Every year about this time, the pastor and his wife of the country church we attend host a pig roast and potluck at their place. Saturday afternoon we drove the dirt road to their home, dust billowing from behind our vehicles and coating every fence and frog in its path. It's as dry here as popcorn without butter; only one small sprinkle has fallen from the sky in the entire month of October. We'd all be grateful for rain, but all the same, it was nice to be in the dry for the big event.
Up off the road from the house is the barn, its welcoming doors open to the autumn air. From the front of the barn streamed the tantalizing aroma of pork and fried potatoes. Inside, tables were set up, one long one laden with a mouth-watering array of food, the best of everything, in the finest tradition of church potlucks. There were smiles and hugs of greeting before we bowed together to thank our Father and then line up for the food.
Here's one thing I've discovered. Nearly everybody who's lived in the Ozarks for any amount of time has a good snake story. At the table were I sat, we somehow got started on that subject. There were several good stories, but one was a clear winner, told by a husband and wife. After having some repairs done on their plumbing, an outlet pipe had been left uncovered. The wife had tried to flush the toilet one day, and when it wouldn't flush, she turned around to meet the stare of a big Black Snake, which had lifted the top of its powerful body up out of the toilet. The ensuing effort to extricate the snake, and the even bigger snake that followed it that day, would have won an award on America's Funniest Home Videos, and it was, I'm sure, a lot more fun hearing about second hand than actually being there. But that's another story, one for somebody else to tell.
As good as the food and the stories were, the best part, for me, was the singing, which followed outside near the old persimmon tree. There were several good singers there, and several instruments, and people who knew what to do with them. Some of the songs we all sang; on others, someone would take the lead for a verse or two, then nod to another, who would pick up the melody on the guitar, in what seemed to be a natural and long established pattern. We sang old songs, familiar songs: “I'll Fly Away”, “Amazing Grace”, “I Know Who Holds Tomorrow, And I Know Who Holds My Hand”; and some not quite as old: “Beulah Land”, “Put Your Hand In the Hand of the Man Who Stilled the Waters”. Some of the songs were different than the ones I grew up with, but the theme was the same, of One who loves us deeply, and gave His life so that we can live. When it was time to go, we hated to leave. Others stayed and sang into the evening.
My grandfather grew up in these hills, and I imagine him singing those same songs outside over an autumn campfire. Such music causes us to look back, recalling songs from over the years, and also forward, to a Day when we won't have to stop singing, and the One we sing about will live with us. Our voices will lift as one, as we sing to Him in adoration, and then His strong voice will take the lead, resounding through the stars and filling our hearts with the Song we've always been longing to hear.
In a loud voice they sang:
"Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength
and honor and glory and praise!"
Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth
and under the earth and on the sea,
and all that is in them, singing:
"To Him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
be praise and honor and glory and power,
for ever and ever!"