Shorty Floyd, Finally … Fullness

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

It’s a day that I look forward to. The first of its kind was three years ago when my brother and I harvested our first real batch of honey, about 10 gallons, from our beehives. Last year, we got about 20 gallons and we estimate that, today, we got around 24, a respectable yield for 4 hives.
All year long, I saved glass jars in anticipation of this day, saved them as an act of faith that they would be filled with something sweet, beautiful and valuable at summer’s end if we did our part and the bees did theirs. And what I ended up with was an assortment of containers, in all shapes and sizes, each cleaned multiple times before being lined up, sparkling, to catch whatever honey might be extracted from the hives.
From 9 this morning until almost 9 o’clock tonight, we worked in sweltering heat doing the messy but rewarding task of filling our jars, almost a hundred of them, with the sweetness of a year’s work from 200,000 bees. By day’s end, the empty containers glistened with pure gold – some darkened with the early nectar from the tulip poplar trees, some lightened to translucence with the nectar of wildflowers – each a monument to hard labor and a compelling instance of transformation. They represent millions of foraging flights and the microscopic contributions of no-telling how many blossoms from trees and flowers in the area surrounding our home place.
The honeybee, and the harvest, is a tutorial in wonder.
From empty to full; from barren to sweetness; from labor to rest.
The season is over and a new one begins. …

Last night, my dear friend, Benjamin “Shorty” Floyd, who some of you know from “People in my Town”, died, just a couple of weeks past his 86th birthday.
He was, from every worldly standard, a poor man.
He could not read or write, didn’t finish high school, and grew up when it was hard to be a black man in America.
His laughter was irresistible.
He cried easily when he felt joy.
He spoke of Jesus as though they shared meals together.
He repeated himself a lot as he got older – “I have been all over the world, all up to Spartanburg NC and Macon Georgia. The Lord been good to me.”
He had an old dog named Queenie who must wonder where he’s been these last four days, since Thursday last when Shorty was taken to the hospital.
He dearly loved me and my brother and proudly called us ‘his boys.’
As thankful as he was for it, his house was, by any grade, an old shack — drafty, dilapidated, small. This coming Saturday, a group of us had planned to do some renovation for him — to make his small porch more accessible, to fix his door, to chop his firewood and get it closer to his house.
He sang with meager talent but huge enthusiasm.
He usually wore farmers overalls, and had a habit of only buckling one side.
He spoke a brand of English that was all his own and prayed in a gibberish that was barely understandable except for the dozens of times that he’d call the name of Jesus.
He would talk back to the televison when he watched the evening news.
He was an elder in every sense of the word at the Longstreet Baptist Church where, he said, “the doors (doze) is built on welcome hinges.”
He trusted a God Who “sits high but bends low” and He loved the Christ Who taught that we should “do unto others as we wish to be done about.”
Though he could not read it for himself, he loved the scriptures and quoted them frequently.
When we sang happy birthday to Shorty last year, he expressed his reluctance to have “and many more.” He believed in and longed for a home not built by human hands.
By the time he took his last breath last night, his body had long been worn out and tired. The same might be said of his heart, which was sensitive to and grieved by the brokenness of our world. He wearied of people who showed so little reverence to the Lord of Creation, and was stung at how cruelly we can treat each other at times.
He was a glistening jar waiting to be filled.
And last night, what was empty became full.
What was bitter, became sweet.
What was weary found rest.
What was common and unrefined became golden.
The season is complete.
And a new one begins.
“He has crossed over.”
“He’s home.”

And, as a long tiring day concludes, I feel some fullness myself. A fullness of thanks, of sweetness, of sadness, of curiosity. A fullness that tells me I am rich to have the indelible memories of a rickety porch, some listening hours, and an old black man whose heart was pure treasure.

– – – – – –

July 29, 2010, a footnote

I just returned from the worship service that celebrated Shorty’s life. At the family’s request, I edited a copy of the spoken words that i used for Shorty’s song on “People in my Town.” We played the recording at the gathering this morning and it was a perfect eulogy for the occasion. If you haven’t heard Shorty, here is the version of his monolog that we used this morning, complete with his singing of “Come and Go”.

Click here to listen:
Shorty Floyd speaks and sings

Quick Hello and a thought about Heaven

i’ve been scolded for returning to my old pattern of website delinquency and hope you’ll forgive my absence from the blog.
Simply stated, summer has been perfectly wonderful and i feel like i’ve achieved the desired balance between indoor/outdoor and mental/physical work. i’m still writing and recording for several hours on most days and am on schedule to post some new songs in August. Just this past week, i finished my wood shed and i’m eager to dig in to the chicken coop project soon. And everyday there is something garden related that keeps me locally fed, mostly tomatoes and okra of late. It’s all good.
i taught Sunday school this morning for the high school class. It was me and one student, a bright and inquisitive 10th grader named Kiana. We talked about heaven, in keeping with our lesson text from i Thessalonians.
K: “What do you think we’ll do there?”
acl: “It’s hard to know isn’t it, but i rather think that we’ll work.”
“You think we’ll work in heaven? i thought there wasn’t supposed to be anything unpleasant or difficult in heaven.”
“Well, maybe work isn’t unpleasant or difficult. We were created to work, and its original design was one of blessing. … Think about it; do you remember when Adam and Eve were in the Garden of Eden, before they disobeyed God and ate the fruit? When everything was still good and God walked with them every day? Before there was any sin in the world?”
“Yes.”
“That was life in a still-perfect world, wasn’t it?”
“Yes.”
“And what did Adam and Eve do then? How did they spend their days? … They worked. They had a job. They were caretakers of the creation around them. IN Genesis it says that ‘The LORD God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.’ And the work was good, pleasurable, God-honoring. i think we could say that it was even worshipful.”
“OK”
“But then Adam and Eve messed up, right? And after sin had entered the world, then, and only then did work become cursed, a hardship, a grind. It is pure conjecture on my part but maybe, in heaven, work is restored to what it is supposed to be and it will be a part of our life there. It’s hard to imagine how good it might be, but even now, there are days that i labor and have a deep sense of love for it, whether it’s songwriting work or weeding the garden. And maybe, in some way, that’s why we’re told to work with all our hearts at whatever we do; because it might help to prepare us for our return to the Garden, to ‘Paradise Regained.’ Anyway, it’s just a thought.”

i sleep really well at nights when i’m in the present routine. A short bit of reading is usually all it takes to put me under.
Hope you’re all doing well. i’m thankful that you’d take time to visit and humbled to think that my words matter to you. Every blessing.