Blue Highways & Radical: the story behind the stories, Chapter 1
I really, I mean REALLY have to enjoy a book to make it cover to cover. Not that I don't enjoy reading and expanding my mind, but those Sunday and Saturday afternoons reading on the couch create the perfect atmosphere for heavy eyelids. Unless, of course, the topic is like a double-shot of espresso to me.
Several years back I went on a book-binge. My daughter would laugh because book-binge-ing is her life 24/7. I, on the other hand, felt like I was really accomplishing something to finish a book a month for nearly a year. Truth is, it felt nice having some positive affirmation in what was going on in my life, so I kept drinking, I mean reading.
The buzz wore off a few years back. And what's worse is that I had a couple of half-finished books sitting in my drawer of the coffee table (yes, my wife and I have separate drawers-laugh all you want). Toward the end of last year I started to get that itch to, at the very least, finish those dang books. Part of the reason, I'm sure, is that I actually stumbled on a book that kept my attention...and started the thirst back up. So I scheduled out on my calendar the books that I wanted to finish reading this year. I think the more interesting aspect of the books aren't the content, but how I came to read them.
Beginning with Blue Highways by Native American author, William Least Heat-Moon. In November, 2009, we had taken our Historic Michigan Road Byway program on the road to Madison, Indiana where one of our local point-people asked me if I had ever read the book. It seemed logical to her that of course, a guy who despises the interstate, drove route 66, and finds the destination is in the journey would have read this critically acclaimed bestseller (I'm typing what I'm reading from the front cover). I hadn't, but I asked for the book for Christmas. It was a first-hand account of the author's trip in 1978 around America on "blue highways" (the color not associated with interstates on the atlas). It was over 400 pages! I read some, put it down, read some more, put it down longer, read a little more (to the halfway point) then put it down indefinitely. I love the book....but oh man. So, finally, being the last in my series of unfinished books, I picked it up again this weekend and started toward the finish line....only 150 more pages. One of the best quotes I have ever heard concerning the unfortunate condition of being from a place the author summed up by saying "To live so uninformed before such grandeur is the hallmark of a true native son". I think that of us Hoosiers. I am re-loving this book and cheated a bit in skipping to the end because of the traveler's b-line through Indiana, and New Harmony specifically, that are featured on the last two pages. From my estimation, the traveler had to have crossed over the great historic steel bridge leading west out of New Harmony over the Wabash into Illini territory. The bridge, much like the culture captured in Blue Highways, is in danger of being lost.
And then there was another book called Radical by David Platt. The book is an unintentional (maybe?) in your face look at how to live out Christ to the world in a radical way. Well, radical compared to our comfy American church-culture, not so radical when compared to the gospel. So we support a young man who is on the front line of missions work in a country that he could be imprisoned if found out. He was in our 20x group that I led at our church. He asked if I had read the book....."no"......so a few weeks after he departed for his trip to the other side of the world, a package showed up on my porch. It was Radical, from Dave. I've read a few books in this same vein, including Crazy Love by Francis Chan, but Platt kicks it up a notch. The subtitle on the front cover reads "Taking Back Your Faith from the American Dream". Man, doesn't that sound like something I would blog about. I believe the single-most harmful condition the church in America is facing today isn't from the outside-it is what we've brought into the church....politics, wealth, knowledge for knowledge sake, etc. Platt lays it out there by saying that "facets of the American dream directly contradict the core of the gospel". But when have you ever heard that on a Sunday morning? As you might guess, I get jazzed up about this woeful condition the church is in.....then I get frustrated, put the book down, and think if it can't even change in my own church-what hope is there? So, there the book sat for nearly a year with only two chapters left. I finished it last week and sent Dave a note that said I'd be ratcheting up my prayers for him. He's living out the gospel.....radically.
Chapter 2 coming soon!