

Billy continued to sit there quietly, with his hands on his lap. I gave him a few seconds to respond to my own introductory words, while looking into his face for expressions to my words. I was encouraged to hear a few recognizable words. The best I could determine, he was attempting to explain the building and testing of some type of electronics. His words were mixed-up, although I did recognize some of the electronic terms. That was kind of cool that I could at least see that he had a mind that was still able to say those. His sentences were short, and incomplete. That was ok to me, for I understood the circumstances. He moved his hands and fingers together, seemingly constructing something, or possibly explaining something to me. Who knows, but maybe he was reliving an experience with a group of fellow engineers, whom he may have worked with at NASA.
In honor of his service to others, and out of respect for his intelligence, I replied to him with, “Yeah, that’s right, good, I see, uh huh!” I decided I may as well become one of his engineer friends, and play the part for a second. Maybe that would help him to explain what he was telling me.

After a few minutes of this time, I took Billy’s hand in mine, and asked him, “Billy, would you like to hear me play a hymn for you on my harmonica?” to which he didn’t reply, but just looked at me quietly. I figured that meant, “Of course I’d like to hear a hymn!” Up to this point, I was sitting in a chair angled toward his chair. I leaned over toward Billy, so as not to be too loud for the other patients in the room. I’m sure I played one of my favorites, like “Sweet Hour of Prayer”, or “Amazing Grace”! I didn’t want to be too lengthy, not knowing how long he could endure the sitting still like that. I watched intently for any signs of response to the harmonica music, but he seemed to like listening, the best I could tell.
Once I stopped playing the hymns, I figured it best that I begin wrapping-up my visit, so I got down on my knees, and looked into his face, much like a mother would do, and I began to speak these words to him:
“Billy, I want you to know that God has not forgotten you! You are special to him, and you have served Him for many years. God would want me to tell you that you are not forgotten, and I love you! Don’t you worry; June says hello to you, and so do David and Diane. They all love you very much!
Billy, I now want to pray with you, if that will be ok.” I then continued to hold his hand in mine, and prayed a little prayer with him. I didn’t know how much he understood, but somehow, I felt he did.
I ended by telling him, “Now you take care of yourself, and be good, and I’ll come visit you later on!”
I then led him back to the nurse’s station, and headed home that day.

I was reminded of the bible verse, “And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” Matthew 25:34-40

I don’t know what Billy got out of my visit, but I know what I got out of it. My detour that day led me down a path of ministering to Jesus, face to face, and I shall forever be grateful. For, on that day, January 2, 2008, God led down what I would indeed call “A Welcome Detour”.

I do know that Billy and June are both enjoying the splendor of Heaven. Maybe, they live in that little log cabin, along the crystal river, where Billy is water skiing on home-made wooden skiis. Who knows?

Does God answer little prayers? On time? Everytime?

Does God answer little prayers? Well, all I know is that after whispering a simple little prayer for help, I ended-up finding my recently lost electric airplane, which I lost while flying it in Demopolis, AL!

Back on Sept. 18, 2008, and right at dusk, I was having a blast flying my 26” electric airplane. I had it at a super high altitude (fun flying, safer for mistakes), almost directly above my head. I was doing circles up that high trying to see how well it stayed aloft, catching the upper-wind currents. All of a sudden, the plane was not doing what I was telling it to do. The upper-level winds forced me to drive it down-wind. This made westward direction, on highway 80, drifting further away from me, making it harder for me to see. Being so high up, with the upper-level winds keeping it aloft, I made the atempt to shut the motor off, and gradually fall, hopefully losing altitude. Since it only a 2-channel functionality, rudder & electric motor speed, I couldn't point it into a hammer-head dive. The only way to get it down was to float down-wind of me, and hopfully lose altitude. The altitude, and the wind keeping it aloft, was working against me, taking the plane toward the main highway, almost out-of-sight, a common problem with R-C (remote control) oweners, they can't determine if the craft is coming toward them, or going away!
For a split second, my imagination ran wild, for I quickly imagined a couple of crash scenarios! I was worried it may have crashed into some little ole lady driving down the highway: "Demopolis Times headlines, “Lady has head-on crash with plane! Pilot no where to be found!”, or possibly some kid spotting my plane from his parent's automobile. He screams, "Stop mommy, I just saw a airplane crash in that field. He jumps out of the car, all the while yelling back, "Hey mom, look what I found!"
In either scenario, my $90 plane, which was my Father’s Day gift from my kids, would be lost forever!

Now, let's fast-forward two weeks, where once again, sent me to town on-business.
On my mind this time was definitely the incident of losing my plane that one evening, two weeks prior.
Who knows, maybe I could retrace my steps? I had nothing to lose? Hey, I could make one last ditch effort to search for my electric plane. At the close of the work day, and heading back to town at around 6 p.m., I stopped along the highway in front of the large hay field, across from Wal-Mart. This was where I thought I saw the plane go down, when I was flying it from the field behind Fairhaven Baptist. It seemed to be the most logical place crash site for my airplane. I had previously scanned the roofs of all the local places of business, excluding the Wal-Mart, of course. On the day of losing the plane, the winds were not blowing it toward Wal-Mart anyhow. My hopes & desires were that it had ended-up in the hay field, across the highway from Wal-Mart, and other businesses.I pulled my car into the property owner’s open field, while busy car drivers whisked up/down busy highway 80. My eyes were drawn toward the large open hay field out in front of me, with round bales of hay grouped together in an unorganized fashion, and scattered throughout the field. I couldn’t see very far due to newly grown hay nearly at chest height. It's a little scary walking around in tall grass, and not being able to see snakes, armadillos, rats, wild game, etc.
My imagination wasn't over just yet. this could have been how it worked-out:
You’re a local citizen, driving down the highway, in your sleepy little town, where everyone knows everybody else's business. You spot a stranger, off to your side in a field. Curious at what’s-up, you observe this stranger walking around in your field. You then see him climbing on top of each bale of hay, raising his hand to his eyebrow, and then see the crazy guy jump from bale-to-bale. He then hops down from the end bale, only to scurry over to the next group of bales, and does the same strange action! You think to yourself, “Someone’s not playing with a full deck, or a full bale!”
Anyway, that’s what it looked like that evening!The goal was to climb-up something taller, in order to get a better view across the field. Even with that, I still couldn’t spot my airplane. Feeling a little disheartened, after about 30 minutes of searching, I headed back across the field toward my car, . I felt that this was the last straw, my last chance to possibly find my electric plane. As I came within about 500 feet of my car, I stopped to pray, to see if maybe God knew where it was. Would He have the time to listen to a silly prayer like that? We all know God fixes more important things, like making people well, helping marriages & relationship problems, helping wayward teens. He does miracles, much more important than some silly lost airplane, down in little Demopolis, Alabama.I quickly reasoned, “Of course God knew where I lost it two weeks
ago, but my immediate problem was, I didn't know what God knew!” That fact was certain! Right then, in the middle of that field, I quietly bowed my head and whispered a simple prayer to God, "Lord, you know exactly where my airplane is, and the exact spot that is rest at this very moment. Please help me to find it, if it’s your will. I ask this, in Jesus name, Amen." I was pretty much ready to give it up at this point, feeling that maybe I wasn’t suppose to get it back after all. I was ok with that, if that was the way it was supposed to be.

You're not going to believe what happened next? As I raised my bowed head, and looked around again, I still couldn't see it anywhere near me. At that moment, I began my walk back to my car. My walk was perpendicular to the main highway, and where my car was parked, at the edge of the field. I decided to not avoid the thick tall grass, but commenced to traverse straight through it, all the time hoping not to awake some critter! As I walked back, still no airplane was to be found. Coming near my car, I walked past the car a few feet, looking in the nearby group of trees, still no sign of it. At that point, I decided to walk back toward the open field, some 50 feet from my car. While gazing once again toward the field, I saw what appeared to be some trash. I thought, “Maybe that’s it!” My airplane is white, so it was worth a shot! Drawing closer to the white bag, I discovered it to be a white Wal-Mart shopping bag. Guess why God led me to the white bag? It was because sitting next to the Wal-Mart bag, was my very own white airplane!
The plane was undamaged by the crash. All that suffered damage were the rubber-bands, which hold the main top wing in-place, were sun-baked & cracked. The top wing was barely hanging on, being held in-place by one lonely rubber band. I was ecstatic, and so pleased to find my plane. I felt like the Good Shepherd, who had a sheep which got lost, then after searching for it, finally found it. It was mine the first time, now it is twice mine. God heard my simple childlike prayer! It could have been practically anywhere, but it was lying right there all the time. No one but God saw it everyday I was away. I believe He was just waiting for me to ask, in childlike faith. I was taking it home now!
What a simple lesson to learn about a childlike prayer!

Does God answer little prayers?
Yes indeed, and right on time!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Christmas with the Snelson family

It all started at West Heights Baptist Church, in Corpus Christi, Texas, with the Snelson family, and ended with their first ever, real Christmas tree! They had moved downtown in an old upstairs apartment, not too far from the downtown jail. There's more to the adventure with me now to meet this family......

They’re all around us, it seems. Everywhere we turn! And not always easily recognized. Who or what are they? They are the poor homeless families! Walking along the streets! In the gutters! Living out of cars! Sleeping wherever! At times without a place to call home! How do we escape from their presence? Or, is this what we really desire to do? To get away from them?
After reading this true story, I think you will see how helping the poor, benefits those we help, ourselves, and others who might be perhaps be watching or listening.
The poor, with little to give, might be able to give back to us more than we care to think! I know it did for my family! For I share with you, my audience, a personal experience in helping a poor family in our city, Corpus Christi, Texas.
I would like to begin with introducing you to this family.

They were the Snelson family: Dad, Mom, and seven children ranging from 2-14 years in age. Quiet a large family at the time, around 1992. With this size family, there were many needs. According to author Cheryl Gorder in her book, Homeless! Without Addresses In America, “The three elements necessary to function in American society are money, food, and shelter.” This family definitely suffered in these necessities! I know, at times, I take these things for granted myself, as I’m sure some of you do! At the time, this poor family with Dad, Mom, and seven children, was sharing two small adjoining rooms, at a run-down motel. My wife, Connie, tells it this way, “I think of how this large family of little people would stick together and share everything. Six even shared a fold out sofa to sleep on. The youngest slept with the parents. Yet they were so proud of one another and protective. They were so happy with what we would call nothing.”
Now understand, this class of motel they called home, still exists down on Leopard Street, in the old part of Corpus Christi. Before moving to this particular motel, this family had previously been living out of a tent down at the Nueces River Park area, on I-37.
I’m sure their life was full of mystery, if anyone would just take the time to listen! But who would want to get involved in that kind of social dilemma? Well, we, the Pickens family, accidentally, or I should say providentially, have a personal encounter with the Snelson family we shall never forget!
We’re the Pickens family! Just common people. No one special! Think of us as your, “Howdy Ho neighbor!”, next door neighbor! We just lived right around the block from the Snelson family and the neighborhood church we attended at the time.
A certain Sunday, the Snelson kids showed up at the church we attended. You see, the motel I mentioned they were living in was in the shadow of our church’s steeple. I seem to recall all seven kids practically filling a church pew. Tom, their dad, would eventually accompany the children to church. He finally came with them after his wife had kicked him out of the motel and he was really depressed about it. The children had begged him to go to church with them. You know, folks, we never know what brings people to seek answers to life’s difficulties but there is always more to the story than meets the eye.
Once again, if any of us stop long enough to listen.
Now, we as a small community church, were use to seeing visitors in the congregation, after all, this was a transitional area of town. People came and went all of the time, so the church members were use to new faces in the crowd. This family was more noticeable due to the size and all. But, there was something more here than just another poor homeless family! You might say they were, “A gold mine just waiting to be mined!”. “A gift just waiting to be received!”
My wife, Connie, our children, and I, all came to know the Snelsons in a short period of time. You see, Connie, and I, were teaching church Sunday School when we were invited to a birthday party by David and Alan Snelson, brothers in this poor family. These two brothers, being trusting and innocent, invited the whole church youth department to attend their party. The real test was, “Would anyone come to the birthday party since it was being held at the rundown motel across from the church”. I recall feeling a little obligated to attend, them being in my SS class and all. My two sons Phillip and Aaron, and nephew Michael, came along with me to the birthday party. To me it was somewhat sad that no other church kids showed-up, but it did not seem to bother David and Alan. I remember the party being held beside their motel swimming pool. These two poor kid brothers were so happy just to be having a simple cake and “Blue Bell ice cream” as stated by my son Aaron. I tried not to notice the spaghetti stains on the saucer they handed me. What could I say? I wasn’t too good to eat off of it, they did! Prior to the birthday party, they told us to bring our swim suits to go swimming in the motel pool. We played “Marco Polo”, as recalled by my son Phillip. I’m sure glad friends did not brief us before the party or we probably would have stayed away from the pool, with diseases and all being prevalent nowadays. You just don’t think and worry about things like that when helping people. You’re just there for them, through the good and the bad! Those kids were so proud of their little motel pool and the birthday party given by their parents. Words cannot express the meaning of this memory. Can you begin to see who really received a gift and benefited here?
And the giving doesn’t stop there!
Working at a nearby Circle K just wasn’t enough for Tom Snelson and his family. He was forced to walk two miles to work since he could not afford a car. I felt for the man and talked him into applying at a grocery supply warehouse closer to the motel. Feeling that his application might not get much attention, I followed-up his application with a personal visit to the manager of the warehouse. The manager expressed his appreciation for sharing the poor family’s situation. You see, the warehouse manager had a handicap himself. His left arm was extremely shorter than the other. I feel sure this man understood what it was like being given a chance at a job. I’m sure Tom was hoping and praying, as I know I was! It was extremely hard keeping my mouth shut when Tom excitedly told me, “Barry! I got that job! You know, the warehouse one!” As far as I know, Tom still doesn’t know how it all happened. He didn’t know any flowery prayer to say, but like a innocent child I know he expressed thanks to God for the job.
What a wonderful memory to play a part in!
And the giving doesn’t stop there!
Taking the Snelson boys, David and Alan, to church youth camp, was a treat one summer! Them being poor and all, their traveling luggage was a dirty white, faded, laundry bag, with a draw-string at the top. The brothers, or their mom, just threw their clothes in together without any regard for wrinkling. They seemed happy though!
In the boys dorm our group stayed in, David and Alan pulled their bunks up close to each other, head to head, indicating their love for each other, and possibly signifying them missing the rest of the family back home. Somehow, these two brothers, got nick-named “Buzzsaw & Stinky” by other kids at camp. I guess it was due to the homespun buzz haircut on one and I’m not sure about the other nickname Stinky, I didn’t ask. They seemed to like the attention though! Another church group went in together to buy Buzzsaw and Stinky a camp tee-shirt. That was no doubt their first ever new tee-shirt. The X-Large tee-shirts swallowed their small bodies! They wore the camp tee-shirts proudly, then tossed them in their laundry bag together with their other clothes. That particular summer, youth camp was a very special one with the two Snelson boys along.
And the giving doesn’t stop there!
Christmas! Ah, Christmas! What a wonderful time of the year! The time of the year when you give something or get something! Right?
Who could ever forget that Christmas with the Snelsons? The particular year, my family shared in helping make a meaningful Christmas. We thought we were doing the giving but this poor homeless family would give to us gifts that cannot be bought.
It all began when one of the Snelson children somehow let one of us know that they didn’t really have any plans for Christmas. They didn’t really have the money to buy a Christmas tree, or gifts for that matter. Now I know that they probably never really had these things, but understand other kids, at church, and I’m sure school, discussed what they were wishing for, and what they would be getting for Christmas. By this time, the Snelson’s had moved into an old duplex apartment downtown. This is where this particular Christmas was spent.
My family decided we would surprise the Snelson family with a real live Christmas tree, with ornaments to boot! You should have seen the excitement amongst that family when we knocked on their upstairs apartment door, and as they opened the door, and there stands a Christmas tree, a box of ornaments and lights, gifts, and of course people grinning like a possum! It was such a blessing to us as their kids scrambled around to decorate it, and their parents were, well, you might say, overwhelmed with what was taking place in their apartment that day! My four kids were excited to be sharing some of their own toys with the Snelson kids as well as giving each child at least one new toy or gift.
And the giving doesn’t stop there!
My family’s experiences in helping the Snelson family also had an impact on other people. Some people were supporters in helping, some were critics.
As far as the supporters, there were just a handful.
You’ll never get them to admit it, but my wife’s parents helped out on a late motel bill for the Snelson family. They would tell you that this family touched their hearts.
Another family that wanted to do something for the Snelsons was the Bryant family. I purposely did not mention the Bryant family earlier because I wanted to share a personal testimony by Donna Bryant, the mother, “They were all so small for their age. They were so excited to attend Sunday School & Church. So willing to love & be loved by us! They were always smiling, even though they had such a meager and sad existence. The youngest, Tommy, was such an adorable child, beautiful and angelic. The Christmas, that three or four families from church got together and shared the real Spirit of Christmas with those precious children, was unforgettable. The looks on their face will live in my heart always! They were so excited to have a tree and a few small gifts picked out especially for each one of them. I felt a special bond with Christi, the oldest and only girl!
She was so small yet tried to be tough enough to take care of her brothers. We think of them all sometimes and still say a small prayer for God to keep alive in their hearts His love and our love. I thank God for the blessing that they were to all of my family-Rob, Donna, Travis, Ryan, Brandy, and Ricci.” Now, as far as the critics are concerned, there were a few.
I will mention that there was some in the church who didn’t like this unruly bunch of kids. Someone told the Snelson kids not to come to church anymore because it was being changed to a new denomination. Ridiculous, but those kids believed it and stayed home until my wife and I told them otherwise. You may find it hard to believe, but these kids let us know they were not treated very nicely by the preacher either. Folks, critics have always been around, even at church, but I’m sure glad that life goes on, in spite of the critics.
Well! People helping others! Giving unto others as unto ourselves. This is best stated in a verse from the Bible, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son”. Now that you have shared these few moments with me, I hope you will see how helping the poor, benefits those we help, ourselves, and others who might be perhaps be watching or listening.
Tonight, as I shared this story with you, I like to believe that you were receiving a gift from this poor homeless family as well. Now, we’re not suppose to give just to get something, but, somehow, we do end-up getting when we give! Funny how it works out!