Saturday, April 15, 2017

The Ten Commandments


     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 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.

Friday, April 7, 2017


My family has always been close.  I feel so fortunate to have lived a life with a family that genuinely cares so much for one another.  It meant even more the year that Deddy battled cancer.  There were always family and friends around.  I think to have a family that truly cares, is more of a blessing in this life than anything else.  As I have traveled all over the U.S. the last 7 years, I’ve seen a lot of homeless people.  I always feel so sorry for someone that is homeless because it breaks my heart that for whatever reason, they don’t have a family around them.  A good friend of mine was with me one time when I rolled down my window and handed a homeless person some money.  He asked me if I did that all the time and I told him “no.”  Then he asked me why I did it sometimes instead of never doing it, or doing it all the time.  My answer was simple, sometimes I feel led to do it.   Honestly, that’s not me being a good person, that’s the Lord telling me to do it. 

This past week my grandmother passed away.  She lived 89 years and she had a wonderful life in my opinion.  She was never wealthy, she never lived in a mansion, and she was not a member of high society in any way.  But what she did have was a family.  She moved to Boyd Brafford Rd about 70 years ago when she and Papa got married.  She grew up outside of Sanford where they were accustomed to “going to town” on a regular basis.  She told me one time when she moved out to Harnett County, she thought she had moved to the moon!  For her, it was a long ways from civilization.  But she and Papa made a good life for themselves.  She had four sons, Boyd Jr., Bob (my father), Sammy, and Randy.  All four of her sons grew up in a home where they felt loved by two parents that made every effort to provide for them everything they needed.  They can remember things like when they got indoor plumbing, when they had electricity connected to the house, and when they had a new well dug by hand.  Mema and Papa Brafford had a wonderful marriage but it wasn’t always like the Cleavers.  They would make each other so mad sometimes you would think one of them would blow a gasket.  But at the end of the day, they loved each other.  They set a precedent for everyone else as to how to be a family.  They cared for their children, they cared for their grandchildren, they cared for each other’s family, and they were always respectful of each other.

Mema Brafford was quite a character.  She was going to get her “hair done” on Thursdays no matter what.  She had a very mild stroke a few years ago and literally had to pull over on the side of the road.  After she got herself together, instead of going to the doctor, she continued to her standing appointment to get her hair fixed!   She liked to pick a guitar and she liked to listen to the radio.  She loved going to church.  She enjoyed going to eat lunch with some of her family and friends whenever she could. She liked to go to K-Mart and look around while she waited to get medicine filled.  To her, neither Wal-Mart nor Target held a candle to K-Mart.  She loved to plant flowers.  She loved birds and she kept a hummingbird feeder on her porch all the time.  There was not a person on the planet that loved her dogs more than she did.  A man who grew up with my father and uncles, told me not long ago that everyone who lived in Harnett County knew the last thing you ever wanted to do was do ANYTHING to an animal on Boyd Brafford Rd.  The consequences for that were not good.

Mema Brafford had 8 brothers and sisters.  None of them lived to be older than 67.  All of them died of cancer except two.   Her oldest brother was killed in a car crash and her youngest brother died of a massive heart attack.  Her first sister to pass away was only in her 40’s.  It seems like during my entire childhood, one of Mema’s family members were dying from cancer.  Even most of her sibling’s spouses died from cancer.  Each time someone in the family was battling cancer, Mema was always very involved to help as much as she could.   But the most difficult illness I ever saw Mema deal with, was my father’s battle with cancer.   I think my uncles would agree, Deddy was a “Mama’s boy.”   That year took a toll on everybody, and it certainly did on Mema and Papa.  Deddy had a special relationship with Mema.  He was always good to her but he could also give her some “tough love” if it was necessary.  I am certain that when she passed away, Deddy was one of the very first angels to greet her.  Papa told me one time that no parent should ever have to bury a child, no matter how old they are.    But to think about how many loved ones Mema outlived, it really is incredible.   As her health declined the last several weeks, I contemplated that she had a lot more family and friends waiting for her on the other side than she had left here. I know Deddy was elated to see his Mama.

Mema Brafford had a terrific quality of life until her last few months.  She was still driving herself around until about a year ago.  She was able to enjoy family gatherings, lunches, and visits.  I will remember so many funny things that I heard her say through the years.  I will remember that she would tell me that certain things I would say were mean, but at the same time she would be laughing like crazy about what I said.  I will remember how much she loved all of us.  Literally, 10 minutes before she took her final breath, she told us that she “loved all of us.”   She was not alone when she passed away, but had her 3 sons by her side and a room full of grandchildren and great grandchildren.  Her last day, she indicated several times that my father was there.  She spoke about a beautiful farm with a stream that she had visited already and she walked around and talked to Jesus. She said on that farm was every dog she had ever had.  She also went swimming with her brothers, sisters and her father in a river.  As she always did, her mother sat on the bank and waited for them as they swam. She said that she wanted them to come back and get her and take her back to Heaven.  She specifically mentioned Papa Brafford and her brother J.A.  So even in the end, as her body gave out to a long life, she was never alone.  She was also not alone as she passed on to God’s Kingdom.  Her entire life was built on a foundation of family, and because of that, Mema Brafford passed away a rich woman.  As a family, we can all take comfort knowing with absolute certainty, all is well with her soul.