When you're six years old and sitting in the largest religious auditorium in Canada, you feel like you are but a tiny flea on the backside of a horse. Back in the day the Prairie Tabernacle was a cavernous edifice that sat 4500 people. With its curved ceiling the architecture was the perfect distraction for bored students trying to stay awake through some pretty long services.
A real student of the Tabernacle could tell you how many beams there were, how many purlins between the beams and how many boards were between the purlins. The really bright ones could tell you how many hanging fluorescent fixtures were in the building.
Dad pastored a small church 5 miles out of town, so our family didn't attend the Tabernacle very often, so it was always an adventure any time we were able to go to the "big church". We would be there for special occasions and conferences. During many of these conferences and meetings, Dad played a part in the services and would sit up on the platform. It was a very rare occasion when he was actually able to sit with us as a family.
On the last Sunday night of fall conference, one October, Dad didn't have any platform responsibilities and decided that my brother and I should accompany him to the evening meeting while Mom stayed home and prepared for guests that were coming over later after the service.
When listening to any preacher or speaker, my Father always takes meticulous notes. It didn't matter if it was the worst presentation or delivery on the planet, Dad still took notes. As soon as I could print my name, he encouraged me to do the same. Somehow it didn't seem nearly as much fun as drawing or sketching. Every once in a very blue moon, I would actually convince Dad to join in the fun and do a little drawing himself. Imagine my delight when he made a couple of sketches for me during that meeting.
I come from a long line of artistic Scots on my Dad's side. My Grandfather, James Rendall was a very talented artist with one his specialties being that of constructing ships in a bottle. He would carve the tiny ships, fabricate the rigging, paint it and the water, before final assembly and corking. My Aunt Margaret attended Art College after High School and is a gifted painter. Uncle Gavin is a wonderful watercolor artist and has been teaching art classes in his retirement years. One of my second cousins, Edwin Rendall operates a fine art gallery in Westray, called the Wheeling Steen Gallery. Visit his website here: http://www.wheeling-steen.co.uk Art flows through Dad's DNA and he has a lot of artistic talent. He is a natural at drawing horses and ships.
That evening, Dad, who was quite proud of my ability to read, leaned over and whispered to me during one of the songs. "Stevie, can you tell me what the motto up at the front says?" Of course I could! After all I was a champion reader of the entire collection of Dick and Jane books in the school's library. I stood tall on the bench and, peering at the front of the church, prepared to take on the challenge. I cast my gaze across the entire front of the auditorium. I didn't immediately see any sign, so squinting, I tried again. Nothing. I finally turned to Dad and said, "What motto?" I could see the lightbulb go on in his head. Houston, we have a problem! Looking back at me, he said, "Son, I think you might need glasses". And with this exhaustive scientific experiment concluded, I was dispatched to the optometrist the following Monday. There I joined the bespectacled ranks and became familiar with the nicknames of "four eyes", "specs" and "googly eyes". I would have much preferred the moniker of "studious" or even "serious looking", but for some unknown reason those never seemed to come my way.
We have all heard the saying about not being able to see the forest for the trees. Evidently, I couldn't see either the forest or the trees! The motto in question was gigantic and positioned about 80 feet from where we sat. Approximately 24 feet in length with lettering about a foot tall, the sign read:
IS THERE A SOUL WHO DIED, WHO DIED BECAUSE OF ME, FOREVER SHUT AWAY FROM HEAVEN AND FROM THEE, BECAUSE I TIGHTLY CLUTCHED MY LITTLE EARTHLY STORE, NOR SENT THY MESSENGER UNTO SOME DISTANT SHORE?
The motto had been placed at the front to emphasize not only the missional goals of the school but also to reinforce the importance of sacrificial giving, a concept that staff and students were to become very familiar with during their tenure at PBI.
How many times as we journey through life do we need some glasses? Lenses that lend some much needed perspective; or maybe for some of us, a brand new prescription? Specs that give renewed focus, vision and clarity of judgement. Since that day in 1967, I have been trying to see as clearly as I can with the help of some glasses and a good optometrist.
Check out Uncle Gavin's website at: http://thirstybrushes.com
© 2013 Stephen J. Rendall - All rights reserved.