Sunday, January 08, 2006

South Padre Sunday and Crab Orchard Sunday

Just a week ago, Gerald and I had Brian and Mary Ellen drop us off at Island Baptist Church as they left South Padre in their rented car to return to Houston airport and catch their plane to St. Louis. (A long car trip with two children in the back seat was ahead of them.)

We enjoyed an excellent Sunday School teacher in a class of "Winter Texans." Everyone was so friendly, and the upcoming activities so attractive that I found myself temporarily wanting to become a "winter Texas" as opposed to a "weekend Texan."

The best was yet to be when we went into the crowded auditorium filled to capacity with chairs set up in the aisles. (They have a building program going to to relocate to a larger place to hold people who want to attend the services. It was announced that today the congregation would change to three services to hold the influx of "winter Texans." There will be two traditional services and one service more contemporary as the one we attended last week was. The pastor invited folk to come to all three if they wished but admitted he would preach the same sermon at all of them.)

A friendly soul shook our hand as we entered and said, "I'm Bill." And we soon discovered he was the pastor. The music was great, and Bill's sermon has stayed with us all week inspiring and encouraging us to put first things first as Mary did when she sat at Jesus' feet rather than attending to "duties." I could easily imagine what Bill meant when he said he found he was often in the Martha-mode when he took his pastoral and counselling duties too seriously and forgot to sit at Jesus' feet first and then fill his left-over time with those duties.

We walked back to our hotel with balmy breezes as we started out making the temperature just perfect. We stopped for lunch at a new KFC and some of the folk we had just met at the service smiled and spoke to us. The longer we walked after lunch, the more the breezes seemed to slow down. With the temperature in the 80s, we got warm before we finished our two-mile walk, but we enjoyed it. We reached the hotel to find family playing on the beach again. Wedding pictures were already available on the groom's laptop. That evening after great hamburgers at a local eatery with the wedding party, we gathered in the lounge to view the photos and eat left-over wedding cake. Some went to Wal-Mart and brought us all a disk of the photos.

Although yesterday was spring-like, today I woke up here in Southern Illinois with a heavy wind catching the screen on the top of the swing on our deck. I went out quickly in pajamas and changed the screen the opposite way fearing the swing might crash into the house. It was really quite warm for January at 69 degrees this afternoon, but the wind was strong all day whipping our flag and this afternoon messing up hair anytime we were out of the car on the way to the Genealogical Society of Southern Illinois where we went to hear about the excavation of Camp Wilkerson in Massac County.

Brian, Trent, and Brianna had showed up at the farm yesterday afternoon as Brian said it was too pretty to stay in the city. (Mary Ellen had to stay at home.) While his parents were in town working on their house, Samuel was supposed to take a nap here because of having spent Friday night with his friend Josh and consequently getting less than a full-night's sleep. He was in rest mode when his cousins arrived, but then there were things he would rather do than nap. The kids played hard till l0 p.m. By 11 except for David who was still at work, I think everyone was mostly through the bed switching and finally settling down. Poor Brian ended up with two kids in bed with him tho they started in other places.

He and Gerald got up early to go have breakfast in town with brother Kenny--something Brian enjoys. He took stuff up to their camper (closed down for the winter months) and checked out his farm while he was here, and he and Gerald looked at last year's records and made plans for next year. The Cedars slept a litle later this morning, but Samuel was up with the cousins since he knew they'd soon be leaving for Lake Saint Louis.

Gerald and I headed off to Sunday School in our village church, where the 35 in Sunday School were joined by a few more in morning worship. Unlike Island Baptist, we had plenty of extra seating. Our pastor, Sam, preached on Nehemiah, which he thought was going to be appropriate January Bible study for our congregation since we are contemplating building a new fellowship hall sometime in the future. We need extra space on the ground floor where we can gather for the frequent dinners and fellowship times we enjoy without having to worry about people climbing stairs or being bothered by allergens in the basement. We decided sometime ago, we would rather use money on a new hall than to install an elevator or lift of some kind.

Living in a rural area where the coal mines closed down, we have gradually lost a good many members who had to move from the area. Others from the city have moved into our area, and sometimes we succeed in convincing them that we want them to worship with us. A touching part of today's service was a heartfelt goodbye on the part of a young family who joined us last spring. Thanking us for our love and prayers and asking the prayers to continue as they move on as the husband's job requires, the wife did not realize how thankful we were that they sought our services out and joined in helping in Vacation Bible School, choir, Sunday School, and countless other ways of participation. Because we are a small community with a small congregation, we love fresh new faces and learning new life stories and enjoying delightful new children in our midst.

There were similarities and differences between services in a crowded church and worship in a small church such as Center in Crab Orchard, where everyone knows most everyone and we all feel the other person's children and grandchildren are almost ours as well. Both kinds of churches have their advantages and disadvantages, but fortunately both kinds have access to the throne of the Creator.

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