Sunday, December 14, 2008

Expelled from Vacation Bible School!

Christian Flag
Proudly flown over Vacation Bible School
(Image from Wikipedia)

Aunt Kathryn has supplied my blog with another memory of an Ozark past, this one about how she and my father were shamefully but justifiably expelled from Vacation Bible School. Uncle Cran relays the story, which doesn't mention the Christian Flag but which I recall from my VBS experiences, for we recited a pledge of allegiance to this flag:
I pledge allegiance
to the Christian Flag,
and to the Savior,
for whose kingdom it stands.
One Savior,
crucified, risen and coming again,
with life and liberty
for all who believe.
I don't recall if this was the exact wording to the pledge, but I found it on Wikipedia along with two other similar pledges. We also pledged ourselves to the Bible:
I Pledge Allegiance to the Bible,
God's Holy Word,
I will make it a lamp unto my feet,
a light unto my path,
and will hide its words in my heart
that I might not sin against God.
Again, I had to go looking on the internet for this one. Of course, we also pledged our allegiance to the United States of America, which most Americans will already know and which non-American readers can find at Wikipedia.

Kathryn's anecdote doesn't relate these pledges, but I'm assuming that these three affirmations of loyalty were recited by each and every little student. We can therefore infer that Kathryn and my father Brad both rebelled in full knowledge of their disloyalty. Let us now turn to this dark tale, which is provided in Uncle Cran's recounting of the details:
Kathryn has tried to email you, but a glitch in her computer won't let her. She asked me to send her note of thanks for blogging her remembrances of our father and your grandfather. She said she has been recalling some incidents of her and Bradley during their youth. She did relate one that involves not only them but also Virginia and me.


From time to time I have opened my secret closet of youthful sins. Now sister Kathryn has opened hers and Bradley's closets to expose youthful follies to a cynical and unforgiving world. This is her story and Brad's: At this time they were ages 11 and 9. Kathryn was about a year and a half the elder.

Every summer our church at Flora Baptist observed a time honored tradition of holding a summer Vacation Bible School for kids in the area. Mom Hodges, being a faithful member and at that time church pianist, would send Bradley, Kathryn, Cran and Virginia the 1.75 miles of gravel road across two streams (branches) to attend.

Everything went well until about the middle of the week. Bradley, being a restless child, not given to sitting long in a boring class, acted up, spoke out in class, and after several reprimands, WAS EXPELLED FROM VACATION BIBLE SCHOOL! It is with great difficulty I reveal this, even today . . . this blot on the Hodges name.

But the story does not end here: Sister Kathryn, loyal to her brother, and filled with indignation at the over reaction of the teachers, WALKED OUT WITH HIM, THUS AIDING AND ABETTING HER BROTHER!

They walked about half a mile back toward home, and stopped at the Rocky Branch, a small stream that started in a spring about two hundred yards away, flowed over solid rock about the same distance past the road, then flowing into Big Creek. They talked (plotted) about their next course of action.
Allow me to interrupt. I vividly recall that little stream, which flowed year round, and I now know why, for it was spring-fed. We called the crossing "Rocky Ford," and Grandpa Archie's old pickup truck always bounced wildly across that bumpy limestone rock. I don't think that Grandma Hodges liked the way that Archie drove, but we kids loved it. In that rocky area were "glade lizards," about which Uncle Cran notes in a separate email, "Forgot to mention the glade lizards near the Rocky Branch. They were large green lizards that would actually chase you when you teased them. They could run pretty fast on their hind legs, and may have been an endangered species, as I have never seen them anywhere else." More could be said about these fearless creatures, but for now, back to Uncle Cran's retelling of Aunt Kathryn's story:
To return home meant a confrontation with mother, possibly a switching, and facing some tedious farm labor. We had a huge garden that required almost daily hoeing and weeding. So they concocted a diabolical plan.


They patiently waited for Virginia and me, passing the time by playing in the branch, catching crawdads, tadpoles and minnows, waiting for Virginia and me. When we came along, they threatened us with dire warnings if we dared tell mom what happened. Being small and unprotected, and about half the size and strength of big brother and sister, we had no choice to becoming accomplices to the crime. Not a word escaped our lips . . . we wanted to live!
But has living with the guilt been worth your extended life, Uncle Cran?
So every day the rest of the week (Thursday and Friday), big mean brother and sister would accompany little brother and sister as far as the Rocky Branch, send us on, and play in the branch, skipping stones, watching the birds, squirrels and rabbits, catching crawdads, tadpoles and minnows, having a great time, while Virginia and I would sit in the hot, sticky classrooms, secretly envying our older siblings having so much fun.

To our knowledge, Mom never knew, or if she did, never mentioned it.

So, not only Bradley and Kathryn were guilty, but Virginia and I became criminalized by aiding and abetting. So once again the closet has been opened for the world. I have tried to atone for this in adult life by not only working in Vacation Bible School, but actually planning and directing such on several occations while in the ministry. I hope the good Lord has forgiven me for this trespass.
Just listen to that man! All those years of Protestant training -- in Sunday Sermons, Sunday School, Vacation Bible School, and various other learning sessions -- yet he still hopes to 'atone' for his sin through a life of 'works'! I trust, however, that Aunt Kathryn has thrown herself utterly upon the mercy of the Lord . . . but maybe not yet quite so utterly:
Kathryn said that after she gets her computer going, she will send you some more wild tales of her and Brad's escapades.
This sounds almost prideful! Wasn't it the Church Father Augustine who said that the saint remains half in love with past sins? But perhaps the pride is Uncle Cran's, a spiritual arrogance consistent with his belief that he himself can atone for his own sins!

Still . . . I am struck with wonder that the sins of Kathryn and Brad not only went unpunished but even, apparently, were rewarded, as though actions defying the Vacation Bible School authorities -- even breaking pledges of loyalty to Christian flag, Holy Bible, and America under God -- were laudable behavior worth two days of freedom in an Ozark Paradise!

I mean, what gives?

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At 8:05 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, dear nephew, saved by grace, through faith, apart from works, but saved unto good works, foreordained by God (Ephesians 2:8-10). That is, in remembering past faults, I was attempting to live a better way (with the Lord's help, of course).

At 8:25 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

You sound orthodox now, Uncle Cran, but I recall you stating that you were trying to atone for your own sins.

But I'll admit that "atone" is a tricky term . . . as we well know from some recent blog entries.

Jeffery Hodges

* * *

At 9:59 AM, Blogger Bill said...

Dang, I thought I was the original Hodges rebel-guess not!

At 11:27 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Get in line, nephew Bill.
There is a long line of ancestors preceding you and setting such examples in advance.
But I have heard that apples never fall far from the tree. For example, a near relative to you once accepted a sip of white lightning from another rebel.
Care to elaborate?

At 11:47 AM, Blogger Bill said...

Presume (assume) this be William, Sr. and Uncle Cleo. If so, and William, Sr. had accepted another at a later date, William Sr. would have had fewer children-that according to William Sr.'s wife.
I also was kicked out of two VBS (at the KC Church you co-pastored).
Personally, I'll decline further elaboration, as I'm currently in atonement status.

At 3:14 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Confession is good for the soul, so they say. I therefore hope to elicit still more admissions of the sins of the fathers, mothers, cousins, in-laws, and all other outlaws . . . preferably, excruciatingly detailed.

Jeffery Hodges

* * *

At 1:13 AM, Blogger Al-Ozarka said...

Ha! A family of blacksheep!

I'm looking forward to that invite even more now, Jeffery!

After a jaunt through an Ozark Paradise, of course.

At 5:15 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Okay, Daddio, but you may have to skip some church-related function to qualify as "Black Sheep in Good Standing."

Which sounds kind of paradoxical, but there it is. We do have our standards and traditions, and the bar is set rather high (to prevent the children from grabbing a jug).

Jeffery Hodges

* * *

At 8:32 AM, Blogger jeanie oliver said...

Hi there Jeffery and clan,
one of the hardest spankings that I ever got from my NeeNee Scott was at VBS at the Salem Cumberland Presbyterian Church. She played the piano and we were singing our little songs at the end of the session. I had already been relegated to sitting by her on the bench which was just one step away from ultimate disgrace when the preacher stopped us all to go back over a song. I reached up when she wasn't looking and turned to a different song. She grabbed me up right there and proved that to spare the rod was to spoil the child.

At 8:50 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Jeanie, I begin to see that good behavior at VBS is far harder for children than I had ever realized.

I'll rack my brain to see if I can recall any misbehavior of my own during VBS . . .

No, I guess that I can't. I was so well-behaved that in reading from the King James Bible, I even declined to pronounce "ass" as spelled and instead pronounced it "donkey."

Jeffery Hodges

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