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33 of 52 Trip Around The Sun - Church of God



Sunday, December 15, 2002


Have traveled about 371,000,000 miles.


Thoughts during the week: I have found that during this trip I think quite a lot about both of my parents – who they were, what their lives meant – what of life turns out to have been important after all. This week I was thinking of my Dad’s feelings about the Mormon Church – and I ran into some most interesting data. There was something at least a little different about him – relative to the Church – during the last five years of his life, and he didn’t even know about it; neither did I.


He said for many years that he couldn’t with honesty join any church – but that if he ever changed his feelings on that, it would be the Mormon Church for him. When he and Mom moved in with us, he decided to give her a present – of attending church with her once a month (he said he didn’t want to overdo it.) As a result, all the High Priests and some others got to know his personality to some degree. That was fun for me too, as I always thought of my parents as good people to know for anyone.


Anyway – all of you should see the data we found this week.


The Visit:


Escondido Community Church (This is a Church of God congregation).


Note: The Islamic group in Poway no longer has Sunday meetings. I will attend later – on a Friday. I talked with their leader, Baseem Syed, for about half an hour. He appears to be a very caring person. And he would like to straighten me out on some things.


I forgot to ask – but in West Virginia I was familiar (I thought) with the Church of God in two forms – One called just “The Church of God,” and the other called, “The Church of God of Prophesy.” I forgot to ask which this one was, but I assume from the simple meeting that this was the shorter title.


During my mission, West Virginia was the first ten months of my experience. You would not believe the attitude I had during this beginning time. I knew about the Apostle Peter – and the baptism of 3000 souls on the day we now call Pentecost. I wanted to “Go forth and do likewise.” I didn’t have it in my mind to “beat” Peter’s record – but I did want to baptize congregations rather than individuals. It took pretty much the whole ten and a half months in West Virginia to convince me that I was not allowed to do that. Municipalities would not allow it – and the Church would not allow it. I had to work the slow and inefficient way – teaching one or two at a time – and only baptizing after some time of testing for them each one. (I knew the math didn’t work – to get the world done – after all, I was already a physics major.) At a hundred a day for each missionary, we could begin to make a dent in it.


I went into the Church of God of Prophesy and tried to cast out the devil. What I didn’t know then – is that the devil wasn’t there. (He was much too busy trying to keep members of the great Negro race out of the Mormon Church.) What I really didn’t know was that I was living a life of exclusivity myself – when I ought to have been entirely inclusive. I most likely carried with me knowledge of much good that could be shared with these members of that little church – but I didn’t need to take a bunch of bad away from them first to do it – what they already had was good – and they could have collected much more good from the missionaries – possibly through the same Holy Ghost they already loved. I saw them as a bunch of emotionally charged idiots – rather than just the sweet people most of them probably were. Assuredly, they were not inclusive in attitude either – less so than we – and with even a worse attitude toward that great race than we had. All that is just missing stuff; there is so much other that is good – and can be worked with.


So I attended the Church of God in Escondido. This time I went to learn more than to teach. (I know from reading my own reports that I certainly continue to have a bit of the “teacher” in me, but I am full aware that everyone else is my teacher also. It’s simply my turn while I’m writing. That’s a kind of apology, but this is so much a part of me that it’s probably not repairable.)


I had gone to this church too late last week – and noticed the friendly feelings among all of them. I went a little early this week – about half an hour – and found about half of them already there – having coffee or orange juice with donuts and melon chunks, etc. This is a nice way to start a meeting. They adored the hotrod, and I had to think – if I had that mission to do over again, I would take a hotrod. There’s something about that that causes people to assume you are “down to earth.” The suits, ties, and required formal hats in my mission were almost ludicrous in West Virginia. For heaven’s sake, these were hillbillies.


I probably met and talked with just about every single person in this little church. Everyone wanted to know who I was. I found out what other cars had been built among them – met one woman who drives a Harley – not hard to tell with the all-black clothing and the trademark emblazoned across her chest, which itself was as ample as she was.


I met a quiet young man and his wife. He had clothes to credit the Oakland Raiders. Since he was from Florida – and now lived in Charger country, that didn’t make a whole lot of sense. (Most likely not a property owner.) He was taking courses at Palomar, and when he told me this, another (little bit older) man came up to tell us that he also was taking two courses at Palomar. “Reading and PE,” he said proudly. I was taking a liking to these people right away. One thing - men, women, teens and children all had in common – we all loved a hotrod, and we all loved donuts. I felt like I was popular in just five minutes.


Then inside, I met the minister. He came up and asked my name – and then where I was from. I told him I was born in Compton – grew up all in southern California – and had been in Escondido now for ten years. He said he was from West Virginia.


So I let him know that I had grown up among the Mormons – and that I had served my mission partly in West Virginia – that I loved the people there. We talked a little hillbilly together – and he continued it a little when it was time for his sermon later. His accent from those parts was pretty well gone – he said he hoped people couldn’t tell – but as for me – It would have been just fine if he slang it all out. I told him I had a great appreciation for the usefulness of an “Eye-See,” and it was if I had taken him home for a moment. Out in that curvy, hilly country, you can ask for directions down the holler to someone’s house, and you will be told, “Well – from here – go two eye-see’s – then it’s the second place on the right.” You needed then to look down the road and see how far you could see before the road disappeared from view – walk to that point – then look again – and walk to that point – then the second house on the right. Some eye-see’s are short – some long – but to a native of the holler – that method is very accurate. The minister said he still liked some of the ways they talk in West Virginia. He said, “They would say we get up of a morning,” instead of “in the morning.” That was also familiar.


I sat in about the fourth row. All the congregational music was with four guitars – all amplified – three regular and one bass. We sang mostly Christmas carols – with the words projected over beautiful scenes of mountains, ocean, etc. We sang for about half an hour –


Then a group of three teenage or a little older boys – two dressed in baggy shorts – all with something akin to mountain boots for their feet – went up and sang two songs for us.


Then there was a little collection – no sales pitch – just passing the chromed plates through the aisles.


Then came the sermon. This was a sweet man – obviously with a life-long “calling” to do this for whatever little part of the world he was supposed to be in. It was hard to believe he could make a living just from this small congregation, mostly not of means – but perhaps there is also other work he does.


It was a Christmas message – taken from Luke 1. He started with what he said is called the “Magnificat.” (Spelling is correct – not in my dictionary.) The prayer of Mary for Elizabeth (John the Baptist’s Mom.) Luke 1: 46-55


He said it demands a humble spirit to accept Jesus Christ. Pride must be no part of one’s feelings. There is no other way. Elizabeth had such a humble spirit – and knew Him even before He came. She also knew that Mary was His mother. And even John knew – within her. The minister said that John “leaped” within his mother’s womb. He did not spell as he talked – but I looked at it in the version of the Bible included in the pews – it’s “Leaped,” not “Leapt.”


He made a gesture to show what a leap is – moving his hands from way over on one side – up and to the other side. He said that maybe it was just the way they used these words back then – that John had most likely only kicked – and not actually leaped. I love it when they put little details in their talks. Then he included a little about West Virginia – I suspect because we had talked. He said, “I’m a hillbilly from West Virginia – they would say something there that you will all understand, yet it’s not the way you would say it. They would say that they get up of a morning. You would say you get up in the morning. So see – back then long ago in Bible time – they said leaped – when they only meant kicked. All you women know you wouldn’t want any leaping going on in there.” The women, especially, laughed heartily. I love the details.


This pride thing doesn’t only keep us from accepting Jesus – it hurts us in all kinds of ways. Someone may ignore a doctor’s prescription or advice thinking he’ll get better by his own thoughts or something. This is pride. I knew someone who had been told by his dad’s doctor, “Your dad needs a pacemaker – it’s only a half-hour surgery – it’s been done tens of thousands of times – and works very well – please try to convince him.” The man tried, but his dad said, “They ain’t opened up this body in 70 years, and they ain’t gonna open it up now.” The funeral was less than a year later – for an otherwise healthy man with a good heart.


Then the minister said, “Sometimes we think we have no problems – and then that is the problem – that we think we don’t have any.”


I admit to this one’s bothering me a little. My first serous girl friend’s mother was a bit of a backroom psychologist. She wanted me to participate in this sort of game – everybody writes down a list of their problems. I didn’t have any. She didn’t like that at all – and told me the same as this minister – that this was my main problem – that I didn’t think I had any problems. I learned about problems later – with this good woman’s daughter. I liked it better before – when I didn’t have any.


Now – after thirty five years married with Leona – I’m almost back there with no problems – though I suppose I could make a little list now of stuff not accomplished, being a bit overweight, paying insurance on a car that hasn’t run for two years, a little dog that sometimes doesn’t know the difference between the carpet and the great outdoors, etc. None of these would have been sufficient to please the needs of the aforementioned game-operator.


He talked of 53 people having gone Christmas caroling the other night – and how much fun they all had.


I wasn’t entirely sure how his last statement fit in with the theme – but probably something to do with pride. He said that “God is angry with the wealthy who do not use their means to help the poor with their needs.”


As I said, this was a sweet man – and I couldn’t help but think that I could have met and known several of them in West Virginia – if I hadn’t been looking only for what needed changing.


Then we sang another several songs – and the youth minister got up and said a prayer – citing the needs of several specific people – and then it was over.


We continued the coffee, orange juice – donuts and fruit – and the visiting. Some wanted the hotrod started so they could hear the engine. It was a small parking lot – every car visible at once. Then I roared off – with lots of people waving at me. I’ll probably go back some day. It’s amazing how many people are willing to be your friend.


33 of 52  Trip Around the Sun


Oh – I almost forgot – the data about my Dad. Leona was down at the genealogy place in the Stake Center – getting ready for the family at Christmas time – to do the temple work for my Dad.


After she input all the data to identify him, the computer showed us this:


My dad was not only baptized – but had his endowments and was sealed to his parents – five years before he died. It’s the right one – who else named Kennard has a dad named Denver and a mom named Flossie?


Poor old Dad was a member of the Church for the last five years of his life – and didn’t even know it. No wonder they called him “Brother Borough.”



33 of 52 Trip Around The Sun - Church of God


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