my fest experience

Its the last day of the week in which I retreated to Chicago from a week and a half of tent living in Bushnell Illinois. I suppose I am that much richer, more patient, and more eager for Parousia because of the experience. I’m glad I will not be loading and unloading trucks and minivans for another year. Trucks bearing all the wares of my trade and that of everyone else who works in this building. All the writers and artists I see year round in passing on their ways to the delapidated bathrooms here on second floor. Some emerge from their windowless offices from hours of staring into their 15″ monitors just to stand where there are windows and remember that they still speak with human voices and see daylight. [If they ever read this we’ll have more to talk about. Or maybe they won’t want to talk anymore at all for fear you’ll hear about it!]

Its a wonder that I and these pretend to be outside dwellers for over a week once a year. Its a wonder that we inhale the dust of Illinois cornfields and burn our skin with the sun and then freeze ourselves upon nightfall inside temporary dwellings of vinyl and barely metal zippers. Maybe we do it because it makes us feel like anything is possible with a truckload of ice and water and per diem enough to make us smile. Some of us spend the entire year in preparation for that one week (or four days for others). This year I fell into the week with 1000 and 1 other things pressing.

On the other hand, the Fest is about conversations otherwise not had with folks from all over the world. This year I’ll mark in my memory one lengthy conversation with a young man about Existence, Evil, Spiritual Encounter, and the Effect faith has on a person. His questions and my poke at answers changed me. Bolstered my faith. The reality of an all powerful God who loves me and desires a relationship with me never ceases to be a tender and moving subject. The fact that I grew up a believer and that faith has always been my life theme has not kept me from utter failure, addiction, and betrayal of all I love. That part of my narrative makes my testimony a tricky delivery, but a bittersweet joy nonetheless.

I mark this fest as a victory in the resistance of temptation. I kept the personal conversation going, did not withdraw and isolate from my fellows, and I am stronger for it. Lust, despair, anger, and discouragement plagued me as usual but I can honestly say I reached out to God and my brothers and with their help stayed faithful. Yeh, desperately faithful.

We brought our house rabbit down with us. She (Peanut Butter) managed to stay cool and get exercise and be lots of fun. Martha and I took the kids to the beach at the man-made lake down the hill. I got in at least twice and splashed around. Back at the campsite for at least two days I got some quality reading in. I read “I Knew Dietrich Bonhoeffer” which I got on inter-library loan, and “Karl Barth’s Theological Exegesis” by Richard E. Burnett which I still hope to review later this year. Later I purchased from my own store “3 by Flannery O’Connor” and began “The Violent Bear It Away.” Somebody tell me if that’s OK to read first. Though I don’t really care. The byline about devoted prophets killing folks out of love for God was enough to make me pick it up. Though that must happen at the end. Anyway. . . .

Martha is amazing in her tenacity and patience for camping. Everything was carefully packed in bins and she managed to remember everything our family of five needed and pull off providing tents for the rest of JPUSA as well. We couldn’t have managed without my good friend Michael. He was a real trooper in the back seat with the kids on the way home. My three year old was so much trouble! I often asked how could something so cute and tiny be such a royal pain!?! Darling–rascal–darling–rascal. I was stopping the van so much to deal with her on the way home that it felt as if we’d never arrive.

Well there it is. And I’ve relived it all just for you. Feel special.


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