Monday, May 29, 2006

Bike riding on Memorial Day

Memorial Day, a holiday--hooray!

Even though I like my job and don't mind going to work, thinking about what to do on the third day of a three-day weekend is like balancing your checkbook and discovering that you miscalculated and still have a lot more money in the bank than you thought.

How to spend it? For starters, I took a 10-mile bike ride (all right, it was really only 9.2, not a lot but at least it's a start, considering I hardly rode at all last year due to my injured foot) through the woods and fields just outside of town. As Lance Armstrong said, it's not about the bike. For me it was about time to breathe the perfume of blooming wild roses which is everywhere in this season and sort through all the random thoughts that have been bouncing around my brain these past few days:

For starters, the puzzle that the beauty of the natural world on a day like this speaks to me about God's goodness, but how to hold that thought when old grannies drown in their attics in hurricane-swept New Orleans, or when children are swept from their parents' arms by tsunami waves?

Similar thoughts yesterday morning in church, as I admired the play of leaf-filtered sunlight across the fresh-cut flowers at the altar. I was at one of my alternative churches just because some small voice told me to go there. The first reading was about the selection of Matthias to replace Judas: They prayed and said, "Lord, you know everyone's heart. Show us which one of these two you have chosen to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside to go to his own place." And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias; and he was added to the eleven apostles. (Acts 1:24-26) I have been thinking even more than usual lately about discernment and this reading inspired a sermon about the process of discernment, and the comment that a lot of people don't believe anything happens by chance, but see the hand of God in everything.

Which makes perfect sense to me, especially as I so often find that what I need comes into my life just at the moment I need it most--but still there is that same problem as above. If the hand of God is in everything, how to explain all the bad things that happen to people?

Anyway, here's a weird coincidence: I went on an educational field trip from the university to a large state prison last week, and afterward my thoughts kept going back to the terrible sadness and wasted humanity of that place. Then yesterday, as we were driving to have dinner with my parents, we made a wrong turn switching highways and unexpectedly found ourselves driving right up to the prison.

It was as if this place that had been pulling my heart back all week had somehow managed to pull my body there, too.


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