Chapter 2 Section C
Our church and school were side-by-side.
Note the out-house on the left whcih was used both on Sundays and school days.
The church and school at Elmer hold many, many happy memories for me. In those days the church and school were the community meeting places. Because the church had a full-sized basement, most of the activities were held there.
The church was a typical white frame building with a steeple, containing a large bell. To the consternation of all the pigeons in the area, it was rung promptly at ten o'clock, each Sunday morning. Tom Ball, the closest resident and long-time member, had the responsibility for ringing the bell.
The church had a set of cement steps leading to the front door. To me as a little boy, those steps seemed really long and high. The church had been built high off the ground in order to allow room for the basement windows.
The cement steps had pipe bannisters and naturally we kids liked to slide down them every chance we got. Of course, those chances weren't very frequent and often didn't last long before we'd hear, "You kids get off those bannisters. Those pipes are dirty and you'll get your clothes dirty. Besides, you might fall off and get hurt!"
The speaker was partly right. The pipe was probably dirty and sometimes a kid did fall off, but so far as I know, no one ever got hurt. Dirty clothes? Probably, but what fun it was!
The church was as plain inside as it was outside. It was just a large room full of wooden chairs. To keep those chairs in order, the church fathers had fastened groups of them together with long boards under the seats. That saved work when arranging and rearranging the chairs for Sunday morning service and other various activities.
Boy, were those chairs hard! They had no padding of any kind. Of course, what could you expect in a little country church? I discovered that even the church in town I visited occasionally didn't have padded seats. I guess religion was supposed to be experienced by all our senses, including the nerve endings on our bottoms.
The church had a small closed foyer with two doors that opened into the main room. I remember the chairs were arranged so at a funeral the coffin could be carried in through one door and down the aisle to the front, and then carried down the other aisle and out the other door. At all the funerals I remember during that time, there was always an open coffin in front of the church during the service. I'll never forget the day of my sister Helen's funeral. I can still see the attendants rolling her coffin down the aisle.
In the front of the church was a small platform holding the pulpit, piano and about ten chairs for the choir. Don Gilmore was the pianist, and believe it or not, I sometimes got to play when he wasn't there.
They knew there were a limited number of hymns I could play so they
were kind to me. After all I was still in grade school at the time. If
the director would pick out songs in the key of "C," I could do fine. One
of my favorites was "Bringing In the Sheaves." They seemed to like my playing
and that really boosted my ego. I was always thrilled when I was asked
to play for church.
The Church Carnival
We had a full basement under the church. I remember many activities which were held there. Once we staged a carnival. The curtains for the stage were made from bed sheets held up with wires stretched from wall to wall. All around the basement we had curtains attached to the post supports to make the booths. All the posts and windows were decorated with bright crepe paper and anything else we could find to make the room look pretty and attractive.
One attraction was: "A drive through the woods." I was impressed with the sign and decided to look in. After paying the admission and entering, I found that the act was a guy with a hammer driving a nail into pieces of wood! Ugh!
Of course, the carnival had many other interesting attractions, and there was always food for sale.
The dinner-box fund raisers were lots of fun. Eligible young women,
yes, even young men on occasion for a gag, would pack a box and decorate
it for selling at the auction. A girl wasn't supposed to tell which box
lunch she brought, but some broke the rule. When that happened, a bidder,
hoping to get his girl's box, would sometimes be in trouble. The other
guys, guessing what was going on, would bid the price up and make him pay
dearly. It was great fun. At the end of the auction, all who bought boxes
would open them and discover the name of the maker, who was then his dinner
Since natural gas wasn't available during the time they built the Elmer church, carbide gas was used. Behind the church, in a separate basement or cave, they constructed an elaborate gas generator, complete with small pipe lines and valves to control the gas flow throughout the church.
Carbide is described in my dictionary as "A compound of an element, usually a metal, with carbon; especially, calcium carbide." I really don't know just what the composition of our carbide was. I just remember the folks talking about the carbide lights.
Carbide gas is generated by combining small amounts of water with the carbide. When the mixture generates sufficient gas pressure within the system, the gas reaches the light fixtures. When lighted the gas produces a very bright light. All worked well for a few years. Then, the pipes and valves began to corrode and shut down the gas supply. Upon examination, it was found that the entire system was so clogged that, without major repairs, it would soon completely corrode shut. The company experts decided that nothing could be done to restore the unit. Finally, it shut down completely. Too bad!
From then on we kids were constantly ordered to stay away from the area near the old gas generator. We were told the whole thing might explode without a warning. Regardless of the system's ultimate failure and the danger, I was always very fascinated by the place. One day, I decided that it would be safe to explore it.
Wow! There were many interesting pipes and valves to be examined. Surely, some of those valves could be turned and the system could work again with the help I could give it, I thought. But alas, it was not to be!
Years later I went down into that cave. Nothing had changed. The old
sacks of carbide had broken open and the carbide itself had leeched away
on the floor. Such a sad ending for a once ingenious light system.
"Mom, why are they trying to make folks give them money?" I asked one day when Dad was ready to visit old Mr. Bowser.
"Every year we Methodists expect our members to contribute to the church. You know, Glenn, it costs money to have a church. There are repairs to be made, and it costs to heat it in winter. We also have mission projects and, of course, the preacher needs his salary."
Mom also explained that even the occasional church attenders were asked to make a contribution. Bowser wasn't a member and didn't go to church often so it was Dad's job to visit him and ask for his donation.
I'll never forget old Mr. Bowser. He was the first person I remember saying some of the words he used. Everything he said was full of cuss words. You would think his life depended upon just how much swearing he could do.
One of his favorite milder words was "shit." I'd heard that word, probably at school, and I well remember my Dad's reprimand when I decided to use it. "Glenn, we don't say those kinds of words. Don't let me hear you use it again!"
Another thing I heard Bowser say was "son-of-a-bitch." That puzzled me a bit since I knew that a mamma dog was a bitch. What was the purpose in saying "Son-of-a-dog?" Bowser also said "Son-of-a-gun." Now that sounded rather neat, I thought. However, when I tried out my newly learned phrases, my Mom didn't appreciate them.
"Don't you think you can talk without using such words?" she asked.
Dad had a way of not paying attention to Bowser's kind of talk. He had a job to do on him and went right on telling him how he needed a contribution from him to keep the church going.
"Well, Fred, things aren't going along very well these days," Bowser finally said. "I guess I can give you a dollar towards the preacher's salary."
Although Dad was expecting more, I suppose he figured more talking would be useless, and we went back home. That visit with old Bowser surely made an impression on me, both because he gave only one dollar and because of the language he used during that conversation. I had to admire my Dad for his courage in going back year after year to him, and to others like him, to ask for money for our church.
I well remember "money raising" day at church. There was a finance committee that decided on the budget for the year. The largest part of the budget was the preacher's salary. Various members took turns being chairman of the committee, and Dad had the job a number of times. I can safely say chairman because I don't believe it was ever a woman.
The main "money raising" Sunday was usually soon after harvest. That would be the time the farmers had the most money. A meeting would be called following the regular church service.
"Now you folks know what we're going to do this morning," the chairman would report. "We need to have pledges for next year's budget. First we are going to pass pieces of paper and let you write down what you will give."
Of course, that was done only after the usual talks on the need for either raising the preacher's salary or having more money the next year for some special project.
After each one wrote his amount, the papers were collected and the secretary or treasurer would total them.
"I'm sorry," the chairman usually had to say. "We didn't get the money needed. We have to have at least two hundred more.
"They would then pass out more papers to see if some would raise their amounts. They would also go over names of absent members and once-or-twice-a-year attenders. These would be assigned to anyone willing to contact them. That's the way Dad always seemed to get Bowser's name.
Another way of raising funds was almost like an auction. Perhaps some need arose during the year or the money promised wasn't coming in. The committee would explain that a certain dollar amount was needed.
"Who'll give twenty-five dollars?" the chairman would ask. The secretary who had already noted on a board the amount needed, then carefully counted those who held up their hands to give the stated amount. Each time the amount was subtracted to show how much more was still needed.
"Now who'll give twenty? We still have lots to raise. Ott, how about you?" So it would go. Each time the amount asked for would be smaller. Usually, the times I remember, they finally were able to get what they needed.
One time the preacher got into a pinch and had to admit that he had
gotten into debt. I suppose he had some kind of family emergency and his
rather small salary just didn't stretch. Embarrassed, he called on the
chairman of the finance committee for help. I don't remember just how it
all ended, but I imagine the people managed to help him out of a bad situation.
Methodism and Other Religions
Our church at Elmer was a Methodist church. I didn't really know much about any other churches, let alone any other religions. I did learn that the folks at the Baptist church, a few miles to the south and east of ours, were not particularly interested in cooperative affairs. Also, a person who wasn't a baptized member of that church couldn't take communion. They were invited to leave at communion time. That seemed wrong to me as our minister would always say, "All believers or seekers after Jesus are invited to the Lord's table.
"Sometimes I would visit the Mennonite church out in the country. The Gingerich kids would invite me to go with them. I learned later on that some of the Amish, thinking their religion was too strict, joined the Mennonites.
The faithful Amish kept to themselves. Their church was held in their homes. On Sunday if you saw lots of buggies at a particular home, you knew that was the meeting place for the day. The meeting seemed to last most of the day, too.
Catholics, Jews, Moslems, Buddhists and any other Protestant faiths
besides Methodism were, for the most part, unknown to me. I might also
add that, except for seeing a Negro in town occasionally, all the people
I had contact with were Caucasian. Indeed, on a farm in central Kansas
in those days, one's knowledge of the rest of the world was very limited.
Of course, we studied geography in school, but all the places and people
in the book seemed very far removed from me. When I was growing up most
of the people with whom my family associated were white Protestants, and
most of the Protestants were Methodists.
It was in the little Elmer Church that I received my first formal religious
education. My parents were faithful attenders, as had been my Grandfather
and Grandmother McMurry. Although I didn't understand much the preacher
said in church, Sunday School was different. There the teachers told us
stories we could understand. As I recall Mrs. Sybil McNew taught the class
that prepared me for membership at the Elmer Episcopal Methodist Church.
As important as the church was, of more importance to my religious training was what I learned at home from Mom and Dad.
At home, Mom regularly read her Bible and I realized that it was a special book, in fact, the most important book in our home. Mom also read Bible stories to us kids, usually at bedtime. She read them from a story book instead of directly from her Bible. However, I understood they were from the Bible and that they were important for me to know.
I'm not sure whether I got the right meanings from all the Bible stories, but I certainly do remember them and they have always been a good basis from which to start serious Bible study. It was many years later, of course, that I became interested in the chronological aspects and the true meanings of the stories.
Several of the stories remain vividly in my mind. I'm sure the facts
are not exactly straight, but here's how I remember some of them.
David and Goliath
I'm certain that the story about David and Goliath has greater implications than I knew about at that time, but here goes anyway.
David was a good shepherd and I'm certain he was a fine young man. His father had great faith in him at least. David liked to use his slingshot and got to be a sure shot with it. I imagined, as Mom read, how David practiced, selecting the nicest round stones, positioning them in his slingshot, aiming at about anything in front of him and letting go. Time after time, he would use that slingshot until he could hit nearly anything he wanted to hit.
I'm sure David liked to roam the rolling hills as he watched his father's sheep grazing on the green grass. I'm sure he gathered nice round rocks and kept them in his little buckskin bag attached to his waist. There must have been all kinds of birds and animals at which he could aim his slingshot. How I wished I could have been with him. I'm sure his slingshot was of a different design from mine. I never could make one of those things work for me. I did try many, many times to hit cans perched on a fence post. Regardless of how I tried, since I never could hit those cans, I finally quit trying. David, on the other hand, must have mastered the art of sending those rocks just where he wanted them to go.
Next came the giants that were giving David, his family and friends many problems. Those giants were very large and I'll bet they were ten feet tall. Because the entire group were so big, they got the idea that they could lord over the smaller folk and get away with it. Yes, those giants were really bad people. They'd steal sheep and cattle from David's family and even killed his people when they tried to protect their animals.
"What are we going to do, David?" his father lamented. "Those big giants are killing all our animals and now they are going to kill us to get rid of us. We are very afraid of them."
Apparently the King found out about David's particular talent and summoned him before him. "Can you help us, young man?"
Oh, goodness, I thought. What can David do to help them get rid of those bad giants?
David told the King that he'd do it. He said to the King, "Call out to the giants over the hill to select the biggest and most ferocious warrior giant they have and I'll challenge him to a duel."
Knowing that David was a God-fearing young man, the King did exactly as David asked.
I don't know exactly what message was sent to the King of the giants, but soon a messenger came back with a reply to the challenge. The day and time were set for the duel.
That wicked King nearly laughed himself to death. He told David's King that not only would they accept the challenge, but if that kid killed their giant, they'd never bother David's people again. However, if their giant killed that kid, the rest of the giants would come from over the hills and kill all the other people there, men, women and children.
If I'd been David, I would have cleared out right then. What a terrible thing. It was one thing to be killed by the giant, but killing all his family, no!
"Here, David," the King said. "I will have my helpers fit you out with the best armor and the sharpest sword in the Kingdom. You're going to need it."
David tried on the armor but after finding it was much too heavy, said to the King, "I'm sorry, Sir, I can't use that armor. It is too heavy. Also, I don't know how to use a sword. No, Sir, all I want is my trusty slingshot. Thanks anyway. God will be my armor."
David's father had taught his son to honor and trust God. David had no intention of changing his ways, and his father had perfect confidence in him.
Soon the appointed day and time for the duel arrived. David got up early. He dressed in his ordinary shepherd's clothing and hung his slingshot from his shoulder. David knew what he had to do, but the weight of his responsibility didn't scare him.
The first thing he did was to walk down to the little stream he had crossed many, many times and select several smooth rocks. These he placed in his little leather bag. Then, I imagine, he looked up and said, "Thank you, God. I know you will protect me," and walked towards the hills.
I could hear the roar of that giant. Then as he came nearer, I could hear the clang of his armor.
Frankly, I think I'd have turned back about that time, but David walked as though he were shepherding his sheep. He was confident of what he was going to do. He knew God was by his side. Without breaking his pace, he continued towards the hills to confront the task ahead of him .
As David continued to walk towards the hill, the roar of the giant grew louder and louder. David could hear the clanging of the giant's armor. Then, David could see the top of the giant's head. Clank, clank, clank, the armor resounded over the hills.
Still, David made no change in his pace towards the giant.
As the giant came closer, David could see how really large that giant was. He must have been ten feet tall. No wonder the clanking was slow. David had to make three steps for each of the giant's. Then as the giant got closer and closer, he began to roar like the thunder and cursed the ground on which David walked. When he realized how small David was, he began to laugh. As he laughed, he waved his sword in the air and said, "What a joke! You are just a kid. I'll kill you with one swipe of my hand. What a stupid thing it was for my King to pit me against a mere child."
David was very calm as he walked closer to the giant. He eyed the giant closely and when the giant stopped and started to laugh, David was carefully selecting one of the stones from his leather bag. A few steps later, David stopped in his tracks, arranged his slingshot and adjusted the stone in it.
The giant continued to laugh at David. He knew he'd have to get much closer to the kid before he could give him a killing swipe.
David waited until the giant got about fifteen feet from him. Then he sized up the right spot where the rock would hit.
Although the giant had a helmet on his head, David noticed there was an opening in the helmet exposing his temple. Quietly and very slowly David began to wave his slingshot around his head. Then faster and faster he swung it. Suddenly, David gave a final hard swing and released the rock from his slingshot. The rock had found its mark. The giant was stunned and then fell, crashing down to the ground. Before he could recover from the rock's impact, David rushed to his side. He grabbed the giant's sword and quick as a flash cut off the giant's head.
I didn't like the bloody aspects of that story. Nothing, yes, nothing cleared that picture from my mind. It was and still is a vivid picture in my memory.
What was the moral of the story? Well, might didn't make right, that's for sure. Or, perhaps he was the smartest? Was it that God guided David's hand so that the rock stunned that giant?
I'm sure all of David's people were very happy. Too, when the giants found out the biggest of them had been felled by a shepherd boy's slingshot, they left that part of the country.
With such a story, I said, no killing for me. I wish I had never seen
that picture of David holding the giant's head by the hair. Was David really
such a hero to me after all? I wonder. Didn't those people ever hear of
the word forgiveness and the wonderful effects of God's love? Even as a
kid I had a better understanding of God's love than that. Oh, well!
Jacob's Favorite Son, Joseph
The stories written about Jacob impressed me as a kid. He was a wealthy landowner, had many herds of animals and also more than one wife. In those days, that was allowed, so who knows exactly how many wives he had around at one time. Jacob was a very religious man. He believed in God as all his forefathers did. Too, he worshiped according to the Hebrew law as he understood it at the time.
Jacob, as a young man, worked for another wealthy landowner and as far as I was concerned, he was a hard man to work for. He took advantage of Jacob for years. In fact he was down and out untruthful in his dealings with Jacob. When Jacob first saw Rachel, one of the available women on the ranch, he fell madly in love with her. He couldn't take his eyes off Rachel. She was very beautiful. So Jacob made up his mind to ask her father for permission to marry her.
"You haven't been working long enough here; however, if you work hard for seven years, I'll give her to you."
That was a hard situation for Jacob to take. But, knowing how he loved Rachel, he agreed.
Imagine that! Being forced to be around the woman he loved for seven years before being allowed to marry her. But Jacob was diligent and tried to please his master.
At the end of the seven years, Jacob again approached Rachel's father, "Now may I take Rachel for my wife? I have worked hard doing my job on the ranch just as you wished."
Now Rachel's father reneged on his promise to Jacob.
"Well, I've decided that if you want to get married right now, I'll give you my other daughter, Leah. She, too, is a beautiful girl and I think she would make a good wife for you. If you want Rachel, you'll have to wait another seven years. Then, if you are still a good worker, I'll give her to you."
That guy was a phony. He lied to Jacob. He had no intentions of giving Rachel to Jacob. His excuse was that the older daughter had to be married first, and during the seven years, Leah hadn't found a husband.
Jacob agreed to marry Leah with the promise from his boss that he could have Rachel after another seven years.
While waiting for Rachel, it seems Jacob became very wealthy. How he could have become rich in that period, I don't know.
At the end of the seven years, again Jacob approached his father-in-law and popped the question to him.
"I did what you commanded. It's been a long seven-year wait. Now I want Rachel for my wife."
What an arrangement!
Jacob got Rachel for his wife and she gave him a son whom he named Joseph. Later they had another son, Benjamin. With the sons from Leah and his other mistresses, he now had a total of twelve sons.
Because Joseph was the firstborn of his favorite wife, Rachel, he loved Joseph more than his other sons. That in itself was enough to cause problems in any family. He sent his other sons away from home much of the time to take care of the cows, camels, horses and pigs. Joseph was trained as a shepherd to herd the sheep. He brought them in each night to keep them from the wild animals. Therefore, he was home each night.
Imagine the conversation that ensued when Joseph's older brothers got together around the fireside to exchange business matters and pass along the latest jokes and rumors. I'm sure the favoritism their father showed to Joseph was often the topic.
"What will our father do next? Did you guys see what he gave that runt, Joseph?"
"Yes," another piped up, "I saw it. I wonder where Dad got it. Imagine giving that kid such a coat. It was made of many colors of material. It must have cost a fortune."
"Look, see that? We can see that dumb coat from far away. Isn't it disgusting? Dad never did give us anything like that."
"I wouldn't even want such a coat to show off, would you?
It was obvious in many ways that Jacob loved Joseph more than the rest. Even Benjamin, the smallest, had noted that Joseph was his father's favorite, but Benjamin liked Joseph anyway. Probably because they played together as they were growing up.
Jacob's wealth was a hot subject. The brothers were getting itchy. Who would inherit their father's fortune? Talk about envy. Those guys had it. Of course, who could blame them? They felt sure Joseph would get more than his share.
Things got worse and worse.
"Let's get rid of that kid. Then we won't have to worry about who is going to get father's fortune. It will be distributed equally amongst us."
"That's a good idea, but how can we do that without hurting father? He's all wrapped up in that kid. If we kill Joseph and he finds out that we did it, we'd never get a penny of that money."
"I have an idea," one of the brothers said. "Remember that old well we found out there in the desert? Why don't we throw him into it and leave him to die?"
"You know, that's not such a bad idea. That way he'll just come up missing."
"Hey," another one said, "Let's kill an animal and spread blood on Joseph's coat. That will make it look like a wild animal killed him."
"That's it. Let's do it. When it's over, we'll all go to father and tell him how a wild animal killed Joseph. At least, he won't suspect us."
How, where and when Benjamin overheard this conversation, I'm not sure, but he did. He didn't let on that he had overheard the plot. After all, he might be thrown into the well along with Joseph if he said something.
Benjamin kept quiet, for sure, but in his own mind he knew exactly what he'd do. After his brothers left the well, he'd go and rescue Joseph.
According to their plan, the brothers took Joseph and threw him into the well.
Just as they were ready to leave, they noticed a passing caravan on its way to Egypt.
"Hey, I have a good idea. We don't have to let Joseph die in the bottom of that well," one of the brothers said. "Let's make a little money by selling Joseph as a slave. That way we won't have murder on our hands."
That's what happened. They pulled Joseph from the well, and made a good deal with the chief of the caravan.
The brothers then returned to their father and showed him the coat covered with blood. Jacob went into mourning. The more they tried to soothe and console his father, the more depressed he got. Nothing worked! They surely must have felt some guilt over their dastardly act.
Benjamin left quickly to find that well and rescue Joseph. Of course, he found it empty. He returned to his father very, very sad. His plan had failed. Joseph was now really gone!
When the caravan arrived in Egypt, the chief promptly sold Joseph to the head of the King's guard. Everything got along fine until he got into trouble with the officer's wife. She thought Joseph was cute. When he refused her advances, she lied to her husband, accusing Joseph of assaulting her.
Joseph was then thrown into prison. Joseph took advantage of his talent by interpreting dreams for his prison mates. He made quite a hit, apparently.
One day, the King had a dream which disturbed him very much. He called all his wise men to him and told them about it. They didn't know what the King's dream meant. It was something about seven lean cows eating seven fat cows.
"Oh, King, I know a young man who can interpret that dream for you. He is in prison. Would you like me to bring him to you?"
Naturally, the King ordered him to be brought. Joseph was taken from the prison and dressed for his audience before the King.
I well remember the picture in that Bible story book showing Joseph standing before the King.
After listening to the King's dream, Joseph began to tell the King what it meant. The essence of that dream was that God would cause the land to produce an abundance of grain for seven years. For the next seven years, God would send a blight over the entire land causing a seven-year famine. Not only would his subjects suffer, but everyone in neighboring lands would also suffer.
The King was very disturbed, and asked, "What can I do to avert such a catastrophe?"
"Oh, King," Joseph said, "my God has told me what can be done."
I can just hear that King saying, "Go to it, Joseph. You have complete power to do whatever you need to do to make my people ready for that famine. Whatever command you give, it will be the law of the land."
What about that? Joseph was in command. A poor Hebrew shepherd boy had made it to the top.
Joseph commanded many large granaries to be built. He then took a portion of each farmer's grain and stored it. After a few years of good harvests, seven to be exact, the granaries were filled.
About that time, the weather changed and it stopped raining. For seven years, just as Joseph said, there was a great famine over the entire land.
"No one will go hungry," Joseph commanded. "When you are in need, report to the authorities in charge of the granaries and they will parcel out grain to you. There will be plenty for the famine years."
Of course, Jacob's family also ran out of food, and they learned about the grain available in Egypt.
The sons insisted they should go to Egypt and buy some grain, and their father reluctantly agreed.
"You can go, but you can't take Benjamin with you," he said. "I lost my Joseph and I don't want to lose Benjamin. I would die without him."
The ten brothers journeyed to Egypt to buy grain.
Surprise! Joseph recognized his brothers at once, but they didn't recognize him. Joseph hadn't forgotten how his brothers sold him into slavery. It was his opportunity to test them to see if they had a change of heart about him. So, he kept his identity from them.
His brothers were surprised to see how nice the officer treated them. Joseph had warned him of their arrival. Not only were they were treated kindly, they also were invited to a great feast.
After they had eaten, the brothers were summoned before Joseph. He really gave them the works without disclosing his identity. He asked all about their father, mother, and other brothers. Upon learning that the family was all right, he turned away and cried for joy.
"Wow!" the brothers whispered amongst themselves. "What a great feed, but something must be wrong. We've got to be careful."
Well, there was something wrong. After having their sacks filled, Joseph had his expensive goblet put into one of his brother's bags. Then he bade his brothers goodbye.
Soon some men came after the brothers and discovered the cup. They were brought back before Joseph.
"You thieves! After all I did for you, you deceived me," Joseph said.
For that, one of the brothers was thrown into prison. Joseph then commanded that before they could get their brother out of prison, they must bring their younger brother to him.
Jacob was furious when he found that Benjamin had to be taken from him, but their grain was about gone and he had to agree to have Benjamin go.
Wasn't that a little mean of Joseph to torture his brothers? I suppose they had it coming to them. After the way they laughed at him for telling all of his crazy dreams to them. Especially the one about their bowing before him. No wonder they hated him.
When Joseph saw his brother Benjamin, he released the other brother from prison and confessed who he was. He told them the whole story. What a party they had! They all forgave each other and agreed to bring their father to Egypt also.
The story ended with the father, now an old man, going to Egypt. When
he was finally reunited with his favorite son, he cried. I'd have cried,
too, wouldn't you?
Of all the stories Mom read, the Jesus stories were my favorites. During the Christmas season, she always read about the birth of Jesus from the Holy Bible. To me some of the words were really odd.
"Mom, how come they always wrote 'thee' and 'thou' in the Bible?"
"Glenn, the writers used those words because that's how they talked at that time."
That wasn't much of a reason for me. I thought my "Bible Story Book for Children" was better than Mom's Bible. It had many colored pictures in it. I especially liked that picture of Jesus lying in the manger. Mary, Jesus' mother, was shown sitting near Jesus with a bright light around her head. Joseph, his father, is there in the picture, as well as those three wise men presenting gifts. There was also a picture showing the three wise men being led to Jesus by the light of a bright star.
I liked the story until we came to the part about the terrible ruler who tried to get rid of Jesus.
"What?" Herod the King asked. "What's that I hear? Who said that a little baby would grow up to take my place?"
Those wise men had let the cat out of the bag. That King let on like he wanted to go see that baby and honor it. He was a great big liar! Even those wise men got suspicious and cleared out and headed another direction.
The King was furious! He got so mad he ordered all the little boy babies under one year of age killed. He didn't take any chance having one of those kids take his place on HIS throne.
That picture of the soldiers grabbing little boys preparing to kill them was absolutely awful to look at. I couldn't imagine such a thing. I remember being glad I didn't live in his country.
Another story I liked was about Jesus being left behind in the temple.
It happened when Jesus was just a kid, about ten years old. They had started off on a trip to another town and suddenly Jesus was missing.
There were robbers around those days so people moved in groups for their own protection. They immediately left the group and turned back to retrace their steps. His folks, especially his mother, were worried that something terrible had happened to him.
"Do you think he was wandering around the shops in town and forgot to leave with the group?" his mother asked. "Where should we go first?"
"The first thing to do," his father said, "is to notify the temple authorities that Jesus is missing."
When they got to the Temple, they had a shock. He was sitting in the middle of the elders discussing religion.
That picture of Jesus standing lecturing to those guys stuck in my head. They were amazed how smart he was. He acted as though he knew exactly what he was talking about.
Those elders were probably getting suspicious of Jesus. They thought they knew all about their God and they weren't about to have a kid telling them such things. I decided it was fortunate his folks found him when they did.
"Jesus, what in the world got into you? Can you imagine how worried we were? We were afraid that robbers had stolen you?"
"What made you worry over me?" Jesus told his folks. "I was doing the will of my Father."
His mother wondered where he got such an idea. He was just a kid. He was smart, of course, but he was acting like a teacher. "Being about my Father's business!" rang in her mind. He was really fulfilling prophecy. Her boy was really the Son of God.
I'll bet his father was more than surprised. "Come, let's get out of here. It's going to take us a whole day to catch up with our group. What made you do such a thing, Jesus?"
Jesus wasn't talking about his own father, he was talking about his Heavenly Father, the one and only God. Jesus was really filled with the spirit of God and let folks know it.
Of course, Mom also read about Jesus causing trouble with the authorities
wherever he went. She read about his healing people, making a blind man
see, and even raising a man from the dead. She also read about his being
killed. I can see that picture of him on the cross between the two thieves,
and the one of Easter morning and the empty tomb. Then there were pictures
of him with his disciples again, and finally, of him floating up into the
sky to Heaven to be his Father.
The first prayer I remember was what my Mom taught me. Each night at bedtime she would hold me on her lap and repeat, "Now I lay my down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take."
Soon I was saying it with her, and as I got older, I would say it by myself.
Later Mom always added, "God bless Papa, God bless Junior and God bless Helen." That line then became a part of my nightly prayer.
When I was old enough to sleep by myself upstairs, Mom would tuck me in bed, give me a good-night kiss, and remind me, "Say your prayers, Glenn."
At each mealtime, after Mom had us seated at the table, she would tell us to be quiet and fold our hands in our laps. Getting we kids ready for the blessing before we ate was important to her. When we were quiet, she would nod to Dad. That was the signal for him to close his eyes, bow his head and give the blessing.
Dad's prayer didn't really mean much to me because I couldn't understand all the words. Even when he asked the blessing at a gathering of relatives or at church, he always gave the same blessing.
Although I didn't understand just what he was saying, I knew he was talking to God and saying thanks for the food.
I remember one time hearing my Aunt Nelle say, "I always like to hear Fred ask the blessing. Although I don't always understand it all, I feel how reverent and sincere he is."
That's exactly how I have always felt about Dad's blessing before each meal.
My Grandpa McMurry expected his entire family to kneel beside their
chairs as he spoke his morning prayer. My folks weren't that formal, but
when we visited my grandparents, I knew what I was supposed to do.
Songs of Faith
Songs of the faith were introduced to me at a very early age, both at church and at home. These hymns gave me important concepts about God and Jesus. I understood that God loved me and Jesus loved me. The existence of God and Jesus were unalterable facts.
God seemed to be more distant from me than Jesus. Many songs seemed to say He was up there high in the sky. However, other songs said, "God Be With You, God Will Take Care of You, Nearer, My God, to Thee, etc."
Jesus seemed much closer to me for some reason. "Jesus Loves Me, This I Know" was one of the first songs I remember. My Mom sang it often. It made Jesus seem real to me. I knew both Mom and Dad felt the same way. How could I ever feel differently?
"Tell me the Stories of Jesus" is another song I remember. Mom had many favorite hymns. "Wonderful Words of Life" was one I heard her sing over and over while she was working in the kitchen or even in the garden. Although she didn't know she was often singing off key, it didn't make any difference to her. The words were important to her. I didn't know that she was tone deaf until I started to play the piano.
"Mom, you're not in tune with the piano," I said one day when I was practicing.
"I'm not surprised, son."
It was then that I realized that Mom's deafness kept her from singing in tune. I think that was the beginning of my attempts to transpose. I'd try to find what key she was in and play the song in that key.
Most of the music in our home was the church hymns. My sister Helen learned to play the hymns before I did. Dad would occasionally get Grandpa's old violin out and play along. He did more squeaking than anything, but we kids always got a big kick out of his playing for us.
Every Sunday at church congregational singing was an important part
of the service. All sang their hearts out. All of us kids joined right
in, too. How could I keep from learning the songs of my faith? The song
book I remember was blue and had "Gospel Songs" written on the front.
Thank God, I had a wonderful Mom and Dad who introduced me to Jesus at an early age. They not only taught me at home, but also took me with them to church. Sunday morning meant, "Get ready to go to church." It took some very unusual circumstance, such as being snowed in or a serious illness in the family, to keep us home on Sunday mornings.
I might add here that going to church on Sunday morning has been my habit throughout my life. After I was married and had children, my children, too, understood that on Sunday morning we all went to church.
As I grew older the Jesus stories became more to me than just pictures
in my story book. I developed a faith in God and His Son, and began to
understand a little about LOVE as shown by the life of Jesus. I came to
realize that the Christmas Baby became a man who changed the world. Even
the most skeptical have to admit that some kind of power still emanates
from Jesus today. There are too many instances of lives being changed by
His power to discount His influence in today's world.