The pastor's name is Gulley—I'd not met anyone with that name before, so I asked its ethnic background and suggested that he could tell people he was from the Gulla community on the South Carolina coast, and if his listener said, 'But that's a black community and you're white!', he could reply, 'The Federal Witness Protection Program is very good—they think of everything.'
And a couple in the church with whom we had lunch is named Monk, which reminded me of:
a) a children's poem/song:
'I went to the animal fair.
The birds and beasts were there.
The old baboon by the light of the moon
Was combing his auburn hair.
The monk said, 'This is the bunk',
And climbed on the elephants trunk.
The elephant sneezed and fell on his knees
And that was the end of the monk, the monk, the monk, the monk....'
b) a joke: a man dressed in a medieval monk's costume because he's an actor and in a play, and he was running late, so speeding, and a traffic policeman pulled him over. 'All right, where's the fire?', looked in the window, 'Oh, I'm sorry, father, I didn't know it was you.' The man replied, 'That's all right, my son.' The policeman said, 'Well, father, I'm Catholic myself, so I won't give you a ticket, just a warning, but this is a residential neighborhood, lots of kids running around, and we wonder if you'd hold it down.' The man said he would, the policeman said, 'Maybe I'll see you sometime in mass', and the man said, 'Depart in peace.' As he drove away, his wife was FURIOUS with him: 'What you did was deceitful and dishonest! You know what he thought you were, don't you?' 'Yes, honey, but I don't know what he thought you were.'
The catfish, hushpuppies and baked potato were truly outstanding.
That night I had church with friends I've had since I was in college, and their kids and grandkids. Also stimulating conversation about education—elementary, secondary and tertiary—since the family has people experienced in all of these levels. And they, being Texans, all say (of course) that Texas is the best place wherein to teach and move and have one's being. They are the Boatmans. I said that a person might initially think that 'Boatman' would be of English ancestry, but actually it's Russian, as in 'Volga Boatman'. That made me think that they could have named their daughter 'Olga'—Olga Boatman! The father said, 'I think she likes "Melanie" better'.
Tuesday night service was hosted by a pastor named Grindle, which made me hungry for pancakes because pancakes are also called griddle-cakes. And he's named Baxter, reminding me of Richard Baxter, great Puritan theologian. He's also named Jordan, reminding me of:
a. my parents' albums of George Beverly Shea singing, among other songs, 'Roll, Jordan, Roll'
b. albums of quartets singing 'Jordan' songs, including the bass leading with 'Roll on, mighty old river/ to that sweet forever...' and later the high tenor sailing in with 'roll, Jordan, ro-o-o-o-oll'
Many songs refer to 'crossing Jordan' as a metaphor for death, and yet this has, as far as I recall, no Biblical citation. Instead, a river crossing being a metaphor for death comes from Egyptian and, following them, Greek mythology. Rock music fans among my readers might be happy to know that the Greek river named is the Styx.
And a couple in the church whose last name is Posey. Now that's a poser (at least, I heard that expression as a kid, meaning 'riddle, something that makes you pose and think). And they have a baby named Everlee, so I suggested they could adapt the song 'Wouldn't It Be Luverly' from 'My Fair Lady', insert 'Everlee' for 'Luverly', and write new lyrics! Yes!
And the town was Alto. I was an alto, maybe even a soprano, in my fourth grade choir days when at Sunrise School our choir sang selected choral numbers from Handel's 'Messiah'--'For Unto Us A Child Is Born', 'All We Like Sheep', 'Hallelujah' chorus and probably others--my classmates might remember some of the others we sang. While in that choir, two of us boys' voices were so high that we sang with the girls.
Those high-voice days are gone—in my senior year of high school at Faith Academy, I sang as the admiral, a baritone part, in 'HMS Pinafore', a Gilbert and Sullivan comic light opera. Also during my high school in the Philippines, Gordon Mallory had me sing bass in a short-lived quartet he formed. I was more baritone than bass, so some of the lower notes came a bit growly from me. I had to solo on the 'Jonah' verse of 'Keep On Holding On'.
I also spoke with the pastor my concerns and views on youth ministry, not knowing he was the district youth president—like people who spoke about Jesus, not knowing they were speaking to Jesus!
An elementary school classmate whom I told about this asks, ‘Is that a 'death' or 'life' metaphor? Without investigating I always thought it was a reversal of the classic image by a change of destination from Hades to 'the land of promise'. I do enjoy your bad puns, Stan. Makes me feel less lonely’. He made a good point about death being a change of destination. And I certainly do love the songs. Since he wants puns: the reference to quartets reminds me of a college professors' quartet I saw in action, their roles being First Tuna, Second Tuna, Barricuda and Bass. Also, would life after death in Greek mythology involve a game of 'Pick Up Styx'?
The following Wednesday night was at a church in Palestine, TX: I told them i can now tell everyone I ministered to the Palestinians.
I play in every church my Indian banjo. Since I already had services in Alabama, I can truthfully tell people, 'I came from Alabama with my banjo on my knee'.
I tell them about the traffic accident (head-on collision with a truck in India, Thanksgiving Day, 2014), after which orthopedic surgeons put a high-class titanium German rod in my arm (so I now can tell German people I meet that at least one part of me is high-class German). And the medical staff—doctors, nurses, physiotherapists, administrators) at that hospital were so wonderful that I can truthfully say, 'their rod and their staff, they comfort me.'
This church had an enthusiastic group of children who join in praying for people and a balanced congregation of seniors, middle-aged, younger couples, children. A strong congregation devoted to Jesus Christ. I was happy to be with them, enjoyed it tremendously.
The next evening I had a great dinner with a Super Trooper (pastor in Carthage, TX). He has an interested, lively way of speaking—reminds of Jesse Williams—it's a joy to be with an older man who has not settled down, but is curious and alive to the world around him, interested in people. He found out I like sea food, so we went to a local Southern seafood restaurant. As we walked in and a family walked out with take-out boxes, I asked them, 'Did you take MY piece?'. A waitress heard that, so she regaled us with humor through the rest of our visit, and we tried to encourage her, because she resembles Britney Spears, to start a singing act in the restaurant, since they could charge a cover price for entry and make more money! The pastor also took me to the 'Footprints in the Sands' sculpture, which I have featured on a post on my Instagram page, and pastoral friend Michael Gurley alerted me to the fact that Jim Reeves' tomb/memorial is in the area, so I saw that the next morning and posted that photo also on Instagram before heading on my way--didn't have a chance to see Texas Country Music Hall of Fame, also there.
The great Cato ended every speech in the Roman Senate with the words, 'dalenda est Cathargo' (sp?) 'Carthage must be destroyed', and eventually Rome did destroy Carthage (see Punic Wars). But I wish THIS Carthage God's blessing, protection and prosperity.
Friday evening I enjoyed with a dear friend I hadn't seen in years. He used to weigh 405 lbs and enjoyed my rendition of 'Fat Man's Prayer' (see this title on Stanley Scism channel, Youtube). When I met him, he had lost 155 lbs (as Billy Cole used to say, 'I've lost a whole person'), but thanks to his Facebook profile photo, I recognized the new him. His speaking voice has outstanding timbre. I asked what his singing voice is like and he said, 'Pathetic.'
His son loves classical music. Excellent to find a civilized person. This son and his wife are both nurse practitioners (when I get around TWO nurse practitioners like this, I feel doubly healthy). They have two sons, one of whom immediately, as soon as I told one joke, was ready with a barrage of many. I like him—reminds me of me! Nice to have a mind not cooped up like that.
When we travel, where to sleep? On the first night of my first fundraising tour in the USA, I slept on the couch in the pastor's house. On early journeys in Canada, almost always I stayed in pastor's homes, and in the USA in hotel rooms.
Pastoral homes: I stayed in one daughter's bedroom—I had to remove what seemed like about 37 stuffed toys off the bed. I stayed in a friend's home, in a son's bedroom—Star Wars sheets, so I know the Force is with me. If I ever stay on Star Trek sheets, I know I'll live long and prosper—hello, Kenneth Copeland. One friend warns me that when I come, I get his son's bed, on Angry Birds sheets and with a hamster in the corner of the room. That's fine with me if it's OK with the hamster.
Occasionally i stayed in 'guest quarters' (by various names) in different churches, and these vary considerably. I remember a place years ago in Louisiana in the basement near the furnace. I remember a room in Indiana where the door hadn't been put on its hinges yet. I remember a place in Florida where cockroaches came out at night so big that they had names! And fangs! And Social Security numbers! I remember a place in Texas that had about 100 candles in it—I didn't know if they were anticipating an electricity blackout or if they were converting to Catholicism—or Buddhism—or aromatherapy.
Usually, I stay in hotels. Some chains that were perhaps long ago good have long since fallen into the doldrums—I remember a Howard Johnson's, and I'll probably sleep in my car before staying in one again. Day's Inn has really declined—there was a good one in Washington State until they upgraded to another brand. I think Hampton Inn is colorless and blah—for the same price, you can get La Quinta, and it's usually better—there are, of course, exceptions to both generalizations. I notice a greater prevalence this year of chocolate chip cookies at various hotels—a trend that I encourage.
And I do wish each place had a writing-typing table and chair—I'm a writer and also have reports/correspondence/paperwork to do, so having a large enough work area is important. Most places do, but some places we get stuck in for days don't.
But most, I love the people: the families in whose homes or the checkin staffs of the hotels where I stay. I have played games with pastors or other friends and their families in various homes, have enjoyed talking with hotel and restaurant personnel, and am blessed with friends whom I'll probably have my whole life.
A friend says about these descriptions, ‘So awesome to wake up early and again be blessed by your unique humor. Where to sleep? Really blessed me and woke me up to the unique possibilities you face traveling through America and other countries and the sacrifice for the cause of Jesus Christ to share The Gospel. Men of God should never wonder where they should sleep.’ She glad her church has a place for ministers to stay, and adds, ‘My prayer would be every Pastor would be cognizant of that need and open their home and the Kings bed to’ guest ministers.
Another person says, ‘I'm sure there are scenarios that you dare not share on paper!’ That person will notice I didn't provide names. And, yes, there are even more interesting experiences while overseas—and some in the USA.
A former full-time missionary, now pastor, says, ‘I guess they think you are a missionary and missionaries can rough it. Been there, done that here and in many other countries. I now ask for them to get me a nice clean hotel with air.’
A relative reminds, ‘Don't forget the loveseat double recliner furniture piece in living room you slept on here that tipped to fall on over you when you got up! Oh my, my hopeful idea was to help the man of God to be assured of that cruse of oil unfailing!’ I'd forgotten about that. Yes—when it is designed to balance your leg weight against your upper body weight, and then you move your legs too far up, the whole thing tilts back.
I remember a toilet seat in India so covered with dust that I'm sure the family never used that particular bathroom, although it's amazing they didn't clean it up before having a guest visit. If the goal was to not have a guest return, the ploy succeeded.
Another friend says, ‘I do loved reading your stories. Have fond memories of you staying in our home in Bonnie Scotland you are a precious man of God. Hope we get to meet again.’ Same here.
A former pastor says, ‘Hope you enjoyed Los Alamos' quarters. We sure enjoyed you. Hopefully Chris St. John didn't have any cockroaches with names.’ Chris St John is a baseball fan. So am I. How could we not get along?
When I was 11 years old, I slept on a Las Vegas parking lot in a sleeping bag with my cousin (age 8) and his dad in two-sleeping-bags-zipped-together because our combined families, like Mary and Joseph, could find no room at the inn (in our case, though not in Mary's and Joseph's, on the way to Disneyland). The only disconcerting factor was the semis rumbling across the parking lot, headlights glaring over our sleeping bag, as we tried to sleep.
After the next Sunday morning’s church and fellowship dinner, I wandered through a Sunday school class where kids were playing with two muppets—one pink and one blue, which inspired me to adapt lyrics of a song:
'Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world--
Blue and pink, we're blue and pink. Jesus loves us both, I think.
Jesus loves the little children of the world.
Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world--
Pink and blue, we're pink and blue. Jesus loves both me and you.
Jesus loves the little children of the world.'
And in the restaurant the previous (Saturday) night, we were served by a very short waitress, so I told her this (which I dedicate to all short people everywhere):
a. if anyone gives you lip for being short, say (from Tumbleweeds comic strip, the little deaf-mute brave): 'You are indeed fortunate that I am not wearing a long-sleeved shirt, for were I, I would be forced to roll up my sleeves and black your kneecap.'
b. and/or say: 'Next time we travel by plane, while you try to fold yourself up like a pocketknife to fit in your seat, I'm comfortable'
c. and/or say: 'Computers used to be room-sized; now, palm-sized. Microphones used to be big steel boxes; now, on the lapel. Cameras used to be big wooden boxes with curtains behind; now, tiny on a medical instrument and right through your body! When things keep getting smaller, we call this "progress".'
Once when I was in college and our family visited the Moehlenpahs, I asked Glenda, 'How's the weather down there?' She was ready with an answer: she pretended to dust off my shoulder and said, 'It's warm down here, but it looks like it's snowing on the peak.'
And remember Bill Cosby's routine about karate: he'd thought up a way to respond to a mugging—he planned to whirl around and attack at head height. Then it happens—'Gimme your dough'. He whirls around, strikes straight out, but the mugger is a midget who says, 'What are you, some kind of song and dance man? C'mon, gimme your dough before I blow your kneecap off!'
There was a song, 'Little People' saying something about how 'little people with their grubby little hands...little people will get you every time'—it was a hit on the jockey circuit.
One person 5’2”, another person 4’10” and a third person quite short told me they relate to and love this.