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Saturday, December 22, 2007

Defining Landscapes


What is the landscape that defines and shapes you? After preaching through Advent using the 7 churches of Revelation, I realize how site-specific these letters are. They draw on the uniqueness of each location and imply how those factors shape the condition of the church.
Each day brings a new bundle of Christmas cards and letters from friends around the country, often with photos of their families and events, defined by and illustrated by their unique locations: skiing, sailing, traveling, gardening, rural and urban. The photos help me place these friends a meaningful context and I imagine the snow that surrounds them or the mountain vistas they have. Some letters are a narrative of where they have been in the past year, so I get glimpses of trips, vacations, sporting events and concerts. Places matter. Space matters. 
In a post some time ago, I mentioned how Martha gave me a word that keeps echoing in my head: "Geo-piety." If you google the term you will find several uses for the word. The use that hits me is how the normal shaping that happens with the space around a person morphs in time to a worshiping of the space around a person. My space is the only space. My space is the best space. My space is better than your space. You ought to see the light and appreciate the superiority of my space over all other spaces. Nobody says it quite that brazenly, but it's there. It's there when people suggest that someday you will see the light and reside in their space. It can be picked up in conversations where you overhear people wonder how anyone can live "there" instead of here! "I don't know if I could ever live there!" 
As a pilgrim-pastor, I bless God for shaping me with all sorts of places: the plains of Kansas and the river-valley of Lafayette, Indiana. I loved those years along the dunes of Lake Michigan in Muskegon and the winter blasts of Minneapolis, the clear and distinct seasons that came with the midwest. Now the ocean shapes me with it undulating motion and distinct smell. This little ledge of land bounded by mountains to the north and the ocean to the south, with high-high wealth and low-low poverty shape me. Cold mornings of marine layer fog and hot sunny days of brilliant light shape me. Casual tie-less attire shapes me. Being adjacent to Westmont college with students and faculty shapes me. High and low tides shape me. Blended music and lower-church liturgy shapes me. But my prayer for this chapter in my life is that God ultimate shapes the shapes that shape me.

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