Morning Thanks

Garrison Keillor once said we'd all be better off if we all started the day by giving thanks for just one thing. I'll try.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

The Short Fiction of Lawrence Dorr (iv)

"Risen Indeed," the fourth story in Lawrence Dorr's The Long Journey Home, is no more complex than the title asserts. Very simply, it's a story with a climax that arrives with the refugee's blessed assurance of Christ's resurrection.

Imagine that--a story that banishes the darkness with nothing more or less than than the only truly empty grave in the history of humankind. That's it. It's that simple.

In "Risen Indeed," once again the darkness permeates the refugee's existence with uninvited flashbacks that take him completely out of the here-and-now and leave him feeling stranded in the desolated world at the end of the war. He simply can't forget what he'd rather not remember. There's an empty church in "Risen Indeed," a church he stumbles into when he's trying to stay alive in Salzburg, when he has nothing to eat, when he dreams of Spam (he's seen a picture) and determines to attack an American soldier to get arrested and thrown into an American prison where they actually feed their prisoners. He's that starved.

When he can't do it, he looks for solace in a church the war has destroyed.

The altar was bare. It had been stripped of its linen and candlesticks. The door of the safe behind the altar was open. It was empty. . .He was standing in an empty space where the sound of weeping and crying would always be heard, where hope had ceased forever. There would never be a new heaven and new earth, a new Jerusalem. He cried with dry sobs as if he had been drained even of his tears. He cried for the empty world, he cried for himself. . .

The memory of his own faithlessness is summoned by the tearful confession of a woman who tells him that she feels abandoned by a priest who claims in an article in a church paper that talk of the bodily resurrection of Christ is, well, not only silly but chauvinistic, the empty burden of those embarrassing 19th century missionaries who were carrying cultural imperialism in the name of Jesus Christ. She is mortified. "Without the resurrection I have nothing," she tells the refugee, decades later on a college campus. "You can't imagine the desolation I feel."

Well, she's wrong. He can imagine the desolation because he's lived it. It's her confession that reawakens the horrors he lived through after the war--the empty church and the whole line of dead men and women he witnessed hanging from the goal posts of the soccer field he played in as a boy, those he thought he would himself soon be among.

But it's Holy week now, decades later, and there's Maunday Thursday, the only Royal Feast. 

Then his name was called and he recognized it. It was the voice Him Who cooked fish on a charcoal fire for his friends and said: "Come and have breakfast." It was the voice that made them know that beyhond chronos was the kairos of everlasting life. He looked at the image of Christ the King, at the Easter lilies on the altar, at the cross made of wildflowers, and he cried out with the instinctive cry of the newborn.
"Christ is risen. Christ is risen."
"Risen indeed," the others shouted back.
The story ends with the cry of the newborn in Christ. It ends where real life begins, with the resurrection of Jesus Christ. "Risen Indeed" is a very simple story, and it's not long. 

There's something of a paradox here, I'm afraid. Maybe it's just me. What makes the story difficult--and make no mistake!--it is--is that it's so incredibly simple. The story's remarkable testimony is that the scarred refugee takes the refuge he's looked for so desperately in the only real comfort he knows he can know: "Christ is risen."

That simple truth here is that He is our peace. That's the story of "Risen Indeed."

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Waco II

They've got Louie Gohmert, but we've got Steve King. Still, it was Louie Gohmert who laid out the plain truth: "We've got some people who think Shariah law oughta' be the law of the land, forget the Constitution," he said while defending his good Christian people. "But the guns are there," he said, "the Second Amendment is there, to make sure all of the rest of the amendments are followed."

Just in case you're wondering, that is.

And those guns are there not just there to defend the constitution either. You never know what's going to happen, even when you got to take a leak sometime, you know? I mean, a guy goes to the can, and some dang fool comes along and makes some kind of crack--who knows what about?--when he's standing there minding his business. Well, what's a guy do, right? I mean, what you really got if you've got no respect?

Or so it went in Waco last week. It all started in the men's can over some provocation between a couple of biker thugs who had enough of each other. Fists became knives, knives became heat, and soon enough all-out war erupted, not a supporter of Shariah law anywhere close. 

You wonder why all that shooting went down at Waco because guys like Gohmert know dang well that we face more dangerous enemies than beefy guys on Harleys decked out in leather vests. After all, not a month ago, Texans were keeping their guns close because the U.S. Army was coming to take over the whole region and turn it into an Islamic State because the whole country's falling flat on its face anyway with a honest-to-God Muslim running things, a man who has surrounded himself with Muslim Brotherhood. 

You didn't know? Tune in.

The U. S. Army is coming to the Lone Star to grab Texas's guns because Obama knows that Texans hate him--and they do. Jade Helm, Obama calls this military thing, this lie; and the feds got the gall to send down military people, liars all, to try to tell God-fearing people that all them military are here just for some kind of games thing. Sure.  And I got a bridge. . .

But Louie Gohmert knows the truth, and so did the Governor himself who ordered the Texas guard to keep watch over the U.S. Army and take corrective measures if they started into confiscating the guns of good people. That sort of thing. 

But we were talking about Waco, and the big parley at Twin Peaks, where some of Texas's finest gun-toters hang out and drink beer served up by good-looking women wearing hardly any clothes, as in "twin peaks." Sweet, huh? What could be more American? 

That whole battle-thing started in a bathroom, got swept outside, and ended in gun fight between three or four or five different gangs--bikers and finally lawmen too, in a battle for turf which was just another range war, a gun battle that made OK Corral look like a pre-school. It was the Texas Rangers kind of thing in a strip mall. Nine dead. The wild, wild west. Like TV. I'n't that something?

Nine dead and 180 arrested. Old George W used to say it--"Don't mess with Texas."

Phillipp Meyer's The Son is a terrific book, but if the story it tells is the whole of a region's heritage, then Texas is as scary as last weekend's bloody biker brawl at in a city that will, for years, be remembered for Branch Davidians self-martyring and murdering their children by refusing to leave a burning building. Now, with the battle of Twin Peaks, there's just more to tell, yet another museum display a couple of decades hence.

The Bullock is not a museum to be missed. If you're ever in Austin, stop. It's a great museum, in part because Texas has such an incredible story to tell: the Comanches, the Alamo, slavery, cattle, oil, and a statehouse full of Louie Gohmerts. Dallas is classic television. Who killed J. R.? Texas has stories. Twin Peaks is just another.

Once upon a time I knew a man who was constantly in trouble for this, that, or the other thing. Wiry, strong, and opinionated to a fault, he made a practice of sticking sharp sticks in the eyes of those he didn't like. Once upon a time, he wired a consistory room because he wanted to hear what the church elders were saying about him. I'm not making this up. 

That man told me, years ago, smilingly, that he thought most people lived really boring lives. He was probably right.

Not him.

And not Texas.

Jade Helm? Shit, real Texans know what's going down. 

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Morning Thanks--from the classroom

They're grandparents now, all of them; but they'll always be 17 years old because that's what they were when they sat in rows in front of me. They were kids, and they still should be.
I remember them--Patti Haldiman, Sandy Rolli, Tom Dahmen, Bill Hansen, Kathy Meier, Larry Lelle, Gary Meier (there were two of them), Ron Sersch, Becky Staldiman. More too. Several years ago they had a class reunion and sent me an invitation. When I saw the penmanship of the return address, I didn't even have to read the name. 

The night before the first day of school I sat in an ancient hotel on the town square in Monroe, Wisconsin, running through my class list, real kids who, the next morning, would be right there in front of me, names I could barely pronounce and for which I had no reference, names that belonged to real human being-type kids with freckles and sun tans and acne, dressed in madras shirts and bell bottom jeans--and parents who frustrated the heck out of 'em.

They'd be mine. Sounds deranged to say it that way, but for an hour or so at least when they'd be in my room, they would be.  I was shockingly young myself, but I think I understood that what was going to happen in that room would be my responsibility. If it was a good place, if it was a bad place, if it was a boring place, if it was a great place--what it would be depended totally on what I would be.

And who was I? A kid. It was 1970, and I'd just missed the draft because of atrial fibrillation. I'd taken a letter along to my army physical, stood there with the rest of my friends in my skivvies, then got culled like a factory second. I didn't have to go.

I'd found this job in Sunday Milwaukee Journal, driven down to the southwest corner of the state for an interview, and somehow got the job. 

"I get the sense that you walked on the wild side," the administrator said when he thumbed through my recommendations. 

"That's because I drank some beer," I told him, "and I didn't really try to hide it."

At first, he didn't believe me. I'm lucky I got the job, I suppose; but I told him Dordt was a strict religious college and he believed me. Besides, I could coach basketball, do theater, and teach English, a trifecta. I had a job.

It took me only a couple of days to realize that if I played my cards right, I could do this thing. Kids liked me, I could tell. I was one of them.

I don't know that I've ever said this before, but what I came to understand within the first few weeks of that first year was that I loved teaching. Years later, when a friend and colleague and I would walk back home together from the college where we taught, we'd have to pinch each other to remind ourselves that what we were doing in the classroom from day-to-day was what we did for a living--that's how much we loved it.

In the last few years the distance between me and the students got uncomfortably wide. I still liked them, and I think they liked me; but it became hard for me to know what made them tick. I began to understand what it meant to be a "boomer" because being a boomer was something they weren't. Vietnam was their grandparents' era, a history project. And they were all Harry Potter.

Every spring since I retired I've taught an on-line class of high school seniors looking to get a leg up on their college educations. Yesterday I sent in their grades, the last grades I'll ever file. 

I've come a long ways from that second story hotel room just off the town square in Monroe, Wisconsin. I'm more educated--somewhere I've got two graduate diplomas. I couldn't get up and down the basketball floor like I did way back when, and there's absolutely no way I could live with the schedule that administrator--I don't remember his name--gave me that first year. But I honestly think I am who I always was. 

But yesterday when I sent those grades off--they were embarrassingly good, by the way--I was reminded of something it's been easy to forget, and that is what a privilege it's been to be there in a position to watch kids grow, to be a part of it, to participate in learning.

My last book, a collection of short stories, Up the Hill, concerns the goings-on in a cemetery where the residents are quite blessedly entertained by life in the town they've only physically left behind. What happens in those stories, time after time (strange phrase to use in a graveyard) is that the sanctified residents continue to learn--about themselves, about life, about how things work.  I don't think that's heretical because I don't think death will somehow end our growing. In the hereafter, we'll still be learning, don't you think? 

This morning my grades are in for the very last time. I'd like to think that some grandpas and grandmas in and around Monroe, Wisconsin, remember their high school years and their English teacher, a single guy in a Volkswagon, as fondly as I remember them.

But just yesterday, maybe because it was the last time, I couldn't help thinking about what a blessing it was throughout my life to be a part of the growth by which we all become who we will be. This morning, after 43 years of teaching, I'm thankful for the classroom, for being where the Lord God almighty put me for all these years.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Morning Thanks--the blues

It is--and was--America's only unique art form, at least that's what this white guy learned years ago in a graduate class in African-American literature. It is--or was--predominately an African-American genre, or at least had its roots in the experience of sharecroppers on white man's land in the rural South, a people governed by laws sometimes coded and sometimes not, race laws American history has come to call "Jim Crow."  

The blues--at least traditionally--were not happy songs. White folks loved to make up stories about black folks singing merrily as they skipped along on their way out to cotton fields. But what came from the African-American people, descendants of slaves, was music that rises from distress, something called "the Blues."

B. B. King, who died just last week, said he had only one real hit on the pop charts, "The Thrill is Gone," even though his artistry with Lucille, his guitar (his series of guitars) was not only unquestioned by legendary. King himself reckoned that the reason for his lack of popular success was what he said with his music, because even though the blues are uniquely American they are not the kind of genre that'll do well with millions of people who would, undoubtedly, prefer those smiley-faces going out to work, music that's cute and sweet and, well, a joy.

The blues are not.  What's more, people say teenagers can't sing the blues any way because they simply haven't lived long enough to develop the soul the blues demand. What do they know about life? Nothing. You got have heartache to sing the blues, not just skin irritations--"the thrill is gone." Gone, as is not returning. That level of heartache. 

It's most famous practitioner is gone now, B. B. King, who garnered almost every possible cultural prize America can offer for a lifetime singing the blues.

For some time, even "the blues" fell on hard times; and, oddly enough, it took the Brits to revive 'em, in the Sixties when bands like The Who lifted rhythms and vocal patterns off old 78s and put all of it to use in their own work, altering those patterns in the process, broadening their forms and appeal. 

Once upon a time, years and years ago, I attended a rural Baptist church in the middle of cotton fields in rural Mississippi. That worship service lasted forever as I remember, and multiple offering plates were passed, so many I got the sense that we weren't going to be released until what filled those plates was sufficient to bring on some kind of doxology. 

In the middle of that service, in what my people would have called "congregational prayer," an old man started in to praying in a language that was beyond me. I had no idea what he was saying, but he kept it up for some time, and the others, those around him, kept repeating or embellishing in the open spaces he left for them to do just that. 

I knew it was something special, but I knew absolutely nothing about what I was hearing. I understood that whatever penitent practice was occurring, it was something I wasn't going to see again real quickly because the old clapboard church in the middle of the cotton was like nothing I'd ever visited before. Its sounds, its penitence, its prayer was almost perfectly strange.

But in many ways, I was sitting that Sunday morning in a place that could well have been the very birthplace of the blues, listening to a man praying in fashion that hundreds of people in places like that old church had put to music.  There were no guitars in church that Sunday morning, and the old man who prayed in song wasn't blessed with perfect pitch, believe me. 

But what I heard was special. I wish I'd have known then what I know now. All I knew is that what that man did with the crowd around was like no prayer I'd ever heard anywhere.

A young African-American, a man with whom our youth group was working back then, walked away from that church with me that Sunday morning and shook his head. "Things have to change," he said, meaning that traditional old services like the one we'd just sat through were way, way, way old-fashioned. He seemed almost embarrassed.

Undoubtedly, he was right.

But I've got the memory of being there, and this morning I'm thankful for that gift, the plaintive notes that old man hit in a long prayer whose petitions I didn't understand but whose complaints I now will forever associate with what the whole world calls "the blues."

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Sunday Morning Meds--Remembrances

“. . .you thought I was altogether like you.” Psalm 50:21

Years ago, when I was a teenager, my uncle—a most distinguished uncle—came to visit.  I was in high school, and he took me golfing. I’d fooled around with golf clubs since I was ten; but my family was not part of the country club set, and actually going to a course would have been, well, out of the question—somewhat frivolous, I suppose.

After nine holes, he wanted to ride out in the countryside around town, the town of Oostburg, Wisconsin, where I was then growing up and he had, maybe 35 years before.  His career had led him afar from his geographic roots, and I could tell it was a joy for him to reminiscence while touring the haunts he’d never forgotten.

“Now go out west of town,” he told me, and I did.  He wanted to follow the river, the Onion River, because he said he and his friends used to have so much fun out there.  “There,” he said.  “See that path through the field?—if you follow that road, you’ll come to a swimming hole.”  He was overflowing with memory.  “Ever been there?  Great place—we used to have so much fun.”  And then he seemed to leave the car altogether, lost in memory.

Right then I may have been at the very same age he was remembering himself being, and I remember thinking it strange that he could be so emotionally attached to a bend in the river I’d never even seen, even though I’d walked parts of that river, trapping and duck hunting. Years before, there’d been spectacular fun at at spot I’d never seen, but no one I knew ever frequented that swimming hole. He knew the world in which I was growing up, knew it well, knew it intimately; but the place he remembered was a different country.

Some time ago a friend of mine who also grew up in Oostburg, Wisconsin, came back here to his home on the edge of the Great Plains mildly depressed because his elderly parents had decided to move across the lake to Michigan and he was afraid that this Oostburg visit might well be his last.

I know that rite of passage. When my parents left the house in which I grew up, some species of emptiness descended on me, even though they were simply moving across town. But years ago already my distinguished uncle had prepared me for that leave-taking when I witnessed his reverence for a spot on the Onion River I’d never visited. 
The Oostburg my uncle knew wasn’t the place I was then growing up, nor is it the place my friend doesn’t want to forget.  We’re all part of the diaspora, which means none of those Oostburgs is the one that exists today. The gulf which divides reality and perception is sometimes immense and immensely unfathomable.

The truth is, we fashion a whole host of worlds within our own perceptions. Similarly, I suppose—and this is scary--the God we fashion isn’t necessarily the one who exists through time and eternity. In Psalm 50, a psalm that’s really shocking in places, here’s another line to make us both sweat and quake:  “you thought I was altogether like you.”

The God of Psalm 50 is no teddy bear.

Why do I find that idea disconcerting?  Probably because I’ve created an image of God in my own mind, a genial gentleman, a fine man who is really into forgiveness, a kind of sweet grandfatherly figure.
“You thought I was altogether like you,” that God says. 

I think I have.  I just hope I’m right.   

Friday, May 15, 2015

Morning Thanks--How can I keep from singing?

Once upon a time, while I was going on and on about my very first new grandchild, an old friend pulled a quip from his back pocket and wryly gave me a line I've never forgotten, not because it's true in my case--it isn't--but because it's probably true in every case. 

"You know why grandparents get along so royally with grandchildren, don't you?" he said.

I shook my head.

"Simple," he said, "mutual enemies."

I know, I know--it's a dirty rotten thing to say, but you got to admit it's funny.

The very first time I held a grandchild is a picture on the first page of the scrapbook my memory keeps. Twice, I stood beside my wife while she gave birth, but those precious moments aren't framed in gold the way that one is. If we were in Lynden, Washington, right now, I'd take you past the house. I could show you the room. I could point to the rug and tell you exactly where I was standing.

Last night at a choral concert, that granddaughter and her brother, my grandson (I have no clue about where I stood with him in my arms for the first time) sang gorgeously. I understand that I've no right to use gorgeously because my grandparent genes bushwhack judgment something awful. I don't care. I'll use it anyway because we have rights, after all, us grandparents; and there's endless forgiveness, as you know.  So I'll keep that word there--forgive me, but that grade school concert was perfectly beautiful.

We didn't know he was going to be featured in a little quartet, and neither did his parents. But there it was on the program--Pieter, one of four, the only boy--featured in a song the director claimed was the class favorite. And that's how it sounded too.

My life flows on in endless song;
Above earth’s lamentation
I hear the sweet though far off song
That hails a new creation:
No storm can shake my inmost calm,
while to that rock I'm clinging.
Since Christ is lord of heaven and earth
how can I keep from singing?

There he stood, up front, singing those words. 

So how on earth was I supposed to stop from tearing up? He hadn't bothered to mention his being featured; in fact, his mom and dad only came to understand he could sing a couple of weeks earlier when his teacher mentioned he'd asked Pieter to join a summer choir. Anyway, there he stood, up front, singing (gorgeously) those words, that song, making music with a soul that is the very foundation of his own Christian education.

Then, he and the three young ladies with whom he was singing walked back into the choir and happily took up the next verse.

While though the tempest loudly roars,
I hear the truth, it liveth.
And though the darkness 'round me close,
songs in the night it giveth.

Now everything I've said would be cliche if there weren't more to the story, as you know. You would simply excuse my bliss as the everyday braying of an audacious grandpa who truly believes there ain't a kid in the world who can rival his own. I bet your're thinking I wasn't the only one with cloudy eyes in a crowd of a thousand other grandpas and grandmas, at least some of whom were also yawning away tears through the verses of that winsome hymn. Had to be.

No storm can shake my inmost calm,
while to that rock I'm clinging.
Since Christ is lord of heaven and earth
how can I keep from singing?

All of that's true, I'm sure, but I sat there hoping that through some divine intervention, my mother was listening too because nothing would have pleased her more, this side of the great beyond, than hearing her great-grandson sing--and sing those particular lyrics.

And I got it on video. I had my phone along. And that was another reason I was wiping away tears because I knew--thank you, You Tube--that I could post this whole gorgeous performance where my sister could hear it too because I know my sister, and I know she'll well up and drop a few salty tears herself when she sees it, when she hears it, because two weeks ago today she found herself in an ambulance beside an EMT who told her kindly that her husband of 47 years didn't make it through the accident they'd just suffered on their way to celebrate their own grandkids' birthdays.

So this is for you, Sis. The kid who stood up front and made me shed tears isn't your grandson; but ours, right here, is saying something you believe, a particular faith and creed your own husband gave his life to, the love and regard we have for the King of Heaven and Earth, in whose love we live, day by day by day.

No storm can shake my inmost calm,
while to that rock I'm clinging.
Since Christ is lord of heaven and earth
how can I keep from singing?

You're a singer, Sis, and once upon a time, years ago, you told me that your favorite choral anthem of all time was a piece by a Russian composer named Pavel Tschesnokov, "O, Lord God," a majestic prayer which includes a soaring testimony just about halfway through that suddenly steps out from the music in triumph and exaltation: "I will sing to the Lord as long as I live." Even if you don't, I remember you telling me how much you loved that music.

Pieter and his classmates weren't doing Tschesnokov last night, but he and his friends were singing the very same thing--gorgeously, I might add. But then I'm his grandpa.

Our Mom would have loved it. So would Larry, your husband. I'd like to think they were both there.

So this is for you, from us and from Pieter and his classmates in the kind of Christian school you and your husband served all your lives long.

Since Christ is Lord of heaven and earth
how can we keep from singing?

Thursday, May 14, 2015

The Short Fiction of Lawrence Dorr (iii)

The third story in The Long Journey Home, "Stress Test," feels even more like a sketch. We are following the life of a refugee soldier who comes to America, in part because he has no home to which he can return after the Second World War. I'm not sure it's the same refugee in every story, but the man in the middle of all three stories has a painful past in a war that never ends in his mind's echo chamber. America is something of a dream to him, but when he gets to this country he discovers, as everyone does, that streets are not paved with gold in a land of milk and honey. 

Not that he's disillusioned or that America's is some kind of harlot--that's not the nature of his suffering. His heartache rises from a soul still terrorized by the suffering; the heartache is there because some trauma never fully disappears.

He is a victim of PTSD, clinically stated; but he doesn't use the words. Events occur in his life--sitting in doctor's office, waiting--that remind him suddenly of events in his past never quite eclipsed by time or circumstance, like waiting in a similarly small space for the beating his interrogators will give him. In a moment he hadn't anticipated he's right back amid the horror. 

"Stress Test" takes place many years removed from 1946. The refugee soldier is an old man with enough atrial fibrillation to have him thinking, maybe for the first time in years, of his own death. Irregular rhythms have him stressed out. The doctor tells him, however, that what he feels in his chest is neither abnormal nor particularly dangerous. End of story. 

Like Hemingway, to whom he is often compared, Lawrence Dorr's stories are icebergs--there's more beneath the surface.

Much of "Stress Test" is that office visit, closely described from the interior of a mind burdened by history and even present circumstance. Life in America, 21st century, is a burden to someone like himself, someone who takes his faith so seriously. He's clearly tired of endless caricature of Christianity and Christians, he says. 

He longed for a country of his own, where Christians weren't ridiculed on university campuses and superstitious Yahoos because they loved God, where his brethren would not be characterized in mainstream literature, in films and on TV shows as narrow, hypocritical, money-grubbing people whose intellectual integrity was always suspect.

That assertion is followed by the memory of a circumcision ritual to which he was invited, where a rabbi explained to those who gathered that the ritual was "a symbol of the covenant between God and His people, a witness to an act that was initiated by God, not man." His own distaste for the way Christians are portrayed in America reminds him of the grand seriousness that real religious people offer as worship and tribute to a God who is real--and who is God.

Nearly home, he passes a steel building the Baptists, he says, turned into a church and embellished with a sturdy brick facade. "The same love of God that build Chartres Cathedral," he tells himself, "had placed this steel structure--manufactured to store feed and fertilizer--in the middle of a wooded lot and surrounded it with flowering bushes." 

Thus, the Baptists across the street, far removed from France's prized Cathedral, remind him of the seriousness of spiritual commitment among those who confess His name.

Long ago somewhere along the line, I was taught that stories often have two climaxes. One of them is called "technical," the moment in the story when it's clear that the conflict is over; the other is "dramatic," the high point of drama within a narrative. They're not always the same moment.

One of the characteristics of the early stories in The Long Journey Home is the seeming absence of any climax, technical or certainly dramatic. The stories feel like sketches--no car chase, no imperiled damsel on a railroad track; even what description the refugee gives of his torture is at best an outline. It's not hard to feel as if nothing really happens in a Lawrence Dorr story.

Including faith. There's no kumbaya, no wrestling with God, no great sweat-like-blood turning point. But what's always, always there--in "Stress Test" too--is God almighty. He's there in the Baptist bricks across the road, even though, as the refugee says, "this miracle of devotion would not be reported."

Such miracles in a bellicose religious age may seem painfully slight. You might wonder what happened, if anything did. 

But God is always there in Dorr's world. That he is the refugee's personal savior goes without question, but that the refugee would ever use that language seems unlikely because the Almighty is so much greater than someone we dial-up when our hearts go off-rhythm. 

The refugee narrator says he had to see the Grand Canyon to believe the place, "this immensity that could not be captured in its entirety by the powers of art or any optical device." Then, "This was also true of the Far County he barely knew beyond a few short descriptions that had excited his imagination with its endless possibilities."

That's eternity. He's talking about eternity. You might have missed it. 

Don't expect high drama in Lawrence Dorr. Don't expect mountain-top experience. But know--as does the refugee, even if he occasionally forgets--that God is simply always there. Make no mistake about that. We don't live in a world without God.

You just need to remember that the facade on the Baptists' steel building across the street is really just another Chartres Cathedral, laid brick by brick by those who love the Lord. 

Lawrence Dorr suggests that realization will calm your heart's unsteady rhythm and bring peace to your soul.
Few of us will ever read Lawrence Dorr, but, pardon my moralizing, more should. He really is one of our finest Christian writers. I'm going through his last collection of stories, The Long Journey Home, story by story because he was excellent short story writer  with an incredible personal story. What's more, he was a wonderful human being.  

Lawrence Dorr, whose real name was  Janos Zsigmond Shoemyen, died in December of 2014. He was 93 years old at the time of his own last journey home.