Saturday, August 25, 2012

The Green Room.
You know, the plush place where rock stars go to stay away from the screaming fans.
Well, just in case you didn't know, churches have these now.
(Insert dynamic that is convenient and cordial but drags with it the possibility of huge perspective issues.)
This may not apply to many people, but if you happen to be a worship leader, just walk through a Sunday morning in your mind and think about how screwed up our brains can get.

My screwed up brain is realizing a few things:
-If you never go out to the lobby, you are a performer, not a minister.
-You have your tea and crumpets (coffee and bagels) that the church (possibly some old lady's tithe) pays for while the rest of your community is having an encounter with the words of God on the other side of the wall.
-6:30 am.  Set up.  Green room.  Stage.  Multiplied by three services.  Head home.  Fall asleep to football.  Welcome to the non-Sabbath.
-Be honest with yourself.  Would you do it if they didn't pay you?  If not, don't do it.  You may not have the money to put in your savings, but you will save your soul.
-If you haven't prepared with personal worship (saturating, deep, authentic, craved time with Jesus) then you can't lead others in it.  But yes, you can nail the tune and make other people think you are cool.
-What if you never thought of a prayer as a transition again?
-By the way, if one person begins to change this.  The rest of us will follow...eventually.

Monday, August 20, 2012

"And it is essential of the happy life that a man would have almost no mail."
-C.S. Lewis, while talking about his perfect daily routine.

I felt this "happy life" while in Alaska these past two weeks. 
No texts, email, or calls.  
Just mountains, salmon, and ghost towns.
The noise was gone.

Lauren, Dad, Mom, Mike, Emily, Guy that Filleted the Halibut, and Earl the Lonely Park Ranger, were really the only people who I exchanged words with.

I don't think Lewis is referring to a hermit's joy in disconnection, but rather in the joy of simplicity.
And sometimes, to simplify you must disconnect.

This preference is, without a doubt, in degree, due to personality.  But it is also a part of each of our personhood.
Everyone needs to slow down and unplug (literally) every once and a while.  
We are more connected that ever.  I think babies are actually starting to be born with one hand that lights up, vibrates, gets stuck to the side of their face, and reveals images as you swipe up and down on it.

Connection.  Yes, we need it, but I believe Lewis is right in saying the unplugging can lead to deep peace and happiness once you we stop shuddering at the silence.  When was the last time you heard a breeze?

Alaska reminded me that by disconnecting we allow ourselves to be better at reconnecting.
It's good to be back.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Day Four:

Warm covers.  Cold face.  Damp.  Eyes still closed.  Get up?  No.  Move?  Turn over.  Look up.  The sun is young.  Close eyes again.  Fall back asleep.  Swishing nylon.  Zipping tent door.  Casey up and moving.  Readjust pillow.  It smells foggy.  I feel foggy.  Tent too small to stretch.  Sore bones.  Old breath.  Oh yeah, we're under a gazebo.  Casey singing.  Annoying on purpose.  Smile.  Turn back over.  Coffee.  Warmth.  Steaming coffee.  I don't want to pack.  "Get up."  No answer.  "Get up."  "I'm up."  Unzip bag.  Cold seeps in.  Cold legs.  Pants?  There.  Dress sitting down.  Feet out of tent first.  Pull on boots.

The fog is still burning off and our bikes are covered in dew.  I flip my collar up high on my neck and survey the land that the light reveals.  That huge cabin down by the lake is surprising.  I rub my eyes to life as I walk down to the dock to wash off the sleep.  It's too cold for a dip so I just wash my face and brush my teeth before walking back to finish packing.

I wish I remember what I prayed that morning.  I remember feeling good about it.

A man emptying the trash at the McDonald's told us of his motorcycle travels over a cup of joe.  After he finished flipping through his worn out pictures, Casey and I routed out the day.  I've never loved breakfast as much in my life as I did on this trip.  It always sank down into our bones.

The lines shot by below my feet.  Yellow, yellow, yellow.  The wind picked up later in the day and pushed us in bursts so we leaned into the invisible.  Woomph!  At times it blew so hard it whipped my head and hurt my ears.  My fingernails turned blue because of the cold temperature and my death grip as we buzzed underneath the big white turbines that looked like origami.  Those windy, flat plains of Indiana never got old like the other travelers said they would.

This brings me to a big point.  Back roads are the key to traveling.  They take longer and make you focus on the journey and not just the arrival.  You see things.  You see country stores and "liars benches."  You see the colors of the cities on the map.  America lives in the back roads.  They hold all of our culture and nature.  These interstates have killed our connection to each other.  They have made us faster, busier, and more ignorant.  Instead of seeing each other, we see the hunks of shiny metal plowing down the road.  Interstates make the entire country look the same. The green signs and off ramps are under every skyline and big sky.  We wanted to see America and we quickly realized that the interstates were going to cause us to skip it.

85 mph felt smooth on those roads.  The fields looked like quilts and we zoomed along the stitched patches.  We were heading toward Casey's family's place in Illinois.  Tomorrow was Easter so we had a Mass to make.  And if you miss Easter Vigil you go to hell, or miss the free beer, or something terrible.  Catholics drink Bud Light in the fellowship hall, by the way.  They love to party.

Casey's family welcomed us with cold drinks, sausage, and cabbage.  They unloaded our bikes and sent us out to the back porch.  I want to welcome people well like those great storytellers did.  They made me a part of the family for the holiday.  Casey and I took our unloaded bikes for a joy ride after Mass.  We felt light and fast.  We stood up and leaned into the wind.  We told stories until 2:30 in the morning with the uncles after we returned from our night ride.  As we sat by the work bench in the garage on our lawn chairs, I heard tale after tale of family memories.  I want to be well-rounded like Uncle Joe.  He has an enviable mustache and a light heart.  We laughed until our bellies ached and our cigars burned out.  That was how it should be.  Men being men.

"The kingdom of God is in the midst of you."  I know this is true.  I was there.  I was in it.  This was one of the thoughts I scribbled in my journal at a gas station in Indiana.