By Lonnie Wilkey
Editor, Baptist and Reflector
Though we are nearing the four-month mark of the pandemic and some churches have begun to meet again, we’re still not back to where we were (before COVID-19).
And what’s more, it may be a while before we get there.
Add to it over the past few months, tornadoes and other storms, racial tension and protests in our nation, a presidential election in November, a Supreme Court decision giving non-discrimination protection to sexual orientation and gender identity and who knows what else, our nation is dealing with a “brain overload.”
That’s why the June 24 issue of the paper advocated that churches give their ministers a break and allow them to regroup before the new church year begins in a few months and possibly a second round of COVID-19. But a break from the insanity of today’s world is good for everyone.
We all need a respite from the information overload we face daily. In order to get away from all the negative news and turmoil in our world, my wife, Joyce, and I took a day trip on a recent Saturday with some friends from church (and, yes, we had masks and tried to socially distance).
We traveled to Granville, a small town in Jackson County, not far from Carthage. It’s a beautiful town, surrounded on three sides by the Cordell Hull Lake.
Granville is known for many things, but it is billed as Tennessee’s “Mayberry Town” and it houses the Mayberry and I Love Lucy Museum. The Andy Griffith Show and I Love Lucy are iconic television shows from the 1950s and 60s that live on in reruns. They are timeless classics.
The town celebrated the “grand opening” of the museum on June 13 so we made the hour-long or so trek from Nashville to enjoy the day which featured an appearance by Keith Thibodeaux who has the distinction of being a cast member of both TAGS and I Love Lucy.
He was “Little Ricky” on I Love Lucy and played Opie Taylor’s pal, Johnny Paul Jason, on The Andy Griffith Show. Johnny Paul was known for his pearls of wisdom: “If you put a horse hair in stagnation water, it will turn into a snake” and “They say that burned food will give you a good singing voice.”
Thibodeaux, who is an excellent drummer and musician, shared stories of his experiences on both television shows and displayed his talents as a drummer. He actually is the last living member of the I Love Lucy cast.
But in the midst of his humor and musical talents, a testimony broke out. There on the lawn on a stage in the middle of Granville, the former Johnny Paul Jason shared an amazing testimony of God’s amazing grace in his life.
Thibodeaux, who will turn 70 this year, pulled no punches, readily admitting he fell into drugs and alcohol and even contemplated suicide at one point. Though he had a religious background, he described how his life reached such a low point that he knew Jesus Christ was his only hope.
The great thing about what he did was that he was not afraid to use the platform God gave him to share Jesus.
Think about it. There were no doubt people in the crowd that day who probably would never set foot in church, but they heard about Jesus and His grace and love on that Saturday afternoon in Granville.
There’s a lesson in that story for all of us. Whether we are in the midst of a trial in our life or simply taking a break from reality for a short time, God provides opportunities for us to tell others about Him. I’m glad Keith Thibodeaux took advantage of his chance. May we all follow his example.