Wednesday, November 02, 2016

Reviewing the Branson Excursion

Claire and I are back from Branson and, despite the hoopla generated by the hooligans running for President, we are feeling rested, refreshed, and recommitted to the blessed honor we have of raising Christ’s standard through Vital Signs Ministries.

There’s a lot to do right away – plan for the VSM Pie Social on November 11th (details at the end of October’s LifeSharer letter which is right here), create the next November “When Swing Was King” volume,  catch up on correspondence, and finish work on a grand Christmas letter-writing party we’re having on November 29th (details right here).

There was some work in our Branson schedule, especially Claire’s work on a major project we’re calling “Sentence Sermons” and, for my part, a lot of planning and reading.  But we did well in making sure that our “working vacation” included plenty of “vacation” as well.  Among the highlights?

* We did a lot of hiking along Table Rock Lake. Claire took her longest walks ever on this beautiful trail – 5.3 miles. And she did it 4 times!  However, she quickly beat her record by joining me for a walk through Dogwood Canyon that was 7.8 miles!  I also threw in some long walks around the RecPlex and through the very hilly town of Branson.  My walks followed my usual pattern of 7.5 miles and so, with getting in 9 days, I added about 68 miles to my 2016 total. (My present total for the year, after another 4 hikes since I returned home, is now 1302.2 miles.)

* Reading.  The books I brought along for Branson were, with one exception, excellent – informative, challenging, and inspiring. The good ones were Randy Alcorn’s hand in Hand; Francis Schaeffer’s The Church Before the Watching World; Francis Schaeffer: An Authentic Life by Colin Duriez; and the Lew Wallace classic, Ben Hur.  The bad one was our literary club selection for the month, The Oxbow Incident by Walter Van Tilburg Clark.  This was one of the most dreadful novels I’ve ever read.  No kidding.  But the others I most heartily recommend.  Of course, Claire had to read Oxbow too but she also got some time in a re-read of Randy Alcorn's exciting novel, Deadline.

* Another really neat part of our vacation was time spent with family and friends. We had two splendid visits up in Crane, Missouri with my sweet Aunt Farris and her daughters Belinda and Debbie and Belinda’s husband, Wayne.  We also were treated to a delicious dinner by my cousin David and his wife, Heather.  We also had a lovely luncheon conversation with Paul Richard, a Facebook friend who is now a face to face friend.  And we enjoyed several shorter conversations along the way with people we met.  Most particular in this category was a friendship I formed through early morning coffees at Panera with a journeyman country musician, J.C. Bullock, and another with Jack, a good old boy who expertly (and inexpensively) reheeled my boots.

* We attended church twice at Williams Memorial Chapel on the campus of College of the Ozarks. It’s the kind of church we would definitely attend if we could.  Bible preaching.  Prayers.  Responsive reading.  A gorgeous, spacious atmosphere that naturally encourages reverence and quietude of spirit.  Exquisite and inspiring music that is provided by a student choir and congregational hymns – none of the performance-based, loud, emotional coercion, and frequently insipid syrup that has become such a dominating part of most evangelical services nowadays. Sigh.

* We also ate lunch at the College's Keeter Center a couple of times.  It’s our favorite vacation restaurant not only because of the quality of food, the pretty surroundings, but the fun we always have in talking with students.  Of course, Branson is a great place for restaurants but, with our Paleo diets, we only rarely go out.  But our meals at home were delicious…and relaxed…and cheap!

* One of our favorite Branson activities is feeding the ducks on the Taneycomo
down by Branson Landing. In fact, we did that three times!

* We did a little shopping: clothes at Belk's and White House Black Market, apple butter and a sweatshirt at the College of the Ozarks, groceries at Country Mart and Price Chopper, and homemade pork rinds at Whiskers Country Corner.

* We spent several pleasant hours at Silver Dollar City listening to the Homestead Pickers (our favorite, shown at left) and the Horse Creek Band.  We watched enthusiastic and skilled couples at a barn dance -- very cool. With three kids joining us, we rode a water raft and got all wet.  We looked over the work of many cowboy artists and pioneer craftsmen.  And then that evening we enjoyed dinner at Shindigs while listening to the music of John Walter Morrison.

* We put together two Christmas-themed jigsaw puzzles.  We wrote 70 postcards. We took drives through the country.  We relaxed and drank tea and coffee and apple cider.  We talked and prayed and enjoyed the beauty of the Ozarks.  We did a lot of reviewing and evaluating the past year, including giving grades on how our New Year Resolutions have turned out.  And we did a lot of planning for our work with Vital Signs Ministries in the coming months.

* And finally, there was a nice ride home to Omaha, blessed with more conversation and, thanks to Daniel Heiser, listening to the Focus on the Family radio adaptations of C.S. Lewis’ The Magicians’s Nephew and The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Fantastic!

It was a really terrific couple of weeks.

(Postscript. If you're interested, there are a few more photos of our time in the Branson area over on our personal Facebook pages.)