Saturday, April 19, 2014
Well, well, well. It's that time of the year again. Spring is coming, flowers are blooming, Easter is just around the corner, and "The Ten Commandments" is once again coming on television!
This of course is my favorite movie of all time. Now, I know for a lot of you that have heard me recite every line from "Silence of the Lambs," that may be somewhat of a surprise. But I think it’s great. You have to admit, it is one of the most fascinating stories in the Bible and the movie is certainly one of the most cinematic movies of all time.
There are a number of things about the movie that run through my mind each time I watch it. To begin with, Pharoah and anyone that followed him must have had some sort of learning disability. Now, I can somewhat see the thought process of Pharoah; he had all the wealth, owned the entire city and ruled everyone. But it is still a little hard to believe, that in the end, someone could be stupid enough to banish Moses from the “world”. To banish someone he once considered a son just because he had sympathy for a population of slaves and the horrible conditions in which they lived and worked.
After Moses was disowned by Pharoah, Rameses was loving life. Moses had been the thorn in Rameses' side his whole life. His father loved Moses more, his woman was in love with Moses, and Moses proved to be a better engineer, military leader, and was more highly respected throughout Egypt. So, when they found out Moses was a slave, don't you know that Rameses was elated! Even then, everyone was ready to accept him. But when Moses admits to Pharoah that he would free the slaves if he could, he is considered a threat and is banished forever from Egypt. As the life of Moses continues, he is called by God to be the deliverer of the Hebrew people. He did not even know God, but Joshua told Moses that God knew him! Instead of executing Moses, Ramses sends him out into the desert with the intentions of him dying a sufferable death. However, not only does Moses not die, he finds God and comes to truly understand his purpose.
At this point in the movie, the story really begins to unfold. Pharoah dies and Rameses becomes King of Egypt. Almost immediately, God directs Moses to return to Egypt to lead the Hebrew people out of bondage. Moses goes to Rameses and demands that the slaves are freed. Of course, Rameses saw this as preposterous considering they had an army, owned and ruled the city, lived a lavish lifestyle and owned all the slaves. So from his point of view, who cared about this "God" that Moses worshipped?
As the story continues, instead of Rameses yielding to logic and reason, his ability to be rational and intelligent are obviously NOT options. God curses Egypt with multiple plagues, yet Ramses refuses to free the slaves. I always contemplate, what if I was one of the Egyptian guards? It would be like this..."Ok, let's think about this rationally Rameses, you have an army and complete power and this guy has a stick. You threw snakes at him and his stick turned into a snake and ate your snakes. I haven't had a drink of water in forever because it’s all blood now. Frogs, gnats, and locust have eaten everything but Nefeteria's eyebrows. We have boils all over us and its hailing fire. And oh yeah, by the way, it has been so dark for 3 days that I can't see my hand in front of my face. Seriously, I realize that your logic has been altered since your hairdresser told you that a long pony tail on one side of your head would be a strong look for you and your son. But you keep talking to that black statue with a bird's head on it. What has he done so far? Stand there and look stupid while the God of Moses sends one plague after another? Therefore, here is my sword and my armor. I am putting on one of those potato sack robes and I am going with Moses because his God is God! Oh, and by the way, so let it be written, so let it be done!" The story would be very different if I lived back them.
Moses finally tells Rameses that "the next plague brought onto Egypt will come from your mouth". But the genius, Rameses says, "Oh yeah, anymore plagues brought on to us, and I'll kill the first born of every Hebrew family." This is my part again "Hey Pharoah, are you trying to be stupid? Yeah, remember me? I was in your army last week but I wised up pretty quick. Are you sure you don't want to take that back?" And Rameses says "Nope, I am the KING.” What happens? A mean, green fog of death floats through Egypt and kills all of the first born of Egyptian families. All of the first born of Hebrew slaves were protected by the mark of lambs blood, therefore the death “passed over” their homes. THEN, Rameses relented and let the slaves go. "Well, way to go Pharoah! See, it didn't really take that much to convince you!?"
Next thing you know, the city is cleared of slaves and they are all gone. What was Rameses doing? He was worshipping the bird head man to bring his son back to life. At this point I'm thinking "Really? That's your plan?" Of course Nefeteria, who loved him SO MUCH comes in, mocks him, and DARES him to chase the slaves down and kill Moses. You would think at this point he would say, "Nefeteria, why don't you shut that windsock that keeps flapping in the wind before I go postal." But no, he says, "Oh yeah, I'll chase Moses down and bring his blood back on my sword!" Did the burning bush cause him to reconsider? Nope. Did it cross his mind that it might not be a real good idea to send his entire army into the sea that God divided for the slaves to cross through? Nope.
So, after watching his army destroyed by the sea and the slaves shooting off fireworks on the other side, Pharoah goes home with his gimpy horse. And what does his sweet wife ask? "Where is the blood of Moses?" Once again, if I could be in this scene, it would be better..."Ummmm, Nefi, listen up....in case you didn't notice, you just suffered through 10 plagues. Your little boy is deceased and its your husband's fault. All of the slaves have hit the trail, and just to remind you of what is going on, Rameses left here a few days ago with 10,000 soldiers. Unless I have severe cataracts, it appears that he has come home with just his horse and one of Willie Nelson's braids hanging off the side of his head. Does it appear to you that he rode back in with a posture of victory, or of a sad clown who can't juggle? If he has the blood of Moses on his sword, he found one of his worn out Band-Aids from that long desert walk and he rubbed the blood on his sword. Moses prayed for the Red Sea to be divided, walked through it, then ascended up the mountain to talk to directly to God. So, you and ‘silly hair’ can go over there and talk to birdman. Hey by the way, you got any Sweet Tea, I am parched!"
Of course, the stupidity does not end there. After being in slavery for hundreds of years, freed, then seeing the burning bush protect them, walking through the middle of a divided sea, and finally reaching the other side, the SLAVES were becoming restless. I have to slap myself to understand this. In the meantime, Moses goes up the mountain to directly talk to God and was given the 10 Commandments. But guess what, Dathan convinces the people that they need a gold bull to worship. If I could physically beat up one person in this story, it would definitely be Dathan. At this point I am saying "What in the wide world of sports is going on?" The Hebrew people turn to sin and immorality. That is until Moses walks back down the mountain with the commandments. My character would now be yelling "I told ya'll he was going to be angry!" Moses throws the commandments at them and total calamity ensues killing many of the people who had dismissed God turned to sin.
By the end of his life, Moses has the people of Israel traveling like a normal group toward the promise land. However, Moses doesn't make it. It is time for him to climb the golden staircase. He got them there, and now it is up to them to make good choices through life. The truly epic story of the entire life of Moses is why I love this movie.
For most people, you have parents, grandparents, teachers, coaches etc. that make an effort to guide you and give you good advice. Now I know some adults are not good role models and actually are harmful to children. However, most of us have people around us to give good advice. Somewhere along the line, we all have at least one person that reaches out to us and attempts to help us follow the right path through life. But just like the end of the "10 Commandments," someone can lead you to the promise land and show you where its at, but the decision is up to you from that point on as to what kind of life you decide to lead.
As I have followed so many friends this past year, a know a lot of you have had challenges, health concerns and even the loss of loved ones. However, keep in mind that this weekend there will be a beautiful celebration in Heaven. Jesus Christ died to help us through the difficulties of this world and to give us an opportunity for forgiveness. No matter what we are faced with, the Lord knows our need. One of the hardest things in life is faith and that's something that we all need to keep.
May God bless all of you this Easter. And as you watch "The Ten Commandments" tonight, I hope my version will bring all of you a little laughter.
Sunday, April 13, 2014
I believe that one of the blessings God gives us are memories. The difficult memories have taught us lessons and made us stronger. The fond memories remind us of good times and give us courage to face tomorrow.
We all have great memories of things that have happened in our lives. We all go through tough times, but most of us have many more good memories than bad ones. I have a strange memory. I can remember extraordinary details from as young as 3 years old, but I will go to the grocery store to get 3 things and forget 2. I can remember before I started school, sitting in Mema Cameron’s kitchen and eating Corn Flakes with sugar and bananas. At the time, Corn Flakes had pictures on the backs of boxes of famous historical figures. Mema saved a bunch of them and would hold them up while I ate and ask me who they were and what did they do. I remember Columbus, Eli Whitney, Henry Ford, Thomas Edison, John F. Kennedy, etc. When I started school, I did not understand why everyone else did not know who these people were. I mean, didn’t everyone eat Corn Flakes?
My life at home growing up was incredibly entertaining. Before “Reality TV”, I lived on one of those shows. I did not have typical parents. Deddy was funny without trying. Mama could turn a 15 minute trip to the grocery store into a 2 hour story! Travis and I always had something going on. Many a night was spent in Mema and Papa Brafford’s yard playing football with Sammy Ray. We used to love going to Marshall and Kevin’s to ride bicycles and “play.” One of my favorite stories about my Papa Brafford is about a time when Travis, Sammy Ray and I were riding to the store with him. He stopped and spoke to a gentleman who was putting up mailboxes with his children. In good humor, the gentleman said, “That’s not much help you have today with you is it Mr. Brafford?” Without cracking even a slight smile, Papa responded, “It’s a lot damn better than what you have helping you!” When the gentleman was laughing it off, he put the truck in “drive” and we rode away. Of course, Travis, Sammy Ray and I were about to blow a gasket laughing. Even Papa got tickled and said, “Well, the truth is the truth.”
My Papa Cameron passed away when I was in the 8th grade. One of the most important things to Papa was for his grandchildren to get an education. Ironically, the day he died, we had a huge ice storm and schools were closed so we didn’t have to miss any days. He passed away in 1987 and only recently did my Mema Cameron look at his wallet and she let Travis do that. In his wallet were 3 pictures of me and my cousin Marshall. I was 3 years old and Marshall was 2. He had been carrying those pictures in his wallet since 1976, because he had written the date on the back of each picture. Although he died from cancer, his demise is not what I remember. What I remember are the many good times we enjoyed during his life. The bigger we got, the more he loved to joke with us. By the time he passed away, Marshall and I were about as big as he was. He loved to ball his fist up and shake it at us and say, “You see that right there, I can whoop you in about 10 seconds.” I would tell him he couldn’t whoop me if he tied my arms behind my back. He would respond with incredible laughter. He loved for us to joke with him like that.
I used to work with Deddy’s brick crew every summer. None of those guys would ever come to a baseball game, but the day after every game, they would want to know about the entire game, pitch by pitch. It was so hot during those summers you could barely stand it. I’ll tell you this, if people want a way to motivate children who do not care about school, let them get a hard manual labor job in 90+ degree weather, and they will soon appreciate every opportunity they have. Don’t get me wrong, we need people for every job in America. I also don’t care what that job is, it’s important to make the world go around. But for me, that job made me determined and committed to be dedicated to whatever I did.
I listen to people all the time talk about their lives. We were given two ears and one mouth for a reason. Sometimes I have a tendency to forget that. But everyone talks about moments in their lives that made a difference. There is so much stress in our lives today. We are constantly worried or concerned about something going on in our lives. But no matter what, we can always recall fond memories. We all have wonderful memories of holidays, family cookouts, birthday parties, etc. Even when you think of people who have passed away and are no longer with us, you almost always think of the good times. I can think of an endless number of good memories about Deddy, but I would have to think harder to come up with a bad one.
Life is filled with highs and lows. But as I get older, it’s obvious to me that people who look for good in others, make every effort to do the right thing, and lead lives of genuine honesty and integrity, live a much happier life than those who don’t. We all know someone who complains constantly. What those people often don’t realize is that the one person they are making the most miserable are themselves. That’s just not a good way to live. Other aspects of life that we always remember are moments that we truly appreciate. The year my father was sick, Jason McPherson called me every single day but 2 and he had a reason he did not call those days and told me beforehand. That’s not something you forget. Jason, his brother Lee and his father had also been planning a trip for several months when Deddy really started to decline. I knew I had to make a decision whether or not I was going to tell him just how critical the situation was before he left. I didn’t want him to cancel his trip, but I knew if I didn’t tell him, he would never forgive me if Deddy died while he was gone. So, with an extraordinary amount of self courage, I rode over to his house and I explained to him how grim things were getting. We sat on his front porch and it’s a moment in my life I’ll never forget. We both had always thought of Deddy as someone who could chew up barb wire and spit out BB’s. To openly discuss his imminent demise was an overwhelming dose of reality for both of us. However, anytime Deddy comes up, we always remember a good or funny story of some sort. We rarely discuss the last few weeks he lived.
I go to one race a year, the “All Star Race” in Charlotte. It’s a big group of family and friends. I enjoy watching the race, telling stories, and having a good time. But I think more than anything else, I go for the memories that we have after each one. Like Uncle Boyd always explaining to us that the drivers today could not hold a candle to the drivers 25 years ago! How in the WORLD could Jimmy Johnson, Jeff Gordon and Kyle Busch race with Bobby Allison, Bill Elliott, David Pearson, and Cale Yarborough? The answer per Uncle Boyd… “They couldn’t!”
Two of the most important things in this world are money and power. I’m not saying that’s right and I’m not encouraging anyone to live for either of them. I am just making an observation that it’s become the world we live in. But at the end of one’s life, both of those are irrelevant. I’ve never known anyone to wish they could live longer to continue a life of ill repute. We want to live for the people we love, to spend more time with family and friends, and to do more good before our time is up. For my Papa Cameron, the material things in this world were irrelevant the last few weeks he was here. However, what did matter was indicated by the pictures in his wallet. When you think about it, all of our lives are reflective of the pictures we each carry in our own wallets. Don’t ever underestimate how important you are to everyone around you. And trust me, nobody gives a damn about how much money you made or how much power you had, but the pictures they find in your wallet 25 years later remind everyone of all the good you ever did.