Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Definitely Synchronicity

Sue Patton, an original member of the Memoir Writing Group, claims Crossville by birth and lineage, reaching back four generations.  Born Edna Sue Harrison, she writes stories about the history of Crossville, about her progenitors who shaped developments from then to now, about her downtown childhood, and about extraordinary relationships. 

 Definitely Synchronicity

Sue Patton

Synchronicity---I love the word.  It is deliciously mysterious and difficult to define or fully understand.  It was coined by Carl Jung, the famous psychiatrist.  He defined it as the acausal (without cause) connecting principal.  Jung said this underlying connectedness manifests itself through meaningful coincidences.  For some it can be simply a meaningful event.  Others see that event as a sign of God’s presence.  Some people, I believe, can develop an awareness of a flow of such events, making them feel in sync with what God has preordained.  I have not yet achieved that continuous awareness, but I have experienced some events that seemed synchronistic.  One incident in particular seemed a special gift, a privileged encounter with a most unusual angel.

In 2006, I visited my daughter, Patrice, in Midland, Texas, and was on my way back home.  The plane taking me to Nashville, Tennessee stopped in Austin to take on passengers.  I was engrossed in a book I planned to finish on the trip, but, for some reason, I happened to look up to see the flight attendant leading a man into the cabin.  He was an elderly, light-skinned African-American, and, from the way she assisted him, I realized he was blind.  He had on a spotless white suit, a flat-brimmed hat, and a starched light blue shirt.  Was I imagining things or was he actually radiating some kind of light?  No, it isn’t Ray Charles, I told myself, but he looks like he might be famous!

I looked up and locked eyes with the flight attendant and was not at all surprised when she brought him right toward me and asked if he could have the window seat beside me.  I rose eagerly to let him get settled.

      As I usually do, when someone sits beside me on a plane, I introduced myself.  He told me he was Lonnie Graves from Satin, Texas and that he was going to visit his nephew in Nashville.  He also volunteered that his nephew would be taking him to bookstores in Tennessee, Kentucky, and Alabama where he would be signing copies of the novel he had written.  From that moment on my attention was riveted to Lonnie Graves.  Our animated conversation continued all the way to Nashville.

He said he would like to give me a copy of his book, but he had only one with him.  The title, “Aunt Millipus and Her Will,” and the picture on the cover showing a wise-looking, middle-aged black woman sparked my interest.  I knew I had to somehow get Lonnie’s book and read it.

We talked about his book and our families.  I rarely exchanged addresses and phone numbers with a fellow passenger, but we both felt the need to do so.  Lonnie told me he had another book to write, and I wondered if he would get the chance because he had confessed to being 89 years old.

The flight ended too quickly.  I told the flight attendant I would guide Lonnie to meet his nephew.  I reverently held his hand as I walked him toward the escalator that would take us to the baggage claim to retrieve our luggage.  Lonnie’s nephew was waiting at the bottom of the escalator beside my brother, who had come to fetch me.  Introductions were made, and we all went about the business of getting to our final destinations.  However, I felt sure it was not the end of Lonnie Graves and me.

Soon after I got home, I found Lonnie’s book on, and ordered it.  The story was about a woman with a triumphant spirit who survived great hardships in post-slavery days.  I called Lonnie to give him my words of praise.  After that we occasionally called each other to catch up, and I always asked about the other book he intended to write. Finally he told me that he had it all on tape, but the woman who had transcribed the first book for him was no longer available.  She had moved east and taken a demanding job. 

“I’d like to try to do it,” I burst out without giving a thought to all it would involve.  Lonnie was hesitant.  He just said he would think about it. 

After a month or two he called back.  I was involved in another project, one that was time consuming, but, when he asked me if I was still interested in working on the book, I immediately said “Yes.” 

He sent me the first three tapes close to Christmas-time in 2006, but I didn’t get much work done until after 2007 began.  Listening to the first tape, I wondered what I had gotten myself into.  Lonnie’s speech was difficult to understand.  He spoke what I called “Texas Black.”  Many times I backed up a tape, listened over and over, and then called him to get it straight.  He wasn’t easy to understand on the phone either, but we always got past the difficulty.  By spring I had sent him the first three chapters.

I did not finish typing the book until February of 2008.  Lonnie and I had many conversations about points that I thought he should change, so we struggled back and forth before we came to agreements.  One thing in the story he was definite about---a mystery that he did not want revealed until the very end.  I was not sure we could keep the secret all the way through, but in the end we managed it.  The plot was full of surprises.  Once I was plunged into grief and another time totally shocked.  The work was called fiction, but Lonnie declared that the facts were all true.  The events of the main character’s life happened either to Lonnie or to someone he knew.

My brother helped me email the entire text to Lonnie’s publisher in Waco, Texas.  I could hardly believe that the whole three hundred pages could get there instantly, but they did.  After the book went to the publisher, we both expressed feelings of emptiness at no longer having the task to complete it.  There were publishing delays, but “9 Days ’til Sunday” by Lonnie Graves was published in September 2008.

Lonnie was then widely known across Texas because, for many years, he had attended the Baptist Church annual conventions.  He did not write the book to make money, but in Texas he had many admirers who wanted to read his book.

In subsequent times, at age 94, Lonnie claimed he was finished with his writing career.  He and I agreed that “9 Days ’til Sunday” was no small miracle.  Indeed, it was birthed through synchronicity.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015


By Ron Pulley


            My family attended Union Methodist Church on Tater Peeler Road near Lebanon, Tennessee until I was in the ninth grade.  For all of his life, my father, along with his family, had belonged there, and most of the members were relatives of some sort. I guess it could be called a “Hell, Fire, and Damnation” kind of church. I don’t think the theology of John Wesley was very strong there since the Baptist Hymnal was used for worship.  A preacher presided two Sundays each month, and the Sunday School Superintendent led the church services at the other meetings. There were two Sunday School classes for kids, one class for adults, but no special class or program for the youth.  

In 1959, my family moved to Marietta, GA for about six months where my father found carpentry work. We attended a newly organized Methodist church, and I experienced structured activities for my age group. After returning to Lebanon, my father became dissatisfied with some things happening at Union Methodist, and we began to look for a new church home.  We ended up at Cook’s Methodist Church near Mount Juliet, which was about a 20 minute drive from home.

            Cook’s had a Sunday evening time for youth called MYF--Methodist Youth Fellowship--which I had never before attended. To my amazement, I was told one Sunday morning that I had been elected as the new president of the MYF. How did this happen? What was I expected to do?  Not letting ignorance get in my way, I accepted the new role and started attending the Sunday evening meetings, hoping to discover what was expected of me.  About a dozen young people my age soon made me feel like I belonged.

            At that time, and never having had a date with a girl, I was pleased to find that a certain girl, Gwynn, seemed to pay special attention and often sat beside me. I later learned that she was the one who had nominated me to be president of the group. Her action was very important in moving a very scared and awkward young boy into healthy boy/girl relationships. Before long, she created a crisis in my life by asking me to take her on a date.  It was for the last day of school during my junior year. She asked me to go with her and another couple to a swimming pool at Horne’s Springs after school. I was overwhelmed by this question and said I would let her know soon. After almost a week, I said I would.

             Since my family had only one car, arrangements had to be made for me to borrow it on this last day of school. An agreement was made for my father to have a ride to work that day and Mother helped me to make the old car presentable for someone other than a family member. Matching bedspreads were tucked around the seats, which had holes in the upholstery, and the interior and exterior were cleaned to a shine they had not known for some time. The day went well, and Gwynn and I continued to be together at MYF.  For the next three years we went to various places and activities.  We were more like great friends than a serious dating couple.

            Activities for the Cook’s MYF were similar for teenagers in other church groups of the times. We studied, played games, and learned to have good fun together.  Sadly, one adventure was very tragic, but it helped to create a strong bond among us at Cook’s.

One Sunday morning during the summer, we assembled and sang during the worship service. We were not a real choir, as my singing today can prove, but we sat together and sang the morning hymns. Following the service we went to Old Hickory Lake, which was nearby. Gwynn’s father took his boat, and we enjoyed skiing, swimming, and playing on inner tubes. The boy who stood next to me in the choir that morning swam toward me and suddenly disappeared under the water. When he did not resurface, we began to dive to try to locate him. I was not a good swimmer but dove under the water several times trying to locate him. Fearing that I would drown myself and, not really wanting to be the one who found him, I went to the shore and joined the rest as we waited for the rescue squad to conduct a dragging operation.  We were very quiet as we huddled, anticipating the outcome, but had no words to share with each other. His body was located about two hours later.

            After an emotional roller coaster ride for the next few weeks, we MYF members pulled into a very tight unit with resolve and purpose. We decided to buy a new stained glass window for the church in memory of our friend, holding car washes, bake sales, and all sorts of events to raise the necessary funds. While the swimming event was tragic, it molded us into a very caring and unified group.  I can’t recall that hymn we sang, posing as the choir on that fateful Sunday, but now whenever it is sung, I recall it and have such strong emotions that I must stop and wipe away tears.

            An important ingredient in the success and unity of the MYF at Cook’s Methodist Church was the two ministers who served the congregation during those times. Malcolm Patton and then Bill Menees were active leaders who supported our spiritual goals and works through various organized retreats and activities.  One event was especially memorable because it came as a gift of nature.

That year, we were responsible for a New Year’s Eve program at the church. We arranged to camp out at the parsonage across the road from the church when we concluded, knowing we would be after midnight. The gift came during the night--8 inches of snow, and conditions were not safe for us to drive home the next morning, New Year’s Day. We spent two days at the parsonage with some of us walking to a store to add to the parsonage pantry. We played all sorts of games and had a most wonderful, unplanned retreat.    

I believe the whole MYF experience is one of the reasons I later knew I was called to be a United Methodist minister. Before being immersed in Methodist Youth Fellowship, I was a very quiet and solitary young man, but through the positive influences of this fellowship, I found the courage to take chances and enter new relationships. I sometimes wonder what my life would have been had I not been a part of this spiritual group. I was pulled out of my self-imposed box and set free to discover who I could be and, ultimately, who I believe God wanted me to be.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Bees, Bees, Bees, by Lilllie Beyer

Mrs. Lillie Beyer, 92 years old in June 2015, began telling stories when she had the bedtime charge for her younger brothers.  Her stories are rich in detail, history, and feeling.  She joined the FUMC Memoir Writing Group in 2013, and her memoir vignettes are written as letters to her grown grandchildren, Charles and Daphne, who live in North Carolina. 

Bees, Bees, Bees

Dear Charles and Daphne,
On our 1 ½ acre lot, my husband, Tom, built our house and planted an orchard with a variety of apple trees, pears, plums, grapes and blackberry vines.  Our friend, Mr. T.R. Gilmore, who worked at the U.T. Experiment Station, taught Tom how to prune and spray and he grew lots of fruit to sell and to give away.

            Tom worked as a lineman for Volunteer Electric Company and, whenever they changed out an old pole, he brought it home and built grape arbors across the lot.  After a few years, Tom became ill and wasn't able to take care of the orchard.  He died in 1988, and I couldn’t afford all the work for the orchard, so it soon began to die out.

            When the grapes began to go, I would recall how much work Tom put into them.  I’m sentimental, and I ask Don, my neighbor who helps me do things I can’t do, if he could build me a sort of gazebo, leaving some of the original posts as they were. We gave it some thought.  Don bought the material he needed; I bought rock stepping stones for the floor; and it turned out okay.  My friend Sue gave me a wisteria plant, and it grew and grew and grew.  It soon covered the top, and I had to trim it two or three times each summer.

            On Saturday, July 31, 2010, I decided to walk down the lot and trim my vine.  I got the front and side done. I pulled a vine from the back, and ZOOM, I was covered with bees from the top of my head, across my face, and down my front.  I looked on my chest, and there were hundreds of little wings waving.  One stung me on my forehead, and it really hurt.

            To this day, I marvel at how calm I felt and how alert my mind was.  I thought, “You could be in real trouble.  You cannot fight.  No one knows you are down here, and it could be hours before you are found.  What can I do?”

            Then a strong thought came into mind, “Go to the house.” 

I started thinking, “I can’t go into the house with these bees on me.  My neighbors are not at home.  What must I do?”

            Again, the strong thought said, “Go to the house.”

            And a third time, the strong thought said, “Go to the house.”

            My thinking changed to, “Maybe I should. Someone might see and help me.”  So, I turned very slowly toward the house and very carefully walked forward.  Just as I was almost to the back porch, ZOOM, the bees all left together.  I turned and looked, and they were going back to the vine, flying in small circles.  One bee was caught in my hair.  I could feel it trying to get out, and I thought, “You can’t put your hand up there.  It will sting you.”  The bee got free and left like the others.

            I went in the house, called Sue about what happened, and ask her what I should put on my sting.  We always talk about our home remedies, and she said she was coming over.  I told her she didn’t need to come because the bees were gone. 

            She insisted, “I’ll be there in a few minutes,” and she brought what she had to put on my sting.

            The next morning, my friends Ann and Hollis stopped to take me to church, as they did every Sunday, and I told them what happened.  They were going to visit his mother that afternoon, but afterwards they stopped for Hollis to see what kind of bees they were.  He called me and said they were hornets, and he told me not to go back down there.

            He didn’t have to tell me that. 

He said he would get rid of the hornets.  The next morning he and two grandchildren came early.  They brought a can of spray, and he told us to stay on the back porch while he sprayed the hornets. The spray melted the nest and killed them instantly.

The people I told about this happening said they could not believe I just got only one sting from the hornets.

I have seen a miracle.  I love the stories of Jesus when he was here in person.  He told the blind man to go wash his face, and the minute he did, he could see.  Likewise, Jesus told the beggar to get up, and he picked up his bed and he could walk.

Isn’t it possible that He told me through my strong thought to go to the house?  If I went far enough away from the hornets’ nest, wouldn’t they go back on their own?  I did not know what to do until I had the strong thought, “Go to the house,” and, walking slowly and quietly, I went far enough away from danger not to be hurt.

I have been blessed, and I’m thankful.
I love you,  Grandma

Friday, April 17, 2015

Iron Strength, by Janet Yuse

From a member of the FUMC Memoir Writing Group.

“He needs a new shirt,” she said.

               “I’ll go downtown tomorrow and get one if you’d like, “I replied.”

               “That would be good. He lost weight, but medium is still a good choice."

               “Yes, medium, or maybe by neck size and sleeve length?” Nancy questioned.

               The three of us sat at my sister’s kitchen table finishing our breakfast.  Mom took a sip from her cup, placed it carefully on its saucer, and finally answered, “Neck size 15 ½, and sleeve length 32/33 I believe.  It’s been so long since I bought a long sleeve shirt. I have a short sleeve with me.” Pausing, she shrugged and added, “Maybe we should just go with that.”

               “No, I think a long sleeve is more appropriate.  It will look better with the jacket." I realized too late that the choice should have been hers to make and chided myself for being pushy. 

               Mom considered my opinion and then conceded, “Yes, you’re right, that would be better.”

               “I have time today.  It won’t take long.  Actually, we can all go together. How would that be, Mom?” I was trying desperately to make amends for my abruptness and to make the sadness in her eyes go away. 

She looked directly at me and said, “I’d like that.”

               We went to the men’s clothing shop in town. My sister and I helped our mother browse through the entire white shirt inventory. “Pick the one you like the best, Mom; Nancy and I are paying, no argument, we want to do this for him.”

               Her relief was palpable. Thanking us, she added, “Please, help me decide.”  We chose it together.  

At Nancy’s house, Mom washed and dried the 100% cotton, medium-size, white, long sleeve shirt.  Next, she stood by the ironing board and spread it out.  Nancy and I sat across from each other at the table keeping her company. We had witnessed this unfolding scene hundreds of times before.

               Our mother spent most of her childhood living in her grandparent’s home. Her recollections of this time in her life were often unhappy memories.  She told us how strict and stern her grandfather had been to her and her three siblings.  In adolescence her prayers and dreams were filled with longings for a home of her own.  These yearnings were answered when she married our father and became a mother.  From then on her home was truly her castle.

               Mom had worked as a clerk at the local Woolworth’s 5 & 10 until I was born. She was content and happy in her homemaker role and did not work outside again until Nancy and I were grown.  Her own mother lived with us, assisting in the daily tasks to clean and maintain our modest five room house.  As a result, we girls had few chores.  Oh, we did dishes, took laundry off the line, set and cleared the table, and kept our room picked up--but we did not iron.  Mom was a perfectionist when it came to ironing. There was no way our attempts could match her standards.  We willingly yielded this task to her.   

               Now, in this moment, she stood very still, inhaled with a slight rising of her chest which she followed with the release of an audible sigh. It seemed a tenuous preparation for what I imagined could have been “ready, set, go". She checked and rechecked the iron’s temperature, and more forcefully than necessary, shook the spray can of starch before applying  an even mist to collar, cuffs, back pleat, sleeves, and then the front and back. With the first contact of iron to fabric I sensed a slight shift in her emotions and a strengthening in her resolve. There was a tenderness in her repetitive motion of sliding the iron back and forth across the fabric.  Under her skillful touch the lifeless garment changed into a wrinkle free, crisp, lustrous shirt.

               For over fifty years she had washed and ironed and then selected what he would wear.  “What do you want me to put on, Beryl dear?” he asked, knowing full well that her choice for the occasion was already laid out neatly on their bed.  Even when self-selected, his decisions had to pass her scrutiny.  This time, it was her last choice to make. 

               She seemed to labor longer than usual. “Take all the time you need,” I wanted to say but didn’t.  We all knew it was the final time.  She placed the impeccably ironed shirt on a clothes hanger and carefully buttoned it from neck to hem. She slowly turned the hanger from front to back and lightly brushed her hand along each side, as if checking for unseen wrinkles.  I watched her place it in the closet beside his suit, already draped with her choice of tie.  With a nod of satisfaction, she left these things until the next morning.

               We took the outfit and a small tote bag, containing a pair of freshly washed underwear and socks, and surrendered them to the funeral director at the mortuary, where later, I stood beside my sister and mother for our private viewing.  He was dressed in his best suit, and the new shirt. 

“Yes,” I thought, “the cuffs do show below the jacket sleeves.  It was a good choice.”  Seeing him there, dressed in his Sunday best, I somehow recalled the phrase, “going out in style”.  I couldn’t help smiling and thinking, “He would have appreciated that joke.”

               I watched my mother lean toward him and touch the collar, as if in a caress.  I knew with certainty that she was remembering that last ironing--her final gift to a man she had loved for over fifty years.  In that simple act I saw the strength that had sustained her throughout my father’s long battle with cancer: a strength that I now think of as iron strength.  In doing that last familiar task, she validated their years of shared devotion, and she gestured her own private “goodbye”.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Welcome to the People and the Stories of Crossville FUMC

Hello Everyone!

I am writing today to introduce you to an exciting new ministry here at Crossville FUMC - A Blog Ministry! Basically, this will be an online collection of stories and other posts that will introduce you to the people here at the church, and possibly give you an insight into what has helped shape or is currently shaping their call into ministry for the church and for the community.

Ms. Anne Looney Cook has graciously volunteered to help facilitate this ministry and will begin bringing these stories to you, along with members from her Memoir Writing Group. You can see her first ever blog post below. You don't have to belong to the Memoir Group to participate, but they would love to have you join them.

If you would like to include your story, poetry, or other writings of faith and testimony, please feel free to contact Ms. Anne at (Please note, all submissions are subject to editing for content and grammar by Ms. Anne, Drew, or myself).

We are really excited about this new ministry and look forward to reading your words of faith and inspiration!

Happy Writing!


The Memoir Writing Group at FUMC

Introducing the Memoir Writing Group
Anne Looney Cook

In April 2009 the Memoir Writing Group at Crossville First United Methodist Church organized at the behest of Rev. Jerry Mayo, serving the Inviting Ministries, at the time.  The group's facilitator was and is Anne Looney Cook, who both writes and supports writing among the members. 

The purpose is to encourage members of the congregation to record their stories for their own selected audiences.  The emphasis is on story first and writing craft second.  Most of the audiences selected are extended family members for whom the accounts enliven family histories.  A few members of the group have come from outside the FUMC congregation.

Regular meetings are every 1st Monday at the church from 1:00pm - 4:00pm.  During the time, each member exercises the privilege of reading something new or revised and receiving soft critiques on the work.  Gathered around the table, members listen and give comments that encourage the writer and help strengthen the stories. 

In 2009, about eight members came and stayed together.  Over time, several members have joined or moved away so that eight to ten regularly attend in 2015.  These faithful ones have developed a trust that enables them to write from their hearts and to expand their talents.

New writers are encouraged to join the Memoir Writing Group in order to experience the satisfaction of creating personal stories for their loved ones.  A memoir is a personal account of one's life, but the account does not need to start at the very beginning.  Instead, the intent is capturing a slice of life and telling it as remembered.

When the group meets, points about the craft of writing may be discussed and applied in an instructive manner in order to sharpen the creative talents for getting down the story.  The benefits of writing are known to stimulate  cognition as well as to have purpose in perpetuating one's place among others.

In weeks to come, this blog will feature selected memoir vignettes from members of the FUMC Memoir Writing group.  These stories are too good not to post for an audience of friends both within and outside the congregation.   Readers are encouraged to join the group and find inspiration for writing their own stories.