Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Chapter 3 - The Lake

       I was just six years old when I first laid eyes on the thickly wooded lot leading down to
the rocky lake shore. What did I care except that I loved the water and the woods?  Next thing I knew Mama, Daddy, my brother and I were camping out on the spot in a tiny tin can trailer. The men (my father and grandfather and uncles) worked all day long laying the concrete blocks that would become our lake house and my cousins’ right next door. While my mother cooked to keep the men well-fed, I busied myself gathering pretty red holly berries and “cooking” pine bark “bacon” over a miniature rock fire-pit. Each night we’d fall asleep listening to whip-poor-wills calling and mountain lions screaming across the water.
  The houses were finished by the next summer, and soon there was a dock out front with sporty wooden boat tied to it. Weekends became filled with the high whine of the old green Evinrude outboard mingled with the squeals of cousins and friends echoing off the brown water. I'm sure our parents grew tired of the monotonous tunes of  "Found A Peanut" and "She'll Be Comin'  'Round the Mountain" that accompanied us on all boat rides!
          Hot summer afternoons were cooled down with two special treats. When we kids heard the unmistakable "CRACK!" of a cold watermelon being opened on the picnic table under the trees, we'd climb out of the water and dive into a hunk of the sweet fruit until our faces and arms were pink with the juice, then plunge back into the lake to rinse off.  For high adventure sometimes our parents would put the green globe into a cooler with ice and carry us all in the boat to "Turkey Island" for a watermelon picnic! Other days, we'd hope that a boat ride would end up at Mr. Beatty's marina, where Daddy would bring all us kids an icy orange "push-up" to dribble down our chins on the way home. By evening, when we were nice and sticky, we'd grab a towel and a bar of Ivory soap (""It floats!") and head to the lake for our Saturday night bath, with the adults joining in the fun!
          There was just one difficulty for all of us: the only time we could enjoy our special place was on weekends, and that meant missing church on Sundays.  Soon the problem was solved when my Daddy got together with some of the other new property owners and decided to meet under the trees by the lake and have Sunday School.  Sometimes, if it was raining, we'd just sit in someone's car, often Daddy's big  Buick company car, because it was the roomiest.  Before long, one of the men brought along an old portable pump organ, and my Mama would sit on a stump and work her short slender legs, playing the hymns that we all knew. 
      As word spread and houses bloomed like wildflowers over the ragged lakeshore, our numbers increased enough to purchase a lot and build a shelter. We named it the John R. Bender Worship Center, in honor of one of our beloved teachers, who has since gone on to be with the Lord. We sit on hand-hewn wooden benches, made lovingly by some of the men. There's a tin roof over our heads and a nice concrete floor and electricity to run the overhead fans and the sound system. Eventually our congregation grew so that on big holidays (Fourth of July, Labor Day) we'd have as many as four hundred gathered under the trees to worship. Several years ago an addition was built and named "The Fields Pavilion" to honor my sweet parents who dedicated so much of their lives to this special place. Sadly, in recent years the crowds have dwindled as our interests seem to have turned to more worldly pursuits, such as jet-skiing and tubing behind monster power boats. But some things will never change: we still sing the same old favorite hymns, and there are no walls or windows to keep out the rustling of the breeze in the trees or the birdsongs that add to the music.

My Sanctuary

My sanctuary is simple--
No walls and windows hath it
To keep a solitary soul
Either within or without.

Its choir is winged and feathered,
Its hours have no limits or bounds.
Its Pastor is The Good Shepherd,
His flock comes from all around.

My sanctuary is simple--
'Tis but a bright spot in the wood;
But oh how my heart has been blessed from the start
By the times in this temple I've stood.

                                                                               -- Charlanne Fields, 1968

“How lovely is Your dwelling place, O Lord Almighty! My soul yearns, even faints, for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.” (Psalm 84:1-2)
READ:  Psalm 8
PONDER THIS: In a poem, or just a paragraph, describe the place you feel closest to God. Then stop and thank Him for His wonderful creation.


Saturday, April 6, 2013

Chapter 2 - Asheboro Street

        Asheboro Street Baptist Church was more to me than music: it was where I first met Jesus. I truly have no memory of not knowing Him. Not everyone has been so blessed, I know, but that doesn't mean He has not always been there beside you, waiting at the door to be let in. I have no idea why He chose to give me the life I've had; I certainly have done nothing to deserve all this grace. But that's why they call it grace-- it's not deserved.

          Some of my earliest memories are sitting in little wooden chairs that scraped noisily on the dull linoleum floors of the Sunday School room. The light filtered through bumpy glass windows to illuminate the teacher and the flannel board on which she placed images of the characters she talked about from her Bible. I saw a golden straw basket placed among the "bullrushes." (They looked like the cattails decorating my grandfather's pond.) I was told the basket contained the baby Moses, who would lead the children of Israel from Egypt back to their homeland. I saw a beautiful young lady in blue robes riding a donkey to a stable where she would give birth to the baby Jesus, who would die on a cross for my sins. I LOVED this baby, because He gave His sweet, perfect life for me, so I could go to heaven to live with God. When I sang "Jesus Loves Me" I never thought to doubt it: I accepted it like I accepted my parents' love for me.
          I was, for the most part, a good, obedient child who followed the Ten Commandments to the best of my understanding. In church, I watched reverently as people went into the pool behind the altar in our sanctuary, were plunged into the water and came up dripping and beaming. Each time in my mind I was in the water with them and came up with a new joy in my heart. When I was age seven, one Sunday evening service as Preacher Parker gave the invitation to come to the altar and I sang the hymn along with the congregation, I felt a burning come over my body as tangible as the high fevers I had often experienced. It was as if a great invisible hand came down and urged me out of my seat, propelled me down the aisle to the feet of my waiting pastor. I KNEW, as much as a seven-year-old could know, that I was the sinner that my precious Jesus died for, and I wanted everyone to know I belonged to HIM. It was as if all the shame of my future life was made known to me for a brief moment, and I knew I needed to claim His forgiveness right then.

          “Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.”” (Matthew 19:14) 

READ: Matthew 18:2-5

PONDER THIS: Recall when you first heard about Jesus. What did you feel? Did you give Him your life?

(PLEASE NOTE: If you are enjoying the music, there's a link on the right to our website, where you can read more about this wonderful group I am privileged to sing with, Wing and A Prayer. You can purchase our CDs on iTunes and Amazon, as well!)