Poetry (the cathedral kind) and Airplanes

I got back from NYC late Monday night, after a long, harrowing experience in the Newark and Atlanta airports with Delta airlines. I’ve always had pretty positive experiences with Delta, but this one is definitely going to rank high on my list of traveling fiascos. I was delayed in Newark, which would have made me miss my connection in Atlanta, so I was put on standby for ANOTHER plane that already been delayed 3 hours. Thankfully I was cleared for boarding and eventually made my connection in Atlanta (but not after taxiing on the runway for half an hour:P).

But as we were sitting on the ATL runway, preparing to takeoff for Orlando, the power completely blew. That is NOT something you want to have happen to you one minute before takeoff. Our individual computer screens rebooted and flashed this weird Matrix-y computer garble that I didn’t understand. Anyway, the pilot didn’t seem all that fazed. However, power going out on an airplane seems like a pretty big deal to me. But I guess it wasn’t to him. (Although I’m sure if that happened mid-flight, he’d have something very different to say… Such as “Mayday.” And a string of expletives.)

But anyway…I guess with the economy being what it is and airlines cutting back and getting rid of planes, I am going to have to accept that frequent delays are just going to have to become more of standard fare. Unfortunately.

I had a great time with Jenny and Paige. One day, I’ll clean up my chaotic flickr account and post albums there, but for now, I am going to have to go with facebook. (Sorry for you photography elitists…)

I posted pics here: Fourth of July Shenanigans
and here: Frolicking in NYC

I did venture out on my own my last morning in town, mostly because I knew Jenny and Paige would probably sleep in and not be up for hoofing it around midtown. Also, I wanted to wander a bit and do some shopping at H&M–which I know they were not budgeting for–so I got up early on Monday, grabbed a bagel and wandered to the shopping district via Central Park, rather than stroll down 5th Ave. Such a different atmosphere from the previous day. The park was nearly deserted, save for some lone joggers, dogwalkers and nannies with children in tow. It was nice to get a non-touristy sense of the place.

Most of the stores hadn’t opened by 9:30a.m. so I figured I’d duck inside St. Patrick’s Cathedral on 5th Ave in the meantime.

I don’t know what it is about cathedrals, but I always feel compelled to stop inside them, whether I’m in Vienna, D.C. or London. I’ve especially become more intrigued by cathedrals since reading Ken Follet’s Pillars of the Earth last year, a historical fiction work that traces the building of a single cathedral in medieval Europe over several generations.

There were a few people that came to meditate, and I saw a few silhouettes hunched over in prayer. But mostly there were just visitors and tourists. I sat in one pew and glanced around me at the stained glass windows, the arches, the marble carvings.

I pulled out the liturgical book and turned to today’s date. It was a simple responsorial psalm, but somehow reading it in the fun and chaos and color and vibrancy of the weekend, I suddenly felt small and vulnerable. In a good way.

Some Christians in the modern world scoff at these architectural masterpieces, saying that the builders’ priorities were misplaced and that “the church is people, not a building.” Of course I agree with the semantics/theology of that statement. And yes, it’s true, that for many, cathedrals are nothing more than a tourist attraction, a glimmering hub that begs a snapshot or two before moving onto the next art museum or skyscraping wonder.

But as I sat on that pew, I couldn’t help but wonder if there was something to be learned from the structure and intentional design of a cathedral. Every inch of the building is designed to draw our focus upward and outward. Stories and parables etched on colored panes and intricately arranged to illuminate some truth, marble blocks carved and liberated to reveal the posture and personality of a saint, every blood-soaked minute of the Passion painted and purposefully positioned around the whole of the cathedral…all these things are part of the narrative of God interacting with humanity. And vice versa.

I wonder how differently our lives would play out if we approached our will, thoughts, emotions, decisions, relationships and lives with the same intentionality and focus. Particularly with relationships. I love how Tim Keller translates C.S. Lewis’ The Four Loves into layman’s terms and says true Christian friendship is like a room with windows. The purpose of friendship is not limited to merely fulfilling some need within ourselves (be it companionship, affirmation or enjoyment, which are all valid desires), but also–like a cathedral–to draw each other’s attention upward and outward. To pursue the common horizon together.

I want to explore what it means to follow Jesus in every corner of my life. I fail dreadfully in that all the time. But in this season of life, I’m coming to this point where I wonder if there is some balance, some interaction in the field of discipleship between spontaneous adventure and purposeful direction.

I think there is.

And I want to find that.


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