On This Day In History – June 6

Research tells us that on this day in history in 1833 President Jackson took his first ride on the “Iron Horse” as the new phenomenon of trains were then called.  More widely remembered is the invasion of Normandy Beach, now known as D-Day and a common calendar marker.  The first of these events marked a new travel convenience; the second paved the way for the liberation of Western Europe. Both of these events had their part in changing the world as we know it today.

Fast forwarding a few years this day in history has a  greater significance for me  – although not broadly known and only a mark on my personal calendar (maybe on the calendar’s of twelve or thirteen others who had the same life-changing experience on this day).

In 1957, a seemingly insignificant revival meeting was taking place at the Mt Olive Baptist Church in Rossville.  On Tuesday or Wednesday evening Evangelist Ballew preached a stirring message on Hell – and while nothing seemed to happen at the end of the service, Thursday night was different.  On this night the altar filled with young people weeping their way to the Cross.  I was sitting on the front row of the left aisle when Aunt Louie came over, sat down beside me and put her hand on my knee – she never said a word.  And without a word from either of us, I left my seat and knelt at the altar – and to Pastor’s Cape question,  “What happened Phyllis,” I responded, “He saved me.” Thankfully, my mother noted the calendar so that I have the record of this most important event in my life.

Life was good in Rossville … then we moved to Tifton …. And then back to Chattanooga in 1961. I was a teenager in high school doing the drama of dating and preparing to graduate. Peer pressure was real and Satan’s roars were loudly encouraging me to give up the idea of ever meeting anyone who would be as interested in serving the Lord as my family had modeled for me. Days were filled with school, evenings were spent in revival meetings where my dad was the guest preacher.  And in one of these meetings, my mother pointed out a young man and said you should get to know him. My response was typical teenager negativity and the meeting ended with only a slight conversation between this guy and myself – he did say he would call me – but that never happened.

A few weeks later, June 6, 1963, we were in services at another church when the local Pastor, rose to his feet and loudly invited the local funeral director (who had entered the building during the first song) to “come right down here … there’s a seat for you on the front row.”  He seated this young man next to my dad – I was oblivious that this was the guy from the previous meeting who had promised to call me soon. And his response (I later learned) was, “I don’t want to sit on the front row, I am looking for the evangelist daughter – I am going to sit with her.” Well that didn’t happen but he did take me home from the service that night. As we neared my home, Cliff turned to me (probably because he had a pretty good clue of my parent’s convictions and lifestyle) and asked where I usually went with guys on dates. Whew… I remember the struggle … “don’t tell him, “roared Satan. But with a strength that was beyond me and almost in spite of myself, I said, “We usually go wherever my Dad is in revival.” More shockingly was his response, “That sounds good to me.” And the rest is history!

What I didn’t know was that this seemingly confident young embalmer/funeral director was in his own mental and spiritual struggle.  A college buddy and Cliff (both of whom were living in Knoxville after graduation and getting their licenses) had big dreams of going into business together – dreams that crashed with the ambulance airplane carrying Cliff’s best friend over the Smoky Mountains one fateful evening. Cliff’s world went into a spin and he had moved back to Chattanooga only a few weeks before our initial meeting.  The messages of my dad had offered hope and he was anxious to hear more. I smile when I remember one of our last conversations before he went to Heaven, “Phyllis I thought I had died and gone to Heaven when I married into your family – they were so real – not perfect but real!  And I shudder to think of how close I came to believing Satan’s suggestion that I would never meet anyone who would want to serve the Lord.

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