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The Foxfire 40th Anniversary Book: Faith, Family, and the Landby Angie Cheek
I advise you not to be carried away with the ways of the world. The Bible says, “Love God, and love your neighbor.” Thats the commandment that Jesus gave: Love God and love your neighbor. In order to do that, youve got to study the Bible a whole lot, and youve got to go to church and hear the Gospel preached. Youve got to mix and mingle with Christian people, and youve got to worship your Maker. We were put here for a purpose. This world was made for mans enjoyment—for mans use. Man was put in charge of the world and everything thats in it. We dont realize it, but the Spirit of the Lord is present at any time. You can call on It any time. If you call on It in faith, youll get an answer.
So-called modern folks have faith. We have faith in the sun: When we awaken in the morning, the suns rays will be warming the earth. We have faith in gravity: We can step with assurance, for we do not believe we will float away into space. We even have faith that the chair over which we are hovering will hold us if we sit in it. Some have faith in the almighty dollar, in other people, in science. Others even have faith in faith. This faith, however, is not the “faith of our fathers, living still.”
Why do so many people in our crowded, modern, technologically advanced world today feel isolated and alienated, depressed, empty, and afraid? Our world seems full of danger: The “nice” man next door is a child molester, robbers and rapists break into our homes, terrorists attack our homeland. The news media reports random acts of violence; the film industry depicts catastrophic forces threatening the very existence of Earth and its inhabitants: Independence Day, The Day After Tomorrow, War of the Worlds, and so many others. Nuclear weapons, toxic waste, and global warming threaten our habitat. The future looks bleak. Robert Burns wrote about mans perspective in his poem “To a Mouse”: “And forward though I cannot see, I guess and fear.” Many are indeed fearful of what tomorrow holds for mankind.
In the midst of such seeming chaos, many in society today search for some meaning and purpose for their lives. They wonder if the quest for meaning and purpose is realizable. Viktor Frankl, in his work Mans Search for Meaning, purported a truism applicable to society today: “[P]eople have enough to live by but nothing to live for; they have the means but no meaning” (142). For some, God is a myth. Atheists, for example, do not believe in what they see as an unprovable deity; therefore, Epicurus reigns: “Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow you may die.” Some ascribe to Nietzsches philosophy: God is dead. Perhaps God did exist, but He died. Others espouse existentialism or nihilism: Life is a meaningless accident. Still others believe in the concept of naturalism: Cosmic forces conspire against humanity; environmental and biological determinism ensure our failure, no matter how mightily we struggle. To others God is a laissez-faire deity, some nebulous being somewhere who set the earth spinning and now watches to see how the creatures formed from dust fare. Furthermore, an afterlife is also “unprovable”: Heaven is a fantasy; hell hath no fury. Dust to dust, and its over.
In contrast, folks whom we interviewed did not seem to harbor any such philosophies and fears. They are people whose sustaining faith enables them to live with calm assurance, for they believe in the reality of the resurrection. These elders talked to us about being raised in the church, about being saved, about some specific practices of their religion, about spiritual gifts, and even about heaven, hell, and the last days. They are people of faith—the assurance of things hoped for, the certainty of things unseen (Hebrews 11:1)—a deep, abiding faith in a Maker Who is actively involved in their lives, a triune God Who cares for them. Because of Him, they can face tomorrow. They have a purpose: to glorify God. They believe Jeremiah 29:11: “ ‘For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future. ” The belief that God has a plan for them gives their lives meaning and hope. Their hope, however, is not in the things of this world but in the reality of the next: the unseen, eternal world of the spirit.
All scripture used in the “Faith” section is taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version® NIV® Copyright© 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.
I think how thankful people ought to be that theyre living in this beautiful world, and I wonder how they can ever think that there is not a higher power.
—Aunt Addie Norton
When I was in college at Georgia Southern University, a Christian college professor (I am aware that, to many, “Christian” and “college professor” seem oxymoronic) talked to us about his beliefs. He began by telling a story: Out in space aimlessly floated steel, Plexiglas, aluminum, vinyl, copper . . . you get the picture. Anyway, all these materials were minding their own business when, for some unknown reason or provocation, they came together—hard! Out of the aftershock of that huge wham of a consummation flew a 747! The professor used that analogy to explain to us that such an event made as much sense to him as the Big Bang theory. Even after all this time—years!—that analogy has stuck with me, and I have used it myself.
In his book Grendel (Beowulf told from the monsters point of view), author John Gardner depicts a wounded Grendels speaking his final words as he sits on the edge of the bottomless chasm and prepares to hurl himself into the abyss: “Poor Grendels had an accident . . . so may you all” (174). Grendels search for meaning led this human-like monster to aver that lifes events are mere accidents, that the only meaning for our lives is the meaning we ourselves ascribe to our existence. Is our existence accidental? The answer to that question is one each of us must discover for himself/herself.
We all desperately desire to discover the whys of lifes triumphs and tragedies. Where is God when we need Him? Why do bad things happen to good people? Why do the wicked seem to prosper? Why, why, why? Our whys lead us to question God. We realize we know about Him, but we dont know Him. We are “Oh, Best Beloved,” like Rudyard Kiplings “Elephants Child,” “full of ‘satiable curiosity ”:
I know a person small— She keeps ten million serving-men, Who get no rest at all: She sends em abroad on her own affairs, From the second she opens her eyes— One million Hows, two million Wheres And seven million Whys.
We search for meaning. Viktor Frankl, a Holocaust survivor, author, and psychoanalyst, in his work Mans Search for Meaning, among the most influential works of psychiatric literature, maintains that we choose our own way; that even though everything we have can disappear, we can choose our own attitude in any given set of circumstances. After being imprisoned in Auschwitz—“the very name stood for all that was horrible” (Frankl, 22)—and then in other concentration camps for a period of over five years during World War II, Frankl wrote the following: “What was really needed was a fundamental change in our attitude toward life . . . it did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us” (85).
Many in todays world, those who do believe in a supernatural creator, have a “vending machine” mentality concerning God. We say, “Ive put in my quarter. Ive prayed. Now give me what I want. Bless my will.” Were concerned with only that perpendicular pronoun I. We fail to ask God what He expects of us.
As you meet our Foxfire contacts, you will become aware of their deep desire to discover what God expects from them. They pray fervently. You will hear their deep convictions about their God, a God Who is alive and well, and about His mighty power, a saving power not only for tomorrow but for today. He, to them, is Savior, Sustainer, Comforter, Counselor, Friend. They seem not to question His will or His way. They trust and obey and thus live with the joy and peace of the Spirit.
“I sit here and study by myself when I have a lot of time, and I think about things. Ive got so I cant read my Bible much because I cant see to read for long at a time. I think how thankful people ought to be that theyre living in this beautiful world, and I wonder how they can ever think that there is not a higher power. Who makes all these pretty flowers? We can make artificial flowers, but they dont smell and are not as pretty as the flowers that we pick out there. We cant make flowers like the Almighty.
“Youve got to have faith to believe in God. Youve got to have faith to know that Hell do what youve asked Him to do if its in His will. When we pray, weve got to say, ‘If its Your will, God, do so and so. If you dont have faith enough in God, you cant live a very good Christian life.
“I think that asking God for things is healthy. I think that God will grant what I ask for if it is His will. Sometimes we ask for things thats not Gods will. And we sometimes dont have any faith in our prayers. You know, we forget the faith; and we think, I dont know if God will do that for me or not.”
—Aunt Addie Norton, Summer 1979
“Well, its right here bfore your eyes. You can see things a- happenin ever day. Different things. I was sittin here th other day, and a ol hen was comin through here that had chicks. Shed go a little piece. Then shed cluck. Now what caused her t do that? I studied about that—just sat here and watched. Shed go a little piece; then shed cluck again. Now what makes her do that? Ats Mother Nature. . . .
“Why, you know that theres a higher power if y just look out. Now they talk about goin t th moon, and they mayve went. I dont know. But that moon . . . is it standin still or movin, or what about it? Rises here [points], and th mornin its here—plumb across th world. What d y think about that, now? And when it goes, its dark nights. And when it starts up, its a bright light thing. Its little and gets bigger and bigger. What changes that? Theys somebody, somethin, behind it.” —Kenny Runion, Fall 1971
“Theres just a few times in my life that Ive ever been afraid. My dad taught me not to be afraid. Now, he was quite religious. He grew up in the Methodist church. He was superintendent of the Sunday school, and he had this incredible faith.
“He always told me that theres nothin in one place thats not goin to be in another. He told me not to be afraid at night out at a camp because I would be in just as much danger there as Id be sittin on my porch at home. He built up this immunity to fear in me at an early age, when I was four or five years old. Now, we lived about a fourth of a mile from the main store. All the men went there at night and gathered at the store. Hed let me go with them down there, and then, when I got tired, he let me walk home by myself. He always told me to just go on, that nothin was goin to bother me, and nothin ever has.
“Have faith in the universal life that you are connected to. Now they think of God as a man sittin up in a high throne with a long beard and white hair, but God is everywhere. It doesnt make any difference what you call Him. You can call Him ‘Universal Mind, ‘Allah, ‘Jehovah, or anything you want to call Him, but He is still everywhere. I always think of it as electricity. You cant see it, but you know its there. And you can always plug into this Universal Mind and have faith, and that will take care of you. Its just like electricity. You can take an iron, and you cant heat it unless you plug it in. Youve got to be in connection, and if youre in connection, theres nothing in the world that you cant do that your mind can conceive and dream.”
—Lyndall “Granny” Toothman, Fall/Winter 1991
“Ive lived up here in the mountains, and I dont see nobody or talk to nobody much, but I think the bigger majority of people this day and time put all their values on money and things money can buy. They put all their values on the world and the things of the world, and theyre leavin God out of it. . . .
“You know, I think the Almighty made the world, made the moon and stars and everything in the world. He made the sun, and all of it is His. He put it where He wanted it. Do we have any authority to go up there and bother with it?”
—Aunt Addie Norton, Fall 1976
“I dont believe they went to the moon. I dont know. But I just dont believe they did. Why, the moon is a . . . I never studied science in my life. I never did go t school farther than th seventh grade, and Im glad I got that much. Children, Im eighty-three years old. And thats the reason I never did care for science. And I read the Good Book, and the Good Book said that the moon was made to rule the earth and all the heavens therein, fishes of the sea an the fowls of th air and even mans body. And the moon rules the vegetation. I dont think they landed up there. You just know what they said. And how do y know but what they carried them rocks with em? Possibilitys that they did. And if it was made t fool with, itd a-been put down in th reach of man. I believe that, too, cause we know that God created everthing.
“I think that the world has made great progress, but theys a few things that I think is money spent foolish, and that is tryin to go t th moon! I dont think thats fair at all. God made everything. He made man t rule th earth and all the inhabitants therein. And He didnt make th moon for man t play with. If He did, Hed put it down for man to reach. Hed put it, anyhow, where man could get on a stepladder and go up! I dont think that its . . . well, its just no means! Th moon is th moon. Leave it alone! Theres not a thing in the world up there but just th moon. And if they read th first chapter of Genesis, theyll find out what th moon is—first and second chapters, I believe it is—theyll find out how God created the earth. And He made everything. Man was created. The earth was made. Im not educated, of course, but its true. We had it in Sunday school yesterday about th Creation.”
—Annie Perry, Summer/Fall 1975
“Its through God we have all of our enjoyments, all of our good things. Its through Him that we get it. We know that for sure. We see some of His handiwork every time we look out and see somethin because He made everything on the earth, and He is the Creator of all the beauties everywhere.
“The first thing when I get up of a mornin that I want to do is get to a door or window and look out, and I stand there and look and thank the Lord for bein able to see that beauty one more time. Its a wonderful thing to try to live a Christian life and to love the Lord. We have so much to be thankful for.”
—Beulah Perry, Summer 1974
“Who is it that can make that little bush now right there? Can man? Who is it that can make the fountain of water eternally flow down out there and never stop—flow day and night and never quit? You can go to bed and go to sleep and never wake up til in the mornin. When you get up, the creek is still a-flowin—a beautiful sight! Who makes the sun shine every day that we live? Who makes the beautiful flowers bloom you look upon? Can man do it? Thats why I know theres a God . . . If you just look out there, you know that mankind never done that. Mankind cant have a thing to do in that.”
—Garland Willis, Spring 1973
“God has richly blessed me, and I praise Him. God just helps me enjoy every day, and with Him I find something to laugh about every day.”
—Clara Mae Ramey, Fall/Winter 1996
“Heartfelt religion will make ye shed a few tears, become humble. Weve got people that is full of pride today that they dont want t shed a tear. It might mess up their makeup—ruins their looks. But our Lord cried; He shed tears. I cant preach much til I get t cryin; then I enjoy hit a sight in the world. You dont see many tears shed in the pulpit today—honorin Him with their lips, but their hearts are far from Him. There aint no way to be a Christian without some emotion. If they aint no emotion, they aint no love of God there.
“God is a-gonna have some praise. These people who are too stubborn and are too full of sin to praise Him here, theyll praise Him in hell, but hitll be too late.
“My method of preachin is this: I dont write out any sermons, dont prepare any. I read that Book, and then I get on m knees. If God says, ‘Preach hell hot and heaven sweet, hitll just come.”
—Garland Willis, Spring 1973
“People dont pay enough attention to the Lord this day and time. Youve heard people say, ‘Ive got so-and-so. Ive got so many acres of land. Ive got this; Ive got that. Honey, let me tell you somethin: Weve not got a foot of land to our name. It all belongs to the Almighty God, and He just gives it to us, just to live on what time that we live here in this world, to do what we please with it. But it does not belong to us. Weve not got anything, honey. What could we do? Can you tell me anything in the world that we can do if it wasnt for the power of the Almighty God? We wouldnt have ever breathed. We couldnt have done anything.”
—Aunt Addie Norton, Fall 1976
“Im not a monkey, and Im not akin to a monkey. The Bible says man was created in the image of the Lord, so He wasnt a monkey either.”
—Randy Grigsby, Fall 1988
“Ive lost a husband and two children, and thats the worst thing Ive ever done in my life is givin up my children. Now my husband, that hurt—it hurt; I lost two of my children. That was about the hardest thing Ive ever done. Ive went through some mighty tough times, but Gods been good to me. He sure has been good to me. He took me through all of this. . . .
“Now, Ive been through it, and Ive had a lot of hardships and sufferin, but Im still hangin in there. Im ready to see whats gonna happen next!”
—Fannie Ruth Martin, Fall/Winter 2002
“Faith in God—the most important thing. Ive always believed that wed know one another in heaven. My boy, y know, he got killed when he was seventeen years old. After Mommy died, Id come home. I was up there, an Id been plowin that day. They was plenty o beds, but I had a urge t sleep where Mommy had slept. That was in the front room where the couch was a-settin. An I slept there. I jest laid down, an I wasnt asleep. I was awake. An Id studied a lot over that, an Id prayed over hit. An that night Id laid down, an Mommy and Kenneth, my son, they appeared on the side o that couch, and they as the brightest, shiniest people. An they had their arms around one another a-talkin. Now I couldnt hear a thing they said. An I just lay there and watched, an they jest passed. An I know God sent them to show me that Mommy and Kenneth knowed one another in heaven th same as they had on Earth. An I have never worried another minute. An I live with that hope of all these loved ones and friends, ye know—when Im out of this world, Ill be with em, and Ill know em. So I guess faith in God is the one thing I couldnt live without.
“But its easy to backslide. I have done it in my life. I have backslid. But Godll whup ye out when you do, an when God whups ye, thats the worst whuppin youll ever get. Several years back when my younguns was awful small was the worst experience—Ill never forget. I had backslid, an God brought me down sick on the bed. An He spoke t me and told me Id either come back to Him or Hed take me away from my little younguns.
“Now I prayed all night long til early the next mornin—thats been several year ago—and God accepted me back in, an I said Id have to be plumb crazy to ever turn my back on God again.” —Ethel Corn, Fall 1973
“Religion is everything to me.” —Eunice Hunter
“Religion is everything to me. Thats just life. If you dont know the Lord, then you dont know anything. To me, you just dont have a life, because without Jesus Christ, I couldnt do anything. I grew up in church. My grandmother used to take me to church when I was little, and shed have handkerchiefs. She ironed every one of em, and they were real pretty handkerchiefs. She would tie my pennies up in a corner of a handkerchief to take to church with me. I was tiny, and I still remember that. Ive just always gone to church. I was saved when I was twelve, and over the years I think I have grown more and more to realizing exactly what that means to me because when something comes up or anything, you know, we just cant do anything on our own. Without Christ theres no way. Theres just absolutely no way. So Philippians 4:13, thats my favorite verse to go by because I can do all things through Christ. I may not do it like anybody else. I may not be perfect doin it. But I can do it . . . Acceptin the Lord and having Him as my Savior is the happiest and most important time of my life.”
—Eunice Hunter, Spring/Summer 2004
“While at Sister H.s this afternoon, she told me of how a poor widow, a Mrs. N., made a coat for an idiotic brother of a rich man, a member of the church. He asked his wife what she thought it was worth; she replied, ‘Forty cents. He then sent the poor woman a bushel of corn, which was worth very little in payment for the coat. Not long afterwards, this mans chimney, though seemingly secure, without any apparent cause, came crashing to the ground. This same woman sent to another man, a member of the church, too, her last dime to get some [corn] meal. He sent her word he could not sell her so small a quantity. In a short while afterwards, his mill was blown all to pieces. These casualties seem to have been the visitations of Divine Justice on these two men for their oppression of the poor.”
—Reverend R.O. Smith, Winter 1972
“We cant see God. We cant see th Holy Ghost. We cant see Jesus. Theyre all up yonder. But the Holy Ghost is here, but Hes somethin that you cant see here on the earth . . . God is a person, but you cant see Him. I believe thats the reason so many people dont believe in Him.”
—Reverend Browning, Spring 1973
“God didnt put us here to stay. He didnt give us children to keep either. It was hard to give up my youngest son, but I dont question God why cause he would really have suffered if he had lived on . . . he had cancer. He told me one day, he said, ‘Mom, youre not supposed to bury children. Children are supposed to bury their parents. I said, ‘No, God needs younguns the same as He needs olduns. It was hard, though. God knows best.”
—Frances Harbin, Fall/Winter 2004
“God answers your prayers. He showed Himself to me whenever I would pray and ask Him to do something like to help Doc, my husband, when he was sick. He always did help yall because yall are still livin today. I guess the most valuable thing I have ever had is God changin my life from a sinner to a Christian.”
—Estelle Chastain, Fall/Winter 2003
“Now you take old people. Why, dont th Bible tell you ‘honor your father and mother? Dont make no difference when they get old. Why, dont do anything agin [against] em. Young folks think theyre far ahead of their own parents because theyve got a little education from mans work—not from th work of God but from the work of mankind.”
—Hillard Green, Fall 1970
“My mother died on Sunday, she was buried on Tuesday, and the following weekend my father was remarried. He chose to live in the Atlanta area with his new wife. He left my brother and me in our little house in Youngcane [Georgia] to look after ourselves.
“The winters get sort of severe over there. I can remember waking up sometimes, and Id have ice frozen across my face from the condensation of my breath. I think being cold was one of the things I remember most. It would be dark by the time the school bus got me home. Some mornings I didnt properly cover the coals in the fireplace before I left for school. I would come in by myself in the evening; the fire would be completely out, and Id not have kerosene to start a new fire.
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