I have to introduce you to my Daddy first so you will understand how it was. Please pay attention to the date and God’s numbers in this true story. Yes, I still use the words Mommy and Daddy or Mom and Dad, they are more affectionate and loving than what many parents are called now. Maybe society would be a little better place if some people got back to the old ways.
Daddy was a piece of work, very blunt, a hair trigger temper when pushed and it didn’t bother him to speak his mind in any company. Daddy had worked hard all his life and was bull strong. He was five-eleven and weighed one hundred ninety-five pounds, big thick neck, large muscular arms and legs, full chest. I’ve seen him walk up to a loading dock, lean forward, wrap his arms around two one hundred-pound bags of hog feed, straighten up with them on his shoulders, walk away without a wobble and shrug them into the back of a truck without a grunt.
He even had muscles in his hard-boned, olive skinned face. With all that he was still quick as a cat. When I was eight or nine years old I saw him clear a roadside bank that was four feet high with one jump when he went after a man who had said a bad thing about his Daddy, my Grandpaw. But his striking feature was his eyes. They were hazel eyes, a bit slitted and in emotional duress they glowed yellow, his eyes were glowing pure yellow fire that day.
Daddy had won the bronze star medal for valor in WW2. Once, looking into my eyes, his hazel eyes had darkened like I’d never seen, Daddy told me he’d been in an army unit that had discovered and liberated a German concentration camp of Jews. Daddy turned his head, silently stared out the window a long time like he was in some other place, in some other time, his jaw muscles bulging and working and that was all Daddy ever said about it, ever.
Daddy was as honest as they came, if he told you something go put it in the bank because it was the truth. He would tell the truth even if it caused the Pope to lose his hat or if it caused Santa Claus to lose his laugh. If he owed money he would pay it, no ifs, ands, or buts, even if we had to do without. I’ve never seen a human who dreaded to go into debt more than he did. His outlook concerning church, spoken in any company, was; “If that bunch of hypocrites are goin’ to heaven I ain’t got a worry in the world”.
Needless to say, my family did not go to church, not ever, not even one time. Church people, especially preachers, were mocked and ridiculed.
Daddy was soft spoken and well-liked. He would help someone any time, any place unless they were drunk. A well-known drunk wrecked his car up the road from our house, we were on the front porch, Daddy ran up there, slid over the hill to the bottom, dragged a pregnant woman out the wreckage, there were beer bottles all over the place, brought her to our house for Mommy to care for and sat down. The woman spoke in a quivering, halting voice; “My husband is still in the car. Will you get him out”?
Daddy didn’t mince words; cold, cold as a winter wind; “I didn’t put him in there!” They took her home and came back. I watched from the porch. About an hour later the drunk crawled up the bank, stood up, wiped some blood off, looked around in confusion and staggered on up the road. Daddy was a hard wad. He surely dried on the rough side of the towel.
Oddly enough, Daddy would drink beer when him and some of his hunting buddies played poker at our house. He kept a bottle of whiskey in the fridge and would sip once in a while, just one swallow with the fridge door open. He’d put it back and shut the door. He would drink both whiskey and beer while he played gin rummy with his sisters from Florida, Texas and Arizona when they met at our house every few years. They were drinkers BUT I’ve never seen Daddy drunk, not even high.
Daddy had three older brothers and alcohol had played a part in their deaths; Roy in a car wreck, Lewis, the meanest one whom people feared, when he’d been coming down a holler riding a mule after a big fight some people ambushed him and shot him through the heart.
With all that Lewis had still managed to get his 32-20 caliber pistol out and shoot four times but he didn’t have the strength to get it up high enough. His first bullet hit just under the top of the steep dirt bank where they were shooting from behind some trees. Three more bullet holes were lined up lower and lower as he grew weaker and weaker before he died in the saddle still pulling the trigger while his assassins ran away. Lawrence died of alcohol complications in Ohio.
Daddy lived more holy than half the church world. In his opinion he lived righteous; “If that bunch of hypocrites are goin’ to heaven I ain’t got a worry in the world”. He had a lot of friends and hunting buddies. When somebody tried to witness to him he’d say; “I don’t want to hear that”!
If they continued Daddy would say; “Shut up.” and the yellow glow would start. That was usually enough BUT if they persisted the yellow glow would go full blast and he would violently shove them away or if angry enough he would even slap them. Daddy was an abrupt man. The word was out; “Don’t witness to Bill.” and they didn’t. Daddy had a lot of Christian friends too but they never tried to witness to Daddy.
I started going to church when I was thirty-one years old. God saved me when I was thirty-three (3- God’s number of completion. “Completion, completion”: Rom. 8:5-17 when Jesus saved me He gave me all of it, everything He had). You can read about it in the article About the Writer on this website. The news had gotten out that on Sunday, October 3, 1976 I was to be baptized in Lick Fork creek that flowed beside the old country church.
People knew our church dismissed about 1:00PM and several cars had arrived just before we dismissed so they could see my baptism. Daddy and my younger brother were two of them. I guess some of those people just had to see it to believe it; “Him! Getting’ baptized! I wanna see that!”
The baptism was over, lots of people were leaving, I was going to go back into the church to change into dry clothes and here came Daddy. I’m five foot-eight inches tall, weigh 160 pounds and am a little on the skinny side. He swaggered, hard-faced, toward me almost like he was stalking me, our eyes were locked, his yellow, boring into the back of my skull, closer and closer until our noses were about a foot apart, he was looking down at me.
Staring into each other’s eyes. He finally snorted his disgust through his nose and mouth and spoke in a flat, hard, contemptuous voice; “You won’t last six months!” and he walked away!
That was my introduction to the church world and I was in a bind. It had been my family’s tradition to eat Sunday dinner (about 2PM) together for as long as I could remember, my great-grandfather, my grandfather and now Dad and Mom’s house was where we gathered.
I was in a bind because when I came out of the water I knew beyond any shadow of a doubt I could never eat again unless I thanked God for it. I did not realize the Holy Spirit was at work within me. All I knew was that I had trouble, maybe more than I could handle. Please be aware of the Holy Spirit throughout the rest of this. (John 3:5-8 esp. V.8) The Holy Spirit is like a secret agent, you can see the effects of Him but you can’t see Him.
And we, my wife, three sons and I, were expected at Daddy’s house in an hour or so for dinner! I knew I had it to do so I swallowed hard and broached the subject when we got to Daddy’s house; “Daddy after I got baptized I know I can’t swallow a bite without ‘turning thanks’ (a hillbilly colloquialism for saying grace at mealtime). Is it all right if I pray at your table before we eat?” Daddy stared into my eyes for a few endless seconds and finally spoke; “Son prayin’ don’t do no good, it don’t mean nothin’, if you want to talk to your plate before we eat go ahead.”
I said my feeble little prayer, we ate, visited a couple of hours and went home. Counting that first Sunday I ‘turned thanks’ five Sundays in a row (5- God’s number of grace). After dinner on that fifth Sunday, as we sat in the living room visiting, Daddy started shifting around (fidgeting) and getting ‘fixed’ in his chair. He always got ‘fixed’ just exactly right before making a serious pronouncement.
He got ‘fixed’, shoulders squared, head straight, tough face serious; “Son, this prayin’ bothers me, it don’t mean nothin’, it’s a nuisance, it’s a waste of time and I don’t like it. If ye have to pray before ye eat I guess ye’ll just have to find yourself another place to eat!”
An awful shock went through me like I had been electrocuted when he said that. I swallowed hard two or three times as he and I stared into each other’s eyes. My heart was lurching out of my chest and my throat throbbed because of my raging pulse. My old character was totally absent from my response and I didn’t realize it came from (2Cor. 5:17-21) my new character. I didn’t know much about the Bible back there in the beginning. “OK Daddy, I love you.”
And turned to talk to Mommy for a few minutes. As a child I had long ago learned to hide hurt and it never showed on my face. When the throb in my throat settled down I continued our normal conversation with both of them as if nothing had happened. We visited another hour or so and went home, my heart was a broken thing within me.
I had it to do, Jesus or Daddy? I’d stop after work during the week and help with whatever two-man job needed to be done at Daddy’s if he needed help BUT we didn’t go back for the next three Sundays (3- God’s number of completion). Far into the night on the Tuesday after that third Sunday the phone rang. Back then a phone call in the night was always bad news; stomach crawling around inside me; “Hello.”
“Son,” It was Mom and my heart dropped. “Daddy said for me to repeat these exact words to you; “Betty Jean, I’ll swear that boy ain’t got enough sense to come in outta the rain. You tell him to come down here and eat next Sunday and he can pray.” I love you Son, goodnight.” “I love you fellers too Mom, we’ll be there.”
I had only been a Christian about two months and I didn’t understand anything about spiritual stuff back there in my beginning with God and I didn’t realize that had been the opening salvo between the Holy Spirit and the evil spirit (Satan, the devil) and the opening salvo between Daddy and me in a spiritual war for Daddy’s eternal soul.
In the past I had only been to church four times before I started going when I was thirty-one years old. Once when two students in my fifth-grade class were drowned and the whole class went to the funeral. The next time was when I was twelve and went to great grandpaw Moore’s funeral with my Papaw Moore.
My buddy and I were hauling whiskey and beer from a wet county a few counties away and bringing it back to some bootleggers in dry Floyd county before I was old enough, eighteen, to have a driver’s license. Yes, Daddy would have broken my neck had he known.
I’d stolen a bottle of wine from under the porch of a man who hired me to mow his lawn and had learned how good booze tasted when I was twelve and I liked the buzz. Anyway, another friend and I were coming down Lick Fork in an old beat up car, drinking beer and we passed people going into a church over across the creek. It was just another day to us but when we saw that we realized it was Sunday.
We took to daring each other to go back and laughing about the idea. I don’t remember who suggested it but one or the other of us said we might meet a pretty girl. We turned around and went to church in that shape. That was my third church visit and yes, I am deeply ashamed of that now, it was almost sixty years ago but there is shame sweat on my face just remembering it. But there is a good memory too.
That same church is the one I started attending when I was thirty-one and I was baptized in the creek beside that church! Ain’t God Something? The fourth time was in Marine Corps boot camp when I was eighteen and my platoon was ordered to go to a church service conducted by a Catholic Priest. But nothing in my life had prepared me for the carnage I would see during my two tours of duty in Viet Nam.
When I had started going to church I didn’t see any purpose in attending Wednesday night Bible study nor Sunday school before the worship service. After I was saved everything changed and I was filled with a great, crushing, breathless desire to know everything about God. NOW: Back to Daddy.
It was a strange thing. Sometimes, after Sunday dinner, Daddy would sit very still and silent when Mommy and I discussed our church services for a while then he’d interrupt and we both knew the discussion was over. Jesus had saved her in a revival held in an old two room school house about one fourth of a mile up Lick Fork in walking distance from the old house we lived in then when I was four years old.
I have a very hazy memory of seeing her baptized in the creek behind the school. She didn’t get to go to church any after that until she learned to drive later in life. She got a job, bought her own car when I was about seventeen and went to a different church than the one I eventually started attending.
I’d try to talk to Daddy about church once in a while and he’d tell me to shut up, go out on the porch, or the yard, or something. I studied the Bible incessantly. You can read about that in the article About the Writer if you want to. But he never again told me to leave. About five years later Daddy silently gave me a time of listening for a few minutes before he told me; “That’s enough!” and I shut up.
I prayed and fasted over, and over, and over as the years passed. The times of listening grew closer and closer together. Don’t get the wrong idea, there at the beginning of it the times of listening Daddy gave me were still years apart.
Once we had a couple of family members come in from out of state to visit and stay a couple of nights with Mommy and Daddy. On the Sunday they left we were visiting them at Daddy’s after dinner. God really blessed me and anointed me through the Holy Spirit and I got started talking about Jesus lovin’ us, what He’d done for me and about how bad they needed Him in their lives. When it was over I realized I had witnessed to them for over half an hour and nobody had said a word, not one.
They left a while after that and there was a dead silence while Daddy stared at me with a strange look on his face and I suddenly felt as if I had taken advantage of his hospitality. I thought; “Wow! He’s madder ‘n a wet hornet. He couldn’t call me down in front of them and I’m gonna get a tongue lashing now! Well I might as well get it over with as soon as I can.”
And I said; “Daddy I’m sorry I got so carried away and talked to Carole and Suzy for so long.” He stared at me for a few eternal seconds while I held my breath. He still had that strange look on his face when he quietly said; “Well, Son, I figure you done a pretty good job.” You could have knocked me over with the proverbial feather.
The times of listening grew closer and closer after that and I kept up my fasting and praying. Mommy sneaked and told me Daddy had started having two recurrent nightmares and he would wake up crying. My Daddy? He didn’t cry for anybody!
On top of one of the hills up Lick Fork is an animal path we follow when hunting that particular area. The path is steep as you come down the ridge from a high knob (the highest place on a ridge) into a swag (the low place, the dip, in a ridgeline between two knobs), squeeze between two house sized rocks and you are in a thicket that contains some big hickory trees where grey squirrels feed when the hickory nuts are ripe.
In his nightmare Daddy would squeeze between those two rocks, enter the thicket of three to fifteen-foot-tall bushes, then suddenly a huge serpent would raise up higher than the thicket in the strike position, fix Daddy with its evil eyes, draw back slightly to strike him and Daddy couldn’t move, frozen in place.
Suddenly my son Jimmie, the one killed in a car wreck a few years before, would run out of the bushes and grimly, silently fight the giant snake with a hatchet. Daddy would wake up crying, Mommy would hug and pet him and quietly say; “Bill, Bill, that’s the Lord a talkin’ to ye.”
You can read about Jimmie's car wreck on this commentary; the two articles I have Experienced Christian Physical Death in the menu. They will make your hair stand up. God is infinitely more loving and merciful than I've ever heard preached or taught but what God did that night is stated plain as day in the Bible. The scriptures are given in the articles so you can reference them. Christians do not die like other people die. Please read it; especially if your loved one has died in whatever way.
I’ve hunted these hills since I was a boy. I’ve been between those two rocks and through that thicket many, many times and no place around here has ever had a snake like that one. But that don’t matter, God’s message to Daddy was what counted.
The other nightmare was Daddy and Mommy were walking up a beautiful holler (mountain slang- the valley, the hollow between two ridges or points). The point on the left is wooded with nice timber down to the edge of the grass cattle pasture in the flat bottom of the holler. The holler itself, with its beautiful pond several hundred yards up at the other end, and the right point are also green pasture.
They would walk up the narrow lane toward the pond, hand in hand, happy and just talking that companionship talk that a good marriage brings out. They would come to a glistening white stone path going gently up through the pasture on the right.
Mommy would release his hand and start walking up the gentle white stone path alone, something invisible held Daddy back, he couldn’t go with her and Daddy would yell; “Betty, Betty! Don’t go, wait on me! Wait! Don’t go!” and Mommy wouldn’t even look back as her figure grew smaller and smaller while she walked upward on the glistening white stone path. Daddy would wake up sobbing; “Betty, Betty! Don’t go!” Mommy would hug and pet him and quietly say; “Bill, Bill, that’s the Lord a talkin’ to ye.”
I know where that holler is. It used to belong to my Papaw Moore. I’ve played there, hunted there and fished there as a boy and as a man and there has never been a glistening white stone path there. But that don’t matter, God’s message to Daddy was all that counted.
Daddy never, ever told me about those two dreams and if Mommy hadn’t I would have never been able to thank God and give Him the proper praise and glory He so richly, richly deserves.
Daddy intermittently dreamed those dreams through late summer on into early the next year and that’s when he started going to church with Mommy! Later that same year there we stood in their front yard, nose to nose, just like we had when Daddy told me I wouldn’t last six months.
But this time was different! Daddy was humped up and broken. His tiger eyes were soft and pouring tears and he reminded me of the classic whipped child. (Matt. 18:3) “Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.”
The sun was at just the right angle and in the sun’s reflection those tears looked like silver cascades down his cheeks and on into his wet shirt collar. His tough old face was tender as a little child and he sobbed out; “Son, if I’da knowed it felt like this I’da done it a long time ago.” It was the day the Lord had saved Daddy in Mommy’s church. It was October, 1997, twenty-one years to the month since we had stood nose to nose after my baptism in the creek beside my church and he had told me I wouldn’t last six months.
My war for Daddy’s soul had lasted twenty-one years, (21- is the Biblical number of stubbornness, pride and doubt. Israel, because of their stubbornness, pride and doubt, had rebelled against God 21 times in their awful time in the desert). AND: earlier that same year, January, 1997, we had celebrated Daddy’s seventy-seventh birthday (7- God’s number of perfection; God had turned Daddy into perfection, perfection).
(perfection, perfection): I have never seen a more drastic change in any person I have ever known as I saw in my Daddy. He had been a feisty, stubborn, critical, out spoken, irascible, old man but after he accepted Jesus as his Saviour all of that vanished and he was kind, humorous, gentle and easy going like a child. Please bear with me a minute.
I can remember playing a childhood secret agent code game by assigning a number to English alphabet letters such as a=1, b=2, c=3 and etc. SO: In childhood secret agent code 2=B, 9=i, 12=l, and 12=l. You get a secret message, 2, 9, 12, 12. You apply the secret agent letter code and the secret agent message says Bill, my Daddy’s name, and it equals 35 if you want to get a total. If you assign a number to the letters of the Hebrew alphabet the same thing can be done.
In the Hebrew language, using Hebrew letters, “ha-ben YHWH” translated into English is Son of God. In the Hebrew language when you apply the number equals a letter secret agent code to the Hebrew letters “ha-ben” totaled equals 57 and YHWH totaled equals 26. When added together the two equal eighty-three.
Ever since I can remember, just like she always had, for better or for worse, for richer or poorer, in sickness and in health, in the good times and in the bad times Mommy had always stood by Daddy’s side and there she stood:
Daddy was eighty-three and his breathing was slowing, slowing, his eyes were closed and peace, wonderful peace, was upon his face there in the Hazard VA Nursing Home as Jesus, the Son of God, took Daddy away. Mommy, the love of Daddy’s earthly life, was standing by his bedside holding his hand, gently caressing his cheek, crying silently and bidding Daddy her fond, loving farewell for just a while, just a little while.
Lord God, Lord God of all glory, my words are pitifully weak and I am sorry that I can do no better but with my whole heart I thank thee oh great, merciful, gracious, tender hearted, loving God of forever that in thy abundant grace You saved my Daddy.
I know my love is like one grain of sand lost among the grains on a long, fading into the distance beach and Your love is like the sky, infinite, and far, far beyond any human capacity to measure its depth, width, or length; but Lord you know I love You with every bit of the little that I am. Again, thank you for saving my Daddy. AMEN.
June 27, 2018: I need to add this part. Daddy had left with Jesus on August 12, 2003. Mom left with Jesus and caught up with Daddy on April 20, 2018. Over those lonely years Mom talked many times about how it would be to get to see Daddy again in the presence of Jesus. Thank you oh Lord that through Your bloody sacrificial death, Your burial in a borrowed tomb and Your resurrection You paid the price for our salvation (Rev. 21:1 thru 22:5 esp. V.5 keywords: for ever and ever) and made the way for us to return to an Eden relationship with You. I love you Lord. AMEN.