Thursday, February 25, 2010

Talladega Nights....

So...last week my friend Jeff posted a picture of himself on Facebook. (As you can see, I stole it.) What was funny about this particular picture is the completely unrelated, wide-ranging comments it generated. When I got to the end of the 80+ comments, I felt like I had just played that game where the person at the front of the line whispers a sentence in the ear of the next person--but can only whisper once--and by the time the person at the end of the line has to say the sentence out loud--it's nothing at all like the sentence whispered by the first person.

Don't get me wrong. The comments were FUNNY. They conjured up memories of Jeff "marrying" Pam Nail on the steps of the Kimberly First Baptist Church at the ripe old age of 10ish, only for her to ask him for a "divorce" shortly after the ceremony. Then, they dished up reminders of another old friend, Joey, blazing a trail through all three Nail sisters at one time or another.

And...all would have been well and good and funny if everybody had just stopped right there. But, NOOOO...after that "thread" of comments, everybody insisted on getting a bit meddlesome.

Eventually, their comments reminded me of yet another Kimberly Church of God (KCOG) Youth Choir story--one that, to this day, includes some of the funniest words my mama ever uttered--almost as funny as the time she asked the Sunday night church crowd to pray for her because her doctor had told her she was "a walking bombshell."

The story goes something like this: The KCOG Youth Ensemble--a smaller, more portable version of the KCOG Youth Choir, led by the incomparable Sister Marla--got invited to sing at "a young evangelist's" revival in Talladega.

(OK...OK...for all you meddlesome Facebook commenters...I'll admit to a brief, albeit-now-embarrassing courtship with that "young evangelist," which--I kid you not--started when I went to "his" revival at the Sumiton COG with another "friend," and this young evangelist called me out of the audience to pray for me. Looking back, I have no good reason as to WHY I ever went out with him. Well, that's not quite true--as Brother Gump says, "Stupid is as stupid does."...Anyway, I quit dating him after he told me "God" had told him that, if I would marry him, God would heal him of cancer.)

But...God is merciful, and that young evangelist didn't die....After he disappeared for a few weeks, he arrived back in Kimberly--healthy as a horse, wearing a bowler hat and carrying a shiny, black cane. And...he started dating one of my best friends--no one could ever accuse us Kimberly girls of not knowing how to share.

Now their courtship led to the more-portable KCOG ensemble being asked to sing at this young evangelist's revival in Talladega. Because of the distance, my mama decided that, instead of driving all the way back to Kimberly after the revival service, we would all stay at my Mimi's cabin in Pell City. So, we sung a few classics, the young evangelist preached...and called out a few more young ladies for prayer. Then, we all piled into our cars and headed to Mimi's cabin...that is...all of us except the young evangelist and the good friend.

Anyway, every once in awhile, between eating and laughing, one of us would pipe up and ask, "I wonder where the young evangelist and the good friend are?" (That was before the days of cell phones and, at that time, the cabin didn't even have a landline.)

Well, about 1 a.m. in the morning, my mama decided she had waited long enough. So, she put her shoes back on, grabbed the keys to our Wildcat, and we went out looking for the lost evangelist. Not knowing where else to start, she headed straight for the Talladega pastor's parsonage, located next to the church.

On the way to Talladega, the rest of the search-and-rescue-party were put on notice to "keep an eye out for that little -------." Upon arrival at the parsonage, mama pulled up the gravel driveway, got out of the Wildcat, and knocked on the front door, shouting as she knocked, "Knock, Knock! Knock, Knock!" I can only imagine what that pastor must of thought when he turned on the porch light....(Suffice it to say that, at first, mama had to talk to him through the storm door.) Perhaps that's why those of us still in the Wildcat could hear my mama's next words--words that have become immortalized in Kimberly Church of God Youth Choir lore: "PASTOR, YOUR LITTLE EVANGELIST HAS ONE OF MY GIRLS!!!"

But, alas, the startled, bleery-eyed pastor was as ignorant as mama about the missing evangelist's whereabouts. So...we left. Not knowing where else to look, we headed back to Mimi's Pell City cabin. Of course, mama would slow down whenever she saw headlights, scouring for any sign of a bowler hat.

Well...just guess who showed up shortly after we got back to the cabin? Yep, the young evangelist....with the good friend.

(Forget the cancer--it's a wonder that young evangelist didn't die at the hands of my mama that night.)

These days, that young evangelist has his own talk show that airs on his own TV network. (I'm afraid if I ever watched that show for more than 20 seconds, I wouldn't be able to fight the urge to call in and ask, "How's your cancer?")

More importantly, the good friend found a good man. (She reminded me that I had also dated that good man a few times.)

But, that's OK...I found my own. Eventually. It took awhile. Mistakes were made, tears were shed, heart was broken. But...he's worth it.

The first time I heard the following words, I wished with all my heart I had written them for my good man. They are exactly how I feel about him:
I set out on a narrow way many years ago
Hoping I would find true love along the broken road
But I got lost a time or two
Wiped my brow and kept pushing through
I couldn't see how every sign pointed straight to you
Every long lost dream led me to where you are
Others who broke my heart they were like Northern stars
Pointing me on my way into your loving arms
This much I know is true
That God blessed the broken road
That led me straight to you
I think about the years I spent just passing through
I'd like to have the time I lost and give it back to you
But you just smile and take my hand
You've been there you understand
It's all part of a grander plan that is coming true
Now I'm just rolling home
Into my lover's arms
This much I know is true
That God blessed the broken road
That led me straight to you.
("Bless the Broken Road" by Rascal Flatts)

Ironically, that bowler-hat-wearing-cane-toting young evangelist gave me some of the best marriage advice I ever heard: "What you do to get 'em, you do to keep 'em."
"And we know that God causes everything
to work together for the good of those who love God
and are called according to his purpose for them."
(Romans 8:28 NLT)

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