Friday, June 03, 2011

The Long Ride

On the road
On May 20th, I had the great joy of driving this 1962, D-19 Allis-Chalmers, from Mt. Pleasant, Michigan to my in-laws who live north of Fremont, Michigan.  Total distance is about 62 miles.

This great adventure is the result of another unfolding adventure in our lives.  At the first of July 2011, I will be embarking on doctoral studies at Asbury Theological Seminary, specifically the Beeson Pastor track. In the Beeson Pastor track residential students move to Wilmore, KY for 11 months.  They take as few worldly goods with them as possible and stay in a 3 bedroom furnished townhouse.  Beeson Pastors also invest those 11 months in 9 courses on preaching, missions and church leadership with some extra learning trips rounding out the education.

It surprised Anna, but I thought we shouldn't take the tractor to Kentucky.  Thanks to my in-laws, we found a great spot to keep this orange beauty for at least the next year.  (For all of you John Deere fans out there, I had lots of offers from people close to Mt. Pleasant who would have loved to store this tractor.  That goes for the Case & Farmall folks too.)

I left Mt. Pleasant and arrived at the farm about 5 1/2 hours later.  Along the way I stopped 4 times.  I stopped to see a friend near Remus and the other three were for gas.  Norm Swinford wrote in an Allis-Chalmers book that the D-19 earned a reputation of not being able to drive by a gas pump without stopping.  I didn't need to stop as often as I did, but my legs were thankful to be off of the vibrating platform.

At one gas stop I went in the store to pick up some coffee and pizza.  The coffee canister was almost bone dry.  I let the check-out clerk know that it was empty.  She said she'd brew a fresh pot.  As I waited on the coffee I went up to pay and she said, "oh don't worry about it.  It's your lunch."  I told Anna about that and she said, "I think she was thinking about a country song . . . ."

At another stop another lady stopped and asked what year the pretty girl was.  I told her - 1962.  But then I wondered, why did she use the pronoun "she"?

My in-laws live close to a retreat center called "The Shack," in what the locals call Jugville, USA.  Just north of The Shack is a small convenience store.  As I approached the store from the north a car passed me with a dog in the backseat.  The window was rolled down and the dog stuck his head out and barked mightily.  I was standing up at the time and almost ducked for cover.  The driver and passenger snickered all the way to the country store.  Glad to make someone's day.

Taking a trip on the seat of a tractor,, or a bicycle lets one see things that are often overlooked.  Isabella county is chock full of red winged black birds.  They are majestic when they take off in flight. God must have had fun taking a black bird and painting two marvelous stripes of red where their wings meet their bodies.  West of Whitecloud, MI there's a grove of Cedar trees that filled the spring air with a splendid fragrance that is missed entirely when we roar by in our temperature controlled cars.  Just west of Stanwood, MI there's a gorgeous view that breaks out as one prepares to go under the highway overpass; there's a moment, a few hundred yards, where you can look out across a great forest that spans into western Michigan.  The sights and smells, and sounds, they're all there, but more often than not we're going to fast, trying to catch life, that we miss the fullness of life that is right before us.

The sun was out so I got the first sunburn of the year.

5 and 1/2 hours on a solitary tractor gives a person ample time to see, notice and pray.  I've come to appreciate the place of solitude and prayer that can transpire on the seat of a tractor.  The hum of the engine drowns out the other noise. Trying to talk on a cell phone is crazy.  It creates this marvelous buffer zone where the work of prayer can be entered into, enjoyed, and sipped like a great cup of coffee.  Things that need to be worked out in prayer really can be.  There's time to talk to God and ample time for Him to talk in return.  There's no place else you can go.

My second class at Asbury is on Spiritual Formation. A portion of the class experience is a weekend at the Abby of Gethsemane.  There we will be asked to quiet our worlds and our words.  We will be encouraged to take time to listen to God . . . maybe I should drive the tractor to KY.  Anna . . .
One final thought.  18 years before on May 20th, I drove into this driveway preparing to marry Anna.  I didn't drive in on a tractor, nor did I think this day would ever come.  Life is full of surprises. 

I'm in the driveway after 5 1/2 hours of fun.

That was fun, now, where do I park this and can I get a cup of coffee?  My mom picked out the sweatshirt.

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