The colors of things yet to be seen

As I drove through the mountains of Arkansas looking at bright yellows, deep reds and variety of greens and browns, I felt a warmness coming over me beckoning back to my childhood riding in the back seat of my parents blue 1964 Chevy Malibu as we made our way through the mountains heading to who knows where.

The adventure of travel was something that we all enjoyed, trying to find something we had not seen, something that would be an experience we could share throughout our memories.
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Titanic – a must see

There is no other name that seems to loom over nautical history like the White Star Lines’ R.M.S. Titanic.

Its story is highlighted in articles, books, films and televisions shows spanning the past 99 years. Amazing isn’t it, 2012 will be the 100th Anniversary of the story of one of the most fateful voyages of modern history.
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Stampeding towards Jim Stafford, Murder Mystery and a shining Silver Dollar

When I was kid, I often sought out anything on television which connected with country music.
One such show that I watched was “The Jim Stafford Show.” Stafford found hits in the music scene with songs such as “Swamp Witch” and “Spiders and Snakes” in the early 1970s.

His comedic abilities and musical talents were always appealing to me. I had watched him on many of the classic talk and variety shows of that period.
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A bass, some microphones and thousands of friends

I feel of late as if I am saying goodbye a lot in the words that I write, and in my personal life. In many respects I am blessed that I have known so many people in various walks of life but still sadness abounds when we see those we have walked with in some aspect of our life called home.

Just recently I attended a celebration of life for a talented musician and friend Gene Daniell (1941-2011) from Marietta, Ga. Gene was an acoustic bass player an in his second career a sound engineer supreme making the rounds at some of the biggest bluegrass music festivals in the South and East.

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The lasting effect of friends

John Donne wrote centuries ago “No man is an island.” Sometimes I think we may run our lives in a fashion that we think we are an island.

If we are blessed, we surround ourselves with family, friends, acquaintances, but are they really part of us and we a part of them? There are those who seldom find their way from their self-exile on their personal island to actually share with others a sunset, a walk on the beach or watching a kite bounce in the sea breeze.
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Low, I will be with you always

God is so good to Christians. All we have to do is just ask and there it is.

I’m not talkin’ about things we want. I am talkin’ about things we need — like pontoon boats and big screen TVs.
I prayed and I prayed for God to give me those and sure ’nuff he did. Of course, I have to keep them at my neighbor’s house.

I can use them anytime I want to day or night, but I think they are starting to see through the sleepwalking routine.
One thing He does bless us with is travel mercies, especially preachers and singers, maybe it’s because we ask for them more often.

Now I have traveled every way possible except dog sled. I have always traveled in the finest cars money can buy — Ford Pinto, Fairmont Stationwagon, Chevy S-10.
I have never been much for heights — this really came to me on my first plane flight. It’s not the heights that bother me so much — it’s the fall followed by the splat.
I was working for Bill Monroe and had to change planes four times on a trip across country. Each time I changed, the plane got smaller and smaller and smaller. They folded me into that last one.

I’m glad I didn’t have to go any further on that trip. My next step would have been flapping my arms with red birthday balloons tied to my back.

On another fateful flight, I was on what I call a puddle jumper — when you first see those planes you’re not sure if it will get across a puddle before falling. I was returning from the Michael Jordan Celebrity Golf Tournament in North Carolina. The plane seated about 16 people and we could not have squeezed in one more. We had wall-to-wall soap opera stars, prime-time actors, comedians, football and basketball players and their folks.

What none of us knew was a series of tornadoes was about to welcome us to the not so friendly skies.

It was a few minutes into the flight when we suddenly fell. After collecting everything that was once below our belts from around our ears, everyone released their held breath.
One friend, Chris Castile, from the sit-com “Step by Step” seemed unscathed by the sudden change. Flying fascinated him, and he was watching closely as the pilot compensated for the problem.

The wind whipped us every which way right, left, up and down. I looked around, saying a silent prayer through my gritted teeth as I held the arms of my seat for dear life.
I have never heard screams like that in my life.
After I stopped yelling I realized I wasn’t the only one. You would never imagine football players could make that much noise.

I believe with the Lord’s intervention through the pilot’s skill we sailed on through the bad weather. The Lord blessed us and we all made it to the ground safely. We could not have had a better ride at Disney. That is probably why we were all smiling when we set our feet on the ground.

That is one reason I am not that fond of flying. Besides, it says right in the Bible we should keep our feet firmly planted on the ground. It says “Lo(w), I will be with you always.” It does not say a thing about high.
From the comedy routine “Travel Mercies,” by Randall Franks, used by permission of Peach Picked Publishing.

Could I borrow a cup of chiggers?

That may sound like a strange question but after you already have a whole hoard move in on you, what’s a few more?
I recently was filming a movie outside Nashville when I noticed that I had an extreme need to reach down a scratch my leg again and again. I wasn’t even filming outside where you might expect them to pay a call. I just had picked the critter up along the way.
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Did you ever wonder if 1+1 really is 2?

I often wonder what happened to math in America. I know I had my own trouble with it when I was in school. They always wanted you to follow some method of reaching the answer and show how you reached the answer. Even if you got the right answer, if you didn’t go at it the right way you were wrong.

I realize that we were taught these approaches to aid us in developing a sense of reasoning and help us learn to solve problems.
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The miracle of a migraine

With each passing year all of us have dates that we mark in our minds or hearts as important.
As I reach the end of August each year my thoughts reflect on the last days of my late father, Floyd, who passed on Aug. 30, 1987.
In his last days, Dad faced a fierce but short battle with lung cancer. Years of smoking had led him into a skirmish I know he did not want to face at the young age of 54.

On Aug. 29, I arose early to take a school exam. Upon returning from school my father asked me to drive him about 30 miles away to look at a used riding lawnmower.

It had been just six weeks since he had been diagnosed.

They told him if treatments were successful he could have five years more to share with us. As with most people who undergo chemotherapy, he experienced a rough six weeks. His once perfect hair, which as a child I had so many times seen him carefully take his black comb from his pocket and straighten the ridge at the front of his head, now was gone and his body was almost a shell of the strong man I had grown to love and depend on in so many ways.
Dad used the trip for the lawnmower to tell me how proud he was of me and shared some hopes for my future.

We drove and I listened.
He said that he enjoyed the years of helping me as road manager as I traveled on the road playing music. He and Mom took care of the countless details which were needed out there that we never even knew about.
I wish I could remember every word, but I can’t.

Perhaps in many ways I was trying to block what he said because in my heart I knew this was his way of telling me goodbye.
I do not know how he knew his time was nearing. I later found out he had spent much of the previous day doing the same with my Mom. He was anxiously awaiting the arrival of my brother, who lived out of town, so he could also speak with him.
We checked out the mower and of course we did not buy it. We went on our way back to the house.

Upon returning, I prepared to leave for a show. I was performing at the annual Gospel Gold Festival with the Marksmen quartet in Dahlonega.
We did our show around 7 p.m., then I visited with folks around the record table signing a few autographs. The Florida Boys, one of my early TV heroes, were scheduled to perform at 10 p.m., so I was going to wait to see them for the first time.
As I sat at the table, I began to develop a tremendous migraine. As nausea set in, I knew I had to leave and make the two hour drive back home.
I turned to the Marksmen leader, Earle Wheeler, and said “I’ve got to go now, if I don’t I will not be able to make it.”
The symptoms progressively got worse on the trip home but I pressed on through the darkness.
As I pulled onto Warwick Circle, all the lights in my house were on. I rushed in to find nobody home. There was a note on the kitchen table from my mom, which said “Gone to Hospital.” On the phone were two urgent messages from her. I jumped in my truck and rushed to the hospital.

As I entered the hospital I was ushered quickly to the seventh floor. I saw a lady in the distance near the pay phone. I did not even recognize her as my mother. The weight of the circumstances were heavy on her shoulders.

My father insisted on spending his time not in a hospital room but in the patient’s day room.
I arrived just in time to share my father’s last hour before God called him home. Mom and I held his hands as he literally walked into that good night. And he did walk straight into God’s arms.
When I reached the door to our house earlier that evening, that headache and all the symptoms which had beckoned me home were gone.
I was sent a message to come home through God’s telephone.
If God had not placed upon me that affliction, I would have stayed and enjoyed the show and would have missed being with my Dad in those final moments.
That migraine was a miracle to me that helped me to experience what life and death is really about; it’s about the people we love and how we share our time together.

The choices we make touch other lives

In life we are constantly faced with choices. We are blessed or cursed with the gift of free will, depending on your perspective.

From the smallest detail of “Do you want fries with that?” to “Do you take this woman to be your wife?” in America, we have endless choices.

People can choose to work hard and by doing so achieve great success and accumulate wealth. Some choose to dedicate their energies to benefiting humanity.

Each choice we make sets us upon a path. Even the simplest thing like having one extra cup of coffee in the morning could change your schedule enough to prevent you from being involved in an auto accident.
As I look back on my choices, there are some I would like to change in spite of the fact I do not know what path changing them would have brought. Nevertheless, I cannot change them; I only have the power over what lies ahead, not behind. I can only try to learn from those past choices.

Using my television exposure as a podium, I have spoke to youth about living a successful drug-free life. My work 20 years ago yielded the attention of the National Drug Abuse Resistance Education Officer’s Association. Consequently, they made me an honorary D.A.R.E. officer. I have encouraged thousands across the country to make the choice not to use drugs. I do not know if any made that choice. I can only hope that at least one did.

No matter how you try to influence others, the ultimate choice lies with them. With that choice also lays consequences. When you make a choice that affects you, your family or even others you do not know, it is up to you to take responsibility for what that choice brings.

Many times people try to shift the blame if things are not going as they planned. I think we pick up this behavior as a child. It is the old “He did it” approach to avoid punishment. I do not know about you but that never worked for me. It only made the punishment worse.

I’ve attended teen/parent forums that included discussions from both parents and teens on the issue of parents making choices for their children that affect other children. Choices such as providing alcohol for teen parties or even adults turning a blind eye to drug use by not being vigilant supervisors, as they should.

Some parents may say “I’d rather have them doing it where I can keep an eye on them,” but when other children are involved I imagine their parents might like to have a say and an eye involved in the situation as well. At least that is what I have heard parents say.

Each choice we make, in some way, affects someone else — sometimes people we do not even know, such as that driver who might be injured by a teenage drunk driver coming from a supervised party where alcohol was served.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not focusing on these parents exclusively. The teenagers admit that even if parents are not providing, some of them will find a way to get alcohol themselves from older siblings, buying it themselves at establishments that do not request ID or by sneaking it from a parent when they are not watching.

Unfortunately, these teenage actions expand to various types of drugs, including prescription pills out of medicine cabinets as well.
No matter what choice you make, they are your choices. You ultimately have to live with what results from them. So if you are making a life-changing choice, become informed about what may happen depending on which path your choice leads you.

Even if it turns out to be the wrong choice, at least you did not go down that path with blinders on.