Earl Hamner in Richmond!

Earl Hamner at the Library of Virginia
I believe an angel woke me up in time… Last night was a long night, and after my alarm went off, instead of hitting the snooze button, I had every intention of jumping up and getting ready for the day. But I made the mistake of closing my eyes “just for 60 more seconds…” Well, those seconds mushroomed into many minutes… What woke me up was the sound of a piece of paper that inexplicably fell from my nightstand, for no good reason. I awoke to the sound of rattling paper, then noticed the time—then thanked God and rushed to get ready. The rest of the day moved along “just in time,” perfectly…

You see, this was an all-around friendship day: a road-trip day to see a dear friend from my California days, while a longtime family friend visited with my mom for me to get away for a little adventure up to Richmond, Virginia, with my friend Laura, whom I hadn’t seen since high school! (The last time I was in Richmond was to see the art exhibit of a friend’s brother, Federico Correa, an international painter now living in Mexico—and, earlier, to visit the fabulous Virginia Museum of Fine Arts to see Salvador Dali’s “Bleeding Heart” brooch, on loan from the Dali Museum in Figueres, Spain.)

Tonight, though, we were treated to another “heart,” one belonging to a fellow native Virginian and friend. Earl Hamner was back in town, and it was wonderful to see him again! He and his family flew in from the West Coast to meet up with other family members here and to give a talk (expertly moderated by Lisa LaFata) at the Library of Virginia—before his meeting with the Virginia General Assembly set for Wednesday afternoon, in his honor.

Earl is still such a powerhouse and inspiration… He made us laugh with personal anecdotes regarding Tallulah Bankhead, Rod Serling, and Will Geer, among others; caused us to reflect, by accounts such as one regarding Ellen Corby; and caught us up on his latest adventures including the upcoming publication of one of his short stories in a magazine—and the creation and development of a new television series titled “Foundations” (set in Virginia with a wonderful premise!) that will hopefully grace our TV screens, as our culture desperately needs good, solid shows again, instead of the inane reality circus that’s all too pervasive).

Although Earl will turn 90 in July, there is no hint of age about him, only life in abundance. Of course, we all grow older in years… But there’s something different, something special about someone who’s seen more years than you have and who still seems to have many more years to live life to the fullest. That is Earl. After listening to him and talking with him, he always makes you feel like you’re the most important person on the planet, and he invigorates you with his encouragement and kindness and overall good essence. You imagine he’ll be here a long time from now, still working on his stories, publishing books, producing his scripts, giving talks, encouraging others…and being that voice of the narrator, the voice of John-Boy Walton all grown up…

But because we all know life on this side of Heaven has a time of letting go, life as we know it can’t stay the same forever… Like the seasons, no matter how cliché that might sound, everything changes… There’s a time for the newness of spring, the fullness of summer, the refreshment of fall, the contemplation of winter, and then another new spring appears… There’s goodness in all of the seasons, in all stages of life. And once in a while you meet someone who embodies all the vigor a person could possibly have on life’s journey, someone who inspires you to be excellent with your own gifts and talents, and who’s just as generous in other ways, too, as is evident in this report from the Library of Virginia regarding this evening’s event from April 2, 2013:

“Join the Library of Virginia as we celebrate the gift of the private papers and manuscript collection of Earl Hamner Jr. The personal story of Earl Hamner and his family and the hundreds of stories he has created over the years have touched millions of people around the world. Representing the best of Virginia and the history of Virginia, his work makes this a truly significant collection. The Hamner collection includes original manuscripts for the entire runs of the television series The Waltons and Falcon Crest, original manuscripts for several television pilots, and more than 60 years of his original correspondence, as well as short stories, poems, and photographs. Lisa LaFata Powell will moderate a discussion with Hamner about his work, his life, and his love of Virginia. Special items from his collection will be on display during the event.”

What a wonderful gift for our state! Thank you, Mr. Hamner! (He tells me to just call him “Earl,” and I’ve finally gotten to the point of doing that, but sometimes you just want to call him “Mr. Hamner” as a way to show respect… He’s one of the finest human beings, and one of the finest Southern gentlemen, you’d ever want to meet.)

On Wednesday, April 3, 2013, at 12 noon, watch as the Virginia Assembly honors Mr. Earl Hamner! (Click this link [and also click the “Senate video” link]: http://virginia-house.granicus.com/ViewPublisher.php?view_id=3.)

Congratulations, Earl! And we all look forward to reading and watching all your new projects! Thank you for continuously inspiring us through your gifts and talents, and also through the genuine kindness of your heart!

P.S. – I also enjoyed talking with fellow Waltons fans, including Rosanna, one of Earl’s distant cousins, and Mark, who once worked as a reporter and has followed Earl’s career for years. What wonderful kindhearted people! A really nice turnout greeted Earl this evening, with some admirers traveling in from states such as Tennessee and Maryland. If you love Earl Hamner and his stories also, do yourself a favor and subscribe to his blog, found on his website: http://www.earlhamner.com.

Additionally, pick up a copy of his beautifully written book Generous Women. (His dedication is as follows: “With this book I wish to salute, thank, and celebrate the lives of some ladies who have shaped me into the man I have become. I am grateful to each of them, but I especially want to express my love and gratitude to my wife, Jane, who has enriched my life most of all, and to whom these pages are dedicated.”)

Holy Week, Easter, and “The Bible” Series

Bible Series

The Easter season was special in many ways this year… On Palm Sunday, after praying that God would save my mom a palm and a bulletin (since I couldn’t to her church on time), there in my path was one big, fat palm, while one bulletin was partially hidden under a clipboard. No others were in sight anywhere. I checked. God’s so sweet…

Then, during Holy Week, passages in Scripture seemed to leap off the page. Yes, every day the Word is alive, but during Holy Week, some days felt like God was using a custom-made never-before-seen neon color to point out certain passages. One of those was Psalm 28, verse 7, from the Amplified Bible: “The Lord is my Strength and my [impenetrable] Shield; my heart trusts in, relies on, and confidently leans on Him, and I am helped; therefore my heart greatly rejoices, and with my song will I praise Him.” Perfect assurance.

Or sometimes it was catching the right song at the right time, or walking into a room to hear the right words from someone on television. Everything was perfect this past week, in that regard. I believe life can be perfect all the time in that sense, when you’re walking with Him. Even if everything else seems to be falling apart or seems unsteady, when He’s beside you, everything is perfect. If the God of the Universe is holding your hand, you know everything is working together for good somehow…

And, finally, yes…I did watch the last three parts of the “The Bible” series on the History Channel. My mom and I and a family friend watched it together. (I wrote about the first two weeks, then got sidetracked again by life. ; ) Here’s my review, the short version: I LOVED IT! : ) As mentioned earlier, I felt the heart of God radiated throughout this series. Sure, artistic license was taken, but that was fine; there were no major issues changed, and if something was left out, give the producers credit for working their way all the way through to Revelation in just 10 hours…

The casting directors should be applauded. As an actor, I found no false notes in any of the acting. I absolutely loved everyone. Along with the solid directing, this entire creative team caused me to feel and consider what the people from the Bible went through. Sometimes, as humans, if we know a story well enough, we glide right through it. But each story told in this series brought newness; I loved that most of all.

The third week introduced Diogo Morgado as “Jesus.” Fantastic! He played the role of The Messiah with such grace and love and strength. Just the right amount of every attribute you can imagine about Jesus. And playing off him, Darwin Shaw was excellent as Peter. I thought their first exchange was artistically brilliant. And the meeting of Paul and Ananias had so many layers… Oh I could go on and on about spot-on, beautiful acting moments in this series… And all those honest performances caught my heart greatly… Tears flowed…

But so did reassurance… His reassurance…that He’ll never leave us nor forsake us…that, like Psalm 28:7 states, He will be our strength — and we do have a reason to be joyful: He’s left us His Holy Spirit, and He will be back again… At our Father’s appointed time, Jesus will return. It’s not over… And how beautiful is that…

I hope you all had a very blessed Easter also!