Friday, July 28, 2006

Paul Bunyan Jesus

Destination: Cedar Point, Sandusky, Ohio. We left late Monday morning after a leisurely breakfast and lunch. I always love driving north or east of Knoxville, as we climb the ridges or delve through ravines of the Appalachians. Even driving on the interstate is beautiful. We left the mountains and wound across the rolling scape of Kentucky to Cincinnati. The best part was our deliverance from the interstate onto long, straight county highways. Northern Ohio, if you weren't aware, has the geographical construction of a tortilla, and though I'm partial to mountains, it doesn't get much better than truckin' it through corn country.

We got to the hotel around dinner time and drove off into the evening for dinner. Sandusky is quite the quintessential small town, with tiny shops and industrial-era architecture and norse-sounding placenames that don't roll easily off the southern tongue. The bayside scenery was plagued though, by an odd silence. We got out to walk around and ask directions to a restaurant, and were amazed that, besides a few folks riding bicycles (everyone, it seems, rides a bicycle up there), there was no one around. It could have been that it was a Monday night, but nonetheless, it was a quirky lack of ado. We did make it, however, to Port Clinton and the seafood buffet I'd been seeking. I couldn't remember the last time I'd eaten at a seafood buffet, and this one was the perfect way to get reacquainted - Clipper's Seafood, with all-you-can-eat crab legs on the buffet. On the way there, we passed the Cheesehaven, with 125 different kinds of cheese. Too bad we didn't get to visit.

I'll spare you the details of Cedar Point itself, with the exception of this. You NEED to experience the Top Thrill Dragster. If you haven't been shot from 0 to 120mph in four seconds and sent 428 feet straight up (and then straight down), you need to do this before you die. It will change your life. The best experience we had there began at WalMart. Yes, we're sad people.

While waiting in line to buy a pack of gum and get $40 dollars without paying an ATM fee, we met the Wests. Jim West and his family hail from Glasgow, and are spending a month in Canada and the States on vacation. We met them in the park the next day and went to Famous Daves for dinner, where you should've seen their faces as the waiters and waitresses came out clapping and singing for their youngest daughter's birthday. She looked like someone who had just fallen out of a plane, and Jim and his wife couldn't stop laughing. I found out quite a bit about our country as well, such as how cheap everything (including gas) is here, as opposed to the rest of the world. And furthermore, Jim's wife Marie remarked on the cleanliness of the States. In London, because of terrorist attacks, the authorities have removed all of the trash bins in "the tubes," and, she said, graffiti and vandalism are more prevalent in Britain.

On the way back home, at the behest of Greg Adkins, we took 75 south and stopped to see "Paul Bunyan Jesus" about 35 minutes north of Cincinnati. The Solid Rock Church has created an enormous sandstone colored statue of Jesus exploding from the water next to the interstate that does indeed resemble Paul Bunyan. After all, we know that there was a mistranslation in the book of Luke. Jesus actually rode into Jerusalem on a big blue ox. And that's why a giant statue was the best use of money for that church. Yippee!

Sunday, July 16, 2006

A Door Opens

Forgive my sarcastic title on the last post. I promise that this one won't sting as much. Kat and I visited a church this evening that greatly resembled most of the churches in which we've both grown up. After every visit, the car ride back home is full of conversation about what we liked or didn't, what we thought was Scriptural or not, the attitudes, the music, the preaching, and so forth. I don't really know what to consider in this sort of endeavor, as I've never been discipled on the subject. Thus, we're kind of making it up as we go along.

This time, though, Jared was with us. So we waited (a little uncomfortably, I might add, though no fault of Jared's) until we were alone to figure things out, and I realized something very important. Here's the deal: I've never been comfortable in a traditional church setting. Even growing up, as soon as I was able to begin to understand, my discomfort with the society of church meetings was always just below boiling. And I think it's because I've hardly ever let go of my inhibitions. What inhibitions, you ask? The boundaries that keep me from dancing in public. The lines that I don't cross and begin moving with the joy I feel, or that I would like to feel worshipping God. I think I stifle it to some degree, in order to not seem like a fool. I know that, when I'm alone in my house, I turn up the music and I dance. It certainly isn't a recognizable step according to the Ballroom Dancers of America or whatever, but it is certainly dance. I feel free when I do this, and I feel free when I'm playing a guitar or a bass. But sitting in a pew, among hundreds of people - or even twenty - makes me incredibly tense. Much as I hate to admit it, I'm concerned what others think of me. Every atom of my body conveys my preoccupation with it. So there, I've put that out there.

The times when I've felt the freest (discounting my times onstage playing backup instruments) are when I've been among only a few people in a home with an equal footing. The times when I've felt that I had a say in where the conversation went as much as the fellow who had been there for the past three years. I don't really know if I'll ever feel comfortable in a large corporate setting, but at least I've come to see a little clearer about myself. I hope it helps you, too.

Friday, July 07, 2006

The Answers Are Here

I suppose that since I have been graduated from college, you might think that I'd be full of thought and philosophical contemplation. Honestly, I feel more at a loss every day that I stop to think. You know, salvation has never been really explained to me? No one ever took the time to sit down and tell me in all exactness what it really is that saves me, and why. We can all say that it's been explained to us, but what about those verses that defy our explanations (yes, they're there)? What about all the things I've been told but never shown?

To tell the truth, I don't really know if my faith is beyond the shaking point. Coming home tonight with the music futilly staving off the incurable loneliness of the insomniacal drive, I was shaken awake from my trance when I passed an owl that almost hit the car. Its wings flashed white as it veered off its path into the breeze, bringing to mind those old childhood notions of phantoms and eidolons just out of eyeshot. Always, they hung on the edge of vision, occasionally blundering into our sight through imagination's doors. Shuddering back into consciousness, I wondered aloud if I'm cut out for this life of questions under every stone I turn - or if the fabric of my being will tear and shred under the stretching of the tests of faith. I look at all the folks I've ever seen as role models and wonder if any of us really know anything at all about this faith we profess. I do long for a person to sit with me and teach me, or at least give me the comfort of telling me that they don't know either. Is it right that the only difference I see between myself and unbelievers is the faint hope that I will be accepted by You whom I know to be Love and long to know through sight? What of the days when I feel nothing - least of all, motivation to have mercy?

Are you raising up a harlot for the schooling of the bride? Is it me?

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Appalachian Trail: Part II

Despite the fact that I was the last to go to sleep, I awoke at around 5:40am, a good deal before everyone else. I never sleep long outside. I got up and wandered around the campsite, checking my bag and getting situated for the coming day, as it was to be a long one.

Breakfast was Ramen with a small can of cream-of-something soup mixed in and bread with hot Thai peanut sauce. It may seem monotonous on paper, but good food is a blessing on the trail. As I was the first to rise, Nathan was the last. So we hung around until everyone else had left. I felt like we were the only ones who weren't "real" thru-hikers, but we counted our share of paces in the journey. Not long after the scout leader and his last underling trailed their group up the mountain, we lit out up the path, a little more accustomed to walking in cruise control and wondering what the day would bring. Strangely, the trail brought nothing. No thru-hikers crossed our path. In fact, nobody crossed our path. From Peck's Corner to Charlie's Bunion, it was only the trail and the scenery along the Carolina spine of the Appalachians. A cool azure breeze carried us over every step from Laurel Top to the Sawteeth - and past that almost-Alpine field of bramble and grass on the nape of the mountainside east of the Sawteeth's jagged peak. The first people we saw were a few day-hikers at Charlie's Bunion. Among them, a nearly familiar face came out onto the bluff where we lunched on beans and bread and took a nap on the rocks to attempt futile escape from the gnats. It was surprisingly cold in the wind out on the bluff. We left and trekked the mile to Icewater Spring to refill our bottles in the high-mountain water untouched by impurity. The coolness was more than welcome, and as we sat in the shade guzzling down spring water, and I prayed that it was as pure as it tasted, the familiar face came back up the trail toward us. John Michalak, and his wife Zolla were out for a day-hike to Charlie's Bunion - I think, by divine appointment. The face of a friend after a long journey was almost as good as seeing home rising up from the distance. We had met John at a retreat to Fall Creek Falls with several artists and folks involved with New City Cafe. And he had played recently at the singer/songwriter competition that I had taken part in as well. After a good reintroduction and a refill, we went along together for the short remainder of the trip. I have never been so happy to get my shoes off. And to sit down. And to bathe and sleep in a bed. But the experience is one I hope to repeat at some point soon, as it was well worth the difficulty in more ways than I can measure.

I've been trying to beat an acute case of writer's block that seems to have befallen me. So, I'll be attempting to write here on a more regular basis, and yes, I do know that every occasional blogger has said that and meant it. But to keep myself writing and keep my mind sharp, practice must be put into effect. When asked whether he wrote every day or waited for inspiration, William Faulkner answered, "I wait for inspiration. But I make sure inspiration comes every morning at 10 o'clock when I sit down at my desk."