Since Mom moved to the assisted living facility, I travel to Oklahoma more often than before. Each time, it’s an adventure in praying for the car to make it, treating myself to a hot chai and hoping that gas prices don’t go up again.
But each time, it’s also an opportunity to worship God for the things I experience.
I love living in Kansas and rooting for the Jayhawks, but my blood line includes Oklahoma Cherokees and strong Mennonite pioneers. So when I cross the border, I turn down the radio and treat myself to a loud rendition of the state song, “O….k-la-ho-ma, where the wind comes sweepin’ down the plains.”
It is that same wind that carries the starlings as they dance across the sky. These are the birds I chase off my deck, because they raucously steal feed from my cardinals and bluejays. Starlings are not my favorite of the species, but something happens when they join together and synchronize a wind dance.
From miles away, it looks like a dust storm. But when I drive closer, I watch them dip and whirl through space, making beautiful designs that remind me of the creative God who taught them this whirlwind ballet.
The flat horizon of my Oklahoma drive reminds me how much I love the trees and hills of northeastern Kansas. But it is that same flatland that spreads a glorious sunset as “fer as the eye kin see.”
The brilliant oranges and bright turquoises of an expansive Oklahoma sunset draw me to worship the God who made color in the first place – this divine Artist who paints a different scene every night.
Oklahoma drivers welcome me to their state. As I travel off the interstate and enter the country, I meet farmers in pickups who give the one finger wave (the nice finger) or tip their John Deere hats at me. I know that if my car ever gives out on one of those country roads, some wonderful farmer will stop and help me figure it out.
These are the same people who become instant friends at the Quik Trip. They smile and tell me about their grandkids while we wait in line to pay for our gas. Like verbal hugs, the folks of Oklahoma share their friendlies with me and by the time I leave, I know about their bursitis, their worries about the drought on this year’s crop and where and when they “gradj-e-ated” from high school.
In my book, “The Unraveling of Reverend G,” I included a character from Oklahoma. Bert, the retired farmer, uses the wonderful colloquialisms of Oklahoma. He reminds Reverend G that when times are hard, “that there problem puts a clod in your churn.” These endearing phrases are the ones I grew up with and still hear in my heart when I cross that borderline into the Sooner State.
The Oklahoma dance reminds me of my heritage and grounds me in the knowledge that even when I land in Kansas, there’s no place like home.
©2013 RJ Thesman