Hello, it's me, RuthAnne, calling from Reedley CA. Yes, from the wilderness! I mean that both literally and figuratively.
But it's okay. After all, Abraham and Moses spent time in the wilderness, as did Jesus. I understand from some of my favorite spiritual mentors that wilderness is a good place to be. I do, however, prefer traveling to exotic places, such as Barcelona and Istanbul (which happens to be where my eldest son lives with his beautiful Turkish wife). And I honestly have traveled to both places, not to mention Santiago, Chile. I also prefer to be walking on the beach or standing in the tides as they wash the sand out from under my feet. And, I prefer the fresh washed air of Ashland OR, where my other son lives with his equally beautiful veterinarian wife. I love the way Ashland lines the river gulley and sprawls up high mountains to either side. I love its shops, wines, cheeses, chocolates, and Shakespeare.
But I live in Reedley, and it takes a long time to get anywhere from here. I live where the smog backs in from Silicon Valley and banks up against the snowcapped peaks of the Sierras. I live where high pressure systems keep the smog parked for months on end. Believe it or not, I live where the air quality registers unhealthy night after night on the 6 o'clock news. It's not just Silicon, either, but that's not really the subject of my blog. I haven't really done enough research to give the details of where the smog comes from, to tell the truth.
Reedley is in an agricultural area, and is actually quite scenic. In addition to being surrounded by orchard after orchard of stone fruit against the backdrop of the Sierras with their back country peaks jutting into the sky, the Kings River gushes down from Kings Canyon and swirls right through Reedley. The backdrop and the back country, by the way, are usually hidden by the smog, but that's not what I'm writing about, is it?
In the center of Reedley looms a monolithic cube-shaped church. That is ONE of the things I'll be writing about. Locally, it is referred to as the "Big Church." The sign in front says Mennonite Brethren Church, or something to that effect. If you are anyone in Reedley, you go there. I'm not, and I don't. Neither does my husband.
No, we spend Sundays at home, usually, watching Gaither Homecoming videos with my 92-year-old, wheel-chair bound mother (93, in a couple of weeks). She lives five blocks away from us in Palm Village, a Mennonite retirement and skilled nursing facility. We try to get her to our home on Sundays for a home-cooked meal, family time, and inspiration. She is the one who introduced us to the Gaithers. They are about as close as we get to church. There's just something about that whole-hearted, old time gospel singing! Who needs the sermon after that? My mother doesn't go to church any more either, though they have services at the home and songs and testimonies given by Sunday-school classes from the Mennonite Church, and God knows they have tried to get her to go. But she staunchly maintains her distance.
She has her reasons for maintaining her distance. She hasn't been to church since my father died ten years ago. Remember the Big Church I mentioned above? Well, my grandfather built that monstrosity, and he preached there before he moved on and built a Mennonite Church in Fresno and was pastor there. He was also instrumental in starting Pacific Bible Institute in Fresno, which has now grown into Fresno Pacific University. He did all this before he was excommunicated from the church, and my family (including me, I suppose, I was only 6 at the time) were excommunicated along with him. The short of it is that he believed in the laying on of hands and healing, and was "letting" people into the church who believed in it too. That's it. No affairs, no embezzling of funds, no anything else. Just healing! His name was J.D. Hofer and he was a famous person in the Mennonite circles back then. Many of the older people around here still remark on his "powerful sermons" and they smile upon reminiscing that he married them.
Well, the world can go chaotic and screwy on a lot of levels. I'm just a lone voice calling from a place where people don't put much stock in lone voices, a place where you need to be part of the larger voice. But, we are all, in our own way, looking for our own way, and maybe in the end we'll all join our ways.