What Really Matters
Feast Blog 2009
As we look forward to the Feast of Tabernacles let’s remember the lessons of previous festival seasons, and prepare for our best Feast yet.
I awoke his morning to the squawks of our resident ravens, and the soft morning light filtering through the green canopy of alders that separates us from the wetlands. The pains are still there but I feel like I’ve had my first really restful sleep in the past 2 weeks.
I let my mind wander back and the crisp autumn air and dance of sunlight and leaves reminds me of my 6 years of feasts in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania. There are so many memories it is an effort to corral them into order, and I am left with a certain sense of loss when I contrast the present with the past. But each time in life has its own joys and challenges.
I was a young teen who had bought early into “God’s way of Life.” I enjoyed the blessing of a Mom who really lived what she learned. Dad was a firm believer in the God of the bible and wanted his “kosher hams” to know God’s commandments and live them, but Dad had no use for organized religion, though he supported Mom in all her efforts to “civilize us” by teaching us the scripture. Dad attended the first couple of feasts with us, then perhaps having satisfied himself that we were safe and not under the sway of some weird fanatical religious scam artists, he stopped coming. He would tell us he was relishing the idea of a week of peace without us all, and would thereafter give us the car, some money, and send us all on our merry way. He said this with his mischievous look, so I knew it was only half true. Though I think it did give him a few days to indulge himself in his passion of flying small aircraft, something he rarely did when we were home.
As a teen everything about the new feast site in the Poconos was “supersized”. I’ve wondered if it was this way for the adults and concluded, yes! This was quite a convention even for modern standards. I wondered how many times in the history of God’s people since the temple was destroyed had such large groups come together to praise God. Perhaps those golden years of the Church of God when the membership was growing rapidly to finally reach over 150,000 baptized adults were unique. So, there we were in the Poconos, more than twelve thousand people rejoicing together in God’s feast, meeting in one tent or tabernacle for services, two and sometimes, three times a day for 8 days.
Even the parking lots were supersized to accommodate so many cars, and so was the daily trek from parking lot to services and back. I remember joking about it, but not complaining, as my young legs were generally up to the task. Of course, the most memorable time was the year that the new unpaved parking lots were seas of mud due to days of dreary rainy weather. But this did not seem to dampen the “feast fever” or the excitement we all felt at being together to worship God.
The single mother with babe in arms, 2 toddlers tagging beside her, diaper bag, toys and bible in hand, could trust some kind soul to come and help. Some of the young teens were organized into service teams for just that purpose. There was a real spirit of looking out for each other. Looking back, what comes to mind is the sense of “lets work together.”
One thing the Church of God seemed to take very seriously was to do everything in an orderly fashion, as the apostle Paul admonished – No chaos or confusion. Everything was planned and put into action. From traffic controllers in their safety vests braving the downpour, to ushers and attendants of all descriptions, everyone was serving with a smile. Now I know human nature was not suspended for eight days, and yes, there must have been problems. But the general atmosphere was one of real caring with a sincere effort to create a millennial sense of harmony and goodwill.
Being such a large group it was impressed upon us daily that our impact in the community would not go unnoticed so it was very important to shed God’s light in hotels, restaurants and while waiting in long (sometimes very long) lines for food or other amenities between services. Mom being the smart and frugal lady she was, learned quickly to pack picnic lunches so we could spend the time eating and fellowshipping with others, instead of trying to rush madly off in search of a meal.
Of course the feast has always meant fun, a change of pace, a chance to meet new people and re-establish ties to last year’s feast friends. Many of the young people, not unlike our young adults today, longed for the company of other’s who shared the vision of a “World Tomorrow”, so dating at the feast was in earnest. The search for a soul-mate was on.
Now, I was a tall tomboyish sort as I had to keep on par with two younger athletic brothers when it came to football, baseball, road hockey or soccer. By the age of thirteen I was my full adult height with a long mop of red hair that to hear my grandmother tell it, was always unruly, and in my eyes. She did not appreciate the flower-child free-spirited look. To Granny’s delight, I’m sure, a friend offered to give me a hair-do, a fancy French knot which she did with aplomb. So there I was in services with my not-so-comfortable new coiffure, when a young man in his early 20’s came up and started to chat. Now as my friends could readily tell you, I may be shy in meeting new people at times, but if someone greets me first I have no trouble keeping up my end of a conversation, so I was busily chatting away with John (name changed to protect the innocent). He was intelligent, well-read, and seemed really committed to the teachings of scripture. But, he caught me off guard by asking me out on a “date” to swim at Mt. Airy pool, with a group of young adults. A dream come true, but there was a problem!
I didn’t want to deflate this serious, soft-spoken young man, and I did love to swim, but dating wasn’t what 13 year-olds did at the feast. So there was a quandary! I responded with hardly a pause, that I would have to ask my mother for permission. This got an eye-brow raise, but he cheerfully came along to meet Mom and my brothers. She sized up my dilemma immediately explaining my age and delivering me from the embarrassment of doing it myself. His response was unexpected. He kindly offered to take all three of us children swimming and Mom could come too and have a chance to explore the lodge and environs with friends. We all had a really splendid afternoon together. Years later I met a man and his wife and children at services in Pasadena, he looked familiar and we started to talk about our lives in the Church of God and the feasts that we had attended. In a rush it all came back to me! He was the one who had treated my family so well that afternoon, and I knew that his wife had found a heart of gold.
Now one last thought about those halcyon days. I have always hungered to hear God’s word, so while many teens may have been passing notes in church, I was thoroughly captivated by most of the messages. Art Mokarow was a favourite speaker as he spoke to my child’s heart about the ways of God in a manner that I remember to this day. I had great respect, perhaps even awe, of all those men God was using to speak to me so powerfully. So when I was given a chance to serve breakfast at Mt. Airy to these noble persons, I felt it would be a positive, no, an uplifting experience. Mom braved the snow and rain and drove the mountain roads willingly to help me do my service in spite of the very early morning schedule.
But I was very disappointed by the whole experience, for as cheerful and helpful as I could be, it was only the few who would return a smile. Many were grumpy, lacked common courtesy, seemed wholly self-absorbed, and did not show the slightest sign of appreciation for the service all the teens were providing. I had to sadly realize that my Dad, who was not a “church member,” did a much better job of acknowledging, engaging, and appreciating those who served him. This was a dilemma that I struggled with and did not really understand for decades. But, it is amazing that with time God brings all things to light.
May this coming feast be full of God’s light and may you shine your light so others will give God glory.