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Monday, January 16, 2006

my thin place

A few days ago Melancthon talked about what Celtic Christians called "thin places," and described one such place for him.

I found a thin place during my college days. Coronado Heights is a hill overlooking Lindsborg, Kansas. It was on this hill (or possibly another hill nearby) where Francisco Vasquez de Coronado stood looking out at the prairie and conceded that his search for cities of gold was futile. He had been tricked.

From the top of the hill, one can see a good 15-20 miles in any direction. Even today it's a lightly populated area, mostly farms and rolling hills. Standing on Coronado Heights looking out at it all, I can see why, after creating the world, God said that it was very good.

In the 1930s Coronado Heights got a stone castle in a WPA project.

I'm not sure why, but the place has almost a magical quality for me. When I'm there I not only feel closer to God, but I also feel more open toward other people. I'm an extremely introverted person, but Coronado Heights brings me out of my shell and enables me to connect.

I went to the Heights several times during my years at Bethany College in nearby Lindsborg. One time during finals week, a friend and I went up to the Heights as a stress reliever after an all night study session. I'm not a morning person, but there's something about Coronado Heights in the early morning that can put my mind in a different state. I remember walking the trails around the hill and feeling like God was walking beside me.

One weekend evening when I was with some friends on the Heights, we watched a car winding up the road to the castle. A group of students from McPherson, 15 miles away, had come to the Heights to smoke marijuana. I've never used illegal drugs and don't plan to ever try, but that night I saw the kids from McPherson not as dopers or losers, but as human beings. It made me aware of how much we all have in common despite our differences, and helped me toward overcoming some of the prejudices I had grown up with.

In the spring of my sophomore or junior year, several of us students had a sunrise Easter service at Coronado Heights. For perhaps the first time in my life, the resurrection seemed like a real and present event to me as the sun slowly creeped up onto the expansive horizon. I could almost imagine following the trail around a bend and seeing an empty tomb.

A few years after graduation I had a reunion with my college friend Heather, and we went to the Heights to watch the sunset. Standing on the roof of the castle, talking about old times as the sky turned from orange to red to purple, I saw something in Heather that I had missed before. Our friendship turned to romance and then to engagement. We eventually broke it off before tying the knot, but as a result of what grew out of that evening on the Heights I discovered for the first time what it meant to be truly close to someone.

Last fall, I added a new chapter to my Coronado Heights memoir when I took my wife Nicki there. We had left our son Iain with his grandparents to have a day to ourselves. Another family arrived at about the same time as us, and when we saw their young boy we both thought that he looked a lot like Iain will probably look in a few years. The boy raced into castle and up the stairs to the roof, and we heard his mother call to him, "Be careful, Iain."

There's something almost magical about that place.



At 1/19/2006 5:27 AM, Blogger truevyne said...

Read your profile on another blog. I rarely meet other Oscar Romero fans...liberation theology didn't exactly fly at my Bible college.
I'd fall over dead if you told me you knew and liked Paulo Friere too!

At 1/23/2006 4:55 AM, Blogger John said...

The castle looks cool.


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