Cotton Ivy was the Commissioner of Agriculture for the state of Tennessee from 1989-1995. The building in the picture is named after him: the L.H. “Cotton” Ivy Laboratory at Ellington Agricultural Center in Nashville, Tennessee.
Once when I was a student at the University of Tennessee Martin, Cotton Ivy asked me and a few of my friends if we would like to go to church with him one night. We said yes, and he drove us to a Pentecostal church in Kennett, Missouri.
I had never been to a Pentecostal church before and had no idea what to expect. (I grew up Presbyterian.) The small building was packed with people. Cotton led my friends and I down to the front row.
To begin the meeting, the preacher stood up and passionately quoted a Bible verse: The God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly. Then he said to the congregation: “Now we are going to stomp on the devil!”
Suddenly a small band began to play loudly and almost everybody in the building (except for my friends and me), including Cotton Ivy, began to jump up and down to the beat of the drums, stomping on the devil. I was quite uncomfortable, however, after about 5 minutes, I began to jump and stomp on the devil with them. We did this for about a half an hour.
Then they had an enthusiastic revival service with singing and preaching. After the preaching people began to run around the pews shouting loudly and circling the building over and over, while the band played enthusiastically.
My friends and I soon joined in and began to run with the Pentecostals (I’ve never run with the bulls). We were running so fast, that I had to grab hold of the corner pews to keep myself from crashing into a wall every I turned a corner.
By this time, I was feeling something stirring in my heart. After we all stopped running, Cotton asked me and my friends if we had ever been baptized in water. None of us had been. So Cotton asked the preacher if we could have a baptism.
So, one after another, we were baptized. When each one of us came up from the water, we felt so excited about God that we each one ran around the building by ourselves, shouting and praising God. Afterwards, the band kicked in for more rejoicing and praising God. The meeting lasted for many hours.
Although, I’ve never run around in a church service again, the memory of that night still excites me and sometimes makes me smile. I am so glad that Cotton Ivy wasn’t just about agriculture and the harvest of crops, but also wanted to see a spiritual harvest in people’s lives.
His love for the living, resurrected Jesus was contagious. Like the Pentecostal song says: “I got it, I got it. Something ’bout the power of the Holy Ghost, I just can’t explain it, but I got it.”
The flag in the picture is The Salvation Army flag. The red stands for the blood of Jesus, the yellow for the fire of the Holy Spirit, and the blue for a lifestyle of following and obeying the living, resurrected Jesus Christ. The boldness I learned from Cotton Ivy has helped me to carry that flag around Nashville, Tennessee, praying for revival and spiritual awakening in our city! Lord, send your fire!