Tennessee Mountain Stories

A Suggested New Year's Resolution

Happy New Year!  This is the time of year that many of us look at our lives, consider our goals and make an ambitious plan for a happy and productive year.  We used to have a pastor whose first sermon almost every year was on the same topic, “Read your Bible”.  It’s a great topic, one I need to hear at least once a year, and one that never grows old.  Well I don’t know what topic the good Lord is urging for this Sunday but as luck would have it, my undated devotional gave me the same reminder recently. 

As I thought about the little lesson I read, and remembered those annual sermons, I again realized how blessed I am just to be able to read my Bible.  Yes, we live in a free country where our Bibles are within arm’s reach and visible for anyone to see (you can say “Praise The Lord” here).  And all books – including Bibles – are readily available to us (Amen and Hallelujah!).  Yet the most amazing fact of all is that according to “Our World in Data”, 83% of the world’s population can read! 

Now I’ve marveled here before about the wealth of books that we enjoy.  Many mountain homes historically were lucky to have just the one book (a Bible) and luckier still to have someone in the home that could actually read from it.  Learning to read was first and foremost a skill to allow you to read God’s Holy Word. 

Do you know the history of Bible translations?  An untold number of brave men and women gave their very lives trying to get the Bible printed in English.  In the 15th century the church felt the common man was either unable to read it with understanding, or maybe even undeserving of it.  Of course there are still struggles to get scripture translated into foreign languages. The Christian Post reported here in 2015 that 57% of the world’s languages still do not have a Bible translation.  That kind of seems unbelievable to us, doesn’t it?   

So we have the books and we have the skills – are we using them?  This would be a great time to start.

 

National Fast Day


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I’ve been reading a journal written by a Confederate nurse (Kate:  The Journal of a Confederate Nurse, Louisiana State University Press, 1987) and she mentions a date as “following the last fast day”.  Well that was a term I had to research a little and what I learned was eye opening in so many ways.

During The Civil War both President Lincoln and President Davis declared days for their nation to fast  and pray for peace.  Nurse Cumming mentions the day the same way she would say “last Thursday” which seems to indicate she accepted the day and the directive from her president.  Bishop Meade of Christ Church in Millwood, VA delivered a lengthy sermon on that day, that was so well accepted that the Richmond Enquirer and Job Press was requested to publish it. 

President Lincoln declared “the 30th. day of April, 1863, as a day of national humiliation, fasting and prayer. And I do hereby request all the People to abstain, on that day, from their ordinary secular pursuits, and to unite, at their several places of public worship and their respective homes, in keeping the day holy to the Lord”. (Citation)

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Even from Colonial times the nation sought mercy and wisdom from The Lord by corporate prayer and fasting in times of drought, famine or Indian attacks.  In 1668 the Virginia House of Burgesses declared August 27th a “Day of Humiliation, Fasting and Prayer, to implore God’s mercy” (Citation) .

Now fasting has been a difficult practice for me to embrace – not because I’m so unwilling to give something up, but because I never want to stomp my foot at God and demand He act, and a hunger strike always seemed a little like that.  As I’ve studied, and frankly as the Lord has changed my heart and opened my eyes, I’ve come to appreciate that I can better hear His direction and I can better communicate with a Sovereign God if my mouth and my head are not filled with the concerns of this world. 

Reading about our people coming together to pray for peace and unity really moved me because we live in a time and a nation that can’t seem to agree on anything and where disunity seems to be our motto.  We have a national day of prayer that barely gets a mention and isn’t always attended by our presidents.  In fact a Google search for “National Fast Day” now yields results for the National Fast Food Day.  Does that strike you as ironic?

Reading this journal written more than 150 years ago and during such a hard time in the life of this young woman as well as our country is proving quite thought-provoking.  It sheds a light on how people thought during the nineteenth century, what their priorities and fears were and how they compare to us today.

 

 

 

 

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The Purposes of Fruit Jars


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My husband and I each drink a protein shake most mornings and after trying whisks, shaker bottles and blenders, the best way I’ve found to mix and drink them is in a good ole’ Mason jar.  Well my Ruthie saw me mixing it today and asked “Are you gonna’ drink out of that jar?”  I’m not sure what about the upbringing I’m giving her would ever make her incredulous to drinking from a fruit jar but she found it so curious that she asked to try it herself. 

Now, we’ve talked here before about using and re-using stuff like mayonnaise jars and snuff glasses but canning jars are used around my house for all kinds of stuff.  Anything that needs to be contained, kept airtight or carried away is subject to a jar.  And of course that always includes a glass of ice tea you need to take to the field with you, or cold water to carry out to the yard and of course my daily protein shake.  But I also store grains and beans and even nails and screws in jars.  In fact, when they started putting mayonnaise and jelly in plastic jars they were best for the garage because they wouldn’t break and strew glass and nails all over a driving path. 

My son recently asked me after we sang along with John Denver’s “Thank God I’m a Country Boy”, whether he was a country boy.  Of course I told him he was – but now I’m wondering if these kids need to see more uses for Mason jars, grass string and duct tape!

Do you still use fruit jars for more than fruit?  I hope you’ll click on “Comments” below and tell me all about it.

A Letter from Beth about The Next Book

Good evening Friends and Readers,

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I write you a few hours later than I normally publish the weekly blog but I hope you will forgive my tardiness when I tell you that I’ve spent this day - in fact the last few days - frantically working to get Margaret’s Faith to press. I’ve got a proof copy on its way and by next week I hope to be able to report the book is available on Amazon with copies at retail locations shortly thereafter!

There is always a long list of people who ought to be thanked for getting one of these things out - one of these days I’ll attempt to present that list - and you readers are certainly on it.

Thank you for your patience with me as I finish up these details. I very much look forward to sharing this story with you and I’m always eager to hear your feedback.

BETH

Southern Humor

If you can’t laugh at yourself you will miss an awful lot of fun and I have always appreciated that my Plateau neighbors can in fact laugh at themselves.  Well we got to listening to some old Ray Stevens songs the other day and I remembered how much I could always relate to those songs. 

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When I hear “The Mississippi Squirrel Revival” I naturally picture the little church I grew up in.  And when he tells about going on a retreat with his wife in the mountains of East Tennessee in “Smokey Mountain Rattlesnake Retreat” I can just imagine gettin’ myself into that situation.

Then there’s “Sittin’ Up with the Dead” – now by the time I came along we had become quite accustomed to entrusting our loved ones’ to the funeral home but I’ve heard again and again about folks sitting up with the dead and knowing our superstitious nature on the mountain, that song easily evokes images of my grandparents and their siblings.

I didn’t really set out today to write a tribute to the Georgia-born Stevens, however, I’m not hesitant to do so.  I love that a southern boy can look at our customs in a humorous and yet respectful manner.  Jerry Clower was from Louisiana and their rich culture is very different than the Cumberland Plateau’s yet he was another one that I can easily relate to.  Today’s comedians think they have to curse every other breath – and how is that even funny? – and they want to talk about ugly stuff that you probably shouldn’t ever listen to it but you sure don’t want to play it around your Mama or your kids.  Jerry and Ray were rarely indelicate but they’ll keep you rolling.

My stories from the mountain aren’t necessarily comical but we are often a funny people and we often recount funny stories, even from recent history.  This is a season of visiting and we’ll be laughing together I know.  I look forward to that and I hope you do too.  If you are looking for a laugh, pop into YouTube and listen again to these guys who tell stories so like our own.