I was born and raised in the state of Missouri; our state is called the Show Me State. We got that name because in the early days, we Missourians were rural farmers, and we didn’t cotton to all that highfalutin’, slick, double-tongued city folk talk. So the bottom line was to put up or shut up; just “show me.”
Now the state of Missouri is a beautiful place, and we have a lot of caves—over 6,400. I think the only state that has more than we do is Tennessee, and they advertise that they have close to 10,000. Now I am not sure how close to 10,000 their total comes; it might be only 9,501, and they just rounded it up. Being from Missouri, I need you to show me how close to 10,000 you are.
Coming back from a family reunion, I decided to visit a cave I hadn’t been to in 50 years, Bridal Cave. The young guide told me that they have opened more of the cave now, and I would get to see a lot of new things. It was great, but I noticed the old part and the new part look a whole lot alike, except in the new part, the stalactites are a quarter of an inch longer.
Many years ago, there was a feud in our state about which was the best cave to visit. Two of the caves had a knock-down drag-out. The competition was between Meramec Caverns and Onondaga Caves, only 24 miles apart. Meramec claimed that Jesse James and his gang hid out there and supposedly left behind trunks and trinkets that you see as you enter the cave. Onondaga Caves, down the road, was reported to have been discovered by the great American frontiersman, Daniel Boone. Good guy versus bad guy, the war waged on: Which cave was the best to see? The feud took place on billboards across America as each cave made “bigger and better” claims. Thousands of tourists checked out both caves to see which one was really the best.
Now, as a born and bred Missourian, I think I smell something fishy. Since both caves were owned by the same man, Lester Dill, who also happened to own an advertising and billboard company, I believe he pulled off one of the greatest publicity stunts our state has ever seen. Neither cave won; the only winner was Mr. Dill, and he laughed all the way to the bank.
But Mr. Dill invented something else: the bumper sticker. Before 1927, there were no bumper stickers, because there were no bumpers. In 1927, the Model A came out with a bumper, and people started decorating them with signs and flags, all attached with wire or string. In 1940, Mr. Dill came up with the idea of putting adhesive on the back of a small sign, and the modern-day bumper sticker was born. As you drove into the parking lot of Mr. Dill’s Meramec Carven and disappeared into the cave, someone would come along and plaster a “Meramec Cavern—Jesse James’ Hideout” bumper sticker on the rear bumper of your car. And soon, thousands upon thousands of these mini-billboards were passing each other on the highway.
I tell you all this just to tell you a story about my mom. She was excited when Christian bumper stickers became popular. These were the forerunners of Christian T-shirts, jewelry and tattoos. She bought a “Honk if You Love Jesus” bumper sticker and plastered it on the rear bumper. Only a day or two later, I was riding along with her when we came to a red light. As we were waiting for the light to turn green, the car behind us started blowing its horn. My mom looked into the rearview mirror and said, “Can’t the lady behind us see the light is red?”
The lady must have really loved Jesus; she started honking even more. “I wish that lady would calm down!” Mom said.
Finally, the light turned green, and Mom gunned the car as she muttered under her breath, “Can’t believe how much that lady honked her horn!”
“Mom, you do have a bumper sticker on your car that says, ‘Honk if You Love Jesus,’” I reminded her. Only then did she realize what the lady was telling her.
To this day, when I see a bumper sticker, I remember: If we have Jesus plastered all over the outside of us, we had better make sure the inside of us looks like Jesus … or, for a Missourian, just “show me.”
“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says” (James 1:22).