Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Walking King James

  “By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh…”
Hebrews 11:4 (KJV)

"He being dead, yet speaketh"….I thought of this part of this verse today, as I fondly recalled some memories of my deceased Papaw.  Some of you will clearly remember him.  I so admired him and the life he lived for God.  He worked a full-time 40 hour job in a factory, was a very devoted and dedicated pastor to our church for around 40 years, and he raised nine children, simultaneously.

My grandmother passed away in late 1969, and Papaw was left a widower.  He ended up remarrying a woman from Oklahoma a few years later.  She and Papaw moved there, and stayed until two weeks before his death.  He carried a physical affliction with him for years, and as his health continued to decline, in February of 1979, he seemed to know his end was near.  His desire was to go back to his home state of Ohio, and die there, specifically in Mom’s home.  I still remember how Mom, her brothers, and I made the several hundred mile trip to bring Papaw home in my Uncle Cecil’s RV. 

When we got back to Ohio, Papaw lived exactly two weeks to the day.  It was a cold, wintry Monday when Mom told me the end was near.  I was afraid, and I didn’t want to be there when he died, so I got my little neighborhood friend, Tena, from across the street, and she and I walked to the store at the end of our road.  I can still remember the sinking feeling I had as we walked back home, and I saw the coroner’s black car in front of our house.  I knew Papaw was gone.  He had died very peaceably and was now resting in the arms of Jesus.  He was the closest thing to a “saint” I ever knew. 

Even though Papaw was our pastor, he never preached.  He was a very learned Bible scholar and he taught the Bible to our congregation for years.  Though he never actually preached, his faithfulness to God produced at least nine first-generation preachers and at least seven second-generation preachers.  He probably knew the Bible more than any one I have ever known, and he indisputably earned the nickname, “the walking King James”.

I was twelve years old when Papaw died, and even though I remember him well, I wish I could have had more time to learn and draw from his deep well of Biblical understanding.  I can still see him standing at the front of our church, teaching the congregation and instructing us in the ways of righteousness.  He has been gone for many years, but “he being dead yet speaketh”…let me explain.

A few years ago, Mom was trying to downsize and eliminate some of the things that were crowding her little apartment.  One day, she began to go through some of her books.  A lot of them had been left to her by Papaw.  Words cannot describe the thrill in my heart, when she handed me several and said, “Here, Cheryl.  You can have these.”  I cherish them all, but the three I treasure most are the three Bibles she gave me.  Two of them were Papaw’s, and one of them was my grandmother’s, whom we affectionately called, “Mimmie”. 

The Bibles are very, very worn and all three of their bindings are being held in place by tape that Papaw must have put on them at some point.  One presentation page reads,
“To Our Father William A. McCoy” By “His Sons, Cecil & John, on Christmas Day 1960”. 
Another says, “Presented to William A. McCoy – Miami Shores” By “Verga M. McCoy (my grandmother) – December 25, 1943”.  
And the third Bible’s presentation page, which belonged to Mimmie, says, “Presented To Verga McCoy – December 25, 1952” By “William A. McCoy –

3648 Clearview Rd.
A few years ago, I went back to Ohio to attend a funeral, and while I was there, my Uncle John told me he had something for me in the trunk of his car.  When I got there, he handed me a treasure….another of Papaw’s Bibles.  This one is newer and has Papaw’s name engraved in gold letters in the lower right corner of the cover. 

One thing I notice when I open each of these Bibles is that all four of them have two things in common:  they are all Holman Bibles, and they are all the King James Version.  That is the only version my Papaw would ever read.  He felt if he read any other version, God’s original intention may be compromised, and he wanted it coming to him straight and without alteration. 

When I tenderly and gently open these Bibles, I almost feel like I need to remove my shoes, as God told Moses to do when He appeared to him in the burning bush, because the ground on which he was standing was holy.  I feel like I am peering into something sacred, and indeed I am.  I see the worn places on the sides of the pages, and I can fondly remember Papaw holding them as he stood in front of our congregation teaching us the Word Sunday after Sunday. 

I found something else when I opened the Bible Uncle John gave me.  In the front, tucked right next to the cover, is a pile of Papaw’s notes from his studies.  Some of them are typewritten, and some are written by his own hand.  They are much more precious to me than gold.  When I read them, I wonder where he was when God revealed these “golden nuggets of truth” to him.  What was going on in his life at the time?  Was he preparing for a lesson, or was God giving Him something just for his encouragement?

In the papers, I found a typewritten, old piece that Papaw had copied from his book, “Streams in the Desert”.  I would like to insert it here, because I feel this is what Papaw “the Walking King James” does to me…through my memories of him, the notes I found in his Bible, and the legacy he left behind.

Call Back
(Author Unknown)

If you have gone a little way ahead of me, call back,
“Twill cheer my heart and help my feet along the stony track;
And if, perchance, faith’s light is dim, because the oil is low,
Your call will guide my lagging course, as wearily I go.

Call back, and tell me He went with you into the storm,
Call back, and say He kept you when the forest roots were torn;
That, when the heavens thundered and the earth shook the hill,
He bore you up and held you where the air was calm and still.

Oh, friend, call back, and tell me for, I cannot see your face,
They say it glows with triumph now, and you have won your race;
But there are mists between us and, my spirit eyes are dim,
And I cannot see the glory though, I long for word of Him.

But if you’ll say He heard you when, your prayer was but a cry,
And if you’ll say He saw you through, the night’s sin-darkened sky;
If you have gone a little way ahead, oh friend call back,
‘Twill cheer my heart and help my feet along the stony track.

I wonder how many times Papaw felt discouraged in his work for God through the years.  I can’t imagine pastoring the same church for 40 years!  There must have been moments that he needed strength and encouragement and longed for saints who had gone before him to “call back” and “speak” to him. 

I’m thankful for the worn Bibles Mom and Uncle John gave to me.  I count them among my most cherished possessions.  And I’m thankful for the many hours my Papaw spent in them earning his nickname.  I’m thankful that when I am feeling so defeated and discouraged, I can pick them up and hold them close to my heart and take comfort in the fact that if he made it, then maybe I can, too.  How thankful I am that he “being dead yet speaketh” and calls back to me….words of comfort, encouragement, and a softly-whispered promise that it is better farther on!

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