“We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us . . .”–Romans 12:6

We just returned home from a few days vacation in Branson MO, the capital of God, Country and Kitsch. I don’t necessarily mean that in a bad way, because we had a wonderful time and thoroughly enjoyed the shows.  I just hope the sentiments expressed by the performers are sincere, and not  pandering to squeeze the bucks out of people more willing to attend shows with those themes.

If you ever head that direction, I would especially recommend “Smoke on the Mountain” at the Imax Theatre, a play/musical set at a church revival in 1938. Along with being hilarious (it was my 12-year-old son’s favorite show), I appreciated the fact the entire production was staged by seven people, a couple of guitars, a bass, a mandolin, a banjo and a wide assortment of homemade instruments–no smoke, no lights, no amazing sound system. 

As the characters in the play recount the ways God has spoken to them in their lives (some highly irreverent–there’s a great lesson in this play for not stretching too far to come up with children’s sermon comparisons), the girl who believes she has no real talent at all talks about the gift of simply listening to others.

Perhaps because it’s an election year, we seem to be hearing a lot of huffing and puffing from People Who Take Their Religion Very Seriously.   Make no mistake–I take God seriously.  It’s myself and organized religion that I try to take lightly.

And that’s what Smoke on the Mountain does better than the other productions that try to beat you over the head with God and Country (while promoting light-up sunglasses and CDs for sale at intermission–God, Country, Kitsch AND consumerism.) 

(Note to the middle-aged woman two rows ahead of me at one show who bought the light-up sunglasses–Please, please do not wear them in public in your hometown.)

The Apostle Paul writes: “Let love be genuine . . . love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor . . . Live in harmony with one another and do not be haughty . . . do not claim to be wiser than you are.”  (Romans 12:9, 10, 16.)

Perhaps my overriding thought about all the performances and people who crossed our paths in Branson:  How hard people work to develop and use the talents God gave them for the benefit of other people. From the entertainers to the hotel owners to the man in charge of our free continental breakfast buffet every morning (he was funny enough to be in one of the shows), they all outdid themselves “to extend hospitality to strangers” (another one of St. Paul’s urgings.)  

May we pass that hospitality on to strangers (who are just friends we haven’t met yet) in our own communities.