Friday, August 11, 2006

My Spiritual Heritage - My Granny's Prayer House


Summer is winding down and although we will still have several weeks of warm weather, school has started back thus ending “summer.” While most of us enjoy those somewhat lazy days of summer that come with school being out, the older that I get the more that I realize that sometimes the summer season can cause a loss of focus.

When school starts back, many churches begin to see their attendance creeping back up because, for the most part, all of the traveling days are over. The routine of the schedule actually gives great stability to order in life.

I can remember that during the summer vacation, Mark and I would always go and spend a couple of weeks with my grandparents over in Andalusia, Alabama. We would spend a week at the beginning of the summer and one more at the end of the summer just before school started back again.

My grandparents lived on a farm although when we went because of their age, they no longer actively “farmed” as they had done in the past. However, there was still a “farm” atmosphere because they still had chickens, cats and dogs, and huge gardens. Along with all of this, there were pear trees to harvest, tomatoes to can, blue berries to turn into jelly, and all of the other things that seem to go along with simple, country living. While the work was hard, there was something about the whole atmosphere that seemed to encourage good, clean living.

Early mornings were always a treat. Mark and I were accustomed to cold cereals (Cap’n Crunch Peanut Butter flavor was always my favorite) and Pop Tarts for breakfast prior to school. But in Andalusia, my granny always had a “real” breakfast that included bacon or sausage, grits, eggs, biscuits, coffee (which I did not drink then), milk, and OJ. Generally speaking, this spread was usually ready to eat around 6:30 AM. In my young mind, that was way too early to be getting up on a summer morning. Yet, with that discipline of early rising, you were able to attack the day, instead of it being the other way around.

After the breakfast table was cleared (usually before 7), a flurry of activity begin. Since my granny was still cooking with a wood burning stove, “kindlin’” was still needed every single day. That was one of the chores left for my Papa. So as he got involved doing his jobs, my Granny would set about doing the things that she was obligated to do.

Her responsibilities generally involved taking care of a huge garden. To shield her from the sun, she would put on this large bonnet that had ties and would head to the garden with variety of garden tools like hoes, rakes, small shovels, and a small “washtub” was they were called. She also would take with her a “push-plow” which was the thing that always captured my interest.

There were times that she would begin with picking some of the produce from the massive garden. There were peas, butterbeans, tomatoes, squash, string-beans, and egg-plants. Other times she would begin by pulling the weeds out of the rows of the garden. All in all, her garden was always the neatest and cleanest that I have ever seen.

Another exciting thing for us to do was to feed the chickens. We would take a few ears of corn and go into the chicken yard and rub the corn on a tree and the old corn would chip off and fall to the ground. It seemed as if this production would cause a hundred chickens to gather up around your feet and eat this corn that was falling to the ground. Along with feeding the chickens, we also were able to gather the eggs. I would guess that at least a dozen eggs were gathered up every day.

Because there were so many eggs, my Granny would give them out at church. She would give them to the neighbors who lived across or down the road. She gave eggs to my great grandmother who lived just around the bend. In retrospect, I can now see why that a lot of eggs were used in cooking around her place.

While she was busy with this, my Papa would be cutting wood, mowing grass, or cleaning a fence-row. The mornings were filled with sweat and work. With this sweat and work, there always seemed to be order that gave way to an informal schedule that they had followed for years. Mondays were wash days. Tuesdays were spent in the “fruit” house which was a smaller building down behind the house that had shelves from ceiling to the floor. On these shelves were multiple Mason jars that contained “canned” fruits and vegetables. They would can more vegetables, fruits, or jellies on this day. Wednesdays were meant to “go to town.” Since they lived out in the country, the 10 mile trip to town was a big deal. Thursdays were spent visiting. Jesse Bradshaw would come by in the morning and she and my Granny would sit on the front porch and talk and swing. Much of their conversation was always about God, Scripture, and His provisions for the simple things in their lives. Uncle Julius would drive up after lunch in a 1940’s vehicle of some kind (this was the mid seventies) and they would spend half the afternoon seemingly talking about their main concern which was getting home before dark. Fridays were spent picking up around the yards and house in case some visitors came by on Saturday or Sunday.

Around eleven in the mornings, my Granny and Papa would begin to make their way back to the house. At the “back porch,” there was a place to wash up at a sink. I can remember the water being very cold as it ran out of the spigot into the sink. There wasn’t a fancy handle, just a pipe coming out of the wall that ran through a brass spigot. In the sink was a wash basin that remained for all of my years going over there during the summers. Hanging from a small towel holder on the wall was a towel that somehow always remained clean no matter how dirty that we were. There was also a “dipper” hanging from a nail in the wall that served as a community container for anyone who desired a drink. Everybody drank out of it. You would simply take it down, help yourself and then hang it back up. Amazingly, I do not remember ever getting sick drinking behind someone else.

Lunch, or dinner as they called it, was a huge production, even more so than breakfast. Fried chicken, mashed potatoes, garden vegetables, fried “hoe-cake” and sweet tea every day! My Granny had another tradition while she was cooking and that was listening to WAMI from Opp, Alabama. Every day, she would turn on the radio at eleven and listen to the “Golden Agers” which was a local program that mixed local events with southern Gospel music. Not this Suthron fake Gospel stuff now but real Suthern Gospel. They would play the Chuck Wagon Gang, the Inspirations, Wendy Bagwell and the SunLighters, The Happy Goodman’s, and some group that would sing the notes to the songs (Fa, Ra, Do, Si, etc.).

Then we would eat! All of this food was accompanied with home-canned pickles, relish, hot chow-chow from peppers, and sometimes my Papa would put syrup on his butterbeans. After this, the table would be cleared, dishes washed and dried, left-overs put in the safe. The safe was an upright cabinet that had screen doors on it. Several shelves were present and all of the food would be put into the safe and small clean handtowels would be placed over each bowl or plate to protect it from any flies if they managed to get into the cabinet. If someone happened to show up in the middle of the afternoon and wanted something to eat, it would not take long before a feast would be sitting before them.

As all of this “dinner” business was completed, the most important part of my Granny’s day would begin. My Papa would retreat to his bedroom for a two or three hour nap and my Granny would go out the back door and go down to her “prayer” house as she called it.

This little building was perhaps 8X12. The walls were not paneled. She had collected cardboard boxes from the Quik Chek grocery store in Andalusia and had turned the boxes into paneling. She then had whitewashed the walls and it had worked well although in a few places you would see where a brand of cereal or paper towel had not been totally covered. In that little room, was a pew, an upright piano, and a bulletin board. On the bulletin board there were literally hundreds of pictures. Some were school pictures, family portraits, and some were polaroids. I can remember that she would make Mark and I go with her to pray. She would always start by sitting down at the piano and singing usually one song out of a worn out hymnal. Then she would read a portion of Scripture from her Bible and then she would settle in to pray. The praying was always what took the majority of the time. I would try to pray but there were so many much more “important” things that were calling for my attention back then, that I usually did more watching than praying (I was living up to the watch part of the Scripture where we are commanded to “watch and pray.”) My Granny would get up and pace and then get back down on her knees. Some days, the prayer was entirely in tongues (Acts 2, etc.) and other days she would pray without ever speaking in tongues. Whether she prayed in the Spirit or not, her prayers were always weighty, provocative, and powerful. She would also stand for long periods of time in front of that bulletin board and roll name after name off in prayer.

Time would pass rapidly for her and not so fast for Mark and I. It was nothing for her to spend 1 ½ to 2 hours in prayer, every single day of the week except for Sundays. Sunday was the only day that she did not go to the “prayer” house. The memories of those summer afternoons will periodically replay themselves out in my mind as I get older. I can only wonder how many total hours of her life were spent in the place of prayer. Furthermore, knowing the power of prayer, I can again only wonder how much impact that her prayers are having on the revival that many are enjoying today.

I have said on numerous occasions that prayer is hard work and yet the impact of this “work” is the most prevailing and under-used weapon available to the church today.

The image of the “prayer” house was drawn by my second cousin, Kenny Daughtry. He was my Granny’s nephew.

4 comments:

Adam Solorio said...

what a great read,...i suppose i found it personally touching because my grandmother was also a praying lady. she taught me to love the Lord and love His Word.

keep up the good blog!

Paul Thomas said...

Greetings Brother Phillip.

Thanks for your blog.I find your article on your grandmothers prayer house in Alabama interesting. Only this morning was I writing an article on prayer for my newsletter.

I have a link to your blog from my blog Apostolicblog.com There are a few changes however that may interest you.

If you have linked to Apostolic Blog please note that our URL has been updated to www.apostolicblog.com

If you have linked to the Trinity Debate Blog please note that the URL to this blog has also been updated www.thetrinitydebate.org

You may still use the typepad URL.

Every blessing in life and ministry.

Brother Paul Thomas

Jewel said...

Your post was wonderful reading, Bro. Harrelson. It brought back many childhood memories for me. I am a first generation apostolic, but there was a dear elderly saint who was a spiritual grandmother to me and she was a prayer warrior. We spent many times together in prayer. She has left the bonds of this old earth, but I cherish the times we spent together. The Lord revealed Jesus'name baptism to her one day as she was reading her bible and she went looking for someone who would baptize her in Jesus' name and until the day of her passing she would get so excited about finding a new scripture that expounded the oneness of our Lord.
Your blog has been and continues to be a blessing to me. Thank you for the time you put into it. God's best to you!

Tim said...

Thank you for bringing back a lot of wonderful memories of our granny. One thing I might add I don't ever remember her complaining. I stayed at the hospital with her one night not long before she died and I ask her is there anything I can do and she said you can read Psalm 121 to me. She told me it was her favorite passage of scripture. So in the middle of the night I read it to her.

Psalm 121
1I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help.

2My help cometh from the LORD, which made heaven and earth.

3He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: he that keepeth thee will not slumber.

4Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.

5The LORD is thy keeper: the LORD is thy shade upon thy right hand.

6The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night.

7The LORD shall preserve thee from all evil: he shall preserve thy soul.

8The LORD shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in from this time forth, and even for evermore.

I have a book mark on the page of Psalm 121. The book mark is a $7.00
money order that she sent to me on March 6, 1982 for graduation. It has long expired but it is a great reminder of an incredible lady.
It would be one of the last things I ever got from her. Had I cashed it I probably could not or would not remember what I spent the money on. When I flip through the pages of my Bible and stop on the page with the yellow money order I take a trip down memory lane.