As I type this, we are on the road in Illinois, heading home from a short visit with my family in Iowa. My niece and nephew graduated from high school on Sunday, so we drove over last Saturday. The nine hour trip culminated in swimming at the hotel pool for the girls, and the guys went to see Star Trek: Into Darkness. That is an awesome movie, by the way.
On Sunday we worshiped with our friends at Altoona Regular Baptist Church, and ate lunch with Pastor Humburg, his family, and my friend April Tidwell. Pizza Ranch was an excellent choice. For those of you who have never heard of Pizza Ranch, picture a restaurant in western theme that serves both pizza and fried chicken. It’s like someone put a KFC in a Godfather’s pizza, but the food is better. And they do a buffet, so it’s great!
After lunch, we drove to Chariton for the graduation. These were the last two of my sister’s children to graduate from high school, so I guess this means I never have to go to the Chariton High School again, and that’s fine with me. While in Chariton, I was overcome with a sense that the people I kept running into were different than me, which is odd, since I used to work there in high school. These people all seemed to have not enough clothes, too much skin, too many tattoos, not enough teeth and hair, and not enough sense. I overheard one genius ask another one, “Do wisdom teeth grow back?” She looked like she was hopeful, since she only had three or four other ones. Eek.
The graduation reception followed shortly thereafter at my sister’s church. When it looked like she was going to run out of hamburger, I volunteered to go get more. I grabbed my son and put him behind the wheel of our van. He drove across town to Hy-Vee, I bought the meat, and he drove me back to the church. We didn’t die, and he did a great job not wrecking the van. I got some practice not-panicking. The hole in the passenger side floor of our van will have to be fixed though.
After hanging around for several hours, I drove my mom back up to her house in Des Moines. Along the way, we were treated to a display of God’s majesty and power, and we were thankful that the wall clouds only delivered rain.
On Monday we went to Adventureland Park, which is an amusement park in Altoona, Iowa with no connection to the raunchy movie of the same name. We rode several nausea inducing rides, and a few roller coasters (I rode all three of the big ones). The odd thing I noticed was that the size of the seats varied widely. I have a big butt. It’s getting smaller, but it’s still kind of big. It was a tight fit for me in the Tornado, the Dragon was downright roomy, but The Outlaw coaster was almost too small. I had to wedge myself in there and almost couldn’t buckle the belt. I wonder why the seats aren’t all the same width.
It was just about the most perfect day you could hope for at Adventureland because the weather was nice (72 and partly sunny with a light breeze), I was with my family, and the attendance at the park was way down, due to the fact that it was a weekday when school was still in session in most schools in Iowa. Our longest wait for a ride was 5 minutes on the Raging River (although my wife tells me that we waited a little longer for the Sawmill Splash, but I wasn’t counting). A five minute wait for the Raging River is unheard of. We rode almost every ride in the park and it only took us four hours. Normally it takes all day to hit the major ones.
We left the park and I drove my family to my best friend’s house in rural Iowa, where we spent the next 36 hours. We enjoyed our time in Iowa, but it was too short. A few days with my family and a day with my best friend isn’t enough time. It only serves as a reminder of the reality of death. Death is not the end, it is merely “separation.” When someone dies, they are not gone forever, they are merely living someplace you can’t go. Someday we will all be “dead” and that is why the most important decision you make is your destination. You have to choose your destination while you are here on earth, because there is no changing your mind after you die. When you die, your ticket is waiting for you. If you are trusting in the death of Christ to pay the penalty for your inability to keep God’s law, you will pick up your ticket for an eternity of joy with God and all those who also trusted Christ. If you are trusting in anything else (including your own “good deeds”), you will pick up your one-way ticket to an eternity of suffering and agony in the lake of fire.
I planned this Iowa trip for several days, and it was only for five days. I don’t understand why some people refuse to plan for the trip that every single one of us will make at the end of our lives here on earth. That trip never ends. I can’t wait to make the trip, to see my loved ones who have already left, as well as to meet my Lord face to face. But I ache for those of my family and friends who are not trusting in Christ alone for salvation, because they are lost, and if they don’t trust Christ before they die, I may never see them again.