November 3, 2019


Church in the Windshield

Mount Olivet Christian Church
September 15, 2019

One of the neat things about writing blogs is that we get to see (and write) about new churches and meet new people. This particular Sunday was no exception. We had just seen the Ark Encounter Museum and thought it was just out of this world wonderful and exciting (Please see the previous blog). On this particular Sunday though, we were looking for a church to attend in the Williamstown, Kentucky area. I got on the internet and began searching for churches in the area. One church that caught my attention and interest was the Mount Olivet Christian Church. Perhaps it was because the picture of it was a very modern up to date church or perhaps it was just a sense that we might enjoy
that church on this particular day. I showed the picture and write up to Sheron and said, “I think this would be a great church to attend today,” and she agreed. So we made the short drive from our camp ground (The Three Springs Campground) to the church. Lucille, our GPS, was most helpful when it came to finding our way. Upon arrival we saw this interesting marque. We stopped and studied the marque for a while and then took some pictures. There was just something about the marque that drew us to the church. Was it the stones . . . the cross . . . the mount? At any rate, we were excited to get to attend the church service.

We drove down to the parking lot and saw that the entrance of the church was ‘buzzing” with happy excited people . . . happy people that they knew about God . . . excited to share the good news of Jesus Christ. Certainly there was a warm and inviting spirit about this place.

There was a welcoming line that extended from the front doors of the church to the edge of the parking-lot. Both young and old extended their “hand shake welcomes” and greeted us with “Thanks for coming . . . we are so glad that you have come to worship with us today.”  Why, I suspect that there were at least a dozen people who greeted us outside the church that morning. From that moment on, we felt like we were a part of the church family. Upon entering the church, we were greeted by another group of people and they each in turn welcomed us. “Here is a bulletin for the worship service” they said. “Would you like a cup of coffee?” “Would you like to sign our electronic register so we can properly welcome you?” Like clock-work it went and soon we entered the sanctuary with a warm afterglow of being treated well.

The theater type sanctuary was most interesting with different colored lights and points of interest. Pink or blue lights outlined the stage and worship area. We thought it was nice touch.

 A cross in the corner of the sanctuary caught our eye; we focused on it and thought this church with modern media still keeps “the main thing . . . the main thing.” The main thing is the sharing of the good news of Jesus Christ. As we gazed upon the cross and the worship area beside the cross, we were reminded of Jesus being on the cross. A shadow of the cross on the wall reminded us of the past history of the cross and connected the cross to our present day understanding and meaning.

Our attention was then focused on the stage and worship area of the sanctuary. We observed the provisions for a praise band. Our minds wondered a bit while we prepared our thoughts and minds to focus on worship. We didn’t have long to wait though for the song leader invited everyone to stand and we sang a number of songs with the words printed on two giant monitors for easy reading. The singing was so upbeat and uplifting that we instantly experienced a sense of the Holy Spirit. God was indeed in this place.

The service progressed and Pastor Mark Messmore (new to Mount Olivet in July) delivered a very timely, ordained by God, message. The message presented in modern day style challenged our thinking and gave us a spiritual nugget of encouragement, grace and hope.

When the service ended, we had the joy of meeting and visiting with new found friends. One in particular, Jeremiah (not his real name) visited with us at length and we experienced a bonding friendship. We shall call his name Jeremiah meaning lifted up by God because he shared a God given gift with us. The gift he shared with us was that of listening, caring, and sharing God’s message. In this busy world, we sometimes forget how important it is just to communicate.

After a great time of worship and sharing, we headed back to the camp ground still in the warm after-glow of God’s presence. What a positive send off for our journey back to Kansas the next day.

When we arrived back at the campground, we decided to check our e-mails one more time before packing to travel and there it was. “You got mail . . . Thanks for coming to the worship service today.”

Until next time, safe travel, keep the faith and communicate God’s love.

Ron & Sheron, drivers behind the windshield

 

October 16, 2019


Church in the Windshield

Ark Encounter
Williamstown, Kentucky

September 12, 2019
 


Sheron and I have always been intrigued with the Biblical story of Noah’s Ark. We followed documentaries of the ark and traced its possible finding on Mount Ararat. We could not even begin to fathom the actual size of the ark until we saw this life size replica. After seeing the ark, we think it should be considered as one of the great wonders of the world.
 
God recognized that Noah was very faithful to him and said, “Noah I am going to destroy the world but I will spare you and your family. I want you to build an ark and the length should be 510 feet, the width should be 85 feet and the height should be 51 feet. (Genesis 6:13-21 Paraphrased). Ark Encounter architects calculated cubits to feet and there was a lot of discussion about the length of a cubit.  The original ark took several decades for Noah and his three sons to build. The Ark Encounter took a whole team of skilled craftsmen a couple of years to build but they were using modern day tools to do the job.  

As we entered the Ark, we saw this sign and stopped to read it and this is what it said.

                WELCOME TO THE ARK
 
Noah is in his 600th year and much has happened. His father, Lamech, passed away five years ago, and his grandfather, Methuselah, died in the past year at the age of 969. Seven days ago, the Lord commanded Noah to enter the Ark along with his family.

So Noah, his wife, Emzara, and their three sons and their wives spent the past week loading the animals and are now storing the last of the provisions the Ark. They need to hurry . . . the storm is almost there. Of course, there were those who scoffed at Noah, after all it had taken several decades to build and there had never been rain.

Inside the three-story Ark, we saw massive pillars and we were on the second story. The picture is in and up toward the top of the Ark. There is no way to describe the size of these giant pillars fastened together with long large bolts. We stood there for a moment, pondering where these mammoth logs were found and how they were structured in the ark. Even more so, we wondered how Noah and his sons managed the logs for this huge structure. Was it just Noah and his sons or were there other workers as well.

It seems a bit strange to us to see the living quarters of Noah’s family. Perhaps it is because traditionally the awesomeness has been placed on all the animals that lived on the ark. In this particular picture we see at least some of the amenities that may have been on the ark. The man in the picture is carrying a basket of fresh vegetables. The spared ones on the ark did not know how long they would have to stay on the ark so they grew their own food. The decades of planning and building really began to “pay off.” No McDonalds or Burger Kings here.

They made their own clothes, their own rugs, and their own coverings. Here is a picture of the possible type of loom that might have been used during that time. Noah and his family were creative forward thinking people and the loom was an important tool for them.


Here is a picture of what might have been the ark oven where breads were made and cooking done. It is certainly different than the modern day glass top stoves and microwaves that we enjoy today. The clay type ovens would hold a constant heat for a long period of time which made it ideal for baking. I stood and looked at the oven for a while and thought it reminded me of a kiva like one that we have at our house.




Two highly skilled craftsmen are portrayed in the ark, one skilled in metal shaping and the other skilled in wood working. In a fleeting moment, we ask ourselves, “How can this be?” Then we are reminded once again about the building of the ark.  These knowledgeable craftsmen knew some form of mathematics and some way of measuring a cubit. They knew how to cut and install huge timbers; use thick massive lumber to fashion the hull of the ark and how to seal the boards with tar. It is likely that metal was used in tools to shape large wooden pegs to be pounded in place with a giant sized wooden mallet. Water would cause the pegs to swell making it impossible for the sides of the hull to come apart.


How, would you like to have this creature in a cage . . . or even have to feed it? Fortunately this creature was not a meat eater but rather a vegetarian as were all the animals in Noah’s time. Notice the slats beneath this creature. This creative idea was used to dispose of waste products from the animals. (There are some clearer pictures of this later in the blog) None the less, if this thing was in my house, I would sleep with one eye open.

Here is a picture of some of the many cages used to house birds. Notice the feeders and the water bottles mounted on the sides of the cage. Consequently, the birds had enough food and water to last for more than one day. The same thing was true of the other animals as well. Their cages had long chutes with large burlap covered containers on top. These containers were filled to the brim so they would not have to be filled every day. Unfortunately, I did not get a picture of those feeders.


Most of the animals looked different than the animals that we know today. I am not sure what this creature is or if we have descendants of it today. It is suggested that this animal is the forerunner of the crocodile. One cage had a couple of giraffes and their necks were about half the length of the giraffes of today.




Noah’s Ark was well supplied with water bottles and feed sacks to water and feed some forty seven hundred species of birds and animals.



Perhaps you have had the same question as we did of how the waste products disposed. The larger animals had bins underneath their cages to catch the waste products. Bird cages had sloped boards underneath their cages to channel waste products to a cleaning trough at the outside of the cage.

Finally, the animals are loaded; the great door of the ark is closed and sealed with tar. Noah and his family are huddled together and praying. Briefly, I imagine myself there with Noah and his family and try to capture what Noah is feeling. I experience awe . . . an incredible closeness to God . . . and painful sadness for those who chose not to be on the ark.



The prayer is finished now and in my mind’s eye, I start to see lightning . . . I hear thunder . . . in the distance at first and then louder and louder until almost defining. It’s starting to rain now . . . heavy rain . . . rain coming in torrential sheets like I have never seen in my entire life. I make my way to the hull of the ship where a torch is lit and wonder what will happen next. Several days have passed now and the rain keeps coming day and night . . . neither slowing nor relenting. It’s like a hundred stalled nerve-wracking hurricanes and I wonder if the ark will be able to stand it? But wait, I think I felt some movement . . . I once again hurry to the hull of the ship and watch . . . and wait . . . and listen. There are some creaking sounds and then, yes, there it is again, the ark is starting to move. Ever so gracefully the ark begins to float like God gently lifting it from the land in the palms of His hands. Forty days and forty nights now it has rained non-stop but the ark is floating and we are safe.

Until next time, remember God spared His people twice, once with an Ark and once with His son Jesus the Christ. Put your faith and trust in Jesus Christ and you will be safe.
 
Ron & Sheron, drivers behind the windshield

September 28, 2019


Church in the Windshield 
Stull United Methodist Church

September 8, 2019

Drive west of Lawrence on East 250 Road, Lecompton, Kansas to the address of 1596. There you will find a very unique United Methodist Church. This well-kept church symbolizes faith, hope, grace and prosperity. It’s an attractive building from the outside and is community serving from the inside.

The marquee at the front of the church says, “Welcome, Stull UMC United in Mission with Christ.” I pondered that statement for a moment and then went around on the other side of the building to take a few more pictures for the blog. The parking lot is on the back side of the church consequently, church members and visitors enter the back door of the church to attend the worship service.

The back of the church was just as impressive as the front of the church. It also left the impression that here was a congregation that took good care of their building. A closer look revealed some interesting things. There was a box on a pedestal and from a distance, I could not tell what it was. I walked up close to the box and saw a clever and unique idea. The box was a place to borrow or return a book and this out door library was often used by members of the church and community. What a wonderful way to encourage reading, I thought to myself, and here is another way of uniting with Christ in mission. 

A slight turn of the camera revealed a prayer garden. It was so peaceful, so quiet, so restful . . . so inviting. One could sit on the bench, meditate, pray or read God’s word and experience His presence in an awesome glorious way. Here is another form of outreach I surmised. Sometimes, it’s the little things that render the greatest spiritual awakenings . . . a prayer garden . . . the song of a meadow lark or the music of an exuberant house wren. I wonder sometimes, how many things God has made to enhance our lives and we are so busy . . . so pre-occupied that we miss them. Sheron and I saw a number of hummingbirds hovering in the air at a feeder and gave God thanks for the little reminders that He sent us.
After the birds sang there was a moment of deafening silence . . .   . Silence in the midst of sound is like a diamond on black velvet. I stood there for a quiet moment and gazed at the prayer garden. Surely, God was in this place.

The silence was broken when a friend of ours asked, “Would you like to see some of the things that our church is doing?” I responded with, “Yes, I would like that very much.”  “Follow me,” he said. A fleeting thought and a Bible scripture came to mind and I wondered if this was what the disciples might have felt when Jesus said, “Come . . . follow me.” (Matthew 4:19). I was escorted to the basement where I saw a well-organized rack of clothes that was available to the community as needed. There was a fully stocked
food pantry next to the clothing store. It was obvious that this church was equipped to be “United in Mission with Christ.”

Soon it was time for the service to begin and we made our way into the sanctuary along with other folk gathered for worship. This little church family greeted us each one with the warmest, sweetest “Hello’s . . . glad you are here.” Why I don’t think there was a person in church that morning that didn’t welcome us. For a little while we felt like we were truly a part of their flock.

A praise band consisting of a violin, bass guitar, piano player and two singers helped us focus as we began the praise worship service. Pastor Marshall Larson, new to the church this year, did an excellent job presenting the message entitled “Blessed Assurance,” and it was based on the scriptures of Psalm 139: 1-6, 13-18.

Psalm 139:13-18 New International Version (NIV)

13 For you created my inmost being;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
    your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
15 My frame was not hidden from you
    when I was made in the secret place,
    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;
    all the days ordained for me were written in your book
    before one of them came to be.
17 How precious to me are your thoughts,[a] God!
    How vast is the sum of them!
18 Were I to count them,
    they would outnumber the grains of sand—
    when I awake, I am still with you.
The above passage of scripture could certainly be a source of assurance to any Christian person . . . “Blessed Assurance.” The sermon title and the scripture cause me to think about the song in the Methodist hymnal where the words are in part . . . “Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine, Oh what a foretaste of Glory Devine . . .  .
Until next time keep the assurance in your heart and a song on your lips.
Ron & Sheron, drivers behind the windshield
 


 

September 2, 2019


Church in the Windshield
Treasure at Nicodemus
August 10, 2019

 

The Arrival
It’s about 9:45 Saturday morning; the campers have had breakfast and are getting ready for a day trip to Nicodemus. Our scheduled tour is for 10:30 so we should have plenty of time to get there. Nicodemus is about seven miles west of Lake Webster on highway 24. The travel is uneventful and in a few minutes we find ourselves parked in front of the old township hall where we will meet our tour guides. I have always been intrigued with Nicodemus and have been there a couple of times.

The sign out front bids us welcome and we know that we are about to experience some captivating history. I am excited to get started on the tour, especially if it is free. Free is good, but free does not begin to tell the story of the founders of Nicodemus. A group of freed slaves made their way from Kentucky to Kansas. Kansas, they were told, had great opportunity and a wonderful town that could be developed. There were buildings, sidewalks and plenty of available land to expand on. It could be the first black settlement in Kansas. One by one, folk boarded the train with a new hope and a new dream. One could hear in the minds ear, the “click-clack . . . click-clack” of the train as it rolled along on segmented sections of the ribbons of steal.  Life would be better now. Eventually, the train stopped in Ellis and as people disembarked they asked the conductor, “Where is this place?” The conductor replied, “Its north of here about thirty-five miles, I think.” With that, the conductor signaled the engineer and with a puff of steam and smoke belching from the smoke stack, the train continued down the track.

“Oh well, it’s only a minor set-back, things are going to be better.” With that, each passenger picked up their belongings and step by step headed north over the Kansas plains.

The Treasure
They finally reached the promised-land, a land filled with milk and honey; a land with hotels, houses and sidewalks. But, where are the houses, the hotels . . . and the sidewalks? All they could see was prairie land, jack rabbits and ground hogs. Was this the treasure that was promised to them in Kentucky? None the less, they were free now and they would make the most of it. Land could be purchased, a hundred and sixty acres (a quarter of a section) for the price of five dollars. The freed slaves bought the land and began to develop it. Nicodemus, they called the place, the first black settlement in Kansas. Eventually, some three hundred people made their way from Georgetown Kentucky to Nicodemus. The railroad promised to build a track through Nicodemus which would supply the community with commerce and much needed supplies. Unfortunately, railroad tycoons decided to by-pass Nicodemus and go to Bogue. Some folk returned to Ellis, others went back to Kentucky but, the strong and tenacious stayed and built on their dreams. That first winter was really treacherous; the freed slaves did not realize how cold it could be in Kansas and how brutal the winters could be. Then came the real treasure, people decided they had to work together and get along together . . . each person had value and something to offer. They built homes by digging into the hillsides (dug-outs) and built sod houses; hunted rabbits, raccoons, opossums, and other prairie land animals for food. They killed birds and fished to acquire daily staples. As time passed, the slaves began to use wood from the land to build the houses, the churches and the hotels.

Churches were built because God had been with these people. One of the first churches to be built was the AME (African Methodist Episcopal) Church built in 1885. The doors are long since closed, the singing silenced and the worship but a vague memory of the past. I felt a little saddened as I gazed upon the church and wondered what it would have been like to have attended one of the services or even served there?

A time worn tattered old sign located at the front of the church, echo’s the story and relates the history. The church was originally built with limestone then covered with stucco in the 1940’s. It was a place of worship for a number of the Nicodemus community. I breathed a quiet prayer for the church and gave God thanks for its many years of service, grace and hope. The AME Church is one of the landmarks now of Nicodemus. Another church founded in Nicodemus was the Baptist Church founded in 1878. First Baptist church of Nicodemus started with meeting in a dug out. Nicodemus residents built a new church in 1907 and it was named The First Missionary Baptist Church. The old Baptist Church still stands. It like the old AME Church could not be placed on the National Historical Register because they had deteriorated to the point that they were unsafe for the general public. I still would have liked to looked inside; especially the old AME church. There is just something about churches especially old churches that allow me to sense the spirit and presence of God. Along with that a song comes to mind, “His Name is Wonderful.” Though I won’t try to sing the song, the lyrics go like this:
 
His Name is Wonderful
His Name is Wonderful
His Name is Wonderful
Jesus My Lord

He is the Mighty King
Master of everything
His Name is Wonderful
Jesus My Lord

He’s the Great shepherd
The Rock of All Ages
Almighty God is He

Bow down before Him
Love and adore Him
His Name is Wonderful
Jesus My Lord

As we drove around town, something caught my eye and gave me quite a chuckle. Here is a picture of what I saw. I was not able to find out the story behind the picture but here are some possible captions:

“For airmail; insert coin, turn the handle and wait for the plane.”
 
“If you are reading my newspaper insert coin, turn the handle and read for the number of minutes on the meter.”

After we had the laugh about the parking meter, we traveled to the museum in Stockton, a great museum by the way. But that’s another story for another time.

Meanwhile, we traveled back to Lake Webster and on the way we saw one of those dug out homes, but because of traffic and being on a curve, we could not get a picture. The dug out cut into the side of a hill was adorned with native Kansas lime stone. Certainly, a most interesting exhibit but was on private property and not accessible to the general public.

Pet Encounter
It was the last evening of the campout and everyone was sitting around visiting; an activity we all seem to do well. Some of the campers had pets with them and brought them out to enjoy the festivities. First of all there was Smoky a beautiful gray illusive short tailed (not by his choice) cat. Smoky stayed perched in his camper on top of the sofa and peered out the window. He was always ready to be rewarded for his observation skills. After all, cat scans are expensive these days. Then there was Haley, a shy black short haired dachshund that stayed close to her pet parents. Haley usually chose not to participate in puppy games. Road King was a dark colored chi wawa something mix that was at times, playful and engaging. Then there was Katie. Katie was a beautiful loving outgoing maltipoo which is a miniature poodle maltese mix. Katie loved everybody and thought everybody ought to love her (and I think they did).   Katie always tried to include and engage the other animals to play. She could play all day long, I think, and never get tired. Obviously, she didn’t mind getting her picture taken either.

In some ways, the animals reminded me of church. Smoky reminded me of those on the outside looking in; never getting involved but always watching those that were involved. Haley might represent those that were in church but needed lots of continued encouragement. Road King might represent those that attend and might get involved if they are invited. Katie is so loving and so outgoing that she puts everyone at ease and people just love to be around her. Which one of these wonderful animals might describe you and your relationship to the church?
A nice sunset touch from God’s Art Gallery
For the closing night of the campout!

 From all of us, until next time, stay safe, stay well and enjoy campouts!

Ron & Sheron, drivers behind the windshield

Epilogue: Some of the ideas used in this particular blog, came from the Nicodemus tour guide and from Nicodemus brochures.

August 22, 2019


Church in the Windshield
Rendezvous at Webster State Park
August 9, 2019


The Gathering
Its 9:45 a.m. and we are driving into the Fossil Creek parking lot in Russell where we are to meet other campers to convoy to the Webster State Park. I watch in the mirror to be certain that our towed vehicle doesn’t strike a parked car as we make the turn around. It is all clear and I gently apply the air brakes to bring our rig to an easy graceful stop. There is a camper parked in front of us and within a few minutes other campers arrive, three in fact. Two other campers will meet us at the rendezvous  We all get out of our campers and greet one another with the usual “Howdy and Glad to See You” It’s a beautiful day and no wind which is an RV delight. Before long, we each in turn trickle our way onto Interstate 70 and head west.
We travel to Hays, turn right on highway 183 and head north. We travel an uneventful journey through Plainville and on to Stockton where we turn west on Highway 24. Only eight more miles and we will reach the rendezvous. Three campers in group all waiting to turn south at the intersection that leads to the park entrance. The camper ahead of us starts to make the turn when suddenly a pickup truck pulling a small cargo trailer passes us with lightning speed. We sat in motionless horror knowing that our friends were going to get t-boned (hit broadside). Not until the pickup was beside us were the brakes applied. Will it stop in time . . . almost . . . then swerved into our lane and went on down the road. Needless to say, we all gave God thanks for safety.
 
Day Trip to Damar
The next day, we drove to Damar. Damar is a French Canadian Settlement located about thirty two miles from the Webster State Park on Highway 18.  The sign says, “Welcome to Damar, Arcadia of the west, a French Canadian Settlement Est 1888.
Damar is a farming community and the 2000 census population was 150. The 2010 census showed the population at 132. It’s a quaint little Central Western Kansas town. None the less, God is very important to this community. God is always central to an oppressed people, therein lays hope that can only come from the creator.

The central point of Damar is the St. Joseph Catholic Church which is magnificent, breath taking and just plain awesome! But then, I have always been intrigued with church architecture. How does it affect me . . . does it enhance worship . . . does it focus my thoughts on God . . . on Jesus?  Or does it point me in another direction? Certainly, this beautiful church, inspired by the spirit of God, built with human hands and the sweat of the brow demonstrates God’s importance in this community. This church has the two towers similar to the one in Victoria and is sometimes referred to as the second cathedral of the plains.
Are the doors unlocked . . . can we go inside and see the worship area? Yes and Yes.  Once inside, we felt a sense of God’s over whelming presence . . . be very quiet . . . soft whispers or don’t speak at all.  Ever so cautiously we look around, perhaps there are people praying . . . hurting . . . silently crying  . . . seeking God’s help and guidance. Don’t break that spirit or that communication with this great God Almighty, creator of all the universe and savior of man-kind. On this particular day, no one was praying but the sense of respect, reverence and Holy quietness remained.
People had been there that day because there were candles lit as a reminder of someone special. Perhaps that person’s family member or friend had passed away. Or perhaps it was for someone that was still living; facing cure for a dreaded disease.  Only God knows . . . .
I stand there for a moment attracted to and mesmerized by the gentle flicker of the flames. And I thought the spirit of God is in this Holy place. Then I thought God’s spirit can be in any place, a beautiful church with high arches and lofty towers, or a humble cabin with dandelion flowers.
The altar of the church was very impressive with the two golden lamp stands each supporting seven green candle holders.  The picture of the golden chalice in the middle represents Holy
Communion. It is through such a cup that wine is served by the priest. And in their tradition the wine is transformed into the blood of Christ and the wafer dipped in the wine becomes the body of Christ.
After a while each member of our group made their way back outside to take another look and maybe some more pictures. A plaque on the front of the church rendered this message: “St Joseph Catholic Church has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places by the United States Department of Interior, November 5, 2005 and on the Register of Kansas places by the State of Kansas February 26, 2005.”
The corner stone of the church says that it was built in 1912 and it is obvious that this church has served the community well for a century plus seven years.
As we were getting ready to travel on, we noticed something that we hadn’t seen before. It was a tiny tombstone and the inscription gave our hearts a reality check.  The inscription says: “In memory of the unborn never to smile or cry.” This is certainly a strong stance for their church belief. I thought of the scripture listed below:
Matthew 19:13-15 KJV
13Then were there brought unto him little children, (so) he should put his hands on them, and pray: and the disciples rebuked them. 14But Jesus said, Suffer little children, and forbid them not, to come unto me: for of such is the kingdom of heaven. 15And he laid his hands on them, and departed thence. What a wonderful spiritual Day!

Until next time, seek the spirit of God in the worship of your choice and God will be with you.
Ron & Sheron, Drivers behind the windshield