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For the Sunday after VBS to not feel largely irrelevant would have required something at least moderately interesting to have happened. That was not the case, though, and it largely passed as one of those days that quickly fades from memory outside the snapshots that would eventually find their way into someone’s scrapbook. With the Bluebird Church still not having a place for its own worship, Glynn, with the unanimous approval of the deacons, invited Jerry to preach the morning service. He could tell, as could most everyone in the congregation, that Jerry found the full sanctuary unnerving and he stammered uncertainly through his homily. After the service, he admitted to Glynn that it was the largest group of people he had ever addressed.
The evening service was given over to VBS “commencement” where everyone who had attended even one day was given a certificate, each class struggled through a song, and then everyone had cookies. Glynn quietly oversaw the proceeding with amusement as Hayden’s four-year-old class largely stood at the front of the church with their fingers in their mouths while Lita dominated the singing in her fourth-grade class. With each class, parents (mostly mothers) stepped into the aisle to take snapshots on their Instamatic or Polaroid cameras, making sure all the children were equally blinded by the flashes.
Slightly more exciting was the first day of Junior Camp. Marve started the morning in a surly mood, complaining about not having sufficient time to get everyone’s clothes cleaned and packed for the week. She likened the trip to taking a vacation that no one wanted to go on in the first place. Lita was excited, though, as she was feeling very grown up by getting to go a year earlier. She bounced around showing Glynn each outfit before she carefully put it in her suitcase. Hayden, on the other hand, seemed oblivious to the fact they were going anywhere.
At 9:30, they loaded the car and drove the short distance to the church parking lot where Joanne and Horace were already waiting in his pickup. The plan was for Horace to drive down with all the food that would be needed for the week, with a supplemental trip planned for Wednesday to replenish perishables. Joanne promised she would only supervise and not try to do everything herself.
By 10:00, volunteer’s cars were loaded for the trip to Camp Universal. Twelve girls and eight boys were making the trip. Joanne, Marve, Irene Hendricks, and a very excited Claire Hiddleman would take care of the girls and all the kitchen duties. Glynn and the church’s one unemployed teen boy, Russel Daniels, were expected to corral the boys. Joanne’s years of organization paid off as she made sure there was emergency contact information for each child along with a list of who was allergic to what. Separate permission slips were required to allow the children to swim in the pool. Everything was in order.
They arrived at the camp shortly after noon and Joanne quickly whipped out a lunch of previously prepared coldcut sandwiches and potato chips after which the kids claimed their bunks and made their beds before running off to explore the campground. Marve and Irene unpacked and organized the kitchen materials according to a map Joanne had already prepared while Claire swept the dormitories and mopped the kitchen floor. Glynn made sure the boys’ side was similarly prepared before walking up to the old church building for a requisite meeting. Russel was helpful in completing whatever he was asked to do and then promptly retreated to his bunk to read.
Glynn was curious to meet the pastors from the other associations. He found it interesting that all of them were expected to be here the entire week unless a church emergency called them back to their home towns. The exceptions were the two large churches, First Washataug and First Levi. They were allowed to send surrogates from their ministerial staff. Washataug sent their youth director, who was full of energy and eager to volunteer for anything, but Clement was still present most of the week. Levi similarly sent their other full-time staff member who was responsible for both youth and music ministries. Being primarily a musician, he was less eager and largely unenthused about the assignment. Churches who were pastorless typically sent a reluctant deacon.
As he approached the old church building, Glynn saw Emmit who had been waiting for him. The Director of Missions walked over, shook Glynn’s hand and advised, “Stay toward the back and don’t volunteer for anything. You’ll end up on midnight safety patrol if you’re not careful. Also, don’t challenge the pastor from Takanoma who always complains about girls being allowed to wear jeans. He brings it up at every camp and we have a general agreement to politely ignore him and go on.”
Glynn chuckled at the advice and walked into the old clapboard building. He quickly found Bill and Clement who invited Glynn to sit with them. He didn’t realize that in doing so he was effectively identifying himself with the more theologically “moderate” group of pastors who the larger number of “conservative” pastors quietly held in contempt. At this particular moment, the designation made no real difference and Glynn noticed no difference in how he was treated in conversations but Larry Winston specifically noticed and decided that Adelbert’s pastor had sided with the enemy.
Bing Willard, the camp’s full-time administrator, and groundskeeper was the de facto leader of the camp. Bing was a former pastor himself who had “retired” after the relentless pace had caused him a second heart attack. For most of the year, the quiet tranquility of the empty campground suited him and his wife well. There were few demands and being surrounded by tall pines made for a peaceful existence. By the time camps came around in June, though, he was ready to temporarily take on a more pastoral role. Here, he was the boss and no one had the right to cross or question him. He stepped to the podium and the group of pastors immediately became quiet.
“Good afternoon, gentlemen,” Bing started. “We’re glad to see most of you back for another camp season. Welcome to those of you who are new. I won’t keep you long as I’ve noticed we seem to have a slightly larger group this year but we do have a few rules we need to go over before I introduce our staff for the week….”
Glynn’s mind immediately began to wander. He had already seen the new set of rules. Joanne had taken particular offense to the requirement that cabins be empty during the evening worship service. Glynn had agreed to ignore the rule, given Joanne’s health condition. He was also willing to make an exception for Marve if Hayden became unruly, which was always possible. The rest of the rules seemed rather obvious, boys and girls keeping separate during swimming, lights out at 9:00, no fireworks or noisemakers, no metal cleats on the softball field.
The room wasn’t air-conditioned and as the outside temperature made its way into the low 90s, the fatigue of the past two weeks began to catch up with him and Glynn couldn’t avoid yawning as he struggled to keep his eyes open. Bill noticed and carefully poked Glynn to keep him awake. Poking Glynn, however, caused him to bump into Clement, who was having similar difficulty. Bill found the chain reaction funny and was trying to hold back his laughter but it still managed to come out as an odd sneeze/cough sound the punctuated an awkward moment of silence in the middle of Bing’s introduction of the Camp Pastor. Everyone stared. Bill forced a cough to cover his faux pax as Glynn patted his back in an attempt to legitimize the sound. Clement struggled to keep a straight face and was relieved when everyone turned back around and Bing continued his introductions.
That was enough to keep the three pastors awake for the rest of the meeting. Bill and Glynn managed to avoid night patrol duty but Clement was assigned the 2-4 AM duty on Thursday morning. “You two are more than welcome to join me,” he said as they left the meeting.
Bill laughed. “You’ve been in our squeaky old cabin. No one moves at night without everyone in the cabin knowing about it. There’s no way I could sneak out.”
Clement chuckled. “That’s true, you all have a natural alarm going on there. What about you, Glynn? Want to come? It’s a pain waking up in the middle of the night, but it’s rather peaceful once you’re up and mobile.”
“I still can’t believe this is a thing,” Glynn said. “Is there seriously no other security here at night than a couple of pastors running around with flashlights and a ridiculously large button that says ‘Safety Patrol?’”
Bill and Clement both laughed. “Okay, Yankee boy,” Bill teased. “Are you afraid the fifth and sixth graders are going to sneak out and do drugs? Most these kids wouldn’t even know what drugs look like if they found them.”
“Nah, I’m more concerned about them doing something silly and it turning into more than they can handle,” Glynn said. “Boys, especially. Don’t tell me no one’s tried scaling that fence around the pool to go for a middle of the night swim? Or sneaking a cigarette from one of the cooks? One guy with a flashlight is easy to avoid. One dropped match around all these dry pine needles and we have a problem.”
“Oh, didn’t anyone tell you? We have an old fire truck on the grounds for just such an emergency,” Clement explained. “Someone has to crank it to get it started and Lord knows the last time those hoses were tested, but Bing assures us the old heap still runs!”
“Oh yeah, I forgot about that!” Bill said. “He usually brings it out in the middle of Junior Camp just to show off the antique. God save us if we ever actually have to use that thing!”
The three men were laughing at the thought of pastors trying to literally fight a fire in the middle of the night when Emmit caught up with them. “I see who my trouble makers are going to be this year,” the Director of Missions said, smiling. “What are you three up to?”
“Glynn here is plotting to burn the place down in the middle of the night,” Bill said with a big grin. “You know, give the kids a literal example of hell.”
“Just let them get a taste of Mrs. Trunkhart’s cooking over in Big Bend’s cabin,” Emmit laughed. “I just walked past their earlier and the smell alone was enough to turn my stomach.”
“You mean they actually have kids this year?” Clement asked. “I’ve not seen them at Junior Camp for at least three or four years.”
“Yeah, they managed to find three who wanted to come,” Emmit answered. “The Trunkhart’s brought them down. I hope the poor kids survive.”
“I’ve not heard of Big Bend,” Glynn said. “I assume that’s in Colquitt Association?”
Emmit shook his head. “No, they’re in ours, up in the northeast corner of Riddel county. Big Bend is kind of like Bluebird only smaller. They never were too large a town, built around a watering stop on one of the old cattle trails. They’ve been slowly shrinking the past 20 or so years. They lost their high school about four years ago, started sending their kids into the Diamond schools. Now there’s talk about closing the elementary school as well. I think there were maybe 40 students in the entire school last year.”
“And Trunkhart is the pastor?” Glynn innocently asked.
Bill and Clement both choked back a laugh.
“No, they’re the reason the church doesn’t have a pastor,” Emmit said, smiling. “They’ve run everything in and around Big Bend for 40 years and are a large reason no one wants to live out there. They ran off the last bi-vocational pastor almost two years ago because he used big words they didn’t understand. Edgar has been running the services himself ever since. Most Sundays, though, it’s just him and Thelma. Two of the most unpleasant people to ever call themselves Christians.”
“Edgar came to the Associational Annual Meeting a couple of years ago and made quite a fuss,” Clement added. “Emmit had mentioned in the associational newsletter that Robert’s Rules of Order would be strictly enforced during business sessions. You’ve met Larry, you can imagine why that’s necessary. Edgar shows up and right off the bat makes a fuss that the Bible’s Rules of Order are the only rules we should use. He honestly did not understand the concept of parliamentary procedure. That was 15 of the most uncomfortable minutes I’ve ever experienced.”
Glynn shook his head. “Those poor kids.”
“And that’s why we need a safety patrol,” Bill chuckled. “By Thursday, those kids are going to be looking for a way to escape Thelma’s cooking. Someone has to help them. Carry snacks.”
The group was still laughing when they reached Adelbert’s cabin and Glynn peeled off to make sure everything was running smoothly. It was, of course, and it did for the entire week. Marve and Irene made a great team in the kitchen, taking a lot of pressure off Joanne. Claire and Russel did a good job of supervising the kids. There were, of course, the occasional cuts and scrapes that needed bandaging, and one light case of homesickness that Joanne quickly handled by helping the boy catch fish in a creek that ran along the north border of the campground. Nearby cabins expressed some minor jealousy when Adelbert had fresh fish for their evening meal.
Glynn was surprised at how relaxing the week turned out to be. Not having a telephone ringing all day proved to be great for relieving stress. Even Marve got over her initial resentment by Wednesday and was enjoying sitting and chatting with Irene and Joanne between meals. Hayden especially enjoyed walking with his Daddy throughout the campground and Lita fit in well with the older kids. The camp was almost as good as a short vacation.
By the time Thursday morning came around, Glynn had no problem waking up early and was waiting on Clement when he came around for Safety Patrol.
“I wasn’t sure you’d make it this morning,” Clement teased. “How are you holding up?”
“It’s proving to be rather relaxing, actually,” Glynn admitted. “The cool wind at night, not a lot of pressure during the day, I can’t say I have any complaints.”
Clement nodded. “It’s a nice escape. The challenge comes next week when you discover all the things no one wanted to bother you with this week. Never fails. I’ll have two or three in critical condition in the hospital, there’ll be a maintenance issue of some kind at the church, and there will be a couple of people having a personal crisis that needs attention. Every time.”
“You’re not going to the convention?” Glynn asked.
“What, Philadelphia? I don’t think so,” Clement answered. “There are some years it feels important enough to make that trek but this isn’t one of them. All they’re going to do is bellyache for five days. I get enough of that at home. Besides, like I said, after spending a week here there are going to be plenty of things in Washataug to keep me busy. You planning on going?”
“I’ve never been, but no, not this year. Like you said, there’s too much going on here, what with the tornado at Bluebird, a member’s daughter in a coma in Tulsa, and we’re back here in two weeks,” Glynn mused. “I’d really like to go one year, though, just to see what it’s like, to be able to say that I’ve been.”
They walked for a while in silence, taking careful steps to not trip over ruts in the dirt roads. As they rounded the corner, they saw a light on in one of the cabins. “That will be Carl Roberts,” Clement said. “You’ve met him, haven’t you?”
“Yeah, at Pastors’ Conference a couple of times. He seems like a nice guy,” Glynn said.
“He is. Hard worker in a difficult church,” Clement said. “I promise you, he’s in there with a half-dozen books spread out on a table, digging down to the nitty-gritty of what each and every word says and infers. He was an English major before he was drafted into the Navy. He takes languages more seriously than anyone I’ve ever met. I admire him. Too bad his church really doesn’t appreciate what they’ve got. They pay him so little his family has been on public assistance just to keep food on the table.”
“That’s disappointing,” Glynn said.
“That’s Oklahoma Southern Baptists,” Clement responded. “Everyone wants their pastor to be full-time but they want to make sure he ‘stays humble’ and doesn’t live better than anyone in the church. So, they give him a broken-down house and just enough salary to pay the utility bills and expect him to work miracles. It’s an all too common problem. The state convention has stepped in a few times, but we probably lose 50 pastors a year who just cannot afford to keep working for nothing.”
They walked a while longer in silence. A cool breeze rustled through the tabernacle, causing just enough noise that the pair decided it was worth investigating. Finding the space empty, they sat in a couple of chairs and watched the night pass silently. In the distance, they hear the unmistakable sound of someone snoring, causing them both to laugh.
“I don’t know who that is, but I feel sorry for everyone in their cabin,” Clement said quietly. “There’s no way everyone’s asleep down there.”
“Talk about loud enough to wake the dead,” Glynn commented. “Someone has to have a serious health problem to make that much noise.”
Clement stood and stretched. “You’re probably right. Preachers are one of the most unhealthy groups of people anywhere. We eat too much fried chicken, get too little exercise, and even if we have insurance none of us slow down enough to see a doctor until we’re so sick we can’t stand.”
Glynn immediately thought of Jerry, one of the few associational pastors who wasn’t at the camp this week. Instead, he was trying to piece his church back together while going through radiation treatments in Tulsa.
The duo waited a few more minutes before walking toward the cabin where their replacement would be waiting. “Lee Benjamin, pastor at Calvary, Levi, always takes the 4:00 shift,” Clement explained without being asked. “He says he likes those last few peaceful moments before dawn. He’ll swear that the morning dew is evidence of God walking among us. Not exactly biblical but his heart’s in the right place.”
They handed off the flashlights and safety patrol button and then each made their way back to their cabins, slipping into their bunks with no one having noticed either was gone. Glynn briefly considered staying awake, moving to the kitchen and working on his sermon as Carl had been doing, but he convinced himself that doing so would probably wake Joanne and if she was up then Marve and Irene wouldn’t be far behind and they’d all be tired the rest of the day. He closed his eyes and slowly drifted off to sleep.
If Junior Camp was like a week of vacation, the week after proved to be its antithesis. Marve and Glynn were both still surprisingly exhausted despite having ultimately enjoyed the week. Marve had started on laundry the moment they got home and Buck had met Glynn at the church with a list of people who were sick and in the hospital. Glynn wasn’t terribly surprised that Sunday’s attendance was low and felt no guilt from having re-cycled a sermon he’d used in Michigan. This was summer in Oklahoma. People were busy with crops and cattle. The pastor reassured the congregation that God would meet them in the fields or the barn or wherever they might be and they had taken him at his word.
Monday started off overcast and Glynn noticed that he was getting jumpy and anxious any time clouds started to cover the sky. The forecast only called for moderate rain in the afternoon but too often that moderate rain turned into significant storms. He made hospital visits early and quietly sat at his office desk studying and handling the two weeks’ worth of administrative duties as a gentle rain fell across the small town. He was happy to be home for dinner with just his family, the kids fussing with each other over toys, Marve filling him in on the more amusing pieces of town gossip.
They had just finished dinner and were clearing away the dishes when there was a knock at the front door. Glynn answered it and was surprised to find Alan and Horace standing there. Outside on the street was a line of four pickup trucks with two men in the cab of each. Before Glynn had a chance to respond, Alan announced, “Hey preacher! Banker says your house is ready! We’re here to get ya’ll moved!”
“Tonight?” Glynn asked. “In the rain?”
“Yeah, we figured ya’ll have been living in this little thing long enough,” Alan said, “And since it’s raining I didn’t have any trouble rounding up plenty of help. We’ve all got big tarps to cover the beds of the truck so nothing should get too wet.”
Another car pulled up and Joanne got out, pushing her way past Horace and into the house. As she did she gave him a stern look. “We’ll talk more about this at home,” she warned. Joanne turned and gave Marve a hug. “Honey, I’m sorry about this. I just found out a few minutes ago. Irene and a couple of others are on their way to help you get things packed. These boys get a burr under their saddle and they don’t stop to think, they just do.”
Glynn stood at the door still dumbstruck by what was happening. “Okay,” he said carefully. “I guess we can start with what’s still in boxes? That’s going to be the easiest.”
Alan turned and whistled at the men in the pickups, motioning for them to join him. “Just lead the way, pastor. I think we’ve got enough folks to get this done in an hour or so.”
The next several minutes were an exercise in organized chaos. Three other women arrived to help Marve pack up the house, each one pausing on their way in to make sure Alan knew that the lack of notice was completely unacceptable. Lita was excited about moving to the new house and getting her own room. Hayden had been excited, too, until one of the women started packing up his toys. Fortunately, Claire showed up at the back door just in time to distract both the children and help keep them out of all the foot traffic going back and forth through the small house.
The new parsonage wasn’t that far away, perhaps a quarter of a mile at most. Nothing could have been much further as the whole town was less than a mile wide in any direction. The house sat on a bit of a knoll overlooking the school’s football field. Behind the house was nothing but pasture. Six other houses sat along the looping road that went up one side of the hill and down the other. Most people referred to this as the “new” part of town as most of the houses here were less than ten years old. The parsonage was barely two years old and the bank president’s new home, almost a mirror copy of the parsonage, sat right next door.
Compared to the four-room structure they’d been in, the new parsonage seemed massive. A large living room with a floor-to-ceiling picture window dominated the front with a sizeable kitchen and dining room behind. The three bedrooms were down a hallway off the living room, two small rooms that measured roughly 10×12 feet and a slightly larger master that included a half bath off to one side. Glynn and Marve had initially been excited, having never had that much space.
Conditions surrounding the move had tamped down their excitement considerably, though. Marve fought back a scream as she watched one of the young men drop a box containing the china her mother had given her. Hayden and Lita were fussing over who got which room, an argument Glynn settled with authority and a significant amount of frustration. Not helping matters any, the rain picked up half-way through the move, making sure that the last loads, mostly all their clothes and things they had been using in the small house, were at least damp if not completely soaked.
Joanne refused to let Horace leave until she was sure that Marve’s washer and dryer were hooked up and functioning. “You moved her in the rain,” she fussed. “She’s going to have to wash all those clothes all over again. Honestly, I don’t know what you men were thinking. This could have waited until tomorrow.”
Appliances were the last thing to be set in place. As Marve transferred food from a cardboard box to the refrigerator, Irene knelt down to help and said, “Try not to worry, dear. We’ll come back over in the morning and help you sort this all out, and we’ll bring you some food.”
Marve smiled, thankful for both the help and encouragement but still trying to hold back the rage she was feeling. She waited until everyone was gone and the kids were tucked in and sound asleep before letting loose at Glynn. “You’re going to tell me that you didn’t have any idea this was going to happen? You expect me to believe that they just showed up with absolutely no advance warning of any kind?”
‘Glynn leaned against the counter dividing the kitchen from the dining room. “No one has even mentioned it in two months,” he said in an effort to defend himself. “I was going to find a way to ask about it at the next deacons’ meeting but I didn’t want to push because Alan would have put pressure on the bank president and since he’s our neighbor now I didn’t want that relationship to start off wrong. I had no idea any of this was going to happen tonight and yes, it was invasive. I’m glad we’re in but this is definitely not the way I wanted it to happen.”
“This was more than invasive, Glynn,” Marve countered. “This was humiliating. I had absolutely nothing ready. There are still wet clothes in the washer. I know without looking that some of mom’s china was broken by one of those clumsy idiots. They didn’t care about whether things were fragile. They didn’t pay attention to which boxes were supposed to go in which rooms, even with me telling them! They were throwing boxes across the yard. They brought clothes from our closet and dumped them in a pile in our bedroom then kicked them out of the way with their muddy boots when they set up the bed. They didn’t ask how I wanted the bedroom arranged, either, so I’ll have to re-do all that tomorrow. This was a nightmare, Glynn. You do this to me ever again and so help me I’ll walk out and never come back. I don’t care about your career or the church or how it looks to anyone. I will not be humiliated like this ever again! Do you understand?”
Glynn paused and looked at his wife, knowing that he had to choose his words carefully and that he couldn’t let his own emotions get the better of him. “I didn’t plan this,” he said softly. “I didn’t ask anyone to show up out of the blue. Yes, it was wrong. Yes, it was humiliating. Yes, we have some damages. I have a box of books I need to rescue from a puddle. I’m pretty sure I heard glass break in one of the kitchen boxes. I know! But please don’t blame me. This happened to all of us, our family, not just you.”
Marve wasn’t in the mood to listen nor was she willing to let Glynn off the hook that easily. “How is this not your fault, Glynn?” she charged. “You were the one who wanted to pastor a bigger church, a full-time pastorate. You’re the one who drug our entire family out here to the middle of nowhere. And first, they put us in the tiniest house I’ve ever seen, and now they just show up and move us and act like we’re supposed to thank them for it! I was perfectly fine living in Michigan. Yeah, your hours sucked, but at least we were stable. No one from the plant was ever going to show up in the middle of dinner and tell me we had to move. This is not what I signed up for, Glynn. This was not part of anything I ever agreed to. You got us into this mess and if things don’t improve, Glynn Waterbury, I will pack up the kids and leave. I promise. I want stable and predictable back.”
“Okay,” Glynn sighed, knowing there was no point in arguing with her right now. “I’ll go down to the diner tomorrow and talk to Alan and Horace, although I’m pretty sure Joanne is giving Horace an earful already.” He paused and looked around the kitchen and dining room, boxes were stacked everywhere in complete disarray. Marve was right, no consideration had been given to where anything went. Getting things organized would take weeks. “What do we need to do tonight so that we can at least have breakfast in the morning?”
Marve looked around the kitchen with tears in her eyes. “I don’t know, Glynn,” she cried. “I don’t know where the bowls or the cereal are. I don’t know where the sheets for the bed are. Things were just tossed in boxes and moved without being labeled.” Tears were pouring down her cheeks as she collapsed into the nearest kitchen chair.
Glynn turned around and saw the cereal boxes protruding from the top of one of the packing boxes. He quickly opened a couple of other boxes until he found the bowls, plates, and utensils. He took them out of the boxes and set them in one of the cupboards. “There, we can do breakfast. I think I saw a box marked linens in the hallway. Does it matter which sheets we put on the bed tonight?”
Marve shook her head, her sobs too heavy to allow her to speak. She didn’t care anymore. She wanted it all to over.
Glynn found the box of linens in the hallway, thankful that the sheets inside were for their bed and not the kids. He made their bed and put Marve’s favorite quilty on top before returning to the kitchen to get her. “I found the sheets, I made the bed,” he said as he returned to the dining room and took Marve’s hand in his. “Let’s try to get some sleep and we can tackle everything else in the morning.”
Marve wiped tears from her eyes and looked up at the sympathetic eyes of her husband. This is why she had fallen in love with him in the first place. He had the ability to take the sting out of any situation. He absorbed her pain and made it his. “Go rescue those books first,” she said quietly.
Glynn nodded and kissed her on the forehead before leaving the room. The two-car garage was nice and roomy but having the large door open while it was raining meant there were puddles of water scattered across the floor. He found the box of books and set it in a dry spot, then removed the books from the box to check the amount of damage. One of his older books was likely ruined, but he wouldn’t throw it out just yet. He set them on top of the boxes to dry and returned to the house. Marve was already in bed. He walked through the house turning off the lights, making sure the doors were locked before slipping into bed beside her. She rolled away from him. He sighed and closed his eyes.
There was no chance Glynn was going to sleep. By 4:00 he was up, sorting through boxes in the kitchen, putting up the things that made sense, setting aside the boxes that he knew Marve would want to organize. By the time Marve woke up around 6:00, he had the table clear and most of the kitchen counter space available. She still was in a less-than-cheerful mood, but gave Glynn a kiss and thanked him for all the help.
Naturally, the kids popped out of bed sooner than their parents would have liked, bouncing around the house, anxious to get started unpacking, each with fantastically impossible ideas for how they wanted their rooms set up. Marve calmed them long enough to feed them breakfast then gave them specific assignments for their rooms, easy things she knew they could handle. Keeping them busy and out of her way would be the biggest struggle of the day.
Glynn had put some boxes in the car to take to his office and was about to leave when there was a knock at the door. He glanced out the window and didn’t see a vehicle, surprised and slightly annoyed that anyone was already paying them a visit. He opened the door to find a woman about Marve’s age, with two children, a young boy and a taller girl, just younger than his own.
“Hi, I’m Ellen Stone, your new neighbor. We live next door. I saw they moved ya’ll in the rain last night and thought your wife might use some help,” the woman said. She looked at the kids and added, “This is Kerrie and James. Kerrie’s 10 and James is 3. They can help keep your kids distracted.”
Glynn smiled. “Absolutely! Come on in!” He opened the door wider and quickly called to Marve. Ellen repeated her introduction as Lita and Hayden came bounding from their rooms. They quickly grabbed Kerrie and James by the hand and took them back to their rooms.
Marve took Ellen to the kitchen, asking questions the entire way. “Show me how you had things set up in here,” she asked. “I’m not used to this many options and I’m not sure what makes the most sense…”
Glynn smiled, happy to see that Marve was going to have company. He had hardly shut the front door, though, when two cars pulled up out front. Joanne got out of one and Gladys Walker emerged from the other. They came toward the house, each carrying a large box of groceries. Glynn opened the door wide to let them in.
“Joanne called me last night and told me about them moving ya’ll in the rain,” Gladys said as she squeezed through the door. “I knew that husband of mine was out doing something, but I didn’t realize he was being stupid. Please consider this as something of a peace offering.”
“We’ll stay and help Marve,” Joanne said, matter-of-factly. “I know you need to get to the church.” She paused for just a second then continued. “And if you feel the need to box some men about the ears a bit, I’m pretty sure they’ll all be at the diner around 11.”
Glynn took the hint, gave Marve and the kids a kiss, and left for the church office. The church phone didn’t ring all morning. Normally, that would have been Glynn’s signal that everything was quiet and he could take an extended lunch at home with Marve and the kids but he knew better. As he pulled into the parking lot at the diner, he quickly noticed that all the trucks that had moved him the night before were present. Sure enough, he found them all sitting around a set of tables that had been pushed together.
“Might as well join us,” Horace said as the diner’s door closed behind the preacher, a small bell announcing his presence. “All our wives are at your house, so I’m guessing it’s about as safe for you to go home as it for any of us.”
Glynn pulled up a chair and commented, “Yeah, as much as I appreciate what ya’ll did last night, Marve was none too happy about the lack of warning. Had it not been covered in boxes, I’d have probably had to sleep on the couch last night.”
“You may be the only one of us that didn’t,” Alan said, staring down into the cup of coffee he was holding between his hands. “I can’t remember the last time my wife was that angry.”
“We’ll each be apologizing when we see her,” Buck added. “A couple of us might be sleeping all the way out in the barn if we don’t.”
The waitress took Glynn’s order and Alan quickly told her, “Put that on my tab, please.” He looked down the table toward the preacher and continued, “If there’s anything else I can do to make it up to her, just say the word. I guess I’m so used to rushing and getting things done the moment they pop up, I didn’t stop to think how inconvenient it might be for your family.”
Glynn smiled. He wasn’t any happier with the men’s actions than was Marve but he knew he couldn’t express it as aggressively as she had and he probably didn’t need to say much. Three of the men had yet to look up from their coffee. The group’s contrition was apparent. “There’s a lesson to be learned here, I suppose. Remember our scripture from a couple of weeks ago, Matthew 19, when people were bringing their children to Jesus?”
He paused to make sure he had everyone’s attention then continued. “At the front of that story, there’s a line we often brush over, where the disciples tried to stop the parents who were bringing the kids. We rarely stop to consider the disciples’ perspective. They had just made a long trip, by foot. Jesus had spent an untold number of days healing people because he had grown famous for that. Then, he’d had a tussle with the Pharisees about divorce and told them they didn’t know anything about love. The disciples likely looked at Jesus and saw a person who they assumed was as exhausted as the rest of them if not more so. Under those circumstances, with that perspective, it’s not surprising that they would see this group of parents coming at them with all their screaming kids wiggling around and making noise and want to save Jesus the trouble. Their intentions seemed gracious and helpful at the time, but they lacked the perspective of Christ.”
Glynn looked down the table, not sure that all the men were understanding the comparison. He explained, “Sometimes, like last night, we have good intentions and are only trying to help but we don’t stop to consider the perspective of the person we think we’re helping. We’re not meaning to do any harm, but harm is still done.
“Jesus’ rebuke to his disciples comes off sounding a bit soft in translation, but I assure you it wasn’t. He was upset. He likely raised his voice. There was a sense of ‘Don’t you ever do this again,’ implied in his tone. I think that’s where we find ourselves this morning. Our wives provided sufficient rebuke. It’s an error in judgment we don’t need to repeat. Should anything substantial need to be done ever again, we need to coordinate that we everyone, not gather up the first posse we can find and charge forward.”
The men at the table nodded their agreement with admissions that they should have known better. As the waitress began to bring out the men’s food, Glynn added, “All that being said, thank you for providing such a nice parsonage. I’m sure that around 1:00 this afternoon Marve will begin to appreciate having central air conditioning. Perhaps I can convince her to invite everyone over for an open house or something once she gets things settled in. I’ll have to check with her first, though.”
The pastor smiled and the men at the table laughed. The tension around the table began to ease and the conversation turned back to the standard topics of weather and pond levels and sick cows. By the time Glynn braved returning home that evening, everyone seemed to have calmed down a bit. Marve gave Glynn a big kiss as he came in and the kids were anxious to tell him about their new friends next door. The temperature in the house was at least 20 degrees cooler than the scorching heat outside and one of the neighbors from the other side of the hill had brought over a large casserole for dinner so Marve wouldn’t have to cook. The family didn’t know it yet, but the women had conspired among themselves to provide food for the Waterburys the entire week. While there was no question that a wound had been made, this one was on its way to being healed, even if the scar would never completely go away.