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Marching into Bible school
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I don’t know if I was good student or just had good teachers, but I have vivid recollections of my days in vacation Bible school.

Today, Bible school is a pre-packaged theme with subjects such as climbing Mount Everest or something about rockets. I think our theme was who can drink fruit punch the fastest.

We marched in Bible school. Every morning we would gather with our classmates and march in to songs such as “Onward Christian Soldiers.” With brand-new sneakers on my feet, I was a marching machine.

Marching was acceptable in church. Running was not. I think that’s in the Bible near the verse about God helping those who help themselves.

Speaking of helping themselves, a plentiful supply of butter cookies with a hole in the middle was always at Bible school. We had a competition as to which one of us could take the most nibbles from the cookie without it falling off your finger.

I’m pretty sure being a Bible school cookie-eating champion will get you passage into the Promised Land.

Speaking of the Promised Land, we learned about the children of Israel receiving manna from heaven. I’m not sure what was in our make-believe manna, but the same folks who make butter cookies did not make it.

Somebody decided sometime in the past 50 years or so marching was not good. I don’t know if they still serve manna, but I know marching is gone.

Now, you have to sing a song about rocket ships or mountain climbing and Jesus. These songs come with lots of arm movements and choreography. In my day, anything that looked like dancing was a sure-fire ticket to hell. Ditto for listening to The Beatles.

We just sang about Jesus. Bear in mind, when I was in Bible school, we were watching “Lost in Space” in first run. We thought anyone in space wore uniforms coated with tin foil and there didn’t seem to be a lot to sing about in another galaxy.

We learned about Joseph and his coat of many colors and Samuel helping Eli in the tabernacle. I’m not sure what a tabernacle really looked like, but I drew a square with a triangle on top of it and a pointy thing supposed to be a steeple.

We made scrolls on two dowel sticks with curled up paper in between. We wrote Bible verses on them and memorized them.

One year, we made things with clay and had them dried in a kiln. I made my mother an ashtray. No verses are in the Bible about ashtrays, but Mama liked it. Nobody smoked at our house, but we had my ashtray just in case.

Bible school was the first place I learned to pledge allegiance to the American flag, the Christian flag and the Bible.

I liked the Bible pledge. It talks about “hiding its words in my heart that I might not sin against God.”

I have sinned against God more times than I would like to admit in my years as a Bible school alumnus. But I also remember learning the important things about forgiveness.

I saw cartoons on TV that depicted God as an old guy with a long white beard. I’ve learned whatever he looks like, he loves us and is gracious to forgive us when we mess up.

I’m going to have me a butter cookie and some punch and think about that.

Harris Blackwood is a Gainesville resident whose columns appear on the Sunday Life page and on gainesvilletimes.com/harris.

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