The Slow Salvation of Luke

Helping someone come to faith is sometimes maddeningly indirect.

Debbie and I arrived home from our church meetings at 9 p.m. Flipping channels, hoping to unwind, we happened upon an old "Tennessee Ernie Ford Show" on PBS. He sat alone, on a bar stool, singing a cappella.

His wavy black hair and trim mustache stayed in place as his torso rocked and his fingers snapped to the rhythm of his backwoods renderings of songs about love and war. Then he told a tale.

"All the modern conveniences these days, I tell ya, they're really sumthin'—why, today, if you're cold at night, ya just turn up the heat on yer 'lectric blanket. Back home, when it got cold at night, ya brought yer hound dawg to bed with ya; and if ya didn't have a hound dawg, you got married."

He joked about President Kennedy paying off Frank Sinatra after the election, so the show must have aired before 1963. The camera angle widened and he stood on a stage with intermittent lights, grays and shadows. Dancers moved through the gray areas, harmonizing as he sang "Hang Down Your Head Tom Dooley." ...

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