“As I walk o’er the campus and upon the bright white sand – only one thought runs o’er my mind, and that’s of you my darling Ann. As I gaze at the starry sky, I think how long it will be, before we are together again, beneath our four pine trees. It will not be so very long, for the time will hurriedly pass, and after waiting six months or more, I’ll be with my darling at last. When I get off the bus, she’ll be waiting for me there; with extended arms and open heart, and our love together we’ll share.
And then together we will go, to the pine trees and the sand, and there we’ll linger many a night, just me and my darling Ann. Then together we will be and never more to part, for we are one, united, because we hold each other’s heart. This is not a writing made up of words alone, but my heart backs every word I write, and my thoughts are all together; thanking God that he has left, here upon the land, someone so sweet so very pure, this is my darling Ann.”
Sixty years ago I wrote those words. I was a high school senior at the old Dasher Bible School near Valdosta, Georgia. Our courting days were simple. There was a small canal near the home of my sweetheart and four lonely pines stood in a solitary place by the waters edge. We found contentment there, and the joy of just being together, singing, praying and mostly talking. We could have solved the world’s problems at seventeen, but Harry Truman never asked. With college days still ahead, waiting was not a real problem – it was sheer torture. Distance does not separate one from his love. It’s the waiting that teaches you patience and confirms the love you have for each other.
Final preparations were made and on a beautiful clear June evening; loved ones gathered and vows were exchanged. When love is in the heart it is easy to “Open your mouth before Jehovah” (Judges 11:36). “Till death do us part” is more than a promise – it is a solemn vow.
The morning after the “Honeymoon night”, we stopped by my parent’s home to say goodbye. As we drove away I asked my wife to look back and tell me what she saw? She said, “I see your Mom and Dad standing in the threshold of your house with their arms around each other.” I said, “They started it and they finished it.” I was the last of seven children to leave the nest.
In 1883 the remains of a great American were exhumed and the coffin wrapped in an American Flag and returned to the land of his birth. He loved the theater but never really made it as an actor. He was not famous as a painter, nor eloquent in speech or known for his wealth.
Later in life, through the influence of friends, he was appointed as American Ambassador to South Africa. In 1852 he died at his post of duty and was buried in Tunis.
Who was this American? Why was he famous? Why is he remembered today above many of his contemporaries? His name was John Howard Payne and he wrote the words to a simple song that still rings a bell in the heart of Americans.
“Mid pleasures and palaces though we may roam,
Be it ever so humble there’s no place like home.”
The word Home, originally meant house. But home is more than a house in which to exist even surrounded by the comforts and luxuries of life. It is not a battlefield yet the greatest battles of all are fought and won here. It is not a school and yet the most marvelous teaching is done there. It is God’s oldest institution and established on the preamble, “It is not good that man should be alone” (Genesis 2:18).
Home is a place where the world of strife has been shut out and the world of love shut in. It is a father’s kingdom, a mother’s world, a child’s paradise. Home is the vestibule of heaven.
The story is told of an artist who wanted to paint the most beautiful picture in the world. He asked the preacher, “What is the most beautiful thing in the world?” The minister replied, “It is faith, for you can find it in every church, feel it at every altar”. The artist asked a young bride the same question, and she replied, “Love, for it builds poverty into riches, sweetens your tears and makes much out of little. Without love there can be no beauty.” A weary soldier said, “Peace is the most beautiful thing in the world. War is the ugliest! Wherever you find peace you find beauty.” Faith, love and peace – “but how can I paint them”, asked the artist.
Entering his own home, he saw ‘faith’ in the eyes of his children and love in the eyes of his wife. There was a peace in his home than only faith and love could build. So he painted a picture of the most beautiful thing in the world, and when he finished it he called it “Home”.
“Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home.”