The boys and I took Josie for a walk at the park on Sunday night. The grass swished around our shins as we ambled toward the pond, the sun golden, the shadows long, the air completely still.
We paused to watch a graduate posing for pictures, her robe a waterfall of scarlet, mortar board bobby-pinned to her shining hair, high heels sinking into the soft earth. Nearby a couple walked slowly toward the water, his hand on her rounded belly.
Noah bent low, aiming his camera to capture a bumblebee tumbling amid the purple catmint, sunlight streaming through the cypress. Rowan crouched over the murky water, seeking frogs who held their breath among the reeds. A flock of geese honked overhead, disappeared beyond the rise. A meadowlark trilled, yellow breast catching the light.
We stopped to watch a deer watching us from the shade, her ears perked. Josie stood still, tail taut, nose quivering.
I’m reading Genesis again in the mornings, beginning at the beginning, not aiming for a certain number of verses or chapters every day, but meandering, taking my time, pausing when a verse or a word resonates. I try to read aloud, whispering as the orioles and cardinals call outside the window in the early morning half-light.
In Genesis 12, God sends Abram out from his homeland on a journey into Canaan. Along the way, when he stops to make camp, the text notes, Abram builds an altar to God.
I noticed, as I read along in Genesis, that Abram does this more than once. Every time he pauses to rest along his journey, Abram builds an altar to God.
Abram didn’t have a church to worship in every Sunday morning. He didn’t have a specific place to go in which to acknowledge God and praise him in community. Instead, he built that place for himself, for his people, and for God. Abram acknowledged God’s presence, not just one day of the week, but every time he paused along the journey.
Church — a place to worship, a community with whom to worship — is a blessing and a gift. I love my church. I look forward to attending worship service on Sunday mornings. And yet, there is often a complacency in my worship. I take it for granted. I compartmentalize my acknowledgement of God into an hour a week. Often, even in spite of my best intentions, God is overshadowed by the busyness and distractions of my Monday through Saturday life, in the rush of soccer practice and orchestra concerts and deadlines and dog walking and laundry.
We came upon a man half-hidden at the bottom of the hill. He’d parked his bike under a lone oak tree, and as we approached him, he sat up to greet us. I glanced at the book in his hand, The Mill on the Floss, curious about his choice.
We chatted for a moment. The evening was remarkably beautiful, we agreed. After a minute or two, the boys, the dog and I continued on, and when I turned back to look at the man, I saw he’d lain back down and been swallowed up by the tall grass, his bike the only sign that he was still there.
Later that night, the boys asleep, the house dark and still, I thought about our walk in the park – the light, the stillness, the man under the tree, the Meadowlark trilling, Rowan loping, the light on his red curls, Noah bending low to capture a bee on a bloom.
I thought about Abram, about stopping to build altars along the journey not once in a while, but every day.