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Christmas Memories (2 articles)
 Let Me Entertain You
(or should I say minister to you?)
submitted by Tony Brown

Over the past couple of weeks there has been a discussion on-going on the Southern Gospel News message boards concerning the issue of entertainment versus ministry where southern gospel music is concerned.  For those of you not familiar with the message boards, anyone can participate (membership is free) and participants include performers from full-time and part-time groups, promoters, fans ... basically, anyone who wants to join is eligible to do so.  Most topics are informative and thought-provoking and some are just downright hilarious!

Anyway, back to the main topic here.  Evidently a lot of people feel that southern gospel music, as typically seen today, is strictly an entertainment business.  This opinion seems to be based on reasoning such as the performers include jokes and good-natured "ribbing" of their group members and sometimes the audience, too.  Or, reasoning may include the fact that performers "dance around" while singing ... some people refer to this as "getting happy" or "having a running fit" as I have heard it referred to on occasion.  Regardless of their reasoning, it seems that it is all interpreted as just another concert of pure entertainment value.

Now, there is another group of people who feel that southern gospel music should be strictly viewed as a ministry.  Performers should sing their songs of worship and conduct themselves with the most strict code of behavior imaginable.  Boiled down, I take this to mean that there is no room for lighthearted joking, shouting and/or "running", etc.  This group wants simply the bare bones of having music presented to them in order to worship in song.

After going back and re-reading all that people on the message boards have had to say on this issue, I firmly believe that the majority of people who perform southern gospel music, as well as the ones who go to hear these performers, are ready-willing-and able to accept both sides of what southern gospel has to offer.  It is a well known fact that there are people who will go to a church for a singing who may not go to a church often at all for any other reason.  (Personally, I am glad they choose to do this!)  It is also a well known fact that some people will not go to a church for a singing, but they will attend a singing at a different venue, such as a civic center, local school, etc.  (Again, I am glad they choose to do this!)  Almost everyone likes to be entertained ... they want to smile, laugh, be included in what is going on around them, however you want to phrase it.  If southern gospel music, and the performing of such, can bring this to people ~ if it can make them feel good about their lives, about their loved ones, about their faith and God ~ then all I have to say is AMEN!  I don't believe that we as Christians were meant to lead dull, solemn lives.  Psalms 100:1 says, "Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands.  Serve the Lord with gladness; come before his presence with singing."  This doesn't sound boring or dull to me.

If I can entertain you, by choosing to be a person who performs southern gospel music, and you come away from the singing feeling better than you did when you got there, well to me that means I have also ministered to you.  If something I may have said or done or sung during the evening caused you to nod your head or raise your hand in praise, or if it caused you to say a word of thanks or prayer, then again, I feel that I have ministered to you.  Do I think what we do is "entertainment"...yes, I do.  Do I think what we do is a ministry...yes, I do.  Do I think there is room for both sides in southern gospel music...yes, I really do.  As a wise man said on the message boards, it really doesn't matter what you choose to call it as long as your heart is in the right place!
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 I Am So Blessed
(submitted by Angie Brown)

    Is that sunlight outside?  Oh gosh, I'm late getting up.  I must have turned the clock off, again!  (1) I get to my feet and my left foot hurts.  Too much standing and walking yesterday at work, I guess. (2) I stumble to the kitchen to make my pot of coffee.  I never get up too late to make a cup of coffee.  (3) As the coffee brews, I go and turn on the computer.  (4) While that's booting up, I have time to answer nature's call.  (5) By now the coffee is brewed.  I just love a good cup of coffee first thing in the morning.  Darn, my left foot still hurts.  Oh well, I'll just have to live with it.  Now it's time to check my e-mail while I'm drinking my coffee.  Good grief, 19 e-mails. (6) Well, let's see what everyone has to say.  Someone sent me a beautiful prayer.  So I repeat it as I'm reading. (7)  Well, can't waste any more time, gotta go to work, ugh.  Same old, same old.  Oh well, it gives me a paycheck every week. (8) Hmm,  I sure do need a new car, this one sounds kind of rough in the engine. (9)  I've got to wait on the school crossing guard letting the kids pass.  I sure do wish she'd hurry up. (10) I get to work and I'm only two minutes late, whew.  My word, I sure do have a lot of things in my in box.  Well, it's not going to get done by my wishing for it.  Let's go.
    As I finish my work day and head home, my mind thinks back on the day so far.  And I realize a few things.  (1)  I woke up again today.  I have an alarm clock that I even sometimes listen to.  How many people wake up but have no reason to get up?  Ungrateful me.  (2) Yes, my foot hurts almost daily, but I can feel my foot.  Some people don't even have feet.  (3) That wonderful coffee that I crave so much in the morning is a pure luxury item.  It's certainly not necessary that I have it. I just enjoy it.  (4)  I have a computer, and it works most days harder than I do.  (5) I have indoor plumbing that I take for granted every day.  There are people in today's world that do not have that luxury either.  (6)  19 people thought of me.  Sure, they may not have called me, but they wrote to me and that's just as good.  That makes me feel pretty darn good to know that I'm on someone's mind.  (7)  I can read those wonderful e-mails.  And some people believe that saying a written prayer out loud is hooey, but didn't we all at one time learn the Lord's Prayer?  Besides, you can never pray enough.  (8) I receive a paycheck every week.  I moan and groan and complain about my job, but I have one.  Again,  ungrateful me.  (9) I also have a car.  It's paid for.  It may be loud, but it's never let me down. (10) That lady that helps them across every day always smiles and waves at me.  I've never seen her look unhappy even when it's pouring down rain.
     These are just the first things I thought of as I pondered my day.  And I realized that I am so blessed and I forget so often.  Think about your life and you'll realize that you are blessed too.

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 August Thoughts
(submitted by Tony)

It's strange to think back on twenty-two years as barely more than the blink of an eye, and yet, that's about what it feels like.  On August 8th, 1981, Sharon Burrough became my wife.  It was a fairly small, family ceremony held in a little country church, followed by a reception at my parents' house.  I can still remember many things about that day, but what stands out the most is how hard Sharon held to my hand.  I've kidded her about trying to make sure I wasn't going anywhere, but truth to tell, it was reassuring to me.  At least she was as nervous as I was!  Let's face it, for two kids of 18 and 19 to get married in this day and age is a little on the rare side, and for them to last past a couple of years is nearly amazing.  We did have an advantage over most people our age, though, in that we had known each other for a while, and had become good friends, too.

After a couple of days of marital bliss, I had to leave to report to my first duty assignment in the Air Force, Cheyenne, Wyoming.  Talk about leaving the nest!  As the Air Force had no idea of my intentions of getting married, it turned out to take quite a while to convince them that I was actually married, and needed to receive married pay.  For about a month after Sharon joined me, we had potatoes and biscuits to eat, and that's about it!  It probably sounds a little odd, but I still get a hankering sometimes for a pan of fried potatoes and some of her biscuits.  There were some tough times out there, but we surely enjoyed the scenery and the people in Wyoming.

To think back on that time, one thing really sticks out in my mind.  Neither one of us complained about not having this or that, we were satisfied with what we had.  Oh, sure, it would have been nice to have a little more food, but who needs food when you have love?  We used to have to walk about 5-6 blocks just to get to the store, since we couldn't afford a car.  I did have a bicycle, until it got stolen!  We see so many people every day who are so caught up in wanting this or that, thinking that I have to have this car, or this house, or this left-handed gizwidget to be happy, and I usually feel a little sorry for them not being able to enjoy what they have.  Look around, folks.  God has given us a wonderfully beautiful world for us to enjoy.  When's the last time you really stopped just to look up at the clouds?  Or enjoy a sunset?  How about the last time you just sat beside your spouse and held hands, just for the sake of being with them?

I guess it really is true that most people don't appreciate something until it's gone, but take the time today to tell someone close to you that you love them and appreciate them for being who they are.  Forget for a couple of minutes why they have aggravated you lately, whether it be by not mowing the lawn recently or maybe for not having your favorite shirt ironed for church.  Remember why they became special to you, and appreciate what you have.

To all my friends who come such distances, or even just around the corner, to hear us sing and to worship with us, I love each and every one of you!  I ask that God bless you and keep you, and that you can spread some of your own special love, and that of God, to someone different every day.

To my lovely bride, all I can say is thank you for putting up with me, and I love you very much.  Thanks for hanging in there!
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 Only One
© 2003 Sharon Brown

     So I'm sitting here thinking - J.D., Vestal, Gaither, Eva Mae - names of people recognized by so many others.  I mean, you don't even have to explain who they are or give their whole name.  People just seem to know automatically who you are talking about.  And thus begins my pity party.  Seriously, there are very few (and I mean a very small number here) people who would think of me upon hearing the name Sharon.  I'm not an international celebrity, a government official, or even a local personality.  I'm just me shouting whoopee as I revel here in my pity because I don't feel important.  I haven't done anything noteworthy.  I don't even make a difference.  I'm only one person among millions and millions here on this earth.  What good can I do?  I mean, honestly, how much difference can I really make in anyone's life?

     Then I look up and I see a picture of me with my husband.  Now he's making a difference in people's lives.  Through his work he has designed and helped to develop machinery and components to help improve ways of manufacturing things.  He's also worked in education helping people to develop skills they can use in the work force.  And then there is his commitment to singing and witnessing through his involvement with The Revelators.  Whether he is singing or witnessing to the lost or simply helping to uplift those already saved, he is touching people in a mighty way.  And I think, well, we've been together a long time now and I guess I have helped him become the man he is today.  So, maybe I have made a little difference there.

     As I look around the room I see various keepsakes acquired through the years and the realization hits me that these items were given to me for very specific reasons.  There are a few handmade woodcraft items given to me from inmates who I had worked with.  I recall them telling me what a difference it made to them that I treated them as "normal people" and not like something you'd scrape off of the bottom of your shoe.  In most cases it wasn't very hard.  I just had to keep in mind the old adage, "Love the sinner but hate the sin."  Another treasured gift I spot on a shelf came from my younger brother.  A few years back he gave me a gift for Mother's Day.  Now, of course, you have to understand that we had lost our mother just a couple of years before this.  His words to me at that time was that I was the closest thing to a mother that he had left and he wanted me to know how much I was appreciated.  Okay, suddenly my party didn't have so much pity to it anymore.

     Finally my eyes fell upon the family Bible laying on the coffee table and it struck me.  No, not a bolt of lightening, but it may as well have been.  Here I am feeling sorry for myself because I'm just one little old person and what good can one little person do and there is the answer right in front of me...JESUS!  Yes, Jesus.  He was only baby born of the Virgin Mary, one child holding discussion with the doctors in the temple, one young man growing into the Son of God to fulfill the role of sacrifice and risen Savior for all mankind.  He was on the face of the earth for a few short years, but so many lives have been touched and changed just by virtue of His being here.  While none of us will ever be able to live the sinless life that Jesus did, we can all strive to be as much like Him as possible in our way of thinking, in our way of dealing with each other, and in our way of being committed to God, the Father.

     As Christmas approaches with all of its hustle and bustle and stress and frazzle, try to remember the real reason for this special time of year.  Try to smile a little more often.  Try actually saying "hello" to someone you pass on the street instead of just nodding your head or looking the other way.  And most of all, don't forget how much of an impact one person can make on another person's life.  You may be only one, but you are one, and one can always make a difference.

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 I Sing Because ...
(submitted by Tony Brown)
    Having the ability to sing southern gospel music has been one of the most rewarding aspects of my life.  Part of it is being able to just visit with the people we run into at our singings and being a part of their lives.  Another part is being able to share songs and music and testimony as a way of worshiping the God that has been so good to me.  And I must admit that sometimes I can get to feeling a little bit guilty about this feeling when I see others who are trudging along looking for something ~ anything ~ to make them feel just a little bit better about the world and themselves.  But this guilt doesn't last long because I know the joy I feel is a direct result of the life I've chosen to live.
    Not very long ago The Revelators participated in a joint singing where something was said that caused me once again to reflect on my attitude as a person and as a Christian.  Evidently, there are some people who believe that living the "Christian" life means being serious, even to the point of solemnity, throughout the rest of their lives.  There is no room for joking, for laughter, for simply enjoying the moments in which they live.  Their belief seems to be that allowing one's self to feel good in the spirit of the Lord is an abomination and therefore one becomes unworthy of the rewards of a Heavenly life.
    Well, I'm pretty open-minded, or at least I like to think I am.  And I do respect the idea that every person is entitled to their beliefs, but that doesn't mean that I have to believe in the same principles that they believe.  In fact, my first thought on this is that it is my Christian right to pray for these people that they may find some happiness and comfort for themselves.  I believe that I am human and a Christian, and that I should never forget that I must allow God to share my life each and every day.  When I forget to give Him the thanks and the glory for the life I have, that's when I find myself faltering or starting to trudge through my days.  Believe me, being reminded that God is missing from my life is a very humbling experience.  I pray for myself that I never forget to leave my heart and mind open to His presence, His love, and His light.
    It is not my intent, nor has it ever been, to get up in front of people and entertain for entertainment's sake.  I do what I do to show others what a difference having God in my life has been.  Each day I get to live, to love, to share His glory, is all because I allow Him to be seen through me.  If I were not saved, or if I were trudging along through day-after-day of unhappiness, I wonder what sort of person I would rather be more like.  Would it be the one who proclaims himself a child of God but never lets his face smile or tears of joy flow or just a praise to His name burst forth ... OR ... would I want to be the one who knows that there is a God walking beside me saying rejoice in My name, be happy in your love for Me and your fellow man, and hold true to My word and you shall have joy everlasting?
    I've made my choice and I am proud of it.  Being able to share this choice through southern gospel music feels just fine, and just right, to me.
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 Valentine's Day Stories
(3 articles)

For Valentine's Day
(submitted by Tony Brown)
    When I started thinking about an article for Valentine's Day, my first thought was, "What in the world am I going to write?"  But then I got to thinking, a lot of you haven't had much of an opportunity to meet my better half, Sharon.  This, then, seems to be a pretty good chance to let you all meet the woman I've known (and loved) for quite a little while now.  Look through my eyes and see if you see someone you love in her.
    The first thing you have to notice are her eyes.  They are truly lovely eyes, but the thing that I see is a mischievous twinkle.  These are laughing eyes...the kind that can make me forget my troubles.  Next you notice the lips and how they are always quick with a smile.  You can tell by the lines around the corners.  The commercials on television would have us believe that these lines are terrible and to be avoided at all costs!  I think they are great myself.  Most of those little lines come from smiling at me!
    You almost have to start seeing some of the wrinkles elsewhere now.  Worry lines that come from worrying about others;  laugh lines...she's always ready to laugh at my silly jokes; and various little lines from just concentrating on something I guess.  The older I get, the smarter she gets.  I still don't know how that happened!
    If you look close enough, you will see a little bit of all women in my wife (just as there is in most women).  I just think that I've got all the best little bits!  I love you, Sharon.

The Little Loves
(submitted by Angie Brown)

    Valentine's Day.  The day to show your special someone how much you love them.  Trouble is, I don't have a special someone and I'm 38 years old and single.  Don't take that wrong. That's not an “Oh I feel so sorry for myself” thing.  I read somewhere that if you can't warm yourself at the hearth of a great love, you must visit the hearths of your little loves instead.  

    When you're in your late teens or early twenties, you think that's just about the most ridiculous thing you ever heard.  In the mid to late twenties, you start to think that there may be something to that.  Now I'm in my late 30's, and I know it to be true.

    Now I think about all the little loves I have in my life.  My mom - one of my closest friends.  I can talk to her about most anything.  My dad - always there when I need him and even when I think I don't.  My brother - the one I always lean on in good times or bad.  My sister-in-law - I can't imagine a sister by blood being any better friend to me.  My singing friends - I love you all so much and miss you a lot when we're not together every weekend.  My soul sister Lillian - the one I laugh and cry with and share everything else with. These are just a few.  I certainly can't name all of you, it would take days!

    So to all of you, my little loves, Happy Valentine's Day.  Know that I cherish you all and am so thankful you are part of my life.

A Valentine Story
(submitted by H.C. Brown)

I've always been taught that Valentine's Day is all about love - love of any and every description.  This may not be the story you expect, but here 'tis anyway…

My children and my wife are very precious to me.  There are just very, very few things that I wouldn't do for any one of them.  December of 1990 was perhaps one of the greatest tests of that love I've ever endured.

I came home from work that Monday afternoon just minutes after Nell got home from her job.  She was sitting in my chair with a strange look on her face that signaled something was wrong.  When I asked about the problem, she said she had pain in her chest.  I asked if she wanted me to take her to a doctor, and she said, “No, just let me sit here a few minutes and see if it'll go away.”

Less than five minutes later, she called to me, “Dad, I think we better go see a doctor.”  If you know Nell, you know that she had to be sick to want to go to a doctor.  We started to the hospital in Hartselle, just a 12-mile drive from home, and she hinted that it wouldn't hurt if I sorta stepped on the accelerator.  To make a long story short, she was transferred to another hospital in Decatur, then three days later, to Huntsville Hospital.  Following testing, she was diagnosed with multiple arterial blockages in and around her heart.

A lot of prayers went up for her, and on Friday evening of the same week, physicians opened her chest and left leg and did their thing to make her well again.  About midnight that night I was allowed into her recovery room - and had it not been for helping hands, I probably would have collapsed when I saw her.  She was so white, and so still - and there were so many tubes running into her body.  She was even breathing because a machine forced her.  I've seen some terrible things in my lifetime, but nothing I'd ever seen prepared me for this!  But our kids and God helped me get through it somehow, though there are gaps in the memories.

God smiled on all of us, and today she's probably a lot healthier that I am - except for a current bout with the gout.  That experience with chest pain scared her into making changes in her lifestyle - and I'm convinced that those changes have helped her to be here today.

But there's more involved than changes in lifestyle - there's a healing touch from the Master Himself that was at work in December of 1990.  Without His guiding Hand, the surgeons could have removed the wrong vein from her leg, or spliced the wrong artery, or any of a number of things.  But God's grace was more than sufficient.

Nell came home from the hospital with a big, white teddy bear that she hugged to help her deal with the pain when she coughed, sneezed, or even moved.  That teddy bear sits in a place of honor in our home now, awaiting another opportunity to help someone deal with pain.

I know this is a different kind of story than you expected, but by Valentine's Day of 1991, Nell was able to do just about anything she wanted to do.  She just didn't want to do much - like wax the car, or run a race with me, or replace the shingles on our roof.  Today I thank God for His Presence in our lives, and for His grace and mercy.   His grace gives us that which we don't deserve, and His mercy keeps us from getting that which we do deserve.

Nell, will you be my Valentine?  I love you!

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 But It's Empty...
© 2002 Sharon Brown

Thinking back, I can remember many, many Easter egg hunts that my family held across the years.  Kids and grandkids would gather at a relative's house in the country and the day was filled with fun, laughter, eating, and those mad dashes across the enormous yard to find all those hidden eggs.  I can't remember there ever being just one was more a case of trying to allow each of the young ones a chance to find the "prize egg" which usually contained a little bit of money or candy.  Since there were usually a dozen or more kids running around, that meant lots of egg hunts for the elusive prize.
As I got older I realized that there could be as much fun in the hiding of the eggs as there could be in the finding them, so I would split my time in doing both.  Sometimes letting go of the inner child is a hard thing to do, don't you know.  Anyway, I recall one of the last egg hunts I participated in before I turned 15.  It was my belief at the time that once I hit 16, I would be too old to hunt eggs anymore.  So I took this last opportunity to be a kid at Easter and look for the prize egg.  All of my younger cousins had done this successfully that day, so I felt the odds were in my favor.  Sure enough, sitting in a clump of buttercups (daffodils for the city folks!) was that blue plastic prize egg ~ and I was the first one to see it!  With pride I gently placed it in my basket and then went on to search for other hidden eggs.  When the whistle blew, we all came back to the tables to ooh and aah over how many eggs the youngest found and to congratulate "ME", the prize winner.  I stood in the middle of the crowd and slowly pulled apart the plastic egg so that my prize would not drop out accidentally and blow away in the breeze.  You see, the prizes that day had all been dollar bills and my head was full of ideas on how I was going to spend mine.  Finally the egg went pop as plastic eggs do when the halves are parted and I stuck my fingers inside for my dollar and felt ... nothing but plastic.  Quickly I looked on the ground but no money!  My egg was empty!  What a cruel trick...I had waited all day for nothing!!!
That's when my grandmother came up behind me, placed her arms around my shoulders and said, "Come with me.  I want to share something with you today."  I was thinking "Alright.  Grandmama will make this better now."  We walked over to the swing and sat down.  She began by asking me why I looked so sad especially after finding the prize egg.  "But it's empty, Grandmama.  There's nothing inside!" I whined.  She patted my leg and shook her head.  "Now, Neecie," she said, "there's always a prize inside.  You just have to look harder sometimes."  So I showed her the egg, both halves, and said, "It's empty.  No prize.  But I guess that's okay.  I guess it just proves I'm too old to be hunting anyway."  You see, I was trying to be grown-up about it, even though I do admit that the words "spoiled" and "brat" have been used to describe me from time to time.
"Let me see your egg," she said and so I gave it to her.  She looked at both halves, put it back together, shook it, then opened it back up.  "Nope.  It's still empty," she said and then grinned at me.  "Do you understand why we're all here today?" she asked.  "It's Easter, Grandmama.  We always get together at Easter."  "That's right, Neecie.  And we always hunt eggs and we have Easter dinner.  But what do we celebrate?"  "Oh," I replied.  "Easter is when Christ arose from the dead," I said so sure of myself.  Hey, I did pay attention in Sunday school even if it didn't seem like I did.
"So you remember the story then.  I'm glad.  So you will understand what I'm fixing to tell you," she said seriously.  "They hung Jesus on the cross where He died for our sins.  They placed him in a borrowed tomb and a stone was rolled in place to seal up His grave.  Then in three days it was discovered that this very stone had been rolled away and the tomb was empty.  Jesus had arisen just as He had said He would.  Now, here's the important part, hon.  Do you think that those who found the tomb that day just gave up and said Oh well, it's empty.  I guess we shouldn't be looking for Him anyway?"
I leaned back against the swing stunned by what she had said.  And I realized that she was right ... that Easter was a celebration ... a true celebration of an empty tomb and of a risen Savior.  Never again would I be able to look at my prize egg and whine, "But it's empty," because THAT was the most precious prize of all!

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 Spring Cleaning
by Angie Brown

It's the time of year when we clean out the clutter for the past year.  When we do just that bit of extra cleaning that we normally don't do every day, like taking down that light fixture just so you can clean under the plate, or actually taking down the mini-blinds to clean them instead of just dusting them off, or taking the cover off your stove hood and cleaning as far as you can reach, or finally throwing away that pair of jeans you haven't worn in the last two years.  You know you dread it every year, but it still has to be done, because that's what we were taught.  It's been a tradition in families for generations.

Well, I intend to do a little bit extra.  I intend to clean out my emotional clutter, too.  I know that sounds a little weird, but think about it.  How long have you nursed that insult someone dealt you?  How long have you thought about someone in a negative manner because they hurt your feelings?  How long have you carried a grudge, even though you know you're not supposed to judge someone else?  Do you resent a coworker because they got the promotion you think you should have had?  Do you envy someone because they seem to have no troubles in their life, or they have a nicer car or a bigger home?  And the biggest of all, have you hurt someone else, intentionally or not?

And don't try to say you don't do any of that, even for a short time.  It's almost impossible not to feel these things, even though God taught us better.  Remember, even if you think it for a second, God knows.  I do try to live as God would have me live, but I am far from perfect.  I still have to consciously try not to build up emotional clutter, and many's the time I've had to ask forgiveness.

Before I was a Christian, I was known to carry a grudge for years.  But, of course it was okay then, cause I didn't know any better.  It wasn't okay and that was one of the things I had to ask forgiveness for when I accepted the Lord.  One of many, I assure you.  But the simple fact of the matter is I have to ask forgiveness almost every day for thinking things about someone that I shouldn't.  Remember “Judge not, lest ye be judged”?  How about “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”?  

It's simple, but very difficult.  So before you start your physical spring cleaning, maybe it's time to do your emotional cleaning first.  I know I will.
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 Mother's Day Memories 2002

From RHONDA in Hartselle:  My mother started encouraging us kids to learn how to cook and clean while we were still relatively young, well as pre-teens anyway.  On one occasion, my parents had invited another couple and their young child to our house for dinner.  Mom had asked me, before they got there, to be a good little hostess and, when dinner was finished, to get up and collect the dishes and clean them up without complaining.  Now, of course, we didn't have an automatic dishwasher so that meant washing, drying, and putting away on my own.  I managed to wait until the next morning before I had to let off steam.  I accused my mother of messing up EVERY pot and pan, plate and bowl, fork and spoon, and anything else in the house that she could possibly find...just because I was the one to do the dishes that night!  Mother was a good cook and could throw together a meal in no time at all, but it became a long standing joke every time the family got together and we kids did the dishes that she would use that opportunity to clean out her cabinets and the refrigerator just so that we could get her dirty dishes clean!

From ANGIE in Athens:  I can remember very well my one and only time to go Christmas shopping with Mom during an After Thanksgiving Sale.  Mom knew just where she wanted to go and what she wanted to get.  And it all started at Penny's.  We arrived at the store promptly at 8:00 a.m. and joined the crowd that was there.  As most of you know, Mom is not a large woman.  Let me tell you, that day she was 6'4" and 250 pounds.  She went through the crowds like a whirlwind, and everything was fine until she picked out a shirt for Dad.  She put it in her buggy and then was looking for something else when a very foolish woman actually picked the shirt up out of Mom's buggy and went off down the aisle with it.  Mom wasn't having any of that!  She immediately gave chase, with me tagging along behind her going, "What......"  Of course, Mom caught up with her and, let me tell you, it was on then.  My mom, all 5'3" (6'4") of her, oh so calmly reached into the woman's buggy, picked up Dad's shirt and proceeded to tell the woman how wrong she was in stealing Dad's shirt.  Of course, the woman wanted to argue with Mom that she did no such thing.  And Mom actually got in the woman's face and let her know in no uncertain terms that that shirt was her husband's and if she wanted one just like it, then she could by golly go and get her own and leave Mom's alone!  I have never seen such a small woman be so emphatic about a shirt that was on sale!  That let me know right then that I was not in Mom's class where shopping was concerned and I haven't been back to another After Thanksgiving Day Sale yet.

From BILLY in Tennessee:  When I was about 5 or 6 years of age, we had a big red rooster that didn't like me for some reason.  Every time I would go out in the yard, that rooster would attack me if I didn't have a stick in my hand.  I was spurred several times.  One day as I stepped out in the yard and not thinking to get a stick, that rooster attacked me.  He spurred me in the back of my legs and my back.  He was mean.  Crying, I ran to Mom.  She attended to my wounds and said, "Don't cry because I promise you I will never let that mean old rooster hurt you again."  The next day (Sunday) I got up and started for the barn to feed the mules, but I made sure I left the house with my big stick.  It so happens I didn't see the old rooster, but I thought he may be out where I could not see him.  After church we had some friends come home with us for dinner.  Back in those days either we went home with friends for dinner or they would go home with us.  Well, it so happened that mom had chicken and dumplings for dinner.  When she fixed my plate she informed me to eat all of the dumplings which had a big piece of chicken and if I would eat them she would tell me something funny.  Of course I ate all of my food on the plate and was ready to hear the funny she had promised.  She said, "I promised you that the rooster would never hurt you again.  Well, he certainly won't because we have just eat him."  Would you believe that I went back for seconds?

From RONNIE in Birmingham:  My mom is gone now and I have many funny memories of things that have happened, but I think this is probably one of the funniest that really sticks out in my mind.  When we lived in Chicago we were going to go out to my sister's house for Easter.  They lived in the suburbs out by the O'Hare Airport.  Well, my mom had never had an Easter hat.  Dad had bought her this real pretty Easter mom's first!  Guess what!  It snowed all day.  It snowed so much we weren't able to get out of the city.  But that didn't stop my mother.  She wore that hat all DAY LONG.  It was in the house, but never the less, she wore her new hat!

From TONY in Athens:  When Sharon asked us for our favorite memories of our mothers, I knew right away what I'd have to share.  Some of you have already heard this story, but for those of you who haven't, let me share a little story about my mother.
Quite some time ago, I think I was either 8 or 9 years old, our family lived in Columbus, Georgia, where Angie and I were born.  Every day after school, all three of us kids would go to a friend's house to wait for Mom to come pick us up after work.  Mom and Dad both had to work to feed three bottomless pits, us!  Anyway, these friends (the Hutto family) lived in downtown Columbus, right across the street from a playground.  It wasn't much of a playground, just a couple of basketball hoops and I think I remember a merry-go-round, too.  Richard Hutto, about my age and a pretty good friend, would usually go across the street with us to play in the afternoons.
This particular afternoon my brother, Randy, and I were just shooting a few baskets.  I think Angie and Richard were there, too, but I don't think they were playing basketball with us.  Mom had already come by and was visiting with the Huttos across the street.  (By the way, visiting is something we need to do more of!)  A group of older kids came onto the basketball court and decided they wanted to play basketball.  Obviously the best way to do that was to push us smaller kids around until we left.  We weren't that serious about wanting to play, but getting pushed around always did kind of make me mad.  As you all know, I have red hair, and let me tell you, I used to have the temper to go with it!  Everything came to a head when a kid, about three years older than me judging by his size, decided he would pick on just me.  We were engaged in a shoving match when the older boy (we later found out he was 17 years old) decided no little kid was going to push his friend around.  Randy felt obliged to get involved as he was a little older than me and a little bigger, but that still left a big age difference between him and the other guy.
I think it was Richard (or maybe Angie) who boogied over to the house and let Mom know what was going on across the street.  The first I knew Mom was around was when I saw her running across that basketball court, already twirling her purse!  Now, Mom stands maybe 5'3" in heels, so it was physically impossible for her to appear 8 feet tall, but somehow she managed it!  She whopped that kid upside the head, and down he went.  I think he was pretty surprised to see this demon standing over him screaming, "You leave my babies alone!"  Kids scattered like quail!  I think the fastest one to leave was that 17 year old kid.  She probably broke everything in that purse that day, but she never complained about that at all.  I'm pretty sure even SHE didn't know she was going to do that, but it's a scene that I'll never forget as long as I live.  That's my Mom!

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 Fourth of July
(2 articles)

Thoughts about Freedom and America
submitted by Tony Brown
    Back around September 11th, there was a renewed feeling of patriotism in this country.  I guess that's understandable, since our country had just recently received such a horrible blow.  What I don't understand is the current lessening of that feeling.  This country we live in, viewed objectively, must be the greatest country on the face of the earth.  Oh, sure, we have our problems.  We are only human, after all, and it's all too easy to focus only on the problems the TV news people are always telling us about.  But let's stop and think about this for just a second.
    Do you know of any other country that people are willing to die to get to?  I recently heard about a group of Mexicans who had died in the desert Southwest just trying to get into this country.  Does anyone but me remember the boatloads of Haitian refugees back in the 80's?  Not all of them even lived through the boat trip!  I don't believe people are trying to come here because this is a bad place to live.  We all have certain rights and freedoms that people in other lands have never dreamed of having.  If we are hungry, we can go down to the corner store, or to the restaurant just down the street, and get something that will be both nutritious and cheap.  Even in this country, that was just not possible 100 years ago. Hmm, that seems just about right...the rest of the world is just about 100 years behind us.
    As a matter of fact, that is probably even more true than I thought.  According to the news (which is just about the only source of information nowadays) most of the world's societies are based on farming.  That's about where we were around 1900 or so.  Of course, all society must be built on a solid food foundation, but here in America the largest portion of our population doesn't have to rely on their truck patch for food.  We now have the freedom to pursue other ways of living, and I for one am very glad of that!  I've never really cared for hoeing, or weeding, or even picking stuff in the garden.  I know a lot of our readers out there probably do have their own garden, so it's okay if you laugh at me about that.  I admit that I really am lazy!
    I guess my thinking about the freedoms we all enjoy really does come down to just one thing:  we have choices that no one else in this world has available to them.  We can hop in our car for a trip to the store, or pick up the telephone to call someone if we want.  We can go to college if we want, or get a job doing most anything we want.  The vast majority of this world can't make these statements.  I'm just as bad as anybody about complaining about nothing much, but I can truthfully say that there's not that much to complain about in America.

Thank God for America and Its Freedoms!
submitted by H.C. Brown
Since September 11, 2001, many Americans have been forced to reexamine their attitudes in many respects.  The terrorist attacks of 9/11 are likely permanently engraved within most of our memories.  The very images of two great landmarks in one of the world's largest trade and culture centers as they collapsed were enough to waken every conscientious American.
Most Americans have become complacent toward our country's own security.  Before 9/11 it was extremely rare to see armed guards inside the nation's airports - unless they were escorting a prisoner to another city by air.  There were no roadblocks to interfere with fulfilling our desires to go from one place to any other place in the free world.  We have long known that roadblocks are common in other areas of the world that are not considered free countries - but this is at home - almost on our back doorstep!

None of us want to think about having to relinquish any of the freedoms we've come to enjoy for so long in the United States of America.  We don't want to ask permission from anyone else to go on a picnic, or fishing, hunting, shopping, attend a gospel singing, or for a visit with an old friend.   We don't want to have to ask permission to cross a county line, or even a state line; we're not really happy about having to show identification to visit a Caribbean island, or Mexico, or Canada.

Some of the freedoms we've enjoyed for so long may be forever lost after the events of 9/11.  Thank God we still have the freedom to worship Him in whatever church or other gathering place we may desire.  And we are free to worship Him in any manner we desire.  There are still too many areas of the world that do not enjoy those freedoms.

Independence Day is a day that has been set aside to remember those who made all these freedoms possible for us - and to celebrate our freedom!  This nation was founded because of what some thought was unfair taxation, and repression of the right to worship freely.  (Regardless of what some may think, I was not around during that time, so I have to rely on what the history books have to say about it!)  Had it not been for what our forefathers felt was persecution, this nation likely would not exist today.

Since the USA was established with the original colonies, there have been countless young men and women that have made the ultimate sacrifice to ensure that our freedoms did not become eroded. One of my brothers is included in those numbers.  Through a number of wars, police actions, and other terms that describe war-like conditions, we have survived as a nation because of the sacrifices made by others.

I remember the “Korean Conflict” as well as the “Vietnam Era” and how it affected so many people in our country - and many of those who served in the nation's armed forces never returned to their native soil.  Some did return, as did my brother, in a sealed coffin, and many others returned with limbs missing, or with the residue of various chemicals eating away at their bodies and minds.

To all you veterans that may read this: I salute you!  Thank you for the sacrifices you made for my family and me so we can continue to enjoy the most liberal of the world's freedoms.  Thank you for giving up those creature comforts for a pup tent on a forest floor or the sands of a desert in almost unbearable weather while my family and I enjoyed air-conditioned comfort in our own homes with four walls and a roof, undaunted by the weather outside.  Thank you for giving whatever you had to give to make sure we could attend the church of our choice and worship God in the manner we enjoy.  Thank you for those long, endless nights you stood guard duty so we could attend a gospel singing without having to ask someone's permission.  Thank you for pulling KP so others could maintain their physical bodies to fight again another day.  Thank you for putting up with that foul-mouthed sergeant or lieutenant so we can freely speak our minds to whomever we choose.  Thank you for the special training you pursued so you could be more effective at ensuring the freedoms we enjoy in America today.
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 Meet and Greet Time!

    We all have, at one time or another, met people who come into our lives and automatically make us feel a part of their family.  They are the ones who are there with you to share the good times and who aren't afraid to be around you during the bad times.  The Gargis family (Jerry, Pat and Tisha) are folks such as that.  If you have been to just one of our singings then we are almost certain that you have seen them with us.  Regardless if we are singing right in their back door at home or if we have to drive five hours or more to sing, they are ready and excited to be with us on every trip.  We think the Gargis family is a special group of people and we wanted to give all of you the chance to get to know just a little bit more about them.  With that in mind, we presented each of them a handful of questions and asked if they would mind our sharing their answers with you.  Naturally, they were excited about being included here as well so...let's see what they had to say!

Question:  How long have you been a fan of The Revelators?
    Answer:  Since 1986, but we have known Ronnie longer.

Question:  What do you like best about them and/or what would you like to see different?
    Pat's answer:  I love southern gospel music, but I don't like can music.  I wouldn't change anything.  I love the spirit you feel when they sing.  Sometimes you can't feel it with other groups.

    Tisha's answer:  They are always the same every time you see them.  Just stay the way you are and you will go far.

    Jerry's answer:  They are the same each time you meet them and they are always glad to see you.  Change-they don't need any changes.

Question:  What is your favorite gospel song and why?
    Pat's and Tisha's answer:  Rough Side.  Pat says that she likes to see Ronnie play the piano and she just likes the words to that song.  She states she feels that way a lot.  Tisha says that she can be feeling low and, when she hears that song, she feels like she is up on the mountain.

    Jerry's answer:  So High.  He feels the words are very inspirational and up-lifting.

Question:  What is one of your funniest Revelators memories?
    Pat's answer:  The time we were going to Tennessee.  We were at a red light waiting for it to change.  Ronnie was in front of us.  He gets out of the car, goes around the car, waves at us, and gets back in the car before the light changes.  Then when we stopped he says, "Did you see me wave at you?"  Ronnie was just being Ronnie.  Times like this I needed laughter in my life.  They know when I need to laugh

    Tisha's answer:  One time we were coming back from Tennessee and Mike Carter was picking with everyone on the bus including me.  I just happened to find a toothpick.  Doris and Denzil said to let him have it, so I stuck him in the bottom with it.  He ran to the front of the bus and said, "Somebody stuck me."  So Ms. Thomas said, "Well, I guess you'll set down now!"

    Jerry's answer:  Ronnie was playing right in the middle of a song and there was a flower arrangement on the piano and it decided to fall off.  Right on the keyboard Ronnie catches it, sits it to one side and never missed a note!

Question:  What has been one of your most special moments shared with The Revelators?
    Answer:  The times we all meet and have time to fellowship together, and the practice sessions.  Pat adds that she always enjoys seeing her daughter's face light up when she hears them sing.  She said the group makes them feel like a part of something and that all minutes with them are special to her.

Additional comments from Pat:  This group has had a big part of my life.  Before I got saved, they don't know how much they kept me going when things were going wrong.  They are my true friends.  They feel like family and I still love them.  I never get tired of listening to them.  I pray for each one special times of the day.

Additional comments from Tisha:  I used to listen to country music and now all I listen to is gospel music all the time.  After all the years and all that's happened, I still love to hear them.  I never get tired of listening to them and love to see Friday come.  I know I'll get to be with them on Saturday.  I don't know what I would do without them.

Additional comments from Jerry:  Gospel music has changed my life.  I used to love to listen to gospel music but now I listen to it AND get the message in it.  We have been following the Revelators all this time and each time we go hear them, the music they sing gets sweeter all the time.  I have come to some singings feeling low.  But before the singing is over I'm back on the mountain top.
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 Thinking on "Thanking"
(submitted by Tony Brown)
Buzzzzz!    Whap!  As I fumble to turn off the alarm.  Man, time to get up already.  Okay…I stumble out of my oh-so-warm bed and step a little lightly across the cool linoleum in the bathroom.  Hop in the shower, maybe a little warmer than usual, my feet got a little chilled there.  Get dressed and wander down the hallway to the kitchen.  Did she…yeah, she started the coffee.  Ow!  Burned my lip there, that stuff's hot!  Grab a bowl and look for the cereal.  What, only corn flakes?  Oh well, better than nothing, I guess.  Bye, hon!  Out the door, great, frost this morning.  Go ahead and crank the engine, maybe it'll warm up by the time I get the windshield clear.  Pull out for work.  Hmm, not too much traffic this morning.  What's on the radio?  Commercial, commercial, country, news, hey!  Some gospel!  What's this?  Great, I get to wait on a train.  At least the heater's kicking in good.  Another sip of the coffee, at least I didn't have to wait too long.  Get off my bumper, idiot!  Buncha lunatics out here, have some more coffee, that'll calm you down some.  Poor guy walking down the side of the road, must be 30 degrees out there!  Hmm, dirty jeans, boots and a field jacket…should I?  Naw, can't trust anybody nowadays.  Probably just another wino anyway.  Man, gotta turn that heater down some.  Wonder what's for dinner tonight?  Ham last night was pretty good, don't think I want it for leftovers.  I hate leftovers, they're never as good the second time around anyway.  Maybe that steak in the freezer?  We'll see.  As long as it's good, I guess it'll be alright…

OR…could it be?
Whoosh!  That must have been a truck, at least it woke me up.  Thank You, Lord, for the night's sleep and for keeping me safely through the night.  Whew, this old rug is kinda stinky, but it did keep some of the wind off.  Might need to take it with me.  Let's see, did …yeah, I thought I put back half of that candy bar last night.  Oughta give me a little pick-me-up.  My goodness, look how pretty that frost is on that field!  Thank You, Father, for eyes to see the beauties of the world You created for us!  You know, a little salt on your finger really DOES do alright for brushing the teeth.  Do I…yeah, half a canteen.  Surely someone will let me refill it today.  Let's see, guess I'll go this way.  Wonder where all the traffic is?  Oh, a train.  Man, look at that mural on the last car.  Isn't that gorgeous?  There he goes, gone now to who knows where?  Gosh, the breeze from those cars is cold!  At least up here beside the road the ground isn't too rough, like it is down in that ditch.  I'll bet that's coffee in that guy's to-go cup.  That would go pretty good on a day like this.  Oh, well.  Hey!  Somebody dropped a quarter!  Thank You, Lord, for causing my eyes to turn downward just then!  Maybe I can find a diner that'll sell me a cup of coffee for a quarter.  Thank You, Lord, for giving me two strong legs to walk upon.  I wish I could find the Y and grab a shower sometime today.  Keep your eyes open, boy!

You know, it seems like the more we have, the more we expect.  Once upon a time, the Jews would have been thankful just to have straw to make bricks with, and yet we take the comforts we have here in America so much for granted.  Be honest, which of the two previous examples was closer to how you started your day?  Nothing that we have here on this earth is permanent, but sometimes we lose sight of that in our work-a-day routine.  Let's all try to make this Thanksgiving season a true one by giving thanks to the One to whom we really owe our blessings.  Thank You, God, for everything you have done for me, and for everything you may do for me in the future.  Most of all, thank You for your Son, Jesus.  We pray that you all have a blessed and happy holiday!

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EASTER (April 2001)
by Sharon Brown
    Imagine, if you will, a group sitting around and reminiscing about their fondest Easter memories.  Perhaps we would hear someone recall that GIANT basket they got at the age of seven.  You know the had all kinds of candy and goodies, a few puzzle games, and a football!  Maybe someone else remembers the last chocolate bunny they received before they got "too old" for that sort of thing.  It's almost a certainty that someone will recall the Easter egg hunts and how many times that they were the one who found that prize egg containing that dollar bill.  Others may recount their memories of family gatherings and the spectacular Easter Sunday dinners~and all those deviled eggs!  And still others may mention those special sunrise services and refrains of Amazing Grace just as the sun broke the horizon.
    And, of course, who can forget those infamous Easter Sunday outfits?  For the young men there were the black slacks, crisp white shirts, a clip-on tie (or perhaps that dreaded clip-on bow tie), and those really nice black shoes that "better not get all scuffed up" as mothers throughout the years have been sure to warn.  For the young ladies, there were always those dainty little dresses complete with ruffles or little flowers on them, the white gloves, lacy socks and patent leather shoes, and the all important hat or bonnet.  And what outfit would not be complete without the small handbag to carry all that necessary girl stuff!
    As the laughter dies down a voice in the crowd asks, "Father, what is your fondest Easter memory?"  After a moment of reflection, and in a voice so soft that everyone leans forward to hear, the reply comes.  "Mine is the time that I lost and then regained my son.  That chance to bring redemption and salvation to all those who seek it."  The group sits in silence for several minutes to ponder those words and then part to go their separate ways.  Although the phrase is often associated with Christmas, it is just as appropriate at this time of year:  Remember the reason for the season.  HAPPY EASTER from The Revelators!
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by Sharon Brown
    "Talking to God ain't so hard," my grandma would say.  "Why, it's just as easy as talking to yourself.  It's the reminding yourself to talk to Him...that's the hard part," she would chuckle.  I noticed on the calendar that the third of May has been designated as the National Day of Prayer -- something I had never heard of before.  After a little investigating, I found out that the National Day of Prayer is neither a legal holiday nor a national holy day, but simply a day set aside to formally recognize a day of prayer by Ronald Reagan in 1988.  I wondered what my grandma would think of that.
    Over the years I have encountered many people who say they simply don't know how to pray.  I ask them if they had ever recited the bedtime prayer "now I lay me down to sleep."  Usually that gets answered with something like "I'm too old for that little thing" or "that's a child's prayer, not how a grown-up should pray."  Well, that may be.  But I know for a fact that my grandma started her nightly prayers with that little verse and then she would move on to a more personal discussion with God before laying her head down to sleep.  Childish perhaps, but it made her comfortable and helped her to rest.
    So exactly what is grown-up prayer?  I have heard silver-tongued religious leaders spew forth with holy thees and heavenly thous, and when all was said and done, I didn't feel one bit closer to God.  So maybe it's not just the language used to make it prayer.  I have heard frantic students pray just before final exams for a passing grade even though they hadn't worked for it and then seen them disappointed with failing marks.  So maybe it's not just the perceived urgency of the situation.  Years of pondering have made me realize that, regardless of how formal or informal a prayer is, one that is made from the heart with an open willingness to accept what the Lord decides for you, is often the best way to pray.  It doesn't matter if you speak aloud or silently whisper your prayer.  It doesn't matter if you are alone or among 50,000 of your closest friends.  And it doesn't matter how elaborate it is either.  A small girl that I baby-sat once asked me why some butterflies were yellow and others were blue.  I told her that God made them that way just as He made some people white and some people black.  Hardly had I ever felt as close to God as when she said, in all her innocence, "Then I guess I will have to thank God for all my crayons, too!"
    So that brings me back to this National Day of Prayer.  I personally think it is a good thing in that it is an opportunity to recognize prayer as something special.  And grandma did say that we needed reminding to keep in touch with God.  But on the other hand, honoring prayer for one day feels the same as honoring mothers and fathers one day a year or celebrating the birth of Jesus only at Christmas.  This is something that should occur every day...not just because a day on the calendar says it is appropriate to do so.  Please remember The Revelators in your prayers as you go about your daily lives and I am sure that all of us will continue to ask for good health, happiness, and safe-keeping for all of you, too.
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(3 articles)
Submitted by Angie Brown:
    Well, it's Mother's Day again.  Some folks will say that they just don't know what they're going to do for their mothers this year.  Last year, they bought a flower arrangement.  The year before that, it was a figurine.  My mom tells me every year that she doesn't want anything for Mother's Day, but I always try to find something that will let her know how much she is appreciated, even if it's just a pretty card.  What it all boils down to, for me, is that there is nothing I can give my mother that will show her how much I love her and how much I appreciate her.
    You see, I simply cannot comprehend all that my mother has done for me.  All the sacrifices she has made, just to make my life better.  I can't understand how she has always been there, whether I knew it or not.  This is the woman who carried me for nine months, who held me when I cried, who laughed with me when I found something fascinating to play with, who nursed me when I was sick.  And it didn't stop when I became an adult.  My mother has always been there to help me.  She has been a solid force in my life, and a constant inspiration to me.
    I thank God every day that I have my mother.  I'm lucky enough to see my mother on a regular basis.  We even talk through the week.  She is one of my best and dearest friends.  I cannot help but feel that this is a blessing that God has delivered to me and me alone.  These words are not adequate to describe how I really feel about my mother.  I think you could take every greeting card ever written and put them all together, and still not truly say what I want to say.  I'm certainly not an expert in describing my feelings, but I do know this for a fact.  I dearly love my mother.  I'm so glad she is with me, encouraging, comforting, praising, scolding, just being there.  I love the fact that I can call Mom anytime, and she'll be glad to hear from me.  I don't ever want to take my Mom for granted.  I hope you don't either.  So, Mom, after I've said all this, there's only one other thing I can say.  I Love You.

Submitted by Tony Brown:
    "If you say anything bad about my mom, I'll sock you in the nose!"  Okay, so I have grown up a lot since that time, but to be honest, that intense feeling is never really gone.  I went through all those stages that most kids go through, I guess...and mom has been there beside me, behind me, or leading each step of the way.  You remember those stages, don't you?  There was that time, before the age of seven I guess, that mom was an absolute miracle worker.  She could kiss the hurt away just like that!  And, boy, those monsters under the bed didn't hang around long when mom walked in the room either!
    Of course, after seven and before the teens, mom was just simply brilliant...she had to be...even according to my dad.  I mean, you could ask dad something and what would he say -- "Go ask your mother!"  See, even he knew she had all the answers.  And then there were the teen years (ugh).  So mom didn't know everything after all, but she still remained strong in her love and support of me when I thought I was the one who knew it all.  Now that I'm older, or rather for the past several years now, I have come to respect and appreciate my mother so much more for the things I know she had to sacrifice to raise me.  I could never be capable of comprehending the depth of her love and patience that she continually demonstrates.  I do know that, without a doubt, I would never have become the man I am today without her influence and guidance.  So, mom, this is for you...I love you...and that is my most heartfelt gift to you.
    Thank you for sharing your life with me and for always being there.  And if the rest of you don't like it (pardon my inner child here), I guess I could still sock you in the nose!  Happy Mother's Day from Tony!!!

Submitted by H.C. Brown:
    Mother died when I was 25 months old, so I never got to know her.  But Dad must have liked Mother's family pretty well.  After mother died, he married mother's sister, Melba.  Melba (she never wanted me to call her anything else) was a mother to me in every sense of the word except for the physical delivery of a baby.  She taught me, raised me to love the Lord, and to work, keeping an honest approach to everything I did.  Although she went on to her reward several years ago, her influence remains with me even today.  Without the sacrifices she made for me, life would have been much harder - and it was hard enough as it was during my childhood years.
    You see, Dad passed away when I was 11 and I missed the most formative years of my life with him.  Born and raised on a farm with all the usual farm activities, Melba taught me responsibility and respect, two things that are sadly lacking today in the upbringing of most children.  Tony and Angie's mother and I tried to raise our children as best we could by following the example that Nell's mother and Melba set for us.  We never had the benefit of an instruction book except for the Bible, and we didn't read it nearly often enough to know how to raise a child.  But there's one verse that's stuck with me through all these many years:  "Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it."  We tried to follow that sage advice, and I couldn't be happier with the adults our children became.
    We love them all, and cherish them as only parents can.  And we didn't stop there - we've learned to love our daughters-in-law as well.  They may not be blood descendents, but they're still our children, too, and we're just as proud of them!
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by Tony and Sharon Brown
    I actually had someone ask me recently, "Just what is Memorial Day?"  I gave the standard answer that we set aside one day a year to honor servicemen and women who died in battle.  Originally set aside as a day to honor those killed in the Civil War, nowadays the memorial applies to all of America's war dead.
    Most everybody has at least one relative who was killed in battle.  I served in the United States Air Force myself, thankfully during peacetime.  At the time of my service, I was only 18, and didn't really understand that I would probably die if a war were to break out.  I can't imagine what it would be like to know, when you joined, that fighting was going on.  The courage it took for these young men and women to do their jobs must have been amazing.
    I can't think of anyone I ever knew personally who had to go off to war and never returned.  But I do know others who have lost loved ones throughout the years in various conflicts.  It is true that no words or special days set aside to commemorate those losses will ever bring these people back; however, by honoring them in word and deed we can help their memories and their selflessness live on.  These men and women lost their lives in battles fought so that others could be free to live one day in a world without oppression of rights, with freedoms, including religious activities.  I don't believe that there were very many who left for war with the intent purpose of dying for a cause.
    Some 2000 years ago, a man came into this world to show everyone a better way to live, the way God intends us to live.  This man was involved in a war...a war for men's souls.  He believed in His cause enough to lay down His life for us all.  Christians can now be free from the wages of sin because of Christ's sacrifice, just as all Americans can be free from tyranny and oppression.  I thank God daily for the sacrifice of His Son, so we can, at least once a year, say a prayer for our fellow man who also made the ultimate sacrifice.
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(2 articles)
Submitted by Sharon Brown:

Dear Dad,

    I am certain that at some point in my childhood I said, "When I grow up, I want to be just like you!"  I'm almost equally as certain that you smiled and gave me a big hug but deep inside you were saying, "Child, I am honored that you want to be like me.  It is one of the greatest joys in life to know that I can touch your life in this way.  But, child, don't stop at being like me.  Feel free to use me as your model, but honor me more by growing up to be your own person.  In time we both will see a little bit of each other in ourselves."
    I don't know if I'm succeeding in this or not, but I realize now what you were trying to teach me.  It must have been hard for you to let me make mistakes when you could have prevented them for me.  It must have been hard for you to see me cry over a broken heart, or a skinned-up knee, or just because.  But, Dad, you never stopped loving me and I know that now.  Even at those times when I either said out loud or to myself that you were unfair or you didn't love me or even that I hated you for something or the other, you kept right on loving me perhaps knowing that all of that was a part of what would make me my own person.  You will never, ever know how much it means to me now to realize all of this.
    I mentioned mistakes, didn't I?  Well, we both have made those in our lives.  But by allowing me to make my own mistakes, it let me see both sides of a bad situation. To let me get hurt and to get over that hurt, you helped me learn that one of the best lessons in life is that it's okay to get down for a while but no one or no thing should ever defeat me for long.  You watched and waited for me to pick myself up and start over again.  It must have been hard for you to see me fall and see me hurt, but you understood it was all a part of letting me be my own person.  I'm glad that you allowed me to do just that.  And, I have to admit it now, but I always knew if I just could not pick myself up or just didn't have it in me to go on, that I could draw on your strength and love to help me through.  Just knowing that you were there for me is one of the best things this child has ever known.
    So now I'm grown and am living my own life.  And, it's funny isn't it, that people are starting to say, "You remind me of your dad," or "You sound just like Dad."  Or how about my own thoughts of 'how would Dad handle this situation'?  Well, I don't mind the comparison.  I welcome the fact that, yes, I did grow up to be like you and still be my own person, too.  Maybe by doing so, I am fulfilling your dreams for me while fulfilling my own dreams along the way.  You may wonder at times if you did okay by your kids.  For myself, I know that you have made a positive and cherished influence on my life.  And, Dad, there's one more thing I want you to know.  No matter what our differences in life may be, or what mistakes we both make, or how far apart it may seem that we drift, I will always love you and respect you for letting me grow up to be me.  I love you very much!
                                                                                Your Child

Submitted by H.C. Brown:
    Dear Child,
    I know this is a time when most people honor their fathers.  I have been honored for many years just by your presence, and I would like to honor YOU if you will allow me...
    As you grew, your mother and I watched you make mistake after mistake, but God gave us enough wisdom to understand that the learning process cannot be completed without mistakes.  He also gave us the patience to wait while the hurt healed, whether it was physical, mental, moral, or spiritual.
    It is unfortunate that I didn't discover the book of instructions until you were past your most formative years.  Had I just known the secrets contained within that instruction book - we call it the Bible, perhaps your life could have been made easier and with less pitfalls along the way.  Yes, I made mistakes, too, and for those I have repented and learned and grew.
    It is my prayer, dear child, that you will grow into a much better person than I -- a stronger person, a more spiritual person, a greater Christian.  I was there when you asked God to save your soul, and I remember it well.  At that moment you began to grow spiritually, and I believe it will be a lifelong process of growth.  Even though I'm several years your senior, I'm still learning, and I doubt seriously that I'll ever have all the answers, at least not in this life.  But in the life to come, we will know as we are known, and we will have all the answers.
    So, dear child, don't honor me on Father's Day.  Instead, let me honor you.  In you I see a reflection, be it ever so dim, of myself.  But I see something else!  I see an even better person with a lot of growth yet to be experienced.  It is my prayer that you will rise to unprecedented heights in your relationship with the Holy Trinity -- God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit -- for only in Him will your growth be fulfilled.
    I love you, dear child, and will continue to love you until we meet in the very presence of the Heavenly Father Himself.  May God heap His greatest blessings upon you in every way!
    With deepest love and admiration,
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© 2001 Sharon Brown
    If I were to be perfectly honest about it, a lot of people tend to think I'm a little bit crazy.  Yep, it's true.  I have gotten my share of funny looks from friends and strangers alike, especially if they have spent any time around me at all.  I used to wonder why so many people felt this way about me, but after a recent family gathering in which a couple of hours of story-swapping occurred, it is all becoming a smidgen clearer to me.  I grew up in a family that, like many others, find times when we can't stand each other but then we manage to come back together and love each other fiercely.  One constant through all these years has been the ability to laugh at each other and at our own self, too.

    You see, there has always been at least one member of the family who would try to get the others to believe something so totally outrageous that it couldn't possibly be true; yet, we would find ourselves believing them just because someone we trusted was telling them.

    Take my Papa for example.  He had all of us kids convinced that we could catch a bird by sprinkling salt on its tail.  He told us the salt would weigh the tail feathers down so much that the bird wouldn't be able to fly and all we had to do would be to grab it. bird in the hand!  Did we figure out that if you could get close enough to sprinkle salt on that dang bird you might as well just pick the thing up anyway?  Of course we did ~ well, after Momma started taking part of our allowance to pay for all that salt we were wasting.  We really should have known better than to believe this, I know.  But why would Papa have tried to trick us again, especially after we had just so recently figured out that our legs would definitely not fall off if we unscrewed our belly buttons like he said they would!  My he's a real sketch.

    But you know, my Papa didn't have exclusive rights to pulling our legs.  My grandmother did her fair share of story-telling, too.  In fact, one of her best "selling jobs" was in convincing my older sister that potatoes grew on trees.  Yep, if you wanted some taters for dinner you could just stroll right on out to that old potato orchard and pick an armload of spuds.  Some folks planted apple trees and others planted potato trees.  That's just the way it was.  So my sister tried to plant a tree.  Grandmother gave her a slice of potato and showed her how to get it to root.  But she never could get a tree to grow from it.  Oh, it grew a pretty little plant alright, but it never sprouted no taters from the limbs.  I believe my sister was in her early teens when she learned the truth about her vegetables.  I wonder if she also thought that babies grew under cabbage plants!

    And then there was my mother.  Oh yes, she would go on and on with my nephew about those lovely fields of spaghetti that she grew up around.  They were a sight to behold.  That wind would blow across the fields and those stalks of spaghetti would bend this way and that way.  Why many nights she was lulled to sleep by the whisper of the stalks rubbing together as the wind slowly died down for the evening.  And you could have spaghetti almost all year long, because you only had to go out and break off enough from those stalks for about a month's supply.  All the other families in the county would come around and help themselves to some, too, when they wanted it.  You see, when you planted spaghetti you had to plant a big field of it.  (I guess the other farmers were planting those tater trees!)  But Momma wasn't satisfied with just that much of a story.  She had to explain that when the growing season was getting on toward the rainy season you had to cut the spaghetti back to about two inches in height.  Then after that first big rain, and after the field had dried out some, you went back out there and harvested the macaroni noodles because the spaghetti had shrunk up to just the right size for that!

    So maybe I do have just a little bit to worry about as far as sanity goes.  And maybe some of those strange looks I get are well deserved, but when you grow up around such as this what can you expect.  My only hope was that I could marry into a saner family and have a fighting chance.  So I got married and thought I was safe...until that one evening around the dinner table when my husband's grandfather started talking about teaching the grandkids how to milk those chickens!
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On August 18, 2001, Robert Shumate (pictured at left with Tony) was introduced as an honorary Revelator member as he and his mom, Vicky, have been devoted followers of our group for several years.  Robert is 15 years old and attends classes at Decatur High School.  It is difficult for him to name any one song as being his absolute favorite, but among those he likes best are When I Wake Up To Sleep No More, When He Reached Down His Hand For Me, and I Just Stopped By On My Way Home.  These songs tend to feature a bass lead which isn't too surprising as Robert would like to sing bass when he is older.

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 Prayer for those we have lost

Here is to those whose lives have been taken.
Our wishes go to those left behind.
We are thankful for those who have survived,
mournful for those we have lost.
At times like these, we are reminded
how frail is this mortal shell.
For life is brief and tragic sometimes,
but for others it stretches on.
One thing that we all have in common,
we shall never forget those who have gone.
We all say farewell,
all say a prayer most fevered,
and never forget those whose thread of life
has been severed.
God bless and keep their souls,
and help us all to heal our wounds.
And give us strength
to continue living.
~Anthony Hagan~

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Hershell Brown

Generally during the autumn season, thoughts turn to football, hockey, leaf colors, and a myriad of other subjects.  Autumn is the season that comes between summer and winter, and old folks like me usually call it “fall.”

Fall is perhaps the second most gorgeous season of the year, following spring very closely.  Of course the new greens of spring (following the bleak colors of winter) are the most popular, but fall runs a close second because of the changing colors.

Some years ago, Nell and I went up US Hwy. 64 through eastern TN into NC, enroute to the Cherokee NC area.  There's a very long mountain climb, probably around 6 miles or so, just before you enter Franklin, NC.  There are several places along the roadside designed so drivers can pull off and enjoy the beautiful vistas.  This particular trip was in the fall of the year, and we had never before entered the Great Smokies during the fall.  As we were climbing that mountain, Nell suddenly exclaimed, “Dad, look over there at those beautiful reds and golds.”

She wasn't exaggerating - it was indeed one of the prettiest sights we'd ever seen.  To think of the pure majesty of God in His infinite wisdom and how He caused the changing of the seasons to be so spectacular made us both feel very small in His universe.  We stopped in one of those roadside parking areas for several minutes and drank in the landscape that God had painted on those mountainsides.  There were various shades of greens, flowing into blues, reds, and golds, and there was no real demarcation between the colors - they just blended from one to another.

Being from the valleys of North Alabama, we'd never before witnessed such a scene as we saw that day.  From the smoky haze of the atmosphere to the distant greens of the valley floors, God's beauty opened all around us.  Breath-taking does not properly describe the view, but it's as close as I can get.  To think that we were at an elevation of some 5,500 feet above sea level - and to be able to see such a panorama of beauty was almost beyond comprehension.

Then reality set in: we were parked on the wrong side of the road, next to a bluff (which we couldn't see the bottom of), just a few feet off the roadway, with warning signs everywhere about the steep, long grade.  We were on the uphill side, on the wrong side of the road - and what if a truck started down that mountain, lost his brakes and had no choice except hit the guard rail on our side of the road!  There wouldn't even be a greasy spot left, so we got back in the car and continued on, but we made several more brief stops just to see God's creation.

Many times we've talked about that trip - Nell and I - and even though we've been back across that road many times, never again have we witnessed such beauty as we did that day.  But beauty is not necessarily in a season - it's around us all the time and we just don't notice it.

I've been told that people who live in the Smoky Mountains vacation in Florida, and Floridians vacation in the Smokies.  That tells me that people are always looking for that something that's different - whether it be weather, temperatures, or topology of the landscape - and enjoying the change.  

Serving God in His Fullness is certainly a change for most people who call themselves Christian.  The word “Christian” is usually defined as “Christ-like.”  There are few people whom I've met that have served God in a real Christian manner.  We give lip service, but in reality, we fail in so many ways, and I'm the most guilty of all.  We just become complacent with our situations, and don't like to go beyond our “box.”  Most of us set “boxes” or limitations on ourselves, and we make ourselves work, play, and live in that comfort zone “box.”  

Perhaps we should go outside the “box” to see what else God may have in store for us?!  It could be the beauty of changing colors, or different landscapes, or it could be a totally different means of service to Him.  Look beyond the “box” to see what God wants of you!  This could be the “fall” of your life!
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 Happy Thanksgiving To You All!
© 2001 Sharon Brown

"Over the river and through the woods to grandmother's house we go!"  Well, we did have to drive across the Tennessee River and we did go through the countryside down tree-lined roads just to get to my grandmother's house.  I can recall many family gatherings at grandmother's over the years.  There would be times throughout each year that family would try to come together, and Thanksgiving seemed to be the one time of the year that almost all of them could make it "home" again.

My grandparents had eight children and most of them were married by the time I was old enough to remember these gatherings.  Then, of course, there were us 16 grandchildren running around like wild things.  Relatives would come in from Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, and around Alabama.  The television almost always had a football game showing and some of us would run through long enough to see the scores.  Some of the men folk would watch the game while some of them would sit outside on the front porch and try to outdo one another with stories of their youth...and, oh, what some stories there are to tell...but that's for another time.  The children, as I said, would be in and out and underfoot, and well, just children.  The women, when not chasing the kids, would be congregated around the kitchen to help with the cooking and to catch up on all that had been happening throughout the year.

And then there was the food!  Turkey (of course) along with an actual dishpan full of chicken and dressing, potatoes, several varieties of beans and peas, corn, slaw, deviled eggs, cranberry sauce, yams, beets, and rolls.  For dessert there was usually an assortment of cakes and pies and my all-time favorite ~ Grandmother Burns' banana pudding!  I don't think anyone ever stopped eating until they had become absolutely miserable.  It was truly a feast for the eyes and the stomach.

But even with all of that in mind, one of the things that stands out the most in my mind was how quiet this house full of people would get for the saying of grace before the meal.  Usually one of my uncles would offer thanks.  And for being just good ole boys from the country, they sure could "wax eloquently".

"Our gracious Heavenly Father, we come together today to offer our thanks.  We thank you for your continued blessings on our families and our homes.  We thank you for allowing us to come together safely and ask that you keep us so on the return trip to our individual homes. We ask, Lord, that you continue to be with those who could not be here with us today and we thank you for their presence in our lives also.  Father, we thank you for this food before us today and ask your blessings on the hands of those who have prepared it for us.  We ask that you bless the food to the nourishment of our bodies and our bodies to your service.  And, Lord, we thank you most of all for your Son, Jesus, without whom we could never be granted forgiveness for our sins and the opportunity to be held closely in your hands as your own children.  Be with us this day and in the days to come.  In humble thanks we pray in Jesus' name, Amen."
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One Small Box of Love
 © 2001 Sharon Brown

I'm not really sure when it was that I stopped thinking of Christmas in terms of an old fat man in a red suit who snuck into the house during the night.  But, somewhere along the way, I did manage to stop thinking along those lines and began thinking more about the spirit and memories of the Christmas season.  Sure, there is still something of the young child in me who delights in seeing the tree light up, who enjoys sending the wrapping paper flying as presents are opened, and in getting a gift that I was not expecting.  But the older I get, the more I come to cherish those feelings that can't be wrapped in tissue and placed in a box under the tree.

My earliest, most precious memory about Christmas involves my Grandfather Burns.  He passed away shortly after my ninth birthday, and to be honest, I didn't have the opportunity to get to know him as well as I would have liked.  Granddaddy Burns (as I called him) spent the last part of his life in the care of the tuberculosis sanitorium in north Alabama.  As children, we weren't allowed to go in to visit him, but every week my mother would take us along when she visited him.  My brothers and I would run around to the back of the building and wait for mom to get Granddaddy situated at his window on an upper floor where he could see us.  I never knew then if he could hear us, but we would call up to him and tell him our latest jokes or what was happening in school.  And, of course, we had to tell on each other.  I mean we were kids after all!

I do have a few memories of him before he got so sick.  He seemed very tall to me and was a very quiet man.  It seems he worked in the field or around the house from the time he got up each day until he went to bed at night.  He drove a big black car that I never saw anyone but him drive.  I remember that he would load us kids up in that thing and drive us down to “Aunt Mamie's” store…an old shotgun building in the country that sold just about everything you needed.  We almost always walked out with a bag full of penny candy and bubble gum.  Every now and then Granddaddy would buy us a coke and a Hershey candy bar.  Those were some really good trips.

Which brings me back to my special Christmas memory.  There was one year shortly before he died that times had been really rough for my grandparents.  Having eight grown children (most of whom were married) and around 15 grandchildren to think of with Christmas coming on must have been pretty depressing.  But Granddaddy wanted, no I understand he pretty much insisted, that we all get something from him for Christmas.  I have hardly ever appreciated a gift any more than that box I got from him on that Christmas day - inside was a shiny nickel, a box of Cracker Jacks, and a Hershey chocolate bar.  Even at that early age I understood what his gift to me meant.  How, in his own way, he left me with the knowledge that this tiny box said, “I love you.”

May your Christmas, and all your days, be blessed!

What a Gift
By Angie Brown

Every year, I ask my parents what they want for Christmas.  And every year, I get the same answer, “I just want us to be together.”  And every year I think, “Oh boy, here we go again.”  This started when I was just a teenager. At the time I just didn't understand it.  Everybody wants Christmas presents, don't they?

So, I start thinking, every year, what I can get my parents that they will enjoy and will show my love to them.  It took me a long time to understand that answer that I got every year.  It took me a long time to just simply appreciate the family that I have.  You see, I've always taken them for granted.  I just knew they would always be there.  Now that I've grown up a bit, I understand that we don't know what life will bring in the next ten minutes and that there will come a day when someone in my family won't be there.  Not that I'm wishing that to happen any time soon, because I certainly don't.

Why, where would I be without my best friend, my Mom?  And who would I call when I'm stranded somewhere without Dad?  And so on and so on.  But I've also learned that appreciating my family is not simply having someone to call on in times of trouble.  I'm happy to say that I talk to at least one of my parents every day.  If they don't call me, then I call them.  And mostly it's just to say hi and see how they're doing. Has the cold gotten any better?  Is your knee still hurting?  Is your car still running good?  Nothing earth shattering, just everyday stuff.  And you know what?  I wouldn't take anything for those 5-10 minute conversations.

Every year I tell myself that I'm not going to spend much for Christmas this year, money is so tight and all.  But every year, I always spend probably more than I should.  And yes, I do get my parents some sort of present, whether they want it or not.  It may not be much, but the thought is what actually counts, not what's under all the paper and tissue and bows.  You see, there's a joy for me in giving to someone.  I certainly don't expect anything in return, just the look on their faces as they rip open a present.  That look is priceless.

So, Mom and Dad, please forgive the horrid presents you've gotten from me, that super-ugly necktie, or that ugly figurine that you hide all year until you know I'm coming over.  I know you understand why I gave them to you.  It's just one more way to say “I Love You”.  And I do, so very much.

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 Year End Ramblings
submitted by Tony Brown

I can't believe it's already the end of the year.  I can well remember childhood days when a whole year would seem to stretch forever.  Six months until summer vacation might as well have been sometime next century.  I guess that's a pretty common complaint as we get a little older... "my, how time flies!"  We're just past the Christmas holiday now, into the last week before the new year.  I can remember when the time between Christmas and New Year's was a time for breaking in all your new toys, going to your best buddy's house to show off your best toy, and generally having a ball.  I had to go to work today!  That has to be one of the Scrooge-est things I've ever heard of.  Having to work on December 26th.  Imagine!

In the short time that I have been with the Revelators, we've had a pretty rough time of it.  There was a death in the group, we have changed lead singers at least four times (maybe more, I lost count!), and have just generally struggled.  And yet, these have been some of the most fulfilling years in my life.  We have also seen souls saved, prayers answered, and more praise for God than you can shake a stick at!  I guess it just goes to show that there really is a silver lining behind most dark clouds.

This past year has been pretty tough as far as personnel goes.  Ray Bradford started the year with us, but his ailing back forced him to stay closer to Jasper than we were able to.  James Nicholson agreed to help us out until we could find someone (God bless you James, and THANK YOU!!!), but we've had an unusually tough time finding a lead singer.  Seems like everyone we tried either would not be able to fulfill the commitment necessary, or had some other problem that prevented him singing, or, let's face it, they just couldn't sing!  God has told us to keep pushing on, so we have.  I believe our faith in Him has been rewarded.  We will be working with a new lead singer during our winter break.  We've already had two practice sessions with him, and I feel very good about out newest member.  I don't have much information about his singing background, so I'll hold off on introducing him until I get more complete information.

I was looking back over our schedule for this past year, and you know what?  We did a lot of singing!  Looking into next year's schedule, we're gonna do a pretty good bit of singing!  Hallelujah!  I really enjoy getting out to the different churches, seeing all our friends and followers out there.  Without you, we would not be able to sing at all!  To be honest, I really like to sing, too.  I know, I know, I'm so stiff and formal during a singing you would never know how much I enjoyed myself.  Right!  Seriously, though, God asks that we give our best, each according to our abilities.  He never said that our task had to be looked at as a job, though.  God has given me the task to sing, and praise His Holy Name, I even get to enjoy myself!  Not to say that I can't get a little nervous now and then.  I was talking to Dad the other day and he admitted that, even after over 40 years of singing gospel music, he still gets nervous before every single singing!

I hear so many of my friends and co-workers every year ask me, “Why do you do all that traveling and singing?”  The simple answer is, I enjoy myself too much not to.  I believe that God rewards willing service, too.  As some of you already know, I have a herniated disk in my lower back.  This thing is almost always hurting to some degree, but several times, during a singing, I have had a complete lifting of that pain.  If that isn't a reward, I don't know what is!

I hope that each and every one of you has the best year possible in 2002.  This past year has been rough, especially with the September 11th attacks and America's armed response to it.  Things will probably get worse in that area before they get better, but I'll put my trust in God to see us through these hard times.  For any of you who might have been laid off because of the economic downturn, I've been there, myself.  I know that it is as far from fun as you can get.  Just hang in there, don't lose faith, and God will see you through this.  Also know that you are in our prayers for a quick resolution and for a healthy, happy and prosperous 2002.  So from The Revelators to all of you,

Happy New Year!

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