Thursday, November 6, 2014

For many years my Aunt Martha has told the story of attending a revival with her friend Margaret Ann. I've love that story and I love to hear my Aunt Martha tell it. In her rendition (the truth), she gets tickled when the preacher preaches so hard he looses his teeth. Who wouldn't? In my rendition (not the truth) I couldn't make it funny, the way she does, without sounding disrespectful, which she wasn't. So, after thinking about her story, and all of the little churches I've been to all my life, the red-backed Church Hymnal, and all the preachers who spend their lives proclaiming the Word of God, this is the story I've written, based on her experience one night at a revival taking place at a small church in the ridges of East Tennessee.
Oh, by the way, the first line of the story is from my own heart...."I always did love to go to a good church service".......

by Shelia Nelson

I always did like to go to a good church service.  Every weekend me and Margaret Ann would drive over to the ridges, lookin' to see if some little old church was a'havin' a revival.  It was good to be able to set in a house of God after workin' all week.  We'd just keep our same dresses on, the ones we wore to work that Friday.  Sometimes though I'd slide my shoes off durin' the service.  They was low-heeled black dress shoes and it felt so good to work my toes, especially during the singin'.  If the choir cut loose on Heaven's Jubilee, my toes got a good exry-cise!

They was one time when Hoot Holler Independent Church was a'havin' a mid-week revival and me and Margaret Ann took a notion to go.  We was mostly weekend revivalers because of havin' to get up at five o-clock in the mornin' to drive to work on account of Margaret Ann not wantin' to drive in a lot of traffic while it was still dark. Our shift started at seven o'clock so we usually sat in the dark parkin' lot for an hour or so.  She took a flashlight and we worked word search puzzles and eat biscuits leftover from me and Momma's and Daddy's supper the night before. 

Well, anyways, we made up our minds to go to the revival, mostly because Hoot Holler Independent had the best choir you ever heard! They sang them old convention-style gospel songs out of the red-backed Church Hymnal and their four-part harmony would come in so clear and it sounded good to my ears! The sopranos was airy-like, liftin' them high notes to the ceiling and the altos would sing middlin' notes right across the top of your head.  The tenors would hit you in the kneecaps and then here come the basses, makin' that old tongue and groove floor rumble under our feet.  Ever'body would clap their hands during singin'-time and you just knowed ever'body was leavin' their earthly cares behind for a little while.

Plate-passin' time was after the last choir song.  Me and Margaret Ann always give a dollar each.  Some folks say you shouldn't have to give anythin', that the gospel is free, and it is, but them folks is just cheap, really, and don't want to turn a'loose of their dollar.  Me, I think you should help pay the light bill and it's nice to have a bathroom right there in the church, instead of having to go to the outhouse. Somebody has to pay for them things.  Well, the plate was passed and since we always set towards the back we was glad to see their old wooden plate filled up with dollar bills.  We put our'n in too and settled ourselves down from the good singin' we'd listened to, ready to hear the visitin' preacher bring his message.

The pastor led us in a prayer and we prayed for all them that couldn't be at the revival because they was sick and afflicted, and then we prayed for the missionaries around the world and then he said to raise your hand if you had lost loved ones that needed to be saved.  I raised my hand and I could hear other hands going up.  It's funny how you can hear something like that, but I guess it's because ever'thing is so still and quiet and holy and you knowed these people was concerned about their unsaved children or wife or husband.  We prayed for our own lost loved ones and ever'body else's too.  Then we prayed that our hearts would be revived and he said amen and we all said amen.

Then he introduced us to the revival preacher. He was an older man, but looked to be right spry from the way he hopped up to the pulpit.  His hair was white, just as white as could be and he had a lot of it too, it put me in the mind of a big white cloud. His blue eyes was deep-set and he had the air of a joyful man. Looked like he liked to laugh a lot.  He said he was glad to be there and then he read his text from the book of James.  I always liked the book of James. You know James was the Lord's earthly brother and his book teaches about faith and bein' saved and doin' good works and takin' care of widows and orphans and bridlin' your tongue. More people ort to read it and really study on it.  Well, I knowed this was going to be a good sermon.  I looked over at Margaret Ann and she nodded her head.  She likes the book of James too.  And sure enough, that revival preacher had barely got started preachin' before the amens started! Ever'body was agreein' with him on ever'thing he was preachin'! And I was too, but I didn't amen out loud.  Margaret Ann did though. She don't hold with a woman keepin' quiet in church.  She's always quotin' Galations 3:28 "There's neither Jew nor Greek, male nor female, slave nor free. We are all the same through Christ Jesus."  I believe this too, I just don't like to talk during the sermon. I might miss somethin' while I'm amen'in'.

Well, the revival preacher was preachin' real hard on the fourth chapter. It's the one about quarrelin' and fightin' amongst each other. It says not to speak evil one of another and not to judge your brother. The revival preacher was bearin' down on how we ort to treat each other and his blue eyes was blazin' with the truth and his voice was like gentle thunder.

Well, I was listenin' with my whole heart. I was so intent on what he was sayin' that it startled me when I saw somethin' come flyin' over the pulpit and land in the middle of the aisle, about halfway down the church. I leaned over and saw his teeth a'laying there in the floor.

That revival preacher didn't miss a lick. He kept on a'preachin' and people acted like they there never was a set of false teeth come flyin' out of the preacher's mouth to land on the floor.  They didn't bat a eye when he strode out from behind the pulpit, waving his big, worn Bible while tellin' us to "Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up."

He walked down the aisle towards his teeth, never lookin' down at them, but instead he was raisin' his Bible and tellin' us "Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life?  It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away."

He reached down and picked up his teeth, put them in his coat pocket and preached all the way back to the pulpit, never onest loosin' his place or his dignity.   "Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin."

Well, he ended his sermon and we had a altar call and there was a lot of people on their knees askin' God to forgive them for backbitin' their brothers and sisters and thankin' God for this vapour of a life He give to us.

Me and Margaret Ann both shook his hand when we left. His joyful blue eyes looked at us, full of the love of God. And he'd put his teeth back in.

We didn't talk on the way home. I was beginnin' to think maybe I had imagined his teeth flying over the pulpit, to land in the floor not three feet away from me.

When we finally got to my house and I opened the car door to get out Margaret Ann said to me "You reckon that kind of thing has happened to him before? He acted like it was nothin'." I knowed what she was talking about. And I studied on it for a little bit and I says to her "Well, I believe it was like he told from the Bible tonight "Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up" I reckon he was being lifted up so much that we didn't pay no attention to his teeth a'laying there on the floor, we was just payin' attention to the Word of God coming from him."

Well, we went to Hoot Holler Independent Church revivals many times after that, but we never did hear that old preacher preach the Word again. He went on to Glory just a couple of weeks after preachin' so hard that his teeth come out. I like to think of him stridin' down them streets of gold, never once fearin' that he'll loose his teeth while shouting hallelujahs to the King of Kings.