Also amazing: this church has been growing up keyboard players for generations and exporting them to other churches, and STILL they have a super-abundance because they keep training new ones. It's fascinating.
Same thing with the congregation: you'd expect that, when you have a large group of children, this baby boom would move through the church to become a large youth group, then a large young adult group, and so on. But this church keep on producing new generations of kids—they seem to take as personal responsibility God's command to 'go forth, multiply and fill the earth'.
On one visit, I attended the annual agricultural show and had an interesting time contrasting pigs and sheep. The pigs were very curious and the people leading them on a leash would, if the particular pig were particular fair-skinned, see a welt developing on the part of the pig's neck where they had to keep whacking them with the thin stick to keep them on the straight and narrow. Of course, if the pigs got a chance, they'd go for the mud. The sheep, by contrast, were very obedient. When they were brought before the judge, the person bringing the sheep would hold one hand under the rib cage, the other hand under the jaw, and lift the sheep up to hold that pose for the judges, and the sheep would respond the way we should at the photographer's—you know how they pull or push you into a 'natural' pose and you say, 'Natural?! I've never held this pose in my life!', but you hold it and then everyone says what a good photo that was. (Perhaps this represents our innocent 'nature' before the Fall—and great was the Fall thereof.)
The agricultural fair also contained chickens—I didn't think there was much to check on a chicken for an agricultural fair other than plumage and maybe the rooster's ability to strut and crow, but the judges were feeling its body as if they were contemplating what a dinner it would make.
The church in this community has great people, a strong congregation and I am pleased to call them my friends.
One lady said that her church had an organ. That reminded me of a joke: After a big Thanksgiving dinner, older adults would all go to the living room for what children called 'The Organ Recital': "oh, my heart, my stomach, my kidneys, my liver...."
The next day, I traveled to a friend’s home and that evening enjoyed making new friends at a gathering there. We get to talk about God's Word and ministry and simply enjoy being with each other.
The day after that, I lunched with new friends with whom I have many mutual acquaintances in the Northwest USA, and after that visited and had a great conversation with a retired Scism Christian University teacher. Imagine being 95, healthy, painting, teaching others to paint, playing the piano for a singing group and teaching home Bible studies that get people baptized! As another friend said, ‘If the Lord tarries, I certainly hope I have that much pep in my step at 95.’
And the next night, Wednesday, I spoke on 'Building'. One of the illustrations: Nehemiah's citizens of Jerusalem building the wall. You didn't know that these citizens included a parrot, an octopus, a hippopotamus, a bobcat, a fox and an otter, did you? I demonstrated that with puppets, and you learned something new today.
And I did this with friends who are both so smart that when I am with them I feel a double-blessing mantle of omniscience descending upon me—almost.
Driving from Houston (TX) to Hastings (NE), the dull part was on the freeways in Texas, Oklahoma and part of Kansas. The interesting part is when I left the interstate to drive two-lane highways the last part through rolling countryside, wind blowing waves of grain. cattle grazing in woods. I thought of history and literature (Bleeding Kansas, cow towns of Dodge City, Abilene and Wichita, Amelia Earhart, astronauts, Eisenhower, Wild Bill Hickok, Kansas-Nebraska Act, Willa Cather pioneer novels, Lewis and Clark, Oregon Trail, Buffalo Bill Cody, Chimney Rock, Wounded Knee), family memories (the hotels and Nickerson Farms restaurant in Hays or Colby, KS, where we always stopped when my mom, sister and I travelled from St Louis to Idaho and Oregon to see relatives and attend camps), friends (churches all over the state whom I have visited and whose company I have enjoyed before) and humor (Carhenge, and the guy from Mississippi who was going to sell his hogs in Omaha rather than in Baton Rouge because he could get a slightly higher price, and didn't mind the time it would take to get the hogs to Omaha because 'what's time to a hog?').
Western Nebraska has a long north-south line of escarpments—west of that is sagebrush country. This is called the Sage of Omaha (if you say, 'THAT'S not the Sage of Omaha!', I will reply with 'I'm warren you not to buffet me with your words!'). And when people harass him, he loses his temper and goes dark red with rage. The people who provoke him to wrath are called Riders of the Purple Sage. When he puts his clothes on, it's sage dressing. He inherited his initial fortune from his Uncle Parsley, and plans to leave it to his daughter Rosemary in Thyme.
Nebraska also has a town near a dam on the Missouri River, which bills itself as 'best town by a dam site'.
When people of Nebraska speak of the degenerate East, they mean Iowa.
A friend tells me, ‘During WW2, we moved to Nebrasks so my father could work for the airplane factory—Mom was a riveter—(her name was not Rosie--it was Gertrude—so she was Gertie the Riveter.) We lived in Bellevue, just south of Omaha. Many of my family still lives there.’
When I talked about this literature and history, a friend asked what my top ten books were, in order. That's like asking Old Mother Hubbard which of her children are her top ten. I'll start with: 1) the Bible; 2) Pilgrim's Progress, by John Bunyan; 3) Imitation of Christ, by Thomas a Kempis.
I attended a conference in Nebraska. Wonderful worship, even though I was ill with a disease or injury internally picked up at a guest quarters in Texas.
At the restaurant after church Saturday with a group of people, I saw one kid in a Darth Vader jersey, so I told him this joke:
Q: What did Darth Vader say to Luke Skywalker?
A. 'I know what you got for Christmas; I felt your presents.'
(the kid held his head)
And later a daughter of good friend who has also taught at Scism Christian University introduced herself. Since her father is brilliant and a good friend, I guessed she would be, too, and her kids. I also asked how her mother is doing recovering from heart surgery, and she said her mom is coming along very well. Thank God for that.
Saturday evening, I visited a college friend and his family. He has a sister named after an elderly friend of mine, and worthy to carry the name of that wonderful person.
I hadn't seen my college friend for forty years! Now he has this fantastic head of snow white hair, contrasted with jet-black arched eyebrows, and his van dyke carries the middle ground, being gray—a classy, snazzy combination reminding me a bit of Amitabh Bachhan (Indian actor), except that Amitabh doesn't have eyebrows as cool as my college friend’s. He used USED to have a beard as long and impressive as a OT prophet's, and with those arched eyebrows, he could look as if he were about to start rebuking the sins of the people, but this time he had trimmed it back to the aforementioned classy van dyke. Still, if he wants to go into survivalist mode, he can return to the full, long beard, stash ammo and tins of food on the hill, let the mustache ends grow out so he can wax them into a curl that complements the arched eyebrows, wear paramilitary paraphernalia, or star in a movie about it all, carrying himself with his customary élan.
After church on Sunday, I visited still another retired teacher from Scism Christian University, and his wife, both dear friends. He had grown a beard, kept it for about seven years and bore a striking resemblance to a certain famous person who lives near the North Pole and rides a reindeer-drawn sleigh every Christmas Eve, but he has economized by trading in his reindeer for a very classy German shepherd dog, who looks like a gentle shepherd who could, if he wanted to, bite your face off but instead is very well mannered, even apologetic ('I hope I'm not offending anyone here'), full of energy and strength. That’s the dog. The retired teacher had decided he didn't want hair in his mouth, so he shaved the beard about two months previous.
Both he and his wife have gone through many illnesses in their retirement. He's had liver failure for about seven years and now has other problems as well. She bruised or cracked a rib, so of course is in a lot of pain (I broke three ribs in a fall in Scotland in 2001, so I know about this). I request readers to please pray in Jesus name for their healing.
By that Sunday night, I reached the home of dear friends in eastern Iowa. The next morning I breakfasted with his father—you can't get more Irish than eating at Riley's with a McCoy. And as soon as the waitress had taken the order and that was out of the way, he IMMEDIATELY launched into a discussion over a Bible passage. This LOVE of the Word is something I'd like to see more often. We had a great time and a long breakfast.
The previous evening, with Everett's and Rhonda's kids, I told them (since they're from Iowa) about, when I was in elementary school, annually taking the Iowa Test of Basic Skills, courtesy of my elementary school principal, who is also from Iowa. The break between tests was by singing, faster and faster, with movements up and down, 'The Grand Old Duke of York':
'THE grand old Duke of York
HE had ten thousand men.
HE marched them up the hill [all stand up]
And he marched them down again [all sit down]
AND when you're up, you're up [all stand up]
AND when you're down, you're down [all sit down]
AND when you're only half-way up [all half-stand, crouch]
You're neither up [all stand up] nor down [all sit down].'
Start slowly, accelerate with each verse.
I've adapting the song for Sunday school/children's ministry, thus:
'WHEN David fled from Saul,
HE had six hundred men...'
(rest of the song is the same).
My host is a computer wizard. I bow before his technologically omniscient presence.
A relative says, ‘You were with my family! How I miss them!! I can just see my three little nieces singing that song with gusto! And eating at Riley's and having long conversations about the Word of God is SO my dad!’
These great friends mentioned in this post are scattered from Texas to Nebraska to Iowa, and they have relatives and friends scattered still further—from India to the NW USA. Someday, all of those who have responded to Jesus Christ will be together.