HOME, SWEET HEAVEN INSTALLMENT #34

Chapter Thirty Three

 

The soft but insistent whisper in his head gently woke him. “Time to saddle up and move out,” Wisdom told Earl. “I know it’s early,” She added as he glanced over to the clock on the dresser, “but you need to be on the road before dawn.” Earl woke Joyce and they quickly dressed. Joyce went to the neighboring door and softly knocked. She was greeted by Marge, who also was fully dressed, as was Ellery in the background. “Yeah,” she said, “She told us too.” Moshe and Miryam were already in the kitchen when they came in. Henry and Terry were there too. Terry softly wept as she cooked breakfast.

“How did this happen?” Terry wailed. “Why does my family have to go? How on earth did we get ourselves into this ungodly mess?”

“You said it yourself,” Wisdom interjected.

“Huh?”

“You said it now in one short word. ’Ungodly’ was the operative word, Terry. The United States, in particular, had chosen at the outset to align itself with God. The hand of God is on your constitution and many other guiding documents. That closeness to Us brought Us closer to you, and in turn gave you a special status, almost approaching that of Our beloved Israel. For centuries you remained somewhat faithful, falling away into complacency for brief periods. It was about the best We could expect from you. Up until recently most of you would repent and return to Us. But some of you never returned, and those of you who didn’t were a vital part of Our relationship with you and your country. Colleges like Princeton and Yale, which were established with the express purpose of teaching the Bible and Biblical principles to future leaders of your society degenerated into bastions of secularity, wherein the future leaders were taught the principles of material success over a relationship with God. This mindset bubbled over to infect the Christian seminaries, supposedly fulfilling their mission of preparing devout men of God to become pastors and spokespersons for God. Out of these terribly wounded seminaries came yet more secular attitudes and worse, doubts over the nature of God and whether He even existed. These seminaries turned a blind eye to the encroachment of false science, including Darwin’s theory of evolution, being indifferent to its obvious rejection of the Creation narrative of Genesis.

“Jesus said something very relevant to your collective turning away,” She added. In Luke 12:48 He said this:

“’But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. But unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required; and to whom men have committed much, of him will they ask the more.’

“You began as a holy nation,” She continued, “willingly setting yourselves apart from other nations to serve Us in love. We gave you much in return.

“So now You’re going to ask much,” Terry said dully.

“We already have, and in the past you have responded admirably, helping yourselves to achieve greatness among the nations.  We’ve always given more than what We’ve received, and for a long period of time, you were among the happiest of people.  But then you began to turn away, exactly like Israel did after her glory years under the kingships of David and his son Solomon. I realize that you never read the blessing and the curse that We had pronounced over Israel who, even more than America, are Our special people. The major portion of it is in Deuteronomy 28. Since you don’t have a Bible either, I’ll give you a few excerpts, paraphrasing it a bit for your modern sensibilities:

“’But it shall come to pass, if you won’t listen to the voice of the Lord your God, to observe to do all his commandments and his statutes which I command you this day, that all these curses shall come upon you, and overtake you. You’ll be cursed in the city, and in the field. Your harvests will be cursed, and so will your offspring. . .The Lord shall send upon you cursing, vexation, and rebuke, in all that you set your hand to do, until you’re destroyed, and you die quickly, because of the wickedness of your doings, whereby you have forsaken me. The Lord shall make disease cling to you, until He has consumed you from off the land. . .The Lord shall smite you with cancer, and with a fever, and with an inflammation, and with extreme burning, and with violence, and with failed crops, and they shall pursue you until you die. . .The Lord shall change rain into dust. . .The Lord shall smite you with the boil of Egypt, and with the tumors and with the scab, and with the itch, whereof you can’t be healed. The Lord shall smite you with madness, and blindness, and astonishment of heart. . .You shall marry a wife, and another man will have her; you shall build a house, and you shall not live in it; you shall plant, and another will harvest it.’

 

“I could continue with this litany of painful consequence,” Wisdom continued, “because there’s much more in that dark chapter, all of which Israel had to endure over the centuries after she divorced herself from Us. But I think you get the point.”

“So those things that have been happening to us over the past decades – they’re actually consequences of removing you from public conversation? The superstorms, the earthquakes, the droughts, and the diseases?”

“Yes, Terry. Some of you Christians have attempted to warn the public about that connection from time to time, but each time they did so, they were immediately shouted down. They should have stuck to their guns. After all, the Bible is very clear about it, and not only in the words of Moses. Listen, for example, what the prophet Haggai had to say in verse seventeen of his Chapter 2:

“’I smote you with blight and with mildew and with hail in all the labors of your hands; yet ye turned not to me, saith the Lord.’

 

“Over the years, that portion of you who stubbornly chose to separate yourselves from Us grew ever larger in proportion to the rest of society. Eventually that group became the dominant one and included the nation’s opinion-shapers. Then, with the extension to secondary and state levels of the takeover of the institutions of government and education the secularization of America metastasized and spread more thoroughly into the organs of everyday life. Teaching colleges pushed a secular agenda onto their candidates, who themselves were selected as future teachers not on the basis of academic excellence, moral clarity, character and a love of God, but rather for their shallowness of thought and secular outlook on life. Once those teachers entered the schools, the cancer of secularism spread very rapidly. Look around you, Terry, and you others also. Didn’t you ever wonder why you as Christians are such a marginalized minority? America wasn’t that way for a very long time. It was its Christianity that made it great, because We favored you with a loving Hand that matched and surpassed your loyalty to Us. Now you’re going to have a measure of pain and suffering, not so much by your actions as by the actions of your secular brothers and sisters. But there’s a silver lining in that. We’ll understand your trials and be with you all the way. You’ll end up having lived noble lives, possessing qualities that We’ll cherish forever.”

They ate breakfast in uncomfortable silence, assuming that Wisdom had left. Moshe scratched his head. “I don’t even know where we’re heading,” he told Earl. “Sturgis,” Wisdom broke in.

“Sturgis? Wow. I had no idea You’d go for that kind of thing,” Ellery responded as a kaleidoscope of lurid images entered his mind.

“Enough,” She told him, but with a smile. “This conclave at Sturgis isn’t going to be the drug-infested biker Woodstock of past years, with naked women riding men on bikes and the fully connected but unstable assembly wobbling down the street. It’s going to be a Christian gathering. As a matter of fact, it’s only a jumping-off spot for Mount Rushmore, which is your ultimate destination.”

“What is that about, a modern-day Masada?” Earl responded.

“More than you possibly can imagine,” She told them. “But let’s save the details for later. You’ll be taking your bikes, of course, for the protection they’ll give you from the authorities. I’ll leave it to you as to the route you’re going to take to get there, but with the warning that it won’t be an easy trip.” She left.

Henry brought out an old Triple-A map of the United States. The regime may have changed, but the highways hadn’t, except for some earthquake damage and much neglect. They decided to head north almost to the border and pick up Kansas Highway 36, which they’d follow to Oberlin, where they’d go into Nebraska to the town of McCook, then take 2 to 61 and north along 61 into South Dakota, where they’d travel a very short distance along Interstate 90 to reach Highway 34, which would take them directly to Sturgis, bypassing Rapid City altogether. Although motorcycles were usually effective in preventing checkpoint halts, there was no sense in asking for trouble by taking the more well-traveled highways.

The men left the house after breakfast to take care of last-minute packing chores while the women and Henry said their good-byes, knowing that Henry and Terry would be left behind for good, never to be seen again. Behind her sorrow, Miryam harbored a gleam of excitement in her eyes. Terry noted it and was comforted by it, knowing that at least Miryam possessed the possibility of happiness, however brief it might be. Understanding that her own end was likely to be both soon and bleak, Terry nevertheless resolved to be brave about it, as a host of predecessor Christians had been with the comforting help of the Holy Spirit that was companion to their faith in Jesus. She looked at her husband with fondness and linked her arm in his. I have God and a good husband to live and die with. What more can a person ask?

 

A gloomy dawn came with a steady breeze as they traveled westward across Kansas. The fractionally increasing light revealed thick dark clouds that threatened rain, and maybe worse. Despite the ominous weather, for the first couple of hours the riders thrilled to the new adventure, the men enjoying the fresh experience of two-wheeled travel and their mates enjoying the openness of the view. Around noontime the south wind, which had been increasing in gradual stages and causing them to lean to the left, suddenly strengthened to the point that the riders were getting buffeted so hard that their leaning became precarious. Earl in particular began to feel that he was right on the edge of control. The spindly extension to his right arm that Moshe had cobbled up began to ache and his control over the handlebar was beginning to slip, but he knew that he must persevere through the obstacle or risk falling behind and losing the others. Wisdom, please give me strength to handle this, he pleaded. He continued to fight the wind, gritting his teeth.

A brief respite came when they reached Oberlin and headed north into Nebraska toward McCook. The storm became a tailwind, which was much easier to handle. Before they reached McCook they stopped by the side of the road and ate the lunch that Terry had lovingly packed. The wind buffeted them again when they left McCook to head northwest, but that leg was short and Earl was able to handle it. He still was very relieved when they turned back northward for the longer journey up through Nebraska into South Dakota. His relief was so palpable that he operated the cruise control, stretched out his legs, and leaned back to relax. He hummed a tune. The relaxation ended abruptly with a blow to his kidney. “Don’t get cocky!” Joyce shouted into his neck. He stiffened his back. His feet went back onto the pegs and remained that way for the rest of the trip. They left the stiff wind behind when they turned westward again along the final leg into Sturgis, and by the time they arrived in the evening the sun had made a brief appearance.

Regardless of whether the rest of the country was in the grip of a repressive regime, Sturgis was biker country and off-limits to authority of any kind except the local sheriff, who, the town had made sure, was also a biker with a biker’s attitude. At increasingly widely-spaced intervals one authority or another had attempted to impose a stricter control over the town. Such visits were invariably brief with quick descents into violence that left the feckless visitors worse for the wear.

The three weary couples parked in front of a likely bar, stretched their legs, and went in. Emboldened by the feel of the place, Ellery walked up to the bartender, noting that he didn’t seem to be wearing the mark. “We’re pretty hungry,” he said, “but we only have cash.”

“We only take cash,” the man said. “Take a seat at a table and Janie’ll come around and take care of you.”

They plopped themselves gratefully into chairs and looked over the menus, which boasted of a large variety of beers and stronger drinks but was limited in food to burgers and fries. The thought of hamburgers appealed to them all. Halfway through the meal they began to wonder among themselves as to what to do after they ate. The question was answered for them as a few people began to enter the bar and drift over to their table and sit. The newcomers eventually grew into a substantial crowd. Ellery adjusted to this development by extending his hand in greeting to the first of his new neighbors, who responded in kind. “Where’re you headed?” the man asked.

“Rushmore,” Ellery told him.

“Same here,” the man replied. “There’s a park outside the main attraction, the Presidents and such. It’s a tent camp now. Got a lot of people, Native Americans too. Don’t know why, but they all seem to have gotten the word to be there and be quick about it. Same with us. Somebody in my Church seems to have an inside track to God, or so she says. Told her to get herself over here and bring the rest along. I’m part of the rest, kind of tagging along. Nothing for me back home, so I might as well be here as there. Hope you have a tent. We’re kind of filled up.”

“We do,” Marge said, thanking God for the insistence on being prepared.

 

Outside the bar the street was almost filled with bikes. The three couples decided to go with the flow and followed the group out of town and up the mountain toward the park. It was now dark but the clouds were gone and as they traveled the inky blackness above them was the sky was dotted with bright pinponts of light.

The drive up the Rushmore Parkway was smooth, the numerous curves being wide and easy and, from what they could see from all the headlights, beautiful. There were trees in abundance, tall conifers silhouetted by the full moon that had just arisen over the mountaintop. I can’t wait to see what it looks like in the daytime, Joyce thought to herself. Eventually the bikes peeled off into the park, where gas stoves and lanterns lit up the tents. It looked like a city. They found an empty spot and unpacked their bikes, lighting a lantern for the illumination they’d need to set up their tents.

When they finished the housework, by common consent they turned off the lantern and lay on their bedding looking up at the sky. In their own way, each of them thanked God for the adventure and their rest among the grass and trees of His natural creation. I wonder what God has in mind for us now, Earl thought.

 

 

 

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