Blog Archive

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

The Real Christmas Tree

As I was growing up the Christmas Tree was always a very special thing in the Brannen household. Very early in life (when I was in 3rd or 4th grade of school) I remember hearing of people who questioned whether we should have a Christmas tree at Church. Later I learned that some questioned whether we Christians should have a Christmas tree at all, even in our homes, because it "had reference to pagan religions". After I became an adult and was Pastor of a Church I realized that we Americans were putting too much emphasis on the tree when our choir sung an ode to the Christmas tree called "Oh Christmas Tree". Read the lyrics of that song and perhaps you will understand how much it sounds like someone is worshiping a tree.

But to me as a child, the Christmas Tree somehow captured the essence of Christmas. It was attractive. The house was filled with the aroma of crushed pine needles mixed with popcorn which had been used to make decorations for the tree. First we popped the corn. Then, with needle and thread, the individual popped kernels were sewn together in about three to six foot lengths of popcorn, then hung in scalloped fashion around the tree. Lights would also be hung round the tree. Handmade ornaments, purchased ornaments, or ornaments Mom had received as gifts were hung there. Then, "angel hair" was placed on the tree as a type of covering. Well, I'm not sure of the order that these things were placed on the tree, but at the top of the tree there would be a lighted angel or a Star to crown the tree. These trees were usually at least six feet tall and were freshly cut from the field by our Daddy (usually after December 1st - at least that fresh). Of course it did not take long for them to dry out, especially when they stood close to the warm morning heater that usually heated our modest home. In addition there were popcorn balls made by rolling popped corn in blackstrap molasses. What wonderful treats they were. Peanut butter pin-wheels, divinity fudge, fruit-cake, and other goodies filled our tummies at this time of year. All of this was filled with joy. Even now it brings gushings of thanksgiving for the wonderful heritage we have.

The tree also was the place to put presents once they had been wrapped. Our presents were under the tree for about three weeks before Christmas. Our curiosity would be driven to it's highest level as we tried to figure out what "Ole Santa" had brought for us. We would pick up the box and test it's weight...try to smell the contents through the red and green wrappings... shake the box...just anything to try and figure out what we were getting from under the tree for Christmas. We would start begging Mom and Dad to open the presents early for we could hardly live with the excitement of this wonderful Christmas tree.

Now imagine - the year that Mom decided it was too much trouble to put up a Christmas tree because we were now living in town and the price had gone astronomically to $3 each. Then, with all the lights and trimmings to buy to put on the tree, it was just too expensive. She bought a little fake tree about a foot an a half tall with gum balls on it, brought it in and put it on a table and announced that this was going to be our tree this year. I was sooooo disappointed. I remember that I was working part-time by now for the fantastic sum of .35cents per hour and decided that I would buy a REAL tree, so went to Shwegman's Grocery and picked it out myself, paid for it and brought it home. Mom decided that if it meant that much to me she would then decorate the tree. (If any of my siblings remember this story differently, maybe you can enlighten us.)

Now -- to the real thought about the tree. The real Christmas Tree is the Cross of Jesus. It was not attractive, although the light of Heaven's Glory shone down on history at that tree. On that tree was blood and gore. The stench of crushed human flesh filled the air. Around the tree were soldiers with instruments of cruel torture in their hands as they hurled insults towards the man on that tree.

Perhaps a few feet back from that crowd of cruel jeerers was a trembling group of family and close friends of the man on the tree. The people in this group cried - especially his mother. Jesus died. But oh what a tree. This was a REAL CHRISTMAS TREE! The gift of God's son hung there until salvation's plan was finished and the gift was purchased that brought salvation to you and me. Thank you, God, for the gift of the REAL Christmas Tree.

Monday, November 26, 2007


We have an advantage on the Christmas holidays. A lotta years ago we started having our Brannen Christmas at Thanksgiving because my parents and Frances' parents lived about 600 miles apart - and we could not afford the gas money to make two trips to visit them with no time to recoup the travel expense in between. I think it was my Mom's idea (maybe because she was always wanting to open Christmas presents early?) Or maybe it was Daddy who wanted to open presents early. :) Anyhow — we have the Brannen Christmas at Thanksgiving - then go to the Hildreth's at Christmas until now. Works nicely for us. So our Christmas tree was put together early and holly is hanging already.

Thursday, we had our normal food fling at my sister Bonita's house. More food and drink and merry-making than the law allows. I am SO BLESSED to have been with all my siblings (Wilmon, Lowell, Bonita, and Donice and their spouses). Of our Fred Brannen's family, only Tabitha, the preacher in our group, is experiencing the same thing that we used to experience in earlier years, the need to be in two different places at the same time. And Mom was there. Alive and well, and still able to preach. She recently traveled more than a thousand miles to preach. My two sisters both live here in Cleveland. One brother lives here. The other brother lives in Texas but has bought near here (about 20 miles away) in anticipation of his retirement. Aren't I blessed?

Friday, I took my good friend Ed Williams and his son and three grandsons, plus one of the grandson's friends up to my cabin in the mountains. We built a campfire and ate and played music and sung and had a great time roasting marshmallows for the finale. It was deer hunting season so Ed and I took rifles. Young people left about 2:00p so Ed and I hunted some - then took the long way home through Tellico Plains. I started to feel nauseous and head-achy, so decided to let Ed drive. By the time I got home I was losing my lunch. I was S-I-C-K! This morning I am feeling a little better but not much. After losing all that food and going through all that pain I had a good thought - "ahhhhh" said I, "The good thing is I've probably lost weight!" But guess what? I still weigh the thing that I did before Thanksgiving.

Go figure!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

You've Gotta Hear This

Jerry Lee Lewis from YouTube!

This is the way I remember him. There are other videos of him in more recent years which you also may enjoy. I once had a long play record album of him singing 10 or 12 religious songs but alas it is no longer to be found. Enjoy!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Fall Foliage Tour

Frances and I together with Dewain and Debbie, and Rhonda (Debbie's Sister) and her husband Jerry took the train from Chattanooga's Grand Junction down to Summerville, Georgia on Saturday. It was a terrific time of family fun for us all. If you haven't ridden the train lately you should aim to do this with someone you love. Here's a few pictures!
Along the way I thought of Daddy too often to mention. His stories of his hobo days were in our conversations of course. Also Frances and I sung some train songs, or at least parts thereof, like "weeeeeee ouuuuuuuu, weee-ouuuu, weee-ouuu, wee - oh brother if you get to heaven you must get off th freight, just the glory special takes you to the pearly gates -- don't you hear that whistle blowing, hear it coming down the track, hear them wheels a turnin, see the smoke a rollin back, better get your ticket, sinner it's not comin back -- all a board, all a board, all aboard this train for Glory Land!"
What a fun way to spend a Saturday in the Fall in Tennessee.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

The Phoebe Grey Orphanage, Liberia

It is sad to see the poverty and devastation that I see on a regular basis in my travels through many countries in Africa. I have been to the Phoebe Grey Memorial Orphanage in Monrovia, Liberia and know that this video is totally a true picture of genuine needs. If you click on this link <> you will see a report which was inspired by Richard Baker when he was there about two or three months ago. He was deeply touched by what he saw and came home with a committment in his heart to do something. It convicts me that I often find myself looking at these situations and thinking that the need is so great that I cannot do it all, therefore do nothing. I have five major orphanage efforts going in Africa and do just a little towards helping them all - but I don't do near enough. I invite you to see this video with an open heart and let the Lord speak to you.

If clicking fails to take you there, try copying and pasting into your browser.

Friday, November 2, 2007

A Few Pictures

The Atlantic Ocean to the left - The Gulf of Mexico to the right.

One of our tour bus "comfort" stops.

Picture of our ship made from the tour bus.

Wonderful views were had from the deck of our ship at each port of call.

Fred spent lots of time on the balconey

Frances fit in perfectly with the exotic scenery!

Inside one of the ship's many dining rooms.

Can't Believe I Did It

Have you missed me?

As I sit here and reflect on the FANTASTIC CRUISE Frances and I took from Ft. Lauderdale, FL to St. Maartens, St Lucia, and St. Kitts aboard the Carnival Miracle, my body is still swaying to the gentle roll of the great ship. It was indeed a "once in a life-time" thing. I was in the Coast Guard for four years, so I had been on ships both large and small but I was not prepared for this experience. It was a royal treat to have coffee already made (24 hours a day) and waiting for one to turn on the spigot and draw out a cup full of the full-bodied aromatic blend that only a sailor can make! Can you believe 24 hours a day fresh Pizza? Exotic Asian foods of every sort? Escargot, Kalamari, Shrimp, Red Snapper, Tilapia, baked, grilled, fried, grits, gravy eggs benedict, boiled eggs, omelette of your choice, French toast, pancakes, bacon, sirloin steaks every night - or your choice of a dozen entrees...too much to consume and too much to remember it all. This was the third vacation we have taken in the last nine years so I was ready for it. Now it's time to get back to work - but - waaaaaaaaaaashhhhhhhh! I don't wanna gooooooooooo!

We were with friends from Lenoir City - Frances' sister andbrother-in-law Curtis and Elizabeth Fritts, Ron and Priscilla Tarpley, Tom and Barbara Evensen, together with Roy and Geneva Hamilton. The fellowship with them while experiencing this trip was like icing on the cake. Our getting onto the ship, relaxing aboard ship, the sight-seeing trips into the islands, going through customs and immigration, were all made more pleasant because of this company.

One thing I must tell you about is the fact that there was a chapel on board the ship. On Sunday, our tour leader (Barbara Evensen) had made arrangements for us to have a worship time in the chapel and asked me to be the speaker. It was a wonderful thing for me to be able share my heart with these friends.

OK - gotta get to work! Ugh.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Trip To Tchad

That's correct! T-C-H-A-D. And, as if that were not enough, the capital of Tchad is N'djamena. It is difficult for me to pronounce you are not alone.

Tchad is going through some strong struggling as it moves forward into the 21st century, not only because of the fact that (as in many other parts of Africa) the country has not had the wherewithal or the "whatever it takes" to be a 21st century nation. Infrastructure is noticeably absent. For example -the old and beat up taxi had no air-conditioning. Along the roadside there were "shops" which consisted of a blanket spread out on the ground with handmade articles for sale. Most people walked. Many rode bicycles. The more fortunate were riding horses or motor-bikes. We, the tourists, rode broken and battered taxis. I saw a young man grab the loose fitting cloth he wore around his shoulders and head and pull it across his nose and mouth, furrowing his brow and squinting his eyes to protect himself from the hot swirling dust and dirt being stirred up by the few passing vehicles.

When we arrived in the SIL (Summer Institute of Linguistics) owned and operated by Wycliffe Bible Translators, I was so glad to get inside and find that there was a shower. Although there was no hot water tank, there was water, and it was not too cold because the heat of the day had warmed the pipes adequately. Our church leaders had arranged for us to have a three bedroomed apartment complete with kitchen and living room/dining room. The overseer's wife cooked for us each day. Meals consisted of three fried eggs each, french bread, butter, and coffee or hot tea for breakfast; boiled potatoes, fish or beef, rice, french bread, bottled water, and coffee or tea for lunch; and the same menu we had for lunch was the menu for dinner. Of course I did not suffer for something to eat - plus I had my tootsie rolls, beef jerky, coconut macaroons, and other snacks from the Dollar Store in Cleveland!!!

Bishop David Le Page, our West African Regional Superintendent met me in Paris, France and we flew in together to try and sort out (or at least get a better understanding of) some of the problems the Church in Tchad is experiencing. We met the first day with the National Council to hear their views and listen to their vision and hear testimonies of God's provision. Two days were spent teaching and preaching. The third day we gave all the ministers present an opportunity to express their desire for who their overseer should be for the next two years (2008-2010) by "preference ballot". Ballots were sealed in the presence of the group and brought by me to give to the General Director of World Missions who will finally nominate the person to the World Missions Board. The person chosen will be appointed by the board and finally approved by the General Executive Committee.

On Sunday we went to Church at 9:00am and finally finished around 1:00pm. When the sermon has to be interpreted into another language it takes twice as long - so a one hour sermon turns out to be two hours. The Africans seem to love it. "The longer - the better" seems to be their motto. But then, no one was worried about getting home in time to watch the ball-game on TV - and no one was in a hurry to get to the local Shoney's! Those things were non-existent in Tchad. Just imagine - No Wal-mart, no Walgreens, no super market -- and if there were one of those places there would be no money in your pocket to allow you to make a purchase.

Departure was another experience...the x-ray machine was not working so all baggage had to be opened and examined by hand. The examiners are so curious for they seemed never to have seen a package of beef jerky, or cheese-n-crackers, etc. It seems they want to handle every item in your bag. One of them opened my toothbrush holder, saying, "W0t thees?" That is part of the reason I always try to be at the airport at least three hours before my flight is scheduled to leave! Patience is demanded, for if one ever raises his/her voice in protest it could mean you get even more thorough investigation. Oh well... THANK GOD for another wonderful trip!!!

Saturday, September 29, 2007

A Message From My Daddy

I'm preparing to leave today to visit the country of Tchad. It seems I need to do a million thngs but right now I want to stop and leave just a short note here. We have just come through the International Council meeting of three days, followed immediately by two days with my Area Field Director's Council. One day early this week I reached home about 6:00pm thoroughly wrung out. You know? Tired. Exhausted. Spent emotionally and physically. I had made some small offerings in these meetings with the hopes of it being a blessing but it did not seem well-received. "This is too ambiguous." "This needs to be refined." "Let's send this back to the World Missions Board for some work." And "Do we really need to be meeting here and talking about such items as this?" So as you can imagine, my brow was furrowed and my spirit was low. I needed a "picker upper". Ahhh, I thought. I need a coke. But alas, when I opened the fridge door there was no sign of soda water.

So Off to the grocery store I went. Just inside the entrance to the store a young lady with two small chidren approached me..."Is your name Brannen?" she asked. "Yes, it is!" "Well," she responded, "I want to tell you something your Daddy used to say to me. When I was a young girl I was very timid and always walked with my head down. I remember going into the church hall where my Dad was pastor and your Dad was on the staff. As I walked into the building with my head down, your Dad saw me coming from the other end of the hall. He arose from his chair and met me in the middle of the hallway. He would bow his head and walk towards me till our heads almost touched and when I stopped he would say, "Melissa, hold up your head! You have nothing to hang your head about!!!" (This was the daughter of John and Gloria Colbaugh who I would not have known at all if she had not told me.)

When I got back home I told Frances, "I've just had a message from my Daddy and from my Heavenly Father!

Friday, September 14, 2007

"Cushy" Jobs I've Had

I'm still laughing this morning about a statement someone once made to me about me having a "cushy" job. Of course the person who made the statement to me recently, understood full well the incongruence of the statement he had made for he too is a preacher.

Really, It happens to preachers all the time. I heard a man say once, "I wish I was a preacher - then I'd only have to work 3 hours a week. I'd have people bringing me food from their gardens, either taking me home with them on Sunday - or taking me out to a restaurant on Sunday - get to sleep in on Monday mornings - and basically have nothing else to do until Wednesday night."
So - what are some of the things we do in this "cushy" job? Well, here is a composite situation Not too long ago, I was invited to go to a church in Virginia to be their missions speaker. My directions were that I was to preach in two churches in the area. So, after a phone call to the pastor (whom I had never met before) I was instructed to stop at this certain motel to spend the night, then come on to the church the next morning as he was busy with other things. The motel turned out to be one of those quaint older places built in the 1940's which had two rows of four rooms each, laid out in a "V" formation with the office separate and in front of the V. Outside it is covered with faded and peeling battleship grey paint. I notice that the door lock has been pried open with a wrecking bar and now the lock barely hangs on the door jamb inside. Thank God I brought along my trusty rubber door stop which I use to slide under the door from inside, thus giving me a feeling of security. The carpet on the floor is "shag" in a burnt orange/dirt brown color. There is a green mold ring in the commode. The place smells sour. But there is a TV! So I turn it on and look around for the remote, only to find that there is none. It really is not needed since the TV only has three channels that work. PBC, ABC, and CBS. The shower was good! Someone had put one of those great big showerheads on and there was good water pressure.
Next morning I arrived early at the church and went to the parsonage next door as I had been instructed to do on the phone the night before. The pastor welcomed me in and motioned that I should take a seat. He proceeded to tell me that they did not need any "faith promise cards" which I always used in order to give the people a way to declare how much they wanted to give over the coming year towards my project. He also let me know that his people did not want a "movie"! "They want you to preach the Word a' God!" Then the Pastor asked where I was going to be that night. When I told him, he responded with "No. You are not. That man don't want you to come to his church - besides there are only a few of them." This man was the district pastor so I did not argue. As you may imagine, I left the parsonage and went to the pulpit with a heavy heart. (What a cushy job!) But it wasn't all bad. I opened my Bible to Matthew 9:36, 37 and preached my heart out. Afterwards the pastor asked publicly if I might have some pledge cards and would I let his church have them so they could get involved in this project in Africa.
That night I went to another church where the Pastor had told me that his church wanted the King James Version to be used. No problem. Then he also asked on the phone, "Brother - do you wear ear rings?" "No!" I said. "Well, do you wear a wedding band?" "Yes, I do" was my response. Then he said, "Well, my people will appreciate it if you will take it off and put it in your pocket." So, rather than offend anyone, I took my wedding band off for that service. (Romans 14)
Yep, I've got it made. Real "cushy" job here.

Now - let me conclude by saying that this is not the way I get treated ALL of the time. In fact it is an honor to me that so many pastors open their pulpits up to me and allow me to take my liberty in presenting the case for world missions. I've been treated like royalty; stayed in some of the finest hotels money can buy; and walked into rooms which had a basketfull of fruit and snacks which had notes of encouragement mounted on top, thanking me for doing what I do. I have had to "learn to abound" more than I have had to learn to be abased. I'm deeply grateful to God for allowing me this privilege.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

From The Cove/Billy Graham Center

Our General Overseer has encouraged all the members of the Executive Committee to "adopt" a small group of other leaders to get together with on a regular basis for times of prayer, study, and devotion. Each of the five men has a "Covenant Ministry Team". Frances and I are a part of the Tim Hill Covenant Ministry team. Brother Hill is the Second Assistant General Overseer and also a singer and song writer. He has invited his team to come to the Billy Graham Training Center located in "The Cove" near Asheville, NC.

So...Frances and I decided to leave home Sunday morning, go by the nursing home where her Mom is bedfast to visit and pray with her, then leave for the Asheville area - thus giving us an extra day on the road to rest before our meeting began. We found Mamaw Hildreth in better shape than expected. The speech therapist had found a set of headphones with a pocket amplifier that attaches to the shirt pocket and has made it possible for us to communicate with Mamaw. This is the first time I think she has really understood what I was trying to say to her for the past six months. It's amazing that she responded to every question and comment with sensible answers. It's like she was her old self. Of course this did not change her weakened physical condition, nor her paralyzed limb - but it is so good to be able to talk and know that she understands what is being said and is able to respond to conversation. That was sooooo good for Frances.

After feeding Mamaw her lunch and dinner we traveled on towards Asheville. On a whim, I asked Frances if she would like to stay in Maggie Valley, NC and she agreed. So we stopped about an hour before dark. We sat out in two rocking chairs in front of the entrance for about 10 to 20 minutes before retiring to the room. Next morning we "lolligagged" around and didn't check out until about 20 minutes before 11:00a, which was check-out time. This was quite a change of pace for me. When we got on the road we drove to the Moose Cafe, near the Farmer's Market on the West side of town, had a great lunch, then came on here and checked in by 1:30p.

We started off the meeting with a great meal at 5:30p, then church. Church consisted of an old timey Gospel Singing. First Bob and Jeanne Johnson, who have appeared on the Gaither Videos, and then the Voices of Lee directed by Danny Murray. Tim Hill then spoke to us before we had communion. It was a great service.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

New Beginnings on Labor Day

Saturday morning I was up early, had my light breakfast, and drove off to Franklin, Indiana to do a missions service for Bishop Robert and wife Brandi Sluder. They put me up in Lee's Inn of Greenwood. Pastor Sluder and Pastor Samuel Mwangi met me that evening at 6:30 in Greenwood and took me out to dinner. It turns out Pastor Mwangi is from Kenya and wanted to meet me because he learned I had lived in and ministered in Kenya for 9 years and now supervise our churches in 32 other countries of Africa.

The Church in Franklin is a mission church -- or the beginning of a new church whose leader feels strongly that for his church to grow he should involve his people in foreign missions. It was amazing to walk into this new mission and find them fellowshipping with a minster from Kenya, Samuel Mwangi and his wife Margaret. Also, it was fun for me to stand and greet them from the podium with "Hamjambo watoto wa Mungu!" or in English, "Goodmorning Children of God!" After the service they had a fellowship meal and there was plenty of Kenyan food as well as American food. What a great time we had together. I do not know if these groups will merge into one church because we have two men who are definitely called of God and have a burden for the lost in all cultures - so naturally both would have the tendency to want to be "in charge." However, if they could see it, there is so much more they could do together. Pastor Sluder wants a merger to take place. I'm not sure about Pastor Mwangi. Playing "second fiddle" is somehow not as attractive as being the leader of the band.

Pastor Sluder is calling his new church the "Place of Grace" Church of God. I believe it will become a great church whether the other people join together with him or not. It's obvious that God is at work in this effort and I perceived an above average commitment and passion here. What greater labor than winning souls to Christ and the Kingdom of God?

When the service was over I had a phone call from Frances and my first cousin Terry J. Jones and his new bride of about two years were here in Cleveland to visit with me. Therefore, I drove straight home after lunch, arriving about 8:30p Sunday night. They had arrived on Saturday evening from Indianapolis - so we probably passed each other somewhere on I-65. By the time I got home I found that Frances had invited Terry (I call him Junius; he calls me Alton) and Tricia (Junius' wife) to stay with us. So yesterday, we took them to the cabin. A great time was had by all! I Wish you could have been with us.

Friday, August 31, 2007

It's Happening

Since I've been home I found that Frances had an interest in Lee University's new ENCORE program - through which those who are 60+ years of age may go to school and take two classes per semester for the incredibly low price of $50. One may audit (take the course for personal enrichment with no obligations as far as testing) or take the classes for credit. Therefore, it happened that I agreed, and we have signed up and are auditing "Wisdom Literature of the Old Testament", taught by Dr. Rick Moore. We missed the first class because I was not back from my latest trip to Kenya. I'm really enjoying the time with Frances in the class. Also two of our friends, Eddie and Irma Williams are auditing the class with us. It has been a habit of mine for several years now to read one chapter of Proverbs each day. Of course Proverbs is only one of the "Wisdom Books". The others are Ecclesiastes and Job. Did you know that Job was considered to be Wisdom Literature? I confess that I did not. I had to make several trips to the book store before finally getting the books for our clsss. Thank God I got the books USED! The price? $103.00 The titles: Character in Crisis by William P. Brown; The Wisdom Literature by Richard J. Clifford; and Tuesdays With Morrie by Mitch Albom. Of course that price is for two copies each.

Yesterday, the 30th of August, we drove up to the Summit View nursing home near Lenoir City to see Frances' Mom. Frances' brother, Dewain, came to our house and rode with us. On Wednesday we had received a call saying that "it looks like the beginning of the end for Mamaw" because she was unable to swallow. However, after we arrived a speech therapist came in and was able to get her to take some small amount of nourishment. Please pray for Frances and the family as they go through the inevitable passing of their mother from earth's toils to Heaven's Rewards!

My friend, Eddie, came over to borrow my lawn mower trailer to help his son move. While they were at the house we discovered that wasps had made a nest (about 4 and 1/2 inches in diameter) directly under my boat seat! They sloshed gasoline on them and removed the nest, but when I looked later in the day there were about 6 wasps that had survived and were trying to re-build. Don't worry, I'll carefully examine the entire boat before launching next time. You know, I haven't put that boat in the water but one time in two years now, but when I mentioned selling it (can you believe) my wife said, "NO, Fred! Don't sell that boat. When you retire you will want it." Maybe. Maybe Not. Anyway - it's paid for.

By the way, I now have a new set of ratchet tie-downs for the trailer. Although I heard his father tell the son, "Be sure to tie those straps together!" the son either did not hear or did not think it important - so one of the straps got loose, fell under the trailer wheel, and broke. Nothing would satisfy Eddie but for him to buy me a new set of ratchet tie-downs. Not everyone would have been as thoughtful and considerate.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Back From Nairobi Again

Yes, I said AGAIN. I know. I was just out there in June for a meeting with Eastern Africa Leaders - but now I have been back again with the Central Africa Leaders where once again I led them in the M.E.D.I.C.A.L program I wrote about earlier. This version had to be shorter because of the School of Ministry meeting which occurred the next week.

The School of Ministry meetings were led by Dr. Don Aultman, Chancellor of Education for the Church of God. Dr. Aultman and his wife, Wynona, and Dr. Dwain Pyeatt and his wife, Judy and Dr. Lynn and wife Dr. Mary Ruth Stone were the leaders. Special guests from the Executive Committee were Dr. Paul Laverne Walker and his wife, Carmelita. What a blessing as they all ministered to us.

Wow! What a nice thing to get back home and find that my #1 daughter has also established her blog place on the internet. Thanks to all of you for your comments about the last blog I did. Frankie, hurry up and put a picture of yourself on here and keep us posted on how your adventure at school is gong with all the new challenges with the new kids.

Yes, Donice, I tried to establish a second blog called "From the Cabin" - but lost it - now will have to try and find it again. It's just a matter of time.

I want to thank Lowell, who on the day of departure drove Frances and me and Mom to lunch and then took me to the airport. When I arrived back home from Nairobi I was also thankful to find that number 1 daughter (Frankie) and husband (Rick) with their daughter (Jessica) had brought Frances to the airport to meet me! It is such a blessing to have family who is willing to help me in this way.

Guess what, y'all? Can you believe that Frances and I have enrolled at Lee University in Dr. Rick Moore's class on Wisdom Literature of the Old Testament? Well, we are auditing only, but it is still stretching our minds. We, along with our friends Eddie and Irma Williams, had an exciting time at the school yesterday evening. This is because of the new "ENCORE" program by Lee that allows anyone 60 years and over to take 2 classes for a fee of onl $50. I think it is remarkable that they believe in us this much. We will try to keep you up-dated as events un-fold in this area of our lives.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007


This morning in Chapel we had a guest speaker from Berea, Kentucky named Mitchell Tolle who is a well known artist. He also pastors the Man-O-War Church of God congregation in Man-O-War, Ky. His subject was "Vision" and he did an extra-ordinarily good job with it. Quite frankly most ministers I have heard speak on the subject did not leave me inspired but rather left me somewhat depressed. When I hear this verse quoted it is almost always with emphasis on "dreaming big". Very frequently they will say something like, "God has given me a vision to build a million dollar facility for my church. I cannot see how we're gonna pay for it, but I'm gonna follow my vision." Isn't it obvious to everyone that the man who cannot see (how to pay for it) has no vision? What I perceive as a major cause for mis-understanding here is taking a text out of it's context. The entire verse says, "Where there is no vision, the people perish; but he that hath the law, happy is he." What advantage does having the law give you? Why, it gives you vision. As David said, "Thy Word is a LAMP unto my feet." That is to say that if you understand God's law you will have enough insight to look ahead on this pathway of life and avoid the potholes that lie along your route. God's Word is the basic element that gives you enlightenment about any project that you hope to undertake.

Another statement often heard when this subject is spoken about usually comes out like this: "If you are pastoring a small church of 50 or 75, it's because you don't have any vision." They forget that you are living in a community of less than a thousand people and that your's is one of ten churches in the community. It would be senseless for you to try to build a church that will seat 25,000 people when there are not that many people in your whole county! What I'm saying is that God gives you some natural and spiritual laws that will give you keen insight into what you ought to do and how to do it.

As usual, this brother today quoted the first part of Proverbs 28:19, "Where there is no vision, the people perish..." and then began to talk about visualizing, or looking forward enough to see the completion of the picture. Being an artist he had to have an idea of how the picture would look at the end before he began to paint. (That made sense to me) He needed to know the size of the canvas, the color paint to buy, the size and type brushes needed, the structure he wanted to create, and how to go about creating the structure. That all rang very true with my spirit. Our vision is not just some un-attainable goal, but will be something that we can move toward completing logically. We may make a few strokes with the brush that have to be changed, added to, re-painted even, but we know what we want to paint.

Another fine point he made was, "An original 'one of a kind' Van Gogh painting is priceless. But if you copy that painting, no matter how good your copy is, it's practically worthless!" In other words it is more important for you to be original or "one of a kind" than to copy the greatest work of a genius. You are unique. You are priceless. Your ideas, your authentic work, your thoughts which God gave you are worth far more than doing anything you learned in someone else's seminar.

This message was very helpful to me. Hope you too are blessed by it.

Monday, August 6, 2007


Up, Up, and Away! That was Superman's words. Thrilled with Flyin? Not me! Not near so much as I am thrilled with the opportunity to minister among my African brothers and sisters in Kenya. In fact, I can say from experience that Flying is an experience that many people glamorize but which is not so glamorous after you've been on a plane for 23 solid hours. Oh well, that's a topic for a future posting.

It was my privilege in June to do a M.E.D.I.C.A.L. seminar with leaders from all the nine countries of Eastern Africa. Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Rwanda, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zanzibar all had delegates there. No, I'm not a doctor. That's just something that I believe the Lord gave me to hang some thoughts on so I could remember to talk about them to my leaders in Africa. As some of you know those letters compose an acronym for Meaningful Membership, Evangelism & Discipleship, Doctrine, Intercessory Prayer, Church Planting, Administration, and Leadership Development.

MEANINGFUL MEMBERSHIP is the point I use to encourage the overseer's to get accurate statistics from their churches. There must be some commitment to the church organization on the part of the people. There must be some commitment by the pastor of the church to the flock over which God and the Church have appointed him.

EVANGELISM AND DISCIPLESHIP refers to the fact that if we do not follow up on our evangelistic efforts we are wasting our efforts. I said it this way: "Evangelism without discipleship is spiritual prostitution." There is a certain excitement in going out and looking for a place to deliver the seed (which is God's Word). There is a thill in inviting people to the front and center, and there is ecstacy in the encounter when the person actually receives that which we are sowing. But if we pull out without making any provision for the nurturing and training of the new-born babes in Christ - we are guilty of desertion.

DOCTRINE, sound doctrine, is a must if we are to stablize our churches. The Church of God Declaration of Faith is sound doctrine. These 14 articles of our faith will keep our members from being swept up in fads nd gimmicks which are being proliferated continent wide.

INTERCESSORY PRAYER: There is nothing that will take the place of prayer. It is basic to our survival as Christians. Someone has said, "When all has been done and said, there is more said than is done." This certainly applies to this area of prayer. We must learn how to pray. It is not easy. It does not come naturally. But "prayer can move mountains".

CHURCH PLANTING. When I talk about Church Planting I want to emphasize the fact that we need to plant churches among the un-saved. Too much time and money has been spent on planting churches among the religious who are dis-enchanted with their churches and/or pastors. Find the lost, get them saved, then organize the church.
One step further - don't abandon fruitful soil. At this point I take up a lesson I learned from someone else...Don't put all of your workers and your resources into green apple orchards. You cannot make apples turn ripe. Keep a watchman out there where the apples are green and when they start turning ripe then deploy more workers there.

ADMINISTRATION means "add to your ministry". Some seem to believe that if they become administrators then they can sit back and just push buttons and give orders. That may work for a short time - but Godly administrators add to their ministry. They look for ways to be of more and/or better service.

LEADERSHIP. Leaders Lead. If you think you are a leader it may be good to look behid you and see if anyone is following. "You can lead me with a piece of sewing thread, but if you push me I will kick you every step of the way."

Brother Jurgen Rudolph (Regional Superintendent) really coordinated the meeting exceptionally well. I am very grateful for his leadership. We were able to stay in the Discipleship College President's house on the campus in Eldoret because he (Gordon Bloodworth) was still here in the US itinerating. We did not know why the water quit working after the first night - until three days later when the workers found the main water-valve had been shut off. It was great to finally get another shower!

How many of you would be willing to sit this close for 6 hours each day to listen to a foreigner?

Here are some of the men and women listening intently to the teaching.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Good Health

Each day of my life I praise God for the Good Health I have enjoyed over these 69 short years! Only one major illness, and that was malaria. I do not take this good health for granted. In 1985, after a missions trip with Edward L. Williams down to Guyana, South America, I came home sick. The doctor expected it to come back on me frequently, and said that I should always have someone on standby ready to preach for me. The first Sunday after I got out of the hospital, my mind told me I could go to church - but my body was not ready. I tried to get ready...but alas...I was exhausted by the time I walked from the bedroom into the kitchen. However, by the following Sunday morning I was able to go to church and hear the visiting speaker. That same night I preached. Haven't missed a preaching session again because of any kind of illness and that was 22 years ago. Frances and I lived in Kenya for 9 of those 22 years and I have traveled to 23 countries on the continent of Africa. Still have had no more symptoms of malaria. I could get sick on this next trip - but if I do I will still thank God for the many years I did have good health.

Just last week I went for a complete physical, ekg, blood work and all. Positive report from the doctor says that I'm in good health. Thank God. I have no explanation for this except to say that God is merciful and good. Yes, my triglycerides were high and my cholesterol was elevated a very small amount. I am told I should work myself up to walking 30 minutes a day at least three days a week; I should take a baby aspirin each day; and I have to watch my acid reflux by eating the evening meal no later than 6:00p. (3 hours before bed-time!) Also I take a reflux tablet each morning.

Now, if you are sick or suffering, it does not mean God thinks any less of you than He thinks of others. Think of Job, 0f whom the Bible says that he was a righteous man and that he "eschewed" evil. Further it says that there was "no guile found in his mouth." Yet he sufferred more than most of us ever will. Also, Paul, who seems to be the hero of many Christians, sufferred in his body. Also he and other apostles were beaten, imprisoned, run out of town, ship-wrecked, maligned and mal-treated. Consider Hebrews 11 and as you study the heroes of faith you will find that many of the faithful died without ever having seen the fulfillment of promise - yet God listed them among the faithful.

To come to a point of closure let me tell you a story. Frances and I had come home from Kenya on furlough and our first-born (Frankie) and her family had come from Nashville to visit us in Lenoir City, Tennessee. When they were ready to leave, I grabbed the youngest up in my arms and in my best "Poppaw" tear-ful voice I said to the baby (who was about four years of age then) "Why do you have to go off and leave Poppaw here all by himself?" Her answer was a classic that the family now repeats often whenever difficulties of any sort arise: "Well, Poppaw, That's just the way life is!"

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

I'm Trying

Yeah, Mama said I was trying..."Very Trying"! But not really that hard. Hmmm. This is all new to me and I'm not so sure I want to open up this "pandora's box" called b.l.o.g. -- I have been inspired by my younger siblings (Wilmon, Lowell, Bonita, and Donice - but mostly by Lowell). See - I'm gettin' older but I'm far from dead yet. Lowell has his blog off to a great start and I have loved reading his comments, his openly sharing about his illness, and the pictures he has been posting. Of course my kids also prod me from time to time, with Ruthie being one of the main ones to say I should start mine so others of you in the family can stay up-dated on some of my work and travel.

Who am I? Well, I'm the son of Louis and Bonnie, brother of Wilmon, Lowell, Bonita, & Donice. They are all very important to me. I love the fact that for the last few years I live near them here in Cleveland. For those who don't know, we moved to Cleveland, TN to take this job at the 1998 General Assembly of our Church. Dad passed away in 1999. A year later Mom sold their house in Athens, TN and moved to Cleveland. Lowell moved from south Louisiana to Cleveland to pastor the Assembly of God in our town. Donice married and moved to Cleveland and is a family counselor. Bonita and husband gathered up their things which wern't sold or given away and moved to Niota (just up the road) but since the last move they too have a Cleveland address.

We had just returned to the US after doing over 9 good years in Kenya as missionary and overseer for the Church of God in that country. I'm very thanful that I had moved here and that now we have opportunity for visits not only with Mom but wth the siblings too. Well, that is all but Wilmon, who lives in Corpus Christi, TX. However, he too has bought a home near here and is moving this way soon (we hope). When he gets here all of us may buy a bus and go on the road like the "Singing Brannen's"!

As many know I currently serve as the Field Director for West, Central, and Eastern Africa. In this position it is my privilege to fly out to Africa about five (5) to seven (7) times each year. The flights are long and hard, and not near as glamorous as some would make them. Having frequent flyer miles is not that exciting for me. I'd rather go walking. Which the doctor has told me I need to do more of. So - let me go get with the program. C Ya later

Fred Alton

About Me

My photo
Cleveland, TN, United States
I am Fred Alton Brannen, the son of Louis A. Brannen (deceased) and Bonnie Jones Brannen, Louis was an Ordained Bishop with the Church of God. Bonnie is an Ordained Licensed Minister and at 89 years of age is still actively engaged in speaking and singing engagements. I am married to the former Frances Hildreth. We celebrated 53 years of marriage this past June and we are the parents of 3, grand-parents of 10, and great-grandparents of 10. I pastored in Tennessee for 24 years and served the Church in some capacity in missions for over 23 years. I retired from full-time ministry in August of 2008 but remain active, speaking and singing and teaching whenever opportunity affords itself. In January of 2010 I received a letter of commendation for having been credentialed as a minister in the Church of God for 50 years! My family is very important to me. Our get togethers are always noisy affairs and most times will include family sing-alongs. The children love their Mom's cooking so we have the privilege of seeing them regularly! WE LOVE having them over.

TheCabin on Day One

TheCabin on Day One
Fred Alton