Playhouse, July 13, 2012

The sign said Highway 280, but it was “Reflection Road” in my mind. I was in the back of the vehicle, wedged between safety seats for Shields and Patty. We were en route to Sunday worship in Birmingham and between answers to questions, I remembered days of my weekly trips to worship as a child.

Today I was in congested traffic traveling a six-lane highway to a mega church ten miles away. In my childhood six of us loaded into two bench seats in a vehicle void of any safety devices other than brakes and windshield wipers. Our trip would take us three miles on a two-lane highway that was often traffic-free for the entire ride.

Patty broke my meditative mood when she asked me to open her breakfast. It was a child’s fruit bar complete with multiple vitamins and nutrients. Shields was crunching a cup of frosted flakes minus the milk.

Both meals would have been a treat in my childhood, but packaged breakfasts like theirs hadn’t made it to our grocery aisles. Daddy’s Sunday toast was the treat I remember. He would dot the bread with small slices of butter and bake just til it softened. Then he’d spread the soft topping from crust to crust. After another slow bake for several minutes, he would serve golden brown, buttery toast that had a crunch even when slathered with Mother’s plum jelly.

Eli made several loops through the maize of parking slots and found one closest to the children’s wing. The trail of grands warmed my heart as each found their special niche down the highways of corridors.

I recalled my childhood church with five Sunday School rooms. A knee-high table with no more than eight wooden chairs made up my room’s furnishings. One solitaire teacher’s creativity was our only avenue for traveling to the Holy Land. There were some Sundays we didn’t make it!

Worshipers were joining us as we adults filed into the sanctuary. The trapeze-high ceilings were lit by stained glass windows that turned one’s gaze upward. If outward beauty could turn the heart toward God, this sanctuary qualified.

During the offertory music I visited my childhood worship center. A single aisle led worshipers to rows of wooden pews on either side. The windows weren’t stained, but frosted, and a life-size picture of Jesus knocking at a giant, thick door was directly in front of my regular seat. Central heat and air would come at a later business meeting. For those days, floor furnaces and fans were always adequate. The floor furnaces not only warmed us worshipers but the stowaway wasps in the attic too. There were a few fall Sundays when the darting of those demons near the heads of the pastor and the flock made the worship service a bit chaotic and resulted in a few unsuppressed giggles to earn me “the look” from Mother.

The congregation standing to sing “God of Our Fathers” and “God Bless America” caused me to recall the meaning of those words for my parents’ generation. They beamed with gratitude – remembering their forefathers and their allegiance to God and country. Now the words were prayers – asking God to restore our religious freedoms that were under attack.

Then the pastor stepped to the podium and opened his Bible. “Turn with me to John 6,” he said. Pages shuffled over the sanctuary, and we followed along – reading words spoken and divinely inspired over 2000 years ago! I rejoiced. Here was something that hadn’t changed and wouldn’t!

“The grass withers, the flower fades but the word of our God will stand forever.” Isa 40:8.