Ina Jo Maxi and I sang together for years and years back in the 80’s and 90’s in many different venues. We sang at revival meetings, and at just about every other kind of event including funerals and weddings. We might sing at any event where “special music” might be part of the program.
I’ll start this story by saying that Ina Jo and her sister Rose Mary Hooks are two of the funniest people on the planet, and never more so than when they were together and telling stories about their childhood. I have laughed till my sides hurt and my face too on a church trip to Jackson with many of our fellowship including Ina Jo and Rose Mary, who entertained us with hilarious true stories from their childhood growing up in a large family. If laughter is good medicine then we should have all been extremely healthy for a good time after that trip.
Anyway, my first cousin, Wilton Neal, is often invited to be the visiting song leader during summer revival services at various churches in Carroll County and other area Counties. That particular week Wilton was the song leader during the revival services at Center Baptist Church. He invited us to sing on the evening of the tongues incident.
Center Baptist is a small country church made up of sweet, loving people. I think there were no more than 50 or so people in attendance that night. The church folk greeted us with smiles and good will at the church door.
Seems I remember, Ina Jo and I had a little trouble finding the church and we were running later than we normally would have. As we pulled into the church grounds, Ina Jo wondered out loud if Wilton might have some extra peppermints. He was known for pretty much always having peppermints with him. We had not had time to stop and get our own. A cool mint always seems to be a good thing before singing.
So we asked Wilton when we got to the church and as expected, sure enough he had a bag of mints but said he hadn’t been able to find the peppermints. He said the mints were kind of hot but worked pretty well to clear the throat, so we both took one. At some point while talking with Wilton, Ina Jo looked at me wide-eyed and a little horrified, and whispered to look at Wilton’s tongue while he was talking. And I saw what she meant. Every time he opened his mouth to talk all you could see was his bright red tongue.
With our lightning quick minds we put two and two together so headed hurriedly back to the little women’s rest room. Us two grown women were taking brown paper hand towels we wetted with water and were frantically wiping our tongues. We started laughing so hard we were crying. We were both hoping we could change the color from bright red to a pink though an unnatural pink, maybe a bit less in your face than bright red.
We did alert Wilton and as far as you could tell he didn’t panic like we did into taking the steps to at least lessen the color of the bright red tongue. Difference between men and women, I am guessing.
At some point Ina Jo and I realized we had done all we could to remedy our problem.
Wilton started the song service with his usual enthusiasm. We really did try, but every time Wilton opened his mouth wide on one of the words we started shaking with laughter, while trying our best to hold it in and not look at each other which would have made it even harder to stifle the laughter.
We would get ourselves under control and then he’d open his mouth wide again at some point in the song and we would tremble with laughter all over again.
Wilton knew full well why we were laughing and when I saw his smile turn up on one side, I knew he was struggling a little not to laugh too.
It came our time to sing and we were resigned about our tongues. Then, of course then, the tape (our accompaniment was on cassette tape in those days) and/or the player started messing up. It sounded like a person who was falling down drunk trying to play a trumpet or the piano. The music would slow at parts and sound a little closer to normal on others. I believe we finally finished the song out acapella. We came away from the services with a little more humility and a funny story that we would recall for years to come, laughing again, even to this day.
Moral of the story, don’t take yourself too seriously and that God most certainly has a sense of humor. He created laughter so I figure there is a good chance he laughs at his children, with a twinkle in his loving eye.