From Plainer Words

For many are called, but few are chosen - Part 5

Posted in: 2016
By Tom L. Ballinger
Aug 5, 2016 - 1:17:42 PM

Plainer Words since 1968
ISSUE # 410
August 3, 2016
(Matthew 22:14)
Part V
The years of 1962, 1963, 1964 were very special for me. It was during those years that my life was totally changed by the transforming power of believing that the Sacrificial Death of the Lord Jesus Christ paid the price for my sins.
Gloria and I were married on December 12, 1952. We had started dating in 1948 in High School. I was given a Baseball Scholarship to Southern Methodist University which was located in Dallas, Texas. 1949 to 1953 were the years I attended SMU.  I had what many would say was an outstanding baseball career at SMU—two years I was selected to the All Southwest Conference Team as the Centerfielder. Our team won the Southwest Conference Championship in 1953. I was chosen as a member of the Second Team All American in 1953. I signed a professional baseball contract to play in the Milwaukee Braves organization. I played two years (1953-54) in their Minor League organization. Then, in 1954 I was drafted into the United States Army.
The next fifteen years of my life was rather mundane inasmuch as 1954-1956 found me serving in the Army of Uncle Sam—21 months in West Germany at the largest U.S. Military base in Western Europe. The Army base was located at Baumholder, Germany. I served in the Sports and Recreation Office. The two Baseball seasons I was in Baumholder, I played on our Army Base’s Baseball team. The second season I was the Manager of our team. Since I was on Temporary Duty (TDY) to the S & R Office I never got a promotion. I belonged to the 43rd Armored Infantry Division. The only time I reported to the 43rd was on pay day.
After a year in the S & R Office, Congress passed a Law requiring that all soldiers, who were Private E-2s, the lowest rank which I was, and who had served “Good Time” without Bad Conduct, were to be automatically promoted to Private First Class. It took an Act of Congress to get me promoted to a PFC and a pay of $90.00 a month instead of $45.00. I was discharged from duty in the Army in June of 1956.
After my Military service, and two years of teaching high school in Dallas, I was offered a job, with the Dr Pepper Company as a Zone Manager. I accepted it. After extensive training, the Dr Pepper Company moved us to Sioux City, Iowa. My Zone covered Iowa, Nebraska, Minnesota, and North and South Dakota. By this time, Gloria and I had our son, Tod. He was born in Sioux City. After 15 months I was promoted to a higher volume Zone, and we were moved to Atlanta, Georgia. This Zone included Georgia, South Carolina, and parts of Alabama. Our son, Scot, was born in Atlanta, Georgia in July 1960.
While I was working in Savannah, Georgia, I received a phone call one night about 9:30 P.M.. It was from a man named James Carmichael. He was the owner of the RC Cola Bottling Company in Memphis, Tennessee. He introduced himself.  He said he had been the President of the Coca Cola Bottling Company in Mobile and President of the Bellingrath Foundation for a number of years. Mr. Bellingrath owned the Coca Cola Bottling plant and founded Bellingrath Gardens in Mobile. The Bellingraph Gardens were a world famous Tourist Attraction.
Mr. Carmichael said he was buying the RC Cola plant in Mobile and wanted to talk to me about working for him as the General Manager of the Mobile bottling plant. We met in Mobile one week-end and had a one-on-one interview. I interviewed him, and he interviewed me. We finally made an agreement. I agreed to come to work for him. He said he was sure I wanted a contract. Perhaps I made a mistake; but, I declined a contract. I reasoned that if I did a good job, Carmichael wouldn’t get rid of me. If I didn’t do a good job I wouldn’t want to keep a job that I couldn’t handle!
The reason I went to work for the Dr Pepper Company was the opportunity it provided. The opportunity, I thought, was two-fold. One, if I worked hard and was promoted, the Dr Pepper Company offered possibility of eventually moving back to our Home Town, since Dr Pepper’s Headquarters were in Dallas, Texas. Opportunity Two, Dr Pepper provided, was the possibility of becoming a Manager of a Soft Drink Bottling Company. During the five years I was a Zone Manager a constant in my prayers was asking God to  provide me one of these two opportunities.
I considered Mr. Carmichael’s General Manager’s job in Mobile ANSWERED PRAYER. I resigned from the Dr Pepper Company and we moved to Mobile, Alabama.
I finally got what I really wanted which was to manage a bottling plant. I had learned so much about how one ought to be managed. My business career was focused on being a top-flight manager. I believed a good manager can manage anything. As a Zone Manager, one of the things I tried to do was to pass on to the bottlers what I considered good management techniques I learned from other bottlers. I had a keen eye on Management Style. I would appraise each bottler’s management style—I learned what I would do, if I became a plant manager, and WHAT I WOULDN’T DO.
Everything I had learned, I put into effect in the RC Bottling plant in Mobile. After two or three years as Mr. Carmichael’s GM in Mobile, I realized there were important people in the soft drink industry watching me. When he and I would go to a Bottler’s Convention, he would stay right by my side. I could tell he was fearful someone would try to hire me. This sounds like bragging on my part, but I don’t know how else to express the truth about the position I was in at the time. I knew some bottlers who were trying to get my attention, so they could talk to me but Mr. Carmichael never left my side.
On the evening of February 13, 1963, after a delicious dinner, I went to our bathroom to freshen up after a days work. I was planning to attend an Anti-Communist Christian Crusade at Greystone Bible Church. This was the tipping point in which I was saturating my heart and mind with Christian Truths. Greystone was an Acts 9 Church. At the time, I did not know what an Acts 9 Church was. The featured Speaker was to be Major Edgar C. Bundy.
I wanted to settle the issue of being saved once and for all. Our bathroom became a “holy place” as I knelt down on my knees and rested my head on the commode. I prayed out aloud, “Dear Lord Jesus, I WANT TO BE SAVED AND I WANT TO KNOW IT.” As I arose, a phrase from an old hymn crossed my mind—and the burden of my sin rolled away. That became an unalterable fact—I felt as though I was a “new man.”
As I drove to the Crusade, the thought kept running through my mind—“I am a new man.” This meant I was a new husband, a new daddy, a new son, a new brother, a new grandson, a new boss, and a new subordinate. At the time I was unaware of the Truth contained in II Corinthians 5:17;
“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”
The new creature that I became emerged the first hour I truly believed. My desires became new. My new desires centered around the Lord Jesus Christ and His Word. Carnal thoughts and desires immediately “took a backseat” in my thought processes. Sometimes, I’d pinch myself just to make sure “it was me.” At times, it even felt like I was “in new skin.” I had an overwhelming desire to tell others about the “new Tom Ballinger.”
In my morning prayer, I’d asked the Lord to send someone my way who needed to hear my testimony. This request made me think anyone I talked to, whether over the telephone or in person, may be the one the Lord sent to me. I was compelled to tell “the old, old story of Jesus and His love” because it would be a shame to have my prayer answered and, then, not witness to the one the Lord Jesus sent. The Lord blessed and helped me to lead many to the saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Within several weeks I let every employee know that I had accepted the Lord Jesus as my Lord and Savior,  a phrase most all Southerners, whites and blacks, knew what it meant  when it was said that a person “got saved”—the year was 1963. Segregation was still in effect from Virginia to Texas. Our Route Salesmen were white. Blacks rode with the salesmen as their Helpers; the blacks also did most of the manual labor in the bottling plant.
I hired a young man to be the Office Manager. At the time, that was a one-person job. But, it would become a three person Office as our business grew. His name was Hardie Cazalas. His grandfather had been the Sheriff of Mobile County when Hardie had been a little boy. One of the first employees I witnessed to was Hardie. He and I happened to be in my office on a business matter. When the matter was completed, I casually asked him, “Hardie, I have been intending to ask you, as I am going to ask all of our employees, are you saved?”
He shook his head, and answered, “No sir, I am Roman Catholic.” That was a surprising answer to my ears. It was as if the Roman Catholic’s faith prevented them from being saved. This was a strange answer, indeed, to my way of thinking. I learned that it was a rather common response by Catholic’s when I witnessed to them.
Forty-nine percent of Mobile’s white population was Roman Catholic. Mobile was founded as a colony of Spain in 1702; as such, it could almost be said that Mobile had been a colony of the Roman Catholic Church.
Our Sales Meetings were held on the balcony between the downstairs and the ceiling of the bottling plant. At this time I had eight Route Salesmen, one Supervisor, and a new Sales Manager, plus the eight black helpers. The Helpers gathered downstairs under the balcony to listen in on our Sales Meeting. It made them feel more of a part of our Sales Organization. I made a point to witness to everyone in our organization about “being saved,” no-one excluded.
I announced to the Salesmen, that with their permission, I’d like to end our daily Sales Meetings with a word of prayer, asking “The Lord to grant them a safe day on their routes and a safe return to the plant.” I was really surprised that they applauded the idea. Most of them, as they left the meeting shook my hand, and said, “Thanks, Mr. Tommy, that’s a good idea.”
For those of you reading this that are not familiar with the mannerisms of the Deep South, the “Mr. Tommy” was one of them. I was barely 30 years old, and most of my employees were older than I was. The Southern tradition was to refer to the boss by his first name but attach a Mister to it. Using the first name gave them the feeling of intimacy, but the use of Mister or Miss would reflect their respect. They all called me “Mr. Tommy.” If my first name would have been Bill, I would have been, “Mr. Billy.”
The Black employees could get in on this and feel like they were part of the “RC Cola Family.” One man, Aubrey Byrd, a white man, was 62 years old. He had worked for the business when it was founded by the previous owners. Even being the Boss, I showed Mr. Byrd the proper respect by never referring to him as Aubrey—it was always Mr. Byrd. It was an unwritten mannerism for him not to call me Mr. Tommy. A sixty-two year old man didn’t refer to his 30 year old Boss as “Mr. Tommy.”
Mobile is a seaport city. Many Merchant seamen retired in Mobile.  The term, “Captain,” was a well used title of respect in seaport cities. Mr. Byrd always called me “Captain,” pronounced “Capt’n”—his title of respect for me. I can still hear Mr. Byrd greeting me in the mornings; “ Good mornin’ Capt‘n, the sun is shining.”
Another example of the Southern mannerism is found in the Morgan Freeman movie entitled, “Driving Miss Daisy.” The setting was in the South—Atlanta and Mobile. Freeman played the black chauffeur, of a Jewish lady. He didn’t call the Southern lady, Mrs. ________(her married name), but—“Miss Daisy.”
My new Sales Manager was Fred Strickland, a man my age. He had worked for Orkin Exterminators. He grew up in a little community located just across the state line of Alabama and Mississippi. His little home town was named “State-Line, Mississippi.” As the Orkin man, he called on me a number of times. I learned a lot about him in these “Sales Calls.” In fact, I had “my eye on him.”  I witnessed to him one day, and he informed me that he was a Christian. We became friends. A few weeks after I hired him as my Sales Manager he confessed to me that he had been a Christian most of his life but had been back-sliden for years. He told me, “Yesterday I rededicated my life to the Lord Jesus Christ.” He asked if the chance came, would I mind if he witnessed to an employee. Of course not, I said to Fred. We don’t want to put pressure on any of the employees. Fred became a powerful witness for Christ both on the job, among the church folks, and in the community.
Here is an interesting side note on Hardie Cazalas. He became one of my best friends. The friendly trails of my recollections of grace always leads back to him. We were friends for 45 years. He died of bladder cancer 8 or 10 years ago. One day Fred Strickland had been witnessing to Hardie. During their conversation, Hardie commented that he’d bet money on the fact that I wouldn’t stay “being saved” longer than six months. Hardie would have lost his money. I have been an active Christian for over 53 years.
At one time, Fred Strickland and I counted all of our RC employees who were Christians. Fred and I led most of them to the Lord. In fact, we determined that he and I led 85% of  all of our employees to the Lord. Fred and I could tell that Hardie Cazalas was feeling left out, since he wasn’t one of the 85%. He wanted to be part of the Company fellowship but since he was a Roman Catholic (according to his own words) he couldn’t be a Christian and a Roman Catholic at the same time.
After a while, Hardie came to me and asked me to show him the way to become a Christian. I had made up my mind that if he ever asked me to lead him to Christ, I would let Fred have the privilege. I wanted Fred to experience the joy of seeing Hardie being converted after having told Fred that I would not “hold out being a Christian for six months.”
One day, I ran an ad in the daily newspaper, The Mobile Press Register, in search of a Route Salesmen. Mid-morning, a clean-cut, nice looking young man was ushered into my office by my Office Manager. The young man was responding to the newspaper ad. I shook his hand and introduced myself to him. I explained the job requirements to him. I was really impressed with his attitude. It was apparent he knew what he wanted in a job. Our job opening met his needs for now.
As we talked, I gently steered the conversation into my testimony. I must mention, again, the Home Builder, Mr. Leon Sawyer. On visitation nights I always prayed that he and I would be partners on visitation night. Most of the times my prayers were answered, we usually went together on Tuesday nights. The Lord really blessed our witness. It was incredible how many people we led to the Lord. We seemed, always, to have good reasons to praise God for leading Mr. Sawyer and me to folks who were hungry to know the Lord Jesus Christ as their Savior. He told me that my testimony was an excellent key to use to open the door to the “plan of salvation.” The Lord used Mr. Sawyer to teach me how to be an effective witness for Christ.
I gave my testimony to the applicant, in hopes that he would want to be lea to the saving knowledge of Christ. I was getting ready to ask him if he would like to have his sins forgiven, when he interrupted me by saying, “I’m so glad to learn that you are Christian, Mr. Ballinger, because I’d like ask if you would mind if I lead us in prayer.”
I was shocked to say the least.  Of course, I agreed. You don’t turn-down an offer to pray with someone who wanted to pray with you. I watched as he scooted back his chair and knelt down on the floor. I immediately joined him by kneeling.  He began to pray a beautiful prayer. He asked the Lord that I would offer him the job that he was applying for. This was a once in a lifetime occurrence—an applicant praying for the job with the person who does the hiring. I followed with a short prayer thanking the Lord for bringing him our way. I acknowledged that the job was his. He became one of our best Route Salesman.
This was an experience that really taught me a lesson. Instead of running an ad in the local newspaper, I should have prayed that Lord would send me applicants. That was the last “Help Wanted” ad I ever ran as an employer
One day I was reading John Birch Society’s “Blue Book,” which set forth the fundamentals of the Society. One statement “knocked my socks off.” It warned its members that experience has shown that the Birch Society’s teachings tended to extol the virtues of Christianity to such an extent that, at times, it “neutralized the Patriot’s zeal toward Constitutional Government.” I found that my zeal was turning from the JBS to that of the Bible “rightly divided.” The things I used to “want to do” I no longer wanted to do them. I had a “New Want-er”
Gloria witnessed the dramatic change in certain phases of my life-style—such as my desire to have a working knowledge of the Word of God, attending Bible Classes, a desire to teach what I have learned about rightly dividing the Word of Truth, the desire to talk about the Lord Jesus Christ, the want of Christian friends, I switched from listening to Popular and Country music to that of Christian/Gospel music. On top of all of this, if I were in a situation, where I couldn’t leave a place, and in which a person or two began to curse by “damning God” I would politely ask them “Please refrain from using the Name of my Lord and Savior in vain.” I NEVER had anyone to get angry with me. Most of them would apologize.
Growing up, Gloria and I went to church enough to know Christians ought to go to church on Sundays. When we dated and then when we were married, we did go to Sunday School and Church but not every Sunday. Doing so did not have a high priority in our lives. We admitted that when we did attend church, we felt better afterwards. It was probably the result of doing what we thought we ought to do, thus, giving us a sense of self-satisfaction.
Gloria was an amazing “help meet” (Gen. 2:18) for me during those formative Christian years. The Graciousness of the Lord Jesus Christ abounded toward me in those glorious days. At the time, I didn’t totally appreciate or fully comprehend the magnificence of His Grace—many times that is the case. I wasn’t able to fully grasp the wide-ranging extent of His Grace in action.
The Road to Glory is a rough road to traverse, but it is not an uncertain one. Upon arrival, we will immediately know it was well worth the strain!
 ~~THE END~~
Copyright© 2016 by Thomas L. Ballinger
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