A Moment of Stillness in Arkansas

I woke up this morning to 0-degree temperatures. Last night we had the down comforter and two blankets strewn on top of the bed, my feet encased in fleece snuggle socks; my slumber occasionally interrupted by a loud, late winter cough.

The dryness in late winter leads to tiredness, and lung exhaustion. Yesterday I visited three people in the hospital or long-term care. Two of them had battled pneumonia. We prayed for strength.

I woke up this morning to noise: my alarm vibrating, the water running full blast until it heated up, my electric toothbrush shattering the dawning day.

At 6:49 my Uber driver arrived, less than six hours after I'd fallen asleep the night before. My heeled boots crunched against the hardened late-winter snow; I pulled my black jacket tighter around my neck.

What would it feel like, to taste again the heavy air of summer? To hear the sounds of bouncing balls and boys and girls shouting and sneakers squeaking on the pavement ...

We forget sometimes, in late winter, the tiny hints of spring just a tease.

Before spring must come Lent: the season of repentance and withdrawal, meditation and prayer and faithfulness -- and organizing Wednesday night suppers and Holy Week services and remembering never to say Hallelujah.

Next week is Ash Wednesday, when we Christians mark ourselves as sinners and redeemed, fallen and set apart and condemned and set free.

You are dust, and to dust you shall return.

And when spring returns, sometime after Easter, the dust turns into mud turns into the blooming flowers of new life again.

I say that I would like to slow down, but whenever I do my mind raises to achieve the next goal. Be better Be better Be better.

I got on the plane this morning, wrapped up in a sweater and scarf, and I leaned back and closed my eyes. The next thing I heard was a beep, then this: "We have begun our descent ..."

My friend and I met in Memphis and rented a car, which turned out to be a pick-up truck because that's all they had or else we'd have to walk across the state, and we drove across flooded fields and green grass and still-bare trees and farms and political billboards and signs for CBD oil and arrived here in Batesville, north of Little Rock, south of Missouri, in the center of America.

Tonight she and I will speak about our books, about a God who still dwells in the midst of an America too often divided and angry, righteously even, and unwilling to hear the voice of the Lord. We'll speak to college students and professors and pastors and community members. We'll eat at some point, sleep, and then drive back tomorrow to Memphis, and I'll fly back to winter in the afternoon - to the brilliant white and blue of the harsh North and the hearts who have my own.

First though, I will sit here and write in the stillness of Arkansas, in a little guesthouse down the hill from campus. I will hear my fingers hit the keys and the heater kick on and off, and I will listen to the ticking of the clock, reminding me that time passes each day alike, and I should not wish any of them away.


  1. I was right there with you. . . in my mind. Traveling mercies. . .


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