Saturday, June 26, 2010

Camp Meeting

The Preacher Waxing Warm

We've just concluded our annual Church of God in Tennessee Camp-Meeting. For those who may not know: Each year the people from all churches throughout the state gather in one place for five nights of worship of God, fellowship with one another and instruction in the Word of God, the Holy Bible. Now-a-days we have something over 400 churches in this state alone, so you can see that this is a massive undertaking. 3000 to 4000 people attend these services each night. Our speakers were all well known people. Loran Livingston, David Griffis, Tommy Bates, Mark Williams and for the concluding service John Hagee. They were all in top form and had something fresh to share with us. I've never heard them preach any better than they preached this week.

Of course Camp-Meeting now is very different from what it was 70 + years ago when I first started attending. You see, I've been attending Camp-Meetings all of my natural life because my Dad and Mom were pastors before me. This week we were in the sanctuary of our headquarters church (North Cleveland Church of God) which is air-conditioned. PA equipment, at least 3, maybe 4 Video Cameras, keyboards, organ, trained and talented singers all made their good contributions to a pleasant worship experience. Books, CDs and DVDs were on sale in the lobby. There were two overflow areas (totally packed the last night) plus the main sanctuary.

Of course I don't remember all the details of those first years for I was a baby in Mother's arms. I CAN remember much though from the time I was eight years old. I remember hearing Ray Hughes preach about Jesus in a Florida Camp-Meeting at the campground in Wimauma. I can close my eyes and be transported in thought to that place and hear him even now, saying, "Come with me down the via Dolorosa. Let your bare feet touch the cool cobblestone pavement and smell the green moss growing on the stone walls where the sun does not reach it but for moments each day. We are following a noisy crowd as they follow the man called Jesus, who is carrying a rugged old cross on which he will be hanged today......" and on he went describing the crucifixion of Jesus. In my mind I can hear the congregation saying "Amen". I can see the old folks with eyes glued toward the podium, fanning with a cardboard fan that contains advertisement for a funeral home. My folks (Mom, Dad, Grandma Jones, my brothers and baby sister) are all there. It is hot. I can hear someone slap their hand against their legs - swatting mosquitos. The old model A Ford goes by with a tank mounted on back, spraying for mosquitos, chiggers, and any other bugs that might succumb to the fumes made by a mixture with a heavy base of kerosene (called coal oil). In my mind's eye I can see people bowing their heads and coughing as their hands reached for their mouths to stop them from ingesting the bug spray. But I can also remember that no one wanted to leave the open-air tabernacle area during the preaching. When the invitation was given for people to come and pray - we all rushed forward. Everyone was engrossed in the message of Jesus!

There are so many wonderful memories of Camp Meeting. At the Wimauma campground there was a huge bell hung on the back of the tabernacle which was rung about 10 minutes before and again at starting time of each service. In those days there were many campers, camped in tents. Some slept in their cars. Some built one or two room cabins on the property. My grandmother had a cabin which had two rooms. One for cooking and eating - the other for sleeping. The boards on the floor were partially covered by linoleum rugs. We kids slept on a pallet on the floor. Kerosene lanterns served as our light. A "two-burner" kerosene stove served as the kitchen range. An ice-box was filled daily with a 25 pound block of ice. Ahhh... what memories. Singing lessons from V.B. (Vep) Ellis. Music by Vep and Leon Ellis, Vestal Kerce, Arnold Godwin, the Blackwood Brothers, Hovie Lister and the Statesmen, the Speer Family, the Florida Boys with L.G. Beasley, Videt Polk and so many many more.

In Tennessee, the Camp Meetings were also great events. Preachers like Y.W. Kidd, A.V. Beaube, W.E. Johnson, Wade Horton, Paul Henson, T.L. Lowery, Steve Brock, George Alford, Jack and Danny Drake, George Voorhis, Clyde C. Cox, Albert Batts and others too numerous to list. Singing by Connor Hall, Calvin Wigley, Gordon Stallings and his family, Ray Branham family, special choirs, quartets, and solos. My own Mom and Dad were called on to sing at Camp Meetings in Tennessee. If I were to tell the whole story it would be too lengthy for this blog. In fact - I'm going to have to hunt some pictures to help break the monotony of my writing. Smile with me folks.

I must put in just a word for what I have always considered to be the most special part of Camp Meeting: the Morning Bible Study. I always loved the Bible Study better. I never could understand why more people were not in attendance for them. Most times there were half (or less) number of people in the morning study sessions than the night services. They were often not as emotional. Maybe that was the reason. Of course some of our folks work during the day and could only come at night. But Bible Study - sitting under the teaching of those old-timers like David Lemons, George Alford, Albert Batts, etc., was so rich. Some of them could quote verbatim an entire book - like 1st Thessalonians or Timothy or Titus or Malachi - and give such powerful insights into the meaning of the Bible. It was so satisfying to me.

Well - this week was no exception. Mitchell Tolle, a very successful artist who has his own gallery in Berea, Kentucky, gave us masterful teaching based on Psalms 1. It was like a breath of fresh air. He threw down a challenge to us to become radical Christians! I wish you could have heard each session. WOW! Tolle is also the pastor of the Man 'O War Church of God in Lexington, KY. If I'm ever in that area I want to attend and see what the Lord is doing there.

Two Friends Listen; W. Paul Fritts and Edward L. Williams

I'm looking for a place to stop. My Dad taught me that I should learn how to "dismiss" the people and do it smoothly. He would stand and walk to the pulpit and say, "You're dismissed!"
OK. You're dismissed!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Scatterred Thoughts About Change

"That's The Fred We Knew In Biloxi!" (A quote from Sherry Darnell)

Change Happens! It's as normal as falling off a log. Our President had a good chance of doing what he promised - "seeing change". It happens with him or without him. Someone said, "The more things change the more they remain the same!" And while that may be true to some degree, especially in politics, there are some changes that happen that make a real difference. Many people live longing for change. They feel they are caught in a trap and have a great desire to get out. Some feel trapped in their job, or school, or marriage, or lifestyle. They desire change, talk about change, strive for change, pray for change. But - CHANGE JUST HAPPENS.

We were all once babies. But things changed. WE got older. For some, acne caused us to be called "ugly" and thus some became unpopular or even worse, depressed. Then with maturity the pimples popped and faces smoothed and beauty arose. Cinderella became the queen. Now they young men sought the attention of "my fair lady". Some babies were cute, then changed to "chubby". But things changed further. The baby fat melted and a handsome young man appeared in his teens. Or maybe an awkward and gangly young man appeared. All the girls hung around the handsome one like flies on the apothecary's bottle. This is not the end though...things changed. That full shock of richly colored hair began to turn grey around the temples. This was "more handsome" for some. But in others, some hair turned gray while some hair turned loose. That fat began to re-appear. So much change occurs in some physical bodies until friends you had known as children but haven't seen in 10 to 15 years become unrecognizable.

There's an old saying that seems appropriate for this picture of me and my great-grand-son...... "Time has made a change in me!"

Friday, June 11, 2010

Problems - Privacy, Law Breakers, and The Gulf Disaster

Have you ever wondered about your privacy here in cyber-space? I'm sure we have some e-mails screened by the government and by some forces out here in cyber-space. To me it's an act of cowardice that doesn't want to face up to honest criticism. I know they do screen things like this from our troops because I got a reply from one I had sent to Lowell's son who is in the Air Force saying something like "this e-mail was not sent because of content". Of course I've lived with this lack of freedom of speech by living in Africa - and watched as news magazines were declared "subversive" material because there was some criticism of their government. I also observed daily newspaper editors being thrown in jail because they had printed material criticizing the president of their country. It was hard for me too - because I had grown up with such incredible freedom of speech. I see the trend in government circles today in our America that high-placed politicians feel themselves above criticism of their people. (i.e., remarks made by the president about the tea-party group, the Arizona governor, and so forth indicate this to me.)

Too, because of paranoia since 9/11, at least in part, our leadership is invading the privacy of it's hard-working citizens. It would not surprise me at all if we move into a "state of emergency" toward the end of Obama's career. That would give him "emergency powers" to continue ruling even though I believe he will be beaten soundly at the ballot box. I've observed it being tried in foreign countries. It always leads to chaos by un-ruly mobs. I'm aware that the Bible predicts these difficult times "in the last days". It is called "Perilous times". Evil men, Difficult men, unruly men are hard to deal with. 2 Tim. 3:13 "But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived." 2 Tim. 3:1-5 "This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. [2] For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, [3] Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, [4] Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; [5] Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.

Two major problems are bringing certain disaster to "our way of life" in America. One - the rejection by many of our citizens of the simple rule of law. In Romans 13 we learn that God has placed the "powers that be" into their positions, and the Bible commands (notice I used the word "commands" and not the word "suggests") that Christians should recognize the officer of the law as the minister of God. Our religious leaders are supporting illegal aliens and attempting to throw open the doors as never before and declare the 600,000+ illegal aliens legal so they can collect funding from our social welfare programs - paid for by you and me, the loyal, hard-working and law-abiding citizen. Our President allowed Mr. Calderon, the president of Mexico, to come into this country and state over national TV that he did not like the Arizona law! Have you ever? Can you imagine the reaction that would happen if Mr. Obama went to any other nation and made a statement that he did not like their law? Plus, our President has held the governor of Arizona at arms length and stated he disagrees with the laws of Arizona which says nothing more than what the national immigration law has already said. In my book that means he is saying he does not uphold the law of America, which he swore he would up-hold. God have mercy on America.

Two - The other major problem that I see looming NOW over us is the terrible tragedy occurring in the Gulf Oil Spill. You are probably already seeing trouble on the shores near you in the panhandle of Florida. I do not mean to be an alarmist - but what do we know about oil? It burns, right? Suppose this thing is not plugged for another six months? Oil will be everywhere, soaking in our marshes, up our rivers, into our beaches, tracked into motels and hotels. What if - after saturation - someone starts it to burn? Now I'm not saying it will. But what if?
This thing is going to KILL much of our old way of life. It is going to affect not only the fishermen, the shrimpers, the people who make a livelihood in the sea, but it is going to affect the entire USA's economy. Hotels, Motels, Restaurants, trucking industry, political and social and religious lives will be drastically changed. As I have said before, our President needs to come forward and instead of saying "I'm in charge...I'm holding BP accountable....I'm not going to let this continue", he needs to say something like, "My fellow-citizens. We have a disaster in the Gulf of Mexico that we are trying to control. It has never happened before. We do not know what to do. We need the help of God! So- I am asking you to get on your knees and pray to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, that He may have mercy upon us and give us the understanding of how to solve this problem."
God has the ability to turn the entire situation around. In 2 Chronicles 7:14 He promised that He would "heal our land" if we met His conditions. God can stop the flow of oil, or show some engineer a new device to control it. God can then cause local citizens to turn this disaster into something profitable. I don't know how. But God can. I thought this morning that some people I've known would be gathering up that oil in buckets, soaking papers in it, tying them in bundles and selling them as "Fire starter sticks". Huh? Who knows what God would do if our nation and it's leaders would repent of greed, selfishness, pride, lust, and out-right bold rebellion against the Lord?

Whew! I didn't start out to write such a chronicle - but I'm driven. It is urgent that we get the word out to folks that the only hope for America and for the world in these last days is faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

53 Years Ago Today

Lenoir City, Tennessee - June 2, 1957 - I stood as an 18 year old young man fresh out of boot-camp, trembling inside and standing beside my dream girl and before the preacher! Looking back, I realize I was in a state of mild shock, transfixed, hardly hearing the preacher's words and hoarsely croaking out the words "I Do" at the appropriate moment. Thoughts of "tonight" flying through my head at break-neck speed...I kept trying to focus on the events going on around me on a day that changed my life forever. In a few moments (seemed like hours) all of the ceremony, picture taking, tearful goodbyes from siblings and parents were over and at last we were in the '56 Studebaker (borrowed from Dad) and on our way out of town with several cars following - horns honking, drivers and passengers and waving and shouting, pretending to attempt cutting us off, as the shoes, and cans they had tied to the rear of the car bounced noisily along the road! Somehow - I eluded them all within the first two miles and we drove speedily to the motel owned by some church members where Dad pastored at Ooltewah, Tennessee for our first night together as man and wife! We were so in love. The air in the room was electric. I could hardly contain myself.

Fifty three years later - this morning I went to Chik-fil-A to get two breakfast burritos. Upon returning home I had put the food on the table and sat down to eat. Frances passed my chair and leaned over to give me a kiss on the lips - and the same fire was there in a flash. (Well, the intensity was not as high, but it was the same un-mistakable fire.) I love this woman so much! Thank you God for a wonderful wife. My children and grand-children sometimes get embarrassed at our kissing and hugging - but I'm so thankful for the feelings we have between us. Someone said, "Love is not a feeling". And another said, "Love is what you do...Not what you feel." I agree with those statements - but those moments of ecstasy are also a very important part of what has kept us together.

As you can tell from the pictures, the wedding was performed outside. This was done in front of the living room window of Frances' sister's home on B Street, Lenoir City, TN. My beautiful bride had walked across the street from sister Margaret's home (on B Street) and we stood outside for the ceremony to be performed by Rev. T.R. Morse, our pastor.

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