Five days, three hotel rooms, three flights, two rental cars and an abundance of Starbucks coffee and we are at the half point of our trip. Traveling to different parts of the American landscape is an interesting and tiring adventure. We both find ourselves a little on edge as we trudge from one city to the next in order to visit friends, professors and potential employers.

Our trip began early Friday with a drive down the interstate from Richmond, Virginia, to Newport News. Richmond does not have a discount airline; therefore the closest cheap flights are about 60 miles from home. Our trip to Galveston, Texas, began easy enough. We were excited to see a part of the country that neither of us had ever seen. The trip began with the usual mix of excitement and anxiety (mostly mine) and besides a close call in the Atlanta airport it was fine. Theologically speaking, God was good to us.

We arrived, after a short drive, to a cool and cloudy Galveston, Texas. We were unimpressed. For those who know the overdone eastern shorelines, Galveston is a lot like Myrtle Beach, a gated community, and any socio-economically downtrodden inner city all rolled into one. Additionally, the zoning laws are lax to non-existent. On one city block you will see a Laundromat, a Pharmacy, several asbestos laden 70’s style homes, and two or three gigantic 100 year old mansions. In the effort to attract business and people in the present, it seems as though they gave little heed to the impact on the future of the community. Of course it didn’t help that we awoke to 25-40 mile an hour winds whipping through the stairwell outside our room, causing a shrill locomotive-like whistle to invade our temporary sanctuary.

Regardless, the wedding was an affair to remember, or for many who partook a little too frequently of the open bar, an affair to forget. The Lutheran service was wonderful, liturgical and beautifully done. From the bowing before the cross, to the kneeling in prayer, to the brevity and timeliness of the homily, everything was wonderfully high church and memorable. The reception was wonderful, even if we were stuck at a table where the majority of people were stuck on themselves. Shooting myself in the foot would have been less painful than listening to the empty rambling of people who, it seems, genuinely care only about where you live, how much you make, and where to fly in the country for the best spa treatments. My wife and I affectionately referred to the table as “the plastics.” You know the type, shiny outsides empty insides, lots of air no breath. Theologically, God was still good, but with a weird torturous sense of humor.

We left on Sunday, in plenty of time to make it to the airport. Unfortunately, it was the wrong airport. We returned our rental car and heading for the airport where we arrived. We did not think to look at our reservations which were for an airline that only offers service at an airport half an hour away. The tension that filled the cab we had to rent to get from one airport to the other was thick and oppressive. My mind wandered as I berated myself for my lack of foresight and general stupidity, the laughter I offered was hollow and unnecessary. My wife was pissed, and appropriately so. We got to the airport thirty minutes before our flight was to take off and thankfully made the flight. All that ire and anxiety was for naught, wasted on a cab ride from one airport to another. God’s sense of humor was beginning to grate on my nerves a bit.

We arrive in Denver, Colorado in good fashion. Only one thing, it is snowing… and 38 degrees… on May 1st. A mixture of laughter and curses form in my mind, on the way to our hotel we can see the remnants of a recent heavy snow on the ground. We asked a Denver native her favorite part about the city; she said that it was the weather. I am beginning to wonder how living at high altitudes affects the brain. Our hotel was much nicer than we could normally afford, thank God for internet specials. After a quick dinner and a little grumbling about the weather to no one in general, we hit the bed and sleep the sleep of the dead. God has become that person in your group of friends that doesn’t know when to stop cracking jokes.

The weather begins to clear a little by Monday afternoon and the temperature rises. My wife gets to go shopping for shoes (always a crowd pleasing stress reducing activity). Of course, now we have to figure out how the heck to get them home since our bags are already packed beyond capacity. We spend the day driving the area. She has an interview Tuesday, so we figure out where it will take place and then we take off on a rambling adventure through neighborhoods and cities, looking for a place to live.

On this day, I learned how expensive it is to have character, no wonder it is in such short supply today. No one can afford to have character in Denver. That is unless one is gainfully employed by an institution that believes you should be able to afford said character. We canvas neighborhoods and make phone calls. My wife and I love the bungalows with hardwood floors, no closets, good neighbors, and lots of character.

We awake on Tuesday, pack and head to a couple of appointments. I meet with a professor at the school I will attend. She and I talk about the first quarter of school. It looks like I will take three courses to begin: a core religious methods course, a doctoral seminar in pastoral theology, and a directed study on formation. Formation is the crux of our conversation. I think that is where my studies will take me, into the realm of wisdom, generations, and how we mature and grow. I am not sure how this will happen yet, but her interest is promising.

We check into our hotel and rest for a brief moment. My wife has an interview on the other side of town, so we freshen up and head out the door. At a gas station we stop to pick up something to drink, with the car running we step and promptly lock the keys inside. This is truly the greatest “Oh shit” moment of our journey. Thankfully, the people of Denver are some of the friendliest I have met. Forty bucks and ten minutes later we are on our way again. Stress has filtered into the moment. God is a jerk. However, we made it on time, early even, and things are fine. Again we have wasted that anxiety and frustration on a car ride.

Now, I sit here in a Starbucks remembering the days as they line themselves up in the fragile landscape of my mind. Our problems have been minimal, but I know a little more about why the Psalmist cried out to God in both pleasure and pain. Our relationship is not so fragile that I believe God does good or bad things to me for a reason. That kind of theology has no place in my life. Sometimes I do wonder though. It is easier to blame God or “the devil” for the misfortunes of our adventures, but that kind of relationship lacks a certain amount of maturity and responsibility. It was our responsibility to read the airline tickets we had, to prepare for the possibility of bad weather, to bring the keys when we step out of the car. God was not rewarding or punishing us for mistakes and missteps. God, I believe, was merely present through it, keeping us in the moment so that we might function together as best we could.

In these words lies the heart of our relationship, being present with one another in whatever comes to pass. If I wonder or become stuck on God’s punishment or reward, then God is not something/one who wants to relate to me. God becomes cosmic taskmaster rather than constant companion. The only way to relate to a companion is to relate in the present during whatever journey one is taking. We cannot listen, react or reflect if we are constantly anxious about being controlled, punished or rewarded. The only relationship that can produce growth is one that functions in the present, unencumbered by the desire for special attention.

Enough for now, the adventures continue, life goes on, we will survive…

grace and peace



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