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Traveling through the interior

by davesandel on May 17th, 2021

Monday of the Seventh Week of Easter (The Last Week), May 17, 2021               

(today’s lectionary)

Traveling through the interior

Paul traveled through the interior of the country and down to Ephesus where he found some disciples.

On these trips through the heart of the UsA I travel the arteries of commerce, accompanying hundreds of semi-trucks, like a mouse on the elephant’s back (although I’m sure the mouse is more helpful to the elephant than I will ever be to the semi drivers). From Texas to Arkansas to Missouri, edging on Tennessee into Illinois, and at last to the heart of the heart, at least for me, to Lincoln Avenue in Urbana. To 1108 North Lincoln Avenue, to be precise.

And then back again. Out of Illinois past Springfield and Litchfield and Belleville (I’ve been everywhere, man), through St. Louis into Missouri and Oklahoma, usually on Sunday, and I’m listening to (watching out of the corner of my eye) the church service of my childhood LIVE from Zion Lutheran Church in Lincoln, Illinois, then switching to, ready for Pastor Matt Cassidy to lean into us with Bible exegesis, theology, and application. By then I’m ready for the SW Missouri gospel hour. At least sometimes.

When I drive back and forth (seven times since last Thanksgiving), I rarely get homesick. I’m going home both ways. I don’t have that familiar feeling of regret after a vacation, wishing I didn’t have to return to the drudge of everyday everyday. This is true, I think, because I choose people rather than projects often enough in both the places where we live. Who will I see, who will I talk to, who needs help, who can I ask for help?

I am learning this very slowly.

At age 71 until November 17, I remember my father’s favorite psalm, a prayer of Moses, Psalm 90. “Our days may come to seventy years, or eighty, if our strength endures.” Dad longed for 80, to be the first in his family line to make it that far. He made it, and I have pictures of the party. Dad died a few months later, Thanksgiving Day 2002. He had asked us to sing, so at his funeral Margaret and I found it in ourselves to play guitar and sing his favorite song, while he hovered above us and his body waited in the casket. These days quickly pass, and “we fly away.”

Now almost 20 years hence, I think about him more than ever. This poem helps me:

Now that you are old, you have moved inland,

Surrounded by trees and a river hidden below.

You walk there with your life inside you.

Concentrating through traffic in the cities, then resting in the solitude of mostly empty concrete highways in the country, I carry my life inside me. Unlike those armies in the Civil War, it has become so easy for me to cross the Mississippi and the Arkansas and the White and the Red, the St. Francis and Ouachita and Trinity and Brazos Rivers, all on long, well-engineered spans, beautiful expensive bridges that carry 40 ton trucks without complaint every hour of every day.

I catch glimpses of all that water. I imagine myself riding along on a little boat with lifted sail, catching a fish now and then, flowing with the currents all the way and all the way and all the way into the sea, following the water. Oh, the water.

They were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul laid his hands on them they spoke in tongues and prophesied.

Sometimes I stop at Mt. Pleasant, or Sulphur Springs, maybe at Temple and Buc-ee’s, with its 150 gas pumps and 30 urinals all lined up and shining. Every town in Texas has its story. Tongue talkers and prophesee-ers, politicians and Texas Rangers, ugly stories and sweet ones, the cemeteries are silent, those gravestones tell no tales, but sometimes the neighbors … well, they might share a story or two they have hidden up their sleeves.

Paul entered the synagogue, and for three months debated boldly with persuasive arguments about the Kingdom of God.

Couldn’t I stop like Paul for three months here and there, and discover the joys of bold debate with fascinating strangers? Waco, for example, has such history! (Why do I keep wanting to say Whacko when I know that’s incorrect, and offensive besides?) Baylor University and the Baptists is just the tip of its historical ice. Siege of the Brother Davidians, check that out. Take a look at the strangest pa and ma governorship/flim flam family in the history of the world. And besides that there’s a zoo, a swimming lake with a sandy beach, and the Brazos River, which flows down from its source not far from Old Glory, Texas, through the Comancheria into Possum Kingdom Lake and many other manmade lakes all the way through the heart of Texas to the Rio Grande. Waco is smack dab in the middle of all that flowing stream.

Sing to God, O kingdoms of the earth. Let God arise, and his enemies be scattered. The father of orphans and defender of widows is God in his holy dwelling.

Like ancient Israel, Texas thinks a lot of itself. Unlike ancient Israel, there is little evidence that God has ordained that self-appreciation. Texas tends to spend much less than other states on caring for orphans and widows for instance; there’s no income tax, after all.

Now you are talking plainly, and not in any figure of speech.

I intended to write about the trip, about the many rivers, about the heart of the UsA, and I ended up spending all my time in Texas. I didn’t even get to Austin. How interesting. I wonder if in the wistful wanderings of my 70’s, I’m falling just a little bit in love. My helpful poem ends:

It makes me remember the fires that were built on the beaches when I was young.

Huge fires made of what was there.

I remember what they looked like when the fires went out.

Plenty of logs left blackened, held by the wet and high tides.

I stand with the size of the burnt-out fires the morning after

And listen to the quiet young ocean.

(from “After the Fires,” by Linda Gregg on Garrison Keillor’s Writer’s Almanac)

(Acts 19, Psalm 68, Colossians 3, John 16)


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