All These People

I am sitting in Foxy Loxy, a house-turned coffee shop, just a few steps from my
daughter’s apartment in Savannah. It’s a cool, rainy day. I’ve snagged a table on the enclosed porch. Wooden shutters wrap around me at eye level, and the glow of the apple icon on the computers around me are the only connection between those of us parked in this tiny room, coffee in hand.

All my life, I have loved to travel. I visit places and am captivated not just by the things that stand, the places and markers of history and culture, but by this tantalizing thought that always grabs hold of my imagination:

I could live here.

And I could. Really, anywhere I ever go, it comes, unbidden; this projection of what my life would look life if I lived here, in this place, wherever “here” is at the moment.

I love to imagine. The grass is always greener, it seems; and often, it’s not just the place, but some other version of me that fascinates me. Here, surrounded by Spanish moss dripping from the trees, the bulky Bull Street Library gleaming right across the street, the students carrying portfolios and backpacks dodging puddles on the sidewalk, the constant stream of movement. Cars and people. Cars and people.

Lives, intricate and important. All these people…

I’m rambling a bit, obviously. I’ve spent two full days here with my daughter, not as a tourist but as a traveler. I’ve met her friends over coffee, heard the dreams of artists who are passionate about their faith and their art, who are spending their summers serving others at camps and workshops from North Carolina to East Asia. We exclaim delight over the pastries at Back In the Day Bakery and mull over the challenges of city codes for church ministry coffee shops. I’m watching students spend their free day doing construction work – unpaid – for a church project.

All these people…

I spoke at City Church here in Savannah last night, part of a week-long intensive called Movement. I agonized and worried over what I might possibly have to say and share with anyone. My insecurities rear their heads in mighty ways and do a fine job of distraction; but in the end, after a few days of simple real conversations, real dialogue and incredible food, I stood in front of a room full of people and delivered the message. It was, in a word (or 2,833 words, to be exact), simply what I felt God told me to say. All the structure, all the planning, all the time spent molding and shaping an arc of narrative and context – all so much time and energy, reduced to an open mouth and these are the words God gave me to say to you.

And the thing I discovered is this: I have this thing in me, the truth of my life and the daily working out of my own salvation (with fear and trembling) and the small gifts of confession that I give and receive from the people in my daily coming and going and the things I have seen and felt and heard and lived. I have this thing, grounded in a foundational faith and trust in the workings of something beyond the tangible, something ethereal and spiritual and beyond my understanding or sight.

I have this life. I could live here, in Savannah, or I could live in Raleigh or Seattle or Tolar, Texas, or Chagrin Falls, Ohio, or right where I am. I could live anywhere, but I get to embrace the fullness of the life I have lived regardless of where I sit. Last night, I spoke these words: “I have walked this broken earth for almost 50 years…”

I am embracing this now, surrounded by youth and passion and energy and the incredible working swirl of creative fuel for life and Jesus. I have the privilege of speaking and sharing but far greater is the joy of a shared meal, the glimpse into the life my daughter is forging, the tiny graces of God, the energy of beauty and the lives of all these people, intricate and important.

All these people.

God, I am so blessed.

Johnstown

The view over my shoulder….

Sitting at a Starbucks in Johnstown, PA. Killing time, waiting for a wedding rehearsal to begin.

The clientele here is so different. It’s fascinating, to consider the common denominator of a Starbucks; pretty much the same experience, wherever you are in America. Same products, same vibe. Same intentions.

But sitting here in Johnstown, PA, home of the world’s steepest vehicular inclined plane, I’m eavesdropping on the conversation of two farmers talking about endangered animals and oyster beds and how they might be altering their plans for the animals they are raising. It’s fascinating, truly.

And they ordered chai tea.

Life is interesting, all over the place. In these past few days we have done a great deal of traveling; and though we’ve gone to fairly familiar places, we’ve encountered new relationships and dialogue. I feel like I’ve spent 48 hours steeped in the rich, musky mess of people. It’s been raw and open and difficult. And rewarding and deeply rewarding, a rich blessing.

One encounter I had involved a woman who had been anxiously awaiting my arrival. She had a story to tell. In broken but effective English, she unraveled a tale of a long-time relationship – 50+ years – a desperate mother, a faithful friend and a tiny crack in a broken heart that led to a crater of openness to faith and a mighty love from the Creator. I listened, and the hair on my arms rose more than once as she detailed her fervent prayers and a new relationship with this long-time friend.

I met another woman for the first time; an artist, she met every stereotypical expectation of “artsy”. She talked of her art and her work and her gallery; clad in paint-spattered clothes, her short blonde hair and lithe physique camouflaged the fact that she was almost 60 years old. Facts and opinions spurted out of her mouth and then a pause would bring a question: “Now what do YOU do, dear?” I made mention of music and the church and we danced around that topic for a while. She remarked, “Your church sounds interesting…” I asked, “Are you a believer?”

“No. I’m Jewish.”

And then she began to speak of Torah and her relationship with God. She mentioned her study of Kabbalah and referenced a scripture.

Towards the end of the conversation, she remarked, “Maybe God used you ladies to prompt me to get back to my Bible study. I have gotten too far away.”

Life is so interesting.