Here at Tonopahs's newly reopened Edwardian (built in 05 during a mining boom -- think Lilly Langtree) elegant hotel, the Mizpah, I remember the desert night drive that brought me here. Music catches the theme. It starts with two words from a new Paul Simon song --"thank you!" sung in the voice of a car wash worker who has just gotten a tip and is exclaiming his gratitude for all to hear -- "thank" plosive with surprise -- "you" drawn out and with an upward inflection to show more gifts are hoped for from others who hear how much their generosity will be appreciated. I myself have given alms to panhandlers, sometimes against my better judgment, hoping for the "God bless you" they so often bestow -- for while I vacillate in my belief in the efficacy of the priestly blessings, I hope the blessings of the poor may expunge my sins. I say that car wash guy's thank you for so many things in my life including a certain surreal set of juxtapositions that keeps me perpetually off balance, perplexed, and delightedly amazed. Music on that theme to come.
After 3 days of inspection and consultation from nationally important Latino Ministries people come to Nevada to see what we had done for God's mission with the money they entrusted to us -- 3 days that actually warmed my heart with the gentle joy of this mission -- I got up this morning at 4:30 to catch a plane to Reno and was still late for the Camp Galilee Board meeting. The Board consists of devoted people who sweat the small stuff but for a big mission. Then, after some dawdling in Carson City -- I buy all my pipes in Carson -- I began the 4 hour drive to Tonopah where I will preach and celebrate for God and 6 to 8 people tomorrow.
Just East of the Fernley roundabout, 2 things happened at once. To my left an almost full moon rose into a heavy bank of dark clouds. The thickest clouds shrouded the moon while the moon back lit the others. Strictly speaking, it was lovely. But an association with a life crisis in years past has left me -- I admit this is crazy -- afraid of full moons. So when the moon broke through I did what I always do. I stared at it straight on and said "Surely it is God who saves me. I will trust in him and not be afraid . . . ." In case you are not already persuaded I am unhinged, I will tell you what was happening over the pasture to my right. Two small flying objects, which are still unidentified by me' were executing impossible maneuvers. They had bright blue, green, white, and red lights. One was roundish. The other was shaped like an airplane. It sometimes spun wing over wing rapidly. Both darted at acute angles. I am not saying the A word. A navy air base is at least as close as Fallon. All I can say is whatever those things were, they were amazing.
Remember I got up at 4:30 after 3 intense days of Latino ministries review and drove to the Las Vegas airport which is strange enough in itself. It had been a day of meeting with a board of directors and 2 priests "in transition" as we euphemistically say. Now, as I drove between a beautiful but threatening moonrise and a UFO exposition I was listening for the first time to "The Goat Rodeo Sessions" -- Yo Yo Ma and friends performing original bluegrass compositions with post-modern arrangements for a classical string quartet rendition. Did I mention the surreal juxtapositions of my life? And I said "thank you!"
Awhile later I went over a hill and came to Walker Lake. My old enemy the moon -- just one night waning past full -- spread a milky sheet of light over the gently rippling waters -- a "kindly light" if ever I did see one -- and I said, "thank you!"
As I drove on through the jagged desert, I edited tomorrow's sermon in my mind -- all about waking up and keeping watch for three great wonders that define the very value of life. Then I composed a rant which I hope to deliver at next week's gathering of Bishops of Small Dioceses -- a rant at the Church Medical Trust, a rant so angry that if I get a chance to start it I am sure I will be gagged and carried out before I get to the best parts.
Then I came to Tonopah and the stately old Mizpah where I talked with the drunks at the bar about Macs vs PC's, boxing (Manny Paquio of course), the perils of on line translators when flirting with Scandinavian women, race relations, and all the things that occupy the minds of people who drink at the Mizpah on a Saturday night. As I end this day, knowing tomorrow I will proclaim the gospel by such lights as are given me then drive back to Tahoe to debrief summer camp with 2 bishops and 3 chaplains then fly to Salt Lake where I will insult and abuse actuaries, I say, Thank you!"