Spreading the Message

20190212_083622My week here on the border will change me.  My hope is that this time will also help me to change others.

But words only go so far.

Throughout human history – from cave paintings 50,000 years ago to today – art has been the universal language of our species.

20190212_083730The Borderlinks offices are filled with art of all kinds, displaying a world that many only read about or hear described on the news.  Even before we begin our immersion into the world of the undocumented, we are surrounded by their message, from photos to posters to original artwork.

Not surprisingly, images of Jesus and Mary are common.  Whatever the faith tradition, however, most striking are the themes of devotion, of belief, of love.  The people seeking freedom from oppression and violence in our country are people devoted to the moral teachings of a fellow traveler, whose ancestors also walked to new lands to escape oppression.  Their law teaches them to welcome the stranger, to love even one’s enemies, and to treat every person as brother or sister.

20190212_083814One of the sources of Unitarian Universalism is the teachings of the Jewish and Christian traditions – the laws of Moses, the justice of Isaiah, the wisdom of Solomon, and the gentleness of Jesus.  We, too, can find meaning and inspiration in art, regardless of the theology of its creator.

Art is not neutral.  Art does not discriminate.  Art can be used for evil purposes.  But art always reveals a truth; a truth about the artist as well as a truth about ourselves.

Frogs Redux

The morning after the frog serenade found me on the path once more. I felt somehow compelled to return to the site to experience the amphibious aria again.

Splashes accompanied me as I walked along the pond. Unlike other local wetland areas, the turtles here seem skittish and retreat to the water as I come near. The area laid still and quiet. The morning was more humid than I had expected and the mugginess seemed to repress activity.

I passed the place where I had picked up a handful of molted Canada Goose feathers the day before. Then up a rise and I heard it begin – the distant tones blurted in rapid succession from hundreds of throats. Unlike yesterday, I did not just smile – I actually laughed out loud at the sound.

As the volume increased, so did the activity around the pond. This morning, frogs were hopping around unconcerned and it was now the turtles’ turn to sit still in observation. Unlike before, I could see little green heads popped up all over the surface of the water, the sun picking out each singer clearly in the algae-laden pond.

Motion drew my eyes upward. I saw a Loon swoop past, and just seconds later a graceful white Egret flew in the opposite direction. I hardly had the chance to appreciate those views before an even larger figure attracted my attention yet higher. Overhead, there it was, the B-52 of birds – a Bald Eagle. I had seen examples at the Pittsburgh Aviary, but never in flight. The massive wingspan seemed to dwarf the surroundings.

Once the majestic bird left my sight, I returned my attention toward the never ending din from my frog friends. I saw movement in the leaves just a few feet below where I stood. I moved carefully around, but could not pinpoint the cause of the unnatural shaking. I moved to the other side of the tree trunk before me and stooped to see a muskrat busily munching away, clearly oblivious to my presence.

All the while, the frogs continued their racket. They sounded like a crowd of old men laughing at a dirty joke that I could not understand. I began to wonder if these other animals were attracted to the site just as I had been. Could this gigantic noise coming from such tiny creatures actually lure other animals?

I suppose the answer lies in whether or not one believes that animals do things for reasons beyond satisfying basic needs – food, shelter, procreation. Of course, that raises the question, “What qualifies as a basic need?”

I know that laughter qualifies for me. No matter how good things get, I must have fun. Is it so unreasonable to imagine that animals find each other funny? When you think about it, if anything, the frog orchestra should chase other animals away. Predators could sneak up more easily under cover of the croaking. And the noise would certainly attract attention from far around.

I believe that dogs and cats clearly show pleasure when scratched just right, or when snuggling with us on the sofa (especially if they are not supposed to be there). So, why can’t other mammals, birds, and turtles have the same emotions? Humanity certainly does not own a monopoly on feelings.

Concert on a Summer Morning

After many days of sweltering heat, the morning was glorious. I veered off the main trail onto a side loop past Wood Duck Pond. As I walked past smaller inlets toward the larger body of water, I heard occasional movement through the trees. The sound resembled something larger moving through the dense brush, like a deer. So, I stopped frequently, peering through the leaves.

Seeing nothing, I suddenly heard a remarkably loud noise ahead on the trail. I walked toward the sound, growing ever louder. Honking? I had heard a similar cacophony when geese were fighting over ownership of a particular spot. The volume increased with each step.

I crested a small rise and could now see the pond stretching into the distance. I realized that the voices I now heard were not birds, but a vast chorus of frogs. Their range was somewhat limited, but I could still pick out dozens of croaks ranging from second alto to perhaps baritone in pitch.

I walked carefully, not wanting to interrupt the performance. But, my presence seemed to affect the singers little. I approached the edge of the path, which then dropped a dozen feet or so quickly into the water. The overgrowth, however, kept me from seeing my crooners.

In my mind, these frogs could only be massive. The local acoustics were certainly not conducive, and yet they belted out their notes clearly. I envisioned soccer ball-sized amphibians crouched along the shore, with perhaps a conductor perched on a convenient lily pad.

A splash. Then another. Finally, I managed to follow one into the water and spotted his head. Why, these creatures were surprisingly small, no larger than the palm of my hand. Once I got the knack of spotting them, I saw them everywhere. Heads popping up out the water all around, with bellowing cheeks puffing up. Absolutely amazing how so much sound can come from such a tiny body.

I don’t know why, but I felt giddily joyous and could not repress a smile. Listening to this ensemble brought me true glee as I listened. The sound overwhelmed everything and I become lost in the music. The sound dominated the area, almost assuming a physical presence.

In the last years of his far too short life, jazz musician John Coltrane worked on a concept called a “wall of sound.” The intent was for the music to come together literally into a solid wall, so that the listener no longer distinguished individual notes. Some of the best examples seem, to ears unaccustomed to this music, almost noise. But, Coltrane had experienced a spiritual awakening and was pursuing what he considered cosmic music.

The din of my little green frog concerto brought me close to that sound. And when you hear that cosmic wall of sound, only joy results.

(please forgive the poor quality of the video – I didn’t even realize my phone took videos until I tried this morning)

Being a Father

I owe so much to my father.  My Dad taught me to think for myself and to stand up for what I believe in.  My Dad showed me how to work hard, serve the community, and respect others.  He listened when I needed to rant, and advised when I wanted help.  He may not have been a perfect human being (who is?) but he was a perfect father.

Most of all, my father was the one person in my life I wanted most to honor.  When I look at what I have accomplished and the work I am doing and have yet to do, I know that he would be proud.  He would be looking at me with that small grin, and wordlessly approving of the man I have become.

My father lives on in me most when I am truest to my core essence.  My father lives on when I fight for justice and human rights for all.  My father lives on when I help children and youth learn how to be themselves and find joy in the world.  My father lives on when I work as an ally to all oppressed groups, from GLBTQ folk and women to immigrants and religious minorities.  My father lives on when I let my muse guide me through the world of art and creativity, and when I saunter through the world seeking meaning in the infinite synchronicities around us.

My greatest hope in life is that my son will be a man who sees me that same way and will become that kind of father to his children; that my daughter will be a powerful and fearless woman; that my grandchildren will to learn to respect everyone, to love everyone, and to care about everyone over money, power, and status; and that through my life and deeds, I help strong and loving fatherhood endure.

I’m Back

I haven’t posted to this blog for many weeks.  My absence has not been for lack of desire to communicate with you, dear reader.  Rather, I have been wandering – wandering in my mind for words worth writing, for messages worth reading, for feelings worth expressing.

When I wander, I allow life to speak to me.  I open myself to whatever the universe is saying and then I seek meaning in the messages.  I envy those who can sit in lotus poses and meditate for hours on end to access the voices of the cosmos.  I fear that my puppy mind has long grown past the point of such discipline.  So, I search for sustenance by random grazing.  My process is wholly unpredictable, even chaotic.  But, when my beautiful muse speaks to me, she injects me with an understanding beyond all knowing and a joy no drug can match.

Last Friday, I took a day off and drove to Frankenmuth, a little tourist town of quirky shops and manufactured cuteness.  I strolled through an enormous bead shop, admired faerie art, turned a music store clerk onto European goth rock, and sped through a soul-sucking Christmas store.  My only purchases were a bag of specialty popcorn and some random candy from bygone days.  I bought them thinking that I would savor them over the coming weeks, enjoying the occasional taste of toffee and sugar.

But, last night, I sat in my living room resting, flipping among the cable channels mindlessly.  Beside me was the now empty bag of popcorn and a few remaining pieces of the candy.  In just a few days, I had not been able to resist the repeated narcotic allure of the promise of instant gratification.  Whether I had actually enjoyed the consumption had no meaning – I had simply wanted to consume and could not resist the urge.

This morning, I was besieged by a wave of synchronous voices – a Facebook link to an article about why our young people are leaving churches in waves; a heart-wrenching biography of a young woman struggling to survive economically without selling her soul or losing her way; and a finely crafted essay on capitalism calling for us to seek a new model for living and being together as humans.

For the past few years, I have traveled this road largely alone.  Oh, I have friends – dear and treasured friends – many of whom are treading similar paths.  But I have lived alone within a sea of humanity.  I have preached of love, of the agape of religious community.  I have spoken promoting pacifism and nonviolence, of how we must learn to love ourselves and others equally.  And when the Occupy Wall Street movement began, I jumped at the opportunity to try to shape all of that frustration and anger into a constructive and positive force for change.

But, the pull of my old life is hard.  Financial debt constantly reminds me of the need to seek monetary compensation for my labor, even though I would gladly do this work for free.  The privileges earned only through the circumstances of my birth tempt me with their serene siren song of comfort.  And I mourn the loss of my family elders, my first mentors, now all dead and kept alive only in my memories.

I know in my mind that we must change – that my old life is not sustainable.  I know that I cannot, as they say, only talk the talk.  I must walk the walk.  I am trying, dear friends, oh I am trying.  But resisting that candy takes so much effort.  Taking risks and having the courage to reach out, to be vulnerable, frightens me.  And, in allowing myself to be vulnerable, do I risk losing my capacity to lead, to help effect the changes I deem necessary in our society?

In recent months, I have watched helplessly as people lost hope in causes.  I have struggled as comrades, consumed by doubts and fears, dropped out of activities and organizations.  Perhaps such attrition, while regrettable, is inevitable.  But, is the flame of our hope flickering on the verge of evanescence?

As we emerge from winter, thankfully a gentle and easy winter, perhaps the time for a new dawn has come.  Maybe this time, we will subvert the dominant paradigm.  Can we build a new Racovia, a new Hopedale?  Can we envision and bring about a new model of being together as humans?

I do so fervently hope so.  And I invite you to join me in the journey.

Simple Joys of Days Long Gone

Thoreau I ain’t.  But I do like the occasional walk through the woods…along an established trail…of a known and manageable distance…as long as the bugs aren’t too annoying.  I am far more inclined toward B.F. Skinner’s Walden Two than its namesake original.

But I can appreciate nature as well as the next urbanite, so I sauntered off into the untamed wilderness of the Potawatoni State Park forest for a 1.7 mile adventure.  The first surprise was the enormous racket.  From the incessant chip-chip-chip of quite possibly thousands of chipmunks to the munch-crunch of squirrels rotating acorns in their dainty paws, to the blaring warnings of geese aimed at flying interlopers, a cacophony of sounds surrounded me.  Not the least alarming was the occasional thud of a heavy-husked black walnut pummeling its way through the branches.

I wandered up and around the toboggan run, down past a playground and into the Nature Center.  Inside I found a nice collection of turtles (sadly they were missing my favorite spiny softshells from my recently departed Youghiogheny River walks) and a wonderful viewing window displaying a bird feeding station just outside.  Flittering all among the dozen or so stations were sparrows and finches, woodpeckers and nuthatches, and of course the perennial mourning doves.

I continued on down a now less thoroughly paved path back toward the Inn.  I am always amazed at how our minds over time are so apt at categorizing sensory inputs.  I recognized every creature as I spied or heard it rustling through leaves or announcing its presence as I approached. 

Suddenly, I spotted out of the far side of my vision an unusual hopping motion.  I stopped and turned, hoping to determine more accurately its location and cause.  After I few seconds, I saw the hop again and spied a toad.  I imagine it was your basic American Toad, living across lots of states.  I found myself instantly whisked back through time to my childhood, when such finds seemed endlessly plentiful and tirelessly exciting.  I honestly could not remember the last time I saw a toad, but I distinctly recalled the joy I experienced when I discovered them as a child.  I fondly reclaimed memories from deep in my mind’s archive of holding their warty, cold bodies in my hand.

I wondered if everyone, no matter how challenging, stressful, or simply awful their youth has similar memories – simple delights that bring smiles to faces and carry away concerns and fears.  I certainly hope so.  I fervently hope that everyone has some trigger back to a time in their lives that was relatively free of cares and scares, of anguish and pain, of loss and betrayal.  I hope you can take a moment today – perhaps even every day – to saunter someplace in your mind where a toad sits waiting for your curious finger to stroke its smooth, bumpy skin.

Floating Logs in the Stream of Life

Before my move to Midland, I took one last walk south along the railroad tracks out of Smithton toward Jacob’s Creek.  The summer temperatures had fallen, but the air was still muggy and warm.  I went to an opening along the bank where people launch kayaks and canoes to drift along the Youghiogheny River.  I have sat there before watching the water flow by, but the log I had used before to sit comfortably was nowhere to be seen.  Doubtless some camper tossed it onto a fire not knowing they were depriving me of my resting place.

So, I wandered along the fishermans’ trail, tossing branches and stones into the water.  Unable to find a place to sit and rest in solitude, I grew restless and unable to allow my mind to wander unfettered.  I headed back along the road.

I soon came upon an old, partially-rotted piece of wooden guard rail post.  Still close enough to the water, I tossed the semi-log in.  It hit the surface with a low plomp, sank, and quickly resurfaced.  In no time, bulky block of wood sped along with the river.

Now walking with the current, I found that I could easily keep pace with the floating wood.  With its large exposed surface, it reminded me of a Mark Twain raft drifting along the mighty Mississippi.  I started gaining ground and stayed paces ahead as I walked.  Occasionally a car would pass by, forcing me to hug the guard rail and check up on my small ark.

Watching the steady progress, I thought of my kids as they grew and went off into the world.  Had I wanted to, or really needed to, I could have lumbered down the bank and jumped in to retrieve my child from the current.  But in reality, I was consigned to watching its inevitable journey, knowing that I had provided the initial impetus and castoff.

As the foliage grew taller, I only caught fleeting sight of the floating log until the weeds grew too high.  At the same time, the road started to dip slowly away from the water, and I knew that ever a herculean effort would not rejoin us again.  I began to imagine its future course down the river, knowing that I could do nothing to influence its path significantly.

Returning home, I couldn’t help but think of all the times in our lives that we give birth to activities and ideas and how soon they develop lives of their own, quickly moving out of our control.  When theologians talk about the cycle of birth and death, they often only include consideration of salvation of the individual or the progress of the soul along the path of reincarnation.

But, in fact, our lives abound with little births, giving rise to lives – some fleeting and others carrying on long after our own demise.  More often than not, we are completely unaware of our continual creations and the impact they have on others.  Perhaps a respect for the interdependent web of all existence begins with such awareness.

My Life as My Books

I don’t suppose a therapist would classify this an addiction, but I am inordinately fond of books.  Having just moved to a new home in Midland, I find most of my time consumed by organizing books, buying shelves for books, and grieving the loss of a handful that fell victim to a spill in the moving van.

People ask why I want to possess so many books.  Why do I keep books I have already read?  Why do I buy books easily available in libraries, even online?  And why would I keep a book that I am entirely unlikely to ever read?

I will admit that my bibliophilia borders on the obsessive.  I do use libraries liberally and love the growing availability of documents on Google Books and other resources.  Logic certainly would not explain the contents or size of my personal collections.

But, there are reasons for my madness.  I am comfortable around and among books.  Sometimes I feel smarter or more insightful just knowing that all of that collected knowledge resides in immediate proximity.  There is an art to the library, from dust jacket illustrations to bindings.  And, the symmetry and line of rows of texts appeals to my design sense.

The primary reason for my peculiar compulsion, however, is how my books help my spiritual practice.  Just as I love to saunter along streets and pathways, I also love to walk among ideas in my mind.  I cannot count the number of times a worship service design changed direction after a casual glance at a neighboring book, or the coincidental discovery of a text related (often in an obscure way) to the subject of my sermon.  I know that virtual libraries will in time replace my beloved stacks.  But, I will miss wandering among the towering shelves of Dewey-decimalled dusty tomes.

A Pre-Mothers Day Observation

I consider myself a fairly organized person.  But, I never quite know where my muse will take me when I write a sermon.  Nearly finished with my Mothers Day message, I decided to take a break and walk down by the railroad tracks.  The trees finally budded out of their winter slumber.  And birds chatted their differing songs the further I got from the road.   I watched the water in the river and soaked in the sun.

Just as you often see alongside highways, one commonly finds animals along the tracks hit by trains in the night. I came across a muskrat, another victim of a passing locomotive. The body was recently dead and I noticed a small, unborn baby muskrat in the tangled remains.   I shook my head at the grim discovery and thought, “Oddly appropriate that I find this poor animal as I write my Mothers Day sermon.”  I reflected on this fresh reminder of the emotionless process of evolution in nature weeding out the weak so that the strongest and smartest live on.
I suddenly heard the crunching of gravel and looked up to see an older man walking along the tracks behind me.  We exchanged greetings and I told him I had never run into anyone else on the rails before.  He asked, “wasn’t it terrible about that young girl?”  After a second, I realized that he was talking about a 15-year old who had been struck and killed by a train last December.  He went on to explain that we were standing where the accident had happened and, from the details he provided, I imagined that he could have actually discovered the body.
We talked a little more, and then he moved on.   I stood staring at the spot for some time, and a deep sadness came over me.  Sadness for Erika Stefan’s family and friends.  Sadness for the conductor faced with the impossible task of stopping a train or alerting the girl wearing earphones and unable to hear his warnings. Sadness for the mother and grandmother, wife or partner, the woman that Erika Stefan would never become.
I finally crossed the tracks.   Unable to reach blossoms on trees up the steep incline, I broke off a small budding twig.  Dropping it on the tracks, I said, “Little one, wherever you are, I hope the universe treats you more kindly.”  And I began the walk home.
As I walked, I thought about what I could say as a minister to a parent who loses a child, especially under such tragic circumstances.  As the conversation went through my mind, a monarch butterfly flitted towards me. And as it passed, a voice inside said, “It’s alright…everything is going to be OK.” I turned as the butterfly winged passed, and found myself asking, “Is that you, little one?”  The monarch just continued on past in the direction from which I had come.
I realized at that moment that Erika Stefan will never be the mother of her own children.  But, for one passing moment, this young girl mothered me.  She comforted me in my sadness, and reminded me that death really just represents a transition of one state to another.  The universe comprises an inconceivable amount of star stuff and we are all made up of that same material that existed four billion years ago at its very beginning.  Little 15-year-old Erika reminded me of the interdependent web of all existence of which I am a very tiny part.
There are times when I wish I could just take a walk and have it be just a walk.  But, I guess the universe just has too many stories it wants to tell me.

A Saturday Saunter

My future weighs heavy on my mind. I am happy.  But, finances, housing, job, relationships…nearly everything lies balancing on a tenuous slope with the spring thaw in sight.  I could not stalk my apartment for another day awaiting phone calls and emails, and so I set out on a saunter.

In his essay “Walking,” Thoreau describes sauntering, “which word is beautifully derived from…à la Sainte Terre — to the holy land…having no particular home, but equally at home everywhere.  For this is the secret of successful sauntering…For every walk is a sort of crusade, preached by some Peter the Hermit in us, to go forth and reconquer this holy land from the hands of the Infidels.”
I needed to hear the voice of the grace of the world in my mind.  Mindful wandering is my spiritual practice and I turned to it now so that I could listen without distraction.

I loaded fresh batteries in my seldom-used camera and set off to the railroad tracks that run along the Youghiogheny River by Smithton.  I don’t know why the railroad tracks are my favorite place to saunter, but I did not hesitate.  To the left lay my church and relatively familiar territory.  To the right, a few houses and then the unknown as the tracks followed the bend of the river.

I had not gone far in this direction before.  Since my heart problems two years ago, I have found myself cautious about placing myself far away from help and cell phone signals.  But, today, I knew that I needed to cast all cautions aside.
I always wear sneakers on these walks.  Every time I return, I tell myself that I should wear boots, to better cope with the tricky footing.  But, somehow I like the feel of the ballast rocks through my shoes and the almost-skating motion of walking on the trackbed gravel.  The sun warmed me quickly for early March, and I removed my jacket after a short time.  I passed the last house and ventured forward, the steep hillside on my right and the swollen river on my left.

Soon, I approached the signal towers on either side of the tracks.  This was as far as I had ever gone in previous walks.  The sound of traffic crossing the Smithton Bridge had receded, and I hesitated for just a moment before proceeding.

After only a few minutes, an ominous omen (are all omens ominous?).  I saw the body of a dead muskrat lying between the tracks, clearly run over in just the past day or two.  Not an unusual sight – I saw half a dozen or so last year starting in early spring.  The message, however, seemed clear.  Death lay ahead.  I kept walking.

Another few minutes and another animal remnant.  This time, only the hoof and bottom half of a deer’s leg lie between the northbound and southbound rails.  That’s it – no other bones or any other reminder of the substantial body that once was.  Death lay ahead…and dismemberment.  A superstitious person might need no other signs.

The tracks had rounded another bend.  Ahead lay some pieces of wood strewn around the tracks.  Approaching closer, I recognized what remained of a century-old telephone pole – just a little of the cross piece and one glass insulator.  I was now cut off from all communication with my past, figuratively and literally.

Another bend and I saw three houses nearing on the river side of the tracks.  The smell of burning wood drifted toward me and I saw a man clearing away some dead branches and brush in a smoldering barrel.  He raised his hand in greeting and I returned the gesture.  I had emerged through the warnings.  Was I now being welcomed into some precognitive peek?

I caught a glimpse of what looked like bleachers coming up on my right and I wondered for a minute what spectator event could possible take place here.  Then I remembered.  The Smithton Hole racetrack – a very distant and poor cousin of Nascar and home to demolition derbies, truck pulls, and quad rallies.  The road that served as access to the houses I had passed crossed the tracks here.  A patch of color caught my eye.  In a ditch I saw a swath of green plants in a heavy-flowing runoff ditch – the first green I have seen this year.  Was something telling me that it was time to leave the railroad tracks?

On cue, I heard the whistle of an approaching train.  I walked over to the crossing sign to watch the behemoth rumble by.  Since I was a child, I delighted in counting the cars in long trains.  Only as an adult did I learn that this was one of the many relatively harmless obsessive-compulsive symptoms that seems to run in my family.  Nonetheless, I now find myself resisting the urge to keep track of the passing containers.  Instead, I feel the quiver of the ground and watch the vibrations of rail succumbing to the mass.

After the train went by, I turned and walked up the road. I soon came to a junction.  I knew the road to the right led to Fitz Henry and a dead end.  The road to the left led up a steep hill. I turned toward the open road.

Only a few buildings remain of what was once the town of Port Royal. In the late 1700’s, this area provided valuable access to the river and grain mills and iron furnaces.  George Washington once owned land just to the south near Jacob’s Creek.  What remains hardly qualifies as a town, however, and I soon approached a substantial climb out of the river valley.

By the time I reached the top of the tiny mountain, my joints ached.  A constant wind now blew against my face, invigorating me again.  No thought remained of needing my jacket again, as the sky supporting only one tiny wisp of cloud in the distance.

I knew that the old Port Royal School House sat ahead on this road.  I had researched this structure last year for the 150th anniversary of the Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Smithton.  Here, in 1860, the 11 charter members of the Universalist Church of Port Royal agreed on a covenant, creating the community that survives to this day.  I could not help but wonder if school children from Port Royal actually walked to this school house.  The thought put those clichéd parental stories of childhood struggle and hardship in a whole new perspective.

Also coming into perspective, still miles from home on this gorgeous day, was a calm.  My mind calmed.  For the first time in perhaps weeks, I wasn’t worrying about things over which I had no control.  I wasn’t trying to control things I couldn’t control.  Ironically, I’ve become addicted to an online game called Rebuild.  The game recreates survivors of the apocalypse trying to rebuild a city still infested with zombies, disease, and shortages of food and housing. It now occurred to me that I had spent the last five years rebuilding – my job, my home, my marriage, my mind, and my soul – so that I could set forth on this future as a minister.  In recent months, I kept thinking about all this effort and all that I have done and accomplished to poise myself at this gateway.  Now, I thought, maybe the time has come to stop focusing on the rebuilding and start living in the new life I had built.

Because, in the end, we can only build the best life we can and then we have to live in it.  We can renovate occasionally, but we can’t control everything – in fact we can control precious little.  So, my joints ached, but I walked a little freer, with just a slight spring to my step.

I walked by the old school house building and thought about those 11 people back in 1860.  The formed a church that still meets today.  But, little did they know that the nation would soon enter into an ugly Civil War.  They could not foresee the rocky future of the little congregation, constantly struggling against all odds to stay afloat.  I imagined the unbridled joy of those men and women starting something special, something that has endured.

I kept on, reaching the truck stop at the intersection Interstate I-70.  Ironically, the store lay in disarray due to major renovations (OK, I get it!).  I bought a Naked smoothie and a diet Mountain Dew.  I drank the smoothie too fast, but my poor out-of-shape body needed the 22 strawberries and 1.5 bananas.  I cracked open the pop and headed home.  The remaining mile down Dutch Hollow was all downhill – a stretch I have driven at least 100 times.

Whatever happens in the next few days, the world will continue.  I may be a little richer or poorer, a little more or less secure.  But, I will endure and I will do whatever I need to do and go wherever I need to go to continue my ministry.