Minutes after I learned one of my very earliest friends, B.B. Branton, died early Sunday morning, another friend sent me an email that just fit the moment perfectly. When I was growing up, our back yard butted up against the Brantons' backyard, so B.B. and I were quite sure we started out as playpen partners and were close ever since. Both of our fathers were from Mississippi - kinsmen -our families were wonderfully close.
I’ve got a truckload of stories about B.B. and, when he was on death’s door with a malignancy a few years back, I tried to go see him almost every day during the early stages of his recovery. Boy, we spoke of many things. His favorite story was the day he got laid off from wherever he was working and called to tell me he had just gotten fired.
“No, B.B., get your facts right … you just got hired!” He countered, “No, I just got fired …” and I took great glee in telling him, “Wake up and smell the coffee, pal. Come down to my office and fill out some paperwork so we can put you on the payroll tomorrow. Oh, and the sports guys get here about a quarter to 6 every morning so find an alarm clock!”
My earliest actual memory of B.B was when both of us earned our first perfect attendance pin at the First Presbyterian Church and we learned the song ‘Jesus Loves Me’ by heart. The trick was to watch each other’s faces – when I’d stumble, I would read B.B.’s lips and vice versa. We earned an extra cookie for memorizing that one before everybody else.
When I learned of his death, although I was saddened, I immediately praised God for His grace, His mercies, because the last years were tough on B.B. I am the first to know he’s in a far-better place. Later, as I sat down to my computer, there came a God moment. My friend John Bolt sent me a copy of “A Letter from Larry,” apparently a weekly devotional a man named Larry shares with many friends.
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A LETTER FROM LARRY, SUNDAY, JULY 12, 2020
I remember as a little boy going to Bible School on Sunday morning and singing "Jesus Loves Me." Now 70 years later there is a Senior version of the same song. Enjoy and see if you can relate.
While watching a little TV on Sunday instead of going to church, I watched a church service in Atlanta honoring one of its senior pastors who had been retired many years. He was 92 at that time and I wondered why the Church even bothered to ask the old gentleman to preach at that age.
After a warm welcome, introduction of this speaker, and as the applause quieted down, he rose from his high-back chair and walked slowly, with great effort and a sliding gate to the podium. Without a note or written paper of any kind, he placed both hands on the pulpit to steady himself and then quietly and slowly he began to speak....
"When I was asked to come here today and talk to you, your pastor asked me to tell you what was the greatest lesson I ever learned in my 50 odd years of preaching. I thought about it for a few days and boiled it down to just one thing that made the most difference in my life and sustained me through all my trials. The one thing that I could always rely on when tears and heartbreak and pain and fear and sorrow paralyzed me... the only thing that would comfort was this verse...
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“Jesus loves me this I know.
For the Bible tells me so.
Little ones to Him belong,
we are weak but He is strong....
Yes, Jesus loves me...
The Bible tells me so."
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When he finished, the church was quiet. You actually could hear his footsteps as he shuffled back to his chair. I don't believe I will ever forget it.
A pastor once stated, "I always noticed that it was the adults who chose the children's hymn 'Jesus Loves Me' (for the children of course) during a hymn sing, and it was the adults who sang the loudest because I could see they knew it the best."
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THE SENIOR VERSION OF ‘JESUS LOVES ME’
Here is a new version just for us who have white hair or no hair at all. For us over middle age (or even those almost there) and all you others, check out this newest version of ‘Jesus Loves Me.’
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Jesus loves me, this I know,
Though my hair is white as snow
Though my sight is growing dim,
Still He bids me trust in Him.
YES, JESUS LOVES ME... YES, JESUS LOVES ME...
YES, JESUS LOVES ME FOR THE BIBLE TELLS ME SO.
Though my steps are oh, so slow,
With my hand in His I'll go
On through life, let come what may,
He'll be there to lead the way.
“When the nights are dark and long,
In my heart He puts a song.
Telling me in words so clear,
"Have no fear, for I am near."
“When my work on earth is done,
And life's victories have been won.
He will take me home above,
Then I'll understand His love.”
“I love Jesus, does He know?
Have I ever told Him so?
Jesus loves to hear me say,
That I love Him every day.”
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Think about this today. Much love to you and yours!
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Yesterday, when B.B. stood before the Master and heard the words, “Well done, my good and faithful servant,” I am willing to bet that there was a crowd beyond the norm. And how magical it might have been when B.B. would ask his Jesus, “I bet you can’t name the batting order of the 1986 Mets,” and Jesus might giggle back, “B.B, you want to meet some of them? How about Babe Ruth, Satchel Paige, Dizzy Dean ... you are really going to like it up here.”