Food, Fellowship and Healing: Blessings of a Zero Day


Disclaimer: This is not a typical hiking post but it is about subjects important to most who travel by foot.

On Saturday, January 12, 2019, my father’s 91-year old body died. He was a remarkable man as I shared in an earlier post, A Father’s Influence Along Life’s Trail. Today’s post recognizes the importance of food, fellowship, memories, and time in coping with heartache and loss.

Immanuel Baptist Church in El Dorado, Arkansas was my parents’ church from the 1950s until 2016 when they moved to Northwest Arkansas to be closer to us. Members provided a family luncheon prior to my father’s funeral service.

Mother had served as church librarian for many years, so when we arrived Librarian Joy Godwin gave us a tour of the new church library. The entrance and a stained glass window from the original sanctuary were highlights in the new church lobby.


Historical stained glass preserved

The stained glass window might have been disposed of when new windows were installed in the 1970s, but my parents felt the need to preserve one. This window spent several years in our garage behind a freezer.

In the early 1980s, the church built a new family life center that would house a large library. This window was cleaned and framed by a carpenter named Buddy Lewis, (our next door neighbor) and displayed against a wall in the library. In 2018, when the church was moved to Hwy 82, west of El Dorado, this window was placed in the lobby where it continues to provide a visual connection to the original sanctuary.


A special dish.

When we entered the room where church members had prepared a wonderful lunch, my eyes immediately rested on a glass bowl filled with fruity jello and cream cheese.

I was having severe deja vu when Brenda Robertson approached and said she’d bought the bowl from mother’s estate sale. Mother had given her the jello salad recipe, and that was what she made for this day. We were all touched by her thoughtfulness and the tangible connection with family memories. The kindness of all who prepared this meal allowed us time to share family stories and memories.


View from my front door after a rainy day.

Recently I was on the Ozark Trail in Missouri. Because of rain and approaching cold temperatures we decided to take a “zero-day,” the term distance hikers use to indicate a day off from walking.

While relaxing in my tent, thoughts went to family and those who provide encouragement and love in my life. I thought of the struggles my parents have experienced due to aging. I thought of my father and the influence he has had on my life and the lives of others.


Father and son hiking with daughter, Martha, taking the photo

As it turned out, the trail provided exactly what was needed and that “zero-day” was timed to prepare me for future events. During that day I thought of Jim Barton’s poem, “Faith of My Father.” I didn’t have the text but remembered that it captured how I imagined my father might approach death when the time came.

He didn’t have to polish it
when company was coming;
it never had to hang outside
to air out or dry.
It was nothing he could tear or muss,
or stain or ever lose;
it was invisible, it was visible
in everything he did.

And, when at last, he faced the end,
on linens white as snow
He filled his lungs and straightened out,
then slipped into the pool,

         a lone and graceful swimmer
         backstroking through the waves,
         smiling with anticipation for
         those waiting on the other shore.

Excerpts from “Faith of My Father” by Jim Barton, poet from Huttig, Arkansas From his book, For the Animals Who Missed the Ark 

Thank you to Pastor Jimmy Meek for comforting and wise words and Peggy Hargett for beautiful music.  Thank you to all friends and family who provided encouragement and shared stories of my father.

Below are a few photos from the dinner and visitation.

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Sunday Morning Memory Walk


This post doesn’t cover one of my typical Ozark hikes, but it does involve walking and a little personal exploration along the way.

When I visited my childhood church recently, I took the Sunday School hour to explore the old sanctuary no longer being used. It has been neglected over the years, but the stained glass windows are as beautiful as ever. I had fun using chairs, speakers, and stairwell handrails as makeshift tripods so I could record these windows that impressed me as a child. I appreciate their beauty even more today.


The windows told the story of Christ’s life. The window above alluded to the betrayal of Christ by Judas.

Roy Hilton preached a sermon series on these windows during the months after they were installed. I must have been in my teens at the time so Brother Hilton would be pleased that I have any recollection of his sermons after all these years.


This window may have symbolized the resurrection, but I’m not positive about this. I liked the butterfly or moth. If you look closely in the top left corner, you’ll notice mortar has chipped away from the wall around the window. I’m amazed at the good condition of the windows themselves.


Roy Hilton was the pastor during my formative years. He was serious about sermon preparation and known as a great Bible teacher. Some of his series sermons could get pretty detailed and heavy. When sermons got too deep or long, I would enjoy some constructive daydreaming while staring at the windows or ceiling.

During my Sunday morning exploration, I couldn’t resist placing my camera on the floor and setting the timer for a photo of this ceiling that is so permanently imprinted in my memory.

Ceiling of the sanctuary

Ceiling of the sanctuary

Walking through my childhood church brought back memories of Roy Hilton.  He was honest, kind, and trustworthy. He also had a good sense of humor.  He was a servant leader in the best sense of the word.

Roy Hilton had a compelling story. I hope I remember this correctly. As a young man, he worked in a whiskey barrel factory. He’d been struggling with spiritual matters and came to the realization that he wanted to commit his life to God. He was working inside the factory as he reached this decision point.  His eyes came to rest on a large window on the wall of the factory. He had the vision of seeing everything he valued passing through that window and disappearing into the distance. From that point on he was fully committed to a spiritual life and eventually became a pastor.

Roy Hilton

Roy Hilton, pastor from 1965 to 1976

I walked through some other parts of the old building and eventually came to one of my childhood Sunday School rooms. Though these windows aren’t beautiful, their foggy colors bring back memories.

Sunday School class window

Sunday School class window


I followed these creaky stairs down from my old class and returned to the present, thankful for the memories of my childhood church. Some of the beliefs that seemed harsh and unyielding as a child have softened or turned into overarching questions and for this I am thankful. Some of these questions occupy my inner thoughts and give me comfort as I continue down my personal paths.

My childhood church may crumble and fade, but memories of those richly colored stained glass windows will stay with me always.


Etched window in the newer building with the old sanctuary in the background.