At the invitation of my long time BFF in Iowa, Helga and I met Jack and his wife Joan in little (population 10,500) Branson, Missouri for five days to take in a number of the 100 or so country and western show and events. I am not writing this blog to brag on our vacation, but to brag on the Lord for His awesomeness.
The drive to Missouri and back was a welcome break itself. The topography of the thirty mile from Springfield south to Branson is magnificent. Massive limestone road cuts and the steep, seemingly endless hills of hardwood forests beautifully illustrate God’s almighty hand in creation.
The musical shows and other activities were both entertaining and inspiring; everything from the nearly football field-sized theater stage of the Sights and Sounds performance of Jonah, to the famous Thorncrown Chapel, which rises forth-eight feet into the Ozark sky in Eureka Sprints, Arkansas, only a few miles from Branson. Critics have called this solemn glass and wooden structure “one of the finest religious spaces of modern times.”
The author of a book about Thorncrown’s miraculous happening titled God Is a Gift was written by the twenty-seven year-long pastor of this very chapel. He writes: “The scriptures reveal a purpose so great that it compels worship. God wanted a creation, but He would not merely bless His creation. He would call to service One to whom He would give the greatest gift possible–Himself. Thus we were made to possess the gift of God.
As for food during our visits that week, our server at one small restaurant said, “Our blackberry cobbler is to dine for.” We gasped in delight at its taste. Helga gave up the last few bites of her share when she took pity on my drooling. Now, before you judge me, although giving is a gift, so, too, is the ability to receive a gift. (–:
Aside from the many blessings of having been able to spend meaningful time with best friends, two other events stood out for us: One was a spectacular outdoor evening drama with thirty or more players, some galloping on horseback and others in mule-drawn wagons. The play has been produced in Branson for fifty-five years, and is called the “Shepherd of the Hills.” I was so intrigued by Jack and Joan’s advance endorsement of the play that I read the 384 pages of the giant print book of this 1909 Ozark hills story during the four days prior to our attending the performance.
The second event mentioned above was the opportunity to pray aloud at our table with yet another restaurant server; someone who as having some health problems. Before I could lift her up in prayer, however, she dashed out to tell another worker that we were going to pray for her and brought the cashier back to join our circle. We were all blessed by that moment.
Paraphrasing how Doug Reed, author of God Is a Gift, puts it, not all of us will answer the how of creation, but we will all answer the why. Whether we will be conscious of our answer or not, we will answer the question in how we relate to God and to each other. As for how God measures our success, He does do with the yardsticks of obedience, faithfulness, and righteousness (justified in Christ, not in ourselves). If we are faithfully doing the work God has given us, we are successful in His eyes.
P.S. If you are into Facebooking and You Tubing, check out my latest one-minute juggling-and-talk video of another of my own books; this one being The Seeker, one man’s struggle with faith and marriage.