Monday, February 21, 2011

Grackles and other TX Phenomenas

I hope I used that word correctly!    There are some things we notice as we travel to different places that are unique to a certain area.  Two things are evident in Texas moreso than anywhere else we have visited:   Wind and Grackles.  Of course, we have wind everywhere we have lived (Montreal, Beijing) but it's something that we seem to have much more often in Texas.  Perhaps, the lack of forests and flat land contribute to the daily occurrences. 

Yesterday, when I walked in the direction the wind was blowing, my hair was standing straight up.  When I got inside a building, I would smooth it out to keep from looking like Phyllis Diller.   I probably still looked like her!

Another thing we notice wherever we go is the large population of Grackles. 
Common Grackles are blackbirds that look like they've been slightly stretched. They're taller and longer tailed than a typical blackbird, with a longer, more tapered bill and glossy-iridescent bodies. Grackles walk around lawns and fields on their long legs or gather in noisy groups high in trees, typically evergreens. They eat many crops (notably corn) and nearly anything else as well, including garbage. In flight their long tails trail behind them, sometimes folded down the middle into a shallow V shape.

Power lines are sometimes covered with them, as are trees.  Some cities try to scare them off with fake owls on the corners of their buildings, but it does little good to frighten them. 

It is difficult to get a good picture because they are often gathering at dusk to roost.   The noise of them "cackling" is very noticeable. 
Everywhere we park, we either have barking dogs or trains.  There seems to be many more freight trains in Texas.  But what is really unique, as Texans will tell you, "there are more of everything in Texas."    Everything is more, bigger or better (or all three)!   It's actually true.    It's a big state, for sure.  It will take us many more months to just skim the surface of visiting churches. 
We go into an area and Ron tries to get appointments set up with as many of the sound churches as possible.  When we run out of possible appointments to present the report about the work in China, we move on to another major area.  Sometimes, it's just a matter of scheduling.  Some churches are more flexible with their agendas than others.  Some tell us they would like to schedule us on the next trip to their area.
Sunday morning, we attended services at Norton Street in Corpus Christi.  It is predominantly a Hispanic congregation but it was still a multi-cultured gathering of Christians who love each other very much.  Everyone was very friendly and accepting of our visit and interested in the work in China.  Many signed up to receive the on-line China Mission newsletters.  The regular preacher and many others had gone to a lectureship somewhere in the area so their number was down.
Brother Ortiz, one of the elders, and his wife took us to Luby's Cafeteria for lunch.  They are natives to Corpus Christi.  Brother Ortiz was taught the gospel by the church in Lewisville, TX.  He is a very kind and wonderful man.  We had a very enjoyable visit over lunch with him and his sweet wife.   Their son plans to go to a preaching school in Austin.  We find many of the small churches are turning out more upcoming preachers than the larger congregations.
We were at Ingleside Sunday night.  It was another small but very friendly group.   Our long-time sponsor, Billie Poenisch, and her husband were in attendance.  We had met Billie on Saturday night at a spaghetti supper at the North Bay congregation, where she is a member.  We would have gone with them to eat after services last night but we had already been invited to come back to North Bay for their "Silver Sneekers" or some such group meeting.  It was a dinner for their members (over 50 or 60, I suppose).   I hope the name was not actually "Silver Streakers."  
Tuesday morning I will attend the ladies' Bible class at North Bay and then Ron and I will meet Phyllis and her husband (who is one of the elders) for lunch.   I don't recall their last name at this time.  Phyllis is a tall, slender lady who works as a realtor.  She was one of the first people to take me by the arm and make me feel welcome when we arrived the first Sunday morning.  I think I had the same feeling a child would have when someone pats them on the head and gives them a piece of candy.  I easily become an instant friend to someone so friendly and accepting. 

"When you choose to be pleasant and positive in the way you treat others, you have also chosen, in most cases, how you are going to be treated by others."
The preacher at Port Aranasas, where we went this past Wednesday night, said he had known the four North Bay elders for 40 years and he did not know finer men than these four.  We have found that to be true the past 10 days.  They have been so "giving and helpful" to us.  Their wives are all wonderful Christian women as well.
Brother Charles told us when we arrived that they might not be considered by some to be the soundest church in the area.  Ron asked him why he would say that.  The only things he feels are possibly different are:   1) they permit the children to go to a class during the worship service (Children's Church) and 2) they have a cross on the front of their building embedded in the brickwork above their pulpit.   Although there's nothing actually wrong displaying the cross (we have it on the communion table in most churches), some feel we should steer away from anything that has the appearance of a "wooden idol."   It's probably not considered that way to most Christians because they understand it is not the cross that we worship.   Brother Charles said it would have been major reconstruction of the building to remove it (they purchased this property from a denomination) and they felt it would be a waste of money to make the change.   At the North Bay congregation, the overwhelming love for each other and for others has been an inspiration to us.
We have an appointment to meet with the church at Arlington Heights on Wednesday night.  We will leave this area on Thursday.  We have been properly warned about the danger being in cities along the Mexican border.  Ron says we may park somewhere north of those cities, perhaps in an RV park where there are many other people rather than isolated by ourselves at a church building and then drive on to the churches near the border where we have appointments.   By taking such precautions, we should not be in any situation where it would be dangerous or where our car could be stolen.
Everybody says they want to be free.  Take the train off the tracks and it's free - but it can't go anywhere.   

To go somewhere and be successful, we need others - freedom to do things our way often gets us in trouble.   

Have a successful week!

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