It had been a week of milestones, mostly in the form of graduation ceremonies and that bittersweet feeling of watching kids take flight, as well as knowing that you need to let them fly on their own terms. It had also been Memorial Day weekend, and the Veterans Museum had sponsored a well-attended ceremony where BG Robert Rasch, Jr. spoke. Various churches devoted part of their Sunday services to help us to “always remember to never forget” those who have given all for our freedoms, as well as our members of law enforcement and first responders. Pastor Dusty McLemore preached on “The Heart of a Servant,” and John David Crowe used the analogy of what happens when we go camping, and the importance of “Camping with God.”
When we go camping, what happens? We get away from all the demands of our surroundings, and get out into an area where we have no responsibility other than to leave the campground in better shape than we found it. It is there in that stripped-down state with no cell phone, internet, Skype, Zoom, Voxer, Snapchat, Instagram, and the High Occupancy Vehicle lane on the Interstate that we can start to get still enough and quiet down so we can hear the voice of God.
John David Crowe talked about how abundance can actually impoverish us spiritually and emotionally through having too many options. Indeed, I remember when my daughter was in braces, one the most stressful parts of her experience was trying to figure out at her appointment which color of connectors she was going to pick for the month, as opposed to the one-choice metal-only braces that had for generations served to precipitate the nickname, “tin grin.” It was an abundance that tried to act like a thief of her joy and self-worth, one we must fight diligently as uber-blessed Americans.
Mayor Ronnie told about how some of his best times, both in family relationships as well as his spiritual life, were when he was working on the Hurricane Katrina task force, and he had to drive for long distances. There was nothing but time—time to pray, think, create, connect, dream, and in today’s vernacular, “to chill.” He asked me, “Do you think that one of the reasons some people choose to commute for an hour each way each day to work is so they can have quiet time?” I nodded in agreement. The long commutes can act like a camping trip, if you turn everything off for a while.
We tossed around ideas about what could be done with the L&S eyesore, how important it is to have a vision, even when no one else does. “Without a vision, the people perish” can be applied in so many areas of our personal lives as well as our lives as Athenians.
There is much to celebrate as far as the demolition of the old Pilgrim’s Pride plant goes. The crew has been working from the back to the front, so for a few weeks no one driving by could have told that they were even there, other than the sound of heavy equipment moving, crushing, sorting, and piling. Now you can see from the road how much progress they have made, and it won’t be long until the next phase of the plant-to-park process begins. Having a vision for making a well-planned greenspace which could become the jewel of our city is finally coming to pass, and I think we can safely say that we can all heave a sigh of relief.
We spoke of friends who are battling cancer and the irony of how God uses looming death to help us get our lives in order—so difficult in this realm, and so necessary before entering our permanent state. We circled back again to “camping,” where the Mayor said, “Plan today for tomorrow’s campout,” and then we prayed. I for one am thankful that I live in a town where it is totally acceptable to pray with and for public officials, and it’s what we always do before Ronnie rolls. Here’s a thought: Athens in so many ways is already totally cool. What would happen if we all made it a point to go camping, and we all prayed?
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner