Rollin on the River: September 2010

In every town there is the Church. She decorates the skyline with bulbs or spires topped with crosses and roosters; the largest building invariably holding court in the center of old-town, a must see on the quick tour through yet another charming location along the Rhine River.

We walk into cathedrals, facts rolling off our backs and dripping from our fingertips: "During the so called Holy Roman Empire..the Jesuits the reformation...Napoleon destroyed..bombs from the second world being rebuilt..." Looking for the life of Christ, we find ourselves in mausoleums filled with (or emptied of) statuary--the altar far off in the distance, safely barricaded behind iron gates, removed from the prying, photographing public.

In some of the smaller churches, we feel a sense of life warming the musty stones. Still, one finds the arguments of the reformation and/or monuments to the past enthroned for history's sake--more than for igniting faith. I remember a friend who told me that he found his way into the church because of experiencing a certain peace while visiting churches in Europe. I remember him and marvel.

In the evenings we drink wine and laugh with new found friends, complaining about the ship's internet connectivity that hasn't yet caught up to the iPad revolution. Despite that difficulty, I laud the iPad to an Aussie: "It weighs only a third as much as my Bible."
"Why would you bring a Bible?" He asks, genuinely puzzled.
"Because I read it."
"So you're a God botherer."
"A what?"
"A God botherer. That's what we call 'em. Someone who is always bothering God."
"Oh no," I say. "He likes it."

In Engelberg I resist the urge to climb into the most beautiful pulpit I've ever seen, a marvel of white and salmon colored marble, with a gold gilded dove descending overhead and an angel trumpeting from the crown. "You better have something to say when you mount those stairs," I murmur to Michael, suspecting all the while that homilies are now preached from the little wooden lectern up front, the one with the microphone.

"After the game, the king and pawn go into the same box." -Italian Proverb

I was so busy waking about--hopefully burning as many calories as I was consuming--that during the two week vacation I only read one novel, Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson. And having finished it, I felt vaguely dissatisfied. What do you do with a finished e-book? Delete it? How I wish I could slap a couple of bucks' price tag on the book and put it in The Word Shop where it would engender conversation: "Hey, is this by the same person who wrote Gilead? Yeah, it's not as compelling though, a bit odd. The writing is good in a thick, heavily ladened with details way, but the plot is strange. More undertones and overtones than melody..."

"Writing is a way of talking without being interrupted." -Jules Renard

I can envision a guide some 500 years hence walking with a tour group and saying, "Then the Muslims came and once again these treasures were whisked away into ancient hiding places. This church was only recently rebuilt, the pulpit's historical authenticity derived from a picture discovered in a rubble of books buried during the great earthquake that separated the California islands from the Nevada coast..."

"Yesterday is History, Tomorrow is Mystery, Today is a Gift." ~Mother Theresa

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