The rhinestone studded jacket sparkles under the lights and the flashy Gibson guitar whirs as Merle Travis’s thumb picks out the song “Nine Pound Hammer.” The renown country and western singer, songwriter, and guitarist performs on the network television
program Ozark Jubilee in 1955.
“This song is about a fella who complained about a nine pound hammer being too heavy for his size.” Travis says.
The verses tell of a man’s aversion to hard work. His want to was keeping him from the task at hand. Instead of mining coal, his thoughts wandered to his gal and a trip to town. Determined not to do the work, the miner complains his equipment is faulty: “Tell
me, how can I roll, when the wheels won’t go?”
Travis chuckles, “The lazy rascal.”
The songwriter was born on November 29, 1917, in Rosewood, Kentucky. His father was a coal miner who worked the Number 9 coal seam that spread beneath the earth’s surface from Kentucky to Pennsylvania. Despite how hard his dad worked, the family lived on the “bare edge” of poverty. Travis’s first instrument was a hand-me-down five-string banjo. When he was 12 years old, his older brother gave him a homemade guitar. Over his career, he struggled with hardships, but he rose to fame.
In fact, the “Travis picking” style revolutionized musicians’ approach to playing the guitar, influencing the likes of Chet Atkins
and blues guitarist Earl Hooker. Travis was one of the most influential American guitarists of the 20th century. Unlike the miner in his song, he had no aversion to working hard and mastering his craft.
But it’s easy to become distracted and veer off the path. Travis had multiple setbacks with alcohol and drug addiction in his life. A few
times, he lost his way.
There is a great deal written about Judas. After all, he betrayed Jesus. And yet, it is difficult to imagine he was intent on the evil
he perpetrated when he first became one of the original disciples. So, what happened?
The simplest answer would be that he lost his way. Instead of his fledgling faith in Jesus growing, he began to grumble and question if Jesus was the leader he thought, the one who would establish an earthly kingdom, the kingdom in which he so desired to be a part. His devotion failed because his want to changed.
David writes in Psalm 23, “The Lord is my shepherd.” He testifies that the Shepherd blesses His sheep with good things, offering
mercy and giving peace, declaring “... thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.”
Jesus describes Himself as the “good shepherd.” In the parable of the lost sheep, He declares a devotion to the one who loses his way. He says emphatically, “Doesn’t he (the shepherd) leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it?”
He asserts that the Shepherd could do nothing else but go. And when He finds the one, He rejoices, “I have found my lost sheep!”
There are times when we find ourselves in a bad place, a place that pops up because we have nibbled ourselves far away from Jesus.
It can happen so fast.
My mom was there standing with me in the department store, and then she wasn’t. The bright red race car caught my attention. It was only a few steps from her side, and now I was lost. My five-year-old heart began to race. The store seemed enormous. On my tip toes, I frantically looked. I began to move between the aisles. I feared I would never see her again. Then a tender hand touched my shoulder. My mom picked me up in her arms. Found! I placed my arms around her neck and hugged her tight.
No matter where we find ourselves, the Shepherd is only a heartbeat away. Allow the excuses to fall away. Jesus bids the lost
to come, the unsaved and believer alike.
Are you lost? Does your want to need to change? Have you veered from the way?
In The Message, Eugene Peterson writes: So let God work His will in you. Yell a loud “no” to the Devil and watch him make himself scarce. Say a quiet “yes” to God and He’ll be there in no
time (James 4:7-8).
Remember, when you feel there is nowhere else to go, and your wheels won’t roll, turn to Jesus. He is there.
By Jim Edminson, Editor of Charity & Children