Pastor Ed Smith’s Blog

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A Story About My Healing

As I write this post today, it is a very somber occasion for the Smith family.  I’m not sure whether I’ll finish this today, or whether I’ll post it just yet or not, but today is July 22, 2009.  My Mother passed away this morning around 5:45Am after a long weekend of struggle and pain, and after a lengthy battle with Alzheimer’s Disease.  I have not ever seen a person fight so hard to cling to life as she did the past two days.  The medical professionals working with her were stunned that she lasted as long as she did this weekend.  We’d think “it’s all over,” then she’d take another labored breath.  Watching a person leave this earth is a tough experience, to say the least.

As I write this, I am preparing my sermon for her funeral.  She asked me to preach her funeral about 5 years ago.  I have struggled with what I’d say on that day with absolutely not a clue where to even begin—-until this past Saturday.  But on that day, God flooded my mind with the message He wants me to deliver at her funeral.  I am officiating the service, along with my youngest son, Drew and my nephew Eric Whelchel.

As I pound the keyboard today, the words of Roger Bennett’s song (sung by the Cathedrals) rings loudly in my ears;  “It’s a story about my healing!  Oh, Oh Healing!  …..the ills of my body were healed by the stripes on His back; The Great Physician ministered healing to my soul!”   My healing is complete today, too.

I wanted to share my sermon outline with you.  It was inspired by Roger’s song, and my experiences with my Mom through the years.   What a wonderful ending to a long and bitter journey.  God has brought healing—to everybody.  Indeed.

Here is the sermon outline I will use in her funeral service:

Divine Healing

A Message of Hope

Greetings:

To our wonderful family; to our friends that have stood by our side through the course of our lives, especially the past few days; and to cherished new friends gathered here today, our family wishes to express our thanks for your condolences and demonstrations of love during this time of loss in our family.  We are honored to have you in this service today.

I have learned many things through the years about disease and death.  The more I learn, the more I realize how little I really do know about the subject.  I know that God, in His infinite love and mercy heals us from our infirmities, and that His presence is always with us; even if He chooses not to heal our earthly bodies.  But, every human being who is breathing the breath of life has the opportunity to find, and make reservations for, the gift of Perfect Healing—it’s found only in Heaven when this life has ended.

The precious words of a song written by a good friend, the late Roger Bennett, formerly of the Cathedrals and later on, Legacy Five, comes to mind.

“My spirit was willing but my body was weak
I thought this is the way it would end
But Jesus came in like a thief in the night
He Touched me and I was made whole
My song did not end; it started over again
And I wanted everybody to know
The story ’bout my
Healing, oh, healing
The Great Physician ministered healing to my soul
The ills of my body were healed by the strips of His back
The Great Physician ministered healing to my soul”

Many a sermon has been preached on the subject of Divine Healing.  People board planes, drive long distances in their automobiles, and sacrifice much for the chance to find healing for their bodies, because some preacher has promised that if they’d follow his “formula, they’d get just that…healing.  These people spend millions of dollars each year trying to persuade God to heal them.  But, the truth is that we cannot buy healing, nor can we get it by following some formula set forth by man.  You see, God chooses to heal some people while they are in these earthly bodies; but for some, He chooses to allow them to continue their lives while carrying the infirmity that wracks their bodies or minds.  The Apostle Paul spoke of a “thorn in the flesh,” and although the specifics of just what that thorn were are not named in Scripture, the principle is clearly there.  He referred to some aliment or outside pain that one would have to live with while in these earthly bodies.  But, even for one whose body is not Divinely healed, and they find themselves having to bear their own thorn in the flesh, they can find the Joy to bear the burden by choosing to walk with Christ in this life.  God walks with them every step of the way.  The truth is that, those who are faithful to God and continue to bear the burden of a disease or other infirmity are often the most blessed when all is said and done.

Today, we will talk about Divine Healing—both the temporary kind that comes from a medicine bottle or from a doctor’s scalpel; and the kind where God heals a physical body with a Divine touch.

  1. Healing was perpetuated by sin.
    1. Because of sin, pain and suffering—then death is certain for all men.  The Bible says “…it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment…”
    2. Sin is the cause of sickness and death.  After the sin in the Garden of Eden, God said to Adam, “Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life;”
    3. Hospitals can prolong our earthly life, but they cannot provide eternal life.  Man can sustain physical bodily functions for a period of time through the marvels of modern medicine….he can even provide a better life than without their services, but man cannot stop the occurrence of sickness, pain and our eventual death.
  2. Healing is possible by Christ’s Death on the Cross, and is made permissible by His Redemptive Love
    1. Isaiah 53:5 “But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.”
    2. James 5:16 says, “pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.”
    3. Mental and relationship healing also comes from God.  Many times, our lives are turned upside down by choices.  Choices that we make, or choices made by others that impact us.  God’s provision for healing of the mind is part of His Divine plan for healing.  Thank God, He heals our minds.
  3. Healing is pre-arranged according to God’s Plan for a person’s life.
    1. God did not ever promise physical healing for every person.  His provision instead provided for healing for the soul of man, and the provision for eternal life.  However, in some cases, God chooses to heal man’s body while they are alive.  Maybe you know someone that has been healed by God’s touch.
    2. All who are physically healed still die at the end of their lives.  Lazarus was raised from the dead by Jesus Himself, but he died again later.  The blind man was healed and allowed to see, but he died later as well.  Physical healing in this life is provided as God sees fit to those He deems should receive it.  It is a blessing that is not necessarily provided to every man—it is provided by God to some according to His Divine plan for their lives.  However, perfect healing is possible for all men, because man will live in a perfect place with a perfected “new body” for all eternity when we leave this life.
    3. Not all who are sick receive physical healing before the end of their lives.  My youngest son, Drew (who will assist in officiating in this service) suffered a massive stroke at the age of five.  He was paralyzed completely on one side.  The doctors said that he would be in the hospital for six months and have rehabilitation for a year or more; and that we could never expect our son to be normal again.  But, after only 8 days in the hospital, Drew walked out.  He ran to me as I sat on the sidewalk in tears as he leaped into my arms.  God had healed him!  He is living a normal life to this day.  But, when I got back to work, a good friend avoided me for days.  When I finally cornered him in his office and asked him what I had done to offend him, he wept as he showed me a picture of him and a five year old boy.  His son, who had died of leukemia just two years previous.  “I am thrilled that God healed your son.  But, why did he not heal mine?”  I said, “He did.  He just healed your son more perfectly than mine.”
  4. The end of life is the accomplishment of true healing—to those that know Him as their Savior.
    1. Perfect Healing is found in Heaven; but not on earth.  God has created a wonderful place that we call Heaven, and has a reservation for each of us.  All we have to do is accept it.
    2. Perfect Healing is perfect.  No more sickness, no pain.  No more night to grope around in.  And, God Himself shall wipe away every tear.

    Conclusion:

    Whether a person is cured by modern medicine or healed physically by a touch from God, these people all have one thing in common with the rest of the world….all of us eventually die.  Even Lazarus; whom Jesus raised from the dead, ended up dying again.  Death is certain.  Death is coming to us all.  But, as Jake Hess used to say, “Death ain’t no big deal.”  That’s true if you know Christ as your Savior.  If you don’t know Christ, then death IS a big deal.

    The perfect healing that I’ve spoken of is reserved exclusively for those who accept Christ as their Savior in the here and now.  My mother found her perfect healing early this past Monday morning.  She is not suffering the horrible disease of Alzheimer’s any more.  Her body is not racked with the pain of severe diabetes any more.  All her confusion and worries are gone.  She has the true understanding of perfect healing now.

    It was my 5-year old Grand Daughter who said, “now, MawMaw knows who I am again!”  Yes, my sweet Makaylah, your MawMaw knows who you are.  She knows the rest of us, too.

    I hope each of you here today knows that you can have perfect healing awaiting you when you get Heaven, and that you have actually made your reservations; because you can’t get in without them.  If you haven’t, I beg you to do it…while you can.

    I’ve asked my nephew, Eric Whelchel; the youth and music minister at Lindale First Baptist Church to lead this prayer.  While Eric prays, if you have not yet made your reservation for perfect healing, now is a good time to do it.

My friend, you are loved with an everlasting love.  Never forget that.  God has perfect healing for you.  All you have to do is to make your reservations to receive it by accepting Christ as your Lord and Savior.

In Our Master’s Joyful Service,

Ed Smith

June 24, 2009 Posted by | A Bitter Life | Leave a comment

The End of a Bitter Journey…and Freedom

There is a song that truly speaks my feelings as to where I am in this whole thing in dealing with my Mother.  It’s called, “I’m Free.”  My favorite version (there are two) is performed by the Gaither Vocal Band or by Lynda Randle.  The chorus says it all,

“I’m free from the fear of tomorrow,
I’m free from the guilt of the past;
For I’ve traded my shackles for a glorious song,
I’m Free! Praise the Lord! Free at last!

As of today, I am the pastor of my home church; New Bethel Church in Silver Creek, GA (near Rome).  My parents are long time members of the church (although they did not attend regularly at all through the years).  Mom is in the nursing home in Rome, and is in the final stages of Alzheimer’s Disease.  She doesn’t recognize people most of the time, although there is a “familiarity” about us when we come in the room.  She has called my Dad (her husband) “Deddy” for over a year now.  She fell and broke her hip last October, and has not walked since.  Even in her terrible mental state, she still knows that she hates Dad.  It is absolutely amazing.  She can be laughing and having a “good day” until he walks in the room and speaks to her.  She snarls, tries to scratch, pinch, kick, hit…him over and over.  And, he does what he has always done.  He lets her do it.  She might not know his name, but she still hates him.   When she was in the hospital with a broken hip in October, all of us really thought “this is it.”  She appeared to be dying, according to her doctor.  Then, she rallied in early 2009.  Rallied physically, that is.  Her mental condition deteriorated more then than it has since she has had this disease.  Her doctor still says that he is amazed that she is even alive, but she is.  However, there is no doubt in any of the medical professional’s minds that she is in the last stages of the disease, since she has lost her own identity and has to be reminded to swallow when they feed her.  At this point in her life, and because of the severity of her disease, I can feel pity for her instead of anger.  I believe that is the truest sign that God has brought healing to me.  I still have difficulty when she lashes out at Dad, and often have to leave the room.  That still brings back too many memories to ignore.  And to think, Marie and I discussed the possibility of bringing her home back in January.  God protected us from a horrible mistake, I think.

Dad is still totally deaf, and unable to live alone any more.  Marie and I gave away our house last year (during the recession when NOTHING was selling) because it had set empty for a year while we stayed with Dad.  We took a bath for over $25,000.00 in equity that had built up in the house, but we stood to lose that much because the house was going down while it continued to set empty.  Besides, we had made the commitment to live with Dad as long as we could, so we had no other choice but to do what we did.  We are still “living” with Dad in Rome at his house now.  I have to admit, this is the toughest thing we’ve done since we got married.  It feels like we live “in somebody else’s house”—it’s tough to feel “at home.”  Dad is fairly easy to get along with, although in a lot of ways, he is a typical “quirky old man.”  He misses his freedom, but he  wants to go with us everywhere we go.  He was the first of my family to attend any of our kid’s weddings—he was at Drew’s wedding last summer.  On occasion, he has come to my office (utility building we put in the back yard at his house) and told me, “Go to bed right NOW!”  Kinda like I was 10 years old again or something.  Ah, we deal with that just fine.

The only problem I am experiencing now on a continual basis is that those old memories of childhood are now crashing back into my mind more and more frequently these days.  They come into my mind vividly while I walk through the yard or through the house.  They are often triggered by something Dad says or does—innocently, of course.  Sometimes those restored memories are triggered sounds or smells, or by looking at the lay of the land and remembering differences from then to now.  In the past, I’ve talked about “suppressed memories” before to other people when I was counseling with them, but until now, this is the first time I realized I had them myself!  They are bitter / sweet as they come forth from the recesses of my mind.  Bitter as gall when they come out, but sweet once they are gone because I am feeling the healing as they leave.  For the first time in my life, I feel like I am actually dealing with those feelings instead of simply putting them back into the “bottle” and sticking the cork back in.  Healing is a wonderful thing.

I realize that the remainder of my healing is a journey, just as the whole thing has been.  I realize that “I’m not there yet.”  That, in and of itself, is comforting.  I just don’t have to “get there” today.  I couldn’t do that, even if I were required to.   True healing, in a mental sense, is time consuming.  It took decades to clutter my mind with the feelings that have, for those same decades, caused me to misstep, or to make wrong or rash decisions.  But, God is not finished with me yet, and He is showing me the way…one baby step at a time!  God is good.

So, the best way I know to close this series on bitterness and my story relating to it is by giving you the words to that song that makes me cry every time I hear it…I’m Free.  Indeed, I am free!

So long I had searched for life’s meaning,
Enslaved by the world and my greed;
Then the door of the prison was opened by love,
For the ransom was paid – I was free.

Refrain
I’m free from the fear of tomorrow,
I’m free from the guilt of the past;
For I’ve traded my shackles for a glorious song,
I’m Free! Praise the Lord! Free at last!

I’m free from the guilt that I carried,
From that dull empty life I’m set free;
For when I met Jesus, He made me complete,
He forgot how foolish I used to be.

Refrain
I’m free from the fear of tomorrow,
I’m free from the guilt of the past;
For I’ve traded my shackles for a glorious song,
I’m Free! Praise the Lord! Free at last!

I’m free from the fear of tomorrow,
I’m free from the guilt of the past;
For I’ve traded my shackles for a glorious song,
I’m Free! Praise the Lord! Free at last!
I’m Free! Praise the Lord! Free at last!

Always Remember!  You are loved with an everlasting love.  God loves you, and has a special purpose for your life.  Get out there and find it!  Latch on to His hand, His plan, His way.  His ways are better than our ways.  Always.

In Our Master’s Joyful Service,

Ed Smith

June 3, 2009 Posted by | A Bitter Life | 1 Comment

I’ve got a right to be bitter

A root of bitterness, as the Bible calls it, is perhaps the worst human plight that can overtake a person.  A person who marinates in bitterness for decades is of all people, most miserable and wretched.  They learn to hate everybody and everything.  Nothing makes them happy.  They simply cannot imagine anybody else being happy, because there always has to be something wrong or suspect about any level of happiness demonstrated in the presence of the bitter person.  Although the person who has chosen to marinate in their own bitterness has the ability to demonstrate the appearance to everyone around them that all is OK with them, they are the most miserable people you can imagine on the inside.  I have met many bitter people in my pastoral career, and my own mother remains at the very top of that list.  My Mother marinated in her own bitterness for decades, hating the man she married (she said she married the wrong man), then blaming me for her continued unhappiness because I caught her in an affair when I was 10 years old and thwarted her plans to divorce Dad and marry her boyfriend.  My Mother was a seething bundle of bitterness when she got old—a young woman who’d grown more and more bitter as she grew old, until it devoured her completely.

It was just recently (in 2008) that I heard from my cousin (Mom’s niece) the confirmation of the source of my deepest pain.  I learned then for certain that the feelings of guilt that I’d carried for decades were not of my making at all, as I’d thought they were for decades.  I learned that it was not my leaving to “go to Mississippi” that caused Mom to be bitter as an old woman (she’d drilled that into my head for years); but the fact that she held me a grudge because I thwarted her plans to marry “Steve” was the real problem.  My cousin likely doesn’t know the depth of the relief she has provided to me by telling me that she knew the whole story…from the affair to the grudge she held against me…the whole story!  All those years, and I blamed myself…and the whole time it was that blasted affair and the subsequent blame Mom put on me that caused her bitterness….and made my life quite miserable at times.  I’ll never be able to thank my cousin enough for being honest with me and coming forward about those things.  I thought for all these years that I was the only human being in the world outside of Mom and her boyfriend that even knew about the “affair”—but Mom told her niece every gory detail…about the affair, the grudge, how she hated Marie….the whole thing!  It was then that I officially realized–and admitted that Mom’s bitterness was not caused by me.  I realized that, even if I would have lived in my home town all these years as she had demanded of me, she would have still been bitter because I would not have submitted my life and my family’s life to her in the deep manner she wanted me to.  She would have been bitter no matter what I did.  I finally realized that I couldn’t make her happy any more than I’d made her bitter in the first place.  It was her choice to harbor bitterness.  Although she, like all of us, had no control over the bad things that happened to her in her lifetime; she did have the choice of whether or not to harbor bitterness and let it grow—or let it go.  All of this has brought true healing to me—and I didn’t even realize I needed it as much as I did.

The absolute toughest part of this whole mess was how Mom felt about the woman I loved the most.  She chose to hate the woman I loved more than life itself.  She not only boycotted our marriage ceremony in 1979; she boycotted our marriage itself.  Her bitterness turned to hatred as the months and years passed.  She’d tell me (in a manipulative sort of way) that she loved me—what I mean is that she would say, “I love you, but I wish you’d quit a___ing around and get a real job.”  (She still hated the fact that I was in the ministry, and especially hated the part about “Christian Radio”—she would say mockingly when she spoke of either).  She kept on and on trying to get me to “come home and move in next door to her in Miss Lu’s house” (an elderly lady that died many years ago that was kind to Mom when I was a baby).  Every time a renter moved out of that house through the years, she’d call me to tell me that it was vacant again, and say, “why don’t you come home!  I’ll help you move!).  But, she always had a “condition” if I were to come home.  She’d say, “you’ll have to leave your b____ in Mississippi.”

After Marie and I had been married just over a year, we found out that we were expecting our first child.  What a blessing!  I was a senior at Wesley College when we found out that Marie was pregnant.  It was a tough semester financially, but God helped us through it.  Sometime before David was born (on July 9, 1981), I called Mom to get her answer to a question I’d asked some time before, “what do you want the kids to call you and Dad?”  She told me that her brothers used to call her “Jughead” when she was a kid, and that’s what she wanted our kids to call her!  Danny (my brother) and I used to call Dad “Popsie” (a “pet name”) when we were younger, so she said we could call him that.  Popsie and Jughead.  That is what she wanted our kids to call them.  She wasn’t kidding.  I told her that we were going to have our kids call Marie’s parents “Pappaw and Mammaw.”  (Good old Southern names!).  We were devastated that Mom displayed such a stinky attitude towards our children.

July 9, 1981.  I was fully expecting a girl (that was way before the days of ultrasound).  But, when the doctor said, “it’s a boy!”  Nobody had to tell me to smile for the cameras!  I had a son, and I was a very proud father.  Marie’s family was at the hospital, but my family once again chose not to participate in our lives.  Mom’s hostility towards us was constant.  I called her to tell her the baby had been born and that he was a boy.  I told her that we were going to name him after Dad (Dad’s name is Edward David Smith; we named our baby David Wayne Smith).  She mumbled something about us being so far away, and finally hung up.  I decided that her bad attitude simply had no room on that wonderful occasion, so I promptly went back to my family and enjoyed our new baby and the cameras.

Just over a month after he was born, I got a call that stunned me.  It was Mom.  She *never* called me.  I was always expected to call home (and pay the bill) because it was me that moved away; not her.  She told me that she and Dad wanted to visit us in Mississippi.  I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.  I think I almost fainted.  The next day, they drove to Collins, MS where we lived.  They got there around noon (they must have left at midnight), and stayed until 3:00PM that afternoon.  Three hours.  Then they drove home.  Now, we’re talking about a 7 hour drive each way.  They just refused to stay with us overnight—Mom simply wouldn’t stay in the house with Marie.  However, when Mom took one look at Dave’s face, she declared that he reminded her of me when I was a baby.  She also informed me then and there that she wanted the kids to call them Maw Maw and Paw Paw.  OK, now we have a Mammaw and Pappaw and a Maw Maw and Paw Paw.  Our kids were certain to be confused now!  But, we went along.

October 10, 1982.  Vernon Hilton Smith (our second son) was born.  I was the pastor of a church in middle Georgia by then, and were a bit closer to Mom.  That was my first real attempt to get close to home (there were many of those through the years).  The guilt I carried was enormous by then.  She told me that I’d ruined her life, and I believed her.  After all, I was the one that left home.  Our kids were quite unique:  Dave was a compliant child, Vern was our strong willed child.  They were as opposite as night and day.  We loved those boys dearly…they were such a blessing to have; and we felt the responsibility of raising them and trying to minister to a group of people at the same time.  By the time Vern was 2, he was into everything!  He had to touch everything in site, and then go explore until he found everything in the building that was hidden from him.  Christmas, 1983 was a royal disaster at Mom’s house.  Dave was quiet and was being entertained by Mom, who adored him and pampered his every whimper.  Vern was into everything, and Mom decided that he was just like his mother, so she shunned him.  Openly.  She made no secret that this one (Dave) was my son, and the other one (Vern) was his mother’s.

Christmas, 1984.  The partiality Mom showed Dave was huge and blatant.  Poor Vern was just left out, for the most part.  That Christmas, it was so bad that I refused all Christmas presents from Mom because of the huge pile she had for Dave and the little box she had for Vern.  She left right then and went to Wal-Mart and returned with an equal amount for Vern.  She never apologized, nor did she stop her partiality; although she did keep it in check.  She promised me that she wouldn’t do that again if I was “going to act that way about it” (reacting to my objection to the partiality).

Weeks before Christmas, 1985.  I called Mom to tell her that we had worked out a tentative Christmas schedule, and when I could get off from work to come home, etc.  During the conversation, she said to me, “why don’t you and the boys come home and leave her at home?”  I informed Mom that my wife comes with the package.  Take it or leave it.  She took it, and we came home for Christmas.  The usual garbage rolled that year, with the stabs and jabs when nobody was looking, etc.

Weeks before Christmas, 1986.  Same type call as the year before.  This time, Mom said, “why don’t you and the boys come and leave your b____ at home?”  I freaked out this time.  I told her that I would not subject my wife to that kind of garbage and that she wouldn’t talk that way about the woman I loved…then I hung up.  That was the first time I hung up on her—ever.  She called me back later that day and promised she wouldn’t do that again.  She never apologized.

The worst thing Mom ever did to us was in late 1988.  Things were tough for us that year.  I was the pastor of a tiny church that could not pay us much at all, and we had to drive a goodly distance to get there.  I also worked three part time jobs and did odd jobs on the side as well.  We still couldn’t make ends meet.  The cost of a family of five (Drew had been born by then) was tough for us.  It was during that time that I had an offer for a full time pastorate in extreme South Mississippi at an independent church near the coast, and a simultaneous offer to work as manager of an emerging Christian radio station in my hometown of Rome, GA.  I still wanted to go home….I thought things would get better between Mom and me if we lived closer, and I loved the idea of a job in a Christian radio station in my hometown!  I had gone to Rome one day for the final interview.  They told me that I had the job, and I could start the following Monday!  I had looked at a couple of rent-houses in Rome, and found one I thought we could afford.  Just before leaving to go back home, I stopped at Mom’s to tell her the good news.  I fully expected she would be elated.  Boy, was I wrong.  She said, “I just wish you’d quit A—–  around and get a real job!  You can’t play at a radio station and raise a family!  You ain’t worth a s— for nothing!”  She blew me away.  But, I was determined to make this happen, so I held my tongue.  Then, she hit me again.  She said, “OK, it is time.”  I said, “time for what?”  She said, “time for you to choose between me and that b—- you married!”  I cannot tell you how that felt.  I felt my heart sink down into my shoes.  Brokenhearted, I replied, “I’m sorry to find out that you really do feel this way.  If that is the case, I’ve already made my choice.  Goodbye, Mom.”  I left, not to call or contact her again for a full year.  We went to South Mississippi, another colossal mistake in my quest to makeup for my Mom’s misery.  She had my phone number, but she didn’t call me either.  I often wondered that had some family member died during that time—would they call me or not?  Now, I’ll never know.   As of that moment, I was ostracized.  Officially.

Ironically, it was Marie who encouraged me to call her and try to rebuild the bridge.  Christmas was coming up again, and she felt said that life is too short to hold a grudge.  She reminded me that I hadn’t done anything wrong in this.  I wanted to believe her, but the guilt Mom had heaped on me for so many years was constantly screaming at me.  I did finally make that phone call, and we went home that Christmas.  Nothing changed between Mom and me.  Nothing.  I tried so hard to rebuild the broken down wall, but she simply wouldn’t have it.

In February, 1991, our youngest son, Drew had a massive stroke.  He was only five years old then (he turned 5 December 15, 1990).  He was in Children’s Hospital in Birmingham.  When I called Mom to tell her the news, her response was, “well, Eddie (she refused to call me Ed, and usually said my name with a melancholy and sarcastic voice) why don’t you bring him to Rome?  You had no business taking him all the way to Birmingham!”  Can you imagine saying that to your son when your grandson is lying in bed with a stroke at age 5?  It really happened.  After we’d been at the hospital a full day or so, she informed me that she wanted to come to the hospital, but was afraid “for your Deddy (spelling deliberate) to drive in Birmingham).  I agreed to meet them at our house in Anniston.  When we got there, Dad’s brother and his wife, Frank and Dot had driven them from Rome.  I told them that I was in a big hurry when I got to the house to pick them up because they were going to take Drew (we called him Andy when he was a baby) to an MRI and I wanted to be there when they did that.  Once in my car and headed towards Birmingham, Mom started in.  She had never met Marie’s Dad, although she had met her Mom (Eleanor came to stay with us when our babies were born and my Mom had met her then).  Mom started in about all the things she was going to do when we got to the hospital.  There is a part of this story that I am omitting for personal reasons, suffice to say, Mom went into a major tirade.  I pulled the car over on the side of the road and threatened to take her back to her car if she didn’t stop that.  She promised she would, and we visited the hospital.  It was a nightmarish day, to say the least.  Now, we had nobody who could keep Dave and Vern back home.  Our elderly neighbor, “Aunt Freida” had kept them when we first took Drew to the hospital.  I asked Mom if they could come home with them for a few days until we could get better organized.  She agreed to take them home.  The very next morning, she called the hospital (Drew’s room) to tell me that I had to come and get those “wild Indians” right now!  They’re “making me nervous” and I can’t stand this anymore.  So, I had to leave my baby again and drive to Rome from Birmingham to pick up the boys.  Aunt Freida helped me in the daytime, and I came home every night to stay with them.  I would have been better if they had not gone with her, because she had “pumped” them for any and every bit of information about our lives she could learn….tidbits she’d use against us in upcoming days and months.

Years passed, and her bitterness kept growing and manifesting itself every time we had contact.  Then, in 2003, Mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.  She had gotten forgetful, to the point of harming herself.  Then, in 2006, I had major heart problems.  I had triple bypass surgery at UAB Hospital in Birmingham, and the procedure of inserting a heart pump was botched somehow.  The doctor admitted they tore a femoral artery while trying to insert the heart pump and had to remove it and go in the other groin.  He said there was a chance that they simply didn’t get the artery sealed, but evidence showed the artery was actually torn during the insertion attempt.  I nearly bled to death as a result.  I received over 40 units of blood in CCU, had to have two other major surgeries within 24 hours to find and repair the problem, and swelled up like a water balloon.  I was near death for a time, as the doctors were at the point they allowed Marie to stay with me as much as she wanted to in CCU; a privilege that is extended only when time is close for a patient.  God was not through with me, however, and He brought me through it.  I’ll share the rest of that miracle story in a later blog, if the Lord wills it.  Danny brought Mom and Dad down to see me at the hospital.  Mom’s disease had gotten bad enough that she was not able to be as careful about choosing her words as she once was.  My mother was a master when it came to presenting herself as a “sweet and likable” person to her peers….it was in private that her love / hate thing towards me showed its head—until Alzheimer’s.  Then, all “control” went out the window.

Once I finally got out of the hospital and got back up on my feet, I was still unable to travel a lot because of health-related restrictions.  However, I came to see Mom within 15 days of my discharge because I wanted her to see that I was going to live.  Shortly thereafter, her mental condition would deteriorate to the point of no return.

In February, 2007; it was my duty to drive to Rome and then drive Mom and Dad to the doctor’s office.  Their appointment was at 9:00 AM Eastern Time.  I had to drive 40 miles from Centre (where our home was located) to Rome.  And, for the first time in nearly 30 years, I forgot to allow for the time zone difference.  I thought I was to be early until I started the trip, then I realized I would be late if I didn’t hurry.  Knowing that Mom is the impatient person she is, and trying to avoid a tirade from her, I drove like a mad man.  I arrived at 9:05, and it took all of 10 minutes to get to the doctor’s office.  We were 15 minutes late.  Mom and Dad were in their car when I got there, and they were backed out of the garage sitting in the “turn around” spot in the driveway.  Mom had steam coming out of her ears.  The next three hours were the worst ever. She screamed at me.   She poured out 50 years of anger and bitterness in 3 hours.  She told me over and over that her Mother had ruined the first part of her life and I had taken care of the rest of it.  She told me how she hated my “Deddy,” and how she should never have married him in the first place.  She told me that I needed to divorce that “b____” and “leave her the h___ alone.”  On and on she went.  Now, folks, I am a strong person.  But, having survived that ordeal with my heart months prior had left me emotionally weaker than I’ve ever been.  It took me weeks to get past that nightmare.  People would tell me, “it’s just the disease speaking.”  Folks, it might have been the disease speaking, but she was saying the same old garbage to me that she always did…it was just out of control now.  Even as the Alzheimer’s progressed to the point that she didn’t recognize anybody at all, she would *always* shout and scream at Dad.  I have never seen anything like it.  She always knows that she hates him, even if she can’t remember his name.  Also, I am not always sure whether she thinks she’s addressing him or me—based on the few things that are intelligable.   I think it might be a combination of the two of us in her diseased mind that she’s addressing.  Only God knows for sure now.  Only once more did an episode of the magnitude of the doctor’s visit ever happen again.  It was on a Sunday afternoon only a few weeks after that, she got me again.  This one lasted over an hour until I could get some help to her room.  She pinched and kicked, cursed and swore, but still she repeated the same old junk over and over to me….a complete rehash of all the decades of anger, hatred and bitterness; and once again, the only difference was the fact that she was out of control—she said the exact same things again.

As I write this blog today, Mom is in a nursing home in the final stages of Alzheimer’s.  The disease has progressed to the stages where she forgets to swallow when she eats.  She fell last October and broke her hip, and has not walked since.  She does not call us by name anymore, except in that very rare occasion when we think she knows who we are—no way to be completely sure, though.  She has not called me by name in a very long time.  And, every time she sees Dad, she still mocks him and curses him because he doesn’t understand the mumbo jumbo she spouts.   But, she still knows she hates him.  It is amazing.  That fact never changes.  That is what bitterness will do to anyone, like my Mother who said for decades, “I’ve got a right to be bitter.”  Perhaps you do, but you’ll pay the price if you choose to exercise that “right.”

So, if you know anyone who is struggling with bitterness, PLEASE!  Do everything in your power to encourage them to lay down that bitterness.  If they voluntarily carry it, it will devour them; soul, body and mind.  After all, who is it the Bible says is “roaming about seeking whom he may devour…?”  Someone asked me recently if I had gotten bitter over the way Mom treated me.  My response was, and is that I am most assuredly not bitter—but I have had to knock it down many times when it tried to invade my life.  I have dealt with a mountainous pile of anger…working through it like one would dig through the rock to reach the gold underneath.  Yes, I have had “issues”—might always have them.  But, God is faithful and has made me stronger than I have ever been because I kept looking to Him for strength during the hardest of times.  God’s people have encouraged me as they have learned of this situation.  And, God has a wonderful sense of humor.  As much as Mom opposed my going into the ministry and fought so diligently to force me to quit, I am now her pastor.  That’s right.  I am the pastor of my home church, the church where Mom and Dad are long time members.  And, my youngest son, Drew and I are slated to preach her funeral (at her request).  Marie and I sacrificed our house in Centre, AL and moved in with Dad in Rome because he can no longer live alone due to his health problems and his being deaf.  Mom’s friends that thought Marie was the “wicked witch of the west” because of her lies now love her because they know her.  Whether or not we live in Rome the rest of our lives is completely in God’s hands—He knows the pain that now accompanies our living here, and whether He’ll heal us of it or deliver us from it….His plan for us is perfect, and we have accepted it long before we know what it is.  But, for the time being, God has us here, and as long as He has us here, we will serve here as best we can for as long as He keeps us here.  Then, if and when God opens doors to the next phase of our ministry (we plan to buy or build an FM radio station and build a radio network and Internet network…this is the same plan we’ve had for years), we are ready for it to happen when He is.  My journey with my Mother is almost complete.  The past is safely in God’s capable Hands, where it belongs.  Now, I pray that God can use my story to help someone else that is hurting over bitterness.

Always remember that you are loved with an everlasting love.  Never, ever forget that.  Love is bigger and better than hatred, anger or bitterness.  Love conquers all.  Perfect love sets the soul free.  “Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude.   It does not demand its own way.   It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged.   It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out.   Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.”  1 Corinthians 13:4-7.   My precious child, God loves you, and has a perfect plan for your life.  Don’t let the enemy allow anger to settle in your heart and cause you to become bitter.  And, if you already have bitterness in your life, let Jesus tear it out.  Love Jesus.  He will fill your heart with love and rid you of bitterness.  It’s a lot better here than there.  I’ve seen bitterness first hand, and I make the daily choice myself not to be bitter.  It can be done—with God’s help.  I’m living proof of that.

In Our Master’s Joyful Service,

Ed Smith

May 31, 2009 Posted by | A Bitter Life | Leave a comment

My Love Song for Number Two

If the Lord wills it, and tarries His coming, Marie and I will celebrate 30 years of marriage this July 6, 2009 (only a few weeks from the time of the writing of this post).  As a youngster, I never knew it was possible for one human being to love another as much as I love her.  We started out as best friends.  We still are.  Marie and I have now raised three fine boys (all young men now)—all married, and we have six grand children.  Wow, how time flies.  But, for her, life has not been “normal” in many ways.  You see, I am a dreamer.  Have been all of my life.  Sometimes, my dreams would turn into nightmares, and she was always there to help me pick up the pieces and start all over.  No matter what I said that we’re going to do, she was always supportive.  Please understand, she would share her truest and deepest feelings with me, but ultimately she ALWAYS left the final decision up to me…even if she thought it was the wrong one (and many times she was right).  The best way I know of to explain how I feel about her constant belief in me is in the lyrics of a Country song.  It is Kenny Roger’s song, “She Believes in Me”—especially the chorus “…she believes in me, Ill never know just what she sees in me.  I told her someday if she was my girl, I could change the world With my little songs, I was wrong.  But she has faith in me, and so I go on trying faithfully…”  Marie has always believed in me.  I will thank God for her for all of eternity.

I met Marie at Wesley College on Sunday afternoon, August 21, 1977.  My first year at Wesley College had ended back in May.  Knowing that I had no other choice for the summer, I had contacted my old boss at the cotton mill back home and gotten a summer job.  Yes, I was going home.  Horror of horrors for me.  It was a summer of constant put-downs, demanding that I not return to college in the Fall, and (of course) Mom’s favorite line decorated my existence multiple times daily (“you ain’t worth a s___ for nothing!”).  By the beginning of August that summer, I had taken all I could take.  During the summer, I had talked with a young lady from Wesley that was working in the office over the summer…a dear friend, Naomi Birdwell (Ray is her married name).  Naomi and I spoke on the phone several times over the summer.  Naomi saved my life that summer.  She put my name “in the right place” so that I was able to come back to college a week early and work in the dorms to cover my “rent.”  On that Sunday afternoon, August 21, I saw someone from the girl’s dorm who told me that the water heater was acting up again, and there was no hot water.  So, I went in to work on it.  The old water heater there was a commercial gas heater that had many “issues.”  I had learned that if I cleaned part of the igniter apparatus, the heater would light and run for a week or two.  The college simply did not have the budget to replace the old “boat anchor.”  That day, I had spent some extra time doing an especially good job cleaning the thing so that it would work.  Now, there was a good bit of soot inside the burner box…it was HOT that day and I was perspiring heavily.  Without realizing it, I had wiped my forehead and face with my sooty hands, leaving huge black splotches on my face.  When I came out of the heater closet, sweat pouring from my entire body from the heat and black with soot, Marie came in the lower end door (near the street) carrying two suit cases and she had something or other draped over her shoulder.  She looked like she was having a difficult time carrying it.  So, Mr. Gentleman that I was, I ran down the hall and grabbed her two suitcases and helped her to her room.  When she got there, I looked on the door and saw “Marie Purvis” and “Ginger McCarver” on the door.  Now, I knew both of their older sisters (Karen Purvis Smith and Marilyn McCarver—sorry, I don’t know her married name).  Looking at Marie, I immediately surmised that she was Karen’s sister, Marie.  She was impressed that I knew her name!  We talked a bit, and she hurriedly went back outside to say goodbye to her parents.  Little did I know that her “boyfriend” was lurking outside, too.  Well, she always said that he was the only boy she  had a “real date” with besides me.  OK, he didn’t have a chance!!  (Sorry, buddy!  God had other plans!).  I am amazed that, even with a sooty face and nasty with perspiration, she still loved me!  Just took her a while to admit it.

Later that day, I saw my then best friend in the world (the very first one of those I’d ever had), Gary Truitt.  Gary and I were as opposite as night and day, but somehow we became friends.  We looked like “Mormon on Missionary Service (white shirt, black tie and no smile) meets hippy from Woodstock!”  I’ll let you figure out which one I was!   I told Gary that I’d met my “bride to be” today.  He got a real good laugh out of that one!  (Gary ended up being my “best man” two years later).

It took the whole school year and part of the next summer before Marie and I were to get together.  I always said our first date was in December, 1977.  She finally agreed that it was, indeed a date.  Many of the girls in the dorm were sick with the flu.  Marie was spared, but ended up being “Mama” to the sick girls.  She was exhausted, hadn’t eaten all day (it was around 6:00PM), and about to drop, but so hungry!  I told her that I wouldn’t take no for an answer, and I took her to Dairy Queen in Pearl!  (not much else to choose from back then).  My love for her was growing even then, although Gary was right when he said, “she won’t give you the time of day…”—Marie called me her “big brother.”  I had a long way to go.

The end of the school finally came.  The day finals ended and most of the students (except the choir) had left for the summer, I said goodbye to Marie.  She told me the day before that she wasn’t coming back in the Fall.  My heart sank into the depths.  I cried all night and most of the day before we left for tour.  I’d never cried over a girl in my life…I never cried at all in those days.   I had it bad.  Finally, the choir left for tour and I immersed myself in my work with them.

I had worked out a grand scheme for the summer in Florence instead of going home, but my plans fell apart the very day the choir got back from tour—now I had no place to stay over the summer in Florence.  The dorms would close the next day, and I had only hours to find a place to stay or go home, and I couldn’t even imagine doing that again.  I did have a job, but it only paid minimum wage…not enough to rent a place by myself.  Just as I was about to call home and try to go back to the cotton mill again, Karen’s (Marie’s sister) husband saw me on campus and told me he had heard about my dilemma.  He ended up renting me their extra bedroom!  Now, I was set to stay in Florence for the summer instead of going back home.  But, I was very sad; as I thought that there was not a chance for Marie and I to get together.  But, God was at work!

About three weeks into the summer, I came in from town one afternoon and Karen was on the phone.  I headed to my room, but she stopped me.  She said someone was on the phone that wanted to talk to me.  It was her!  Marie invited me to come down to her Dad’s church the following Sunday, and I accepted.  Boy, was I glad that I was staying with Karen and her husband that summer!  I worked all night the Saturday night before, but that didn’t matter.  I left early Sunday morning and found my way to Bay Springs, MS to the church.  We sat together in the choir, and I stayed for lunch.  Unbeknownst to me, an old family friend of the Purvis family had popped in that day.  They knew them from Fort Worth, so this was a rare visit.  After I left, the lady asked Marie, “who is your boyfriend?”  Marie told her that I was NOT her boyfriend, but I was her “big brother,” and the reply came back, “girl, if you can’t see the love in that boy’s eyes, you’re blind!”  So,Marie then had a dilemma of her own.  She didn’t know what to do next because of a part of the story that I won’t share here.  So, she asked her Dad for his advice on the situation.  He told her to follow her heart and she’d know what to do.  Since you know the end of the story already, you know what she did.

Marie had told me during my visit on that Sunday that she was planning to come up to the college campus where the Mississippi Youth Camp was meeting in just over a week from that day.  She drove up every evening (she was working during the day), and we saw each other every night that week.  It was great!  It was during that week that we had our first real-live date!  I was the happiest person on the entire planet!  I saw her regularly for several weeks thereafter.  Then, on Friday, July 21, I showed up at her house for a surprise visit—packing an engagement ring!  She said, “YES!”  I found my lifelong best friend that day.  I also found joy like I’d never felt before as I watched God bless me with a human relationship that He had ordained.  Our engagement lasted just shy of a year before we were married.  Our original wedding date was in December, 1979, but we moved it up to late summer of that year because we thought it would be better to get married in the summer than in the middle of the school year (great excuse!).

I went home that next summer, thinking that it would be my last summer at home.  School ended in early May, 1979, and I had plans to stay home until just before our wedding in late August; just before school resumed for the Fall Semester.  However, Mom totally freaked out from day one at home, and that series of events forced us to change our wedding plans.  Mom had gotten extremely nosy…to the point of major intrusion…she allowed me no privacy, and was determined to gather every detail to use as “fodder” for her tirades against me—then, I found out many years later that she had actually tried to find some “reason” to stop our wedding in its tracks because she was determined that it was not going to happen.  I knew that summer that she’d snooped through my dresser drawers and read some letters Marie had sent me in days previous that contained some very private things that Mom should have never found out about.   Sorry, I cannot discuss the details of those letters here.  Suffice to say, we ended up moving our wedding date up to July 6 because of Mom’s barrage of attacks against us.  Mom ended up boycotting our wedding, she also demanded that none of my family drive to Bay Springs for the wedding.  My youth group sat on the groom’s side of the sanctuary where my family should have been.   Then, she boycotted our marriage—from day one until Alzheimer’s destroyed her mind.  Now, all she knows is that she hates my Dad…and me, if she realizes who I am (which is very rare now).  Mom hated Marie from the day she met her.   More about that next post.  So, without my Mother’s blessings, and without my family’s presence at all at our wedding, Marie and I were married July 6, 1979.

In spite of my Mom’s bitterness and outright hatred for the man and minister of the Gospel that I’d become, I had found true happiness and love that has grown and flourished over all these years.   The most amazing thing to me is that my sweet wife has gone back repeatedly to Mom’s house through the years trying to build a bridge to her.  And, when things got tough and Mom attacked ruthlessly, Marie would cry an ocean of tears alongside me over her—but she was always willing to go back and try one more time, in spite of it all.  There is only one reason she did all that:  it is because she loved me that much.

The years have brought a mix of good and bad.  The bitter attacks we endured, the physical problems we’ve lived through (our youngest son had a stroke when he was five years old; then there are my ongoing heart problems), to the joy of watching our kids grow into adults and have children of their own and so much more.  But, through it all, God has been with us every step of the way.  One thing we learned early on was a thing I heard about called the “triangle” principle.  With each of us occupying a place at the bottom angles of the triangle and God occupying the top spot, we automatically draw closer to each other as we draw closer to God.  It’s a great principle!

In the early 1980’s, I heard a song written and sung by Mickie and Becky Moore titled, “Love Song for Number Two.”   The first time Marie ever heard the song was when I surprised her by playing it on the radio on our anniversary that year and dedicating it to her.  Ever since that day, we have adopted it as our marriage “theme song,” and have lived in its truth all these years.  “It’s not that I love you less than best, for each day I love you more and more and more.  But there can be only one first place in my heart, and you know who that’s for.  Jesus is number one in my life, so second place will have to do for you.  And I’m counting on spending the rest of my life in love with the two of you.”  To this day, “Love Song for Number Two” is “our song.”

Never forget, you are loved with an everlasting love.  God loves you, and has a perfect plan for your life.  Never give up.  Never surrender to anyone except for God, then surrender it all to Him.  He will bring you through the storms.

In Our Master’s Joyful Service,

Ed Smith

May 25, 2009 Posted by | A Bitter Life | 1 Comment

Finding Myself at Wesley College

Life at Wesley College was good for me.  My first semester, I tried to get involved in every extra-curricular activity on campus.  I took 19 hours of classes, sang in and traveled with the choir, joined the Missionary Prayer Band and the Ministerial Union, did fill-in preaching on some weekends, worked on campus 20+ hours per week,  worked at auto parts warehouse for a time,—and went to work for WJXN (Christian radio!!) in September,  just weeks after arriving on campus!!!  (I did some light production work and sales…., and found time to date a girl or two.  Whew!  I’m not sure just how I did all that!  It makes me dizzy now just thinking about it.

The best part is that God was at work in my life.  I had “escaped” from the tyranny of a bitter mother.  I thought of Danny often, and the horrible things he must be going through.   I was really blown away when I went home for the first visit in October (had been at school 5 weeks by then) to discover that Danny had moved into that place in Mom’s “limelight” that he always wanted.  He told me while I was there for that visit that I’d “hurt Mom by going to Mississippi” and that I could just “stay away and not come home” for all he cared.  Not exactly what I was expecting.

One thing I failed to mention is that my Dad was always a car enthusiast.  More like his cars were his “status symbol” that said to the world, “I’ve made it” because he had a nice car and a nice truck.  So, he constantly rode me while I was in high school to work harder and buy me a car!  The first one I ever owned was Mom and Dad’s old 1962 Impala.  It was a land yacht.  Needed hinges to turn a 90 degree turn.  Wow.  Those were the good old days, indeed.  One of the ways Mom tried to control me was to give me things—with strings attached.  The Impala, they agreed to sell to me for $200.00, but when I paid for my new eyeglasses and contact lenses; at a cost of $125.00, she “gave me credit” towards the purchase of the car.  But, she told me that if she did that, I’d have to honor her curfew very strictly.  She used that one even after I was married and brought the family home for a visit.  No kidding.  After the Impala, Dad started on me to buy another car.  I wanted a Road Runner, but settled for a Plymouth Satellite.  I always loved that car, even though it had some mechanical “issues.”  After I’d spent several hundred dollars getting it all fixed up, Dad decided it was a lemon and started in on me to buy another one.  Being the mature high school kid I was, I turned him down.  If you believe that, I have some land I’d like to sell you just off the coast of Florida!  I bought a 1974 Gran Torino (Ford, similar to Starsky and Hutch’s on TV).  That is the car I drove to Wesley College in 1976.  It was indeed, a lemon.  Got about 6 mpg and 150 mpg on oil.  I’d pull into one of those “full service” gas stations, pop the hood and say, “fill ‘er up at both ends, please!).   I’d wanted to “trade down” to an older car the summer before I left to go to school, but Mom would not have it.  She successfully blocked the deal I’d already arranged, so I had to keep the lemon—for the time being.

I decided after driving that bomb to Wesley that it needed to go.  It would not run most of the time, and when it did run it was a disaster.  So, I called a buddy back home just before my first visit back home and made arrangements to sell it to a dealer for the payoff—and just a bit over.  Well, the mushroom cloud was nearly as big as it was the day I left for school when I got home and announced my intentions to Mother.  Mom absolutely refused to allow me to sell the car, saying, “If you keep that car, you’ll have to come home and go to work to make the payments!  It’s your car—you pay for it!  I won’t let you sell it!”  I tried to reason with her, and seeing that she was so obstinate, I told her that if she would not let me sell the car while I had this last chance, I’d just have to leave it behind and let her deal with it.

Dad came through again (the second time and final time he stood up to her).   He took me to the dealer and I sold the car.  Just as we were about to leave, Mom threatened Dad by telling him that if he let me do this, he could just pack his bags and leave.  Dad looked her, and with a tone I had never heard him use (and have not heard repeated to this very day), he said to her, “woman, this is my house, too.  If anybody leaves, it will be you.  Not me.”  Woe!  I’d never experienced anything like that at all.

So, I sold the car and rode back to college in Mississippi with my dear friends, Tony and Trish Brown.  It seemed as though the apron strings were indeed cut.  Or so I thought.

I went with the Missionary Prayer Band to Mexico that December, right after Christmas.  I had the time of my life there!  Missions work had gotten in my blood!  I simply couldn’t imagine not being involved with missions somehow the rest of my life.  That passion for missions has remained until this very day.

I continued in college, dropping back to part time for 2 semesters to allow me to work and catch up on my bills.

There were many memorable times during my college experience.  The best experience of my life, outside of my conversion to Christ, was meeting and marrying my wife of 30 years.  I loved her from the very minute I laid eyes on her, and my love has grown into a lifetime love.

I’ll tell you about Marie in my next post.

Until then, remember that you are loved with an everlasting love.  God loves you, and has a purpose for your life.  Thank you for being a part of my life, and I pray that God blesses you richly.

In Our Master’s Joyful Service,

Ed Smith

May 21, 2009 Posted by | A Bitter Life | Leave a comment

Leaving the Nest….off to college!

Sunday, August 22, 1976. A day that will live in infamy! No, this day has no national significance. It does not compare in scope to December 7, 1941, the day the empire of Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, and prompted the famous quote by President Roosevelt in his speech to the nation the next day. August 22, 1976 will live in infamy in my heart, that much is for sure. It is the day that I left home to go to Wesley College, and the day I left the nest.

Before I get to the events of that date, I would like to back up a bit.  It was in the spring of 1975, and again in Spring, 1976 that I had attended “youth retreat” at Wesley College with my church group.  Danny went with us the first year, but not the second year.  1975 was a memorable experience for me, as both of us left our “hanging clothes” at home.  Danny freaked out and called Mom.  I didn’t want to talk to her, as I had “escaped” for a few days.  I bought a tee-shirt each of the two days we were there, and wore the same pants all throughout the period—no problem for an enterprising guy like me.  Good thing I didn’t have too much athletic activity, though!  I had the time of my life!  I met people that were distinctly Christian, and were genuine people!  This was just great.   Danny was miserable and promptly hated it.  I think that was due to the fact that Mom wailed so much because we were both “so far from home.”  Those youth retreats were the “icing on the cake” for me, because afterward, I KNEW I’d “find myself at Wesley College.”  (a later slogan of my Alma Mater.)

The final two weeks before my departure were significant in my experience and in the confirmation that I was taking the right steps by going to college.  My home church (New Bethel) had just finished VBS a week or so prior, and I had been a big part of it.  It was a wonderful week, although it worked me until I thought I’d drop.  I worked my regular job at the cotton mill, then came home and got cleaned up.  After that, I’d go to the church and prepare for the evening’s classes.  By 4:30PM, I was on the road in the church’s bus to pick up kids.   VBS started at 6:00, and the bus was anything but dependable, so I always left early.  I had worked out checkpoints along the way, and if I didn’t pass certain housesby a certain time and blow the horn, somebody would come looking for us (Oh, if only we had cell phones in those days!).   VBS was over at 9:00PM, and I would come dragging in the door at home around 10:00.  Mom was always livid because I was out so late, but she “let me do it,” since it was church work I was involved in.  I didn’t realize then how much I was hiding behind “church work” to avoid Mom at the time; although I did truly love my work for the Lord.  During VBS week, I had a financial crisis.  One day, the bus wouldn’t budge!  I was already running late that day…one of those days that things just wouldn’t come together.  So, I decided that I could three trips in my car to pick up the kids.  But, there was still a problem.  I had no money at hand, and the bank was closed (Oh, for a debit card!). So, I prayed that God would help me with this problem.  But, the debate raged inside of me.  Have faith in God that He’d make a way if I’d just “step out on faith,” or just not go to VBS tonight.  After all, nobody could fault me because they all knew I had socked every penny away so that I could go to school….  But, when I prayed, I felt that “Holy Spirit tug” that I’d felt so many times before.  It seemed that the Holy Spirit led me to wear a plaid sports coat that I hadn’t worn in a while.  I didn’t particularly like it, but I thought, “why not!”  Just as I put the coat on, I stuck my hand in the pocket….and pulled out a $10.00 dollar bill!  Now, careful me did not put it there!!  I’d worn that coat since I started saving money, and I had accounted for every penny!  To this day, I don’t know where the money came from.  But, it gave me a strong signal that God was directing my steps.  I willingly followed His lead, and He blessed me tremendously!    That particular day in my life was a real test for me; it had already been tough because Mom had been especially hard on me that day.  I was a bit depressed and feeling the pressure of it all. I had even thought that maybe I was making a mistake and that I could simply leave home and not go through with all of this college stuff!  After all, I really did hate school, except for electronics!  However, I thought I would love Bible classes, but I wasn’t sure about the other classes, and I knew God wanted me to go.  So, God simply gave me a new confidence and assurance that I was in the center of His will by providing the way to do what He had called me to do.  God is faithful.

Just days prior to August 22, I had finished months of saving and preparation for that long awaited day.  The money was in the bank (at least as much as I could sock away), my clothes and personal belongings were packed, the car was serviced, and I was ready to go.  The Saturday prior, I had loaded most of my belongings in the car in preparation for an early departure.  Mom railed all day on me that day, telling me that I was wasting my time…she said, “there is no way in h___ that I’ll let you go to Mississippi!”  But, when she saw that I was undaunted by her tirades, she would turn in disgust and exclaim, “you ain’t worth a s___ for nothing!”  (her famous line again).  Looking back, I had really tried to win her blessings that year, as my pastor had admonished me to do a year prior.  But, no matter how I tried, she wouldn’t have it.  She was absolutely determined to stop me.Sunday morning finally arrived.  I got up early and showered.  I was ready to leave about 45 minutes early.  Just as I was about to leave home, Mom blocked the door and refused to let me pass.  She wailed and screamed.  She tried to hit and pinch me (never did that before).  I just waited patiently until she tired of screaming, and said, “will you let me through now?”  She started wailing again.  This time, my Dad stepped in.  He said to Mom, “let him go.  You have to let him go.”  She looked him in the eyes and said, “I hate you!  You ain’t worth a s___ for nothing!”  The only time I ever remember hearing those words directed from her to him.  Dad didn’t understand them all.  At least, I don’t think he did.

I had pulled enough cash from my most recent paycheck to get me to Wesley—a 7+ hour drive from Rome, GA to Florence, MS.  I didn’t have good directions, and was too dumb to buy a map, so off I went.  It took me nearly 10 hours to make the 7 hour trip.

When I arrived on campus, I called home to let them all know that I’d arrived safely.  Mom wailed again, saying, “I thought you were on the way back home!  Are you coming home?”  I told her that I was at school, and planned to go to college.  I told her that I was sorry she would not give me her blessing, but it is now time for me to do what I am called to do.  She hung up on me.

My college experience was somewhat bumpy.  I’ll talk about that next time.

Until then, remember that you are loved with an everlasting love.  God loves you, and has a plan for your life.  He does not expect you to be perfect, just faithful.  May God richly bless your life.

In Our Master’s Joyful Service,

Ed Smith

May 20, 2009 Posted by | A Bitter Life | Leave a comment

My dysfunctional family

I hear the word “dysfunctional” a lot these days.  As a pastor for nearly 33 years, believe me; I’ve seen and heard it all.  I remember one time a frantic wife called me at home late at night to inform me that her truck driving husband had brought his girlfriend home with him that evening!  He said that he felt sorry for her and couldn’t “dump her.”  He had 4 kids at home.  That situation went from bad to worse when the wife gradually accepted the girlfriend living in the house with them for a time.  Then, there was the situation where the husband was beating the tar out of his wife repeatedly.  He put her in the hospital several times.  Then, one day, he “kidnapped” their 10 year old son….she didn’t see him or even know for sure he was alive for weeks.  One day, the hubby came home stone drunk with the kid, then passed out cold on the couch.  She called me and asked me “what do I do?”   I said, “get that kid and get yourself out of there as fast as you can while you can!”  She took the family car to the bus station where Marie and I met her and gave her some money…and since then, I’ve only had one contact from her to this day.  She sent me a Christmas card that year telling me she had moved up North in the US to live with a relative.  She told me that our radio ministry had saved her life (her first contact with me was a call to the station to inform me she was going to kill herself unless I could give her a reason not to)…She said that she had not been able to find the courage to file for divorce yet, but she was planning to do so in the Spring.  She said she was back in church and had her “mind back” since moving out of her situation.

“Dysfunctional” can take on many meanings, depending on whom you talk to for a definition.  Most counselors would, however, agree on a few basics that define dysfunctional when it comes to a family.  The common areas are generally:  abuse of some type (physical, verbal, sexual, etc) has occurred; or within a single family unit,  “open relationships” are a way of life—that is to say, there are multiple sex partners in the home.  Other basic things are often agreed upon as definitions to basic dysfunction, but I’ll not spend more time on that now.  Suffice to say, my home life as a child would qualify as “dysfunctional” by most standards.  Read on, and I’ll tell you why I think that is so.

My mother hated my Dad—she said she didn’t hate him, but if you could have been a “fly on the wall” at my house, you’d agree with me.  She criticized him, mocked him because of his speech impediment because of his hearing loss and generally told the world that she didn’t love him and never would.  She lived with him anyway “because it is the right thing to do.”  Her “godly” mother had drilled that into her head, and she could not break her mother’s spell—that would infuriate her when she realized her mother still had control over her, even “after she is dead.”  Dad loved Mom, but he did not know how to show that to her…I don’t recall him demonstrating love to her at all.  I always knew he loved me…I can’t tell you why, but I just knew it.   I never heard either of the two of them say, “I love you” to the other.  I never saw them kiss.  He never brought her flowers.  She never did anything for him at Christmas or his birthday, other than “token” gifts..everything they did was “for the kids.”  They never spent time together—quality time or otherwise.  When we went somewhere as a family, Mom always walked way ahead of everybody else, usually complaining that we were all behind her.  Dad was slow, and she was always embarrassed being seen with that “stupid idiot”—I usually hung back with Dad just so he didn’t look like the idiot she was treating him like.  Dad lived with guilt most all of his married life—he lives with guilt to this very day.  He felt that his deafness was the source of Mom’s bitterness and unhappiness, and that he somehow deserved to be treated the way she did.   He blamed himself that she was not happy.  He would not talk much at all–to anybody any time…because Mom would always scold him when he tried to talk, telling him she couldn’t hear him because he spoke too softly; or by telling him to shut up because he was talking too loud.  Mom would mock him when he mispronounced a word.  To this day, when I see a “napkin,” I think of her mocking him as he said, “nippin.”  He called a “strap” a “strop.”  And she’d mock him…mercilessly.  And, always behind his back.  Never to his face.  She would not allow him to take sign language training—she’d tell him that it was “stupid” and a waste of time.  After I accidentally caught her in that affair at age 10,  she got more bitter as each day passed.  She would stab at Dad and me quite often.  She would catch me alone and use her “line” on me repeatedly.  She would belly ache and have tyrannical fits that would go on and on about how unhappy she was, and how she doesn’t “love your Daddy.”  She told me she hated me—repeatedly.  She would then whimper like she was about to cry, and say,   “I love you, but (there was always a bit of sarcasm in her voice when she told me she loved me….but you ought to {fill with today’s tirade info}).   She would say that she missed her last chance for happiness, but dummy me didn’t pick up on the fact that she was talking about my foiling that stupid affair.  She controlled me as a teenager.  When I got my driver’s license at age 16, she informed me that I was not to drive on Broad Street in Rome until I was 18.  If I went out on a date, I was to be home by 8:00.  On Friday night!  I was forbidden from taking part in any extra-curricular activities such as Band, athletics, etc.  I was to march my tail home from school and be home every day—-I was to be home by the time they got home from work at 3:15.  No exceptions.   Once, she actually picked a girlfriend for me—one of her friend’s daughters.  That went over with me like a lead balloon.  She told me that I was totally “stupid,” and used her favorite line on me when I refused to date this girl.  I did not do what she wanted me to much of the time, and she continually told me that I was rebellious and that I wouldn’t do anything she wanted me to do.  I began to think of myself as useless and in her way.

I could go on and on with descriptions of my dysfunctional home.  However, I need to tell you that the most hurtful part of all this to me was the wedge she drove between my younger brother, Danny, and me.  I always loved my kid brother, but her favoritism towards me hurt him and I hated it.  Danny and I were fairly happy and normal boys until “the incident.”   If you will remember from one of my previous posts, she “worshiped” me when I was born and during the early years of my life.  She never felt that same way about Danny, and made that point very clear many times.  I always hurt for him.  The brutal truth is that Danny wanted to be in “the spotlight” with Mom, and I’d have gladly switched places with him!  I hated the controlled life I had at home.  Danny gladly submitted to Mom’s tyranny…he would do just about anything to get her attention and praise.  Until the “incident,” I could do “no wrong” in Mom’s eyes, and Danny was always a bit clumsy and backward.  After the affair, it seemed I could do nothing right.  Ever.  So, as a teen, Mom began to share with Danny her frustrations about me, telling him stuff like, “I wish he’d act more like you!”  or “Why can’t he love me like you do?”    I never once understood that.  I thought I was basically a good kid.  I never got into trouble at school.  Never got into a fight…except once when this bully decided he was going to whip my….you figure it out.  I escaped by walking away, knowing that, no matter what happened, Mom would give me a verbal thrashing when I got home (I was 16 then).   The ridicule from my peers (they called me “chicken,” etc. when I walked away without fighting) was worth my avoiding Mom’s tongue thrashing.  Her bark was horrible.  Her bite (spanking) was virtually non-existent.  However, I’d have 100 times rather had a spanking than what I got.  She beat me to death with her tongue.  Little did I know that she was telling at least one of her closest relatives her deepest, darkest secrets.  She told her that I was to blame for her own misery.  She told her during those days that I thought I was so “holy” and “better than everybody else.” (I had gotten right with God during my teen years, and loved church very much).  I would not know she had actually verbalized those things to anybody except me until I was 52 years old.  That’s a long time to carry such a burden.  But God is good!  He was with me every step of the way!

The only way I could get away from the stress of home was to go camping or something that I could actually get away with in her eyes.  I joined the Boy Scouts at age 10 (before the “incident”).  I suppose that had it not been for the fact that I was already in the Scouts then, I would likely have been forbidden afterward.  I loved to go camping—at least that’s what she thought.  The truth is that I hate to camp.  I hated it then.  Give me the great outdoors, just be sure it has air conditioning!  The truth is that I just loved to be with my friends and to get away from Mom for a few days.  I actually lived for the time I could leave home.  Later that same year, my uncle (Dad’s brother, Frank) talked Mom into letting me go to church camp.  (I was 10—active year for me, huh?).   I promptly hated church camp.  The long church services every day.  The food was not what I was used to.  The dorms were a dump…boy, I could certainly complain!  (Help me, Lord, I sounded like my Mother!).  The interesting thing is that, even though I hated church camp the first time I went, but by the next summer I wanted to go again!  This time, my desire to return was totally my way of getting away from Mom.  She had begun to turn on me by then, and I had already realized I could get away for a few days and it would help.  The second time I went to church camp, I met a girl!  Oh, the Puppy Love of those days.   She wouldn’t give me the time of day.  But, it was enough that I “wanted” to go back again…and again…and….Boy, did I love camp then!!!

It was through my exposure to Christian young people at church camp (boys and girls!) that I truly found the number one love of my life…My Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  He made all the difference in me, both then and now.  It was at camp that God saved me, called me into His ministry of preaching and Christian  Radio Broadcasting.  It was a few years later at Georgia Camp that God showed me that He wanted me to get my education at our denominational Bible College in Florence, Mississippi.  I went to camp every single year from the time I started at age 10 clear through 1977, when I could not afford to go home from Mississippi for GA camp.  I went to Mississippi camp then!!

The year that God first began to impress upon me that He wanted me at Wesley College was 1975.  But, I didn’t have the guts to face Mom.  I had just graduated high school that year, and she was bound that I would go to Coosa Valley Tech and learn “electricity.”  She never understood that my interest was “electronics,” specifically “broadcasting.”  From childhood, I had a real interest in radio broadcasting.  The fascination hit a fever pitch in high school when I took electronics at Coosa Valley Vocational High School in Rome, GA as part of my high school experience.  I loved that class so!!  I graduated at the very top of my class!  I was like a duck in the water in electronics class.  My teacher, Mr. Bernard Shahan was a retired Navy electronics engineer and a Broadcast engineer to boot!  He planted seeds in my mind, telling me that I could achieve whatever I set my mind to…and he was the first to realize that I have a gift of public speaking.   He believed in me.  He challenged me to achieve.  Thank you, Mr. Shahan.  you gave me my wings.

So, after camp in July of 1975, knowing that God was leading me to go to Mississippi to college, and knowing that Mom would go thermal when I told her, I went to my pastor for advice.  Brother Bobby Roberson was a God-send.  That man loved me.  He was going through some tough times himself, but he never once let on about his problems while he was talking with me.  He gave me the best advice any pastor has ever given me to this very day.  He recommended that I stay home for a year and try to win my Mom’s blessing before going to college.   It was tough, but I took his advice.  It was the most miserable year of my life!  In the fall of 1975, I told Mom I wanted to enroll at Wesley in 1976, and she went thermal (as predicted).  The atomic bomb has nothing on my Mother’s anger.  She exploded, and her tirade lasted for an entire year….at every turn, she would ridicule me because I even considered the idea of “going to Mississippi!”  “You’re not going to Mississippi!!!  And, that is final!!!”  She ranted over and over the entire year.  But, I’ll never be accused of not trying to win her blessings.  I gave it my best, and that’s all anybody could expect of me.

By the time a year had passed, I was ready to leave home!  Earlier the summer of 1976, just weeks prior to enrolling at Wesley for the Fall Semester, I was privileged to go to Louisiana camp (church camp) with Brother Bobby and Terrye (Bobby was the evangelist).  It was then and ther that God began to directly inform me that He wanted me to serve Him in His ministry.  Later that summer at Georgia Camp (church camp), on Saturday, July 24, 1976; I went to the altar and committed my life to fulfilling God’s call to serve Him in the ministry through preaching and Christian Radio Ministry.  There was no doubt that God had called me, and no doubt exactly what it was that He had called me to do!  That same summer, I was privileged to attend Alabama Camp, also.  There, I met the “Wesley Singers” for the first time.  Now, I was hooked for certain.  These people had something I wanted!  The joy!  The smiles!  The confidence!  And, most importantly; the love for God.  It was a good summer…but not my last one at home.  At least, it would be several months before I’d live at home again.

Then came the fateful day just a few weeks after all those wonderful camps.  Sunday, August 22, 1976 at 8:00AM.  I drove out of my parents driveway on my way to Mississippi to go to college at Wesley College.  The mushroom cloud could have been seen around the globe (at least, I thought so!).  Mom tried to physically block me from leaving.  It was a long day for me.  And a happy / sad one, too.

Well, duty calls once again, and I must leave for now.  It is my prayer that this account of my life will be an inspiration to someone who may find themselves in a similar set of circumstances, or to someone that can apply the principles and inspiration of my life’s story to their own lives and be blessed.

Always remember.  You are loved with an everlasting love.  God loves you, and has a perfect plan for your life!  Never give up.  Never surrender to anyone other than God, and give him Everything!!  Remember, the darkest part of the night is just before dawn!

In Our Master’s Joyful Service,

Ed Smith

May 19, 2009 Posted by | A Bitter Life | Leave a comment

The Incident

Mom and Dad started their marriage on shaky ground from day 1.  I’m amazed that it has lasted 55 years, come this October if the Lord wills.  Dad has been completely deaf in one ear and a 95% hearing loss in the other.  He arrived at that state of deafness when I was around 3 years old or so.  He and Mom worked in the cotton mill (West Point Pepperell in Lindale, GA) when I was born in 1957.  One thing I always I remember about my Dad from childhood was that he always enjoyed playing with my brother and me.  Mom did not play.  Mom did not smile—rarely, if ever.  Mom was always miserable and didn’t want to go anywhere.  Once when Danny (my kid brother) and I were in our pre-teen years, Mom’s brother and boss, TN Caldwell, talked her into taking the family to Daytona Beach, FL for a few days vacation with him and his wife.  Mom was totally miserable the entire trip.  She also made everybody else miserable.  She wanted to go home the minute she saw the motel where we were staying (I remember her saying something about it being a “dump”).  She griped about sand getting into “everything we own.”  She would not let my brother and me go swimming or even wade into the water unless TN was there (even if she or Dad was there, she wouldn’t let us swim—TN said she was paranoid).  I’m not sure how she ever slept those two days we were there (we were supposed to be there a week).   Our miserable vacation.  The only one we ever had when I was a kid.

Mom always said that she “worshiped” me when I was a baby.  I never took her to mean that she worshiped me like I was a god or something.  I think she meant that she “adored” me—maybe too much, but in the same way as a mother would adore her child.  I came to understand many years later that Mom tried to re-live her miserable life vicariously through me as I grew up.  She wanted to control me—and she succeeded for some time.  After I got grown, I always explained my relationship with my mother by saying, “she adored me as a baby and hated my guts when I hit puberty.”  That was true.  My teenage years were filled with “stabs” that she would hit me with when Danny was not around, and Dad had his back turned.  She’d repeatedly say, “you ain’t worth a s___ for nothing!”  or “you’ll never amount to anything.”  She used the first of those two 10 times to 1 over the latter.  I grew up thinking she might be right.  My self esteem was virtually non-existent until I left home and escaped from that miserable home life.  It was only when I left home at age 19 that I began to blossom like a flower in springtime.

But, on to the “incident.”  This “incident” changed my life and my mother’s attitude towards me forever.  Unfortunately, I didn’t connect the “incident” to Mom’s change in attitude towards me until just last year, October, 2008.

Here is the story:   One day, when I was about 10 years old (my brother, Danny would have been around 8), we were playing outside in the yard.  It was a mid-summer day—-HOT and muggy.  Mom’s bedroom window was open, and she was talking on the phone.  She always complained that she never had anybody to talk to, but I promise she burned up the phone lines as long as I can remember.  Just as I happened past her open window, I heard her say, “I love you.”  Now, Dad was at work; and he couldn’t hear—besides, I never once heard her tell him “I love you.”  Never…  So, she couldn’t be talking to him.  Danny was way across the yard.  She wasn’t talking to him, either.  She didn’t say those words to me in THAT manner that I heard her use it just then—so I knew she wasn’t talking to me.  I thought, “oh, well.  Maybe a long-lost friend or something.”  So I started to walk off, and she said it again…except, this time, she said, “I love you, Steve.”  OK.  Now I was really curious.  Who in the world is Steve?  Maybe a long lost cousin?  She never talked to family THAT way!  A little while later, I met her on the front porch as she was coming out the door, and I asked the magic question, “Mom, who is Steve?”   I expected her to answer my question by saying he was a friend, a cousin….anything except what she said and did.…she broke down and began to wail.  Not weep.  Wail.  Her reaction to that question would have been about the same as if I had put a case of explosives at the base of the Hoover Dam and ignited it!  All that “stuff” came flooding—no, exploding out.  It all but drowned me as an innocent 10 year old.  She told me the whole sordid story—of a “no sex” relationship (didn’t have a clue what that meant back then; and I’ve since been told that it is not true…).  She told me of her plan to leave my Dad and marry this Steve dude!  She also said that Steve was planning to leave his wife, and they were to buy a house together…and he would be my “new Daddy!”   I don’t remember what I did or exactly how I reacted at that moment, but I know I was hurt and that I probably began to cry.  I was scarred!  I didn’t want to lose my Dad!  He loved me, and he played with me.  Mom didn’t play.  She fussed, cussed, and generally was bitter and miserable; and wanted everybody around her to share in her misery, or so it seemed to me.  I loved my Mom in spite of all that, but I didn’t want to lose my Dad!  When I started to cry, she began to repent…she told me she was sorry she had hurt me.  She pledged to me that she would call the whole thing off, and that she would not leave my Dad.  I always thought that was noble of her to do that, but I never realized the consequences of that action until many years later.

She kept her word.  The truth is that, after that day, I never heard anything about “Steve” again until 2002 (when she brought up the subject).  Steve died about a decade later, but I was unaware of his death until she brought up the subject of “Steve” to me again in 2002.

My life took a turn towards misery within 2 or 3 years after the “incident.”  Mom’s adoration of me as a little boy turned to complete disgust.  She scolded me, she put me down.  I could never make her happy anymore.  She would always say, “I don’t love your Daddy.”  Over and over she would stab me with that favorite line of hers, “you ain’t worth a s___ for nothing!”  She called me “rebellious,” even though I was quite submissive as a teenager.  On a rare occasion, she would say, “My Mamma screwed up the first part of my life and you took care of the rest!”   But, I still did not put her affair (the “incident”) in its place as the true reason she had changed towards me.  I always thought it was me…somehow, that I was at fault…that I could simply never be good enough for her, and I would never measure up because she said that I was “stubborn,” and “wouldn’t do anything she told me to do.”  That  was not true.  Although I did disobey my Mother (as most teenagers do), I was not a rebellious kid overall.  I never got into any real trouble.  I worked in the cotton mill starting on my 16th birthday (at her insistence).  She always kept me on a short leash; never allowing me to be in the band or participate in sports.  I learned many years later that she likely did that to prevent me from talking to others about “her little secret.”  Dad never found out.  I told my brother about this only a few short months ago.  Only recently did my cousin (her niece) tell me that she knew about Steve and how Mom held me a grudge these years, and all that went with it.  As a child, I learned that I could never be good enough for her.  She never once told me she was proud of me, starting in my teen years and to this day.  And, she told my relatives that I hurt her deeply, and how much she hated my wife and my life’s choices.  I was to learn many years later (just a few months ago) just how many people she actually did “inform” about me and how I “hurt” her.  All of this happened because of  “her little secret.”

The day I grew up and left for college was like Nagasaki!  It had been coming for a year, but no amount of preparation could get me ready for what I would face that fateful Sunday afternoon.  The mushroom cloud probably could have been seen for miles….at least, it felt to me like it was that big.  Whatever, it most definitely affected me for the rest of my life.

But, alas, that is all for today!  I’ll pick up next time.

Until then, remember this.  You are loved with an everlasting love.  God loves you, and has a purpose for your life.  Never forget that.  Never give up.  Never surrender to the enemy, only to God.

In Our Master’s Joyful Service,

Ed Smith

May 18, 2009 Posted by | A Bitter Life | Leave a comment

The beginning. The story of a long journey

In my first blog entry, I said that I wanted to take the readers on a journey into my life’s experiences.  I have had quite a journey thus far, and I expect that my life will get very interesting from here.   Since the best place to start a journey is at the beginning, that is where we begin today.

I was born in Floyd County, Georgia; city of Rome on September 23, 1957.  My parents were uneducated hard working textile employees, having worked at West Point Pepperell in Lindale, GA most of their lives since reaching the age they could be employed.  Both of them came from lousy family backgrounds, as both were mistreated, abused and attending school was mostly forbidden.

Let’s start with Dad and his background.  His father (my grandfather) was a hard man.  In fact, I never heard “Papa Smith” say more than a few words to me during my entire lifetime.  Only once did I hear him actually use a complete sentence.  The topic of conversation that Sunday afternoon was the cotton mill.  He looked over his newspaper just long enough to say, “they ought to stick a match to that d_____ place and burn it to the ground.”   Many years earlier, Dad and his younger brother, Frank were abandoned by their father at a very early age after their mother died with tuberculosis.  Frank was a baby and Dad was just beyond a toddler.  Papa left them at an orphanage in North GA and went his merry way.  Sometime later, he remarried—the woman I always knew as “Granny.”  Her name was Ulee Moon.  Papa’s name was Ed Smith.  Erie, I know.  She did not know about the boys when they first married, or so I was told.  The story goes that she found out about them sometime later—during the first year of their marriage.  That little woman was as sweet as sugar (I always thought so), until she got riled.  I was told that, on the day she learned about the boys and what her good-for-nothing husband had done with them, she took a rolling pin (or something like that) to the field where Papa was tinkering with an old car and beat the snot out of him, not letting his “good-for-nothing butt slow down until they had those two boys back home.”  You go, Granny!  At age 18, Dad answered Uncle Sam’s call to serve in the Army in Korea.  While there, Dad was injured as a result of being near some type of explosive device.  It was winter there, and the weather was brutal.  His level of medical care was pathetic at best, and he was forced to keep working, even though the injuries got infected and really nasty.  After some time, he began to lose hearing in one ear, then the other.  By the time Uncle Sam got him home for his honorable discharge due to severe headaches and hearing loss, he was totally deaf in one ear and could barely hear out of the other one.  He would eventually lose total hearing in both ears after he and Mom were married some time later.  When he got home, the car he’d worked so hard to buy prior to being shipped out was setting in the junk yard—trashed and worn out.  Granny and Papa had driven the car and simply torn it up and junked it.   Bad part is that Dad still had to pay the deferred loan that came due when he got home.  They didn’t as much as say “I’m sorry,” or offer to help him pay for it at all.  Dad was miserable and wanted to get away from home, but it took a while for him to do that. There are many more details I could share; beatings as children, verbal and physical abuse from his father, and more.  But, for time’s sake, I’ll not get into all those details here and now.

Now to Mom’s story.  Mom was the daughter of John Ellis Caldwell and Erma Gertrude Bennett Caldwell.  She was their fifth and youngest child—there was a sixth one somewhere along the way that had died as a baby.  John and Erma were “pillars of the church” in their small church in the community in Silver Creek, where they lived.  Granny taught Sunday School (Mom’s class), and Papa was a deacon.  Mom hated her mother with a vengeance.  She hated her because Granny forbade Mom from ever dating…especially the one fellow she wanted to go out with the most,..I’ll call him “Joe” to protect innocent bystanders. Joe joined the Army and fought in Korea.   He was wounded while in service, but Mom was not allowed to read the many letters he sent to her from overseas.   Granny intercepted them and usually destroyed them, but not before Mom at least saw them first.   One day, prior to his shipping out, Joe wanted to take Mom to her church’s homecoming celebration, but Granny would not hear of it.  Later, after Joe was shipped out, she got a heart-shaped box in the mail from him.   She managed to intercept it from the mail man before Granny got it.  Unfortunately, Granny saw her get it and chased her to the outhouse.  Mom locked herself in and proceeded to open the box.  Granny rocked the outhouse and threatened to overturn it.  Mom, as she so eloquently told the story, said she dropped the box down into the bottom of the toilet and “pushed it under the s— with a broom handle.”   That same day, Granny beat Mom with a piece of stove-wood.  When Papa learned she was beating her, he joined in and helped Granny beat the tar out of Mom—using the same piece of stove-wood.  They were careful not to hit her anywhere her clothes would not cover up.  She was sent to work at the Mill as usual that day and threatened within an inch of her life if she told anybody about it.  Mom was about 18 when this happened.  She never did she ever manage a date with Joe.  Mom says that on another instance after Joe came home, Granny ran him off the porch with a shotgun (persistent little bugger, huh?).  And, all this started because Joe wanted to take Mom to a Homecoming at her church!  My Grandparents were a real piece of work….on both sides of the family.

That sets the stage for Mom and Dad to meet.  They both worked at the cotton mill, the same shift in the same department.  A friend of Mom’s suggested that she go out with that guy in the other side of the department named David Smith.  He had expressed an interest in her, but they had not even tried to go out because of her Mother.  During that time, Dad told a buddy he worked with, and several of his family members that if he “could marry that Caldwell girl, he’d be the happiest man in the world.”  They ended up slipping off and getting married without either of their parents permission.  Thus began their lives together.  Mr. David and Mrs. Cordelia Smith.   Dad married the woman he truly loved, and “Cordy” (as she was called at home) married “to get away from home” (their words).

Cordy told me the story a million times, if she told it once during my lifetime.  She would rant and rave that she “married the wrong man because of Mama!”  She’d say, “I don’t love your Daddy.”  On and on she’d go ranting about how miserable and “lonesome” she way.  “He never talks to me!”  She’d exclaim as she launched into another rant about his lack of communications skills.

Then came “the incident.”  Sorry, but, I must go for this entry.  Bad place to stop, but duty calls.  I’ll pick up next time.

Until then, remember this.  You are loved with an everlasting love.  God loves you, and has a purpose for your life.  Never forget that.  Never give up.  Never surrender to the enemy, only to God.

In Our Master’s Joyful Service,

Ed Smith

May 17, 2009 Posted by | A Bitter Life | Leave a comment

Welcome to my new Blog

Greetings everyone!  Welcome to my new blog.  This blog spot is home to Ed Smith, a pastor and Christian radio broadcaster for 33 years this coming July 25, 2009.  God has been good to me and His blessings continually flow.

I currently serve as the President and General Manager of a non-profit organization that I helped to found a number of years ago.  Joy Christian Radio is a network of AM radio stations in Alabama and Georgia that has as the heart of its mission to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ and to impact our fallen world for His Glory.  We operate as a network with a central network headquarters operated via Internet.  All though we are very small and struggle to maintain our very existence, God had helped us to reach many people for Christ during the past few years.  We were successful in carrying out our plan for growth; “purchase defunct or troubled AM radio stations, refurbish them, sell them at a profit; put all the money towards the eventual purchase of a good FM station in a good market.”  We were well on the way to accomplishing that goal until the “recession of greed” struck us just over 18 months ago.   In just 4 ½ years, we went from half million dollars in debt with three AM radio stations to zero debt and a half million dollars in asses, and still had three stations!  We did this by following the plan I just outlined.  Then, the recession basically killed AM, at least for us.  Now, our half million dollars in assets are worth less than one hundred thousand dollars, and that is only because we own a piece of real estate at one of them….The amazing part of our story is that I had severe heart problems in 2006 that nearly took me to heaven, and ended up leaving me in a wheelchair for 2 months after 31 days in the hospital.  God is so good.  He has restored me to health so that I can continue to serve Him.  He is not finished with me yet.

I am the pastor of my home church.  It is a small Methodist – type church in Silver Creek, Georgia called New Bethel Church.  It is very small, and has a great group of people; many of whom I’ve known since childhood.  My parents are both still living, although Mom has Alzheimer’s disease (in the final stages), and Dad has many heart problems.  Since he is totally deaf, he cannot live alone, so my wife Marie and I live with him in Georgia, although our residency remains in Centre, Alabama.

I am a former employee of the American Family Association’s radio network, American Family Radio (AFR).  While at AFR, I was a network announcer, news anchor and reporter for AFR News (now www.onenewsnow.com), I helped to develop their Media Touch automation system for all three music networks and to establish the Christian Classics network music library, I traveled for 13 months in the development department searching for land sites to build new broadcasting towers, I was a manager of one of AFR’s local stations in Cleveland, MS, worked with managers across the nation, and a bunch more things.  Working for AFR was the crowning jewel in my ministerial career, as I was able to rub shoulders with some of the finest people I’ve ever worked with.  I believe in the mission and ministry of AFA and AFR.  I’ve always said that if God were to ever allow me to, I’d love to return there someday.   Yes, I miss working there desperately.

My goal in this blog is to share my heart and passion with you.  My heart is to draw closer in my relationship with my Savior and my God, and my passion is to see people come to a closer relationship themselves.  I sincerely desire to make a real difference in this country that I love with all my heart, and to see America once again be able to call itself a “Christian Nation—One Nation Under God.”

Thank you for reading, and I’ll see you next time.  Until then, remember that you are loved with an everlasting love.  God loves you and has a perfect plan for your lives.

In Our Master’s Joyful Service,

Ed Smith

May 17, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

   

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