Getting out of the suburbs and into the beauty of the created world is inspiring and refreshing! We saw many marvelous sights on our West Texas Journey, including an expanse of the heavens in Marfa with no city lights obscuring the incredible starry skies, beautiful and wild blooms, and the gorgeous granite batholith called Enchanted Rock between Llano and Fredericksburg, Texas.
Jeremiah 51:15 says, “He made the earth by His power; He founded the world by His wisdom and stretched out the heavens by His understanding.”
Standing at the top of Enchanted Rock and looking out across the rough beauty of the Texas Hill Country makes me feel the truth of this verse in my bones. And it awakens a hunger for knowing God more personally and intimately.
So when I read this invitation, “Call to Me and I will answer you, and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.” (Jeremiah 33:3), I am both exhilarated and terrified!
We get so excited to meet our favorite artists–whether they are musicians, actors or other creatives–how much more exciting to get to hang out with the creator of the entire universe? It’s stunning, really. And a bit scary!
Texas is BIG! We drove over 1400 miles, spent 22 hours in the car, and stayed mostly in the south western quadrant of the state! The landscape varied from flat and ugly to mountainous and gorgeous to dry and dusty to wet and luscious. We made it all the way to Marfa, Texas, anxious to see the famous Marfa Lights, that curious and unexplained phenomena in the night sky. We did in fact, see the Marfa lights … while the man behind us on the platform was explaining to the people next to him that he and his buddies have met up in Marfa every year for the past seven, a reunion of friends. And every year, they come to the platform and hope to see the lights. As the four of us were pointing and exclaiming to each other, “There! See them? There!” this man behind us continued to recount his sad story to the others … “Seven years, and we’ve never seen them. I guess this is another year …” I was flabbergasted! We were looking right at them!! Three twinkling lights that would appear in the distance, a few feet above the horizon, dancing and moving, seemingly advancing towards us, and then retreating, then disappearing, only to appear again a few minutes later. We soon heard the reunion of friends packing up to leave the platform, another year gone by, while we had been entertained by the very lights they sought and missed.
It made me wonder how often I am guilty of the very same thing … completely missing what I’ve sought, and what it right in front of me, because I’d been distracted by myself and my own need to be the center of attention, or otherwise remain unaware. O Lord! Let that not happen! Let me not go through life missing the very thing I am seeking to find.
We also came across the abandoned movie set used in the 1960 film “The Alamo” starring John Wayne. One part of the set was old San Antonio. Here’s the church and general store, and of course, the famous mission entry:
Last summer while working in Plymouth, Mass., I visited Plimoth Plantation, a living history museum set up as it would have been in the year 1629. I walked into one of the tiny Pilgrim cabins and saw the above, pretty much exactly as you see it here. I entered through the door just as the sun was pouring into the otherwise darkened cabin through the narrow chimney shaft, focusing the concentrated light on this small bottle of oil. So striking!
I’ve thought of this image many times over the last eight months or so since I took this picture. The thoughts generally focus on the question of gains and losses…since 1629, we’ve gained so much. A nation! Democracy! Medicine, technology, science…so much! I wonder why I keep returning to the other side of the coin (so to speak)–what have we lost?
We’ve lost the pace of peace, to be sure. All of our modernity, each item eagerly trumpeted as “the latest and greatest time-saving device” has not given us more time at all. As we have regulated all that used to regulate us–harvest, seasons, night and day–we’ve removed the natural barriers that kept us separate from the now constant-fast pace at which we hurtle through the days.
We’ve gained medicine, but lost health through our demand for processed foods and our unwillingness to unplug and slow down. Even when the doctor says to us specifically, “You have to reduce the stress in your life, or you will have a heart attack,” we don’t really believe him.
Nostalgia can be a dangerous drug. I want to be careful not to pine for what’s past as a retro-version of “the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.”
In a sense, though, that IS what we do with our present and future–striving forward with technology and other “improvements.” Once I get a SmartPhone, I can keep up with email when I’m in the carpool line or waiting at the post office; once I get and iPad and subscribe to the newest airplane wireless technology, I can stay in contact with the office even while I’m in the air; once I get the new 2011 Ford, I won’t even have to parallel park by myself! Once I get…
I discovered on my visit to Plimoth Plantation that each dwelling mirrors one of the Pilgrim’s homes, reconstructed based on the diaries and journals they kept, and the archeological evidence unearthed, and on artifacts that were kept in families through the centuries. Though some were a bit larger than others, they shared more similarities than distinctions.
Each home was one or two rooms with an open hearth in one of the corners with a chimney directly above, and usually a loft for the children or boarders. The homes had similar sparse furnishings–a bed in a corner, a trunk or two, a few baskets, some cooking utensils, and a shelf upon which sat the family books and table settings.
Before my visit to Plimoth Plantation, I had thought that when each family moved out of the colony on their own, they would choose large pieces of land–claiming acreage like they did in Oklahoma and Texas a couple centuries later. But far from it! Each adult in the colony looked forward to paying the collective debt, and then receiving their share, which was one acre per adult in the household and 1/2 acre per child. What?? The families settling the new world would end up with less than five acres apiece?
It was then that a few thoughts came together for me. These folks came across the sea to purposefully begin a township with trade and merchants.
Though they needed to plant seed for corn, and herbs for cooking and medicine, nobody was hankering to go west as farmers and ranchers and leave civilization behind. These folks were bringing civilization, and looked forward to being in it again. The difference in the new land for them was not city life and country life, but rather city life without religious persecution. (Unless, of course, you weren’t a separatist.)
They eagerly looked forward to the annual ships arriving with the goods they were used to in Holland and in England–fresh, ready-made clothes, sugar, and spices. As they began to build their homes, they sent orders back to England for windows, dishes, linens, baskets, and other items they been without for a few years.
Basically, the Pilgrims were camping–roughing it by choice, until that glorious day when the debt was paid, and they could begin to invest in their livelihoods and build proper houses along Leyden Street.